Will The Obama Library Have A Plane In It?

[ Posted Thursday, January 29th, 2015 – 16:02 PST ]

Today's news headlines included an interesting item: "U.S. Air Force To Replace Air Force One." My immediate reaction: Does this mean the future presidential library in honor of Barack Obama will have a plane in it? After all, the last time we upgraded Air Force One, the old one wound up in Reagan's library, so it seems only fair for Obama to get one too.

I know, I know, it is both a rather silly issue and also one that we'll likely have lots and lots of time to decide. I don't even know that they've chosen a site for the future Obama presidential library yet (although I do seem to recall that Rahm Emanuel, now mayor of Chicago, may be involved -- which doesn't fill me with confidence that the process will go smoothly). But, hey, it's a lazy Thursday, so I thought it'd be an amusing subject to delve into.

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The Multi-Ring Republican Nomination Circus

[ Posted Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 – 18:00 PST ]

The 2016 presidential election cycle is already underway. Whether you are delighted or horrified at the prospect, the race is indeed now on. While it might seem impossibly far in the future, consider that the Iowa caucuses are only a year away. So we're going to take a very early look at the Republican field, which seems to be getting larger every week.

The 2016 election will be rather unique, since it is a wide-open presidential election on both sides. No incumbent will be running, in other words, but the truly notable aspect of the race is that the parties seem to have switched their basic nominating strategies. Democrats are (as Republicans normally do) getting behind their "next in line" candidate, who looks pretty formidable at this point. Republicans, on the other hand, are about to hold an extended nomination circus, open to all candidates, no matter how viable their prospects (which is more normally a situation found on the Democratic side).

The sheer size of the Republican field, even at this early date, is downright astonishing. By some calculations, there are over two dozen valid possibilities for the Republican nomination. Now, not all of these folks are going to wind up launching an actual campaign, but there may also be later entrants in the race that nobody's even considered at this point. No matter who decides to run, it's going to be an enormous field to contemplate. For example, there are currently even four guys named "Rick" to choose from on the list of possible contenders.

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From The Archives -- Interview With The Man Behind "Museum Of Political Corruption" Project

[ Posted Tuesday, January 27th, 2015 – 18:00 PST ]

I referenced the following article in passing last Friday (in relation to another outbreak of corruption in the halls of Albany), after which I was ceremoniously awarded a Commemorative Silver Edition Kickback by the Albany Museum of Political Corruption -- so I thought it'd be nice to return the favor and re-run the full interview I conducted a while ago with Bruce Roter.

Only very seldom do I come across a cause worth supporting, but this is indeed one of them. Corruption in politics is as old as politics itself, and it would truly be wonderful to have a museum dedicated to remembering the history of corruption in America. So I encourage everyone to support Roter's idea, which he explains in full below.


Originally published October 23, 2013

Wouldn't it be great to have a place where children and adults alike could learn about the sordid history of how American politics really works? If Bruce Roter has his way, visitors to New York's state capital will indeed have this opportunity, at the "Albany Museum of Political Corruption" -- which he hopes to locate just down the hill from the state's Capitol building. Adults entering Roter's political corruption museum will be charged a reasonable "bribe" as admission, with children under the age of 12 entering for half price (although "parents are encouraged to lie about the age of their children").

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Marijuana Grows Up

[ Posted Monday, January 26th, 2015 – 17:57 PST ]

Marijuana just keeps growing. That's a weak attempt at a punny metaphor for which I apologize (hey, I could have used some variation such as "growing like a weed," so I did exercise a little restraint...), but its deeper meaning is that marijuana is actually outgrowing such cheap jokes and entering the realm where it demands to be taken seriously -- especially by politicians. Marijuana is now the nation's fastest-growing industry. The legal marijuana industry brought in $2.4 billion last year, so it's certainly no longer any sort of laughing matter. That figure represents an increase of a whopping 74 percent in one year's time, and it is estimated that the total legal market could be worth $11 billion as soon as 2019.

This news is all contained in the third annual "State of Legal Marijuana Markets" report from The ArcView Group, described as "a cannabis industry investment and research firm based in Oakland, California." The Huffington Post has a good overview of what the report contains, complete with some very interesting charts projecting the size of the possible future legal marketplace. These projections seem just a wee bit optimistic to me, assuming (for instance) that the following states will legalize adult recreational use either this year or in 2016: California, Nevada, Arizona, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Maryland. By 2020, the projection adds Montana, Hawai'i, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Delaware to this list. This would make a total of 18 states to fully legalize, which (as I said) may be slightly optimistic.

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Friday Talking Points [333] -- Obama Steals GOP's Honeymoon

[ Posted Friday, January 23rd, 2015 – 18:21 PST ]

I have to apologize right here at the start, because that headline is not original. Credit should go to Chuck Todd of NBC, who stated during the State Of The Union coverage this week that President Obama had stolen the traditional post-election "honeymoon" period with the public right out from under the Republican Party's feet. We found this such an apt metaphor that we decided to run with it, so: "Thanks, Chuck!"

Most of our article today is going to deal with Obama and his speech, ending with the snappiest portions as this week's talking points. But before we get to that, let's take a quick look at what the Republicans have been up to, as well as some other minor political news of the week.

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The 55 Limit

[ Posted Thursday, January 22nd, 2015 – 17:50 PST ]

Sammy Hagar, famously, couldn't drive 55. The double-nickel Hagar sang about was the national speed limit, in miles per hour. The Republican Party is about to find out that there's a new 55 limit in Washington, and it's going to cause some Hagar-level rage on its own. Because 55 senators is not the same as 60, or 67. This simple mathematical statement is about to confound the GOP's entire strategy for the next two years.

To put this a little less cryptically, it's beginning to look like the biggest political battles over the next two years won't be fought between Democrats and Republicans, or even President Obama and Republicans. The big fights are likely to erupt between the House Republicans and the Senate Republicans. Because while the House can be driven by Tea Party or right-wing extremism, the Senate will not be able to successfully operate in such a fashion. The only route open to Senate Republicans is going to be some form of compromise, and we all know that compromise is a very ugly word to House Republicans.

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Home-Field Advantage

[ Posted Wednesday, January 21st, 2015 – 18:24 PST ]

Because it is both playoff season in the football world and State Of The Union season in the political world, I felt it was high time to mix a metaphor or two. Because even though we're at the very earliest stage of the 2016 presidential race, it seems like the Democrats are pretty close to locking in "home-field advantage" on the subject of wages and inequality in America. By which I mean Democrats will be debating Republicans on very familiar territory for the Democratic Party, and very foreign soil for the Republicans. As in sports, this in no way guarantees a victory in "The Big Game," but it certainly does help the Democrats' chances.

While President Obama's "middle class economics" speech last night certainly laid down a few markers for Democrats in 2016 and beyond, the real reason it now seems Democrats will be playing on familiar turf comes from Republicans. There may be multiple reasons why there has been such a dramatic shift in Republican rhetoric in the past few weeks, but the shift is undeniably noticeable and drastic. One of the big reasons Republicans are now complaining about economic inequality is that Mitt Romney is thinking about making one last try, and he got burned so badly last time around because he kept saying laughably plutocratic and out-of-touch things on the campaign trail (the most memorable being his rant against the "47 percent," of course). Mitt at least seems halfway serious about mounting another bid for the White House now, and he's obviously talked to a few advisors about the image problem he had last time, so he's shaken his own personal Etch-A-Sketch and drawn a new picture of compassion for the poor and champion of the middle class. How well this will work is anyone's guess, really, since all things are possible in the political world. But that seems to be where the Republican trend started -- with Mitt re-inventing himself one more time.

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Morning In Obama's America

[ Posted Tuesday, January 20th, 2015 – 22:22 PST ]

Listening to President Barack Obama's State Of The Union speech tonight, I couldn't help but think that he's been waiting a long time to give such a speech, and he was happy to finally be giving it. Finally he could speak of the economy without having to hedge his language. Finally, he could unleash his inner optimism once again.

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Embracing Populism

[ Posted Monday, January 19th, 2015 – 18:14 PST ]

Trying to predict what the next presidential election will "be all about" is usually a fool's game, especially when it's still so far in the future. The main theme of a national election can turn on a dime, due to a major world event or even due to the public's fascination with one unforeseen minor topic. But, at least for the time being, the 2016 election seems to be shaping up as a race centered on economic populism. This may change at any point, as I said, but I couldn't have been the only one who was utterly astonished to hear that Mitt Romney recently told a group of conservatives he might just run on a platform of helping the middle class and attempting to eradicate poverty in America. If even Mitt Romney (of all people) is now expressing Republican concern for the poor, then something has indeed radically shifted in our political debate. Up is now down, topsy is getting downright turvy, and Mitt Romney is now a populist!

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Friday Talking Points [332] -- Getting Ready For Obama's Big Speech

[ Posted Friday, January 16th, 2015 – 17:58 PST ]

This was a busy week in politics, as the Republicans in the new Congress began a bout of legislating and President Obama ramped up his agenda in preparation for next Tuesday's big speech to Congress and the country. So let's just dive in to the week that was, shall we?

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