We'll get to other political news in a moment, but since last week contained the date 4/20, we're going to first run down all the marijuana news. Coincidentally or not, there was a lot of it this week. So let's just begin by "getting into the weeds" of politics, as it were (the ponies come along later, never fear).
Of course, there were stories appearing on or around 4/20, as usual. Bill Maher wants to make the date a national holiday (you can sign his petition; so far it's got over 31,000 signatures). Public support for legalization is at an all-time high (insert your own "how high is it?" joke here, if you must...). Pro-reformers in Arizona filed the first paperwork to get recreational legalization on the 2016 ballot.
In Congress, Dana Rohrabacher (a Republican, no less) just announced the "Respect State Marijuana Laws Act" together with 11 bipartisan cosponsors. He released a statement explaining his bill:
The American people, through the 35 states that have liberalized laws banning either medical marijuana, marijuana in general, or cannabinoid oils, have made it clear that federal enforcers should stay out of their personal lives. It's time for restraint of the federal government's over-aggressive weed warriors.
This is even stronger legislation than what has already been proposed by others, so it'll be interesting to see if it makes inroads in the House.
The Supreme Court handed down a little-noticed ruling this week, strengthening the Fourth Amendment. Cops can no longer pull you over on some pretext and then essentially arrest you and your car until the drug dogs can show up to give your vehicle a sniff. It's an unconstitutional search and seizure -- a ruling that may have a dramatic impact on highway patrols across the country.
The biggest news of the week, though, was the announcement that the head of the Drug Enforcement Agency will be resigning her post. Michele Leonhart will step down in a few weeks, leaving behind a disgraceful record as the nation's top drug warrior. Earlier this week, I provided a rundown of both her record and the joyful reactions to her resignation announcement, but it seems I forgot one -- the story of how disgracefully the D.E.A. is treating an informant who worked for them for over 25 years. Yet another black mark on an agency that already has too many to count.
My favorite 4/20-themed story this week, though, was Bruce Barcott's Huffington Post blog, where he tells the story of visiting the D.E.A.'s museum. Who knew the D.E.A. had a museum? The exhibits aren't exactly fair and balanced, though, as Barcott points out:
The exhibit floor opens with a head shop from the 1970s, a metal crack-house door from the 1980s, and a medical marijuana dispensary storefront from the 2000s. This is the federal government's overview of America's drug problem. There's no meth. No heroin. No prescription pills. What defines the D.E.A.'s mission, apparently, are two parts marijuana, one part cocaine.
The history of the War On Weed is a long and depressing one, of course, but what many simply don't realize is that horror stories still regularly happen both on the federal and at the state level. We mentioned last week the story of the 11-year-old child in Kansas who stood up for medical marijuana at his school (because they were flat-out lying to the students), and as a reward got bunged into the clutches of Child Protective Services.
The mother has now been denied custody of her son by a court. Thousands of people are supporting this woman who takes an extract of marijuana to treat her Crohn's Disease, including over 46,000 who have signed a petition asking the state to give her son back, as well as the folks who have contributed over $37,000 to her legal fund (both figures "as of this writing").
What's even more interesting is that the argument for children using marijuana oils and extracts to treat life-threatening seizures is getting a lot more attention these days. No, "life-threatening" is not an exaggeration. Lydia Schaeffer, an 8-year-old Wisconsin girl, died last year on Mother's Day, because her state hadn't provided a legal means for her to be treated. Her mother Sally's voice is a powerful one in this debate:
I fought so hard, and now my husband and I -- all we have is a headstone. I don't want anyone to end up in our shoes. I don't want anyone to have to bury their own child.
She is not alone. From the story of another similar child:
Sophia is not alone. Roughly 3 million people in the U.S. suffer from some form of epilepsy, and according to the Epilepsy Foundation, at least 1 million people in the U.S. live with uncontrolled epilepsy like Sophia's.
All of those who live in states which have not reformed their marijuana laws are being denied a possible treatment for their serious medical problems. If these were prisoners of war, such conduct would be against the Geneva Conventions, to put this in perspective.
Speaking of military misconduct (how's that for a segue?), David Petraeus got his wrist figuratively slapped for leaking classified information. Although others have gotten stiff prison sentences for the same crime, Petraeus only got a few years of probation and a fine. So much for fair sentencing.
Which brings us to the campaign coverage of the week, or what we really should call the "politicians sayin' funny stuff" segment of the show. We begin with some profanity out on the hustings, because this seemed to be the week for such stories. Martin O'Malley, who is desperately trying to get some media and public traction as "that Maryland guy who thinks he can take on Hillary Clinton," responded to some nonsense from Marco Rubio on the radio by bluntly stating: "I don't think there's any truth to that.... That's kind of patently bullshit." Across the aisle, in Republican-on-Republican cursing, we had two members of the Nevada Assembly getting into it during floor debate. Here's the key quote:
When a fellow Republican, Assemblyman Chris Edwards, asked why she was wasting the august body’s time, the Tea Party favorite [Assemblywoman Michele] Fiore exploded, shouting at him to "sit your ass down and be quiet."
Out in California, Republican Steve Knight also got into it, in this case with a disgruntled Tea Partier. Admittedly, he was provoked, but still, is this the way members of the United States House of Representatives are supposed to act in public?
"Mike," the man Knight confronts, has a firm grip on the congressman's hand as he says, "You told me you didn't vote for amnesty, and you did. I looked it up on the Internet. You lied to me." Then Mike forcefully pats him on the shoulder. Knight approaches him. "Mike, if you touch me again," he says, "I'll drop your ass." "I shook your hand!" Mike protests, somewhat disingenuously.
Profanity aside, there is still a lot of stupid... um... stuff being said by politicians these days. Case in point, Mike Huckabee, who is now advising Americans to wait to enlist in the armed services "a couple of years until we get a new commander in chief that will once again believe 'one nation under God,' and believe that people of faith should be a vital part of the process of not only governing this country, but defending this country." OK, let's see, we're at war and Huckabee is trying to undermine military recruitment. How patriotic!
This one is from far in the candidate's past, but it still deserves a mention. Ted Cruz apparently was on a debate team at Princeton and decided to crack a joke:
In one debate, he proposed a method to detect infidelity, in which God should "give women a hymen that grows back every time she has intercourse with a different guy, because that will be a 'visible sign' of the breach of trust."
What a laugh riot! Too far in the past? Well, Cruz did make some news this week, when he followed Representative Steve King's lead by introducing two bills in an absolute desperation move (because the stench of defeat so obviously hangs over the whole "defense of marriage" movement these days). Cruz would ban the Supreme Court from hearing any cases on gay marriage until he could successfully pass the other legislation: a constitutional amendment banning the federal government from getting involved in the definition of marriage. Talk about locking the barn after the horse is long gone! The Supreme Court hears arguments next week, and marriage equality will likely be the law of the land in all 50 states by June. But Cruz is going to fight hard against anyone in his party moving on from the issue, obviously.
News from the Rand Paul campaign: Paul was forced to stop selling Ray Ban sunglasses with his own logo on them, after the company complained. Paul was also quoted this week calling John McCain and Lindsey Graham "lapdogs for President Obama." Ouch! But then how seriously can anyone take Paul when he's getting headlines like "Rand Paul's Been Hanging Out With A Guy Who Literally Threw A Porn Star Off A Roof"?
If all this weren't amusing enough, the Washington Post had the funniest story from the campaign trail all week, in their coverage of the latest Republican cattle call up in New Hampshire. This one takes the prize for snarky reporting (complete with an even-snarkier juxtaposition of the candidate's photo right next to one of Ted Cruz):
It turns out there is a limit on who can show up at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Conference and declare a candidacy. And Vermin Supreme, a Massachusetts man with a long white beard known for wearing a giant rubber boot on his head, was that limit.
"They're loving me, obviously," Supreme said. He expects he'll do a lot better than the last time he ran in the New Hampshire Republican primary, when he got 43 votes. "They're taking my stickers, they're taking the free candy that I'm giving them. And nobody's kicked me out yet, so that's a big plus."
He turned to Graham, who happened to be walking past.
"What do you think of my 'free ponies for each American' platform?" he asked.
"I'll have to get back to you on that," Graham said.
He wouldn't get the chance. Moments later, security escorted Supreme off the premises. And like that, the conference lost its opportunity for a 20th candidate.
Free ponies? Now there's a fresh Republican idea. I mean, even Lisa Simpson might consider voting Republican with a platform like that! Still, it leaves a burning question unanswered -- inquiring minds want to know: Where does Lindsey Graham stand on the free ponies question?!? Heh. The article doesn't say a word about bumperstickers, but how much fun would it be to slap the message: "Vermin Supreme 2016!" on your car?
We have some Honorable Mention awards to hand out before we get to the main award this week. The first two fall into the "Humor" category, and then we've got five cryptic ones we'll explain later, in the talking points.
The first of these isn't even really a "Democratic" award, but since it's just an Honorable Mention we decided to throw out the rule book. The Denver police tweeted on this year's 4/20 (getting in the spirit that Seattle cops showed a few years back by passing out bags of Doritos with similar messages):
We see you rollin, but we ain't hatin' HAHA... Seriously though, #Denver, please remember to #ConsumeResponsibly this 4/20 weekend.
In similar G-dropping style, we have to proudly say: The times, they are a-changin'. Well done, Denver police!
President Obama was also cracking wise this week, when the New England Patriots visited the White House. Sports fans will get the jokes in what Obama had to say about Coach Bill Belichick and the team:
I'm particularly grateful that Coach decided to dress up today. (Laughter.) We had some scissors if he wanted to cut the sleeves off. (Laughter.) Formal hoodies are allowed. (Laughter.) I usually tell a bunch of jokes at these events, but with the Patriots in town, I was worried that 11 out of 12 of them would fall flat. (Laughter.) All right, all right, all right. That whole story got blown a little out of proportion. (Laughter.)
We'll explain these next awards later, but we also have five Honorable Mention awards for Senators Brian Schatz (HI), Chuck Schumer (NY), and Elizabeth Warren (MA); as well as Representatives Keith Ellison (MN) and Raúl Grijalva (AZ). See talking point four, below, for explanation.
The obvious choice for this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week is none other than America's new Attorney General, Loretta Lynch. Lynch was finally confirmed by the Senate in a 56-43 vote (Senator Ted Cruz was apparently too scared to vote either way, and was absent).
Nobody -- not a single Republican -- argued that Lynch wasn't qualified for the job. Instead, the Republicans bizarrely argued that Lynch should have answered their questions during her hearings by disagreeing with President Obama on a fundamental interpretation of the law. That is nothing short of political gamesmanship, since what other presidential appointee has ever been held to such a standard? Why would a president appoint someone who fundamentally disagrees with him in the first place? The five months Lynch had to wait for a vote was nothing short of shameful for the Senate.
While we're hopeful Lynch will win future MIDOTW awards for her actions as the nation's top law enforcer, this week she earned it just for making it through a process that was far more grueling than it should have been. For that and for that alone, Loretta Lynch is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.
[Loretta Lynch will not begin her job until Monday, so for the time being you can congratulate her victory via the White House's contact page, to let her new boss know you appreciate her confirmation.]
Today is the centennial of the start of the Armenian genocide. During his 2008 campaign to become president, then-candidate Barack Obama used the words "the Armenian genocide... a widely-documented fact." He said America deserved a president who would "speak truthfully" about it.
Since then, he has indeed spoken truthfully about it. This year, he called it "the first mass atrocity of the 20th century," which it surely was. Obama noted that Armenians were "deported, massacred, and marched to their deaths." He called it "horrific violence" and "terrible carnage" and a "painful legacy." But he couldn't bring himself to use one particular word, although he did allude to his past use of the term:
I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view has not changed. A full, frank, and just acknowledgement of the facts is in all our interests. Peoples and nations grow stronger, and build a foundation for a more just and tolerant future, by acknowledging and reckoning with painful elements of the past. We welcome the expression of views by Pope Francis, Turkish and Armenian historians, and the many others who have sought to shed light on this dark chapter of history.
The thing is, to have a "full, frank, and just acknowledgement of the facts," you've got to call it by its proper name -- the word actually used by Pope Francis, historians, and many others.
It was the Armenian genocide. Obama knew this as candidate, promised to "speak truthfully" about it as president, and since taking office has not done so to the fullest of his ability. The centennial of the atrocity would have been the perfect place to do so, but Obama ignored this historic opportunity.
For his continued refusal to use the correct historical term -- for his continued dancing around the word "genocide" -- President Barack Obama is our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week.
[Contact President Obama on the White House contact page, to let him know what you think of his continued waffling.]
Volume 343 (4/24/15)
Once again, a rather mixed bag. The theme of these talking point segments will, no doubt, sharpen up as the campaign does, but for now they're kind of all over the map. And yes, there will be free ponies.
Economic outlook improves significantly
This is worth pointing out because the Republicans running for president seem to think that doom-and-gloom is a winning hand for them. We've got a year and a half before the election, and the trendlines all look pretty good -- something the GOP has yet to figure out.
"For the first time since the Great Recession began -- since 2007, in fact -- CNN reports that more Americans rate the current economic condition of the country in positive terms. More jobs are being created, more people are working, and it's making a difference in the average American's life. Over half the public thinks the economy is doing good, which is indeed a milestone worth noting."
More jobs under Obama than both Bushes combined
This is a superb job of creating a talking point out of dry statistics, and every Democrat should start using this line immediately.
"During Obama's time in office, there have been more jobs created than under George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush -- combined."
Obamacare getting more popular
This is a repeat of a talking point we used last week, in a way, but there's a new poll out which just confirms the sentiment, so we thought it'd be worth revisiting.
"Yet another poll is out this week, this one from the Kaiser Family Foundation, which shows that Obamacare is getting more popular as well. As time goes by, the memories of all the scare stories and Obamacare boogeymen fade, people are starting to see for themselves the reality instead of the false picture which was painted by its opponents. Sooner or later, Republicans are going to wake up and notice that people just don't believe them about Obamacare, because all the train wrecks they predicted for it just never happened."
Here's where that cryptic list of Honorable Mention winners gets explained.
"Three Democrats in the Senate and two Democrats in the House have just introduced a bill which would make state college or university debt-free for students. Republicans can talk about inequality until they're blue in the face, but Democrats are the ones who actually support ideas to make things better for America's middle class. If the fear of not being able to send your children to college because you can't afford it were to become a permanent thing of the past, it would improve the lives of countless millions of Americans now and far into the future, and it would make our country stronger as a direct result. A Chuck Schumer, one of the sponsors of the idea, put it: 'When it comes to making college affordable, I'm hopeful that debt-free college is the next big idea.' I could not agree more. This is indeed a big idea, and I call on all Democrats -- and Republicans -- to support it, to make the lives of tens of millions of students and their families immeasurably better."
Or you could live in Kansas...
Draw a stark contrast! This is a battle of ideas, people!
"Democrats continue to work hard to make things better for the middle class and the rest of the 99 percent, while Republicans prove over and over again that their only answer to any problem is to cut taxes on the wealthiest of the wealthy. This experiment is currently crashing and burning in Kansas, where strict trickle-down economics was supposed to usher in some sort of conservative paradise. Instead, they're shutting down schools to pay for tax cuts for the rich. This week came news of their brilliant idea to fix the problem of their inevitable budget shortfall was to hike sales taxes instead -- which fall on the poor the hardest. So the Republican plan is to tax the poor so they can hand over bigger and fatter tax cuts to the rich. Robin Hood in reverse! What could possibly go wrong with that?"
Or you could move to Liberland, I suppose
"If Kansas isn't enough of a conservative Utopia, why not move to Liberland instead? An enterprising guy staked out three square miles in dispute between Croatia and Serbia and declared it the Free Republic of Liberland (motto: "To live and let live"), where anyone can sign up for citizenship, government would be heavily restricted, and paying taxes would be optional. Because, after all, if cutting taxes is supposed to somehow bring in more revenue, wouldn't it logically follow that cutting all taxes would bring in the maximum revenue? A veritable Libertarian paradise on Earth! So my new go-to response to people who can't even figure out why Kansas has not blossomed economically is now going to be: 'Well, why not just move to Liberland instead?' Have the courage of your convictions! Become a Liberlander today! That way, when it fails spectacularly, the rest of America won't have to bail you out."
And, just to get snarky...
"I resent the fact that the mainstream media refuses to take Vermin Supreme seriously. There is one candidate -- out of the entire Republican field, mind you -- who seems to have an original idea. You'd think this would be news, since none of the other candidates seem to have much new to say. I demand that all other Republican candidates -- especially Lindsey Graham, who has already shamefully ducked the question -- take a firm stand on the Vermin Supreme 'free ponies for each American' platform plank. Where do the other candidates stand? Media, do your job!"
-- Chris Weigant