Maryland Governor Pardons 175,000 Marijuana Crimes

[ Posted Monday, June 17th, 2024 – 16:21 UTC ]

Maryland Governor Wes Moore today signed a blanket pardon that covers 175,000 marijuana crimes committed in the state, reaching back to the 1980s. It could wind up covering even more, since records older than that are stored on paper -- meaning they will not be automatically pardoned, but if people from back then apply for one they will also get a pardon. This already covers an estimated 100,000 people (some of whom have multiple marijuana offenses). Moore is following in the footsteps of other states and jurisdictions who have already either pardoned or expunged criminal records for simple marijuana possession or use. What this all means is that not only is the War On Weed ending in state after state, but in some places people are retroactively trying to heal the damage the War On Weed has done to millions of people.

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Friday Talking Points -- SCOTUS Season Continues

[ Posted Friday, June 14th, 2024 – 16:36 UTC ]

Happy Flag Day, everyone!

[We have to begin with a program note here today. We were on vacation last Friday, so this is the first Friday Talking Points column in two weeks. But unfortunately, while flying back home we caught a flu or cold or something on the airplane (not COVID, we tested...). So we're not exactly on top of our game this week, and the column could be a little fuzzy-headed and incoherent. Or "more than usual," we suppose.... In any case, we didn't want to totally punt and leave a three-week gap, so we did what we could with what's been going on over the past week in politics. Hopefully by next week we'll be all better and the quality will improve!]

The biggest political news of the week by far was Hunter Biden being convicted in record time on all three felony gun charges lodged against him. The jury spent only about three hours before returning these verdicts, which completely undercut the narrative Donald Trump has been spouting about how the justice system is "two-tiered" -- by which he means: "weaponized against Republicans while Democrats get a free pass." Kind of hard to make that argument when the president's own son just got convicted of felonies and is facing up to ten years in prison.

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Mifepristone Wins, I.V.F. Loses

[ Posted Thursday, June 13th, 2024 – 15:13 UTC ]

There was significant news today on reproductive rights, from two separate directions. The Supreme Court unanimously (!) overturned a case that challenged the F.D.A.'s approval of mifepristone, one of the two most commonly used abortion pills in the country. The unanimity was possible because the high court essentially punted on the legal question and instead ruled that the plaintiffs had no legal standing to bring their case. Meanwhile, in the Senate, a bill to create a federal right to in-vitro fertilization failed, mostly on party lines. Last week a bill that would have given federal protections to contraceptives also failed. Both will be used in campaign advertising by Democrats to paint Republicans as being against both contraception rights and I.V.F.

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First Debate Will Be All About Style Over Substance

[ Posted Wednesday, June 12th, 2024 – 15:14 UTC ]

Two weeks from tomorrow, CNN will host the first general election presidential debate of the 2024 cycle. This is unprecedented, because it will happen so early in the campaign season. In fact, neither person on stage will officially be their party's nominee at this point, since the conventions will happen afterwards. It will be "Presumptive Republican Nominee Donald Trump" versus "Presumptive Democratic Nominee President Joe Biden." That alone sets it off from every other televised presidential debate.

So far, only two debates are planned, which makes the first one more important than usual. What everyone is really waiting to learn is what the ground rules of the debate will actually be -- will microphones be cut off when the other candidate is talking, for instance? What ground rules CNN lays down (and how closely they hew to them) is going to be a critical factor in what type of debate the American public gets to see.

Donald Trump loves nothing more than to "win" a debate by being the biggest blowhard anyone has ever seen. He yells over the other candidates, he spews a firehose of lies, and he refuses to admit any reality that isn't part of his bizarre worldview. Other candidates have never quite known what to do when on a stage next to Trump, in fact.

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Joe's Response To Hunter Biden's Verdict

[ Posted Tuesday, June 11th, 2024 – 15:48 UTC ]

Today a jury in Delaware returned guilty verdicts on federal felony gun charges against the sitting United States president's son. This is unprecedented in American history. No close relative of any previous sitting president has ever been charged with criminal behavior, so Hunter Biden will go down in the history books as the first.

What I find remarkable in all of this was President Joe Biden's reaction, and how things would be vastly different under Donald Trump. Biden reacted with a heartfelt and saddened statement, and immediately made a trip to Delaware to be with his son. He did not whine about the verdict, he did not immediately issue a pardon to his son, he did not attack or threaten any of the people who brought about this verdict, and he did not fire anyone anywhere as a result of it.

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Hunter's Jury Is Out

[ Posted Monday, June 10th, 2024 – 14:36 UTC ]

As I write this, the jury is now officially out on Hunter Biden. The jurors in the case against the president's son have heard all the evidence and have now retired to begin their deliberations. Although not as historical as Donald Trump being tried and found guilty of felonies, this is at least a historical footnote: the first member of an American president's close family to go on trial while his dad is still in office.

After following the trial fairly closely (even while on vacation), I have to say things don't look especially good for Hunter. All the prosecution had to prove was that Hunter was using illegal drugs when he tried to buy a gun, lied about this use on the federal forms, and then possessed the gun while he was still using illegal drugs. That is not very complex a case to make, which is why the trial didn't take all that long.

Hunter's defense is that the prosecution cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hunter was using drugs during the extremely short period when he bought and owned the handgun. This period was less than two weeks long, and Biden's lawyers argued that Hunter had recently gone through rehab and could conceivably still have been clean during this whole period, despite his own admission that he was addicted to crack cocaine both before and after this period.

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From The (Friday Talking Points) Archives -- The Reclosing Begins

[ Posted Friday, June 7th, 2024 – 16:04 UTC ]

Because it is Friday, we are re-running a Friday Talking Points column from four years ago. In June of 2020, the boundless optimism that the COVID-19 pandemic was receding and soon to be over was dealt a huge blow, as the second big wave proved to be even larger than the first. This wouldn't even be the worst wave of the pandemic, which was a long way in the future. But this was the first time Americans realized that this wasn't going to be some relatively-quick disruption of life and that we should instead buckle down for the long haul.

President Trump, at this point in time, had already proven how disastrous his attempts to lead the nation through the crisis truly were. Because to Trump, of course, none of it was about millions dying, the entire pandemic was, instead, a personal affront to him.

People have forgotten what 2020 was really like. Here's a reminder for everyone.

[Program Note: New columns will begin again on Monday! Thanks for your patience....]


Originally published June 26, 2020

America, led by President Donald Trump and (mostly) Republican governors across the country, launched a grand experiment a few months back. Rather than following guidelines and milestones recommended by top epidemiologists, each state would reopen its economy as it saw fit. If your governor felt comfortable enough with the state of things, then the doors would be thrown open. This all started just before Memorial Day weekend, when Trump decided he was bored with the pandemic. And now it's becoming pretty obvious that this experiment has failed, and failed badly. And tens of thousands of Americans are paying a very steep price for this exercise in unfounded optimism.

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From The Archives -- Trump's Very Bad Week

[ Posted Thursday, June 6th, 2024 – 16:01 UTC ]

Considering where we are today, it's kind of laughable to run that headline. Four years ago what constituted a "very bad week" for Trump would barely even move the needle today (especially after he was found guilty of 34 felonies, just last week).

But we run this column from June of 2020 just to remind everyone that "Supreme Court decision season" has already begun and there are a few of these that will directly impact Trump. And the Supreme Court has not always ruled in Trump's favor, as well. So who knows? Maybe they'll surprise us all... it's worth hoping for, at the very least.


Originally published June 18, 2020

To President Donald Trump, today's Supreme Court ruling was not actually about the hundreds of thousands of young people whose legal residence in this country hung on this court case. Instead, it was about one thing and one thing alone, which is pretty much the same thing that everything is about for Donald Trump: himself. After learning of the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision denying Trump the ability to strip legal protection from the "dreamers," Trump petulantly took to Twitter to ask: "Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn't like me?" Once again, Trump reduced an issue of monumental importance to the level of schoolyard gossip (about him, of course). Maybe if the Supremes really really liked Trump, things would be different? Because that's obviously what it's all about, not all that legal mumbo-jumbo or hundreds of thousands of young people's lives.

Donald Trump is having a very bad week, obviously. He lost two major Supreme Court cases, which gave joy and delight to millions of affected people. He had to move the date of his first rally in months because of a holiday neither Trump nor anyone around him had ever heard of (which celebrates another monumental issue, the end of slavery in this country). John Bolton, whose politics could accurately be described as "to the right of Attila the Hun," is about to start selling his tell-all book to the public, which (as with every single one of all the other tell-all books about Trump) paints the president as a petulant, ill-informed man-baby who is unaware that Finland isn't part of Russia or that the United Kingdom is a nuclear power. Trump staged an executive order signing, which was supposed to somehow show leadership on police reform, but what he signed was so weak that Congress barely even noticed Trump's effort as they moved towards putting together their own bill. Also, Trump is apparently now obsessed with finding and bringing charges against whatever White House aide leaked the fact that he hid in a bunker during a protest outside his front door, because he knows full well how weak it made him look. The COVID-19 pandemic seems to be on the brink of a second wave of infections, this time centered mostly in the red states. And for the 13th straight week, more than a million Americans filed for unemployment. No wonder Joe Biden is dominating in each and every poll taken, both nationally and in the battleground states.

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From The Archives -- Colorado, Utah Show How Mail-In Voting Can Work

[ Posted Wednesday, June 5th, 2024 – 16:01 UTC ]

Continuing our journey into the past, we take another look back four years ago, to June of 2020. I'm not going to do these strictly in order, because this one seemed like a really good balance for the negativity (no matter how well-founded and later-proven) of yesterday's article.

Today, here's a column celebrating the concept of mail-in voting. I haven't taken a close look at individual state laws yet, but I do wonder how many of the states that significantly expanded mail-in voting for the 2020 election have kept the lenient rules, and which ones have just gone back to the way they used to do things before the pandemic forced changes. But here, at least, was a look at a few states that did it right last time around.


Originally published June 30, 2020

Every so often I like to tempt fate by writing an article which could easily (and monumentally) be proven wrong within mere hours. Today is one of those days, because I feel pretty confident in predicting that Colorado and Utah will essentially show the rest of the country how a mail-in election should be done. I seriously doubt we'll see scenes of frustrated voters not being able to cast their ballots in a timely way, because with universal mail-in voting, that's not really a problem. No long lines, no machines that don't work right, no poll workers who don't know how to operate the machines, no voter-suppression efforts (both overt and covert) at all. And while Colorado is at the end of a long journey from being a purple state to a very blue one, Utah is still about as staunchly Republican as it gets -- proving that mail-in voting is not a partisan issue at all. Or it shouldn't be, at the very least.

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From The Archives -- Will We Know Who Won On Election Night?

[ Posted Tuesday, June 4th, 2024 – 17:04 UTC ]

For the rest of the week, I am going to be running columns from four years ago -- from June of 2020. I figured it'd be a good thing to take a look back and remember where we all were then.

But I have to admit, when I found this first one, I had to feel more than a little prophetic (especially the penultimate paragraph). Pretty much everything I warned about in this column actually did come to pass, and parts of it were even worse than my fervid imagination could come up with.

This was written after Pennsylvania had held their primary and everyone was still waiting to hear the results of it, due to an extra-large quantity of mail-in votes.


Originally published June 8, 2020

I know we all have plenty to worry about these days, so I apologize in advance for adding another possible item to the list. But we could be heading for a very worrisome situation indeed, because contrary to how Americans have experienced past presidential elections (well... other than in the year 2000...), we may not actually know who won on the night of the election. There are a combination of factors which have set up this rather unique situation, and it may not even come to pass if a few of these variables change by November. But the possibility now exists that we won't know for days -- or even weeks -- who won the Electoral College and thus the presidency. Which, obviously, could lead to chaos, especially considering what Donald Trump will be saying and tweeting in the meantime.

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