DAVID SIROTA ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Seven years before legal marijuana went on sale this month in my home state of Colorado, the drug warriors in President George W. Bush's administration released an advertisement that is now worth revisiting.
"I smoked weed and nobody died," intoned the teenage narrator. "I didn't get into a car accident. I didn't O.D. on heroin the next day. Nothing happened."
The television spot from the White House drug czar was intended to discourage marijuana use by depicting it as boring. But in the process, the government suggested that smoking a little pot is literally, in the words of the narrator, "the safest thing in the world."
Why is this spot worth revisiting? Because in light of what's happening here in Colorado, the ad looks less like a scary warning than a reassuringly accurate prophecy. Indeed, to paraphrase the ad, for all the sky-will-fall rhetoric about legalization, there haven't been piles of dead bodies and overdoses. Nothing like that has happened since we started regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol.
Instead, as I saw during a trip to 3D Cannabis Center in Denver, it has been the opposite. There, I didn't find the mayhem predicted by so many drug warriors.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
A recent New York Times article by economist Laurence J. Kotlikoff suggested that we "Abolish the Corporate Income Tax." His case for doing so, he explains, "requires constructing a large-scale computer simulation model of the United States economy as it interacts over time with other nations' economies." The computer determined that the tax cut would be "self-financing to a significant extent."
Big business hints at serious consequences if we don't comply with this lower tax demand. But abolishing the corporate income tax is not likely to reverse the long history of harmful corporate behavior. There are several good reasons why.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"In Iraq, al-Qaeda launched an offensive to take control of two cities, Fallujah and Ramadi, that U.S. troops sacrificed heavily to clear of terrorists between 2004 and 2008."
And so the new year begins, with a heavy dose of same old, same old. This is the Washington Post editorial page, which Robert Parry dubbed the neocon bullhorn, blaming the al-Qaeda uprising in western Iraq on President Obama's withdrawal of troops from that country, along with his failure to invade Syria last fall, all of which, the editorial charges, adds up to complacency in the face of growing danger and a lack of protection for "vital U.S. interests."
And for good measure, the Post lets loose a cry for the troops and their sacrifice on behalf of those vital interests. It's obviously not too early to start performing cosmetic surgery on Bush-era history (boy, we had those terrorists on the run), even as its consequences continue to hemorrhage.
The Washington Post knows as well as you or I that American "vital interests," as defined in the Bush (and more queasily in the Obama) era, float in a context of lies, stupidity, waste and war crimes. Yet its editorial page so reflects the Beltway addiction to war that it pushes for more of it no matter how counterproductive the last one turned out for any rational assessment of U.S. vital interests.
For instance, former CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar, in an essay that ran at Consortium News, notes with irony that "the Bush policies could be said to have stimulated democratization in the Middle East in large part through Middle Easterners reacting negatively to the policies themselves." That is to say, democratic movements sprang up in the region as self-defense, in opposition to the U.S. pursuit of its alleged vital interests: Being pro-democracy meant being anti-American.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR AT BUZZFLASH.COM
According to a new analysis by OpenSecretsBlog, "Millionaires' Club: For First Time, Most Lawmakers are Worth $1 Million-Plus":
Of 534 current members of Congress, at least 268 had an average net worth of $1 million or more in 2012, according to disclosures filed last year by all members of Congress and candidates. The median net worth for the 530 current lawmakers who were in Congress as of the May filing deadline was $1,008,767 -- an increase from last year when it was $966,000. In addition, at least one of the members elected since then, Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), is a millionaire, according to forms she filed as a candidate. (There is currently one vacancy in Congress.)
Last year only 257 members, or about 48 percent of lawmakers, had a median net worth of at least $1 million.
Remember, of course, those in Congress who aren't millionaires have a very good chance of becoming ones after leaving office -- particularly senators -- by becoming lobbyists or working for corporations.
In short, we are ruled by people who have the perspective of wealth as something that they personally experience (or probably will if they aren't there already).
COMMUNICATIONS WORKERS OF AMERICA ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen today made the following statement in response to the bill introduced by Sen. Max Baucus and Rep. Dave Camp calling for “fast track” authorization for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP):
“Fast track is the wrong track when it comes to a trade deal like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that will affect our laws, our jobs, our food and our environment. Fast track, also known as Trade Promotion Authority, forces Congress to give up its Constitutional right to amend and improve this trade deal, which now is reportedly more than 1,000 pages long.
“For nearly four years, the U.S. Trade Representative and TPP negotiators have purposely restricted participation and information, keeping members of Congress and citizen groups, unions, environmental and consumer organizations in the dark. There has been no opportunity for public interest groups to meaningfully participate in the negotiations, and under fast track authority, there will be no opportunity for our elected representatives to amend the deal and make it better for Americans."
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
A just-released Gallup Poll states it starkly:
Forty-two percent of Americans, on average, identified as political independents in 2013, the highest Gallup has measured since it began conducting interviews by telephone 25 years ago. Meanwhile, Republican identification fell to 25%, the lowest over that time span. At 31%, Democratic identification is unchanged from the last four years but down from 36% in 2008....
Americans' increasing shift to independent status has come more at the expense of the Republican Party than the Democratic Party. Republican identification peaked at 34% in 2004, the year George W. Bush won a second term in office. Since then, it has fallen nine percentage points, with most of that decline coming during Bush's troubled second term. When he left office, Republican identification was down to 28%. It has declined or stagnated since then, improving only slightly to 29% in 2010, the year Republicans "shellacked" Democrats in the midterm elections.
Regardless of the percentage of voters identifying themselves as Democrats remaining stable over the last few years, neither major political party should find comfort in the poll.
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Remember Prohibition? I mean the Prohibition of "Boardwalk Empire." Well, there are not too many people alive now who do remember it, although I was born just three years after it came to the end of its very short life (1920-1933). But it had come to pass, through a Constitutional Amendment no less, due to the diligent work of the Temperance Wing of the Republican Party. (Indeed although the center of the original Republican Party was that of the anti-slavery Whigs, both the nativist "No-Nothings" and the Temperance Movement also were there at its beginnings. That accounts at least in part for the long association of the Republican Party with both recreational mood-altering drug (RMAD) illegalization and anti-immigrant legislation of various types at various times.)
That Prohibition was aimed at alcohol, of course. But before it, around the turn of the 20th century, 15 states had prohibition of one kind or another for tobacco use. The major difference with those Prohibitions and the modern so-called "War on Drugs" --- really a war on certain users of certain drugs --- was that the former criminalized importation and sale of the target drugs, while the latter also criminalizes possession and use.
And so here comes David Brooks of The New York Times who makes an excellent argument for the original Prohibition. He happens to have been writing about marijuana and its legalization (small amounts, for personal use) in certain parts of Colorado. But it is fascinating to note that the arguments he uses against marijuana legalization are just like those that have been used for alcohol and tobacco prohibition going back to the 19th Temperance movement.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
January 8 marked the 50th Anniversary of the beginning of President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty. What usually happens with anniversaries of this magnitude -- i.e. this past summer's 50th anniversary of the March on Washington -- is that it is recognized and discussed for just about a media minute before other issues reclaim the nation's attention.
Susan Greenbaum, a professor emerita of anthropology at the University of South Florida, pointed out that "Congress is marking the anniversary by ending unemployment benefits for 1.3 million people who have been out of work for more than a year and cutting food stamps for 47 million people who rely on them to eat," In a piece posted at the website of Al Jazeera America, Greenbaum's article, titled "What war on poverty?" noted that "At 15 percent, the poverty rate is the same today as it was in 1965, a year after the so-called war began."
Greenbaum recognized that from the outset the War on Poverty had many obstacles thrown in its way, not the least of which was Johnson's wrongheaded pursuit of the Vietnam War, and his successor President Richard Nixon's launch of a War on Drugs. Both stripped funding and urgency away from a War on Poverty.
However, as The New Republic's Alec Macgillis recently pointed out, poverty "is apparently having its moment, right up there with egg creams and stroller derbies."
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
New New York Times (NYT) editorials have generally been more liberal in their outlook (although there are many exceptions to this, including its editorials supporting the Iraq War and Wall Street) than the news section that most often reflects an inside the beltway conventional wisdom perspective, it is still a red letter day when an editorial -- such as the one appearing on January 7th -- excoriates the president and attorney general for putting obstacles in the way of government transparency:
When President Obama took office in 2009, he promised an “unprecedented level of openness in government.” In a memo issued the day after his inauguration, he wrote, “The government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.”
In the latest reminder that the Obama administration has failed to live up to that promise, the Justice Department last week won its fight to keep secret a memo that outlines the supposed legal authority for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to collect Americans’ telephone and financial records without a subpoena...
Many other opinions remain hidden under the specious claim that they are only working drafts, not adopted policies, and that if officials must worry about operating “in a fishbowl,” they will avoid seeking legal advice altogether. This rationale is largely a pretext for putting an ever-expanding shroud over almost any controversial, and potentially illegal, government action.
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
What a Christmas little Bastrop had! It's still a mystery how Santa Claus got it down the chimney, but Bastrop got a nifty present that most children could only dream about: a big honkin', steel-clad, war toy called MRAP.
But Bastrop is not a 6-year-old child, and an MRAP is not a toy. Bastrop is a Texas county of some 75,000 people, and MRAP stands for "Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected." It's a heavily armored military vehicle weighing about 15 tons — one of several versions of fighting machines that have become the hot, must-have playthings of police departments all across the country.
Are the good people of Bastrop facing some imminent terrorist threat that warrants military equipment? No, it's a very pleasant, laid-back place. And while the county is named for a 19th century land developer and accused embezzler, it's never been a haven for particularly dangerous criminals — indeed, the relatively few crimes in Bastrop today don't rise above the level of routine police work.