Daily Archive: 12/14/2012

Dec 14 2012

Normalizing Marijuana

This past election cycle was made more interesting, not so much for the main event between Pres. Barack Obama and presidential wannabe Mitt Romney but, by the ballot initiatives in Washington and Colorado that legalized the recreational use of marijuana in those states. There are eighteen states and the District of Columbia that have legalized its use for medical purposes and several others in the process of doing the same.

Currently under federal law, marijuana is classified under the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule I narcotic whose cultivation, distribution, possession and use are criminal acts. Besides the legal ramifications there are the social and economic impacts. Both states are looking into controlling marijuana sales and use the same as they do alcohol, which makes a great deal of sense. In a recent national poll taking by Quinnipaic found that across the entire country 51 percent of American voters think marijuana should be legal and 44 think it should be illegal.

In an interview with ABC News’ Barbara Walters, President Obama said that at this time he does not support legalization of marijuana but needed to find a middle ground on punishing use of the drug. He then punted to congress for the solution:

“This is a tough problem, because Congress has not yet changed the law,” Obama said. “I head up the executive branch; we’re supposed to be carrying out laws. And so what we’re going to need to have is a conversation about, How do you reconcile a federal law that still says marijuana is a federal offense and state laws that say that it’s legal?”

Either the president is unaware or just trying to avoid the responsibility but blaming congress for not changing the law is false, as FDL‘s  Jon Walker at its Just Say Now blog points out, the president has does not need congress to change marijuana status:

With 99 percent of federal laws this would be the case, but the Controlled Substance Act is fairly unique. The law explicitly gives the executive branch the right to change the legal status of any drug without Congressional involvement. If the administration, after examining the latest scientific research, determines that cannabis shouldn’t be Schedule I it has the power to move it to a lower schedule, which would make medical marijuana legal under federal law, or even unschedule it all together, which would effectively legalize it.

Several sitting governors in states with medical marijuana have petitioned Obama asking him to reschedule marijuana, and currently the Obama administration is actually fighting an effort in federal court to get the executive branch to provide a legitimate review of marijuana. There is no reason Obama can’t simply stop fighting the case and reschedule marijuana without needing to involve Congress.

MSNBC host Chris Hayes and his panel guests on his December 2 Up with Chris Hayes talked about how Washington and Colorado are dealing with the result of the ballot measures that legalized marijuana in those states:

Dec 14 2012

Impressions Under Water

Triumph of the Will gave Riefenstahl instant and lasting international fame, as well as infamy. Although she directed only eight films, just two of which received significant coverage outside of Germany, Riefenstahl was widely known all her life. The propaganda value of her films made during the 1930s repels most modern commentators, but many film histories cite the aesthetics as outstanding. The Economist wrote that Triumph of the Will “sealed her reputation as the greatest female filmmaker of the 20th century”.

Zero Dark Thirty: CIA hagiography, pernicious propaganda

Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian

Friday 14 December 2012 10.03 EST

In US political culture, there is no event in the last decade that has inspired as much collective pride and pervasive consensus as the killing of Osama bin Laden.

This event has obtained sacred status in American political lore. Nobody can speak ill of it, or even question it, without immediately prompting an avalanche of anger and resentment. The news of his death triggered an outburst of patriotic street chanting and nationalistic glee that continued unabated two years later into the Democratic National Convention. As Wired’s Pentagon reporter Spencer Ackerman put it in his defense of the film, the killing of bin Laden makes him (and most others) “very, very proud to be American.” Very, very proud.



The fact that nice liberals who already opposed torture (like Spencer Ackerman) felt squeamish and uncomfortable watching the torture scenes is irrelevant. That does not negate this point at all. People who support torture don’t support it because they don’t realize it’s brutal. They know it’s brutal – that’s precisely why they think it works – and they believe it’s justifiable because of its brutality: because it is helpful in extracting important information, catching terrorists, and keeping them safe. This film repeatedly reinforces that belief by depicting torture exactly as its supporters like to see it: as an ugly though necessary tactic used by brave and patriotic CIA agents in stopping hateful, violent terrorists.



(T)he idea that Zero Dark Thirty should be regarded purely as an apolitical “work of art” and not be held accountable for its political implications is, in my view, pretentious, pseudo-intellectual, and ultimately amoral claptrap. That’s true for several reasons.

First, this excuse completely contradicts what the filmmakers themselves say about what they are doing. Bigelow has been praising herself for the “journalistic” approach she has taken to depicting these events. The film’s first screen assures viewers that it is all “based on first hand accounts of actual events”. You can’t claim you’re doing journalism and then scream “art” to justify radical inaccuracies. Serwer aptly noted the manipulative shell-game driving this: “If you’re thinking of giving them an award, Zero Dark Thirty is ‘history’; if you’re a journalist asking a question about a factual error in the film, it’s just a movie.”

Second, the very idea that this is some sort of apolitical work of art is ludicrous. The film is about the two most politicized events of the last decade: the 9/11 attack (which it starts with) and the killing of bin Laden (which it ends with). George Bush got re-elected running on the former, while Obama just got re-elected running on the latter. It was made with the close cooperation of the CIA, Pentagon and White House. Everything about this film – its subject, its claims, its mode of production, its implications – are political to its core. It does not have an apolitical bone in its body. Demanding that political considerations be excluded from how this film is judged is nonsensical; it’s a political film from start to finish.

Third, to demand that this movie be treated as “art” is to expand that term beyond any real recognition. This film is Hollywood shlock. The brave crusaders slay the Evil Villains, and everyone cheers.

While parts of the film are technically well-executed, it features almost every cliche of Hollywood action/military films. The characters are one-dimensional cartoons: the heroine is a much less interesting and less complex knock-off of Homeland’s Carrie: a CIA agent who sacrifices her personal life, disregards bureaucratic and social niceties, her careerist interests, and even her own physical well-being, in monomaniacal pursuit of The Big Terrorist.

Worst of all, it does not challenge, subvert, or even unsettle a single nationalistic orthodoxy. It grapples with no big questions, takes no risks in the political values it promotes, and is even too fearful of letting upsetting views be heard, let alone validated (such as the grievances of Terrorists that lead them to engage in violence, or the equivalence between their methods and “ours”).

There’s nothing courageous, or impressive, about any of this.

Do the defenders of this film believe Riefenstahl has also gotten a bad rap on the ground that she was making art, and political objections (ie, her films glorified Nazism) thus have no place in discussions of her films? I’ve actually always been ambivalent about that debate because, unlike Zero Dark Thirty, Riefenstahl’s films only depicted real events and did not rely on fabrications.



Do defenders of Zero Dark Thirty view Riefenstahl critics as overly ideological heathens who demand that art adhere to their ideology? If the KKK next year produces a superbly executed film devoted to touting the virtues of white supremacy, would it be wrong to object if it wins the Best Picture Oscar on the ground that it promotes repellent ideas?

I have a very hard time seeing liberal defenders of Zero Dark Thirty extending their alleged principles about art to films that, unlike this film, are actually unsettling, provocative and controversial. It’s quite easy to defend this film because it’s ultimately going to be pleasing to the vast majority of US viewers as it bolsters and validates their assumptions. That’s why it seems to me that the love this film is inspiring is inseparable from its political content: it’s precisely because it makes Americans feel so good – about an event that Ackerman says makes him “very, very proud to be American” – that it is so beloved.

Dec 14 2012

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: The G.O.P.’s Existential Crisis

We are not having a debt crisis.

It’s important to make this point, because I keep seeing articles about the “fiscal cliff” that do, in fact, describe it – often in the headline – as a debt crisis. But it isn’t. The U.S. government is having no trouble borrowing to cover its deficit. In fact, its borrowing costs are near historic lows. And even the confrontation over the debt ceiling that looms a few months from now if we do somehow manage to avoid going over the fiscal cliff isn’t really about debt.

No, what we’re having is a political crisis, born of the fact that one of our two great political parties has reached the end of a 30-year road. The modern Republican Party’s grand, radical agenda lies in ruins – but the party doesn’t know how to deal with that failure, and it retains enough power to do immense damage as it strikes out in frustration.

Margaret Kimberley: Susan Rice and American Evil

Why does it matter if Susan Rice serves as secretary of state? That is a trick question, because in fact, it doesn’t matter at all. American foreign policy will be unchanged regardless of who the next secretary may be. The full force of imperialism will be brought to bear against the people of the world under the Obama administration. The democratic president has made real the goals of the neo-con ,Project for a New American Century a 21st century version of Manifest Destiny, the belief that the United States should rule the world and do so with a vengeance.

Rice’s nomination is a non-issue but is treated as an important one for many black people because of the words of right wing racists. The sight of the embittered sore loser John McCain calling Rice “unqualified” and “not very smart” reminds black people of the slights they are personally subjected to in their lives every day. It is especially galling for the insult to come from McCain, the quintessential entitlement baby. He was admitted to the U.S. Naval Academy because his father and grandfather were admirals. The legacy leg up didn’t help much because the mediocre young McCain still graduated at the bottom of his class. McCain’s insistence that the obviously sub-par Sarah Palin was a qualified vice presidential candidate makes the racist slaps at Rice all the more offensive.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: How ‘Right to Work Shirk’ Laws Kill Jobs — and Hurt All of Us

Michigan’s recent battle makes this a good time to explain the union movement’s important role in our economy’s overall health. We’re about to explain why today’s war on unions is bad for all of us, no matter what we do for a living, and we’ll do it in four steps.

But first a word about language: “Right to work” is a misnomer for laws which let employees enjoy the benefits of union membership — at least for a little while, until they’re stripped away — without joining or contributing.

So we’ll call them “right to shirk” laws instead. And we’ll call the people who back these laws Shirkers.

And while we’re at it, let’s stop calling the states that have adopted this legislation “right to work.” They don’t give people any new rights. They take rights away, by making it illegal for employees to organize and negotiate together. They even take away employers’ rights — to sign a certain kind of contract.

So let’s give the other states a name instead: In a nod to the Jim Crow origin of these laws, let’s call the ones which don’t have these laws “free states.”

John Nichols: Michigan Adopts the ALEC Model for Diminishing Democracy

Michigan legislators did not write the so-called “right to work” legislation that they have enacted in a mad rush of anti-democratic excess.

They simply did as they were told.

The ideas, the outlines and the words themselves came from the American Legislative Exchange Council, the right-wing “bill mill” that produces “model legislation” at the behest of Koch Industries, Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp, ExxonMobil and the corporate cabal that is always looking to “buy” states.

As the Center for Media and Democracy’s “ALEC Exposed” project revealed (in conjunction with The Nation), ALEC has developed binders full of “model legislation” that assaults the rights of working people, consumers and communities.

ALEC’s package of “model legislation” includes numerous bills and resolutions that, by any reasonable measure, would be referred to as “no rights at work” schemes.

Eugene Robinson: Wonderland on a Cliff

Are you as sick of the “fiscal cliff” as I am? Actually, that’s a trick question. You couldn’t possibly be.

Having to read and hear all the constant blather about this self-inflicted “crisis” is an onerous burden, I’ll admit. But just imagine having to produce that blather. Imagine trying to come up with something original and interesting to say about a “showdown” that has all the drama and excitement of, well, a budgetary dispute.

As if this weren’t bad enough, it happens that both of the protagonists-President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner-have reasons to wait until the last possible moment to agree on a deal. Obama believes time is on his side, while Boehner needs to show the troops that he will fight on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields and in the streets … This could go on past Christmas, at which point many of us will be looking for a real cliff to jump from.

What is the true state of the negotiations? I can say with supreme confidence that we don’t have a clue.

David Sirota; Homeownership Support Shouldn’t Be a Mansion Subsidy

With Congress finally starting to have a serious conversation about our revenue crisis, there are obvious reasons to limit the amount of mortgage interest that Americans can deduct from their taxable income.

First and foremost, current law-which allows homeowners to deduct all interest on mortgages up to $1 million-is extremely expensive for the country. As federal data show, it costs roughly $100 billion a year, making it the third largest expenditure woven into the tax code. As federal data show, it costs roughly $100 billion a year, making it the third largest expenditure woven into the tax code.

Dec 14 2012

Only 7 Days Left Until The End Of The World!

Have you done your apocalypse shopping yet?

Excuse me. I distinctly remember someone saying “We’re not gonna make it!” I think we made it.

I’m sorry , I over-reacted. At the time it looked very much like we weren’t going to make it.

Yes, well, maybe next time you’ll just wait and see.

And blow the last chance I might ever have to be right?

NASA releases Mayan calendar ‘told ya so’ video 10 days early

by Eric Mack, C/NET

December 12, 2012 9:36 AM PST

(F)or some reason, the space agency has opted to release the video 10 days early. Perhaps someone at NASA isn’t so sure we’d be able to watch it on December 22 after all?

2012 Mayan Apocalypse Rumors Have Dark Side, NASA Warns

Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer

Date: 28 November 2012 Time: 06:46 PM ET

“While this is a joke to some people and a mystery to others, there is a core of people who are truly concerned,” he said.



“I think it’s evil for people to propagate rumors on the Internet to frighten children,” (astrobiologist at NASA Ames Research Center) Morrison said.



NASA scientists took questions via social media in the hour-long video chat, debunking doomsday myths from the rogue planet Nibiru to the danger of killer solar flares.



Nor are any near-Earth objects, planetary or otherwise, threatening to slam into our planet on Dec. 21, said Don Yeomans, a planetary scientist who tracks near-Earth objects at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The only close asteroid approach on the horizon is forecast to occur on Feb. 13, 2013, when an asteroid will pass within 4.5 Earth radii to our planet (for perspective, Earth’s radius is 3,963 miles, or 6,378 kilometers). The asteroid is not going to hit Earth, Yeomans said.

Other rumors – that the Earth’s magnetic field will suddenly reverse or that the planet will travel almost 30,000 light-years and fall into the black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy – were also dismissed. (A light-year is the distance light travels in one year, or about 6 trillion miles, or 10 trillion km.)

One popular rumor that the planet will undergo a complete blackout from Dec. 23 to 25 earned a “What?” and blank looks from the panel of scientists.

Ultimately, concerns about Earth’s fate would be better focused on slow-acting problems such as climate change rather than some sort of cosmic catastrophe, said Andrew Fraknoi, an astronomer at Foothill College in California.

It would be irresponsible not to speculate.

Dec 14 2012

On This Day In History December 14

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

December 14 is the 348th day of the year (349th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 17 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1995, the Dayton Agreement is signed in Paris.

The General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, also known as the Dayton Agreement, Dayton Accords, Paris Protocol or Dayton-Paris Agreement, is the peace agreement reached at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio in November 1995, and formally signed in Paris on December 14, 1995. These accords put an end to the three and a half year long war in Bosnia, one of the armed conflicts in the former Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia. Some articles erroneously refer to the agreement as the Treaty of Dayton.

Background

Though the basic concepts of the Dayton Agreement began to appear in international talks since 1992, the negotiations were initiated following the unsuccessful previous peace efforts and arrangements, the August 1995 Croatian military Operation Storm and its aftermath, the government military offensive against the Republika Srpska, in concert with NATO’s Operation Deliberate Force. During September and October 1995, many of the world powers (especially the USA and Russia), gathered in the Contact Group, applied intense pressure to the leaders of the three sides to attend the negotiations in Dayton, Ohio.

The conference took place from November 1 to November 21, 1995. The main participants from the region were Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic (representing the Bosnian Serb interests due to absence of Karadzic), Croatian President Franjo Tudman, and Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic with Bosnian Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirbey.

The peace conference was led by U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, and negotiator Richard Holbrooke with two Co-Chairmen in the form of EU Special Representative Carl Bildt and the First Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Igor Ivanov. A key participant in the US delegation was General Wesley Clark (later to become NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) in 1997). The UK military representative was Col Arundell David Leakey (later to become Commander of EUFOR in 2005). The Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG) served as legal counsel to the Bosnian Government delegation during the negotiations.

The secure site was chosen in a bid to curb the participants’ ability to negotiate in the media rather than at the bargaining table.

After having been initiated in Dayton, Ohio on November 21, 1995 the full and formal agreement was signed in Paris, France, on December 14, 1995 also by French President Jacques Chirac, U.S. President Bill Clinton, UK Prime Minister John Major, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.

The present political divisions of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its structure of government were agreed upon as part the constitution that makes up Annex 4 of the General Framework Agreement concluded at Dayton. A key component of this was the delineation of the Inter-Entity Boundary Line, to which many of the tasks listed in the Annexes referred.

The agreement mandated a wide range of international organizations to monitor, oversee, and implement components of the agreement. The NATO-led IFOR (Implementation Force) was responsible for implementing military aspects of the agreement and deployed on the 20th December 1995, taking over the forces of the UNPROFOR.

Ironically, the chief architect of the Dayton Accord, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, died yesterday, December 13, in Washington, DC. May he rest in peace.

Dec 14 2012

The Unholy Three Must Be So Happy

US UN Amb Susan RiceThis afternoon, United States UN Ambassador Susan Rice withdrew her name from consideration for Secretary of State. Under pressure from GOP Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) over the handling of the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya and deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Amb. Rice, in her letter to Pres. Barack Obama, said that  “the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly – to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities. The tradeoff is simply not worth it to our country.”

The Republicans are pushing for Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to replace Secretary Hillary Clinton when she leaves in January. There has been speculation that the GOP’s opposition to Rice and their support of Kerry, was to facilitate an opening for Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), who was defeated for reelection by Elizabeth Warren, to run for the remaining two years of Kerry’s seat. Who the Democrats would run has not been mentioned. Scott Browns’ problem is that the negative campaign he ran against Ms. Warren is still very fresh in voters minds.

Ms. Rice would hace faced tough questioning from Republican members over, not just Benghazi, but her investments in the Keystone Pipeline and her close relationship with Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame. But what’s not for them to love? She is a bit of a war hawk, pressing the case for military intervention in Libya.

Amb. Rice isn’t exactly going away as she will remain in her position at the UN and in the Obama cabinet.