The New York Times calls for a second end to prohibition.
It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.There's a nice restaurant and micro-brewery in downtown St. Louis pattered after the Congressional dining room. At each table is a small brass plaque, inscribed with the name of a representative or senator who voted to repeal prohibition.
The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.
We reached that conclusion after a great deal of discussion among the members of The Times’s Editorial Board, inspired by a rapidly growing movement among the states to reform marijuana laws.
There are no perfect answers to people’s legitimate concerns about marijuana use. But neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol, and we believe that on every level — health effects, the impact on society and law-and-order issues — the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization. That will put decisions on whether to allow recreational or medicinal production and use where it belongs — at the state level.
As it happens, I don't smoke marijuana (or drink alcohol... yes, I am that boring) but I'd still chip in to buy a new set of plaques so we could honor every congressperson who votes to end the disastrous war on pot. It would be a great triumph of common sense over fear in a time when we're all too often going the other way.
Now, grab whatever makes you feel mellow on Sunday morning and join me inside...
Ross Douthat engages in a favorite word game of Republicans--redefining "populism."
When Barack Obama won the White House in 2008, he did so in an unusual way for a Democrat: As the candidate of the rich. He raised more in large-dollar donations than any of his rivals and raked in more cash from Wall Street than John McCain. In November, he won the upper class’s votes: By 52 percent to 46 percent, according to exit polls, Americans making more than $200,000 cast their ballots for Obama.In case your BS meter has hit 11 already, you're not wrong. Despite Douthat's heavy-duty cherry picking, contributors giving less than $200 accounted for almost twice as much of Obama's funds (47 percent) compared to McCain (26 percent). !00% of Obama's funding also came from individual donations, while McCain fattened up on PAC money. And that 52 to 46 percent pro-Obama vote among those making over $200k? That's pretty well exactly how the electorate as a whole voted. But, Douthat doesn't have to be insightful, otherwise he'd have been canned long ago. So, let's go back to the RoDoSpinZone as Ross tells us how Republicans are no longer the party of the rich.
So haltingly at first, and then with increasing seriousness, Republicans began to look for a different path back to power — one tailored to the party’s growing dependence on working-class votes, and one designed to deliver populist substance as well as style.Ah yes, closing tax loopholes. Which is exactly the thing that the GOP has said is completely off the table in every negotiation. Not every candidate slinging around the term populist needs to be Huey Long, but there are limits. The GOP attempts to appropriate the term over the last eight years have only succeeded in making it meaningless. Which may have been the intent all along.
Thus far they have circled around two broad approaches. One, dubbed “reform conservatism,” seeks to make the welfare state and tax code more friendly to work and child-rearing and upward mobility — through larger wage subsidies, bigger child tax credits, and a substantial clearing-out of the insider-friendly subsidies and tax breaks and regulations that drive up costs in health care, real estate, energy and higher education.
Doyle McManus has a clearer take on Paul Ryan's working man's conversion.
...last week, Ryan unveiled a 73-page domestic policy plan that broke with Republican orthodoxy on several counts — mainly by affirming that the federal government has an obligation to fund programs to help poor people and that sometimes that will mean spending more money, not less.The secret of Ryan's change? Poll numbers. Just because the GOP counts on winning 90% of the stupid vote doesn't mean that their candidates aren't capable of reading a chart. Core Republican voters may like the idea of kneecapping the government at every opportunity, but running on the themes of a Congress with a 19% approval rating does not result in getting to pick new silver patterns for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Ryan proposed bundling federal spending on poverty programs into what were once called "block grants" to states, to allow them to experiment with new approaches to helping the poor — but at current spending levels, without the cuts he demanded only a few months ago.
And he endorsed a proposal from President Obama (a daring move for anyone in the GOP) to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit for people without children. That would increase federal spending on the tax rebate for low-income earners, a program some tea party conservatives loathe.
It isn't that Ryan has abandoned his previous views entirely, but he's changed his focus from merely trying to shrink the federal government to making existing federal programs work better, too.
Anjam Sundaram on the crisis in crises.
The Western news media are in crisis and are turning their back on the world. We hardly ever notice. Where correspondents were once assigned to a place for years or months, reporters now handle 20 countries each. Bureaus are in hub cities, far from many of the countries they cover. And journalists are often lodged in expensive bungalows or five-star hotels. As the news has receded, so have our minds.Read this. We've exchanged news coverage that was short, but meaningful for coverage that is constant but empty. This is not a healthy bargain on any number of fronts.
To the consumer, the news can seem authoritative. But the 24-hour news cycles we watch rarely give us the stories essential to understanding the major events of our time. The news machine, confused about its mandate, has faltered. Big stories are often missed. Huge swaths of the world are forgotten or shrouded in myth. The news both creates these myths and dispels them, in a pretense of providing us with truth.
I worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a stringer, a freelance journalist paid by the word, for a year and a half, in 2005-06. There, on the bottom rung of the news ladder, I grasped the role of the imaginary in the production of world news. Congo is the scene of one of the greatest man-made disasters of our lifetimes. Two successive wars have killed more than five million people since 1996.
Yet this great event in human history has produced no sustained reporting. No journalist is stationed consistently on the front lines of the war telling us its stories.
Peggy Orenstein on appropriate treatment for breast cancer.
One of the nastier aspects of breast cancer is that it doesn't have the five-year sell-by date of some other malignancies: you’re not considered “cured” until you die of something else. Although it becomes less likely, the disease can come back eight, 10, even 20 years after treatment. I fell on the wrong side of those odds.The conflicting, constantly changing advice on the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer has to be painfully frustrating and frightening for all women. But there's a good case to be made that what's seen as taking the "safe route" is actually no safer, while demanding a large physical and psychological toll.
I had a tiny, low-grade tumor in 1997; 15 years later, in the summer of 2012, while I was simultaneously watching “Breaking Bad,” chatting with my husband and changing into my pajamas, my finger grazed a hard knot beneath my lumpectomy scar. Just as before, time seemed to stop. ...
According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology in 2009, among those with ductal carcinoma in situ — a non-life-threatening, “stage 0” cancer — the rates of mastectomy with C.P.M. jumped 188 percent between 1998 and 2005. Among those with early-stage invasive disease, the rates went up 150 percent between 1998 and 2003. Most of these women did not carry a genetic mutation, like the actress Angelina Jolie, that predisposes them to the disease.
Researchers I’ve spoken with have called the spike an “epidemic” and “alarming,” driven by patients’ overestimation of their actual chances of contracting a second cancer.
Anne Applebaum explains why Europeans are less than anxious to challenge Putin.
David Cameron, the British prime minister, led the attack: It would be “unthinkable” for the British to sell a warship to Russia, he declared. Almost immediately, the French president, François Hollande, confirmed his intention to do precisely that: He would, he said, deliver a Mistral amphibious assault ship to the Russian navy, as contracted — and then he hit back hard. “This is a false debate led by hypocrites,” one of his party colleagues declared. “When you see how many [Russian] oligarchs have sought refuge in London, David Cameron should start by cleaning up his own back yard.”Giving up an empire doesn't mean giving up your skills in bullying the neighbors.
Which is worse? France sending Russia a ship that could be used against NATO allies in the Baltic or the Black Sea? Or Britain’s insistence on its right to launder Russian money through London’s financial markets? It was an amusing spat, not least because it plays into the stereotypes: Britain vs. France, crooked bankers vs. cynical politicians. The dispute dominated headlines as Europeans debated the right response to Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine.
But in some sense, it also disguises the real nature of Russian influence in Europe. For Russia’s strongest political influence is not in relatively large countries such as Britain or France, where at least these things are openly discussed, but rather in weaker countries that barely have a foreign policy debate at all.
Carl Hiaasen hits more or less the same note.
Even if it accomplishes nothing else, calling Vladimir Putin nasty names makes us feel a little better. Thug, megalomaniac, liar, war criminal, mass murderer — those are just the printable ones.Did they figure in the jobs added for building a new plane to replace Malaysia Airlines Flight 17? That's worth millions! ('scuse me, time to go yell at clouds).
If only the Russian president cared what the rest of the world says (or thinks) about him. He doesn’t, and why should he?
Among global leaders, only President Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott have expressed anything that resembles outrage over the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 by pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine.
Even in the Netherlands, which lost more than 150 citizens on that plane, the government continues referring to the missile strike as an aviation “disaster” instead of the reckless massacre it was.
All across Europe, the politicians in power have stated their obligatory shock and dismay, but there’s scant enthusiasm for enacting the sort of economic sanctions against Moscow that the United States initiated months ago.
“The Russians have paid [for the ships],” said President Francois Hollande, which was basically a shrug. Halting arms sales to the Kremlin would result in the loss of jobs at French weapons factories and damage the national economy, officials there said.
Other countries fear that Russia would respond to sanctions by cutting their supplies of gas and oil, as is happening in Ukraine.
Timothy Ash has some Putin memories of his own.
Sometimes, just sometimes, you should pay attention to annoying things said by tiresome people at worthy conferences.This piece actually ran last week, and I accidentally left it out of my round-up. Worth a read if you want to understand where Putin is heading.
In 1994, I was half asleep at a round table in St. Petersburg, Russia, when a short, thickset man with a rather ratlike face — apparently a sidekick of the city’s mayor — suddenly piped up. Russia, he said, had voluntarily given up “huge territories” to the former republics of the Soviet Union, including areas “which historically have always belonged to Russia.” He was thinking “not only about Crimea and northern Kazakhstan, but also for example about the Kaliningrad area.” Russia could not simply abandon to their fate those “25 million Russians” who now lived abroad. The world had to respect the interests of the Russian state “and of the Russian people as a great nation.”
The name of this irritating little man was — you guessed it — Vladimir V. Putin, and I know exactly what he said back in 1994 because the organizers, the Körber Foundation of Hamburg, Germany, published a full transcript. For the phrase that I have translated as “the Russian people,” the German transcript uses the word “volk.” Mr. Putin seemed to have, and still has, an expansive, völkisch definition of “Russians” — or what he now refers to as the “russkiy mir” (literally “Russian world”). The transcript also records that I teased out the consequences of the then-obscure deputy mayor’s vision by saying, “If we defined British nationality to include all English-speaking people, we would have a state slightly larger than China.”
Robert Rubin continues on his recent trend of saying things I agree with and making me wish they were being said by someone other than Robert Rubin.
The scientific community is all but unanimous in its agreement that climate change is a serious threat. According to Gallup, nearly 60 percent of Americans believe that global warming is caused by human activity. Still, for many people, the effects of climate change seem like a future problem — something that falls by the wayside as we tackle what seem like more immediate crises.Science has the low-down on the Earth's sixth great mass extinction: the one we're causing right now.
But climate change is a present danger. The buildup of greenhouse gases is cumulative and irreversible; the pollutants we are now emitting will remain in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. So what we do each day will affect us and the planet for centuries. Damage resulting from climate change cuts across almost every aspect of life: public health, extreme weather, the economy and so much else.
What we already know is frightening, but what we don’t know is more frightening still. For example, we know that melting polar ice sheets will cause sea levels to rise, but we don’t know how negative feedback loops will accelerate the process.
In a new review of scientific literature and analysis of data published in Science, an international team of scientists cautions that the loss and decline of animals is contributing to what appears to be the early days of the planet's sixth mass biological extinction event.Wait a second, I have to visit my Republican sources and start lining up my conflicting information from the Institute of Pollution And Overcrowding is Supergood. They've concluded that the number of species is actually going up, it's just the way that we're measuring them that's wrong. Or, at the very least, there haven't been any species lost since 1980. Also scientists are clearly just trying to get in on sweet, sweet grant money by making these dire predictions, and Mars is losing species, too, so it can't be us.
Since 1500, more than 320 terrestrial vertebrates have become extinct. Populations of the remaining species show a 25 percent average decline in abundance. The situation is similarly dire for invertebrate animal life.
And while previous extinctions have been driven by natural planetary transformations or catastrophic asteroid strikes, the current die-off can be associated to human activity, a situation that the lead author Rodolfo Dirzo, a professor of biology at Stanford, designates an era of "Anthropocene defaunation."