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Bad Stories About Marijuana Legalization

[ 86 ] August 31, 2016 |


I’ve long maintained that the biggest argument against marijuana legalization is that stoner culture is really irritating. Throwing hippies in prison? Well, there’s an argument for it! Anyway, the idea that marijuana culture is somehow this wonderful thing operating under the capitalist radar and is going to be destroyed by legalization and operating the industry something like alcohol is very annoying, especially when coming from supposedly respectable publications like Politico, who decided to run this hack piece about the future horrors of legalized and regulated weed in California.

In Sacramento, he insisted that growers be treated like farmers of any other crop. Most important, he won the removal of a limit on the number of growing licenses for small farms. But the price of that legitimacy has been steep and it is about to redefine the nature of the marijuana industry in ways that make many of its most committed supporters deeply uncomfortable. California’s iconic counter-culture drug is about to be treated just like a six-pack of beer.

Treated just like a 6 pack? The horrors! You mean, you can go to the store and buy it? And that there’s a system regulating that economy that might not just be a bunch of hippies getting back to the land, a description of the marijuana industry last accurate sometime around 1982? I have never heard such a horrible tale.

Under the new regulations, licensed distributors were given control over measurement, taxing and testing for all medical marijuana before it can move to the retailer. The rules are modeled on the system that emerged at the end of Prohibition to wrest control from mobsters and their illegal liquor empires. States required wholesalers to bring alcohol from the manufacturer to the retailer, a system that has proven fantastically lucrative for distribution companies. Some of those players are now poised to make millions of dollars as the middlemen in California’s burgeoning medical marijuana market.

Again, I am mortified. For some reason. Because this sounds totally rational to me.

But the transformation is causing discomfort within California’s community of renegade pot growers, many of whom worry that their long wished for legitimacy may end with them being coopted by the implacable force of corporate America.

Smoke another joint dude and let’s talk about The Man keeping us down!

“But it’s complicated,” she continues. “A lot of growers are thinking only about law enforcement and getting Water Quality enforcement off their backs. What they don’t realize is by January 1, 2018, if you’re operating a commercial grow and you don’t have a cultivation license and aren’t in the process of getting one—it’s just a cease and desist order. That can be thousands of dollars a day. And it could be ugly when the IRS comes in in a few years and businesses get audited. We do want to keep all our small farmers. They hold the culture. They hold the innovation. If we lose the small farmers we’re going to lose a lot.”

Oh noes! Licensing! Regulation! Not being able to dump a metric ton of rat poison in the forests!

Because, some say, groups with deep pockets to spend on political lobbying wanted it that way. Groups like the Teamsters.

“We concluded it was the best model for us and we proceeded to forge an alliance with law enforcement and local government because we thought that it fit their needs as well,” says Barry Broad, legislative director of the California Teamsters Public Affairs Council.

Broad acknowledges the potential gain to the Teamsters’ organization.

“I’m not hiding our self interest. This is a growing industry and we’d like it to grow unionized,” he says. “To have local government, organized labor and law enforcement all together is a pretty potent alliance. What’s on the other side? A couple marijuana people with illusions of grandeur?”


Seriously, this is embarrassing. When was the last time dropping the IBT as some sort of symbol of Big Evil Organization was remotely legitimate? 1977? Ever? But no, if the Teamsters benefit–if the weed farms are unionized–evidently the entire culture of weed growing is destroying and replaced by the evils of regulated capitalism. I didn’t know that Politico was the resurrection of the Whole Earth Catalog, but maybe it is.

It goes on from there. It’s not that the regulation of tobacco or alcohol is perfect. But the idea that marijuana is somehow this special industry that is anti-capitalist or down with the earth and the people or whatever is complete and utter hogwash. The unregulated marijuana industry is a labor and environmental disaster, with dangerous and poorly paid labor dominating the workforce and the wanton use of pesticides and chemicals, the diversion of water, the bulldozing of mountaintops, the construction of illegal roads, and turning the forests into trash dumps. Marijuana needs to be legal. It also needs to be regulated. It needs to be regulated similar to other legal drugs in distribution and sales. And it needs to be regulated like any other agricultural product in the production. Otherwise, the problems that result are immense.

But at the very least, let’s stop pretending that hippie capitalism is somehow more pure and down to earth than regular capitalism. It’s still a bunch of people looking to do anything to make a buck.


Confederate Nomenclature Compromise

[ 71 ] August 31, 2016 |


Not a total victory for justice, but I don’t really mind how Alexandria, Virginia is dealing with its plethora of streets and statues named for Confederates. Basically, it’s renaming Jefferson Davis Highway, which is a gross name for a road, not tearing down its Confederate stuatue, but supposedly contextualizing it, and basically leaving all the other streets named for various Confederates alone because it would cost a lot to change it.

I’m basically OK with this for now, although it very much depends on what the contextualization of Confederate statuary actually looks like. Yes, I would like the American version of the Nazi Party to be demonized to the extent that anyone would be embarrassed and shamed to have anything named after them. And the defense that people come to Alexandria for its Civil War history is a ridiculous argument because it’s just not true. But it’s not like these fights are final. They never are. For now, it’s a step in the right direction. More fights will lead to more victories. I hope those fights happen.

Trump Supporters: It’s Both Race and Class

[ 235 ] August 31, 2016 |


Here is another long essay about Trump supporters and what they see in him. The useful thing in this piece is how it identifies the divide between relatively wealthy Republicans who hate welfare programs and believe in bootstrapism no matter what and poor whites who really need government programs but who associate them with blacks and immigrants and see Trump as a way out of that.

How can we understand this growing gap between male lives at the top and bottom? For Murray, the answer is a loss of moral values. But is sleeping longer and watching television a loss of morals, or a loss of morale? A recent study shows a steep rise in deaths of middle-aged working-class whites—much of it due to drug and alcohol abuse and suicide. These are not signs of abandoned values, but of lost hope. Many are in mourning and see rescue in the phrase “Great Again.”

Trump’s pronouncements have been vague and shifting, but it is striking that he has not called for cuts to Medicaid, or food stamps, or school lunch programs, and that his daughter Ivanka nods to the plight of working moms. He plans to replace Obamacare, he says, with a hazy new program that will be “terrific” and that some pundits playfully dub “Trumpcare.” For the blue-collar white male Republicans Sharon spoke to, and some whom I met, this change was welcome.

Still, it was a difficult thing to reconcile. How wary should a little-bit-higher-up-the-ladder white person now feel about applying for the same benefits that the little-bit-lower-down-the-ladder people had? Shaming the “takers” below had been a precious mark of higher status. What if, as a vulnerable blue-collar white worker, one were now to become a “taker” oneself?

Trump, the King of Shame, has covertly come to the rescue. He has shamed virtually every line-cutting group in the Deep Story—women, people of color, the disabled, immigrants, refugees. But he’s hardly uttered a single bad word about unemployment insurance, food stamps, or Medicaid, or what the tea party calls “big government handouts,” for anyone—including blue-collar white men.

In this feint, Trump solves a white male problem of pride. Benefits? If you need them, okay. He masculinizes it. You can be “high energy” macho—and yet may need to apply for a government benefit. As one auto mechanic told me, “Why not? Trump’s for that. If you use food stamps because you’re working a low-wage job, you don’t want someone looking down their nose at you.” A lady at an after-church lunch said, “If you have a young dad who’s working full time but can’t make it, if you’re an American-born worker, can’t make it, and not having a slew of kids, okay. For any conservative, that is fine.”

But in another stroke, Trump adds a key proviso: restrict government help to real Americans. White men are counted in, but undocumented Mexicans and Muslims and Syrian refugees are out. Thus, Trump offers the blue-collar white men relief from a taker’s shame: If you make America great again, how can you not be proud? Trump has put on his blue-collar cap, pumped his fist in the air, and left mainstream Republicans helpless. Not only does he speak to the white working class’ grievances; as they see it, he has finally stopped their story from being politically suppressed. We may never know if Trump has done this intentionally or instinctively, but in any case he’s created a movement much like the anti-immigrant but pro-welfare-state right-wing populism on the rise in Europe. For these are all based on variations of the same Deep Story of personal protectionism.

Yet again, race and class are intertwined here. The white, poor southern men (the linked article profiles Louisiana) who love Trump are racist. There’s no doubt about that. They see their white privilege slipping away at the same time that they feel their class stability collapsing beneath them. How then to get the help you need in a world without good-paying working class jobs? Demonize those you used to demean for getting the programs you now need. Talk about yourself as a real, deserving American and the others as undeserving of Americanness.

There is no simply policy to solve racism. There are however policies that can undermine the class insecurities these people feel. Just because they vote for Trump and are racist doesn’t mean we should not take the precariousness of their lives seriously. Moreover, any class-based program that helps these white people in Louisiana also helps people of color. But sadly, working-class issues really are not on the table in this general election campaign (although arguably there are no issues under any kind of serious discussion right now). Democrats are a little better at recognizing the need to put people to work, but they have struggled mightily to come up with any sort of serious jobs program that would find good work for poor Americans. It’s all education and retraining, which are easy panaceas that make policymakers feel like they are doing something but which do almost nothing for the affected people. That’s what has to change–people of southern Louisiana, black or white or Asian or Latino, all need access to good jobs in the places they live. Racism will never go away. But until good jobs are in place, it will be very easy for fascists like Trump to make the kinds of connections between economic hard times and racial mythology to create very scary political movements in the United States.

Living Wages for Baseball Staffers

[ 121 ] August 31, 2016 |


I enjoyed reading this profile of Boston Red Sox organist Josh Kantor, largely because he’s a player in the larger New England music scene and sat in for most of the Drive-By Truckers’ show in Providence last fall, which was super cool. However, one thing about this interview alarmed me greatly:

AVC: You’re doing 81 games a year, plus playoffs?

JK: Yeah, 81 home games, and then hopefully if were lucky there are playoff games in addition to that.

AVC: Are you full-time or are you contract? Are you paid by the Red Sox?

JK: I get paid by the Boston Red Sox. I receive an hourly wage, which is a pretty small hourly wage, but I love the work, so that’s why I keep going back.

AVC: You’re not getting Big Papi money?

JK: Oh, I’m not even getting pay-the-bills money. I work an office job, and I do a ton of freelance music work as well.

What? The Boston Red Sox, an organization raking in endless dollars, does not pay their organist, who works 81 days a year, assuming they don’t make the playoffs, anything even approaching a living wage? Do they really pay him $10 an hour or something? That is absolutely disgraceful. It’s not as if I didn’t already know that professional sports franchises owned by billionaires with gargantuan television deals and endless marketing opportunities take every penny possible from their everyday employees. They’d still be doing the same to the players if they could get away with it. But I would have figured someone as central to the team as its long-time organist would at least be getting something that looks like a living wage. But no. Not even close evidently. Call me a filthy communist if you will, but I think the Red Sox organist should be able to pay his bills on his salary.

Divided Families

[ 36 ] August 31, 2016 |


One of the many horrible things about the deportations and criminalization at the heart of American immigration policy is that it divides families, with parents sent back to Mexico or Central America while their children, birthright citizens, remain in the U.S. While Obama’s immigration record is pretty mixed, his plan to reduce deportations that was overturned by racist judges would have helped solve this particular problem. Alas. But the problem is very real, unless you don’t want Mexicans in this country at all, which then dividing families is only a problem in that you probably wish you could deport the kids too.

“I understand that I’m unauthorized and I know I did something wrong that went against U.S. law, but I’m not a criminal,” she said. “I haven’t committed any serious offenses such as robbery, murder or prostitution.”

Sanchez entered the United States illegally in 2000. Before that, she had attempted to illegally come through the San Ysidro Port of Entry, but agents turned her away.

She met Paulsen in Vista shortly after arriving. He noticed her at the bus stop in front of the body shop where he worked as a mechanic. Paulsen didn’t know a word of Spanish at the time, and the two used an acquaintance as an interpreter. The couple married just one month after they met, in a civil ceremony in Vista.

Sanchez was filing paperwork for legalization in 2006 when she was summoned out of the country, to an appointment with immigration authorities at the U.S. Consulate in Cuidad Juarez. Authorities told her she would be prohibited from returning home to Vista for 10 years, despite the fact that Paulsen, 51, is a U.S. citizen and a Marine veteran.

Immigration law at the time stipulated that applicants seeking legal status must return to their country of origin. But once an applicant who had been living in the United States without permission left the country, they were automatically barred from re-entering for at least three years, sometimes for up to a decade.

“My whole world came crashing down.… You can’t believe that in one minute they’re destroying your life, your family,” Sanchez said in Spanish from her home in Tijuana. She told her husband they should divorce.

“I thought to myself, ‘How are we going to live like this, me in Mexico and my husband in the United States?’ ”

During her first three months in Mexico, Sanchez stayed with her three sons in the popular resort town of Los Cabos, where a brother worked as a physician. Her oldest child, Alex, was 5; Ryan, 3; and Brannon, 2 months.

But Paulsen wanted to be closer to his family, so he rented Sanchez a house in Tijuana. Though Paulsen contemplated moving to Tijuana, he said employment opportunities in Mexico were meager, and crossing the border every day for work would have been too difficult.

In Vista, Paulsen and the boys rent a home with Sanchez’s mother. Paulsen makes the 80-mile drive every weekend to the home in Tijuana.

Clearly, this policy is ridiculous and terrible for millions of Americans who have a family member who is an undocumented immigrant trying to contribute to this country.

Mission Accomplished

[ 44 ] August 30, 2016 |

I love the films produced by the military in World War II. Here is Mission Accomplished, a short 1943 film about the success of the B-17.

California Farmworker Overtime

[ 12 ] August 30, 2016 |


Great move by the California legislature to pass a bill granting farmworkers overtime pay. Of course, it’s a travesty that this is something that still has to happen, has not in most states, and is not covered by the federal government. But this is the result of Roosevelt having to compromise heavily to get the Fair Labor Standards Act passed 78 years ago. We have not had a major piece of pro-worker labor legislation be signed into law into this country since except for OSHA. So these sorts of workers are still uncovered.

Weather, Politics, Climate Change

[ 78 ] August 30, 2016 |


It’s easy to talk about corporate narratives undermining the fight to do something about climate change. But there’s a lot of room for deeper research and more nuanced understanding. That’s why this is pretty interesting.

December of 2015 was the warmest ever recorded in New Hampshire, by far. Indeed, in temperature anomaly terms (degrees above or below average) it was the warmest of any month for at least 121 years. January, February and March of 2016 were less extreme but each still ranked among the top 15, making winter 2015–2016 overall the state’s warmest on record — eclipsing previous records set successively in 1998, 2002 and 2012 (Figure 1).

Seeing in this record a research opportunity, colleagues and I added a question to a statewide telephone survey conducted in February 2016, to ask whether respondents thought that temperatures in the recent December had been warmer, cooler, or about average for the state. Two months later (April), we asked a similar question about the past winter as a whole. Physical signs of the warm winter had been unmistakable, including mostly bare ground, little shoveling or plowing needed, poor skiing, spring-like temperatures on Christmas day, and early blooming in a state where winters often are snowy and springs late. Not surprisingly, a majority of respondents correctly recalled the warm season. Their accuracy displayed mild but statistically significant political differences, however. Tea Party supporters, and people who do not think that humans are changing the climate, less often recalled recent warmth (Hamilton & Lemcke-Stampone 2016). Although percentage differences were not large, these patterns echoed greater differences seen in studies that asked about longer-term changes. Our February and April surveys had found counterparts on a much more immediate, tangible scale.

More of this sort of thing would be great. Last winter was ridiculously warm (although the leaves still weren’t on the trees until May so what’s the point) with several weird days in Rhode Island of temps in the upper 60s and thick fog on the ground, as if the Earth was revolting from whatever is happening to it. Of course, I can’t complain about the lack of snow. But that people would identify it differently depending on how they feel about climate change is fascinating and might well mean that they are already see the survey as a political question and are going to deny it regardless of what they actually think about the weather when they are being surveyed on a 60 degree February day in New Hampshire.

Once Again, For the Media, “Working Class” Means White Men

[ 29 ] August 30, 2016 |

A man walks past a painted building in Youngstown, Ohio November 21, 2009.  Youngstown has 4,500 vacant structures in a city of about 75,000 people, and about 22,000 vacant parcels of land.     REUTERS/Brian Snyder    (UNITED STATES CITYSCAPE SOCIETY) - RTXR04Y

The New York Times decided to run a long profile of workers in Youngstown to get at the appeal of Donald Trump. It’s the typical article of angry workers who see Trump as a way to lash out and angry workers who see Trump for what he is. But there’s one really big problem here. Allow me to embed a tweet from my betters:

Once again, for the media, working class means white guy. Not only is this a huge blind spot that reinforces the idea of “real voters” as working class white men, but it also completely ignores Youngstown. That city is 47 percent white and 45 percent African-Americans. Are black people in Youngstown not working class? I think we know the answer to this question. African-Americans made up a large percentage of workers in the steel mills, and did before you had large-scale black employment in most heavy industry. In 1977, 23 percent of steel workers at the largest Youngstown steel mill were African-American or Latino. You simply cannot talk about the working class in a city like Youngstown without talking to African-Americans. And of course, it’s not as if the only real workers are those who may have worked in a steel mill in the past or who still work in the GM plant in nearby Lordstown. The working class is a whole lot more than white men. It’s a disservice to readers and to both journalism and political analysis to assume otherwise. Yet it happens all the time.

NAACP and Charter Schools

[ 17 ] August 30, 2016 |


Above: Charter school hacks

Glad to see the NAACP come out against charter schools and the fraud that they offer African-Americans a better education.

With charter schools educating as many as half the students in some American cities, they have been championed as a lifeline for poor black children stuck in failing traditional public schools.

But now the nation’s oldest and newest black civil rights organizations are calling for a moratorium on charter schools.

Their demands, and the outcry that has ensued, expose a divide among blacks that goes well beyond the now-familiar complaints about charters’ diverting money and attention from traditional public schools.

In separate conventions over the past month, the N.A.A.C.P. and the Movement for Black Lives, a group of 50 organizations assembled by Black Lives Matter, passed resolutions declaring that charter schools have exacerbated segregation, especially in the way they select and discipline students.

They portray charters as the pet project of foundations financed by white billionaires, and argue that the closing of traditional schools as students migrate to charters has disproportionately disrupted black communities.

There’s also the many problems with how charter schools operate:

Although charters are supposed to admit students by lottery, some effectively skim the best students from the pool, with enrollment procedures that discourage all but the most motivated parents to apply. Some charters have been known to nudge out their most troubled students.

That, the groups supporting a moratorium say, concentrates the poorest students in public schools that are struggling for resources.

Charter schools “are allowed to get away with a lot more,” said Hiram Rivera, an author of the Black Lives platform and the executive director of the Philadelphia Student Union.

Charters are slightly more likely to suspend students than traditional public schools, according to an analysis of federal data this year. And black students in charter schools are four times as likely to be suspended as their white peers, according to the data analysis, putting them in what Mr. Brooks calls the “preschool to prison pipeline.”

Another platform author, Jonathan Stith, the national coordinator for the Alliance for Educational Justice, chose a charter school in Washington for one of his children because it promised an Afrocentric curriculum. But he began to see the school driving out students. It was difficult, he said, for parents to push back against the private boards that run the schools.

“Where you see the charters providing an avenue of escape for some, it hasn’t been for the majority,” he said.

Mr. Stith came to think the money would be better spent on fixing the traditional public school system.

Once again, the problem of education is the problems of poverty and inequality. If you want to improve public education, you don’t give over public monies and responsibility to private entities. You work to fix poverty. But where’s the money for that? Plus if you fixed poverty there might be room for teachers’ unions and we couldn’t have that now, could we. After all, who is more concerned about a child’s education, a Silicon Valley investor or a teacher trying to reach out to a children and pay her mortgage at the same time?

Gene Wilder, RIP

[ 109 ] August 29, 2016 |

Big loss, although not unexpected.

[SL]: Great tribute from Roy.

Orville Redenbacher Stocks Skyrocketing!

[ 39 ] August 29, 2016 |


No one really knows what Donald Trump will say about immigration these days? It shifts by the hour. A campaign based around hate of Mexicans from a candidate who really just doesn’t care about anything but self-promotion realizes that he is going down to a historic defeat based in part of this rhetoric. So he sort of changes it. Then changes back. Then to some other incoherent position. All of this has done nothing to help Trump. But it has made his strong supporter Ann Coulter very, very sad.

Coulter’s problem is that on the very week she’s unveiled her immigration-themed defense of Trumpism, Trump himself has begun jettisoning it. On Wednesday night, he admitted that it’s “very, very hard” to deport all the undocumented immigrants in the country and implied that he would be open to some people being allowed to stay legally without becoming citizens, provided they pay back taxes. Suddenly, Trump is flirting with an immigration policy that resembles that of every other Republican who ran for president. Which makes Coulter look like a dupe. On Thursday on his show, Rush Limbaugh had a hearty laugh at her expense.

So far, Coulter has responded in contradictory ways. She’s fired off tweets attacking Trump’s immigration shift. But she’s also downplayed it.

Maybe Coulter, like the other high-profile supporters Trump has burned, will accept her humiliation and resort to defending Trump no matter what he says. Her incentives, however, are different. Unlike most of the folks who appear on television supporting Trump, she has an independent brand. And it’s built on white nationalism. Trump may win votes by moderating his stance on immigration. But that’s not how Coulter sells books.

Coulter also needs an explanation for Trump’s likely defeat, an explanation that will preserve her ability to claim that America’s silent majority believes the things she does. By emphasizing Trump’s immigration flip-flop, Coulter could argue that this issue cost him the white votes he needed to win.

All of this has made Rush Limbaugh laugh at Coulter.

“Poor Ann!” he continued to laugh. “Oh, my God, she’s got this book In Trump We Trust, and in it she says the only thing, the only thing that could cause Trump any trouble whatsoever is if he flip-flops on immigration, goes amnesty. It looks like he’s getting close to it, and she’s just beside herself with this. I mean, what timing.”

“I don’t see a lot of people preparing to abandon Trump over this,” he said later in the program. “Maybe Coulter. Who knows what she’s gonna do. I mean, her book hits, and it’s just had the rug pulled out from under it.”

Watching various Republican hatemongers and hacks go at each other’s throats has been one of the highlights of this election cycle.

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