Archive for legislation

Old Gov. Moonbeam Returns To California -- A Bit More Crazy Now

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Moonbeam

I live in California so things my Governor says impact my life a bit more than say, Nikki Haley, Scott Walker or Rick Scott. Add to that I recreationally used marijuana during and after college so the subject is near and dear to me. Though I haven't smoked in years, I still remember how it affected me and those who joined me at the bong or vaporizer.

So when Jerry -- that's what we call him out here -- recently went on Meet The Press and tossed caution to the wind about full marijuana legalization here in California, my ears pricked up. What was Governor Moonbeam -- his nickname from his early terms before he found philosophically whatever it is that he found -- thinking?

First, here's what he said, from WaPo:

He also expressed worry about the "tendency to go to extremes."  After legalization, he said, "if there's advertising and legitimacy, how many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation? The world's pretty dangerous, very competitive. I think we need to stay alert, if not 24 hours a day, more than some of the potheads might be able to put together."

Really Jerry? You fear potheads are going to take over. Look at history. Look at alcohol. Go ahead, take a good look. Has our society crumbled with the repeal of the Volstead Act (Prohibition)?

And what are we really talking about with recreational legalization? California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana use in 1996, when 56 percent of voters approved Proposition 215. Do you know what it takes to get a medical marijuana certificate today? Nothing.

Venice Beach 2

On a recent outing with my wife, we strolled along the boardwalk in Venice Beach, Ca. There were five, count 'em five storefront walk-in clinics within one mile. You see a "doctor" after filling out a form and he stamps it approved, takes your picture and a certificate is issued. You can immediately walk to the back room and buy some very aromatic OG, Lemon or Purple Kush. Licensing is a joke. And not just here in California. It's a process that is abused everywhere that state certificates are issued.

I got my license years ago because I claimed I had insomnia and back pain issues. That was it. Boom. Stamped. Certified. I bought some grass minutes later.

So to your implied point, Gov Moonbeam, that pot is perhaps different from alcohol, you're right. It's not nearly as debilitating. But to hold off full legalization like Colorado and Washington state with the excuse that everyone will become potheads is insane. I think Jerry is having a flashback and it's more dangerous than reality.

Come back to us Jerry. And bring practical sense and a well rolled joint with you. It's your turn to blaze more than a new pathway to reality. Set California free. Or if you're really that concerned about each person being responsible for themselves and their behavior, try banning alcohol. See how well that does for you when you run for a fourth term.

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Letting Ex-Felons Vote -- A Racial Thing

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voting booth

What is the purpose of sending those convicted of crimes to jail? Is it punishment? Yes. Is it rehabilitation? Yes. So it's two mints in one as the Certs commercial goes.

And are most felons guilty of violent crimes? Actually, no. Most are incarcerated for non-violent (yet still serious) felonious crimes like embezzlement, tax fraud, mail fraud, auto theft, racketeering, drug possession charges, burglary, counterfeiting, possession of restricted pornographic material, spying, and various drug-related offenses.

Wikipedia:

7.9% of sentenced prisoners in federal prisons on September 30, 2009 were in for violent crimes.

Nearly three quarters of new admissions to state prison were convicted of nonviolent crimes. Perhaps the single greatest force behind the growth of the prison population has been the national "war on drugs." The number of incarcerated drug offenders has increased twelvefold since 1980. In 2000, 22 percent of those in federal and state prisons were convicted on drug charges.

Then why, if so many of these felonies are non-violent, is it that when you become an ex-felon, all of your rights aren't returned to you? According the the ALCU, ten states severely restrict voting from ex-felons (seven require long waiting periods, applying for reinstatement and review; three others - Iowa, Florida and Kentucky - ban it lifetime for these ex-felon offenders -- most of whom are non-violent). I can understand restrictions on getting a gun, but on your vote?

So far in the 40 states that allow for ex-felons to vote there haven't been any issues at the polls. So why not make voter reinstatement upon completion of incarceration national?

We non-felons take voting for granted. But it's majorly important. Look at the crazy people that are getting elected these days. Their choices and legislation affect all of us. Yet if you're an ex-felon, chances are you are obstructed from casting a vote.

With the racial make-up of our prisons today, that appears to be a punishment that affects minorities disproportionately. And the Justice Department, led by AG Eric Holder, wants to fix that. And surprisingly he's meeting resistance on both sides of the political spectrum. Many Republicans are against it because they see the reality that minorities are the overwhelming majority of  the prison population. Minorities, for good reason, tend to vote Democratic. If you unleash hundreds of thousands of potential voters after they do their time, GOP'ers will have a tougher go of it holding their political offices. So the Republican reasoning is understandable: keep minorities away from the vote. It's wrong, but you can see their reasoning: self-preservation.

But for those Democrats on the fence, this is purely a heinous act of villainy. Why should non-violent convicted felons be subjected to lifetime sentences after they're released? It flies in the face of just punishment -- that fitting the crime. C'mon Democrats, you know better. You stand for social justice. Now promote it. Make "inclusion" more than just a catch word.

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Video- President's Weekly Address: Time to Pass Bipartisan Legislation to Extend Emergency Unemployment Insurance

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A Big Fluke You, Evangelicals.

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Sandra Fluke

Last night, Chris Hayes had Sandra Fluke and right-wing radical and Washington Examiner contributor Tim Carney going tete-a-tete on his All In show. They were discussing the two cases the Supreme Court has agreed to hear (probably in March, verdict in June) on corporate religious freedom rights, as they might affect the Affordable Care Act.

When you hear Sandra Fluke speak so eloquently below, you can see why this "whore" according to Rush Limbaugh was fought hard in being allowed to address a congressional panel on Women's Health and Contraception hearing by the terrified, misogynist, Republican party. How dare she spew common sense in such easy to understand words. The GOP was justified in trying to keep her silenced as she destroys all of their fanatical arguments so easily.

It's clear that the evangelicals are on the road with their bullhorns blazing, their pulpits popping  and their zealotry oozing. The more they speak, the easier it will be for the nine SCOTUS justices to see how giving religious freedom as a foundational justification to a company is wrong. It's tantamount to giving corporations the license to pick and chose which laws they wish to abide by and those they chose to ignore. Giving a corporation first amendment rights designed for individuals, (in this case religious freedom), will be the slipperiest slope they may ever have adjudicated. It's very doubtful that under scrutiny and behind closed-door discussions, the SCOTUS members will want to totally destroy human American with Corporate America. It could happen, but I wouldn't bet on it. Not if they are presented arguments like these:

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A Letter From Elizabeth Warren

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Elizabeth Warren

This came in to me today -- and I'm sure it was sent to many, but I think it's important for all to read. Social Security effects us all, whether its contributing, or receiving. We must protect it.

US Senate letterheadNovember 20, 2013

David --

I spent most of my career studying the economic pressures on families – people who worked hard, played by the rules, but still found themselves hanging on by their fingernails to a place in the middle class.

A generation ago, middle class families could put away enough money during their working years to make it through their later years with dignity. But since that time, the retirement landscape has shifted dramatically against our families.

A third of working families on the verge of retirement have no savings of any kind. Another third have total savings less than their annual income. Just as people need to rely more than ever on pensions, employers have replaced guaranteed retirement income with 401(k) plans that leave retirees at the mercy of the market. And 44 million workers don't even have access to that sort of plan.

Add all of this up, and we're left with a retirement crisis – a crisis that is as real and as frightening as any policy problem facing the United States today.

Social Security is incredibly effective, it is incredibly popular, and the calls for strengthening it are growing louder every day. Will you join our national pledge to protect Social Security?

Today, there is a $6.6 trillion gap between what Americans under 65 are currently saving and what they will need to maintain their current standard of living when they hit retirement.

Two-thirds of seniors rely on Social Security for the majority of their income in retirement, and for 14 million seniors – 14 million – this is the safety net that keeps them out of poverty. God bless Social Security.

And yet, instead of taking on the retirement crisis, instead of strengthening Social Security, some in Washington are actually fighting to cut benefits.

Let's look at the facts: Social Security will be safe for the next 20 years and even after that will continue to pay most benefits. With some modest adjustments, we can keep the system solvent for many more years – and could even increase benefits.

The absolute last thing we should do in 2013 – at the very moment that Social Security has become the principal lifeline for millions of our seniors to keep their heads above water -- is allow the program to begin to be dismantled inch by inch.

If we want a real middle class that continues to serve as the backbone of our country, then we must take the Retirement Crisis seriously. Sign our national pledge to protect Social Security for America's seniors.

The conversation about retirement and Social Security benefits is not just a conversation about math. At its core, this is a conversation about our values.

I believe we honor our promises, we make good on a system that millions of people paid into faithfully throughout their working years, and we support the right of every person to retire with dignity.

Let's make sure my colleagues in Washington know that our values are America's values. Sign our pledge now.

Thank you for being a part of this,

Elizabeth

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GOP Drawing Plans For The Future

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Mechanical drawing

When I was in high school I took a class in mechanical drawing. It actually was a pretty cool course as it taught me a lot about measurements, dimensions, perspective and engineering. But one lesson I remember most from that class, showing the builder what is there, not what isn't. And I've found that applicable to all work that I've done, writing, producing, political punditry. You need to focus on what's there, not what's missing.

My first mechanical drawing project was to blueprint a rectangular "frame" that was 8x6. The center hole was 4x4. I rendered the plans indicating the outside dimensions of the top (8) and the side (4) and I also gave the dimensions of the hole, 4 inches square. Easy.

When I turned it in, I was extremely pleased. But when the grade came back, I only got a "D".

I asked the teacher why, and he taught me a valuable lesson that the GOP needs to learn.""You don't give the dimensions of what's not there," the teacher told me. "You show the builder what is." We deal in a results based world.

He corrected my drawing by indicating the widths of the top and side rails, not the hole in the middle.

The same foundational thinking is necessary as the 2014 midterm election approach. For the GOP, it's not what they didn't do that we will vote for/against; its what they did do. (Which is very little, even less that the Harry Truman dubbed, 'Do Nothing' Congress)

Sadly, our current spate of GOP law makers don't have a lot to show for their time in the Majority.

The 213th Congress can focus on 42 attempts to derail the Affordable Care Act. That's a positive action. Not a popular one but it's something they did do. They voted to cut the deficit as well as food stamps, but that only happened by way of the sequester, and sadly both parties are responsible for that. And finally, the majority in the House shut the government down. That certainly isn't going to win them too many votes. You need to look hard and finely to register any other legislative wins.

That fact is this country has more registered Democrats than Republicans. And the big races and certainly the Presidency will require Independents and cross over Democrats for the Republicans to win nationally-- even with gerrymandering. How are you going to make a dent in those numbers running strictly on what's not there? Under Reince Priebus they've become preoccupied with stressing the dimensions of the square donut hole void in the middle, and not the support rails that do exist. They're running on what's not there, not what is.

By 2014, Obamacare will be up and working. It's a sleeping giant that's already stretching, yawning and wiping away the morning gunk from it's eyes. Perhaps the GOP should think about sewing some suitable clothes for the waking giant rather than wishing it away. It's not going away, so find a way to become it's friend. An ally monster is far better than an angry one.

So the Republicans, if they're smart (no guarantee there), through all their bluster, need to stop giving us the dimensions of  the hole -- their lack of legislation. Their failure to govern. They wallow in what they haven't done (the void). They've stifled health care, immigration, education, science, climate control, adequate food assistance, a viable jobs program, fixing the infrastructure and meaningful finance reform. Boasting how you prevented these programs from existing isn't anything more that your continued describing the hole they've dug.

Perhaps the biggest accomplishment this past year is their majority led vote to shorten the number of working days from 141 to 127 and then complaining they don't  have enough time, now that we're mid-way through November, to pass any legislation. Don't look for voter sympathy on that one.

If you want to do something, quickly bring the Senate immigration bill up for a vote  in the House. At least end the year on a high note. Have something positive to stand for, not just the giant hole you've dug for yourself so far.

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So Corporations Are People, My Friends. Visiting Day In Prison Is Sunday

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corporations are people

Back in the 2012 Presidential campaign, Mitt Romney made a bit of a splash when he said, "Corporations are people, my friend."

He of course was jeered as we think of corporations as entities, with people working under that business umbrella. But what if Romney was right? What if corporations are people?

If they break the law, shouldn't they go to jail?

If you're a people/person you would. So why not corporations? The Hill:

Earlier this month, JPMorgan Chase tentatively reached a deal with the Justice Department to pay $13 billion to settle charges it misled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac about mortgage quality leading up to the financial crisis. And Bloomberg reported that the Federal Housing Finance Agency is eyeing at least a $6 billion penalty for Bank of America for similar claims.

Okay, so the JPMorgan Chase corporation admitted wrongdoing -- breaking the law -- and they are going to pay a fine. But the crime was committed by people, not a building, and with it carries a jail sentence. So who's going to serve? Jamie Dimon? He's the CEO. He knew what was going on.

jamie dimon

Nope. No jail time for Jamie. Just a fine. And we, the public are paying it  for him.

Reform advocates argue that if the government truly wants to discourage bad behavior in the financial sector, it is not enough to rack up billion-dollar fines against big banks. The government needs to go after individual executives and hold them personally responsible.

Consider this, if the banks are forced to accept responsibility, than instead of us paying the fines with increased fees, their law-breaking executives will be doing time. The guilty will be penalized, not us. No more passing the buck, so to speak.

Fortunately, there is a voice who is speaking up for us. And her voice is that of the MGM lion that roars. It's Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent a letter to financial regulators Wednesday where she not too subtly chided them for what she saw as lacking enforcement.

She noted in her letter that the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) had managed to secure over 100 criminal convictions between 2009 and 2012 and place 51 defendants in prison.

She also noted the agency did it with a fraction of the enforcement staff and budget the other regulators enjoyed. Warren clearly wanted to know why more convictions had not been pursued and achieved (by the DOJ), and asked for enforcement statistics from the agencies.

So SIGTARP could do what the DOJ couldn't. And this is very important to deter further frauds and money manipulations. We can't stand by and keep bailing out the banks who knowingly gamble with our money, take exorbitant salaries and bonuses (win or lose) and then stick us with the bill, either in a federal bailout or raised banking fees.

If they can't run themselves, let them fail. And jail the gamblers who broke the law. Other banks and financial institutions will rise up. Money isn't going away. All that will disappear will be the frauds and phonies who have stiffed us over the years. We don't need a BofA nor a JPMorgan/Chase. We can get by with local banks that can get the same fed rate as the big ones.

Doing so might also make getting a loan a lot easier when Mr. Donnelly or Mrs. Heath at the local bank, who knows you by name, is making the decision on whether or not you meet federal requirements for a loan. And those managers will appreciate your patronage -- maybe even do more business with you. That means profits and they'll go more locally or regionally.

Federal guidelines are needed and Senator Warren and her allies are working on that with the new Glass-Steagall bill.

Remember, local banks? We used to have them. And local banks mean local money. Let's break up the huge corporations that Romney claimed are really people. Let's send those people where they belong -- packing. And you don't need to take too many things, Mr./Mrs. Banker. They give you uniforms and three meals a day where you belong.

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