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6 States That Could Pass Marijuana Initiatives This Year

February 6, 2018 in Blogs

By Phillip Smith, AlterNet

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If marijuana initiatives can make the ballot, they are likely to win.


While marijuana reform efforts continue at an excruciatingly slow pace in state legislatures (Vermont became the first state to free the weed at the statehouse just last month), the initiative and referendum process continues to serve as a direct popular vote alternative to the crapshoot that is trying to get a pot bill through two houses and signed by a governor.

At least six states have a serious shot at legalizing either recreational marijuana or medical marijuana via the initiative process this year. In one state, a medical marijuana initiative has already qualified for the ballot; in another, plentiful signatures have been handed in for a legalization initiative; and in three others, signature gathering campaigns are well underway. In the last state, a legalization initiative hasn't been officially filed yet, but already has serious financial backing.

By the time we get past election day, we should be looking at a legalization victory in at least one more state and medical marijuana victories damned near anywhere an initiative manages to get on the ballot. In the last election cycle, marijuana reform initiatives won in eight out of nine contests.

Here are the 2018 contenders.

1. Michigan: Marijuana Legalization

The Michigan Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has already completed a petition campaign and handed in more than 365,000 raw signatures in November for its legalization initiative. It hasn't officially qualified for the ballot yet, but it only needs 250,000 valid voter signatures to do so, meaning it has a rather substantial cushion. If the measure makes the ballot, it should win. There is the little matter of actually campaigning to pass the initiative, which should require one or two million dollars for TV ad buys and other get-out-the-vote efforts, …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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American Schools Have Free Breakfast Because of the Black Panther Party

February 6, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Brad Jones, member of the Philadelphia Black Panthers Organization, helping serve breakfast to youngsters. (Credit: Bill Ingraham/AP Photo)

In 1969, a group of children sat down to a free breakfast before school. On the menu: chocolate milk, eggs, meat, cereal and fresh oranges. The scene wouldn’t be out of place in a school cafeteria these days—but the federal government wasn’t providing the food. Instead, breakfast was served thanks to the Black Panther Party.

At the time, the militant black nationalist party was vilified in the news media and feared by those intimidated by its message of black power and its commitment to ending police brutality and the subjugation of black Americans. But for students eating breakfast, the Black Panthers’ politics were less interesting than the meals they were providing.

“The children, many of whom had never eaten breakfast before the Panthers started their program,” the Sun Reporterwrote, “think the Panthers are ‘groovy’ and ‘very nice’ for doing this for them.”

The program may have been groovy, but its purpose was to fuel revolution by encouraging black people’s survival. From 1969 through the early 1970s, the Black Panthers’ Free Breakfast for School Children Program fed tens of thousands of hungry kids. It was just one facet of a wealth of social programs created by the party—and it helped contribute to the existence of federal free breakfast programs today.

Brad Jones, member of the Philadelphia Black Panthers Organization, helping serve breakfast to youngsters. (Credit: Bill Ingraham/AP Photo)

When Black Panther Party founders Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale founded the party in 1966, their goal was to end police brutality in Oakland. But a faction of the Civil Rights Movement led by SNCC member Stokeley Carmichael began calling for the uplift and self-determination of African-Americans, and soon black power was part of their platform.

At first, the Black Panther Party primarily organized neighborhood police patrols that took advantage of open-carry laws, but over time its mandate expanded to include social programs, too.

Free Breakfast For School Children was one of the most effective. It began in January 1969 at an Episcopal church in Oakland, and within weeks it went from feeding a handful of kids to hundreds. The program was simple: party members and volunteers went to local grocery stores to solicit donations, consulted with nutritionists on healthful breakfast options for children, and prepared and served the food free of charge.

School officials immediately reported results in kids who had free breakfast before school. “The school principal came down and told us how different the …read more

Source: HISTORY

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There's a Much Smarter Way for Cities to Plan Their Futures

February 6, 2018 in Blogs

By Valerie Vande Panne, AlterNet

Social impact, not technology, is a better way to measure a smart city.


U.S. cities, it seems, sometimes are setting themselves up for decay, with big tax giveaways, ever-rising prices and systems that put the bulk of the tax burden on the poor.

Often, when the discussion turns to improving a city, the catchphrase is “sustainable”—sounds good, right? But according to smart-city thought leader Talal Abu Ghazaleh, we’ve been looking at cities all wrong.

The city, he asserts, is a “living animal,” and rather than look at job creation or technology, it’s more important to concentrate on social impact.

“A smart city cannot be for the citizens if it doesn’t serve its human purposes. You can have the best technology, the best cleanliness, best roads, best everything, but if it doesn’t take into consideration my comfort as a human being, it is not smart,” he told NextCity, a nonprofit that reports on urban innovations. “Smartness is defined by its level of impact on the citizen and not on the level of the technology.” 

Often cities look at growth rates or traditional economic indicators, Abu Ghazaleh explains. But what’s missing in those plans that make the numbers move is the human aspect. Abu Ghazaleh says a “social impact indicator” would give a more accurate indication of the “status of the state of affairs of the impact on society, just like we have the economic and financial indicators that are very visible, very much watched, and very much announced.”

At the same time, many cities, in favor of business models that can move those traditional indicators, have “discounted their local business community and local economic development,” says Olivia LaVecchia, research associate at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR). “Some cities haven’t realized how important [local small businesses] are for an economically resilient city” and continue to put their eggs into the baskets of massive corporations, like GE or Amazon.

ISLR approaches cities more as nation-state communities, says Christopher Mitchell, director of community broadband networks at ISLR. They help cities “do their best with what …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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It Won't Be Easy as the GOP Hoped to Hijack Democracy in Pennsylvania

February 6, 2018 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

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Pennsylvania's Supreme Court wants new U.S. House maps well before May 15's primary elections.


The Democrats' chances of regaining a House majority received a boost Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling ordering its legislature to immediately revise its congressional map for 2018 elections—or else the state high court would.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito declined, without comment, a request by Pennsylvania Republicans to freeze a January 22 order that threw out the House districts created by the GOP-majority legislature in 2011, following the last Census.

While the state’s voters are split between the two major parties—as seen in 2016’s presidential election where Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 44,000 votes—the Republicans' extreme gerrymander gave them 13 House seats compared to 5 for Democrats.

The Democrats need to pick up 24 additional seats in November to regain a House majority.

The redistricting fight in Pennsylvania is a microcosm of the anything-goes tactics the GOP will employ to take and hold power. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s order to redraw the maps set a February 9 deadline—this Friday—to submit new congressional maps, as well as a deadline last week to submit additional data concerns over how the new districts will be drawn.

Needless to say, the state’s top-ranking Republicans did not meet last week’s state Supreme Court deadline. Instead, they appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene and then launched a smear campaign to undermine their state Supreme Court’s credibility and redistricting ruling.

Pennsylvania’s high court is composed of elected judges, Democrats and Republicans alike. Its state senate president, Republican Joe Scarnati, said a Democratic justice who voted to overturn the GOP’s 2011 maps had criticized gerrymandering while campaigning—which Scarnati claimed should have disqualified him from the case.

What since has …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The Debt Ceiling Hysteria and Profligate Government

February 6, 2018 in Economics

By Richard M. Ebeling

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By: Richard M. Ebeling

Once again, the financial fears have been ratcheted up due to recent announcements by the U.S. Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that by the middle of March 2018 the Federal government will have run out of room to continue borrowing due to the official debt ceiling. Some are now calling for scrapping a legal debt ceiling altogether, and allow Uncle Sam to have an unlimited line of credit. This is a bad idea.

Back in September 2017, Congress and the President agreed to temporarily suspend the Federal debt ceiling until December 8, 2017. Whatever might be the cumulative outstanding debt at that time would become the new legal ceiling, unless Congress voted to raise it, which did not happen. So when December 8 rolled around, the total Federal debt, due to continuing government borrowing in the last months of 2017, came to around $20.5 trillion.

The Debt Default Drama and Ending the Debt Ceiling

Since then the Treasury Department has been applying a variety of previously used devices out of its grab bag of tricks to shift funds around and delay paying into a number of Federal accounts to keep spending more money than it has been taking in, in taxes. As a result, de facto outstanding Federal debt now stands at over $20.63 trillion, and rising.

Once more the bugaboo of “default” has been heard in various quarters unless the debt limit is increased by mid-March, when the Treasury’s accounting manipulations will have reached their end; unless, of course, the Congress and the President agree to raise the debt limit or to simply jettison the existing legislative rule of a Federal debt ceiling altogether.

James Capretta, a senior research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, recently proposed repealing the debt ceiling legislation in an opinion piece that appeared on the website of Real Clear Policy on February 2, 2018. Mr. Capretta argued that having the debt ceiling fosters concern about a default on interest payments coming due on past debt that could seriously and dangerously shake the credit-worthiness of the U.S. government in financial markets around the world. Concerns about Uncle Sam’s willingness and ability to pay its global creditors in a timely fashion, due to the debt limit, also weakens the U.S. as an attractive destination for foreign investors to put their money, Mr. Capretta reasoned.

Since the Federal government has not …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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The FBI Targeted the Left with Devious Tactics for Years—Now Trump Is Giving the Agency the Same Treatment

February 6, 2018 in Blogs

By Jefferson Morley, AlterNet

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The conservative Bureau is stunned to face its own anti-democratic tactics.


The release of a Republican memo trashing the senior Justice Department has given the FBI a taste of its own medicine: a mendacious and misleading attack designed to impugn dissent and confuse democratic discourse, all dressed up in the righteous rhetoric about the American way.

From 1958 to 1974, the FBI routinely engaged in this sort of activity against its perceived enemies. The notorious Cointelpro—Counterintelligence Program—targeted civil rights, antiwar and other leftist groups for infiltration, disruption and destruction. Now that the president and his allies are giving the FBI the Cointelpro treatment, the Bureau and its leaders are indignant, understandably so.

The Association of FBI Agents protested the release of the memo, written by House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as unfair to its members.

Bureau officials, most of them Republicans, are stunned to discover that the Bureau’s tactics have been turned against it in the service of protecting President Trump from criticism and investigation. They are appalled that former supporters on the political right are accusing them of unpatriotic behavior. The Republican memo, charges Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Arizona), is “clear and convincing evidence of treason.”

In the face of such attacks, echoed by the president, FBI director Christopher Wray has chosen not to resign but to say “actions speak louder than words.”

One law enforcement official told the Washington Post, “There’s a lot of anger. The irony is it’s a conservative-leaning organization, and it’s being trashed by conservatives. At …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Without a Political Solution, No End in Sight for Kabul Attacks

February 6, 2018 in Economics

By Sahar Khan

Sahar Khan

Since recent attacks in Kabul have come amid a low point in U.S.–Pakistan relations, they have been viewed as a possible signal of displeasure from Pakistan’s military establishment—known for close links with militant groups—over the Trump administration’s cuts in security assistance

Yet what they most reveal is the resilience of the Taliban, which still has the power to inflict mass civilian casualties, and the inability of the U.S and allied forces, despite greater conventional military strength, to do anything to prevent these attacks. Meanwhile, Pakistan maintains it has lost leverage after launching its own domestic counterinsurgency campaigns geared toward eliminating Taliban safe havens.

Why it matters: The only way to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan is to prioritize a political solution that includes the Taliban. While the United States has been open to holding talks with the Taliban in the past, President Trump declared after the latest attacks that the U.S. will not talk to the Taliban. Such a stance will not only prolong U.S. engagement in Afghanistan but jeopardize any chances for achieving a stable peace.

Sahar Khan is
a visiting research fellow in the Cato Institute’s Defense and
Foreign Policy Department. …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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‘Linda Tripp Offered Me the Blue Dress': Revelations from the Man Who Uncovered the Clinton-Lewinsky Scandal

February 6, 2018 in History

By Rachel B. Doyle

Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff, the first reporter to come in with the story of the alleged sex scandal involving US President Bill Clinton and former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. (Credit: Luke Frazza/AFP/Getty Images)

Michael Isikoff was the first reporter to uncover one of the biggest scoops of the 1990s: that the Independent Counsel was investigating President Bill Clinton over his affair with 22-year-old White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Through meticulous reporting with well-placed sources inside the White House and hours of conversations with Lewinsky confidante Linda Tripp, Isikoff had the story of a lifetime. Tripp even offered to hand him the case’s most infamous, and damning, bit of evidence.

When his editors at Newsweek hesitated, an upstart on the newly relevant but barely understood internet leaked news of the affair. The Drudge Report unleashed the story of sexual infidelity in the White House, which set a new standard for scoops on the web and launched the right-wing news blog to the prominence it still enjoys today. But the inside story of the investigation, with all the repercussions for the administration and the eventual impeachment of President Clinton, belonged to Isikoff.

His dogged reporting and subsequent book Uncovering Clinton caused a sensation far beyond the Beltway. Twenty years on, most Americans remember the resulting trial in the Senate—and its seemingly non-stop parade of salacious details about the affair—as the pinnacle of the hard-fought partisan battles and broader culture wars that helped define the decade. In light of new revelations involving powerful men and sexual harassment in the workplace, it’s worth revisiting this tale of sex, power, presidential recklessness and sheer mendacity. We sat down with Isikoff for an insider’s play-by-play of the scandal.

Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff, the first reporter to come in with the story of the alleged sex scandal involving US President Bill Clinton and former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. (Credit: Luke Frazza/AFP/Getty Images)

You were the first reporter to uncover that President Bill Clinton was conducting an affair with the White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Can you tell me about the circumstances in which you heard about the story, and how you went about confirming it?

Michael Isikoff: It’s kind of a long, tortured tale. I had covered and written about the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit, and had always figured that it would only get traction if other women were to come forward and say they had similar experiences. And then I heard that there was such a woman in the White House, Kathleen Willey, who …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Infrastructure Spending Won't Make America Great Again

February 6, 2018 in Economics

By Christopher Westley

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By: Christopher Westley

This past Tuesday afternoon, I was speaking with a reporter who was interested in the positive effects of infrastructure spending that occurred in the form of fiscal “stimulus” in my part of the country, back during the dark days of the Great Recession, around 2009 and 2010. How did this help our region, he wanted to know? 

My answer: It didn’t help very much, and that if it did, then (a) it didn’t matter because the growth was not sustainable — it would have stopped when infrastructure spending stopped; (b) you would have to balance any seen positive economic activity with unseen, decreased economic activity on the part real people coerced to finance the stimulus; (c) it may have delayed the correction to the extent that it allowed business owners and workers to put off making tough choices based on market signals: and (d) you would have to believe economic growth is something that occurs due to infrastructure spending as opposed to the development of property rights institutions, saving, time preference, the specialization and division of labor, and so on.

Still, I wondered: Why the concern about infrastructure spending? Then I went about my day, ignoring Trump’s State of the Union, like a normal person. It was only this morning that I read about his infrastructure spending proposal:

Tonight I’m calling on Congress to produce a bill that generates at least $1.5 trillion for the new infrastructure investment that our country so desperately needs. Every federal dollar should be leveraged by partnering with state and local governments, and where appropriate, tapping into private sector investment, to permanently fix the infrastructure deficit. And we can do it.

Then it made sense. Infrastructure spending and its effects on the economy were pre-speech talking points, as were the Keynesian biases that this spending tempered the severity of the Great Recession, and would likely provide an economic boost in the future. 

The assumption is current levels of public infrastructure spending are deficient, and that as a result, highways, bridges, airports, trains, and waterways are today dilapidated, dirty, and dangerous. But if this were true, the more accurate conclusion would be that public infrastructure spending is among the biggest scams of the century. 

Rest assured, it’s not true. The fact is that federal, state, and local spending on transportation infrastructure is well into the tens of billions each month. As the chart below shows, this spending increased …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Donald Trump Is Shamelessly Exploiting an NFL Player's Death to Push His Racist Immigration Policy

February 6, 2018 in Blogs

By Mehreen Kasana, AlterNet

This isn't the first time he's politicized a tragedy.


In tweets shared on Tuesday morning, Donald Trump used NFL player Edwin Jackson's death to exacerbate anti-immigrant sentiment across the nation. The president tweeted that it was “so disgraceful that a person illegally in our country killed @Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson. This is just one of many such preventable tragedies. We must get the [Democrats] to get tough on the Border, and with illegal immigration, FAST!” He then added, “My prayers and best wishes are with the family of Edwin Jackson, a wonderful young man whose life was so senselessly taken.”

According to the Indiana State Police, Colts player Jackson and his Uber driver, Jeffrey Monroe, were killed on the interstate on Sunday morning after Guatemala native Manuel Orrego-Savala allegedly collided into their vehicle while drunk driving. Savala, who authorities say used the alias Alex Cabrera Gonsales, was living in the United States as an undocumented immigrant and is currently being held by the state police in Marion County Jail.

This isn't the first that Trump has politicized a tragedy. After an attacker, originally from Uzbekistan according to authorities, drove through a crowd of New York pedestrians and killed eight in November, Trump called for an immigration crackdown. In a tweet shared shortly after the attack, Trump said, “The terrorist came into our country through what is called the ‘Diversity Visa Lottery Program,’ a Chuck Schumer beauty.” However, Trump’s response to the Las Vegas attack, in which Stephen Paddock killed 58 concert-goers and injured more than 500, was much more different and even elusive. Trump made no aggressive claims to improve domestic gun control laws and simply said, “My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!”

Soon after Trump tweeted for more aggressive anti-immigrant legislation in the wake of Jackson’s death, critics denounced the president for indulging in a disgraceful bout of blame game and highlighted his duplicity. Trump's tweet ignored a fact established by the Centers for Disease Control: nearly …read more

Source: ALTERNET