We're going to begin today with a wrapup of the week that was in the presidential campaigns, and as befitting his status as the Republican frontrunner, we're going to start with Donald Trump (if you're sick of hearing about Trump, just skip down eight or ten paragraphs and continue reading).
Trump is helicoptering in to the Iowa State Fair today, so perhaps he'll have said something even more outrageous by the time you read this. Hey, it's a pretty safe bet, at this point. Trump once again proved this week that he can say just about anything -- even stuff the Republican base violently disagrees with him on -- and walk away unscathed. This time around, Trump actually said (at least at first) some fairly nice things about Planned Parenthood. Right now, in Republicanland, this is heresy of the first order (more on this in a moment). But, so far, it doesn't seem to have hurt Trump.
In the "Trump fighting with other Republican candidate" news, we have an amusing quote from Lindsey Graham: "Donald Trump is an out-of-control car driving through a crowd of Republicans, and somebody needs to get him out of the car. I just don't see a pathway forward for us in 2016 to win the White House if we don't decisively deal with this." Hoo boy. That's bad enough, but a bigger fracas happened between Trump and Rand Paul. It started with an ad the Paul team created, which hammered Trump for essentially being a Democrat up until he decided to run.
Trump has learned a thing or two about running for the Republican nomination, and he responded by anointing himself Ronald Reagan. He went on to insult Rand Paul's golf game, and predicted Trump would "even more easily beat him now, in the world in the politics [sic]." Trump ends with an amusing gibe:
I feel sorry for the great people of Kentucky who are being used as a back up to Senator Paul's hopeless attempt to become President of the United States -- weak on the military, Israel, the Vets and many other issues. Senator Paul has no chance of wining [sic] the nomination and the people of Kentucky should not allow him the privilege of remaining their Senator. Rand should save his lobbyist's and special interest money and just go quietly home.
Rand's campaign is a total mess, and as a matter of fact, I didn't know he had anybody left in his campaign to make commercials who are not currently under indictment!
Paul's team ignored the burn on "currently under indictment" (Trump was, for once, being snarkily factual here) and shot back by trying to out-Reagan Trump. Then they whined that the golf game in question was "on [Trump's] home course that he plays often." Paul's spokesman also tries to burn Trump back, falling back on the "you couldn't think your way out of a paper bag" argument:
Donald Trump couldn't set the intellectual conservative agenda of anything, not even the tiniest rooms, never mind a country. He is devoid of ideas other than he likes the idea of power and getting attention for foolish statements and bluster.
Can't wait to see round two of this dustup, personally!
Jeb! made some news this week, both by signaling that torture may be coming back to America if he becomes president (a position other Republicans are also staking out), and also by insisting that "taking out Saddam Hussein turned out to be a pretty good deal." A pretty good deal? Really? Wow. Bush is still having a lot of trouble distancing himself from his own brother, apparently. The one issue Jeb! should have been prepared to address -- Dubya's legacy -- is still causing Jeb! problems. Maybe he'll have figured it out by the time he gets questioned about it in a debate.
There was some bad news for Chris Christie this week, as a poll showed a majority of New Jersey's voters are annoyed that Christie is spending all his time running for president and not governing the state. Christie has spent 26 of the past 43 days on the campaign trail (and not in New Jersey), leading one media outlet to create "The Christie Tracker" so his voters can see where their governor is spending his time. Fifty-four percent of the people in New Jersey now want Christie to resign.
Rick Perry also had to admit this week that his campaign is so low on funds that he can't meet the payroll. And we all know nothing lifts donor confidence like running out of money and halting paychecks for staffers!
Ben Carson, who has come out strongly against Planned Parenthood, apparently did some medical research using aborted fetuses a while back. It'll be interesting to see if any of the other Republicans bring this up during a debate, now that Carson's numbers are improving (especially in Iowa). But the biggest prize for hypocrisy among the Republicans this week was Ted Cruz, who created an ad to show how outraged he was at the whole fetal research thing. An announcer intones: "For a century, Americans have helped heal and care for millions in need," while black-and-white historical images appear of people with polio. The polio vaccine -- which won the researchers the 1954 Nobel Prize in medicine -- was developed using fetal tissues. So, according to Cruz, we should all happily go back to the days when polio was a scourge? Is that what he's saying? I'm confused.
And, just to send a chill down Republicans' backs who aren't already mentally frostbitten at the thought of an independent Trump run, Jesse Ventura just hinted that he might mount his own independent bid for the presidency -- unless Trump's the GOP candidate and names Jesse Ventura as his running mate. And you thought the race couldn't get any more entertaining! "Trump/Ventura" -- there's something to whisper to conservatives to make them shriek.
Things are a bit unsettled over on the Democratic side of things as well. Hillary Clinton's emails are going to provide a steady drip, drip, drip for months to come. We already knew this, but each time it hits the headlines must be taking a toll on her campaign. To be fair, Clinton has been criticized for months for "not releasing specifics" on her agenda, but even when she did so (she rolled out a plan to make higher education more affordable this week), the media couldn't be bothered with it and just went ahead and ran all the email stories instead. Again, with the staggered release of the emails, the investigation, and the upcoming congressional hearing for Hillary, prepare yourself for a lot more drip, drip, drip.
Some in the media are having a lot fun with "what other Democrat could run" stories. Joe Biden is thinking things over while on vacation. Not content with the slow-moving nature of that story, this week Al Gore's name was even briefly floated as a possible savior of the nomination, should Hillary crumble.
Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders is pulling in larger and larger crowds. They're spilling out the doors, in fact. Sanders did a run down the West Coast and pulled in over 15,000 in Seattle, then followed it up by pulling in over 25,000 people in both Portland, Oregon, and Los Angeles. The Washington Post pointed out that Bernie's crowds are massively bigger than anyone else running for president, to the tune of over 100,000 total in recent weeks.
And yet still it seems like Bernie only gets talked about in the media when the Black Lives Matter folks interrupt him. Black Lives Matter, it should be said, has started branching out of late. This is to their credit, because the first three candidates they interrupted were Martin O'Malley, Bernie Sanders, and then Bernie Sanders again. This week, however, Black Lives Matter people were turned away at a Hillary town hall (and later got to meet with her), and did manage to disrupt a Jeb! Bush public event. Bush tried to say he had met with the Black Lives Matter protestors, but later this turned out not to be true. This even-handedness by Black Lives Matter towards the candidates is to be applauded, because many were asking why they haven't set their sights on anyone but Sanders.
There was quite a bit of marijuana news last week, including the tantalizing possibility that William Shakespeare might have enjoyed a toke or two while writing (the evidence is admittedly thin, but even so, "Shakespeare the stoner" is a fun concept to contemplate). In more serious news, the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy released a paper which comprehensively analyzes 13 common beliefs about marijuana (such as the "gateway drug" label), and whether any science actually backs them up or not. The full report [PDF] is available, as well as a summary of the findings.
Ohio may make the leap from having no legal medical or recreational marijuana to having both, as a legalization ballot measure has now qualified for this year's election. This effort has split marijuana reform advocates, because it was financed by the owners of ten farms, which would become the only legal places to grow marijuana in the state if it passes. A market of over 11 million people will be supplied by ten farms. There's a word for that, and it's called "oligopoly." I discussed the political pros and cons of the Ohio effort yesterday in greater detail, for those interested.
And finally, we have the story of a woman in Texas who was essentially sexually assaulted by police officers at the side of the road, because one of them "smelled marijuana." This is one of the most brutal examples of the damage the War On Weed is doing to society, and should be mandatory reading for anyone still on the fence.
A cop in Texas pulled Charnesia Corley (a young African-American woman) over "for allegedly running a Stop sign." He then thought he smelled marijuana. He handcuffed her, stuck her in his cruiser, and searched her car for an hour. He found nothing. So he called in a female officer to conduct a body cavity search by the side of the road. When this officer pulled down Corley's pants (while she was still handcuffed), Corley protested. Here's what happened next:
Then, according to [Corley's lawyer, Sam] Cammack, Corley stood up and protested, so the deputy threw her to the ground and restrained her while another female was called in to assist. When backup arrived, each deputy held one of Corley's legs apart to conduct the probe.
So, a woman was forcibly held down and vaginally probed -- by the side of the road -- by police officers, because one cop thought he smelled marijuana. A spokesman for the Harris County Sheriff's Department stated "the deputies did everything as they should." In Texas, possession of less than four ounces of marijuana is a misdemeanor, it bears pointing out.
The astounding thing is that Texas actually just passed a law to make such searches prohibited without a warrant. They had to pass this law because Corley is, sadly, not the only person this has happened to. Unfortunately for Corley, the law doesn't take effect until next month.
So for anyone who wonders why we've been such strong advocates for ending the War On Weed, this is Exhibit A. This is what it does to cops. If they hadn't been cops, they would be in jail right now awaiting trial on charges of forcible rape. Because they are cops, such charges will never be brought against them.
That is why the War On Weed needs to end. Because people's constitutional rights and basic human rights are being abused on a daily basis, until the War On Weed is over.
Two Honorable Mention awards are in order this week, the first going to Secretary of State John Kerry who just this morning watched the American flag rise over our embassy in Havana, Cuba. When historians look back on Obama's legacy, opening up Cuba is going to figure prominently. Kerry became the first American secretary of state to visit Cuba since F.D.R.'s time.
Democrats in Virginia are also to be commended, for attempting to break the gerrymandering logjam in the state. Perhaps if they worked together with the politicians across the Potomac River? The Huffington Post has the story on how Maryland and Virginia could balance out each other's efforts politically.
But this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week is, once again, Bernie Sanders. Bernie got crowds of over 25,000 people in back-to-back cities. This is fourteen months from the election, folks. That is simply astounding.
The size and enthusiasm of Bernie's audiences is absolutely unparalleled. No other candidate (to our knowledge) has managed an audience that has even topped the 10,000 mark yet. That's in either party, too. Many candidates struggle to top one thousand people, in fact. Yet Bernie's getting over 25,000.
Bernie also hit a milestone this week as he topped Hillary Clinton by seven points in a poll from New Hampshire. Of course, Bernie's from right next door in Vermont, but he's doing pretty well in Iowa too. Iowa has a caucus system, which favors candidates with a lot of energy and enthusiasm behind them. Hillary Clinton learned this in 2008, as Obama cleaned up in the caucus states. If Bernie Sanders somehow took both Iowa and New Hampshire, it would be a serious body blow to Hillary's campaign.
I keep waiting for the mainstream media to stop either ignoring Sanders or dismissing him as "the Donald Trump of the left," and start reporting on what is making people so excited. Bernie has an agenda. His agenda is resonating with a whole lot of people -- people who don't care whether the inside-the-Beltway crowd labels it "socialism" or "hard left" or "radical" or even "not serious." Sooner or later the pundits are going to wake up to what is drawing people in to hear Bernie speak.
In the meantime, we're awarding Bernie Sanders his 11th Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award. Maybe Sanders won't go all the way. Maybe he'll follow the path of Vermont's Howard Dean. But until he does, he's certainly the one driving the discussion on the Democratic side. And for that, he deserves some overdue credit.
[Congratulate Senator Bernie Sanders on his Senate contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]
We're not even sure she's a Democrat (although it's a pretty safe assumption to make), but we're giving this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week to the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy.
The E.P.A. royally screwed the pooch this week. There's simply no other way to put it. The E.P.A. wanted to declare an abandoned mine in Colorado a Superfund site. The locals objected, saying it would be bad for tourism. So the E.P.A. backed down and instead sent their own people in to begin cleaning the mine up. They blew it, and released a flood of water contaminated with arsenic, lead, and cadmium into the Animas River.
The post-spill handling by the E.P.A. has generated a lot of complaints, but although this was a tragic accident with devastating environmental consequences, it was caused by the E.P.A. itself. Gina McCarthy did finally apologize for the response and for the spill, but this is of little comfort to those in the area who are going to be drinking bottled water for a long time to come -- including a major Native American reservation.
So while her apology is appreciated, it does not save E.P.A. chief Gina McCarthy from being awarded the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.
[Contact Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy via her E.P.A. contact page, to let her know what you think of her actions.]
Volume 357 (8/14/15)
A varied bunch this week. Two of these get quite dark, since they deal with the subject of sexual assault. Actually, we've got more than a few items this week that are fairly heavy, even the snarky one at the end. Oh, well, it's been that kind of week.
Use responsibly, as always.
More good Obamacare news
Democrats really should be trumpeting the good news on Obamacare, mainly because there's so much of it to trumpet.
"More Obamacare data was recently released, and all the news was good, once again. According to the National Health Interview Survey, the rate of uninsured Americans is now below 10 percent for the first time ever. More and more people are taking advantage of being able to sign up for Obamacare when they go through major life changes as well. And, no surprise, Obamacare is doing a whole lot better at reducing the number of uninsured in the states where it was fully implemented. Millions of people are being denied coverage solely because Republican governors and state legislatures hate the word 'Obamacare.' I hope the voters in those states take note, the next time they vote. One party wants them to have health insurance. One party does not, for purely political reasons."
Listen to the generals
This one really needs pointing out, forcefully. Turn a Republican attack line around!
"Whenever Republicans want to complain about Democrats not being sufficiently warlike, they always use one refrain: 'listen to the generals.' Well, now that three dozen retired generals and admirals have written a letter in favor of Obama's Iran deal, we would like to ask Republicans who are opposed why they are not now 'listening to the generals.' These highly respected military men make a strong argument that the Iran nuclear deal is a good deal for America, for the military, and for the world. They're worth listening to."
Don't let Jeb! get away with this historical revisionism.
"I thought it was hilarious to hear Jeb Bush blame his brother's failures on Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton the other day. Jeb says that Obama blew it on Iraq because he brought all the troops home. If only some troops had stayed, according to Jeb, the Islamic State never would have happened. Except for, you know, the fact that the Status Of Forces Agreement that was signed with Iraq's prime minister -- the agreement which specified not only that all American troops would withdraw but also the schedule they would follow -- was actually signed by Jeb's brother. There's a reason why no troops stayed in Iraq, and that reason is that even George W. Bush couldn't convince the Iraqi leader he had installed to keep any troops there. Period. Jeb is criticizing Obama for following Dubya's lead on the issue."
This woman was reportedly sexually assaulted
Back to the cops in Texas...
"Charnesia Corley is an African-American woman in Texas who [felt like she] was raped by the side of the road. By the police. Because one cop thought, when he pulled her over, that he smelled marijuana, she was forcibly given a full body cavity search by two deputies by the side of the road. No warrant, no privacy, just a disgusting abuse of power. Possessing less than four ounces of marijuana is only a misdemeanor in Texas, and yet the cops feel justified in such reprehensible violations of human rights to fight the scourge of the evil weed. There is no getting around the facts of this story, which should be told to anyone who argues for the continuation of the War On Weed. A young African-American woman was [reportedly] raped by the side of the road by cops in Texas. And my guess is they'll never be charged with any crime for doing so. According to the Sheriff's Department, 'the deputies did everything as they should.' That's just wrong, and that is why the marijuana laws need changing everywhere."
Republicans want headlines like this one
This is disgraceful, but this is the world Republicans want to see here. So point it out!
"An 11-year-old girl just gave birth in Paraguay. She was 10 when she was raped by her stepfather, but the government denied her mother's request she be allowed an abortion. These are the real-world consequences of the position taken by many Republican presidential candidates. They want to outlaw abortion even in the case of rape and incest. That leads directly to 11-year-olds having to bear their stepfather's child after being raped. Republicans want to see that sort of thing here, because those are the headlines we can expect if they ever got their way on outlawing all abortion. No rape victim should ever be forced to bear her rapist's baby. No 10-year-old should carry a baby to term. Yet that is exactly what happens when abortion is outlawed."
One for the road
Last week, we optimistically promised we'd only have one Trump talking point per week. Well, one week later we find this too constricting already, so we've got two this week.
"Lindsey Graham said this week that 'Donald Trump is an out-of-control car driving through a crowd of Republicans, and somebody needs to get him out of the car.' Problem is, Republicans are too late to do so. Expanding Graham's metaphor, the Republican Party spent long hours at the bar drinking heavily, while agreeing with every yahoo in the bar about everything, and then when one of them wanted to drive home the Republicans bought him one stiff drink for the road, before handing him his car keys and staggering out to the parking lot with him, to make sure he could find his car. And now they want to complain about the resulting carnage? That's pretty funny, because the wave Trump is riding has been fully enabled by the Republican Party for years now."
Golf OK to talk about
I guess golf's out of the doghouse. Or something.
"Remember when Republicans were going apoplectic because Barack Obama played some golf? C'mon, it wasn't that long ago, surely you remember all the snide comments! I see now that golf has regained respectability within the Republican Party... at least when two white guys are playing. Donald Trump bragged he 'easily beat' and (just to rub it in) that he 'trounced' Rand Paul on the golf course. Paul's spokesman whined back that it was Trump's home course so he had an advantage. Not a word was spoken about the propriety of actually playing golf, so I guess there must have been another reason for the earlier complaints about Obama, eh?"
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Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-656-HOPE for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.