Archive for Politics

WA State: No Weed For You

Posted in Life, Policy, Politics with tags , , , , , on January 20, 2010 by Josh Wittner

I just watched on TVW the voting down of a marijuana legalization bill and then subsequently the voting down of a much less controversial decriminalization bill by the House Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee (what a name). Legalization was rejected with a 7-2 vote and decriminalization with a 5-3 vote.

The interesting part of the legalization vote was Rep. Steve Kirby’s statement about the flaws in this particular bill and how if they could be resolved he would gladly vote for it:

“I could vote for a bill like this. It’s kind of a big deal, it really is, to go from having a substance that when I was in school they used to show us videos in school of people jumping out of buildings. Reefer Madness, do you remember that?” He said it might come as a shock to people in the room, “but I actually know people who use marijuana on a regular basis,” he said. But, he said, this bill lacks the clarity he’s looking for. “It’s close, but it lacks details that are important to me.” He told the crowd: “Don’t count me all the way out, but count me out today.”

The decriminalization vote turned on all the old out-dated disproved or illogical arguments. Rep. Chris Hurst voted against the bill because it would be confusing for people to have state laws and federal laws differ from each other. That’s essentially telling those that the state arrest for marijuana possession, “Yes, I know its not that bad of a drug and yes I think it should be decriminalized, but you’re gonna have to go to jail, because, well, that’s just confusing.”

The other profoundly irrational argument came from Rep. Kirk Pearson who argued that he’s seen evidence that telling kids that marijuana isn’t going to destroy your life (ignore that all of the seriously destructive elements come from its illegality) increases the number of kids who smoke marijuana. Yes, Rep. Pearson we should continue to put adults in jail and give them criminal records which can ruin their lives so that parents don’t have to watch out for marijuana just like they have to for cigarettes and alcohol.

On that note, here’s the best marijuana advice for children I’ve ever heard. It comes from South park:

The truth is, marijuana probably isn’t going to make you kill people. Most likely isn’t going to fund terrorists, but pot makes you feel fine with being bored and it’s when you’re bored that you should be learning a new skill or some new science or being creative. If you smoke pot you may grow up to find out that you’re not good at anything.

From the numbers I’ve seen kids find out about marijuana around ages 12-13 and at that age it seems to me we’d be better off informing our kids about drugs and sex, instead of lying to them.

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Politifact

Posted in Media Source, Politics with tags , , , , on November 13, 2009 by Josh Wittner

The more I check into Politifact the more I realize how awesome of a service it is. They won the Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the 2008 election for “probing reporters and the power of the World Wide Web to examine more than 750 political claims, separating rhetoric from truth to enlighten voters.” What a great idea.

They take the words of pundits, politicians, and special interest groups to task and tell you on a spectrum from ‘pants on fire’ to ‘true’ how accurate those statements are. The best part is that every rating has a short article written specifically about the statement and covers the reasons that Politifact gave the rating it did. Awesome.

Another cool feature is the Obameter, a current review of all of the promises President Obama made during the 2008 campaign. Every promise is rated as either kept, compromised, broken, stalled, in the works, or unrated for promises that haven’t even gotten off the starting line. A valuable resource for keeping track at how the Obama administration is matching up to the promises that got him elected.

On a side note, a quick check on Glenn Beck’s file shows that he’s never been rated as ‘true’ or ‘mostly true’, having his highest rating as ‘false’ with ‘pants on fire’ tied for second with ‘barely true’. This guy has millions of viewers.

Politically Convenient: Gay Marriage As a State Issue

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , on October 27, 2009 by Josh Wittner

Yesterday a couple of friends and I were watching The West Wing and on the show there was a brief discussion concerning same-sex marriage. One of the characters, a current senator and presidential candidate played by Alan Alda doesn’t support same-sex marriage protections by the federal government because marriage is a ‘state issue.’ We got into a heated discussion where I attempted to defend Alan Alda’s statements against Kevin’s argument that certainly same-sex marriage was like other civil rights issues and the federal government is in fact constitutionally compelled to intervene, arguing that “if states offer the contract of marriage to opposite-sex couples, they must offer it to same-sex couples.”

My personal morality lies with Kevin’s as I do also believe the feds should intervene, and certainly I’ve yet to hear a valid constitutional defense of DoMA, but what I’ve gotten to thinking about is whether the “marriage is a state issue” is anything more than a political convenience for our politicians. Kevin goes so far as to call those who use it ‘bigots’ in the same sense as those who use purely religious reasons are, though I argued that one could in fact support same-sex marriage at the state level, while believing that the national government should keep its hands out of state business (this would require supporting the repeal of DoMA). One could argue that they are simply creating a compromise between their beliefs as equal rights activists and their beliefs as federalists, but does that make their actions any less bigoted? Thoughts?

Politics: The Filibuster

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , on September 30, 2009 by Josh Wittner

Greg Koger is an Assistant Professor of American Politics at the University of Miami. He recently posted a really good description of several arguments for the filibuster and the requirement of a supermajority to override it. Beyond that it delves into some of the inner political workings of the house and senate in relation to special interests, constituents, party politics, etc. Really interesting stuff.

He presents a crazy hypothetical that I found an interesting case of possible political maneuvering where the republicans present a single-payer amendment:

Imagine, for example, that health care reform comes to the House floor under an open rule (any amendment allowed) and the Republicans offer an amendment setting up a single-payer government health care system. If the amendment is adopted by a coalition of sincere liberals ( who think a single-payer system is ideal) and strategic Republicans (who vote for a position contrary to their conservative views in order to defeat the bill), then the bill would probably fail on final passage; moderate Democrats and Republicans would oppose a single-payer system, leaving liberal Democrats supporting a defeated bill.

Politics/Economics: Why We Can’t Cut Spending

Posted in Economics, Politics with tags , , , , on September 24, 2009 by Josh Wittner

This Forbes article did a pretty good job of explaining in simple terms and numbers why we can’t balance the budget just by cutting spending. The gist is that there really isn’t that much money in services which can be cut (to balance the budget we’d have to cut nearly ALL of it) because services are really a very small portion of the federal budget.  Along with the minuscule impacts of cutting services on the budget, there’s little political will for doing so.

Another interesting point that puts simply what I didn’t hear in the news during the debate over stimulus v. tax cuts is spelled out:

Revenues would be even lower if Republicans had gotten their wish and the stimulus consisted entirely of tax cuts. How tax cuts would help people with no wages because they have no jobs or businesses with no profits to tax was never explained.

Sarah Palin

Posted in Politics with tags , , on October 15, 2008 by Josh Wittner

There is no single position in the world that one individual can hold that is of more importance than that of President of the United States. The responsibility should at no times be taken lightly. I expect the person who fills this position to hold it with as much serious consideration as possible. It is not something one trifles with.

In nominating Sarah Palin as his running mate John McCain has shown total disregard for the importance of the office of the President of the United States. And in doing so has made it clear that regardless of his opposition he is not a man that we want to lead this country.

The Republican party has opted to do what they perceive to increase their odds of winning, over what is best for this country. Winning the job has become more important than doing the job and that, above all else, is what makes me dislike the Republican party right now.

Most of my differences with the Republican party are ideological, but the power held by the President is the one thing that we should all be able to understand. Being President should be about sacrificing oneself, about doing ones duty for this country.

Someone like Sarah Palin should not be as close to being President as she is. She should not be as close to Vice President as she is. As Vice President she would be abysmal. She lacks the understanding and the desire to understand necessary to fulfill a position like that. As President she would be a failure and we as citizens should make mockery of the nomination of Sarah Palin. In my opinion the Republicans should receive zero votes in this election.

Perhaps they truly think that winning with Sarah Palin will result in a better country than losing to Obama. Perhaps, but I don’t think its an argument they should be able to convince anyone of and arguing it only convinces me that they could be more delusional than I already thought.

If you don’t like the democrats either, then vote for an independent that you do like. If you don’t like anyone and you can, vote for none of the above. The Republicans have shown that they don’t respect this country and they don’t respect its citizens, us. They don’t deserve a vote.

A Necessary Conversation for the Times

Posted in Politics with tags , , , on October 1, 2008 by Josh Wittner

This article written by Jonathon Haidt has really hit the mark for me. I’ve always hated the duality of our current political system, this red/blue divide which has done little to promote any sense of unity I might feel with my country and my community. And Haidt’s article has done a lot to clear up my confusion about the ideology of people who, I am told, are on the ‘other side.’

There is an undercurrent to this divide that threatens us. When it becomes more about an imagined evil represented by those who stand for something different than us instead of about the ideas and organization of principles the threat grows larger. To dispel this undercurrent I think we must see that our differences are of ideologies, of values, not a true difference of intention. We all seek to do what we think is right and we are blatantly erroneous when we think that we are better or somehow more just; the universe does not inherently define laws of value, we have decided to take that burden unto ourselves.

We must try to truly understand the values of those who differ ideologically from ourselves. We must seek to find the merit in their beliefs, and if we still feel we have just cause for keeping to our ideologies we must find the language to express that cause; why we feel following the organization of our principles will lead to a better world.

And we must listen goddammit. We must allow others to express fully their ‘just cause’ so that we may understand more deeply the ideologies apart from our own. So that we can discard our shallow understandings and grasp the knowledge of not just what principals they stand for, but why they are stood for.

More on this and similar topics later. Thanks for reading.