Morning Ed: Planet Earth {2016.11.30.W}

A new study looks at the link between oil prices and inflation. Relatedly, could Texas oil prices go up due to Asian demand?

Is it too much to hope that maybe Superman’s got some equipment up there doing stuff?

Also, the rising tides in Florida, and the impact they’re having.

Environmentalists: Maybe all is not lost with Trump. Maybe the states will step up. Federalism!

Water, as a civil right.

As Donald Trump ponders an “environmental reset,” Bjorn Lomborg argues that the Paris agreement was never the solution for Climate Change.

Ronald Bailey argues that energy poverty is much worse for the poor than Climate Change. Whether that’s true or not, I definitely agree with the Iron Law of Climate Change: When policies on emissions reductions collide with policies focused on economic growth, economic growth will win out every time. Christiane Amonpour takes a different view.

The Standing Rock Sioux and other protesters would really like it if people coming in to protests would stop treating the whole thing like Burning Man.


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387 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Planet Earth {2016.11.30.W}

  1. As a matter of fact, I know a (white) Burning Man veteran who went to Standing Rock. He’s been very clear on his voluminous social media posts about his Brave Choice (TM) how important it is to be respectful and to contribute at the camp instead of just soaking up the experience.

    Then again, his personal brand as a DJ (of course) is built around being a woke white dude. He has been linking to Everyday Feminism articles in between his SoundCloud remixes for years.

    I especially like the example in the article about the non-fluoridated water. It really is impossible to hold a protest on the left without a dozen side issues eventually consuming the whole thing and the most fringe-y of those issues getting the most media attention.

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  2. Florida – meh, I can’t get too full of the feels for people that bought expensive waterfront homes in an area that’s never been ecologically sustainable for large scale human habitation.

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    • South Florida has always been salt marshes and the like, just like LA has always been desert. Just because we managed to make the land habitable by being clever doesn’t mean the nature of the local conditions actually changed.

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    • In the 1980s/90s when privatization of state utilities was a thing, water utilities were thrown in the mix. In most countries the newly privatized utilities crashed and burned because no politician was willing to countenance the image of poor people being denied water (and sanitation) and dying of thirst (or collera epidemias because sewers could not be flushed)for lack of payment.

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        • @j_a

          Zeus on a tostito, privately owned utilities happen all the time without catastrophe, even water works. (I myself lived in a ‘blue’ political area with a private water utility until a little over a year ago)

          But sure, fine. I’ll raise ya – since food is so important, the state must immediately seize every farm, garden, grocery store, and bodega. Because the logic of the market (even a market with significant govt regulation and active management), doesn’t work amirite?

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      • Let’s follow your logic to its conclusion. If folks have a right to basic necessities for life like water, then they should also have a right to food, electricity, shelter and clothing, right? Who is going to pay for the provision of all these rights to people who can not support themselves?

        I would also say that arguing that denying people basic necessities is immoral is a totally different argument than saying folks have a right to something like water. So yes, if you don’t pay your water bill the company should be allowed to shut off your water or electricity.

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          • Access to the basic necessities is a right. No one should be denied water, etc. because they are part of a disfavored demographic, or because they are an asshole, or because a corporation needs to meet quarterly targets.

            That said, when it comes to a utility like water/sewer, thinking about it as a right, rather than a question of infrastructure is thinking about it wrong. The pipes are in place, as are the pumps & valves. The delivery system is a public expense, hence access is a public right. A water bill is less a fee for services rendered than it is a tax to support a specific public system. We treat it as a fee because water is a scarce resource and the fee structure allows the utility to (ideally) leverage market forces to control demand.

            We know about how much water a person needs per day to maintain hygiene & hydration, and that amount is something that can simply be factored into whatever base rate is used (the system is going to deliver the water anyway, it costs fractional pennies to pour a glass of water or fill a cooking pot). It’s when people are watering lawns, or filling large baths or pools, that residential water use gets beyond what is necessary for life.

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            • This is correct. The water bill is paying (over time) for the delivery infrastructure, not for the commodity itself. The short-term marginal cost of residential water (absent pools and irrigation) is almost nil.

              How we pay for the pipes, and whether the government would allow to cut the commodity delivery to those that do not want to pay for the infrastructure is the issue.

              In that respect, the commodity “water” is much cheaper than the commodity “electricity”, but the delivery infrastructure is much more expensive. How to allocate the infrastructure and how to subsidize those than can pay for the commodity but not the delivery infrastructure is what we are discussing.

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              • See, Joe. This is why Patrick wrote that comment to you last night. And why having a discussion is frequently impossible.

                Positive rights are a real thing. Just as much as negative rights. They impinge on your reality!

                That you reject them outa hand doens’t really add anything to the discussion. (By the way, I’m a pragmatics guy about all this stuff, hence, a “social constructionist” in your terminology tho I reject the accuracy of that designator.)

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                • Patrick and I have been around the maypole before and his respect of my position is about what I would expect of him.

                  I lost a significant amount of respect for him the last two times we tangled, and for him to come in out of his wayward blue to take a swing at me really sucks.

                  The only reason I commented the way I did above, is often we start framing social constructed things such as ‘rights’ as being tangibly real outside the scope of what they are.

                  You threw a curve ball at me a couple days ago about complex parameters of economics. Within the next few months I expect I will have to again model the difference between a social construct reality, and something existing physically in reality.

                  At least you and I have enough patience and engagement we can unpack our positions over extended time frames. I appreciate you, even If I give you a hard time, or if on any giving day I fishing suck at being a good opponent.

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                  • Well, that’s much more charitable than I was expecting in response. Thanks, for the personal message as well as your view of the long game here.

                    {{But to go back to Patrick for a sec., I don’t think I’m alone in saying that Patrick is one of the few people here who ALWAYS evaluates an argument on its merits, irrespective of priors or emotional commitments.(Or appears to, anyway :) So he’s sortuv a barometer in terms of reasoned debate and so on. Adding: not that you necessarily agree with me about that.}}

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        • Actually, there is a strain of Catholic social teaching that yes, basic necessities are a right, and society is in fact obliged to provide.

          Either by creating sufficient opportunity, or by direct assistance.

          The idea (relating to water in fact) is that there is no natural logic for the private ownership of land. God didn’t assign parcels to everyone, and the Lockean logic of land ownership doesn’t create any moral imperative.

          Private ownership of land is just a utilitarian device to facilitate the workings of society.

          If the workings of society make it difficult or impossible for people to provide for themselves, society has a moral obligation to provide.

          So, if there isn’t a stream or pond or readily available source of water, yes, society does have a moral obligation to provide water to everyone.

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      • Let me ask about a specific example. 30 years ago, Colorado’s population was 3.3M and the water supplies were strained. Since then, 2.2M more people have moved in and the water supplies are even more strained. Is there a point where Colorado gets to put up a fence and say, “The water’s over-committed. More people moving in means less water for the people already here. Stay in Ohio, or move somewhere else, but the Colorado door is closed.”? Or is your position that people are due basic necessities no matter where they choose to relocate?

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    • Water as “property”?

      Ridiculous!

      It falls from the sky, it lies in underground pool that no one can even map, flows in rivers and respects no manmade boundary.

      Water belongs to everyone, thats just natural law.

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      • It falls from the sky, it lies in underground pool that no one can even map, flows in rivers and respects no manmade boundary.

        Given that you live in California, may I assume sarcasm tags here? Most of the American West’s population depends very much on forcing water to respect man-made boundaries (both spatial and temporal). Much of the water coming out of your tap in LA would have preferred to go (or stay) elsewhere, but Mulholland and others imposed their wills on it.

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      • “It is hereby declared that because of the conditions
        prevailing in this State the general welfare requires that the water
        resources of the State be put to beneficial use to the fullest extent
        of which they are capable, and that the waste or unreasonable use or
        unreasonable method of use of water be prevented, and that the
        conservation of such waters is to be exercised with a view to the
        reasonable and beneficial use thereof in the interest of the people
        and for the public welfare.

        The right to water or to the use or flow
        of water in or from any natural stream or water course in this State
        is and shall be limited to such water as shall be reasonably
        required for the beneficial use to be served, and such right does not
        and shall not extend to the waste or unreasonable use or
        unreasonable method of use or unreasonable method of diversion of
        water.

        Riparian rights in a stream or water course attach to, but to
        no more than so much of the flow thereof as may be required or used
        consistently with this section, for the purposes for which such lands
        are, or may be made adaptable, in view of such reasonable and
        beneficial uses; provided, however, that nothing herein contained
        shall be construed as depriving any riparian owner of the reasonable
        use of water of the stream to which the owner’s land is riparian
        under reasonable methods of diversion and use, or as depriving any
        appropriator of water to which the appropriator is lawfully entitled.”

        From such laws are conflicts born. (The quoted language is from the California Constitution, Article 10, section 2.)

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      • Those are two entirely different meanings of the word “right.” Nobody claims that people have a right to be provided guns by the government for free. And nobody denies that people have the right to buy water at market price.

        I mean, to a reasonable first approximation. There’s no position so out there that someone won’t take it.

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        • Which I think brings us to ‘s question about access to water being a right.

          A complicating factor is how anyone comes to own water… or, more specifically a water source.

          I know that many places in the country have laws about collecting rain water (basically making it illegal). So, right there, you have some restrictions on access to water.

          As for water at market price… that assumes private actors, no? How did these private actors come to possess access to water? I mean, how does someone “own” a river and the water running through it?

          I’m not opposed to private property… but somewhere along the line a river that was owned by no one and the water than runs through it which is constantly refreshing became someone’s property, likely through means that are… less than market-ideal.

          Do I think people should be able to walk into any store and grab a bottle of FIJI off the shelf and bill the government… or just take it? No.

          But do I think the government should be involved in ensuring that all people have access to clean drinking water and regular sanitation? Sure. Does that make water a right? I dunno.

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          • But do I think the government should be involved in ensuring that all people have access to clean drinking water and regular sanitation? Sure.

            How much? Cause that makes a big difference. A thousand gallons a month? Ten thousand? Long hot showers? Watering a flower garden? Is it location dependent? If a million people move in next door — essentially the situation in Front Range Colorado — do they have a right to water and sanitation even if it means people who had plenty for flower gardens before no longer do?

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          • I know that many places in the country have laws about collecting rain water (basically making it illegal). So, right there, you have some restrictions on access to water.

            Which goes to Chips point about water falling the sky.

            One thing I’d say is that the concept of property requires some sorta legitimate claim in order to be justified. A Lockean view is that property devolves from mixing ones labor with a natural resource: plant and tend the apple trees and you own the fruits of your labor. Short of a reductive account like that, we’re stuck with ad hoc norms and legalizations regarding ownership and transfer of rights and so on. (Adding: not necessarily merely ad hoc: pragmatics not only picks up the ball here but advances it pretty far down the field.)

            But, going back to a Lockean account of how this whole thing gets off the ground, how does a claim to a watershed have any merit except as the outright assertion of a property right requiring no sweat equity to validate?

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          • I know that many places in the country have laws about collecting rain water (basically making it illegal).

            Minor point here, but those places (Oregon is one) don’t really have laws about collecting rain water. Collecting rain water perfectly legal; that it isn’t is a right-wing Info Wars sort of misrepresentation of the laws.

            The laws prohibit the collecting of run off from rain and snow, because that run off is how the places we get the water we drink come from.

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            • Not here in Colorado. Well, not until recently. Merely collecting water from your rooftop was illegal and enforced. Now, the law permits (I think) two 55 gallon rain barrels of collection for the purposes of residential use. (Michael Cain would prolly know the specifics.)

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                • Prior use.

                  If you collect rain water from your rooftop, the water is not flowing into the stream where a user, senior than you, already has water rights. You cannot interfere with the water allocation of any user senior than you. Hence you cannot collect your roof water unless you (or your ancestors) did that before any other person ever took water from the stream your rain water drains into. If just one person did, he is already senior to you, and you cannot affect the water basin AT ALL

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                  • While I understand that, it creates a system wherein we advantage those who were first into the pool (or, rather, those who were first acknowledged into the pool).

                    Isn’t a huge part of the Dakota Access Pipeline about a new group disregarding the prior use of a (much more) senior group?

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                    • Yes, we do create a system of allocating public goods as simple property to private actors by chronological order of capture (without even the need for the public to be compensated). (*)

                      The Spanish (Roman) Law instead maintained that public goods, like mines, or water, are always public goods, and you can only use them via license

                      (*) by capturing the water in your rooftop you are literally stealing water that BELONGS to someone else.

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                      • It’s also the basis of the argument that the right to pollute the air is a prior use right, and that polluters have a right to pollute as their property, and that forcing them to abate their emissions is a Taking.

                        Mind you, is not the existing polluting facility that it’s grandfathered only until its torn down. It’s your right to continue emitting the same amount of pollution for ever, even through a new facility.

                        Hence Cap and Trade is granting existing polluters the right to pollute, and them selling those rights in the market in perpetuity.

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                    • While it advantages prior users, in water-restricted areas there would be little or no development if the town/mine/farm could not rely upon the existing water sources. Who would invest in any of those if some joker with hundreds of rain barrels moved upstream? Hate those guys.

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                • Water is scarce, and the aquifers are replenished in part by rainfall. Collecting rainfall in, say, a large cistern or retention pond for personal use prevents it from entering the aquifer.

                  Putting in a reasonable allotment (like two 55 gallon barrels) is being smart, since it is enough to offset how much a household uses, but not enough to largely impact the whole system.

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              • While most of the examples people have used here involve western water law, there are other places weird stuff happens. When I lived in NJ many years ago there was a particularly dry summer. Several counties in NJ were dismayed when they discovered that they were obligated to open the floodgates on their reservoirs to maintain sufficient flow in the Delaware River to keep the salt line more than five miles below Philadelphia’s intake pipes. The local governments and water companies went, literally overnight, from saying that they had plenty of water to get through the summer, to enforcing fairly draconian water use restrictions.

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      • So guns are a right but not water?

        In terms of resource supply and allocation, if the supply of guns was governed by the same limitations as the supply of water I’d fully expect lots of folks to weaken their commitment to negative rights.

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      • According to the constitution, yes. I find the question ironic because the SCOTUS has said that not only is having a lawyer a right but that the state must provide one for you(wrongly in my opinion). Oddly, this same logic doesn’t apply to the 2nd amendment but that’s liberals for you.

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  3. Looked up something on the internet yesterday that came up on a reality show my wife watches.

    It seems a lot of, or maybe all, the Western US states have longstanding legal systems wrt water as the one Slovenia just implemented. Oregon declared every drop of water on the surface and underground publicly owned (socialism!) back in 1955.

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    • I know from my perusal of Texas history that there is a centuries old legal conflict in the Southwest with respect to water rights between the Spanish colonial laws, and the common law introduced by the USA in the 1850s.

      Without knowing much about the conflict (and I would love to know more -treat this as a bleg!!!!), I would bet water laws transferred from a very arid country would be more suited to the region than a common law developed in swampy Northern Europe.

      But the common law won in most places, allowing for very irrational uses of water (see Oklahoma Dust Bowl)

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      • Water wasn’t the singular cause of the Oklahoma dust bowl. There was too much open tilled soil and not enough native grasses and trees. I would say it was irrational use of the land, but the owners-operators had no basis in rationality to expect the cascade failures that occurred.

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        • I am aware of what you say.

          But unlimited pumping water from the underground aquifers allowed for tilling and growing the unsuitable crops, which would not have happened in a similar way under Spanish style laws, where underground water belongs to the King (and its successor, the state) and were wells are regulated in number and volume, you require a license to pump water from it.

          The part I don’t understand well, btw, is the riparian rights laws

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        • There’s a growing body of evidence that heat and drought were, in fact, the dominant causes of the 1930s Dust Bowl. Also that such conditions are not uncommon, but are a regular part of the southern Great Plains environment. Geoff Cunfer’s stuff on the subject is excellent.

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      • I think water rights laws change naturally around the 100th meridian in the U.S., as a matter of common law. One of the benefits of the common law was that it always contained a vehicle for an alternate rule for different circumstances.

        For example, English common law imposed a duty on the owners of livestock to “fence in” their animals, who could be liable to pay for destruction of crops. American courts did not think this rule well-adapted to a frontier people, and opted for a “fence out” rule which imposed the duty on the owner of crops to erect fences. Adopting “fence out” as American common law, as opposed to “fence in,” mainly kept the previous rule, but shifted the burden.

        Water rights in the Western states starts with the same assumption of the right to use water on one’s own property, but includes the right to exclude subsequent, interfering uses. I would consider prior-appropriation water rights as a common-law rule adopted to areas with water limitations.

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      • California water law is essentially three different legal regimes jammed together and trying to co-exist. It’s never worked terribly well. I suspect if the drought drags on that the voters will demand a change to the Constitution which fundamentally re-writes how water rights are managed.

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  4. The oil and inflation article is another waste of electrons. To summarize because life is too short

    1. Energy is a big component in everything we make or do in the modern world.

    2. If energy prices would go up and then stayed flat, prices of everything we use energy to make or do would spike and then level again

    3. If energy prices would go down and then stayed flat, prices of everything we use energy to make or do would drop and then level again.

    4. So there’s apparently a correlation between the price of energy and the price of all we use energy to make or do.

    On another news, water is found to be wet. Details at 11.

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    • I”m not sure what you mean here – Atrios has always been a policy guy first and a partisan much further down the list – but I agree with his take on things. As K has said before, she (meaning the campaign) had one job, and thru a predictable level of incompetence, detachment, insularity, disingenuousness, smugness(!!), and incompetence(it deserves repeating), they succeeded in failing.

      That isn’t to say Trump wouldn’t have won if the Dem-brain trust wasn’t ill-suited to the task at hand. He might have responded to a different campaign with a different, and successful, strategy. It’s more that the first level of blame here is pretty easy to identify.

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  5. Things I hate: people misusing the word “equating”.

    The headline of the climatedepot article is: CNN’s Christiane Amanpour equates climate ‘deniers’ with proponents of ‘ethnic cleansing and genocide’. If the quote they gave is accurate, she did no such thing. She compared coverage of both.

    This ties into the whole fake news / bubble / internet communication theme. If I say, “people who do A are like people who do B”, I’m not saying that A=B, or that people who do A = people who do B. Odds are, the whole thing was an analogy, anyway.

    A variation on this is, if I say “people who do A are like people who do B”, that doesn’t mean that everyone on my side thinks that people who do A are like people who do B. It definitely doesn’t mean that people on my side think A=B. And I might not be on the side you think I am, at least not on this topic.

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    • “If I say, “people who do A are like people who do B”, I’m not saying that A=B, or that people who do A = people who do B. Odds are, the whole thing was an analogy, anyway.”

      Here’s the thing: you don’t get to choose how your words are heard. If you don’t want to sound as though you’re accusing people of being racists, then maybe don’t say anything about them being “like racists”. Find a less-clumsy way to communicate.

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      • I don’t know about this. I don’t want to get into a discussion about rights – they can get messy – but I’ll say that you have an obligation to interpret clear words fairly. At a minimum, your credibility should take a hit if you don’t.

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  6. This is a novel idea, but possible, given that we are getting very good at making substances like diamond. I haven’t done any kind of deep dive into this, so keep some skepticism in mind, since science reporting is often pretty shallow.

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  7. A tweet for the neolibs:

    We are pleased to have reached a deal with President-elect Trump & VP-elect Pence to keep close to 1,000 jobs in Indy. More details soon.— Carrier (@Carrier) November 30, 2016

    From what I understand, Fox was interviewing employees and asking them what they thought about this deal. They were delighted. Interviewer asked one “if you could talk to Trump, what would you say?” The employee then went on to thank Mr. Trump.

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    • I think my favorite response is “well there’s ANOTHER fourteen hundred jobs that they ARE cutting so HOW IS THIS A VICTORY”.

      Like the important thing in this is to find a way for Trump to not have been right, for him to not deliver on campaign promises.

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        • Great idea, Jaybird. Thank Allah he didn’t. Next thing you know, a propaganda-driven Reality TV star who single-handedly destroyed the USFL, defrauded thousands, and Grabs becomes the president elect.

          Wait…

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            • And still millions of people got insurance and used plenty of it. The rate of insured people is as low as its ever been. There were also stories about people getting HI and being really happy with it….who could have guessed.

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            • I still boggle at the whole idea that people seriously thought that it was going to work as advertised.

              Depends on what you think the advertising was, seems to me.

              If you thought it was gonna make every singly amernican’s live economically better, then you weren’t paying attention.

              If you thought it was gonna “bend the cost curve” over time, then you were sold a bill of goods.

              The upside is that the GOPs plan may very well “bend the cost curve” (nationally, of course, as a percent of GDP…) but only by excluding folks who actually need insurance from getting it. Like people with the chronic medical condition known as “ageing”.

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              • Depends on what you think the advertising was, seems to me.

                Well, since I haven’t yet heard about “black markets” in health care (well, excepting people smuggling epi-pens from Europe), Obamacare is doing better at this point than I thought it would be.

                So it’s exceeding expectations over here.

                If we want to expand it out from me to most of the country?

                If you thought it was gonna make every singly amernican’s live economically better, then you weren’t paying attention.

                If you thought it was gonna “bend the cost curve” over time, then you were sold a bill of goods.

                What did “most Americans” think it was going to do?

                How was it advertised to them?

                That’s why I think that bringing out Wally Johnson and Ashley Smith every couple of weeks to cry on camera would have done a lot of good… for this one small area.

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                • “That’s why I think that bringing out Wally Johnson and Ashley Smith every couple of weeks to cry on camera would have done a lot of good… for this one small area.”

                  Do you remember the kerfluffle over Graeme Frost (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graeme_Frost)? Granite countertops and all that?

                  Sure, would it have shifted things a few points? Absolutely. But, I don’t think it would’ve been the panacea you think it would be because most Republicans were opposed to the policy. Just like most Democrat’s will not be convinced by this Carrier thing that we should hand over tax breaks to every company that says they’re going to outsource jobs.

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            • My comment about the ACA is purely on the politics. Expanding coverage for the few, while increasing the costs for those w/ coverage, could not be the part of building a multistate coalition because the ratio of helps versus hurts skews very differently btw/ the South and the North.

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        • In other words, you wanted Obama to force the press to propagandize for him to save his failing program? Because that’s how 50% of the people would hear it, thanks to Facebook, Fox News, Brietbart, and the like.

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    • Yeah, since the actual deal involves more tax breaks for Carrier, all that will happen in the long term is there will be less tax revenue for the state government, which will mean that either taxes have to be raised (which isn’t happening) or services will have to be cut.

      So, all this really does is give corporations another arrow in the quiver of ways they can extract money from state and local governments to not move to another city, state, or country.

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      • That makes me think that she’d be the perfect whip. She could whisper in the ear of Tim Ryan and give advice while, at the same time, being an awesome behind-the-scenes kinda person without being the face of the party in the Congress.

        Am I looking at that wrong?

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        • That’s sort of where I come at it. I mean, I’m sitting here thinking that if they could just get a majority you’d want her running things (whether from the top or from a #2 position*). But it doesn’t do a whole lot of good if you’re stuck in the minority.

          * – See also: DeLay, Tom. Which is a little unfair because she’s not Tom DeLay. But there is definitely some skill overlap there.

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      • Almost nobody who hates Nancy Pelosi would otherwise for a Democratic candidate for the House. Just like almost anybody who hates Paul Ryan would otherwise vote for a Republican candidate for the House.

        Also, who’s the alternative? Tim Ryan – a guy who didn’t even pay his DCCC dues?

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          • I’d point out the Democrat’s did increase their number of House seats this election, despite Trump winning. JFK reincarnated could’ve been Speaker and the Democrat’s would’ve lost in 2010 and 2014.

            And Pelosi isn’t going to be the spokesperson for the party – a certain former POTUS who won’t have much to do will be.

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        • By “good” I mean if you give her a majority, she’ll make stuff happen.

          Trying to get a majority, or to keep one? She’s not especially good at that, and I think they should probably be looking for someone who is.

          Contra Jesse, I don’t look at gaining six seats in this particular election as impressive. They failed to recruit candidates even for congressional districts that might have been competitive (at least one that Clinton won), recruited poor candidates elsewhere (their nominee from my district, where the R incumbent got 49% in 2014, had to sign a deal with the FDA to close a secret cloning lab where he was trying to clone his son), and have simply shown little signs of attempting to actually be competitive in what for a while looked like a great cycle for them.

          I mean, if you’d asked me a year ago what I thought, I’d said “Stick with Nancy” because at peak it’s a parliamentary job. But man, something has gone wrong and I think she’s a part of it. It doesn’t matter how effective a Speaker she’d be if they don’t start getting serious about the House. Of the last five speakers of my political lifetime, I have probably respected her the most. But I think she’s good at the part of the job she’s not going to actually get to do.

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          • I don’t mean to be too quick with your lengthy reply, but isn’t recruiting candidates something the DNC is supposed to do? Her job is to advance an agenda and “sell” it. Part of that is leveraging commitments to priorities against allocation of campaign funds, but that seems like an after-the-fact sorta thing given the type of Reps she is able to influence/align.

            Add: I also think that rejecting Pelosi as some sort of standard bearer would put the Dems in an even worse position than they’re already in.

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            • I was initially inclined to blame DWS, I was told it was the DCCC! Truthfully, I think there’s a lot of blame to go around, but the DCCC is a big part of that, and the DCCC reports to her, and it’s all under her house. I know that on the Republican side leaders do work with the committee leaders. Maybe that’s totally not the case on the Democratic side, but maybe that in itself is a part of the problem.

              If they get a majority back, she’d be a good person to Get Things Done. But I don’t really see what she’s done to retain her position. Candidate recruitment is an obvious example, but the messaging doesn’t seem great, the spokesperson work doesn’t seem great. She seems effective in the way that Tom DeLay was effective. Which doesn’t seem to be enough while they’re in the minority (or enough to keep the majority).

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            • At some point you’d think *someone* would be responsible for the Democrats’ net performance in elected contests for the House of Representatives, US Senate, state governor and legislative races between and inclusive of 2008 to 2016.

              Or maybe no one is.

              And that is how we got Trump.

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            • Blaming Pelosi appears to be a case of “She’s old! She’s establishment! She’s to blame!” even though, you know, it’s not her job (and the Democrats actually picked up House seats this year anyways).

              Usual circular firing squad stuff, combined with the normal urge to pick a relative handful of people, a simple reason or two, and claim that’s to blame for a complex situation.

              It’s much more satisfying, on a gut level, than doing actual complex analysis and getting fuzzy, difficult to address, results. Plus when it fails, you just pick another person (whether they had anything to do with it or not), another simple reason or two, and you get the warm fuzzies all over again!

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                • Except for the fact that, by and large. Pelosi is a strong Minority Leader who has done well with what she’s had to work with.

                  Strangely, the biggest calls for her scalp have come from the furthest left, who seem to think they’ll find someone more liberal than her to replace her. That’s both unlikely (given her district, she’s as shielded from personal election concerns as she can be, and comes from one of the most liberal areas of the country) and completely ignores the fact that the issues are the marginal seats — any Speaker has to deal with not only the deep blue Reps, but the folks who barely held onto their seats — and try to keep them in office.

                  Sitting elected officials are, by and large, really bad party leaders (the President excluded, given it’s an executive function that’s nationwide). And even the President runs into the problem that a party leader should be talking about ideals, whereas actual politicians have to make sausage.

                  In public.

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                  • Strangely, the biggest calls for her scalp have come from the furthest left, who seem to think they’ll find someone more liberal than her to replace her.

                    I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I have a hard time believing any Dem pol in a position of real organizaitonal power could be further to the left than Pelosi. A movement attempting to get rid of her because she’s not far enough to the left is seriously misguided. This is a party that has Joe Liebermans, Ben Nelsons and Hillary Clintons at it’s core.

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                    • I’m thinking the younger set, who just see an establishment figure who must be, therefore, too conservative.

                      Admittedly, the folks I’ve seen complaining the most were rather heavily Sanders fans, many of whom now consider Warren a corrupt tool of the establishment as well.

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                • I am in between Jesse, you, and Jaybird here. Maybe the Democratic leadership could use a shakeup but I don’t think Ryan was the guy to do it.

                  Ryan was a trowback to the past of the Democratic Party. Different part of Congress but if you look at the Senate, the 4 new Democratic Senators are all women and three of them are people of color. The white-guy populists lost their elections. Perhaps a Tammy Duckworth type in Wisconsin would have been better than Feingold again and I like Feingold. The only exception will be if Foster Campbell manages to pull off a surprise victory in Louisiana this December.

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                  • I’m not very high on Tim Ryan*. The fact that he got 60-something votes is kind of a warning sign that the Reps are not as sanguine as a lot of the folks here are.

                    But I think it’s time to turn the page. She had a 14-year run. She’s good, but I don’t think she’s what they need right now. They need a builder. Maybe some new ideas. The notion that this is just Circular Firing Squad is just silly. It’s the fact that she’s stayed on as long as she has (especially out of power for most of it) that is the unusual part.

                    * – That said, Pelosi’s comment about him coming from a Trump district was dumb. They may not need that in the top spot, but it’s a useful perspective to have somewhere in leadership.

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                    • As I stated, it’s probably a good idea for your Speaker to come from a safe district. Of course, said Speaker needs to grok that his/her job also includes giving cover to their Reps in marginal districts.

                      But given the lightning-rod nature of being Speaker, anyone from a marginal district is going to have to play a LOT safer than otherwise.

                      And force the whole party with them.

                      You can’t be the guy who “voted against this bill!” (because the Whip counted votes and let you peel off for cover) if you’re the Speaker. You’re stuck with every Bill that has your party’s majority support (especially those that passed) regardless of how you voted.

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                      • Ideally, you have someone somewhere in between the two. You’d prefer the Democrat have a constituency no further to the right than Nevada but no further to the left than Illinois. For a Republican, it might be Tennessee and Iowa. Basically, states that are not immune from counter-winds but also aren’t especially vulnerable if you’re a well-regarded incumbent or otherwise good candidate.

                        Basically, Ryan’s is likely too vulnerable, and Pelosi’s too safe. Which isn’t to say that you *can’t* go that route, but it’s reason for caution.

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                        • Sounds like the DLC right there, triangulating. :)

                          Except for, at least in theory, Pelosi doesn’t set party direction at all. She’s responsible for unity, but she’s not (and as best I can tell, never tried to be) a leader in the ‘vision’ sense.

                          She was pretty darn good at knocking heads, counting votes, and giving out cover when possibly (ie, parliamentarian stuff). Coming from a safe district means she can basically soak up any party changes without worrying overly about challenges from the left or right.

                          So I’m still confused why they should have swapped her out. The best argument seems to be she wasn’t good at a job she wasn’t doing and wasn’t supposed to do, and that replacing her would somehow make that job done better by…whomever got that job?

                          The argument of “Let’s fire THIS manager so that the manager in another division gets his act together” is not terribly compelling, especially when the manager we are talking about firing seems to have done a fine job.

                          The argument against Pelosi seems to be, basically, “we need new blood even if the old blood is doing fine” conflated with an argument about an entirely different position entirely (DNC head, basically).

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                          • The department that failed most failed under her watch. The DCCC isn’t some other department somewhere else. It’s under her. She does some things very well, but those things aren’t the totality of her job. Even if she is not personally doing the other things, she is delegating (well or poorly). She is the leader of the caucus, not a whip. She does set House agendas. She had a very heavy hand in both TARP and PPACA. She’s not some functionary. And without a president, she’s about to become one of the party’s leaders.

                            I don’t think she’s done a bad job. She was a very effective Speaker. That was when her real talents mattered most. They matter less as a minority leader in the party opposition to the president. They actually need some of that vision thing, and a path forward.

                            She’s had the job for a really long time. I don’t begrudge her that, but at the least they need to be preparing for a transition (the strongest argument against ditching her is that she has prepared no successor, which is also not good). She lost a third of her caucus to a nobody. People today have been looking up to see the last time anything like that has happened. (Last I heard, it hasn’t.)

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  8. Those of you who enjoy pulling your hair out might enjoy this interview with Obama in Rolling Stone.


    You can now buy marijuana legally on the entire West Coast. So why are we still waging the War on Drugs? It is a colossal failure. Why are we still dancing around the subject and making marijuana equivalent to a Schedule I drug?

    Look, I’ve been very clear about my belief that we should try to discourage substance abuse. And I am not somebody who believes that legalization is a panacea. But I do believe that treating this as a public-health issue, the same way we do with cigarettes or alcohol, is the much smarter way to deal with it. Typically how these classifications are changed are not done by presidential edict but are done either legislatively or through the DEA. As you might imagine, the DEA, whose job it is historically to enforce drug laws, is not always going to be on the cutting edge about these issues.

    [Laughs] What about you? Are you gonna get on the cutting edge?
    Look, I am now very much in lame-duck status. And I will have the opportunity as a private citizen to describe where I think we need to go. But in light of these referenda passing, including in California, I’ve already said, and as I think I mentioned on Bill Maher’s show, where he asked me about the same issue, that it is untenable over the long term for the Justice Department or the DEA to be enforcing a patchwork of laws, where something that’s legal in one state could get you a 20-year prison sentence in another. So this is a debate that is now ripe, much in the same way that we ended up making progress on same-sex marriage. There’s something to this whole states-being-laboratories-of-democracy and an evolutionary approach. You now have about a fifth of the country where this is legal.

    The interview continues by pointing out that Obama actually DID SHIT when it came to SSM…

    But you can pull your own hair out.

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    • Yeah, how dare he express sentiments that we agree with! I get that it’s frustrating that we wasn’t crusading in this issue for the past eight years, but come on, there are only so many hours in the day and a million other things to deal with. He allowed state legalization to go forward more or less unmolested, he commuted sentences for drug offenders. Let’s take the small win and hope it builds momentum for a bigger one.

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      • Wanna hear my rant about how the game was given away?

        Here it is: Kratom.

        A lovely little evergreen herb that has been demonstrated to help some people with, among other things, pain relief and opioid withdrawal.

        Now, the “among other things” part mentioned above includes “recreational use”. Okay? Okay.

        So the DEA hears that it has made it to the US?

        WHAMMO. Schedule 1.

        Which tells you what?

        That the DEA is in charge of what gets scheduled and where. Not congress. Not the courts.

        The part of the government that falls under the jurisdiction of the Executive.

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        • Yes, the DEA is under the Executive. But the rules which govern its operation are very much from Congress.

          One issue that regularly drives new Presidents crazy is the extent to which agencies are not under his direct control. “Rule-making” is one of the wonderful terms that non-partisan managers get to explain to the new appointees as to why the agency cannot suddenly change course. (That, and “appropriations”. You want a whole bunch of new rules, reversing the old ones? Money first.)

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          • “Ms. Leonhart! Great to see you! Coffee? Anyway, why I asked you here was to see whether you could move the old ‘Emm Jay’ down to schedule 3 or 4, maybe.”

            “Sorry, can’t. There are *SO* many rules.”

            “Bummer. Can I have your letter of resignation?”

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            • So you’re advocating that, on behalf of pot legalization, the President should basically fire his way down the FDA and DEA until he found someone willing to break laws?

              That seems…sub-optimal.

              In fact, that seems downright dangerous. Nixonian, in fact.

              That was Francis’ point — that the President, while head of the Executive, lacked the authority to unilaterally reschedule a drug, via executive order.

              If he lacks that authority (assuming Francis is right) how is firing your way down the ladder until someone does it anyway a good idea?

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              • But are they breaking laws? There is no legislation that Kratom must be a controlled substance, which means the DEA has the authority to add and adjust the items on the schedule as long as they meet the (IMHO) very flexible standards as to what should be controlled.

                Now moving MJ further down the list might be a political battle, either from members of congress, or from the DEA bureaucracy itself, but that is much different than demanding a subordinate break the law or find a new job.

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                • Unless the rule-making process itself is a matter of law. Or there were laws in place designed explicitly to prevent Presidents from basically dictating end results to regulatory agencies.

                  In fact, I believe the law in question is the Controlled Substances Act, which states pretty clearly gives the power to the AG in conjunction with a few other branches. (That doesn’t even get into some weird treaty obligations).

                  Can Obama fire his way to the result he wants? Sure. But the LAST guy that did that got impeached. And sure you can say “Pot legalization is different than Watergate” — but the methods would be the same. Forcing the issue by firing the heads of multiple regulatory agencies until you got to someone that’d do it your way, skipping all procedure.

                  And of course, once you do THAT….it becomes incredibly easy for the next guy in to undo it — or use that precedent to quite a few other things.

                  It’s a really, really bad idea. Deprioritizing has been the traditional Executive tool for such things — which has been what Obama did.

                  And if Obama isn’t going to play Saturday Night Massacre for pot, he’s certainly not going to do it for something else.

                  This is stuff you know, but for some reason you’re forgetting. A lot of this stuff is set up to prevent, or at least heavily discourage, the President from being able to dictate end results.

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                  • Still, the head of the DEA & the AG are appointed by the president, and both can start the official process of moving pot down the schedule at the request of the POTUS, if the POTUS wanted it.

                    Assuming Obama wanted to downgrade pot, either his appointees did not agree and refused to start the ball rolling, or there are other forces at work to keep it high up on the schedule (mainly BigPharma & Police Unions, if you believe places like Alternet).

                    Or Obama didn’t care enough to spend the political capital to make it happen, and just paid lip service to the idea (which is what I think happened).

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                    • Oscar, Jaybird:

                      So, instead of using his powah to NOT defend tradmar he shoulda used it to not defend MJ legalization?

                      I’d think libertarianish folks like you would be happy he picked up the Executive Power ball on at least ONE of those issues.

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                        • That makes no sense in general but especially given what he actually said:

                          it is untenable over the long term for the Justice Department or the DEA to be enforcing a patchwork of laws, where something that’s legal in one state could get you a 20-year prison sentence in another. So this is a debate that is now ripe, much in the same way that we ended up making progress on same-sex marriage.

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                          • Unless, of course, you DON’T think we, as a society, made progress by legalizing SSM. It may be what brought us Trump!! Imagine the as yet undreamt of national political disasters which lurk if we legalized MJ too quickly…

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                            • Imagine the as yet undreamt of national political disasters which lurk if we legalized MJ too quickly…

                              “What in the hell happened to voter turnout?!?”

                              So let’s say that my “move it to Schedule 3 or 4” is “too quickly”. You think “okay, Schedule 2” is too quickly at this point? Saying “if various states want to treat it like schedule 1, they can, but we, as a Federal Government, will now start treating it like Schedule 2”?

                              Or is that still Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride?

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                • Or the shorter version: The law was set up to give control of drug scheduling to several agencies in conjunction — not to the President himself.

                  He is head over those agencies, and could massacre his way down them until they agreed.

                  But does this strike you as a good idea? A good precedent in general? I mean it looks to me like a massive expansion of Presidential power.

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                • The Controlled Substances Act, which lays out the particular methods by which the various executive branch agencies classify drugs.

                  Now, like I said, he could play Saturday Night Massacre until he got the result he wants, rather than letting it go through the clearly established channels.

                  But do you really think that’s a good idea?

                  The President isn’t a King, no matter how badly you hate our drug policy.

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                    • Dear Jaybird:

                      Have you done the slightest research into what the Administrative Procedure Act is? The APA governs how federal agencies actually work. The President could threaten to fire every single political appointee and they still couldn’t get staff to put together a rule de-listing MJ on an overnight basis.

                      If some appointee decided that she had the power to over-rule staff and just issue the rule anyway, the federal judge hearing the case would have a nice long chat with the poor victim from the AG’s office who had to defend the case, explaining that we are still a nation of laws and he expects the administration not to make that mistake a second time.

                      And if the appointee starts trying to fire staff, then the staff member calls up her union rep who then sits down with the appointee and explains civil service rules.

                      Yes, the President makes policy for the Executive Branch. But the agencies that he directs still have to follow the laws set by Congress. If the agency has decided, in the exercise of its discretion, that MJ is properly on Schedule I, then the remedy is with Congress.

                      It does happen that agencies change their mind and reverse prior agency decisions that have gone all the way through rule-making. But that process is itself governed by the APA.

                      By the way, have you googled “Federal Register Kratom”? There’s some interesting reading there.

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                      • Nope, I haven’t.

                        All I have done is sat and watched as the DEA found a brand new(ish) plant that helps with opiate withdrawal (while we are right smack dab in the middle of an opiate epidemic!), said “NOPE THIS PLANT IS SCHEDULE 1!”, then, amazingly, put a *HOLD* on that decision while they gathered more information on whether the plant that they said was Schedule 1 really ought to be in Schedule 1.

                        Which communicates to me that they are the ones who pick and choose which substances get scheduled where and, get this, are capable of saying “hey, let’s move it from *THIS* schedule to *THAT* one.”

                        If the agency has decided, in the exercise of its discretion, that MJ is properly on Schedule I, then the remedy is with Congress.

                        The Kratom example runs counter to this. The DEA did not, for example, say “sorry! We put it on Schedule 1! Go to Congress!”, they said “Whoops! Maybe we shouldn’t have put it on Schedule 1… Let’s look at this.”

                        They gave the game away.

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                        • You want the President to blow a wide hole through everything to get the result you want.

                          You’ve ignored people saying “That’s now how the procedure works” and “that’s not how the law works” and “that’s literally now how the executive branch has ever worked” and even “last time someone did something like this we impeached the President who did it” in favor of raging that the end result doesn’t fit your desires, and the process (which you know little about) doesn’t fit your preconceptions.

                          You’ve even ignored the straight-forward statement that “If the Executive branch has implemented a law in the wrong way, or utilized the discretion given to it by Congress to create regulations we dislike, the correct remedy is either the Courts (the decision was unlawful) or Congress (the decision was politically disliked, or not the intent of Congress)” and not via the President’s ability to literally fire people until someone does what he says.

                          I expect to hear little from you about “Executive overreach” or the “Imperial Presidency” in the future, because you’re clearly stating here that you don’t CARE about law, procedure, limits of power, or anything like that if it stands between you and your desire political ends.

                          I’m in favor of pot legalization. But not if the cost is turning the entire Executive branch and all it’s agencies into nothing more than executors of the President’s personal whims.

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                          • Telling the DEA to move it from the schedule that says “The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States” to the schedule that says “The drug or other substances have currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, or currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions” is to “blow a wide hole through everything”?

                            If everything would have a wide hole blown through it by the DEA doing WHAT IT HAS ALREADY DEMONSTRATED IT CAN AND IS WILLING TO DO, then everything *NEEDS* a wide damn hole blown through it.

                            Luckily for both of us, I think we both agree, deep down, that asking for this is *NOT*, in fact, blowing holes.

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                            • Jaybird, you’re not stupid. You KNOW the difference between the DEA reassessing it’s decisions through it’s own internal processes, and the President demanding they change it under penalty of dismissal.

                              The IRS makes internal decisions all the freaking time about who to audit, right? And there’s an appeals system in place if you don’t like the results, and sometimes their decisions get changed, right?

                              Do you think the President should tell the head of the IRS to audit, say, Glenn Beck? And to keep firing people until they do? Or to be even more apt — to not only audit Glenn Beck, but make sure he’s fined at least a million?

                              Because that’s what you’re asking. You just won’t admit it, because it’s pot and that has to be different.

                              But it’s the same abuse of power. The President dictating to the DEA where to schedule a drug under penalty of dismissal is no different than the President dictating to the IRS who to audit, and how much of a fine he wants them to have.

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                            • You should seriously do a little research on this issue before you keep going. Please read this. Look specifically at legal authority. The decision to remove the tempory placement on schedule I is here

                              Here’s the federal statute regarding placement or rescheduling of drugs.

                              This is an issue I care about deeply, and it is certainly true that Obama has not made it a priority. But the petitions to reclassify were file a few years ago, and the DEA issued its decision this summer. That’s how this process works. We lost. petitions to reclassify will, I’m sure, be filed again in the near future (if they haven’t been already), and we should push on Congress to reclassify. So, we can judge Obama for not speaking up more on this issue, or for appointing the head of the DEA and FDA who didn’t support reclassification, but I don’t fault him for abiding by the decisions his agency heads made.

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                              • So, we can judge Obama for not speaking up more on this issue, or for appointing the head of the DEA and FDA who didn’t support reclassification, but I don’t fault him for abiding by the decisions his agency heads made.

                                The part I bolded? That’s the part that I’m suggesting that could have been rectified via conversation prior to the last reclassification.

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                                • Huh? Where did you say that. Seriously.

                                  You were arguing that the DEA had the authority to do this because they decided change withdraw the notice of intent for temporary placement of Kratom into schedule I. Read you comments at 12:19pm and 9:42am.

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                                  • I made up a little dialog and everything:

                                    Here, I’ll redo it:

                                    “Ms. Leonhart! Great to see you! Coffee? Anyway, why I asked you here was to see whether you could move the old ‘Emm Jay’ down to schedule 3 or 4, maybe.”

                                    “Sorry, can’t. There are *SO* many rules.”

                                    “Bummer. Can I have your letter of resignation?”

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                                    • Yeah, there’s a difference between appointments and firing an agency head. It’s been discussed above.

                                      I’m not a fan of firing agency personal until an executive gets the answer they want. That’s true even in cases like this were I would love the outcome.

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                                    • except the real conversation goes like this:

                                      “Sorry, not today. We’ll need a separate appropriation to cover at least a couple years worth of work for a whole group. We will need to take in an enormous amount of evidence about the chemical composition of the different strains of MJ that will be placed on the new schedule. We’ll need to generate a body of research that supports the change in decision. We’ll have to go through several rounds of notice-and-comment to be sure that we have a defensible final rule. But if there’s a strong commitment from the head of the agency to support staff through this process and you can deliver on the appropriation, then OK.”

                                      “Can I have your letter of resignation?”

                                      “For telling you what the law is? No.”

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                                      • If that is the case, Cocaine has no business being on schedule II. Ditto opium. Both are plant based and have a wide variation of purity & composition, etc.

                                        In addition, the whole MJ overdose is a tough one to support, since I could probably count on one hand the number of people who have been seriously injured or killed by an accidental overdose (you gotta really work to ingest enough weed to kill you).

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                                    • Jaybird, I’m going to point out — AGAIN — that your little scenario is exactly what Nixon did.

                                      And it was doing that — firing people until someone was willing to do what he wanted — that was going to get him impeached, because it was considered an abuse of power.

                                      Is the DEA somehow magically different from the DoJ to make that NOT an abuse of power? Was everyone wrong with Nixon, and it wasn’t an abuse of power?

                                      Or is pot a magic snowflake that justifies it?

                                      Because nobody here is saying “Obama couldn’t have pushed for rescheduling pot” or “Pot can’t be rescheduled”. The entire pushback you’re getting is that “No, Obama couldn’t order it rescheduled at whim, and that firing people until someone did it would be an incredibly bad idea for so many reasons”

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                                      • So we’re in this weird place where Obama is giving interviews with Rolling Stone magazine where he talks about how he seriously thinks that marijuana ought to be treated like alcohol but it’s unthinkable that he hire someone that thinks that?

                                        I mean, you’re not even arguing against me as if I were arguing that Marijuana ought to be scheduled next to harsh behind the counter laxatives.

                                        I’m talking about rescheduling it to schedule II (next to cocaine!!!!) and you’re telling me that that’s something that he can’t hire for.

                                        EVEN AS HE’S GIVING INTERVIEWS TALKING ABOUT HOW THE SUBSTANCE IN QUESTION OUGHT TO BE REGULATED LIKE ALCOHOL INSTEAD OF LIKE HEROIN.

                                        If we’re talking about a snowflake that everyone who gets out of power agrees is overregulated to hell and back and the people currently in power agree that more should be done but what can you do, you have to ask yourself “is this snowflake actually a magic snowflake?”

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                                        • it’s unthinkable that he hire someone that thinks that?

                                          At no point before about an hour ago were you talking about appointments. Pretending that we disagree with you on that is disingenuous.

                                          I also think everyone here agrees marijuana should be at least reclassified if not decriminalized totally. That is tangential to this conversation, which is about how that reclassification gets done.

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                      • The APA governs how federal agencies actually work. The President could threaten to fire every single political appointee and they still couldn’t get staff to put together a rule de-listing MJ on an overnight basis.

                        I may be misremembering, but believe that the DEA has its own set of procedures written in the authorizing statute. Among those, the head of the DEA is allowed to make solo calls on scheduling, and there’s none of the usual recourse to the courts as a last-resort challenge to those decisions. It’s been a long time since I read any analysis of the history of the law, but my recollection is that Congress was very much on the page of, “We’re going to put this particular decision in a law-enforcement person’s hands, and not let the civilians, and the namby-pamby courts in particular, overrule them.”

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                        • From 21 USC 811(a). “Rules (and classification is determined by rule of the AG) of the Attorney General under this subsection shall be made on the record after opportunity for a hearing pursuant to the rulemaking procedures prescribed by subchapter II of chapter 5 of title 5.” (which is the APA). But this isn’t an area of expertise, and I would be surprised if they didn’t grant the DEA some special protections for scheduling controlled substances.

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    • “There’s something to this whole states-being-laboratories-of-democracy and an evolutionary approach.”

      As I said elsewhere, it’s gonna be hella fun seeing the reawakening of the states’-rights movement over the next four years, as each state decides to be Not Trump in its own unique way and points to the Tenth Amendment as justification.

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    • And I will have the opportunity as a private citizen to describe where I think we need to go.

      Sounds like a plan. Why put forth any recommendations when you’re the “leader of the free world” when you can wait until you’re a private citizen? Keep those cards close to your chest, Mr. President.

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        • I can’t say I understand how this particular institutional structure works. For one thing, nobody seems to be able to describe the process by which a drug is scheduled in the first place. It’s like picking a Pope or deciding which YouTube videos go viral or something. I get that he can’t just wave his hands and make it happen, but the impression he’s giving is that the question, “Where do we begin on this?” is simply unanswerable. There’s just an amorphous mass of nebulous decision makers making inscrutable decisions and the President who runs their agencies just doesn’t have any say in the direction it takes.

          Take the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy: He asked the Pentagon to start by doing a study on the likely effects. My guess is a President doesn’t really “ask” for those types of things and that if he wants a study, he’s getting a study. Is there a similar lever to pull in some of the other agencies that ultimately report to him? I’m guessing the answer is very much a yes, but what I’ve consistently gotten from these types of interviews is something more along the lines of, “Who’s to know? The machine worked that way when I got here and I wouldn’t even know where to begin to change what it’s doing.”

          But the good news is that as soon as the heads of those agencies no longer report to him, the shackles will come off and he’ll be free to let us know where he thinks we need to go.

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          • You presumably know how it works well enough to criticize Obama for not expressing himself regarding institutions governing MJ legalization. That he’s doin it wrong.

            For my part, I don’t understand you when you say you “don’t know how this particular institutional structure works.” I think you do, actually. All too well. And that’s the real complaint. :)

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            • You presumably know how it works well enough to criticize Obama for not expressing himself regarding institutions governing MJ legalization. That he’s doin it wrong.

              More accurately, he appears to be “doin’ nothing” which is pretty obviously the wrong thing to do. If he actually appeared to be doing something to start the ball rolling, I’d be happy to concede that he’s probably much better at pulling the right levers than I am as an armchair quarterback. He’s very good at slowly but surely pushing an agenda through when he wants to.

              But this doesn’t look like one of those times. This looks like one of those times when he doesn’t want to do something and finds it easier to confuse the issue and claim it’s out of his hands than to explain why he’s not moving.

              I think you do, actually. All too well. And that’s the real complaint. :)

              That might well be the case. I certainly don’t understand how the institution President Obama is describing is supposed to work, and I strongly suspect that’s because what he’s describing isn’t a real thing. His hands are nowhere near tied and there plenty of things he could be doing to move us in the right direction, but for reasons only known to him, he prefers not to and blames it on the vast complexities of our grand institutions.

              It’s pretty much the same tap dance he does when asked whether he would pardon Snowden. He puts out a lot of words that sound like, “I don’t have the power to do that,” when in reality, he chooses not to and would prefer not to tell us why. The buck starts and stops with him when it comes to pardons, but to hear him talk, you’d think he had a long checklist of things to do before he could even ask the Real Guy Who Does Pardons to entertain the request.

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              • His hands are nowhere near tied and there plenty of things he could be doing to move us in the right direction, but for reasons only known to him, he prefers not to and blames it on the vast complexities of our grand institutions.

                Sure, he could write an executive order.

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                • Really? That’s the only thing? Either nothing at all or an executive order? I mean, maybe I’m missing something in my understanding of US civics, but it seems like the President’s influence over his cabinet extends beyond just appointing them and saying, “What are you going to do?” if they run amok.

                  Like, going back to the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell process, he seemed to have a strategy mapped out to start putting pressure on the stakeholders to wear down support for the policy and make opposition to the new state of affairs politically untenable. It was pretty well done and at no point did he have to bring the hammer down. That study and report was well within his authority and it gutted the opposition. It would be a nightmare for his replacement to try to put the policy back in place because of the groundwork he laid.

                  Is there no equivalent to the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell study for the DEA and FDA? Like commissioning a fresh report examining the latest data supporting the current scheduling of drugs?

                  After a disaster like this, it seems like the President would have a good argument that his people need to get their story straight and it’s time to formalize a solid, data-driven position in full view of the public. You can’t possibly watch that testimony and conclude that the executive asking WTF is going on with their data analysis and decision making is unreasonable micromanagement.

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                    • Well, he’s surely not incompetent. He has a pretty good track record on similar problems, as we’ve covered. He has certainly been known to lie about what he really wants and what he has the power to do.

                      But maybe you’re right and the problem is simply intractable in a way that the other regulatory problems he tackled weren’t. We’ve created some sort of regulatory Chinese finger trap/Klein bottle/Rubik’s Cube fusion that has the best minds flummoxed and we’re simply stuck with it forever. Maybe some day we’ll meet hyperintelligent aliens who can detangle it, or at least come up with a first step in the process for us to try.

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                    • Clearly your understanding of the whole thing is deeper and more nuanced than mine. It would be nice to hear the details, but if you prefer to just shake your head and smile sadly at my naiveté, that’s an option too.

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                      • Not to get antagonistic here, but you haven’t offered a single reason why Obama didn’t pursue legalization policy. I’ve at least fulfilled that criterion.

                        Look, I’m no Obologist, but criticizing him for not making your dreams come true is something you can only take up with Pedro. Or Trump.

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                        • I could easily come up with a reason why he didn’t pursue legalization: it would require an act of Congress that wouldn’t pass and he doesn’t necessarily believe it’s a great idea. But that’s not what I’m perplexed about. I’m perplexed about the scheduling question. Congress set the criteria defining the schedules, but as far as I can tell, the DEA actually does the evaluation and determines what goes where.

                          So we have a few facts:

                          1) The DEA sets the schedules based on the currently available data and some definitions from Congress, and it does so without asking anybody outside the executive branch for permission.
                          2) The marijuana ruling appears to be completely insane to anybody who isn’t in the DEA. Like, really obviously insane to the point where the DEA would be a laughingstock if it didn’t have so many guns.
                          3) Research on marijuana that may improve the DEA’s ability to is also controlled and tightly limited by the DEA.
                          4) The DEA ultimately traces its reporting roots back to the President.
                          5) President Obama seems like a reasonable guy and generally has made noises about marijuana policy needing reform.

                          It seems like *something* could be done here in the name of good policy without getting Congress involved and without the expenditure of massive amounts of political capital, just like he managed to do in other areas. But nothing happened. I don’t have an explanation for that, and I regard it as a pretty notable policy failure, given that the states seem to think it’s an important issue.

                          I also never really understood the “Waaah, baby didn’t get everything he wanted,” response to these sorts of questions. I mean, I get it with big compromise legislation. Some people are bitchy and want everything their way. But it’s not like there was a big reform on drug policy and some concessions were made in the process. It was just not addressed, and now we’re stuck with increasing conflicts between the states and the feds.

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                          • “The marijuana ruling appears to be completely insane to anybody who isn’t in the DEA.”

                            If you’re going to go down this road, then you really should give the gov’t side of the case. This is the same complaint I have with Jaybird. The government side is out there in public documents, including even a summary in a lengthy wikipedia article. Instead of presuming that govt scientists are evil/stupid/both, how about presenting a legitimate digest of the gov’t position?

                            One major problem, for example, according to the gov’t is that MJ is not one “drug”, but several. And even MJ advocates admit that formulations between strains vary widely. So looking at the issue purely from the point of a drug distribution system, you have hundreds if not thousands of different product, each of which can vary dramatically from one harvest to the next. And the actual delivery system, from edibles to inhalation, is completely unstructured and known to deliver overdoses (I’m Too Stoned!, quoth some NY Times columnist) on a regular basis.

                            Descheduling this class of products in this environment is insane! If the activist community can bring a consistent, reliable product to the govt, then they can look at that one product. But absent legislative direction to the contrary, if I were in charge I wouldn’t take on this fight. The clear legislative intent is to be risk-averse. Let Congress lead on this issue; that’s their job.

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                            • Have you noticed that we’ve shifted from “Obama telling the DEA to move it from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 would be breaking the law!” to “But Obama telling the DEA to move it from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 would be an example of Obama inappropriately pushing the limits of his Constitutional Authority!”

                              Of all the freakin’ areas where we might have decided that the limits of Executive Constitutional Authority were sacred…

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                                    • No one is saying that! Jesus Christ, did you read the links. They deal with the rules, procedures, and standards for changing schedules. The president (Obama) is no where in there. The only direct authority he has in is hiring and firing (and the bully pulpit).

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                                    • That’s not an argument anyone’s making, Jaybird. Not even close.

                                      You’re ignoring everything people are telling you. You’re not listening to anyone on this subject. At all.

                                      You’ve already reinvented the Saturday Night Massacre and made it a good thing in your mind. This from the guy who talks constantly of high-trust, high collaboration societies.

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                                • Gaelen,

                                  Perhaps. Could Obama start looking for a new DEA head and in a very public manner make the case that he wants to hire a head who will interpret the Controlled Substances Act in accordance with its plain meaning? And also note what the plain meaning of the requirements for a schedule 1 drug are, and that none of them apply to marijuana, let alone all three. Or is that illegal too? If that is illegal, is it more or less illegal than killiing anwar al-alwaki (sp?), or intercepting phone calls between us citizens without a warrant?

                                  Just trying to gauge how unreasonable what I am asking for is.

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                                  • Said DEA head would still have to go through the rather lengthy process of rescheduling. We don’t let the heads of those agencies work by whim either.

                                    Set priorities, yes. But not randomly change regulations because they feel like it. (And drug classifications are regulations).

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                                    • Right. So he could have just hired a DEA head sympathetic to rescheduling. Maybe an FDA head able to see reality for what it is, that its been accepted medicine, in every way except according to the FDA, for years. Can’t imagine how hard it would have been to find those, whether he explicity acknowledged it as a requirement not.

                                      I am not buying JayBirds “Obama could have done this unilaterally/with the stroke of a pen/easily” if thats what he is actually saying. But to the extent Jaybird is simply pointing out that Obama was not nearly as helpful on this front as he could have been, I buy it. And that Obama indicating he may pick up the mantle after he is out of office is disingenuous.

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                                  • Switters,

                                    He sure could. It might not help if there was a legal challenge to the reclassification, but it is something he could do.

                                    I agree with you regarding Marijuana classification. The FDA and DEA (and maybe the AMA) do not agree with us. Unfortunately they got to decide most recent reclassification petition.

                                    Comparing it to the killing of US citizens or warrant less surveillance doesn’t do anything to illuminate this issue. Those are cases at the outer limits of constitutional law, classification of marijuana is administrative procedure with decades of precedent.

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                                    • I don’t like it, but I accept that everything about politics is about politics. So i am not comparing it to extra judicial killing. I am saying that Obama, and every other president, treats the law like their little bitch whenever it gets in the way of something they deem important. And on issues much more substantive than the classifcation of drugs. Obama is no exception here.

                                      So my main point is yeah, there were some institution barriers to O doing what we wanted him too. And there were some political barriers too. He approached both with an amount of caution that leads me to believe he either doesn’t want to reclassify, or at best is unwilling to expend an oz of political capital. And that’s fine. Business as usual. I just don’t want anyone blowing smoke up my ass, particularly O, claiming that isn’t the case.

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                            • Francis,

                              Haven’t the states that legalized it essentially descheduled it on their own? Have the results been those that only the “insane” could countenance.

                              Schedule 1 :

                              The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
                              The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
                              There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.[31]

                              Schedule II

                              The drug or other substances have a high potential for abuse
                              The drug or other substances have currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, or currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions
                              Abuse of the drug or other substances may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.[31]

                              Does MJ sound like it fits either one of those to you? Is there any way a reasonably informed person could make the argument that MJ fits either of those schedules?

                              IS Obama legally prohibited from saying “Its nonsensical to continue to schedule MJ on Schedule 1?” If not, has he done it? If he hasn’t, may I criticize him for not pushing as hard in this area as I think he should have, and for being weak kneed politically about it? Or has his dealings with the WoD been perfect in every sense?

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                            • Everything you just said is a fantastic argument for putting it on Schedule II, not for keeping it on Schedule I.

                              Schedule II opens it up to wider medical and pharmacological research, so that a more consistent formulation and delivery could be developed.

                              Many groups have petitioned for it to go to Schedule II, and the DEA shuts them down every time, using the same circular reasoning you just summarized.

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                              • Schedule II opens it up to wider medical and pharmacological research, so that a more consistent formulation and delivery could be developed.

                                States accounting for ~20% of the total population have now said, “Just take it off the f*cking list, it’s an intoxicant like ethanol and we will regulate it that way.” States accounting for a much larger portion of the total population have said, “No further research is needed, it’s okay for docs to write prescriptions now.” Many of those are no doubt like Colorado was shortly before legalization passed: “I know a guy who can get you some” had become “I know a doc who will write you a prescription”, wink-wink nudge-nudge.

                                I think a more accurate comparison is popular election of Senators. States were implementing it in various ways. The biggest difference was that the federal government wasn’t as intrusive in those days, and the executive branch lacked a muscular enforcement arm. The handwriting was on the wall, but Congress dragged its feet until it was clear that a Constitutional Convention was coming unless they acted. The handwriting is on the wall again. At some point, Congress’s hand will be forced.

                                Or at least, if the Republicans think they can clamp down so hard that such forcing can’t happen, they’ll have bigger problems than marijuana.

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                            • And even MJ advocates admit that formulations between strains vary widely. So looking at the issue purely from the point of a drug distribution system, you have hundreds if not thousands of different product, each of which can vary dramatically from one harvest to the next.

                              Wait wait wait. This is the DEA’s *own fault, because they lumped everything in cannabis together and regulated it as one thing, and then turned around and complained they didn’t know how much of each individual thing there was.

                              By that logic, they could outlaw anything. They could outlaw ‘alcoholic drinks’ because no one knows how much alcohol they have them in them…are they 180 proof vodka or 5% alcohol beer? NO ONE KNOWS! *waves arms wildly*.

                              Hell, they could outlaw *sandwiches*(1) ‘Who knows how much meat they have in them? Or bread! Some have mustard, some do not! They are of such inconsistent quality that they could have *anything* in them! IT’S TOTAL CHAOS!’

                              The problem is easily solved if the DEA regulated the 400+ chemicals that *made up cannabis* as individual things.

                              At which point the correct response would be for 400+ cookie-cutter petitions to be filed saying ‘This is being used medically as part of the whole cannabis plant in the following states. The amount in a prescribed dose varies between 0 and ___’.

                              Or, even better, instead of 400+, just the ones that they use to classify something *as* marijuana.

                              Or, to put it another way: If the DEA claims that marijuana does not quality as a drug because it is too random in composition, than *how the hell can they regulate it*?

                              Think on that for a second. There are certain rules about what is and is not marijuana. These rules include certain chemicals. Those chemicals are what is *actually* regulated. (Go see if you can distribute THC pills.)

                              Those chemicals, not ‘marijuana’, are the actual drug(s) being regulated. And those chemicals, right now, are being prescribed by doctors. (As part of the marijuana plant, yes, but *how* those chemicals are prescribed is not important, the only test is that they have to be prescribed. They, literally, are prescribed. This is a true fact in the actual real world.)

                              tl;dr – The DEA is deliberately manipulating their own rules to group a bunch of stuff together randomly, and then asserting they can’t do anything because they’re only allowed to allow pure things or things with known qualities.

                              When in reality they could just put all those various chemicals individually on schedule II, and then a doctor could give people a prescription for them *mixed together however he wants*…aka he does not care how they are mixed, you are in charge of your own dosage, and you get it as part of a plant to smoke.

                              1) They had to argue sandwiches are subject to abuse, but, factually, they’d probably have just as firm ground there as marijuana.

                              EDIT: Actually, if the DEA is so confused as to the behavior of marijuana to the extent they can’t figure out how it’s prescribed…how the hell *did* they determine it was subject to abuse, or even *was a substance at all*? Inquiring minds want to know.

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                  • Frog, I’m with you in this entire line of thought and reasoning, but it must be pointed out that the DADT repeal was legislative in the end (per Art 1 Sect 8 Congressional powers)

                    Because the DADT policy was legislative to begin with.(and it was a compromise, and and improvement over the then existing policy that homosexuals needed to rooted out of the armed forces like they were terrorists or Communists)

                    (Like literally, there were three questions on the application forms, one asking if you’ve ever wanted to overthrow the US government, one asking if you are or were a member of the Communist party, and one asking if you were a homosexual. I can’t remember which order they were asked.)

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  9. Acceptable Presidential behavior: Dear Congess, I request an appropriation for the DEA to initiate a formal rule-making process to re-analyze prior rules on the scheduling of MJ, and and revision to the CSA that addresses MJ specifically / reworks the whole listing process.

    Unacceptable Presidential behavior: Mr career bureaucrat, I’m directing you to reschedule MJ. If you won’t reschedule MJ by year end, you’re fired.

    The first is how govt actually works; the second is the weird wrong version of what some people want Executive power to be when they’re not getting what they want out of D.C.

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    • What’s to really request money for?

      “Hey, we’ve noticed that a buttload of states have legalized marijuana for medicinal use (if not recreational!) and the only real health crisis that has been created is that music has started getting good again after a real crappy decade there. As such, we’ve decided to move MJ from the schedule that says The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States to the schedule that says The drug or other substances have currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, or currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions because, I mean, just look. It has currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. Abre tus Ojos, am I right?”

      Francis: Abre tus ojos.

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