Here is a great article from Jon Favreau, someone who knows President Obama quite well, having been his speech writer since 2005 when President Obama first entered the Senate. Go read it all, here are my favorite parts…
The warnings of those advisers turned out to be true. On the day Scott Brown won an upset victory in the special election to fill the Senate seat held by the late Ted Kennedy, it appeared that the chances for reform had died along with history’s most passionate health-care champion. Obama’s advisers told him that the votes in Congress were no longer there, and that unless he was willing to cut his losses and accept a drastically scaled-back version of his health-care proposal—perhaps a small expansion of coverage for children or a few watered-down consumer protections—the political fallout could cost him reelection. And what the president said next is why so many of us chose to work for him in the first place:
“What are we here for? Did we come here to just put our approval ratings up on a shelf and admire them? Or are we here to try to make a difference—to actually start solving some of the problems we’ve talked about for so long?”
Barely two months after the press wrote countless obituaries for the Affordable Care Act, Democrats in Congress showed genuine political courage by voting it into law.
Now is the time to show that courage again.
But the president should never apologize for passing the Affordable Care Act, and neither should those of us who have supported this kind of reform for years, even decades. We didn’t fight for this law because it was good politics. We didn’t fight for this law with the hope that it would lead to some ideological victory for big government—otherwise we wouldn’t have proposed a plan that maintained the private insurance market with reforms that Republicans once championed.
We fought for this law because no other advanced democracy on Earth gave insurance companies free rein to profit by discriminating against all but the healthiest and wealthiest citizens. We fought for this law because 14,000 Americans, most of them working and middle class, were losing their health insurance every day—with no other options. We fought for this law because millions of other Americans thought they had decent coverage until their insurance company refused to pay for treatment that someone in their family desperately needed; because people died as a direct result of not being able to afford better health care.
The reason we fought so hard for this law—the reason Obama is willing to stake his entire legacy on making it work—is because so many of us have had a personal experience with the fear and vulnerability that comes with being sick.
I think back to when I first read one of his posts at Salon during the end of the Bush administration. He was railing against Bush at that time and I was certainly sympathetic to that sentiment. But as I read his pieces, I noticed that he exaggerated an awful lot and took leaps with his conclusions and that didn’t sit well with me. I was all for attacking Bush, but because I am a political junky and was pretty informed on things, I noticed the exaggerations and in some cases, blatant lies. I didn’t join in with others in praising his “journalism”.
It was many years later that I learned that Glenn Greenwald hadn’t always railed against President Bush. In fact, he supported Bush and the many horrible things he did in the wake of 9/11 including the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as well as supporting Bush during the time when the Patriot Act was passed. In light of what he is saying now, it should speak volumes about his integrity. Glenn has written about those of us who point this out and his attempt to dismiss his support for Bush is pretty lame. Ben Cohen from The Daily Banter wrote about this, go read it and have a laugh at Greenwald’s expense. Ben gives Glenn way too much credit, in my opinion.
Like Ben, I’m happy that Glenn finally opened up his eyes and realized the error of his ways. A little context though, Glenn wasn’t exactly a young, naive lad when he “had not abandoned my trust in the Bush administration”, or “gave the administration the benefit of the doubt” or felt that President Bush was “entitled to have his national security judgment deferred to”. No, Glenn was 36 years old in 2003, when the bombs started falling on innocent people in Iraq, a war that I marched against.
So Glenn’s dishonesty and tendency to exaggerate and mislead his readers turned me off immediately. But that isn’t the main reason I write about Glenn Greenwald so frequently.
Glenn Greenwald is a bully. I hate bullies!
If you want to read more about his journalistic brutality, go read this post, or this one, or this one. Or just go to Google and search, there are many examples out there besides the ones I’ve written about.
How Can Greenwald Be So Wrong, So Much Of The Time
Glenn Greenwald loves hyperbole. Decades from now when scholars write about The Age Of Hyperbole that we are currently living in, Glenn Greenwald’s picture will surely be accompanying the journal articles.
“The objective of this is to enable the NSA to monitor EVERY SINGLE CONVERSATION AND EVERY SINGLE FORM OF HUMAN BEHAVIOR!”
“The National Security Agency is currently devoted to the objective of creating a worldwide surveillance net that allows it to monitor what all human beings are doing and how they’re behaving and interacting with one another.”
I know there are a lot of paranoid people in this world who love that kind of talk, it feeds their paranoia and makes them feel like they are not alone. Any thinking, reasonable person who isn’t consumed with hatred or paranoia can read those words and realize they are completely over the top and can not possibly be true.
How many NSA employees do you think it would take to “MONITOR every single conversation and every single form of human behavior”? You see, Glenn doesn’t just think that the NSA is gathering meta data on who is calling who, after getting a warrant from a the FISA court (as dysfunctional as it is) because of intelligence on a suspected terrorist. No, Glenn thinks that there are people monitoring “every single conversation and every single form of human behavior”.
Bob Cesca has been keeping track of Glenn’s NSA “journalism” better than anyone and has coined the term “the 24 hour rule”, which basically says we should wait for the other shoe to drop before believing what ole Glenn Greenwald says.
Last week, Glenn made several statements to Christine Amanpour in an interview. Here are two of his long-winded, never stopping for a breath, answers. (My transcription and emphasis)
Answer 1: Let’s just use our common sense when analyzing the claims of political officials when they say that. Ever since 9/11, British and American officials have screamed terrorism over and over and over every time they get caught doing bad things they shouldn’t do – from lying to the public about invading Iraq to setting up a worldwide torture regime to kidnapping people and taking them around the world to be tortured – they just want to put the population in fear by saying the terrorists will get you if you don’t submit to whatever authority it is that we want to do. And that is all they are doing here, it’s the same tactic they always use. Let’s just use common sense, every terrorist who is capable of tying their own shoes, has long known that the U.S. government and U.K. government is trying to monitor their communications in every way that they can. That isn’t new, we didn’t reveal anything new to the terrorists they didn’t already know. What we revealed is that the spying system is largely devoted not to terrorists but is directed at innocent people around the world. That is what was not previously known and that is why American and British officials are so angry because they wanted to hide what the true purpose of the spying system is from the people at whom it’s directed and that is the only thing that is new in what we reported.
Answer 2: Well first of all a lot of people like to ask why is there so much anti-American sentiment around the world all you have to do is listen to that tape of Mike Rogers to understand it. He basically is going around telling the world that they ought to be grateful that without their knowledge, we are stealing ALL THEIR COMMUNICATIONS data and invading their privacy (Amanpour nods in agreement) None of this has anything to do with terrorism. Is Angela Merkel a terrorist? Are sixty or seventy million Spanish or French citizens terrorists? Are there terrorists at Petrobras? This is clearly about political power and economic espionage, and the claim that this is all about terrorism is seen around the world as what it is, which is pure deceit.”
I’ll get to the latest “24 hour rule” moment in a bit, but first let’s take a look at his penchant for hyperbole.
As with most of Glenn Greenwald’s rants, it isn’t necessarily the broad, populist, quotable punch line that is the problem, but what he says leading up to it. Make no mistake, Glenn is probably a great trial lawyer, although I’m sure a good opposing lawyer would be screaming “I object” an awful lot.
What stood out to me in Glenn’s response to Christine was the tainting of the jury along the way. I laughed out loud when I heard him say “Let’s just use our common sense” as he started. See the above part about how many NSA people it would take to monitor “every single conversation and every single form of human behavior” as you listen to Glenn talk about common sense.
Glenn starts his twisted reasoning by appealing to common, shared perceptions to get people nodding…like Amanpour herself…by, among other things, saying that U.S. and British officials always “scream” terrorism when they get caught doing “bad things”. He lists some of these bad things, starting with “from lying to the public about invading Iraq”…whoa, whoa, whoa…Glenn was supporting that group that was lying at the time and I know he is oh so sorry about that, but he fell for the bullshit none-the-less. There were a lot of us who didn’t. It speaks to his judgement at the tender age of 36.
Greenwald then gets bold and says “to setting up a worldwide torture regime”, which is clearly directed at his paranoid, conspiratorial readers. Because it isn’t just a few places where our government and allies take prisoners to be held and questioned, and yes, sometimes tortured too…which of course, I don’t approve of, but to Glenn, it’s labeled a “worldwide torture regime”. Oh, that hyperbole must make him tingle.
A little bit further on in his rant, he uses a pretty slick tactic when he says that “Every terrorist…has long known that the U.S. government and U.K. government is trying to monitor their communications in every way that they can” and then claims that this is “nothing new”. Except, uh, Glenn…you told the terrorists “how” they are being monitored and that IS new.
Glenn then proceeds to his real thesis that the “spies” aren’t out to get terrorists, they are out to get innocent, little ole YOU! This thesis occurs frequently in his writings and is much more pronounced in his TV appearances, because he can’t go back and edit his words once they’ve flown out of his mouth and he can’t add “updates” to Christine Amanpour’s program like he is known for in his hyperbolic writing. This is what he said, “the spying system is largely devoted not to terrorists but is directed at innocent people around the world.” He really believes that the target of all this spying is innocent people. He has strayed from what most people probably think – that in the effort to get terrorists, innocent people are being “monitored” and having their rights trampled on. Glenn sees it as a fiendish plot to go after YOU, run hide, build a bunker, buy some guns…they are coming for you. A little later he claims that it is “because they wanted to hide what the true purpose of the spying system is”, once again, referring to “innocent” people, just like you.
In the final sentence of his interview, Greenwald says “This is clearly about political power and economic espionage…” in reference to the accusations of the NSA spying on Germany and France. Well the “24 hour rule” destroys Glenn’s hyperbolic proclamation. Turns out the intelligence agencies in each of those countries shared that information with the U.S. government and the cooperation was geared towards tracking down terrorists. From of all places, the Guardian…
The German, French and Spanish governments have reacted angrily to reports based on National Security Agency (NSA) files leaked by Snowden since June, revealing the interception of communications by tens of millions of their citizens each month. US intelligence officials have insisted the mass monitoring was carried out by the security agencies in the countries involved and shared with the US.
I’m sure all of that is appealing to the paranoid, conspiracists and the narcissists who think the whole damn world revolves around them and don’t have any problem thinking they are so damn important that the U.S. government is paying someone lots of money to monitor them and steal “ALL YOUR COMMUNICATIONS DATA”. Cue the Twilight Zone music!
Part of the problem with the current state of our politics and media is that it is loaded with narcissists, nihilists and conspiracy loons. Alex Jones, Glenn Beck, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Greenwald all know who their target audience is and Glenn has just sliced off a piece from the left flank of that crowd.
I wish more of the national media would listen more carefully to Glenn Greenwald or wait for the other shoe to drop before running with one of his stories, but I’m sure many of them just don’t want to deal with the other thing Glenn is good at…the bullying.
Guest post by Smartypants
What’s frustrating in reading all this nonsense is that it seems that very few people pay any attention to history these days – even the more recent variety. Because if they did, they’d know that the Democrats had their own populist movement not that long ago. And the real question is whether or not we can sustain it on a national level going in to the 2016 presidential election.
To set the stage, we have to go back to what led up to the Reagan/Bush years. For the best description of how that happened, I’d suggest that folks read what Peter Beinart wrote about it a couple of years ago. To summarize, coming out of the left-wing hey-day of the 60’s, Democrats got their butts kicked for 20 years in presidential elections – with the one exception being the Carter years that were a direct result of Nixon’s Watergate. Here’s what the Republicans did:
1972 – 520 electoral votes (49 states)
1980 – 489 electoral votes (44 states)
1984 – 525 electoral votes (49 states)
1988 – 426 electoral votes (40 states)
As you might imagine, Democrats were scared shitless that their future as a national party was over (things looked even worse for them than they currently do for Republicans these days). And so, a group of mostly Southern Democrats got together and formed the Democratic Leadership Council in 1985. Their goal was to shift the Democratic Party more towards “centrist” policies. But perhaps more importantly, they felt the need to attract more big money donors to the Democratic Party in order to compete with Republicans.
The result of these efforts was the election of Clinton/Gore (both founders of the DLC) in 1992. Perhaps since the Democrats were still fairly new to this whole business of big money donors, Clinton/Gore got off to a rocky start that resulted in a whole string of scandals about campaign finance. In case you’re forgotten about all that, just think “Lincoln bedroom.”
To connect this with the current race for VA governor, it was during Clinton’s presidency that he installed Terry McAulliffe (big donor fundraiser extraordinaire) as the head of the Democratic Party. That’s why you see the Clinton’s campaigning so hard in his election – their connection to McAuliffe is deep.
One of the first Democrats to speak out against this capture of the party by the DLC was Paul Wellstone; it was the context for the line that was eventually adopted by Howard Dean: “I represent the democratic wing of the Democratic Party.”
And then came Howard Dean’s presidential campaign in 2004. Anyone who actually paid attention knows that – other than his anti Iraq war position – Dean was no flaming liberal. But his bottom-up anti-establishment campaign was a direct challenge to what the DLC and the Clinton’s had built – especially in their reliance on big money.
As a full-blown Deaniac at the time, I watched the Clinton machine go after Howard Dean – as ferociously (perhaps moreso) than the Republicans did. And that became even more evident after Dean lost the presidential primary to John Kerry and went on to out-maneuver them to become Chair of the Democratic Party following Kerry’s loss to Bush.
As you probably know, Dean instituted a 50-state strategy, which was an attempt to build up the party to be competitive in all 50 states. Rather than the party elites picking candidates, Dean wanted them to come from the grassroots. And even after his success in the 2006 elections, the Clinton machine brought out the knives against him. You can read about some of that here. But perhaps the crux of it came when James Carville said that Dean should be fired and replaced with…get this…Harold Ford (then DLC Chair).
All of that is what set the stage for a lot of the acrimony that surfaced between the Obama and Clinton campaigns in 2008. From the beginning, Barack Obama made it clear that he was not a member of the DLC and instead built his campaign on a new and improved version of Howard Dean’s bottom-up grassroots model. While Clinton continued to rely on big money donors, Obama showed that the presidency could be won by harnessing the power of millions of small donors – shattering the whole DLC model.
Via that primary and a win in November 2008, President Obama offered a way out of establishment big money politics. That is why I’ll be watching what happens in 2016. Can we find a way to preserve what Obama has done after he’s gone? Has Hillary Clinton learned anything from her defeat and her time with the President in the White House? Or will her candidacy take us back to the top-down big money model of the (now-defunct) DLC? And finally, if Clinton demonstrates that she hasn’t changed, is there someone who can pick up the mantle from Obama and continue his legacy?
If people really paid attention to our not-too-distant past, those are the questions we’d be asking.
Warning! A profane rant is below, hide the kids.
The media has collectively lost their fucking minds. Since when is it the role of the media to obsess over mistakes and blow them completely out of proportion, while ignoring everything else that is happening in the world? They have totally embraced the hyperventilating loons on the right and adopted their moronic thinking.
So a website contractor, hired to design and build the website for healthcare.gov, screwed up. Great, I got it. Now move on to doing your fucking jobs again.
And by the way, Chuck Todd, your job is to present the truth to your viewers, not just deliver the “message” that one side or the other feeds to you through Mike Allen, just before you go on Morning Joe to set the meme of the fucking day. In case you aren’t aware, the Society of Professional Journalists has a code of ethics and the first item in the list is pasted below. Read it, internalize it…there will be a quiz.
Seek Truth and Report It (heading)
Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information. (sub-heading)
Journalists should: — Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.
Now let’s look at Chuck Todd’s full quote from his now infamous appearance on Morning Joe and see how well it fits with the above.
Chuck Todd (on Morning Joe):
“But more importantly, it would be stuff that Republicans have successfully messaged against it,” Todd told Rendell. “They don’t repeat the other stuff because they haven’t even heard the Democratic message. What I always love is people say, ‘Well, it’s you folks’ fault in the media.’ No, it’s the President of the United States’ fault for not selling it.”
In effect, he’s saying that he just delivers the message, it’s not his job to “test the accuracy of information from all sources”. He admits that Republicans have successfully “messaged against it” but he apparently doesn’t care at all whether that “message” is truthful or not. That is some serious bubble think. I keep telling Chuck to get the hell out of Washington and breathe some fresh air, talk to some real people, empathize with folks who actually are influenced by what happens inside your comfy little bubble.
Prior to the “glitch” story, the media was clinging to the idiotic idea that President Obama should negotiate with Republicans who were holding a gun to the head of our economy, demanding the defunding of a law that took 18 months to pass through the legislative process, was signed by the President and upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States in exchange for the Congress doing their jobs. The media acted like complete morons repeating the Republican talking point of “he won’t even sit down with us and talk”, as if that is what you do when one party completely circumvents the legislative process and acts like a 4-year-old kicking and screaming on the floor.
Going back a little further, the media was freaking out about Syria and the “red line”, once again repeating the Republican talking points verbatim, as if Frank Luntz was behind them pulling their fucking puppet strings and lip syncing his focus group tested phrases. President Obama didn’t invent our position on Syria’s chemical weapons. The treaty that we are enforcing was signed by President Nixon in 1972 and can be found here. But the media wanted to pin it all on President Obama because the brain-dead GOP plucked the “red line” phrase out of a speech and proceeded to bastardize the context and history of the international treaty against the use of chemical weapons.
I could go on and on…I’m thinking back to the “momentum” days of Mitt Romney’s bid for King of the Village Idiots (The GOP & their compliant media)!
Welcome to the new world of Crisis Journalism™
I watched this clip a little while ago and then turned to Chuck Todd’s show on MSNBC to see him doing exactly what Jon Stewart shamed the media about, false equivalences. Chuck Todd is the poster child for what is wrong with the media, he has helped to re-brand lying as “messaging”.
The following is a clip from one of my all time favorite movies, “Defending Your Life”. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. Besides Albert Brooks, who also wrote and directed it, it stars Meryl Streep and Rip Torn. Take a few minutes and watch this clip. I frequently think about this scene when reading the likes of Glenn Greenwald or many of the writers at The Nation. My favorite exchange is…
Bob Diamond: Being from Earth, as you are, and using as little of your brain as you do, your life has pretty much been devoted to dealing with fear.
Daniel Miller: It has?
Bob Diamond: Well everybody on Earth deals with fear — that’s what little brains do.
Bob Diamond: …Fear is like a giant fog. It sits on your brain and blocks everything…
Updated!!! I clicked on a link in a Tweet from Albert Brooks and came across the following post at Huffington Post, from Albert himself, which I will not link to.
WHAT DID I JUST READ?
By Barack Obama (Albert Brooks)
Imagine my surprise when I opened the New York Times and read Vladimir Putin’s Op-ed. I didn’t know what I was reading for a few minutes. Sometime’s my Chief of Staff will put The Onion in front of me just to shake things up so it took me a moment to realize this was not a joke.
First off, let me say I had a very nice time at the G20. The food was good, although a bit heavy for my taste, and the weather was pleasant. Certainly you can see the sky sometimes, which you can never do in China.
As I continued to read the Op-ed, I really couldn’t understand whether we were being insulted or praised. Mr. Putin seemed to respect the United States for one paragraph, and then blast us in another. Now understand, I admire Mr. Putin. For his age he seems to be in great physical shape and even though I could kick his ass in basketball I do believe that if a bear were to attack the both of us, he would be the one to shoo it away.
But let’s make one thing perfectly clear: this is written by a man who is the head of Russia. Russia, where the air conditioning in the room conked out even though I was in the Presidential Suite. Russia, where no one smiles and where people actually look disappointed that they are white.
Mr. Putin, we put a man on the moon and you barely got a monkey home safely. We invented the computer and you invented the way to steal it. Your country is filled with our fast food businesses and yet there is not one Russian take out place in the whole United States.
You are known for Siberia, we are known for Big Sur. We make Cadillacs and Lincolns and God knows what you call those little square deathtraps. It’s one thing to put down exceptionalism, but before you do that, you at least have to produce one Broadway show, or make one commercial airliner, or invent one type of salad.
Having said that, your people are wonderful and I know that you care about them deeply, except, of course, for the gay ones. As a matter of fact, you care about them so much that you hate to see them argue, especially with you, so you graciously offer them the solace of prison.
In any case, I enjoyed your editorial and I am very impressed that it was printed in The New York Times. If only there was a newspaper in your country that would print this.
My very best wishes,
Bob Cesca has been doing amazing work lately in keeping track of the massive misinformation campaign orchestrated primarily by The Guardian, a publication that has gone full anti-American with the help of Wikileaks and other anarchists. Cesca wrote a brilliant article that points out many things I’ve been thinking as well. From Bob Cesca at The Daily Banter…
And, yes, the government also collects relatively minor bits of your internet data (with multi-layered oversight, warrants, anonymization, minimization and deletion) in its efforts to track down enemies.
Liberals ought to be far more suspicious of for-profit corporations handling our private data than the government’s handling of considerably less of it. But that doesn’t appear to be the case, and this is where everything gets wacky.
NSA, and the U.S. government in general, isn’t interested in our Instagram pics of our disgusting dinners or our Wonka memes or our goats-that-scream-like-men videos. But Facebook is. Google is. Corporations are exploiting nearly everything you type and following you wherever your browse. They’re compiling it. They’re distributing it. They’re sharing it. They’re using your data to determine which products you might want to purchase. They’re censoring your breast-feeding pics and perhaps even threatening you with prosecution if you download an episode of Game of Thrones from Bit Torrent.
And people are wailing and chest-thumping over inadvertent government metadata collection with strict rules that prohibit infringements on Fourth Amendment liberty? That’s rich.
You should go read Bob Cesca’s entire article, he points out that most websites have “trackers” built in that gather more information than the NSA on each of us. Bob also points out, “For what it’s worth, Glenn Greenwald’s XKEYSCORE article on The Guardian contained 27 trackers, including PRISM participants Google and Facebook.”
I’ll leave you with my favorite paragraph from Bob’s article…
How shall we explain the disparity between the Great Fear of the government collecting minimal data and the almost unspoken reality that corporations have compiled massive data clouds about every user and every customer? I don’t know for sure. It could be a result of pissy-pants disillusionment over the Obama presidency based on overblown idealism, political ignorance and unrealistic expectations. It could be the consequence of an onslaught of fear-mongering from news outlets posting cavalcades of scare-headlines and misleading articles about NSA surveillance. Or it could be an increasingly evident paradigm shift in which the far-left is blending into fringe libertarian territory. I never thought it likely given libertarianism’s small government, states’ rights posture, but there it is.
If you were wondering where a lot of the terrible laws and attacks on our rights are coming from, meet ALEC. From the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance…
“ALEC” is the American Legislative Exchange Council, and it may be the most powerful organization you (probably) never heard of. There’s a good chance ALEC already has impacted your life. And if it hasn’t yet, give it time.
ALEC describes itself as an organization that “provides a constructive forum for state legislators and private sector leaders to discuss and exchange practical, state-level public policy issues.” Others have called it a means for powerful corporations and interest groups to influence legislation to enrich themselves at the public’s expense.[...]
Let’s look at specific examples. Insurance companies wanted off the hook from mesothelioma claims, so ALEC came forward with a model bill to protect corporations from asbestos exposure liability. The bill quickly was introduced in Ohio, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas, West Virginia, and at the federal level. The Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act would require asbestos victims and their families to publicly disclose all manner of personal information before receiving compensation. This information could be used to deny credit or employment and make the victims vulnerable to identity theft. The point, obviously, is to intimidate people from filing claims. No such disclosure is required of companies that exposed employees and customers to asbestos.
In fact, liability protection is a major focus of ALEC bills. As of August 2013, this year at least 71 bills crafted by ALEC have been introduced around the country that make it harder to hold corporations accountable for death or injury. Many have misleading names, such as the “Full and Fair Noneconomic Damages Act,” introduced in two states, that limits the amount a corporation has to pay to compensate people it has injured.
Go read the whole article and beware!
Go check out this very informative article about the history and many uses of hemp. Here is a little piece of the article…
For centuries, industrial hemp (plant species Cannabis sativa) has been a source of fiber and oilseed manufactured worldwide for a variety of industrial and consumer products. Currently, more than 30 countries cultivate industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity, sold on the market all around the world. However, in the United States, hemp remains strictly regulated under existing drug enforcement laws with no known commercial domestic production, causing the U.S. to depend solely on imports.
Chris Conrad — a court-qualified expert on Cannabis hemp who has been cited in numerous Appellate Decisions and California Supreme Court rulings — exposes the truth behind the myths and lies of hemp. As an internationally recognized guru on all aspects of hemp and the founder of the Business Alliance for Commerce in Hemp, Conrad’s provocative research confronts the political dynamics working for and against legal reform through the uncovering of enlightened hemp facts.
Rita Baldini: Hemp was so important to the colonies of Jamestown that in 1619 the first hemp law was created, making it illegal NOT to grow hemp. Why did our country stray so far away from hemp production?
Chris Conrad: This nation has strayed from many of the original founding principles. Despite their shortcomings, when America was founded much of the philosophy was based upon the idea that a small family farm or homestead could be self-sufficient and live in freedom and independence. In the years leading to the Civil War, industrial capital was just beginning to take hold. After the Civil War, the logging and petrochemical barons rose to power. Around the turn of the 20th century, banks and corporations began to have a disproportionate level of control over the federal government. At the same time, the racism that was inherent in slavery had moved to the front through anti-Mexican bigotry and Jim Crow laws. It was this combination of corporate greed for control and money and social racism that led to the shift away from protecting family farms toward subsidizing corporate wealth. Prohibition was then seen as a two-edged sword cutting into economic freedom and social freedom at the same time. It bloated into an entrenched bureaucratic mechanism, and as a government has mutated into being essentially corporate-run with less and less personal freedom and privacy allowed. Prohibition is growing like a tumorous cancer that is killing society.
Transcript July 19, 2013
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: That’s so — that’s so disappointing, man. Jay, is this kind of — the kind of respect that you get? (Laughter.)
Q: Wake up!
Q: What brings you out here, Mr. –
PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, on — on — on television it usually looks like you’re addressing a full room.
Q: (Laughs.) It’s just a mirage.
Q: There’s generally not –
PRESIDENT OBAMA: All right.
Q: (Inaudible) — got the Detroit story.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I got you. All right. Sorry about that. Do you think anybody else is showing up? Good.
Well, I — I wanted to come out here first of all to tell you that Jay is prepared for all your questions and is — is very much looking forward to the session.
Second thing is I want to let you know that over the next couple of weeks there are going to obviously be a whole range of issues — immigration, economics, et cetera — we’ll try to arrange a fuller press conference to address your questions.
The reason I actually wanted to come out today is not to take questions, but to speak to an issue that obviously has gotten a lot of attention over the course of the last week, the issue of the Trayvon Martin ruling. I gave an — a preliminary statement right after the ruling on Sunday, but watching the debate over the course of the last week I thought it might be useful for me to expand on my thoughts a little bit.
First of all, you know, I — I want to make sure that, once again, I send my thoughts and prayers, as well as Michelle’s, to the family of Trayvon Martin, and to remark on the incredible grace and dignity with which they’ve dealt with the entire situation. I can only imagine what they’re going through, and it’s — it’s remarkable how they’ve handled it.
The second thing I want to say is to reiterate what I said on Sunday, which is there are going to be a lot of arguments about the legal — legal issues in the case. I’ll let all the legal analysts and talking heads address those issues.
The judge conducted the trial in a professional manner. The prosecution and the defense made their arguments. The juries were properly instructed that in a — in a case such as this, reasonable doubt was relevant, and they rendered a verdict. And once the jury’s spoken, that’s how our system works.
But I did want to just talk a little bit about context and how people have responded to it and how people are feeling. You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. And when you think about why, in the African-American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African- American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that — that doesn’t go away.
There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me.
And there are very few African-American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me, at least before I was a senator. There are very few African-Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.
And you know, I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida. And it’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear.
The African-American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws, everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws. And that ends up having an impact in terms of how people interpret the case.
Now, this isn’t to say that the African-American community is naive about the fact that African-American young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system, that they are disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of violence. It’s not to make excuses for that fact, although black folks do interpret the reasons for that in a historical context.
We understand that some of the violence that takes place in poor black neighborhoods around the country is born out of a very violent past in this country, and that the poverty and dysfunction that we see in those communities can be traced to a very difficult history.
And so the fact that sometimes that’s unacknowledged adds to the frustration. And the fact that a lot of African-American boys are painted with a broad brush and the excuse is given, well, there are these statistics out there that show that African-American boys are more violent — using that as an excuse to then see sons treated differently causes pain.
I think the African-American community is also not naive in understanding that statistically somebody like Trayvon Martin was probably statistically more likely to be shot by a peer than he was by somebody else.
So — so folks understand the challenges that exist for African- American boys, but they get frustrated, I think, if they feel that there’s no context for it or — and that context is being denied. And — and that all contributes, I think, to a sense that if a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario, that, from top to bottom, both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different.
Now, the question for me at least, and I think, for a lot of folks is, where do we take this? How do we learn some lessons from this and move in a positive direction? You know, I think it’s understandable that there have been demonstrations and vigils and protests, and some of that stuff is just going to have to work its way through as long as it remains nonviolent. If I see any violence, then I will remind folks that dishonors what happened to Trayvon Martin and his family.
But beyond protests or vigils, the question is, are there some concrete things that we might be able to do? I know that Eric Holder is reviewing what happened down there, but I think it’s important for people to have some clear expectations here. Traditionally, these are issues of state and local government — the criminal code. And law enforcement has traditionally done it at the state and local levels, not at the federal levels.
That doesn’t mean, though, that as a nation, we can’t do some things that I think would be productive. So let me just give a couple of specifics that I’m still bouncing around with my staff so we’re not rolling out some five-point plan, but some areas where I think all of us could potentially focus.
Number one, precisely because law enforcement is often determined at the state and local level, I think it’d be productive for the Justice Department — governors, mayors to work with law enforcement about training at the state and local levels in order to reduce the kind of mistrust in the system that sometimes currently exists.You know, when I was in Illinois I passed racial profiling legislation. And it actually did just two simple things. One, it collected data on traffic stops and the race of the person who was stopped. But the other thing was it resourced us training police departments across the state on how to think about potential racial bias and ways to further professionalize what they were doing.
And initially, the police departments across the state were resistant, but actually they came to recognize that if it was done in a fair, straightforward way, that it would allow them to do their jobs better and communities would have more confidence in them and in turn be more helpful in applying the law. And obviously law enforcement’s got a very tough job.
So that’s one area where I think there are a lot of resources and best practices that could be brought bear if state and local governments are receptive. And I think a lot of them would be. And — and let’s figure out other ways for us to push out that kind of training.
Along the same lines, I think it would be useful for us to examine some state and local laws to see if it — if they are designed in such a way that they may encourage the kinds of altercations and confrontations and tragedies that we saw in the Florida case, rather than diffuse potential altercations.
I know that there’s been commentary about the fact that the stand your ground laws in Florida were not used as a defense in the case.
On the other hand, if we’re sending a message as a society in our communities that someone who is armed potentially has the right to use those firearms even if there’s a way for them to exit from a situation, is that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace and security and order that we’d like to see?
And for those who resist that idea that we should think about something like these “stand your ground” laws, I just ask people to consider if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman, who had followed him in a car, because he felt threatened?
And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws.
Number three — and this is a long-term project: We need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African-American boys? And this is something that Michelle and I talk a lot about. There are a lot of kids out there who need help who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement. And is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them?
You know, I’m not naive about the prospects of some brand-new federal program.
I’m not sure that that’s what we’re talking about here. But I do recognize that as president, I’ve got some convening power.
And there are a lot of good programs that are being done across the country on this front. And for us to be able to gather together business leaders and local elected officials and clergy and celebrities and athletes and figure out how are we doing a better job helping young African-American men feel that they’re a full part of this society and that — and that they’ve got pathways and avenues to succeed — you know, I think that would be a pretty good outcome from what was obviously a tragic situation. And we’re going to spend some time working on that and thinking about that.
And then finally, I think it’s going to be important for all of us to do some soul-searching. You know, there have been talk about should we convene a conversation on race. I haven’t seen that be particularly productive when politicians try to organize conversations. They end up being stilted and politicized, and folks are locked into the positions they already have.
On the other hand, in families and churches and workplaces, there’s a possibility that people are a little bit more honest, and at least you ask yourself your own questions about, am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can; am I judging people, as much as I can, based on not the color of their skin but the content of their character? That would, I think, be an appropriate exercise in the wake of this tragedy.
And let me just leave you with — with a final thought, that as difficult and challenging as this whole episode has been for a lot of people, I don’t want us to lose sight that things are getting better. Each successive generation seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race. I doesn’t mean that we’re in a postracial society. It doesn’t mean that racism is eliminated. But you know, when I talk to Malia and Sasha and I listen to their friends and I see them interact, they’re better than we are. They’re better than we were on these issues. And that’s true in every community that I’ve visited all across the country.
And so, you know, we have to be vigilant and we have to work on these issues, and those of us in authority should be doing everything we can to encourage the better angels of our nature as opposed to using these episodes to heighten divisions. But we should also have confidence that kids these days I think have more sense than we did back then, and certainly more than our parents did or our grandparents did, and that along this long, difficult journey, you know, we’re becoming a more perfect union — not a perfect union, but a more perfect union.
All right? Thank you, guys.