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Even the Right Wing National Review Supports Marijuana Legalization

JANUARY 6, 2014 4:00 AM
Sensible on Weed
By The Editors

Launching 17 million “Rocky Mountain High” jokes, Colorado has become the first state to make the prudent choice of legalizing the consumption and sale of marijuana, thus dispensing with the charade of medical restrictions and recognizing the fact that, while some people smoke marijuana to counter the effects of chemotherapy, most people smoke marijuana to get high — and that is not the worst thing in the world.

Regardless of whether one accepts the individual-liberty case for legalizing marijuana, the consequentialist case is convincing. That is because the history of marijuana prohibition is a catalogue of unprofitable tradeoffs: billions in enforcement costs, and hundreds of thousands of arrests each year, in a fruitless attempt to control a mostly benign drug the use of which remains widespread despite our energetic attempts at prohibition. We make a lot of criminals while preventing very little crime, and do a great deal of harm in the course of trying to prevent an activity that presents little if any harm in and of itself.

Marijuana is a drug, as abusable as any intoxicant is, and its long-term use is in some people associated with undesirable effects. But its effects are relatively mild, and while nearly half of American adults have smoked marijuana, few develop habits, much less habits that are lifelong (in another context, we might write “chronic”). Compared to binge drinking or alcohol addiction, marijuana use is a minor public-health concern. All that being the case, the price of prohibition is relatively high, whether measured in police and penal expenses or in liberty lost. The popularity of marijuana may not be the most admirable social trend of our time, but it simply is not worth suppressing.

One of the worst consequences of marijuana use is the development of saucer-eyed arguments about the benefits of legalizing it. Colorado, and other states that may follow its example, should go into this with realistic expectations. If the Dutch example is any guide, then Colorado can probably expect to see higher rates of marijuana use and the use of other drugs, though not dramatically so. As with the case of Amsterdam, Colorado already is developing a marijuana-tourism industry — some hotels are considering offering designated marijuana-smoking rooms, even while smoking tobacco outdoors is banned in parts of Boulder — which brings problems of its own, among them opportunistic property crime and public intoxication. Colorado’s legal drug dealers inevitably will end up supplying black markets in neighboring prohibition states. Expected tax revenues from marijuana sales will amount to a mere three-tenths of 1 percent of the state’s budget.

The payoff is not in tax revenue gained but in losses avoided.

there's the usual RW bs about unions and fetus worshipping at the end, but the main points are in the excerpt above.

Just a reminder: The US still has ludicrously high long-term unemployment

Since the Department of Labor began keeping track in 1948, the US has rarely had more than two million workers go without a job for more than six months. At the height of the recent Great Recession, nearly seven million people who wanted jobs faced extended joblessness, and today that number sits at a cool 4 million. (That’s also historically large as a share of population or the workforce). Despite many positive signs in the economy, that stands as perhaps its largest failure: The US just can’t put its people to work.
As US lawmakers return from their winter vacation, president Barack Obama and the Democrats want to reverse the expiration of unemployment insurance for some 2 million of these people—1.3 million last week, and another 850,000 at the end of March. Typically, unemployment insurance only lasts 26 weeks, but during recessions the federal government offers extensions for as long as 99 weeks; the currently expiring extension is set at 73 weeks.
Republicans support the expiration, or at least want an equal reduction in spending elsewhere in the government. The economic question is whether taking away an average $300 a week from these people will make them more or less likely to wind up with jobs. With roughly three unemployed workers competing for every job opening in the United States and the long-term unemployed among the most-discriminated against potential hires, it’s not clear that unemployment insurance is the main obstacle to their hiring.
Still, critics of the payments contend that ending them will force people back to work at minimum wages. But at least one natural experiment suggests that’s not what’s going to happen: North Carolina cut its unemployment benefits significantly last summer, and since then, there hasn’t been a boom in employment. Instead, people are leaving the workforce in droves, putting stress on local charities and the economy there. Absent renewal of the benefits, we can expect the US workforce to stay shrunken—which doesn’t bode well for rebuilding America’s economic capacity or its middle class.


Epilepsy drug turns out to help adults acquire perfect pitch

By Scott Kaufman
Monday, January 6, 2014 9:50 EST

A team of researchers from across the globe believe they have discovered a means of re-opening “critical periods” in brain development, allowing adults to acquire abilities — such as perfect pitch or fluency in language — that could previously only be acquired early in life.

According to the study in Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience, the mood-stabilizing drug valproate allows the adult brain to absorb new information as effortlessly as it did during critical windows in childhood.

A critical period is “a fixed window of time, usually early in an organism’s lifespan, during which experience has lasting effects on the development of brain function and behavior.” They are, for example, what allows children to enter into language without any formal training in grammar or vocabulary.

The researchers postulated that because such periods close when enzymes “impose ‘brakes’ on neuroplasticity,” a drug that blocks the productions of those enzymes might be able to “reopen critical-period neuroplasticity.”


The Republican's canard that is leaving the unemployed out in the cold


An couple on long-term unemployment sit in their living room. The husband, feasting on caviar and filet mignon, watches TV with an expensive cable plan (with all the add-ons) while his wife, downing her second glass of Dom Pérignon, inspects her new diamond bracelet.

Suddenly, the news flashes across the screen - long-term unemployment benefits to end! Immediately, the couple knows what to do. They put down the caviar and expensive champagne, print out copies of their resume and go find decent paying jobs.

The end.

I hope this little story helps you understand how conservatives can support the idea of not extending emergency unemployment benefits to people out of work for more than 26 weeks. You see, when a Republican sees someone who’s been on unemployment for any length of time, they don’t think about the difficulty of finding a job, or the pain and heartache that comes with accepting government help. Nope, everyone on long-term unemployment is simply bilking the system, getting paid by the government to do nothing. To them, they might as well be “Unemployment Queens.”

That’s how they’re able to justify allowing this vital benefit to expire for 1.3 million Americans, and another 1.9 Americans in the first 6 months of 2014. 79,000 New Jerseyans lost their benefits on Dec, 28, making it the hardest hit state per capita in the country. And moving forward, the maximum length of time anyone in the Garden State can get unemployment is 26 weeks, chopped in half from the 63 weeks that had been offered. By comparison, about 84,000 Pennsylvanians stopped receiving financial assistance, and about 3,600 in Delaware lost their benefits.

In the past, Congress has waited for unemployment to drop lower than pre-recession levels before scaling back benefits (unemployment is higher now at 7 percent than when aid begun). But we don’t have a normal, functioning Republican party these days. We have a tea party-led insurgency that thinks government is evil, and people on long-term unemployment are all lazy slackers that just need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get a job.


best line:
Besides, if conservatives really wanted to find a way to pay for long-term unemployment benefits, they wouldn’t have increased Pentagon spending next year by more than $22 billion. Keep in mind, the budget at the Pentagon has more than doubled since 1998 alone, and has 86 major defense systems under development, at a combined cost of $1.6 trillion.

North Carolina is pushing its best educators out. We have to do something.

Pay Our Teachers or Lose Your Job

By Deborah R. Gerhardt

My son Ben’s language arts teacher emailed one morning this winter to tell me she is leaving Ben’s school. I feel sick, but I don’t blame her. Three of Ben’s middle school teachers have left in the past year. North Carolina’s intentional assault on public education is working. It is pushing our best teachers out.

Ten years ago my family moved to Chapel Hill. A relatively low cost of living and bipartisan commitment to public education made North Carolina immensely attractive. There is plenty of historic precedent for devaluing public education in the South, and for many years North Carolina was not much different from its neighbors. In 1997 the state ranked 42nd in teacher pay. The year before, Gov. Jim Hunt had run on a platform to invest in public education. After he was elected, he worked with Republican House Speaker Harold Brubaker to focus on excellence in teaching and raised teacher salaries up to the national average in just four years. That bipartisan investment paid off. In the 1990s our public student test scores rose more than any other state’s. North Carolina became known as “the education state.” As recently as 2008, North Carolina paid teachers better than half the nation.

Things can change quickly, especially if you’re not looking. Now, the brand that attracted us—“the education state”—sounds like a grim joke. After six years of no real raises, we have fallen to 46th in teacher pay. North Carolina teachers earn nearly $10,000 less than the national average. And if you look at trends over the past decade, we rank dead last: After adjusting for inflation, North Carolina lowered teacher salaries nearly 16 percent from 2002 to 2012, while other states had a median decline of 1 percent. A first-year teacher in North Carolina makes $30,800. Our school district lost a candidate to a district in Kentucky because its starting salary was close to $40,000. It takes North Carolina teachers more than 15 years to earn $40,000; in Virginia it may take only four. Gap store managers on average make about $56,000.

If you talk to a teacher in North Carolina, you will hear the bitter truth of how difficult it is for them to make ends meet. Most teachers at Ben’s school work at least one extra job. An elementary school teacher told me that his daughters do not have the chance to play soccer or cello like his students. He has no discretionary income left to spare.

What are we teaching our children about the value of education? When my boys see a teacher outside school, they rush up to say hello, eyes bright with admiration and respect. How I wish our children could minister to the adults in my state. While the majority of us remain quiet, North Carolina teachers face incessant reminders that they are not valued.



Moral Mondays Come to Georgia

Allison Kilkenny

The Moral Monday protests that began in North Carolina in 2012 in response to extreme right-wing policies are spreading to Georgia.

Over the past year, droves of activists in North Carolina have descended on the state legislature building to demand lawmakers reverse some of its more brutal policies such as cutting unemployment benefits, refusing to expand Medicaid, and rolling back voting rights. Thousands of people showed up for North Carolina’s Moral Mondays to disrupt the legislative session with acts of civil disobedience, resulting in the arrests of more than 900 individuals.

Now Moral Mondays are coming to Georgia. (photo via Moral Monday Georgia)

Progressives from across the state will gather during the legislative session beginning on January 13 to express their concerns about what the Atlanta Progressive News calls the “extremist veto-proof Republican-led Legislature that is working in concert with a like-minded Gov. Nathan Deal.”



Clinton Pitches KKR-Backed College Chain Amid Controversy

By Mina Kimes and Michael Smith

Inside a building on a narrow Rio de Janeiro street, nine telemarketers sit in small cubicles, talking frenetically into headsets as scripts scroll across their computer screens.

On an October morning, these salespeople are urging high school seniors to attend Centro Universitario IBMR, a for-profit university. Their supervisor, Rafael Morine, paces the room, straining to be heard above the clatter of an air conditioner.

“Remember, today we are offering 30 percent discounts,” he tells a young woman.

Before the day ends, he says, his team will make almost 1,300 calls. The call center sits on the top floor of the nine-story building, above classrooms. Some telemarketers are students at IBMR, working during the day and taking classes at night, Bloomberg Markets magazine will report in its February issue.

“They know their school well,” says Morine, 28. “And that helps us sell.” Fliers taped to the walls promise bonuses to salespeople who convince at least 250 students to take the entrance exam for IBMR. One poster advertises the university’s owner, which is located almost 5,000 miles away in Baltimore: “Be part of Laureate Network, the biggest university network in the world.”



Masturbation was once considered more offensive than child abuse

By Therese Oneill

've written many articles based on Victorian/Edwardian advice books. There was advice for everything, from how to improve your breast size to keeping your man faithful, all written with earnest authority by "experts" of the day. In these old books, I noticed that one subject appeared over and over, usually shrouded with dire euphemisms: The Solitary Vice. Self Abuse. The Vicious Habit.

In other words: Masturbation.

Past generations were absolutely terrified by masturbation, and regarded it among the vilest of sexual practices. Some considered it more of an offense, as we will see, than child molestation. Health experts of the day demanded it be curbed, especially in children, often by any means necessary. That is why, unlike the other articles in my Advice series, a retrospective on masturbation cannot be funny. It can only be heartbreaking.

Reasons to fear masturbation

Nearly all writers of these anti-masturbation screeds referred to the state of the soul, and how masturbation slowly shreds it, defiling God-given organs of regeneration by using them for selfish gratification. The sinfulness of masturbation can still be debated, but the medical and psychological maladies these writers claimed resulted from the practice have mostly been disproved.

Joseph William Howe, who wrote Excessive Venery, Masturbation and Continence in 1884, gave bizarrely specific details as to the physical affects masturbation had on a woman's genitalia, believing that the practice deformed the organs. He wrote, for example, "I have seen cases in the hospital where resembled the ear of a small spaniel."


UK storms: Giant waves hit amid fresh flooding fears

Huge waves are beginning to batter the southern coast of the UK, as forecasters warn exposed areas could see a fresh round of flooding.

Waves of up to 27ft (8m) have been recorded off Land's End, Cornwall.

In Aberystwyth, seafront student flats have been evacuated, and across the UK dozens of flood warnings - including one severe - remain in place.

Travel by road and rail is being hit, causing disruption for many returning to work after the Christmas break.

Western and southern areas are bearing the brunt of the latest severe weather, and forecasters are warning that flooding could be worse than that seen in recent days.


Uganda anti-gay bill close to becoming law

ampala, Uganda - A little more than a week after the Ugandan parliament passed a bill outlawing homosexuality, Frank Mugisha - a leader of Uganda's gay rights movement - turned up at a posh hotel in Kampala, the capital, to attend a gala for Ugandans working abroad.

His decision to attend was a bold move: Homophobia runs deep in Uganda, and the anti-homosexuality bill will see gay men like Mugisha jailed for up to 14 years if found guilty of engaging in consensual homosexual acts. Those convicted of "aggravated homosexuality" - which is defined to include acts committed with children, by HIV-positive individuals, or by authority figures - would be jailed for life.

At a cocktail party before the dinner at the Serena Hotel, Mugisha stood chatting and sipping drinks with two other gay Ugandans, apparently afraid to mingle with other people. Few guests dared join the trio in conversation.

"Serena is one of the places where you are very sure that however much a Ugandan hates you, they are less likely to come and attack you or else they will be embarrassed," said Mugisha, a diminutive man who wears glasses and won the 2011 Robert F Kennedy Human Rights Award. But, he added, "if someone was bold enough and said, 'you know what: I do not want these people'", things could go horribly wrong.

The 32-year-old said he has been attacked in a supermarket while shopping, and on another occasion had his car tyre slashed.


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