As a guy who enjoys movies, good and bad, I always love a good stand-off, and there is an interesting real life standoff going down in Washington, D.C. at present. At issue is the voter-passed initiative for legalized marijuana, which is set to take effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. Congress is inexplicably not pleased about this, even though it is taking effect the very same week Alaska became the third state in the union to allow recreational marijuana use and possession.
The initiative legalizes the possession of up to 2 ounces for use at home, and people will also be permitted to grow up to three mature plants. Smoking marijuana in public will remain illegal, as does buying or selling the drug. The initiative would also eliminate the decriminalized possession civil fine of $25.
Congress has final say over the laws in the District of Columbia, and when situations like this occur, they usually just add language to a piece of legislation that undoes whatever they disapprove of. This is not a regular occurrence, with the last time Congress striking down a D.C. city law being 25 years ago. The argument is based on whether or not Congress acted in time to be able to stop the initiative. In December, Congress passed a spending bill to keep the government running, and in that bill was the language to block the legalized marijuana initiative.
The only problem, according to Mayor Muriel Bowser and other city leaders, is that the marijuana initiative passed (at over a 2-1 margin) in November and had been enacted, even though it had not taken effect yet. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) chair of the House Oversight Committee, along with Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) says that is wrong, and that Mayor Bowser and the city leaders could be in violation of the Anti-Deficiency Act, which prohibits spending unappropriated federal money. More to the point, Chaffetz said:
"The penalties are severe, and we're serious about this. Nobody's wishing or wanting that to happen, but the law is clear."
Yes, the law is clear, and the penalties may be severe, but for Rep. Chaffetz’s chest-thumping, it is a fairly hollow threat. To date, no one has ever been convicted of violating the Anti-Deficiency Act, just administrative punishments issued. Yet, the chair of the House Oversight Committee feels it necessary to threaten the mayor and other leaders of the nation’s capital with the possibility of prison time, and over marijuana? This is the same kind of petty and arbitrary nonsense we get, congress after congress, and yet, they still can’t figure out why voter turnout is so low, and why approval ratings are fighting tooth and nail to reach zero.
After all, what kind of example, if not precedent, does it set when a mayor is threatened with prison by the federal government for following the lawfully voted for wishes of her constituents? This is the most arrogant of actions when a government that works for the people can ignore the very will of that people. It is not like the people of D.C. voted in dueling, 64 ounce sodas, or heaven fucking forbid wanted to build a pipeline. My concern is not so much for the District of Columbia, but I will say I stand with Mayor Bowser and her administration. Since Congress hasn’t made getting much of anything done a priority, how about they leave Muriel Bowser alone to do hers?
It was not as though I expected anything less from Mitch McConnell. As the GOP was settling into the seat of power following a decisive mid-term election victory last November, Senate Majority Leader McConnell promised "dramatic change" in contrast to the tenure of outgoing Majority Leader Harry Reid. Remember that phrase..."dramatic change."
McConnell said this dramatic change would come about by decentralizing power in a Senate that has accomplished so little in the past six years the American public is about ready to start holding a mirror under its face in the mornings, just to be sure. He also gave lip service to getting committee working again and open up the legislative process, a "return to regular order," in his words. Then again, he also made it a point to bring up recommitting to "a rational, functional appropriations process," because well, it's Mitch Damn McConnell. The pork's back on the plate, and Mitch brought his big ass fork, is the simple way to translate any rationality or functionality he may have been referring to when it comes to appropriations.
Continuing forth, McConnellesque in his determination, the Majority Leader said that the voters, who have lost faith in government and no longer trusts Washington, want a 21st century government, modern and streamlined instead of the perpetually deepening pit of suck we currently labor under. The GOP is going to pursue tax reform, opening global markets to American exports, and infrastructure projects like the Keystone XL pipeline.
Okay, for those of you keeping score at home, Sen. McConnell said:
1. Change, and dramatic change at that, is coming.
2. It's high time Congress got its shit together.
3. He's almost feral at the thought of getting appropriations back the way he likes it.
4. It's time to cut the sausage-making out of government and streamline it.
5. The GOP is going to fix taxes, American global trade, and infrastructure, right after...
They go back to the fucking well on abortion again.
Yes, America, I hear ya. God damn it, so much.
Yes sir, that some pretty dramatic change, if by pretty dramatic change you meant going back to page three in your fucking playbook! You could have come out with a plan, an idea, a hastily scribbled notion on a cocktail napkin on immigration, but you're just now sitting down to come up with a strategy. Really? Throughout the mid-term campaign, and in the afterglow of victory, this whole time the GOP was shadowboxing? The fact the Democrats were knocked out in part by a phantom punch should give them a moment for pause. A couple of moments, if necessary, in case Nancy Pelosi needs to change her facial expression.
I guess you could forgive the Republicans for a bit of a stumble out of the gates. Guess they still had some glitter in their eyes from the day before. Let's hope the next big topic they pounce on is something possible closer to relevance. Maybe even something that trends on occasion. Otherwise, this drama Mitch McConnell is producing is going to start needing a laugh track.
Some guys have all the luck. You decide to dig 33 feet down in your backyard, for whatever the hell reason would possess someone to do that, and you hit something major forcing the rest of the neighborhood to spend the weekend at a Comfort Inn by the airport. Some other asshole does it, and makes a major find that archaeologists have been trying to locate for decades.
An Egyptian man was illegally digging in his backyard, and wound up finding a tunnel leading to the Pyramid of Khufu, a.k.a. the Great Pyramid. It was about 33 feet down and underneath the man's house when the tunnel was discovered. Getting beyond the whole digging a 33 foot hole from boredom, how about digging three stories underneath your fucking house? How good is the weed in Egypt? Bet this guy's homeowner's policy costs some serious bank.
A committee from Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities confirmed the passage to be the causeway of the Great Pyramid, mentioned in the Histories by the Greek Herodotus, who claims to have visited it in the fifth century B.C.
One thing I did not notice from the story was any kind of explanation as to whether or not Captain Dig Dug actually got charged with the illegal digging. Personally, I can't wait for this to wind up on some bullshit reality show- people compulsively digging big damn holes in the ground. The sweeps episode where the guy tries to take credit for the Grand Canyon would be tremendous, if only for the cinematography.
Been puttering around the apartment today, taking care of some housework, sitting down to get started on the rest while checking out the Bengals-Colts Wild Card round playoff game. At least I'm not one of those guys who check out for the year after his team is eliminated and the fantasy seasons are done. My Rams had a better season than I thought they would, all circumstances considered, but I would like to see them get a slightly more competent backup than Shawn Hill progressing forward. As for my vaunted fantasy team, the LA Sharknados, they had a decent second season, going 10-4 for a 2nd place regular season finish before stumbling in the first round of the playoffs, settling for a victory in the 3rd Place game.
Maybe if the Bengals lose, they will can Marvin Lewis, and I can shoot a resume their way. If idiots can use video game experience to justify sending resumes for college head coaching jobs, I think I am safe in using my fantasy football coaching career to justify applying for a NFL head coach position. I know I am at least qualified to coach the Oakland Raiders...
After seven weeks that inexplicably turned into ten weeks, I finally had the pleasure of getting the external fixator taken out/off of my arm December 3. The last of the five breaks finally decided to meet up and start knitting, so the hardware had finally outlived its usefulness. Lord knows it had outstayed its welcome.
Since the injury and subsequent surgery has managed to do a number on my writing and political projects, I guess I should start trying to set a schedule for 2015.
While I haven't gotten much written, I have at least managed to plot out some more stuff, because that's exactly what you need when you are a writer with stuff piling up- more stuff to work on, eventually, somehow. Need to get a handle on time and project management, so it's looking like I have narrowed down the primary projects to a short non-fiction work, the novel I'm furthest ahead on, and a new project in the early stages for Free Rein Media. Been taking some of the downtime to examine some new ways to get stuff out there, found a couple of interesting websites, which led to the plotting of new stuff. Damn stuff, it's everywhere.
Now begins another month or so of wearing the splint, a month of physical therapy, and then I will be ready for Recovery Mode Phase Three- getting ready for softball season next spring.
As Monday morning kicked off, the big news was not that my St. Louis Rams continue to impress as they climb to .500 with back-to-back shutout wins (albeit against Oakland and Washington), but the haggling over a Senate report on CIA interrogation methods in the War on Terror, including torture such as sleep deprivation, confinement, and waterboarding.
The report, a 480 page summary of a 6,000 page classified document, is basically the first public accounting of the CIA's tactics with detainees held in secret facilities in the years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The report has taken five years to complete, due to numerous delays, and has reportedly cost upwards of $40 million to produce.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has been pushing for a release of the report for months now, with the latest wrinkle being Secretary of State John Kerry playing middleman for the White House to ask Feinstein for a continued delay, due to perceptions the report could put American personnel overseas at risk from increased extremist action. Naturally, at this stage of the game, the predominant worry is that Democrats will run out of time to release the report before the Republican majority assumes control in January.
House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) agrees with Kerry, telling CNN's State of the Union over the weekend that "Foreign partners are telling us this will cause violence and deaths. Our own intelligence community has assessed that this will cause violence and deaths." Rogers has also questioned why the report needs to become public, as the Justice Department investigation resulted in no criminal charges being filed.
Detractors, including former CIA Director Michael Hayden, fear the report could undermine cooperation between the U.S. and other countries on intelligence and counterterrorism, although Feinstein maintained recently to the Los Angeles Times the tactics undermined "societal and constitutional values that we are very proud of. Anybody who reads this is going to never let this happen again."
Okay. Both sides of the argument seem perfectly valid, but it's kind of hard not to lean toward releasing the report. Granted, there might be some blowback, but at the same time and going beyond the Democrats' notion of transparency, is there really anything in that report, all 480 presumably ponderous pages, that will actually shock anyone with its revelation? We've been joking about it for decades. The world's been joking about it for decades.
Also, as for Feinstein's contention that anyone who reads the report "is going to never let this happen again..." Yeah, that's cute as hell. She can just go on believing that.
The Department of Justice today announced the unsealing of a federal indictment charging four men with hacking several game developers, including Microsoft, and the United States Army, and stealing intellectual property worth $100 million. Included in the property stolen was info on training tech for the Apache attack helicopter, and source codes for the video games Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Gears of War 3.
The four defendants, from Maryland, New Jersey, Indiana, and Canada, are facing 18 counts, including conspiracies to commit wire fraud, computer fraud, copyright infringement, mail fraud, identity theft, and theft of trade secrets, as well as individual counts of aggravated identity theft, unauthorized computer access, copyright infringement, and wire fraud.
The game developers affected were Epic Games, Valve, and Zombie Studios. The information stolen, which included source code, trade secrets, and financial data, was then sold to as yet unnamed third parties. Total damages are estimated to be over $200 million.
I understand the crimes committed, and the charges filed, but just for a second, stop and consider that at a basic level, the source codes for a Call of Duty game and U.S. military secrets are equivalent in value?
Now, this is just me, just throwing this out there and seeing what happens. Would there be an announcement of the unsealing of a federal indictment if the games involved were My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, or Barbie Jet, Set & Style?
Better yet, what if you developed something minor, like an app to store and catalog your expansive collection of "discreet" camel toe shots, and innocently get caught up? Would it necessarily hurt your feelings if they kinda left you out of the gory details? I mean, supposedly there's no such thing as bad publicity...
Seems like it was time for one of these articles to pop up. With the mid-term elections drawing near, Jonathon Martin writes in the New Tork Times about the possibility of third-party candidates playing spoiler in races across the country.
Because of course. Martin's article is the equivalent of that relative that still wants to watch Rudy every holiday season. Despite all of the procedural obstacles, tactics, dick moves, and dirty tricks to keep third-party candidates out of debates and off ballots, every election cycle, we get the obligatory "could people start leaning third-party?" pieces.
Since the public-at-large had grown increasingly and consistently disgusted with government-as-usual, the rate at which these articles pop up is bound to increase.
When you get articles like Martin's Long Shots Loom as Spoilers in Tight November Races Across Nation, you will get the equally obligatory quote from a mainstream politician. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said, presumably with a straight face, "If people don't like their choices with the Republican candidate or the Democratic candidate, then you're going to see a spurt in third-party candidates, so they can definitely affect outcomes.
I always like it when a member of the two-party problem admits that third-parties can be problematic. Not that it matters much, but I do like it, nonetheless.
Then again, Martin gives us examples of how politics-as-usual is addressing potential third-party problems. Democratic pollsters are making more room for third-party and independent pages in their strategy guides, and Republicans are putting Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) out on the road to try and draw votes back to candidates in danger from Libertarian challengers.
Naturally, both mainstream parties are keeping their noses to the grindstone, as dissatisfaction with Congress is going to result in a likely bump for the Republicans, as these conditions don't historically bode well for a president's party at a mid-term.
Martin's article helpfully points out that historical trend, as well as poll numbers from the New York Times/CBS News over Sept 12-15, in which 5% of voters said most members of Congress did not deserve reelection, and 87% said it was time for new people.
That's right where the article veered off the rails for me. Whenever I see poll numbers like that, it immediately reminds me of why poll numbers are usually bullshit, the moist kind, ideal for spreading.
Every time I see a poll saying "87% of voters think it's time for new people, I strain to find the rest of the sentence, the part that says "but won't go so far as to actually fucking do something about it." This is why we have the reality we have, and the system we have running that reality for us. The reality is incumbents have a reelection rate in the high 90s, which is why the system we have running things is on autopilot, no course set. This is also why it's particularly newsworthy (usually called an upset) when an incumbent loses. Even then, the third-party involvement, if any, only gets the token mention in passing.
When people truly get sick of the thinly-veiled money grab mainstream politics has become, they will seriously start leaning third-party and independent, but not this year. Not any time soon. Count up the incumbents, see I'm right, then start researching and getting involved in third-party politics. We need educated numbers, not inflamed passions or passing fancies every two to four years.