Revolted Colonies

U.S. Politics and Culture

Page 2 of 19

Race is the Place

Some folks can’t win for losing. These days I’m shedding a tear for the rifle industry.  Smith & Wesson, Remington and the other long-gun mongers have seen AR-15 sales drop by nearly 50% since their Manichaean Candidate barged into office.

You have to wonder how that’s possible. The NRA, their lobbying arm, stuffed $30 million into Trump’s tiny hands, not to mention the tasty treats served up to their congressional lap dogs. 

The lawmakers have turned a blind eye to the horrors of Parkland, the slaughter in Las Vegas and the tragedy at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. They’ve resisted all but the most minimal methods of keeping a wall —that’s right, I said it— between dangerous weapons and dangerous minds. 

One would think that the killings would raise fears among  people, sending them to the gun shows for a quick restocking. Just the opposite has happened. The mass shootings have not terrified gun owners, while schools remain on red alert. 

The spokesmen for the owners attribute it to a fall-off in the fear factor.  We’ll know for sure if Andrew Gillum, the African-American Democrat, wins the Florida governorship in November. 

Gillum and Ron DeSantis, his Republican opponent, wasted no time diving into the mud.  After his primary victory, DeSantis set off a firestorm with the following statement:

“The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state.  That is not going to work. That’s not going to be good for Florida.”

Gillum seized upon the word, “monkey,” as dog-whistle racism. DeSantis refused to apologize, saying that his statement had nothing to do with race.

Monkey?  DeSantis could have used many other words, more accurate and less inflammatory: mess up, screw up, foul up, louse up, as a few examples.   How did DeSantis, clearly no dummy, happen to land on a word that was not even in context?

If we assume that DeSantis is not a racist, then the word must have bubbled up in his brain for some less obvious reason.  If he said it unconsciously with no bad intent, then it is a function of white privilege. People who miss  the racist undertones in a comment are accused of exemplifying white privilege. If DeSantis is tone-deaf in his choice of the word, “monkey,” so that he was not even aware of the pejorative meaning, then he is insensitive “because he doesn’t know better.”

Gillum justifiably called DeSantis out on his poor choice of words, but his argument would have been more convincing if it hadn’t been so broadly stated.

In the age of Trump, it’s all about the tribe.

Ding Dong, the Witch Hunt is Dead!


Future Ex-President Donald J. Trump reeled from a double blow yesterday. Paul Manafort, his bargain-basement campaign manager, was convicted of eight counts of fraud. At almost the same time, Michael Cohen, his fixer, pled guilty to tax fraud and making illegal campaign contributions — to Stormy Daniels, a five-tool player in the porn industry, and Kathy McDougal, a Playboy veteran. Both women were paid by Cohen not to reveal their hook-ups with FEPOTUS.  Even worse, Cohen testified that a candidate for federal office had directed him to do it.

Trump was livid. Now he’d never get his cut of Manafort’s loan proceeds or the lobbying money collected by Cohen. Nothing makes him madder than his Capos making money without paying him his cut. He spent the flight time on Air Force drafting a doctor’s note for DonaldJr and plotting his revenge.

Consigliere Rudy Giuliani explained again that he couldn’t grant a pardon conditioned on Manafort or Cohen paying him. FEPOTUS thought the payments could be treated as contributions to the 2020 re-election campaign.  A bead of sweat ran along the Consigliere’s temple and down along his jaw line. He was planning to discuss 2020 another day.

“Yes, Mr. President, campaign contributions.” But his client was no longer listening. He was on the phone with Sean Hannity.  Giuliani backed out of the cabin.

“Not my emails, Sean! Hillary’s e-mails. Why are they ignoring them? That’s where the crime is. Sean, say it again and again. Keep saying it till everyone believes you.  And no collusion! This has nothing to do with Russia,” he said and dropped the call.

He mashed the IM to his private secretary.  “Get Melania back from whatever shithole country she’s in. I need her here to step up her cyber-bullying (sic) campaign.”

The phones were quiet now. An uneaten taco bowl and Diet Coke lay on the table. Don’t believe anything from the fake news, he thought, prepping for the West Virginia rally soon to start. Good chance they didn’t know about the verdict or the plea. No reason to tell them.

There was a knock on the cabin door. “Daddy?” Ivanka opened it and stepped in. “I have today’s report. Is this a good time?” He motioned her to take a seat.

“We’ve had a few cancellations at the DC hotel. The Saudis asked for a rain check on the State Visit,” FEPOTUS nodded, “and the foreign minister said that you could drop the interest payment off next week. He knows you’re busy.”

Ivanka continued.  “Miss Slovenia and her freeloader parents won’t be back for at least a week.”  CNN just aired that she would be gone for an indefinite period of time.  Trump, watery-eyed, looked up. “She didn’t book a return flight,” said Ivanka.

“There’s a great turn-out expected tonight,” she continued. “CBS Charleston is running a segment about the EPA being disbanded.”

“How’d you make out on moving the Ivanka inventory?” he asked.

“Indonesia didn’t want it, even below cost.  I have a call in to Big Lots.” FEPOTUS nodded, lost in thought.

Ivanka lingered, staring awkwardly at her father. He hadn’t touched his dinner and wasn’t watching Fox News, which always relaxed him. He’d even canceled his tanning session. She noticed that grey roots were poking through his orange bouffant.

“Daddy, if it’s ok with you, Jared and I are taking the kids to Six Flags on Friday. We won’t be in Bedminster this weekend.”  He shrugged, his big suit bobbing up and down.

“I thought you had my back,” he said to Ivanka, who avoided eye contact.

“You do, Daddy. It’s just that Jared’s been waiting to hear back from Six Flags, and it looks like they may have something for him in sales.”

“So, it’s not for the kids,” he said.

“Not entirely,” she admitted.  The intercom beeped.

“Senior adviser for you, Mr. President.”  Ivanka leaned over and kissed her father on his mottled cheek, then left the room.

“Hello, Mr. President,” said the adviser.

“Hello, Mr. President,” Trump said.  “I know it’s been a tough day.”  There was a long silence. “Isn’t it sad what they did to Paulie?”

“Manafort was stupid,” said Putin.  “He was desperate and did not eliminate  his weaknesses.”

“You know, he has another trial coming up,” offered Trump.

“I’ve been in touch with my liaison to the prosecutor.  They are going to try to make a deal now.  The point has been made.”

“How did you hear that before me?”

“I have a friend at Justice,” responded Putin.  “Donald, the reason I called is that I think we need to make a change.”

“You’re firing me?”

“No, but I believe it is better for you to resign and leave the party apparatchiks in place.  It is getting so bad that they may have to impeach you to save themselves.”

“This is some covfefe,” said Trump.

“That’s not a word!” said Putin.

“But you used it.”

“No, Donald.  I said kerfuffle.  But back to square one.  We will need to call in the loans because it does not appear that you will fulfill your term.”

“Vlad, you know I can’t pay it.  Revenues are down in all of our locations.  Today, the Saudis canceled a huge booking at the DC Hotel.  I need time.”

“You don’t have time, Donald.  We have to exercise the Helsinki Accord.”

That’s impossible right now. I don’t have Congress behind me.  It won’t go through.”

We will take care of Congress.  Just sign over Alaska and Hawaii, and we’ll call it even.”

“Molokai.”

“I never said Hawaii.  I can’t throw in Hawaii.  That’s our Pacific command.  Even you can’t get the caucus behind it.  Besides, I’ve optioned some property in that old leper colony – which island is that?”

“Molokai…funny, I mix it up with Guam.  What I can do, instead of Hawaii, I can release Puerto Rico.  You’ll have to bid with the Chinese over it, but think of what wonderful dachas you could build there.  It’s a perfect escape from the Russian winters.”  Trump paused.  “Puerto Rico is the hidden jewel in the crown.  Fantastic beaches.  A great rain forest for secret ops training.  The people are terrific. They love me. ”

“Puerto Rico is too messy, too much to do.  How about Oregon?”

“I told you the lower forty-eight were off limits. Besides, the West Coast is too socialist for Russian tastes.”

“Alright, Donald.  We will accept Alaska and Puerto Rico.  We will need to close the deal quickly.”

“I’ll get Miller started on the papers.”



We’ve Got a Rising Tide, But It’s Not Lifting All Boats

Friday’s business news: The U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) topped 4% in the second quarter of 2018. Together with stout investment markets, robust consumer spending and low unemployment, most of the economy is humming along. After eighteen months of the Trump administration, the future ex-president has proclaimed our economy to be “the envy of the entire world.”

Indeed, there is a segment of the economy, the property class, that is doing well. It is euphoric over the quarterly report. CEO pay has skyrocketed. The sun may be shining on the hill but the valley is still under cloud cover. Wages rose 2.6% last year, a major gain. Real wages only grew .2% for a comparable period. Even gross wages have been stagnant this year, and unemployment ticked up in June. The numbers get worse when broken down demographically; no surprises there.Another story explained that in France and Germany, the land of our future ex-allies, finally wages have begun to rise. They’ve risen slowly, considering that those countries have been at full employment for a while. Full employment usually results in higher wages, but that’s not how it’s been working out in Western Europe, at least not as rapidly as it has done historically.

European economists ask why wages have not moved up along with growth and employment, a question we Yanks need to think about, too. The European Union dispatched a team of prominent economists to tackle the question. The European economists didn’t agree because first, they’re European and second, they’re economists.

In Europe and America, collective bargaining has lost much of its starch. Unionism is out of political favor, due only in part to corrupt union leadership. Employees without organization cannot match their boss’ negotiating power. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a non-union public employee can’t be required to pay union dues. The upshot is that public employment unions will have less money to work with on business matters. As a result, public employment unions will become a lot quieter and not just on political issues. The ruling affects the union’s bargaining power.
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The European economists also considered freelancers who’ve gone off to work for the,m (Uber and AirBnB). In the US, freelancers have become a distinct segment of the economy and should create upward pressure on pay. Freelancing has grown rapidly in Europe. Still, wage hikes remain slack.

Another theory is that increasing inequality between management and labor suppresses wage hikes. If workers are needed, that demand should push wages up. However, the concentration of wealth continues to increase at Mr. Moneybags’ end of the pond, while real wages are stuck in shallower water. Yes, we have a record flood-tide but only particular boats are rising with it. Inequality may not be the cause; clearly it is an effect. It may be both.

The story is the same all over the developed world. Ownership is not multinational; it’s global: hoarders without borders. At some point workers will stop spending money they don’t have and will run out of plastic power. They will buy fewer homes, see doctors and dentists less often, eat at home more, and hold off buying the new car. The consumer economy will contract, kickstarting a new cycle of boom and bust. It doesn’t have to be that way. As long as the workers are fat and happy, the boss will continue to be fat and happy, but slightly less so.

Disgrace Under Pressure

We had another scintillating week in the American Swamp. Here’s how it unfolded.

Monday – Packing

Future Ex-President Trump (FEPOTUS) announced that DC Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh was his nominee to the Supreme Court seat, abandoned by Anthony Kennedy. In his remarks, Kavanaugh emphasized the sacrosanct relationship with his daughters. He also mentioned that more than half of his court clerks have been female. When he later limits women’s reproductive rights, he can say that he is doing it out of love.

In advance of the NATO summit, Ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchinson went on record in support of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, in contrast to FEPOTUS’s characterization of NATO as obsolete.  FEPOTUS is expected to shove the NATO members out of the way, perhaps not physically as he had done to Prime Minister of Montenegro last year.

Before leaving on his flight, FEPOTUS had a conversation with his nemesis, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. More about that later.

Tuesday – Unpacking

The nomination carnival began, with Brett Kavanaugh glad-handing his way around the Senate precincts. Majority Leader McConnell commended him after last week warning that Kavanaugh would have a rough confirmation process, owing to unresolved issues from his confirmation to the Circuit Court. McConnell did it to cover his ass if the nomination founders, which it might. Kavanaugh went on record in favor of nearly absolute presidential power, including the right to dismiss a special prosecutor without cause.   At the moment, a statement like that is not hypothetical.

Elsewhere: the executive branch failed to meet its deadline to reunite children with their migrant parents. No excuse offered, no explanation given.

FEPOTUS, unaffected, was winging his way to Brussels for the NATO summit. FEFLOTUS Melania Trump spent most of the flight writing and rewriting the back of her wardrobe. Trump chose to wear his persecution complex on board. He previewed his villainization of the allies for not paying their fair share of defense costs (untrue). It is widely understood that the most immediate threats to the West arrive via computer. Yet, he made no remarks of prior or future Russian cyber-bellicosity. Oh right, he is going to visit Professor Putin after he schools NATO. He and Vladimir will meet behind closed doors and without a record being made.

For good measure, he pardoned Dwight and Steven Hammond, ranchers convicted of arson, whose anti-government actions sparked the Western militia pile-up and seizure of federal lands.  Trump continues tearing down the rule of law.

I have a good mind to jaywalk.

Wednesday – Keep Your Enemies Closer

FEPOTUS wasted no time attacking the NATO allies. He accused them of taking advantage of the U.S. He went hard at Angela Merkel, who is in the middle of an electoral challenge from the far right. He targeted her for allowing Germany to be “completely controlled” by Russia through its Nord-2 gas line. FEPOTUS hit Germany in its soft underbelly. The gas line is controversial in Europe.  His complaint is that the U.S. is taking a double hit: paying for NATO while the Russian Federation profits from the pipeline. But wait, didn’t he want us to be Russia’s friend? FEPOTUS wants to be Russia’s exclusive Sugar Daddy.

Thursday – Omission Accomplished

The NATO summit ended with FEPOTUS declaring victory, pyrrhic like the one over North Korea, which recently called his administration gangsters. He announced that the NATO allies would increase spending. Like all of his “deals,” this one is short on details. There was no agreement as to what, when and how much the allies would spend. He also proclaimed his belief in the alliance, which only last week was “obsolete.” He was disturbingly silent on the issue of cyber-warfare, a global concern and concurrently the subject of Congressional hearings. Not that there is any action plan of course.

Friday – Strzoking Out

Like any good novel, this week’s loose threads pulled together in the last chapter. The leading event of the day was the appearance of Peter Strzok, the disgraced FBI deputy chief, before a joint meeting of the House Oversight and Judiciary committees. Strzok opened with a statement attacking the GOP for taking his text messages out of context and for demonizing him and pouring abuse on the FBI.

Strzok mentioned candidate Trump’s vilification of the gold-star parents of a Muslim officer killed in defense of the country as being the impetus for the exchange of remarks with Lisa Page, a colleague and paramour.  He recalled that the event was appalling to many Americans and was expected to torpedo the Trump candidacy.

The texting occurred at a time when people still thought that Trump would and could blow himself up.  Even if Strzok wanted to put his thumb on the scale, he said, FBI checks above and below him would have prevented his doing so. Like many other public officials, he had a strong negative reaction to candidate Trump over several of his abhorrent remarks. Many others made public remarks, which were put into the record by one of the Democratic members of Congress.

“My presumption [was] based on that horrible, disgusting behavior that the American population would not elect somebody demonstrating that behavior to be president of the United States,” Strzok said.

Many of the GOP members of Congress, who had been kicked upstairs into the House  after mediocre careers as prosecutors, used the hearing to flash their cross-examining skills on Strzok. Things got ugly early. Retiring Rep. Trey Gowdy, in full dudgeon from the start, made his disdain clear, saying that he did not give a damn what the witness appreciated. Representative Louis Gohmert from Tyler, Texas, brought on the hearing’s lowest moment, in accusing Strzok of perjury.

“When I see you looking with a little smirk, I wonder how many times did you look so innocently into your wife’s eyes and lie to her about Lisa Page,” Gohmert said.  The room exploded in denunciation.  One member of Congress declared Gohmert fit for an insane asylum, and another said that Gohmert needed medication.

On the other side of the pond, FEPOTUS was ripping embattled Prime Minister May for screwing up Brexit.  She did not take his advice, he puffed. London protests were so large and impassioned that the meeting was moved to Blenheim Palace, in the Oxfordshire countryside.  The Queen agreed to meet with FEPOTUS, but not before a robust discussion with her personal secretary. It was agreed that one of Her Majesty’s Corgis having a kidney stone attack was not a “proper excuse.”  After his unwelcome reception in England, formerly known as England, FEPOTUS jetted off to one of his UK properties, the Turnberry golf course, to spend a weekend among Scots, who loathe him. This gave him a weekend to practice squats for his supplication to Putin in Helsinki.

Against this backdrop, Special Prosecutor Mueller filed an indictment, this time against twelve Russian members of the GRU (KGB) for their roles in hacking 2016‘s election.  The indictment was packed with detail.  In fact, it was the subject of Monday’s chat between FEPOTUS and Rosenberg. In view of these new charges, the conventional wisdom was that FEPOTUS should scrap the meeting with Putin, which advice he ignored.

The latest indictment pleaded that one congressional candidate knew about the hacking during the 2016 campaign and asked to be let in on the dirt. If one congressperson knew, it is possible that many did.   One cannot help but consider if the Republican outrage shown at the hearing going on up the Hill had something to do with their complicity in Russian meddling. Several senior congressional representatives, Gowdy among them, have decided not to run again. There may be a blue wave coming but there will be some red rollers mixed in with it.

This revelation may also explain why Devon Nunes, FEPOTUS marionette, subverted his committee’s investigation, and he continues trying to throw sand in the gears.

Paragraph 44 has received the most fevered attention. It says:

Certain ORGANIZATION-produced materials about the 2016 U.S. presidential election used election-related hashtags, including: “#Trump2016,” “#TrumpTrain,” “#MAGA,” “#IWontProtectHillary,” and “#Hillary4Prison.” Defendants and their co-conspirators also established additional online social media accounts dedicated to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, including the Twitter account “March for Trump” and Facebook accounts “Clinton FRAUDation” and “Trumpsters United.”

Speculation is that “co-conspirators” refers to Roger Stone, one of FEPOTUS’S closest allies. He came up through the ranks with Roger Ailes, the late and unlamented creator of Fox News, and old Russia hand, Paul Manafort.

Kennedy: Did He Jump or Was He Pushed

We are a nation of Kennedys  too soon gone. Anthony, thirty-two years a Supreme Court Justice, retired last week under peculiar circumstances. He disclosed no illness or flagging mental powers. He had hired clerks for the October term. He had been an active participant in his final term, not an old man limping across the finish line. 

The Janus decision, undercutting the power of public employment unions on first amendment grounds, was followed directly by Kennedy’s terse statement, which offered no explanation for his abrupt leave-taking. 

Snipers have focused immediately on the relationship of the Trumps and Justin Kennedy, former head of private banking at Deutsche Bank. Recently, Deutsche had been punished heavily for money-laundering. Furthermore, it had loaned Trump a billion dollars to finish construction on buildings that were tapped out. Trump had to pledge other assets to collateralize the loan. 

There is no proof so far that Justin Kennedy was driving the financing. He may even had left the bank by then. The optics are bad but was there a problem?

Once a Supreme Court Judge has to explain – “I know how it looks” -it’s too late.  It could’ve been nothing more than 45’s passing comment to Kennedy about Justin at the State of the Union-“He’s a nice boy”- to start the poor bastard rolling and tumbling. Kennedy quit long enough before the Midterms that his successor could be seated before the polls opened: a done deal. 

Trump might’ve turned the screws . Kennedy had no other reason to go. It’s somebody else’s court but he was the judge most courted. As the swing vote, his support was pivotal to most of the decisions that electrified America in the last fifteen years.    

Down he went, leaving 45 with daylight ahead.  Kennedy left his legacy in unreliable hands for no apparent reason. 

So, did he jump or was he pushed?  

Here’s How Totalitarianism Works!

 

The President with no love of the media directs Congress to pass a law, stripping libel of its first amendment protections and presuming it to be character assassination. The law punishes publishers who have  published not only false facts, but also false opinions.  The law drops the requirement that the plaintiff has to prove malice. The law sets  a minimum for statutory damages of $100,000.00 per libel by a multistate  wide or internet publisher. 

Furthermore, the loser must pay the winner’s legal fees. The clergy (except those barred for national security reasons) and public officials are immune from being sued.  Congress, which this President’s party controls, quickly passes the bill  over vigorous protest by the remaining opposition. 

A major internet publisher had previously published an opinion critical of the President’s statements after the Charlottesville demonstrations. As soon as the President signs the bill into law, he sues the publisher, hiring high-priced lawyers. Because of the legal fees provision, the lawyers aren’t worried about getting stiffed by the President. 

The case is tried before a jury, which finds for the publisher.  However, the judge, who was  appointed by the President, sets aside the jury verdict as not following the law and directs entry of a $20 million judgment against the publisher, with $2 million in legal fees. 

The defendants take their case to the  circuit court of appeals and draw a panel of three judges, two of whom were appointed by the prior president. The appeals court reverses the trial judge, reinstating the jury verdict and declaring the libel law unconstitutional as violating the first amendment. 

The President appeals to the Supreme Court.  The Court announces its decision, by a vote of 6 to 3, that the new law is constitutional. It also finds that the law is meant to occupy the entire field of libel, so a state can’t make a law that conflicts with federal libel law. 

The President still has several similar cases ready to be filed against the same publisher.  This effectively will put the publisher out of business. The publisher settles by turning over its stock to the President. The business side of the publisher keeps its jobs. The editorial staff is replaced. In exchange for releases to the individuals, they are allowed to keep their money, less a few million dollars pledged to one of the President’s re-election Super-PACs . 

One last item : the settlement was not confidential. The President stages several rallies at which he proclaims winning the fake-news publishers over to his side. The publishers were unable to refute the President’s false statements, at the peril of subjecting themselves to new libel claims.

That’s how totalitarianism works!

Standoff at the Red Hen

Stephanie Wilkinson owns a small restaurant in Lexington, Virginia. She was summoned to the Red Hen from home last Friday night after getting  a call from the chef.  The staff thought that Sara Huckabee Sanders, the White House Press Secretary, had just sat down with four or five other people.  They didn’t know what to do. Wilkinson drove over.

When Wilkinson  walked in, she was happy to see that the staff had been sensible enough to take orders and begin service. She eyeballed the dinner party and then caucused with the staff in the kitchen. Wilkinson asked the staff what they wanted her to do. One person mentioned Trump trying to keep transgender people out of the military. Another talked about Trump’s terrible detention and separation policy and that Sanders lies for the administration.

Wilkinson reflected that several people on the staff are gay and that Lexington was a tiny blue speck in a big, red field.  She walked back into the dining room, introduced herself and asked Sanders out to talk on the patio.

Sanders is a steely professional. Her jousting with the press corps is a running story.  Unflappable and prepared, she is just what her talkative boss wants. As the detention policy entered its second week, the reporters were getting personal with her, trying to break her rigid stand in support of the President’s despicable policy, one which he reversed unhappily last week before dinner.

Press secretaries  normally are measured by their performance in answering tough questions. They prepare for a daily briefing by being ready to advance their boss’s cause on the day’s hot issue.  

“I explained that the restaurant has certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty, and compassion, and cooperation.”

Sanders Meets the Press.  

Earlier last week, Sanders dodged a lot of questions and echoed her boss’s statements.     

“That’s fine. I’ll go,” said Sanders.  

A couple of weeks,ago, in a lawsuit about a religious baker refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, the Supreme Court avoided deciding how to square the baker’s beliefs with the couples’ civil rights. 

The Red Hen Affair is different. No one’s constitutional rights were violated by Wilkinson refusing service. The guests were asked to leave because Sanders is an effective mouthpiece for the administration’s cruelty and insensitivity. 

I disagree with the White House policies, and I disagree with Wilkinson.  She should have served her guests, as she would expect to be served.  In fact, it’s a shame that Wilkinson didn’t let them stay.  It could’ve been the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Cannabis Nation — Vapor for Vipers

As a relic of the 1960s, I take more than a passing interest in the progression of marijuana in the lives of Americans.  Thus, a wedding trip to Colorado starts with a visit to the local dispensary. It turns out that some of my fellow relic  attendees began their sojourn with a stop at a Mary Jane shop.  Even though a few bought for medicinal purposes, marijuana is big business in Colorado, so much so that it is consumed primarily for recreational use. Or is it?

There’s a New Sheriff in Town

Pondering this question, I thought about the fact that major cigarette producers are poised to sweep into the weed trade just as soon as the federal government gives the country the Green light.  Hundreds of thousands of acres have been acquired in anticipation of nationwide legalization.  

In 1970, a Philip Morris employee issued an internal memo, which offered the company’s mission:

We are in the business of relaxing people who are tense and providing a pick up for people who are bored or depressed. The human needs that our product fills will not go away. Thus, the only real threat to our business is that society will find other means of satisfying those needs. We are in the business of relaxing people who are tense and providing a pick up for people who are bored or depressed. The human needs that our product fills will not go away. Thus, the only real threat to our business is that society will find other means of satisfying those needs….”

There He Goes Again

Fast forward through the cigarette commercials.  It is now 2018. Philip Morris has filed for patents on Pakalolo. developing a pot inhaler. Vaping is overtaking smoking as a delivery system for nicotine, THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis plants, and  CBD, (cannabidiol), a second organic compound that delivers non psychoactive effects. It’s the CBD that delivers the mellow, sleep-inducing and pain-reducing qualities.  

 

There is yet another big player in the Bhang business, and that is the liquor industry. Like cigarette and prescription drug manufacturers, alcohol producers have a beat-them-or-join-them relationship with reefer.  The beer industry ran a study that concluded that there was a 15% loss of sales in states where recreational use was legalized. They also see the Sticky Wicky as a rival for their market. 

Blame Canada

Constellation Brands, makers of Corona Beer and Svedka Vodka, bought a 10% stake in Canopy, another producer working the Canadian market.  They are in the midst of trying to develop a marijuana beverage. Canopy trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Its ticker is WEED. Several makers have held the line against legalizing marijuana use, but it’s more likely that one day you’ll see weed beers in supermarkets.

The first step in bringing pot to market was its legalization for the treatment of certain conditions, such as glaucoma, and as an anti-nausea drug, helpful for patients receiving chemotherapy.  Dispensaries popped up in states legalizing medical use.  The early versions were affiliated with medical professionals who met with a patient, rendered a diagnosis and wrote up a scrip for some ganja relief. The business tie of the doctor to the stoner created some creative and funny marketing ideas.  

When marijuana’s use to treat muscle spasm and generalized pain was officially recognized, the game was afoot.  Prescriptions came flying out of medical offices.  Naturally, many patients were gaming the system, like the woman who tried tobring a service peacock on a United Airlines flight. 

Approval of reefer for recreational use more or less ended the need for a subterfuge to buy it openly.  A handful of states has approved the sale for recreational use, dear Colorado and Washington, being the first, in 2012.

When the Colorado visitors met at the Boulder wedding party, several exchanged their stories. One had gotten some baked goods for fun, but said it also reduced her anxiety level. Another guest coming off serious surgery supplemented her prescribed pain killers with a gummy bear. Yet another bought some herb for fun– and back pain.  Yet another partied hardy on chocolate bars, which also relieved eye pressure.

The most common over the counter use is for relaxation and anxiety relief. People now taking anti-anxiety medicines claim to achieve good results without losing the ability to function.  There are preparations available especially for use at work. Mondo sells marijuana in powdered form, especially to take to the office. When’s the next coffee break?

With alcohol, Pharma and the tobacco industry converging on the marijuana market, how could our pro-business President resist approval of national legalization — especially if they’ve generously donated to one of his Super-Pacs?  

The Court Kicks the Cake Down the Road

The Supreme Court whipped up a puzzling confection in the recent Gay Wedding Cake case. It’s not so much that the baker won and the same-sex couple lost. The Court told the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which ruled against the baker, in the future not to air out their personal views and sent the case back down to be reheard. They told the Commissioners to shut up and decide.

It’s said that hard cases make bad law. This is one hard case. The majority teed off on the Commission for injudicious statements about how religion has been used as a pretext for inhuman behavior, citing slavery and the Holocaust. The Commissioners seemed to mix up racial intolerance with religious intolerance. No matter, at least nobody denied the Holocaust.

The comments by the Commissioners outraged the majority. Justice Kennedy wrote, “To describe a man’s faith as ‘one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use’ is to disparage his religion in at least two distinct ways: by describing it as despicable and by characterizing it as merely rhetorical—something insubstantial and even insincere. One commissioner even went so far as to compare Phillips’ invocation of his sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust. This sentiment is inappropriate for a Commission charged with the solemn responsibility of fair and neutral enforcement of Colorado’s anti-discrimination law—a law that protects anti-discrimination on the basis of religion as well as sexual orientation.”

Two judges of the Court’s left-wing were almost as disapproving of the Commission. Justice Kagan, who voted with the majority, said that the Commission’s decision had been “infected” with bias and hostility against religion. Kagan didn’t disagree with the Commission’s finding.  They couldn’t allow it to stand. Perhaps Kagan and Sotomayor, on one side, and Gorsuch, on the other, are laying the groundwork for drawing majorities in future cases.

Justice Gorsuch didn’t think that the Court went far enough in pulverizing the Commission. He was focused on the difference between the Commission’s approval in other cases of other bakers refusing to decorate cakes with anti-gay messages requested by the prospective customers.

Justice Thomas wrote a long opinion advancing a freedom of speech justification for his refusal. This was the way the case was briefed but the Court clearly wanted to avoid the head-on collision. He was preparing for the next tilt between religion and discriminatory treatment..

As expected, the Fabulous RBG, along with Sotomayor, dissented from the decision. She didn’t sanction the Commission’s reckless statements but she didn’t connect those statements with a hostility to this baker’s religion. The baker wouldn’t sell a cake to the couple because they’re gay and getting married. They didn’t ask the baker to break any laws, distinguishing this case from another cake refusal, where the customer requested cake decoration which would violate the Colorado anti-discrimination law. 

In setting the Court up for another decision, they got this case all wrong. At Judge School, they’re taught to avoid big decisions if they can get by with a little one.  Their first mistake was taking the case after initially refusing it.  Once Gorsuch took his seat, his vote broke a deadlock, and five of the Judges voted to accept it. Having taken the case on, they could have disposed of it on less controversial grounds. Before the Commission got the case, an Administrative Law Judge ruled against the baker. The Commission upheld the ALJ’s finding. When a government agency decides a case, a court will  overturn it only if the decision is irrational; arbitrary and capricious as they say. None of the judges found that the Commission made a wrong decision, let alone an irrational one. Their vote to return the case to the Commission rested on the comments of two of the Commissioners.  There was nothing in the record of this baker case to connect the Commissioners’ ill-considered comments with its findings.

The Supreme Court sent the message that they will pursue judicial activism in the service of the judges’ personal views.   This can be seen in the comments of some Justices that show that they are giving religious freedom priority by scrutinizing the words of two Commissioners rather than the decision itself. This draws our courts one step closer to overriding administrative rulings.

The decision violates another judicial tenet—not to step into political issues. Colorado voters choose their officials. In fact, due to this case the Colorado legislature has been fighting over the bill that enables the commission. So, the composition of the Commission is a Colorado political process The Court superseded the Colorado  political process.

Some initially thought this was a win for the baker – it’s not. It has to be read as an elevation of the freedom of religion or as a first right among equals.  Agencies, and the politics or personal views of its members, will face scrutiny. They’ll have to learn  not to lead with their chins or wear their personal views on their sleeves.

Looking for One Honest Mandamus

Last Wednesday, a federal judge hinted that he might have to toss out a case against future ex-President over the Constitution’s emolument clause.  The clause prevents him from accepting money or property from a foreign government.  Two Democratic politic action groups, which brought the case, would be out of court. 

Yet,  there may be hope. First, the judge mentioned that only Congress can prohibit the  Opportunist-in-Chief from accepting foreign funds, quipped the judge, recognizing the irony in his pronouncement. This GOP Congress hasn’t  demonstrated a lick of courage to stand up to the president, especially on issues many of the members know they should be addressing.

I don’t know if any private citizens have challenged Congress on its failure to act when the failure is on an issue as obvious as this. The Trump entities are raking it in.  He’s still an owner.  Unlike other presidents, he refused to give up his holdings or put them in a blind trust.  He’s benefiting; he’s made no effort to hide it.

  It should be a burning Congressional issue, but it’s not even being discussed.  Committees should have been convened, hearings held.   If the Republicans in Congress can’t get excited about Russia, they should wake up about actions that are clearly against the Constitution.  Instead,  the GOP House is fleeing, many  retiring and not take a drubbing in November and be left in campaign debt.  

There may never have been a cabinet member deserving of censure, if not impeachment, more than Scott Pruitt. He has abused his office, drawing favors from lobbyists, spending a sick amount on luxury items. His $40,000.00 phone booth smacks of Maxwell Smart.  He’s given extravagant raises to his aides.  Clearly, he has abused his office and violated the public trust. 

For that reason, Congress should vote to impeach Pruitt, because he won’t quit and his boss won’t cut him loose.  What if the plaintiffs sue to force Congress to impeach Pruitt and take action against Trump for rampant violations of the clause?

It would be a bold stroke for any judge to order Congress to act.  Unprecedented, in fact.  However, it would bite Democrats as well as Republicans.   And with a Chief Executive who refuses to execute the laws and a Congress that violates its oath to protect the Constitution, only the courts remain to enforce the law of the land.   Unfortunately with for years between presidential campaigns, four years is an eternity, and the damage done may be irreversible.  A court can’t act on its own initiative.  It needs a case in front of it.

My suggestion  is that the plaintiffs amend their lawsuit to seek a writ of mandamus (an order to compel) the Congress to take action to enforce the emoluments clause and to impeach. Secretary Pruitt.

Congress will push back, claiming that it is a political question, and the courts have no business entering into it. Nevertheless it’s time to call the question. We have a cowardly Congress, a corrupt EPA Secretary and a President smiling like a Cheshire Cat.   Four years is too long to wait to throw the rascals out.

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