Monday, December 28, 2009

Conservative Contraptions

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Court Says No to Hemp

 

More than a year after two farmers appeared before the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to argue for their right to grow industrial hemp without the intrusion of federal narcos, the court ruled Dec. 22 in favor of the Drug Enforcement Administration and, by default, the ban on U.S. hemp farming.

According to the court's decision, industrial hemp, the non-narcotic cousin of marijuana, is nothing more than dope and thus is regulated by the federal Controlled Substances Act. And it matters not that hemp is grown for its seed, oil and fiber, and contains less than one percent tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in drug marijuana. "Under the CSA, marijuana is defined to include all Cannabis sativa L. plants, regardless of THC concentration," the court wrote. "The CSA likewise makes no distinction between Cannabis grown for drug use and that grown for industrial use."

Of course the CSA does exempt oil, fiber and nonactive seeds from regulation, but because all growing plants contain some level of THC, the court's reasoning is that the stated exceptions to regulation are, essentially, meaningless for farming purposes.

North Dakota farmers have been struggling with the DEA since the state passed a law to reintroduce hemp as a rotational crop in 1999. The law originally required state-licensed farmers to receive DEA approval, but after the agency made it clear it would make the farmers comply with regulations for drug manufacturing and would then also drag its feet in reviewing and deciding on the those applications, the state repealed that provision of the law. Wayne Hauge, a farmer from the northeastern part of the state, and David Monson, from the northwestern section and also a Republican state representative, were the first licensed in the state to grow hemp but have yet to do so because they face federal drug prosecution if they do so without DEA approval. The DEA has not acted on their applications to the agency for permission to grow the plant.

Now with the Eighth Circuit agreeing that the DEA has the power to regulate the cultivation of hemp, Hauge, Monson and the state of North Dakota have few options. They could appeal to the Supremes, as unlikely as that sounds, or they could go to Congress. That appears a more likely route, though how quickly that would result in any change is an open question: Texas Liberpublican Ron Paul has been trying to reauthorize hemp farming for years, but still hasn't gotten his bill a committee hearing. And last year the North Dakota delegation said it wasn't interested in pushing for hemp farming rights, even though the issue is a big one for constituents (there's representative government at work, thank you very little).

http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/News/Blogs/index.html/objID932032/blogID/

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Palin’s “Death Panels” Charge Named “Lie of the Year”

By Susan Davis

Former Alaska GOP Gov. Sarah Palin's Facebook allegation that the Democrats' health-care overhaul would include "death panels" to decide whether seniors and disabled people were worthy of care was named "Lie of the Year" by fact-checkers at Politifact.com.

"Of all the falsehoods and distortions in the political discourse this year, one stood out from the rest," writes Politifact.com, the non-partisan, Pulitzer Prize-winning site run by the St. Petersburg Times. Palin's "assertion — that the government would set up boards to determine whether seniors and the disabled were worthy of care — spread through newscasts, talk shows, blogs and town hall meetings."

"Opponents of health-care legislation said it revealed the real goals of the Democratic proposals. Advocates for health reform said it showed the depths to which their opponents would sink," Polifact.com says.

The "death panels" allegation accounted for 61% of about 5,000 votes cast at Politifact.com to determine 2009's Lie of the Year. It is the first year Polifact.com has held such a contest.

Politifact.com credits Palin for coining the phrase. Shortly after she first made the charge in August, fact-checkers rated the statement as "Pants on Fire" on their truth-o-meter.

http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2009/12/22/palins-death-panels-charge-named-lie-of-the-year/

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Iran:Nightly chants at Tehran Ashura 88

 

Andrew Sullivan: "The cries of freedom. They bring tears to my eyes and hope to my soul. The sound: it makes every human stop in their tracks and demand that this vicious oppression end."

Police in Iran shot at protesters today, killing at least 10, including the nephew of a prominent opposition leader. Today is the holiday of Ashura, a sacred observance in the Muslim calendar which honors the martyrdom of the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. More: New York Times, BBC, and a statement of condemnation from the White House. Times Online: Is this Iran's Berlin Wall moment? I'm following Cyrus Farivar on Twitter for English-language pointers to updates, please share other links in the comments.

http://www.boingboing.net/2009/12/27/meanwhile-a-revoluti.html

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Michele Bachmann: Welfare Queen

LOGO: Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines. A Progressive Journal of News and Opinion. Editor, Robert Scheer. Publisher, Zuade Kaufman.  

By Yasha Levine

Michelle Bachmann
AP / Charles Dharapak

Michele Bachmann has become well known for her anti-government tea-bagger antics, protesting health care reform and every other government "handout" as socialism. What her followers probably don't know is that Rep. Bachmann is, to use that anti-government slur, something of a welfare queen. That's right, the anti-government insurrectionist has taken more than a quarter-million dollars in government handouts thanks to corrupt farming subsidies she has been collecting for at least a decade.

And she's not the only one who has been padding her bank account with taxpayer money.

Bachmann, of Minnesota, has spent much of this year agitating against health care reform, whipping up the so-called tea-baggers with stories of death panels and rationed health care. She has called for a revolution against what she sees as Barack Obama's attempted socialist takeover of America, saying presidential policy is "reaching down the throat and ripping the guts out of freedom." 

But data compiled from federal records by Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit watchdog that tracks the recipients of agricultural subsidies in the United States, shows that Bachmann has an inner Marxist that is perfectly at ease with profiting from taxpayer largesse. According to the organization's records, Bachmann's family farm received $251,973 in federal subsidies between 1995 and 2006. The farm had been managed by Bachmann's recently deceased father-in-law and took in roughly $20,000 in 2006 and $28,000 in 2005, with the bulk of the subsidies going to dairy and corn. Both dairy and corn are heavily subsidized—or "socialized"—businesses in America (in 2005 alone, Washington spent $4.8 billion propping up corn prices) and are subject to strict government price controls. These subsidies are at the heart of America's bizarre planned agricultural economy and as far away from Michele Bachmann's free-market dream world as Cuba's free medical system. If American farms such as hers were forced to compete in the global free market, they would collapse.

However, Bachmann doesn't think other Americans should benefit from such protection and assistance. She voted against every foreclosure relief bill aimed at helping average homeowners (despite the fact that her district had the highest foreclosure rate in Minnesota), saying that bailing out homeowners would be "rewarding the irresponsible while punishing those who have been playing by the rules." That's right, the subsidy queen wants the rest of us to be responsible. 

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/michelle_bachman_welfare_queen_20091221/?ln

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Ben Nelson: Legislator of the Year


This is beggar-my-nation legislating.

By Rich Lowry

Too bad Barack Obama hasn't followed through on his promises of legislative transparency. Then we all could have watched Harry Reid live on C-SPAN handing an oversized Publishers Clearing Housestyle $100 million check to Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson.

The highest-profile Democratic hold-out on Obamacare, Nelson said last week, "My vote is not for sale." He obviously meant that in the sense that he
'd be righteously indignant at any suggestion that his vote could possibly be bought for anything less than the low nine digits.

Nelson got the feds to pick up forevermore 100 percent of the additional Medicaid spending that will be imposed on Nebraska by the bill. In stereotypically Orwellian fashion, the provision is called "Equitable Support for Certain States." That, naturally enough, translates into special, inequitable support for three states, totaling $1.2 billion over ten years. Vermont and Massachusetts argue they are due the funds for prior expansions of Medicaid, but what
's Nebraska's excuse?

 
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An Avatar Awakening

By David Swanson

Let's face it, if James Cameron had made a movie with the Iraqi resistance as the heroes and the U.S. military as the enemies, and had set it in Iraq or anywhere else on planet earth, the packed theaters viewing "Avatar" would have been replaced by a screening in a living room for eight people and a dog.

Nineteen years ago, Americans packed theaters for "Dances with Wolves" in which Native Americans became the heroes, but the story was set in a previous century and the message understated.

The Na'vi people of "Avatar" are very explicitly Iraqis facing "shock and awe," as well as Native Americans with bows and arrows on horseback. The "bad guys" in the battle scenes are U.S. mercenaries, essentially the U.S. military, and the movie allows us to see them, very much as they are right now in 177 real nations around the world, through the eyes of their victims.

People know this going into the movie, and do not care. For better, and certainly for worse, they do not care. Millions of people stand in lines, shell out big bucks, wear stupid-looking 3-D glasses, sit in the dark for three hours, identify with twelve-foot-high pointy-eared blue people, cheer as the credits roll, and simply do not care that actual human beings suffer the same fate as the computer-generated creations, albeit without miraculous happy endings.

Imagine if a tenth of the people who now sympathize with these bony blue beings were to take three hours to read a book or watch a movie about the people of Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan or Yemen or Iran. Our real planet would then be a different world.

When I saw "Avatar" in a packed 3-D theater in Virginia, and the crowd cheered the closing shot, I shouted: "And get out of Iraq too!" No one cheered for that. But no one called me a traitor either.

http://www.davidswanson.org/node/2373

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Bedridden

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Well, That Sure Sucked: Good Riddance To The Devil's Decade

Smirking Chimp
 

As I understand it, certain pundits are struggling with finding an appropriate name for the decade now mercifully coming to an end.

What's the problem, I wonder? Are their word processor dictionaries redacted of all four-letter words? I mean, I could think of a few dandies, right of the top of my head.

Short of the 1860s or 1930s, this was perhaps the most disastrous decade in American history, and it deserves a good goddamed label to celebrate that fine achievement.

More on that below. Meanwhile, whatever the appropriate term, it's important to keep things in perspective. I think the most crucial notion to understand about our time - and perhaps the only way to make sense of it - is to see it as the point where the process of imperial decline shifted into third gear. That explains a lot. I like to think that even Americans wouldn't be capable of the sick stupidity we've witnessed over these harrowing years without the effects of rapid altitude decline and the loss of cabin pressure that the ship of state has been experiencing during this era.

Perhaps I'm too generous toward a people who don't deserve a lot of that sentiment, either because of their diminished intelligence, generosity, compassion, sophistication or all of the above. I imagine that would be the feeling on the streets of, say, Fallujah, where the attitude might well be confined to a lovely blend of schadenfreude and indifference, were it not for the fact that the paroxysms of the flailing elephant send so many fruit stands flying as the mortally wounded beast goes careening down the main street of the global village, toward inevitable defeat in its struggle with unforgiving gravity.

America probably must come down to earth again, its abortive 'century' of world dominance having anyhow been artificially fabricated from a toxic combination of circumstance and theft right from the beginning. I can even say that's not necessarily a bad thing. But it is, of course, all relative to what replaces Pax Americana. Anyone who assumes that it can only get better on the international front isn't thinking real clearly or real historically. Indeed, in all fairness, the US may well have run the most benign and least imperial empire in history - though not for lack of trying by the likes of, say, Paul Wolfowitz or John Bolton.

Thus it may well be that the next big thing is even less pretty. Watching the Chinese government in action at home, where they are unfettered, doesn't exactly inspire confidence in what a Pax Sinica would bring once they are also unfettered abroad. If the same cats who brought us Tiananmen Square and Tibet are next gonna be seeking planetary domination, for once in my life I may actually come to appreciate the value of nuclear weapons...

http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/25760

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