"The Wars on Drugs, Gambling, and Prostitution are Rackets."

 

 

 

Most people are familiar with the pseudo-psychological belief, “Napoleon Complex,” “Napoleonic Complex,” or “Short-Man Syndrome.” The theory is that the French ruler Napoleon Bonaparte overcompensated for his height with a quest for worldwide domination. (Napoleon, who was 5’7”, wasn’t actually short for that period of time. He was average height.)  Armchair psychologists like to believe that this is the underlying cause of overly aggressive, narcissistic behavior from people who are small in size. Let’s leave it up to the trained professional to decide if there’s any validity to this theory. However, his tweets from last week firmly cemented the need to change the name to the “Trump Complex.” North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2018 ....Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart. Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and, as everyone knows, went down in flames. I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star..... — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 6, 2018 ....to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius....and a very stable genius at that! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 6, 2018 It’s difficult to find a public figure throughout history who has openly expressed such glaring insecurity. Long before becoming President, he took every opportunity possible to brag about his wealth. His name is synonymous with the expression, “Born on third base, thought he hit a triple.” He even reportedly worked as his PR person, “John Miller,” to tout his business acumen, in addition to spreading rumors that Madonna and Kim Basinger hoped to date him. Yet, for someone who presented himself as the ultimate success in every aspect of life, Trump has displayed an unbelievable level of sensitivity when criticized.  He has a long history of using his financial leverage to attack his detractors in a variety of ways. For example, he successfully pressured a small brokerage to fire one its analysts, Marvin Roffman, after predicting that Trump’s Taj Mahal casino would fail.  Ultimately, Roffman’s assessment proved to be accurate. Trump already owned two Atlantic City casinos and the decision to add a third casino, by way of heavy debt, cannibalized his profits. All three casinos went bankrupt, thus sending Trump’s PR people into overdrive. Ironically, Trump has aggressively targeted people outside of his authority, such as Roffman, to get them fired. However, he has never been willing to take such action within his own company. Obviously, that assertion contrasts the image crafted on The Apprentice with his famous line, “You’re Fired.” That show allowed him to look like an assertive decision maker. However, Barbara Res, a former executive with the Trump organization, has said that she never saw him actually fire anyone. He always ordered someone else to handle this uncomfortable task. Someone who is supposed to be living such a charmed life shouldn’t be provoked by harsh comments on Twitter. However, Trump has a list of online feuds that is too lengthy for this post. In fact, some within his inner circle truly believe that he decided to run for President this last time because he was mocked at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. That campaign brought his “Trump Complex” to the forefront. After the “Little Marco” comments, Rubio criticized the size of Trump’s hands. Trump decided to use the debates to claim, “I guarantee there’s no problem.” Afterward, he claimed those hands are able to drive a golf ball 285 yards. Yet, Trump apparently needed two hands to grip a glass of water during a speech. During campaign media stops, Trump felt the need to proclaim a high level of intelligence. There were many gems, such as “I have a very big brain.” He also tried to brand himself as a tough guy in many ways, including praise for Putin’s “strong leadership”  and promoting violence against protestors at his rallies. This man, who avoided serving in the Vietnam War via five deferments, asserted that “he knows more about ISIS than the generals’ do.” He also felt the need to belittle McCain’s service by stating, “I like people who weren’t caught.” Even though he drew large crowds with adoring fans for campaign rallies, he consistently felt the need to exaggerate the size of the crowds. This trend continued into the White House. Ex-Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, was clearly pressured to do the same. He said, “That was the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period,” despite the demonstrable proof that it was far from accurate. By the same token, Trump’s first televised cabinet meeting started with “introductions” from each member. Instead of his cabinet members telling a little bit about their background, they were clearly obligated to praise the President and what followed was nothing other than groveling. Hence, when reports later surfaced that Rex Tillerson called him a “moron,” he felt the need to compare IQ test scores. Trump also couldn’t accept the fact that he lost the popular vote by 2.8 million votes. Consequently, he claimed that 3-5 million people voted illegally. Hence, taxpayer funds were used to assuage his ego to form a voter fraud commission, which was shut down last week with no evidence to back up his ridiculous claim.  Nonetheless, he claimed it was a “massive landslide victory” with the Electoral College votes. Check out Trump’s response when fact-checked by a reporter about his claim that it was “the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan.” Trump clearly didn’t have a decisive victory. But, can he stand behind a great Presidential record? He claimed that his administration passed more bills than any President. However, GovTrack found his administration passed the fewest number of bills going back to the Eisenhower administration.  Likewise, it appears Trump tried to repair his ego when he wasn’t chosen by Time Magazine to be “Man of the Year.” He tweeted that he “probably” was going to be chosen, but he “took a pass.” After all, this particular magazine seems to be an obsession. Some of his properties have been decorated with fake issues of Time Magazine in which Trump appears on the front cover with the caption, “The ‘Apprentice’ is a television smash!” On a final note, there are too many of these types of examples to list. However, the comments from his Inside Edition tape may best encapsulate the deep psychological issues of Donald Trump. Who would describe bragging about sexual assault as “locker room talk”?  At this point, the terms “Napoleon Complex” or “Napoleonic Complex” for deeply insecure actions need to be discontinued. This now needs to be known as the Trump Complex. Let's use the #TrumpComplex every time in the future when he displays this kind of conduct.    
Yesterday, December 17th, marked the 14th annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Vigils were held worldwide to honor the victims who were murdered this year.  By and large, this day isn’t recognized by the media within the U.S. This is a point that I detailed last year with a blog post, “US Media Ignores International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.” However, one reporter from a major American newspaper, Kathy Boccella of The Philadelphia Enquirer, deserves credit for writing a story about the vigil that took place in her city. Otherwise, this is a day that is almost completely censored by the American corporate media.  For a list of 36 sex workers who were killed inside the U.S. this year, you can look at this link from the Sex Workers Outreach Project. One particular victim, Brittany Taylor was murdered inside a Tamarac, FL motel. The man who was indicted for her murder, Tyquan Pearson, was seen leaving the motel with a large plastic container. Investigators later found Taylor’s body inside a plastic storage bin buried in Pearson’s backyard. The motivation behind this sadistic murder has not yet been determined. However, it is an indisputable fact sex workers are targeted for this kind of violence at an alarmingly higher rate than the rest of society. For instance, one study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that sex workers in Colorado were 18 times more likely to be killed than women of the same age and race. A variety of studies have come to even more severe conclusions.  Stigma and the criminalization of prostitution are main reasons behind such rampant violence. For those reasons, sex workers are unlikely to contact the police to report violent crimes that have been committed against them. Consequently, serial killers view them as easier targets.  The Green River Killer, Gary Ridgway, killed as many as 49 women, most of whom were prostitutes. He openly expressed those thoughts: “I picked prostitutes as my victims because I hated most prostitutes, and I did not want to pay them for sex…I knew they would not be reported missing right away and might never be reported missing. I picked prostitutes because I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without getting caught.”  Gary Ridgway was sentenced on December 17, 2003. In turn, that date has been recognized every year since as the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. This day memorializes the victims, such as Brittany Taylor. She was only 19 years old and had planned to join the military. Meanwhile, her grieving mother has to live the pain of having a child murdered in a senseless tragedy. Keep in mind that the vigils that are held on the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers memorialize the victims of murder. There simply wouldn’t be enough time to recognize all of the sex workers who are victims of violence.   There are many studies of this kind and the numbers are always staggering. The Sex Workers Project of the Urban Justice Institute published two studies on indoor and outdoor prostitution. That group found that 80% of outdoor prostitutes and 42% of indoor prostitutes were victims of workplace violence. More alarming, fourteen percent of the respondents reported being assaulted by police officers. In many cases, sex workers are extorted for free sex by police officers. You can also read a stunning factsheet provided by the Sex Workers Outreach Project. In particular, there’s a stark contrast between the violence rates in the U.K., where prostitution is semi-decriminalized, and the U.S. Sex workers in the U.K. experience demonstrably lower levels of violence than in the U.S.  The obvious conclusions are that are decriminalization doesn’t eliminate the stigma associated with prostitution. However, it does grant sex workers some basic legal rights, which creates safer working conditions and drastically reduces the level of violence in their lives. And that’s one of the most important takeaways from December 17th. This marginalized segment of society is simply asking for their basic human right to be protected from violence.
Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court court heard the first oral arguments in Christie v NCAA. If you're not familiar with this case, New Jersey is trying to overturn the federal sports beeting ban, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA). The law blocks states from legalizing sports gambling within their own borders. The state of New Jersey asserts that this is a violation of the 10th Amendment because four states, primarily Nevada, were grandfathered in and able to still offer legal sports betting in their states. (My latest article with The American Conservative has many interesting background details on the case.) Las Vegas Sportsbooks such as this one may get some competition in the future, depending upon the outcome of Christie v NCAA. (Image via Wikimedia Commons) Make no mistake, the federal ban on sports gambling could easily be overturned in a conservative Supreme Court (5 Republicans - 4 Democrats). The reason is that Christie v NCAA is a states' rights battle, not a gambling issue. And, generally, the conservative viewpoint supports states' rights. The transcript shows that three of the liberal Justices (Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan) began with an aggressive line of questioning for Theodore B. Olson who was arguing on behalf of New Jersey. (Olson served as the Solicitor General during the George W. Bush administration.) However, the left-of-center Justice Stephen Breyer seemed to show his leaning from the beginning. He seemed to be making Olson's case for him by, at one point, citing the Airline Deregulation Act. However, Breyer later pivoted and essentially pointed to other issues in favor of New Jersey's case. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer - Wikimedia Commons As usual, Clarence Thomas didn't speak, but he's a strong advocate for states' rights. His four conservative counterparts seemingly signaled their support of New Jersey's case with their questioning. And, in the end, nearly every legal analyst believes at least five and maybe six Justices will vote to overturn PASPA. That includes sports law expert and media figure, Daniel Wallach, who believes that it is 6 to 3 in favor of New Jersey. Wallach believes that it will go according to party lines, other than Breyer who will rule in favor of New Jersey. Likewise, in a more sports betting friendly format, Dustin Gouker of the Legal Sports Report set a fictional over/under on the number of Justices leaning in favor of New Jersey at 5.5. So far, so good. We'll have to see how this proceeds. Hopefully, this senseless, crony capitalist federal sports betting ban will be overturned.
27.10.2017
Brian Saady
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There is a potential ballot measure in Florida for 2018 that is worthy of your attention, the “Florida Voter Approval of Casino Gambling Initiative.” If passed, all future casino businesses would need permission from Florida’s voters, not the legislature, to operate in this state.  We all should support a more inclusive political environment. However, we also need to fully understand the corporate interests behind such an initiative; Disney has aggressively funded this anti-casino lobbying effort. It’s a natural assumption that Disney’s long-time opposition to casino expansion has to do with maintaining the family-friendly reputation of the company. After all, you’ll never see images of Mickey Mouse rolling a pair of dice or celebrating a successful spin at the roulette table. However, Disney’s subsidiary, ESPN, makes considerable profits from the dissemination of gambling information.   ESPN’s website offers an entire section, “Chalk,” which is purely dedicated to gambling. That’s where you can evaluate the latest sports betting odds, check out Chad Millman’s podcast “Behind the Bets,” in addition to a variety of other gambling-related content.  ESPN has also accepted advertisements from Bet 365, a U.K.-based sportsbook. Likewise, ESPN and another U.K. bookmaker, William Hill, once developed an app, ESPN Soccer Goals, which directly enabled U.K. sports fans to bet the games online. That wasn’t Disney’s first foray into the gambling sector. Disney acquired PureSkills.com in 2000 and rebranded it as SkillGames.com after investing millions of dollars into the company. The website was set to be launched in 2001 in a venture of what could be best described as “skill-based gambling.” Participants had to pay to play various games (word, trivia, sports, etc.) with the chance to win cash prizes. However, Disney ultimately backed out of this deal at a time when a few influential Congressmen were trying to outlaw Internet gambling.   Disney’s connections with gambling aren’t limited to online content. For example, very few people think of professional poker as a sport. Nor has anyone ever viewed the World Series of Poker and thought to themselves, “Wow. What a collection of the world’s greatest athletes.” Regardless, ESPN, “the Worldwide Leader in Sports,” earns hefty revenues from its extensive coverage and broadcasts of these competitions. (World Series of Poker - Wikimedia Commons) Furthermore, several ESPN commentators openly discuss the betting odds of the upcoming games. Albeit, they often provide a disclaimer such as, “I don’t condone gambling, but…” Then again, the former ESPN show host Colin Cowherd never offered such a pretense. On a weekly basis, he extensively analyzed the point spreads with his guest, R.J. Bell of the sports handicapping service PreGame.com. (Colin Cowherd - Wikimedia Commons)  If Disney truly had a moral aversion to gambling, it wouldn’t have accepted millions of dollars in advertisements from the daily fantasy sports DraftKings during the 2015/2016 football season. Likewise, Disney wouldn’t have entered into negotiations to purchase a $250 million stake in DraftKings as it did one year earlier. Disney never closed that deal, but suffice it to say, Disney isn’t opposed to gambling. It’s opposed to the competition from gambling.  Their company has donated over $1 million this year to multiple anti-casino groups to promote the “Florida Voter Approval of Casino Gambling Initiative.” Again, there is nothing wrong with giving the voters more power. In fact, we should support such an initiative. However, let’s have an honest conversation about the pros and cons of the legislation. Let’s examine if additional casinos would hit a point of diminishing economic returns, along with all of the other relevant issues. Also, let’s be fully aware of the special interests involved.
17.10.2017
Brian Saady
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There have been numerous variations of this adage, but the movie Rounders opened with a brilliant line that perfectly sums up the skill aspect of poker.  “If you can’t spot the sucker at the table within the first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker.” With that in mind, I’d like to offer my own variation: If you think poker isn’t a game of skill, then you obviously haven’t acquired the skill. It’s stunning that this can still be controversial in some peoples’ minds. Yes, in the short term, bad luck can trump a perfect poker strategy. However, over time, the luck of the draw evens out and a player’s skill level will determine his or her success rate. A successful hedge fund that consistently beats the market isn’t viewed as merely “lucky.” Then why is a professional poker viewed so differently? The answer has to do with perceptions, legality, and stigma. After all, poker was once shrouded in mystery and dominated by the riverboat grifters of the 19th century who literally had tricks up their sleeves. But, televised poker tournaments have helped to provide full transparency. By making the hole cards visible and providing the exact probabilities for each hand, these contests educated millions of viewers about the complexities of the game.  Despite having thousands of participants, year after year, we see many of the same faces consistently at the top of these tournaments. That doesn’t happen by chance. One of those players, Annie Duke, has the perfectly succinct explanation for why poker is a game of skill. She accurately stated that you can’t intentionally lose a game of chance; conversely, that is entirely possible with a game of skill. So what does it matter if people have a difference of opinion on this matter? The issue is that it affects the legality of the game. The courts are generally more lenient with forms of gambling that are primarily based upon skill. This issue is particularly relevant in Pennsylvania where the state legislature is considering a bill to legalize online gambling and video gambling terminals. If passed, Pennsylvania would become the fourth state to legalize online poker.  The Pennsylvania legislature is moving in this direction due to a budget shortfall, however, the state’s judicial system has been less welcoming of this game. To be more specific, the state ruled that poker is not a game of skill via Pennsylvania v Dent. Walter Watkins, along with his girlfriend Diane Dent, organized small-stakes Texas Hold’em games out of his garage. He didn’t take a rake but asked for tips from the players. Watkins and Dent were eventually busted by an undercover cop for gambling charges.  The pair successfully contested the charges in court due to a judge agreeing that poker is a game of skill. However, the State Superior Court reversed that decision in 2010 and ultimately ruled that poker is based primarily upon chance. The Pennsylvania legislature has the chance to partially rectify this inaccurate ruling by the State Superior Court by legalizing online poker. However, that obviously wouldn’t eliminate wasteful undercover investigations that led to Pennsylvania v Dent. Meanwhile, the state’s outdated gambling laws have done nothing to reduce the demand. WITF of Central Pennsylvania reported that illegal poker video game terminals have become increasingly popular in the state. Bear in mind, this market is completely unregulated and untaxed. There is growing black market in large part due to lobbying efforts of the casino magnate, Sheldon Adelson. To be brief, he claims his objection to Internet poker is for “moral” reasons, but this crony-capitalist charade was fully debunked in my book Dealing From the Bottom of the Deck: Hypocritical Gambling Laws Enrich Crooked Politicians, a Select-Few Casinos, and the Mob.  From state to state, the game of skill debate is usually left to the interpretation of the courts. However, a Virginia State Senator, Louise Lucas, introduced a bill earlier this year to recognize poker as a game of skill. The Senate version passed, but we’ll have to wait and see if the companion House bill has the same success.  Again, the case for the game of skill argument is fairly obvious. All anyone has to do is read one the 580 books on poker strategy currently available on Amazon.com. However, I think what may be the best close for this discussion is acknowledging a project that isn’t directly related. Let’s just say that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is well above my pay grade, but even an outsider can recognize the amazing technological advances. In particular, AI in poker has a fairly lengthy history. So without any further ado, let’s check out this amazing infographic detailing the advancements of AI with poker. The infographic is impressively designed and has numerous interesting facts, but it also indirectly demonstrates that poker is a game of skill. You can check out the official link here.
If you haven’t already, please check out my latest piece with The American Conservative, “What Trump’s ‘Warning’ to Colombia Really Means.” It goes into detail about the way in which America’s drug war is selectively enforced to advance a Cold War-style agenda. The Trump administration has criticized Colombia’s anti-drug efforts and pressured their country to reinstate its aerial fumigation program. This program was somewhat effective with reducing coca production, but this one method isn’t a silver bullet for eliminating the drug supply.  Also, aerial spraying does nothing to combat the demand for cocaine. Hence, cocaine supply always responds to demand and the production is displaced from one region to another. However, you may be wondering why Colombia discontinued this program. The problem is that it also results in widespread collateral damage.  The chemical that is sprayed over the coca fields in Colombia, glyphosate, was banned by the Colombian Supreme Court in 2015 due to research by the World Health Organization, which pointed to a variety of negative environmental and health consequences.  This aerial fumigation program is also unpopular with Colombia’s farming sector because the spraying is indiscriminate and the chemicals kill all plants in the area, not just coca. In fact, the government of Colombia reached a $15 million settlement in a lawsuit with its southern neighbor, Ecuador, due to the damage from aerial spraying that drifted over the border. Despite these facts, Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, and the Trump administration have continued to bang the drum calling for the Colombian government to restore this program. Keep in mind, aerial spraying conveniently benefits a couple of politically-connected corporations.  For fifteen years, the U.S. government contracted with the private defense company DynCorp to spray glyphosate, which is developed and patented by Monsanto, over the coca fields in Colombia. (Glyphosate is the key chemical in their weed-killer, RoundUp.)  That brings up another interesting topic. The Trump administration is indirectly promoting Monsanto’s interests at a time when other government entities are confronting the company’s tactics. Case in point, Monsanto’s officials and lobbyists were recently banned from the European parliament. Coincidentally, this decision came about after Monsanto’s representatives declined to attend a meeting about allegations that their company manipulated safety studies related to glyphosate. (The New York Times also published an excellent article recently about the company’s woes in the U.S.) Anyhow, back to Colombia. The U.S. government’s insistence upon this aerial spraying program has little to do with the effectiveness of the program. It has more to do with who benefits from illegal drug trafficking in Colombia. Again, my latest article goes more in-depth, but to be brief, the U.S. government is more concerned with drug money ending up in the hands of the top communist group in Colombia, the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). The FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) On the opposite side, Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos also has some unspoken objectives that should be addressed. He seems to be using the drug war as a bargaining chip. The Santos administration has justifiably remained steadfastly opposed to aerial spraying. However, the FARC openly opposed aerial spraying as part of their negotiations. They have justifiable reasons for opposing this program as well, i.e. legitimate agricultural. However, it’s widely-known that their group is one of the top drug trafficking organizations in the country. Nonetheless, with this olive branch in place, it looks like there may be a reprieve from the extreme violence in Colombia. Just yesterday, Colombia’s second leading communist rebel group, the ELN (National Liberation Army), began their cease-fire agreement. Likewise, the leader of Los Urabenos has reached out to the government in hopes of forming a truce as well. Los Urabenos is a splinter group from the now defunct right-wing paramilitary group, the AUC.  Keep in mind, the Trump administration has tried to paint Santos as soft on drugs, but the leader of Los Urabenos is only looking to form a peace agreement because the government has been aggressively pursuing this group with the full force of the military. They’ve successfully killed or captured many of its highest members.  Although Santos is on the cusp of reaching peace agreement with the top remaining destabilizing force in the country, Los Urabenos, there will still be dissidents. That has been the case with the FARC as there is a fairly sizeable number of former FARC who refused to lay down their arms. Likewise, there will be many dissident ELN members.  And there lies the rub. The demand for cocaine will never go away and these rebels will be able to finance their warfare from illegal drugs, as long as the U.S. doesn’t discontinue its antiquated its war on drugs. P.S. If you found this post to be interesting, please check out the first volume of my book series, Rackets, The Drug War: A Trillion Dollar Con Game. It goes into much more detail about the truth behind the war on drugs and why it desperately needs to end.
From the outside looking in, someone could look at my work that has a strong libertarian lean with personal freedom issues and conclude that I'm an anti-government activist. However, that isn't the case. There are the Ted Cruz-es of the world who like to talk the fiscal conservative talk until tragedies like Hurricane Harvey affect them personally. I certainly see a major role for government in our lives, but there is a glaring need for reforming our government and reducing spending to more reasonable levels that don't expand our national debt. Hence, so much of my work focuses on exposing fraud, waste, and abuse that is committed by government officials. And that leads to a very disturbing report released by The Institute for Justice. That is a non-profit organization that contests cases from a libertarian advocacy standpoint. In particular, the Institute for Justice contests many cases involving eminent domain. In this instance, the city counsel and the mayor of Charlestown, IN have been seeking ways to force homeowners out of a low-income neighborhood, Pleasant Ridge. The plan is to bulldoze the area after all of the properties have been acquired by a single developer and set up a high-end neighborhood. One of the ways of forcing the homeowners out has been via assessing onerous fines on a daily basis for petty code violations. However, not every homeowner has given in and sold their properties to the developer. In turn, various local government officials privately discussed using use eminent domain to take the remaining homes. Obviously, eminent domain is a controversial topic. In theory, it should be used for developments that benefit the public and the homeowners should be paid a fair market value for their private property. However, in this case, the Institute for Justice uncovered documents proving that city officials privately conspired with the developer to artificially drive down the market prices before the homes were acquired. The Institute for Justice has a pending civil case against the city on behalf of the homeowners. However, in my personal opinion, this goes far beyond a civil matter and this should be investigated by the DOJ.
It’s amazing how many conservatives can criticize the politically correct movement and still use terms like “Alt-Right” or “White Nationalists.” It’s time to label these people for who they are-- Neo-Nazis, racists, homophobic sexists, bigots, etc. Better yet, we can accurately refer to this group as the “Racist-Right.” Make no mistake, I’m not in any way categorizing all conservatives or Republicans as racists. There’s nothing wrong with having a right-wing or conservative ideology. However, it’s horrible that openly racist activists can spread their hatred under the banner of merely being “Alt-Right.” There’s no room for mincing words and Vice’s embedded coverage of the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” Rally gave them the opportunity to show their true colors.  Too many people in the right-wing media praised Trump after he read a scripted speech that denounced the right-wing hate groups. That was, of course, after he had been widely criticized for his initial remarks, which essentially sided with the “Racist-Right” hate groups. However, Trump went off-script yesterday and reverted back to his initial remarks. Trump’s response to the violence at this rally has been extremely well covered in the news, yet his approval numbers only dropped three points, from 37% to 34%. Therefore, we have to examine how much influence the racist-right has in this country. A Neo-Nazi news and commentary website, DailyStormer.com, essentially applauded the death of Heather Heyer who was murdered by a speeding vehicle during that rally. That website described Heyer as a “drain on society,” a person “of no value,” and “a fat, childless, 32-year old slut.”  You’re probably thinking that such views came from a fringe group on the dark web. Well, that’s sort of accurate. DailyStormer.com is now only available on the dark web. However, that is only due to wide public outcry that prompted GoDaddy and other tech companies to discontinue their service.  Before being shut down, the DailyStormer billed itself as “The World’s Most Genocidal Website.” To get a more thorough description of the hatred spewed on that site check out this horrific report by the Southern Poverty Law Center. How Popular Was DailyStormer.com? This website received much more traffic than you would expect. As of this morning, it was ranked #2,344 in the U.S. and #10,496 in the world, according to Alexa’s site information. It also should be noted that the site’s traffic increased substantially after Trump was elected. For the sake of perspective, DailyStormer.com ranked significantly higher than many legitimate news & commentary websites: NewRepublic.com    #2,405 in the U.S. Observer.com            #3,235 in the U.S. Reason.com              #3,601 in the U.S. TheNation.com         #3,956 in the U.S. ProPublica.org          #4,329 in the U.S. There are several websites that are similar to DailyStormer, albeit with less traffic. Obviously, the views expressed on these websites don’t conform to mainstream culture. However, we have to remember the fact that President’s approval numbers barely budged after his horrible response to the Charlottesville tragedy. Therefore, you have to wonder what percentage of the American population that, in some ways, sympathizes with these hate groups.
A team of researchers working for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) released two studies that were published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Both studies found little evidence proving that medical marijuana is effective in treating pain and PTSD.   The researchers focused on these two medical issues because they are the most commonly cited reasons a medical marijuana prescription. Pain management is listed by 45% and 80% of people seeking cannabis prescriptions. Likewise, over one-third of medical marijuana patients named PTSD as the primary issue.  These Veterans Health Administration researchers examined 27 chronic pain trials and found that “there is low-strength evidence that cannabis alleviates neuropathic pain but insufficient evidence in other pain populations.”  PTSD treatment, on the other hand, was examined by analyzing two systematic reviews and three observational studies. According to the VHA’s research, there was not enough evidence to conclude that cannabis reduces PTSD symptoms. Furthermore, their researchers believe that past research could have a “medium to high risk of bias.” Conversely, the VHA noted that there are two randomized trials and six other ongoing studies to see marijuana’s effects with PTSD. It will take three years before all of those studies are completed.   Is Cannabis Research a Dead End? No   (Flickr - Eggrole) These kinds of studies are based upon the preliminary stages of medical marijuana research. Cannabis is a very complex plant with over 100 cannabinoids. Scientists have yet to conclusively determine which individual cannabinoids or combinations are the most effective. That will take considerable time.  It also should be noted that there have historically been numerous bureaucratic obstacles from the federal government restricting medical studies on cannabis. Numerous patients report positive anecdotal results from medical marijuana. Therefore, this is a topic that needs considerably more research.
2020 is a long time to wait, but that’s probably the earliest point before the legal marijuana industry could see any positive changes at the federal level. As my readers know, I firmly believe that third parties need more inclusion in the political process for this to happen. However, that is unlikely to occur anytime soon. Therefore, let’s examine the top potential Democratic Presidential hopefuls for 2020 and see their stances. Honorable Mention Senator Bernie Sanders (VT-I)   (Flickr - Gage Skidmore) It seems unlikely that Sanders will get the Democratic nomination in 2020 even though he has the best shot at winning; he’s literally the most popular current politician in America. Sanders would have likely beaten Trump if he had received the nomination because he would have maintained the liberal base while receiving better voter turnout with the key demographics where Clinton was unpopular.  It’s no secret that the DNC worked behind the scenes to block Sanders from winning the nomination. In fact, my last column with The American Conservative detailed the current lawsuit filed by some of his supporters against the DNC. Long story short, the DNC hasn’t openly denied many of the accusations that their group tried to suppress his campaign. Hence, there’s no reason to believe that the DNC will show any support for him in the next election. Most Likely Candidates It looks like something akin to the Watergate scandal is in the works. Jimmy Carter was an obscure Governor from Georgia when that took place. (He also publicly supported decriminalization of possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, which was a bold political stance in the 1970s.) However, it seems unlikely that a Governor will receive the nomination because the news cycle is entirely focused on Trump.  There will probably be lengthy Congressional hearings and Democrats in related committees will get the face time that corresponds to votes. With that in mind, please note that James Garfield was the first and only sitting member of the House of Representatives to be elected President. Therefore, we’ll look at the most likely candidates currently serving in the U.S. Senate. 1 - Sen. Kamala Harris (CA)    (Wikimedia Commons) This fast-rising politician has rapidly gained a ton of political momentum. She was elected last year to her first term in the U.S. Senate and she already serves on some influential Senate Committees, including Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs and the Intelligence Committee. Harris served as the Attorney General of California before heading to Capitol Hill and, like most prosecutors, she predictably sided with the special interests of the prison industrial complex. She waged a famous crusade against BackPage.com and has remained a strong supporter of civil asset forfeiture.  While serving as Attorney General in 2014, she literally laughed at the suggestion of legalizing recreational marijuana. However, Harris somewhat reversed course, but she isn’t in favor of legalization. Instead, she is now advocating for decriminalization, but her exact plan isn’t clear. In April of last year, she suggested that marijuana should only be changed from a Schedule I to Schedule II drug. Furthermore, as Tom Angell (Chairman of the Marijuana Majority) accurately points out, Kamala Harris continues referring to the drug war in the past tense as if it is a thing of the past. 2 - Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA)   (Wikimedia Commons) Elizabeth Warren has strong name recognition and has developed a reputation as a tough banking regulator. As far as her views on marijuana, she has seemingly shifted to tepid support of legalization. Two years ago, when questioned about her state’s ballot initiative for recreational marijuana she told MassLive: “I’m open to it. I think we’ve learned more. A couple of states have legalized marijuana for recreational use.” That was a reversal from the past. She had been openly against legalization and even attacked a rival Republican as late as 2013 for supporting legal recreational marijuana. However, she’s now acting as an ally to the legal marijuana industry. She has publicly challenged Jeff Sessions to respect states’ rights and is working to create legal banking options for the industry.   3 - Sen. Cory Booker (NJ)     (Wikimedia Commons) Booker has a high level of name recognition, particularly with young voters. He served as the Mayor of Newark before heading to the U.S. Senate in 2013. He’s quickly made a name for himself by being a very accessible media figure. Of these three potential candidates, Booker has been by far the most courageous advocate of legal recreational marijuana. In fact, he sponsored the “Marijuana Justice Act,” SB 1689, which is hands down the most comprehensive and progressive marijuana legalization bill in U.S. history. Here are a few highlights: Every person presently incarcerated for a marijuana offense would be eligible to have that sentence reversed. It would remove marijuana entirely from the controlled substance list. It would provide federal funds for states to change drug policies if they have incarcerated minorities and low-income individuals disproportionally. It would provide a “Community Reinvestment Fund” with job programs and several other benefits in cities that have been particularly affected by the drug war. Suffice it say, this is an incredibly ambitious bill and it has absolutely no shot of being passed at this time. Nonetheless, it’s a positive development that proposals like this are beginning to be introduced to the electorate at large.
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© Brian Saady