Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pot Legalization Gains Momentum in California

California is going up in smoke. In more ways than one:

Marijuana advocates are gathering signatures to get as many as three pot-legalization measures on the ballot in 2010 in California, setting up what could be a groundbreaking clash with the federal government over U.S. drug policy.

At least one poll shows voters would support lifting the pot prohibition, which would make the state of 40 million the first in the nation to legalize marijuana.

Such action would also send the state into a headlong conflict with the U.S. government while raising questions about how federal law enforcement could enforce its drug laws in the face of a massive government-sanctioned pot industry.

Health-Care Bill Wouldn't Raise Deficit, Report Says

Washington Post:

Congressional budget analysts gave an important political boost Wednesday to a Senate panel's health-care overhaul, projecting that the $829 billion measure would both dramatically shrink the ranks of the uninsured and keep President Obama's pledge that doing so would not add "one dime" to federal budget deficits.

With the report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the measure crafted by the Senate Finance Committee has emerged as the only one of five bills drafted by various committees that achieves every important goal Obama has set for his top domestic initiative.

White House budget director Peter Orszag applauded the analysis, saying the bill "demonstrates that we can expand coverage and improve quality while being fiscally responsible," and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) called the CBO report "another important step down the road toward enacting comprehensive health insurance reform." But senior Republicans seemed only to harden in their opposition to the measure.

Democrats, Some Republicans Protect Corrupt Cong. Rangel

A Corrupt Congress Protects it's Own:

Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) sat stone-faced as the House chamber buzzed around him, preparing to vote on a measure that could partly undo his almost four decades of work in Congress.

As Republicans pressed their attempt to remove him from his perch as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Democrats stood by Rangel -- under investigation for a series of alleged violations that include improperly occupying several rent-controlled New York City apartments and failing to disclose a laundry list of income and assets -- and deflected the measure to committee.

They have stuck with Rangel repeatedly as the list of charges against him has grown, resisting any temptation to push aside a popular fixture in the party who helped found the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971. They have done so despite vows from Republicans to continue to force them to go on the record in defense of their colleague. But the issue carries complications for both parties.

Instead of full-throated defenses of Rangel, House Democrats measured their comments. Asked whether the Rangel controversy would have any negative impact on his party, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, sidestepped the question, saying that "the issue is making sure there is a fair process."

Some Republicans, meanwhile, chafed at the sharp rhetoric aimed at Rangel, a jovial lawmaker who has many friends in both parties and is in a position to dole out favors on both sides of the aisle.

[...]The Republican-sponsored resolution said Rangel was unfit to serve as the chairman of the powerful committee that writes tax laws while he remains under investigation. Democrats blocked the move, sending the resolution by Rep. John Carter (R-Tex.), to the ethics committee and saying Congress should wait for action until that panel completes its investigation.

The resolution was the fourth attempt by Republicans in the past 16 months to censure Rangel or strip him of his committee chairmanship. House Republican leaders pushed their members to back the resolution against the Harlem lawmaker, arguing that his conduct violated pledges from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in 2006 to oversee the "most ethical Congress in history" and end what she called "the culture of corruption" when Republicans ruled the House.

AP Poll: Obama's Job Approval Rises Amid Concerns

This despite the constant racist attacks from the Republicans:

President Barack Obama's approval ratings are starting to rise after declining ever since his inauguration, new poll figures show as the country's mood begins to brighten. But concerns about the economy, health care and war persist, and support for the war in Afghanistan is falling.

An Associated Press-GfK poll says 56 percent of those surveyed in the past week approve of Obama's job performance, up from 50 percent in September. It's the first time since he took office in January that his rating has gone up.

People also feel better about his handling of the economy and his proposed health care overhaul.

But not about the war.

Support for the war in Afghanistan has declined, the poll said Tuesday. And approval of Obama's handling of it is holding steady — in contrast to his gains in other areas — as he considers a big troop increase there. Poll respondents narrowly oppose the increase.

Russia: US Fight Against Afghan drugs Insufficient

No kidding:

Russia's drug czar says U.S. and NATO anti-narcotics actions in Afghanistan are woefully insufficient and is calling for joint U.S.-Russian action against the Afghan heroin flooding into the former Soviet Union.

Viktor Ivanov says he urged the U.S. administration during a trip to Washington to spray herbicides from the air to eradicate opium fields in Afghanistan.

President Barack Obama's administration has abandoned the Bush-era policy of large-scale drug eradication in Afghanistan, fearing it would boost support for the Taliban. The U.S. instead has focused on encouraging alternative crops.