Lenny Bernstein of Washington Post moderated this panel with Vanda Felbab-Brown, me, and Pagan Harleman. The audience and panelists had just watched the first episode of Pagan’s Showtime documentary series The Trade.
The synthetic opioids – usually referred to both in the press and by law enforcement as “fentanyl” – have now outstripped not only the prescription opioids such as oxycodone but also heroin in terms of overdose deaths, and (as you can see below) the trend line is almost vertical.
Keith Humphreys warns of “fentanyl’s potential to permanently alter illegal drug markets.”
Kevin Drum asks about the causes of the change: “Fentanyl has been around for a long time, and only recently has its use become widespread. Why?”
Why, I thought you’d never ask. Settle back; this is a complicated story, and it’s going to take a while to tell. But Keith is right: this is a BFD. So it’s worth understanding. Continue Reading…
Heading into critical midterms, Democrats turn over new leaf on marijuana. DEA chief’s congressional testimony about legal marijuana angered some, baffled many. Another member of the Kennedy family is speaking out against marijuana legalization. Make money from marijuana? Forget about a federally subsidized loan. Bags of cash and stealthy deliveries: How pot start-ups pay taxes. Despite legalization, marijuana black market hides in plain sight. How the Supreme Court’s ruling on sports gambling will pave the way for marijuana legalization. Why anti-marijuana group wants Michigan to legalize weed.
California‘s new budget says pot revenue is “slower than anticipated.” New study highlights the social impacts of cannabis legalization in California. California deadly pot-related crash added to list of tragedies in other cannabis-friendly states. Legal marijuana has arrived in western Alaska.
How expensive will legal marijuana be in Massachusetts when retail stores open. Can Massachusetts become a leader in marijuana research? Marijuana legalization bill introduced in Rhode Island. Ahead of marijuana legalization, entrepreneurs see all sorts of opportunities in Vermont.
New Jersey and legalized marijuana: National model or petri dish? New Jersey marijuana legalization: We went west to show you what life is like with legal weed. New Jersey holds final public hearing on legalizing marijuana. Nixon backs off referring to New York legalized pot as “reparations”. Legalizing marijuana in New York could create a $3.1 billion market. De Blasio fears “corporatization” of pot if it’s New York legalized.
Most in Georgia now say recreational marijuana should be legal. Texas needs new strategy to pass marijuana legalization, advocate says. Marijuana could be legal in Kansas next year, says gubernatorial candidate. Legal marijuana illegally crossing into Arkansas.
Marijuana legalization puts Canadian citizens at risk of lifetime bans to enter U.S. Canadian Conservative staffer fired after urging senators to delay vote on marijuana legalization bill. Legal marijuana spurs demand for commercial real estate in Alberta.
Italy’s legal marijuana loophole.
This is SFIK the first royal wedding to feature buses. Oprah Winfrey, Serena Williams and the noisy cast of Suits took up the option of the bus transport to the Harry-Meghan extravaganza provided by Kensington Palace. (Buses are surely an important cultural and political reference to black Americans.) They must have saved quite a bit on taxis, as prices were no doubt gouged on the day.
Meanwhile, the Thames Valley plod* impounded a bus used by an NGO to offer shelter to homeless people in Windsor. Can’t let sordid reality spoil the careful constructed image of multicultural bliss. I can’t find a photo of the guest buses, so the homeless one gets the RBC nod.
A-list celebrities are exquisitely sensitive to subtle shifts in style and taste. Is the humble proletarian bus making a social comeback?
If it does, it will probably be on the back of electrification. Electric buses are much quieter and smoother than diesel ones, as well as non-polluting. The market is growing fast, led by China’s 100,000 a year (ca. 20% market share). Shenzhen, part of the Pearl River megalopolis and home to leading manufacturer BYD, already has a 16,000- strong all-electric fleet, a small part of which is pictured here.
Cities and other bus operators outside China are beginning to place serious orders, after several years of messing about with small trials. London; Nottingham; Oslo; Hamburg; Los Angeles; Schiphol and LAX airports. That’s a very incomplete list, the bandwagon is rolling. San Francisco, promising an all-electric fleet by 2035 with first orders only in 2020, comes across as a greenwashing shilly-shallier.
The dramatic shift is driven by a combination of greenery and costs. Many city halls are now aware of the devastating health costs from urban air pollution, much of it from diesel vehicles, much of that from buses. On the cost side, thanks to sharp falls in the cost of batteries, electric buses are now competitive with diesels and CNG (natural gas) on a total-cost-of ownership basis (TCO). BNEF (link to pdf):
As battery prices continue to decline, e-buses will have a lower total cost of ownership than
comparable diesel or CNG buses for all of the options discussed here, even at lower annual
distances covered. Using the same battery price projections as in the upfront cost analysis, we estimate that the TCO for the most expensive e-bus configurations – the 350kWh e-bus coupled with slow charging at the depot and the 110kWh e-bus coupled with wireless charging – will reach TCO competitiveness with a diesel bus as soon as this year (2018).
Buses are just now as important as cars in the overall battery market (BNEF, page 21, Figure 10).
So for Hizzoner or Herroner at City Hall, and the rival politicians seeking to supplant them, buying electric buses is a free move. It gains green cred with voters, for real not phony reasons, and it doesn’t cost anything using sensible accounting. And the riders and drivers get more comfort and less vibration and noise.
* * * *
*Plod: Br.E. informal: a police officer; by extension (“the plod”), the police force. Probably from the character PC Plod in the successful Noddy children’s book series by Enid Blyton, 1950s.
Article 2 of the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon charged him with:
Using the powers of the office of President of the United States . . . in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in disregard of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has repeatedly engaged in conduct violating the constitutional rights of citizens, impairing the due and proper administration of justice and the conduct of lawful inquiries, or contravening the laws governing agencies of the executive branch and the purposed of these agencies.
Among the particulars was this:
This conduct has included one or more of the following:
- He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, endeavoured to obtain from the Internal Revenue Service, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, confidential information contained in income tax returns for purposed not authorized by law, and to cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be intitiated [sic] or conducted in a discriminatory manner.
Today, the Washington Post has reported that:
President Trump has personally pushed U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double the rate the Postal Service charges Amazon.com and other firms to ship packages, according to three people familiar with their conversations, a dramatic move that probably would cost these companies billions of dollars.
I am certain that Trump’s apologists will seize on the phrase “and other firms” to argue that Trump was only attempting to push a policy that would reduce the federal government’s deficit.
Donald Trump apparently believes (or, at least, once believed) that Jared Kushner was the most interesting man in the world. Thus, he named Jared to chair this, that, and everything else. One of the items in Jared’s wide portfolio was to spearhead the Trump Administration’s drive for electronic medical records. In that effort, he pushed the contract for a program called the Military Heathcare Systems (MHS) GENESIS to a company called Cerner. How has that worked out so far? Not all that well.
An Initial Operational Test and Evaluation Report issued on April 30 for the Office of Secretary of Defense found that “MHS GENESIS is neither operationally effective nor operationally suitable.” Read the entire report. It’s damning.
To review. Donald Trump is manifestly unfit to serve as President of the United States, by either mental capacity or moral character. The procedure for removing an unfit President is basically by way of impeachment. I’ve covered removal for mental incapacity by the 25th Amendment before, and maintain my view that it may still come into play as a shortcut, but let’s follow the CW that it’s down to impeachment. I will also follow constitutional lawyer Stephen Griffin’s argument that contrary to the intentions of the authors of the US Constitution, who saw impeachment as an essentially political safeguard, conviction now requires proof of an indictable offence – though I would add that nothing stops the Congress from taking wider aspects into consideration. Griffin’s reasoning is even more convincing in the near-certain political environment for Trump’s impeachment: that is, a Democratic majority in the House after November, but either a continued narrow Republican majority in the Senate, or a large blocking minority. (If the GOP holds the House, it won’t arise at all.) It will take a knockdown case to secure conviction.
So far, the possible charges have been:
1. Collusion with agents of the Russian government to manipulate the Presidential election in 2016.
2. Obstruction of justice by interference in the investigation of 1.
The second is a matter of public record: Trump admitted on TV that he fired James Comey as Director of the FBI because of the Russia investigation. The trouble here is that lying to police officers investigating you as a suspect is widely seen as fair self-defence, a technical crime like speeding on an empty rural road. The counterargument is that higher standards apply to the head of the executive, including federal law enforcement, who has sworn an oath to uphold and enforce all the laws. This is not likely to sway Trump’s core supporters, who are also now also the core supporters of Congressional Republicans.
The former is overwhelmingly likely from the Steele dossier, numerous credible press accounts of funding flows and meetings involving Trump’s inner circle and Russians close to the Kremlin, the charges against and convictions of Papadopoulos, Flynn, Manafort, Gates, and van der Zwaan, and Trump’s pattern of leading over backwards in favour of Russian interests in foreign policy. Mueller is no doubt filling out the details. The trouble is that Vladimir Putin is a career intelligence officer trained (partly in his work with Mischa Wolf’s Stasi) to cover his tracks with great care, and unless Mueller gets very lucky there won’t be conclusive evidence of the involvement of the Russian government. It will all just be persons “close to” Putin. Again, there will be a reasonable doubt that Republican senators can draw on to justify a vote to acquit.
But now, for the first time, we can see the outline of a third charge that could in principle be proven conclusively and has no such ambiguities: bribery.
The story is incomplete and in some parts speculative. But it stacks up. Continue Reading…
Connecticut marijuana legalization “off the table” at legislative session. Connecticut firms not weeding out marijuana practices, despite legislative setback. Republicans hatching plan to keep Michigan pot legalization off the ballot. Michigan pot legalization push hits roadblock. If Illinois legalizes marijuana, what happens to pot-sniffing dogs? Recreational marijuana may be back before Ohio voters.
Feinstein supports law to prevent federal crackdown on marijuana in California. Kamala Harris says she’ll back Booker’s legislation to legalize marijuana. Mitch McConnell won’t support legalizing marijuana. Cynthia Nixon called New York marijuana licenses a “form of reparations” for black people. Not exactly.
Colorado first-in-the-nation marijuana “tasting rooms” bill heads to governor’s desk. When it comes to Colorado marijuana industry, Congress’ view is clouded by myth. Marijuana money flows into California politics. Is proposed San Luis Obispo County cannabis tax too high or just right? California marijuana tax cut could be in jeopardy as revenue lags behind budget projections.
More businesses are mellowing out over hiring pot smokers. Small businesses grapple with maze of conflicting pot laws. Public support for marijuana is growing. Will lawmakers follow? How anti-marijuana Jeff Sessions became the best thing to happen to pot legalization.
Does marijuana legalization cause pedestrian fatalities? Weedmaps wants to drive the conversation on marijuana with hundreds of billboards. Legalizing and taxing marijuana boosts government revenue–a little.
Amid Canada pot legalization U.S. border uncertainty. Canada Senate should stand down on cannabis. Legal marijuana is set to outsell liquor in Canada by 2020. Plain legal pot packaging not doing Canada consumers any favors, report says.
This evening, lawyers for Michael Cohen filed a letter with Judge Kimba Wood claiming that Michael Avenatti erred with respect to some of alleged payments made to Cohen’s shell company, Essential Consultants L.L.C. Cohen, through his lawyers, claims that the payments were not made to him. Here’s a challenge: Have Mr. Cohen disclose all records of all payments reflected in Avenatti’s memo that Cohen acknowledges were actually made to him or Essential Consultants, including, but not limited to, (don’t you love that lawyer-talk), the following:
- All e-mails and voice mails between Cohen/Essential Consultants, on one side, and the payors, on the other, leading up to the initiation of the payments through the date(s) that the payments ceased being made;
- All records of the payments themselves, including contracts with the payors, checks, invoices, and receipts; and
- All internal records of Cohen/Essential Consultants detailing the work performed.
Now, if Mr. Cohen will not provide this information, the payors, many of whom have made serial and conflicting explanations for the payments, should provide all of the documentary information that they have with regard to the payments.
I would note that, under New York law, “Generally, licensed professionals may not set up a general business corporation (GBC) to provide professional services.” Thus, any engagement with Essential Consultants was not for the purpose of seeking legal advice. Therefore, any communications with Cohen, in his role as the sole member or manager of Essential Consultants, is not protected by the attorney/client privilege.
Five days ago, I suggested a quick way to get to at least part of the truth in the Trump/Daniels matter by suggesting documents that the White House press corp could demand be released by Trump. At the time, I assumed that Michael Cohen’s limited liability company, Essential Consultants L.L.C., was a shell entity formed exclusively for the single purpose of hiding the payments going to Daniels. As of today, thanks to Ms. Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, we now know that Cohen used Essential Consultants for numerous transactions with connections to Russian oligarchs and involving over $4.4 Million.
Avinatti is about as shameless a self-promoter as, well, as Trump himself. Not surprisingly, he reminds me of the young F. Lee Bailey when Bailey was in his prime. He often promises, in breathless tones, more than he can deliver. But not tonight. Again, I provide a link to his press release of this afternoon. Take a look. The degree of specificity is amazing. This evening, the NYT confirmed most of the facts set forth in the release. Even if 1% of what’s in there is true, Cohen has some major league problems. And, if Cohen has some major league problems, well, I don’t have to tell you the rest.
One cannot “avoid compliance with the subpoena merely by asserting that the item of evidence which he is required to produce contains incriminating writing, whether his own or that of someone else.” U.S. v. Hubbell, 530 U.S. 27, 36 (2000). Moreover, it is questionable whether a single-member LLC, such as Essential Consultants, can even assert the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. Lila L. Inman, Personal Enough for Protection: The Fifth Amendment and Single-Member LLCs, 58 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 1067 (2017). All of the documents and instruments evidencing the payments described in Avinatti’s release would, without any question, be properly subject to a subpoena in an appropriate proceeding. What then would be an “appropriate proceeding”?
There is no question that a Congressional inquiry is appropriate here. Let’s not put too fine a point on this. We have a president who, because of his associations (Manafort, Flynn, etc.), could never pass a background check for a security clearance. Now, we have evidence that suggests that Trump’s personal attorney was deeply involved financially with Russian oligarchs. The same attorney paid off a porn actress on Trump’s behalf.
This is no longer a question of some technical violation of campaign funding laws. Rather, the question has now become: Is the President of the United States compromised because Russians funded the Daniels payoff? Can Congressional Republicans continue to look away from what may very well be the greatest scandal in U.S. history?