“Having utterly failed to end the marijuana black market in California, lawmakers have decided to backslide into the drug war by increasing fines on those who operate outside of the state’s very costly and tightly regulated legal cannabis system.
California will begin 2022 not just by increasing taxes on legal marijuana cultivation but also by introducing new fines against anybody “aiding and abetting” any unlicensed dealers in the state.”
“California’s implementation of recreational cannabis regulations, authorized by the passage of Proposition 64 in 2016, has been a massive mess. The ballot initiative allowed for municipalities to decide whether to allow cultivation and dispensaries, and two-thirds of them still refuse to do so despite the public vote. The state levies high cultivation and excise taxes that are escalated further by local sales taxes in any municipality that does allow for dispensaries to open up shop.
The result has been price and availability issues so severe that experts estimate that between two-thirds and three-quarters of all marijuana purchases take place through unlicensed dealers, which means that the state isn’t getting its share of the revenue. The problem is so severe that the editorial board at the Los Angeles Times recently acknowledged that high taxes for goods fuel black markets.”
“The highly contagious omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus often does an end run around the immunological protections of vaccination or prior infection. But recent data from the U.K. and Canada indicate that these breakthrough omicron infections are much less dangerous than first-time infections in unvaccinated people.
Ontario public health authorities report that as of yesterday, 2,093 and 288 people are being treated for omicron variant infections in hospitals and intensive care units (ICUs), respectively. The hospitalization rate per million among unvaccinated people stands at 532.7; it’s 105.9 for folks vaccinated with at least two doses. This means that the reduction of hospitalization risk for those inoculated with at least two doses is 80.1 percent.
The ICU occupancy rate per million is 135.6 for unvaccinated people and just 9.2 for those who have gotten two doses of COVID-19 vaccines. So vaccination reduces the ICU risk by 93.2 percent.”
“These British and Canadian findings mirror those most recently reported by the New York State Health Department. It finds that the daily rate per 100,000 of COVID-19 hospitalizations stands at 4.56 for fully vaccinated people, compared to 58.27 for unvaccinated people. That means vaccinations are 92.3 percent effective at preventing hospitalization from COVID-19.”
“A study published last September in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences challenges the notion that a substantial minority of Americans—more than two-fifths, according to some reports—condone political violence. The Dartmouth political scientist Sean
Westwood and his co-authors argue that “documented support for political violence is illusory, a product of ambiguous questions, conflated definitions, and disengaged respondents.”
Westwood et al. acknowledge that partisan animosity, a.k.a. “affective polarization,” has “increased significantly” during the last few decades. “While Americans are arguably no more ideologically polarized than in the recent past,” they say, “they hold more negative views toward the political opposition and more positive views toward members of their own party.” But at the same time, “evidence suggests that affective polarization is not related to and does not cause increases in support for political violence and is generally unrelated to political outcomes.” So what are we to make of claims that more than a third of Americans believe political violence is justified?
“Despite media attention,” Westwood et al. note, “political violence is rare, amounting to a little more than 1% of violent hate crimes in the United States.” They argue that “self-reported attitudes on political violence are biased upwards because of disengaged respondents, differing interpretations about questions relating to political violence, and personal dispositions towards violence that are unrelated to politics.”
Westwood et al. estimate that, “depending on how the question is asked, existing estimates of support for partisan violence are 30-900% too large.” In their study, “nearly all respondents support[ed] charging suspects who commit acts of political violence with a crime.” These findings, they say, “suggest that although recent acts of political violence dominate the news, they do not portend a new era of violent conflict.”
These conclusions are based on three surveys in which Westwood et al. presented respondents with specific scenarios involving different kinds of violence, varying in severity and motivation. “Ambiguous survey questions cause overestimates of support for violence,” they write. “Prior studies ask about general support for violence without offering context, leaving the respondent to infer what ‘violence’ means.” They also note that “prior work fails to distinguish between support for violence generally and support for political violence,” which “makes it seem like political violence is novel and unique.”
A third problem they identify is that “prior survey questions force respondents to select a response without providing a neutral midpoint or a ‘don’t know’ option,” which “causes disengaged respondents…to select an arbitrary or random response.” Since “current violence-support scales are coded such that four of five choices indicate acceptance of violence,” those arbitrary or random responses tend to “overstate support for violence.”
What happens when researchers try to address those weaknesses? In all three surveys that Westwood et al. conducted, “respondents overwhelmingly reject[ed] both political and non-political violence.” And while a substantial minority disagreed, that number was inflated by respondents who were classified as “disengaged” based on their failure to retain information from the brief scenarios they read.”
“Beginning this year, federal food-labeling laws require products made with genetically modified ingredients to carry a label saying they are “bioengineered.” But short of requiring extra work and costs for food makers and manufacturers, the law is likely to lead to little change.
Research suggests that consumers won’t alter their behavior based on mandatory disclosure of genetically modified organism (GMO) food products.
“In the presence of existing voluntary non-GMO labels, mandatory labeling did not have any additional effect on demand,” wrote researchers from Cornell University, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison in a November 2021 paper. “Our findings suggest that voluntary non-GMO labels may already provide an efficient disclosure mechanism without mandatory GMO labels.””
“Many of the meat-industry problems the Biden administration identifies as in need of fixing are very real. For example, the administration says meat prices are through the roof. That’s true. The administration says the meatpacking industry is highly consolidated, with just four giant companies responsible for slaughtering and processing nearly 7 out of every 8 pounds of beef (and slightly lower amounts of pork and poultry) we eat every year. That’s true, too. (It was also largely true 20 years ago and 100 years ago.) The Biden administration has also argued large meatpackers have been busy “raising prices, underpaying farmers—and tripling their profit margins during the pandemic.” Also true.
The Biden administration believes meat prices are sky high due largely to this industry consolidation and lack of competition.”
“the real obstacle that’s preventing ranchers and farmers that utilize these facilities from supplying more meat to more Americans is an outdated federal law that props up the large processors while preventing local meat producers from selling steaks, roasts, and other cuts of meat to consumers in grocery stores, at farmers’ markets, and elsewhere in their communities.”
“farmers and ranchers who want to sell their meat commercially (or for it to be re-sold) in this country must have their livestock slaughtered in USDA-inspected (or state equivalent) slaughter facilities, where an inspector must be present and inspect every animal that’s slaughtered. In order to be sold commercially, meat from those same animals also must be processed (cut into steaks, ground up, cured, etc.) in a USDA-inspected processing facility. There’s a shortage of slaughter and processing facilities available to most small farmers and ranchers, and many plants are owned by a handful of large companies that don’t cater to those farmers and ranchers. As all this suggests, the current system poses a giant hurdle to many small farmers and ranchers.”
“As a fix, the Biden administration proposes, under a wordy header announced this week—the Biden-Harris Administration’s Action Plan for a Fairer, More Competitive, and More Resilient Meat and Poultry Supply Chain—to give $1 billion to smaller meat processors so that they can ramp up their production efforts, which would in theory provide farmers and ranchers with more choices for slaughter and processing. The plan also includes other elements, including “launching a new portal to allow farmers and ranchers to report unfair trade practices by meatpackers.””
“The USDA has been aware of many of the aforementioned problems with its meat-inspection scheme for decades. As I explain in my book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable, when the agency commissioned a study 10 years ago to look at ways to streamline these regulations, the authors of the study concluded “that no one with the USDA or . . . working as professionals within the meat industry believe[s] that streamlining regulations will ever occur.”
Righteous pessimism hasn’t stopped people who care about small farmers and the livestock they raise from trying to come up with various fixes. The PRIME Act, a tremendous bill that has repeatedly failed to pass Congress, would, I explained in a piece in the The Hill in 2018, “provide states with the option to regulate livestock slaughter and sale within their borders.” Local solutions exist, too, but the federal government largely ignores or seeks to undermine them. States such as Wyoming and Colorado that have sought to use federal law to foster more local competition have bumped up against threats from overzealous USDA bureaucrats.”
“For portions of the MAGA right, the stakes in politics seem unbearably high. They imagine their elections stolen without consequences, their children menaced by transsexuals in the schools, their fathers’ manufacturing jobs shipped away by globalist corporations that mock their values. People whose worldviews sicken them seem to control every citadel of political and cultural power and to brook no opposition.
Even President Donald Trump seemed powerless to shift America back to the country they wanted. And so several institutions and thinkers of the intellectual right have declared that it’s time to take the gloves off in a way even Trump would not. It’s time, they argue, to fight against “liberalism”—not just the attitudes associated with the Democratic Party, but the historical idea of a social order based on people’s ability to make their own choices about what to do with their lives and property, to live and travel where they wish, to choose meanings, family structures, attitudes, and lifeways freed of any obligation to national or ethnic traditions. They want the American right to get tough and to crush progressivism at its root.
Thus, there has been a small intellectual revival of mostly forgotten or despised thinkers often dubbed “reactionary.” In A World After Liberalism, Matthew Rose of the Morningside Institute assesses five of them”
“These reactionary writers see, in Rose’s words, “humans as naturally tribal, not autonomous; individuals as inherently unequal, not equal; politics as grounded in authority, not consent; societies as properly closed, not open.””
“consider the public debt—especially the federal debt, which ballooned as a result of large budget deficits in recent years. (In 2020, the federal government raised $3.4 trillion in revenue and spent $6.6 trillion.) The interest cost of the national debt was $253 billion in 2008, equivalent to $325 billion in 2021 dollars; it remained around that level through 2015. Even though the debt doubled in those years, sharply falling interest rates and low inflation helped contain costs.
But that was yesterday. With today’s higher inflation and rising interest rates (perhaps with more to come), the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the interest cost of public debt is $413 billion in 2021, stated in current dollars. Obviously, any dollar spent on interest cannot be spent on government benefits or services.
Looking ahead, the CBO expects more of the same. For 2026, it projects that the interest rate on 10-year Treasury bonds, currently 1.5 percent, will be 2.6 percent, and that the interest cost of the federal debt will rise to $524 billion. For 2030, the projections are 2.8 percent and $829 billion, respectively, all stated in current dollars for the noted years.
Now we are talking about real money. To put $829 billion into perspective, in 2020 the United States spent $714 billion on the military, $769 billion on Medicare, and $914 billion on all nondefense discretionary spending, all stated in 2020 dollars. Back-of-the-envelope calculations strongly suggest that some spending categories will have to give.”
“there is a big difference between reckless rhetoric, which is protected by the First Amendment, and the criminal conspiracy described in lawsuits filed by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D‒Calif.), other House Democrats, and two Capitol Police officers. All three complaints allege that Trump violated the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 by conspiring to use threats, force, and intimidation to stop government officials from carrying out their duties.
To prove that claim, the plaintiffs must do more than show that Trump ginned up his supporters’ outrage with false election fraud claims, or even that he did so in circumstances where he should have known violence was likely. They have to show that the Capitol riot was the culmination of a plan to violently disrupt the ratification of Joe Biden’s victory, a scheme in which Trump himself intentionally participated.
Capitol Police officers James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby also claim that Trump violated a provision of the D.C. Code that “makes it a criminal offense to willfully incite or urge other persons to engage in a riot.” In addition to the requirement that the offense be committed “willfully,” prosecution for incitement is constrained by the First Amendment.”