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January 20, 2014

Fittingly for MLK day, Prez Obama laments class and race disparities from pot prohibition

I MLK am intrigued and pleased to see that the New Yorker has just released this very lengthy article profiling President Obama that has a very interesting small section with quotes from the President concerning modern marijuana policies and reform. Though I expect to cover various aspects of what Prez Obama said a lot more over at Marijuana Law, Policy and Reform in the week ahead, these comments should be of special interest to sentencing fans: 

What clearly does trouble him is the radically disproportionate arrests and incarcerations for marijuana among minorities.  “Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do,” he said.  “And African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties.”  But, he said, “we should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing.”  Accordingly, he said of the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington that “it’s important for it to go forward because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished.”

As is his habit, he nimbly argued the other side. “Having said all that, those who argue that legalizing marijuana is a panacea and it solves all these social problems I think are probably overstating the case.  There is a lot of hair on that policy. And the experiment that’s going to be taking place in Colorado and Washington is going to be, I think, a challenge.”

As the title of this post highlights, I think it is valuable and fitting that news of the President of the United States making these points hits the papers on the weekend we honor the work and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King.  As students of history know, Dr. King was concerned about economic inequallity as well as racial inequality, and I think the stories of modern pot prohiibition reflect both.  More broadly, as I highlight in a new post over at my other blog, titled MLK marijuana mash-up: "I Have A Dream..." we are free at last from pot prohibition, I think MLK's most famous exhortations about freedom and equality are useful to consider at this unique moment of marijuana reform debates.

Some related recent posts (mostly from MLPR):

January 20, 2014 at 10:40 AM | Permalink


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Isn't everyone sick of this race huckster yapping about race?

Those who support and engage in race-based payola (Pigford) have no business lecturing the rest of us.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 20, 2014 11:48:18 AM

Federalist, I know you are upset that a black man is President of the United States. And twice elected by the people. Try to deal with it; you'll be a happier man.

Posted by: anon | Jan 20, 2014 12:14:27 PM

Federalist, your screed against Obama reminds me of the epithets hurled at Lincoln by the supporters of slavery. And I used to think you worth reading.

Posted by: onlooker | Jan 20, 2014 12:16:49 PM

Oh boy, looks like I touched a nerve. The problem is, of course, that the facts are on my side, not yours. With respect to Pigford, even the NYTimes thought that racial politics played a large role in allowing obviously fraudulent claims to be paid. (Guys, Google is your friend.)

Of course, I can go on and on--from the Administration's friendliness and approval of race-based discipline in our schools (now there's an idea) to the "Latinos should punish their enemies" statement.

Gentlemen, these things happened, and no amount of whining or comparing me to slavery supporters is going to change that.

It never ceases to amaze me how liberals can get in such high dudgeon over simple inferences from indisputable facts.

You should take a cue from Doug B. He has some of the same impulse--yapping about how I don't take drunk driving seriously, but then gets somewhat lucid when I point out that he supports 'rat politicians that want to give illegal alien drunk drivers citizenship. I know it's hard when I criticize your messiah. I know you feel deeply wounded when someone dares to criticize the one who has the power to slow the oceans' rise and heal the Earth (or is that Gaia?). But you have to come up with something better than this--really, comparing me to a supporter of slavery? Just laughable.

By the way, my personal dislike of Obama (putting aside his politics) is that he reminds me of an effete college prof. And given my upbringing, effeteness is not high on my list of admirable qualities.

So guys, perhaps you could explain why the Pigford reference is so wrong here? I don't think there's any doubt that Obama isn't even steven when it comes to race--maybe you guys are ok with that.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 20, 2014 12:59:50 PM

“Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do...”

False. Almost no one gets "locked up" just for "smoking pot."

“And African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties.”

How about avoiding the conduct that results in the penalties? That doesn't take a dime. And I notice he doesn't define "unduly," which is kind of crucial to this whole debate.

“[W]e should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time..."

We don't. Does this guy ever fact check?

"...when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing.”

It's all true, Barry. The massive, huge, enormous and really big majority of pot smoking by rich whites -- an by everyone else -- goes unnoticed by the cops.

"As is his habit, he nimbly argued the other side."

Translation: When you're on both sides, it's really hard for anyone to say you're wrong. Duh. No one ever accused the man of being a lousy politician.

“Having said all that, those who argue that legalizing marijuana is a panacea and it solves all these social problems I think are probably overstating the case."

Except that not even the most blockheaded pot advocate, even on this site, ever claimed that legalizing pot "is a panacea and it solves all these social problems." Obama is a true master of the straw man. And while we're at it, someone should tell the New Yorker that using flagrantly obvious straw men is not "nimble" argument.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 20, 2014 1:55:00 PM

federalist --

The same group for whom no attack on Clarence Thomas was too vile -- including obvious suggestions that black men have uncontrollable sexual appetites -- jump to point the finger of racism at you.

Far out!

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 20, 2014 2:01:46 PM

Federalist writes that "It never ceases to amaze" him "how liberals can get in such high dudgeon over simple inferences from indisputable facts."

First problem, the facts are quite disputable.

Second problem, various inferences can be deduced from the facts, not just ones you want to to draw

Third problem, inferences upon inferences lead to increasingly unreliable conclusions

Fourth problem, not just liberals think your post was screed.

Posted by: logician | Jan 20, 2014 3:52:20 PM

Bill Otis, you write that "almost no one gets locked up for smoking pot." Not true. In my state we regularly arrest black folks, not white for smoking pot. We also arrest them for possessing relatively small quantities--whereas not so for white folks. Furthermore, there is a widespread practice of police (and I've worked in several states) to stop black folks driving for any pretextual reasons (hence "driving while black), while not stopping white folks pretextually nearly so often. With these arrests and pretextual stops black folks get arrested a whole lot more for carrying other no-nos like guns, cocaine, stolen cars, etc, outstanding warrants. This is of course a very good thing as far as the achieving the end--crime reduction and social control--but nevertheless is quite discriminatory, and racist. This accounts for much of the anger and hostility toward the police of the largely innocent folks who live in black communities.

Posted by: policeman | Jan 20, 2014 4:03:13 PM

Federalist writes that "With respect to Pigford, even the NYTimes thought that racial politics played a large role in allowing obviously fraudulent claims to be paid. (Guys, Google is your friend."

There is (and there is bound to be) fraud in every government program: social security, medicare, income tax, etc.). I regularly indict and prosecute as may folks as we can for fraudulent activity. Pigford is no exception. That the New York Times "thinks" that racial politics played a role in bad payouts is hardly evidence of same, much less evidence linked to Obama. Curious that a conservative would cites the New York Times, whom conservatives always excoriate, for support.

Posted by: prosecutor | Jan 20, 2014 4:19:46 PM

oh do tell, logician--

Did not Obama take special interest in Pigford? And did it not have significant fraud attached to it? (When I say fraud, I mean that people who weren't harmed by the USDA glomming onto the settlement.)

Obama is on record as supporting the disparate impact theory when it comes to school discipline. That is an utterly pernicious idea because it deems discrimination as happening merely because of disparate numbers. The remedy, of course, is to race norm punishments.

And what of the Latinos should punish their enemies?

I don;t think libs want to debate these issues on the merits, so we get ad hominem argument. Weak.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 20, 2014 4:21:27 PM

Bill, how pathetic are these libs?

Posted by: federalist | Jan 20, 2014 4:21:55 PM

Federalist, you write "Bill, how pathetic are these libs?" Is that an argument?

Posted by: onlooker | Jan 20, 2014 4:26:28 PM

You did clearly touch a nerve, federalist, but that's largely because you once again approach a complex matter with a misguided sledge-hammer when a scalpel would better advance the dialogue (after which you then brag about your dubious achievement at getting others distracted and worked up).

Just what does possible fraud in a long-running, long-settled civil rights case dealing with farmers have to do with what Obama said here abut race, class and the modern drug war? If you want to debate Prez Obama and race issue outside the criminal justice arena, fine, but please find a more fitting forum.

Put simply, your Pigford reference is a misguided sledge-hammer because it is a distraction from the merits of the main issues of this post and blog, and an opaque one at that. It would be as if I said in response to your comment:
"Isn't everyone sick of federalist yapping about Obama? Those who actively study Mandarin Chinese have no business lecturing the rest of us about the President of the United States."

In any event, I will not try to prevent you from using the comments here to needle folks you disdain and to complain about off-topic matters. But, as other comments suggest, I do not think you help your cause or add force to your perspective when you do.

Posted by: Doug B. | Jan 20, 2014 4:30:45 PM

Federalist, I think you're smart, but I've noticed the following:

1. Judges you don't agree with are "hacks."

2. Liberals are "pathetic."

3. President Obama is "a race huckster yapping about race."

These gratuitous epithetscause me to substantially devalue the merits of your arguments. I suggest you temper your remarks; you'll achieve the more satisfaction and win more folks to your side, even on occasion a pathetic liberal, a hack, or a race huckster.

Posted by: obective observer | Jan 20, 2014 4:33:09 PM

policeman --

"Bill Otis, you write that 'almost no one gets locked up for smoking pot.'"

Nope, I wrote that almost no one gets locked up JUST for smoking pot.

Don't ever purport to quote me and omit the words I actually used. And I will stand by exactly what I wrote, which I put up under my own name, rather than some alias.

P.S. You are no more a policeman than you are a prosecutor, which was the "signature" you used in your next comment. Were we supposed to be fooled?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 20, 2014 4:43:18 PM

federalist --

The attempt to portray law enforcement as racist -- which is what's actually going on here -- is indeed pathetic.

The disproportion in the arrest of males over females vastly outstrips the disproportion in the arrest of blacks over whites. Does this mean that the country has it in for males?

The disproportion in the arrest of persons aged 18-30 over persons 48-60 also vastly outstrips the disproportion in the arrest of blacks over whites. Does this mean that the country has it in for young people?

What pure tripe. The reason that males, young people and blacks get disproportionately arrested is that their behavior is disproportionately criminal, compared to the general population. But most of the people on this site want to pretend that behavior has zip to do with it, and that it's all the White Devil.

Simultaneously, they have no answer to the gross racism liberals aimed at Clarence Thomas. The reason they have no answer is that they were in bed with the people doing the aiming.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 20, 2014 5:06:58 PM

Doug, "misguided sledgehammer"? Say it ain't so.

What I am doing, Doug, is pointing out that the Obama really has no business lecturing the rest of us about race. That's completely germane (although it is ad hominem). Obama was supposed to be a "post-racial" president, but instead we get the same tired shibboleths with a good deal of perniciousness. You can criticize me for opacity in my references, but should we really be taking those who champion race-based payola (which is what 90% of Pigford was) at face value when they pontificate on race? I suggest the answer is no. Of course, race-based payola is bad enough, but what about race-norming discipline in public schools? Should we take seriously Obama's pronouncements on race given his views on school discipline?

And Doug, you should practice what you preach--you questioned my public safety bona fides simply because I am not all that vocal about the punishments for repeat drunk drivers. Of course, you beat a hasty retreat when I pointed out that you vote for people who want to keep illegal aliens who drink and drive here in America where they can wreak more havoc. But hey, this is about Democrat electoral fortunes, so public safety be damned. Ha ha. See in Doug's ivory tower, voting for people who want to keep drunk drivers here isn't relevant to his bona fides on drunk driving, but because I don't raise the hue and cry about it, somehow my bona fides on public safety is somehow questionable. I'll leave it to Ivy League lawyers to explain how that works.

With respect to my "how pathetic are libs"--guys, lighten up, that obviously wasn't argument,

As for the defense of Pigford--good grief. Apparently, racial politics and payola is not just ok, but it is illegitimate to question the bona fides of those who practice it in the context of such persons' pronouncements on race?

With respect to me calling judges hacks---guys, I almost always back that up with argument (which is a lot more than most in here, by the way). And I notice that when I do criticize judges, very very few of commenters in here dare take me on.

With respect to Obama, guys, all you have to do is look at his pronouncements on the Jena Six to see that. And didn't he declare himself inspired by a speech that contained the following trite line: "White man's greed runs a world in need." I could go on. But why? You guys won't debate it.

And was anyone else nauseated by the "nimbly" characterization in the piece? Hero worship.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 20, 2014 5:26:22 PM

By the by, Doug, I have a decent knowledge of Mandarin Chinese.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 20, 2014 5:27:59 PM

Again, federalist, your tendency to conflate and confuse in service to your own talking points and ego is on display here. Obama is not, at least in the quote set forth above, "lecturing the rest of us about race." (He did lecture the rest of us about race in his post-Rev-Wright speech in Spring 2008, and I personally was underwhelmed by that effort. But it did likely help him get elected. Twice.)

In the quotes above, Prez Obama is just noting what seems reasonably well-documented in arrest and incarceration data concerning the inner-city poor, young people of color, and the operation of the modern drug war. Moreover, a close read of Obama's comments here suggest he is trying, perhaps inartfully, to make important observations about class and privilege and the practicalities of criminalizing only some drug use. (Because you make your living, federalist, helping the 1% keep their money, I cannot help but wonder if you are so eager to lament race issues having nothing to do with the criminal justice system in part to help ensure issues of class and privilege in modern criminal justice systems do not ever take center stage).

Your silly comments about what you think my voting patterns are exhibit the same distracting inaccuracies and smoke. Because you seem interest in my voting pattern, you should know I rarely vote down party lines (e.g., I usually vote for female candidates of either party over male candidates of either party, I usually vote for self-made candidates over trust-fund babies, etc.). Also, I know I have never voted for someone who campaigned for leniency for drunk drivers. Finally, on the merits, a policy requiring the deportation of every illegal alien convicted of a DUI likely would be a very bad/costly way to try to make the roadways safer because of the extra (state taxpayer) monies that would end up being spent by illegals to contest/appeal every breathalizer test anytime they blow above .08.

The broader point you have missed, federalist, is that saying distracting things about the speaker of a point --- e.g., saying he studies Mandarin Chinese or Vatican Latin, or that he is Catholic or Jewish, or that he might vote for certain candidates or work for bankers, or that he served in the military or in as a judicial law clerk, or that he went to a certain college or law school, or that he worked for a federal government agency while Obama has been Prez --- only adds heat, not light, to a discussion of that point. Perhaps that is your goal or a technique that has served you well in your personal and professional life. So be it. But it really does not advance a thoughtful discussion of the issues I hope this blog engages.

Posted by: Doug B. | Jan 20, 2014 6:33:42 PM

"One last point, federalist, which I think we both know/see: the biggest "price in blood" that should be obvious to all judges and other criminal justice officials is the willingness to let repeat drunk drivers drive again. Roughly speaking, about 10 people die or are critically injured EVERY SINGLE DAY due to repeat drunk drivers. Only if and when you and others get serious about the price of blood getting spilled on our highways every day because of these adult violent criminals, then I will turn to having a greater concern about whether a few extra releases of juve killers due to Miller might lead to similarly harmful public safety consequences."

That's the good professor in another thread. Note how he questions my bona fides because he doesn't think I am vociferous enough on this issue--of course, I think that drunk drivers need to be punished, and often a lot harsher (or smarter) than they are. Note how he calls them "violent criminals"--now we find out that he doesn't think that illegal aliens who commit drunk driving offenses should be deported because of a resource allocation issue, and we also find out that he'll vote for Dems who just don't make that big a deal for their support of citizenship for drunk driving illegal alien criminals. Once again, I'll let the Ivy Leaguers figure out how these positions can be reconciled. If stopping these "violent criminals" is so important, why would you even consider voting for those (including President Obama) who wish to foist thousands of them on us?

As for Obama, once again, you challenge my public safety bona fides because I am not vociferous on the drunk driving issue. But me challenging Obama's bona fides on this issue is somehow verboten. In this excerpt, he is lecturing about disproportionate arrests etc. (Of course, it never seemed to occur to Obama that perhaps the reason for this is the visibility of pot---cops don't usually bust down the doors to bust recreational users. If you've got pot on your person and you're pulled over, well, different issue.) In any event, Obama is talking race here, and slyly attacking the criminal justice system. Well, as has been amply shown by words and deeds, anything Obama says on race cannot be taken at face value. I don't see how pointing that out adds heat rather than light to the discussion.

I am baffled by your reference to Mandarin Chinese. Whether one speaks Mandarin or not seems entirely tangential to a discussion about how facially neutral laws and enforcement priorities fall on minorities in America. However, someone's history of not playing it straight when it comes to race--certainly, that's relevant to a discussion of that person's point of view on race. Obama is pontificating, and let's just say he doesn't come to the table with an entirely trustworthy record on the issue he's pontificating about. I fail to see how it's out of bounds for me to make that argument.

Are you really saying that in a thread discussing Obama's views on race and pot arrests that anecdotal evidence of Obama's lack of objectivity (to say the least)?

As for me helping the 1% keep their money--well, since I live well inside the city limits of a major US city and raise three kids in that city, I think that reality, rather than my work, influences my view on criminal justice.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 20, 2014 8:04:59 PM

This is getting tiresome, federalist, but I will try another round: you can shoot the messenger all you want, but the data show that Obama's assertions about the impact of race and class in the enforcement of the drug war are well-founded. If you do not think the drug war impacts the poor and people of color more than it impact the rich and whites, explain why rather than complain about what you think is Obama's problematic record on race.

Similarly, if you think the Miller ruling has a bigger impact on public safety than our lenient treatment of repeat drunk drivers, make the case for it. But talking about illegal aliens or what you think it my voting record has nothing to do with my point in that other thread. Nor does the fact that I went to two Ivy League schools and you did not.

Again, federalist, at issue is whether you want to discuss the merits of issues on the table or the nature of the person at the table raising the issues. Maybe you think who raises an issue matters to its substance. But the fact you still use a pen name suggest you think what is said matters more than the speaker. But maybe not.

So, I will try to get you to get back on the substantive point: do you dispute the substance of what Prez Obama suggests concerning the drug war impacting the poor and people of color more than it impact the rich and whites? If so, explain. If not, save your complaints about Prez Obama's race record for another forum. (Similarly, if you think the Miller ruling presents a bigger public safety threat than repeat drunk drivers, explain why. I do not what this forum to be about you or me or Obama, but about ideas. You are welcome to create your own forum to discuss people rather than ideas.)

Posted by: Doug B. | Jan 20, 2014 9:32:58 PM

Recreational use of marijuana almost NEVER results in harsh punishment of anyone, minority or non-minority. That doesn't mean you should walk around in public with your grass, and if you do, you're likely to get into some (not much) trouble. So yeah, I dispute what Obama has to say. Additionally, Doug, Obama's commentary is likely slanted by his worldview, which I have shown (assuming that what he says and does evidence his worldview) is pretty slanted. Obama seems to live in this world where the poor and minorities are put upon by the criminal justice ("just-us" system). (Obama actually said that.)

I fail to see how Obama's worldview as evidenced by things he's said and done isn't relevant.

"Similarly, if you think the Miller ruling has a bigger impact on public safety than our lenient treatment of repeat drunk drivers, make the case for it. But talking about illegal aliens or what you think it my voting record has nothing to do with my point in that other thread. Nor does the fact that I went to two Ivy League schools and you did not."

Now this is just obtuse. You yourself questioned my commitment to public safety because apparently I am not vociferous enough about drunk driving. And so my guess about your voting record and stance on illegal alien drunk drivers became fair game. You are going to use a lack of vociferousness about drunk driving mayhem to attempt to show indifference to public safety (when the truth is that I agree with you on drunk driving) and then what, claim that we should allow illegals who drive drunk to stay here? And as for Miller and drunk driving lenience, I never said that Miller was worse for public safety than drunk driving lenience, so why would I make the case for it? And why would you mischaracterize what I have said by stating that I need to make some case about something I never said? To paraphrase:

Me: Miller sucks--there are public safety implications.

Doug: Well, I'll take you seriously when you're more serious about drunk driving.

Me: Well, Doug, you don't want to deport illegals who commit drunk driving. (I.e., you're not as serious as you say you are.)

Doug: Prove Miller is more of a problem than drunk driving lenience.

Me: Um, I never said that it was.

You called me out on drunk driving--I made a couple of educated guesses which call into question your bona fides on the issue, and now the thing changes to a discussion of the relative dangers of Miller and drunk driving lenience.

"Again, federalist, at issue is whether you want to discuss the merits of issues on the table or the nature of the person at the table raising the issues. Maybe you think who raises an issue matters to its substance. But the fact you still use a pen name suggest you think what is said matters more than the speaker. But maybe not."

Generally speaking what is said IS more important than the identity of the speaker. But that's only true where the authority of the speaker isnt really an issue. If Obama is giving his take on the intersection of race and class and pot crime, then yes, his worldview IS relevant.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 20, 2014 10:11:39 PM

I do share your sense, federalist, that worldview is relevant when facts are uncertain or opinions are being offered. But the fact of arrests and incarceration for drug crimes as they intersect with race and class seem pretty clear to me, and now I am trying to figure out whether you dispute the data or dispute that the Prez of the US should be troubled by this data. Moreover, should we inherently question your claims/authority in this regard because of your background and worldview?

My sense is that your worldview is so biased against Ds and liberals that you find whatever reason you can to complain about what they do and say (or what their appointed judges do or say in cases like Plata and Miller). Speaking of Miller, It seem you now acknowledge that the public safety impact of drunk driving is much great than the impact of Miller. But you persistently assail the Justices who decided Miller whereas I have never before heard you complain about Rhenquist's work for a unanimous SCOTUS in Leocal. Why is that? I surmise it is because you like beating on those you dislike more than you like advancing a sober discusion of public safety.

Posted by: Doug B. | Jan 21, 2014 7:21:08 AM

so now we've moved from pot to drugs?

So basically we have you saying that Obama's worldview would be relevant if the facts were uncertain. But they are uncertain. Recreational use of marijuana isn't a huge law enforcement priority in many urban areas. Now, law enforcement isn't all that jazzed about people smoking dope in public for the same reason they aren't too jazzed about people walking down the street with a brew in their hands. But is this a racial issue--that you don't get to flout laws in public? That's a stretch, and I think Obama's playing a little bit of the race card here.

As for Leocal--that's a matter of a lawful resident who can't get deported because the statute doesn't allow it. Why would I criticize Rehnquist--the case looks to be correctly decided. I'm not crazy about the policy, but the rules are the rules. Now let's contrast that with your view that illegals (i.e., people who broke our laws to get here) should get to stay even if they committed drunk driving. But then you want us to believe that youre so hardcore on drunk driving that you get to call me out because I don't get all vociferous about it in here.

You can call me biased all you want about 'rat politicians and judges, but I don't see a lot of people taking me on. You've taken me on, and I think any fair observer knows you've gotten your clock cleaned on this thread.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 21, 2014 10:23:17 PM

Federalist stated: "You've taken me on, and I think any fair observer knows you've gotten your clock cleaned on this thread."

Federalist cleans everyone's clock. If you don't think so, just ask him.

Posted by: Tim Holloway | Jan 22, 2014 10:30:59 AM

Wow, federalist, I never cease to be amused and amazed by your obvious desire to make debates personal and then brag about success that only you see. Perhaps this so personal for you because you hold a grudge about not having been able to go to certain schools or not getting some kind of credit you think you deserve. I am tempted to think you project so much bravado because you must be insecure about something in your personal or professional life.

Bravado aside, it seems here you are happy to admit you are biased against "'rat politicians and judges." That should help you understand why you "don't see a lot of people taking [you] on" --- doing so is as unsatisfying and as pointless as trying to take on Supremacy Clause with his bias against lawyers and feminists. When your response to one point is a screed on your off-topic interested --- e.g., when a pot comment by Obama (which is more about class than race) has you screeching about Pigford, school discipline, Latinos and our prior debates over Miller --- nobody has any interest in playing in the silly sandbox that you so proudly claim you reign over.

I will sometimes play along with you because I think your screeds, along with our back and forth, help me better understand what folks with you worldview and background believe. Because my job is to understand arguments and worldviews, especially in the criminal justice arena, I have more time and reason to engage even with those like you who seems to care more about huffing and puffing than about advancing ideas. This is the same reason I used to engage with Supremacy Clause -- until doing so became tiresome and no longer enlightening. Similarly, I have come to find the engagement on this thread, federalist, no longer enlightening save for seeing yet again how eager you are to call yourself the winner of your own created off-topic battle that nobody else wants to waste time fighting in this space.

Posted by: Doug B. | Jan 22, 2014 5:43:12 PM

Unbelievable. All I did was point out that Obama's record on race isn't hot and I get compared to someone who favors slavery--and I am the bad guy? Huh?

But let's walk through the thread--here's a nutshell of my back and forth with Doug:

Doug: Calling Obama a race huckster, what's that got to do with the price of tea in China?

Fed: Well, Obama is talking about an issue that involves race, and he's not exactly evenhanded on race.

Doug: Fed, his statement is fact-based, and so what he said is more important, but you're right--when the facts aren't clear, the worldview of the speaker is relevant.

Fed: Well, then, let's look at this---Obama's talking about how the system treats minorities different from whites when it comes to smoking pot. Well, that seems an odd thing to talk about--most urban jurisdictions (i.e., jurisdictions which have a high percentage of minorities) don't make pot-smoking a priority. So, I don't think Obama's right about pot-smoking by itself getting a whole lot of minorities in the pokey.

Doug: Well, fed, I won't answer that point. But you like to raise irrelevant stuff. And why are you bringing up the drunk driving thing.

Fed: well Doug, you criticized me for doing the very thing you accuse me of doing--whether or not I write about drunk driving deaths in here was supposedly a basis for criticizing me about Miller/Graham. Under any standard, that's germane. In other words, I raised it because you used the same tactic you criticize in me.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 22, 2014 10:07:21 PM

How come you keep leaving out the class point I keep raising, federalist? The way you describe the dialogue itself shows that your worldview distorts what you think Obama is saying and what I am saying, too. Who is the true race ruckster when you repeatedly keep avoiding the class issues in order to obsess over race?

I think the facts are clear about the impact of class (and race) concerning pot policy and the broader drug war. You are the one who remains eager to focus on who is saying this --- Obama and me --- rather than pointing to any contrary evidence. You bring up concerns about people, not concerns about ideas. I will answer any point you make on criminal justice issues once I can get through all the silliness about Pigford and school discipline and voting patterns. When you stay on topic, the discussion is productive. When you rant about the Ds and judges you dislike, the discussion is wasteful

In this vein, know I do not think you are the bad guy, nor do a seek to criticize you personally for your dis affinity for Miller... Rather I was explaining that my own interest in public safety make me much more concerned about DUI than about Miller. This forum is not used by me as game of who scores more personal point or thinks they are winning like Chalie Shhen. Rather it is a place for me to explore and to advance ideas about improving our criminal justice systems.

So, again, I urge you to stop being so involved in personal drama and instead to focus on ideas. And the idea I still want your views on concerns whether you think CLASS and wealth impact pot policies and practices. If so, you me and Obama are really on the same page here to some extent. But perhaps you think our CJ system lacks any class bias and impact. If so, then we do see the facts of the modern marijuana world quite differently.

Indeed, the point of my quote of the Prez and my commentary thereafter was to try to get this economic issue fleshed out. But you managed to --- and still persist in --- ignoring that part of this story because it seems you are the real race huckster or rather just interested in calling people names rather than on engaging with ideas.

Posted by: Doug B. | Jan 23, 2014 12:08:07 AM

Interesting response, Doug. First of all, Obama was talking about the recreational use of pot--not dealing, other drugs etc. Second of all, as Bill (and the WSJ) have asked whether the recreational use of pot (absent other consideration--e.g., probation violations for other crimes, plea deals which knock down dealing charges to simple possession and people with serious criminal histories who get busted)) is a serious threat to one's liberty. My guess, and you don't seem to dispute it, is that in most urban areas pot smoking is way low on the list of priorities. Now, of course, if you flout the law by smoking weed in public . . . . you'll get in some trouble.

If I am right, then the issue of race/class and pot smoking seems to be an odd one for the President to get upset about. Although there are lightning strikes, a little weed smoking isn't going to get people sent to the pokey for "long stretches of time"--do you dispute that?

So, if you don't, and I don't think you can with a straight face, Obama is engaging in a bit of tall tale telling. And now that we're there, his worldview on race becomes very very relevant.

As for class, well, Obama is the one who brings race into the equation. But he's wrong about class too--poor kids who do nothing else but smoke pot recreationally aren't going to the State pen for "long stretches." Obama is falsely undermining the legitimacy of the "just us" system. Amazing that a law prof doesn't see this for what it is.

I can't help but note that you seem to have caved on the point about drunk driving. You did the same exact thing you criticized me for. Do you dispute that?

You think that the war on drugs is a bad idea and that it's too harsh and that the harshness falls disproportionately on minorities. Well, perhaps that's so. I have vigorously advocated in here for a more robust clemency process. I also tend to focus my ire on violent criminals (and I include those who have serious criminal records who blow drug tests) and serious drug dealers. But the idea that pot-smoking alone is resulting in draconian punishments seems to me to be a fantasy of Obama's and yours. Obama has an agenda with this BS. Hard for me to see how you don't see that.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 23, 2014 10:00:00 PM

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