Apr 17, 2014 fbook icon twitter icon rss icon

President Obama

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11California Man Begins 2-Year Prison Term For Working At Legal Marijuana Dispensary

A California man has been sentenced to two years in federal prison after participating in the state’s legal medical marijuana dispensary business.

Robert Duncan’s grow house was raided by federal officers in October 2011 when the Obama administration announced a new crackdown on California’s medical marijuana operation. Duncan, 31, was set to report Mendota Federal Correctional Institution on Monday at 2 p.m. to begin his two-year prison sentence, the Huffington Post reports.

After graduating from Cal State in 2006, Duncan, who grew up in the Bay Area, worked in television production and marketing in Los Angeles before being laid off because of the recession.

Duncan’s friends reached out to him soon after and asked if he’d be interested in managing the growing operation of their dispensary business. Duncan had little experience with growing, but he agreed.

“I designed the grow rooms with the help of a local hydroponic store,” Duncan said. “Did the scheduling, decided which nutrients to feed the plants, when they were going to get harvested. I was constantly working to upgrade the efficiency of the grow room environment and thinking of new ways to make things better.”

Duncan said he found the work to be more challenging and exciting than he expected. He was working about 80 hours a week, but “it was rewarding.”

Duncan admitted that his view on marijuana users changed when he got into the business, as most patients were struggling with a disability and really needed the drug.

Duncan claims that he and his colleagues were aware of California marijuana laws and followed them exactly.

“We were entirely compliant with state law,” he said. “It was shortly after the federal government said it would not intervene if people followed state law. We wanted to abide by the rules. None of us had criminal backgrounds. We’re all regular guys. The only reason we got into this was because the federal government said they wouldn't intervene.”

A SWAT team raided their grow house, but the indictment did not come until the following year, when Duncan was charged with “manufacturing of marijuana.” However, he “didn’t find out until shortly before the actual sentencing” that he would end up in prison.

Even though Duncan did not have “any stake in the company” or “any ownership of anything,” he was sentenced to 24 months by a conservative judge.

“The 80 percent of us Californians who support medical cannabis are disappointed [in the raids] and want some backing from the [Obama] administration to end this reefer madness," State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, told the Sacramento Bee after the 2011 raid of Duncan’s former business.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/06/12/4554830/sacramento-marijuana-dispensary.html#storylink=cpy

In a Pew Research Center poll released last April, a majority of Americans (52 percent) for the very first time favor marijuana legalization.

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11Nearly 400 Protestors Arrested Outside Of White House On Sunday

Roughly 400 protestors were arrested in front of the White House yesterday. The protestors, many of whom were college students, were protesting the Keystone XL pipeline project. The pipeline needs President Barack Obama’s signature in order to be built.

Many protestors tied themselves to the White House fence using plastic ties, while others portrayed a “human oil spill” by laying out on a black tarp on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Many expect Obama to give a green light to the pipeline’s construction. This has caused a feeling of betrayal among one of Obama’s major voting blocs, especially given the numerous anti-oil statements Obama has made in the past.

"[This is] a youth-organized action to tell President Obama to reject the Keystone Pipeline," protestor Nick Stracco said. "Because the youth vote was a crucial part in both of his elections, we know that we elected him and we voted for a climate champion, not another pipeline president."

The $5.3 billion project would transport tar sands from Alberta, Canada, all the way down to the Gulf Coast of the United States, making stops in states along the way. Proponents of the pipeline say it will increase America’s energy independence and provide thousands of jobs during its construction. Opponents, like the ones outside the White House yesterday, say the pipeline is an environmental disaster.

Protestors marched yesterday from Georgetown University to the White House. Soon after arriving at the President’s digs, the group was met by U.S. Park Police. Police set up tents near the White House and began arresting protestors by the hundreds.

The organizers estimate that around 1,000 people showed up to yesterday’s protest. Almost 400 of them were arrested. Most demonstrators knew they could be arrested for their protest but went through with it anyways.

“The youth really understand the traditional methods of creating change are not sufficient … so we needed to escalate,” protestor Aly Johnson Kurts said.

As fate would have it, Kurts was arrested minutes after uttering these words.

Sources: Reuters, News 8000, Politico

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11Christine Wright-Darrisaw Convicted Of Making Death Threats To President Obama

A New York woman has been found guilty by a federal jury of threatening to kill President Barack Obama.

Federal prosecutors said Thursday that Christine Write-Darrisaw of Rochester, N.Y., made the threat during a phone call to the White House in February 2012, The Associated Press reports.

Wright-Darrisaw was found guilty of two counts she was charged with, including threatening to kill the president and making a false statement to a Secret Service agent.

A White House operator, Christiane Richardin, testified Wednesday saying that Wright-Darrisaw complained about how child custody laws were unfair and urging that they needed to be fixed by Obama. She then said she was going to kill the president, according to an affidavit filed in federal court.

According to WHAM-TV, the Secret Service agent investigating the case also testified, saying that Wright-Darrisaw told him two different stories about the calls.

In the first story, someone took her phone out of her hands. The other story was Wright-Darrisaw putting the phone down and someone else picking it up.

He said Wright-Darrisaw could not answer more questions about her stories.

A mental health exam determined that she was okay for trial, even though her attorney said she has schizophrenia.

Wright-Darrisaw is set to be sentenced May 14 before U.S. District Judge Frank Geraci Jr. She faces up to five years in prison and fined $250,000 on each count.

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11New Gallup Poll Reveals Americans Evenly Split Over Whether Afghan War Was a "Mistake."

In the early fall of 2001, when the rubble from the World Trade Center still thick but workers had lost any hope of finding more survivors, America retaliated. Using joint operations with special military forces and Afghan locals—led by Hamid Karzai, a rebel leader hated by the Taliban— the U.S. routed the enemy into Pakistan before the end of the year. Only then, things stalled. Now, the war in Afghanistan is the longest wars in the history of the U.S., and for the first time Americans are evenly split about whether it was a mistake, according to a new poll from Gallup.

While the Global War on Terror as a concept and the Iraq war that shortly followed have long faced skepticism, Afghanistan always seemed like a war of necessity. During the 2008 Presidential campaign, then-Senator Obama doubled-down on the idea that this was the war to win.

When Gallup first posed this question to Americans, “fewer than one in 10” thought that it was a bad idea to retaliate against the country harboring the masterminds of the 9/11 attacks and had the highest approval rating of any war since Gallup started asking the “mistake” question in 1950. Now, it has the second-highest “mistake” rating, tied with Korea in 1951 and surpassed by Iraq in 2004.

Still, Americans “maintained a generally supportive posture toward U.S. involvement in Afghanistan for a longer period of time than was the case for other wars.” Still, as time drags onward, the rising casualty rate and increasingly aggressive attitude from the Karzai administration, Americans are less likely to see that anything was gained by the war.

What will be interesting is how these numbers are interpreted by both the opinion-media and the American public. Conservative outlet CNS News has pointed out that 74% of U.S. casualties in Afghanistan happened after President Obama took office and increased troop levels. However Politicus USA, cites the official Army history of the war as proof that the Bush Administration bungled early victories by ignoring the needs of the new government and using American resources in the war in Iraq. However, how costly these wars have been and whether or not that price was worth it is something only time will be able to tell for sure.

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11Obama Shares Laugh with Rep. Louie Gohmert, Who Demonizes Him (Video)

President Obama spoke this morning at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C. where he shared a laugh with one of his biggest haters, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas).

Rep. Gohmert has accused President Obama of "allowing evil people to take over the world,” "stirring up racial tension and violence," and going "to war with Christianity."

According to Wonkette, Rep. Gohmert has also supports impeaching President Obama.

But it was all smiles and laughter this morning (video below), when President Obama joked: "I, by the way, have always found Louie to be unbelievably gracious every time I've see him... Now, I don't watch TV."

Rep. Gohmert smiled and laughed heartily, notes TalkingPointsMemo.com.

The Christian Post reports that President Obama mentioned "freedom of religion" (again), which many right wing Christians claim he never says.

"Central to that dignity is freedom of religion, the right of every person to practice their faith how they choose, to change their faith if they choose, or to practice no faith at all, and to do this free from persecution and fear," stated Obama.

"Promoting religious freedom is a key objective of U.S. foreign policy, and I'm proud that no nation on Earth does more to stand up for the freedom of religion around the world than the United States of America," added Obama.

Obama also mentioned his own Christian faith, which many conservatives have claimed doesn't exist.

Obama said that he began going to churches in Chicago to help those in poverty, which led him to the Christian faith.

"I'm grateful not only because I'm broke and the Church fed me," said Obama, "but because it led me to everything else. It led me to embrace Jesus Christ as my Lord and savior."

Sources: Wonkette, TalkingPointsMemo.com, The Christian Post

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11President Obama Tells Bill O'Reilly that Fox News Pushes Benghazi Conspiracy (Video)

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly interviewed President Obama today to get him "on the record" about the Benghazi conspiracy that Fox News has promoted.

O’Reilly also asked President Obama if telling Americans that they could keep their insurance was the biggest mistake that he has made, reports TalkingPointsMemo.com (video below).

"This is one I regret and I've said I regretted," President Obama responded. "I think we all anticipated that there would be glitches. I don't think I anticipated or anybody anticipated the degree of the problems with the website."

O'Reilly asked the president why he did not fire Health and Human Services Director Kathleen Sebelius, to which Obama said, "I promise you that we hold everyone up and down the line accountable."

The Fox News conservative also brought up the Benghazi terrorist attack from 2012 and the IRS scandal from 2013, notes Mediaite.com.

Obama repeated the facts of each situation and noted the congressional investigations, but O'Reilly insisted "we still don’t know what happened."

“They believe [that] because folks like you are telling them that,” President Obama said. “These kinds of things keep on surfacing in part because you and your TV station will promote them."

Sources: Mediaite.com and TalkingPointsMemo.com

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11State of the Union Highlights: Big Ideas or Empty Promises?

While the State of the Union address always has the attention of the nation, President Obama’s latest stood in contrast to the tough year his administration faced. You know, the one that saw the government shut down, an unproductive Congress, and the troubled rollout of his signature health care plan. Of course, the State of the Union is the most deliberately crafted speech and was delivered by one of the best oratory Presidents in recent memory.

The speech—which clocked in at just over an hour—was packed with the hopes of President who feels as if he can no longer rely on the legislature. From the climate to the temperature of the economy, from immigration to retirement planning the President suggested that he was tired of waiting for them to get their legislative acts together and said he plans to use his Executive authority to address these problems. “America does not stand still,” He said, “and neither will I.”

The President called for action on the immigration issue, where a bipartisan bill died on arrival in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives. He also resurrected the idea of retirement accounts (in the form of a government bond) that has appeared in a number of budget requests but has never been acted on by the legislature.

With respect to the economy there is very little a President can do—yet still the narratives on both sides insist that it lives and dies by White House policy—and President Obama relied on tried-and-true aspirations that rarely manifest in reality. He called for more high-tech jobs and called for revisions to the tax code that are generally accepted by both parties (specifically an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit). Although his proposal to raise the minimum wage to over $10 has met with resistance from both sides.

Responding to his critics, President Obama also suggested that the U.S. reduce its surveillance programs and limit the use of drones. The speech ended with an emotional acknowledgement of Army Ranger Cory Remsburg who had lost vision in one eye as a result of the war in Afghanistan. Yet, the President doubled-down on his desire to leave “a small force of Americans” in Afghanistan for training and “counter-terrorism operations to pursue any remnants of al Qaeda.” Conspicuous by its absence was any reference to the controversy surrounding the cutting of military pensions.

The speech itself was a success; of course it is almost impossible for it to not have been. What bears watching is the President’s use of Executive power to address these issues. The expansion of White House powers has continued for at least the past 30 years, but rarely has a President faced such a hostile and unproductive Congress. Perhaps his threat of acting alone will spark action in the legislature, but with the mid-term elections upon us this seems unlikely. 

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11In Honor of MLK Day, Palin's Advice to Obama: "Stop Playing the Race Card"

In honor of Martin Luther King Day, Sarah Palin posted a Facebook comment in which she recommended that President Obama “stop placing the race card.”

Although the post would be questionable (at the very least) on any day, it seems particularly inappropriate on a day meant to honor the civil rights leader’s legacy.

In the Facebook post, the Republican and Former Alaska Governor also quoted part of King’s famous “I have a Dream” speech.

King’s quote was followed up by one of her own: “Mr. President, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. and all who commit to ending any racial divide, no more playing the race card.”

The issue of the “race card” is one Obama has previously addressed. “There are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black president,” he has said.

Conversely, as in an interview last year, he has also acknowledged that there are “some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black president.”

Both of these comments were made in instances before Palin’s Facebook suggestion.

Sources: Huffington Post, USA Today

Photo Source: Huffington Post


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11Former Judge Richard Cebull Sent Hundreds of Inappropriate E-mails, Ruled Fairly from the Bench

There is a distinction to be made between institutional racism and individual racism. Institutional racism happens within a public system and prevents people of a certain race or ethnic background from taking full advantage of their rights and liberties in America. Individual racism is simply one person’s belief that he or she does not like people of a certain race or ethnic background. As in the past institutional racism can reflect an overall societal problem or sometimes it can be caused be an individual racist in a position where his or her personal bias influence how the system treats people of a certain race or ethnic background.

This latter example seemed to fit in the case of former U.S. District Court Judge Richard Cebull of Montana, after an e-mail he forwarded became public knowledge. Deemed a “racist joke,” the e-mail read, according to USA Today: A little boy said to his mother, “Mommy how come I’m black and you’re white?” His mother replied “Don’t go there, Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you’re lucky you don’t bark.”

While the joke seems to be more about the President’s mother’s sexual morals than race itself, people were nonetheless outraged. Cebull apologized and resigned as an investigation was launched into Cebull’s activities on his federal e-mail account and his cases. Ironically, the e-mail that was publicized begins with the line “Normally, I don’t send or forward a lot of these…” but it turns out the Cebull did forward quite a lot of e-mails like this.

According to the Associated Press, Cebull “sent hundreds of other inappropriate messages,” and that those messages “related to pending issues that could have come before Cebull’s court, such as immigration, gun control, civil rights, health care and environmental issues. Yet more importantly, they also “found no evidence of bias in Cebull’s ruling or sentences.”

Cebull, who earlier claimed not be racist but instead “anti-Obama,” may be individually racist, only he can know his own thoughts unless he chooses to share them. However, absent a further analysis of his case history, he seems to have kept his private feelings private (outside of tasteless email forwards) and did his duty from the bench fairly and honestly.

In the light of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, this story exemplifies the current struggle against racism. Institutional racism is far less prevalent than it was in Dr. King’s day and in certain places has disappeared entirely. What’s left is to deal with individual racists. What one wonders is how Dr. King would handle them?

Would he call for them to be ostracized and left unable to make a living or would he have appealed to them in a different way? In modern society anyone who is fixed with the “racist” label is treated as if he or she is Bull Connor reincarnated. While Dr. King marched on America’s streets and capital, he also had to deal with many people who were individually racist and win them over. Would Dr. King have criticized Cebull for calling for his own investigation and then eventually stepping down? No one can know, but the question is worth considering in any discussion about modern race-relations.  

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11As President Obama Speaks on NSA, New Documents Leak Showing 200 Million Text Messages Collected Daily

On Friday, President Obama addressed the nation regarding both the scandal surrounding the top secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden to various press outlets and the revelations those leaks uncovered. However, shortly before the presidential address, The Guardian published a new revelation from those self-same documents provided by Snowden. While it has been known for some time that the NSA collects data on phone calls and computer transmissions, these latest revelations suggest that they collect “almost 200 million text messages a day from across the globe.”

Agents at the NSA will then mine that data for all the information it can, calling it “A Goldmine to Exploit” in a presentation on the subject. They are able to mine the phone for geolocation data, records of financial transactions, and information about phone contacts. The NSA was also able to read the text messages and used that information to discern when and where meetings were taking place.

The President has finally responded to global criticism and agreed to limit the activities of the NSA. Before they can access the “vast storehouse of telephone data,” the agency will have to obtain court permission (although it is a “secret” court). The President also promised to restrict how wide a net the NSA can cast when collecting data, and promised “to sharply restrict eavesdropping on the leaders of dozens of foreign allies,” all according to The New York Times.

Journalist Glenn Greenwald, formerly of The Guardian, criticized the speech and the President’s integrity in wanting real reform. In an interview with Al Jazeera America, Greenwald said the President never wanted to reform the NSA but “to restore public confidence, meaning to prettify the process to make it seem more palatable.” He instead called for the complete restructuring on the post-9/11 intelligence apparatus for one that is “sensible” and safeguards privacy of everyday civilians.

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