Is pot the new gay marriage for the GOP? – By JONATHAN TOPAZ 1/31/15 9:06 AM EST

Republicans struggle to find their footing on an issue that resonates with younger voters.

FILE - In this May 13, 2009 file photo, marijuana grown for medical purposes is shown inside a greenhouse at a farm in Potter Valley, Calif in Mendocino County. A federal grand jury has issued a subpoena for records associated with Mendocino County’s now-suspended medical marijuana permitting program in what appears to be another step in the federal crackdown on the state’s medical marijuana industry. County officials say it’s not clear why the U.S. Attorney’s Office wants the records. They have declined to say what records were specifically requested. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

Marijuana is shaping up to be the new gay marriage of GOP politics — most Republicans would rather not talk about it, except to punt to the states.

But when it comes to the 2016 presidential race, a series of legalization ballot initiatives — and a certain outspoken Kentucky senator — could make it harder for the Republican field to avoid the conversation.

When asked to articulate their positions on recreational marijuana, several potential GOP 2016 candidates have tried to strike a tricky balance: stress the downsides of pot use and the upsides of states’ rights. Some have indicated their openness to decriminalizing pot, at least in their state, but none favors outright legalization.

For instance, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who took steps toward decriminalizing pot in his state, declared last year: “I am a staunch promoter of the 10th Amendment. States should be able to set their own policies on abortion, same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization.”

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, meanwhile, “believes legalization of marijuana for recreational use is a bad idea, and that the states that are doing it may well come to regret it,” said Alex Conant, his spokesman. “Of course, states can make decisions about what laws they wish to apply within their own borders.”

Marijuana may not stimulate the same kind of passion as the debate over same-sex marriage. Still, a majority of Americans support legalizing pot, and young people — who tend to turn out more for presidential elections than midterms — are especially keen on it.

The “leave it to the states” stance allows potential GOP candidates to stake out a relatively safe middle ground between an older conservative base that disapproves of marijuana use and a general-election electorate and libertarian wing that prefers legalization. The states’ rights approach also allows GOP candidates to express some openness to medical marijuana and criminal justice reform and argue against devoting costly resources for federal enforcement.

It’s also a position many in the prospective GOP field have taken on same-sex marriage.

Perry and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush both argued for the rights of states to set their own marriage policies after courts overturned bans in Texas and Florida. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Rubio, among others, have also said marriage should be left up to the states. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has called for a constitutional amendment to disallow the federal government or courts to nullify state marriage laws, saying: “our Constitution leaves it to the states to define marriage.”

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Poll sheds light on Republicans’ changing global warming views – January 30, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at Jan 31, 2015 4.36

Nearly half of Republicans said they were more likely to support a political candidate who believes in human-caused global warming and who advocates action to stop its effects on the environment, a new poll released by Stanford University, The New York Times and environmental nonprofit Resources for the Future shows.

Asked if they would be more or less likely to vote for a candidate who believed “global warming has been happening for the past 100 years,” primarily because of humans’ “burning fuels and putting out greenhouse gases,” some 48 percent of Republican respondents said they would be more likely to vote for such a candidate, compared with 24 percent who said they would be less likely to do so; 26 percent said it would have no effect.

While the poll surveyed a sampling of Americans across party lines, the finding about Republican voter preferences was called “the most powerful finding” of the entire survey by co-author and Stanford University professor Jon Krosnick, given that a New York Times poll conducted with CBS in September showed that 42 percent of Republicans said global warming was an environmental problem “that won’t have a serious impact.”

Thirty-five percent of Republicans also said that global warming would present a “somewhat serious” problem for the world if nothing is done to reduce its impacts in the future, while 26 percent said the consequences would be “very serious.”

As for what to do about global warming, Republicans overwhelmingly opposed increasing taxes on electricity and gasoline so that people use less, but favored giving tax breaks to companies to produce more electricity from water, wind and solar power as well as rewarding companies that burn coal to make electricity with tax breaks if they used new methods to reduce air pollution.

That sentiment was also shared by Americans across party lines, with 80 percent of people surveyed saying they favored giving tax breaks to produce more electricity from water, wind and solar power. Still, 74 percent of Americans said they opposed increasing taxes on electricity and on gasoline.

Among all Americans surveyed in the poll, 44 percent said that if nothing was done to combat global warming, it would become a “very serious” problem for the United States, while 57 percent said the consequences would be “very serious” for the world.

Meanwhile, the findings about Republican voter preferences show a marked contrast with the public record of many Republican politicians, many of whom have either denied the science of climate change or distanced themselves from it, saying in many cases that they do not have the expertise to issue an opinion.

The Republican-controlled Senate acknowledged in a vote earlier this month that climate change is real, but refused to say humans are to blame amid a series of votes that tested Republicans’ stance on global warming. In a surprise move, Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma endorsed a measure drafted by Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse that read simply that, “Climate change is real and not a hoax.”  It passed 98-1.

But Inhofe quickly made clear that he still thought humans were not to blame.

“Climate is changing and climate has always changed and always will. There is archaeological evidence of that, there is biblical evidence of that, there is historical evidence of that,” said Inhofe. But “there are some people who are so arrogant to think they are so powerful they can change climate.”

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press 

The Upper Middle Class Is Ruining America – By Reihan Salam JAN. 30 2015 12:38 PM

And I want it to stop.

 Everyone who’€™s entitled to the good life raise their hands. Photo by Goodshoot/Thinkstock

Everyone who’€™s entitled to the good life raise their hands.
Photo by Goodshoot/Thinkstock

I first encountered the upper middle class when I attended a big magnet high school in Manhattan that attracted a decent number of brainy, better-off kids whose parents preferred not to pay private-school tuition. Growing up in an immigrant household, I’d felt largely immune to class distinctions. Before high school, some of the kids I knew were somewhat worse off, and others were somewhat better off than most, but we generally all fell into the same lower-middle- or middle-middle-class milieu. So high school was a revelation. Status distinctions that had been entirely obscure to me came into focus. Everything about you—the clothes you wore, the music you listened to, the way you pronounced things—turned out to be a clear marker of where you were from and whether you were worth knowing.

By the time I made it to a selective college, I found myself entirely surrounded by this upper-middle-class tribe. My fellow students and my professors were overwhelmingly drawn from comfortably affluent families hailing from an almost laughably small number of comfortably affluent neighborhoods, mostly in and around big coastal cities. Though virtually all of these polite, well-groomed people were politically liberal, I sensed that their gut political instincts were all about protecting what they had and scratching out the eyeballs of anyone who dared to suggest taking it away from them. I can’t say I liked these people as a group. Yet without really reflecting on it, I felt that it was inevitable that I would live among them, and that’s pretty much exactly what’s happened.

So allow me to unburden myself. I’ve had a lot of time to observe and think about the upper middle class, and though many of the upper-middle-class individuals I’ve come to know are good, decent people, I’ve come to the conclusion that upper-middle-class Americans threaten to destroy everything that is best in our country. And I want them to stop.

Who counts as upper middle class? It depends. Back in 2013, one surveyfound that 85 percent of Americans saw themselves as part of a broad middle class, stretching from lower middle (26 percent) to middle middle (46 percent) to upper middle (12 percent). We could define it by income—say, all single adults who earn more than $100,000 a year, or all married couples that earn more than $200,000—but that’s too crude. Let’s just say that upper-middle-class status is a state of mind. We’re talking about families that earn well into the six-figure range yet don’t feel rich, either because of their student loan debt or the enormous cost of the amenities they consider nonnegotiable: living in well-above-average school districts for those with children or living in “cool” neighborhoods for those without.

The Smartest, Richest Companies Can’t Crack Mobile. The Future Belongs to Anyone Who Can – BY MARCUS WOHLSEN 01.30.15

The world’s smartest and richest tech companies posted their quarterly earnings this week, and if you had to draw one lesson from the results, it’s this: mobile matters—more than anything.

Fackbook Acquires WhatsApp For $16 Billion

 Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The companies seeing the strongest growth—Apple and Facebook—are the ones with the most successful mobile strategies. The companies seeing declines, missing expectations, or falling short of their former glories—Google, Alibaba, and Microsoft—are the ones that can’t quite make mobile work for them. And in that faltering, opportunity opens up for the next great business idea—an idea not weighed down by the legacy of the desktop.

Yes, these are all huge companies with many moving parts that make the math behind their business successes and failures complex. But sometimes, applying Occam’s razor can be instructive.

Apple and Facebook On Top

Take Apple. It pretty much invented the current iteration of mobile as a category—as a business all these other companies had to bother to figure out in the first place. It makes the hardware that people want to always have with them. And on Tuesday, it posted the biggest quarterly profit by a public company in corporate history.

While Apple invented the modern-day mobile device, Facebook invented the thing people most want to do on them. The same day Facebook posted record revenues of $3.85 billion—including more than $2 billion in mobile ad revenue—app analytics firm App Annie released a report that found the top four mobile downloads of 2014 were all apps owned by Facebook.

Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp joined the original Facebook app itself at the top of the chart. Of those four, Facebook has only really figured out how to make money off of one: Facebook proper. But by investing deeply in teaching machines to understand how well those ads are working, Facebook seems poised to make the rest of its app roster pay off.

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