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Five years ago if someone had described an ongoing effort to unseat a sitting president — complete with salacious allegations about collusion with hostile foreign nationals — would any of us have believed it?

Five years ago if someone had described a leading political candidate under active FBI investigation — with the director of the FBI issuing an unprecedented public comment in the lead-up to the election — would any of us have believed it?

Five years ago if someone had said that a grassroots campaign with a passionate following involving a long-term U.S. senator would be undermined by no less than the Democratic National Committee — would any of us have believed it?

Five years ago if someone had said that a foreign power would stage demonstrations on American streets for and against our presidential candidates — while unleashing bots, hackers and fake news on social media — would any of us have believed it?

With each scandal-of-the-day rocketing out of newsrooms at breakneck speed, it is difficult to step back and appreciate how downright bizarre the past four years in American political history have been. Taking the long view while in the midst of the fray isn’t easy — but it’s a necessary step if we want to learn anything constructive from one of the most contentious periods in modern American history.

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As Social Critic readers know, there has been no blow-by-blow effort to dissect news of the ongoing Trump-Russia investigation. The reason? Doing so relies too heavily on speculation. Until special counsel Robert S. Mueller III weighs in, the jury remains out. Of course, that hasn’t stopped a bifurcated mainstream media from leaving little doubt in the minds of their respective readers and viewers as to how guilty — or innocent — President Trump is of Russia-collusion allegations. Caught between the competing partisan wings of the American media, one can expect that from time to time key “dots” will fail to connect in the public mind. This is one such time.

The first under-reported development centers around the revelation that FBI Director James Comey, according to the Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz, made use of a Gmail account to transact FBI business. This is relevant not simply in the context of whether or not classified information may have been conveyed over a Gmail account — which Comey denies — but because the Russian “hack” began with phishing emails.

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Just as Canada made a sweeping decision to fully legalize marijuana, former Mexican President Vicente Fox made headlines of his own after joining the board of “High Times”, a publication that has carried the crusade for cannabis legalization since its inception. In an interview with the Associated Press, Fox argues in favor of extending legalization not just to marijuana but to all so-called street drugs. Fox cites as a reason for his position the brutality associated with the illegal drug trades. Government cannot successfully regulate people’s behavior, he argues, and so individuals ought to be free to do what they wish without fear of criminal repercussion.

Fox’s support of drug legalization is no longer the minority opinion it once was among national leaders. In the U.S., eight states — Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, California, Colorado, Maine and Vermont — have legalized recreational marijuana. Lawmakers are increasingly supportive of marijuana legalization not just as a means to relieve prison overcrowding but as another source of jobs, tax and investment revenue. When it comes to an across-the-board legalization at the federal level, however, a wait-and-see approach ought to be embraced. Why? Because early evidence in the wake of successful State-based decriminalization initiatives reveal problems policymakers have yet to resolve.

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