A Good Year for the Poses

freehandThe 2014 Values Voter Summit wrapped up Sunday in Washington, and Omni Shoreham Hotel staff must be working hard to expunge the building of the heavy stench of gunpowder and cliché. Like previous editions, this year’s version was a consummate freak show with a gaggle of grotesques worthy of Todd Browning, but even speakers making their second, third or fourth appearance seemed to bring a little extra Republican bile, guile and vile to the festivities this time around.

The theme this year was “Defending the Dream, Defining the Future,” a phrase so vague it could be used for a corporate training seminar, a high school valedictory address, or a Shriners convention. But VVS organizers know what they’re defending and defining; they proudly state their intention is to “inform and mobilize citizens across America to preserve the bedrock values of traditional marriage, religious liberty, sanctity of life and limited government that make our nation strong.”

Yes, that’s right. The same snake oil they’ve been peddling since the first iteration of the conclave back in 2006. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s terse description of the VVS really summarizes it much better: “An annual political conference bringing together some of the most extreme groups on the religious right.” That includes host organization and lead sponsor, the Family Research Council (which the SPLC calls a hate group), along with other America-hating organizations like Liberty Counsel (shouldn’t that be “council”?) and the American Family Association (which wants to destroy your family, if you’re gay).

But of course the real, ahem, elephant in the room is, as always, the Republican Party, which coyly maintains no “official” connection to the VVS even as elected Republicans madly stampede to its podium year after year to pander, preen and pose. Why, there’s even a presidential straw poll conducted, which purulent demagogue Ted Cruz topped for a second consecutive year, with up-and-coming conservative clod Ben Carson a close second and perennial pious pseudo-Christian Mike Huckabee a distant third.

As always, though, the real “attraction” was the speechifying. The Values Voter Summit showcases more know-nothing arch-conservative blowhards than any venue outside the even bigger freak show known as the United States House of Representatives, and VVS speakers don’t even have to make a pretense of obeisance to parliamentary decorum. Nor do attendees, who seem to spend much of their time whooping like gibbons on nitrous oxide. Thanks to the event’s video archives, which get sadly more generous every year, we can all experience the horror of being at an event we wouldn’t actually be caught dead attending.

The “values voters” were thrilled by lame duck Congresswoman and future convicted felon Michele Bachmann, who described herself, unasked, as “a normal, real person.” She decried the bailout that saved the automobile industry as “gangster government,” said that the “trillion dollar” stimulus that prevented the economy from collapsing “didn’t work so well,” and bragged about introducing “the very first repeal bill” against Obamacare.

She waxed nostalgic about her “deep dive into the leading foreign policy and national security issues of our day.” She also griped about Benghazi, the Bergdahl prisoner swap, and Iran “racing toward completing nuclear weapons,” called Barack Obama “the first anti-Israel President in American history,” averred that Hillary Clinton will be defeated in 2016, and thundered that “it is never too late to save the country.” The fierce urgency of whenever, you might say.

Ted Cruz smirked more than anyone I’ve ever seen not named Bush. He called Obamacare a “disaster,” which I suppose it is if you hate seeing the number of Americans without health coverage drop by 26% and counting. He made a Cat in the Hat joke harking back to his ludicrous “faux-libuster” last year, to show how charmingly self-deprecating his handlers have coached him to be. He served up a tasteless quip about the White House fence-jumper (which he admitted he stole from Jimmy Fallon), and then added one of his own. He called for a debate between Hillary Clinton and the Little Sisters of the Poor. He called the Democratic Party an “extreme radical party.” In short, he said not a single truthful, worthwhile or remotely intelligent thing. Naturally, the crowd loved his speech.

Rick Santorum has appeared at every one of these things so far, and so most of his speech was heavily recycled from his previous heavily recycled speeches. He spent a little of his time hawking his upcoming book, Bella’s Gift, about raising a special needs child. (Will Bella’s gift be saving her old man from having to get a real job for yet another year? Probably not, but we’ll see.) Santorum called the President “a descendant of the French Revolution,” which – bien sûr – was a refreshing change from years of ridiculous allegations about Kenya. Mostly, though, he stuck with the self-evident and obvious, as in his observing at one point that: “You don’t have any Baptist ministers going on jihad.” Continue reading A Good Year for the Poses

Stormy Monday, 9/29/14

StormyMondayA new round of baleful partisan bickering – business as usual, in other words – could get underway this week if the Obama Administration follows through on a trial balloon floated Friday by White House spokesman Josh Earnest. Earnest suggested a Senate confirmation vote to replace outgoing AG Eric Holder could be called in the upcoming lame duck session. If that doesn’t come to pass, I reckon it’ll take Republicans about three and a half minutes to find something else to be hyperbolically indignant about.

Deficit hawks will applaud the timing of this week’s visit to Washington by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In addition to an Oval Office summit focused on trade, energy and climate change, Modi is scheduled to have supper with the President and lunch with the Vice President, but he won’t be eating anything because he’s in the middle of a nine-day fast for Navratri, a religious festival honoring the goddess Durga. I don’t know if there’s some sort of penance aspect to Navratri, but I can’t think of any other reason why Modi will also be meeting with John Boehner. The Speaker’s office has commented that Modi will be offered “beverages.” Presumably, the PM’s polite “No, thank you” will be followed by a hearty “More for me, then” from Boehner, especially if the “beverages” have a measurable alcohol content.

Afghanistan’s new President, Ashraf Ghani, will be sworn in Monday, while his former electoral nemesis Abdullah Abdullah will become the country’s first “chief executive officer.” The two take office just days after the Afghan government’s announcement that thousands of civil servants will have to wait for their paychecks this month because the cupboard is bare, a sure sign that Afghanistan is moving from failed state to red state, American-style. John Podesta leads the US delegation at the inauguration.

One of Ghani’s first orders of business, at least as far as the White House is concerned, is to sign the new “Bilateral Security Agreement,” which outgoing Afghan President Karzai had refused to ratify. The agreement would permit 12,000 US and NATO troops to remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014. To what end, ultimately, I’m afraid I have no idea.

Literature & Law of American Slavery, a free non-credit online course offered by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, begins Tuesday. I recommend this because the eight-week course is taught by John Matteson, a too-rare example of a white man whose thoughts on the relationship of slavery to today’s race relations, and particularly to institutionalized violence against African-Americans, are well worth careful consideration. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 9/29/14

Sunday Talks, 9/28/14

ABC’s This Week will interview John “Hell no!” Boehner. About what, I don’t know, since he and the House Republicans haven’t done a damned thing except block things that would actually help people. Former FBI . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 9/28/14

Friday Talking Points [321] -- Eric Holder's Record

FTP3We have to pre-empt the usual Friday Talking Points column this week, because when we started writing about Eric Holder in the awards section, it just kind of grew and grew as a subject until it essentially consumed the rest of the column. We still have our notes on all the political foibles and foofaroo from the past week, and we promise we’ll keep this list handy and try to review parts of it in next week’s column, mostly because some of the stories were real doozies (like the Kansas governor’s race, where the Republican is now basing his whole campaign on “my Democratic opponent once visited a strip club,” while simultaneously presiding over a state which is about to hold a sex-toy auction because they really, really need the money after the Republican incumbent’s disastrous implementation of “pure” conservative economic theory, which consisted of: “Cut all taxes! There, all done — just sit back and wait for the boom times!”). But we digress.

The news that Attorney General Eric Holder would be stepping down sent a shockwave through Washington (even though he had admitted earlier in the year to an interviewer that he would likely step down before next January). Democrats (and pundits) immediately started whispering about who would be named to replace Holder, while Republicans — laughably — tried to make the case that no replacement should get a vote in the Senate during the lame-duck period (good luck with that one, guys). One thing worth remembering: Harry Reid’s “nuclear option” is looking pretty good right about now, isn’t it? If Republicans could filibuster Holder’s replacement, then he might still be still in his job when Obama leaves office in 2017.

Holder certainly had a momentous term in office. Depending on when he is officially replaced, his will either be the fourth-longest or third-longest record as Attorney General in American history. Liberals found him lacking on civil liberties issues (especially in Obama’s first term), and conservatives just despised him because he was serving a president they really, really hated (he’s also the first Attorney General to be found in contempt of Congress by the House).

On the whole, was his term worth praising or condemning? We have to say that “both” is the only real answer to that question. Because it has many facets, we are going to spend the rest of the article examining his legacy. As we said, we’ll return to our usual, more lighthearted fare next week, but for now let’s weigh Eric Holder’s leadership at the Justice Department, as seen through the eyes of this column.

 

Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week

This is going to be a rather unique awards section this week, for two reasons. The first is that it will be a “lifetime achievement” review (or, more accurately “term in office” review) of one person’s accomplishments, good and bad. The second reason this is unusual is that it will actually be a review of accomplishments on the scale of “bad to good,” as we switch the order of presentation of our awards for one week. This is really necessary, because of the timeline involved.

Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement that he will soon be stepping down from his job as America’s Top Cop brought mixed reactions from the left. Some choose to focus on only the good he has accomplished, while some insisted that the bad outweighed any good. We’re going to take a more comprehensive look, and have to say right here at the start that Holder seems to have balanced it all out fairly well.

But the story of Eric Holder’s term in office is really more of a bad-to-good transition, which is why we’re going to review his record of winning the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week awards first. Holder won the MDDOTW six times since this column began, and five of these occurred during Obama’s first term in office. In contrast, Holder won eight Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week awards, but only two of them during Obama’s first term. So you can see the progression, and why we had to flip the order of the two awards sections this week.

On the all-time Friday Talking Points “Hall Of Fame/Hall Of Shame” list, Holder’s six MDDOTW awards puts him (currently) in a five-way tie for eighth place, with the following unsavory characters: Jay “Rocky IV” Rockefeller IV, Charlie Rangel, Blanche Lincoln, and Rod “Blaggy” Blagojevich.

The first-ever MDDOTW Holder won was way back in FTP [73], for continuing the Bush policy on state secrets in three separate lawsuits. Holder had many other instances of continuing Bush’s national security policies, but this was the only one which earned him our award. Continue reading Friday Talking Points [321] — Eric Holder’s Record

Jihadists Must Be Forcefully Countered

SyrianJihadisI believe jihadists must be forcefully countered. Forcefully does not always mean “with force,” but sometimes it does mean that, and I believe the use of force is an important aspect of countering jihadists now. I have always resisted the use of force, essentially by anyone anywhere. But there are always exceptions to that for me, though rarely, if ever, at the full scale of war.

Not all jihadists are the same, obviously, but a virulent strain has been growing at the fringes of Islam. Even Al Qaeda as we knew it was not as extreme as ISIS or Boko Haram have become. Bin Laden initially fought against the Russians for invading Afghanistan, and he first turned his sights on America because we established military bases in Saudi Arabia, the home of Islam’s most sacred sites. Al Qaeda justified terrorism using convoluted religious arguments, but it did not call for the death of “non-believers” precisely because they were “non-believers.” That is the trajectory the most extreme jihadists are on now. They are seeking a holy war because they see holy war as intrinsically desirable in order to spread their own version of their faith.

It is an ideology/theology that sanctions genocide as a morally justifiable, virtually required, means towards their end. It is an ideology/theology that embraces literal slavery as an institution to practice and spread in the name of God. And they are gaining momentum, territory and adherents. They represent a brutal expansionist force more akin to naked colonialism as it was practiced from the 16th into the early 20th centuries than to more traditional organized Islamist movements such as Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood. It is more like an early stage of Germany’s Third Reich, with a potent, virulent belief system that openly justifies the most barbaric acts against those to whom it does not assign basic human rights or dignity on a mass level. Like with hardcore Stalinism, the end will justify any means, and those beliefs are enshrined at the highest level of the movement, openly and proudly. In their version of reality, it is immoral not to act in that way.

That level of moral sanction given to inhuman behavior, that extreme a black-and-white worldview, without inconvenient moral ambiguities clouding the certainty of judgement, can be deceptively potent if not forcefully challenged head on. Continue reading Jihadists Must Be Forcefully Countered

Racism and Noble Virtues

DDWhat is racism? Is it a universal idea? A judgment about biological identity? A group of dysfunctional behaviors in a culture? Persistent myths about a community’s strength and weaknesses? Does it belong equally to white and black, and yellow and tan?

Is racism a political idea? A wedge for advantage? Does it exist? Is it an excuse? Do statistics verify its presence? What role does it play in society? How does it change individual lives?

Racism does exist; it always reflects the role race plays in society. For instance, the structures and forms of racism during slavery have virtually no role in society today. The laws, punishments, limits and ideas that governed race then were very different and many have been erased.

Since these ideas have lost their viability, does that mean racism has ended? In modern society with its pledge to equality, has racism been eliminated? No. But it has changed forms. Remember, each era produces its version of racism. Remember, the construct of racism is based on the role race plays in the social milieu.

Before looking at modern racism, let’s ask: How does race fit into today’s society?

In America today, race has become the major standard and measure for equality and equal opportunity. Collectively, through numbers and statistics; individually, through incidents and events, race provides the details and the rough measure of fair play and justice. Race sets the bar for social and economic improvement, the standard for civil liberties, but is also the target of anger for those in and out of power, and a source of constant confusion. This positivist function of race is rarely mentioned; race is most often framed as a problem or a source of friction, or as a factor of mistreatment.

But race has noble virtues. It is the source used to reflect how far America has come in resolving internal tyranny and it measures America’s social progress. It is also a measure of how far apart Americans stand on many social issues. It has been the bubble at the center of the builder’s level.

Race, in part, is the weight of a group response, for both blacks and whites. The shooting of whites by police, while tragic, doesn’t alert the nation to the attack of police violence and misconduct aimed at the American Promise; race is a sentinel for the entire country—not just for blacks. Race puts blacks in the vanguard of social change, yet also makes blacks one of society’s most vulnerable groups. The paradox leads to scepticism and ignorance about the fix for social problems as race as a change agent is caught in a fluid whirlwind of individual and indirect forces.

That is why whites were always visible and angry in the Ferguson protests, every night, in every frame, side by side with blacks. Race is America’s active metaphor for character and justice, for liberty and criminality, for alarm and good riddance. It is not a discussion about blacks or whites, but about the vision and substance of America and the content of the American character, not just of the individuals whose roles shape the discussion.

In the same way, America’s educational success is measured by race. The differences in student test scores reflect race as a means of distributed wealth.

Race as an American idea is always in motion; different than last year, changed by new experiences, redefined by the culture it represents. Unfortunately it is often tied to omissions, deficiencies and neglect more than success, and its noble side is missed.

From this view, I propose racism plays three key roles in today’s America, all three tied to politics and culture:

  1. To unify race appearance (by skin color) into a common culture of values and desired qualities (i.e., loyalty, defense, ideology) that lead to mutual and joint actions for power and privilege limited to and controlled by a group.

  2. To install social barriers supported by legal frameworks and individual decision makers that limit life chances and prospects for many of those outside of the group.

  3. To deny the advantages that racism inherently seeks to make permanent.

The three are easy to understand with examples.

1. At the diner where I often eat, we wondered during the 2012 election how long it would be before Mitt Romney screamed, “I’m white!” to pander for votes. The opposite nearly occurred. Romney’s campaign adviser John Sununu approached that edge, claiming someone needed to teach the President “how to be an American.” Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich skirted the same precipice: he cited Obama’s “Kenyan, anti-colonial world view” “as the the most accurate, predictive model for his [Obama's] behavior,” calling it “a profound insight.” “The food stamp President” was another of Gingrich’s contributions.

Rick Santorum came within a syllable of an offensive racial slur before he caught himself. Recently, a New Hampshire police chief uttered the word publicly (saying the President “met and exceeded” his criteria). He refused to back down, resigning but never apologizing.

My oft-cited example is the empty chairs that appeared after the 2012 Republican National Convention, tied to tree limbs on private property, often with roped nooses hung over chair backs—performance art that starkly expressed the dark dread of justice as lynching. These spontaneous racial installations were a reminder that the media never reported in 2008 the high degree of fear in the black community for Barack Obama’s life; people were frantic and the hysteria went unnoticed.

Racism is tasteless and invisible—until the first tug of attitude pushes one of its many structures into place to block progress—and to strangle black success. Members of Congress have said Barack Obama was only elected because he is black. Others say he won due to white guilt.

These conversations and actions call white people to band together under a banner of skin: a favorite principle of racism is to unite to defend and defeat the idea of the other. The other is different—and also more dangerous, more deadly, more deficient. The most important other in America is race. Its group tensions involve a history of violence, lynching, lawlessness, blame, poverty and social control.

I think that race as a social measure should change. Women and children are suffering greater attacks than African-Americans in this historical moment; women and children need a movement worthy of the anti-war and Civil Rights movements, yet they remain on the edge of America’s conscience. Thankfully, ending domestic violence has become a noble virtue. So should ending the murders of children by their peers.

2. Examples of social barriers abound. The most prominent and dangerous, as US House member John Lewis rightly recognizes, are the state-level bills that are redefining the right to vote. The new tactic recognizes it is not necessary to disenfranchise minority voters en masse (the old, pre-1960s tactic). Trimming voter turnout  by 3 to 10 percent will often be enough to swing close national elections.

Remember, racism fits the role of race in society. In politics, that’s votes. After the Civil War, bills sought to disenfranchise the entire Negro vote, which ended with the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Now, in this era, with this Supreme Court, the same outcome can be achieved with a more limited, targeted effort to restrict early voting, raising the bar to voter access by requiring more paperwork and reducing polling hours. Continue reading Racism and Noble Virtues

TSW #38

tswlogoBack in 2010, Media Matters posed the archly rhetorical question: “Jim Hoft: Dumbest Man on the Internet?” Hoft, who has the nerve but not the expertise or insight to pontificate about politics under his nom de spume, Gateway Pundit, has spent the four years since then proving the question mark unnecessary.

Hoft has made a long-time specialty out of posting photos of the President, which he then subjects to the most preposterous “analysis” possible, arriving at the most negative conclusion possible. As far as I can tell, he does this sort of thing for two reasons. One, his site visitors, being idiots, expect it. And two, being an idiot himself, Hoft just can’t help it. And so it went today with his “Featured Story,” viewable here through a handy donotlink link provided by Little Green Footballs.

Hoft got his dander up after seeing a White House video of the President arriving in New York City this morning on Marine One. As he disembarked from the copter, the President returned the salute of the two Marines flanking the steps, with a coffee cup in his hand! Thereby apparently befouling a presidential tradition dating, as Little Green Footballs notes, all the way back to the Reagan Administration!

To Hoft, this is “A NEW LOW” and the “Most Degrading Salute Ever to Men in Uniform.” Little Green Footballs was quick to trot out the familiar photo of Oval Office appointee George W. Bush saluting members of the military while awkwardly holding First Dog Barney, an event Hoft either missed or, more likely, found entirely acceptable. What’s really astounding is that Hoft overlooked a mile-wide opening to level some valid criticism at the President; the optics of arriving in NYC for a UN Climate Summit carrying what looks to be a Styrofoam coffee cup certainly made me wince.

But Hoft, like the rest of the President’s critics in the fetid swamps at the far right side of the Internet, isn’t interested in the environment any more than he’s interested in objectivity and honest critique. Which he proved later in the day with another post entitled: “Lawless President Announces New Executive Actions on Fighting Climate Change & US Prosperity.” Hoft’s considered opinion is that global warming is “non-existent,” conveniently ignoring a mountain of empirical evidence including the fact that “13 of the 14 warmest years in recorded weather history have all occurred in the opening years of the 21st century.” He’ll probably still be railing about the climate change hoax as the rising seas slip over his mouth some years from now. I wish I could live to see it. Continue reading TSW #38

Congressional candidate Mike Bost believes fracking is safe but environmentalists want people to die

WillinoisIllinois Republican Congressional candidate Mike Bost (IL-12) has some unusual beliefs about environmentalists and fracking. In a recent radio interview, Bost said about environmentalists:

“…if it was up to them, people should die and everything else should exist. Now, I know because I was in the negotiations with them.”

Bost was referring to his role negotiating the law that will open Illinois to fracking. Several groups based in Chicago, including Faith-in-Place, NRDC, and the Environmental Law & Policy Center participated in negotiations and supported the law over the objection of environmentalists in areas that will be most impacted.

Now, I wasn’t present for negotiations but I’ve never heard staff for any of those groups suggest anything remotely similar to the opinion that people should die and everything else should exist. In fact, most climate change and anti-fracking activists are involved to save human life.

Many of us noticed that fracking made North Dakota the deadliest state to work in.

We’re bothered that fracking operations use chemicals known to cause cancer respiratory problems, birth defects and other health impacts.

We know the massive increase in trucks transporting dangerous chemicals is yet another unavoidable deadly hazard, especially since toxic spills shutting down I-57 in southern Illinois is already a regular story.

Since fracking contributes to climate change we’re also working to reduce climate disasters like extreme flooding in southern Illinois.

But Mike Bost is excited about fracking because it will bring tax revenue and jobs. He’s willing to sacrifice human life for the sake of transient temp jobs that will mostly go to out-of-state workers for the profit of out-of-state companies. And he has the balls to accuse environmentalists of not caring about human life? Continue reading Congressional candidate Mike Bost believes fracking is safe but environmentalists want people to die

Stormy Monday, 9/22/14

StormyMondayThe Secret Service’s Office of Professional Responsibility will undertake a procedural review following Friday’s disquieting incident involving a knife-carrying man jumping the fence and actually gaining access to the White House.  Through a spokesman, the President has since expressed “full confidence” in his security detail, a presidential statement I sincerely hope is a bald-faced lie.

Also helping shut the barn door after the horses have bolted, Congressman Peter King told Fox News Sunday he’s “sure” that the House Homeland Security Committee, on which he sits, will launch its own investigation into the incident. Which actually makes the whole thing even scarier…

Accompanied, presumably, by the most hyper-vigilant Secret Service detail ever mustered, the President and Mrs. Obama head for New York City on Tuesday for the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly. After addressing the 2014 Climate Summit at the UN, the President will speak at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. Wednesday, he’ll address the General Assembly, then chair a Security Council summit on terrorism. The First Lady will give the keynote address at Wednesday’s meeting of the UN Global Education First Initiative. Thursday, the President will speak at a special UN meeting on the Ebola epidemic, before the Obamas return to Washington in the afternoon.

Speaking of the Ebola virus, Sierra Leone yesterday ended a three-day lockdown intended to stop the spread of the epidemic among the country’s six million citizens. The lockdown enabled collection and safe burial of over 70 highly infectious bodies of Ebola victims; Ebola has claimed 560 lives in Sierra Leone during the current outbreak. If the large-scale containment attempt proves effective, expect it to be replicated in other parts of western Africa.

Is it that time again already? Sadly, yes. The 2014 Values Voter Summit descends on Washington’s Omni Shoreham Hotel Thursday evening, with two and a half days of trash talk and trashy ideas to follow. This year’s theme is “Defending the Dream, Defining the Future,” which, translated from Hyperbolese, means “Liberals hate America.” In other words, pretty much the same theme as the previous eight annual iterations of the event. Someone named Sarah Palin will be speaking at this year’s shindig. If that’s insufficiently loathsome news, the 2014 version of the conclave also features Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Michele Bachmann, Glenn Beck, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. Any way you look at it, that’s an impressive amount of pure suckage. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 9/22/14

Friday Talking Points [320] -- Congress Briefly Interrupts 3-Month Vacation to 'Work'

FTP3Congress followed up their recent five-week vacation with almost two whole weeks of actually doing their jobs, so to reward themselves they’re now going to take off on another vacation. Until mid-November. The American people will show their disgust at this pathetic work ethic by returning upwards of ninety percent of them to office, if this year is anything like a typical one. The big question on everyone’s mind is whether the Democrats will hold onto control of the Senate, which will mean two years of gridlock with the Republican House, or whether Republicans will gain control of the Senate, which will mean two years of gridlock with both the Tea Party and the president.

Sorry to start off on a negative note, but there is indeed little positive to be seen in the biannual frenzy of congressional campaigning which is about to begin in earnest. There is one bit of comic relief to be found in this midterm dance, and it is coming from an unexpected state: Kansas. The Democratic Senate candidate just won a court case which will keep his name off the ballot. The Republican official in charge of elections, after arguing in this court case that he legally needed to print the ballots starting today, is now saying he’s going to wait a week so that the Democrats can call a convention and name a replacement to the ballot. Democrats are not going to do this, however, so like I said we’ve got at least one more week of amusement from the heartland in store. The “What’s the matter with Kansas?” jokes just write themselves, don’t they?

Little noticed outside of Baltimore, we just celebrated the bicentennial of our national anthem. I wrote about this earlier in the week, and last weekend the anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore (or the Battle of Fort McHenry) was celebrated in the city, even if the rain put somewhat of a damper on the day.

The coalition against the Islamic State began to come together this week, although (amusingly) both Syria’s Assad and Iran tried to join, but were rebuffed. Insert your own witty “enemy of my enemy” quip here.

An act of terrorism happened against a United States congressman, and the suspected perpetrator was quickly arrested. You’d think this sort of thing would attract more media attention, but, sadly, you would be wrong.

The United States Air Force very quietly changed a rule last October, to mandate that anyone enlisting or re-enlisting use the phrase “…so help me God” in their oath. When the matter was noticed and legal action begun, the Air Force last week very quietly reversed their position and brought it back into line with every other branch of the armed services — meaning the phrase is now optional (as it should be).

A court down in Florida ruled that it was OK for schoolchildren to be given religious books, so the Satanic Temple announced it would be joining in the fun and handing out copies of The Satanic Children’s Big Book Of Activities. Hey, fair’s fair — if it’s OK for one side of the debate, it has to be OK for everyone, right?

In other church/state news, a teenager in Pennsylvania is facing two years in jail for desecrating a statue of Jesus — not by physically harming or altering it, mind you, but merely by taking (and publicly posting) a photograph of him in an amusing (to him, obviously) position with the statue. I could have sworn America decided “blasphemy” laws were unconstitutional a long time ago, but I guess I would be wrong. In related “teens posting stupid stuff online which comes back to bite them” news, a 19-year-old Republican candidate for state government in Wisconsin had to withdraw from his race after disgusting and racist comments were uncovered from his past online postings.

Moving back to politics, Hillary Clinton went to a steak fry in Iowa, followed by 200 “journalists” who were there to report on the experience for the rest of the world. Jason Linkins at the Huffington Post has a hilarious write-up, which is well worth a read if you want a chuckle. I had to follow up on his column yesterday, by proclaiming Hillary the perfect Schrödinger’s candidate, for those who enjoy a bit of quantum physics with their political commentary.

Republicans have been busy little beavers in Washington, during their two weeks of “work” in the midst of three solid months of vacation, by conducting all the important business of the nation. Ha! Not really — instead, they found time to vote on a bunch of bills they had already passed, and to also tackle the important issue of the handful of people who have withdrawn federal dollars inside a marijuana shop in Colorado. No really — that was more important than voting on whether President Obama had the legal authority to start another war or not. You just can’t make this stuff up, folks.

The best example of “our tax dollars at work” from last week, though, had to have been the group who attempted to turn in a half-million signatures in support of restoring the Voting Rights Act. The civil rights group thought they’d turn it in to House Speaker John Boehner’s office, since he’s the one who could make such a thing happen. On Wednesday, during business hours, they could not turn in their signatures, because Boehner’s office door was locked and nobody responded to a knock.

Nice work if you can get it, eh?

 

Most Impressive Democrat of the Week

A few weeks ago, this column came out strongly for providing all cops with body cameras to record every interaction they have with the public. At the time, there was a petition on the White House website asking President Obama to come out in favor of the idea. We are happy to report that the White House has now done so. This is an idea whose time has come, and what studies have been done seem to show that members of the public and cops themselves both act a lot better when they know that their actions are being filmed. Seems like a win-win all around, so President Obama deserves at least an Honorable Mention for getting behind the idea.

While not technically a Democratic organization, we are going to bend the rules (as we are wont to do, at times) and hand out an Honorable Mention to the Marijuana Policy Project, for their recent advertising campaign in Colorado. Colorado has already legalized recreational marijuana use, but M.P.P. has now begun an ad campaign to educate people (tourists especially) as to what marijuana will actually do to you. This is most important when it comes to “edibles,” or marijuana products that are eaten and not smoked. While many people have had some experience with smoked marijuana (and therefore are able to regulate their dosage), the world of edibles is currently unregulated and unrestrained — meaning strength varies wildly from one candy bar to another. Continue reading Friday Talking Points [320] — Congress Briefly Interrupts 3-Month Vacation To ‘Work’