In Support Of Coulter's Right To Speak

[ Posted Wednesday, April 26th, 2017 – 16:21 PDT ]

Decades ago, a group of American Nazis wanted to hold a march, complete with swastikas and all the rest of the Nazi regalia. The city they wanted to march in turned their request down. The Nazis fought in court, and they were aided in doing so by the American Civil Liberties Union. That's what an unshakable commitment to the First Amendment means -- defending those with whom you do not agree. Which is why I support Ann Coulter's right to speak at the University of California, Berkeley. I certainly don't agree with a single word that comes out of the woman's mouth, but I have to defend her right to spew her bile in a venue supported by my tax dollars.

The Nazi case was a shocking one for many reasons, and anyone who uses the term "trigger warning" today will be horrified (perhaps this sentence should have been preceded by a trigger warning for those who support trigger warnings?) to learn that the city in Illinois where the Nazis wanted to hold a swastika-bedecked march was not only 40 percent Jewish, but by some estimates one out of every six was either a Holocaust survivor or a family member of a Holocaust survivor. In other words, the Nazis weren't just trying to be as offensive as humanly possible, but they also were hand-picking their venue to maximize how offensive their march would be to the residents. But they still had the right to march, and the Supreme Court ruled they would be allowed to display swastikas, as well.

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Democrats Need A Post-Mortem

[ Posted Tuesday, April 25th, 2017 – 16:35 PDT ]

In 2103, the Republican Party issued a "post-mortem" document which attempted to figure out what had gone so wrong in the 2012 election. It had some very interesting advice -- all of which was then subsequently ignored. Reduced to a tweet, it might have said: "Don't nominate people like Donald Trump." So the party didn't do so badly, even after ignoring their own advice, it must be honestly admitted.

Democrats are at a similar point now to where Republicans found themselves four years ago, but so far there has been no Democratic post-mortem. The GOP document appeared in March of 2013, but we're almost into May and no such Democratic self-examination has taken place. Partly this is because the Democratic National Committee changed hands in the meantime, but Tom Perez has been on the job for a few months now, so perhaps it's time to attempt an analysis of how the party needs to improve?

Absent such an effort, some very ugly cracks have re-emerged, which show there are still serious divisions within the party and no real agreement on how to move forward. Just this past week the whole "Hillary versus Bernie" schism seemed to rip wide open once again, at least in the pages of Salon. An anti-Bernie article was quickly balanced by a pro-Bernie article, and we were all off to the races once again. Some Democrats still hate Bernie with a white-hot passion, and some others have precisely the same feelings for Hillary, to sum the situation up. None of which is helpful, at least not for those who thought we had already laid this argument to rest.

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A Very Busy Week Ahead

[ Posted Monday, April 24th, 2017 – 16:37 PDT ]

At the end of the week, Donald Trump has two big deadlines looming -- one real, and one imaginary. The real one is that the government will shut down unless Congress acts, and the imaginary one is the end of Trump's first 100 days as president. Not content with the fact that solving the budget problem is going to be hard enough, Trump is pushing for action on two other fronts as well: tax reform and healthcare reform. He wants a big win to brag about when he reaches 100 days, but he might just be setting himself up for failure across the board.

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Friday Talking Points [433] -- Trump Suffering From "100 Days Envy"

[ Posted Friday, April 21st, 2017 – 16:08 PDT ]

We'd like to boldly add a new disease's definition to the political lexicon. We feel this is necessary since Donald Trump seems to have caught a rather drastic case of "100 Days Envy." Symptoms are a tendency to flail around looking for a legislative win you can brag about, and an unnatural fear of being called a loser by the entire planet's media for not even coming close to fulfilling pretty much any of the grandiose promises you made for your first 100 days in office.

The only cure for such a malady is time. Give it a few more weeks, and the media will probably forget all about how much fun it is to mock your lack of achievements. It'll all get better soon, but you're going to have to take your medicine while it happens, sorry about that.

Heh. To put all of this another way: next week's scheduled "100 Days Schadenfreudefest" has already begun, here at Friday Talking Points headquarters.

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Assessing Trump's Military Actions

[ Posted Thursday, April 20th, 2017 – 17:24 PDT ]

There seems to be a higher-than-usual amount of attention on grading President Donald Trump's first 100 days in office. We're still more than a week away from the milestone, yet both the media and the White House already seem to be at fever pitch over how history will see Trump's first 100 days. Maybe it's just my own perception, but I don't seem to remember quite this level of intensity for the past few presidents, or at least not this early on the calendar.

But since it seems to be what's on everyone's mind, I thought today I'd take a stab at grading Trump's military actions so far. Grading a commander-in-chief this fashion is a subset of his overall grade on foreign policy, which I'm not going to bother examining at length today (just to be clear).

Trump has taken four notable military actions in his first three months in office. He authorized a raid in Yemen, he launched 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase, he dropped a large bomb in Afghanistan, and he supposedly sent an aircraft carrier steaming towards the waters off North Korea. There have been other military actions the United States has been involved with during this period, such as the continued push to take Mosul in Iraq, but they are more in the nature of ongoing operations (that Trump hasn't changed or influenced), so any blame or credit for them at this point still rests largely with President Barack Obama.

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California Considers Historic "Weed Sanctuary" Status

[ Posted Wednesday, April 19th, 2017 – 17:52 PDT ]

A bill has been introduced in California's state legislature which would prevent the state's law enforcement officers (and any other state resources) from being used to: "investigate, detain, detect, report, or arrest a person for marijuana activity that is authorized by law in the State of California." The bill is based on a similar bill which would declare California a "sanctuary state" for undocumented immigrants. Either one would be the first of its kind on a statewide level. The marijuana sanctuary bill (AB 1578) would send a clear signal to both Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the state is not going to take part in any new federal War On Weed. It just passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee by a vote of 5 to 2.

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Georgia On My Mind

[ Posted Tuesday, April 18th, 2017 – 15:49 PDT ]

I hesitate to even write this article, because by the time I post it the election results from the sixth congressional district in Georgia might already be in. Which would make all my musings moot, if you'll forgive my alliteration. But I got my taxes in a day early, so I've got nothing better to do than cheerfully speculate about politics this fine afternoon, so I'm hoping people will read this in the same lighthearted way in which it was written.

We begin with an overview. There are five special elections for House seats so far this year. One has already been decided, as a district in Kansas voted a Republican in, albeit by a much smaller margin than normal in a very red district (the Democrat only lost by 7 points, whereas they usually lose by 25-30 points here). One election is taking place in California, and will stay in Democratic hands. So far, nothing has changed in the House of Representatives makeup, in other words. Additionally, one of the remaining races is expected to stay Republican as well. This leaves two races, in Montana and Georgia, where Democrats could actually pick up seats in an upset. Today is the day Georgia is voting.

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Detour To Candyland

[ Posted Monday, April 17th, 2017 – 16:27 PDT ]

During Easter weekend (appropriately), a groundswell seemed to appear among Republicans in Congress for what they're calling the "candy option" on tax reform. Like kids with chocolate-smeared faces on Easter morning, they are considering whether to propose a diet of all candy and nothing else. Which, to stretch the metaphor to its inevitable conclusion, is going to lead to a major tummyache in the end.

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Friday Talking Points [432] -- Trump Advisor Apologizes Without Getting Fired!

[ Posted Friday, April 14th, 2017 – 17:52 PDT ]

This week saw some history made in the Trump White House. For the first time (at least in our memory), a White House top aide actually apologized for saying something stupid. So far, being Donald Trump (or being a Trump spokesperson) has meant never having to say you're sorry over any idiocy that gets said or tweeted, but this week saw Sean Spicer being forced to apologize for apparently forgetting about that whole Holocaust thing. While defending Adolf Hitler, on the first day of Passover, no less.

While there were loud cries for Spicer to be fired over the idiocy that came out of his mouth, and while Trump famously doesn't think anyone should ever apologize for anything, it looks like Spicer's job is safe for the time being. This proves that apologizing will not automatically get you fired by Trump, which is why it is such a historic milestone. Perhaps others will learn a lesson from this episode? One can only hope.

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Trump Rushes To Set Record For Broken Promises

[ Posted Thursday, April 13th, 2017 – 17:29 PDT ]

Donald Trump's presidency is fast approaching the "first 100 days" milestone, and he seems to be trying to set his own record during this period -- a record of breaking more campaign promises than any previous president ever has during his first 100 days. This week brought on a flurry of flip-flops, perhaps signaling that in the remaining two weeks or so Trump will be trying to outdo himself in the broken promises category.

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