While it may seem like that headline refers to yet another poll released which proves that Congress is held in lower esteem than dead bodies (dead bodies are actually now enjoying a resurgence of support, due to the proliferation of zombies in pop culture), it is in fact nothing short of literal. The U.S. Botanic Garden is currently experiencing record-breaking crowds eager to see -- or, more accurately, to smell -- the blooming "corpse flower" (or amorphophallus titanum, which -- no lie! -- translates to "giant, misshapen penis"). We merely note the event for those in the D.C. area who are inclined to visit the blossom before it shrivels up, and not to inspire any jokes in the comments or anything. I mean, how could you possibly joke about a corpse-like stench... the Nation's Capital... or "giant, misshapen penises"?
Ahem. Well, OK, the jokes just write themselves this week, don't they? Have at it in the comments, as always. My contribution to the fun is quite possibly the most awesome segue I've ever had the honor to write: "In other news of the corpse-like stench of misshapen penises, let's check in with Anthony Weiner's campaign."
OK, sorry, but I just couldn't resist. We'll get to the adventures of "Carlos Danger" later, I promise. The late-night comics are certainly having a field day with the stench of Weiner, that's for sure. But there may be even better material right around the corner, as it was reported that Christine "I'm Not A Witch" O'Donnell is considering another bid for the Senate in Delaware. If you listen hard, you can almost hear the late-night writers begging her to run again! After all, we had so much fun the first time!
As for the news media, they all absolutely swooned over the news of a royal baby in England, momentarily forgetting that we actually fought a war so we don't have to pay attention to such silliness here in America. The worst idiocy of the "reporting" was the repeated use of "boy king" to describe the newborn, since that kid isn't going to be king until almost every single reader of this column is long dead. Sorry to bring corpses back into the conversation, but looking at the long-lived nature of the family genes, and considering how long Prince Charles has been waiting for his turn, little Georgie is going to be a very old man before he ever wears the crown -- he's just never going to be a "boy king," so sorry.
In other news of media idiocy, we have the New York Times. Now, it's long been a truism in the pundit business (the ones who are actually paid handsome sums for their work, to be clear) that it really doesn't matter how many times you get things wrong. You can predict -- so many times it actually becomes a joke -- that the Iraq War will be won "in six months" (yes, Tom Friedman, I am looking in your direction...), you can hype the closeness of the horserace aspect of a presidential contest even when all available data show one guy's going to walk away with it, you can, in fact, predict just about any nonsense over and over again and still be confident that it will not affect your career -- a career, mind you, assomeone who predicts things for a living -- one single iota, but the news of Nate Silver leaving the Times proves something else entirely. It proves the opposite -- that not only is your job secure no matter how many times you get it wrong, but your job will actually be in jeopardy for consistently getting it right. Because when you -- as Nate Silver did, at the Times -- use real-world data and offer up mathematically sound predictions which then come true and generate a whopping amount of traffic to your employer's website as a direct result, then you can just go look for work elsewhere, thank you very much. The most astounding thing about this story is that Silver was let go because the pundits who got it wrong were annoyed at Silver for undermining their bad punditry by getting it right. Anyone interested in why real journalism in America is fast becoming a corpse has only to look at Exhibit A this week -- the stench of the New York Times letting Nate Silver go. For being right.
That's enough for now. Let's get on with the awards.
President Obama gave two impressive speeches this week, one on how he personally feels about race and one on the economy. The first was impressive for Obama personalizing the issue better than he has done throughout his entire presidency -- but it also showed why he hasn't done so before and why it's such a tightrope for him to personally walk, as he was immediately attacked for "being divisive" by the Right. In this case, "being divisive" means "admitting reality which we do not care to think about." As I said, you can see why he doesn't do this sort of thing very often.
The impressive thing about Obama's economic speech was that he seems to be trying a new tactic, which could be summed up as "not ignoring August." August has historically been a tough month for the president in the opinion polls, and this year his numbers have slid even before the month begins. Largely this is due to the fact that Congress isn't doing anything as they take a massive five-week vacation. During this time off, they minimally "work" by attending town hall meetings, which -- with the absence of any other political news -- dominate the airwaves all month. Instead of conceding the field this year, Obama is signaling that he'll be giving a series of speeches throughout the next month or so which will introduce his proposals to improve the economy, the jobs picture, and the middle class. So we'll have Obama championing things like raising the minimum wage in contrast to folks screaming ugly things about immigration at their elected representatives. It'll be interesting to see if this works out in Obama's favor, but it certainly is heartening to see him attempting to go on offense during August instead of punting the month to his opposition.
Attorney General Eric Holder was also impressive this week, reminding a whole lot of people that while one section of the Voting Rights Act was overturned by the Supreme Court, the rest of the law remains valid and operative. Holder announced he'd be taking on states which are currently engaged in blatant attempts to suppress voting rights, using the powers he still has under the law. He'll be starting with Texas, with North Carolina on deck. For his announcement, Holder is worthy of at least an Honorable Mention this week.
But our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award this week goes to Senators Tom Harkin and Mark Begich. They have co-sponsored legislation which not only fixes Social Security's funding problem, but would also give a healthy raise to Social Security recipients. Yes, you read that right -- instead of cutting benefits, this bill would boost benefits. To the tune of $452 per year for 75-year-olds and $807 a year for 85-year-olds. Harkin and Begich reject President Obama's plan to move to the "chained CPI" and instead rely on the "CPI-E" (OK, I fully admit that I don't know what that means, either) to compute benefits, resulting in the raise. But the part that is easy to understand is how they pay for it -- by removing the cap on income for Social Security taxes. Here are some handy charts to explain this concept, if you still are scratching your head.
Harkin and Begich are boldly proposing a plan which most Americans support, when it is explained to them. This is a great idea -- "scrap the cap!" For drawing up legislation to make it happen, both Senator Harkin and Senator Begich are this week's MIDOTW winners.
[You can congratulate Senator Mark Begich on his Senate contact page and Senator Tom Harkin on his Senate contact page, to let them know you appreciate their efforts, but it'd be an even better idea to contact your own senator and tell them to co-sponsor this bill right away!]
While San Diego mayor Bob Filner certainly put himself in the running for the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week, as the Highlander reminds us: "There can be only one." Filner announced that, instead of stepping down from his elected position after it was revealed that he was a serial harasser of women who worked for him, he would be going to rehab instead. My reaction was: "Really? They have rehab for being a pig? Who knew!" But since we gave Filner his own MDDOTW a few weeks ago, we're going to just add a (Dis-)Honorable Mention award, and move on to the main feature.
In center ring this week is none other than the man known as Carlos... Carlos Danger! For those of you who have either been in a coma all week or perhaps were distracted by the "boy who would be king," Carlos Danger does not, in fact, exist. This was the name that Anthony Weiner used to "sext" women who were not his wife. One year after getting caught for doing the exact same thing.
Weiner, incredibly, says he's still going to continue his campaign for New York City mayor. He cannot, in fact, even reliably pin down the number of women who are not his wife who have received pictures of his penis. I would have written "misshapen penis" there, but I have not done due diligence and checked out the photos in question, so I cannot state with any certainty that this is true (let alone "giant" or "corpse-like stench," although that last one would require even more confirmation than just viewing a photograph, which I am definitely not willing to do).
As I wrote yesterday, it's time for Weiner to withdraw. In politics, some people are of the opinion that "there is no such thing as bad press," but I think Carlos Danger has proven this to be utterly wrong. For becoming a national laughingstock not just once, but twice -- and for refusing to face reality and get out of politics forever -- Anthony Weiner is our unquestioned Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week.
[As a rule, we do not use campaign websites as contact information, so you'll have to look up Weiner's contact info yourself if you are inclined to let him know what you think of his actions.]
Volume 266 (7/26/13)
There was an interesting leak this week on the subject of talking points, as the Republican playbook for August was published in full. This is full of fascinating reading, and is a preview for what can be expected at a town hall near you in the very near future. Their big push is that Republicans are "fighting Washington" even though (by definition) anyone currently in office is actually part of the "Washington" they'll be fighting. One imagines the end of the movie Fight Club, in fact, or perhaps Nelson Muntz asking you "Why are you punching yourself? Why are you punching yourself?" over and over again.
The most amusing part to me was where Republicans are advised to have private meetings (so nobody can report it if they go horribly, horribly wrong, one assumes) with "women, Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and milennials [sic]." I guess gays and African-Americans didn't make the cut, eh? No real surprise there. Should any women or "milennials" reading this actually attend such a meeting, might we suggest: "Why in the world would I ever vote Republican when your entire party platform demonizes people like me?" as a handy jumping-off point for the conversation? Heh.
But we're not here just to mock the other side's attempts, of course, we're here to hopefully provide some suggested Democratic talking points for the following week, for the use of all and sundry whether being interviewed on a Sunday chatfest or talking politics around the company water cooler. So let's get right to it, shall we?
Raise the minimum wage
For Obama's offensive on the economy to work, a few Democrats need to "have his back" and help him push his initiatives. Starting with the minimum wage -- an issue wildly popular among voters.
"While Republicans have done absolutely nothing to help the American economy and are threatening once again to hold it hostage when Congress returns, President Obama is instead calling for a rise in the minimum wage. I fully support raising the minimum wage, and call on Congress to do so as well. The average pay for the top one percent has quadrupled over the past few decades, while the minimum wage's purchasing power has actually gone down. This is nothing short of obscene. The vast majority of the American public supports bringing the minimum wage closer to a 'living wage' and I agree with the president: nobody who works full-time should be living in poverty."
Scrap the cap!
The only way this is ever going to happen is if it gets "momentum" with the inside-the-Beltway set. And the only way to do that is to keep talking about it, every chance you get.
"Social Security has been painted as being 'broke' or 'bankrupt' by its opponents, as they salivate over the prospects of raising the retirement age or cutting future benefits for recipients of Social Security. But the fact is that one small change in how Social Security taxes are collected -- a change that would not affect over 95 percent of wage-earners in this country -- could not only 'save' Social Security but also allow a generous raise in benefits. A retiree who is 75 years old would get an average of $452 more per year, and an 85-year-old would get over $800 per year more under this plan. And it's paid for by taxing every single worker at the same exact rate that over 90 percent of them are now taxed at. We want to make the Social Security tax a flat 6.2 percent rate for everyone, and by doing so we would not only extend the life of the program into the far future, but also be able to give today's retirees a raise. Americans overwhelmingly support this plan, and it's easy to see why."
The Obama of 35 years ago
OK, the next three are on a single subject that didn't get nearly the attention it deserved last week.
"While I heard President Obama speak movingly on the subject of race and how his own life, 35 years ago, made him the man he is today, what I couldn't help but wonder is what the Obama of 35 years ago would say about how President Obama is continuing his crackdown on marijuana. The DEA is continuing to raid state-legal dispensaries in Washington state, even though not only medical marijuana is now legal in the state, but recreational marijuana as well. The Justice Department has been working on this case for the past two years, it was reported. Is that really the best use of their time? Is this really such a high priority that two years of some federal attorneys' time were required? While it was interesting to hear the president speak of his own personal experiences 35 years ago on race, I wonder why in all the time he's been president not a single journalist has asked him what he would have said three or four decades ago about a president waging an unprecedented War On Weed. Because that's the personal story I'm still waiting to hear from him."
California Democrats agree
I should really have mentioned this one in the MIDOTW section, I suppose. But I had written about it earlier in the week already.
"Not all Democrats are shying away from the marijuana issue, I'm happy to report. New Hampshire just legalized medical marijuana, making it the nineteenth state to have done so. And the California Democratic Party has just gone on the record begging President Obama to end his senseless War On Weed as well. California Democrats called on Obama to, and I quote, allow the newly enacted marijuana legalization laws in Colorado and Washington to go into effect with no federal interference, and... end the Department of Justice interference and raids by federal agencies in states with medical marijuana laws. End quote. State-level Democrats are realizing how potent a political issue this is going to become in the next few years, and Democrats on the national level really need to wake up to this emerging reality as well. What would happen if California Democrats announced they were no longer going to be donating to any candidate who didn't agree? If the Golden State political ATM shuts down, maybe national-level Democrats will take note."
Even NASCAR sees the future...
OK, this one's not really all that valid as a true talking point, but after the previous two, I just had to stick in a link to it.
"Even NASCAR fans are getting the message on marijuana now. An ad will be running outside an upcoming NASCAR event which makes the point that marijuana is better than beer in many ways. Since beer is a big sponsor of NASCAR, it only makes sense to advertise marijuana as well -- it's not like they have some sort of ban on intoxicating products or anything. The American public is getting used to the idea that marijuana should be legally treated like alcohol, as the voters of Colorado and Washington have already proven. The world is not going to come to an end if a sports fan sits down and smokes a joint rather than downing a few brewskis, and the quicker we all realize that the better, in my opinion."
Can't escape the cantaloupes
But let's get back to what we do best, here, which is to roundly ridicule Republicans who richly deserve such treatment. For your amusement this week, we have Steve King.
"One of the Republican members of the House committee who are charged with coming up with immigration reform actually stated this week that for every valedictorian DREAMer, there are, quote, another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert, unquote. Way to stay classy on the immigration debate, Republicans! I mean, seriously, we haven't even gotten to town hall season yet. I note with amusement that two such DREAMers presented King's office with a pair of cantaloupes, as a friendly gesture. King's remarks were denounced by Speaker John Boehner, but I did notice that Boehner decided it was still OK to keep him on the committee dealing with immigration, showing his own true colors."
Um, shame on who?
This reaction was the best, however.
"One of the Republicans in the House reacted to King's comments by laying the blame in an odd place, however. Raúl Labrador said, after King's remarks were reported, and I quote: You have an entire committee except for Steve King that were very positive in their comments and all you guys can do is fan the flame of one person making a reprehensible and irresponsible comment. So I think, shame on you. Shame on the media for only concentrating on that aspect of it. Unquote. Shame on the media for reporting what some Republicans truly feel about immigrants, using their own words? Um, that's not how journalism works, sorry. Labrador later went on to say that it had been a 'beautiful hearing' with some 'beautiful things said.' Perhaps he is unaware of the fact that House Republicans have had approximately forever to hold such hearings and come up with legislation, and to date they have not actually done so. No bills have been voted on by the House, and Republicans continue to delay and delay and delay. We've had enough things said -- beautiful and reprehensible -- and it is now time to act. I call on the House to hold a vote on the overwhelmingly-bipartisan Senate bill now, so we can see exactly how many Republicans feel the same way Steve King does, and how many do not. Shame on Speaker Boehner for not doing so, and shame on Labrador for his own inaction. You want the media to address the real issue? Fine. Put up or shut up."
-- Chris Weigant