Looking Forward To A Democratic Foreign Policy Debate

[ Posted Wednesday, January 8th, 2020 – 18:14 UTC ]

The next Democratic presidential debate is going to almost have to focus intensely on questions of foreign policy. No matter what anyone had planned previously, the situation almost demands it now. So far, the debates have been remarkably light on foreign policy, which has allowed almost all the candidates to utter platitudes about the type of world they'd like to see as president, without delving too far into any specifics about what they'd do as president at all (except perhaps on minor differences between the candidates' policies). This is no longer good enough, as we all wait to see what happens next with Iran.

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The Staying Power Of Biden And Bernie

[ Posted Tuesday, January 7th, 2020 – 17:46 UTC ]

At the start of the Democratic presidential primary season, some pundits latched onto what they considered a fun way to label how the race was shaping up -- the "killer Bs." You had [Joe] Biden, Beto [O'Rourke], [Cory] Booker, Bernie [Sanders], [Michael] Bennet, [Steve] Bullock, and even [Pete] Buttigieg. That's a lot of Bs, to be sure (a whole hive, maybe?), and it's not even the full list. It was also (as you can tell) a fairly silly way to frame the race, but whatever. The funny thing is, with less than a month to go before the first votes are cast, we've still got a swarm of Bs. Four of the top five candidates still qualify: Biden, Bernie, Buttigieg, and newcomer [Michael] Bloomberg. The only odd woman out is Elizabeth Warren, although it wouldn't surprise me if some pundits started trying to call her "Beth," just to fit her into this strained metaphor.

Silliness aside, however, I'd like to focus today on two candidates who haven't been getting the recognition they deserve from the punditocracy. Both have shown amazing consistency in the polls, even though neither has ever been what you could accurately call a "media darling." If anything, this should show the limited influence of the pundits in the real world of the voters. While much media attention was showered on other candidates (Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, etc.), this roving spotlight has never bothered to shine on either Bernie or Biden for long -- and when it does, it is usually to cast negative aspersions on their chances of winning. But none of that seems to matter all that much, at least to the voters who are paying attention.

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Today's Two Big Stories

[ Posted Monday, January 6th, 2020 – 18:26 UTC ]

There are two major stories in the political world today, without a whole lot of overlap. They both have foreign policy in common, and the outcome of both is unpredictable at this point. Other than that they are entirely separate stories, so we're going to handle them separately rather than trying to tie them together in any way. The bigger story by far is Donald Trump's assassination of a major Iranian military figure as well as an Iraqi militia leader. This could have far-reaching consequences across the Middle East, obviously. The second story is that John Bolton is apparently ready to spill the beans on Trump, as long as the Senate "forces" him to by issuing a subpoena.


Will we hear from Bolton?

Let's take the Bolton story first, since it strikes closer to home. John Bolton, ever since he was kicked out of the Trump inner circle, has been somewhat of an enigma. He is reportedly upset with Trump and is eager to reveal his side of the story, as it were. He quickly inked a book deal which will allow him to do so in an unfettered manner. However, books take a long time to write, and events on the ground are moving quickly in the meantime.

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Friday Talking Points -- On The Brink

[ Posted Friday, January 3rd, 2020 – 18:23 UTC ]

As we sit down to write this, America is on the brink... of a lot of things, all at once. Largest among these: we are now on the brink of another war in the Middle East, this time with Iran. We could also be on the brink of a North Korean nuclear test or I.C.B.M. launch, which would probably signal a disastrous end to the Trump diplomatic bromance with Kim Jong Un. We're on the brink of a presidential impeachment trial in the Senate -- only the third one in our entire history. We're on the brink of a presidential primary season. And we're on the brink of a new political decade. All are pretty momentous, meaning that 2020 could turn out to be even more chaotic than the three years which preceded it. There's a scary (or just plain exhausting) thought, indeed.

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Literally, The Curated And Totes Artisanal Banished Words List From The Influencers At L.S.S.U.

[ Posted Thursday, January 2nd, 2020 – 21:37 UTC ]

A new year, as always, means many things to many people, but to the folks up at Lake Superior State University in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, it means it is time once again for the annual official "Banished Words List." Hey, with the winters they have to put up with in the frigid Upper Peninsula, I think we can all agree that they deserve a little fun at the dawn of each new year. So without further ado, let's check out the full list:

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Looking Ahead To The Next Decade

[ Posted Thursday, January 2nd, 2020 – 16:34 UTC ]

I'm writing my first 2020 column looking ahead to not the new year but the entire next decade. Before I begin, I have to admit that I'm one of those pedants who point out (every ten years) that turning a zero on the year doesn't actually mean the start of a new decade, since there was no "year zero" at the start. Technically, the 201st decade won't be over until New Year's Day, 2021. Hmmph. But I realize I'm in a tiny minority, so for the purposes of this column I will bow to the prevailing notion that the 2020s began yesterday. And in American politics, a new decade means new dividing lines for the House of Representatives.

This Monday, the Census Bureau released its final estimates for what this year's actual count is projected to show each state's population to be. Of more importance, this also shows which states are going to lose congressional seats and which states will gain them. Now, this is just an estimate -- there are several states on the cusp, which may wind up either not losing a seat or not gaining a seat, so for the moment this is all just informed speculation. But it's still interesting to look at, even if the actual results turn out to be slightly different than the projection.

The upshot is that the following ten states are going to lose a single House seat in the redistricting which will happen prior to the 2022 midterm elections: Alabama, California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Five states will pick up a single seat: Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon. Also, Florida will pick up two seats and Texas will be the real winner, picking up three seats. This shouldn't come as too big a surprise, because last time around Texas actually picked up four seats.

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Pelosi Trolls Trump

[ Posted Monday, December 30th, 2019 – 18:06 UTC ]

Is Nancy Pelosi now just openly trolling Trump? It certainly seems that way. At this point, Pelosi's refusal to send over the articles of impeachment to the Senate appears to be nothing short of a political stunt to keep the impeachment story raging over the holiday weeks at the end of the year, while causing Trump's head to explode (even more than normal, of course). By this measure, it is working out wonderfully well for Pelosi.

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My 2019 "McLaughlin Awards" [Part 2]

[ Posted Friday, December 27th, 2019 – 19:41 UTC ]

Welcome back to the second and final installment of our year-end awards columns! If you missed last week's column, you should probably check that out, too.

As you can see from our updated thermometer, our fundraising drive is in much better shape this week, although we're still just short of our goal, so if you can chip in to keep the lights on, that'd be great. I promise -- thank-you notes will go out this weekend!

But enough of that, let's get straight to the awards, as these columns are already long enough as is.


   Destined For Political Stardom

I considered giving this award to Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, but she won it last year and we already gave her Most Charismatic. Stacey Abrams was also a contender, for her response to the State Of The Union and her repeated mentions as a possible vice-presidential pick.

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From The Archives -- The Biggest Conspiracy Of All

[ Posted Thursday, December 26th, 2019 – 17:50 UTC ]

Program Note: Here's hoping everyone had a happy Christmas and found what they wanted under the tree (or otherwise celebrated the winter solstice in their own chosen fashion). I'm busily working on tomorrow's column, the second installment of our year-end awards. So while I dig through innumerable 2019 stories and articles, I would invite everyone to sit back and enjoy a column I wrote ten years ago. In it, I uncover a worldwide conspiracy that each and every one of you has participated in at one point or another in your lives. Yes, you! You're a co-conspirator just like all the others....


The Biggest Conspiracy Of All
[Originally published December 23, 2009]

Speaking as someone who generally enjoys a good conspiracy theory just for the "creative writing" aspect alone, in all good conscience I simply must report this shocking news: I have uncovered a big, fat conspiracy that is no mere theory. We're either being lied to, or we're joining in the propagation of the lie ourselves, with merriment. In actual fact, it would not be hyperbole to call this the father of all conspiracies.

And almost every single one of us has participated in this gigantic hoax, in one form or another, at least once in our lives. For many, it happens like clockwork on a regular basis. And it seems to prove Hitler's point about the "Big Lie" -- if you repeat it often enough, sooner or later a certain segment of the populace will accept it as being true.

This vast conspiracy is not limited to even America, although it certainly has a red, white, and true-blue-American following. While not exactly world-wide, the conspiracy reaches about as far as any such enormous falsehood has ever reached on our globe, so that even peoples who don't buy into the conspiracy's underlying storyline still participate in the conspiracy with jolly abandon.

The conspiracy itself is insidious and highly discriminatory, since the targets of the falsehood are a tiny segment of the population who are vulnerable and impressionable. That's right -- an enormous majority of society has banded together to repeat this lie to a minority, and the deciding factor for who is "in" the conspiracy and who is lied to is based purely on physical characteristics -- a throwback to a darker era when society deemed it permissible for such blatant and overt discrimination. The rules of the conspiracy are plain and simple, and are so prevalent that when one who has not been let into the conspiracy meets a complete and utter stranger -- virtually anywhere in this country -- without any prompting or other instigation, they will almost without exception be lied to by this complete stranger (who would rather die of shame than admit the truth).

This conspiracy, looked at from a certain light, is no better than fratboy "hazing" rituals, since the members of the conspiracy -- every man and woman of them -- were themselves lied to for a period of time before being allowed to join in the ritual of misleading others who have not been so initiated. It's as if the entire country had an unspoken agreement to join in this monstrous prank on a small group of fellow citizens.

Those being lied to have a rational and logical choice in what to believe -- either almost everyone they know and even complete strangers that they meet and an agency of the federal government to boot are lying shamelessly and absolutely consistently to them; or, conversely, what everyone is telling them must be true. The scope and size of the conspiracy mean that applying Occam's Razor in the usual fashion will lead them to believe the lie, instead of uncovering the truth of the matter. In other words, the lesson taught is that almost nobody they've ever met in their entire lives can be fully trusted any more. This is why the conspiracy is such a negative one -- because it results in finally accepting the paranoid notion that everyone really has banded together to make a fool out of you. Which leads to disillusionment and loss of innocence. Stumbling out of the dark, in this particular instance, leads almost immediately to doubting all the stories told by the perpetrators of this myth.

This may, in the end, do some good. Because a healthy skepticism is almost a required trait to deal with the modern world. No facts or stories should be taken on faith in the person speaking such, as it is obvious that informed people should view people saying "It's true! Really!" with a seriously jaundiced eye from that point on. Which, as I said, is actually a good thing, in the end.

This conspiracy has a name. And it is no coincidence that this lie is alphabetically correspondent with Satan, since as I said the evil of divisively selecting one segment of the public -- on physical characteristics alone -- and then repeatedly lying to them is a horrendous practice which should, quite obviously, be denounced by all upstanding folks who wish to allow American society to grow out of this juvenile behavior and mature as a society.

Because that's really the key to the whole conspiracy -- a juvenile falsehood told by those who have no excuse for such childish behavior. No excuse whatsoever, since (almost by definition) none of the members of the conspiracy can defend their actions as childlike, rather than childish.

I realize I am fighting a headwind by exposing this insidious lie, and that merry members of the conspiracy are simply never going to change their behavior, since they are all convinced that lying to a physically-challenged minority is somehow for their own good.


Maybe they're right after all. It's so much easier just to believe the lie, and (by doing so) avoid tilting at this particular windmill. Screaming the truth in a crowd would not make me friends -- in fact it would likely put me in fear of turning such into a mob screaming for my blood.

It's so much easier to avoid all of that. And, after all, this conspiracy has been ongoing for hundreds of years, so I guess it does no real harm. So, count me in, and allow me to say without any hint of dishonesty or smirking irony:

"Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus."


Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!


-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


Year-End Awards Nominations (Round 2)

[ Posted Monday, December 23rd, 2019 – 17:52 UTC ]

Well, what with the midweek holiday and all, it's looking like we're only going to have one new column this week. I'll probably post a few re-run columns as well, just for everyone's amusement, but won't be writing a new one until this Friday, when we continue with our annual year-end awards.

Because we got some great suggestions when we first posted this, we thought today it'd be a good idea to solicit some more nominations for the second awards column. So here are the categories for Part 2, and as before if you don't want your login name used (to give credit), then please let me know that in the comments.

Hope everyone has a great Christmas and stays safe in their travels this week. Oh, and go Ravens! Heh. Just had to get that one in there....

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