Program Note

[ Posted Thursday, January 3rd, 2019 – 19:20 PST ]

My apologies, but I've been having massive upgrade/router/modem/ISP problems all day today, so there will be no new column. Sad to say, tomorrow's column is also at risk of not appearing. I'll do my best, but at this point can't make any promises....

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


Crusty Words To Grapple With And Eschew: The Banished Words List

[ Posted Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019 – 18:10 PST ]

Happy new year everyone, and welcome back again to our annual promotion of Lake Superior State University's annual "Banished Words List." That's right, it's time to head once again to the now-frigid shores of Gitche Gumee to see what their word mavens have optimistically banished from use, in the hopes of keeping all our conversations less lazy (and annoying). So without further ado, let's just get right to this year's list:


In The Books

Wrap My Head Around











Legally Drunk

Thought Leader



Most Important Election Of Our Time

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My 2018 "McLaughlin Awards" [Part 2]

[ Posted Friday, December 28th, 2018 – 19:12 PST ]

Welcome back to the second part of our year-end awards column! For those who may have missed it, check out Part 1 from last week to see the awards we've already handed out.

But since these columns are always not only monstrously but downright scroll-bar-defyingly long, let's just dive right back into the 2018 McLaughlin awards, shall we?


   Destined For Political Stardom

This one is really, really easy to call. Last year, nobody knew her name. This year, she is the shining focal point of the incoming House Democratic freshman class. In other words, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is already a rising star in the Democratic firmament.

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Should Strike While The Iron Is Hot And Re-Introduce The "No Budget, No Pay Act"

[ Posted Thursday, December 27th, 2018 – 17:53 PST ]

This is going to be nothing more than a glorified re-run (or "clip show") sort of column, because I've made this argument so many times before in the past, and nothing about the argument has really changed. What has changed (for the better) is that this is just about the best possible time politically to move such an argument to center stage.

I was inspired to write again about this subject again because of a tweet by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

It's completely unacceptable that members of Congress can force a government shutdown on partisan lines & then have Congressional salaries exempt from that decision.

Have some integrity.

In what I think is the first time I've ever used Twitter to directly communicate with an elected official (I'm still pretty passive, Twitter-wise), I responded back to her with a few links to previous columns:

Don't furlough them, STOP the paychecks. "No Budget, No Pay" works great in California! --

You're right, we need this on the federal level too. Please revive Bruce Braley's "No Budget, No Pay Act" in next Congress... --

The more I think about this, the better an idea it sounds. When Congress reconvenes in January, the government is likely to still be partially shut down. The American public is sick and tired of this particular political tactic, and politicians really should be getting leery of it as well, since it has never actually achieved the goals set out by the hostage-takers. As leverage, shutting the government down seems to be pretty useless and self-defeating. The party pushing the shutdown almost always gets the lion's share of the blame from the public, which is exactly how this one is playing out as well. President Donald Trump pretty much assured this would happen when he pre-emptively announced to the cameras that he and he alone would be responsible for shutting the government down, over a week before it happened. The public has followed through, and largely blames Trump and his party for the current mess. As they should.

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From The Archives -- Why Christmas Is Not On The Solstice

[ Posted Monday, December 24th, 2018 – 17:20 PST ]

[Program Note: I set out to write an actual column on politics today, then thought better of it. So it'll probably run Wednesday or Thursday instead. Of course, this Friday will be the second part of our year-end awards column, so be sure to check back for that. But to get into the holiday spirit of things, I thought it'd be better to just re-run this old column, which I tend to run as an annual tradition anyway. One technical note: I have corrected "Constantine's wife" to "Constantine's mother," because not checking my facts through sheer laziness has always been part of the fun of blogging. Mea culpa to Saint Helena, and all of that.]


Originally Published December 24, 2007

When is Christmas? And why?

These are questions guaranteed to get you funny looks when you pop them, especially in a gathering of wassail-soaked relatives. But if you're tired of hearing the seemingly-eternal "this is what Uncle Fred did when he was twelve" stories, and you're leery of bringing up politics with your kin from Outer Podunk, then it's at least a conversation-starter that's somewhat neutral. Plus, you can reaffirm your nearest-and-dearests' image of you as a latte-sipping fruitcake who moved away from the glory of the heartland and now lives on (say it with an embarrassed whisper) the coast.

OK, I should stop editorializing here. After all, the subject at hand is Christmas.

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My 2018 "McLaughlin Awards" [Part 1]

[ Posted Friday, December 21st, 2018 – 19:52 PST ]

Welcome back once again to our year-end awards column series! Today we'll have part one, and then we'll finish up next Friday with part two. As always, we will be using the (slightly-modified, over time) awards categories first thought up by the incomparable McLaughlin Group television political-chatfest show.

As always, these columns are the longest of the year, presented on the shortest days of the year. So sit back, grab some eggnog, and settle in front of the fire for our year-end awards. Without further ado, let's get right to it!


   Biggest Winner Of 2018

While there were many candidates for Biggest Winner Of 2018 who were indeed worthy, we had to go with two interlocking candidates. Runners-up include women (in general) for the "Year Of The Woman II" in the midterm elections; the resurgence of gun control as a Democratic political issue; and Conor Lamb, who pulled off one of the most impressive wins in a special House election in Pennsylvania's 18th district.

But our Biggest Winner Of 2018 is twofold: the Democrats in the midterms, and the biggest issue they campaigned on, protecting Obamacare.

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From The Archives -- A Face-Saving Border Wall Compromise Everyone Could Live With

[ Posted Wednesday, December 19th, 2018 – 18:13 PST ]

Program Notes:

Today, I am working feverishly on the first of our year-end awards columns, so didn't have time to write a new one. This will likely happen tomorrow, as well. As for next week, I really can't promise a whole lot of new columns then, either. Monday, I may feel the urge to write a new Christmas column (how about: "Santa caravan stopped at border" for a theme?), but can't absolutely promise I'll do so. Tuesday everyone's off, obviously. But then we will enter into the second frenzy of putting together a year-end awards column, so Wednesday and Thursday are in doubt as well. Look to see Christmas column re-runs from previous years. Friday, of course, will be the second of our awards columns. New Year's week is also kind of sketchy in my mind right now. There will be our traditional "banned words" column right after the new year, but Monday is also in doubt for new columns. At some point, regular original columns will begin appearing again like clockwork, but I really can't commit to a solid schedule as to how we get from here to there, sorry.

One final end-of-year note: I'm sad to say that our fundraising pledge drive seems to have seriously stalled. We rocketed up to beyond 75 percent of our goal very quickly, but since then the numbers have not budged. So we're reminding everyone of all those sad-eyed kittens once again, in the hopes of meeting our goal before the new year. We've got bills to pay here at, and we really don't want to contemplate a return to having to run ads here, so please give what you can towards that goal!

OK, with that out of the way, the following column ran almost a year ago, in January, as Congress was ramping up to shut down the government over the issue of immigration and Trump's beloved border wall. Not much has changed, other than the page on the calendar. Trump now seems like he's willing to back down from his hasty "proud to shut the government down" boast last week, but the situation largely remains the same. Which is why the following column is still a valid bit of political theater the Democrats should seriously consider using. Especially since Trump is now tweeting about it (and lying about what his U.S.M.C.A trade deal actually does, of course).


Originally published January 9, 2018

President Trump sat down today with the Democratic and Republican congressional leadership, in an attempt to hash out a compromise on immigration (specifically, the DACA program that Trump suspended). The larger budget negotiations may hinge on getting such a deal, but at this point the two sides are pretty far apart. Where Trump stands on the issue is pretty clear, which is to say he just wants to sign something and doesn't really care what's in it. This was evidenced by him appearing to agree with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer about the need for a "clean DACA" bill in the negotiations, only to be yanked back by the Republicans in the room who want a whole lot more than a clean DACA bill. But it's obvious Trump just wants a bill to sign, no matter what it contains.

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Watching The Overton Window Move

[ Posted Tuesday, December 18th, 2018 – 18:03 PST ]

Sometimes in politics it is hard to see the big picture, since we so often are consumed with small-picture details of the moment. So I'd like to take a step back today and admire how the Overton window among Democrats is rapidly shifting in a very positive and progressive direction. Because what was considered radical and even unthinkable not so long ago is now becoming so mainstream that Democratic politicians risk their own political survival if they don't support such ideas. These shifts in perception normally take place over a very long period of time, but that doesn't seem to be the case right now.

To define the term: the "Overton window" is an attempt to measure what is politically acceptable at any given time. From Wikipedia's definition of the term:

The Overton window is an approach to identifying which ideas define the domain of acceptability within a democracy's possible governmental policies. Proponents of policies outside the window seek to convince or persuade the public in order to move and/or expand the window. Proponents of current policies, or similar ones, within the window seek to convince people that policies outside it should be deemed unacceptable.

The spectrum the Overton window shifts and expands and contracts upon has been further defined as ranging through:

  • Unthinkable
  • Radical
  • Acceptable
  • Sensible
  • Popular
  • Policy

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The Same Old Shutdown Kabuki

[ Posted Monday, December 17th, 2018 – 18:00 PST ]

The English definition of "Kabuki" reads, in part: "a form of traditional Japanese drama with highly stylized song, mime, and dance, now performed only by male actors, using exaggerated gestures and body movements to express emotions." Other than it being of Japanese origin, and (now that Nancy Pelosi is in a leading role) that bit about only male actors, this describes what we're apparently about to witness in Washington, once again. President Donald Trump is loudly threatening (with exaggerated gestures) to shut the government down if he doesn't get $5 billion for his precious border wall (that Mexico was supposed to have already paid for, of course). But after all the highly-stylized drama, the outcome at this point seems pretty predictable: Democrats are going to hold firm, and Trump -- once again -- won't get his wall money. How exactly we get to that point and how long it takes to get there are really the only open questions at this point. So, everyone got their programs? Then sit back and let the Kabuki drama begin!

If I sound overly flippant, it's only because we've been here so many times before. Government shutdowns have become a favored way for Republicans to prove to their base that they're fighting hard for whatever bugaboo they've been peddling, even though almost everyone but the die-hard GOP base winds up blaming them for the unnecessary shutdown in the end. It doesn't even matter anymore whether Democrats or Republicans are in power, the tactic remains the same. Also the same is the relative effectiveness, because so far they've got a perfect track record of government shutdowns never actually working. So why should this one be any different?

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Friday Talking Points -- Done Dirt Cheap!

[ Posted Friday, December 14th, 2018 – 19:14 PST ]

Our title today comes, of course, from former Donald Trump lawyer (and jailbird-to-be) Michael Cohen, who during his sentencing hearing this week said of Donald Trump: "Time and time again, I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds."

To which we (and plenty of others) reply with the immortal words of AC/DC:

If you got a lady and you want her gone
But you ain't got the guts
She keeps naggin' at you night and day
Enough to drive ya nuts
Pick up the phone
Leave her alone
It's time you made a stand
For a fee
I'm happy to be
Your back door man

Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap
Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap
Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap
Dirty deeds and they're done dirt cheap
Dirty deeds and they're done dirt cheap

Trump's personal "fixer" was sentenced to three years in federal lockup, which was all the more ironic when a previous tweet from him was unearthed (from almost exactly three years ago): "@HillaryClinton when you go to prison for defrauding America and perjury, your room and board will be free!" Now Cohen is the one who can look forward to that sweet deal.

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