Friday Talking Points -- Joe's Garage

[ Posted Friday, January 13th, 2023 – 17:43 UTC ]

With apologies to Frank Zappa, this week's big political story might be summed up as coming from "Joe's garage." But we'll get to all of that in a moment, down in the awards section (it shouldn't be any mystery which one he's going to get). First, though, let's take a look at the other momentous things that happened during the past week.

This column, of course, measures weeks from Friday afternoon to Friday afternoon. As we were writing last week, the House of Representatives was still deadlocked over who would become the next speaker. This continued far into the night, until Kevin McCarthy finally emerged victorious. Weakened, bloodied, diminished... but finally victorious.

The whole comedy of errors lasted through the fifteenth vote, which hasn't happened since Civil War times. This was not an ideological battle, as some in the media portrayed it (the "hard right" versus the rest of the Republicans), instead it was a battle over how nutball-crazy the next House will truly be. And the nutball-crazy faction was the true winner here, extracting pretty much every concession from McCarthy that they demanded.

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The Big Difference

[ Posted Thursday, January 12th, 2023 – 16:55 UTC ]

Attorney General Merrick Garland has now announced the appointment of a special counsel to look into President Joe Biden's apparent mishandling of classified documents. This bombshell hit the political world earlier today and everyone has been furiously reacting ever since. Personally, when we first heard the news (earlier in the week) that an organization that Biden created (after he left office as Barack Obama's vice president) had turned over classified documents to the National Archives, we took a "wait and see" approach to writing about it. Now that the other shoe has dropped in a dramatic way, though, it's time for some reactions.

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Biden's Biggest Mistake

[ Posted Wednesday, January 11th, 2023 – 16:48 UTC ]

Just for the record, that headline in no way refers to the current news frenzy over President Joe Biden's apparent retention of classified documents at an organization he controlled. It is indeed a subject worthy for another column, mostly to scoff at the false equivalency being offered up by the Republicans. There is an enormous difference between what Biden's team did and what Trump and his team were caught doing. In Biden's case, the documents were found and immediately they did the right thing -- they notified the National Archives and voluntarily turned all the documents over. Trump refused official requests for over a year, lied that he had turned over all the classified documents, got subpoenaed, lied some more about turning them all in and finally had a search warrant executed which turned up over 100 more classified documents. But there are plenty of people currently pointing all of this out, which is why this column is not about this at all. Biden's assumably accidental retention of a handful of classified documents may have been a political mistake (since already team Trump is saying "See? Everyone does it!"), but it is not the biggest one Biden has made to date.

The biggest political mistake Biden has made as president was to undercut -- twice -- the efforts by congressional Democrats to deal with the debt ceiling while they still had the chance. Later this year, this may come back to bite not just Biden but all of us. In what could be a catastrophic way.

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Let The Race Begin!

[ Posted Tuesday, January 10th, 2023 – 15:38 UTC ]

The 2024 campaign has begun. Not the big one -- not the race for president, that already started when Donald Trump threw his hat in the ring laughably early, in a naked attempt to avoid justice. Instead, this one is closer to home for me. Representative Katie Porter announced today that she is running for Dianne Feinstein's Senate seat. Which means California may get the first truly open Senate race since 1992 (when Feinstein first got elected). And since it's California, there is no real question of a Republican winning the seat, since they are all but irrelevant out here.

The news comes as somewhat of a surprise for only one reason: the timing of it. DiFi (as I like to call her, for no particular reason) has yet to announce whether she will run for re-election or not. To be blunt: she should not. She is currently 89 years old and she is, not to put too fine a point on it, not exactly compos mentis all the time. It's an open secret on Capitol Hill that Feinstein has degenerated mentally to the point where her short-term memory is all but non-existent. She asks people the same question twice, minutes after asking for the first time. She has already stepped down from leading the Senate Judiciary Committee and the position of president pro tem of the Senate (which would have put her third in line to the presidency, after the speaker of the House), because those around her (Chuck Schumer, in particular) are well aware of her diminished capacities.

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A Parliament Of Badgers

[ Posted Monday, January 9th, 2023 – 17:51 UTC ]

After an excruciatingly-long battle, newly-anointed Speaker Kevin McCarthy began business in the Republican House of Representatives today. He's already reportedly having problems with the first order of business -- voting for a package of rules the House will operate under for the next two years. Some (especially on the left) are making bets on how long McCarthy will even be able to keep his gavel, since one of the new rules will allow any one House member to call what is essentially a "no confidence" vote to oust McCarthy at any time. Or to sum all of this up, the rollercoaster ride we all went through last week doesn't look like it's about to end any time soon.

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Friday Talking Points -- The Reign Of Chaos Begins

[ Posted Friday, January 6th, 2023 – 19:40 UTC ]

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez summed up the week better than anyone else, we thought, with her remark: "In chaos, anything is possible, especially in this era."

This is where we find ourselves on the fourth solid day of watching C-SPAN broadcasting what is normally a pretty sleepy affair: the vote to elect a new speaker of the House of Representatives. Normally, that is singular: "vote." We haven't had more than one vote in 100 years, in fact. But this week, we are already up to 13 votes, with the 14th scheduled (possibly, they could just adjourn again) for 10:00 Eastern time tonight. And nobody's sure if there is even an end in sight.

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Nihilists Gotta Nihil

[ Posted Thursday, January 5th, 2023 – 16:47 UTC ]

To sum up today's proceedings in the House of Representatives, we turn to the esteemed and well-respected political thinkers Monty Python's Flying Circus:

[One man waits behind door with a large mallet... the door opens and second man enters the room.]

"I want to compl..."

[Second man is immediately hit in the head with the mallet.]


"Hold your head like this and then go: 'Waaah!' Try it again...."

[Hits second man on head again with mallet.]


"Better, better, but: 'Waah! Waah!' Hold your hands here." [holds hands to head]


[Hits second man on head again with mallet.]


"That's it! That's it! Good!"

[Moves to strike again.]

"Stop hitting me!"


"Stop hitting me."

"Stop hitting you?


"Oh, uh... what did you come here for?"

"I came here to complain."

"Oh, I'm sorry, that's next door -- it's Being Hit On The Head lessons in here."

"What a stupid concept!"

This is all a scene from the classic "Argument Clinic" sketch, of course. And for the life of me I can't think of a more appropriate commentary on the spectacle that Republicans are continuing to put the entire country through. Except in this new version, they just keep at it over and over again. Nobody has the common sense to call an end to what is nothing short of slapstick/physical and very dark comedy. It's like the Three Stooges trying to run a chamber of Congress, to use an American example. Or maybe Laurel and Hardy is closer, with their tagline: "Now look what you made me do!"

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A Giant And Embarrassing Defeat

[ Posted Wednesday, January 4th, 2023 – 17:01 UTC ]

As the sun sinks slowly in the west... as the stormclouds continue to gather... welcome to another episode of As The House Turns....

Sorry if I'm a little loopy, but watching six consecutive roll-call votes in the House of Representatives has done that to me. The clown parade continues, with no real end in sight, although the Republicans have now introduced a twist to the story by only agreeing to adjourn the chamber for a few hours. They will reconvene at 8:00 tonight, which is odd -- I mean, do they really want this to be on primetime television? For what possible purpose? Self-flagellation? Straight-up masochism? But then trying to figure out Republican motivations at this point is no more than a fool's game, so we'll just have to see what happens.

The best new metaphor to spring into existence while watching all this unfold (that I have heard, at least) is that the dissenting Republicans should now be called the "Chaos Caucus." Sounds about right, and we are always a sucker for some potent political alliteration....

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The Circus Opens With A Clown Parade

[ Posted Tuesday, January 3rd, 2023 – 15:58 UTC ]

I knew that Kevin McCarthy would be weak, but I have to admit I didn't expect he'd prove to be this weak, this soon. As I write this, the third vote for speaker is in progress [note: while editing this, the House adjourned until noon tomorrow...]. McCarthy will lose this one, just like he lost the first two. So far, the votes have been functionally identical: 212 votes for Hakeem Jeffries (the Democratic leader), 203 votes for McCarthy, and 19 votes for other Republicans. On the first vote the "other" was split, but in the second round and (so far) the third, the GOP opposition has lined up behind Jim Jordan. Who actually voted for McCarthy. In other words, the three-ring GOP House of Representatives has opened with a clown parade.

Nobody, at this point, has any clue how this is going to end. The House cannot do anything else until the speakership is resolved. They are going to vote over and over again until things change. They could adjourn, but whenever they start up again they'll still have to get through this vote. As we've all learned, this is only the second time since the Civil War and the first time in 100 years that we've had a deadlock in the speaker vote. In 1855 and 1856, the voting went to the 133rd round and lasted two months.

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The Absolutely Amazing GOAT Banished Words List

[ Posted Monday, January 2nd, 2023 – 17:23 UTC ]

A new year dawns, and as always, we look to the north... way north... so far north it's almost Canada! Yes, it is time once again for our annual pilgrimage to the shores of Gitche Gumee to see what words and phrases the learnèd language mavens of the Lake Superior State University (in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan) have deemed so offensive that they have officially banished them.

This year they seem to be continuing a new trend where they limit the list to only ten entries. We understand it's a nice round number, but have to wonder if it isn't a bit limiting -- since there are so many misused or overused or just plain trite things being said on a routine basis these days.

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