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The One-Eared Congressman (and Other Silly-Season News)

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Summer is sometimes called the "silly season" for news. And although we're in the middle of a series of global crises, there is just as much silliness this August as ever. Silly-season news stories are hardly earth-shaking, but they sometimes tell us a lot about how many of our leaders and the media think (and about how little we count in that thinking). Here are three recent small-bore, but revealing, outrages you may have missed while Wall Street went crazy:

1. Apparently, Tea Party congressmen have only one ear -- the right one. Representative Cliff Stearns held a hearing in Florida on his efforts to undo clean water rules. The panel included only people who favored the bill. When environmental groups objected, Stearns claimed none had asked to appear. But an organizer for the Gulf Restoration Network had taped the telephone call on which she was turned down. Now Stearns wouldn't have listened to supporters of clean water had they appeared on his panel -- but his willingness to shut out dissenting local voices reveals that he just takes for granted that he listens only to those of his constituents who share his ideology. Most of the Florida media ignored this outrage -- even though Stearns was clearly not telling the truth.

2. Tea Party congressmen also have a politically correct dress code for public meetings. In Nevada's Third Congressional District, Representative Joe Heck chose to have his first public meeting with an organization called the Nevada Energy Forum. Essentially an oil industry front group, Heck's choice was revealing but hardly surprising. But one of the attendees, a Sierra Club member, was actually kicked out of her seat because she was wearing a Sierra Club T-shirt. So once again, only certain people are part of the "public" to which the Tea Party is accountable. At least they know who we are!

3. So there's no room at congressional hearings and town-hall meetings this August for a large part of the American people. But the reason is that the available space has already been taken by the newest class of American citizens -- not immigrants, but corporations. It's now politically correct to proclaim that "corporations are people" not just in Supreme Court briefs but also on the campaign trail. The pioneer this time was non-Tea Party presidential candidate Mitt Romney. When people in his audience at the Iowa State Fair suggested that we fund Social Security by increasing taxes on corporations, Romney stoutly insisted that "corporations are people". (If so, of course, they would have to pay more in taxes than they currently do, so Romney didn't really mean it.) You should check out the clip and what Stephen Colbert did with it.

Actually, looking at the damage Romney probably did to his candidacy with that gaffe, it's not surprising that Stearns and Heck are protecting themselves from flesh-and-blood individuals who might ask them unscripted questions. Who knows what surprising but revealing blunders they might make in responding?

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