07/25/2014 08:42 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Friday Talking Points -- Prelude To Silly Season

Planes have been dropping out of the sky at an alarming rate recently. I don't know what portents such omens signify, but the media certainly has had no lack of videos of debris fields to show, that's for sure.

Back in Washington, we have one week to go before the opening of "Silly Season 2014," an annual event brought on by hordes of political reporters scrambling around, devoid of actual stories, while Congress is away on its six-week vacation. What will the main Silly Season story become, for pundits to endlessly obsess over this August? Your guess is as good as mine. Several candidates have already popped up ("Hey, let's all talk about impeachment!" for starters), but perhaps some lonely town hall meeting (with some hapless member of Congress) somewhere in the hinterlands will provide the fodder for this year's Silly Season obsession -- hopefully, with an epic rant caught on video!

But before we get there, Congress actually has one more week of "work" scheduled. They've got a lot on their plate, and it's looking like nothing much will get accomplished. "Border crisis!" was the rallying cry a few weeks ago, but the House can't agree on anything to do to fix it, so they'll likely not manage to pass anything. Likewise, few expect any action on immigration reform itself. The only thing the House may accomplish is to vote to go ahead and sue President Obama. Such is the state of modern politics. Call it fear of legislating.

House Republicans face a very basic conundrum on the border crisis. Two of their bedrock beliefs are clashing with each other, which is why they can't agree on any concrete plan. You see, when you want government to do something that you consider worthwhile, you actually have to pay for it. Need more Border Patrol agents? It costs money. More fences? More money. Waiting time for judicial hearings too long? That can be fixed, but it's going to cost money. However, Republicans believe that smaller government is always better, and budgets should always be cut, not increased. Which is why they're in such a bind on the border. They really want to live in a magical world where spending less on a problem solves it faster. Since reality doesn't work like this, they can't agree on any plan to address the problem. Instead, the House Republicans collectively are going to have a sort of nervous breakdown. That's what's on schedule for next week, at any rate.

In hopefully-unrelated news, a Republican staffer was arrested for bringing a handgun to work. Representative Tom Marino's press secretary is being charged with a felony, and has been placed on unpaid leave in the meantime.

Out in Kentucky a very Republican town came up with a novel idea to fight high gas prices: open a government gas station! That is some original thinking, as we've never before heard of such a tactic being used in this fashion by an American town. The town of Somerset is near a popular recreational lake, and the gas stations in town apparently upped their prices to fleece the tourists. Locals weren't amused. They now seem delighted with the mayor's plan to sell gas with only a small markup to cover costs -- the town is explicitly not trying to make a profit. Local gas station owners aren't happy, and are calling the move "socialism," so it'll be interesting to see how this all plays out. Perhaps more towns will consider the idea, especially after hearing how delighted this town's customers/constituents are.

Republican hawks got a slap in the face this week, as the House overwhelmingly passed a resolution stating that before President Obama sends any more troops to Iraq, he should consult Congress. Since Congress is unlikely to approve, this was a strongly anti-war vote, with a very bipartisan 370-40 split.

Paul Ryan is attempting to address poverty, once again. What he's really doing is trolling the media to write "compassionate conservative" columns about him (which, so far, doesn't seem to be working very well), to bolster his chances to get the Republican presidential nomination.

Let's see, what else? The chief judge of the 9th Circuit Court wrote some astonishing things about capital punishment this week, stating that using drugs to execute people is "a misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and beautiful" when in fact they are "brutal, savage events" which should not be masked in any way. "I've always thought that executions should be executions -- not medical procedures," the judge told the Associated Press. His answer? Firing squads.

Most of the media ignored it, but a great article from Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux appeared which exposed the criteria for being added to the "no-fly list." Unsurprisingly, the standards are quite low for inclusion, something that has been long suspected.

Netroots Nation happened, but sadly, we did not attend this year. R. J. Eskow at the Huffington Post has an excellent write-up, if you're interested in how it went.

The marijuana researcher fired by the University of Arizona is still fighting to get her job back, or (alternatively) get another school interested in helping her perform the research on post-traumatic stress disorder in returning soldiers which she finally got governmental approval to conduct.

The town of Warren, Michigan is being sued by an atheist because it allows a "prayer station" in City Hall's atrium, but turned down a request to set up a "reason station" alongside. Its mayor showed an astounding lack of knowledge of the First Amendment in his response, where he also equated atheism with Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.

Which brings us to our final story, which is an interesting historical fact from the first moon landing, which happened 45 years ago this week. Buzz Aldrin actually celebrated communion on the moon! NASA did not broadcast the ceremony, though (which is why we've never heard of it, we're guessing), because it was already being sued by Madalyn Murray O'Hair over Apollo 8's broadcast of the astronauts reading from the book of Genesis.


Sadly, we have no Democrats who were impressive enough to get an award this week, so we will not be presenting the coveted Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this time around.

Instead, we're creating an alternative Most Impressive Opinionator Of The Week award, and handing it to Catherine Rampell for an article she wrote for the Washington Post. This absolutely brilliant article is well worth reading in full, but can be summed up (like all strokes of genius) very simply: if corporations are people, then people must be corporations. Which means people should be able to avail themselves of all the juicy corporate-welfare tax breaks given to corporate legal entities.

It's pretty easy to follow this train of thought down some very interesting tracks. We'd start by allowing individuals to only be taxed on their profits instead of their income, personally. Rampell gives several other good examples in her piece.

As we said, the idea is absolutely stunning in its simplicity. For such a brilliantly original idea, we're giving Catherine Rampell the first-ever Most Impressive Opinionator Of The Week award. Perhaps, in the future, we'll award other MIOOTW awards when faced with similar "Wow, I wish I had thought of that!" moments. For now, we're doing what we can to help the idea go viral. "If corporations are people, then I deserve the same tax breaks they get!" should become a national rallying cry among the public.

[Congratulate Catherine Rampell via her author page at the Washington Post, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]


We have two people worth mentioning this week.

We're not entirely sure this guy's a Democrat, but he certainly deserves some public shaming. Adam Eidinger, chair of the D.C. Cannabis Campaign, met this week with the chief of staff to the House Republican who has been very heavy-handed in thwarting the will of the voters of D.C. when it comes to relaxing marijuana laws in the District. Now, we're as against what Representative Andy Harris is doing as much as the next fellow, but there are certain lines you just do not cross in politics. One of these is "don't casually talk about armed revolution or terrorism" when trying to convince an elected official to change his ways.

Eidinger uttered what can only be read as a threat, saying: "the next step will be civil disobedience and then after that, you're talking about terrorist organizations. Do you want a terrorist organization in Washington, D.C.?" After being told he might want to tone down his rhetoric, Eidinger answered back:

I would suggest that you take democracy more seriously, OK? Because that's what happens in other countries when they don't provide local democracy -- people take up arms. And since I think your member is a pro-gun nut and thinks guns should be in everyone's hands -- if that's the case, then I think maybe we should call up some militia types and come here and defend the local democracy.

This is Exhibit A in "how not to lobby an elected official," folks. Threatening armed revolution is not the way to convince anybody of anything. Eidinger should be forced to resign from his leadership of the D.C. Cannabis Campaign, at the very least.

But this week's winner of the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week is John Walsh, senator from Montana, who was caught in a plagiarism scandal this week by the New York Times. To achieve a master's degree from the Army War College, Walsh cut-and-pasted a large part of his final paper from other sources, without attribution. This, unfortunately for Walsh, happened right before a week in which he was supposed to shine.

Walsh has only been a senator for a short time, since he was appointed to take the seat Max Baucus vacated (to become ambassador to China). He is in a very tough race to get elected back to the Senate -- a race we now consider to be a foregone conclusion. Walsh has, to be blunt, not responded well to the scandal so far.

He still has time to step down and let another Democrat have a shot at retaining this Senate seat, which at this point might be the best option for all concerned -- especially if the War College decides to yank his master's degree. What happens next is up to Walsh, but for the time being he has earned this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award.

[Contact Senator John Walsh on his Senate contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]


Volume 313 (7/25/14)

This week's talking points are all over the map. You'd think things would be a little more focused, politically, in the week right before Congress takes their usual Brobdingnagian August vacation, but you'd be wrong.

Here are this week's offerings, peripatetic though they may be, for Democrats everywhere, whether appearing on Sunday morning political chatfests or just talking with your relatives at the beach house.


   I hereby incorporate!

This one is, as mentioned, a downright brilliant idea.

"If corporations are people, according to the Supreme Court, then people should be the equals of corporations in every way. It's got to be a two-way street, right? This means I shouldn't be taxed on any costs I have in living my life, such as buying a house -- or 'corporate headquarters,' I should say -- or paying bills, or any health care dollars I spend. Just like corporations, I should only pay taxes on my profits and not my whole income. It's only fair -- if corporations are people, then everyone should share the lavish tax breaks given to 'corporate persons.' Every American should automatically be considered to be a corporation from this point on, in fact."


   Obama's final gay rights action

This was really the last thing on the list for gay activists, when it comes to what President Obama can accomplish on his own.

"Since the Republican House is incapable of action on just about anything, it doesn't look like the Employee Non-Discrimination Act is going to pass any time soon. I applaud President Obama for acting on his own this week to provide this important non-discrimination protection to all federal workers and all federal contractors. Sooner or later, this important advancement in civil rights will indeed become the law of the land for all, but for the time being the president has done what he can to ensure that all Americans are treated equally in employment."


   More good news for Obamacare

Keep beating this drum, people.

"Yet another study was released this week on the effects of Obamacare, and it showed that 10 million people have acquired health insurance through Obamacare. Data continues to arrive showing the benefits of Obamacare. The interesting thing is that none -- that's none, mind you -- of the doom-and-gloom scenarios have appeared in all this data. All those things Republicans darkly warned about have not come to pass. Obamacare, just to pick one of these, is not a 'job-killer,' as a quick look at the last year's unemployment data plainly shows. For all the fear-mongering, we continue to see more new data showing the sky still hasn't fallen. Sooner or later, the public is going to realize how wrong Republicans really were about Obamacare."


   Thank you, Harry Reid

I wrote a long and detailed article earlier this week which explains this concept more fully (as it is rather complicated).

"We had two decisions from a total of six federal appellate judges this week on whether Obamacare state exchanges are the legal equivalent of the federal exchange. Four of these judges agreed that it is idiotic to think otherwise, but two judges ruled that Congress really didn't mean that at all. The next step for the case where the Obama administration lost is to be heard by the full 11-judge D.C. Circuit Court, where it is expected the ruling will be overturned. This court consists of four judges appointed by Republicans and seven judges appointed by Democrats. But if Harry Reid hadn't used the so-called 'nuclear option' to break the logjam of Republicans filibustering every nominee in sight, the court might now have only been 4-to-4. So, while watching the federal Obamacare exchange case move to its next step, I'd like to say a hearty 'thank you' to Harry Reid for the current makeup of the D.C. Circuit Court."


   Makin' stuff up

It's campaign season once again. Woo hoo!

"I see that Republicans running for office are already stooping to just flat-out lying out on the campaign trail. The Republican running for Senate in Arkansas is boldly taking credit for aid to farmers that he voted against. That takes a certain amount of brass, doesn't it? And out in Illinois, the Republican gubernatorial candidate is running one of those 'look at the scary newspaper headlines' campaign ads on television, but the only problem is that the campaign just went ahead and rewrote the headlines to say what they wanted. Don't like the headlines that were written? Well, why not just make stuff up instead? Better put on hip-waders, everyone, because if it's already getting this deep in July, imagine what things will be like come October!"


   How many states will legalize this year?

Many states decided to sit out this election, and instead make the push in the 2016 presidential year, but that hasn't stopped everyone.

"By the end of the year, voters in two more states -- and in Washington D.C. -- will get the chance to legalize recreational marijuana for adults. In November, both Alaska and Oregon may join Colorado and Washington in moving away from the War On Weed. This is an important step towards a much more rational policy nationwide. So far, political leaders at the national level have been reluctant to admit what is going on out in the states. But when 33 states have legalized some form of medical marijuana and as many as four might soon legalize recreational marijuana, it's pretty obvious that the people are indeed leading on this issue -- and sooner or later, the political leaders will follow."


   Even the protesters have given up

We saved this one for last, just because.

"Every time you think Congress can't sink any further in public opinion, they surprise you by charting new lows. I refer to an article in the Washington Post whose title asks the question: 'Has Congress Gotten So Pathetic That Even The Protesters Aren't Bothering To Show Up?' Oh, well, I suppose we can all hope that some entertaining local protesters show up at a few town hall meetings next month. It's a sad day indeed when even the 'mad as Hell and not going to take it anymore' crowd gives up on Congress."


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