Friday Talking Points -- From Russian Panties To Animal Skulls

We have a running theme this week: the utter and complete failure of the Republican Party's vaunted "outreach" to certain groups of Americans who have been voting against them in droves.
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We've got a lot to get to in our weekly roundup of politics this week, it seems.

For those watching the Olympics (or trying to, in and amongst the soap opera that is NBC's coverage, and the accompanying forty bazillion commercial breaks) and wondering what's going on in Russian politics, well, we direct you to the panty protests. Not the most important issue of the week, but quite possibly the most bizarre (and that's even in a week that saw members of Pussy Riot getting horsewhipped by Cossacks, mind you).

This week, President Obama issued a handwritten apology to an art history professor, for denigrating the value of an art history college degree in a speech. This, for some reason (as if he really needs one) made Marco Rubio angry. A handwritten apology from the president must be nice -- we're still waiting for our apology for pretty much everything nasty Rahm Emanuel ever said (although we're not exactly holding our breath, on that one).

Johns Hopkins released a study proving that background checks for buying guns works exactly the way they are supposed to, but (speaking of not holding our breath) the media and the politicians pretty much ignored it.

A New York state senator introduced a bill banning killer whales in waterparks from the state, and he apparently plagiarized a student's article posted on the Huffington Post. Well, I'm not sure if "plagiarizing" is the right word, really, since he wasn't trying to sell the work as his own in any way, he just used part of it in the text of the bill (justifying its necessity). We would like to issue a blanket permission for all Democratic lawmakers, in response: please feel free to quote liberally from any of these columns in any legislation you wish. Dropping us a note informing of such an occurrence would be nice, but is not necessary.

In marijuana news (which has become a weekly staple, on these pages), Doug Gansler, Maryland's attorney general, seems to think that medical marijuana's acceptance is pretty much as inevitable as gay marriage, at this point. Gansler's running for governor, in a field with other Democrats. As time goes on, more and more Democrats are going to have to accept the fact that marijuana is now (1) a potent and valid political issue, and (2) worth supporting, because public attitudes are changing fast.

New York is moving closer to legalizing medical marijuana (beyond just a pilot program), and even two Republicans have now joined the effort -- so it's not just Democrats who are waking up to the new political reality. And in Colorado, the governor just admitted that pot sales (and therefore pot tax revenues) are going to be higher than expected. Feel free to make your own "higher than expected" joke, here.

Or, perhaps, insert your own "munchies" joke instead, because we're moving on to news from the world of pizza. Chevron decided to compensate citizens affected by one of their fracking wells blowing up by delivering coupons for a free pizza and bottle of soda to affected residents. You just can't make this stuff up, folks. In more positive pizza news from Arizona, one pizza parlor showed its displeasure of the state government passing a "religious freedom" law (which would allow business owners to discriminate against gay people) by posting a sign in the window reading "We reserve the right to refuse service to Arizona legislators." Bravo! I'd like a slice with extra snark, please....

In other news from the Wild West, a Republican state representative in Colorado left a hearing on concealed handgun permits, but he apparently left a handbag behind... with his loaded handgun in it. The jokes just write themselves, on that one.

Anyone who read What's The Matter With Kansas? will want to check out an article by the author where he updates his opinion with a look at the current state of affairs in the Sunflower State.

And finally, to end on this Western theme we seem to have moseyed into, George W. Bush is now channeling his inner Georgia O'Keeffe by creating paintings of animal skulls. Make of that what you will.

What with Congress on yet another weeklong taxpayer-funded vacation, there wasn't much happening in Washington this week that caught our eye in the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week category.

So (to use a question format, for reasons which will become apparent in a moment): who was the most impressive Democrat in the news this week?

The answer has actually caused us to create a special Most Impressive Retiring Democrat award this week, for Representative Rush Holt, who just announced he'll won't be running for another term. The reason for giving Congressman Holt this award? From the news report:

Holt, a Jeopardy! champion with a doctoral degree in physics, recently re-introduced a "Darwin Day" resolution on the House floor, advancing a proposal to designate British naturalist Charles Darwin's Feb. 12 birthday as a day of recognition for "the importance of science in the betterment of humanity."

Pretty much that entire paragraph is impressive as all get out, but the thing which we found more impressive than the Darwin Day resolution -- or even the doctorate in physics -- was "Jeopardy! champion." Now that's impressive in a legislator!

So our first-ever Most Impressive Retiring Democrat goes without qualification to Rush Holt. We'll be sorry to see a man of your caliber leave Congress, because the average I.Q. of the institution is obviously going to drop with your exit. You have set a high bar for our new MIRD award, one that no one else may ever reach.

[Congratulate Representative Rush Holt on his House contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts. Be sure to phrase your congratulations in the form of a question, though.]

Sadly enough, there was no shortage of disappointing Democrats from last week's news. The first two are nothing more than faceless bureaucrats, so they might not even be Democrats, but we're going to hand whoever made the initial decisions (Dis-)Honorable Mention awards, just because. We can't, however, hand out Honorable Mention awards for the people who overturned these two decisions, because they did so only after exposure in the press -- not simply because they should have vetoed the idea in the first place.

The first was reportedly the brainchild of I.C.E., the immigration police. They thought it'd be a dandy idea to tie together all the country's data from vehicle license plate readers into a gigantic federal repository which would essentially track everyone driving a car in America. The stated reason for this massive surveillance was to catch undocumented immigrants. No detail of how tracking every car's movement continually was supposed to accomplish this. When the story broke in the news, the Department of Homeland Security immediately nixed the idea. But I'd be willing to bet it'll pop back up again sooner or later, perhaps over at the F.B.I. or N.S.A., so keep your eyes peeled.

The second idiotic notion for what the government should be doing came from the Federal Communications Commission, who decided to take it upon themselves to conduct a "survey" of news organizations across the country. This survey would be looking for how news editors make decisions on what to run, with particular attention being paid to expose bias. Since the F.C.C. licenses broadcast stations, this is a monumentally bad idea. Some people, of course, wish for a return to the days of the "Fairness Doctrine," but the reality is that we've moved beyond that now. Meaning the F.C.C. has no business delving into how editorial decisions are made. None. There are plenty of academic studies on news bias out there, for one, and if a new study is needed then this is the route it should take: let an academic institution conduct it, not the people who have the power to deny broadcasting licenses. Thankfully, the program was halted (once exposed in the media), but once again -- who authorized this idiocy in the first place?

We've got one more (Dis-)Honorable Mention to hand out, before we get to the main event. The lead sentence of this article speaks for itself: "Former U.S. Rep. Melvin Jay Reynolds has been arrested in Zimbabwe on suspicion of possessing pornography and an immigration offence." Read the whole story for the sordid details and the whole sordid past of Reynolds.

But this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week is none other than former congressman Joe Baca, who is running for a House seat after being defeated by fellow Democrat Gloria Negrete McLeod last time around. McLeod announced she will only serve one term and will not run for re-election. Baca, in a recent interview, commented on the woman who beat him: "Look at what we wound up with: Some bimbo who decided not to run again." In the past, he has also allegedly called another fellow Democrat (Loretta Sanchez) a "whore."

Now, Democrats have done an excellent job framing all the anti-woman policies and legislation emanating from the Republican Party as a "War On Women." It's one of the best political framing examples of the last few years, in fact. But to ride that high horse, Democrats are obligated to vigorously police their own ranks. Which includes condemning the knuckle-dragging behavior exhibited by the likes of Baca. He did apologize for the language later, but that's simply not good enough. Using such language about any woman -- no matter whether she's a public official or not, no matter whether she's in your own party or not -- is just not acceptable. Period.

Democrats have positioned themselves as the party which cares about women. This works, because for the most part they do (unlike the Republicans, who believe that women are weak-minded and have to be held by the hand when they visit their doctor, for instance). So it is even more egregious to hear a Democrat say something like this, and all other Democrats should loudly condemn Baca for his stupidity and male chauvinism, speaking with one voice.

For shame, Joe Baca, for shame.

[Unfortunately, Joe Baca is not currently serving in office, so we cannot provide a link so you can let him know what you think of his language. It is our policy not to link to any candidates' campaign pages.]

Volume 292 (2/21/14)

There were two items in the news of note to those who enjoy well-crafted talking points. The first was the obituary of a giant in the field of "framing," Charles Fillmore. This column likely wouldn't exist without Fillmore's pioneering work in the field.

The second news item is more lighthearted. Former governor of Louisiana Edwin Edwards is apparently thinking about running for a House seat. He has quite a colorful past, including such items as federal convictions for corruption and a lengthy jail sentence. He was, however, an amusing politician when speaking off-the-cuff, such as when he ridiculed an opponent for being so dumb "it would take him an hour and a half to watch 60 Minutes." His greatest line, though, the one that forever immortalized him in the history of American political quips, was uttered when speaking of how good his chances were for being re-elected. He could only lose, he famously said, if he were "caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy." So we'll be watching his congressional run closely, because who knows what he might say this time around?

OK, that's enough introduction. Let's get on with this week's talking points. We have a running theme this week: the utter and complete failure of the Republican Party's vaunted "outreach" to certain groups of Americans who have been voting against them in droves. Here are six facets of this failure, just from the current week's news alone. The final one was just thrown in for fun, though.

Gay outreach failure

This is another example of brilliant framing, and should be picked up immediately by all Democrats in states where this nonsense is being debated.

"The state of Arizona is enacting a law which would enshrine the ability of businesses to legally be bigots. There's just no other way to put it. The bill would allow business owners to discriminate against the public for, quote, religious reasons, unquote. In Tennessee, where a similar bill was defeated, they came up with a perfect name for such odious legislation. They called the bill they killed the 'Turn The Gays Away' bill. Because that is precisely what such laws are being debated and passed for. They are using the cloak of religion to legalize discrimination. I guess the story of the Good Samaritan was edited out of their Bibles, because it's hard to square such laws with what is commonly called 'being a good Christian.' If this bill is signed into law in Arizona, I urge the media to start calling it what it is: the Turn The Gays Away law."

Working poor outreach failure

Democrats have been doing a pretty impressive job of countering the recent C.B.O. report on raising the minimum wage, so far. Keep up the good work!

"I see Republicans gleefully pointing to the recent C.B.O. report which gave an estimate of how many jobs would be lost if the minimum wage were raised to $10.10 an hour. I find this amusing, because some Republicans are trying to get their party to actually talk about poverty in America -- but their answers to poverty are all the same, really, because they all make life harder for poor people. But to get back to the report, I do not agree with the report's conclusion, because they used outdated and disproven research to make their case. The best and most-recent research clearly shows that raising the minimum wage has precisely zero effect on unemployment. Even if, for the sake of argument, the C.B.O. is right, it offers a choice I think most Americans working at low-wage jobs would take: a 1-in-33 chance of losing your job versus a 32-in-33 chance of getting a raise of up to 39 percent of your salary. That's a 3 percent chance of losing your job versus a 97 percent chance of a raise. I think most people would accept those odds, don't you? Especially when the Republican alternative is to do absolutely nothing for any of these people."

Youth vote outreach failure

I don't know whether to say "boo!' or "baa!" OK, I apologize for that joke in advance, how's that?

"If you want proof that the Tennessee state government just doesn't have enough important things to do, look no further than them declaring outright war on the University of Tennessee, where students are holding a 'Sex Week' series of events. College students in Tennessee are in great need of solid information on sex, mostly because the state refuses to teach anything other than abstinence to younger students. Even though no tax dollars fund this event, and even though no actual university dollars are used, the state legislature is still passing a condemnation resolution. Way to go, Republicans! This is a textbook case (pun intended) of how not to do youth voter outreach. Especially the one legislator who tried to make a case for forcing the event off campus, by stating: 'They can go out there in a field full of sheep if they want to and have all the Sex Week they want.' Keep reaching out to the youth of America, GOP!"

Multicultural outreach failure

Maybe he was trying to use the anachronistic term "Mohammedanism"? Nah, he's probably just an idiot. It helps if you have an incredulous look on your face, at the end of this talking point.

"While trying to pass a law to get the Ten Commandments into government spaces and schools, one Alabama Republican referred to an alternate religion as 'Muslimism.' I guess that's what passes for multicultural outreach in the Republican Party these days, eh? I mean... Muslimism? Really? That's just... Wow."

Women outreach failure

And it wouldn't be a complete list without a front-lines update.

"I see that the Republicans have been working overtime to offer up restriction after restriction on abortion. Not content with just that, in Texas they're celebrating their, quote, achievements in women's health, unquote, after making it impossible for thousands of Texas women to get health insurance. So it looks like the War On Women is raging full-force. I guess it'll take a few more elections to show Republicans that this is not the way to get women to vote for you."

Gay and minority outreach failure

Using the word "segregation" means offending two groups at once, to put it mildly.

"In Nevada, a Republican running for a Democrat's House seat used what can only be called Orwellian language to describe why he's against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Here's the full quote:"

We need to look at people as a whole. Everybody has the same rights and privileges. We should look at the same individuals, care about our neighbor, everybody is our neighbor, but by continuing to create these laws that are what I call segregation laws, it puts one class of a person over another. We are creating classes of people through these laws.

"So, to sum up this reverse-logic, a law which guarantees equality for all means it is putting one class of person over another. Somehow. Legally removing discrimination means creating classes of people. Again, somehow. Allowing this 'segregation' to continue means being against 'segregation.' Up is down, in other words. This twisted reasoning is beyond comprehension, really. What Republicans stand for is continuing discrimination against classes of people. Granting equal rights for all removes discrimination. He's got it precisely backwards."

It's all a plot!

Twist that knife.

"I see that Louie Gohmert is launching his own political action committee to fight the ongoing war between the Tea Party and the Establishment Republicans. 'War' is his word, not mine, by the way. He explained why he's starting the PAC thusly: 'There's a war against the Tea party. There's a war against conservatives, we're told. If somebody declares war on me I'm not just going to lie down and take it. I'm going to fight.' Well, bully for him! You know, sooner or later, the conspiracy theorists in the Republican Party are going to start believing that the whole Tea Party movement is nothing more than an evil Democratic plot. I mean, if I was a fat cat Democrat with millions to pump into a dastardly effort to obliterate the Republican Party, I don't think there would be any better way to spend such money than to send it to a PAC run by Louie Gohmert. The Tea Party is doing a better job of destroying the Republican Party than any efforts launched by Democrats ever have. Which eventually is going to lead some to conclude that the whole thing is nothing more than a Democratic conspiracy, don't you think?"

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