There were two political stampedes this week, both towards and then back away from the same man: rancher Cliven Bundy. Bundy was a strange hero for conservative Republicans to adopt, since he is essentially fighting for his right to be a "taker" (in "conservativese") from the federal government -- a right that he refuses to pay for, and by doing so has broken the law. So he's a law-breaker and he wants to mooch off the public for free -- two traits which conservatives routinely rail against. I guess conservative Republicans can be forgiven, since there was all the excitement of guns and going toe-to-toe with the dastardly gummint agents -- which always causes conservative hearts to swoon.
Then Bundy opened his mouth and shared a few choice thoughts. About "the Negro" in America, and all sorts of other enlightening subjects. Just as quickly as the Republicans had stampeded towards Bundy, they all then executed a move that would have won them the barrel race, by reining in and wheeling about in order to gallop furiously away.
So, at least for the spectators, it was an amusing week in politics. Also amusing was the continuing follies of Republicans out on the campaign trail. First up is a state legislator from New Hampshire, Will Infantine, who helpfully "mansplains" to all the ladies why men make more money than women:
Men by and large make more because of some of the things they do. Their jobs are, by and large, more riskier [sic]. They don't mind working nights and weekends. They don't mind working overtime, or outdoors in the elements.... Men work five or six hours longer a week than women do. When it comes to women and men who own businesses... women make half of what men do because of flexibility of work, men are more motivated by money than women are.
Well, thanks for clearing that up, Will!
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also stepped in it during a campaign stop last week as well. When asked about the high unemployment in the county, McConnell responded by trying to punt the ball back to the state government: "Economic development is a Frankfort issue. That is not my job. It is the primary responsibility of the state Commerce Cabinet." His Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, gleefully jumped on McConnell's gaffe: "The only job that [McConnell] has cared about over the past 30 years is his own."
But the one video clip that everyone really needs to see (if you haven't already) is of House Speaker John Boehner absolutely ridiculing his fellow House Republicans, when asked why nothing has happened on immigration reform. Boehner's answer was priceless, but this is one case where just reading the text of Boehner's words doesn't do it justice:
Here's the attitude: "Ohhhh. Don't make me do this. Ohhhh. This is too hard." We get elected to make choices. We get elected to solve problems and it's remarkable to me how many of my colleagues just don't want to. ... They'll take the path of least resistance.
What's truly amusing is how Boehner said it, though, so everyone should take the time to watch the video clip. Maybe all those rumors saying Boehner is getting tired of being Speaker have some basis in reality, who knows? Here's the other bookend to this story, from Eric Cantor:
Immigration reform still isn't on the agenda for the House GOP, according to a memo sent Friday by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to Republican members.
The spring legislative agenda, which lays out the House GOP conference's priorities for the coming months, promises legislation aimed at "building an America that works," including, unsurprisingly, a promise to attempt to repeal Obamacare. But it doesn't mention the word "immigration" once, despite continued statements from Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) that he would like to address the issue.
And finally, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is in the news, as he has been making the rounds in the media to promote his new book (more on his book in the talking points). In an interview with NPR, Stevens was asked whether he thought marijuana should be legal at the federal level. His response:
Yes. I really think that that's another instance of public opinion [that's] changed. And recognize that the distinction between marijuana and alcoholic beverages is really not much of a distinction. Alcohol, the prohibition against selling and dispensing alcoholic beverages has I think been generally, there's a general consensus that it was not worth the cost. And I think really in time that will be the general consensus with respect to this particular drug.
We couldn't agree more.
Eric Holder, who won the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week last week, has followed through and released official guidelines for clemency. Holder should be congratulated again for his concrete moves to dismantle the "War On Drugs" mentality in the federal government.
The people behind the move down in Mississippi to get business owners to proudly display their inclusiveness certainly deserve some sort of award. After the state passed a law which seems intended to allow businesses to refuse to serve certain customers with impunity, stickers are now popping up in some Mississippi store windows which read: "We don't discriminate. If you're buying, we're selling." Well said!
And while they're supposed to be non-political, we'd still like to applaud the low-level federal judges who are quietly launching a "Magistrates' Revolt" against sweeping data collection. It's a fascinating story, and one that may grow over time.
But this week's MIDOTW award goes -- for the first time! -- to First Lady Michelle Obama. She was scheduled to speak at a high school graduation ceremony in Topeka, Kansas, because it would have been on the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision outlawing segregation in public schools. The reason Mrs. Obama chose to speak to a Kansas high school to mark the occasion can be found in the full name of the case: Oliver Brown et al. v. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. A historic event, in other words.
But there was an outcry over her speaking to the graduation ceremony; not over politics but over logistics. If the First Lady spoke, the security involved would have limited the seating available. Since limiting spaces for friends and family at a graduation ceremony isn't such a good idea, Michelle Obama graciously moved her speech one day earlier, to a separate ceremony from the graduation.
This was a classy move. It put the students (and their loved ones) first. Michelle Obama's communications director said, of the move: "Once we learned about the concerns of some students, we were eager to find a solution that enabled all of the students and their families to celebrate the special day."
So, for avoiding bad feelings on a day which will be a celebration not only of this generation's success in education but also of the history of a landmark Supreme Court decision, First Lady Michelle Obama is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week.
[Congratulate First Lady Michelle Obama on the White House contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]
This one's just embarrassing no matter how you look at it.
Democratic candidate for governor in Pennsylvania Tom Wolf is in a bit of hot water, because he apparently plagiarized a big chunk of the policy plan he's running on, lifting it from documents from a company that does business with the state. That's bad, but what's worse is the name he chose to give this campaign document: "Fresh Start."
Fellow Democratic candidate (Pennsylvania hasn't held its primary election yet) Allyson Schwartz pointed out the plagiarism, and her spokesman couldn't resist twisting the knife a bit: "Tom Wolf claims to be a different type of candidate. He says he will take us in a new direction with a 'Fresh Start' policy, yet the words aren't even his own." Ouch.
Wolf did apologize, and swears it'll never happen again. But the damage has already been done. For running on a "fresh" list of ideas which was not his own, Tom Wolf earns the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award.
[It is our longstanding policy not to link to candidates' web pages, so you'll have to find Tom Wolf's contact information on your own.]
Volume 301 (4/25/14)
Because it was a slow news week in politics, we're going to do something different today. Instead of offering up our usual seven Democratic talking points, instead we're getting into the spirit of John Paul Stevens's new book, Six Amendments. In it, he proposes six new amendments to the United States Constitution. I listed the text of his proposed amendments yesterday, in case you're curious what ideas he came up with (although I have to admit I haven't read his book yet).
I've been thinking about the basic concept all week, though, and came up with my own proposals to amend America's founding document. While we're keeping with our normal format of seven items, one of my proposals is pretty much the same as one of Stevens's. So (other than number four, below) here are my six proposals for new amendments. Some of these may prove unworkable or not popular enough to clear the very high bar for amending the Constitution, I realize, but (maybe with some rewording) I think that they're all beneficial ideas.
You, of course, may disagree. Or you may have your own ideas for amendments. Either way, let me know about it in the comments, as usual.
Right to vote
The first sentence of this was proposed by a commenter at my site. I added the second sentence just to hammer the idea home (and because you don't get to use the word "unalienable" very often).
The right of the people to vote shall not be infringed upon. Every American citizen has the unalienable right to cast a vote in all elections which happen in their district or state.
Right to privacy
There is no actual, enumerated right to privacy in the Constitution. This would rectify this problem, which has caused no end of trouble in the courts. It could probably be worded better, but I think you'll get the main concept.
The right of privacy shall not be infringed upon. The papers, effects, and communications of the people shall be secure unless a specific warrant has been issued to search or seize them. This includes the people's right to private communications with their doctors and all electronic communications of any type.
No corporate "personhood"
This one isn't a unique idea, there are already people pushing for some version of this to become a real amendment. Again, could probably be worded better, but you get the idea.
Corporate entities are a legal construct useful in business, but such corporations cannot be said to have any personhood as far as the rights this Constitution guarantees to human persons.
Money is not speech
This is the one that is almost identical to one on Stevens's list. I had to put it a little more forcefully, though.
Money shall in no way be considered speech, and shall in no way be included in First Amendment rights. Congress has the power to regulate the financing of candidates in federal elections.
Let's get rid of a very archaic schedule, and instead make voting much easier for all.
Federal elections will henceforth occur on the first full weekend in November. Polls shall be open on both Saturday and Sunday, to accommodate the maximum number of voters. Furthermore, any voter who wishes to vote by mail shall be allowed to do so.
Free election ads
At the heart of the "money in elections" problem is the high cost of advertising. Since the airwaves are public, the federal government has the power to change all of this dramatically.
Because the people own the public airwaves, prior to an election all television and radio stations shall provide a certain set amount of free advertising time to all candidates on an equal basis.
Let's get rid of this Orwellianism
This one is pretty simple, and I included it just because it bugs me so much.
All American soil shall be deemed a "free speech zone," without limit or subdivision. Peaceful political protests shall not be segregated away from any public area.
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