Good day, Blogosphere! Are we feeling sequestered? I’ll be honest with you, I’m having a hard time getting worked up about the sequester. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t care or think it’s no big deal; the Dow is plunging as I type, teachers and teachers’ aids are preparing for layoffs, etc. etc. I just feel like we’ve been lurching from crisis to crisis for so long that at this point it’s not even about what everyone says it’s about. It’s not about Republicans being intransigent or Democrats being weak or Obama lacking leadership. I feel like this perpetual state of wholly-manufactured crisis goes even deeper than the superficial finger-pointing we get from the news media, and writing it off as “dysfunctional government” is just too facile.
No, I have an instinct that we’re constantly in a state of self-inflicted crisis because some 501c’s, 527 groups, think tanks, and PACs need e-mail addresses to bolster their mailing lists and donations to keep the doors open. Seriously, I really do. Every time some crap like this happens I get flooded with urgent demands to sign this petition, show up at this rally, donate to that group, do this, call here, send this message, blah blah. It’s the politico-industrial complex I wrote about last fall, which is wholly dependent on these manufactured crises to keep themselves alive, and meanwhile all the media can do is ponder who’s to blame this time, Republicans or Democrats? Who will the American people blame this time? Who the fuck cares. The tail isn’t just wagging the dog, it’s wrapped around its neck and strangling it.
Look, there’s a reason we keep watching this movie over and over again, and it’s because of systemic, institutional failure on a grand scale that goes far beyond “Republicans are crazy” and “Democrats are spineless.”
So, screw the sequester. On to some good news from the week:
• Chuck Hagel was confirmed as Secretary of Defense after a protracted Republican temper tantrum. Their hurt fee-fees over Hagel’s opposition to the Iraq War and manufactured “scandals” over non-existent groups like “Friends of Hamas” all wound up being a giant nothingburger. Thanks for wasting our time, assholes.
• The Republican version of the Violence Against Women Act, which excluded LGBT and Native American victims, was defeated in the House, while the Senate’s inclusive version passed the House. Another Republican hissy fit which mounted to be a big, fat nothingburger. Call me when you guys decide to do more than just suck all of the oxygen out of D.C.
• The Obama Administration filed a friend of the court brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to approve same-sex marriage.
• Similarly, more than 200 major businesses also filed a friend of the court brief urging SCOTUS to strike down the Defense Of Marriage Act, Prop. 8, and approve same-sex marriage. They include Alcoa, Citigroup, Mars, Google, Apple, Facebook, JetBlue, Marriott International, Starbucks and the Walt Disney Co. Marriott sort of surprises me, actually.
• Clint Eastwood also supports marriage equality. Just thought I’d mention this.
• A new non-profit called Code.org has launched with the goal of teaching kids to code. Code.org’s goal is to increase computer science classes in schools. I’m less fond of the group’s effort to bring more high-skilled foreign workers to the U.S., however I keep reading that basic engineering and science illiteracy among today’s young people is really hampering our tech competitiveness. This isn’t my industry, but I’ve been hearing this often enough from enough different sources to think it’s true.
• A non-profit has launched Pet Food Stamps, helping families in poverty feed their pets. And no, taxpayer money is not involved, so stuff it, wingers. “Food stamps” is just a name.
• Yet another study links increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide to global warming. This one looks at prehistoric CO2 and debunks a long-held belief among denialists that the end of the last ice age wasn’t related to a spike in atmospheric CO2.
• Bangladesh tackles climate change and food security issues by combining aquaculture with rice paddies.
• A supporter of gun control won the Democratic nomination for Jesse Jackson Jr.’s House seat, helped by Michael Bloomberg’s Super PAC, and is likely to win in the heavily-Democratic district.
• Shell Oil announced it has ditched its exploratory Arctic oil drilling plans for this year.
• An Arizona federal court has permanently blocked the state’s efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.
• Hello, science! What have you been up to lately? Finding lost continents like Atlantis? Yes? Awesome!
• The Illinois House Executive Committee OK’d a marriage equality bill, clearing a first hurdle for the measure.
• African-American incarceration rates have declined significantly over the past 10 years, according to a study by the Sentencing Project. The bad news: incarceration rates for whites seems to be rising, with meth getting the blame.
Good News, Tennessee Edition:
• Congratulations to Nashville chefs for their James Beard Foundation recognition. Nashville has become quite the foodie paradise, I might add. When I first moved here, “ethnic food” was Taco Bell. Now we’ve got food from all around the world, plus lots of local, farm-to-table type places, as well as some fancy, mortgage-your-house-to-pay-for-dinner places.
• Speaking of Nashville food, Prince’s Hot Chicken was also recognized by the James Beard Foundation, earning the America’s Classics Award. Don’t know why this wasn’t mentioned in The Tennessean link but whatever. For those of you who don’t live here, Prince’s is literally a tiny, family-owned shack on the wrong side of the tracks which has been frying up super-spicy chicken for decades. Thanks to Prince’s, hot chicken is Nashville unofficial Official Dish.
• The UAW is attempting to unionize Smyrna Nissan plants for third time. Never give up! Never surrender!
This week’s cool video is the Milwaukee police chief handing Miss South Carolina Lindsay Graham his ass on the universal background check issue:
One day later on a Milwaukee street, a man opened fire with an assault rifle on a group of people, injuring two. Stuff your NRA talking points where the sun don’t shine, Lindsay.