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What’s Next

With the conservative majority on the Supreme Court signaling that they will vote to end key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, a number of organizations are contemplating challenges to other laws they view as no longer necessary.

"The Court’s majority is saying that the Voting Rights Act is so successful that it’s not needed any longer," said a spokesman for the League of White Southern Voters. "We agree with the Court that governments in the Deep South with an unbroken history of egregious racial discrimination will no longer discriminate as soon as sanctions are lifted.

"We’re just worried that the Court won’t go far enough. We’re hoping to persuade the Justices to throw out the entire act, and not just Section 5 covering southern states.

"It’s just preposterous in this day and age to think that any states, northern or southern, will go on a binge of Gerrymandering, discriminatory voter ID restrictions, absurdly short registration periods, understaffed vote centers and inconvenient poll hours in an attempt to discourage the minority vote. We haven’t seen any of those shenanigans since way back in November of 2012."

The National Association of Sweatshops announced that “we are seriously considering asking the Court to follow its own logic and get rid of the hopelessly antiquated child labor laws. Ater all, it’s been decades since children were forced to work, proving that the law is no longer necessary. And that goes for the forty-hour work week and overtime laws, too. They worked so well they’re unnecessary.”

The American Polluters Alliance agreed. In a press release yesterday, the group stated, “The Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act have been so successful at protecting the nation’s environment, we simply don’t need them any more.

"There’s a lot of evidence to prove that once these laws take effect, they outlive their usefulness. Look at the banking industry. Congress relaxed the regulatory burden on the financial sector years ago, and almost nobody in the industry has been prosecuted for any wrongdoing since. Doesn’t that prove our point?"

Added a spokesperson for the Corporate Legal Protection Council, “Look how successful workplace safety rules have been. Given the amazing decline in deaths and injuries ove the years, isn’t it obvious that we don’t need those rules? I think it’s pretty clear from the results that corporations absolutely can be trusted to put their employees’ health and safety above profits.”

"The Obama administration is living in the past," read a statement from the National Association of CEOs. "He’s asking to raise the minimum wage at a time when minimum wages have been shown to be astonishingly effective at preventing millions from falling into hopeless poverty. Why on earth would we want to continue a program that’s so outlived its usefulness? Does anyone honestly believe that American CEOs wouldn’t voluntarily pay people a decent living wage without some law forcing us to?

"We look forward to working with other like-minded groups to finally get rid of these useless, costly and burdensome laws which no longer have a place in 21st Century America."

Sequester Happens

With automatic budget cuts looming on Friday, the war of words between President Obama and Republicans intensified.

Mr. Obama traveled to Newport News, Virginia, where he warned that thousands of shipbuilding jobs would be jeopardized by the continuing budget standoff.

Republicans, meanwhile, accused the president of playing politics and trying to scare the American people rather than working to solve the impasse.

"If the president were serious," House Speaker John Boehner claimed, "he’d come up with a plan to target these cuts so that only the poor, minorities, the unemployed, the sick and inner-city school children are affected. Instead, the middle class is going to suffer because of his inaction."

"The House has put forth reasonable plan to spare all but the most disadvantaged the worst effects of the budget cuts," added Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the No. 3 House Republican, "but this president insists on policies that also impose burdensome new taxes on millionaires and billionaires. It’s a complete waste of time. He knows this is a non-starter."

Added Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, “We’d like to make a bipartisan deal, but we’re prepared to let the sequester take effect rather than give in to the president’s outrageous demands that the burden of balancing the budget be shared by the richest Americans.”

"Besides which, the American people are too smart to be frightened by Mr. Obama’s scare tactics," said Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) "As you know, I’m a budget expert, and I’ve worked the numbers. The sequester simply will not be nearly as bad as the president wants you to believe.

"Tonight I can assure the American people that even if nothing whatever is done to prevent the budget cuts from happening, not one single billionaire will be harmed."

Cameras in the Court

The justices of the Supreme Court have rejected the idea of video coverage of arguments before the court, explaining that Americans would be incapable of comprehending what they were seeing.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor justified the decision, saying, “very few of them understand what the process is.”

"It’s not because they’re stupid, although they are," growled Justice Antonin Scalia," it’s just because we’re so incredibly much smarter."

"For example," said Justice Samuel Alito, "I doubt one percent of Americans could follow the arcane logic that led to the inescapable legal conclusion that corporations, even though they are soulless, lifeless artificial legal constructs, are actually people."

"Or," chimed in Justice Anthony Kennedy, "that money and speech are identical as far as the law is concerned. It doesn’t make sense to the average person that a corporation can secretly stuff unlimited cash into a campaign coffer, and that’s the same thing as some poor schmuck standing on a street corner trying to get someone’s attention. People would just be confused trying to unravel the arguments if they saw us in action."

Chief Justice John Roberts asserted, “it would have created unneeded controversy at a very emotional time if the voters actually saw how we made George W. Bush president, despite some pretty compelling evidence that Al Gore actually won. They wouldn’t have understood the highly abstruse reasoning behind that decision. They might have concluded that it was a completely unwarranted and unprecedented decision by a court that arrogantly and recklessly inserted itself into partisan politics, instead of the finely-reasoned determination that in fact it was.

"Plus," he continued, "it wouldn’t have served this court or the nation if people had been able to see the look on Scalia’s face when I voted in favor of Obamacare. You really wouldn’t have wanted that showing up on Youtube."

Alito wondered, “would you honestly want the public to see Clarence (referring to Justice Thomas) just sitting there day after day never saying a word? They might conclude that he’s only there as a token black who reliably votes with the conservative bloc. What would that do to the public perception of the court as a legitimate body?

"For that matter," he went on, "I don’t think anyone outside this room wants to watch Scalia when he gets rolling on one of his tirades. I love the guy like a brother, but the full Antonin when he goes off is hard even for me to take."

"Not all of us are all that photogenic, either," said Justice Elena Kagan. "People might spot Ruth Ginsburg and wonder why there’s a garden gnome on the bench."

"So," Roberts concluded, "we’re not going to televise the proceedings of this court. When we really thought about it, the negatives so outweighed the positives, it was a no-brainer. When it came right down to it, it was as easy as refusing to stay an execution.

"All eight of us agreed. No cameras. Justice Thomas didn’t say anything, as usual, but we assume he concurs."

The Next Pope

Within minutes of the shocking announcement that Pope Benedict XVI would resign, the betting on who would be the next Pope began. The early line in Vegas made Cardinals Marc Ouellet of Canada and Peter Turkson of Ghana prohibitive favorites.

Ouellet, the head of the Congregation of Bishops, would be a logical choice given his place in the heirarchy. Turkson, if elected, would be the first black Pope, and would certainly appeal to the fast-growing Catholic population in Africa. Both men share the outgoing Pope’s extreme conservative leanings, which have alienated many Catholics in Europe and the United States.

Come on, guys, way too predictable. It’s time for the Church to think outside the box. Pope Benedict is the first Pope to resign in six centuries. If you’re going to go back to old traditions, why not go all the way back to the beginning? All the early disciples were Jewish. Saint Peter, the founder of the Church, was Jewish. Why not a Jewish Pope? 

Look, at a time when the Catholic Church seems focused on losing as much influence as possible in the West, what better way to accelerate the trend than to appoint a rabbi as Pope? Let’s face it: nobody listens to rabbis.

Oh, sure, virtually every congregation has one, and rabbis perform essential functions like giving sermons and officiating at bar mitzvahs and weddings and funerals, but no matter how many times they ask their congregants to keep kosher and not work or shop on the sabbath or fast on Yom Kippur, they’re pretty much universally ignored.

Also, because the rabbinate doesn’t answer to a central authority, priests under a Jewish Pope would be a lot more free to deal with the individual needs of their own congregations without the heavy hand of Rome interfering all the time. So each individual congregation would be free to ignore its own rabbi rather than having to go to the trouble of tuning out the entire Vatican.

Finally, a Jewish Pope would most likely be married. Getting rid of the absurd prohibition against priests marrying would go a long way toward putting the whole ugly pedophile scandal to rest for good. Rabbis, unlike priests, actually have some experience with marriage and sex, and a Jewish Pope would not have a lot of patience with priests who torment boys. He would understand that that’s a job reserved for Jewish mothers, and that the abuse should be entirely emotional, not physical.

I know this is a long shot, but I think my idea is a winner. 

Assuming, though, that this is not going to happen, I’m reduced to pondering how the Vatican will announce the election of Cardinal Turkson, if he’s the choice. Will it still be white smoke, or will they dare reverse the tradition and announce the first black Pope with black smoke?

Just wondering.

Feb 5

Targeting Americans

A newly-released Justice Department “white paper” laying out the legal argument by the Obama administration for the targeted killing of Americans has come under scrutiny by alarmed members of Congress.

The undated and unsigned document asserts that it would be lawful to kill a U.S. citizen who poses an “imminent threat” to the United States. To date only one American, Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric, has been killed under the authority claimed in the memo.

"That may be true so far," said a member of the United States Senate, who refused to be identified, "but the administration seems to be claiming unprecedented authority to act against American citizens. Under certain circumstances, you could see how the broad powers they’re asserting might include the right to shoot members of Congress.

"Heck, we’ve done more to endanger the American people than Al Qaeda ever did."

When informed of the senator’s comments, Attorney General Eric Holder reportedly replied, “Hmmm. Interesting.”

"I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t deeply concerned," said a ranking member of the House minority, who also asked that his identity be kept secret. "The way this body handled the debt crisis, our constant attempts to destroy the safety net, our refusal to deal with global warming or gun control, our continued opposition to health care reform—if all that doesn’t qualify as an imminent threat to the safety of Americans, I don’t know what would."

His remarks were echoed by a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner.

"We do not believe the Obama administration can just claim the authority to kill Americans without due process of law."

"There’s no telling where this could lead," he added. "It might start with Al Qaeda, but there’s a dangerous slippery slope here. Under the broad language of that memo, you could make a pretty darn good argument for blowing up the entire House.

"Then again, if something unfortunate happened to that weasel Eric Cantor, I doubt the Speaker would shed too many tears."

Feb 2

Whodunnit

Frustrated administration officials admitted today that they were no closer to identifying those responsible for recent attacks on Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense.

A spokesman for the Defense Department said, “shadowy organizations calling themselves “Use Your Mandate,” “Americans for a Strong Defense” and “Secure America Now” have launched brazen assaults on Mr. Hagel’s character, but we have no way of knowing who’s really behind them.

"These groups hide out in the wild border regions between Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia, where they often operate with total impunity, given the lack of any real government oversight. Apparently they are extremely well-financed, and they’re careful not to reveal their funding sources. Identifying who’s bankrolling them is a real problem for us.

"We think they’re probably a loose confederation of determined ideologues with their own agendas, but who share a common hatred of the president. They come together briefly to plan an attack, place an ad buy and then disappear back into their clandestine caves on K Street. One day it may be Sheldon Adelson, defense contractors and drug manufacturers, and the next it’s Karl Rove and energy companies."

An administration spokesman added, “we have convincing evidence that they sometimes coordinate their activities with certain members of Congress, but they’re careful not to leave any fingerprints.

"It’s pretty annoying, but we’re doing what we can with what we have to work with. We can wish all we want that America was better able to control its rogue elements and that its political system was more transparent, but when you’re dealing with a country in  which wealthy oligarchs wield enormous power and the where the legislature and the courts don’t really value democratic principles, that’s what you get."

The Hottest Year

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The National Agency for Climate Change Denial (NACCD) issued a statement yesterday denouncing the recent report that 2012 was the hottest year on record.

“We categorically reject the assumption that the so-called “record heat” had anything to do with human activity,” the statement read. “This is yet further evidence of the massive global warming fraud being foisted on gullible Americans by evil scientists dedicated to proving their crackpot theories, even if they have to destroy our planet to do it.”

The statement was in response to the release on Tuesday by The National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., of its official tally showing that the average temperate in the United States during 2012 was 55.3 degrees, a full degree warmer than the previous high.

 “This has gone beyond being a mere hoax,” a spokesman for the climate denial agency angrily charged. “We now believe that this is a full-fledged international conspiracy.”

The privately-funded agency, staffed by a broad spectrum of global warming skeptics, was established during the second Bush administration by officials alarmed by the growing belief among voters that climate change might be real and that the government might be expected to do something about it.

“Look at the evidence. Climate scientists predict that the temperature is rising, and then they come up with data showing that it’s rising. They predict melting ice caps, and the ice caps melt. They warn that we’ll get more severe storms, and we get killer tornadoes in the South and Midwest and superstorms along the coasts. They say the oceans will rise, and right on schedule, the oceans rise.

“We at the NACCD aren’t scientist—we’re religious fundamentalists, industry mouthpieces and former congressmen entirely beholden to special interests—so we don’t know how they’re doing it. All we know is, these climatologists are extremely dangerous and they must be stopped.

“They’ve already caused massive damage. Dozens dead from tornadoes. Homes and businesses leveled. New Orleans and now New York flooded. Damage in the tens of billions of dollars. Who knows where they’ll strike next in their deranged campaign to persuade people that they’re right about global warming.”

“In the coming days, the agency will issue a number of far-ranging proposals to limit any further damage climate scientists can do. I won’t get into specifics now, but some of the main suggestions will be to stop funding science education in the schools, to make it a crime to collect climate data, and—most important—to refuse to provide disaster funds for any future storm damage caused by these deranged scientists. It’s just bad public policy to continue to reward their recklessness.

“Finally, we ask these self-proclaimed climate experts one question: how stupid do you think we are, anyway? You really try to scare us into believing your scam by claiming that 55 degrees is record heat? Americans aren’t fooled so easily.”

“That’s sweater weather.”