The National Park Service turns 99 years old on Tuesday. To celebrate, the Department of the Interior has waived admission fees for all NPS sites for the day. That's a pretty sweet deal. You should stop reading this right now, call in sick, and enjoy the great outdoors. National parks are great.
But not everyone agrees. Yelp is filled with one- and two-star reviews of America's most pristine and majestic natural wonders. And honestly, they're riveting. What makes a national park a one-star destination varies from one reviewer to the next. Maybe the tacos at the visitor center aren't up to snuff. Maybe it was cloudy. Maybe the park was too cowardly to cut down some trees for spillover parking lots. Maybe it was President Barack Obama's fault.
Whatever the case, you can thank these people for leaving the campgrounds a little bit less crowded for the rest of us:
I looked it up, and it's true—the bees at Joshua Tree National Park are out of control. In 2000, a group of hikers was attacked by a swarm and one man was stung more than 100 times. They tried to get inside their car to escape, but some of the bees followed them inside the car and continued stinging them. Holy crap, bees! If you were stung 100 times by bees at Joshua Tree, you should give it one star. But maybe it shouldn't have come as too much of a surprise that the desert gets hot in the summer. This is like downgrading a restaurant because you went there on a hunger strike.
Carly Fiorina has had the wind at her back after the first Republican presidential debate. The former Hewlett-Packard CEO earned high marks for her appearance at the "kids table" forum for the least-popular GOP candidates, and she has been rising in the polls ever since. So it was only a matter of time before the knives came out.
On Sunday evening, former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who herself was doing well in the GOP presidential polls this time four years ago, drew her followers' attention to a 14-year-old speech Fiorina had given in Minneapolis, in which she defended the cultural, legal, and scientific heritage of the Muslim world. The catch: It was delivered just weeks after 9/11. What nerve!
Fiorina's speech reads as a thoughtful defense of the faith of many of her employees at Hewlett Packard. Her respect for Islam seems to come from personal experience. In her 2006 book, Tough Choices, she described the soothing effect of listening to Muslim prayers when she was a teen and her family lived in Ghana. (Her father was a law professor then on a teaching sabbatical at the University of Ghana). She wrote:
I remember hearing, for the first time, Muslims pray, and how over time their sound evolved from being frightening in its strangeness to comforting in its cadence and repetition—I would feel the same peace when I listened to the sound of summer cicadas around my grandmother's house. I grew to love being awakened in the morning by the sound of the devout man who always came to pray under my bedroom window.
Uh-oh. That reminiscence may well provide Bachmann with more ammo. And it's not just Bachmann who has called out Fiorina for being soft on Islam. Fiorina's comments on Islamic civilization have also been criticized by fringe-right outlets like the American Thinker and Western Journalism Review.
Islam has once again become a wedge issue in the Republican primary. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, for instance, has called for a ban on certain kinds of Muslim immigrants. Fiorina, who tried (and failed) to ride the GOP tea party wave into the Senate in 2010 by fashioning herself as a stalwart conservative—is now the target of the extremists she once courted.
Donald Trump spent most of the weekend saying awful things about Megyn Kelly, after the Fox News host had the temerity to question him at last Thursday's debate about his history of saying awful things about other women. That shouldn't come as too much of a surprise: Hurling insults at people who cross him is basically the entire point of Donald Trump.
But when he's not saying bad things about Kelly, Hillary Clinton, Rosie O'Donnell, women more generally, black people, Mexicans, President Barack Obama, various members of the press, John McCain, or Mohawks, Trump also makes a lot of good points.
Here are 13 things Trump has been right about:
The invasion of Iraq: In 2003, he told the Dallas Morning-News that the Iraq War had been a "disaster" that "should not have been entered into." "To lose all of those thousands and thousands of people, on our side and their side, I mean, you have Iraqi kids, not only our soldiers, walking around with no legs, no arms, no faces," he said. "All for no reason. It is a disgrace."
Katy Perry shouldn't have married Russell Brand:
.@katyperry Katy, what the hell were you thinking when you married loser Russell Brand. There is a guy who has got nothing going, a waste!
Campaign finance: Although Trump bragged (falsely) about having cut checks to most of the Republican candidates with whom he shared the stage last week, he also made some smart points about the corrupting influence of campaign contributions. "I will tell you that our system is broken," he said during the debate. "I give to many people. I give to everybody, when they call I give, and you know what? When I need something from them, two years, three years later, I call, they are there for me."
Material excess: "While I can't honestly say I need an eighty-foot living room, I get a kick out of having one," he wrote in his most famous book, The Art of the Deal. Both of these statements sound pretty true.
The merits of his cologne, which is actually called "Success" and features notes of juniper, iced red currant, frozen ginger, vetiver, and tonka bean: Granted, you can't buy it in stores anymore because no one bought it, but Success gets 4.5 stars on Amazon.com. User "Kim" writes:
My boyfriend LOVES this cologne. They used to sell it at Macy's but it was discontinued and he was running low around Christmas time...when I told him it was discontinued he was sad that he would have to find another cologne now..but then I found it online here and I was so happy! And it was ALOT cheaper than I used to pay at Macy's! ($62) and it was the big sized bottle like he wanted and it was perfect and he was so happy.
Dick Cheney: "He's very, very angry and nasty," Trump said in a 2011 review of Cheney's book. "I didn't like Cheney when he was a vice president. I don't like him now. And I don't like people that rat out everybody like he's doing in the book. I'm sure it'll be a bestseller, but isn't it a shame? Here's a guy that did a rotten job as vice president. Nobody liked him. Tremendous divisiveness. And he's gonna be making a lot of money on the book. I won't be reading it."
The Drug War: In 1990, well before the political tides had shifted in favor of pot legalization, Trump was declaring the federal government's mass-incarceration campaign a waste. "We're losing badly the war on drugs. You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars."
RedState's Erick Erickson, who disinvited Trump from the conservative site's confab last weekend due to his remarks about Megyn Kelly:
It's just one poll—the polling average still favors Clinton by a lot in the Granite State and nationally. But it's another indication that the enthusiasm that greeted the Vermont senator's candidacy out of the gate has only grown as he's taken his campaign on the road (nearly 28,000 people came to see him in Los Angeles on Monday).
Sanders, for his part, has taken steps to improve on a set of issues that dogged him early in the campaign. In response to feedback from Black Lives Matter activists, who have disrupted two of his events, he recently unveiled a "racial justice" platform. He also hired a Symone Sanders, a young black activist who had criticized his rhetoric on race and inequality, as a national press secretary. It's looking like a campaign that thinks on its feet. And after Tuesday, Team Clinton is officially on notice.
An outspoken Cantabrigian is launching an exploratory committee for president on a platform of breaking a "rigged system" that's fueling runaway inequality. Unfortunately for progressive activists, it's Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig, not Elizabeth Warren.
Lessig, who says he'll jump into the race if he can raise $1 million by Labor Day, has spent much of the last four years fighting what he considers the pernicious influence of money in politics ushered in by the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case. The two leading candidates for the Democratic nomination, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, have both promised to appoint Supreme Court justices who oppose Citizens United. But Lessig thinks Sanders et al. aren't going far enough. His platform consists of one item—the "Citizens Equality Act of 2017," which is sort of an omnibus bill of progressive wish-list items. It would make election day a national holiday, protect the right to vote, abolish political gerrymandering, and limit campaign contributions to small-dollar "vouchers" and public financing. After Congress passes his bill, Lessig says he'll resign.
Lessig has to hope his newest political venture will be more successful then his 2014 gambit, in which the Harvard professor started a super-PAC for the purpose of electing politicians who supported campaign finance reform. The aptly named Mayday PAC raised and spent $10 million, but only backed a single winner—Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) who was virtually assured of re-election in a deep-red district.