The wars of the future will be fought over clichés.
Last week, WonkBlog's Brad Plumer took aim at one of the soundbite industry's most pernicious crutches—describing a good-but-not-gamechanging thing as "not a panacea." Plumer was right to criticize "not a panacea," but "nondescript office park" and "nondescript office building," are just as common—and just as bad. Office buildings and office parks are as a rule architecturally bland, so there's no reason to point it out. Moreover, there's nothing counterintuitive about an interesting project that's housed in a boring building. If news reports are any guide, interesting projects are often housed in boring buildings.
In the interest of killing this cliché, here is a comprehensive list of all the things the New York Times has reported are housed in a "nondescript" office space:
Wednesday is "Big Block of Cheese Day" at the Obama White House, an homage to two episodes of the television series The West Wing in which senior staffers were forced to spend a day dealing with constituents who don't normally get an audience with the president. (That idea, in turn, was inspired by an enormous block of cheese housed in the Andrew Jackson White House.) The implication of the episodes is that the people who want to talk about these issues are kind of crazy, but a Mother Jones analysis of the projects presented to Sam Seaborn et al. reveals more nuance. On further examination, the dismissive tone with which Big Block of Cheese Day activists were greeted (or embraced) says more about the smallness of the Bartlet administration's aides than it does about the issues at hand.
Here is the official Mother Jones ranking of Big Block of Cheese Day ideas, from best to worst:
Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle Society: It's never fully explained what the Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle Society wants, but we can probably guess. According to National Geographic, the Kemp's ridley is "the world's most endangered sea turtle" and according to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, there are somewhere between 7,000 and 9,000 nesting females left. Their greatest threat is shrimp trawlers, which snare the tiny turtles in their nets. But the turtles are also vulnerable to man-made disaster. Most of the 156 turtles that died as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill were Kemp's Ridleys, because the spill interfered with the creatures' nesting habitat. It's a tragedy that these turtles can only get the government's attention on "total crackpot day."
Wolf highway: The plan: "1,800 miles from Yellowstone to the Yukon Territory complete with highway overpasses and no cattle grazing." Badass! The price: "With contributions and corporate sponsorship, the cost of the taxpayer is only $900 million." Damn. We have no idea why it costs that much, though, and it seems like something that can be scaled down. Montana and Washington state have already built natural bridges to help animals cross highways at a considerably cheaper rate.
New York GOP Rep. Michael Grimm's outburst after last night's State of the Union was problematic because members of Congress (or anyone, really) aren't supposed to threaten to throw reporters off balconies—at least not when a camera is rolling. But Grimm's aggressive confrontation with NY1's Michael Scotto also complicates an already difficult re-election campaign. Although the 11th district is New York City's most conservative, it still voted for President Barack Obama by a 51–47 margin in 2012, making Grimm one of just a handful of Republicans representing blue-leaning districts. To that end, he was already one of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's top targets heading into 2014, even before he threatened to "break" Scotto "in half. Like a boy." And unlike last cycle, when the Democratic nominee was dismissed as a former actor who lived with his dad, Grimm is facing a viable challenger in the form of former New York City council member Domenic Recchia Jr.
On Wednesday, Recchia was quick to pounce, issuing a statement blasting the incumbent:
Michael Grimm's behavior last night was disgraceful, completely unacceptable, and unbefitting of a United States Congressman. Using threats of physical violence to intimidate the press from doing their jobs is against everything our country—and our government—stands for, and is a shameful abuse of power.
Michael Grimm owes Michael Scotto and the NY1 team an apology. He also owes the people of Staten Island and South Brooklyn an apology. The people of this district deserve leadership that in the wake of the President’s State of the Union is focused and committed to restoring the promise of the American Dream for all Americans. They deserve leadership that is focused on creating jobs, stimulating the economy, investing in transportation alternatives, and strengthening the middle class. Instead they’ve got Michael Grimm, who is clearly part of the distractions plaguing Congress, not the solutions. It’s time the people of this district had a representative focused on working for them.
Grimm already delivered on one of those apologies—on Wednesday he called Scotto to apologize.
Among the prospective field of Republican presidential candidates, few issues are as divisive as Common Core, the national educational standards that have been adopted by 45 states. Those in favor: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Those opposed: Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. As I explained last year, some conservative activists like Glenn Beck have come to view Common Core as a Trojan horse for President Barack Obama's globalist dystopian agenda. Given the tea party automatic backlash to all things Obama, right-leaning education reformers who think Common Core is a good idea have gone so far as to ask Obama not to mention the program in his Tuesday State of the Union Address.
Now, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, widely seen as a 2016 presidential contender, has made his move—he'd like to have it both ways. Per the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
In a speech at the State Education Convention in Milwaukee, Walker said he is working on legislation that would create a commission, chaired by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, to revisit the Common Core standards, which he said weren't high enough and were being dictated by people who weren't from Wisconsin.
"We embrace high standards in the state of Wisconsin," Walker said. "There's got to be a way for us to put our fingerprints on it.
Walker's position reflects the unsettled nature of Common Core opposition. Despite months of fighting from conservative groups (including the John Birch Society), support for the curriculum standards remains relatively high in Wisconsin. According to a new poll from Marquette University, 50 percent of Wisconsin voters approve of Common Core, with just 34 percent opposing.
Operation American Spring promises to bring the Egyptian revolution to Washington.
Tim MurphyJan. 28, 2014 7:00 AM
Harry Riley has a dream. On the morning of May 16, somewhere between 10 and 30 million (estimates vary) God-fearing patriots will assemble in Washington, DC, for what Riley, a retired Army colonel from the Florida panhandle, is calling "Operation American Spring." They’ll protest outside the White House by day and set up in campgrounds and RV parks outside the city by night. They won't leave until President Barack Obama, along with Attorney General Eric Holder and congressional leaders of both parties, resign and appear before a specially convened investigative tribunal for further disciplinary action—a polite version of a tea party coup. It's not likely to happen—but two former Fox News personalities have endorsed the endeavor.
"We have 1.8 million definite militia members coming," promises Operation American Spring spokeswoman Karen Smith. (The Anti-Defamation League pegs the number of American militia members at about 20,000.) "Other than that, we're not keeping a list of concerned people or whatever because how are we gonna do that?"