If 2013 was a year of ups and downs, it was also a year peppered with ironies. Here are just a few:
For those who enjoy lowbrow political theater, it's Christmas come early. Steve Stockman, a Texas congressman so far to the right he's in danger of falling into the Gulf of Mexico, is challenging Sen. John Cornyn in the Republican Primary. Though Tea Party leaders were calling Texas' senior senator a "traitor" who "surrendered" on Obamacare, the conservative case against Cornyn is thin. Stockman's challenge demonstrates that nothing less than absolute faith is sufficient to survive in a radicalized Republican Party that no longer resembles the Party of Reagan, much less that of Lincoln.
Environmentalists and budget critics of California's proposed bullet train may be breathing a sigh of relief.
President Obama's "Mission Accomplished" moment: "We have met the goal" of fixing the Healthcare.Gov website.
A new study has come out that finds men and women really do think differently.
After losing the Virginia governor's race because single women voted for the Democrat by a margin of 42 points, Republicans have found the solution. They will teach their candidates how to, in Speaker John Boehner's words, "be a little more sensitive" to the ladies. But Republicans painting over policy differences with pretty words piles insult on top of offense and will do little to close the gender gap.
A hundred years ago, business tycoon Samuel Insull consolidated smaller utility companies to form the behemoth (albeit public charity-sounding) Commonwealth Edison. Because of the infrastructure needed to provide energy to an increasingly power-hunger public, Insull and others argued that Commonwealth Edison was a natural monopoly; inherently one company had to dominate the market. This battle cry enabled a mere 10 utility systems to control three-quarters of the nation's electricity business by the time FDR was in the White House, subjecting consumers to higher rates with absolutely no competition save candles.
What compromises must we make when it comes to our security on the one hand, and our privacy on the other? Personally, I'm far less concerned about being tracked by the National Security Agency than I am about being monitored by, say, Google.
Trust ain't what it used to be in America.
God bless America, and how's everybody?
Back in elementary school when I was hand-writing my newspaper The Lewisburg Snoopy Nose, I never dreamed what sort of tools journalists would be using today.
Clearly, it MUST have been a video produced by America's enemies, a vicious piece of propaganda that was so outlandish it would have brought laughs 10 years ago. No one except indoctrinated citizens of communist countries would ever believe it.
In the week following Halloween, Jimmy Kimmel's stunt involving kids and their candy climbed to over 20 million views on YouTube. But public fascination with the gag doesn't change the fact that it is cruel and sadistic. It underscores the worst elements of mass media and social media, and the incendiary possibilities of combining the two.
God bless America, and how's everybody?
Here we go again. Pointing to a conservative study, Gov. Rick Perry proclaimed, "The discussion's over. The debate's over. The proof is in. Texas wins." And who did we beat? California, of course. It's enough to make you wonder if little Ricky got enough love growing up on the dirt farm. Someone get this kid a 4-H ribbon so the grownups can talk, because we've got some work to do.
It will not shock readers to hear that quite often legislation on Capitol Hill is not as advertised. When Congress wants to do something particularly objectionable, they tend give it a fine-sounding name. The PATRIOT Act is perhaps the best-known example. The legislation had been drafted well before 9/11 but was going nowhere. Then the 9/11 attacks gave it a new lease on life. Politicians exploited the surge in patriotism following the attack to reintroduce the bill and call it the PATRIOT Act. To oppose it at that time was, by design, to seem unpatriotic.
Nothing is less important in Washington these days than how Barack Obama's executive order on immigration will affect millions of unauthorized immigrants. Obama has turned a population roughly equal to Alabama into taxpayers who can live in America without fear of deportation, and this town yawns. All anyone really wants to talk about is whether the Republicans will completely freak out or manage to hold it together long enough for the government to function.
Liberal billionaires reap the benefits of their XL pipeline lobbying and what do they get?
Jack Clayton's 1974 rendition of The Great Gatsby is the quintessential American epic, as well as a sophisticated blockbuster.
Talk about being in the middle of Middle America.
Illegal immigrants are the perfect Republican foe. They're easily exploited as low-cost workers benefiting business and easily maligned for being "lawless" benefiting politicians. They're a foreign other with a tendency not to speak English so suspicion is ready-made. Plus, how are illegal immigrants going to stick up for themselves? They're not. They're an ideal rival!
I've done my fair share of stupid things over my life.
I set out to write an obituary about my mother, who died Nov. 15, and was taken aback by how much she never accomplished in her 94 years.
The autumn dark is lengthening, which means the English-speaking, Judeo-Christian Holiday Season is about to split open wider than a crocodile mouth at the bottom of a baby duckling water slide. It begins with Columbus Day. No mail and the banks are closed. Much is to be said for starting slow. Then the downward hurtle is set off by Halloween, when people toss about candy, free, incognito.
Most Americans, regardless of ideology, oppose "crony capitalism" or "cronyism." Cronyism is where politicians write laws aimed at helping their favored business beneficiaries. Despite public opposition to cronyism, politicians still seek to use the legislative process to help special interests.
At least once in a lifetime every American should lay eyes on the Grand Canyon, whose brilliant colors and dazzling erosional landscape inspire a kind of planetary patriotism. Stretching 277 miles long and a mile deep, it is perhaps our nation's greatest natural treasure.
Apparently, you're pretty busy. I'm a little surprised that you have time to read the paper, frankly. And you're not alone. Only 36 percent of our countrymen bothered to vote in the midterm elections. A lot of people were busy that day.
President Obama is leaning heavily on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), an independent agency, to change the Internet from a competitive, free-market service into a government-regulated public utility.
Did the election last week really mean that much? I took to my Twitter account on Tuesday to point out that the change in control of the Senate from Democrat to Republican actually means very little, despite efforts by politicians and the mainstream media to convince us otherwise. Yes, power shifted, I wrote. But the philosophy on Capitol Hill changed very little. The warfare/welfare state is still alive and well in Washington.
So Jonathan Gruber thinks the American people are stupid, does he?