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412 posts
  • Plastic Trash
 Happy Meal with french fries and a drink with a plastic straw at a McDonald's
Happy Meal with french fries and a drink with a plastic straw at a McDonald's (Seth Perlman)

Plastic drinking straws are having a moment – and not a good one, for them. Though certainly not the worst source of litter, these ubiquitous sucking tubes have become the stand-ins for all the single- use plastic trash mucking up the ocean.

U.S. cities, mostly those on the West Coast, have passed anti-straw ordinances and there’s a statewide “straws only on request” bill pending in the California Legislature. New York City is considering an outright ban.

Kids in particular have picked up on the anti-straw message, probably because they use so many of them. Also, anyone who watches this video will never think about drinking straws the same way. Many forward-thinking businesses have correctly read the temperature of customers and have voluntarily stopped handing out plastic straws. Good for them!

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  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
Judge Merrick Garland says the federal appellate court in Washington, D.C., will livestream audio of its oral arguments.
Judge Merrick Garland says the federal appellate court in Washington, D.C., will livestream audio of its oral arguments. (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

Thanks to Senate Republicans, Merrick Garland never made it to the Supreme Court. But the federal appeals court judge who was nominated by former President Obama to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia might still exert some influence on the nation’s highest tribunal — if only by setting an example.

On Wednesday, in his role as chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Garland announced that the appeals court — sometimes called the second most important court in the nation — would stream the oral arguments before its judges live online. (The only exceptions will be arguments in which classified or sealed matters must be discussed.) Previously, the court had livestreamed audio of particular arguments on request.

Garland called the new policy “an important additional step in bringing transparency to our proceedings.”

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  • We're All Doomed

Over the weekend, race-baiting provocateur and Fox News contributor Tomi Lahren had a glass of water thrown in her face at a Minneapolis bar. Video of the incident surfaced soon after and has been spreading across Twitter in a tsunami of schadenfreude ever since.

Viscerally satisfying as Lahren’s comeuppance may seem (this is, after all, someone who once likened Black Lives Matter to the KKK) let’s shut this trend down pronto, before it spreads. And not because of decency or the 1st Amendment or open-and-honest expression or anything like that.

This is America. Let’s get real: We know exactly where this is going to take us. The Obamas, or Oprah, or some other figurehead of grace, dignity and earnest expression will be out for a quiet meal and a knuckledragger will throw something far worse than water in their direction. Half of the internet (our president likely among them) will flock to Twitter screaming: “Well whatabout Tomi!”

  • Trump
  • Rule of Law
President Trump speaks at a discussion on immigration in Bethpage, N.Y., on Wednesday.
President Trump speaks at a discussion on immigration in Bethpage, N.Y., on Wednesday. (Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images)

A New York federal judge — or, as President Trump may be tempted to call her, a “so-called judge” — ruled Wednesday that Trump is violating the constitutional rights of people he blocks on Twitter for criticizing him.

U.S. District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald took a different view of the 1st Amendment issue than the Los Angeles Times editorial board, which expressed skepticism last year that the tweeter in chief’s stream of pronouncements (done under the moniker @realDonaldTrump) was a public forum.

“Twitter is a private company, not a public utility,” we argued. “It should have a 1st Amendment right to set its own rules.”

NFL players kneel
NFL players kneel (John G Mabanglo / EPA/Shutterstock)

I don’t watch football. I think it’s dumb, violent and boring. But the protest policy cooked up by the NFL owners to stop players from taking a knee before the game makes me want to start watching football just so I can stop in protest.

The policy says that players who are on the field must stand during the pregame national anthem (they can do whatever they like if they’re in the locker room). If they violate this rule, they can be fined. The old policy only suggested they stand for the anthem but required players to be on the sidelines.

The owners have a legal right to tell their employees how to conduct themselves on the job. But this self-interested policy seems clearly about one thing only: protecting their profits. After 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling before games to protest the treatment of African Americans in the United States, the ensuing controversy blew up and viewership dropped. Was the ratings slump related to the player protests, or was it just the product of an ongoing trend? Who knows?

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Migrant farm workers transplant jalapeno sprouts at a farm in Lamont, Calif., on March 7.
Migrant farm workers transplant jalapeno sprouts at a farm in Lamont, Calif., on March 7. (Los Angeles Times)

The GOP infighting that blocked passage of the farm bill may eventually claim another victim: “Dreamer” immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.

This is a little byzantine, so bear with me while I spool it out. Prodded by such Central Valley lawmakers as Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) and David Valadao (R-Hanford), a small group of House Republicans filed a petition in mid-May to force a vote on four competing proposals to settle the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The four were the DREAM Act, a Democratic proposal with half a dozen Republican supporters; the Securing America’s Future Act, the bill by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) favored by conservative Republicans; the USA  Act, a measure backed by Republican and Democratic centrists; and whatever immigration-related measure House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) wanted to bring to the floor.

The move was boldly defiant of the House Republican leadership, given that its authors were making common cause with House Democrats in a bid to seize control of the immigration agenda. But the chess-move response by the far-right House Freedom Caucus was to refuse to vote for the farm bill unless and until the House voted on the Goodlatte bill — and just the Goodlatte bill.

  • The Swamp

The Associated Press has unleashed a bombshell investigation into Trump fund-raiser Elliott Broidy. If you haven’t read the piece yet, feel free to jump over and take a gander. I’ll wait.

Back? Good.

The piece is a monster, with loads of sordid details about a key Trump ally’s nefarious foreign dealings. There are, of course, Russia ties. I’ll leave it to more seasoned watchers of Robert S. Mueller III to explain the intricacies and larger implications of the piece and how it all plays into the special counsel’s investigation.

  • Guns and Ammo
  • We're All Doomed
Tanya Diaz, Brock Sanchez and Lucy Gonzales place flowers, a sign and balloons on a tree outside Santa Fe High School.
Tanya Diaz, Brock Sanchez and Lucy Gonzales place flowers, a sign and balloons on a tree outside Santa Fe High School. (Stuart Villanueva / Associated Press)

The mass killing at Santa Fe High School in Texas grabbed the nation by the throat for a few hours last week, but in truth few people are paying much attention anymore, which is yet more evidence of how routinized these violent acts have become.

But even more routinized are the other daily incidents of gun violence that plague the nation in a steady rhythm. On Monday, for instance, guns were fired in at least 54 incidents across the U.S., with 12 people killed and 29 wounded, according to statistics compiled by the Gun Violence Archive.

That’s just one day.

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  • Trump
  • We're All Doomed
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke about Iran on Monday at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke about Iran on Monday at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. (Michael Reynolds / European Pressphoto Agency)

POMPEO TO IRAN: DROP DEAD!

That wouldn’t be a completely accurate headline for a report about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech Monday about U.S. policy toward Iran,  but it’s not much of an exaggeration.

In an address at the Heritage Foundation, Pompeo followed up on President Trump’s repudiation of the international agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program — an agreement Iran has complied with — by demanding that the Islamic Republic agree to a new deal that would prevent it from enriching any uranium for any purpose.

  • Trump
China has agreed in trade talks to buy more U.S. farm products, such as sorghum, shown here at a farm in Waukomis, Okla., in 2012.
China has agreed in trade talks to buy more U.S. farm products, such as sorghum, shown here at a farm in Waukomis, Okla., in 2012. (Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press)

The first fruits of the Trump administration’s get-tough-on-China policies were harvested this weekend, and the results were promising for U.S. farmers and energy companies. For everyone else, not so much. 

The president has fixated on reducing China’s $335-billion annual trade surplus with the U.S. That’s a function of many factors, only some of which are problematic. Nevertheless, China — recognizing whom they’re dealing with — has agreed to increase its purchases of U.S. agricultural products and natural gas, Reuters reported, albeit without committing to a specific dollar amount.

The administration promptly suspended its plan to levy tariffs on $150 billion worth of Chinese products — or it didn’t, depending on whether you believe Treasury Secretary Steven T. “Yes We Did” Mnuchin or U.S. Trade Representative Robert “No We Didn’t” Lighthizer.