Smollett Hoax Excused
This week, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson announced that actor Jussie Smollett's claim that two Trump supporters assaulted him after his January 29th 2 A.M. run to Subway for a tuna sandwich was a hoax.
"Suspicions were first raised when the responding officers noticed that the sandwich survived unscathed," Johnson said. "How does that happen with two men beating on Mr. Smollett? To put it succinctly, it made his story seem fishy."
"After we located the suspects it turned out they were friends of Mr. Smollett who alleged that he had paid them to lightly beat him without doing any serious harm, especially to his face. They were able to back up their claim by leading us to the $3500 check Smollett wrote to them to cover the expenses incurred in the plot—the non-chafing rope, the environmentally-friendly bleach, the Make America Great Again hats, and the black face masks."
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif) expressed her "disappointment that the attack might have been staged," but said that "his highly credible story reflects a deeper reality. The fact is that President Trump is a racist and there are doubtless many Trump supporters who would've enjoyed beating up a gay black man. I think Jussie deserves some credit for trying to dramatize this deeper reality."
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif) averred that "I am sad, frustrated and disappointed that this particular incident seems to have been a hoax. However, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that real attacks of this sort do take place. Jussie's efforts to draw attention to this fact were well intended."
For his part, Smollett is now contending that the scheme "was essentially a 'dry run' for a subplot segment of a future episode of Empire. Judging from the initial responses, I'd have to say that I've demonstrated that I'm more than just an actor. The verisimilitude of my vignette shows my screenwriting ability is considerable and supports my case for a bigger slice of the Empire pie."
Smollett also claims that "the fact that I paid my co-actors by check shows that I had no criminal intent. Crooks don't pay by check. I also fully intend to write checks to the unwitting actors from the Chicago Police force. I couldn't do this in advance because I couldn't count on them to give realistic performances without their belief that the events in my scenario were real. After all, they, unlike me, are not professional actors."
MSNBC's Al Sharpton was less forgiving, insisting that "anyone who would perpetrate such a heinous hoax ought to face maximum accountability. Under no circumstances should he be given a media platform with which to broadcast his ill-conceived ideas. The airwaves are already glutted with erroneous commentary and misleading news reports."
Maduro Goons Shoot Samaritans & Starving Citizens
Armed troops loyal to President Maduro opened fire on the good samaritans trying to bring food aid to desperately hungry Venezuelans—killing two and wounding another dozen or so. According to Maduro, "the aid is an attack on the sovereignty of my country. It is not for outsiders to decide what or how much Venezuelans should eat. That is my prerogative."
Major media outlets in the US variously characterized the Army's attack on the unarmed victims as a "clash" (Reuters), "standoff" (CNN), "showdown" (New York Times), and "face-off" (Wall Street Journal). An off-the-record explanation was offered by a CNN reporter: "look, Trump has already taken sides against Maduro's wrecking of the country's economy. Clearly, that is an intrusion on its sovereignty. Just because the results of Maduro's policies aren't liked by some citizens doesn't give them the right to collude with foreigners to undermine them. We are merely presenting an unbiased description of the situation."
Trump Demands Return of Federal Aid
In the wake of Gov. Gavin Newsome's decision to scale down California's bullet train, the Trump Administration is demanding that federal grants awarded for the larger original project be returned. Originally, the train was to connect San Diego, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Francisco. The scaled down version will connect Bakersfield and Merced.
"The federal aid for this train was predicated on the promise of a much bigger system," Trump said. "Since they aren't going to build the bigger system, they're not entitled to the money. It's like a contractor promising to build a mansion, but delivering a shack. California has no legal right to keep the money intended for the larger project."
Stanford law professor David Engstrom bypassed the legalities and observed that "the practice of recovering money for breach of contract is not something that is ordinarily done in the public sector. Squandering federal aid is expected. Bureaucrats at the federal level repeatedly overlook this waste out of solidarity with state and local bureaucrats. The basic procedure is to keep the money flowing to ensure that all participants get paid regardless of whether the projects are successful."
Newsome bristled at "Trump's naive belief that contracts must be enforced. Other presidents haven't enforced contracts. President Obama granted California wide leeway when it came to budgets and delivery dates. All of the agreed upon budgets ran over. None of the agreed upon deadlines were met. Yet, the federal money kept flowing. This created an expectation that California need not fulfill its obligations in order to receive the federal money. Breaching our expectation breaks long-standing traditions in how federal aid is handled."
Teachers Assail Bill Banning Political Indoctrination
Proposed legislation establishing a code of ethics for public school teachers in Maine has some teachers in an uproar. The bill (LD-589) was introduced by Rep. Larry Lockman (R-Amherst). The provision causing the uproar prohibits teachers from engaging in political advocacy and requires that materials from both sides of controversial topics be made available to students.
Lockman maintains that "teachers have an obligation not to abuse their captive audiences by indoctrinating them into supporting a politically slanted point of view. They should be teaching students how to find information, how to weigh competing opinions, and how to respectfully debate those they disagree with. My bill serves as a reminder of the genuine obligations of the true educator."
Matthew Drewette-Card, the vice president of the Maine Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development, submitted testimony asserting that "the bill would abridge teachers' rights. Advocating for the correct way of thinking and the rejection of incorrect thought is the very essence of education. A lot of progress has been made over the past few decades in guiding children toward the appropriate attitudes and choices for a moral society. The millennials' acceptance of socialism and wealth redistribution are evidence of the importance of preserving these teachers' rights."
Meanwhile, in Illinois, the state legislature is considering a bill that requires every public middle and high school to supply tampons and sanitary napkins for free in every boys' restroom. State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora) explained that "the old ways of determining one's sex have been superseded by the realization that gender is a social construct. Just because a person has a vagina doesn't mean that person is female. If that person identifies as male, school's need to supply hygiene products so he can cope with emergencies due to his non-conforming genitalia."
University Bans YAF
Students attempting to register a chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) at Syracuse University were rebuffed for "unacceptable values." One of the requirements for those wanting to join YAF is allegiance to the US Constitution.
David Sargalski, Director of the Office of Student Activities pointed out that "some of our students don't have any allegiance to the US Constitution. Requiring that a person must revere the Constitution in order to be a member of this right-wing organization is unfair. On top of this, the name of the organization includes the words 'for freedom.' This improperly excludes students who are against freedom. This violates the University's nondiscrimination policies."
Justine Murray, the YAF group's president characterized the University's position as "Orwellian. Democrats, Republicans, and Socialists all have been allowed to register. All of these groups have from time to time mentioned the US Constitution during their political advocacy activities. Why is a definitively pro-constitution organization like YAF disallowed?"
"I think Ms. Murray has pointed out the difference herself," Sargalski observed. "None of the organizations she cited take a position explicitly endorsing the Constitution. All are flexible in their opinions regarding the document. All are less doctrinaire regarding freedom. Any student can be more comfortable in joining these organizations without having to commit to the controversial values espoused by YAF."
NC Judge Voids Amendments
Wake County Superior Court Judge G. Bryan Collins invalidated a state constitutional amendment requiring voters to show photo IDs at the polls. He also tossed an amendment placing a cap on the state's income tax. Though the amendments were both passed handily by voters, Collins ruled that because the legislature is so gerrymandered it had no authority to place them on the ballot.
Reactions to the ruling were split. North Carolina GOP Chairman Robin Hayes called the ruling "an absurd usurpation of the voters' right to govern themselves." Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman of the NAACP hailed the ruling as "a triumph over racism."
Interestingly, a report prepared by the National Bureau of Economic Research stated that "voter ID laws have no negative effect on registration or turnout, overall or for any group defined by race, gender, age, or party affiliation." Unfortunately, Judge Collins also ruled that all copies of this report be seized and destroyed because "it is logical to assume that photo ID requirements do suppress the minority vote. On average minorities are less educated and less energetic. Requiring them to obtain, retain, and show photo IDs at the polls may be asking too much."
Pelosi Refuses to Release Her Tax Return
Though she is co-sponsoring a bill that would require President Trump and Vice-President Pence to release their tax returns, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) says she will not release her own. CNSNews correspondent Emily Ward suggested to her that "since you've been saying that as Speaker you're the President's equal in terms of authority and responsibility. You are also in line behind the Vice-President to become president should anything happen to them. So, wouldn't releasing your returns set a good example?"
"By law, all tax returns are considered private and confidential," the Speaker replied. "That includes mine. I have no legal or moral obligation to make them public. The legislation I'm sponsoring applies only to the President and Vice-President. It doesn't include anyone else's tax returns. We're only seeking to invade the privacy of two out of the 140 million federal income taxpayers. That's a tiny fraction of the total and shouldn't be cause for anyone to become alarmed."