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Bridget Johnson

Bridget Johnson is a career journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
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Valerie Jarrett Behind Obama’s Funny or Die Appearance

Thursday, March 13th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Valerie Jarrett said Wednesday morning that she was behind convincing President Obama to do the “Funny or Die” video to encourage young people to sign up for Obamacare.

“What is it like to be the last black president?” Hangover actor Zach Galifianakis quips in the clip.

“What is it like for this to be the last time you ever talk to a president?” Obama responds.

Obama gave a pitch about signing up under the healthcare law by the end-of-the-month deadline, to which Galifianakis zones out and quips “Is this about drones?”

Jarrett told MSNBC “it wasn’t hard to get him to participate” and “so far has been overwhelmingly successful.”

“I was checking how many hits were on the site last night. When I went to bed it was 10 million, which I’m sure breaks all kinds of records,” she said of the video, which has 12 million views today. “But, also more importantly than that, the traffic on our website has gone up 40 percent between yesterday and today. And that was the goal.”

“The goal is to help reach that young audience, and Zach and the guys at Funny Or Die they have huge followings,” Jarrett continued. “Every young person I know watches their videos on YouTube. And so how we reach them in a way that was amusing and entertaining, but yet informative. And the fact that the website traffic has gone up is really an indication that it’s working.”

Department of Health and Human Services officials, though, reported a .6% conversion rate Tuesday afternoon with 19,000 visitors following the link to heatlhcare.gov when the video was at 3 million views. That doesn’t indicate how many of those visitors actually signed up for Obamacare.

Jarrett claimed, though, that “people are signing up.”

“We released yesterday our numbers for the month of February, so 4.2 million folks have signed up. And, we now still have several weeks to go. March 31st is the deadline… I hope you go on the website today, healthcare.gov. It’s working just fine.”

******

Cross-posted from the PJ Tatler

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Feathered Friday: If You’ve Never Met a Kakariki, You Should

Friday, January 31st, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

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You might be thinking that HAS to be Stephen Green’s bird. But no, this is my fairly new kakariki who simply has a fondness for exploring bar recipes (chewing bar recipes, etc.).

Shortly before Christmas, my lineolated parakeet Iggy passed away. If I brought another parrot into the house, I wanted one that was fairly quiet, not a biter, and not laden with the weighty emotional needs of some birds.

Jackpot!

The kakariki, meaning “small parrot” in Maori, is a grass parakeet from New Zealand, where it is now endangered in the wild. Keeping and breeding the birds there requires a special permit. In the U.S. they’re not all that common. I could see this lively, fun, sweet bird catching on as a popular pet, though.

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Poukai — which means giant man-eating bird in Maori — is a red-front cinnamon kakariki who hatched on Sept. 29. I brought her home a few days before Christmas, and by now she shares ownership of the house with the puppacita. She’s even jumped on my chihuahua’s back to go for a ride, which the puppa didn’t really appreciate. At least she was wearing a sweatshirt to shield her from talons.

Kakarikis need a large cage because they have so much energy to burn. Poukai has a medium-sized cage with a play gym next to it, and the front and terrace doors are almost always open. She’s basically earned these free-cage rights because from the very start she’s had amazing self-discipline about going to bed each night and jumping in the cage so I can close that door before opening the nearby patio door. Her wings are clipped, which is good because they’re fast little things. She has a swift ground game, taking advantage of her springy legs and climbing whatever she chooses with her beak. They’re about 10.5 inches to 11.5 inches in length and eat seed mix and pellets in cockatiel size. Her food cups — those great white crocks they sell at Pier One for a buck — are on the floor of a rather deep cage bottom because they scratch through food like chickens. She uses her left foot to hold raisins and lettuce and the like while she gnaws at leisure.

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NFL Divisional Playoffs Open Thread

Saturday, January 11th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Kam Chancellor

Are you ready for some football? Who isn’t? (Or as Saints fans are screaming now, who dat?) Seattle’s getting ready for an earthquake, and the cameras are getting ready for Tom Brady. San Francisco’s prepping for a much warmer game than last week, and the Chargers are aiming for a mile-high upset.

The sked:

Today, 4:35 p.m. on Fox: New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks

Today, 8:15 p.m. on CBS: Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots

Sunday, 1:05 p.m. on Fox: San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers

Sunday, 4:40 p.m. on CBS: San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos

Here’s how the guys at ESPN are feeling going into this playoff round:

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Here’s how Paul Ryan and Patty Murray, budget BFFs, feel going into this round:

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And, naturally, here’s how I feel (#QuestForSix):

Colin Kaepernick

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Kuwaiti Scholar Claims U.S. Never Killed bin Laden

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

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A Kuwaiti academic is stealing the thunder out of the Obama campaign’s favorite talking point in 2012:

Abdullah Al Nafeesi, a former Kuwaiti deputy and political science professor in Kuwait University, said the US lied when it said its forces killed bin Laden and dumped its body in the sea during the May 2011 attack following more than 11 years of a search operation to find the most wanted man in the world.

“The US announcement that Sheikh Osama bin Laden was killed in not true,” Nafeesi told Rotana Khaleejia TV channel in an interview carried by Saudi newspapers.

“I doubt that Sheikh Osama has been killed. I believe that he was kidnapped and is still alive. It does not make sense that a big power like the US searches for a man for 11 years and when it finds him, it just shoots him. This is an amateur rather than professional work. Otherwise what is the use of having all this suffering and spending billions all this time to find the man? He has been abducted and is now with them but they made us think that he was killed and dumped in the sea.”

Experts told Al-Arabiya that the scenario is unlikely because news would have dribbled out by now from the leaky U.S. government. Michael Ryan, author of Decoding al-Qaeda’s Strategy: The Deep Battle Against America, told the network that the decision to kill bin Laden was probably spontaneous. “If the order was capture first but kill if you need to… one can make a very logical case that the operators on the ground made the logical choice in light of having just lost a helicopter and wanting to make sure that this mission was accomplished,” Ryan said. “If anything else happened, I believe we would have some third-party evidence by now.”

Rumors are fueled by the fact that the U.S. never released photos of Osama’s body even when requested by news outlets, though photos purporting to show bin Laden’s body were released by Pakistani TV.
*****

Cross-posted from the PJ Tatler

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Taliban Commander Sends 10-Year-Old Sister Out to Suicide Bomb

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

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Think terrorists have reached the lowest of the low? Meet 10-year-old Spozhmai from Helmand province. On Sunday night, her kin strapped a bomb on her and sent her on a mission. From Afghanistan’s Tolo News:

Based on initial investigations, the girl’s brother was serving as a commander for the Taliban and he coerced her into carrying out a suicide attack on Afghan security forces.

“My brother, who serves as a Taliban commander, asked me to wear my dress and then the suicide jacket,” Spozhmai said. “After that he left me outside, I was there for several minutes and was shivering from cold, then I shouted and the security forces picked me up.”

…Reportedly, Spozhmai was unable to operate the button to detonate the suicide vest. Despite such issues with reliability, the Taliban has long used preadolescent, uneducated boys to carry out suicide bombings. It is rare to find a young girl wrapped up in it though.

The brother has fled the area, and luckily the girl is in custody and was transferred to Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province.

*****

Cross-posted from the PJ Tatler

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NFL Playoffs Wildcard Open Thread: Cold Bowl Doesn’t Ice the Niners

Monday, January 6th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

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That’s an Instagram of San Francisco 49ers quaterback Colin Kaepernick and Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Ricardo Lockette (formerly of the 49ers practice squad) hitting the range in the offseason.

Yesterday, as Wisconsites crowed that the frigid temperatures and the not-at-all-green field in Green Bay would be too much for the California team, Kaepernick hit his target. He played without any sleeves under his jersey and led the team to a 23-20 victory in the first round of the NFL playoffs. The game was sealed in the final seconds on a 33-yard field goal from veteran kicker Phil Dawson, acquired last year from the Cleveland Browns.

The Wild Card round this weekend certainly had its nailbiters and surprises, with the Indiana Colts edging the Kansas City Chiefs 45-44 and the New Orleans Saints topping the Philadelphia Eagles 26-24. The San Diego Chargers beat the Cincinnati Bengals 27-10.

Next weekend the playoffs head to the divisional round. The first game on Saturday is the Saints and Seahawks, followed by the New England Patriots and the Colts. On Sunday, the Niners play the Carolina Panthers and the Chargers face off with the Denver Broncos.

As a longtime 49ers fan back to my childhood and the Joe Montana era, I’m pretty partial to this assessment by ESPN NFL writer Kevin Seifert:

The 49ers are the best team in football, and if they continue to play the way they did Sunday, they will win Super Bowl XLVIII next month.

Their offense is poised to outscore the Carolina Panthers next weekend in the NFC divisional round. Their defense is a good matchup for the Seattle Seahawks, their likely opponent in the NFC Championship Game. They’re tougher than the Denver Broncos and more versatile than the New England Patriots.

I don’t regard this prediction as particularly bold, at least not to an audience that has paid attention to the NFL over the past two months. Sunday marked the 49ers’ seventh consecutive victory and their 12th in the past 14 games. Their two losses during that period came against two playoff teams (the Panthers and Saints) by a total of four points.

…I realize that a 20-point victory Sunday might have filled the 49ers bandwagon more quickly, but to me a championship-caliber team is measured best when it faces adverse conditions. No one cruises to the Super Bowl title. At some point, you must overcome circumstances that would otherwise sink you.

You know where my fidelity is at. It was a tough season last time around when my Niners made it to the Super Bowl and my Fighting Irish made it to the BCS championship and both lost. Now it’s all about the Quest for Six — and, today, the many Packers fans here in D.C. (yep, there are a lot of them in the nation’s capital) who hate me. Share your thoughts about where you think the race to the Vince Lombardi Trophy is headed.

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Kerry Tweets Fist-Bumping with Snoop from State Department Account

Sunday, December 29th, 2013 - by Bridget Johnson

No 2013 would be complete without Secretary of State John Kerry using the official department Twitter account to retweet a fist-bumping Christmas party video with Snoop Dogg:

Like the official White House account, personal tweets are signed with the initials of the person in charge, in this case JK.

****

Cross-posted from the PJ Tatler

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Merry Christmas from the Puppacita

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013 - by Bridget Johnson
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8-year-old Chi-Chi (aka The Puppacita) sporting her San Francisco 49ers fleece but finding Santa’s head scratches to be just as cozy…

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The Santa Race Debate and Misplaced Christmas Priorities

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013 - by Bridget Johnson

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This Christmas season likely won’t be remembered as much for how Lodi residents helped replace the gifts stolen from the family of a soldier returning from Afghanistan as it will for the debate over the race of the fictional bearer of gifts.

It started with culture blogger Aisha Harris’ Dec. 10 op-ed for Slate in which she suggests replacing “a melanin-deficient Santa” with a multicultural representational penguin. Then it escalated when Fox’s Megyn Kelly empaneled three guests on her primetime show to discuss the piece and declared “for all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white.” Both women later said their comments were tongue-in-cheek.

Last week, I was pulled onto NPR, where I’m a regular contributor, to discuss the fracas with Harris and others — the fracas being an argument about the race of a fictional character who lives at the North Pole with elves and pilots a flying-reindeer sleigh to slide down a chimney with presents. Reactions there were varied.

My first thought was that, over the centuries, portrayals of Jesus and the saints have tended to reflect the culture of that region. The Netherlands’ Sinterklass looks wholly Northern European without much hint of the real St. Nicholas’ heritage in Asia Minor. Jesus was a Middle Eastern Jew, yet cultural representations around the world range from a Jesus with Asian features in the Far East to a black Jesus in Africa and a white, flowing haired representation in Europe. However the cultural interpretation, the legacy of the individual or meaning of their symbolism is not diminished. I doubt either Jesus or St. Nick care about the color of their skin as they do people emulating their works and listening to their words. Unfortunately, the black Santa debate has brought out a lot of ugly in what’s supposed to be a more inspired time of year, with comments left behind the cloak of anonymity on other sites’ stories including racist cracks about black Santa being on welfare or stealing toys instead of leaving them. That is definitely something neither Jesus nor St. Nicholas would utter.

Which leads to my ultimate conclusion about the great Santa debate, which I’ll explain on the next page.

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‘It Is a Messed Up Situation When Miley Cyrus Gets a Laugh, and Phil Robertson Gets Suspended.’

Thursday, December 19th, 2013 - by Bridget Johnson

2013-08-30-mileycyrusvmas600x450 Today - Season 62

The governor of the state where A&E’s Duck Dynasty is filmed said the network was violating reality show star Phil Robertson’s rights when it suspended him for comments made to GQ.

Robertson told the magazine, “It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

When the reporter asked what he believes is sinful, Robertson responded, “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.” Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

“We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus—whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ’em out later, you see what I’m saying?” he also said.

Gov. Bobby Jindal, a potential 2016 contender, issued a statement this morning stressing “Phil Robertson and his family are great citizens of the State of Louisiana.”

“The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with. I don’t agree with quite a bit of stuff I read in magazine interviews or see on TV,” Jindal said. “In fact, come to think of it, I find a good bit of it offensive.”

“But I also acknowledge that this is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views. In fact, I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment. It is a messed up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended.”

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Homeland Shows Terror of Iranian Regime Before Being Hijacked by John Kerry

Monday, December 16th, 2013 - by Bridget Johnson

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I’ve stuck with Showtime’s Homeland through three seasons of thick and very thin. To highlight one of the shallower reasons for doing so, see exhibit A: brooding yet hot CIA black ops guy Peter Quinn, played by British actor Rupert Friend. Other reasons — especially on a Sunday night when it competed with AMC’s The Walking Dead and HBO’s Boardwalk Empire — wore thinner and thinner as this third season, which concluded last night, wore on. It seemed that the main purpose of Homeland this year was to discover the new Showtime series in the next time slot, the skillfully written and acted Masters of Sex dramatizing how William Masters and Virginia Johnson chose and pursued their field of research (and each other).

But the main storyline this season gave me a sliver of hope that if President Obama finds out things by reading the morning paper, maybe he’d learn a bit about the Iranian regime as portrayed in some of Homeland‘s episodes. Regime stooge Majid Javadi, played by Tehran native Shaun Toub, is a brutal man who arrives in America to track down his ex-wife and kill her with a broken bottle to the throat after shooting his daughter-in-law to death — justified, he coolly reasons, because she broke Islamic law and fled from him. Javadi is later recruited as a double agent by the CIA with the hopes that he can go back and become commander of the Revolutionary Guards.

When Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis) crosses the border into Iran on a CIA mission, he is lauded and paraded by the regime. The Tehran government is portrayed as welcoming a character accused of committing a large-scale terrorist attack on U.S. soil — after knocking him around a little bit to ensure he’s loyal to jihad — and giving him asylum. The Iranian regime is also accurately portrayed in the show as giving safe haven to al-Qaeda — in this case, the widow of a fictional al-Qaeda commander. After Brody is caught he’s promptly executed, strung up on a crane before murals of the Ayatollah Khomeini and a desecrated American flag as crowds cheer on the death of the agent of the Great Satan. It’s a tense, cold, horrifying scene, and it left me hoping that it would make some viewers hit the Google — where they’d find at least two dozen, with likely many more unrecorded, have been hanged this year alone in Iran for the crime of moharebeh. This general law encompassing heresy, offense against Islam, subversion and cooperating with foreign governments has been used to dispose of those the regime finds inconvenient: government opponents, dissidents and protesters, gays, and ethnic and religious minorities.

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Sen. Alexander’s Chief of Staff Investigated on Child Porn Allegations

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013 - by Bridget Johnson
Ryan Loskarn

Ryan Loskarn

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) just said that his chief of staff is under investigation for child porn.

“I was just informed by the United States Senate legal counsel’s office that law enforcement agents are conducting a search of the personal residence of Ryan Loskarn, the chief of staff of my Washington, D.C., office regarding allegations involving child pornography,” Alexander said in a statement.

“I am stunned, surprised and disappointed by what I have learned. Based on this information, I immediately placed Mr. Loskarn on administrative leave without pay,” he added. “The office is fully cooperating with the investigation.”

Alexander named Loskarn, a former staff director for the Senate Republican Conference, his chief of staff two years ago.

Loskarn’s Hill career began in 2000 in the office of former Rep. Wally Herger (R-Calif.). He has also worked for Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) as well as the House Rules Committee.

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cross-posted from the PJ Tatler 

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Britney Spears Used as Somali Pirate Repellent

Thursday, November 7th, 2013 - by Bridget Johnson

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Sailors off the Horn of Africa have actually found a use for Britney Spears songs:

Her hits are blasted out to deter kidnap attacks, merchant navy officer Rachel Owens revealed.

Spears’s chart-toppers Oops! I Did It Again and Baby One More Time have proved to be the most effective at keeping the bandits at bay.

Second Officer Owens, who works on supertankers off the east coast of Africa, said: ‘Her songs were chosen by the security team because they thought the pirates would hate them most.

‘These guys can’t stand Western culture or music, making Britney’s hits perfect.’

…Ms Owens, who regularly guides huge tankers through the waters, said the ship’s speakers can be aimed solely at the pirates so as not to disturb the crew.

‘It’s so effective the ship’s security rarely needs to resort to firing guns,’ said the 34-year-old, from Gartmore, near Aberfoyle, Stirling.

‘As soon as the pirates get a blast of Britney, they move on as quickly as they can.’

Steven Jones, of the Security Association for the Maritime Industry, said: ‘Pirates will go to any lengths to avoid or try to overcome the music.’

He added: I’d imagine using Justin Bieber would be against the Geneva Convention.’

Somali Pirates, by the way, is the name of a punk band in San Diego — but Britney is surely greater torture on the ears of would-be hijackers.

*****

Cross-posted from PJ Tatler

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Halloween Cute Dose: The Puppacita’s Pillage-Worthy Costume

Thursday, October 31st, 2013 - by Bridget Johnson
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Chi-Chi (aka The Puppacita), my Chihuahua, dressed as a Somali pirate for Halloween.

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Hey, there’s no sleeping on Somali pirate duty!

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That’s better. On the lookout for supertankers and random wads of cash.

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Jumping ship to go pillage or plunder or poo.

 

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Wikipedia Stunned That Companies Pay Users to Write Favorable Articles

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013 - by Bridget Johnson

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Wikipedia announced today that it’s investigating “as many as several hundred” users who may have been paid to promote organizations or products on the massive online encyclopedia.

“Our readers know Wikipedia’s not perfect, but they also know that it has their best interests at heart, and is never trying to sell them a product or propagandize them in any way. Our goal is to provide neutral, reliable information for our readers, and anything that threatens that is a serious problem. We are actively examining this situation and exploring our options,” Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, said in a statement.

Wikipedia said it has already blocked or banned more than 250 user accounts for “non-neutral editing.”

Available in 287 languages, Wikipedia contains more than 29 million articles contributed by a global volunteer community of roughly 80,000 people.

“Editing-for-pay has been a divisive topic inside Wikipedia for many years, particularly when the edits to articles are promotional in nature. Unlike a university professor editing Wikipedia articles in their area of expertise, paid editing for promotional purposes, or paid advocacy editing as we call it, is extremely problematic. We consider it a ‘black hat’ practice. Paid advocacy editing violates the core principles that have made Wikipedia so valuable for so many people,” Gardner said.

“What is clear to everyone is that all material on Wikipedia needs to adhere to Wikipedia’s editorial policies, including those on neutrality and verifiability. It is also clear that companies that engage in unethical practices on Wikipedia risk seriously damaging their own reputations. In general, companies engaging in self-promotional activities on Wikipedia have come under heavy criticism from the press and the general public, with their actions widely viewed as inconsistent with Wikipedia’s educational mission.”

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Why I’m Glad I Went to Public School

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013 - by Bridget Johnson

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I started my education in Catholic school, where I was lucky to get a start with phonics, foreign languages and the spelling bee. Nail polish wasn’t allowed but critical thought was encouraged, with a heavy grade-school emphasis on compassion and generosity toward others. Not all students sent to a Catholic school are Catholic, and each one I attended featured a curriculum that studied different religions and stressed the common ground of shared values. The only negative learning experience I can remember is a school librarian not wanting me to check out science books she thought were too advanced for one so young.

Living in California in seventh grade, I was pulled out of Catholic school and sent to public school for the first time. First came the culture shock — being clad in plaid day in and day out doesn’t give you much guidance on how to dress, never mind that 1988 wasn’t exactly a banner year for fashion anyway.

Once I slowly got the hang of those vile acid-washed jeans with zippers on the ankles (and bows, in case anyone is trying to forget), I got the hang of staking out my place in this new world. And I did the best thing possible: made friends who were supposedly bad for me. Yes, we did things like flip through issues of Cosmo at the drug store, pass notes in class and talk a lot about boys, and sneak in to watch Pretty Woman, which was the only thing bordering on not legal (though I don’t see an MPAA-ratings police at theaters). I learned how to do makeup, went through the awkward junior high dances where friends matchmake (“my friend thinks you’re cute…”), and had my first big crush on a boy from one of those dances (the song: Def Leppard’s “Love Bites”).

And though the education itself was fine — as was the teacher who thankfully told me that even though I was 8th-grade-awkward I’d be better looking my freshman year of college (trust me, I held onto that) — the greatest education came from meeting people who were so different. My dear friend Heather’s life was a complete mess: her mom was in prison for drugs and prostitution, her stepfather had raped her, she lost her virginity when she was 10 years old. Yet as hopeless as her world was around her, she was always keen on being there when others needed a shoulder, ready with a smile and a joke, and being a veritable encyclopedia on Guns ‘N’ Roses. I learned more from Heather about resilience and kindness than I did about Axl Rose.

The best learning experiences we have in school aren’t always the ones adults would have picked for us.

It’s also an extreme reminder that school serves as a necessary refuge for many, many kids whose parents range from mediocre to functionally nonexistent. You may decry these families, both single- and two-parent, or futilely try to convince less-than-stellar parents that they’re not the model families they may make themselves out to be, but the fact remains that kids need a place to escape and grow into adults.

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What Books Does PJM’s Washington DC Editor Bridget Johnson Recommend for 2013?">What Books Does PJM’s Washington DC Editor Bridget Johnson Recommend for 2013?

Saturday, October 5th, 2013 - by Bridget Johnson

Click here for PJM’s Washington DC Editor Bridget Johnson’s Recommendations for 2013?

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Furry Friday: BUNNIES

Friday, October 4th, 2013 - by Bridget Johnson
Napoleon Bunaparte, 8 weeks old, on the scales at the vet's office.

Napoleon Bunaparte, 8 weeks old, on the scales at the vet’s office.

I’ve noticed the requests to bring back Furry Friday, and what can I say other than it’s been a crunch of busy news cycles that bring me to 8 p.m. on a Friday with no furry text and work still left to do. There’s also been a lot of bad news out there, so what better to interrupt our cycles of chemical weapons, terrorism, and perpetual Washington infighting with something every lover of furriness can appreciate: bunnies.

Last year I moved into a bigger place along some of the Beltway’s ubiquitous urban woods, and also lost a few of the animals I’d previously written about due to old age: rat, guinea pig, hamster. Instead of getting more rodents, I wanted to bring different critters into the mix.

Checking out a new pet store in the neighborhood a year ago, I paused by their bunny pen, surprised that a chain pet shop was selling rabbits. The enclosure was tiny, the bunnies were without any hay, and the workers didn’t know which were male or female. Naturally, they called every breed thrown together “dwarf bunnies,” to lure kids wanting a tiny fluffy thing and mislead parents into thinking they wouldn’t get too big or take up much space. I noticed one cowering in the corner away from the lops and lionheads — a little Havana rabbit with grey feet bottoms that looked like he hopped through dust. The saleslady handed him to me, and as I rubbed behind his ears he gave me this definite look: Get me outta here. I always believe in adopting before buying, but I considered this a pet-store rescue: not only was I going to get him the nutrition, healthcare and space he needed, but I was saving him from being bought for some kid who’d probably pick him up by his cottontail before the family decided he was past his 15 minutes of Easter-gift fame and turned him into a shelter, like so many other unfortunate bunnies.

So Napoleon Bunaparte came home with me. The next morning, I took him to the best exotics-only vet in the area, which happens to be close to my home. Napoleon weighed in at a pound and was estimated to be eight weeks old. A couple months later he was old enough to be neutered, and lost an entire ounce when they took those away from him.

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A Tasty Trip Through the Amish Stands of Lancaster County

Monday, August 26th, 2013 - by Bridget Johnson

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I’ve long admired the Amish from the time, years ago, I saw an old Amish couple in an artisans’ mercado in Tijuana haggling like ninjas with a guy selling blown glass. What’s not to love about a self-sufficient community with a staggering 95 percent success rate in starting businesses and about people who load up on gravy and pie yet make health professionals jealous? And perhaps the greatest point of admiration: the kindness and concern that the Lancaster County Amish immediately showed for the wife and family of the monster who gunned down 10 of their girls in a schoolhouse in 2006, killing five before taking his own life.

It’s just a little over two and a half hours from the D.C. area up to the heart of Pennsylvania’s Amish country. I’m not sure why I never made the trip before in nearly five years on the East Coast, except I didn’t want to be one of those tourists perceived as gawking at the plain people while contributing to the vehicular traffic making the roads a bit more perilous for the horses and buggies. This congressional recess, I decided I needed a bit of time around people who don’t give one whit about federal politics. Off to Amish country I went.

I knew there was a 20 percent chance of rain on Friday, but there was a 90 percent chance of more annoying tourists on Saturday, so I chanced it with the rain and got sprinkles. I arrived early in Intercourse, Pa., and first stopped at the oh-so-touristy Kitchen Kettle Village so the puppacita could stretch her paws. She enjoyed lots of flowers to sniff, stores to wander in and out of, the occasional piece of fallen kettle corn and staring at Amish men washing buggies and caring for horses used for tourist rides. I wasn’t opening my wallet for the higher prices and gaudy tourist items like the T-shirt that proclaimed “Virginia may be for lovers, but Pennsylvania is for Intercourse.” I vowed then and there that I would only buy from the Amish on this trip. And so with a list of tips about good roadside locations in hand, my GPS and I set out to find the best of Intercourse.

Not that GPS is necessarily needed — if you want to keep it real in Amish country, just follow the horse apples.

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Washington State Dems to Holder: Don’t Tread on Our Pot Legalization

Thursday, June 20th, 2013 - by Bridget Johnson

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Seven Washington state Democrats are calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to “respect the will of voters” in states that have legalized marijuana.

Holder said in February that his department would soon unveil a policy on how to deal with Washington and Colorado, whose voters approved marijuana possession in limited quantities and regulated production and sale of the plant.

Lawmakers says that seven months after voters approved Initiative 502 in Washington state, the DOJ dragging its feet on a course of action has left “residents, businesses, and investors in a state of uncertainty.”

Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Reps. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), Denny Heck (D-Wash.), Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), and Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) requested that Holder “announce this course of action as soon as possible to assure our citizens that they will not be penalized by the federal government for activities legal under state law.”

They asked Holder to exercise his “significant discretionary authority by choosing now to pursue preemption of these laws” or prosecute state residents. The lawmakers also want to make sure banking laws aren’t used against pot proprietors who do business in a method other than cash.

“Businesses looking to enter this new market and invest in and add jobs to our economies are seeking the security that your decision would provide,” they wrote. “Further delay will slow the potential for economic advancement and could lead to wasted resources, two outcomes that can be avoided with a prompt announcement by DOJ.”

“During a time of constrained federal resources, we believe DOJ has higher priorities than the pursuit of legal action against persons in compliance with the laws of the states.”

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Cross-posted from PJ Tatler

image courtesy shutterstock /  EpicStockMedia

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China: Snowden Case Like Shawshank Redemption

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013 - by Bridget Johnson
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China publicly congratulated “bright idealistic” NSA leaker Edward Snowden for exposing “the bleakest moment yet in the history of the Internet,” and said in the Xinhua editorial that he’s welcome in People’s Republic.

China doesn’t mention that it holds 69 bloggers behind bars, according to the latest Reporters Without Borders statistics.

“The case indicates that through outsourcing and contracting, Big Brother is breaching the fundamental rights of citizens by getting unfettered access to their most personal communications,” says Xinhua.

“As the case unfolds, there are many things to worry about. How do we make sense of the fact that the market and the state colluded in the abuse of private information via what represents the backbone of many modern day infrastructures? How do we rationalize the character of Snowden and his fellow whistleblowers? How do we understand the one-sided cyber attack accusations the U.S. has poured upon China in the past few months? To what degree have foreign users of these Internet services fallen victim to this project?”

The official government mouthpiece called the case “a rare chance to reexamine the integrity of American politicians and the management of American-dominant Internet companies, and it appears that while many of these individuals verbally attack other nations and people in the name of freedom and democracy, they ignore America’s worsening internal situation.”

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Squeal Like a Pig: Biden Describes Disturbing Deliverance Scene at Domestic Violence Benefit

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013 - by Bridget Johnson

Vice President Joe Biden drew parallels with the movie Deliverance while addressing a benefit dinner for a volunteer legal group that helps domestic violence survivors.

Biden’s daughter-in-law, Kathleen Biden, is a co-chair of the group. Calling him “Pop,” she introduced the veep to the crowd packed with even more Bidens.

According to the White House pool report, he peppered his speech with family stories and told the audience that his granddaughter implores him to stop referring to them as his daughters in public because “people will think something’s wrong.”

“All you women out there: Daughters are wonderful. Granddaughters are better,” Biden said. ”When they’re 12 to 14, a dad puts his beautiful little daughter to bed. And then the next morning, there’s a snake in the bed.”

Biden talked about his work in Congress on the Violence Against Women Act when he brought up the Deliverance reference.

“After those guys tied that one guy to the tree and raped him, man-raped him in the film, why didn’t the guy go the sheriff?” Biden asked. “They don’t want to get raped again by the system.”

******

Cross-posted from the PJ Tatler

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Bill Clinton Supports First Openly Gay NBA Player: ‘Proud to Call Jason Collins a Friend’

Monday, April 29th, 2013 - by Bridget Johnson

Former President Bill Clinton, who just joined Twitter this month, applauded the decision of NBA player Jason Collins to come out as gay.

Collins, a center for the Washington Wizards, wrote a lengthy piece for the May 6 issue of Sports Illustrated explaining his decision.

“I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, ‘I’m different.’ If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand,” Collins wrote.

Many well-known names quickly rallied to his defense on Twitter, including Clinton.

“I’m proud to call Jason Collins a friend,” Clinton tweeted, linking to a longer statement at his foundation’s website.

“I have known Jason Collins since he was Chelsea’s classmate and friend at Stanford. Jason’s announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT community,” Clinton said. “It is also the straightforward statement of a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek: to be able to be who we are; to do our work; to build families and to contribute to our communities. For so many members of the LGBT community, these simple goals remain elusive. I hope that everyone, particularly Jason’s colleagues in the NBA, the media and his many fans extend to him their support and the respect he has earned.”

*****

Cross-posted from the PJ Tatler.

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Giving in to the Call of Adventure in a 2013 Jeep Wrangler Moab

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012 - by Bridget Johnson

Picture a lovely California spring day, mid-1990s. I headed up to the Sierras with a friend in a 1982 Plymouth Reliant K car to meet up with my boyfriend and his fraternity brothers at a rock face they liked to climb. We’d missed them at the original spot and had to come back down the dirt, one-lane road that snaked up the hill. I carefully tried to ride the stiff ridges left by more adequate cars along a muddy stretch. I felt the K-car start to sink to the side, slowly becoming mired in the muddy grooves. Dusk was near, and in the interest of not becoming bear appetizer I jumped out the car, mud rising past my ankles (there went my white Keds), and had my friend slide behind the driver’s seat. I pushed as she hit the gas, the car eventually lurched out of the sticky mud, and I landed face-first in said mud.

Fast forward to my first new car, a 1995 Ford Escort GT. A friend and I decided to hop in the hooptie for a spontaneous road trip to Monterey. I found a brilliant shortcut across the Coast Ranges on my non-AAA-quality road map that should get us there in no time. When the road quicly turned dirt, I just kept on going. And going, with clods of hard dirt banging against the bottom of the car. Until the road was washed out, at which point we had to turn around and go back.

And I also can’t forget the time when I was reporting from near Campo, Calif., at the Mexican border, plowing through the dirt not-quite roads in a 2003 Camry when I heard someone following me in the desolate area frequented by drug traffickers and had to peel rubber to lose them.

In short, I have a long, illustrious history of taking vehicles into places they just aren’t built to go.

So when it came time to trade in my 2007 New Beetle convertible — first step was getting over the emotional attachment to Herbie, who brought me to the East Coast from L.A. and even had a stint in Denver where he got fitted with Blizzak tires — I decided to give in to my adventurous nature and get a car that could make it over a speed bump without bottoming out.

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