I know, I know: there’s a lot of competition for that title. President Obama’s plan to expand the government’s power to seize “troubled” (or perhaps only “troubling”?) firms is a stupid idea that is also scary. The Pentagon’s replacement of the phrase “Global War on Terror” with “Overseas Contingency Operation” is likewise both stupid and — since refusing to call things by their real names is a prescription for ignorance — scary. The Washington Post in an uncharacteristic burst of reportorial slyness captured the reality of that decision in a phrase between em-dashes: “The end of the Global War on Terror — or at least the use of that phrase — has been codified at the Pentagon.”
“At least the use of that phrase,” indeed! The absolute best example of terrorist euphemism is still British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith’s declaration that, henceforth, acts of terror committed by Muslim extremists would be rebaptized “anti-Islamic activity” in order — here’s the really nice part — “to woo Muslims.”
But for my money, this week’s top stupid idea comes courtesy of Benjamin Cardin. That would be Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland. Senator Cardin’s party? That’s a hard one, I know. Here are two clues: what party is more likely to want to meddle in the metabolism of private business? What party is more likely to want to help mainstream media outlets? Yes, that’s right! Senator Cardin is a Democrat. His Big Idea is the “Newspaper Revitalization Act,” designed to rescue failing newspapers by allowing them to restructure as non-profit enterprises.
“To restructure as non-profits”? It took me a while to stop laughing, too. Where has Senator Cardin been? Over the last few years, newspapers have been able to restructure effectively as non-profits without any governmental help whatsoever.
Humor, it is often said, depends mightily on timing. What makes Senator Cardin’s proposal really funny is the way he delivers the punch line: that the government should insinuate itself into the metabolism of the newspaper business, help them be reborn as non-profit enterprises, but that in return newspapers should report the news but be prohibited from making political endorsements.
Glenn Reynolds captured the humor of this in two words: “The bill will make them nonpartisan — like NPR.”
Nonpartisan “like NPR”: don’t you love it?
A question you hear more and more these days is “Why aren’t people marching in the streets?” The answer is, They are. Just don’t expect to hear about it on stations like NPR or read about it in The New York Times.
* * * UPDATE * * *: The same subject continued: “Five more “tea parties” took place last weekend to protest runaway congressional spending. Showing up with hand-lettered signs were people not often seen at protests. . . . But the real reason the major media aren’t interested in these protests is that they don’t agree with them. In the final analysis, these affairs are really taking issue with the political party they helped elect without hiding bias in the last election.”