We read the whole 62-page Republican platform so you don't have to. No need to thank us. Well, actually, you really should thank us. Thank us profusely, please.
Here are the good bits, by which we mean the bad bits.
Climate change gets a mention
Only in a mocking way, within a section entitled "A Failed National Security Strategy." And within scare quotes. But still, a mention.
The current Administration’s most recent National Security Strategy ... subordinates our national security interests to environmental, energy, and international health issues, and elevates “climate change” to the level of a “severe threat” equivalent to foreign aggression. The word “climate,” in fact, appears in the current President’s strategy more often than Al Qaeda, nuclear proliferation, radical Islam, or weapons of mass destruction.
Julián Castro is about to be catapulted into the national spotlight. On Sept. 4, the 37-year-old mayor of San Antonio, Texas, will give the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention -- a primo speaking gig that catapulted another promising young politician into the national spotlight eight years ago.
Julián will likely be introduced on stage by his identical twin brother, Joaquín, who's no slouch himself. Joaquín is expected to win a seat in Congress in November.
Both brothers went to Stanford and then to Harvard Law School. Both are frequently cited as rising political stars -- though they look barely old enough to be student-body president. And both are outspoken advocates for clean energy in a deeply red state.
Lest you get the brothers Castro confused, I'll introduce them one at a time …
Since being elected mayor in 2009, Julián Castro has taken dramatic strides to turn San Antonio, the seventh-largest U.S. city, into a national leader in renewables and efficiency.
Just a few months after assuming office, he got invited to an economic forum at the White House to talk about his city's successes. President Obama razzed the then-35-year-old for looking like an intern, then listened intently to what he had to say:
Akin, a U.S. rep from Missouri, is now the state's GOP Senate candidate. Here he is on the floor of the House in 2009, flaunting his ignorance for all the world to see:
This whole thing strikes me, if it weren’t so serious, as being a comedy, you know. I mean, we just went from winter to spring. In Missouri, when we go from winter to spring, that’s a good climate change. I don’t want to stop that climate change, you know. So, and who in the world would want to put politicians in charge of the weather anyway? What a dumb idea.
During that same spiel, he also said, "Some of the models said that we’re going to have surf at the front steps of the Capitol pretty soon. I was really looking forward to that." Hang ten!
After triumphing in the Republican primary in Texas last week, Tea Party It Boy Ted Cruz is virtually assured of winning a Senate seat in November. Unlike most of his Tea Party compatriots, he's widely considered to be super-smart, one of the right's leading legal minds. Conservatives are even embracing him as (gasp!) an "intellectual" -- a label usually only deployed to heap scorn on scientists and other egg-headed freedom-killers.
On Glenn Beck's radio show earlier this year, he said: "The federal government's already shown that they believe they can control every aspect of our life. I mean, right now Congress is trying to tell us what kind of light bulbs to buy and what kind of toilets. Right now you are prevented from buying a toilet that actually flushes because the bureaucrats in Washington know better than you do."
That old lavatory lament? Clearly Cruz hasn't been keeping up with the latest in toilet R&D.
Leave it to a wiseass mother of two to make the best case I've ever read for not having kids.
Caitlin Moran is currently having an American media moment as she marks U.S. publication of her book How to Be a Woman, a memoir-slash-manifesto that's been a massive best-seller in the U.K. She's been described as the British Tina Fey, the next Nora Ephron, and an occasional Lady Gaga bathroom companion. Everyone's talking about her fervid defense of feminism. ("Do you have a vagina? and Do you want to be in charge of it? If you said 'yes' to both, then congratulations! You're a feminist.") But not enough people are talking about her fervid defense of the childfree life -- so I'm going to.
Thing is, Moran loves being a mum (in addition to being many other things, like a columnist for The Times of London). She has a sweet and honkingly funny chapter called "Why You Should Have Children." But she follows that with a whip-smart chapter entitled "Why You Shouldn't Have Children." The latter case so rarely gets vocalized, and Moran vocalizes it so damn well, that I want to block-quote the entire chapter. But that would mean a lot of typing for me. So instead I'll just block-quote a big chunk, and then you'll have to go buy the book to read the rest. Which you should do anyway.
Never mind the climatehawks. National-security hawks ought to be seriously stressing about rapidly rising population numbers: "About 80% of the world's civil conflicts since the 1970s have occurred in countries with young, fast-growing populations, known as youth bulges, according to an analysis by the nonprofit Population Action International."
In many developing countries, runaway population growth has created vast ranks of restless young men ..., with few prospects and little to lose. ...
[Y]outh bulges have emerged in [Afghanistan,] Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and the Palestinian territories -- part of what security experts call an "arc of instability" reaching across Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.
Of the 2 billion or more people who will be added to the planet by 2050, 97% are expected to be born in Africa, Asia and Latin America, led by the poorest, most volatile countries.
Jason DeParle has a long article in The New York Times on how single motherhood is expanding in the American middle class and bringing financial troubles along with it. He focuses on two friends who work together at a daycare center: "They are both friendly white women from modest Midwestern backgrounds who left for college with conventional hopes of marriage, motherhood and career."
One of the women, Chris Faulkner, "did standard things in standard order: high school, college, job, marriage and children," and she is now leading a comfortable middle-class existence.
The other woman, Jessica Schairer, is a single mother of three, trying to get by making just under $25,000 a year, supplemented by food stamps. She did not do things in standard order: "She got pregnant during her first year of college, left school and stayed in a troubled relationship that left her with three children when it finally collapsed six years ago."
DeParle tells these women's stories and puts them in context with data about larger social trends, but what jumped out at me is something that he didn't mention at all: contraception, or a lack thereof.
Melinda Gates will celebrate World Population Day by avoiding saying the word "population," and at the same time doing more to address population-related challenges than anyone else on the planet.
She has adopted family planning as her signature issue and is leading an effort by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to make contraceptives widely available to women in developing countries. On July 11, World Population Day, she'll be headlining the London Summit on Family Planning, cosponsored by her foundation and the U.K. government. The aim of the summit is to raise $4 billion to provide family-planning services over the next eight years to 120 million women. About twice that many women now lack access, which Gates says is "a crime."
Gates stresses the health benefits of the campaign and tries to defuse controversy by sidestepping the issue of abortion and rejecting the old-school notion of "population control," which evokes images of rich white men telling poor women of color how many kids to have. Gates addressed this in an interview on CNN: