TPM Cafe: Opinion

A swearing-in featuring Joe Biden is gaffe-porn, when both the Vice President’s best and worst are on full display. It’s when Biden is in his truest form—“unleashed,” as they say—and the chamber is his stage. But are these really just “aw, shucks, dad” moments, another blunder we have come to expect from Uncle Joe? Or is it…kinda creepy? And why does he get a pass from progressives?

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The recent attack on Charlie Hebdo, a weekly satirical French newspaper featuring acerbic cartoons and comics, is shocking. Twelve people are dead, 11 injured. These attacks threaten the freedom of the press. But the media’s response has been troubling. Coverage lionizes Charlie Hebdo as an institution, while also taking advantage of the cartooning community.

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PARIS -- The mood in Paris’ 11th Arrondissement was subdued late Wednesday afternoon, as fans of Charlie Hebdo came to pay their respects. Demonstrators held up signs and placards exclaiming “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) at the scene of the tragedy, as thousands of French people posted the phrase on social media. Scrums of news crews waited, though it was not clear what for. Save for the constant wail of sirens, the rest of the city seemed remarkably normal, despite an increased police presence at major transit and commerce centers.

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Perhaps Hillary Clinton will not run for president. Or perhaps the one potential opponent who could actually give her candidacy an existential challenge, Elizabeth Warren, will reverse field and run. Either of these eventualities could make 2015 an exciting prelude to an exciting 2016 Democratic nominating contest.

But more likely than not, Clinton will run and Warren won’t. And that will more than likely mean that Democrats will enter the caucuses and primaries resigned to but not necessarily “ready for” Hillary, and strongly favoring a challenge aimed at—to use the term so often heard—keeping her honest.

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Sometimes I feel as if in saying that I attend MIT, I’m telling a blonde joke. (Hint: I’m not.) Many MIT students recount questions about their GPA, test scores, magnificent things they’ve built, other accomplishments—while I often find myself trying to convince people that I actually attend MIT. The reactions that I’ve received from people range from amusing to borderline offensive, from delightful to “what??

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Sony’s bromance The Interview freaked out North Korean leadership. While various experts have disputed the White House’s claim that North Korea was responsible for the Sony hack, we can be certain about the Kim Jong Un regime’s outraged response to the film overall—a response that culminated in North Korean representatives arguing their case before the United Nations. (How many films get trashed at the UN?)

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Is 2016 going to be a repeat of the 2000 election, with a member of the Bush family able to sail into the White House above a more popular member of the Clinton team by successfully hoodwinking the public into thinking he’s more moderate than he is? The chilling realization that Jeb Bush really could be the next president settled in over me this week with the news that he’s staking out the “moderate” position on same-sex marriage by sticking to the line that same-sex marriage should be a matter left up to the states. It’s a position that has troubling echoes of George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” nonsense in the 2000 elections, a little bit of spin to convince voters you’re not one of those scary Bible-thumpers while continuing to be everything the scary Bible-thumpers could want out of a presidential contender.

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It’s the first Monday of January, and for many states across the nation, that means the official start of the 2015 legislative session. Even though we have just finished a 2014 election with strong signs that voters are tired of extremist abortion bans, the prefilled bills for 2015 are already enough to leave reproductive rights activists chewing their nails off. Despite another failed Ohio attempt to pass a ban on abortion at the point in which a heartbeat can be detected, Kansas is prepping its own heartbeat ban proposal and Michigan Tea Party activists are discussing introducing a “life at conception” act. Add in longshot bills like the Missouri spousal consent bill and the Iowa 72 hour abortion waiting period and this legislative session could be another trouncing on abortion rights and access in multiple states, even without the inevitable 20-week bans, admitting privilege bills and telemedicine restrictions.

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Schools throughout the country have made the musical “Into the Woods,” now a Disney movie, a perennial favorite—to the point that, according to NPR, “it’s currently the 3rd most popular high school show in the country.” They usually perform a “junior version,” though, one that that features Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and other fairy tale favorites, and ends at intermission to avoid the potentially controversial sex and death. Yet sex and death are at the heart of the show, not merely its second act, for a reason: Stephen Sondheim, a gay man working in theater in New York City, created the show in the eighties at the height of the AIDS epidemic.

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Want to contribute to TPM Cafe? Email ideas for your pieces to us at talk@talkingpointsmemo.com

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