Scientists say that fur seals in the Antarctic are having sex with the penguins.
This may have been going on for some time. A South African research team has published a paper on it, “Multiple Occurrences of King Penguin Sexual Harassment by Antarctic Fur Seals.” There’s also a video featuring a rather large seal and a really unhappy looking bird.
“This may be an emergent behavior,” the team wrote ominously.
I am bringing you this disturbing news because it may make you feel better about politics, Congress and the general state of the nation. True, virtually everything that’s happened since the election suggests things are going to get worse rather than better. But hey, at least we’re not being governed by seals.
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All this brings us to Washington, where congressional leaders from both parties have been making copious promises about seeking common ground. Generally, the specifics end with some vague reference to doing “tax reform.”
“Reagan and Tip O’Neill saved Social Security for a generation, did the last comprehensive tax reform. We need to do that again,” said Mitch McConnell, the next Senate majority leader, in his paean to bipartisan cooperation.
Reagan and Tip O’Neill agreed to the largest peacetime tax increase in U.S. history. Do you think that’s what McConnell has in mind? Otherwise, one is forced to consider the possibility that he is making things up. The Democrats and Republicans are definitely in accord about the need for tax reform. However, given the fact that they disagree completely about what that reform should entail, chances of progress do not seem great.
But maybe wishing can make it so. Even as young fur seals are apparently compensating for the shortage of mating partners by looking at a king penguin and imagining that it is a female seal.
On Thursday, President Barack Obama is expected to announce he’s protecting millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation through use of his executive power. And that will probably be the end of the talk of amity. The Republicans feel that if Obama usurps the congressional prerogative to make immigration policy, he will have poisoned the well, waved the red flag and generally ruined all the possibility for a new era of cooperation. They were saying that all this week, as they worked feverishly to pass a bill that would override the executive branch’s power to grant permits for projects that cross the national border.
That would be the Keystone pipeline bill. It failed when Senate supporters fell one vote short of the 60 needed to stop a Democratic filibuster. This happened on the same day that a bill to get the federal government out of the business of collecting citizens’ phone records died in a Republican filibuster.
Yes, people, both parties did it. However, since the Republicans are the ones promising to usher in a new order, we are going to pay special attention to them.
“I thought we had a new day coming, when McConnell said he wanted to go back to the regular order of having votes, and amendments and all,” said Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
This was in a phone interview, so it was hard to determine conclusively whether Leahy was being somewhat wry.
“He said the next few weeks would set a positive tone for Congress,” Leahy said.
Leahy’s bill, the USA Freedom Act, was a response to the Edward Snowden leaks, particularly the revelation that the federal government is stockpiling everybody’s phone records. It was the bipartisan product of six public hearings and painful negotiations that attracted the support of uber-conservative senators like Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah. One of its major features was a requirement that the call records stay with the phone companies. The National Security Agency could retrieve them, but it would have to be specific about whose calls were being traced and why they were needed.
McConnell led the battle to keep the status quo (“This is the worst possible time to be tying our hands behind our backs,” he said). During the debate, after the minority leader finished his remarks, Leahy asked if he would respond to a few questions, but McConnell was already on his way out of the room.
“He said: ‘I’m sorry but I don’t have time.’ In 40 years I’d never seen anybody do that,” Leahy said.
Well, McConnell had been through a lot. The run-up to the debate on Leahy’s bill was a preview of what the new Senate will have in store as it attempts to operate with a trio of young presidential hopefuls in its ranks. Cruz liked the bill and mentioned the Bill of Rights repeatedly. Marco Rubio of Florida hated the bill and summoned up the terror of terror. Rand Paul, that celebrated libertarian, attempted to have it all by announcing that he was voting with McConnell against the bill because it wasn’t strong enough. But he did say he felt bad about it.
At least the seals never promised the penguins it’d be a new tomorrow.