- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 4, 2013

If the bald eagle weren’t our “national animal,” what would be the most popular choice for the role? The bison wins, according to a YouGov poll released Sunday, cited by 22 percent of the respondents. Mountain lions were in second place with 16 percent of the vote, followed by bears (12 percent), doves (11 percent), turkeys (9 percent) and rattlesnakes (3 percent.)

Skunks were in seventh place with a pungent 2 percent of the vote, followed by a squabbling stampede of squirrels, alligators, woodpeckers, who also feasted upon 2 percent, or bits of it, anyway. Badgers, beavers, raccoons, moose and coyotes each scrambled away with 1 percent of the vote, or a portion therein.

“The results would disappoint Benjamin Franklin, who pressed for the turkey to be the national animal of the United States,” observes poll analyst Peter Moore. Interestingly enough, turkeys were the third choice of history-minded Republicans, but fifth for Democrats.

Members of the National Bison Legacy Act Coalition, on the other hand, should be pleased with the findings. The organization — which includes 39 zoos, wildlife and conservation advocates, American Indian and academic interest groups — is promoting the National Bison Legacy Act.

The legislation, introduced before the Senate in 2011 by Sens. Michael B. Enzi, Wyoming Republican and Tim Johnson, South Dakota Democrat; and in the House by William Lacy Clay, Missouri Democrat, and Jeff Fortenberry, Nebraska Republican, would designate the American bison as the “National Mammal of the United States.”

PLOTLINE

Closing diplomatic facilities from Algeria to Bangladesh: Does such a sweeping move actually empower al Qaeda? Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked that very question to Michael V. Hayden, former director of the CIA and the NSA.

“Well, that’s the cost of doing business,” the retired Air Force general replied. “I understand the argument that it seems to, as you say, empower them more than perhaps they are really capable of performing. On the other hand, you have a real danger to Americans. You want to be cautious.”

He added, “And let me add an additional factor in here. The announcement itself may also be designed to interrupt al Qaeda planning, to put them off stride. To put them on the back foot, to let them know that we’re alert and that we’re onto at least a portion of this plot line.”

FOR THE LEXICON

“AJAM”

Acronym for Al Jazeera America, set to debut on Aug. 20. The cable news network reports they have recruited more than 1,000 people to participate in a Google Hangout on Monday night with incoming news anchor Joie Chen and “special correspondent” Soledad O’Brien to parse out what kind of content should go into “America Tonight,” their nightly public affairs program.

Of note, and curious. Ms. O’Brien, a former CNN anchorwoman, was billed as “CEO, Starfish Media” during her appearance Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

POLITICAL SPECTACLES

Behold, it’s the “hipster cowboy.” That’s the new name for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who wore Brooklyn-style, black horn-rimmed glasses during his appearance at the fifth annual Red State Gathering on Saturday in New Orleans. Observers called the little fashion tweak a “game changer” and a sure sign Mr. Perry planned a White House run no matter what doubting pollsters say.

“Rick Perry didn’t look like the same politician,” says Dallas Morning News political columnist Wayne Slater, who notes one other sartorial detail.

“He’s wearing dress shoes. Two years ago, when he launched his presidential bid with an announcement at a summer Red State gathering, he wore his trademark cowboy boots. But back surgery has made him cut back on the boots.”

Mr. Slater adds, “Perry is considering running again for president in 2016, and his speech Saturday sounded a lot like a man trying to hold his place in line.”

LIMBAUGH FOREVER

“I think Rush is going to be around as long as he wants to. He’ll be 90 years old and still have a show. He’s a brilliant broadcaster. The point we have to take out of this is when people detract talk radio, take a look at where it’s coming from. It’s usually coming from political circles. They try to detract the success level of the hosts with whom they disagree politically.”

Michael Harrison on the future of talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, to CNN. Mr. Harrison is editor of Talkers Magazine, a radio industry publication.

‘RHETORIC OF DECLINE’

Who hastens an exodus from the Episcopal Church? Could be both the “conservative Right” and “liberal Left,” suggests the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, dean and president of the Virginia Theological Seminary, the largest of the church’s 11 seminaries. The church itself, he says, “has been at the vanguard of the culture wars” with a membership that declined from 3.5 million in the 1950s to about 1.9 million these days.

“Pick up any newspaper and you will be informed that the mainline is in trouble. It is in terminal decline. The twin forces of megachurch Christianity and secularization are going to lead to our disappearance. We are a sinking ship which is unable to right itself. Pundits predict our imminent demise,” Mr. Markham writes in a commentary for the seminary’s current “News from the Hill” magazine.

“If you look a little closer, you will find that the voices which are loudest are those with an interest in seeing our demise. The conservative Right and the liberal Left use the rhetoric of decline for political purposes. For the Right, the Episcopal Church is declining because we are insufficiently faithful; for the Left, the Episcopal Church is declining because we are insufficiently radical. The Right wants us to repent and return to Biblical values or family values; the Left wants us to stop saying the [Nicene] Creed on Sunday mornings and liberate the people to think in more imaginative and flexible ways about their faith. Both sides use the language of decline as leverage; if we don’t repent, says the Right, then we will see more and more people join the megachurch; if we don’t modernize our faith, says the Left, then we will see more and more people drift away from the Church and join the growing ‘Nones’.”

“Predicting our demise is now a decades-old game. In the 1970s learned articles were written that predicted our extinction by the turn of the century. We should be skeptical of both the politics of demise and prediction of extinction,” Mr. Markham noted.

POLL DU JOUR

38 percent of Americans say they have “tried” marijuana; 65 percent of cigarette smokers and 32 percent of nonsmokers say they have tried it.

47 percent of men and 30 percent of women also say they have tried marijuana.

31 percent of Republicans, 32 percent of conservatives, 41 percent of Democrats and 49 percent of liberals say they have tried marijuana.

7 percent of Americans overall say they currently smoke marijuana; 10 percent of cigarette smokers and 6 percent of nonsmokers currently smoke marijuana.

8 percent of men and 6 percent of women also say they currently use marijuana.

1 percent of Republicans, 2 percent of conservatives, 9 percent of Democrats and 13 percent of liberals also say they continue to smoke marijuana.

Source: A Gallup poll of 2.027 U.S. adults conducted July 10 to 14 and released Friday.

Jibberish, annoyances, complaints to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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