Young children have been suspended recently from the nation's public schools for brandishing a toy bubble-blowing gun, for pointing their fingers in a gunlike matter or for mentioning a toy Nerf gun in casual conversation. The latest uber-caution can be found in Baltimore, where a second-grader was suspended after his teacher determined that he nibbled a strawberry Pop-Tart into a gun shape. The elementary school in question sent a letter home to parents, advising that a school counselor was available to children troubled by the "incident."
The nation's first legislation against such thinking also comes from Baltimore: the "Reasonable School Discipline Act of 2013," introduced before the Maryland General Assembly by Republican state Sen. J.B. Jennings, a dairy farmer and volunteer fireman who represents Baltimore County.
Introduced late last week, the bill proposes to "prohibit a principal from suspending or expelling a student who brings to school or possesses on school property a picture of a gun, a computer image of a gun, a facsimile of a gun, or any other object that resembles a gun but serves another purpose; prohibiting a principal from suspending or expelling a student who makes a hand shape or gesture resembling a gun."
Mr. Jennings has his eye on the bigger picture.
"If we wait too long, this type of reaction will become the standard response by school administrators only serving to perpetuate fear amongst our young students, not to mention putting marks on permanent academic records that are neither appropriate nor warranted," he says.
Prepare for the press to completely overuse the phrase "charm offensive" this week as President Obama journeys to the U.S. Capitol to make nice -- or appear to make nice, anyway -- with congressional Republicans. And for the record, the term is defined by the Britain-based Phrases Thesaurus as this:
"A publicity campaign, usually by politicians, that attempts to attract supporters by emphasizing their charisma or trustworthiness. This dates from the mid-20th century and the first recording of it is in the California newspaper The Fresno Bee Republican, October 1956: War is no longer just around the corner. "General Alfred M. Gruenther warned, though, that after the 'launching of the Russian charm offensive, there is a danger of the democracies relaxing their vigilance.'"
SESSIONS IN SESSION
"Amazingly, the federal government says that the more people we have on food stamps, the more it grows the economy, Sen. Jeff Sessions noted in the Republican weekly address Saturday.
"The Department of Agriculture proudly declares: 'Each $5 in new food stamp benefits generates almost twice that amount in economic activity for the community.' Our government is running food stamp promotions at foreign embassies. One worker was given an award for overcoming 'mountain pride' and getting more people to sign up. Where I grew up in Alabama, all honest work, even the hardest, was honored. And pride, self-respect, and a desire to be independent was valued, not a thing to be overcome," the lawmaker continued.
"Isn't it a better goal to help more Americans find good-paying jobs, to have the pride and self-respect that comes from that? Isn't this a superior form of compassion that has a more solid moral foundation? Yet every time lawmakers try to reform the bureaucracy to accomplish these goals, they meet with the same response: President Obama attacks the reformers, saying such ideas aren't compassionate or fair," Mr. Sessions pointed out. "But what is truly unfair and lacking in compassion is to protect a federal bureaucracy that is failing those that need our help the most. President Obama speaks of his deep concern for struggling Americans, yet his plans are focused on growing government -- not the economy."
"Let's face it. Hillary is a tough act to follow. But John Kerry is doing great so far. He is doing everything he can to ensure continuity. Frankly, though, I think it's time for him to stop showing up at work in pantsuits. It's a disturbing image. It really is. I don't know where he buys them. He is a tall guy."
(President Obama, comparing former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and her recent replacement, John F. Kerry, at the Gridiron Dinner on Saturday.
Al Gore still insists the sale of his public affairs channel Current TV in January to Arab language network Al-Jazeera is a positive thing.
"I think that the addition of a very high-quality, 24/7 honest-to-goodness news channel that covers international news as well as national -- that covers climate, that covers poverty, that covers issues that are ignored today -- has the potential to be disruptive in a creative and positive way, and raise the game for television journalism here in the United States of America," Mr. Gore told an audience Saturday at the South by Southwest technology and media symposium in Austin, Texas.
But how could an eco-conscious activist sell to Al-Jazeera, based and funded in oil-rich Qatar? That's what the panel moderator and Wall Street Journal technology columnist Walter Mossberg wanted to know.
"I don't ask you why you continue working for Rupert Murdoch," Mr. Gore replied; Mr. Murdoch's media conglomerate owns the Journal.
"Last I checked, he's not in the oil business," Mr. Mossberg pointed out.
"He's also not strictly in the news business either," Mr. Gore responded.
POLL DU JOUR
• 53 percent of U.S. voters prefer to reduce the federal deficit by cutting government programs rather than raising taxes.
• 49 percent say the sequester-related spending cuts will have no impact on them or their families; 52 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of Democrats agree.
• 39 percent overall say the cuts will have a negative impact on them; 36 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of Democrats agree.
• 47 percent overall say the cuts will have a negative effect on the economy; 27 percent say the cuts will have no effect; 20 percent say they will have a positive effect.
Source: A McClatchy-Marist Poll of 1,068 registered U.S. voters conducted March 4-7.
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