May 15, 2014

If you're sick of what has become of America's music, you're not alone. Country music star Collin Raye is speaking out about it on Fox News. Here's an excerpt:

There appears to be not even the slightest attempt to "say" anything other than to repeat the tired, overused mantra of redneck party boy in his truck, partying in said truck, hoping to get lucky in the cab of said truck, and his greatest possible achievement in life is to continue to be physically and emotionally attached to the aforementioned truck as all things in life should and must take place in his, you guessed it... truck.

Like Raye, I'm not inherently opposed to this strain of country music, but it has become dominant and ubiquitous. "I didn't mind the first two or three hundred versions of these gems," said Raye, "but I think we can all agree by now that everything's been said about a redneck and his truck, that can possibly be said."

The beauty of country music is that it is honest and authentic. It tells us stories we can identify with. That doesn't mean it can't sometimes also be fun and silly — and occasionally employ an obvious double entendre, or two. Johnny Cash managed to do it all pretty darn well.

But at some point, modern country became a parody of itself, often reinforcing or overemphasizing country stereotypes. The pendulum has swung too far to the silly "bro" side of things. When it comes to today's country, "They sound tired, but they don't sound Haggard" — or, as my colleague Eric Keefeld lamented, at some point, "modern country became Cheap Trick with trucker hats." Matt K. Lewis

10:54 a.m. ET

President Trump's super PAC, America First Policies, is singling out a Republican lawmaker for opposing Senate Republicans' plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare. In a Monday morning tweet, the nonprofit, which was started by Trump advisers to back Trump's policies, urged people to pressure Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) to reverse his opposition to the Senate health-care bill. Heller on Friday became the fifth Republican senator to come out against the health-care proposal, declaring "there isn't anything in this bill that would lower premiums."

America First Policies declared Heller should be held "accountable [for] turning on voters" by opposing the proposed ObamaCare replacement plan. Both Heller and one of his staffers were called out by name in the tweet:

This tweet isn't the first time America First Policies has called Heller out by name either: On Friday, the super PAC questioned in a tweet why Heller would "lie to voters" about repealing and replacing ObamaCare. The group claimed Heller is "now with" House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Becca Stanek

10:52 a.m. ET

The Supreme Court handed down the final opinions of its nine-month term Monday, with a 5-4 decision on the death penalty case Davila v. Davis, a 5-4 decision on the securities case California Public Employees' Retirement System v. ANZ Securities, Inc., and a 7-2 decision in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer.

Likely the biggest news out of the court Monday is the announcement that the justices agreed to review President Trump's travel ban in October, which bars immigration from six majority-Muslim nations. In the meantime, the justices lifted the injunction against the ban, meaning it can be enforced except against individuals who have a "bona fide relationship" to the U.S., including a relative in America. The ruling "represents a setback for immigration rights and civil liberties groups that had bottled up two executive orders through legal action, exacerbating the president's battles with federal courts that began during the election campaign," USA Today writes.

"This means that the government can enforce the travel ban with regard to people who don't have a relationship to the United States, but not with regard to the named challengers or people like them — for example, who have relatives who want to come," added SCOTUSblog's Amy Howe.

The court will additionally review Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, testing if a bakery had a constitutional right to break a state anti-discrimination law when it refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. Jeva Lange

10:42 a.m. ET
Jacqueline Nell/Disneyland Resort via Getty Images

Disney World's Hall of Presidents is a sit-down ride for all ages featuring animatronic representations of every American president. It is ideally a celebration of American history and realistically a place for tired, sunburnt parents to just sit in the air conditioning for a few blessed moments.

It is also currently closed, as the park shutters the attraction for renovations — namely, installing a new figure — after every presidential inauguration. The unusual length of 2017's closure since President Trump took office led to reports that Disney was unsure of how to craft a family-friendly Robo-Trump. Would he talk? What would he say? So many of his quotes are less than magical.

On Sunday, however, Disney confirmed to a local Florida news outlet that the Hall of Presidents will reopen in "late 2017" and Robo-Trump will indeed have a speaking role. "The same thing that we've done with other presidents, is the same plan we have for President Trump," said Disney's Jacquee Wahler, vice president of communications. The park hopes to have the Hall of Presidents back in action by the anniversary of Trump's election. Bonnie Kristian

10:25 a.m. ET

Is President Trump trying to run the White House like a city hall? That's the proposal of Politico's Jack Shafer, who argues much of Trump's behavior that strikes us as strange in a president would make sense in a mayor:

Our classic big-city mayors all cut a similar figure. Even after winning office, they kept campaigning, stumping for their causes without apology. They blustered in the name of the neighborhoods, the parishes, and the synagogues. They feuded with their enemies. Loudly. They "fixed" things, looked for deal-making partners and struck alliances. They maintained peace between labor and capital, and they kept civil order. They played the booster. The classic mayors knew how to shame companies from moving their headquarters out of town, how to crowd their way to the center of any photo opportunity, how to junket, and how to get results. Most of all, classic mayors were virtuosos in the art of blowing their own horns. [Politico]

Trump seems most in his element, Shafer notes, when he engages in the sort of "civic theater that mayors specialize in" — the photo-ops and dramatic, well-publicized slayings of what are really rather tiny dragons. The "America's mayor" theory also explains Trump's predilection toward rule by personal influence and edict: City councils can be manhandled in a way Congress, the judiciary, and federal bureaucracy cannot. Read Shafer's full analysis here. Bonnie Kristian

10:23 a.m. ET
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Solar panel experts say President Trump's idea to cover his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall in solar panels doesn't make much sense — practically or economically. While Trump has raised the possibility as an easy way to make it so the wall "creates energy and pays for itself," experts explained to BuzzFeed News that it's a whole lot more complicated than "just slapping a bunch of solar panels onto the wall."

For starters, Trump's proposed wall is massive. GTM Research's MJ Shiao explained that the sheer enormity of the project means the "harder and more expensive it is to make work." The wall would cross through "multiple states and jurisdictions," likely pitting it against an array of permit requirements, and it would also "likely need a lot of infrastructure, such as transmission lines, to connect the wall's solar power to market," BuzzFeed reported.

On top of all of that, there's "the reality that sitting solar panels atop a giant wall, or lining the sides of it, aren't necessarily the best way to maximize solar output," BuzzFeed said. University of Oxford geoscientist Raymond Pierrehumbert pointed out that if this were really such a genius way to conduct solar energy, then energy companies would have already mounted solar panels on walls.

At the end of the day, Pierrehumbert said, "putting solar panels on a stupid wall does not change the fact that the wall is a stupid and pointless waste of money."

Read more at BuzzFeed News. Becca Stanek

10:07 a.m. ET

Americans will never be happy with Washington, D.C., on an aggregate level, new Gallup poll results suggest, because on average, we'd like to assign different policy arenas to different parties.

On most social and domestic issues, the average American wants Democrats to take the lead. For environmental policy, health care, and education, for example, Americans have a double-digit preference for Democrats. Republicans, meanwhile, score best on handling stuff like foreign policy, immigration, and the economy.


The trouble with this split is twofold: First, it results in the aforementioned average unhappiness, as Washington tends to operate in either gridlock or single-party control, not bipartisan delegation. Second, some of the preferences may not be compatible — like how the average American apparently prefers the lean, limited government Republicans envision while also wanting Democrats' approach to social programs. Bonnie Kristian

10:07 a.m. ET

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a major First Amendment debate between religious freedom advocates and anti-discrimination groups, The Associated Press reports. The case, Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, will test if a bakery had a constitutional right to break Colorado's anti-discrimination law when it refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. The cake shop owner believed "he would displease God by creating cakes for same-sex marriages."

The bakery's owner, Jack Phillips, claims that forcing Masterpiece Cakeshop to make cakes for same-sex weddings is the equivalent of "compelled speech," which is banned under the First Amendment. The Colorado Civil Rights Division and Administrative Judge Robert Spencer of the Colorado Office of Administrative Courts disagreed, ruling that the bakery illegally discriminated against David Mullins and Charlie Craig in 2012, when they sought, and were refused, a cake for their wedding.

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission ultimately "ordered Masterpiece Cakeshop to change its company policies, provide 'comprehensive staff training' regarding public accommodations discrimination, and provide quarterly reports for the next two years regarding steps it has taken to come into compliance and whether it has turned away any prospective customers," the ACLU reports. The cake shop then appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court, and when it was refused, turned to the Supreme Court.

Read more about religious freedom laws, and the concessions W. James Antle III believes Christians should make, here at The Week. Jeva Lange

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