We don't know much yet about the awful school shooting in Connecticut. According to some outlets, the principal was the target. The gunman, or a gunman, because there may have been two, was killed.
In the absence of more hard information, we have lovely stuff like this tweet from Bryan Fischer, the extreme right-wing "Christian" radio jock who hates, you know, everyone:
Shooters attack an elementary school in CT - another "gun-free zone." Makes children sitting ducks.
What sort of mouldering growth in a person's brain would make him press send on something like that? Right, let's give kids guns. What do you think, sixth grade and up? Amazing.
I actually do think Chris Christine is too porcine to be elected president. I know he said otherwise, pointing in part to the fact that he'd been elected governor.
But there's a big difference between governor and president. Outside of the what, 15 or so percent of the population that really follows politics, no one cares who their governor is. But nearly everyone cares who their president is. Even if you pay much attention to politics, you see and hear the president every day, and you want someone in there who at the very least doesn't annoy or embarrass you, someone you can bear hearing and seeing for four interminable years.
Christie has a bit of luck reposing in the fact that that his face doesn't look quite as bloated as his midsection does. If you see a head shot of him you think well, he's chubby, but no more. Then you get a gander at the full monty, as it were, and he looks like someone inflated him from the sternum down. He is similar to Mike Huckabee in this respect, although Huckabee is even less jowly.
Fairly or not, many people see that kind of amplitude of girth as a sign of irresponsibility or lack of discipline or something. Now, he's exactly the kind of "I yam who I yam" sort who'd run tipping the scales at 25 stone or whatever he is, and that would buy him a certain kind of admiring press for a while, but the public wouldn't accept such a person as president. And anyway, as Gingrich said last week, being right about something for the first time in 20 years, none of them can beat Hillary.
It occurs to me that some of you may be wondering why I'm not obsessing over the fiscal cliff negotiations, so I thought that I would provide an answer, which is that negotiations like these always follow the same unsurprising pattern. Nothing really happens until the last minute.
I was involved in a labor negotiation once, when I worked at The Village Voice. I was one of six or seven stewards on the negotiating committee. Labor and management had six days, I think, to reach a three-year contract. This was around 1992, when the economy was in recession, and management had sent clear messages that no one should get hopes up about generous raises.
Day One brought the staking out of positions that were worlds apart from each other, and the little and very common propaganda moves like posting fliers around the office with an image of owner Leonard Stern's palatial home. As I recall, we wanted a front-loaded raise structure--higher percentages in the first year, so that employees could enjoy that largesse for the entire life of the contract. We were looking for something like 4 percent, 3 percent, 2 percent. Management was around 0-0-2, roughly.
So things stood for five tense days. There were other issues in play, nearly as fraught, and so for five days there was no movement at all. Then we hit upon the idea of trying to structure salary increases in such a way that the people at the bottom got more and the better-paid people less. One of our leaders brilliantly devised a formula that would accomplish this.
I read the comment thread on my previous post about Zero Dark Thirty with great interest, not least the early comment from Radiant Dragon, aka Our Mister Brooks (Cleanth, that would be), who reproves me for my lack of formalism in my approach to ZDT and the Bigelow method.
I suppose I plead guilty to that, but I would say that it's not the form qua form that I suspect I will object to about ZDT. Formally, Bigelow appears to be an excellent filmmaker. It's the content I think I will find objectionable (for those who need it, I found a decent enough description of the difference here).
It's certainly not that i would find any torture scene objectionable. That's form, roughly speaking. Depends on how well it's done. What I would find objectionable, as I thought I made clear enough, is a torture scene that seems to argue that torture was crucial to the capture of bin Laden. That's content. That would seem to me to cross an obvious line, no matter how well or poorly it's done.
As it happens, speaking of Cleanth Brooks, here we have a video of the great man and Eudora Welty talking about propaganda vs. art. They agree that art tells the truth obliquely. Yes, of course. That means not telling audiences things they already know; it means leaving audiences the trail of bread crumbs and letting the audience sniff them and put it all together, and not leading them by the nose to the dinner plate. It's my suspicion that by opening her film with 9-11 and a torture scene, that is what Bigelow is doing. There is very little that's oblique about that kind of story-telling.
I just this second saw a tweet that NBC is breaking that Susan Rice is withdrawing her name from consideration for Secretary of State.
Well, I think that's sad. But it means, obviousy, that the White House was getting the signals that she didn't have the votes. No Senate, at least no modern Senate, has ever voted down a secretary of state choice. That Republicans were prepared to do that is just disgusting. Over a few sentences spoken on some television shows?
Rice had other issues, it should be noted in fairness. My colleague Lloyd Grove covered several today. She has plenty of critics at Foggy Bottom. So there are some Democrats out there who are happy about this tonight, too.
I still think it would be way too risky of Obama to name John Kerry. I can think of little excuse for taking a Democrat out of the Senate and risking handing his seat back to a Republican (Scott Brown). So to me, that leaves it wide open.
So now we have a bipartisan collection of senators saying that Zero Dark Thirty has it wrong, and torture had nothing to do with getting bin Laden. Check out this rather eyebrow-lifting paragraph from the HuffPo's report:
"I would argue that it's not waterboarding that led to bin Laden's demise," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the Armed Services Committee. "It was a lot of good intelligence-gathering from the Obama and Bush administrations, continuity of effort, holding people at Gitmo, putting the puzzle together over a long period of time -- not torture."
John McCain weighed in similarly. And while Idaho Republican Jim Risch is not perhaps one of your better-known senators, look at this quote:
"The issue isn't does torture work or not. The issue is, is torture right, or is torture wrong?" Risch said. "And the answer to that is torture is wrong. It shouldn't even be a question as to whether it works or not. ... All the stuff I've looked at -- and I've looked at lots and lots and lots of stuff -- I don't think any reasonable person could reach a conclusion based on that, that torture works or it doesn't work."
GOP intransigence reflects the views of rank-and-file Republicans, right? Wrong. Michael Tomasky on the poll that exposes a party devoted to ignoring the voice of its own voters.
It’s grade-school civics that the two parties in Washington represent the views of the people who sent them there, and usually, it’s true, or true enough. But a funny thing is happening on the way to the fiscal cliff, which is that Washington Republicans, according to a very interesting new poll, are not representing the positions of rank-and-file Republicans. So whose views are they representing? Good question. And here’s another good question: Why can’t Washington Republicans recognize how deeply unpopular their positions are and just get down to the business of making a deal that would work and would have broad support in the country? Hmmm.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (center), flanked by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (left), and Sen. John McCain (right), speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 6, 2012. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo)
The poll comes from the McClatchy News Service and was conducted by Marist. It asked respondents what they would and would not support as part of a grand fiscal bargain. The top-line results are typical: People first and foremost want to see taxes go up on the high end.
But here’s the good stuff. Breaking down results to Republican respondents only, their positions are as follows. By 47-37, they oppose letting the current payroll tax cut expire (an Obama position). By 68-26, they’re against cutting Medicare spending. By 61-33, they oppose cutting Medicaid spending (yes, Medicaid spending!). By 66-28, they’re against eliminating the home-mortgage interest deduction. By 72-25, they oppose eliminating the charitable contribution deduction. And by 56-44, less overwhelming but still very much a landslide in political terms, they just say no to raising the Medicare eligibility age.
There's a new essay from the soon-to-be-released issue of the best-edited journal in Washington, nay the world, known as Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, by one Barney Frank about the new mandate to cut defense spending. It's interesting because it's a slightly unexpected topic choice from Barney, who argues:
For the first time in my memory, a Democratic candidate for President argued for less military spending against a Republican candidate who called for great increases—and the Democrat won. George McGovern was the last Democratic candidate to talk about spending less on the military. Subsequently, every Democratic presidential candidate was told that he had better look sufficiently tough on national security because a perception that Democrats were too weak vis-à-vis the Soviet Union was a major point of vulnerability...
...being the strongest nation in the world can be achieved much less expensively than at current levels. Obama deserves a great deal of credit for ending the war in Iraq, for committing to ending the war in Afghanistan, and for successfully withstanding Republican pressure to spend more on the military. But I believe he underestimates the extent to which the public is willing to support even further reductions, and I believe that he may appear to be overly influenced by being told that as President, he has the duty to continue to lead the indispensable nation.
It's a strong piece that digs pretty deep into the details of the defense budget and examines the arguments against cutting it, countering those arguments effectively. Frank also argues, and this is interesting, that more and more Republicans, to some extent in Congress but really rank-and-file Republicans out around the country, are warming to the idea:
Josh Marshall has a very funny take on all these Mitt sightings. I'm sure you've seen them. Josh theorizes, I think accurately:
Is it something about Romney? Or is this just the first post-non-presidency of the Twitter era. Because we didn’t see anything remotely like this with John Kerry or John McCain or Al Gore for that matter. More than just a Twitter meme, it’s like a 21st century version of the old post-demise Elvis sighting from the late 70s and early 80s. And I think that’s because Romney’s vanished entirely from official media existence — no television interviews or appearances — and yet he’s seemingly everywhere where ordinary people can get a snap of him with the smartphone.
In perfect Buzzfeed fashion Andrew Kaczynski put together a list of “15 People Who Just Saw Mitt Romney” and reported it on Twitter. As the phenomenon has grown though it’s become clear that at least a decent number of these people couldn’t possibly have actually seen Romney. I saw Romney at a midnight 7/11 in Tampa. I saw him at a Hooters in Boise. I saw him working on a fishing boat outside of Delacroix. I saw him shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die.
I love those last two! Let's play along. I saw Mitt Romney...at the Chelsea drugstore, to get his prescription filled. I saw Mitt Romney darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there, what does he care? I saw Mitt Romney kissing Santa Claus, underneath the mistletoe last night. Got it? Enter your "sightings" in the comment thread.
Matt Miller spins out a lot of good columns at The Washington Post, and today he has another winner. He's hit on the interesting idea about how Obama should frame the coming debt-limit fight under which Obama would...well, let him explain it:
The linchpin of the Republican argument is that the debt limit represents their only leverage to curb your insatiable spending appetites — the only way to deny you a blank check that soaks the nation in debt. “We’re not going to let Obama borrow any more money .... until we fix this country from becoming Greece,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in a typical blast Monday on Fox News. “Every big idea he has is a liberal idea that drowns us in debt.”
To listen to the GOP, in other words, you’d think they support budgets that don’t add much to the debt at all. This is demonstrably, laughably, even shockingly false. But only a president can emblazon this fact on America’s consciousness and move it to the center of the conversation. Once you do, it will force Republicans to alter their calculations in the current showdown.
The way to do this is to propose (in a bipartisan spirit, if you’re feeling sly) that the debt limit be raised just by the amount it would take to accommodate the debt Republicans voted for in Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget last year — $6 trillion over the next decade.
It tells us something that Governor Rick Snyder signed the right-to-work bill into law with no fanfare, in private, as if he didn't quite want to own up to it. The whole question of how this came about is an interesting one, and light is shed here by this post by Theresa Riley, which appeared yesterday on Bill Moyers's web site.
She cites Detroit News reports fingering the usual suspects:
The Detroit News reports that after requests from Grover Norquist and others, Snyder switched sides on the issue. United Auto Workers President Robert King said in an interview, that the Koch brothers and Amway owner Dick DeVos “bullied and bought their way to get this legislation in Michigan.”
In an editorial headlined “Drinking the Kochs’ Kool Aid,” the Detroit Free Press was unable to account for the governor’s change of heart, but offered some theories on the motivations of State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville. He may have been under pressure, the newspaper said, from the anti-union Americans for Prosperity and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), both financially supported by the Koch brothers. ALEC’s model right-to-work bill “mirrors the Michigan law word for word.
If Obama is really considering hiking the Medicare eligibility age, he's off to a bad start with the base. Michael Tomasky on the potentially colossal blunder.
Sunday afternoon I received an email from Howard Dean. Not a personal one, but nevertheless seeing his name there made me look twice, because I never get emails of any kind from Howard Dean. This one warned me ominously about the looming cuts to Medicare, and while the Deanian digit of outrage was pointed at the Republicans, the email also noted that my voice was needed to ensure that the Democrats stood united against the assault. Translated, this means that liberals are terrified that the White House is about to agree to increase the Medicare eligibility age to 67. I don’t personally feel quite as strongly about this as many others do, for reasons I’ll get into. But my own views aside, I think the White House ought to know that by all existing evidence, if it agrees to such a deal, Barack Obama will lose liberal support far more quickly, more despondently, and more, if I may put it this way, ferociously and furiously than he ever lost it over the public option.
Carolyn Kaster / AP Photo
Here’s the talk that started over the weekend: That the White House was … well, the correct verb is an interesting question here … contemplating? Pushing? Offering? … a deal that quickly was dubbed 67-for-37. The Democrats would agree to raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67 from the current 65, and Republicans would agree to hike the marginal tax rate on taxable dollars earned above $250,000 to 37 percent (down from Obama’s desired 39.6 percent). Both sides give, both sides get. It looks, to your average person, reasonable. It could be done before the New Year. As we say in Appalachia, Bob’s your uncle.
Except that it isn’t that simple. As clean and balanced as this might look to the unschooled eye, it would actually constitute a huge win for the Republicans—the party at the table, remember, that is presumed to have little to no leverage here. Why would that be? Because it’s a lot easier to change marginal tax rates around than it is to go back in and fiddle with an entitlement rule. Tax rates aren’t easy to change, mind you. But entitlement changes are really, really hard and rare. If the Medicare age got bumped up to 67, I can’t imagine a force in the future that could bump it back down, what with the deficit-obsessed establishment that we have in this town. So Obama would be giving the Republicans something much more likely to remain permanent in exchange for a thing the Republicans can change pretty quickly the next time they have a president and majorities in Congress.
TPM's Sahil Kapur recalls the great man's reaction to the Lawrence v. Texas, ruling, as we reflect on the recent news that the Court will hear two gay-marriage cases:
In a landmark 2003 decision, the Court ruled that states may not outlaw sodomy among consenting adults of the same sex. The minority dissent in the 6-3 ruling in Lawrence v. Texas was authored by Justice Scalia, who argued that the Court’s reasoning effectively, if not explicitly, knocked down the legal basis for outlawing gay marriage.
“Today’s opinion dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as formal recognition in marriage is concerned,” Scalia wrote.
Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion said the Court’s ruling against anti-sodomy laws “does not involve whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter.”
This discussion appears to been kickstarted by Frank Bruni in the Times, who noted in his Sunday column that Zero Dark Thirty, the we-got-bin-Laden movie by the acclaimed Kathryn Bigelow, appears to argue, quite against the known historical record, that torture was crucial to learning OBL's whereabouts. Bruni:
But the movie of the year is also the political conundrum of the year, a far, far cry from the rousing piece of pro-Obama propaganda that some conservatives feared it would be. “Zero Dark Thirty,” which opens in theaters on Dec. 19 and presents itself as a quasi-journalistic account of what really happened, gives primary credit for the killing of Bin Laden to neither the Bush nor the Obama administrations but to one obsessive C.I.A. analyst whose work spans both presidencies. And it presents the kind of torture that Cheney advocated — but that President Obama ended — as something of an information-extracting necessity, repellent but fruitful.
Dexter Filkins, in a New Yorker piece released today, takes note of the problem:
Bigelow maintains that everything in the film is based on first-hand accounts, but the waterboarding scene, which is likely to stir up controversy, appears to have strayed from real life. According to several official sources, including Dianne Feinstein, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the identity of bin Laden’s courier, whose trail led the C.I.A. to the hideout in Pakistan, was not discovered through waterboarding.
I was quite surprised and saddened as I flipped through my Saturday Times to see that Jon Kest died. I knew Jon fairly well in my New York days. He was an organizer and activist who helped poor people in any number of ways. He helped found the Working Families Party, and, according to the obit, he conceived and organized the recent one-day action by fast food workers in New York. He was a terrific guy, and I was proud to have known him.
He died of cancer at age 57. That's plenty sad enough. But read this paragraph from the obit:
Besides his brother, Mr. Kest is survived by a sister, Amy Kest; his parents, Martin and Ruth Kest; his wife, Fran Streich; and a son, Jake Streich-Kest. A daughter, Jessie Streich-Kest, was killed in Brooklyn on Oct. 29, when she was struck by a falling tree during Hurricane Sandy.
What can one say about that? Knowing that you're facing death and having to bury your daughter under unspeakably senseless and shocking circumstances. I started shaking when I read that sentence.
On Sunday's 'Meet the Press,' Senator Mitch McConnell didn't mince words when criticizing President Obama's administration for the IRS scandal. 'The president demonizes his opponents,' said McConnell. 'The nanny state is here to tell us all what to do, and if we start criticizing, you get targeted.'
Longtime Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau on how the President handles crisis.