David Weigel Leaving Slate To Join Bloomberg

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Bloomberg is attempting a major increase in their political coverage. I first discounted this when I heard it is being run by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. They have frequently fallen into covering trivia over substance in politics. Halperin has done some good in describing the political freak show, but instead of dismissing it will frequently report on it as news, repeating the talking points of the right wing freak show as fact. Back in 2011 he was suspended from a job at MSNBC for calling Obama a dick. Often Matt Drudge has seemed to be the type of political reporting he encourages.

There might be hope for Bloomberg as a serious source for political journalism after all. They have hired David Weigel away from his current job at Slate. A memo about his hiring might not be expected to be totally objective in describing Weigel, but I do agree with this:

“Driven by his own curiosity, he eschews the pack to write and report some of the smartest pieces about how real people perceive their politicians,” Tyrangiel said.

“He loves the far right and the far left–in part for their commitment to their beliefs and in part because there are such great stories there,” Tyrangiel continued. “Dave also radiates a passion for writing that manifests itself in more than just a freakishly intimidating number of bylines. The man knows how to twirl a word and turn a phrase. (Oh, he podcasts, too. His WeigelCast at Slate is a must-listen and we’ll be exploring ways he may pick that up for Bloomberg Politics.)”

David Weigel also has a post at Slate with his reasons on why he is leaving to work at Bloomberg:

Fun beyond description. This is still my favorite magazine, and I’m only leaving it because Bloomberg’s putting together—I will try to avoid corporate-speak—an ambitious political magazine run by the sort of geniuses who made Bloomberg Businessweek into a great print mag, and New York‘s political coverage a daily must-read.

 

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Hannibal; Avengers; Under the Dome; Defiance; Bunheads; Renewed and Canceled Shows; Gone Girl Cast; Cookoo’s Calling

Matt Smith appeared on Craig Ferguson’s show on July 24. Video above.

Steven Moffat says he will clear up some of the hanging plot threads in Doctor Who this year in an interview with I09:

When we caught up with Moffat last weekend at Comic-Con, we asked him, “Do you feel like you owe viewers some closure on the big questions, like who blew up the TARDIS? Or what the Silence was up to?”

And he responded, “Well, we are going to do it all. It’s going to end at Christmas. Yeah, [there will be closure]. But ‘owe them’? I don’t know about ‘owing.’ But yeah, there’s a plan, and we will end the Eleventh Doctor’s run with the answers to some of those questions.”

And what about the biggest dangling plotline in Doctor Who history? Back in 1986, the Doctor met a dark alternate future version of himself known as the Valeyard, who put him on trial and tried to steal his remaining lives. And the Valeyard was never mentioned again — until the most recent Who story, “The Name of the Doctor,” when his name came up.

How does the mention of the Valeyard tie in with the trend of the Doctor acting more dark? Are we going to see him again? We asked Moffat, and he responded,

Well, I couldn’t resist saying ‘The Valeyard,’ because we haven’t mentioned him in the new series. [Laughs] So I thought, ‘I’ll just put that one in.’ I never quite understood, in ‘Trial of a Time Lord,’ what he was meant to be. I never understood if he was a real Doctor, or [something else]. But in a story where we are hinting that the Doctor has a hidden chapter to his life, it was irresistible to mention the Valeyard. But you know, he’ll only ever get so dark, let’s be honest. He’s the Doctor. I think a man who worries about going bad is never really going to go bad. Maybe not.

As for the Doctor’s wife, River Song, she is not a dangling plot any longer — and in fact Moffat seems pretty happy with how he left her in “The Name of the Doctor.” At this point, he seems to feel as though he’s told the story he wanted to tell about her.

He adds that he’s “not quite sure” if we’ll see her again. We could, because we’re seeing her out of sequence in the past, “and clearly the implication is that she’s met more than two Doctors. But the question is whether or not we should” revisit her. He adds that “it’ll now be story-driven”: If he has the perfect idea for a story that involves River Song, she’ll be back. “But I quite liked where we got to at the end of ‘The Name of the Doctor,’ with him saying goodbye to her. So we’ll see.”

It doesn’t sound from this that the theories of the John Hurt Doctor being the Valeyard are correct, but this could also be misdirection on Moffat’s part. There are also rumors that a scene is being filmed showing the regeneration from Paul McGann’s Doctor to John Hurt’s Doctor, which might be shown as a prequel.

The BBC has figured out how to prevent spoilers from getting out after the initial airing of the 50th anniversary episode. It will be aired worldwide at the same time. (Unfortunately November 23 is a football Saturday and I still might wind up putting off watching until later in the day, depending upon the football schedule.)

Hannibal

Bryan Fuller discussed Hannibal with A.V. Club. Some of the question and answers from the four-part interview follow:

AVC: This is a prequel to stories we’ve already seen, and you’ve been very open about your plan for the series going forward. How do you keep the suspense? How do you keep overriding tension when we know where this is going?

BF: Well, we know that Hannibal is going to get caught and that he’s going to end up in the Baltimore State Hospital For The Criminally Insane, but a lot can happen to get there. I think the big move in there was to frame Will Graham and have him take the fall for a lot of these murders, which, right off the bat, introduced a completely new concept to the backstory, but also gave us a way to hold off incarcerating Hannibal Lecter for a while, because we have such a new twist to the story, where Jack Crawford is going to be bonding more with Hannibal Lecter, which really informs his distrust and disdain for this character when we get to the Silence Of The Lambs or Red Dragon era of the story. So it felt like we have now all of this opportunity to tell the specific details of a story that only existed between the lines of the book.

AVC: This episode really starts the relationship with Will and Hannibal together in therapy. You’re really interested in both presenting Hannibal as a credible therapist and in the process of seeing two people in a room talking together, which is different for a crime procedural. How did those two elements come to enter the show’s world?

BF: Well, there’s a certain amount of budgetary restraints with the show, because we are not a big-budget show. In the path we had gone down initially, we laid out a version of the show for the network, and the network said that it wanted it to be much more case oriented and procedural. So we laid out that version of the show, and it was very, very expensive. And nobody wanted to increase the budget, so it was really a matter of going back to… fortunately the budget was our friend in that way, because I did want to tell a psychological horror story, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of time at crime scenes when I could be finding out what characters are going through. And the best, simplest way for that was for people to sit down and talk about it. We fortunately are dealing with psychiatrists, so [Laughs.] it’s a great platform to have people say what they mean and what they feel and have it feel relatively natural, given the context of where they’re having those conversations. So it was initially a budgetary thing, but I think for the benefit of the show—and the stories I was interested in telling—were much more psychological and could sustain sitting down and talking about them.

Before I was going to be a writer, I was going to be a psychiatrist, so I’m fascinated with psychiatry and how it can go wrong and how it can be incredibly helpful for the patient. So I thought it was a great opportunity to tell a story about psychiatrists. And we have a lot of psychiatrist characters on the show. [Laughs.] It felt like that’s our world and these are our characters, so they are going to be talking about psychiatry. And we tried to get the psychiatry to be as honest as possible, given what we needed to tell, story-wise.

AVC: Will she be able to be in future seasons? She has a new show at midseason on NBC.

BF: We absolutely want her to be. She absolutely wants to be. It’s going to be working out the schedule with the other show, and we know that it’s about the schedule. We were very flexible with her last year. Actually, she was in five episodes, and we filmed all of her material over three days. We got her for three days, got her in, did the five episodes, and got her out, because she has a family in London that she wants to spend time with. She’s very interested in coming back. Right now, she’s in the first episode of the second season, but we have to work out schedules and see if we can actually pull it off.

AVC: This episode brings Abigail’s arc to an end. Was she always going to die?

BF: We made that decision about halfway through the season. She wasn’t always going to die. It was one of those where we were going to kill off one of the regular characters, and the character that we were going to kill off, we felt like it wouldn’t be as devastating for that person to die, because we hadn’t fully serviced that character. Someone had said, “I don’t really care about that character dying, but if you’re going to kill somebody that’s going to make me upset, then Abigail Hobbs,” and I was like, “Yeah, that’s who we have to kill, isn’t it?” [Laughs.] It’s kind of as simple as, “Whose death would mean the most?” and it was Abigail’s.

AVC: Can you reveal who you were originally going to kill?

BF: No. Because we may kill them in the second season.

AVC: How important to you was it that he have that moment of realization somewhere in this season?

BF: Very important. Because the audience knows from the first frame, before Hannibal is even onscreen that we are telling the story of Hannibal Lecter, who is going to be caught by Will Graham and incarcerated, Will had to figure Hannibal out in the first season. Otherwise, it would feel like we were treading water and artificially distending the story to accommodate a television schedule, and I wanted each of these seasons to feel like a novel, as opposed to episodic television. It felt like, what a great way to begin the story and then end the story at that point. And end it iconographically with the Silence Of The Lambs shot of coming down the corridor of the Baltimore State Hospital For The Criminally Insane, to that last cell on the left and finding, not Hannibal Lecter, but Will Graham. And know that we are now taking a turn away from the canon that will somehow get us back into canon. But right now, we are departing from the literature into uncharted territory that will be unique to the television show. Then when we circle back into the timeline of the books and get to Red Dragon again, so much will have happened between these characters that will further inform their uniqueness to this show.

AVC: Will is incarcerated right now, and if you’re able to go on and do the later seasons, Hannibal will be incarcerated. How do you approach that question of writing a character who’s confined to a room, yet has to be one of the protagonists of the series?

BF: That’s the great thing about imagination is that Will’s imagination can transport him out of that room and into places, cinematically, that will allow him to continue being a pivotal part of the story, even though he’s locked up. One of the things that was really interesting in the books, is the concept of Hannibal’s memory palace, the place where he goes to survive incarceration with the virtual-reality system that exists between his ears. We’ll be seeing Will create his own version of the mind palace over the course of the second season.

AVC: How intricately did you think out Hannibal’s framing of Will? 

BF: It was pretty meticulously plotted. We knew that there were certain changes along the way, like we were originally going to deal with both the copycat killer and the Chesapeake Ripper in the first season, and then it felt like, as we got further into this season, that the story should be about the copycat killer primarily, and that the Chesapeake Ripper should serve to complicate Jack Crawford’s character. Then we could spike that ball in the second season.

Vulture outlines what we know, and what is being rumored, about the next Avengers movie, Age of Ultron. The story won’t be based upon the recent comic arc with this name, and there will be a new origin story. Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch will be joining The Avengers. Joss Whedon also says that Black Widow will have a larger role in this movie.

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Under the Dome was disappointing last week (with the entire series so far not living up to my hopes for it). Did anyone really doubt that the mother of all bombs would hit the dome and nothing would happen inside? I could see where the inhabitants would be worried, but I would expect them to see the failure of the bomb to affect the dome as a possible outcome. I was not surprised to see Big Jim question whether to release Angie, and not all that surprised to see her back with Junior. The Hollywood Reporter conducted an interview with producer Brian K. Vaughan which answers some minor questions.

I’m glad I stuck with Defiance and finished the first season last week.  It is not the best science fiction around, but the show did become more interesting at the end of the season with the lives of so many main characters getting shook up. Amanda is no longer mayor and Nolan is now a free agent, leaving the two characters with fewer limitations and more potential. Bastr has more:

But it sounds like the Tarr Family will be the major source of drama for Season Two. Murphy expressed that they are what he’s looking forward to the most, having left them in a precarious position at the end of season one after Datak was arrested after winning the election, leaving the Tarrs broken. He will be missing in the beginning of the season (as will be Irisa).

“The family is constantly changing because the balance of power keeps changing.” Curran explained. “As the second season starts and progresses, if Datak is to survive, wherever he is, he has to learn not to be such a hot head. He has to be more pliable instead of brittle. Like steel when it’s brittle, it snaps. He needs to be more manipulative in his approach. His attack, kill and ask questions later obviously isn’t working for him. You can’t demand respect, you have to earn it. Unfortunately his way is very demanding and the future is going to get him in trouble again.”

Curran has read a few scripts from the second season and shared his excitement for the interesting stuff within the Tarr family that he found to be especially compelling. “It’s a sci-fi show set within this immigrant drama, and a lot of it puts the mirror up to society in many ways for immigrants around the world. I have a wife who’s Vietnamese, she was an immigrant from French-Bosnia-Serbia. So many ways there’s a lot of similarities in a lot of those aspects that I find compelling in the sci fi world as it pertains to our society. I think we’re going to touch on that with a lot of back story.”

Amy Sherman-Palladino’s show Bunheads has officially been canceled.David Weigel had previously called the best show on television. I wouldn’t go that far, but nobody other than Aaron Sorkin can write better dialog than her when she is hot. Unfortunately the show didn’t last long enough to rival Gilmore Girls.

John Williams is going to score the next three Star Wars movies. They wouldn’t be the same without his music .

Netflix is rapidly turning into a major source for new television material. Arrested Developmentwill return for another season. Netflix has also renewed Orange Is The New Black. It appears that HBO will be renewingThe Newsroom, perhaps with an official announcement coming soon.

It is looking like Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck will be playing the leads in the movie adaptation of Gone Girl.

J.K. Rowling says a sequel to Cuckoo’s Calling should be out next year.

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Obama Calls For An End To A Perpetual War on Terror And For Respect For Civil Liberties

I only heard portions of Barack Obama’s speech while driving to and from lunch today but did like what I heard. It was clear that whether or not I wound up agreeing with everything, contrary to claims from portions of both the left and right, Barack Obama is no Richard Nixon or George Bush. For now I am relying on the prepared text, which lacks the portion where I hear Obama did an excellent job of responding to the criticism of a heckler. While we could question if some of this is being said later than desired, there was much in today’s speech which I did like, such as addressing this early in the speech: “I believe we compromised our basic values – by using torture to interrogate our enemies, and detaining individuals in a way that ran counter to the rule of law.”

Obama discussed our triumphs in fighting al Qaeda , and then its cost:

These questions matter to every American. For over the last decade, our nation has spent well over a trillion dollars on war, exploding our deficits and constraining our ability to nation build here at home. Our service-members and their families have sacrificed far more on our behalf. Nearly 7,000 Americans have made the ultimate sacrifice. Many more have left a part of themselves on the battlefield, or brought the shadows of battle back home. From our use of drones to the detention of terrorist suspects, the decisions we are making will define the type of nation – and world – that we leave to our children.

So America is at a crossroads. We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us, mindful of James Madison’s warning that “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” Neither I, nor any President, can promise the total defeat of terror. We will never erase the evil that lies in the hearts of some human beings, nor stamp out every danger to our open society. What we can do – what we must do – is dismantle networks that pose a direct danger, and make it less likely for new groups to gain a foothold, all while maintaining the freedoms and ideals that we defend. To define that strategy, we must make decisions based not on fear, but hard-earned wisdom. And that begins with understanding the threat we face.

He recognized that victories over terrorist groups often come from targeted efforts and police actions as opposed to the Bush/Cheney concept of a global war on terror:

Beyond Afghanistan, we must define our effort not as a boundless ‘global war on terror’ – but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America. In many cases, this will involve partnerships with other countries. Thousands of Pakistani soldiers have lost their lives fighting extremists. In Yemen, we are supporting security forces that have reclaimed territory from AQAP. In Somalia, we helped a coalition of African nations push al Shabaab out of its strongholds. In Mali, we are providing military aid to a French-led intervention to push back al Qaeda in the Maghreb, and help the people of Mali reclaim their future.

Much of our best counter-terrorism cooperation results in the gathering and sharing of intelligence; the arrest and prosecution of terrorists. That’s how a Somali terrorist apprehended off the coast of Yemen is now in prison in New York. That’s how we worked with European allies to disrupt plots from Denmark to Germany to the United Kingdom. That’s how intelligence collected with Saudi Arabia helped us stop a cargo plane from being blown up over the Atlantic.

Obama called for greater oversight over the use of drones and targeted killing, and greater transparency:

This week, I authorized the declassification of this action, and the deaths of three other Americans in drone strikes, to facilitate transparency and debate on this issue, and to dismiss some of the more outlandish claims. For the record, I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any U.S. citizen – with a drone, or a shotgun – without due process. Nor should any President deploy armed drones over U.S. soil…

Going forward, I have asked my Administration to review proposals to extend oversight of lethal actions outside of warzones that go beyond our reporting to Congress. Each option has virtues in theory, but poses difficulties in practice. For example, the establishment of a special court to evaluate and authorize lethal action has the benefit of bringing a third branch of government into the process, but raises serious constitutional issues about presidential and judicial authority. Another idea that’s been suggested – the establishment of an independent oversight board in the executive branch – avoids those problems, but may introduce a layer of bureaucracy into national-security decision-making, without inspiring additional public confidence in the process. Despite these challenges, I look forward to actively engaging Congress to explore these – and other – options for increased oversight.

I believe, however, that the use of force must be seen as part of a larger discussion about a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy. Because for all the focus on the use of force, force alone cannot make us safe. We cannot use force everywhere that a radical ideology takes root; and in the absence of a strategy that reduces the well-spring of extremism, a perpetual war – through drones or Special Forces or troop deployments – will prove self-defeating, and alter our country in troubling ways.

He called for a media shield to protect journalists:

Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs. Our focus must be on those who break the law. That is why I have called on Congress to pass a media shield law to guard against government over-reach. I have raised these issues with the Attorney General, who shares my concern. So he has agreed to review existing Department of Justice guidelines governing investigations that involve reporters, and will convene a group of media organizations to hear their concerns as part of that review. And I have directed the Attorney General to report back to me by July 12th.

While Republicans were leading us into a perpetual war, Obama realizes that, like all wars, this war must end:

The AUMF is now nearly twelve years old. The Afghan War is coming to an end. Core al Qaeda is a shell of its former self. Groups like AQAP must be dealt with, but in the years to come, not every collection of thugs that labels themselves al Qaeda will pose a credible threat to the United States. Unless we discipline our thinking and our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight, or continue to grant Presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts between nation states. So I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate. And I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further. Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.

He is addressing the continued detaining of prisoners at Guantánamo:

Today, I once again call on Congress to lift the restrictions on detainee transfers from GTMO. I have asked the Department of Defense to designate a site in the United States where we can hold military commissions. I am appointing a new, senior envoy at the State Department and Defense Department whose sole responsibility will be to achieve the transfer of detainees to third countries. I am lifting the moratorium on detainee transfers to Yemen, so we can review them on a case by case basis. To the greatest extent possible, we will transfer detainees who have been cleared to go to other countries. Where appropriate, we will bring terrorists to justice in our courts and military justice system. And we will insist that judicial review be available for every detainee.

Even after we take these steps, one issue will remain: how to deal with those GTMO detainees who we know have participated in dangerous plots or attacks, but who cannot be prosecuted – for example because the evidence against them has been compromised or is inadmissible in a court of law. But once we commit to a process of closing GTMO, I am confident that this legacy problem can be resolved, consistent with our commitment to the rule of law.

I know the politics are hard. But history will cast a harsh judgment on this aspect of our fight against terrorism, and those of us who fail to end it. Imagine a future – ten years from now, or twenty years from now – when the United States of America is still holding people who have been charged with no crime on a piece of land that is not a part of our country. Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are holding a hunger strike. Is that who we are? Is that something that our Founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave to our children?

The president does not micromanage every action by the United States government and, as Ed Kilgore and David Weigel pointed out, Obama did try to hold the Congressional Republicans for their actions:

One thing is fairly clear: the speech poses a challenge to congressional Republicans that may not be that easy for them to meet, distracted as they are and as divided as they tend to be on national security policy these days. As Slate’s Dave Weigel quickly noted, Obama four times shifted responsibility for current dilemmas at least partially to Congress: on drones (where he insisted the appropriate congressional committees have known about every single strike); on embassy security; on the 9/11-era legal regime that still governs anti-terrorist efforts; and on Gitmo (where Republicans have repeatedly thwarted effort to transfer detainees to U.S. prisons). But like critical reporters, Republicans, other than neocons who want GWOT not only to be maintained but intensified, will probably tear off tasty chunks of the speech and masticate them noisily, or just dismiss it all and get back onto the crazy train of Scandalmania ‘13.

David Corn sees this as Obama taking the middle ground:

Not shockingly, Obama is attempting to find middle ground, where there is more oversight and more restraint regarding activities that pose serious civil liberties and policy challenges. The McCainiacs of the world are likely to howl about any effort to place the effort to counter terrorism into a more balanced perspective. The civil libertarians will scoff at half measures. But Obama, at the least, is showing that he does ponder these difficult issues in a deliberative manner and is still attempting to steer the nation into a post-9/11 period. That journey, though, may be a long one.

He is also looking for a middle ground which considers our security needs in the era of international terrorism along with the need to respect civil liberties and the principles which the nation was founded upon. He might not get it completely right, and the answers are not always entirely clear but, contrary to Bush and Cheney, he is considering the key issues.

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Obama’s Republican Outreach

Barack Obama has recently come under attack for failing to use the bully pulpit of the presidency and get some Republicans to support his policies. This includes the op-ed by Maureen Dowd which I mocked and an article in The New York Times which Steve Benen debunked here and here. Barack Obama might not have the skills of Lyndon Johnson but this is also a different era where the rules are considerably different. It is also possible that those who have criticized Obama for failing to reach out to Republicans are unaware of what Obama has actually done.

One Republican Senator which Obama did reach out to (or pander to as David Weigel puts it) was Olympia Snowe:

The benevolent gods of review copies have sent me Fighting for Common Ground, the memoir/jeremiad by former Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine. As woe-is-the-Republic texts by retired moderates go, it’s got nothing on 2012’s Arlen Specter offering. There are no tales of obese senators rising, Botticelli-like, from the steam of hot tubs. But it does tell us just how hard the president flop-sweated to bring Snowe into the cloture vote for health care. Snowe recounts a conversation with POTUS after she approved of the Baucus version of reform in committee.

The President also called me after the conclusion of the markup. He began by telling me, “A great statesperson [ed - statesperson?] once said, ‘When history calls, history calls,'” and said I could make history by supporting health care reform when it’s considered on the Senate floor. “You could be a modern day Joan of Arc,” he offered. I laughed and replied, “Yes, but she was burned at the stake!” I added, “I don’t mind taking the heat, but I have to believe it’s the right policy for America.” The President responded, “Don’t worry, I’ll be there with a fire hose.”

Weigel went on to describe what subsequently happened, with Snowe backing down and failing to support the Affordable Care Act. In this case we had Obama proposing what was essentially an old Republican plan (the Republican response to HillaryCare) and he ultimately failed to get a single Republican vote despite trying  to get the support of the Senate’s most moderate Republican. If he couldn’t get the support of Snowe, it is not realistic to expect Obama to have very much success with Republicans currently in Congress on many other measures.

Incidentally some Republicans still have not given up on fighting their old health care policy now that it was passed by Barack Obama. They are still playing games to try to undermine the program while pretending to have concern about people having difficulty obtaining coverage due to pre-existing conditions. They have given up on this, for now, but we can be certain they will pull something else in the future.

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Bob Woodward Wrong In Accusing Obama Of Moving The Goal Posts In Sequester Battle

Conservatives have a tendency to latch onto articles which support their viewpoints, ignoring any further information which shows they are wrong. Therefore they have been citing Bob Woodard’s op-ed in The Washington Post which supports their attempts to pin the blame for any damages which occur from the sequester on Obama. For years Bob Woodward has capitalized on his name and avoided the hard work of actually reporting. This leads to him being wrong on many occasions, such as at present, when he ignores virtually all the negotiations surrounding the debt ceiling agreement which led to the sequester. Woodward appears totally oblivious to what Obama has been calling for when he accuses him of “moving the goal posts” in calling for a balanced approach to the deficit (while also admitting that Obama’s position is “reasonable” and that Obama “makes a strong case that those in the top income brackets could and should pay more.”

Brian Buetler responded to the op-ed:

But in this case Woodward is just dead wrong. Obama and Democrats have always insisted that a balanced mix of spending cuts and higher taxes replace sequestration. It’s true that John Boehner wouldn’t agree to include new taxes in the enforcement mechanism itself, and thus that the enforcement mechanism he and Obama settled upon — sequestration — is composed exclusively of spending cuts. But the entire purpose of an enforcement mechanism is to make sure that the enforcement mechanism is never triggered. The key question is what action it was designed to compel. And on that score, the Budget Control Act is unambiguous.

First: “Unless a joint committee bill achieving an amount greater than $1,200,000,000,000 in deficit reduction as provided in section 401(b)(3)(B)(i)(II) of the Budget Control Act of 2011 is enacted by January 15, 2012, the discretionary spending limits listed in section 251(c) shall be revised, and discretionary appropriations and direct spending shall be reduced.”

Key words: “deficit reduction.” Not “spending cuts.” If Republicans wanted to make sure sequestration would be replaced with spending cuts only, that would have been the place to make a stand. Some of them certainly tried. But that’s not what ultimately won the day. Instead the, law tasked the Super Committee with replacing sequestration with a different deficit reduction bill — tax increases or no.

“The goal of the joint committee shall be to reduce the deficit by at least $1,500,000,000,000 over the period of fiscal years 2012 to 2021,” according to the BCA. The bill even provided the House and Senate instructions for advancing a Super Committee bill if it included revenue. This couldn’t be clearer. In the Super Committee’s waning hours, Republicans tried to entice Democrats into a spending-cut heavy agreement by acceding to a small amount of revenue. Democrats balked — the balance was off — but all of that just goes to show that a tax increase has always been a likely element of a replacement bill, and Republicans know it.

David Weigel also responded by showing how Woodard’s claims contradict the facts, including information presented in Woodward’s own book, The Price of Politics. He concluded:

To argue that the White House is “moving the goal posts” when it now asks for revenue in a sequestration replacement, you have to toss out the fact that the White House always wanted revenue in the supercommittee’s sequestration replacement. This isn’t confusing unless reporters make it confusing.

Ezra Klein also argues that Woodward is wrong in suggesting that Obama has moved the goal posts by insisting that any budget deal includes increases in revenue. He also  points out that the deal over the debt ceiling did kick the can down the road until after an important event which would show how voters thought the matter should be settled–the election:

The American people voted for the guy who wants to cut the deficit by increasing taxes.

In fact, they went even further than that. They also voted for a Senate that would cut the deficit by increasing taxes. And then they voted for a House that would cut the deficit by increasing taxes, though due to the quirks of congressional districts, they didn’t get one.

Here in DC, we can get a bit buried in Beltway minutia. The ongoing blame game over who concocted the sequester is an excellent example. But it’s worth remembering that the goalposts in American politics aren’t set in backroom deals between politicians. They’re set in elections. And in the 2012 election, the American people were very clear on where they wanted the goalposts moved to.

It is theoretically possible that a majority voted for candidates who did not reflect their views. After all, polls blinded to party have often showed that Republican voters actually favor Democratic positions. This wasn’t the case here. A recent Pew Research Center survey shows that most voters do not support the types of spending cuts advocated by Republicans. This is consistent with other recent polls showing that a majority support Democratic positions on the budget and other issues.

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Today’s Out Of Context Obama Quotation From The Right Wing

Taking quotes out of context, and often using selective editing such as with the “didn’t build that” misquotation, is a common tactic used by the right wing media, and a tactic which  pathological liar Romney frequently utilizes. How do you know when Mitt Romney is lying? One clue is that his mouth is moving. How do you know when conservatives are lying about what Obama said or believes?  David Weigel has a way to determine this–if it is a weekday. (I’m not sure why he excludes the weekends).  Weigel writes It’s a Weekday, So It’s Time for Another Misleading Edit of an Obama Quote.

Here’s the right wing  out of context version:

Just like we’ve tried their plan, we tried our plan—and it worked. That’s the difference. That’s the choice in this election.  That’s why I’m running for a second term.

Here’s what Obama actually said:

I’ll cut out government spending that’s not working, that we can’t afford, but I’m also going to ask anybody making over $250,000 a year to go back to the tax rates they were paying under Bill Clinton, back when our economy created 23 million new jobs, the biggest budget surplus in history and everybody did well. Just like we’ve tried their plan, we tried our plan — and it worked. That’s the difference. That’s the choice in this election. That’s why I’m running for a second term.

Weigel concludes: “So the truncated version of the Obama quote is insanely misleading. At best, it’ll only appear in $10.4 million or so of TV ads.”

Considering how frequently Romney distorts Obama’s views in his speeches, I wonder how long it will be until Romney picks up on this one.

 

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The Latest Fabricated Right Wing Attack On Obama

If you’ve paid any attention to conservative blogs or talking heads the last few days you would have heard false claims that Obama said something along the lines that if you built a business you didn’t really build it. Conservatives love to quote out of context. They even think it is fair game to leave out words, change the order of words, and sometimes  even put in their own words. I had no difficulty guessing what Obama really said,  but conservatives tend to be ignorant of basic economic principles, and it is certainly possible that even if they were aware of Obama’s full statement it could have been beyond what they can comprehend.

David Weigel looked at conservative distortions of Obama’s statement by conservatives everywhere from Twitter to Fox. This is what Fox reported, leaving out the context:

President Obama, in a speech to supporters, suggested business owners owe their success to government investment in infrastructure and other projects — saying “if you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.

Rush Limbaugh had this to say about what Obama didn’t actually say:

I’ll tell you what. I think it can now be said, without equivocation — without equivocation — that this man hates this country. He is trying — Barack Obama is trying — to dismantle, brick by brick, the American dream.

Here is what Obama actually said:

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.  (Applause.)

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.

The wording was awkward, and I suspect that Obama did leave out a few words, but any intelligent person could have figured out what Obama was really saying Any honest person would have responded to the actual meaning as opposed to one line taken out of context.

I note that Obama has not asked anyone to apologize for lying about what he said, in contrast to Mitt Romney who is looking weak by demanding that Obama apologize for telling the truth about him.

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Opponents Quickly Take Advantage Of Romney Campaign “Etch A Sketch” Admission Of Changing Positions

There is one thing which Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Barack Obama probably all agree on–Mitt Romney is a pathological liar whose political career is based upon spending huge amounts of money to try to reshape reality. I don’t know if Mitt Romney is able to distinguish fact from fiction, but if even if he is, it is clear he doesn’t care about that distinction. This makes the Etch A Sketch gaffe especially harmful for Romney, as it reinforces the fact that Romney really does act as if facts are something he can change as easily as shaking an Etch A Sketch.

The DNC released the above web ad. I bet we will see more polished versions on television in the future.

Obama staffers have been tweeting about this–and there is no doubt it will feature big in a campaign which was already to be centered around Romney’s character.

Both Santorum and Gingrich (via David Weigel) brought out their own props to respond to Romney today (but it sure is Orwellian to see an authoritarian extremist such as Rick Santorum campaign in front of a Freedom banner).

Mitt Romney showed the ease with which he lies by claiming it is the campaign organization chart which will change as opposed to his positions.

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Republicans Believe Obama Is A Muslim And Doubt Evolution

As seen in the previous post, Rick Santorum is mind-numbingly ignorant. The same can be said about Republicans in Mississippi and Alabama (as well as other states not included in this poll). David Weigel passes on these findings from Public Policy Polling:

Mississippi:

Screen shot 2012-03-12 at 8.29.31 AM

Alabama:

Screen shot 2012-03-12 at 8.29.46 AM

These Republicans do show that evolution doesn’t necessarily select for intelligence.

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GOP Lie Of The Day: Obama Did Not Call Americans Lazy

Anyone who calls Obama’s economic policies socialist is far too ignorant of both economics and Obama’s policies to be taken seriously, and the fact that such a claim came from a candidate for the Republican nomination shows once again how intellectually bankrupt the GOP has become.  Rick Perry went beyond calling Obama’s policies socialist his new ad. He also distorted a statement from Obama to falsely claim that Obama called American’s lazy. Here is the video and  text of Perry’s ad:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=8_NJgKoBERM

Video of President Obama: “We’ve been a little bit lazy I think over the last couple of decades.”

Rick Perry: “Can you believe that? That’s what our President thinks is wrong with America? That Americans are lazy? That’s pathetic. It’s time to clean house in Washington.”

“It’s time for a Balanced Budget Amendment that forces Washington to stop overspending. If Congress balks, cut their pay and send them home.”

“Obama’s socialist policies are bankrupting America. We must stop him now. I’m Rick Perry. I approve this message.”

David Weigel has posted what Obama really said, in context at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, noting that “the ‘lazy’people in this reference are bureaucrats, not average Americans.”

QUESTION: I think one related question, looking at the world from the Chinese side, is what they would characterize as impediments to investment in the United States. And so that discussion I’m sure will be part of whatever dialogue you have. And so how are you thinking about that?

OBAMA: Well, this is an issue, generally. I think it’s important to remember that the United States is still the largest recipient of foreign investment in the world. And there are a lot of things that make foreign investors see the U.S. as a great opportunity — our stability, our openness, our innovative free market culture.

But we’ve been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades. We’ve kind of taken for granted — well, people will want to come here and we aren’t out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new business into America. And so one of things that my administration has done is set up something called SelectUSA that organizes all the government agencies to work with state and local governments where they’re seeking assistance from us, to go out there and make it easier for foreign investors to build a plant in the United States and put outstanding U.S. workers back to work in the United States of America.

Political Punch also analyzed the ad and states that Perry’s ad was distorting Obama’s comments. The DNC has  responded with this video:

Of course, as the Republicans have no rational arguments to make regarding the economy, other Republicans including Mitt Romney are running with this false claim and we will probably continue to hear it. Taking comments out of context, or outright lying about the beliefs of their opponents, is one of the most common tactics used by the right wing. They know that the best chance to keep people from voting Democratic is to provide a false view as to what Democrats believe, considering that numerous polls have shown that most Americans support Democratic policies even if they do not realize that the policies are those promoted by Democrats.

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