Trump Registers As Independent, Continuing To Hint At Running

Donald Trump’s talk of running for president has often seemed to be more a publicity stunt than a real campaign. After most of the Republicans backed out of the debate he was scheduled to moderate, Trump decided against moderating, saying he had not ruled out running himself. There is increased speculation that Trump might run as an Independent now that he changed his registration from Republican to Independent. Trump has been both a Democrat and Republican at various times in the past.

Trump is also speaking with Americans Elect, who have been engaging in what has appeared to be a futile attempt to run a serious third party candidate. Trump’s fame and money could provide them with a way to make an impact in 2012.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump once again tells television viewers to turn into the final episode of Celebrity Apprentice to hear his answer. After he pulled this stunt last year it was later found that the show had been recorded earlier with no announcement. However, there is also the possibility that he decided against running for the Republican nomination as that would have prevented him from doing his show this season. By delaying until this year, Trump could wait until Apprentice finishes the season to enter the race. Assuming he loses, he could be back on the show next winter or spring.


House Republicans Back Down

Yesterday we say Republicans ranging from the editorial writers of The Wall Street Journal to Karl Rove condemn the refusal by John Boehner to hold a vote on the temporary payroll tax extension which was passed by the Senate with strong bipartisan support. The Tea Party faction of the House had pulled the House Republican Caucus to such an extreme position that few other Republicans would go along. The final straw came today when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called on the House to pass the temporary extension. Boehner backed down and passage now looks imminent.

Now we can look forward to February when the battle is fought all over again, but at least there will not be a tax increase in January and Medicare will be able to fully pay claims.

Republican Civil War

The year already seemed to be ending with political momentum shifting from the Republicans to the Democrats, including rising poll numbers for Obama for a variety of reasons. Matters suddenly got worse for the GOP yesterday when the battle between the nutty conservative Republican mainstream and the totally bat-shit crazy far right tea-party fringe placed the party in a lose-lose position. Yesterday, with C-SPAN being told to turn off their cameras, the John Boehner and the Republicans decided to flee Washington without even voting on the payroll tax extension which passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support.

Even many Republicans realized what an insane move this was. The editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, which normally could double for they daily list of Republican talking points, condemned the House leadership for this fiasco. Karl Rove has said the WSJ was right and the Republicans should fold. Newt Gingrich, likely in the closing moments of his fifteen minutes of fame as a GOP front-runner, said the Republicans should give in. (Mitt Romney, trying to avoid the usual embarrassment of being on both sides of every issue, declined to take any position on this one)

The Republicans are being backed into a corner where they may have to back down and defy the Tea Party members, risking a decrease in support next year. Even if they do the right thing in the end, the irresponsibility of the Republican-controlled House has now been exposed to some who might not have been aware of it in the past. If the Republicans fail to back down, we will have a huge mess in January which the Republicans will rightly receive the blame for (despite the email I received from my Republican Congressman today reaching for a way to blame the Democrats).

PolitiFact Has Problems Understanding Medicare

For the past three years, PolitiFact has chosen health care statements as their lie of the year. Last year they chose the Republican lie that health care reform is a government takeover of health care. In 2009 the lie of the year was Sarah Palin’s claim about death panels. Perhaps they felt compelled to show that they are not biased towards either party by choosing a Democratic argument this year. The problem, as I discussed previously, is that the argument that the Republican-passed Medicare plan would destroy the Medicare program is actually true.

PolitiFact is nitpicking based upon the misleading fact that the GOP plan would replace the current Medicare program with something completely different. They point out:

With a few small tweaks to their attack lines, Democrats could have been factually correct, said Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. “I actually think there is no need to cut out the qualifiers and exaggerate,” he said.

Maybe it would be preferable if Democrats said the Republicans voted to destroy Medicare as we know it, or destroy the current Medicare program, for people under age 55.  Leaving out such qualifiers hardly turns an accurate criticism into a lie. Steve Benen has a good analogy to explain this:

This is simply indefensible. Claims that are factually true shouldn’t be eligible for a Lie of the Year designation.

It’s unnerving that we have to explain this again, but since PolitiFact appears to be struggling with the relevant details, let’s set the record straight.

Medicare is a single-payer health care system offering guaranteed benefits to seniors. The House Republican budget plan intended to privatize the existing system and replace it with something very different — a voucher scheme. It would still be called “Medicare,” but it wouldn’t be Medicare.

It seems foolish to have to parse the meaning of the word “end,” but if there’s a program, and it’s replaced with a different program, proponents brought an end to the original program. That’s what the verb means.

I’ve been trying to think of the best analogy for this. How about this one: imagine someone owns a Ferrari. It’s expensive and drives beautifully, and the owner desperately wants to keep his car intact. Now imagine I took the car away, removed the metallic badge off the trunk that says “Ferrari,” I stuck it on a golf cart, and I handed the owner the keys.

“Where’s my Ferrari?” the owner would ask.

“It’s right here,” I’d respond. “This has four wheels, a steering wheel, and pedals, and it says ‘Ferrari’ right there on the back.”

By PolitiFact’s reasoning, I haven’t actually replaced the car — and if you disagree, you’re a pants-on-fire liar.

Part of the problem is that the fact checkers are journalists who attempt to determine the truth but cannot be experts on all matters. Health care law is complicated, and I have found similar lack of understanding on their part in the past (as in the discussion to this post). If PolitiFact had reviewed this and provided further background information they could have provided a useful service. Calling this a lie is simply a false interpretation.

PolitiFact claims that, “They ignored the fact that the Ryan plan would not affect people currently in Medicare — or even the people 55 to 65 who would join the program in the next 10 years.”  First of all, destroying Medicare in ten years is still destroying Medicare. Secondly, while some may have ignored this fact, I have discussed this issue in the past (and I doubt I’m the only one).  It is probable that those 55 and older will see changes if the plan were to pass as those under 55 are not likely to support continued funding for the Medicare program if they are never able to benefit from it. People over 55 have good reason to oppose the GOP proposal to maintain political support for funding the real Medicare program.

Their other objections are equally inane, such as arguing,

They used harsh terms such as “end” and “kill” when the program would still exist, although in a privatized system.

Eliminating a government-run single-payer system and replacing it with a privatized system with benefits which are not comparable to what seniors now receive is most certainly ending, and even killing, the current program regardless of whether the new program has the same name. In their discussion they even acknowledged that “seniors would have to pay more to get the benefits they receive today, according to an analysis completed earlier this year by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO).” Once again, a plan which is structured in a totally different manner and which provides lower benefits is not the same program as we have today.

Quote of the Day

“Bob Dole has endorsed Mitt Romney. Bob Dole also once endorsed Viagra, which lasts two hours longer than a Mitt Romney position.” –Michael DiGaetano

Kim Jong-il Dead

North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-il, has died. In the interests of world peace I’m  sure relieved that Kim Jong-il didn’t pick his idiot son to take over for him–Kim Jong-W.

Romney And The One Percent

I bet we will be seeing a lot of this old picture in Democratic ads should Mitt Romney win the Republican nomination.

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Christmas Special To A Heartbreaking Development, Season Finales For Dexter and Homeland

There is only one week to go. Here is an interview with producer Marcus Wilson on this year’s Doctor Who Christmas Special.

Bill Bailey on appearing in this year’s Doctor Who Christmas Special

This week Steven Moffat also revealed more about the special. The cosmic screwdriver is an awesome tool, but it doesn’t work on wood. So what if the Doctor runs into a monster made of wood, which was also influenced by Moffat’s childhood fears:

“It was an old, old nightmare. When I was a little boy, I used to have an obsession that if I fell asleep facing the wall, as opposed to facing the door of my room, something dreadful would happen to me. I had all sorts of safeguards in case I ever fell asleep facing the wrong way. But one time, I woke up… and I was facing the wall. I was horrified! I spun round, and I was so transported by fear that, for a moment, I saw a seated, wooden king in front of my bedroom door, saying, ‘Well, you got that wrong, didn’t you?’ And I freaked.

“Obviously, it was just my imagination; there wasn’t actually a wooden king. At least, I hope there wasn’t. But that is the Wooden King in this episode, seated and looking like wood, but with a mobile face… Have you seen it blink? It’s terrifying. It’s that wonderful, counter-intuitive thing of wood behaving like flesh, and being fluid. It feels so wrong, and therefore so Doctor Who.”

The big news beyond this Christmas is that, as has been clear from previous news, the Ponds will be leaving:

“The final days of the Ponds are coming,” Moffat said.

“I’m not telling you when or how, but that story is going to come to a heartbreaking end.”

He said the Doctor, played by Matt Smith, was going to meet “a new friend”. It is believed that role has not yet been cast.

On the departure of Gillan and Darvill, Matt Smith said: “We had the most incredible journey. We took over the show and we’ve really had to hold hands and help each other through it.

“So it’s very disappointing, but one has to remember that this show is about change and regeneration, and that’s what galvanizes it and pushes it forwards.”

Moffat does not plan any two-part episodes next season, hoping to make every episode a standalone blockbuster:

“The big thing is, nothing in the next run is starting out as a two-parter,” he confirms in the latest issue of Doctor Who Magazine. “At this stage, everything is a single episode, and the only reason anything will become a two-parter is if we think it needs to be; not so much that the story is too long for 45 minutes, because nothing is too long for 45 minutes, but if it feels as though there are two distinct stages to the story…

He goes on to explain some of the reasoning behind the decision: “I was looking at the facts and stats and it’s not true that the two-parters save us money. We’ve assumed it for years. They don’t save us money at all. Not a penny. So what’s the point in them? The viewing figures always go down. The AI [Audience Appreciation Index] goes down, even if the second episode is the better one. The press coverage goes down. The trailers are a bit boring. I want to be able to say, every week, we’ve got a big standalone blockbuster, and then a trailer that makes it look like nothing compared to what’s going to happen next week! That’s the form for next year.”

Moffat also says that the movie discussed by David Yates which presents a Doctor Who separate form the television show will not occur.

David (Yates) was talking a little out of turn, there; a very, very brilliant director but no the film as described by him, of course we’re not going to do that—a film that contradicts the television series, it would be a heathen thing to do … I would be ‘beheaded’ to do such a thing!

It would be wonderful to do a Doctor Who film, but when and if we did—and hopefully we will be doing it—it will be very much an offshoot of the television series and we’ll be part of it, and it will star the television Doctor, of course—anything else would be heresy!

Neil Gaiman on his favorite moments from the past season of Doctor Who.

The other big special of the holiday season is the two hour Downton Abbey Christmas Special. Warning, there are MAJOR SPOILERS for those who have not seen the second season, which so far has aired in the U.K. but not the U.S. The preview gives the impression that the special deals with two major plot lines of the second season which were left unresolved at the end of the season.

Dexter and Homeland (my favorite new show of the season) conclude their seasons tonight. Going into the final two seasons, I wonder if Dexter will have any major developments tonight beyond killing the big-bad of the season. I’m curious as to how Homeland will conclude and still leave things open for a second season. Claire Danes does say in the interview above that there will be a second season. Presumably if Carrie saves the Vice President and perhaps exposes a mole in the CIA her career will not look as finished as it did last week (assuming she stays on her meds).

Colin Hanks was interviewed about his role as Travis Marshall on Dexter. Here are some portions of the interview:

What was your reaction to the story line when they explained it to you?
Well, when they told it to me, it was incredibly vague. They just said, “You’ll be one of the two bad guys; you’ll work together as a team.” And then they said — well, I can’t really say because we haven’t aired yet — but they told me a version of what is going to happen at the end, which was sort of like the caveat. Which ended up not happening, by the way.

The end changed from when you got the role?
Yeah, as with all things TV, it’s always fluid, it’s always morphing, it’s always changing, it’s always growing. And I think there was a lot of that throughout the course of the season. They didn’t tell me about the twist in — I think it was the “Get Gellar” episode — until right before they sent that episode out.

Oh, so you didn’t know from the start that Professor Geller was really dead?
I didn’t know. I didn’t know about the big reveal.

Then I guess you didn’t tweak how you were acting against him —
No. No, no, no. They didn’t tell me, so I just played him as if he were a real person. Which is great.

Do you think you might’ve played it differently had you known?
I’m sure I would have in some way, so it was a luxury to just not worry about that. There’s always this sort of thing like, Oh, I wish I know what’s gonna happen so I can do my actor stuff and prepare and properly tell the story. But on the first day of shooting that we did, I remembered Eddie [James Olmos] having a conversation with [director] John Dahl. And Eddie knew about the reveal; John did not. And John said, “Look, it’s the great thing about life, you never know what’s gonna happen, so that makes for more realistic storytelling.”

Maybe the religious angle is getting people especially fired up. He’s a religious zealot.
Yeah, but it comes from a place of not being right in the head to begin with. It’s not like the religion is there, and then he went crazy because of the religion; he was crazy before that and he was going through his personal issues before that, so as things sort of were progressing, and once we got to the stage where we were really sort of learning things about Travis, I became much more sympathetic to him. Then at the end he just goes all out evil and crazy.

Dexter’s son Harrison gets involved in the finale when Travis kidnaps him. Was it hard to play insane killer scenes with a toddler?
It was incredibly hard. Without giving too much away, it’s incredibly dramatic and there’s yelling and it’s a culmination of the entire season. I mean, it’s the climax of the season. And I’ve got a sword, I’m holding a kid, he doesn’t know what’s going on. I’m supposed to put him in this thing and he doesn’t wanna go. And you know, I have a kid now [in real life], so my heart is just breaking for him because he’s crying. Again, John Dahl directed, he directed the final episode, and I said to him, “Of course it’s the climax of the season and we’ve gotta deal with this screaming 3-year-old kid for two days.” Not easy, but we did it.

In other media news, congratulations to the cast and crew of The Big Bang Theory on their 100th episode.

This day also brought the sad news of the death of  Czech playwright, dissident, and later political leader Vaclav Havelwho helped bring about the downfall of the Soviet Union. The week also saw the loss of Christopher Hitchens.

Quote of the Day

“Mitt Romney says if he is president he will create 11 million new jobs. Sure, they’ll all be in China, but a job is a job, ladies and gentlemen.” –David Letterman

As I Predicted, Stressing Income Inequality Loses Potential Supporters

A recent Gallup Poll demonstrates the point I was making in a recent post arguing that arguments beyond income inequality are necessary to obtain widespread support on economic issues.  In the post I argued that the Occupy Wall Street movement needs to stress the actual economic issues rather than getting bogged down in fights over their tactics, and then moved on to the framing of the issue around income inequality:

I also think that “income inequality” is not the right term to use. There always will be, and should be, differences in earning based upon skills and achievement. Many hearing of protests against income inequality misunderstand it to believe the movement, and liberals, oppose such appropriate levels of inequality. It only feeds into the ridiculous view on the right that liberals such as Obama are socialists. Reading the conservative blogs shows the degree of misunderstanding of the issue, with many conservatives finding it to be some sort of contradiction when affluent liberals, and not just the unemployed, show concern over the concentration of wealth by the ultra-wealthy.

The real issue is the considerable increase in income concentration in the top 1 percent (and top one tenth of one percent) in recent years,  which has been exacerbated by government policy. Inequality may or may not be acceptable depending upon the specifics, but it is this degree of concentration of the wealth of this nation by a tiny plutocracy which is not. Other points which should be stressed are the decrease in upward mobility and the weakening of the middle class.

Americans typically have no problem with the wealthy, hoping to have the chance to join them. Stressing income inequality does not appeal to many of them. Stressing the fact that it is now harder for those in the middle class to become wealthy than in the past would be a far more compelling argument. Weakening the middle class means that middle class individuals have a far greater chance of winding up among the poor than the wealthy is an important wake-up call about the direction this country is moving in. Ultimately the weakening of the middle class is even harmful to the top 1 percent–a reason why many wealthy individuals have come out in recent weeks to support Democratic policies. They know that the tiny increases in marginal tax rates being proposed will not harm them, and certainly will not reduce job creation.

Gallup found that between 2008 and 2011 less people see America as being divided between haves and have-nots. This includes a drop from 48 percent to 37 percent among independents. Reducing  the income gap is not a key priority among independents: “While 72% of Democrats say it is extremely or very important to reduce the income and wealth gap between rich and poor, 43% of independents and 21% of Republicans agree.”Far more independents (82 percent) find policies to expand and grow the economy to be extremely or very important (with another 12 percent finding this somewhat important).

It is not that opposing income inequality and supporting economic growth are mutually exclusive. The unprecedented  degree of concentration of wealth in a small group (which is the real issue as opposed to simply inequality) is one of the forces which is destabilizing the economy. In stressing income inequality, the Occupy Wall Street movement fails to obtain the support of many independents who would support policies to strengthen the middle class and expand the economy.