Today the House votes on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act. A version already passed the Senate with 68 votes, but the House version cancelled several protections Senate Democrats added, to apply domestic violence protections to Native[...]
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Public Policy Polling (PDF). 4/26-29. Usual Democratic primary voters. MoE 5.4%
Max Baucus (D) 37
Brian Schweitzer (D) 48
As chair of the Senate finance committee, Sen. Max Baucus led the charge against even cursory exploration of a single-payer system (which could've been used, at worst, as a bargaining chip toward making the public option the default compromise), then hosted the so-called Gang of Six "negotiations" with Sens. Olympia Snowe, Chuck Grassley and arch-conservative Mike Enzi. For Baucus' troubles, those Republicans would later brag about how they used those pretend negotiations to delay consideration of any law through the end of 2009.
"If I hadn't been involved in this process as long as I have and to the depth as I have, you would already have national health care," [Sen. Mike Enzi] said. "It's not where I get them to compromise, it's what I get them to leave out."In other words, if it wasn't for Baucus enabling Enzi and his friends, we could've avoided the long, protracted battle over the health care law that allowed conservatives to rally around the tea party and demonize the law, all the while demoralizing liberals into electoral-crushing apathy.
It's no secret that Baucus and Gov. Brian Schweitzer hate each other, and it's partly due to health care. Schweitzer has been aggressively pushing a single-payer health care system in Montana, while Baucus finds Schweitzer to be foolish and unrealistic in pushing for it.
If Schweitzer ran for Senate, it wouldn't be close. In fact, expect Baucus to retire in that eventuality. However, Schweitzer has been coy about his political future. One factor potentially at play?he'll be far less likely to pull the trigger on a 2014 Senate bid if he has designs on a 2016 White House bid. Don't discount the latter.
It can't be repeated enough: Republicans really don't care about debt or deficits. Case in point, Mittens gave a big speech on Tuesday in Iowa attacking the President over the national debt -- and yet, he wants to make it $2.6T larger in 10 years. And on Wednesday's Morning Joe, Scarborough put this very simple, direct question to Paul Ryan:
SCARBOROUGH: You're talking about how Mitt Romney's going to be responsible. You look at Mitt Romney's plans, though -- you add them all up -- the deficit goes up just as much as it does under Barack Obama. You know, if you look at their plans, there's not a big difference. [...] At the end of the day, Paul, how much is the national debt going to be reduced under Mitt Romney's tax plans and spending plans?
Ryan's response? He huffily protests that Romney's plan is very different from Obama's because it cuts "entitlements." But did you hear him ever say how much the deficit will actually come down under Mitt Romney? Me neither.
Also, Scarborough is wrong -- Romney would actually increase the deficit much more than Obama.
So why is Ryan praising Romney's plans? Because they reflect Republican values: cutting taxes even lower for rich people, while slashing services for the elderly and poor.
But this has absolutely nothing to do with debt and deficits, and Republicans should be called out on this little con game they've been playing every time.
Three polls out in the last few days show a very consistent picture. Gov. Scott Walker has a small but solid lead over Democrat Tom Barrett in the Wisconsin recall election. The TPM Poll Average has it at Walker 50.5% to Barrett 44.2%. [...]
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In today's Crosstabs, TPM Poll Editor Kyle Leighton looks at the key demographic groups Obama and Romney are fighting over for November. To view full sized video, click here. [...]
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After his heroics in Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series (the “bloody sock” game), and helping the Boston Red Sox win their first World Series in 86 years, Curt Schilling will never have to pay for a drink in a bar anywhere in New England for the rest of his life.
However, if his gaming company, 38 Studios…
It's climate week here at La Maison. We wrote earlier about the looming global warming deadline ? yes folks, "game over" really does mean the game is over. This is just one about six national deadlines we're facing. In that context, you may find this short conversation interesting. Dr. Michael Mann is one of the originals in the field. He's interviewed here by Thom Hartmann. Mann is the...
The rumors of my death are but mild exaggerations. This has been an awful, sometimes terrifying time. I've experienced a bit of improvement over the last week, and I now find myself thinking about reengaging with the world. I don't feel remotely "good"; I haven't known what it is to feel "good" physically in years. But at least I don't feel that each day, or each hour, might finally be It, i.e., The End. So I'm able to reflect on certain matters in a sustained manner, at least to some extent.
If I'm able to do it, I think I need to return to themes and subjects that have concerned me for some time; I also need to clarify and further explain a number of complex connections. In that effort, I will address political issues and controversies, but primarily as they are related to underlying patterns of thought, emotion and behavior. If you wish to understand what's on my mind, I recommend reading "Meaningful Connections," and following at least a few of the links. In particular, I would suggest looking over the four articles on tribalism (one, two, three, four). This passage from the first of the tribalism essays identifies where I place politics itself among my concerns:
This series will examine some of the many ways that love goes wrong, the ways in which love destroys the genuine vitality of another soul. All too often, which is to say in the case of almost every person, the pattern of this destruction is set in early childhood. Once the pattern has been embedded deeply enough, it will be dislodged later in life only in the rarest of circumstances. For the great majority of people, the destruction is carried from generation to generation.I will rephrase the idea of that last paragraph to express the thought more forcefully. It is not simply that politics is a symptom of more fundamental factors. Politics, in itself, is a sideshow, a distraction, a camouflage. Politics is the means by which power is wielded over human beings. That is all it signifies; that is all it has ever signified. A few of the critical questions are: Who wishes to wield such power? Why? To what ends? And, why are so many people willing to submit to the demands of power?
The same pattern also becomes the basis of the political systems we establish, and of the specific manner in which those systems function. (See "When the Demons Come" for examples of how and why this happens.) Political systems are not devised or operated by individuals who supposedly manage, always by some unspecified means, to set aside or rise above those motives and concerns that dominate the lives of those they rule. In terms of certain underlying human dynamics, rulers and ruled are fundamentally alike, for better or worse. Throughout most of human history, it is almost always for worse; consult any one of numerous history books for the frequently terrifying evidence, and consider how rare the exceptions are and how briefly they lasted. (I should note that certain critical differences between the ruling class and those they rule can be identified; you will find some of those differences analyzed here.)
This is one of the great problems with political commentary: politics is only a symptom of a more fundamental condition. Unless we address these more fundamental concerns, the symptom will never be altered in a lasting way. Yet we (and I) spend so much time on political matters because politics affects our lives so dramatically and with such immediacy. Because politics has the power to alter our lives so profoundly and, far too frequently, even to end them, some of us fiercely resist the especially destructive aspects of its operations. Yet this will never be enough by itself, as history, including our recent history and ongoing events, prove repeatedly.
After I watched ?Win, Lose or Draw,? the season-four finale of Parks & Recreation that aired last Thursday night, I knew I?d end up watching it again on Hulu the following day. And that?s not just because I loved the episode ? it?s because I knew there were at least five minutes of the episode that I hadn?t seen yet.
Of all the TV shows on the air, Parks & Recreation has most fully embraced the idea of the Hulu-friendly extended director?s cut. The ?Win, Lose, or Draw? director?s cut, which adds over six minutes to the episode that originally aired on NBC, has plenty to recommend it to hardcore Parks & Recreation fans ? but it also botches one of the episode?s most pivotal moments. Though director?s cuts have existed in film for decades, in versions as essential as Blade Runner?s ?Final Cut? and as inessential as the Justin Bieber: Never Say Never Director?s Fan Cut, the TV director?s cut is a relatively recent phenomenon. (The only other example that jumps to my mind is the DVD-only extended Glee pilot, but feel free to correct me in the comments.)
Parks & Recreation has been releasing extended episodes as far back as season one, when the ?Rock Show? finale got an ?extended producer?s cut,? but the last weeks of season four took the trend to a new level: Of the 22 episodes in Parks & Recreation?s fourth season, four appeared on Hulu in a ?director?s cut? or ?producer?s cut? version, and three came at the tail end of the season. It?s become increasing clear that the real way to watch Parks & Recreation isn?t on Thursday nights; it?s on Friday mornings, when the director?s cut of the episode alongside the version that aired the night before. (It surprises me that Parks & Recreation, which needs every live viewer it gets, would go so far to incentivize waiting to watch on Hulu the next day ? but that?s another blog post.)
But the director?s cut of ?Win, Lose, or Draw? is particularly tricky because it?s both better and worse than the version that originally aired. In the original version of the episode, Leslie learns that Ben has been offered a job in Washington, D.C. immediately before she goes to vote for herself for City Council. When she starts crying in the voting booth, it?s both a reaction to the idea of losing Ben and a culmination of all the emotions that have built up over the course of her campaign ? now that the election is officially out of her hands, she can finally take down her armor (and unsurprisingly, Amy Poehler knocks the scene out of the park ? now if ever, this is her Emmy year).
But Michael Schur?s ?Win, Lose, or Draw? director’s cut reinserts a quick scene at the start of the episode that undercuts all the power of Leslie?s voting booth scene. As Leslie addresses her friends/campaign workers at brunch, she begins to deliver a thank-you speech before breaking into tears. ?Again?? says April, before Tom takes over, rolling his eyes and calls Leslie ?an embarrassing disaster.? The scene was rightly cut ? it adds almost nothing, and detracts from both the dramatic arc of Leslie?s story and the strength her character has shown all season.
What makes things even more complicated is that the ?Win, Lose or Draw? director?s cut also adds a detail that makes a storyline significantly better. The director?s cut restores a scene in which Ron, who disapproves of the whiskey selection at Leslie?s election-day party, pulls out a bottle of Lagavulin scotch and says to the bartender, ?nobody touches this but me.? Later in the episode, he cancels the obviously distraught Ben?s gin and tonic order in favor of a glass of Lagavulin scotch. Though the scene exists in both episodes, it?s only in the director?s cut that we fully understand the generosity of Ron?s gesture.
As TV audiences continue to migrate away from live viewing and toward streaming, directors and producers will have more room to reinsert scenes cut from the original broadcast. It?s an exciting opportunity, but it has to be used judiciously ? ?more? isn?t always better, and most cut scenes are cut for a reason.
A new book written by Columbia Law Professor James Liebman shows that Carlos DeLuna, executed by Texas in 1989, was innocent. According to Liebman, DeLuna was wrongfully convicted and executed for the murder of Wanda Lopez following a botched investigation. DeLuna and the man believed to have committed the murder, Carlos Hernandez, looked so much alike that they were mistaken for each other in photographs by family members. However, DeLuna, who was clean-shaven and wearing a white shirt, did not fit the description of the eyewitness who said that the murderer was wearing flannel and had a mustache. Police arrested DeLuna anyway and failed to do a formal lineup. Police also failed to formally examine the crime scene, ignoring foot and fingerprints, not taking blood samples, and allowing the scene to be cleaned by gas station employees.
Not only did DeLuna maintain his innocence throughout the investigation and his subsequent incarceration, he told investigators that he knew Hernandez had committed the crime. DeLuna was ignored, and during his trial prosecutors ridiculed his claim:
They told the jury that police had looked for a “Carlos Hernandez” after his name had been passed to them by DeLuna’s lawyers, without success. They had concluded that Hernandez was a fabrication, a “phantom” who simply did not exist. The chief prosecutor said in summing up that Hernandez was a “figment of DeLuna’s imagination”. …
By the end of [a] single day the investigator had uncovered evidence that had eluded scores of Texan police officers, prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges over the six years between DeLuna’s arrest and execution. Carlos Hernandez did indeed exist.[?]
Hernandez had a criminal background that included several violent assaults. He eventually died in prison after attacking his girlfriend with a knife.
DeLuna is not the only man to be wrongfully convicted and executed by the state of Texas. There is persuasive evidence that Cameron Todd Willingham, convicted in the death of his three daughters and executed in 2004, was innocent and DNA tests have undermined the evidence used to convict and execute Claude Jones. Texas continues to lead the nation in executions, accounting for over one-third of US executions since 1976, despite the fact that there were 41 DNA exonerations there from 2002-2011.
Moreover, DeLuna’s case highlights the difficulties inherent in the permanence of the death penalty — despite conservative efforts to dismiss these difficulties. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said in 2005 that there was not “a single case?not one?in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit.” It’s now hard to doubt that’s not true.