So help me, I almost gave up on House of Cards. After zipping through the first three or four episodes of Netflix's new 13-part, Americanized remake of the 1990 BBC miniseries about political intrigue, I figured I'd seen enough to cook up a reasonably brainy-sounding takedown, starting with how some of the supposedly sophisticated power plays executed by Kevin Spacey as scheming House Majority Whip Frank Underwood—a Democrat from South Carolina, and how likely is that in 2013?—would have left Machiavelli yawning at their crudeness in eighth grade. The idea that a single planted piece by a junior reporter could instantly vault someone into front-running contention for the job of Secretary of State had me groaning, and so on.
Since the start of the new Congress, liberal Democrats have anxiously awaited senior Senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren’s initial moves. Celebrity entrants into the Senate—from Hillary Clinton to Al Franken—have tended to take a modest approach, immersing themselves in committee work and issues of local importance, building relationships with their colleagues, and operating as a “workhorse, not a show horse.” By contrast, Warren said during the campaign that she wanted to use her new position as a platform for her ideas. And one of her first actions suggests she will spend her time as Senator much the way she did as chair of the TARP oversight panel and at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: shedding light on the harm caused by unscrupulous financial interests.
House Republicans convened their first hearing on immigration reform on Tuesday and made clear that they were scared to death of immigrants actually getting the vote. Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia set the tone when he made clear he was looking for a mid-range position somewhere between deporting and granting citizenship to the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. A nice, safe legal “resident” status, he suggested, never to be upgraded to that of citizen and voter.
If you went perusing big conservative web sites today—National Review, Weekly Standard, Glenn Beck's "The Blaze"—you would have searched in vain for any mention of the report released today by the Congressional Budget Office, the latest of their periodic assessments of the state of the budget and the economy. That's not because it was full of good news that the Obama administration will cheer. It's because most of what the CBO had to say undermines the arguments Republicans routinely make about these topics.
Thanks to Michael McDonald at George Mason University, we have the final turnout statistics for the 2012 presidential election, and the verdict is ... eh. Not too bad, not too great. A total of 129,058,169 votes were counted, out of an eligible population of 221,925,820, for a turnout figure of 58.2 percent. How does that compare to previous years, you ask? Or rather, can you show me a chart comparing that to previous years? Why yes. Yes I can.
Virginia doesn’t make it easy to vote, and this afternoon, the state lawmakers have tightened requirements, passing a voter-identification bill that would eliminate several forms of ID currently accepted at the polls:
Senate Bill 719, sponsored by Sen. Richard H. Black, R-Loudoun, would not go into effect until 2014 and stipulates a voter education component – the result of a Democratic amendment the chamber adopted Monday, also thanks to Bolling’s tie-breaking vote.
In case you missed it, last night, NBC News published a Justice Department white paper detailing the criteria the administration uses to decide if it will kill Americans who belong to al-Qaeda as senior leaders. National security is not my area of expertise, but several reporters have already given excellent takes on the memo and its implications.
So yesterday, Harry Reid hinted that he'll be introducing a gun control measure that doesn't include a new ban on assault weapons. If we assume for a moment that other proposed measures eventually pass, but an assault weapons ban doesn't, how bad an outcome would it be?
In a major reportorial coup, NBC's Michael Isikoff has uncovered the "white paper" that the Obama administration used to internally justify extrajudicial killings in the "war on terror." Not only has Isikoff performed a valuable service by making the memo available to the public, this will also be the first time it had been made available to most members of Congress.
Last month, Republicans in several swing states—Virginia, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania—floated a change that would give the GOP a decisive advantage in presidential elections. As it stands, most states, sans Nebraska and Maine, distribute their electoral votes in a winner-take-all system—if you win the state, you win the electoral votes. What Republicans have proposed is a system where electoral votes are distributed by congressional district—if you win the district, then you win the votes.
We're in the early stages of a lengthy process that will involve hearings, competing bills, horse-trading, and the usual ugliness of life in the Capitol Hill sausage factory, but the contours of gun legislation are beginning to take shape. Though President Obama is out campaigning for the full package of reforms he has been advocating, there are indications that the assault weapons ban may get dropped in order to forestall a Republican filibuster in the Senate, and a bipartisan group is about to introduce a bill in the House on gun trafficking and straw purchases. (I'll discuss the assault weapons question in a later post). In other words, the actual legislative process is getting underway.
And though it's by no means assured that some gun measures will pass Congress, if any do, we'll partly have the NRA to thank. That's because, I believe, the organization fundamentally misread the role it plays in the minds of the average voter.
“Two weeks ago today, a line was crossed. Two weeks ago today, Aaron Swartz was killed. Killed because he faced an impossible choice. Killed because he was forced into playing a game he could not win—a twisted and distorted perversion of justice—a game where the only winning move was not to play.”
That message greeted visitors to the United States Sentencing Commission website the evening of January 25.. The words were part of a ten-minute video manifesto embedded on the homepage of the commission, responsible for writing the sentencing policies and guidelines for Federal courts. The death of the Internet savant and information activist Aaron Swartz, who took his own life due at least in part to the outsized charges he was facing at the hands of the U.S. justice system, was still an open wound for most tech-literate net dwellers. No group took the news of Swartz’s passing more personally than “Anonymous.” The hactivist collective swore vengeance, citing the "highly disproportionate sentencing" of Swartz and others like him, and commenced the darkly named “Operation Last Resort,” hijacking numerous Department of Justice websites and sending “nuclear warheads” packed with stolen DOJ records hurtling across the Internet.
When the Supreme Court upheld the individual insurance mandate of the Affordable Care Act, conservatives' disappointment was tempered by one element of the ruling, which allowed states to opt out of the ACA's expansion of Medicaid. Obamacare might have survived, but at least they'd be able to stick it to poor people. The Medicaid expansion was perhaps the most critical part of the ACA, potentially delivering insurance to 30 million people who don't have it, but now Republican governors and Republican legislators would have a chance to give Barack Obama the finger and refuse to accept the giant pot of money the federal government was offering to insure their poorest citizens.
Is China moving ahead of the United States on worker rights? According to a report on Monday’s Financial Times, it may be doing just that.
The FT reports that Foxconn, which employs 1.2 million Chinese workers who make the bulk of Apple’s products, along with those of Nokia, Dell, and other tech companies, has decided to allow its workers to hold elections to select their union leaders. This is a radical departure from past practice in China, where unions are run by the government—that is, the Communist Party—which customarily selects the union leaders. Often, the leaders selected under this system are actually the plant managers.