Video of the day

Gyro-stabilized aerial shots of NYC.  Beautiful (especially in full screen):

Chart of the day

Great piece by Ron Brownstein (who else on demographics and partisanship) and Scott Bland on the increasing demographic partisan divide in American politics and how that is affecting Congress.  Here’s the key chart:


And the beginning of the piece:

The House of Representatives is not just divided between the red and the blue. It also fractures along lines of white, black, and brown.

Four-fifths of the House Republicans in the new Congress represent districts in which the white share of the voting-age population exceeds the national average, according to a new NationalJournalanalysis. In a near-mirror image, almost two-thirds of House Democrats represent districts in which the minority share of the voting-age population exceeds the national average, the analysis found.

For each party, these stark patterns bring opportunities and challenges. The GOP’s strength in these preponderantly white districts helped sustain its House majority in a year when overwhelming minority support powered President Obama to a comfortable reelection. But the party’s disproportionate reliance on whites also means that few House Republicans have much experience in courting nonwhite voters—or much electoral incentive to do so.


Miss Marijuana

This is just awesome.  Somebody should make a “Beauty pageant contestants say the darndest things” tumblr or something like that.  Miss Iowa is opposed to legalized marijuana except in case of medical need.  And recreational use.

Miss Iowa Mariah Cary (yup) might have been taking some of her own confusing advice when she responded to a question about Marijuana legalization by saying the drug should only be used recreationally and medicinally.

“I think that depends on the situation,” Cary said during the Q&A portion of Saturday’s Miss American pageant. “I personally know people who have had to go to medical marijuana for their last resort, for their health care and I completely agree with that.”

“However,” she added, “I don’t think it should be used for anything but recreational use and health care.”

Finally, someone willing to stand up to the hemp-rope-industrial-complex.

Prosecutorial discretion

Haven’t followed the Aaron Swartz case all that closely, but it is very fair to say that too many prosecutors horribly abuse their almost unchecked power.  Emily Bazelon:

I didn’t know Aaron Swartz, but I wish I’d followed the out-of-all-proportion charges the Department of Justice brought against him before his death. Swartz, of course, is the Internet prodigy who took his own life over the weekend, a few days after prosecutors insisted, according to his lawyer, that he go to prison for allegedly committing computer fraud by downloading 4.8 million articles from the academic database JSTOR.

The causes of suicide are almost always complex, and Swartz suffered from depression. I’m glad that’s been a clear thread running through the coverage of his death. But Swartz’s mental health history doesn’t change the fact that he was on the receiving end of blatant prosecutorial intimidation—an egregious overcharging of crimes by the U.S. attorney’s office in the name of setting an example. If the prospect of prison and high legal fees contributed to Swartz’s decision to take his life, as his family and his girlfriend say, then that is a tragedy that should lead to some serious soul searching at the Justice Department. Prosecutors wield enormous power over all of us. This case is one terribly sad example of what can happen when they abuse it…

I’d like to tell you that the prosecutorial overreach that took place in Swartz’s case rarely happens. But that’s not true. There are many principled prosecutors who only bring charges they believe they can prove beyond a reasonable doubt. But there are also some who bring any charge they can think of to induce a defendant who may be guilty of a minor crime to plead guilty to a major one. These cases usually are hard to call attention to: They’re not about innocence, easy and pure. They’re about the muddier concept of proportionality. If any good at all can come from Swartz’s unspeakably sorrowful death, maybe it will be how this case makes prosecutors—and the rest of us—think about the space between guilt and innocence.

Photo of the day

From a Big Picture set of the Harbin (China) International Ice and Snow Festival:

Fireworks go off behind a large ice sculpture during the opening ceremony of the 29th Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival in Harbin, China’s northern Heilongjiang province, on Jan. 5. (Diego Azubel/European Pressphoto Agency)

Guns, politics, and policy

Here’s what I think needs to happen.  Obama needs to beat the NRA on something.  Anything.  The point is, he needs to show the American people and Democratic politicians, that you can take on the NRA and win.   The simple truth is that the types of reforms that would have a substantial impact policy-wise are completely off the table politically.  The idea of civilians with high-capacity magazines literally makes zero sense.  Yet, even if we can pass a law to ban them going forward, we all know it is politically impossible to do so retroactively and prohibit their ownership.  Just banning them going forward probably does almost nothing in limiting the damage of future massacres.  That said, getting to more sensible gun laws in this country that will actually have a substantial policy impact is way down the line.  Baby steps.  And the first step is to just show that 1) you can actually do something in terms of limiting guns; and 2) implicitly in #1, beat the NRA.

To this end, I think it makes sense for Obama to be fairly limited and stick with proposals that have far and away the most public support.  Ideally, policies that actually divide the NRA leadership (truly on their own planet gun nuts) from the less unreasonable rank-and-file members of the NRA.  Do that, and you can definitely have a political win.  Now, policy-wise, that should not actually be that hard.  In the real world, people identify with teams and gun owners are going to want to choose team NRA over team Obama.  That’s why whatever Obama focuses on needs to be clearly acceptable to most gun owners.  Will such a policy help much with gun violence?  Maybe a little if we’re lucky.  But, if you cannot take on the NRA and win on something nowit becomes ever less likely in the future.  At least, until the next time scores of children are senselessly gunned down in our NRA-world.

%d bloggers like this: