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Jon Stewart (right), Gael García Bernal (left), and member of the Rosewater crew during filming in 2013.
Earlier this week, I had a chance to screen Rosewater, Jon Stewart's directorial debut, which opens nationwide on Friday. Rosewater, which was also written by Stewart and is distributed by Open Road Films, tells the story of Tehran-born Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari's 2009 imprisonment in Iran while covering the presidential election between former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mir-Hossein Mousavi, based on Bahari's autobiographical account of his ordeal, Then They Came For Me.

The biggest reason I was eager to see the film had everything to do with the fact that Stewart directed it, but after seeing it, the thing that really carried the movie was the stellar performance of Gael García Bernal, who played Bahari. I'm neither a movie critic nor a film expert, but at least to me, that speaks well of Stewart—like the baseball umpire who nobody notices because he called a good game.

On the surface, Rosewater seems like the perfect story for a Hollywood movie: An Iranian-born Western journalist returns to his home country only to face imprisonment from a totalitarian regime for the crime of reporting the news. Break out the flags and patriotic chest thumping and self-satisfied moral superiority, right? Maybe add a few scenes with savage violence from the Iranian government, build some suspense by crafting a narrative about frantic efforts to release Bahari from prison, and above all else make sure that everybody leaves the film feeling good about how much better we are than them because we value freedom and they don't.

That's pretty much what I expected when I sat down to watch Rosewater, but as I'll discuss below the fold, rather than following that easy formula, Stewart delivered a movie that is less about us vs. them than it is the slow triumph of hope and optimism and told the story by focusing on the humanity of its characters rather than by inventing suspense.

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Wed Nov 12, 2014 at 10:51 AM PST

A new chapter in the same book

by Jed Lewison

Yesterday marked a big change for me: It was my last day as a full-time blogger. It’s been seven years now for me, all of them as a member of the Daily Kos community, including the last six writing on a daily basis for the Daily Kos front page.

I’m not disappearing, and will still write here at Daily Kos, so this isn’t a goodbye, but I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone that has made Daily Kos such a great community and place to work—Markos, all of the staff, and everyone else in the Daily Kos community. Like poblano, I started blogging during the 2008 presidential primary and without the people that make Daily Kos what it is, I’d have been shouting into the wind. I’m grateful for everyone who have made these such a great six years.

So, what’s next for me? Well, if you don’t follow me on Twitter, you might be a bit surprised: I’m going to be a full-time software developer focused on writing apps for iPhone and iPad. I published my first app on the App Store last year and now have a total of six, all of them fun and easy to use photo and video apps. You can read more about them (and the occasional post about technology) at magicappfactory.com and if you decide to try any of them, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. In addition to continuing to work on my apps, I’ll also be working full-time as a software engineer, but as I said earlier, despite my career change, I’m not vanishing and will still write from time to time. And, of course, I’ll still be reading the front page and diaries.

So this isn’t goodbye, but it is a beginning, and I want to thank everybody who has made the last six years possible—and to say that I’m looking forward to the future.

Thanks again,
Jed

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Wisconisn Governor Scott Walker gestures as he addresses the second session of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, August 28, 2012 REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES  - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)
Genius
Genius plan from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker:
Republicans in Congress should also enact a comprehensive energy policy that makes the United States less dependent on foreign oil—including approving the Keystone XL pipeline.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news for Gov. Walker, but the whole point of the Keystone XL pipeline is to import Canadian oil into the U.S. If Walker were really interested in the best thing for the country, he'd spend more time thinking about ways to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels altogether, and less time pushing a drill-baby-drill energy future. Oh, one other thing he might be interested in: Foreign oil imports are down by about 25 percent since President Obama took office.
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Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Fox News host Sean Hannity pose next to a light machine gun mounted in a Texas Highway Patrol boat.
Sean Hannity and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, co-chairmen of the GOP's Latino Outreach Committee
Apparently, the only way a Republican can take a reasonable position on immigration reform these days is to speak under the condition of anonymity:
One GOP political operative, who requested anonymity to speak frankly about the strategy, warned that the party is falling into a trap on immigration. He described a hypothetical disaster scenario for the party in which the president takes executive action on deferring deportations; then, Republicans try to defund the new program and potentially try to shut down the government. In this case, the 2016 Republican presidential primaries would become a litmus test on whether the candidate would end the policy -- forcing candidates to take the position that millions of people should be stripped of protections put in place by President Barack Obama.

"That is a terrible place to be politically and that's where we're going to be," the operative said. "This is like a slow-moving car wreck where we can see exactly where it's heading. And if anybody thinks that's not going to be a problem in Colorado, in Florida, in Arizona and Nevada and all of these places, they just live in fantasy land."

The GOP position on immigration truly is absurd: They are simultaneously trying to claim that they want to do something on immigration while refusing to take action, then saying that if President Obama takes action, they will refuse to take action ... even though they were already refusing to take action.

If the GOP actually wanted to do something about immigration reform, nothing is stopping them. But they don't want to take action: Instead, they want to fight with one another about who is standing the tallest against whatever actions President Obama ends up taking.

Two years ago, Republicans were talking about how to have a chance of winning the next presidential election, they needed to embrace immigration reform. Eighteen months ago, a handful of them even voted for immigration reform in the U.S. Senate. But now all they can talk about is how President Obama has made them completely opposed to any sort of reform ... because he's taking action to reform immigration.

Bottom line: As long as President Obama moves forward as promised—and Democrats support him—when 2016 rolls around, Republicans are going to be wishing for the good old days when "self-deportation" was their biggest problem.

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U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WVa) departs after a classified intelligence briefing with members of Congress on the crisis in Syria on Capitol Hill in Washington, September 5, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing
In one corner, we have a handful of senators in the Democratic caucus from purplish and reddish states who think that the Republican takeover of the Senate will put them in the driver's seat because Mitch McConnell will need their votes to overcome the filibuster, for example:
“If the Republicans have an affirmative agenda, things they want to do, they are going to need Democratic or independent votes,” said [Maine Sen. Angus] King, who caucuses with Democrats. “I remember telling people back in Maine, everybody down here thinks they’re in charge. The reality is that anything that gets done has to have bipartisan support.”
And in the other corner we have the realities of the Senate Republican conference:
If McConnell does try to court moderate Democrats, the Kentucky Republican could lose GOP senators on his right flank, including the three who are expected to run for president — Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky — as well as like-minded senators such as Mike Lee of Utah. It also remains to be seen how other new freshman conservatives who won their elections last week — such as Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Joni Ernst of Iowa — would react if their party’s leaders try to cut deals and win over Democrats.
There might be a handful of issues where McConnell could hold all these names together while still attracting the six or seven so-called "moderate" Democrats that he needs to block a filibuster, but those instances are likely to be few and far between. But many of the things that Republicans really care about—repealing Obamacare, for example—aren't issues on which they can or will compromise, even if Democrats were willing to. On those sorts of high profile issues, the only way for Republicans to get around the filibuster will be to get rid of it, or to use the reconciliation process for everything on the conservative wish list.

But even then, Republicans will still face an obstacle when it comes to actually turning anything they pass into law: The presidential veto, which requires a two-thirds supermajority to override. Senators like Joe Manchin or Angus King can talk all they want about how the filibuster gives them leverage, but even if McConnell doesn't ditch the filibuster, President Obama has the real leverage on the Democratic side, because without a two-thirds supermajority, Congress can't pass anything into law without it.

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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at CPAC 2013.
Over the weekend, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker made it abundantly clear that wants to run for president in 2016. Exhibit A, this exchange with NBC's Chuck Todd on Meet the Press:
CHUCK TODD: I've got to ask you about 2016. You made a pledge in October that you were going to serve all four years. Does that pledge still hold?

SCOTT WALKER: I said my plan was for four years. I've got a plan to keep going for the next four years. But, you know, certainly I care deeply about not only my state, but my country. We'll see what the future holds.

In October, Walker did say he planned to serve four years when asked if he would promise to serve his full term if re-elected. But that was before the election. Now he says "I've got a plan to keep going" as governor, a subtle but important shift from actively planning to be governor to having a contingency plan for being able to continue being governor.

Walker also pivoted to talking about how he isn't only concerned about Wisconsin, but also the country as a whole, but the place where he really made his national ambitions clear was in an op-ed he placed with Politico:

It’s put up or shut up time. Those were the words I spoke to the newly elected Republican majority in Wisconsin back in 2010. With both houses of the legislature and the governorship in Republican hands for the first time in more than a decade, it was our time to prove that the trust voters placed in us was warranted. That we would do what we had said we would do. That we would turn things around.

Those are the same words I share with Republicans preparing to lead both houses of Congress come January.

Please read below the fold for more on this story.
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Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks during the 38th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington February 10, 2011. The CPAC is a project of the American Conservative Union Foundation.  REUTERS/Joshua Roberts    (UNITED STATES - Tags:
Every so often, I catch myself wondering if Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul's brand of libertarian politics is what the GOP needs to put itself in contention for 2016. I mean, if a Republican presidential candidate could ditch the baggage that comes with being a Republican presidential candidate and convince voters across the political spectrum that Republicans can be entrusted to let Americans live their lives as they see fit, perhaps the they would have a shot at getting back inside the Oval Office.

And then he says stuff like this:

“Her [Hillary Clinton's] main Achilles’ heel is that she didn’t provide an adequate defense for our consulate in Libya,” Paul said during a trip to Georgia just before the midterms.
Seriously, Rand? You want to make your campaign against Hillary Clinton a referendum on Benghazi? You say you're a different kind of Republican, one who is more in tune with the public than any other GOP politician ... and the number one criticism you have of Hillary is Benghazi?

Well, to be fair to Rand, Benghazi isn't the only thing he's trying to pin on Hillary. There's also this:

In a POLITICO interview, the 51-year-old senator talked unblinkingly about the possibility of a run, and sought to draw a sharp contrast between himself and Hillary Clinton — none too subtly raising the issue of her age. At 67, she is 16 years older than he is.

“I think all the polls show if she does run, she’ll win the Democrat nomination,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s for certain. It’s a very taxing undertaking to go through. It’s a rigorous physical ordeal, I think, to be able to campaign for the presidency.”

So Mr. I'm-A-New-Kind-Of-Republican says Hillary Clinton sucks because Benghazi and also because she's so damn old. Never mind that Rand will also say that Ronald Reagan is his hero, despite the Marine barracks bombing in Beirut or the fact that Reagan was older when he became president than Hillary Clinton will be when she does.

But still, at least Rand Paul isn't like a normal politician, consumed with pursuing his own self-interest, right? Well, maybe not:

Within the next few weeks, Paul is set to announce that he’ll run for reelection to the Senate in 2016 – a race that he is likely to run simultaneously with a presidential campaign. Kentucky has a law preventing a candidate from running for more than one office at a time, but Paul advisers believe they have found multiple ways around the restriction without changing the law or challenging it in court, including exploring changing the state’s GOP primary to a caucus.
So Rand Paul is bleating about Benghazi, saying Hillary is too old, and trying to figure out how he can hedge his bets by running for president and re-election to the Senate at the same time ... sounds exactly like what you'd expect from a typical Republican politician. Moreover, Paul's presidential bid has already won the endorsement of probable Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, another sign that Paul has gone mainstream and has a legitimate shot at winning the GOP's nomination. The main problem for him: If he wins the GOP nomination, he'll do so not because he's changed the GOP, but because the GOP has changed him. He'll be the Republican nominee for president, no more, no less. And in November 2016, he'll lose.
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Hillary Clinton presents an autographed copy of her book to the Republican-promoted 'HRC squirrel'
Actual scene from Hillary's first debate with the likely GOP 2016 nominee, the RNC Squirrel
Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign is here, reports Amy Chozick of the New York Times, starting with what amounts to "an unofficial listening tour":
In the coming weeks, Hillary Rodham Clinton will stop delivering paid speeches. She will embark on an unofficial listening tour to gather ideas from the business community, union leaders and others. And she will seek advice from such far-flung advisers as an ad man in Austin, Tex., behind the iconic “Don’t Mess With Texas” campaign and a leading strategist at a Boston-based public affairs consulting firm with ties to the Kennedys.
Chozick says that before the results of Tuesday's elections were in, Clinton's team was divided between getting an early start to the campaign or waiting until the spring.
But over the past few days, a consensus formed among those close to Mrs. Clinton that it is time to accelerate her schedule: She faces pressure to resurrect the Democratic Party, and she is already being scrutinized as the party’s presumptive nominee, so advisers see little reason to delay.
Makes sense: In 2007 and 2008, she ran a cautious campaign aimed at projecting inevitability above all else. This time, even if she is in a commanding position, she doesn't want her message to be that she's a foregone conclusion. And now is the time for her to start defining what her campaign will be about.

Meanwhile, Republicans are putting on a happy face, claiming they are giddy about the prospect of facing Hillary in 2016:

“I sure as heck hope we’re running against Hillary Clinton,” Mr. Priebus said at a breakfast with reporters on Friday. “What you just saw on Tuesday night was about as flat of a performance as you could have ever seen from the Democratic Party’s brightest star.”
Uh, sorry Reince. If it seems 2014 was a good election for Republicans, that's because it wasn't a presidential election. Yes, it's true a poll of people who voted on Tuesday said they would have elected Mitt Romney over Clinton, albeit by a narrow 46-45 margin. But before the GOP goes and celebrates the first 2016 poll with Romney leading Hillary, they should maybe consider that it's the exception that proves the rule, because if you simulate the 2016 electorate with that same poll data, Hillary wins by a comfortable 6 points, an 8-point swing.

Bottom line: Priebus can thump his chest all he wants, but being able to beat Hillary Clinton with a midterm electorate does his party no good, because she wasn't running in 2014, she's running in 2016, and in 2016 we're going to have a presidential electorate. That all being said, I do hope that Republicans believe what he's saying, because the more the GOP believes its own spin, the more likely it will be that they nominate a clown like Ted Cruz. And that would be fantastic news, up and down the ticket.

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Republican candidate for president U.S. Representative Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) (C) holds a news conference with Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX) (L) and Representative Steve King (R-IA) (R) to discuss the debt ceiling and military benefits, at the U.S
I'm not always a fan of Politico, but this piece by Alex Isanstadt does highlight what could turn out to be a real problem for House Republicans: They just elected a bunch of wingnuts.

If House Speaker John Boehner can convince them to shut up, the GOP nominates a boring presidential candidate, and 2016 isn't a high turnout presidential election, then the fact that they just elected a class that (in Isanstadt's words) could include "as many as 10 or 20" new congressmen as crazy as Michele Bachmann might not end up being a big problem. Then again, if Boehner were capable of pulling that off, there never would have been a government shutdown in 2013.

Now he's not only got more wingnuts to manage, but Democrats—because they no longer control either chamber of Congress—have even less incentive to bail out Boehner by delivering votes for must-pass legislation. Moreover, given complete Republican control of Congress, the GOP base will expect nonstop wingnuttery from their party.

The good news for Republicans is that they've so heavily gerrymandered the country that they can still hold the House even if they lose a moderate amount of popular support. In 2012, for example, more voters cast ballots for Democratic congressional candidates than Republican candidates, yet thanks to district lines drawn up by Republicans, they still won a majority of seats in the House. The flip side of that is this, however: In a Democratic wave, Republicans are more vulnerable than they would otherwise be because they are spread more thin.

The question is whether a Democratic wave will materialize. That will depend in part on Democrats offering a compelling vision, in part on President Obama delivering as much as he can, and in part on the quality of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. And it also will depend on whether Republicans can keep their crazies in check, and that's something I definitely would not bet on them being able to do.

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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton laughs before delivering remarks on American leadership at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington January 31, 2013. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Hahaha, check out the headline on this Republican National Committee press release:
Hillary's Policies Were On The Ballot
Nice try, guys, but even if we assume that Hillary Clinton's policies are the same as, or at least largely similar to, President Obama's policies, there's a little problem: Neither Hillary Clinton nor President Obama were on any ballots. Moreover, to the extent that actual policy questions were literally on the ballot on Tuesday, voters overwhelmingly preferred the more progressive position. Even in states that elected Republicans, voters approved ballot measures that raised the minimum wage and guaranteed paid sick leave and rejected measures that would have restricted reproductive choice.

Nonetheless, the GOP thinks they can parlay their low-turnout 2014 victory into a 2016 win:

After A Historic Rebuke In Yesterday's Midterms, The Obama-Clinton Policies Will Be On The Ballot Again In 2016
Perhaps, but Republicans had better hope not, because (a) when those policy questions were on the ballot on 2014, they passed and (b) when President Obama himself was on the ballot in 2008 and 2012, he won. The real story about 2016 is that in 2016, more people will vote than voted in 2014. And when more people vote, it's not a good thing for the GOP. So yes, Hillary might be on the ballot. And so might policies that she supports. And both will win.
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President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney talks in the Oval Office following their lunch, Nov. 29, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)..This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication b
Apparently, Pres. Obama should have offered the keys to Mitt Romney after Tuesday's election
Based on the response to President Obama's post-election press conference by the right-wing chatter machine, it appears conservatives think that their victories in Tuesday's low-turnout midterm elections means that President Obama should step aside and hand the White House keys over to Mitt Romney. For example:
Fox News host Sean Hannity asserted that Obama was demonstrating "breathtaking arrogance" during his press conference.
Breathtaking arrogance? Come on, Hannity. It's been six years. You need better code words than that. Other Fox personalities were equally irate, but used different language, such as:
President Obama just doesn't give a damn about last night's election, he's making that very clear.
@KatiePavlich
And:
Dear American voters, President Obama just gave you the middle finger.
@EWErickson
Okay, both of those folks are more creative than Sean Hannity (at least relatively speaking), but they are equally wrong. The reality is that President Obama won the past two elections with a greater percentage of the vote than the winner received in 9 of the previous 15 presidential elections. I know these guys think the fact that Mitch McConnell won reelection by double digits in a red state means Obama should step aside, but the point the president was making yesterday was that he was elected too, by the entire country, and the mere fact that the GOP prevailed in a midterm election doesn't change that.

And you know what? There's nothing wrong with president reminding Republicans, the media, and the country of that fact, because while Republicans had a good election day on Tuesday, that doesn't make the votes that were cast in 2008 or 2012 irrelevant. President Obama is still the president and if Republicans want to put Mitt Romney in the Oval Office, they're going to have to wait until November, 2016.

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First thread and embedded video here.

12:41 PM PT: On Ed Henry's stupid question about why won't Obama admit that has to change direction, Obama starts to answer...and is interrupted by Henry, who clearly wants to create a Fox moment. Obama gives him the "Sit down and shut up" smile and hand wave, and says that he has made changes throughout his presidency, and that saying what specifically needs to change now would be premature without Republicans stating specifically what they want the president to do, and what they are willing to do. Excellent answer, I think—he's shifting the burden over to GOP. No question it sucks to not have a Democratic Senate, but the one silver-lining for him is that he can't be expected to control what the Senate does.

12:44 PM PT: Sam Stein asks about Obamacare and who Obama will nominate to replace Eric Holder. Shorter answer on AG question: "We will announce in due course." On Obamacare: "There are certainly some lines I'm going to draw. Repeal of the law I won't sign. Efforts that will take away health care from the 10 million people who now have it and from millions more who are eligible, we're not going to sign it." Also says he won't support anything that undermines the "essential structure" of Obamacare. But if Republicans want to make "responsible changes to the Affordable Care Act, to make it work better, I'm going to be very receptive to those ideas." He won't, however, undermine it.

12:45 PM PT: "Health care inflation has gone down every single year since the law passed," boasts the president–as he should.

12:46 PM PT: "The individual mandate is a line I can't cross," says Obama, reminding journalists that it comes from Massachusetts, where Mitt Romney signed it into law.

12:48 PM PT: Obama also reminds people that open enrollment for Obamacare is right around the corner—says that they are making sure that the website will work "super well." "The law is working. That doesn't mean it can't be improved."

12:51 PM PT: Major Garrett asks about Mitch McConnell's comment that Republicans would perceive Obama executive action on immigration as "waving a red flag in front of a bull." Obama notes that the Republicans saying that sort of thing are generally against immigration reform of any sort. But he also says that he's held off for as long as possible on taking action to give Boehner a chance to get things done. But the days of him waiting are over. And when does take action, those actions "will not prevent" them from passing a law. Simply put: He's calling the GOP's immigration bluff.

12:56 PM PT: Garrett asked about Keystone XL: "There's an independent process, it's moving forward, I'm going to let it play out." Says "on net" it can't increase climate change for him to support it. Also reminds people that Keystone XL would import oil from Canada instead of producing it domestically. Garrett also asked about medical device tax. Obama doesn't say it's a redline (obviouslyit's not) but also won't say that he'd support it—basically says he wants McConnell and Boehner to tell him.  On overseas tax holiday, Obama says he wants to talk about tax reform more broadly to achieve infrastructure investments.

1:00 PM PT: Jim Acosta, of CNN, who said before the press conference that he wanted to assess Obama's "physical" state, says it's a fact that Democratic candidates "rejected" Obama, and wonders what he thinks about it. Unfortunately, Obama can't say what I'd like to hear, which is that a lot of the candidates who rejected him were the candidates who lost. Acosta also asks Obama about being a lame duck. Obama says he's going to spend the next two years doing everything he can to make this country a better place. "I'm going to be pretty busy for the next two years," and "Everybody I'm going to filling up my time thinking about how I can make their lives better."

1:12 PM PT: Final question is about Democratic messaging. Obama says the party is still trying to do a better job of expressing who Democrats are and what they stand for. He talks about the two-thirds of people who didn't vote and how important it is to break through to them.

Obama wraps up: "I'll close with what I began with: I'm really optimistic about America." Ticks off a litany of strengths that America has, but says he's concerned about stagnant income growth for middle-class Americans. Ends by saying "This is just an extraordinary country" and that America is "the greatest" country on Earth. Surely, this will outrage Republicans—for his failure to describe America as "exceptional." I kid, I kid...mostly.

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