Deadline points out that this pilot season has been a great one for non-American actors. It seems worth noting that the geographic diversity they’ve pointed out contains, as far as I can tell, zero racial diversity. I’d be much more intrigued by and excited for a trend of American shows and movies tapping non-American actors if they were bringing in new talent, and new experience, from, say, India. Or China. Or Iran. Or Egypt. Or from non-white European communities. Substituting one set of white actors for another isn’t really a sign that television’s changing.
Paul Carroll, an 86-year-old World War II veteran who has lived in the same Ohio town for four decades, was denied a chance to vote in the state’s primary contests today after a poll worker denied his form of identification, a recently-acquired photo ID from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The poll worker rejected the ID because it did not contain an address, as required by Ohio law.
Carroll told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that he got the ID from the VA after his driver’s license expired because he doesn’t drive anymore:
“My beef is that I had to pay a driver to take me up there because I don’t walk so well and have to use this cane and now I can’t even vote,” said Paul Carroll, 86, who has lived in Aurora nearly 40 years, running his own business, Carroll Tire, until 1975.
“I had to stop driving, but I got the photo ID from the Veterans Affairs instead, just a month or so ago. You would think that would count for something. I went to war for this country, but now I can’t vote in this country.”
A local Veterans Affairs employee told the Plain Dealer that the decision not to include the address was likely made at the federal level, and because VA IDs are accepted at any location, “the actual address of a veteran isn’t as critical to us.” Carroll was offered a provisional ballot, but the type was too small for him to read and “I was kind of perturbed by then,” he said.
Republicans across the country have pushed voter ID laws to address a voter fraud “problem” that rarely, if ever, exists. Multiple laws have been challenged in court over claims that they disenfranchise voters, particularly minorities and the elderly. Carroll’s story isn’t altogether unique — Tennessee voter authorities denied a 96-year-old woman a voter ID last year because she didn’t have an original copy of her marriage license.
Republican Murkowski Slams Limbaugh: ‘Just Wrong’ | Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) condemned Rush Limbaugh’s attacks on Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke today, and said she is disappointed that more Republican and Democratic leaders haven’t spoken out. Murkowski, who today said that she would take back her vote on the Blunt Amendment if given a chance, said Limbaugh’s comments contribute “to this sense that women’s health rights are being attacked.” “What he said was just wrong. Just wrong,” she told TPM, adding, “In the end, I’m a little bit disappointed that there hasn’t been greater condemnation of his words by people in leadership positions.” She said she was “stunned” by the comments, but given Limabugh’s long record of attacking and belittling women, it should come as no surprise.
But Romney’s disregard for the facts was noticed not just in Washington. Former Israeli Mossad director Efraim Halevy said that Romney’s militaristic talk could induce the Iranians to rush to acquire nuclear weapons in order to deter an attack if the former Massachusetts governor were to assume the presidency in January 2013. Halevy warned that Romney is effectively “telling the Iranians, ‘You better be quick about it,’” in an interview with the Huffington Post. Halevy explained:
If I’m sitting here in the month of March 2012 reading this, and I’m an Iranian leader, what do I understand? I have nine more months to run as fast as I can because this is going to be terrible if the other guys get in.
Halevy went on to observe, “In the effort to demolish the president [Romney] is making the situation worse.”
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said an attack would only delay Iran’s nuclear program and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey warned that military action “could carry unforeseen risks.”
The bellicose rhetoric of the campaign trail, which often incorporates accusations that Obama has been insufficiently protective of Israel’s security in the face of an Iranian nuclear threat, has stood in stark contrast to the messages coming out of Israel’s intelligence and security communities. Indeed, the IAEA has expressed concerns about possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program but neither U.N. nuclear inspectors nor U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that Iran has restarted its nuclear weapons program.
In February, former Israeli intelligence chief Meir Dagan disagreed with the characerization of Iran as an “existential threat” to Israel and current Israeli intelligence chief Tamir Pardo reportedly told a gathering of Israeli ambassadors in December that Iran doesn’t pose an “existential threat” and “the term existential threat is used too freely.”
Also in February, Israeli Lt. Gen. Amnon Lipkin-Shahak reported that the Israeli military’s leadership doesn’t support a strike on Iran and the AP disclosed that Israel’s incoming air force chief Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel is “less enthusiastic about a possible attack on Iran” than the current air force chief, according to defense officials.
The White House also noticed Romney’s efforts to beat the war drums. Speaking today, Obama challenged Iran-hawks to “explain to the American people exactly why [we should launch a war] and what the consequences would be.” A growing number of defense and intelligence elites in Israel seem to think the costs of war with Iran far outweigh the consequences to the Jewish state.
With the housing crisis still acting as a drag on the nation’s economic recovery, the White House announced a plan today to assist struggling homeowners and address improper foreclosures. The plan, which requires no Congressional action, will reduce refinancing fees for homeowners with government-backed loans, but the plan’s major focus was on helping military veterans who were the victims of foreclosure fraud, predatory mortgage practices, and other improper foreclosures.
Obama outlined the proposals at a press briefing today, where he called it “unconscionable” that military members were among the worst victims of the foreclosure crisis and the fraudulent practices from Wall Street banks that have occurred during it:
We are going to do this on our own. We don’t need congressional authorization to do it. [...] It is unconscionable that members of our armed forces and their families have been some of those most susceptible to losing their homes through the actions of unscrupulous banks and housing lenders.
In 2010, more than 20,000 active-duty veterans and reservists with government-sponsored mortgages lost their homes, a 32-percent increase from 2008 and the largest loss since 2003. The number could have been worse were it not for Veterans Administration programs that helped 66,000 military families avoid foreclosure in 2010.
Even worse, military members are often victims of foreclosure fraud. In November, federal regulators released data showing that more than 5,000 military members may have been illegally foreclosed upon by the nation’s 10 largest banks, and veterans continue to battle banks to stay in their homes on a daily basis.
Obama’s plan seeks to remedy those problems by providing relief to members who sold their homes at a loss due to a permanent change in station, and provides $10 billion from mortgage servicers to bolster the Veterans Housing Benefits Program. It also draws on the recent mortgage fraud settlement between the government and major lenders to force banks to compensate servicemembers who were improperly foreclosed upon by paying lost equity, plus interest, and $116,785.
In addition to the programs announced today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been tasked with making sure military members are treated fairly by financial services institutions, while New York Attorney General Eric Schniederman has launched an investigation into potentially illegal foreclosure practices involving veterans.
Georgia Senate Votes To Ban Undocumented Immigrants From Attending State Colleges | The Georgia Senate passed a bill 34-19 that would ban undocumented immigrants from attending any of Georgia’s 60 public colleges, even though state college officials have already said the bill is unnecessary. The measure now goes to the House for consideration, where another bill targeting undocumented immigrants and public colleges has not yet passed out of committee. Federal law does not prevent undocumented immigrants from attending public colleges. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency wrote in 2008 that “individual states must decide for themselves whether or not to admit illegal aliens into their public postsecondary institutions.”
By Tom Kenworthy, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress Action Fund
Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) is only in his first term as a member of the U.S. House. But he’s already collected nearly a quarter of a million dollars in campaign contributions from oil and gas interests. It’s by far the number one industry that supports his budding political career.
Little surprise then, that Gardner is a reliable Capitol Hill ally for big oil. Little surprise either, that in serving the oil and gas industry agenda, he gets his facts wrong, as the Denver Post recently reported.
This week, he stepped up to the petroleum plate again, saying he’s introducing legislation to link any sales of our emergency oil supply from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to increases in oil and gas leases on federal lands. Sell five percent of the oil in the reserve, said Gardner, and the Obama administration must draw up a plan to increase the amount of federal lands that are leased by five percent. That five percent would mean leasing nearly another two million acres of public land on top of the 38 million acres already under lease.
Apparently with a straight face, Gardner characterized his bill as something other than a blatant give-away to Big Oil:
This bill is about achieving energy independence and keeping prices at the pump affordable
Give Gardner credit. He makes it hard to know where to start the rebutting and fact-checking.
One might begin with the fact that in a recent report on domestic onshore oil and gas production, the Interior Department found that nearly three-fifths of the federal onshore acreage leased to the oil and gas industry was sitting idle and undeveloped. Surely it then makes sense to give them more when they’ve got leases on nearly 22 million acres they have yet to drill.
Or, consider where the drill rigs already are: in the U.S. As recently reported by Michael Conathan, CAP’s Director of Ocean Policy, the number of rigs operating in the U.S. has quadrupled since President Obama took office, and we’ve got more oil rigs at work now than in the rest of the world combined.
All that drilling activity and increased U.S. production – now at an eight year high — hasn’t lowered gasoline prices here, and it won’t. As Conathan pointed out, gasoline supply is dependent on refining capacity more than oil supply, and oil is a global commodity.
Taking the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as a hostage to Republican talking points has now infected both the House and Senate. Last month, several members of the Senate introduced legislation that would prevent President Obama from selling reserve oil unless his administration approves the Keystone XL Pipeline that would bring dirty tar sands crude from Canada to the U.S.
I was looking through the acting nominations for the Comedy Awards, and it really struck me that in a lot of ways, 2011 was a richer year for women in comedy than it was for men.
In movies, Jason Bateman got a nod for Horrible Bosses, Steve Carell was nominated for Crazy, Stupid, Love, Jean Dujardin was tapped for The Artist, Zach Galifianakis for The Hangover Part II, and Owen Wilson for Midnight in Paris. None of these are particularly innovative roles, and all of them (except Dujardin, whose range I don’t really know) fall pretty squarely within these actors’ existing ranges: Bateman is a tense straight man, Carell is sympathetic and slightly clueless, Galifianakis is disconcerting and wild, and Wilson is winsome. There are a few things that I think were left off this list—I’ll defend The Trip until I run out of breath, Patton Oswalt was great and under-recognized for Young Adult, and I’m not really sure why 50/50, which was nominated elsewhere, didn’t score acting nods—but I can’t think of a performance by a man that’s not here that was a revelation. Ditto in TV, which was dominated by utterly predictable nods for Alec Baldwin in 30 Rock, Ty Burrell in Modern Family, Steve Carell in The Office, and Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm. I’m glad to see Louis C.K. in there—his performance in Louie was arguably my favorite thing on television in 2011. But it’s not like he has a lot of peers.
For women, on the other hand, the nominations are actually a lot of fun. I didn’t love Horrible Bosses, but seeing Jennifer Aniston get totally raunchy and ridiculous was a fun stretch for her. Ditto for Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher—depending on how she takes her career next, she could leave horrid romantic comedies behind and steer more in the direction of Charlize Theron in Young Adult, who really ought to be here. Melissa McCarthy was a miracle in Bridesmaids, and Kristen Wiig and Rose Byrne, who had an utterly breakout performance in that film also could have easily been nominated. Television has its predictable notes—Tina Fey, for a deeply uninspired season of 30 Rock and Sofia Vergara for Modern Family. But you’ve got Zooey Deschanel in there for a debut performance in New Girl, and Maya Rudolph could easily be there for Up All Night, along with Laura Dern in Enlightened, Kat Dennings or Beth Behrs in 2 Broke Girls (that show’s massive flaws are not their fault), any of the women in Community‘s cast or Eliza Coupe or Elisha Cuthbert in Happy Endings.
And if Whitney or Are You There, Chelsea? had been less terrible, and we’d fulfilled all the potential of the lady comedy boom, this could have been an even more crowded field. I may not be equally addicted to every female comedy performance on the market these days. But it seems like there’s a lot of space available for new actresses to enter the field, and for actresses with existing track records to step out of their comfort zones. If those conditions persist, that’s a recipe for an embarrassment of riches.
POLL: Texas Voters Want The State To Keep Funding Planned Parenthood | Fifty-nine percent of Texas voters oppose a new rule that cuts off funds from the joint state-federal Women’s Health Program to Planned Parenthood, while 38 percent of voters approve of it, according to a new survey from Public Policy Polling. About 130,000 women could lose their access to affordable health care because of this measure, which Texas Health Commissioner Tom Suehs approved in February. “Texas voters are sending a clear message to Governor Perry: they think the Women’s Health Program is important and that he should leave it alone,” wrote Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling.