Friday, January 18, 2013

News Nuggets 1157

DAYLEE PICTURE: River otters on the Shetland Islands in the UK.  From National Geographic.

There's More to Life Than Being Happy ( Emily Esfahani Smith) from the Atlantic
"... researchers found that a meaningful life and happy life overlap in certain ways, but are ultimately very different. Leading a happy life, the psychologists found, is associated with being a "taker" while leading a meaningful life corresponds with being a "giver.""

Obama's Gun Pulpit (Adam Gopnik) from the New Yorker
A powerful statement about what it will take to cause a change in the gun laws that cuts to the core of why it must be done!  Read the whole thing! 
"Good and great causes don’t advance without resistance. First the thing is impossible, then improbable, then unsatisfactorily achieved, then quietly improved, until one day it is actual and uncontroversial. So it was with putting military weapons into the hands of openly homosexual soldiers, and so it shall be with taking military weapons out of the hands of crazy people. It starts off impossible and it ends up done."

The Big Three: Obama’s Top Priorities For His Second Term from Talking Points Memo
"Guns. Immigration. Climate Change."
And destroying the Tea Party caucus in the House...

Obama’s Gun Proposals are a Matter of Life and Death (Eugene Robinson) from the Washington Post
"Don’t listen to those who say that Obama should have begun more modestly, perhaps with the centerpiece being universal background checks for gun purchases. Obama was right to go big. He was right to ask Congress not only for universal background checks but also for a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines — measures that the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) abhors."

NRA's Paranoid Fantasy Flouts Democracy (Paul Waldman) from CNN
"... many would say that their "right" to own any and every kind of firearm they please is the only thing that guarantees that tyranny won't come to the United States. Well, guess what: They're wrong. In today's world, most tyrants aren't overthrown by an armed populace. Nonviolent revolutions can result in a quick transition to democracy, while violent insurrections often result in long and bloody civil wars. And here in America, it isn't 1776, and it won't ever be again."

Hannity, Shapiro, and the Politics of Situational Patriotism (Anson Kaye) from US News and World Report
"... after decades of positioning government as the enemy, the more recent rise of Tea Party populism, and the prospects of a two-term Democratic president, some on the right find themselves in rather a different place. Instead of impugning the loyalties of others for their perceived lack of patriotism, they are left to employ a sort of situational patriotism all their own."

Obama in Strong Position at Start of Second Term; Support for Compromise Rises, Except Among Republicans from the Pew Research Center
"His personal favorability, currently 59%, has rebounded from a low of 50% in the fall campaign. And increasing percentages describe him as a strong leader, able to get things done and as someone who stands up for his beliefs." ... Meanwhile, the Republican Party's image, "which reached a recent high of 42% favorable following the GOP convention this past summer, has fallen once again to a low of just 33%. Much of this decline has come among Republicans themselves."

The Endangered GOP House Majority? (Steve Kornacki) from Salon
"2014 will be a tough lift for Dems, but they may be closer than you think to winning back complete control of DC."

The House GOP’s Intentional-Losing Strategy (Jonathan Chait) from New York Magazine
"The next such event is the debt ceiling vote. This seems like the perfect setup for another let’s-forget-the–Hastert Rule vote. Republican elites are increasingly coalescing around the view that they just have to raise the thing."

In the same vein:
No Votes Disguise Yes Sympathies for Some in G.O.P. (Ashley Parker) from the New York Times
"House Republicans have their Tea Party Caucus. They have their G.O.P. Doctors Caucus. And, joining the list of varied special interest caucuses, they recently picked up another influential but much more unofficial group — the Vote No/Hope Yes Caucus."

And another:
A New Strategy for the GOP (Charles Krauthammer) from the Washington Post 
"In reality, Republicans have a broad consensus on what they believe, where want to go and the program to get them there. But they don’t have the power. What divides Republicans today is a straightforward tactical question: Can you govern from one house of Congress? Should you even try?"
There's a lot more missing from the GOP than Krauthammer cares to admit.  They don't have the power (thank God) but they also don't have either the candor to say precisely which programs they will cut or the courage to genuinely campaign on such specifics.  It's almost like they want the Democrats to propose cutting Democratic programs -- so that, what, they have more political cover!?  I don't know.

Republicans Worry They’ll Lose House if They Botch Debt Talks (Alexandra Jaffe) from The Hill
"Even as Republican officials maintain the GOP majority is safe, several lawmakers and longtime activists warn of far-reaching political ramifications if voters perceive Republicans as botching consequential talks on the debt ceiling, sequestration and a possible government shutdown."

House Republicans Using Retreat as Chance for Self-reflection from the Washington Post
"Although there was some urgency for a change, the consensus was that the change was about how to communicate, not about rethinking core policy positions."
Thus virtually guaranteeing that whatever comes out of this retreat will make no difference.

Ten Takeaways from the GOP Retreat (Robert Costa & Andrew Stiles) from National Review
"As the next series of legislative battles nears, House GOP leaders are asking Republicans to stick together, especially after the internal clashes during the fiscal-cliff debate. Speaker John Boehner, for his part, has been a low-key presence. “He has been sitting back and listening,” says a Republican member. “He wants us to think more and fight less.” Here are ten takeaways."

Why President Obama Might Choose to Lose on Guns (Glenn Thrush) from Politico
"For one of the few instances in his presidency, he now appears willing to burn political capital by pressuring Senate Democrats to vote for a measure that is likely to die in the House, a symbolic victory that sets the stage, he hopes, for more meaningful ones."

Joe Biden, the Listener (Michelle Cottle) from Newsweek
"Yes, Joe Biden is gregarious. But he’s a lot more complicated than his public persona—and brings great assets to the administration as the president’s ‘wing man.’ Michelle Cottle on the veep’s value in Newsweek."

Defending Democracy by Teaching History (Jeremi Suri) from Real Clear Politics
"The National Association of Scholars standard would demand a simple and one-sided history of just a few people. What we are teaching as historians, in almost all of our courses, is a plural history of how many different people and parts of America relate to one another. What we are teaching is the beauty, the color, the promise, and also the challenge of contemporary America."
Like Suri, I too am a historian and college professor. I agree with much of what Suri says -- BUT given how much US history has been cut down and minimized both in public schools and in higher ed I have sadly concluded that there needs to be some kind of return to traditional political history -- but done through a critical lens as the author suggests.  Somewhere in the last thirty plus years history's fundamental connection with basic civics (what it means to be an informed and critical voter) has been lost.  In my view, we are now working on our second generation (those young people now entering college) who know virtually nothing about US history -- especially recent US history.  I say the second generation because these young people come from parents (people of my generation) who are usually equally uninformed.  They get their understanding of US history, our constitution, the proper "lessons" of history largely from talk radio, cable news stations, and what their friends tell them. Unless young people are lucky enough to take a good, rigorous US history course after high school, the opportunities in later life for them to become grounded are rare.  As currently configured, our educational system and its priorities will simply pump out citizens who are disengaged, apathetic, cynical and misinformed.  One other thing about the people coming out of this system: some of them are quite angry.  Where I teach (Carnegie Mellon University), we get OUTSTANDING students.  No two ways about it.  These kids work hard and they're here because they have spent years pushing themselves very hard.  And YET, even here, most students know very little US history.  One difference though is that (for some) they KNOW it -- and they feel cheated out of something essential -- and they are upset!  As they should be.  As should we all.

At 38 million hits, I may be one of the last people on the planet who missed this hilarious video parody of Gangnam Style!!

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