The two Daniels.

On this week's episode of A Movie & An Argument, With Alyssa Rosenberg & Asawin Suebsaeng, we discuss (scroll down for audio):

  • Skyfall, the new James Bond movie, directed by Sam Mendes, with Daniel Craig reprising the lead role.
  • Lincoln, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day-Lewis as the 16th President of the United States.


DreamWorks Studios
150 minutes

Spoiler alert: He dies at the end.

You can thank me later for spoiling the ending and therefore hopefully zapping your desire to see the movie. If that is the case, I've prevented you from blowing 10 dollars on this listless, heaving waste of cinema space.

For a figure so towering, so revered and reviled as Abraham Lincoln, the bar for a great biopic is almost unreachably high. But this particular Lincoln had Pulitzer Prize-winning Tony Kushner signed on as screenwriter. It's based on (also Pulitzer Prize-winning) historian Doris Kearns Goodwin's 2005 book Team of Rivals. Instead of documenting Lincoln's entire life, the movie zeroes in on a handful of months leading up to the hard-won passage of the 13th Amendment, the Civil War's end, and the president's assassination. The large cast includes Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, Sally Fields, Jackie Earle Haley, James Spader, and pretty much every other estimable actor working in Hollywood today and their mothers. Also, Steven Spielberg is directing. (Say what you want about his recent, franchise-ruining output; he's still the man who helmed this, this, and this.)

The sheer amount of talent invested in Lincoln only serves to underscore and exacerbate the film's epic fail.

 Thunderstorms over Brazil: NASA astronaut photos via Wikimedia Commons

Thunderstorms over Brazil: NASA astronaut photos via Wikimedia Commons

More than two dozen major climate models are being used to forecast global warming from rising greenhouse gas emissions—notably how much warming will occur when atmospheric carbon dioxide doubles from preindustrial times. At current rates that unhappy milestone will be reached well before 2100. So which models are more accurate?

"Because we have more reliable observations for humidity than for clouds, we can use the humidity patterns that change seasonally to evaluate climate models," says co-author Kevin Trenberth.

For decades the leading models have predicted an average rise of 5 degrees Fahrenheit (2.7 degrees Celsius), with models on the low end predicting a rise of 3 degrees F (~1.6 degrees C) and those on the high end predicting 8 degrees F (5.3 degrees C). Now a new analysis in the leading journal Science suggests that the higher end forecasts are more accurate.

Why? Moisture has a lot to do with it. Clouds, well, they cloud the picture. Satellites observe clouds. But satellite failures, observing errors, and other inconsistencies make it difficult to build a global cloud census consistent over many years. A better measure is water vapor. Satellite estimates of the global distribution of humidity have become more reliable than their estimates of clouds.

Relative humidity is incorporated in climate models to generate and dissipate clouds. So the authors checked the distribution of relative humidity in 16 leading climate models to see how accurately they portray the present climate. They focused on the subtropics, the places where sinking air from the tropics make dry zones, home to most of the world's major deserts.



What they found was that estimates based on observations show relative humidity in the dry zones between about 15 and 25 percent. Whereas many models inaccurately depict humidities of 30 percent or higher. Less humidity equals fewer clouds equals less albedo to reflect sunlight back into space, hence more warming.

The models that best captured the actual dryness currently seen in the subtropics were those with the highest temperature forecasts. Specifically those projecting a global temperature rise of more than 7 degrees F (3.8 degrees C) by the time of doubled C02 levels. The three models with the lowest temperature forecasts were also the least accurate in depicting relative humidity in these zones.

The paper:

A quick look at the week that was in the world of political dark money...

the money shot


quote of the week

"The billionaire donors I hear are livid. There is some holy hell to pay."
—A Republican operative speaking to the Huffington Post about Karl Rove, who "has a lot of explaining to do." Rove's super-PAC American Crossroads and dark-money group Crossroads GPS spent at least $175 million, but just nine of the 30 candidates that Crossroads supported won. Rove, who claimed that Obama won reelection "by supressing the vote" and with the help of Hurricane Sandy, reportedly held a phone briefing with top donors on Thursday to explain Crossroads' lack of success.


chart of the week

Rove wasn't the only operative with a lot of explaining to do. Other conservative super-PACs and dark-money groups that spent a lot did not see great results at the ballot box. Meanwhile, some smaller liberal and labor groups saw respectable returns on their investments.


stat of the week

More than $57 million: The amount of disclosed donations from casino magnate and Gingrich-Romney supporter Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam. The Adelsons' money got more mileage than Rove's, but about 58 percent of the candidates it supported still lost. Asked by a Norwegian journalist how he thought his money had been spent, Adelson replied, "Paying bills. That's how you spend money. Either that or become a Jewish husband—you spend a lot of money."


attack ad of the week

Conservative super-PACs had the clear money advantage throughout the 2012 election, but in the end it was an ad from the pro-Obama super-PAC Priorities USA Action that became the most effective campaign spot, according to TV analytics company Ace Metrix. The ad, "Stage," was part of a nine-spot, $50 million buy in contested states hitting Romney's record at Bain Capital. During the campaign, Republican pollster Frank Luntz told the Huffington Post's Howard Fineman that "that ad alone has killed Mitt Romney in Ohio."


more mojo dark-money coverage

Will Republican Mega-Donors Say Sayonara to Super-PACs? Liberal bankrollers soured on partisan politics after the 2004 elections. Will Adelson and co. follow suit after 2012?
Sen. Sherrod Brown Fights Off the Dark-Money Machine to Win in Ohio: Brown's win puts Democrats that much closer to keeping their slim Senate majority.
Sheldon Adelson Is Partying With Mitt Romney on Election Night: It's the least Adelson could expect for his $53 million in pro-GOP donations this election cycle.
9 Incredible Campaign Money Stats: Some quick Election Day stats on Super-PACs, dark money, and…Justin Bieber?!
California's Biggest "Campaign Money Laundering" Scheme, Revealed—Kinda: A bitter fight in California to unmask a secretive donor ends with more questions than answers.
Charts: How Much Have the Kochs Spent to Sway the Vote?: See how much the billionaire brothers have spent in your state—and why the size of their campaign to beat Obama is a mystery.
A Dark Money Group's Sketchy Origins Emerge: More details trickle out about the big donors behind a Montana-based nonprofit that's fighting election spending limits.


more must-reads

• Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock, who unsuccessfully challenged the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, was elected governor despite a last-minute outside-money assault. Center for Public Integrity
• The US Chamber of Commerce was another major outside-spending loser this election. Washington Post
• And Sheldon Adelson wasn't the only megadonor to back a score of losing candidates. Center for Public Integrity
• Even the anti-incumbent super-PAC Campaign for Primary Accountability had better luck than Karl Rove on Tuesday. Slate

What Are You Looking At?: The Surprising, Shocking, and Sometimes Strange Story of 150 Years of Modern Art

By Will Gompertz


If you've ever wandered into a contemporary art gallery with hope and left with a headache, BBC arts editor Will Gompertz may be your savior. His funny, straight-talking guide to the past 150 years of modernism contextualizes lofty art-speak—neo-plasticism?—using colorful anecdotes, Monty Python and Spice Girls references, and a master's grasp of history. He's not afraid to call bollocks on the art world, either. From Marcel Duchamp's famed urinal to Damien Hirst's dead shark, this book is an engaging tour of art's most radical innovations.

This review originally appeared in our November/December issue of Mother Jones.

Losing a couple of elections in a row to a radical socialist can apparently make your life flash before your eyes. Here is Sean Hannity on immigration:

We’ve got to get rid of the immigration issue altogether. It’s simple to me to fix it. I think you control the border first. You create a pathway for those people that are here. You don’t say you’ve got to go home. And that is a position that I’ve evolved on. Because, you know what, it’s got to be resolved. The majority of people here, if some people have criminal records you can send them home, but if people are here, law-abiding, participating for years, their kids are born here, you know, it’s first secure the border, pathway to citizenship, done, whatever little penalties you want to put in there, if you want, and it’s done.

That's a mighty quick evolution! But Matt Yglesias wrote a sharp column yesterday pointing out that a quick pivot on immigration won't be enough to solve the GOP's problem with Hispanics:

The reality is that the rot cuts much deeper. The GOP doesn’t have a problem with Latino voters per se. Rather, it has a problem with a broad spectrum of voters who simply don’t feel that it’s speaking to their economic concerns. The GOP has an economic agenda tilted strongly to the benefit of elites, and it has preserved support for that agenda—even though it disserves the majority of GOP voters—with implicit racial politics.

Consider the GOP’s deeply racialized campaign against Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. What was so surprising about this—and I know I’m not the only fair-skinned English-dominant person with a Spanish surname who was genuinely shocked—was that conservatives could have easily opposed her purely on policy grounds. Sotomayor is a fairly conventional Democrat on constitutional issues, and that would have been ample reason for conservatives to criticize her. Indeed, Justice Elena Kagan was attacked on precisely those grounds. But rather than tempering opposition with at least some recognition that Sotomayor’s life story might be a great example for immigrant parents trying to raise children in difficult circumstances, the country was treated to a mass racial panic in which Anglo America was about to be stomped by the boot of Sotomayor’s ethnic prejudice. The graduate of Princeton and Yale Law, former prosecutor, and longtime federal judge was somehow not just too liberal for conservatives’ taste but a “lightweight” who’d been coasting her whole life on the enormous privilege of growing up poor in the South Bronx.

I know they don't want to hear this, and I know that a lot of Republicans are deeply invested in a belief that liberals, not conservatives, are the real racial scaremongers. And I also know that it's almost impossible to talk about this because even the slightest suggestion of racial hostility is instantly toxic.

But as Bernie Goldberg admitted earlier this year, "There is a strain of bigotry — and that's the word I want to use — running through conservative America....That has to leave the conservative movement....I am sick of it." He's right. Lightening up on immigration won't be enough. Like it or not, conservatives are going to need a much more thorough housecleaning if they want to survive in an increasingly diverse future. No more gratuitous ethnic mockery. No more pretense that reverse racism is the real racism. No more suggestions that minorities just want a handout. No more screeching about the incipient threat of Sharia law. No more saturation coverage of the pathetic New Black Panthers. No more complaining that blacks get to use the N word but whites don't. No more summers of hate on Fox News. No more tolerance for Dinesh D'Souza and his "roots of Obama's rage" schtick; or for Glenn Beck saying Obama has a "deep-seated hatred of white people"; or for Rush Limbaugh claiming that "Obama's entire economic program is reparations." No more jeering at the mere concept of "diversity." And no more too-clever-by-half attempts to say all this stuff without really saying it, and then pretending to be shocked when you're called on it. Pretending might make you feel virtuous, but it doesn't fool anyone and it won't win you any new supporters.

That's just a start. One way or another, the Republican Party simply has to stamp this out. And not just because they need to do it to survive, but because it's the right thing to do. That still counts, doesn't it?

Not that it matters much, but one of the questions lingering after President Obama's decisive victory on Tuesday is this: did Team Romney believe its own bullshit?

Dana Liebelson notes that there were several signs of profound denial emanating from the Romney camp in the waning hours. Which might explain declarations made by top Romneyites in the closing days. 

About forty-eight hours before the polls would open, Rich Beeson, the political director for Camp Romney, said the following on—where else?—Fox News:

There’s an intensity factor out there on the side of the Republicans, that is a significant gap and we see it out on the ground, we see it when people are knocking on the doors, we see it when people are making the phone calls and again, it gets back to the simple fact that Governor Romney is out there talking about big things and big change, not about small things and so I think as we start seeing returns coming in from New Hampshire, from southeastern Pennsylvania, from northern Virginia, from Cuyahoga County in Ohio, I think it is going to become pretty clear that there is going to be a widespread repudiation of the Obama administration, and, Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan will be elected the next President and Vice President of the United States. And I don’t think we’ll have to wait very long to know that.

In case any reporters missed it, the Romney campaign rushed out the statement in a press release.

On the morning of Election Day, senior Romney adviser Ed Gillespie went on—where else?—Fox News and said:

[Romney's] got momentum here on election day. And I think that's why he's going to win tonight, not just win, but win decisively. I don't think there’s going to be any doubt at the end of tonight who the next president is going to be.

And the campaign zapped out another press release.

It would be interesting to know—if Gillespie or Beeson would ever be so candid—whether these two top Romneyites (and their comrades) really bought this. Or were they merely putting out baseless spin because….well, because that's what they do? For weeks, the Romney campaign had peddled the myth of Mittmentum. Was that a cynical ploy or an act of self-delusion? Either answer is hardly flattering.

By the way, if you didn't see it, check out this list of pundit-predictions-gone-bad. One of the best—or worst—comes from Newt Gingrich. In late October, he said on—where else?—Fox News, "I believe the minimum result will be 53-47 [percent] Romney, over 300 electoral votes, and the Republicans will pick up the Senate. I base that just on years and years of experience.” Yes, years and years.

And a sad-and-funny account of excessive Romney GOTV fecklessness written after the election by a discouraged Romney volunteer may be useful in assessing whether Romney and his strategists (and their pundit backers) had any idea what was happening on the ground—that is, in the real world.

A video posted today by the Obama campaign shows the president tearing up while thanking staff and volunteers. He tells the crowd of twenty-somethings: "You're smarter [than me], you're better organized, you're more effective. So I'm absolutely confident that all of you are going to do just amazing things in your lives." 

Watch here:

Here is the most depressing thing I've read today:

Seven minutes into the first presidential debate, the mood turned from tense to grim inside the room at the University of Denver where Obama staff members were following the encounter....“We are getting bombed on Twitter,” announced Stephanie Cutter, a deputy campaign manager, while tracking the early postings by political analysts and journalists whom the Obama campaign viewed as critical in setting debate perceptions.

....Mr. Obama, who had dismissed warnings about being caught off guard in the debate, told his advisers that he would now accept and deploy the prewritten attack lines that he had sniffed at earlier. “If I give up a couple of points of likability and come across as snarky, so be it,” Mr. Obama told his staff.

I understand the political realities as well as anyone. But the idea that the President of the United States was forced to respond to poor reviews on Twitter (!) by promising to memorize attack zingers is pretty deflating. I know this is actually perfectly rational under the circumstances, but I still hate having my nose rubbed in how dumb our political discourse makes us sometimes.

And speaking of that, have I mentioned before that I've always felt kind of sorry for Mitt Romney? Aside from the fact that he's rather more comfortable with transparent lies than I am, he actually seems like a decent guy with decent instincts. Sure, he wanted to be president really, really badly, but lots of people want to be president a little too eagerly for comfort. It's an occupational hazard of the office. Unfortunately for Romney, he happened to want to be president in an era when the Republican base forced him to embrace lunacy in order to win their support. So he did what any good businessman would do: he gave the customers what they wanted. And lost.

But you know what? It was a close election. Obama really was vulnerable. And even granting that Romney is a pretty stiff campaigner, I'll bet that if he'd run as the same center-right guy who was governor of Massachusetts for four years, he would have won. After all, there were obviously a lot of people out there who were looking for a moderate, competent alternative to Obama, and if Romney had been allowed to campaign as that kind of candidate for four years instead of just the final four weeks, does anyone really think he wouldn't have been able to attract another percentage point or two in the key swing states?

If you spent much time on over the last few days you probably noticed our homepage looked a little different than usual. Election Day was a culminating event for the reporters and editors here, who've been busting their humps to cover the long-running campaign, from the GOP primary circus to the conventions to the voter suppression tactics and problems at polling places on Tuesday. So we went big and splashed the homepage with a touch of tabloid—including a moment of particular pride around here, after Obama officially clinched 47 percent of the vote and then some. You can see all our headlines from Election Day, starting with "Endless Lines" and proceeding in chronological order, in the GIF below. Thanks for spending this election cycle with us. You guys are the best.

mother jones home page election day