Daily Digest: State(s) of the Union, state of the world, 2nd amendnment solutions, Oscar nods

Mike Mullen

– Last night President Obama gave the State of the Union to a sold-out crowd at the U.S. Capitol. The phrase that seems to be capturing everyone’s attention, and might stick around a while, is Obama’s pledge for America to “win the future.” (Come on, man, we already won the past. Let’s let someone else have the future.) Obama’s plan for this includes increases in funding for research in new energy sources, technology, and education, while proposing a spending freeze across several domestic programs which he asserted would save $400 billion over ten years. (As if any of us will be alive by then.)  The official Republican response came from Wisconsin representative Paul Ryan, who borrowed a ten-year-old phrase from Malcolm Gladwell when he said, “Our nation is approaching a tipping point. We are at a moment, where if government’s growth is left unchecked and unchallenged, America’s best century will be considered our past century.” Meanwhile Minnesota’s Michele Bachmann gave the Tea Party response, but her message — “For two years, President Obama made promises, just like the ones we heard him make this evening, yet still we have high unemployment, devalued housing prices, and the cost of gasoline is skyrocketing” — seems to have been lost by something of a technical mishap. Bachmann appears to be looking just left of the camera, as if she’s reading from something, or looking into a separate camera. For the full effect, you just have to lean left, close one eye, and squint with the other, and you’ll be just fine. According to Politico, when Obama’s adviser David Axelrod went on for an interview with MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, he asked, “Am I looking into the right camera?” Axe! For the win!

– Pretty bad news for people who like democracy and information: the BBC’s World Service is cutting 650 jobs. Small deal? Big deal: the fallout is that 30 million (!) fewer people will have access to the station. Included in affected areas are some of the world’s hot spots for anti-democratic and violent news: Serbia, Albania, Ukraine and China. Here’s the Guardian, quoting BBC’s global news director Peter Horrocks: “His voice cracking with emotion, Horrocks told staff: ‘There is no doubt the period ahead is going to be difficult and sad both personally and professionally for everyone in the World Service. I know it won’t be easy for you to go back to your jobs and carry on today but I know that you will be professional as you have been all along and make sure our audiences get the service they deserve.'” For some of those listeners — both American and English ex-pats and to those countries — the BBC was probably one of the few, and strongest, voices of reason and information in an otherwise upside-down place. Let’s hope that the cut is temporary, and the listeners are not left with just weather and traffic on the 8’s and Casey Cassum, countin’ ’em down. 

– Mass. Senator and former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said he is introducing legislation that would close a loophole that allows convicted criminals to buy firearms at gun shows, and would outlaw the “sale of some magazines.” (Like this one?) In specific, magazines that have more than 10 rounds of ammunition, such as the one Jared Loughner had as he shot-up the Tuscon parking lot, would face a ban. “There is no legitimate reason not to close a loophole that allows criminals to get a gun with no background check or to allow dangerous individuals access to military style assault weapons,” Kerry told the Boston Globe. Massachusetts’ other senator, Republican Scott Brown, told the Globe earlier in January that he would not support any new legislation, saying, “I’m not in favor of doing any additional federal regulations relating to any type of weapons or federal gun changes. I feel it should be left up to the states.”

– The LA Times writes today about the dominance of “The King’s Speech” in this year’s Oscar nominations. With 12 nominations, “The King’s Speech” leads all other movies, but “True Grit,” the latest effort from Minneapolis’ own Cohen brothers, came in with 10. (After it got ZERO Golden Globes nominations. Oops.) In Slate, the often-great and always dying Christopher Hitchens has a breakdown/takedown of “The King’s Speech” and its historical inaccuracies. Hitch says the film is too soft on Winston Churchill, writing, “it seems that we shall never reach a time when the Churchill cult is open for honest inspection. And so the film drifts on, with ever more Vaseline being applied to the lens.” I have not seen the movie, but I will, and though I know I’ll enjoy it, I’ll do so with the inaccuracies at the back of my mind. Meanwhile, among the perceived snubs was Ryan Gosling’s non-nomination in the Best Actor category for “Blue Valentine.” That’s another one I haven’t seen (what? I’ve been busy), so maybe I shouldn’t talk out of turn. But Gosling, who was nominated for Best Actor for his heartbreaking role in a great small movie, “Half Nelson,” is an enormous talent, and I thought this was going to be his critical breakout movie. I can’t knock any of the five actors who were nominated, but for me, I’d have tried to nominate Gosling on the trailer alone, when he sings and plays the ukulele. It tells you that the movie will be a lot like actual love: sweet, poignant, weird and difficult. It isn’t that Gosling’s one of the best young actors in Hollywood. He’s one of the best actors alive. Go see this movie. I’ll meet you there.