TPM News

A war by any other name would still be totally as sweet.

According to Stephen Colbert, President Obama should end the war in Afghanistan without bringing troops home, simply by saying that it's no longer a war.

"Obama could end the Afghan war tonight," Colbert said, "by calling it something else."

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Puppet John McCain made a combative return to The Daily Show Wednesday night, where he insisted that illegal immigrants were not just burning down Arizona's forests, but were now moving his messing with his belongings just to toy with him.

The real Sen. McCain claimed last week that illegal immigrants had started the wildfires still raging across Arizona, an assertion that has since been debunked. Now, puppet McCain said, Mexicans were breaking into his home to steal his glasses, knock over his trash cans and, most insidiously, hide his remote control.

"I had to build a dang fence around my clicker," puppet McCain said.

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Bipartisan negotiations over a deal to raise the debt limit entered a new chapter Thursday as the Republicans' top negotiator, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, pulled out of talks.

Cantor told the Wall Street Journal that negotiations hadn't necessarily broken down, but needed help from President Obama and Speaker Boehner to continue. An aide familiar with the talks told TPM that Cantor and Biden had made significant progress towards a deal but that the Majority Leader felt that certain snags may be beyond their negotiating authority.

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James "Whitey" Bulger, the legendary gangster who once led South Boston's Winter Hill Gang, was arrested along with his girlfriend, Catherine Greig, in California Wednesday night. The FBI confirmed the arrest and said in a brief statement that recent publicity had produced a tip that led to the apprehension of Bulger, ending a 16-year international manhunt.

Bulger was wanted for his role in 19 murders, and will now face additional longstanding charges that include racketeering, corruption, conspiracy and extortion. He had long been one of the FBI's top 10 most wanted fugitives, and the agency had offered a $2 million reward for his arrest.

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Jon Huntsman has previously declared that he will skip the Iowa caucus, choosing not to compete in the key early contest due to his opposition to ethanol subsidies. But it turns out he will make at least one visit to the state -- for a nationally televised debate on Fox News in August.

The Des Moines Register reports:

Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman will make his first Iowa stop when he flies in for the GOP debate here on Aug. 11.

A spokesman for Huntsman said this morning that the candidate will participate in the Republican Party of Iowa/Fox News/Washington Examiner debate in Ames two days before the straw poll there.

The next step is now commencing in the battle over Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder's (R) law creating state-appointed financial managers with broad authority to dismiss local elected officials and cancel all or parts of union contracts: A lawsuit alleging that the law violates local residents' democratic rights.

The lawsuit, filed in Ingham County (Lansing) Circuit Court, is being mounted by the Sugar Law Center in Detroit on behalf of 28 individual Michigan residents. The Detroit Free Press reports from Wednesday's press conference by the plaintiffs' attorney, Bill Goodman:

"This law violates one of the basic principles of democracy, where people get to vote and no one can impose a dictator on them. That is what this legislation does," Goodman said at a morning news conference at Lansing City Hall. "It's a power grab by Lansing politicians that's going to affect communities across the state."

Goodman said, among other things, the emergency manager law violates constitutional separation of powers by allowing the governor's office to exercise powers granted to the Legislature. He said it also defies home rule in local communities.

Comprehensive immigration reform has about as much chance of passing right now as an asteroid-sized kidney stone, while even more modest measures, like the DREAM Act, are stalled in Congress. Nonetheless, Democrats are doing their best to keep the issue in the national conversation.

Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Pat Leahy (D-VT), and Dick Durbin (D-IL) held a joint press conference on Wednesday to prod lawmakers into negotiating a bipartisan bill, and introduced their own bill to get talks moving. The bill would follow the familiar formula that's been tried unsuccessfully since President Bush's own legislative push -- an increase in enforcement measures coupled with a path to citizenship for undocumented workers.

They got an unexpected boost on Wednesday from journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who penned a widely read New York Times piece in which he revealed he was an undocumented immigrant who had hid his status for years growing up and building his career in America. He is now an advocate for the DREAM act, which would give a path to citizenship to illegal immigrants who, like Vargas, came to America as children and have either gone to college or served in the military in the states. In another encouraging development, Southern Baptist Convention recently drafted a resolution calling for comprehensive reform.

Menendez, one of the chief proponents of the DREAM Act in the Senate, told TPM that he had yet to read Vargas' article but that his experience was illustrative of the problems the legislation seeks to address.

"From what I understand of the story, it speaks volumes about how an incredible individual contributing to American society has to live with the fear of [being] an undocumented worker," he said.

With major legislation unlikely to come anytime soon, Menendez told reporters that he and the rest of the Hispanic Caucus recently urged President Obama in a meeting to help mitigate some of the issues they hoped to eventually solve in Congress using executive orders. One step would be to suspend deportations for illegal immigrants in who would be affected by the DREAM Act's passage to allow them to complete their college education or military service. Another proposal was suspending deportations for families from Juarez in response to ongoing deadly battles between police and drug gangs.

"If those two administrative elements were given together it would certainly not solve our problem, but it would provide some relief," he said.

Latino voters are crucial to Obama's re-election prospects, and the White House has been redoubling its efforts to court the key constituency in recent weeks. Obama recently took a rare presidential trip to Puerto Rico, which has a large diaspora population in swing states like Florida.

The National Republican Congressional Committee may not be a fan of the way the shocking web ad targeting Democratic candidate Janice Hahn delivers its message in the CA-36 special election, but they've made it clear they approve of the attack behind the startling imagery.

Now they've put their money where their mouth is, launching an internet campaign that sells a toned-down version of the viral web video that had even Republican candidate Craig Huey's campaign crying foul.

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