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The Beltway story of the day wasn't about the fiscal cliff. At least not directly. Washington Post: "Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), a leading conservative voice in the Senate, will resign his seat in January to become the next president of the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation, a sudden move with far-reaching implications. ... DeMint’s departure comes during a critical moment for the conservative movement and leaves uncertainty among its ranks in the Senate. After the tea party movement left a deep impact on the 2010 midterm elections, its influence faded in 2012. Meanwhile, the debate over the “fiscal cliff” is raging in Congress, with Democrats pressing Republicans to join them in supporting tax increases for the wealthy, a proposal conservatives have decried."
Further reading: The Slatest on the man who is the the odds-on favorite to replace DeMint in the senate; Moneybox on the fact that DeMint is probably getting a huge raise for leaving the Senate; Weigel on the irony of DeMint joining the Heritage Foundation; and the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza on what DeMint's exit says about the conservative movement.
OK, back to the cliff. Washington Post: "A growing chorus of Republicans is urging House leaders to abandon their staunch opposition to higher tax rates for the wealthy with the aim of clearing the way for a broad deal that would also rein in the cost of federal health and retirement programs. ... Many GOP centrists and some conservatives are calling on House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) to concede on rates now, while he still has some leverage to demand something in return. Republicans are eager to win changes to fast-growing safety-net programs, such as raising the eligibility age for Medicare and applying a less-generous measure of inflation to Social Security benefits."
Video interlude: OK, Now Harry Reid Is Just Being Mean
Maybe the wealthy shouldn't be so worried. New York Times: "A close look at the president’s plan shows that a large majority of families making up to $300,000—as well as hundreds of thousands of families with even larger incomes—would not pay taxes at a higher marginal rate. Because the complexity of the tax code makes it difficult to draw clean lines, they are the beneficiaries of choices the administration has made to ensure that families earning less than $250,000 do not pay higher rates."
Back so soon? Remember when Fox News execs said they were benching Karl Rove earlier this week? Looks like that experiment in pundit accountability didn't last long. Politico: "Rove ... has two upcoming media appearances listed on his website: He’ll be on Fox News’s Special Report with Bret Baier Dec. 10 at 6 p.m., and on Fox Business Network’s Varney & Co. Dec. 13 at 9:20 a.m." The multi-platform talking head also got back in the action this morning with his latest Wall Street Journal column. (To be clear, the original report about Rove's benching didn't say he was banned from Fox News shows, just that producers had to get special approval to book him.)
Happy Thursday and welcome to The Slatest PM, where your afternoon host has already set $5 aside for his trip to the moon. Only $749,999,995 more to go. Follow him on Twitter at @JoshVoorhees and the whole team at @slatest.
What the heck are we talking about? Washington Post: "A start-up company is offering rides to the moon. Book your seat now—though it’s going to set you back $750 million (it’s unclear if that includes baggage fees). At a news conference ... in Washington, former NASA science administrator Alan Stern [announced] the formation of Golden Spike, ... 'the first company planning to offer routine exploration expeditions to the surface of the Moon.'" The company says that if all goes well its first mission could blast off by 2020.
The men behind the mission: Forbes: "Their plans were unveiled by its Chairman of the Board, Gerry Griffin, and its President and CEO, Dr. Alan Stern. Those names give the company instant credibility. Gerry Griffin was a Flight Director for the Apollo Missions and is a former Director of the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Stern is a veteran both of aerospace companies and NASA itself, where he was the leader of the space program’s science missions. He even received training for a space shuttle launch, though he didn’t end up flying on a mission."
Your Dumb Criminal of the Week: The Guy Who Gave the Cops an Absolutely Terrible Fake Name
Just in case the McAfee story hadn't taken enough turns: Computer programming guru, antivirus pioneer, and generally strange person John McAfee was arrested yesterday by Guatemalan police for illegally entering the country and now faces expulsion to neighboring Belize, which he fled because he says the government is trying to kill him. (The government, meanwhile, says it just wants to talk to him about the murder of his neighbor.) Then this afternoon came news that McAfee appears to have had a heart attack while in police custody in Guatemala.
Because this seems about as good place for it as any: Do Cats Ever Murder People?
Wedding season in Washington: Associated Press: "Two by two, dozens of same-sex couples obtained their marriage licenses in Washington state early Thursday, just hours after Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a voter-approved law legalizing gay marriage. King County, the state's biggest county, opened the doors to its auditor's office in Seattle just after midnight PST to start distributing marriage licenses. But hundreds of people had lined up hours earlier, snaking around the downtown Seattle building on a chilly December night. By noon, nearly 400 licenses had been issued in Seattle."
Your daily Egypt update: Reuters: "Egypt's Republican Guard restored order around the presidential palace on Thursday after clashes killed seven people, but passions ran high in a contest over the country's future. President Mohamed Mursi had been due to address the nation, but a presidential source said the Islamist leader, criticized by his opponents for his silence in the last few days, might speak on Friday instead. He did not explain the possible delay."
And your Syria one: CBS News: "Diplomatic efforts to end Syria's civil war moved forward Thursday with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton joining Russia's foreign minister and the U.N. peace envoy to the Arab country for extraordinary three-way talks that suggested Washington and Moscow might finally unite behind a strategy as the Assad regime weakens. ... The former Cold War foes have fought bitterly over how to address the conflict, but Clinton stressed before the meeting that they shared a common goal. 'We have been trying hard to work with Russia to try to stop the bloodshed in Syria and start a political transition for a post-Assad Syrian future," Clinton told reporters in Dublin.'"
More quick hits from Slate:
The Slatest: A Second Sen. Obama?
Future Tense: Apple Will Make Macs in the USA
Frame Game: The Chutzpah of Bibi Netanyahu
See you back here tomorrow. But, until then, tell your friends to subscribe, or simply forward the newsletter on and let them make up their own minds.