* Must read from Norm Ornstein on how the influx of new progressives, combined with the class of 2006, has created the biggest core of smart, energetic liberals in the Senate in decades, one reminiscent of previous golden ages of liberalism.

 * Jonathan Chait has an excellent post skewering “centrist” commentators who refuse to admit that Dems are the ones who are offering solutions precisely in line with their own. My preferred label for this phenomenon is “the centrist dodge.”

* Crucial point from Adam Serwer: If you have a problem with John Brennan on civil liberties, your real problem is with Barack Obama.

* Joe Weisenthal has an interesting post explaining how the debate over “mint the coin” is, at bottom, a deadly serious debate over what money is. Again: the GOP’s debt ceiling threat is far more of a gimmick, and a much more dangerous one.

* Paul Krugman makes his most expansive and detailed case yet for minting the coin. Key nugget:

So minting the coin would be undignified, but so what? At the same time, it would be economically harmless — and would both avoid catastrophic economic developments and help head off government by blackmail. What we all hope, of course, is that the prospect of the coin or some equivalent strategy will simply take the debt ceiling off the table. But if not, mint the darn coin.

* Atrios: Whatever the politics of it, the platinum coin is far preferable on the substance to negotiating over the debt ceiling.

 * James Downie gives a push to another idea: Obama should offer to raise the debt ceiling by the same amount of debt created by Paul Ryan’s budget. This idea, first proposed by Matt Miller, is a tidy way of highlighting GOP deficit hypocrisy.

* Charts of the day, courtesy of Suzy Khimm: Despite all the deficit alarmism, Obama and John Boehner have already achieved at least $2.4 trillion in deficit reduction since 2011. And this is key:

About one-quarter of that comes from revenues (primarily the fiscal cliff deal) and almost two-thirds from spending cuts.

Remember, the GOP is insisting that the next round of deficit reduction must be financed entirely by spending cuts. But the solution so far is already heavily tilted towards them.

* For more on just how much deficit reduction we’ve achieved, see the Center for American Progress’ report.

* A provocative David Atkins post on how AIG’s possible lawsuit against the federal government showcases the system working just as it’s supposed to.

* Good: Gun control advocates target NRA-backed Dem Senator Heidi Heitkamp with hard hitting ads over her claim that proposed gun reforms are “extreme,” causing the Senator to release a statement backing off, at least a bit, from toeing the NRA line.

Heitkamp’s statement allows that we have a responsibility to keep guns away from criminals and the mentally ill. I’ll be interested to see if she can support any specific policies that would accomplish that.

* And I’m looking forward to this: Public Policy Polling promises a new survey tomorrow finding the NRA’s image has dropped off a good bit since that unhinged, unapologetic, angry, resentment-drenched presser by Wayne LaPierre. Also:

Believe it or not our numbers tomorrow show there’s not a whole lot of support for putting more guns in schools

No kidding! As noted here earlier, job one for the White House is to isolate the NRA as much as possible and communicate clearly that it only speaks for the gun industry and a small minority of the American people.

 What else?