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1501  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Earmarks on: February 01, 2012, 02:10:47 PM
http://www.rollcall.com/issues/57_88/Earmark-Fight-up-Again-in-Senate-212007-1.html?ET=rollcall:e12047:80133681a:&st=email&pos=eam

Earmark opponents may have scored some successes in recent years, but several Senators said they remain wary of permanently giving up the right to direct spending and would rather focus on other business.

"I think we need to talk about that," National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (R-Texas) said. "I am not sure we need it, but I am open to it."

He continued, "I wish we would focus on what the American people are most concerned about rather than some of these other issues that have their importance but are tangential to the main issues we ought to be focused on."

"I think we ought to [instead] be looking at other ways to ... address people's concerns about jobs and the debt," Cornyn said.

The Senate could vote this week on a proposal by Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) to make the current moratorium on earmarks permanent. They've offered the measure as an amendment to legislation banning insider trading by lawmakers and their staff.

"Earmarks exist precisely to circumvent ... [Congressional] scrutiny," Toomey said Tuesday on the Senate floor.

He said that while many earmarks are worthy of being funded, "There is an opportunity for corruption. A process like that is badly flawed and should be remedied."

The amendment would also create a point of order to strike earmarks from bills, and it would take two-thirds majority to override that point of order.

On the floor Tuesday, McCaskill said she wants to "stop the process in its entirety" rather than going after individual earmarks.

"I am proud of the fact that we have a moratorium," she said. "But there are a lot of Members of this body that want to go back to the old ways."

Still, earmark supporters said that the issue is purely political.

"It's just stupid, it's childish, it's demagoguery," Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said. "There is not a lot of courage in our conference [on the issue.] They all know better. They all know by banning earmarks ... they are just giving the authority to the president. But they are afraid of it because people don't understand the issue out there."

Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said they would stand up to support their right to earmark if the amendment was brought to the Senate floor.

But it's unclear whether the amendment will get a vote.

"I hope we get a vote, but I am not optimistic," McCaskill said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday would not say whether he would permit a vote on the proposal and gave a firm defense of earmarking.

"We'll see in a day or two how many are really interested in improving this bill, having amendments that are germane or relevant, and we'll take a look at it in a day or two," Reid said.

He added that he opposes an earmark ban. "We have an obligation as Members of Congress to fulfill our Constitutional duty. One of those duties is to make sure that we do Congressionally directed spending. I object and do not believe that all these decisions should be made at the White House," Reid said.

"I've done earmarks all my career, and I'm happy I've done earmarks my entire career," Reid continued. "They've helped my state and they helped different projects around the country. And I repeat, I will not stand by and be driven down this path that is one that I think is taking us away from what the Founding Fathers wanted: three separate but equal branches of government."

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who backs a ban, said he doubts that it will pass even if it does come up for a vote.

"I am a co-sponsor of it," Burr said. "It's probably not going to pass. I think there is a lot of opposition to cutting off the gravy train on both sides of the aisle."

Earmarks make up less than 1 percent of overall federal spending.

Still, opponents of earmarks scored a victory after House Republicans won the majority in 2010 and voted soon after to adhere to a two-year moratorium, which expires at the end of this year.

The House's move forced Senate Democratic and Republican leaders' hands. Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had been reluctant to curtail earmarks on Constitutional grounds. But Republicans agreed to a moratorium in November 2010, followed by Democrats in February 2011.

Some supporters of the moratorium, such as Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), even noted at the time that it was only supposed to be a temporary hiatus from the practice.

Earmarks also were tainted by relatively recent scandals. Last September, lobbyist Paul Magliocchetti, who headed the now-defunct lobby shop PMA Group, pleaded guilty in federal court to illegally funneling more than $386,000 in corporate campaign contributions to lawmakers, including appropriators, during a nearly six-year period.

Despite earmark opponents' successes in forcing leaders to accept a moratorium, the issue has had less success on the Senate floor.

In November 2010, the Senate voted 56-39 against an earmark ban McCaskill and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) sought to attach to a food safety bill.
HumbertoSanchez@cqrollcall.com | @hsanchez128


   
1502  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: February 01, 2012, 02:07:26 PM

Dick Morris: How Mitt Romney suckered Gingrich in Florida
By Dick Morris - 01/31/12 06:32 PM ET

For students of American politics, following the way the Romney campaign played Newt Gingrich in Florida is a lesson to learn and to keep. Romney’s people must have realized that Newt does best when he is positive. His bold ideas, clear vision, revolutionary insights and extraordinary perspectives resonate with voters and win him millions of supporters.

Romney, less compelling but more consistent, doesn’t need stellar debate performances or bold vision to win. The case for the former Massachusetts governor is more circumstantial: He can reach out to independents by virtue of his past apostasies on healthcare and abortion. He looks, talks and acts like a president. His record of job creation is exemplary.

 But Newt needs the bold sally, the breathtaking moment of rhetorical clarity, to prevail.

So Romney’s people set out to mire Newt in negatives so he couldn’t and wouldn’t get out the positive message he needed to project to prevail. They tormented him with negative ads in Iowa. While the ads were generally accurate — the allegation about backing China’s forced-abortion policy aside — they presented only one side of the story and were stinging in their impact. Without funds, Gingrich couldn’t answer the negative ads. He fumed but watched, in impotence, as his vote share fell away.

In Spanish bullfights, the picadors torment the bull by sticking darts into his shoulders. Enraged, bleeding, frustrated and in pain, he lowers his head, snorts, paws the ground and charges straight at the matador, oblivious to the sword awaiting him behind the red cape. That’s about what Romney did to Gingrich in the January primaries.

Enter Sheldon Adelson, a Vegas billionaire who loves Newt. His affection runs so deep that he gave Gingrich the funds to destroy himself. With Adelson’s reported contribution of $5 million-plus, Newt had the weapons to fight back with his own negative ads. In a rage, he put them on TV and devoted his time in the debates to throwing accusations. RomneyCare. Abortion. Gay rights. The taxes Romney paid and the ones he advocated. Massachusetts moderate. No, make that Massachusetts liberal. They tripped off his tongue and his super-PAC put them on the air. Sheldon paid the bill. But Newt paid the price.
1503  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Heavy Lifting in Congress on: February 01, 2012, 05:52:59 AM
Here is a discussion of some of the more influential congressional aides.  Interesting look at the people how get work done on the Hill.

http://www.rollcall.com/features/30hillaidestoknow.html
1504  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Education on: January 29, 2012, 05:16:23 PM
That was part of the research I was referencing.
1505  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Education on: January 27, 2012, 02:55:08 PM
Two quick things: There is a major difference between measuring what you know and having an indication of how you think and learn.  ETS won't replace that important portion of the college degree.  And, as technology and information increases seemingly exponentially, thinking and learning will be more important than knowing. 

There is spurious research put out by any organization who produces research, whether the higher education "industry," media, think tanks or corporations.  Cherry picking examples of this spurious research to indicate the weakness of the "industry" is spurious itself.  I don't hate capitalism because tobacco industry scientists "proved" for years that smoking and cancer had no link. 
1506  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Liberal arts education lends an edge in down economy on: January 26, 2012, 08:26:01 AM
http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/story/2012-01-24/liberal-arts-education-graduates/52779652/1

Recent college graduates who as seniors scored highest on a standardized test to measure how well they think, reason and write — skills most associated with a liberal arts education — were far more likely to be better off financially than those who scored lowest, says the survey, released Wednesday by the Social Science Research Council, an independent organization.

It found that students who had mastered the ability to think critically, reason analytically and write effectively by their senior year were:

•Three times less likely to be unemployed than those who hadn't (3.1% vs. 9.6%).
•Half as likely to be living with their parents (18% vs. 35%).

•Far less likely to have amassed credit card debt (37% vs. 51%).

Grades and other factors influence a student's chances of success, too. Graduates of colleges with tougher admissions standards tended to have fewer debts and were less likely to live with their parents, the study found.

A report this month by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, which studies the labor-market value of college degrees, found that recent graduates with a bachelor's degree in architecture had the highest average jobless rate (13.9%, vs. 8.9% for all recent college graduates). Education and health care majors had some of the lowest jobless rates.

The findings released Wednesday "show something new and different," says lead author Richard Arum, a New York University professor. "Students would do well to appreciate the extent to which their development of general skills, not just majors and institution attended, is related to successful adult transitions."

The study is based on surveys of 925 graduates who as college seniors had taken the Collegiate Learning Assessment, a standardized test that aims to measure student learning. In addition to showing greater success financially, high-scorers were more likely to read the news and discuss politics and be living with or married to a romantic partner they met in college.

Richard Ekman, president of the Council of Independent Colleges, an association that encourages its member schools to assess student learning, says findings suggest that the Collegiate Learning Assessment is "a pretty good measure of how people are going to do in life."

Arum also cautions that the study doesn't speak to whether high-scoring graduates picked up their skills while in college. It follows up on research last year showing that 36% of college graduates showed few or no gains in learning between their freshman and senior years.

"While their outcomes are not a product solely of their college experience … it's important for colleges to figure out a way to be more effective," he says.


1507  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: January 25, 2012, 11:54:13 AM
The safe analogy is covered in the EFF amicus. 
1508  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: January 25, 2012, 06:50:45 AM
Three preliminary things:
1.  This type of issue occurs increasingly, as technology increases.  The courts have decided wiretapping, cell phone, GPS (this week, of course).  Cases involving the TSA body scanners and other related devices will be taken to court in the future, I suspect.
2.  I have a bias toward civil liberties, so understand that as you read below.
3.  I have a busy morning, so this will be incomplete. 

One strategy issue: If I were her attorney, I wouldn't stop at the 5th Amendment self incrimination clause.  For example, the demand that Fricosu turn over an unencrypted computer, possibly, might be construed as an unreasonable search.  The FBI already literally had its hands on the device.  Its inability to decode it would seem to be an indictment on them. 

I like the EFF brief.  It recognizes the use of computers for a variety of jobs.  It notes the legitimate use of encryption, whether for business or for privacy concerns.

Moreover, the 5th protections begin immediately (see Miranda rights for evidence).  Speech, and as a likely extension written testimony (including the typing of a password) would seem to be a version of "witness." 

The long and short of it is that I find the EFF amicus brief to be compelling. 
1509  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Evolution of police cars on: January 24, 2012, 05:43:08 PM
Evolution of police cars:

http://editorial.autos.msn.com/the-evolution-of-the-police-car?icid=autos_2123#1
1510  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Recess appointment reactions on: January 24, 2012, 04:03:27 PM
http://www.rollcall.com/news/senate_gop_forming_response_to_white_house_recess_picks-211742-1.html?ET=rollcall:e11972:80133681a:&st=email&pos=epm

Recess appointmet reactions by the Republicans in the Senate.  
1511  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / SOTU other fun on: January 24, 2012, 12:08:12 PM
Or, if you'd rather drink to forget: http://blog.zap2it.com/pop2it/2012/01/state-of-the-union-drinking-game-have-multiple-colors-of-drinks-on-hand.html
1512  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / SOTU Bingo!!! on: January 24, 2012, 11:59:42 AM
Americans for Tax Reform have a bingo game set up for tonight. 

http://www.atr.org/atr-presents-obama-state-union-bingo-a6695
1513  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GOP MCs fear Newt on: January 24, 2012, 09:53:02 AM
Many Republicans in Congress fear Newt's electabilty.... and the impact he could have down ticket. 

http://www.rollcall.com/news/congressional_republicans_fear_newt_gingrich_standard_-211732-1.html?ET=rollcall:e11964:80133681a:&st=email&pos=eam

1514  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / recusal questions on: January 24, 2012, 09:45:32 AM
http://www.rollcall.com/issues/57_83/-211696-1.html?ET=rollcall:e11964:80133681a:&st=email&pos=eam

Court’s Recusal Issue Still Unsettled

    * By Jessica Brady
    * Roll Call Staff
    * Jan. 24, 2012, Midnight

Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Conservatives have called for Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan to recuse herself from the case considering the constitutionality of the health care reform law.

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The Supreme Court might have blocked a conservative activist from participating in oral arguments against the health care law, but stakeholders maintain it's not a setback in their larger push for Justice Elena Kagan to recuse herself during deliberations this spring.

The high court rejected Freedom Watch founder Larry Klayman's request to participate in oral arguments, although his amicus brief maintaining that Kagan should not participate in the case still stands.

Klayman, a conservative dynamo who also founded Judicial Watch, said Monday's decision "is not a setback." Ed Whelan, another conservative legal scholar, called the announcement "insignificant" to the broader dispute over whether Kagan should recuse herself.

Conservatives have pushed for Kagan to step aside when the Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of the health care reform law this spring. The newest justice on the court served as President Barack Obama's solicitor general while the law was being crafted in Congress in 2009 and 2010, and conservative legal observers maintain Kagan's role in the executive branch during that time prevents her from considering the law fairly in court.

Supreme Court justices decide on their own whether to recuse themselves in cases when their impartiality might be in question, and advocates of all political stripes gripe that the lack of protocol in deciding when to step back is a problem. Scrutiny over the issue has only grown in the months since it was announced the Supreme Court would take up the health care law, a highly political issue that will come before the court just as the 2012 campaign season is in full swing.

Klayman said Monday's decision suggests the high court is avoiding the thorny issue of conflicts of interest and whether justices should step aside in pending cases in which they might have a vested interest.

"Apparently, the Supreme Court thinks it will be embarrassed if it, in effect, allows the American people to speak and wants to quietly sweep the issue of its own ethics and respect for the law under the table," Klayman said in a release.

But Klayman vowed to press on, noting in an interview that he spoke with House Judiciary Committee staff about holding a hearing on the matter and calling for Chief Justice John Roberts and Kagan to testify. Roberts has maintained that justices should not recuse themselves from hearing cases unless absolutely necessary, and in a year-end report in December, he said, "I have complete confidence in the capability of my colleagues to determine when recusal is warranted."

The conservative Klayman is not the only one who has taken issue with that stance. Congressional Democrats have maintained for months that Justice Clarence Thomas should step aside from participating in deliberations of the health care reform law because of his wife's tenure at the Heritage Foundation.

The conservative organization was an ardent opponent of the measure while it was working its way through Congress, and Democrats say Thomas will therefore not be an impartial arbiter of the case when the law's constitutionality is considered.

A group of 20 House Democrats led by Rep. Louise Slaughter (N.Y.) called on the Judicial Conference of the United States, the governing body for federal courts, to look into what they said were Thomas' ethical violations last year. The lawmakers charged that Thomas did not report his wife's income from the Heritage Foundation. The Judicial Conference has not responded.

A spokeswoman for House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said, "We have been very active with trying to get information from DOJ regarding what role Justice Kagan may have played in discussions regarding Obamacare while she was solicitor general."

Smith's Senate counterpart, Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), has also looked into the matter and held a high-profile hearing last year on the issue of recusal featuring Justices Stephen Breyer and Antonin Scalia.

Despite the efforts from legal observers and Members, the Supreme Court is not expected to bow to the political pressure. While Kagan abstained from Monday's decision on Freedom Watch's request, it's not considered to be a hint that she will likewise sit back when the health care law comes before the court.

"Whether it's the Congress or the courts of the executive branch, the American people don't feel like they have a voice," Klayman complained.
1515  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Warrantless GPS search is unconstitutional on: January 23, 2012, 01:20:50 PM
... in a 9-0 (merits) decision.  There is a spilt as to the why.  And interesting voting partners.

http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/10-1259.pdf
1516  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: January 19, 2012, 09:53:07 PM
Not exactly words, but the punctuation marks discussed in this article are interesting:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/expresident/13-punctuation-marks-that-you-never-knew-existed
1517  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / 1% majored in...? on: January 19, 2012, 02:38:11 PM
Turns out political science, a liberal arts degree, doesn't do too damn bad.


http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/18/what-the-top-1-of-earners-majored-in/

What the Top 1% of Earners Majored In
By ROBERT GEBELOFF and SHAILA DEWAN
12:21 p.m. | Updated Added a fuller list of majors at the bottom of the post.

We got an interesting question from an academic adviser at a Texas university: could we tell what the top 1 percent of earners majored in?

The writer, sly dog, was probably trying to make a point, because he wrote from a biology department, and it turns out that biology majors make up nearly 7 percent of college graduates who live in households in the top 1 percent.

According to the Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey, the majors that give you the best chance of reaching the 1 percent are pre-med, economics, biochemistry, zoology and, yes, biology, in that order.


The 1 Percent
Looking at the top of the economic strata.
Below is a chart showing the majors most likely to get into the 1 percent (excluding majors held by fewer than 50,000 people in 2010 census data). The third column shows the percentage of degree holders with that major who make it into the 1 percent. The fourth column shows the percent of the 1 percent (among college grads) that hold that major. In other words, more than one in 10 people with a pre-med degree make it into the 1 percent, and about 1 in 100 of the 1 percenters with degrees majored in pre-med.

Of course, choice of major is not the only way to increase your chances of reaching the 1 percent, if that is your goal. There is also the sector you choose.

A separate analysis of census data on occupations showed that one in eight lawyers, for example, are in the 1 percent — unless they work for a Wall Street firm, when their chances increase to one in three. Among chief executives, fewer than one in five rank among the 1 percent, but their chances increase if the company produces medical supplies (one in four) or drugs (two in five). Hollywood writers? One in nine are 1 percenters. Television or radio writers? One in 14. Newspaper writers and editors? One in 62.

Undergraduate Degree Total % Who Are 1 Percenters Share of All 1 Percenters
Health and Medical Preparatory Programs 142,345 11.8% 0.9%
Economics 1,237,863 8.2% 5.4%
Biochemical Sciences 193,769 7.2% 0.7%
Zoology 159,935 6.9% 0.6%
Biology 1,864,666 6.7% 6.6%
International Relations 146,781 6.7% 0.5%
Political Science and Government 1,427,224 6.2% 4.7%
Physiology 98,181 6.0% 0.3%
Art History and Criticism 137,357 5.9% 0.4%
Chemistry 780,783 5.7% 2.4%
Molecular Biology 64,951 5.6% 0.2%
Area, Ethnic and Civilization Studies 184,906 5.2% 0.5%
Finance 1,071,812 4.8% 2.7%
History 1,351,368 4.7% 3.3%
Business Economics 108,146 4.6% 0.3%
Miscellaneous Psychology 61,257 4.3% 0.1%
Philosophy and Religious Studies 448,095 4.3% 1.0%
Microbiology 147,954 4.2% 0.3%
Chemical Engineering 347,959 4.1% 0.8%
Physics 346,455 4.1% 0.7%
Pharmacy, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration 334,016 3.9% 0.7%
Accounting 2,296,601 3.9% 4.7%
Mathematics 840,137 3.9% 1.7%
English Language and Literature 1,938,988 3.8% 3.8%
Miscellaneous Biology 52,895 3.7% 0.1%
1518  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Perry is gone on: January 19, 2012, 09:00:24 AM
Word is that Rick Perry is dropping his presidential bid.
1519  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obama = HST??? on: January 19, 2012, 07:53:17 AM
http://www.rollcall.com/issues/57_81/with_help_from_foes_obama_off_the_mat_truman_strategy-211582-1.html?ET=rollcall:e11914:80133681a:&st=email&pos=epa

With Help From Foes, Obama Is off the Mat

    * By Morton M. Kondracke
    * Roll Call Executive Editor
    * Jan. 19, 2012, Midnight

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    * Give 'Em Hell, Barry?
    * Can Truman Strategy Work for Obama in 2012?

President Barack Obama is far from winning re-election, but his “Truman strategy” — plus some mild improvement in economic conditions — seems to have improved his prospects. And Republicans are helping.

The strategy, of course, is to portray himself, much as President Harry Truman did in 1948, as the defender of the middle class and Republicans as obstructionists bent on defending the privileged rich.

Polls suggest he is hitting two political bull’s-eyes — disdain for Congressional Republicans and a belief that rich people ought to pay more taxes.

GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney’s estimate that he pays only a 15 percent rate on his millions of dollars in income — plus his rivals’ denunciations of him as a “vulture capitalist” — can only help Obama.

And so will replays of the GOP TV debate in which not one presidential candidate was willing to accept a deficit reduction formula of $10 in spending cuts for $1 in revenue increases.

Truman famously came from behind to win in 1948 running against a “do-nothing Republican Congress” and as the Washington Post poll showed Monday — tracking all others on the subject — Congress’ standing with the public is at an all-time low.

Obama does not always distinguish between the Democratic Senate and the Republican House in condemning Congressional inaction.

However, every poll, including the Post’s, shows that disapproval of Congressional Republicans is greater than of Democrats — 75 percent to 62 percent, according to the Post.

Similarly, a Pew poll last month showed that voters blamed Republicans more than Democrats for failures to achieve results by a 17-point margin.

By 53 percent to 33 percent, Pew found, voters think the GOP is “more extreme in its positions,” while by 51 percent to 25 percent, they believe Democrats are more willing to work with the other side.

Obama’s own polls began to show some upturn in mid-December, about two weeks after Obama traveled to Osawatomie, Kan., to identify with President Theodore Roosevelt’s progressivism and to assail Republicans for refusing “to ask the wealthiest Americans to pay the same tax rate as they did when Bill Clinton was president.”

The Washington Post/ABC poll showed that by 44 percent to 40 percent, voters believed he was better at handling the economy than Republicans in Congress; by 44 percent to 41 percent, at creating jobs; by 50 percent to 35 percent, at protecting the middle class; and even by 46 percent to 41 percent, in handling taxes. He’d been running behind in most of those categories until then.

Polls have pretty consistently shown that large majorities believe “the rich should pay more taxes” — by 68 percent to 28 percent in an October Time magazine survey.

Obama has experienced an upturn in his overall approval ratings since the lows of last fall. He was down to 38 percent in the Gallup daily tracking poll in October. He’s now up to 46 percent.

Generally speaking, presidents with approval ratings below 50 percent are in danger. President George H.W. Bush had 46 percent at this stage of his presidency and went down to defeat.

On the other hand, President Clinton also was at 46 percent in January 1996 and won re-election.

At the moment, Obama is running about even with Romney in national polls — but significantly behind his own 2008 performance among key demographic groups.

The RealClearPolitics average of polls shows Obama with a statistically insignificant lead of 46.5 percent to 45.3 percent over Romney.

The latest Washington Post/ABC poll gives Romney a 2-point lead, reversing a 3-point Obama lead in December. CNN shows Obama with a 2-point lead.

A much-discussed paper by Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin of the liberal Center for American Progress indicated that demographic changes in key battleground states — chiefly growth in young voters and Latinos — would tilt the 2012 playing field toward Obama.

There’s no question that Obama should profit among Latinos from Romney’s hard-line immigration views — topped by his close alignment with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who wrote model legislation that served as the basis for measures passed into law in Arizona and Alabama that cracked down on illegal immigrants.

Still, the latest Gallup poll shows Obama’s approval rating among Latinos is only 56 percent, down from 67 percent in 2008 exit polls.

Obama won 55 percent of support among women in 2008, but he’s currently at 48 percent. Among whites, he’s down from 43 percent to 36 percent. Among voters aged 18-29, he’s down from 66 percent to 53 percent.

Obama got just 45 percent support among seniors in 2008; he’s now down to 40 percent approval. And, crucially, among independent voters, he’s dropped from 52 percent to 42 percent.

Independent voters clearly are dismayed that Obama has failed to fulfill his major campaign promise: to unite “red” and “blue” America to get the country’s problems solved.

According to the Washington Post poll, 52 percent of voters say Obama has accomplished either “not much” (25 percent) or “little or nothing” (27 percent), while 47 percent say he’s accomplished “a great deal” (12 percent) or “a good amount” (35 percent).

Of those who think he’s accomplished little or nothing — presumably, mainly independents and Republicans — Obama gets the blame by a whopping 56 percent to 18 percent.

Obama is trying to convince the electorate that he saved America from plunging into a second Great Depression and is succeeding in triggering a recovery, albeit a slow one.

Improving unemployment numbers will help. Any renewed downturn — even if it’s the result of trouble in Europe — will hurt.

Obama will have the advantage of being able to husband his vast campaign resources if Romney’s opponents, especially former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.), do not soon drop out of the race.

Romney seeks every opportunity to direct fire at Obama for trying to turn America into a “European welfare state,” but his opponents are equipping Obama with ammunition as they dwell on dealings by his former firm, Bain Capital.

The Democratic Party has also been assiduously adopting Romney’s GOP rivals’ argument that he’s a serial flip-flopper, and last week, former investment banker William D. Cohan unleashed a devastating critique that combined attack lines on Romney.

Cohan, author of two books on the misdeeds of Wall Street, charged that, under Romney, Bain made huge profits by offering high initial bids to buy firms at auction and eliminating competitors and then found ways to drastically reduce the offer during final negotiations.

“This win-at-any-cost approach makes me wonder how a President Romney would negotiate with Congress, or with China, or with anyone else — and what a promise, pledge or endorsement from him would actually mean,” Cohan wrote.

Even though Obama has run up the national debt and expanded government significantly, he is wrapping himself in distinctly American — not European — trappings, echoing Truman and Teddy Roosevelt.

And he’s got the money and the podium to paint Romney as a practitioner of the Wall Street practices that he says led to the Great Recession.

It’s going to be a brawl. I wouldn’t predict an outcome, but Obama has gotten off the mat.
1520  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Democrats receive more Bain Capital dollars than Republicans on: January 19, 2012, 07:51:35 AM
http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/205025-dems-receive-more-bain-dollars-than-gop
1521  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Internet and related technology on: January 18, 2012, 10:35:07 PM
Thank you for a thoughtful reply.  And, while I am opposed to SOPA, I do agree with this: "much/most of the opposition comes from folks who simply wish to keep stealing and that piracy is not a real problem."

1522  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / SOPA infographic on: January 18, 2012, 09:42:02 PM
Moving to this thread:


http://americancensorship.org/infographic.html

A serious question, Guro: Is there a chance that if SOPA were passed, could www.dogbrothers.com be blacked given the number of links and quotes, etc. posted on the forum from other web sites?  Based on my understanding of the law, the critics (at least) seem to think this type of issue is a possibility. 
1523  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / SOPA infographic on: January 18, 2012, 08:54:56 PM
http://americancensorship.org/infographic.html

A serious question, Guro: Is there a chance that if SOPA were passed, could www.dogbrothers.com be blacked given the number of links and quotes, etc. posted on the forum from other web sites?  Based on my understanding of the law, the critics (at least) seem to think this type of issue is a possibility. 
1524  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Why should we read? on: January 17, 2012, 04:01:24 PM
http://pjmedia.com/victordavishanson/so-why-read-anymore/?print=1



So Why Read Anymore?

Posted By Victor Davis Hanson On January 16, 2012 @ 9:51 am In Uncategorized | 149 Comments

Is Reading Good Books Over?

There is great “truth and beauty” in Homer’s Iliad [1], but I would not try to make his sale on such platitudes. Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire [2] remains a classic. But I confess it can be hard to get through. Conrad’s Victory [3] or Knut Hamsun’s Growth of the Soil [4], if authored by writer X this year, would be trashed on Amazon.

So what are the reasons, in this age of the iPhone, Xbox, and PlayStation — or Fox News blondes and HBO — to sit down and read old stuff for an hour or two each week?

Here are a few reasons other than the usual defense of the “classics,” the “canon,” and the glories of “Western civilization.”

Mental Exercise

The mind is a muscle. Without exercise, it reverts to mush. Watching most TV or using the normal electronic gadgetry does not tax us much — indeed that is by design the very purpose: to eliminate effort, worry, unease, and afterthought. None of us thinks back a year ago to a great video game session. Few off-hand can recall the Super Bowl winner of 2001. I remember the scenes in a Shane [5]or Casablanca [6], but not many others in the other thousand of movies that I have watched.

By nature, our ways of expression and even thinking always fossilize and are withering away with age and monotony — a process accelerated by the modern electronic age and the neglect of replenishment through reading. The actual vocabulary of our present youth seems to me reduced to about 1,000 words or so. “Like,” “whatever,” “you know,” “cool,” and other pop culture fillers now substitute for entire phrases, a sort of modern porcine grunting. The Greeks used particles to accentuate vocabulary and guide syntax; we used them instead of vocabulary. Our syntax, both written and oral, is reverting to “Spot is a dog”: noun, verb, predicate — period. How did incomprehensible slang, spiced with vulgarity, become an object of emulation? I used to listen to farmers without college degrees speak wonderful English; now to listen to a member of Congress almost requires a translator.

Reading alone enriches our vocabulary; it teaches us that good writing requires a sense of melody as well as a command of grammar. Soon those well-read become the well-spoken.

A Master of Words

Think for a minute: why did the Right often ignore the contradictions of Christopher Hitchens [7], and the Left mostly give up most of its anger at him? He was not necessarily a classically beautiful stylist, and could be needlessly cruel. He wrote no great history, no great novel, no great single essay that we can instantly recall in the manner of an Orwell or Chesterton. But Mr. Hitchens surely was a rare and gifted writer, polemicist, and savant. To read 800 words was to learn something new in passing. Even in his most ridiculous rant, a nugget of wisdom could be uncovered. A reference to an obscure Eastern European politician might appear side-by-side a line from Wordsworth — and would make a better illustration of his argument than just showcasing his erudition. He mastered the odd, even perverse turn of phrase, the ability to juxtapose the colloquialism next to Latinate pomposity, or to write a ridiculous 10-line long sentence, stuffed with semi-cola, dashes, cola, and commas, followed by a two-word noun-verb sentence that a five-year old could produce. In short, Hitchens was a voracious consumer of texts, and the result was that he achieved what the Roman student of rhetoric, Quintilian, once called variatio, the ability to mix up words and sentences and not bore. He could hold, even shock, the reader or listener from sentence to sentence, moment to moment.

But We Are So Much More to the Point

But you object that at least our current economy of expression cuts out wasted words and clauses, a sort of slimmed-down, electronic communication? Perhaps, but it also turns almost everything into instant bland hot cereal, as if we should gulp down oatmeal at every meal and survive well enough without the bother of salad, main course, and dessert. Each day our vocabulary shrinks, our thought patterns stagnate — if they are not renewed through fresh literature or intelligent conversation. Unfortunately these days, those who read are few and silent; those who don’t, numerous and heard. In this drought, Dante’s Inferno [8] and William Prescott’s History of the Conquest of Mexico [9] provide needed storms of new words, complex syntax, and fresh ideas.

Humility

Technology has deluded the modern West. We equate widespread knowledge of how to use an iPad with collective wisdom. Because a rare, brilliantly inventive mind from Caltech or MIT can craft a device undreamed of in the age of Einstein, we assume that we all warrant a share in his genius, as if our generation has trumped Einstein’s. We deserve no such kudos — unless animals at the zoo that find delight in their rote enjoyment of their hoops and bars can be credited with the architect’s sophisticated zoological design.

Pumps Are Not Water

Technological progress is no guarantee of collective wisdom — other than an acknowledgement that there is a brilliant scientific elite that we foster and don’t kill off in exchange for the good stuff that they give us. Our California public schools rate about 48th or 49th these days in nationwide testing, while most of the state seems to have their heads permanently transfixed to iPhones. Do we believe then that the population is smarter because we know “apps” or because there is an Apple or Google headquarters full of engineers living in the cocoon of Silicon Valley?

There is an arrogance of an age that comes with access to always better stuff. New technology prompts an assumption that there are always better things to come. Not true. Life was far better in Rome in AD 25 than in AD 425. Would you like to buy a house in Detroit today or in 1940? Me? I would rather drive down the central section of 101 in 1970 than tomorrow. Regress — material, intellectual, and moral — can be as common as progress, if each new generation proves a poor custodian of the laws, behavior, knowledge, and learning inherited from those now gone.

We Are Not Alone

No one in my town ripped out copper wire from the street lights in 1963 as they commonly do now; my grandfather contended with swarms of vine-hoppers and spider mites, not, as I do, with thieves who destroy pumps to scavenge conduit wire. I know that this will not be a problem in 2080 — either because such crime that threatens society must cease, or society as we know it will cease. Can we see these as symptoms, as something also beyond our present anguish, as challenges shared by Athenians, Romans, and Byzantines? We can — if we have some guide that turns the nonsense of today into the sense of the ages.

Not a poet in America today could match Virgil. Few, if any, of us historians could write with the flair and judgment of a Tacitus. But how would we know that — or care — if we did not read?

Without some awareness that ideas are old and somewhat finite, and that we are young and ignorant, we assume that each new adventure must be novel because we alone — right now! — are experiencing it. If Barack Obama would read Procopius [10], he would learn the wages of his huge inefficient bureaucracy. Jerry Brown, the self-described Jesuit sage, should return to his St. Jerome [11], because the latter’s descriptions of an eroding Rome could just as well describe a drive down California’s 99. (Before a crumbling society can borrow billions for a high-speed rail to nowhere it might better bring out the dusty maps and charts of a dead generation of engineers that once bequeathed to us plans about how to finish a three-lane freeway without cross traffic.)

Ourselves and Our Archetypes

Reading literature endows us not just with a model of expression and thought, but also with a body of ideas — and the names, facts, and dates that we can draw on to elucidate them. When I used to follow the career of the brilliantly destructive Bill Clinton, he seemed to be Alcibiades reborn — and thus was surely bound to share the same fate of those with enormous talent who are consumed by their own huge and unrepressed appetites.

Richard Nixon jumped out of the pages Sophocles, another gifted Oedipus whose innate and unaddressed flaws were waiting dormant — for just the right occasion to explode him, for Nemesis to take him from the King of Thebes to itinerant blind beggar.

Obama? He came on the scene as arrogant and self-righteous as young Pentheus or Hippolytus and he is now learning firsthand the effects of his Euripidean smugness on others. Nothing that we experience has not happened before; the truly ignorant miss that, hypnotized by sophisticated technology into believing that human nature has been reinvented in their own image.

Transcendence

We all wish to live beyond the confines of our pathetic flesh and the limitations of the material world. I am here not just talking of religion, but rather of how shared ideas and learning trump age, race, class, gender, all the supposed barriers that only government alone can trample down.

At Fresno I used to teach works like Xenophon’s Hellenica or Aeschylus’s Prometheus Bound in advanced Greek classes, usually to about 10 students. Some were 60 years old and retired. Some were physically disabled and rolled in on wheel chairs. Some were Mexican-American; some women; some Asian. Often an epileptic retiree, who took every Greek course offered, would have a seizure in class. Most were poor or of middle means; but I recall there were one or two millionaires as well.

The Point of Such “Diversity”?

There was no diversity.

When they translated or sounded off about Prometheus’s pontifications or nearly wept at poor Theramenes (who perhaps deserved his fate for his triangulation) being dragged off to his death, all “difference” disappeared. What we had in common vastly outweighed our class, gender, and racial distinctions. Thucydides could belong to an immigrant from Oaxaca as much as it did to me — or even more so.

It was almost as if the mind lived without a body or perhaps despite it. In his treatise on old age and again in the Pro Archia, Cicero made the argument that learning gives us a common bond. (omnes arts quae ad humanities pertinent habent quoddam commune vinclum et quasi cognatione quadam inter se continentur.)

Old? Hardly

Literature and history become bulwarks from the cruel assaults of old age. I used to hike in the Attic hills with a group led by the septuagenarian, the legendary classical Greek scholar and topographer Eugene Vanderpool. He was to the eye almost decrepit — with few teeth (from the effects of malnourishment after internment in a German prisoner of war camp during the Nazi occupation of Athens) and recovering from a stroke. He reminded me of David’s 18th-century painting of an elderly Belisarius asking for alms outside the Hippodrome.

But as we hiked each Saturday he quietly pointed out the pass where Mardonius retreated back to Boeotia in spring 479 B.C. before being obliterated with his Persians at the subsequent battle of Plataea. “Hanson,” he once whispered, “did you realize you just stepped on the Attic Orchid; can I tell you a little about this vanishing flower that you crushed?” Someone kicked up a clay loom weight. He smiled shyly at it, and in muffled voice muttered, “Hmmm, about 400 B.C.; there must be a classical farmhouse about here somewhere.” We walked right by blank rocks; he asked, “Did anyone see back there that horos inscription? It was a boundary marker, Hellenistic I imagine.”

Ageless Man

When we got to the mountains overlooking the coast, he would rattle off the various armadas — Persian to nineteenth-century European — that had once docked below us. At 24, I felt like he was Napoleon addressing the Grand Army before the Pyramids. The result was that Mr. Vanderpool magically turned into 20-something like the rest of us, as if material existence were a bothersome afterthought. Our initial shock at his withered body vanished. He became almost an Apollo. I expected him to show up back at Athens at a Saturday night midnight disco bash to discourse on the Bee Gees as he had on the origins of ostracism.

Certificates of What?

We don’t need more technocrats who fool us that their Ivy League law degrees are synonymous with wisdom. They can be, but now are more likely not much more than tickets that allow an Eric Holder or Timothy Geithner into the first-class seating. I am not calling for us to be academics or scholastics with our noses in books or our heads up our posteriors; but to match physicality and pragmatism with occasional abstraction and reflection from the voices of the past — just a little, now and then, to remind us that Twitter or Facebook speed up communication, but can slow down thought.

Literature and history belong to us all. The recollection of ideas and thoughts can turn drudgery into something at least a little better. I once read Les Miserables and the memoirs of U.S. Grant simultaneously each night, and by day sprayed pre-emergent herbicide (in those pre-green days, per acre: ½ pound of Simazine, ½ pound of Karmex, washed down with spreader and some Parquat) all day long. Gradually the leaks, the toxicity, and the monotony of one sprayed row after another vanished. My head had gone underground into 1832 Paris and then came out again to the tricky siege of Vicksburg. That trance could mean the herbicide might once or twice miss the berm (and we would not recommend that 757 pilots dip into their Tolstoy during autopilot sessions), but for a time I was no longer cold and wet.

Links in the Chain

Somehow we must convince this new wired generation that speaking and writing well are not just the DSL lines of modern civilization, but also the keys to self-mastery, a sort of code that one takes on — in addition to others, moral and legal — to uphold standards of culture itself, to keep the work and ideas alive of our long gone betters for one more generation — as if to say, “I did my part according to my time and station.”Nothing more, nothing less.
(Thumbnail on PJM homepage by Shutterstock.com [12].)

Article printed from Works and Days: http://pjmedia.com/victordavishanson

URL to article: http://pjmedia.com/victordavishanson/so-why-read-anymore/

URLs in this post:

[1] Iliad: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0140275363/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=pjmedia-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0140275363

[2] The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0140437649/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=pjmedia-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0140437649

[3] Victory: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004QZ9URY/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=pajamasmedia-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B004QZ9URY

[4] Growth of the Soil: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0486476006/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=pjmedia-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0486476006

[5] Shane : http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0792163710/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=pjmedia-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0792163710

[6] Casablanca: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002VWNIAY/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=pjmedia-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B002VWNIAY

[7] the contradictions of Christopher Hitchens: http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/286976/goodbye-mr-hitchens-victor-davis-hanson

[8] Inferno: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1463532229/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=pjmedia-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1463532229

[9] History of the Conquest of Mexico: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0217254462/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=pjmedia-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0217254462

[10] Procopius: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Procopius

[11] St. Jerome: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Jerome

[12] Shutterstock.com: http://www.shutterstock.com
1525  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Andrew Sullivan on Obama on: January 17, 2012, 03:50:05 PM
http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/01/15/andrew-sullivan-how-obama-s-long-game-will-outsmart-his-critics.html

Andrew Sullivan: How Obama's Long Game Will Outsmart His Critics
The right calls him a socialist, the left says he sucks up to Wall Street, and independents think he's a wimp. Andrew Sullivan on how the president may just end up outsmarting them all.
by Andrew Sullivan  | January 16, 2012 12:00 AM EST
You hear it everywhere. Democrats are disappointed in the president. Independents have soured even more. Republicans have worked themselves up into an apocalyptic fervor. And, yes, this is not exactly unusual.

A president in the last year of his first term will always get attacked mercilessly by his partisan opponents, and also, often, by the feistier members of his base. And when unemployment is at remarkably high levels, and with the national debt setting records, the criticism will—and should be—even fiercer. But this time, with this president, something different has happened. It’s not that I don’t understand the critiques of Barack Obama from the enraged right and the demoralized left. It’s that I don’t even recognize their description of Obama’s first term in any way. The attacks from both the right and the left on the man and his policies aren’t out of bounds. They’re simply—empirically—wrong.

A caveat: I write this as an unabashed supporter of Obama from early 2007 on. I did so not as a liberal, but as a conservative-minded independent appalled by the Bush administration’s record of war, debt, spending, and torture. I did not expect, or want, a messiah. I have one already, thank you very much. And there have been many times when I have disagreed with decisions Obama has made—to drop the Bowles-Simpson debt commission, to ignore the war crimes of the recent past, and to launch a war in Libya without Congress’s sanction, to cite three. But given the enormity of what he inherited, and given what he explicitly promised, it remains simply a fact that Obama has delivered in a way that the unhinged right and purist left have yet to understand or absorb. Their short-term outbursts have missed Obama’s long game—and why his reelection remains, in my view, as essential for this country’s future as his original election in 2008.

Gallery: Obama's Promises


See more at the link above.  It is a pretty interesting read, in my opinion. 
1526  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Does It Matter If Everyone Hates Congress? on: January 17, 2012, 03:39:38 PM
http://themonkeycage.org/blog/2010/02/12/does_it_matter_if_everyone_hat/


This is apropos of Josh’s post below. The New York Times story he cites says:

The poll suggests that both parties face a toxic environment as they prepare for the elections in November. Public disapproval of Congress is at a historic high, and huge numbers of Americans think Congress is beholden to special interests. Fewer than 1 in 10 Americans say members of Congress deserve re-election.
Here is some relevant analysis from Alan Abramowitz. He makes several important points. First, approval of Congress is strongly correlated with presidential approval, even under divided government:

The data show that when the president is more popular, Congress tends to be more popular and when the president is less popular, Congress tends to be less popular. Moreover, this is true even when Congress and the presidency are controlled by different parties.
Why? He posits that opinions of both are related to underlying structural features, such as the economy:

This may indicate that evaluations of Congress are influenced by evaluations of the president or that both are influenced by feelings about the condition of the country and the overall performance of the federal government.
And of course there is this truism, which somewhat undercuts the notion that incumbents are threatened by low congressional approval:

As the noted congressional scholar Richard Fenno has observed, Americans generally love their own congressperson even though they dislike Congress. They tend to see their own Senators and Representatives as the rare good apples in an otherwise rotten barrel.
To speak to Josh’s question about bipartisan anti-incumbent voting, Abramowitz writes:

Discontent with Congress does not lead to a general tendency to kick out incumbents. Occasionally voters do get upset and give the boot to a large number of incumbents—but they almost always take out their dissatisfaction on the members of only one party—the president’s party.
Finally, and most importantly, and please please shout this from the rooftops:

This brings up the most important point about evaluations of Congress. They have very little influence on how Americans vote in congressional elections. When it comes to choosing candidates for Congress, it is opinions of the president’s performance that matter.
1527  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / MC's take on security issues on the Hill and at home on: January 17, 2012, 09:43:51 AM
http://www.rollcall.com/issues/57_79/lawmakers_evolve_attitudes_toward_security_gabrielle_giffords-211515-1.html?ET=rollcall:e11889:80133681a:&st=email&pos=eam

Lawmakers Evolve Attitudes Toward Security

    * By Emma Dumain
    * Roll Call Staff
    * Jan. 17, 2012, Midnight

Jonathan Gibby/Getty Images
A memorial in Tucson, Ariz., pays tribute to the six people who died in a shooting last year at an event hosted by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

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    * FEC OKs Giffords’ Campaign Funds for Home Security
    * Cuts to Sergeant-at-Arms Raise Concerns for Some

In the year since Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was seriously wounded and an aide was killed in an attack at a constituent event in Tucson, Ariz., the Congressional community has changed the way it thinks about security at home and on the Hill.

But rather than putting up new security checkpoints and tightening rules for entrance into the Capitol, the approach of lawmakers, staff and law enforcement officials has been more attitudinal than tangible.

With little new money to spend on security upgrades, the Hill’s chief law enforcement officers say they have focused instead on streamlining communication among Capitol Police, FBI, Secret Service and local law enforcement.

Aides say they are quicker to report threats left on voice mails or in emails.

In general, watching a colleague narrowly dodge death has had a profound effect on how the Congressional community thinks about what it needs to do to stay safe.

“It’s always important to make sure complacency doesn’t creep in,” Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer warned. “We have to make a conscious effort to always think ‘security, security.’”

House Members were particularly proactive in the aftermath of the shooting, some acting as their own judges on how to protect themselves.

Collectively, in the first quarter of 2011, Members paid the Department of Homeland Security $73,000 for protection of district offices in federal buildings — $20,000 more than Members paid to every private security company combined.

Some have also subtly shifted their own office budgets to boost security in district offices.

Rep. Michael Grimm, a freshman Republican from New York who is a former Marine and FBI agent, appointed a “personal security assistant.” Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield (N.C.), an Army veteran, said he wanted to install bulletproof glass and a digital combination keypad lock at his district office. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) pondered drafting legislation to allow Members to carry guns in the District of Columbia.

In the months that followed, there were also broader trends in how House Members were changing their attitudes toward safety.

Many House offices quickly designated staffers as “law enforcement coordinators.” Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said the move has helped local and federal law enforcement agencies better coordinate when there are threats against Members.

More generally, Schneider said, she has seen in the past 12 months a greater awareness among Members and staffers in terms of reporting alarming incidents to law enforcement officials.

“People are more inclined to report their concerns to the USCP [and] are more vigilant and conscious about their personal security,” Schneider told Roll Call.

Schneider would not reveal the number of threats reported to Capitol Police, saying they were “maintained internally for threat assessment purposes.”

Gainer said that for the Senate, the number of cases reported represents a “slight uptick” from previous years.

He agreed with Schneider that there’s been a shift in attitude toward taking threats seriously and suggested that the increase in threats could correlate with a new appreciation for reporting incidents as they occur.

Since the Tucson attack, which left six dead, including Giffords aide Gabe Zimmerman, and 13 wounded, lawmakers have been consistently better at asking for security assistance before hosting large-scale constituent events.

“They now know how to prepare for events big and small and know what to look out for, who to touch base with if they need assistance,” Gainer said. “When planning for an event in the past, the planning, I don’t think, ever included a security component, and I believe it does now.”

Gainer is optimistic that a DVD on security tips that the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms’ office is releasing in the next couple of months will also have a long-lasting effect.

The intangible nature of many of the security steps taken in the past year is part choice — better coordination is a good idea in any circumstance — and part necessity.

In fiscal 2012, Capitol Police will be flat-funded at $340 million.

Some House appropriators had hoped to provide $1 million to the Capitol Police to implement a program to strengthen security in Members’ district offices, but the provision was not included in the fiscal 2012 omnibus spending bill because Capitol Police did not have the resources to make such a program possible, according to an Appropriations Committee aide.

The bill’s conference report does include language, though, that would instruct the House Sergeant-at-Arms and the Capitol Police to assist Members in selecting district office locations that “yield greater security with less cost.”

The House Chief Administrative Officer is charged with doing more outreach to help Members negotiate such leases.

While the House Sergeant-at-Arms received a small increase from the fiscal 2011 allocation, the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms budget was trimmed by 5 percent.

Gainer said finances haven’t been much of a problem for his team, though.

Earlier this year, he hired a new assistant Sergeant-at-Arms for intelligence and protective services to oversee security for dignitaries, intelligence operations and interaction with local and state law enforcement.

“We always wish we had more rubles to do things, but we’ve been able to prioritize,” he said.
1528  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / SOPA blackout tomorrow on: January 17, 2012, 05:54:24 AM
Several websites, including Reddit and Wikipedia will be offline all or part of tomorrow.

http://redtape.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/01/13/10151672-sopa-opponents-gaining-momentum-wikipedia-to-join-blackout
1529  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: January 16, 2012, 08:32:50 PM
What is the URL of the birth certificate on the White House site?

http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/04/27/president-obamas-long-form-birth-certificate
1530  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: January 16, 2012, 04:56:42 AM
Reports are that Huntsman is dropping out and endorsing Mitt.
1531  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rick Perry hates states rights on: January 13, 2012, 05:31:12 PM
... when they are inconvenient for him.

http://www.politico.com/blogs/burns-haberman/2012/01/judge-rejects-perrys-va-ballot-suit-110781.html
1532  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / SC in SC???? on: January 13, 2012, 08:26:11 AM
http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/203963-no-joke-stephen-colbert-exploring-a-presidential-run

No joke? Stephen Colbert exploring a presidential run
By Jamie Klatell - 01/12/12 09:26 PM ET

Comedian Stephen Colbert is giving up control of his super PAC and forming an exploratory committee for a presidential run.

Colbert made his announcement at Thursday night's taping of his Comedy Central show, The Colbert Report.

"I'm proud to announce I plan to form an exploratory committee to lay the groundwork for my candidacy in the United States of South Carolina," Colbert said.

To satisfy election laws, fellow Comedy Central host Jon Stewart will take control of Colbert's super PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow.

Colbert has used the group to needle the GOP establishment in South Carolina, even offering to buy naming rights for the state's presidential primary.

Although he will not be on the ballot in South Carolina, Colbert said that he would succeed in the Republican field because he is not current front-runner Mitt Romney.

"Clearly my fellow South Caroliniacs see me as the only Mitternative," Colbert said.

A PPP poll released Tuesday found that Colbert drew 5 percent support in South Carolina. That put him 22 points behind Romney, but ahead of Jon Huntsman.   cheesy cheesy
1533  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Romney to try immigration in SC on: January 13, 2012, 08:22:34 AM
http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/gop-presidential-primary/203941-romney-to-slam-foes-on-immigration-in-south-carolina


Romney to hammer Gingrich, Perry on immigration in SC
By Cameron Joseph - 01/13/12 06:00 AM ET

Mitt Romney plans to hammer Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry on immigration in a bid to win over conservative voters in South Carolina, where the GOP front-runner has a narrow lead in polls.

Romney intends to highlight his credentials as a firm opponent of illegal immigration in an appearance Monday with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), who co-authored Arizona’s controversial immigration law.

Appeals on immigration could be a winning formula in South Carolina, where the Legislature earlier this year passed a strict anti-illegal immigration law modeled on Arizona’s measure, which the Justice Department has sought to block.

The Hispanic population of South Carolina has ballooned in the last decade, growing 148 percent since 2000. Latinos now account for more than 5 percent of the state’s population.


It could also prove a potent attack on Gingrich and Perry, who could be vulnerable to charges, potent in a race for conservative votes, that they are soft on stopping illegal immigration.

Both Perry and Gingrich, who are vying to keep their campaigns alive with strong showings in South Carolina, have come out against deporting every immigrant who entered the country without authorization.

Perry also signed into Texas law a bill that allowed in-state tuition for some undocumented immigrants living in the state, for which Romney has attacked him. Perry took a lot of heat on the issue after arguing in a debate that those who disagreed with his policy didn’t “have a heart.”
 


“Mitt Romney stands apart from the others. He’s the only one who’s taken a strong across-the-board position on immigration,” Kobach told The Hill in an interview.

“Gingrich and Perry, with their pro-amnesty positions, are not acceptable on their issues to me or the vast majority of Republicans.”
 


Kobach also criticized Rick Santorum, another GOP candidate trying to win over conservatives, for voting in 1996 against a pilot program that turned into E-Verify, the national system which helps employers check the immigration status of their employees. But he did praise Santorum for more recently voicing support for the program.
 


“All of the other candidates stand to the left of Romney on immigration,” Kobach said. “This is an issue that people with weak backbones sometimes have trouble taking a position on, and Mitt Romney has shown some real backbone on this issue.”

There are some risks for Romney.

Democrats are already pointing to problems he could have with Hispanic voters in the general election, and the Democratic National Committee pounced on Kobach’s endorsement of Romney.

Romney is not the only candidate drawing attention to the issue. Santorum on Thursday announced the backing of Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), another anti-immigration hard-liner.
 


“I am honored to receive Lou's endorsement today,” Santorum said in a statement.

“Lou has been a national leader on fighting illegal immigration and has been a fighter for the people of northeastern Pennsylvania in Congress.”
 


GOP strategist Dave Woodard said emphasizing the issue of immigration could help Romney in South Carolina.

The Justice Department stepped in to block South Carolina’s law in late December, angering many in the state and drawing widespread press coverage.
 


“It’s one of those latent issues. We’ve had a run-in with the Obama administration on this and a candidate could bring it up in his stump speech … and bang, you just inflamed the thing,” said Woodard, also a professor at Clemson.

“The federal government telling us what to do is always a big issue down here.”
1534  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / recess appointments on: January 12, 2012, 01:39:54 PM
If this "The Obama administration has offered no considered legal defense for the recess appointments. It even appears that it got no opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel in advance of the action—a sure sign the administration understood it was on shaky legal ground." is true, than Obama totally fu$#ed up.  See my post from above. 

Incidentally, if his credentials didn't indicate this, McConnell is real, real smart and an influetial scholars and jurist. 


OLC chimes in: http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/203853-department-of-justice-defends-obamas-controversial-recess-appointments
1535  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / AIC on: January 12, 2012, 07:14:49 AM


Haunting.  Alice in Chains is good now, better then...
1536  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / lawmakers split on defense funds on: January 12, 2012, 07:13:26 AM
http://thehill.com/blogs/defcon-hill/budget-approriations/203729-lawmakers-geared-up-for-battle-over-military-spending-strategy
1537  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obama is totally NOT campaigning on: January 12, 2012, 07:12:28 AM
... just ask him.

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/203735-white-house-no-were-not-campaigning
1538  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dems giddy over attacks on Romney on: January 12, 2012, 07:10:33 AM
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/12/us/politics/romney-attacks-may-help-democrats.html?_r=1&ref=politics
1539  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / holds have impact on: January 12, 2012, 07:03:41 AM
This is an interesting story about the impact of a senatorial hold on DC.  The Senate, unlike the House, gives much power to the individual.  Although the filibuster is the most famous use of this (Thanks Mr. Smith!!!), holds are also noteworthy.

http://www.rollcall.com/news/anonymous_senate_hold_plays_into_extra_cost_for_dc_election-211429-1.html?ET=rollcall:e11855:80133681a:&st=email&pos=epol
1540  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obama may have to choose between two competing interests on: January 12, 2012, 06:50:45 AM
http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/203737-hollywood-or-silicon-obama-must-choose
1541  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Great commentary from actor Richard Dreyfuss on: January 11, 2012, 10:57:04 AM
Excellent commentary by Richard Dreyfuss.

1542  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Movies on: January 11, 2012, 08:48:20 AM
I think so, although I read it aloud to my kids, one of whom is much younger.  The illustrations in the book are amazing if art is an interest.   
1543  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pot and lungs on: January 10, 2012, 06:47:08 PM
http://vitals.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/01/10/10098412-smoking-pot-doesnt-hurt-lung-capacity-study-shows

Weed isn't as bad as tobacco... at least for lungs.
1544  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Movies on: January 10, 2012, 06:37:37 PM
I want to see that!

At the complete other end of the spectrum is Martin Scorcese's "Hugo" to which we took our children this past weekend.  Slow, thoughtful, no chase scenes, no cute smartass children, and ultimately quite powerful.  Recommended!

I've not seen the movie, but the book was excellent.
1545  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Knuckle on: January 10, 2012, 10:05:28 AM
A documentary on Irish bare knuckle fighting blood feuds. 

1546  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: January 10, 2012, 09:27:50 AM
If this "The Obama administration has offered no considered legal defense for the recess appointments. It even appears that it got no opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel in advance of the action—a sure sign the administration understood it was on shaky legal ground." is true, than Obama totally fu$#ed up.  See my post from above. 

Incidentally, if his credentials didn't indicate this, McConnell is real, real smart and an influetial scholars and jurist. 
1547  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Daley to leave WH on: January 09, 2012, 02:15:10 PM
http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/203147-daley-to-step-down-as-white-house-chief-of-staff

White House Chief of Staff William Daley will step down from his post at the end of the month, according to a senior administration official.

Daley will be replaced by Jack Lew, head of the Office of Management and Budget.

Daley submitted a letter of resignation to Obama last week.

“I have been honored to be a small part of your administration,” Daley wrote to the president in a letter obtained by the Chicago Tribune. “It’s time for me to go back to the city I love.”

Daley’s departure comes two months after the White House announced that Pete Rouse, the president’s senior adviser, would be taking over the daily operational duties.

Daley has had a turbulent tenure at the White House, where he has reportedly clashed with other officials.

Some say there was a level of unhappiness with Daley in recent months and the grumbling had intensified since then.

One former Obama aide who has dealt with Daley called him "unapproachable" and "standoffish."

"He's a little too structured," the aide said, adding that the chief of staff had some difficulty adjusting to a string of moving targets that is commonplace around the West Wing.

The aide said that while Rahm Emanuel, Obama's first chief of staff, would openly call on staffers in meetings, Daley would come in with a list of staffers who would speak in meetings.

"He has definitely ruffled a few feathers," the aide said.

Daley only had been President Obama's chief of staff for a little more than a year. He replaced Emanuel, who left the White House and eventually was elected Chicago.

Most recently, Daley began having "listening sessions" with former Obama aides and strategists to get their ideas on what the White House could be doing better.
1548  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / the signing statement that accompanied NDAA on: January 09, 2012, 01:44:55 PM
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/12/31/statement-president-hr-1540

Statement by the President on H.R. 1540

Today I have signed into law H.R. 1540, the "National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012." I have signed the Act chiefly because it authorizes funding for the defense of the United States and its interests abroad, crucial services for service members and their families, and vital national security programs that must be renewed. In hundreds of separate sections totaling over 500 pages, the Act also contains critical Administration initiatives to control the spiraling health care costs of the Department of Defense (DoD), to develop counterterrorism initiatives abroad, to build the security capacity of key partners, to modernize the force, and to boost the efficiency and effectiveness of military operations worldwide.

The fact that I support this bill as a whole does not mean I agree with everything in it. In particular, I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists. Over the last several years, my Administration has developed an effective, sustainable framework for the detention, interrogation and trial of suspected terrorists that allows us to maximize both our ability to collect intelligence and to incapacitate dangerous individuals in rapidly developing situations, and the results we have achieved are undeniable. Our success against al-Qa'ida and its affiliates and adherents has derived in significant measure from providing our counterterrorism professionals with the clarity and flexibility they need to adapt to changing circumstances and to utilize whichever authorities best protect the American people, and our accomplishments have respected the values that make our country an example for the world.

Against that record of success, some in Congress continue to insist upon restricting the options available to our counterterrorism professionals and interfering with the very operations that have kept us safe. My Administration has consistently opposed such measures. Ultimately, I decided to sign this bill not only because of the critically important services it provides for our forces and their families and the national security programs it authorizes, but also because the Congress revised provisions that otherwise would have jeopardized the safety, security, and liberty of the American people. Moving forward, my Administration will interpret and implement the provisions described below in a manner that best preserves the flexibility on which our safety depends and upholds the values on which this country was founded.

Section 1021 affirms the executive branch's authority to detain persons covered by the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) (Public Law 107-40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note). This section breaks no new ground and is unnecessary. The authority it describes was included in the 2001 AUMF, as recognized by the Supreme Court and confirmed through lower court decisions since then. Two critical limitations in section 1021 confirm that it solely codifies established authorities. First, under section 1021(d), the bill does not "limit or expand the authority of the President or the scope of the Authorization for Use of Military Force." Second, under section 1021(e), the bill may not be construed to affect any "existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States." My Administration strongly supported the inclusion of these limitations in order to make clear beyond doubt that the legislation does nothing more than confirm authorities that the Federal courts have recognized as lawful under the 2001 AUMF. Moreover, I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation. My Administration will interpret section 1021 in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law.

Section 1022 seeks to require military custody for a narrow category of non-citizen detainees who are "captured in the course of hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force." This section is ill-conceived and will do nothing to improve the security of the United States. The executive branch already has the authority to detain in military custody those members of al-Qa'ida who are captured in the course of hostilities authorized by the AUMF, and as Commander in Chief I have directed the military to do so where appropriate. I reject any approach that would mandate military custody where law enforcement provides the best method of incapacitating a terrorist threat. While section 1022 is unnecessary and has the potential to create uncertainty, I have signed the bill because I believe that this section can be interpreted and applied in a manner that avoids undue harm to our current operations.

I have concluded that section 1022 provides the minimally acceptable amount of flexibility to protect national security. Specifically, I have signed this bill on the understanding that section 1022 provides the executive branch with broad authority to determine how best to implement it, and with the full and unencumbered ability to waive any military custody requirement, including the option of waiving appropriate categories of cases when doing so is in the national security interests of the United States. As my Administration has made clear, the only responsible way to combat the threat al-Qa'ida poses is to remain relentlessly practical, guided by the factual and legal complexities of each case and the relative strengths and weaknesses of each system. Otherwise, investigations could be compromised, our authorities to hold dangerous individuals could be jeopardized, and intelligence could be lost. I will not tolerate that result, and under no circumstances will my Administration accept or adhere to a rigid across-the-board requirement for military detention. I will therefore interpret and implement section 1022 in the manner that best preserves the same flexible approach that has served us so well for the past 3 years and that protects the ability of law enforcement professionals to obtain the evidence and cooperation they need to protect the Nation.

My Administration will design the implementation procedures authorized by section 1022(c) to provide the maximum measure of flexibility and clarity to our counterterrorism professionals permissible under law. And I will exercise all of my constitutional authorities as Chief Executive and Commander in Chief if those procedures fall short, including but not limited to seeking the revision or repeal of provisions should they prove to be unworkable.

Sections 1023-1025 needlessly interfere with the executive branch's processes for reviewing the status of detainees. Going forward, consistent with congressional intent as detailed in the Conference Report, my Administration will interpret section 1024 as granting the Secretary of Defense broad discretion to determine what detainee status determinations in Afghanistan are subject to the requirements of this section.

Sections 1026-1028 continue unwise funding restrictions that curtail options available to the executive branch. Section 1027 renews the bar against using appropriated funds for fiscal year 2012 to transfer Guantanamo detainees into the United States for any purpose. I continue to oppose this provision, which intrudes upon critical executive branch authority to determine when and where to prosecute Guantanamo detainees, based on the facts and the circumstances of each case and our national security interests. For decades, Republican and Democratic administrations have successfully prosecuted hundreds of terrorists in Federal court. Those prosecutions are a legitimate, effective, and powerful tool in our efforts to protect the Nation. Removing that tool from the executive branch does not serve our national security. Moreover, this intrusion would, under certain circumstances, violate constitutional separation of powers principles.

Section 1028 modifies but fundamentally maintains unwarranted restrictions on the executive branch's authority to transfer detainees to a foreign country. This hinders the executive's ability to carry out its military, national security, and foreign relations activities and like section 1027, would, under certain circumstances, violate constitutional separation of powers principles. The executive branch must have the flexibility to act swiftly in conducting negotiations with foreign countries regarding the circumstances of detainee transfers. In the event that the statutory restrictions in sections 1027 and 1028 operate in a manner that violates constitutional separation of powers principles, my Administration will interpret them to avoid the constitutional conflict.

Section 1029 requires that the Attorney General consult with the Director of National Intelligence and Secretary of Defense prior to filing criminal charges against or seeking an indictment of certain individuals. I sign this based on the understanding that apart from detainees held by the military outside of the United States under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, the provision applies only to those individuals who have been determined to be covered persons under section 1022 before the Justice Department files charges or seeks an indictment. Notwithstanding that limitation, this provision represents an intrusion into the functions and prerogatives of the Department of Justice and offends the longstanding legal tradition that decisions regarding criminal prosecutions should be vested with the Attorney General free from outside interference. Moreover, section 1029 could impede flexibility and hinder exigent operational judgments in a manner that damages our security. My Administration will interpret and implement section 1029 in a manner that preserves the operational flexibility of our counterterrorism and law enforcement professionals, limits delays in the investigative process, ensures that critical executive branch functions are not inhibited, and preserves the integrity and independence of the Department of Justice.

Other provisions in this bill above could interfere with my constitutional foreign affairs powers. Section 1244 requires the President to submit a report to the Congress 60 days prior to sharing any U.S. classified ballistic missile defense information with Russia. Section 1244 further specifies that this report include a detailed description of the classified information to be provided. While my Administration intends to keep the Congress fully informed of the status of U.S. efforts to cooperate with the Russian Federation on ballistic missile defense, my Administration will also interpret and implement section 1244 in a manner that does not interfere with the President's constitutional authority to conduct foreign affairs and avoids the undue disclosure of sensitive diplomatic communications. Other sections pose similar problems. Sections 1231, 1240, 1241, and 1242 could be read to require the disclosure of sensitive diplomatic communications and national security secrets; and sections 1235, 1242, and 1245 would interfere with my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations by directing the Executive to take certain positions in negotiations or discussions with foreign governments. Like section 1244, should any application of these provisions conflict with my constitutional authorities, I will treat the provisions as non-binding.

My Administration has worked tirelessly to reform or remove the provisions described above in order to facilitate the enactment of this vital legislation, but certain provisions remain concerning. My Administration will aggressively seek to mitigate those concerns through the design of implementation procedures and other authorities available to me as Chief Executive and Commander in Chief, will oppose any attempt to extend or expand them in the future, and will seek the repeal of any provisions that undermine the policies and values that have guided my Administration throughout my time in office.

BARACK OBAMA
1549  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Do Nothing Congress and States Rights on: January 09, 2012, 09:43:43 AM

http://thehill.com/opinion/columnists/juan-williams/202995-opinion-continuing-deadlock-in-congress-may-boost-state-power

Opinion: Continuing deadlock in Congress may boost state power
By Juan Williams - 01/09/12 05:20 AM ET

The January forecast for Congress calls for a continued deep freeze.

That means the most important public policy debates facing the nation will remain locked under the icy divide between the Democratic majority in the Senate and the Republican majority in the House. This forecast has held true since the start of the 112th Congress last January.

The frigid environment led the president last week to make a controversial recess appointment for the head of a new consumer watchdog agency. Senate Republicans, true to the freeze, claim the Senate is not in recess so as to block the appointment. The president, playing on the historic high level of public discontent with congressional inaction, said he refused to “stand by while a minority in the Senate puts party ideology ahead of the people they were elected to serve.”

Last year the freeze on Capitol Hill brought us a paltry two-month extension of the payroll tax cut. It also led to the failure of the supercommittee, the burying of the deficit reduction plan proposed by former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and three-near government shutdowns. The cold inside the Capitol spread to Wall Street and led to the downgrade of the nation’s credit rating.

And now there is the added chill that arrives with an election year. The GOP has no incentive to give the president any legislative victories. At best, Republicans in the House and Democrats in the Senate will try to force their opposition into casting unpopular votes on big issues. The goal is not to pass any meaningful legislation but to score political points and create fodder for political attack ads.

The bottom line for the coming year is that action on issues affecting the lives of real Americans will come from state governments and federal courts. Here are three major policy fights that will take place on battlegrounds far from Capitol Hill.

Immigration: GOP governors and state legislatures are pressing tough new immigration laws modeled after Arizona’s S.B. 1070. States such as South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia have enacted similar “Papers Please” laws. A federal judge blocked Arizona’s law in 2010 and last month, another federal court blocked parts of the South Carolina law as unconstitutional infringement on federal law. The GOP proponents of the state laws argue they are necessary due to Congress’ failure to act on immigration reform. The Supreme Court has announced it will rule on Arizona’s appeal sometime this year.

Healthcare: In the absence of federal reform, Medicaid will continue its downward spiral into insolvency. This means that cash-strapped states will have to make painful cuts and enact cost-saving measures like means-testing to make up the difference. Also, the Supreme Court has said it will rule on the individual mandate in President Obama’s healthcare reform law. Several Republican governors argue it is unconstitutional and will burden businesses in their states. Last November, 66 percent of voters in Ohio voted for a ballot initiative which declared their state to be exempt from a national healthcare mandate – directly contradicting a central piece of the Affordable Healthcare Act – and setting up a fight between the state government and a paralyzed federal government.

Education: Congress has failed to pass much-needed revisions to No Child Left Behind for the past three years and it is highly unlikely they will do so in 2012. States are using up their stopgap funding for education that was included in the stimulus bill. And the Race to the Top grant program where states compete for additional funding faces serious cuts. The only hope for education reform would appear to be on the state level. GOP governors are following the lead of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a passionate reform advocate. However, Christie was unable to get his ambitious reform package through his Democratic-controlled state legislature in 2011. Christie says he will renew his push for merit pay, tenure reform and expansion of charter schools and vouchers in 2012. 

And the list of major public policy disputes also includes the controversy over state laws requiring photo identification for voters. The Department of Justice has challenged several of these laws, setting the stage for another battle in federal court. South Carolina’s new voter ID law was recently blocked by the DOJ under the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Gov. Nikki Haley (R-S.C.) has said she is prepared to challenge the Obama administration all the way to the Supreme Court on this one.

Presidential and congressional candidates will be reacting to whatever legislative action comes from the states. Note that each of these issues tests the limits of federalism itself. This bedrock principle of the U.S. Constitution, codified by the Tenth Amendment, says that there is a separation of powers between the state and federal government. But what happens when the federal government is not doing its job?

Voters can expect both Republicans and Democrats to run against the do-nothing Congress.

Because of Congress’s partisan paralysis, 2012 may signal a monumental shift in power away from the federal government to the state governments – and in the process permanently alter the constitutional interpretation of federalism.


1550  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PAC goes after Mitt on: January 09, 2012, 09:41:44 AM

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/09/us/politics/pro-gingrich-pac-plans-tv-ads-against-romney.html?_r=1&ref=politics&pagewanted=print
PAC Ads to Attack Romney as Predatory Capitalist
By TRIP GABRIEL and NICHOLAS CONFESSORE

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Thanks to a $5 million donation from a wealthy casino owner, a group supporting Newt Gingrich plans to place advertisements in South Carolina this week attacking Mitt Romney as a predatory capitalist who destroyed jobs and communities, a full-scale Republican assault on Mr. Romney’s business background.

The advertisements, a counterpunch to a campaign waged against Mr. Gingrich by a group backing Mr. Romney, will be built on excerpts from a scathing movie about Bain Capital, the private equity firm Mr. Romney once ran. The movie, financed by a Republican operative opposed to Mr. Romney, includes emotional interviews with people who lost jobs at companies that Bain bought and later sold.

“We had to load up the U-Haul because we done lost our home,” one woman says.

Democrats have signaled that they intend to make Mr. Romney’s history at Bain a central part of their case against him if he wins the Republican nomination. But Bain has also emerged as an issue in the Republican primary, despite the party’s free market stance and business-friendly policies, reflecting the depth of public anger about the economy. At an appearance here on Sunday, Mr. Gingrich suggested that Bain’s approach was to carry out “clever legal ways to loot a company.”

But the planned advertisements appear to be intended to elevate the subject to a new level as Mr. Gingrich and the other Republican contenders begin to run out of time to slow Mr. Romney’ s progress toward the nomination. They are the latest example of how “super PACs” are carrying out attacks in sync with their preferred candidates and in the process helping to reshape the presidential race. Super PACs can raise unlimited amounts of money but are barred from coordinating with the campaigns they are supporting.

The Bain-centered campaign strikes at the heart of Mr. Romney’s argument for his qualifications as president — that as a successful executive in the private sector, he learned how to create jobs — and advances an argument that President Obama’s re-election campaign has signaled it will employ aggressively against Mr. Romney.

“His business success comes from raiding and destroying businesses — putting people out of work, stealing their health care,” said Rick Tyler, a senior adviser to the pro-Gingrich super PAC, Winning Our Future, which recently bought the film, “King of Bain: When Mitt Romney Came to Town,” after groups backing two other Republican candidates passed up opportunities to use it.

The movie scenes and the influx of money that enable the pro-Gingrich group to run the advertising campaign have “all the makings of a game-changer,” Mr. Tyler said.

Winning Our Future got the money for the campaign from Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire casino owner in Las Vegas who has long supported Mr. Gingrich.

The group said it would spend $3.4 million initially on radio and TV advertisements starting Wednesday in South Carolina, where the campaign will move after New Hampshire. Mr. Gingrich, who held the lead in the polls in South Carolina last month before falling back, attributes his fade there and earlier in Iowa, where he finished fourth in the caucuses last week, to a deluge of attack advertisements from a super PAC supporting Mr. Romney, Restore Our Future.

When Mr. Gingrich accused Mr. Romney at a debate on Saturday in New Hampshire of following a “Wall Street model” where “you can basically take out all the money, leaving behind the workers,” Mr. Romney retorted that he had helped create 100,000 jobs, citing successes like Staples.

“It’s puzzling to see Speaker Gingrich and his supporters continue their attacks on free enterprise,” said a spokeswoman for Mr. Romney, Andrea Saul. “This is the type of criticism we’ve come to expect from President Obama and his left-wing allies at Moveon.org.”

The film’s producer, Barry Bennett, a former consultant to a super PAC that supports Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, said he came up with the idea himself.

Mr. Bennett said he had bought an “opposition research book” on Mr. Romney compiled by the staff of a Republican rival during the 2008 campaign and had found its contents “stunning.”

“David Axelrod,” he said, referring to Mr. Obama’s strategist, “is going to have a heyday with this, and Republicans need to know this story before we nominate this guy.”

He said he had commissioned Jason Killian Meath, an advertising executive and freelance filmmaker, to direct the movie. Mr. Meath worked on the Romney campaign in 2008 as an associate of Stuart Stevens, who is Mr. Romney’s strategist.

Mr. Bennett said he paid the film’s entire cost, $40,000, from his own pocket; it was never an official project of the pro-Perry group, Make Us Great Again. He said had he never showed it to the pro-Perry group, which he left in October.

But people with knowledge of the film’s provenance said that officials at Make Us Great Again were shown an early portion of the film, and had told Mr. Bennett that they had no interest in using it or paying for it.

In a statement, Scott Rials, the executive director, said: “Make Us Great Again had nothing to do with this video in any way. Period. Barry Bennett worked with us during the startup phase of the super PAC, but we are now working on different projects.”

Mr. Bennett also shopped the film to a super PAC supporting another candidate, Jon M. Huntsman Jr. But officials with the group, Our Destiny, also passed on the film, according to a person with ties to the group.

“We made the decision that that was just not the kind of campaign we wanted to participate in,” said the person, who asked for anonymity to describe private negotiations.

Mr. Tyler, a former long-time aide to Mr. Gingrich who helped set up the super PAC supporting him, disagreed.  “I’m a capitalist, I’m a conservative,” he said. “I’ve spent a lot of time defending free enterprise from a biblical perspective.”

But Bain Capital, he said, did not fit the model of responsible corporate citizenship.  “If this is free enterprise, then conservatives should have nothing to do with it,” he said. “It is predatory paper-shuffling. Mitt Romney was engaged in the engineered destruction of free enterprise.”

The full 28-minute movie, which the group plans to post online, cuts back and forth between images of Mr. Romney’s “$12 million California beach house” and men and women describing the pain of losing jobs.

A man in a Vietnam veterans hat says: “Who am I? I’m Bob Safford. Mitt Romney and those guys, they don’t care who I am.”

In news clips in the film, Mr. Romney is jeered at for calling corporations “people” and explains that capitalism is “creative destruction.”

Mr. Adelson’s $5 million contribution instantly makes Winning Our Future a major player on the political landscape.

A supporter of conservative causes, including the Republican Jewish Coalition, Mr. Adelson is especially close to Mr. Gingrich, a kinship that stretches back to the former speaker’s days in the House and has evolved into a relationship that is as much personal as political, according to people who know both men.

Mr. Gingrich, who has vowed to run a positive campaign, has said he will tell supporters not to donate to any group that runs negative advertisements on his behalf. Mr. Tyler said the Romney campaign might find the commercials negative.  “But I think voters will find them instructive and positive and help them make a decision,” he said.
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