Archive for April, 2012

Under Obama, America more divided than ever

I think it’s fair to say that Barack Obama has proved to be a polarizing political figure. You can argue about who to blame for that reality — some accuse Obama of divisive policies and rhetoric; others argue that certain segments of the electorate have responded negatively for reasons that have nothing to do with how Obama has governed, and are instead related to his race and background.

For the moment, let’s set that debate aside and look at the numbers, which are pretty stark and suggest that Obama has indeed become one of the most polarizing political figures in the modern era.

demopoll

For example, let’s look at the results of the most recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, which overall gave Obama a lead of 51-44 percent among registered voters. But when you start breaking that down demographically, things get interesting.

Among non-white Americans, Obama leads Mitt Romney by 59 percentage points, 78-19 percent.

Among women voters, Obama leads by a margin of 19 points, 57-38 …

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Charges reportedly pending in Trayvon Martin death

While we still don’t have anything close to a full accounting of the night that George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin, the prosecuting attorney assigned to investigate apparently believes that she has uncovered enough cause to press charges:

From the Washington Post:

Florida special prosecutor Angela Corey plans to announce as early as Wednesday afternoon that she is charging neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, according to a law enforcement official close to the investigation.

It was not immediately clear what charge Zimmerman will face….

Corey told reporters Tuesday night that she would hold a news conference about the case within 72 hours. A news release from her office said the event will be held in Sanford or Jacksonville, Fla.

If charges are filed, it would validate public outrage at the fact that prosecutors initially declined to pursue the case against Zimmerman. It doesn’t mean that the former neighborhood-watch captain is …

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Tailgunner Al West: ‘There’s Commies in the House’

Tailgunner Al West, in response to an audience question:

“I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party that are members of the Communist Party.”

There are many things to love about that statement, but my favorite is West’s use of specific rather than rounded figures — “78 to 81″ — in his alleged count, just to give it the ring of authenticity.

The bad news is, this fool was once entrusted to lead U.S. troops into combat. The good news is, the Army caught on and eventually forced him into retirement.

The even worse news is, in the modern Republican Party people such as West are elevated to the status of heros and statesmen. Herman Cain, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, among others, have even advocated that West be selected as the party’s vice presidential nominee and West, humble man that he is, has said that if asked he would probably accept.

I have a list of reasons — 78 to 81 of them in fact — for why that would be a very …

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Romney 2012: Same sales pitch, same product, different salesman

The man above may seem vaguely familiar to many of you. He appeared in New York this week to kick off a symposium sponsored by the George W. Bush Institute and launch the institute’s “4% Project.”

As our former president explains:

“This July the institute is publishing a book — gotta be a staggering thing for some of the cynics out there, I publish a book and the Bush Institute publishes a book, they didn’t think I could read, much less write a book — we’re publishing a book called “4 Percent Solution.”

The goal of the book and of the larger initiative, he tells us, is to advocate entitlement reform and tax and immigration policies that if implemented would create real annual growth in GDP of at least 4 percent. It’s an ambitious goal, he concedes, “but most of the experts believe it’s doable.”

Certainly, it’s been achieved in the not-too-distant past. As the chart below documents, we did manage to achieve real annual GDP growth of at least 4 percent for four consecutive …

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The soft corruption of $300 dinners

Corruption, like bigotry, greed and other human failings, comes in degrees.

There’s hard corruption — outright bribes and cash payoffs that if brought to light can result in prison time. Then there are softer forms of corruption that those enmeshed in the system do not choose to recognize, in part because it is the water in which they have learned to swim, and in part because it would be against their best interests to do so.

That’s certainly the reality of the Georgia General Assembly, where lobbyists this year reported spending an average of almost $10,000 a day wooing and seducing our elected representatives. As one of only three states in the country with no effective limit on how much lobbyists can offer and legislators can take, Georgia is almost uniquely vulnerable to that form of corruption.

In a recent book on government corruption titled “Republic, Lost”, Lawrence Lessig explains that softer form of corruption by drawing a distinction between a cash economy and a …

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Santorum withdrawing, leaving Romney as the nominee

And that is that.

From Politico:

Rick Santorum is expected to announce this afternoon that he is suspending his presidential campaign, four Republican sources confirm to POLITICO.

The former Pennsylvania senator’s planned withdrawal effectively ends the Republican presidential primary and cements Mitt Romney’s status as the presumptive GOP nominee.

In recent days, Santorum has again been dealing with a medical crisis involving his youngest daughter, three-year-old Bella, who was born with serious health problems. His prospects of winning his native Pennsylvania were beginning to fade as well, according to polls.

Newt Gingrich has all but thrown in the towel as well, admitting that Mitt Romney is going to be the Republican nominee in the 2012 presidential campaign.

– Jay Bookman

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NFL facing major test of credibility, ethics

Mike Webster of the Pittsburgh Steelers

Mike Webster of the Pittsburgh Steelers

In 1970, when the U.S. Air Force transferred my Dad and our family to the Pittsburgh area, it didn’t take me long at all to become a diehard Pittsburgh Steelers fan. I’ve remained a stalwart lover of the black and gold ever since.

It wasn’t easy at first, because back then the Steelers were terrible. They went 1-13 in 1969 and 5-9 in 1970. But eventually, with a brutal defense led by men such as “Mean Joe” Greene and my personal favorite, a hard-bitten linebacker by the name of Jack Lambert, they turned it around. By the end of the ’70s, the Steelers had won four Super Bowls in a six-year period, becoming in my mind the greatest football team of the modern era. And they did it by being tough.

The center of that team, literally and in some ways figuratively, was a man named Mike Webster, now in the NFL Hall of Fame. Webster was as tough as they come, playing in 150 consecutive games at one of the most physically draining positions in the …

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Algae-based oil as silly as heavier-than-air flight

wright

“Radio has no future. Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible. X-rays will prove to be a hoax.”

– British physicist Lord Kelvin

“New ideas pass through three periods:
1) It can’t be done.
2) It probably can be done, but it’s not worth doing.
3) I knew it was a good idea all along!”

– Arthur C. Clarke

——————————

Sapphire Energy, a startup company trying to commercialize the use of algae as an energy source to replace oil, last week announced $144 million in new investments.

As MIT’s Technology Review reports:

“The new funding will allow Sapphire to finish building its algae farm, near the small town of Columbus, New Mexico, just north of the U.S.–Mexico border. A 100-acre segment of the farm has already been finished, and when the whole project is complete, by 2014, Sapphire will have the capacity to produce about 1.5 million gallons of algae crude oil, which can be shipped to refineries to make chemicals and fuels such as diesel and gasoline….

Sapphire hopes to …

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Changing climate alters the Southeast

Something was missing this year at the Masters. The stirring golf and the back-nine drama were there as always, but the stage on which it all played out was missing the vibrant pinks and reds of the azaleas and the white of the dogwoods. The traditional signs of a Southern spring at Augusta National had already come and gone, a consequence of the warmest Georgia spring on record.

You’d have to be housebound not to have noticed, and the hard data back it up. According to the Southeast Regional Climate Center, so far 2012 is the warmest year in Atlanta’s 83-year meteorological record. In fact, it’s not even close.

Since March 1, average temperatures in Atlanta have been almost 11 degrees higher than average and almost three degrees higher than the second warmest on record. According to the SRCC, those are temperatures more typical of Tampa than Atlanta.

Perhaps more ominously, the last 12 months have also been the driest April-to-April period on record, with total rainfall in …

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Let us make a joyful noise, shall we?

First, let me tell you how we got here:

Today is Good Friday, the opening of Easter weekend. It is also the beginning of the Jewish Passover. So to mark a weekend so rich in religious tradition, I thought I’d post a piece of gospel music. It also happens to be one of my favorite musical genres. So I started poking around, looking for an upbeat, rockin’ gospel song. (Here’s the link to the piece I had originally selected.)

But then I started thinking:

“Too bad there’s no such thing as Jewish gospel music, or I could post that instead. I wonder what that would even sound like.”

Which of course let to:

“Well, how do you know for sure that there ISN’T such a thing as Jewish gospel music?”

Which is how we got to this:

Shalom aleichem, and may peace be with you.

– Jay Bookman

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