Friday, December 31, 2010

Short Takes

A secret mission secured two bombs’ worth of nuclear material from the Ukraine.

The West and Midwest are getting pounded by snow, wind, and rain again.

Today’s Number: 90. That’s the number of games UConn’s womens’ basketball team won in a row before losing last night to Stanford.

A huge part of Australia is a flood zone.

Finally: Lisa Murkowski has been certified as the winner in the Alaska senate race.

Miami-Dade police hope no one gets all fired up for New Year’s.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Feds Probe Christine O’Donnell’s Campaign Spending

Via the Washington Post:

Failed U.S. Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell denied Thursday that she had inappropriately used any campaign funds, defending herself a day after the disclosure of a criminal investigation into her spending.

The Delaware Republican appeared on several network morning shows after it was revealed that federal authorities have launched the probe to determine whether she broke the law by using campaign money to pay personal expenses.

“There’s been no impermissible use of campaign funds whatsover, O’Donnell told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

O’Donnell, the tea party favorite who scored a surprise primary victory this year only to lose badly in the November general election, suggested the accusations were being driven by her political opponents on the right and left, including Vice President Joe Biden.

“You have to look at this whole thug politic tactic for what it is,” she said Thursday.

Well, at least she didn’t call it a “witch hunt.” [rimshot]

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Short Takes

Still stuck: airports and airlines are still dealing with the aftermath of the big blizzard.

A warehouse fire in New Orleans killed eight people.

It was exploding bullets, not hairspray, that caused a bomb scare at Miami International Airport.

A ski lift accident injured eight people in Maine.

A judge in Alaska has cleared the way to put an end to the Senate race.

Hugo Chavez
dares the U.S. to cut ties with Venezuela.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Short Takes

The Nobel Peace Prize went to an empty chair to represent the place where Chinese literary critic Liu Xiaobo would have sat.

Deja Vu:
Bill Clinton met with President Obama yesterday, then spoke to the press.

Joe Miller loses a round in his legal battle to win the Senate election in Alaska.

WikiLeaks says the Pope impeded investigations into sexual abuse by priests.

Things are calming down in Haiti.

South Florida will get another cold front next week.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Short Takes

WikiLeaks supporters launched a hack attack against MasterCard and Visa.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says the strategy in Afghanistan is working.

The Senate will begin debate on the tax bill.

Everyone’s waiting for Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) to make up her mind on DADT.

The DREAM Act advances in the House of Representatives.

They finally have a winner — Democrat Mark Dayton — in the Minnesota governor’s race.

NY Mayor Bloomberg says he is not going to run for president, period.

Digging in — Gov.-elect Scott of Florida won’t commit to a plan to dredge the Miami harbor.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Short Takes

The U.S. and South Korea have begun joint military exercises. North Korea readies missiles.

It’s Election Day in Haiti.

Some folks in Ireland are not happy with the austerity plan.

They got a lot of snow in Britain.

Joe Miller still thinks he has a chance to win the election to the Senate in Alaska.

In Michigan, the police are looking for three boys after their father tried to commit suicide.

G.M.’s IPO is now the world’s biggest.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Short Takes

New York Times: “American and Afghan officials say that a man purporting to be Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, a key figure in negotiations who was paid by the West, was faking.

There were artillery rounds traded between the two Koreas.

A stampede by the crowd at a festival in Cambodia has killed a lot of people.

In the wake of the bailout, the Irish prime minister is calling for an early election once the budget is passed.

Joe Miller is filing suit in Alaska over the Senate race.

Miami-Dade is becoming a safer place to live.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Short Takes

Lisa Murkowski wins re-election in Alaska.

Harry Reid says there will be a vote in the Senate on the repeal of DADT after Thanksgiving.

Ahmed Ghailani
, the Gitmo detainee accused in the U.S. embassy bombing, was cleared of all but one charge by a jury.

The House Democrats voted to keep Nancy Pelosi as their leader.

GM’s stock sale will mean that it isn’t “Government Motors” any more.

Unrest in Haiti
is hampering the treatment of the cholera epidemic. It’s also spreading to the Dominican Republic and South Florida.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Short Takes

Stopping START — Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) is blocking the ratification of the treaty with Russia.

Genuine Hero — Staff Sgt. Salvatore A. Giunta received the Medal of Honor.

The death toll in Haiti from cholera is rising and could be as bad as the earthquake.

Former detainees at Gitmo get cash from Britain.

Lisa Murkowski
takes the lead in the senate race in Alaska.

GM boosts the size of its IPO.

The Florida legislature gets down to business.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Short Takes

The G20 meeting was not a rousing success.

President Obama opposes a permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich. (Notice he said “permanent.”)

The House Democrats have avoided a leadership battle.

Meanwhile, the GOP is still battling it out over earmarks.

Give it up, Joe: The count in the Alaska senate race looks to be going to Lisa Murkowski.

Too soon: The Supreme Court turns down an appeal on DADT, telling the plaintiffs to wait until the lower courts have finished ruling.

Hang on to your boats and motors, South Florida.

The pink snails are coming.

Tropical Update: There’s something brewing down near Panama.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Short Takes

Olive twig — In South Korea, President Obama shows a slight softening in the stance towards North Korea.

Things are still dicey in the formation of the Iraqi government.

Sen. Lisa M-U-R-K-O-W-S-K-I appears to have the lead in the write-in vote count in the Alaska senate race.

The crippled cruise ship finally made it to port in San Diego.

Nice work if you can get it — Florida GOP staffers make big bucks.

The Florida legislature is likely to partially revive the solar panel rebate program.

A case of dengue fever has shown up in Miami-Dade County.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Short Takes

President Obama got a warm welcome in India, especially after he proposed they become a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Now the president is off to Indonesia.

Hoyer vs. Pelosi: Congressional Democrats are jockeying for minority positions.

They finally have a winner in the governor’s race in Connecticut: Dan Malloy (D).

Andrew Shirvell, the assistant attorney general in Michigan who was stalking the openly-gay student body president at the University of Michigan, has been fired.

If Rick Scott is going to “shake things up” in Tallahassee, he’ll have to go through his fellow Republicans to do it. (Sound familiar?)

There are some pretty well-paid employees working for Miami-Dade County.

Some high-profile priests from Cuba came to visit a shrine in Miami.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Taking the Moment

I almost skipped reading George F. Will’s column yesterday because I could pretty much predict what he was going to say — the election of 2010 was a rejection of liberalism — even before I read the headline. He and David Brooks and the bow-tie daddies have been telling us that for months.

Except I don’t buy it. The mid-term elections of 2010 were a result of an economy still struggling to recover and unemployment still too high, plus the usual trend in mid-term elections for older and more conservative — dare I say reactionary — voters to come out and younger ones staying home. Had those factors not been involved, the elections would probably have gone better for the Democrats.

I’m pretty sure that when the GOP lost the mid-terms in 2006, Mr. Will et al did not conclude that it was a rejection of conservatism; they said it was a reaction to the moment and that Republicans had not lived up to their promises, and that the election of Barack Obama in 2008 was not a “wave” but a rejection of the Bush presidency. Fair is fair; if they can claim that for 2006, it has to apply to this election as well. If it was John McCain in the White House and unemployment was hovering around 10%, you’d hear Mr. Will explaining patiently that the Democratic take-over of the House and Senate in the 2010 midterms was not a rejection of conservatism.

One factor that has nothing to do with liberalism or conservatism will change, probably by the next election, and that is that the economy will improve. Even after the pounding it has taken over the past three years, the economy moves in cycles, and we are, despite the current numbers of unemployed and factory orders, on a recovery upswing. And since irony reigns supreme in American elections, the fact that it was a Republican administration and economic policy that got us into this current recession meant that the people who took over from them and tried to fix it are the ones who are getting the blame. Most voters are focused on issues that touch them rather than whether or not the country is too liberal or conservative. They look at their own lives and vote accordingly, and this time it was the Democrats who got the blame.

Short Takes

An Aero Caribbean plane with 68 passengers crashed in Cuba. There were no survivors.

Three airlines have halted flights of the Airbus A380 while investigations are underway to determine why a Qantas plane’s engine exploded in flight.

A Taliban spokesman dismisses the idea of peace talks in Afghanistan.

Guess who’s coming to dinner at the White House.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) wins reelection — finally.

Even though jobless claims were up last week, the overall economy seems to be doing better.

The stock market has been doing very well lately.

Tropical Update: Tropical Storm Tomas is bearing down on the western tip of Haiti.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Short Takes

A mass grave was found near a resort in Mexico.

That volcano in Indonesia is still spewing ash.

Engine failure forced a Qantas jet to make an emergency landing.

They’re still counting the votes for the Senate in Alaska.

The Fed is going to pump $600 billion into the economy; Wall Street liked that.

Church vs. state in Cuba.

Tropical Update: It looks like Tomas will thread the needle between Cuba and Haiti.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Essay Test

For the last two years, the GOP and the Tea Party has given us a lot of platitudes, bumper stickers, and ten-word answers to the problems the country faces. Now that they’ve won some elections and are now in control of the House of Representatives, it’s time to come up with some answers. Okay, Republicans, now’s your chance. Consider this the essay portion of the entrance exam. Remember, all of your answers must contain actual citations from objective and primary sources, and spelling counts.

1. How are you going to reduce the deficit? What specific programs will you cut and by how much?

2. If you’re hell-bent on repealing the healthcare bill, what will you replace it with, or are you going to go back to the place where pre-existing conditions are grounds for denial of coverage and acne was a deal-breaker?

3. Some of you have said you want to eliminate the Department of Education. Since the DOE’s main job is providing funding for programs such as free and reduced lunches in poor communities, assistance for school districts in paying for the special needs children including the disabled, teacher training and recruitment, and providing funds that attempt to fill the gap when the states can’t do it, how will you help the public schools meet the needs of their students?

4. If illegal immigration is such a big problem, how much money are you willing to spend to protect the border and how many border guards are you going to hire to man the dang fence? Double the current budget? Triple it? How will you pay for it? (See #1.)

5. If you’re so dead set on keeping the Bush tax cuts in place, where are you going to come up with the money to replace the several trillion dollars not collected by letting the tax cuts lapse?

6. If you’re so much in favor of smaller government and more freedoms, what are you going to tell the gay community when you insist that the Constitution should be amended to restrict their rights to live their lives as they choose without the interference of the federal government deciding who they can or can’t marry?

7. If you are committed to solving all of these problems, explain exactly how calling hearings in the origins of President Obama’s birth certificate will achieve that.

8. How exactly does the government stimulate the economy into growing without spending money or cutting taxes?

9. If you believe that people should be held accountable for their actions, especially people in a position of fiduciary trust for other peoples’ money, how exactly will repealing the banking and financial reforms put in place by the Obama administration achieve that?

10. If you truly believe in the repeal of the 17th Amendment — the one that provided for the election of the Senate by the people rather than appointment by the state legislature — how much are you willing to pay to your state’s power brokers to assure that you’ll be kept in office?

You’ve had two years to think about these questions, so you should be able to come up with real answers in a relatively short time. After all, the next election cycle started at midnight last night. Good luck.

The After Party

For the most part the results from the mid-term elections are in and it went pretty much the way most of the pollsters and pundits said it would: the Democrats lost the House, retained the Senate by the narrowest of margins, and once again the electorate, for the third time in a row, turned out the majority party. People, make up your minds already.

I say that with a touch of humor because in some cases it’s necessary. There were some surprises, both good and bad, for both parties, and here in Florida it looks like we’re going to have a man with a criminal record as our next governor, and Marco Rubio, the “son of exiles,” has won his chance to “reclaim America,” whatever that means. Across the country some long-time names are heading for retirement, including Russ Feingold in Wisconsin, but in California, it looks like Jerry Brown will come out of retirement to pick up where he left off in the 1980’s.

There are a lot of other races that as of this writing are still undecided, such as the Senate race in Washington state between Patty Murray and Dino Rossi, the race in Colorado between Michael Bennett and Ken Buck, and the Alaska race between Joe Miller and any number of write-ins. Although Fox News would like to think of this as a gigantic tidal wave of Tea Party goodness and a massive repudiation of President Obama and the liberals are looking for a lot of ponies under all the manure, there’s a danger in seeing too much in this or any election. If you’ve been paying any sort of attention for the last few decades, you know that this sort of shift in a mid-term election is neither new or extraordinary, and it happens regardless of who is in power.

So for those who are predicting that this is the beginning of the end of the Obama presidency and the rise of the Tea Party triumphant, remember that in 1982 Ronald Reagan and the GOP lost a lot of friends and allies and Bill Clinton got his head handed to him in 1994. Both went on to win re-election two years later, thanks largely in part by the winners thinking that what happened in the House and Senate translated into a trend for the White House. Wrong. It also didn’t hurt that both Mr. Reagan and Mr. Clinton very effectively used the Congress as their foils for all of the gridlock that came after, and Mr. Clinton especially had the joy of having Newt Gingrich’s ego to play with. With any luck, Mr. Obama will have the same kind of antagonist in John Boehner and the wonderful gift that keeps on giving, Sarah Palin.

I also think that there are a lot of people waking up this morning who will, in the cold light of day, read the papers and the blogs, blink, and say “Holy crap, what the hell happened here?” They’re like stoners waking up on a Sunday morning gazing at the aftermath of their party from the night before. They’ll look around at the litter and the discards, the overflowing trash cans and the smears of ground-in chip dip in the carpet and the distinct odor of bong-water in the potted plants, and think, “Wow, we did all of this? How come I don’t remember any of it?”

Election Night 2010

A lot of really good sites are doing live-blogging of the election returns, including The Reaction (where I also contribute), TPM, Political Animal, and of course all the news channels, so if you’re looking for coverage and don’t want to listen to pundits on flag-draped sets, go check them out.

So far, it looks like the House will go to the GOP, which is not a surprise, but the Senate is looking like it will stay with the Democrats, but they’ll lose some seats. Here in Florida Marco Rubio has won — again, not a surprise — and Alan Grayson, the liberal who wasn’t afraid of being called that and raised a lot of eyebrows, lost as well. The race to watch now is the governor’s race between Democrat Alex Sink and Republican Rick Scott.

If there’s one thing that kind of sums up the evening, it’s watching Christine O’Donnell give her concession speech in Delaware and she’s talking like she won. Putting up a brave front and smiling through defeat is one thing; delusional is something else entirely.

Update at 10:13 p.m. — MSNBC just brought in Michele Bachmann to lend her insight to the election returns. And that does it for me.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I Voted

I got to my polling station around 4:45 p.m., made my way through the phalanx of signs and candidates, and got in to find the place was pretty busy. I asked the poll deputy how many had voted since 7:00 a.m. He reported 813. I asked if that was a lot, and he shrugged. “It’s been steady.”

The ballot in my precinct was both sides of two pages, including judges up for retention, and Florida’s penchant for amending the state constitution.

I made my selections, hesitating over only one choice, and then took the plunge.

The one thing on the ballot I didn’t expect to see was a “non-binding” measure to tell the federal government to pass a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I filled in the NO bubble rather vehemently, wishing there was room to insert a terse adjective. I don’t hold with cluttering up the ballot with non-binding crap, especially one from the Tea Party that’s meant to send a message. You want a balanced budget, stop spending money on unfunded wars and tax cuts for Rush Limbaugh.

I’ll be back later on with my FWIW on the results. At least I know that one of the votes that they’re counting is mine.

Vote or STFU

Okay, folks, this is it. We’ve heard all the predictions and the prognostications; we’ve seen all the ads and the junk mail; we’ve gotten all the robo-calls and the countless e-mails and press releases; now it’s your turn.

It’s an old cliche that the only poll that matters is the one you visit when you vote. Well, yeah, it is. But it’s also true. All of the pundits and the Very Serious People inside the Beltway can natter on about trends and waves and all that stuff, but it all starts in the solitude and relative silence of people standing in a little booth set up in parish halls and school gyms where volunteers, usually your retired neighbor (who else can get the day off?) has you sign the book and hands you a ballot and sends you off on your own to make your choices. Outside in the parking lot there are competing campaign staffers waving signs and handing out “guides” imploring you to make up your mind at the last minute, but you’ve left them all behind, thankfully out of earshot. If you’re a studious citizen, you’ve studied all the questions, you’ve read up on all the candidates, and your mind is made up long before you run the gauntlet. Or maybe you haven’t; you know who you’ll vote for in the big races — governor, senator, representative — but the list of names in the local races mean nothing to you except for remembering whose name was on the yard sign of a friend whose insight into local issues you respect, or just sounds familiar. The dizzying language of the charter amendments and ballot initiatives makes you wonder how anyone figured out that we the people could make sense of this question that needs to be answered in the voting booth. And then there are the down-ticket races for judges and local mayors.

The choices are many, and you start to feel like you’ve just pulled up to the world’s largest menu at a drive-through and you have to make your decision while the scratchy voice from the clown’s mouth asks for your order and the family with three screaming kids in the minivan crowds your rear bumper. So you almost choose at random while the memory of what Joe Pesci said in Lethal Weapon 2 about what happens at the drive-thru rings in your ear.

Relax. Take a deep breath. No one is timing you. There is no one looking over your shoulder, there is no one telling you to hurry up. There are other voting booths, and the other people are probably grateful to have a moment to collect their thoughts. You can change your mind, too, before you hit the big red VOTE button. You can decide whether or not to vote for someone, or calculate that voting for someone else will actually help your side win because the one you really like doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance and you really don’t want That Guy to win. Or you can cast a vote regardless of whether or not you think they’ll win because you believe in what they say and a vote for them is a statement. The choice is up to you. But it doesn’t mean anything unless you actually show up.

I’m not going to tell you who to vote for. I never have. For one thing, I don’t want the responsibility, and for another, I don’t have any more insight about a particular candidate or ballot measure than you do, and the only piece of election material that matters is the ballot and the little sticker that says “I Voted Today!” But I will demand that you do vote, because if you don’t, you forfeit the right to complain about how terrible our city, county, state, and federal governments are run. As far as I’m concerned, your opinions about anything to do with how angry or worried or concerned you are about the way the world is going will ring hollow and I don’t want to hear it. If you’re fed up with it, today is the day to do something about it. Put your pencil or your touch-screen where your mouth is. Otherwise, shut the fuck up.

PS: This is it for blogging for me until later today or tonight. I can’t blog from work, and besides, this pretty much covers it for now.