The Bright Coast

Progressive Thoughts from San Diego Alums on Law, Politics, and Culture

Archive for February, 2009

On Dogs and Deficits

Posted by demkid on February 27, 2009

If anyone’s noticed, the Wrong Coasters are getting really angry lately, and we’re only a month into the new administration!  What amuses me though, is that they’re finding the strangest things to get angry about, and they also seem to have an extremely selective memory.

First off is the criticism about the Obamas’ choice of a Portuguese Water Dog for the new White House pet.  Without the specific dog being selected, it’s already being tagged as “impossible to train, insane, and dangerous around children.”  Right…I’m sure that’s exactly what the First Lady is going for!  A quick look at the Wikipedia entry for PWDs paints a much softer picture: “Portuguese Water dogs make excellent companions.  They are loving, independent, and intelligent and are easily trained in obedience and agility skills.  Once introduced, they are generally friendly to strangers, and actively enjoy being petted, which, due to their soft, fluffy coats, is a favour that human beings willingly grant them.”  I have no doubt that the Obamas will select a dog that will fit in well with the family and won’t display much “embarrassing” behavior.  Now, speaking of embarrassing behavior, this is where the selective memory comes in.  The Wrong Coasters seem to have forgotten the most recent First Dog, Barney, and his actions in the waning days of the Bush presidency.  Far from being “generally friendly to strangers,” the Scottish terrier bit not one, but TWO people during the last weeks of the administration!  Talk about a stupid dog choice!  I’m sure the new First Dog will have 10 times the intelligence of Barney (dogs say something about their owners, afterall).  Have you seen those lame Bush Christmas videos?  Finally, criticizing the choice to get a rescue dog is just plain sad.  More often than not, abandonment occurs not because the dog has problems, but because the owner does!  The Obamas are setting a great example by choosing a rescue dog, and usually people have terrific experiences with their new companions.  Oh, and by the way, this is how the Bushes “cared for their dogs”:

Thanks for dropping me on my ass, George!

Thanks for dropping me on my ass, George!

Next, the doggie-hater’s companion posts on “The Liar in Chief.”  Hmm.  Far from “making the case” that President Obama deserves this title, the Wrong Coaster is quick to use angry rhetoric while seemingly forgetting that the president’s predecessor has already copyrighted that moniker!  Now, as far as the deficit discussion is concerned, the poster seems to be contrasting the 8-year presidency of the GOP’s savior, Ronald W. Reagan, with the 1-month presidency of Barack Obama.  The argument is that sure, Reagan ran deficits, but he used them to “win the Cold War and create a prosperous economy.”  But, what has President Obama done?  Not a whole heck of a lot!  But wait.  Isn’t the post about what a specific president does with the deficit?  It seems like the Wrong Coast is being far too quick to criticize a president whose time in office has been just 1% of the entire Reagan presidency.  Shouldn’t the anger be better directed at the guy who’s sitting at his ranch in Crawford right now for putting the new president in the situation to begin with?  Why so much anger at the guy who’s trying to do his best with the hand he’s been dealt?  Compared to the massive debt President Obama is inheriting, the debt Reagan inherited was laughable.  If Obama is able to turn things around in just 4 years, my hope is that the nice professors at that other blog will congratulate him wholeheartedly.  Alas, I’m sure they’ll just find something else to be pissed off about, like that ridiculous choice of a new First Dog.

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Changing License Plates?

Posted by demkid on February 26, 2009

Come 2011, these license plates may start becoming collectors’ items:

Represent!

Represent!

 

That’s right.  The Senate passed legislation today to give DC citizens a vote in Congress!  The measure would add a representative for DC starting in the next Congress, and would also give an additional representative to Utah, a very Republican-leaning state.  This would bring the total members of the House to 437.  It looks like there will be a legal challenge after this becomes law, but supporters claim that Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution is on their side, which empowers Congress to “exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever” over the District.  Hopefully, this bill will pass muster.  DC citizens have lacked representation for far too long, and it’ll be good to see Eleanor Holmes Norton with some real voting power, for a change!

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Little Bobby from Cajun Country

Posted by demkid on February 26, 2009

Articulate, upbeat, principled, intelligent.  These are the words an esteemed Wrong Coaster uses to describe Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana.  I just love when Republicans perform damage control!  I haven’t had the chance to look into it, but I’m sure the aforementioned words were all used when Governor Palin first entered the national scene last year.  We all saw how that turned out!  Funny how she could give a speech but couldn’t do interviews, while Bobby can apparently do interviews but can’t give a speech!  In any case, I sincerely hope that there are some better options out there for the GOP in 2012, or else the election in 3 years will be a complete joke.  “Very, very impressive?”  You be the judge:

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U.S. to Overturn Dover Ban

Posted by brightcoast on February 26, 2009

I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know this ban existed. Although the politics behind doing so become immediately obvious. If footage of coffins is dominating news coverage, then it seems this would undoubtedly contribute to public perception regarding military decisions. I’m glad it is being overturned for this reason alone. I also believe the decision being left up to the individual families is a sensible safeguard.

 Perhaps this is an obvious statement, but I think coffins are the most tangible representation of loss, something that I feel has been lacking over the past 8 years in the minds of Americans as a group. Were we to see the constant inundation of further casualties, I do not think the War would have been allowed to proceed as it has over the (next month) 6 years that it has.

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We Don’t Want Your Pagan Statute

Posted by brightcoast on February 25, 2009

This article discusses SCOTUS’ recent decision allowing Utah to discriminate, pardon the pun, amongst privately donated monuments to display in its public parks. This decision is reminiscent of the Court’s decisions regarding the feds’ differing functions as patron v. governor (if I remember correctly) regarding funding decisions and awarding of grants to private artists or entities. So they can’t establish a religion, but they can accept private monuments to have in their parks, not sure how this falls under a free speech exception, but I am interested to see what the Ct. does with Buono v. Norton, which I hear they recently granted cert for.

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The Quid Pro Quos Start Rolling in

Posted by brightcoast on February 23, 2009

This is kind of scary. I’m not sure which is scarier, that this is on the table or that it’s possibly necessary. Serious times…

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The Politics of Being Born

Posted by brightcoast on February 20, 2009

Although most of our readers may be disconnected from the birthing industry, this article will be relevant to at least 1/3 of you who have children in the future, if not more. The Business of Being Born is an even better rendition of what is going on with the “industry” in the U.S. It’s yet another case of malpractice getting in the way of practice. Decisions being made on the basis of bottom lines rather than the best interests of the patient.

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Cool Contest

Posted by brightcoast on February 19, 2009

Steve Poizner Announces Solutions for California Web Video Contest Sacramento –

California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner announced today that he is sponsoring a web video contest on his campaign website, http://www.stevepoizner.com/solutionscontest/.

The contest is open to all Californians. The Steve Poizner for Governor Solutions for California Web Video Contest is asking Californians to submit a video explaining what they love most about California and also how they would make California better. “My campaign for Governor is about reaching out and involving Californians from all walks of life in a vigorous debate about our state’s future.

 I believe passionately in engaging average citizens in this critical campaign to elect our next Governor. As Californians, we are at a turning point and have some very tough decisions to make together,” declared Steve Poizner. “It’s my hope that this video contest is a fun and creative way for different individuals and organizations to participate in the discussion about which direction our state should take. It’s also an opportunity for us to be reminded of what makes California so special – and so worth fighting for,” he continued.

“My private sector career as an entrepreneur and engineer was centered on a belief in the power of technology to connect people and bring them together to improve our quality of life. Throughout this campaign, it’s my goal to use the Internet and technology to harness the energy, creativity and ideas of a wide range of Californians from across this diverse state,” concluded the Commissioner.

The contest is open to organizations officially registered with a college or university based in California or other nonprofit organizations based in California as well as to all Californians who are age 18 and older. Videos must be two to three minutes in length and winning entries will be posted on http://www.stevepoizner.com/.

First prize is $1,000, second prize is $500 and third prize is $250. Each entry must specify whether it is being submitted on behalf of an individual or a qualified organization. Entries submitted by individuals must specify a nonprofit organization based in California designated to receive the prize in case the individual’s entry wins one. The contest begins on Saturday, February 22, 2009 and lasts until April 15, 2009. For more information and for a detailed listing of the rules, please click here.

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This Chimp is Bananas: B-A-N-A-N-A-S

Posted by demkid on February 19, 2009

Sadly, the recent incident of a pet chimpanzee severely mauling someone isn’t the first time this type of story has been in the news.  Only several years ago, two chimps escaped from their cage at an animal sanctuary in Bakersfield, and the victim there may have jumped at the opportunity to trade places with the unfortunate woman in Connecticut.  I’ll spare you all the details, but you can read about what happened to St. James Davis here.  That incident even led to a popular phrase in the Urban Dictionary, which comes in handy when you’re really pissed at someone!  In any case, I think the moral of this story is that if you want to have a chimp as a pet in your home, you’d better be prepared to lose one or more extremities in an extremely brutal manner.  Of course, the craziness of the whole story doesn’t end with the mauling itself: “She fed him filet mignon and lobster tails.  They shared cozy glasses of wine.  They bathed and slept together.  He tenderly brushed her hair.  She gave him gifts and sweet kisses.  He drew her pictures.”  That’s right.  Travis and his owner, Sandra Herold, had a bond that could be considered EXTREMELY close.  It’s just too bad that Herold had to stab her companion multiple times with a kitchen knife to try and get him from killing a real human friend.  Yes, this shit is bananas!

It would have been too bland if the chimp story had ended right there.  Nope, there’s always room for controversial cartoons! 

Racist? Nah, just plain stupid.

Racist? Nah, just plain stupid.

As you can imagine, there have been strong reactions over this New York Post cartoon by Sean Delonas.  Political cartoonists many times like linking two current news stories together, and this attempt failed miserably.  I’ll give Mr. Delonas the benefit of the doubt, that he was poking fun at the legislators who drafted the recent stimulus bill, but if he didn’t realize that people would react after a drawing that plausibly links a black man with a monkey, he should get his head examined.  All he had to do was draw a sign around the chimp’s neck that said “Congress”, and there wouldn’t be hundreds protesting outside of the Post’s offices.  The big Dumbass Award should go to the Post’s editors, who decided to publish this cartoon, however.  They had the option to deny it the light of day, but went ahead with it anyway, and are now strongly standing behind their decision.  Nice.  Also, in stories like this one, you always have to be on the lookout for overreactions.  Examining “the cartoon’s gun violence as a stoker to the nervousness some feel about the safety of a black president in a historically racist country”?  Come on.  Now we’re getting a little overboard.  “An attack on Obama’s skin color and African-Americans in general”?  Again, I think we’ve fortunately moved on from a lot of this talk of racism.  Sure, some can plausibly argue that the cartoon was blatantly racist in nature, but more likely than not, it was just plain dumb.  President Obama didn’t write the stimulus bill afterall, Congress did, and the mistake of not making this clear was costly for sure.  However, getting Al Sharpton involved over something as silly as this (remember nappy-headed hos?) is likely only to do more harm than good.  Hey, are those cops Jewish??

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So They Finally Passed It

Posted by brightcoast on February 19, 2009

this morning. The CA budget. Here’s a pretty good account of what went down. What does it say in effect? More taxes for individuals, and less for the movie industry. Interesting. But I get it. We don’t want to lose Hollywood. I can’t help but wonder whether this was the most appropriate way/time to address that, as well as some other items in there, like open primaries. But whatever. I guess I should be happy they did it at all. Last night I saw some, presumably, legislator carrying his sleeping bag into the assembly room, that made me lol. I seriously am unaware of a time in my life when CA has ever passed a budget on time, I just can’t understand it.

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99 Senators But A. Franken Ain’t One

Posted by demkid on February 18, 2009

Well, we’re now in mid-February, over 3 months after voters cast their ballots in the 2008 general election, yet the United States Senate has 99 members, as the people of Minnesota only have one senator representing them.  “What the heck’s going on?”, some might ask.  The answer to that question can be found in an ongoing election contest, brought by Minnesota’s previous senator, Norm Coleman, to challenge the certified results of a recount, conducted by the state canvassing board.  This recount gave DFLer Al Franken a 225 vote victory in the senate race, a margin of victory of 0.007%.  Yes, this is a razor-thin margin, but nonetheless a clear one.  Franken should be seated as the newest member of the U.S. Senate.  Coleman, who said that Franken should concede when all the original votes were counted, no matter how small the margin, is now grasping at every possible argument to try and eliminate his opponent’s valid 225-vote edge.

Fortunately, even though the election contest is dragging on (now almost a month in duration), it doesn’t look like Coleman is making any significant progress.  Today, the three-judge panel hearing the case (one appointed by a DFL governor, one by a Republican governor, and one by Jesse Ventura) denied a Coleman request to reconsider a previous ruling that excluded a dozen categories of rejected absentee ballots.  Of course, after this ruling, Coleman’s lawyers are now whining, claiming that the court is disenfranchising voters and making the proceedings unreliable. 

The court has found no evidence of widespread problems in the counting of absentee ballots, yet the Coleman campaign claims that there are about 3,500 ballots that would still be open for consideration in the end.  Even if these ballots were considered, it seems to me like it would still be highly unlikely for Coleman to overtake Franken.  Some of the ballots have been counted multiple times, and the state canvassing board seems to have done a fair and accurate job in making sure that all properly-cast votes were counted.  When the three-judge panel eventually upholds Franken’s victory, Coleman will probably try and appeal to a higher court.  I say, just give it up, Norm.  The people of Minnesota need equal representation, and dragging your losing fight out longer won’t help anyone.  Just face the fact that you lost to a comedian, go away gracefully, and let Al Franken go to Washington and start representing you and your fellow Minnesotans.

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Facebook Demonstrates Some Sense

Posted by brightcoast on February 18, 2009

After all the hysteria about their new privacy terms, facebook posted this message today:

 

Terms of Use Update

Over the past few days, we have received a lot of feedback about the new terms we posted two weeks ago. Because of this response, we have decided to return to our previous Terms of Use while we resolve the issues that people have raised. For more information, visit the Facebook Blog.

If you want to share your thoughts on what should be in the new terms, check out our group Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

I’m sure the federal complaint filed against them and all the negative publicity helped. But like I wrote on my facebook page (how appropriate right) I just don’t understand what their general counsel was thinking when they wrote the terms. I get the sense that they would never hold up in a non-adhesion contract setting, let alone here where the terms far outweight the “consideration,” which would be the right to use the website.

I think it was my note calling the terms unconscionable or the following that was the final straw, though:

funny pictures of cats with captions

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The Whole Phelps Thing

Posted by brightcoast on February 17, 2009

This whole endeavor is so bizarre. I can’t understand why Phelps would own up in the first place, he could have easily plead photoshop. So yeah, great, he fessed up, who cares?  Some jackass took his picture while he was indisposed at a party and had the indecency to leak them to the media. The backlash that resulted only encourages this type of behavior. Surely no one will argue that marijuana is a performance enhancing drug that helped him “get the edge” to win his 8 medals. I really can’t understand the witch hunt that this entire situation has become, if this article is true, regarding the sheriff using a plethora of resources trying to get Phelps put in jail, are you kidding me?

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Ranking the Chief Executives: 2009 Presidential Leadership Survey

Posted by demkid on February 16, 2009

For President Lincoln’s 200th birthday, it was appropriate that the latest historical ranking of now 42 former presidents had Abe in the first position.  This C-SPAN 2009 Historians Presidential Leadership Survey was the first major scholarly ranking in four years, and is a follow-up to the same survey from 2000.  Perhaps more interesting than Lincoln taking the top spot (as has been the case in the majority of presidential rankings over the years) was the fact that our most recent former president was ranked for the first time.  I was actually quite shocked at where the 65 historians placed George W. Bush, just a month after leaving office.  These historians put President Bush in the 36th position, meaning they felt he was the 7th-worst chief executive in the history of this country.  For some context, this puts Bush nine spots below Richard Nixon, and just three spots away from William Henry Harrison, whose presidency lasted a mere 32 days!  Now, I’m one of the first to say that it was a crappy eight years under Dubya, but such a low ranking truly astonishes me.  Bush does note that his biggest accomplishment was keeping this country safe after 9/11 (which I agree is an accomplishment, but the degree is debatable), and he was, in fact, re-elected (ok, again debatable), but he’s the lowest-ranked two-term president in the survey. 

What’s really interesting is that the C-SPAN survey breaks the overall number down further into individual leadership characteristics.  These are: public persuasion, crisis leadership, economic management, moral authority, international relations, administrative skills, relations with Congress, vision/setting an agenda, pursuit of equal justice for all, and performance within the context of his times.  As historian Edna Medford noted, “Lincoln continues to rank at the top in all categories because he is perceived to embody the nation’s avowed core values: integrity, moderation, persistence in the pursuit of honorable goals, respect for human rights, compassion; those who collect near the bottom are perceived as having failed to uphold those values.”  Meaning, the historians basically said, “Hey Georgie…you suck!!”  President Bush did best in equal justice, vision, and crisis leadership, but he still ranked 24th, 25th, and 25th in these categories respectively.  For the fun part, he ranked second from the bottom in international relations, and third-to-last in economic management, mere tenths of a percent ahead of Hoover.  Ouch.

I do have a feeling that Dubya’s ranking will improve (perhaps only slightly) as the years go on, and of course a lot depends on how things turn out in Iraq and the broader Middle East.  Also, as has been noted, presidential rankings depend a lot on what’s going on in America at any given time, and it’s generally difficult to have an accurate assessment of any president who recently left office.  That being said, it will be interesting to see how history (historians?) treat President Bush in the future.

Aside from the overall Bush number, there weren’t very many significant changes from the 2000 survey.  Rutherford B. Hayes dropped seven spots (why no love?), President Grant rose ten, and Bill Clinton gained six positions to number fifteen overall (perhaps a good sign for Bush that historians may judge him less harshly a decade from now.)  Bill is now the third-best president for economic management, and fourth-best for equal justice.  However, there’s no saving him in the moral authority category, where he currently sits in 37th place, but just two spots below George W.  Fancy that!

Posted in Americana | 4 Comments »

Comparative Effectiveness of Healthcare Treatment Options

Posted by brightcoast on February 16, 2009

An interesting article on one of the provisions in the stimulus plan. My initial reaction was of course, sheer joy, at the thought of why this is happening. I would assume that the feds would then do something with this information, like provide funding for healthcare access. But then, I thought about the EPA, and the nightmare of “feasibility” and “best technology available,” etc. I immediately thought of all of the listed sites in San Diego alone that are supposed to be cleaned up, and chemicals that are supposed to be reduced ASAP. Additionally, just think of how quickly the field of medicine changes, and best therapies may also change with new protocols and new studies. Also, I am fearful of the point made by one of the opposition leaders that this could mean the feds would be mandating what treatments should be used, rather than those that could be used. This is too reminiscent of the whole “experimental treatment” exception those health insurance companies like to use to block coverage.

Anyway, I am pleased with the idea of attempting to avoid costly treatments when they aren’t necessary, and I supposed that finding new ways to “cut the fat” should be applauded. But I am still entitled to my reservations…

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