The Bright Coast

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

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Never Underestimate the Guy Who Beat Hillary

Posted by demkid on November 8, 2012

I did it again!  I underestimated Barack Obama.  The President exceeded my slightly conservative expectations on Tuesday night, beating Willard in the Electoral College 332-206 (the Romney campaign conceded Florida earlier today).  So, I missed my toss up (Colorado) and Florida, which I said he could win if he had a good night.  Hard to believe that the national race was called a mere 12 minutes later than it was in 2008…I was expecting somewhat of a longer night.

How about my other predictions?  The popular vote currently stands at 50.4%-48.0% for the President.  My guess was 50.7-48.3, the exact margin of 2.4%.  I will not claim victory, however, because they are still counting votes around the country, and some have speculated that the final popular vote margin could be over 3%.  Still, I’ll take what I can get!

In the Senate, it was a good night for Democrats, as they actually managed to increase their majority in the upper chamber with some key, close victories.  They’ll have 53 senators (plus the 2 independents) for a total of 55, 2 more than I expected.  2012 marks the 20th anniversary of the “Year of the Woman,” when my former boss, Senator Feinstein, and her California colleague, Barbara Boxer, were elected, along with 2 other women, to the U.S. Senate.  This was the first time 4 women were elected to the Senate in a single year.  I remember wearing a shirt stating, “A Woman’s Place is in the House…and the Senate!”  It was appropriate that in this 20th anniversary year, Senator Feinstein was re-elected, and a NEW “Year of the Woman” happened.  For the first time, there are 20 women senators (naturally 16 are Democrats), and there will be at least 77 women in the House, a new record.  With Tammy Baldwin being the first openly-gay person and first woman elected as a senator from Wisconsin, the Democratic Party and the country are continuing to move forward.

In the House, it looks like Democrats could wind up with a 7-seat pick-up for an even 200 representatives, but there are still a handful of races to be decided.  I’d say my guess of +4 was fairly accurate.  It will probably take a couple of more election cycles before the Dems will have a legitimate shot of reclaiming the majority, as gerrymandering has made many districts non-competitive.

To wrap up my predictions, it looks like I was a little too optimistic in Ohio.  When all the votes are counted, the President will probably win by a margin of about 2%; a bit lower than my 3.5% guess.  The closest state was not, in fact, Virginia, as the President won there by around 3%.  Could the Commonwealth be turning into a light purple state?  We’ll give it another couple of elections to see, for sure.  VA actually ranked 4th on the list of close states, with Florida taking top honors.  They were still counting votes down there as of today, and the President’s margin should wind up perhaps a little less than a full percentage point.  Here are your 10 closest states, via the Washington Post.  I did nail the largest swing from the 2008 election, which was Utah.  John McCain won Utah by about 28 points in 2008, and Romney increased that margin 20 points, winning there 73-25.  It must be tough to be a Democrat in Utah (or a non-Mormon.)  Other big Romney gains were in West Virginia, North Dakota, and Montana (the GOP can have those.)  The votes have also been counted in my domicile, and it was a close, close race for the District of Columbia’s 3 electoral votes.  The President beat John McCain 4 years ago 92-7, and this time around it was a squeaker, with the margin being 91-7.  Apparently a few votes went to Jill Stein.

Finally, I will give myself a pat on the back because my last prediction was dead on: Dick Morris still is the worst political pundit in the entire nation.  I’ve been debating which video of his to post, his initial prediction or his video entitled, “Why I Goofed,” when he stated, “I’ve been in a bit of a mudslide on my face,” but the latter is full of too much BS (even for Dick), so here’s the master prognosticator with his flawless prediction, made a day before the President’s re-election:


Posted in Election 2012, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

President Obama to be Re-Elected; Little Change in Congress

Posted by demkid on November 5, 2012

Well, I indicated in my last post that I may be blogging more frequently, but that just didn’t come to pass.  However, I did catch the twitter bug during this campaign season, so if you’re into tweeting, you can follow me on there (@brightcoast).  This blog began 4 years ago, in the midst of the 2008 campaign season, as a tongue-in-cheek response to some of our wonderful USD Law professors who blog over at The Right Coast.  (Now that blog just seems to be dominated by one professor who tends to re-post conservative articles without commenting much on them.)  Like many conservatives, The Right Coast has envisioned some sort of landslide (or smaller) victory for Willard Romney when all the votes are counted on Election Day, which is tomorrow.  In August, I stated that the conservative dream would never come to pass, and said, “I can almost guarantee that President Obama will be re-elected in November.”  Now that we’re a day from voting, I’m going to put it all on the line and officially get rid of the “almost.”  I guarantee that the President will serve another 4 years at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Before I give you my predictions, I’ll note my accuracy in 2008.  Then, I predicted an Obama popular vote margin of 6.7%.  He won by 7.2%.  I predicted an electoral vote for Obama of 349.  He exceeded my expectations and garnered 365.  In the Senate, I predicted 41 GOP Senate seats; they got 41.  In the House, I predicted a Dem majority of 260-175; the margin was 257-178.  So, I think I did pretty darn well.  Let’s hope that I can repeat my accuracy this time around.  Here’s how the map will look this year:

The President’s Path to Re-Election

There you have it.  294 electoral votes for the President.  Many of the s0-called “swing states” will be close, but I believe the President has a slight edge naturally and a significant built-in advantage in many of the important states.  His easiest path to victory is the “firewall” of Nevada, Wisconsin, and Ohio.  Winning these, plus not losing Pennsylvania (which trust me, won’t happen), gets him to 271.  I also think he wins Iowa by at least a few points, and Virginia, which is the closest of my Obama states, but which I think he’ll hold onto by the slimmest of margins.  The closest Romney state is Colorado, which I’ve been going back and forth on.  Many think Obama will hold onto Colorado and wind up with 303 votes, which is significant because it’s the same number Presidents Truman and Kennedy won.  That’s a distinct possibility, but I’m being a little more conservative, based on early voting figures.  As for Ohio, the big battleground, I think the President will win there fairly easily.  I’m actually a little more concerned about Wisconsin (a state Gore and Kerry won by less than a point), but the President has been there 3 of the last 5 days, and I think he’ll hold on.  Take away Virginia and Wisconsin, and the President has 271.  This is why Iowa is an important back-up, and why the President is finishing his campaign there, today.  It could also be close in New Hampshire, but recent polling has shown a slight but steady Obama margin there.  By the way, if it’s a slightly better night for the President, he could very well win Florida, but I think the odds are against it.  Here are my other predictions:

Popular Vote: Obama 50.7%, Romney 48.3% (The exact margin when Bush beat Kerry in 2004.)

Senate: Democrats (+2 Independents) 53, Republicans 47 (no change)

House: Republicans 238, Democrats 197 (Dems gain 4 seats).  I was tempted to make this dead even too, but there has to be SOME change out of 435 races, right??

Ohio: Obama 51.2%, Romney 47.7%

Closest State: Virginia

Largest Swing from 2oo8: Utah (secondary choices: Hawaii, Oregon, or Wisconsin)

Worst Political Pundit: Still Dick Morris

There you have it!  It’s been an entertaining election season and hopefully it’ll be a fun night, tomorrow.


Posted in Election 2012, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

One Year Seems Like a Good Enough Break…

Posted by demkid on August 10, 2012

I wonder how many people have come to The Bright Coast in the past year and have been utterly disappointed due to the lack of any new posts.  Probably not a whole lot, but I can live with that.  The fact is, “brightcoast” and I have moved on to bigger and better things in the past couple of years, and we simply don’t have nearly the same amount of time to devote to crafting award-winning blog posts on “law, politics, and culture,” to use part of the tagline we borrowed from our rival blog.  (That “other” blog has still been going strong, though, as our USD Law professor friends generally have plenty of time on their hands to write about all things conservative.)  The two of us, on the other hand, have become USD Law alums, and neither of us even lives in San Diego, anymore!  That being said, and especially since we’re less than 3 months from what many are calling “the biggest election of our lives,” I’ve caught the blogging bug again, at least to write the occasional election-related post.  Where better to start than to talk briefly about some of my favorite subjects: polling, the state of the race as I see it, and the electoral college.

Despite what our professor friend hopes will happen, that being, a landslide for Willard Romney, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that it will never come to pass.  In fact, I can almost guarantee that President Obama will be re-elected in November.  Why am I so confident?  Well, besides the fact that Romney is a super weak candidate, the economy will slowly improve over the next few months, and it’s just generally difficult to defeat an incumbent, the electoral math is clearly on the President’s side.  For Romney to win, there would have to be a pretty significant shift across the country to his side (Obama currently leads nationally by a few points or so), and he would almost have to sweep all of the major swing states.  For an excellent state of the race, check out Nate Silver’s page here, which currently gives President Obama almost a 75% chance of winning re-election.  For me, the proof is in the electoral math, and I’ve created a couple of maps over at to illustrate my confidence.  The following map shows the lay of the land, that is, I would be absolutely shocked if any of the colored states goes the other way on Election Day:

My Solid States

As you can see, I believe that President Obama is a mere 23 electoral votes from re-election.  If he fails to win any of the above blue states, he’ll be in real trouble.  I just don’t see that happening.  So, if he’s at 247, where does he pick up the other 23?  In my mind, there are two clear paths to victory.  Here’s the first:

Nevada (or Iowa) plus Ohio = Victory

In the above scenario, President Obama wins Nevada (where he’s currently up 5 in the polls with a 79% chance to win) and Ohio (also currently up 5 and a 72% chance to win.)  He could also replace Nevada with Iowa, where he’s up 3 and has a 67% chance to win (these percentages come from Nate Silver’s page.)  So, let’s leave in either Nevada or Iowa, and show you the second-easiest path to re-election:

Nevada (or Iowa) plus New Hampshire and Virginia = Victory

New Hampshire and Virginia will get the President to exactly 270.  In New Hampshire, he’s currently up 4 with a 74% chance, and in Virginia, he’s up 3 with a 68% chance to win.

In conclusion, I recommend focusing on polls from the above-mentioned states over the next 3 months.  If you see a bad couple of polls from any of the blue states in the first map, President Obama should be very concerned.  But, if all those hold up, simply look at Nevada, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, and Virginia.  Winning Florida, North Carolina, or Colorado would just be a bonus…these aren’t needed to win.  Also as shown, the President doesn’t need Ohio to win, if he can get Virginia, New Hampshire, and either Nevada or Iowa.  Many paths to victory, and many fewer paths to victory for Romney.  That’s the state of the race as I see it, and that, my friends, is our first blog post in a year.  Perhaps there will be more soon to come!



Posted in Election 2012, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Breaking: Stephen Ferruolo Named 10th Dean of USD School of Law

Posted by demkid on May 25, 2011

You heard it here first (or so we hope): Stephen Ferruolo will be named the 10th Dean of the University of San Diego School of Law.  The official announcement will come next week, but we here at the Bright Coast pride ourselves in being ahead of the curve.  USD Law’s 9th Dean, Kevin Cole, informed alumni in New York and DC of the pending news within the past few days.

Stephen Ferruolo

The search process for a new Dean took longer than anticipated.  The Dean Search Committee initially named three finalists, who came to campus in January for a series of meet-and-greets and informational sessions with faculty and students.  A recommendation was made, an offer was given, a name was withdrawn (who really knows what happened?), and in April, the school announced that it had expanded its search to include three additional finalists.  An April 27th Motions article proclaimed that the “expanded pool now includes an even more diverse group of individuals . . . ,” but I’m not really clear on what they meant by “diverse,” because the Search Committee added 3 new white guys to the original pool of 3 white guys.  Ohh…I get it: diverse backgrounds.  How silly of me!  In any case, Mr. Ferruolo was chosen out of the new pool, and I’m sure he’ll lead USD Law capably and admirably.

A former Rhodes Scholar, Mr. Ferruolo is the Founding Partner and Chair of the Goodwin Proctor, LLP San Diego Office.  Prior to law school, Mr. Ferruolo was a professor at Stanford University for nearly eight years. After attending Stanford Law School, Mr. Ferruolo was a judicial law clerk and associate at O’Melveny and Myers in Los Angeles. Soon after, Mr. Ferruolo received a position with Heller Ehrman, LLP in its Palo Alto and San Diego offices. After a mere four years of work with Heller Ehrman, he became a partner—the earliest promotion in firm history. He co-chaired both the Life Sciences and Corporate departments. While at Heller Ehrman, Mr. Ferruolo also worked as an adjuct professor at Stanford Law School. In 2007, Mr. Ferruolo became a partner at Goodwin Proctor.

Mr. Ferruolo’s firm bio is here.  Please join us in welcoming him as the new Dean of the University of San Diego School of Law, and here’s hoping that he’ll bring positive change and a fresh outlook to the premier legal institution in San Diego!

Posted in Education, San Diego, USD Law | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Book Recommendation and Twitter Endorsement

Posted by demkid on March 23, 2011

A month ago, Rick Sanchez offered to give five of his Twitter followers a copy of his book “Conventional Idiocy: Why the New America is Sick of Old Politics.”  To win, one had to be the first to reply to Rick’s NewsFeed handle (@RickTVnet) with the correct answer to a current events trivia question.  Rick’s questions ranged from, “How many of the 50 U.S. states are actually designated as ‘commonwealths'” to “What is Muammar Gaddafi’s military rank and what year did he assume control of Libya?”  Of course, to be first, the keys were to see the question almost immediately after it was posted, and to reply with the correct answer quickly (no time to Google!).  Fortunately, yours truly knows his current events AND has quick fingers, and was the first to correctly answer Rick’s question of, “Who came in 2nd place in CPAC’s 2011 straw poll?”  (No, I didn’t answer “that Mormon guy.”)

True to his word, Rick graciously sent my winnings, and was even kind enough to provide an endorsement for The Bright Coast’s fabulous Twitter feed (see below)!  If you recall, I recently commented on the events surrounding Rick’s firing from CNN and discussed my opposition to some of the language used on the Friends of Rick Sanchez site.  Friends made Rick seem like the victim in the matter and deflected others’ legitimate criticism of his colorful comments.  Fortunately, Rick himself didn’t act like a victim, but instead reached out to those he may have offended by his remarks about Jewish people.  He took full responsibility and has spent the last several months reflecting and learning from his mistakes.  In a recent piece by Mediaite discussing the recent “redemption” from his his harshest critic, Rick states:

I tell my children that when they make a mistake, they should take responsibility, atone and work to repair whatever they have done. For the past several months, I have followed that same advice and tried to be an example for them. I cannot take back what I said. I cannot undo the offense or controversy I caused; all I can do is to try and learn from this experience and strive to become a better person.

It seems to me that Rick Sanchez has done all the right things since the day he said the wrong things.  I hope he’ll continue to connect with his followers via social media and that we’ll see him on the air again, soon.  Perhaps he’ll write another book in the near future, but in the meantime, I recommend reading his first, with or without a personalized autograph!

Posted in News Media, Twitter | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Less “Froth” in Law School Applicant Pool?

Posted by demkid on March 19, 2011

Certain law school deans seem to think so.

The number of law-school applicants this year is down 11.5% from a year ago to 66,876, according to the Law School Admission Council Inc. The figure, which is a tally of applications for the fall 2011 class, is the lowest since 2001 at this stage of the process.

This drop in applications is being attributed to an increasing awareness of the poor job market and a trepidation of facing this market with massive law school loan debt.  The article quotes advisers and deans who give prospective students a lot of credit, by saying that they’re now more “clear eyed” about the huge challenges they could very well face upon graduation.  Those in the know claim that there aren’t very many students currently applying to law school who are doing so just to avoid the workforce or because they don’t know what else to do.

At Fordham University School of Law in New York, applications this year are down 15%, and those applying “appear to have analyzed the investment in law school closely and are serious about pursuing a career in law,” said Carrie Johnson, a school spokeswoman.

I call BS.  If you want to claim that applicants are, on average, slightly more serious about taking on a legal education in this struggling economy, that’s fine.  But to state that the “froth” of kids who apply to law school because they can’t think of anything better to do is “pretty well gone,” then that’s just not being knowledgeable about your own applicant pool.  66,876 and counting are applying to an ever-growing number of law schools around the country this year.  Sure, this total applicant number might be slightly lower than in years past, but you can bet that thousands of these applicants are still applying for reasons that might make a dean or career adviser cringe.  Avoiding the workforce now might not actually be the worst idea in the world, as most would bet on an improved economic picture when these thousands of students graduate in 2014.  Instead of pretending that they know what’s going on with applicants, perhaps law school deans should do something productive that would actually lessen the burden on young people once they get out of school and into the real world.  Why worry about the amount of “froth” in an applicant pool, when you can tackle the froth that is found in every bill for law school tuition?

Posted in Education, The Law | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

USD Law Slips Back to 67th in 2012 US News Law School Rankings

Posted by demkid on March 16, 2011

Despite recent gains that saw USD Law rise 26 spots in the past two editions of the US News Law School Rankings, the 2012 numbers weren’t as kind, as the school dropped to #67, from it’s all-time high of #56.  USD’s part-time program fell slightly from 10th to 12th, and it’s tax law specialty ranking fell out of the top-10.  Perhaps it’s all my fault, as I wasn’t paying attention to this year’s release date, so I couldn’t participate in helping leak the rankings as I did the previous two years.  Seems like a reasonable explanation!  I didn’t expect that the 2012 rankings would be released a full month earlier this time around.  At this pace, the 2013 rankings will be released in December, 2011!  Well, at least I don’t feel obligated to post screen shots or go through a thorough analysis this year, but I will list the biggest risers and fallers from the 2011 rankings.

Biggest gainers are: Indiana-Bloomington (23rd from 27th), UC Davis (23rd from 28th), Washington (30th from 34th), Washington & Lee (30th from 34th), Maryland (42nd from 48th), Florida State (50th from 54th – Tier Change), Baylor (56th from 64th), Penn State (6oth from 72nd), Illinois Institute of Technology (61st from 80th), Seton Hall (61st from 72nd), Temple (61st from 72nd), Richmond (67th from 86th), Northeastern (71st from 86th), Catholic (79th from 98th), DePaul (84th from 98th), Santa Clara (84th from 93rd), Buffalo-SUNY (84th from Tier 3), Nebraska (84th from 93rd), Marquette (95th from Tier 3), Michigan State (95th from Tier 3), and Louisville (100th from Tier 3).

Biggest fallers are: Emory (30th from 22nd), Georgia (35th from 28th), Wisconsin (35th from 28th), Colorado (47th from 38th), USD, Miami (77th from 60th), Kansas (79th from 67th), New Mexico (79th from 67th), Villanova (84th from 67th), St. John’s (95th from 72nd), Hawaii (95th from 72nd), Syracuse (100th from 86th), Chapman (Tier 3 from 93rd), Missouri-Columbia (Tier 3 from 93rd), and William Mitchell (Tier 3 from 98th).

So, USD Law’s 11-rank fall isn’t the worst of the bunch, but it’s still notable, and 67th is noticeably behind both Pepperdine and Loyola (both at 54).  I don’t have the full rankings, so I can’t compare numbers and try to guess what caused USD’s drop, but recent lackluster Bar performances surely don’t help.  The US News rankings are pretty arbitrary once you get into Tier 2 territory, as many schools are tied, and a 1-2 point drop in a school’s raw score can send it falling by double-digits in the rankings.  This arbitrariness is clearly demonstrated by USD’s recent rankings, as the school has been in the 80’s, 50’s, and points in between.

As far as other California schools are concerned, Davis sure looks impressive at 23rd.  I remember when Davis and Hastings were comparable rankings-wise, but Davis now has a 19-rank advantage on it’s UC counterpart.  Also, poor Chapman just couldn’t hang onto it’s surprising Tier-2 rank from a year ago, falling to 104th.  Hopefully we’ll see them up there again in coming years.  (It’s interesting to note that US News is now ranking Tier 3 schools individually, so now a school like the University of New Hampshire can say, “We’re the 143rd-best law school in the country!”  Perhaps they won’t say that.)  Alas, fellow San Diego schools Cal Western and Thomas Jefferson are still Tier 4 schools, with no published ranks.

That’s about all I have for now.  If I find out anymore interesting details about the rankings, I’ll update this post.  I still highly recommend a legal education at USD, no matter where the rankings roulette ball may fall each spring! (I mean, late winter.)

Update: I feel a little better now about my lack of attentiveness to the rankings this year.  Dan Filler at the Faculty Lounge states: “The most surprising thing about this year’s U.S. News law school rankings is that the magazine (if you can properly call it that) managed to embargo the list right up until its release on the web.  They did so by deferring sale of the hard copy version of the rankings until April 5 – thus denying thieves, snoops and other crafty characters a chance to score a photocopy of the new rankings prior to the moment of formal release.”  For the record, I consider myself to the third type of person in that group!

Posted in Education, USD Law | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Virtue and Chastity > Victory and Championships

Posted by demkid on March 3, 2011

At least, that’s how it works at Brigham Young University.  On Tuesday, starting center and leading rebounder Brandon Davies was dismissed from the BYU basketball team after he admitted to having sex with his girlfriend.  The most recent rumor is that his girlfriend is pregnant.  Of course, premarital sex is a big no-no for Mormons, and BYU’s honor code also requires students to be honest; abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee and substance abuse; and attend church regularly.  I really wonder if there’s more to this story.  It’s hard to believe that Davies just decided to come out with this fact at this point in the season, and on the same day that the Cougars (27-2 overall) rose to #3 in the national polls.  They were poised to perhaps be a 1-seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament, but that’s all gone now, as they lost yesterday at home to New Mexico by 18 points.  Was Davies actually upholding one principle of the honor code by admitting his violation of another?  How ironic!

I’ve heard lots of people applaud BYU in the last day for standing by its honor code and for putting standards above victories.  Pat Forde on ESPN compared this stance with recent happenings at other schools:

What makes this such a powerful testament is the fact that so many schools have cravenly abandoned their standards at such a time as this, embracing athletic expediency over institutional principle. It happens so often that we don’t even raise an eyebrow at it anymore.

Player arrests or other antisocial behaviors are minimized as youthful mistakes, with strenuous institutional effort put into counterspinning any negative publicity. Academic underachievement is dismissed as merely the price of being competitive in big-time athletics. “Indefinite” suspensions often last only as long as they’re convenient — timed to coincide with exhibition games or low-stress games against overmatched opponents.

That certainly didn’t happen in this instance at BYU.

That’s all well and good, and it’s true that Davies knew what he was getting himself into, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still find this all a bit uncomfortable.  People are going out of their way to applaud a school that banned a player because he had sex?  They’re applauding a school that assesses penalties for going to Starbucks and for forgetting to shave in the morning?  I’ve never understood Mormons, and I’m sure I never will, but if we’re going to commend a school for enforcing its rules, can’t we also criticize those ultra-religious rules for being ultra-crazy?  Can’t we also bring up the fact that Brigham Young himself had 55 wives, one of whom was 15 when she married a 42-year-old Young?  (She had 5 of his 57 children.)

Can’t wait for the Romney campaign to get underway

Brandon Could Have Used A Shirt

Jimmy Kimmel gets up on his high horse and explains my thoughts, exactly:

Posted in Education, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Right’s War on Peas and Carrots

Posted by demkid on February 23, 2011

On the most recent Real Time with Bill Maher, Bill and his panel spent a significant amount of time discussing the current fight over the budget for FY 2011 (or what’s left of it).  As we saw last week, the House Republicans (with zero Democratic votes) passed a budget resolution filled with drastic cuts to numerous government agencies and programs, and thereby fulfilled their arbitrary campaign promise to cut $100 billion from the President’s proposed spending levels.  Bill, as a way to crudely illustrate the Republican strategy, pulled out a dinner platter which represented U.S. spending as a whole: heaping piles of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and macaroni and cheese represented social security, medicare/medicaid, and defense spending.  Instead of attempting to tackle these huge chunks of our budget, however, Congressional Republicans decided that they would instead go after the tiny corner of mixed vegetables which represents non-security discretionary spending.  In the House Resolution, peas and carrots like home heating assistance for low-income families, medical research at the National Institutes of Health, Pell Grants, assistance for homeless veterans, and Planned Parenthood funding, were all cut in a frenzy.  At the same time, Republicans easily avoided cost-effective cuts like reductions in the billions of dollars in annual subsidies to oil companies.  It was truly a triumph for partisan ideology.  While these types of domestic programs may represent the peas and carrots of our budget when it comes to a percentage of the overall “meal”, when one considers the fact that they save lives and provide essential services to the American public, their importance seems more analogous to the meat and potatoes of Bill’s not-so-well-balanced dinner.

Perhaps the clearest example of the all-out ideological attack on a tiny part of the budget which provides a huge return on its investment is the attempt to slash the Environmental Protection Agency:

H.R. 1 cuts the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by almost a third and hamstrings the EPA’s ability to protect the environment and Americans’ health. For example, the measure prevents the EPA from protecting communities from mercury, lead, arsenic and other toxic air pollution from cement plants, leaving thousands of children exposed and at risk of asthma, slowed brain development and other neurological disorders. The EPA safeguard that the measure blocks would have reduced mercury pollution by more than 90 percent and saved 2,500 lives each year.

Some of the other numerous provisions in the House Resolution targeting the environment and public safety would: interfere with the EPA’s ability to limit toxic pollution from coal-fired power plants, exempt oil companies from Clean Air Act review for drilling in the Arctic, prohibit the EPA from setting new health standards limiting coarse particulate matter in the air we breathe, stop the EPA from implementing certain portions of the Clean Water Act, thereby threatening drinking water and potentially leaving wetlands unprotected from pollution, and Eliminate EPA funding that would enable the agency to use the Clean Air Act to curb greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons.

The EPA’s budget represents about 0.1% of total spending, yet House Republicans have been eager to attack policies and programs at every turn, and are quick to claim that EPA regulations threaten jobs.  The GOP needs to realize that their radical attacks on environmental protection just aren’t in line with either the American public or the facts:

The many people who were frustrated with government in the 2010 elections and voted for Tea Party members probably did not realize they were voting to “gut” environmental protections that Americans have enjoyed for the past several decades. A recent poll about proposals to weaken Clean Air Act rules indicates that members of Congress pushing to weaken environmental protection are distancing themselves from the electorate. Meanwhile the proposed budget cuts bear a striking resemblance to the Santa wish-list of K Street coal, chemical, oil and gas lobbyists. These lobbyists came late to the Tea Party, but made up for their tardiness with dollars.

The environmental and economic benefits provided by EPA’s work are visible in communities across America, ranging from reduced smog to cleaner waters and the all but end of indiscriminate hazardous waste dumping. These improvements have led to billions of dollars in health benefits that even the George W. Bush Administration catalogued. The dollars these safeguards have saved come primarily from reducing the number of Americans who become ill because of pollution.

The cost of the programs responsible for these improvements is a relatively small portion of the federal budget, and thus a very small percentage of the average American family’s tax expenditures. Yet, the benefits derived from these programs are extraordinary: clean air for our children to breathe, clean water for our families to drink, healthy public lands for people to recreate on, and clean oceans to support healthy fisheries and the livelihoods tied to this precious resource.

I highly recommend this article, which discusses the benefits of EPA regulation for workers:

A study just released by Ceres and the Political Economy Research Institute of the University of Massachusetts examines the jobs effects of some of the new regulations, specifically ones that have been harshly attacked by EPA critics. This well-documented study finds that far from being “job killers,” the new regulations will create nearly 300,000 new jobs, especially skilled, high-pay jobs for engineers, project managers, electricians, boilermakers, pipe-fitters, millwrights, and iron workers.

The new study joins a large number of previous studies showing that EPA regulation, in addition to protecting the environment and the public’s health, also serves as a job-growing economic stimulus and development program for the American economy. These studies directly contradict the endlessly repeated mantra that environmental regulations are “job killers.”

The cost of compliance with EPA regulation is generally less than two percent of total business costs. The idea that companies will shut down or go abroad to avoid such costs is ludicrous. However, companies often try to blame shutdowns and runaways on environmental compliance costs as a way to displace responsibility from other causes, such as new technologies, increased productivity, fluctuating energy prices — and their own corporate strategic decisions.

It will be an interesting next couple of weeks on the Hill.  Fortunately, the House Resolution with its partisan cuts is dead on arrival in the Senate.  The current Continuing Resolution (CR) runs out on March 4th, and as Congress is off this week, that leaves just a few working days to pass something before then to avoid a government shutdown.  As it stands now, it looks like Democrats in the Senate want to pass a “clean CR” which would keep spending levels the same for another month, and allow proper time for debate and compromise with Republicans.  The GOP, on the other hand, seems only willing to accept a temporary extension if it includes some level of cuts.  Something’s got to give.  One thing’s for certain, however.  While Americans generally favor spending cuts to reduce the deficit, when it comes to specific programs, we’re actually closeted big government spenders.  In a recent Pew Survey, while fewer Americans want spending to grow in specific areas, most cuts to programs are unpopular.  Double-digit percentages of the public actually favor increased spending levels over cuts in education, veterans’ benefits, health care, medicare, combating crime, energy, scientific research, and yes, environmental protection.  In another recent survey, most Americans oppose restrictions on the EPA.

While Republicans think they have a mandate to slash the peas and carrots of our budget, perhaps they should think again and recognize that while Americans generally support spending cuts, there’s little support for ultra-partisan political posturing.  Maybe it’s about time to take a hard look at reducing that huge, gooey heap of macaroni and cheese.

Posted in Environment, Federal Deficit, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

It’s Time for Wacky Super Bowl XLV Propositions!

Posted by demkid on February 5, 2011

The 45th edition of the NFL’s championship game is tomorrow (what percentage of the American public knows what XLV means?), and the Green Bay Packers are about a field goal favorite over the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Of course, the Super Bowl is the most-bet-on sporting event in the United States, and most people will probably be making straightforward bets on the winner, spread, total points scored, etc.  However, every year, sportsbooks and gambling companies provide a wide variety of wagering opportunities that go far beyond what would be offered in any other football game.  These propositions (or props for short) range from the basic (what side will the coin land on?) to the completely outrageous (what will Fergie first be wearing for the halftime show?)  There are also cross-sport bets, where the final result can remain unknown for months (will Green Bay win the Super Bowl AND the Milwaukee Brewers win on Opening Day?)  If odds can be created for an event that relates to tomorrow’s game in any way, it’s likely there’s an opportunity out there to put money on that event’s outcome.  Here are some of the prop bets currently available for wagering on Bodog, an online gambling company.  I also thought it would be fun to take a stab at the result, even though I’m not going to Vegas or sending my money to an offshore entity.

Coin Toss/Team to Win Coin Toss: Despite the simplicity of this bet, it’s actually one of the more interesting ones, given recent Super Bowl history.  The NFC team has won 13 straight coin tosses, and the odds of that happening are apparently 1 in 16,384.  However, in the 44 previous games, heads leads tails only barely, 23-21.  Can the NFC streak stay alive?  The Steelers are the visitors this time, so it’s up to them to call the toss accurately and break the streak.  I like streaks, so I’ll say that the Packers win and the coin will land on tailsHere’s more on the coin toss from last year’s Super Bowl.

Length of Christina Aguilera’s National Anthem and “Brave”: The National Anthem length is a standard Super Bowl prop, and this time the over/under is 1 minute, 54 seconds.  New this year (I believe) is how long Christina will hold the last word, and the over/under is 6 seconds.  Jimmy Kimmel was talking about this the other night, and said he did research into her other performances and was taking the “under.”  I feel that Christina will be caught up with the magnitude of the event and will drag out both the song itself and the last word.  Over on both counts.

Fergie’s Attire When She First Appears On Stage: This one cracks me up.  The options are skirt/dress, pants, shorts, and thong/g-string/bikini bottom.  Just the fact that g-string is included is hilarious.  I don’t see any wardrobe malfunction-type incidents happening anytime soon.  The thong bet pays +1000 (meaning you win $1000 on a $100 bet), and the skirt/dress option is the easy choice at +110.  I’ll take pants on this one.

Number of Times FOX Mentions “Brett Favre” During the Game: These types of “mention” bets usually surprise me because they’re lower than expected.  The over/under on this one is 2.5, which seems really low.  I have to believe the announcers will utter Brett Favre’s name at least 3 times during the game.  I’m going with the over, even though it only pays -200 (you’d have to wager $200 to get $100).

Gatorade Color Dumped on Winning Head Coach: This one’s always fun.  The options from most to least likely are yellow, orange, clear/water, red, lime green, and blue.  Of course, if there’s no Gatorade bath, there’s no action on the bet.  This shows how much of a sports junkie I am, but it’s really difficult for me to imagine anything other than yellow or orange Gatorade being used.  I’ll go with orange, which pays out at 7/4.

Who Will MVP Thank First: This one is interesting, as you have to take into account who you think the MVP might be.  Since I think the Packers will win, the likeliest candidate is quarterback Aaron Rodgers.  The options are coach, family, God, teammates, or no one.  God is the betting favorite.  “It’s tough to make God the underdog on any wager, in my opinion, but the odds are also supported by research that shows He often gets the first ‘thanks’ from athletes,” said Bodog sportsbook manager Richard Gardner.  Not to say that Aaron won’t thank God at some point, but I’m going with the second choice, his teammates, which pays at +175.

Super Bowl TV Rating: I really don’t know anything about the Nielsen Rating system, but the over/under is 46.5.  The odds say it’s slightly more likely that it’ll be under this mark, but I think this could actually be a really popular game, and I’ll take the over.

Steelers Mimic of Aaron Rodgers’ Championship Belt Celebration During Game: In case you aren’t aware of Aaron’s trademark celebration, you can see a clip here.  I think it’s pretty awesome.  Some players on opposing teams have imitated this celebration on occasion (for instance, when Rodgers is sacked), which leads to this prop bet.  I don’t think there will be much reason for anyone on the Steelers to be doing this tomorrow, which is why I’m taking the big no on this one.  This concludes my proposition analysis and leads me to my actual pick for the game:

Packers 31, Steelers 20

Update: Well, I didn’t do horribly with my prop picks, going 5-4-1.  My big wins were for Gatorade color and coin toss winner.  Even though the coin was heads again, the NFC’s incredible win-streak extends to 14, as the Steelers picked incorrectly.  The odds of that are now 1 in 32,768, if I’m any good at math.  While Christina Aguilera clearly went over 6 seconds on “brave”, there’s actually some controversy over the total length of the song itself.  If she hadn’t flubbed the lyrics, the total length would have clearly been over 1:54.  However, the actual length was really close to that mark, with one sportsbook saying she went under, and another saying she was over.  I tried timing it a couple times myself, and got 1:53.7, and 1:54.1.  Seems like the fair thing would be to call it a push (it all rounds to 1:54 anyway) and give everyone their money back.  Finally, in perhaps the most interesting prop bet result, the Fox announcers went through the entire game without one mention of Brett Favre.  Good for them.  More on that, here.  Oh, and I almost forgot my final score pick!  I’m fairly impressed with myself.

Posted in Americana, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Pachyderms Extinct in the Golden State?

Posted by demkid on January 30, 2011

A few days ago, Public Policy Polling (one of the most reputable polling companies in the country) tweeted that they were considering polling California for the upcoming 2012 US Senate race between Dianne Feinstein and a Republican challenger.  They asked followers for suggestions on who should be tested against Senator Feinstein, besides recent 13-point governor loser Meg Whitman.  I thought about it for a second, and replied, “Arnold, Tom Campbell, maybe Abel Maldonado? The Republican Party is beyond dead in California.”  Others popular responses were: Steve Poizner, Darrell Issa, Kevin McCarthy, and Steve Cooley.  Frankly, if these men collectively make up the cream of California’s GOP crop, my “beyond dead” comment surely isn’t far from reality.  There’s absolutely zero chance that a conservative Republican like Darrell Issa can beat any kind of Democrat in this state in the near (and perhaps distant) future.  California is a solidly blue state where Democrats hold a substantial registration edge.  This was played out in dramatic fashion in the most recent election, where despite a significant nationwide Republican swing, GOP candidates for Governor and Senate lost by double digits, and not one Republican won a statewide office.

So, do more moderate Republicans have a chance statewide in California?  In the past, moderates in the GOP haven’t had much luck getting through primaries against more conservative opponents.  In the 2010 election for instance, Tom Campbell lost the Senate primary to Carly Fiorina by a whopping 35 points!  Would he have had a better chance against Barbara Boxer in the general election?  It’s difficult to say whether his more moderate, business-friendly message would have resonated with California voters.  (He did lose the 2000 general to Senator Feinstein by 19 points, so his track record isn’t the best.)  My other choice (besides Arnold, who said he’s done running and who couldn’t be less popular), Abel Maldonado, also lost his race for Lieutenant Governor by double digits.  He seems like a candidate who could do well in this state.  He’s young, moderate, and has a good story, as the son of immigrant farm workers who went on to grow his family’s business and become Lieutenant Governor himself.  Unfortunately for him, as long as he has an “R” after his name, those main selling points will be counteracted.  There could be some hope ahead for moderate Republicans, as California’s new open-primary law will soon take effect.  The top two finishers in the primary, regardless of party, will move onto the general election.  Supported by voters last November, this could turn out to be one of Arnold’s most significant and longest-lasting victories for fellow moderates.  We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

For now, though, the party of the pachyderms is on the brink of extinction in California.  Sure, as recently as 2006, some pundits thought the GOP was gone nationwide, but this was proven wrong in four short years.  If we’re just talking about one solidly blue state, however, predictions of a long-term GOP ice age could be much more accurate.  The registration edge is more dramatic, and the lack of strong candidates and a cohesive message is astounding.  A week ago, a bipartisan group of political observers, lawmakers, and strategists gathered at a UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies symposium and discussed the issue:

Many of the 200 attendees at the two-day conference appeared surprisingly unified on one issue: that, barring dramatic upheaval, the GOP’s prospects may be doomed in the voter-rich Golden State.

“Republicans, as a brand, are dead,” Duf Sundheim, the former state GOP chair, told the gathering Saturday.

“We’ve become an island, a political island unto ourselves,” Thad Kousser, a political analyst from UC San Diego, said of California’s overwhelmingly blue streak in the November election.

Republicans will remain dead in California until the party “decides it won’t be hostile to people who aren’t old and white,” said Darry Sragow, interim director of the USC/Los Angeles Times Poll and a longtime Democratic strategist.

Rick Claussen, a leading GOP strategist, said that unless the grass roots and the state party change tactics – and step back from their current emphasis on conservative social issues – “we’re not going to see a Republican statewide winner in the next decade.”

Tough words for a party struggling to stay relevant in Blue California.

California Republicans: On the Slow Side

Update: The Public Policy Polling results for the CA-Sen race are out.  The title of the report is “No hope for Whitman, Fiorina, Arnold, anyone vs. Feinstein.”  Not surprising.  Senator Feinstein leads the 6 Republicans tested by between 14-34 points.  The 14-point lead is actually against Tom Campbell (my first suggestion!) and the 34-point lead is against Arnold.  All 6 Republicans had sub-30 favorability numbers.  Yikes!

Posted in California, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

San Diego: America’s Finest City (But Not For Antique Shopping!)

Posted by demkid on January 21, 2011

Between July 1st and September 15th of last year, visitors to Travel and Leisure Magazine’s website rated their choice of 35 American cities in a selection of subject categories.  The recently-released results can be seen in America’s Favorite Cities 2010.  It’s really entertaining to browse all of the cities and categories, and the site even gives visitors the option of putting two cities head-to-head against each other, to see which one is superior in more individual categories.  For instance, San Diego loses to San Francisco 6 categories to 4, but beats Seattle by the same margin and trounces Los Angeles 8-2 (not very surprising!).  The rankings are also separated according to how visitors view a particular city versus how residents of that city view their home.

Looking more closely at the numbers, it’s easy to see why San Diego’s “Finest City” declaration is well-justified.  According to both visitors and residents, San Diego is the 2nd-best city to visit year round (behind Honolulu and San Juan, respectively).  The city also gets high marks for its people.  Visitors and residents put San Diegans in the top 3 for both athleticism/activity and attractiveness.  Quality of life and visitor experience rankings are also high.  Visitors give San Diego top-10 rankings for weather (#1), public parks and outdoor access (#5), cleanliness (#7), people-watching (#8), and skyline/views (#8).  It’s interesting that residents give lower scores for all five categories, but this is pretty much the case for any of the categories: residents appreciate their own city less than visitors to that city.

San Diego isn’t perfect.  It gets its lowest marks for culture (a category that includes classical music, historical sites, museums, and theaters), and its food and dining scores are mediocre.  The overall lowest-ranked subcategory in the survey falls under shopping: visitors rank the city 27th for antique stores.  So, if you’re looking for a nice 19th-century mahogany desk, you might want to search elsewhere.  Can I recommend Charleston?  One thing that visitors seemed to completely miss in the survey was their specific ranking for microbrew beer in San Diego.  They ranked it 18th(!), while residents ranked it 7th, the largest divergence of any category in the entire survey, and the only category where residents ranked something higher than visitors.  I guess enjoying craft beer isn’t on the top of the to-do list for the average San Diego visitor.

I do have to say that Charleston has moved to the top of my list of places to visit.  In addition to having the best antique stores, the city ranks first for attractive people, friendly people, and noteworthy neighborhoods, and it’s near the top of the list for barbecue.  Sounds like my kind of place!  (Minus the antique shopping, of course.)

Posted in Americana, San Diego | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Seriously, USD Law?

Posted by demkid on January 14, 2011

I just was alerted to the fact that the full passage rate statistics for the July 2010 California Bar Exam are now online.  As much as I enjoy bragging about my school, the Class of 2010 left much to be desired.  Out of 259 first-time takers of the exam from USD Law, only 169 passed.  That’s an overall pass rate of 65%, and this ranks 15th out of the 20 California ABA-approved law schools, behind world-class institutions like Cal Western and Chapman University.  It also marks a 13% drop from the Class of 2009’s performance on the exam a year earlier.

So, USD Law, what happened?  I can remember arriving at the school when the Bar passage rate was a major selling point.  Now it’s something that’s embarrassing to talk about.  Was this year just an anomaly (I’d like to give the Class of 2010 more credit), or does this speak to a larger problem with how the School of Law is preparing its students for the Bar Exam?  Perhaps USD Law has just put too much effort into the development of its Career Services Department, to the detriment of Bar prep in the classroom.  Sorry, I crack myself up sometimes…if only that was the case!

Posted in CA Bar Exam, USD Law | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Employed After Graduation? Does Babysitting Count?

Posted by demkid on January 11, 2011

I highly recommend this article, published in the Times on Saturday.  It discusses the terrible position many new law graduates are in, burdened by heavy debt loads and with meager employment prospects.  It also gets into the fuzzy math law schools use when calculating the employment percentages of their recent graduates, in an attempt to hold or improve their positions in the annual US News rankings.  Some highlights:

A law grad, for instance, counts as “employed after nine months” even if he or she has a job that doesn’t require a law degree. Waiting tables at Applebee’s? You’re employed. Stocking aisles at Home Depot? You’re working, too. Number-fudging games are endemic, professors and deans say, because the fortunes of law schools rise and fall on rankings, with reputations and huge sums of money hanging in the balance. You may think of law schools as training grounds for new lawyers, but that is just part of it. They are also cash cows.

There were fewer complaints about fudging and subsidizing when legal jobs were plentiful. But student loans have always been the financial equivalent of chronic illnesses because there is no legal way to shake them. So the glut of diplomas, the dearth of jobs and those candy-coated employment statistics have now yielded a crop of furious young lawyers who say they mortgaged their future under false pretenses.

Apparently, there is no shortage of 22-year-olds who think that law school is the perfect place to wait out a lousy economy and the gasoline that fuels this system — federally backed student loans — is still widely available. But the legal market has always been obsessed with academic credentials, and today, few students except those with strong grade-point averages at top national and regional schools can expect a come-hither from a deep-pocketed firm. Nearly everyone else is in for a struggle.

Even students with open eyes, though, will have a hard time sleuthing through the U.S. News rankings. They are based entirely on unaudited surveys conducted by each law school, using questions devised by the American Bar Association and the National Association for Law Placement. Given the stakes and given that the figures are not double-checked by an impartial body, each school faces exactly the sort of potential conflict of interest lawyers are trained to howl about.

Critics of the rankings often cast the issue in moral terms, but the problem, as many professors have noted, is structural. A school that does not aggressively manage its ranking will founder, and because there are no cops on this beat, there is no downside to creative accounting. In such circumstances, the numbers are bound to look cheerier, even as the legal market flat-lines.

“This idea of exceptionalism — I don’t know if it’s a thing with millennials, or what,” she says, referring to the generation now in its 20s. “Even if you tell them the bottom has fallen out of the legal market, they’re all convinced that none of the bad stuff will happen to them. It’s a serious, life-altering decision, going to law school, and you’re dealing with a lot of naïve students who have never had jobs, never paid real bills.”

As a recent law school graduate and new attorney, I’ll just offer this advice: Know what you’re getting yourself into.  If you do, you shouldn’t have any complaints once you’re out in the real world.

Posted in Education, The Law | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

The Misguided Blame for the Tucson Killings

Posted by demkid on January 11, 2011

I’m just going to link to an article I like, but I briefly want to say that as a moderate, I’m particularly saddened by both the shooting of a fellow moderate Democrat, and the politicking going on already on both sides of the political aisle.  From what I’ve read and heard, Congresswoman Giffords is a terrific individual.  She’s well-liked by her colleagues, seems extremely genuine, got into public service for the right reasons (to improve the lives of those she represents), and has worked to tone down the rhetoric and partisanship in this country, even sending an email to a Republican friend as recently as last Friday, seeking to collaborate on promoting centrism and moderation.  If there’s one good thing that comes out of this tragedy on a political level, I hope that this harsh rhetoric that Gabby Giffords has fought against is significantly reduced.  This means a reduction in both Sarah Palin “Target List” type materials, as well as misguided attempts by some to use those materials to score political points when no proof exists that links their existence with unfortunate catastrophes.

In the specific case of the killings in Tucson, it’s completely ridiculous to be arguing about whether Jared Lee Loughner was influenced in any way by Sarah Palin.  This is the type of crap that Congresswoman Giffords would discourage.  Instead, we need to look at how this mass killing actually happened, and how similar incidents can be reduced going forward.  This brings me to the article, written by John Cook, titled The Sad Death of Gun Control:

There is of course one thing we can squarely and firmly place the blame for these killings on, aside from Loughner himself: The handgun he used to carry them out. Arizona essentially has no gun laws. Loughner committed no crime when he purchased the gun, no crime when he loaded it, and no crime when he carried it to the Safeway. He was obviously crazy to virtually everybody who encountered him in recent months except for the dealer who sold him the gun. He was too crazy for community college, but not too crazy to buy a Glock.

The reason six people were killed on Saturday is that Loughner had access to a firearm. But a consensus has emerged that preserving access to firearms for the public at large is worth the occasional mass killing because the alternative—registering firearms, requiring competency evaluations before selling them—is too onerous. So instead we fight about whether a subsidiary reason may have involved nasty things some people said, because there is no consensus that restricting our freedom to say nasty things to and about one another is too much of a burden.

Cook argues that “a requirement in Arizona that all gun sales be accompanied by a note from a mental health professional certifying competence” would have been much more likely to prevent this incident than “a pledge from Sarah Palin to refrain from violent rhetoric.”  I completely agree.  How about a requirement that magazines hold no more than 10 bullets.  Why would anyone need 31?  It’s too bad gun control has become such a non-issue in this country, and without a strong, educated, reasonable voice from moderates like Representative Giffords, meaningful solutions to this country’s problems will continue to be overshadowed by the meaningless rhetoric on both sides.

Posted in Americana, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »