Morning Constitutional – Thursday, 27 March 2014

Good morning, folks. Columbus Short got in a bar fight. Now, your morning constitutional:

The International Monetary Fund has agreed to provide Ukraine with $18 billion in loans to help prevent the country’s default.

President Obama met Pope Francis.

Former Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel Fatah al-Sisi finally announced that he is indeed running for president.

The National Labor Relations board has ruled that football players at Northwestern University are employees and can therefore unionize. Which may mean the NCAA’s charade of “student-athelete” may finally be crumbling.

The mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, has resigned after being arrested for corruption and accepting bribes.

Some good economic news: The U.S. economy grew faster in the fourth quarter than originally thought: GDP grew 2.6%, not the 2.4% the Commerce Department announced last month. Meanwhile, the Labor Department announced that initial unemployment claims dropped 10,000 to its lowest level since November.

What a 2015-2016 Republican Congress would look like.

Another dwarf planet has been discovered just past Pluto.

How states are using a loophole in the farm bill to fight back against food stamp cuts.

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that a federal law banning people who have committed domestic violence from possessing a gun can still be enforced in states where no physical proof is required to support the domestic violence charge.

Oldest man in Congress remembers selling cigarettes to Bonny and Clyde.

Speaker Boehner pranks Rep. Pelosi by sending her chocolate for her birthday, just a day after she mentioned that she had given up chocolate for lent.

College graduates can’t find work, but that doesn’t stop colleges from calling and asking for money.

Wu Tang Clan has been secretly recording another new album and will only sell one copy of it.

Finally, a homeopathic remedy has been recalled because it may contain actual medicine.

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Rich guy wants five more Californias

It’s easy to look at California and imagine Churchill instead having said “Democracy is the worst form of government. No, really, it’s the fucking worst.” Between often electing unconventional politicians to high office, and a overly powerful ballot initiative system that makes it nearly impossible for even those few responsible leaders to govern, California is an example of democracy at its probable worst.

And that’s before you get to the eccentric rich people who like to exploit this system to do eccentric rich people things. This time it’s venture capital investor Tim Draper, who is funding a drive to split California into six states. The six states he’s proposing are pretty much what you expect (with a nod to earlier efforts of so-called Jefferson to secede from California and Oregon throughout the years). If you want to hear about the whole idea in an English accent, here’s a video from The Economist:

So, the plan would create six states:

  • Jefferson, out of the rural north (but looks like sadly no Oregon)
  • North California, out of Sonoma, Marin and Sacramento
  • Silicon Valley, out of the Oakland/San Francisco/San Jose area;
  • Central California, out of the San Joaquin Valley with some Fresno up in there
  • West California, out of Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Santa Barbara
  • South California, out of San Diego and the O.C.

And, there you go. Also, highlighting how crazy California is. Silicon Valley would end up beating Connecticut for richest state while the Central Valley would make Mississippi finally feel better by becoming the country’s poorest.

I’m no big fan of federalism and especially how lopsided the Senate is, so you’d think I might be a fan of the idea, because it would finally give California at least a kind-of proportional number of senators. It is silly, after all, that California, with over 38 million people, has the same number of senators as, say, Montana. Yes, California has one senator for 16 million people; Montana has one senator for 500,000 people (about the population of Fresno). Problem is, I’m no big fan of federalism, and this project would just eliminate all the major efficiencies of a state its size (much like parceling out responsibilities and powers to states from the federal government does). The video mentions the university system, water rights, but also means basic services like roads, and those damned programs the federal government makes states run, like ACA exchanges, Medicaid, welfare and education.

(I’d also like to note that it’s pretty clear that California doesn’t have five more people capable of being governor, if the past few elections are any clue.)

Don’t worry, though, this is just another Californian weird-political-story distraction. Even if Draper can convince Californians to buy into such a fool-hardy scheme, they’d still have to convince Congress. And just as Congress won’t abide giving D.C. two senators, there’s no way they’d give California ten more.

So why am I writing about it and giving attention to it instead of far more important (or relevant at all) stories? Because I’m sick of that fucking missing plane.

New York Times Columnist Line of the Day

If you’re one of the three people who reads this here premier “web log,” you may have once checked out the New York Times op-ed page. You might even recognize the names of the columnists, who every day spout the most conventionally wise of the conventional wisdom. This is a feature that is dedicated to these folks, highlighting one line that is either funny, ridiculous, strange, or actually intelligent or well-written.

Today’s is from Thomas “The Tank Engine” Friedman, who in his column today, “Putin and the Laws of Gravity,” writes:

Putin has basically bet his country’s economic present and future on hydrocarbons at a time when the chief economist of the International Energy Agency has declared that “about two-thirds of all proven reserves of oil, gas and coal will have to be left undeveloped if the world is to achieve the goal of limiting global warming at two degrees Celsius” since the Industrial Revolution.

Right, everybody’s going to stop using fossil fuels because the IEA said they shouldn’t anymore. Been sayin’ it for years, yet here we are.

Remember, if you hit the NYTimes paywall, just open the link in your browser’s incognito or private browsing mode.

Morning Constitutional – Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Good morning, folks. Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin broke up. Now, your morning constitutional:

The Obama administration will extend the deadline for people sign up for health insurance if they ran into technical problems with the federal exchanges.

President Obama will give a speech in Brussels today outlining Europe’s role in global democracy and how Russia’s recent actions undermine the effort.

It’s looking likely that in the April election, Hungary will re-elect Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is looked at by many in the West with suspicion.

The U.S. does have a history of high taxation on the wealthy, and even used to claim it was to keep the wealthy from amassing too much wealth.

The economic costs of annexing Crimea will likely throw Russia into a recession.

North Korea testing its missiles again.

Speaking of North Korea, it appears that all men in the country are now required to get the same haircut as leader Kim Jong-un.

A court has lifted Turkey’s ban on Twitter.

Big Republican effort to recruit women to run for office is a bust.

Secret Service agents preparing for President Obama’s trip to the Netherlands were sent home for “disciplinary reasons,” which probably involved one agent drinking excessively.

As coal fades in West Virginia, drugs fill the void.

Oh, look, “Tiger Mom” wrote another stupid book.

This seems as good a demarcation of generation lines as any.

Why does so much sci-fi take place in California?

Finally, man puts out fire with miso soup.

Morning Constitutional – Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Sean Combs is (again?) Puff Daddy. Now, your morning constitutional:

The Obama administration is preparing to announce a legislative proposal to end the NSA’s bulk data-collecting practices.

Egypt is putting 682 more people on trial, just a day after over 500 Mohammed Morsi supporters were sentenced to death.

Four Taliban gunmen and suicide bombers attacked an election office in Kabul that was also near the home of a prominent presidential candidate. The Taliban has repeatedly promised to disrupt the April 5 presidential election.

The Ukrainian government has dismissed its defense minister a day after Ukraine’s military was ordered to leave Crimea.

“A trained ape could get a status of forces agreement [with Afghanistan]. It does not take a genius. And we have so mismanaged that relationship.” – Donald Rumsfeld, class act.

The Norwegian army has been experimenting with unisex dormitories, with two men and two women sharing a room. The experiment has so far succeeded in lowered rates of sexual harassment.

How not to report on the Obamacare numbers.

Lots of people don’t understand Obamacare.

Four things to know about the Hobby Lobby case being argued today at the Supreme Court.

Smoking: now pretty much just for the poors.

New York pastor says handing out AR-15 rifles in church exactly what Jesus taught.

Finally, man steals tractor, attempts to evade helicopter.

Till the End of the Day

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced today that it believes that Flight MH370 “ended” in the southern Indian Ocean. Relatives were alerted by a pretty insensitive text message before the announcement.

R.I.P. Gwar frontman Dave Brokie.

At the now-called Group of Seven nations meeting today, the allies moved to indefinitely exclude Russia from the group until Russia “changes course.”

Two days after a massive mudslide that has killed at least eight people in Washington, authorities are still trying to sort out who is missing.

Twenty-five years ago today, the Exxon Valdez ran itself right into a reef in Price William Sound in Alaska and spilled a whole lot of oil. Why that was a eureka moment for science.

Conservative groups are dumping a ton of money into New Hampshire in preparation for Scott Brown running against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. How much money? They’re out-spending Shaheen allies by 4-to-1; they’ve already spent more than Mitt Romney did in the 2012 primary.

Why charity can’t replace government safety net programs.

Science teaching men how to dance.

The Texas Republic was really, really bad at war.

Holy crap new Pixies album.

Dialogue I too desperately hope will be featured in Darren Aronofsky’s Noah.