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It took about two minutes from the time Senate President Steve Sweeney certified the passage of the millionaires tax package for Gov. Chris Christie to veto the bills at his desk. “While I have little doubt that the sponsors and supporters of this bill sincerely believe that the state can tax its way out of this financial crisis, I believe that this bill does nothing more than repeat the failed, irresponsible and unsustainable fiscal policies of the past,” wrote Christie in his veto statement. “Now is not the time for more of the same. Ultimately, another tax increase will punish the state’s struggling small businesses and set our economy further back from recovery.”
After the state Senate passed the bill, which had already passed the Assembly, Sweeney walked the bills down the hallways of the Statehouse, from the state Senate chambers to the governor’s office. Once inside, he handed the bills to Christie, who was waiting. “What took you so long ?” asked Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak. Christie sat at a wooden desk emblazoned with the seal of the state of New Jersey and swiftly signed vetoes. “We’ll be back, governor,” said Sweeney. “Alright, we’ll see,” said Christie. Democrats would need two-thirds majority in both houses of the Legislature to override the veto. “This is something we’re not going away on,” said Sweeney. “This isn’t theater, this isn’t a gimmick.”
The Nielsen Company, which takes TV set ownership into account when it produces ratings, will tell television networks and advertisers on Tuesday that 96.7 percent of American households now own sets, down from 98.9 percent previously.
There are two reasons for the decline, according to Nielsen. One is poverty: some low-income households no longer own TV sets, most likely because they cannot afford new digital sets and antennas.
The other is technological wizardry: young people who have grown up with laptops in their hands instead of remote controls are opting not to buy TV sets when they graduate from college or enter the work force, at least not at first. Instead, they are subsisting on a diet of television shows and movies from the Internet.
That second reason is prompting Nielsen to think about a redefinition of the term “television household” to include Internet video viewers.
NYT: The Treasury Department will initiate emergency measures Friday to keep the federal government’s total borrowing under the maximum allowed by law, as Congress continues to debate the terms of any increase in the debt ceiling.
Treasury now estimates that the emergency measures will allow the government to meet its existing commitments until the first week in August, officials said Monday, updating an earlier estimate that the government could run short of money by early July.
“While this updated estimate in theory gives Congress additional time to complete work on increasing the debt limit, I caution strongly against delaying action,” Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner wrote in a letter sent Monday to each member of Congress.
Even though they just agreed to a budget that adds $1.6 trillion to the national debt, Republicans are pretending that they won’t approve a debt ceiling hike without destructive spending cuts. Basically, they are threatening the nation with economic doom unless they get their way. In other words, they are claiming that they are terrorists. But here’s one of those rare occasions where you’ll see me defend Republicans: they’re not terrorists. They’re going to back down. And the sooner they do it, the better off everybody will be.
The bill was originally estimated to cost Texas $1.4 million annually in lost revenue. It will now move on to be considered by the full House, where several top Republicans have expressed confidence it will pass.
Meanwhile, Democrats are expressing outrage that their GOP counterparts would even consider the bill at a time when they are cutting essential state services:
Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, voted against the measure and lambasted it as wrongheaded at a time when cuts are threatened in areas including education and Medicaid reimbursement rates for health care providers
“With all due respect, sometimes I’m not sure what planet my Republican colleagues live on,” Villarreal said in a statement. “How can they say tax breaks for yachts are a higher priority than supporting our children’s classrooms or keeping nursing homes open?”
Texas faces one of the worst budget outlooks in the country, and amazingly, only about a third of it was caused by the economic downturn. The state has had a chronic shortage of revenue after years of slashing property and business taxes and creating numerous tax breaks and exemptions, just like the proposed one for yacht owners. Yet Republicans still insist on not raising taxes, and as a result have had to rely on draconian cuts to balance the budget.
Via Matt Yglesias:
Reuters points out one fascinating subplot to the story of whether the Obama administration will approve completion of the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast: It would help make his most prominent political adversaries even richer.
What’s been left out of the ferocious debate over the pipeline, however, is the prospect that if president Obama allows a permit for the Keystone XL to be granted, he would be handing a big victory and great financial opportunity to Charles and David Koch, his bitterest political enemies and among the most powerful opponents of his clean economy agenda…
About 80 percent of what the Koch refinery processes is heavy crude from Alberta’s oil sands, a company spokesperson told the media last year. The oil that reaches the refinery is supplied through the Koch brothers’ Flint Hills operation in Calgary, the company’s website says.
This means that the oil sands crude which reaches the Pine Bend refinery on American soil accounts for about a quarter of the total supply reaching the U.S. from Alberta’s tar sands mining operations.
We are not going to solve climate change. ..We are locked into fossil fuel infrastructure, brittle in the face of severe weather and unexpected disasters, unprepared for what’s coming, and making very little progress. So I think common sense argues for action — lots of it, and quickly. If we hope to manage both climate change and energy access for poor and developing nations, we will have to use far less energy overall, generate far more from low-carbon sources, and use biophysical resources far more efficiently and effectively. We will need large-scale changes that ramp up quickly and are sustained over many decades: changes in energy, land use, transportation, manufacturing, and food production. How can we start and sustain those changes?
1.For the short-term: To drive the cheapest, fastest pollution reductions, put a steadily rising price on carbon. Start it low if you need to. …
2. For the short- to mid-term: Encourage massive deployment of existing clean energy and efficiency technology. Lots of folks, including many economists, are leery about this — “choosing winners”! — but I think it’s essential. For one thing, it’s the most effective form of R&D. Learning by doing, economies of scale, and market discipline drive costs down more reliably than any lab research, particularly in the proximate future. For another thing, we just don’t have time to wait.
There are lots of ways to encourage deployment. In the U.S., we’re trying on-again off-again tax credits, unambitious CAFE standards, and a patchwork of state rules and mandates … against a backdrop of massive fossil fuel subsidies. That turns out to be a pretty terrible strategy. I much prefer policies like Japan’s Top Runner program [PDF], Germany’s feed-in tariffs, feebates, output-based standards, and energy-efficiency resource standards. But again, you take what you can get.
3. For the mid- to long-term: Massively ramp up the U.S. innovation machine. Above all that means raising the U.S. energy R&D budget from its abysmally, shamefully low level. The stimulus package pumped some money in, but the situation hasn’t fundamentally changed from 2006, when Greg Nemet and Dan Kammen said, “a five to ten-fold increase in energy R&D investment is both warranted and feasible.” Late last year, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology recommended tripling the U.S. energy research budget. ..
4. For the mid- to long-term: Invest in infrastructure. As anyone who’s been to, say, Hong Kong will tell you, America is crumbling. On the latest infrastructure report card, the U.S. earned an ignominious overall grade of D. We’ve been under-investing in infrastructure for decades and to catch up we will need to spend around $2.2 trillion over the next five years.
Hundreds of thousands of young adults are taking advantage of the health care law provision that allows people under 26 to remain on their parents’ health plans, some of the nation’s largest insurers are reporting. That pace appears to be faster than the government expected.
The Health and Human Services Department has estimated that about 1.2 million young adults would sign up for coverage in 2011. The early numbers from insurers show it could be much higher, said Aaron Smith, executive director of the Young Invincibles, a Washington-based nonprofit group that advocates for young adults.
The dependent coverage provision went into effect Sept. 23. However, health plans didn’t have to adopt the change until the start of the subsequent plan year, which for many companies was January. In addition, dozens of insurers voluntarily adopted the change earlier, soon after President Barack Obama signed the health overhaul law in March 2010.
A new study from the libertarian CATO Institute concludes that legalizing the more than eight million undocumented workers in the United States would have significant economic benefits for the country, while simply enhancing border enforcement and applying restrictive immigration laws would actually hurt the U.S. economically.
The Justice Department plans to intervene in a whistle-blower lawsuit charging that one of the nation’s largest for-profit college companies, the Education Management Corporation, defrauded the government by illegally paying recruiters based on the number of students they enrolled, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Monday.
This is the first time prosecutors have joined such a case, one of dozens in recent years that accuse the for-profit college industry of illegal practices devised to increase federal student aid revenue.
The company, which enrolls nearly 150,000 students, operates several career-college chains, including the Art Institute, Argosy University, Brown Mackie College and South University.
EDMC, 40 percent of which is owned by Goldman Sachs, said in its securities filing that its compensation plan for recruiters did not violate the law, and that it would “vigorously defend itself.”
In federal whistle-blower, or qui tam, suits filed under the False Claims Act, private citizens file fraud complaints on behalf of the federal government, seeking to recover public money that was wrongly paid out. The lawsuits are filed under seal, giving the government an opportunity to investigate and decide whether to intervene, so the one against EDMC has yet to be made public.
Entertainment Weekly, best known for its top-notch political reporting, focused on conspiracy theories floating around Twitter that Obama was trying to upstage Trump. And the Drudge Report, which will print any conspiracy theory against the president to generate traffic, placed the EW story as its second headline tonight.
A Hamilton College class and their public policy professor analyzed the predicts of 26 pundits — including Sunday morning TV talkers — and used a scale of 1 to 5 to rate their accuracy. After Paul Krugman, the most accurate pundits were Maureen Dowd, former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “The Bad” list includes Thomas Friedman, Clarence Page, and Bob Herbert.
The Hamilton students sampled the predictions of 26 individuals who wrote columns in major print media and who appeared on the three major Sunday news shows – Face the Nation, Meet the Press, and This Week – and evaluated the accuracy of 472 predictions made during the 16-month period. They used a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being “will not happen, 5 being “will absolutely happen”) to rate the accuracy of each, and then divided them into three categories: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
The students found that only nine of the prognosticators they studied could predict more accurately than a coin flip. Two were significantly less accurate, and the remaining 14 were not statistically any better or worse than a coin flip.
Nope. I think we’re all good here.
Wash. Times: Obama’s Speech About Bin Laden Was “Consistent With His View That Everything Is About Him.” In a May 2 column, Washington Times editorial page editor Brett Decker wrote that Obama’s statement about bin Laden’s death “made it clear that the campaign season for his 2012 reelection bid is fully underway” and was “consistent with his view that everything is about him.” Decker later wrote that “[b]in Laden’s death is more Mr. Bush’s victory than Mr. Obama’s.”
NYT’s: The Death of Osama bin Laden [Compelling read]
For years, the agonizing search for Osama bin Laden kept coming up empty. Then last July, Pakistanis working for the Central Intelligence Agency drove up behind a white Suzuki navigating the bustling streets near Peshawar, Pakistan, and wrote down the car’s license plate.
The man in the car was Bin Laden’s most trusted courier, and over the next month C.I.A. operatives would track him throughout central Pakistan. Ultimately, administration officials said, he led them to a sprawling compound at the end of a long dirt road and surrounded by tall security fences in a wealthy hamlet 35 miles from the Pakistani capital.
On a moonless night eight months later, 79 American commandos in four helicopters descended on the compound, the officials said. Shots rang out. A helicopter stalled and would not take off. Pakistani authorities, kept in the dark by their allies in Washington, scrambled forces as the American commandos rushed to finish their mission and leave before a confrontation. Of the five dead, one was a tall, bearded man with a bloodied face and a bullet in his head. A member of the Navy Seals snapped his picture with a camera and uploaded it to analysts who fed it into a facial recognition program.
The raid was the culmination of years of painstaking intelligence work, including the interrogation of C.I.A. detainees in secret prisons in Eastern Europe, where sometimes what was not said was as useful as what was. Intelligence agencies eavesdropped on telephone calls and e-mails of the courier’s Arab family in a Persian Gulf state and pored over satellite images of the compound in Abbottabad to determine a “pattern of life” that might decide whether the operation would be worth the risk.
As more than a dozen White House, intelligence and Pentagon officials described the operation on Monday, the past few weeks were a nerve-racking amalgamation of what-ifs and negative scenarios. “There wasn’t a meeting when someone didn’t mention ‘Black Hawk Down,’ ” a senior administration official said, referring to the disastrous 1993 battle in Somalia in which two American helicopters were shot down and some of their crew killed in action. The failed mission to rescue hostages in Iran in 1980 also loomed large.
Administration officials split over whether to launch the operation, whether to wait and continue monitoring until they were more sure that Bin Laden was really there, or whether to go for a less risky bombing assault. In the end, President Obama opted against a bombing that could do so much damage it might be uncertain whether Bin Laden was really hit and chose to send in commandos. A “fight your way out” option was built into the plan, with two helicopters following the two main assault copters as backup in case of trouble.
On Sunday afternoon, as the helicopters raced over Pakistani territory, the president and his advisers gathered in the Situation Room of the White House to monitor the operation as it unfolded. Much of the time was spent in silence. Mr. Obama looked “stone faced,” one aide said. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. fingered his rosary beads. “The minutes passed like days,” recalled John O. Brennan, the White House counterterrorism chief.
“We have a visual on Geronimo,” he said.
A few minutes later: “Geronimo EKIA.”
Enemy Killed In Action. There was silence in the Situation Room.
Finally, the president spoke up.
“We got him.”
Filling in the Gaps
It wasn’t until after 2002, when the agency began rounding up Qaeda operatives — and subjecting them to hours of brutal interrogation sessions in secret overseas prisons — that they finally began filling in the gaps about the foot soldiers, couriers and money men Bin Laden relied on.
Prisoners in American custody told stories of a trusted courier. When the Americans ran the man’s pseudonym past two top-level detainees — the chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed; and Al Qaeda’s operational chief, Abu Faraj al-Libi — the men claimed never to have heard his name. That raised suspicions among interrogators that the two detainees were lying and that the courier probably was an important figure.
What followed was weeks of tense meetings between Mr. Panetta and his subordinates about what to do next.
While Mr. Panetta advocated an aggressive strategy to confirm Bin Laden’s presence, some C.I.A. clandestine officers worried that the most promising lead in years might be blown if bodyguards suspected the compound was being watched and spirited the Qaeda leader out of the area.
For weeks last fall, spy satellites took detailed photographs, and the N.S.A. worked to scoop up any communications coming from the house. It wasn’t easy: the compound had neither a phone line nor Internet access. Those inside were so concerned about security that they burned their trash rather than put it on the street for collection.
In February, Mr. Panetta called Vice Adm. William H. McRaven, commander of the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command, to C.I.A. headquarters in Langley, Va., to give him details about the compound and to begin planning a military strike.
Admiral McRaven, a veteran of the covert world who had written a book on American Special Operations, spent weeks working with the C.I.A. on the operation, and came up with three options: a helicopter assault using American commandos, a strike with B-2 bombers that would obliterate the compound, or a joint raid with Pakistani intelligence operatives who would be told about the mission hours before the launch.
Weighing the Options
On March 22, the president asked his advisers their opinions on the options.
Mr. Gates was skeptical about a helicopter assault, calling it risky, and instructed military officials to look into aerial bombardment using smart bombs. But a few days later, the officials returned with the news that it would take some 32 bombs of 2,000 pounds each. And how could the American officials be certain that they had killed Bin Laden?
“It would have created a giant crater, and it wouldn’t have given us a body,” said one American intelligence official.
A helicopter assault emerged as the favored option. The Navy Seals team that would hit the ground began holding dry runs at training facilities on both American coasts, which were made up to resemble the compound. But they were not told who their target might be until later.
Last Thursday, the day after the president released his long-form birth certificate — such “silliness,” he told reporters, was distracting the country from more important things — Mr. Obama met again with his top national security officials.
Mr. Panetta told the group that the C.I.A. had “red-teamed” the case — shared their intelligence with other analysts who weren’t involved to see if they agreed that Bin Laden was probably in Abbottabad. They did. It was time to decide.
Around the table, the group went over and over the negative scenarios. There were long periods of silence, one aide said. And then, finally, Mr. Obama spoke: “I’m not going to tell you what my decision is now — I’m going to go back and think about it some more.” But he added, “I’m going to make a decision soon.”
Sixteen hours later, he had made up his mind. Early the next morning, four top aides were summoned to the White House Diplomatic Room. Before they could brief the president, he cut them off. “It’s a go,” he said. The earliest the operation could take place was Saturday, but officials cautioned that cloud cover in the area meant that Sunday was much more likely.
The next day, Mr. Obama took a break from rehearsing for the White House Correspondents Dinner that night to call Admiral McRaven, to wish him luck.
While federal officials said that analysis of DNA from several relatives helped confirm that it was Osama bin Laden who was killed in the military raid on Sunday, they have not yet disclosed the relationships of the family members whose DNA was used.
Officials said they collected multiple DNA samples from Bin Laden’s relatives in the years since the Sept. 11 attacks. And they said the analysis, which was performed the day Bin Laden was killed but after his body was buried at sea, confirmed his identity with 99.9 percent accuracy.
Some scientific experts said on Monday that if results really were so accurate, at least one of the sources was likely to have been a close relative, like a child or parent with whom he shared half his genes.
The vast majority of a person’s DNA sequence will be the same as every other person’s. So a test, which can be done in a few hours if needed, typically focuses on a small number of locations on the genome, usually 13 to 16 spots. These spots are located on what is sometimes referred to as junk DNA, areas of genetic material that do not contain instructions for building brain, bone and muscle.
A DNA analysis looks for patterns of two or more nucleotides, the chemicals that form DNA. These strings of nucleotides are called short tandem repeats. The closer the relative, the more the pattern of repeats matches. In an identical twin, they should be the same. A parent and child should share half the number of repeats. In siblings, the combinations can vary; in half-siblings, they can vary even more.
Bin Laden did not have any full siblings. He did have more than 50 half-siblings, some of whom have close ties to the United States and had long ago distanced themselves from him. Dr. Zenhausern said using a half-sibling’s DNA could still yield a reasonably high chance of identification, more than 90 percent. And collecting DNA from several half-siblings would increase the likelihood of making a match.
ABC News reported on Sunday that to identify Bin Laden, officials used DNA from the brain of a half-sister who had died at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. A spokeswoman for Massachusetts General said the hospital had not been able to verify that report.
People have been referring to this as hiding in plain sight. Clearly this was something that was considered as a possibility. Pakistan is a large country. We are looking right now at how he was able to hold out there for so long, and whether or not there was any type of support system within Pakistan that allowed him to stay there.
We know that the people at the compound there were working on his behalf, and that’s how we ultimately found our way to that compound. But we are right now less than 24 hours after this operation, so we are talking with the Pakistanis on a regular basis now, and we’re going to pursue all leads to find out exactly what type of support system and benefactors that Bin Laden might have had.
We didn’t contact the Pakistanis until after all of our people, all of our aircraft were out of Pakistani airspace. At the time, the Pakistanis were reacting to an incident that they knew was taking place in Abbottabad. Therefore, they were scrambling some of their assets.
Clearly, we were concerned that if the Pakistanis decided to scramble jets or whatever else, they didn’t know who were on those jets. They had no idea about who might have been on there, whether it be U.S. or somebody else. So we were watching and making sure that our people and our aircraft were able to get out of Pakistani airspace. And thankfully, there was no engagement with Pakistani forces. This operation was designed to minimize the prospects, the chances of engagement with Pakistani forces. It was done very well, and thankfully no Pakistani forces were engaged and there was no other individuals who were killed aside from those on the compound.
I’m wondering where you are at this point on the idea of releasing photos of Bin Laden to show the world that he is dead.
We are less than 24 hours from the arrival on target of those individuals. We have released a tremendous amount of information to date. We are going to continue to look at the information that we have and make sure that we are able to share what we can, because we want to make sure that not only the American people but the world understand exactly what happened, and the confidence that we have that it was conducted in accordance with the mission design.
At the same time, we don’t want to do anything that’s going to compromise our ability to be as successful the next time we get one of these guys and take them off the battlefield.
Is there some thought, though, that releasing a photo or two might avoid conspiracy theories throughout the Muslim world?
We are going to do everything we can to make sure that nobody has any basis to try to deny that we got Osama bin Laden. And so, therefore, the releasing of information, and whether that includes photographs, this is something to be determined.
John, is the debate about whether to release something, or what to release, when it comes to visual evidence?
I think it’s both. I think, first of all, what falls into the category of things that you can potentially release to the public, whether it be those DNA results, whether it be comments about the conduct of the operation, what happened, the intelligence case. And then you have to take a look at it from the standpoint of what are the upsides and downsides. And sometimes when you conduct an operation that is based on intelligence and is based on the very sensitive and very capable forces that we have available to us in the U.S. government, you want to make sure that you’re not doing anything to expose something that will limit your ability to use those same intelligence sources and capabilities in the future.
Consider the source, but Donald Rumsfeld told Newsmax that Bin Laden’s courier was not subjected to “enhanced interrogation” — aka. torture.
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tells Newsmax the information that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden was obtained through “normal interrogation approaches” and says the notion that terrorist suspects were waterboarded at Guantanamo Bay is a “myth.”
Rumsfeld also claims that elements of Pakistani intelligence could have been complicit in hiding the terrorist mastermind, asserts that his killing exonerates George W. Bush’s approach to fighting terrorism, and warns that terrorists will likely try to avenge bin Laden’s death with new attacks against America or its allies.
Another wingnut myth bites the dust.
If Osama bin Laden had carefully read the latest release of U.S. government documents by WikiLeaks, he could’ve seen that the U.S. was on to his whereabouts in Abbottabad, Pakistan. That’s the stunning takeaway from the trove of classified government documents leaked just days before President Obama authorized the helicopter raid that led to the Al-Qaeda leader’s death.
One of the keys to finding bin Laden, as reports citing U.S. officials detail today, was tracking bin Laden’s couriers.
The Guantanamo file on one of those couriers, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, was released last week. Here’s the information made public by WikiLeaks that anyone in the world could’ve accessed and found out that the U.S. was at least interested in Abbottabad. It’s not a lot, but it seems the kind of information the most wanted man in the world might have acted on.
In fact, of course, his tyranny, which must end, has fed the very extremism he claimed to oppose. Bin Laden thrived on Arab despotism and on the American hypocrisy involved in supporting that repression.
He died as President Obama’s America has made democratization in the Arab world at least a semi-serious U.S. objective for the first time. Effective counterterrorism does not lie in starving a whole region of basic rights. That much has been learned.
There is hope in this passage from the suicidal Arab rage of 9/11 to the brave resistance of Libya’s 2/17 Benghazi revolution — and the other revolutions and uprisings sweeping the region. A long road is left to travel — Al Qaeda is not dead — but the first step was the hardest: the breaking of the captive Arab mind, the triumph of engagement over passivity, the defeat of fear. Bin Laden’s rose-tinged caliphate was the solace of the disenfranchised, the disempowered and the desperate. A young guy with a job, a vote and prospects does not need virgins in paradise.
America initially nourished Bin Laden’s ideology as a means to defeat the Soviet empire, before becoming its target. Neglect and end-of-history euphoria preceded devastating blowback. In the decade since then, there has been further blowback — from two punishing wars and from mistaken policy.
This is a triumphant day for a young American president who changed policy, retiring his predecessor’s horrible misnomer, the Global War on Terror or G.W.O.T., in order to focus, laser-like, on the terrorists determined to do the United States and its allies harm. Bin Laden had enticed George W. Bush’s flailing America into his web. Obama saw the need for extraction and engagement — extraction from the wars and engagement with the moderate Muslim majority.
The passage has been uneven but his achievements unquestionable. Open societies have this going for them over circles of fanatical conviction: they learn from mistakes.
How then to complete the work and make a corpse not only of Bin Laden but his movement? Oust Qaddafi with ruthlessness and in short order. Steer the Arab revolutions into port with consistent political support and funding. Arab democracy must also mean Arab opportunity.
End the war in Afghanistan as soon as America’s basic security requirements are met. Make America’s closest regional ally, Israel, understand that a changed Middle East cannot be met with unchanging Israeli policies. Palestine, like Israel, must rise to the region’s dawning post-Osama era of responsibility and representation.
The 2012 campaign just got less interesting. Obama, as I’ve written before, is a lucky man. I suspect luck and purposefulness do a two-term president make. Obama got Osama because he turned a wider tide.
President Barack Obama used Monday night’s White House dinner with scores of lawmakers to reiterate a call for unity in the wake of the death of Osama bin Laden.
Obama told the crowd that Sunday’s major announcement about the U.S. raid that killed the al-Qaida leader in Pakistan “reminded again that there is a pride in what this nation stands for, and what we can achieve, that runs far deeper than party, far deeper than politics.”
Obama referenced other unifying moments in the nation’s recent past, including a shooting in Arizona that critically injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) in January. That attack, which killed six people, inspired lawmakers to abandon the tradition of partisan seating at the State of the Union address that followed a few weeks later.
“I also know there have been several moments like this during the course of this year that have brought us together as an American family, whether it was the tragedy in Tucson or, most recently, our unified response to the terrible storms that have taken place in the South,” Obama said, referring to tornadoes that killed more than 300 last week. “Last night was one of those moments. And so tonight, it is my fervent hope that we can harness some of that unity and some of that pride to confront the many challenges that we still face.”
Ms. Giffords had traveled from Houston to Cape Canaveral to watch the launching scheduled for last Friday, which was delayed because of a technical problem. She has returned to the Houston rehabilitation hospital where she is being treated after being shot in the head in January while meeting with constituents. The launching is off until at least May 10.
Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller announced Monday that the impending special election in the state’s 2nd district will be open to any and all qualified candidates, but the final decision is expected to come in the courts.
“We have never had a special election for a U.S. House vacancy,” Miller said. “We have been thoroughly researching the issue for some time. It is my belief that the law is very clear.”
Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) said last week that he will appoint Rep. Dean Heller (R) to serve the remainder of the term of Sen. John Ensign (R), who will resign his seat Tuesday. Sandoval set the special election for Sept. 13.
The appointment set off a scurry, as it became clear that the 2003 law passed in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks could have different interpretations. Instead of setting a clear path for special House elections, the two parties had two divergent readings of the law.
In a GOP-leaning district with several Republicans expected to run, Miller’s interpretation could hurt the party’s chances at holding the seat. With a split vote among Republicans, the possibility for a Democrat to win a plurality of the votes would increase.
The lazy but very typical pundit column is the one that desires a third party to appear out of nowhere, have massive popular support, and magically implement the agenda that the pundit wants.
It’s so dumb.
As fleeting as it might prove to be, the positive tone stood in blunt contrast to the narrative Republicans have been working to build in the opening stages of the 2012 presidential campaign.
The argument that most potential Republican candidates have been making — that Mr. Obama is an indecisive leader, incapable of handling rapidly evolving events around the world — suddenly became more complicated. And the boost in stature for Mr. Obama, even if temporary, comes when a number of Republicans are deciding whether to commit themselves to the presidential race, and offered fresh evidence that he might be less vulnerable than his opponents thought.
The nation’s unemployment rate remains relatively high, and the economic recovery has yet to gain traction. High gasoline prices are pinching consumer budgets and eroding confidence. Seventy percent of Americans in the Times/CBS poll last month said the country was on the wrong track, and the White House is heading into what could be a bitter fight with Republicans about spending and raising the debt limit.
But at a minimum, Mr. Obama has been dealt another high-profile opportunity to try to position himself above the bitter partisan fray and offer a voice of reasoned compromise — a theme consistent with his strategy over the past six months of shedding Republican efforts to cast him as a partisan liberal out of touch with the country’s values.
Karl Rove, the Republican strategist for President George W. Bush, said that party’s crop of presidential aspirants would be wise to not be “churlish.” But he said he did not believe Bin Laden’s death would be a deciding issue in the 2012 campaign.
“This will tend to cause a lot of people to say we got our job done,” Mr. Rove said, noting a similar reaction when Saddam Hussein was captured in 2003. “This is a moment that will require him to say, ‘Here’s what needs to be done to prevail in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Yemen, in the broader war on terror.’ ”
Ryan’s campaign website doesn’t have any information on his contributors, but according to the Center for Responsive Politics, “political action committees in the health sector donated more than $269,050 to Ryan, ranking him 10th out of 383 Republican candidates receiving donations from the sector.” In fact, Ryan’s top 15 donors during the 2010 election cycle “included PACs and individual employees of Abbott Laboratories, Humana Inc., Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Aetna Inc.”
Health industry analysts predict that Ryan’s plan to privatize Medicare could “be a tremendous business opportunity for the industry.” Ana Gupte, an analyst with Bernstein Research, told the New York Times that the private Medicare business “could be a $1.2 trillion business by 2031.”
In 2009, UCLA ecosystem geographers authored a paper predicting the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. Using probability models they otherwise apply for studying, say, endangered birds, they calculated an 80.9% chance that the al Qaeda boss was in Abbottabad, Pakistan— where he was killed last night. They also correctly predicted bin Laden was living in a city, not a remote village or rural cave as widely presumed. Snip:
The bin Laden tracking idea began as a project in an undergraduate class on remote sensing that Gillespie, whose expertise is using remote sensing data from satellites to study ecosystems, taught in 2009. Based on information from satellites and other remote sensing systems, and reports on his movements since his last known location, the students created a probabilistic model of where he was likely to be. Their prediction of a town was based on a geographical theory called “island biogeography”: basically, that a species on a large island is much less likely to go extinct following a catastrophic event than a species on a small one.
“The theory was basically that if you’re going to try and survive, you’re going to a region with a low extinction rate: a large town,” Gillespie says. “We hypothesized he wouldn’t be in a small town where people could report on him.”
“It’s not my thing to do this type of [terrorism] stuff,” he says. “But the same theories we use to study endangered birds can be used to do this.”
The Monkey Cage:
The question of “what will happen when we kill bin Laden?” has been the topic of my research for the last year-plus. I’ve attempted to answer this question in my undergraduate thesis and a series of conference papers that resulted from it. The March 31 version of the paper, presented at WPSA, is available via the Social Science Research Network.
In February I also gave a poster presentation in Austin, attempting to answer the question above.
So what do I predict will happen? Since bin Laden is a Tier One leader, I don’t think we’ll see any major backlash in violence in the short-term (3-6 months). However, I offer this with the huge caveat that al-Qaeda is unique in its corporate structure, networking with other groups, and (perceived) capabilities. If this had happened seven or eight years ago I think we would’ve seen huge protests from Jeddah to Jakarta, but now Arab youth seem to have other things on their mind.
Who Needs Workers, Anyway?
Jacksonville-based abstinence education program whose founder has endorsed the work of Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa, a chief proponent of that country’s “Kill the Gays” bill, has declined to reapply for Florida Department of Health funds.
Anti-abortion rights marketing group Heroic Media is expanding domestically and internationally, officials said Saturday during an “inaugural District of Columbia benefit dinner,” held in Bethesda, Md. – part of an effort to raise money for anti-abortion advertising in the Northeast this spring.
AND IN OTHER NEWS…
A study examined the Prisoner’s Dilemma, in which two “criminals” are apprehended. If one rats the other out, they get a lowered sentence. The experiment then punished the “defectors” by electrically shocking them, to the approval of witnesses. Jonah Lehrer summarizes:
[W]e are engineered to get pleasure from punishing those who deserve to be punished.
He opines on Osama’s ocean burial:
While such a disappearance might be less emotionally satisfying (at least for our dopamine neurons) than some bloody images of the revenge, I think it also helps to slow the downward spiral of tit for tat. As Gandhi famously said, “An eye for eye, and soon the whole world is blind.”
John Pavlus philosophizes on that odd end:
This isn’t justice as erasure, even though we did “rub him out.” This is something more abstract, and more quintessentially contemporary: justice as absence. The man has been disappeared. But so has his symbology, his meme, his brand. They’ll endure as memories and fixed images but (in all likelihood) won’t adapt or evolve — or at least, not in the same virulently powerful way.
Cliff Kuang parses the PR machinations:
What would happen if images of the actual killing surfaced? Would they become a rallying cry for Al Qaeda sympathizers — the terrorist’s equivalent of those gruesome images of Neda Agha-Soltan, whose death, at the hands of state police, inflamed riots in Iran? And would they be grotesquely tacked up across the U.S., affixed to gates and telephone poles like the modern analogue of a head on a pike?
Up in the sky, a plane floated a banner reading “Some cuts never heal” as Republican Gov. Rick Snyder gave the University of Michigan commencement address at the campus football stadium on Saturday.
On the ground outside the stadium, union workers at the university along with students, nurses, teachers, a cross section of concerned citizens and unions both public and private, formed a huge picket line. It was sparked by outrage that a governor who calls for a 15 percent cut for higher education and huge cuts to K-12 education would be invited to give a commencement address at the flagship state university campus.
Before marching to the “Big House,” as the football stadium is dubbed here, protesters rallied at nearby Pioneer High School and a number of U of M graduating seniors addressed the crowd.
The mood of rally participants was upbeat.
One explanation for that could be found in the remarks of William Copeland, a school janitor and vice president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1182. He said, “We are standing up to Goliath because we still have a rock in our slingshot.”
More than 300 members of disability advocacy group ADAPT occupy the rotunda in the Cannon House Office Building to protest GOP-proposed Medicaid cuts in the 2012 budget
“The idea of block granting really scares us, because a lot of people with disabilities rely on Medicaid in order to stay out of institutions,” Ervin said. “Block granting … gets rid of the idea that people are entitled to a minimun amount, no matter what their situation is. Now there will be less money available.”
Of the 300 people circling the rotunda in the Cannon Building, Ervin said about 200 of them are in wheelchairs. One aspect of the proposal to block-grant Medicaid that worries ADAPT, he said, is that there might not be enough money for all recipients to purchase the medical equipment and medicine they need.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Again, I don’t know where Osama bin Laden is.
I uh – hehe – I uh – I repeat what I said I am truly not that concerned about him.~G.W. Bush