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Meanwhile, in Jesusland....


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Kiwithrottlejockey
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« Reply #50 on: April 24, 2013, 01:13:06 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

L.A. County condom mandate pushes porn producers into Ventura County

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM - Tuesday, April 23, 2013



HERE IS a political object lesson from the seamier, steamier end of the entertainment business: The new law in Los Angeles County requiring actors in pornographic films to wear condoms seems merely to have pushed the smutty movie industry into the quiet residential areas of unincorporated Ventura County. The lesson? Passing a law to banish unhealthy behavior does not necessarily solve a problem, it just kicks it to another place or directly into a courtroom.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has famously taken on several public health causes during his years in office. He banned smoking from public places, went after trans fats in food, outlawed super-sized servings of sugary soft drinks and now has come back around to smoking with a law forcing stores to keep cigarettes out of sight and a proposal to set 21 as the minimum legal age for buying cigarettes.

People have protested the mayor's nanny-state obsessions, but he has made much of it stick. The soda restriction is on hold, however, because a state Supreme Court judge issued an injunction to stop the law, calling it “arbitrary and capricious.” As for the age limit for buying cigarettes, it may have about as much influence on teen smoking as the age-21 threshold for buying alcohol has had on binge-drinking college freshmen.

Human beings have a stubborn inclination to continue self-destructive behavior, no matter what the law says. That is not to say that some things should not be illegal, even if many people flout the law. Meth should be illegal, for instance, because it is an utterly destructive drug manufactured by scumbags who deserve to be in jail for a very long time (although a Darwinian argument can be made that the deadliness of meth benefits society by cleaning out the lower reaches of the gene pool).

When 57% of L.A. County voters approved the condom mandate in the November election, they had the good intention of preventing transmission of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. However, the law is being contested in U.S. District Court by Vivid Entertainment, one of the biggest producers of adult movies. (By the way, calling such films “adult” has always struck me as a misnomer, since most porn is decidedly, ridiculously immature.) The pornmeisters insist their 1st Amendment rights are being infringed. Keeping male porn stars sheathed is apparently akin to telling Clint Eastwood to keep his gun holstered.

Some of the “adult” film auteurs are not waiting for the court’s decision. They have moved production from the San Fernando Valley, long the home of the celluloid sex business, to neighboring Ventura County, where residents have been registering complaints about strange sights and sounds in neighboring homes.

"It's really disturbing," Tim Gray, a 56-year-old father of four, told the Los Angeles Times. "We were eating dinner and we heard these loud sounds outside, like something really bad had happened. I went outside and heard, well, the typical sounds you'd hear in a porn movie. It was echoing all over the neighborhood."

Ventura County officials are now proposing their own condom requirement, hoping that will get the pornographers to keep on traveling to the next county.

The porn filmmakers could eliminate the whole problem by taking advantage of the amazing advances in special effects that have transformed production of mainstream films. After all, real, live men are not all that necessary in porn movies. There is just one part of a male porn actor’s body that gets any serious screen time and that particular body part generally looks weirdly unreal anyway. Surely, a porn counterpart of Pixar or Industrial Light and Magic could create a CGI replacement for the live actor’s only vital component that would be visually convincing, yet disease free.

Heck, if moviegoers spent millions on "Star Wars" pictures in which the light sabers were just a special effect, the porn audience would probably go along with something very similar.


http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-condom-mandate-20130423,0,5436032.story
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« Reply #51 on: May 10, 2013, 11:19:30 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

Will voters still love Chris Christie when he's not so fat?

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM - Thursday, May 09 2013



NEW JERSEY Governor Chris Christie is worried enough about an early death due to obesity that, two weeks ago under a fake name, he checked himself into a hospital and had lap-band surgery on his stomach. It is being reported that having his tummy tied has already cut his food intake enough to help him shed 40 pounds.

The cable news pundit corps immediately questioned whether Christie was dropping weight to prepare for a presidential campaign in 2016, as if staying alive to see his children grow up and have children of their own were not motivation enough. However valid or specious, such speculation carries the clear implication that Americans would not elect a fat man to be president.

Is that true?

According to a recent poll, 76% of voters in New Jersey have a positive view of overweight candidates. It is hard not to think that has a lot to do with Christie’s current popularity in his home state, but it may also indicate that some people are more comfortable with a politician who looks like them, rather than one who is too slim. (Could that be contributing to the pathological hatred some folks have for our current svelte president?)

A 2012 Gallup survey put the share of Americans who are obese at 26.2%. Another 36.1% are overweight. That is a large base of potentially sympathetic voters for a candidate who enjoys his Krispy Kremes, Double Whoppers with cheese and 64-ounce sodas from 7-11. President Bill Clinton was notorious, not just for sneaking around the Oval Office with Monica Lewinsky, but for sneaking out for a Big Mac at the McDonald’s a block from the White House. Perhaps Clinton remains one of the country’s most popular political figures because he not only feels the pain of common people but feels their appetites as well.

It has been a century since we have had a fat president. William Howard Taft weighed in at 332 pounds and is said to have gotten stuck in the White House bathtub. In his day, his girth was uncommon. These days, millions of Americans are equally super-sized.

If politics really played a part in Chris Christie’s calculation, losing weight might not have been an obvious political plus. There are certainly voters who are biased against an overweight candidate, but there may be just as many who are portly themselves and who would not like being reminded of that fact every time they see a candidate who was once one of them wearing pants six sizes smaller.

If Christie starts eating arugula instead of pie ala mode, we’ll know he’s gone too far.


http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-chris-christie-fat-20130508,0,1302601.story
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« Reply #52 on: May 11, 2013, 11:08:55 am »


From the Los Angeles Times....

Ridiculous Republican rhetoric undermines Benghazi probe

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM - Friday, May 10, 2013



REPUBLICANS could make an easy hit on the Obama administration by highlighting the State Department’s apparent bureaucratic blundering during and after the deadly terrorist attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last fall, but they refuse to settle for such a small political prize. Instead, they have got themselves all steamed up and snarling about heinous, impeachable offenses that are figments of their imaginations.

The latest round of House hearings about the Benghazi incident provides a perfect example of how American politics has been warped and gummed up by bombastic, partisan extremism. A cool, methodical inquiry could well uncover serious mistakes and provide remedies so that future incidents can be thwarted before more American diplomats are killed in the line of duty. But the current generation of Republican lawmakers does not know how to do cool. Hot rhetoric more suited to a Glenn Beck tirade seems to be the only way they know how to communicate.

A prime example is Representative Steve King of Iowa. On Wednesday, he said he did not know “what took place, and who was where doing what and why,” yet he declared, “I believe that it’s a lot bigger than Watergate, and if you link Watergate and Iran-Contra together and multiply it times maybe 10 or so, you’re going to get in the zone where Benghazi is.”

Yup, King does not actually know any details, but he is sure Benghazi is vastly bigger than the two biggest political scandals of the last 40 years. Either King does not really have a clue what Watergate and Iran-Contra were all about or he simply thinks if he really, really believes, wishes upon a star, picks a crop of four-leaf clovers and asks Santa, he and his party will luck into a scandal big enough to topple a president they despise.

That seems to be what Mike Huckabee is praying for. On Monday, the former preacher and presidential candidate said on his radio show, "I believe that before it’s all over, this president will not fill out his full term. I remind you, as bad as Watergate was, because it broke the trust between the president and the people, no one died. This is more serious because four Americans did in fact die.”

Of course, none of these folks were calling for impeachment of President George W. Bush in 2001 when he and his top advisors ignored warnings of an impending attack and 3,000 people died on the morning of September 11th. That was a failure that went right to the top. Whatever lack of foresight there may have been at Benghazi, it pales in comparison to 9/11. With Benghazi, the fault appears to lie with mid-level bureaucrats (and perhaps with a myopic Congress that saw no need to provide adequate funding for State Department security).

It is a fever dream for Republicans to think they can bring down President Obama with this pipsqueak of a scandal. Possibly, though, they could do some harm to former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the strongest Democratic prospect for the 2016 presidential election. A smartly targeted investigation might do that.

More likely, though, Republicans will continue to overreach and come off looking like hyper-partisan, blustering witch hunters.


http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-ridiculous-republican-rhetoric-20130509,0,841119.story
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« Reply #53 on: May 15, 2013, 03:17:51 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

Partisan political bubbles distort Benghazi facts

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM - Tuesday, May 14, 2013



HOW you feel about Benghazi very likely has everything to do with your political leanings. If you think the Obama administration is covering up a scandal bigger than Watergate, you are almost certainly a Republican. If you think Republicans in Congress are simply trying to gain political advantage by exploiting the terrorist attack against the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last September 11th, you are very likely a Democrat.

A Pew Research Center poll found that 70% of Republicans believe the administration has been “dishonest” about what happened at Benghazi. Only 16% of Democrats feel the same way. But 60% of Democrats believe Republicans have “gone too far” pursuing the issue while 65% of Republicans think their party’s representatives have handled it “appropriately.”

This stark partisan divide is hardly a surprise given the sour state of American politics, but, on an issue of national security, one would wish for broader middle ground in which concern for objective facts, not political advantage, would guide people’s opinions.

The Benghazi incident has been rather thoroughly scrutinized, both in congressional hearings and by the review board co-chaired by Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral Michael G. Mullen. The facts appear to be that in the chaotic aftermath of the Libyan revolution U.S. diplomats lacked adequate security to protect themselves from terrorist attacks and that, after the horrific night when the American ambassador and three other Americans were killed, the State Department and the White House massaged official talking points to avoid criticism.

Playing a public relations game with the situation does not reflect well on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s State Department or on the Obama White House. However, this game of semantics was a fairly typical example of inside-the-Beltway spin doctoring and posterior protecting. It is not nearly in the same league of monumental cover-ups of illegal acts that took place with Watergate and the Iran-Contra scandal.

And that’s the problem with the current demand by many Republicans for a special committee to be set up to investigate the Benghazi affair. That seems a pretty obvious ploy to pump up the issue for political advantage and to do as much damage as can be done to the former secretary of State, who just might be the future Democratic presidential nominee.

The House and Senate committees now handling the Benghazi probe can do a perfectly good job of getting all the facts on the table if they will just stick to that job and stop playing their own spin game with an eye on the next election.


http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-benghazi-facts-20130513,0,1962623.story
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« Reply #54 on: May 16, 2013, 01:39:36 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

The real scandal: IRS gives tax exemptions to political partisans

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM - Wednesday, May 15, 2013



THE REVELATION that conservative political groups seeking tax-exempt status were singled out for special attention by Internal Revenue Service bureaucrats has given Republicans their best cudgel yet to beat on the Obama administration. But as the outrage revs into high gear, let me offer a contrarian perspective: As inept as the IRS may have been in the way they processed applications for 501(c)(4) status, the bigger scandal is that the IRS grants the tax-exempt designation to so many overtly political organizations, treating them as if they are no more engaged in partisan politics than the Girl Scouts.

The reality is that numerous high-powered political operatives for both Republicans and Democrats have formed 501(c)(4) organizations. The GOP’s most prominent political guru, Karl Rove, has Crossroads GPS, a 501(c)(4) entity that spent $70 million during the 2012 campaign encouraging voters to cast their ballots for Republican candidates. Under the guidance of former Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, the president’s reelection apparatus has been reorganized as a 501(c)(4) group that no doubt will “educate” the public about the need for more Democrats in Congress.

After the Supreme Court’s notorious Citizens United decision in 2010 that opened the way for corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money in political campaigns, all that new funding needed someplace to go where it would not be easily tracked. In response, the number of groups seeking 501(c)(4) status — which, in addition to the tax break, allows donors to remain anonymous — shot up to 3,400 in 2012.

The flood of applications overloaded the IRS processing system. It may be wrong that, in order to deal with the mountain of paperwork, the IRS functionaries began culling the applicants by looking for keywords such as “Tea Party” and “patriot,” but I suspect it had far less to do with political bias than it did with the fact that the majority of new groups were conservative. If someone were running a bogus political operation and wanted to attract corporate cash, they would probably pretend to be some kind of grass-roots Tea Party group. It is entirely understandable that an overwhelmed IRS bureaucrat would choose to look for questionable applicants in the most obvious places.

The fact is that none of the right-wing applicants were turned down, even though they are probably as engaged in partisan campaigning as Karl Rove or Jim Messina. A 501(c)(4) group is, by law, supposed to be a social welfare organization whose primary activity is not politics. Can anyone honestly say that about Rove or Messina or any of the many Tea Party organizations?

Sadly, after this so-called scandal has blown over and enough heads have rolled, the cowed IRS will be even more timid in denying tax-exempt designation to any front organization run by partisan political operatives and funded by corporate moneymen who want to keep their names out of the news.


http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-real-scandal-20130514,0,3072138.story
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« Reply #55 on: May 17, 2013, 07:15:37 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

By firing IRS boss, Obama buys into GOP's rush to judgment

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM - Thursday, May 16, 2013



ON WEDNESDAY, President Obama fired the head of the Internal Revenue Service, the first sacrificial lamb brought down after the alleged “targeting” of conservative political groups by the IRS. Obama declared, “Americans are right to be angry about it.” Call me out of step, but I am angrier that the president is joining the rush to judgment.

All that is known for sure is that some IRS functionaries took a shorthand route to identify partisan political groups that might be pretending not to be political so that they could get the tax-exempt status available to social welfare organizations. The IRS employed various key words, such as “Tea Party” and “Patriot,” and that is how it got into trouble. The IRS now stands accused of singling out conservatives for special scrutiny, even though such groups comprised just a third of the nearly 300 organizations picked out for extra attention.

It is worth noting that, though applications from some conservative organizations were slowed down, few, if any, were rejected. By law, any group whose primary purpose is to support the election of one set of candidates and the defeat of others should not be eligible for the 501(c)(4) designation. In practice, however, even Karl Rove and Barack Obama can weasel their way into a 501(c)(4) tax exemption that also provides anonymity for their fat cat corporate donors.

The actual scandal here is that so many campaign organizations are pretending to be no more politically involved than a group of volunteer firemen. Does anyone believe that the Tea Party groups that were supposedly so unfairly treated by the IRS are politically disinterested social welfare associations? Yet, everyone from the president to Jon Stewart to the mainstream media is buying into the Republican scenario that the IRS was carrying out a vendetta against the right wing.

What the IRS people did was not smartly conceived or executed, but there is, as yet, no evidence that they were trying to do anything more than their jobs. They were not helped in that by politicians in Washington who have so fuzzed up the campaign laws in order to benefit their political benefactors that it is not a simple thing for an IRS analyst to get things right when applying the 501(c)(4) statute. A big SNAFU was committed, but it is wildly premature for House Speaker John A. Boehner to demand that someone go to jail, as he did Wednesday.

The feigned outrage of Boehner and his compatriots is rather transparently part of the Republicans’ ceaseless campaign to undercut the president at every turn. They could hardly be expected to let an opportunity as ripe as the IRS flap pass them by. For his part, the president, embroiled in battles with his enemies on so many fronts, clearly decided he should get out in front on this one and put on his own show of outrage.

If some beleaguered IRS bureaucrats have their careers ruined, chalk it up to collateral damage in Washington’s permanent partisan war.


http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-firing-irs-boss-20130515,0,7874643.story
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« Reply #56 on: May 22, 2013, 11:23:53 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

IRS tea party targeting “scandal” does not live up to the name

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM - Tuesday, May 21, 2013



NOW THAT more extensive, dispassionate reporting has been done about the "scandal” at the IRS, it is abundantly obvious that what is being called “targeting” of tea party organizations and other conservative groups was the result of bureaucratic confusion, not political conspiracy.

The facts, of course, will not get in the way of this latest Republican jihad against the Obama administration. Republicans will continue to pump up the illusion of scandal for weeks to come and, just as some folks on the right remain convinced that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, those same people will take to their graves the conviction that he and his minions at the IRS plotted to impede the liberties of tea party activists.

It is actually a bit comical that conservatives who decry the size of the American government have not figured out just how many layers of bureaucracy stand between the president and a lowly backwater outpost of the Internal Revenue Service. And conservative anti-tax crusaders surely should be able to appreciate that even IRS agents have trouble deciphering the nearly 4 million words in the U.S. tax code.

In a comprehensive New York Times story about the now-notorious Exempt Organizations Division of the IRS based in Cincinnati, a former IRS lawyer, Philip Hackney, succinctly described the mundane reality. “We’re talking about an office overwhelmed by 60,000 paper applications trying to find efficient means of dealing with that,” Hackney said. “There were times when they came up with shortcuts that were efficient but didn’t take into consideration the public perception.”

The shortcut they used in trying to identify groups whose political activities might bar them from getting a tax break was to employ keywords like “tea party” and “patriot” in data searches. As a result, numerous conservative groups got snared for extra scrutiny. But they were not alone. More than 400 organizations of various types got special attention, including two dozen or more liberal groups.

That is not so much a case of targeting as it is an example of casting a wide net to scoop up a variety of politically oriented associations. And it definitely falls far short of a serious scandal. Watergate, this is not. Nor does it have any of the prurient appeal of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair. In the end, no one is going to care that a few tax bureaucrats buried by an avalanche of paperwork found a clumsy way to try to dig themselves out.


http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-irs-tea-party-20130520,0,3479148.story
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« Reply #57 on: June 11, 2013, 09:26:21 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

F-35 fighter jet conducts first in-flight missile launch near L.A.

By W. J. HENNIGAN | 6:04PM - Monday, June 10, 2013



A F-35 FIGHTER JET launched a missile in mid-flight from its internal weapons bay for the first time in a test flight for the Air Force.

The missile firing took place last week about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles at the Navy’s Point Mugu Sea Test Range after the plane took off from Edwards Air Force Base.  It is a milestone that paves the way for targeted launches later this year.

On Monday, aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin Corp. released a video in which the F-35 ejects an AIM-120 missile that briefly falls before firing its rocket motor and bursting into flight.

"It's a testament to the entire military-industry test team,” said the pilot, Lieutenant Colonel George "Boxer" Schwartz. “They've worked thousands and thousands of hours to get to this point — to where we are today."

Indeed. The F-35 is a nearly $400-billion weapons program under development for more than a decade.

There are three versions of the F-35 being developed for the Pentagon.

Called the Joint Strike Fighter program, it is centered around a plan to develop one basic fighter plane that could — with a few tweaks — be used on runways and aircraft carriers, and hover like a helicopter for joint use by the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

If the plane is successful, it will be the first time that a fighter jet will have supersonic speed, radar-evading stealth and short takeoff/vertical landing capabilities.

The Pentagon's long-term vision is to replace today's aging fighter fleets with 2,457 F-35s.

The Marine version is expected to be the first of the three versions to go into service. It’s scheduled to be delivered in 2015. The Air Force would be second to get operational F-35s when its version goes into service in 2016.

The Air Force’s plane is designed to carry a payload of up to 18,000 pounds using 10 weapon stations. It features four internal weapon stations in two weapon bays to maximize stealth capability.

The F-35 program is billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule. The per-plane cost estimates have gone from $81 million in 2001 to $161 million today, according to the Government Accountability Office.

But Lockheed has promoted the fact that the F-35 provides 127,000 direct and indirect jobs in 47 states and Puerto Rico. The company expects to pump an estimated $6 billion into California's economy and create 27,000 jobs.


http://www.latimes.com/business/money/la-fi-mo-lockheed-f-35-fires-missile-20130610,0,1760150.story
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« Reply #58 on: June 12, 2013, 04:20:50 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

Obama presidency, born in hope, is boxed in by unrelenting GOP

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM - Tuesday, June 11, 2013



AT DINNER a couple of days ago, my friend Janey Ireson said how disappointed she is that Barack Obama has been hemmed in by congressional Republicans and blocked from fulfilling the high expectations of those who supported his rise to the presidency. The next day at lunch, another friend, Colin Gray, expressed precisely the same sentiment.

One would expect to find such feelings of frustration among the half of Americans who cast ballots for Obama in 2008 and 2012, but Janey and Colin are not U.S. voters. They are members of a large group of people that could not vote for Obama, yet they had lofty hopes for what his election might bring. They are Europeans.

Janey and Colin are among several good friends I have visited in the English countryside this week. Pretty much uniformly, my British friends are wondering whether the American system of checks and balances has gone too far. How is it possible, they wonder, that the man who holds the most powerful position on the planet can be rendered so impotent?

The God, guns and go-to-war style of Americanism embodied by President George W. Bush repulsed most Europeans. To them, the election of the first African American president appeared to be a thrilling, historic break with the past that promised a new, more ideologically supple brand of American leadership. Such giddy expectations are what led the august Nobel Peace Prize committee to bestow their award on Obama before he’d done much of anything to earn it.

As it has turned out, the only area in which Obama has had the opportunity to exercise largely unfettered power has been foreign affairs. The Iraq war has been shut down and the military adventure in Afghanistan is being brought to a conclusion, but in the broader war on terrorism, Obama has proved to be a veritable Rambo, authorizing drone strikes at a rate far beyond the comparatively measured level of the Bush administration. The Nobel folks must be cringing.

In all else, Obama has been stymied. Despite his solid victories in two elections, Republicans have never ceased treating him as if he were an illegitimate usurper. On issue after issue, a majority of Americans supports his policies, but GOP leaders, like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John A. Boehner, have refused to acknowledge that Obama has most people on his side. And, of course, the shrieking partisans of the right — from Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck to Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin — have tirelessly promulgated the delusion that Obama’s ideology is an odious pastiche of Cuban socialism, African radicalism and Muslim-coddling anti-Americanism.

Obama has not been able to put together a consistently effective strategy to break out of the box Republicans have put him in. On the campaign trail, Obama showed himself to be to be a prodigy, a superb orator and an innovative tactician. But, in governing, his lack of experience has cost him. When it comes to driving legislation through the minefields of congressional politics, he remains clumsy. Then again, even Lyndon Johnson would have struggled to overcome the kind of unrelenting, uncompromising opposition Obama has encountered on every front.

As a man who hoped to achieve big things, Obama must be hugely frustrated. It may give him small solace to know that his frustration is shared, not just by progressives in America, but by millions on the other side of the Atlantic who have longed for an enlightened American president to be the champion of their aspirations as well.


http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-obama-presidency-boxed-in-20130610,0,1538028.story
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« Reply #59 on: June 28, 2013, 06:58:17 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

Supreme Court dumps Prop. 8 and DOMA; gay rainbow grows bright

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM - Thursday, June 27, 2013



NEVER has the power of an idea whose time has come been demonstrated more dramatically than in America’s rapid shift toward approval of same-sex marriage. The trickle turned to a steady stream and now, with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to open the way to gay marriage in California and strike down key provisions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, it has become a flood.

Once regarded as an abomination that would never find acceptance, marital unions of a man with a man and a woman with a woman are being normalized in state after state. Even more powerful, the force of law is now heavily weighted against traditionalists who, only a few years ago, were comfortably in the mainstream of public opinion. They must be reeling from the speed with which they have been bumped to the margins.

When it came down to it, ancient religious teachings could not trump personal experience and common sense. The simple fact that so many gays and lesbians are longing to marry and live conventional lives pretty much like the rest of us worked against the contention that homosexuals are a bunch of hedonistic perverts who are out to destroy marriage and recruit kids to their lifestyle.

Now, the Supreme Court has ratified the view that marriage is a civil institution that can be made available to all citizens, no matter what their sexual preference may be. The justices did not go so far as to legalize same-sex marriage in every state, but the majority in the DOMA case did say that all marriages are equal under the law and, if a state chooses to expand the definition of marriage, the federal government cannot discriminate between married couples.

The court also tossed out an appeal of a lower court ruling that said California’s Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage, was unconstitutional. Prop. 8 backers claim that they still have some legal maneuvers left to try, but there seems little doubt that, within about a month, the nation’s largest state will join 12 other states, the District of Columbia and five Indian tribes that have already legalized same-sex marriages.

It may be a generation before states such as Alabama, Kansas and Utah join the club (actually, Utah may take several generations), but the Supreme Court’s ruling is a watershed. On this issue, America has made an abrupt turn and will not be turning back.


http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-supreme-court-prop-8-20130627,0,4719511.story



Click on the links to read the news stories at the Los Angeles Times....


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« Reply #60 on: June 29, 2013, 03:59:42 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

Supreme Court ignores new voting rights discrimination

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM - Friday, June 28, 2013



BY gutting the Voting Rights Act, the U.S. Supreme Court got some of the facts right, but failed to recognize the reality of continuing discrimination against African American voters.

What the court got inarguably correct was that times have changed since the signature act of the civil rights era was passed in 1965. In the Southern states and the other jurisdictions whose voting practices were put under authority of the federal government, black Americans are no longer blatantly barred from exercising their constitutional right to cast a ballot to choose their leaders. In fact, blacks are holding more elected offices and voting in greater numbers than ever.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the conservative majority on the court reasoned that because the situation had changed so dramatically, there was no longer a justifiable need for the U.S. Justice Department to hold veto power over the way local and state officials in the affected jurisdictions set their rules for voting. To do so would be to discriminate against those states and localities.

What the court majority failed to recognize, or simply ignored, was what the court’s minority of liberals pointed out: There is discrimination at work, but it is not the state and local officials who are the victims of that discrimination; it is still minority voters.

It is a different type of discrimination, and it may be popping up in different places. Before 1965, black voters were kept from voting in many areas of the South and elsewhere simply because of the color of their skin — racism in its purest form. What is happening today is that black voters are having their influence on elections suppressed, not strictly because they are black, but because of the way black people vote: They are overwhelmingly Democrats.

As became evident during the 2012 election campaign, Republican officials in numerous states — not just in the South, but in states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania as well — tried to employ various means to discourage blacks and Latinos from voting. New identification requirements were instituted, voting hours and days were curtailed and polling places in minority communities were hard to find, fewer in number and inadequately staffed.

A signature scene of the election was the picture of long lines stretching away from polls in black communities where voters had to wait hour after hour for their chance to vote. Such shamefully long lines were not in evidence in white neighborhoods — not because fewer white people were voting, but because whites were provided more places to vote.

Prior to all of that in states such as Texas, Republican legislatures passed redistricting plans with lines drawn to limit the influence of black and Latino voters and ensure a system that favors white Republican candidates.

All of this may not be pure racism, but it is certainly politically motivated discrimination. Thanks to the court decision, the federal government has lost one big weapon to fight such discrimination. And thanks to the way certain states and localities have manipulated voting rules and district lines, we have a U.S. House controlled by Republicans who have a vested interest in making sure no new voting rights measure ever becomes law.


Related news story:

 • Supreme Court kills Voting Rights Act federal oversight provision


http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-new-voting-rights-discrimination-20130628,0,5106638.story
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« Reply #61 on: July 01, 2013, 04:46:47 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

In San Francisco, a weekend of gay weddings at City Hall

Afraid the same-sex marriage window will shut again, gay couples line up
at City Hall, which on Saturday was staffed entirely by volunteer workers.


By MARIA L. LA GANGA, CHRIS MEGERIAN and JOSEPH SERNA | 9:10PM - Saturday, June 29, 2013

Army Sergeant Michael Potoczniak, left, and his partner, Todd Saunders, exchange rings during their marriage ceremony at San Francisco City Hall on Saturday. — Photo: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times.
Army Sergeant Michael Potoczniak, left, and his partner, Todd Saunders, exchange rings during their marriage ceremony
at San Francisco City Hall on Saturday. — Photo: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times.


SAN FRANCISCO — They piled into their white Prius in Los Alamitos at midnight and arrived at City Hall here not long after sunrise Saturday with one simple goal in mind: A marriage license. Right now.

Sandy Palmer and Mary Dang knew they couldn't get the crucial piece of paper over the weekend in Orange County, where they have lived together for 10 years. And they worried that the right to marry granted by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday afternoon could be taken away again Monday morning.

Such a matrimonial bait and switch had happened to gay and lesbian couples before — not once, but twice. Hence the sleepless night, the moonlit sprint up Interstate 5, the 90-minute wait on the steps of City Hall as early morning traffic rushed by and the line for licenses swelled.

"We had a wedding in 2010," said Palmer, 33, a pirate-themed affair with swords and hats, friends and family. "It was amazing, but the legal piece was missing. I wanted to make this a part of my personal history, to grab the moment, be part of something special — not just for me, but for the country."

That combination of joy and tension radiated throughout the beaux-arts building all day Saturday, as couples from throughout the state converged on what was believed to be the only government office in California issuing marriage licenses. By the time the ornate doors swung open at 9:10 a.m., a line of more than 100 people snaked along the building's north side.

And on its south side? That's where a miniature tent city for the San Francisco Pride Celebration & Parade opened for business Saturday afternoon. The two-day fete usually draws a million people; organizers expect the crowd to swell by 20% because of last week's court decisions legalizing same-sex marriage in California and striking provisions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

For some couples, Saturday in San Francisco offered a chance to make up for lost opportunities, for not having wed during the brief windows in 2004, when more than 4,000 same-sex marriages were performed in San Francisco, and in 2008, when such unions were legal statewide before Proposition 8 was passed.

For others, such as Greg Van Dyke and Andrew Zack, lining up for a marriage license "was completely serendipitous." Saturday was Van Dyke's 43rd birthday, and the Los Angeles couple had bought plane tickets weeks earlier so they could celebrate his big day here.

The dermatologist and the Hollywood agent have been together for a year. They have a house in Mid-City. They have a wedding planned for Santa Barbara on Thanksgiving weekend. Zack's cousin, a rabbi, is flying in from London to do the honors. A surrogate is pregnant with their son, due in January.

But "we got in late last night," Van Dyke said, "had dinner, got up this morning, walked over to City Hall to see it."

And ended up in line for a marriage license.

In the first hour of business Saturday morning alone, San Francisco officials issued about 100 marriage licenses. All told, 246 were granted and 188 couples were married on the first full day of legal, post-Proposition 8 marriage.

The process was summed up nicely by a small sign outside the county clerk's office: "License = $99. Ceremony = $75. Both = $174. Equality = Priceless."

Everyone working at City Hall — which will be open again Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. — was a volunteer, from the cashiers taking the license payments to the greeters keeping the process running smoothly and the marriage commissioners in their long black robes intoning, "By virtue of the authority vested in me by the state of California, I now pronounce you spouses for life."

The grand rotunda with its sweeping marble staircase rang with cheers, "I do's" and the sounds of decisions made on the fly: Are the witnesses here? Shall we do the ceremony by the steps? Do you have a ring? Where did my family go?

Wedding photographers Danielle Fernandez, 33, and Janeen Singer, 32, had planned to celebrate Pride weekend together in Dolores Park, home of Saturday's Dyke March, with a bottle of champagne.

Instead, they headed to City Hall in matching black shirts emblazoned with "lesbian and wedding photographer." Rates started at a discounted $40. Until Friday, Fernandez said, their job has been "pretty hetero."

But not anymore. "There's something about the energy around today," Fernandez said. "It's validation…. People are glowing. It makes for good photographs."

When Tom Rothgiesser and George Lucas (no, not that one) arrived at the Civic Center to cap off half a century of togetherness, they did not need a marriage commissioner to officiate.

The 79-year-olds brought their own Superior Court judge, a retired jurist with a pedigree. Judge James Warren is a longtime friend and the grandson of Earl Warren, the legendary U.S. Supreme Court justice who advanced civil rights nationwide.

Warren said his grandfather would have been thrilled.

"Equal protection under the law was the most important thing to him," he said. "He was rabidly in support of it."

Rothgiesser and Lucas met in South Africa, and when they came to the United States, marriage was never seen as a possibility. "The idea was preposterous," Rothgiesser said.

Years later, when gay couples were marrying in 2008, the men were traveling in New Zealand, where Lucas was born. By the time they made it back, Proposition 8 had passed, banning gay marriage.

With the law finally overturned after a lengthy court battle, they married each other in the center of City Hall's marbled atrium. Each held a bundle of white roses.

"Ladies and gentlemen, Tom and George have committed their lives together as husbands in the state of California," Warren said after the ring exchange. Then: "Tom and George, you're married."

The happy couple celebrated their nuptials with miniature cupcakes. Marriage, they said, probably won't change their relationship. But still, it was an emotional morning.

"It will probably hit us," Lucas said, "later."

Weddings never come off without a hitch, and Saturday's were no different.

ProjectMarriage, the sponsors of Proposition 8, filed an emergency petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stop same-sex marriages from continuing in California. The filing occurred less than 24 hours after the marriages had resumed.

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, who started California's wedding saga in 2004 when he was mayor here, said Saturday afternoon that he was not concerned about the legal maneuver. People should not be surprised about such challenges, he said, as he posed for pictures with his daughter and a long line of newly married couples.

"This door in California is wide open," he said, "and it will remain open."

Les Leventhal and his wedding party weren't worried either. The 45-year-old had just married his partner of 14 years. The two San Francisco men are moving to Bali on Monday. Together. As spouses.

Legal maneuvers aside, "I think the train's already left the station," James Warren Boyd, a witness at the wedding, said of gay marriage. "Even if they manage to stop it again, it's not a matter of if, but when."


Related material & resources:

Photos: Supreme Court rules on Prop. 8 and DOMA

Photos: Prop. 8 dismissed: Celebrities react on Twitter

Highlights: Prop 8 ruling

Graphic: Gay marriage in the U.S.

Full coverage: The battle over gay marriage

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-0630-gay-marriage-20130630,0,4536905,full.story
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« Reply #62 on: July 07, 2013, 07:38:27 pm »



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« Reply #63 on: July 09, 2013, 10:50:12 pm »



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« Reply #64 on: July 13, 2013, 03:45:57 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

Obesity and exercise rates are both up: It's a matter of math

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM - Friday, July 12, 2013



HERE IS the so-called mystery: Americans are exercising more, but the national obesity rate keeps rising. How can that be?

The answer is pretty obvious. As my personal trainer (the only person standing between me and a gut hanging over my belt) has told me many times, “It’s all math — the number of calories burned and the number of calories consumed.”

According to data just published in the online journal Population Health Metrics, during the last 10 years Americans have gotten more active in two-thirds of the nation’s counties. They have also gotten fatter.

To take California as an example, the percentage of women in the state who get sufficient weekly exercise rose over the decade from 50.7% to 59.2%. For California men, the positive change was from 59.4% to 61.3%. Yet, at the same time, obesity rates rose in every California county.

Here’s the math. A person can walk an extra mile every day. In a week, that will burn up 900 extra calories. If that person has just one meal consisting of a Big Mac, fries and a Coke, he or she will consume 920 calories. One lunch negates all the extra miles.

The reality is, a person can exercise for hours every day, but calories are not easy to burn. What’s easy is consuming them. It’s not just visiting much-maligned McDonald’s that can get a person in trouble, it’s our entire processed-food industry. Widespread obesity is a problem unique to our current era and will not disappear until we can shift away from convenient processed and packaged food and get closer to the way our grandparents and great-grandparents ate.

Walking, running, lifting weights, riding a bike, swimming — all forms of exercise are good for your health. But eating a leaner diet is the only way to drop the pounds. It’s a simple truth that is tough to accept — take it from me, the guy who detoured to get a couple of Winchell’s doughnuts this morning on my way to the newsroom.

Please, don’t tell my trainer.


http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-obesity-and-exercise-20130711,0,590791.story
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« Reply #65 on: July 20, 2013, 08:52:50 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

President Obama speaks personally on Trayvon Martin and race

On the eve of more protests over the George Zimmerman verdict, Obama discusses
black skepticism of the legal system and his own experience with prejudice.


By KATHLEEN HENNESSEY and CHRISTI PARSONS | 6:33PM - Friday, July 19, 2013

In an extraordinary soliloquy at the White House briefing room, President Obama spoke about race and the George Zimmerman verdict: “Trayvon Martin could've been me, 35 years ago.” — Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images.
In an extraordinary soliloquy at the White House briefing room, President Obama spoke about race and the George Zimmerman
verdict: “Trayvon Martin could've been me, 35 years ago.” — Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images.


WASHINGTON — In an extraordinary 19-minute soliloquy, President Obama on Friday spoke bluntly and emotionally about his personal experiences with prejudice, the roots of African American skepticism toward the legal system and his optimism about the future of a nation still fractured along racial lines.

The comments, in a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room, were Obama's most extensive and personal on race since his election almost five years ago. Obama spoke on the eve of planned national protests over the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African American teenager, in 2012.

The president's remarks followed several days of internal White House discussions about how the first black president should respond to the Florida jury's decision in the Zimmerman case. The White House released a statement by Obama a day after the verdict, but the president himself had not commented until Friday.

"When Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. And another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago," Obama said. "When you think about why, in the African American community at least, there's a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it's important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn't go away.

"There are very few African American men in this country who haven't had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me," Obama continued. "There are very few African American men who haven't had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me — at least before I was a senator. There are very few African Americans who haven't had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often."

Obama's comments marked a rare moment for him. He has only occasionally addressed racial issues since a speech in 2008, in which he talked memorably about racism within his own family at a time when his presidential campaign faced controversy over his relationship with the outspoken black pastor Jeremiah Wright.

But since his re-election last year, the president has shown a new willingness to talk about the subject, although mostly to overseas audiences. In speeches in Myanmar, Germany and Northern Ireland, Obama has spoken of the U.S. history of slavery and bigotry, and cited himself as the once-unlikely evidence of one nation's progress.

A few weeks ago, on his first major tour of Africa as president, he noted that racial prejudice in South Africa had spurred his political activism as a 19-year-old. "As the son of an African father and a white American mother, the diversity of America was in my blood, but I had never cared much for politics" until getting involved in the fight against apartheid, Obama said at a speech at the University of Cape Town.

In Friday's comments, Obama said little about Zimmerman, but said the trial had been conducted "in a professional manner."

"The jurors were properly instructed that in a case such as this reasonable doubt was relevant, and they rendered a verdict. And once the jury has spoken, that's how our system works," he said.

Obama's remarks were greeted warmly by Martin's parents.

"We know our family has become a conduit for people to talk about race in America and to try and talk about the difficult issues that we need to bring into the light in order to become a better people," Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin said in a statement. "What touches people is that our son, Trayvon Benjamin Martin, could have been their son. President Obama sees himself in Trayvon and identifies with him. This is a beautiful tribute to our boy."

The White House would not say whether Obama had called Martin's family, and Obama ignored the question shouted at him as he left the briefing room.

Instead of dwelling on the acquittal, Obama focused on reaching out to young black men.

He said the White House was looking at several ways to respond to the Zimmerman case, including measures to address racial profiling by law enforcement, initiatives aimed at supporting youth and a review of "stand your ground" self-defense laws.

The president didn't say explicitly that he found such state laws improper, but he suggested they are ripe for racial bias and problematic in practice.

"I'd just ask people to consider, if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk?" Obama asked. "And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman, who had followed him in a car, because he felt threatened? And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws."

The president's comments struck some as showing the sort of candor he has avoided, either out of political concerns or privacy. "What you're seeing is Barack Obama, the guy. At some point every president is a human being," said Rep. Keith Ellison (Democrat-Minnesota). "Today he was himself."

The president discusses race in optimistic terms with staff and friends, according to Jon Favreau, the former speechwriter who helped Obama write his pivotal race speech in 2008. "For all the injustice and challenges that still exist, he's always believed that we should take heart at the tremendous progress we've made," Favreau said.

Protests sparked by the Zimmerman verdict are planned in at least 100 cities this weekend, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington and New York, where members of the Martin family will join the Rev. Al Sharpton. Sharpton, other black leaders and liberal activists had urged Obama to weigh in.

"African Americans are not only angry about the decision, they're angry about the context which produced it," said Eddie S. Glaude Jr., chairman of the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University. "Obama's silence could have easily folded into that."

Although the White House had issued a written statement on the verdict, aides said Obama recognized the need to speak out. Earlier this week he told his advisors that something more needed to be said, according to one aide, and that "he was in the best position to say it."

Aides said they were expecting Obama to address the matter in an interview or a news conference. But the president passed up the chance to discuss the subject when a reporter asked him about it Tuesday. He waited instead until he could speak about it in the briefing room, where he did so at unusual length.

"This speech was a step forward, a moment of identification with the African American community," said Glaude. "He's saying to America, ‘Hey, I'm a black man’. But he didn't linger there. … He's always careful not to trigger suspicions that he really favors African Americans, in a way that will disadvantage white Americans."

Obama's impulse to walk gingerly around race has at times angered African American leaders. Some argue the president too often talks tough to black audiences. At a speech at Morehouse College in May, he told new graduates at the historically black college that now was "no time for excuses."

The president has botched other attempts to speak plainly about being black in America.

In 2009, Obama made an off-the-cuff comment about the treatment of a prominent black professor at Harvard University, who had been arrested for disorderly conduct after police mistakenly questioned him about breaking into his own home. Obama said that he, too, would have been stopped by police in that situation.

Law enforcement officials responded angrily, and Obama tried to smooth over the situation by hosting a "beer summit" between the white police officer and the black professor at the White House.

After that, he confined his comments on the subject to carefully scripted addresses.

On Friday, the president declared, "Things are getting better," saying his daughters' generation gives him hope that race relations are continuing to improve.

"It doesn't mean we're in a post-racial society. It doesn't mean that racism is eliminated," Obama said. "But when I talk to Malia and Sasha, and I listen to their friends, and I see them interact, they're better than we are — they're better than we were — on these issues."


L.A. Times staff writers Devin Kelly in Los Angeles and Lisa Mascaro in Washington contributed to this report.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-obama-race-20130720,0,1229229,full.story
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« Reply #66 on: July 24, 2013, 09:23:26 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer ask voters to forgive their sins

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM - Monday, July 22, 2013



ANTHONY WEINER, the former New York City congressman, and Eliot Spitzer, the former governor of New York, wrecked their political careers in spectacularly seamy ways, but, in the Big Apple, there is always the chance for a second act.

Weiner famously got carried away amid cyber-flirtations with women other than his wife and tweeted a photo of his bulging underwear. When the tumescent tweet went public, he tried to evade responsibility with a clumsy lie. Spitzer, the supposedly straight-arrow ex-prosecutor, got caught spending a lot of time and a big wad of money on a dark-haired young call girl.

The two hugely ambitious Democrats were cast into the wilderness of political has-beens, but they are refusing to stay there. Currently, they are mounting comebacks; Weiner has a decent shot at becoming mayor of New York City, while Spitzer is comfortably ahead in the race to become city comptroller.

Not every New York Democrat is ready to absolve the two shamed men. The New York Post has identified numerous Democratic city officials — mostly backers of Spitzer’s opponent — who insist the ex-governor should drop out of the race and pay back the tax money he spent on a 2008 trip to Washington, D.C., where he hooked up with call girl Ashley Dupré.

Nevertheless, a majority of Democrats responding to a new Quinnipiac poll say Spitzer deserves a second chance. His hypocritical romp with a prostitute does not seem to be holding him back.

Meanwhile, Weiner has been able to raise nearly $900,000 for his campaign. Interestingly, Weiner’s chief fundraiser is his wife, Huma Abedin. Apparently, she has forgiven his sexting. The question is whether voters will be as forgiving, especially about his brazen lying.

One poll shows Democrats with an unfavorable view of Weiner outnumber those who like him. Most recent polls also indicate his reported surge to the front in the race for the Democratic nomination may be illusory. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn now appears to be edging him for the lead.

On Saturday, Quinn said having both Weiner and Spitzer on the ballot was bringing a “Kardashian-like” atmosphere to politics in the nation’s biggest city. One assumes, she meant that as a negative. Still, as the Kardashians have proven in the entertainment world, a little titillation and trashiness can be a winning combination.


http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-weiner-and-spitzer-20130722,0,2276468.story
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« Reply #67 on: July 27, 2013, 01:01:33 am »


From the Los Angeles Times....

Anthony Weiner should have told a joke before he became a joke

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM - Thursday, July 25, 2013



IF Anthony Weiner had been clever enough to use self-deprecating humor when his private sexting first became public, he might still be in Congress or have a better chance of becoming mayor of New York City. Instead, he’s become the joke.

In 2004, I was in New York to cover the GOP convention that re-nominated President George Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney for a second term. One evening during the convention week, a friend invited me to a comedy club where an up-and-coming Democratic congressman was going to do a standup routine. The congressman was Anthony Weiner and he actually was pretty funny.

Obviously, Weiner knows how effective humor can be. He is a friend of The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, after all. What would have happened in 2011 when his sexting activities came to light if, instead of trying to deny it and spin an elaborate lie, he had made himself the butt of jokes? “What do you expect from a guy named Weiner?” he could have asked. “I was just trying to keep up with the cool kids with all this social media and I got way too social.”

Of course he would have had to be serious about taking responsibility and making amends with his wife. He could have flown to Los Angeles to enroll in a sex therapy program with a few Hollywood stars. But allowing himself to lampoon the absurdity and stupidity of his own actions would have been a smart move too.

Would he have been able to hang on to his seat in Congress? It just might have worked. After all, his philandering was all digital. Bill Clinton did the real thing and he survived impeachment and remains the most popular politician in America. Mark Sanford was able to finish his term as governor of South Carolina, even after admitting his affair with an Argentine hottie. His wife dumped him, but South Carolina voters just elected him to Congress.

The revelation that a politician has been looking for love in all the wrong places is no longer a guaranteed career killer. When Louisiana voters found out their U.S. senator, David Vitter, had been hiring prostitutes, they did not much care and re-elected the guy. New York Governor Eliot Spitzer had to leave office when his own prostitution scandal broke, but now he’s back with a very good chance of becoming New York City’s next comptroller.

Yes, a joke instead of a lie would have helped Weiner back then — but probably not now that we have found out he continued to engage in sexting after he quit Congress and after both he and his wife had gone very public with the story that all that kind of stuff was in the past. It turns out the photos he sent of his private parts got even more explicit, the sexting evolved to phone sex and he adopted the online moniker “Carlos Danger”. (Actually, picking that alias does prove he has a sense of humor.)

The New York Times editorial board and a string of Democratic politicians are now insisting that Weiner drop out of the race for mayor, but nothing he did was against the law and, if hypocrites like David Vitter still have their jobs, why should Weiner have to quit just because he is an embarrassment to the city?

Let the voters decide his fate. The best thing would be for Weiner to be rejected by New Yorkers; not because of his sexting addiction, but because he has proven himself to be a hyper-ambitious, narcissistic, mendacious weasel. The people need a chance to tell him to find another career. The comedy clubs await.


http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-anthony-weiner-joke-20130724,0,2224621.story
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« Reply #68 on: July 31, 2013, 02:08:36 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

House GOP and Obama are as far apart as Earth and Saturn

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM - Tuesday, July 31, 2013



FROM SATURN, nearly 900 million miles away, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has sent back images of Earth that show our planet as a tiny glowing dot in the dark expanse of space. That vast separation should inspire awe, but, instead, it brings up thoughts of the gaping distance between President Obama and the Republicans who control the House of Representatives.

They do not seem to be on the same planet. While the White House forges ahead with implementation of the national healthcare plan, the House Republicans hold frequent votes to repeal the whole scheme. As the president tours the country touting his economic recovery proposals,  House Speaker John A. Boehner declares Obama is offering nothing new and, even if it is new, it isn’t going anywhere. Obama says toe-may-toe, the Republicans say toe-mah-toe.

The view from space gives a false sense of lonely unity. Here in close-up, mankind roils with division. And in the governing class of our world’s oldest and greatest democracy, the opposing sides might as well hail from different ends of the galaxy.


http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-earth-and-saturn-20130729,0,2968635.story
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« Reply #69 on: August 02, 2013, 11:43:23 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

Anthony Weiner's sins pale beside prostitution of Congress

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM - Thursday, August 01, 2013



ALL BUT a few macho holdouts among the let-men-be-men faction agree that Anthony Weiner is not worthy of becoming mayor of America’s biggest city, but there is a perennial threat to our democracy that is far larger than the turgid tweets of the former congressman from New York. That threat is the ongoing whoredom of members of Congress who remain in office.

It is no secret that our senators and representatives expend a significant amount of time and effort every week of the year soliciting campaign donations from lobbyists for corporations and other special interest groups and from fat cat donors who have interests of their own. Most who take the cash will insist that they are not selling their votes and, in most cases, that may be technically correct. The reality, though, is that all that money drives the congressional agenda and buys an open door into the rooms where legislation is crafted. The votes automatically follow.

Certainly, there are a few men and women in Washington whose motives and philosophy are so pure that money does not sway them, but, too often, the money shapes the philosophy and justifies the motives. A case in point is the issue of gun rights.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (Democrat-California) has said that everyone inside the Beltway “lives in terror of the gun lobby.” After the string of horrific shootings that crippled a member of Congress and brought slaughter to a movie theater in Colorado and a primary school in Connecticut, many thought the federal government would, at last, act to place limits on the availability of high capacity ammo clips and assault rifles. Of course, that did not happen.

Was opposition to any type of firearms control (a) inspired by a sincere, deep-seated belief in an absolutist interpretation of the 2nd Amendment or (b) were Republican representatives and senators simply worried that showing any sensibility or nuance on the issue would lose them funding from the National Rifle Association and lead to a primary challenge from a candidate even more in thrall to the gun lobby? If you picked (a), rest assured that the Tooth Fairy will be by tonight and there is a pot of gold waiting at the end of the next rainbow you see.

The gun issue is merely one area where special interest money drives the agenda. Pick any area of national concern — banking regulation, environmental protection, education, military funding — and know that the voice of the voters is a faint squeak compared with the roar of all that money talking.


http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-prostitution-of-congress-20130731,0,2621221.story
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« Reply #70 on: August 20, 2013, 02:00:10 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

Upgrades aim to extend B-52 bombers' already long lives

Despite the plane's more than half-century of service, the Air Force
thinks modifications and overhauls have made the B-52 ageless.


By W. J. HENNIGAN | Monday, August 19, 2013

A B-52 bomber receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over the Indian Ocean. — Photo: Cherie A. Thurlby/U.S. Air Force.
A B-52 bomber receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over the Indian Ocean. — Photo: Cherie A. Thurlby/U.S. Air Force.

FOR Air Force Captain Daniel "Swoop" Welch, flying a B-52 bomber has become the family business.

His father, retired Lieutenant Colonel Don Welch, was trained to drop nuclear bombs with the aircraft during the height of the Cold War. His grandfather, retired Colonel Don Sprague, flew B-52 combat missions in Vietnam.

"It is definitely a testament to the robust design of the B-52," said Welch, 28. "Getting to fly the same aircraft as my father and grandfather has been pretty cool."

Despite the bomber's more than half-century of service, the Air Force believes that modifications and overhauls have made the B-52 ageless. Now engineers and technicians are working on a contract worth up to $11.9 billion for an array of upgrades to bring the B-52 Stratofortress fleet into the 21st century.

The plane's computers are only as powerful as the original PCs in the early 1980s. Bombing mission information has to be uploaded before a flight. It can't be changed in the air — even if the target on the ground changes.

Now Boeing is expanding on the bombers' limited capabilities by providing an upgraded communications system so aircrews can send and receive information via satellite links. This enables the B-52's five-person crews to change mission plans, re-target weapons in flight and interact better with ground forces and other aircraft.

Nobody can say for sure how many of the government's 76 B-52s — down from 744 in the plane's heyday — will survive three more decades. The most recent variant of the plane, built between 1960 and 1962, has undergone more than 30 major modifications.

Although the revisions have maintained the plane's 185-foot wingspan and a length of nearly 160 feet, the guts of the B-52 have been continually revamped. For example, the World War II-era tail gunner position has been removed and new electronics have been installed, although some planes still have vacuum tubes.

Now the plane, which was designed on the back of a napkin over a weekend in 1948 by three Boeing employees, is getting modern digital display screens, computer network servers and real-time communication uplinks.

"It's like taking your grandmother's old rotary phone and giving her the latest greatest smartphone," said Colonel John Johnson, chief of the Air Force Global Strike Command's bomber requirements division.


Boeing Company’s B-52 bomber plane, which first flew in 1952, is still flying missions for the Air Force. There are 76 B-52s in the U.S. arsenal – down from 744 in the plane’s heyday – with plans for them to keep flying until 2040. Now engineers and technicians are working on a contract worth up to $11.9 billion to bring the B-52 fleet into the 21st century. The most recent variant of the plane, built from 1960 to 1962, has undergone more than 30 major modifications. — Graphic: Boeing Company/U.S. Air Force.
Boeing Company’s B-52 bomber plane, which first flew in 1952, is still flying missions for the Air Force. There are 76 B-52s in the U.S. arsenal
 – down from 744 in the plane’s heyday – with plans for them to keep flying until 2040. Now engineers and technicians are working on a
contract worth up to $11.9 billion to bring the B-52 fleet into the 21st century. The most recent variant of the plane, built from
1960 to 1962, has undergone more than 30 major modifications. — Graphic: Boeing Company/U.S. Air Force.


The B-52 was developed during the Korean War. It carpet-bombed during the Vietnam War. It ran crucial missions in Kosovo and the Middle East, and military strategists aim to keep it flying until at least 2040. It's still a large, lumbering aircraft, but over the years, the fleet has gotten new engines and technology. Built to carry nuclear weapons, it now drops GPS-guided smart bombs and bunker-busting munitions.

No other warplane in U.S. military history has been operational as long as the B-52. Other sophisticated military aircraft have come and gone, but the relatively low-tech B-52 has remained in the U.S. arsenal. It represents nearly half of all bombers in the fleet.

While the Pentagon struggles to rein in spending and battle cost overruns on programs such as the nearly $400-billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter now in development, it must rely on proven war horses like the B-52.

Several bombers were developed to replace the B-52 in the last six decades, but not one matched its affordability and versatility. Many of the programs were canceled or cut short because of political pressures and budget concerns.

The B-52 has remained. With its iconic shape and vast power, the bomber has also found its way into pop culture as the name for a Kahlua-infused cocktail, a beehive hairdo for women in the 1960s and a New Wave rock band in the 1970s.

Although some military industry analysts say the B-52 fleet is so old that there are planes in danger of falling apart, the Air Force has poured billions of dollars into modernizing the fleet, and Boeing says the plane could fly well into its 100th year.

Military makeovers have become common. Boeing, like other military companies that were once focused on churning out new aircraft, has found that researching and developing new advanced parts for aging planes to be a lucrative business. Hundreds of engineers across Southern California are working at places such as Northrop Grumman Corporation, Raytheon Company and Lockheed Martin Corporation on upgrades to aging warplanes.

Michael A. Miller, an analyst with the Congressional Research Service, wrote this year that a potential problem with sustaining a fleet of aging bombers is a shrinking inventory of parts and supplies that are no longer made, difficult to find or costly to remake.

"Without sufficient sustainment and modernization funding, many analysts argue the U.S. bomber fleet will quickly become a decrepit force ill-suited to the potential challenges posed by 21st century adversaries," he said. "A question to be answered is whether the defense industrial base will even be capable of meeting the sustainment requirements of America's legacy bomber force out to 2040."

Because of the wear and tear on the aircraft from the demands of military flight, made worse by 11 years of continuous combat in the Middle East, the aging airframe structures need reinforcement, engines need to be replaced, and computer and electronic components need upgrading, Miller said.

But with all the upgrades, the Pentagon and Boeing insist that the B-52 bombers are more capable than ever. It is the only bomber in U.S. arsenal capable of dropping conventional and nuclear weapons as well as deploying long-range cruise missiles.

The Air Force has 63 B-1 Lancer bombers, which are capable of supersonic and low-level flight, and 20 B-2 Spirits, a stealthy bat-winged bomber that became fully operational in late 2003.

On the drawing board is the Air Force's new proposal for a new "Long-Range Strike Bomber." But even if that program does move forward, flight-testing would not start until the mid-2020s, with initial operational capability near 2030.

Captain Brandon Fischer, a 30-year-old B-52 pilot stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, said that although a new bomber might be coming, the B-52 will still be flying high.

"It's remarkable to think that you're sitting in the same aircraft that was likely carrying nuclear bombs at some point during the Cold War," he said. "With all the improvements that are coming, it'll fly for another 30 years."


http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-ageless-b52-bomber-20130819,0,6642110.story
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« Reply #71 on: August 21, 2013, 02:24:56 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

Border Patrol is becoming an occupying army in our borderlands

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM - Tuesday, August 20, 2013



THE SITUATION on the U.S. border with Mexico may be spinning out of control — not because of Mexicans trying to cross illegally, but because of the army of Border Patrol agents that is being amassed at the cost of billions of tax dollars.

According to journalist Todd Miller, author of “Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches From the Front Lines of Homeland Security,” the U.S. spent $90 billion on border enforcement in the decade after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In 2012, the immigration and border enforcement budget was $18 billion. The immigration bill now being debated in Congress would spend an additional $40 billion and would raise the number of Border Patrol agents to 40,000. That is 10 times the number of agents in service in the early 1990s.

The rush to beef up security after 9/11 was driven by the new fear that terrorists would creep into the country and by the longtime concern about thousands of undocumented immigrants sneaking up from Latin America. Arguably, the dramatically increased surveillance and interdiction has contributed to a sharp drop in illegal immigration and, so far, no terrorists have been discovered trying to cross from Mexico or Canada.

But the new, massive round of spending being proposed may have less to do with terrorists or Mexicans — those concerns seem to have been met — than with defense contractors who see America’s wars winding down. Border security is a new cash cow for them, and the more security they can sell, the more profit they will make, even if that security is unnecessary and redundant.

Effectively, both our southern and northern borders are already militarized. If even more manpower and equipment are added, we may have a lot of guys with guns without enough to keep them busy. Miller reports that, already, regular citizens in border areas are feeling as if they live in a war zone where random searches are increasingly common and border agents turn up on private property challenging the right of residents to be on their own land.

In 2008, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy was stopped at a checkpoint 125 miles from the Canadian border, ordered out of his car and asked to prove his citizenship. Leahy said he asked the federal agent who initiated the stop by what authority he was acting. According to the senator, the agent pointed to his gun and said, “That’s all the authority I need.”

This year, Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, added a provision to the immigration bill that would disallow checkpoint searches beyond a 25-mile distance from the border. “The wide latitude in current law for setting up checkpoints far from our borders has led to maximum hassles of law-abiding local residents, with minimal value to border enforcement,” Leahy said in a statement.

Leahy’s provision, by the way, only applies to the northern border. Law-abiding residents of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas will get no such relief — unless, of course, one of their senators gets pulled over for no good reason by any of the thousands of new Border Patrol agents looking for something to do.


http://www.latimes.com/opinion/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-border-patrol-20130819,0,7279239.story
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« Reply #72 on: October 31, 2013, 03:22:15 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

States have colorful personalities — red, blue and Western green

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM - Wednesday, October 29, 2013



AFTER A 13-year study involving more than 1 million Americans, a multinational team claims to have identified the dominant personalities in each of 48 states. Apparently, every one of us can now assess whether we belong in a state such as Pennsylvania, filled with “temperamental and uninhibited” people, Nebraska, heartland of “friendly and conventional” folks, or California, land of the “relaxed and creative.”

Obviously, each of these three personalities can be found anywhere in the country, but it is not a novel idea to suggest that social norms differ from region to region. The differences have always been obvious. No one is going to confuse North Dakota with New Jersey or Alabama with Oregon.

Looking at a map of the United States in Time magazine that illustrates the study’s findings is especially interesting, thanks to the colors chosen to designate the state “personalities.” Friendly and conventional states are colored in shades of red and orange, with a deep red indicating the strongest influence of that personality type. Blue marks states with a temperamental and uninhibited personality. On first glance, this red/blue divide seems to parallel the way the electoral votes have split in the last several presidential elections — Republican Southern and Midwestern states red, the Democratic Northeast blue.

But a closer examination reveals significant variations. The Great Lakes states that went blue for President Obama — Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan — are, nevertheless, reddish by personality. They are redder — more friendly and conventional — than even South Carolina. Iowa joins Nebraska as the deepest red, yet Iowa also voted for the president.

Texas, meanwhile, comes up a light blue on the map. The home state of Ted Cruz and Rick Perry has more in common with the temperamental, uninhibited style of Massachusetts than with the Midwestern conventionality of Kansas. But, really, this is not such a surprise. Boastful, independent Texas has always been singular; a state that is so big it borders on Southern, Midwestern and Western states.

The most interesting aspect of the study is the third personality type identified: “relaxed and creative.” States dominated by this style are colored shades of green on the Time map. On the East Coast, only Virginia and North Carolina fall into this category. There is no green in the Midwest. In the West, though, green floods the map. California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico are, apparently, heavily populated by relaxed and creative people.

Politically, the green lumps together the dependably Democratic West Coast with Idaho and Utah, two staunchly Republican bastions. Apparently, the political leanings of relaxed and creative people in these green states are determined by proximity to the Pacific Ocean or altitude or, most likely, by whether they live in a city with millions of other people or in a place with more cows than cars.

The study reinforces the idea that Americans are, more than ever, clustering with people of like minds. But it also suggests that there are significant variations in those clusters that rise above politics. Los Angeles and Manhattan may vote the same way, but an Angeleno might still prefer to hang with a laid-back dude from Salt Lake City. Those New Yorkers are just too intense, man. Let them go argue with the Texans.


http://www.latimes.com/opinion/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-states-personalities-20131028,0,7202128.story
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« Reply #73 on: November 16, 2013, 09:50:26 am »


From the Los Angeles Times....

The politics of Obamacare worsen for a contrite president

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM PST - Friday, November 15, 2013



IN THE long run, Obamacare is likely to be as popular and permanent as Medicare, but, in the short term, it is turning into the worst political crisis of Barack Obama’s presidency.

On Thursday, the contrite president announced that Americans whose healthcare insurance policies have been canceled due to requirements of the Affordable Care Act would have another year to keep those policies. This new guarantee is meant to make up for his ill-considered promise that no one would lose their old policies if they wanted to keep what they had.

The problem with Obama’s new promise, though, is that he cannot force insurers to restore policies they have already terminated. And rather than doing the president any favors, those insurers are attacking him for trying to change the rules in the middle of the game.

Obama has a mess on his hands and — judging by his almost daily apologies for the screwed-up launch of the national healthcare exchange website, as well as for his misstatements about the effect of the plan on several million people who buy their own policies — it is pretty clear he knows how deep the mess has become.

Instead of anyone offering to help him out, though, everyone is piling on.

His fellow Democrats in the House and Senate are panicked, fearing the bad feelings about Obamacare will imperil their chances for reelection. Some are rushing to concoct a bill — any bill! — to do something — anything! — about healthcare. Their object is not to provide a fix, but to provide political cover. In the words of NBC’s chief White House correspondent, Chuck Todd, Democratic senators and congressmen want to be able to demonstrate to their constituents that they “stood up to the president.”

It may seem strange that Democrats would prefer to run against Obama rather than put in extra effort to make the president’s healthcare plan work, but fear of losing a political career makes politicians do weird things.

Electoral considerations are also what drive the Republican response to Obama’s predicament. Any bad news for the president is good news for them. The last thing they would think of doing is anything constructive to improve America’s healthcare system if doing so would help the president they despise.

The media are running with the story, of course — not just the permanent opposition at Fox News, but most of the so-called mainstream media. Obamacare’s shaky start is the hot political crisis of the moment and can hardly be ignored. Still, as Rachel Maddow observed on MSNBC Thursday night, Romneycare — the Massachusetts healthcare scheme that provided the template for Obamacare — took a year to catch on and no one at the time thought of the early mis-steps as a huge scandal or proof that the plan would never get off the ground. Politicians in both parties worked to pull it together, and now 97% of the citizens of Massachusetts have healthcare coverage.

Don’t expect anything like that sensible approach with Obamacare. Healthcare is a political football, above all else, at the national level. Obama has blown several big plays and lost a lot of yardage. His own team is not providing much coverage and the other side is lined up, revved up and ready to sack him, steal the ball and put him out of the game.


http://www.latimes.com/opinion/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-politics-of-obamacare-20131114,0,4457561.story
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« Reply #74 on: November 29, 2013, 01:42:18 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

Seeds of our culture war were there at the first Thanksgiving

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM PST - Wednesday, November 27, 2013



THE PILGRIMS did not debate abortion and gay marriage and the right to die at the first Thanksgiving. Nor did they talk with the Native Americans at the table about private property, the environment or the rights of minorities.

But in the tension between the libertarian impulses that brought the Pilgrims to a new land and the strict religion they brought with them, and also in the wary welcome they received from their native hosts, lay the seeds of all the struggles that would rile the nation to come. We should give thanks that through the endless conflicts Americans have had with each other in nearly 400 years of history on this continent, we have miraculously kept on a course toward a more perfect union.

That’s worth remembering in our current polarized era. We will get through it, and we will be better for it.

Today’s Thanksgiving cartoon was first published in 1989, and it well illustrates how the spats between libertarians and social conservatives were as lively then as they are now. The cartoon appears in my fourth collection of cartoons, “The Fall of Man”, published in 1994. That book chronicled the end of the Cold War, the first Bush presidency and the rise of Bill Clinton. I have just published my eighth cartoon book. Titled Refuge of Scoundrels, it follows our national journey from the inauguration of President Obama to October’s government shutdown. (You can check it out here.)

When looking through each one of my books, I am reminded how so many issues — abortion, taxes, big government, states' rights, deficit spending, war and peace, industrial pollution — seem never to be resolved. Yet, among all those cartoons there are also reminders that positive change does come. Soviet communism lies on the scrap heap of history. Gays and lesbians no longer hide in the shadows. Black children know even the White House is within reach of their ambitions. Each new generation of Americans moves farther from the narrow biases of their ancestors.

Thanksgiving is a good day to remember that sometimes, with enough struggle and debate, we finally get it right.


http://www.latimes.com/opinion/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-first-thanksgiving-20131126,0,7534409.story
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