Friday Links

No, I’m not hitting the golf course today. Can’t remember the last time I actually did pick up clubs and try to play (emphasis on “try,” of course). But maybe a haircut or trip to the gym…?

So here goes…

Rick Klein’s daily Note with everything you need to know from the Capital and beyond.

Yesterday’s news that the Senate won’t finish up its healthcare debate before a scheduled recess will apparently trigger a multimillion dollar interest group war in the weeks to come. Lovely. Get the popcorn ready! Or youtube…

Cillizza also thinks that despite Republicans still have an uphill climb as far as gaining seats in the Senate next year, even though President Obama has clearly taken some hits lately and his party will most likely lose some seats in the House (especially in districts which voted for John McCain last year). On the other hand, the GOP may find it easier to hold some of the seats that conventional wisdom held might be tough ones because of all the swing-states which Obama won or narrowly lost last year (especially Ohio, Florida, and Missouri).

The President hasn’t given up hope on a speedy resolution to healthcare (and he insists he won’t be ‘broken’), as he’ll meet with two very important senators today. Probably won’t be able to goad either Max Baucus or Harry Reid that much, the Senate tends to do things in its own sweet time, and was, after all, designed to be a deliberative, federalist body. At least President Obama can still bask in the glow of Mark Buehrle’s perfect game, and DeWayne Wise’s spectacular catch to preserve it. Buehrle was actually on the mound for a little over 30 minutes, and didn’t need more than 3 minutes for any one hitter. Amazing.

Apparently, New York does not have a monopoly on corruption and greed at the local levels of government. You only have to cross the Hudson River for evidence

California’s budget crisis is getting closer to resolution. It’s not going to be pretty for anyone.

The federal minimum wage officially goes up to $7.25 per hour today (states are allowed to set higher minimums if they wish). For workers in a few states, the increase could be worth $1,400 or more over the next 12 months- which could really help with paying debts or stimulating local economies-, but some economists worry that it could kill jobs for businesses lacking strong profit margins. I don’t think the wage has gone up so much in recent years that it’s going to be a huge problem yet. But we should keep an eye on the small businesses most affected by minimum wage laws, because they do provide a lot of jobs when put together.

This won’t happen, but I think it would be nice for cooling off our political discourse and providing voters with competitive elections.

Michael Phelps returns to action this weekend. What can he possibly do for an encore? In fact, it might really be a second encore considering he took home quite a few medals in the 2004 Athens games.

Michael Vick may also be back soon, but he will apparently face a suspension to start the new NFL season. Oh, and he has to find a team. Obviously, Vick hopes that a definite decision on his future will lead one or more teams to show real interest.

Roger Federer now has twins to go along with all of his trophies. At least one oddsmaker is already taking bets on whether or not his daughters will win tennis majors.

Nike is no longer trying to suppress videos of LeBron getting dunked on. Not that what we saw turned out to be much of a big deal. Nor is it really that big a deal that he apparently tried marijuana while in high school.

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Obama News Conference Thoughts

I missed the first 15 minutes or so because of dinner. It wouldn’t have been a problem except for the fact that some kitchen construction is ongoing at home, so I don’t have access to a TV while I eat like I have had in the past.

And it doesn’t really seem like I missed that much either before or after I tuned in. President Obama said some interesting things about paying for healthcare reform, as well as his belief that deficit reduction is contingent on healthcare reform, and even that a millionaire’s tax might be help pay the freight. What I wish I heard was something about what exactly he envisions in health reform. About all I think we got was a sense that he wants a system where doctors and people make decisions- not insurance companies or government bureaucrats- and that’s really not something anyone debates. Also, he likes the idea of healthcare mirroring noted hospitals like the Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic, which apparently have policies in place to provide top-notch care for less cost than you might expect. Plus, he’s for a public option because he believes it would keep private ensurers honest (as do quite a few Democrats in Congress). Not much on how it would achieve that goal though, although we did get a hint that it might legitimately offer similar benefits to what federal government employees can receive (including the President and members of Congress). Could the federal government really deliver on that? Could subsidies be restricted so that private competitors aren’t driven out of business?

Even without much of his own vision, I think the President would have been more effective if he’d commented on some of the things which are actually going through Congress right now. In fact, so does at least one Democratic aide in Congress. He could still say that he is open-minded on what’s out there, but we’d all have a better sense of parameters.

Just my take. But the exceptionally perceptive Chris Cillizza couldn’t find much to draw from the President’s remarks besides the idea that “The country has major problems that everyone has a stake in.” It’s also clear that it’s not going to happen before the August recess. Fellow WaPo reporter Alec MacGillis finds that despite pledges that no sacrifices would be needed in President Obama’s remarks, many healthcare experts say that reform will require some very tough decisions even after implementation.

Here are the President’s words in full.

Michael Maslansky, a noted communications/research strategist, says his friend sees an interesting comparison between Obama with healthcare and Bush with Iraq. Decide for yourself.

Three Fish Limit finds a piece from Forbes by Scott Atlas of the Hoover Institution and Stanford University Medical Center which claims rationing is among the only ways for a government to cut healthcare costs. Plus, innovation would ultimately be stifled. Instead, he suggests empowering the consumer with money and choice- which he really should have fleshed out a bit more. Another blogger also thinks some unsavory elements of reform aren’t being discussed.

On the other hand, Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub finds a piece defending the value of universal coverage- including the public option- namely, when you actually need it.

Plenty of other stuff out there in the blogosphere on this hot button issue.

Happy 100 Days!

Graphic Source: Slate

Mr. President. By no means is he doing a perfect job. For all we know, some of his actions to deal with the recession, wars, and the rest could end up failing down the road, both in policy and in cost. Other presidents in the past have had bold ideas, put together staffs/cabinets which sounded great in theory… only to see the whole thing fall apart. Lyndon Johnson’s administration comes to mind because of Vietnam (and JFK also had some missteps on foreign policy with many of the same advisors).

But I do think we can be happy about at least one thing today- especially because it seems unlikely to go away anytime soon. Competence is but the least of Obama’s good traits, which collectively are now back in power after too many years away. Long may that continue!

(Also, long live my ability to pick basketball games more accurately than he can!)

Graphic Source: Delaware Online

Who Knew?

That you could be in almost 35,000th place on facebook and still be in the upper 9% of brackets. I guess that’s what happens when there aren’t many upsets. And a couple that I predicted might happen didn’t materialize.

Still, it means we’ll get some monster match-ups in the Sweet 16 and probably beyond. Does UConn-Memphis or UNC vs. Oklahoma or Syracuse grab you? Also, Darren Rovell reports that nobody will be winning the big jackpot I mentioned over the weekend. So I’m not going to have to imagine that I could do what somebody else actually did, even though apparently someone on facebook still has a chance to get a perfect bracket.

More good news from a friend. Apparently, I’m definitely still ahead of the president, which Jake Tapper confirms (I doubt ESPN’s contest is too different from the ones CBS/Facebook or Yahoo are running). Come the end of the tournament, I wonder how many people will make facebook groups poking fun at that sort of stat? Hopefully, while his bracket scores may improve with all the high seeds he had getting this far, his and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s plan to deal with the banking crisis does even better.

Sweet 16 and Elite 8 picks coming next time, plus a review of the World Baseball Classic final.