Straight Out of the Onion?

And it turns out that people flocked to my blog right before that Favreapalooza on Monday night. Go figure. But I’ll take the page hits!

Anyway, my current work schedule, has somewhat kept me from posting. Well, that and not having timely material for when I would otherwise have put up a new entry. But, let’s see if the upcoming weeks and months are a bit friendlier towards regular updates.

This morning’s events finally forced me to post. I’m absolutely stunned, just like the President was when he found out, and frankly most of the press too. The Nobel Committee’s reasoning is fair enough, including a comparison to Mikhail Gorbachev in 1980 (before glasnost really took hold), and Fareed Zakaria seems to think along the same lines (‘America rejoining the world’).

I guess most people assume that the prize is a lifetime achievement award. That has always been what I was led to believe, too. Plenty of joke fodder already, some on the right, and of course quite a bit of it is absurd hyperbole, but even Obama surely knows that he has to go earn this with his and our country’s actions in the next few years. If not, you can be sure this “rockstar” theme is going to come up again in 2012, just like it did after his tour of Europe in 2008.

Even non-conservatives might be concerned about this development. It could have both positive and negative implications for Obama’s policy-making efforts, particularly on foreign policy. Chris Cilliza expands on this and some of my other points.

Hey, it makes for a nice wake-up call though, if you can get it. Enjoy the award, Mr. President, I’m not going to say you need to turn it down by any means. But as you said in your press conference today, don’t dare let this award get to your head. There is a lot of work to be done, and everyone will be watching you more closely than before (if that’s actually possible).

The fun begins withi figuring out what to do in Afghanistan. And then reconciling Congress and the nation on healthcare (no disrespect to Sen. Tom Harkin, but try to minimize the government’s direct involvement) without actually using reconciliation. Oh, and don’t forget the “Es”- economy, environment, and education…

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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.

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.

Monday Morning Links

Let’s start with some props to this guy, who legitimately won the 2009 Open Championship on the links of Turnberry by making some putts down the stretch, including a non-gimme on the 72nd hole of regulation. Then, he made a good par save on the first playoff hole and from there played nearly flawless golf. Take nothing away from how well Tom Watson played this week, don’t let a bogey on his last hole, followed by an ugly display in the playoff, fool you into think his carriage turned into a pumpkin. Mark Herrmann agrees, as did Rick Reilly in his closing essay on the ESPN telecast. If it’s any consolation to Watson, he took a big leap in the latest World Golf Rankings. Stewart Cink, meanwhile, has a career-altering victory which validates his consistently excellent play on Tour– something his relative lack of wins might have hidden for a while. By the way, check out Cink’s photos on the twitter feed I linked to, which includes the photo seen in today’s first post. Plenty of commenters already, while the family and fans back in Georgia are quite proud too. As Mark Bradley indicates, hopefully we will all appreciate Cink’s accomplishment eventually, rather than just dwell on what might have been for Watson.

Elsewhere in sports, we find some Roy Halladay trade rumors. This store caught fire leading up to the All Star Game when the Blue Jays indicated that they’d consider a deal if they were blown away by an offer. Doesn’t look like anything’s too close though. The Orioles also may deal some veterans, but are being pretty coy about it to try and drive up the price. The Brewers did make a move, getting Felipe Lopez from Arizona for a couple of minor leaguers. He should immediately become the second baseman, and might also be their leadoff hitter. They still need more pitching, however, to keep pace with the Cardinals and Cubs in the NL Central.

In other news…

Man walked on the Moon 40 years ago tomorrow, and HowStuffWorks posted a film commemorating the legendary Apollo 11 and its journey. Newsday has a photo gallery, as do other media outlets. I’m sure there is or will be even more content out there. The astronauts themselves say that Mars needs to be our next mission. They’ll be at the White House today. Kind of ironic that this anniversary occurs just after Walter Cronkite’s death. Cronkite was quite an admirer of space exploration. He was a giant of journalism, and we will all miss him.

Speaking of the White House, I’m going to try and get back to posting some political stuff- legitimately fair and balanced, of course. Mike Allen has some other tidbits on today in Washington, including a state visit from India’s Prime Minister in November. Also, the healthcare issue is still vexing, and the President has plenty of critics who smell blood. The public polling numbers, to the extent they will actually influence Congress, are not on President Obama’s side. Not sure if I think Bobby Jindal offers many alternative solutions to those which likely would be in any eventual reform. Naturally, President Obama intends to fight back. But can he really get the Senate’s Finance Committee to put a bill on the table this week, as Jake Tapper reports? Deliberative is probably a better approach here. The government gets one chance to do this even close to correctly.

Various other political perspectives, on the left, right, and in the middle, can be found through links here and here.

A Day at the Races

Somewhat on the spur of the moment this past Saturday, I decided to make the short trip to Belmont Park for this year’s Stakes Day. Actually, it wasn’t so short after a couple of train changes, and going home, I got a small taste of the dreaded “Change at Jamaica” in trying to make the necessary connections. But no big deal, a small price to pay for having a good time and not having to fight traffic on the local roads.

Belmont is a bit of a throwback to an earlier time in sports. The general admission charge was $10 (less for most days of the meet, more for reserved seats and the Clubhouse) and there are obvious signs of aging in the main building. Still, it’s certainly a more than functional venue. Once inside, you have license to walk around most of the place, except the track, barns, and seating areas. Basically, I went to place bets with the help of muddy-old television screens, a program, or the Daily Racing Form which could be purchased. A little instinct and luck helps too. You can also go to the track’s backyard, where fans scarf down food and drinks- unfortunately for modern-era prices- and watch for horses to take the ceremonial march to the track. After that, they either queue along the front stretch for a view of the race (and during the Stakes itself, the crowd was several people deep) or watch from benches inside. Either way, you have to watch most of the race off a TV since you can’t see much of the track unless you’re in one of those premium reserved seats/boxes higher up. When the horses arrive “down the stretch,” man do people scream, hoping to cash in big. In an era of all-seat stadiums (or at least benched bleachers) with direct views of the playing field, horse racing is a taste of what it might have been like to watch outside the ropes at old-time baseball parks, which sometimes were literally all that separated fans from the outfield or foul territory.

Belmont Park Finish Line

How did my wagering fare? Not so well. There was one consolation prize. I managed to get close enough to the winner’s circle during the Belmont Stakes to see Summer Bird cross the line and then get someone else to take a few pictures of the celebration. Oh, and I was just about face-to-face with the Governor, in a cheerful mood on this occasion, as he shook hands and autographed programs for everyone who could get close to him. Hey, with the specter of a tough reelection campaign and maybe even a party primary next year, who could blame him for trying to work the crowd a bit. Of course, he wasn’t so jovial after yesterday’s chaos… What a mess in Albany. No leadership, no ideas, and not much else to write home about either.

David Paterson at the Belmont Stakes

Good way to spend a perfect summer afternoon. Next time though, I seriously gotta do more homework on the horses so I can actually win money!

Belmont Stakes Winner's Circle