Monday, December 17, 2012

President Obama attends Newtown vigil

The president was in Newtown to attend a vigil to remember the victims.  While I link to the text of the full speech, here is an excerpt that shows that President Barack Obama means business.
I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is no.  We’re not doing enough.  And we will have to change.
Since I’ve been President, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by a mass shooting.  The fourth time we’ve hugged survivors.  The fourth time we’ve consoled the families of victims.  And in between, there have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children, in small towns and big cities all across America -- victims whose -- much of the time, their only fault was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
We can’t tolerate this anymore.  These tragedies must end.  And to end them, we must change.  We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true.  No single law -- no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

New York City and Boston Mayors Speak Out on Gun Control

The co-chairs of Mayors Against Illegal Guns have spoken out after Friday's shooting.

Michael Bloomberg:
With all the carnage from gun violence in our country, it's still almost impossible to believe that a mass shooting in a kindergarten class could happen. It has come to that. Not even kindergarteners learning their ABC's are safe. We heard after Columbine that it was too soon to talk about gun laws. We heard it after Virginia Tech. After Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek. And now we are hearing it again. For every day we wait, 34 more people are murdered with guns. Today, many of them were five-year olds. President Obama rightly sent his heartfelt condolences to the families in Newtown. But the country needs him to send a bill to Congress to fix this problem. Calling for 'meaningful action' is not enough. We need immediate action. We have heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership - not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today. This is a national tragedy and it demands a national response. My deepest sympathies are with the families of all those affected, and my determination to stop this madness is stronger than ever.
Thomas Menino:
As a parent and grandparent, I am overcome with both grief and outrage by the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. This unspeakable act of violence will forever imprint this day in our hearts and minds. My heart goes out to the families impacted by this senseless tragedy and the many others we have recently witnessed across the United States. As a Mayor who has witnessed too many lives forever altered by gun violence, it is my responsibility to fight for action. Today's tragedy reminds us that now is the time for action. Innocent children will now never attend a prom, never play in a big game, never step foot on a college campus. Now is the time for a national policy on guns that takes the loopholes out of the laws, the automatic weapons out of our neighborhoods and the tragedies like today out of our future.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

1775: A Good Year for Revolution

Hardcover: 656 pages
Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (November 27, 2012)

I'm a big history buff and that's what found me interested in reading 1775: A Good Year for Revolution by Kevin Phillips.  For most Americans, 1776 is seen as the biggest year for the Revolutionary War.  After all, it's the year that saw the adoption and signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Not so fast, argues Phillips.  The political and economic commentator decided "to write about a United States taking shape rather than losing headway."  Phillips goes on to explain why 1776 is not the "watershed year" and makes the argument that 1776 has been elevated by mythology because of "an unusual case of historical hype and confusion."

Phillips calls 1775 a critical year as it is the year when the American commitment to revolution took shape.  He goes on to focus on several events and confrontations, including the start of the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps.

This book offers some insights into our own times as well as the country that the USA became.

Online poker

In 2006, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was pass and online gaming was effectively banned in the United States.  Online poker was included in that ban and supporters of online poker have been lobbying since 2006 to get the game legalized.  With the recent reelection of Barack Obama as President, poker lobbyists feel that they are in a good position to finally get the game legalized, but the question remains whether or not he truly supports online poker.

It is widely known that President Obama plays poker and even described himself as a good player.  He is known to have played in a weekly home game with Illinois lawmakers in Sprinfield.  The President's style was described by Illinois state Senator Terry Link as conservative.  The President often, "played the odds. He didn’t play for the inside straight."

While a known poker player, the President has by and large remained mum on the issue of online poker.  The closest that the Administration has come to making a formal statement was in response to a "We the People" petition on the White House's website back in May of this year.  In response to a petition regarding the White House's stance on online poker, the statement essentially left it to the states:

“…Online gambling on sporting events or contests violates federal law. The legality of other forms of online gambling is dependent upon the law of the states where the bettor or gambling business is located. It is left to each state to determine whether it wishes to permit such activity between its residents and an online poker business authorized by that state to accept such wagers…:

The question was raised yet again during the weeks leading up to the elections.  As part of the Republican party platform, the party openly spoke out against online gambling and called for a ban of all online gambling.  This includes online poker.  When the Democratic platform was released, no mention of online gambling was made.  Poker supporters were surprised and a bit dismayed that this issues was completely ignored.

In essence, the answer to whether or not President Obama supports online poker would seem to be maybe based on the response to the petition earlier this year.  If he is indeed a supporter of the game, he looks to be holding his cards close to the vest and calculating the odds of when the best time would be to come out with an official declaration of support.

The issue at the Congressional level is a bit more murky.  For years, there have been attempts to attach online poker legislation to bills.  Key poker supporters in Congress include Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Texas Representative Joe Barton.  They have worked on poker legislation together and their first serious attempt was planned to be attached in Obama's tax cut plan back in 2010 but it failed to make it to the bill. 

Now, a bill drafted by Senator Reid and AZ Senator Jon Kyl is trying to make it's way through the lame duck session but is looking at a slow death.  Problems with the bill include that it would ban all forms of gambling online except for poker and horse racing.  States do not support this as it would harm them from being able to put lotteries online.  In addition, there is a constitutional question about a clause that would ban online poker companies that operated in the United States past 2006.  There are claims that the law is essentially a bill of attainder which bypasses due process laws, and therefore unconstitutional. 

At present, only two states have legalized online poker.  Those are Nevada and Connecticut, but neither have started offering games.  A federal online poker solution would provide a legal and regulated framework for online poker operators but it appears that support for this type of solution is still a ways off.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Book Review: America Again by Stephen Colbert

Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; First Edition edition (October 2, 2012)

Stephen Colbert is at it again.  The comedian is back with another book, America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't, that came out rather than in the election season.  If Colbert released it over the summer, maybe Mitt Romney could have used it to his advantage.

Colbert takes advantage of the 3D craze of the last few years and released the book in 3D.  Whether it really affects the sales, I don't know.  Moreover, will this lead to other authors deciding to release their books in 3D?

Colbert uses his wit to explain why America is perfect and how to put the country back on track.  Some of the hot button issues that Colbert looks at include jobs, healthcare, Wall Street, energy, justice, and food.

Just as with Lewis Black's books, you can really hear Colbert's voice in your head while reading this best-seller.  You cannot call yourself a comedy fan and not read this book.  It's a classic.

Ed Marksberry announces 2014 Senate run

Ed Marksberry, an Owensboro resident, will announce on Wednesday that he is a candidate for the 2014 U.S. Senate race.  The Democrat will be making his official announcement on Wednesday at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Room B109 at 1:30 PM.

Mitch McConnell is UNPOPULAR

Mitch McConnell is the most unpopular Senator in the country. Only 37% of Kentucky voters approve of him to 55% disapprove. Both in terms of raw disapproval (55%) and net approval (-18) McConnell has the worst numbers of any of his peers, taking that mantle from Nebraska's Ben Nelson.

McConnell is predictably very unpopular with Democrats (23/73). But his numbers are almost as bad with independents (33/58) and even with Republicans he's well below the 70-80% approval range you would usually expect for a Senator within their own party (59/28).
What about matchups in a general election?
3 of them- Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson, Attorney General and 2010 nominee Jack Conway, and actress Ashley Judd- come within 4 points of McConnell at 47/43. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer trails by 5 at 46/41, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes has a 7 point deficit at 47/40, Congressman John Yarmuth is down 10 at 48/38, former Ambassador Matthew Barzun lags 48/37, and State Auditor Adam Edelen trails by 12 at 48/36.
What about Democratic primary voters?
Ashley Judd is the clear choice of Democratic primary voters to be their candidate in 2014. 29% say she would be the first pick, followed by Abramson at 16%, Conway at 15%, Grimes and Yarmuth at 9%, Fischer at 5%, Edelen at 2%, and Barzun at less than 1%. Judd is a particularly popular choice among young voters and those describing themselves as 'very liberal.'

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Carbon Crunch by Dieter Helm

Hardcover: 273 pages
Publisher: Yale University Press (October 22, 2012)

In The Carbon Crunch, author Dieter Helm has tackled what we are getting wrong with climate change and offers proposals on how to fix it.

How is it that Helm is the person to tackle these issues?  For starters, Helm's credentials are rather impressive.  He is a professor of energy policy at Oxford and a member of the Economics Advisory Group to the UK Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change.

Make no mistake.  Climate change means warmer winters and summers approaching the brink of disaster.

Helm uses this book to serve as a critique of the global climate and energy policy spanning the last 40 years.

Since 1990, Helm argues, absolutely nothing has been achieved in the worldwide fight against climate change.  Helm advocates for a transition from coal burning to clean energy by way of natural gas.  This proposal won't sit well in areas of Kentucky, where coal mining is seen as a way of life.

Helm proposes that we spend money not on the the current technologies but towards research and development and future technology that will be able to solve the problem of climate change--while encouraging the quick transition from coal to gas.

There's no doubt that this book will serve as a blueprint for the future debate into climate change.