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New hope for Christie 100-Yard Walk

Chris Christie shouting down a member of the paternalistic entitlement society? No, it's Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden, another paragon of fitness and integrity.

By Odd Man Out

Planners believe the hoped-for event, inspired by the governor’s legendary self-discipline, could help keep Americans from becoming “a bunch of people sittin’ on a couch waiting for their next government check.” More here.

You’re not a criminal

So stop working and get back on Facebook!

Good news, slackers: It’s not illegal to use your work computer to shop on Amazon, set your fantasy roster, or, well, read Newser. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has shot down a Justice Department argument that a 1984 anti-hacking law covered not just hacking, but any unauthorized use of a computer, the Wall Street Journal reports. The judge writing the majority opinion said the government “failed to consider the effect on millions of ordinary citizens.”

Voter ID

The Metro has a very clear explanation of why the new voter-ID laws will suppress voting:

What’s the big deal about getting a government-issued photo ID, anyway?

Well, let’s walk through the process. First, you have to physically show up at a PennDOT office – there are five locations offering the service in Philadelphia and about 70 statewide, though some are closed several days of the week and, when open, have hours from 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.

Can’t miss work? Don’t have transportation? Doesn’t matter.

There, after most likely waiting for – we’ll be generous and say an hour (or three) – you must present your social security card plus either a birth certificate, a certificate of U.S. citizenship or a passport.

You say you don’t have any of those documents? Hey, it happens, especially if you’re a youth or a senior or a member of a whole host of other demographics. But that’s where it gets hairy.

We’ll start with the birth certificate. You’ll have to get that through the Division of Vital Records, which charges $10 for each application.

You can’t get the certificate online through third party vendor VitalChek (which only accepts credit or debit cards, charges an additional $10 processing fee and heavily pushes the “more secure” UPS Air shipping method at an additional $18 charge) because the site requires that you scan and upload your valid government-issued photo ID, which you don’t have.

So the Department first suggests that a relative who does have an ID apply for a birth certificate on your behalf via snail mail or at one of the six Division of Vital Records offices. No aunts, uncles, or cousins, either – those eligible are limited to parents and grandparents, children and grandchildren, spouses and siblings.
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Trayvon Martin

Zimmerman to be charged.

Channeling Joseph McCarthy

U.S. Congressman Allen West of South Florida at a rally yesterday at Florida Atlantic University made the claim that 80 members of Congress are members of the Communist Party. West offered no names or evidence, but, later said he was referring to the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Congressman West is some what known for his outrageous claims including stating that, “If Joseph Goebbels was around, he’d be very proud of the Democrat party, because they have an incredible propaganda machine.” He also claimed he was the modern Harriet Tubman. “So I’m here as the modern-day Harriet Tubman, to kind of lead people on the Underground Railroad, away from that plantation into a sense of sensibility.”

There is strong support among Tea Party members for West to be the GOP nominee for vice president. His outspoken ways are clearly admired by the Tea Party. However, a GOP insider said that is very unlikely because he would be very hard to control in a campaign setting.

West, considered a war hero by some, was relieved from military duty in 2004 after an attempted murder investigation involving an Iraqi officer that ended his 22 year career.

Update and correction: West’s office said in a statement to CBSMiami.com:

The Congressman was referring to the 76 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.  The Communist Party has publicly referred to the Progressive Caucus as its allies.   The Progressive Caucus speaks for itself.  These individuals certainly aren’t proponents of free markets or individual economic freedom.

I previously written Congressman himself said he was referring to the Congressional Caucus.

Price fixing

by Susie

As a writer, I’ve been following this. They basically got together to fix prices to prevent Amazon from dominating the ebook market. As far as I can tell, they’re all breaking the law:

The Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple and five publishers on Wednesday, claiming collusion over the pricing of e-books, Bloomberg reports.

Sources familiar with the matter tell Politico and Reuters that several of the publishers are expected to agree to a settlement in the case before the end of the week. There has been no indication, however, that Apple will strike a deal to avoid what could be a highly-publicized and costly court battle.

Federal officials had reportedly previously warned Apple and the publishers that a lawsuit was potentially forthcoming. The five publishers named in the suit are: Hachette SA, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster.

Under a traditional book selling model, publishers had previously sold books for half the cover price, allowing retailers to set their own store price. But around the time Apple introduced its first iPad in 2010, the company moved to an “agency” model, where publishers decide the book price and Apple takes a 30-percent cut. As part of that move, Apple also reportedly stipulated that publishers couldn’t let rival retailers like Amazon sell the same book for less, in effect making the agency model the new standard for much of the industry.

Justice Department lawyers say that Apple and the publishers violated federal antitrust laws by enacting their e-book plan. The publishers, meanwhile, deny they acted jointly to hike up the prices.

Americans expect a political ruling

by Susie
I’d say that the Roberts court has a serious credibility problem, since more Americans believe they will make a political ruling on the health care act than not. I believe that, too – I just don’t know which constituency they want to placate. They’ll either toss out the individual mandate, making the Tea Party and Mrs. Clarence Thomas very happy, or they’ll figure out a way to keep it, thus making insurance companies and their Wall Street backers very happy. So either way, it’s a win for them. Just maybe not so much for the rest of us:

More Americans think Supreme Court justices will be acting mainly on their partisan political views than on a neutral reading of the law when they decide the constitutionality of President Obama’s health-care law, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Half of the public expects the justices to rule mainly based on their “partisan political views,” while fewer, 40 percent, expect their decisions to be rooted primarily “on the basis of the law.” The rest say both equally or do not have an opinion.

The court held a historic three days of oral arguments on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act last month, and its ruling probably will come just before the court adjourns at the end of June. The poll shows little enthusiasm for the Obama administration’s position that the law, passed by the Democratic Congress in 2010, should be upheld in full.

Only a quarter of Americans choose that as the desired outcome. Thirty-eight percent would like the entire law thrown out; 29 percent would like the court to strike the requirement that individuals obtain health insurance and to keep the rest of the law.

Only 39 percent of Americans support the health-care overhaul in general, the lowest percentage since the Post-ABC poll began asking the question.

The public’s perception of the court is closely tied to partisan and ideological leanings. Almost twice as many conservative Republicans think the court will decide on the basis of the law rather than politics, 58 to 33 percent. Liberal Democrats are more skeptical, saying by an equally wide margin that the court will put politics first.

Not to beat a dead horse, but back when Alito and Roberts were nominees, I was on a conference call with Harry Reid and Democratic abortion activist groups. I told them they were crazy to make the nomination fight about abortion. “Why pick the single most divisive issue, the one where the Republicans have an emotional activist base, when you can get more working people on your side by pointing out their consistently pro-corporate rulings?” I said then. (I really wish I wasn’t saying “told you” about this. I really do think those fights were winnable on those grounds, especially with Alito.)

Dopey the congressman

by Susie

I used to have a friend who sold malpractice insurance to doctors, and she said that as a group, they weren’t all that smart. This little town hall meeting in Michigan seems to bolster that argument as Rep. Dan Denishek, the Republican who replaced Dem Bart Stupak, proves he’s a really big dope:

Rep. Dan Benishek’s (R-MI) embrace of the Republican Party’s platform ran into stiff opposition at a town hall meeting in Saulte Sainte Marie, Michigan when at least a dozen constituents, many of them senior citizens, pushed back against Benishek’s claims on Medicare, Social Security, oil subsides and health care reform.

Benishek couldn’t even get through his opening remarks before attendees began criticizing his support for Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) proposed budget that would increase the cost of health care for seniors by providing “premium support” vouchers to eligible senior citizens.

“If you have a better idea as how to keep Medicare sustainable over the long term, I’d be happy to hear it,” offered Benishek.

I love that he said that. That’s the “killer” conversation stopper the GOP passes around in their daily talking points, assuming that all voters are as dumb as they are. Ha, ha!

He may have regretted those words after the event, because for half an hour, Benishek fielded several suggestions on how to increase funding for Medicare, ranging from ending oil subsidies to increasing taxes on the wealthiest two percent, suggestions that Benishek summarily dismissed.

Benishek also displayed a shocking lack of self-awareness about his level of knowledge of some key facts. “There are no government subsidies for oil,” he told one woman who suggested ending the very real subsidies given to oil corporations to help defray the cost of Medicare.

At one point, the discussion turned to health care reform. Benishek, who served as a medical doctor before he was elected to Congress in 2010, was thrust onto the national stage after his predecessor Bart Stupak cast the deciding vote in favor of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. He told the audience that the United States has the best health care system in the world, before he was literally laughed at by several attendees.

“We have the highest life spans in the world,” argued Benishek. Several women in the audience quickly pointed out that in fact, many countries with universal health care place higher than the United States in terms of life expectancy, including Canada, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands. The United States ranks 50th, just behind South Korea and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“I don’t believe that’s true,” said Benishek.

“How can you not know that, you’re a medical doctor?” one woman replied.

Because like most conservatives, he doesn’t believe it’s true unless he experiences it himself. And since he’s alive and has great government health care, what’s the problem?

Gotta love them GOPers. This guy’s about as smart as a can of paint.

Driving up oil prices

Imagine that. Maybe someone should do something?

There are growing indications that Wall Street speculators are driving up the price of crude and Americans are paying for their profits at the pump.

“Americans overpaid $10 billion dollars for gas at the pump in the last month alone,” said Gene Guilford, president of the Independent Connecticut Petroleum Association, speaking at a Democratic Steering and Policy Committee hearing  held on April 4. Guilford estimated that speculation is adding roughly 75 cents per gallon of gas.

The high price of gas is not simply due to supply and demand mechanisms, but insteadperceived supply and demand. Currently, a majority of oil trades are made by Wall Street speculators rather than commercial end users of oil. There is increasing evidence that these traders are having a powerful influence on the price of petroleum.

FOIA

CJR talks to two experts on problems with Freedom of Information Act requests:

It’s hard to figure out how to say this, but it often feels like the way that the Obama administration is handling FOIA requests is worse than the Bush administration. And it’s hard to know if that’s because we were so excited by Obama’s and Holder’s statements on transparency at the beginning of the administration—then it was business as usual. In my opinion, there definitely hasn’t been any change. It hasn’t gotten any better. The Obama administration has held on to a lot of the justifications that the Bush administration used to withhold records. The agencies are still applying the exemptions pretty liberally to try to withhold as much information as they can.

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