For Auld Lang Syne

It’s the New Year somewhere on the planet. Here’s a link to a chart with countdowns. (And get this: There are more than 24 time zones, which means if you’re following the countdowns, you could be celebrating 15 minutes after your last celebration.)

A view from the 80th floor (Freedom Tower)

An amazing photo from the 80th floor of the still-to-be-completed Freedom Tower in Manhattan, at the site of the World Trade Center, overlooking the World Financial Center and the Hudson River.  Upon completion, the building will be 105 stories tall.

(From the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey)

How a bill moves through Congress, via Jean Arthur

A lesson in legislation, from Jean Arthur:

So let’s put this in context using currently active legislators running for president.

Ron Paul has been in the U.S. House for a little more than 11 terms. That’s more than two decades. In that time, he has sponsored 620 bills. Four have been voted on. One passed: a measure that allowed for the sale of a Custom House in Texas.

Another example?

Michele Bachmann has been in Congress for five years and has introduced 45 bills. None passed.

According to the Washington Post:

During Paul’s years in office, only 4 percent of the more than 69,000 bills filed by House members have become law.

By the end of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” you knew that the bill Jefferson Smith was writing was going to pass. That would have given him a 100% rating.

If only life were like the movies.

A quick GOP roundup

A melange of GOP updates to prepare you for next week’s Iowa caucuses:

Rick Perry said this at a speech in Iowa:

“Every barrel of oil that comes out of those sands in Canada is a barrel of oil that we don’t have to buy from a foreign source,” Mr. Perry said in Clarinda, earning a loud round of enthusiastic applause.

Later, the audience reacted again to Mr. Perry’s assertion that buying so much energy from foreign countries is “not good policy, it’s not good politics and frankly it’s un-American.”

Obviously he’s been talking to Ron Paul, who used this in his 2008 campaign:

“NAFTA’s superhighway is just one part of a plan to erase the borders between the U.S. and Mexico, called the North American Union. This spawn of powerful special interests, would create a single nation out of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, with a new unelected bureaucracy and money system. Forget about controlling immigration under this scheme.”

And since Ron Paul’s statements are so crazy they’ve made Michele Bachmann sound semi-lucid, who in their right mind would back him?

Meanwhile, what’s the serial adulterer and former frontrunner doing?

On Wednesday evening around 6:30 ET, Newt Gingrich strategist Joe DeSantis declared the Gingrich surge in Iowa officially over.

“Oh I think anywhere in the top five would be surviving Iowa,” DiSantis told CNN.

Top five? Is there a new not-Romney?

A new survey of people likely to attend Iowa’s Republican caucuses indicates that the former House speaker’s support in the Hawkeye State is plunging. And according to a CNN/Time/ORC International Poll, one-time long shot candidate Rick Santorum has more than tripled his support since the beginning of the month.

Perhaps Mitt Romney is focusing on serious issues before the vote:

“I like PBS,” Romney told a town hall in Clinton, Iowa Wednesday. “We subsidize PBS. Look, I’m going to stop that. I’m going to say PBS is going to have to have advertisements. …
“We’re not going to kill Big Bird,” Romney said. “Big Bird’s going to have advertisements, alright?”

An attack on a Muppet? OK, they’ve asked for it:

The serial adulterer’s first divorce

You’ve probably heard Newt Gingrich‘s defending himself concerning his first divorce, as he got his daughter to join him in saying that he didn’t request it. This was while his first wife was in the hospital being treated for cancer.

If you haven’t, here’s the defense on his campaign Web site:

Asking Wife For Divorce While She Was In The Hospital Dying of Cancer

This story is a vicious lie.  It was first reported by a left wing magazine in the 1980s based on hearsay and has survived in left-wing chat rooms on the Internet until today.  It is completely false.

Recently, Newt’s daughter, Jackie Gingrich Cushman, wrote a column to set the record straight about this smear.  The column reveals that 1) It was her mother that requested the divorce, not Newt, and it was months before the hospital visit in question; 2) Her mother was in the hospital to remove a tumor, but it was benign, and she is still alive today; 3) Newt visited the hospital for the purpose of taking his two children to see their mother, not to discuss a divorce.  You can read it here.

But CNN reported this yesterday:

Newt Gingrich claims that it was his first wife, not Gingrich himself, who wanted their divorce in 1980, but court documents obtained by CNN appear to show otherwise. …

Newt Gingrich filed a divorce complaint on July 14, 1980, in Carroll County, saying that “the marriage of the parties is irretriebably (sic) broken.”

Jackie Battley Gingrich, the congressman’s wife and the mother of Jackie Gingrich Cushman, responded by asking the judge to reject her husband’s filing.

“Defendant shows that she has adequate and ample grounds for divorce, but that she does not desire one at this time,” her petition said.

“Although defendant does not admit that this marriage is irretrievably broken, defendant has been hopeful that an arrangement for temporary support of defendant and the two minor daughters of the parties could be mutually agreed upon without the intervention of this court,” her petition said. “All efforts to date have been unsuccessful.”

And why was Newt so eager to get a divorce?

Leonard H. “Kip” Carter, a former close Gingrich friend, backed the contention that it was Newt Gingrich who wanted the divorce.

“He (Gingrich) said, ‘You know and I know that she’s not young enough or pretty enough to be the wife of a president,’ ” Carter, who now lives in South Carolina, told CNN recently, relating the conversation he had with Gingrich the day Gingrich revealed he was filing for divorce. Carter served as treasurer of Gingrich’s first congressional campaigns.

Carter, who was a fellow history professor when Gingrich taught at West Georgia College in Carrollton, said he broke off his friendship with Newt Gingrich because of the congressman’s treatment of his wife during the divorce.

Blue Gal sums it up pretty nicely:

Autism in black and white

The Web site Liquor & Spice caught this in the New York Times this weekend involving a 19-year-old kid named Jack Robison in Massachusetts with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism:

A chemistry whiz, he had spent much of his adolescence teaching himself to make explosives and setting them off in the woods in experiments that he hoped would earn him a patent but that instead led the state police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to charge him with several counts of malicious explosion.

By the following spring, he would be cleared of all the charges and recruited by the director of the undergraduate chemistry program at the University of Massachusetts, who was impressed by a newspaper account of Jack’s home-built laboratory.

And then caught this information involving a case in Virginia.

Reginald “Neli” Latson, is a 19 year-old autistic young man, who on the morning of May 24, 2010, sat in the grass outside the local library in Stafford, Va., and waited for it to open. Police allege that it was reported that there was a suspicious black male who had a gun. Deputy Calverley then approached Latson and searched him for a gun. No gun was found. Calverly asked Latson for his name, and Latson refused and tried to walk away as he had committed no crime. Calverly then grabbed Latson and attempted to arrest him without reading him his Miranda Rights or calling for backup.

After a 3-day trial, Latson was found guilty of assaulting a law enforcement officer, among other charges, and 10 1/2 years in prison was recommended. Latson’s defense centered around the fact that he has Asperger’s syndrome, part of the autism spectrum, a condition caused by an abnormality of the brain.

Massachusetts didn’t see a crime in making explosives at home. Virginia saw a crime in waiting to go to the library. Robison was blowing things up. Latson was waiting for the library to open. Robison is rewarded. Latson is going to jail.

Robison is white. Latson is black.

We don’t want to admit it, but race does matter.

Representative income inequality

Can a congressman be concerned with income inequality when his income has risen faster than that of his constituents?

From the Washington Post:

Between 1984 and 2009, the median net worth of a member of the House rose by more than 21/2 times, according to the analysis of financial disclosures, from $280,000 to $725,000 in inflation-adjusted 2009 dollars, excluding home ­equity.

Over the same period, the wealth of an American family has declined slightly, with the comparable median figure sliding from $20,600 to $20,500, according to the Panel Study of Income Dynamics from the University of Michigan.

The accompanying charts on the net worth of senators and representatives is worth taking a look at. Both chambers are filled with millionaires, which leaves you with the impression that the odds are totally against an average person being able to successfully run for a seat.