Bishop to Boycott Obama Commencement Speech
2009 College Grads: We're the Lucky Ones
Beer in Vending Machines -- What Drinking Age?
How The Press Can Remain Relevant
Be Afraid, Cheney Warns. Be Very Afraid.
Obama: You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry...
Obama to GOP: 'I Won, I'm The President'
Sam Guzik is now a contributor for The Cram, a student news arm of the newly launched PoliticsDaily.com. To follow his future work, click here.
The Supreme Court is one of the United States's most venerable institutions, packed with nine of the nation's best legal minds, so it makes sense that they might be a little too busy to keep up with popular culture. Comments during the oral arguments in a case earlier this week, though, take out of touch to a new level.
Safford Unified School District v. Redding, heard by the court on Tuesday, asks the justices to weigh in on the constitutionality of strip searching students in schools when administrators have received a tip about hidden contraband but no location-specific information. While sorting through the complex fourth amendment issues, Justices found themselves transported back to their own time in school.
Take Justice Breyer, who wondered how the strip search was any different than what he had to endure while being forced to change for gym class and, less relevantly, while being teased by fellow students.
"In my experience when I was 8 or 10 or 12 years old, you know, we did take our clothes off once a day, we changed for gym, OK? And in my experience, too, people did sometimes stick things in my underwear," said Breyer while trying to point out that it might not be unusual for children to hide things from teachers in their underwear. As the court broke out into laughter, Breyer quickly added, "Or not my underwear. Whatever. Whatever."
The transportation project will be funded by an initial down payment of $8 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds and an additional $1 billion per year for five years, beginning with the 2010 budget.
Ten regional rail systems have been identified for the project: the California Corridor, the Pacific Northwest Corridor, the South Central Corridor, the Gulf Coast Corridor, the Chicago Hub Network, the Florida Corridor, the Southeast Corridor, the Keystone Corridor, the Empire Corridor and the Northern New England Corridor.
Amtrak, the passenger rail system founded in 1971, operates with revenue below expenses and receives an annually increasing federal subsidy reaching $6.3 million for fiscal year 2013, as mandated in the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.
Additionally, Amtrak received $1.3 billion of the 2009 ARRA funds.
Six models, among three makes under the GM brand, spanning seven years of manufacture are being recalled due to a risk of engine compartment fire, according to the National Highway Safety Administration's Office of Defects Investigation.
The models being recalled include the 1997-2003 Buick Regal, the 2000-2003 Chevrolet Impala, the 1998-1999 Chevrolet Lumina, the 1998-2003 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, the 1998-1999 Oldsmobile Intrigue and the 1997-2003 Pontiac Grand Prix.
The New York Times reported on Monday that the Treasury Department is urging GM to prepare to file for bankruptcy on June 1, rather than reorganizing out of court before its 60-day deadline extension on the provisional $13.4 billion federal loans granted in December.
In that Times article, former GM President and current GM CEO Fritz Henderson (pictured) has been giving "increasingly clear signals that bankruptcy is probable," since replacing former GM CEO Rick Wagoner, who was pressured out of office by the Obama Administration for failing to effectively restructure the company before the original March 31 deadline.
FOX News Channel, which has long been the No. 1 cable news operation, extended its lead over CNN and MSNBC in recent months, the New York Times reported. Bill O'Reilly's show, The O'Reilly Factor, reached a milestone in March of 100 consecutive months as the most popular program on cable news.
FOX recently launched a new Web site, The FOX Nation, which the AP described as a "Huffington Post-style" site, a reference to Arianna Huffington's left-leaning blog site.
Though FOX is a leader on television, it falls behind on the Internet, the AP said, with 16 million unique visitors in February compared with MSNBC.com's 41 million viewers and CNN.com's 36 million.
The new Web site features one of the most grandiose introductory letters ever posted on a Web site. The letter lauds America as the "city on a hill," and says FOX Nation is dedicated to the people of America who have made it great.
And I thought FOX Nation was just a way to boost traffic to their online product at a time when the government, particularly Obama and Democrats in Congress, are doing a lot of things to irk conservatives.
Of course, these are hard times, FOX Nation says, but Americans have always risen up to face challenges and will again.
"How, exactly, should we assure life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?" the letter says. "How do we perfect our union? How can we make certain that children of all races are fairly judged, not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character?"
Patrick Brown, 39, a former worker at D/FW Airport, stole an average of three bags per day from baggage claims between July 2008 and January 2009, according to D/FW Airport Public Safety. Luggage theft at D/FW Airport has tripled in the past five years.
Brown kept the stolen luggage in a storage unit and sold the contents and bags separately at the Traders Village flea market in Grand Prairie, about 15 miles south of D/FW Airport, according to police in a story by Dallas ABC affiliate WFAA.
"This guy accounts for probably more than half of our baggage thefts we've had out here," D/FW Airport Public Safety Vice President Alan Black said in the WFAA report. "It's a mini-crime wave that's come to an end."
I thought the biggest thing that was going to happen at Notre Dame this week was St. Patrick's Day. I was wrong.
According to an Associated Press report, President Barack Obama will deliver the commencement address at Notre Dame's graduation May 17. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs made the announcement Friday that Obama will speak at my school, as well as at the Arizona State University and the U.S. Naval Academy graduation ceremonies. Notre Dame's media office issued a news release saying Obama will also be the recipient of an honorary doctor of laws degree.
The Facebook statuses of many Notre Dame students were all about the news Friday afternoon. There hasn't been this much buzz since freshmen year when rumors swirled that U2 was coming in for the ND-USC game.
I think Obama's gotten bigger than Bono.
Many people seem excited, but undoubtedly, there will be protests, especially by those who see Obama's stance on abortion as contrary to Catholic teachings. This is Notre Dame. We protest for weeks on end when students put on productions of The Vagina Monologues.
This will be a great compliment to my current favorite Bush family memoir, Millie's Book. That Springer Spaniel had so much insight into life in the White House.
George W.'s book will be a bit less fluff. Or so I hope.
Bush said he won't recount his entire life story, but will instead focus on 12 important choices he made in his personal life and as president, including, according to the Associated Press, his decision to give up drinking, picking Dick Cheney as his vice president and sending troops to Iraq.
"I want people to understand the environment in which I was making decisions," he told the AP Wednesday. "I want people to get a sense of how decisions were made and I want people to understand the options that were placed before me."
The book, which will be published by Crown, part of the Crown Publishing Group, will also focus on his relationships with his family members, his religious faith and his response to Hurricane Katrina.
Bush told the AP Wednesday that he began writing his memoirs two days after he left office, and that he has already written about 30,000 words.
I have trouble sitting through a 15-minute Bush speech. Hopefully his book includes pictures. Here's some unsolicited editorial advice to Crown Publishing: don't include the "Mission Accomplished" banner picture.
Bush said he is working with research assistants and a former White House speechwriter to draft his book, and he told the AP that it would include some self-criticism. But he also wants people to see events as he saw them, in the moment, without the clarity of hindsight.
Bush told the AP he wasn't sure if he would write about the departure of his first defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, or if he would discuss his decision not to pardon Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
"I made a lot of decisions," he said.
He was, in fact, "The Decider" for eight years.
I landed at Chicago's O'Hare Airport late Saturday night and saw, probably for the last time, the Sears Tower.
The next time I'm in Chicago, the Sears Tower will be the Willis Tower.
Willis Group Holdings, a London-based global insurance broker, announced last week that it was consolidating its Chicago-area offices and moving into the Sears Tower, which they will rename in July.
"Having our name associated with Chicago's most iconic structure underscores our commitment to this great city, and recognizes Chicago's importance as a major financial hub and international business center," Joseph J. Plumeri, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Willis Group Holdings said in a news release on the company's Web site.
Plumeri acts like he is doing Chicago a favor, and maybe he is, by investing in real estate in the midst of a struggling economy. But the Sears Tower, the tallest building in the United States as well as the entire Western hemisphere, is too iconic to have its name changed. The Sears Tower is classic; the most prominent part of the Chicago skyline. Willis Tower sounds like the punchline to a bad "Diff'rent Strokes" joke.
The Chicago Tribune reported last week that, following the announcement about the building's name change, people were stopping by the 110-story building to take pictures of the Sears Tower name before it is gone.
And at a time when some Democrats are suggesting bringing back restrictions particularly targeting him, conservatives are embracing him - giving him what Fox News called an "immense" ovation before he began his keynote address at the Conservative Political Action Convention (CPAC).
What transpired was nothing short of a chest-beating, conservative pep rally.
The talk radio giant, made famous for various extreme suggestions such as wanting Obama to fail, reportedly roused the conservative audience to their feet several times.
"We can take this country back," Limbaugh told them. "All we need is to nominate the right candidate."
Limbaugh actually came on stage 15 minutes early and spoke an hour over his allotted time of 20 minutes. If you've heard him on the radio before, you can understand why. The guy could talk for days and days on end.
national newspop culture
Three judges reviewed the case, Video Software Dealers Association v. Schwarzenegger, et al., and invalidated Civil Code 1746-1746.5, which California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had signed into law (formerly AB 1179) on October 7, 2005.
Code 1746 had prohibited the sale of a violent video game (refer to the code for the definition) to a minor, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000.
The appeals court, however, upheld that video games "are a form of expression protected by the First Amendment" and that "minors are entitled to a significant measure of the First Amendment protection," referencing Interactive Digital Software Association v. St. Louis (2003) and Erznoznik v. City of Jacksonville (1975).
The decision also found that "when the government seeks to restrict speech 'it must demonstrate that the recited harms are real, not merely conjectural, and that the regulation will in fact alleviate these harms in a direct and material way,'" citing Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. v. Federal Communications Commission (1994).
One might remember Gov. Schwarzenegger's career, prior to his term in office, as a Hollywood movie star where he portrayed a sword-wielding "barbarian," a "commando," a mercenary fighting a headhunting alien, and a time-travelling cybernetic organism programmed with an expertise in "terminating" humans (in three films), among other roles.
Et tu, you big brute?
According to the Associated Press, the event -- a luncheon in Calgary, Alberta sponsored by local businesses, financial analysts, a law firm and the Calgary Chamber of Commerce -- is closed to the public; organizers have either already invited or expect only 1,500 Canadians to attend. The topic, according to the Dallas Morning News, is "a conversation with George W. Bush," a speech in which he is expected to "'share his thoughts on his eight momentous years in the Oval Office'." It is still unclear whether Bush will follow in his predecessors' footsteps and be paid for the engagement.
Unfortunately for the previous president, it is equally unclear how a Canadian audience will receive his message. In 2004, an Associated Press/Ipsos poll reported that 64 percent of Canadian respondents had an unfavorable opinion of the Bush presidency. That strain on U.S.-Canadian relations continued long into 2006, growing so powerful, reported The New York Times, that Canadian politicians leveraged their relationship with the former U.S. president during their own legislative contest.
In 2008, BBC pollsters further revealed that Canadians -- and the citizens of 16 other countries -- expected America's then-unnamed next president to markedly improve bilateral relations (and hoped that the new executive would be President Barack Obama). Presumably, those poll predictions have panned out: AFP reported the day before Obama's inauguration that his approval rating among Canadians had topped 80 percent. Meanwhile, Bush -- at least domestically -- exited the White House with the lowest approval rating of any president since Richard Nixon, and -- somewhat speculatively -- faced similarly low poll numbers abroad.
The Free Flow of Information Act of 2009, revealed on Wednesday by Reps. Rick Boucher (D-VA) and Mike Pence (R-IN), returns at the beckoning of journalists who have long criticized the federal government for the absence of any source protections. Under current law, reporters are at the mercy of federal grand juries and civil proceedings; when formally requested, they must share their evidence or risk being held in contempt of court. The proposed law, by contrast, would mimic similar state "shield laws" and create a federal "reporter's privilege, with exceptions for national security, terrorism, the prevention of bodily harm, and eyewitness testimony from a crime scene," according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
The new bill, however, is not without its vocal opposition.
At issue is Gregg's prior disposition toward the constitutionally-mandated, decennial census. As a three-term GOP senator from New Hampshire, Gregg frequently supported cuts in the bureau's funding, even opposing President Bill Clinton's appeals for emergency money in 1999. In both instances, Democrats lambasted Gregg, alleging that his efforts would have complicated the counting process, especially in traditionally under-reported minority neighborhoods at risk of being subsumed into larger congressional districts.
Although Gregg has yet to defend his positions in cabinet confirmation hearings, the Obama administration hoped to preempt any political fallout on Thursday by releasing scant details of its revised census plan. Speculation, however, does exist: According to Politico and a second CQ dispatch, the revised census hierarchy would permit Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, the former chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, to "handle Census Bureau matters," though to what extent remains unclear.
Buoyed by such uncertainty, House Republicans immediately condemned the Obama administration for politicizing the census.
In a joint letter to the White House on Thursday, Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Ca.) and Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) criticized the president's plan to circumvent the Commerce Department. According to the two members, any proximal relationship between the political wing of the White House and the Census Bureau "severely jeopardiz[es] the fairness and accuracy" of a count that determines how much a congressional district will grow or shrink, how many representatives each state is afforded -- and thus -- how many electoral votes each state receives.
As of Thursday evening, neither the Obama administration nor Gregg's office had addressed the matter on record.
The mantra of change during the 2008 election was so strong, and so frequent, that I think I forgot simply putting Barack Obama behind the desk of the Oval Office would not automatically turn the economy around.
Change [will] come. Maybe.
Obama gave a weekly address Saturday that was more mope than hope.
"Americans know that our economic recovery will take years -- not months," he said, according to a White House transcript of the speech.
He said the economy is probably going to get worse before it gets better. But it's pretty bad already, he admitted.
"Yesterday, we learned that our economy shrank by nearly 4 percent from October through December. That decline was the largest in over a quarter century, and it underscores the seriousness of the economic crisis that my administration found when we took office.
"Already the slowdown has cost us tens of thousands of jobs in January alone," he said.
It's the economy's affect on jobs that has college students worried, especially seniors, as May approaches.
Last week I went to a career fair at Notre Dame. There were more than 130 companies represented (many of which weren't even hiring at present), but far, far more students searching for jobs or internships. At one point, my friend turned to me and told me she could smell the desperation in the room. Another friend asked me if I thought it was just an urban legend that people get jobs from job fairs.
Will job fairs themselves soon become urban legends? Or worse, will we end up like the poor saps in CareerBuilder.com's hilarious Super Bowl ad?
"You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done," Obama told GOP leaders whom he had invited to the White House. Obama set up the meeting to discuss his planned nearly $1 trillion stimulus package.
"One prong of the Great Unifier's plan is to isolate elected Republicans from their voters and supporters by making the argument about me and not about his plan," Limbaugh told the National Review's Byron York in response. "He is hoping that these Republicans will also publicly denounce me and thus marginalize me."
"To make the argument about me instead of his plan makes sense from his perspective," Limbaugh continued. "Obama's plan would buy votes for the Democrat Party, in the same way FDR's New Deal established majority power for 50 years of Democrat rule, and it would also simultaneously seriously damage any hope of future tax cuts. It would allow a majority of American voters to guarantee no taxes for themselves going forward. It would burden the private sector and put the public sector in permanent and firm control of the economy."
The full text of Limbaugh's response can be found here.
Obama went on to arrogantly claim that he essentially planned to ram his plan through without bipartisan support, nearly saying if anyone disagrees with him then they are going against some heavenly mandate. Let there be no doubt - he's the boss.
"I won," he told GOP leaders. "I'm the president."