Scalia’s death plunges court, national politics into turmoil

Washington Post – The death of Justice Antonin Scalia Saturday plunged the Supreme Court and the nation’s politics into turmoil, and an immediate partisan battle began over whether President Obama should be allowed to nominate his successor.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) said in a statement that the Senate should not confirm a replacement for Scalia until after the election. But the battle lines were immediately apparent. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid followed McConnell’s statement with one of his own: “It would be unprecedented in recent history for the Supreme Court to go a year with a vacant seat,” he said. “Failing to fill this vacancy would be a shameful abdication of one of the Senate’s most essential Constitutional responsibilities.”

In the meantime, 4-4 splits are returned to the lower court as if the Supreme Court had not taken up the case.

Russia’s Medvedev: We Are in ‘a New Cold War’

Bloomberg – Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said his country is in a new cold war with the U.S. and its allies, while NATO’s chief said Russia is using its nuclear arsenal to intimidate Europe.

The clash, with echoes of superpower rhetoric during the 20th century, played out at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday even as Russia, Europe and the U.S. say they’re seeking to end Syria’s civil war, resolve the armed standoff in eastern Ukraine and make progress toward lifting European economic sanctions against Russia.

“The political line of NATO toward Russia remains unfriendly and closed,” Medvedev said in a speech to the conference. “It can be said more sharply: We have slid into a time of a new cold war.”

While Medvedev renewed Russian accusations of encirclement by western powers, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, challenged President Vladimir Putin to stop threatening nations around Russia’s borders with warnings about his nuclear-weapons capability.

“Russia’s rhetoric, posture and exercises of its nuclear forces are aimed at intimidating its neighbors, undermining trust and stability in Europe,” Stoltenberg told the conference earlier. “We strive for a more constructive and more cooperative relationship with Russia.”

:: Sting – Do The Russians Love Their Children Too? ::

Iran Claims Republicans Tried To Delay Return Of US Prisoners Until After The Election

Tasnim News  – Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani said a recent prisoner exchange between Iran and the US went ahead as planned despite calls by Republicans for a delay until US presidential elections.

“In the course of the talks for exchanging prisoners, the Republican rivals of the current US administration who claim to be humanitarians and advocates of human rights sent a message telling us not to release these people (American prisoners) and continue this process (of talks) until the eve of US presidential elections,” Shamkhani said Thursday in an address to a rally held in the central city of Yazd to mark the 37th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution’s victory.

“However” he said “we acted upon our independent resolve and moved the process forward.”

Snopes is currently categorizing this as “unproven“. Given the Reagan hostage shenanigans and the recent attempted Republican derailment of the Iran nuclear disarmament deal, people are prepared to not be surprised if this turns out to be true. Headline swiped from Politico.

Physicists Detect Gravitational Waves, Proving Einstein Right

New York Times, By Dennis Overbye, February 11

A team of physicists who can now count themselves as astronomers announced on Thursday that they had heard and recorded the sound of two black holes colliding a billion light-years away, a fleeting chirp that fulfilled the last prophecy of Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

That faint rising tone, physicists say, is the first direct evidence of gravitational waves, the ripples in the fabric of space-time that Einstein predicted a century ago. And it is a ringing (pun intended) confirmation of the nature of black holes, the bottomless gravitational pits from which not even light can escape, which were the most foreboding (and unwelcome) part of his theory.
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Impact of Automation puts 85% of jobs in developing nations at risk

Kurzwei – A new report [PDF] from the Oxford Martin School and Citi considers the risks of job automation to developing countries, estimated to range from 55% in Uzbekistan to 85% in Ethiopia — a substantial share in major emerging economies, including China and India (77% and 69% respectively).

The impact of automation may be more disruptive for developing countries, due to lower levels of consumer demand and limited social safety nets. With automation and developments in 3D printing likely to drive companies to move manufacturing closer to home, developing countries risk “premature de-industrialisation.”

Digital industries have not created many new jobs. Since 2000, just 0.5% of the US workforce has shifted into new technology industries, most of which are directly associated with digital technologies.

North Korea satellite ‘tumbling in orbit’

CNN – The satellite North Korea fired into space on Sunday is “tumbling in orbit” and incapable of functioning in any useful way, a senior U.S. defense official told CNN.

Sunday’s launch of the long-range rocket triggered a wave of international condemnation and prompted strong reaction from an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

North Korea maintained the launch was for scientific and “peaceful purposes.”

“Read My Lips: No New Taxes” Redux

magnify-dollarBernie Sanders wants to convince you his tax plan will save you money. The Tax Foundation disagrees:

“On a static basis, the plan would lead to 10.56 percent lower after-tax income for all taxpayers and 17.91 percent lower after-tax income for the top 1 percent. When accounting for reduced GDP, after-tax incomes of all taxpayers would fall by at least 12.84 percent.

“This decrease in GDP would translate into an 18.6 percent smaller capital stock and 6.0 million fewer full-time equivalent jobs. After accounting for the economic effects of the tax changes, the plan would end up increasing federal tax revenues by $9.8 trillion over the next decade.” – far short of the $16 trillion plan to be initially enacted.

We’ll want to take these numbers with a grain of salt, given the Tax Foundation’s conservative leanings. Any criticism of their methodologies is welcome. Infrastructure spending might stimulate secondary employment more than expected. Cheap college might bring new minds and industry into the economy. There’s room for optimism in campaign season.

But let’s ignore the GDP for a moment and look at how this might go wrong for an average American.
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An honest, supportive note to Sanders fans

democrat-logoBernie fans, New Hampshire tomorrow is really important for you guys and the campaign narrative. If Hillary gets a 4-4 delegate tie your media momentum stalls a bit going into South Carolina on the 27th (Clinton 63/33) right before Super Tuesday, March 1st.

If you haven’t phone banked, it’s the single most effective thing you can do right now short of donating a gazillion dollars. And it’s easier than you think after the first couple calls. Some of you have put a lot of soul into progressive projects. Right now, giving Bernie three weeks of your time, or even 4 hours tonight, could be a another big contribution toward your greater goals.

Yes, I’m a Hillary supporter, because I think her plans make a lot more pragmatic sense. I also like Bernie’s intentions, and I respect that extreme lefties are engaging in the political process, perhaps learning some history and a bit about the art of (and need for) compromise along the way.