Senate Dems end filibusters of presidential appointees – democracy may yet break out in Congress


Cripes, Harry – you finally did it!

Senate Democrats eased the way for swift approval of President Barack Obama’s current and future nominees on Thursday, voting unilaterally to overturn decades of Senate precedent and undermine Republicans’ ability to block final votes.

The 52-48 vote to undercut filibuster rules on presidential appointees capped more than a decade of struggle in which presidents from both parties complained about delays in confirming appointees, particularly to federal courts.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who spearheaded the movement, accused Republicans of “unbelievable, unprecedented obstruction” of Obama’s selections to fill court vacancies and other offices.

“It’s time to change the Senate, before this institution becomes obsolete,” he said.

His Republican counterpart, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, accused Democrats of exercising democracy, saying blah, blah, blah!

At issue was a rule that can require a 60-vote majority to assure a yes-or-no vote on presidential nominees to the courts or to cabinet departments or other agencies.

Under a parliamentary maneuver scripted in advance, Democrats led by Reid sought to change proceedings so that only a simple majority was required to clear the way for a final vote.

Supreme Court nominations would be exempted from the change and subject to a traditional filibuster…Nevertheless, some congressional watchers predict it’s the opening volley in the movement to kill the filibuster altogether

Overdue by decades.

This event will serve to illustrate which organizations and individuals have a heartfelt commitment to rule by democracy. I sincerely hope Americans take note of who wastes time the next few days on television and in the press whining about the partial end of a lousy tradition.

Your kids run a mile a minute-and-a-half slower than you did!

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Kids today are 15 percent less heart fit than their parents were as youngsters, and this does not bode well for their adult health, Australian researchers say.

Lead author Grant Tomkinson…and colleagues analyzed 50 studies on running fitness between 1964 and 2010 that involved more than 25 million kids ages 9-17 in 28 countries.

They gauged cardiovascular endurance by how far kids could run in a set time or how long it took to run a set distance. Tests typically lasted 5-15 minutes or covered a half-mile to 2 miles.

The meta-analysis found cardiovascular endurance declined significantly within the 46 years. Average changes were similar between boys and girls, younger and older kids, and across different regions, although they varied country to country, Tomkinson said…

In the United States the study found children’s’ cardiovascular endurance fell an average 6 percent per decade from 1970 to 2000. However, across nations, endurance declined consistently by about 5 percent every decade…

Country-by-country fitness findings are mirrored in measurements of overweight/obesity and body fat, suggesting one factor may cause the other.

“In fact, about 30 percent to 60 percent of the declines in endurance running performance can be explained by increases in fat mass,” Tomkinson said.

In many ways, I feel like this reflects the divergence between educated folks and the larger mass of poorly educated and uneducated. Comparable international studies usually recognize American adults, college-educated, being more fit than their peers abroad. Running, jogging, aerobic recreation, the expansion of sound nutrition are all characteristics of the healthier lifestyle common more often to Americans than their peers on other continents.

Unfortunately, this obviously ain’t enough to swing the habits of the whole nation.

For me, the “whys” always come down to economics. The overwhelming number of Americans has been experiencing a decline in their real income for forty years or so. Whether folks are conscious of this or not they still end up changing their lifestyle to try to keep up with where they think they should be – or better. So, we work longer hours, more family members are committed to employment [whether they find a job or not] and less time is free for organizing and leading family life, guiding your kids towards adult life.

Tokyo Auto Show surprise — Yamaha to produce Motiv City Cars

Yamaha Motor Corporation moved into the automotive business this afternoon in one of the shock announcements of the Tokyo Motor Show. Yamaha’s partner in the four-wheeled endeavor is none other than Gordon Murray Design.

The new four-wheeled Yamaha Motiv range of four-wheelers will be very similar to Gordon Murray’s much-vaunted T.25 and T.27 City Car designs, and the two-seater Motiv will, if it goes into production, include a range of bodies, and a range of engines, including a 25 kW electric vehicle, and a one liter, three-cylinder engine likely to produce well over 100 bhp.

With Murray finding a major manufacturer to adopt his very clever iStream production process, the stage is set for Yamaha to create a range of very affordable and high-performance micro vehicles, and for Murray’s ingenious designs to finally go mainstream. Indeed, it looks like an ideal marriage, and one which will produce a genuine competitor to the smart fortwo…

Murray…created his own design consultancy just a few short years ago, and the first announced project was the City Car, a project which demonstrates the same genius as his racing and supercars.

Now he has found a relationship with Yamaha, a company which lists among its brand values the magic ingredient of loyalty, this could just be one of those magical matches where synergy prevails and an individual of outstanding talent finally finds an ideal match.

Yamaha cherishes “drivability” and it clearly wishes to make cars with the same delightful usability characteristics as its motorcycles. In Murray, Yamaha may have found the ideal partner to move into the automotive business with.

RTFA for lots of details – including Murray’s stellar career with McLaren. I hope folks aren’t too surprised by Yamaha’s 4-wheel capabilities. I used to fly low on the way into Moab against another road warrior who had one of the Ford Taurus SHO’s with an overhead cam V8 specially built for the car by Yamaha.

Utah staties got him twice doing over 150mph. 🙂

Amtrak train gets lost in Philadelphia suburbs – Huh? Wha?


Passengers disembarking in Bala CynwydBridget Cook photo

Amtrak said it is investigating after a train headed from Philadelphia to New York ended up lost in suburban Pennsylvania.

Officials said Amtrak Train 644 departed Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station Tuesday night and accidentally ended up on Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority tracks…

The train traveled several miles on the wrong tracks before the mistake was noticed and it stopped at a station in Bala Cynwyd, a suburb of Philadelphia.

Amtrak said the 130 passengers on the train were taken back to Philadelphia where they boarded another train for New York.

“An investigation was launched and the crew has been held out of work until they can be fully debriefed and additional training can be conducted,” Steve Kulm, Amtrak’s media relations director, said in a statement.

Does the Pennsylvania state constitution allow waterboarding?