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Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

Category: Travel

Late-night jokes: Starbucks CEO reveals how he got rich

Obama at the UN with South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit As The Ticket's 73,000-plus Twitter followers and 7,200 Facebook friends/fans know, we regularly share our daily picks of the late-night jokes of interest, usually before broadcast each evening.

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Fallon: President Obama arrived 25 minutes late for a luncheon at the United Nations. In fact, he was so late, he had to sit next to Joe Biden at the kids' table.

Letterman: The U.N. General Assembly is reconvening. Fun to drive by and see those world leaders sitting on the front porch hooting at all the passing chicks.

Conan: Arnold Schwarzenegger is writing a memoir. It'll be available in hardcover, paperback and a book-on-tape that’s impossible to understand.

Fallon: At a New York City fundraiser President Obama says he's in ‘in a New York ...

Continue reading »

Oops, Obama touts his jobs plan today at an Ohio bridge that won't qualify

Brent Spence Bridge across the Ohio River at Covington and Cincinnati

You know all those rusting bridges that President Obama wants to spend billions more dollars repairing to allegedly stimulate the economy?

He's headed out to one today which he's described as a "bridge that needs repair between Ohio and Kentucky that's on one of the busiest trucking routes in North America." It is on a busy trucking route, spanning the Ohio River between Covington, Ky., and Cincinnati.

It's the Brent Spence Bridge. It doesn't really need repairs. It's got decades of good life left in its steel spans. It's just overloaded. The bridge was built to handle 85,000 cars and trucks a day, which seemed like a lot back during construction in the Nixon era.

Today, the bridge sort of handles more than 150,000 vehicles a day with frequent jam-ups.Obama speaks to the American Legion 8-30-11

So, plans are not to repair or replace the Brent Spence Bridge. But to build another bridge nearby to ease the loads.

But here's the problem, as John Merline graphically notes here, that could screw up all those envisioned photo op shots of the Democrat and the traffic:

The president's jobs bill is designed for "immediate" highway spending.

And the new $2.3 billion Cincy bridge is not scheduled to even start construction for probably four years, long after Republicans have scheduled the Obama presidency for completion.

And without delays, it wouldn't be finished until 2022, when no one will be counting Obama's rounds of golf.

Politicians hate these kinds of messy distractions when they pick a place to make a symbolic statement. But Brent Spence was so tempting linking, as it does, the home states of GOP House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

But there is some possible good news for President Obama: The $447-billion jobs bill that he wanted passed "right now" back in early September is stuck in a legislative traffic jam in the Senate.

Fellow Democrat Harry Reid, the majority leader who can run that place like a school principal whenever he wants, is aware of opposition to the measure among some of his own caucus members.

And, well, darn it, wouldn't you know, Reid just can't seem to find a place for Obama's jobs bill in the chamber's overloaded schedule. As a result, as of right now Obama's "right now" jobs bill won't come up until later in the fall, possibly much later.

In a way the scheduling doesn't matter. Since the Democrat in the White House would rather have Republican opposition to it than any of its job-creating provisions, so he can have obstructionist charges for next year's campaign.

But if Congress works the way it usually does, maybe the bridge-repair money will be delayed a few years until the president's photo op Brent Spence Bridge enhancement bridge project is actually shovel-ready.

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Obama's jobs speech: The complete text

Obama's jobs speech: Right now actually means much later

961 days in, Obama sick and tired of his own delays on new jobs

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Al Behrman / Associated Press (Brent Spence Bridge across the Ohio River at Covington and Cincinnati); Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press (Obama during a recent speech).

Be aware, a 6.25-ton dead satellite could be falling in your vicinity any day

NASA Dead UAR Satellite

There is hardly any reason at all for anyone to worry.

However, you should be generally aware there is a 12,500-pound dead research satellite flying around the world these days, lower with each orbit.

And sometime in the next few days or maybe two weeks -- no one call tell really -- this thing the size of a school bus will hurtle into the incinerating influence of the Earth's atmosphere going thousands of miles an hour and fly apart into hundreds maybe thousands of flaming pieces.

It could be quite a fiery show, even in daytime.

Scientists estimate that much of the supersonic debris will burn up during its fall to the Earth's surface.

Which is another way of saying that not all of the plummeting metal will burn up on reentry.

Although officials say they have no way of knowing where remnants of the Upper Atmosphere Research Sateliite will land, they are predicting that 26 larger pieces of the satellite totaling 1,170 pounds, will reach the Earth's surface.

But not to worry, the largest only weighs as much as an average football lineman. Kerplumpf!

Since the dawn of the space age there have been no confirmed reports of injury from falling space debris.

With the knowledge that no one else is counting, NASA officials say there is precisely a one-in-3,200 chance of anyone being struck by said unguided missiles. Which sounds pretty remote until someone notes that's much better odds than winning the lottery.

Falling space debris is actually fairly common, about one piece a day. From Vandenberg Air Force Base, the Joint Space Operations Center tracks about 22,000 manmade objects in orbit larger than four inches (there's another half-million objects between 4 inches and .4 inches).

Don't ask how they track this stuff; they'd have to kill you. But only 1,000 of those objects are working, they say; the rest is junk, like the dead satellite.

It was placed in orbit in 1991 by space shuttle Discovery to study the ozone and upper atmosphere. Superseded by more sophisticated satellites, UARS was turned off six years ago and its propellants fired to lower its path for an eventual funeral orbit.

NASA will post more frequent updates online here as reentry hour nears. While the debris footprint is likely to be 500 miles long, where that footprint will be is unpredictable. If you come upon any debris and are still alive, NASA advises not to touch it. Instead, notify law enforcement authorities.

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What life is really like for American astronauts in space

After a three-year crawl Mars rover begins exploring another crater

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: NASA (the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite just before release from the space shuttle arm of Discovery in 1991).

Ticket pic of the week: How we appear to incoming aliens

NASA Earth and the Moon photographed by Voyager I 9-18-77

Here's what our corner of the universe looks like to any incoming aliens -- the Earth and. in the background, its only moon.

It's a unique photograph because no one has ever been in a position to take it. Actually, it's an old photograph newly released by NASA.

This photo was snapped by an outbound Voyager I back on Sept. 18, 1977.

NASA scientists ordered the craft to turn around and take it 34 years ago tomorrow, a last look at where the pioneering craft began its literally endless journey to the outer reaches of our solar system, which continues today. Both Voyager 1 and II are still in radio communication with NASA/JPL several times a week.

When today's pic of the week was taken, Voyager I was 7,250,000 miles from Earth.

Today, it is right around 11,000,000,000 miles from Earth, a distance that's grown by 1,000 miles while you read this. Track the Voyagers yourself right here.

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No, that's a little far, back up a few feet

You know, that statue hasn't moved the entire time I've been watching

Now, where did all those cattle go? They were right here just a minute ago

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: NASA / Voyager I.

What, Obama worry? New York House district elects first Republican since 1920

Bob and Peggy Turner 9-14-11

President Obama is taking his big airplane out of Dodge today, down to North Carolina.

And who can blame him for going the opposite direction from Gotham after this morning's special election results in New York 9?

There, as forecast here last week, a 70-year-old Republican businessman and political novice named Bob Turner whacked veteran Democrat David Weprin, 53-47, in a special election to replace Rep. Anthony "Look at My Junk" Weiner.

This kind of stunning upset in that area of Brooklyn and Queens happens like clockwork every 91 years. Whenever the approval of a disinterested Democratic president hovers in the mid-30s on a stagnant economy and he looks wishy-washy on rigid support for Israel.

Weprin had everything going for him in Archie Bunker's boroughs:

He's an Orthodox Jew in a district that's 40% Jewish running against a Catholic. He's a well-known political name with state legislative experience. He has the backing of big-time Dems including Chuckie Schumer, who used to represent the district and bequeathed it to his aide Weiner. This Obama guy carried the area by 11 points back in 2008.Democrat David Weprin concedes 9-14-11 And Weprin's got a moustache.

What could possibly go wrong? Well, Weprin was off on the national debt by $10 trillion in one interview. But that presidential election win was 1,048 days ago. Obama's much better known now and that seems to work against him.

This White House has had its own agenda all along -- the healthcare heave, financial reforms. While all along polls told the Chicagoans that jobs and the economy are top priority.

If history repeats itself, this Obama crowd as it did after losing the Virginia governor's office and the New Jersey governor's office and Ted Kennedy's Senate seat in Massachusetts, will find fault with someone else, likely the candidate.

The wise Marc Ambinder hears it already.

Remember all the White House whispers about lousy campaigner Martha Coakley when she lost to Scott Brown despite (or perhaps because of?) a last-minute campaign day with Obama?

And then there were last November's midterms when voters tossed all those House Pelosi people who obeyed Obama's pleas to pass healthcare.

Those dozens of Democrats going under the bus turned out great for the president, however. With a Republican House the Democratic president has someone else to blame now when his belated jobs bill goes nowhere.

That's what he'll be touting in Raleigh-Durham today, his doomed $447 billion jobs program.

Good thing that Air Force One, like Southwest, doesn't charge for baggage because along on Obama's Southern trip is a new Bloomberg News Poll. It shows, among other gloomy tidings, that 33% approve of his economy job, 39% like his healthcare handling and 30% are pleased with his deficit doings.

Oh, and a majority don't think his new jobs program will get the job done.

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-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: Mary Altaffer / Associated Press (Republicans Bob and Peggy Turner celebrate his election to the House from New York's Ninth District early Wednesday); Craig Ruttle / Associated Press (Defeated Democrat David Weprin concedes).

NASA still trying to sell that story about U.S. astronauts walking on the moon

NASA says this is Earth's Moon Not the Death Star photographed on 11-24-69 by an inbound Apollo space crew

NASA is apparently still trying to sell the story line that all those 1969-1970s grainy photos of Americans appearing to walk on the moon were genuine and not faked on a sandy sound stage in Burbank.

The space agency has just released a whole new batch of photos it claims were recently taken by a science satellite low-orbiting the moon. And, get this, NASA says these new grainy photos actually show the footprints and tire marks of long ago American visits by crews of Apollo 11, 14 and 17.

Finally, "proof."

NASA, for instance, says the photo above is not a CGI frame of the Death Star, a figment of some wine-soaked imagination north of San Francisco. It says the photo was taken Nov. 24, 1969, by an inbound Apollo space crew.

Flight controllers altered the orbit of the Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter, which has been studying the moon's complete surface, so that its closest point to the surface was 13 miles instead of....

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Here comes Hurricane Irene: How it looks from above

Hurricane Irene as seen from space via Ron Garan NASA 8-22-11

This is what a Category I hurricane looks like as it builds its winds a few days out from the American Eastern seaboard.

It's Hurricane Irene, a churning storm as wide as the distance from Pittsburgh to Chicago with winds building now to above 110 mph, making it a Category 3 storm.

Residents along the U.S. coast are preparing. It's predicted to hit the Carolinas on Saturday and move northward over the weekend, possibly ruining the Sunday dedication of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. monument on Washington's Mall.

NASA astronaut Ron Garan aboard the International Space Station had a good view from space 220 miles above the meteorological turmoil. And here it is.

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-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Ron Garan / NASA.

Michelle Obama comes prepared for a beach day with Barack

Michelle Obama tunes out her husband with an iPod on their island vacation 8-21-11

Ah, family vacation time in an American August, a chance for members to rediscover the joys and pleasures of being together, whether they like it or not.

As soon as President Obama escaped his new million-dollar bus in the Midwest and the latest disappointing economic numbers came out, the Democrat flew off to tony Martha's Vineyard to join his family, extended family and staff doing expensive things in a different place.

Some people thought such a venture revealed a political tone deafness for the elected elite to be seen enjoying off-shore luxury while two-thirds of American voters tell pollsters the country is on the wrong track with the Real Good Talker in charge. But, hey, Yes, We Can. So, Yes, He Did.

Sunday morning the Secret Service packed all the Obamas in secure cars and headed for a private ocean beach.

Reuters' sharp-eyed Kevin Lamarque snapped this revealing photo of the first couple in the car tuned out from each other during this quality time family foray.

Of course, Michelle Obama could have her iPod crammed with hubby's recent speeches.

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Obama's new fundraising meme: 2008 was really bad so I need a second term

On Day 938 of his presidency, Obama says he'll have a jobs plan in a month or so

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters (the vacationing Obamas head to the beach for some quality together time, Aug. 21).

Obama's bus tour themes: Washington (not him) really screwed up and we should spend a lot more

Obama rides his new Bus A8-11

President Obama did some real good talking the last few days out there in Iowa and Minnesota and Illinois. Well, he did a lot of talking anyway.

He made it sound as if he's been living in Peosta or Atkinson himself, the way he went on about all the misbehavior going on back there in Washington, D.C., where he has lived since January of 2005 and, since January of 2009, at taxpayer expense in the White House.

The way he described those D.C. political shenanigans, who would want to spend $745 million of someone else's money to get there? Or $1 billion more to stay there? Or pay $37.1 million of others' money to 464 aides to help him work there.

Here are a few things said by the Democrat who just spent weeks negotiating spending cuts. See if this sounds like a chastened spender whose credit rating just got downgraded:

When folks tell you that we’ve got a choice between jobs now or dealing with our debt crisis, they’re wrong. They’re wrong. We can’t afford to just do one or the other. We’ve got to do both....

We’ve got over $2 trillion worth of repairs that need to be made around the country, and I know there are some right here in this county and right here in this state. And we’ve got a lot of construction workers that are out of work when the housing bubble went bust, and interest rates are low, and contractors are ready to come in on time, under budget -- this is a great time for us to rebuild our roads and our bridges, and locks in the Mississippi, and our seaports and our airports....

I think to myself, you know what, if folks in Washington were carrying out their responsibilities the way you’re carrying out your responsibilities, we’d be just fine. We would be just fine. (Applause.)...

Of course, those folks in Washington including him are not in Washington. Congress is on recess, the same time-off Obama will begin today on another island vacation.Obama Eating Ice Cream in Iowa 8-16-11

Now, briefly a few words about the president's fancy new armored bus. Some media folks thought they had a gotcha moment because here Obama is out touting the need for more American jobs, which everybody knows, but Obama is still saying anyway.

And it turns out the fancy $1.1 million bus was ordered through a Tennessee company but built in Canada, America's hat.

This can happen because of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the kind of agreement Obama is now touting with Colombia and South Korea as a U.S.-job maker.

Obama probably forgot about that huge labor forum in Soldier Field four years ago last week.

He'd been coming under attack by Hillary Clinton and other primary opponents as full of talk but too inexperienced, too young, too naive to become president. To make his bones before the union members, Obama said that in the White House:

"I would immediately call the president of Mexico, the president of Canada, to try to amend NAFTA, because I think that we can get labor agreements in that agreement right now."

As with closing Guantanamo, Obama hasn't really gotten around to that yet. And as any Yale graduate would know, Canada doesn't have a president. It has a prime minister.

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Obama's penchant for speeches now sounding hollower by the word

On Day 938 of his presidency, Obama says he'll have a jobs plan in a month or so

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Tannen Maury / EPA (Obama rides in his new bus); Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press (Obama downs an Iowa ice cream cone).

On Day 938 of his presidency, Obama says he'll have a jobs plan in a month or so

Obama's new armored Bus 8-16-11

OK, let's see if we can sort out this White House jobs package hocus-pocus because President Obama is counting on us not to. And no one wants to fail to not disappoint him:

Last winter in his State of the Union address, oblivious to the gathering storm over the nation's national debt, the Democrat proposed massive new spending and loan programs -- he calls it investments -- to extend unemployment benefits and payroll tax cuts and to rebuild the nation's roads, bridges and other union-made infrastructure kinds of stuff. He had a plan he would share soon.

When in trouble, give a speech. Say, early September. Before all this Rick Perry 40% of the nation's jobs come from Texas stuff really gets going.

The president has mentioned the plan often, despite widespread skepticism due to the lack of stimulus that came from spending $787 billion in stimulus money that was for sure going to hold national unemployment at 8%, but it's now 9.1%.

So, perhaps another such plan might work.Obama's armored Bus Motorcade takes over the road in Iowa 8-16-11

As this administration sees reality, those Republican tea party terrorists kind of hijacked the marathon talks about raising the national debt ceiling, stubbornly and unreasonably making the debt negotiations over reducing the debt and  spending rather than over spending spending.

As a result, it's all their fault that Standard & Poor's lowered the federal government's credit rating for the first time because the rating agency didn't see sufficient cuts.

The next day after the spending cuts agreement, with his obedient cabinet in attendance as witnesses, Obama said, yes, spending cuts were important as long as they didn't affect vast investments for the future to extend unemployment benefits and payroll tax cuts and to rebuild the nation's roads, bridges and other union-made infrastructure kinds of stuff.

Other Democrats are designing job plans costing $200 billion per year.

Because the country hasn't heard enough of Obama calling on Congress to do things and his job approval touched a new low of 39%, he laid on a three-day campaign swing through Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois this week at taxpayer-expense because the White House declared it an official trip.Obama Eating Ice Cream cone Dewitt Iowa 8-16-11

Because Obama wanted to hear from regular Americans, he's encased in an armored Darth Vader bus with heavily-tinted windows so no one can see him looking out at regular Americans.

And as the commander-in-chief meanders through the Heartland in this black vehicle, the entire road in both directions is cleared of regular Americans for the president's entourage and motorcade to pass by safely.

The bus is reported to cost about $1 million, which works out to about $333,000 per day for this foray among regular Americans.

On its second day out Tuesday Obama's bus made a couple of stops to chat with high school athletes and to acquire healthy presidential provisions -- one for ice cream cones (POTUS got vanilla) and another to load several bags of popcorn.

At his speaking engagements, Obama stressed the need to extend payroll tax cuts and to rebuild the nation's roads, bridges and other union-made infrastructure kinds of stuff. Also some free-trade agreements. This was a repetition of what he had said on the first day of his Grand Ground Tour.

On his 938th day in office President Obama also said he would soon have a completed jobs plan. Maybe early fall, something like that. And he complained, "We could do even more if Congress is willing to get in the game."

Tomorrow with all this heavy work in his rear-view mirror, the president is scheduled to join his family on Martha's Vineyard for a nine-day vacation.

RELATED:

Bus tour is official, Obama claims, so taxpayers will pay

Americans downgrade Congress to historic low 13% job approval

Obama's penchant for speeches now sounding hollower by the word

-- Andrew Malcolm

For unpredictable commentary on politics, follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or click this: @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available on Kindle. Use the ReTweet buttons above to share any item with family and friends.

Photos: Jason Reed / Reuters (Obama's new armored bus, Obama's armored bus motorcade takes over another Iowa highway and Obama downs an ice cream cone in Dewitt, Iowa).

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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