Lebron said it was about getting rings, and without question winning championships is a big reason the NBA’s biggest star — a member of the panoply of first-name-only stars that includes Michael, Shaq, Larry and Magic — is leaving Cleveland for Miami. James said he wants to win, and it appears the Heat is poised to do so with him, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade in the fold for next season. But it’s always about the money, too. And while there’s lots of comment about the $4 million Lebron reportedly left on the table by spurning Cleveland’s best offer, a closer look proves appearances are deceiving. Various sources note Lebron will save between $4 million and $5 million in taxes, because Miami doesn’t have Cleveland’s city tax and Florida doesn’t have Ohio’s income tax. Good for Lebron. The teaching point is that a superstar’s exit underscores how individuals and businesses often decide where to base themselves. Shall we locate in State “A” with city and state taxes, or State “B” with no taxes? No need for instant replay to make that call.
From the “What the Heck Was He Thinking?” Dept.: NASA Administrator Charles Bolden recently told Al Jazeera his “foremost” mission from President Obama is to “find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations, to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science and engineering.” Curious. Lots of Americans probably assumed NASA is about space exploration — maybe a mission to Mars. Nope. It’s Muslim outreach, Muslim validation. Fox News’ Brit Hume said Bolden’s revelation sounded like what you say when your agency is broke and needs outside partners. Maybe that’s it. And maybe, too, Bolden’s remarks were playing to the Al Jazeera audience. But for the naysayers among us, there’s a sneaking feeling the comments are part of Team Obama’s “we are the world” strategy, where mutual interest trumps all things and everyone gets a juice box after the game — a far cry from when President Kennedy started a full-court press to beat the Russians to the moon.
U.S. Supreme Court nominations bring out the partisanship in just about everyone in Washington, and Elena Kagan’s nomination is no different. Yet no matter how liberal Kagan might be, she — like Justice Sonia Sotomayor before her — is set to replace a liberal member of the court (Justice John Paul Stevens). Her fight is nothing like what would result if President Obama were picking the replacement for one of the court’s conservatives. Don’t hold your breath. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, 74 and a 22-year court veteran, is telling family and friends he isn’t retiring until after Obama’s first term, at the earliest, according to the New York Daily News. The Reagan appointee apparently wants to stay on until the next conservative president takes office, which would maintain the court’s current 5-4 conservative/liberal makeup. The other conservatives on the court also figure to be around awhile. Chief Justice John Roberts (55), and Justices Samuel Alito (60) and Clarence Thomas (62) are spring chickens relative to high court precedent. Justice Antonin Scalia, like Kennedy, is 74 but shows no sign of slowing down or restlessness. Barring something unforeseen the court’s current ideological mix figures to be in place for some time yet.
The long-running battle between Democrats and Republicans over judicial nominations — especially those to the U.S. Supreme Court — has had its Hatfields-and-McCoys moments. One of those was the Democrats’ filibuster of Miguel Estrada’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 2003. It was the first time a judicial nominee with clear support of a Senate majority was blocked by a filibuster. Republicans haven’t forgotten Estrada’s treatment, and it was interesting to hear current Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan talk about Estrada during her confirmation hearing. Asked by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, whether Estrada should’ve been confirmed, Kagan said she thought so. “You would have voted for him, wouldn’t you have?” Coburn asked. “Yes, I hope I would have anyway,” Kagan replied, adding, “Who knows what it feels like to be one of you guys.” It won’t close the door on Estrada; no past wrong or slight ever is forgotten in a blood feud. But it’s something.
Though the White House no doubt will trumpet an improvement in the unemployment rate in June — down to 9.5 percent from May’s 9.7 percent stat — the monthly jobs report is a worrying figure for President Obama and Democrats four months out from the mid-term congressional elections. The Labor Department reports an overall decline of 125,000 jobs in June, reflecting the loss of 225,000 federal census workers who’ve finished their work. Analysts knew the census positions would be lost but hoped the private sector would make up for it. As for the jobless rate, the improved figure is due to 652,000 people who’ve left the labor market. Experts say the statistics reflect a labor market that remains sluggish as employers remain reluctant to add jobs. Again, not the kind of economic news Obama and his allies are looking for.