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Chernynkaya On February - 25 - 2011

Hello! Here is a roundup of some of the most interesting items from a very few of my favorite sites. I hope you find them interesting.

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TAKE ACTION

 

Join our nationwide display of progressive solidarity.

For too long, conservatives have dominated the debate over the economy. But now they’ve gone too far. And progressives need to stand up together and say “Enough!”

That is why this Saturday we’re joining with our friends at MoveOn and dozens of progressive organizations in one massive, nationwide display of progressive solidarity for Wisconsin.

We’ve joined with allies across the country to organize rallies in major cities — including every state capital — this Saturday at noon.

We’ll speak out to demand an end to the attacks on public services and workers’ rights across the country. We’ll demand investment to create decent jobs. And we’ll demand that the rich and powerful pay their fair share.

Will you join us Saturday at noon? Sign up to join your local rally here.

 

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Media Ignores Majority Of Health Care Decisions To Focus On Judges Striking Down Affordable Care Act

Yesterday, the Kaiser Family Foundation released a poll showing that 22 percent of the country incorrectly believes that the Affordable Care Act has been repealed and another 26 percent are either unsure or unwilling to say. With the press going out of their way to misinform the public about the state of the law, it’s easy to guess why the public has become so misinformed.

Update The Washington Post’s Ombudsman can be e-mailed at ombu...@washpost.com and politely asked why his paper believes that opinions upholding the Affordable Care Act are less worthy of coverage than outlier decisions striking down the law.

 

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MONOPOLY: The Koch Bros. Game – Infographic

The Koch Brothers and Scott Walker are playing games with our democracy – we need to investigate the Walker-Koch connection NOW.

[Chart showing the reach of the Kochs.]

 

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STOP GIVING YOUR MONEY TO PHONE COMPANIES THAT BANKROLL RIGHT-WING POLITICIANS.

From CREDO Action:

If you care about progressive social change, you might not realize that your phone company may be undermining everything you’re doing to change the world. Is your mobile provider supporting politicians directly opposed to your values?

  • If you’re with AT&T, you should know that they gave a whopping $386,000 to members of the House Tea Party Caucus during the 2010 election cycle(1).
  • AT&T also repeatedly contributed to Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, the chief sponsor of House legislation that would redefine rape and severely restrict women’s access to reproductive health care(2).
  • If you’re with Verizon Wireless, you should know that they contributed to the campaigns of Tea Party-backed Senators Rand Paul, Pat Toomey, Marco Rubio and Mike Lee(3).

So maybe it’s time to sign up with the one mobile provider that shares your progressive values and promotes the causes you believe in.

Since 1985, CREDO has raised more than $65 million for progressive nonprofits like United for a Fair Economy, Planned Parenthood, Doctors Without Borders, Earthjustice and the ACLU. And our CREDO Action network of 1.8 million activists fights for progressive causes like net neutrality, marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose.

 

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MEDIA


Google Tweaks Algorithm To Favor Original Content

The wizards at Google have altered their mysterious algorithm to minimize the presence of content farm material—nonoriginal writing that is cranked out on a massive scale by media companies to generate ad revenue. (Several examples of content farm articles: “How to understand Scorpio men”; “Does the calla lily have symbolic meaning?”; and “What are the dangers of drinking balsamic vinegar?”) By ranking original content over internet spam, this little tweak is going to have a major impact on the way search results are organized. Google announced the news in an post on the official company blog last night. “Many of the changes we make are so subtle that very few people notice them,” Google reps wrote. “But in the last day or so we launched a pretty big algorithmic improvement to our ranking—a change that noticeably impacts 11.8 percent of our queries—and we wanted to let people know what’s going on.” Google didn’t mention content farms explicitly in the post, instead referring only to  “low quality” sites. Speaking to the Guardian, Larry Fitzgibbon, executive vice president of content farm Demand Media, noted that the changes hadn’t yet made an impact on company revenue. But, he added, “it’s impossible to speculate how these or any changes made by Google impact any online business in the long term.”

 

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Fox News Chief, Roger Ailes, Urged Employee to Lie, Records Show

Fox News President Roger Ailes urged a former employee to lie to federal investigators, a federal crime, court documents obtained by the New York Times show. Ailes urged a publishing executive to lie about her affair with Bernard Kerik, the disgraced former New York City police commissioner, when he was being considered to head the Department of Homeland Security.

Depending on the specifics, the taped conversation could possibly rise to the level of conspiring to lie to federal officials, a federal crime, but prosecutors rarely pursue such cases, said Daniel C. Richman, a Columbia University law professor and a former federal prosecutor.

Of course, if it were to be released, the tape could be highly embarrassing to Mr. Ailes, a onetime adviser to Richard M. Nixon whom critics deride as a partisan who engineers Fox News coverage to advance Republicans and damage Democrats, something Fox has long denied. Mr. Ailes also had close ties with Mr. Giuliani, whom he advised in his first mayoral race. Mr. Giuliani officiated at Mr. Ailes’s wedding and intervened on his behalf when Fox News Channel was blocked from securing a cable station in the city.

 

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Rachel Maddow Defends Her Reporting To Politifact, Takes On Her Anti-Gay Critics (VIDEO)

TRMS correspondence with Politifact

February 21, 2011

Dear Mr. Umhoefer and Mr. Borowski:

I’m writing to request that you make a correction to your Truth-O-Meter post of Thursday, February 17th, 2011.

http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2011/feb/18/rachel-maddow/rachel-maddow-says-wisconsin-track-have-budget-sur/

In your effort to challenge a Capital Times editorial you have mistakenly ascribed the argument therein to Rachel Maddow. In so doing, you have half-quoted her in one instance, misquoted her in another, and misrepresented her overall.

Ms. Maddow is well aware of the Wisconsin budget shortfall. She said so just a few sentences after the line you decided to single out for “truthometry”:

“Even though the state had started the year on track to have a budget surplus—now, there is, in fact, a $137 million budget shortfall.”

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41669030/ns/msnbc_tv-rachel_maddow_show/

To suggest — as your headline does — that we somehow neglected to report on the state’s real budget shortfall is absolutely erroneous.

We recognize the journalistic value in writing a “where did the budget shortfall come from” piece, but, if you need a bogeyman to deny the existence of the shortfall so you can make your case in the Politifact truth-o-meter gotcha format, you should pick someone who didn’t explicitly say, “there is, in fact, a … shortfall.”

Your piece concludes with this summary:

“There should be no debate on whether or not there is a shortfall … We rate Maddow’s take False”.

There isn’t any debate on that.  To suggest that we stated otherwise — while simultaneously leaving out a key part of our report – is a mistake on your part that damages the reputation of Ms. Maddow and MSNBC and therefore warrants immediate remedy.  Ignoring that Maddow did state the facts correctly is irresponsible and inaccurate and must be corrected.

More egregious, however, is Politifact’s false assertion– stated as fact, over and over again– that our report blamed Governor Scott Walker and the Republican-led legislature for the current budget shortfall:

“She added a kicker that is also making the rounds: Walker and fellow Republicans in the Legislature this year gave away $140 million in business tax breaks — so if there is a deficit projected of $137 million, they created it.”

That synopsis of our report is a complete fabrication. Maddow never stated — not once– that Governor Walker’s tax breaks were the direct cause of the budget deficit this year.

To state unequivocally — as you do here — that Maddow blamed Governor Walker directly for the current budget shortfall is a complete and utter distortion.  And, yet, it’s an assertion that is made repeatedly throughout your post:

“Meanwhile, what about Maddow’s claim — also repeated across the liberal blogosphere — that Walker’s tax-cut bills approved in January are responsible for the $137 million deficit?” … There is, indeed, a projected deficit that required attention, and Walker and GOP lawmakers did not create it … Walker’s tax cuts will boost the size of the projected deficit in the next budget, but they’re not part of this problem and did not create it.”

That claim may exist somewhere in “the liberal blogosphere”, but it was never made in our report.  Not once.  Not only did Maddow say no such thing, you’ve missed her meaning entirely.

The point of that whole introduction to the show is that the budget isn’t the real issue.  That’s why Maddow says, “What’s happening in Wisconsin right now is not about a budget.” The point of the segment is not to correct the governor’s math because it’s not about the budget. She’s not trying to find blame for the budget shortfall because –- again — it’s not about the budget.  Maddow’s argument is that one way we know it’s not about the budget is that the governor was willing to give away roughly the same amount as this year’s possible shortfall. So, regardless of what the Governor says, the shortfall must not be so dire:

MADDOW: Even though the state had started the year on track to have a budget surplus—now, there is, in fact, a $137 million budget shortfall.  Republican Governor Scott Walker, coincidentally, has given away $140 million worth of business tax breaks since he came into office. Hey, wait.  That‘s about exactly the size of the shortfall.

If you were confused about the point of the segment — despite Maddow’s emphatic, repeated assertions that the budget was being used as a façade to hide the real intention of Governor Walker and Wisconsin Republicans to fatally weaken state employee unions — you might have contacted MSNBC or The Rachel Maddow Show for clarification.  You did not do so and instead published a dramatically inaccurate summary of Maddow’s views.

The damage already done by your article over the weekend will not likely be undone, but at least the record going forward can be corrected. We also ask that you remove the Maddow item from the Politifact Wisconsin feed that is populating the widget on the Journal Sentinel All Politics Blog – or at the very least that it be adjusted to not be misleading.

http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/news/allpolitics.html

Best wishes,

Bill Wolff
Vice President of Primetime Programming
Executive Producer, The Rachel Maddow Show

Letter #2 after the jump…


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After Progressive Pressure, Sunday Show Will Feature Labor Leader

Today, ThinkProgressandothers noted that the Sunday morning news shows did not feature any labor movement leaders or members last week — and none had been booked for this weekend — despite the ongoing protests in a host of states. A Main Street Movement of workers, students, and lawmakers has come together to push back on conservatives attempting to strip collective bargaining rights from public employees, yet the Sunday shows hadn’t see fit to include any of their voices, instead opting for a slew of conservative commentators and Republican governors. However, ThinkProgress has learned that NBC’s Meet the Press today booked AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka for Sunday. We applaud NBC’s decision and encourage the other networks (ABC, CBS, Fox News, and CNN) to also give a voice to working people.

 

 

POLITICS


Even GOP activists are turning against Sarah Palin

[No, they haven’t come to their senses—they think Bachman is better].

As Sarah Palin wonders whether to run for president, she might want to talk to people in places such as South Carolina.

She’d find her star fading, and her prospects daunting.

Republicans still like her, but now they openly question whether she could or should be nominated for president, let alone elected.

At a recent gathering in South Carolina, the site of a crucial early presidential primary next year, party activists said the former Alaska governor didn’t have the experience, the knowledge of issues or the ability to get beyond folksy slang and bumper-sticker generalities that they think is needed to win and govern.

Many are shopping for someone else. They’re looking at Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., for example, and seeing what they call a smarter, more experienced candidate who’s equally as conservative.

“Sarah Palin with a brain,” said Gail Moore, a Republican from Columbia.

 

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Pulling Apart

Congress was more polarized last year than in any other year since National Journal began compiling its vote ratings. Overlap between the parties is disappearing.

For only the second time since 1982, when NJ began calculating the ratings in their current form, every Senate Democrat compiled a voting record more liberal than every Senate Republican—and every Senate Republican compiled a voting record more conservative than every Senate Democrat. …

In 2010, the vote ratings show, the ideological consolidation was greater among Republicans than Democrats. Almost without exception House Republicans generated strongly conservative voting records, regardless of the demography or political leanings of their districts. By contrast, House Democrats from districts that voted for John McCain in 2008 or are dominated by working-class whites produced much less liberal records than their colleagues from districts that strongly supported Barack Obama or are more racially diverse and well educated. In the Senate, just eight Republicans notched a composite conservative score of less than 70, while 21 Democrats received a liberal ranking of less than 70.

Bennett says that the polarization evident in the ratings has produced a Congress more divided than the country. “There’s been a lot of sorting out that has gone on the electorate, and there’s no question that districts and states are brighter hues of red and blue than they used to be,” he says. “But in aggregate, the plurality of the electorate is still moderate, and they are the most underrepresented category of voters at the moment.”

 

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Mitch Daniels Talks Past Drug Use, Arrest

After Mitch Daniels ’71 was arrested, indicted and convicted on charges of drug use as an undergraduate in May 1970, he said that he thought his aspiring political career was doomed. “Any goal I might have had for competing for public office were shot,” he told The Daily Princetonian in September 1988.

More than 20 years later, Daniels, now the governor of Indiana, has proved his own nay-saying wrong, emerging as a national political figure that many speculate will make a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. His four years at Princeton, most prominently marked by the legal problems of his junior year, reveal a complicated man that bridged seeming contradictions in both his academic and extracurricular lives.

After Mitch Daniels ’71 was arrested, indicted and convicted on charges of drug use as an undergraduate in May 1970, he said that he thought his aspiring political career was doomed. “Any goal I might have had for competing for public office were shot,” he told The Daily Princetonian in September 1988.

More than 20 years later, Daniels, now the governor of Indiana, has proved his own nay-saying wrong, emerging as a national political figure that many speculate will make a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. His four years at Princeton, most prominently marked by the legal problems of his junior year, reveal a complicated man that bridged seeming contradictions in both his academic and extracurricular lives.

 

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All About Chris Christie

[I'm telling you--this guy is VERY dangerous.]

The centerpiece of Christie’s frenzied agenda, which passed the Democratic-­controlled Legislature last July, is a strict cap on local property taxes, which will be allowed to rise no more than 2 percent every year. When combined with a reduction in state aid, what this means, practically speaking, is that New Jersey’s townships and cities will have to hold the line when negotiating municipal labor contracts if they want to remain solvent, because they can’t rely on either their residents or the state for more money.

The crux of Christie’s argument is that public-sector contracts have to reflect what has happened in the private sector, where guaranteed pensions and free health care are becoming relics.

Union leaders, on the other hand, are howling. The heads of the police and firefighters’ unions say that Christie’s cuts to local aid have already cost the state several hundred firemen and police officers, and they warn that his 2 percent cap on property taxes will have dire effects on public safety, as more towns and cities try to shave their payrolls to conform with the cap. “I don’t think they’re going to get it until the body bags pile up,” Anthony Wieners, president of the police union, warns darkly.

Leaders of the teachers’ union, meanwhile, are apoplectic about Christie’s proposed changes to their pension plan, which they say will penalize educators for the irresponsibility of politicians. After all, they point out, it wasn’t the unions who chose not to fund the pension year in and year out, and yet it’s their members who will have to recalibrate their retirements if the benefits are cut.

When I made this same point to Christie, he simply shook his head. What’s done is done, he told me, and it’s time for someone to tell these workers the truth, which is that the state is simply never going to have the money to make good on its commitments.

The union maintains that Christie’s plea was mere gimmickry, because the layoffs would have happened even if its local chapters acceded to the demand for a freeze. But even if this is true, it would seem to reflect a staggering lack of political calculation. Had the teachers agreed to take the short-term hit by acquiescing to a temporary freeze, it would have been worlds harder for Christie to then run around the state demanding longer-term concessions on pensions and benefits. And when the layoffs did materialize, the governor would most likely have shouldered most of the blame. Instead, the whole affair seemed to prove Christie’s point about the union’s self-involvement, and it enabled him to blame the teachers themselves for the layoffs.

 

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Does Obama Need Ohio?

But there is a plausible electoral path without Ohio. Add one or two of Virginia, North Carolina, or Colorado to the base of states that Democrats have won in each of the last five presidential elections, and you have an electoral college majority. Just because Ohio used to be more Democratic than those states doesn’t make it a more likely prospect today. Right now, Obama is doing better in those three states than in Ohio. So, what’s the problem?

Now, Galston sort of implies that if Obama is running the kind of campaign that won’t play in Ohio, it will hurt him in other Midwest states that he really does need. He is arguing, in other words, for a campaign aimed at blue collar whites:

Barack Obama’s path to reelection runs through Ohio and the Midwest, not around them. And that means taking seriously the concerns of the voters throughout the region who deserted Democrats in droves last year—Americans unlikely to be moved by an agenda of high-speed rail, cleaner energy, and educational reforms that rarely seem to yield good jobs for themselves or their children. Instead, ratcheting up efforts to boost exports would work better; so would toughening our line against the excesses of China’s economic nationalism.

For years, Democratic-affiliated strategists have been split between those urging a focus on socially conservative, economically populist downscale voters and those urging a focus on socially liberal, economically moderate upscale voters. These arguments generally take the reductive form of defining one segment of the electorate as the key swing vote and then urging a party to tailor its policies toward that constituency. Galston seems to be making two, mutually exclusive forms of this argument at once.

 

 

UNIONS


Primer on Critical 11th Day Of Wisconsin Budget Standoff

If GOP union-busters continue to refuse to compromise today, they will cost the state $165 million — more than the entire 2011 budget deficit.

 

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Wis. Assembly passes bill taking away union rights

The vote put an end to three straight days of punishing debate, but the political standoff over the bill is far from over.

The measure now goes to the Senate, where minority Democrats have been missing for a week, preventing a vote in that chamber.

The governor has said that if the bill does not pass by Friday, the state will miss a deadline to refinance $165 million of debt and will be forced to start issuing layoff notices next week. However, the deadline may not as strict as he says.

The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau said earlier this week that the debt refinancing could be pushed back as late as Tuesday to achieve the savings Walker wants.

Based on a similar refinancing in 2004, about two weeks are needed after the bill becomes law to complete the deal.

That means if the bill is adopted by the middle of next week, the state can still meet a March 16 deadline, the Fiscal Bureau said.

 

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Main Street Movement Erupts as Thousands Across Country Protest War on the Middle Class

GEORGIA: Hundreds of workers demonstrated outside the Georgia capitol yesterday, declaring their solidarity with striking Wisconsin workers. Some demonstrators wore “cheesehead” hats, a clear reference to a cultural tradition in Wisconsin.

IDAHO: Hundreds of teachers marched against legislation that would layoff 770 teachers and leave schools severely understaffed.

INDIANA: In Indiana, House Democrats fled the state, preventing a vote on legislation that would enact “right-to-work” laws that would’ve crippled the right to organize. After the House Democrats took off, hundreds of workers and students marched into the capitol building and staged a massive sit-in, pledging not to leave until the radical legislation was withdrawn. Yesterday, Indiana’s Main Street Movement scored its first victory as Republican lawmakers withdrew the anti-union bill. Indiana Democrats are refusing to come back until right-wing legislators withdraw legislation to undermine the state’s public education system.

MONTANA: More than a thousand “conservationists, sportsmen, firefighters, teachers, correctional officers and others” descended on the Montana capitol to protest against “unprecedented GOP attacks on public services and education and laws that protect land, air, water and wildlife.” Students carried signs that read “Keep Us In School,” protesting crippling cuts to the state’s education system.

OHIO: In Ohio, thousands of ordinary Americans who rely on the right to organize to earn good, middle class incomes are facing off with Wisconsin-style legislation backed by Gov. John Kasich (R). Nearly 10,000 protesters demonstrated in Columbus, Ohio, gaining the support of former Gov. Ted Strickland (D-OH) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH). So many demonstrators showed up that the Ohio Highway Patrol was ordered to lock the doors of the state capitol to stop more demonstrators from getting into the building.

TENNESSEE: Hundreds of Tennesseans gathered to protest a bill that would completely strip Tennesee teachers of collective bargaining rights. “What you have right now is 300 or so of us, standing and asking the state legislature to focus on what the priorities are right now, instead of attacking working people,” said Mary Mancini, executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action. “If they listen to us, well then that’s great. … If not, I can see this thing growing.”

– WASHINGTON: 2,000 demonstrators in Olympia, Washington, marched against the state’s proposed budget cuts that would harm students and middle class Washingtonians and in solidarity with workers in Wisconsin. “If Scott Walker succeeds in ending worker rights in Wisconsin, the birthplace of public servants’ liberty, it could happen here,” said Federation of State Employees President Carol Dotlich.

 

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Police Chief: Gov. Walker call ‘troubling’

The Madison police chief joined the growing ranks of citizens who want an explanation from Gov. Scott Walker on his fake Koch call.

“I would like to hear more of an explanation from Governor Walker as to what exactly was being considered, and to what degree it was discussed by his cabinet members,” said Chief Noble Wray. “I find it very unsettling and troubling that anyone would consider creating safety risks for our citizens and law enforcement officers.”

In the 20-minute chat, Walker admitted he considered planting troublemakers in the huge crowd of peaceful protesters at the State Capitol.

 

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As Goes Wisconsin… So Goes the Nation

Joe Klein makes a decent case about public unions—especially teachers:

The teachers, especially, became a reactionary force when it came to school reform — opposing charter schools (in Detroit, the union blocked a $125 million private contribution to build five new charter schools) and merit pay; they lashed themselves to strict seniority rules more appropriate to assembly-line workers than would-be professionals. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been trying to negotiate a deal whereby layoffs, if necessary, would not be made on a last-hired, first-fired basis. “So you’d rather have them lay off the more experienced teachers?” a Wisconsin teacher asked me. No: teachers should be hired and fired and paid according to their ability. “But who judges that?” the teacher asked. Their employers do, I replied. The teacher scoffed; the idea that school principals should be able to decide who should be part of their workforce seems incomprehensible to most teachers — and yet that sort of accountability is at the heart of any system that aspires to excellence.

The strongest arguments against public employees’ unions lie there: in their power to block reform and strangle good governance. Clearly, there needs to be a rebalancing of pension and health care benefits that puts public employees more in line with the conditions that prevail in the private sector. But those changes must be accompanied by the recognition that a great many public employees are severely underpaid.

 

BUT:

Leader of Teachers’ Union Urges Dismissal Overhaul

A plan by Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, would give tenured teachers who are rated unsatisfactory a maximum of one school year to improve.

 

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Wisconsin Governor May Have Violated Labor Law in Koch Call

“There clearly are potential ethics violations, and there are potential election-law violations and there are a lot of what look to me like labor-law violations,” said Peg Lautenschlager, a Democrat who served as Wisconsin’s attorney general after serving for many years as a US Attorney. “I think that the ethics violations are something the [state] Government Accountability Board should look into because  they are considerable. He is on tape talking with someone who he thinks is the funder of an independent political action committee to purchase advertising to benefit Republican legislators who are nervous about taking votes on legislation he sees as critical to his political success.”

 

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Shock Doctrine, U.S.A.

Paul Krugman:

And then there’s this: “Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state-owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).”

What’s that about? The state of Wisconsin owns a number of plants supplying heating, cooling, and electricity to state-run facilities (like the University of Wisconsin). The language in the budget bill would, in effect, let the governor privatize any or all of these facilities at whim. Not only that, he could sell them, without taking bids, to anyone he chooses. And note that any such sale would, by definition, be “considered to be in the public interest.”

If this sounds to you like a perfect setup for cronyism and profiteering — remember those missing billions in Iraq?

 

HEALTH CARE REFORM

The fear-mongering meets reality

[A] new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation that more than one in five Americans are under the impression that healthcare reform has already been repealed — and another quarter aren’t sure if the law is in effect. In other words, a law that opponents billed as a sinister socialist plot that would fundamentally alter and disrupt Americans’ daily lives has been in effect for months now — and nearly half the country doesn’t know it.

Basically, the numbers really shouldn’t be surprising when you consider how disengaged most Americans are when it comes to politics and policy. This doesn’t mean that the opposition to the new law — which Kaiser finds is increasing slightly, mainly because of an uptick in opposition to it among elderly voters — isn’t real. It is. Some of it is probably from well-informed voters who have basic philosophical objections to the law. A lot of it is probably the result of partisan loyalty — Republican voters taking their cues from the voices they listen to and trust. But very little of it (maybe none of it?) seems to be based on people’s lives actually being disrupted by the new law.

But outside the GOP base, the law itself is no real threat to Obama’s 2012 standing. “ObamaCare” is something that — if prompted — voters might object to if there are other factors (like high economic anxiety) in place that make them inclined to view the president and his policies negatively. But it won’t keep them from flocking to him if economic conditions are improving come 2012. Since they won’t feel the law’s impact (or won’t necessarily make the connection to the new law even if they do feel an impact), the concept of “healthcare reform” will likely function in 2012 as a Rorschach test: Voters will see what they’re in the mood to see.

 

 

BUDGET

 

How to kill off economic growth

New economic data prove, once again, that now is the wrong time to point the flamethrower at government spending

In the U.S., State and local government finances are going to be in much worse shape in 2011 than they were in 2010, as federal government aid to plug budget holes caused by the recession dries up. On top of that, the only real question about the result of negotiations on budget cuts between Republicans and Democrats is just how irresponsible the resulting slash-and-burn devastation will be. Throw in the likely negative impact of rising oil prices, and the downside risks to the U.S. economy suddenly seem to be burgeoning.

 

***

AN ECONOMIC MODEL IN PRACTICE….

The previous estimates found that the U.S. economy picked up a little speed in the fourth quarter of 2010 — October through December — experiencing 3.2% GDP growth.

Revised estimates put the number a little lower. That’s discouraging, of course, but for political purposes, it’s worth appreciating why growth was more sluggish than originally thought.

Deeper spending cuts by state and local governments weighed down U.S. economic growth in the final three months of last year. The government’s revised estimate for the October-December quarter illustrates how growing state budget crises could hold back the economic recovery.

There’s no doubt that 2.8% growth isn’t nearly good enough, but it still showed incremental progress — the third quarter of 2010 was better than the second, and the fourth was better than the third.

What I found important about this, though, is the fact that the economy would have been stronger in the fourth quarter had it not been for “spending cuts by state and local governments.” Those cuts were avoidable — the federal government could have intervened to prevent them — but Republican policy dictates that such intervention is outrageous and unacceptable. The GOP wants these cuts to occur; it’s the foundation of the party’s economic policy.

Update: All of this, by the way, comes against the backdrop of independent estimates showing that GOP-approved cuts would push the U.S. economy back towards a recession — data that Republicans haven’t even tried to refute.

 

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Boehner’s Offer to The White House Is This: Nothing

As an illustration of what I was saying below, check out the details on the House GOP’s proposed compromise to avoid a shutdown with a stopgap spending measure:

House Republicans told Senate Democrats on Wednesday that they would agree to a temporary spending bill to avert a government shutdown next week only if the measure began instituting House-passed cuts on a pro-rated basis. [...] Democratic aides said the short-term proposal was likely to be deemed unacceptable since it simply reflected a staggered version of the $61 billion in cuts approved by the House on Saturday in a proposal Senate Democrats already oppose.

They’re literally offering nothing.

 

***

 

Policy Paralysis

How John Boehner made a government shutdown inevitable. [It’s about Planned Parenthood, among other things.]

A shutdown can be avoided if all sides agree to pass a short-term funding bill, lasting a month or less, while negotiations take place on the final measure. But Boehner has said he wouldn’t pass a “clean” extension that would keep current funding levels and policy in place during those talks—almost certainly because he doesn’t have the votes for it. And last week’s amendment frenzy made finding the votes even harder

When Republicans brought the funding bill to the House floor, Boehner allowed for the introduction of hundreds of amendments, instead of following the usual procedure of having the House Rules Committee screen out most amendments. For Republican members of the House, it was a great opportunity to fulfill campaign promises by authoring amendments, many of which were approved, on all sorts of policy issues. Indeed, instead of just raising or lowering spending levels for federal agencies, these amendments prohibit the government from using any funds to carry out laws that House Republicans don’t like. So, for example, the funding bill now tells the EPA that it cannot regulate greenhouse gases; it tells the FCC that it may not implement net- neutrality regulations; it cuts funding from Planned Parenthood; and, perhaps most critically, it blocks money needed to carry out health care reform.

This means that, instead of sending the Senate a bill carefully tailored for a major budget fight, the House has delivered one containing a hodgepodge of policy fights. Consequently, it will be much harder to find common ground before time runs out to prevent a shutdown.

But, when it comes to the policy fights over health care reform, environmental regulations, Planned Parenthood, and other issues, there aren’t partial victories available. Democrats won’t give in, and House Republicans won’t either.

 

***

 

What Will the Senate Dems Cut?

Faced with the looming prospect of a government shutdown, Senate Democrats are scrambling to put together their own spending plan for the remaining seven months of the year. Republicans only need four Democratic Senators to defect for them to pass the House GOP’s budget bill, which includes a whopping $61 billion in cuts. Senate Dems, however, are trying to outflank them by putting together their own budget to fund the government for the remainder of 2011.

Senate Dems are aiming to craft a short-term budget bill to satisfy moderates without enraging liberals—legislation that must be passed before March 4, when the government runs out of money. Democrats are reportedly going to propose some $41 billion in cuts “to avoid the blame if the government shuts down, showing that they are willing to compromise—unlike their adversaries,” Politico‘s Manu Raju reports.

[The strategy is not without risk. Democrats continue to move closer to the Republican position, in the hopes of appearing reasonable and open to compromise. This, in turn, would make the GOP even more responsible for a shutdown, should it occur next week. At the same time, if House Republican leaders see Dems already making concessions -- something the GOP has refused to do -- it wouldn't be surprising if Boehner & Co. continued to hold out and see how much further Democrats would be willing to go.]

 

RELATED:

Obama’s Cold Cut

[The cuts are not the way the press has reported.]

National Journal‘s Marc Ambinder was the first to report the LIHEAP cuts, which senior administration officials and others familiar with budget discussions have since discussed with several news outlets. These officials say that the cut is not as bad as it sounds: The Obama proposal, to allocate $2.57 billion, is apparently the same allocation that the program got in fiscal year 2008. And, these sources say, energy prices are actually lower than they were in 2008, when Congress increased the funding. “In real terms, under our budget, LIHEAP funding will be at levels similar to the Clinton Administration,” a senior administration official told Ambinder.

To be sure, it’s likely the Republicans will end up calling for even steeper cuts, not just to LIHEAP but to other worthy programs. And it’s possible that, by proposing less severe cuts now, Obama will gain enough credibility with moderate voters and lawmakers to defeat those proposals.

 

IMMIGRATION

 

Freedom Loving Conservatives Proposing Additional Draconian Immigration Measures

Eliza Gray reports on the sweet scent of liberty in the great state of Arizona:

The omnibus bill would require K-12 schools (public, private, and home school) to report undocumented students to law enforcement. “Without a doubt, if this bill passes,” the Arizona ACLU’s Executive Director Alessandra Soler Meetze told me, “classrooms will be closed to students without legal status.” It would also require a 30-day minimum jail sentence for any undocumented immigrant caught driving a car. Anyone who knowingly lives in public housing with an undocumented immigrant, including a family member, would be forcibly evicted. Business licenses would be suspended for any employers that do not check the legal status of their workers with the federal E-verify system.

Unauthorized migration from Mexico has a documented, verifiable, and theoretically explained downward impact on the wages of recent immigrants from Mexico. But obviously it’s not non-citizen authorized immigrants from Mexico who are pushing this agenda. Nor is it Mexico-born naturalized citizens of the United States, nor native born Arizonans of Mexican ancestry. Instead this insane and inhumane crusade is being spearheaded by people who benefit economically from an influx of people with complementary skills. It’s madness, and it’s tragic.

 

ECONOMY

 

The Politics of Envy

“The worst thing for an unemployed person is another unemployed person. It means more competition for job openings, lower wages and less job security.” The best outcome for everyone would be for government to employ more people during recessions and to keep their wages high. This would reduce competition for jobs and help keep consumption from falling, which is why, in a perfect world, the federal government would be running big deficits in order to fund the ability of states to keep the lights on.

But the fact that this makes sense doesn’t mean most people see it this way. We’re biologically wired to be envious of anyone who has things better than us, and there’s never any shortage of demagogues to stoke that envy. So we demand that if we’re going to suffer, then everyone has to suffer. And guess what? That’s exactly what happens.

 

***

 

Regulators Decry Proposed Cuts in C.F.T.C. Budget

[And when those derivative markets cause another financial crisis, everyone—Left and Right—will blame Obama.]

Top regulators of the derivatives markets are fighting back against a Congressional assault on their budget, arguing that funding cuts will derail a much-needed overhaul of the $600 trillion industry.

The Republican-led House of Representatives passed a federal spending plan on Saturday that would cut the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s budget by a third. The Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, is unlikely to approve such deep cuts, although the agency’s budget remains a target there. In contrast, President Obama has proposed increasing the commission’s budget by more than 80 percent.

 

 

SCIENCE

Scientists Are Cleared of Misuse of Data

An inquiry by a federal watchdog agency found no evidence that scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration manipulated climate data to buttress the evidence in support of global warming, officials said on Thursday.

PRESIDENT OBAMA


Stopping stop loss: Presidential promise kept

President Obama is about to deliver on one of his promises, as his administration ends the military policy known as “stop-loss” next month [March 2011]. Stop-loss is the practice of involuntarily keeping volunteers in the military after their expected discharge dates. The Bush Administration instituted the stop-loss policy in 2001 and expanded it in 2004, as it struggled to maintain troop strength for two wars: Iraq and Afghanistan. Stop-loss expanded again in 2007, when President Bush called for more troops in Iraq.

 

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

Don’t agonize. Organize.–Florence Kennedy

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Written by Chernynkaya

I am an artist and have lived in Los Angeles all of my life, except for a brief hippie period when I lived in SF. I am currently (semi-unwillingly) retired, but have had several careers.

45 Responses so far.

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  1. escribacat says:

    Very informative work, Cher. Thanks. I got caught on the health care reform article about how so many Americans think it’s been repealed. I’m guessing this came from folks glancing at a headline about one of the federal judges who found it unconstitutional. I am surrounded by people in daily life who don’t have a clue what’s going on. Not only that, but they don’t understand why people get impassioned about politics. What a luxury it is, to ignore what’s going on in a democracy. I wish they at least watched the revolutions in Egypt and Libya. They might better appreciate how lucky we are.

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  2. lynettema says:

    I’m from Iowa and watching the WI story closely. We are visiting the Tampa area in FL -- my daughter lives here -- and NO rallies in support of the workers in WI. I am disappointed.

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  3. Haruko Haruhara says:

    Where on Earth did they get the idea that Michele Bachmann is smart?

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  4. ADONAI says:

    Good stuff today, Cher. I like that Google is doing something to combat “content farming”.

    And the Maddow/Politi-Fact thing seems silly. She emphatically declared for 2 solid minutes that Wisconsin was scheduled for a surplus. Declares without hesitation that the state is not bankrupt. Then, she casually mentions the $140 million “shortfall” and blames it on Walker’s tax cuts for corporations which, and I’ve found nothign contrary to this, won’t even be on this budget. I went back and watched her show. Still drawing the same conclusions.

    Maybe Politi-Fact did take her out of context. But just barely. She didn’t exactly make it clear that Wisconsin was in a shithole because of it’s own stupid spending. If the Republicans are taking advantage of it to further their own goals, then Dems need to keep doing what they’re doing. Politics is a bitch, but I can’t lay the failures of an entire state at the feet of one man who just got elected.

    I’m done rambling now.

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    • Chernynkaya says:

      Adonai-- what confuses me is that last night she replayed the clip where she said, “There is, in fact, a $137 million budget shortfall.” She replayed it 3 times.

      Here’s the clip--skip to 6:52:

      http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/#41771317

      So when did she make the statement that says there is NOT a shortfall? Was there another statement (saying there was NO shortfall) that she corrected? I’m lost.

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      • ADONAI says:

        Cher, I did mention that she casually threw out something about a shortfall. AFTER going on for 2 minutes about how there is actually a surplus and the state isn’t staring at bankruptcy.

        I TOTALLY understand what she was trying to do but she did it poorly. Politi-fact only kinda took her out of context and they just laid out in better terms what she must have been saying.

        I just thought the whole thing was silly.

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      • At the beginning of the segment, as a rhetorical flourish, she stated, regarding the surplus, something along the lines of “Wisconsin is doing great! There’s no shortfall!”

        This is a technique of argument, stating something in the context of the past-as-present, and then proceeding forward along the time line (in this case, from the projected surplus to Walker’s bill).

        It’s perfectly legitimate, and it leads the viewer/reader/listener, in easy steps, from past circumstance to the present circumstances.

        However, I do not agree with the tactic that is being used regarding the “corporate taxes are/are not to blame”. The fact is, there was a surplus, there was then a corporate tax break, and then there was a shortfall. If the corporate tax was repealed, would there be a shortfall? No. Did the shortfall exist before the corporate tax cut? Yes. That’s a pretty strong argument for the tax cut being at fault.

        The GOP likes to talk about Dems loving to raise taxes. But any time there is a surplus, the GOP loves to give it away (and usually a lot extra as well). The GOP also likes to say that government needs to be run like a business. What corporation gives refunds to its customers if they post a profit?

        I would love to see a law or amendment that specifies that a surplus may not be taken into account for the current budget year, but applied to the next budget year as revenue. It’s about the only way I see to end-run around pseudo-cons antipathy towards saving for the future.

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  5. I love the “Politics of Envy” bit. I just said something similar to Abby on one of her articles today.

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  6. Caru says:

    Congratulations. These round-ups are getting better and better.

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  7. If Michelle Bachmann is “Sarah Palin with a brain”, who is “Michelle Bachmann with a brain”? Maggie Gallagher?

    Can we start raising the bar, please? Soon?

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  8. Abbyrose86 says:

    I love how you put this all together Cher…looks like a lot of work.

    Thanks again.

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  9. KQuark says:

    Excellent summary as usual Cher.

    SHAMELESS PLUG GOOGLE “Periodic Table of Dangerous Elements”

    HeHeHe two entries in the top 10 ain’t bad.

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  10. Haruko Haruhara says:

    I sure notice that global warming story got NO attention from the MSM!

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