The Daily Planet, Vol. 25

News and opinion from around US-opolis for Wednesday, March 16, 2011.

____________________________________

 

TAKE ACTION

 

DEMOCRACY IS FOR PEOPLE

A people’s movement for overturn Cititzens United.

 

US Uncut

Next National Action: March 26th!

Video of US Uncut in Mississippi:

 

SUNLIGHT FOUNDATION-To the Governors of the United States

Tell Our Governors to Support Open Government

Across the country, we’re seeing a disturbing trend of states rolling back transparency legislation and clouding the ability of the public to see what their elected officials are up to. Some examples:In Utah, Governor Gary Herbert just signed HB477, a law rolling back the Senate disclosure bill, GRAMA, and severely limiting the ability of the public to access government records.

In Maine, Governor Paul LePage has decided that his business advisory committee would work better if open government laws didn’t apply to it.

In Tennessee, Governor Bill Haslam thinks that it will be more comfortable to exempt himself from financial disclosure laws than it would be to publicly disclose his finances.

In Florida, Governor Rick Scott has implemented a policy that requires the public to pay for access to public documents.

And in Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker is taking his time backing up his public statements with public documents, and forced through a controversial piece of legislation in violation of Wisconsin’s open meetings laws.

Transparency is not just a campaign promise. It’s fundamental to a healthy democracy. By getting rid of transparency laws when they’re inconvenient, governors show disregard and disrespect for an open, accessible and accountable government.

Stop the rollback of transparency laws. Your citizens are watching, and trying to drive out the sunshine won’t stop that.

Please sign letter.

 

How to Help in Japan

While Japan’s relative affluence will help the country head off the dire humanitarian crisis that we’re seeing in a place like Haiti, enormous resources are still needed for reconstruction, and especially for providing a safety net for the country’s millions of citizens already mired in poverty.

Numerous organizations have created ways to help in disaster relief efforts to help those affected by the earthquake in Japan and tsunami throughout the Pacific.

BUDGET


TaxBreaks cost the government more than Medicare and Medicaid or Social Security

Ezra Klein:

Tax expenditures are all the spending done through the tax code. So the deduction employers get for purchasing your health insurance, the deduction you get on the interest you pay on your mortgage, the break you get for weatherizing your house, the credit you get if you take home a very low paycheck. Because these are lost revenues rather than spending, they don’t get tallied up in the way Medicare or the military does, so you never see them in those pie charts of where the government spends its money. But as this graph from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows, when you do tally them up, they’re absolutely massive:


Politicians like tax expenditures because it allows them to propose a “tax break” rather than “new spending.” The effect on the deficit is about the same, but the politics are better. The problem is that the programs often don’t work very well and they rarely get reviewed. So as Bob Greenstein says in the testimony that goes alongside that graph, they’re one of the places where deficit reduction should start. You would think there’d be some bipartisan agreement on that point, but you’d be wrong: The anti-tax pledge that most Republicans in Congress have signed says that they will “oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.”

 

After Disaster in Japan, GOP Pushes For Emergency Services Cuts

Without strict building codes and widespread advance warning protocols, millions more could have perished in the earthquake and tsunami that together devastated wide swaths of Japan last week. How does the GOP respond to this tragedy? By defending their drastic cuts to vital emergency services provided by agencies such as the National Weather Service and US Geological Survey.

 

Who is winning the argument over budget cuts?

The Post has some interesting new polling out this morning suggesting that in the arena of public opinon, at least, Obama and Dems may have an edge in the budget wars — but not a big one. Crucially, the poll finds that more Americans agree with the Obama/Dem argument about budget cuts than the GOP one, with 45 percent saying big cuts are more apt to result in job losses (the Dem argument) while 41 percent say cuts will spur job growth (the GOP argument).

But the public is almost exactly divided (43 percent with the president, 42 percent with the GOP) over which side has the right balance between slashing government and preserving vital programs.

What’s more, the poll finds that Obama has a sizable advantage over Congressional Republicans on who is more trusted on the economy, the economic problems people face, and on the deficit. And twice as many would hold the GOP responsible for a government shutdown.

But majorities — including of independents — disapprove of Obama’s performance on the economy and deficit. And more see Republicans taking a strong leadership role in Washington, 46-39.

More>>>

 

Spending cuts sometimes  vastly increase deficit

Ezra Klein:

On March 1, House Republicans voted to cut $600 million from the budget of the Internal Revenue Service for the remainder of 2011, and they want even deeper cuts in 2012. Perhaps that doesn’t surprise you: Republicans don’t like spending — at least when they’re not in power — and they don’t like taxes. Why would they fund the IRS?

Well, as the Associated Press reported, “every dollar the Internal Revenue Service spends for audits, liens and seizing property from tax cheats brings in more than $10, a rate of return so good the Obama administration wants to boost the agency’s budget.” It’s an easy way to reduce the deficit: You don’t have to cut heating oil for the poor or Pell grants for students. You just have to make people pay what they owe.

But deficit reduction is not the GOP’s top priority. It’s a bit lower on the list, somewhere between “get Styrofoam cups back into Congress” — an actual push the Republicans took up to thumb their nose at Nancy Pelosi’s environmental policies — and make “Sesame Street” beg for money. In fact, if you listen to Speaker John Boehner, he’ll tell you himself. “The American people want us to focus on creating jobs and cutting spending,” he has said. And that comment wasn’t a one-off: “Our goal is to cut spending,” he said in another speech.

Cutting spending is related to, but in important ways different from, cutting deficits.

More>>>

 

Andrew Sullivan’s Quote For The Day

In the end, it’s hard to sustain the shock and outrage of the newly fiscally conscious GOP. Not the Tea Party types, especially, but, well Steve Benen gets it just right:

I’d be remiss if I neglected to mention how amusing it is to hear Mitch McConnell express concern about the debt. The Kentucky Republican voted for the Bush tax cuts, and added the costs to the national debt. McConnell then voted to finance the war in Afghanistan by adding the costs to the national debt. He then voted to put the costs of the war in Iraq onto the national debt. McConnell supported a massive expansion of the government’s role in health care, Medicare Part D, and voted to pile all of its costs right onto the national debt, and then backed the financial industry bailout, and added the bill to the national debt. All the while, McConnell had no qualms about voting to raise the debt limit.

But now McConnell is willing to risk default unless Democrats agree to a plan to help clean up the mess McConnell helped create. Fascinating.

Fascinating perhaps. Disgusting is how I’d put it.

 

ECONOMY


Republicans Escalate Debt Ceiling Fight

“There are 53 Democrats and 47 Republicans. My prediction is not a single one of the 47 Republicans will vote to raise the debt ceiling unless it includes with it some credible effort to do something about our debt,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Fox News Sunday. “I think to get any of the 47 Republicans, you’ve got to do something credible -that the markets believe is credible, that the American people believe is credible, that foreign countries believe is credible — in addition to raising the debt ceiling.”

[…]

The Democrats, by contrast, control a small majority in the Senate, where because of filibuster rules, passing a debt limit hike will probably require 60 votes. And if that’s the case, McConnell and Cornyn are saying they’ll block passage unless it’s paired with “fiscal reform,” which in Republicanese means cuts to entitlements.

McConnell offered only one caveat. “I don’t believe Senate Republicans won’t vote to raise the debt ceiling,” he said. “Now Democrats can raise it themselves if they choose to and try to do nothing whatsoever about the problem.”

This suggests the possibility that Republicans will let Democrats try to pass a debt limit hike and then hang the vote on their shoulders like an albatross. But that plan — if that’s the plan — would run into two problems. First, it would require all Senate Republicans to agree not to filibuster, which is unlikely in the Jim DeMint/Rand Paul Senate. And then, of course, it would have to pass the House, where Democrats can’t pass anything without substantial Republican support. So Occam’s Razor suggests we’re about to reach an impasse.

ENVIRONMENT


NOAA: 2010 Is The Hottest, Wettest Year On Record

 

HEALTH CARE

 

Dems To GOP: Show Us Your Health Insurance

With Republicans on Capitol Hill still trying every legislative manuever they can think of to undo last year’s health law, it was probably only a matter of time before Democrats tried a gambit of their own.

Now a House bill being pushed by Democrats would require Republicans to publicly state whether or not they are accepting taxpayer-subsidized health benefits under the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program.

They’re entitled to such coverage as members of Congress, but Democrats say it’s hypocritical for Republicans who are voting to take health coverage away from millions of Americans to accept coverage subsidized by those same people.

MEDIA


Franken to propose new net neutrality bill

Headlining at South by Southwest yesterday, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said that the creative minds at the festival must lobby their representatives in Congress to keep a free and open Internet. Franken said he will introduce legislation that makes net neutrality violations a crime. “I’m introducing a new bill that would call violations of net neutrality out for what they are — anti-competitive actions by powerful media conglomerates that represent violations of our antitrust laws,” he said.

Related>>>

House Republicans are pointing to the bipartisan support of their net-neutrality repeal effort — one of the most partisan issues before Energy and Commerce this year.

The committee’s top telecom leaders circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter on Monday with five names on it — two of them are Democratic Reps. Collin Peterson (Minn.) and Dan Boren (Okla.).

The letter asks members to support a resolution that would repeal the net-neutrality regulations passed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in December.

“The Internet has been open and free — and should stay that way. That’s why I have exercised the authority under the Congressional Review Act to introduce H.J.Res. 37, a simple resolution that would nullify the FCC’s launch of a government takeover of the Internet,” wrote Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the Communications subcommittee.

Committee Democrats strongly oppose the resolution, arguing that rules are moderate and that the repeal approach is over-aggressive.

Subcommittee Vice Chairman Lee Terry (R-Neb.) and full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) are also on the letter.

The full committee will mark up the resolution on Monday and hold a vote on Tuesday.

 

Related:

Al Franken to push bill that would make violations of net neutrality a crime

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) plans to introduce a bill that would make net neutrality violations a crime.

The Justice Department cannot take enforcement actions against cable and phone companies who block websites, according to experts and congressional Democrats. […]

Franken framed net neutrality as a fight against profit-driven corporations… “They’ll tell you that putting rules in place to preserve net neutrality as it exists today amounts to a ‘government takeover’ of the Internet, a talking point that deserves a place alongside ‘death panels’ and ‘Obama’s a Muslim’ in the pantheon of lies that aren’t just baldly false, but completely ridiculous,” he said.

Franken wants to amend antitrust laws to “call violations of net neutrality out for what they are: anti-competitive actions by powerful media conglomerates that represent violations of our anti-trust laws.”

 

Biz Stone joins AOL

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone is going to work for Arianna Huffington at AOL as a “social impact adviser.” Stone, who is taking on the AOL duties in addition to his day job at Twitter, will provide guidance to the new Huffington Post Media Group on all of its “social impact and cause-based initiatives,” Huffington wrote on Monday. In his own blog, Stone said, “the concept of doing good is not proprietary. To the extent that I am able, I’d like to help more companies follow this template toward a higher definition of success and more meaningful corporate metrics.”

 

Sen. Durbin Takes On James O’Keefe

“Mr. O’Keefe appears to be engaged in creative editing again, and this time his target is National Public Radio,” he said. “That’s not just my opinion. The website of none other than Fox News’ own Glenn Beck — that’s right, Glenn Beck — compares the edited and unedited versions of Mr. O’Keefe’s latest video and concludes that the edited version appears to be deceptively edited in order to portray statements by one of the secretely recorded NPR execs out of context.”

Durbin called out O’Keefe for his previous antics as well, reminding lawmakers that he had been arrested and convicted on misdemeanor charges in an attempted prank on Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) office.

“Mr. O’Keefe is obviously not worried about breaking a law if he thinks he is going to come up with a sensational video,” Durbin said.

Funding for NPR and PBS are under attack from congressional Republicans, many of whom claim that their reporting is biased and that they can survive on private donations. Durbin defended their news programming as balanced.

 

Ex-FCC chief Powell to head top cable trade group

Powell will represent the cable industry’s regulatory issues before Congress and the FCC. He replaces Kyle McSlarrow, who was recently named president of Comcast’s Washington office.

[…]

During Powell’s tenures, some commissioners and public interest groups pressed the agency to bring more Internet access to underserved populations. He was accused of downplaying the significance of the digital divide emerging as wealthier Americans began to access the Web while poorer communities were left behind.

“I think there’s a Mercedes divide,” Powell said in 2001. “I’d like to have one, but I can’t afford one.”


Fox News’ Union-Busting Crusade

Fox News’ coverage of the recent protests in Wisconsin was rife with falsehoods about unions and attacks on the pro-union protesters. This continues a long pattern of smears and fabrications that characterizes Fox News’ campaign to scapegoat and vilify labor unions.

Fox Smears Wisconsin Pro-Union Protesters

Fox & Friends Falsely Portray Wisconsin Protesters As “Violent”

Fox Pushed Falsehood That Public Sector Workers Earn More Than Private Sector Counterparts

More>>>


David Corn Tweets:

My PoliticsDaily column is a casualty, it seems. @DavidCornDC Curious, what is going to happen to you as a result of the AOL/Huff Post deal?

 

MILITARY

Poll: Nearly two-thirds of Americans say Afghan war isn’t worth fighting

The finding signals a growing challenge for President Obama as he decides how quickly to pull U.S. forces from the country beginning this summer. After nearly a decade of conflict, political opposition to the battle breaks sharply along partisan lines, with only 19 percent of Democratic respondents and half of Republicans surveyed saying the war continues to be worth fighting.

Nearly three-quarters of Americans say Obama should withdraw a “substantial number” of combat troops from Afghanistan this summer, the deadline he set to begin pulling out some forces. Only 39 percent of respondents, however, say they expect him to withdraw large numbers.

 

Petraeus tells Congress that war progress is steady but fragile; endorses troop pullout plan

Amid signs of deepening war weariness among Americans, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said Tuesday he will soon recommend a plan for beginning troop reductions, while embracing President Barack Obama’s goal of pursuing a long-term military partnership with the Afghan government.

In a four-hour Senate hearing that was his first since taking command in Kabul last summer, Army Gen. David Petraeus said the tide is turning in the war despite persistent questions about the durability of the Afghan government led by Hamid Karzai and the commitment of neighboring Pakistan to keep militants at bay.

[…]

Petraeus cautioned that security progress is still “fragile and reversible,” with much difficult work ahead as the Taliban launch an expected spring offensive. With tougher fighting ahead this spring and summer, it seems likely that the first troops to be withdrawn in July will be support forces like cooks and clerks, not combat troops.

Petraeus said he has not yet decided how many troops he will recommend that Obama withdraw in July. The U.S. has about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan and its international partners have about 40,000.

More>>>

 

Clinton: No U.S. support for Libya no-fly zone

Andrea Mitchell reports from Cairo that there is “no U.S. support” from the State Department for a no-fly zone over Libya, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton instead saying that the proposal must go to the United Nations, where it is expected to face opposition from Russia and China.

Meeting with Clinton last night in Paris, Libyan rebels asked the Secretary to launch airstrikes against three airfields, to offer military aid, and to implement a no fly-zone, Mitchell reports.

But the United States is not going to meet those demands, according to an off-camera read out after that meeting — the highest-level contact to date between the administration and the Libyan rebels.

NATO is expected to discuss options for intervention today.

 

POLITICS

 

REDEFINING GOVERNMENTAL ‘POWER GRABS’

Steve Benen:

Recent developments in Michigan and its new Republican administration are so astounding, I literally didn’t believe the reports when they first came out. And yet, shocking though they may be, those reports are true and represent a genuine assault on a credible system of government.

Newly elected Republican governor, Rick Snyder, is set to pass one of the most sweeping, anti-democratic pieces of legislation in the country — and almost no one is talking about it.

Snyder’s law gives the state government the power not only to break up unions, but to dissolve entire local governments and place appointed “Emergency Managers” in their stead. But that’s not all — whole cities could be eliminated if Emergency Managers and the governor choose to do so. And Snyder can fire elected officials unilaterally, without any input from voters. It doesn’t get much more anti-Democratic than that.

Except it does. The governor simply has to declare a financial emergency to invoke these powers — or he can hire a private company to declare financial emergency and take over oversight of the city. That’s right, a private corporation can declare your city in a state of financial emergency and send in its Emergency Manager, fire your elected officials, and reap the benefits of the ensuing state contracts.

You might be thinking, “C’mon, that can’t be right.” I’m afraid it is. Michigan’s new Republican governor is cutting funding to municipalities, and if they struggle financially as a consequence, he will have the power to simply take over those municipalities if he believes he should.

More>>>


Michigan activists plan to keep Capitol open all night

Michigan progressive activists are planning to take over the Capitol building in Lansing today, and keep the building open over night to protest Gov. Rick Snyder’s radical budget.

[…]

This follows today’s protest by more than 1,000 seniors whose pensions Snyder wants to tax, and previews tomorrow’s rally that’s likely to bring out thousands more.

Snyder’s far-right, radical budget proposal would raise taxes on the middle class and working poor 31% while cutting taxes for corporations a whopping 86%. It would decimate services, cutting state aid to schools, universities and local governments.

More>>>

Has Obama Lived Up To His Pledge On Transparency?

Steven Aftergood directs the Project on Government Secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists. He also writes a popular blog on secrecy issues.

“Expectations were raised so high at the beginning of the administration that some disappointment was almost inevitable,” Aftergood said in an interview.

Aftergood said the Obama administration has made some huge breakthroughs, such as sharing for the first time the size of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal.

We still have continuing backlogs. We have obstruction. We have a lack of cooperation or commitment or even implementation of explicit instructions from the president.

– Steven Aftergood of the Project on Government Secrecy

More>>>

 

The public agrees with Dems, but they don’t know it

There are some numbers buried in the internals of today’s Post poll that raise this question. To wit:

* A big majority, 64 percent, thinks the best way to reduce the federal budget deficit is through a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes, while only 31 percent think the best way is through only spending cuts. The former position is the one held by most Dems, while the latter is the one held by many Republicans.

* Far more think that Republicans have been not willing enough to compromise on the deficit (71 percent) , than think the same about Obama (52 percent) or Democrats (56 percent).

* The public trusts Obama over the GOP to handle the deficit by nine points, 45-36, even though Republicans are widely presumed by commentators to be the ones more deserving of the mantle of “fiscal hawk,” as it has been arbitrarily defined.

* More Americans agree with the Democratic argument that budget cuts will cause job loss (45 percent) than agree with the GOP argument that it cuts will create jobs (41 percent), though that spread is within the margin of error.

 

The incredible, changeable independent voter (or not)

Cilizza:

But, a look at exit polling data going all the way back to 1992 suggests that 2012 is far less likely to exhibit such a wide margin among independent voters as 2010 and 2006 did.

Let’s take a look at the data.

There were five presidential elections between 1992 and 2008. The largest margin for either presidential nominee among independents was eight points — in 2008 (President Obama) and 1996 (Bill Clinton).

The 2000 and 2004 elections are more typical when it comes to independents in presidential cycles, however. Then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush won independents by two points in 2000; four years later, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry carried them by a single point.

Taken together, the average margin among independents in those five elections is five points, with the Democratic nominee winning among that electorally critical group four of those times.

There have been five midterm elections since 1992, but there is exit polling in only four of them. (The exit polling in 2002 proved too unreliable to be cited.) The average margin in those four elections is more than 13 points, and three times — 2010, 2006 and 1994 — one party won independents by a double-digit margin, a phenomenon that has never happened in a presidential election.

So what explains the discrepancy between presidential and midterm election voting among independents?

The most obvious explanation is that most independents are not, in their hearts of hearts, genuinely independent. (Any number of poll breakdowns and studies have been dedicated to the idea that some portion of independents are essentially partisans-in-disguise. Although, for our money, the one the Post did a few years ago is the gold standard.)

While these nominal independent voters tend to swing from party to party in midterm contests where the stakes seem smaller and the media coverage is considerably less, they tend to revert to their natural partisan tendencies in the high-profile, big stakes world of presidential elections.

If that theory is right — and it makes good sense to us — that means that the true independent voters in a presidential election are not the 29 percent (or so) of people who identify themselves as such in recent exit polls, but in fact a far smaller contingent that rates in the high-single or low-double digits.

That reality means that independents are not as up for grabs as some might believe. It also puts a premium on identifying and targeting them heading into 2012. Obama, thanks to his demonstrated success among independents and what will almost certainly be a vast political organization nationwide, likely starts with an edge over whoever Republicans ultimately nominate.

 

Economy, Gas, Partisanship and War Gang Up on Confidence in Government

Confidence in the U.S. system of government has dropped to a new low in more than 35 years, with public attitudes burdened by continued economic discontent, soaring gasoline prices, record opposition to the war in Afghanistan — and a letdown in hopes for political progress after a bout of bipartisanship last fall.

Only 26 percent of Americans in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll say they’re optimistic about “our system of government and how well it works,” down 7 points since October to the fewest in surveys dating to 1974. Almost as many, 23 percent, are pessimistic, the closest these measures ever have come. The rest, a record high, are “uncertain” about the system.

The causes are many. Despite a significant advance, more than half still say the economy has not yet begun to recover. And there’s trouble at the pump: Seventy-one percent in this poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, report financial hardship as a result of rising gas prices. Forty-four percent call it a “serious” hardship.

Click Here for PDF With Charts and Questionnaire

 

Defunding the Left

Mother Jones:

I just finished a short piece for the next issue of the magazine about Republican efforts to push through structural changes that either permanently defund the left or reduce its voting strength. In the past, that included efforts to defund public interest law groups, ongoing battles to degrade the power of private sector unions, promotion of “pack and crack” redistricting that limited the influence of minority voters, and support of tort reform rules that hurt trial lawyers. More recently, it’s included their assaults on public sector unions, the defunding of ACORN, and tenacious efforts to pass voter ID laws aimed at making it harder for minorities, the young, and the poor to vote.

One question my editors had when I turned in the piece was an obvious one: don’t liberals do this too? And if they don’t, why not?

As near as I can tell, the answer to the first is no, they don’t. The closest equivalent would be serious campaign finance reform that reduced the power of rich people and corporations, but there’s never really been a ton of support for that among working politicians on the left. What’s more, really hardcore campaign finance reform would hit hard at a lot of Democratic donors too, not just Republican ones. Even in the best case, it would probably tilt the playing field only modestly.

As for the second question, I don’t have a clue.

More>>>

 

Tea Party Billionaire David Koch Hosted One Of Mitt Romney’s First Fundraisers For 2012 Campaign


DEM PARTY WITH THE EDGE

If you listen to congressional Republicans, you’ll hear plenty of proud boasts about how their fiscal and economic priorities reflect the will of the American electorate.

And if you listen to the American electorate, you’ll hear something else entirely. Take the new Washington Post/ABC News poll, for example.

When it comes to dealing with issue No. 1, the economy, Obama has an advantage: 46 percent say they put more faith in the president, 34 percent say so about congressional Republicans. Obama has a similar 12-point lead on the question of who better understands the economic problems people face, and a nine-point edge on dealing with the deficit.

Among those who say a government shutdown would be harmful, about twice as many say they would hold the GOP, rather than the president, responsible. A similar question two weeks ago showed that about as many said they would blame Obama as the congressional Republicans for such a stoppage.

On the economy, trust in the GOP among independents dropped from 42 percent in January to 29 percent in the new poll.

[…]

For all of the Republicans’ messaging, Americans trust President Obama more on the economy and the deficit, and for those who believe the economy is recovering, they’re inclined to credit the president over the GOP, 39% to 6%.

What’s more, a plurality of Americans believe large cuts in federal spending — the Republicans’ raison d’etre — would cause job losses, while a large majority (64%) want to reduce the deficit by combining spending cuts and tax increases, a compromise today’s GOP refuse to even consider.

In other words, those who claim to represent popular will are doing the exact opposite.

[…]

Republican claims about public attitudes are patently false, and the American mainstream still isn’t buying what they’re selling. Ideally, this would help stiffen Democratic spines — and give Dems some added leverage in budget talks — since they’re the ones with the edge when it comes to popular will.


2012 news: Ron Paul raising money from suckers, everyone hates Sarah Palin

Lovable old Paul — whose probable entrance into the 2012 field will steal the thunder of all the other wacky libertarian candidates — raised $1.1 million for his PAC. On Presidents’ Day. According to the Atlantic, “Paul will use the money to travel to Iowa and New Hampshire next week.” (What expensive trips! Is he traveling in a first-class sleeper on the Taggart Transcontinental?)

Paul’s 501(c)4 — the group that isn’t subject to the same onerous fundraising restrictions as the PAC — raised $6.5 million last year, which beats the PACs of Palin and Pawlenty. So it seems like Paul is serious about running again, which is good news for the blimp rental industry.

Of course, Ron Paul has always been quite good at raising money and getting attention. He does rather less well at winning primaries. But maybe an early start would help, because it looks right now like all the primary elections will happen next February.

[…]

Oh, and apparently the RNC “quietly adopted rules” saying that states holding primaries before April 2012 have to allocate their delegates proportionally instead of winner-take-all. I think they designed these rules just to make the process as lengthy and painful as possible. As Byron Tau said yesterday:

Such a rule change could mean that candidates who win the early states could nevertheless have trouble assembling the necessary delegates quickly enough, dragging on the primary process.

[…]

Speaking of people the Republican Party establishment hates, Politico exclusively reported yesterday that the Republican “elite” all think Sarah Palin is stupid and dangerous and vain and shallow. Well, they all use other words but the basic point is that everyone is conceding that liberals were right about her all along.

Charles Krauthammer, George Will, Peter Wehner — all of these people would be embarrassed about the monster that their years of culture-based populist class warfare against “the elites” created, if they were capable of feeling shame. Instead they are just embarrassed that Palin exists, basically.

More>>>

 

Virginia’s Right Wing Attorney General: Preventing Foreclosures Is ‘Welfare’

Congressional Republicans last week joined the banking industry in decrying a settlement — proposed by the nation’s attorneys general — that would involve the banks modifying about $20 billion in mortgages in order to avoid litigation over the “robo-signing” scandal and other mortgage abuses. Multiple bank CEO’s took their complaints public, while Republicans called the settlement proposal a “shakedown” by regulators.

And now, a few far-fight Republican attorneys general have broken with their counterparts in order to carry water for the banking industry. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) said that he opposes the settlement because modifying mortgages to keep troubled homeowners out of foreclosure amounts to “welfare”:

Cuccinelli said he opposes principal reductions. “That sounds like a welfare discussion, not a regulatory discussion,” he said. “That’s not the appropriate role for attorneys general.”

More>>>

 

After Accepting $5 Million From Big Oil In 2010, Haley Barbour Accuses Obama Of Cheering On Higher Gas Prices

• $1,000,000 from David Koch, $25,000 from Koch Industries
• $625,000 from Exxon Mobil
• Over $150,000 from Chevron
• $50,000 from Shell
• $25,000 from ConocoPhillips

Further, while Republicans like Barbour blame Obama for higher gas prices – pointing to the Gulf drilling moratorium – the numbers show that U.S. domestic oil production has actually risen to its highest level since 2002.

Even with increased domestic production, the Financial Times reports that the rise “would still not be enough to end America’s dependence on imported oil.” And a 2009 report from the Energy Information Administration found that offshore drilling would have an “insignificant” impact on prices at the pump.

But while Americans continue to pay higher prices for gas, oil-funded Republicans protect generous subsidies to oil companies. And fluctuations in gas prices in the past few years have shown that when gas prices increase, so do Big Oil’s profits.

 

Former NSA, CIA Chief: Declassify Cyber Vulnerabilities

The former head of America’s most powerful and secretive intelligence agencies thinks the U.S. government classifies too much information on cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

“Let me be clear: This stuff is overprotected,” writes retired four-star Gen. Michael Hayden, in the new issue of the Air Force’s Strategic Studies Quarterly. “It is far easier to learn about physical threats from U.S. government agencies than to learn about cyberthreats.”

[…]

The statement is part of Hayden’s introduction to the spring edition of Strategic Studies Quarterly, which explores the strategic issues of cyberwar.

 

Ohioans Having Incredible Buyers Remorse Over Gov. Kasich

Kasich’s approval rating now appears to be deeply underwater. In the poll, only 35% of respondents said they approve of his job performance, while 54% said they disapprove. In a University of Cincinnati poll released Monday, 30% approved of Kasich’s job performance, compared to 52% who disapproved.

If there was any doubt that Kasich’s showdown with unions irked his constituents, the PPP poll also addressed that issue, finding that voters overwhelmingly sided with the unions.

Nearly six in ten said they supported the unions in the budget battle, while 37% said they backed Kasich. And specifically, 54% said they would support repealing S.B. 5 — the union-busting budget bill — if it comes up for a vote next fall.

 

SCIENCE

 

House GOP rejects climate change amendment: Science ‘not settled’

GOP members of the Energy and Commerce Committee rejected three amendments today that would have required Congress to accept that climate change is real, created by humans and hazardous to human health.

 

‘War On Science’: Committee From Koch Votes To Deny Climate Change

Today, Republicans in the House energy committee voted not once, not twice, but three times, against amendments recognizing that climate change is real, despite the broad scientific consensus that “climate change is happening and human beings are a major reason for it.” They then unanimously voted in favor of the Upton-Inhofe bill to repeal the EPA’s scientific endangerment finding on greenhouse pollution. Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) succinctly expressed the day’s proceedings:

This is a war on science.

The 31 Republicans and three Democrats who voted in favor of H.R. 910 have received a grand total of $343,750 from Koch Industries, an average of more than $10,000 each. Freshman Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), Koch’s special man in Congress, tips the scales at $79,500.

 

SCOTUS

 

Supreme Court’s Feckless Surrender to Gerrymandering

The Supreme Court struck a major blow for political democracy a half century ago by establishing the “one person, one vote” rule for electoral districts. In the past decade, however, the court has failed to finish the job by leaving the time-dishonored practice of partisan gerrymandering effectively immune to judicial oversight.
The Warren Court started the reapportionment revolution with its 1962 decision, Baker v. Carr, despite the warning from dissenting justice Felix Frankfurter against venturing into a “political thicket.” After retirement, Chief Justice Earl Warren said he considered the reapportionment decisions the most important of his 15-year tenure — outranking even Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark school desegregation case.
The Supreme Court entered the political thicket in the 1960s because the political process was broken.

[…]

With no Supreme Court standard, partisan gerrymandering is all but certain to proceed apace in the current redistricting cycle.

More>>>

UNIONS

 

Missouri Rallies Halt Republicans’ Anti Union Bill

Last night as Republicans sought to pass a “right to work” bill in Missouri, over 500 workers packed the state Senate gallery, reminding lawmakers of the 5000 anti-union bill protesters who filled Kiener Plaza last week. Republicans were unable to even gather enough support to bring their anti-union bill to a vote.

Much more>>>

 

Next Fight At The Polls, Wis. Labor Protesters Say

Clogging the Wisconsin Capitol grounds and screaming angry chants, tens of thousands of undaunted pro-labor protesters descended on Madison again Saturday and vowed to focus on future elections now that contentious cuts to public worker union rights have become law.

[…]

“This is so not the end,” said protester Judy Gump, a 45-year-old English teacher at Madison Memorial High School. “This is what makes people more determined and makes them dig in.”

 

Hearing this Friday on suit challenging legality of Wisconsin anti-union bill

The suit claims the bill contains substantial fiscal items that would have a detrimental impact on Dane County and its citizens, and that there were public meeting violations by the Joint Conference Committee that passed the bill Wednesday.

Defendants in the case include Secretary of State Doug La Follette, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Senate President Mike Ellis, and Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald and Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder.

WEDGE ISSUES

 

Mosque opponents file suit

Opponents of a planned mosque near Ground Zero have filed a suit saying New York wrongly failed to give landmark status to the building that will house it.

Lawyers for a conservative advocacy group founded by the Rev. Pat Robertson are preparing to argue before a Manhattan judge the city erroneously did not give landmark status to a 152-year-old warehouse at 45-47 Park Place, two blocks north of Ground Zero, the New York Daily News reported Monday.

Plans called for the site, known as the Park51 project, to house a community center and Muslim prayer space. The project was given the go-ahead by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in August.
More>>>

 

AND IN OTHER NEWS…

 

Children Scribbling in the Margins

In a recent issue of The New York Times Magazine, Sam Anderson wrote about the delights of writing and reading marginalia in books by and for grownups. But what about children, champion scribblers and their own literary possessions?

According to a new book “The Child Reader: 1700-1840,” by Matthew Grenby, just published in Britain and due here this spring from Cambridge University Press, as early as the 18th century, children practiced the composition of formal invitations, wrote about their friends and families and even drew themselves into the stories that they were reading.

[…]

Mr. Grenby, a reader in children’s literature at the School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics at Newcastle University, spent 10 years poring over thousands of children’s books from the 18th and 19th centuries, mostly from four library and university collections, three of them in the U.S.

The study of marginalia is well established among literary enthusiasts, as H. J. Jackson noted in his book “Marginalia” (2002). Whether the scribbles themselves will disappear in the era of e-readers or will take an entirely new form is something for the next generation to determine.

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

The party of Lincoln and Liberty was transmogrified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons, hacks, fakirs, aggressive dorks, Lamborghini libertarians, people who believe Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk was filmed in Roswell, New Mexico, little honkers out to diminish the rest of us, Newt’s evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man suspicious of the free flow of information and of secular institutions, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk.

~~GARRISON KEILLOR


  1. My dear fellow Planeteers~~ I am so sorry I haven’t replied as I love to do to your comments, although I know that you don’t necessarily expect my input and that you are having good conversations together. I do want to thank you and let you know how gratified I am for your readership. (Especially, C’lady’s today-- that gave me a tremendous boost! MUCH needed today.)

    I have suddenly been hit with the enormity of events in Japan and its impact on our dear friends there, and feel so heavy. I wish we could do something for them, and I wish all of us at the Planet could have a nice, long group hug and beam them intense blessings.

    There… I feel a bit better. :-)

  2. cher, I just love {{spit}} how these self proclaimed “patriots,” are so quick to get out of paying their taxes.
    Paying taxes is patriotism in action. It is one the real things that a person can do to help their country grow. It is action, and not just lip service to patriotism, that is so common on the right.

  3. Cher -- over the days that you have been publishing all this, I have forwarded much of it to myself at work then linked people on our action list to these items. They have become an integral part of the story -- the charts and graphs are a fast and easy way to make points clear, and I am SO grateful to you for the things you post! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

  4. Kasich, Ohio, and Buyer’s Remorse — a prime example.

    Kasich Promises To Help Low Birth-Weight Babies, Then Slashes The Programs That Help Those Babies

    Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) unveiled “The Jobs Budget” yesterday — a two year spending proposal that slashes funding for local governments by 25 percent in fiscal 2012, and 50 percent in 2013. Kasich’s callous budget efforts, including his union-busting attack on Ohio collective bargaining rights, have won him boos, tears, and staggering unpopularity within his first three months in office.

    But last week in his State of the State address, Kasich touted a “surprise,” promising an initiative to aid low birth-weight babies. Low birth-weight babies face serious health risks and expensive hospital re-admittances. “With a little extra effort, we can make life better for the most vulnerable Ohioans by also giving taxpayers better value,” Kasich said:

    Let me tell you what we’re talking about, low birth weight babies face serious health risks. And I know my kids come out at four-two and four-four, my sweet Emma and Reese. But they weren’t the really low birth weight babies because they got to go home. But the ones that have those serious health risks, they incur six times the costs as other babies.[…]

    Now, I think we can help these mothers and their babies by staying in touch with them and how about give them the prenatal care they need so that we don’t have more low weight babies born? We can take — we can’t solve it all, but we certainly can solve some of it. And with just a little extra effort, we can make life better for the most vulnerable Ohioans by also giving taxpayers better value and making Medicaid more sustainable.

    But Kasich’s budget tells a different story. While reiterating the objective to provide “evidence-based parenting education through the Help Me Grow Program” and “provide safety screenings, parental mental health screenings, and needs-based referrals for 15,000 pregnant women and first-time programs” on one hand, Kasich slashed funding to programs that support this work with the other. He cut the Help Me Grow program — “a program for Ohio’s expectant parents, newborns, infants and toddlers that provide health and developmental services” — by $2.8 million, eliminated operational support for the Mothers and Children and Safety Net Services, and eliminated state funding for Federally Qualified Health Centers like community health centers which are “important providers of prenatal care for many low-income women of all racial and ethnic groups.”

    http://thinkprogress.org/2011/03/16/kasich-baby-promise/#

    Most intelligent Ohioans realize the man ran with a hidden agenda. Oops, all the freshman GOP Govs. did. Go figure.

    • OMG! This is right up there with then-Governor George “Every Life is Precious” Bush having a policy that uninsured neo-natal infants with life threatening conditins BUT without insurance be left to die.

      How do these people RATIONALIZE these things? How do they look themselves in the mirror when shaving?

  5. Neocons at it again no-fly zone not enough they would have us enter another ground war in the Mideast.

    KRISTOL: I think at this point you probably have to do more than a no fly zone. You probably have to tell Qaddafi he has to stop his movement east and that we are going to use assets to stop him from slaughtering people as he moves east across the country. We might take out his ships in the Mediterranean. We might take out tanks and artillery.

    Dither Obama dither.

    • Interesting, isn’t it, KQ, that not one Republican ever asks the question they love so much when it comes to programs that improve social welfare instead of waging war: Namely, tell us how you’re going to pay for that.

    • bito -- I don’t think he’s dithering. I think he’s amassing international support because we cannot be in a THIRD war, espeically not alone. I feel for the Libyan people and want there to be some hope for them, but a no-fly zone involves war actions against a nation that has NOT attacked us. The UN can bring legitimacy to this on behalf of the people of Libya that the US acting alone cannot.

    • KQ,

      The Neocons would love it if President Obama escalated to tanks and artillery. A third Middle East conflict, involving the US, would ensure he wouldn’t be elected to a second-term.

      • Exactly.

        Let the UK, France and the Arab League start a no-fly zone. Every time conflicts like this arise everyone wants the US to lead so we can be blamed when it goes wrong. The fact is it has gone way beyond a no-fly zone being effective so the countries pushing it now need a scapegoat when it does not work.