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Chernynkaya On June - 1 - 2011

Thank you for your patience—problem fixed! There are several stories today that are really good news. You can access all the past editions of The Daily Planet on the green Category bar on the top of each page under the heading PlanetPOV.

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BUDGET

 

The Money or the Country Gets It

President Obama apparently not giving way to GOP threats to collapse the economy if he doesn’t endorse GOP spending cuts.

House Republicans huddled with President Obama Wednesday morning and afterward cited little if any progress in reaching an agreement to raise the nation’s debt ceiling or reduce spiraling deficits.

The House GOP leadership said they gave Obama an earful on a number of economic issues, including unemployment, the national debt and government regulation. Without a deal to reduce spending, House Republicans say they will stand firm against an increase in the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) called the discussion “frank” and “productive.” […]

Even though the two sides were still at loggerheads over philosophical differences afterward, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the meeting was useful to give the President and Republicans a chance to look each other in the eye and discuss their views. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was also on hand for the closed-door powwow. […]

“We’ve got to take on this debt, and if we demagogue each other at the leadership level, we’re never going to take on this debt,” he said. “If we try to demagogue each other’s attempt to do that, than we’re not applying the political leadership that we need to get this debt under control.”

Carney pushed back against Ryan’s characterization, arguing that Democratic and GOP differences on Medicare are real and substantive.

“The substantive differences over Medicare are real,” he said. “Whatever you call the GOP proposal — it has the impact of shifting the ever-growing cost burden onto the beneficiaries. Our argument is you don’t need to do that. You can find savings in other areas…while still protecting our seniors.”

Carney also accused Republicans of protecting tax cuts for the wealthy by cutting benefits for seniors. With the differences on clear display afterward, the meeting set the stage for a sultry summer full of heated rhetoric and drawn-own negotiations over the massive debt-reduction package. Economists have given the two sides an August deadline to raise the debt ceiling or tarnish the nation’s credit standing worldwide and further harm the already fragile economic recovery.

 


Budget cuts now targeting community food banks & the families that depend on them for survival

The attacks on food banks and similar organizations that truly serve as lifelines to those in need are certainly not limited to just those in Pennsylvania. As we’ve seen recently, radical proposals from corporate shills throughout the United States are at an all-time high. This is food for children we’re talking about. Besides being immoral, cuts to food programs hurt the future of our nation

 

800 Layoff notices go to Minnesota law enforcement officers

 

$105M high-tech high school in LA built, can’t open due to budget cuts

Hillcrest High in Riverside, California is just-completed, $105 million high-tech high-school that is desperately needed to alleviate crowding in nearby schools. But the Alvord Unified School District can’t open the doors because they’ve had so many cuts there’s no money to staff or run the school.

 

BUSINESS

 

Colombians sue Chiquita over paramilitary payments

Family members of thousands of Colombians who were killed or who disappeared are suing Chiquita Brands International, alleging the produce company is liable because of its payments to paramilitaries.

“We’re holding them accountable,” said Paul Wolf, a Washington-based attorney who is handling cases for family members of more than 2,000 victims.

Chiquita counters their claims and says the lawsuits should be dismissed. The company, which had more than 200 banana farms in Colombia before selling them in 2004, argues that it was a victim of extortion and has no responsibility for any crimes armed groups committed.

A federal judge in Florida is weighing whether the lawsuits, which constitute more than 4,000 claims against Chiquita, will go to trial.

In 2007, Chiquita pleaded guilty and paid a $25 million fine for violating U.S. antiterrorism laws when it provided payments to the right-wing paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, known as the AUC.

But family members and representatives of people killed by paramilitaries say the criminal case settlement wasn’t enough.

“This is a something entirely distinct, the reparations that (Chiquita) must make for the victims that suffered the consequences of the armed groups,” said Ivan Cepeda, a Colombian lawmaker and victims’ advocate.

Chiquita spokesman Ed Loyd said the civil lawsuits are “entirely without merit.” […]

In their criminal case, federal prosecutors accused the Cincinnati-based company of paying more than $1.7 million to the AUC in two parts of Colombia where the company grew bananas.

As part of those proceedings, Chiquita acknowledged that it had also made payments to the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — known as the FARC — from 1989 to at least 1997.

At least one pending lawsuit — also filed by Wolf — seeks damages from Chiquita for hundreds of killings and disappearances related to the FARC.

 

Anti-union Whole Foods, others sell GMF “health food”

 

Citizens United: The Shareholders Strike Back

The battle against the effects of the Supreme Court’s game-changing Citizens United decision, the ruling that ripped down the wall between corporations and American elections, is gathering steam among an unlikely group: investors. With Congress unable to pass new legislation and the Obama administration so far unwilling to fix the dysfunctional Federal Election Commission, it’s corporate shareholders who are increasingly on the front lines of the effort to foist accountability on the new Wild West of political spending.

On Thursday, the shareholders of Home Depot, the country’s largest home-improvement store, will have their own chance to chip away at Citizens United when they vote on a strongly worded resolution urging the company to disclose all political campaign spending—past and projected, to candidates and third-party outfits—to elect or defeat candidates running for office. The resolution would give shareholders the chance to vote for or against Home Depot’s campaign contributions and make the firm’s top brass study whether the company’s political spending would damage Home Depot’s value and image. “The shareholders are the owners of the company,” says Julie Goodridge, CEO of NorthStar Asset Management of Boston, a socially active investment firm that introduced the measure. “They need to be voting on these kinds of contributions.” (A Home Depot spokesman referred Mother Jones to the company’s response to NorthStar’s resolution, which the company opposes, saying it already provides ample disclosure of its political spending and doesn’t believe the resolution “would provide shareholders with any more meaningful information.”)

NorthStar’s resolution capitalizes on a March ruling by the Securities and Exchange Commission allowing shareholders to demand more corporate accountability when it comes to political spending. The investment firm has introduced the same resolution with Proctor and Gamble and FedEx, which have yet to vote, while shareholders of IBM, JPMorgan Chase, and Prudential, among others, have submitted pro-disclosure resolutions, though not as tough as NorthStar’s. “Corporations that get into this business [of electioneering and unlimited campaign donations] can expect to face demands for greater transparency and greater accountability to their boards and shareholders for the actions they want to take,” says Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a Washington-based campaign-finance reform group.

NorthStar’s decision to pressure Home Depot dates back to the summer of 2010, when the fund’s staffers watched controversy engulf big-box store Target over its political donations. Long seen as an advocate of the gay community, Target was boycotted for its $150,000 donation to a group named Minnesota Forward that ran ads in support of GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, who opposes same-sex marriage rights. The boycott spawned pickets, viral videos, and angry Facebook groups with names like “Boycott Target Until They Cease Funding Anti-Gay Politics.” Target defended its donation, then apologized, but the backlash caused the company’s stock to plunge by 3.5 percent, or $1.3 billion, in the weeks after the Minnesota Forward donation became public.

Those losses caught Goodridge’s eye. She says her firm took action out of a fiduciary duty to its investors, and to avoid a similar controversy embroiling Home Depot. As Goodridge points out, there’s a similar conflict between Home Depot’s stated policy toward gays and the anti-gay positions of candidates funded by Home Depot’s eponymous political action committee. For instance, in 2006, the PAC donated $1,000 to Kansas Republican Sam Brownback, now the state’s governor and a supporter of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, and gave $10,000 to help Bob McDonnell’s gubernatorial campaign in Virginia. McDonnell is a staunch opponent of workplace protections for LGBT state employees.

And that doesn’t account for potential spending coming from Home Depot’s corporate treasury. According to New York City public advocate Bill de Blasio, who has publicly urged corporations not to take advantage of the Citizens United spending free-for-all, Home Depot is among the more than 80 major US corporations that have refused to rule out spending corporate treasury funds on American elections.

Worried that Home Depot’s donations could cause a backlash similar to the one Target faced, Goodridge says she and her colleagues decided to introduce their resolution to avoid a damaging controversy. She also raises concerns about how the company’s anti-gay political donations might impact its own workers. “What would it be like to be a gay or lesbian [Home Depot] employee in Virginia and know that the company is giving more to this candidate who is hostile to gays and lesbians, and also knowing that their coworker gave money to the PAC that opposes gays and lesbians?” Goodridge asks.

NorthStar’s resolution is nonbinding, which means that Home Depot can ignore the will of shareholders even if a majority of them approve it. However, the company’s executives would do so at their own risk, says Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, an assistant professor at Florida’s Stetson University Law School who’s written about corporate law and political donations. “If [the resolution] got over 50 percent of the votes and the company is still not being transparent,” she says, “it might encourage shareholders to maybe say, ‘Wow, what are they trying to hide?’ It might make them sell their stock or even replace the board of directors.”

Torres-Spelliscy and NorthStar’s Goodridge predict the resolution won’t pass on the first vote. That’s not surprising, and not a bad sign, either. Torres-Spelliscy notes that it often takes several votes to muster enough support to pass a resolutions like NorthStar’s—a weaker resolution failed in 2009 and 2010 at Sprint Nextel before earning 53 percent of the vote this spring, a victory hailed by campaign finance advocates and investors alike. The fact that shareholders are voting at all to demand more information and input on Home Depot’s political contributions will ripple throughout the company, she adds. “I think that may put the management of Home Depot on notice that this is something their shareholders care about.”

Tara Malloy, associate counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, says NorthStar’s push to compel more disclosure is a “good first step” toward dampening the effects of Citizens United. “We hope that shareholder activists continue along this path,” Malloy says. “You have to start somewhere.”

 

The U.S. Postal Service Nears Collapse

Bloomberg:

It takes an enormous organization to carry out such a mission. The USPS has 571,566 full-time workers, making it the country’s second-largest civilian employer after Wal-Mart Stores (WMT). It has 31,871 post offices, more than the combined domestic retail outlets of Wal-Mart, Starbucks (SBUX), and McDonald’s (MCD). Last year its revenues were $67 billion, and its expenses were even greater. Postal service executives proudly note that if it were a private company, it would be No. 29 on the Fortune 500.

The problems of the USPS are just as big. It relies on first-class mail to fund most of its operations, but first-class mail volume is steadily declining—in 2005 it fell below junk mail for the first time. This was a significant milestone. The USPS needs three pieces of junk mail to replace the profit of a vanished stamp-bearing letter.

During the real estate boom, a surge in junk mail papered over the unraveling of the postal service’s longtime business plan. Banks flooded mailboxes with subprime mortgage offers and credit-card come-ons. Then came the recession. Total mail volume plunged 20 percent from 2006 to 2010.

MORE>>>

 

ECONOMY


Stocks sink as banks slash jobs outlook

Reuters:

Wall Street ended a four-day rally with its worst session since August on Wednesday and could suffer more losses in coming days as investors faced more signs the economic recovery is fading.

All 10 Standard & Poor’s sectors ended more than 1 percent lower and all 30 stocks in the Dow industrials fell. Banks were the biggest decliners as the economic reports painted a glum picture for jobs and manufacturing.

The recent four-day winning streak had some investors pointing to resilience in the market, but Wednesday’s decline took the S&P through its 50-day moving average, leaving the market vulnerable to more losses.

 

GOP effort to slash corporate taxes failing in most states

Gov. Rick Snyder (R-MI) may have gotten his way when it comes to cutting corporate taxes (while raising taxes on the working poor), but Stateline notes that other GOP governors — including Rick Scott (FL), Terry Branstad (IA), and Brian Sandoval (NV) — are running into resistance from their own party. […]

Snyder is one of several Republican governors who came to office this year pledging to cut business taxes despite facing huge deficits. In Michigan, Snyder has a budget gap of $1.3 billion to fill, and the business tax cut means the state will have to make up the difference in the budget being crafted now. Snyder and the other governors have argued that cutting business taxes will help the private sector create much-needed jobs and eventually lead to higher revenues for states.

But not all of the governors have found the same success Snyder has.

In Florida, for example, Republican Governor Rick Scott hit resistance from members of his own party. Scott sought to cut corporate income taxes and property taxes by more than $2 billion over the next seven years. The GOP-controlled legislature was not comfortable doing that in a year when substantial cuts in education were necessary to balance the budget. Lawmakers pared down Scott’s request to a tax cut worth $30 million, accomplished by removing 14,000 businesses from the corporate income tax rolls.

In Iowa, lawmakers from both parties are resisting Republican Governor Terry Branstad’s proposal to cut the state’s corporate income tax rate in half. Branstad wanted to make up the $200 million in lost revenue from the tax cut with higher taxes on casinos. The legislative session was supposed to wrap up two weeks ago, but the governor and lawmakers still can’t agree on a budget.
A different wrinkle in the business tax debate is unfolding in Nevada, where lawmakers are now deciding whether to extend temporary business taxes passed in 2009. Republican Governor Brian Sandoval wanted to let those taxes expire, despite facing a $1.5 billion budget deficit, which is 45 percent of its 2011 budget and among the most severe of any state in the country. Sandoval wanted to balance the budget through spending cuts, but has since had to back off his strict no-tax policy after last week’s Supreme Court decision that invalidated efforts to take hundreds of millions of dollars from localities to balance the state budget.
Businesses in Nevada are divided over whether they want a tax cut at a time when state services are in for huge budget reductions. Billy Vassiliadis, who heads up the Nevada consulting agency that came up with the famous “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” catchphrase, wants the state to skip the tax cut for businesses. “As we look at what the impacts of this economy is doing to our public education system, our higher education system, health care, senior citizen support, in good conscience, we would just as soon not get a tax cut,” Vassiliadis, a veteran lobbyist, testified recently on behalf of the Nevada Resort Association. […]

Corporate taxes make up about 7 percent of all state tax collections, according to the Rockefeller Institute of Government. In general, states rely much more heavily on two other major revenue sources: the personal income tax and the sales tax.

For businesses, state and local corporate taxes account for just 1.2 percent of their overall costs, says Robert Lynch, who chairs the economics department at Washington College in Maryland. “It’s become almost a religion to say that one way to promote economic growth is to cut business taxes,” says Lynch. “But the data isn’t there.” In 2004, Lynch surveyed several studies on the issue and concluded that “any jobs that might be gained by cutting taxes can be more than offset by the jobs lost as a result of cuts in public services.”

 

5 economic bright spots (and why they’re really dim)

Robert Borosage :

If corporations are sitting on over 1 trillion in cash, why not raise their taxes, spend on rebuidling America?

Corporate profits surge (but no hiring)[…]

Homes are affordable (but few are buying)[…]

The stock market rallies (but few feel richer)[…]The market’s rally has mainly been based on the underlying assumption that the economic recovery would gain momentum in 2011, helping boost job growth from last year’s anemic levels. But it’s unclear how consumers will take higher prices at the pumps as crude oil prices hover to more than $100 a barrel. What’s more, many fear that the market’s bullish path could come to an end in June, when the Fed is expected to end its bond-purchasing program (QE2).

Household wealth is up (but finances still fragile) […] To be sure, households have slashed debt by $1.03 trillion, or 8.2%, since it peaked in September 2008. Delinquency rates have declined for the fifth consecutive quarter, with 10.5% of outstanding debt in some stage of delinquency — down 11.9% from a year earlier, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

This is good news, but far too many American households’ finances are still quite fragile as consumer spending remains weak. Nearly half of Americans polled by the National Bureau of Economic Research released in May say they couldn’t come up with $2,000 in 30 days. The survey asked: “If you were to face a $2,000 unexpected expense in the next month, how would you get the funds you need?” In the U.S., 24.9% of respondents reported being certainly able, 25.1% probably able, 22.2% probably unable and 27.9% certainly unable.

Manufacturing has recovered (but that may not last) […] The sector’s rebound raises the potential of job growth as March manufacturing job openings climbed to 228,000 compared to 162,000 for the same period a year ago. During the first quarter, factory production expanded sharply at a 9.1% annualized rate. And a new study by Boston Consulting Group shows that China’s rising wages could position the U.S. to return to being one of the most competitive hubs for manufacturing.

For now, however, it’s uncertain how long this could last, given that the rally has been partly driven by factories restocking inventory after having not done so for so long during the depths of the economic recession. New orders for durable goods in April fell 3.6% — more than expected. And shipments were down 1%, signaling that businesses may be holding back on new capital investments as high unemployment and falling home prices continue to constrain consumers from spending much.

This month marks the two-year anniversary of the end of the Great Recession. While it remains annoyingly slow in some areas, the economic recovery has picked up speed in others. But for all the things that seem to be going right, there’s something doubly wrong weighing them down. […]

But while several consecutive quarters of double-digit earnings growth have pushed stocks up, they haven’t done much to reduce America’s high unemployment rate.

Corporate profits during the last three months of 2010 grew by 20.4%, the most since 2004, according to the US Commerce Department. But they’re not spending it — at the end of the fourth quarter of 2010, companies held $1.9 trillion in cash and other liquid assets, according to the Federal Reserve.

Shareholders aren’t pleased with the piles of cash, since interest rates remain near zero. Executives have been looking for ways to increase investor returns through dividends, buybacks, and acquisitions (which also tend to lead to more layoffs).

 

‘Employment Growth Slowed Sharply In May,’ Report Signals

 

ENERGY

 

What government needs to do to make offshore wind energy a reality in US Waters

Download this brief (pdf)

Approximately 3,500 oil rigs and platforms were operating in U.S. waters at the time of the BP disaster. There were also over 1,000 wind turbines generating clean, renewable electricity off the coastlines of northwestern Europe. But not a single windmill yet turns in the strong, abundant winds that abound off our shores.

Clearly wind power cannot immediately replace the energy we still must generate from the oil and gas produced on the outer continental shelf. But America’s unwillingness to clear the way for permitting a proven, commercially scalable, clean source of energy is a major black eye for a nation that purports to be a leader in technological development.

Denmark constructed the first offshore wind facility in in 1991. In the intervening two decades 10 other countries installed offshore wind farms—eight nations in northern Europe, plus Japan and China (see chart).

Unfortunately, in the United States, lack of a clear regulatory structure, inconsistent messages from other ocean stakeholders, congressional budget battles, opposition to specific project siting, and instability in financial markets have all played a role in preventing domestic offshore wind from becoming a reality. […]

This brief will provide an overview of offshore wind permitting and financing in the United States, update the status of a few key projects, and ultimately make recommendations on how to clear a few of the remaining hurdles to promoting offshore wind development:

  • Increase government investment in offshore wind to make it more financially palatable
  • Shape transmission rules to allow for a robust offshore grid
  • Ensure the federal “Smart from the Start” program, which is designed to expedite offshore wind, is smart through the finish
  • Engage stakeholders early in the process of identifying wind energy areas in “Smart from the Start”

These recommendations will allow America to catch up to other nations currently at the vanguard of technological development. These countries are reaping the economic and employment rewards of creating a new industry while simultaneously reducing their carbon footprint and making great strides toward a clean, renewable energy future.

 

ENVIRONMENT


John Bryson’s green credentials

John Bryson, Obama’s new pick for commerce secretary, is a dyed-green-in-the-wool environmentalist (he co-founded NRDC), who’s taken a swing through the corporate world.

 

Climate Movement: The Next Generation?

Hence, in America this year we’ve got two big campaigns. One is in coordination with people around the globe: it’s our next big worldwide day of action, set for Sept. 24, which we’re calling MovingPlanet. It’s going to focus on bicycles this time, both because they’re part of the solution and because they’re one of the few technologies used by rich and poor alike.

And we’re also fighting hard to make it clear that the biggest fossil fuel lobby—the US Chamber of Commerce—does not, as it claims, represent ‘American business.’ We’ve already enrolled thousands of businesses large and small in our ‘The US Chamber Doesn’t Speak for Me’ campaign.

No guarantee we’re going to win this fight—there are scientists who say we’ve waited too long to start. But we’re determined to find out, and if we don’t stand up noisily we never will. We set ourselves up as more a campaign than an organization—everyone can join in, regardless of affiliation. It’s been wonderful to see environmental groups around the country and the world pitch in in so many ways. And, crucially, regardless of whether you think we’re ever going to be able to get back to 350. That is a relentlessly tough goal; if it daunts you, then think of the number as a way of explaining forcefully that we’ve already gone too far, that climate change is not a future worry but a present crisis.

 

HEALTH

 

Bad news for Americans who eat food: House GOP is fighting to gut food-safety laws

Steve Benen:

In December, Americans who eat food received some very good news. A sweeping overhaul of the nation’s food-safety system, approved by both chambers with large, bipartisan majorities, cleared Congress, and was quickly signed into law by President Obama.

The long-overdue law expands the FDA’s ability to recall tainted foods, increases inspections, demands accountability from food companies, and oversees farming — all in the hopes of cracking down on unsafe food before consumers get sick. This was the first time Congress has approved an overhaul of food-safety laws in more than 70 years.

That’s the good news. The bad news is, the Republican-led House is fighting to gut the law.

Budget cuts proposed by House Republicans to the Food and Drug Administration would undermine the agency’s ability to carry out a historic food-safety law passed by Congress just five months ago, food safety advocates say. […]

To carry out the new law, President Obama is seeking $955 million for food safety at the FDA in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.

Last week, the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the FDA pared back that amount to $750 million, which is $87 million less than the figure the agency is currently receiving for food safety.

“This subcommittee has begun making some of the tough choices necessary to right the ship,” said Chairman Jack Kingston, (R-Ga.).The full committee was scheduled to vote on the proposed cuts Tuesday, and the budget proposal was expected to pass.

Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee approved the cuts yesterday, which are severe enough to prevent the FDA from implementing the new law. Erik Olson, director of food and consumer product safety programs at the Pew Health Group, part of a coalition of public health advocates and food makers, said this week, “These cuts could seriously harm our ability to protect the food supply.”

Boy, those midterm elections really set the country on the right path, didn’t they?

It’s also worth appreciating the fact that these cuts to food safety were made in the name of fiscal responsibility, but it’s a classic example of being penny wise and pound foolish. Indeed, cutting funding on food safety is likely to cost us more money, not less.

I realize this may seem counter-intuitive. I can even imagine some Fox News personality telling viewers, “Those wacky liberals think it costs money to cut spending! What fools!”

But this just requires a little bit of thought. When we cut spending on food safety, we save a little money on inspection, but end up paying a lot of money on health care costs when consumers get sick.

The GOP approach is misguided as a matter of public health, public safety, and budgeting.

 

HEALTH CARE

 

There are big flaws in how Medicare pays hospitals and doctors, an IOM panel has found.

Medicare pays more to doctors and hospitals in expensive parts of the country. But a prestigious panel says Medicare’s methods of evaluating regional costs are disturbingly imprecise and need to be overhauled.

The Institute of Medicine experts said Medicare needs to make a “significant change” to the ways it evaluates salaries of health care workers and real estate costs. Major changes to these calculations would affect the bottom lines of thousands of practitioners and institutions, but the report did not gauge the impact.

“The Medicare program needs more precise and objective tools and methods to assure the nation that the billions being spent are appropriately and fairly disbursed,” said committee chairman Frank Sloan, a Duke University health policy and economics professor, in a statement accompanying the report. […]

If all its recommendations were adopted, they would represent the biggest transformation in Medicare’s geographic payment adjustments in two decades, said Bruce Steinwald, an independent consultant and member of the panel. Steinwald said in an interview that the current system “is inaccurate enough that the committee felt fairly substantial changes were warranted.”

Because of the payment system, doctors in many urban areas tend to be underpaid and some physicians in rural areas are overpaid, according to a 2007 report by the Government Accountability Office.  The report found that doctors in one in every eight counties were overpaid by 5 percent or more.

Accurately calculating regional cost differences is considered essential as Medicare prepares to revamp the way it pays hospitals.

Starting in October 2013, Medicare plans to take the amount hospitals spend per beneficiary into account when setting reimbursements. That approach, incorporated in the health care overhaul, is intended to reward hospitals that treat patients efficiently.

Some health care researchers, led by those at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, have asserted that big disparities in regional Medicare spending are evidence that hospitals and doctors in some regions provide unnecessary medical treatments.

MORE>>>

 

Two-thirds of newly diagnosed cancer patients unable to obtain oncology appointments

Newly diagnosed cancer patients frequently face hurdles in obtaining an appointment for care with an oncologist, according to new research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennnsylvania that will be presented Saturday, June 4 at the 2011 annual meeting of American Society of Clinical Oncology (Abstract #6128). Even callers with private health insurance had difficulty scheduling an appointment, with just 22 percent of them obtaining a slot, compared to 29 percent of uninsured patients and 17 percent of patients on Medicaid, according to results of a study in which research assistants posed as patients seeking an initial evaluation. […]

The authors note that the access problems revealed in the study may become more urgent in the coming years, given Institute of Medicine and ASCO projections showing a widening gap between the number of people living with cancer and the number of practicing oncologists available to care for them.

 

JUSTICE

 

In Shift, Justice Department is Hiring Lawyers With Civil Rights Backgrounds

Under the Obama administration, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has reversed a pattern of systematically hiring conservative lawyers with little experience in civil rights, the practice that caused a scandal over politicization during the Bush administration.

Instead, newly disclosed documents show, the lawyers hired over the past two years at the division have been far more likely to have civil rights backgrounds — and to have ties to traditional civil rights organizations with liberal reputations, like the American Civil Liberties Union or the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

The release of the documents came as a House Judiciary subcommittee prepared to hold its first oversight hearing, on Wednesday, on the Civil Rights Division since Republicans regained the House. It also comes against the backdrop of efforts by conservative activists and media outlets to throw back at the Obama administration the charges of politicizing the Justice Department that were made against the Bush administration.

While it is routine for any administration to hire ideologically sympathetic people to fill the politically appointed positions that are vacated with each new president, civil service laws prohibit taking ideology into account when hiring for the permanent posts known as “career” positions.

The Justice Department’s inspector general found that the Bush administration — which changed hiring rules to give its political appointees at the Civil Rights Division greater control over civil service hiring starting in 2003 — had violated hiring rules by screening out liberals and by actively seeking to fill civil service vacancies with conservatives, referred to privately by one Bush official as “real Americans” and “right-thinking Americans.” […]

The New York Times analyzed the résumés — obtained via the Freedom of Information Act — of successful applicants to the division’s voting rights, employment discrimination, and appellate sections. The documents showed that the Obama-era hires were more likely to have had experience in civil rights, and they graduated from more selective law schools, than those hired over the final six years of the Bush administration.

Specifically, about 90 percent of the Obama-era hires listed civil rights backgrounds on their résumés, up from about 38 percent of the Bush group hires. (There were about 47 Obama-era hires and about 72 in the last six years of the Bush administration.)

Moreover, the Obama-era hires graduated from law schools that had an average ranking of 28, according to U.S. News & World Report. The Bush group had a lower average ranking, 42.

 

Senior Scientology Figure Criminally Charged After Allegedly Telling Minor To Lie About Abuse

Jonathan Turley:

One of the most senior figures in Australia’s Church of Scientology has been criminally charged in a case of sexual abuse. Jan Eastgate is accused of encouraging a young girl to lie and deny allegations of sexual abuse in the church. In the meantime, another leading Church figure, Tom Cruse, is being sued in an action unconnected to the cases in Australia by ex-Scientologist, Peter Letterese, for $250 million under a RICO claim that includes allegations of bribing a judge.

The involvement of Eastgate is notable because she is the head of the church’s “International Commission on Human Rights” and was given the Church of Scientology’s Freedom Medal for her work against psychology treatments.

The mother and young girl, 11-year-old Carmen Rainer, said that Eastgate told the girl to provide false statements about sexual abuse by her stepfather. Rainer also said that senior Scientology members told her that the abuse was punishment for being bad in a previous life. […]

The allegations against Eastgate have been cited by critics of the Church as a byproduct of the Church’s elevation of its own laws over those of society. The Church has its own legal system and includes such legal personalities as Fox News’ Greta Van Susteran.

 

Crack Cocaine ‘Fair Sentencing Act’ Should Be Retroactive, Holder Says

NPR:

Saying that the Fair Sentencing Act that narrowed the disparity between penalties for crack and power cocaine offenses has been “a historic step forward,” Attorney Gen. Eric Holder pushed today for retroactively applying the lighter crack penalties to some offenders now serving time.

“We have more to do,” Holder said in a statement prepared for a hearing held this morning by the U.S. Sentencing Commission. “Although the Fair Sentencing Act is being successfully implemented nationwide, achieving its central goals of promoting public safety and public trust — and ensuring a fair and effective criminal justice system – requires the retroactive application of its guideline amendment.”

As The Associated Press reports, “a year ago, a drug dealer caught with 50 grams of crack cocaine faced a mandatory 10 years in federal prison. Today, new rules [the Fair Sentencing Act] cut that to as little as five years, and thousands of inmates not covered by the change are saying their sentences should be reduced, too.”

And if the sentencing guidelines are made retroactive, AP adds, that could mean “early release for as many as 1 in every 18 federal prisoners, or approximately 12,000 inmates.”

The wire service notes that “since the 1990s, advocates have complained that crack offenders are treated more harshly than those arrested with powdered cocaine. Many critics view the disparity as racial discrimination because black drug offenders are more likely to be charged with federal crack offenses and to serve longer prison terms than other offenders.”

The Wall Street Journal says that if the sentencing guidelines are made retroactive, “most people convicted of crack offenses would be released over the next three years, though some with longer sentences would be freed over 30 years.”

Update at 12:30 p.m. ET. Fewer Than Has Been Thought Might Be Eligible: NPR’s Carrie Johnson tells us this is the first time the Obama administration has said it supports extending more lenient penalties for cocaine possession to the thousands of people who have already been convicted of drug offenses.

She adds, though, that the Obama plan would carve out an exception for people who used guns in commission of a crime and for people who had longer criminal records. Those exceptions would rule out leniency for at least half of the 12,000 eligible inmates, according to federal public defenders and Families Against Mandatory Minimums.

 

WOW! The judge who ruled that banning corporate campaign contributions is unconstitutional might be changing his mind:

WSJ:

A federal judge last week shocked the political system by ruling that companies should be allowed to make campaign donations directly to candidates. The decision appeared to strike down a century of precedent.

Now the judge may be changing his mind.

Judge James C. Cacheris of the Eastern District of Virginia said Tuesday that he is going to take another look at whether he made the right decision given a 2003 Supreme Court case that upheld the ban on corporate donations.

The judge asked lawyers in the case to submit briefings by Wednesday and called for oral arguments on Friday.

“Today’s order, on the court’s own motion, means the judge is seriously considering reversing his ruling,” said Rick Hasen, a professor at the University of California at Irvine. “The federal ban on corporate contributions to candidates is likely to stand, unless and until the Supreme Court says otherwise,” he said.

At issue is a decision by Judge Cacheris last week in an unrelated criminal case involving alleged election crimes. In a ruling on a technical matter, Judge Cacheris threw out one of the charges against the defendants because he thought a landmark 2010 Supreme Court decision would permit corporate contributions.

Judge Cacheris said he was applying the Supreme Court’s logic in the Citizens United case.  “[F]or better or worse, Citizens United held that there is no distinction between an individual and a corporation with respect to political speech,” he wrote. “Thus, if an individual can make direct contributions within [campaign-finance] limits, a corporation cannot be banned from doing the same thing.”

But the judge apparently overlooked a 2003 Supreme Court decision in which the court upholds the ban on corporate donations.

In today’s action, Judge Cacheris asked the prosecution and defense to submit arguments about whether his decision last week should be overturned in light of the 2003 case.

 

Alaska set to release Sarah Palin’s emails


Report: Feds Say Indiana Medicaid Plan Banning Funds For Planned Parenthood Is Illegal

The Health and Human Services Department has told the state of Indiana that its Medicaid plan, which prohibits any funding for health clinics that perform abortions, must be changed, according to the Associated Press.

Via the AP:

In a letter sent to Indiana’s Medicaid director, and obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday, Medicaid Administrator Donald M. Berwick says Indiana’s plan will improperly bar Medicaid beneficiaries from receiving services. Berwick writes that federal law requires Medicaid beneficiaries to be able to obtain services from any provider qualified to provide services.

That letter comes about a month after Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) signed a bill stripping Planned Parenthood of all public funds, including Medicaid payments. According the letter obtained by the AP, the state can change its Medicaid plan, or face possible penalties.

 

MEDIA

 

Media swarms aimless Palin bus tour

 

Web Hackings Rattle Media Companies

PBS fought on Monday and Tuesday to restore the Web sites for two news programs on public television, “Frontline” and “PBS NewsHour,” which were crippled by hackers who said they were angered by coverage of WikiLeaks.

The incidents were the latest examples of what security experts call “reputational attacks” on media companies that publish material that the hackers disagree with. Such companies are particularly vulnerable to such attacks because many of them depend on online advertising and subscription revenue from Web sites that can be upended by the clicks of a hacker’s keyboard — and because unlike other targets, like government entities and defense contractors, they are less likely to have state-of-the-art security to thwart attacks.

The PBS attack was said to be motivated by a “Frontline” film about WikiLeaks that was broadcast and published online on May 24. Some supporters of Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, and Bradley Manning, a soldier who is suspected of having shared hundreds of thousands of government files with WikiLeaks, criticized the film and claimed that it portrayed the two men in a negative light.

When the anonymous hackers posted a fake news article on a PBS blog and published passwords apparently obtained from PBS servers late Sunday night, they attached complaints about the film, which was titled “WikiSecrets.”

Staff member at PBS said they were appalled by the hackings — which were perceived to be attempts to chill independent journalism — and, to a lesser extent, by the long delay in having the sites restored. In a telephone interview on Tuesday, David Fanning, the executive producer of “Frontline,” called the incidents a “real intrusion into the press” and said they should not be characterized as mere pranks.

MILITARY


Pentagon to the world: hacking is an act of war

The Pentagon is sending a warning to nations who are considering engaging the US in cyber-warfare and has concluded that attacks coming from another country can constitute an “act of war,” which gives U.S. the right to respond using traditional military force, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.

Similar to how international treaties guided traditional wars, the Pentagon is now laying out its first formal cyber strategy to be discussed with its allies, which represents an early attempt to adjust to a changing world where even hackers could pose as a significant threat to the U.S.

“If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks,” said a military official.

The Pentagon, which believes that most sophisticated computer attacks are supported by a country’s government, is proposing the notion of “equivalence” wherein:

“If a cyber attack produces the death, damage, destruction or high-level disruption that a traditional military attack would cause, then it would be a candidate for a “use of force” consideration, which could merit retaliation.”

The proposal, however, is sure to spark debate over a range of sensitive issues the Pentagon has left unresolved, including the certainty of an attack’s origin, and the kinds of cyber attack that would constitute the use of force.

The Journal says that many military planners believe the trigger for retaliation should be the amount of damage—actual or attempted—caused by the attack.

These reports come shortly after the U.S. government outlined a new strategy for cyberspace, which included references to security.


POLITICS


House Democrats Unanimously Oppose GOP Rule to ‘Deem’ Medicare-Ending Budget Passed

Nancy Pelosi:

Despite Americans soundly rejecting the Republican budget to end Medicare–with a new CNN poll out today finding 58% oppose and opposition from senior citizens even higher at 74%–House Republicans doubled down on ending Medicare by passing a Rule on the Homeland Security Appropriations bill which “deems” that the Republican budget is passed:

Provides that H. Con. Res. 34, including the related 302(a) allocations printed in the Rules Committee report accompanying the resolution, shall have force and effect until a conference report on the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2012 is adopted.

House Democrats unanimously opposed the Rule today and the Republican budget ending Medicare which increases costs by $6,000 a year for seniors, cuts benefits immediately, and puts insurance companies in charge.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), who managed the rule debate, explains what the Republican Rule does:

Leader Pelosi on how the Republican budget is a “window to the soul of the Republican party in this House of Representatives” that gives big oil companies and the wealthiest tax cuts, while saying to seniors ‘no more Medicare for you’:

MORE>>>


Michele Bachmann – “We Are In The Last Days” (Audio)

Michele Bachmann (R-​MN) in this audio from 2006 prays on air and claims, “we are in the last days.” Bachmann has made little secret of her embrace of “last days” Evangelicalism. Few understand the depths of her radical religious beliefs, and very few realize how extremely homophobic and anti-​gay Bachmann is.

As The New Civil Rights Movement reported Tuesday, there are 80 million Americans who share Bachmann’s belief that we are in the “end of days.” Armageddon is upon us, Bachmann thinks.

If Bachmann runs for President…

Thanks to Dump Bachmann for the audio. They delve into her association with the anti-​gay, “You Can Run But You Cannot Hide Ministry.”


Nearly 20 percent of Obama nominees have been blocked by Senate Republicans

According to a report [pdf] from the Alliance for Justice:

Of the 105 nominations submitted by President Obama during the first two years of his term, only 62—2 Supreme Court justices, plus 16 courts of appeals and 44 district court judges—were confirmed. That is the smallest percentage of judicial confirmations over the first two years of any presidency in American history.

Judicial vacancies increased from 55 to 97 during President Obama’s first two years, whereas under both President’s Bush and Clinton, vacancies declined.

Senate Republicans used every parliamentary tool they could to obstruct and delay President Obama’s nominees, including placing secret holds on each judicial nominee who reached the Senate floor, even those that had the support of Republican home-state senators. They also denied votes on 13 nominees at the end of the 111th Congress who received no Republican opposition in committee.

Today 53 Obama judicial nominees still have yet to be confirmed by the Senate. Of the 1132 executive and judicial branch nominations submitted to the Senate by President Obama, 223 nominees have yet to receive a vote on the Senate floor, according to White House data. That means that nearly 20 percent of Obama nominees have been blocked by Senate Republicans.

In response to this obstruction, Obama has filled 28 vacant positions via recess appointments. President Bush, in contrast, made 171 recess appointments during his presidency, including John Bolton for UN ambassador and two controversial judicial nominations, Charles Pickering and William Pryor, to the US Court of Appeals. To catch up with Bush, Obama would have to make roughly twenty-eight recess appointment per year until the end of his presidency, assuming he wins a second term and governs for eight years.

To fill these vacancies, the Obama administration must move aggressively to challenge GOP obstructionism, which is something they’ve been slow to do. According to a new Alliance for Justice report [pdf] on judicial nominations in the 112th Congress:

President Obama still badly trails his two predecessors in terms of nominations. At the end of the 111th Congress, the President was 27 nominations behind President Bush and 37 nominations behind President Clinton at a similar point in their presidencies, and there were enough vacancies open for him to keep pace with either of them. Instead of catching up, President Obama has slipped further behind President Bush (now 51 nominations behind), and has barely made a dent in the gap with President Clinton (now 34 nominations behind), at the comparable point in their presidencies.

Yet Republicans, in another stunning act of hypocrisy, are determined not to let Obama make any recess appointments for the foreseeable future. The Senate stayed in pro-forma session over the Memorial Day break, instead of adjourning for its usual recess, in part to prevent Obama from appointing Elizabeth Warren to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. A dozen Senate Republicans have asked House Speaker John Boehner “to try to block President Obama from making recess appointments for the remainder of his presidency,” according to Politico.

 

The many, many stages of announcing you’re running for president

1. Getting called “a possible contender” on cable TV, or calling yourself a contender

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says he’s among a handful of Republican candidates who are thinking about running for president in 2012. “I think I’m probably on a list of seven or eight possible candidates at this stage,” Gingrich reportedly told reporters in North Carolina Wednesday before speaking to a gathering of conservatives. Joe DeSantis, Gingrich’s communications director, confirmed the accuracy of the quotes to CNN

1/14/2011

2. Letting a friend leak that you’re “considering a run”

“Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich intends to take a formal step toward entering the 2012 presidential race within the next two weeks, Republican officials said Sunday, after months spent traveling to important primary and caucus states. These officials declined to say precisely what type of announcement the 67-year-old former Georgia lawmaker would make, but added they expect him to make clear his determination to run.”

2/27/2011

3. Saying yourself that you’re “considering a run”

Newt Gingrich, former Republican House Speaker, said he may decide this month whether he will set up a committee to explore running against President Barack Obama in 2012… “I’ll probably make a decision by the end of this month about whether or not to set up an exploratory committee,” Gingrich said.

2/13/2011

4. Announcing the possible formation of an exploratory committee

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich will announce tomorrow that he is entering the “explore phase” of a bid to seek the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, CBS News has learned.

3/1/2011

5. Announcing the actual formation of that exploratory committee

Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, took the first official step toward running for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination on Friday byfiling paperwork with the Internal Revenue Service to explore a potential candidacy

3/4/2011

6. Announcing that over the next few months, you may be announcing

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he hopes to jump into the race for president “within a month,” noting that he’s already made visits to key states like Iowa and New Hampshire and has beefed up his political staff. “I think within a month, we will have that taken care of and we’ll be running,” Gingrich said.

3/27/2011

7. Announcing that your announcement may be imminent

Newt GIngrich at Union League in Phila. Tells reporters to watch twitter and Facebook next week for Pres decision.

4/28/2011

8) Announcing that you will, in fact, be announcing something

Just got off the phone with Rick Tyler, spokesman for Newt Gingrich…Tyler wouldn’t say much, but Gingrich is scheduled to speak to Georgia Republicans at their state meeting on Friday, May 13. “By the time Newt speaks to the Georgia convention, he’ll be a candidate,” Tyler said.

5/04/2011

9. Announcing that you will be announcing something in a certain week or day

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich plans to officially enter the presidential race early next week, he told Hotline On Call before Saturday’s White House Correspondents Dinner.
“I’ll be in by the 10th or 11th,” Gingrich said, without elaborating on where or how he would announce his candidacy.

5/1/2011

10. Announcing the date or time of your announcement

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich plans to officially enter the presidential race early next week, he told Hotline On Call before Saturday’s White House Correspondents Dinner.
“I’ll be in by the 10th or 11th,” Gingrich said, without elaborating on where or how he would announce his candidacy.

5/1/2011

11. Announcing that your announcement will be that you’re announcing that you will run

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich will announce on Wednesday that he will seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, a spokesman told CBS News. Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler said Gingrich will announce the decision on Facebook and Twitter on Wednesday, and will sit down for an interview with conservative Fox News pundit Sean Hannity on Wednesday night. He plans to make his “first announcement speech” at the Georgia Republican Party convention on Friday.

5/9/2011

12. Announcing “unofficially” that your announcement for running will be imminent (within 24 hours)

Be sure to watch Hannity this Wednesday at 9pm ET/8pm CT. I will be on to talk about my run for President of the United States @seanhannity

5/9/201

13. Announcing!

Today I am announcing my candidacy for President of the United States. You can watch my announcement here. http://bit.ly/…

5/11/2011

Good show, old pro, good show.

Not shown in the above: the additional steps of saying or doing something stupid, then withdrawing from the race to spend more time with your family.

 

“Mitch McConnell has made it abundantly clear…his overriding concern is making Barack Obama a one-term president”


“Republicans have stepped in a deep pile of manure… Yet they seem to want to avoid looking at their shoes.”


Donald Trump: Ryan’s Plan Is A ‘Death Wish’ For GOP

TRUMP: Hey look, I’m looking at the Republicans and seeing things that are like they have a death wish. Whether its the Ryan plan — which is a death wish. For him to have brought this plan out at this time. Why doesn’t allow Obama — you know these are not good business people or these are not good chess players — why doesn’t he allow Obama come out first, why does he have to come out with a plan? You know, he’s a nice guy and all that but that’s irrelevant.This plan caused a loss in an area that never loses for a Republican, you know that, in upstate New York. An impossible loss.

GRETCHEN CARLSON: But I’m stunned by your reaction to that because you also are a guy who tells it like it is, and so one would think that you would agree with Paul Ryan’s plan because some people say he’s the only person who’s telling it like it is.

TRUMP: The fact is that whether you agree with the plan or not, his timing was horrendous. … You don’t come out with a plan, have all your friends vote on it, and now half of those guys are going to lose their elections.


Governor Rick Scott bashed federal stimulus, keeps $370M of it in budget:


Uh oh. Big Jewish donors say prediction they’d abandon Obama over (distorted) Israel stance is total BS:

Conservatives predicted that Obama’s position — which they widely distorted as a call for a return to pre-1967 borders — would cost him the support of top Jewish donors. But The New York Observer talked to the donors themselves, and found that the whole thing is totally bogus:

But conversations with nearly a dozen of the top Jewish fund-raisers in New York reveal a much different reality, as rainmakers say they continue to back the president they overwhelmingly supported three years ago.

“This is nonsense,” said David Pollak, a former chairman of the state Democratic Party. “I think anyone who would not give money to Barack Obama because of remarks he made the other day wasn’t giving money to him in 2008.”

….so far, only Haim Saban, the billionaire entertainment executive, has publicly declared that he was finished donating to the president. There was just one problem, though: Mr. Saban was a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton and had never given money to Mr. Obama. Furthermore, Mr. Saban pledged to keep supporting down-ticket Democrats.

Mr. Obama’s New York supporters said most of these accounts rely disproportionately on voices like that of Mr. Saban, or, more often, the heads of major national Jewish organizations, who have long been lukewarm about Mr. Obama.

It was painfully obvious that this whole meme was highly questionable from the start. The claim that Jewish supporters would desert Obama began with a Reuters story quoting former New York mayor Ed Koch making dark threats about withdrawing support for Obama. But as I noted at the time, Koch is the go-to guy when people are looking for a prominent Jewish Democrat to bash fellow Dems on Israel. And has a single actual major Jewish donor broken publicly with the President since then? If The Observer — which reports extensively on the world of big Jewish power Dems — is to be believed, the answer is No. Nor is there any significant chatter in private about deserting Obama.

What’s more, it’s important to recall that the claim that Jews are on the verge of breaking with Obama has been a frequent refrain for literally years now. Back in 2008 — after Obama said that “nobody’s suffering more than the Palestinian people,” and after Obama suggested he’d be open to unconditional talks with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for the destruction of Israel — there were reams of stories about how McCain would be able to make successful inroads with this core Democratic constituency. In the end, according to exit polls, Obama won around 78 percent of the Jewish vote.

It’s true that in the wake of Obama’s speech, many Jewish Democrats in Congress reaffirmed their opposition to a return to 1967 borders — which was widely interpreted as a slap at Obama. But when you look closely at what these Dems were actually up to, they were playing a clever little game in which they never quite said whether the position they were criticizing was the one Obama actually holds. (It isn’t.)

I get that the campaign to paint Obama as anti-Israel is also about feeding a larger storyline, in which the Kenyan Muslim Marxist in the White House is hostile to a fellow western-style democracy struggling to survive against existential threats from Arab and Muslim foes. Maybe that’s having an effect in some quarters where people are already inclined to believe such things. But I doubt that it will meaningfully erode Obama’s support among Jewish voters, and it’s certainly not driving away big Jewish donors, despite the right’s confident predictions to the contrary.

 

David Frum on how divorced from reality today’s GOP is:

 

POLLS


CNN poll: GOP losing the argument over Medicare

According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey, a majority also don’t think the GOP has cooperated enough with President Barack Obama and, for the first time since they won back control of the House last November, the number of Americans who say that Republican control of the chamber is good for the country has dropped below the 50 percent mark.

The poll indicates that 58 percent of the public opposes the Republican plan on Medicare, with 35 percent saying they support the proposal…

Half of those we questioned say that the country would be worse off under the GOP Medicare proposals and 56 percent think that GOP plan would be bad for the elderly,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “Opposition is highest among senior citizens, at 74 percent, suggesting that seniors are most worried about changes to Medicare even if those changes are presented as ones that would not affect existing Medicare recipients.”

The suggestion from CNN seems to be that the Ryan plan, in addition to being unpopular, has caused the GOP’s overall image to sink even as the arguments from both sides have been publicly litigated. That would square with the finding of other analysts who claim that Republicans are particularly vulnerable because the public finds arguments against the plan persuasive. Also, the nearly three-quarters of seniors who oppose Ryancare would suggest that they are rejecting a primary GOP defense of the program: That it doesn’t impact anyone over 55.

The poll, curiously, also finds that a majority of conservatives and even 50 percent of Republicans oppose the plan.

Also interesting: Today’s CNN findings are almost exactly in line with that Dem poll released this morning, which found that 38 percent favor the proposal, versus 54 percent who oppose it. These types of numbers make it pretty clear why Republicans have reprised their attacks on Dems from the left over Medicare: The public’s support for Medicare in roughly its current form seems unshakable, and Dems have clearly succeeded in framing this fight as one between Medicare’s saviors and its would-be destroyers. This will only supply more grist to Democrats who are arguing that it would be insane for Dems to agree to Medicare benefits cuts, and that so doing could squander a situation in which Dems seem to be in total control of the debate.

 

New WaPo/Pew poll shows many GOPers still not happy with their 2012 choices.


Pew: Hispanics now account for 16.3% of the total U.S. population.


NEW POLL: 64% say gov’t hasn’t been tough enough on Wall Street

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 47% of American Adults think criminal behavior by some in the financial industry was the primary cause of the meltdown. Twenty-eight percent (28%) blame insufficient government regulation, while only 12% say it was due to uncontrollable economic circumstances. Thirteen percent (13%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Just 13% believe the government has been aggressive enough in pursuing possible criminal behavior by major Wall Street bankers. Sixty-four percent (64%) disagree and say the government has not been aggressive enough. Another 23% are not sure.

But then 51% of Americans believe the federal government is more concerned with making Wall Street firms profitable than making sure the U.S. financial system works well for all Americans. Only 22% say the government is more concerned with making the system work for all, but 26% more are not sure.

The number of adults who say the government puts Wall Street ahead of everyone else is unchanged from January, but the number who believe the government puts the interests of the citizens first is down nine points since then.  Sentiments have shifted considerably since June of last year, when only 38% thought the government put Wall Street ahead of Main Street.

 

Poll: GOP Medicare-Ending Budget Bigger Political Fumble Than First Thought

Not only does the poll show huge opposition to Ryan’s plan to replace Medicare with a voucher system, the poll shows Democrats winning the credibility war when it comes to Medicare and “protecting the middle class.” And — in a jolt of good news for the White House and Democrats — the numbers show that when voters are given Ryan budget messaging from opponents, support for the Democratic health care law actually goes up slightly in response.

The poll was conducted by The Herndon Alliance and Protect Your Care, two groups focused on defending the Democratic health care law from political attack. Full details on the survey will be released later today, but an early look at the numbers suggests the political hay Democrats can make from the Medicare fight is abundant.

As previous polling has shown, voters in the new survey are overwhelmingly opposed to Ryan’s medicare plan. Here’s how pollsters described it, in what they called a “neutral description of the Republican’s proposed changes to Medicare”:

The budget proposed by Republicans in Congress would generate much of its savings by making changes to Medicare. For anyone who is now fifty-five or over, traditional Medicare benefits would not change, but for everyone else, Medicare would be turned into a voucher program. This would mean that instead of the government paying doctors and hospitals directly for treating seniors as Medicare does now, the government would provide vouchers to help seniors buy their own private health insurance policy.

The results? Just 38% support the plan and 54% oppose it. According to the groups, that opposition shoots up after voters are given some political messaging “about the substance of Republicans’ proposed changes to Medicare.”

SCIENCE


Scientists discover “worms from hell” deep beneath Earth’s surface

“For a relatively complex creature like a nematode to penetrate that deep is simply remarkable,” he said.

An article introducing the subterranean nematodes, one of which was formally named Halicephalobus mephisto after the “Lord of the Underworld,” appears in Wednesday’s edition of the journal Nature. H. mephisto was found in water flowing from a borehole about one mile below the surface in the Beatrix gold mine.

The research is likely to trigger scientific challenges and cause some controversy because it places far more complex life in an environment where researchers have generally held it should not, or even cannot, exist.

 

WEDGE ISSUES

 

United Methodist Church Votes To Allow Same-Sex Marriages

 

TAKE ACTION


Target, using Citizens United to buy Right-wing state pols, will be confronted board meeting

When Target gave money in July 2010 to a pro-business group in Minnesota,taking advantage of rights conferred by the Citizens United case, the company probably thought they were buying a little influence in its home state. What it bought instead was a whole lot of trouble.

Target’s contribution wasn’t the first or even the largest of the 2010 election cycle, but it was one of the most publicized. And Americans didn’t like hearing that a favorite retailer was looking for pay-to-play legislation that would benefit its bottom line at the expense of the people who keep Target in business. The $150,000 Target gave to conservative Rep. Tom Emmer’s bid for Minnesota governor cost them lost sales, bad PR, and ongoing calls from groups like Common Cause for a pledge that the company would not spend money to meddle in our democracy. To date, the most Target’s chief executive officer Gregg Steinhafel would commit to was a closer review of any future political contributions.

Does that mean Target will take greater pains to hide their spending so as to experience less pain of their own? Why won’t Target stop trying to buy our elections?

Next week, Common Cause and allied groups will ask Target executives and shareholders these and other questions at the company’s annual shareholders meeting in Pittsburgh, Penn.

 

LeftAction

Tell the GOP: Quit Hurting Consumers & Serving Wall St. by Blocking Elizabeth Warren

We, the undersigned, call on the Senate Republican Caucus to stop using parliamentary tricks to block the possible appointment of Elizabeth Warren to be first head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Your refusal to consider any nominee to the position without the gutting of the bureau is an unconscionable attack on consumers on behalf of Wall Street. And your recent moves to prevent the President to make a recess appointment further show where your allegiances lie. Until you cease this political blackmail, you will be justly deemed the opponent of the middle class.

 

Don’t leash the watchdog!

A House committee just voted to undercut the watchdog’s authority, and the full House is expected to vote soon. We need consumers to weigh in NOW! Tell your members of Congress to give the watchdog a chance to work!

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

This too shall pass. ~ King Solomon

 

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.

36 Responses so far.

Click here to leave a comment
  1. ADONAI says:

    I love Michelle Bachmann. Purely for entertainment reasons. I fully admit she is a mediocre human being.

    I hope she runs for President. Look at the Republican field. 2012 is gonna be hilarious.

    Most of the Republicans who have dropped out of the race realize that 2012 isn’t the year. 2016 is when we’ll actually have a Presidential contest.

    2012 isn’t gonna go well for them.

    Also, great pick for quote of the day. I use that one often.

    • foodchain says:

      I actually think Bachmann is not mediocre. I just think shes’ not contemporary. She’s done a lot. It just doesn’t move our country forward. It’s what makes her awkward and good at the same time—her appeal to other non contemporaries and her simultaneous irrelevance. Plain? There’s a trick--cheap at that.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Yeah, well, I think I have a pretty decent sense of humor, but I have totally lost all sense of fun about politics lately. Bachmann is, though, more fun than Screech for me because even if she’s insane, somehow she doesn’t get under my skin that way. She’s just a feeb.

      But I totally agree about 2012. Except I read today that no president in 100 years has ever won an election when unemployment is above 7%. Plus, as bad as these Gooper candidates are, this country has a history of Idiocracy, so who knows? Still and all, I’m optimistic-- people seem to have come out of their comas and are starting to pay attention and get pissed. Lot’s of folks are protesting--that’s good.

      I’m thinking about 2016. If the Koch Party continues along the path they’re going, I think it’s possible a ham sandwich could beat ’em. But I wonder if by then we could actually elect another Dem--I bet we could. But only if Obama wins, we retake the House and keep the Senate. Lotta “ifs” there. Because unless all that happens, the economy will get worse and then any Reptilian could easily win.

      • jkkFL says:

        Cher, don’t you think unless Koch is stopped now, the election of 2016 is a GOP hands down win?? I have a lot of fear of SCOTUS..and I don’t see anyway to change the balance.

      • SallyT says:

        What was the unemployment rate when Franklin Roosevelt got re-elected? Of course, there is no Franklin Roosevelt on the coming ticket on either side. (I say that even without a Repub named, yet. And, although I will vote for Obama, he isn’t a FDR.)

        • bito says:

          Sally, FDR also had a veto proof congress, if fact the Dems had close to a 2/3’s majority during his first term. Many of his policies were not challenged neither were they done in the fabled “first 100 days.” No 24/7 cable talkers, talk radio, internets, in fact no TV, he had newsreels, radio and newspapers, magazines to contend with and many of those things were considered luxuries. Many of his enduing social programs were not insttuted until well beyond his first 3 years. (H/T Francis Perkins). Don’t get me wrong, my uncle supported an extended family because he got a WPA job and my grandfather cried when he was called back to work, but the forces against Mr. Obama are immense.
          The country wanted FDR to succeed, Wall St. wanted him to succeed, bankers wanted him to succeed. He ‘saved capitalism’ That is not the situation now. President Obama is called a socialist, for what, attempting to uphold programs passed many years ago?

          http://blog.lib.umn.edu/cspg/smartpolitics/2011/02/how_high_is_too_high_unemploym.php

          OK, rant over, and I realize I’m preaching to the choir.

          • jkkFL says:

            LMAO, bito!
            It Was a wonderful rant though.. 😉

          • SallyT says:

            Times were different and there was a lot on President Roosevelts plate, as well. He was called a socialist, too, and even according to my ex’s family as close to a communist as one can get. My opinion of President Obama is not a negative one but my admiration for President Roosevelt and the New Deal are strong.

            • SallyT says:

              The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.
              Franklin D. Roosevelt

            • SallyT says:

              And, Bito, another thing you didn’t point out but I will is the press was much more respective of the President in FDR’s day. They did not photograph him in his wheelchair or on his crutches. They did not want to show the world that our President was handicapped, afraid that might make him appear weak. Now, that is something that wouldn’t get passed now a days. Our press like to tear down our President whenever they can.

            • bito says:

              Sally, I have no doubt that we are are on the same page and what you said about the press and FDR is right. During his time his policies were reported, discussed- both pro and con, not his physical disabilities.
              What do we have today? Hours spent on an alleged twit-pic of a Rep. not his policies.
              Not just a free press but a responsible press. What is the old saw? “With freedoms, responsibilities are many”?

              After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.

              http://quotes.dictionary.com/After_climbing_a_great_hill_one_only_finds

        • Chernynkaya says:

          Sally-- Oops and thanks! Here’s what I actually read:

          No American president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has won a second term in office when the unemployment rate on Election Day topped 7.2 percent. […]
          Ten presidents have stood for re-election since Mr. Roosevelt. In four instances the unemployment rate stood above 6 percent on Election Day. Three presidents lost: Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush. But Ronald Reagan won, despite 7.2 percent unemployment in November 1984, because the rate was falling and voters decided he was fixing the problem.

          The Obama administration hopes to tell a similar story.

          And while O’s no FDR, neither is this country the same. But I get your point. I have a wish that once re-elected, and the economy still bad, the President will propose something dramatic and go all-out selling it.

          • SallyT says:

            I know the country is not the same but it is getting very close to being the same. I also feel and yes hope that when President Obama is not so concerned on being re-elected that he will be more dramatic with making the changes that are needed. I am not a dummy, I know he can’t do it by himself and that it will take more seats in Congress being held by Democrats. And, President Obama will with re-election be more savy to the workings of Washington and buck the system when he needs too. Re-election and your final term can give you the “nothing to lose” push attitude, I think.

  2. Buddy McCue says:

    Those worms from Hell are really something.

    It seems like every other day scientists are finding life where no life should exist. Apparently the set of conditions that are necessary to sustain life are broader than we used to think.

  3. escribacat says:

    I’ve lost track of the announcements of the impending announcements about rumors of the announcement. Has it been announced yet?

  4. Chernynkaya says:

    Sorry about that-- it’s baaaack!

  5. jkkFL says:

    Hey Cher, you remember those envelopes with the windows?
    One of them is your power bill…. 😉

  6. Caru says:

    I wish I could beam you some energy, Cher. I may not comment very often on the Planet, but I usually read a few articles from it.

  7. texliberal says:

    I had to get up early this morning and made the mistake of turning on Morning Joke. Wee Wiilie Geist, Tucker Carlson’s old lap puppy was in charge. Between him, Pat Buchanan, Donny Deutsch and Ed (Hillary) Rendell I was about to pull my hair out and I don’t have that much to lose. Is it always that bad?

  8. Kalima says:

    Oh no Cher! What a bloody drag, hope you get your power back soon. :(

    Here, this might cheer you up. 😀


    Oh and this one too.



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