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Chernynkaya On June - 9 - 2011


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


Senate Republicans want $2.5 trillion in cuts NOW

Relatedly, Jon Kyl names the Senate GOP’s price for a debt ceiling hike. Kyl also warned that negotiators in deficit talks could fall short of that amount of cuts by the time the government begins defaulting on loans. And then what?

Dems harden stance on Medicare: Sam Baker identifies a key dynamic: In the wake of the big NY-26 victory, Democratic leaders are drawing a much harder line than before against any cuts to Medicare benefits.

 

Graph from NPR:

 

BUSINESS


Debit card fee defeat for banks in Senate

While the vote was 54 to 45 in favor, 60 votes were need to approve the measure. The legislation would have pushed back by a year the July 21 deadline by which the Federal Reserve must cap so-called “interchange” or “swipe” fees at 12 cents per transaction, down from an average of 44 cents now. Such a move could cost the banking industry more than $13 billion.

 

[Non-union]Delta Apologizes for Charging Returning Troops $2,800 Baggage Fee

Delta Airlines is apologizing to a unit of soldiers returning from Afghanistan for charging them more than $2,800 in checked bag fees on their flight from Baltimore to Atlanta on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, after news of the charges rocketed around the Internet and generated widespread criticism of Delta, the company announced on its blog that it was immediately changing its policy for active duty military personnel traveling on orders to allow them to check up to five bags in first and business class. However, the policy did not seem to be changed for military personnel flying coach class, who are allowed to check up to three bags for free.

 

ECONOMY

 

Ben Bernanke warns that deep short-term spending cuts risk harming the recovery

Here’s what Bernanke said:

A sharp fiscal consolidation focused on the very near term could be self-defeating if it were to undercut the still-fragile recovery. The solution to this dilemma, I believe, lies in recognizing that our nation’s fiscal problems are inherently long-term in nature. Consequently, the appropriate response is to move quickly to enact a credible, long-term plan for fiscal consolidation. By taking decisions today that lead to fiscal consolidation over a longer horizon, policymakers can avoid a sudden fiscal contraction that could put the recovery at risk.

 

Reuter’s Exclusive: Bullard sees debt default as big global risk

Forget reverberations of Japan’s quake, high oil prices and Europe’s debt crisis. The biggest risk to the world economy currently is the U.S. government defaulting on its debt.

At least that’s how St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard sees it.

“The U.S. fiscal situation, if not handled correctly, could turn into a global macro shock,” Bullard said in an interview on Wednesday. “The idea that the U.S. could threaten to default is a dangerous one.”

 

The President Yesterday on Job Training

 

White House says Senate Dems’ jobs bill is too expensive

The Obama administration on Tuesday night might have thrown a wrench into Senate Democratic plans to pass what they see as a jobs bill — by implying the bill spends too much money.

In a Statement of Administration Policy, the White House said it supports the broad goals of the bill.

“However, the bill would authorize spending levels higher than those requested by the president’s Budget, and the administration believes that the need for smart investments that help America win the future must be balanced with the need to control spending and reduce the deficit,” the administration said.

The Economic Development Revitalization Act, S. 782, would expand the reach of the Public Works and Economic Development Administration (EDA), and increase funding from nearly $300 million in the current year to $500 million a year through 2015. The White House budget proposal recommended an increase to $325 million.

The comment on the price of the bill is likely to be seized upon by Senate Republicans as a further reason to reject it, and could undermine Senate Democrats’ effort to build support for it. [...]

On Tuesday morning, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) defended the idea of boosting funds significantly for the EDA, which he said would help create jobs.

“In the last five years we’ve invested $1.2 billion, creating more than 300,000 jobs,” Reid said of the program. “The Republicans are stopping us from moving to it because creating jobs, it appears, is the last thing they care to do.”

 

Tax the Rich: They’ll Stay Put

Whenever liberals want to raise taxes on millionaires or businesses, conservatives start saying that if we raise taxes, those people will take their money elsewhere. This argument came up in New York, when Gov. Cuomo rejected a millionaire’s tax in favor of a budget that cut funding for schools, homeless shelters, and a slew of other programs that help both normal people and the less well off. New Yorkers were supposed to worry that if the state raised taxes, all of the bankers, who do provide a notable chunk of the state’s tax revenue, would move to Connecticut. […]

Fifteen years ago, UBS, the Swiss bank, moved its North American headquarters to Stamford, Connecticut, but now it’s coming crawling back to the city. It turns out that young, talented investment bankers don’t want to schlep 45 minutes out to a city that has less to offer culturally, socially, and culinarily. Neither do the bank’s clients. New York might be expensive, but it’s not like the people and companies who chose to locate here aren’t paying that premium for a reason.

 

Gov. Perdue Signs Executive Order To Reinstate Unemployment Benefits — Will Others Follow?

With North Carolina’s Republican General Assembly holding jobless benefits captive as part of a tough budget battle, Gov. Bev Perdue (D-NC) took a unique action to help the people of her state, and other governors should take note. In an unexpected move last Friday, Perdue issued an executive order that would reinstate unemployment benefits for the 47,000 long-term unemployed people in North Carolina who lost their benefits in April:

“This should not have been about who holds whom hostage,” Perdue said Friday. “They were holding me hostage, but they were really holding 47,000 people hostage. So, yeah, finally I’m going to act on my own. I’m tired of waiting for a partner that does the right thing.”

On April 18, Perdue vetoed the state’s budget bill that while extending unemployment benefits, would have also slashed funding for early childhood education programs, cut millions from Medicaid and mental health services, reduced affordability of public universities, dismantled public safety programs, and triggered massive state layoffs.

Additional bills were introduced into the North Carolina General Assembly to extend benefits that were tied to everything from education cuts to a requirement of community service to receive benefits. Perdue’s executive order finally put an end to this game of chicken that played with the financial well-being of innocent North Carolinians.

As the Center for American Progress continues to show, unemployment benefits are critical to boosting our economy as a whole and reducing poverty. But currently, eight states (Alaska, Arizona, Utah, Kansas, Wisconsin, Alabama, Pennsylvania, and Virginia) and the District of Columbia find themselves in the same position as North Carolina, with extended unemployment benefits expired or about to expire.

If the eight states — and DC — that see their jobless benefits disappearing do not find themselves in the political environment to pass legislation to extend them, their governors might look to Perdue for a new approach to provide that crucial safety net for their state’s long-term unemployed. To be sure, there are some that have questioned the governor’s authority to issue such an order, but the U.S. Department of Labor said on Monday, “The provisions of the executive order meet federal requirements.” And that is all that the 20,000 people who began seeing funds in their benefits accounts yesterday needed to hear.

 

ANALYSIS: Pawlenty’s Tax Plan Would Cost $7.8 Trillion Over Ten Years, Triple The Size Of Bush Tax Cuts

 

Pawlenty’s economic plan would cut taxes for millionaires by 41%

 

Federal proposal would toughen debt restrictions on mortgages

Consumer borrowing is so rampant in America that most people who took out a mortgage last year to buy a home ended up spending more than a third of their income to pay that loan and other debts.

Now, a federal proposal would target these borrowers by making it tougher for them to get the cheapest mortgages. The initiative is part of a broader measure that aims to prevent another foreclosure crisis and could confront borrowers who do not meet certain conditions with higher interest rates and fees.

The debt restrictions are on top of other conditions, including a requirement that borrowers pony up a 20 percent down payment to qualify for the cheapest mortgages.

While the down payment condition has captured the public spotlight since the government unveiled its plan in March, experts who track the housing industry say the proposed debt limits could be just as onerous for borrowers.

“The debt limits are far and away the most binding constraint,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “It’s probably the one thing that will knock the largest number of borrowers out of the market by keeping them from getting the most favorable rates.”

The proposal not only restricts a borrower’s total debt — including credit cards, auto loans and student loans — to 36 percent of gross monthly income. The measure would also limit the mortgage payment itself to no more than 28 percent of a borrower’s gross monthly income.

Nearly three out of every five U.S. borrowers who bought homes last year would not have met the proposed restriction on total debt, according to an analysis by mortgage research firm CoreLogic.

A separate federal analysis showed that more than half of buyers whose loans were sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2009 would have fallen short of one or both of the two debt requirements.

If the rules were in effect now, Todd Pearson of Ashburn predicts he’d be shut out of the market. Pearson wants to sell his house and buy another in Chevy Chase. He says he has no debts other than his mortgage. But he figures his mortgage payment alone would exceed the threshold proposed by the new rules.

While Pearson said he’s all for reforming the housing finance system, he would prefer that regulators look at many factors overall when scrutinizing borrowers. “Why not look at my credit score, my salary and everything else?”

MORE>>>


ENERGY


No joke: This is the biggest battery breakthrough ever

A pioneer in battery research who already successfully launched a $350 million company to supply batteries to the likes of GE and Chrysler has done it again — only this time, “it” represents the complete reinvention of battery technology as we know it.

This technology is in the research phase, but if it can be cost-effectively brought to market — and there’s every reason to believe that it could be — it could revolutionize the way we store and transport energy, in the process fully replacing fossil fuels and especially oil.

The key to this new technology is that the metals that would normally be solids in a conventional battery have been broken into nano-size particles that are suspended in a liquid. The batteries, known as “semi-solid flow cells,” store their power in a black gunk that looks like motor oil, which has earned it the nickname “Cambridge Crude.” Because charge is stored in this liquid, it would be possible to “fuel up” an electric car with charged liquid electrolyte, just like fueling up at a conventional gas pump.

This could eliminate one of the primary issues with turning electric cars into true analogues for the modern automobile — namely, that transferring energy into them takes significantly more time than the comparable process of filling a car up with gasoline.

A second knock against electric vehicles is that their batteries are less energy-dense, and therefore heavier, than an equivalent amount of gasoline. But the new semi-solid batteries could be up to twice as energy-dense as conventional lithium-ion batteries, which means that car manufacturers could get twice the range out of the same battery mass, or go for a lighter vehicle overall.

The batteries could also be constructed at lower cost than conventional ones, which makes them suitable for giant, grid-scale applications like storing power from intermittent renewables.

So, just to sum up: This discovery represents cheap, energy-dense liquid batteries that could make renewable power cheaper and electric cars truly competitive. And did we mention they can also be charged like conventional batteries? If they fail to name their first viable prototype Magic Unicorn, they’re missing out.

 

Oil Companies (and Their Koch-Funded Front Groups) Run Campaign to Raise Ire at Gas Prices, Protect Profits

U.S. oil production under Obama has soared, as have oil prices, showing that “drill baby drill” can’t solve our energy security problems.

Koch-backed, oil-company funded, Americans for Prosperity recently announced their new campaign attacking the Obama administration for the increase in gas prices. That’s right. The energy industry is set to run efforts to raise public ire at gas prices.  Koch Industries and others in the oil industry hope this effort will raise public support for pro-industry policies that put profits ahead of consumers.

KEY FACTS ON OIL INDUSTRIES’ CAMPAIGN:

Ø  Industry rallies are sponsored by the multibillion dollar Koch Industries, one of the “world’s top five crude oil traders and key player in distorting oil markets for private profits.

Ø  These rallies are strikingly similar to the astroturf “Energy Citizen” rallies of 2009 that were funded by oil-industry lobbyists.

Ø  Koch Industries has funded the Americans for Prosperity Foundation and Americans for Prosperity for years, which has supported many Tea Party efforts.

SPECULATION, NOT REGULATION, DRIVING OIL PRICES UP

Excessive Speculation in the Commodities Market is Pushing Up Prices at the Pump

  • The world’s largest commodity trader, Goldman Sachs, recently admitted that speculation was to blame for high oil prices, telling its clients that it believed speculators like itself had artificially driven the price of oil at least $20 higher than supply and demand dictate.
  • CNBC business reporter Erin Burnett: “A lot of it is a speculation problem, it isn’t supply and demand,” which was echoed by others.
  • Oil speculators have doubled their share of oil futures markets since the 1990s, with a ratio of 68 percent speculators to 32 percent users of oil, according to a recentMcClatchy report.

Koch Industries Plays a Key Role In Helping Manipulate the Oil Market for Profit

  • A new Think Progress investigation of Koch’s oil speculation business reveals that Koch is perhaps the most important player in distorting oil markets for private profit.
  • Koch Industries’ executive actually devised the “first ever oil-indexed price swap,” while also being heavily involved with deregulating oil derivatives in the early ‘90s.
  • Since the Koch-Gramm-Enron deregulation bonanza, non-commercial oil speculators have flooded the market and increased the price volatility of oil in leaps and bounds, hurting consumers and businesses across the globe while making a small set of oil barons and financial giants very rich.
  • Koch executive even admitted to benefiting from the “Contango Market where crude prices are higher for future delivery.
  • Koch is one of the “The World’s Top Five Crude Oil Traders,” according to a slideshow, given to an industry association for oil speculators, describes Koch as the “world’s top five crude oil traders and actively trades about 50 types of crude oil around the world.”

GET THE FACTS ON FAKE INDUSTRY ATTACKS

Despite Big Oil Talking Points, Oil Production Highest Level Since 2003

  • The Financial Times reported that U.S. domestic oil production has actually risen to its highest level since 2002.  “According to the US government’s Energy Information Administration, domestic production of crude oil and related liquids rose 3 per cent last year to an average of 7.51m barrels a day – its highest level since 2002.”

Oil is priced and sold in a world market, so drilling domestically wouldn’t help bring down prices spikes. The U.S. possess only 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves but use almost 25 percent of the world’s oil.

  • According to a CNN report, the amount of extra oil that could be produced from more drilling in this country is tiny compared to what the world consumes.
  • Oil is a fungible commodity, meaning there’s really no way to ensure that the oil we produce here, stays here, wrote TIME.  Instead, any additional production would be absorbed and digested by the global oil markets, having minimal impact on the prices at the pump.
  • Even the Bush Administration stated that additional offshore drilling “would not have a significant impact” on crude oil prices before 2030, because oil prices are determined on the international market.

 

ENVIRONMENT


Congress has declared war on the environment

Bruce Babbitt:

It is now more than ten years since I left public office. I am returning to the public stage today because I believe that this Congress, in its assaults on our environment, has embarked on the most radical course in our history. Congress, led by the House of Representatives, has declared war on our land, water and natural resources. And it is time for those of us who support our conservation tradition to raise our voices on behalf of the American people.

It is clear to me that the House of Representatives will not only block progress, but will continue to sustain an assault on our public lands and water. Therefore, it is imperative that President Obama take up the mantle of land and water conservation – something that he has not yet done in a significant way. President Obama and the Executive Branch are the best, and likely only, hope for meaningful progress on this critical issue.

So I am here today to call on the president to lead us in standing up to the radical agenda of the House of Representatives, and to replace their draconian agenda with a bold conservation vision.

The opening salvos in this war were fired in April, when the new Congress enacted a budget measure, called a Continuing Resolution, to appropriate funding for the balance of this fiscal year. Beneath the cover of that budget process, however, the House leadership inserted unrelated “riders” to begin dismantling our environmental laws.

Here are three examples of these “riders.”

•    In the April resolution, Congress removed the grey wolf from the Endangered Species list. The restoration of the grey wolf to Yellowstone and our northern forests was an historic achievement, now threatened by this Congress.

•    In the April budget resolution, Congress terminated an administration program to rebuild our depleted ocean fisheries. The program, called “catch shares” was amazingly successful in restoring fish populations and providing fishing jobs and was on the way to becoming the most innovative environmental initiative of the Obama Administration.

•    In the April budget resolution, Congress axed an initiative by the Secretary of the Interior to identify and maintain the natural character of our most important remaining undesignated public lands.

Viewed singly, in isolation from one another, these rider provisions might not appear to justify my characterization of this Congress as the most radical in history. Yet viewing them together, along with pending legislative proposals, a larger outline emerges. It is a pattern of a broad, sustained assault on nearly all our environmental laws.

The intent is to chip away, a blow at a time, at the edifice of environmental laws and regulations, avoiding a frontal assault that would call attention to the overall objective.

To illustrate, I would like today to single out for discussion, just one such area, and that is the public land laws that are so meaningful to me as a westerner and that are so much a part of our great American heritage.

The best place to observe what is happening is by reference with our two great public laws, the Antiquities Act of 1906 and the Wilderness Act of 1964.

The Antiquities Act is a great American innovation. It was enacted into law in 1906 on June 8th, the very date on which I am making these remarks. It was sponsored by a Republican Congressman and signed by a Republican President, Theodore Roosevelt.

Way then, more than a hundred years ago, the sponsor, Rep. John Lacey (R-Iowa), made this observation: “The immensity of man’s power to destroy imposes a responsibility to preserve.”

Since then the Act has been used by nearly every president, laying the foundation for many of our best known National Parks and other protected areas.

President Clinton used the Antiquities Act to establish the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, a widely acclaimed decision.

President George W. Bush used the Act to protect the marine reefs and waters of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, the largest area ever set aside under the Act. The radical leaders of the House voiced few objections to that action by their President, perhaps because oil and gas companies have evinced little interest in the Islands.

MORE>>>

 

A Warming Planet Struggles to Feed Itself

Al Gore:

I couldn’t put this piece down, “A Warming Planet Struggles to Feed Itself:

“Consumption of the four staples that supply most human calories — wheat, rice, corn and soybeans — has outstripped production for much of the past decade, drawing once-large stockpiles down to worrisome levels. The imbalance between supply and demand has resulted in two huge spikes in international grain prices since 2007, with some grains more than doubling in cost.”

“Those price jumps, though felt only moderately in the West, have worsened hunger for tens of millions of poor people, destabilizing politics in scores of countries, from Mexico to Uzbekistan to Yemen. The Haitian government was ousted in 2008 amid food riots, and anger over high prices has played a role in the recent Arab uprisings.”

“Now, the latest scientific research suggests that a previously discounted factor is helping to destabilize the food system:climate change.”

“Many of the failed harvests of the past decade were a consequence of weather disasters, like floods in the United States, drought in Australia and blistering heat waves in Europe and Russia. Scientists believe some, though not all, of those events were caused or worsened by human-induced global warming.”

“Temperatures are rising rapidly during the growing season in some of the most important agricultural countries, and a paper published several weeks ago found that this had shaved several percentage points off potential yields, adding to the price gyrations.”

 

EPA Discloses ‘Confidential’ Chemicals

The Environmental Protection Agency announced on Wednesday it was releasing the names of more than 150 chemicals, used in products like air fresheners and stain-resistant materials, that industry had said were confidential ingredients.

“This action to disclose the identity of more than 150 chemicals is an important step in EPA’s commitment to give the American people access to critical information about chemicals that their children and families may be exposed to,” said Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, in a statement. “A health and safety study with the chemical name kept secret is completely useless to the public.”

The chemicals are found in products reviewed in 104 health and safety studies. Their names had been omitted because industry had argued that full ingredient lists were confidential, business-sensitive information.

In 2010, EPA challenged industry to voluntarily declassify the chemicals. At the same time, the agency issued new guidance outlining plans to deny confidentiality claims like this under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Based on this guidance, the agency notified companies in February that it had determined their claim was not eligible for confidential treatment under the TSCA. Companies did voluntarily disclose some information, but it wasn’t clear what specific information.

 

Chamber Of Commerce Attacks EPA Oversight Of Bisphenol A, Hexabromocyclododecane |

In April, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took long-delayed action to regulate extremely toxic chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act. Yesterday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce submitted a letter to regulatory czar Cass Sunstein, asking him to “[s]uspend the consideration and initiation of all TSCA§5(b)(4) listings” because “it appears EPA lacks the sound regulatory science needed to meet the statutory threshold for a restriction or ban of the targeted chemicals.”

The toxic chemicals the Chamber is defending are: Bisphenol A (BPA), benzidine-based dyes, hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD), long-chain perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI), nonylphenol (NP) and nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), phthalates, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE), short-chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs), and toluene diisocyanate (TDI).

 

HEALTH

 

A New Drug Makes Hearts Repair Themselves

A new drug has been shown to repair heart attack damage previously thought to be permanent.

A study in the journal Nature announced the drug, thymosin beta 4, can be used in advance of a heart attack to prepare the tissue for repair.

Thymosin beta 4 has previously been availble, but treatment in cardiac research was just concluded.

So far the treatment has proven successful in mice, but researchers are confident the therapy will work in humans.

The British Heart Foundation issued a statement calling the breakthrough the “holy grail of heart research,’ but admitted treatment in humans was years away.

According to the Center for Disease Control 785,000 Americans suffered heart attacks in 2010, one every 25 seconds.

 

HEALTH CARE


Blue Shield Of California Caps Its Income; Gives Back Millions To Customers

We’ve reported before on how health insurance company Blue Shield of California was met with opposition over its rate increases. So, it’s only fair we report that, yesterday, the company said it would cap its income and return $180 million to its customers.

CNN reports:

The new rule limits its annual income to 2% of revenue and requires any profit in excess of that to be returned to customers and the community.The rule is being implemented retroactively to 2010 when the insurer earned $315 million in profit and $10 billion in revenue.The company had come under attack earlier this year after it said it planned to raise some of its premiums by 59%. But now, with the new rule in effect, policyholders have some real money coming back to them.

The Los Angeles Times reports that most customers will see their October bill cut by a third, which works out to a 2.5 percent reduction over the whole year. An individual policy holder will get back about $80 and a family of four should get back about $250.

“Our pledge today tangibly demonstrates that Blue Shield puts affordability before profit… This commitment doesn’t solve the affordability problem, but it does represent a paradigm shift for a health plan. We are setting an example that may challenge others to consider changes they can make to reduce the cost of coverage, as well,” said Blue Shield’s Chairman and CEO Bruce Bodaken in a statement.

The Times reports on what one critic had to say:

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones seized on Blue Shield’s initiative to make his case for a bill in the Legislature that would give state insurance regulators authority to revise or reject excessive rate increases.

“Their announcement is an admission that they are making excessive profits,” Jones said. “It’s just another example of how in California we are at the mercy of insurance companies.”

 

IMMIGRATION


Deportation-happy Republicans Need to Stop Making Things up About Immigration Enforcement

Meanwhile, an incredibly consistent array of polling by a variety of polling firms over the past four years continues to show that Americans of all political stripes support tough, fair, and practical solutions that include requiring undocumented immigrants to register, undergo background checks, pay taxes, learn English, and go to the back of the line. Most recently, the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that 72 percent of all Americans support creating a path to citizenship for eligible undocumented workers. Indisputably, congressional Republicans have thwarted, not upheld, the will of the American people.

Second, an argument by Smith and his conservative colleagues mistakenly conflates any solution for undocumented immigrants short of mass deportation with “amnesty.” Most people, however, don’t believe that being required to pay a fine, pay back taxes, learn English, and go to the end of the line equals amnesty. The purveyors of the amnesty argument falsely intimate that undocumented immigrants will get a free path to automatic citizenship. But under the most generous bills that have been introduced in past years, the earliest an undocumented immigrant could earn citizenship would be 12 years after bill enactment. The proposal that Senate Republicans blocked in 2007 would have required a considerably longer delay.

Third, no anti-immigrant argument is more stale than Smith’s assertion that a legalization program will lead to more undocumented immigration. This fiction misinterprets illegal immigration patterns since the last legalization in 1986. In the years immediately following the enactment of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, or IRCA, the nation saw a greater decline in unlawful entries than ever before. Significant undocumented immigration only commenced again when the economy started to catch fire in 1994.

 

JUSTICE


To leave a liberal legacy in the courts, Obama must imitate the GOP

The successful Republican filibuster of Goodwin Liu to sit on the US Court of Appeals represents the most high-profile defeat of a judicial nomination since President Obama took office. While the GOP’s obstructionism further demonstrates the hopeless logjam over the courts, Liu’s fate – he withdrew his nomination today – also highlights Mr. Obama’s own flawed approach to nominations.

In few areas should President Obama’s record be more dispiriting to liberals than in the judiciary, as Obama has nominated, with few exceptions like Liu, a string of older jurists, undermining Democratic efforts to provide balance to a federal court system now dominated by conservatives, and failing to set the groundwork for a lasting legacy.

That Senate Republicans have blocked many of the president’s nominees since 2009 is a surprise to no one who follows the process. To be fair, Democrats filibustered a handful of President Bush’s nominees for political reasons, but Republicans have gone much further. Scores of mostly uncontroversial nominees have languished, many ultimately easily confirmed after months of delay, illustrating the cynicism of the GOP’s behavior.

While it is foolish to believe that Obama could fix Republican opposition with a handful of speeches, his highlighting of the issue would at least bring wider coverage to the judiciary and build more grassroots pressure among Democrats.

Furthermore, Obama has made far fewer nominations than Bush by mid-2003, but this isn’t necessarily because of a lack of interest; rather, Bush had scores of extra open judgeships to fill upon entering office after Senate Republicans had completely blocked dozens of Democratic nominees in the last few years of Bill Clinton’s presidency. Obama did not have the same luxury of vacancies in 2009. (Though, currently, there are 86 openings on the district and circuit courts, a ten percent vacancy rate.)

Still, the president’s lack of aggressiveness is ill-conceived, as evidenced by whom Obama has been nominating to the all-important US courts of appeal.

MORE>>>


Justice Department Opens Investigation into the Portland, Oregon, Police Bureau

PORTLAND, Ore., – The Justice Department announced today that it has opened a civil investigation into allegations of use of excessive force by members of the Portland, Ore., Police Bureau (PPB), in accordance with the pattern or practice provision of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.

The Justice Department will seek to determine whether there are systemic violations of the Constitution or federal law by officers of the PPB.   During the course of the investigation, the Justice Department will consider all relevant information, particularly the efforts that Portland has undertaken to ensure compliance with federal law.   The Justice Department has taken similar steps involving a variety of state and local law enforcement agencies, both large and small, in jurisdictions such as New York, Ohio, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, Louisiana and California.

Today’s announcement is separate from any potential federal criminal investigation involving PPB.

The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon are jointly investigating this matter.   The department welcomes any information from the community.   If you have any comments or concerns, please feel free to contact us at [email protected] or 1-877-218-5228.

 

Report: Rick Santorum On Board Of Hospitals Sued By DOJ


MEDIA


FCC chairman agrees to strike Fairness Doctrine from rulebooks

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski said his agency will remove the Fairness Doctrine from the rulebooks in response to a recent request from House Republicans.

“I fully support deleting the Fairness Doctrine and related provisions from the Code of Federal Regulations, so that there can be no mistake that what has been a dead letter is truly dead,” Genachowski wrote in a letter Monday to House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.).

“I look forward to effectuating this change when acting on the staff’s recommendations and anticipate that the process can be completed in the near future.”

Genachowski has frequently voiced his opposition to the rule, which required broadcasters to cover controversial public issues in a manner deemed fair and balanced by the FCC.

The commission stopped enforcing the rule in 1987 after concluding it was unconstitutional, but in recent years some Democrats have suggested reviving the policy in response to the increasingly partisan nature of cable news.

Upton and Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) wrote to Genachowski last month asking him to strike the rule, citing the Obama administration’s ongoing effort to clear up outdated regulations.

Genachowski agreed with the lawmakers’ request, but noted the doctrine is already dead without a fresh vote from the commission.

“In my view, the Fairness Doctrine holds the potential to chill free speech and the free flow of ideas and, accordingly, was properly abandoned,” Genachowski said.

The lawmakers praised the FCC chairman for complying with their request, and asked for details of the process in a letter sent Wednesday.

“We are heartened by your continued opposition to the Fairness Doctrine because of its chilling effects on free speech and the free flow of ideas,” Upton and Walden wrote. “When precisely will you eliminate the Fairness Doctrine and related regulations? What is involved? Do you have the support of your fellow commissioners? How long will it take?”

The pair also asked for details of the FCC’s other efforts at deregulation, including estimates of how many jobs the efforts would produce.

 

EPA critics are hogging the air time

According to a Media Matters report, cable news channels are flooding the airwaves with people who oppose the EPA’s rules regulating greenhouse gases: They get four times as much airtime as supporters. Of 199 guests discussing EPA rules on cable news shows between December 2009 and this April, 152 opposed the rules, and only 35 supported them. (The rest were neutral.)  Given that a recent Stanford University poll showed that 76 percent of respondents think the government should regulate businesses’ emissions, this is pretty out of line with public opinion.

Fox News channels were the biggest offenders — le gasp! They talked about the EPA rules the most overall, and also offered the most skewed perspective: 81 percent of Fox guests and 83 percent of Fox Business guests opposed greenhouse-gas regulation. MSNBC was almost as distorted in the other direction, with 80 percent of guests supporting the rules — but that’s out of 10 total guests, whereas Fox had 64 guests of whom 52 opposed the regs. Fox was basically obsessed with this story; the anti-regulation guests on Fox News alone far outnumbered the supporting guests on every network combined. Basically, Fox News has a hate-boner for the EPA.

Oh, and Republican guests discussing the EPA regs outnumbered Democrats five to one. Damn you, liberal media!

 

Fox News Gives Sarah Palin Twice as Much Airtime As Any GOP Candidate

 

MILITARY


As Obama Mulls Afghan Drawdown, War Weariness Grows On Capitol Hill

With President Obama’s July deadline for withdrawing some troops in Afghanistan just weeks away, the future of the U.S. commitment to the nearly 10-year war has been a hot topic on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue in recent weeks.

Concern over the nation’s budget woes have taken center stage in Washington, and with few tangible signs of progress in Afghanistan, members of Congress are increasingly expressing deep skepticism about maintaining U.S. nation-building efforts there.

The most notable aspect of Wednesday’s Senate Foreign Relations hearing on the nomination of Ryan Crocker to be ambassador to Afghanistan, was the absence of voices supporting an ongoing robust U.S. presence there. […]

Instead, Crocker was treated to a series of complaints and criticisms from both sides of the aisle about the war’s price-tag and the absence of major progress in the mammoth nation-building project.

The committee’s Democrats released a report Tuesday night that the nearly $19 billion in U.S. assistance to stabilize Afghanistan may, in fact, be producing the opposite effect, creating a false economy that would crumble once the U.S. and NATO forces leave. In addition, the infusion of funds is fueling corruption and undermining the Afghan government, the report found.

Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) said the U.S. needs to run a cost-benefit analysis of U.S. involvement.

“The current commitment in troops and dollars in neither proportional to our interests or sustainable,” he said at the hearing.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) was more blunt, repeatedly grilling Crocker on what, if anything, he could point to as progress.

“From 2002 to 2010, we have spent $19 billion in assistance, and I know there has been a report…that this huge attempt at nation building may not survive in an American withdrawal. Is this a good use of American taxpayer dollars?” he asked.

Crocker responded that the U.S. has helped seven million children in the country receive an education, including two million girls, and has established the provision of basic health services.

“What I would tell you senator, I am committed to ensuring that the assistance we provide, A, makes an important positive difference, and B, can be implemented, and C, can be sustained,” he said.

Menendez said he agreed that educating children and establishing basic healthcare are successes, although he said he’s “not sure it’s $19 billion worth.”

“I hope you look at [the role of ambassador] as a fiduciary for the American taxpayer,” he added. “As senators, we’re fiduciaries and right now I don’t think we are being good fiduciaries to the American taxpayer.”

Aside from Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN), the ranking member of the committee, Sen. James Risch (R-ID) was one of only a handful of Republicans to show up for the hearing, and even then he said he shared the frustration already expressed by the panel’s Democrats.

“I share a lot of the skepticism that is expressed here this morning,” he said. “This is a messy situation that isn’t getting any better.”

In his opening remarks and throughout the hearing, Crocker repeatedly said the U.S. can’t afford to abandon the region and let terrorists regain a haven for plotting attacks, and he reminded the senators of the rise of the Taliban after the U.S. abruptly stopped channeling money to the country in 1989 after the Mujahideen successfully pushed out the then-Soviet Union’s military.

“The United States is not walking away from the region,” Crocker said. “We will not repeat the mistakes of the past.”

President Obama said Tuesday he would make a decision about how many troops to withdraw “soon,” and he spoke to Afghanistan President Karzai for roughly one hour by videoconference Wednesday morning, although a White House readout of the call did not mention the upcoming withdrawal.

During Wednesday’s briefing, White House spokesman Jay Carney pointed reporters to that remark, noting that there is no specific deadline right now.

“July has 31 days in it,” he said.

When asked about the Senate Foreign Relations Committee report, Carney said the White House welcomed it even though the President and administration officials are well aware of the problems in Afghanistan.

“We are very clear-eyed about the challenges in Afghanistan….about the progress that has been made and the setbacks we have experienced at various times,” he said.

 

POLITICS


Americans For Prosperity Places Fake Eviction Notices On Detroit Homeowners’ Doors To Scare Up Support

The Michigan chapter of the Koch-backed conservative activist group Americans For Prosperity (AFP) has been campaigning against a new bridge project called the New International Trade Crossing (NITC) that the state is considering. While there may be some merit to some of the arguments against the NITC project, the tactics AFP has just been found to be using in campaigning against it are revolting. […]

The “notices” sensationally claimed to homeowners that their property may be seized if the NITC is constructed. Some residents, particularly elderly ones, were physically shaken by the tactic:

Residents and a state legislator lambasted the circulars, saying they were a scare tactic by opponents of the bridge. Dolores Toth, 81, who has heart problems, began to shake after reading the notice, said her son, Steve. “How low can you go?” Steve Toth said. “This isn’t something you do, I don’t care who you are.”

“It was meant to startle people,” said AFP Michigan director Scott Hagerstrom, defending the notices. “We really wanted people to take notice. This is the time that their opinions need to be heard. We wanted people to read it.” The Detroit Free Press put together a video report covering AFP’s scare tactics and the local area’s response. Watch it here.

 

Dear GOP: Obama and the Democrats are fixing the problem you created.

Jed Lewison, Kos:

The new GOP message is that Barack Obama made the economy worse, but they’ve got it completely backwards: along with the Democratic Party, he’s actually made it better.

Let’s start with the recovery act. In the 27 months since President Obama signed it into law, we’ve lost 1.3 million private sector jobs and 1.8 million overall.

Those are terrible numbers, but in the 27 months before the stimulus, we were losing private sector jobs more than three times as quickly. During that stretch, we lost 4.5 million jobs in the private sector jobs and 4.1 million jobs overall. (The reason we lost more private sector jobs than jobs overall is that public sector hiring went up by nearly one-half million. Under Obama, we’ve lost a half-million government jobs, an ironic fact given the false Republican claim that government hiring has increased.)

As you can see in the chart at the top of the post, as bad as the jobs picture was in 2009, it was even worse in 2008, and things have turned around in 2010 and 2011 with job growth stronger than it was in 2007. Moreover, we’ve now had sixteen straight months of private sector job gains.

With unemployment still at 9.1%, economic growth is obviously still way below where anybody wants it to be, but to the extent the administration has fallen short, it’s that they’ve soft-pedaled the need for more stimulus funds to accelerate the recovery beyond its current pace.

And the fact remains that unlike Bush and the Republicans who wrecked the economy in the first place, Obama and the Democrats haven’t made things worse. They’ve made things better.

 

Voting Rights Groups Sue Georgia for Disenfranchising Voters

 

State laws affect your access to elections. See how states stack up in Rock the Vote’s new scorecard:

The Voting System Scorecard serves as a national benchmark that measures state laws and policies in three key areas: (1) voter registration, (2) casting a ballot and (3) young voter preparation. The 21-point scale evaluates each state’s implementation of policies that increase access to the political process.

Rock the Vote’s analysis of the 50 states’ voting systems reveals that young Americans are being left out of the democratic process because of outdated voter registration practices, barriers encountered when trying to cast a ballot, and our country’s failure to adequately prepare them for active citizenship.

With an average national score of just 41% (8.6 out of 21 total possible points), states are not meeting the needs of the rising electorate. Find out more and send the report to your elected officials.

 

Conyers says Democrats should tout ‘ObamaCare’ with pride

A prominent Democrat is trying to change the public’s perception of “ObamaCare,” a term many in the party view as derogatory shorthand for the new healthcare reform law.

Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) says he’s had enough of Republicans using “ObamaCare” to disparage the healthcare overhaul. The second most senior lawmaker in the House has gone so far as to hand out buttons with the words “I [heart symbol] ObamaCare” as part of his campaign to rehabilitate a moniker he thinks Democrats should be proud of.

“The fact that a healthcare bill is named after a first-term president who does what two other presidents before him couldn’t accomplish is really a compliment,” Conyers told The Hill. “A few years from now, ObamaCare will be looked upon as a complimentary description, rather than what [critics] are trying to portray it as now.”

Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), regularly use “ObamaCare” when referring to the 2010 law.

Conyers says a friend in Lansing, Mich. thought of the button idea. It first attracted national attention when he wore one at a National Press Club event in March.

The former Judiciary Committee chairman said he has handed out buttons to at least three other House members whom he claims have embraced his approach on “ObamaCare.”

They include Reps. Hansen Clarke (Mich.), Keith Ellison (Minn.) and Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.).

None of the three members returned a request for comment.

However, the Obama administration is well-aware that many people use “ObamaCare.” Typing the phrase into Google brings up an ad for HealthCare.gov, a government website that explains various aspects of the new law.

Labeling in politics is an important aspect in the never-ending message wars between Republicans and Democrats. Republicans, for example, gained the upper hand by calling the “estate tax” the “death tax.” Democrats, meanwhile, torpedoed then-President George W. Bush’s Social Security reform plan by attacking its call for “private accounts.”

Chris Jennings, who served as a senior healthcare adviser to President Clinton, dealt with Republican efforts to “divide and conquer” when they renamed the doomed Health Security Act “HillaryCare” after Hillary Clinton, who led the reform effort.

The name stuck, Jennings said, to the displeasure of the first lady and her team.

“It can be damaging to personalize, because obviously health reform is much bigger than one person and it makes it sound like one person’s big vision and that no one else had any role in the production of the policy,” Jennings said.

Still, he said, Conyers might be on to something.

“If everyone is naming it ObamaCare anyway,” Jennings said, “not being defensive and actually embracing it can be a smart strategic move.

“Many of us have worked for decades toward that end, and we should be proud of it. And we should be running on it, not running away from it.”

Other Democrats detest the term.

Before she took over as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) tried to stop Republicans from using the term on the House floor, claiming it violates the chamber’s rules against disparaging remarks against the president.

Her argument didn’t go far, as the House prohibits personal attacks against the president — calling him a liar, for example, or accusing him of sexual misconduct — but allows vigorous debate on policy issues.

The Feb. 18 incident was sparked by a speech by Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) in which he argued in favor of an amendment cutting off funding for the law. If the law were defunded, Graves said, “government bureaucrats cannot lift so much as a finger, move a paper clip, send an email, if it has anything to do with ObamaCare.”

Later that day, Wasserman Schultz told ABC News that “the Republicans mean ‘ObamaCare’ as a disparaging term.”

“The law is called the Affordable Care Act,” she said. “I think it should be called the Affordable Care Act and Republicans shouldn’t be allowed to continue to make disparaging references to the president while expressing their concerns about the provisions of the law.”

Conyers said the congresswoman hasn’t talked to him about his effort, though he said he has worn the button on the Judiciary panel they both sit on.

Wasserman Schultz’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Conyers himself isn’t the law’s biggest fan — he’s been pushing his single-payer bill every Congress since 2003 — but he says Democrats should be proud of what they have accomplished.

The Michigan Democrat said he’s confident that perceptions of the law are already improving.

“It’s changing right now — we’re changing it,” he said.

“That’s exactly why we’re doing this: People tried to denigrate Obama, but this is a major accomplishment.”

It’s not clear where the term actually started, though one of the oldest references uncovered by an Internet search is sympathetic to the president.

“Obama’s national health insurance program, let’s call it ‘ObamaCare,’ provides Americans with affordable premiums, co-pays and deductibles,” Washington-based writer Wayne Madsen wrote in The Salt Lake Tribune on April 4, 2008, during the presidential campaign.

“I like the term,” Conyers said. “I wish I had invented it myself.”

A debate on “ObamaCare” emerged at a March Energy and Commerce hearing where Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) said he simply used the phrase to avoid having to use the law’s formal name, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

“I don’t mean any offense, but PPACA doesn’t come out too good in my accent for the name of this law … it’s just easier for me to say,” Barbour said.

Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas), who has his own thick drawl, didn’t sound convinced.

“I understand,” Green said. “It works well on Fox and with my Republican colleagues. But it’s really the Affordable Healthcare Act. We name things crazy, but it’s called health reform, that’s the easiest thing to say.”

But Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) made it clear Republicans are going to call the law whatever they want.

“With my accent,” he said, “I still call it ObamaCare, too.”

GOP officials are hoping voters are thinking about healthcare when they go to the polls next year.

A May Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 42 percent of respondents had a favorable impression of the law, while 44 percent said unfavorable. That’s virtually unchanged from a year ago (41 percent versus 44).

 

BILLS REPUBLICANS HAVE BLOCKED OR ATTEMPTED TO BLOCK SINCE OBAMA BECAME PRESIDENT [short list]

Tax on Companies that ship jobs overseas- A bill that would have eliminated a tax break that companies get when they ship jobs overseas. Republicans blocked this, allowing companies to keep the tax break they receive when they ship jobs to other countries.

Political Ad disclosure bill- Would have required all donors to political campaigns to reveal themselves. Republicans blocked this, not once but twice.

Subpoena Power for the Committee investigating the BP Oil Spill – Give subpoena power to the independent committee responsible for investigating BP’s roll in the oil spill. Republicans attempted to block this.

The Small Business Jobs Act -would give LOCAL, community banks access to billions of dollars to loan to small businesses. Republicans blocked this, then attempted to block it a second time and failed.

The DREAM Act- Gives immigrant youth who were brought here as children a path to citizenship by earning a college degree or serving the military for 2 years. Republicans blocked this.

Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”- Would have repealed the law that forces gay and lesbian services members to lie about their sexuality and gives the military the right to discharge soldiers based on their sexuality. Republicans blocked this many times and Democrats were finally able to pass it with the support of just 2 Republicans.

From Crooks and Liars – When John McCain led the filibuster of the Defense Appropriations Act yesterday, he blocked far more than the DREAM Act and repeal of DADT. Here are just a few of the other blocked provisions, courtesy of Mother Jones.

  • No permanent military bases in Afghanistan.
  • Report identifying hybrid or electric propulsion systems and other fuel-saving technologies for incorporation into tactical motor vehicles.
  • Protection of child custody arrangements for parents who are members of the Armed Forces deployed in support of a contingency operation.
  • Improvements to Department of Defense domestic violence programs.
  • Department of Defense recognition of spouses of members of the Armed Forces.
  • Department of Defense recognition of children of members of the Armed Forces.
  • Enhancements to the Troops-to-Teachers Program.
  • Fiscal year 2011 increase in military basic pay.
  • Improving aural protection for members of the Armed Forces.
  • Comprehensive policy on neurocognitive assessment by the military health care system.
  • Authority to make excess nonlethal supplies available for domestic emergency assistance.

And those were just some of the progressive provisions. On the conservative side, there are these, and more:

  • Prohibition on the use of funds for the transfer or release of individuals detained at United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
  • Prohibition on the use of funds to modify or construct facilities in the United States to house detainees transferred from United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
  • Prohibition on use of funds to give Miranda warnings to Al Qaeda terrorists.

And here’s the bills that Republicans had blocked when we compiled our first list;

Senator Franken’s Anti-Rape Amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill – Makes it so that women raped overseas while working for foreign contractors have the right to have their case heard in an American court instead of having their case mediated by the company they work for. Only Republican men voted against this, but it passed.

Benefits for Homeless Veterans- Would have expanded benefits to homeless veterans and homeless veterans with children. Republicans blocked this.

Affordable Health Care For America Act- Prevents insurance companies from discriminating against you on the basis of “pre-existing conditions”. Requires that insurance companies spend 85 cents of every dollar that you pay on your actual health care. Limits health insurance companies profit margins. Republicans blocked this for months before it finally passed and have vowed to repeal it if they are elected.

Health Care for the 9/11 First Responders who got sick from being at Ground Zero- Would provide billions of dollars in health care to help the 9/11 First Responders who were at Ground Zero on 9/11 and are now sick because of it. Republicans blocked this.

The Jobs Bill- Offsets the payroll tax for 1 year for companies that hire new employees, or people receiving unemployment insurance. Also gives other tax incentives to companies hiring new employees. Republicans attempted to block this.

Wall Street Reform- Puts stricter regulations on the banks, preventing them from becoming “too big to fail”. Curbs reckless spending practices that caused the banking crisis. Republicans attempted to block this.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act- Pumped billions of dollars into state and local Governments to prevent us from sinking into a second Great Depression. Republicans opposed this but now want to take credit for the parts of it that we know are successful.

Oil Spill Liability- Raises the liability on what companies can be made to pay to clean up after an oil spill. Republicans blocked this.

Immigration Reform- Republican suggested comprehensive immigration reform until Obama supported it. Now they’re rabidly opposed to it and even voted against their own legislation. Republicans blocked this.

Unemployment extension bill HR-4213- Would provide additional aid to the millions of Americans still on unemployment who are just trying to support themselves and their families. Republicans blocked this bill for 8 weeks before it finally passed. Republicans blocked this for 8 weeks before it finally passed.

Fair Pay Act of 2009- Also called the Lily Ledbetter bill. Requires that women receive equal compensation to men for doing the same work. Republicans attempted to block this.

The next time someone tells you that the Republicans care about the American people just give them this list of all the bill Republicans wanted to fail.

 

Senate Dems Distance Themselves from the Obama Agenda

The Senate votes Wednesday on a measure that would delay the “swipe fee” provisions of the financial re-regulation bill. The vote, which essentially pits bank backers against supporters of retail chains, will be close.  But the thing that interests me about it is its sponsor: Democratic Senator Jon Tester of Montana. Tester’s measure is the latest in a series by vulnerable Senate Democrats up for reelection next year to repeal, amend or distance themselves from the agenda Democrats pushed the first two years of the Obama Administration.

Earlier this year, the Senate voted to repeal the controversial 1099 provision of health care reform by a vote of 87-12. Forty Democrats, including 16 of the 17 Democratic incumbents, voted for the measure (Bernie Sanders was the only incumbent up for reelect who didn’t).

One Democratic senator, Nebraska’s Ben Nelson, has even voted to reappropriate stimulus funds to pay for unemployment benefits.

A whopping 23 Democratic Senate seats are up in 2012 – 17 incumbents and six open seats. Many of these incumbents – especially those elected in 2006 – ran as populists, criticizing the Republicans’ lack fiscal responsibility in Washington. They now find themselves defending their own fiscal records in an era where the government has grown – many would argue by necessity to avoid disaster – more than at any other time since Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society. Which is why to curtail that criticism so many Senate Democrats have taken trimmers to the bills they helped passed. And many more are voice outright opposition to some of the Administration’s outstanding priorities.

When running in 2010 to fill the remaining two years of Bobby Byrd’s Senate term, West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin famously took a rifle shot at a copy of the Senate’s carbon cap and trade bill. He’s not the only Democrat to express unhappiness with the bill. Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey and Missouri’s Claire McCaskill all hail from coal producing states and are up for reelection. Not unsurprisingly, the bill has languished in the Senate after passing the House.

When the DREAM Act, another Obama top priority, came up for a vote earlier this year, five Democrats helped the GOP kill it, including Tester and Nelson. Manchin skipped the vote altogether.

President Obama’s 2012 budget was unanimously voted down in the Senate last month in a move that underlines how Democrats have become increasingly concerned about their record when it comes to fiscal responsibility. McCaskill went so far as to introduce an alternative bill with Tennessee Republican Bob Corker, which placed spending caps on Medicaid that West Virginia Democrat Jay Rockefeller criticized as even more draconian than Paul Ryan’s budget.

Already in 2010, many Democrats ran against the President and Democratic leaders in Congress. Unless the economy picks up, it would seem that trend will continue and deepen in 2012, despite Obama’s presence on the ballot.

 

Octogenarian Former GOP State Rep To Run As Fake ‘Democrat’ In Wis. Recalls

The newest example of Wisconsin Republicans recruiting fake Democratic candidates, to force Dem primaries and make trouble in the state Senate recalls: Otto Junkermann, an 82-year old former Republican state representative, who will challenge official Democratic candidate Nancy Nusbaum for the recall against GOP state Sen. Rob Cowles.

As the Green Bay Press Gazette reports, Junkermann very openly professes to support Cowles:

Otto Junkermann, 82 of Allouez, said he thinks “very highly” of Cowles, a Republican also from Allouez, and will run against Nusbaum as a “conservative Democrat.”

“I respect Rob a great deal. I’ve known him, I followed him into the Assembly and took the position he had when he went into the Senate, and I always admired him,” Junkermann said.

Junkermann served in the Assembly as a Republican for one term from 1987-88. He was also a Brown County supervisor from 1982-87 and ran again in 2002, 2004 and 2008 but lost.

Asked if he was a so-called “spoiler candidate,” Junkermann said: “I don’t know how I could avoid being considered that.”

Over in another district, a 25-year old county GOP official has signed up to run as a ringer Democrat in a primary. And in another district, a retiree who has donated to multiple Republicans is running as a fake Dem.

The key here is that recalls are now tentatively scheduled for July 12, under the state election officials’ proposed timelines, targeting six Republicans. If there were only one Democrat against each one Republican, then the July 12 date would immediately be held as the general election. But if there were additional Democrats, the July 12 date would then become the primary, giving the incumbents more time to campaign for a general election in August.

Also, thanks to Wisconsin’s open primary system in which anybody can vote in a party primary, it would force the Democrats to spend time, money and resources campaigning for their own nominations.

The strategy is being officially coordinated by state Republican leaders, and has been endorsed by state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.

 

SPLC Urges DHS to Reassess Resources After Key Analyst Reveals Unit on Domestic Terror was Scaled Back in Wake of Right-Wing Criticism

 

GOP’s Paul Revere strategy

Is there any idea too crazy for the 2012 GOP hopefuls? Is there any nutty idea that, once proposed, GOP presidential candidates won’t try to match or even top?

Looks like we’re about to find out. As Think Progress reports, Herman Cain is now saying that as president he would only sign bills that were no more than three pages long. This would basically disqualify any piece of substantive legislation, including the George W. Bush’s tax cuts.

Now, perhaps Cain will back off if there’s enough ridicule, but the dynamic of movement conservatives usually works the other way around. Indeed, I suspect that if they haven’t done so yet, Republican operatives will soon begin deliberately planting easily-mocked ideas in their candidates’ speeches, the better to earn Palin-like credibility with activists and voters.

Call it the Paul Revere strategy, after the Sage of Wasilla’s skill in turning anything foolish she says into evidence that liberals and reporters are out to get her.

Another case in point: Tim Pawlenty’s “Google test” yesterday.

How will the rest of the field react if Cain presses them on this silly idea — which may be totally gibberish, but almost certainly will test well with Tea Party voters? My guess is they’ll jump on board. After all, virtually every Republican adopted last year’s nonsense about not being allowed to vote on a bill unless you’d read the whole thing.

And in case you think it’s just about cheap campaign gimmicks like this one, read Jonathan Cohn on how this kind of nonsense extends to real policy proposals. Or think about the 2012 GOP positions over the last ten years on everything from climate to health care to, oh, evolution. Note that things really don’t work the same way oon the Democratic side — unless I missed the point where the leading candidates in 2004 and 2008 adopted Dennis Kucinich’s platform.

Or perhaps one of the plausible Republican nominees will eventually try the opposite tactic of appealing to sane, sensible conservatives.

Hey, anything is possible.

 

Obama Eyes Ex-Banker for Consumer Chief

President Barack Obama is considering nominating Raj Date, a former banker with Capital One Financial Corp. (COF) and Deutsche Bank AG, as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, according to a person briefed on the process.

Date is already at the consumer bureau, working as a top deputy to Elizabeth Warren, the Obama administration adviser who is setting up the new agency. He is on a short list of candidates to become director, the person said.

Obama hasn’t made a final decision on who to nominate to the post, which requires Senate confirmation, the person said. The agency is to begin formal operations on July 21, one year after Obama signed the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory overhaul into law.

Date’s nomination could be a way for the Obama administration to tamp down political controversy over the leadership of the consumer agency, which is one of the centerpieces of Dodd-Frank. Warren could urge her supporters to endorse his nomination, and his industry experience has been praised by banks that would fall under the bureau’s oversight.

Still, after 44 Republican senators announced last month that they wouldn’t vote to approve any candidate to run the bureau without changes in its structure, the White House might have to resort to a temporary appointment during a congressional recess. Sixty of the 100 senators are effectively required to vote for a nomination due to procedural rules.

 

How Democrats Lose Arguments

Only four Republican members of the House voted against the Ryan budget. One of them was Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mon., who’s also a candidate for U.S. Senate next year.

Regardless of which party wants to change Medicare, either Democrats with Obamacare or Republicans through this budget proposal, it’s always been my approach to listen directly to Montanans prior to any vote. It’s being rushed through with little to no public input. That’s just plain wrong… there are still too many unanswered questions with regard to Medicare reform, and I simply won’t support any plan until I know for a fact that Montana’s seniors will be protected.

Rehberg’s opponent is Jon Tester, who voted against the Ryan budget, too, when it came up for a doomed dry run in the Senate. But Tester also went on Morning Joe and said merely that “Paul Ryan put forth a plan, good place to start, there are some problems with it.”

Tester has a Republican opponent who’s running far to the left on Medicare, and even he’s playing the austerity game?

 

Billionaire Israeli donor: Obama is not anti-Israel

When billionaire Israeli American Haim Saban, one of the DNC’s top contributors, was recently reported to have vowed not to give money to Obama’s reelection campaign over his Israel stance, conservatives pounced. Here was a sign that Obama’s Mideast speeches had badly damaged his relationship with American Jewish voters and big donors!

But in an interview with me this morning, Saban sought to clear up what he said was a misrepresentation by the right of his position.

Saban told me that he did not view Obama as anti-Israel and that he would donate the maximum to Obama’s campaign if asked. And while he said he had problems with the timing of Obama’s announcement, he stated that he has no problem with the substance of Obama’s position, and said conservatives had misrepresented it in order to drive away Obama’s Jewish support.

“If solicited, I will absolutely write a check to the level allowed by law,” Saban said. “I don’t agree that he’s anti-Israel.”

 

POLLS


Yale report: Americans’ Attitude about Climate Change (May 2011) pdf

Do you think that global warming is happening?

May 2011 –Yes 64%

June 2010 –Yes 61%

Jan 2010 –Yes 57 %

Nov 2008 – Yes 71%

 

Obama holds big 2012 lead over Republicans – poll

U.S. President Barack Obama retains a big lead over possible Republican rivals in the 2012 election despite anxiety about the economy and the country’s future, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll on Wednesday.

Obama’s approval rating inched up 1 percentage point from May to 50 percent but the number of Americans who believe the country is on the wrong track also rose as pricier gasoline, persistently high unemployment and a weak housing market chipped away at public confidence.

Obama leads all potential Republican challengers by double-digit margins, the poll showed. He is ahead of his closest Republican rival, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, by 13 percentage points — 51 percent to 38 percent.

“Obama’s position has gotten a little stronger over the last couple of months as the public mood has evened out, and as an incumbent he has some big advantages over his rivals,” Ipsos pollster Cliff Young said.

“Until Republicans go through a primary season and select a nominee, they are going to be at a disadvantage in the head-to-head matchups in name recognition.”

Obama, who got a boost in the polls last month with the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, is amassing an election campaign war chest likely to be larger than the record $750 million (457 million pounds) he raised in 2008. […]

The survey was taken after weak jobs and housing figures released last week showed the U.S. economy is recovering slower than expected. Unemployment rose slightly to 9.1 percent for the month.

The poll found 60 percent of respondents said the country is on the wrong track, up from 56 percent in May but still below April’s high of 69 percent. In the latest survey, 35 percent said the country is going in the right direction.

Obama’s approval rating has drifted in a narrow range between 49 percent and 51 percent since January, with the exception of April when the first spike in gasoline prices drove his rating lower.

 

46% say they are hearing mostly bad news about the nation’s economy, the highest % since March 2009.


SCIENCE


Resetting the Table for Two Fleeting Elements [Kquark take note!]

Scientists have formally added two new man-made elements to chemistry’s periodic table, recognizing a pair of fleeting elements forged in a particle accelerator and lasting just milliseconds before decaying.

Elements 114 and 116—yet unnamed—were first formed during experiments conducted by a team of Russian and U.S. scientists at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, near Moscow, in 2004 and 2006. The new elements have 114 and 116 protons, respectively, in their nuclei and are the heaviest discovered so far.

Scientists have been creating new elements since 1940, when neptunium and plutonium were first forged at the University of California, Berkeley. As more elements have been created, a pattern emerged: Each new element was radioactive, slightly heavier than the one before, and in general, more unstable.

Eventually, scientists hope to discover new elements that might be stable, easily studied and, perhaps, offer commercially useful properties.

Atoms of the two new elements—created in a clash of nuclear particles—lasted only milliseconds before decaying into simpler and more stable substances, making them hard to study and even harder to verify.

The panel responsible for certifying claims of new elements took three years to confirm the discoveries. Claims involving three other new elements—113, 115 and 118—were rejected.

“We have to take things one atom at a time,” said nuclear chemist Paul Karol at Carnegie Mellon University, who is chairman of the international panel.

Elements are pure chemical materials from which all known matter is composed. They consist of a single type of atom distinguished by the number of protons in its nucleus, its atomic number. The periodic table arranges the elements based on their atomic number and allows scientists to predict as-yet-undiscovered elements.

 

UNIONS

 

Nurses Tell Chamber, Politicians: Time to Cure America

Carrying signs saying “Heal America! Tax Wall Street!” more than 1,000 nurses, union members and community allies today called on President Obama, the Chamber of Commerce and Congress set a new course to heal the nation.

After a short rally this morning in front of the White House, the crowd marched enthusiastically across the street to the Chamber. There were so many marchers that they covered an entire city block on both sides of the street. Traffic on busy “H” Street, a main thoroughfare in the nation’s capital, was blocked for several minutes as marchers crossed the street to reach the Chamber. All the time they chanted “Hey Chamber you can’t hide. We have seen your greedy side” and “They say cut back. We say fight back.” […]

The nurses, members of National Nurses United (NNU), are calling for our leaders to enact the “Main Street Contract for the American People.” NNU Co-President Jean Ross said the contract is a care plan to cure America. The plan is designed to stop economic decline and protect American families. It calls for jobs at living wages, guaranteed health care for all and equal access to quality education, schools, good housing, protection from hunger, a secure retirement for everyone, a clean and safe environment and a fair and just tax system in which Wall Street and those with the most wealth pay their fair share.

At the Chamber, the crowd was greeted by NNU staff members performing street theater dressed in tuxedos to represent Wall Street bankers Goldman and Saks.

 

Union and Progressive Activists Join Forces at Netroots Nation

 

Former GOP Rep. Admits He’s A ‘Spoiler Candidate’ In Wisconsin Recall Race

Wisconsin Republicans have found their first “spoiler candidate” to run as a fake Democrat in the state’s upcoming recall elections. The Green Bay Press-Gazette reported today that 82-year-old Otto Junkermann, a former GOP state representative, will run against Democrat Nancy Nusbaum, attempting to thwart her efforts to unseat Sen. Rob Cowles (R) in a recall election. Asked if he was a spoiler candidate, Junkermann responded, “I don’t know how I could avoid being considered that.”


WEDGE ISSUES

 

Planned Parenthood Of Indiana Receiving Record Amount Of Donations To Continue Operations |

Laura Bassett reports that “as a federal judge considers whether to block the implementation of a recently-passed law that defunds Planned Parenthood of Indiana,” the organization “has received an unprecedented amount of donations from nearly 1,200 donors across three continents.” “The donations totaled $116,000, and PPIN estimates that the money will allow it to continue providing medical services to its current Medicaid patients through June 20.”

 

AND IN OTHER NEWS…


Moving Towards a Physical Archive of the World’s Books

The Internet Archive, a non-profit digital library with the Wikipedian mission of “universal access to all knowledge,” has offered free storage and access to digitized music, movies, websites and nearly three million public domain books since 1996. In May, the Archive turned its focus offline, towards the preservation of physical reading materials. The aptly-named  Physical Archive to the Internet Archive, a prototype facility devoted to the long-term preservation of physical records, launched last Sunday in Richmond, California. Materials are stored in 40-foot shipping containers, modified for secure and individually controllable environments of 50 or 60 degrees Fahrenheit and 30 percent relative humidity and designed to keep out undesirable pests.

On the Internet Archive’s blog, founder Brewster Kahle compares the Physical Archive to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault as “an authoritative and safe version of crops we are growing.” Saving physical copies of digitized books might at least be seen in a similar light as an authoritative and safe copy that may be called upon in the future:

Digital technologies are changing both how library materials are accessed and increasingly how library materials are preserved. After the Internet Archive digitizes a book from a library in order to provide free public access to people world-wide, these books go back on the shelves of the library. We noticed an increasing number of books from these libraries moving books to “off site repositories” (1 2 3 4) to make space in central buildings for more meeting spaces and work spaces. These repositories have filled quickly and sometimes prompt the de-accessioning of books. A library that would prefer to not be named was found to be thinning their collections and throwing out books based on what had been digitized by Google. While we understand the need to manage physical holdings, we believe this should be done thoughtfully and well.

Two of the corporations involved in major book scanning have sawed off the bindings of modern books to speed the digitizing process. Many have a negative visceral reaction to the “butchering” of books, but is this a reasonable reaction?

While no crushing yoke of political censorship or governmental censorship has made literature and criticism a dying medium, physical books are running into trouble in the digital age. A recent report by the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) recently reaffirmed what any casual Internet observer recognizes as fact: that information-seeking behavior is constrained by the convenience of tracking down resources. A Google-generation untrained in the art of deep archival research is likely to have less patience in tracking down that hard-to-find translation of Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius’ De Jure Belli ac Pacis should a digitized scrape of the tome not appear in the first few pages of Google or JSTOR results. And as demand for physical books drops, so does usage: thousands of books spend hours, untouched and unread, in musty basements. Atlantic correspondent Yoni Applebaum noted a new trend towards “deaccessioning” of newspapers — the transferring of newsprint to microfilm — in 2001, along with an unintended consequence:

In 1997, Columbia celebrated his 150th birthday with Joseph Pulitzer Day, complete with cake and speeches. Our library houses a significant portion of his papers, including an extensive collection of documents relating to the World.

If you go to Butler Library, you may search the shelves for hours, but you will not find the New York World. Gone are the bound volumes, preserving the faded newsprint upon which Pulitzer’s fame and fortune were founded. No more are the beautiful color advertisements, the full-page illustrations in a dozen fantastic shades, and the promotional inserts on hard stock. They were “deaccessioned,” in the technical jargon of the library trade, and replaced with grainy black-and-white images on microfilm. A half-million pages of newsprint were discarded for a few drawers of film in small cardboard boxes.

Columbia was hardly the only library to junk its newspapers. In fact, almost every major research library in America did the same. Along with them went nearly a million books, all destroyed in the name of preservation.

MORE>>>


Weiner Apologizes

 

 


TAKE ACTION


Madison’s Raging Grannies! Wisconsin.AVI

The Raging Grannies kicked off the noon program in Walkerville today, Tuesday, June 7. Singing to a lively crowd, the elders harmonized to fight for health care for Wisconsin citizens. The group was joined by local health care workers holding an upside down Wisconsin flag because the state is in distress.

Singing creative, original lyrics, the grannies explained that “doctors orders are for health, not corporate wealth” and “we will rage and shout for single health care so that everyone is in and no one is out.”

After the sing along there was a creative theatre performance explaining how the to BadgerCare and SeniorCare will impact Wisconsinites.

Closing the program was a spirited citizen speak-out where individuals took the open mic to explain why health care is important to them.

 

CREDO Action: Tell the media: Stop covering Sarah Palin and start doing your job!


Petition Nancy Pelosi for a congressional hearing on ClarenceThomas’ conflict of interest



QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Hey Adolf, we’re landing in Normandy. Here’s a warning shot. Ding dong, ya bastard!” ~~ Stephen Colbert, channeling Palin

[ This quote makes me laugh so hard I may have to use it repeatedly!]

 

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The Daily Planet, Vol. 96, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

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.

16 Responses so far.

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  1. KQuark says:

    KQuarkium it has a ring to it don’t ya think? ;-)

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  2. ADONAI says:

    A battery that could replace oil? I bet we never hear about that thing again.

    So, issue #96. #100 is just around the corner. Got anything special planned?

    Also, I enjoyed this so I thought I’d share it:

    94165_600.jpg

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    • Chernynkaya says:

      That’s a great ironic cartoon, AD! Yeah-Hatch is SUCH a freaking Lib. Goes to show how extreme the Reptilians have become, doesn’t it?

      What do you suggest for the 100th Issue? I hadn’t thought of anything but I’m open to suggestions. Maybe an all Onion-like edition?

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      • ADONAI says:

        The Onion idea is pretty good. I was thinking, since summer is basically here, issue #100 could have a summer theme to it.

        You could maybe blend the two. The Onion has a pretty funny video up right now about people staying home to have a vacation in their mind. Stuff on climate change, gas prices, the cost of a summer vacation, I saw a good article in USA Today not too long back about families dialing back their summer.

        Nothing too fancy. Just a few stories here and there but otherwise your same awesome newspaper.

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  3. kesmarn says:

    Cher, the story on the phony eviction notices posted on Detroit homeowners’ doors is infuriating. The one woman who was interviewed really had a point: “This should be illegal.” What a horrible thing to do to people.

    To the Koch brothers, whose organization was behind that ultra-dirty trick, I say: “Ding-dong, ya bastards!”

    :evil:

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  4. agrippa says:

    There is enough evidence to show that human action contributes to climate change, aka global warming. There are several reasons fro the unwillingness to accept that; one is inertia. People, companies and countries will have to go some time and trouble to make the changes that lessen the problem. People, companies and countries do not want to change.

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    • Chernynkaya says:

      Agriipa, I’m sure you are right about the inertia thing but my theory--which is actually part of what you are saying--is that the topic is too frightening to many people. They feel overwhelmed and scared so they deny it. Ostrich behavior because they really can’t handle it.

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  5. whatsthatsound says:

    Today’s Lesson In Herstory: The Gettysburg Address

    On November 19th, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln gave the following warning to the British:

    Four shots and seven bells ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, an EXCEPTIONAL new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men should be armed.

    Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so EXCEPTIONAL, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should warn the British that they aren’t going to take our freedoms.

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