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GOP Is Demanding Budget Riders That Would Increase Federal Spending

The ongoing budget negotiations between the House Republican leadership and Senate Democrats has broken down, as Republicans continue to insist that their spending bill — H.R. 1 — “serve as a starting point for all negotiations.” House Republicans “have demanded everything: not just some of their cuts but almost all of them, and not just a reduction in spending but a reduction only in the programs they don’t like,” the New York Times notes today. In fact, many are “insisting Democrats also agree to nonbudgetary riders, like ending the financing of Planned Parenthood or health care reform.”

But a closer examination of the at least 81 riders from OMB Watch reveals that many would have the opposite of the GOP’s intended effect and actually increase federal spending. For instance, a CBO analysis of Sec. 4017 of H.R. 1 — which would strip funding for any provisions in the Affordable Care Act — argues that partially defunding the law increases costs “by $3.1 billion in fiscal year 2012 and by smaller amounts in each of the fiscal years 2013 through 2021.” The same may be true for the following riders:

Sec. 4013 — Prohibits funds to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America…

Sec. 1591 — Prohibits funding for needle exchange programs…

Sec. 4020 — Prohibits funds to take any action to effect or implement the disestablishment, closure or realignment of the US Joint Forces Command…

Sec. 4051 — Prohibits funds for implementing a provision specific to the State of Texas in the “Education Job Fund…

Sec. 4012 — Bans funding for the Department of Education regulations on Gainful Employment…


Schumer: GOP riders to defund EPA, Planned Parenthood are deal breakers

“The bottom line is that whether it’s Planned Parenthood or EPA, we will not accept those riders,” Schumer said on MSNBC. “And any thought to the contrary is wrong.”

“We believe that they don’t belong in a budget bill,” he added. “There can be debate on these issues. We believe they would be defeated in the Senate.”

House Republicans included a number of riders — measures attached to spending legislation that pursue a broader policy goal, often having to do with social issues — in their legislation funding the government the rest of this year.

The most controversial were those to cut off federal funding to the EPA and Planned Parenthood because it provides abortion services.

The provisions are seen as bargaining chips in the negotiation between the GOP-run House and Democratic-led Senate over a spending bill to fund government the rest of the fiscal year. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) signaled earlier Tuesday that while he wasn’t thrilled with the riders, he’d be willing to consider them.

“We’re happy to look at the policy riders,” he said. “There aren’t many of them that excite me, but we’re willing to look at them.”

But Schumer said that some of the issues were non-negotiable.



What’s John Boehner’s endgame?

It’s time for John Boehner to start thinking about how to declare victory in the budget wars and get his fellow Republicans to go along with it.

The truth is that House Republicans are very close to a substantive win in the FY 2011 budget fight, and almost certainly can get one — if they’re willing to take Yes for an answer. After all, by all accounts Democrats are willing to go along with around $30 billion in spending cuts over the remainder of the fiscal year. As it happens, that matches the original opening bid that Boehner first floated, before the Tea Party pushed him to pursue far deeper cuts. Dems are even apparently willing to try to accommodate some GOP concerns on policy riders.

The problem is that this would be a “win” only by the standards of incrementalism — a disappointing, barely-worth-passing, sell-out of a compromise. And that’s a problem, because to Tea Partyers, incrementalism and compromise sounds a lot like Washington business-as-usual.

Here’s the thing: at the end of the day, there’s going to have to be an agreement that wins the votes of at least a large number of Senate Democrats and the signature of Barack Obama. But no matter how good a deal it might be on the substance for conservatives, many Tea Partiers are going to believe that they’ve been sold out. Why? Because Barack Obama is going to sign the deal, and that alone will constitute proof of a sellout in the eyes of the Tea Party.

So what Boehner has to do is to convince Republican Members of the House that the hit they’re going to take from the right for compromising is inevitable. They’ll be seen as sellouts if they cut a deal before a shutdown. They’ll be seen as sellouts if they cut a deal after a six week shutdown. True believers will always be convinced that complete and total victory was just a week away if only the cowardly politicians had been willing to hang in there. They can’t win that game.

Where they can win, at least quite a bit, is on substance. What that will require, however, is for Republicans to choose achievable goals. That means the Speaker should pick his bottom line, choose some priorities (is it deficit reduction? General spending cuts? Specific program cuts? Policy riders?) and get the conference to back him on it. In other words, if to govern is to choose, as the cliché has it, then it’s really time for him to do some governing. Right now.

Otherwise, Boehner is going to get just what he’s been trying to avoid the whole time: a long government shutdown that will most likely be blamed on the Republicans, and that will most likely cost the Speaker his job. There’s still time for him to avoid it, but unfortunately for Boehner there doesn’t seem to be very much interest on his side of the aisle in doing the hard work of making serious governing choices. And the shutdown clock is ticking away.


More corporate tax cheats who want a free pass from Congress.

Working to Invest Now in (WIN) America is a broad and growing non-partisan campaign working to bring up to $1 trillion home to invest in America. The members of WIN America represent and employ people all across the U.S. We’re proud of our membership and encourage all organizations, U.S. businesses, and individuals to join us in this important effort.

Current List of Supporters:

Association for Competitive Technology
CA Technologies
Consumer Electronics Association
Duke Energy
EMC Corporation
Silicon Valley Leadership Group
SoFTEC Finance & Tax Executives Council
Software & Information Industry Association
U.S. Chamber of Commerce



Google Settles F.T.C. Charge of Deceptive Privacy Practices

The Federal Trade Commission charged Google Wednesday with deceptive privacy practices in its introduction last year of Buzz, a social networking tool in Gmail.

The F.T.C. said Google, which agreed to settle the charges, must start a privacy program and undergo privacy audits for 20 years.

This is the first time the F.T.C. has charged a company with such violations, and the first time it has ordered that a company introduce a privacy program.

The settlement shines a spotlight on Google’s continuing battles over privacy. It has faced legal action and complaints from users over everything from storing personal information to obtaining private data about Internet users with its Street View cars.


Netflix gets friendly with consumer groups for lobby support

Among other issues, Netflix and consumer groups — including Free Press, the Media Access Project, Public Knowledge and Consumers Union — have a common interest in fighting overage fees on Internet users who access a high volume of data.

Data limits could strain Netflix’s business model, which increasingly is built on video streamed over Internet lines, not mailed as DVDs in the company’s signature red-and-white envelopes. Public-interest groups say data caps could stifle innovation and throw a wet towel on broadband growth.

Consumer groups could bolster Netflix in future lobbying battles with well-entrenched telecommunication companies that provide Internet services.


The company is meeting frequently with prominent consumer advocates, according to public interest sources. One public-interest group, which requested to remain anonymous, is working on an intensive study of how Netflix could be threatened by Internet service providers (ISPs) during fee disputes such as the one between Level 3 and Comcast.


Netflix has also worked with public advocates as a member of the Open Internet Coalition, and bolsters its D.C. presence through the Consumer Electronics Association.

Public-interest groups also stand to benefit from corporate relationships. Google, for instance, has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to consumer advocates since sweeping into town nearly six years ago.

It is unclear whether Netflix is offering financial support to any consumer advocacy groups, funding that many organizations reject. Netflix declined through a spokesman to comment on this article.

Consumer groups stress that their new ties with Netflix are not about money.



The Stimulus Worked

Bob Cesca:

When I yell about government helping to finance a new, clean, renewable energy source, this is exactly what I’m talking about.

One of the interesting side effects of last year’s stimulus bill was $400 million in funding for ARPA-E, the civilian, energy-focused cousin of DARPA. And in this week’s first ever ARPA-E conference, MIT chemist Dan Nocera showed how well he put that stimulus money to use by highlighting his new photosynthetic process. Using a special catalyst, the process splits water into oxygen and hydrogen fuel efficiently enough to power a home using only sunlight and a bottle of water.

Like organic photosynthesis, Nocera’s reaction uses sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and energy. However, whereas plants create energy in the form of sugars, this process creates energy in the form of free hydrogen. That hydrogen can either be recombined with the oxygen in a fuel cell to generate electricity, or converted into a liquid fuel.

When can we buy these?


Where the Bailout Went Wrong


TWO and a half years ago, Congress passed the legislation that bailed out the country’s banks. The government has declared its mission accomplished, calling the program remarkably effective “by any objective measure.” On my last day as the special inspector general of the bailout program, I regret to say that I strongly disagree. The bank bailout, more formally called the Troubled Asset Relief Program, failed to meet some of its most important goals.

From the perspective of the largest financial institutions, the glowing assessment is warranted: billions of dollars in taxpayer money allowed institutions that were on the brink of collapse not only to survive but even to flourish. These banks now enjoy record profits and the seemingly permanent competitive advantage that accompanies being deemed “too big to fail.”

Though there is no question that the country benefited by avoiding a meltdown of the financial system, this cannot be the only yardstick by which TARP’s legacy is measured. The legislation that created TARP, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, had far broader goals, including protecting home values and preserving homeownership.

These Main Street-oriented goals were not, as the Treasury Department is now suggesting, mere window dressing that needed only to be taken “into account.” Rather, they were a central part of the compromise with reluctant members of Congress to cast a vote that in many cases proved to be political suicide.

The act’s emphasis on preserving homeownership was particularly vital to passage. Congress was told that TARP would be used to purchase up to $700 billion of mortgages, and, to obtain the necessary votes, Treasury promised that it would modify those mortgages to assist struggling homeowners. Indeed, the act expressly directs the department to do just that.

But it has done little to abide by this legislative bargain. Almost immediately, as permitted by the broad language of the act, Treasury’s plan for TARP shifted from the purchase of mortgages to the infusion of hundreds of billions of dollars into the nation’s largest financial institutions, a shift that came with the express promise that it would restore lending.

Treasury, however, provided the money to banks with no effective policy or effort to compel the extension of credit. There were no strings attached: no requirement or even incentive to increase lending to home buyers, and against our strong recommendation, not even a request that banks report how they used TARP funds. It was only in April of last year, in response to recommendations from our office, that Treasury asked banks to provide that information, well after the largest banks had already repaid their loans. It was therefore no surprise that lending did not increase but rather continued to decline well into the recovery. (In my job as special inspector general I could not bring about the changes I thought were needed — I could only make recommendations to the Treasury Department.)

Meanwhile, the act’s goal of helping struggling homeowners was shelved until February 2009, when the Home Affordable Modification Program was announced with the promise to help up to four million families with mortgage modifications.



Foreclosure Aid Fell Short, and Is Fading

Last summer, as President Obama’s premier plan to save millions of Americans from foreclosure foundered, the administration tossed a new life preserver to homeowners.

Officials unveiled a $1 billion program to offer loans to help the jobless pay their mortgages until they could find work again. It was supposed to take effect before the end of the year, but as of today, the program has yet to accept any applications.

“We wait and wait, and they keep saying it’s coming,” said James Tyson, 50, a Philadelphia homeowner who lost his job a year ago.

That could be an epitaph for the administration’s broader foreclosure prevention effort, as tens of billions of dollars remain unspent and hundreds of thousands of homeowners have been rejected. Now the existence of the main program, the Home Assistance Modification Program, is in doubt.

Saying it is a waste of money, the Republican-controlled House voted on Tuesday night to kill the foreclosure relief program. The Senate, which the Democrats control, will pursue a rescue. But Democrats, too, consider the program badly flawed.

The effort has failed to stanch a wave of foreclosures and a decline in home prices, which have fallen for six consecutive months and are now just barely above their recession low, according to a key index updated on Tuesday. All of this threatens the fragile economy, which is also being buffeted by foreign crises.

“The banking industry fought us tooth and nail, and we ended up with a program that is failing homeowners,” said Representative Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from California. “The administration doesn’t give us real enforcement or answers; we just get the old yokey-doke.”

Yet the need remains great. There were 225,000 foreclosure filings in February, according to RealtyTrac. About 145,000 homeowners are in trial modifications under the Obama program. An examination of federal documents and lawsuits, and interviews with legislators, state attorneys general, housing counselors, homeowners and regulators, reveal a federal mortgage modification program crippled by weak oversight, conflicts of interest, mind-numbing complexity and poor performance by many participating banks.

Much More>>>


As Economy Sputters, a Timid Fed

Whenever officials at the Federal Reserve confront a big decision, they have to weigh two competing risks. Are they doing too much to speed up economic growth and touching off inflation? Or are they doing too little and allowing unemployment to stay high?

It’s clear which way the Fed has erred recently. It has done too little. It stopped trying to bring down long-term interest rates early last year under the wishful assumption that a recovery had taken hold, only to be forced to reverse course by the end of year.

Given this recent history, you might think Fed officials would now be doing everything possible to ensure a solid recovery. But they’re not. Once again, many of them are worried that the Fed is doing too much. And once again, the odds are rising that it’s doing too little.

Higher oil prices, government layoffs, Japan’s devastation and Europe’s debt woes are all working against the recovery. Already, a prominent research firm founded by a former Fed governor, Macroeconomic Advisers, has downgraded its estimate of economic growth in the current quarter to a paltry 2.3 percent, from 4 percent. The Fed’s own forecasts, notes that former governor, Laurence Meyer, “have been incredibly optimistic.”

Why is this happening? Above all, blame our unbalanced approach to monetary policy.


One group of Fed officials and watchers worries constantly about the prospect of rising inflation, no matter what the economy is doing. Some of them are haunted by the inflation of the 1970s and worry it may return at any time. Others spend much of their time with bank executives or big investors, who generally have more to lose from high inflation than from high unemployment.

There is no equivalent group — at least not one as influential — that obsesses over unemployment. Instead, the other side of the debate tends to be dominated by moderates, like Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman, and Mr. Meyer, who sometimes worry about inflation and sometimes about unemployment.


Meanwhile, the recovery looks uncertain, and the job market remains weak. Even if job growth were to accelerate sharply in coming months, the economy would be years away from so-called full employment. But never mind that, the hawks say — rampant inflation is just around the corner.


Austerity Games, Here And There


[T]he only way the economy can avoid taking a hit from government cuts is if private spending rises to fill the gap — and although you rarely hear the austerians admitting this, the only way that can happen is if people take on more debt. So we have the spectacle of a government that inveighs against the evils of debt pinning all its hopes on an assumption that over-indebted households will dig their hole even deeper.

All in all, it’s quite a spectacle. It would be funny, except that millions of people will suffer the cost of this folly.



I’m shocked, shocked, there is cheating in this establishment

It turns out that those glorious gains in D.C. might just have been the source of cheating. A recent story in the USA Today tells of massive irregularities in those exceptional gains under Michelle Rhees direction. While I am not breaking any news here, I would like to juxtapose the reported facts with Rhee’s response on Tavis Smiley

Here is Rhee’s response:

Mr. Smiley: Are you suggesting that this story is much ado about nothing? That this story lacks integrity.

Rhee: Absolutely. If you look at the story overall, it absolutely lacks credibility

See the money quotes after the break. You decide who lacks credibility.

Alec :: I’m shocked, shocked, there is cheating in this establishment

Oh yeah, Rhee also said the story only dealt with mostly one school. How about a fact from the story:

Among the 96 schools that were then flagged for wrong-to-right erasures were eight of the 10 campuses where Rhee handed out so-called TEAM awards “to recognize, reward and retain high-performing educators and support staff,” as the district’s website says. Noyes was one of these.

So, 8 of 10 schools identified as exemplary by Rhee were flagged by the test makers.

What exactly does it take to get flagged? Is it easy to be flagged?

McGraw-Hill’s practice is to flag only the most extreme examples of erasures. To be flagged, a classroom had to have so many wrong-to-right erasures that the average for each student was 4 standard deviations higher than the average for all D.C. students in that grade on that test. In layman’s terms, that means a classroom corrected its answers so much more often than the rest of the district that it could have occurred roughly one in 30,000 times by chance. D.C. classrooms corrected answers much more often.

So, they only flagged 1 in 30,000 irregularities. How often did those 1 in 30,000 happen in a given Rhee school?

6 out of 8 classrooms at one of Rhee’s prized schools were flagged. Remember, these 6 classrooms all beat a 1 out of 30,000 irregularity.

How rare is this?

The odds are better for winning the Powerball grand prize than having that many erasures by chance, according to statisticians consulted by USA TODAY.

“This is an abnormal pattern,” says Thomas Haladyna, a professor emeritus at Arizona State University who has studied testing for 20 years.

Who lacks credibility?



Michelle Rhee is a liar …

Nevertheless, based on this interview alone, I’m now prepared to say “charlatan.” This should be a complete disqualification for her ever having any active role in educational reform. The notion of giving her a billion charitable dollars to play with ought to be absolutely beyond the pale.

Unfortunately, with the only actual newspaper in the nation’s capital owned by a test-preparation company, this probably won’t damage Rhee’s career at all. Too bad. It’s people like her who give what still seems to me a good cause – fixing the public schools in poor neighborhoods, even at some cost to the people who work in those schools – a bad name. I’d been wondering why Diane Ravitch had changed sides in the “ed wars.” Maybe this is why.


As Sweeping Layoffs Loom, Schools Gird for Turmoil

School authorities across the nation are warning thousands of teachers that they could lose their jobs in June, raising the possibility that America’s public schools may see the most extensive layoffs of their teaching staffs in decades


Much of the public debate over teacher layoffs has concerned the question of how layoffs are decided, with sharp divisions between politicians and union leaders over the seniority-based layoff methods stipulated in union contracts.

Many argue that the rules rob schools of the talented young teachers who are the first to be let go. Union officials say that without such protections, more senior teachers would be let go first to save money.

But school superintendents say that the consequences of sweeping teacher layoffs are often overlooked in the policy debate. Layoffs, they say, hurt school cohesion, undermine student achievement and rupture ties with parents.

“I’m getting nauseous just remembering,” said Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who as the Cleveland superintendent in the last decade had to make draconian teacher cuts. “The result was devastating for our classrooms.”

School districts from Rhode Island to California have begun notifying teachers of layoffs. State laws or union contracts require notifications in the spring to teachers whose contracts might not be renewed, but because most school budgets are just estimates in March, districts routinely exaggerate the likely cuts, just to be safe.


“The churn caused by layoffs can be extremely disruptive and hurt student achievement,” said Michael Casserly, the council’s executive director. “And conditions are ripe for disruptions to be dramatic this year.”



Obama Sets Goal of One-Third Cut in Oil Imports

The president told about 1,000 students that the United States cannot continue to consume a quarter of the world’s oil while producing barely 2 percent of global supplies. Acknowledging that presidents going back to Richard M. Nixon had issued similar challenges, Mr. Obama nonetheless pointed to the continuing upheaval in the oil-rich Middle East to argue that the nation must end the long political bickering that has stymied progress toward energy independence.

“Now here’s the thing — we’ve been down this road before,” Mr. Obama said. “Remember, it was just three years ago that gas prices topped $4 a gallon. I remember because I was in the middle of a presidential campaign.”

“You had all kinds of slogans and gimmicks and outraged politicians — they were waving their three-point-plans for $2-a-gallon gas,” he continued, singling out the Republicans’ “Drill, baby, drill” cry. “And none of it,” he added, “was really going to do anything to solve the problem.”

But Mr. Obama’s own prescriptions, while comprehensive, were neither wholly new nor, as he conceded, quick fixes to oil addiction. And while his address was largely intended to counter critics and growing calls for expanded domestic oil and gas production, Republicans in Congress were lambasting his policies even before he began speaking.

In this speech and an event on Friday to promote fuel-efficient vehicles, Mr. Obama is trying to get in front of the politically volatile issue after a time of intense focus on turmoil in Libya and elsewhere in North Africa and the Middle East. Even his audience reflected the political calculations: He is increasingly reaching out to young and first-time voters, much as he did in 2008.

Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster, said Mr. Obama could escape most blame for now. “People are exceedingly unhappy about high gas prices,” he said, “but they’re seeing on their TV screens every night why those gas prices are going up, and in their newspapers every day.”

Still, given the power of pocketbook issues to hurt incumbents at election time, Mr. Mellman said Mr. Obama and Democratic officeholders are smart to address the issue. He predicted that other Democrats would increasingly “go after the oil companies” when they are reporting record profits, but he added, “The president does a bit less of that.”

Indeed, Mr. Obama devoted a chunk of his speech to boasting of newly approved drilling permits and countering charges from Republicans and oil industry executives that his administration had choked off domestic oil and gas production with costly new regulations and blocked exploration on millions of acres of potentially oil-rich tracts onshore and off.

Mr. Obama emphatically took ownership of some new safeguards for deepwater drilling intended to prevent repeating last year’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But he said that the administration had begun to reissue drilling permits where companies showed that they could safely resume operations. “So any claim that my administration is responsible for gas prices because we’ve shut down oil production — any claim like that is simply untrue,” Mr. Obama said.

The administration is not prepared to open additional public lands and waters to drilling, officials said, but will propose incentives and penalties to prod the industry to develop resources where they already have access.

The Interior Department on Tuesday reported that more than two-thirds of leases in the Gulf of Mexico and more than half of leases on federal lands were unused. Industry officials dismissed the report as a smokescreen for what they view as the administration’s stingy approach to drilling permits.

Alluding to the crisis in Japan, Mr. Obama said nuclear power must remain an important source of electricity in the United States because it does not add climate-altering carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. But, he said, “I’m determined to ensure that it’s safe.”

Most of Mr. Obama’s speech focused on his long-term strategy to save fuel by relying more on alternative and renewable energy sources. The one-third reduction in oil imports he has set as a target, which would be roughly three million to four million barrels a day at current levels of imports, corresponds roughly to the total the United States now gets from the Middle East and North Africa.

The president called for producing more electric cars, converting trucks to run on natural gas, building new refineries to brew billions of gallons of biofuels and increasing fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles. Congress has been debating these measures for years.

“The only way for America’s energy supply to be truly secure is by permanently reducing our dependence on oil,” he said.


Republicans consulting Chevron and lobbyists on offshore drilling bills

House Republicans on the Natural Resources Committee are in the process of readying three bills on offshore drilling, and it seems that the Chairman, Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), has taken a page out of Dick Cheney’s book on formulating energy policy. Which means, if you want to know the details, you need to either be a select Republican or on the guest list of Hastings’:

closed-door, invitation-only meeting with top energy lobbyists, including representatives from Chevron, Patton Boggs and about a dozen others.

And what about the Democrats on the Committee? They haven’t been briefed.

But hey, no big deal. The three bills aren’t dealing with anything that important. They would only:

… open waters off Southern California and much of the Atlantic Coast to drilling, set hard deadlines for the Obama administration to approve drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico and require the administration to quickly move forward on lease sales off Virginia and in the western Gulf.

… so who better to consult than Chevron and a squadron of industry lobbyists?


Less than 50 Years of Oil Left, HSBC Warns

The world may have no more than half a century of oil left at current rates of consumption, while surging demand from the developing world threatens to create “very significant price rises” before substitutes like biofuels can serve as viable alternatives, the British bank HSBC warns in a new report.


The bank, the world’s second largest in assets, further cautioned that growth trends in developing countries like China could put as many as one billion more cars on the road by midcentury. “That’s tremendous pressure on oil to power all those resources,” Ms. Ward said.

Substitutes, such as biofuels and synthetic oil from coal, could fill the gap if conventional supplies fall short, but only if average oil prices exceed $150 per barrel, the report notes. Increasingly tight global supplies, meanwhile, are likely to cause “persistent and painful” price shocks, it says.

Some oil industry observers take a more optimistic view of future supplies, arguing that further development of Canadian tar sands, offshore discoveries in the Arctic and an expected surge in supply from Iraq will keep oil markets well-supplied for decades. Shale drilling has also managed to boost domestic oil production in the United States after years of decline.


The HSBC report further notes that even without a shortage in oil supplies, the uneven distribution of remaining energy resources will probably shift the balance of economic power globally in the coming decades. It estimates that the biggest loser in this regard will be Europe, where energy scarcity may significantly hinder economic growth by midcentury.

“They could be losing their influence on the world stage just at the time when they are most vulnerable,” the report says.



Court Affirms California’s Marine Emissions Rules

On Tuesday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected the shippers’ argument for federal supremacy in offshore areas. However, the wording of the ruling indicated that it was a close call.

“In the end, we acknowledge the usual characteristics and circumstances” of California’s regulation,” a three-member panel said. “We are clearly dealing with an expansive and even possibly unprecedented state regulatory scheme. However, the severe environmental problems confronting California (especially Southern California) are themselves unusual and even unprecedented.”

The extent of pollution in maritime emissions is not in dispute. For decades cargo ships have run on bunker fuel, the dark viscous matter left over after all the other distillates — gasoline, diesel and the like — have been removed from crude oil.


While the rules cover all of California’s ports and affect ships within 24 nautical miles of the coastline, their origins lie in intense efforts over the last decade to control pollution in the neighborhoods around the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, major entryways for goods from China and other Asian countries that fill the shelves of big-box retailers around the country.

Lawyers in the Santa Monica office of the Natural Resources Defense Council were in the forefront of the efforts to curb port pollution, particularly from ships, but also from trucks and trains.

The port area and the communities along the highways leading out from the ports to the rest of the state and country have some of the worst and most persistent air pollution in the state; more than 80 percent of the residents of the South Coast region, which covers the greater Los Angeles area, are exposed to higher levels of fine particulates than the federal government allows.


[H]owever, that while California is at the head of the regulatory pack, other nations in regions like the Baltic Sea and the North Sea are not far behind, and plan limits on sulfur content that are stricter than those now in force in California. (Next year the state is set to lower its current limits, which would therefore remain in line with or be stricter than international levels taking effect in 2015.)

The United States will also be moving to the more stringent controls under this international timetable.

Contrails Worse for Climate Change Than Airplane Emissions

Air travel has come under fire for its potential contributions to climate change. Most people probably assume that its impact comes through carbon emissions, given that aircraft burn significant amounts of fossil fuel to stay aloft. But the carbon released by air travel remains a relatively minor part of the global output—the impact of planes results from where they burn the fuel, not the mere fact that they burn it. A study in the brand-new journal Nature Climate Change reinforces that by suggesting that the clouds currently being generated by air travel have a larger impact on the climate than the cumulative emissions of all aircraft ever flown.

That fact isn’t mentioned in the article at all, however (it’s part of a Nature press release on the paper). What the authors do consider is the fact that carbon emissions are only one of the impacts of aviation. Others include the emissions of particulates high in the atmosphere, the production of nitrogen oxides, and the direct production of clouds through contrail water vapor. Over time, these thin lines of water evolve into “contrail cirrus” clouds that lose their linear features and become indistinguishable from the real thing. Although low-altitude clouds tend to cool the plant by reflecting sunlight, high altitude clouds like cirrus have an insulating effect and actually enhance warming.


Some reports (like one from UPI) have suggested we might focus on making engines that emit less water vapor, but the water is a necessary byproduct of burning hydrocarbon. We’ll almost certainly be accomplishing that as a result of rising fuel prices, and will limit carbon emissions at the same time. The nice thing is that, in contrast to the long atmospheric lifespan of CO2, if we can cause any changes in cloud formation, they’ll have an impact within a matter of days.


Warm water causes extra-cold winters in northeastern North America and northeastern Asia

This image, taken by NASA’s Terra satellite in March 2003, shows a much colder North America than Europe‑‑even at equal latitudes. White represents areas with more than 50 percent snow cover. NASA’s Aqua satellite also measured water temperatures. Water between 0 and ‑15 degrees Celsius is in pink, while water between ‑15 and ‑28 degrees Celsius is in purple. Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio; George Riggs (NASA/SSAI).

For decades, the conventional explanation for the cross-oceanic temperature difference was that the Gulf Stream delivers warm water from the Gulf of Mexico to northern Europe. But in 2002, research showed that ocean currents aren’t capable of transporting that much heat, instead contributing only up to 10 percent of the warming.

Kaspi’s and Schneider’s work reveals a mechanism that helps create a temperature contrast not by warming Europe, but by cooling the eastern United States. Surprisingly, it’s the Gulf Stream that causes this cooling.

In the northern hemisphere, the subtropical ocean currents circulate in a clockwise direction, bringing an influx of warm water from low latitudes into the western part of the ocean. These warm waters heat the air above it.



New study and treatment available for kids facing phobias

Researchers at Macquarie University’s Centre for Emotional Health are investigating an exciting new treatment for childhood anxiety. This treatment could drastically change how psychologists give therapy to anxious kids.


A new medication called D-Cycloserine (DCS) is now being trialed in conjunction with exposure therapy for treating phobic kids. “DCS has shown to improve the chances of a faster and complete recovery when given just before an exposure session. The medication is very safe, just like taking a dose of antibiotic. This new discovery could drastically change how anxiety disorders in young people are treated”, Byrne said.

“During the exposure, the child is learning that they no longer need to be frightened of what they once feared. DCS is believed to improve this process by more effectively storing this new “non-fearful” learning in memory. By strengthening this new “non-fearful learning”, the child is less likely to become frightened the next time they see a dog or spider,” Byrne said. “This is one of the first studies in the world to trial DCS for treating anxious kids”, Byrne said.



Alert the media: the American people aren’t completely stupid after all

Americans have decided that Fox News isn’t a reliable source:

In the space of one year, Fox News has lost its perch as the most trusted TV news network in the US and is now average at best, a new survey has found.

A poll gauging public trust in TV news has found that PBS is the most trusted name in news, while trust in Fox News has dropped significantly.

According to a survey from Public Policy Polling, “a year ago a plurality of Americans said they trusted Fox News. Now a plurality of them don’t.”

In a survey taken a year ago, PPP found that Fox was the most trusted news network, with 49 percent saying they trusted the network, and 37 percent saying they did not. In the new poll, 42 percent said they trusted the network while 46 percent disagreed.

PPP notes that trust in the network declined only marginally among conservatives, from 75 percent to 72 percent. “But moderates and liberals have both had a strong increase in their level of distrust for the network — a 12-point gain from 48 percent to 60 percent for moderates and a 16-point gain from 66 percent to 82 percent for liberals,” the institute reported.
What was the tip off, do you suppose?


Glenn Beck Dropped By Radio Station Because His Bizarre Religious Rants Hurt Ratings

A radio chain that dropped Glenn Beck from five of its stations since January did so, in part, because the show’s content was hurting ratings, the company’s president said Monday.

“He bounces around pretty radically, I think he confuses people, they’re not sure where he is coming from,” said Rick Buckley, president of Buckley Radio of Greenwich, Conn., who spoke with Media Matters. “It can change day to day, hour to hour. Consistency is, I think, the path to success in broadcasting, in radio for sure, whether it be music or talk. Glenn is sort of all over the park from time to time.”

Buckley spoke just days after his company announced it would pull Beck’s show from four stations in Connecticut. — WDRC-AM, WWCO-AM, WSNG-AM, and WMMW-AM. Those stations simulcast programming and will no longer air Beck’s morning show, replacing it with two local personalities.

“Some of his direction has changed over the last year and a half,” Buckley said. “He is preaching a lot more than entertaining.”

The move comes just months after WOR Radio, the chain’s flagship station in New York, replaced Beck with a local host in January.

“In the last six months or so, he has tended to be more and more taking a religious point of view … It didn’t do well here in the east,” Buckley said. “It has not gotten real traction. If you want a religious point of view, we’ve got plenty of religious stations. You can get it 24/7.”



FiveThirtyEight: Poll Shows More Americans Have Unfavorable Views Tea Party

CNN has a new poll out showing their highest-ever level of unfavorable views for the Tea Party movement. According to the poll, 47 percent of Americans now have an unfavorable view of the Tea Party, as compared to 32 percent with a favorable one.

Let’s keep this simple: is the poll some sort of outlier or part of a trend?

In the chart below, I’ve plotted all polls from the database that asked people for their impressions on the Tea Party, and then plotted a smoothed regression line on top of them. Favorable or positive views are shown in blue; unfavorable or negative ones in red.

The trend looks reasonably clear: unfavorable views are on the rise. Although the CNN poll may have exaggerated them slightly, they now register at about 44 percent, according to the trendline.


If you squint your eyes and stare at the chart for long enough, you can argue that the rate of increase has been more rapid since roughly the 1st of the year — which could coincide with a post-midterm hangover, the Tucson shootings, or some combination thereof — but the data is not quite robust enough to provide strong evidence for that conclusion.

I’ve long been of the view that the Tea Party, despite nominating poor candidates in a couple of key races, was a significant net positive for the G.O.P. in 2010, both because it contributed to the “enthusiasm gap” and because it helped an unpopular Republican Party to re-brand itself in never-out-of-style conservative draping. But if the Tea Party ain’t over yet, the point in time at which it was an electoral asset for Republicans soon may be.


Exclusive: Issa Secured Nearly $1 Million In Earmarks Potentially Benefiting Real Estate That He Owns

ThinkProgress has discovered more troubling evidence that Issa may have blended his work as a lawmaker with his own business empire. After founding a successful car alarm company, Issa invested his fortune in a sprawling network of real estate companies with holdings throughout his district. One of Issa’s most valuable properties, a medical office building at 2067 West Vista Way in Vista, California, is called the Vista Medical Center, and was purchased in 2008 for $16.6 million. Described as “a long-term investment,” the property was bought by a company called Viper LLC, a business entity operated by Issa’s family that Issa has up to a $25 million dollar stake in.

Around the same time Issa made the Vista Medical Center purchase, the congressman began requesting millions of dollars worth of earmarks to widen and improve the highway adjacent to the building. In 2008, he requested $2 million to expand West Vista Way, the road in front of his “long-term investment,” but only received $245,000 from the government. The next year, Issa made another earmark request for improving the West Vista Way highway next to his building. He earmarked another $570,000, bringing his total to $815,000, to add parking lots, widen the road, add bus stops, improve the sewer system, and other utility work. A map showing the location of Issa’s property, and the road, is below:

Issa has said that an “earmark is tantamount to a bribe.” While Issa has handed out earmarks to his campaign donors in the past, in this case, he appears to be helping himself.

Although the highway project has not begun yet (because of local budget problems), the federal money is allocated through Issa’s efforts. Already, a firm representing Issa’s real estate company is advertising the Vista Medical Building and its “Excellent Access with Freeway Visibility.” As ethics experts have explained, lawmakers should avoid earmarks in the immediate area of their own business interests.

Issa’s highway earmarks not only potentially benefit his multi-million dollar medical office building, they provide better access to his other properties in the area. About 2 miles down West Vista Way from the Vista Medical Center, Issa owns a commercial office building worth over $9 million, as well as an adjacent retail office building. The commercial office building leases to a number of different clients, and Issa’s retail building leases to a Hooter’s. All three properties are on the same highway, which Issa plans to retrofit with taxpayer money.


Pushing for gov’t shutdown, Tea Party and right-wing trying to re-brand as “slowdown” or “partial shutdown”

Conservatives are turning to a new message in the escalating budget fight: A government shutdown is not actually a shutdown.

It’s a “slowdown,” according to the new refrain from Tea Party leader Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). Or as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) put it on Monday, the stalemate over spending could cause the government “to partially shut down.”

The rhetorical distinction is a subtle, but politically significant, shift in the intensifying blame game between Republicans and Democrats, who must reach agreement and pass a spending bill by April 8 to avert what is commonly referred to as a government shutdown.

Democrats feel confident it is Republicans who will be blamed if there is a shutdown, and already argue that calling it by another name won’t help the GOP escape voter ire.

“Calling it New Coke didn’t make it taste better, and trying to change the name of Speaker [John] Boehner’s [R-Ohio] government shutdown won’t make it hurt middle-class families and seniors any less,” said Jesse Ferguson, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.


I think people should be careful about being too loose in terms of talking about a government shutdown, because this has — this is not an abstraction,” President Obama said in late February, at the outset of the budget impasse. “People don’t get their Social Security checks. They don’t get their veterans payments. Basic functions shut down. And it … would have an adverse effect on our economic recovery. It would be destabilizing at a time when, I think, everybody is hopeful that we can start growing this economy quicker.”

For Tea Party activists, the distinction is part of their push for Republican leaders to hold the line and demand even deeper spending cuts to keep the government running. A shutdown, or slowdown, is not preferable, but it’s not the end of the world, either, the argument goes.


Taxpayer group with Koch ties targets GOP senators

A conservative taxpayers group backed by major GOP donors has launched a new radio spot targeting two Republican senators who have been involved in ongoing negotiations to put Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax proposal on a June ballot.

The ad, aired by the California chapter of Americans for Prosperity, urges listeners to tell GOP Sens. Tom Berryhill, of Modesto, and Anthony Cannella, of Ceres, to oppose any vote for an election on maintaining higher tax rates.

“Unemployment in California is 12% but in the Central Valley the numbers are much, much higher. The last thing we can afford are more job killing tax increase,” AFP state chairman Peter Foy says in the 60-second ad.

The nonprofit group, which was founded by billionaire businessman and conservative donor David Koch, was a major force in the 2010 election. The two national branches of the organization, which are not required to disclose their donors, spent millions on ads supporting conservative candidates.

Berryhill and Cannella were part of a group of five GOP senators involved in budget talks with Brown, who likely needs the support of two Republicans in each house to pass his plan. While Friday’s release of a long list of GOP demands signaled a breakdown in negotiations, staff for several of the senators and Brown aides were seen meeting yesterday.

“As a group that stands up for taxpayers, we will do everything we can to oppose these terrible tax hikes. That includes holding accountable the legislators who may be coerced into raising taxes on their constituents. Someone has to speak for taxpayers, and Americans for Prosperity will do so,” Foy said in a statement.

AFP California spokeswoman Meredith Turney said the ads began airing today in the districts of both senators. She said Berryhill and Cannella were targeted because of they seemed more open to voting to put the tax extensions on the ballot.

“These are the two we felt (we) particularly needed to send the message to,” she said.


Boxer: Rove Groups Pledge $120 Million Against Democrats In 2012 Election

“Take it from me: I know first-hand the extremes Republicans are willing to go to win,” Boxer (D-Calif.) says Monday in a fundraising email for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). “They threw everything but the kitchen sink at me in 2010 – and they will have even more money to fund their attacks this time.”


The Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision in early 2010 swept away decades of bipartisan limits on election spending by corporations and groups such as Rove’s, which Boxer acknowledges. “Because of the Citizens United decision, corporations will again be able to give unlimited secret donations to influence our elections,” Boxer says of the 2012 elections which will decide both whether to re-elect President Obama, as well as control of both the House and Senate.

Democrats will rely on donations from grassroots supporters to counter major Republican spending, Boxer says. The DSCC seeks to raise $156,233 by Thursday to fill its coffers ahead of a Federal Elections Commission deadline, Boxer says.

“Every time the right wing came after me during the last election, I knew I could count on the DSCC to help me fight back,” Boxer says in her email. “I truly couldn’t have won in November without the DSCC’s support.”

Senate Democrats must defend 23 seats in 2012, compared to just 10 for Republicans, Boxer notes. If Republicans pick up four of those, Democrats will lose their Senate majority. Senate Democrats now refer to their majority as a “firewall” against policies approved by the GOP-held House.


Update from the Frontlines in Ohio: Voter ID Bill Could Affect Poor and Minority Populations

Poor and minority populations are again under attack in Ohio. With Ohioans putting all of our efforts into stopping Governor Kasich and Republican leaders from destroying workers’ rights, we’re being blindsided by a very troubling bill aimed at limiting access to the ballot box. Ohio’s new Voter ID bill, HB 159, which requires every voter to present a valid government issued photo ID in order to vote, sailed through the Ohio House of Representatives last week. This bill would put up unnecessary road blocks to the voting process and almost certainly cause mass confusion during next year’s presidential election.

Georgia’s Secretary of State, Brian Kemp, was Skyped in last week to testify to the Ohio House in favor of Voter ID restrictions. When asked by an Ohio legislator how many cases of voter fraud in Georgia led to the state’s Voter ID bill, he said “I don’t have a number in front of me,” adding, “It’s hard to put a number on it because you didn’t know that fraud was happening.” We then heard in-person testimony from the Deputy Secretary of State of Indiana (the same state where the current Secretary of State has been recently indicted on voter fraud). His answer to the same question was, “I can’t give you a number, however there were 2 people arrested in Indiana for voter fraud and no evidence of dead people voting.”

It costs between $21.75 and $25.75 to obtain an Ohio driver’s license. Should you need to purchase a birth certificate in order to get a drivers license, there’s an additional cost of $21.50. Paying somewhere between $40 and $50 is an unnecessary burden for many Ohioans in this uncertain economy. Imagine having to choose between paying for a state identification in order to vote and paying an overdue utility bill before disconnection. That’s not the kind of choice Americans should have to make.

In addition, racial minorities, the working poor, students and people with disabilities are twice as likely to lack a non-expired government photo ID.

In 2005, Ohio passed a law that imposed stricter ID requirements than federal law. Now, Ohio may become the most restrictive voting state in the country since this bill does not even permit voters to produce other forms of identification found to be acceptable in states that require identification. This bill would have national implications, considering Ohio’s historical position as “the” deciding state when determining the outcome of Presidential elections.

Shouldn’t we be making voting more accessible instead of making it restrictive and exclusive to a select group of people? The Republican Secretary of State doesn’t even support this bill, so why is the legislature pushing it through? The answer one Republican House member gave is, “Because we can.” As Ohio Representative Mike Foley put it, “There were 3,956,245 votes cast in the 2010 general election and there was one instance of voter fraud out of all of these votes cast. So we’re looking to spend somewhere in the $10-20 million range to deal with a .00000025 percent problem.” With an $8 billion budget shortfall, we should be seeking ways to spend less money, particularly on a problem that doesn’t exist.


Food and Clothing Drive for “Poor” Sean Duffy

In light of Hollywood Sean Duffy’s statement that his $174,000 congressional salary leaves his family “struggling,” a food and clothing drive for “poor” Sean Duffy has been announced.



More Tools For Thinking

In Tuesday’s column I describe a symposium over at on what scientific concepts everyone’s cognitive toolbox should hold. There were many superb entries in that symposium, and I only had space to highlight a few, so I’d like to mention a few more here.


Here though, are a few more concepts worth using in everyday life:

Clay Shirkey nominates the Pareto Principle. We have the idea in our heads that most distributions fall along a bell curve (most people are in the middle). But this is not how the world is organized in sphere after sphere. The top 1 percent of the population control 35 percent of the wealth. The top two percent of Twitter users send 60 percent of the messages. The top 20 percent of workers in any company will produce a disproportionate share of the value. Shirkey points out that these distributions are regarded as anomalies. They are not.


A few of the physicists mention the concept of duality, the idea that it is possible to describe the same phenomenon truthfully from two different perspectives. The most famous duality in physics is the wave-particle duality. This one states that matter has both wave-like and particle-like properties. Stephon Alexander of Haverford says that these sorts of dualities are more common than you think, beyond, say the world of quantum physics.

Douglas T. Kenrick nominates “subselves.” This is the idea that we are not just one personality, but we have many subselves that get aroused by different cues. We use very different mental processes to learn different things and, I’d add, we have many different learning styles that change minute by minute.

Helen Fisher, the great researcher into love and romance, has a provocative entry on “temperament dimensions.” She writes that we have four broad temperament constellations. One, built around the dopamine system, regulates enthusiasm for risk. A second, structured around the serotonin system, regulates sociability. A third, organized around the prenatal testosterone system, regulates attention to detail and aggressiveness. A fourth, organized around the estrogen and oxytocin systems, regulates empathy and verbal fluency.

This is an interesting schema to explain temperament. It would be interesting to see others in the field evaluate whether this is the best way to organize our thinking about our permanent natures.

Finally, Paul Kedrosky of the Kauffman Foundation nominates “Shifting Baseline Syndrome.” This one hit home for me because I was just at a McDonald’s and guiltily ordered a Quarter Pounder With Cheese. I remember when these sandwiches were first introduced and they looked huge at the time. A quarter pound of meat on one sandwich seemed gargantuan. But when my burger arrived and I opened the box, the thing looked puny. That’s because all the other sandwiches on the menu were things like double quarter pounders. My baseline of a normal burger had shifted.  Kedrosky shows how these shifts distort our perceptions in all sorts of spheres.



Revised Bill on Collective Bargaining Advances in Ohio

[It’s worse than before]


Judge again blocks GOP collective-bargaining plan

For the second time in less than two weeks, a Dane County judge Tuesday issued an order blocking the implementation of Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to curb collective bargaining for public workers.

Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi said that her original restraining order issued earlier this month was clear in saying no steps should be taken to advance the law. The GOP governor’s administration did so after the bill was published Friday by a state agency not named in Sumi’s earlier temporary restraining order.

“Further implementation of the act is enjoined,” Sumi said.

“Apparently that language was either misunderstood or ignored, but what I said was the further implementation of Act 10 was enjoined. That is what I now want to make crystal clear.”

She warned that those who violate her order could face court sanctions.

But outside the courtroom, Assistant Attorney General Steven Means said the legislation “absolutely” is still in effect.

The statement by Means – the executive assistant to Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen – shocked Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha).

“It’s just startling that the attorney general believes you should not follow court orders anymore,” he said.

In a later statement, Department of Justice spokesman Bill Cosh said: “We don’t believe that the court can enjoin non-parties. Whether the Department of Administration or other state officers choose to comply with any direction issued by Judge Sumi is up to them.”

The new restraining order bars Democratic Secretary of State Doug La Follette from designating a publication date for the law or running a notice about it in the official state newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal. Sumi’s written order does not name anyone else.

It is in effect until further order of the court, and another hearing is slated for Friday. Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, a Democrat, has asked her to permanently halt the law because he believes a legislative committee violated the open meetings law when it approved the legislation.

Sumi has not yet ruled on whether lawmakers violated the open meetings law, but she noted the Legislature could resolve the litigation by passing the measure again. Republicans who control the Legislature showed no signs of considering that.

“It’s disappointing that a Dane County judge wants to keep interjecting herself into the legislative process with no regard to the state constitution,” said a statement from Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon). “Her action today again flies in the face of the separation of powers between the three branches of government.”

A pair of Marquette University law professors had different takes on the ruling.

To Edward A. Fallone, it confirmed his view that clients should not “look for technicalities in order to evade” a temporary restraining order “but rather to behave in the spirit of the order and not try to push the envelope.”


Richard Esenberg said he was not surprised by the ruling but criticized the judge.

“There is applicable Supreme Court precedent that a court has no authority to enjoin the publication of a law,” he said. “The state has repeatedly cited that law to her and as far as I know she has not only failed to explain herself about why she feels she has the authority, she hasn’t even acknowledged there is an issue. That just leaves me speechless.”

Esenberg was referring to a 1943 state Supreme Court opinion that said courts could not interfere with legislation until it is published and becomes law.

Tuesday’s dramatic court maneuvering added yet another twist in the saga that has dominated state politics for six weeks.

Workers in limbo

Walker’s plan would eliminate most collective bargaining for public workers and require state workers to pay more for their benefits. As the legal and political skirmishing continued, thousands of state workers remained in limbo over how much cash would be deducted from their paychecks.

On Monday, Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch announced he believed the law took effect Saturday, and the state was now charging employees more for their benefits and had ceased collecting dues on behalf of unions. Those changes would show up on checks issued April 21.

Whether the state will continue on that track remains unclear. Huebsch issued a brief statement Tuesday that said only that he was studying the judge’s order.

Last month, Republicans tried to quickly pass the measure, but were stymied when all Senate Democrats left the state. The bill required 20 senators to be present to hold the vote because it included appropriations, and the Republicans hold just 19 seats.

After three weeks, on March 9, Republican leaders quickly formed a conference committee of lawmakers from both houses. The committee stripped the appropriations from the bill and forwarded the bill to the Senate, which passed it minutes later with all Democrats absent.

The Assembly then forwarded it to Walker, who signed it March 11.

Ozanne then filed a complaint alleging the committee violated the open meetings law because it didn’t give enough public notice before meeting and because access to the Capitol was limited. Republicans say they did not violate the meetings law.

Sumi on March 18 determined Ozanne was likely to succeed in the case and issued a temporary restraining order against La Follette to halt the law.

But on Friday, the Legislative Reference Bureau – which was not named in the restraining order – published the law, and the administration said that put the law into effect on Saturday. Ozanne and others disagreed.

State law requires the secretary of state to designate a date to publish laws within 10 business days of the governor signing it. Unless otherwise specified in legislation, laws take effect the day after the date designated by the secretary, but the reference bureau prints paper copies of the law and publishes them on the Legislature’s website.

La Follette had told the reference bureau to publish the bill on Friday, March 25, and the reference bureau prepared a copy of the law with that publication date, testified Cathlene Hanaman, deputy chief of the Legislative Reference Bureau.

La Follette later rescinded his order designating the publication date because of the court order, and on Thursday the reference bureau removed the publication date, Hanaman said.

On Friday, after top reference bureau officials met with the Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), the bureau reinstated the publication date and added a footnote mentioning the restraining order, Hanaman testified.

“He is our boss, so a request from him would be at the level of insisting,” Hanaman said of Fitzgerald.

Stephen Miller, chief of the reference bureau, said he concluded at the meeting he was required to publish the law, but he did not believe that the law would go into effect until the secretary of state designated the date the bill was to become law.

Miller and Hanaman said they had never been in a similar situation and knew of no other instances in which a law was published without a date being established by the secretary of state.

Also during the hearing, Sumi allowed La Follette to choose his own attorney because he disagrees with the Department of Justice on key issues. The Department of Justice maintains the reference bureau’s actions were enough to put the law into effect, while La Follette says he must act as well.

Roger Sage will represent La Follette, but it is unclear if the state or La Follette will pay those costs.

That left the Department of Justice without any clients in the courtroom. The four Republican leaders that the agency represents are immune from civil process while the Legislature is in session.

As the legal fight continues, Sumi said the dispute could be resolved by the Legislature again passing the measure.

“I am dismayed at this point given the relative easy fix for this that thousands and thousands of dollars are being spent, all being footed by the taxpayers of this state to pursue this litigation,” Sumi said.

Other legal challenges have been filed. They contend 20 senators had to be present to approve the measure because some fiscal provisions remained in it. The merits of the law itself have also been challenged in court, and the state Supreme Court is widely expected to decide the ultimate fate of the legislation.

After Sumi issued her original restraining order, the Department of Justice filed an appeal. The appeals court, without weighing in on the matter, said the Supreme Court should take it up.

But after the reference bureau published the law, the Department of Justice asked to withdraw its appeal. On Tuesday, the appeals court declined to allow that, saying it was in the hands of the Supreme Court.

The high court hasn’t said if it would take the case, though the justices met in closed conference on the matter.

Because the appropriations were taken out of the legislation, lawmakers must still resolve a shortfall in the fiscal year that ends June 30. Huebsch said that could be done with a $165 million bond restructuring that could be taken up as early as Tuesday, but he did not yet know what else might be included in a bill to do that.


US Muslims ‘face growing discrimination’

Muslim citizens of the United States face growing discrimination in daily life, manifesting itself in violence, vandalism and arson, a US congressional panel has been told.


The number of federal discrimination cases brought by local authorities to prevent mosques from opening in their communities surged in May 2010, the committee was told . More than 800 incidents of violence, vandalism and arson against people believed to be Muslim, Arab or South Asian, have been investigated by the justice department in the past 10 years.

Thomas Perez, the assistant US attorney general for civil rights, said there had been a 150 per cent jump in workplace discrimination against Muslims since 2001, often over religious dress and worship schedules, while Muslim youth are often the victims of bullying in schools.

‘Too many mosques’

Tuesday’s hearing quickly became split along party lines, after Congressman King told reporters the proceedings would “perpetuate the myth that there is a serious anti-Islam issue in this country”.

Senarie Durbin responded by referring to controversial remarks attributed to King and Newt Gingrich, a former Republican House speaker now considering a bid for the White House.

“A leading member of Congress stated bluntly: ‘There are too many mosques in this country’. A former speaker of the House falsely claimed: ‘America’s experiencing an Islamist cultural political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilisation’,” Durbin said.

“Such inflammatory speech from prominent public leaders creates a fertile climate for discrimination.”



Top 10 Zoo Escapes

A venomous Egyptian cobra at the Bronx Zoo recently went missing and has yet to be found, much to the dismay of frightened city dwellers. TIME takes a look at other daring zoo escapes

# 4: The thing about being a zookeeper is that you’re really effective only if you’re able to keep the animals in the zoo. In July 1964, a zookeeper at the Fleishhacker Zoo (now the San Francisco Zoo) had a really bad day. First, he got a call from the police saying they had captured 13 buffalo that zoo director Carey Baldwin didn’t even know were missing. Five hours later, he received another call. This time, again unbeknownst to Baldwin, a 300-lb. (135 kg) pygmy hippopotamus had escaped and was taking a stroll down a nearby road. A short while later, a large South American rodent called an agouti (pictured here) made a run for it. A dramatic chase ensued, and the little guy was eventually captured. At the end of his day, Baldwin told the Associated Press he would review the zoo’s security.



April 4, 2011 is shaping up to be one of the most important progressive days of action in nearly a decade.

It’s the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., who was killed 43 years ago while traveling to Memphis to stand in solidarity with striking sanitation workers demanding their chance to attain the American Dream.

Now, in response to the new wave of Republican attacks on unions and working people, the entire labor movement has called for a massive national day of protests, vigils, and work site events on April 4. Virtually the entire progressive movement has joined in.

Can you help make next Monday an overwhelming day of solidarity for working people by attending an event in your area? Click here to find the April 4 event closest to you.

Working people in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana have inspired an activist spirit that’s spreading across the country, and this is our chance to keep the momentum going. This is our chance to stand up to the Republicans and demand protection for workers’ rights and the restoration of the American Dream for all of us.

The events are part of “We Are One,” a grassroots effort led by a broad coalition of unions and progressive allies committed to realizing Dr. King’s goal of economic justice for all. The events include actions, teach-ins, work site discussions, vigils, faith events, and more.

You can simply attend an event in your area or if you have creative ideas for an event in a public place like a park, in your work site, a teach-in at a college near you, or even something at your house, you can volunteer to host your own.

We need to keep building our strength until the American Dream can finally be attained by everyone. On April 4, we will keep the momentum going. And we will not stop.

Will you join us?


#USUncut day of action April 18, Tax Day. When we pay our fair share, corporations should pay theirs. Post an action.


Wisconsin–Get Out the Vote!

The fate of the bill stripping collective bargaining rights for public workers in Wisconsin is being decided in the courts. It is “100%” likely to end up before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, according to one Supreme Court Justice.

Conservatives currently hold a 4-3 edge on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which means the law will probably be upheld unless the membership of the court changes. Fortunately, on Tuesday April 5th, one of the conservative members of the court is up for re-election. He is in real danger of losing to a center-left candidate, as polling shows the race nearly even.

If we can turn out the progressive base in Wisconsin, then we can strike an immediate blow against Scott Walker’s agenda. You can be a part of that by signing up to make Get Out The Vote phone calls for the Wisconsin Supreme Court election.

Normally, this would be a low-turnout election we would be hard-pressed to win. However, the new grassroots energy in the state prompted by Governor Scott Walker’s draconian policies has changed the equation. The spirit of the Madison protests is alive and well, as election officials are running out of ballots in Democratic areas due to extremely high demand.

In Wisconsin, the base is energized and ready to strike a blow against Scott Walker. All we have to do is tap into that energy and get people to the polls. You can make that happen by signing up to for GOTV phone calls.

In solidarity,
Chris Bowers
Campaign Director, Daily Kos



Patriot: the person who can holler the loudest without knowing what he is hollering about. – Mark Twain

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The headlines are starting to remind me of the end of the 1920’s(anecdotal of course. I wasn’t alive then) , right before the Depression hit.

But maybe another trip down the shitter is what the country needs. A lot of us are already there anyways.

The people deserve whatever they vote for. The people deserve whatever they accept.


Adonai, the headlines remind me of that as well. The GOP talking points are essentially the same as they were then. Those people have not changed.
The ‘left’ has changed – we have no real left today and no real labor movement either. They were not that strong then; but, both were stronger than now.

We may be headed for that trip, and as you say, many are already there. I hope that we do not go there, but the GOP may send us there.

FDR came in with no clear idea on how to proceed; he did not really have an economic philosophy.

In a sense, he was ‘made to do’ his reforms. Washington, today, is basically immune that sort of pressure.


agrippa, FDR just eventually got pissed at the bankers and the people where already right there with him. And I believe that is how the New Deal came about. FDR just seems like a different kind of politician. the more I read about him, the more I know we’ll never see another like him. Sure he made errors but it seemed he always erred on the side of the people.

I definitely don’t think we’ll see any President anytime soon suggest a second Bill of Rights.


Hey folks – take a look at the April 4 actions, then the April 18 actions – that IS the Left in America today. When we more-or-less “intellectual” folks stopped agitating for our blue collar working families, we though WE were hot stuff. I know for sure that advocacy for reproductive choice and sexual justice are critical – but why is it an all or nothing agenda?

Feminists in CA celebrate Assembly Member Fiona Ma because she authored a bill giving new mothers the right to have a safe place to breast feed or pump at work. However – Ma ALSO is the sponsor of every single bill to give out of state multinational corporations tax breaks amounting to nearly $2 billion per year. Hello???? When did we SO lose our way on critical issues? Ma is being heralded by a progressive feminist organization next month – despite the fact that her pro-corporate work will probably cost this state budget major losses in spending for low-income women of color, the feminists’ main target population. Duh.

So I’m watching these labor and worker-based movements around the country – that is where the REAL progressive action lies. We need to pay attention, not continue to say we have no Left and NOTICE that they are alive and well – and we need to get on board.


Say it ain’t so!

Fiesta Bowl probe shows politicos got tickets, favors

Senate President Russell Pearce was a big recipient of the tickets and campaign donations from Fiesta Bowl employees, and his name is mentioned dozens of times in the report. Pearce, a veteran lawmaker who has drawn national prominence for sponsoring legislation against illegal immigration, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The Mesa Republican, Gov. Jan Brewer and U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl were in a bipartisan array of 23 federal, state and local candidates who the report said received contributions totaling at least $46,539 since 2002. The report said the bowl-affiliated donors were then illegally reimbursed for the donations by the bowl.

Birthers: Get honest – just call president the N-word



Khirad, Not very shocking but it’s interesting that it is as big a story as it is.

I heard a guy making a point yesterday that 10 years ago this probably wouldn’t have been reported. The NCAA certainly wouldn’t be considering removing the Fiesta Bowl from it’s BCS schedule. But now that Jerry Jones has built that billion dollar football cathedral in Dallas, they have somewhere else to go with a big BCS game. And Jerry could sure use the money.

Also, yeah, I’d have a lot more(less?) respect for the birthers if they just told the truth and pulled out their Klan hoods.


Another great daily rundown….although….all I can do is SIGH every time I read what the GOP has been allowed to accomplish.


HA! I just learned that Newt Gingrich is afraid of, “atheist, Muslim extremists!”

“Does that mean they pray 5 times a day to a god they don’t believe in?”–Jon Stewart

Buddy McCue

KT – No offense to you, but when I read something like this, I just HAVE to check it, to make sure it isn’t being taken out of context. “Atheist Muslims” is just too good.

So I looked it up. He said it alright. Here’s the full quote for those curious to see it:

“I have two grandchildren – Maggie is 11, Robert is 9. I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they’re my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.”

Newt Gingrich was addressing Rev. John Hagee’s Cornerstone Church when he made these idiotic remarks.

I agree that his spinal cord probably doesn’t touch his brain.


Thanks buddy. I can understand your need to look into this a little further than what I posted. The statement is so incredibly stupid, that it requires a certain suspension of logic.


I live in Mr. Hagee’s city. His flock are incredibly stupid – to buy any of his crap. His flock, as I like to say, are focked.

Each year, he raises $1M for Israel.

The Blov always wanted to show up some Sunday and attempt to convert his congregation to Christianity…….


Good line AB!


Buddy – I understand how it defies your imagination but I had read it earlier. We know Newt is not this stupid so evidently he thinks his audience is – pathetic!


KT, some one yesterday (where/who?) called them “commie Muslims.” They are commies now too? What do they do just pick their favorite fear word and tack on to things?


bito, I think that is exactly what they do. They are just smart enough to know that for Americans these words are somewhat derogatory.
Yet, at the same time, they have no real understanding of what these terms actually mean.


6. social justice Christian

7. feminist

8. social worker


10.immigrant, especially with a college degree.

No END to the nightmares they can conjure up!


I agree.


Jesus Hussein Christ, how much time do you put into these, Cher?!

I thought I’d add this which I came across during my updates and set aside, but no doubt you’ve already been on top of it, like yesterday.

Tea party unpopularity on the rise

And yes, nice you caught that Al Jazeera article on American Muslims, too.


I always wondered what that “H” stood for, Khirad. Thanks.


Any word on their turnout at their DC rally today?
I only saw a blip with one woman speaking at a podium.


It may be the right time for a shutdown. The GOP and the narcissistic fire eaters known as the tea party, may have a flat learning curve. This may draw their attention. It may draw the attention of the willfully ignorant general population. Thissue is in doubt on that one, though.
I do not have a problem with a shutdown, although I do think that it should be as complete as it possibly can be.