[The Better-late-than-never edition, I guess.] Saturday edition features the best stories of the week. 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, as well as in the Speakers’ Corner.




Americans think about 5% of the budget goes to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The actual number is about 0.1%. (In dollar figures, the public seems to actually believe the CPB gets $178 billion, as compared to the $420 million it received last year.)

Respondents think 10% of the budget goes to “food and nutrition assistance for the poor,” 7% goes to “housing assistance for the poor,” and 10% goes to federal funding to education. None of these figures are even close to being right — federal spending in all of these areas is a small fraction of what the public perceives. (We should be so lucky as to have so much investment in public programs and a strong safety net.)

And best of all, the CNN poll also asked whether existing funding levels should go up or down in all of these areas. My personal favorite: nearly two-thirds of the country believes federal spending on education should go up, and that’s after those same Americans have roughly quadrupled in their minds what the feds actually spend in this area.

I wonder what the public reaction would be if voters learned that House Republicans want to make massive cuts to Head Start, Pell grants, and Title I grants (which help schools with kids who live in poverty).


House GOP gives Boehner ovation as he tells them to get ready for shutdown


Reid: “I think that the Tea Party is driving what goes on in the House of Representatives. And we cannot do what they want done.”


Paul Ryan/ GOP budget in summary

Ezra Klein:

1) Discretionary spending

a) Non-defense discretionary: Brings spending back to pre-2008 levels and freezes it there for five years.

b) Defense-related discretionary: Echoes Obama’s budget request in accepting the $78 billion in “savings” that Defense Secretary Robert Gates identified and going no further. I put “savings” in quotation marks because it’s really a reduction in the growth rate that Gates previously requested.

2) Financial system

a) Financial regulation: Repeals Dodd-Frank.

b) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: “This budget . . . proposes eventual elimination of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, winding down their government guarantee and ending taxpayer subsidies. It supports increasing the guarantee fees Fannie and Freddie charge lenders in order to bring private capital back, shrinking their retained portfolios, and enacting various measures that would bring transparency and accountability to the GSEs.”

3) Safety net

a) Medicaid: Converts federal share of Medicaid spending into a block grant that’s indexed for inflation and population growth. To offer some context, health-care costs often increase at twice the rate of inflation or more.

b) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Better known as food stamps, SNAP gets the Medicaid treatment: block grants indexed for inflation and population growth.

c) Pell Grants: Cut back to 2008 levels, wiping out recent increases.

d) Health-care reform: Repeals the Affordable Care Act.

4) Retirement security

a) Medicare: Privatizes Medicare. Future beneficiaries will choose from a menu of private options. They won’t have the choice of the standard Medicare plan. Wealthier beneficiaries will get a small voucher and poorer beneficiaries will get a larger voucher. Vouchers grow at GDP+1%, whether or not Medicare does the same.

b) Social Security: Calls for a bipartisan process to develop reforms.

5) Taxes

a) Tax reform: “Reform the tax code by consolidating the current six brackets and cutting the top individual rate from 35 percent to 25 percent.”

b) Tax revenue: Prevents the Bush tax cuts from expiring in 2013. So the revenue-neutral tax reform locks in today’s rates, which is to say it makes the Bush cuts permanent.

c) Corporate taxes: Lowers corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. “This budget would offset lower rates with a broader base, scaling back or eliminating entirely the deductions.”

6) Energy

Endorses “The American Energy Initiative”: I don’t know much about this bill, but you can find the GOP’s official case for it here.


The only poll you need to understand the shutdown

Ezra Klein:

Nothing explains the current contretemps in Washington as well as this NBC/WSJ poll (pdf). First, they asked Democrats and independents, “Do you want Democratic leaders in the House and Senate to make compromises to gain consensus on the current budget debate, or do you want them stick to their positions even if this means not being able to gain consensus on the budget?” Turns out they want compromise:

Then the poll asked Republicans and independents, “do you want Republican leaders in the House and Senate to make compromises to gain consensus on the current budget debate, or do you want them stick to their positions even if this means not being able to gain consensus on the budget?” The answer for independents was very similar, but for Republicans, it was almost the precise opposite:

The problem for Republicans is that what their base wants them to do is not what independents want them to do. Democrats, meanwhile, can work to prove their openness to compromise because that’s what both their base and independents want them to do. Their political incentives are a lot easier to navigate than the GOP’s.


What’s Really Driving America’s Budget Deficit In One Chart


The GOPBudget clearly doesn’t share the priorities of the American people

Steny Hoyer:

When asked which programs they were willing to see cut by Congress, 91% of Americans said they wanted to see no or only minor reductions in Medicare and 86% wanted to see no or only minor reductions in Medicaid, according to a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The Republican budget clearly doesn’t share the priorities of the American people.

Click here to read in pdf.



Gallop: Americans’ Top Job-Creation Idea: Stop Sending Work Overseas


The IRS will increase audits of the rich to “crack down on tax avoidance.”



Giving teachers bonuses for student achievement undermines student learning

Recent efforts to improve teacher performance by linking pay to student achievement have failed because such programs often rely on metrics that were never intended to help determine teacher pay, contends Derek Neal, Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago.



Salazar Slams Transocean Over Bonuses

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar criticizes Transocean, which operated the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico last year, killing 11, for awarding executives bonuses for the “best year in safety performance in our company’s history.” Mr. Salazar says the company was “at least at some fault” for causing the catastrophe. “In my own view, 2010 was probably the greatest year of pain in terms of oil and gas development in the deep water all across the world, especially in the Gulf of Mexico,” he said. [Reuters]

William K. Reilly, co-chairman of the presidential oil spill commission, also had harsh words for the drilling firm’s safety claims, which were disclosed in securities filings. “I think Transocean just doesn’t get it,” Mr. Reilly said Monday. “It’s embarrassing to see a position taken like that by an industry leader.” [The Hill]

BP declares that it has finished its oil spill cleanup work on the Alabama coastline and removes workers and equipment from the state.


How America could easily add 12 nuclear reactors’ worth of hydro power

A new analysis by Oakridge National Laboratory (ORNL) says that America could generate 12.6 gigawatts of always-on baseload power just by adding electrical generation capacity to existing dams that don’t already have it. That’s 12 (big) nuclear reactors’ worth — the average reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi plant produced only 0.78 GW.

Much of that power-generating capacity is low-hanging fruit: ORNL estimates that even if you focused only on the country’s 100 biggest non-electrified dams, you could still generate 8 gigawatts of power. That’s four times as much as the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which provides 30 percent of the electricity used by New York City and Westchester county.

Historically, hydropower has been seen as a dead end in the race to replace fossil fuels with renewables. A  2002 analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists says that “The impact of very large dams is so great that there is almost no chance that any more will be built in the United States,” and  “… hydropower is almost certainly approaching the limit of its potential in the United States.” But ORNL isn’t talking about building more dams — just getting more out of the existing ones.


Remarks by the President in a Town Hall Discussion on Energy in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania (TRANSCRIPT)

Video of the Energy Town Hall




Republicans Get Punked by  Their Witnesses at Climate Hearing

Richard Muller,  a Berkeley physicist who at times has been embraced by foes of action to limit greenhouse gases because of his criticism of depictions of catastrophic global warming, was a star witness at  a hearing today organized by Republican lawmakers.


Muller is the leader of an independent effort to use new methods to estimate temperature trends over land. It was inspired largely by his long-stated doubts about the quality of three independent and longstanding efforts to take vast amounts of climate data, gathered in inconsistent and shifting ways over many decades, and derive reliable trends. There are excellent overviews of the project in The Guardian and Los Angeles Times. [Here’s more from The Guardian’s Ian Sample.]


If the lawmakers, and/or Charles Koch, whose foundation provided some of the money for this research effort, hoped it would undercut the credibility of climate science, they must be disappointed. (The project is also supported, in part, by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Bill Gates and the Ann & Gordon Getty Foundation and other backers.)

I agree with one point made by Anthony Watts, one of the most popular aggregators of all things doubtful on climate, in a letter he hurriedly sent to the committee and posted on his blog as the hearing began*:

Normally such scientific debate is conducted in peer reviewed literature, rather than rushed to the floor of the House before papers and projects are complete.

The three scientists on the panel this morning — Muller, John Christy of the University of Alabama, Huntsville, and Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — all agreed on the basics despite holding a range of personal interpretations of those basics:

– The world has warmed.
– Greenhouse gases function and have played a role in that warming.
– There is durable uncertainty.


Muller, who in the past has made oversimplified and grossly overstated (to my mind) attacks on climate scientists and former Vice President Al Gore, was mainly restrained at the hearing, focusing on his goals for the temperature analysis. He restated his conviction that humans are warming the world, but also his view that dangerous warming remains a possibility, not a given.

As he put it this morning, “The issue in my mind is not are we seeing it but what is the degree. If it is on the high end we do have to engage very rapidly although we also have to engage with other countries” (because the brunt of new emissions will be in developing nations).

Republicans on the committee sought to draw him out on whether he saw a conspiracy to overstate climate claims, but received a nuanced reply:

You asked about a conspiracy…. I don’t believe there’s a conspiracy. But I do believe that many of the scientists in this field are so deeply concerned about what they found that they work as advocates…. I fear that the scientists are not trusting the public enough…. The bad effect of this then is that the public loses some of its trust in science.


Senate Rejects Bills to Limit E.P.A.’s Emissions Programs


Deteriorating Oil and Gas Wells Threaten Drinking Water Across the Country

Scientific American:

In the last 150 years, prospectors and energy companies have drilled as many as 12 million holes across the United States in search of oil and gas. Many of those holes were plugged after they dried up. But hundreds of thousands were simply abandoned and forgotten, often leaving no records of their existence.

Government reports have warned for decades that abandoned wells can provide pathways for oil, gas or brine-laden water to contaminate groundwater supplies or to travel up to the surface. Abandoned wells have polluted the drinking water source for Fort Knox, Ky., and leaked oil into water wells in Ohio and Michigan. Similar problems have occurred in Texas, New York, Colorado and other states where drilling has occurred.




Even Beginners Can Curb Pain With Meditation


Signs of pain disappeared from MRI images of the brain when freshly trained novices meditated.



GOP plan would essentially end Medicare and Medicaid. Cut $1 TRILLION.


CBO: Seniors Would Pay Much More For Medicare Under Ryan Plan

Seniors and the disabled would pay sharply more for their Medicare coverage under a new plan by House Republicans aimed at curbing the nation’s growing deficit, a Congressional Budget Office analysis shows.

For example, by 2030, under the plan, typical 65 year olds would be required to pay 68 percent of the total cost of their coverage, which includes premiums, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket costs, according to CBO.  That compares with the 25 percent they would pay under current law, CBO said.

The GOP budget proposal also would raise the eligibility age for the politically popular program – and repeal big chunks of the health care overhaul law approved by Congress last year.


Besides overhauling Medicare, his 10-year budget proposal also would give states more control over Medicaid, the state-federal program for the poor, but cut the amount states would receive for the program from federal coffers by hundreds of billions of dollars over a decade.

Americans would not be required to buy health insurance, under the proposal – and employers would not have to offer it either.  States would not be on the hook to set  up new insurance marketplaces.



Chart: Your health care on Paul Ryan


On Not Learning From Experience


I’ll no doubt be writing a lot about the Republican plan to dismantle Medicare in the days ahead. But a quick thought now before I go off to listen to Bob Hall explain the high-unemployment, zero-rate trap (pdf).

Here’s the thought: when it comes to controlling health care costs, there are a lot of role models out there — because everyone does better than the United States. There are government-provider systems like Britain’s NHS (or the Veterans Administration); there are single-payer systems; there are regulated competition systems.

But what the GOP plans to offer is a plan that broadly resembles Medicare Advantage — a plan that not only failed to reduce costs, but actually ended up substantially increasing costs


How the Senate voted to repeal tax reporting requirement in health care law




Ex-Cops Sentenced To Prison For Post-Katrina Killing

A former New Orleans police officer was sentenced to more than 25 years in prison Thursday for shooting a man to death without justification after Hurricane Katrina, and his ex-colleague was given just over 17 years for burning the body.

The judge said he didn’t believe former officer David Warren’s testimony that Henry Glover, 31, posed a threat when he came to a strip mall less than a week after the August 2005 storm. Warren shot Glover to death and ex-officer Gregory McRae later burned his body in a car near a police station.

Lawyers for the men argued they deserved some leniency, partly because of the horrific conditions and chaos they faced following the hurricane.

“Your conduct was barbaric,” U.S. District Judge Lance Africk told McRae. “The devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina was made uglier by your disturbing actions. At a time when more was expected of you, you failed miserably.”

McRae could have received 50 years and Warren faced up to life in prison.


Michelle Alexander: More Black Men in Prison Than Were Enslaved in 1850

It’s a heartbreaking, but often understated, reality that America’s criminal justice system imprisons black folks at astonishingly high rates. The U.S. Bureau of Justice estimated that as of 2008, there were over 846,000 black men in prison, making up 40.2 percent of all inmates in the system. But in a recent talk, noted author Michelle Alexander put those numbers in grave historical perspective.

“More African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began,” Alexander, an Ohio State law professor, recently told listeners at the Pasadena Branch of the American Civil Liberties Union.


If crime rates have fluctuated over the years and are now at historical lows, then why have rates of incarcerated men of color skyrocketed over the past 30 years?

The answer to that question doesn’t require a lot of digging.

“Most of that increase is due to the War on Drugs, a war waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color,” she said. LA Progressive reported that even though studies have proven that whites use and sell illegal drugs at rates equal to or higher than black, four of five black youth in some inner-city communities can expect to be incarcerated in their lifetimes.

In an interview with Washington Journal, Alexander said:

Once labeled a felon, you can be subjected to all forms of discrimination that once applied to African-Americans during the Jim Crow era. You may be denied the right to vote, you’re automatically excluded from juries, and you’re legally discriminated against in employment, housing, access to education, and public benefits, relegated to a second-class status much like… your parents or grandparents may have been…


What results from this form of mass incarceration? As we saw during last fall’s elections, millions of America’s black voters have been disenfranchised. An estimated 5.3 million Americans have currently or permanently lost their right to vote because of felony convictions. But for black men, the rate is seven times the national average. These numbers are sure to take on even more significance as the 2012 campaign season kicks into high gear.


‘No civilian trial’ for Guantanamo detainee: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

In making the announcement, Eric Holder, US attorney-general, repeated his belief that federal courts are the best place to prosecute terrorism suspects but said the government’s hands “were tied” by Congress, which in December adopted restrictions on prosecuting Guantanamo prisoners in civilian courts.

Holder said in late 2009 that Mohammed and four of his alleged co-conspirators would be tried in a federal civilian court in the heart of New York City. But the decision sparked concerns about security and giving the suspects full US legal rights.

Obama failed to overcome the objections by opposition Republicans and some of his fellow Democrats in Congress to transferring some Guantanamo detainees to US prisons and trying Mohammed and others in federal courts.


Captured in Pakistan in 2003 and sent to the Guantanamo detention facility in 2006, Mohammed confessed to being “responsible for the 9/11 Operation” in 2007.

His trial was suspended in 2009 when Obama halted military tribunals. Documents released the same year indicated that Mohammed told military officials he had lied about knowing the whereabouts of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden because he was being tortured by CIA agents.

He said when he initially told the agents interrogating him that he did not know where Bin Laden was, he was tortured.

Obama on March 7 lifted a two-year freeze on new military trials at the Guantanamo Bay prison facility in Cuba, saying the US Congress was hurting national security by blocking his attempts to move some trials into US civilian courts.

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, the first Guantanamo detainee to be tried in a civilian court, was convicted in the fall of 2009, when he was found not guilty of all but one of the 286 charges against him in connection with the 1998 bombings of two US embassies in Africa.


Judge Refuses To Dismiss Assault Charges Against Rand Paul Supporter

A Fayette County judge on Tuesday denied a motion to dismiss charges against a Rand Paul supporter charged with assaulting an activist before the November election.

Police say Tim Profitt stepped on 23-year-old MoveOn.org activist Lauren Valle’s head before a debate in Lexington between Paul and Jack Conway.

Profitt said he was trying to protect Paul when Valle approached the candidate with a fake award. Profitt then lost his job as the Bourbon County coordinator for the Paul campaign.

In Tuesday ruling, the judge in the case cited news footage of the incident as part of the reason for refusing to dismiss the charges.




Banning US News Outlets from Lying Might Just Save the World

Yesterday, in a tirade spurred by the strange, continued praise of News Corps snake-oily ‘carbon neutral’ efforts, I argued that Fox News has done more than any other media outlet in the world to prevent progress towards addressing climate change. And it does so, frankly, by lying. Its editorial board has a prerogative to sew doubt about climate change, and consistently and willfully misrepresents the strong body of science that confirms human activity is warming the planet. So what if Fox News was banned from lying? What if there was a federal law that prevented News Corp from spreading false information about climate change? Sounds far-fetched, right? Well, Canada’s got one.

The Ottawa law bans news agencies from airing anything they know to be untrue — and when some politicians sought to revoke it, the US news media took notice. Primarily, because we have no such ban, and many might assume it somehow restricts the freedom of press. This isn’t the case, however.

Dave Saldana of Yes Magazine explains:



White House issues veto threat for repeal of net-neutrality rules

The White House on Monday threatened to veto legislation from House Republicans that would repeal net-neutrality regulations.

In a statement of administration policy, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said the president’s advisers would recommend that he not sign a bill scrapping new Internet regulations from the Federal Communications Commission.

“If the President is presented with a Resolution of Disapproval that would not safeguard the free and open Internet, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the Resolution,” the statement said.

Net neutrality was an Obama campaign promise.

OMB said scrapping the rules “would undermine a fundamental part of the Nation’s Internet and innovation strategy — an enforceable and effective policy for keeping the Internet free and open.”

The House is preparing for a floor debate Tuesday on a measure from House Communications subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) that would block the FCC’s net neutrality effort.


Dana Milbank: Why Beck’s Ratings Were Down (and why he was popular in the first place)

There are, happily, signs that the influences that undermined Beck are doing the same to other purveyors of fear. The March Washington Post-ABC News poll found that Sarah Palin’s favorability rating among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents had dropped to 58 percent from 70 percent in October and 88 percent in 2008. Her negative ratings among Republicans are higher than those of other prospective Republican presidential candidates.

In another indication of abating anger, a CNN poll released last week found that the percentage of the public viewing the Tea Party unfavorably had increased to 47 percent, from 26 percent in January 2010. Thirty-two percent have a favorable view.

Beck, in losing his mass-media perch, is repeating the history of Father Charles Coughlin, the radio priest of the Great Depression. Economic hardship gave him an audience even greater than Beck’s, but as his calls to drive “the money changers from the temple” became more vitriolic, his broadcast sponsors dropped him. He gradually faded from relevance as his angry themes lost their hold on Americans and his anti-Semitism became more pronounced.

It is a sign of the nation’s health and resilience that Beck, after 27 months at Fox, is meeting a similar end.



Service Chiefs Testify They Have Not Run Into Problems In Implementing DADT Repeal

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) seemed taken aback this afternoon when the four chiefs of the armed forces testified that they had not run into any major problems in implementing the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.


Gates Fakes Cuts, Drives Spending

During the Bush administration’s post-Sept. 11 years, the United States spent $4.6 trillion — in 2010 dollars — on defense, or about $460 billion a year, excluding war costs. This was a 17.5 percent increase over the post-Cold War, peace dividend years of 1991-2000, slightly above the Cold War average of $450 billion per year.

One year ago, President Barack Obama laid out a defense plan for 2011-2020 that called for spending $5.8 trillion — or $580 billion a year. This represented an additional 25 percent real increase in defense spending above the 1990s.

Meanwhile, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform recently proposed a defense program of $4.9 trillion — or $490 billion a year for 2011-2020. This is a 15 percent decrease from Obama’s plan but still 6 percent more than the Bush years and the Cold War average.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates called the commission’s proposed cuts catastrophic and is determined to fend off any cuts of that magnitude. But under pressure from the White House, Gates reluctantly agreed to more than $78 billion in reductions from 2012 to 2015, a cut of 4 percent from Obama’s plan.



POLL: 58% of Americans don’t want to keep fighting the war in Afghanistan




Poll: President Obama is starting to regain the trust of ‘Millennials’


WaPo: Not just about money: Obama’s reelection launch reflects the need to rejuvenate his grass-roots army.

But all anyone needs to do is read the short e-mail message and watch the two-minute video that Obama’s advisers e-mailed to supporters Monday.

“We won in 2008 largely on the strength of an energetic group of Americans out there who really were invested in this and we’re going to need that again, no question about it,” said David Axelrod, the chief strategist for the reelection campaign. “It takes time to build.”

Five people are featured in the new Obama campaign video: Ed, an older white man from North Carolina; Gladys, a Hispanic woman from Nevada; Katherine, a white woman from Colorado; Mike, a 2012 first-time voter from New York; and Alice, an African American woman from Michigan. Geographically or demographically, they are the targets for Obama’s campaign.

Without a huge turnout of minorities, another surge among voters younger than 30, and good margins among the minority of white voters who are in Obama’s coalition — particularly independents who defected between 2008 and 2010 — the president’s chances of winning could be compromised. Events might break in his favor, in which case reelection could be easier than it looks now. But no smart campaign prepares on the basis of best-case scenarios.

Geographically, every state represented by the five people in the video is a battleground, with the exception of New York, a Democratic haven. Republicans might scoff at the idea that Obama can carry North Carolina again. Colorado and Nevada could be more difficult this time, as could states not represented in the video, such as Indiana and Virginia. But Obama’s team will not start the campaign with a constricted view of the electoral map.

While Republicans are battling for their nomination, the Obama team will be building robust organizations in every one of those anticipated battleground states. It believed it could not wait longer to start that process.

Another line from the president’s e-mail to supporters is telling: “In the coming days, supporters like you will begin forging a new organization that we’ll build together in cities and towns across the country. . . . We’ll start by doing something unprecedented: coordinating millions of one-on-one conversations between supporters across every single state, reconnecting old friends, inspiring new ones to join the cause and readying ourselves for next year’s fight.”

One of the requirements Obama established at the very start of his first run for the White House was that it would be bottom-up, not top-down — a reflection of the community organizer-turned-politician.



This Is What Resistance Looks Like

Chris Hedges:

We don’t need leaders. We don’t need directives from above. We don’t need formal organizations. We don’t need to waste our time appealing to the Democratic Party or writing letters to the editor. We don’t need more diatribes on the Internet. We need to physically get into the public square and create a mass movement. We need you and a few of your neighbors to begin it. We need you to walk down to your Bank of America branch and protest. We need you to come to Union Square. And once you do that you begin to create a force these elites always desperately try to snuff out—resistance.


Debbie Wasserman Schultz picked as Democratic National Committee chair


Trying to Prove that Government is Useless

House Republicans appear willing to shut down the government over a quite small difference in proposed spending, as little as $7 billion, Steve Benen writes. And you could ask why Democrats don’t just go along.

Part of the answer is that the cuts Republicans want in basic services are unconscionable for Democrats. And part of it is that what Republicans want is not so much a leaner government as one that’s remade along the lines of their ideology. “This is not a budget,” says Republican budget leader Paul Ryan. “This is a cause.”

Rachel summed up that cause on the show last night:

This is a cause. It is about seeking a shutdown. It is not about avoiding a shutdown.

It is about finding the most popular, most successful government programs, and shutting those ones down, privatizing them, hiving them off, because they’re successful, because they’re popular, because they remind people that there’s a reason to have a public sector, and it’s worth defending. And they like the mailman and teachers and firefighters and Social Security and Medicare.

The whittling away of government services is fundamentally the same strategy Republicans are using in Wisconsin, to break the unions — make people more aware of paying for them, and at the same reduce the value of them in everyday life. It’s basic behavioral economics, smartly played, except for that part where Americans really do value worker rights, and Americans really do value their government.


The “Bully Pulpit” is a Fallacy

This probably isn’t surprising to political scientists, but it illustrates the problem with the popular fallacy that by simply using the “bully pulpit,” the president can dramatically shift public opinion in his favor.

While it might be easy to attribute the numbers to the president losing his speechifying mojo, these numbers are pretty typical of how the public reacts to presidential speeches. As Brendan Nyhan has explained, even Ronald Reagan, supposedly the “Great Communicator,” found that his big speeches were more “likely to lower his approval and generate more public and congressional opposition than support.”


That said, support for the operation has grown slightly, from 47 percent to 50 percent, even as public opinion seems to be sorting itself back into partisan categories. A majority, though, still says the operation has no clear goal. This suggests that the President’s effort to use the bully pulpit to convince the public of the clarity of his mission just made public reaction more partisan and reinforced the sense that the mission is muddled

Speeches aren’t the only way to show leadership, but they’re the easiest ones for political writers to point to and they make for compelling (or at least easy to write up) political drama, so we tend to believe they have more of an impact than they really do.


Koch’s web of influence [Comprehensive Report]

The Center for Public Intergrity:



Global warming and low carbon fuel standards…

Energy industry tax breaks…

Bush tax cuts…

Terrorism and national security…

Financial regulation…



WI’s Waukesha County Clerk to Keep Elections Results on Her Personal Computer

Waukesha — Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus’ decision to go it alone in how she collects and maintains election results has some county officials raising a red flag about the integrity of the system. Nickolaus said she decided to take the election data collection and storage system off the county’s computer network — and keep it on stand-alone personal computers accessible only in her office — for security reasons. “What it gave me was good security of the elections from start to finish, without the ability of someone unauthorized to be involved,” she said. Nonetheless, Director of Administration Norman A. Cummings said because Nickolaus has kept them out of the loop, the county’s information technology specialists have not been able to verify Nickolaus’ claim that the system is secure from failure. “How does anybody else in the county know, except for her verbal word, that there are backups, and that the software she has out there is performing as it should?” he said. “There’s no way I can assure that the election system is going to be fine for the next presidential election.”


The County Clerk in Waukesha County has been criticized for election practices in the past

Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus, a former staffer for the Assembly Republican Caucus, has been sharply criticized in recent months for her handling of recent elections. Even the archly-conservative Waukesha County Board has sharply condemned Nickolaus after past elections, demanding an immediate audit of her practices following ominous red-flags that emerged regarding her lack of oversight, failure to create backup files and her stubborn insistence to “keep everything secret.”

The County auditors said it was eminently possible — including historical precedent — for Nickolaus or a rogue employee to tamper with data. Why? Nickolaus insists on controlling password access and has unilaterally decided to move sensitive files, like election results, onto her personal computer.


Nickolaus has actually scoffed at complying with impartial audits, thumbing her nose at critics. A move that drew a sharp reaction at the time from the County Board Chair:

“There really is nothing funny about this, Kathy,” said Waukesha County Board Chairman Jim Dwyer when Nickolaus willfully ignored complying with the earlier impartial audit. “Don’t sit there and grin when I’m explaining what this is about.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 8/18/10; 1/17/11]


Prosser Hires Bush v. Gore Recount Lawyer Who Claims GOP Opposes Equal Protection



At Particle Lab, a Tantalizing Glimpse Has Physicists Holding Their Breaths

A “bump” in the data at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory may be evidence of a new elementary particle, or…force of nature? Scientists say it could be the elusive Higgs boson, the invisible elementary particle thought to be responsible for endowing other particles with mass, the New York Times reports. The possibility has scientists at Fermilab, which is slated to shutter soon for good, both “cautious” and “thrilled.”


Joe Lykken, a Fermilab particle theorist, said Dr. Punzi’s group would have four times as much data in an analysis later this year. “This would be enough to claim a definitive major discovery,” he wrote in an e-mail, “just as the Tevatron — and perhaps Fermilab itself — is being shut down for budget savings.”



Justices Allow Tax Credit for Religious Tuition

The Supreme Court on Monday let stand an Arizona program that aids religious schools, saying in a 5-to-4 decision that the plaintiffs had no standing to challenge it.

The program itself is novel and complicated, and allowing it to go forward may be of no particular moment. But by closing the courthouse door to some kinds of suits that claim violations of the First Amendment’s ban on government establishment of religion, the court’s ruling in the case may be quite consequential.

Justice Elena Kagan, in her first dissent, said the majority had laid waste to the doctrine of “taxpayer standing,” which allows suits from people who object to having tax money spent on religious matters. “The court’s opinion,” Justice Kagan wrote, “offers a road map — more truly, just a one-step instruction — to any government that wishes to insulate its financing of religious activity from legal challenge.”

The decision divided the court along the usual ideological lines, with the three other more liberal members — Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor — joining the dissent.


Wal-Mart v. Women

The employment discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart, which the Supreme Court heard last week, is the largest in American history. If the court rejects this suit, it will send a chilling message that some companies are too big to be held accountable.

It began in 1999 after Stephanie Odle was fired when she complained of sex discrimination. As Ms. Odle recounted in sworn testimony, as an assistant manager she discovered that a male employee with the same title and less experience was making $10,000 a year more than her.

She complained to her boss, who defended the disparity by saying the male had a family to support. When she replied that she was having a baby that she needed to support, the supervisor made her provide a personal budget and then gave her a raise closing just one-fifth the gap.

The plaintiffs who have brought a class action on behalf of 1.5 million current and former female Wal-Mart employees allege that they, too, faced discrimination in pay and promotion. If Wal-Mart loses, it could owe more than $1 billion in back pay.



Gallup: Americans side with unions over governors


Ohio voters have 90 days to stop Gov.Kasich’s anti-union bill


W.H.: Obama may veto FAA bill

In the “one of the strongest official pronouncements” for labor, the White House said Obama will veto the House’s Federal Aviation Administration bill “if it includes provisions hampering aviation and railroad workers’ ability to unionize.” Obama’s advisers will urge a veto on any bill that “would not safeguard” the ability of “working Americans [to] exercise their right to organize under a fair and free process.”


Cops, firefighters turn on GOP in labor fight

Many cops and firefighters have thrown their allegiance to the GOP for years — union members who frequently stray from labor’s longtime support for Democrats.

A host of new Republican governors is changing all that.


Pro-worker rally in Memphis, site of the 1968 sanitation strike


Video  and Photos from April 4th Events

Washington, Oregon and Canada Rally in support of Wisconsin


Ohio business backs away from union-stripping bill

This is not the headline Americans for Prosperity wanted see in Ohio: “SB 5 supporters slow to organize.” Efforts to overturn Ohio’s union-stripping bill by getting it on the ballot as a citizens’ referendum appear to be rolling along. But the campaign to defend the measure is kinda nowhere, reports the Columbus Dispatch.


Today, in 2011, local businesses have been backing away from SB5. The Youngtown Vindicator reports that a handful have quit the Chamber of Commerce over its support of the bill. “By the chamber endorsing [SB 5], it put us in an awkward position. We felt it was better for us to be on the sidelines, and that’s what we decided to do,” one cafe owner tells the paper.


Union ready to sue for pay if shutdown occurs

The head of the largest federal employees union said Tuesday that his group would likely file a lawsuit against the federal government for workers’ pay if a shutdown occurs.

Speaking at the National Press Club, John Gage, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), said his union would consider filing a claim under the Constitution’s 13th Amendment in the event of a shutdown since some workers would have to work without pay to keep vital operations up and running.

The 13th Amendment became law in 1865, ending the practice of slavery and indentured servitude in the United States. AFGE lawyers say the law applies in the instance of a government shutdown since federal workers who are deemed “essential” to government operations could be forced to come to work without pay on the threat being fired.


“If you’re deemed ‘essential,’ you have to come into work. If you don’t, you would be fired. That’s your legal compulsion right there,” Borer said. “That was supposed to end in 1865 but here we are.”

Compounding the dilemma for the federal government is the Anti-Deficiency Act. That law says the government can’t accept workers’ services for free and also cannot promise to pay them in the future if those funds have not already been appropriated by Congress.

Borer said AFGE filed a similar lawsuit during the 1996 federal government shutdown. That lawsuit was rendered moot because federal employees were eventually awarded back-pay for their work.


Gage said if the shutdown does happen, federal workers will end up being blamed instead of lawmakers for failing to reach an agreement. Americans will notice that Social Security offices are closed and other vital government services are out of commission.

“Services fall, we get criticized,” Gage said. The union president said AFGE would call upon its members to line up at their closed federal offices for work during a shutdown in order to show the public that they still want to work.

Gage also went after budget cuts proposed by the GOP-controlled House, saying they are for political reasons rather than reducing the debt.


5 Thousand Protest Budget/Union Laws in New Hampshire

[Last Thursday, Mar.31, 2011] About 5 thousand people turned out to register their disgust with the NH General Court and the extreme laws that are being foisted on the state.  While 5k at a protest isn’t large by Wisconsin standards, this has been estimated to be the largest protest gathering ever in the state of New Hampshire.



Rove on birthers: It’s a trap!

Bill O’Reilly asked Karl Rove last night if Donald Trump might boost his political career by being an unrestrained birther. After all, O’Reilly said, Trump’s support for the ridiculous conspiracy theory is getting him “a hell of a lot of attention” and helps him curry favor with “the right-wing base of the Republican Party.”

Rove didn’t see it that way.

” The right- wing base of the Republican Party — I’m part of that right-wing base — is not in love with the issue of birthers. I mean, there is an element inside the Republican Party and outside the Republican Party that’s fallen in love with this. But the vast majority of Republicans and the vast majority of Americans accept that he’s a U.S. citizen and capable of being president. And this is a distraction. […]

“This is a mistake. It will marginalize [Trump]. And he’s falling for Barack Obama’s trap. Barack Obama wants Republicans to fall into this trap, because he knows it discredits us with the vast majority of American people when they do.”

If this seems familiar, it’s because we’ve heard it from Rove before. About six weeks ago, he pushed the same line, insisting that this far-right nonsense is “the trap of the White House.”

Even by Rove standards, this is just odd. He really seems to believe that an unhinged, right-wing conspiracy theory, debunked several years ago and rejected by sane people everywhere, is an elaborate “trap” set by nefarious White House officials, including the president.


Remember, Karl Rove, who’s now shared this idea on national television more than once, is considered one of the Republican Party’s most credible, strategic minds.

Postscript: Speaking of Rove, his new Wall Street Journal op-ed said the president came out in support of Bush’s “freedom agenda,” which is at odds with a speech Obama delivered in 2005. As it turns out, Rove’s lying about this week’s speech and the 2005 speech.


The Religious-Right and the Republican Party are joined at the hip

Once again we have Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association speaking about social safety nets. Ya’ know, those “hammocks” that Paul Ryan speaks of.

Welfare has destroyed the African-American family by telling young black women that husbands and fathers are unnecessary and obsolete. Welfare has subsidized illegitimacy by offering financial rewards to women who have more children out of wedlock. We have incentivized fornication rather than marriage, and it’s no wonder we are now awash in the disastrous social consequences of people who rut like rabbits.

And children are the ones who get chewed up. Welfare, as Walter Williams has pointed out, has done what slavery, racism and Jim Crow laws could not do: destroy the black family. The Christ-centered statesman puts himself in the place of a fatherless black child, sees the catastrophic damage that the meltdown of the family has caused, and pursues policies to wean people off marriage- and child-destroying welfare, and pursues policies that incentivize marriage, incentivize self-reliance rather than abject dependence, and incentivize the reconstruction of the American family.

You can dismiss Bryan Fischer as a fringe figure if you want, but Tim Pawlenty, Mike Huckabee, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, and Haley Barbour have all appeared on his radio show. All of whom are possible presidential contenders.

The Religious-Right and the Republican Party are joined at the hip. You cannot seperate the two. And in these words you can see the philosophical and religious belief structure that is behind their fiscal policy proposals.


Poll – 46% of Republians in MS support a ban on interracial marriages

A new Public Policy Polling poll out of Mississippi shows that a whopping 46% of Republicans in that state support a ban on interracial marriages.  That’s compared to just 40% who supported the rights of couples of different races to marry.  The poll also found that among those opposed to interracial marriage – their top choice for President was Sarah Palin.



The largest interior photo ever made

Strahov Library 40 Gigapixels

Spend some time soaking in the ancient atmosphere of this 18th century library in Strahov Monastery in Prague.

This 360º Panorama is the largest indoor Photo in the world as of March 2011.

This image was created from 3,000 individual photos stitched together into a single image that is 280,000 x 140,000 pixels. That’s around 40 gigapixels, or 40,000 megapixels. If you printed this photo it would be 23 meters (or 78 feet) long!

To control this image, use the controls on the screen or click and hold your mouse button on the photo, and move your mouse around. To zoom in and out, use your mouse wheel, or the “Shift” and “Control” keys. Be sure to zoom in all the way to see the full detail of the photo!


What I wish Would Happen to the Baggers


ACTION: Make corporate tax cheats pay their fair share! Share this @USuncut infographic



“If you don’t know history, it is as if you were born yesterday.”— Howard Zinn


The Daily Planet, Vol. 47

The Daily Planet, Vol. 46

The Daily Planet, Vol. 45

The Daily Planet, Vol.44

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I read today that Obama told the GOP that he would veto any bill that attempts to change net neutrality. Hooray Obama. This is the major 1st amendment issue of our time.


Cher- It’s more versatile than you think!
Tonight I am reading Planet with dessert and coffee, instead of breakfast and coffee- it works just as well!!
Thanks 🙂