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.



Ezra Klein on why the government should not be run like a household


Rep. Jeb Hensarling (GOP Conference Chair) calls Social Security, Medicare + Medicaid “cruel ponzi schemes”


GOP budget slashes investments in science, infrastructure, and education to historically low levels


Republican budget includes overhaul of food stamps


Nate Silver, 538: The High Stakes of Republicans’ Budget Vote


NYT: ‘Gang of Six’ in the Senate Seeking a Plan on Debt

Days after President Obama called for forming a bipartisan group in Congress to begin negotiating a $4 trillion debt-reduction package, the parties have not even agreed to its membership. Yet six senators — three Democrats, three Republicans — say they are nearing consensus on just such a plan.

Whether the so-called Gang of Six can actually deliver something when Congress returns from a recess in May could determine whether Democrats and Republicans can come together to resolve the nation’s fiscal problems before the 2012 elections.

As Mr. Obama and Republican leaders have warred publicly over the budget, this small group of senators has spent four months in dozens of secretive meetings in offices at the Capitol and over dinner at the suburban Virginia home of Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat.

The senators have weathered criticism from bloggers and even colleagues, including the leaders of their own parties, who oppose tampering with Social Security or taxes. The gang nearly collapsed several times, including two weeks ago.

The group’s oldest members — Senator Richard J. Durbin, 66, a progressive from Illinois who counts the Senate’s only socialist as a friend and ally, and Senator Saxby Chambliss, 67, a genial Georgia conservative whose nasty first campaign left lingering bad feelings among Democrats, and who is a confidant of Speaker John A. Boehner — illustrate that even with the mounting federal debt intensifying the partisan divide over spending and taxes, the severity of the fiscal threat is forging unlikely alliances.

If Mr. Durbin and Mr. Chambliss can cut a deal on Social Security and new tax revenues, their associates say, then just maybe all of Washington can come together.

For Republicans, that means accepting higher taxes and lower military spending. For Democrats, it would mean agreeing to curbs on the unsustainable growth of Medicare and Medicaid spending, as well as tweaks to Social Security, to avert a big shortfall in 2037 and as a trade-off for Republicans’ support on taxes.

Mr. Durbin and Mr. Chambliss reached those conclusions last year, each confronting the widening annual gaps between projected revenues and spending as the population ages and health care prices rise.


Several months ago, with Mr. Durbin as its most surprising yes vote, 11 of the 18 members of the president’s fiscal commission backed a blueprint to pare $4 trillion from projected deficits in the first decade. It would cut domestic and military spending; curb Medicare and Medicaid; and overhaul the tax code, limiting or repealing tax breaks and using the new revenues to lower tax rates and reduce deficits. Separate from its debt-reduction plan, the panel proposed benefit and payroll tax changes to stabilize Social Security for 75 years.


The effort holds peril regardless of the outcome. If successful, a plan could be taken up as Congress debates this spring over raising the nation’s $14.2 trillion debt limit. But the group is hardly assured of support from Senate colleagues, let alone lawmakers in the House, where Republicans, including dozens of new Tea Party supporters, refuse to consider raising revenues. If the group fails, that would probably signal doom for the broader bipartisan effort Mr. Obama wants.


Nine months later, Mr. Durbin announced his support in The Chicago Tribune for the recommendations the chairmen had negotiated with members. “The question my closest political friends are asking is this: Why is a progressive like Dick Durbin voting for this deficit commission report?” he wrote. The answer: “Borrowing 40 cents out of every dollar we spend for missiles or food stamps is unsustainable.”

So, Mr. Durbin added, “when we engage in the critical decisions about our nation’s future budgets, I want progressive voices at the table to argue that we must protect the most vulnerable in our society and demand fairness in budget cuts.”

That has been his mantra with disappointed allies in labor, women’s groups and the Senate. Mr. Durbin, in the interview, cited a private meeting requested by Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, a socialist and “a good friend.” Their exchange, Mr. Durbin said, captured the increasing difficulty in being a good progressive “at a time of limited resources.”

Mr. Sanders said he respected Mr. Durbin for his good intentions. “But I think the direction in which he is going in working with some of the most very conservative members of the Senate is not correct,” Mr. Sanders said.


Steve Benen:

In addition to needlessly going after Social Security, the gang also reportedly intends to eliminate the home mortgage tax deduction. As Warner put it, “We are going to make everybody mad with our approach.”

That’s almost certainly an understatement. It’s difficult to scrutinize a blueprint that hasn’t been released, but in addition to Warner’s comments, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), another gang member, told Fox News yesterday that the agreement will also include spending caps on mandatory and discretionary spending, which is hopelessly insane.

By all appearances, Democrats in this group are prepared to effectively give up any hopes of progressive governance for a generation and give in to entitlement cuts, in exchange for tax increases that sane Republicans should consider a no-brainer anyway.

If the gang reaches an agreement, and it looks like the one being talked about by its members, I’m hard pressed to imagine how it could pass.


S&P Warns: Fix The Deficit, Or Else

Standard & Poor’s, a big ratings agency, is getting nervous about the United States’ ability to pay its debt.

The agency lowered its outlook for the U.S. to negative this morning. That’s essentially a warning.

It means that the U.S. is still a super-safe country to lend money to, in S&P’s view. But if the U.S. doesn’t get its act together in the next few years, that will change. (Here’s a PDF of the full report from S&P.)




OK, so Standard and Poors has warned that it might downgrade the US one of these days. At first read, what it says doesn’t seem too silly: it lays stress, rightly, on political gridlock. The point should be that the US is perfectly capable both of running large deficits now and getting its fiscal house in order over time; but not if the parties cannot agree on any kind of solution. What we do to spending this year or next is irrelevant.

Japanese bonds became known as the “trade of death”, because people kept betting on an interest rate rise, and it kept not happening.

So, no big deal.

Downgrading America

Kevin Drum:

Standard & Poor’s issued a warning today that it might downgrade U.S. debt if no deal is made to rein in the deficit. Or, more precisely, it might not downgrade debt, but might declare that America’s AAA rating isn’t quite as good as some other countries’ AAA rating. Or something. In any case, Matt Yglesias says we should ignore them:

The thing about the United States of America is that we’re not an obscure country. Nor is our sovereign debt an obscure financial instrument. No major investor is going to be outsourcing his research on the desirability of American bonds to the S&P ratings service. There are two metrics to keep an eye on when assessing American debt. One is the interest rate the Treasury has to offer to get people to buy the debt. Currently that number is low. The other is the “spread” between bonds that are indexed for inflation and bonds that aren’t indexed for inflation which serves, among other things, as a gauge of market assessment of the risk that we’ll have no choice but to inflate the debt away. Currently that number, too, is low.

I agree with this completely, and I’ve made a similar comment in the past. And yet…..

And yet, there’s something to think about here. One of the reasons I take our medium and long-term deficit fairly seriously, even though current financial indicators suggest the market is unconcerned, is that financial indicators can turn around in a flash. There are limits to how far a big country like the United States can get from fundamentals, but we’re still susceptible to the kinds of mob emotion that power both bubbles and bank runs. And the thing is, there’s never any telling what might spark such a turnaround. One day everything is fine. Then Bill Gross announces that he’s no longer thrilled about holding treasuries. The next day S&P makes some negative noises. A day after that the Chinese government cuts back on treasury purchases. Then an auction of 10-year bonds is slightly soft, and suddenly everyone panics.

This most likely won’t happen. Certainly not anytime soon, given the underlying fundamentals of the American and global economies. Still, it could happen in the near future, and there’s no telling what might set it off. So in that sense, this kind of announcement from S&P actually is meaningful. Maybe not today. But a similar announcement someday might be. It’s true that major investors don’t outsource their opinion on U.S. treasuries to S&P, but even major investors can get nervous if enough people start telling them they’re being idiots. Sometimes perceptions are as important as reality.



Shocking tactics employed by some US debt collectors. Extreme threats and abusive harassment becoming more commonplace

From racial epithets to impersonating police officers to trying to collect debts from the wrong people, some debt collectors have become increasingly abusive in recent years—and in the economic downturn of the late 2000s and early 2010s, those abuses are only becoming worse. In March, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that next to identity theft, complaints about debt collectors were the most common complaints it received in 2010; last year, the FTC said, it received over 144,000 complaints about debt collectors, which was a 17 percent increase from the 119,609 debt collector-related complaints it received in 2009. The FTC said more than 4,100 of the complaints it received about debt collectors in 2010 involved threats of physical violence.

“The level of abuse and harassment in the debt collection industry is reaching epic proportions,” said Ira J. Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA) in Washington, DC. “For example, calling people at work inappropriately, calling neighbors inappropriately, people on the phone being particularly abusive—we’re seeing more of that type of abuse than we ever have before.”


Why Public Support for Free Trade Will Collapse Soon

For once, some good news: public support for free trade will almost certainly collapse over the next few years. On this issue, the public is way ahead of the political class in the quality of its thinking, and the average hardware store owner in Nebraska understands the real economics involved better than the average U.S. Senator. Public opinion certainly continues to turn against free trade: an NBC-Wall Street Journal poll in September 2010 found 53% of Americans believing free trade agreements hurt the U.S., with only 17% believing them beneficial.



Transformational Government


In an article discussing the fact that the wealthy only pay an average of 17% tax on their millions (and poor people pay no federal income taxes at all, the bastards!)here’s how CBS describes the Republican and White House budget proposals:

The sheer volume of credits, deductions and exemptions has both Democrats and Republicans calling for tax laws to be overhauled. House Republicans want to eliminate breaks to pay for lower overall rates, reducing the top tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. Republicans oppose raising taxes, but they argue that a more efficient tax code would increase economic activity, generating additional tax revenue.

President Barack Obama said last week he wants to do away with tax breaks to lower the rates and to reduce government borrowing.
Basically, they’re saying that the president and the Republicans are proposing the same thing, except the Republicans are promising that the deficit will magically go away. Again, I get why the conservatives want to exchange tax breaks for lower rates. Their rich patrons will take the lower rates and will reinstate all the tax breaks and more as soon as possible. Entire armies of lobbyists are employed expressly for that purpose. (The fact that the Ryan budget the House passed last week includes a total rollback of Dodd Frank should be some indication of where they are coming from on this sort of thing.) They don’t really care about deficits, so they are employing their vacuous supply-side talking points, assuring everyone that if you cut taxes on the wealthy you increase revenue.


But even conservative economists have cast doubt on this claim.

“Federal revenue is lower today than it would have been without the tax cuts. There’s really no dispute among economists about that,” said Alan D. Viard, a former White House economist under George W. Bush, in a 2006 Washington Post article.


Bruce Bartlett, a Reagan economist who became a strong critic of the Bush administration’s policies, used data from the Office of Management and Budget in a blog post last year to illustrate how “the Bush tax cuts reduced revenue rather significantly.”
Ok, so the Republicans are lying as usual. And they are pulling an additional fast one with this notion of “reducing tax expenditures” as a way to raise revenue. Here’s what “tax expenditures” are:
Tax expenditures are, quite simply, spending programs implemented through the tax code. These programs give people and businesses special tax credits, deductions, exclusions, exemptions, deferrals, and preferential rates in support of various government policies. Some of these programs help people save for retirement, buy a home, or pay for college; others encourage companies to invest in green energy technologies or build nuclear power plants; they even subsidize corporations that drill for oil or purchase real estate; and much more.

The government uses both tax expenditures and direct spending to support its policies. Direct spending is when the government takes taxpayer dollars and gives them to others to spend for a specific purpose. The government uses tax expenditures to accomplish the same goals as direct spending, but it transfers money by lowering taxes for an individual or company instead of giving them the money.

Consider this example to see the similarities between direct spending and tax expenditures: The government wants to create a program that provides $10,000 to every individual who weatherizes his or her home. The government can deliver the subsidy in one of three ways: (1) cut a check for $10,000, (2) create a tax expenditure like a refundable credit worth $10,000, or (3) use a combination of direct spending and tax expenditures. In all three cases the individual who weatherizes his or her home receives $10,000 from the government.

What makes tax expenditures different from other forms of government spending?


The claim that “every time we’ve cut taxes, revenues have gone up” is still an unambiguous lie.


FLASHBACK: Reagan raised corporate taxes to force tax dodgers to ‘pay their fair share’


Pew: 79% of Americans say they consider not reporting all income on one’s taxes to be morally wrong.


Why Are Gas Prices Are Too Damn High?

Bob Cesca:

Because of market manipulation and oil speculation.

In other words, Wall Street has a lot to do with the spike in gas prices. Via ThinkProgress, here are some progressive congressmen who would like to do something about it.

I’m rather ambivalent about gas prices. I actually believe gas should be more expensive, but more expensive by way of a gas tax — the revenues funneled into green energy R&D. But high gas prices for the sake of Wall Street speculation ought to be banned and violators punished.


How Nancy Pelosi Can Save The Day, And Regain Power, In Debt Ceiling Fight

But every member of leadership in both parties, and everyone at the White House, knows the debt limit will be raised one way or another. It has to be. Therein lies the key for Pelosi.

Right now, House Democrats are coalescing around the view that the debt limit should be hiked without major concessions to the GOP attached to it. They want a “clean” increase in the debt ceiling. If House Democrats hold to that position, they’ll force House Republicans to pass a debt limit hike with only Republican votes. What the conservative base of the party would demand under those circumstances is unclear, but there’s a high likelihood it would reach way too far, and be a non-starter in the Senate and with the White House.

That’s where Boehner would get stuck. He knows the debt limit needs to be lifted. He knows that to get a debt limit bill through the Senate, he needs Democratic buy in. And if Pelosi and her leadership team keep Democrats aligned, he knows that means ditching just about all the concessions Republicans want.

Boehner would thus be forced to lift the debt ceiling on Pelosi’s terms, not his own. It would make the defections he suffered during the 2011 spending fight look like a minor rift. But he’d have no choice.



As Duncan pushes Asian schools as model, Chinese educators find much to emulate about ours

“In China, the students have much heavier course loads. Secondary students arrive at school at 7:30 a.m. and do not leave until 10 p.m.,” Hang explained to King’s students, who grimaced at the thought of staying at school past the last bell. “But this partnership is just one part of a reform that has been launched by the Chinese government,” Hang continued. “The government is encouraging educational reform to provide a structure that is more relaxed and interactive between students and teachers.” Continued…



Scientists want climate change early-warning system

(Reuters) -A better monitoring network for greenhouses gases is needed to warn of significant changes and to keep countries that have agreed to cut their emissions honest, scientists said in papers published Monday.

“What we’re hoping to do is see if the warming is feeding the warming, particularly in the Arctic,” said Euan Nisbet, a specialist in methane emissions at the University of London.

“Our monitoring network is very, very limited. We feel more observation is needed.”

Such measurement could warn of possible climate tipping points, scientists said in papers published by Britain’s science academy, the Royal Society.

The data also could be used to verify countries’ reporting of greenhouse gas emissions against targets under the present Kyoto Protocol and a possible successor after 2012.


They are concerned, for example, that as Arctic permafrost melts it would allow plant matter to rot and vent methane, a greenhouse gas which could trigger more warming.

Nisbet said the earth last came out of a glacial period “in a matter of a decade or so,” referring to rapid warming followed by a more prolonged ice melt, and warned of serious consequences if that were to be repeated now.

A retreat of Arctic summer ice warming has been observed in recent years against a 30-year satellite record, shrinking to its lowest level in 2007 and coinciding with a spike in methane.

“In 2007 the Arctic methane emissions appeared to increase very sharply, and then stabilized a bit later. The question is what were the causes of that,” Nisbet said.



Move over Prozac: New drug offers hope for depression

The brain chemistry that underlies depression is incompletely understood, but research suggests that aberrant signaling by a chemical called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor through its receptor TrkB, may contribute to anxiety and depression. Here, researchers describe a screen for stable small molecules that could specifically inhibit TrkB action. They identified one they dubbed ANA-12, which had potent behavioral effects when administered to mice that suggest it will have antidepressant and anti-anxiety activity in humans.


Edinburgh Science : Swearing can help relieve pain, say researchers



My Medicare Deficit Solution

David Brooks, perhaps realizing that it was a bad idea to swallow a politician’s PR bullet points whole, is now backpedaling. The Ryan Plan, which he originally hailed as “the most comprehensive and most courageous budget reform proposal any of us have seen in our lifetimes,” now has the principal virtue of existing: “Because he had the courage to take the initiative, Paul Ryan’s budget plan will be the starting point for future discussions.”

As I’ve discussed before, the Ryan Plan is just one bad idea dressed up with the false precision of lots of numbers: changing Medicare from a health insurance program to a cash redistribution program that gives up on managing health care costs. Here’s the key chart from the CBO report:



Anti-Immigration Groups Give GOP Free Pass on Border Security Cuts

The issue could regain some prominence in the coming weeks, however, as Republicans look to pass legislation that would make up for their own party’s cuts with additional border dollars. Arizona’s two Republican Senators, John McCain and John Kyl, recently introduced a bill that would beef up security along the Mexican border with $4 billion over the next five years for more fence construction and drone surveillance. Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) “Path to Prosperity” calls for billions in additional cuts to Homeland Security over the next decade below the White House’s own budget request, meaning the issue will return again as the House works its way through the 2012 budget process.



Will the Justice Department Stand Up for Women Raped in Prison?

Eight years ago, Congress acknowledged the brutal fact of systemic sexual assault behind bars by unanimously passing the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). The Justice Department is now poised to issue final rules to implement the law, which makes federal funding to prisons and jails contingent on improved staff training, availability of medical and psychological services for people who suffer sexual assault, investigations and publicly available data about reported assaults.


Now that the public comment period has closed, the ball is officially in the Justice Department’s court. But the court of public opinion can still be used to press for stronger standards to “prevent, detect, and respond to” sexual assault behind prison walls.

The Supreme Court has held that women’s constitutional right to make reproductive decisions is twofold: the right to end a pregnancy or to continue it. Women do not lose these basic rights when they cross the prison threshold. But nowhere do the proposed rules explicitly recognize them. The single sentence about pregnancy-related medical care makes no mention of specific services or specific rights. Experience teaches that express guarantees are essential to protect the rights of women in custody—as plenty of examples show.



The Naked Nielsens – No value of TV demographic metrics.

But now the jig is up.  “Reliance on the 18 to 49 demographic,” Ad Age reports Poltrack saying, “is hazardous to all media and marketers.”  It may be just a coincidence that CBS, which these days runs about even with Fox in overall prime-time viewership, is now being killed by Fox in 18 to 49.  But it’s no coincidence that 80 million baby boomers are aging out of the desirable demo.  To sell air time to reach the fastest-growing part of its audience, the industry needs a new metric.

So exit demographics, and, just in time, enter psychographics.  That audience-segmentation tool, which collects people into taste and behavior clusters, has been around for a while; if you want to try an online-era version, check out CBS and Nielsen, in what Poltrack calls a “historic move,” have now come up with six audience segments to sell to advertisers instead of age and sex cohorts:  TV companions; media trendsetters; sports enthusiasts; program passionates; surfers and streamers; TV moderators.  The developers of those segments claim that when ad agencies start buying spots on TV shows using these metrics instead of the ones that were fabulous until five minutes ago, there’ll actually be a relationship between seeing ads and buying products.

It can’t be any worse than what they’ve been using until now.



U.S. Rift With Pakistan Grows Over Drone Strikes

The differences between the United States and Pakistan that broke into the open last week over the scale of C.I.A. operations here signaled a fundamental rift, plunging the relationship, sometimes strained, sometimes warm, to its lowest point in memory.

The rupture over Pakistan’s demands that the Americans end drone strikes — which the Obama administration rejected — and scale back their intelligence presence within Pakistan exposed the tentative nature of the alliance forged after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. And it is increasingly apparent that the two countries have differing, even irreconcilable, aims in Afghanistan.

With the Afghan endgame looming, suspicion is overwhelming faint cooperation between the United States and Pakistan, as each side seeks to secure its interests, increase its leverage to obtain them, and even cut out the other if need be, American and Pakistani officials say.

No one in Pakistan or in Washington now speaks of returning to the strategic alliance made by President George W. Bush and Gen. Pervez Musharraf immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks, when the primary goal was to operate joint intelligence efforts to capture operatives of Al Qaeda. Military officials from both sides say that arrangement was never bound to be a longstanding affair.

“There was never a level of trust,” said a former American military official who served in a senior position in Pakistan. “I’m convinced now they don’t want our help.”



Do Issues Matter For Elections? A Test

Paul Krugman:

Now that Republicans have voted for the Ryan plan, big tax cuts for the rich, ending Medicare as we know it, and all, we may have a chance to test a major proposition in political science.

What I hear from my colleagues in the next building is basically that issues matter very little; election results are determined by whether the economy is worsening or improving in the year, or maybe even the six months, before the election.

But now we have a major party endorsing policies that are pretty much the opposite of what polls say, overwhelmingly, the American public wants. People love Medicare; they want to see the rich pay higher, not lower taxes.

No doubt there will be a strong effort to fudge what’s going on: already we’re seeing an attempt to bully the press into not calling vouchers vouchers and privatization privatization. And there will be an attempt to use double-talk to blur the nature of the tax cuts. Still, the Democrats now have a big fat target.

I guess we’ll see next year whether publicly committing your party to deeply unpopular policies makes any electoral difference.


White House sees political opportunity in deficit fight

Obama is set to do a series of campaign stops this week to promote his vision of deficit reduction. Crucially, the decision is rooted in the White House’s belief that drawing a sharp contrast with the GOP’s vision offers Obama a chance to claim the deficit issue as his own on favorable terms — because public opinion is on his side:

Obama faces a political necessity — claiming the debt issue as his own — and a political opportunity. Recent polls show that Americans disapprove of his record on the deficit. But sizable majorities agree that a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes on the wealthy — Obama’s vision — is the best prescription for the nation’s fiscal malady.


Stop pretending Michele Bachmann can win the Iowa caucuses. She can’t.



The science of why people don’t believe science

How our brains fool us on climate, creationism, and the vaccine-autism link.

A MAN WITH A CONVICTION is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.” So wrote the celebrated Stanford University psychologist Leon Festinger (PDF), in a passage that might have been referring to climate change denial—the persistent rejection, on the part of so many Americans today, of what we know about global warming and its human causes. But it was too early for that—this was the 1950s—and Festinger was actually describing a famous case study in psychology.


Festinger and his team were with the cult when the prophecy failed. First, the “boys upstairs” (as the aliens were sometimes called) did not show up and rescue the Seekers. Then December 21 arrived without incident. It was the moment Festinger had been waiting for: How would people so emotionally invested in a belief system react, now that it had been soundly refuted?

At first, the group struggled for an explanation. But then rationalization set in. A new message arrived, announcing that they’d all been spared at the last minute. Festinger summarized the extraterrestrials’ new pronouncement: “The little group, sitting all night long, had spread so much light that God had saved the world from destruction.” Their willingness to believe in the prophecy had saved Earth from the prophecy!

From that day forward, the Seekers, previously shy of the press and indifferent toward evangelizing, began to proselytize. “Their sense of urgency was enormous,” wrote Festinger. The devastation of all they had believed had made them even more certain of their beliefs.




Supreme Court takes no action on request for speedy review of health care law

The Supreme Court has taken no action on Virginia’s call for speedy review of the health care law.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is asking the court to resolve questions about the law quickly, without the usual consideration by federal appellate judges and over the objection of the Obama administration.

The case was among those that were scheduled to be discussed in the justices’ private conference on Friday, but there was no announcement about the case when the court convened on Monday.

The silence could mean, among other things, that one justice asked for more time to think about the case or to write a short opinion that would accompany an order.

The justices meet again on Friday to discuss pending cases.



Wisconsin recall: Organizers over 110% of minimum signatures against third GOP state Senator


For union families, a loss of value beyond bank accounts

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Judy and Jim Embree, an operating room nurse and paramedic and firefighter, were attending a rally at the state Capitol when they discovered that everything they thought to be good and right about their lives was, to an alarming number of people, completely wrong.


In heated debates in Ohio, as well as Wisconsin, Indiana, New York and other budget-strapped states, unions and the benefits their workers receive have become emblematic of the fiscal excesses of governments. Governors and legislators, with the vocal support of large blocs of voters, have sought to curb the escalating cost of salaries, pension and health benefits that have ballooned budgets across the country.


That grim scene played out across Ohio that day — just as it has in other states where teachers have received provisional layoff notices. It felt to some as if harming the image of public workers was an intentional prelude to make the budget cuts more palatable.

“No matter how it turns out, my profession is going to have a black eye for a long time, and that hurts,” Jim Embree said. “So many people believe that I earn a six-figure income and can retire at 40. It seems like they’re calling into question why we’re doing the job. We’re not going to sound like we’re poor. But we’ve been doing this for 25 years. We’re 50 years old. I think I make enough to live on. And I think that’s the way it should be.”



Typo Of The Day

“Palin’s approval ratings have never been lower. A CNN poll showed that among Republican and Republican-leaning voters, only 12% wanted Pain as the nominee,” – Meghan Daum, Los Angeles Times.



Obama to Thousands of Young Climate Activists: Push Me

Bring to Washington, DC, 1,000 political organizers who are willing to play hardball, and you can get serious face time with the president of the United States. Even if you aren’t yet 25 years old.

Shortly after 4 pm last Friday, April 15, Barack Obama dropped in unexpectedly on a White House meeting that his aides were holding with the Environmental Action Coalition, a network of climate change groups on college campuses that had drawn the 1,000 organizers to its PowerShift conference in the nation’s capital. Interviews with multiple sources in the room indicate that Obama spent twenty-five minutes with the young EAC activists, telling them, “You have power, that’s why I’m here.” Ten of the eleven activists were women; none was older than 31. Their discussion with the president was friendly but plain-spoken—one young woman even interrupted Obama, who didn’t seem to mind—as the activists urged the president to be the clean-energy champion they and their peers had done so much to elect in 2008.

The PowerShift activists are reinforcing their tough-love message today, when thousands plan to demonstrate at the White House before marching to Capitol Hill and the Washington offices of the Chamber of Commerce, BP and other business groups the activists accuse of obstructing the fight against climate change.


Bill McKibben’s Speech at Power Shift 2011

“There is no one else. It is you.”


US Uncut DC – Verizon Tax Day Action


PowerShift protestors outside US Chamber of Commerce


Demonstrators in L.A. show support for Ai Weiwei

Supporters of Ai Weiwei turned out in cities around the world Sunday to peacefully protest the dissident artist’s imprisonment by Chinese officials. In Los Angeles, close to 40 people gathered Sunday afternoon in front of the Chinese Consulate as part of the worldwide sit-down demonstration demanding the artist’s release.


US Uncut mobilizes 100 actions to draw attention to the systemic problem of corporate tax dodging

US Uncut stresses the problem of tax dodging is systemic. According to the Government Accountability Office, 83 of the top 100 US companies use tax havens to dodge taxes.

“Why are we cutting $400 million from local law enforcement funding, while corporations like GE, Verizon, Bank of America, and FedEx continue to get away with not paying any taxes year after year?” asked Carl Gibson of US Uncut Mississippi, “If GE alone paid their fair share of taxes, then we could ‘uncut’ nearly $2 billion in job training programs. Do we want good jobs in America or do we want tax cheats?”


Power Shift 2011 Flashmob Shuts Down BP


Index of cable and network news organizations.

Stand up against media bias, distortions, and lies.



Fall seven times, stand up eight. ~ Japanese Proverb


The Daily Planet, Vol. 56



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I saw the 60 Mins piece on WeiWei last Sunday. What a brave soul and a brilliant artist. I love that birds nest stadium — I don’t care what anybody else says. It’s gorgeous and perfectly Chinese.

Oh, and thanks Cher for the chuckle on that “Typo of the Day!” 😆


Khyber Impasse
How long can the United States and Pakistan keep pretending that they actually have any interests in common?

A divorce would be satisfying; but Pakistan needs U.S. aid, equipment, and training, and Washington is too afraid of what Pakistan might become to let it go. Christine Fair, a Pakistan expert at Georgetown University, is convinced that Islamabad has the upper hand in the confrontation and thus notes that U.S. officials will swallow their ire and make real concessions on drones and perhaps also on the presence of special operations forces. “We’re in it for the kids,” as she puts it waggishly.

Interesting analysis here:


Four down, Four to go.

Wis. Dems Filing Recall Petitions Against A Fourth GOP State Senator

Wisconsin Democrats announced late Monday that they are filing recall signatures against a fourth Republican state senator, in the political battle over Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-public employee union agenda. And with this development, the momentum is growing for control of the chamber to be up for grabs in the coming


Cher–Please allow me to slather you with another bucket full of frothy praise. Your daily round-up is amazingly comprehensive and wildly entertaining. (Today’s Typo is a hoot!)

Question: When do you sleep, dear lady?


BTW – why are we giving S&P any credence on bond rating when they, over the objections of their own staff, gave AAA ratings to junk mortgage securities? I think they are trying to push back against the investigation of their lousy, criminal cronyism in the mortgage bond markets of 2007-08. Since they face this major investigation, I see this as their threat, their attempt to blackmail the administration. S&P means NOTHING credible after the scams they pulled on us and even institutional investors that underpinned the collapse. Screw ’em.


I agree with Ezra and vehemently disagree with Hensarling (Hen Snarling?) I think I’ve written here before that the family analogy really breaks down when you apply “conservative values” to it. What you do NOT do is send your youngest kids into the streets to eat from dumpsters, your pregnant daughter to give birth in an alley with no medical care, leave your spouse with cancer to suffer and die untended, or wheel granny into a parking lot and leave her there. Any family that did that would command an immediate visit from the police for domestic abuse and neglect of the vulnerable. Why then would we set up a DYSFUNCTIONAL family as the survival standard?

Hensarling totally does not get the principle behind Social Security and Medicare. It’s not a Ponzi scheme which deceitfully enriches the first at the expense of the last. This instead is “stone soup”. Everyone puts something into the enormous pot boiling in the town square, and everyone gets the one thing they need – soup. Synergy not scam. Time honored principles about sharing.



hear! hear!


choicelady–EXCELLENT breakdown of “conservative values” (an oxymoron these days).


Obama to Thousands of Young Climate Activists: Push Me

Heheh! Very good!

And thanks for reporting about US Uncut regularly. Naturally they are hugely underreported – or not reported on at all.


Good work cher.
Matters are moving along in WI. Walker overplayed his hand; his dramatics ( politics and acting are closely related) are OTT. I think that the GOP may pay for that. What he is doing has nothing to do with the budget.

The GOP House is acting as well; those people may think that they are serious ( and, it is possible that they think that they are serious); but, they are part of a black comedy.

There seems to be that some people in the USA have a “misery loves company” syndrome. They got a raw deal; and they want those union people to suffer like they are suffering. There seems to be a fair bit of that.


Mornin’ Cher’!
Thx again.