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What’s Dick Durbin’s role in talks over fate of Social Security?

Greg Sargent:

My understanding of the dynamic here is that Dems like Durbin believe that the only conceivable way to keep Republicans at the table discussing increased revenues from the wealthy is to keep unspecified “changes” to Social Security on the table, too. Dems believe that if they rule out any changes at all to Social Security, it gives Republicans on the “Gang of Six” an easy opening to walk away from high end tax hikes. I’m not agreeing with that assessment, just reporting it.

The bottom line is we don’t yet know what Durbin will agree to on Social Security. As David Dayen notes, Obama is now saying the right things, insisting that the program is not a driver of deficits and shouldn’t be part of the budget debate, and suggesting he will only support minor changes, such as raising the payroll cap. And as I noted above, Durbin is vowing — in a general sense — to represent core liberal priorities at the “Gang of Six” table. You could, I suppose, read that as a sign that his role will ultimately be to put a liberal stamp of approval on changes to the program that are unacceptable to the left.

But you could also read it as a sign that Durbin sees his own role differently — he’s balancing the need to keep Republicans at the table with the need to keep the safety net fundamentally intact in a way that liberals can accept. At a minimum, Durbin’s vow gives us something to hold him to later.



Starting in August, airlines may have to pay you $1,330 if they bump you from a flight



The scariest thing I’ve ever heard on television

Ezra Klein:

At about the 1:50 mark in the clip atop this post, I make a face I’ve never made on television before. The segment was on the debt ceiling, and “Last Word” host Lawrence O’Donnell played a clip of Rep. Michele Bachmann giving her plan. In short, her plan is that we don’t raise the debt ceiling, but we use the revenue still coming in to pay off creditors first and whatever we think most important second. That way, we “don’t violate our credit rating” and “prioritize our spending.” Makes perfect sense.


Bachmann’s is presented as a sober plan for repaying our debts, but it’s actually pure fantasy. The chain of events she’s proposing looks, in practice, something like this: She and a group of hard-core conservatives in the House block an increase in the debt ceiling that both the political system and the financial system think to be crucial. So here already the markets are terrified. In her explanation of events, the hijacking of American economic policy by a committed band of ideological extremists doesn’t bother the markets because of the Bachmann and Co. promise to pay investors back first, even if that means not sending out Social Security checks. But that’s not credible.

Rather, it would be evident that the American political system had completely broken down. We’d be in uncharted, uncertain economic territory. It’d be a proven fact that politics was operating based on a new set of rules, and just as this outcome wasn’t predictable, future outcomes could no longer be confidently predicted either. This is far beyond anything proposed by the hostage-taker lawmakers: They’re at least granting that the debt ceiling needs to be raised, and even if it’s not wise to demand concessions in exchange for taking a vote, it’s also not unheard of. Bachmann is saying something very different: that it shouldn’t be raised and that no one should fear the aftermath. Her plan is the equivalent of setting off a bomb at the center of the U.S. economy. And that’s why, at 1:50 in the video above, my eyes get so wide. I legitimately didn’t realize that anyone in American politics was making such breathtakingly irresponsible arguments.


Dems needn’t negotiate


So the Republicans are quite openly admitting that their threats not to raise the debt limit are empty — even as they shake their fists and say they’ll do it. And the White House knows it. On Sunday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said that the Republicans had assured the White House last week that they were going to raise the limit. “I sat there with them, and they said, ‘We recognize we have to do this. And we’re not going to play around with it.’ ” One could be tempted to think he was just saying this to reassure the nervous Market Gods, except for the fact that Ryan said the same thing, right down to the phrase “we’re not going to play around with it.”

It’s clear everyone understands the debt limit will be raised. The crazy Republicans aren’t completely crazy (and according to The Washington Post, Wall Street is having a very special chat with those who are). Nixon’s “madman” theory looks a little bit silly when both sides already agree on the outcome. So the only real question is why the White House and the Democrats are pretending that they need to negotiate at all.


fivethirtyeight Nate Silver: Maybe Democrats should demand an increase in taxes for $250K+ earners in exchange for their debt ceiling votes.


Business groups likely to align with president in debt-ceiling fight

Groups such as the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) plan to step up their advocacy for a debt-limit increase as the deadline for congressional action draws closer.

Lobbyists for several major trade associations told The Hill that they have already had discussions with first-term House Republicans about the necessity of lifting the debt ceiling to avoid a default on U.S. debt.

The GOP’s large freshman class — elected on promises to cut spending — is seen as a major obstacle to raising the borrowing limit.


Existing Home Sales Up 3.7 Percent In March


FACT: CEOs earn 343x more than a typical American worker

In an effort to shine a light on CEO pay, the AFL-CIO examined chief executive salaries at 299 firms traded on the S&P 500. Their compensation was up 23% in 2010, compared to 2009. AFL-CIO used Bureau of Labor Statistics wage data to define typical worker pay, which was $33,190 for all occupations in 2009, the most recent year for which data is available.



Student loan debt is likely to reach $1 trillion this year

…outpacing credit card debt for the second year in a row, Julie Margetta Morgan reports for Campus Progress. Student loans can be a smart investment if they lead to a lifetime of higher earnings. However, Margetta Morgan notes, the average bachelor’s degree holder will shell out $250 a month for a decade to pay back the loan.

Many Americans won’t pay off their debt until their own children are in college. President Obama was still making payments into his late 40s.

As college tuition continues to rise, we can expect students to borrow even more for their education in years to come. Much of this debt is guaranteed by the taxpayer. Margetta Morgan argues that colleges should be doing more to educate students about smart borrowing.


State cutbacks exacerbate college cost problem, but they don’t cause it

The private school line illustrates that the basic cost structure is rising at a rapid rate. The even more rapid increase on the public side reflects disinvestment, driven initially by the increased burden of Medicaid on state budgets and then by the recession.

Another way of seeing this is to look at Pell Grants:

But the important point to understand about this is that current incentives point toward the median college using target discounting to improve the quality of its incoming freshman class (see Matt Quirk’s excellent article on this) as a way of increasing prestige. That’s very nice for the top-ranked seniors finishing high school, but it doesn’t do anything to help the average student or the average family. And that’s the point. The current incentive structure points toward always reinvesting excess money into moving up the prestige hierarchy rather than toward lowering prices to broaden the customer base.



Van Jones l Power Shift 2011

Boeing to build recyclable 787’s with 100% renewable energy


Parties Mark Oil Spill Anniversary

Congressional Democrats used Wednesday’s anniversary of the BP oil spill that wreaked havoc in the Gulf Coast to call for sweeping energy reform this year.

In a statement, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said: “we still need to enact major reforms” to improve the safety regulations governing the oil industry and boost compensation packages for the survivors of drilling accidents like the one that killed 11 oil rig workers off Louisiana’s Gulf Coast last year.

Pelosi complained that the Senate failed to pass a host of bills passed out of the House last year dealing with the spill, and called on the GOP to pick up the slack.

“Republicans in the House should consider these reforms along with several other recommendations from the BP Oil Spill Commission for what should be a bipartisan goal: more effective prevention and response to oil spills, protection of our coastal communities and waters, and holding responsible parties accountable in the event of any future spills,” Pelosi said in a statement, referencing legislation passed under Democratic rule last year.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who is on a Congressional trip to China this week, said there needs to be an increased focus on developing renewable energy sources and noted that last year’s tragic events are a stark reminder that “the United States must reduce our dependence on oil.”

And in a dig at the House Republicans’ budget that was approved last week, Reid also noted “At this critical time in the recover of our economy, we cannot afford to keep giving huge tax breaks to big oil companies that even some of their executives have admitted they don’t need.”



Health Care Reform and the Market’s Response: Is Reform Already Baked Into the Cake?

While markets may lack the rational intelligence needed to become the “invisible hand” that guides constructive change, free markets (and the shrewd marketing experts that corporations employ), can be quite astute when it comes to responding to changing trends. This is, after all, a matter of survival.  If they don’t get ahead of the trend, they risk a rendezvous with a moving train.

Although members of the American public may not be at all certain what the Affordable Care Act will mean for them, insurers, hospitals, drug makers and device makers have made it their business to read the legislation carefully. These companies realize that it would be reckless to assume that the legislation will be repealed:  their competitors already are preparing for change. Thus, market-watchers say that in the medical marketplace, reform is becoming a reality as the health care industry implements fundamental changes in insurance coverage, access, payment, and how health care is delivered.

At a recent University of California-Irvine Health Care Forecast Conference, health care economists and market-watchers explained that whatever happens in Washington, health care “reforms are acquiring their own momentum.” The Kaiser Institute for Health Policy’s Jon Stewart explains:  “Quite apart from the status of the reform law itself—whatever happens to the reform law—politically, judicially, or economically” many speakers at the conference agreed that  health care reform, has left the station and is not likely to be turned back.” (For a webcast of the entire 2011 Health Care Forecast Conference at U.C.-Irvine, click here)


But, what about the threat that the Supreme Court will strike down the individual mandate? Ted Shannon, a health equity analyst and hedge-fund manager from Arrowpoint Partners, a Denver-based asset management firm, argues that “a Supreme Court ruling won’t come until after the election, probably not until 2013.” By then Shannon predicts, reform will have already “given shape to a new world order in health care financing and delivery, and if industry players are not ready for it, they are going to be in a world of hurt.”

Why would the Supreme Court wait so long before taking the case and handing down a decision?  After having an “‘influence’ on presidential elections in recent years,” Shannon observes, “the Court won’t rule on this until after the 2012 election.” I agree. The Justices care about their place in history. They really don’t want to be accused of “fixing” another presidential election.


But, by then, not only the government but the private sector will have invested so much money in moving away from fee-for-service care, redesigning insurance so that it will meet the new standards, offering insurance to the employees of small companies, and changing how care is delivered (as leading  medical centers turn themselves into Accountable Care Organizations and physicians collaborate to create medical homes),  that reform will have become all but inevitable.

A Wall Street Perspective on Why Reform is Baked into the Market’s Cake

Listening to the speeches at the University of California-Irvine conference, I was struck by hedge-fund manager Ted Shannon’s take on why reform cannot be stopped.

According to Shannon, the Affordable Care Act is “the inevitable outcome of the failure of the industry to find a sustainable solution” to providing health care for the United States. We have endured “a long-term unsustainable trajectory of [health care] inflation,” he notes, “in an industry too big now to be driving economic growth in our country.”  Shannon is correct:  typically small, innovative companies spark growth; mature, risk-adverse corporations that are trying to meet the expectations of investors accustomed to steady, high returns do not.

For the health care industry, Shannon explains, the “choices are very simple: either they work together through models like Accountable Care Organizations” that reform legislation proposes, or we are going to see government price regulation. As he put it, industry players must “accept cost controls with volume offset” (the Affordable Care Act brings the health care industry 32 million new customers while simultaneously forcing many players to rein in their costs) OR the industry will be forced to “accept cost controls, price controls and volume controls—while losing total control.”


Three months have passed. Where’s the GOP’s health plan?

Exactly three months ago today, House Republicans promised that they would follow up on their vow to repeal the Affordable Care Act by offering their own solutions to replace it. In a USA Today Op ed on January 20th, they promised to hold hearings, draft legislation, and promote specific remedies to the health care problems they agreed need to be addressed.

We’re still waiting.


And yet Republicans promised to come up with specific ideas to do all these things as part of their vow to repeal and replace. That’s what they ran on in 2010 — not on slashing Medicaid and turning Medicare into a voucher program.

Hey, reporters! Isn’t it time to press Republican leaders what happened to “replace”?


Choices Must Be Made


Arguably the most important thing we can do to limit the growth in health care costs is learning to say no; we cannot afford a system in which Medicare in particular will pay for anything, especially when that’s combined with an industry structure that gives providers a strong financial incentive to engage in excessive care.

So naturally, the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which is the first step toward making rational choices, is under attack.

Mainly the attack is coming from Republicans, who want to dismantle Medicare, not save it — their proposal is that instead of having Medicare make choices based on expert advice, we should give seniors inadequate vouchers and let insurance company executives make those choices instead.

But there are some Democrats in opposition too. Some really want Congress to make these decisions — although you really have to wonder how they can believe that’s realistic. Others, as Jonathan Cohn notes, have suspiciously close ties to industry groups that benefit from the system’s current inefficiency.

The thing is, we’re going to make choices eventually, one way or another. Should the choices be made by medical professionals, or should we rely on the kindness of corporations?



Brewer and Arpaio get snubbed from immigration meeting by Obama

{Thank you, Google translator!}


WH Not Keen On Deferred Action

Adam Serwer:

Yesterday, the White House held a meeting on immigration reform with activists, advocacy groups, and law enforcement officers to discuss the way forward on immigration reform. Recently, Senate Democrats asked the administration to institute a formal process for allowing potential DREAM Act recipients to apply for “deferred action,” meaning, essentially, that they would be given a formal grace period rather than being immediately deported.

The administration, while reiterating its commitment to immigration reform, was not keen on the idea, according to a pro-reform source who was there.:

POTUS meeting was about trying to move legislation and getting outside support from Rs, conservative evangelicals, business and law enforcement (unusual allies) to provide push and cover to Rs in Congress. Sincere, to be sure, and in the long run a good strategy (wish he would had this meeting a year ago) to tee up reform down the road. Political, to be sure, in that he has to show Latinos he fighting to keep his promise. But frustrating in that he tried hard to tamp down talk of deferred action and administrative changes. He said things (paraphrasing) like the solution is legislative not administrative, we can’t bypass Congress and ignore the laws on the books, we have to change the laws.

The larger context to the administration’s cold feet over deferred action is the conservative outrage last year in response to what they called the “Amnesty memo,” a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services document outlining the process by which the administration could delay deportations for certain immigrants. While deferred action isn’t amnesty in the sense that there’s no path to citizenship, conservatives were outraged and framed the memo as an attempt to institute immigration reform by fiat.

Then there’s also the fact that the administration has tense relations with some of the workers at the government agencies charged with enforcing immigration laws, which is possibly how the so-called “Amnesty memo” was leaked in the first place. The union representing Immigrations and Customs Enforcement was practically in open revolt against the administration last year, despite the record deportation numbers the administration has racked up since Obama took office.

The individual present at the meeting was not optimistic about the possibility of reform in the near term.

“Only when the politics are sorted out will there be a serious negotiation, and whoever has the upper hand politically will have the upper hand in the policy negotiations. I’m guessing that will be us. Just may take a few more election cycles before the Rs realize they are in a heap of trouble if they keep alienating the fastest group of new voters in the country.



One down, several thousand to go: banker Lee Farkas guily of $3B fraud.

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A jury on Tuesday convicted the majority owner of what had been one of the nation’s largest mortgage companies on all 14 counts in a $2.9 billion fraud trial that officials have said is one of the most significant prosecutions to arise from the nation’s financial crisis.

Prosecutors said Lee Farkas led a fraud scheme of staggering proportions for roughly eight years as chairman of Florida-based Taylor Bean & Whitaker. The fraud not only caused the company’s 2009 collapse and put its 2,000 employees out of work, but also contributed to the collapse of Alabama-based Colonial Bank, the sixth-largest bank failure in U.S. history.


MI Police can now get your cellphone personal info without a warrant

The Michigan State Police have started using handheld machines called “extraction devices” to download personal information from motorists they pull over, even if they’re not suspected of any crime. Naturally, the ACLU has a problem with this.


The problem as the ACLU sees it, is that accessing a citizen’s private phone information when there’s no probable cause creates a violation of the Constitution’s 4th Amendment, which protects us against unreasonable searches and seizures.

To that end, it’s petitioning the MSP to turn over information about its use of the devices under the Freedom of Information Act. The MSP said it’s happy to comply, that is, if the ACLU provides them with a processing fee in excess of $500,000. That’s more than $100,000 for each of the five devices the MSP says it has in use.

The ACLU, for its part, says that the fee is odious, and that a public policing agency has a duty to its citizens to be open. “This should be something that they are handing over freely, and that they should be more than happy to share with the public–the routines and the guidelines that they follow,” Mark Fancher, an attorney for the ACLU, told Detroit’s WDIV.

As of yet there’s no suit, but one is likely if the MSP sticks to its proverbial guns and refuses to hand over information about how it’s using the cell phone snooping devices, without being first paid off. If litigation does come, the outcome may set a precedent that would have far-reaching effects, and might make a device that most of us carry a pocket battleground in the war of digital privacy.



Pew finds compelling proof that media attention has helped Trump fabricate prez candidacy out of thin air

Pew offers the most compelling evidence yet of what’s now become overwhelmingly obvious: The media’s willingness to treat Donald Trump’s candidacy as a real possibility is primarily what has turned his candidacy into a real possibility:

Donald Trump has drawn a lot of attention in a slow-starting race for the GOP nomination. Roughly a quarter of all Americans (26%) name Trump as the possible Republican presidential candidate they have heard most about lately, far more than volunteer any other candidate. Among Republicans, 39% name Trump as most visible — more than all other possible GOP candidates combined.


Bravo also to MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell for taking on NBC.


Reporters Win Pulitzer for Exposing ‘Corruption on Steroids’ in Bell, Calif.


Why fact-checking/debunking Trump’s birtherism is a waste of time & actually helps him achieve his objective


What DylanRatigan forgot to ask in his shallow, deferential interview with Breitbart


Pulitzer Prize for Lying in Print

This year’s Pulitzer for editorial writing has gone to known liar, the Wall Street Journal’s far-right columnist Joseph Rago.

During his obsessive attack on health care reform, Rago claimed the initiative would destroy U.S. health care, “accelerates the march toward a totally state-driven system,” and yes, Rago warned “medicine will be rationed by politics.”


What’s telling about the award though, was that among the entries that won him the Pulitzer was a December effort in which Rago actually defending the widely debunked lie that the Obama health care reform equaled “government takeover of health care”; that the federal government would be in total control of health care in this county, the way the government is in socialist countries.

Thanks, Pulitzer, for rendering your editorial award more or less meaningless.



U.S. says won’t abandon drone program in Pakistan


Should the US leave Afghanistan? Howard Dean thinks so

“I supported (ramping up troop presence) because I was concerned with what would happen to the women in the country” if the Taliban took control, Dean said. “But I recently read about Karzai saying some very sexist, terrible things, and it’s become obvious that there’s not a whole lot of difference between the two sides.”
He continued: “As much as I feel terrible about what’s happening to the women there, Karzai has shown he can’t be trusted any more than the Taliban to help them.”…
“The Vietnam War showed us we shouldn’t prop up corrupt governments, and that’s what we’ve got in Afghanistan.”

Polls show the country has been skeptical of the war in Afghanistan for quite some time. In the latest Pew Research Poll, 50 percent of Americans said the US and NATO should “remove troops ASAP,” while only 44 percent wanted military troops to stay until the “situation has stabilized.” Yet Afghanistan has remained a backburner issue in the American public’s mind, and the link between America’s soaring debt and the $10 billion the US government spends per month in Afghanistan has often been missed. As Bill Hartung wrote recently, “If the Afghan war ended and the funds allocated for it were returned to the states, no state in America would run a deficit next year.”



Did Obama’s big deficit speech backfire?

It hasn’t been a great week for President Obama. First, he got a little “churlish” with a local TV reporter from Texas. And now, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll “seems to confirm” that the president’s much-anticipated budget speech last week “might not have played well” with the public, says MSNBC’s First Read team. In that poll, and others, Obama’s approval ratings have dropped to near-record lows, especially on the economy. That comes on the heels of last week’s speech, in which Obama called for long-term deficit reduction through a combination of spending cuts and higher taxes. Perhaps the president came off as “too partisan,” or too off-topic for an electorate worried about jobs, MSNBC suggests. Did his speech really backfire?

Yes, Obama badly misread the public mood: And so did the pundits, says Jonah Goldberg at National Review. But as the First Read guys rightly note, these new polls prove that Obama’s “demagoguery” and “scare tactics” on Medicare didn’t even have “short-term political gain.” Most devastating for the president is that there was “no bounce with independents, despite fawning coverage” of his speech.
“Obama’s playbook”

No, MSNBC is imagining things: Chuck Todd and his First Read team’s “weasel-worded” framing of the polls “gives the game away,” says Brendan Nyhan in The Huffington Post. They couch their analysis in words like “seems” and “might,” because the polls don’t back them up. The Post poll does show a drop in Obama’s approval, but only from a month ago. And the more frequent Gallup and Rasmussen polls show no movement last week, which “flatly contradicts their thesis.”
“No evidence Obama deficit speech backfired”

It’s still the economy, stupid: Admit it, Obama’s approval ratings are starting to “sag,” says Steve Benen in Washington Monthly. And “I’m not sure what, if anything, Obama can do about it.” What the polls really show is the gaping “chasm” between what Washington cares about — deficits and spending cuts — and what the rest of us see as important: Jobs, gas prices, and economic growth. And given our political gridlock, Obama’s hands are pretty much tied on the economy.
“Is hope a plan? At this point, it has to be”


Obama melds politics with policy on California trip

Democrats acknowledge that Obama will need to rally many of the same forces that propelled him into the White House in order to win re-election in 2012: an army of young, energetic voters as well as a sizable showing from independent voters.

By visiting Facebook headquarters in California’s Silicon Valley, where Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is a folk hero, Obama seeks to connect to tens of millions of people who have adopted social media as a prime method of communications.

Obama is to hold a Facebook town-hall session on ways to reduce the $1.4 trillion U.S. budget deficit at the company’s offices in Palo Alto, California, before moving on to San Francisco for Democratic fund-raising events. He plans stops in Las Vegas and Los Angeles before returning to Washington on Friday.

Jon Krosnick, a political science professor at Stanford University, said having Obama on stage with Zuckerberg could benefit the president with young people.

“That alone is a way of trying to re-energize this young generation that might be crucial for him to be re-elected again,” Krosnick said.


John Kasich’s first 100 days receive grade of F from newspaper readers


VIDEO: Paul Ryan booed at town hall for defending tax breaks for the wealthy


New Dem PAC Launches Attack Ads Against GOPers Who Voted To End Medicare (AUDIO)


Citizens group files petition to recall Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder


Republicans still struggling to slay “birther” monster

The drive by establishment Republicans to put the “birther” genie back in the bottle is getting more and more urgent by the day, as GOP leaders recognize the potential for catastrophe in 2012.


Cha-Ching!: GOP governors just can’t quit those federal dollars….


Photo Evidence Obama was a pirate??


New DNC chief wants to screen all gun sales

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the current law, which allows private firearm sales without background checks, is “outrageous.” The Florida Democrat is sponsoring a soon-to-be-released proposal extending the screening requirements to all gun purchases, commercial or private.

“It is outrageous that gun buyers evade the background-check system every day, even in broad daylight,” Wasserman Schultz said Monday at a gun-reform rally in Miami sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns.



The big disconnect: Public strongly supports Obama’s deficit policies, but disapproves of his handling of issue, anyway

New Washington Post/ABC News polling released this morning is unequivocal: There is strong across the board support for Obama’s policy preferences on the deficit.

And yet, in what appears to be an emerging pattern, that support is not matched by general approval of Obama’s handling of fiscal matters.

The poll finds that 72 percent overall, and 68 percent of independents, support hiking taxes on those over $250,000. Even 54 percent of Republicans support this.

Meanwhile, 65 percent say Medicare should remain as it is today and should not be transformed into a voucher program. Only 34 percent favor changing the program.

A solid majority, 59 percent, also supports a mix of tax hikes and spending cuts to reduce the deficit — the Dem approach — versus only 36 percent who support only cuts.

But only 39 percent approve of Obama’s handling of the deficit, versus 58 percent who disapprove. That’s better, but only marginally so, than the GOP’s 33-64 spread on the same question. And more say the GOP is taking a stronger leadership role than Obama, 45-40. This matches yesterday’s McClatchy poll, which found the same disconnect.

Either voters don’t know what Obama’s proposals are; or they do, but the GOP’s success in creating generalized anxiety about Dem overspending continues to dominate; or perhaps all views of Obama are colored by unease about the economy. Whatever the cause, closing this disconnect — translating support for Obama’s policies into confidence in his economic and fiscal leadership — is perhaps Obama’s central political challenge.


House Speaker Boehner seen in an increasingly negative view, poll finds

Three and half months after Boehner claimed the speaker’s gavel, 40 percent of Americans say they disapprove of the way he is handling his job, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News Poll. That compares with 27 percent in mid-January, when he was just two weeks into the office. The new poll found that 43 percent approve of Boehner’s performance.

The poll also shows that more Americans have formed opinions about the speaker: Just 17 percent said they have no opinion about him, compared with a third of Americans who said they had none in January.

Boehner’s allies and strategists privately expressed no surprise at the numbers, given that congressional leaders have been unpopular in the eyes of the American public since the mid-1990s.


Pew Research Center: 53% could not name anyone when asked which GOP candidate they have been hearing the most about.


WaPO/ ABC Poll: Most support budget deal but oppose cuts to major programs


No More Socialism! Except for Us.

Bob Cesca:

Marist poll question:

“Do you support or oppose doing each of the following to deal with the federal budget deficit: cut Medicare and Medicaid?”

Guess how tea party people responded?

Among all registered voters, 80% opposed these cuts. Among self-identified Tea Party supporters, 70% opposed these cuts. Among self-identified Republicans, 73% opposed these cuts.

The operative question now is, who the hell supports these cuts? And why are the Republicans pushing them?


Obama’s middle class message (and why it’s smart)

President Obama has focused his re-election message squarely on the middle class of late, a strategy that should pay dividends according to new numbers in the Washington Post/ABC-News poll.

A majority of those tested — 51 percent — said they trust Obama to do a better job protecting the middle class, while just 39 percent chose Republicans.

Obama’s advantage on that question is relatively unchanged in Post/ABC polling dating back to late last year — a trend line that suggests some level of stability in the numbers.

Add to that the fact that nearly three in four (72 percent) respondents were supportive of the idea of raising taxes on people making over $250,000, and it becomes clear why Obama is focusing so heavily on the middle class in his 2012 messaging.

To be clear, two pieces of poll data do not a reelection victory make. But, the middle class message is a rare bright spot for Obama in a poll that showed his job approval numbers dipping under 50 percent and growing dissatisfaction with his handling of the economy.

And if Obama can win the middle class, he will almost certainly win a second term, since it comprises the bulk not only of all voters but of swing voters.


Obama Loses Ground To 2012 GOPers, Leads Romney By One Point


Fun reminder: At this point in 1983, Reagan was down 6 points to Mondale.


The Affordable Care Act, though still unpopular, polls WAY better than Ryan’s Medicare plan.


Pew Research Center: 57% of Americans favor allowing more oil & gas drilling in U.S. waters, up 13 points from last summer.


55% say they often feel they do not have enough background information to follow budget news stories.



International scientists warn of growing threat of wheat rust epidemics worldwide


Gigantic New SuperOrganism with ‘Social Intelligence’ is Devouring the Titanic

Scientists believe that this strange super-organism is using a common microbial language that could be either chemical or electrical -a phenomenon called “quorum sensing” by which whole communities “sense” each other’s presence and activities aiding and abetting the organization, cooperation, and growth.

The microbes are consuming the wreck’s metal, creating mats of rust bigger than a dozen four-story brownstones that are creeping slowly along the hull harvesting iron from the rivets and burrowing into layers of steel plating. The creatures also leave behind “rusticles,” 30-foot icicle-like deposits of rust dangling from the sides of the ship’s bow. Structurally, rusticles contain channels to allow water to flow through, and they seem to be built up in a ring structure similar to the growth rings of a tree. They are very delicate and can easily disintegrate into fine powder on even the slightest touch.

These live mats and rusticles form a communicating super-organism funneling iron-rich fluids, sulfur, and electrical charges through the collective of archea, fungi, and bacteria that thrives in the icy dark, low oxygen waters. Using DNA technology, researchers discovered that the rusticles were formed by a combination of 27 different strains of bacteria. Among the bacteria feasting on the Titanic, there was a brand new member of the salt-loving Halomonas genus.



Rich Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, speaking at Lafayette Square to 10,000 young environmental justice activists at Power Shift 2011.


Democratic Consultant + Video Camera + South Carolina Tea Party Rally = Oy

On Monday, a South Carolina Democratic consultant named Tyler Jones took a camera down to the Columbia, S.C. Tea Party rally that Michele Bachmann and Nikki Haley both spoke at.

“I interviewed around 25 people total and probably 75 percent of them said they were supporting Donald Trump,” says Jones, “and just about every single person is a birther. I took two hours of footage and chopped it down to six minutes of mind-blowing stuff.”

Remember those interviews with racist Democratic voters in West Virginia back in 2008? Remember the interviews outside McCain-Palin rallies — that nice gentleman with the toy monkey who called it “little Hussein”? Yeah. Things are not better now.


Right-wing raising alarm about “homosexual indoctrination” in public schools



Tim Hetherington, the Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker of ‘Restrepo’, was reportedly killed in Libya.


Thom Hartmann On Atlas Shrugged


Thousands protest & work to repeal Gov. Snyder’s ‘Emergency Financial Manager’ bill passed last month

Benton Harbor City Commissioner Juanita Henry feels like her town is being used as a test case. “If they have disenfranchised the people so badly they just don’t respond to anything, they can do this all over the country,” she says.

What’s happening in Benton Harbor is raising great concern in other Michigan communities. The budget battles and cut protests are intimately linked to Snyder’s power grab because the former are usually used as an excuse to implement the latter. Snyder and the EMs first claim there is an economic crisis—an undeniable need to slash social spending and levy cruel austerity measures on the poor. Then, Snyder uses the inevitable chaos as an excuse to dissolve democratically elected bodies and appoint henchmen to further strangle the communities and force them to accept even more austerity.

Michigan activists are now working to repeal the law. A group called Heartland Revolution is planning to rally at the Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce and march to City Hall on Wednesday, April 27, to protest the takeover. Also, a Facebook page called “A Referendum to Reject PA 4” has quadrupled in size in twenty-four hours, according to Traverse City activist Betsy Coffia.

In order to have a referendum on a newly enacted law, petitioners must gather signatures from 161,305 people, or 5 percent of the number that voted in the last gubernatorial election, the Michigan Messenger reports. The signatures must be submitted within ninety days of the end of the legislative session in which the bill was passed.

Power Shift vs. The Powers That Be

Amy Goodman:

More than 10,000 people converged in Washington, D.C., this past week to discuss, organize, mobilize and protest around the issue of climate change. While tax day tea party gatherings of a few hundred scattered around the country made the news, this massive gathering, Power Shift 2011, was largely ignored by the media. They met the week before Earth Day, around the first anniversary of the BP oil rig explosion and the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, while the Fukushima nuclear plant still spews radioactivity into the environment. Against such a calamitous backdrop, this renewed movement’s power and passion ensure that it won’t be ignored for long.


The organizers of Power Shift describe it as an intensive boot camp, training a new generation of organizers to go back to their communities and build the movement that McKibben called for. Three areas are targeted by the organizers: Catalyzing the Clean Energy Economy, Campus Climate Challenge 2.0 and Beyond Dirty Energy. The campaigns cross major sectors of U.S. society. The move for a clean-energy economy has been embraced by the AFL-CIO, seeing the potential for employment in construction of wind turbines, installation of solar panels and, one of the potentially greenest and oft-ignored sectors, retrofitting of existing buildings with energy efficiencies such as better insulation and weatherproofing.

On April 18, tax day, thousands held a “Make Big Polluters Pay” rally, targeting the fossil-fuel and nonrenewable-energy industries. The demonstrators gathered in Lafayette Park, a traditional protest square wedged between the White House and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. As Bill McKibben said, the Chamber “spends more money lobbying than the next five lobbies combined. It spent more money on politics last year than the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee combined, and 94 percent of that went to climate deniers.”

The protests also targeted BP’s offices, just after the BP shareholders meeting was held last week in London. There, security officers blocked the entrance of a delegation of four fishermen and -women from the Louisiana and Texas Gulf Coast areas heavily damaged by last year’s oil spill. Diane Wilson, a fourth-generation fisherwoman, was arrested for disturbing the peace. “That was pretty outrageous,” she said. “They had disrupted our lives down there. But just appearing at the door of a BP general assembly, and we’re disrupting the peace.”


One year ago today, BP’s oil began to pour into the Gulf of Mexico. It did not stop for 87 days.

Today, economic and environmental devastation remain. Thousands of Gulf coast residents cope with massive health problems from oil and toxic dispersants.

BP, on the other hand, just scored a nearly $10 billion dollar tax credit, by writing off its “losses” incurred from the tragedy.1

$10 billion is the entire annual budget of the EPA, whose funding was just slashed in the continuing resolution. It is almost one third of all the cuts in the continuing resolution.


Americans shouldn’t have to endure massive budget cuts because BP took a $10 billion tax deduction for destroying our gulf. Tell BP: Amend your tax return and pay your fair share. Click here to automatically sign the petition.


“I never look at the masses as my responsibility; I look at the individual. I can only love one person at a time – just one, one, one.

So you begin. I began – I picked up one person. Maybe if I didn’t pick up that one person, I wouldn’t have picked up forty-two thousand….

The same thing goes for you, the same thing in your family, the same thing in your church, your community. Just begin – one, one, one.” ~ Mother Teresa


BONUS: President Obama’s Town Hall at FaceBook


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Cher, a great collection, and I loved the Mother Teresa quotation. There’s another one of hers that I just love, too. Especially on those days of discouragement for “us” and apparent victory for “them.”

“We are not called to be successful. We are only called to be faithful.”


OK – with the photo of Obama as a pirate, next Trump will claim Obama is really a Somali!!!!

I can hardly wait for Trump’s compelling evidence about the Hawaii birth certificate. I want Trump to produce his. I think I recall he was born in NY – and thus HIS birth certificate will be identical to Obama’s since NY does the same thing HI does.

Can hardly wait.


Tomorrow is the Big 60 MsCher!
Will there be cake? 🙂
(Great job as usual!)


Whose Big 60 is it? Never mind. Cake is always good.


LMAO choice!
Daily Planet #60 edition 🙂
Hoping for double fudge chocolate!!!


That makes MB 700 something!


And TO/OT over 365! 😀


Good Luck with That one bito!!!
MsKalima will be bashing you about the ears, for sure! 🙂


Another awesome collection Cher!
You are knocking it out of the park!


I second Patsy’s statement! Fantastic stuff you give us! Thank you!


Had to sign the petition. I hate BP SO MUCH.

And I KNEW IT! President Obama has pirate blood in him! Wait til Trump gets a hold of this!


ADONAI, Wouldn’t you know it, Pirates! Arrrggghhh


I’d like to See a little more Pirate!


What an adorable little pirate. Who knew that people went trick-or-treating in Kenya?!

The SC video is truly disturbing.


Wow great all encompassing post today thanks a million. Just a comment on the prez popularity or lack of such. The prez must not give in again and again to the right wing bull the American people want him to stand up for whats right not for a made up its all he can do victory;this is not just the idea of the left and progressives but all thinking Americans.


He has been winning far more than he’s yielded. Biggest problem – no MSM and a almost no “new media” do a scrap of analysis about what has been achieved in these bargains. I’m amazed at what Obama has accomplished in the face of the slavering hoards. He’s made them holler uncle, and given that they control one house, it’s nothing short of amazing.