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.




In 2009, Democrats threatened to vote against debt ceiling hike without entitlement reform

One of the problems Democrats face in the fight to raise the debt ceiling without attaching onerous cuts to entitlement programs is that, only 17 months ago, a whole bunch of them joined with Republicans in a threat to not raise the debt ceiling without creating a deficit commission that would make onerous cuts to entitlement programs. Yeah, that happened:


The result of this threat was the Simpson-Bowles commission


The House Progressive Budget

Ezra Klein:

But overall, this is a smart contribution to the negotiations, in part because it’s organized very intelligently. It’s a menu of separate — and separable — options for reducing the budget deficit in a progressive fashion, rather than one or two massive ideological efforts to remake the safety net. If Ryan had been writing the House Progressive Budget, it would’ve proposed single-payer health care and a value-added tax and called it a day. The House Progressive Caucus didn’t do that — and they were smart not to.

Instead, they designed their budget to make it easy for the negotiators to lift some of their proposals into a final deal. It’d be simple to grab the new millionaire’s brackets out of this budget, or snatch some the defense savings and the public option, without embracing everything else. That also makes it easy for progressives to choose a few of these items and really organize behind them. The measure of this budget’s success won’t be in whether it passes, but whether a few of its specific suggestions are able to shoulder their way into the conversation. To invert the old aphorism, the budget might not fully hang together, but its pieces could certainly survive separately.



Rising Gas Prices Expected To Increase Exxon’s Earnings By More Than 50%


Meaningfully Shopping for Insurance is Next to Impossible

Anybody who cares about consumer rights should take a look at this recent article by Professor Dan Schwarcz, a law professor and insurance expert from the University of Minnesota Law School. This guy actually gets his jollies reading insurance policies, and what he has learned can help you. Well, sort of….. In reality, what he has learned can educate you, anger you, and hopefully motivate you to help solve a tricky problem, namely that consumers don’t generally get to see their policies until they’ve signed on. Policy terms also vary a lot, but no one seems to know this. It is a classic case of consumers shopping solely on the basis of price, when other things like coverage matter more. According to Professor Schwarcz, consumers have access to virtually no information about the things that matter most in an insurance policy.

The New York Times blogged about Professor Schwarcz’s recent article shortly after we briefly discussed the article here on Credit Slips. …The NYT blog quoted Schwarcz, giving a great example of a coverage differential that could matter. Let’s say a standard contract insures a home against risk of “direct physical loss to property,” but some insurers alter the language to cover only “sudden and accidental” direct physical loss to property. The new wording could be used to deny claims for vandalism or from a threat that grew over time — say, an old tree that weakens and eventually falls on a house. It’s conceivable, he said, that the language could be used to deny claims for theft on the grounds that the loss wasn’t “accidental.”

Professor Schwarcz is now urging state insurance commissioners to post contract language online, so consumers can compare policies. Curious myself about how much I could learn about actual policy terms and coverage on line, I did a few test searches this afternoon while doing other things. How much did I learn? Not much, and now I am now getting spammed endlessly by insurance companies while trying to do, um, other things…like… for crust-less quiche recipes.  The recipe site was wrapped in all sorts of insurance ads.




Conservative strategists warn GOP: Don’t play chicken with the debt ceiling: Jon Ward has a good overview of the political terrain Republicans are tiptoeing across as they seek to navigate the debt ceiling issue.

* Are GOPers really serious about taking us to debt ceiling brink? Aaron Blake games out why their posture is more likely a negotiating strategy than anything else. The problem is that Dems have not called the GOP’s bluff by unifying strongly enough behind a demand for a “clean” vote on a debt ceiling hike, so the GOP’s strategy may pay off anyway.

* Center shifts to the right yet again on debt ceiling: As I’ve noted here again and again, Dems have allowed the “centrist” position to be redefined as a “deal” on the debt ceiling, when everyone already agrees that it must be raised in order to avert catastrophe.

* Can Republicans count on White House to cave on debt ceiling? The result of that redefined “centrist” position: As Dem Rep. Jim McGovern points out, Republicans seem to be counting on Obama caving.


Corporate Taxes Enter Debt Debate

The Obama administration is planning to unveil a proposal to overhaul corporate taxes, possibly as early as May. Economic advisers are exploring the willingness of business leaders to accept a closing of many corporate tax loopholes in exchange for dropping the top corporate rate from 35 percent to 26 percent.



Charters ‘nix 23%’ of kids

He called a classmate a “spaghetti noodle” because she was skinny. And he led the “Rubberband Gang” that launched pellets of paper across the classroom. But now sixth-grader Tyrique Royal, 12, is facing expulsion from Fahari Academy Charter School on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn — for being a kid.

The school insists it’s simply adhering to a strict “no-bullying” policy parents are well aware of, but student advocates say Tyrique’s case illustrates the disparity between how charter and public schools handle difficult kids.

In the public-school system, students cannot be expelled if they are under 17, and principals cannot suspend a student for more than five consecutive days.


A study of eight middle-school charters conducted last year by the United Federation of Teachers found the average attrition rate was 23 percent. Some of those students were held back a grade, but the numbers indicate that many students were forced to leave or were expelled, according to the report.



NYT: The House Strikes, and Wins, Again

In another House-engineered setback for the environment, the compromise budget approved by Congress and the White House prohibits the Interior Department from spending any money to carry out a policy protecting unspoiled federal lands.

Under the 1976 Federal Lands Policy and Management Act, the secretary of interior has the power to inventory, identify and protect such lands. President George W. Bush’s secretary, Gale Norton, who was more interested in development than conservation, renounced that authority. Ken Salazar, the current secretary, reaffirmed it in December only to have House Republicans strike back.

The amendment, like much from the House, was based on demagoguery. Western Republicans claimed the policy would pre-empt Congress’s right to designate permanent wilderness on federal lands. That isn’t true. What the Interior Department does, and has done until Ms. Norton came along, is identify lands with “wilderness characteristics” and manage them carefully — preventing rampant motorized vehicle use, for instance — until Congress can decide whether they deserve permanent protection.


We don’t know if there is a way around the restriction. We do know that Mr. Salazar and the White House should begin pressing now to ensure that the next budget lifts the ban and provides the Interior Department the money to set aside fragile lands for future generations.



Sitting All Day: Worse For You Than You Might Think

Studies show that when you adhere to an exercise regimen, you can improve your cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, improve metabolism and levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. You can reduce diabetes risk and the risk of certain cancers. And, finally, exercise can help maintain a healthy weight, which can boost all these benefits even more.

But now, researchers are beginning to suspect that even if you engage in regular exercise daily, it may not be enough to counteract the effects of too much sitting during the rest of the day.


“Those who were sitting more were substantially more likely to die,” says Blair.

Specifically, he found that men who reported more than 23 hours a week of sedentary activity had a 64 percent greater risk of dying from heart disease than those who reported less than 11 hours a week of sedentary activity. And many of these men routinely exercised. Blair says scientists are just beginning to learn about the risks of a mostly sedentary day.

“If you’re sitting, your muscles are not contracting perhaps except to type. But, the big muscles like in your legs and back are sitting there pretty quietly,” says Blair. And, because the major muscles aren’t moving, metabolism slows down.

“We’re finding that people who sit more have less desirable levels” of cholesterol, blood sugar, triglycerides and even waist size, says Blair, which increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and a number of health problems.

‘Our Body Just Kind Of Goes Into Shut Down’


It may not sound like much, but an Australian study found that these types of mini-breaks, just one minute long, throughout the day can actually make a difference. You can simply stand up, dance about, wiggle around, take a few steps back and forth, march in place. These simple movements can help lower blood sugar, triglycerides, cholesterol and even waist size.




REPORT: The 46 Year-Long Republican War On Medicare

SiCKO: Ronald Reagan On the Evils of Socialized Medicine


Grand jury floated to probe gas prices

On CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) floated the possibility of a grand jury investigation into rising gas prices and whether they stem from illegal manipulation of oil markets. Blumenthal said the Justice Dept. should send a “very strong deterrent message” that illegal activity will not be tolerated.


Legislative Black Caucus says ready to ask Justice Department for help in BentonHarbor:

The Michigan Legislative Black Caucus will hold a press conference today at noon with the Reverend Jesse Jackson in Benton Harbor.

Also in attendance will be Congressman John Conyers and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero.

Joe Harris, the city’s state-appointed emergency manager, recently stripped power from local officials in Benton Harbor under the state’s new emergency manager law.

The group says they will work to uphold voting rights as they plan to challenge the legality of the Emergency Manager law.

Fred Durhal, the chair of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus, said they “oppose this Draconian legislation.”:

“Our coalition is prepared to ask the Justice Department to review this legislation and we will fight litigation to challenge its constitutionality,” said Durhal.

Reverend Jesse Jackson is quoted in the media advisory saying, “the wind from Benton Harbor is blowing toward Detroit. This legislation usurps democracy by taking away voters rights in Michigan. Our constitution protects democracy, this inalienable right is non-negotiable.”



NY Times Poll: 47% of Republican Voters are Birthers and the Times buries it.

You’d think it would be a big story since it came from the NY Times, right? Nope. They made it disappear.

First, in the original article, the newspaper completely buried the birther lede. Rather than highlighting the blockbuster poll finding, the Times gave the embarrassing news only a glancing reference and stuck the results deep down in the story, devoting just two sentences to the birther revelation. Sidestepping the thorny issue, the Times instead pegged the news story around the fact that Republican voters aren’t enthusiastic about their possible White House candidates. (Hint: That’s not exactly breaking news.)

Second, the much-talked about birther passage from the Times’ polling piece soon disappeared; it was removed from the original article, without explaination. Readers now clicking on the Times link, which continues to whip around the Internet, aren’t informed that a plurality of Republicans believe Obama was born in a foreign country. In fact, readers aren’t told anything about those results. (A different article in the Times today makes a passing reference to the poll’s findings.) For some reason yesterday, the Times’ birther scoop disappeared.


NBC Allows Trump To Begin Campaigning On ‘The Celebrity Apprentice’

Any announcement will necessarily come after the completion of his show “The Celebrity Apprentice” because, as he’s said, “I can’t announce during the show.” The FEC’s equal-time rule requires radio and TV stations to provide commensurate time to opposing candidates if they give free airtime to one announced candidate.

TRUMP: Good morning. Everybody is saying I should run for president. Let me ask you a question. Meatloaf, should I run for president?

MEATLOAF: Absolutely.

TRUMP: Now you would definitely vote for me.

MEATLOAF: I would vote for you, I would help you with your campaign.

TRUMP: Ok, I thought so. What do you think Star? You’re a political analyst.

JONES: Of course, I’m right here now, ready to roll.

TRUMP: Who would not vote for me?…I would say anybody that raised their hand would immediately be fired because they’re stupid.

NBC is certainly aware of its the equal time restrictions and is claiming that Trump’s finale stunt will only announce a “time and place of a press conference” at a later date at which time he can officially announce his run. Until Trump formally declares, NBC is not obligated to offer equal time to another candidate.


Backlash against Ryan becoming a national story

The Los Angeles Times frames it: “House Republicans face backlash at home over budget plan.”

Politico’s framing: “Freshmen feel the heat back home.”

* GOPers ducking town hall meetings? The National Journal’s Cameron Joseph points out that some House GOPers who voted for Ryan’s plan “have simply avoided meeting with constituents.”

* GOPers worried about Dem assault on Medicare plan: Don’t miss Peter Wallsten’s overview of GOP worry about the Dem strategy, in which Republicans say that their best hope is to make sure the argument is fixed on the broader topics of spending and taxes, not on Medicare.

* Dems may force GOP Senators to vote on Ryan plan: In an effort to exacerbate those GOP worries, Harry Reid is mulling whether to have the Senate vote on Ryan’s plan, to force vulnerable GOP incumbents like Scott Brown and Olympia Snowe to go on record on the plan. The fact that Susan Collins has already come out against the plan has Dems hopeful they can use it to drive a wedge.

The media’s false depiction of the budget debate

Each week, it’s like deja vu.  The media continues to promote the false narrative that the spectrum of the budget debate consists of Obama’s proposal on the left, with Paul Ryan’s plan on the right. They are using this narrow vision to suggest that the practical answer lies somewhere in the middle.  The new line is that Obama’s “liberal” plan does not seriously tackle entitlements, while Paul Ryan’s “conservative” plan fails to consider raising taxes.


On Meet the Press, David Gregory hosted a round table about fixing the partisan divide over the budget with New York Times columnist David Brooks, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, republican consultant Alex Castellanos, and former Obama white house communications director Anita Dunn.  Unsurprisingly, the discussion became a competition between David Brooks and Alex Catellanos of who could better salivate over Paul Ryan’s proposal to privatize Medicare.  Statements made by David Gregory ranged from “both sides have to face some tough realities” to “You have to raise taxes on the middle class if you’re serious about balancing the budget.”

An identical conversation took place on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS, which included former Secretaries of the Treasury Paul O’Neill and Robert Rubin — “one from each side of the aisle” — to offer their opinions on whose plan will fix the budget deficit.  Fareed Zakaria made the following statements in his introduction:  ”Democrats are still clinging to entitlement programs, medicare, social security, with no talk of real cost cutting, though the current system is clearly unaffordable” and “Republicans are playing politics with the vote to raise the country’s debt ceiling and are still blind to the inevitable need to raise taxes.”

The popular story being promoted by media personalities that both sides are at fault, since democrats refuse to cut entitlements and republicans refuse to raise taxes, is completely disconnected from reality.  When will the media interview guests that are not members of the establishment punditry?  When will they have on a progressive to discuss the People’s Budget? When will they quit ignoring the criticisms faced by republicans at town halls across the country?


In Beltway Land Progressives Do Not Exist

A search for articles in the New York Times that reference the “People’s Budget” resulted in nothing but readers’ comments.  Perhaps it’s a positive sign that a few Times readers are familiar with the progressive budget plan, even if the newspaper has neglected to cover it.



WikiLeaks: The Uses of Guantánamo

From The New Yorker:

Here are some of the reasons we’ve held people at Guantánamo, according to files obtained by WikiLeaks and, then, by several news organizations: A sharecropper because he was familiar with mountain passes; an Afghan “because of his general knowledge of activities in the areas of Khost and Kabul based as a result of his frequent travels through the region as a taxi driver”; an Uzbek because he could talk about his country’s intelligence service, and a Bahraini about his country’s royal family (both of those nations are American allies); an eighty-nine year old man, who was suffering from dementia, to explain documents that he said were his son’s; an imam, to speculate on what worshippers at his mosque were up to; a cameraman for Al Jazeera, to detail its operations; a British man, who had been a captive of the Taliban, because “he was expected to have knowledge of Taliban treatment of prisoners and interrogation tactics”; Taliban conscripts, so they could explain Taliban conscription techniques; a fourteen-year-old named Naqib Ullah, described in his file as a “kidnap victim,” who might know about the Taliban men who kidnapped him. (Ullah spent a year in the prison.) Our reasons, in short, do not always really involve a belief that a prisoner is dangerous to us or has committed some crime; sometimes (and this is more debased) we mostly think we might find him useful.
The new set of files has information on more than seven hundred and fifty of the seven hundred and seventy-nine prisoners who have passed through Guantánamo. (A hundred and seventy-two are still there.) The documents are classified Secret/NOFORN (that is, no distribution to foreign countries), and WikiLeaks shared them with seven news organizations, on the condition that they evaluate them before they were released, when they were leaked to the New York Times, which brought in the Guardian and NPR—breaking the embargo. (How does that fit the complaint that WikiLeaks rushes things out indiscriminately?) These are Guantánamo’s files, and some of the information in them is disputed by the prisoners; some of it the government itself doesn’t believe any more, and some is contradictory. The greatest insight the files may give is into what our government thought it was doing, and why, when it decided to imprison certain people indefinitely and out of the reach of the rule of law—the logic, or illogic, of Guantánamo. Carol Rosenberg and Tom Lasseter, of the Miami Herald (representing the McClatchy papers, among those who had the files), write of records of interrogation after interrogation,

Yet there’s not a whiff in the documents that any of the work is leading the U.S. closer to capturing bin Laden. In fact, they suggest a sort of mission creep beyond the post-9/11 goal of using interrogations to hunt down the al Qaeda inner circle and sleeper cells.



Guantánamo Files: NYT Answers to Readers’ Questions



First look at the Obama campaign plan



Much corporate political spending stays hidden

A Times review finds only a few of America’s major energy, healthcare and financial companies fully disclose their political spending.

Despite mounting calls for greater transparency, only a few of the country’s 75 leading energy, healthcare and financial services corporations fully disclose political spending, according to a review of company records and state and federal campaign finance reports.

While complying with legal requirements to report direct donations to candidates, the vast majority of these companies — many of which are seeking legislative favors from the new Congress — do not reveal information even to their shareholders about support for politically active trade associations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Groups such as the chamber, some of which spend millions of dollars on elections, are not required to reveal their financial supporters. And companies are not required to report their donations to those groups.

The money fuels a parallel, opaque system of political giving that plays a growing role in national elections and is emerging as a 2012 campaign issue. President Obama is considering an executive order requiring government contractors to disclose political donations, and congressional Democrats have filed a lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission demanding more disclosure.

What information is publicly available suggests that substantial corporate political spending remains in the dark, leading to an incomplete, and at times misleading, picture of companies’ efforts to influence legislation and elections, the Times review indicates.

Only 14 of the country’s 75 leading energy, healthcare and financial services companies reported payments to industry trade associations in 2009. But those 14 alone gave more than $23.5 million for lobbying and political purposes, according to company postings.

The remaining 61 companies in those industries did not disclose any payments. That same year, however, the chamber and seven other leading trade groups representing the three industries took in more than $1.3 billion, more than the state of Vermont collected in taxes. These groups, in turn, spent some $500 million on lobbying and other political activity such as television advertising, tax records show.

Company giving to trade associations for political campaigns can dwarf direct donations to candidates, according to records from corporations that voluntarily report such giving.

Political action committees operated by Prudential Financial, for example, gave $218,230 to candidates and other committees in 2010. By comparison, the company gave the chamber and other trade groups more than $2.2 million for lobbying and other political purposes. In all, the company paid these groups nearly $6.6 million in dues in 2009.

DATABASE: Search the complete Times survey of corporate transparency ratings

While some companies that don’t disclose may not have contributed to trade groups, others simply defend their right to keep their giving out of the public eye.

“Information about our financial support for certain causes is proprietary,” said Adam Shores, a spokesman for insurance giant Allstate.

That has prompted some investors to push companies to post annual reports where the public can view a comprehensive list of a corporation’s political spending, including what it gives to trade groups. “We understand that company voices need to be heard,” said Julie Gorte, senior vice president at mutual fund Pax World Management. “As shareholders, we think we have a right to know how the money is being spent.”

But industry leaders ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup have fought such shareholder initiatives, arguing in corporate filings that they comply with existing laws and that disclosing more is “unnecessary.”

Other companies say they present a complete picture of their political spending, while leaving off select contributions.

Goldman Sachs, for instance, says on its corporate website that it “does not make any political contributions in the United States.” And Morgan Stanley reports that its only corporate political contribution in 2010 was a $500 check to the New York Senate Republican Campaign Committee Housekeeping Conference Account.

Nowhere on their websites do the two financial powerhouses say that they gave a combined $105,264 to a political action committee run by the California Public Securities Assn.

State campaign finance reports, which show the contributions, indicate that the trade group spent $400,000 on two 2010 ballot measure campaigns.

Quoting the company’s 2010 proxy statement, Goldman spokesman David Wells said the company did not control how trade groups spend. “They take a wide variety of positions on a number of matters, not all of which are supported by us.”




Steve Benen:

Republicans can stay in office by using their power to rig the game and hurt those who help Democrats. Guess which approach the GOP prefers?

With an eye toward the 2012 elections, Florida Republicans are mounting the broadest assault on their Democratic counterparts since taking control of the Legislature 15 years ago.

Bills barreling through the House and Senate attempt to starve Democrats of their primary sources of cash and halt partisan gains of the last two election cycles. With Republican supermajorities in both chambers, Democrats can’t stop them.

On Thursday, the House passed a bill to block the kind of voter registration drives that helped sweep President Barack Obama into the White House and gave Democrats an edge of more than 600,000 votes.

Republicans are also moving bills on litigation overhaul that make it more difficult for trial lawyers — big contributors to Florida Democrats — to mount or profit from lawsuits against hospitals, HMOs, nursing homes, insurers and others. Another large Democratic donor — unions — would be starved of campaign cash through legislation that would sever payroll deductions, a key union fundraising tool. Republicans are also effectively cutting worker salaries, making it harder for public employees to contribute to unions.

They have also passed measures that could add to their nearly absolute power in the Capitol: new campaign finance laws that would increase fundraising power, coupled with deregulation of private business, insurers and developers that would lift burdens from traditional GOP contributors.

The Miami Herald characterized this as “bare-knuckle politics at its purest.”

Digby added, “Now let’s assume they will eventually be punished by the people for ‘overreach’ because they are just that crazy. Will it have been worth it to put in place myriad laws and regulations that favor their own sources of money and make it much more difficult for their opponents to democratically win office? I’d say so.”

And they may not even be punished. Either way, Republicans just don’t seem to care.

So long as they’re using government to suppress Democratic allies and make it harder for Dems to compete in elections, the GOP gets what it wants.


The DCCC is also out this morning with a new video:

“House Republicans promised to protect Medicare. They lied.”


NYT’s  profile on Debby Wasserman-Shultz


Senate Removes Senate Powers

The Senate is moving a bill to cut the number of administration posts that are subject to Senate approval, a “rare voluntary surrender of Congressional clout” that is backed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). “We are losing very good people because the process has become so onerous, so lengthy and so duplicative,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).


Televangelist Franklin Graham says Trump ‘may be right’

Televangelist Franklin Graham suggested he was unsure about whether President Obama was American, saying on ABC’s This Week yesterday that potential presidential candidate Donald Trump “may be right.” Graham went on to praise Trump and implied that he may end up endorsing the real estate mogul.


More voters in GOP districts angry over Ryan’s Medicare proposal

The Arkansas News talked to voters this weekend in the districts of three House GOPers who voted for the proposal — Rick Crawford, Tim Griffin and Steve Womack — and found that this is basically what they’re thinking:

“I don’t think much of it,” said John Spann of Little Rock, who is retired and eligible for Medicare. “We’ve got a good system. Why change it?”

Spann, who voted for Griffin in 2010, said the bill clearly is aimed at ending the program. “Even though they don’t say it is, it is,” he said.

This is only the latest expression of unhappiness with the Ryan plan in GOP districts. Last week voters loudly complained about it to House GOPers in Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Wisconsin.

The question of whether the GOP plan “ends Medicare” is now absolutely central to the spin war over the Ryan plan. Dems are doubling down on that message in 25 GOP districts, and Republicans today are pushing back hard, circulating fact-checks that dispute the point.

In this context, the quotes from Arkansas voters are striking. Those interviewed either explicitly agree that the GOP plan ends Medicare, or suggest that the plan transforms the program’s mission so fundamentally that it will no longer play its intended role. Also: Given how vociferously Republicans deny that the Ryan plan is a voucher program, it’s interesting to see the word being used by voters so freely.


Barbara Boxer Is New Senate Champion Against Afghan War

When Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold lost his bid for re-election, advocates working to end the war in Afghanistan lost their champion in the Senate. It was Feingold’s office that introduced the bill, introduced the amendment, circulated the letter, led the lobbying of other offices and led the charge in the media. Now California Sen. Barbara Boxer has reintroduced Feingold’s bill requiring the president to establish a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan – a timetable with an end date. So far, Sens. Dick Durbin, Tom Harkin, Kirsten Gillibrand and Sherrod Brown have signed on as co-sponsors of Senator Boxer’s bill. The reintroduction of this bill is extremely timely and important, for two reasons.



Poll finds Wisconsinites dead even on Walker recall



Martin Rees on why science and religion don’t have to be enemies

It is astonishing that human brains, which evolved to cope with the everyday world, have been able to grasp the counterintuitive mysteries of the cosmos and the quantum. But there seems no reason why they should be matched to every intellectual quest – we could easily be as unaware of crucial aspects of reality as a monkey is of the theory of relativity.

This seems to have been Charles Darwin’s attitude to religion, at least at some stage in his life. In a letter to the Swiss-American biologist Louis Agassiz, he said: “The whole subject is too profound for the human intellect. A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton. Let each man hope and believe as he can.”

This is a glaringly different stance from that adopted by some of Darwinism’s high-profile proponents today. We should all oppose – as Darwin did – views manifestly in conflict with the evidence, such as creationism. (Last year’s Templeton winner, Francisco Ayala, has been in the forefront of that campaign in the US.) But we shouldn’t set up this debate as “religion v science”; instead, we should strive for peaceful coexistence with at least the less dogmatic strands of mainstream religions, which number many excellent scientists among their adherents.

This, at least, is my view – a pallid and boring one, both for those who wish to promote constructive engagement between science and religion, and for those who prefer antagonistic debate. I am, I suppose, an “accommodationist” – a disparaging epithet used by anti-religion campaigners to describe those who don’t share their fervour. Richard Dawkins described me as a “compliant quisling”.

But I am a sceptic. If we learn anything from the pursuit of science, it is that even something as basic as an atom is quite hard to understand. We should be unsurprised that many phenomena remain unexplained, and dubious of any claim to have achieved more than a very incomplete and metaphorical insight into any profound aspect of our existence – and, especially, we should be sceptical of dogma. This is certainly why I have no religious belief.



The incredible Cat’s Eye Nebula captured by the Hubble Telescope



SCOTUS Rejects Expedited ACA Review

Perhaps more significant though, is the indication that Justice Elena Kagan, who was formerly Solicitor General in the Obama administration, did not appear to recuse herself from the decision, Winkler points out. Conservatives have sought to pressure her to recuse herself from the case, which would deny the Affordable Care Act a presumed vote to uphold the law.



The Right-Wing Network Behind the War on Unions

Mother Jones:

Behind the onslaught is a well-funded network of conservative think tanks that you’ve probably never heard of. Conceived by the same conservative ideologues who helped found the Heritage Foundation, the State Policy Network (SPN) is a little-known umbrella group with deep ties to the national conservative movement. Its mission is simple: to back a constellation of state-level think tanks loosely modeled after Heritage that promote free-market principles and rail against unions, regulation, and tax increases. By blasting out policy recommendations and shaping lawmakers’ positions through briefings and private meetings, these think tanks cultivate cozy relationships with GOP politicians. And there’s a long tradition of revolving door relationships between SPN staffers and state governments. While they bill themselves as independent think tanks, SPN’s members frequently gather to swap ideas. “We’re all comrades in arms,” the network’s board chairman told the National Review in 2007.


Founded in 1992 by businessman and Reagan administration insider Thomas Roe—who also served on the Heritage Foundation’s board of trustees for two decades—the group has grown to include 59 “freedom centers,” or affiliated think tanks, in all 50 states. SPN’s board includes officials from Heritage and right-wing charities such as the Adolph Coors and Jacqueline Hume foundations. Likewise, its deep-pocketed donors include all the usual heavy-hitting conservative benefactors: the Ruth and Lovett Peters Foundation, which funds the Cato Institute and Heritage; the Castle Rock Foundation, a charity started with money from the conservative Coors Foundation; and the Bradley Foundation, a $540 million charity devoted to funding conservative causes. SPN uses their contributions to dole out annual grants to member groups, ranging from a few thousand dollars to $260,000, according to 2009 records.



Congressman Sean Duffy gets Huffy

[Also, watch the Reep’s talking points—convincing to the uninformed?]


Another reason why Wisconsin matters: Chris Bowers on how Wisconsin Dems are offering a very sharp contrast to Beltway Dems by embracing the activist base.


Far Better Than 3-D: Animated GIFs That Savor A Passing Moment



Town Hall Meltdowns, Hundreds Protest Cuts

That backlash was one of several town hall meeting eruptions that occurred across the country. Freshmen Representatives Robert Dold (R-IL) and Charlie Bass (R-NH) both received hostile greetings from citizens of their respective states. Dole caught flack for supporting corporate tax breaks and voting to end Medicare:

But Dold couldn’t even get to the end of the presentation before audience members began peppering him with questions about the Ryan budget, named after House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin. It began with audience members telling Dold they don’t believe chopping 10 percentage points off the highest corporate tax rate will create jobs. A handful of people in the audience identified themselves as business owners and accountants who said their effective corporate income tax rate is already lower than the lowest rates proposed in the Ryan plan. They pointed to companies such as GE that pay almost no taxes despite billions in profits as evidence….

Some in the audience then told Dold they don’t like the idea in the Ryan budget plan of Medicare becoming a voucher program that makes senior citizens buy private health insurance about 10 years from now. Audience members said buying private insurance is a shell game where no one really knows what costs a company will cover or to what degree.

Bass received a similar response in Hillsborough, NH.

Representative Charlie Bass knew he was in for a rough night. The first question out of the gate during his Wednesday town hall in Hillsborough, NH was about his vote for Paul Ryan’s budget. And the second. And the third and the fourth, fifth and sixth questions. “I enjoyed the discourse,” he said, almost hopefully, afterward. “It’s important to speak with people who disagree with me. Of course there was going to be backlash.

It’s no surprise that the residents of New Hampshire are up in arms over their state’s cuts. Hundreds of people protested at the Statehouse on Thursday in response to the state’s plan to cut 48 percent or $4.5 million in grants to community health centers that employ a thousand individuals and care for 125,000 people.

Deb Drobysh of Nashua pleaded to restore $1 million in cuts to Medicaid in-home support services essential for Juliet, 11, who is blind, suffers from cerebral palsy and has global developmental delays.…

A wheelchair-bound, Anthony Dubois, 35, of Nashua, said as someone with muscular dystrophy, diabetes and assisted breathing apparatus, he could end up in a nursing home if cuts remain to Service Link Resource Centers, incontinence and durable medical equipment supplies.


Ten Protest Songs That Matter

[Videos of them all]

1) Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up”

2) Stiff Little Fingers’ “Suspect Device”

3) Steel Pulse’s “Ku Klux Klan”

4) Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”

5) Malvina Reynolds’ “Little Boxes”

6) Phil Ochs’ “I Ain’t Marchin’ Anymore”

7) Billy Bragg’s “Waiting for the Great Leap Forward”

8) Bob Dylan’s “Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”

9) Aretha Franklin’s “Respect”

10) Boogie Down Production’s “Stop the Violence”


Big Mike Breaks It Down

Do you have a conservative uncle, or someone in your family that you’ve gone ’round and ’round with over the budget fight that nearly shut down our federal government?

Or did you find the whole thing totally impenetrable as the story seemed to change daily?

Well, here’s a video that breaks it down. It’s a quick, funny, and honest explanation of what’s actually happening in D.C. Check it out, and then share it with anyone you think could benefit from a little straight talk.

18 Minutes of pure inspiration: Innovation and the unexpected: an impassioned rant


You will either step forward into growth or you will step back into safety. ~ Abraham Maslow


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This is just the beginning. It’s all up to the people now.

Until I researched that piece on McCarthy, I had never really comprehended just how much the Republican Party hates the New Deal and everything that came from it. How much they loathe the social progress made in the 60’s.

They want it all. They want to take it all back and give it to their rich friends. I would bring up shame, but it seems to be absent from these proceedings.


The Paul Ryan health care plan.

It will transform/destroy the entire system


I’m going with this being pretty much the best DP I’ve seen this year.
But I can’t help feeling you’ve still got a few surprises left for us, Cher’.


The GIFs are cool, the “Cat’s Eye” picture is amazing, and the Martin Rees article jibes well with my own….what a great DP!