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.
Here’s a telling line from a recent Oregonian article about the K-12 schools budget being debated right now in Salem: “House Republican Leader Kevin Cameron, R-Salem, said his caucus is happy with the K-12 budget.”
The currently proposed K-12 budget will lead to school closures, larger class sizes, fewer school days, and teacher layoffs. How can Cameron and his fellow Republicans be “happy” with a budget that drastically shortchanges our kids’ education?
In case they missed it, we’ve copied below a list of recent news clips about the devastating impact this budget will have on K-12 schools–including five scheduled to close in Cameron’s own town.
“So you can go to college on Pell grants, and maybe I should not be telling anybody this, because it’s turning out to be the welfare of the 21st century,” Rehberg said. “You can go to school, collect your Pell grants, get food stamps, low-energy assistance, Section 8 housing and all of a sudden we find ourselves subsidizing people that don’t have to graduate from college.”
Rehberg later clarified his statement, explaining that an expansion in the number of students who qualify for the grants and the amount of the maximum award have made the program unsustainable.
[T]he boom in new speculative opportunities in global grain, edible oil, and livestock markets has created a vicious cycle. The more the price of food commodities increases, the more money pours into the sector, and the higher prices rise. Indeed, from 2003 to 2008, the volume of index fund speculation increased by 1,900 percent. “What we are experiencing is a demand shock coming from a new category of participant in the commodities futures markets,” hedge fund Michael Masters testified before Congress in the midst of the 2008 food crisis.
The result of Wall Street’s venture into grain and feed and livestock has been a shock to the global food production and delivery system. Not only does the world’s food supply have to contend with constricted supply and increased demand for real grain, but investment bankers have engineered an artificial upward pull on the price of grain futures. The result: Imaginary wheat dominates the price of real wheat, as speculators (traditionally one-fifth of the market) now outnumber bona-fide hedgers four-to-one.
Today, bankers and traders sit at the top of the food chain — the carnivores of the system, devouring everyone and everything below. Near the bottom toils the farmer. For him, the rising price of grain should have been a windfall, but speculation has also created spikes in everything the farmer must buy to grow his grain — from seed to fertilizer to diesel fuel. At the very bottom lies the consumer. The average American, who spends roughly 8 to 12 percent of her weekly paycheck on food, did not immediately feel the crunch of rising costs. But for the roughly 2-billion people across the world who spend more than 50 percent of their income on food, the effects have been staggering: 250 million people joined the ranks of the hungry in 2008, bringing the total of the world’s “food insecure” to a peak of 1 billion — a number never seen before.
A few charts to illustrate what you are and are not supposed to be worried about. I start these charts in 1985, that is, after Morning in America, so that our view isn’t distorted by the high inflation and interest rates of the 70s and early 80s.
So, here’s what we’re supposed to be deeply worried about. First, bond market confidence:
Meanwhile, we’re not supposed to worry about unemployment:
A naive observer might note that interest rates are low by historical standards, making you wonder why we’re obsessing about the bond market; that inflation is also low by historical standards, making you wonder why it’s an issue at all; and that unemployment is immensely high. But Washington has its priorities.
“We’ve been going back and forth for a century.” So began an economics rap between two long-dead English economists, interventionist John Maynard Keynes and governmentophobe Friedrich Hayek that went viral. The rap’s dress rehearsal debuted on the NewsHour back in December 2009. The full video version soon materialized on the Internet and now boasts more than 2 million page views.
PRICES for both homes and commercial real estate are falling again. Meaningful improvement may have to wait until there are many fewer distressed properties for sale.
Indexes of the two markets showed this week that the latest declines had almost wiped out the mild gains the two markets had shown after prices appeared to have hit bottom.
The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index of home prices ended February 3.3 percent below where it was a year earlier, and just 0.5 percent above the low reached in May 2009. The Moody’s/REAL Commercial Property Price Index was reported to be down 4.9 percent over the last 12 months, but still 0.8 percent above its low, reached last August.
In both cases, sales volumes are far below what they were when the markets were booming, and a large proportion of the properties that are being sold were in trouble before the sale. The National Association of Realtors estimates that about 40 percent of existing homes that changed hands in March were either in foreclosure or were so-called short sales in which the house was sold for less than was owed on the existing mortgage.
The commercial property index, which is based on data collected by Real Capital Analytics, shows that 29 percent of transactions in February involved distressed properties — including those already in foreclosure or default, as well as those whose owners had filed for bankruptcy.
“Only when the share of distressed sales meaningfully drops off will we be able to enter the recovery phase,” said Tad Philipp, Moody’s director of commercial real estate research.
Standardized tests are enhancing and destroying reputations, opening and closing doors of opportunity, raising and lowering property values, starting and ending professional careers, determining the life chances of the young, and shaping the intellectual resources upon which America’s future largely hinges. You might think that with so much riding on the tests, every civic-minded person in the country would be demanding transparency, proof of validity, assurance that every item on every test had been examined from every possible perspective.
What’s Exxon going to do with this years’ record-breaking profits? If you said “buy a 60 percent stake in America’s largest solar panel manufacturing company,” you have wildly underestimated the degree to which its CEO would find that profoundly emasculating.
Cheese-eating surrender-monkeys have no such qualms, however, which is why French oil giant Total just dropped $1.38 billion on SunPower, a “stalwart U.S. solar manufacturer in Silicon Valley.”
This isn’t the first time a foreign company captured a large swath of the assets of a U.S. renewable energy firm. As Todd Woody reports, it happens all the time:
European energy conglomerates have been on the prowl for U.S. acquisitions to expand their portfolios of renewable energy companies.
French nuclear giant Areva last year acquired Ausra, a Silicon Valley solar thermal power plant maker, while Japan’s Sharp bought Recurrent Energy, a San Francisco commercial solar installer and power plant developer.
Could it be that these companies are a little more forward-thinking than America’s energy giants? Probably the answer is something like “Hey, we saved your ass in dubya-dubya 2, so shut up.”
This new House leadership bill, The Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act, introduced by House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy, (R-Calif.), would roll back existing protections and place at risk tens of millions more acres of wilderness-quality but unprotected National Forest and BLM public lands. It also prevents Congress or future administrations from using a national policy like the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule to protect these lands in the future.
“This is the biggest attack on wilderness we have seen in the history of The Wilderness Society,” Wilderness Society policy analyst Paul Spitler says. “These proposals fly in the face of Americans’ support for the stewardship of our public lands. They also fly in the face of nearly fifty years of legislation designating new wilderness areas. The tranquility of your favorite places where you love to hike, camp and watch wildlife? Gone. Protection for our drinking water? Gone.”
The McCarthy bill affects protected land all over the country from Alaska to West Virginia. In Nevada, Alder Creek and Burbank Canyons are two of the many special places that would lose protection.”
Opponents of taxpayer-funded embryonic stem cell research lost a key round in a federal appeals court Friday.
In a 2-1 decision, a panel of the U.S. court of appeals in Washington overturned a judge’s order that would have blocked federal financing of stem cell research. The judges ruled that opponents are not likely to succeed in their lawsuit to stop the government funding.
The panel reversed an opinion issued last August by U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, who said the research likely violates the law against federal funding of embryo destruction.
The White House praised the ruling. “Responsible stem cell research has the potential to treat some of our most devastating diseases and conditions and offers hope to families across the country and around the world,” said spokesman Nick Papas. He said the ruling was a victory for scientists and patients.
The lawsuit was filed in 2009 by two scientists who argued that Obama’s expansion jeopardized their ability to win government funding for research using adult stem cells ones that have already matured to create specific types of tissues because it will mean extra competition.
Lamberth, the chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Washington, issued a preliminary injunction in August to block the research while the case continued.
The Obama administration immediately appealed and requested the order be stopped. The appeals court quickly ruled that the research could continue at the National Institutes of Health while the judges took up the case.
The appeals court ruled Friday that Lamberth’s injunction would impose a substantial hardship on stem cell researchers at NIH, particularly because it would stop multi-year projects already underway. The appellate judges also noted that Congress has re-enacted the 1996 embryo-protection law, called the Dickey-Wicker amendment, year after year with the knowledge that the government has been funding embryonic stem cell research since 2001 evidence that Congress considers funding of such research permissible.
From The Atlantic:
For months, Arianna Huffington’s been trying to convince The New York Times and the general public that The Huffington Post is just as legitimate as its mainstream media counterparts. But this week, her journalistic credibility has taken a blow with the announcement that she’ll permit one of her journalists to financially invest in the businesses he reports on so long as he discloses that information.
It’s taken as gospel in journalism circles that reporters can’t be trusted to independently report on stories in which they have a financial stake. And for good reason: the words of reporters constantly influences the market valuations of businesses, making favorable coverage awfully tempting for the investor-journalist. Now to be fair, the journalist in question is no ordinary beat reporter: It’s Michael Arrington, founder of TechCrunch, which came under the control of AOL in September of last year (Huffington is now editor-in-chief of AOL’s content properties and AOL News may soon be defunct.) In the last few months, Arrington began investing in some of the companies his website covers. When Kara Swisher at All Things D caught on to this she began directing questions at AOL, which in turn prompted Arrington to disclose his financial investments. “This will all be fine,” said Arrington Wednesday, promising to disclose all of his investments. “I’ll still be very hard on companies I invest in when they deserve it.”
Arrington’s cavalier regard for journalistic pieties surprised few: He’s never fashioned himself an orthodox journalist. Arianna Huffington, however, is constantly touting her respect for real, quality journalism. And her justification for letting Arrington’s policy stand has satisfied very few.
That excuse isn’t going over well with media critics and Valley watchers. “I can’t see how Ms. Huffington can move forward in her key role at AOL, without making a strong case for an ironclad ethics policy– without exemptions,” writes Tom Foremski at ZDNet. “An ethics policy that allows for exemptions is a joke. By its very nature, it has to apply to all, or it applies to none.”
This is patent nonsense. Yes, Arrington was a tech investor before he was a tech journalist — and then he gave it up, voluntarily, for two years because, by his own admission, his activities as the former interfered with his credibility as the latter. As for the idea that being involved in the tech scene as an investor makes him a better informed observer, one might as well say that an energy reporter who consults for Halliburton and BP is better serving his readers through the insights he acquires moonlighting. It makes exactly as much sense.
Kara Swisher at All Things D piles on:
Where do I get such a faboo ethical hall pass from Content Principal Huffington? …She has put herself in word and deed right into the center of the debate on where news is going on the Web, especially after AOL paid $315 million for her Huffington Post news and opinion site… that power she has sought also gives her a responsibility to say exactly what that means on a real and granular and consistent level, beyond the platitudes of wanting to make great journalism that she declares all the time now.
Bercovici finishes his post with a deft comparison of the Huffington Post and The New York Times:
Arianna Huffington craves the respect of the journalistic establishment. That’s clear. That’s why she’s been so keen to lock horns with the editor of The New York Times, and to hire his people.
But the Times, whatever its shortcomings, has a serious commitment to ethics, as embodied by its extensive ethics policy. And it understands that its rules are meaningless if they’re only applied when it’s convenient, or to those who are happy to abide by them, or to those without the power to wrangle exemptions. In fact, it’s the stars who need to be policed most strictly since they’re the ones whose words carry the greatest influence.
Ball’s in your court, Arianna.
I just got this from Color of Change and I think it’s worth doing. Breitbart is slowly being mainstreamed despite his history of racism, cons and hoaxes. He is one of the most malignant figures in politics today and Maher needs to be schooled about that.:
We just learned that tonight, Andrew Breitbart — the man behind the take-down of Shirley Sherrod — will appear on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher.” Turns out this will be the second time that Maher has had Breitbart on since Breitbart was exposed as a fraud in the Sherrod incident. In the first show, despite Breitbart having recently been shown to be a con-artist, Maher referred to him kindly as a “publisher and journalist” and engaged him as a credible commentator.1
Bill Maher needs to hear from us — if Breitbart is going to appear on his show at all, Maher needs to tell his audience that Breitbart is neither a journalist nor a commentator — that in fact he’s a liar, a race-baiter, and a con-artist. Maher needs to know that it’s irresponsible for him to give Breitbart a stage without making Breitbart’s history and penchant for deception clear.
Can you make a quick phone call to Maher’s show? The script below makes it easy (or you can come up with your own).
(323) 575-7702 – Real Time with Bill Maher
I figure you can come up with your own, so I’m not including the script. Maher is a usually a good fellow and his show is often the only place where anyone’s truly challenging these wingnuts. But Brietbart is beyond the pale and in his first foray Maher did not seem to know it. (He also features Brietbart’s Lieutenant Dana Loesch, who is equally unacceptable, but got usefully challenged in her last appearance.)
If you have the time to register a polite complaint, it might do some good.
In yet another installment of the Breitbart sagas, a bit of controversy has erupted over the veracity of two videos posted on BigGovernment’s site under the careful editorial eye of Dana Loesch, et al. They claim that two university professors are indoctrinating young, impressionable college students with commie union thug tactics. And of course, they have the video to prove it, or so they say.
[I can’t link directly to the video because: “This video has been removed because its content violated YouTube’s Terms of Service.
Sorry about that.” You can view it at the link.]
Here is the first of two videos posted by Breitbart on YouTube and then posted to BigGovernment.com with this headline: “Thuggery 101: Union Official, Professor Teach College Course in Violent Union Tactics” Neither video credits any outside party, both are posted on YouTube under the name Breitbart, and posted to BigGovernment.com by “Publius”, the ubiquitous-yet-anonymous right-wing crusader who always seems to unearth videos with very interesting edits, which often omit footage or rearrange the actual video to give an appearance that the speaker is saying the opposite of what was actually said. I have obtained the unedited versions of the video they used to make their claims of “thuggery” being taught at the university level and posted them below. As you will see from the transcripts and actual clips, some very creative editing took place.
Beginning with the first cut [:44 to 1:33] which appears to depict Giljum calling for union violence where warranted. Here is the edited version in transcript form:
GILJUM: And I think if you look at labor’s history over the years, you’ll find that we’ve had a very violent history with violent protests and certain instances strategically played out for certain purposes that industrial sabotage doesn’t have its place. I think it certainly does, but as far as — you know, and I can’t really honestly that I’ve never wished, that I’ve never been in a position where I’ve never wished harm on somebody — inflicting pain and suffering on some people —
[cut to Judy Ancel]
ANCEL: Violence is a tactic. And it’s to be — it’s to be used when it’s appropriate, the appropriate tactic.
Here’s the unedited version of Giljum:
In an email interview with ThinkProgress, Dr. Kevin Trenberth, one of the world’s top climate scientists, who has been exploring for years how greenhouse pollution influences extreme weather, said he believes that it is “irresponsible not to mention climate change” in the context of these extreme tornadoes. Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, added that the scientific understanding of how polluting our atmosphere with billions of tons of greenhouse gases affects tornadic activity is still ongoing:
It is irresponsible not to mention climate change. … The environment in which all of these storms and the tornadoes are occurring has changed from human influences (global warming). Tornadoes come from thunderstorms in a wind shear environment. This occurs east of the Rockies more than anywhere else in the world. The wind shear is from southerly (SE, S or SW) flow from the Gulf overlaid by westerlies aloft that have come over the Rockies. That wind shear can be converted to rotation. The basic driver of thunderstorms is the instability in the atmosphere: warm moist air at low levels with drier air aloft. With global warming the low level air is warm and moister and there is more energy available to fuel all of these storms and increase the buoyancy of the air so that thunderstorms are strong. There is no clear research on changes in shear related to global warming. On average the low level air is 1 deg F and 4 percent moister than in the 1970s.
Climate scientist Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, explains further that “climate change is present in every single meteorological event”:
The fact remains that there is 4 percent more water vapor–and associated additional moist energy–available both to power individual storms and to produce intense rainfall from them. Climate change is present in every single meteorological event, in that these events are occurring within a baseline atmospheric environment that has shifted in favor of more intense weather events.
Climate scientist Gavin Schmidt, climate modeller at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, concurred:
It is a truism to say that everything has been affected by climate change so far and therefore this latest outbreak must in some sense have been affected, but attribution is hard and the further down the chain the causality is supposed to go, the harder this is. For heat waves it is easier, for statistics on precipitation intensity it easier – there are multiple levels of good modelling, theory and observations to back it up. But we have much less to go on with tornadoes.
Those who deny the threat of polluting our climate system are not to blame for its fury — but none of us can shirk our responsibility to end our interference with the weather.
The San Francisco Chronicle is apparently in trouble with the White House for posting video of a protest against the White House’s treatment of suspected WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning. The Chronicle’s Carolyn Lochhead reports:
The White House threatened Thursday to exclude the San Francisco Chronicle from pooled coverage of its events in the Bay Area after the paper posted a video of a protest at a San Francisco fundraiser for President Obama last week, Chronicle editor Ward Bushee said. White House guidelines governing press coverage of such events are too restrictive, Bushee said, and the newspaper was within its rights to film the protest and post the video.
Chronicle reporter Carla Marinucci was the designated “pool” reporter at an Obama fundraiser–meaning that her write-up would be shared with other reporters who were not allowed into the event.
But something truly newsworthy happened–and she reported it:
At the St. Regis event, a group of protesters who paid collectively $76,000 to attend the fundraiser interrupted Obama with a song complaining about the administration’s treatment of PFC Bradley Manning, the soldier who allegedly leaked U.S. classified documents to the WikiLeaks website.
As part of a “print-only pool,” Marinucci was limited by White House guidelines to provide a print-only report, but Marinucci also took a video of the protest, which she posted in her written story on the online edition of the Chronicle at SFGate.com and on its politics blog after she sent her written pool report.
Many of the groups that Obama needs to turn out most enthusiastically in 2012—particularly young people, African-Americans, and Latinos—are still suffering the most as the economy crawls back from the Great Recession. That dynamic looms like a crack in the foundation for Obama’s reelection, which relies on those groups surging to the polls in 2012 after their participation sagged even more than usual in the 2010 midterms.
The continued strain on the groups at the core of Obama’s coalition underscores the political stakes in his recent turn toward deficit reduction. Obama’s pledge to reduce the deficit by about $4 trillion over the next 12 years has allowed him to shift the debate from whether to reduce the deficit to how. That’s much stronger terrain for Obama and Democrats—as demonstrated by the sharp backlash many congressional Republicans faced in town halls this week over the GOP’s proposal to convert Medicare into a voucher (or premium support) system.
But many liberal strategists fear that Obama could win this battle and lose the war in 2012. These critics argue that the tactical benefits of embracing greater deficit reduction come at a high cost: By agreeing that Washington must tighten its belt, the president has essentially precluded additional large-scale government efforts to stimulate growth and create jobs. “You are really conceding whatever the growth we have is the growth you are going to run with—and maybe even a little less, because you are going to start cutting spending,” says veteran liberal activist Robert Borosage, codirector of the Campaign for America’s Future.
It turns out that the base Obama needs to mobilize is composed of the very people who are hurting the most in this economy, particularly in light of the probably defection of some of the blue-collar whites who may have voted for him in 2008.
So, how are they going to deal with the fallout? Brownstein points out that African Americans are unwavering in their support, so he can count on that. But Latinos and young people are less enthusiastic. Their support is dropping rather precipitously and they are unreliable voters generally. But apparently they have figured out that they are gettable with the right message even if their own lives are grim:
Against those warning signs, the White House is betting that these young and minority voters will mostly look forward, not back, as they choose in 2012.
Oh boy. Apparently, polling shows that these groups tend to be more optimistic about the future than other groups and they think this indicates a residual faith in Obama. But I think that may be wishful thinking. Most young people assume they are going to be successful and many Latinos have a recent immigrant experience to draw upon and feel they have nowhere to go but up. I’m not sure they think Obama has anything to do with it, but maybe they do.
Perhaps more tellingly, they are counting on drawing a contrast between the administration and the other side showing that the Republicans want to close the borders and end Pell Grants. (In other words, they have nowhere else to go.) That may work, but in the face of a lousy economy and lots of cutting by the Democrats, I’m not sure there isn’t just a much chance that these people will decide that politics isn’t particularly relevant to their lives and that nobody is adequately representing their interests.
[S]econd-term presidential elections almost always unfold less as a choice than as a referendum on the incumbent. And that means Obama has placed a huge wager by embracing a fiscal strategy that denies him many tools to directly address the continuing struggles of African-Americans, Latinos, and young people. They may be at the margin of the economy, but they’re at the center of his electoral coalition.
Not to mention that it’s just plain wrong.
I would guess that he’s going to win regardless of any of this, not because he’s persuaded struggling citizens that he’s “winning the future” but because the Republicans are likely to run someone who will dampen mainstream GOP enthusiasm. Their best hopes are Romney, Pawlenty and Daniels and there are huge problems with all of them, not the least of which is a charisma gap the size of the Grand Canyon. And it’s not impossible that the Tea Party has captured enough of the nominating apparatus that they’ll nominate someone who’s shockingly extreme. I suspect that will get him through.
But, they are playing with fire assuming that they can rekindle the last campaign without tangible results to prove it. People are hurting and as Brownstein says, re-elections are a referendum on the current president. He can talk about the future all he wants, but people are going to judge him on the present.
WASHINGTON – Former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) on Friday tore into Democrats for launching a new outside group to aid President Barack Obama’s re-election efforts in part by raising undisclosed funds.
“Democrats who mirror the right-wing tactics of Karl Rove and David Koch do our nation no favors,” said Feingold, a longtime opponent of industry-funded elections who now helms Progressives United, according to Politico’s Ben Smith. “Our democracy is best served by rejecting the fundamentally corrupt strategy of embracing unlimited corporate influence.”
Yes, our democracy is best served by rejecting unlimited corporate cash, but guess what? — the supreme court has opened Pandora’s box. If you’re really concerned about the corporate takeover of America, you better make damn sure it’s President Obama picking the next several supreme court justices and not generic Tea Party candidate #1.
“Mirror the right-wing tactics of Karl Rove and David Koch?”
President Obama and a handful of Senators are all that stand between us and total corporate hegemony, so I don’t find Russ Feingold’s efforts to strike campaign-gold in Wisconsin to be all that amusing.
Feingold voted to confirm Chief Justice John Roberts, by the way.
Democrats with ties to the Obama White House on Friday are launching a two-pronged fundraising effort aimed at countering deep-pocketed GOP groups in 2012 — and adopting some of the same policies on unlimited, secret donations that President Barack Obama himself has long opposed, the organizers tell POLITICO.
The two groups, Priorities USA and Priorities USA Action, aim to raise $100 million to defend Obama’s reelection bid from an expected onslaught of attack ads from similar Republican outside money organizations activated in the 2010 midterms, organizers say.
“While we agree that fundamental campaign finance reforms are needed, Karl Rove and the Koch brothers cannot live by one set of rules as our values and our candidates are overrun with their hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Bill Burton, a former White House spokesman and co-founder of the organization.
“We will follow the rules as the Supreme Court has laid them out, but the days of a double standard are over,” he added.
One of the more important political developments of the day is news of a new progressive campaign operation called Priorities USA. But as the group’s efforts get underway, it’s worth having a debate about principles and pragmatism.
If the model sounds familiar, there’s a good reason for that — it’s basically the same setup Karl Rove helped put together with Crossroads GPS. Just as with Rove’s operation, Priorities USA will benefit from unlimited, secret donations, including funds from lobbyists and political action committees whose checks Obama won’t accept.
Some credible voices on the left aren’t happy about this, and Republicans are already screaming bloody murder, accusing Democrats of hypocrisy. On the surface, that seems like a legitimate point — Dems, including the president himself, spent a fair amount of time just last year condemning the notion of secret contributions in campaigns. Now, Priorities USA intends to do exactly what Dems said they’re against.
And while I think that criticism seems fair — I’m against unlimited, secret donations, too — the larger context is critically important. Greg Sargent has a smart post on this.
…Obama and Democrats would close this group down tomorrow if groups on the right agreed to do the same. This is not a matter of spin or argument. It’s a matter of simple factual reality that Obama and Democrats have long supported, and continue to support, legislation that would outlaw such non-disclosure — even for themselves. Dems believe the rules that allow undisclosed spending are wrong, and support changing those rules — even for themselves. By contrast, Republicans want to keep the rules as they are, because they believe undisclosed spending is a right that should be protected.
The point is that a change in the rules is not currently possible in the real world. That leaves Dems with two choices. They could ask their donors to play by different rules than GOP donors are playing by…. The alternative for Dems is that they play within the rules just as Republicans are, while continuing to advocate for a change in those rules.
Exactly. Conservatives on the Supreme Court created a new landscape. Democrats would prefer this legal environment didn’t exist, but it’s not up to them. To be sure, Dems could stick to principle, refuse to play by the new rules, and make defeat far more likely, or they could level the playing field and (to mix metaphors) fight fire with fire.
I’m inclined to think the latter is the smarter move. National campaigns in which Republicans, the Koch brothers, and Karl Rove are held to one standard, while Democrats voluntarily abide by a more difficult standard is a recipe for failure.
The national discourse doesn’t benefit from these new rules. But the discourse also suffers when only one side follows the rules to get its message out to voters. There’s no need for a double standard, and it seems Priorities USA will ensure there isn’t one.
Paul Begala, who is also helping lead this effort, had an extremely amusing response to a question from Greg on this, noting, among other things, “We strongly support reform. We support new laws to require transparency of all donations. We support repealing the wrongheaded Citizens United ruling. But, to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, you go to war with the laws you have, not the laws you wish you had. Mr. Rove, the billionaire Koch brothers, the Chamber of Commerce, the NRA, the American Action Network, FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity, the Club for Growth, and other right-wing groups are projected to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to advance an extreme agenda which would hammer the middle class. We will not let their attacks go unanswered.”
The billionaire philanthropist says he wants to stay out of politics, at least for now.
Soros was one of three panelists speaking about a new edition of The Constitution of Liberty, the most enduring book by the libertarian economist Freidrich von Hayek. The editor of the new edition, Ronald Hamowy, was tasked with introducing the experts, moderating questions, and keeping the whole thing from becoming a circus. He eyed the audience warily, hopefully.
The worry was that someone would show up at the panel and decide to confront George Soros, philosophical dabbler, with George Soros, the nightmare figure who shows up on Fox News prime time the way Emmanuel Goldstein showed up at the Two Minutes Hate. Soros, who made his billions in international finance, has funded many of the new institutions of the professional left since George W. Bush started seeking re-election. He seeded ACT, a get-out-the-vote project that didn’t quite work in 2004, and then he helped fund the Center for American Progress ($3 million) and Media Matters for America ($1 million, only last year). Entering politics, he became a political target. He’s the sort of billionaire whose website has to include a FAQ about where he was when the Nazis invaded Eastern Europe, because someone who Googles his name and “collaborator” gets a lot of false results.
“Although I am often painted as the representative of the far left and I am certainly not free of political bias,” said Soros, “I readily recognize that the other side is half right in claiming that the government is wasteful and inefficient and ought to function better. But I also continue to cling to the other half of the truth, namely that financial markets are inherently unstable and need to be regulated. Moreover, I am profoundly worried that those who proclaim half truths as the whole truth, whether they are from the left or the right, are endangering our open society.”
Soros said all of this to an audience whose chairs were marked with plaques, thanking some donor or another who’d helped build the auditorium. Among the names on the plaques were “Charles Koch.” The left that Soros didn’t quite want to be lumped in with has become obsessed with the Kochs, and with conservative and libertarian donors in general, and as Soros was speaking, some liberal donors were putting the finishing touches on Priorities USA and Priorities USA Action, which aim to raise $100 million to play in the 2012 election. There is an outright panic among some liberals about conservative money, and a sense that Their billionaires are more loyal than Our billionaires.
At Cato, as the questions started coming, it got harder to imagine Soros getting involved again at that level. Richard Epstein, a University of Chicago professor who shared the stage, ended his remarks by criticizing the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, and challenging Soros to live up to his talk about government waste and abuse.
Soros didn’t answer that, but he did criticize Dodd-Frank. “I look at the way the Dodd-Frank bill, and its failure to address the issues, how it was lobbied into incomprehension and inconsistency by special interests of various kinds,” he said.
Everyone from Boeing to Exxon Mobil to Dow Chemical does business with the government. Defense contractors obviously do. So do pharmaceutical companies that work with Uncle Sam through Medicaid and Medicare programs. The Sunlight Foundation has counted that 33 of the 41 companies among the top 100 campaign contributors over the last 20 years have all been government contractors of some kind.
In this sense, the idea is sort of clever, with the government using its authority over the federal procurement process to push back against a Supreme Court decision on campaign finance.
Last January, critics of the controversial Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court decision — which knocked down long-running restrictions on corporate campaign money in elections — envisioned an ominous scene. Anonymous corporate millions would flood into closely contested elections, elbowing out the influence of average voters, warned many (including the president).
Now, at the decision’s one-year anniversary, hard data is beginning to bear out the grave forecasts, contradicting even some of the Supreme Court’s own predictions. In the wake of Citizens United, outside groups in last year’s election spent more than four times what they’d funneled into the previous midterm cycle, in 2006, according to a new Public Citizen report. And voters will never know where much of it came from.
The scale of so much midterm money ($294.2 million in all) more closely resembles what was spent ($301.7 million) during the 2008 presidential election — suggesting voters have seen only a glimpse of what’s to come in 2012.
Still, he was struck by the speed with which these groups — organizations not tied to a candidate or a political party itself — were able to act on the new rules. The report relied on spending data turned over to the Federal Election Commission. Groups that didn’t disclose to the FEC any information about the sources of their money spent a combined $135.6 million (or 46 percent of the total).
Nearly half of the total, $138.5 million, came from just 10 groups. And seven of those organizations — including the ambiguously named American Action Network, American Future Fund and Americans for Job Security — provided no donor information.
That lack of transparency is at odds with one prominent prediction last January of what would happen.
The Federal Aviation Administration on Friday replaced three high-level managers in the nation’s air traffic control system following embarrassing incidents of controllers sleeping on the job and making potentially dangerous mistakes.
In a shake-up of the system, new managers were appointed to key positions overseeing the operation of airport towers and regional radar centers that handle planes flying at high altitudes, as well as approaches and departures, the agency said in a statement. A new manager was also appointed to run a regional radar center near Cleveland. The previous managers are being reassigned.
The performance of mid-level managers is also being reassessed, the FAA said. And teams of experts are examining several of the agency’s more complex facilities, including the Cleveland center and one on Long Island in New York, to ensure agency policies are being followed and professional standards upheld.
“This sends a powerful message, and it’s the right message,” said Gregory McGuirk, an associate professor of air traffic management at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla. “It’s one way to shake up the culture.”
But Missy Cummings, an associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said shuffling managers doesn’t get at the root cause of many of the incidents.
The limits of human physiology necessarily mean that night shift workers in all industries, not just controllers, are going to fall asleep on the job from time to time, said Cummings, a human factors expert. Boredom is also a factor. The less activity there is to keep workers’ minds engaged in the dead of night, the more likely they are to fall asleep, she said.
Mr. Secession himself wants more Federal aid, and he’s got no sense of shame in demanding it:
Texas Governor Rick Perry criticized the Obama administration on Thursday for not responding to a request for a disaster aid for the parched state, where wildfires have scorched nearly 2 million acres.
“You have to ask, ‘Why are you taking care of Alabama and other states?’ I know our letter didn’t get lost in the mail,” Perry, a Republican and frequent critic of the federal government, said after addressing a Texas emergency management conference.
In the 1970s, he was sued by the feds for not renting to African-Americans
Paul Ryan has a way of disarming people at his town hall meetings.
“Hi everybody!” he calls out cheerfully as he strides into the high school gym in Franklin, Wisconsin, holding the microphone talk-show-host style. “Wow! We never used to get so many people at these events.” After a few outraged voters made the national news confronting the Republican Budget Committee chairman, Ryan has begun acknowledging that his controversial budget proposal stirs passions, and urges his constituents to share their views openly and politely in front of the cameras.
It works. Ryan’s friendly, open demeanor relaxes the crowd. So does his pitch that his budget is really not as radical as they’ve heard—and that it won’t touch them personally.
“How many of you are fifty-five or over?” he asks the crowd in Franklin. Nearly every hand goes up. “This won’t affect you,” he says.
As he flips through PowerPoint slides, talking fast the whole time, he unleashes a cascade of charts and graphs he says show our economy being crushed under the weight of government spending.
“Welfare reform worked well in the 1990s, but it only reformed one program,” he says. “We need to reform the other entitlements.”
This is a stunning assertion. Welfare reform eliminated a pillar of the New Deal. For years, politicians have been afraid to touch Medicare and Social Security, because they are crucial protections not just for poor, disenfranchised women and children, who lost AFDC, but for middle-class retirees who vote in large numbers.
When people attack his plan, like a woman wearing a Wisconsin solidarity t-shirt , who told Ryan that his budget is “balanced on the backs of the poor,” and pointed out that we have “the lowest taxes on the rich ever,” he leans forward and nods and praises her politeness.
“Some people say, ‘Just raise taxes,’” Ryan says. “Trust me, it’s mathematically impossible,” to fix the deficit that way.
He displays a bar graph showing how closing tax loopholes (but keeping taxes low) would affect top earners much more than lower-income people. Voila! His tax plan looks progressive!
To a constituent who says that the entire deficit was created by Republican tax cuts and unfunded wars, Ryan says: “We just disagree from an economic perspective, but I appreciate your point.”
Taxing “economic producers,” he says, will cost jobs and hurt competitiveness.
You’d never guess, listening to his presentation, that the budget was in surplus, the economy was booming, and the top 1 percent of Americans were paying a tax rate of 39 percent just a decade ago.
Ryan’s pitch—that continuing tax cuts worth an average of $158,000 last year to people who made more than $1 million and dismantling the safety net is a “Path to Prosperity,”–flies in the face of recent experience. But that doesn’t seem to matter.
The retirees sitting right beside me in Franklin were not sure what to make of the economic arguments, so they fell back on their gut-level impressions of Ryan’s plain-spoken, approachable manner. “He seems all right,” said one.
Back in 1989 Roger Ailes, who now runs Fox News, wrote a book entitled “You Are the Message.” The essence of it was: It doesn’t matter what you say, it’s how you say it.
Paul Ryan has mastered that lesson.
Still, not everyone is buying it.
Ryan puts a fresh face on the rightwing agenda of social destruction.
Obama counters this beautifully when he defends the safety net. But by adopting Republican talking points about deficit reduction, he gives away the store, as my editor Matt Rothschild observes–http://www.progressive.org/wx0413b11.html
Instead, Democrats should take a lesson from Ryan–and Roger Ailes–and put their best foot forward when it comes to stimulus, foreclosure protections, and unemployment and health insurance protections.
If the Right demonstrates anything, it’s that you can sell economic policy just by being a fearless advocate for your own point of view.
Freshman Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR) became the latest Republican to face the ire of his own constituents for voting for the Medicare-ending GOP budget when he was repeatedly challenged by attendees at a town hall meeting in Jonesboro, AR last night.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is the first elected Republican to not just criticize, but mock the oafish maybe-presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Paul mocked Trump’s birtherism–and his economic smarts. Noting that Trump has said he’d force oil-exporting countries to lower gas prices, Paul said, “[Trump is] always complaining about the president’s education. What economic school teaches you that you can have a bully for a president who sets the prices by just telling countries what price they should charge? … That to me shows an economic simplicity that really may not be equivalent to the stature of being president.”
Paul is breaking from the comments of many prominent Republicans, including Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, who called The Donald “credible” before yesterday’s release of Obama’s long-form birth certificate. A couple weeks ago Sarah Palin encouraged Trump’s birther pursuits (even if she said she didn’t agree with them), telling Fox News, “More power to him!” Previous conservative criticism of the reality star has mostly come from unelected talking heads–like Karl Rove, who called Trump a “joke candidate.” Still, it’s notable that conservative blogger Michelle Malkin also cast Trump out of the conservative movement Thursday morning. On Fox and Friends, Malkin said that it was unfair that some pure-hearted birthers were being tagged as racists, but,
“Being called a racist does not make you a bona fide conservative–and I want to take that message straight to Donald Trump. … If you look at his actions, if you look at his positions on every core fiscal issue that matters to tea party conservatives, whether it’s the auto bailout, the TARP bailout, and health care… and precious issues like private property rights–Donald Trump has built his entire empire in defiance of core Tea Party principles. And it’s time for the Tea Party conservatives who’ve been flirting with Donald Trump to get serious themselves. … This is the one thing I agree on with President Obama–it’s time to get serious.”
There’s growing evidence that the Republican establishment is increasingly concerned about the heat members, particularly freshmen, are feeling back home over the Republican budget. Speaker John Boehner himself has inched away from it, saying “I’m not wedded to one single idea.” Perennial presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich took a page from Sarah Palin, and posted on his Facebook page his own idea for the plan which would make privatization voluntary.
So that’s establishment Republicans. You know that there’s a serious problem with this plan when Rep. Michele Bachmann, of all people, starts to back off.
In a blog post at RedState.com, potential 2012 candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) explained that she supported Ryan’s budget despite concerns about the Medicare scheme. “We must keep our promises to those who receive Medicare benefits,” she wrote, “and those who are nearing the age of Medicare eligibility.”
The House of Representatives recently signified their support of the Republican’s 2012 budget proposal which will reduce the federal budget by $4.4 trillion. It does so by cutting out unnecessary spending. It would defund ObamaCare of its unspent pre-appropriated funds which are an astonishing tens of billions of dollars that were buried in the bill by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Plus, it would make the tax code flatter and simpler, making Tax Day a less dreaded time of the year. I supported that budget blueprint, though I’ve expressed caution about how we approach the issue of Medicare. We must keep our promises to those who receive Medicare benefits, and those who are nearing the age of Medicare eligibility. Our challenge is to reduce the soaring amounts that government spends on health care, without burdening those who are most vulnerable.
Of course, she already voted for the thing that she now calls “a blueprint.” That Bachmann is now trying to sound like a voice of reason is kind of scary—there’s far loonier than her now in elected office in the United States. But it’s also encouraging, seeing that the loony branch of the party might be cluing in to just how far they’ve overreached.
Either way, using this vote to show the contrast between the two parties is going to be key for Democrats in 2012. But that will also have to mean protecting Medicare—and Social Security—against the rising tide of austerity fever.
The nation’s main firefighters’ union, long a strong supporter of Democratic candidates, announced on Tuesday that it would indefinitely suspend all contributions to federal candidates out of frustration with Congressional Democrats who, union officials say, have not fought harder against budget cuts and antiunion legislation.
The union, the International Association of Fire Fighters, said it would focus its contributions and energies on state and local races because many legislatures have sought to curtail collective bargaining or otherwise weaken public-sector unions.
Harold A. Schaitberger, the president of the 300,000-member union, said in an interview that he was dismayed with Democrats in Congress for not fighting harder against Republican budget cuts and efforts to weaken unions in more than a dozen state legislatures.
“We’re tired that our friends have not been willing to stand up and fight back on our behalf with the same ferocity, the same commitment that our enemies have in trying to destroy our members’ rights,” he said. “Quite frankly, our enemies are trying to kill us as a labor movement and union trying to represent workers and help the middle class.”
The firefighters’ announcement is a blow to Democrats, because the union often gives far more to Democratic candidates than Republican ones. It donated $1.9 million to Democratic candidates in national elections during the 2010 campaign cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, compared with $408,500 to Republicans.
About half of Americans, 47%, now have an unfavorable image of the Tea Party movement, the highest since it emerged on the national scene.
Gallup began tracking Americans’ views of the Tea Party in March 2010, when 37% had a favorable and 40% an unfavorable view. Those views stayed roughly the same through January of this year, but have now turned somewhat more negative. The April 20-23 USA Today/Gallup poll finds favorable opinions of the Tea Party movement dropping to 33%, from 39% in January, and unfavorable opinions rising to 47% from 42%. Twenty percent of Americans say they haven’t heard of the Tea Party or have no opinion of it.
In medical experiments on human beings, every patient must sign an “informed consent” form acknowledging the risks, and researchers are required to keep track of those statements.
But the doctors who conducted a controversial, widely publicized lung cancer study involving more than 50,000 patients at numerous hospitals were unable to locate 90 percent of the consent forms, according to a confidential review provided to The New York Times.
The finding casts further doubt on a clinical trial that made headlines in 2006 when it concluded that fully 80 percent of lung cancer deaths could be prevented through wide use of CT scans.
That trial, led by Dr. Claudia I. Henschke at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, drew sharp criticism from skeptics of cancer screening; the criticism intensified when The Times reported in March 2008 that the research was being financed in part by $3.6 million in grants from the parent company of the Liggett Group, a cigarette maker.
The confidential report on patient consent, dated Oct. 7, 2008, recommended that the trial be stopped. But it continues to this day, although not at Weill Cornell.
Several ethicists said the hospital was legally required to disclose the ethical problems documented by the secret review. That has not happened either.
Dr. Henschke, who has since left Weill Cornell for Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, declined to respond to the findings of the 2008 review, saying it was confidential. But in an e-mail, she said the responsibility for keeping track of consent forms lay with all the hospitals where the experiments were done.
“I-Elcap is a non-federally funded academic consortium of independent, autonomous sites that share certain data,” she wrote. “Accountability and responsibility for human protection lie at the local level.”
But Dr. Henschke’s research has been supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, and federal rules governing research conducted at multiple sites have long required that the coordinating center either collect copies of patient consent forms or ensure that they are being kept appropriately.
The American Cancer Society helped finance Dr. Henschke’s research, and some of her work was published in cancer journals owned by the society. Dr. Otis W. Brawley, the society’s chief medical officer, said any study underwritten by the organization must conform to federal research rules, including those that require that problems with informed consent be reported to federal science agencies.
He added that the society’s journals might have to correct or retract any study that proved unable to document that patients had given informed consent. “But I don’t want to prejudge the case,” Dr. Brawley said.
In November, a huge federal study found that annual CT scans of current and former heavy smokers reduced their risk of death from lung cancer by 20 percent and, even more surprising, seemed to reduce the risks of death from other causes as well.
Although the scale of the benefit was substantially less than Dr. Henschke claimed her research showed, the federal study was widely interpreted as confirming her longtime contention that CT screening can save lives from lung cancer, which kills more than 150,000 people each year in the United States. Most patients discover their disease too late for treatment, and 85 percent die from it.
Most Michigan city officials dread almost nothing more than the appointment of an emergency manager to oversee their affairs, especially now that those overseers have virtually limitless authority. But Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is threatening to request one if unions don’t accept his demands.
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said Thursday that he’ll request a state-appointed emergency financial manager if the city’s 48 employee unions don’t make health care concessions, or if the state does not agree to extend the city’s special allowance for income and utility taxes.
Either scenario, he said, would create a financial emergency, with the city already facing a $200-million deficit…
The mayor said he prefers negotiating concessions with city unions, but that he would “absolutely” ask the state for an emergency financial manager. An emergency manager would have broad powers to run the city, take over its finances and even terminate union contracts. The state treasurer could choose to appoint Bing, but if someone else is appointed, that person could take all control from the City Council and the mayor.
Imagine the state declaring Bing to be the emergency manager of his own city, essentially declaring him to be a dictator over the city he was elected to lead in a democratic manner along with the elected city council.
A Dane County, WI judge has approved a request by the state Government Accountability Board (GAB), which oversees elections in the state, to delay some state Senate recall elections and consolidate them into one day on July 12. In the course of making that decision, the judge turned back Democratic objections that some of their recalls should proceed as quickly as possible in June.
The GAB had sought the extension primarily on the grounds that the extraordinary number of recalls was straining their capacity to review signatures. On the other hand, as WisPolitics reported on Thursday, Democratic Party attorney Jeremy Levinson had argued in a court filing that delaying any of the recalls would do damage to the Dems, and create political space for the Republicans to do mischief with the extra time:
Levinson argues delaying the matter would give the incumbents an “extra-statutory” fundraising advantage, and leave representation of those districts “an open and pending question.”
In addition, Levinson argues that delaying the recall elections may result in laws being enacted that would not be if the recalls are held in the time frame permitted by statute.
“The rush to put ‘Voter ID’ and the concealed carry of firearms before the legislature — to say nothing of the pending budget — confirm that this is an entirely concrete concern,” Levinson writes.
In addition, as Jessica Arp from the local CBS affiliate reported from Judge Markson’s court hearing, Levinson also argued that the earliest petitions, against state Sen. Dan Kapanke and state Sen. Randy Hopper, were filed so quickly as a deliberate decision on the Dems’ part, in order to have the recalls move forward quickly while the issues are still fresh in the public mind.
Ultimately, though, Markson declared that it had become difficult or impossible for the GAB to meet the statutory deadline, and that the public would be better served by having the recalls held on a single day.
Wisconsin activists today filed more than 26,000 signatures today to recall the sixth Republican state senator—Robert Cowles of Green Bay—who voted for Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) bill to eliminate collective bargaining rights of public employees.
All the petitions have carried far more signatures than the minimum needed to qualify, which must equal 25 percent of the total vote for governor in November’s election in each Senate district. The Cowles petition needed just 15,960 signatures and the 26,524 represents 166 percent of the requirement.
Along with Cowles, recall petitions have been filed for Alberta Darling of River Hills, Shelia Harsdof of River Falls, Luther Olsen of Ripon, Dan Kapanke of La Crosse and Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac. Democrats need to win three seats to take control of the Senate.
Republicans targeted eight Democratic senators for recall, but filed petitions for just three and those have yet to be verified. They fell short and missed the deadline for four others. They still have a few days to file against their last target.
A U.S. Attorney in Missouri hinted that if the state passes a law banning Sharia law, the Department of Justice could challenge it in court.
Richard Callahan, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, was speaking at a panel in front of the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis Thursday night, John H. Tucker of the Riverfront Times reports, along with three FBI agents and other federal attorneys.
Callahan said that if the Missouri Sharia ban were to become law, it could be thrown out by the courts. “The Department of Justice has a good history of challenging laws passed by state legislatures,” he said. “If some laws are passed, I think you will see challenges by the federal government on the constitutionality of them.”
Last week the Missouri legislature voted 102-51 in favor of a bill that prevents the courts from considering any “foreign law, legal code, or system” when ruling on cases. The bill itself doesn’t specifically mention Sharia, but much of the debate has largely focused on it.
AND IN OTHER NEWS…
Hippies @ LA Love In
[Can you find me there?]
At a forum discussion on April 20 at Yale University featuring former DNC chair Howard Dean, Yale professor Jacob Hacker and student Daniel Hornung, president of Yale chapter of the Roosevelt Institute, Nation editor and publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel offered advice for liberals, progressives and the wider left on how to move forward and regain influence on politics in America. According to vanden Heuvel, the left should make politics about decency and security and grapple with the “libertarian strain” in US history. In fact, transpartisan alliances with people who would not normally be considered the left’s allies could go a long way to checking the rise of corporate power, vanden Heuvel says.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now and facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time is becausewe’re hardwired not to always think clearly when we’re scared. And the country’s scared.