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‘The Worst I’ve Seen By Far:’ Budget Cuts Meet Poverty in the Heartland

Common Cause:

For Jack Frech, director of the Athens County Department of Job and Family Services in Appalachian Ohio, the fact that Congress and statehouses across the country are pushing budgets that would further cut assistance for poor people is downright frightening.

I’ve been doing this work for thirty years and this is the worst I’ve seen it by far,” says Frech. “And when I say the worst, I mean the absolute worst.”

Frech says his clients are now “double and tripling up on housing,” and “only surviving because they wait in long lines at food pantries.” They are forgoing medical treatment, and trying to maintain “some old junk car” so they can “put in their 15 or 30 hours—whatever they’re lucky enough to find—to meet their work requirement so they can continue to receive assistance.”

But they’re still not even close to achieving minimal security.

“People on our programs get all the cash and food stamps they’re going to get, meet their work requirements, and still run out of food,” says Frech. “So we have to give food boxes out of our welfare department. That’s a first and it’s absurd.”

Frech says when he began working as a caseworker in 1973 it was far easier for Ohioans and citizens everywhere to get the help they needed.

“The presumption was if you were totally out of help everywhere else you go on down to the welfare department, you sign up, and you get help,” he says. “We’d give people a welfare check, food stamps, and they could find a place to live. It would certainly be humble—but people could have food on the table every day, they could survive.”

But the Clinton-Gingrich welfare reform deal shredded that safety net. It created the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant to replace Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) which had guaranteed cash welfare to poor families with kids since 1935. It also severely limited the funds available.

“Most people don’t realize that welfare reform froze the money for poor people at the 1995 level and has kept it there ever since,” says Frech. “With costs and demands increasing, there is far less money available for programs. And still, nobody is talking about putting one dime more into it.”

The block grant allowed states wide discretion in terms of eligibility, benefit levels, and how the funds would be used. While Republicans and Democrats have both touted caseload reductions as evidence of success, the reductions aren’t due to there being fewer poor families, but a smaller proportion of poor families receiving benefits.

“States have implemented restrictive policies to reduce the number of families who are eligible for assistance,” says Dr. LaDonna Pavetti, vice president at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).

According to Pavetti, in 1994-95 there were seventy-five families receiving AFDC benefits for every one hundred in poverty. By 2008-09, that number shrank to just twenty-eight families enrolled in TANF for every one hundred in poverty. The impact is borne disproportionately by children.

“There are 14.8 million children living in families with below-poverty income and only 3.4 million of those children are receiving TANF-funded benefits,” said Gordon Berlin, president of MDRC, in recent testimony to Congress.

Many families were denied benefits for failing to meet rigid work requirements that don’t take into account an individual family’s circumstances….TANF reauthorization in 2005 also made it more difficult for adults who wish to improve their job skills to count education or training towards their work requirement. […]

“Contrary to what most people seem to believe,” says Frech, “what these folks want most of all is a good job. Their motivation to take care of the people they love is every bit as strong in them as it is in anyone else.”

For those families who do receive TANF benefits, the amount is paltry—less than half of the federal poverty line ($9,155 annually for a family of three) in all states, and less than 30 percent of the poverty line in over half the states.

“When you have kids that you know need food, need shelter, need help, and you intentionally only give them half of what you know they need—if we really cared about kids in this country we’d fix this problem,” says Frech.

Instead, Frech—who has testified at the Ohio General Assembly on every budget since 1979—has watched life grow increasingly difficult for poor people with budget cuts and tax cuts for the wealthy passed on a bipartisan basis over the past decade.

“Both Congress and the Ohio General Assembly still have this bizarre notion that if we just channel enough money to rich folks they’re going to come down here to Athens, or Meigs or Vinton County and invest money in jobs down here in Appalachia,” says Frech. “It’s been proven untrue year after year after year—and yet both parties keep selling it to us anyway.”

As a result, Frech’s department has been forced to cut services at precisely the time when the need is greatest. For example, a dental program which helped 150 clients per month was eliminated; a program helping 690 clients study and work at community college was cut to 500, and slots continue to decline; a summer employment program for teenagers and young adults had 138 participants but received zero funding this year, even with record youth unemployment rates; money to help people with fuel and automobile repairs so that they could fulfill their TANF work requirement was also eliminated.

“If you’re living on $300 to $400 per month, you don’t have money to get your car fixed, or pay for gasoline,” says Frech. “So, these are people who literally have to take food out of their kids’ mouths in order to sweep the county garage and meet their work requirement. And that situation is going to get worse with the next round of budget cuts.”

Frech says he listens in disbelief as politician after politician—from state legislators to President Obama—claim to be “protecting the most vulnerable people, especially children” but support budgets that make the lives of poor people and kids harder.

“Things are just so much harsher now, the way we treat poor people,” says Frech. “It makes you wonder—who is going to champion their cause? When you keep your eyes open to how much people are hurting out there, there’s a lot of nights I don’t sleep.”


PA gov sticking to education cuts, mulling tax cuts even tho his state is running a surplus


Boehner declares tax hikes ‘off the table,’ drawing White House rebuke

The White House also denounced Boehner’s demand a day earlier for more than $2 trillion in spending cuts in exchange for Republican agreement to raise the U.S. debt limit. Press secretary Jay Carney likened the demand to a hostage-taking, telling reporters, “It is folly to hold hostage the vote to raise the debt ceiling . . . to any other piece of legislation.” He said increasing the debt limit is intended to prevent the United States “from defaulting on its obligations.” […]

“What some are suggesting is we take the money from people who would invest in our economy and create jobs and give it to the government,” Boehner said. “The fact is you can’t tax the people we expect to invest in the economy and create jobs. Washington doesn’t have a revenue problem. Washington has a spending problem.” […]

Delivering a sermon on fiscal austerity to a Wall Street crowd clamoring for compromise on the debt limit, Boehner firmly rejected any effort to raise taxes. He also called on Democrats to engage in “honest conversations about how best to preserve Medicare,” signaling that House Republicans remain committed to restructuring at least some portions of the program. […]

Boehner’s terms referred specifically to discussions about raising the debt limit. His speech suggests that Republicans will try to extract as much as they can from that debate, before the parties move on to broader discussions about the nation’s long-term fiscal problems. Democrats had indicated a desire to limit the scope of debt-ceiling talks.


What’s next in the battle over the debt ceiling?

Greg Sargent:

The real question, as Ezra Klein notes this morning, is whether any kind of deal involving multi-trillions in cuts can be achieved within the extremely tight time frame involved. What remains remarkable about this story is that everyone has already agreed that the debt ceiling must be raised, period, full stop. Yet Boehner, by drawing a harder line than the White House and Democrats, has all but ensured that a deal will be reached that involves major concessions by Dems in exchange for something that was seen as inevitable from the outset.

* Inside Boehner’s debt ceiling strategy: Politico asks: If Boehner doesn’t win over the trillions in cuts he’s seeking, then how will he explain it to the Tea Party and to conservatives who are demanding no surrender?

My quick answer: Just as during the brinkmanship over spending cuts, Boehner will drag us as close to the brink as possible right now on the debt ceiling, in order to make it easier to sell House conservatives on the eventual compromise later, by arguing he did everything humanly possible to extract maximum concessions.

How Obama could call Boehner’s bluff: Jon Chait suggests that Obama ask Boehner to spell out how he would achieve those trillions in cuts:

It seems to me that Obama’s play here is clear: He needs to ask Boehner to spell out his demands. What’s the exact bill that Boehner demands as a condition for not crippling the U.S. economy? If he wants to make demands, he needs to write out those demands.

* Senate GOP won’t take the Medicare plunge: Relatedly, it’s becoming clearer that real Medicare cuts — which Boeher would have to push in order to get those trillions — are politically toxic. Evidence? The Hill has the scoop on the widening GOP rift over Paul Ryan’s Medicare proposal:

Senate Republicans have decided to avoid jeopardizing their chances of capturing the upper chamber in next year’s elections and will not echo the House GOP’s call for a major overhaul of the popular health entitlement for seniors.

This is the first major difference between Senate and House Republicans, and suggests the Dem efforts to render the Ryan plan politically toxic may be paying off.

If “uncertainty” must be avoided at all costs, Boehner’s debt-ceiling strategy borders on mental illness

Steve Benen:

Last week, after a pretty encouraging monthly jobs report, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had to figure out a way to complain about good news. He relied on an old stand-by.

“Our economy continues to suffer from the uncertainty being caused for private-sector job creators by the Democrats who run Washington,” he said. In the same press release, though, Boehner added, “Congressional Republicans have made clear there will be no debt limit increase unless it is accompanied by significant spending cuts and reforms.”

The irony was lost on the Speaker. In one paragraph, he decried “uncertainty” and said it’s holding back the economy. In another paragraph, Boehner boasted of his party’s intention to create more uncertainty, on purpose. […]

As a matter of public policy, the Republican obsession with “uncertainty” has always been a transparent sham. The economy has struggled through the Great Recession for a variety of reasons, but the evidence that Democratic policies are responsible for generating recovery-stunting uncertainty is imaginary.

But what’s truly fascinating here is the disconnect between Boehner’s ostensible beliefs and Boehner’s threats. The Speaker and his caucus have insisted, ad nauseum, that they’re prepared to deliberately destroy the American economy by blocking a debt-ceiling increase. Indeed, he did so again last night. So far, investors and global markets don’t really believe them — why would American officials screw over their own country on purpose? — but GOP officials keep saying it anyway.

If uncertainty is so scary, and policymakers must do all that they can to stomp out uncertainty wherever it exists, the Republican strategy borders on mental illness. The House Speaker is creating uncertainty while decrying uncertainty, and makes no effort to even acknowledge the cognitive dissonance.


White House takes dim view of Boehner debt plan


“To hold one hostage to the other remains extremely unwise,” Carney told reporters on Air Force One as Obama flew to Texas.

The White House believes Obama has already offered a balanced plan that would achieve $4 trillion without cutting entitlement programs for the elderly and poor.

Obama believes bipartisan negotiations led by Vice President Joe Biden, which resume on Tuesday, can lead to an agreement on further substantial reduction, a senior White House official said.

“But it is simply irresponsible to declare that you will tank the U.S. economy if you don’t get what you want,” the official said.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has warned of economic catastrophe if the federal government’s borrowing authority is not increased and has told Congress that he will be able to stave off default until August 2 by drawing on other accounts once the debt limit is reached.

An increase of $2 trillion will be needed to cover the country’s borrowing needs through the November 2012 elections, Treasury officials have told lawmakers, but Congress could opt for a smaller increase if more time is needed to hash out a deal.

Obama wants to raise taxes on wealthier Americans and shield popular entitlement programs like the Social Security and Medicare programs for the elderly.


Succinct takedown of why GOP budgeting is bad for America

The Missoulian:

Their budget goes something like this: First, they’ll need to borrow a trillion dollars from the Chinese (remember, we’re broke). Second, they’ll give millionaires and billionaires a trillion dollar tax cut (creates jobs!). To pay for it, Republicans gut Medicare and Medicaid of a trillion (they’re pesky socialism programs, anyways). Elegantly simple. And downright dangerous. […]

Please, if you remember only one thing about the Republican budget and its priorities, it’s this: It borrows a trillion from China. Gives the trillion to the ultra-rich. Ultimately, it is paid for on the backs of seniors, the disabled, and the poor. Sadly, these are Republican values. I get it. But I resolutely reject it. All Americans must reject it.




Winning by losing? U.S. manufacturing could make a comeback as wages fall, workers make concessions

This is either really good news, or incredibly depressing.

Tyler Durden at ZeroHedge spots a trend that could mean big upside for U.S. states (mostly in the south) who are pushing their wage scales lower, through “right to work laws” that hobble unions:

A rather controversial perspective on “reverse labor mobility” has recently seen a revival following the release of BCG’s analysis: “Made in the USA, Again: Manufacturing Is Expected to Return to America as China’s Rising Labor Costs Erase Most Savings from Offshoring” which claims that “within the next five years, the United States is expected to experience a manufacturing renaissance as the wage gap with China shrinks and certain U.S. states become some of the cheapest locations for manufacturing in the developed world.”

Is that good news?

While this topic, as we will shortly see courtesy of SocGen is far from taken for granted, could be the deus ex machina that could provide the historic jobs boost to Obama’s second presidential campaign (should he get that far), it could also explain the eagerness of the Fed to continue exporting US inflation to China. If the latter is indeed the case, it would mean that the Fed will do everything to continue flooding the world with excess liquidity if for no other reason than to see Chinese inflation reach an out of control state, and wages explode, in an outcome that would ultimately undo the great manufacturing job outsourcing phase that marked the 1990s and 2000s. If successful, it would indeed lead to a second US renaissance in manufacturing jobs.

Ok, so it is good!

However, will China allow its economy to lose the competitive wage advantage it has held for decades over the US, an outcome which would culminate in riots, as unemployment in the billion + nation goes parabolic. Of course, the conspiratorially minded can imagine a scenario in which the inflationary transference plan concocted by the Chairman has one goal and one goal only: to cause labor cost parity between the US and China in the shortest amount of time. The only two question in this case are: how long until China realizes what is going on, and how will it react?

Ohh… riots …





There are many misconceptions re: federal debt & deficit. Our Federal Budget 101 materials contain a primer


The No-Brainer awards

Ezra Klein:

Today, I want to introduce the No-Brainer Awards: a roll call honoring some of the best legislative ideas you won’t see leading the evening news. These thoughtful bills and responsible reforms aren’t polarizing or sweeping, which you’d think would make it easier for them to pass. But for many of them, the absence of partisan passion means they never make it to the front of the congressional agenda. So let’s give them a push.

The taxpayer receipt: When I buy groceries, I get a receipt. When I buy a chair whose name I can’t pronounce from Ikea, I get a receipt. But once a year, I send a whole heap of money to the federal government and I get . . . nothing. But it would be trivial for Treasury to provide me with an itemized receipt showing how my money was spent. Then, for good or for bad, I’d know.

The White House created an online tool where you can enter your income and tax payments and see what your receipt would look like (make your own at, but there are bipartisan bills in both the House and the Senate to go even further and have Treasury send all taxpayers the receipt they deserve.

The Weekend Voting Act: Ever wondered why Election Day always falls on a Tuesday? It dates to 1845, when Congress was trying to find a convenient day for a largely agrarian society to vote. It took many voters a day or so to travel into town, and a day to travel back out, and it was important for everyone to be home on Sunday, as that was the Lord’s day. So Tuesday seemed like a good compromise. And maybe, in 1845, it was. But in 2011? It looks less like a compromise and more like a conspiracy.

“They don’t want you to vote,” Chris Rock said. “If they did, we wouldn’t vote on a Tuesday.”

Rep. Steve Israel and Sen. Herb Kohl have a bill that would move Election Day to the first full weekend in November — two days when most Americans don’t have to work, drop their kids off at school or rush home to prepare dinner. A compromise, in other words, that fits the economy in 2011 rather than the economy in 1845.

End the penny: In 2007, economist Austan Goolsbee wrote an op-ed article in which he asked, “How dumb do you have to be to mint money at a loss?” Goolsbee is now President Obama’s chief economic adviser, so it would be unwise for him to answer his own question. But I’ll do it for him: really, really dumb. And we’re doing it.

It now costs 1.7 cents to pound out a penny, which means we’d save billions of dollars by retiring the hardy coin.

And it’s time to get rid of it anyway. America has never kept a coin in circulation that’s worth as little as the penny is today. In 1867, when the half-cent coin was phased out, the penny was worth 26 cents at today’s rates. But today we’ve got a coin worth 25 cents. It’s time for the penny to enjoy a well-deserved rest.

The Pay for War Act: War costs money. When we don’t pay for it, it costs even more money, because we have to pay interest on the debt we rack up and the absence of fiscal discipline keeps us from making hard choices.

That’s why Sen. Al Franken’s Pay for War Act should be such an easy sell. The resolution says nothing about the legitimacy or desirability of armed intervention. It just says that we, rather than our grandchildren, should bear the cost of the conflicts we start.

As Franken said in an eloquent speech on the floor of the Senate, “The idea that we should pay for our wars is not a Democratic idea, and it’s not a Republican idea. It’s not left or right. It’s not antiwar, it’s not pro-war. It’s just common sense.” Or, to put it slightly differently, it’s just a No-Brainer.

Stop hogging the beachfront: We can see our physical infrastructure crumbling. In fact, we can feel it wreck our suspension as we drive over it. But our invisible infrastructure — the electromagnetic spectrum that carries all information that doesn’t come through a cord — isn’t in much better shape.

We handed off the rights to the best of it, the “beachfront” spectrum that can carry lots of information over long distances, decades ago, when broadcast television seemed like the height of technological achievement and no one had ever heard of an iPad. But now there’s no good way for the television guys to sell it to the iPad guys, or the iPhone guys, or even the emergency broadcast guys. So they sit on it.

Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Kay Bailey Hutchison have legislation that would allow spectrum holders to sell at auction, giving them a reason to give it up to more productive uses and free the innovations of the 21st century from the decisions we made in the 20th.


Adult Conversation


Erskine Bowles, co-chairman of President Obama’s debt commission:

We have started an adult conversation that will dominate the debate until the elected leadership here in Washington does something real.

Alan Simpson, the other co-chair:

Alan Simpson’s cold relationship with AARP is no secret, but the former Republican Senator from Wyoming took it to a new level Friday. At an event hosted by the Investment Company Institute, Simpson delighted the finance industry audience members by aiming a rude gesture at the leading lobby for senior citizens.

Actually, the rude gesture (more detail, please?) was the least of it. If you follow the link, you’ll find Simpson repeating a whole series of zombie lies about Social Security. He repeats the idea that nobody collected benefits in the beginning because life expectancy at birth was only 63 (life expectancy at age 65, which is what matters, was almost 80 for women and 78 for men). He claims that nobody saw the future burden of the baby boomers, when the Greenspan commission reforms in the 1980s were all about precisely that. And on and on.

And when confronted with contrary numbers taken straight from the Social Security Administration, he claims that they’re left-wing fabrications.

So, let’s get this right: the adults are the people who, bad manners aside, don’t know the first thing about the programs they’re so eager to dismantle. And we’re supposed to take their advice because they’re wise men, don’t you know.


Will the bottoming-out of the housing market mean the beginning of a real recovery?

The Economist:

THIS morning, several news outlets are reporting on new home price data from Zillow which shows that prices fell 3%, quarter-on-quarter, in the first three months of the year. That’s in line with Case-Shiller data and not particularly surprising. Interestingly, it seems as though Fannie and Freddie are unloading a lot of foreclosed properties, a development which is holding down prices. Obviously, this effect is concentrated in markets with lots and lots of foreclosures—largely those in the West, Florida, and other hotspots like Atlanta and Detroit. […]

For new housing consumers—renters and buyers—falling prices are a good thing; they boost disposable income. Falling prices may delay a recovery in construction activity, but even during the housing boom years the most residential investment ever contributed to the real GDP growth rate was 1.04 percentage points, and most quarters the contribution was well below that. Housing simply isn’t going to lift GDP growth from 1.7% to 5%. I suppose one might argue that rising prices would allow more household to borrow against their homes, boosting consumption, but it’s difficult to imagine that phenomenon recurring in strength for some time, particularly given how diminished home equity currently is.


The Rejected Windfall by Florida

After Gov. Rick Scott of Florida thoughtlessly rejected $2.4 billion in federal aid for a high-speed rail line, he claimed last month that he was doing a huge favor for the national Treasury, which he expected would give away the money in tax cuts. That was nonsense, of course; Mr. Scott was really doing a favor for train passengers in the Northeast, Midwest and California, which were given $2 billion of his money on Monday for better service.

Florida voters might want to think about that decision as they sit in traffic jams, burning up $4-a-gallon gasoline. In fact, some of them clearly have thought about it because Mr. Scott now has some of the worst approval ratings of a Florida official in the last decade.

He has joined other newly elected Republican governors so rigidly opposed to the Obama administration that they are willing to harm their states to score points. The result is a crazy quilt of state relationships with Washington, stitched more with ideology than reason.

None of the money in Monday’s announcement will be going to Wisconsin, for example, where Gov. Scott Walker has also decided that his strapped state could do without rail improvements and the construction jobs that go with them. Nor will it go to Ohio, where Gov. John Kasich preferred rejectionism to the improvement of rail service among the state’s largest cities, which could have produced 16,000 jobs.

Instead, it will go to 15 states that have more farsighted leadership, who understand the important role federal dollars can play in stimulating the economy, moving people quickly from place to place and reducing tailpipe emissions. Some of those states are led by Republicans: Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan happily stood beside Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Monday to accept nearly $200 million to upgrade the rail line between Dearborn and Kalamazoo, the bulk of the Chicago-Detroit corridor. […]

Transportation is not all that is at stake. Last year, Utah Republican lawmakers tried to refuse $101 million in federal money intended to save teachers’ jobs; they backed down when it was clear that Washington could send the money directly to school districts. Oklahoma and other states have rejected federal dollars connected to health care reform. Earlier this year, Missouri nearly rejected extended jobless benefits for 10,000 residents after a handful of Republicans said the money was wasteful.

Refusenik Republicans glorify shopworn principles like smaller government and states’ rights. They will have to defend them to their voters when the public hears the passenger trains whistling from the next state over.


Pitiful wages, anti-union policies and corporate welfare to make America competitive with China

According to a Boston Consulting Group report, the US is in for a manufacturing renaissance, thanks to plummeting wages and toothless labor protection policies in the American south. These factors, combined with the rising value of the Chinese RMB, rising wages in China and government handouts for corporations who locate in the USA make it more profitable to pay sub-starvation wages in America than in China.

But will American workers be willing to sign pledges promising not to commit suicide?

With Chinese wages rising at about 17 percent per year and the value of the yuan continuing to increase, the gap between U.S. and Chinese wages is narrowing rapidly. Meanwhile, flexible work rules and a host of government incentives are making many states–including Mississippi, South Carolina, and Alabama–increasingly competitive as low-cost bases for supplying the U.S. market…

“Workers and unions are more willing to accept concessions to bring jobs back to the U.S.,” noted Michael Zinser, a BCG partner who leads the firm’s manufacturing work in the Americas. “Support from state and local governments can tip the balance.”

Reinvestment During the Next Five Years Could Usher in a ‘Manufacturing Renaissance’ as the U.S. Becomes a Low-Cost Country Among Developed Nations, According to Analysis by The Boston Consulting Group


Massive opposition to taxpayer-funded Vikings stadium

Why Spending Must Rise


The key thing to remember, always, is what the federal government does: it is basically an insurance company for old people that also has an army. Look at a normal year, like 2007 (things are distorted right now by the cost of safety net programs.) What you’ll find is that about half of total spending was on programs for seniors: Social Security, Medicare, much of Medicaid, and other retirement and disability programs. Half the rest is defense.

So why can’t this insurance company with an army make do with the same level of spending it had in 2007?

First and most obviously, the baby boomers are retiring. Look at the old-age dependency ratio. For the past 20 years we’ve had about 21 Americans over 65 for every 100 Americans between 20 and 64. But by 2020 that number will rise to 27.5; by 2030 it will rise to 35. So half the budget now is devoted to programs that will have to serve a lot more people fairly soon.

Add to this the rising cost of health care: even if we take strong steps to control costs (death panels!), costs will surely rise faster than GDP for some time to come.

And one more thing: yes, the deficits we’ve been running since the financial crisis — deficits we had to run to avoid another Great Depression — will mean higher interest costs, too.

This is why the idea of capping spending at historical levels, while it may sound reasonable if you don’t know anything about these facts, is in fact a recipe for savage cuts in federal programs. If that’s what you want to do, OK, go ahead and say that; but the whole point of the cap proposals is, of course, to call for drastic benefit cuts without admitting that that’s the actual goal.


The world’s largest commodities trader is issuing a stock sale, and critics say the firm causes spikes in food prices.




Koch foundation buys Florida State U

A conservative billionaire who opposes government meddling in business has bought a rare commodity: the right to interfere in faculty hiring at a publicly funded university.

A foundation bankrolled by Libertarian businessman Charles G. Koch has pledged $1.5 million for positions in Florida State University’s economics department. In return, his representatives get to screen and sign off on any hires for a new program promoting “political economy and free enterprise.”

Traditionally, university donors have little official input into choosing the person who fills a chair they’ve funded. The power of university faculty and officials to choose professors without outside interference is considered a hallmark of academic freedom.

Under the agreement with the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, however, faculty only retain the illusion of control. The contract specifies that an advisory committee appointed by Koch decides which candidates should be considered. The foundation can also withdraw its funding if it’s not happy with the faculty’s choice or if the hires don’t meet “objectives” set by Koch during annual evaluations. […]

During the first round of hiring in 2009, Koch rejected nearly 60 percent of the faculty’s suggestions but ultimately agreed on two candidates. Although the deal was signed in 2008 with little public controversy, the issue revived last week when two FSU professors — one retired, one active — criticized the contract in the Tallahassee Democrat as an affront to academic freedom. […]

Most universities, including the University of Florida, have policies that strictly limit donors’ influence over the use of their gifts. Yale University once returned $20 million when the donor demanded veto power over appointments, saying such control was “unheard of.”

Jennifer Washburn, who has reviewed dozens of contracts between universities and donors, called the Koch agreement with FSU “truly shocking.”

Said Washburn, author of University Inc., a book on industry’s ties to academia: “This is an egregious example of a public university being willing to sell itself for next to nothing.”


The Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, to which he has given as much as $80 million a year, has focused on “advancing social progress and well-being” through grants to about 150 universities. But in the past, most colleges, including Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, received just a few thousand dollars.

The big exception has been George Mason University, a public university in Virginia which has received more than $30 million from Koch over the past 20 years. At George Mason, Koch’s foundation has underwritten the Mercatus Center, whose faculty study “how institutions affect the freedom to prosper.”

When President George W. Bush identified 23 regulations he wanted to eliminate, 14 had been initially suggested by Mercatus scholars. In a New Yorker profile of the Koch brothers in August, Rob Stein, a Democratic strategist, called Mercatus “ground zero for deregulation policy in Washington.”


‘Last In, First Out’ Among Teacher Layoff Policies Under Scrutiny


As the end of the school year approaches, thousands of teachers across the country are facing the prospect of being laid off. And that’s prompting questions about the role of seniority in determining which teachers stay and who is let go.


Failing Grades on Civics Exam Called a ‘Crisis’

Fewer than half of American eighth graders knew the purpose of the Bill of Rights on the most recent national civics examination, and only one in 10 demonstrated acceptable knowledge of the checks and balances among the legislative, executive and judicial branches, according to test results…

At the same time, three-quarters of high school seniors who took the test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, were unable to demonstrate skills like identifying the effect of United States foreign policy on other nations or naming a power granted to Congress by the Constitution.

“Today’s NAEP results confirm that we have a crisis on our hands when it comes to civics education,” said Sandra Day O’Connor, the former Supreme Court justice, who last year founded, a nonprofit group that teaches students civics through Web-based games and other tools.

The Department of Education administered the test, known as the nation’s report card, to 27,000 4th-, 8th- and 12th-grade students last year. Questions covered themes like how government is financed, what rights are protected by the Constitution and how laws are passed.

“The results confirm an alarming and continuing trend that civics in America is in decline,” said Charles N. Quigley, executive director of the Center for Civic Education, a nonprofit group in California. “During the past decade or so, educational policy and practice appear to have focused more and more upon developing the worker at the expense of developing the citizen.”

One bright spot was that Hispanic students, who make up a growing proportion of the country’s population and student body, narrowed the gap between their scores and those of non-Hispanic white students. On average, Hispanic eighth-graders scored 137 and non-Hispanic whites 160. That 23-point gap was down from 29 points in 2006.  Among high school seniors, the gap narrowed to 19 points from 24 points.

The achievement gap between blacks and whites in civics, about 25 points at the fourth- and eighth-grade levels and 29 points among high school seniors, did not change significantly.


Growing Tensions Over NJ Charter Schools: shouldn’t voters have right to decide?

How much should local school districts have a say about the presence of charter schools in their midst?

It was a topic that dominated the Senate budget hearing yesterday, where acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf testified as to the growing tensions that have surfaced — especially in suburban communities — over the new schools.

To him, it was unequivocal that local districts and their voters not have a direct say in the alternative schools, which operate under state charter.

“If it were up to local municipalities, it would essentially kill charter schools,” Cerf said. […]

“There is a growing outrage about charter schools being forced in communities where they don’t want them,” Buono said.

“There is no opportunity, none whatsoever, for local taxpayers to have a say whether they want one or not,” she said. “There needs to be broad community support or input as to whether there is a need.”

Buono said a new charter school in her own legislative district in East Brunswick has drawn funds from local school districts, forcing them to make cuts while the charter school maintains its budget.

East Brunswick now “can’t afford full-day kindergarten, while the charter school can afford full-day kindergarten,” Buono said. “That makes a lot of people very unhappy and leads to needless resentments.”

Cerf was adamant against a local vote, pointing out there is no such requirement in any state, but he did offer some concessions. He said in the state’s review of charter school applications, it could be more cognizant of local needs, academic and financial.




H.R. 1230 – Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act

To require the Secretary of the Interior to conduct certain offshore oil and gas lease sales, and for other purposes. (by CRS)
The bill was voted on in the House on May 5, 2011
2 proposed amendments. 2 rejected. View amendments

Total contributions given to House members from interest groups that support this bill:

Oil & Gas
Major (multinational) oil & gas producers
Petroleum refining & marketing
Independent oil & gas producers
Natural Gas transmission & distribution
Agricultural chemicals (fertilizers & pesticides)
Gasoline service stations
General business associations
Mining services & equipment
Chambers of commerce
Pro-business associations
Consumer groups (split)


Want local communities to support wind? Put them in charge

In a recent study by the ever-methodical Europeans, they found that opponents to new wind and solar power have two key desires: “people want to avoid environmental and personal harm” and they also want to “share in the economic benefits of their local renewable energy resources.” It’s not that people are made physically ill by new renewable energy projects. Rather, they are sick and tired of seeing the economic benefits of their local wind and sun leaving their community.

Such opposition is perfectly rational, since investments in renewable energy can be quite lucrative (private developers and their equity partners routinely seek 10 percent return on investment or higher). And the economic benefits of local ownership far outweigh the economic colonialism of absentee owners profiting from local renewable energy resources.

Of course, NIMBY-ism only sometimes manifests itself as an economic argument, and there’s a good reason for that, too. In the project development process, there are precious few opportunities for public comment, and almost all of them represent up-or-down votes on project progress. None offer an opportunity to change the structure of the development to allow for greater local buy-in or economic returns. And no project will be halted simply because it isn’t locally owned. Projects can and have been stopped on the basis of health and environmental impacts. Enter Wind Turbine Syndrome.

There are alternatives. In Germany, Ontario, Vermont, and Gainesville, Fla., local citizens can use a renewable energy policy — a feed-in tariff — that offers them a guaranteed long-term contract if they become a renewable energy producer. This contract guarantees a reasonable, if small, return on investment and helps them secure financing. In Germany, the program’s simplicity means that half of their 43,000 megawatts of renewable energy are owned by regular farmers or citizens. […]

NIMBY has been misunderstood by the clean energy community. It is not a knee jerk, it’s a market failure.

When citizens see a new wind or solar energy project, it shouldn’t be from the sidelines. They should see it from the front seat, where they have hitched their wagon to environmental and economic progress by investing in a local energy project.

Our energy policy should make that possible. It doesn’t.

Federal tax policy makes it very difficult to share renewable energy tax incentives among multiple investors. Federal and state tax-based incentives preclude many local organizations (nonprofits, cities, schools) from owning wind turbines or solar panels. And utility billing rules make it nearly impossible (in most states) to share the electricity output from a shared project that isn’t utility-owned.

There are brilliant examples of entrepreneurs overcoming these barriers to install community-based projects. Developer Dan Juhl and others have a record of success with community wind in Minnesota. The Clean Energy Collective is piloting a new community solar program in Colorado.

There are even some policy ideas bringing hope. Virtual net metering laws in eight states allow for sharing electricity output. Colorado’s solar gardens bill enshrines a small amount of community solar.

But the theme is one of triumph over adversity, with local ownership the exception rather than the norm. And without better energy policies that give locals a chance to buy in, the wind turbine syndrome epidemic will likely continue.




Pulling CO2 From Atmosphere Technically Possible But Unfeasibly, Wildly Expensive

Another viewpoint on how scrubbing CO2 from the atmosphere–as opposed to at the point of generation at power plants or (better yet) reducing emissions in the first place–is a hugely expensive undertaking: A new study by the American Physical Society shows that it’s technologically feasible to take CO2 out of the atmosphere but to do so will cost at least $600/ton, 7.5 times more expensive than capturing emissions from power plant smokestacks.

How Clean Is Clean?

With the demise of climate change legislation last year, attention has shifted to the possibility of a patchwork of other rules that would have the effect of cutting carbon dioxide emissions. On the state level, one popular step is a renewable energy standard for the electricity industry. […]

“Clean” is a broader category than “renewable,” but just what is it?

Mr. Obama wants nuclear energy, natural gas and “clean coal” — or plants that burn coal more cleanly or use their technology to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions — counted in the total.

In March, Senator Jeff Bingaman, the New Mexico Democrat who is the chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, and Senator Lisa Murkowski, the ranking Republican, put out a white paper on the question and asked for public comment on what should be counted.

The paper said that renewable energy standards had been talked about before but that “the concept has not yet been seriously considered or analyzed.’’ […]

One factor that makes a national standard for clean energy or renewable energy much trickier than a state standard is that the state standards set limits on how much electricity can be imported to meet the quota. A national standard, however, implies free trade in wind and solar power, in which case the Plains States and Southwest desert states would make money exporting to states in the East and Southeast.

One party with a foot in almost all camps is General Electric, which makes wind turbines and conventional turbines that run on natural gas or fuel oil as well as nuclear reactors. Walk through an old-fashioned coal plant, and chances are good you will see General Electric equipment there, too. […]

But including “clean” coal, gas and nuclear power risks losing some support, too.  Many advocates of wind and solar power are adamant that coal can never be clean, even if burned cleanly, because of the environmental damage from mining.

Lately the damage from drilling for natural gas in shale formations has also become a concern. And conventional ways of burning natural gas are too dirty for the goal set by Mr. Obama for 2050 of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent.

Is Mr. Obama right to pull gas, coal and nuclear into the clean energy tent? Is the political calculus behind that — the idea that traditional renewable sources lack enough political support to get a national standard adopted — correct? Your comments are invited.

How to get your kids to become environmentalists

The study looked at alumni of the Conservancy’s Leaders in Environmental Actions for the Future (LEAF) program, a summer stewardship program that puts urban youth attending environmental high schools into paid residential internships doing environmental work on Conservancy preserves across the United States.

LEAF participants are mentored throughout their internships by naturalists and conservation scientists — and the results over the 17-year span of the program are pretty amazing, say researchers:

  • LEAF alumni place greater value on environmental issues (for instance, 73 percent rank “global warming” as “extremely serious,” compared with 37 percent of their peer group nationally); are much more likely to volunteer for environmental groups; and are much more likely to point out “un-ecological behavior” to others (like littering).
  • They spend as much time outdoors on a typical day as they do watching TV, playing video games, or using computers.
  • Parents should like these next two a lot: LEAF program alumni matriculate to college at rates more than 26 percent higher than average for their peer group nationally, and they’re much more likely to graduate high school.
  • They’re also more often in full-employment jobs and earning more money than their peer group averages.

Can parents build on these findings for their own children, even if there isn’t a LEAF program near them? I put that question and others about how to get today’s kids into nature to Patricia Zaradic, director of the Red Rock Institute and lead author of the LEAF survey report.





Texas business leaders agree: Don’t cut children’s healthcare programs

The state’s largest Chambers of Commerce oppose any cuts to CHIP and Medicaid, saying, “the State of Texas should not cut state expenditures for these programs, which, in reality, shift the burden of those costs to local businesses, taxpayers, and providers.”

Chidren’s Defense Fund in Texas this week published this pdf . Feel free to download and share with others.


USA Today: Uninsured Hospitalizations Result In A Hefty $49 Billion Unpaid Tab – Kaiser Health News

Obama administration fights to save healthcare law

An appeals court on Tuesday sharply questioned whether the state of Virginia could challenge President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, which requires Americans to buy insurance in a bid to slow healthcare costs.

The Obama administration is trying to save the individual mandate after a Virginia federal judge agreed with the state it was unconstitutional and struck down that part of the law. Virginia passed a law barring the federal government from making its citizens buy insurance and sued to strike down the federal law. That prompted tough questions by a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday about whether states could pass a law to buck a federal mandate. […]

The case is the first to reach oral arguments at the appeals court level, and experts have said a ruling — expected in months — could influence other pending challenges to the law, including a June 8 hearing by another appeals court. […]

The Obama administration’s top appellate lawyer, acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal, told the appeals court that permitting Virginia’s lawsuit would inject the states into the federal courts over “abstract political disputes.”

So far, two federal judges have struck down the so-called individual mandate, while several others have upheld it, including one challenge by Liberty University in Virginia which was founded by conservative evangelical Jerry Falwell.

The school appealed and the court also heard arguments in that case. They centered on whether Congress exceeded its authority by imposing a purchase mandate or whether lawmakers were simply regulating how they paid for healthcare.

“This is quintessentially economic,” said Katyal, noting that at some point all Americans receive healthcare services and that the law was merely regulating when they paid. The penalty for not buying insurance is imposed on tax returns.

A lawyer for Liberty University argued that the mandate “goes far beyond the outer limits” of the U.S. Constitution because it tries to regulate economic inactivity — a conscious decision by Americans not to buy insurance.

“They want to be left alone,” lawyer Mathew Staver told the appeals court.

Judge Davis countered that people who do not have health insurance can be hit by accidents and illnesses.

“Is it your submission that Congress has no power to address, in the aggregate, what we know happens every day in this country?” he asked.

More than 50 million people in the United States do not have health insurance, and nearly 2 million of the uninsured are hospitalized each year, according to a report released on Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The three judges kept close counsel on which way they were leaning in that case but questioned both sides vigorously.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on June 8 will weigh the administration’s appeal to a decision that struck down the entire healthcare law as sought by 26 states. The Supreme Court could hear one of the legal challenges as early as this year.


Luck Of The Draw? Dem-Friendly Panel To Hear Health Care Lawsuit Challenges

The Obama administration has lucked out in Virginia. A three-judge panel of U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit will hear arguments Tuesday morning from plaintiffs challenging the constitutionality of the health care reform law Congress passed law last year. And all three of those judges — selected randomly by computer — were appointed by Democratic Presidents.

The political composition of the panel is crucial — thus far, in lower court rulings, judges appointed by Democrats have all upheld the law while Republican-appointed judges have stricken parts, or all of the law on constitutional grounds.


Reps Sanders and McDermott to introduce single payer bill

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) will hold a press conference on Tuesday to announce the introduction of single-payer health care bills in the Senate and House.

They will be joined by leaders of the AFL-CIO and other labor organizations supporting the measure.


Florida Hands Over Medicaid Program To Private Insurers

On Friday, the Florida legislature passed two bills that would shift hundreds of thousands of poor and elderly beneficiaries in Medicaid onto private HMOs and “other types of managed-care plans.” Under the proposal — which Gov. Rick Scott (R) is expected to sign — seniors with long-term care needs would be required to enroll in private health coverage by October 2013 and women and children would have to begin participating in October 2014. Beneficiaries with developmental disabilities would be excluded from the requirement. […]

In fact, a five-county Medicaid pilot program that tested the idea of whether “privatization would save the state money while improving services” found widespread complaints and little evidence of savings. From an analysis by Georgetown University:

This study concluded that the pilots were saving money, but did not account for the cost of the enhanced benefits program and increased administrative costs associated with the pilot.

The study also concluded that it was not possible to assess whether these savings were a result of reduced access to care or more efficient provision of services. … Much critical information is still lacking about the impact of Florida’s Medicaid pilots, including whether or not the pilots have saved money – and if they have whether the savings came at the expense of needed care. […]

Market instability and plan turnover have resulted in significant changes in beneficiary plan assignments over the past three years, which is likely to have caused disruptions in care for children, people with disabilities and other vulnerable populations.[…]

States view managed care as way to reduce their Medicaid expenditures, but they have to ensure that private payers aren’t looking out for short term profits by denying treatments or reducing reimbursement rates. Florida’s expansion of managed care — which still has to be approved by the federal government — will serve as a test of that criticism, even if the results of its pilot program are already less than promising.


The House puts Medicaid ‘in its sights’

The Hill reports that health care advocacy organizations believe “the GOP has Medicaid ‘in its sights’ as a more realistic place to make healthcare cuts.” Bruce Lesley, president of the children’s advocacy group First Focus, explained, “I’ve always worried that Medicare and Social Security would go off the table and Medicaid would be the only thing left standing.”

Those fears are well founded. The Republicans’ Medicare plan is already a flop, but as Ezra Klein explained the other day, “The attack on Medicaid … is another story.”

There are two reasons Medicaid is more vulnerable than Medicare. The first is who it serves. Medicaid goes to two groups of people: the poor and the disabled. Most of the program’s enrollees are kids from poor families, though most of the program’s money is spent on the small fraction of beneficiaries who are disabled and/or elderly. These groups have one thing in common, however: They’re politically powerless.

The second is who pays. Medicare is a fully federal program. Medicaid is a state-federal match, and it absolutely kills states during recessions, as unlike the federal government, states can’t run deficits, and so they find themselves with increased Medicaid costs because they have more people in need but decreased revenues. So there are a lot of governors — particularly GOP governors — straining under overstretched state budgets who’d like a way out of their fiscal crisis that doesn’t include raising taxes, and there are a lot of federal legislators who’d like to save money without having seniors mounting protest marches outside their office, and Medicaid begins to look like an answer to everyone’s problem.

The GOP plan isn’t just to scale back Medicaid by squeezing some additional savings out of the existing program — which is pretty much impossible at this point — but rather to turn Medicaid over to states in the form of block grants. For the feds, this would mean far less of an investment in the program. For states, it would mean a new ability to start limiting Medicaid eligibility and /or rationing health care serves for beneficiaries.

Who loses? The elderly, families in poverty, and the disabled — constituencies Republicans aren’t especially concerned with.

Medicare privatization isn’t going anywhere. Under the circumstances, Medicaid is worth worrying about.


Dirty little secret: Medicare is already privatized

Medicare is overpaying private HMOs by billions




Obama Tries to Revive Far-Reaching Immigration Reform

Last year, even when Democrats controlled both the Senate and the House, Congress could not pass the DREAM Act, a bill aimed at providing upstanding young undocumented immigrants with a path to citizenship. With Republicans in charge in the House, there is even less chance of passing immigration legislation this year or next.

In the vacuum, states such as Arizona have passed controversial laws targeting illegal immigrants. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer announced Monday that she plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling barring some of the more controversial aspects of her state’s new immigration law.

The speech comes as Obama begins a reelection fight focused on states with large Hispanic populations such as Nevada, Colorado and Florida, considered essential to winning a second term. Democratic Party officials are even publicly saying Texas is in play because of its growing Latino population, although they privately acknowledge it’s a long shot.

Meanwhile, polls shows Obama’s support among Latinos is slipping. Sixty-seven percent of Latino voters backed Obama in 2008, but some polls show that his approval rating among Latinos has dipped below 50 percent.

In a press briefing on Monday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney disputed the idea that Obama was giving the speech to help his reelection chances.

“The most valuable commodity that exists in the West Wing is the President’s time, as you know, everybody here knows. And just look at how much time he’s dedicating to immigration reform. And that should tell you how seriously he is approaching this issue,” he told reporters.

Administration officials have organized specific “community conversations” to follow the speech this week.




Justice Department Investigates Newark Police

The Justice Department is investigating claims that brutality, baseless searches, intimidation and false arrests are commonplace in the Newark Police Department, officials announced on Monday.

The reported abuses closely parallel those alleged last September by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, which called for a federal inquiry — a request that officials said helped prompt the investigation. […]

The conduct of the Police Department is crucial to the political fortunes of Mr. Booker, who is often mentioned as a potential candidate for higher office. He became mayor in a high-crime city in 2006, vowing to make the police more effective and responsive, and in his first years his most frequent boast was how the department had improved. […]

Similar federal investigations — civil, not criminal — have occurred in other cities, including New Orleans and Seattle, and resulted in a range of recommendations to change police practices.

In its report last year, the civil liberties union documented 38 police misconduct lawsuits that Newark settled from the start of 2008 to mid-2010, paying some $5 million, and it found 51 new suits filed against the police in the same period. The suits came not just from civilians, but also from officers claiming they had been mistreated based on race, sex or even political alliances.


Eric Holder says the administration still plans to close Gitmo.

“Although we have not closed Guantanamo within the time period that we initially indicated … it is still the intention of the president, and it is still my intention, to close the facility that exists in Guantanamo,” he said in Paris at a joint press conference with French Interior Minister Claude Gueant. “We will continue our efforts in that regard.”[…]

The bin Laden mission has fed an argument from the right that the prison should not be closed, given that the White House has said that some of the intelligence which led to Abbottabad was gathered from people in Guantanamo. But Holder said that he did not believe the detainment camp needs to be kept open to prevent future terrorist attacks.

In fact, Holder said, “We think that by closing that facility the national security of the United States will be enhanced.”

The attorney general added that he did not see the killing of Osama bin Laden changing attitudes about the prison in any substantial way. “I’m not sure that the death of bin Laden will have an impact on the timing of the closure,” he said, responding to a question about how the Al Qaeda leader’s death would alter the timeline for the facility’s closure.

“Many of those who have opposed the closure of Guantanamo within the United States have done so on a basis that I’m not sure is affected by the death of Bin Laden.”


ACLU Sues a Jail That Only Let Inmates Read the Bible


Oklahoma’s first-in-the-nation anti-sharia measure under attack in federal court


GOP Bill Would Require Drug Testing of Welfare Recipients

Boustany’s bill would create yet another obstacle for poverty-stricken families in need of help. It would require states to “implement a drug testing program for applicants for and recipients of assistance” under TANF. It is similar to a proposal by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) last summer that went nowhere in the Senate after many Republicans failed to support it.

Drug testing TANF recipients is already a popular idea in many states. The policy group CLASP says that 27 states have proposed mandatory, suspicionless drug testing for those who receive TANF benefits or other forms of public assistance.

In Florida, the Republican legislature passed a bill that requires TANF drug testing, and Gov. Rick Scott (R) is expected to sign it this week. The Missouri Senate gave initial approval to a similar bill in late April.

Drug testing public assistance recipients is problematic for many reasons, the first being that it may be unconstitutional. A decade ago, Michigan was the first state to propose such a program, and the Sixth Circuit court found that it violated the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure. The court found that “upholding suspicionless drug testing would set a dangerous precedent” and that drug tests should satisfy “a special need, and that need must concern public safety.”

There are obvious social concerns as well. If a family in poverty has a parent with drug addiction problems—a situation that one might think requires additional help—it could instead lose benefits entirely. A Missouri activist noted last month that her state’s bill would “leave many children with less money in the household and addicted parents.”

It’s difficult to see how drug testing TANF recipients isn’t simply a punitive measure against the poor. If one believes that “we don’t want tax dollars to be spent on drugs,” as the Republican sponsor of the Missouri bill said, why not drug test anyone else who receives state assistance? […]

And while keeping precious tax dollars from being “used on drugs” may appeal to conservatives hungry for spending cuts, analyses show that drug testing is vastly more expensive than the savings it would reap in reduced benefits for addicts.

The ACLU of Utah calculated that testing every TANF recipient in that state just once would cost over $1.4 million, accounting for the cost of the tests, transportation to testing sites for at least some TANF recipients, and the cost of defending the inevitable lawsuits.

Meanwhile, if five percent of TANF recipients tested positive in that first round—a very generous estimate—the state would save only $153,376 in benefits. That money could not be used for any non-TANF purpose by the state afterwards, either.



FAIR: Newsweek joins Time in advancing far-fetched justifications for torture.


Christiane Amanpour told Bill Maher in 2008 that Osama bin Laden was staying in a nice comfortable villa in Pakistan


Time for Media to Pay attention/American Majority Rejects Washington Austerity Consensus

As we approach the deadline for Congress to raise the debt ceiling, not a hour goes by in the 24-hour cycle without the media interviewing some expert who declares that the deficit is the most important threat facing the country, that tax increases are off the table, and that a severe crisis awaits if the Congress doesn’t cut and radically restructure Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

But one voice is missing from this discussion: that of the American Majority.

Occasionally some talking head on TV will acknowledge the almost daily public opinion polling showing conclusively that strong majorities of Americans:

  • oppose cutting benefits for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid recipients;
  • reject the idea of raising the age of eligibility for these popular programs;
  • hate the proposal to turn Medicare into a voucher or privatize Social Security;
  • support taxing the rich and corporations to close the deficit and fund needed investment;
  • favor cutting military spending for both obsolete weapons systems and current wars;
  • and, while acknowledging the need to reduce deficits, place a higher priority on creating jobs and getting the sputtering economy growing.

Rarely in the public discussion are the views of the American majority presented in such a comprehensive way. Instead, some budget expert from a think-tank like Brookings or an honest reporter will nervously interject that “recent polls show Americans may resist taking the medicine,” and then the discussion moves on to why austerity is absolutely necessary. Rarely on talk shows or even in serious print news article does anyone challenge the predictable Republican mantra that “we don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.” And, given the consensus that we face a “debt and deficit crisis” that could soon hurt the economy, rarely is anyone allowed to warn that a strong dose of spending cuts might hurt America’s faltering recovery. […]

No more silent majority. Today the Campaign for America’s Future is sending letters to all the major media demanding that the views of the American Majority be represented in the news programs, print articles and opinion pages, and in the non-stop daily and Sunday talk shows in which the debate about America’s future is being conducted as we move toward the showdown over the budget.

We are demanding representation in the media proportional to the size of the American Majority. And we are making the point that the views of the majority are not irrational—and that in a democracy the majority deserves to be heard, not patronized. We are also supplying the media with an extensive list of economists, experts and advocates who share the majority view that deficits are not now the major threat to U.S. prosperity, and that getting revenue back into the budget is far less damaging (and more just) than cutting spending and crippling important programs for the poor and the elderly. And we are telling them that occasionally featuring the great Paul Krugman, as though his views represent a lonely majority, is not enough.



The 7 Stages of News in a Twitter and Facebook Era: Tech News and Analysis


David Barton’s Historical Hallucinations


In case the recent Trumpmania didn’t convince you, here’s the latest example of how the media helps to mainstream the craziest wingnuts in the land. Check out today’s front page NY Times article on Glen Beck’s personal historian, the leader of his Black Robed Regiment, pseudo-historian David Barton. You’ll find that he’s quite a nice fellow who is influential in the GOP. You’ll also find that some “liberal groups” like People for the American Way and Americans United for Separation of Church and State are alarmed because he’s one of those …zzzzzzzz. (Aren’t they always upset about something???)

What you won’t find is any serious discussion of his alleged scholarship, politics or theocratic vision for America. Instead you get this mealy mouthed nonsense:

[M]any professional historians dismiss Mr. Barton, whose academic degree is in Christian education from Oral Roberts University, as a biased amateur who cherry-picks quotes from history and the Bible.

“The problem with David Barton is that there’s a lot of truth in what he says,” said Derek H. Davis, director of church-state studies at Baylor University, a Baptist institution in Waco, Tex. “But the end product is a lot of distortions, half-truths and twisted history.”

Mr. Barton says it is his critics who cherry-pick history by underplaying the religious dimension. Over the years, he has only dug more deeply into his documents, filling out books like “Original Intent” (published by WallBuilders, his organization here).
No need to go into that any further, I guess. It’s just an academic disagreement. And there were only ten paragraphs left and it was important to talk about his sleeping habits and horse back riding hobby. Besides, I’m sure that that everyone who reads the NY Times can read between the lines and “get” that Barton is saying something silly. There’s no need to rile up the right wingers by coming right out and saying it. They’ll send a bunch of nasty emails and who needs that? […]

He’s especially close to Mike Huckabee who had this to say about him just last month:
“I almost wish that there would be, like, a simultaneous telecast, and all Americans would be forced–forced at gunpoint no less–to listen to every David Barton message, and I think our country would be better for it. I wish it’d happen.”
Yeah. I’ll bet he does.


How Time Warner Cable is spending millions to take broadband choice away from the people of NorthCarolina


A Brief Note About Not Feeding The Trolls.


Afghan forces ‘not ready’ for handover

Al Jazeera English:

Almost a decade of neglect has raised serious concerns about the readiness of Afghan security forces to take over from foreign forces by the end of 2014, a new report claims.

The report, released on Tuesday by the British charity Oxfam and three other rights groups, also cited evidence of human rights abuses committed by Afghan forces, including killings and child sex abuse.

Under a plan agreed last year, NATO-led forces will begin a gradual handover of security responsibility to Afghan forces from July. Seven areas have been identified to begin stage one of that process.

But Oxfam said that until 2009 there had been a “striking lack of attention” to developing the quality of Afghanistan’s security forces.

The report said there were no effective systems for citizens to lodge a complaint against the police and the army or to receive compensation.

Foreign troops also needed to do more to prevent growing rights abuses by Afghan forces, Oxfam noted.

It said the Afghan national police and troops were responsible for at least 10 per cent of the 2,777 civilian deaths in Afghanistan in 2010, though the Taliban were to blame for most of the killings.

“There is a serious risk that unless adequate accountability mechanisms are put in place, violations of human rights and humanitarian law will escalate – and Afghan civilians will pay the price,” the report said.

‘Moral, political and legal imperative’



NPR News: Media, Advocacy Groups Press For Release Of Bin Laden Photos


U.S. Was ‘Braced For Fights’ With Pakistanis, ‘New York Times’ Reports


What’s Next for U.S.-Pakistan Relations?

[ Audio and Transcript]

After bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces during a raid in Abbottabad, tensions are on the rise between the U.S. and Pakistan. Ray Suarez discusses the future of U.S.-Pakistan relations with former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlin and Lawrence Wright, author of a book that focuses on the origins of al-Qaida.


Should the U.S. Cut Off Aid to Pakistan?


Chart of the Day

Bob Cesca:

Over the weekend, Dick Cheney and other Bush apologists resurrected their exhaustively debunked claim that their policies — including and specifically torture — kept us safe since 9/11.

Of course, this is a huge bucket of horseshit. There was only one attack by al-Qaeda on the mainland of the U.S. during the Clinton administration, after which they “kept us safe” for the remaining eight years without torture and other similar policies. And if we’re talking about cumulative non-war-zone attacks by al-Qaeda, here’s a convenient chart from The Economist:

Check out the number of al-Qaeda attacks during the Clinton years and the number of attacks during the Bush years. Way to go, Bushies!

Furthermore, the Bush administration admits to using waterboarding between 2002 and 2005 when it discontinued the practice. So if it was so effective, why didn’t KSM give up Bin Laden’s location while being waterboarded 183 times in a single month?

And finally, I’m still waiting for a conservative to show me an interrogation/intel expert who believes waterboarding and other harsh methods are more effective than standard interrogation techniques. Waiting…


Lawmakers Tell Obama to End Afghanistan War

The killing seems to confirm many critics’ arguments. Not only does it show that America has already dismantled the al Qaeda network, they say, but it also shows that much of what’s left of the terrorist organization is in Pakistan, not Afghanistan.

Some lawmakers also argue that it indicates lighter counter-terrorism operations, instead of costly nation-building projects, are the best way to fight terrorists. On Monday, eight representatives from both parties sent Obama a letter urging him to change strategies and end the war. […]

But, although direct action to end the war is unlikely, Congress may step up its oversight of the conflict. A Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing last week—already scheduled before bin Laden’s death—gave a preview of the type of bipartisan skepticism Obama is likely to face in the coming months. […]

Many foreign policy experts question whether bin Laden’s death has really changed the merits of the Afghanistan war, from either a pro or con perspective. “The larger story, al Qaeda, is, in my judgement, fundamentally unchanged,” says Paul Pillar, a former CIA analyst and a security studies professor at Georgetown University. “Most of the role that he’s been serving, as a source of ideology, he will unfortunately continue to serve as a dead man.” Even if Osama’s death doesn’t really change the merits of the war, it has already changed how Americans look at it, and it is forcing Congress to take more than a second glance.



Huckabee says he “answers” to Janet Porter. She’s a conservative fundamentalist who says Obama is a Soviet mole

Clean elections in Maine under attack

Maine Republican Governor Paul LePage released a budget adjustment package on May 6 that seeks to close a $164 million hole in the state’s budget by gutting the landmark Clean Election program.  To close the gap, LePage will repeal Clean Elections for gubernatorial candidates, create an enormous shortfall in funding for 2012 elections, and raise private contributions by a stunning 333 percent!


Pawlenty: Cutting oil subsidies would be ‘ludicrous’

“I think we should have a discussion about all subsidies,” Mr. Pawlenty told Washington Wire at a forum for 2012 GOP presidential hopefuls. “But the Obama proposal is ludicrous. I mean the worst thing we could do is raise the cost burden on costs on energy and oil…What he’s proposing is a tax increase on energy at a time when the gas is $4 a gallon. It’s preposterous.”

But as Sima Gandhi pointed out, contrary to Pawlenty’s pronouncement, oil subsidies don’t lower prices at the pump for American consumers:

A Joint Economic Committee report states, “the removal or modification of [one of these subsidies] is unlikely to have any effect on consumer prices for oil and gas.” The committee found that subsidies do not affect production decisions in the near term. And in the long term the Energy Information Administration explains that the major factors affecting oil prices include the production limits set by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and global disruptions in supply. Moreover, the minimal impact of tax subsidies on domestic production (as discussed above) underscores that eliminating tax subsidies will have little, if any, effect on oil prices.

Meanwhile, Pawlenty’s preferred model for lowering gas prices — opening up more federal land for drilling — would have a negligible effect, as even the Republicans’ favorite economist, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, admitted.

The Same GOP That Honored Con Artist James O’Keefe Refuses to honor SEALs That Killed OBL

The Senate on Tuesday passed a resolution, 97-0, commending “the men and women of the United States Armed Forces and the United States intelligence community for the tremendous commitment, perseverance, professionalism and sacrifice they displayed in bringing Osama bin Laden to justice.” The measure commended President Obama and reaffirmed the Senate’s commitment “to disrupting, dismantling and defeating al Qaeda.” It also recognized former President George W. Bush’s efforts after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The lack of House action drew criticism from some Democrats, who said an exception to the new rules was more than warranted for the killing of America’s No. 1 enemy. […]

On Monday evening, the House approved measures naming a Texas courthouse for the two Presidents Bush and a post office for a U.S. soldier slain in Iraq. Fallon said the GOP rules scaled back but did not forbid the naming of post offices and federal buildings because establishing them is a constitutional duty. Under its new protocol, the House acts on those designations only one day a month.

The rules, which the House approved on a party-line vote in January, prohibit the consideration of any measure that “expresses appreciation, commends, congratulates, celebrates, recognizes the accomplishments of, or celebrates the anniversary of, an entity, event, group, individual, institution, team or government program; or acknowledges or recognizes a period of time for such purposes.”




DELICIOUS READ: A “Deep” Republican “Rift” is “Opening Wider and Wider” on Medicare

A deep rift is opening wider and wider in the Republican Party over controversial proposals to cut Medicare.

Senate Republicans have decided to avoid jeopardizing their chances of capturing the upper chamber in next year’s elections and will not echo the House GOP’s call for a major overhaul of the popular health entitlement for seniors.

The Senate Republican decision to split from their colleagues in the lower chamber comes after a month during which Democrats, led by President Obama, have excoriated House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) spending blueprint. […]

Some House Republicans got an earful during the April recess over the Ryan plan, and the negative feedback now has GOP leaders in a bind. […]

The Medicare split is the first indication of major differences on the budget between Republicans in the House and Senate during the 112th Congress. There was no daylight between Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) during the fiscal 2011 spending battle, which bolstered GOP leverage in the government shutdown debate.

The budget plan that will be introduced Tuesday by conservative Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), a former House member, is expected to become the leading Senate GOP alternative. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking member on the Budget Committee, has suggested he will not offer his own proposal. […]

“I’d be surprised if they want to put their members on the record as supporting that budget,” a Senate Democratic leadership aide said of Senate GOP leaders. “It’s a classic bit of overreaching by the House Republicans, where they wildly misinterpreted what the House wants.”

Senate Republicans need to pick up four seats to win control of the Senate (three if Obama loses) and the map favors them in 2012 as Democrats are defending 23 seats and the GOP only 10. But Republicans fear their political momentum could be reversed by a misstep on Medicare.

GOP strategists have watched with alarm as Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, has made a surprising run in the special election for New York’s open 26th district, a seat Republicans were expected to win easily.

A new Daily Kos/SEIU poll showed Hochul leading her Republican opponent by four points. Hochul’s campaign has been helped by a Tea Party candidate who previously ran as a Democrat, effectively splitting the GOP vote. […]

“The real problem is the Democrats are out there beating the crap out of Republicans because they’re saying we’re privatizing Medicare,” said the GOP strategist. “It’s a problem because Republicans haven’t messaged it well.” […]

The rift among Republicans on Medicare reform became more apparent last week when House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said he would not move Ryan’s proposal for establishing a premium support system through his panel.

It also appears that Republicans will not demand major Medicare concessions as part of the debt-ceiling negotiations.


Boehner shares stage with David Koch at Wall Street club

Koch was also one of the few people with whom Boehner shook hands as he exited the stage after his speech (Koch is sitting left side, fourth from the right, front row):

Boehner and Koch appear to have a friendly relationship, as Koch met with Boehner’s staff in the Speaker’s office on the first day of the new Congress, where Koch was hosting a party for freshmen GOP lawmakers.



Digging into Latino voter trends

Latino population, 1980 (PDF)
Latino population, 2006

The Good

6.6 million Latinos voted in the 2010 elections, a record for a midterm.

The Bad

Latino turnout among eligible voters was still dismal — just 31.2 percent of the 21.3 million eligible voters. By comparison, 48.6 percent of eligible white voters turned out, as well as 44 percent of black eligible voters.

The Good

Latinos made up 6.9 percent of all voters in 2010, also a record for a midterm election (they were 5.8 percent in 2006)

The Bad

Latinos make up 16.3 percent of the general population, so that 6.9 percent looks paltry by comparison. And it is.

The Good

There were 21.3 million Latinos eligible to vote in 2010, compared to 13.2 million in 2000, confirming projections of dramatic growth in this demographic.

The Bad

Just 42.7 percent of the total Latino population is eligible to vote. That compares to 77.7 percent for whites, 67.2 percent for African Americans, and 52.8 percent for Asians.

Why is that number so low? 34.9 percent of Latinos are below the age of 18 (compared to 20.9 percent of whites), and another 22.4 percent are not U.S. citizens.

Bottom line

The browning of this nation continues at breakneck speeds:

The 2010 Census counted 50.5 million Hispanics in the United States. Hispanics now account for 16.3% of the total U.S. population. The nation’s Latino population, which was 35.3 million in 2000, grew 43% over the decade. The Hispanic population also accounted for most of the nation’s growth (56%) from 2000 to 2010.

This all has clear implications on partisan electoral politics in cycles to come. This demographic flood is just too overwhelming for the GOP to stand against. They’ll benefit a few more cycles demonizing brown people, but by the end of this decade, they’ll either have to change as a party and embrace this nation’s multicultural reality, or perish as an ongoing entity everywhere but in a few isolated geographic corners.



New York Times Poll: Gingrich Unfavorable Rating Trails Only Palin’s and Trump’s

Nate Silver thinks the punters are under-estimating the long term political impact of killing OBL

I think a fairly straightforward case can be made that betting markets like Intrade are underestimating the political impact of Bin Laden’s death. It goes something like this:

First, Americans think killing Bin Laden is a reasonably big deal.

Second, the vast majority of Americans give Obama at least some credit for having initiated the special forces mission that resulted in his death.

Third, foreign policy and national security issues do affect presidential voting decisions. Their impact will probably be muted in the 2012 election because of the focus on the economy, but that doesn’t mean they’ll have no impact at all.

Fourth, there is almost no American voter who will think worse of Mr. Obama for having killed Bin Laden. Nor is it likely that killing Bin Laden could boomerang around to hurt him. (It could, I suppose, set off a retaliatory terrorist attack, but it’s not obvious what the electoral impact of that might be.) Electorally speaking, it represents pure upside.

Fifth and most importantly, small but permanent changes in Mr. Obama’s approval rating could make a relatively large amount of difference in his re-election odds.



POLL: Just 27% of Americans believe harsh interrogation methods provided “critical information” in finding OBL


Pew: Sweeping changes in family structure split the public into 3 groups: Accepters, Rejecters & Skeptics.


70% of Virginians 18-29 support gay marriage


Donald Trump has completely collapsed. Went from 26% in our April national poll to 8% this month


If you get up before dawn this month and look to the east, this is what you’ll see hovering in the sky

Stargazers have a once-in-a-decade chance this month to catch a “beautiful gathering” of the planets Mars, Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury. (See an animation below).



Arizona Governor Will Appeal to Supreme Court

Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, said on Monday that she would petition the United States Supreme Court to lift an injunction blocking some portions of Arizona’s controversial immigration law. The Justice Department sued the state over the law, known as Senate Bill 1070, and persuaded a federal judge to issue an injunction. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld that decision, ruling in April that immigration is predominantly a federal matter. “When faced with injustice, Arizonans will not sit idly by,” Ms. Brewer said in a statement.


“The legal analysis is simple. Congress has the authority to solve problems that the states cannot separately solve.”

Yale Law Journal:

The Supreme Court may be headed for its most dramatic intervention in American politics—and most flagrant abuse of its power—since Bush v. Gore. Challenges to President Obama’s health care law have started to work their way toward the Court and have been sustained by two Republican-appointed district judges.

The constitutional objections are silly. However, because constitutional law is abstract and technical and because almost no one reads Supreme Court opinions, the conservative majority on the Court may feel emboldened to adopt these silly objections in order to crush the most important progressive legislation in decades. One lesson of Bush v. Gore, which did no harm at all to the Court’s prestige in the eyes of the public, is that if there are any limits to the Justices’ power, those limits are political: absent a likelihood of public outrage, they can do anything they want. So the fate of health care reform may depend on the constitutional issues being understood at least well enough for shame to have some effect on the Court.




Public Employee Unions And Voter Turnout

The literature on electoral turnout is well-developed, and does include analyses of the “union effect” (for example, see here, here, here and here). Although effect sizes vary between these studies, most find that union members are indeed more likely to vote than their non-union counterparts, even controlling for other influential characteristics and factors. This finding usually holds for both public and private sector employees, but the degree is rather different.

Among private sector workers, being a union member increases one’s likelihood of voting substantially. For example, a paper published last year found that, all else being equal, the predicted probability of voting among private sector union members was around 62 percent, compared with roughly 56 percent among their non-union counterparts. That’s a pretty big difference.

The story among public employees, however, is a little different. The above-mentioned 2010 paper, for instance, found that, holding all other factors constant, the probability of voting was about 64 percent for non-union public employees, and 66 percent for their unionized peers. The difference was significant but the effect size was smaller – 2-3 percentage points – about one-half the size of the union effect in the private sector.

To understand why this difference might arise, think about how unions increase turnout. They do so in many ways, but principally by removing barriers to – or reducing the “costs” of – voting. Unions mobilize – they provide their members with information about when to vote, where to vote, the candidates’ positions on issues of importance to members, and which candidates the unions have endorsed. They encourage members to register ahead of time, and help them get to the polls on election day. But it’s not just time and money – by providing a sense of group action and empowerment, unions also reduce the “psychological costs” of electoral participation, thus helping to overcome apathy and other mental barriers.


Efforts to curtail private-sector unions faltering

But their efforts have largely faltered, in part because of opposition from fellow Republicans concerned that pushing too hard against unions could jeopardize other aspects of the pro-business agenda they staked out after strong statehouse gains in the 2010 elections.

Of the 14 states where “right-to-work” bills barring mandatory union fees were considered, only New Hampshire has passed the legislation, and it is uncertain whether Republican lawmakers can overcome an expected veto by the Democratic governor.




Sharia is officially a 2012 GOP primary issue

Politico reports on something that should already be common knowledge to readers of this blog — that the phantom menace of sharia law has become a “consensus issue” among Republican presidential contenders:

As potential GOP candidates jockey to distinguish themselves heading into primary season, there seems to be at least one issue on which they widely agree: Sharia law is a continuing threat to the United States.

Invoking Sharia and casting it as a growing danger at odds with American principles has become a rallying cry for conservatives. It’s also quickly becoming an unlikely pet issue among 2012 presidential contenders: Potential candidates have almost unilaterally assailed the Islamic code, making it as much a staple of the campaign stump speech as economic reform, job creation and rising gas prices.

The idea that American Muslims will somehow replace the Constitution with Taliban-style sharia law is a ludicrous conspiracy theory, which is why it’s so bizarre that it’s even become a political issue. State legislatures across the country have proposed or passed sharia law bans, which are patently unconstitutional given the First Amendment’s protections against government interference with religious worship. The only context in which sharia comes into play in the American legal system is in matters of civil arbitration and contracts — and there’s a longstanding American precedent for allowing the faithful to address such matters through religious arbitration if they so choose, but such agreements aren’t allowed to preempt civil law. Indeed, there’s growing alarm among Orthodox Jewish communities that anti-sharia legislation could ultimately interfere with their freedom to resolve matters through religious arbitration.

Muslims represent a painfully small percentage of the American population. And not even the Christian right, despite all of its political influence, has never been able to realize its dream of eroding the separation of Church and state or stemming the tide of growing public approval for same-sex marriage. Pew estimates that the American Muslim population will comprise a whopping 6.2 million by 2030, less than two percent of the total population of the U.S. The idea that they will be able to impose their will on the rest of the country, even if they wanted to, is ridiculous.

Islam is like any other religion — interpretation of its principles shift according to its adherents. What’s remarkable is that, far from protecting Americans from extremism, sharia panic actually demonizes and alienates American Muslims who are an essential resource in the fight against terrorism.

The prospect of successful federal anti-sharia legislation seems unlikely, if only because the constitutional hurdles are so high. But sharia panic is a little like birtherism, in that it allows Republican presidential hopefuls to pander to the anti-Muslim elements of the conservative base without having to propose much in the way of actual policy results. The American Muslims Republicans are treating like domestic enemies are merely collateral damage.


GOP Amendment To Defense Bill Would Protect Homophobia In The Armed Forces


Fundamentalist Jewish paper apologises for Hillary Clinton deletion


“A gun free zone is a victim-rich zone”? Oh Texas….


As Gay Donors Flock to Obama, John Aravosis Lies to Discredit the President

Remember in 2009 when the Professional Left gay establishment got their panties in a bunch (yeah, this gay man said it) over President Obama’s not doing things “fast enough”? For a moment there, the Professional Left was basking in its own glory as it was having a mild effect on LGBT fundraising for the Democratic party after an admittedly stupid Justice Department brief in defense of DOMA.

But then, Obama proved that his strategy of advancing gay rights by advancing a legislative repeal rather than an executive pause of DADT, by refusing to defend DOMA altogether in the light of the legislative repeal of DADT and court rulings, and administratively advancing equal employment opportunities within the federal government, along with a slew of unprecedented gay rights advancements – both legislative (including signing the Matthew Sheppard Hate Crimes Act) and administrative.

And so, naturally, gay donors are standing with the President more strongly than ever.

It’s ironic — a year ago there was no constituency more unhappy. There was a sea change,” said David Mixner, a veteran New York gay activist, who said that White House actions during the past year had swayed restive gay donors. “You not only will see a united community that will contribute to Obama, but they will work their asses off.”

Yes, yes we will. And of course, the Republicans being back in power in the House and in state houses across the country, the stark contrast between the two parties on LGBT rights began to emerge, reminding us just what is at stake – between a full implementation of DADT repeal or not, between universalized hospital visitation rights and not, between the advancement and retraction of our march towards full citizenship. […]

So you see, the constant “Obama hates gays” drumbeating by the Professional Left almost worked. Almost. But us gay people aren’t stupid. We can see what’s going on. And we can see the alternative above, and compare to what the Obama administration has accomplished for us even beyond a legislative repeal of DADT and deciding not to defend DOMA:

1) Extended benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees
2) Signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act
3) Instructed HHS to require any hospital receiving Medicare or Medicaid funds (virtually all hospitals) toallow LGBT visitation rights.
4) Banned job discrimination based on gender identity throughout the Federal government (the nation’s largest employer)
5) Signed the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act6) Extended the Family and Medical Leave Act to cover Gay employees taking unpaid leave to care for their children of same-sex partners
7) Lifted the HIV Entry Ban.
8) Implemented HUD Policies that Would Ban Discrimination Based On Gender Identity
9) Appointed the first ever transgender DNC member 10) Named open transgender appointees (the first President ever to do so)
11) Eliminated the discriminatory Census Bureau policy that kept LGBT relationships from being counted12) Extended domestic violence protections to LGBT victims

Now that gay donors seem to be loving Obama again, the Professional Left “pundits” like John Aravosis of “Americablog Gay” are scrambling to figure out a way to deny the President any credit for the achievements that have been accomplished. In his latest, desperate, sad attempts to do so, he employs an age-old, time-tested political tool: lying. After a year and a half of an embarrassing campaign to block money to the DNC (waged at the same time, mind you, when President Obama and Democrats in Congress waged a long term, strategic battle to get all these things above done and passed) that seems to now be collapsing and embarrassing its creators – the same John Aravosis – he is reduced to claiming credit for the Professional Left and outright lying about President Obama.




Christopher Hitchens on losing his voice. Beautiful and heartbreaking.

I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

—T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

Like so many of life’s varieties of experience, the novelty of a diagnosis of malignant cancer has a tendency to wear off. The thing begins to pall, even to become banal. One can become quite used to the specter of the eternal Footman, like some lethal old bore lurking in the hallway at the end of the evening, hoping for the chance to have a word. And I don’t so much object to his holding my coat in that marked manner, as if mutely reminding me that it’s time to be on my way. No, it’s the snickering that gets me down.

On a much-too-regular basis, the disease serves me up with a teasing special of the day, or a flavor of the month. It might be random sores and ulcers, on the tongue or in the mouth. Or why not a touch of peripheral neuropathy, involving numb and chilly feet? Daily existence becomes a babyish thing, measured out not in Prufrock’s coffee spoons but in tiny doses of nourishment, accompanied by heartening noises from onlookers, or solemn discussions of the operations of the digestive system, conducted with motherly strangers. On the less good days, I feel like that wooden-legged piglet belonging to a sadistically sentimental family that could bear to eat him only a chunk at a time. Except that cancer isn’t so … considerate.

Most despond-inducing and alarming of all, so far, was the moment when my voice suddenly rose to a childish (or perhaps piglet-like) piping squeak. It then began to register all over the place, from a gruff and husky whisper to a papery, plaintive bleat. And at times it threatened, and now threatens daily, to disappear altogether. I had just returned from giving a couple of speeches in California, where with the help of morphine and adrenaline I could still successfully “project” my utterances, when I made an attempt to hail a taxi outside my home—and nothing happened. I stood, frozen, like a silly cat that had abruptly lost its meow. I used to be able to stop a New York cab at 30 paces. I could also, without the help of a microphone, reach the back row and gallery of a crowded debating hall. And it may be nothing to boast about, but people tell me that if their radio or television was on, even in the next room, they could always pick out my tones and know that I was “on,” too. […]

When you fall ill, people send you CDs. Very often, in my experience, these are by Leonard Cohen. So I have recently learned a song, entitled “If It Be Your Will.” It’s a tiny bit saccharine, but it’s beautifully rendered and it opens like this:

If it be your will,
That I speak no more:
And my voice be still,
As it was before …

I find it’s best not to listen to this late at night. Leonard Cohen is unimaginable without, and indissoluble from, his voice. (I now doubt that I could be bothered, or bear, to hear that song done by anybody else.) In some ways, I tell myself, I could hobble along by communicating only in writing. But this is really only because of my age. If I had been robbed of my voice earlier, I doubt that I could ever have achieved much on the page. I owe a vast debt to Simon Hoggart of The Guardian (son of the author of The Uses of Literacy), who about 35 years ago informed me that an article of mine was well argued but dull, and advised me briskly to write “more like the way that you talk.” At the time, I was near speechless at the charge of being boring and never thanked him properly, but in time I appreciated that my fear of self-indulgence and the personal pronoun was its own form of indulgence.

To my writing classes I used later to open by saying that anybody who could talk could also write. Having cheered them up with this easy-to-grasp ladder, I then replaced it with a huge and loathsome snake: “How many people in this class, would you say, can talk? I mean really talk?” That had its duly woeful effect. I told them to read every composition aloud, preferably to a trusted friend. The rules are much the same: Avoid stock expressions (like the plague, as William Safire used to say) and repetitions. Don’t say that as a boy your grandmother used to read to you, unless at that stage of her life she really was a boy, in which case you have probably thrown away a better intro. If something is worth hearing or listening to, it’s very probably worth reading. So, this above all: Find your own voice.

National Jukebox
Historical Recordings from the Library of Congress [Awesome!]

About the National Jukebox

The Library of Congress presents the National Jukebox, which makes historical sound recordings available to the public free of charge. The Jukebox includes recordings from the extraordinary collections of the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation and other contributing libraries and archives.

Find out more about the National Jukebox project

First Time Here?

Find out about playlisting, what “matrix” means, and other ways to get the most from the National Jukebox.




65 Arrested at Kickoff of California Teachers’ Protest

Those arrested were mostly college-age protesters from the Bay area, but also included about a dozen schoolteachers, including the president of the Oakland Education Association, the union that represents 2,700 teachers in the Oakland Unified School District.

Before their arrest, protesters gathered en masse in the Capitol’s rotunda, chanting slogans like, “Teachers and students united for justice,” and displaying signs urging lawmakers to “Tax the rich.”

“We’re not just here to lobby. We’re here to raise some hell,” Betty Olson-Jones, president of the Oakland Education Association, said as the arrests began.

“Amen! Shame!” said [California Teachers Association] members in light blue T-shirts as CTA President David A. Sanchez and other speakers blasted what they said is corporate greed and politics that have scapegoated public employees, gutted government budgets and put children, the poor and the infirm at risk.

“It’s not right that the rich and big businesses don’t pay their fair share of taxes,” Sanchez said.

Prison guards in Ohio turned out Monday to protest the possible sale of five Ohio prisons to private companies. Though the state could be looking at a $1 billion surplus due to rising revenue, the sale of the prisons will nonetheless go to the Senate this week.

None of the companies are from Ohio, so any profits would be going out of state, said James Adkins, who works at the Ohio Reformatory for Women and serves as a representative of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSCA).

The state will be losing valuable workers if Grafton Correctional and other prisons are sold and guards move to other professions because they can’t work at the wages offered at the private prisons, according to union members.

Dan Sablack, chief steward at Lorain Correctional Institution, which is also in Grafton, said there’s a chance that Grafton Correctional’s officer of the year, 57-year-old former minister David Partlow, might be among those out of a job because he only has four years of seniority.

“It’s a shame we have to lose that kind of expertise to go to a private facility if we have a budget surplus that will allow us to keep the prisons state owned,” Sablack said.

The White House: Get involved in a dialogue on immigration: use immigration here, Advise the Advisor, host a roundtable



“Gingrich 2012: He will always love America. Unless it gets cancer.”~ Alex Knapp

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Amen on The Weekend Voting Act and retiring the penny. Me too, any amateur numismatist knows why the half penny was scrapped. It made since when it was the wheatback, but no more. It wouldn’t be hard to make that item at $19.99 steal, @19.95.

Correction on Independent Sanders and Democrat McDermott. They’re both Socialists. 🙂

Although this guy called Jim a Communist.


Athens county, in Ohio, is one of the poorest counties in the state. There is not much there besides Ohio University. We are one of the wealthiest nations in the world, and yet we let many of our people go hungry. Sad, very sad.


And as always, Maher brushes past a great comment to get to whatever bullshit he wanted to get to; even if this time it is only that much more profound in retrospect.


Good stuff cher, as usual. And thanks for including the piece from Hitchens. I really like his writing. I just can’t imagine going through what he is going through.


Pretty impressive there Cher. You really covered it. I’m old enough to remember the old cold war scares of the 50’s and early 60’s. Then conservathugs like Phyllis Schlafly and the John Birch Society did the heavy lifting for the right. Later on it was people like Spiro Agnew and Lee Atwater ( who refined Nixon’s Southern Strategy ). Strange how history repeats itself but it will be interesting to see how demographic shifts change the equation.


I agree that many voters voted on the basis of their passions – mainly fear and anger. Politicians are just as likely to be the prisoner of their passins as any other mortal man. And, politicians are quite capable of making use of that passion. It is the bread and butter of politics.

I do not scare easy, and no one has ever called me passionate. Quite the opposite.

I think that the passion has subsided; as is should when faced with the actual difficulties of trying to govern and write laws – “Do you want to make statement ? Or, do you want to make a law?” –

Now is the time for the Dems to get moving and devise an effective counter attack. It has to be focused, logical and relentless.

KQµårk 死神

“What some are suggesting is we take the money from people who would invest in our economy and create jobs and give it to the government,” Boehner said.

Duh that’s the only way government can get the money needed to run the country.

The true BS here is that these people reinvest wealth into the economy, not the Wall Street scam but the real economy. The real point I hope Moore was making about the US not being broke is that we have too much money in this country absolutely doing nothing but getting rich people richer that has nothing to do with creating goods and services, thus jobs. Again the biggest conspiracy in America is in plain sight. The conservative elites that run most of big business will hold the economy hostage until the GOP has all the power again. They realize the “mistake” they made in the ’90’s was letting the economy recover under a Democratic president. They will do all they can to never make that “mistake” again.


The Speaker is talking nonsense; the predictable boiler plate.

Big business will do next to nothing to get the economy going again. It will be the great mass of ordinary people doing what they need to do who will get it moving again.

Buddy McCue

Why should they? Really, what incentive do the biggest corporations have to change the way things are right now?

After all, they have record-breaking profits these days. The super-rich are enjoying the greatest inequality this country has seen since the time right before the Great Depression. From their point of view, they are winning the game.

Why in the world would they want to change all that?


Exactly Buddy the status quo is working quite nicely for THEM…there is no incentives for them to do anything other than what they are currently doing.


“For Jack Frech, director of the Athens County Department of Job and Family Services in Appalachian Ohio, the fact that Congress and statehouses across the country are pushing budgets that would further cut assistance for poor people is downright frightening.

I’ve been doing this work for thirty years and this is the worst I’ve seen it by far,” says Frech. “And when I say the worst, I mean the absolute worst.”

Cher, I had to take a break from reading the rest of the planet after reading the first article….I know from first hand experience, myself, working at the homeless shelter, just how bad our ‘safety nets’ really are….and reading that article, got me so angry at our nation….I couldn’t even type. WHAT the FUCK is wrong with the people of our nation?? People ‘claim’ they are Christians and espouse Christian ideals…bullshit.

The level of real poverty in this country and lack of opportunity for the poor is disgraceful…we as a people, should be utterly ashamed of ourselves and yes we are to blame…we as a society don’t get out of this scot free; as we allowed this to happen, due to our collective selfishness, by allowing the extreme wealthy/greedy and selfish to take control of the message and then electing politicians such as Reagan and others that over the last 30 years who have indoctrinated the masses to have contempt for the poor.

I swear, I wish every politician who is part of this awful situation, and those who espouse such hatred for the least among us, to rot in hell. It’s stuff like this, that made me have a real hard time, looking at OBL as the most evil man in the world. The most evil men in the world TO me, are those who espouse Randian concepts and who treat their fellow human beings as fodder for their own powerful ambitions.

The most evil men alive today, are the Kock (misspelled on purpose) and Cheney, The Bush Family and those who look to Ronald Reagan and his ideas as gospel. THAT IN my mind is true evil incarnate. Lucifer must be so proud of his minions.


Abby, that article knocked me out, too. Jack Frech is a true mensch. Talk about someone who is in the right career — even though it gives him insomnia.

I had the same reaction as you in regard to bin Laden. I realize how extreme this sounds but I would venture to say that the Republican Party has probably killed more people than bin Laden. Wall Street perfidy has done more damage to our economy than 9/11 did. How would Lloyd Blankfein, Jamie Dimon, Karl Rove or Andrew Breitbart be considered less wicked than OBL?


Jack Frech most definitely is doing what he should be doing. I applaud his efforts, especially because it’s such a daunting task…and his speaking out as to what is wrong, is commendable.

I know its not a popular sentiment, and by no means was I a fan of OBL….but when I think of the fact that the people we mentioned are NOT sitting in a jail cell and are living the life of Riley, I’m not a happy camper. {sigh}

The individuals we mentioned are truly evil and are clearly sociopaths, and have ruined more lives and been responsible for the deaths of more people than OBL could have ever hoped for.


Abby, I couldn’t agree more. Two thirds of the people on welfare are kids. What are they going to do with them? Make them work in the mines like their great-grandfathers did?


Exactly Funk…these children are innocent. They did nothing to deserve to go to bed hungry.


There was a story on the news tonight- children dreading summer vacation, because the only food they get is at school.
23,000 kids will go hungry in Orange and Seminole counties in FL. Those counties have a combined population of about 1.6M.
DCF says they get 200 calls a month from teachers concerned about their students.
A Mom with 2 kids who makes $17,000/yr is not eligible for assistance in FL!


Oh my God that is horrible Jkk. That literally breaks my heart. I just don’t understand how we as a society can find such things acceptable.

Buddy McCue

Good grief. That’s terrible.


Personally, I have a special hell for all these hypocrites- make them trade places with the people they scorn.. may each of them experience what they have done to others.


Jkk I’m with you on that! That is the hell I wish for them x100….The misery and hopelessness that is out there, among so many people, that these bastards created….is heartbreaking and these bastards who did this and hurt so many, have earned all the negatives that can be bestowed upon them.

WHY should the innocent suffer the consequences of the actions of the most powerful? IT’S not right!


Gallup Daily tracking finds that Obama’s approval rally has occurred most sharply among Republicans, which may be why it has not transferred to an increase in voter support for Obama in 2012 against an unnamed Republican.

Republicans’ approval of Obama has more than doubled since bin Laden’s death, rising to 21% the week of May 2-8 from 10% April 25-May 1. His approval rating rose less among independents, to 47% from 40%, and — remarkably — changed little among Democrats.

KQµårk 死神

Anti-incumbent fervor is still out there especially with independents. Depending on the GOP candidate Obama will probably win the majority of indy votes but they won’t give them easily.


Funk, I have a love/hate relationship with polls and I tend to discount “insta-polls” and daily tracking polls and use them to looks at trends over time.
That said, I posted the AP poll yesterday (I think-it was on our widget), and they showed the biggest up-tick in support for the President was among independents raising to almost 2/3 of them now supporting the President.
Should we fight over which poll is “more better?” 🙂


Cher, if this is what your catch-up looks like…..

Did you happen to see Rachel last night? A group of 8 or so GOP Freshman House members held a press conference asking the President to help stop the Democratic attacks on their vote to kill Medicare.

I literally laughed so hard I woke my son up. I think my wife’s words were “yeah, right after you kiss my ass”.



Funksands, those people are either liars or fools. Having decided that they are one or the other, I do not need to know which one they are.
In either case, their credibility is impeached. Beyond remedy.


funk, were they not they sorriest looking lot of vacant-eyed droolers?

“You mean old people aren’t thanking us for planning to blow up Medicare and Social Security? Whahappen? Duhhhhhhh.”

This is rich, coming from TeaBag Boy Lankford:

“We can all either yell at each other, or we can sit down at the table.” Remember those Tea Party town halls, Lanky?





Jefferson – Lincoln – Eisenhower – Nixon – W – Bachmann – Gohmert – rabid weasel – flesh-eating bacteria

Watching the GOP get dumber, meaner, and more shameless is an interestin­g experience­.


I have to repeat what I wrote before: “Up Dems! And at ’em! They won’t stand!”.

The GOP has given the Democrats plenty of material to use against them in 2012. Of course a good 45% of the voting public are going to vote GOP no matter what. And, the GOP has a strong geograhic base: the Old Confederacy.
But Obama should have no trouble getting 53 or 54% of the vote in 2012.
The issue is Congress. The GOP is giving the Democrats are real opportunity to take back the HoR. If the Democrats get the word out, and people start paying attention, the GOP is quite vulnerable.

But, and this is a big but, the Democrats have to run a much better campaign than they did in 2010.