You can access all the past editions of The Daily Planet on the green Category bar on the top of each page under the heading PlanetPOV.



Discretionary Truthiness


I keep hearing Republicans say that Obama has increased nondefense discretionary spending by 80 percent; it’s one of those “facts” that apparently everyone on the right knows. So where does that come from?

Well, it turns out that Politifact is on the case — but gets it wrong, too, although not as wrong as the Republicans.

The number comes from taking nondefense discretionary spending as reported — which rose 26 percent from 2008 to 2010 (Table 8.7) — and then adding the entire discretionary spending part of the stimulus.

Politifact says that this is misleading because not all of the stimulus funds were spent in 2010. But it’s much worse than that: stimulus spending is already in those discretionary spending numbers. If you look at the table, you’ll see bulges in spending on education and ground transportation that go away after 2011; that’s the stimulus.

So this GOP talking point is a complete fraud; it’s based on counting the same spending several times over.



“Corporatist” Obama Administration Sues Oil Futures Traders

Ack! There goes the “corporatist” Obama administration again – this time trying to hold oil futures traders accountable! First, this “corporatist” administration comes into office and passes unprecedented measures to protect consumers from corporate malfeasance like a patient’s bill of rights on steroid in health reform, the most significant re-regulation of Wall Street since the 1930s, student loan reform, and credit card reform. And now, this! Outrageous!

Even under the convoluted legal morass that derivatives and futures tradings operated under under before President Obama’s Wall Street reform was signed into law, CFTC has found a way to hold at least some wild-marketeers accountable and is suing oil traders for manipulating the market in 2008 (and there might be more to come in the pipeline).

The suit says that in early 2008 they tried to hoard nearly two-thirds of the available supply of a crucial American market for crude oil, then abruptly dumped it and improperly pocketed $50 million.

The regulators from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission would not say whether the agency was conducting any other investigations into oil speculation. With oil prices climbing again this year, President Obama has asked Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to set up a working group to look into fraud in oil and gas markets and “safeguard against unlawful consumer harm.”[…]

According to the complaint, the traders basically gamed the system (surprised?). After they purchased the oil futures, they bought up physical crude oil in Cushing, OK, one of our largest oil delivery sites, creating the impression of a shortage, thus driving up the prices of the futures they had just purchased. To give you an idea how insane this type of trading is, from the NY Times report:

At one point they had such a dominant position that they owned about 4.6 million barrels of crude oil, estimating that this represented two-thirds of the seven million barrels of excess oil then available at Cushing, according to lawsuits.[…]

In all seriousness, the Obama administration has been a fierce advocate for consumer protections and making sure that we have a free market system, not a wild gambling market system. And they have not stopped at mere advocacy. They have taken it to action. President Obama’s leadership has ensured that we have turned back the insane deregulation mess of Reaganomics, and transformed the paradigm from whether regulations are good to which regulations are good. And as we see in this case, they have used legal instruments available to them to hold corporate thieves accountable. Anyone accusing the President of being in cahoots with corporate abuses is either not paying attention or flat out lying.


Lawmakers skeptical over AT&T-T Mobile deal

The chiefs of AT&T and T-Mobile appeared before increasingly skeptical lawmakers Thursday to defend their proposed $39 billion union as critics warn that consumers could expect higher prices from the deal. […]

There are legitimate questions about whether this merger could move the wireless market past the anticompetitive tipping point,” Goodlatte said.

The mega merger would form the nation’s largest wireless carrier, with 130 million users. It would assign eight out of 10 U.S. mobile phone customers to just two carriers, AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

Competitor Sprint Nextel and smaller carriers including Leap Wireless and Cellular South have argued to lawmakers and regulators reviewing the deal that AT&T and Verizon would have no incentive to lower prices or even keep them at current rates. They note that the elimination of T-Mobile, the nation’s fourth-largest wireless operator, would remove a competitor known for its lower-price plans. Consumers Union conducted a study that showed T-Mobile’s price plans are 15 percent to 50 percent less than AT&T’s.

Smaller companies also say they would have a harder time striking exclusive deals on the hottest new devices, such as Apple’s iPhone.



Inviting Chaos: The Perils of Toying With the Debt Ceiling

On May 16, The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece titled ‘The Armageddon Lobby,’ which claimed that a ‘technical default’ on the federal debt was just ‘political melodrama’ and not really a big deal: ‘[B]ond markets can figure out the difference between a genuine default when a country can’t pay its bills and a technical default of a few days if it serves the purpose of fixing America’s fiscal mess.’ It is not just that the government could be brought to a standstill, with a third of its bills now being paid by borrowing, or that interest rates would shoot up, forcing thousands of homeowners into foreclosure. Failure to pay on the national debt could trigger a default on the global reserve currency.


Cantor sticks to misguided ‘Cut and Grow’ gimmick

Steve Benen:

It’s as if the House Majority Leader is trying to convince credible observers not to take him seriously.

Rep. Eric Cantor used the GOP’s weekly address to push his party’s “Cut and Grow” strategy.

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) continued the rollout of the House GOP economic growth package Saturday, using the party’s weekly address to press the case that Republicans will get government out of the way of job creators.

“For too long, Washington has relied on gimmicks or government-knows-best solutions,” said Cantor, the House majority leader. “No more. Now, more than ever, our nation needs small businesses and entrepreneurs to get people back to work.”

There’s no shortage of problems with Cantor’s address, but let’s focus on just two of the more glaring issues. […]

“For too long, Washington has relied on gimmicks”? Actually, for too long, Eric Cantor has relied on gimmicks.

But more important is Cantor’s belief that a “Cut and Grow” grow strategy actually makes sense.

It’s hard to overstate how misguided this is. As Jon Chait joked the other day in a message to Republicans, “Herbert Hoover called. He wants his fiscal policy back.”[…]

As Jared Bernstein explained this week, “You can make this a lot more complicated, but when you’re as far below capacity as we are — when so many people are unemployed, e.g. — it’s really quite simple arithmetic. Government spending feeds right into GDP growth and cuts subtract from it.”

Now, when you’re at full capacity, it’s different. At that point you’re pouring water into a glass that’s already full so you’re just wasting water. And you’re going to need some paper towels to clean it up. […]

But with GDP growth just around trend (positive but not all that strong) factories with capacity to spare, and 20+ million un- or underemployed, there’s space in the glass. In fact, if you look at the GDP or employment accounts, it’s clear that state spending contractions are a real drag on growth and jobs right now. […]

If I ran the country and had my druthers and wasn’t constrained by today’s budget politics (yes, that’s a lot of ‘ifs’), I’d do another round state fiscal relief.

The story the “cut-now-and-grow” lobby wants to tell depends not on arithmetic, but on what Krugman calls the confidence fairy (she’s good) and the crowding-out troll (he’s bad). In a tight budget environment like today’s, politicians love the fairy because she provides free stimulus. And since she’s a fantasy, you can attribute anything you want to her: “confidence in the markets depends on [your favorite budget cut here]!!”

Then there’s the notion that high public spending levels are crowding out private borrowing. Again, not a plausible story with excess capacity, the Fed funds rate at zero, and companies sitting on cash that they could invest with if they saw good reasons to do so.

The Republican pitch is important, because of the degree to which it’s ridiculous. The GOP would have Americans believe the economy will be much stronger just as soon as they take money out of the economy. Less public investment — in infrastructure, in education, in energy, etc. — will mean fewer jobs and less innovation, which Republicans predict will lead to an economy boom.

Sure, they say, there will be a transition period, when the economy gets worse, but over time this Hoover-like policy will work wonders. And sure, they say, this has never worked when tried, but the GOP doesn’t see empirical failure as a reason to avoid repeated attempts.


Americans Have No Idea How Much Welfare They’re Getting

The rise of the anti-big government Tea Party movement in America has also seen a rise in the number of citizens publicly decrying both taxes and the social welfare programs for which those taxes provide. A recent study shows, however, that many Americans actually have no idea that they’re on the dole, calling into question the validity of their attacks on government handouts.

The graphic above uses information from Suzanne Mettler’s newest piece in Perspectives on Politics, and the data is simple: Those numbers are the percentages of people who benefit from the specified government program while also saying in a government survey that they “have not used a government social program.


Jobs Start To Recover; Wages Don’t

The Los Angeles Times has a great piece about the human dimension of joblessness, unemployment, and fewer job opportunities, and the toll it’s bearing on American workers and families:

Tangela Ridgeway agrees that the economy is improving. It’s just the pay that’s getting worse.

The 36-year-old mother of three used to make $18.75 an hour as a front desk agent at a Hollywood hotel. Now, she says, similar positions are listed at $14 an hour.

She’s living with siblings in Cerritos, trying to save money as she watches prices rise for milk, cereal, eggs and gas. She worries that she’s going to need two full-time jobs to make ends meet, but would settle for one, even if it pays less. She knows it’s an employer’s market.

“They know so many people want it,” she said. “They’re going to get someone to do the job.”

The article notes that it’s a “buyer’s market,” or in other words the relative supply is much, much higher than the relative demand. According to standard economic models, this drives down wages.

The problem is that the American economy for most intents and purposes is a closed system: the workers are also the consumers. When wages are depressed, it also drives down demand — which, from the perspective of companies, means wages have to be cut even more to survive. Hopefully, when the dust clears the consumers who still have jobs demand something your company provides, so that you can continue as a company.

In a deep recession, demand shifts wildly so that what was once sustainable no longer is. As with any change in the economy, this could be a good thing if there were employment opportunities to replace them. However, a general drop in demand caused by a financial depression tends to lead to jobs lost without anything to replace them.

Many experts comment on the need for “creative destruction” within a modern capitalist system, where unproductive companies are shuttered and new companies are born. In many ways, this is comparable to forest fires — the occasional fire can be rejuvenating for a forest, clearing out flammable brush and allowing newer growth to draw different nutrients from the soil. However, deep recessions — or, dare I say it, depressions — are like high-temperature fires that sterilize the soil and burn old-growth vegetation, leaving behind only a swath of death and destruction.

So as the economy begins to recover, employers are much more hesitant to hire back workers scraped off during the recession. This leads to lower employment and, amongst those who can get a new job, lower pay. It’s not much unlikely a monopoly, where there’s only one seller; however, in this case it’s reversed and there’s only one buyer, the small number of employers still around after the economy falters.

This wouldn’t be a problem if there were independent sources of employment. Back when America had a frontier, workers from industrial cities had the option of dropping their low-pay opportunities in factories and move out West to settle the frontier. And, thanks to the Homestead Act, they could be sure that they’d actually keep what they settle, providing a means of subsistence living.

As the frontier has closed, more and more people have become dependent on large employers to provide work. And, with prevailing wages the way they are, it’s impossible to be as productive as many of these firms without a heavy financial investment, which banks are hesitant to lend to the self-employed (particularly if they lack any collateral, like a house).

How could some of these problems be alleviated? Well, one way we could fix some of the difference in access to resources is to guarantee loans to small businesses. It’s incredibly hard to start a business if you don’t have an office to do so, which requires some up-front investments. Another way to fix this would to restart the demand side of the economy by providing temporary jobs, much as the New Deal did during the 1930’s. However, it’s unlikely in this political climate that any of the sort will actually be passed. It is important to keep in mind, however, for when situations do change, hopefully at the request of a few thousand protesters finally forcing the hand of government.



High school graduation rates up, but some states lag behind

More high school students are hitting the books and getting their degrees within four years, data from the National Center for Education Statistics show. But not every state is part of that positive trend.

About 74.7 percent of high school students in the class of 2007-08 graduated on time, up from 72 percent of the class of 2002. But on-time graduation rates dropped by more than 5 percent in Utah, the District of Columbia, and Nevada over the same period. In eight other states (Alabama, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Vermont), the graduation rate climbed by 5 percent or more over the same period.

The state with the highest graduation rate is Wisconsin, where 89.6 percent of high school freshmen finished in four years. Sixteen other states also cracked the 80 percent threshold: Vermont, Minnesota, Iowa, New Jersey, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Connecticut, Montana, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Idaho.

Meanwhile, our nation’s capital had the lowest graduation rate, at 56 percent. Alaska, Alabama, Florida, New Mexico, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Nevada trailed the 70 percent graduation rate mark.


Panel Finds Few Learning Gains From Testing Movement

Nearly a decade of America’s test-based accountability systems, from “adequate yearly progress” to high school exit exams, has shown little to no positive effect overall on learning and insufficient safeguards against gaming the system, a blue-ribbon committee of the National Academies of Science concludes in a new report.




The GOP wants to slow the military’s clean energy march

The Department of Defense is the largest energy consumer in the nation. It has made significant efforts to wean the military services from their sole dependence on fossil fuels — particularly jet and diesel fuel made from oil — to power their planes, ships, and vehicles. Pollution from burning these fuels contributes to global warming, which, according to military leaders, is a “threat multiplier” for national security. Instead, the services are developing more efficient aviation, naval, and terrestrial heavy equipment, and various cleaner domestic advanced biofuels.[1]

Unfortunately, the House Armed Service Committee’s National Defense Authorization Act [PDF], H.R. 1540, would reverse this progress. Section 844 of the bill would actually allow the military to use alternative fossil fuels that produce more pollution than conventional fuels. The additional pollution would exacerbate global warming, which in turn would make our nation less secure. The House plans to debate H.R. 1540 over the next several days. Congress must remove this provision to enhance national security.

U.S. military leaders agree that global warming threatens U.S. Security […]

Current U.S. military leaders agree that climate change poses a direct and growing threat to our national security. The Department of Defense’s 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review [PDF] determined that climate change is an “accelerant of instability.” The review [PDF] concluded that the military must “develop enterprise-wide climate change and energy strategies.”

Congress acted to reduce pollution from military fuels […]

This provision, Section 526 [PDF] of EISA, forbids the military and other federal agencies from purchasing tar-sands oil and “coal to liquids” that are dirtier than today’s fuels. This spurred the military to research, develop, and deploy advanced biofuels that are cleaner than petroleum, made from biomass such as camelina and waste oils.[…]

The military aims to reduce its pollution

The MAB supported pollution reduction steps in its 2009 report “Powering America’s Defense” [PDF]. It concluded that “diversifying our energy sources and moving away from fossil fuels where possible is critical to our future energy security.” […]

The Department of Defense adopted this approach. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus established five clean energy goals [PDF] in Oct. 2009. One critical goal is “by 2020, 50 percent of total [Department of the Navy] energy consumption will come from alternative sources.” This includes ensuring “that alternative fuels utilized have lower lifecycle greenhouse-gas emissions than conventional petroleum-based fuels.” This will require 8 million barrels of advanced biofuels per year. […]

The Air Force consumes the most energy of any of the services, and uses more than 2 billion gallons of aviation fuel each year. It, too, has committed to increase its use of cleaner fuels so that by 2016, it would “acquire 50 percent of domestic aviation fuel requirements via an alternative fuel blend.” It is “testing and certifying alternative aviation fuels to help improve energy security posture by providing domestic alternatives to foreign oil.” The Air Force reports that it is “on track to certify [its] fleet on synthetic fuel blend by early 2011.”[…]

Military procurement of advanced biofuels can grow new industry […]

The production of tar-sands oil is very energy intensive in addition to generating significant amounts of pollution. A Natural Resources Defense Council analysis determined [PDF] that “the tar-sands industry consumes enough natural gas every day to heat roughly 4 million American homes.”

Some argue that the United States should ignore the added pollution and increase the use of Canadian tar-sands oil because Canada is our closest ally. They say this makes tar sands more secure than oil from Persian Gulf or African nations.

The problem with this argument is that it ignores the imperative to reduce carbon dioxide pollution and global warming to enhance national security. John Podesta, Center for American Progress president and CEO, notes: “Oil sands can’t simply be as good as conventional oil. We need to reduce fossil-fuel use and accelerate the transition to cleaner technologies, in the transportation sector and elsewhere.”

Congress should help the military develop advanced biofuels[…]

The House Armed Services Committee undermined national security by repealing Section 526 as part of its National Defense Authorization Act. It is incumbent upon Congress to restore this protection that reduces pollution while spurring the development of a domestic advanced biofuels industry for military and civilian use.


Quote of the Day

“We don’t want the West to go and find alternatives. The higher the price of oil goes, the more they have incentives to go and find alternatives.”

— Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, quoted by Bloomberg.


Shale Boom in Texas Could Increase U.S. Oil Output

Now the region is in the hottest new oil play in the country, with giant oil terminals and sprawling RV parks replacing fields of mesquite. More than a dozen companies plan to drill up to 3,000 wells around here in the next 12 months.

The Texas field, known as the Eagle Ford, is just one of about 20 new onshore oil fields that advocates say could collectively increase the nation’s oil output by 25 percent within a decade — without the dangers of drilling in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico or the delicate coastal areas off Alaska.

There is only one catch: the oil from the Eagle Ford and similar fields of tightly packed rock can be extracted only by using hydraulic fracturing, a method that uses a high-pressure mix of water, sand and hazardous chemicals to blast through the rocks to release the oil inside.



“Hobbit” director: Place looking most like Mordor is Alberta oil sands

An Unlikely Power Duo Emerges in the Global Fight Against Climate Change

Bill Clinton and Michael R. Bloomberg … have never joined forces on a project with global reach that could advance both of their legacies. They are taking on an issue — climate change — that may well shape the world’s economic and social future for decades to come.

Mr. Bloomberg’s billions of dollars and Mr. Clinton’s billions of friends are a potent combination, but can this unlikely power coupling make an impact in stemming rising seas or cooling the planet?

“This is enough to choke a horse, one of the two or three biggest challenges in the world,” Mr. Clinton said in an unusual joint telephone interview last week with Mr. Bloomberg. “But if we can prove that this is good economics, good public health and fights the most calamitous consequences of climate change, then we will have done a world of good.” […]

The Clinton-Bloomberg partnership comes at a tough time for those fighting climate change. Congress has made it clear that it is not going to enact a national program to address global warming any time soon and the 194-nation United Nations process has made little progress toward a binding international treaty.

Donors who have provided financing for climate programs are frustrated and fatigued, and many advocacy groups are turning their attention to issues on which they can have tangible impact. Organizations are consolidating and learning to make do with less.

Mr. Bloomberg refers to this as a “maturing” approach to activist philanthropy. “It’s not so much people getting bored with the whole thing or walking away,” he said. “It’s that if you’re going to live through the tough times, this type of efficiency makes sense.”



Bioremediation: Bottom feeders

The Economist:

DESPITE their name, disposable nappies are notoriously difficult to dispose of. Studies of landfills suggest they may take centuries to rot away. But Alethia Vázquez-Morillas of the Autonomous Metropolitan University in Mexico City thinks she has found a method of speeding the process up.

As she and her colleagues describe in Waste Management, cultivating the right type of mushroom on soiled nappies can break down 90% of the material they are made of within two months. Within four, they are degraded completely. What is more, she says, despite their unsavoury diet the fungi in question, Pleurotus ostreatus (better known as oyster mushrooms), are safe to eat. To prove the point she has, indeed, eaten them.

The culinary use of oyster mushrooms was one reason why she picked them for the experiment. The species is frequently used in stir-fries and is often added to soups. The other reason was that Pleurotus ostreatus is widely used in what is known as mycoremediation—the deployment of fungi to clean up waste. It is, for example, already grown on agricultural materials such as wheat and barley straw, and industrial waste like coffee grounds and the leftovers from making tequila. Dr Vázquez-Morillas and her colleagues were trying to extend the oyster mushroom’s own culinary range.

The main ingredient of a nappy is cellulose, an annoyingly persistent material. Pleurotus, however, grows on dead or dying trees in the wild and is thus well provided with enzymes that break cellulose down. And, since Mexicans alone throw away 5 billion nappies every year, there is plenty of material from this source for them to get their mycelia into.

The idea that the result might be sold and eaten may be controversial but it is not absurd. The nappies the researchers used were contaminated only with urine, not faeces. A healthy person’s urine is sterile and Dr Vázquez-Morillas also treated the nappies with steam, to make sure. Such treatment would kill the nasty bugs in faeces, too, though, so mushrooms grown on treated nappies should, in theory, be safe to eat.

In practice, overcoming the yuck factor might be an insuperable barrier to marketing nappy-grown fungi, and the cost of the steam treatment could make the exercise futile. Mycoremediation of this sort does not, however, depend for its success on selling the results. Merely getting rid of what would otherwise hang around indefinitely is worthwhile. And of the fungi themselves, Dr Vázquez-Morillas observes, “they are cleaner than most of the vegetables you can find in the market, at least in Mexico.”


Atlantic bluefin tuna put on U.S. environmental watchlist


Why is the Gates foundation investing in GM giant Monsanto?

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s investments in Monsanto and Cargill have come under heavy criticism. Is it time for the foundation to come clean on its visions for agriculture in developing countries?




Groups sue FDA to stop addition of antibiotics in livestock feed

Several environmental and public health groups filed suit against the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday to try to force the government to stop farmers from routinely adding antibiotics to livestock feed to help animals grow faster.

The groups say widespread agricultural antibiotic use and the FDA’s allowance of the practice are compounding a public health crisis: the increasing prevalence of “superbugs” that infect people and do not respond to antibiotics. […]

About 80 percent of the antibiotics used in the United States are consumed by farm animals.

Groups including the American Medical Association and the Infectious Diseases Society of America have called on the FDA to ban feeding antibiotics to healthy animals. […]

Meanwhile, the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria has increased. Resistant bacteria can evolve whenever drugs are used against them because substrains that are less susceptible to antibiotics will survive and multiply.

Scientists say that overuse of antibiotics in humans is a significant source of the problem but that there is growing circumstantial and genetic evidence that antibiotics given to animals are compounding the threat.


Study: ‘Good’ Cholesterol-Boosting Drug Fails to Reduce Heart Attacks, Strokes

PBS NewsHour:

A new study found that a popular drugs that boosts HDL, also known as “good” cholesterol, does little to prevent heart attacks and strokes. Margaret Warner discusses what the results mean for medicating patients with high cholesterol with the Cleveland Clinic’s chief of cardiovascular medicine, Dr. Stephen Nissen.




Quite a read: Cowboys and Pit Crews

Atul Gawande delivered this year’s commencement address at Harvard Medical School.
Read it here.



Immigration Reform Supporters Take Piecemeal Approach

The Supreme Court’s decision Thursday to uphold an Arizona illegal immigration law is unlikely to boost the chances of comprehensive reform this year. But although a sweeping immigration bill may be dead for now, supporters are pursuing narrower bills that they hope will find some bipartisan support.

The court’s 5-3 ruling upholds an Arizona E-Verify law allowing state officials to penalize businesses for hiring illegal immigrants. Although Sen. Bob Menendez, a leading supporter of immigration reform, said the ruling was a “further example of Congress’ failure to enact comprehensive” legislation, he downplayed its effect on the debate.

“Comprehensive immigration reform is challenging in this Congress,” the New Jersey Democrat said at a news conference last week.

A spokesman for Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), one of the leading proponents for comprehensive reform in the House, agreed. “The Congressman thinks the Supreme Court decision probably will not change the equation much for immigration. There is still an impasse with Republicans,” spokesman Douglas Rivlin said in a statement.

Both Democrats are continuing their efforts to pursue narrower measures.


A Crackdown on Employing Illegal Workers

Obama administration officials are sharpening their crackdown on the hiring of illegal immigrants by focusing increasingly tough criminal charges on employers while moving away from criminal arrests of the workers themselves.

After months of criticism from Republicans who said President Obama was relaxing immigration enforcement in workplaces, the scope of the administration’s strategy has become clear as long-running investigations of employers have culminated in indictments, convictions, exponentially increased fines and jail sentences. While conducting fewer headline-making factory raids, the immigration authorities have greatly expanded the number of businesses facing scrutiny and the cases where employers face severe sanctions.

In a break with Bush-era policies, the number of criminal cases against unauthorized immigrant workers has dropped sharply over the last two years.

Among the employers who have felt the impact of the administration’s tactics are two owners of Mexican restaurants in the Chuy’s Mesquite Broiler chain, which are popular for their laid-back Margaritaville mood and their broiled mahi tacos. On April 20, immigration agents descended on 14 Chuy’s restaurants in coordinated raids in Arizona and California, detaining kitchen workers and carrying away boxes of payroll books and other evidence.

But at the arraignment days later in federal court here, no immigrant workers stood before the judge. The only criminal defendants were the owners, Mark Evenson and his son Christopher, and an accountant who worked with them, Diane Ingrid Strehlow. If the Evensons are convicted on all charges against them of tax fraud and harboring illegal workers, they each could face more than 80 years in jail.

Of 42 illegal immigrants caught in the Chuy’s sweep, only one was charged with a crime, and it was not related to the raid. Thirteen workers were processed for immigration violations — which are civil offenses — and detained or deported. The others remained in this country as witnesses or to seek legal status through the immigration courts.

Under President George W. Bush, immigration agents frequently conducted high-profile factory raids, leading away scores of unauthorized workers in handcuffs, often to face jail time for document fraud or identity theft before being deported. After a raid in Postville, Iowa, in 2008, nearly 300 immigrant workers went to federal prison.





2 US Judges Plead guilty to selling children to private prisons




Thom Hartmann Kicks Ass

Thom Hartmann calls out Fox News for testing new frame – Takers vs Makers


David Gregory Describes Republican Position On Medicare As “Bold Leadership”


[Good Read] Rolling Stone: How Roger Ailes Built the Fox News Fear Factory

The onetime Nixon operative has created the most profitable propaganda machine in history. Inside America’s Unfair and Imbalanced Network.

The new columnist taking over Bob Herbert’s place at NYT’s [OY.]

Joe Nocera isn’t some newbie getting into the world of politics and economics. He’s been opining and editing on this for a long time including a stint at the Washington Monthly. So he should be aware how Conservatives think and operate when they propose economic legislation. There’s nothing brave about Ryan’s plan or the fact that he published it and the Republican-led House passed it. He simply got drunk on the midterm election victory of 2010 and felt emboldened enough to exalt his Randian beliefs. […]

As Steve Benen writes:

Nocera wants to give Ryan credit for noticing problems with the bridge. But that’s not just overly generous, it’s also setting the bar for seriousness way too low.

Overall, there are two broad ways of scrutinizing the GOP’s Medicare privatization plan. The first is to emphasize its needless cruelty towards seniors, which is problematic for those who believe Medicare beneficiaries deserve better. He wants to shift costs onto seniors and use the “savings” for tax cuts, all while pretending to care about a non-existent debt crisis.

The other is to note that Paul Ryan’s numbers simply don’t add up, making his approach unworthy of serious consideration. The combination of the two points to a proposal worthy of the trash heap, not “serious debate.”

The question isn’t why the left would treat this scam as “an object of derision”; the question is why others aren’t doing the same.

Digby joins in:

This is the new columnist for the NY Times, not some windbag blogger. And he’s spouting the most shallow analysis of the current Medicare debate possible. And, sadly, it’s probably going to have an influence on the way the Villagers see it. After all, he’s a crackerjack “business reporter.” He must know what he’s talking about, right?

Instead of reading that stale Village CW (Jack Kemp — idea man!) read this piece by Nocera’s Times colleague: The Economy Is Wavering. Does Washington Notice?

Nocera is upset that the Democrats are pointing out that the Republican budget they are promoting will surely kill Medicare as we know it and has been proven to be junk science. Because he hates that the Democrats are using the GOP’s own actions against them.

You can’t make this stuff up.


The Blight of the Roundtable-Worst Meet the Press. Ever.


As I’m watching all the conservatives on Meet the Press this morning (and so far the only one who might not be called one is Chuck Shumer — the rest are Mitch McConnell, Alex Castellanos, David Brooks, Harold Ford and Ruth Marcus, vacuous Villager of the year) I would think that all elderly people should probably be extremely worried that they will be barred from going to the hospital next week because Medicare has gone belly up.

But we’ve heard this all before. Thanks to Think Progress tweeting this week-end, I was directed to this post at Health Beat:

You may have seen the headline: “DIRE FORECAST SPARKS NEW MEDICARE DEBATE TRUSTEES’ REPORT USED AS FODDER FOR POLITICAL SALVOS BY BOTH SIDES,” but the date may come as a surprise: June 6, 1996.

At the time, the Chicago Tribune warned its readers: “Medicare trustees reported Wednesday that the program’s financial outlook is getting worse, touching off a new round of debate over the future of the federal health insurance system for the elderly and disabled. According to the trustees, who give the program a fiscal checkup every year, the fund that pays Medicare hospital bills dipped into the red last year and will go broke in early 2001. That’s a year earlier than they predicted in 1995.”

Sound familiar? How about these warnings:

Chicago Tribune July 2, 1969: “The Medicare hospital trust fund faces bankruptcy by 1976 and taxes must either be raised or benefits reduced the senate finance committee was told today.”

Washington Post, April 1, 1986: “The Medicare hospital insurance program faces bankruptcy by 1996, two years earlier than projected last year.”

New York Times, January 20, 1985: In the last few years, when it appeared that the Medicare trust fund would run out of money in 1987-89… But the need seemed less urgent after the Congressional Budget Office issued new estimates last September indicating that the Medicare trust fund would not go bankrupt until 1994.

(Hat tip to Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn who culled eighteen stories from the Tribune, the Washington Post and the New York Times over a period of four decades, each predicting that the Medicare Hospital Insurance Fund was teetering on the brink of disaster.)

But of course Medicare didn’t “run out of money” in 1994, and it won’t go belly-up now, in large part thanks to health care reform legislation. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Affordable Care Act (ACA) raises and saves over $950 billion. (Below, I spell out how the legislation generates those dollars). In the process, as the Medicare Trustees’ Report 2011 points out, the ACA reduces Medicare spending “by 25 percent”—without cutting health benefits, or shifting costs to seniors.

More changes will be needed, but Zorn is relatively optimistic. After citing the many times we have been told that Medicare is careening toward bankruptcy, he recalls the story of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” Zorn acknowledges that “just because officials and politicians have been predicting Medicare’s imminent bankruptcy for more than 40 years doesn’t mean that one day they won’t be right, but, more likely,” he suggests, “we will turn the knobs and twiddle the dials in order to keep the overwhelmingly popular program solvent, but not so solvent that, between five and 12 years from now, another set of politicians won’t grimly inform us that it’s going under in between five and 12 years.”

The good news is that nobody was watching this vapid, braindead Meet The Press this morning about the immediate deficit catastrophe because I don’t think I’ve ever had the misfortune to see a bigger load of pompous Villager pap and GOP propaganda in one place.

I don’t think I’ve never seen one this bad, seriously: (Video here.)


These people are demented. Medicare must be slashed and anybody who doesn’t agree is a coward and a fool. But we are supposed to believe that the Corporate Parties of America are prepared to bring down the global economy out of a surfeit of fiscal rectitude and the corporate and financial elites who own them are too silly to understand it (unlike the very, very savvy Mr Brooks) and are completely without resources to stop it. This is considered to be a serious position.



Senator Barbara Boxer: For the U.S., it’s time to get out of Afghanistan

In September 2001, when the U.S. Senate unanimously voted to use all necessary and appropriate force against those responsible for the attacks of Sept. 11, we knew our enemy: Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network. Within a month, the United States began combat operations in Afghanistan, whose Taliban-led government had provided a haven for the terrorist organization.

Today, nearly 10 years later, we have accomplished what President Obama called the “most significant achievement to date” in our war against Al Qaeda: Bin Laden is dead. And according to CIA Director Leon Panetta, there may be as few as 50 members of Al Qaeda residing in Afghanistan. […]

Recently, I heard an expert on Afghanistan state that withdrawing U.S. troops would be risky because it “reaffirms the regional perception that the United States is not a reliable ally.”

I was startled by this statement. We did not go into Afghanistan with the intention of rebuilding the country or maintaining a large, permanent presence. Furthermore, the United States has sacrificed tremendously in Afghanistan. We are spending an estimated $10 billion a month there, and our total so far is almost half a trillion dollars. We have trained 125,000 members of the Afghan police and 159,000 members of the Afghan army, and spent an estimated $26 billion equipping them. […]

The Obama administration has clearly defined our objective in Afghanistan: to defeat Al Qaeda, ensuring that it no longer poses a significant threat to U.S. national security. We must not allow this goal to be distorted or expanded. The truth is we can continue to disrupt and dismantle Al Qaeda with sophisticated intelligence and targeted counter-terrorism raids, as evidenced by the daring special forces raid that killed Bin Laden.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle share similar views. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) has called our expenditures in Afghanistan “fundamentally unsustainable,” and the committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), said Afghanistan “does not carry a strategic value that justifies 100,000 American troops and a $100 billion per year cost, especially given current fiscal restraints.”

Furthermore, Americans are ready for our troops to come home. According to a recent USA Today/Gallup poll, nearly 60% of Americans feel the U.S. has fulfilled its mission in Afghanistan and should bring the troops home.
That is why I have introduced a bill in the Senate that would require the administration to give Congress a plan for redeploying our troops that includes an end date.

The United States has spent more years fighting in Afghanistan than it has in any other war in the nation’s history. We have made progress on our core objective: crippling Al Qaeda. Now is the time for us to focus on that goal and finish the job. We can do this while dramatically reducing the number of our troops serving in harm’s way and reducing the burden on our taxpayers. We owe that much to our troops, and to the American people.




There’s No Mandate to Slash Government

E.J. Dionne:

You wonder: Will Republicans realize that this is their Pauline Kael moment? Will they understand that the anti-government cries they think they hear from “the people” are the voices of no more than 20 percent to 25 percent of the electorate who constitute the die-hard conservative core?

And by the way: Hochul’s victory wasn’t just about Medicare. Her most effective ad argued that Ryan was cutting Medicare while promoting tax cuts for the wealthy. “The plan Jane Corwin supports would cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans,” the announcer intoned. “The budget would overwhelmingly benefit the rich. Kathy Hochul says cut the deficit but do it the right way: Protect Medicare and no more tax breaks for multimillionaires.”

Note to timid Senate moderates who race from the battlefield even before they smell gunpowder: Hochul ran against tax cuts for the rich and won — in a district John McCain carried in 2008 by six points.

Republicans might also notice that the voters’ retreat from their party is not confined to the 26th. As Washington Monthly’s always-instructive blogger Steve Benen noted, Democrats picked up formerly Republican state legislative seats in special elections this month in both Wisconsin and New Hampshire. […]

Let’s see: Voters don’t seem to like cuts to Medicare, cuts to education, or tax cuts for the rich. So what are “the people” trying to say?

From the beginning, too many Republicans (and too many in the media) saw the tea party as a broadly based movement whose extreme anti-government views reflected the popular will.

This was never true. The tea party consisted of citizens on the right end of politics who were always there but got angrier and better-organized after Obama was elected. They crowded the polling places last Nov. 2 while progressives found other things to do. The tea partiers were joined in voting Republican by many middle-of-road Americans understandably unhappy with the state of politics and the economy.

But those middle-of-the-roaders never bargained for what Paul Ryan — or Govs. Rick Scott, John Kasich of Ohio or Scott Walker of Wisconsin — had in mind for them. Now they’re talking back. They’re not as loud as the tea party. But as Hochul’s victory showed, they’re starting to be heard.


Charlie Cook, HRP (Highly Respected Pudnut)

Historically, Republicans have been hierarchical in their selection of presidential nominees, picking the candidate whose “turn” it is—the logical successor rather than having a real, open contest.

This time that dynamic doesn’t seem to be in place. […]

With so many new and quirky elements this time, the likely winner of the GOP presidential nod may best be determined by starting with a couple of assumptions. First, when the primaries and caucuses are concluded, the GOP nomination will go to someone who is at least acceptable to the three major factions of the Republican Party.

The first and largest faction is the establishment faction, made up of old-line, pro-business Republicans who are more secular in their priorities. The second faction is made up of conservatives whose primary focus is on social, cultural, and religious issues. They are particularly strong in the South and Midwest, in small-town and rural areas as well as the exurbs. Tea partiers comprise the newest faction, making up perhaps a third of all Republicans. Their unifying cause was opposition to President Obama’s health care reform and, more broadly, opposition to Big Government and a strong aversion to taxes.

A decidedly smaller faction is the libertarian wing, personified by Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. This group seems very limited, and some of their positions severely curtail the potential to expand their numbers in the party.  These stances include the legalization or decriminalization of certain drugs and support for isolationist policies that create rather interesting positions on such things as the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Virtually all Republicans these days are right of center. The differences among the factions are a matter of emphasis, priorities, and style. It is unlikely that the eventual GOP nominee will have been the first choice for each group.


Romney bets his candidacy on the economy

The Romney team spends less time than in the past trying to anticipate what rivals will do or who they will be. “This go-round, it’s important not to think in those terms, not in terms of who’s getting in or out, which slice of the Republican Party we’re going to try to carve up,” said media adviser Russ Schriefer. “It’s much more about Mitt going out and talking about jobs and the economy and his experience and making his case.”

Calculations about this state or that state are being made when they have to be made. The decision to announce in New Hampshire on Thursday is a reminder of the critical importance that the Granite State plays in the team’s calculations. Beyond that, Romney’s advisers remain coy about just how they plan to navigate through Iowa or South Carolina, two states less hospitable than New Hampshire.

Many of Romney’s GOP rivals see the Massachusetts health-care plan, which included an individual mandate like the one in Obama’s plan, as a major vulnerability. Romney advisers know his rivals will try to beat him with it at every opportunity. Going forward, they will try to make the argument that all GOP candidates, including Romney, favor repealing Obama’s plan and that he has put out a proposal to replace it. No one knows if that gamble will work.

As for his refusal to apologize for the Massachusetts plan, they argue that Romney has shown conviction in the face of pressure to back off. That goes to the other issue that threatens Romney’s campaign — character. Four years ago, his rivals battered him as a flip-flopper. This year, they will question whether he does have the kind of core convictions his advisers claim. They will ask: Who is the real Romney?

How Romney handles that question may be his ultimate test. Here in Boston, the answer, repeatedly offered by his top advisers, is that the real Romney is the one who will stake his candidacy on the economy. They say that is the key to winning the nomination and the White House, and on that they sound defiant.

“To beat Romney,” Stevens said, “you’ve got to beat him on the economy.”

Romney advisers see a disconnect between the president’s announcements of real progress on the economy at a time when there is, in the words of one, “a massive disaster out there with people’s lives.” They argue that, on economic issues, Obama still has trouble connecting with voters, particularly those from the white working class. […]

Romney believes his private-sector experience — only businessman Herman Cain in the GOP field can claim as much — will give him credibility on economic issues. “He can talk about it like [Arizona Sen. John] McCain [R] could about the military,” Stevens said. “You may not agree with him, but you don’t think he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” […]

His few public events have been devoted almost exclusively to the economy. Those events have drawn little national attention, which, for now, suits Romney’s team.

Four years ago, Romney’s advisers would read the morning headlines or watch news breaks on cable TV and ask themselves how they could get their candidate into those stories. They needed to boost Romney’s profile.

Today, their candidate is a known quantity. They mostly refuse, as one adviser put it, to “chase the tennis ball.” They prefer to jump in only when it suits the campaign’s overall message, as they did this month after Obama gave his Middle East speech. Romney said Obama had “thrown Israel under the bus.”[…]

Four years ago, Romney was more about process than message — gaming the early-voting states, running early ads to raise his profile and trying to convert that into credibility and support. Strategy became the message. This time, Romney hopes message becomes the strategy.

Four years ago, he made a bid for social conservatives that took him off his core strength — economic issues. His advisers say that won’t happen this time. They believe he has no need to re-litigate social issues and say he has found his comfort zone with the economy and with a campaign of a different style and pace. He is, said several advisers, “less frantic.”

The Romney team spends less time than in the past trying to anticipate what rivals will do or who they will be. “This go-round, it’s important not to think in those terms, not in terms of who’s getting in or out, which slice of the Republican Party we’re going to try to carve up,” said media adviser Russ Schriefer. “It’s much more about Mitt going out and talking about jobs and the economy and his experience and making his case.”

Calculations about this state or that state are being made when they have to be made. The decision to announce in New Hampshire on Thursday is a reminder of the critical importance that the Granite State plays in the team’s calculations. Beyond that, Romney’s advisers remain coy about just how they plan to navigate through Iowa or South Carolina, two states less hospitable than New Hampshire.[…]

As for his refusal to apologize for the Massachusetts plan, they argue that Romney has shown conviction in the face of pressure to back off. That goes to the other issue that threatens Romney’s campaign — character. Four years ago, his rivals battered him as a flip-flopper. This year, they will question whether he does have the kind of core convictions his advisers claim. They will ask: Who is the real Romney?

How Romney handles that question may be his ultimate test. Here in Boston, the answer, repeatedly offered by his top advisers, is that the real Romney is the one who will stake his candidacy on the economy. They say that is the key to winning the nomination and the White House, and on that they sound defiant.


The author, legislative sponsor of AZ “Papers Please” law (SB1070) will be recalled this week

I just want to give everyone a heads up that the author and legislative sponsor of Arizona’s show-me-your-papers law (SB1070) will be recalled this week.

Unfortunately, one of the Republican Secretary of State gave the recall campaign the WRONG DEADLINE to turn in signatures for a November election (we have a complex, odd set of internal Secretary of State rules). Now, it will be up to the governor to call the election for November 2011 or March 2012.

We need to show a backlash from across America against everybody in the extreme set, and Russell Pearce (John Tanton’s protege) is a great example for the rest of the country because most people believe he’s untouchable and Arizona’s unchangeable. Recalling Russell Pearce could go a long way to helping reshape the narrative on today’s crazy crop of right wingers.

HOW YOU CAN HELP: Starting Tuesday, we are going to need as many bloggers as possible bringing to light the “mistake” made by the Republican Secretary of State that allows Arizona’s can’t-speak-in-public governor (Literally. Remember the 13 seconds of debate silence followed by, “I have did everything I could do.”) to determine whether the recall election happens in November 2011 or March 2012.

BOTTOM LINE: Pearce is RECALLED the moment the signatures are turned in. Arizona’s GOP governor should not continue to provide cover and protection for Pearce by arbitrarily scheduling the recall ELECTION next year.

A little back story: The recall effort is a NONPARTISAN group, co-chaired by a Republican and a Democrat. There is a Republican group who had been working on recall signatures but stopped when the nonpartisan group said they would make the deadline. That Republican group has spent the time since then lining up a MODERATE candidate and getting the business community and local GOP precinct committee persons behind their candidate. No matter who runs on the Democratic side, Russell Pearce is likely lose the recall election. Even if he is replaced with a moderate Republican, the backlash message will reverberate across the country.


Baloney on rye, served with weak tea

Myth: The Ryan plan to end Medicare as we know it just needs to be explained better.

The idea that you can buck 90% of the voters and ram through what 10% want with better messaging is possibly the most delusional idea I have heard this election season (the only thing that competes with it is the idea that since Ryan’s Republicans only want to screw future seniors (under 55) in this round, greedy geezers from coast to coast will abandon their family’s best interests and their own better judgment and vote Republican in 2012.)  But it’s what conservatives want to believe. […]

Myth as stated by National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar :

The reality is that the Republican field is hardly as weak as advertised, both by their own merit and by historical standards.

Reality from Gallup:

Should Palin follow suit and not enter the race, Romney would be the clear front-runner, but arguably the weakest front-runner in any recent Republican nomination campaign.

Ah, but Gallup simply means this isn’t a lock for Romney, right? That’s very true and yet misleading, since Romney’s money and positioning still puts him as the favorite (he’s at 28 on Intrade as an example, with Pawlenty at 21.) However, should he win, Romneycare will severely hurt him with his own party, a factor that contributes mightily to the idea that this is a weak field:

A top goal of the nation’s most influential national Tea Party group is to stop Mitt Romney from winning the Republican nomination for president.

The bottom line is that any field that Romney leads is a weak field. […]

Popularity of Republican Governors

Myth: Chris Christie, Scott Walker, John Kasich and other GOP governors are both effective and popular.

Reality from WSJ:

Wisconsin Anti-Union Law Goes Down In Flames

[WI Judge] Sumi’s ruling comes two days after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), another proponent of fiscal austerity, lost a high-profile battle with the New Jersey Supreme Court and was ordered to restore $500 million in funding for poor school districts that had been previously cut. Christie, who had threatened to defy the court if it ruled against him, told the media that he was furious that unelected judges were making law from the bench.  Despite his anger, Christie says he will comply with the ruling.  Critics of austerity have been emboldened by their victories in Wisconsin and New Jersey.


Margie Omero has a great summary at

Voters across the country have buyers’ remorse about the Republicans they elected to office. The big stands House Republicans have taken so far–defunding Planned Parenthood, keeping tax breaks for the wealthy, nearly shutting down the government, and ending Medicare as we know–have all been wildly unpopular. Even with Republicans. In upstate New York this week, Democrat Kathy Hochul won by running a campaign focused on the Republican Medicare plan. Seeing the writing on the wall, the next day five Senate Republicans defected and voted against it. And don’t even get me started about the paucity of the GOP presidential field despite the 2010 “shellacking.”


Myth: The economy, Republicans keep telling themselves, will decide the election and not the Republican debacle on Medicare.

Reality: The myth might be true, but not in the way people think. From the Newshour:

The running assumption in the media is that next year’s presidential contest will be waged around the economy. There’s good reason to think that and also good reason to think that the unemployment rate will remain uncomfortably high.

But the current mood in Eagle [CO] may be telling. After some very hard years the measure of improvement for voters may not be what unemployment was in 2008 or some random number assigned by analysts, but simple improvement or something else. “People here aren’t angry anymore as much as they want answers,” Hanson said.

Candidates, in other words, may have to give voters a reason to choose them beyond frustration. They will need to offer solutions. And unlike anger, solutions are not easy to find.



Ohio Gov. Kasich takes big beating in latest PPP poll

Gov. Kasich, who squeaked to a win last year over then-incumbent Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland by only two percentage points [or about 77,000 votes] in a low turnout election, would be smoked by Strickland [59-34] if a Mulligan election were held now, according to a poll released Wednesday by Public Policy Polling.

In a poll appropriately named “Kasich hits rock bottom,” PPP said “Ohio’s Gov. John Kasich has become only more unpopular over the last few months, as the opposition to his limitations on collective bargaining has only intensified.”

Two months after the last PPP poll, which had Kasich’s approval-disapproval rating at 35-54, his new performance numbers, 33-56, which PPP said ties him with “Florida’s Rick Scott for the most reviled governor in the country,” is the kind of merit based performance standard Kasich wants Ohio teachers to endure in the restrictive bill he backed and signed on collective bargaining that is coming back to haunt him, as the poll’s questions showed.

Kasich’s fall, PPP said, has again come entirely with Republicans, who still supported him in the previous poll, 81-16, but now stand by him only 67-26. “Basically, he loses all the Republicans who disapprove of his performance in office, and only half of the Democrats who approve would actually vote for him.”

On the subject of Kasich drive to virtually gut Ohio’s 28-year old public worker collective bargaining law, 55 percent of the 565 voters surveyed from May 19th to 22nd want to repeal Senate Bill 5. Only 35 percent would vote to let the law stand, PPP said. Even 27 percent of Kasich’s Republican base would vote against the bill. Forty-five percent of all voters, including 24 percent of Republicans, “would go further and pass an amendment to the state constitution enshrining collective bargaining rights.”

Kasich took a slightly worse whipping from poll than did former Cleveland Cavalier star Lebron James, who left his home state of Ohio to go play for the Miami Heat. For James, a big basketball player Kasich hasn’t shed any tears over for leaving as he did, his favorable-unfavorable ratings were 23-49.

Ohio Congressman John Boehner, Speaker of the U.S. House, was equally loved and hated, 37-37 percent.

Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who’s been shopping for a new district to run in knowing his 10th district may be gone after Republicans redraw legislative districts now that they have control of the boundaries pen and Census data says Ohio will lose two seats, has a 26-39 percent favorable-unfavorable rating.

Ohio State University football coach Jim Tressel, who earned himself a five-game suspension from the NCAA for his role in not disclosing some of his players were trading tattoos for game memorabilia, had more people [43%] unsure of whether they liked [37%] or didn’t like him [19%].

Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling from Raleigh, North Carolina, said of Kasich’s numbers, “John Kasich might be Barack Obama’s new BFF. Kasich’s unpopularity is really hurting the Republican brand in Ohio and may make it easier for Obama to win the state again even if he himself is not all that popular.”


U.S. Adults Estimate That 25% of Americans Are Gay or Lesbian

Those with lower incomes, the less educated, women, and young people give the highest estimates

The findings, from a Gallup poll conducted May 5-8, 2011, mark the second time Gallup has asked Americans to estimate the gay population. In 2002, Gallup used two separate questions to ask Americans to estimate the percentage of gay men and lesbians. At that time, Americans estimated that 21% of men were gay and that 22% of women were lesbian. Twice as many did not offer an opinion as do now.




A lesson for Cornel West

IT WAS not enough for Cornel West to ridicule the first African-American president as a “black mascot.’’ The loquacious professor also fired his blunderbuss at Michelle Obama. In the process, he splattered a generation of black people freeing itself from narrow identities and stereotypes.

The Princeton African-American studies professor belittled the First Lady’s causes of child obesity and assisting military families, by scornfully asking on the website Truthdig: “Why doesn’t she visit a prison? Why doesn’t she spend some time in the hood?’’

The down-with-the-people professor clearly has spent too much time in the ivory tower to see the many ways to be “in the hood.’’ It escapes him that 42 percent of African-American women are now obese, putting them on the leading edge of a crisis that is shortening the lifespan of US citizens.

West’s dismissal of Ms. Obama’s work with military families is even more peculiar. In a nation 13 percent black, African-Americans comprise 20 percent of the active-duty Army. More than a third of Army women are black. Retired Brigadier General Wilma Vaught, president of the national foundation that recognizes women’s military service, said Michelle Obama “is following in the footsteps of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s World War II fame.’’

The backstory for West’s attack is that he supported the Obama campaign hoping for a progressive White House but has since felt politically betrayed and personally snubbed. While criticizing Obama’s policies is fair game, it is despairing to see an Ivy League professor of rare privilege himself succumb to a jealous attempt to humiliate fellow achievers.

West’s attempt to claw the Obamas down into his crab barrel of authenticity contradicts his own writings. In 2007, he wrote how remarkable it was that descendants of slaves “now excel in the broad range of American life.’’ West complained that we spend too much time debating the woes of black people to “discuss the factors that led to the successes of millions of African-Americans,’’ and that we should ponder more optimistically why “a country so flawed in its founding nonetheless produces such an accomplished population?’’




Big hunk o’ love

By age 42, Elvis had long been gobbling drugs and fatty foods. But his romance with saturated fat reached a sort of point-of-no-return 18 months before the end, on a chilly night that started at Graceland, his estate in Memphis, Tenn. On Groundhog Day in 1976, Elvis’s guests at Graceland included two Denver cops, Jerry Kennedy and Ron Pietrafeso, who had served as bodyguards for him during a ski trip in Vail, Colo., two weeks earlier. As gratuities, Elvis gave Kennedy a Lincoln Mark IV and Pietrafeso a Cadillac. (Elvis’s relations with law enforcement were unremittingly strange. He wore and owned a Denver police uniform. And once he showed up unannounced at the White House and asked to be made a federal agent. Richard Nixon posed for a photo and — without apparent irony — badged him into the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.)

That night, the men lounged in the Jungle Room, which Elvis had custom-designed to resemble a Tarzan-style rainforest, complete with a permanently running waterfall and a Kon Tiki throne from which the Big Kahuna himself held court. Elvis was seized by a reverie — a fond recollection of his favorite sandwich of all time, the Fool’s Gold Loaf, served by the Colorado Mine Company in Denver. He had tried it just once, and like a lost love, it now beckoned across the years, each one of its 8,000 calories a memory of unspeakable delight. He described it for his guests.

The recipe, devised by restaurant owners Cindy and Buck Scott, was simple. Take a whole loaf of Italian bread and slice it lengthwise. Hollow it out and slather it with margarine. Then add a whole jar of jelly and a whole jar of creamy peanut butter, creating two large boats of PB & J. Finally, add a whole pound of fried bacon. Before adding the bacon, dab away the grease on paper towels (presumably to avoid adding unnecessary fat and rendering the sandwich disgusting). Then reunite the sandwich halves, deep-fry, and serve. For this, the Scotts charged $49.95, the equivalent of $189 in today’s dollars.

Elvis’ guests murmured approval at the description of the sandwich, and Elvis — unwilling to see them disappointed — insisted that they go at once to Denver. At midnight, Elvis’ people called the restaurant to order their sandwiches, and they alerted his pilots, Milo High (his real name) and Elwood David, that the boss was on a mission. The plane, named the Lisa Marie for his daughter, who had turned 8 that day, was still a novelty, as Elvis had acquired and re-equipped it just a year before. The Convair 880 normally seated 96, but Elvis had torn out the standard seats and installed leather recliners, as well as a bedroom and dining facilities. On the two-hour trip, they drank Pepsi but abstained from all food.

Awaiting Elvis and his two friends in a private hangar at Denver’s Stapleton Airport was a scene worthy of the “Satyricon”: 22 piping-hot Fool’s Gold Loaves on silver trays, with a chest of cracked ice and Dom Pérignon on the side. Elvis, the two cops and the two pilots started eating at 1:40 a.m. and took two hours to finish. The cops drank Champagne; Elvis and the pilots drank Perrier. And then they got back in the plane and returned to Graceland.

The whole enterprise cost about $16,000 and burned around 10,000 gallons of fuel. The total number of calories consumed was so great that the men would literally have had to walk halfway back to Memphis to burn them off. However, Elvis was not totally unpragmatic. He allegedly had the Scotts write down the recipe for his personal chef, Pauline “Brown Mama” Nicholson, so she could prepare it on-site in case the craving struck Elvis again. (She is known to have prepared him countless fried peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches, but the Fool’s Gold Loaf never made a recorded encore.)

There’s much to deplore about this sordid caper: the carbon emissions, the profligacy, the tastelessness, the thought that each gooey loaf must have been lacquering the walls of Elvis’ arteries and bringing him that much closer to his final performance. The Fool’s Gold Loaf never caught on widely — it survives in Elvis folklore, and in novelty cookbooks — and the Colorado Mine Company was shuttered in the 1980s.

On the other hand, the quest for the Fool’s Gold Loaf is one of the purer expressions of the total lack of sense and inhibition that made Elvis, and rock ‘n’ roll more generally, so appealing in the first place. Few people have allowed their ids to dominate them as thoroughly as the man who flew a thousand miles to kill himself with a stack of grease-drenched sandwiches. The libertine streak that inspired such a whim is the same one that made those hips gyrate to such devastating effect two decades earlier.

And most of all, the expedition survives in memory as a testament to the King’s extreme streak of hospitality and friendship. Elvis, the puffy and obese addict, would spare no expense to satisfy his cop buddies’ late-night cravings. This is touching loyalty. The crowds may have preferred the early Elvis, but there is something to love about those late-Elvis jowls after all.


US Uncut targets Apple in June 4th protest

Apple: Tax Cheating Doesn’t Sync with My Values

Stand up for Elizabeth Warren

Earlier this month, 44 Republican Senators pledged to filibuster the nomination of anyone to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unless the agency itself is significantly weakened.

This threat makes it much more likely that President Obama will have to use his constitutional authority to make a recess appointment to fill the top slot at the agency.

Our friends at the Progressive Change Campaign Committee have prepared a letter to President Obama supporting a recess appointment. This letter has been signed by CREDO Action, other progressive organizations and top academics (you can read the full text of the letter below).

Now we want to help build even more momentum by asking hundreds of thousands of activists to join us in signing this letter.

Stand up for Elizabeth Warren by co-signing the letter. Click here to automatically add your name.

Tell the StateDept: Stop the Canadian tar-sands pipeline!

Awakening to the Limits of the  Presidency


Well, the last four years should have caused us to become much more sober and astute about what we can expect from the president of the US, in these times. Perhaps, it’s a moment for us to contend with the fact that there are multiple levels of political action and social struggle at work in this nation; and that each of us must decide where our strengths and skills are needed and where we can do the most good. The only in-the-flesh savior we should be looking for is “we the people.”

From such a vantage point, we can then move to discern collectively what it is that we absolutely need to demand collectively from Washington. In the process, this also asks us to consider where we each want to put our individual efforts. For me, issues close to my heart are universal health care, public education and the amelioration of poverty. For others, it may be issues related to labor and the local or national economy. For others, it might be immigration, the arts, women’s issues or gay marriage.[…]

That said, it seems that one of the ways in which we must proceed is to create a greater public commitment to coalitional and collaborative relationships across communities and across the nation – a sort of multiple peoples’ Congresses, if you will, that can communicate with one another on key issues and concerns, outside of the limited and ego-driven arena of electoral politics.

Moreover, it seems that once we accept the limits of the presidency in its capacity to enact change that improves the quality of our lives, we can become more effective in putting people pressure on the presidency with respect to local, state, national and international concerns. Historically, it seems that most major changes of policy at the federal level, in the interest of the many, were made as a consequence of the enormous pressure put on Washington by folks on the ground.

This said, with more and more people out of work, we should be working together to develop community cooperatives so unemployed people can put their “on hold” talents to work in ways that might make a difference in their own lives and the lives of our communities, while being both fed and housed. This requires us to shift our paradigm, from an individual sense of material responsibility to a collective sense of material responsibility for the greater good. If the rich are able to enact an economic socialism (aka corporate mergers and public bailouts and subsidies) to maximize individual profits for the few, why can’t those of us who are committed to social justice and genuine equality enact a different form of economic socialism in the interest of the many?

To do this would also require that those of us who do hold well-paying jobs be willing to channel a greater percentage of our resources to community organizations and political advocacy groups that are working together for an emancipatory agenda, steadfastly focused on building relationships, concrete strategies and viable solutions for social change, at every level of society; so that we might begin to restore our lives, our communities, our country and our world.

If we were to take this kind of an approach, we might become clearer about what we need now, in order to further a genuinely democratic citizenship. Through greater collective and organized interaction, we could better assess not whether Obama will become the progressive president we longed for, but rather how can we pressure whoever is in office (or campaigning for office) at the local, state and federal level to be fully responsive to the needs of people, rather than responsive to the political pressure and private interests of those who continue to hold illegitimate wealth and power over our lives.

What I’m saying is that no US president is going to come from on high and wave his/her magic wand and change our material and social conditions. Only the will and movement of the people can finally make a dent in transforming the illegitimate power of the wealthy elite. Of course, this means that we must be willing to not be bought off, for a few crumbs, but to redirect our frustration, rage, love, hope and political will to enliven a political vision, soulfully anchored in integrity, humility, compassion, honesty, dignity and a renewed sense of human solidarity.


There’s been a lot of talk in Washington lately about ways to cut the deficit. Time and time again, this talk has been focused solely on Medicare and Social Security.

And yet, two of the biggest “800 pound gorillas” in the room go ignored — the Bush tax cuts, and military spending.

The Bush tax cuts have literally cost America trillions of dollars, with trillions more to come. At a time when we are asking all Americans for shared sacrifice, it is ludicrous to keep extending this windfall for millionaires and billionaires.

And there is no excuse for continuing to tolerate the staggering levels of waste in the current defense budget.

If we are going to cut the deficit, these twin gorillas must be addressed.

Write Congress today, and demand that any deal to address the deficit include cuts to defense spending, and an end to the Bush tax cuts.


Corporate Control? Not in These Communities

Mt. Shasta is not alone. Rather, it is part of a (so far) quiet municipal movement making its way across the United States in which communities are directly defying corporate rule and affirming the sovereignty of local government.

Since 1998, more than 125 municipalities have passed ordinances that explicitly put their citizens’ rights ahead of corporate interests, despite the existence of state and federal laws to the contrary. These communities have banned corporations from dumping toxic sludge, building factory farms, mining, and extracting water for bottling. Many have explicitly refused to recognize corporate personhood. Over a dozen townships in Pennsylvania, Maine, and New Hampshire have recognized the right of nature to exist and flourish (as Ecuador just did in its new national constitution).[…]

These communities are beginning to band together. When the attorney general of Pennsylvania threatened to sue Packer Township this year for banning sewage sludge within its boundaries, six other Pennsylvania towns adopted similar ordinances and twenty-three others passed resolutions in support of their neighboring community. Many people were outraged when the attorney general proclaimed, “there is no inalienable right to local self-government.”

Bigger cities are joining the fray. In November, Pittsburgh’s city council voted to ban corporations in the city from drilling for natural gas as a result of local concern about an environmentally devastating practice known as “fracking.” As city councilman Doug Shields stated in a press release, “Many people think that this is only about gas drilling. It’s not—it’s about our authority as a municipal community to say ‘no’ to corporations that will cause damage to our community. It’s about our right to community, [to] local self-government.”

What has driven these communities to such radical action?



If an Entire City can come together for music—awesomely—think what else could we do!

Bye, Bye Miss American Pie, Grand Rapids.

Sign up! Organizing for America’s summer training

We’re asking supporters like you for input on the best way to build for the 2012 election in your community. RSVP now to take part in an online grassroots planning session.

Strategy Update: What We’re Building This Summer



No amount of prayer or meditation can do what

helping others can do. ~ Meher Baba


Leave a Comment

Please Login to comment
2 Comment threads
8 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
4 Comment authors
agrippaChernynkayajkkFLwhatsthatsound Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Notify of

I think that Romney is the GOP guy with the best chance to win. If he is anything like his father, he has some common sense. Experience in business does not tell me very much.

Dionne is right: there is no mandate to reduce government. The GOP thinks that there is. I expect that they are wrong.

The tea party is about 20 -25% of the electorate and comprises the most conservative of the GOP. That faction has been around since the beginning of the republic. In Nov 2010, they got out and voted; enough of the 10% who are “indendents” voted GOP and Dems stayed home.

In Nov 2012, it may be a different matter.


Wow, I’m not sure even Charles Dickens could have created two characters like those vile corrupt judges from the Pennsylvania case, but it sounds like something right out of “Oliver Twist”.

It’s hard to believe the awfulness of some people.


wts- it is hard to believe the scope of greed in this country.. I am appalled by the pure ugly of people in high places all over the world. There are no words to describe my contempt for them.

I also had to laugh at the irony of spending millions on a scientific study ” a blue-ribbon committee of the National Academies of Science concludes in a new report” showing that testing is an inadequate means of determining skills!
No shit??!
What have Teachers been saying for the last 10 years???? Why not pour that funding into education, lose the testing, and teach kids again????? DOH!


exactly, jkk.
By the way, did you see the picture of Rosie I posted for you yesterday? It’s in AD’s Space Invaders article.


OMG- she would melt the heart of someone Even as Mean as Khirad!
She is precious.. hugs to her!
edit: heard about the rain and bad weather- are you all ok?


We got skipped. Well, we had a downpour, but nothing cataclysmic. In fact, there were really nice sunny spots today and yesterday, as the cyclone whips around. It’s nice and sunny now in fact.

I didn’t realize that Khirad was mean. 😉


What the heck? Only part of my post posted!
Glad you only had rain, they were talking about all sorts of dire events, and they never say where- not that I would necessarily know.. but it is scary!

If I Ever find him….I’m hanging his ponytail on my belt! 😉


wts- forgot to finish; that Darn Khirad got me again! He regularly reels me in over at his post, but he got me Good this time! I know he’s lurking, the big chicken- And laughing his butt off!
Ifya see him, let me know.. 😉