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A history of Medicare insolvency projections



Groups Ask FCC to Block Wireless Merger as Deadline Looms

The Federal Communications Commission is facing a cascade of public comments on AT&T’s proposed merger with T-Mobile, but at least some of those filings will be ending on Tuesday.

More than 25,000 filings had been submitted as of Friday, with more than 10,000 pouring in since Thursday alone. All formal petitions to block the $39 billion merger are due on Tuesday.

As of Friday, 17 such petitions to deny were listed online, but it is unclear how many of those represent formal requests. One petition has the signatures of 2,647 people from around the country.

Free Press communications director Dave Saldana said his group plans to file a formal petition by Tuesday and FCC officials expect more by the deadline. Sprint, the No. 3 wireless provider in the United States, is expected to file a hefty petition.

AT&T and T-Mobile’s owner Deutsche Telekom have until June 10th to respond and then opponents get another crack at it until June 20th. More informal public comments can continue throughout the process.

Thousands of the public comments have been channeled through a website set up by the advocacy group Free Press. The site allows users to enter personal information then directly posts the comment to the FCC’s electronic filing system. Users can customize their statement, but most simply post the suggested one-paragraph message:

“AT&T’s takeover of T-Mobile would stifle choice and innovation in the market, harm consumers, and lead to higher prices and fewer jobs nationwide. Don’t let AT&T put our mobile future at risk. Please stand with me and reject such reckless consolidation of the mobile industry.”

Saldana said he is pleased with the number of people who have used the website and said the number of comments indicate significant opposition to the merger. […]

Other support has come from a range of groups, including the National Medical Association, which concluded that the merger is the “best and fastest way” to bring new wireless technology to more Americans.


Wal-Mart Is Being Pressed to Disclose How Global Suppliers Treat Workers

At its annual shareholder meeting on Friday, the New York City pension funds, which own a small percentage of shares in Wal-Mart, plan to ask the company to require vendors to publish annual reports detailing working conditions in their factories.

Michael Garland, who oversees shareholder activism efforts as executive director for corporate governance at the city comptroller’s office, said the proposal was meant to improve workplace safety and worker rights at companies making goods for Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer.

“No matter how much Wal-Mart and other companies are doing, or claim they are doing, to monitor their suppliers, they just don’t have the capacity to do it in a comprehensive way,” Mr. Garland said. “They put tremendous pressure on their suppliers to cut money out of the system,” which can lead to long hours, low pay or other problems.

Wal-Mart opposes the request, citing the difficulty of persuading suppliers to issue reports. The company contends that even if it could enforce such a plan, to do so might threaten the availability of certain products from those who did not comply.

While Mr. Garland acknowledged that the proposal was unlikely to succeed, he said casting a spotlight on the problem could prompt Wal-Mart to begin considering how to address its association with suppliers who did not treat workers fairly.

Kalpona Akter, a Bangladeshi labor organizer who will present the proposal at the meeting in Fayetteville, Ark., complained that many of the Bangladesh factories that produced goods for Wal-Mart mistreated their workers.

At Wal-Mart suppliers, “very often, first of all, the factory does not enforce the law” regarding minimum wages, she said.

“Though the minimum salary has been cleared by the government, and many factories implemented that,” she said, “we haven’t seen any Wal-Mart suppliers giving a living wage to workers.” […]

The New York City pension funds own about 5.7 million shares of Wal-Mart stock worth about $311 million. That gives them an ownership stake of less than 0.2 percent in Wal-Mart. […]

“The expectation here is we’re not going to get a majority vote,” he said. “It is an opportunity to make the case directly to the board. The expectation is you persuade the board that it’s the right thing to do for the company and for the shareholders.”

Wal-Mart has been fighting the proposal since January, when it notified the Securities and Exchange Commission that it planned to strike the proposal from its proxy statement, and asked the S.E.C. not to penalize it for doing so.

Wal-Mart wrote the S.E.C. saying it did not have contractual authority to require suppliers to publish the sustainability reports. In addition, using only those suppliers that issued these reports would require renegotiating thousands of agreements.

In the environmental field, Wal-Mart has successfully created metrics for reducing packaging, and asked suppliers to change their practices in response, suggesting that creating new standards across the supply chain is feasible.

In late March, the S.E.C. declined Wal-Mart’s request to strike the proposal.

“Wal-Mart’s practices and policies do not compare favorably with the guidelines of the proposal,” wrote Rose A. Zukin, a lawyer for the S.E.C., and “it appears that the proposal may focus on the significant policy issues of sustainability and human rights.”




Shoulds Versus Coulds

Jared Bernstein:

As I wrote the other day, it’s essential to turn the conversation back to what we should be doing on the jobs front, so I was glad to see Paul Krugman thinking along those lines this AM.  But I was struck by this ‘graf:

“For example, we could have W.P.A.-type programs putting the unemployed to work doing useful things like repairing roads — which would also, by raising incomes, make it easier for households to pay down debt. We could have a serious program of mortgage modification, reducing the debts of troubled homeowners.”

Especially re the WPA-idea, this got me thinking about the relative value of important voices like Paul’s promoting what we should do right now as opposed to what, given political constraints, we could do.

And I think now is a good time to emphasize the latter.

Let me be clear.  I totally agree that we mustn’t let “political realism” shut down our thinking on the best way out of this mess.  And while that kind of writing sometimes feels academic to me, if done well (as Paul does it), it can slowly but persistently set the stage for actually doing the right thing when the political landscape shifts.  Shift it will, and at that time, Paul will be among those who built the “new” paradigm from which economic policy will flow (“” around ‘new’ because most of this is known since Keynes).

I know—sounds like wishful thinking (well, for some…for others, sounds like their worst nightmare)…but I bet I’m right.

But then there’s this: There will be no WPA-type programs in our near future.  There was no appetite for them in the Obama admin in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression and there’s a lot less now.  The reasons for that are interesting and I’ll speak to them another day.  But it ain’t happening.

And please don’t accuse me of “negotiating with myself” here.  I stressed above the importance of making those arguments, and I frequently made them myself as a member of the President’s economics team.

It’s also congenitally hard for politicians to get behind “a serious program of mortgage modification.”  Those who advocate for this (the NYT editorial page, e.g.) are right, but they’re also downplaying a very binding constraint.  The politics of this idea are deeply wound up in moral hazard.  People forget, but it was precisely this action—giving mortgage relief to someone at risk of default and not to someone who was struggling to keep up their payments—that birthed the Tea Party.

Yes, it’s true that leaders must stand up to such views and do what’s right for the economy…damn the torpedoes and all that.  But those of us espousing such actions must respect, or at least acknowledge, that those torpedoes are not pointed at us.  They’re pointed at politicians who take them seriously and thus we need also need to espouse plans b, c, d and so on.  (In this space, for example, there are ways outside of federal legislation to encourage principal write-downs—more to come on this in later posts.)

You might say that with the likes of Cantor and Ryan is ascendance, there’s no point in even contemplating “coulds.”  I think that’s too easy and the stakes are far too high for it.

This is not a critique of Paul.  As I said in my initial post, there’s no more important voice in the debate I’m trying to amplify than that of Paul Krugman.  He’s one of the few writers I miss when he goes on vacation.

[Don’t you get a little bummed out when you open the paper on a Krugman day and he’s not there, or when he says he won’t be adding to his blog for a few days because of travel?  What’s more, I could be wrong, but seems to me that when Paul is away, the Very Serious People he worries about say crazier stuff.   It’s as if up on Capitol Hill, they’re going, “Krugman’s on vacation!  It’s the perfect time to launch our bill to do away with social insurance once and for all!!  Mwahahaha!!!”]

But here’s a challenge for Paul. I know he’ll keep writing “should” columns and that’s crucial for a better future.  But for a better “now,” I’d like to see a column—maybe a few columns—called “What We Could Do.”  He’s done a lot of this before—I don’t want to imply he’s divorced from the “now”—but this would be a good time for him, along with the rest of us interested in trying to make some desperately needed lemonade from some terribly sour lemons, to turn aggressively from should to could.


Shoulda Coulda Woulda


Jared Bernstein has a thoughtful response to today’s column; oh, and by the way, people should be reading his blog.

As he says, the Obama administration faced severe political constraints even before it lost the House. WPA-type programs probably couldn’t have passed even in February 2009; mortgage relief, while it might have been doable (and still might be), would cause howls of complaint that the undeserving are being rewarded; and, of course, any talk of useful inflation gets the Zimbabwe treatment.

What I would say in reply is, first of all, this wasn’t an “Obama must …” column; it was aimed more at the broader discourse, as well as the closed-door-off-the-record stuff I’ve been hearing from men in suits. Really bad analysis is posing as wisdom, and it needs to be called out.

But on the Obama issue, I still think that the administration has made four serious misjudgments.

First, I think that it has paid too much attention to the short-run political risks of taking unpopular positions versus the medium-run political risks of having a lousy economy. Yes, a real mortgage-mod program would have fed Tea Party sentiment — but it might have meant a stronger economy in the second half of 2010, and that would have mattered a lot more. As best as I can tell, the political types in the White House have, year after year, operated on the principle that the economy is on the mend, so it’s time to pivot to centrist-sounding themes — only to keep finding that no, the economy isn’t on the mend, and they’re paying for that at the polls.

Second, the administration made what I continue to believe was the awful decision to pretend that the half-measures it was actually able to get were exactly right, not a penny too small. Would it have made a difference in 2010 if Obama had been able to say to the country, “I asked for more aid to the economy, but those guys blocked it, and that’s why we’re not recovering faster”? I don’t know — but it could hardly have been worse than the position he actually found himself in, which was trying to explain why a policy he insisted had been perfect wasn’t doing the job.

Third, it’s one thing to recognize that there’s only so much you can do; it’s another to adopt the arguments of your enemies. Since some time in the fall of 2009, Obama’s rhetorical stance has been basically that he’s like the GOP, but less so; can you even remember him offering a full-throated defense of Keynesian policies?

Finally, while the White House doesn’t set Fed policy, it does get to appoint Fed governors. Why are there all those vacant seats? Why weren’t there recess appointments?

Again, though, today’s column wasn’t about advice to the White House. It was about the longer game, making the case that we are suffering a gratuitous economic nightmare that could be cured if we would only try.


Here’s What the U.S. Can Learn From the U.K.: Don’t Be Stupid

Ominous: Household spending in the U.K. is down for a second consecutive quarter, meaning that technically British consumers are back in a recession. Business investment is down, too. Overall economic growth in the first quarter was up an anemic 0.5 percent.

Britain’s unhappy experiment with austerity should be instructive for the U.S. London’s effort to eliminate its budget deficit by 2016 has entailed slashing government services to the bone. Now it’s paying the price. The abrupt withdrawal of public spending has left the economy sucking fumes.

Even the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which has supported British Prime Minister David Cameron’s cost-cutting program, was forced this week to admit that it’s not working:

Pier Carlo Padoan, chief economist at the economic think tank, told the Times newspaper: ”We see merit in slowing the pace of fiscal consolidation if there is not so good news on the growth front.

”We have seen that (growth numbers) are a bit weaker than expected. Should that continue to be the case, there is scope for slowing the pace,” he said.

Unfortunately, it seems we here in the states are determined to learn nothing. The economic plan House Republicans released yesterday calls for the usual stew of reduced spending, lower taxes and looser government regulation.

Here’s how crazy it’s getting. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R.-Ga., doesn’t want to provide any emergency financial assistance to victims of tornadoes and flooding in the Midwest unless that aid is accompanied by cuts in federal spending.

Heartless? Sure. And a good metaphor for the GOP’s approach for dealing with the financial twister that hit the broader U.S. economy. When disaster strikes, pretend nothing happened. Says Forbes’s Rick Ungar in characterizing current Republican ideology:

While we may battle over what those things might be, that ideology has never, to the best of my knowledge, been extended to deny help to those who clearly cannot provide for themselves due to a dramatic and overwhelming catastrophe such as what has been experienced in Joplin and the many other American towns devastated by recent weather emergencies.

Unfortunately, all the talk in Washington — including on the Democratic side of the aisle — remains focused on budget deficits and government spending. The illusion persists that the country is broke.

It’s not. But it will be if we insist on following the Brits down their perilous path.


Housing Index Is Expected to Show a New Low in Prices

The desire to own your own home, long a bedrock of the American Dream, is fast becoming a casualty of the worst housing downturn since the Great Depression.

Even as the economy began to fitfully recover in the last year, the percentage of homeowners dropped sharply, to 66.4 percent, from a peak of 69.2 percent in 2004. The ownership rate is now back to the level of 1998, and some housing experts say it could decline to the level of the 1980s or even earlier.

Disenchantment with real estate is bound to swell further on Tuesday when the most widely watched housing index is all but guaranteed to show that prices of existing homes sank in March below the lows reached two years ago — until now the bottom of the housing crash. In February, the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index of 20 large cities slumped for the seventh month in a row.

Housing is locked in a downward spiral, industry analysts say, not only because so many people are blocked from the market — being unemployed, in foreclosure or trapped in homes that are worth less than the mortgage — but because even those who are solvent are opting out.


Positive signs in an anemic U.S. recovery

Signs of slower growth in the United States, coupled with rising fears over the European debt crisis and other unsettling developments, are fueling concern about whether the sputtering U.S. recovery could stall or even enter a new downturn.

But beneath the surface, some key factors contributing to the anemic recovery are actually positive; long-sought changes in Americans’ financial behavior could point toward a stronger, more sustainable economy in the future.

In contrast to the unconstrained spending of the past, U.S. consumers are building up their savings at rates not seen in years. They’re also doing more to pay down credit cards and other debt. Higher savings rates and lower debts tend to slow economic growth in the short term but stimulate it in the longer term. And future growth based on personal savings and smaller debts is less likely to produce dangerous bubbles.

Even if some consumers are tempted to return to their old ways, new federal regulations and tougher standards that the nation’s banks have imposed on credit card applicants and other borrowers are creating pressure to curb debt and save more.

Also, the continuing refusal of most lenders to write down soured home mortgages — and the failure of government programs to help significant numbers of homeowners — have kept foreclosures high. Painful as that is for tens of thousands of Americans, many economists say neither the housing market nor other important sectors of the economy can recover until the country works off the burden of bad mortgages.

There are still an estimated 3.6 million home borrowers who are in foreclosure or at least 120 days behind in payment.

Even the current battle in Washington over the federal deficit, while currently paralyzed by political gamesmanship, may ultimately force the nation to confront difficult choices, establish priorities and make changes that, taken together, could put the government’s financial house in better order for the future.

None of this gives much comfort to those focused on the wobbly state of the economy right now. […]

But the stock market appears to have a different take this time around. Although share prices have fallen in May, the losses have been modest overall. The Dow, at 12,442 on Friday, is down 2.9% from its three-year high reached April 29.

“There’s a lot more confidence that this is a ‘soft patch’ and not the start of a double-dip” in the economy, said Phil Orlando, chief equity strategist at money manager Federated Investors Inc. in New York.

He and other optimists believe that much of the economy’s slowdown stems from temporary factors — terrible winter and spring weather in much of the country, the jump in gas prices and global factory-production disruptions tied to Japan’s earthquake in March.

Many of these analysts also believe that the labor market turned the corner this year, and that more employers will find they can no longer put off adding staff after keeping payrolls extremely lean for the last three years.




The Tea Party Rewrites the Constitution

The Tea Party movement has begun a disturbing new initiative to rewrite constitutional history in American classrooms.

The Georgia-based Tea Party Patriots group plans to “celebrate” our constitution’s anniversary on September 17 by pushing schools to incorporate lessons from the Idaho-based National Center for Constitutional Studies. This particular organization believes that the constitution was “divinely inspired.” Bill Norton, the leader of the Tea Party Patriot’s “Adopt a School” program, gives seminars around the country for the NCCS. […]

“It’s indoctrination, not education. They’re so far from the mainstream of constitutional thought that they are completely indefensible,” said Doug Kendall, director of the Constitutional Accountability Center in Washington, D.C.

This is not the first time conservatives have tried to rewrite history. The notoriously conservative Texas Board of Education has tried to downplay the role of American Indians in American history in addition to trying to distort the history of the civil rights movement. It also attempted to amend the Texas curriculum to say that the civil rights movement created “unrealistic expectations of equal outcomes” among minorities.

Even elected officials such as vocal Tea Party Caucus founder Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) seem to think that it’s OK rewrite American history. While speaking to an anti-tax group in Iowa, Bachmann said the founding fathers ended slavery despite the fact that several were slave owners and that slavery was not abolished until after the American Civil War.

At time when studies show our nation’s children are already struggling in social studies, it is irresponsible to present classrooms with recognized misinformation. There are better ways to help students grasp a deeper analysis of historical events – for example, the movement toward Common Core Standards represents a serious effort to encourage critical thinking from students.

We cannot let our history be rewritten along partisan lines. It will come at the cost of our nation’s children understanding of their country’s past. In the end, the actions of Tea Party activists show that they are seeking to distort the very same document they claim to be protecting.


Bolder, Broader Action: Strategies for Closing the Poverty Gap

Education Week:

My post earlier this week framed the piece that Jeff Henig and I contributed to Ed Week’s print edition and laid out the need for education reformers to review the evidence and admit that closing achievement gaps is not as simple as adopting a set of standards, accountability and instructional improvement strategies. While these strategies are necessary, the data on student achievement in Massachusetts, after nearly two decades of reform, makes it readily apparent that schooling solutions alone are not sufficient to achieve our aspiration of getting all students to proficiency. We have set the nation’s highest standards, been tough on accountability and invested billions in building school capacity, yet we still see a very strong correlation between socioeconomic background and educational achievement and attainment. It is now clear that unless and until we make a more active effort to mitigate the impediments to learning that are commonly associated with poverty, we will still be faced with large numbers of children who are either unable to come to school or so distracted as not to be able to be attentive and supply effort when they get there. In other words, we must create a healthy platform in the lives of all of our children if we expect them to show the learning gains expected to result from optimized instructional strategies.



Groundwater Depletion Is Detected From Space

Scientists have been using small variations in the Earth’s gravity to identify trouble spots around the globe where people are making unsustainable demands on groundwater, one of the planet’s main sources of fresh water.

They found problems in places as disparate as North Africa, northern India, northeastern China and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley in California, heartland of that state’s $30 billion agricultural industry.

Jay S. Famiglietti, director of the University of California’s Center for Hydrologic Modeling here, said the center’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, known as Grace, relies on the interplay of two nine-year-old twin satellites that monitor each other while orbiting the Earth, thereby producing some of the most precise data ever on the planet’s gravitational variations. The results are redefining the field of hydrology, which itself has grown more critical as climate change and population growth draw down the world’s fresh water supplies.

Grace sees “all of the change in ice, all of the change in snow and water storage, all of the surface water, all of the soil moisture, all of the groundwater,” Dr. Famiglietti explained.

Yet even as the data signal looming shortages, policy makers have been relatively wary of embracing the findings. California water managers, for example, have been somewhat skeptical of a recent finding by Dr. Famiglietti that from October 2003 to March 2010, aquifers under the state’s Central Valley were drawn down by 25 million acre-feet — almost enough to fill Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir.


Video: From Allergies to Deadly Disease, Feeling the Effects of Climate Change

A rare but deadly fungal disease once occurring only in tropical climates has recently led to several deaths in the Pacific Northwest. Some researchers believe that climate change may be to blame for the disease’s emergence there.

VIDEO here.
When Trudy Rosler first got sick after a visit to Vancouver Island in British Columbia, doctors were stumped. Eventually they discovered that she had fungus growing in her brain stem—one that was previously only known to exist in the tropics. Researchers say that subtle changes in climate over the last 40 years may be the reason it’s infecting people much farther north. Here in the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is already treating climate change as a serious health threat.



A Good Night’s Sleep Isn’t a Luxury; It’s a Necessity

As research cited recently in this newspaper’s magazine found, “The sleep-deprived among us are lousy judges of our own sleep needs. We are not nearly as sharp as we think we are.”Studies have shown that people function best after seven to eight hours of sleep, so I now aim for a solid seven hours, the amount associated with the lowest mortality rate. Yet on most nights something seems to interfere, keeping me up later than my intended lights-out at 10 p.m. — an essential household task, an e-mail requiring an urgent and thoughtful response, a condolence letter I never found time to write during the day, a long article that I must read.

It’s always something. […]

Between 1960 and 2010, the average night’s sleep for adults in the United States dropped to six and a half hours from more than eight. Some experts predict a continuing decline, thanks to distractions like e-mail, instant and text messaging, and online shopping.

Age can have a detrimental effect on sleep. In a 2005 national telephone survey of 1,003 adults ages 50 and older, the Gallup Organization found that a mere third of older adults got a good night’s sleep every day, fewer than half slept more than seven hours, and one-fifth slept less than six hours a night.

With advancing age, natural changes in sleep quality occur. People may take longer to fall asleep, and they tend to get sleepy earlier in the evening and to awaken earlier in the morning. More time is spent in the lighter stages of sleep and less in restorative deep sleep. R.E.M. sleep, during which the mind processes emotions and memories and relieves stress, also declines with age.

Habits that ruin sleep often accompany aging: less physical activity, less time spent outdoors (sunlight is the body’s main regulator of sleepiness and wakefulness), poorer attention to diet, taking medications that can disrupt sleep, caring for a chronically ill spouse, having a partner who snores. Some use alcohol in hopes of inducing sleep; in fact, it disrupts sleep.

A good night’s sleep is much more than a luxury. Its benefits include improvements in concentration, short-term memory, productivity, mood, sensitivity to pain and immune function.

If you care about how you look, more sleep can even make you appear more attractive. In a study published online in December in the journal BMJ, researchers in Sweden and the Netherlands reported that 23 sleep-deprived adults seemed to untrained observers to be less healthy, more tired and less attractive than they appeared to be after a full night’s sleep.

Perhaps more important, losing sleep may make you fat — or at least, fatter than you would otherwise be. In a study by Harvard researchers involving 68,000 middle-aged women followed for 16 years, those who slept five hours or less each night were found to weigh 5.4 pounds more — and were 15 percent more likely to become obese — than the women who slept seven hours nightly.

Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist and sleep specialist in Scottsdale, Ariz., and author of “The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan,” points out that as the average length of sleep has declined in the United States, the average weight of Americans has increased.

There are plausible reasons to think this is a cause-and-effect relationship. At least two factors may be involved: more waking hours in homes brimming with food and snacks; and possible changes in the hormones leptin and ghrelin, which regulate appetite.



Republican governors move ahead on health exchanges

A small but growing number of prominent, Republican governors — including Mitch Daniels and Haley Barbour — are taking the lead to shape a key component of the health care overhaul their party fought so hard to kill.

It’s a delicate balancing act for Republicans who, on the one hand, oppose federal health reform, even challenging its constitutionality in federal court, and, on the other hand, are pragmatically trying to control as much of the implementation process as they can.

In Indiana, Gov. Mitch Daniels issued an executive order that allowed the state to become one of just three to receive a multimillion dollar grant to establish a health exchange, the online insurance marketplaces that all states must eventually have if the reform law stands up in court.

Wisconsin, under the leadership of Gov. Scott Walker, is one of six states to win an Early Innovator grant. While the grant was received under Walker’s predecessor, Gov. Jim Doyle, Walker has continued to use the resource, setting up the Office of Free Market Health Care that has prominently advertised its innovator status.

And in a weird twist of politics in Mississippi, state agencies of Gov. Haley Barbour have relied on little-used statutory authorities to set up an exchange, reviving a Democratic-sponsored effort to do so through the Mississippi State Legislature.

Daniels, Walker and Barbour are a stark contrast to Republican governors who are more stridently opposed to all aspects of health reform. Govs. Rick Scott of Florida, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, and Susana Martinez of New Mexico have come out in fierce opposition of any kind of implementation.


House Approves Legislation that Cuts Children from Health Coverage

First Focus Campaign for Children expressed strong opposition to the legislation approved by the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee that will significantly increase the number of children without health insurance. The State Flexibility Act (H.R. 1683) would repeal a provision of the health reform law that requires states to maintain current eligibility and enrollment requirements for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Without this so-called “Maintenance of Effort” (MOE) provision, an estimated 14 million children currently covered by either Medicaid or CHIP could be dropped from coverage.

While the legislation seeks to secure some short-term federal savings by allowing states to eliminate or reduce Medicaid and CHIP coverage, a report released Wednesday by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that the bill would significantly increase in the number of uninsured individuals, especially children. In fact, under the State Flexibility Act, two out of every three individuals at risk of losing health care coverage are children.

Over the long-term, the bill will have an increasingly severe impact on CHIP, resulting in half of states entirely eliminating their CHIP programs by 2016, and the remaining states scaling back their coverage for children. CBO estimates that by 2016, 1.7 million children will have been dropped from CHIP coverage, leaving some children uninsured completely and enrolling others in the new state exchanges created as part of the health reform law. […]

“Today the program provides coverage to more than seven million low-income children. Support for children’s health coverage among the public is overwhelming. A recent public opinion survey commissioned by First Focus found 73% of Americans oppose cutting CHIP. In addition, an analysis by Watson Wyatt Worldwide confirms that children currently enrolled in CHIP have stronger coverage than would otherwise be available. It provides comprehensive benefits to children that specifically address their unique health care needs while limiting families’ out-of-pocket costs. The evidence is clear that CHIP works for kids.


Q. I just received an email saying that under “Obamacare” our Medicare Part B premiums will rise to $247 a month by 2014. Is this true?

A. No, it isn’t true. A mass email making this claim has been circulating since before the 2010 elections. But it’s just another attempt to scare older Americans and has no basis in fact.


As Physicians’ Jobs Change, So Do Their Politics

Doctors were once overwhelmingly male and usually owned their own practices. They generally favored lower taxes and regularly fought lawyers to restrict patient lawsuits. Ronald Reagan came to national political prominence in part by railing against “socialized medicine” on doctors’ behalf.

But doctors are changing. They are abandoning their own practices and taking salaried jobs in hospitals, particularly in the North, but increasingly in the South as well. Half of all younger doctors are women, and that share is likely to grow.

There are no national surveys that track doctors’ political leanings, but as more doctors move from business owner to shift worker, their historic alliance with the Republican Party is weakening from Maine as well as South Dakota, Arizona and Oregon, according to doctors’ advocates in those and other states.

That change could have a profound effect on the nation’s health care debate. Indeed, after opposing almost every major health overhaul proposal for nearly a century, the American Medical Association supported President Obama’s legislation last year because the new law would provide health insurance to the vast majority of the nation’s uninsured, improve competition and choice in insurance, and promote prevention and wellness, the group said.

Because so many doctors are no longer in business for themselves, many of the issues that were once priorities for doctors’ groups, like insurance reimbursement, have been displaced by public health and safety concerns, including mandatory seat belt use and chemicals in baby products.

Even the issue of liability, while still important to the A.M.A. and many of its state affiliates, is losing some of its unifying power because malpractice insurance is generally provided when doctors join hospital staffs. […]

“When I came here, it was an old boys’ club of conservative Republicans,” said Joanne K. Bryson, the executive director of the Oregon Medical Association since 2004.

Now her group lobbies for public health issues that it long ignored, like insurance coverage for people with disabilities.

Even in Texas, where three-quarters of doctors said last year that they opposed the new health law, doctors who did not have their own practices were twice as likely as those who owned a practice to support the overhaul, as were female doctors.


Obama cracks down on abuses by big-city police departments

In a marked shift from the Bush administration, President Obama’s Justice Department is aggressively investigating several big urban police departments for systematic civil rights abuses such as harassment of racial minorities, false arrests, and excessive use of force.

In interviews, activists and attorneys on the ground in several cities where the DOJ has dispatched civil rights investigators welcomed the shift. To progressives disappointed by Eric Holder’s Justice Department on key issues like the failure to investigate Bush-era torture and the prosecution of whistle-blowers, recent actions by the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division are a bright spot.

In just the past few months, the Civil Rights Division has announced “pattern and practice” investigations in Newark, New Jersey and Seattle. It’s also conducting a preliminary investigation of the Denver Police Department, and all this is on top of a high-profile push to reform the notorious New Orleans Police Department — as well as criminal prosecutions of several New Orleans officers.

The “pattern and practice” authority comes from a 1994 law passed by Congress after the brutal beating of Rodney King by white Los Angeles police officers, who allegedly yelled racial slurs as they hit him. The law allows the DOJ to sue police departments if there is a pattern of violations of citizens’ constitutional rights — things like an excessive use of force, discrimination, and illegal searches. Often, after an investigation, the police department in question will enter into a voluntary reform agreement with the DOJ to avoid a lawsuit and the imposition of reforms. […]

Many of the New Orleans officers being criminally prosecuted — several of whom have been convicted — were involved in grisly killings of innocent city residents in the chaotic days after Katrina. A separate civil rights investigation by the DOJ recently concluded that the New Orleans Police Department has engaged in excessive use of force, unconstitutional arrests and racial profiling. An independent monitor is expected to be appointed to make sure the department follows through with reforms in training, policies on the use of force, and accountability to the public. […]

In one case in Seattle last year, an officer investigating a robbery was caught on video stomping on the head of a Hispanic detainee lying on the ground on the street after yelling, “I’m going to beat the fucking Mexican piss out of you, homey!” The detainee turned out to have nothing to do with the crime under investigation and was later let go.

In Newark, the state chapter of the ACLU last September asked the DOJ to intervene, citing the city police department’s failure to respond to hundreds of misconduct complaints in the past few years.

In one case described in the ACLU’s petition, two Newark officers allegedly threatened to throw a juvenile over a bridge when he refused to confess involvement in a crime. “Told by a supervisor to take [the boy] home, they instead took him to a secluded location, beat him, urinated on him, and left him there,” according to the ACLU’s letter. The department’s internal affairs unit later claimed to have lost the soiled T-shirt the boy had brought in as evidence.

Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the ACLU of New Jersey, tells me that an official in the Civil Rights Division actually called her group a few weeks before it submitted its petition to seek more information about a misconduct case that had been reported in the media. “I had never before gotten a call from the DOJ asking about a police misconduct case,” says Jacobs, who has worked at state-level ACLU chapters since the early 1990s. […]

According to the Justice Department, 22 pattern-and-practice investigations were opened during the Bush administration, and eight have been opened during Obama’s presidency. But the Bush-era investigations largely involved quite small departments. Perez has been leading the Civil Rights Division for about 18 months (his confirmation was blocked by Republicans for six months), and high-profile investigations of three big-city departments have already been opened, with another probe in Denver possibly on the way.

The DOJ’s investigations of troubled large departments “sends a message to the whole field,” says Sam Walker, an emeritus professor at the University of Nebraska who studies police accountability.

“The primary victims of police misconduct are African-Americans and Latinos. The Bush administration simply wasn’t interested in this,” Walker says. “The Obama-Holder DOJ puts a very high priority on this.”



What the media establishment refuses to understand

Steve Benen:

It was quite a roundtable on “Meet the Press” yesterday. Viewers got to see a Republican strategist, a conservative pundit, a conservative Democrat, and an ostensibly center-left columnist who thinks that Democrats are big meanies when it comes to Medicare.

It was “Must See TV” for viewers eager to see a soul-crushing discussion.

Consider this exchange between host David Gregory and the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus — who, remember, was the only center-left voice on the four-person panel. The topic at hand was the Democratic win in the special election in New York’s 26th district this week.

GREGORY: So, Ruth Marcus, what wins here: bold leadership on Medicare and the argument that the Democrats won’t do something courageous, or the Democrats who say, “Hey, those guys want to take away my Medicare”?

MARCUS: I regret to inform you that I think it’s the latter. And I think when you were asking Senator McConnell if Medicare was the new third rail of American politics, I think the question was wrong in a sense because it’s the old third rail of American politics.

GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MARCUS: This play has been run time after time. If you go back and look at the quotes from President Clinton back when he needed to win re-election, they sound a lot like the quotes from Democrats today about don’t let those Republicans take away your Medicare. The difference is that the debt is bigger, the deficit is bigger, the gap is bigger, and the situation is more dire. But I think that, sadly, the lesson of New York 26 is “mediscare” works.

The transcript doesn’t reflect this, but viewers saw David Brooks — one of the three conservative voices on the four-person panel — nodding in agreement while Marcus spoke.[…]

It’s exasperating, but it’s worth reemphasizing what too many establishment types simply refuse to understand: Democrats are telling the truth. Indeed, Dems are doing what the media is reluctant to do: offering an accurate assessment of the Republican plan for Medicare. If voters find the GOP proposal frightening, the problem is with the plan, not with Democrats’ rhetoric. […]

Once again, it’s important that the establishment recognize the difference between demagoguery and ringing an alarm. Demagoguery relies on falsehoods to scare people — it’s about playing on folks’ worst instincts, being divisive in a deceptive sort of way, effectively fooling people into believing something they shouldn’t.

But political rhetoric isn’t “demagoguery” when it’s true. If a political message leads the mainstream to feel scared, it’s not necessarily “scare tactics” if people have good reason to worry.

What Dems are doing is ringing an alarm — Republicans are up to something dangerous, and Democrats want people to know about it. The question isn’t why Dems are on the offensive; the question is why the Beltway media finds it offensive.


This Week in Politics & Digital: The Online Influence Issue

Online influence is the golden fleece for politicians. Control of the digital world is becoming just as important as control of the offline world. […]

Every 2012 presidential candidate has so far embraced social media … but has social media embraced them? Lee + dela decided to take a look at the group’s online influence according to their Klout scores. Klout is an online metric that measures the reach, power and general influence of any Twitter account. Though it’s far from a definitive standard, the scores give a good impression of how the candidates stack up. Obama leads with with a score of 88. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is second-highest with 79; Newt Gingrich is at 74; and Pawlenty is the lowest with 66.


President Obama To Name Twitter CEO To Advisory Committee

In a White House statement released Thursday, Obama named Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, along with Scott Charney, corporate VP of Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing Group, McAfee President David G. DeWalt and three others, as potential appointees to his National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee. The group oversees the availability and reliability of telecom services in the U.S.

White House Launches Rapid Response Twitter Feed

The White House launched a Twitter feed aimed at finding and deflecting negative online commentary. The account is listed under Jesse Lee (@jesseclee44) according to Online Social Media. Lee is the White House’s new Director of Progressive Media & Online Response. The account was set up as a way of “helping coordinate rapid response to unfavorable stories and fostering and improving relations with the progressive online community,” according to Huffington Post.

The fact that the account is under Lee’s name rather than an official-sounding government title hints that the role will be more about personal outreach than top-down story squashing. Although Lee only has a little more than 1,800 follows at time of writing, the account is verified and is likely to grow with use.


CNN Sucks:

PBS hacked in retribution for Frontline Wikileaks episode

The website, and data associated with the PBS television network, its programs, and its affiliate stations, appear to have just been hacked by an entity calling itself LulzSec (or “The Lulz Boat”). The hack was made public around 1130pm ET, Sunday, May 29, and included cracking the PBS server, posting a bogus news story and some defacements, and publishing what appear to be thousands of passwords.

The information compromised and published included network, server, and database details and logins, as well as user login data for some PBS staff and contractors. As of 3:24am ET Monday, some defacements are still live on

The group that carried out the hack claims they are not affiliated with “Anonymous”, and that the action is retribution for the recent “Wikisecrets” episode on Wikileaks, which was perceived by Wikileaks and its supporters to be unfair to Wikileaks.


Florida Governor Vetoes PBS Funding


Harvard Study:

It’s been almost two years now since Sarah Palin published to Facebook a post about “death panels.” In a study to be presented this week at the 61st Annual International Communications Association Conference, we analyzed over 700 stories placed in the top 50 newspapers around the country. […]

Strong debunking, but confused readers

Our data indicate that the mainstream news, particularly newspapers, debunked death panels early, fairly often, and in a variety of ways, though some were more direct than others. Nevertheless, a significant portion of the public accepted the claim as true or, perhaps, as “true enough.”

Initially, we viewed the data from 30,000 feet, and found that about 40 percent of the time journalists would call the death panel claim false in their own voice, which was especially surprising considering many journalists’ own conceptions that they act as neutral arbiters.

For example, on August 9, 2009, Ceci Connolly of the Washington Post said, “There are no such ‘death panels’ mentioned in any of the House bills.”

“[The death panel] charge, which has been widely disseminated, has no basis in any of the provisions of the legislative proposals under consideration,” The New York Times’ Helene Cooper wrote a few days after Connolly.

“The White House is letting Congress come up with the bill and that vacuum of information is getting filled by misinformation, such as those death panels,” Anne Thompson of NBC News said on August 11.

Nonetheless, in more than 60 percent of the cases it’s obvious that newspapers abstained from calling the death panels claim false. (We also looked at hundreds of editorials and letters to the editor, and it’s worth noting that almost 60 percent of those debunked the claim, while the rest abstained from debunking and just about 2 percent supported the claim.)

Additionally, of journalists who did debunk the claim, almost 75 percent of those articles contained no clarification as to why they were labeling the claim as false. Indeed, it was very much a “You either believe me, or you don’t” situation without contextual support.

As shown below, whether or not journalists debunked the claim, they often times approached the controversy by also quoting one side of the debate, quoting the other, and then letting the reader dissect the validity of each side’s stance. Thus, in 30 percent of cases where journalists reported in their own words that the claim was false, they nonetheless included either side’s arguments as to why their side was right. This often just confuses the reader.

This chart shows that whether journalists abstained from debunking the death panels claim or not, they still proceeded to give equal time to each side’s supporters.

Most important is the light that this study sheds on the age-old debate over the practical limitations surrounding objectivity. Indeed, questions are continually raised about whether journalists can be objective. Most recently, this led to a controversy at TechCrunch where founder Michael Arrington was left defending his disclosure policy.

“But the really important thing to remember, as a reader, is that there is no objectivity in journalism,” Arrington wrote to critics. “The guys that say they’re objective are just pretending.”

This view, however, is not entirely true. Indeed, in the study of death panels, we found two trends that could each fit under the broad banner of objectivity. […]

“The fear seems to be that going deeper—checking out the facts behind the posturing and trying to sort out who’s right and who’s wrong—is somehow not ‘objective,’ not ‘straight down the middle,” Rem Reider of the American Journalism Review wrote in 2007.

Perhaps because of this, journalists in our sample attempted to practice at the same time both types of objectivity: one which, arguably, serves the public interest by presenting the facts of the matter, and one which allows the journalist a sliver of plausible deniability, because he follows the insular journalistic norm of both presenting both sides of the debate.

As such, we question New York University educator and critic Jay Rosen, who has argued that “neutrality and objectivity carry no instructions for how to react” to the rise of false but popular claims. We contend that the story is more complicated: Mainstream journalists’ figurative instruction manual contains contradictory “rules” for arbitrating the legitimacy of claims.

These contradictory rules are no doubt supported by public opinion polls taken during the August and September healthcare debates. Indeed, one poll released August 20 reported that 30 percent believed that proposed health care legislation would “create death panels.” Belief in this extreme type of government rationing of health care remained impressively high (41 percent) into mid-September.

More troubling, one survey found that the percentage calling the claim true (39 percent) among those who said they were paying very close attention to the health care debate was significantly higher than among those reporting that they were following the debate fairly closely (23 percent) or not too closely (18 percent).




Pawlenty should rethink the ‘doofus’ line

Steve Benen:

Tim Pawlenty talked to CNN the other day, and raised a line of attack I hadn’t heard him make before.

“We don’t have 20 years, we don’t have time for more status quo politicians to just come here and say, we don’t have to make any tough choices. Any doofus can go to Washington and maintain the status quo. And that’s what we’ve got in the White House and the Congress in terms of the attitude about their willingness to tackle these issues.”

It’s a strange pitch, and not just because of Pawlenty’s apparent willingness to refer to the president as a “doofus.” It’s not exactly the kind of presidential rhetoric we expect from credible national candidates.

There’s also a pinch of triangulation to the message, with Pawlenty positioning himself as above the White House and Congress.

But what I found especially interesting about this line was Pawlenty trying to label President Obama as someone who wants to “maintain the status quo.” For a while now, it was a given in Republican circles that Obama was a wild-eyed radical trying to undo the entire American experiment, turning everything we hold dear upside down. The president, we were told, was responsible for pursuing too much change, too quickly. It led conservatives to stand athwart history, yelling, “Stop.”

And yet, Pawlenty apparently doesn’t see it that way. Obama, we’re told, isn’t radical enough when it comes to change.

It seems like a tough sell — Obama can’t be accused of maintaining the status quo and bringing radical change at the same time — but it’s probably a meme worth keeping an eye on. Indeed, I guess Pawlenty, and perhaps others, will try to thread a rhetorical needle, arguing that the president should maintain the status quo on health care for those below retirement age, and pursue radical change on health care for those above retirement age.


Obama prospects might hinge on voter registration

In 2008, Barack Obama tapped into a record of nearly 15 million voters who cast ballots for the first time, a surge in registration that may be difficult to replicate next year.

Recent voter registration data show that Democrats have lost ground in key states that Obama carried in 2008, an early warning siren for the president’s re-election campaign. While Republican numbers have also dipped in some states, the drop in the Democrats’ ranks highlights the importance of the Obama campaign’s volunteer base and the challenge they could have of registering new voters.[…]

Obama will have to re-ignite the passions of some Democrats who had high hopes going into his presidency and may be ambivalent about him now. Several states with Republican governors have tried to reduce the number of early voting days and required photo IDs, a move that Democrats say will disenfranchise poor and minority voters. Polls have shown some political independents drifting away from Obama since 2008, meaning Democrats need to register and turn out more Hispanic and black voters, college students and women.

While Democratic registrations ballooned prior to the 2008 election, the numbers have declined in several important states, including:

— Florida: Democrats added more than 600,000 registered voters between 2006 and 2008, giving Obama about 4.8 million registered Democrats to help his cause. Registered Democrats now number 4.6 million in the Sunshine State. Republican registrations have slipped from 4.1 million in 2008 to about 4.05 million in mid-March, the most recent data available. Nearly 2.6 million voters in Florida are unaffiliated.

— Pennsylvania: Democrats maintain a 1.5 million voter advantage in registrations over Republicans, but their numbers have dwindled since Obama’s election. There were 4.15 million registered Democrats through mid-May, compared with about 4.48 million in 2008. Democrats added about a half-million voters to their rolls in the two years prior to the 2008 election. Republicans currently have more than 3 million registered voters, compared with 3.2 million in 2008. About 500,000 Pennsylvania voters are unaffiliated.

— Iowa: Republicans have gained ground in the state that launched Obama’s presidential bid. GOP registrations increased from about 625,000 voters in 2008 to nearly 640,000 in early May. Democrats, meanwhile, have fallen from about 736,000 voters in 2008 to about 687,000 in May. Nonpartisan voters remain the largest bloc in the Hawkeye State, representing more than 762,000 voters.

Democrats’ numbers have also fallen in North Carolina, where Obama became the first Democratic nominee to carry the state since 1976, and Nevada, a high-growth state that has been battered by the recession.

Several Democratic-friendly cities have not been immune, either. Philadelphia had 880,000 registered Democrats in 2008; that number has fallen below 800,000. Denver, where Democrats held their 2008 convention, had about 200,000 registered Democrats in November 2008 — that’s now down to about 120,000. In Mecklenburg County, N.C., whose county seat, Charlotte, is the site of the 2012 Democratic National Convention, Democrats’ numbers have fallen after major gains leading up to the 2008 election.

Obama officials said voter registration will be a top priority. Obama adviser David Axelrod said the campaign would “mount a major effort and it’s not just about registering new voters but it’s also reregistering people who have moved because there is a high degree of transiency among young people and often among minority voters. We want to make sure that not only new voters but people who have moved are registered again.” […]

In a strategy video released in April, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina noted that Democrats registered about two-thirds of the new voters in 2007 and 2008 in states that allow for party registration. Obama, in turn, won nearly 70 percent of the nearly 15 million first-time voters in 2008.

“That made real differences in very close states across this country. We’ve got to do that again in 2012,” Messina said. […]

Blaise Hazelwood, who ran the Republican National Committee’s voter registration effort in 2004, said campaign officials pored over Excel charts tracking new registrations on a daily basis and used the mail, door knocking and supermarket stands to find voters in places more inclined to support Bush. She said it would be difficult for Obama’s operation to replicate 2008.

“There’s no way they can get all those voters back,” Hazelwood said.


The Root Cause Of The GOP’s Huge Mistake

The New Republic:

Pulling back a bit, there’s a pretty simple reason why the Republican budget is so toxic. Republicans have a programmatic view of the federal government that is shared by just a tiny minority of Americans. This is not an insurmountable problem. There are many ways around it — you can try to organize politics around foreign policy or issues of personal character, or you can try to keep the debate over taxes and spending on the level of abstraction, where Republicans are on firmer ground.

One favored tactic has been to keep the issues of taxes and spending separate. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush passed large tax cuts that mathematically implied the need for cuts in popular spending programs. But they fiercely denied the implication, and left the work of spending cuts for the future, so that the tax cutting could proceed without any acknowledgement of the priorities it required. Indeed, Republicans understood very clearly that obscuring the trade-off was the entire key to gaining public acceptance:

Disillusioned former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill has released a stunning internal memo, dating from the unveiling of the Bush administration’s first round of tax cuts in 2001. Its author was Michele Davis, a high-level Treasury official and participant in daily meetings on the administration’s communications strategy.  There is every reason to believe that her memo, generated for a pivotal, high-profile public appearance of the administration’s top economic spokesman, reflects strategies developed at the highest level.  It begins innocently enough: O’Neill is asked to plug tax cuts at a press event unveiling the President’s first budget.  Then, however, Davis warns: “The public prefers spending on things like health care and education over cutting taxes.”

Davis writes that it is, instead, simply a reason to avoid talking about any trade-offs that tax cuts might entail: “It’s crucial that you make clear that there are no trade-offs here….Roll-out events like this are the clearest examples of when staying on message is absolutely crucial.  Any deviation…will change the way coverage plays out from tomorrow forward.”

Of course, this political method naturally leads to very large deficits. The Republicans have now fashioned themselves as the party of fiscal discipline, an imperative that drove them to do something they haven’t tried since 1995 — actually lay out a budget that reconciled their priorities on spending and taxing. This was a huge mistake. As happened in 1995, this laid bare the wild unpopularity if their choices.

Lots of things happened to let Democrats win a special election in NY-26 where they were expected to get crushed. But the most important is simply that Republicans were forced to defend highly unpopular priorities on the basic question of government’s role. Henry Olson of the American Enterprise Institute explains why:

As I’ve written before, blue-collar voters react differently to issues than the GOP base does. They are more supportive of safety-net programs at the same time as they are strongly opposed to large government programs in general. These voters crave stability and are uncertain of their ability to compete in a globalized economy that values higher education more each year. They are also susceptible to the age-old Democratic argument that the secret Republican agenda is to eviscerate middle-class entitlements to fund tax cuts for the wealthy. […]

It’s remarkable that Republicans have voluntarily placed themselves in a position where they’re fighting a high-salience battle on an issue where the public overwhelmingly opposes their position. It’s not as if Republicans were completely unaware of this problem. They did take one step to reduce their political exposure — exempt anybody over 55 years of age from cuts to Medicare, in the hopes that this would neutralize the opposition of those voters most focused on Medicare. They also hoped they could skate through by, as one Republican put it, “muddying the waters.” And, indeed, Jane Corwin desperately tried to outflank her opponent to the left on Medicare. But muddying the waters is hard when you put some numbers down on paper and voted for them.


Will Obama win the future and lose the present?

Robert L. Borosage:

Suddenly, 2012 is looking up for Democrats. President Barack Obama was the most popular national leader in the U.S. — even before he got Osama bin Laden. Republicans seem to be longing for the presidential candidates that left, not the ones that are left.

But before re-measuring the White House drapes, Obama would be well advised to answer one question: What is the Democratic plan for jobs? […]

Any incumbent president wants to sell progress. But by focusing on “winning the future,” Obama is in danger of losing the present. Voters are liable to think that he is out of touch with the scope of the calamity and their daily grim reality. The more Obama tries to sell a slow-growth, mass-unemployment economy, the more out of touch he looks. And borrowing deregulation and corporate trade accords from the conservative playbook may blur differences, but doesn’t create jobs.

Moreover, the president is about to be trapped in a months-long wrestling match with Republicans about doing with less – how much and what to cut. The eventual GOP presidential nominee will not have been mired in this debate – and from day one, will indict Obama’s failure to produce jobs – as Pawlenty and Gingrich already have. […]

There, the numbers are ugly and the precedents worse. Nearly two years after the recovery officially began, 25 million Americans still need full time work. Wages aren’t keeping up. Half the voters think the country is on the wrong track, according to recent polls. Only 37 percent approve of the job Obama is doing on the economy — while 58 percent disapprove.

The Republican argument is clear: Obama has failed. He ran up the deficit, but didn’t create jobs. He bailed out the big banks, but stifled small business with regulation, health care mandates and taxes. Then they ladle out the conservative staples: cut spending, cut corporate and top-end taxes, , roll back regulation and let the market work. The argument has obvious political strengths – appealing to the conservative faithful, while arguing that that spending cuts not only reduce deficits, but generate jobs.

It has two big shortcomings, however. First, we’ve been there and done that – and voters are more than a little skeptical about people who would gut Medicare while cutting taxes on the rich. Second, it won’t work — since it’s based on a falsehood and a fantasy.

The falsehood is the argument, repeated by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in his Wall Street speech this month, that government spending is “crowding out” private investment. That’s risible — with interest rates near zero and companies sitting on trillions of profits.

The fantasy is the belief in what Krugman has dubbed the “confidence fairy” — the belief that if spending and regulations were cut and taxes ruled out, the confidence fairy would boost economic confidence and unleash a flood of investment. In fact, poll after poll shows businesses say the biggest problem they face is a lack of customers — not a shortage of confidence.

So if the GOP plan is unconvincing, what’s the Democratic plan? The president appears to be assuming that the current economy will generate enough economic momentum that he can focus on “winning the future” — while indicting Republicans for cutting basic investments even as they defend corporate subsidies and the rich.

Reality, however, increasingly calls this optimism into question. And the human costs of mass unemployment – with 23 percent of high school graduates under age 25 unemployed – can’t be ignored. So why not use reality to make the case for action? Tell Americans the truth: This level of unemployment is not economically sustainable or morally acceptable. Lay out a big program to get the economy going: Call for putting young people to work with a public service jobs program – a green corps or expanded AmeriCorps. Bolster the investment agenda with a big push for an infrastructure bank that can mobilize hundreds of billions in private investment to rebuild America.

Add a bold “Make it in America program” — combining a push for new energy; buy-America provisions to insure jobs stay here; a pledge to balance our trade, beginning with treating Chinese exports the same way they treat ours. A housing plan to write down underwater mortgages and keep long-term homeowners in their homes. Pay for it with taxes on speculation, a rollback of big oil and other corporate subsidies and taxing income from wealth like we tax income from work.

None of this would pass Congress. It would elicit howls of outrage about big-spending Democrats — if not impending socialism. But it would address society’s real needs – and present a clear plan to put people to work.

The president has consistently shown that he sees no advantage in proposing policies that he knows can’t pass. So perhaps House Democrats need to act independently here.

They have been grousing that Obama is triangulating against them — like Bill Clinton — presenting himself as the adult in the center, against the extreme partisans of Congress. But, instead of complaining, maybe Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democrats should triangulate off Obama.

Why not lay out a solid four-point Democratic plan for jobs? The Congressional Progressive Caucus now plans a summer jobs tour. Spread that to 200 districts — and have members stump through on weekends, laying out the plan and challenging the GOP cuts.

The president can join or not. But at the very least, voters would have a choice between two arguments about how to get the economy going – and eventually, the president would have to offer his own plan or join that of the Democrats.

One thing is clear: You can’t win the future if the present isn’t working. Nor will the strong hand that Republicans have dealt Democrats — by deciding to dismantle Medicare while opposing any tax hikes on the rich or corporations – be enough, to get the economy moving or to win the 2012 election.

Voters in 2012 will want to know who has the best chance of getting out of the mess we are in. Democrats should make certain they have a compelling answer.


Breitbart’s #TwitterHoax – How It Went Down (updated w/ smoking gun)

So I think we can see what happened here.

1) Rep. Weiner’s Facebook was hacked, giving the hackers access to post on his Twitter if the accounts were linked.

2) [edit] A link, supposedly to [end edit] The underwear photo was then tweeted out by the hackers, tagging the college girl but visible to all of Twitterville.

3) Meanwhile, the hackers have taken a screencap of another yfrog account with the photo posted to it, and then photo-shopped Rep. Weiner’s name in at the top of the page.

4) They send this photo-shopped screencap to Dana Loesch as “proof” that Rep. Weiner indeed posted the photo.

4) Crazy old @patriotusa76 is meanwhile tweeting madly about the whole thing.

6) Breitbart wastes no time in publishing the story.

Two questions remain:

Who is @patriotusa76 and did he participate in the hoax?


Was Breitbart in on it, or did he fall for it?

UPDATE:  Colby Hall at Mediaite beat me to it, and has much more on the hapless @patriotusa76.


UPDATE: Let’s be clear. The underpants photo did not appear on @RepWeiner’s Twitter. What was alleged by @patriotusa76 to have been tweeted by Rep. Weiner was the LINK to a photo, supposedly the underpants photo. Yes, the link does go to Rep. Weiner’s yfrog photo page, but somehow only @patriotusa76 was able to click through and screencap the photo. But anyone can post a LINK to someone else’s yfrog photo page. For instance, here is @patriotusa76’s yfrog photo page. Sadly, no photos there:…

But I could certainly paste the link anywhere. I don’t have to own the account to do so.

UPDATE: @patriotusa76 has hidden his Twitter! Wassamatter Dan Wolfe? Not enjoying all the questions? Thinking twice about all your old tweets?

Read the WHOLE account here.

Anthony Weiner hires attorney in [Breitbart] Twitter incident

Weiner, who has represented part of New York City since 1998, says online hacking led to a close-up shot of a man’s underwear being sent from his official Twitter account Saturday night.

Dave Arnold, a spokesman for Weiner, said the Congressman’s staff is “loathe to treat” this incident as more than a prank “but we are relying on professional advice.”

“At a time when the GOP is playing games with the debt limit, a member of the Supreme Court is refusing to recuse himself from matters he has a financial interest in, and middle class incomes are stagnant, many want to change the subject,” Weiner said in a statement emailed to POLITICO by his office. “I don’t. This was a prank, and a silly one. I’m focused on my work.”

Weiner’s office did not answer specific questions about the photograph, whether he has contacted authorities or the Seattle woman who received the photograph. He has said that his Facebook was hacked and if his Twitter had the same password, that too could be vulnerable.

Gennette Nicole Cordova, a college student in Washington state who was allegedly the intended recipient of the photograph, said in a statement to the New York Daily News that she has “never been to New York or to D.C.”

“There have never been any inappropriate exchanges between Anthony Weiner and myself, including the tweet/picture in question, which had apparently been deleted before it reached me,” she said in the statement.


President Obama’s secret weapon in Florida: Rick Scott

Six months ago, in the wake of the wipeout midterm elections, moderate Florida Sen. Bill Nelson privately vented that President Barack Obama, weighed down by his health reform effort and muddled messaging, was “toxic” for Democrats back home.

Yet Obama’s approval rating has surged from 42 percent to 51 percent in the past month, and Nelson is now openly embracing the president, dutifully pronouncing himself “fired up” at an Obama-hosted Miami fundraiser this spring.[…]

But Obama’s biggest asset in a critical swing state he won by a mere 2.8-percentage-point margin in 2008 might be Rick Scott, the wildly unpopular Republican governor Democrats are casting as Lex Luthor to Obama’s Clark Kent.

Democrats say Scott, a stern, angular, unvarnished former health insurance executive, is an easily caricatured embodiment of conservative excess and tea party overreach. And he will likely be Obama’s prime target in Florida, no matter who the Republican presidential nominee is, as well as the best hope of countering the threat posed by the possible selection of popular freshman Sen. Marco Rubio as the GOP nominee’s vice-presidential candidate.

“Obviously, it gets a lot tougher for us if they put someone like Rubio on the ticket,” said Scott Arceneaux, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party. “But Rick Scott is the standard-bearer for Republicans in Florida. … He wants to be President Obama’s foil in Florida, and we’re more than happy to let him be just that.”

Happiness isn’t an emotion beleaguered Florida Democrats have experienced much lately, but Scott is bucking them up. A Quinnipiac University poll last week showed his approval rating at 29 percent and his disapproval rating at 57 percent — by far the lowest approval rating of any governor in the country.

“The double whammy for any Republican running in Florida is Rick Scott and Medicare,” said Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the south Florida congresswoman who was chosen for her new job, in part, to be Obama’s most visible surrogate in the nation’s biggest swing state.

“Rick Scott is at 29 percent — 29 percent!” she added.

Broward County political blogger Brandon Thorp summed it up this way: “If presidential and gubernatorial elections were held in Florida today, no declared Republican presidential candidate could unseat Obama, while Rick Scott would have a hard time beating [Cuban President] Raul Castro.”

Obama’s 2012 campaign team — which has already begun mobilizing a massive Florida operation expected to match or even exceed his $49 million effort in 2008 — plans to leverage Scott for all he’s worth to overcome stiff economic and political headwinds in the state. […]

During recent interviews with Florida news outlets, he went out of his way to target Scott, especially over the rail-funding plan, which enjoys broad bipartisan support.

“Frankly, I think the governor was wrong on this,” he told a Miami TV station in March. “And that’s not just my opinion. That’s the opinion of folks in Tampa and Orlando, including a lot of Republicans up there.” […]

Still, the collapse of Scott’s popularity has many Republicans in the state deeply worried. And if recent history is any guide, Florida governors do, indeed, matter in national political races: Rubio’s defeat of Gov. Charlie Crist last year defined the electoral limits of moderates in GOP primaries nationwide — and when Jeb Bush was governor, his support was considered a major part of George W. Bush’s contested Florida victory in 2000.

Yet Scott is no panacea for everything that ails Democrats in Florida.

Obama’s health reform law remains deeply unpopular, particularly in the Florida Panhandle. His deep cuts to NASA — including the elimination of a $40 million grant to laid-off space shuttle workers — have dented his popularity in Central Florida. And his recent comments about using Israel’s pre-1967 borders as the starting point for negotiations over a Palestinian state has made Florida’s influential and well-to-do Jewish population deeply uneasy.

“He did a really good job of explaining his policy” during a follow-up speech a few days later at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobbying group, said Wasserman Schultz, for whom support for Israel is a core position.

“But we’ve got to make sure we don’t lose the messaging on this,” she added. Obama’s position “is not a 30-second sound bite, so it takes a while to explain. So we have to go out and communicate what his position is and push back against some of the lies out there.”

Obama’s team isn’t leaving much to chance. Campaign manager Jim Messina has made several trips to Florida to rally donors and gird them for the fight ahead. And 17 months before the first ballot is cast, Obama’s Florida team is already in place with Ashley Walker, a veteran of former Sen. Bob Graham’s presidential campaign, at the helm as state director. […]

The nascent campaign, sources say, is initially focusing on a few fundamentals: updating databases, strengthening campus organizations, reaching out to urban black voters and reassuring Jewish supporters in South Florida.

But their biggest long-term task is wooing Hispanics, especially if Rubio enters the race. At the moment, Democrats can take consolation in two facts: Rubio has said he’s not interested in being anybody’s No. 2 and Hispanic support for Obama in the state in 2008 — about 57 percent — was nearly identical to Rubio’s performance among Latinos in 2010.

“Marco’s a threat, no doubt,” said veteran Florida pollster Dave Beattie. “But Obama does about as well among Hispanics [as] Rubio does.”


House Democrats unite on Afghanistan exit


It’s more angst than outright anger, but House Democrats are showing real unity for the first time in pressuring President Barack Obama on Afghanistan — with influential moderates now expressing their impatience alongside the anti-war left that drove the early Iraq war debate.

There’s no immediate threat to war funding, but the shift in the president’s party can’t be ignored by the White House going into the 2012 elections.

This was dramatized last week when all but eight Democrats endorsed demands that Obama come up with plans this summer to accelerate the withdrawal of U.S. forces and pursue a negotiated settlement with “all interested parties” in Afghanistan, including the Taliban.

The amendment — offered to the annual defense authorization bill — narrowly failed, 215-204, with 26 Republicans joining in the effort and capturing the most attention. But the far greater dynamic was inside the Democratic caucus, where the lead sponsor, Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern opened the door for his colleagues by taking out any fixed timetable for withdrawal. […]

Inside the Appropriations Committee, both Reps. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) and Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), who oversee the Pentagon and foreign operations bills so important to Obama’s policy, voted in support — after opposing McGovern in the past. In leadership circles, Rep. Rob Andrews of New Jersey and Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn of South Carolina, perhaps Obama’s strongest ally in the House, joined as well.

“I think it means that we’re very concerned, that we have to get a plan together, we have to be serious about our agenda, our time line,” Lowey said in an interview. “But we’re not saying by such and such a date.”


Former Republican Sen. Warns GOP May ‘Have Gone So Far Overboard That We Are Beyond Redemption’

Not surprisingly, this insubordination has earned Lugar significant scorn within the Republican base, which now seems to value blind obedience over principled independent decision-making. In a New York Times profile of Lugar published today, former GOP Sen. John Danforth feared that the backlash against Lugar from his own party signals that the GOP has gone “far overboard” with no hope of turning back:

“If Dick Lugar,” said John C. Danforth, a former Republican senator from Missouri, “having served five terms in the U.S. Senate and being the most respected person in the Senate and the leading authority on foreign policy, is seriously challenged by anybody in the Republican Party, we have gone so far overboard that we are beyond redemption.”

Mr. Danforth, who was first elected the same year as Mr. Lugar, added, “I’m glad Lugar’s there and I’m not.”

Danforth’s fears are not unfounded. Lugar, who is up for reelection in 2012, has already been targeted by tea party groups. “If I was Dick Lugar, I would certainly expect a challenge,” noted veteran political analyst Stuart Rothenberg. As Diane Hubbard, a spokeswoman for the Indianapolis Tea Party, told the Times, removing Lugar “will be a difficult challenge. But we do believe it’s doable, and we think the climate is right for it and we believe it is a must.”



Poll shows just 27 percent of Minnesotans feel Bachmann is qualified to be president

The poll found that Obama would beat former Pawlenty in Minnesota 48 to 43 percent and Bachmann 57 to 32 percent.

Pawlenty had a 3 percent favorability deficit in Minnesota with 35 percent viewing him favorably and 38 percent unfavorably. For Bachmann, that deficit was a whopping 27 percent.


CNN Poll: Obama’s approval rating edges up thanks to foreign policy

Full results (pdf)

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday indicates that Obama’s approval rating among Americans stands at 54 percent, with 45 percent saying they disapprove of the job he’s doing as president. Obama’s approval rating appears to have steadily risen in the past two months, from 48 percent in early April to 52 percent in early May and the current mark of 54 percent.

“On specific issues, the president’s approval rating is over 50 percent on only three out of 11 items tested, and all three – terrorism, Afghanistan, and Iraq – are foreign or security issues,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “But his approval rating on every domestic issue listed in the poll is well below 50 and on most of them – including the economy, health care, taxes, and the budget deficit – his rating has remained flat or dropped since the start of the year.”[…]

And although the public gives Obama low marks on domestic issues, it appears they believe his heart is in the right place. Six in ten say that Obama cares about people, and 55 percent say he shares their values – the highest mark Obama has received on that measure since the “honeymoon” period in the months following his inauguration.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted May 24-26, with 1,007 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey’s overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.



Inching Closer to States’ Rights

NYT’s Editorial:

Chief Justice John Roberts is one vote short of moving the Supreme Court to a position so conservative on states’ rights that it would be to the right of the Tea Party’s idea of limited government. That chilling possibility was evident in the court’s recent ruling in the case of Virginia v. Stewart.

The principle at stake dates back to a 1908 case, Ex parte Young, in which the Supreme Court held that federal courts have a paramount role in stopping a state from violating federal law. Despite the 11th Amendment’s protection of a state from being sued in federal court, all state officials must comply with federal law, which the Constitution calls “the supreme Law of the Land.”

States’ rights has been a politically charged concept for even longer. It was a basis for secession and then for years of Southern defiance on segregation. Now it is used as an excuse for rejecting national immigration policy.

Ex parte Young, however, has long stood above legal politics, recognized by conservatives and liberals as defining an essential rule. Indeed, last month the court relied on it in ruling that a federal court could stop a Virginia agency from violating federal statutes requiring it to provide records of mentally ill or disabled patients who had died or been injured while in its care. It was noteworthy that the opinion was by Justice Antonin Scalia.

But there was a dissent by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. joined by Justice Samuel Alito Jr. and an opinion concurring with the majority by Justice Anthony Kennedy joined by Justice Clarence Thomas. To these four justices, there is no longer an inviolable principle that federal courts can stop state officials from violating federal law.

The Roberts view is this: By letting one Virginia agency sue another to stop it from violating federal law, the majority has permitted “precisely what sovereign immunity is supposed to guard against” — the indignity of a federal judge deciding “an internal state dispute.”

The Kennedy view: While the court is right to let the lawsuit go forward, the interest served by doing so must be balanced against “the dignity and respect afforded a state” that is protected by sovereign immunity.

To understand why these opinions are threatening, it’s necessary to set them in a larger context. The Rehnquist court made states’ rights a central concern, especially sovereign immunity. Its vision was resolute, with a series of 5-to-4 votes won by conservatives limiting the power of Congress to subject states to state lawsuits and federal administrative proceedings as well as federal suits.

Yet Chief Justice William Rehnquist didn’t waiver from the view that it is not a breach of sovereign immunity to allow a suit against a state official alleged to be violating federal law, because if he is violating it, he is not acting with the state’s sovereign authority.

The April ruling was the first dealing with the topic by the Roberts court. Justice Kennedy has proposed the same unwarranted balancing before. But it is disquieting news that Chief Justice Roberts seems to endorse it, as if there were a state sovereign interest to balance where Supreme Courts for a century have seen none. That puts Justice Roberts and Justice Alito notably to the right of the Rehnquist court. If the chief justice gets a fifth vote, there will be no apparent check, like the federal law’s supremacy, against gutting Ex parte Young.




Counter-protesters confront Westboro Baptist Church at Arlington


Protesting members of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church were met with an unlikely group of counter-protesters Monday at Arlington Cemetery.

Hours before President Barack Obama led the nation’s Memorial Day observances at the Tomb of the Unknowns, three members of the Westboro Baptist Church were challenged by others who disagreed with them — including members claiming to be from the Ku Klux Klan.

The Kansas-based church has attracted nationwide attention for its angry, anti-gay protests at the funerals of U.S. military members.

Among those counter-protesting at the cemetery’s main entrance: About 10 members of a group that claims to be a branch of the Ku Klux Klan from Virginia called the Knights of the Southern Cross. They were cordoned off separately in a nearby area, but drew little attention as they gave out small American flags behind a banner that read “POW-MIA.”

They said they were there to object to the Westboro Baptist Church’s anti-troop message.

“It’s the soldier that fought and died and gave them that right to free speech,” said Dennis LaBonte, the self-described “Imperial Wizard” of the KKK group that he said he formed several years ago. […]

A larger group of about 70 protesters — separate from the KKK — located across the street waved pro-USA signs and took turns shouting down the Westboro Baptist Church group.

Some of the counter-protesters, including Malaika Elias, stood in front of the Westboro participants in an attempt to block them from street view.

“I think they’re twisted and confused, and we’re just here to show them there are people who think they’re completely wrong,” Elias said.

Many passersby shouted their thanks to the counter-protesters as they entered the cemetery on foot and in vehicles.

Several police officers, some on horseback, observed the proceedings.


Former Liberty University Graduate Warns Us About What the Religious Right Wants

Jason Childs, the founder of the Center for Progress in Alabama, used to be a “Liberty University-trained evangelical pastor.”

He has since left that life behind.

After a divorce, and not being allowed back into the church because of that, he began driving a truck and seeing the country. Now, he’s trying to warn us about what the Religious Right is trying to do:

I was sure that I was right and that every other person not of my faith was going to burn in hell forever. I was taught that we as Christians should take this nation back, only to find out later that we never had it to begin with.

I want you to know that the fundamentalist political movement is the beginning of a cultural revolution that will take our nation to a very dark place. You have to understand that this has been methodically planned and is being carried out with the utmost vigilance. In accordance with their worldview, my old friends do not in the least care about what you think. They are against democracy, and they are seeking to end the rule of the majority in our great country.

… It is so sad that as the people of the world are fighting for freedom, we here in the United States are going in the opposite direction. The far right, under the control of fundamentalists, is declaring an all-out war on human progress.

How do we stop them from succeeding? By continuing to fight for the things we believe in: civil rights for everyone, a woman’s right to have an abortion, church/state separation, science-based science education, and all those other issues that make religious conservatives cringe. We’re winning the battle for same-sex marriage and that gives me hope that we’ll eventually win out in the other arenas, too.

Simply put: They’re wrong. We’re right. This isn’t the time to sit on the fence and “be respectful” of their harmful beliefs. We have to encourage people to take a stand against them.



StumbledUpon site I like: World Sunlight Map

Taken at posting  time of The Daily Planet –continually live:



Despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last week that upheld an Arizona immigration law, a group of about 30 Hispanic people protested a similar Georgia law on Sunday, claiming it unfairly targets Hispanics.

“This law is unconstitutional,” said a young woman who identified herself by her nickname, La Che. “We’re going to keep fighting… I’ve lived here (in Dalton) all my life. I never thought I’d see something like this happen here.”

The group — of mostly students from Dalton State College, Southeast High School, Dalton High School and Dalton Middle School — stood on the corner of Waugh Street and Thornton Avenue Sunday afternoon in protest of House Bill 87. Most parts of the bill are set to take effect on July 1.

This is the second time a group of students have taken a stand against the bill in Dalton, and La Che says more protests will be planned. The protests are being organized through Facebook, she said.

The group chanted “This is Georgia, not Arizona” while holding signs that stated: “We all deserve the same rights,” “It’s unconstitutional, it’s illegal, it’s HB 87.”

Can anyone spot the completely inaccurate part of the lede? Give you a hint it’s not what the student’s said, they are right on the mark.

Ok, I’ll tell ya, if you haven’t figured it out already. The Dalton Daily has no clue that the bill that the Supreme Court upheld was not 1070. It was a bill passed several years prior that forces employers to use E-Verify, the pilot federal program that has a 1 in 5 error rate to check that workers are in the country legally.

The Supreme Court will eventually rule on 1070, but they haven’t yet. Who knows if the Dalton Daily’s error was intentionally or not, but it really makes it sound as if the students’ protest was completely pointless, undermining their efforts. It’s a shame, because these students are bravely risking arrest and deportation in protesting an unjust law, as most of them are in the country with out documentation or their parents are.


300 Bikers Foil Westboro Baptist Church’s Obama Joplin Protest

When the Westboro Baptist Church tried to roll into Joplin, Missouri to protest President Obama, they were met by hundreds of patriotic bikers.

This is a great story. Truth Wins Out has a first hand account of what happened when the Westboro Baptist Church tried to protest President Obama’s appearance in Joplin, Missouri yesterday,

We all heard the Westboro idiots were coming to protest! And so did about three hundred bikers!! The bikers all showed up and parked across the street from the University where Obama held a ceremony for the many good people, friends and family we lost!! The only report of any Westboro people actually being there was one guy strolling through all the bikers, when they found out who he was it got ugly for him real quick his shirt got torn off and he was pushed around pretty good! When the police saw what was about to happen they grabbed him and tried to push the bikers back!! Then they told the guy “run you stupid mother fucker.

Run you stupid, motherfucker about sums it up. The Westboro Baptist Church is infamous for their protests at fallen soldiers’ funerals, and their desecration of the American flag, all in the name of gay hate. If there is anyone in America who deserves a good ass kicking it is Fred Phelps and religion camouflaged hate group.


Hunger Strike Spotlights Contract Retail Cleaners Getting Sub-Standard Wages

Things are so bad now for so many people, it’s considered reasonable for companies to outsource — even though it isn’t. It only kicks the people at the bottom. But it’s so inhuman. That’s why organizers and local clergy hope to bring Cub Foods management to the bargaining table in Minneapolis:

Four retail cleaning workers and four community allies will begin an open–ended hunger strike Saturday to ratchet up pressure on the Supervalu grocery chain. The workers, members of a Minneapolis worker center, want the company to negotiate a code of conduct that guarantees fair wages and conditions for the workers who clean its stores late into the night.

The group, led by immigrant workers from Mexico and Central America, also seeks the reinstatement of an illegally fired workplace leader.

“The drastic nature of our action is only equal to the drastic conditions under which retail cleaning workers have to work,” said Mario Colloly, the fired worker. He’s one of the hunger strikers.

After months of requests by workers and their allies for a meeting, and a November march that brought 300 members and supporters to protest in front of several stores, retail cleaning workers in the Twin Cities have said enough is enough. They are organizing with the support of Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL), or the Workers United in Struggle Center, along with faith, community, and union allies.

[…] A mad dash to outsource cleaning services to the lowest bidder over the last decades has caused vicious competition among cleaning subcontractors—with severe consequences for workers. Retail cleaners in Minneapolis say wages have been cut from $12 an hour, with some benefits, to minimum wage (sometimes less) with no benefits.

Wage cuts and workload increases have been the most dramatic at Cub Foods, which is run by Supevalu. Other abuses, said CTUL organizer Brian Payne, include sexual harassment, lack of air conditioning or heating, and threats of physical violence.

The industry as a whole is plagued by severe wage theft and human rights violations. Acting on a tip from overseas, the Department of Justice uncovered a slavery ring in Pennsylvania last year where Ukrainian cleaners put in 16-hour days, seven days a week, at retail stores including Target, Kmart, Wal-Mart, and Safeway, for $100 a month. Prosecutors said workers were raped, beaten, threatened, and held in virtual bondage.



The Regulators of Wall Street Want to Hear From You

Tell Them to End Outrageous Wall Street Pay Practices by Tying Pay to Creating Long-Term Value, Not Short-Term Risk

That’s all about to change, thanks to the Wall Street Reform bill that passed last year. Right now, federal agencies are figuring out the best ways to implement the law – and they want to hear from people like you.

Specifically, agencies are seeking comments about section 956 of the bill – that’s the section about Wall Street pay practices.

Here’s how you can help:

1. Use the form below to send your comments to six of these agencies. Then we’ll give you instructions on how to send your comments to the National Credit Union Administration (which requires just a little more information).

2. It’s especially helpful if you share your personal story about how the economic meltdown has affected you, your family or your friends. (We recommend you write your comment as a separate document that you can save in order to make sure you don’t lose it when you hit the “submit” button).

You may use the suggested language below without changing it, but if you write your own comment, it will be documented and read separately from those who use the sample language without revising it.

3. If you have your own ideas about how banker pay practices should be reformed, please feel free to include that information as well (we’ve included suggested reforms we’d like to see in the message text below).

Right now, Wall Street is spending millions on lobbyists to thwart these essential regulations – and you can be sure they’re sending in their own comments to these agencies in order to eliminate any meaningful reforms.

Submit your comments TODAY!


It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages. ~ Henry Ford

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KQµårk 死神

Another big development in healthcare. The HHS is going to offer healthcare plans with much lower premiums. Since one of the biggest Republican ideas has come up short (high risk pool plans for people with preexisting conditions) HHS has decided to supplement premiums even more.

When are progressive pundits going to realize the president does not waste his time on “symbolic” ideological legislation? Why spend time trying to pass a progressive jobs plan when the right wing house will never pass it. I think the Dems are doing a great job showing the Repugs are just a vapid group of ideologues without any ideas. A failure is a failure. If legislation does not pass both chambers and get signed by a president it’s a failure. That’s the way voters will look at it, especially when that legislation is not even popular.


The plan from HHS:

Changes to the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan in Your State

The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) was created under the Affordable Care Act to ensure more Americans with pre-existing conditions have access to affordable health insurance and serves as a bridge to 2014 when insurers will no longer be allowed to deny coverage to people with any pre-existing condition, like cancer, diabetes, and asthma. In 23 states and the District of Columbia, the PCIP program is federally-administered. The remaining states operate their own PCIP programs using federal funds provided by the Affordable Care Act.


Remember how the conservatives used to rail about activist judges on the left,as we find out they were projecting,the most activist and potentially USA destroying court in the history of America is this court led by the liar Roberts. great job today with your posting,still would great to pst questions and comments under each story.


Cher, I’m personally inclined to believe Rep Weiner on this one- especially since Breitbart has injected his slimy self into it.
As for the Lugar story- I agree with Danforth!
I would Never vote GOP- but if I were still in IN, I Would vote for Lugar.
I’m not so sure I should add my 2 cents worth to the Wall St. issue! They would probably disqualify it for language! Half of my retirement savings went down the drain with Magellan Fund, and the Enron crash; more went with 911, and the last little ‘bump’ took another hit! I would probably recommend public flogging, followed by public hanging! 😉
That Could be perceived as a threat!

*edit- close to your quote today; I hung a Russian Proverb in our break room- and it stayed there until I left;
“They pretend to pay us, so we pretend to work!”