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GOP makes hostage strategy plain: deep cuts or GOP will cause a recession on purpose – Where’s the outrage?

Steve Benen:

There was a general agreement that some kind of deal had to be struck before the end of the month before the GOP strategy starts doing serious damage to the U.S. economy, but that only helped to add a timeline to the ransom note.

Indeed, one of the more striking aspects of yesterday’s gathering was the increasingly-explicit nature of the Republican hostage strategy.

…Boehner’s let’s-get-a-deal-done stance masks a deeper belief within the House Republican Conference — that Obama will back down eventually and agree to its demands, forcing Capitol Hill Democrats to follow suit.

“Of course, it’s dangerous,” a House Republican close to Boehner said of the politics of a government default. “But it’s dangerous for everybody, especially the president. At the end of the day, [Obama] will have to give in.”

“Who has egg on their face if there is a sovereign debt crisis, House Republicans or the president?” asked another senior GOP lawmaker.

With a potential debt default by the U.S. government just two months off, and a continued standoff between the White House and GOP congressional leaders on how to move forward in boosting that limit, Republican lawmakers say publicly and privately that they believe Obama will be the one who has to cave.

To be sure, the hostage-strategy dynamic isn’t new, but it’s uncommon for Republican members of Congress to be this candid about their plan out loud. One leading GOP lawmaker acknowledged that the Republican plan is “dangerous,” but the party doesn’t care. Another conceded that the GOP is inviting a “sovereign debt crisis,” but figures Obama would get the blame, so Republicans don’t care about that, either.

The key to an effective hostage strategy is creating a credible threat. When the hostage taker has a gun to the head of hostage, those expected to pay the ransom have to genuinely believe the bad guy really will pull the trigger. Yesterday, the Republican message to the president wasn’t subtle: we really will pull the trigger and then blame you for not paying the ransom.

This, of course, makes the prospect of compromise that much more ridiculous. As far as Republicans are concerned, there’s no need to compromise — they’re the ones with the gun and the hostage. Why strike a deal? If Obama caves, they get what they want. If Obama stands firm, and the GOP deliberately destroys the economy, Republicans will blame the president and destroy his chances of re-election. As far as the GOP leadership is concerned, all they have to do is wait.

In the abstract, this is arguably one of the great political scandals of recent American history. There is no modern precedent for a political party acting like an organized crime family this shamelessly. The American public isn’t hearing much about these tactics, but I can’t help but wonder what the mainstream would think if someone were to tell them that the Republican Party intends to cause a recession, on purpose, unless Democrats drastically cut Medicare and other popular domestic programs.

Basic American patriotism — wanting what’s best for your country — would seemingly prevent such thuggish tactics. And yet, here we are.

As for whether the president intends to pay the ransom, your guess is as good as mine.


Uh oh. Did Gov. Kasich use a bogus budget number to justify drastic cuts?


Social Security Won’t Be Bankrupted by Boomers’ Retirement


Indeed, the generation of Americans born between 1946 and 1964, who drew their first Social Security checks in 2008, will place heavy demands on the system as they reach their retirement years. But this is also a generation that has been paying into the system since they started working in the early 1960s. Much of the money that boomers are and will be drawing from Social Security is and will be their own.

But these important factors are usually left out. Instead, the purveyors of fear want you to believe that boomers are retiring on the backs of their children and grandchildren. If you buy that, they have statistics showing fewer contributors supporting more beneficiaries — “proof” that the program is unsustainable. […]

By the end of 2010, the Social Security trust fund had a positive balance of $2.6 trillion. As a result of interest earned on the trust fund balances, the fund’s surplus will continue to expand to approximately $3.67 trillion at the end of 2022. After that year, it is projected that the balance will begin to decline. Still, reserves will be sufficient to pay full benefits through the year 2036. After that, Social Security would still be able to pay for 77 percent of benefits.

Since when is news that a program is completely solvent for 25 years bad news? Even in year 26 and thereafter it could still fund three-fourths of anticipated benefits. This is decidedly not a program that is broke or going broke. In fact, this is quite a remarkable achievement.


AUDIT: Scott Walker’s privatization push for WI food stamp program breaking law, risking fed money

Federal officials are also separately questioning a new proposal put forward by Walker that would have all enrollment in the FoodShare and BadgerCare programs handled by the state and private contractors rather than by counties.

According to the USDA, under federal rules, only civil servants – public employees – can have direct contact with applicants for and participants in FoodShare. Contractors can do some other tasks such as data entry and document scanning.

State Department of Health Services spokeswoman Beth Kaplan said in a statement that the audit shows the need for improving the way FoodShare and BadgerCare Plus are administered.

The audit report said Health Services officials don’t believe they’re in violation of federal rules but plan to reduce the number of contracted workers anyway.

The audit comes shortly after USDA officials said state officials didn’t inform them about their discovery last fall of the alleged theft of at least $290,000 in federal FoodShare benefits by Milwaukee County workers.




Easier-to-Open Packaging? Thank High Oil Prices

The Pyranna, the Jokari Deluxe, the Insta Slit, the ZipIt and the OpenIt apply blades and batteries to what should be a simple task: opening a retail package. But the maddening — and nearly impenetrable — plastic packaging known as clamshells could become a welcome casualty of the difficult economy. High oil prices have manufacturers and big retailers reconsidering the use of so much plastic, and some are aggressively looking for cheaper substitutes. […]

Companies are scuttling plastic of all kinds wherever they can.

Target has removed the plastic lids from its Archer Farms yogurts, has redesigned packages for some light bulbs to eliminate plastic, and is selling socks held together by paper bands rather than in plastic bags.

Wal-Mart Stores, which has pledged to reduce its packaging by 5 percent between 2008 and 2013, has pushed suppliers to concentrate laundry detergent so it can be sold in smaller containers, and has made round hydrogen peroxide bottles into square ones to cut down on plastic use.

At Home Depot, Husky tools are going from clamshell to paperboard packaging, and EcoSmart LED bulbs are about to be sold in a corrugated box, rather than a larger plastic case.



FACT: Taxes under Obama are far lower than they were under Reagan

GRAPH: While Slashing Aid To Main Street, GOP Budget Drops Tax Rate For Richest To Lowest In 80 Years

While the House Republican budget passed the House of Representatives with the votes of all but four Republicans, it failed to pass in the Senate. But it did receive 40 votes, including the votes of all but four members of the Senate Republican caucus — with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) actually voting against it because it wasn’t conservative enough.

Yet this position is radically out of step with Americans. A New York Times/CBS News poll released last month found that 72 percent of Americans want to raise taxes on Americans who earn more than $250,000 a year — with even 55 percent of self-identified Republicans supporting such a measure. By taking the position that taxes should be dramatically cut on the richest Americans, Republicans aren’t only out of touch with the country as a whole, they aren’t even representative of their own party’s self-proclaimed members.


Geithner to meet Republican skeptics on debt limit


Ratings agency Moody’s warned on Thursday it would consider cutting the United States’ coveted top-notch credit rating if the White House and Congress do not make progress by mid-July in talks to raise the debt limit.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, seeking to convince Congress to increase his borrowing authority and prevent a government default, went to Capitol Hill to press his case in a 45-minute meeting with first-term lawmakers. […]

A U.S. default would roil global financial markets, but few investors are rattled just yet. Wall Street, in large part, expects the debt and deficit negotiations to go down to the wire, as did talks over tax cuts and the 2011 budget.

“We’ve been through this political grandstanding before,” said Jim Kochan, chief fixed-income strategist at Wells Fargo Advantage Funds.

“We always go right down to the day on debt ceiling targets being raised. No congressman and no president wants to be responsible for Social Security payments not going out. This is a minimal risk. We’ve seen this so many times.”

Obama has tasked Biden to lead negotiations with Republican and Democratic lawmakers to find a deficit-reduction deal that would be palatable to Congress and pave the way for the debt limit to be raised. Their talks are due to resume on June 9.

But Republicans refuse to consider tax increases as part of a deal, while Democrats are opposed to Republican proposals to scale back the popular government-run Medicare healthcare program for future retirees.

Republicans seized on the announcement by Moody’s, which comes two months after Standard & Poor’s revised down its credit outlook on the U.S. rating, as proof of the need to make some sharp spending cuts.


The Labor Department said today that 422,000 people nationwide requested jobless benefits in the week ended May 28.


U.S. labor force growing smaller amid growing economy as many workers retire, enter college, give up looking for work

The labor force — those who have a job or are looking for one — is getting smaller, even though the economy is growing and steadily adding jobs. That trend defies the rules of a normal economic recovery.

Nobody is sure why it’s happening. Economists think some of the missing workers have retired, have entered college or are getting by on government disability checks. Others have probably just given up looking for work.

“A small work force means millions of discouraged workers, lower output in the future and a weak recovery,” says Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the ranking Republican on the Congress’ Joint Economic Committee. “Those are unhealthy signs.”

By the government’s definition, if you quit looking, you’re no longer counted as unemployed. And you’re no longer part of the labor force.

Since November, the number of Americans counted as employed has grown by 765,000, to just shy of 139 million. The nation has been creating jobs every month as the economy recovers. The economy added 244,000 jobs in April.

But the number of Americans counted as unemployed has shrunk by much more — almost 1.3 million — during this time. That means the labor force has dropped by 529,000 workers.

The percentage of adults in the labor force is a figure that economists call the participation rate. It is 64.2 percent, the smallest since 1984. And that’s become a mystery to economists. Normally after a recession, an improving economy lures job seekers back into the labor market. This time, many are staying on the sidelines. […]

A majority of the 42 economists in the latest Associated Press quarterly economic survey said they expect the labor force participation rate to start growing consistently before the year ends. Twelve don’t expect it to happen until next year at the earliest. Five think it never will.

Gov. Kasich Tries To Gut Prevailing Wage And Loses GOP Support



Why Republicans are fighting Obama’s commerce pick

See, before Bryson was the president of the California Public Utilities Commission, or the CEO of Edison International, or the director of Boeing, or a trustee at CalTech, or the chairman of the board of BrightSource Energy (which built Google’s solar farms), he co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council. A hippie! What do hippies know about our current energy challenge??

Issa’s not the only one throwing shade. Jim Inhofe objected to Bryson on the grounds that the NRDC is a “radical environmental organization” — and Inhofe knows from radical! Slightly less insanely, 44 Republican senators are saying that they will filibuster his confirmation, not because they have any problems with his record, but because they want to use their cooperation to blackmail Obama into ratifying trade agreements they favor.


How solar power will become cheaper than fossil fuels in three to five years

Are you ready to flip the bird at your utility company? Lord knows you probably will be after you get the bill for what’s shaping up to be an especially hot June. Luckily, a whole host of companies working on improving a novel solar technology would like to help you do it.

The new tech is called thin-film solar, and the global research director of GE thinks it will soon be cheap enough to compete with the retail price of electricity from the grid. This is called “grid parity” and it’s the Holy Grail of rooftop solar. When this magic pony arrives (so legend has it), it will revolutionize how we produce and consume electricity. Mostly by enabling those of us who live in sufficiently sunny climates to DIY our utilities.

Anyway, GE suit Mark Little thinks that thin-film solar, which can be printed like magazines rather than constructed from expensive silicon like traditional solar panels, only has to get a little more efficient — 10 or 20 percent more — to help break through the 15 cent per kilowatt hour price barrier for a residential installation. (Typical retail electricity prices are between 8 and 20 cents per kwh, and the national average is about 11 cents.)


MN Gov. Mark_Dayton vetoes bill to increase coal power, citing “unacceptable risks to human health and our climate”




Ocean researchers say ocean acidification from CO2 pollution will have “catastrophic” consequences for reefs




New Symbol For Healthful Eating: Hello Plate, Goodbye Pyramid

It’s a pretty safe bet that not many people will mourn the demise of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food pyramid — the 20-year-old symbol of the department’s dietary guidelines — when it’s officially retired Thursday.

Just about everyone agrees the pyramid was complicated, and tried to get too many messages across at once — more dairy, less sweets, exercise, portion control, etc. […]

The pyramid has been maligned for some time.

“I’m surprised they didn’t go to the dodecahedron as their next alternative,” quipped John Stanton, who heads the food marketing department at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, to Shots.

Here’s USDA release explaining what’s up with the plate:

The plate features a lot more fruits and vegetables. In fact, half the plate is devoted to fruits and veggies. That’s good news for fruit and vegetable producers like Lorelei DiSogra, vice president for nutrition and health at the United Fresh Produce Association. […]

In other words, it’s everything the pyramid was not. Less prominent on the plate is meat. In fact, it’s not even named.



Medicaid, following Medicare, won’t pay for many mistakes at hospitals anymore

Medicaid will stop paying for about two dozen “never events” in hospitals, such as operations on the wrong body part and certain surgical-site infections, federal officials said today.

Currently, about 21 states have such a nonpayment policy. The 2010 federal health law, in effect, expands the ban nationwide. The rule published today gives states until July 2012 to implement it.

Medicaid is a joint state-federal program for the poor and disabled. Under the rule, Medicaid funds can’t be used to pay doctors and hospitals for services that “result from certain preventable health care-acquired illnesses or injuries,” the officials said.

A similar regulation has been in place for Medicare, the federal health program for the elderly, since 2008.


Seniors Fight Back Against Real-Life Death Panels

The seniors are opposing $39 million in cuts to their services, including Mayor Bloomberg’s plans to close seventeen more senior centers citywide (in addition to the twenty-six that were closed in 2010), and to significantly reduce services in the remaining centers.

The cuts are in addition to $50 million the mayor already cut from the Department for the Aging over the past three years—a cumulative total of about $90 million, a whopping 50% budget cut to senior services.

Such services could end up costing the city more in the long run. For example, consider that taxpayers will end up supplementing costs for nursing home replacements, unless the mayor is planning to simply kick out seniors onto the streets, which will be free.

New York isn’t the only state where retirees are fighting back against austerity. In Maine, retired state workers and teachers rallied at the State House on Wednesday to protest changes to their pension benefits proposed by Governor LePage.

LePage’s proposal includes freezing cost of living increases for retired teachers and state workers for three years and reducing the cap on increases from 4 percent to 2 percent. The governor is also proposing about $200 million in tax cuts.

Jackie Roach of Oakland, who retired in 1994 after 38 years as a teacher, urged the crowd to call lawmakers and tell them to reject the proposed budget changes.

“It’s wrong for Gov. LePage to pay for his tax breaks for Maine’s wealthiest residents by cutting the pensions of Maine’s retired workers,” she said.

Seniors in Florida are enduring a particularly vicious assault from Governor Scott as they face millions of dollars in state budget cuts. Facilities are set for $187.5 million in cuts in addition to $2.1 billion in Medicare funding reductions over the next ten years.




California Dream Act passes Assembly in landslide vote!



Reuters: Goldman Sachs gets subpoena from Manhattan DA over financial crisis role


One Little Victory

Some rare good news from the Republican War Against Women:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Health and Human Services Department rejected changes in Indiana’s Medicaid plan Wednesday, saying it illegally bans funding for Planned Parenthood, and sought to make clear that a similar fate awaits other states that pass legislation barring any qualified health care provider.

State officials signaled they would not accept HHS’ decision.

However, Mitch Daniels and the Indiana Republicans already won their battle — they showed wingnuts that they’re willing to threaten the lives of women in order to win some far-right votes.


‘Global Commission’: Drug War Has Failed

A self-styled “global commission” of former heads of state and sundry international worthies (including Paul Volcker and former Secretary of State George P. Schultz) has released a report which says that the ‘war on drugs’ as failed and calls for an end to the “criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others.”

MN company found to have unlawfully fired 20 workers for refusing to sign away legal rights


When Will DC Pundits Acknowledge That The Affordable Care Act Contains Cost Control Efforts?


But to me the worst thing about the column is a sentence she puts into Barack Obama’s mouth: “The current system can’t go on. I wouldn’t say this publicly, but my party’s wrong to pretend it can.”

When oh when will Democrats acknowledge the need for some changes to the Medicare status quo?

This is a great question to ask of the tiny minority of House Democrats who voted no on the Affordable Care Act back during the 111th congress. But it’s a terrible question to ask the vast majority of House Democrats who voted “yes” and also a terrible question to ask the Senate Democrats who all voted for it. The story about Republicans backing savage cuts while Democrats are in denial about the need for restraint is a comfortable one, but it bears no relationship to reality. Not only did the Affordable Care Act include specific cuts in Medicare subsidies to private insurers, it establishes a wide array of mechanisms that its authors believe will reduce the growth rate of health care spending, including in public sector programs. Hospitals were squealing about this just yesterday on the front page of The New York Times.


Digby on what Palin’s bus tour and Breitbart’s Weinergate teach us: They both grasp the true nature of our tabloid political press.


New York Times shakes up its masthead

Jill Abramson has been named The New York Times’s first female executive editor, succeeding Bill Keller in an historic and sudden shakeup of the paper’s top masthead announced Thursday.

Dean Baquet, the paper’s assistant managing editor and Washington bureau chief who became a kind of journalistic folk hero when he refused to cut staff as editor of the Los Angeles Times, will replace Abramson as managing editor.


Ratings: Glenn Beck Limps Off Fox News

If Roger Ailes thought Glenn Beck’s farewell tour for his final, televised goodbye on Fox News this month would generate a ratings boost as past fans turned in to toast Beck’s slow motion send-off, the Fox News chairman must be disappointed because it ain’t happening.

Instead, Glenn Beck, which just last year became a ratings monster for Fox News, is going out with a (relative) whimper, not a bang. In fact, Beck’s ratings for May were among the worst he’s ever posted during his Fox News run.  In that sense, Ailes made the right move in cutting ties with Beck: His show’s audience has shrunk by nearly one-half since early 2010, at the same time that hundreds of advertisers, put off by the host’s hateful name-calling and often bewildering conspiracy theories, have pledged not to do business with Beck:


CASE CLOSED: RepWeiner Likely Framed by Dan Wolf (@patriotusa76)


AP’s “Fact Check” Distorts the Fundamentals of a Republican Plan to Reshape Medicare

Major news outlets like to adhere to the pretext that the truth in any political argument always lies in the middle. This means that they feel the need to say that the truth in the current battles over the budget and Medicare lies somewhere between the Democratic and Republican positions.

In the past this practice meant, for example, that most of these news organizations said things like the truth on civil rights was somewhere between the positions put forward by people like Martin Luther King and segregationists like George Wallace. Many might think the truth does not always lie between the positions set out by the major actors in national political debates.

In keeping to this “truth lies in the middle” approach, AP’s Fact Check criticized Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, for attacking Represenative Paul Ryan’s plan for Medicare, which was adopted by the Republican House. Fact Check criticizes Wasserman for:

“falsely accusing the GOP of pushing a proposal that tells the elderly ‘you’re on your own’ with health care and that lets insurers deny coverage to the sick.”

Fact Check goes on to quote Wasserman as saying about the Ryan plan:

“‘You know what, you’re on your own. Go and find private health insurance in the health care insurance market; we’re going to throw you to the wolves and allow insurance companies to deny you coverage and drop you for pre-existing conditions. We’re going to give you X amount of dollars, and you figure it out.'”

It then tells readers:

“THE FACTS: First, the Ryan plan explicitly forbids insurance companies from denying coverage to anyone who qualifies for Medicare, including those who have pre-existing illnesses. Second, it does not merely send money to the elderly and leave them to their own devices in arranging for medical care.

The plan calls for Medicare to stay the same for people 55 and older. But starting in 2022, new beneficiaries would get their health insurance from competing private insurers instead of from the government. The government would offer subsidies to pay for the coverage and set standards that insurers must follow. One condition, says the plan, is that participating insurers “agree to offer insurance to all Medicare beneficiaries, to avoid cherry-picking and ensure that Medicare’s sickest and highest-cost beneficiaries receive coverage.”

Nor would the government merely send “X amount of dollars” to the elderly and let them figure out whether they can afford coverage. The subsidies would go to the plan selected by the beneficiary.”

While Fact Check is correct on the treatment of pre-existing conditions, it is wrong to imply that the Ryan plan in any way guarantees coverage. According to the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) projections, the cost of a Medicare equivalent plan for a person at age 65 would be equal to 44 percent of the median person’s income by 2030. It would have risen to 68 percent of the median 65-year old’s income by 2050. (This ignores the fact that the plan increases the age of eligibility to 67 by 2046. )

Health care costs are higher for older retirees. CBO’s projections imply that by 2050 the cost of a Medicare equivalent plan for someone age 75 would be 143 percent of the median 75-year-old’s income and 200 percent of the median 85-year-old’s income. Given the huge gap between the cost of care and the ability of senior’s to pay it is wrong to imply, as Fact Check does, that the Ryan plan in any way ensures that seniors will get decent coverage. As Wasserman claimed, if the Ryan subsidy is insufficient to pay for care, the plan tells seniors that they are on their own.

The truth does not always lie in the middle. Fact Check would have known this if it had bothered to analyze the CBO projections before criticizing Representative Wasserman.


Google announced breach of 100’s of gmail accounts by China-based hackers. Targets include US & S Korean officials.


YouTube Now Lets You License Videos Under Creative Commons (Remixers, Rejoice)

If you’ve ever yearned to mash up your cat video with some C-SPAN footage but couldn’t figure out how, today’s your lucky day.

Because starting now, YouTube is giving users a choice over how they want to license their content. There’s still the standard YouTube license, which is fairly restrictive, and now there’s a new option: Creative Commons (with attribution). In short, you can now give other people permission to use your footage however they’d like, provided to include a link back to the source.

Licenses are a tricky business (there are six different Creative Common licenses) but YouTube is hoping to reduce confusion by limiting users to one option, which requires attribution and does allow for content to be used for commercial purposes.


Did The Cable Industry Pay Ralph Reed Millions Of Dollars To Orchestrate Tea Party Opposition To Net Neutrality?

As the New York Times and ThinkProgress have reported, Ralph Reed has returned as a force in the political world. A decade ago, Reed was a kingmaker in Republican politics and a corporate lobbyist who counted Fortune 100 companies like Enron and Microsoft as clients. His fall from grace, starting with the Jack Abramoff scandal and culminating in a humiliating loss in his run for lieutenant governor of Georgia, is apparently now behind him. Times reporter Erik Eckholm points out that Reed has successfully revived his work as an operator within the Republican Party, most notably with his ability to ensnare nearly every Republican presidential contender to a conference he’s hosting this weekend.

However, little is known about Reed’s work reviving his business as an astroturf lobbyist. According to documents obtained by ThinkProgress, the National Cable and Telecom Association (NCTA), a trade association that represents cable providers like Comcast and Qwest Communications, has provided Reed’s lobbying firm with at least $3,462,117 worth of contracts in the last three years alone. Century Strategies, the firm founded by Reed and fellow astroturf lobbyist Tim Phillips in 1997, received the contracts for what NCTA deemed “legal and advertising” services. View a screenshot of the relevant documents here and here.



Awesomely Bad Military Patches: The Revenge




Pelosi: Medicare key to Dems winning House:

From UPI: [and I have to show you the photo UPI chose for this story]

“What we’re about is policy,” the California Democrat told ABC News. “What we want is to change the view that the Republicans have that it is OK to abolish Medicare [and] to make seniors pay more for less while we give tax breaks to big oil. That’s not a formula that I think works for the middle class.”

Cuts to seniors’ Medicare benefits are “absolutely” off the table in the current legislative-White House deficit-reduction talks, Pelosi said.

Eliminating Medicare fraud and lowering government costs associated with the government program that provides health coverage to people who are 65 and over would be good, she said, because it would cut the federal debt.

“When you talk about Medicare, the first thing I would do if I ruled the world would be to allow the secretary of [Health and Human Services] to negotiate for lower prices. That would save tens of billions of dollars,” Pelosi said.

Republicans describing their deficit-reduction plan as the solution to the debt crisis are forgetting its cause, she added.

“People don’t want to hear about how we got here, but we got here because of the policies of President [George W.] Bush and we don’t want to repeat them,” she said. “And so we want to have something different. We want to have investment in jobs. We want to have revenue on the table so that we can reduce the deficit, and we have to make cuts.”


ABC News Exclusive: Pelosi Says Democrats Have ‘Very Good Chance’ to Win Back the House in 2012

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told ABC News in an exclusive interview that Democrats “have a very good chance of winning the House” majority in the 2012 elections, pointing to Medicare as the key issue that could propel her party back into control of the lower chamber of Congress.

“We just take it, as I say to the members, one day, one good day, one good week, one good month, one good quarter at a time,” said Pelosi, D-Calif., in an interview for ABC News’ Subway Series with Jonathan Karl.


House Republicans demand more time to beat up Elizabeth Warren

And now they want a chance to abuse her some more. If anything would tempt Elizabeth Warren to eschew an appointment to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and run for the Senate, it’d be the Republican assholes in the House who intend to do their damnedest to make her life hell, in the name of making life just a little bit easier for their Wall Street buddies.

House Oversight Committee chair Darrell Issa asked Warren to come back for more questioning after the tense hearing, which ended abruptly when Warren left due to a previously scheduled event in her capacity setting up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Issa’s letter said he wanted to question Warren again to give lawmakers more time to grill her. He cited her “unwillingness to provide direct and responsive answers to a number of important questions” at last week’s hearing, according to the letter.

The California Republican asked her to clear an entire day in June for the hearing. The hearing would be Warren’s third appearance before a GOP-controlled House panel this year.

For her part, Warren is remaining professional.

Warren “looks forward to her next appearance before the committee,” said Jennifer Howard, spokeswoman for the consumer bureau.

“As the former chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel, Professor Warren appreciates the importance of and value in checks and balances,” Howard said.


Who’s Bankrolling the Assault on ElizabethWarren and the CFPB

The three chief sponsors of the [anti-]CFPB bills—Duffy, Bachus and Shelley Moore Capito—received a total of $1.4 million from the finance, real estate and insurance sector during the 2010 election. Now they’re returning the favor. The GOP Congressional assault on the CFPB is a clever way for the caucus to appeal to the Tea Party’s antigovernment fervor while attracting prodigious campaign contributions from Wall Street and forcing the Obama administration to play defense on yet another critical piece of legislation. ”This is a preview of coming attractions,” says Congressman Barney Frank, the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee, “and the audience is the business community and their donors.” […]

During last year’s financial reform debate, Congressional Republicans, along with some bank-friendly Democrats, launched a furious campaign to defeat the bureau. The US Chamber of Commerce led a $2 million industrywide ad campaign opposing the CFPB, using a butcher as its unlikely public face. “Virtually every business that extends credit to American consumers would be affected—even the local butcher,” one ad claimed. “I don’t know how many of your butchers are offering financial services,” quipped President Obama after meeting victims of lending abuses. The financial services firms that will fall under CFPB purview—big and small banks, payday lenders, mortgage brokers—did all they could to weaken it and create special exemptions for their industries, yet the consumer bureau improbably became “one of the central aspects of financial reform,” according to Obama, and the most tangible victory for consumers. Under pressure from consumer advocates, the administration named Warren a special adviser to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, her onetime foe, and the bureau’s interim director. Now Congressional Republicans and their industry backers are mounting a last-ditch effort to constrain the CFPB before its launch. Warren, according to associates, views this as an attempt to “pull the arms and legs off of the agency.” […]

Warren and the CFPB are up against what she estimates to be a $3 trillion consumer financial services industry, which views the bureau as a potentially grave threat to its prosperity. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 156 groups—the vast majority representing corporate interests—lobbied the government about the CFPB in the second half of 2010 and the first quarter of 2011. The list ranged from JPMorgan Chase to McDonald’s. For some in the business community, the CFPB represents an annoying “nuisance,” says Scott Talbot, chief lobbyist for the Financial Services Roundtable, while for others it’s “holy jihad.” […]

Representatives from the Chamber, ABA, ICBA, Consumer Bankers Association (CBA), CUNA and NAFCU testified in favor of the House bills, which gives a pretty good sense of where Republicans are getting their legislative direction. […]

The Chamber has an entire division devoted to fighting Dodd-Frank, the Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness, and a huge budget. In the first quarter of this year, the Chamber spent $17 million on federal lobbying, far more than any other group, with a dozen lobbyists focused on the CFPB alone. In 2009 the Chamber was anything but subtle in its attacks on the bureau. “We’re fundamentally trying to kill this,” said senior director Ryan McKee. It called the CFPB an “unprecedented expansion of government intervention” and a “new tax” on small businesses. But after losing round one, the Chamber and other opponents decided to work behind closed doors. “They’re much more stealth than they were before,” says Mierzwinski of USPIRG. Who needs a public campaign, after all, when you have the House GOP as a new best friend?

Alabama Republican Spencer Bachus, chair of the House Financial Services Committee, aptly described the mindset of the incoming GOP majority in December: “In Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated, and my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks.” Bachus led the House GOP’s effort to raise Wall Street money in 2010.

Much MORE>>>

More from the T-Paw and Bachmann files:



Why Paul Ryan is losing the Medicare argument – E.J. Dionne, The Washington Post:

Ryan is not losing this argument because of what his opponents are saying, or because voters don’t “understand” what he’s up to. He’s losing because Americans are alarmed that they are paying ever more for coverage, co-pays and deductibles. And they’re weary of battling over health bills with insurance-company bureaucrats.

Americans may not trust government, but they don’t trust insurance companies much, either. So it should surprise no one that they are skeptical of any proposal likely to reduce the insurance guarantees the government already provides them. In particular, they don’t want government to back away from its existing health-care commitments if part of the purpose of retreating is to protect the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.

Among Ryan’s critics, everyone acknowledges that rising health-care costs are a problem. One of the central purposes of the Affordable Care Act was to contain those costs. The reform cut Medicare spending by a half a trillion dollars over a decade — spending reductions that Republicans freely demagogued in last year’s election campaign.

Here’s the basic difference before us: Conservatives want government to play less of a role in paying for health insurance. Progressives believe that government will inevitably play a growing role in the provision of health insurance because if it doesn’t, more Americans will lose their coverage.

The progressive view is not a theory. It is what experience has taught in other wealthy democracies, and in our own country, too. The enactment of Medicare was an admission that most senior citizens simply could not afford health coverage without government help. What was true of seniors in 1965 is now also true of many non-elderly Americans.


Gov. Christie Thinks A Family Making $6,000 A Year Is Too Rich To Qualify For Medicaid

Christie has proposed cutting Medicaid eligibility to absurdly low levels: from the current maximum income of $24,645 to $5,317 a year for a family of three. Apparently, the governor believes a family of three making $6,000 a year is simply too rich to receive Medicaid.

The New Jersey press has reported that the main effect of his proposal would be to slash help for the working poor, tearing a huge hole in the state’s social safety net:

Adults in a family of three that makes as little as $103 a week would earn too much to qualify for health care provided by Medicaid under a sharply curtailed program Gov. Chris Christie wants the federal government to approve this year, according to state officials and advocates briefed on the proposal.[…]

The Christie administration is expected to propose cutting the maximum income level of Medicaid from $24,645 to $5,317 a year for a family of three […]

“That is about a third of the poverty level,” Castro said. “That means that an uninsured parent working full time at a minimum-wage job wouldn’t be eligible. … A parent who works half-time for minimum wage wouldn’t even qualify.

“Unfortunately, the only way these parents can become eligible for health coverage in the future is if the parent applies for and is eligible for welfare,” Castro added. “That sends the wrong message.”

Democratic lawmakers are furious that Christie is insisting on making $300 million in cuts on the backs of poor and disabled residents. They point out that apart from the morally bankrupt idea of denying care to the neediest population, having more people uninsured will ultimately be more costly for New Jersey.

“Those 23,000 people are going to get sick this year,” said Louis Greenwald (D), a committee chairman. “Where are you suggesting they’re going to go?”

State Sen. Joseph Vitale (D), who sponsored the legislation creating FamilyCare in 1998, explained, “This completely dismantles the progress made over the last 12 years, and then some…I can’t imagine how it could be any worse.”

Since Medicaid — which provides health care services to at-risk populations including the indigent, blind and disabled — is jointly funded by the federal government, states must apply for a waiver before making major changes. That means Obama administration officials can still block Christie’s radical attempts to curtail enrollment.

How Dems will use Ryancare in 2012

Was the big Dem upset victory in NY-26 a sign that Medicare will be a potent weapon in other House races next year? Lefty groups are already putting this to the test with this new ad targeting GOP Rep. Charlie Bass of New Hampshire:


Mitt Romney’s announcement speech to accuse Obama of destroying America’s economy:

A key quote from the advance excerpts of Romney’s speech today announcing his presidential run:

Barack Obama has failed America…Government under President Obama has grown to consume almost 40% of our economy. We are only inches away from ceasing to be a free market economy. I will cap federal spending at 20% or less of the GDP and finally, finally balance the budget…I will insist that Washington learns to respect the Constitution, including the 10th amendment. We will return responsibility and authority to the states for dozens of government programs — and that begins with a complete repeal of Obamacare.

Romney signaled early on that Obama’s cultural identity and understanding and appreciation of America would be central to the 2012 campaign, and here he’s suggesting that Obama has transformed our economy into something no longer recognizably American. Also note that Romney will try to compensate for his philosophical embrace of the tyrannical individual mandate with a paean to the 10th Amendment.

But the DNC will remind you about Romneycare:

The DNC is out with a new Web video that features footage meant to accuse Romney flip-flopping on, well, just about everything, most notably health reform. Note the footage of Romney asserting his commitment to universal health care — another reminder that he was wholly committed philosophically to the individual mandate.

Mitt Romney vs Mitt Romney


Binyamin Appelbaum sounds the alarm:

No American president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has won a second term in office when the unemployment rate on Election Day topped 7.2 percent.

And the conversation — with Dem complicity — is all about the deficit. No matter how weak the GOP field may look, this is what Dems should be concerned about.


Right’s campaign to falsify Obama’s Israel stance a bust

As Joe Klein points out, even members of Netanyahu’s staff are now conceding that Obama did not call for a return to pre-1967 borders.


Arizona Turns the Tide: Voters Demand the Recall of Russell Pearce


Bob Bauer resigning as White House counsel; deputy Ruemmler to move up to top job

Bob Bauer will be replaced by his top deputy, Kathy Ruemmler, a former assistant U.S. attorney best known as lead prosecutor in the Enron fraud case.


Club for Growth wants Sen. Hatch out

BUT: Cornyn, Koch holding fundraiser for Hatch


Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz Discusses Mitt Romney’s Failed Jobs Record


Rep Jerry Nadler Questions DOJ on LEGALITY OF VOTER ID LAWS



Gallup: Obama’s disapproval rating is under 40% for the first time in 18 months.

Good numbers for Pawlenty in PPP’s new national GOP poll. Up to 13%.



New Giant Lizard Discovery “an Unprecedented Surprise”

It has a double penis, is as long as a tall human, and lives in a heavily populated area of the Philippines. Yet somehow the giant lizard Varanus bitatawa has gone undetected by science until now.

Long known to Filipino tribal hunters, the monitor lizard was identified as a new species in 2009 via its DNA, scale pattern, size, and peculiar penis, a new study says.

At about six and a half feet (two meters) long, the new lizard species is closely related to the world’s largest living lizard, the Komodo dragon. Unlike the Komodo, though, Varanus bitatawa has evolved to be a vegetarian.

The lizard discovery “comes as an unprecedented surprise,” not least because V. bitatawa’s home island of Luzon is “heavily populated and highly deforested,” the study authors write in Wednesday’s issue of the journal Biology Letters.

How the Giant Lizard Hid Out From Science

The researchers suspect the 22-pound (10-kilogram) lizard species escaped scientific detection until now because there’ve been few reptile surveys of the mountain forests where V. bitatawa lives.

These fruit-eating lizards are also “incredibly secretive,” said study team member and biologist Daniel Bennett of Mampam Conservation.

“You could stay in that forest for years and have absolutely no idea that they are there,” Bennett said. “They spend all their time high up in trees, more than 20 meters [66 feet] above the ground.” Similar lizard species spend less than 20 minutes on the ground per week, he added.

But while scientists weren’t aware of the lizard, its existence comes as no surprise to resident tribespeople who hunt the creature for its meat.

Photographs of hunters with the lizard delicacy taken in 2001 spurred the team’s two-month expedition in search of the elusive species last summer.

Split Penis Points the Way

The team captured specimens of both V. bitatawa and the extremely rare but closely related Gray’s monitor lizard (Varanus olivaceus), another Philippines native.

Capturing both types of lizards was crucial, Bennett said, because it allowed the team to inspect the two monitor lizards side-by-side and detect subtle differences that can help determine whether the animals represent different species.

One particularly revealing trait was the double-ended penis common to monitor lizards. The shape of this reptilian feature is unique to each species.

The giant-lizard find “adds to the recognition of the Philippines as a global conservation hot spot and a regional superpower of biodiversity,” the study team says.

And Bennett thinks it’s “very likely” scientists could discover more unknown monitor lizard species in the Philippines—if they can be found before their fast-dwindling rain forest habitat disappears.



Common Cause: Clarence Thomas Didn’t Report Wife’s Income For Several Years

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas failed over the course of at least five years to report his wife’s income from a conservative think-tank on his financial disclosures, according to the watchdog group Common Cause.

Between 2003 and 2007, Virginia Thomas, a longtime conservative activist, was paid $686,589 by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, according to a Common Cause review of IRS records. Thomas failed to note the income in his financial disclosure forms for those years, choosing instead to check a box titled “none” where “spousal non-investment income” would normally be disclosed.

A Supreme Court spokesperson authorized to speak on behalf of the justices could not immediately be reached for comment late Friday. But Virginia Thomas’ employment by the Heritage Foundation was well known at the time.

Virginia Thomas has also been active in the group Liberty Central, an organization she founded for the purpose of restoring the “founding principles” of limited government and individual liberty.

In his 2009 disclosure, Justice Thomas also reported spousal income as “none.” Common Cause contends that Liberty Central paid Thomas an unknown salary during that year.

Federal judges are bound by law to disclose the source of spousal income, according to Stephen Gillers, a law professor at NYU Law School. Thomas’s omission — which could be interpreted as a violation of that law — could lead to some form of penalty, Gillers said.

“It wasn’t a miscalculation, he simply omitted his wife’s source of income for six years, which is a rather dramatic omission,” said Gillers “It could not have been an oversight.”

But Steven Lubet, an expert on judicial ethics at Northwestern University School of Law, said that such an infraction was unlikely to result in a penalty. While unfamiliar with the Thomas complaint, he said that failure to disclose spousal income “is not a crime of any sort, but there is a potential civil penalty” for failing to follow the rules. He added: “I am not aware of a single case of a judge being penalized simply for this.”

The Supreme Court is, “the only judicial body in the country that is not governed by a set of judicial ethical rules,” Gillers said.



Philo-Semitism: As Palin donned a Star of David pendant in New York

As Palin donned a Star of David pendant in New York – “Today is the 44th anniversary of Jerusalem being reunited. We want to call attention to that” – Adam Kirsch reviews a new anthology on philo-Semitism that begins with a joke: “Q: Which is preferable—the antisemite or the philosemite? A: The antisemite—at least he isn’t lying.”

This may be too cynical; closer to the bone is the saying that “a philo-Semite is an anti-Semite who loves Jews.” That formulation helps to capture the sense that philo- and anti- share an unhealthy interest in Jews and an unreal notion of who and what Jews are. Both deal not with Jewishness but with “Semitism,” as if being a Jew were the same as embracing a political ideology such as communism or conservatism—rather than what it really is, a religious and historical identity that cuts across political and economic lines.

… As early as the 11th century, then, we can see the ambivalence that continues to mark Christian philo-Semitism down to the present. Jews are valued, but only as long as they play the role assigned them in a Christian project or worldview. If Jews step out of that role, they are bitterly criticized.

On Christianist anti-Semitism:

This philo-Semitism is, at its heart, deeply anti-Jewish, and the attempts of Israeli politicians to court evangelical support have been awkward, to say the least. In 1996, during Benjamin Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister, he supported a bill, urged by Orthodox members of the Knesset, to ban Christian missionary activity in Israel. When he realized that this would profoundly offend the American Christian Right, Netanyahu changed his mind and thwarted the bill. Here we have the Jewish leader of a Jewish state permitting Christians to try to convert Jews, as the price for Christian political support.

Indiana Moving Ahead With Planned Parenthood Defund Despite Order From Feds

In a letter obtained by the Associated Press Wednesday, Medicaid Administrator Donald M. Berwick of the DHHS told Patricia Cassanova, the director of Indiana’s office of Medicaid Policy and Planning, that the law illegally blocks Medicaid recipients from receiving services.

“Medicaid programs may not exclude qualified health care providers from providing services that are funded under the program because of a provider’s scope of practice,” Berwick wrote in the letter. “Such a restriction would have a particular effect on beneficiaries’ ability to access family planning providers.”



Caring for Your Introvert

Do you know someone who needs hours alone every day? Who loves quiet conversations about feelings or ideas, and can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience, but seems awkward in groups and maladroit at small talk? Who has to be dragged to parties and then needs the rest of the day to recuperate? Who growls or scowls or grunts or winces when accosted with pleasantries by people who are just trying to be nice?

If so, do you tell this person he is “too serious,” or ask if he is okay? Regard him as aloof, arrogant, rude? Redouble your efforts to draw him out?

If you answered yes to these questions, chances are that you have an introvert on your hands—and that you aren’t caring for him properly. Science has learned a good deal in recent years about the habits and requirements of introverts. It has even learned, by means of brain scans, that introverts process information differently from other people (I am not making this up). If you are behind the curve on this important matter, be reassured that you are not alone. Introverts may be common, but they are also among the most misunderstood and aggrieved groups in America, possibly the world.

I know. My name is Jonathan, and I am an introvert. […]

What is introversion? In its modern sense, the concept goes back to the 1920s and the psychologist Carl Jung. Today it is a mainstay of personality tests, including the widely used Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Introverts are not necessarily shy. Shy people are anxious or frightened or self-excoriating in social settings; introverts generally are not. Introverts are also not misanthropic, though some of us do go along with Sartre as far as to say “Hell is other people at breakfast.” Rather, introverts are people who find other people tiring.

Extroverts are energized by people, and wilt or fade when alone. They often seem bored by themselves, in both senses of the expression. Leave an extrovert alone for two minutes and he will reach for his cell phone. In contrast, after an hour or two of being socially “on,” we introverts need to turn off and recharge. My own formula is roughly two hours alone for every hour of socializing. This isn’t antisocial. It isn’t a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. Our motto: “I’m okay, you’re okay—in small doses.”

How many people are introverts? I performed exhaustive research on this question, in the form of a quick Google search. The answer: About 25 percent. Or: Just under half. Or—my favorite—”a minority in the regular population but a majority in the gifted population.”


Take the Test!

My Type:

Introverted Intuitive Feeling Perceiving

An idealist. (No kidding, huh?)



Clarence Thomas disclosed wife Virginia made $150,000 from tea party group. Demand he recuse himself on health care:


Join us in calling for transparency on Walmart’s political giving!



“I’m the death-panel-supporting, socialist, may-not-have-been-born-here president.”

— President Obama, quoted by the Los Angeles Times, showing little sympathy to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) who accused him of “mis-describing” the House GOP Medicare plan.


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I regard politics as the art of the possible. Very frequently thr range of possible is quite narrow.

The GOP race for the nomination is very interesting. Logically, the nominee ought to be Romney or someone like him, Daniels for example. Moderates like Romney have to cater to the RW – now called the “tea party”. So, …