You can access all the past editions of The Daily Planet on the green Category bar on the top of each page under the heading PlanetPOV.
Check this out when you have some time—it is awesome and get’s better throughout ZEITGEIST: MOVING FORWARD. It is a feature length documentary work which presents a case for a needed transition out of the current socioeconomic monetary paradigm which governs the entire world society.
Zeitgeist: Moving Forward is the third installment in the Zeitgeist film series. The movie was independently released in over 60 countries and in over 30 languages starting on January 15, 2011 with over 340 screenings worldwide. The film was launched for free on the Internet starting January 26, 2011, receiving over 300,000 views on YouTube in the first 24 hours and over 4.5 million views in the first two months of its release.
This subject matter will transcend the issues of cultural relativism and traditional ideology and move to relate the core, empirical “life ground” attributes of human and social survival, extrapolating those immutable natural laws into a new sustainable social paradigm called a “Resource-Based Economy.”
[Not from The Onion]: Burger King Launches All-Whopper Channel On DirecTV
On DirecTV’s channel 111, viewers are treated to the sight of a the chain’s signature sandwich, rotating on a grill as its licked by flames from below. If you manage to stick it out for five minutes, you get a free Whopper. Another 10 minutes will score you a second. 15 minutes more than that (30 in total) will earn you a trio of sandwiches.
But you can’t just leave the station on and walk away. Every few minutes, a message pops up cuing the watcher to press a random button on the remote, lest the clock be reset.
The channel is the brainfart of BK’s ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky, who will soon be parting ways with the fast food chain after years of making bizarre ads together.
“It’s amazing how easily brands give away their products on platforms such Facebook. I understand wanting to attract ‘likes’… but there’s ways to interact with consumers without gutting the value of your product,” says CP+B’s Interactive Group Creative Director. “People are willing to do a lot to get their hands on whopper.”
Noted economist Robert Shiller said Wednesday there was a “substantial” probability the U.S. could lurch again into recession.
Noting weak global data — including a stubbornly depressed U.S. housing market — were flashing warning signs, the Yale University economist said the economy right now faced a “tipping point.”
“Forecasting models would say no” on the question of whether the U.S. will face a double-dip, Shiller said. “But I’m seeing signs that encourage me to worry about that.”
Shiller, who is one of the two men behind the S&P Case-Shiller home-price index, said home prices could still decline despite being lower than where they were more than five years ago. The summer season could see a pickup in prices, he said, but “I still worry about the general downtrend.”
“There might be a turnaround if psychology changes,” he said. But “I fear that it may just continue down.
“It just doesn’t look good,” he said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.
General confidence about the economy is waning, Shiller said, leading to a so-called liquidity trap, in which the Federal Reserve has pumped the economy full of stimulus and consumers are still not opening their pockets.
“When the demand isn’t there, you can lower interest rates all the way to zero and people are still not willing to spend — that’s where we are right now,” Shiller said.
Meanwhile, as Greece teeters on insolvency, Shiller said the continuing stream of negative headlines was likely to have a negative impact on global confidence. “Stories like this, even if it’s from a small country, can have a vivid impact,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s overblown,” Shiller said of concerns Greece could threaten to topple the global financial system much the way the failing of Lehman Brothers brought the global system to its knees in 2008.
A business group that has taken some positions popular among liberals has come out against a corporate tax holiday for offshore profits, saying U.S. multinationals already have too much incentive to ship jobs abroad.
Business for Shared Prosperity and a coalition of other groups, some of them representing small businesses, also called a previous holiday — which allowed corporations to bring profits into the U.S. at a drastically reduced tax rate — a failure.
“When powerful large U.S. corporations avoid their fair share of taxes, they undermine U.S. competitiveness, contribute to the national debt and shift more of the tax burden to domestic businesses, especially small businesses that create most of the new jobs,” the groups said in a letter, dated Tuesday, to lawmakers. […]
For its part, the Obama administration has also said it will only look at repatriation in the broader tax reform discussion, a stance that Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has hinted he shares.
In their letter, the groups cited recent Businessweek reporting that showed how corporations like Forest Laboratories and Google lower their tax bills by routing profits to low- or no-tax countries like Bermuda.
“We need to stop this irresponsible tax avoidance, which undermines the U.S. economy, and assure that all businesses play by the same tax rules,” the group writes.
- The coalition also said it is against the U.S. switching to a so-called territorial tax system, in which corporations would essentially only be taxed on profits made within American borders. As it stands, U.S. corporations can basically defer paying American taxes until they try to repatriate them to the U.S.
Republicans are pushing for a move toward a territorial system, which is used in many other industrialized countries. But opponents say it would encourage corporations to employ more tax avoidance strategies.
Just one hour before a planned noon rally to save Catherine Ferguson Academy from closure, Detroit Public Schools announced that the school will stay open and operate as a charter school. G. Asenath Andrews, the principal of the school and recent guest of The Rachel Maddow Show, told the Detroit Free Press, “I am relieved, excited and pleased.”
According to the Detroit Free Press, the operator for the schools will be Evans Solutions. Although Catherine Ferguson will no longer be a part of Detroit Public School system, they will be open to all students who want to attend. The Detroit News reports that Ms. Andrews and the core staff of the Academy will remain in their roles.
Genetically modified salmon will not go on sale in the U.S.
The House of Congress has voted to ban the Food and Drug Administration from passing the fish fit for human consumption.
The FDA had said last year that they thought the fish, which grows twice as fast as normal salmon, appeared to be safe.
And they were expected to rule on the modified food later this year.
But an advisory panel had indicated that more studies would be needed before it could be served on the nation’s dinner tables.
If the FDA had approved the salmon it would be the first time the government allowed such modified animals to be marketed for human consumption.[…]
The Senate has not ruled on the issue.
Recent data provided by the nation’s largest health insurance companies reveals that a provision of the Affordable Care Act – or Obamacare – is bringing big numbers of the uninsured into the health care insurance system.
And they are precisely the uninsured that we want– the young people who tend not to get sick.
The provision of the law that permits young adults under 26, long the largest uninsured demographic in the country, to remain on their parents’ health insurance program resulted in at least 600,000 newly insured Americans during the first quarter of 2011.
Wellpoint, the nation’s largest publicly traded health insurer with some 34 million customers, reports adding 280,000 new members in the first three months of 2011.
Add in the results of some of the other large health insurers including Aetna, who added just short of 100,000 newly insured to their customer base, Kaiser Permanente’s additional 90,000, and Highmark’s 72,000 new customers, and we begin to sense our health insurance pools are filling up with some badly needed young blood.
The Health & Human Services Department had estimated that the changes in the law would result in about 1.2 million new enrollees in 2011. However, according to Aaron Smith, the executive director of a Washington based non-profit that advocates for the young, it now looks as if that number will be exceeded.
This is very good news – particularly for those in the individual and small group markets that tend not to ‘self-insure’ as the larger corporations tend to do.
It is also very good news for those of us who write a large check every month for our health coverage.
For starters, every one of the young immortals we add to the rolls of the insured is one less young adult who will turn to the emergency room to fix a broken leg and then find themselves unable to pay the bill – leaving it to the rest of us to pay the tab.
And it gets better.
Because the under 26 crowd tends not to get sick, adding them to the insurance pools helps bring the very balance that was intended by the new law. The more healthy people available to pay for those in the pool who are ill (translation- the older people), the better the system works and the lower our premium charges should go.
One cannot help but notice that the health insurance companies turned in record profits for the first quarter of 2011 due, according the insurance companies, to fewer people seeking medical treatment.
When you add into their customer base a large number of people who are paying premiums but are less likely to get sick (the young adult demographic), this would be the expected result.
The question now is whether we allow the health insurance companies to hold onto the benefits of this reform by keeping the extra money they are pocketing or force them to hold the line on premiums as a result of their good fortune.
I’m betting that the policyholders, with the help of both state and federal governments, will win this battle.
Meanwhile, things continue to improve on the small business front where business owners are being heavily incentivized to offer health care benefits to employees.
As I wrote in January, there has been a significant uptick in small businesses taking advantage of the tax benefits offered by the ACA to provide health insurance to employees where they previously did not do so.
According to a Kaiser survey, there has been a 46% uptick in businesses with less than 10 employees offering health benefits as compared to last year.
That is a big number.
Further improving the outlook, the IRS has, in the past month, issued guidelines for small businesses which very much bolster the tax credits offered. Included in those guidelines are provisions that clarify that the tax credit will not be reduced by a state health care tax credit or subsidy (except in limited circumstances to prevent abuse of the credit); that small businesses can receive the credit not only for traditional health insurance coverage but also for add-on dental, vision, and other limited-scope coverage; and detailed guidance on how a small business can determine whether it is eligible and how large a credit it will receive.
Health care reform is working, folks – and we have yet to get to the really big benefits which kick in come 2014.
Now that we are seeing some decidedly positive results, I am reminded of the GOP criticism that was leveled at the health care reform effort back when the issue was on the front burner of the national consciousness. […]
The time has arrived for even the most critical to take another look at health care reform. Facts and figures don’t lie – if accurately presented.
And while the full jury won’t be in for a few more years, maybe the time has come for average Americans more interested in what is best for their country rather than grinding a political axe, to reconsider their views.
I think you’ll like what you see.
Children with Medicaid, the nation’s heath insurance program for those with low incomes, are more likely to be turned away by medical specialists compared to those with private insurance, a new study finds. As health reporter Denise Grady explains:
The study used a “secret shopper” technique in which researchers posed as the parent of a sick or injured child and called 273 specialty practices in Cook County, Ill., to schedule appointments. The callers, working from January to May 2010, described problems that were urgent but not emergencies, like diabetes, seizures, uncontrolled asthma, a broken bone or severe depression. If they were asked, they said that primary care doctors or emergency departments had referred them.
Sixty-six percent of those who mentioned Medicaid-CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) were denied appointments, compared with 11 percent who said they had private insurance, according to an article being published Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine.
In 89 clinics that accepted both kinds of patients, the waiting time for callers who said they had Medicaid was an average of 22 days longer.
The Obama administration injected billions of dollars into Medicaid, the nation’s low-income health program, as the recession deepened two years ago. The money runs out at the end of this month, and benefits are being cut for millions of people, even though unemployment has increased.
As a result, costs can be expected to rise in other parts of the health care system. Cuts in Medicaid payments to doctors, for example, make it less likely that they will accept Medicaid patients and more likely that people will turn to hospital emergency rooms for care. Hospitals and other health care providers often try to make up for the loss of Medicaid revenue by increasing charges to other patients, including those with private insurance, experts say.
Neither the White House nor Congress has tried to extend the extra federal financing for Medicaid, even though the number of beneficiaries is higher now than when Congress approved the aid as part of an economic recovery package in February 2009.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that federal Medicaid spending will decline in 2012 for only the second time in the 46-year history of the program. But states say they will have to have to spend more on Medicaid as they struggle to make up for the loss of federal money.
State officials say they are resigned to the loss of the extra federal matching payments, given the climate in Congress, where deficit reduction is a paramount goal.
“We all see the reality of what’s going on in Congress,” said Mark W. Rupp, director of the Washington office of Gov. Christine Gregoire of Washington State, a Democrat who is chairwoman of the National Governors Association. “It’s more about cutting than spending. Why put a lot of effort into something that did not seem likely to have a positive outcome? It would have been fairly futile.”
“Medicaid is very much on the chopping block,” said Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia and chairman of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care. “Seniors vote. But if you are poor and disabled, you might not vote, and if you are a child, you do not vote — that’s a lot of Medicaid’s population. They don’t have money to do lobbying.”
Medicaid is financed jointly by the federal government and the states, with the federal government paying a larger share in poorer states like Mississippi and West Virginia and a smaller share in higher-income states like New York and Connecticut.
The aid ending next month increased the federal share of Medicaid spending in all states, with additional help for states where unemployment rates had risen sharply. The extra aid was scheduled to expire last December, but Congress extended it for six months at the urging of the White House and state officials.
The additional money pushed the average federal share of Medicaid spending nationwide to 67 percent. It will revert to 57 percent next month. The cutback in federal Medicaid money has put pressure on states to cut the budget for other programs, including education and social services.
Toby J. Douglas, director of the California Department of Health Care Services, said the federal Medicaid cut was causing “very consequential reductions in health care and other public programs.”
California is cutting Medicaid payments to doctors and many other providers by 10 percent; has established new co-payments for drugs, doctors’ services and hospital care; and will limit beneficiaries to seven doctor’s office visits a year unless a doctor certifies a need for more.
With 7.6 million Medicaid beneficiaries — 50 percent more than any other state — California faces bigger problems, but its response has been typical. A survey issued this month by the National Association of State Budget Officers found that 24 states were reducing Medicaid payments to providers, while 20 were limiting benefits in some way. […]
New York has just imposed a cap on state Medicaid spending, with a separate limit for each sector like hospitals, nursing homes and managed care plans. Under a new state law, if it appears that the state share of Medicaid spending will exceed the cap, New York officials must devise and carry out a plan to reduce spending, by modifying benefits, provider payment rates or other features of the program.
“This is an enormous sea change for Medicaid,” said Jeffrey Gordon, a spokesman for the New York State Health Department.
In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, said, “Medicaid’s growth is out of control,” and he has proposed numerous changes “to fill in the hole created by the loss of over a billion dollars of federal stimulus money” for the program. He would tighten eligibility, reduce Medicaid payment rates for nursing homes, move older and disabled Medicaid recipients into managed care, and charge co-payments for medical day care services.
The provision would have North Carolina follow Indiana in declining to fund Planned Parenthood through the family planning program authorized under Medicaid. Indiana currently faces a lawsuit from Planned Parenthood and North Carolina could face one as well if the de-funding provision eventually becomes law under the state budget.
DREAM Activists — a resource network for undocumented students — has been working on deportation cases of students for a long time, along with law students and immigration attorneys.
“As we started getting more cases we realized we don’t have the resources to handle all cases and they will fall through the cracks,” Mohammad Abdollahi of DREAM Activist tells The Florida Independent, “so we sat down and came up with a guide so people can figure it out by themselves.”
The Asian Law Caucus, Educators for Fair Consideration, the National Immigrant Youth Alliance and DREAM Activist together released a Removal Defense Guide (.pdf) earlier this month.
“With over 60 pages of legal and organizing support from various successful public cases, the guide aims to provide undocumented youth, families, and lawyers with the essentials for deportation defense,” according to a press release issued by the Asian Law Caucus.
The guide focuses primarily on the Department of Homeland Security’s ability to exercise prosecutorial discretion by granting deferred action to students who are facing removal from the United States. #
Abdollahi says that the manual is limited to discussing prosecutorial discretion when a DREAM Act student has a final Order of Removal or is in Removal Proceedings with no other legal options. He adds that even though the guide is targeted at youth, it works for families as well. #
Abdollahi tells the Independent it is frustrating that under President Obama so many students are being deported. He explains that DREAM Activist has had cases in which deferred action was granted from Washington, D.C., but local immigration officers reject the decision. If deporting students is not a priority, adds Abdollahi, we hope the Obama administration would reach out to lower-level immigration officers.
Other education and immigrant advocacy organizations have also recently called on Obama to use his executive authority to stop the deportation of young undocumented immigrants who would be eligible for the DREAM Act. In the aftermath of Obama’s speech on immigration, several immigrant advocacy organizations have said the president must lead.
U.S. prosecutors filed on Wednesday an expected civil lawsuit against Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) that formalizes the $553 million fine the German bank agreed to pay last December in connection with its illegal tax shelter work for wealthy Americans.
The filing, in Federal District Court in Manhattan, is a procedural piece of the non-prosecution agreement reached last December between prosecutors and Germany’s largest bank over its work in selling questionable tax shelters.
Under the settlement, Deutsche Bank admitted to criminal wrongdoing and agreed to pay the fine, which it has already done. It also agreed not to contest what it knew would be a future civil lawsuit filed in connection with the fine.
The lawsuit is a capstone to one of the largest criminal tax investigations in U.S. history involving the web of banks, lawyers, accountants and brokers who made and sold bogus tax shelters to scores of Americans. In 2009, UBS (UBS.N) (UBSN.VX), the Swiss bank, agreed to pay $780 million to settle charges that it helped wealthy Americans dodge federal taxes over 2000 to 2007. […]
Deutsche Bank admitted that as part of its tax shelter deals, it had created transactions that generated seemingly legitimate losses for clients. But the deals were in fact a sham “intended to create the appearance of investment activity;” and helped taxpayers “evade the payment of several billion dollars in federal income taxes,” according to court records.
Department of Justice:
Settlement Provides $1.45 Million to Ensure Equal Lending Services to African-American Community
WASHINGTON –Midwest BankCentre will open a full-service branch in an African-American neighborhood and invest approximately $1.45 million in majority African-American areas of the St. Louis metropolitan area as part of a settlement to resolve allegations that they engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination on the basis of race and color, the Justice Department announced today. […]
The complaint alleges that Midwest BankCentre violated the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which prohibit financial institutions from discriminating on the basis of race and color in their mortgage lending practices. The lawsuit alleges that Midwest BankCentre has served the credit needs of the residents of predominantly white neighborhoods in the Missouri portion of the St. Louis metropolitan area to a significantly greater extent than they have served the credit needs of majority African-American neighborhoods. Those neighborhoods are in and to the north and west of the city of St. Louis. They are easily recognized because t he Missouri portion of the St. Louis metropolitan area has long had highly-segregated residential housing patterns, especially for African-Americans.
Better late than never, I suppose. Thanks to the Democratic leadership for sticking it to an ally because they were so afraid of the manufactured controversy:
A report issued today by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) finds little to support the charges that led to the demise of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a grassroots consumer advocacy organization driven out of existence by Congressional critics.
The GAO found that monitoring of awards to ACORN by government agencies generally consisted of reviewing progress reports and making site visits. Of 22 investigations of alleged election and voter registration fraud, most were closed without prosecution, the report found.
One of eight investigations of alleged voter registration fraud resulted in guilty pleas and seven were closed without action due to lack of evidence.
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) reported five closed matters – one resolved, one dismissed and the others dropped after FEC “found no reason to believe the violations occurred.”
[…] In 2009, conservative activists released selectively edited videos claiming to show ACORN employees giving advice on hiding prostitution activities and avoiding taxes.
The videos created a nationwide controversy that resulting in Congress passing laws that prohibited federal funds from being awarded to ACORN. The group disbanded in March 2010 In December 2009, New York U.S. District Court Judge Nina Gershon ruled that Congress had violated the Constitution by singling out ACORN and banning it from receiving federal funds but the ruling was overturned by a federal appeals court, which found that federal funds amounted to only 10 percent of ACORN’s funding and therefore Congress’ action did not amount to punishment, even though it may have been unjustified.
The GAO report identified about $48 million in federal grants and contracts that had been awarded to ACORN and its affiliates from 2005 to 2009.
Conservative organizations are paying millions of dollars a year in sponsorship fees to talk-radio hosts for a package of plugs on the hosts’ shows, according to a Politico report.
The Heritage Foundation, which is credited with pioneering sponsorships of this style and magnitude, reportedly pays about $2 million in sponsorship fees to “The Rush Limbaugh Show” and $1.3 to “The Sean Hannity Show.”
And Heritage has absolutely no reservations about it.
“We approach it the way anyone approaches advertising: where is our audience that wants to buy what you sell?” Genevieve Wood, Heritage’s vice president for operations and marketing. “And their audiences obviously fit that model for us. They promote conservative ideas and that’s what we do.”
What the seven-figure deals guarantee for the organization varies, but most arrangements include a specified number of instances in which the host reads from a script or a set of talking points provided by the organization. The message encourages listeners to visit the organization’s Web site or make a financial contribution.
It’s the ambiguity between traditional advertising and the show’s content that makes this type of sponsorship so valuable to organizations: It circumvents the problem of listeners “tuning out” or changing stations during commercials.
But for listeners, it’s difficult to know whether the host is doing the bidding for an organization or having an honest discussion, as was the case last month when Limbaugh spoke about Heritage’s previous support for health insurance mandates.
“The Heritage Foundation to this day says they are being impugned and misrepresented in terms of their advocacy for such a thing,” Limbaugh said, explaining that the think tank “abandoned the idea once they saw it implemented” and realized “it doesn’t work.”
Limbaugh, who has been a paid Heritage endorser since 2009, said the reversal did nothing to detract from the “profound … respect for Heritage. Heritage is the gold standard. Heritage was every bit as involved in Reaganism as Reagan was, and nothing’s changed.”
Aside from getting the message out, Heritage says it has seen an increase in the bottom line. They estimate that over the last two years, the sponsorships have brought them an additional 40,000 members each year. At the basic membership level of $25 per year, that has added $1 million in revenue.
Fox News often takes flack for dumbing down the news in favor of wild salaciousness. And while much of that reputation is deserved, what the shots to O’Reilly et al. often fail to add is that the other cable news outlets aren’t much better. For proof, look no further than the TPM video above, which depicts the insane circus sideshow our news has become.
Watch carefully as Fox and the “good” cable outlets prepare to tune into House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s press conference this morning, which was set to start right after news broke that noted penis-pic sender Anthony Weiner would resign. Then watch as all the outlets cut away from Pelosi when she says she won’t be addressing questions about Weiner, but will instead be talking about actually very important stuff like “jobs, protecting Medicare, and protecting the middle class.”
With news feeds like this, you should no longer be surprised when young people have no idea what’s happening in international politics.
The day after the Republican debate on CNN, it began. The pundit madness. Get ready for a year and a half of cable news people talking about Republican presidential candidates like Oscar nominees in lieu of getting into all of the reasons why they’re so wrong about almost everything.
For example, instead of helping America by exposing Michele Bachmann as the dangerous crazy person she is, the Hardball crew spent way too much time [I think that’s the correct link, but MSNBC’s website is almost impossible to navigate] pumping her up on stylistic political points. She was articulate and energetic, she didn’t fumble, she performed well, etc, etc.
Thanks guys. Let’s make a very serious pitch for a crazy person who routinely botches history and holds some of the most radical positions in Congress during a slow recovery from a previously disastrous Republican administration — based solely on style points.
Quoting Jon Stewart: You’re hurting America.
On June 14, Weiner was covered extensively on all three major cable news channels. CNN covered the Weiner fallout on American Morning, CNN Newsroom, The Situation Room, and Anderson Cooper 360. Fox News featured the story on Fox & Friends, America’s Newsroom, America Live with Megyn Kelly, Studio B, Your World with Neil Cavuto, Special Report with Bret Baier, and Fox Report with Shepherd Smith. But it was MSNBC that had the most Weiner coverage Tuesday, with every show covering the story to some degree except Morning Joe, Dylan Ratigan, Rachel Maddow, and Ed Schultz.
This stands in stark contrast with the amount of media coverage devoted to Ensign on the day after he formally submitted his resignation: April 22. CNN and Fox News didn’t devote much time to covering the story, while MSNBC covered the story on most of their daytime shows. Rachel Maddow, who has spent the last few weeks pointing out some Republican members of Congress who have done worse than Weiner, led with the Ensign story on her program that evening.
In the weeks that led up to his resignation, Ensign was barely mentioned on the three cable networks, and on May 3, the day he officially left the Senate, there is no indication that CNN or Fox News devoted any coverage to it. MSNBC only covered it on The Daily Rundown, and HLN’s Robin Meade briefly covered the Senator’s farewell speech.
Ensign’s resignation was unquestionably overshadowed by the death of Osama bin Laden, which delivered massive ratings for the networks in the few days that followed. It is easy to understand how Sen. Ensign’s departure was overlooked, but when a government official decides to leave office after having an affair, and being charged by the Senate Ethics Committee of breaking federal laws to cover it up, you would think this would warrant at least some coverage.
The FBI actually launched an investigation into the Ensign scandal. The senator admitted that his parents paid off the woman he had the affair with, Cynthia Hampton, and her husband after they severed ties to Ensign’s office.
Despite all this, Ensign’s affair wasn’t the lead story for over a week, and the media wasn’t obsessing over every little thing about his scandal. A Google search of the words “Ensign admits” from June 15, 2009 (the day Ensign admitted to the affair) to June 16 shows roughly 15,000 results. Searching “Weiner admits” from June 6 (the day of his press conference) to June 7 shows over 500,000 results.
And then, of course, there was the difference in political reactions. Current DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has called for Weiner to resign, saying in a statement that Weiner has “become an unacceptable distraction” and “[t]he behavior he has exhibited is indefensible.” On the other hand, when Michael Steele was confronted about Ensign’s affair less than a month after it happened, he dismissed it as “old news, old school.” And when he was asked about it again in early 2010, he said, “I wasn’t chairman of the party at the time all that took place so I have no opinion on it.”
The Obama administration sent a report to Capitol Hill on Wednesday addressing congressional concerns about whether President Obama is in compliance with the War Powers Act. The Libya debate is exposing some unusual shifts on foreign policy among Republicans. […]
The 40-page White House report was in response to a warning from House Speaker John Boehner that if the president didn’t seek authorization for the Libya mission this week, he would be in violation of the War Powers Act. In the past, Boehner himself has questioned the law’s constitutionality. In 1999, he said that he War Powers Act ties the hands of the commander-in-chief.
This is a familiar pattern: Democrats talk about the War Powers Act when there’s a Republican president, and Republicans find a new respect for the law when there’s a Democrat in the White House. Here’s foreign policy expert Danielle Pletka.
Ms. DANIELLE PLETKA (Vice President, American Enterprise Institute): It is a partisan tool. There’s no question. But nobody actually has the courage of their convictions. You don’t see legislation brought to the floor under War Powers passing, and you don’t see Congress actually using its true power, the power of the purse, to defund ongoing military operations. And that’s the real test.
LIASSON: Yesterday at the White House, top officials said the act did not apply to the Libya operation, but even so, it had complied with the letter and spirit of the law. At the daily briefing, Press Secretary Jay Carney fielded questions like this.
Unidentified Man: In compliance with the War Powers resolution, will the president begin withdrawal of American troops in the action against Libya this weekend, after the 90-day period is up?
Mr. JAY CARNEY (White House Press Secretary): First of all, as you know, there are no forces to withdraw from Libya. Let’s just make that clear. Secondly, the president has acted, you know, in a manner that’s consistent with the War Powers resolution.
LIASSON: The debate about Libya reveals something more than just the perennial wrangling between the president and Congress over war powers. There’s a sea change underway inside the Republican Party. In Congress, the new Tea Party caucus is skeptical of U.S. military intervention, and on the campaign trail, the traditional support for aggressive U.S. action abroad is being eroded by a new isolationism. You could hear it at Monday night’s GOP candidates’ debate.
The Republican Party, after converting huge surpluses into huge deficits during the Bush era, after opposing deficit-reducing health reforms, student loan reforms and big-bank taxes during the Obama era, after continuing to clamor for trillions of dollars in deficit-expanding tax cuts while gutting House pay-as-you-go rules to make it easier to expand the deficit, has somehow managed to re-brand itself as the party of fiscal responsibility. It’s a remarkable political achievement. …
It’s not Obama’s fault that Republicans are irresponsible. But he’s not powerless. He’s not voiceless. It was no coincidence that when he laid out a strong case against GOP fiscal insanity in his George Washington speech in April, Republicans hated it, screeching that he was the meanest, nastiest, most partisan President in the history of Kenyan sharia socialism. Apparently, he touched a nerve. But he hasn’t touched it again. Ultimately, if he can’t create a political atmosphere where irresponsibility is punished, the irresponsibility will continue. And he’ll be held accountable for the consequences.
President Obama and congressional Democrats see no point in proposing an ambitious job-creation agenda because they know full well that Republicans wouldn’t even consider it. Instead, they’re left with looking for ways to give the economy a modest boost in a way the GOP might find ideologically acceptable.
That effectively leaves Dems with one option: a cut in payroll taxes. It’s not much, but it’d likely be a step in the right direction.
As of yesterday, however, some leading Republicans announced that they’ve finally found a tax cut they don’t like.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, and Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, who both hold GOP leadership positions, told reporters that the current high unemployment rate is proof that short-term stimulus programs, like the payroll tax reduction, don’t work.
“I don’t sense how this move will install the confidence that small businesses in east Texas and Fortune 50 companies are going to need to take care of the Obama employment gap,” Hensarling said.
“We don’t need short term gestures, we need long term strategies that build into our system simpler taxes, lower taxes, fewer mandates, lower costs, lower energy costs, more certainty,” Alexander said.
This is all manner of wrong.
Hensarling, whose conspicuous confusion is reminiscent of someone who’s recently suffered head trauma, is still throwing around the “confidence” canard. It was wrong when GOP pollsters came up with it two years ago, and it’s just tiresome now.
Alexander rejects “short-term gestures,” but I’d remind the conservative Tennessean that the economy is in trouble right now. The unemployment rate is above 9% today. A “short-term gesture” that economists believe would quickly help with job creation isn’t something to scoff at given that the economy is in need of an urgent boost.
Alexander added that Republicans have “proved” that “short-term government programs … don’t work.” But that’s just ridiculous — a short-term government program stopped the economy from hemorrhaging jobs and stopped the economy from contracting.
But in the bigger picture, GOP lawmakers who’ve always said they never saw a tax they didn’t want to cut have suddenly decided they oppose a tax-cut plan from the Obama White House. It leads to two questions. First, do they oppose cutting taxes because President Obama wants them to? And second, are they rejecting the Dems’ proposal because they don’t think it’ll work, or they’re afraid it might?
“There is a jittery sense among Republican savants that Romney is a straw man, ready to be toppled, because the party has changed irrevocably. It has traded in country-club aristocracy for pitchfork populism.”
Gov. Rick Scott is backing off his policy of requiring drug testing of state workers, according to a report by the News Service of Florida. The governor’s office attributed the move to a pending lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.
Scott ordered one agency – the Department of Corrections – to continue to move forward and implement the policy.
Apparently part of the “new messaging” strategy on Medicare on the part of the House Republicans is to force the Democrats to use the same messaging by not allowing them to send constituent mail that describes what the proposal would do.
When Representative Gerald E. Connolly, Democrat of Virginia, tried to send a taxpayer-paid newsletter to his constituents this month, the Republican majority had a few edits first.
Instead of calling the Republican budget proposals a plan to “eliminate Medicare as we know it and replace it with a privatized system,” the group that oversees House mailings insisted on making it “change Medicare and revise a government program with support from private insurance companies.”
Where Mr. Connolly wanted to call the plan, offered by Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, a “radical plan,” the committee said no. And when Mr. Connolly tried to characterize it as a “voucher,” it was suggested that he refer to the plan as a “premium support system,” the term used by House Republicans….
Mr. Connolly and other Democrats say that the Republican majority has suddenly begun trying to change their newsletters in the wake of the Democratic victory in a New York special election—a victory that some say was helped by Democratic messages about Republican plans for Medicare.
“They are changing their tune due to political fallout and bad poll results,” Mr. Connolly said.
TPM’s Brian Beutler makes the point that the language the Republicans are striking isn’t just language they’ve used themselves, but that the “language Republicans on the commission now reject is identical to language they approved earlier this year, before their Medicare plan cost them a seat in a conservative district in upstate New York.
President Obama has been attending fancy dinners for weeks with campaign donors who give more than $30,000.
But the campaign announced Wednesday it will have a much smaller asking price for one meal: $5.
In a fundraising appeal signed by the president himself, the Obama re-election campaign is saying anyone who donates at least $5 on Wednesday automatically is placed into a lottery for a dinner with Obama. Four donors will get to attend the dinner, which does not yet have a date or a location.
“We’ll pay for your flight and the dinner — all you need to bring is your story and your ideas about how we can continue to make this a better country for all Americans,” Obama says in an e-mail message to campaign supporters. “This won’t be a formal affair. It’s the kind of casual meal among friends that I don’t get to have as often as I’d like anymore, so I hope you’ll consider joining me.”
The appeal comes as Obama’s campaign is ramping up its fundraising operations, looking to collect $60 million for the period from April to June
Mitt Romney sat at the head of the table at a coffee shop [in Tampa] on Thursday, listening to a group of unemployed Floridians explain the challenges of looking for work. When they finished, he weighed in with a predicament of his own.
“I should tell my story,” Mr. Romney said. “I’m also unemployed.”
I don’t want to sound humorless about this, and I’m sure Romney was just trying to be charming. Indeed, comments like these may very well be a deliberate self-deprecating strategy because Romney strutted around New Hampshire on Tuesday as if he’d already won the presidency, and no one likes an overconfident jerk.
But when an extremely wealthy person jokes to people who are actually struggling about being “unemployed,” it rankles. Indeed, Mitt Romney became extremely wealthy in a way that seems relevant to this discussion.
“Santorum represents, in my view, much of what is wrong the in the Republican Party. While I disagree with him on some fundamental issues, I am much more concerned with his lack of character.”
And then there is this little known tidbit: “I’m a pretty tolerant guy, but beyond his ideology, some of Santorum’s behavior is just a little bizarre. For example, Santorum has six children. In 1996, he had son born prematurely who lived for only two hours. He and wife brought the child home and introduced the dead infant to the rest of their children as ‘your brother Gabriel’ and slept with the body overnight.”
Indeed, the Washington Post reported this in 2005.
A former senior C.I.A. official says that officials in the Bush White House sought damaging personal information on a prominent American critic of the Iraq war in order to discredit him. Glenn L. Carle, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer who was a top counterterrorism official during the administration of President George W. Bush, said the White House at least twice asked intelligence officials to gather sensitive information on Juan Cole, a University of Michigan professor who writes an influential blog that criticized the war.In an interview, Mr. Carle said his supervisor at the National Intelligence Council told him in 2005 that White House officials wanted “to get” Professor Cole, and made clear that he wanted Mr. Carle to collect information about him, an effort Mr. Carle rebuffed. Months later, Mr. Carle said, he confronted a C.I.A. official after learning of another attempt to collect information about Professor Cole. Mr. Carle said he contended at the time that such actions would have been unlawful.It is not clear whether the White House received any damaging material about Professor Cole or whether the C.I.A. or other intelligence agencies ever provided any information or spied on him. Mr. Carle said that a memorandum written by his supervisor included derogatory details about Professor Cole, but that it may have been deleted before reaching the White House. Mr. Carle also said he did not know the origins of that information or who at the White House had requested it.Intelligence officials disputed Mr. Carle’s account, saying that White House officials did ask about Professor Cole in 2006, but only to find out why he had been invited to C.I.A.-sponsored conferences on the Middle East. The officials said that the White House did not ask for sensitive personal information, and that the agency did not provide it.
A bipartisan group of senators voted 73-27 to support the end of a $6 billion tax credit for ethanol producers. The subsidy gives producers a tax credit of 45 cents per gallon when they blend ethanol into gasoline, and it has reportedly driven up the price of corn. Although the House will not vote on the legislation, which makes the vote more symbolic, 33 Republicans voted in favor of the measure, and Democrats say that will make it harder for Republicans to argue that they are against raising taxes during budget talks.
The White House:
Last week, President Obama met with young Americans in the West Wing to de-brief on the “100 Youth Roundtables” Initiative. In that session, young folks reflected on the feedback given to the White House during the course of the initiative. They discussed issues regarding environmental regulations, community organizations, legislation that the President supports, and how to really make a difference all around. To follow up on that feedback, the President announced a new series that will take us through the summer, called, “How to Make Change.” Check out his announcement.
This series will specifically foster a conversation between young Americans, advocates, and the White House on the issues that matter to us all. What are specific deliverables you would like to see? What tools can we offer you so that you can achieve what you set out to achieve? Let us know! The full schedule for “How to Make Change” will be announced next week, so stay tuned.
There’s a general sense from many pundits today — see Josh Marshall — that there’s something fundamentally wrong about Anthony Weiner having to resign. The general sense is that the punishment didn’t fit the crime.
But this is beside the point. Weiner’s colleagues turned on him almost certainly because he lied, and because of how he lied — because of the very specific lie that he told. If Weiner had ‘fessed up from the beginning, I suspect he would have survived. If he had even just stonewalled, or given a blanket but vague denial of improper behavior, he might have even survived that. But claiming to have been hacked when it wasn’t true was too specific a lie. It meant that colleagues who were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt repeated that lie (and liberal supporters found evidence “supporting” it before the whole thing caved in). And while they might have been willing to forgive Weiner for misbehavior, it’s a lot harder to forgive him for tricking them into telling lies to their own constituents.
Moreover, because of the specific nature of the lie (and how totally untrue it turned out to be), Dem leaders had no reason whatsoever to believe that there was nothing more to come. Nancy Pelosi wasn’t in a position to argue that what Weiner did wasn’t as bad as, say, what David Vitter had done, because she had no way of knowing what might be coming next.
So don’t blame Democratic leaders for pushing him out: By destroying any trust they might have had in him, Weiner is the one who made his own situation impossible. He made himself too dangerous to keep around.
In most cases where people blame the cover-up, the truth is that if the pol had really confessed to everything right away it would have meant certain political death, if not, in many cases, a long prison sentence. That’s certainly the case with the most famous example, Watergate. But this time, it was the lies that ended Anthony Weiner’s career in Congress.
Among all poll respondents, 45% said they would probably vote to re-elect Mr. Obama, while 40% said they would choose a Republican. Against specific GOP contenders, the president’s lead widened. Mr. Obama leads Mr. Romney 49% to 43%; he topped Mr. Pawlenty 50% to 37%.
Full poll results (.pdf) here.
A new Gallup poll finds Americans’ satisfaction with the way things are going in the country fell to just 20%, while 78% of Americans are now dissatisfied with the nation’s direction. [ It’s about the economy.]
“Consider: Congress’ approval rating is a dismal 18%, down four points from last month; it’s not been this low since March 2010 (healthcare month) The GOP’s fav/unfav is 30% to 44%, compared with the Democratic Party’s 38% to 39% score. What’s more, only 10% of respondents have a ‘great deal’ or ‘quite a bit’ of confidence in Congress, and majorities of ALL respondents (including Republicans) believe the House GOP has not brought much change. And the number thinking the GOP proposal to overhaul Medicare is a bad idea has increased nine points since April to 31%; just 22% believe it’s a good idea. The one piece of non-bad news for Republicans in the poll: They’re tied on the congressional ballot with Democrats.”
Gallup: Another poll shows no one gives a hoot about the deficit:
57 percent cite the economy or unemployment as their top concern, versus only 12 percent who cite the deficit. Maybe it’s time for that pivot to jobs?
Lack of Retirement Funds Is Americans’ Biggest Financial Worry.
What happens to your brain as it slips into unconsciousness? A new technique allows researchers to view real-time 3-D images of a patient undergoing anesthesia using the drug propofol, and the findings show that consciousness isn’t suddenly switched off, but rather fades as though a dimmer is being dialed down.
The research also suggests that consciousness resides in the connections between multiple parts of the brain, not in any single region. The images show that changes in the anesthetized brain start in the midbrain, where certain receptors for a neurotransmitter called GABA are plentiful.[…]
“Our jaws ricocheted off the ground, and I won’t say the words we used when we first saw the video,” says lead author Dr. Brian Pollard, professor of anesthesia at the University of Manchester, who presented the results at the European Anesthesiology Conference in Amsterdam on Saturday. “We just sat there and stared, dumbfounded and kept repeating it. We’re the first people in the world ever to see the brain becoming unconscious, that’s quite a sobering thought.” […]
“When inhibition is inhibited, you first move into a stage of excitation or mania,” he says, noting that this usually occurs too quickly to be observed with modern anesthesia. But the brief sense of euphoria that some people experience before losing consciousness from propofol may reflect this loss of inhibition (and may also account for Michael Jackson’s taste for the drug).
“You then begin to inhibit the excitation and the patient becomes more sedated and loses consciousness,” he says. That’s why in the video the brain appears to become more active while unconscious: it’s showing the increased action in inhibitory circuits.
“What we’ve got supports the idea that there are several levels [of consciousness] rather than [an on/off] switch,” he says.
First, the Court unanimously resolved Smith v. Bayer Corp, a case about class-action litigation. Justice Elena Kagan declared that a federal judge who had tossed out a class-action certification had no authority to bar a similar state-court class action from proceeding toward trial. “… [T]his case does not strike us as close,” Justice Kagan candidly wrote. Which means it has very little at all to do with the other class-action case of the Term, the big one, Dukes v. Walmart, over which the justices still are noodling. I’d be surprised if that one isn’t a 5-4 or 6-3 split one way or the other.
Next, the Court unanimously resolved Tapia v. United States, a case about sentencing and rehabilitation. Once again, Justice Kagan delivered a unanimous opinion. And once again the Court reversed the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The justices ruled that a sentencing judge may not increase a defendant’s sentence in order to allow the inmate to complete a prison rehabilitation program. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the only member of the current Court who was once a trial court judge, wrote separately to say that she wasn’t at all sure that the trial judge had messed up.
Speaking of Justice Sotomayor, she wrote the day’s third opinion for the Court and here’s where things started to get interesting. And by interesting I mean “conflict-ridden.” By a 5-4 vote, in J.D.B. v. North Carolina, the Court ruled that a suspect’s age (the defendant was 13) is relevant in determining whether law enforcement officials have complied with their obligations under United States v. Miranda. Justice Sotomayor wrote: “It is beyond dispute that children will often feel bound to submit to police questioning when an adult in the same circumstances would feel free to leave.” This prompted a dissent from Justice Samuel Alito, who warned that the majority ruling would muddy the Miranda field.
Speaking of Justice Alito, he wrote the Court’s fourth opinion of the day. In Davis v United States, the Court ruled 7-2 against a man whose car was searched after he was placed in handcuffs at a routine traffic stop. The cops found a gun and the suspect ultimately was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The legal precedent which supported the search was later overturned but it was too late for the defendant. For the majority, which included Justices Kagan and Sotomayor, Justice Alito wrote that there was no valid reason to undo what the police had done in good faith observance of then-existing law. Justice Stephen Breyer, in dissent, wrote that he feared the majority opinion would undermine the 4th Amendment’s “exclusionary rule.”
Which brings us to the fifth and final Court ruling. The justices saved their best for last! In Bond v. United States, the Court unanimously sided with Carole Anne Bond, a woman who allegedly tried to poison her former best friend after discovering the woman was pregnant with Bond’s husband’s love child. I wrote in detail about the case here when it came up for argument. On Thursday, Justice Anthony Kennedy and company ruled that Bond could challenge the federal case against her by arguing that the 10th Amendment limited federal authority over the crime. The Court remanded the case to the lower courts — it will be years before it’s resolved — but you can be sure that Tenth Amendmentistas all over the country will be rejoicing at this procedural “victory.”
Unionized public workers gathered in the state capital Thursday to protest and try to halt legislation, up for a committee hearing and likely vote, that would require New Jersey government employees to shoulder a larger share of their health insurance premiums and remove the issue from collective bargaining.
Traffic into Trenton was backed up for miles Thursday morning as members of the state teachers union, police and firefighters, CWA and AFL-CIO made their way to the Statehouse.
Hundreds had arrived by late morning, gathering around a stage with two 10-by-13-foot television screens flashing pictures of union workers. A 10-foot inflatable rat was perched nearby, holding a sign that read “Pension Betrayal.” Workers also brought along a coffin with a sign “The death of collective bargaining.”
The workers were protesting a deal reached late Wednesday by Republican Gov. Chris Christie and the Democrats who lead the Senate and Assembly.
Several unions filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday to block a law that limits collective bargaining rights for public workers in the state. A day earlier, the Wisconsin Supreme Court reinstated the law, overruling a lower court’s decision to halt it because it had been passed improperly. The unions, which represent teachers and state and city workers, say provisions of the law violate the Constitution by singling out only some public workers and not others.
In states across the country, women are being arrested for the crime of ending their own pregnancies—though they have a constitutional right to do so in a doctor’s office.
This week Jennie L. McCormack, a 32-year-old mother of three from eastern Idaho, was arrested for self-inducing an abortion. According to the Associated Press, McCormack couldn’t afford a legal procedure, and so took pills that her sister had ordered online. For some reason, she kept the fetus, which police found after they were called by a disapproving acquaintance. She now faces up to five years in prison, as well as a $5,000 fine.
Idaho recently banned abortions after 20 weeks, and McCormack’s fetus was reportedly between five and six months old. But according to Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, a staff attorney for the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, under Idaho law, McCormack could have been arrested even if she’d been in her first trimester because self-induced abortion is illegal in all circumstances. “It doesn’t matter if it’s an 8- or 10- or 12-week abortion,” says Kolbi-Molinas. “If you do what you could get lawfully in a doctor’s office—what you have a constitutional right to access in a doctor’s office—they can throw you in jail and make you a convicted felon.”
While horrific, McCormack’s case is not unique. In recent years, several women have been arrested on suspicion of causing their own abortions, or attempting to. Most have come from conservative rural states with few clinics and numerous restrictions on abortion. In America’s urban centers and liberal enclaves, the idea of women being prosecuted for taking desperate measures to end their pregnancies might seem inconceivable, a never-again remnant of the era before Roe v. Wade. In fact, it’s a slowly encroaching reality.
AND IN OTHER NEWS…
A video of an elderly couple trying to use a webcam to take a photo of themselves with a birthday cake has become an internet hit after being uploaded to YouTube.
The minute-long clip shows the pair, Rita and Frank, trying to take a photo of themselves holding a cake to email to friends for Frank’s 84th Birthday.
The Internet is so weird: Birds With Arms
Several thousand people gathered downtown Tuesday, protesting bank bailouts and tax cuts for the wealthy and demanding jobs and funding for schools.The rally was organized by “Stand Up! Chicago,”
June 14, 2011. An estimated 7,000 Wisconsinites joined hands around the Capitol singing we shall overcome to draw attention to the unjust budget and the partisan Supreme Court Ruling stripping workers of their basic rights at work.
Happy to see that USUncut NYC isn’t slowing down their efforts to educate people: On Saturday, June 11, 2011, US Uncut NYC, joined by members from NY Communities for Change and Coalition for Public.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. ~ Margaret Mead