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INFOGRAPHIC: Where does our national debt come from?

One of the fundamental things to understand when considering the debate about reducing our national debt is how we accumulated so much in the first place.

To explain the impact various policies have had over the past decade, shifting us from projected surpluses to actual deficits and, as a result, running up the national debt, the White House has developed a graphic for you to review and share:

More, and Interactive>>>

How quickly they forget: WH urges Congress not to tie debt limit to spending cuts


Apr 12, 2011- The White House on Monday urged Republicans not to tie an increase in the U.S. debt ceiling to spending cuts and admitted that President Barack Obama’s own vote against an increase in 2006 was a “mistake”.

Kos: Actual Audio: John Boehner on the Debt Ceiling


Actual Audio: Eric Cantor On Taxes


If you took a shot every time Boehner lied (Monday) night, you’d be in the hospital with alcohol poisoning

Steve Benen:

[…] Let’s take a few minutes to list the top 10 most egregious falsehoods in Boehner’s speech.

10. “Millions are looking for work, have been for some time, and the spending binge going on in Washington is a big part of the reason why.”

Nonsense. There hasn’t been a spending “binge,” and public investments improve job creation.

9. “President Obama came to Congress in January and requested business as usual — yet another routine increase in the national debt limit — we in the House said ‘not so fast.’”

Making it seem as if Obama is the one requesting a debt-ceiling increase is fundamentally dishonest. Worse, in January, Boehner wanted a routine increase, too.

8. “Here’s what we got for that spending binge: a massive health care bill that most Americans never asked for.”

Actually, the Affordable Care Act saves taxpayers billions of dollars. That’s the opposite of a “spending binge.”

7. “A ‘stimulus’ bill that was more effective in producing material for late-night comedians than it was in producing jobs.”

In reality, the stimulus helped stop the bleeding, while creating growth and millions of jobs.

6. “A national debt that has gotten so out of hand it has sparked a crisis without precedent in my lifetime or yours.”

The national debt is perfectly manageable at its current size. The unprecedented crisis is from Boehner and his caucus; not the debt itself.

5. “I want you to know I made a sincere effort to work with the president to identify a path forward that would implement the principles of Cut, Cap, & Balance in a manner that could secure bipartisan support and be signed into law. I gave it my all. Unfortunately, the president would not take yes for an answer.”

If Obama completely rejected every aspect of the right-wing CC&B fantasy, then House Republicans weren’t saying “yes.”

4. “The president has often said we need a ‘balanced’ approach — which in Washington means: we spend more, you pay more.”

Actually, Obama has called for trillions in spending cuts.

3. “The president is adamant that we cannot make fundamental changes to our entitlement programs.”

Boehner’s plan, unveiled yesterday, makes no fundamental changes to our entitlement programs. Obama, meanwhile, has presented several offers that make significant cuts to entitlement programs. That’s not opinion; it’s just reality — which Boehner is no doubt aware of.

2. “The sad truth is that the president wanted a blank check six months ago, and he wants a blank check today.”

Obama isn’t asking for a “blank check.” The nation needs a debt-ceiling increase to pay for the things we’ve already bought. Going forward, Congress will maintain its power of the purse — the administration can’t just spend whatever it wants — so as GOP whining goes, this is just gibberish.

1. “If the President signs [the House Republican plan], the ‘crisis’ atmosphere he has created will simply disappear.”

Obama created the crisis environment? The Speaker’s speechwriters really should stop using Orwell as an instruction manual.


CBO details of Boehner plan, comparison of what Ryan says is in it and what CBO says


Guess what the GOP never did when it controlled Congress under Bush! Vote on a balanced budget amendment

Raising the roof: The uphill climb of the U.S. debt limit.

CBC News:

Interactive graphic of debt-ceiling by President. U.S. presidents have had a long history of seeking higher ceiling limits from the U.S. Treasury, as indicated in the charts below, which span increases in actual and inflation-adjusted figures from 1961 to 2010.


A Very Clear Example

Bob Cesca:

Since the stroke of midnight on Friday night, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been shut down because Republicans in the House are demanding that airline employee’s union rights be curtailed.

One side effect of the shut down is a loss of roughly $200 million dollars per week in revenue for the federal government because ticket taxes aren’t being collected. Yet despite this temporary elimination of taxes, costs to consumers have remained the same. Imagine that.

By Saturday night, nearly all the major U.S. airlines had raised fares to offset taxes that expired the night before.

That means instead of passing along the savings, the airlines are pocketing the money while customers pay the same amount as before.

American, United, Continental, Delta, US Airways, Southwest, AirTran and JetBlue all raised fares, although details sometimes differed. Most of the increases were around 7.5 percent.

Just to reiterate: A federal ticket tax is currently not being charged to the airlines because the FAA is shut down, but the airlines have raised the cost of tickets to match the previous price which included federal taxes. So a “job-killing” big-government tax has been temporary eliminated, yet the cost to you, the consumer, remains the same.

Big Business does not always have your best interests in mind, America. Taxes or not. Regulations or not.

Al Franken Urges Rejection of AT&T & T-Mobile merger

The mega-merger between AT&T and T-mobile got a thumbs down from another member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday when Sen. Al Franken, (D-MN) sent a letter to regulators urging them to block the proposed $39 billion acquisition.

“Allowing the merger to proceed would lead to an effective duopoly in the national wireless market that would result in higher prices for consumers and potentially thousands of job losses,” Franken wrote to Julius Genachowski, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, and Attorney General Eric Holder.

Franken is a member of Judiciary’s antitrust subcommittee, and he’s the second senator to call for a blockage of the merger after antitrust committee chair Herb Kohl, (D-WI.)

Franken cited data supplied by Sprint (which opposes the merger) that predicts that prices for wireless phone subscribers for AT&T and T-Mobile could increase up to 25 percent post merger.

The senator pointed to the FCC’s own market statistics about competition in the wireless marketplace as evidence of how deeply anticompetitive a merger between the two telecommunications would be, and he noted that the Justice Department had previously blocked a merger between Sprint and Worldcom on the basis of a similar analysis from the FCC in 2000.


U.S. Credit Downgrade ‘Inevitable’

Obama is warning that failure to reach a debt deal will trigger an unprecedented U.S. credit downgrade, but some analysts say it may be too late to prevent it.


U.S. downgrade would cost U.S. $100Billion per year

Help wanted: Beggars, prostitutes and thieves

by digby

A recent review of job vacancy postings on popular sites like, CareerBuilder and Craigslist revealed hundreds that said employers would consider (or at least “strongly prefer”) only people currently employed or just recently laid off.

Unemployed workers have long suspected that the gaping holes on their résumés left them less attractive to employers. But with the country in the worst jobs crisis since the Great Depression, many had hoped employers would be more forgiving.

“I feel like I am being shunned by our entire society,” said Kelly Wiedemer, 45, an information technology operations analyst who said a recruiter had told her that despite her skill set she would be a “hard sell” because she had been out of work for more than six months.

Legal experts say that the practice probably does not violate discrimination laws because unemployment is not a protected status, like age or race.

That’s one way to keep the unemployment rate high and wages low. And the new austerity should help matters greatly. Obviously our policy makers believe that the country is in desperate need of more beggars, prostitutes and thieves. Those are jobs that are being created anyway.

I have a business idea. Who wants to incorporate and and sell themselves to jobless people as their “current job” for resume purposes? You could just charge a little fee if the person gets the job. Why not? It’s no more immoral than saying people shouldn’t be allowed to work if they aren’t already working.

Nearly 4,000 Post Offices Might Close

In communities that lose post offices, the Postal Service may outsource basic services, like selling stamps and shipping flat-rate packages, to local businesses like pharmacies and groceries, Mr. Donahoe said.

“The Postal Service of the future will be smaller, leaner and more competitive,” he said in a statement.

The Postal Service, which relies primarily on its own revenue, is expected to lose more than $8 billion this year and has maxed out a $15 billion loan from the Treasury. Mail volume has dropped 20 percent in the past four years, and about 200,000 career positions have been eliminated in the past decade.

“This is bitter medicine, but changed times call for a changed Postal Service,” said Art Sackler, chairman of the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service, which represents mailing-dependent industries like pharmaceutical delivery and magazines.

The potential closings involve offices in every state except Delaware, home to Senator Thomas R. Carper, who has put forth one of five bills introduced in Congress that would overhaul the Postal Service. Mr. Carper’s bill most closely aligns with what the Postal Service wants, including provisions that would allow for elimination of Saturday deliveries and refunding of surpluses in postal retirement accounts.

Wealth in America: Whites-minorities gap is now a chasm

[…] The analysis by the Pew Research Center, released on Tuesday, found that from 2005 to 2009, inflation-adjusted median wealth fell 66 percent among Hispanic households and 53 percent among black households, compared with a 16 percent decline among white households.

Those declines increased the wealth gap between white and minority households to the largest since the census began collecting such data in 1984. The ratio of wealth for whites to blacks, for instance, is now roughly 20 to 1, compared to 12 to 1 in the first survey 25 years ago and 7 to 1 in 1995, when a booming economy lifted many low-income Americans into the middle class.

The wealth ratio for whites to Hispanics was 18 to 1 in 2009, also up from 7 to 1 in 1995, the Pew analysis found.

The declines from the recession left the median black household with $5,677 in wealth (assets minus debts, where assets include items like a car, a home, savings, retirement funds, etc.) and the typical Hispanic household with $6,325. White households, by comparison, had $113,149, the study found.

Sliced another way, the data from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), showed that 35 percent of black households and 31 percent of Hispanic households had zero or negative net worth in 2009. The comparable rate for white households was 15 percent. […]

The Pew analysis said the housing crisis was largely to blame for the widening gulf. The median level of home equity held by Hispanic homeowners declined by half from 2005 to 2009, from $99,983 to $49,145 it found. By comparison, white homeowners saw their median equity decline from $115,364 in 2005 to $95,000 in 2009. Black homeowners’ median equity fell from $76,910 to $59,000 over the same period.

The study said the sharper decline among Hispanics happened because a large share of Hispanics live in California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona, which were among the states hardest hit by the housing crisis.

Other studies have noted that blacks and Hispanics lost so much more home equity because they were far more likely to be sold a high-cost, sub-prime loan, regardless of their credit histories. Those mortgages now have the highest foreclosure rates.


Teachers in a bind: Tests don’t measure critical thinking

Kids can’t be taught to think better using tests that can’t measure how well they think.

The logic should be obvious. What gets tested gets taught. Complex thinking skills — skills essential to survival–can’t be tested, so they don’t get taught. That failure doesn’t simply rise to the level of a problem. It’s unethical.”

This is the reason so many of us are so fed up that we will take our own money and time to go to Washington, D.C. this week to protest.

Test-based accountability has taken our schools and made it their central mission to increase test scores. No Child Left Behind did this through labeling of entire schools as failures, and the Obama administration has doubled down, having states tie teacher pay and evaluations to test scores.

Teachers are in an inescapable ethical bind. We know that the tests do not measure critical thinking.

As a science teacher, I believe that the essence of science is the exploration of the natural world. It is all about inquiry: asking good questions, and then using all the tools we can muster to investigate and answer those questions.




Voters to decide whether Ohio can opt out of President Obama’s national health care overhaul


Secretary of State Jon Husted determined that supporters of the amendment, which would prohibit Ohio from participating in the federal Affordable Care Act, had gathered 427,000 valid signatures. They had submitted more than 546,000 and needed roughly 358,000 of them validated to make it on to the ballot.

The amendment will find itself on the ballot alongside a measure to repeal a contentious new collective bargaining law. Advocates expect that the two measures will drive people to the polls, which are typically under-visited in off-year elections.

A liberal policy group, however, said it could file a challenge to the health care measure, because it was still finding invalid signatures in its review.

A coalition of tea party organizations, small government advocates and religious groups gathered the signatures to get the health care measure on the ballot and now plan to mount a statewide campaign in support of it.

The coalition has more than 35,000 volunteers, an “army of grass roots support,” ready to mobilize to raise money to turn out voters in November’s election, said Jeff Longstreth, campaign manager for Ohioans for Healthcare Freedom, a group that played a large role in the petitions.

“This issue would not be on the ballot without the blood, sweat and tears of thousands and thousands and thousands of volunteers,” Longstreth said. “The message is clear: keep health care between doctors and patients, and keep bureaucrats out of it.”

The measure would change the Ohio Constitution to prohibit any federal, state or local law from forcing Ohio residents, employers or health care providers to participate in a health care system. It also would prevent the state from enacting a Massachusetts-style health care program, where the state requires a minimum level of insurance coverage.

If passed, the amendment would not apply to any law or rule in effect before March 19, 2010, so as not to prohibit Ohioans for participating in programs such as Medicare.

A spokesman for Ohio Gov. John Kasich told the Associated Press in an email that the governor remains opposed to “federal interference” in Ohio health care, and is pleased with the inclusion of the amendment on November’s ballot.


This Is Considered Punishment?

Joe Nocera, NYT:

Last Wednesday, nearly lost in the furor over Rupert-gate and the debt ceiling crisis, came the surprising news that the Federal Reserve has issued a cease-and-desist order against a Too-Big-to-Fail bank. The bank was Wells Fargo, which was also fined $85 million and ordered to compensate customers it had unfairly — indeed, illegally — taken advantage of during the subprime bubble.

What made the news surprising, of course, was that the Federal Reserve has rarely, if ever, taken action against a bank for making predatory loans. Alan Greenspan, the former Fed chairman, didn’t believe in regulation and turned a blind eye to subprime abuses. His successor, Ben Bernanke, is not the ideologue that Greenspan is, but, as an institution, the Fed prefers to coddle banks rather than punish them. That the Fed would crack down on Wells Fargo would seem to suggest a long-overdue awakening.

Yet, for anyone still hoping for justice in the wake of the financial crisis, the news was hardly encouraging. First, the Fed did not force Wells Fargo to admit guilt — and even let the company issue a press release blaming its wrongdoing on a “relatively small group.” The $85 million fine was a joke; in just the last quarter, Wells Fargo’s revenues exceeded $20 billion. And compensating borrowers isn’t going to hurt much either. By my calculation, it won’t top $20 million.

Most upsetting of all, the settlement raises the question that just won’t go away: Why can’t the federal government prosecute financial wrongdoers?

I realize that the Federal Reserve can’t bring a criminal case (and, to be fair, there are statutory limits on how big a fine it can levy). But the Justice Department certainly can. Yet ever since it lost an early case against two Bear Stearns fund managers in 2009, it has gone after only the smallest of small fry: individual borrowers, brokers and appraisers who lack the means to do much more than plead guilty.

In March, for instance, I wrote about the sad case of Charlie Engle, the ultra-marathoner, who was convicted of lying on a liar loan — that is, exaggerating his income on a subprime mortgage application — even though the evidence against him was thin. Prosecuted by Neil H. MacBride, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Engle was sentenced to 21 months in prison.

Now compare Engle’s alleged crime to the case the Federal Reserve brought against Wells Fargo Financial, which, until it was shut down last summer, was the subprime subsidiary of Wells Fargo, based in Des Moines. There were several allegations, but the one that caught my eye was that Wells employees “falsified income information on mortgage applications.” In other words, they lied on liar loans! The only difference is that the lying was done by a group of Wells Fargo brokers rather than by some poor sap like Charlie Engle.

What’s more, this practice appears to have been quite widespread — “fostered,” as the Fed puts it, “by Wells Fargo Financial’s incentive compensation and sales quota programs.” Matthew R. Lee, the executive director of Inner City Press/Community on the Move and Fair Finance Watch, spent years bringing Wells’ subprime abuses to the attention of the Federal Reserve. “The way the compensation was designed ensured that abuses would take place,” he says. “It was a predatory system.”

These are exactly the kind of loans — built on illegal practices — that gave us the financial crisis. Brokers working for subprime mortgage companies routinely doctored incomes to hand out subprime loans they knew the borrowers could never repay — and then, after taking their fat fees, shoveled the loans to Wall Street, which bundled them into subprime securities. This was the kindling that lit the inferno of September 2008. So again, I ask: Why is there no criminal investigation into what went on at Wells Fargo Financial?

The person I called for answers was the press secretary to Nicholas A. Klinefeldt, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, which includes Des Moines. A glance at Klinefeldt’s 2011 press releases suggests that he takes the MacBride approach to mortgage fraud: only the little guy has anything to fear. Needless to say, his press secretary knew nothing about the Wells Fargo case and even questioned whether the Southern District of Iowa had jurisdiction.

The next day, he referred me to a Justice Department spokeswoman. I wrote her an e-mail laying out my question as plainly as I could: “I am trying to understand why the mortgage brokers who work at a major bank are getting a pass when they have lied on liar loans,” I said.

That was Friday. On Monday, at 8:30 p.m., a half-hour from press time, the Justice Department sent me a statement claiming that in 2010 “the number of defendants in mortgage fraud cases more than doubled” from 2009.


The Cult That Is Destroying America


Watching our system deal with the debt ceiling crisis — a wholly self-inflicted crisis, which may nonetheless have disastrous consequences — it’s increasingly obvious that what we’re looking at is the destructive influence of a cult that has really poisoned our political system.

And no, I don’t mean the fanaticism of the right. Well, OK, that too. But my feeling about those people is that they are what they are; you might as well denounce wolves for being carnivores. Crazy is what they do and what they are.

No, the cult that I see as reflecting a true moral failure is the cult of balance, of centrism.

Think about what’s happening right now. We have a crisis in which the right is making insane demands, while the president and Democrats in Congress are bending over backward to be accommodating — offering plans that are all spending cuts and no taxes, plans that are far to the right of public opinion.

So what do most news reports say? They portray it as a situation in which both sides are equally partisan, equally intransigent — because news reports always do that. And we have influential pundits calling out for a new centrist party, a new centrist president, to get us away from the evils of partisanship. […]

What all this means is that there is no penalty for extremism; no way for most voters, who get their information on the fly rather than doing careful study of the issues, to understand what’s really going on.

You have to ask, what would it take for these news organizations and pundits to actually break with the convention that both sides are equally at fault? This is the clearest, starkest situation one can imagine short of civil war. If this won’t do it, nothing will.

And yes, I think this is a moral issue. The “both sides are at fault” people have to know better; if they refuse to say it, it’s out of some combination of fear and ego, of being unwilling to sacrifice their treasured pose of being above the fray.

It’s a terrible thing to watch, and our nation will pay the price.




FAIRmediawatch: Christiane Amanpour can’t say which side is to blame for ‘partisan rancor.’

Some of the media commentary around the debt ceiling bemoans the state of the partisanship in Washington. Much of the chatter is about a supposed failure to compromise. As Josh Marshall argues, “this is simply false, even painfully so.” By any reasonable standard, the White House and the Democratic leadership have made an array of drastic compromises in order to win favor with Republicans–who are basically refusing to go along, since denying Obama any kind of “victory” is a key part of their electoral strategy for 2012.

But in corporate media, “balance” is essential. So both “sides” must be held responsible, never mind the facts. I was struck by this comment from host Christiane Amanpour on ABC‘s This Week this Sunday (7/24/11):

This week with tempers flaring, the rhetoric has boiled over. Exhibit A, the war of words between two Florida congressmembers, Republican Allan West and Democrat Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.

Wasserman-Schultz fired the first shot on the House floor, criticizing West for supporting a debt deal that would cut Medicare.

West’s response, a furious e-mail to his colleague when he said, “You are the most vile, unprofessional and despicable member of the U.S. House of Representatives. You have proven repeatedly that you are not a lady and, therefore, shall not be afforded due respect from me.”

So how does Washington move past this partisan rancor?

Excuse me? Wasserman-Schultz criticized West’s support for a particular bill. She didn’t say anything outrageous–which is why ABC didn’t air a clip or even quote from her speech, the one where she “fired the first shot.” West’s intemperate “you are not a lady” response would suggest he’s the one with the problem here. But you can’t say it that way. Just like you’re not supposed to say that Republicans are refusing to support Barack Obama’s very Republican budget offers.


Pat Buchanan: Norwegian Right-Wing Terrorist ‘Breivik May Be Right’


Today, in a World Net Daily op-ed, failed presidential candidate and conservative pundit Pat Buchanan offers an example of the ethnic bigotry and racial insensitivity that has come to define him.

Offering his take on the horrendous terrorist attacks in Norway, Buchanan joined the Wall Street Journal and the Jerusalem Post in arguing that the far-right extremist perpetrator Anders Breivik may have had a valid point. Arguing that Breivik was bringing attention to his cause, “a Crusader’s war between the real Europe and the ‘cultural Marxists’ and Muslims,” Buchanan declares that, on the “climactic conflict between a once-Christian West and an Islamic world…Breivik may be right“:

But, awful as this atrocity was, native-born and homegrown terrorism is not the macro-threat to the continent.

That threat comes from a burgeoning Muslim presence in a Europe that has never known mass immigration, its failure to assimilate, its growing alienation, and its sometime sympathy for Islamic militants and terrorists.

Europe faces today an authentic and historic crisis.

With her native-born populations aging, shrinking and dying, Europe’s nations have not discovered how to maintain their prosperity without immigrants. Yet the immigrants who have come – from the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia – have been slow to learn the language and have failed to attain the educational and occupational levels of Europeans. And the welfare states of Europe are breaking under the burden.[…]

As for a climactic conflict between a once-Christian West and an Islamic world that is growing in numbers and advancing inexorably into Europe for the third time in 14 centuries, on this one, Breivik may be right.

The sad reality is that Buchanan helps mainstream anti-Muslim intolerance. A regular MSNBC contributor and frequent guest on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Buchanan once invoked the Nazis’ attempt to march in Skokie, Illinois as an argument against the Islamic Center proposal in New York. He also used this platform to defend Rep. Peter King’s (R-NY) “McCarthyesque hearings” on the threat of terrorism from American Muslims, saying American Muslims are “most susceptible or vulnerable to the recruitment” by terrorists who will “radicalize them and make them enemies of America.”

Of course, Muslims are just the most recent group of people on Buchanan’s enemies list, which already includes Latinos, African-Americans, and gay people. As Buchanan said, he “prefers the old bigotry.” And he’s bringing it back to the mainstream.



The President’s Speech Wasn’t For You

Bob Cesca:

Unless, of course, you’re an independent moderate voter.

Once again, it was a campaign speech intended to paint the Republicans as spastic unreasonable children.

If you happened to be offended by anything he said, be it about “compromise” or the extend of the cuts, good. We’re supposed to be pissed off. As long as the left is pissed, it gives the president’s approach legitimacy with the middle, and even some reasonable conservatives.

But know this: when the president is re-elected with a gigantic mandate, he will definitely not be governing from the middle. In fact, by my tally, he hasn’t been governing from the middle during his first term.

How the Tea Party Exploits Liberals’ Weaknesses (and how to fix that)

Cassandra Vert, PoliticusUSA:

I have written about economics, education, journalism, abortions, class actions, and Emergency Financial Managers, but this may be the most important piece I have written this year.

As I look back, nearly everything I have written this year includes some aspect of tracing political actions and results back to identify the driving purpose behind them, then envisioning that purpose carried through to its conclusion. It is not a new technique, and the results are not surprising. Conservatives have taken us down this path for decades, and the evidence has been there to see, yet neither conservatives’ purpose nor their final destination has penetrated the national consciousness.

Why?  Because conservatives have figured out how to exploit liberals’ weaknesses, and liberals fall for it every time.

It is human nature to create stereotypes. Both left and right have stereotyped images of each other’s relative intelligence and driving motivations. If you’re reading this, you are already familiar with the stereotype of a Tea Party sympathizer: undereducated, overarmed, stubborn, belligerent, gullible. Too dumb to actually reason with, little brain development beyond the limbic center where fear lives (cf Ted Nugent). The right’s stereotype of a liberal elitist is something of its funhouse mirror image: an overeducated, insufferable know-it-all with too much book-learning and insufficient common sense. Too concerned with being technically correct, even over irrelevant things, and especially at others’ expense (cf Keith Olbermann).

Right wing nut job.  Libtard.

These stereotypes not only make it harder to talk to each other and to respect our differences, they make it harder to see each other for what we are—and that causes blind spots.

Stereotypes don’t grow out of thin air. Facts do have a liberal bias. The more education people have, the more likely they are to be liberal. By itself, there is nothing wrong with being proud of educational accomplishments. The problem is when liberals go from believing they are smart to believing that non-liberals are stupid; these are not the same things.

This is liberals’ blind spot: intellectual hubris.  We pity right wingers their stupidity. But for the luck of the DNA draw, we think, that might be us holding those misspelled signs and nodding along with Rush Limbaugh. But we still make fun of the signs.

When we on the left dismiss Tea Party members as a bunch of idiots, we presume that Tea Party members are too stupid to understand what they are doing.  When you start with that assumption, you cut yourself off from ever considering the possibility that their actions are intentional and volitional, with a clear understanding of the consequences.

1.       By attributing their actions to ignorance, we are failing to hold Republicans in power accountable for their motives, their actions, and their results.

The right is happy to play to this blind spot by dumbing down their public face. Their candidate pool always includes people whose malapropisms are the bait that liberals love to ridicule. I’m not talking about incendiary “get your guns” talk but the John Wayne/John Wayne Gacy errors that are irrelevant in the end. Yes, some elected Republicans really do seem to be that dumb (hello, Louie Gohmert). But behind those useful idiots are some very smart people who have been avoiding public scrutiny and pulling strings while we have been playing “Spot the Loony.”

2.       While we are gloating over their irrelevant mistakes, we are not discussing issues that matter.

Even before Fox, conservatives were winning the war to control public discussion, and they were doing it by framing issues in a way to make their agenda look better. In this way, conservatives have undermined some of our most basic and deeply held national beliefs, including where wealth comes from, where it ought to go, and even what wealth is. From economics to political science to hard sciences, conservatives have succeeded in convincing the general public of things that defy history, statistics, and physical evidence. And we liberals think we are more clever with words? We can’t convince the public of the truth. We should be learning from the experts, not making fun of them.

3.       By failing to hold elected Republicans responsible for their actions, we are missing a huge opportunity to weaken Republican support.  While we hold elected Republicans accountable for what they have done, we must hold Republican voters responsible for what their elected Republicans have done.

When we turn over the rock of elected Republicans purposes and goals, we find some pretty ugly stuff, stuff that the average self-identified conservative finds too shocking to believe. It is shocking to think that any group of Americans could want to stunt our national growth, to continue our path to third-world nation conditions, and to see people suffer. It is un-American. It is offensive, and it’s natural to turn away from offensive things. But ugly as it is, we have to keep shining a light under that rock until the public gets it. Because as of now, they don’t.  If we are squeamish, they win.

If we stay tough, then their support gets squeamish.  As of now, the many self-identified conservatives who also like more populist ideas like Medicare, Social Security, public education, and taxing the rich can still align themselves with extreme right Republicans without cognitive dissonance—without the conflict of values that causes a person to squirm. That is our fault. We have not made them face the truth of elected Republican extremism.

With few exceptions, even liberal media coverage of Republicans since 2009 has presumed that Republicans want to do the right thing but don’t know how instead of questioning what Republicans really want to do based on what they have done. But in this case, when I say we, I don’t mean just the handful of left-leaning broadcasters still employed in the mainstream media or the small liberal radio and blogosphere.  I mean you and me on the ground, in our communities, standing up for the truth.

It is tough to face that people we know and like have voted for this extreme course of action: my parents, your relatives and friends, our co-workers. That gives us cognitive dissonance. Most humans don’t like confrontation, and the path of least resistance is just avoiding certain subjects.  But when political activists talk about fighting for what we believe in, it’s not just about picket signs and rallies. It’s those one-on-one conversations when we quietly but firmly (at least in my family, maybe your family is noisy) explain the facts and stand up for our progressive moral convictions. When we refuse to roll over to talking points.

We have had over thirty years to see the consequences of conservative politics. No one should be able to claim that they didn’t understand, didn’t know, didn’t realize where conservative politics was going. Voting Republican in this election climate doesn’t necessarily make people extremists, but it makes them collaborators with extremists. In most races, there are no moderate Republican choices because the party won’t let them in. And even self-proclaimed moderates have voted lockstep down the party line for more conservative measures. A Republican vote in 2012 is a vote for the conservative extremist agenda. Period.

Some will knowingly support that agenda. So be it. They won’t be able to deny it later.

Some will still deny the truth and cling to their comfortable lies, but they won’t be so comfortable anymore.

Those who come to understand the truth of conservative extremism will start to question what they have been told, then do their own research.  And when that happens, we win. When that happens, ordinary, thoughtful people will realize that they are not part of the party of the oligarchs. They may even decide they are one of us.




Living in Parallel Universes

The president and House speaker both genuinely seem to want to do what’s best. Their people won’t let them.

Charlie Cook:

Even though each of them has exhibited occasional bouts of petulance, I must confess that I have great sympathy for President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner as they grapple with the public debt-ceiling and spending crisis. Each has acted out, sometimes because of exasperation with the other and sometimes as part of a kabuki dance that each must perform for his respective party. But both understand the stakes, and both genuinely seem to want to do the right thing.

That isn’t the case, though, for their congressional colleagues or their parties’ respective bases. It’s as if those on the opposite ends of the political spectrum live in parallel but very different universes. Many Democratic activists inhabit a world in which the most important thing is to protect Social Security and Medicare “as we know it” and to fight off domestic spending cuts, even in programs that are demonstrably ineffective. They blissfully ignore the fact that Social Security and particularly Medicare are on unsustainable paths, both in terms of spending trajectories and demographic trends. How can anyone rationalize a system in which a married couple, each earning average wages ($43,100) and retiring in 2010, will have paid about $109,000 in Medicare taxes between them but will likely receive $343,000 in benefits before they die? With the baby-boom generation now reaching retirement age, fewer of their younger cohorts paying into the system, and health care costs still climbing much faster than inflation, it’s a matter of when rather than if Medicare costs swamp the budget.

Republican hard-liners, for their part, ignore the simple fact that federal taxes, measured as a percentage of gross domestic product, are at their lowest in more than six decades. The top marginal tax rate for individuals is lower than it has been in 73 of the past 78 years, a period of substantial economic growth.

When the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan said that “everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not his own facts,” he could have been talking about 2011, when each end of the spectrum is concocting its own set of facts and putting blinders on to ignore any contrary evidence. That’s the world in which Speaker Boehner and President Obama are trying to negotiate, with each trying to corral enough support from his base to stop Congress from causing a catastrophe.

It is increasingly looking like it may take a cataclysmic drop in the financial markets, perhaps triggered by the lowering of the bond rating for the U.S. government, to focus minds on both sides of the aisle long enough to get this debt-ceiling deal done. It’s unfortunate that the Dow Jones industrial average might have to fall 500 or 1,000 points before many in Congress are willing to even soften their intransigence. Both sides will have to go along with what many in their bases consider heretical.

So far, investors have handled the ups and downs of the debate with enormous patience, obviously convinced that cooler heads will eventually prevail. But how close to a meltdown does Washington have to go before investors really start to worry that the conventional wisdom is wrong?

After the House initially voted down the Troubled Asset Relief Program on September 29, 2008, the stock market immediately dropped 777 points—a 7 percent plunge. Shortly thereafter, the House and Senate passed the bill and President Bush signed it into law. Perhaps that’s what it will take here. But the pain of such a market drop would be enormous. The years of additional work for those hoping to retire, the body blow to the economy, and the likely rise in unemployment resulting from a severely shaken financial system are all unnecessary, yet they look increasingly likely.

The longer this process goes on, the more likely it is that we will get a temporary deal that extends the debt ceiling for a short period of time, cuts spending by only a modest amount, and raises little or no new revenue. Doing that will tell the markets and the world that we still aren’t prepared to deal with our problems, further eroding confidence in our economy and economic future. This will provide even more disincentive for business leaders to hire, expand, borrow, and lend. That could add a few years to what Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies described recently as “The Jobless and Wageless Recovery From the Great Recession of 2007-2009.”

If either party thinks that it can politically benefit from this, it should take a look at the polling. Both parties are seeing their favorable ratings tanking and their unfavorable ratings soaring. President Obama’s job-approval ratings are nearly at record lows. If ever there was a situation inviting voters to call for “a pox on both your houses,” it is now. A leading Democratic strategist recently hypothesized to me that he thought that we could see a 2012 election in which Democrats lose the Senate and Republicans lose the House, a manifestation of voters simply throwing the “ins” out and putting the “outs” in. I’m not on board with that thinking quite yet, but it’s certainly plausible given the circumstances.



Talks Whipsawing Rank and File

Roll Call:

House Democrats are suffering massive mood swings when it comes to the debt limit talks.

The Caucus has gone back and forth emotionally, from being jubilant about President Barack Obama’s handling of the talks to fearful that he might give away too much in bipartisan talks with GOP leaders.

The seesaw of emotions was on full display Monday, as the rank and file tried to make sense of the dramatic negotiations that took place during the weekend.

“I think there is leftover mistrust from the [continuing resolution] debate and other things that has been heightened by press reports and other reports of just how much the president is willing to put on the table,” Rep. Gerry Connolly said.

The Virginia Democrat said the Caucus has found optimism in recent days as Obama has called for compromise with Congressional Republicans and fought to uphold entitlement programs that are central to Democrats’ 2012 message. But, as Connolly pointed out, it hasn’t been easy for Democrats to stay upbeat, and they’ve been downright distraught at times.

“Sometimes the Caucus blows off steam,” he said with a shrug.

As recently as last Thursday morning, many House Democrats were praising Obama and were pleased that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi seemed to be part of the negotiations.

“Through this struggle, [Obama] has held the line, and that’s been very reassuring to us,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

A few hours later, the rank and file were sinking into deep depression as word leaked out that Obama was negotiating with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) — without Democrats at the table — on a deal that might cut deeply into their priorities.

“I don’t know much, but I’m not happy,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said. “What bothers me is they seem to be trying to get us to support an agreement that’s obnoxious.”

But the Obama-Boehner talks disintegrated Friday evening. Nadler complained the Caucus had not been briefed and compared the talks to last December’s negotiations between White House officials and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Those talks led to a deal to extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, which led to a splintered vote on the House floor.

Now, with both parties taking their own approaches to the debt limit, Connolly said his House colleagues are again rallying behind the president, albeit with an air of caution.

“The Democratic Caucus [wants] the president to succeed and understands that we need him to succeed next year if we’re going to succeed next year,” Connolly said.

Rep. Brad Miller, who voted against the tax deal in December, also said “a lot of Members” were nervous last week about the Obama-Boehner talks. But, like Connolly, the North Carolina Democrat noted, “We are captive downballot from the decisions the White House makes,” even if it’s a deal they don’t like.

“If the administration agrees to a deal that doesn’t work for us, even if some in our Caucus choose to vote against it, we will have to live with the consequences,” he said.

Senate Democrats have been less reserved and came out swinging last week in a closed-door session with Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) described the session as “volcanic,” and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who faces re-election next year, said she “lost it” during the meeting.

House Democrats, though, are in a different position than their Senate counterparts. December’s tax deal and the continuing resolution debate this spring left them feeling alienated at a time when they were searching for a way out of the minority.

But Democratic Rep. Kathy Hochul‘s victory in May’s special election in New York and a unified message to protect Medicare provided a morale boost. Any deal that made cuts to entitlements threatened that message.

Obama has acknowledged taking heat from Democrats on his willingness to deal.

“We’d seen a pattern of not being included, especially with the tax cuts,” Grijalva said.

The Progressive Caucus sent a letter to Obama this month calling on him to protect Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Some of those Members, notably Reps. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), spoke out during a recent Caucus meeting when there were rumblings that Democrats might agree to some entitlement changes.

And with several House Republicans unlikely to vote for any debt limit increase no matter what the terms, Democrats said Obama might need their votes and will need a strong sales pitch for their support.

“I think the Obama administration is correct in dealing with House Republicans; they’re in the majority,” Miller said last week, before Boehner shut down his talks with Obama. “But nevertheless, I think House Democrats would like to be included, and they are going to need some of our votes.”

How (GOP)Washington’s favorite pundits explain why we’re doomed


A lot of people were alarmed Monday — with good reason — to learn that the House Republicans were relying on radio entertainer Rush Limbaugh and vile blogger Erick Erickson to tell them what to do about this whole debt ceiling thing. As everyone in Washington went into separate rooms to write their own horrible debt ceiling plans (my one-step approach: NO new revenue, ten zillion dollars in cuts to non-defense spending, Social Security replaced by personalized/market-based packs of roving hyenas), Erickson reported that he’s been taking “call after call” from unnamed “members of the United States Congress,” all of whom were seeking his approval, because this dumb, disingenuous hack is who the Republican Party is actually accountable to.

Meanwhile, John Boehner, the speaker of the House, gave his five-step “two-step” plan to famous shouty radio guy Rush Limbaugh, before he showed it to his own conference. (Of course, his conference is full of morons and extremists, many of whom wouldn’t have known what to think about Boehner’s plan until Uncle Rush explained it, so this was more shrewd than disrespectful.)

This is, obviously, a Bad Sign For America. Erick Erickson and Rush Limbaugh are, at best, entertainers — they’re certainly not policy experts — and at worst (and they are very often at their worst) they are extreme demagogues, stirring up shit for fun and attention, always more interested in tribal victory against their enemies on “the Left” than they are in governing, or doing anything at all to improve America beyond constantly crowing about how much better it used to be.



Bachmann received maximum loan from federal lending program, then called on them to be eliminated

Over the falls

David Atkins, Hullabaloo:

Fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories will be familiar with the legendary The Final Problem, which documents Sherlock Holmes’ final confrontation with his nemesis, the villainous Professor Moriarty. In the conclusion of the story in which our master detective is supposed to have met his end, Sherlock and Moriarty duel in a wrestling match to the death on a cliff overlooking the treacherous Reichenbach Falls. Moriarty would not rest until Sherlock were killed, and Sherlock would not rest until Moriarty were captured. With neither man willing to cede the struggle to the other, they both are supposed to have pitched over the edge, locked arm in arm to the death.

It’s an apt metaphor for what might happen in a world where Democrats were everything we wanted to them to be as we approach a default on the full faith and credit of the United States.

Let us imagine for a moment that we were to live in an alternate universe, one where every Democrat in Congress had a firm resolve and unbending backbone, and where the President of the United States were a true believer in the power of Keynesian policy, and an opponent of giving even an inch to the conservatives looking to dismantle the safety net. And let us presume that in this alternate universe, all Democratic officials from county selectman to President of the United States were incorruptible servants of the public good, unbeholden to corporate donors.

If this pleasant fantasy were made real, what might happen? Well, one might argue that the nation would never have been brought to this point. And there’s a good reason to make such an argument. But in the absence of extending our fantasy to revision of history, what might transpire in our alternate universe as we approach default?

The answer, unfortunately, isn’t much better than in our actual, corrupted universe.

The reality is that no matter what our political beliefs and strength of will might be, rational people in public policy know that the default ceiling must be raised. Defaulting on the full faith and credit of the United States is simply not an option.

But at least a very sizable portion of Congressional Republicans are simply not rational, but belong to a market fundamentalist cult. They would rather see fiscal Armageddon than a compromise of their ideology in any way, shape or form.

Today’s news brings yet more evidence of the same: John Boehner has introduced a preposterous plan to cut $1.8 trillion, including cuts to core entitlements like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The plan is already dead-on-arrival in the Democratic Senate and on the White House desk. Even in our imperfect Democratic establishment, this plan has zero chance of passing. And yet Boehner’s biggest headache is not Democrats, but members of his own caucus, who feel the plan does not go far enough. Michele Bachmann, who readers should be reminded is leading the field of potential Republican aspirants to the Oval Office, has already declared that she and her allies will not vote for any increase in the default ceiling that does not include equal cuts to discretionary spending.

So if you are Democrat in our perfected alternate universe, what do you do? No vote to raise the ceiling is valid absent a vote of the Republican House, “Constitutional options” notwithstanding. Theoretically, you lay down a marker that starts your negotiating position at a clean increase in the ceiling. To which the zombie death cult responds that they won’t vote for anything less than $2 trillion in cuts, including to basic entitlement programs.

Now what? Do you wait for market jitters and Wall St. overlords to bring the Republicans back in line? Wall St. types have already met in secret with Boehner and said that they were OK with small tax increases, but begged him to just make sure the default ceiling got raised already, so that their precious portfolios would be protected. Boehner knows the stakes. But the Teahadist wing of the GOP, about 60 Congressmembers strong, doesn’t respect John Boehner much more than they do Nancy Pelosi. Boehner knows that he’s already on his last legs with his caucus, and that Eric Cantor is just waiting for the opportunity to ease the Speaker into his political grave

Most of these people are openly or secretly hoping for the sort of Armageddon that they believe will finally destroy the welfare state once and for all in America–no matter the cost. Nor is it just the the conservative reps in Congress: a major portion of the GOP base wants no compromise whatsoever, even as the vast majority of the Democratic base believes that compromise is the best route. For a Democrat, there is little political risk in compromise. For a Republican, any wavering or compromise will likely be met with a primary challenge from Grover Norquist. As a Democrat, do you take the risk that the GOP will panic and see reason? Or do you risk instead that they double down, forcing you to give them the money in the hopes they don’t shoot the hostage?

In short, do you let Professor Moriarty walk, knowing full well it probably means your death shortly thereafter but at least gives you a chance of survival, or do you lock arm in arm with him, plunging straight over the falls? You know only one thing: Moriarty will see it through to the end, either way. Or to use another, more ancient parable, do you allow the baby to be cut in two, or do you give it to the false mother in the hope that the American People will stand in judgment and award you custody of the economy in the future?

Unfortunately, this isn’t fiction, Sherlock doesn’t have a secret grappling move to ensure his survival at Moriarty’s expense, the American voter isn’t nearly as wise as King Solomon, and we don’t live in an alternate universe of Democratic perfection. This is the real world.

And in the real world, the choices are looking pretty grim.


Obama holds edge over GOP: To the degree that the public cares about the debt ceiling and the deficit, a new National Journal poll finds that a plurality of Americans trusts Obama more than Republicans to handle both those issues.

Poll: Obama Leads Republicans in Virginia

Though his approval ratings have dipped, President Obama leads all of his Republican challengers in the battleground state of Virginia, according to a new poll from Public Policy Polling (D).

The president leads former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, 47 percent to 43 percent, but that margin has shrunk by seven points since the last PPP poll, released in May. The president leads the other Republicans included in the survey by more sizable margins. He beats Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who hasn’t yet entered the race, by nine points. He tops businessman Herman Cain by 11 points and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin by 14 points.

Additionally, the favorability ratings for each of the Republican hopefuls are under water. Thirty-four percent of Virginia voters have a favorable opinion of Romney while 49 percent do not. Similarly, 30 percent have a favorable view of Bachmann and 49 percent have an unfavorable view. Only 25 percent have a favorable opinion of Perry while 35 percent have an unfavorable one. And 40 percent of voters say they are not sure about the Texas governor.

The survey also shows that President Obama has lost ground in Virginia. According to the poll, 47 percent of voters approve of the job Obama is doing as president while 48 percent disapprove. In May, those numbers were 51 percent to 44 percent. Obama’s ratings are better among independents: 48 percent approve while 42 percent do not. He receives strong support from his Democratic base and strong opposition from Republicans. More women (52 percent) approve of the president than do men (41 percent).

In 2008, Obama became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the swing state since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.


Even as Beltway obsesses over deficit, poll finds Obama slipping on jobs with voters overall AND w/Dem base

Greg Sargent:

It’s become a cliche to say it, but new polling released by the Post seems to show — again — that Washington’s obsession with the deficit, at the expense of job creation, is doing nothing to help Obama’s standing on the all-important issue of the economy, where the President continues to slip.

The poll finds that the number who say Obama made the economy worse is up to 37 percent since October, a period during which the Beltway conversation has focused almost entirely on debt and “grand bargains” and voters have not heard lawmakers talking enough about jobs. Only 29 percent say Obama has made the economy better. Economic pessimism is soaring, with 90 percent saying the economy is not doing well, and a near record number say jobs are hard to find in their area.

Has the President been meaningfully rewarded for the focus on the deficit? Unclear. Approval of his handling of the deficit is up five points, but it remains mired at 38 percent, and disapproval of Obama on the deficit is running at the same heights it was a month ago, at 60 percent. (The numbers on the deficit were previously released, but are newly relevant.)

Yes, voters tell pollsters they care about the deficit. But tellingly, Obama’s disapproval numbers on the economy and deficit are almost identical — suggesting yet again that disapproval on the deficit may merely be a proxy for economic dissatisfaction.

* Obama’s numbers are still better than GOP’s: Still, the White House can take comfort from the fact that Obama outperforms the GOP on jobs (65 percent disapprove of the GOP, versus only 52 percent who disapprove of Obama) and even on the deficit (68 percent disapprove of the GOP).

* And public still blames Bush: No matter how many times the right tries to wish this one away, an astonishing 57 percent continue to say Bush’s policies made the economy worse — 20 points higher than the number who say the same about Obama.

* Economy hurting Obama with his base? Another striking number: The number of liberal Dems who strongly support Obama’s perormance on jobs has dropped a precipitous 22 points, from 53 percent to 31 percent. This supports the argument that any problems Obama has with his base — real or imagined — are likely the result of the economy rather than anything else.


Buzzkill: Scientists say time travel is impossible

Discovery News reports that scientists in Hong Kong have ruled out the possibility of time travel by proving that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. Which is funny, because “faster than the speed of light” is exactly how quickly our dreams were just crushed.

According to Discovery:

“The possibility of time travel was raised 10 years ago when scientists discovered superluminal — or faster-than-light — propagation of optical pulses in some specific medium, the team said. It was later found to be a visual effect, but researchers thought it might still be possible for a single photon to exceed light speed.”

But thanks to one particularly determined professor, Du Shengwang, the research team at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology has proved that particular theory (or, rather, hope) wrong. They say their research, which was published in the journal Physical Review Letters, shows that even single photons–the smallest particle of light — travel at the same maximum speed. In other words, time travel will remain in the domain of dreams and science fiction.

In a related note, the word “Scientists” is now synonymous with “Dream Killers.”


50 Famous Academics Talk About God. Hawking, Feynman, Pinker, Watson, Bertrand Russell, etc.

Jonathan Pararajasingham has pulled together a montage of 50 renowned academics, mostly all scientists, talking about their thoughts on the existence of God. The list includes includes 16 Nobel prize winners, and a bundle of recognizable names, including Richard Feynman, Steven Pinker, Oliver Sacks, Bertrand Russell, Stephen Hawking, and Leonard Susskind. The full list appears below the jump. (Click “more.”) This clip has been added to our collection of Great Science Videos.

1. Lawrence Krauss, World-Renowned Physicist
2. Robert Coleman Richardson, Nobel Laureate in Physics
3. Richard Feynman, World-Renowned Physicist, Nobel Laureate in Physics
4. Simon Blackburn, Cambridge Professor of Philosophy
5. Colin Blakemore, World-Renowned Oxford Professor of Neuroscience
6. Steven Pinker, World-Renowned Harvard Professor of Psychology
7. Alan Guth, World-Renowned MIT Professor of Physics
8. Noam Chomsky, World-Renowned MIT Professor of Linguistics
9. Nicolaas Bloembergen, Nobel Laureate in Physics
10. Peter Atkins, World-Renowned Oxford Professor of Chemistry
11. Oliver Sacks, World-Renowned Neurologist, Columbia University
12. Lord Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal
13. Sir John Gurdon, Pioneering Developmental Biologist, Cambridge
14. Sir Bertrand Russell, World-Renowned Philosopher, Nobel Laureate
15. Stephen Hawking, World-Renowned Cambridge Theoretical Physicist
16. Riccardo Giacconi, Nobel Laureate in Physics
17. Ned Block, NYU Professor of Philosophy
18. Gerard ‘t Hooft, Nobel Laureate in Physics
19. Marcus du Sautoy, Oxford Professor of Mathematics
20. James Watson, Co-discoverer of DNA, Nobel Laureate
21. Colin McGinn, Professor of Philosophy, Miami University
22. Sir Patrick Bateson, Cambridge Professor of Ethology
23. Sir David Attenborough, World-Renowned Broadcaster and Naturalist
24. Martinus Veltman, Nobel Laureate in Physics
25. Pascal Boyer, Professor of Anthropology
26. Partha Dasgupta, Cambridge Professor of Economics
27. AC Grayling, Birkbeck Professor of Philosophy
28. Ivar Giaever, Nobel Laureate in Physics
29. John Searle, Berkeley Professor of Philosophy
30. Brian Cox, Particle Physicist (Large Hadron Collider, CERN)
31. Herbert Kroemer, Nobel Laureate in Physics
32. Rebecca Goldstein, Professor of Philosophy
33. Michael Tooley, Professor of Philosophy, Colorado
34. Sir Harold Kroto, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
35. Leonard Susskind, Stanford Professor of Theoretical Physics
36. Quentin Skinner, Professor of History (Cambridge)
37. Theodor W. Hänsch, Nobel Laureate in Physics
38. Mark Balaguer, CSU Professor of Philosophy
39. Richard Ernst, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
40. Alan Macfarlane, Cambridge Professor of Anthropology
41. Professor Neil deGrasse Tyson, Princeton Research Scientist
42. Douglas Osheroff, Nobel Laureate in Physics
43. Hubert Dreyfus, Berkeley Professor of Philosophy
44. Lord Colin Renfrew, World-Renowned Archaeologist, Cambridge
45. Carl Sagan, World-Renowned Astronomer
46. Peter Singer, World-Renowned Bioethicist, Princeton
47. Rudolph Marcus, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
48. Robert Foley, Cambridge Professor of Human Evolution
49. Daniel Dennett, Tufts Professor of Philosophy
50. Steven Weinberg, Nobel Laureate in Physics


Obama Speech Crashes Congressional Websites

David Beard reports that the websites of a number of members of Congress crashed on Monday night after President Obama called on Americans to contact their representatives in support of a debt ceiling deal.

Among those affected were House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH), including both his leadership and separate representative sites, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE).


House servers still down. If you want to contact Congress, try this alt. form from @AU4Change:

Tell John Boehner to stop playing politics with the U.S. economy

Another way to reach congress (Big H/T to PatsyT)

This group will FAX it in for you



Obama Put Out the Call, And They Answered

David Weigel:

The only real news in President Obama’s speech last night seemed to be his call for Americans to contact their members of Congress and demand that they compromise. On Twitter, I asked if anyone was actually doing this. I got around 75 responses within an hour. Here’s a sample.

Pat from Kansas sent this to Rep. Kevin Yoder:

I fully support the president on this.  Boehner is out to lunch.  He made a business analogy.  Not even close.  Government is NOT business.  Government REQUIRES compromise to be successful.  Please do not be an obstructionist.  Please do your job and make government work.

Rich from Ohio sent this to Rep. Steven LaTourette:

I’m a political moderate, of decent means, living in Hudson. I think I speak for many like me. I’ve listened to both sides this evening and President’s Obama’s approach is the one I clearly prefer. My reasons:

1) Chance for historic tax rate reduction and elimination of loopholes.

2) Includes reasonable cutbacks in entitlements.

3) Includes reasonable cutbacks in defense.

4) Gives the wealthy tax rates that are still lower than 50 years ago! The vast majority of the American people favor this; after all, it is only fair.

5) Repays a debt that we have already incurred. THE MONEY HAS ALREADY BEEN SPENT; we must now pay it back.

6) Prevents this entire standoff from happening again in 6-12 months. I don’t want to see precious legislative time used to re-hash this same debate in six months.

This is a chance to do something historic and positive. Let’s not miss this opportunity, especially when the alternative sends the USA back into recession. THAT’s the real job killer.

While Speaker Boehner wants to compromise with the President, it is clear that he is being handcuffed by a handful of reckless Tea Party members who are willing to take this country into recession just to make a point. If that happens, virtually no one currently in office, Democrat or Republican, gets reelected in 2012. Please help these misinformed Representatives to understand what is a stake.

Please let me know where you stand on this critical issue.

Jayant from Virginia:

I’m TRYING to reach my Congressman, Frank Wolf (R, VA-10), because my President suggested it.  And yes I’m a Democrat, supportive of President Obama and Congressional Democrats.

But, alas, the server has been done every time I’ve tried to send him an e-mail.  Wolf is a very conservative Republican and I have no illusions it will make a damn bit of difference that li’l ol’ me asks him to compromise with the President and Congressional Democrats in a deficit reduction deal, and reject the teabaggers (I’ll call them the tea party in the actual e-mail).  But it will make me feel better knowing at least I made myself heard.  I lived in D.C. for 15 years before moving with my wife and kids to McLean for good public schools, and the years of disenfranchisement make me appreciate having an array of elected officials…so e-mailing my Congressman is not something I take for granted.

Sam from Indiana sent this to Rep. Dan Burton:

I won’t take up valuable staff time reciting my support of you, of the Republican Party, or of conservative principles we share. I know they are busy enough, and will be in the coming days as we continue on this path toward default.

I write to merely register my concern as your constituent, in the grand tradition of our great American citizenry. I want you to support efforts to raise the debt limit by whatever means necessary. You were sent to Washington to be a responsible adult. Responsible adults pay their bills; they do not seek politically-convenient reasons to decline to pay certain obligations. They do not play games with peoples’ lives, their well-being, their jobs, or the fate of their nations. Regardless of how you may feel about federal debts, deficit spending, the president, or Democrats in Congress, it is your Constitutional duty to protect the American people, to promote their interests, and to keep the country great. Default will do none of those things, in either the short- or long-term.

Under no circumstances will I bring myself to support your candidacy in the future, or the candidacy of any current federal official, in the event of default. Should we as a country default, and end up on the so-called “trash bin of history” with the Romans, the Greeks, and countless other great nations, I can only hope that our Creator will have more pity on you than will the American people.

God bless you and you entertain what will be a politically-difficult choice. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.

Jason from Pennsylvania sent this to Rep. Tim Murphy.

Mr Murphy,

I strongly believe you need to put aside partisan politics, and cross party lines to raise the debt limit. This has been a non-issue for so many years and only seems to be an issue due to your lack of respect for our Commander in Chief. I don’t recall many republicans objecting during the 7 debt limit increases of George W. Bush’s administration. Now is not the time to hold the middle class and US credit rating hostage. We all agree that debt reduction and balanced budgets are necessary, but please work with the opposing party and stop listening to the tea-party base.

Maggie from Portland:

Called Earl Blumenauer’s office and told him never, ever to vote for anything like the “Cut, Cap and Balance” plan. Also, not to put my Mom out in the street, either.

Jonathan from Texas:

I tried to call Rep. John Carter (R-TX).  The phone rang and rang and rang, and after some minutes I got Rep. Carter’s voice explaining that it was either after hours or they were experiencing unusual call volume.  Then it shunted me to voice mail.

Which told me his voicemail was full, go figure.

I would have urged him to support a balanced compromise with both tax increases and cuts.

Fwiw, the Sunlight Foundation “Congress” app on Android makes it real, real easy to call my congress people.

Kim from Arkansas:

I wasn’t able to get thru on line or on the phone so I tweeted one senator (Boozman) and my rep (Griffin) and found out my other senator doesn’t even have a Twitter account!  So I tweeted my local free weekly rag my outrage at both his lack of Twitter contact and that he’s a big fat DINO. And that he should vote for the Reid bill.

Jamie from Maryland:

I tweeted this today at 1:46 pm:

“If you haven’t called your Congressional Representative and Senators about the debt ceiling, you are as much at fault as they are.”

The President followed me.

Richard from Florida:

I have the dubious distinction of being a constituent of Allen West.  I am friends with former Congressman Ron Klein and worked hard to get him re-elected.  I travel to DC frequently from Ft. Lauderdale and have been on the same flight with Congressman West several times and just could not bring myself to make conversation or introduce myself.

I wrote him an email this evening at the urging of the President and asked Congressman West to reconsider his position on Cut, Cap and Balance and to let him know that many, many of his constituents are not Tea Partiers and to ask him to look for a fair and balanced way to solve this crisis.  I’m a registered Independent and lean a bit left but can get behind a good idea, whether it comes from the left or right.  I’m sick of the Republicans working and positioning themselves simply to work against President Obama, at the expense of the American people.

I was willing to put myself on Congressman West’s radar screen tonight.  Hopefully, so did thousands and thousands of others who feel the same way I do.

Nicole from Michigan:

I sent e-mail s to my congressional representative Mr.Cony ors and Sen .Stabenow and Sen. Levin . Just left them a short message on behalf of college students like myself; who would love to be able to obtain student loans after they come to whatever conclusion of this seemingly endless saga of negotiations. In the long term of course also the importance of retaining our good credit rating not just for our country but also because of the negative effect inaction would have on the world.

Jeni from Nebraska:

Called all our Reps and Sens tonight- couldn’t get websites to load for all, but found an old email from NE Appleseed re:immigration law that had the direct DC #’s. There was a lot of ringing but eventually got thru to all. My husband and I both asked them why a decrease in benefits while paying the same amount of taxes wasn’t a tax hike? And if they were going to raise taxes to please do so to the wealthy and not to those who need the money most. Also tried calling Boehner twice- first time got a message w office hours, etc and a hang up. Second time got a message from Boehner and then then the mailbox was full.

And finally, Patrick:

I am a libertarian who will be calling my Senators and Representative tomorrow to urge them not to raise the debt ceiling without huge spending cuts in an effort to balance out all the Democrats who will be doing the opposite because of Obama.


The character of democracy creates democracy, and the character of oligarchy creates oligarchy. ~~Aristotle (H/T bito)

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BlueStateManChernynkayaagrippaKQµårk 死神whatsthatsound Recent comment authors
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Are you guys coming tonight?

KQµårk 死神

The first graphic is great. It really shows the hypocrisy of the GOP on the debt. Early on I heard one conservative voice tell the truth about the debt and the Tea Party, it may have been David Frum. He said Tea Baggers where really mad at the Bush policies and that hatred built up because of course the hypocrites they were, they would never blame the GOP for our problems. So all that potential energy built up and was unfairly levied on the man who just started his presidency (of course being the first African American president made him the perfect scapegoat) and was not the source of our debt woes because it was Bush.


I voted for Hubert Humphrey in 1968. I have not changed. The political culture has changed.

Back in those day we argued over issues, such as VietNam and Civil Rights. Now, we have this.

KQµårk 死神

AD you should read Krugman’s piece.


Okay, all those scientists with their impressive credentials and their delectable British accents have convinced me. There’s no God. Case closed.