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Think Congress’ deficit obsession will disappear if the Super Committee meets its goal? Think again 


[…] At his weekly Capitol briefing Tuesday, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) had a hard time pegging the panel’s chances for reaching an agreement to achieve trillions of dollars in deficit reduction. But he insisted that if the panel failed to achieve significant savings, Congress will have to keep chipping away.

“People ask me, ‘Are you optimistic?’ I say, ‘Look, I’m not optimistic — I’m hopeful,’” Hoyer said. “I hope, because I think it’s absolutely essential that we do so, that we succeed. Producing a product that is a big deal, not a small deal — if we do a small deal, we’ll have to revisit that.”

Hoyer found himself in a rhetorical cul-de-sac when pressed to parse the difference between words like hopeful, optimistic, confident, and so on. But he said members of the Committee itself still claim to be making progress.

“I didn’t say I have a lack of confidence, that’s your word,” Hoyer cautioned a reporter. “What I — I was asked, was I confident? I said I was hopeful. You are now taking that one step further that I have a lack of confidence. What I’ve told you — the absence of confidence is not necessarily the lack of confidence. I don’t wanna parse all these words with you, but I’m hopeful, and what I’ve said is, [Rep. Chris] Van Hollen, who’s in the room, believes they’re working constructively towards a common end.”






Credit Unions Seeing Surge In New Accounts

As you may have heard, more than a few people around the country have been out and about in recent weeks in protest of — well, in protest of a lot of things. But what many of these people (and many of us who are sitting in our homes) share in common is that they’re fed up with the super-sized banks and are looking for alternatives. This appears to have led a growing number of people to the front door of their local credit unions.

The Navy Federal Credit Union, the world’s largest credit union with $46 billion in assets and 3.8 million members, tells ABCNews it’s seen a threefold spike in new checking accounts since this time last year.

The chief executive officer of the Chicago Patrolmen’s Federal Credit Union, is seeing similar growth: “In October, we’re on pace to go about 40 percent above that in new checking account and debit card activity.”

“In our experience, this is new,” Karen Tyson, the National Association of Federal Credit Unions’ senior vice president for marketing and communications, told ABC News. “This is a different phenomenon. There seems to be quite a bit of distrust, quite a bit of apprehension, quite a bit of frustration among the average Americans out there with the larger institutions and the Wall Street institutions.”

Among the tips the Credit Union National Association offers for locating and transferring your funds to a credit union:

*Compare credit union rates and fees to those of banks. The Credit Union National Association estimates that consumers annually save more than $6 billion in better rates and lower fees by using a credit unions rather than banks.

* Ask about free checking and debit. About 80 percent of credit unions still offer free checking, and more than 70 percent have debit card programs, typically with no fees, according to the Credit Union National Association.

* Check if the credit union has all the products you’re looking for. These days many credit unions offer most of the same services and products you’d find at a bank — mortgages, credit cards, IRAs, home equity lines, even small business loans.

* Ask about deposit insurance. Nearly all of the 7,500 credit unions in the U.S. are federally insured, meaning their deposits are insured up to $250,000 by a federal deposit insurance fund administered by the National Credit Union Administration, just as the FDIC does for banks.

* Ask for a “switch kit”: Many credit unions have switch kits, a compilation of all of the forms, rules and suggestions you may need to make your switch as seamless as possible. Just ask the credit union you want to join for its switch kit.






Republicans threaten to make No Child Left Behind even worse


We have commented on the pros and cons of this bill elsewhere. But Republicans signaled during the debate that they intend to weaken provisions in the bill as it moves to the floor, including the accountability, teacher, school improvement, and funding proposals in the bill. All of this, they claim, will be done in the name of reducing the federal role in education.

There’s nothing wrong with right-sizing the role of government, but one of the values of federal education policy is ensuring disadvantaged students get an excellent education and their fair share of resources. That is something Republicans continually tried to diminish during the HELP committee debate, sometimes successfully. Let’s take a look at what they accomplished and what lies ahead.

Amendment: Gut accountability for making student progress.
Result: Withdrawn due to lack of votes.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) proposed an amendment that would prevent federal law from asking states to improve student achievement. That’s odd, since improvement seems a legitimate thing to expect in exchange for federal funding, and the primary goal of education is to improve student learning. He promised to bring this amendment up again.

Amendment: Repeal teacher requirements.
Result: Withdrawn due to lack of votes.

Alexander also proposed an amendment that would no longer require teachers to have any qualifications. The current definition of a “highly qualified teacher” is not perfect, but to allow anyone to work in the classroom seems irresponsible. And it runs contrary to evidence (and common sense) that knowing the subject you teach makes a difference in how your students learn. Alexander promised to bring this amendment up again as well.

Amendment: Eliminate anti-poverty and innovation programs.
Result: Failed.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) sought to eliminate Race to the Top, a competitive program that encourages state- and district-level improvements. And Sens. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Richard Burr (R-NC) sought to eliminate Promise Neighborhoods, which funds community-based anti-poverty programs in schools, like medical or dental services for poor children. The Obama administration and Senate Democrats have prioritized Promise Neighborhoods to ensure schools address the non-academic needs of children so they can succeed academically.

Amendment: Scrap the whole thing.
Result: Failed.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who earlier tried to derail debate on the bill, offered an amendment to repeal the entire federal education law. NCLB is far from perfect and should be changed. But to delete the entire law would mean states would lose about $14 billion for aid to low-income schools, $3 billion for teacher training and support, $1 billion for afterschool programs, and $730 million for educating students learning English, not to mention support for chronically underperforming schools.

None of these amendments passed, but Alexander vowed to bring many of them back for a vote when the entire Senate considers the bill. Those amendments will likely get a more receptive hearing next time, because final passage will require additional Republican support. That’s unfortunate, because such moves would make NCLB even worse than it is now and make it harder to ensure students, particularly disadvantaged students, get great teachers and an excellent education.





Study: Science pushed out of California elementary schools

San Jose Mercury News:

California’s elementary schools spend too little time teaching science as volcano models and germination kits vanish to focus more on English and math, a new statewide study says.

And when science is taught, classroom teachers feel unprepared, the study found. More than four-fifths of teachers think the emphasis on English and math has hampered science teaching, according to the survey that sampled hundreds of administrators and teachers.

“Science has been pushed out of many schools’ curriculums,” said one of the study’s authors, Rena Dorph, a researcher with the Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley. […]

California set high ideals and fairly rigorous standards for science in 1998. But because state and federal test scores are heavily weighted toward English and math, lessons often give short shrift to science. On the Academic Performance Index, which is the state’s annual score for schools, English counts for nearly 57 percent, while science makes up less than 6 percent of a school’s score.

Yet polls show that educators, experts and the public all value teaching science at an early age. […]

In fact, the study found that educators recognize their shortcomings. Among the study’s findings:

  • 44 percent of principals think it is likely that a student would receive high-quality science instruction at their schools.
  • 40 percent of elementary teachers spend 60 minutes or less on science instruction each week.
  • 10 percent of elementary classrooms offer high-quality science learning.
  • 60 percent of districts have no staff dedicated to elementary science.
  • More than 85 percent of elementary teachers received no science-related professional development in the past three years.

California’s test scores reflect its lack of attention to science. In national tests, the state’s fourth-graders ranked at the bottom, along with students from Alabama, Mississippi and Hawaii. Performance is worse for Latino and African-American students. Fewer than 10 percent scored proficient or above on national science tests.

California sets no minimum for how much time elementary schools spend teaching science, although science curriculum publishers suggest 90 to 135 minutes per week. […]

It’s crucial for kids to define themselves as successful at science at a young age,” Jacobson said.





Teacher evaluations are becoming big business for private companies

American Prospect:

New education reforms often translate into big money for private groups. Following the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, states paid millions of dollars annually for companies to develop and administer the standardized tests required under the law. Companies also cashed in on a provision mandating tutoring for students at struggling schools.

Now, a movement to overhaul the teaching profession is creating another source of revenue for those in the business of education. More than half of states are changing their laws to factor student test scores into teacher evaluations and adding requirements for the classroom observations used to rate teachers. The main intent of the new laws is to identify which teachers are doing a good, bad, or mediocre job and to help them improve. One early outcome of such recent legislation, however, is a booming market that sells services and products to help states and school districts scrambling to meet the new standards.






Occupy Colleges Plans Solidarity Teach-ins

The Nation:

For two days beginning November 2, Occupy Colleges, a grassroots organization bringing awareness to the Occupy Wall Street movement within the college sphere, will stage a National Solidarity Teach-In for colleges and universities across the country. To date, more than 100 campsues have events planned. The Teach-ins will serve to open and continue dialogue around the Occupy Wall Street movement in an environment where experts in various fields can liberally address questions or concerns.

Teach-ins will be organized by students on campus. They will take place in a central and easily accessible place for students, local communities and the media. Participants will be comprised of experts in their fields (professors in anthropology, political science, history, economics, etc) and fellow students.

Topics will range by school, but will include discussions on how Occupy Wall Street movement may affect future elections, historical perspectives on past Occupy Wall Street-like movements, what led to the Occupy Wall Street movement and what comes next. Teach-ins are meant to be participatory and oriented toward action. The purpose is to create an open discussion with professors and students with no defined ending time, so that everyone has an opportunity to speak and contribute.

Check the Occupy Colleges website for info on individual events.






WaPo: Will California’s cap-and-trade experiment catch on?

As the old Louis Brandeis quip goes, states can serve as laboratories of democracy if they so choose. And California has just volunteered itself as a guinea pig for a particularly high-stakes experiment. The California Air Resources Board is putting the finishing touches on a statewide cap-and-trade system for greenhouse-gas emissions. You can bone up on the details in the Los Angeles Times. But here’s a broader question: Will California’s adventure have any effect on climate policy in the rest of the country?

Harvard economist Robert Stavins has explained how single states can sometimes push the federal government to adopt stricter environmental rules. And California, in particular, has been a fertile breeding ground for green policies. The Clean Air Act can trace its roots back to a small air-pollution agency founded in Los Angeles in 1947. The state’s motor-vehicle efficiency rules in 2009 helped prod the federal government to adopt stricter fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks. What’s more, other states still have the option of linking up with California’s cap-and-trade system via the Western Climate Initiative. But a few things need to happen for California’s carbon fever to spread.

For one, other states will be watching to see whether California suffers from trying to reduce its carbon-dioxide emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Will cement plants flee the state? Will electricity bills go through the roof? UC Davis economist Christopher Knittel has found that most economic models predict “a relatively small [negative] impact on the California economy.” We’ll get to see whether the green optimists or industry pessimists are right. There’s that famous McKinsey study that found a battalion of cheap — and often profitable — energy-efficiency opportunities we’re not yet adopting. California can show the rest of the country whether it really is easy to go green.

But what about Congress? UCLA’s Matthew Kahn has done a study finding that House members who voted for the 2009 Waxman-Markey climate bill were more likely to come from liberal, wealthier, low-carbon districts. It’s hard to see how even a California success with cap-and-trade could alter this dynamic and win over lawmakers in coal-heavy states like Indiana or West Virginia. But Kahn remains optimistic, arguing that California’s experiment could help foster new clean-energy companies and interest groups who will act as a counterweight to fossil-fuel interests in the broader political debate. New lobbyists to fight the old lobbyists. It’s a little seedy, sure, but as theories of political change go, it’s not totally unrealistic.





Water use rising faster than world population 


 Like oil in the 20th century, water could well be the essential commodity on which the 21st century will turn.

Human beings have depended on access to water since the earliest days of civilization, but with 7 billion people on the planet as of October 31, exponentially expanding urbanization and development are driving demand like never before.

Water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century, said Kirsty Jenkinson of the World Resources Institute, a Washington think tank.

Water use is predicted to increase by 50 percent between 2007 and 2025 in developing countries and 18 percent in developed ones, with much of the increased use in the poorest countries with more and more people moving from rural areas to cities, Jenkinson said in a telephone interview.

Factor in the expected impacts of climate change this century — more severe floods, droughts and shifts from past precipitation patterns — that are likely to hit the poorest people first and worst “and we have a significant challenge on our hands,” Jenkinson said.

Will there be enough water for everyone, especially if population continues to rise, as predicted, to 9 billion by mid-century?

“There’s a lot of water on Earth, so we probably won’t run out,” said Rob Renner, executive director of the Colorado-based Water Research Foundation.

“The problem is that 97.5 percent of it is salty and … of the 2.5 percent that’s fresh, two-thirds of that is frozen. So there’s not a lot of fresh water to deal with in the world.”


Over a billion people lack access to clean drinking water, and over 2 billion live without adequate sanitation, leading to the deaths of 5 million people, mostly children, each year from preventable waterborne disease, Renner said.

Only 8 percent of the planet’s fresh water supply goes to domestic use and about 70 percent is used for irrigation and 22 percent in industry, Jenkinson said.

Droughts and insufficient rainfall contribute to what’s known as water risk, along with floods and contamination.

Hot spots of water risk, as reported in the World Resources Institute’s Aqueduct online atlas here , include:

— Australia’s Murray-Darling basin;

— the Colorado River basin in the U.S. Southwest;

— the Orange-Senqu basin, covering parts of South Africa, Botswana and Namibia and all of Lesotho;

— and the Yangtze and Yellow river basins in China.

What is required, Jenkinson said, is integrated water resource management that takes into account who needs what kind of water, as well as where and how to use it most efficiently.

“Water is going to quickly become a limiting factor in our lifetimes,” said Ralph Eberts, executive vice president of Black & Veatch, a $2.3 billion engineering business that designs water systems and operates in more than 100 countries.

He said he sees a “reprioritization” of resources to address the water challenges posed by changing climate and growing urbanization.

Eberts’ company is not alone. Water scarcity and water stress — which occurs when demand for water exceeds supply or when poor quality restricts use — has already hit water-intensive companies and supply chains in Russia, China and across the southern United States.


At the same time, extreme floods have had severe economic impacts in Australia, Pakistan and the U.S. Midwest, according to Ceres, a coalition of large investors and environmental groups that targeted water risk as an issue that 21st century businesses will need to address.

“The centrality of fresh water to our needs for food, for fuel, for fiber is taking center stage in what has become a crowded, environmentally stressed world,” said Ceres President Mindy Lubber.

A Ceres database lets institutional investors know which companies are tackling water risk. Nestle and Rio Tinto were seen as leading the way.

Water risk is already affecting business at apparel maker The Gap, which cut its profit forecast by 22 percent after drought cut into the cotton crop in Texas.

Similarly, independent gas producer Toreador Resources saw its stock price drop 20 percent afterFrance banned shale-gas fracturing, primarily over concerns about water quality.

Food giants Kraft Foods Inc Sara Lee Corp and Nestle all announced planned price rises to offset higher commodity prices caused by droughts, flooding and other factors.

Water risk is more than a corporate concern. For international aid groups, it poses a risk of disaster for those in the path of increasing drought or rising uncertainty about water supplies.

In East Africa, for example, a changing climate could bring changes in temperature and precipitation that would shorten the growing season and cut yields of staple crops like maize and beans, hitting small farmers and herders hardest, according to an Oxfam report.

A scientific analysis of 30 countries called the Challenge Program on Water and Food offered hope. It found that major river basins in Africa, Asia and Latin America could double food production in the next few decades if those upstream work with those downstream to efficiently use the water they have.






How HR 358, the Let Women Die Act 2011, Violates International Human Rights Standards

US Reality Check:

In a hospital in Nicaragua, after a total ban on abortion was passed, a woman with an ectopic pregnancy was allowed to languish, waiting for her fallopian tube to rupture before a doctor agreed to perform the procedure necessary to save her life and future fertility. Even though there was no doubt regarding the outcome of her pregnancy, the doctor refused to operate until the fetus was certifiably dead, and with no ultrasound available in that rural hospital, there was only one way to make sure.

This is the world that Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) would like to bring to America with the passage of H.R. 358, the so-called “Protect Life Act,” a bill that would deny pregnant women access to emergency treatment, insurance coverage for abortion services and even information about how she could pay for an abortion. It’s bad enough that one member of Congress would be willing to put women’s lives at risk this way; that a majority of the House of Representatives voted for it is appalling.

While in the United States we may treat abortion restrictions as a political issue, elsewhere around the world, advocates and experts understand such restrictions to be public health and human rights issues. And in the United States this year, we have seen law after law passed that clearly violates international human rights standards.

Contrast Pitts’ legislation with the report on legal restrictions on aspects of sexual and reproductive health presented to the United Nations on Monday by Anand Grover, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Health. The report states,

“Realization of the right to health requires the removal of barriers that interfere with individual decision-making on health-related issues and with access to health services, education and information, in particular on health conditions that only affect women and girls.” (Emphasis added.)

Indeed, the report highlights the growing global trend towards decriminalizing abortion.  Everywhere, that is, except in the United States.  In my home state of North Carolina this year, we have passed a number of barriers that “interfere with individual decision-making” on reproductive health: a mandatory waiting period, mandatory and biased counseling, and a forced ultrasound, all solely intended to place barriers and shame women who seek abortions, even if she has been raped or her life is in danger.







Police Fire Tear Gas at Protesters in Oakland, Calif.


1:40 a.m. | Updated Police officers shot several rounds of tear gas into a crowd of hundreds of protesters from the group Occupy Oakland on Tuesday night, as the protesters tried to re-enter an area outside of City Hall that the police had cleared of their encampment earlier in the day.

“It sounded like bombs,” said Joaquin Jutt, 24, a digital animator who was among the protesters. “There was a stinging and burning in my throat, eyes and nostrils. My eyes burned like there was hot sauce in them.”

The clashes on Tuesday occurred after the police removed about 170 demonstrators early in the morning who had been staying in the area after being warned that such a camp was illegal and that they faced arrest by remaining, The Associated Press reported. City officials said 97 people were arrested in the morning raid.

The first scuffle broke out later in the day after hundreds of people made their way back to City Hall, The A.P. said, in an attempt to re-establish a presence in the area of the dispersed camp.

A video from the scene on Tuesday night (both videos below were captured by Malia Wollan, reporting for The New York Times):
The crowds dispersed after the first round of tear gas but soon returned in similar numbers, according to protesters on the scene. At around 9:30 p.m., there was a tense face-off between protesters and police officers on Broadway at 14th Street. About 100 officers, some appearing to be county sheriffs, stood behind a metal barricade in full riot gear and wearing gas masks, while on the other side people pressed against the barricade, waving peace signs and chanting slogans. A few protesters hurled objects — what looked like water bottles — at the police, while over a loud speaker, officers instructed people to disperse or risk “chemical agents.”

Shortly after 9:30 p.m. the announcements stopped. Moments after, the police began sending canisters of tear gas into the crowd. Many people ran, but a few protesters wearing gas masks stayed and continued to throw things at the police. Those who had been affected by the gas coughed repeatedly and appeared to weep. Some stooped before a woman who volunteered to rinse reddened eyes.

This video shows a protester having his eyes rinsed:

KGO-TV, a local ABC television affiliate, is broadcasting a live stream of the protesters clashing with police officers.

In dramatic raw video taken at around 8 p.m. local time and posted on KGO-TV’s Web site, flashes of light and explosions can be heard as people sprint away. Smoke engulfs the scene. According to information on the station’s Web site, there was also tear gas present.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the initial incident:

Police gave repeated warnings to protesters to disperse from the entrance to Frank Ogawa Plaza at 14th Street and Broadway before firing several tear gas canisters into the crowd at about 7:45 p.m. Police had announced over a loudspeaker that thosewho refused to leave could be targeted by “chemical agents.” The evening protest started around 5 p.m., when about 400 people began marching from a public library at 14th and Madison streets toward the plaza, which police had barricaded and city officials had declared would be closed for at least several days.

“We’re going to march and reclaim what was already ours, what we call Oscar Grant Plaza and what they call City Hall,” said protester Krystof Lopaur, referring to the unarmed man shot to death by a BART police officer in January 2009.

Early on, the scene outside City Hall was largely peaceful, but it was a different story a few blocks west on Washington Street. Officers in riot gear hemmed in protesters around 6 p.m. and attempted to arrest one person, as about 50 more surrounded them shouting, “Let him go, let him go.”

Protesters threw turquoise and red paint at the riot police officers’ faces and helmets. Some led the crowd in chanting, “This is why we call you pigs.”

Others pleaded with the agitators to be peaceful and return to the march, yet some protesters tried to fight with police and were clubbed and kicked in return.

Almost simultaneous to the events in Oakland, the police in Atlanta removed protesters camped in Woodruff Park, arresting several, The Associated Press reported.

Organizers had instructed participants to be peaceful if arrests came, and most were, though police did drag out a few. Many gathered in the center of the park, locking arms, and sang “We Shall Overcome,” until police led them out, one-by-one to waiting buses. Most left on foot, handcuffed with plastic ties.

Police included SWAT teams in riot gear, dozens of officers on motorcycles and several on horseback. By about 1:30 a.m. the park was mostly cleared of protesters.





Ex-Goldman director to face criminal charges H/T AdLib

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A former Goldman Sachs director, who also was once the global head of elite consultancy McKinsey & Co, will surrender to the FBI on Wednesday to face criminal insider trading-related charges, a person familiar with the investigation said.

Rajat Gupta, one of the most prominent business executives to be caught up in the government’s wide-ranging insider-trading probe, had been named by prosecutors as an unindicted co-conspirator in the criminal case against hedge fund tycoon Raj Rajaratnam earlier this year.





FL high school teacher facing thousands of dollars in fines for helping students register to vote

NEW SMYRNA BEACH — The teacher who heads up New Smyrna Beach High School’s student government association could face thousands of dollars in fines. Her transgression? Helping students register to vote.

Prepping 17-year-olds for the privileges and responsibilities of voting in a democracy is nothing new for civics teachers, but when Jill Cicciarelli organized a drive at the start of the school year to get students pre-registered, she ran afoul of Florida’s new and controversial election law.

Among other things, the new rules require that third parties who sign up new voters register with the state and that they submit applications within 48 hours. The law also reduces the time for early voting from 14 days to eight and requires voters who want to give a new address at the polls to use a provisional ballot.

Republican lawmakers who backed the rules said they were necessary to reduce voter fraud. Critics — including U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who testified before a congressional committee — said the law would suppress voter participation.

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit to block implementation of the law. The most controversial elements are under review in federal court before they can be implemented in five counties.

Fear of violating the new rules prompted the League of Women Voters to suspend voter registration efforts in Florida. Local political activists in both parties have been similarly stymied, Volusia County Supervisor of Elections Ann McFall said.

“It’s bizarre,” McFall said of the law. “I haven’t found one person who likes this law.”

When McFall heard the story of the New Smyrna Beach teacher at a staff meeting this month — and realized her office would have to report the incident to the state as a potential violation — she had a sick feeling in her stomach.

“This isn’t someone who was going to commit fraud,” McFall said. “She was doing a good thing. New Smyrna Beach High School was doing a good thing.”

But Cicciarelli hadn’t registered with the state before beginning the registration drive. And she didn’t submit the forms to the elections office on time.

In the absence of willful fraud or someone’s voting rights being denied, it seems unlikely she would face a fine. Since the law took effect in July, the state Division of Elections has issued only warnings. No incident has been turned over to the attorney general’s office for enforcement, said Chris Cate, a spokesman with the secretary of state’s office.

“We’ll review it, go over the facts and decide whether to forward it,” Cate said.

Cicciarelli, who grew up in Port Orange and has been teaching at the school about six years, remembers when she first registered in 1994 while a student at Florida State University in Tallahassee. Volunteers staffing a table for the League of Women Voters helped her navigate a process that seemed a little intimidating to a teen-ager who’d never voted.

“It was such a big thrill to register,” she recalled, one that she looks to pass along to the students at her school.

“I just want them to be participating in our democracy,” she said. “The more participation we have, the stronger our democracy will be.”

Next year Cicciarelli said she would invite a representative from the elections office to give students an opportunity to register. Shannon Miller, a 17-year-old senior who serves as co-president of the student government association along with classmate CrystalMerrick, said she was glad she had the chance to register at school. She wonders how many of her peers will participate if the process is too formalized.

“It may discourage some students (from registering) if it’s more difficult,” she said. “We’re more apt to get involved, but (some students) won’t go to the trouble if they think it’s hard.”

Cicciarelli was on maternity leave in the spring when the Republican-led Legislature adopted the new rules, largely on party lines. Supporters said it was necessary to prevent voter fraud, though elections supervisors like McFall said they haven’t had a problem.

“I don’t see it,” she said in a telephone interview last week from her office in DeLand. “I truly don’t see it.”

But supporters of the law view it as an attempt to be proactive at a time when elections are becoming so contentious that the potential for fraud is always a threat.

“There are reasons for the law,” said state Rep. Dorothy Hukill, a Republican from Port Orange who voted for it. “Part of the reason is to protect people like (the students), so they know they’re being registered properly.”

It’s still easy to register to vote, Hukill added, even if it means third-party groups that want to hold registration drives might have to do some more homework in advance.

“It does point out the need for more public education,” Hukill added. “I applaud the poor teacher’s efforts to get her students involved. She just didn’t know. It just goes to show if you’re going to do something, make sure you know what the law says about it.”

For the students involved in the voter registration drive, the incident has proven an unsolicited lesson in real-life civics, New Smyrna Beach High Principal Jim Tager said.

“You’re talking about a high-energy teacher who cares about her kids, cares about her community and cares about her country,” he said. “We want to do things by the rules. We just didn’t know about these. In the end, I think this has become a good real-life lesson.”







Fed judge temporarily blocked FL’s controversial law requiring welfare applicants be drug tested 

A federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked Florida’s controversial law requiring welfare applicants be drug tested in order to receive benefits.

Judge Mary Scriven issued a temporary injunction against the state, writing in a 37-page order that the law could violate the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment ban on illegal search and seizure.

“The constitutional rights of a class of citizen are at stake,” Scriven wrote in an order filed in the Middle District of Florida Orlando Division.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued the state last month on behalf of Luis Lebron, a 35-year-old Navy veteran and single father from Orlando who is finishing his college degree.

Lebron met all the criteria for receiving welfare but refused to submit to a drug test on the grounds that requiring him to pay for and submit to one is unreasonable when there is no reason to believe he uses drugs.

Gov. Rick Scott, who signed the measure into law on May 31, touted it as a way to ensure taxpayer money isn’t “wasted” on those who use drugs. “Hopefully more people will focus on not using illegal drugs,” he said then.

But, in her order, Scriven issued a scathing assessment of the state’s argument in favor of the drug tests, saying the state failed to prove “special needs” as to why it should conduct such searches without probable cause or reasonable suspicion, as the law requires.

“If invoking an interest in preventing public funds from potentially being used to fund drug use were the only requirement to establish a special need,” Scriven wrote, “the state could impose drug testing as an eligibility requirement for every beneficiary of every government program. Such blanket intrusions cannot be countenanced under the Fourth Amendment.”

Jackie Schutz, deputy press secretary for Gov. Scott, sent an e-mailed statement in response to Scriven’s order.

“Drug testing welfare recipients is just a common-sense way to ensure that welfare dollars are used to help children and get parents back to work,” Schutz wrote. “The governor obviously disagrees with the decision, and he will evaluate his options regarding when to appeal.”

ACLU attorney Maria Kayanan said she was thrilled with Scriven’s order, though she suspects the state will appeal.

“This is a great day for Florida,” Kayanan said. “The law is a reflection of ugly stereotypes that people who need a helping hand from the state are drug dealers.”

Earlier this year, Scott also ordered drug testing of new state workers and spot checks of existing state employees under him. But testing was suspended after the American Civil Liberties Union also challenged that policy in a separate lawsuit.

Nearly 1,600 applicants have refused to take the test since testing began in mid July, but they aren’t required to say why. Thirty-two applicants failed the test, and more than 7,000 have passed, according to the Department of Children and Families. The majority of positives were for marijuana.

Supporters of the law say applicants skipped the test because they knew they would have tested positive for drugs. Applicants must pay$25 to $45 for the test and are reimbursed by the state if they pass. It’s unclear if the state has saved money.

Under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, the state gives $180 a month for one person or $364 for a family of four.

Those who test positive for drugs are ineligible for the cash assistance for one year, though passing a drug course can cut that period in half. If they fail a second time, they are ineligible for three years.

Besides finding that the state so far has failed to adequately defend its position in support of drug testing, Scriven’s order on Monday cited the fact that a 2003 state-sanctioned study of drug use among welfare recipients indicated the incidence of drug use was lower among Florida’s state welfare recipients than among the general population.

The authors of that study specifically recommended that the state not expand such drug testing because of the high costs of testing compared with the potential benefits.

Lebron, who is the sole caretaker of his 4-year-old son, said he’s “happy that the judge stood up for me and my rights and said the state can’t act without a reason or suspicion.”

Lebron is a student at University of Central Florida pursuing a bachelor’s degree in accounting and expects to graduate in December, according to the complaint.

The ACLU says Florida was the first to enact such a law since Michigan tried more than a decade ago. Michigan’s random drug testing program for welfare recipients lasted five weeks in 1999 before it was halted by a judge, kicking off a four-year legal battle that ended with an appeals court ruling it unconstitutional.









“The media oligarchy in this country is, of course, very comfortably ensconced in the so-called 1%.” 


At The New York Times, Reproach for One-Percenters That Have Been Keeping Paper Afloat

It’s been more than a bit surreal watching the media grapple with Occupy Wall Street and its offshoots. A month ago you could tell that many big media organizations were kind of hoping, or at least expecting, that the movement would quickly fade away.

As journalistic beats go, I suppose that covering a bunch of protesters camped out in a park is not exactly a plum assignment — especially if you’ve decided in advance that they’ll have no traction. Consider, specifically, The New York Times. The paper was initially so flummoxed by the protesters that it assigned one of its critics, Ginia Bellafante, who’d just taken over the paper’s Big City column, to write a withering review of Occupy Wall Street as, basically, subpar theater delivered by a rather uneven troupe of performer

In a Sept. 23 piece titled “Gunning for Wall Street, With Faulty Aim,” she zoomed right in on the flakiest protesters she could find and then made fun of them (with precise aim), starting with a takedown, in her very first sentence, of “a half-naked woman who called herself Zuni Tikka.” She went on: “A blonde with a marked likeness to Joni Mitchell and a seemingly even stronger wish to burrow through the space-time continuum and hunker down in 1968, Ms. Tikka had taken off all but her cotton underwear and was dancing on the north side of Zuccotti Park.” Elsewhere, Bellafante criticized “the group’s lack of cohesion and its apparent wish to pantomime progressivism rather than practice it knowledgably.” (The columnist had actually telegraphed her intention to belittle and dismiss Occupy Wall Street in a tweet two days earlier: “The Wall Street protesters: passion, pizza, horns, toplessness. I fear favorable tax treatment of private equities will continue unimpeded.”)

Fast forward to Oct. 8. Just two weeks after Bellafante effectively trashed Occupy Wall Street for failing to supply her with a PowerPoint slide show of demands, The New York Times editorial board pointedly endorsed the movement and its inchoate rage: “It is not the job of the protesters to draft legislation. That’s the job of the nation’s leaders, and if they had been doing it all along there might not be a need for these marches and rallies. Because they have not, the public airing of grievances is a legitimate and important end in itself.” And on Oct. 16, when op-ed columnist Paul Krugman wrote of the early “contemptuous dismissal” of Occupy Wall Street, it almost could be read as a rebuke of what the Times itself had been engaging in just a few weeks earlier.

The New York Times ultimately had no choice but to take the Occupy movement seriously because it’s gained astonishing momentum in record time — the Washington Post tallied Occupy-themed protests in at least 900 cities around the world so far — and it’s become politically mainstream. According to a new Quinnipiac University poll, New York City voters say they agree with the views of the Wall Street protesters by a 67% to 23% margin. And a national Time magazine poll says that the Occupy movement is twice as popular as the Tea Party movement (with favorable ratings of 54% vs. 27%).

But it’s helpful to remember that for the Times and other big news organizations, covering Occupy just underscores the schizophrenia of media culture circa 2011. Because conglomeratized American media companies are every bit as good at overcompensating their upper ranks — while continuing to bleed the rank-and-file — as any other type of corporations.

The media oligarchy in this country is, of course, very comfortably ensconced in the so-called 1%. You may recall that a little over a year ago, a unit of the Newspaper Guild bitterly commented about the compensation The New York Times Company’s Arthur O. Sulzberger and Janet Robinson received in 2009 — a year of peak financial crisis for the conglomerate — when those figures were revealed in spring 2010 filings.

A Guild letter to the executives read: “As President and Chief Executive Officer, you, Janet, have been given a 31.8% increase in salary, bonus, and other compensation in a single year, bringing your total compensation to $6.3 million. Arthur, as board chairman and publisher of the New York Times, your total compensation more than doubled in 2009, to $6 million. The $3.7 million that your compensation increased could pay the salary of some 75 of the people that have been laid off by the company.” (Robinson’s and Sulzberger’s 2010 compensation packages were, respectively, $4.48 million and $4.75 million. Two weeks ago the Times offered a new round of buyouts to employees as it seeks to once again reduce headcount.)

Perhaps more to the point, though, is how the Times apportions is dwindling editorial resources. For instance, in attempting to compete more aggressively with the likes of Conde Nast for the attention of wealthy consumers, the paper has ramped up its coverage of ultra-conspicuous consumption. Consider a not-atypical fashion spread in the most recent edition of the paper’s T magazine showing a waifish model wearing a $6,600 Dior dress, a $7,800 Gucci coat, a $1,850 Hermes belt, a $1,000 Eddie Borgo bracelet, an $11,900 Pomellato ring and a $34,200 Patek Philippe watch, for starters. (The U.S. annual median household income was $50,046 in 2010.)

In its Oct. 8 op-ed, the Times bemoaned the “concentration of income in today’s deeply unequal society.” But that concentration of income — and the luxury brands and advertising it supports — has helped the paper stay afloat.

Oh, the wealth-hoarding 1%! You can’t live with ’em and you can’t live without ’em. Right, Arthur and Janet?







The Daily Show: End O’Potamia (Video)






It’s on: Republicans slam Elizabeth Warren for embracing Occupy Wall Street

Greg Sargent:

Wow, this is going to be good: Occupy Wall Street is now officially an issue in what may be the highest-profile and most polarizing Senate race in the country.

National Republicans are now attacking Elizabeth Warren for embracing the protests, seeking to make a liability out of the fact that Warren, a longtime critic of Wall Street excess, has now aligned herself with the movement’s intellectual underpinnings. What this means: The conservative effort to turn blue collar whites and independents against the protesters and their broader populist message — exploiting a traditional cultural fault line in our politics — will now unfold in the context of a high profile political campaign.

Warren was asked by the Daily Beast for a comment on the protests. She said: “I created much of the intellectual foundation for what they do. I support what they do.”

Now the NRSC has opened fire on Warren for the comments, blasting out an email containing links to stories about protesters in Massachusetts battling with cops. Said NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh: “Warren’s decision to not only embrace, but take credit for this movement is notable considering the Boston Police Department was recently forced to arrest at least 141 of her Occupy acolytes in Boston the other day after they threatened to tie up traffic downtown and refused to abide by their protest permit limits.”

The NRSC is also circulating that Doug Schoen Op ed painting protesters as wild-eyed extremists and arguing that Dems who embrace the protests risk driving away independents and moderates, even though it was subsequently proven that Schoen’s conclusions were not supported by his own data.

In other words, national Republicans are placing their bet. They are wagering that the cultural instincts of the working class whites and independents who will decide this race ensure that the excesses of the protesters will make them less inclined to listen to her populist economic message, which is also directed at those voters. This is an old story in American politics, of course. Conservatives have for decades been mining the tension between blue collar whites and liberal middle class activists who resort to outsized protest tactics and occasional violence. That’s why you hear conservatives constantly referring hopefully to today’s protesters as “McGovernites.”

Warren, by contrast, is making the opposite bet. By unabashedly embracing the protests, she is placing a wager on the true mood of the country right now. She’s gambling that these voters will look past the theatrics of these protests; that they will see that she and the protesters are the ones who actually have their economic interests at heart; and that they will ultimately side with Warren’s and Occupy Wall Street’s general critique of the current system and explanation for what’s gone wrong in this country.

The early polling returns suggest that there’s no evidence that ordinary working-class and middle-class voters are being alienated by the protests. It still remains to be seen where public opinion will end up on the movement and whether there’s really any hope of tying it to a broader working class constituency.

This race was already shaping up as a referendum on whether unabashed left wing populism can win back these voters — and on whether left wing populism in general is seeing a genuine and durable resurgence. If Occupy Wall Street becomes a major flashpoint in the race, the argument will get a whole lot more combustible.







ABC News: Obama’s Checklist: 60 Percent of Promises Fulfilled

President Obama has crossed off 60 percent of his 2008 campaign promises from his to-do list, he told supporters in Los Angeles Monday as he asked them to help him check off the remaining items.

“I keep a checklist in my desk, and I kind of see, all right, I made a bunch of these promises during the campaign and let me see, yes, I got that done and that one, yes.  No, that one’s not done yet. So we’ve got about 60 percent done in three years,” Obama told the crowd at the L.A. home of actors Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith. “So I’m pretty confident we can get the other 40 percent done in the next five years.”

The president listed health care reform, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and passing consumer protections among the promises that he has fulfilled.

“A lot of the things that we promised we’d do, we’ve done… we’ve made great progress, but we’ve got so much more work to do,” the president said earlier in the night at a $35,800 per person event at the home of James and Mai Lassiter.  Items left on the president’s agenda include comprehensive immigration reform, passing energy policy “that makes sense” and, of course, fixing the economy.

To check off the remaining 40 percent, the president said lawmakers will have to put politics aside. “Obviously, in Washington, the politics that I think people are hoping for is not what they’re getting.  It’s still dysfunctional, it’s still perversely partisan.  You still have folks who seem to be more interested in the short term and the party and elections than they are in the long term and the future and the next generation,” he told the small audience which included actor Will Smith and former basketball star Magic Johnson.

The president went on to promote his jobs bill and highlight the executive actions that he is taking to spur job creation, including his new housing plan intended to make it easier for homeowners to refinance their mortgages and avoid foreclosure.

The president admitted that “this election will not be as sexy as the first one,” but he called on supporters to “grind it out.”

“I’m going to keep on making the case, I’m going to keep on pushing, but I’m also going to need to know that we’ve got a strong base of support behind us that is able to amplify our message, support our message, and get out there and have the same enthusiasm, the same passion as we did the first time,” the president said.





Next Act In DC’s Kabuki Theater: House GOP Lays Trap For Obama On Jobs Plan


The House GOP has hit upon a way to undercut President Obama’s attacks on them and advance conservative policy goals all at once. This week, they’ll pass legislation that includes perhaps the least stimulative measure in President Obama’s jobs bill and pay for it with perhaps the most regressive measure in a recent package of deficit reducing proposals he submitted to the joint deficit super committee.

It’s a case study in the perils of offering concessions to your opponents before negotiations have begun. And it will force Democrats in both chambers, but particularly in the Senate, to decide whether to pass a proposal comprised of measures Obama’s backed in the past, even though they’ve been cherry picked to essentially constitute a Republican piece of legislation. If Senate Dems block the measure, Republicans will accuse them of wanting to pick political fights instead of passing Obama jobs legislation. If Dems pass the measure, and Obama signs it, the GOP can cite it as evidence that they’re not simply standing in the way of action on the economy.

The piece of the jobs bill Republicans will pass would end a requirement that the government withhold three percent of the cost of projects contracted out to private companies, to assure tax compliance. It’s a rule that Congress adopted during the Bushadministration to cut down on tax cheating by government contractors. The near-term stimulative value of repeal is questionable, according to critics, and it’s a permanent repeal — not a holiday. The Joint Committee on Taxation concluded that the requirement saves the federal government over $10 billion over 10 years that would otherwise be lost to major contractors.

The new standard on Capitol Hill, though, is that all legislation other than permanent tax cuts for wealthy people must be paid for — typically with cuts to federal programs. So Republicans have selected a provision from Obama’s deficit reduction recommendations that would limit Medicaid eligibility for people who also receive Social Security benefits.

Here’s how it works: The government uses a measure known as Modified Adjusted Gross Income to determine Medicaid eligibility. Currently, though, it only incorporates the taxable portion of Social Security income in that calculation. Under this proposal, it would factor inall Social Security benefits. That means some seniors who currently qualify for Medicaid would no longer be eligible. Doing this would save about $14.6 billion over 10 years — more than the cost of repealing the 3 percent withholding compliance measure.

In sum: make it easier for big contractors to cheat on their taxes, and covering the cost by limiting Medicaid eligibility for sick old people.

John Boehner’s staff explained it on the Speaker’s blog Monday afternoon. “Part of Republicans’ Plan for America’s Job Creators, repealing the withholding tax is also one of several proposals House leaders have highlighted as areas of common ground with the president. Not only is this bill part of the president’s jobs plan – it’s paid for with a proposal from his deficit plan.”

Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel emails, “Assuming they are sincere about doing something on jobs, there is no reason whatsoever for the White House to oppose it. In fact, we hope this bipartisan action, building on the recent passage of free trade agreements, compels the White House to work with us on further jobs legislation. There is common ground to be found between us, but getting more done will require a willing partner in the White House.”

So how can Dems say no?





Gabrielle Giffords is continuing her rehab in North Carolina





Dems call out Romney for foreclosure remarks





Police Declare “Occupy Oakland” A “Crime Scene”






Because “we can’t wait,” the Obama admin today announced an effort to help vets get jobs in the health care industry. 




BREAKING: Perry spokesman demands Romney release tax returns 


An aide to Texas Gov. Rick Perry called on Perry’s main rival, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, to make public his tax returns, something Romney has steadily refused to do.

“Governor Perry has always released his tax returns and Mitt Romney and the other candidates should do the same,” Perry spokesman Mark Miner told POLITICO.

But Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom said his candidate wouldn’t even consider releasing them until next spring.

“We’ll take a look at the question of releasing tax returns during the next tax filing season,” he said.

Perry regularly releases his tax returns, most recently last Friday. They showed that he and his wife paid $51,000 in federal taxes on $217,447 in adjusted gross income in 2010.

Romney has come under fire in the past for failing to release his tax returns in a series of political campaigns, beginning with his 1994 race against Sen. Ted Kennedy, when he called on Kennedy to release his own returns. Neither man did, and Romney has since revealed only the required outlines of complex holdings valued at more than $190 million.

“It’s time the biggest-taxing senator in Washington shows the people of Massachusetts how much he pays in taxes,” Romney said that April. “Romney said he would disclose his own state and federal taxes for the last three years ‘on the very day that Kennedy turns over his taxes for public scrutiny.”

The liberal site ThinkProgress has speculated that Romney is avoiding releasing his tax returns because he could become a poster child for the “Buffett Rule,” President Barack Obama’s plan to require that wealthy investors pay the same share of their income in taxes as do middle-income salaried employees.

Fehrnstrom didn’t offer a defense of Romney’s position but attacked Perry on an unrelated transparency issue.

“The Perry campaign is in no position to lecture anyone on disclosure,” he said. “They have been stonewalling on releasing the most basic records involving taxpayer-funded spending in Texas as it relates to Governor Perry’s travel records. Governor Perry should immediately release these public documents.”




Fear, American Style: What Anarchist, Libertarian Don’t Get about USA

Corey Robin:

[…] While people on the left and the right often focus on state repression—coercion and intimidation that comes from and is wielded by the government (politically driven prosecution and punishment, police violence, and the like)—the fact is that a great deal of political repression happens in civil society, outside the state.  More specifically, in the workplace.

Think about McCarthyism. We all remember the McCarthy hearings in the Senate, the Rosenbergs, HUAC, and so on. All of these incidents involve the state. But guess how many people ever went to prison for their political beliefs during the McCarthy era? Less than 200 people. In the grand scheme of things, not a lot. Guess how many workers were investigated or subjected to surveillance for their beliefs?  One to two out of every five. And while we don’t have exact statistics on how many of those workers were fired, it was somewhere between 10 and 15 thousand.

There’s a reason so much of American repression is executed not by the state but by the private sector: the government is subject to constitutional and legal restraints, however imperfect and patchy they may be. But an employer often is not.  The Bill of Rights, as any union organizer will tell you, does not apply to the workplace.  The federal government can’t convict and imprison you simply and transparently for your political speech; if it does, it has to paint that speech as something other than speech (incitement, say) or as somehow involved in or contributing to a crime (material support for terrorism, say). A newspaper—like any private employer in a non-union workplace—can fire you, simply and transparently, for your political speech, without any due process.

On this blog, I’ve talked a lot about what I call in The Reactionary Mind “the private life of power”: the domination and control we experience in our personal lives at the hands of employers, spouses, and so on. But we should always recall that that private life of power is often wielded for overtly political purposes: not simply for the benefit of an employer but also for the sake of maintaining larger political orthodoxies and suppressing political heresies. That was true during McCarthyism, in the 1960s, and today as well.

It was also true in the 19th century. Tocqueville noticed it while he was traveling here in the 1830s. Stopping off in Baltimore, he had a chat with a physician there. Tocqueville asked him why so many Americans pretended they were religious when they obviously had “numerous doubts on the subject of dogma.” The doctor replied that the clergy had a lot of power in America, as in Europe. But where the European clergy often acted through or with the help of the state, their American counterparts worked through the making and breaking of private careers.

If a minister, known for his piety, should declare that in his opinion a certain man was an unbeliever, the man’s career would almost certainly be broken. Another example: A doctor is skilful, but has no faith in the Christian religion. However, thanks to his abilities, he obtains a fine practice. No sooner is he introduced into the house than a zealous Christian, a minister or someone else, comes to see the father of the house and says: look out for this man. He will perhaps cure your children, but he will seduce your daughters, or your wife, he is an unbeliever. There, on the other hand, is Mr. So-and-So. As good a doctor as this man, he is at the same time religious. Believe me, trust the health of your family to him. Such counsel is almost always followed.

After the Civil War, black Americans in the South became active political agents, mobilizing and agitating for education, political power, economic opportunity, and more. From the very beginning, they were attacked by white supremacists and unreconstructed former slaveholders. Often with the most terrible means of violence. But as W.E.B. DuBois pointed out in his magisterial Black Reconstruction, one of the most effective means of suppressing black citizens was through the workplace.

The decisive influence was the systematic and overwhelming economic pressure. Negroes who wanted work must not dabble in politics. Negroes who wanted to increase their income must not agitate the Negro problem. Positions of influence were only open to those Negroes who were certified as being ‘safe and sane,’ and their careers were closely scrutinized and passed upon. From 1880 onward, in order to earn a living, the American Negro was compelled to give up his political power.

In the last few months, I’ve had a fair number of arguments with both libertarians and anarchists about the state. What neither crew seems to get is what our most acute observers have long understood about the American scene: however much coercive power the state wields–and it’s considerable—it’s not, in the end, where and how many, perhaps even most, people in the United States have historically experienced the raw end of politically repressive power. Even force and violence: just think of black slaves and their descendants, confronting slaveholders, overseers, slave catchers, Klansmen, chain gangs, and more; or women confronting the violence of their husbands and supervisors; or workers confronting the Pinkertons and other private armies of capital.

Update (1:45 pm)

Just got off the phone with my wife, who reminded me of this amazing quote from Leslie Gelb. Gelb, who was once the epitome of what used to be called the Establishment (Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the New York Times; former State and Defense Department official; former president of the Council on Foreign Relations), supported the Iraq War. Later, after the disaster of that war became plain, he explained why he  had initially lent his name to the cause:

My initial support for the war was symptomatic of unfortunate tendencies within the foreign policy community, namely the disposition and incentives to support wars to retain political and professional credibility. We ‘experts’ have a lot to fix about ourselves, even as we ‘perfect’ the media. We must redouble our commitment to independent thought, and embrace, rather than cast aside, opinions and facts that blow the common—often wrong—wisdom apart. Our democracy requires nothing less.

“To retain political and professional credibility.” We have another word for that: careerism. […]

Yet what Gelb’s quote suggests—a while back I wrote a piece for the  that went into this in some greater depth, with more evidence from the Iraq War—is that the real bias one sees in mainstream reporting doesn’t come from one’s involvement in outside political activities. It comes from the desire to do one’s job in accordance with the strictures of one’s supervisors and peers, for fear that should you break ranks, you’ll be fired or somehow blackballed from the profession. Most of the time, that internal policeman will keep you in line. But should he fall asleep on the job, the company’s real police will there to toss you out on your ass. Again, Fear, American Style: the state, bound by the First Amendment, does nothing; editors do the job instead.




Why Mitt Romney’s Medicaid cuts are even more draconian than Paul Ryan’s 


Medicaid, which is funded jointly by the states and the federal government, provides health coverage to approximately 53 million lower income Americans. The federal government matches state spending on a per-claim basis and pays a percentage of each state’s Medicaid costs (anywhere between 50 and 75 percent). Conservatives like House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan and the GOP presidential contenders have proposed reducing the federal government’s commitment to the program by block granting Medicaid and paying states pre-established grants that may not reflect actual costs. The reduction in federal spending would require states to either appropriate additional funding towards Medicaid or lower program expenditures by cutting provider payment rates, limiting eligibility, and reducing benefits, the CBO has concluded.

Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) has endorsed Ryan’s block grant proposal, and yesterday, during a radio interview with Sean Hannity, he revealed that his cuts to Medicaid could be even more draconian than Ryan’s. Ryan already aims to shrink the federal government’s contribution to Medicaid by 35 percent in 2022, converting the existing federal matching rate for each state into a block grant and growing the grant by approximately 3 percent annually (as compared to the estimated 6.5 percent to 7 percent annual growth* in federal expenditures that would occur under current law). Romney told Hannity that he would grow his Medicaid block grants by just 1 to 2 percent per year:

ROMNEY: It’s mathematically pretty straight forward how you hold down costs, which is you say, we’re going to cut it by a certain amount and then comes the hard work of saying where you’re going to cut it. And that why I’ve laid out a plan that balances our budget…taking Medicaid and giving it back to the states and growing it only 1 to 2 percent a year.

Comparatively, Romney’s reductions would result in even steeper cuts that would affect tens of millions of low-income Medicaid beneficiaries — seniors in nursing homes, people with disabilities, children — for whom the program has become a critical source of coverage. A very rough back-of-the envelope calculation using the CBO’s projected federal Medicaid expenditures for 2012 as a baseline (and then growing that number by 1.5 percent annually through 2021) demonstrates the sheer magnitude of Rommey’s cuts as compared to current law and Ryan’s plan. The results show that Romney could reduce the size of the program by more than 40 percent over that period:

 Via Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), this percentage normalizes the growth rate to take out the effects of 2014.





Bills introduced by the 112th Republican Congress:





POLL: 43% of Americans agree with views of Occupy Wall Street, 27% disagree 

[…] Young and left-leaning Americans were more likely to agree with the movement than were their older and more conservative counterparts. Half of Americans ages 18-29 say they agree with the movement; just one in three Americans age 65 or older say the same. And two thirds of liberals say they agree with “Occupy Wall Street” compared with just one in four conservatives.

Americans with at least some college education are more likely to agree with the movement than those with less education. Nearly half of those with at least some college education say they agree with “Occupy Wall Street”; among those who did not attend college, that figure drops to 37 percent.

Seven in ten Americans say they have heard or read at least something about “Occupy Wall Street.

While there are different agendas within the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, nearly all of the protesters say that wealth has become too concentrated among a relatively small group of Americans. The poll found that most Americans agree with that assessment: Two in three say that wealth is not distributed as equitably as it should be, while just one in four says wealth is distributed fairly.

Republicans were far more likely than Democrats or independents to say the current distribution of income is fair. Fifty-five percent of Republicans say the current distribution is fair, compared to just seven percent of Democrats; 86 percent of Democrats, 67 percent of independents and 36 percent of Republicans say wealth should be distributed more evenly.

Forty-six percent of Americans say “Occupy Wall Street” represents the views of most Americans, compared to 34 percent who say it does not. Asked specifically what they think about “Occupy Wall Street” as a movement – as opposed to the ideas behind it – Americans were more reticent to offer an opinion: 25 percent said they had a favorable impression of the movement, 20 percent said they have an unfavorable impression, and 53 percent said they were undecided or haven’t heard enough.





 Obama: “26-point decline in two months” among under 30 voters.

Democracy Corps:


The latest national survey by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner for Democracy Corps reveals an intensely anti-establishment, anti-Washington, anti-Wall Street moment.[1] Three-quarters of all voters say the country is on the wrong track; just 15 percent believe we are heading in the right direction—the lowest optimism since the crash and down 13 points since June.  Negative ratings of the economy are up 5 points since last month and now equal what they were during the height of the economic crisis.

It is angry and ugly out there, reflected in dramatic pull-back from the political and economic establishment: Washington, Wall Street, and politicians of both parties receive negative ratings across the board, hitting bottom with the Republican Congress.  Nearly 60 percent of voters give Wall Street a negative rating.  The President’s approval rating has dropped to 40 percent—the lowest in our tracking.  But voters have pulled back more sharply from the Republicans; two-thirds now disapprove of the Republican Congress, almost half (48 percent) disapprove strongly.

 Key Findings

– Voters are intensely frustrated with an intractably stagnant economy. The state of the economy rates coolest of all, with nearly 80 percent of all voters giving the economy a cool rating.

– Voters are frustrated with the economy but unreservedly angry with the political and economic establishment that cannot fix it.  On our thermometer scale, voters have pulled back sharply from the president and both parties in Congress.  They reserve much anger for Republicans in Congress but save the bulk of their anger for Wall Street and its banks and financial institutions.  Fewer than 20 percent of voters give them a positive rating and almost 60 percent give them a negative rating.

– The presidential ballot is even.  While Obama has improved his standing among independent voters, the biggest pull-back from Barack Obama has come from his base—mostly young people and minorities.

– Republicans in Congress are being held accountable for the mess in Washington.  Less than a year after they made big election gains, voters have pulled back sharply.

It’s Cold Out there.

On our thermometer scale, voters give chilly ratings all around.  Everyone has dropped substantially, but support for the Republican Congress has completely disintegrated.  More than half of all voters give these Republicans a negative rating, with a mean rating under 40 degrees.  With House Republicans getting a remarkable 65 percent disapproval, the race for Congress is now dead even, after Republicans won by 8 points in 2010.

To be sure, Democrats do not fare much better—mean thermometer ratings for both Democrats in Congress and the Democratic Party have dropped 2 points since August.  But perhaps it is a luxury to be party out of power.  Across the board, Republicans are taking a much bigger hit from voters—with the both the Republican Party and its major figures rating lower than the Democratic Party and its leaders.   Importantly, voters in Democratic districts do not find their incumbents as culpable for the mess as voters in Republican-held districts.  As a result, the mean thermometer rating for Democratic incumbents has increased slightly, while Republican incumbents have dropped an average of 5 points.

Economy in the driver’s seat

In regression analysis modeling, which party is better able to handle the economy and which party has the right approach to jobs were strong predictors of the congressional vote.  Republicans hold an advantage on the former; the parties are essentially even on the latter.  With judgments about the Republican Congress in sharp decline, the economy is clearly holding back Democrats from moving into the lead.

The biggest shift against the Republicans has come from independents, who are increasingly turned off by what they see and hear out of Washington.  According to exit polls, Republicans won independents last November by a 19-point margin.  Their advantage had narrowed to 17 points in August.  Strikingly, Republicans are now winning independents by just 7 points. Seniors have also pulled back from these Republicans in big numbers.  In last November’s exit polls, Republicans won seniors by a 21-point margin.  This advantage has completely disappeared, with the vote among seniors now basically even (45-46.)

President Obama losing ground in his broad base

Even as the Republican Congress has taken the biggest hit, the President is not immune from voters’ anger.  Voters have registered their anger with Obama as economic conditions and outlook have declined, and as he is seen as increasingly unable to affect positive change.  His approval is down 5 points since August, and now stands at 40 percent (with 53 percent saying they disapprove of the way he is handling his job as president.)

The biggest drop-off has come among his broad base—79 percent of Democrats now say they approve of the President’s job performance, the lowest in our tracking.  The biggest decline has come from young people and minorities.  Among minority voters, 63 percent now say they approve of the president’s job performance, the lowest in our tracking.  More significant is the drop-off among young people, who voted for the president by huge margins in 2008.  Less than 40 percent of young people (under age 30) now say they approve of the President’s performance, 54 percent disapprove.  This is a significant drop since August when a majority of young voters (52 percent) approved of the way the president was handling his job, 42 percent disapproved.  That is a net 26-point decline in two months.

The President is in a competitive race because Mitt Romney remains an unattractive alternative for many voters.  Romney is stuck at 45 percent on the vote –virtually unchanged all year.  He is not popular, and his personal ratings are not improving.  His mean thermometer rating is at just 43.1 degrees, the lowest since we began tracking. As the only Republican who seems to have any staying power, for now, voters are left with this choice.  As a result, more people are volunteering they will vote for a third party candidate for President.

Seniors, who gave Romney an advantage in August, have begun to desert the Republican front-runner, who is now losing these voters by a 3-point margin. More dramatically, Romney was winning 52 percent of independent voters in August; he is now at 45 percent with this key bloc.  His biggest drop has come among independent women—who swung for Romney by a 22-point margin in August.  Obama is now winning independent women by 2 points.

But Obama is also at 45 percent—winning only 85 percent of those who voted for him in 2008.  More significant is the bloc of voters who now withhold support from both candidates.  Since August, the number of voters volunteering that they will vote for neither Obama nor Romney has doubled.

This is clearly an anti-Washington, anti-Wall Street moment, highlighted by the recent Occupy Wall Street/Occupy Washington protests.  Voters are rapidly losing their faith in both to turn things around.  And recent news out of Washington does not bode well for anyone in the establishment.





Growing chasm between GOP politicians & GOP voters:

Steve Benen:

[…] In the existing political landscape, the real problem is not with GOP voters; it’s with GOP policymakers. This isn’t to let the party’s supporters off the hook entirely — they’re the ones who supported and elected the officeholders — but it’s hard to overstate how much more constructive the political process would be if Republican lawmakers in any way reflected the priorities of their own supporters.

Last week, a national poll found that Republican voters broadly support the Democratic jobs agenda — a payroll tax cut, jobs forteachers/first responders, infrastructure investments, and increased taxes on millionaires and billionaires — in some cases by wide margins. This week, Tim Noah noticed this observation can be applied even further.

I’m liking rank-and-file Republicans better and better. Earlier this month we learned that they favor Obama’s plan to tax the rich. Now we learn that a 55 percent majority of them think Wall Street bankers and brokers are “dishonest,” 69 percent think they’re “overpaid,” and 72 percent think they’re “greedy.” Fewer than half (47 percent) have an unfavorable view of the Occupy Wall Street protests. Thirty-three percent either favor them or have no opinion, and 20 percent haven’t heard of them. Also, a majority favor getting rid of the Electoral College and replacing it with a popular vote. After the 2000 election only 41 percent did. Now 53 percent do. How cool is that?

Every one of these positions puts the GOP rank-and-file at odds with their congressional leadership and field of presidential candidates.

I don’t want to exaggerate this too much. The fact remains that the Republican Party is dominated by conservative voters, especially those who participate in primaries and caucuses. I’m not suggesting for a moment that the party’s rank-and-file members are moving to the left.

But the recent poll results are also hard to miss — many if not most GOP voters are perfectly comfortable with plenty of progressive ideas, including tax increases on millionaires and billionaires. It’s starting to look like the party’s rank and file is made up of mainstream conservatives who want their party to help move the country forward.

And yet, when we look to Republican officials in Washington, how many GOP members of Congress are willing to endorse any of these popular measures? Zero. Literally, not even one Republican lawmaker has offered even tacit support for ideas that most GOP voters actually like. In the Senate, a united Republican caucus won’t even allow a vote — won’t even allow a debate — on popular job-creation ideas during a jobs crisis.

If the actions of GOP lawmakers in any way resembled the wishes of GOP voters, our political system wouldn’t be nearly as dysfunctional as it is now.

Congratulations, congressional Republicans. You’re far more extreme than your own supporters.





Cain Leads Romney in National Poll

Herman Cain holds a narrow lead over Mitt Romney in the Republican presidential race, according to a CBS/New York Times poll released Tuesday. But the race remains in flux with only 19 percent of GOP primary voters saying they have fully decided on a candidate.

Cain, the former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza, attracts 25 percent support from Republican primary voters while the former Massachusetts governor garners 21 percent. In a CBS News pollreleased earlier this month, both candidates ran neck-and-neck with 17 percent. Cain’s surge can be attributed in part to increased Tea Party support: 32 percent of those who identify with the movement back him compared to 18 percent in the last poll. Romney also received a bump in Tea Party support, up to 18 percent from 12 percent. ]…]

Perry lost five points in Tea Party support since the last CBS poll and has seen his numbers sharply decline since a CBS/New York Times poll released in mid-September, when he led the field with 23 percent. At that time, he was backed by 30 percent of Tea Partiers.

The poll was conducted after the candidates — minus Huntsman — faced off in a CNN debate last week in Las Vegas.

The survey also found that about eight in 10 primary voters have yet to make up their minds on a candidate. But Republicans are tuning in to the 2012 contest: 78 percent say they are closely following the campaigns.






The only solid conclusion from this new poll is that the GOP presidential race is still wide open

A new New York Times/CBS News poll finds Herman Cain leading Mitt Romney nationally among Republicans, 25% to 21%, with Newt Gingrich at 10%, Ron Paul at 8% and Rick Perry at 6%.

However, of those likely Republican primary voters who expressed a choice in the election matchup, 80% said they had not fully made up their mind.




Poll: Ohio’s law curbing pub employee bargaining is headed for big defeat. Repeal backed 57%-32% 






Beware of Gallup spin


I’m one that believes there can be some validity to polling at certain times and on specific issues. But it pays to keep a vigilant eye on things rather than just swallow all polling numbers whole.

As an example, I was a bit surprised to see this title to a new Gallup poll: Gov’t Regulations Top Small Business Owners Problem List.

We all know that the Republican’s answer to unemployment is to basically get rid of all government regulations. But we also know from sources as diverse as the Economic Policy Institute and the National Federation of Independent Businesses that government regulations are not the problem – its all about lack of demand. 

So how does Gallup come up with that kind of result from small businesses? I took a look at the data. First of all the headline highlighted an open-ended question “What do you think is the most important problem facing smallbusiness owners like you today?” How they grouped the answers was interesting. “Complying with government regulations” got a whopping 22%. But right behind it were “Consumer confidence” at 15% and “Lack of consumer demand” at 12%. Down the list a ways was “Lack of jobs” (which leads to lack of demand) at 4%. If they’d combined all of those it would come in at 31% outpacing regulations.

But it gets even more interesting. Buried in the article is a much more direct question about the contributors to unemployment: “Thinking ahead to 2012, what would be a primary motivation or reason for hiring any new employees?” The number one answer weighing in at 27% is “When revenues or sales have increased.”

Its interesting to note that question didn’t lead to a headline for Gallup. Could it be that the poll itself was looking for the headline they found? And could that be related to the fact that the poll is listed as coming from the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index? Perhaps a too big to failsmall business (cough-cough) like Wells Fargo has an agenda here.






SPECIAL REPORT: Out-of-State Corporate Money Floods Ohio Battle Over Anti-Collective Bargaining Bill 


[…] A Truthout investigation into the political machine defending Kasich and Senate Bill 5, however, reveals how private interests can silently support the controversial legislation through groups like the RGA that funnel corporate cash into state campaigns to promote a broader agenda focused on weakening public-sector unions and privatizing state services.

Money raised across the country is paying for the television advertisements for both sides of Issue 2, mirroring the changing landscape of elections across the country. The Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling on Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission and subsequent rulings opened the doors for corporations and unions to directly spend unlimited amounts on political advocacy and electioneering, which allowed the now infamous “Super PACs” (political action committee) like Karl Rove’s American Crossroads to spend millions on campaign ads benefiting Republican candidates in 2010. Governor Kasich was one such candidate. A former Lehman Brothers banker, Fox News personality and American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) alumni, Kasich’s campaign enjoyed support from private interests nationwide.

Fueled in part by a $1 million donation from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. that matched a $1 million donation by conservative billionaire David Koch of Koch brothers fame,  the RGA spent millions of dollars on TV ads and mailers to help elect Kasich and Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin. Both governors quickly turned around and pushed legislation targeting public-sector workers that inspired massive protests in Madison and the ongoing veto effort in Ohio.

The RGA spent more than $11 million supporting Kasich and called itself a “key investor” in his victory. With Kasich’s approval rating hovering around 40 percent and his landmark Senate Bill 5 up for a citizens’ referendum, the RGA has once again swooped into Ohio to protect its investment.

The RGA is using Make Ohio Great, a nonprofit group, to run ads featuring Kasich discussing elements of Senate Bill 5, without explicitly mentioning the ballot initiative. This ensures that the group can avoid revealing its finances to state officials. Make Ohio Great and the RGA share the same address in Washington, DC, but the RGA is also keeping its finances in the dark.

Building a Better Ohio has told reporters it will identify its donors, but not donation amounts, in late October, but if major donors are its own corporate nonprofit, front groups like Make Ohio Great and the nonprofit front for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, which pledged to defend Senate Bill 5, then voters will know next to nothing about who is funding the Republican campaign. Neither the RGA nor Building a Better Ohio responded to several requests for comment from Truthout.

According to its own records of Ohio’s media markets, We Are Ohio told media outlets earlier this month that Building a Better Ohio and Make Ohio Great spent $2.8 million and $1.2 million on television ads respectively. We Are Ohio outspent both with $5.4 million, but a spokesperson told Truthout to “expect to see the floodgates open up from out-of-state special interests as we get closer and closer to election day.”

Ohio law requires private companies to report contributions to electioneering groups and five big Ohio businesses have reported giving a total of $235,000 to Building a Better Ohio. The source of the rest of the funding for the RGA’s and Building a Better Ohio’s campaigning remain a mystery. By examining records from the campaign to elect Governor Kasich, however, it’s possible to shine a light on the silent defenders of his controversial legislation.


Kasich is an alumnus of ALEC, a group that brings together state legislators and corporate leaders from companies like Bayer, Pfizer, Wal-Mart, Exxon-Mobile and Koch Industries to draft model bills for state legislators seeking to advance a conservative, pro-business agenda. The Center for Media and Democracy recently exposed 800 ALEC model bills, revealing an effort to weaken unions, cut environmental regulations and privatize state services. Kasich and Republican legislators that supported Senate Bill 5 received $563,000 in campaign contributions from ALEC corporations in 2010, according to watchdog group Common Cause, but that number is much bigger when factoring in the RGA.

Consider the Coca-Cola Company and Wal-Mart. Both are ALEC members with a record of opposing unions. During the 2010 election, Coca-Cola donated $7,000 directly to Kasich’s campaign and $10,000 to his transition fund, but the company contributed $75,000 to the RGA. Wal-Mart didn’t give Kasich’s campaign any money, but donated $90,000 to the RGA. According to electioneering records, the RGA used the contributions to pay Strategic Perceptions and Target Enterprises, two media placement companies, for services and attack ads against Democratic incumbent Gov. Ted Strickland.

Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart joined dozens of other private companies from far beyond Ohio in contributing a total of $5 million to a media campaign attacking Strickland and supporting Kasich, according to campaign records. Nearly $950,000 came from more than two dozen private health care companies, ranging from pharmaceutical firms to companies offering hospice services to “employee health assistance” companies. Many of the donations ranged from $10,000 to $50,000, but ALEC member Pfizer gave $75,000 and Endo Pharmaceuticals gave $90,000.

Most of these health care companies do business outside of Ohio, so why did they help the RGA attack a Democratic governor there? According to We Are Ohio spokesperson Melissa Fazekas, both Kasich and Senate Bill 5 fit into a broader agenda.

“Senate Bill 5 makes it easier for state services to be privatized,” Fazekas told Truthout. “It keeps public employees from being able to come to the table and talk about the privatization of services, even if they could continue to do the job cheaper than a private industry … Gov. Kasich has already wanted to privatize prisons, the turnpike and the lottery. There is no reason not to believe this trend won’t continue.”







Nurses’ Union Condemns Rahm Emanuel for Chicago’s Arrest of Nurse Volunteers With Protester





Reminder out of Ohio this morning: Romney will never be nominated for a Profile in Courage award 

Steve Benen:

[…] A successful repeal effort would be a triumph for unions, who began collecting petition signatures soon after Kasich signed the bill into law in March. Progressive activists quickly formed We Are Ohio and turned in nearly 1.3 million signatures to force the issue onto the November ballot. Kasich is trying to rally support for his SB5 law, but it’s not working — not only does the public oppose the attack on collective bargaining rights, but the governor’s own approval rating has slipped further to 36%.

Mitt Romney, meanwhile, stopped by a Republican campaign office in the state this morning to lend his support — sort of.

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney made a 45-minute visit to a Terrace Park Republican phone bank operation this morning, where volunteers have been making thousands of phone calls to voters urging yes votes on state issues 2 and 3.

But Romney, who would not speak to the media, told Ohio Republican Party chairman Kevin DeWine as he left the building on Wooster Pike in Terrace Park that he was not endorsing either Issue 2 — which would repeal the GOP backed bill that limit collective bargaining for public employees, or Issue 3, which would allow Ohioans to opt out of the mandatory health care coverage portion of the health care law passed by Democrats in Congress last year.

“I’m not saying anything one way or the other about the two ballot issues,” Romney told DeWine. “But I am supportive of the Republican party’s efforts here.”

CNN’s Peter Hamby called it an “incredible moment,” and that seems like a fair description.

Think about what transpired: the Republican presidential frontrunner visited with a Republican phone bank to offer support for the Republican campaign to curtail collective bargaining rights. But Romney refuses to take a position on the issue? He’s “supportive” of their efforts, but he won’t say whether or not he agrees with their efforts?


Putting aside party and ideology, it’s hard to shake the realization that Mitt Romney lacks a certain political courage. He’s so desperate to calculate how every decision might affect his ambitions that he struggles to remember what he believes, and either ends up cowardly ducking issues or taking both sides of nearly every fight. It can be hard to watch, and even harder to respect.





Ouch! Club for Growth absolutely blisters Mitt Romney for failing to take position on Ohio labor fight: 





In Karl Rove’s memo about stopping jobs bill, note the part about government workers in unions

New York Magazine:

Karl Rove’s organization American Crossroads, which functions as a kind of privately run Republican Party organization, has a memo laying out how the party ought to oppose President Obama’s jobs bill. It’s a telling window into the contours of the jobs debate. The specifics of Obama’s proposal are all highly popular, and the Republican challenge is to oppose it anyway. The memo offers a fascinating look at the mechanisms of political spin in general, and the particular dilemma of the Republican Party as it blocks economic action in the face of crisis.

The key fact to understand about the bill, delicately left unmentioned by the American Crossroads memo, is that Americans want to do all the things Obama proposes. By a twenty-point margin, they favor funding new road construction and a payroll tax cut. By a 30-point margin, they agree with higher taxes on the rich to cut the long-term deficit. They supporthelping stave off layoffs of police officers, firefighters, and teachers by a 50-point margin. How do you fight that?

You redefine the issue as a generalization. People don’t like firing police officers and teachers? Fine, just call them “union workers”:

Similarly, 70% of respondents initially favor Obama’s proposal to “give billions to states to stop layoffs of teachers and firefighters.” But when the same idea is described as “giv[ing] billions to states to keep government union workers on the payroll,” 52% turn against the idea.

Likewise, people may like payroll tax cuts and spending money to build roads, but they don’t like “stimulus”:

Fully 64% of respondents, including 70% of ticket-splitters, agree that: “The new stimulus bill is nearly identical to President Obama’s first stimulus, which spent $830 billion, yet the unemployment rate went up, so we don’t need to waste even more money.”

You can see the method here. Most people pay little attention to policy details. The logic that Obama passed a stimulus and the economy still stinks, therefore the stimulus failed, is highly intuitive. Arguments that the stimulus prevented a deeper crisis are not.

Another crude heuristic voters use in place of detailed analysis is partisanship. When one party is unanimously opposed to something, and the other party is disagreeing about it, many people figure it’s a bad idea. This was an insight Mitch McConnell grasped from the outset of Obama’s presidency, announcing that unified Republican opposition would help make the president’s policies unpopular. Accordingly, AmericanCrossroads finds that the mere fact of Republican unanimity, and Democratic lack thereof, ranks among its most persuasive arguments against the bill:

56% of respondents, including 60% of self-described ticket-splitters (which we analyze because their views are less defined by partisan identity), agree with the statement: “Since both Republicans and Democrats are concerned [about the bill], this probably is not a good economic plan.”

And finally, the memo recommends the old-fashioned technique of straight-up lying. In this case, the lie is that Obama would raise taxes right away:

67% of respondents agree, and just 29% disagree, with the view: “President Clinton has said he doesn’t ‘believe we should be raising taxes … until we get this economy off the ground.’” Not only does Clinton’s position perform well, it reemphasizes the bipartisan concern about Obama’s economic agenda and where it’s taking us.

In reality, Obama’s proposal cuts taxes through 2012, does not increase taxes at all before2013. But, really, what does that matter? The American Crossroads memo is the latest and most explicit account of the political theory that has guided the Republican Party throughout the Obama era. Politicians have long trembled before public opinion, but the Republicans have come to understand how ill-formed and malleable public opinion can be, especially on economic policy issues. Most voters, and especially most swing voters, simply don’t know enough about the issues for their opinion to have any political weight.

The American Crossroads memo is a useful road map to the rhetoric Republicans will be using against the American Jobs Act for the next year. It’s a testament to to conviction that almost no position in economic policy is too unpopular to be successfully defended.







Taxpayer-Funded ‘Crisis Pregnancy Centers’ Tell Jewish Woman To Convert To Christianity Or Go To Hell 

Think Progress:

As ThinkProgress has reported, so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” that claim to help women in need are actually established by anti-abortion activists with the sole objective of shaming women out of having abortions. Despite receiving federal and state funding, they have a history of preying on and misleading pregnant women who are seeking abortions and giving them false medical information to dissuade them from making their own decisions.

After a year-long investigation, a new report to be released today by the pro-choice group NARAL reveals that those problems plague the vast majority of North Carolina’s crisis pregnancy centers. In addition to providing false medical information, many of the centers actively proselytize and tell women of non-Christian faiths to convert or face damnation:

In recent years, NARAL Pro-Choice state chapters have conducted investigations into the pregnancy clinics in New York, California, Maryland, Texas and Virginia, reaching the same general conclusions. Over the past year, the North Carolina office of the organization embarked on an identical investigation, studying the centers’ websites and other material, and sending staff and volunteers posing as pregnant women or couples into the clinics. […]

NARAL says it found the majority of the centers it investigated in North Carolina had no medical professionals on staff, and only a quarter of them disclosed they were not medical facilities. More than two-thirds provided distorted or false information about abortion risks and consequences.

The report says one Jewish investigator who posed as a pregnant woman was told at five centers she wouldn’t go to heaven unless she converted to Christianity, and that one volunteer challenged her to become a “born-again virgin.”

The number of centers in North Carolina has nearly doubled since 2006, and there are eight times as many of them as there are abortion clinics. Carey Pope, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, said the group’s investigators found numerous instanceswhere crisis pregnancy centers were misinforming and misleading women. “Staff and volunteers often use propaganda to dissuade women from abortions,” she said.

North Carolina’s GOP lawmakers have flooded these anti-abortion centers with taxpayer money while defunding Planned Parenthood and taking money away from legitimate family planning centers that provide medical services. Two new state laws will drive even more funding and patients their way. Money from sales of the new “Choose Life” license plates will go to the centers, and starting this Wednesday, a state-run website will launch and list the places that provide free ultrasounds.

Yet while receiving this government largesse, crisis pregnancy centers are not subjected to regular inspections like abortion clinics and often avoid any scrutiny of their practices, which openly flout the line between religious advocacy and medical counseling.

In 2006, a congressional investigation found the “vast majority” of federally funded centers provided false or misleading information, often suggesting that there are links between abortion and breast cancer, infertility and mental illness.




Giant Lego Man washes ashore in Florida

Boing Boing:

Boing Boing reader Jeff Hindman says he chanced across a “giant Legoman washed ashore” today while strolling on the beach at Siesta Key Village, Fla.

“It is very big, about 8 ft. tall,” Hindman said. ” … I worked with Lego in my younger days, but this piece is amazing, it’s still there on the beach.”

A photo of the creature shows it beached on a sandbank, in otherwise good condition. On its chest is the message, “No real than you are.”

This suggests it has the same origin as Lego men who washed ashore in Zandvoort, Holland,three years ago, and then in Brighton, England.


Further searching reveals the homepage of Ego Leonard.

My name is Ego Leonard and according to you I come from the virtual world. A world that for me represents happiness, solidarity, all green and blossoming, with no rules or limitations.

Lately however, my world has been flooded with fortune-hunters and people drunk with power. And many new encounters in the virtual world have triggered my curiosity about your way of life.

I am here to discover and learn about your world and thoughts.

Show me all the beautiful things that are there to admire and experience in your world. Let’s become friends, share your story with me, take me with you on a journey through beautiful meadows, words, sounds and gestures.

Has this Lego man been afloat for years on a translatlantic journey?







Protest Against Keystone XL Pipeline Planned For November 6th

Tar Sands Action, an environmental group fighting against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is releasing a new ad campaign in the run-up to a planned DC protest scheduled for November 6th.

The ads, which call on the president to stop development of the pipeline, will appear in the print editions of the New York Times and Washington Post as well as at online media outlets such as and

The ad comes as environmentalists are questioning the recent hiring of a former lobbyist for the Keystone XL project, Broderick Johnson, as a top Obama campaign adviser.

“The President is at a major crossroads in his presidency,” said Bill McKibben, who is leading protests against the pipeline. “The Keystone XL pipeline was pushed through by the worst kind of political cronyism, exactly the kind of thing President Obama promised to stamp out in Washington. The American people deserve better.”






Sign Here!

Investigate ClarenceThomas ethics violations 

Pat Buchanan just went on white supremacist radio – where he belongs. Tell MSNBC to fire him now: 

Twelve Pretty Racist Or Just Crazy Quotes From Pat Buchanan’s New Book

[…] Also from the chapter, “The End Of White America”:

Those who believe the rise to power of an Obama rainbow coalition of peoples of color means the whites who helped to engineer it will steer it are deluding themselves. The whites may discover what it is like to ride in the back of the bus.



Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. – John F. Kennedy, 1962 

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“Of all the men that have run for president in the twentieth century, only George McGovern truly understood what a monument America could be to the human race.”
Hunter S. Thompson


Pat Buchanan

“Obama’s White House thus enlisted in the long and successful campaign to expel Christianity from the public square, diminish its presence in our public life, and reduce its role to that of just another religion.”

Christianity is not a religion, it is a group of believing Christians of different faiths and it includes all people who believe. Since when did Christianity become a religion?

I love how this guy would be considered a pundit worthy of a paycheck from MSNBC when he cannot even think critically or relay that critical thinking to paper and pen.


Actually my response to Christianity being “reduced” to just another religion was, “and???????”



Mine too, to a certain degree. I am more against certain denominations rather than Christianity as a whole. But I also have an open mind to learn about alot of religions and belief systems.


There are about 40 different religions in the world and Christianity IS just another religion among them all. This is one thing I hate about so many in America, that they think Christianity is the only valid religion.


“Christianity is not a religion, it is a group of believing Christians of different faiths and it includes all people who believe.” Huh? Christianity IS a religion, just with several different sects. They are really only separated by different interpretations and dogmas, but all worship Jesus Christ.


so many great articles today. It just took me an hour to get through them all. I was pretty incensed about NARAL. All the Dems in congress and no one brings this up for debate with all the abortion bills the repukes have tried to pass? They should be screaming it from the rafters. Almost makes me want to go join with the Pink Ladies.


It’s a damn shame that any political candidate in a democratic nation is vilified and attacked for supporting “democracy in action.” I think the majority of Americans agree with Elizabeth Warren. OWS IS democracy in action, sanctioned by the Bill of Rights and the US Constitution.


On California schools and science, I think science should absolutely be taught several hours a week. I must say that a focus on math does lay good ground work for science. Science and math do go hand in hand, so to speak. But if public schools don’t focus a few hours a week on science, there is always PBS;

1. Getting Ahead: Primary Science DVD
Get children hooked on science with this fun and fascinating collection of programs.
Buy Now
2. Science Investigators DVD
3. Wired Science: 11/14/2007: Space & Flight: Satellite Shopping DVD
4. Getting Ahead: Science DVD
5. The Music Instinct: Science and Song DVD
See more at Shop PBS

I was fascinated by science when I was elementary school age. It was a lot of fun. (although many of my “experiments,” scared the hell out of my mom!)


“the absence of confidence is not necessarily the lack of confidence…”
Say What? What a great example of politispeak! Or the Orwellian “doublespeak!

“Amendment: Gut accountability for making student progress.” There is a lot more to teaching than just reading out of a text book.

“Amendment: Eliminate anti-poverty and innovation programs.” More proof that republicans don’t give a squat about the poor and disadvantaged.


KT, now that was ridiculous! I don’t care if he is a Democrat! That was silly!


Hey Em, I really don’t think most politicians even realize what they are saying at times. It reminds me of the phrase, “Just listen to yourself!” Speaking also requires a certain consideration of what one is actually saying.


There are times when I have serious doubts about how inteligent politicans actually are.


Agrippa, more and more doubts almost daily.


Cher, the Occupy Colleges/Universities is such a terrific idea. Can’t wait.


Hi foodchain! Great to see you here!

I agree with you! College students are so important, especially in this next election. We need for them to be involved if we want to see progressive change in the future. They have busy schedules and may not be up-to-snuff on all the issues. This provides an excellent way of getting them involved, IMO. After all, the outcome of this movement will affect their lives more than any other group.

I know that this idea is not necessarily having to do with the election. But if the OWS movement is to have lasting effects, it must be accompanied by legislative change. And elections do have consequences!

ADDENDUM: President Obama is speaking at a college in Denver right now, and outlining his plans to help students with debt. Consolidation of loans and lower interest rates. Also, increased information to student borrowers, “Know before you Owe”! All good ideas!


OMG, there is an adorable racist commenter on the TPM Pat Buchanan article. I know those are two words you never see together, but it’s so pathetic it’s almost more *pats on head* cute than ob/noxious.

He keeps on saying, “Anti-racist is a code word for anti-White.”


Khirad, muddled for sure. Many years ago I saw a sidewalk chalked demand on a Big 10 campus: “Kill all Racists”. Yet another set of muddled thinking, taking an initially good idea and turning in to anger and irony.


I saw that and the dude or dudette just loves to proselytize too. Some people will do anything for a dime a post.


Wow, Cher! You out-did yourself today! Great job! I’ve been reading for a couple of hours and have to admit that I have not been able to completely take it all in.

Karl Rove is despicable! This is just a semantics game for him. Use the term “union workers” and people won’t like the plan. It’s sad that the American people don’t seem to see through this.

The articles on education are of interest to me. The repugs seem to have a very, very long-term agenda. If they can make the schools bad enough with poor student scores and poor teaching in the classrooms, they can then say that the education system is broken. This justifies their desire to privatize it. Cut funds, lay off teachers, trash accountability standards, and limit students’ access to science and other subjects essential to a well-rounded education. Our kids come up short! This is so unfair! The kids are the ones who will ultimately pay for the agenda of the RW! It’s stunning to look at it through the lens of their long-term goals. You have to hand it to them for their patience. I am so sick of these people who would make our children the pawns in their big money game!

I’m sorry to say that North Carolina is distinguishing itself as a bastion of RW ideology! Our Democratic governor, Bev Perdue, is fighting valiantly. At least, the judge has put a hold on the forced ultrasound law passed by the rethug State House. There will be more hearings in December. I am incensed at the “crisis pregnancy centers” using taxpayer funds to proselytize women and make every attempt to intimidate them, including using false and misleading medical information! This needs to stop NOW! The outcome of the next election could not be more important! We MUST stop these rethug ideologues before they completely wreck our state!

It is encouraging to see a swing in the numbers that want to abolish the electoral college in favor of the popular vote. But I wrote last night that this subject comes up every four years. There will be a flap about it, but it will die off very quickly and nothing will be done to fix the problem. We also need to address electronic voting machines that can easily be rigged to alter the outcomes. This is another subject that gets re-energized every election but soon fades away. Our entire election process is being attacked at its very core. With gerrymandering and redistricting, voter ID laws and suppression of potential Democratic voters, redistribution of electoral college votes, and the influx of vast amounts of anonymous money into the campaigns, we Dems have the worst uphill battle that I believe we’ve ever faced. I know that the DOJ is looking into some of the voter ID law changes, and can only hope that their actions will be in time to stop the RW attacks. At least, it shows that the rethugs are scared of the Democrats. Otherwise, why would they be fighting so hard to screw the elections? wwwwwwwdc (that was from my puppy dog walking across the computer keyboard!) She wanted to comment this morning too! 🙂 Not to worry…she’s a good little Dem!

Thanks so much for your hard work! This is an amazing amount of information for us! Now, back to reading! Have a great day!


Em, complete agreement. My head was spinning in reaction to each item–all good.


Hey food, she doesn’t make it easy for us, does she?? 🙂 I think Cher has her own agenda to educate all of us, whether we want education or not! LMAO