Thu 24 April, 2014

20:30 Open thread for night owls: The 'inadequate' defense budget? Compared with when? With whom?» Daily Kos
Night Owls
If all national security-related spending requested for fiscal year 2015 were taken into account the U.S. defense budget would be more than a trillion dollars. The budget discussed below is Pentagon spending only and does not include many items that a reasonable reading of "defense" would encompass, including care and maintenance of the nation's nuclear arsenal, various elements of caring for veterans of past wars and the interest on money borrowed to pay for those past wars. Even so, the defense budget, though it has declined since 2009 (mostly due to less spending in Iraq and Afghanistan) is gargantuan, far, far higher when adjusted for inflation than it was during the Cold War.

Winslow Wheeler writes An Inadequate Defense Budget? Compared to Whom? Compared to When?

Many Republicans and numerous Democrats, especially on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, have been characterizing the US defense budget as inadequate. They propose to release the Pentagon from the statutory spending caps set by the Budget Control Act of 2011 and its "sequestration," which would keep some, but not all, Pentagon spending in the neighborhood of $500 billion, annually, for several years. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense and any other Pentagon official near a microphone have been cheering them on.

There is a major mismatch between the actual size of the US defense budget and the characterization of inadequacy given to it.  The enormity of the US defense budget, even under sequestration, is readily apparent in both relative and absolute terms.That we today declare ourselves inadequately funded at a far higher level of spending than we budgeted against a much larger, much more hostile threat is remarkable.  More money in the face of lesser threats is not quite the penury so many claim. [...]

This graph shows the Pentagon's post-World War Two budgets in dollars adjusted for inflation. Note how today's so-called "inadequate" spending compares to average annual spending during the Cold War (the dashed, horizontal line, which occurs at the $355 billion level).
That we today declare ourselves inadequately funded at a far higher level of spending than we budgeted against a much larger, much more hostile threat is remarkable. More money in the face of lesser threats is not quite the penury so many claim.

Second, we should listen closely when today's political and military leaders asset they cannot manage at the spending levels they face under the Budget Control Act. They are quite correct to say they are unable to do so. Recent history proves that.

• Our military hardware is outrageously expensive, but much of it is a step backwards in performance.

• Since the mid-1990s Congress has increased money for DOD pay and benefits but huge portions of it has been for indiscriminant, across-the-board military pay raises, double pensions for many armed service retirees, bigger benefits for the survivors of World War Two veterans and much else that is intended to buy off political constituencies rather than address real security problems, let alone the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

• Under the full-on spigot of the post-9/11 era, the Pentagon's civilian and military leadership has bloated itself to historically unprecedented levels of overhead, including military staff, civilian government employees and contracted-out personnel.

• In their ultimate malfeasance, none of our national security leaders have bothered to fundamentally understand the dimension of the overspending problem as the Pentagon remains unaudited and un-auditable twenty-four years after the passage of the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990-intended to require the Pentagon to understand and report what it does with its money.

The relationship of US defense spending to that of presumed threat nations and the girth of contemporary defense spending compared to a time of greater threat does not call into question the adequacy of the size of today's US defense budget; it calls into question the competence of current US political and military leadership, both in the Pentagon and in Congress.

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2006We Need You to Save the Internet!:

Sounds hyperbolic, no? It's not. The House Commerce Committee is likely to vote as early as Wednesday on legislation that would essentially hand over the keys to the Internet to the giant telcos, AT&T, Verizon, Time Warner, and Comcast.

It's hard to imagine that the Internet, that vast free-flowing world of entertainment, enlightenment, education, and interaction could be fettered, but under this legislation it very well could be. Internet service provision in the U.S. is covered by telecommunications law, and has operated under the idea of "network neutrality." In it's early years, telephone companies provided most Web service, and carried most of the traffic. Because of the nature of laws regulating phone service, Web traffic was handled just like phone traffic, each "call" being equal. That means every page you surf to on the Internet is served up just like any other, as far as your ISP is concerned. You can go from Amazon.com to Aunt Harriet's family history blog equally.

Here's what's at stake with this legislation.

The nation's largest telephone and cable companies— including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner—want to be Internet gatekeepers, deciding which Web sites go fast or slow and which won't load at all.

They want to tax content providers to guarantee speedy delivery of their data. They want to discriminate in favor of their own search engines, Internet phone services, and streaming video—while slowing down or blocking their competitors. ...

On the Internet, consumers are in ultimate control—deciding between content, applications and services available anywhere, no matter who owns the network. There's no middleman. But without net neutrality, the Internet will look more like cable TV. Network owners will decide which channels, content and applications are available; consumers will have to choose from their menu.

Tweet of the Day:

I got 100% smarter once I decided that any fact that disagrees with my opinions is a lie.

On today's Kagro in the Morning show, Cliven Bundy, ladies and gentlemen! Greg Dworkin parses Kaiser polling on healthcare in four southern states, and then sets the agenda for the day with Harold Pollock's "Pre-Occupied with Medicaid Expansion." Did Occupy "accomplish" anything? Was it a thing that could be measured by that metric? Is the drive for concrete results what sets the "Moral Mondays" movement apart from it? Are they set apart from one another? Also: NC Gop Senate field all deny climate change. And about that "US is an oligarchy" thing, let's take another look at that.

High Impact Posts. Top Comments.

20:00 C&L's Late Nite Music Club With Dan Weiss» Latest from Crooks and Liars

In my opinion, yes, in this case, it is. Composers like Messiaen did weird experiments like transcribing bird song, so what makes this drummer any different? Translating human speech to percussion is a pretty strange and creative concept that hasn't been done too much in the past aside from creating instruments like talking drums, which were developed to sound this way. A drum kit, however, is a different story, considering that most non-drummers don't pay attention to the tuning of the instrument, leaving it up to the drummer's best judgment as to what they should play. However, I'd say that this guy did a pretty good job of mimicking the auctioneer's delivery, plus, it's a pretty funny idea when you compare the two side by side.

Got any favorite drummers or percussionists?

18:43 Son: George H.W. Bush wants Jeb to run» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Neil Bush also says his mother's words of caution won't be a factor in Jeb's decision.
18:21 US Leading the Path to Mars: NASA Chief Charles Bolden (Op-Ed)» LiveScience.com
NASA has long held the lead in the exploration of Mars, and that trend will continue, says NASA administrator Charles Bolden.
18:04 Marshall Islands Sues 9 Of The World's Nuclear Powers In International Court» Politics - The Huffington Post
NEW YORK (AP) — The tiny Pacific nation of the Marshall Islands is taking on the United States and the world's eight other nuclear-armed nations with an unprecedented lawsuit demanding that they meet their obligations toward disarmament and accusing them of "flagrant violations" of international law.

The island group that was used for dozens of U.S. nuclear tests after World War II filed suit Thursday against each of the nine countries in the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands. It also filed a federal lawsuit against the United States in San Francisco, naming President Barack Obama, the departments and secretaries of defense and energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration. The Marshall Islands claims the nine countries are modernizing their nuclear arsenals instead of negotiating disarmament, and it estimates that they will spend $1 trillion on those arsenals over the next decade.

"I personally see it as kind of David and Goliath, except that there are no slingshots involved," David Krieger, president of the California-based Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, told The Associated Press. He is acting as a consultant in the case. There are hopes that other countries will join the legal effort, he said.

The countries targeted also include Russia, Britain, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea. The last four are not parties to the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, but the lawsuits argue they are bound by its provisions under "customary international law." The nonproliferation treaty, considered the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament efforts, requires negotiations among countries in good faith on disarmament.

None of the countries had been informed in advance of the lawsuits.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Paul Hirschson, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said he was unaware of the lawsuit, however "it doesn't sound relevant because we are not members of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty."

"It sounds like it doesn't have any legal legs," he said about the lawsuit, adding that he was not a legal expert.

The Marshall Islands were the site of 67 nuclear tests by the United States over a 12-year period, with lasting health and environmental impacts.

"Our people have suffered the catastrophic and irreparable damage of these weapons, and we vow to fight so that no one else on earth will ever again experience these atrocities," the country's foreign minister, Tony de Brum, said in a statement announcing the lawsuits.

The country is seeking action, not compensation. It wants the courts to require that the nine nuclear-armed states meet their obligations.

"There hasn't been a case where individual governments are saying to the nuclear states, 'You are not complying with your disarmament obligations," John Burroughs, executive director of the New York-based Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, part of the international pro bono legal team, told the AP. "This is a contentious case that could result in a binding judgment."

Several Nobel Peace Prize winners are said to support the legal action, including South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Iranian-born rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi.

"We must ask why these leaders continue to break their promises and put their citizens and the world at risk of horrific devastation," Tutu said in the statement announcing the legal action.

The Marshall Islands is asking the countries to accept the International Court of Justice's jurisdiction in this case and explain their positions on the issue.

The court has seen cases on nuclear weapons before. In the 1970s, Australia and New Zealand took France to the court in an effort to stop its atmospheric nuclear tests in the Pacific.

The idea to challenge the nine nuclear-armed powers came out of a lunch meeting in late 2012 after the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation gave the Marshall Islands foreign minister a leadership award, Krieger said.

"I've known Tony long time," he said. "We both have had a strong interest for a long time in seeing action by the nuclear weapons states."

Frustration with the nuclear-armed states has grown in recent years as action toward disarmament appeared to stall, Burroughs and Krieger said.

"One thing I would point to is the U.S. withdrawal in 2002 from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty; that cast a shadow over future disarmament movement," Krieger said. The treaty originally had bound the U.S. and the Soviet Union. "One other thing, in 1995, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty had a review and was extended indefinitely. I think the nuclear states party to the treaty felt that once that happened, there was no longer pressure on them to fulfill their obligations."

In 1996, the International Court of Justice said unanimously that an obligation existed to bring the disarmament negotiations to a conclusion, Burroughs said.

Instead, "progress toward disarmament has essentially been stalemated since then," he said.

Some of the nuclear-armed countries might argue in response to these new lawsuits that they've been making progress in certain areas or that they support the start of negotiations toward disarmament, but the Marshall Islands government is likely to say, "Good, but not enough" or "Your actions belie your words," Burroughs said.

The Marshall Islands foreign minister has approached other countries about filing suit as well, Krieger said. "I think there has been some interest, but I'm not sure anybody is ready."


Associated Press reporters Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem, Toby Sterling in Amsterdam and Matthew Pennington in Washington contributed to this report.
17:49 In Schuette, Roberts Continues Legacy of Bringing the Court Into the 21st Century» Politics - The Huffington Post
In thinking about the Supreme Court, I'm reminded of the scene from this week's episode of Game of Thrones where Tywin Lannister asks the next king, who will absolutely be killed before the season is over, what makes a good king. The boy struggles to get to the correct answer: wisdom.

For Chief Justice John Roberts, who is like the Queen Mum of the Supreme Court, wisdom isn't enough; it usually comes down to legacy. There have only been 17 chief justices in the history of the court, and some are certainly better than others. John Marshall was influential in laying the groundwork for stare decisis and judicial review, Harlan Stone brought the court into the modern commercial world with the International Shoe decision, Earl Warren steered the ship of civil rights cases in the '50s and '60s, and Warren Burger stood up for the system of checks and balances and against executive-branch malfeasance. Naturally, John Roberts' legacy has already been discussed because he is the first chief justice of the social media era. I contend that much like that of Chief Justice Stone, Roberts' legacy will be one of modernization of the Supreme Court, and it happened again this week in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action.

In Schuette the question was whether or not voters could opt out of a program that considers race as a factor in admissions to public colleges and universities. The 6-2 decision, with Justice Stephen Breyer joining the conservative group, upheld citizens' right in this particular matter.

Despite Justice Sonia Sotomayor saying this is tantamount to stacking the deck against minorities, the numbers simply do not bear out the necessity for affirmative action anymore. Since 1985 the percentage of black high-school graduates attending college has gone up from 40 percent to 55 percent, with Hispanic students seeing a similar increase. Most of this increase occurred in the 1990s as a direct result of affirmative action, but it's insulting to say these students would not have gone to college anyway. They might have gone to a lower-ranked college, but some argue that that might actually help minority students by choosing the best school for them, not simply the best school they get into.

But more importantly, this decision has shown the willingness of the Roberts court to take a new look at the data and update jurisprudence for the 21st century. It's important to note that this had nothing to do with the constitutionality of affirmative action, just the constitutionality of not allowing affirmative action.

This was at play in the much-maligned Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions, where the Roberts court recognized the changing nature of political speech, which is no longer relegated to the flag burnings and sit-ins of the '70s. More importantly, since both cases came after 2008, the Roberts court recognized that the money being spent in politics had increased so much in spite of the McCain-Feingold Act and the aggregate spending limit, so the justification simply was no longer there. Stare decisis requires the court to look back at precedent, but it doesn't require the court to ignore the present. Both cases came after the 2008 election, where the first presidential candidate since Richard Nixon to spurn public financing, Barack Obama, raised more than $650 million, and the entire election cycle saw over $5 billion spent.

The same can be said for the Shelby County decision, where the Roberts court invalidated the outdated math of Section IV of the Voting Rights Act. Mind you, they didn't ban preclearance; they merely said that using 1950s data for 2014 enforcement is wrong. They also looked at states like Georgia and Indiana, where minority voting increased after voter ID laws were passed. Why they turned out is wholly irrelevant to the fact that they weren't prohibited from turning out. Once again, the Roberts court established its legacy of looking at the present, not the past, when deciding on the propriety of laws.

Unfortunately, the Roberts court is still stuck in the past on criminal protections, as seen in the Fernandez decision.

The true test of Roberts' legacy will be how he guides the court on the eventual NSA spying cases, which will come before him in the next few years. Ideally, Roberts will mold the rulings in the same vein as Shelby, looking at the reality of spying, technology, and civil liberties in 2014 and beyond, not to how the court ruled in the 1980s. Otherwise, we could be faced with drones flying overhead and the NSA listening to every call, because the founders only had a vague notion of what electricity is, let alone a global telecommunications network.
17:40 King urges immigration reform» POLITICO - TOP Stories
He says it would benefit the nation and the Republican Party to undertake an overhaul.
17:30 North Carolina GOP Senate hopeful doesn't understand the meaning of the world 'false'» Daily Kos

The ad at the top of this post takes North Carolina House Speaker and GOP senate candidate Thom Tillis to task for having not one but two of his top staffers—one of whom was his roommate—involved in sexual affairs with married lobbyists and then using taxpayer dollars to reward their service before announcing their resignations.

It's a pretty tough ad, but it's accurate. Nonetheless, Tillis is crying foul, putting up an ad of his own accusing Democrats of launching a "false" and "sleazy" ad. But as the Washington Post's Glenn Klessler explains, the facts aren't on Tillis's side because everything in the ad that has him so upset is basically true: His staffers did have the affairs with lobbyists, one of them was his roommate, and when he announced their resignations, he also authorized paying them one month of salary—something that he was not required to do under North Carolina law.

As Kessler notes, Tillis defended those payments at the time:

“I recognized that their jobs and careers were forever affected by their choices,” Tillis said in a statement quoted in the Raleigh News & Observer, “and that serious family obligations still existed for each of them. I stand by my decision to accept their resignation while recognizing the difficult transition period they are now entering.”
But now he says it's "false:"
“Seen those ads attacking Thom Tillis? They’re false. Tillis fired the staffers.”
But that's not the issue. The issue is whether he used taxpayer dollars to effectively give a parting bonus to a pair of disgraced staffers. And in his own words, that's exactly what he did. So the only thing "false" here is is Tillis's claim to have been wronged.
17:13 California Lawmakers Aim To Tighten Handgun Restrictions» Politics - The Huffington Post

By Sharon Bernstein

SACRAMENTO, Calif. April 24 (Reuters) - A bill banning the sale of single-shot handguns that can be modified into semi-automatic weapons advanced in the California legislature on Thursday as lawmakers sought to close what the bill's supporters say is a loophole in the state's gun safety laws.

Gun control advocates say thousands of weapons are sold in California each year without a required safety feature that indicates when a bullet is in the chamber, endangering children and others who may be shot accidentally.

"Right now there is a very large opening in the law that permits guns that otherwise we wouldn't consider safe for sale and purchase in California," said Sacramento assemblyman Roger Dickinson, a Democrat who authored the bill.

Under existing law, semi-automatic weapons must have an indicator showing when there is a bullet in the chamber. But many manufacturers do not include the feature, leading some dealers to convert guns to single-shot weapons before selling them, just to change them back later, Dickinson said.

The most populous U.S. state has some of the nation's strictest gun control laws, and Dickinson's measure is the latest of dozens of bills introduced in the state in the wake of mass shootings in 2012 in Colorado and Connecticut.

Last fall, Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, who has tacked to the center despite large Democratic majorities in the legislature, vetoed several of the bills, rebuffing efforts by fellow Democrats to enact a sweeping expansion of firearms regulation.

The proposed ban on converted semi-automatics without the safety feature is a priority for the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence, said the group's legislative expert, Amanda Wilcox.

The loophole was created after single-shot weapons were exempted from the safety requirement to protect collectors of antique guns, Dickinson said.

After the rule went into effect in 2007, the number of guns being sold as single-shot weapons in the state skyrocketed, which Dickinson said indicated many were being converted.

In 2013, more than 18,000 single-shot gun sales were registered in the state, up from 134 in 2007, the state says. But Assemblyman Brian Jones, a San Diego-area Republican who voted against the bill, said that doesn't mean all purchasers are trying to get around the law.

The National Rifle Association said the measure would hurt law-abiding citizens by "eliminating the only options for Californians to purchase numerous handguns that are commonly owned throughout the rest of the country."

The bill passed the assembly 48-25, and goes to the state senate. (Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Cynthia Osterman)
16:53 Two Adorable Baby Gorillas Born at Bronx Zoo» LiveScience.com
Two baby western lowland gorillas have been born at the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo, in New York. A 33-year old gorilla named Julia gave birth on March 10 and a 19-year-old gorilla named Tuti gave birth on April 17. The newborn apes are the
16:41 Occupy Amazon: Elizabeth Warren, Thomas Piketty, Michael Lewis Books Surging Online» Politics - The Huffington Post
If Amazon's top-sellers list is any indication, Americans are fed up with rising income inequality.

As of Thursday evening, Sen. Elizabeth Warren's new memoir, A Fighting Chance, is the number two best-selling book on Amazon, trailing only Thomas Piketty's Capital In The Twenty-First Century. Michael Lewis' Flash Boys, which exposes the world of high-frequency traders, is number five. Both Capital and A Fighting Chance are also among Barnes & Noble's top five sellers. Rounding out Amazon's top five are John Green's YA hit The Fault In Our Stars and an illustrated Little Golden Book adaptation of Disney's "Frozen." Both books are more representative of typical Amazon best-sellers, which tend to include popular fiction and self-help titles.

While the three works come at the issue from different vantage points, they all arrive at essentially the same conclusion: the game is rigged against the middle class.

Warren's book, released Tuesday, traces the Massachusetts Democrat's journey from law professor to U.S. senator. The book details how the struggles Warren's middle class parents faced motivated her to work toward remedying income inequality -- most notably, in her role in the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“This book is about how Washington is rigged to work for those who can hire armies of lobbyists and lawyers and make sure that everything that they want gets done in Washington,” Warren told ABC News earlier this week. “The game is rigged to work for those who already have money and power. I wrote this book because the way I see it, working families, they're not looking for a handout. They're not looking for some special deal. They just want a level playing field. They just want a fighting chance."

Meanwhile, Piketty's manifesto has become an unlikely hit. The nearly 700-page tome is currently sold out on Amazon, as Harvard University Press scrambles to print an additional 80,000 copies. In the interim, the French economist has been on a dizzying U.S. tour, meeting with the likes of Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, the Council of Economic Advisers and the IMF, in addition to giving dozens of interviews to major media outlets.

Based on analysis of over 200 years' worth of economic data from 20 countries, Capital argues that unfettered capitalism will inevitably lead to extreme income inequality. If world leaders are unwilling to shrink the widening gap by, say, imposing a global wealth tax or other mechanisms, the rich will continue to grow richer, leaving the rest of society behind. As Piketty explained on HuffPost Live last week, this could cause capitalistic societies to revert back to the economic conditions of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Flash Boys, Lewis' New York Times bestseller, sheds light on the predatory practices of high-frequency traders. According to Lewis, these traders are essentially able to front-run typical investors by using lightning-fast network connections to quickly buy stocks and sell them back. Lewis' work was featured in a popular "60 Minutes" segment last month.

"It's bigger than a scam," Lewis said during the segment. "It's the stock market."

Watch HuffPost's interview with Piketty below:

16:38 Federal Guardians» Politics - The Huffington Post
A Nevada rancher disputes Washington's jurisdiction over federally owned lands he uses, and thus, refuses to pay the legally required grazing fees. A number of prominent Republican politicians (Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Nevada governor Brian Sandoval among them) tacitly support the rancher's rejection of public domain by treating him as a folk hero.

This is a far cry from the GOP of old, who along with Democrats in true bipartisan fashion approved congressional funding for federal acquisition of major tracts of public land. It was well understood then, one might add, that most of this land--purchased either in part or entirely for conservation purposes--was to be managed by agencies of the federal government.

What is behind modern day Republicans' rebellion against federal control of public land, a deep seated resentment that led to championing the scofflaw Nevada rancher, Cliven Bundy? It is their ideologically colored conviction that states, local governments, and most of all, the private sector can manage public conservation lands more effectively than the federal government. Indeed, in the GOP states' rights, limited government world view, the feds have no business controlling the fate of public lands in the first place.

Regarding the Republican charge of federal managerial inadequacy, empirical evidence dictates otherwise. It is no coincidence that for many Americans, the outdoor vacation of a lifetime occurs in national parks, wildlife refuges, and seashores. What private resort or state maintained open space can match the experience of a visit to such revered places as the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, or Florida's Everglades?

Undaunted by custodial reality, many modern day Republicans contend that when public land is owned and administered by the federal government, everyone has a nominal stake and consequently no one feels personally responsible for the upkeep. Conversely, state, local, and private interests by sheer virtue of proximity are bound to be more fastidious and effective in managing land at their doorstep.

It is an argument that doesn't fly. Most Americans harbor strong proprietary feelings towards the nation's national parks and other federal lands, even if the places are thousands of miles away and unlikely to ever be visited. Moreover, the federal civil servants charged with overseeing the public lands may not have personal property rights, but they have a well-deserved reputation of answering a higher calling. It is expressed in the widely recognized pride, conscientiousness, and effectiveness they display in their jobs.

While some states and private entities perform well in preserving public undeveloped land, they tend to be more susceptible to pressure from local extractive industries to allow excessive exploitation of the area's natural resources. Proximity is a factor here. State and local government officials' careers can be more dependent than the feds' on local industry's fiscal support and meeting its political demands. As for private sector public land managers, their first priority is showing a profit. That would relegate conservation to a secondary concern where it is supposed to be of equal if not greater importance in relation to commercial activity.
16:34 Watch Andy Warhol use the Amiga 1000 to paint a portrait of Debbie Harry» Salon.com
A trove of Andy Warhol masterpieces were discovered, painted via computer at the behest of Commodore International

16:34 Leslie Jamison and Roxane Gay: “Men are crowned as the gold standard of the genre. It’s gonna change”» Salon.com
The two brilliant writers and critics talk feminism, sexuality and why this is a new golden age of female essayists

16:24 Fox News Host Says He’s Considered Converting To Islam For The 72 Virgins» ThinkProgress

"These radicals say well if you get killed, you get 72 virgins," Beckel said. "I have thought about converting if it that's the case."

The post Fox News Host Says He’s Considered Converting To Islam For The 72 Virgins appeared first on ThinkProgress.

16:21 Maui, a Paradise of Racial Tolerance?» Politics - The Huffington Post
My husband and I were always proud to have an "international marriage," as it was called in Japan. I was an American expat living in Tokyo and my husband was Japanese. Our marriage spanned two nations and two cultures, and for us it seemed ideal. Not long after we were married, we saw a TV documentary in which mixed-race children around the globe were interviewed about their experiences. In each case, the children complained bitterly about the lack of a single identity, about not knowing where they belonged, and about the racism they experienced from the races of both parents. There was only one exception, the young man who lived in Hawaii. Being from two cultures and two races was, for him, the best thing in the world. He talked happily of having the best of both cultures, of speaking two languages, of celebrating all the festivals, of having the most fun and best of all, of eating a variety of delicious food. I turned to my husband and said, "If we have children, we're moving to Hawaii." He agreed.

When my daughter was born, we talked of moving often but it didn't happen until we began the search for an elementary school. We spoke with many parents and children and while most were content with schools in Japan, there were several students who experienced serious bullying because of their mixed race heritage. Some were taken out of school to be home-schooled. Some were put into expensive, private international schools but the emotional scaring remained.

A few months later we moved to Maui. We told my daughter how lucky she was to have two cultures and two passports and how wonderful it was to be able to live on Maui and visit Japan. She embraced it all and like most of her new friends, she was proud to be Hapa, the Hawaiian word for half. As a family, we appreciated that all children in Hawaii are cherished and being Hapa was the most normal thing of all.

Most people think of Maui as a paradise because of its beautiful beaches and terrific weather. But for us, Maui was an island of wonderfully kind people living in a paradise of zero racism. Once we settled in, we breathed a collective sigh of relief. Not only was our diverse family accepted, we blended right in with everyone else.

Soon my daughter was inviting her new friends over to play in our condo pool. Her friends were from every possible combination of different backgrounds: Asian, Caucasian, Hawaiian, Tongan, African-American and Hispanic. Once in awhile my African-American neighbor would stop by and watch them play. "Your daughter and her friends are Martin Luther King's dream come to life," she once told me. And it was a beautiful sight to see, not just because of the children's diversity, but because they had no idea that race mattered to anyone. They didn't know what racism was, and didn't learn about it until they were much older and studied it in school. Even then, it was a distant, historical subject, an oddity that happened only on the mainland. In short, they just couldn't believe that people acted that way toward each other. Their worst fears were that something like that might happen to one of their friends, if they visited the mainland.

Unfortunately life in the islands has not always been a paradise of tolerance. In 1893, after years of turmoil instigated by small groups of mostly American businessmen, missionaries and sugar plantation owners, Hawaii's monarch, Queen Liliuokalani was overthrown. This coup took place with the help of the U. S. military. The reason they gave was that it was necessary to protect American interests and the American citizens who lived in Hawaii. An act of aggression on this scale would cause an international outcry today, but in 1893 it went unchecked. The problems for Hawaii didn't end there. There was racism on the part of the white overseers and bit by bit, the Hawaiians lost their ancestral lands.

A local man once told me that his family originally owned several miles of beach front property. But their land was taken away until they owned enough land for just one house and they struggled to pay their property tax. "This land was ours for hundreds of years before the US government took over. Why do we have to pay property taxes now? I'll pay income tax, sales tax, any kind of tax they want, but I don't think Hawaiians should pay property tax." In a culture where the aina, the land is everything, he spoke without any anger or racism but only from a place of deep sadness.

When Hawaii was annexed by the United States in 1898, Princess Kaiulani, the heir to the Hawaiian throne, said that when she saw the Hawaiian flag being taken down, "it was bitterer than death." Hawaii finally became a state in 1959 but culturally, it is and will always be its own proud Hawaii.

In light of its history, why then is Hawaii this present-day oasis of racial equality? I give credit to the Hawaiian people who believe in 'doing what is Pono,' which translates to 'doing what is right.' In short, they chose the higher road and I have the greatest respect for the people of Hawaii. If Maui is a paradise, it is first and foremost because of its people, and I will always be eternally grateful for what Maui gave to my daughter, a much cherished childhood of racial acceptance, a childhood in paradise.
16:20 Reject = Protect» Politics - The Huffington Post

On the day that President Obama finally rejects the Keystone XL pipeline, the connection between tar sands development and climate disruption should be only one of the reasons (although it's certainly reason enough). For someone like Obama, whose first real job was as a community organizer on the south side of Chicago, the effect of the pipeline and its toxic payload on the people and communities in its path will surely also be a factor.

This week, the president will hear the voices of those people loud and clear, thanks to the Reject and Protect encampment and march on the National Mall. Reject and Protect is being led by  the "Cowboy Indian Alliance" -- a group of ranchers, farmers, and tribal communities from along the pipeline's route. I visited them this week and was both impressed by their determination and moved by how they placed this fight in the greater context of environmental injustice.

It's hard not to be inspired by people like Texas rancher Julia Trigg Crawford, who was there to lend support even though she has already lost her own battle to stop TransCanada from routing part of Keystone XL through her property: "Basically they came in and said a foreign corporation building a for-profit pipeline had more of a right to my land than I did."  

That was echoed by Ihanktonwan Oyate spiritual leader and elder Faith Spotted Eagle, who said, "We stand here as Mother Bears to defend our land, our farms, our ranches, our treaty territory. They are violating our treaty land and our treaty water."

The more time goes by, the more evidence we're seeing of just how toxic tar sands oil really is -- and what its effects would be on those unfortunate enough to live near a spill or a refinery. Of course, if a major spill were to happen on the Ogallala Aquifer in Nebraska, the disaster would be both unparalleled and irreversible for millions of Americans.

Already, the Obama administration has heard from more than 2,000,000 people who believe the pipeline would not be in our national interest -- an unprecedented number. Just as important, though, are the individual voices being heard this week -- the voices of Americans who see the health and welfare of their communities under attack. Many of these communities already bear an unfair share of the consequences from fossil fuel pollution. Can we really ask them to suffer even more for the sake of oil industry profits?

There's still time to join the Reject and Protect march in D.C. this Saturday. You can sign up here. Can't make it to the capital? Then join the thousands of people from the around the country who will be simultaneously posting messages of solidarity.


16:18 “The Other Woman” shatters rom-com tropes for male infidelity» Salon.com
The movie is not exactly genre-busting. But it manages to break new ground in rom-com portrayals of cheating men

16:13 Obama's net neutrality conflict» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The FCC's proposal goes against the then-senator's stance in 2007.
16:08 Improve the Food, Not Just the Food Label (Op-Ed)» LiveScience.com
A recent proposal aims to change the information we see on food labels. But what's really needed is an improvement to the quality of the food, not just the food labels.
16:06 Gabby Giffords Writes Moving Tribute To Malala For Time Magazine Influencers List» Politics - The Huffington Post
Malala Yousafzai and Gabrielle Giffords both know bravery and perseverance.

So it's only fitting that the former congresswoman was chosen to profile the Pakistani teen activist, named one of Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World" Wednesday.

Giffords wrote for Time that she, like many people, draws inspiration and strength from Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012.

"Malala is a testament that women everywhere will not be intimidated into silence."

Giffords, who was shot in the head in Tuscon, Ariz. in 2011, also wrote that Yousafzai's courage is rare, comparing her to military members or global leaders:

"I have seen courage in many places…but Malala’s courage is uncommon," Giffords wrote.

Yousafzai advocates for young people worldwide through the Malala Fund, an organization that partners with local nonprofits to educate youth. She highlights the fact that is much at stake in providing education. UNESCO reports, for example, that a child born to a mother who can read is 50 percent more likely to live past age 5.

The young education advocate spoke at the UN this past July and reminded viewers that everyone's voice matters in the fight for education:

"One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world," said Yousafzai, who told CNN that she wants to become prime minister of Pakistan one day.

The teen activist, who published her first book "I Am Malala" in October, was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize last year year.

The Time 100 issue goes on sale Friday, April 25.
16:02 “Blue Ruin”: A bloody, brilliant revenge thriller» Salon.com
A likable loner goes on a rampage in Jeremy Saulnier's "Blue Ruin," an unforgettable yarn of crime and punishment

15:52 Kerry warns of 'expensive mistake'» POLITICO - TOP Stories
He says Russian escalation would be misguided.
15:50 Graham foe: Children-loving women cause divorces» POLITICO - TOP Stories
"It is an abominable idolatry to love your children more than you love your husband," Det Bowers says.
15:47 John Kerry Warns Russia: Failure To Cooperate Would Be 'Grave' And 'Expensive Mistake'» Politics - The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry is accusing Russia of failing to live up to commitments it made to ease the crisis in Ukraine.

In unusually blunt language, Kerry said Thursday that unless Moscow takes immediate steps to de-escalate the situation, Washington will have no choice but to impose additional sanctions. He said It would be a "grave" and "expensive mistake." His comments come amid an increasingly bitter war of words over who is to blame for the crisis in Ukraine that is becoming steadily more violent.

The U.S. says Russia is fomenting unrest and separatist sentiment in eastern Ukraine following its annexation of the strategic Crimean Peninsula. Russia accuses the U.S. of encouraging a pro-Western government in Kiev to adopt anti-Russian policies.

15:47 Wall Street’s secret pension swindle» Salon.com
A lack of transparency is allowing financial firms to make high-risk investments with your retirement funds

15:37 Active Guatemala Volcanoes Seen From Above (Photo)» LiveScience.com
Four active volcanoes in Guatemala are seen from a NASA aerial science mission. The mission aimed to measure ground deformation around the volcanoes, which can give advance warning before eruptions.
15:36 NH Republican Will Infanite: Women Don't Deserve Same Pay As Men» Latest from Crooks and Liars

Michigan GOP Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land said on Wednesday that there is no Republican war on women and the real war on women is Obamacare, but I guess she hasn't been paying attention to anything that goes on outside of her house. New Hampshire State Representative Will Infantine infuriated many of his colleagues when he publicly stated that men deserve more money than the ladies.


New Hampshire State Representative Will Infantine incensed fellow lawmakers when he suggested that the wage gap exists because women don’t work as hard as men do.

The state House of Representatives met Wednesday to vote on the “Paycheck Equity Act,” which was unanimously passed by the state Senate, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader. The aim of the bill is to prevent wage discrimination based on gender. Proponents argued that there is discrimination in the state that affects the ability of women to earn and retire. Opponents of the bill, including Republican Will Infantine, disagreed.

Infantine argued that men are paid more than women because the former take on “riskier” jobs.

read more

15:35 Johnson-Crapo Housing Reform Guided by Weapons of Mass Deception About Affordable Housing Goals» Politics - The Huffington Post
"The new Senate proposal to reform the housing finance system...lacks provisions to ensure that the housing finance system is fair and nondiscriminatory." -Joint statement of the National Urban League and other major civil rights and housing advocacy groups

A new housing reform proposal slated for a Senate Banking Committee vote next week could accelerate the already significant post-recession decline in homeownership among communities of color and all working and middle-class communities. The bill, which is co-sponsored by Sens. Tim Johnson (D-S.D), chairman of the banking committee, and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), the ranking member, would wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and replace them with a new agency, the Federal Mortgage Insurance Corporation (FMIC). This new agency would end the affordable housing goals of Freddie and Fannie, which helped boost the percentage of African American homeownership to a pre-recession all-time high of 50 percent. The current African American homeownership rate is 43 percent, and African Americans are the only group that continues to experience a homeownership decline in the recovery, down 2.5 percent since 2000.

The Johnson-Crapo bill is driven by weapons of mass deception that perpetuate the myths that affordable housing goals and the Community Reinvestment Act created the housing crisis when nothing could be further from the truth. The affordable housing goals of Fannie and Freddie did not cause the crisis. In fact, according to the Fiscal Crisis Inquiry Commission, the body that was created to investigate the causes of the financial crisis, the affordable housing goals only "marginally contributed" to the crisis. But they made a tremendous impact on helping responsible borrowers purchase homes. As a result, according to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, during the last 10 years, more than 60 million hard-working families have benefited from the affordable housing goals.

The foreclosure crisis was not caused by irresponsible borrowers. It was caused by irresponsible financial products and a subprime lending market that were faulty and predatory in design, a result of reckless greed and doomed to fail from the start. By repealing the affordable housing goals that have been in place since the early 1990s -- and through a reduced government guarantee -- we are extremely concerned that the Johnson-Crapo bill will lead to cost increases that make homeownership unaffordable for the millions of working and middle-class Americans who have already borne the brunt of the impact of the foreclosure crisis, wiping out the majority of family wealth amassed during the last decade.

This bill would also exacerbate some of the widening economic disparities highlighted in the National Urban League's 2014 State of Black America® report. For example, the Black-White homeownership Equality Index is now only 60 percent, and blacks are three times as likely to be denied on a mortgage application. Our report also shows that blacks have a median wealth of $6,314 vs. whites at $110,500 -- a wealth equality index of a dismal 6 percent. With the critical role that homeownership plays in wealth accumulation, any further impediments to minority and low-to-middle-income homeownership will only widen that gap.

That is why the National Urban League joined with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, NAACP, National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development, National Council of La Raza, National Fair Housing Alliance, and Center for Responsible Lending to voice our serious concerns about this bill in its current form. As noted in our original statement, today's mortgage market excludes families of color almost entirely. According to the most recent Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data, there were 1.3 million conventional mortgage loans made in 2012; of those, Latinos received only 69,217 loans, African-Americans received 29,405 loans, and Asian American Pacific Islanders received 2,697 loans. There were 4.9 million refinance loans made in 2012, of which Latinos received 76,038, African-Americans received 75,785, and Asian American Pacific Islanders received 10,611. The Johnson-Crapo proposal does not adequately address this ongoing inequity nor does it provide an inclusive way forward for working and middle class communities to participate in the future housing market.

Housing finance reform is necessary. But we believe that it should be true reform -- and not retrogression. Its goal should be to create a secure housing finance system that is open and available to all creditworthy borrowers and that provides affordable mortgages to families with lesser incomes and wealth. Instead of expanding homeownership opportunities, the Johnson-Crapo proposal tells working and middle-class families that homeownership will be reserved for the fortunate few. It says that these families do not deserve low-cost credit; that owning a home is not important to family wealth; and that communities no longer need a stable tax base to fund schools, police, fire and libraries. That is simply wrong, and we can do better. The National Urban League strongly urges the Senate Banking Committee to change course on this bill now, ensure the inclusion of affordable housing goals, and pass legislation that will help to ensure access to affordable mortgage credit for all creditworthy borrowers, while at the same time protecting taxpayers from bearing the cost of a housing downturn.

As it stands, working families -- and the essence of the American Dream -- cannot afford Johnson-Crapo.
15:27 Will Medical Innovation Be an Afterthought This Election Season?» Politics - The Huffington Post
Like it or not, we're in the midst of another election season. As candidates embark on endless rounds of campaign activities to win the hearts and minds of voters, it's critical that they not neglect, by choice or lack of awareness, a key issue that has tremendous implications for the health and prosperity of Americans: medical research and innovation.

Our nation's research enterprise has endured years of flat federal funding and, more recently, sequestration, the destructive across-the-board federal spending cuts that began in 2013, as well as policies that slow rather than propel forward the pace of commercial innovation and drug development. Research projects are coming to a halt, patients are being denied access to clinical trials, research institutions across the country have reduced their workforce, young scientists are fleeing to other careers or other countries and local businesses that flourish in a research-rich environment are scaling back operations.

Ironically, given today's unprecedented scientific opportunity, elected officials have not provided the resources it takes to capitalize on monies previously invested, forcing innovators to delay or abandon studies that could lead to new therapies and cures for insidious health threats such as Alzheimer's, cancer and obesity. During this election season, as candidates answer questions and take positions intended to boost their chances at the polls, it is up to us who care about medical progress to ask candidates whether they perceive medical research as a top national priority.

Three quarters of Americans say it's important to know whether candidates are supportive of scientific and medical research, according to recent polling commissioned by Research!America, a nonprofit advocacy alliance. That's reason enough for candidates to make research a talking point on the campaign trail. Yet a majority of Americans say they're not aware of the positions of their representatives on this topic.

Do the candidates know the facts about federally supported research and development? Let's start with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which funds non-commercial research at universities and other research institutions across the country, planting the seed for innovation in the private sector. The NIH funded about 700 fewer research projects in fiscal year 2013 because of sequestration. Over the last decade, NIH has lost 25 percent of its purchasing power and is sorely underpowered to take full advantage of the opportunity to conquer disease presented by the sequencing of the human genome and sophisticated methods of interpreting medical data. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is facing unprecedented pressure to maintain and expand operations with inadequate resources as infectious disease outbreaks threaten the health and safety of Americans and superbug infections spread in hospitals nationwide. And the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, whose mission is to produce evidence to make health care safer, more affordable and more efficient, has become the perennial target of some policy makers in nonsensical efforts to zero out its budget.

Government investment in research is necessary. We cannot rely on the private sector to fill the void as elected officials cut agency budgets as part of an ill-advised attempt to reduce the deficit. Even if all science agencies were eliminated, we would not put a significant dent in the deficit. Failure to enact tax and entitlement reform is what is really bankrupting our nation; there is no sense in targeting lifesaving research and other domestic programs to cut costs.

Medical and health research works to protect the health of Americans and deliver new therapies to patients, children and adults who are diagnosed with common as well as rare diseases such as progeria or ALS. Research drives advances in prosthetics that are helping wounded warriors regain their mobility, and research develops countermeasures for bioterrorism and pandemics. Research has enabled remarkable progress against cancer, heart disease, and a host of other disabling and deadly conditions, but much more work lies ahead. Children who should survive cancer are dying of it. Adults who should be enjoying their retirement are losing the battle against Alzheimer's.

To put it bluntly, too many members of Congress either don't understand or don't care how important medical progress is to Americans. You deserve to know whether your candidate will champion research and innovation or neglect it. Visit askyourcandidates.org for more information.
15:20 Alleged Cole bomber asks to halt trial» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri asks a federal judge to block military commissions proceedings.
15:20 Arkansas Judge Strikes Down State's Voter ID Law» Politics - The Huffington Post

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas judge struck down the state's new voter ID law on Thursday, saying it violates the state constitution by adding a requirement that voters must meet before casting a ballot.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox voided the measure in a lawsuit over the way absentee ballots are handled under the law. A separate lawsuit had been filed last week directly challenging the law, which requires voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot.

The law "is declared void and unenforceable," Fox wrote in the ruling.

The Republican-led Legislature approved the law last year, overriding a veto by Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe with a simple majority vote in the House and Senate. Backers of the measure said it was aimed at reducing voter fraud, while opponents said it would disenfranchise voters.

A spokesman for Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, a Democrat, says the state Board of Election Commissioners has asked McDaniel's office to appeal Thursday's ruling, and it will do so.

"We just received the Court's decision and are in the process of reviewing it. The State Board of Election Commissioners has already contacted us requesting an appeal and we will work as quickly as possible on the board's behalf to appeal this decision," Aaron Sadler, a spokesman for McDaniel's office, said in an email.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, which had filed the separate lawsuit, hailed the ruling.

"The important thing is it indicates voters will be able to vote," Holly Dickson, the group's legal director. "It matters not which suit as long as voters will be able to vote."

The law, which took effect Jan. 1, was used in some local elections earlier this year, but it will be used statewide for the first time during early voting beginning May 5 and during primary elections on May 20.

Fox issued the ruling in a case that had focused on absentee ballots. The Pulaski County Election Commission sued the state Board of Election Commissioners for adopting a rule that gives absentee voters additional time to show proof of ID. The rule allows voters who did not submit required identification with their absentee ballot to turn in the documents for their vote to be counted by noon Monday following an election. It mirrors an identical "cure period" the law gives to voters who fail to show identification at the polls.

McDaniel issued a legal opinion in February in which he said absentee voters could not be given additional time to cast ballots, because that wasn't specified in the law. His opinion conflicted with advice that the Republican secretary of state's office had given to local election officials.

"The Pulaski County action forced the Court to reach the legal issues involved and strike down the voter ID law," said Chris Burks, a member of the Pulaski County Election Commission.

The Republican sponsor of the voter ID law said he was "shocked" at Fox's ruling, saying he didn't believe the judge gave the state the chance to defend the new measure.

"I thought today was about the rulemaking on the absentee ballots. It seems like he jumped ahead of himself," said Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest.

Thirty-one states have laws in effect requiring voters to show some form of identification, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Seven states have strict photo ID requirements similar to Arkansas. Voter ID laws have been put on hold in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania because of court challenges.

Under previous law, election workers were required to ask for photo ID but voters don't have to show it to cast a ballot. Under the new law, voters who don't show photo identification can cast provisional ballots. Those ballots would be counted only if voters provide ID to county election officials before noon on the Monday after an election, sign an affidavit stating they are indigent or have a religious objection to being photographed.

State Democrats indicated they planned to use the voter ID law as an issue in this year's elections, sending out a fundraising email within an hour of Fox's ruling.

"Don't let an appeal to this ruling turn back the clock for Arkansas voters," Candace Martin, the state party's executive director, wrote in the email.


Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

15:20 Oregon looks to join federal exchange» POLITICO - TOP Stories
It is the first state to give up control of its Obamacare website and join the federal exchange.
15:19 Texas Family Wins $3 Million Judgement Against Fracking Company Over Contamination» Politics - The Huffington Post
A Texas jury has awarded $2.925 million to a family that filed suit after their air and drinking water were contaminated by an oil and gas company, a win attorneys are calling "the first fracking verdict in U.S. history," according to a post on DeSmogBlog.

Plaintiffs Bob and Lisa Parr sued Aruba Petroleum Inc. in 2011 alleging that drilling and fracking at the company's 22 sites, located within a few miles of their home, were making them sick.

"My daughter was experiencing nose bleeds, rashes and there were some mornings she would wake up covered in blood ... screaming and crying," Lisa Parr said during a 2011 press conference.

Despite Aruba Petroleum's plans to appeal the verdict, the Parr's attorneys said the family has been "vindicated."

“I’m really proud of the family that went through what they went through and said, ‘I’m not going to take it anymore,'" attorney David Matthews wrote in a blog post on his firm's site. "It takes guts to say, ‘I’m going to stand here and protect my family from an invasion of our right to enjoy our property.’ It’s not easy to go through a lawsuit and have your personal life uncovered and exposed to the extent this family went through.”

The judgement includes $275,000 for the Parr's loss in property value and $2 million for pain and suffering, as well as $250,000 for future physical pain and suffering and $400,000 for past mental anguish.

You can read their petition to the court, filed in March 2011, on the DeSmogBlog site.

(h/t Grist)
15:17 Break In At National Civil Rights Museum Less Than One Month After Reopening» Politics - The Huffington Post
Almost every day is a busy day at the National Civil Rights Museum, but things got a bit hectic at the historic site on Wednesday morning.

Police reportedly found smashed windows at the Lorraine Motel after security officers contacted them reporting a break in at 1 a.m. The windows to rooms 307 and 308 were shattered, just a few doors down from the infamous room 306 when Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spent his final hours before his assassination.

Officers reportedly found Dexter Anderson asleep on the bed inside room 308. The 33-year-old broke into a portion of the museum's King's Last Hour exhibit, a location rich with historical significance.

The museum recently reopened on April 5 after a $28 million, 16-month renovation. In addition to the King exhibit, it also features powerful displays of men shackled on a slave ship and a replication of the room where the U.S. Supreme Court heard the landmark 1954 case Brown v. the Board of Education.

"You know, it's unfortunate that it happened at a place like this," said the museum's director of administration Tracy Lauritzen Wright.

Fortunately, the only damage was the broken glass, which crews were able to replace.

Anderson has been charged with vandalism and criminal trespassing and is being held on a $3,000 bond. He is due in court on Thursday, May 1.
15:16 Navigating the Asia Pivot» Politics - The Huffington Post
President Obama is in Asia this week to reassure our Asian allies about the U.S. "pivot to Asia." Former National Security Advisor Tim Donilon described the "pivot to Asia" as "a shift away from the war efforts in the Middle East and South Asia that have dominated U.S. national security policy and resources for the past decade and a shift toward the region that presents the most significant opportunity for the United States." As a significant shift in defense strategy, the Asia pivot is a head-scratcher. As an economic strategy, however, the Asia pivot is compelling.

The central problem with pivot to Asia strategy is that it is framed as a national security strategy. There is no doubt that there are security challenges throughout Asia that require U.S. force projection. China has announced a 12.2 percent increase in its defense budget to $132 billion in 2014. While China's defense budget is one-third of the U.S., it is significant enough to project power, and that is what it is doing.

Beijing recently claimed an air defense zone over a large swath of the East China Sea, including disputed remote islands controlled by Japan. China has also rattled sabers with the Philippines and Malaysia over disputed islands in the South China Sea, and issued new fishing regulations requiring Chinese approval to fish in the South China Sea.

Beyond China, North Korea continues to pose a nuclear threat to our Asian allies, and U.S. bases in the area.

Despite these threats, shifting our national security focus from the "war on terror" to Asia seems profoundly tone deaf to the continuing and emerging threats in the Middle East and North Africa. Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said:

When the president framed rebalance, he discussed how we could now safely turn our attention to Asia because the war in Afghanistan was receding and al-Qaida was on the path to defeat. I'm concerned those conditions haven't panned out.

Indeed, Iraq and Afghanistan remain highly unstable, and that's not the only problem. The Syrian civil war, which has produced 150,000 deaths and 2 million refugees, still has a significant potential to destabilize the entire region. If negotiations with Iran to contain its nuclear arms program fail, hardliners in the country could provoke confrontation with Israel, which has vowed to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. The Pakistan Taliban threatens to throw that nuclear nation into disarray. Failure to secure the elusive peace agreement between Israel and Palestine continues to sow discord.

The Kremlin's annexation of Crimea, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen, al-Shabab in Somalia, and political instability in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere, all pose significant challenges to our security and that of our allies.

The focus on Asia is, however, smart economically and perhaps points the way toward a more strategic foreign policy. The Asia-Pacific consumes almost 60 percent of U.S. exports and produces more than half the world's economic output. Concluding a multi-national trade agreement with twelve nations party to the Trans Pacific Partnership could yield $78 billion in annual income for America. This is perhaps what Donilon pointedly meant as "the most significant opportunity" for the United States.

In an era of fiscal restraint, U.S. policy makers should implement a foreign policy guided by opportunity rather than threat, and align its resources accordingly. The U.S. should pivot to South America and Africa as well, where opportunity is not just about trade, but investments in infrastructure, agriculture and manufacturing that will create future markets, and build prosperity and stability in partner nations. Economic opportunity is one of the best antidotes to political instability, and is much cheaper than boots on ground and costly weapons systems.

An opportunity based foreign policy would not neglect state-based or terrorism threats to the United States, but it could force the United States to better assess truly strategic threats and focus limited resources to maximize our security. Defense hawks are concerned about defense budget reductions, but assessing our foreign policy more holistically could produce significant gains for our security.

To assist in developing an opportunity-based foreign policy, the foreign affairs committees in the House and Senate must come up with and pass a foreign affairs bill. Alternatively, Congress could develop a security budget across agencies and committees that advances strategic opportunities through foreign aid, diplomacy, intelligence, law enforcement and defense. Congress could develop a BRAC-like committee to make defense budget cuts to inoculate against earmarks and special interests. President Obama this week should encourage nations to shoulder more of their own security challenges, and share more in global development, not as a sign of U.S. disengagement, but of global partnership. The true pivot is not in Asia, but back home, and whether the administration and Congress can more crisply define U.S. strategic interests and the whole-of-government approach to secure them.
15:03 Bundy's first and last rodeo» POLITICO - TOP Stories
It can happen to anyone, right?
15:00 Anticipating “Mad Men”: Don’s big move» Salon.com
The time is (almost) right for Draper to get back in the game

14:52 Craven» ThinkProgress

Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy thinks African Americans were "better off as slaves."

The post Craven appeared first on ThinkProgress.

14:52 What Is Whey Protein?» LiveScience.com
Whey protein is a supplement often used for building muscle. But is it safe to use, and does it work? Live Science looked at the science behind taking whey protein.
14:50 Cartoon: Back to business» Daily Kos

Matt Wuerker
(Click for larger image)

14:42 Stevens: Pot should be legalized» POLITICO - TOP Stories
John Paul Stevens: Pot should be legalized
14:40 Pet Bearded Dragons Linked to Salmonella Outbreak in US» LiveScience.com
A salmonella outbreak that has so far sickened 132 people in 31 states over the last two years has now been traced to a source — pet lizards called breaded dragons, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
14:34 After Championing Cliven Bundy, Fox News Studiously Ignores His Racist Meltdown» ThinkProgress

The network that gave Cliven Bundy his platform completely ignored his racist comments.

The post After Championing Cliven Bundy, Fox News Studiously Ignores His Racist Meltdown appeared first on ThinkProgress.

14:14 If “Forrest Gump” were a Wes Anderson film» Salon.com
Filmmaker Louis Paquet recreated the opening credits of the 1994 classic

14:08 Tapping Electrical Signals: Turning Thought Into Action» LiveScience.com
Biomedical engineer Walt Besio uses his brother's paralysis as motivation to invent technology to help people with disabilities return to a more normal life.
14:00 Ohio’s Clean Energy Programs Save Customers $2 For Every $1 They Spend» ThinkProgress

“It defies all logic that Ohio lawmakers would be tempted to do away with this kind of success.”

The post Ohio’s Clean Energy Programs Save Customers $2 For Every $1 They Spend appeared first on ThinkProgress.

13:58 “They might as well discriminate against me in death as well as life”: Veteran fights to be buried alongside her wife» Salon.com
Navy veteran Madelynn Taylor wants to have her ashes interred with her wife's ashes, but her request was denied

13:58 The explosive rise of solar: U.S. capacity grew over 400 percent in just 4 years» Salon.com
Sorry, Koch brothers: more than half of new capacity comes from home and business owners

13:56 National Labor Relations Board Will Decide If Northwestern Football Players Can Form A Union» ThinkProgress

As expected, the NLRB will review the case and issue a final decision on whether college athletes can unionize.

The post National Labor Relations Board Will Decide If Northwestern Football Players Can Form A Union appeared first on ThinkProgress.

13:50 Justice Stevens Supports Federal Marijuana Legalization» ThinkProgress

"The distinction between marijuana and alcoholic beverages is really not much of a distinction."

The post Justice Stevens Supports Federal Marijuana Legalization appeared first on ThinkProgress.

13:47 Fast Food Companies Pay CEOs 1,200 Times What They Pay Workers (And You’re Helping Them Do It)» ThinkProgress

The ratio of CEO-to-worker pay in the fast food industry has exploded and tax loopholes mean the public is funding that inequality.

The post Fast Food Companies Pay CEOs 1,200 Times What They Pay Workers (And You’re Helping Them Do It) appeared first on ThinkProgress.

13:43 Hannity slams Bundy remarks» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The Fox News host says comments are "ignorant."
13:42 Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens: Legalize it!» Salon.com
The former member of America's highest court says the U.S. is starting to realize pot's no worse than alcohol

13:32 Walking May Spark Creative Thinking» LiveScience.com
From artists to office workers, people in all walks of life claim that going for a stroll helps them work out ideas or overcome creative blocks, and now new research finds that stretching one's legs really does give a mental boost.
13:26 Ancient Chisel Used to Build Western Wall Found» LiveScience.com
The 2,000-year-old stonemason's chisel may have been used in the construction of the holy site for both Muslims and Jews.
13:23 Cuomo defends stymying corruption commission: 'Because I could'» Daily Kos
January 21, 2014-Albany- Governor Cuomo delivers his 2014 Executive Budget address,
If part of the equation for good government is "trust", NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo has blown that away.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo promised to clean up New York's rampant corruption in the state capitol in Albany. Then when the commission he appointed, the Moreland Commission, got close to his patrons, his office squashed those investigations.
[W]atchdog groups raised concerns about the panel’s credibility after reports about interference by the governor’s office, which leaned on the commission to limit the scope of its investigations, influence which subpoenas it would issue, and in some cases, stop the commission from issuing subpoenas to groups with ties to Mr. Cuomo.
And when that wasn't enough, he simply shut the commission down. So much for cleaning up Albany.

But a federal prosecutor has taken over the commission's files and blasted the governor, and the New York press is starting to dig further. So how does Cuomo respond to this growing mess?

“It’s not a legal question. The Moreland Commission was my commission,” Mr. Cuomo explained. “It’s my commission. My subpoena power, my Moreland Commission. I can appoint it, I can disband it. I appoint you, I can un-appoint you tomorrow.

"So, interference? It’s my commission. I can’t 'interfere' with it, because it is mine. It is controlled by me.”

Seriously, admitting that it was kabuki from day one? Admitting that every promising corruption lead followed by the commission was squashed by him because it was controlled by him?

The Moreland Commission scandal has already killed Cuomo's national ambitions. This response is just icing on the cake.

13:21 Is This The End Of Onshore Wind In The U.K.?» ThinkProgress

As the U.K. announces major new investments in renewable energy, conservative leaders are hoping that their vow to end new onshore wind projects will help rally their rural base.

The post Is This The End Of Onshore Wind In The U.K.? appeared first on ThinkProgress.

13:17 Girl hands FLOTUS dad's résumé» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Charlotte Bell gives Michelle Obama the resume of her father, who has been jobless for 3 years.
13:11 Latest Terry Richardson scandal may have been a hoax» Salon.com
The inappropriate Facebook message model Emma Appleton received came from a fake account, reports the New York Post

13:05 Dems race to embrace Obamacare in Pa. primary» POLITICO - TOP Stories
It's a reminder that Obamacare is still popular with at least one group important in the midterms.
13:01 Going up? Hitachi Plans World's Fastest Elevator» LiveScience.com
Elevators for the CTF Guangzhou skyscraper under construction in China will transport passengers at a record-breaking 45 miles per hour.
13:00 Watch Fox Host Shut Down Dem Mentioning Bundy After Network Goes Silent On 'Negro' Remarks» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Watch Fox Host Shut Down Dem Mentioning Bundy After Network Goes Silent On 'Negro' Remarks

Fox News spent most of the day on Thursday avoiding the topic of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy after his racist remarks were revealed -- and host Gretchen Carlson wasn't about to let Democratic strategist Joe Trippi break the news to loyal viewers.

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Bundy had recently held a press conference to blast the federal government for requiring him to pay grazing fees, but it was his comments about "the negro" and slavery that most likely shut down Fox News' favorable, non-stop coverage of the rancher.

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” Bundy had said, before ranting about how African-Americans might have been better off as slaves.

And then for nine hours on Thursday, Bundy's name was not mentioned on Fox News.

Until Joe Trippi was invited to participate in a segment slamming President Barack Obama for not approving the Keystone XL pipeline fast enough.

Trippi pointed out that delays in approving the pipeline were connected to a court case in Nebraska.

"And the same people, by the way, who argue about Bundy ranch that the feds are coming in..." was all that Trippi could say before being cut off by Carlson.

read more

13:00 Sean Hannity calls Bundy comments 'repugnant, despicable'» Daily Kos
Eric Parker from central Idaho aims his weapon from a bridge as protesters gather by the Bureau of Land Management's base camp, where cattle that were seized from rancher Cliven Bundy are being held, near Bunkerville, Nevada April 12, 2014. The U.S. Burea
But the pointing guns at federal agents part Sean was fine with.
Welp, pack it in, fellas. Cliven Bundy has lost Sean Hannity.
Bundy's comments "are beyond repugnant to me. They are beyond despicable to me. They are beyond ignorant to me," Hannity said during his radio show.
And Hannity knows the real problem here, which is that no matter how much Hannity agreed with the general premise of pointing a crapload of weapons at federal agents trying to enforce a law that Cliven Bundy doesn't personally want to abide by, now Bundy is making conservatives look bad.
"They want to say that conservatives are racist. Conservatives hate women," Hannity said. "Conservatives want old people to die, granny over the cliff. They want the young people to fend for themselves. They want to poison the air and poison the water."

"People that for the right reasons saw this case as government overreach now are branded because of the ignorant, racist, repugnant, despicable comments of Cliven Bundy," he said.

Yeah, wow. It's simply amazing how often that keeps happening. You find yourself a nice, heavily armed conservative hero who has conspiracy theories as to why the United States government doesn't actually exist, and the guy turns out to be a total wacko. What are the odds?
13:00 Christie lawyer condemns revolting attack ad released by Christie» Daily Kos

Christie heads the Republican Governors Association which aired this attack ad in South Carolina
How thoroughly disgusting is the Republican Governors' Association new ad attacking South Carolina State Sen. and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen for having represented criminals as a defense attorney? It's so disgusting that one of RGA Chairman Chris Christie's own lawyer's—hired to to represent him in the lane closure scandal—is condemning it:
"I did watch the ad and, wow, it's a disgrace," Robert D. Luskin, a partner at Patton Boggs, told The Huffington Post in an email. "The people who talk incessantly about American exceptionalism ought to demonstrate some understanding -- and some respect -- for what makes our system truly admirable: that includes the willingness of lawyers to stand up for their clients no matter how ugly the allegation. But a lawyer is only, ever an advocate; he's not a co conspirator or an enabler."
As our own David Nir wrote earlier this week:
I'm never one for Marquess of Queensberry rules when it comes to campaign trail fights. Politics is messy, after all. But these kinds of ads are a direct assault on the very notion of an adversarial system of justice, one of the foundations of our democracy.
The obvious irony here is that the blanket attack on criminal lawyers is coming from a group headed by a guy who may soon need a criminal defense lawyer. If that happens, you can bet your bottom dollar he's going to change his tune on the value of defense attorneys.

Update: Former Republican AG of South Carolina concurs—the ad is a disgrace and should be removed.

12:50 Dangerous Tornado Threat to Arise From Texas to Nebraska This Weekend» LiveScience.com
A dangerous multiple-day severe weather outbreak will begin this weekend over the South Central states and will include the potential for nighttime tornadoes in parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska.
12:47 Labels for climate data» RealClimate
“These results are quite strange”, my colleague told me. He analysed some of the recent climate model results from an experiment known by the cryptic name ‘CMIP5‘. It turned out that the results were ok, but we had made an error when reading and processing the model output. The particular climate model that initially gave […]
12:37 Idaho Won’t Allow Lesbian Veteran To Be Buried With Her Wife» ThinkProgress

Idaho's ban on same-sex marriage is keeping a veteran from being buried with her late wife.

The post Idaho Won’t Allow Lesbian Veteran To Be Buried With Her Wife appeared first on ThinkProgress.

12:37 Report: White Supremacist Was Caught In '80s With Black Male Prostitute» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Report: White Supremacist Was Caught In '80s With Black Male Prostitute

Funny how often that happens:

F. Glenn Miller, the white supremacist accused of murdering three people at Jewish sites in Johnson County, was caught by police in the 1980s having sex with a black male prostitute dressed as a woman, according to multiple media reports.

An ABC News report says that while authorities investigated Miller for hate crimes in the late 1980s, they learned of his arrest a year earlier in Raleigh, N.C. Police officers had caught Miller in the back seat of a vehicle, in mid-act with a black male prostitute masquerading as a woman.

“It was pretty shocking because of his personal stances that he had taken and what he was now accused on engaging in,” then-federal prosecutor J. Douglas McCullough, now a judge on the North Carolina state Court of Appeals, told ABC. McCullough was in on interviews with Miller.

McCullough said he had read the police report of the incident but declined to comment on the specifics.

“I would rather not go into the details,” he said. “They’re rather salacious. I think the facts speak for themselves and people can draw their own conclusions about how incongruous that is.”

12:33 Dana Loesch: Cliven Bundy Just Needs A Little Media Training» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Dana Loesch: Cliven Bundy Just Needs  A Little Media Training

Conservatives talkers will go to extraordinary measures to try and justify their positions and here's a prime example of this.

Cliven Bundy has been at the center of the news lately over his zealous anti-government positions and his refusal to pay fines to the BLM. As we know, he's lost a few court battles already, but still refuses to comply and he also has no "Ancestral Rights' claims on the land since his family didn't obtain it until 1948. He's also aligned himself with far right militia groups like the Oath Keepers as a way to spark a conflict with the feds so The NY Times dug a little deeper into what this man believes and as nice as he is to illegal immigrants, but he's incredibly offensive to African Americans. That should tell you something right there. Anyway, Dana Loesch, ex-Brietbarter found a new way to defend the Posse Comitatus like rancher.

Dana Loesch

A few things. First, to take the quote at face value it’s odd and sounds offensive. You’re talking about government overreach and you go into this story? Secondly, I hope no one is surprised that an old man rancher isn’t media trained to express himself perfectly.

read more

12:30 How to make Fox shut up about deadbeat ranchers with armed militias» Daily Kos
Fox News Sean Hannity program on April 15, 2014
Before the news broke that Cliven Bundy is a raging racist asshole in addition to being a deadbeat rancher backed by an armed militia defending his right to stiff the federal government: 458 mentions of the right's newest hero on Fox News in April, an average of 20 per day.

And since then? Two.

12:27 Defense CEOs ante up for Durbin, Reed» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The two senators report bringing in $55,700 during the first three months of the year.
12:25 The U.S. is completely unprepared for the inevitable Arctic oil spill» Salon.com
If we don't get our act together, a new report warns, the next disaster will put Deepwater Horizon to shame

12:20 The Weird And Wondrous Politics Of Climate Change In Massachusetts» ThinkProgress

When climate deniers can't get elected, the entire debate changes.

The post The Weird And Wondrous Politics Of Climate Change In Massachusetts appeared first on ThinkProgress.

12:17 Holder cancels Oklahoma speech» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Protesters say he shouldn't speak at a police ceremony because he's in contempt of Congress.
12:11 Why Brown can't count on Wall Street» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Financial services insiders and Republican strategists are candid about the challenge he faces.
12:10 Washington state loses NCLB waiver» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The state has not fulfilled the Department of Education's requirements for reform.
12:09 Here’s video of the racist thing Cliven Bundy denied he ever said» Salon.com
Media Matters releases footage of the rebel rancher wondering aloud if African-Americans were happier as slaves

12:08 U.S. Solar Capacity Grew 418 Percent In The Last Four Years» ThinkProgress

Solar energy is booming across the U.S., with capacity up an astounding 418 percent in the last four years alone, according to data released this week by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The post U.S. Solar Capacity Grew 418 Percent In The Last Four Years appeared first on ThinkProgress.

12:00 Midday open thread: Gender pay gap starts young, whistleblowers suffer, jobless comp claims rise» Daily Kos
  • Today's comic by Ruben Bolling is Lucky Duck in "State of Denial":
    Cartoon by Ruben Bolling -- Lucky Ducky, in 'State of Denial'
  • These Daily Kos community posts were the most shared on Facebook April 23:
    BREAKING: Jury awards $3 million in first fracking case, by TXsharon

    IRS Targeted Progressive Groups MORE than Tea Party, by ericlewis0

    Duke president says removing toxic ash would cost $10 billion and take decades which is "too much", by HoundDog

  • Whistleblowers pay a big price:
    "Part of the purpose of doing what they've been doing for the last several years, is to destroy you," the ex-NSA mathematician and decorated Navy veteran Thomas Drake says in [the film] Silenced. [...]

    f you become a whistleblower, "You have to mortgage your house, you have to empty your bank accounts," Drake says. The only work he could find, eventually, was as an Apple store clerk. Though every single one of the major charges were eventually dropped—following a piece on Drake in the New Yorker and a 60 Minutes segment, it should be noted—the toll of his whistleblowing was clear. Drake estimated that the charges had cost him over a million dollars in legal fees and lost work. He was ostracized and condemned by his peers. It was emotionally devastating, too; the charges, Drake implies, led to a painful separation with his wife.

  • Mapping the hourly wage needed to cover modest housing:
    Emily Badger and Christopher Ingraham show "what you’d need to earn per hour, working a 40-hour week, to cover the kind of housing that the federal government considers modest in your county."

    “Mapped in finer detail than by state, several geographic patterns are clearer. No single county in America has a one-bedroom housing wage below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 (several counties in Arkansas come in at $7.98).”

  • Apple says 94 percent of its corporate facilities are now powered by clean energy.
  • Even allowances are plagued by gender gap. Seventy percent of boys vs. 60 percent of girls say they get an allowance.
    But unfortunately, it’s not likely because boys do more chores. One study found that girls do two more hours of housework a week than boys, while boys spend twice as much time playing. The same study confirmed that boys are still more likely to get paid for what they do: they are 15 percent more likely to get an allowance for doing chores than girls. A 2009 survey of children ages 5 to 12 found that far more girls are assigned chores than boys.

    And it’s not just that boys are more likely to be paid by their parents, but they also get more money. One study found that boys spent just 2.1 hours a week on chores and made $48 on average, while girls put in 2.7 hours to make $45. A British study found that boys get paid 15 percent more than girls for the same chores.

  • Compensation claims rise eight percent: For the week ending April 19, seasonally adjusted initial claims for unemployment compensation rose to 329,000, up 24,000 from the previous week's revised level. For the comparable week of 2013, the number was 343,000. The less volatile four-week running average rose to 316,750. For the week ending April 5, the total number of people claiming compensation was 2,922,187, down 85,245 from the previous week. For the comparable week in 2013, 5,065,908 persons claimed compensation from state and federal programs. Most of that one-year decrease is a consequence of the failure of Congress to renew the federal emergency unemployment compensation program in December.
  • Giant iceberg breaks away from Antarctica:
    One of the largest icebergs on the planet, about six times the size of Manhattan, has separated from an Antarctic glacier and is floating out towards open ocean. The iceberg is named B-31, and is roughly 255 square miles (660 square km). Its estimated maximum thickness is 1,600 feet (487 meters). Last Fall, it broke off from the Pine Island Glacier. Researchers have been watching it drift away since then, via satellite.
  • Food industry says people won't eat GMO products if they're labeled:
    Big food manufacturers and the biotech industry that produces the seeds for genetically engineered crops contend that mandatory labeling of products containing ingredients derived from those crops — also known as genetically modified organisms, or G.M.O.s — will be tantamount to putting a skull-and-crossbones on them.
  • White House spokesman denies Rolling Stone claim on Keystone XL—sort of:
    The White House didn't offer an official response when POLITICO asked about yesterday's Rolling Stone piece (http://rol.st/... ) saying that two unnamed administration sources say President Barack Obama "all but decided to deny the permit for the pipeline." But White House spokesman Matt Lehrich later wrote on Twitter: "Tip for reporters: nobody who knows POTUS' thinking on Keystone is talking and nobody who is talking knows." He also offered the standard White House statement that the pipeline decision is in the hands of the State Department and will be "made on merits."
  • On today's Kagro in the Morning show, Cliven Bundy, ladies & gents! Greg Dworkin parses the Kaiser polling, then sets the agenda for the day with Harold Pollock's "Pre-Occupied with Medicaid Expansion." It's Occupy vs. "Moral Mondays." And are we an oligarchy yet, or what?
11:53 The truth about Facebook’s plan to literally alter reality» Salon.com
Last month, Facebook acquired a company that makes virtual-reality machines — so we took one for a test drive
11:53 The U.S. Still Outspends Every Other Country On Defense — By A Lot» ThinkProgress

The United States spends more on defense than the next 12 countries combined, many of which are U.S. allies.

The post The U.S. Still Outspends Every Other Country On Defense — By A Lot appeared first on ThinkProgress.

11:50 2 Newborn Gorillas + Moms Caught On Bronx Zoo Video» LiveScience.com
Western lowland gorilla's Julia (33-Years Old) and Tuti (19-Years old) gave birth in March and April of 2014. The both share the same father, a silverback called Ernie (31-years old).
11:45 Vaccination Has Saved 732,000 Children's Lives Since 1994» LiveScience.com
About 322 million illnesses and more than 732,000 deaths among U.S. children have been prevented in the past 20 years due to routine vaccinations, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
11:34 The story behind the Bundy quote» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The New York Times reporter says he knew he'd be making news when he heard the quote.
11:27 Three Things Obama's New Clemency Initiative Doesn't Do» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Three Things Obama's New Clemency Initiative Doesn't Do

by Kara Brandeisky ProPublica, April 23, 2014, 6:15 p.m.

Today, the Department of Justice outlined expanded criteria that could allow prisoners convicted of non-violent crimes to win early release from prison. Under the new initiative, the Office of the Pardon Attorney will fast-track commutation applications from inmates who have served more than 10 years for non-violent offenses and who were well-behaved while imprisoned.

As part of the shift, the department is replacing Pardon Attorney Ronald Rodgers. Two years ago, we reported that Rodgers had failed to provide critical information to the White House in urging denial of a commutation for Clarence Aaron, a model prisoner who served nearly 20 years for a small role in a drug deal.

read more

11:26 NBC News president backs Gregory» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Deborah Turness sends a memo calling recent coverage of the "Meet the Press" host "ludicrous."
11:22 Election on 34th Street: A guide to the 2014 Congressional elections in New York » Daily Kos
U.S. Representative Charlie Rangel (D-NY) gestures as he speaks to the members of the media in front of his House office on Capitol Hill in Washington, November 16, 2010. Rangel said he walked out of the proceedings yesterday when he was denied an attorney to be present with him. He asked for
Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel, a potential primary victim
With 27 House seats, there are a lot of races to watch in New York. Some will be resolved in the June 24 primary, while others will be hard fought all the way until November. What follows is a guide to New York's House races. Any race that Daily Kos Elections rates as anything but safe for the incumbent is featured. We also have a few races where the incumbent faces a credible primary challenge.

To start out, here is a chart of all 27 seats. The state has a complete list of candidates here.

Head below the fold for a look at the races that will be worth watching this year.
11:12 How Coral Strength Is Tested | Video» LiveScience.com
Researchers have created a 'stress tank' to see how corals from different parts of the ocean react to high heat stress. Coolers are set up with fans, lights and heaters to simulate conditions.
11:07 State of the K Street» POLITICO - TOP Stories
POLITICO Influence: An analysis of the boutiques and medium-sized lobbying firms in Washington.
11:07 Vermont to pass country’s strictest anti-GMO law» Salon.com
Gov. Shumlin says he will sign the bill, making Vermont the first state to require the labeling of GM foods

11:07 Manhattan’s surging flood risk: City could end up underwater every 1 in 4 years» Salon.com
The risk of flooding from storms is 20 times greater than it used to be, a new study finds
11:03 Woman Who Had Abortion Before Roe v. Wade: ‘All I See Is Things Getting Worse’» ThinkProgress

The women who had abortions before 1973 are seeing history repeat itself.

The post Woman Who Had Abortion Before Roe v. Wade: ‘All I See Is Things Getting Worse’ appeared first on ThinkProgress.

11:03 Coral Species May Adapt to Warmer Waters (Video)» LiveScience.com
Coral reefs tend to be vulnerable to damage from warmer waters, but at least one coral species may be able to adapt to the higher ocean temperatures that may come with climate change.
11:03 We have three weeks to save Net neutrality» Daily Kos
net neutrality sign

The Federal Communications Commission will be voting on considering a proposal that would kill Net neutrality next month. Basically, Chairman Tom Wheeler (former telecomm CEO and lobbyist) has decided that Internet service providers (like Comcast or Verizon) will be able to charge content providers (like Microsoft or Google) for preferential treatment.

The big, rich companies can pay for high bandwidth, small companies like Daily Kos can't. We'll be left in the slow lane. The rules will say that ISP won't be allowed to deliberately slow down traffic from specific sites, but that's the only thing that would be left of the Net neutrality that has allowed the Internet to change the world.

Giving ISPs the power to demand pay-for-priority schemes would be disastrous for startups, nonprofits and small companies, not to mention everyday Internet users.

Help us stop the FCC from crushing Net neutrality. Please sign our petition.

3:08 PM PT: Thanks to all the commenters who note that the final vote on the rule isn't on May 15. But the FCC commissioners will decide at that meeting whether to essentially accept the proposal and put it out for public comment, or sink it and make Wheeler go back to the drawing board. We need to nip this proposal in the bud now.

11:02 In Photos: Coral Species May Adapt to Warmer Waters» LiveScience.com
A coral species called Acropora hyacinthus may be able to adapt to the higher ocean temperatures that may come with climate change.
11:01 Blood-Sucking Tsetse Flies Caught On Video » LiveScience.com
Tsetse flies suck blood through an artificial feeding system at Yale University. Researchers have sequenced the genome of this fly, which spreads fatal sleeping sickness in sub-Saharan Africa.
11:01 Reince Priebus outraged by billionaire political spending?» Daily Kos

Yet more evidence that Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is a lame troll:

Retweet & Sign http://t.co/... Tell @BarackObama that jobs & energy security are more important than politics & a billionaire donor
Um, Reince, if you're going to feign outrage against Tom Steyer and President Obama's approach to Keystone XL, you're going to need to do better than that.
  1. If the president were making a purely political decision, he'd approve Keystone and do it before the election—the fact that he hasn't done so is a reflection of his policy views.
  2. If Reince wants to claim he's outraged over billionaires spending money in politics, then he probably shouldn't do it just 24 hours after alleging Harry Reid was breaking the law for tweeting about the Koch Brothers and the GOP.
  3. And if Reince really wants to get rid of billionaire influence in politics, then why is it that under his leadership the GOP has systematically pushed to rollback campaign contribution limits, including coming out in favor of banning campaign contribution caps altogether?

If Reince truly wanted to help return democracy to the public, he'd find an eager partner in the Democratic Party, which is eager to support new disclosure rules and to find new ways to limit the outsize influence of big donors. But he doesn't want that—instead, he wants Democrats to tie one arm behind their back while the GOP goes to town with the Kochs. Well, sorry Reince. It ain't gonna' happen that way.

11:00 Photos: Portraits of the Blood-Sucking Tsetse Fly» LiveScience.com
Photos of the tsetse fly, which spreads sleeping sickness in sub-Saharan Africa. Researchers have sequenced the full genome of this insect and hope to use the results to develop new ways to control the fly.
10:40 Bundy: I know what 'slavery' means» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Bundy says black people were better off as slaves.
10:36 How Darren Aronofsky Made ‘Noah’ His Own» ThinkProgress

“The Noah story, as our box office returns show, belongs as much to everyone on the planet as it does to the Judeo-Christian family,” director Darren Aronofky said. “For me, it’s like a UNECSO site.”

The post How Darren Aronofsky Made ‘Noah’ His Own appeared first on ThinkProgress.

10:35 Linguist's guilty plea looks imminent» POLITICO - TOP Stories
A former Navy contract linguist is accused of taking classified documents without permission.
10:25 Arkansas Democrats use Medicaid expansion to rally women» Daily Kos

Nice message, Arkansas Democrats!

Image tweeted out by Arkansas Democrats showing 155,567 people, 61 percent women, have coverage in the state's Medicaid expansion, and that Tom Cotton would take that insurance away.
That's Democrats reminding voters, particularly women, that Republican Tom Cotton, who is running for Senate, wants to take their insurance away from them by repealing Obamacare. And, so far, he hasn't put forward for how those 155,567 people, who have coverage through the state's private option Medicaid expansion, will get replacement coverage.

That's a pretty good message for motivating women, and anyone who cares about people having health care, to get to the polls in November.

10:22 Conservatives Slow To Denounce Cliven Bundy Over Racist Comments» ThinkProgress

Conservatives are championing Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy as a patriot, but his recent assertion that black people were better off as slaves is sure to put his supporters in an awkward position.

The post Conservatives Slow To Denounce Cliven Bundy Over Racist Comments appeared first on ThinkProgress.

10:20 Lawmaker Says Women Make Less Because They Don’t Work As Hard» ThinkProgress

New Hampshire State Rep. Will Infantine (R) said that men make more because they take on riskier and harder work.

The post Lawmaker Says Women Make Less Because They Don’t Work As Hard appeared first on ThinkProgress.

10:20 Dolly Parton to Miley Cyrus: You don’t “have to be so drastic”» Salon.com
Dolly Parton imparts advice onto the Time "100 Most Influential People" honoree

10:11 Blood in Gourd Didn't Belong to Louis XVI, New DNA Study Finds» LiveScience.com
New genetic evidence casts further doubt on the authenticity of a grisly French relic: a gourd long believed to be stained with the blood of Louis XVI.
10:09 Vice News reporter released» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Simon Ostrovsky has been released after being detained since Tuesday in Slovyansk.
10:02 Oklahoma Legislators Want to Impeach Justices Who Suspended Death Sentences» ThinkProgress

The state of Oklahoma narrowly avoided a constitutional crisis over the death penalty Wednesday night. But lawmakers are still attempting to exert influence over the court.

The post Oklahoma Legislators Want to Impeach Justices Who Suspended Death Sentences appeared first on ThinkProgress.

09:56 Fox News' Anti-Gay Selective Outrage In One Chart» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Fox News completely ignored the growing controversy surrounding an anti-gay South Carolina mayor's firing of his town's lesbian police chief, despite devoting nearly two hours of coverage to the resignation of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, who departed in the wake of an outcry over his support for California's 2008 ban on same-sex marriage.

On April 15, newly elected Latta, SC Mayor Earl Bullard fired Police Chief Crystal Moore, a 20-year veteran of the department. Bullard alleged that Moore had failed to maintain order and questioned authority - the first such complaints lodged against Moore in her two decades with the department. Moore and her supporters charged that her firing was a blatant case of anti-gay discrimination, citing Bullard's stridently anti-gay views and a leaked phone conversation in which the mayor said he'd rather entrust his children to an alcoholic than someone whose "lifestyle is questionable."

On April 22, the town council unanimously voted to prevent Bullard from hiring a replacement over the next two months, with the ultimate aim of reinstating Moore.

But according to an Equality Matters analysis, while Moore's firing received widespread national and even international attention, Fox gave the story no coverage at all:

Fox's silence on Moore's firing contrasts sharply with the network's coverage of Eich's resignation as Mozilla's CEO. Following the discovery that Eich had donated $1000 to California's Proposition 8, the Mozilla CEO stepped down amidst criticism from marriage equality supporters and even several Mozilla employees.

Fox News personalities cited the incident as evidence of "liberal intolerance" and an alleged "double standard" on the Left. As Fox's resident media critic Howard Kurtz stated, "If a conservative company would have pushed out a CEO for supporting gay marriage, chances are much of the media would have been in uproar":

09:55 Cliven Bundy would 'appreciate' everybody forgetting his racism» Daily Kos

Bundy continues to have very strange theories as to how the world works:
Bundy says on Alex Jones radio show that he'd "appreciate" NYT retracting quotes: "I'm not racist."

Well sure, I bet he would. We can't have the militia movement and the vast majority of conservative talking heads thinking poorly of him.

But "retract" a statement he made on tape, because it makes him look bad? How's that supposed to work?

09:55 Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin is on to our dastardly (popular) agenda!» Daily Kos
U.S. Republican presidential nominee and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney arrives at a campaign rally in Etna, Ohio, November 2, 2012. REUTERS/Jim Young
New rule: If you thought this guy was going to win, you can't call anyone else "deluded."
Jennifer Rubin headline:
Tom Steyer, self-deluded liberal billionaire
Funny for Rubin to call anyone "self-deluded" when it was she who wrote, a week before the November 2012 elections:
Romney rising, Obama overwhelmed [...]

In sum, you have one camp where the message, the electorate and the news are all downers. On the other side, you have a positive message, new ad buys in the blue state of Minnesota and the potential for a huge turnout. Two campaigns, traveling in very different directions.

Ha, ha, ha, Minnesota! The same Minnesota President Barack Obama won by 10 points.

Anyway, why is Tom Steyer deluded? It has something to do with Democrats being hypocritical because they criticize Koch brothers spending, but then Steyer is going to start spending his own money. Democrats should let conservative billionaires buy America, but no, they're being hypocritical by fighting back! Her argument is a bit of a mess, actually. (Never mind that Democrats would sign off on a Constitutional Amendment banning corporate money in politics today given the opportunity.)

In any case, her coup de grâce is her assertion that just like the Koch brothers, who try to shape the agenda to suit their business interests, liberals also have a selfish agenda! And that agenda is THIS:

Democrats have cash from Hollywood, Manhattan and Silicon Valley liberal elites who would like pot and gay marriage to be legal and the internal combustion engine to disappear. Those people are just as “selfish” as the Koch brothers [...]
Um, all of those are majority positions with the American people, and none directly benefit most liberal elite donors. Most aren't gay. So supporting equality isn't really selfish. All of them can already smoke pot if they want, but they want saner drug laws for others. It won't be them going to jail. So again, not selfish. And if they really want to ditch gas-powered cars, they can already buy a Tesla or Volt or BMW i3 or whatever. But more accessible electric vehicles (and clean power to fuel them)? Not selfish, unless it's "selfish" to pine for cleaner air for them and their children.

So how is advocating for those issues akin to building a pipeline to carry Koch oil product to the Gulf Coast for export? Obviously, it's not. But if you're dumb enough to think Romney was competitive in Minnesota in 2012, then processing reality was never your strong suit.

09:50 How Many More Garment Workers Have To Die Before Things Really Change?» ThinkProgress

Tangible action is being taken to improve safety in Bangladesh. What about the world's other garment workers?

The post How Many More Garment Workers Have To Die Before Things Really Change? appeared first on ThinkProgress.

09:49 Conservatives can’t decide whether to disown or defend Cliven Bundy» Salon.com
After touting and lionizing the Nevada rancher for weeks, the GOP isn't sure how to respond to his patent racism

09:31 W.H. slams AFP's Aurora image ad» POLITICO - TOP Stories
A spokesman calls the ad "shameful" for its use of a picture of Obama after the Aurora shooting.
09:29 Six Major Cities Add Their Support To Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Plan» ThinkProgress

The six cities are joined by four environmental groups in pushing back against states that have tried to characterize the cleanup plan as EPA overreach.

The post Six Major Cities Add Their Support To Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Plan appeared first on ThinkProgress.

09:24 Missing Link? Mississippi Floods, and a Great City Disappears» LiveScience.com
The mysterious abandonment of Cahokia, one of North America's greatest cities, may be linked to a massive Mississippi River flood 1,800 years ago.
09:18 Sheryl Sandberg’s warped understanding of Beyoncé» Salon.com
Sandberg's piece in the Time 100 issue misses the point of the pop star

09:17 Cliven Bundy's racist comments force some Republican supporters to back off» Daily Kos
Rancher Cliven Bundy gestures at his home in Bunkerville, Nevada April 12, 2014. U.S. officials ended a stand-off with hundreds of armed protesters in the Nevada desert on Saturday, calling off the government's roundup of cattle it said were illegally grazing on federal land and giving about 300 animals back to rancher Bundy who owned them. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart   (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ANIMALS BUSINESS CRIME LAW CIVIL UNREST) - RTR3L0J8
Gosh, who could have predicted that supporting Cliven Bundy would come back to bite some Republicans in the ass?
When the New York Times asked a few of deadbeat rancher Cliven Bundy's prominent supporters what they thought of his comments beginning "I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro" and concluding that maybe slavery was better for black people, Sen. Dean Heller's office responded by saying that Heller "completely disagrees with Mr. Bundy’s appalling and racist statements, and condemns them in the most strenuous way." By contrast, Sen. Rand Paul's office said Paul wasn't available for comment. That started the clock. How long would it take Rand Paul to condemn the idea that there's a serious discussion to be had about whether slavery or freedom is better?

We don't know exactly when a Times reporter called Paul's office with that question, but we know that Paul's eventual statement distancing himself from Bundy—"His remarks on race are offensive and I wholeheartedly disagree with him"—didn't come until Thursday morning, nearly 10 hours after the story went online and after Bundy's remarks were already drawing wide notice. So basically, Paul's disagreement is wholehearted, but not something that could be expressed the first time his office heard what Bundy said. Duly noted.

Some of Bundy's other prominent supporters made excuses, with conservative talk radio host Dana Loesch writing that "I hope no one is surprised that an old man rancher isn’t media-trained to express himself perfectly." As if there's a more perfect, media-friendly way to suggest that it's a shame that the Negro of today never learned to pick cotton like they would have under slavery. Then there's Breitbart's John Nolte:

Remember how the Left backed away from Ted Kennedy's causes after he killed a woman? GOP should do same with Bundy's appalling racism.

First off, when you're relying on a single incident 45 years in the past to make your case, your case might be weak. Second, "Ted Kennedy's causes"? Like, "oh, damn, I supported health care reform, but it's one of Kennedy's causes, so I guess I better distance myself from it?" See, Ted Kennedy's causes were real causes. The point was getting more rights for more people, increasing equality, slowing a nuclear arms race ... big-picture stuff about which more could be said than "Ted Kennedy supports this." "Cliven Bundy shouldn't have to pay to graze his cattle on federal land, like all the other ranchers do" is a stark—and pitiful—contrast as far as "causes" go.

It sure is a shame that after so many Republicans praised a man for taking up arms against the federal government to avoid paying for his use of government land, they should have to deal with the fact that he's also a racist.

09:15 'Hidden Dragon' Beast Gave Rise to Fearsome Flying Reptiles» LiveScience.com
A Chinese fossil is the earliest and most primitive pterodactyloid, part of a group of flying reptiles that ruled the skies some 163 million years ago, scientists report.
09:12 Net neutrality: 5 questions» POLITICO - TOP Stories
What does the FCC's decision mean for businesses and consumers?
09:12 VIDEO: Cliven Bundy's Racist Comments» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Here is the video of Cliven Bundy's racist tirade, in which he questioned whether black Americans were "better off as slaves" or "better off under government subsidy." His remarks initially appeared in a New York Times article on April 23.

Bundy was heavily praised by conservatives in the media, who lauded his standoff with the federal government.

UPDATE: The video was initially uploaded by user Jasonpatrick11 to the website bambuser.com. The Bundy Ranch responded to criticism of the tirade on their Facebook page on April 24, claiming that "words are taken out of context" and that Cliven Bundy "is not a racist man."

Bundy Ranch Facebook post

09:04 Fox Goes Silent On Bundy After Racist Tirade» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Hannity BundyFox News' incessant promotion of Cliven Bundy abruptly ended after the Nevada rancher's racist rant was published in The New York Times.

Bundy's public feud with the Bureau of Land Management over his refusal to pay grazing fees received extensive support from Fox News, which devoted nearly five hours of primetime coverage to the story, including numerous interviews with Bundy and his family. Sean Hannity provided him so much positive coverage, Bundy praised the Fox News host as a "hero." 

That praise fell silent after Bundy used one of his daily press conferences to engage in an overtly racist tirade, claiming black people "abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton" and suggesting that they were better off under slavery. The day after Bundy's rant was published in The New York Times, Fox News' coverage of Bundy ended rapidly.

By noon on April 24, Fox had mentioned the rancher only twice, and never covered his racist comments. On Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy drew a parallel between Bundy's standoff and the situation of two Texas landowners, and Fox's Andrew Napolitano told viewers to "forget the battle in Nevada" to focus on events in Texas instead.

While Fox News did not cover Bundy's comments, Fox host Greta van Susteren spoke out on her blog, highlighting the Times' article and noting "Let me make this plain: I condemn what Cliven Bundy said about African Americans."

UPDATED: Here's the video of Bundy's racist rant:

09:02 It’s not just wing-nuts! Slate gets liberal opposition to the Common Core all wrong» Salon.com
Slate oversimplifies Common Core debate as Obama vs. the Tea Party, and misses serious, sophisticated left critique

08:59 GOPers: 'Grave concern' on deportations» POLITICO - TOP Stories
22 Republican senators write a letter about the administration's review of immigration law.
08:56 How Some Christian Colleges Are Getting Around The Federal Laws That Help Address Campus Rape» ThinkProgress

Some schools that have recently been accused of mishandling sexual assault cases aren't required to follow the Clery Act.

The post How Some Christian Colleges Are Getting Around The Federal Laws That Help Address Campus Rape appeared first on ThinkProgress.

08:56 When political punditry and math collide» Daily Kos
Mary Landrieu speaking at podium
No, the Democratic Senate majority does not hinge on Mary Landrieu.
Of all the Democrats running, Landrieu’s race may be the most important. In many ways, she’s a keystone. It’s hard to see Democrats holding the Senate if she loses, but it’s also hard to see them losing the Senate if she wins.
It's hard to see Democrats holding the Senate if she loses?

Republicans need to pick up six seats. Of the endangered Democratic incumbents, Landrieu currently sports the worst numbers.

So it's very easy to see a scenario where Landrieu loses and the Democrats hold the Senate by winning every other contested seat. It's called "a smaller Democratic majority", but a majority nonetheless. So no, it's not the most important race of the cycle, and won't be unless it heads into a December runoff with Republicans already having picked off five seats.

08:53 Psycho Clown Glenn Beck Validates Miracle Of Jesus Pancake (Video)» Latest from Crooks and Liars
When they pulled the Micky Mouse-shaped pancake off of the grill, looking back at them was what they perceived to be, Jesus.
08:48 Rand Paul Distancing Himself From Bundy After Racially-Charged Comments» Latest from Crooks and Liars

(Credit: Gage Skidmore)

“His remarks on race are offensive and I wholeheartedly disagree with him,” Paul told Business Insider in a statement.
08:44 Podcast: Asia pivot & Ukraine crisis» POLITICO - TOP Stories
A conversation on the challenges the White House faces in Ukraine and on Keystone XL.
08:31 Missouri GOPers want to impeach their governor for allowing married gay couples to file joint tax returns» Salon.com
That'll teach Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon to follow the law!

08:30 Kochs trying to suppress vote in state they already supposedly won» Daily Kos
Natalie Tennant campaign kickoff event.
If Democratic Senate candidate Natalie Tennant is such a guaranteed loser, why are the Kochs trying to suppress her support?
Conventional wisdom is that Republicans are guaranteed a Senate pickup in West Virginia, where Sen. Jay Rockafeller's retirement has created an open-seat race in this reddening state. While I wouldn't peg the GOP's chances at 100 percent, it's certainly hard to see a legit path to Democratic victory.

But if it's such a gimme, why are the Kochs working hard to suppress the vote?

West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant attacked Americans for Prosperity, a conservative nonprofit backed by billionaires Charles and David Koch, on Tuesday for distributing “misleading” and “confusing” voter registration mailings, according to the Associated Press.

The leaflets, sent out to at least eight different counties, warned residents that if they did not update their voter registration before April 22, they could become ineligible to vote in the upcoming May 13 election. The mailer also included a voter registration card and prepaid envelope.

Americans for Prosperity claims that it's just a generic non-partisan voter registration effort. Yet one of the counties mentioned, Marion, is among the more Democratic ones, giving Sen. Joe Manchin a 64-33 victory margin. And while President Barack Obama lost every county in the state in 2012, Marion's 42 percent was among his best showing.

There's also Berkeley and Jefferson Counties, both part of the DC metro area, among the fastest-growing in the state, and among the state's most Democratic. In fact, Jefferson gave Obama his best showing in the state with 47 percent.

So AFP is innocently trying to goose voter registration in the state's most Democratic regions? How helpful of them! And how full of shit, too.

For a group of people so confident of victory, their actions betray their words. Even in West Virginia, Republicans aren't a lock to pick up the seat. Democrats have a legit candidate in Secretary of State Natalie Tennant. And with the national winds turning against them on Obamacare and other issues, they now feel the need to resort to voter suppression efforts.

08:20 Facebook launches FB Newswire» POLITICO - TOP Stories
It's a resource aimed at journalists and newsrooms "to find, share and embed newsworthy content."
08:13 Allies Repeatedly Compared Racist Rancher To Civil Rights Figures» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Several conservative media figures are in an awkward position this morning after Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher they've spent weeks lionizing and comparing to civil rights heroes, was quoted by The New York Times saying appalling things about "the Negro."  

In a story published late Wednesday, the Times reported on a news conference Bundy held on Saturday, in which he "wondered," among other things, whether blacks were "better off as slaves":

"I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro," he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, "and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids -- and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch -- they didn't have nothing to do. They didn't have nothing for their kids to do. They didn't have nothing for their young girls to do.

 "And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?" he asked. "They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I've often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn't get no more freedom. They got less freedom."

Bundy's racism follows weeks of conservatives championing his cause and comparing his fight with the federal government to those of fugitive slaves, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King Jr.

08:04 Israel halts talks with Palestinians» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The government stops peace talks in response to a new unity agreement between Palestinian factions.
08:04 Lawless Rancher's Slavery Comments Echo Conservative Media Rhetoric» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Cliven Bundy and friends

Cliven Bundy's abhorrent, racist comparison of slavery to federal poverty assistance bears a striking resemblance to common claims from conservative media, who have frequently invoked slavery to describe the supposed damage "the welfare state" has done to black Americans.

Nevada rancher Bundy, who was praised by conservative media for engaging in an armed standoff with federal agents after refusing to pay decades worth of federal grazing fees on public land, on April 19 questioned whether black Americans were "better off as slaves" or "better off under government subsidy," telling a reporter in a racist rant:

"I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro," he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, "and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids -- and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch -- they didn't have nothing to do. They didn't have nothing for their kids to do. They didn't have nothing for their young girls to do.

"And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?" he asked. "They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I've often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn't get no more freedom. They got less freedom."

As Slate's Jamelle Bouie noted, Bundy's repugnant rhetoric sounds familiar -- it's the same logic behind many right-wing criticisms of the social safety net. Media Matters has been tracking this type of offensive rhetoric for years.

During the fight over health care reform, Rush Limbaugh claimed that "It won't be a matter of whether you have coverage or don't have coverage. What'll matter is that all of us will be slaves; we'll become slaves to the arbitrary and inhumane decisions of distant bureaucrats working in Washington where there's no competition, nobody you can go to if you don't like what you hear from the bureaucrats that you have to deal with."

When Glenn Beck was a host on Fox News, he had an obsession with comparing things to slavery, including the claim that progressive policies created "slavery to government, welfare, affirmative action, regulation, control," and that "big government never lifts anybody out of poverty. It creates slaves." In 2008, Jim Quinn, the co-host of the radio show The War Room with Quinn & Rose, was forced to apologize for comparing "slave[s] in the Old South" to welfare recipients today, when he claimed that the only "difference" was that the "slave had to work for" the benefits Quinn said they received.

In his 2008 book Let Them In, The Wall Street Journal editorial board member Jason Riley argued that the Great Society programs of the 1960s were ultimately worse for black families than slavery, writing "The black family survived slavery, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow, but the well-intentioned Great Society sounded its death knell."

More recently, Riley promoted the twisted logic of George Mason University's Walter Williams (who has often guest-hosted The Rush Limbaugh Show), who claimed that because more black children live in single-mother families now, welfare "destroy[ed] the black family" more than slavery:

During Reconstruction and up until the 1940s, 75% to 85% of black children lived in two-parent families. Today, more than 70% of black children are born to single women. "The welfare state has done to black Americans what slavery couldn't do, what Jim Crow couldn't do, what the harshest racism couldn't do," Mr. Williams says. "And that is to destroy the black family."

Ted Nugent, National Rifle Association board member and a favorite of conservative media, has become infamous for his extreme racism for calling President Obama a subhuman mongrel -- but Nugent also used the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech to claim that the Great Society programs were "responsible for more destruction to black America than the evils of slavery and the KKK combined."  In a 2011 Washington Times column, Nugent also suggested that the Democratic Party is the "modern-day slave master" to low-income Americans.

Vox's Matt Yglesias noted the irony of Bundy criticizing the government for assisting Americans through federal programs, when he himself has benefited from federal subsidies which keep the cost of grazing low for ranchers like himself. And though the abhorrent comparison of slavery to welfare is ridiculous on its face, it's worth noting that federal benefit programs have been vital in keeping Americans out of poverty -- in fact, federal programs today are cutting poverty nearly in half, whereas in 1967 they only reduced poverty by a single percentage point.

Conservative media may finally renounce Bundy and his lawless cause following his racist remarks; but they should also renounce this harmful, inaccurate comparison.

08:00 Brown University lets rapist who choked his victim reenroll after a semester-long suspension» Salon.com
The university called the short suspension "reasonably consistent with precedent in similar cases"

07:52 On Fox, Hannity Responds To Comments Made By The Racist Rancher He Unleashed» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Following weeks of campaigning to turn Nevada welfare rancher Cliven Bundy into an American folk hero for anti-government conservatives, Sean Hannity responded to Bundy's recent racistcomments, calling them "deplorable" but maintaining that the real issue is government overreach. 

After Bundy and his armed supporters threatened violence against federal law enforcement officials attempting to execute court orders pertaining to his decades-long trespasses on federal land, Hannity and others in the right-wing media rallied around the rancher and fanned the flames of a stand-off between the parties. Hannity hosted the rancher on his radio program and Fox News show multiple times, praising the rancher for being "willing to fight" the federal government.

Bundy has said he doesn't recognize the federal government's existence and issued threats of violence to government authorities intent on holding him accountable for breaking the law, but it was a racist tirade to the press and supporters -- in which Bundy speculated that black Americans might be "better off as slaves, picking cotton" rather than "being under government subsidy" -- that finally caused Hannity to distance himself somewhat from the rancher.

Caught between a choice of denouncing or embracing a man he's spent countless hours building up as a freedom-loving David entrenched in a battle against the Goliath of federal government, Hannity instead chose to reject and deflect -- arguing on his prime time news show that though Bundy's comments were racist, bigoted, and "beyond disturbing,"  the real issue is that government is out of control. From the show:

07:45 Lululemon’s “dumpy” new image problem» Salon.com
The controversial yoga brand gets in hot water again -- this time over its own CEO

07:45 Karl Rove on the Koch brothers: “Bless them for all they do”» Salon.com
Rove lauds the Kochs for Time magazine's feature on the world's 100 most influential people

07:37 Bernie Sanders Lays The Smack-Down : GOP Freedom Is ‘The Freedom To Die’ (Video)» Latest from Crooks and Liars

(Credit: 350vt)

“So their definition of freedom is is that if you are 70 years of age and you are poor and you have no health insurance, you’re going to have the freedom literally to die,” Sanders said.
07:30 Republicans 'repeal' agenda is fringe even in Southern red states» Daily Kos
Mary Landrieu speaking at podium
On health insurance, Sen. Mary Landrieu is in sync with her state.
Poll results chart, showing less than a third of respondents in AR, LA, KY, and NC want government uninvolved in providing health insurance to middle-income people.
The New York Times, analyzing its own poll:
Health Law’s Middle-Ground Approach Leaves It Unloved
That's one way to look at it. But take a closer look at the results in the chart to the right. There are three options: 1) government should stay out of health insurance, 2) government should subsidize insurance, and 3) government should provide that insurance (single payer or public option).

Option 1 is the Republican position. Option 3 is the liberal one. Option 2 is Obamacare.

So sure, we see support split roughly three ways between the three options, hence, a "divided nation."

But I'm more fixated on Option 1, the Republican position, full repeal. Because even in solidly red Arkansas, Kentucky and Louisiana, and purple North Carolina, the Republican position is held by only about a third of the electorate.

So you have Republicans running around all four states screaming about Obamacare repeal, yet two-thirds of the voters favor government involvement in health care, or the Democratic position. THAT'S the corner they've painted themselves into. THAT'S what's going to ultimately kill them this year. And all of that despite the $100+ million the Kochs have spent over the past several years undermining the law.

I've consistently argued that the Affordable Care Act will be a net positive for Democrats this year, and certainly Republicans are already flailing around looking for a Plan B. But numbers like this point to even bigger problems for Republicans than I ever dreamed. It's not just that they're trying to take away insurance from hundreds of thousands of their constituents. It's they're utterly and completely out of sync with the voters.

And if these Southern conservative states feel this way, what hope do Republicans have?

07:29 Stephen Colbert bids farewell to “Stephen Colbert” on “The Daily Show”» Salon.com
"Jon, I'm really going to miss me," he said, while in character

07:09 Longoria backs 'Voto Hispano' film» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The documentary examines the role the Hispanic vote will play in the upcoming midterm elections.
07:00 Americans For Prosperity's Unforced Anti-Obamacare Ad Error» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Americans For Prosperity's Unforced Anti-Obamacare Ad Error

Chris Hayes opened up his Wednesday show with the declaration that Obamacare is winning. Which it is. But that's not stopping Americans for Prosperity from wasting a lot of money running ads to keep Republican voters engaged. In the process, AfP Colorado managed to offend a lot of Coloradans with their ads.

Morgan Whitaker:

The latest ad from the tea party-affiliated group backed by the Koch brothers slams Colorado Sen. Mark Udall for his support of the Affordable Care Act, picturing him alongside Pres. Obama. But that image, which shows Obama and Udall frowning and looking concerned, came from an event the two appeared at together in the wake of the Aurora theater shooting.

The group owned up to its mistake Wednesday afternoon via Twitter, apologizing to Aurora families who may have been offended.

AFP also removed the original version of the ad from YouTube, and uploaded a new version that replaced the questionable photo with a Photoshopped shot of Udall and Obama together.

Of course, they used that photo because both of them looked sad and angry, which is what AfP wanted to convey to their audience. The replacement's not all that much better, but no matter, because they're wasting their money with the constant march on Obamacare anyway.

read more

06:50 Cartoon: Lucky Ducky, in 'State of Denial'» Daily Kos

Join the INNER HIVE for early access to @RubenBolling's Tom the Dancing Bug comics and more fun stuff.

"I used to spend 20 dollars a year on TOM THE DANCING BUG collections… Happy to support him and pass the word." -Neil Gaiman

Please click HERE for information.

06:49 Cliven Bundy wants to tell you about 'the Negro.' I want to tell you about Cliven Bundy» Daily Kos
Rancher Cliven Bundy (back 2nd L) talks on stage beside Clark County Sheriff Douglas Gillespie (back 3rd L) in Bunkerville, Nevada, April 12, 2014. Gillespie announced the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was ceasing its cattle roundup operation. Armed U.S

When a 67-year-old white Republican begins a sentence with "I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro," you know the sentence is not ending well. But deadbeat rancher and domestic terrorist Cliven Bundy wasn't content to stop with mere racism, however undisguised. No, he went ahead and added a dose of flagrant hypocrisy to the mix:

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro ... because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked.
Oh! Basically on government subsidy. Well, a man who's been grazing his cattle on federal land for 20 years without even paying the ridiculously low (effectively: subsidized) rates he legally owed should know a thing or two about government subsidy. This is a man who sparked an armed standoff with the federal government in an effort to avoid paying the more than $1 million he owes. And he's talking about how the effects of government subsidy on black people are that:
“They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”
Does government subsidy somehow work differently for white ranchers with 14 children? Sorry! Stupid question, I realize. Cliven Bundy is a special snowflake to whom no rules apply, ever. He gets to illegally graze cattle on public land for decades and take up arms against the federal government, and then when the New York Times comes calling to write about them, he gets to hold forth about how the Negroes were better off under slavery and it not only doesn't make the headline, you have to read down 11 paragraphs to get to what would seem to be significant information about who this guy is. But apparently the Times thought the more significant piece of information in the article was that Bundy "savors the audience that rallied to his side." What a piece of hard-hitting news that is—deadbeat on ego trip savors ego trip.
06:39 Ta-Nehisi Coates is not surprised» Daily Kos
Rancher Cliven Bundy (back 2nd L) talks on stage beside Clark County Sheriff Douglas Gillespie (back 3rd L) in Bunkerville, Nevada, April 12, 2014. Gillespie announced the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was ceasing its cattle roundup operation. Armed U.S
And neither is any other clear thinking person in America:
A few days ago Jonathan Chait asserted that modern conservatism is "doomed" because it is "rooted in white supremacy."  The first claim may or may not be true, but there's little doubt about the second. Whether it's the Senate minority leader claiming that America should have remained legally segregated,  a beloved cultural figure fondly recalling how happy black people were living under lynch law, a presidential candidate calling Barack Obama a "food-stamp president" or a campaign surrogate calling Barack Obama "a subhuman mongrel," the preponderance of evidence shows that modern conservatism just can't quit white supremacy.

This is unsurprising. White Supremacy is one of the most dominant forces in the history of American politics. In a democracy, it would be silly to expect it to go unexpressed. Thus anyone with a sense of American history should be equally unsurprised to discover that rugged individualist Cliven Bundy is the bearer of some very interesting theories.

Of course it isn't surprising. White supremacy is at the very foundation of Conservatism, and at thus at the foundation of the Republican Party. This isn't a freak accident of some ideological disagreement. There are great number of people of color who agree with much of the conservative theories. Nor is it some class-based social result. There are plenty of poor Republicans who agree with Bundy.

Republicans will run from Bundy only because he says out loud what they really think. Some are better at discretion than Bundy, who is obviously too honest for good company. But make no mistake, he's not that far off from where the great majority of Republicans are. In fact, they'll be more offended by his manners than by the substance of what he says. They wouldnt be the first white folks to confuse racism with bad etiquette.

So lets all express some well deserved outrage at Bundy's comments. Free speech and all that. But think about the real racism at work here, which are not his opinions: that a heavily armed group of white people can openly disobey federal laws and court orders without consequence for 20 years under the threat of violence to law enforcement. Now imagine if blacks did the same thing. There's the REAL racism.

06:35 Fox's Bernie Goldberg: "Not A Shred Of Evidence" In Sharyl Attkisson's False Claim That Media Matters Was Paid To Target Her» Media Matters for America - Latest Items
06:30 Must-see: Hannity attacks Jon Stewart. Stewart responds with epic smackdown.» Daily Kos

Last night, Jon Stewart noted how Sean Hannity had attacked Jon the day before over Cliven Bundy. Jon had quite the response to Hannity.

And yet, you, the uber-American, this man is your cause?
CLIVEN BUNDY (4/10/2014): I don't recognize the United States government as even existing.
He doesn't recognize America's existence! He's a U.S.A.-theist! (audience laughter) Cuz the federal government does exist. In fact, it was created by those guys and that document you love so, so much.
SEAN HANNITY (2/5/2014): I love Washington because he gave up power. Amazing to me, when he could have held on to it.
Washington. Now there's a Founding Father who could found the shit out of everyone. How do you think he would handle an armed group of federal government rejectionists who wouldn't pay their taxes? Well, we don't really need to speculate, because it was called the Whiskey Rebellion. And Washington, with his federal army, crushed it in 1794. I guess you would say, disproportionately. (audience laughter)

And the reason he was legally allowed to do that was because a man named Daniel Shays pulled the same shit in 1786 and 1787.

Video and full transcript below the fold.
06:18 Colorado '16 poll: Paul beats Clinton» POLITICO - TOP Stories
He is favored over her 48-43 percent.
05:33 Conservative hero Cliven Bundy: 'I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro ...'» Daily Kos
Rancher Cliven Bundy poses at his home in Bunkerville, Nevada, April 11, 2014. Armed U.S. rangers are rounding up cattle on federal land in Nevada in a rare showdown with Bundy, a rancher who has illegally grazed his herd on public lands for decades, as c
"I wish I was in the land of cotton, old times they are not forgotten ..."
What a surprise: It turns out that Cliven Bundy, the deadbeat cattle rancher who has become a hero to conservative politicians and pundits, is nothing but—well, besides that whole deadbeat cattle rancher thing—a racist:
“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro ... because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”
Coming up next: Watching conservatives awkwardly distance themselves from the remarks themselves while still embracing their hero's "principles."

5:36 AM PT: For more discussion, see this diary from SamLoomis.

05:32 PAC backs pro-gay rights GOPers» POLITICO - TOP Stories
American Unity PAC decides its initial congressional targets to support this year.
05:30 Daily Kos Radio is LIVE at 9am ET!» Daily Kos

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05:28 Dolphins Put Sponges on Snouts to Snag Elusive Snacks» LiveScience.com
Dolphins can use sponges as tools to snag food they could not otherwise grab, the first direct evidence that dolphins use tools to carve out unique places in the food chain.
05:26 Revealing Wavelengths of Light | Space Wallpaper » LiveScience.com
Scientists created this stunning space wallpaper, which is a composite image of Vesta's crater Aelia. The image reveals the flow material on the inside and outside of the crater.
05:18 Cheers and Jeers: Thursday» Daily Kos
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12 Weeks 'Til Netroots Nation 2014!

Your weekly update on all things Detroit, which I shall now read aloud with perfect diction while drinking this glass of water:

Banner for Netroots nation/DFA scholarship competition 2014.
• The annual Netroots Nation/Democracy for America scholarship competition is going on now through May 12th. The five applicants with the most votes overall will automatically win a scholarship covering the cost of registration and lodging. The remaining 25 spots will be chosen by a selection committee. For more details, click here. (You can also nominate someone you believe is deserving of a scholarship at that link.)

• This sounds very cool:

1937 Woolworth sit-down strike
1937 Woolworth strikers
Join the AFL-CIO and the Michigan Labor History Society on Wednesday, July 16 (the day before Netroots Nation kicks off) for a tour of some of Detroit’s historic sites: where Martin Luther King Jr. first delivered “I Have a Dream"…the last stop on the Underground Railroad…the site of the Woolworth’s sit-down strike of 1937…Cadillac Square…the newspaper strike of 1996. The tour starts at Cobo Center and will wrap up with a drink at the Anchor Bar with the organizers from the 1996 newspaper strike who will share their stories. The tour is free, but space is limited.
To reserve your spot, Click here.

• The list of the forty training sessions is up. They range from data and analytics to field organizing to mastering social media. Take a look. Coming soon: the list of panels and keynoters.

• Last June, regular NN attendee Chris Savage of the legendary Michigan-based Eclectablog wrote about how and why the 2014 convention came to be in the Horseless Carriage City. The crux:

Photo of Detroit skyline, NN banner
Why Detroit? Because Michigan represents the future of our country if we don’t regain political control of our state governments. Michigan is a majority Democratic state that is run by Republicans due to gerrymandering and unethical political games that give them power they do not deserve to represent a citizenry that disagrees with them on most things. […]

Because many of the issues that progressives are passionate about are in full display in Michigan in general and in Detroit in particular: Immigration. Women’s reproductive freedom. Collective bargaining and right to work. Marriage equality and civil rights for the LGBT community. Environmental concerns. All of these issues and more are playing out in sharp relief in Michigan.

By the way, Eclectablog is hosting a 10th Blogiversary party on May 1 in Ypsilanti with guest Lizz Winstead. Congrats on your first decade, Chris.

• We hope you'll join us at the Daily Kos/C&J eat-'n-greet in Detroit on Wednesday evening, July 16th. To add your name to the RSVP list, email Navajo. We'll keep you posted with updates by screeching into your driveway at 3am and hollering detauils through a bullhorn.

• Registration and Hotel info are here and here.

• Follow NN14 via Twitter here.

Synchronize your watches: the convention starts in 84 days. Bring comfortable shoes.

Cheers and Jeers starts below the fold... [Swoosh!!] RIGHTNOW! [Gong!!]

05:09 'Godzilla' the Hockey Goalie? Rare Mineral Specimen Up for Sale» LiveScience.com
Common minerals came together in a bubble of a lava flow to form a one-of-a-kind specimen, dubbed 'Godzilla as a Hockey Goalie.' This and other mineral specimens go up for auction in May.
05:07 Economics Daily Digest: Legal challenges are changing the intern economy» Daily Kos
Economics Daily Digest by the Roosevelt Institute banner

By Rachel Goldfarb, originally published on Next New Deal

Click here to receive the Daily Digest via email.

Colleges, Employers Rethink Internship Policies (WSJ)

Rachel Feintzeig and Melissa Korn report that while unpaid internship lawsuits work through the courts, many companies are changing their programs by adding pay or eliminating internships altogether.

Losing Their Unemployment Benefits Didn't Help These People Find Work (HuffPo)

Sam Stein and Arthur Delaney find that without long-term unemployment insurance, which Congress failed to extend in December, workers' job searches didn't change, but their ability to pay the bills did.

Your Government Owes You a Job (The Nation)

Raúl Carrillo calls for a job guarantee as a matter of justice and economic security for all. He says such a program would have similar costs to current anti-poverty programs, but provide more opportunities.

Here’s Why This City’s Businesses Love Its Paid Sick Days Law (ThinkProgress)

Bryce Covert looks at a new audit of Seattle's paid sick leave law, which went into effect in September 2012. People are happy: costs were lower than expected, and business, wage, and job growth were all up.

The Rich Live Longer: So How Much Money 'Buys' 1 More Year of Life? (The Atlantic)

Derek Thompson uses data on life expectancy and income to determine the cost of an extra year of life. He says the actual numbers here are less important than the fact that inequality has life-and-death costs.

Politicians from the Hungriest Counties Voted to Cut Food Stamps (MSNBC)

The congressmen, both Democrats, claim to have voted for the recent Farm Bill that cut food stamps in some states as a compromise on larger cuts, says Ned Resnikoff, but the GOP strategy will keep chipping away at the program.

F.C.C., in a Shift, Backs Fast Lanes for Web Traffic (NYT)

The Federal Communications Commission announced new proposed rules that allow companies to pay Internet service providers for faster access to their content, reports Edward Wyatt. Some call this the end of net neutrality.

05:00 Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: NYT polls are positive for Democrats, but samples pose questions» Daily Kos
Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest banner
Want the scoop on hot races around the country? Get the digest emailed to you each weekday morning. Sign up here.
Leading Off:

Senate: As part of the launch of their new data-focused site called The Upshot (which has already put out some interesting work), the New York Times has released new polls in four Southern states, conducted in conjunction with the Kaiser Family Foundation. The results range from middling to very positive for Democrats, and we'll get to the toplines right away, but let me warn you that there are some very serious red flags with sample composition ahead.

AR-Sen: Mark Pryor (D-inc): 46, Tom Cotton (R): 36

AR-Gov: Mike Ross (D): 40, Asa Hutchinson (R): 41

KY-Sen: Alison Grimes (D): 43, Mitch McConnell (R-inc): 44; Grimes: 41, Matt Bevin (R): 35

LA-Sen: Mary Landrieu (D-inc): 42, Bill Cassidy (R): 18, Paul Hollis (R): 5, Rob Maness (R): 4

NC-Sen: Kay Hagan (D-inc): 42, Thom Tillis (R): 40; Hagan: 41, Greg Brannon (R): 39

These numbers are all mostly in line with what we've seen lately, though that 10-point lead for Pryor is extremely gaudy. Of course, it's not the only double-digit edge he's sported recently, but we had questions about that last poll, too. And boy do we have questions about all of these.

Rather unusually, the Times conducted a poll of all adults, then further broke down the results by registered voters—but only for certain questions. So while they asked respondents how they voted for president in 2012, they only reported the "all adults" results, and those numbers just made no sense. After a bit of a firestorm erupted over this quirky decision, the paper then released the breakdowns among registered voters, but the problem is, they're still very strange:

Crosstabs of April 2014 NYT polls on Obama-Romney 2012 vote.
(click for larger)
Romney carrying Arkansas by just 2 points? (He won by 24.) Obama winning Louisiana by 4? (He lost by 17.) And 19 percent of Kentucky voters saying they didn't vote in 2012, but nevertheless plan to in a midterm? It's all hard to figure. Sensing a problem, the Times' Nate Cohn quickly penned a defense, calling the polls' critics "misguided."

Cohn argues that the surveys accurately measured Obama's vote share, but that many Romney supporters abandoned him as the loser, preferring instead to they didn't remember who they backed, or went with "someone else." Cohn says that these voters were "overwhelmingly white," which in the racially polarized South buttresses the notion that they were in fact Romney partisans. (Race is a very strong predictor of voting behavior in much of the southern U.S.)

However, other pollsters who ask this demographic question don't seem to have this issue. For instance, a PPP poll of North Carolina earlier this month found 49 percent of respondents saying they voted for Romney and 47 for Obama (very close to the 2012 results), with just 4 percent saying they weren't sure or picked another candidate. Put another way, if someone released a Michigan poll showing Terri Lynn Land up 10 and Romney carrying the state by the same amount, we'd question those results sharply.

Interestingly, Cohn tries to offer a further sanity check by pointing out that Obama's approvals "look about right." Like the toplines, they do indeed mostly make sense. But it's a curious approach from Cohn, who castigated PPP for alleged methodological deficiencies while arguing that the firm's accuracy was largely beside the point. Wrote Cohn: "Pollsters, though, tend to judge one another based more on methodology than record."

In reality, though, political professionals judge pollsters on their results, and indeed, it's perfectly acceptable to point to those results to validate a survey, just as the Times has tried to do here. Whether these results are in fact valid is a separate matter, though, and as the foregoing shows, there are still plenty of reasons for skepticism.

04:36 Fox's Krauthammer Blasts Conservatives For Their Support Of Cliven Bundy» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

From the April 24 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: I agree entirely with Chuck. First of all it isn't enough to say I don't agree with what he said. This is a despicable statement. It's not the statement, you have to disassociate yourself entirely from the man. It's not like the words exist here and the man exists here. And why conservatives, or some conservatives end up in bed with people who, you know, he makes an anti-government statement, he takes an anti-government stand, he wears a nice big hat and he rides a horse, and all of a sudden he is a champion of democracy. This is a man who said that he doesn't recognize the authority of the United States of America. That makes him a patriot? I love this country, I love the Constitution, and it is the Constitution that established a government that all of us have to recognize. And for him to reject it was the beginning of all of this. And now what he said today is just the end of this.

And I think it is truly appalling that, as Chuck says, there are times when somehow simply because somebody takes an oppositionist stand, he becomes a conservative hero. You got to wait, you got to watch, you got to think about it. And look, do I have the right to go in to graze sheep in Central Park? I think not. You have to have some respect for the federal government, some respect for our system. And to say you don't and you don't recognize it and that makes you a conservative hero, to me, is completely contradictory, and rather appalling. And he has now proved it. 


VIDEO: Cliven Bundy's Racist Comments

AUDIO: Bundy Doubles Down, Calls OnNew York Times To Retract Accurate Quotes

The Conservative Media Who Brought You Cliven Bundy

Fox Finally Breaks Silence On Rancher's Racist Remarks

04:35 Krauthammer: 'This is lawlessness'» POLITICO - TOP Stories
He knocks the initiative to potentially offer clemency to thousands of nonviolent prison inmates.
04:30 Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: 2014 and beyond» Daily Kos
% increase in insured under poverty line via ACA
See Harold Pollack link below
Aaron Blake:
Black voters played a huge role in delivering Barack Obama to the White House in 2008 and 2012. And in 2014, they will play a huge role in determining whether the president's party can stop Republicans from taking the Senate.
Jonathan Capehart:
The Post’s Aaron Blake has a terrific piece listing the four ways “black voters could decide who controls the Senate in 2015.” He writes that “[s]ix of the 16 states with the highest black populations are holding key Senate contests in 2014.” The key nugget in the Blake post: “Basically every black voter who stays home is a Democratic voter who stays home,” he writes. “Black voters generally vote more than 90 percent Democratic, so just about every drop in turnout among black voters pretty clearly comes at Democrats’ expense.”
More politics and policy below the fold.
04:27 In Photos: A Fuzzy 'Godzilla' & Other Snazzy Minerals» LiveScience.com
The minerals are common, but the configuration of this 6-inch-tall specimen makes it one-of-a-kind. The unusual form, which came together in a bubble in a lava flow, inspired the nickname Godzilla as a Hockey Goalie.
04:23 What Obama and Abe said» POLITICO - TOP Stories
And what they really meant during the president's visit to Japan.
03:49 Fox Finally Breaks Silence On Rancher's Racist Remarks» Media Matters for America - Latest Items
03:21 Obama plays with Japanese robot» POLITICO - TOP Stories
He says they "were too lifelike."
03:12 Hannity-Stewart feud goes nuclear» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The comedian calls the Fox News host "The Arby's of news."
03:01 The Conservative Media Who Brought You Cliven Bundy» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

After right-wing folk hero Cliven Bundy was caught on camera delivering a racist tirade, Media Matters looks back at the conservative media figures who propelled him into the national spotlight.

Right-Wing Folk Hero Bundy Caught In Racist Tirade

NY Times: Bundy Wondered If Black People Might Be "Better Off As Slaves." Bundy went on a racist rant during a recent press conference, as reported by The New York Times:

Mr. Bundy's standoff with federal rangers -- propelled into the national spotlight in part by steady coverage by Fox News -- has highlighted sharp divisions over the power of the federal government and the rights of landowners in places like this desert stretch of Nevada, where resentment of Washington and its sprawling ownership of Western land has long run deep.


He said he would continue holding a daily news conference; on Saturday, it drew one reporter and one photographer, so Mr. Bundy used the time to officiate at what was in effect a town meeting with supporters, discussing, in a long, loping discourse, the prevalence of abortion, the abuses of welfare and his views on race.

"I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro," he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, "and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids -- and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch -- they didn't have nothing to do. They didn't have nothing for their kids to do. They didn't have nothing for their young girls to do.

"And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?" he asked. "They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I've often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn't get no more freedom. They got less freedom." [The New York Times, 4/23/14]

Here Are His Biggest Fans Who Propelled Him Onto The National Stage

Hannity Promoted Bundy So Loudly, Bundy Calls Him a "Hero." Fox's Sean Hannity obsessively promoted Bundy's standoff with BLM, earning a public thank-you from the rancher during an April 21 appearance on 9-11 truther Alex Jones' conspiracy radio show. While Bundy said the men disagreed about whether armed militias are the first or last line of defense against government overreach, he said of Hannity: "He is my hero and he supported me and this movement and I appreciate and love him for it. Support him 100 percent." For his part, Jones said, "I want to commend Sean Hannity because he has been really bad on a lot of issues but he has a lot of courage doing the right thing here. So I appreciate him being supportive of this." [The Alex Jones Show, 4/21/14, via Media Matters]

Hannity Praised Bundy Because He's "Willing To Fight." Hannity invited Bundy onto the April 11 edition of his radio program, where he told Bundy that federal agents have "drawn the wrong line in the sand here," praising the rancher because he "like[s] anybody that's willing to fight." Hannity stoked fears of violence, adding, "I'm just afraid of what this government is capable of doing. I mean we saw what happened in Waco," to which Bundy responded, "We have to have faith that America will stand. You know we would never won any of these wars from the Revolutionary War on up if we didn't have faith and courage and fighting for something." Hannity later concluded, "The government needs to stand down" because "this is only a symptom of how one person, standing up to the government, I'm telling you, [it is] my opinion that this crisis could come to a head, and lives could be lost." [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 4/11/14, via Media Matters]

Hannity Bragged About His Role Promoting Bundy And Escalating Standoff. On the April 15 edition of Hannity, the Fox host bragged about his role in escalating the standoff between Bundy and federal officers and floated the possibility that the federal government might kill the rancher:

HANNITY: I would even argue a little bit that the media coverage that myself and some other people have given to this case played a part in this because none of it made sense.


HANNITY: I would assume that as Cliven's son, you want to protect your dad. What are your plans if, in fact, they come late in the night?


HANNITY: Do you worry that, in fact, they may kill either your dad or somebody in your family? [Fox News, Hannity, 4/15/14]

Alex Jones: Bundy Is "Like Paul Revere," Making His Stand. On the April 9 edition of Jones' conspiracy theory radio program, Jones interviewed Bundy and told him, "So your bottom line, like Paul Revere, you're making your stand, you're telling folks we're being overrun by an out of control tyranny." Later, Jones speculated that if the Bureau of Land Management auctioned off Bundy's confiscated cattle, it "could turn into 1776 very quickly":

JONES: This could be how the shot heard round the world happens in this case or others that are happening. If they ever fire on innocent peaceful people trying to take stolen cattle and act like the mercenaries they are, this could turn into 1776 very quickly.

BUNDY: Yeah, and we're totally disgusted with this type of government and I don't think we the people are going to stand it, and I'm not going to stand it, I'm going to stand as long as it takes and do whatever it takes to get this --

JONES: Incredible, well we will get updates in the next few days, sir, to find out what unfolds [Infowars, The Alex Jones Show, 4/9/14, via Media Matters]

Jones: "Cliven Bundy: Domestic Patriot." Jones' Infowars.com posited on April 19 that Bundy is a "domestic patriot" and wrote on April 10 that Bundy is the "last man standing" in the fight against the government's attempt to "enslave us in an [United Nations] Agenda 21 future where we have no property and no rights":

Government is using environmentalism to confuse the public and the Left/Right paradigm to divide the public so they can enslave us in an Agenda 21 future where we have no property and no rights. The last rancher -- "the last man standing" -- across the Mojave Desert to the Pacific Ocean, Cliven Bundy, is in a fight for his rights and your rights against a federal bureaucracy that's out of control. [Infowars, 4/10/14, 4/19/14]

NRO's Williamson: Like Bundy, "The Law Was Against Mohandas Gandhi Too." National Review Online's Kevin Williamson defended Bundy in an April 15 post titled "The Case for a Little Sedition," writing:

Of course the law is against Cliven Bundy. How could it be otherwise? The law was against Mohandas Gandhi, too, when he was tried for sedition; Mr. Gandhi himself habitually was among the first to acknowledge that fact, refusing to offer a defense in his sedition case and arguing that the judge had no choice but to resign, in protest of the perfectly legal injustice unfolding in his courtroom, or to sentence him to the harshest sentence possible, there being no extenuating circumstances for Mr. Gandhi's intentional violation of the law.


Surely not every inch of that 87 percent of Nevada under the absentee-landlordship of the federal government is critical to the national interest. Perhaps Mr. Bundy would like to buy some land where he can graze his cattle.

Prudential measures do not solve questions of principle. So where does that leave us with our judgment of the Nevada insurrection? Perhaps with an understanding that while Mr. Bundy's stand should not be construed as a general template for civic action, it is nonetheless the case that, in measured doses, a little sedition is an excellent thing. [National Review Online, 4/15/14, via Talking Points Memo, 4/24/14]

Fox's Napolitano: Bundy Is A "Patriotic, Heroic American." Fox senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano appeared on the April 15 edition of Fox & Friends and called Bundy a "patriotic, heroic American":

NAPOLITANO: I don't know who the bad guys are. I don't know if it's the actual young troops on the ground. It's probably their civilian superiors. Look, there's a couple of problems here. One is that the BLM is not a military or a law-enforcement entity. I was shocked to see that they even have troops dressed in camouflage and with M-16s. It really looked like they were fighting a war rather than -- against a foreign invader, rather than enforcing a judgment against an American. In this case a patriotic, heroic American. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/15/14]

Napolitano: Bundy Comes Off Looking Like "An American Hero." During the April 18 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, Napolitano said that Bundy "comes off looking like an American hero" because of the BLM's attempt to seize his cattle:

NAPOLITANO: But when the federal government is so heavy-handed --

O'REILLY: I know, and it's because of this Tea Party thing --

NAPOLITANO: That they lose the PR war --

O'REILLY: They got killed.

NAPOLITANO: This guy comes off looking like an American hero even though he lost the case. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 4/18/14]

O'Reilly: Bundy "Probably Is A Hero In Many People's Eyes Because He's Standing Up Against This Colossus." During his discussion with Napolitano, Bill O'Reilly acknowledged that the law is not on Bundy's side, but added:

O'REILLY: And he probably is a hero in many people's eyes because he's standing up against this colossus that a lot of Americans think is oppressive. But here's the fact. The federal government sent more force in to handle Cliven Bundy's cows than they did to Ukraine. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 4/18/14]

Dana Loesch: Bundy "Has Paid Fees" And What Federal Government Is Doing "Is Ridiculous And It Needs To Stop." Conservative radio host Dana Loesch appeared on the April 10 edition of Fox's The Kelly File to spin Bundy's refusal to pay federal grazing fees:

LOESCH: Well, he has paid fees, though, Megyn. He's paid fees to Nevada county, and I think what's at dispute here is BLM's management of this land.

MEGYN KELLY (host): The feds, meaning.

LOESCH: I mean, if they're going to come in and claim to be good stewards of the land and that this land is going to be beneficial to the American public, well, the American public isn't benefitting from it. He's claiming that he has title to an easement on this land, which, you know, it's all -- the devil's in the details. And maybe he does, and that's something that perhaps he and BLM can work out.

But they've approached this, Megyn, heavy-handed from get-go. And I'll tell you this. If these cattle -- BLM called them "trespass cattle." If these cattle were in this country -- if they were people and they were here illegally, the Department of Justice would be running guns to them, and the Department of Homeland Security would be driving by with free government phones and EBT cards. But, now that they're cattle, they're actually rounding them up and killing them.

He had thousands of head of cattle that's been reduced dramatically. He is the last rancher in this county because the Bureau of Land Management has used these heavy-handed tactics and has run off absolutely everybody, even those who had a valid claim to easement on this land. What they're doing is ridiculous, and it needs to stop. [Fox News, The Kelly File, 4/10/14]

Loesch: "BLM Should Either Reimburse Bundy ... Or Leave Him Alone." The next day, Loesch tweeted:

[Twitter, 4/11/14]

Fox's Starnes Warns "Americans Will Not Allow The Constitution To Be Trampled." In April 12 tweets, Fox News correspondent Todd Starnes warned that the Obama administration should pay close attention to the battle over Bundy's ranch, characterizing the Bundy family and their supporters as defending the Constitution:

[Twitter, 4/12/14, 4/12/14]

02:31 Conservative Pundit Jonah Goldberg Calls For More Attention To Ocean Acidification» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg criticized environmental reporters for focusing on climate change, saying that they were missing "serious problems, such as ocean acidification." However, ocean acidification is caused by the same carbon pollution driving climate change.

In his syndicated column on April 23, National Review Online editor-at-large Goldberg wrote that Republican politicians "still care about the environment," suggesting that they pay attention to environmental problems "such as ocean acidification, overfishing, elephant and rhino poaching, and loss of habitat" rather than climate change:

Contrary to what you may have heard, GOP politicians still care about the environment, but they take their cues from public opinion, not from the green lobby.


Important work is being done on serious problems, such as ocean acidification, overfishing, elephant and rhino poaching, and loss of habitat. None of these issues get a fraction of the coverage they deserve. That's because many environmental reporters think their beat begins and ends with climate change.

Ocean acidification is sometimes known as the "evil twin" of climate change as it is also driven by carbon dioxide emissions, making the ocean more acidic -- surface ocean waters are now about 30 percent more acidic than they were at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, as carbon dioxide builds up in the atmosphere and is increasingly absorbed by the ocean. Goldberg is correct that ocean acidification does not get the attention it deserves, as it threatens coral reefs that provide coastal protection from storms and tourism, and shellfish that make up a large part of the fishing industry.

Climate change also exacerbates species loss further threatened by overfishing, poaching and habitat destruction -- the other issues Goldberg names as truly "serious." In addition, climate change is itself emerging as one of the main drivers of habitat loss. This is why environmental groups and reporters have focused on climate change, while continuing to address environmental problems from overfishing to poaching, as it is a threat multiplier with global consequences.

While Goldberg is now calling for attention to these particular environmental topics, he has not given much attention to them himself in the past. The only time Goldberg has previously mentioned ocean acidification in his column* was to claim that we could address it by giving the ocean "some antacid" in 2009:

Is the atmosphere getting too hot? Cool it down by reflecting away more sunlight. The ocean's getting too acidic? Give it some antacid. The technology's not ready. But pursuing it for a couple of decades will cost pennies compared with carbon rationing. 

Oyster hatcheries have indeed been resorting to putting the equivalent of Tums into hatcheries to make up for the declining numbers of oysters in the ocean, but dumping huge amounts of antacid into the ocean at large is considered impractical by scientific groups such as the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

The only time that Goldberg mentioned overfishing** was in 2005. In that same column was the last time that Goldberg mentioned animal habitats, claiming that the United States had "added vast new habitats for animals" without ever mentioning continuing habitat loss.*** Goldberg has never before covered poaching in his column.****

02:00 The left's secret club plans for 2014, 2016» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Tom Steyer, Jonathan Soros and wealthy donors will convene to plan big things for their party.
01:01 On The Ed Shultz Show, Media Matters' Jeremy Holden Discusses Hannity's Role In Turning Bundy Into Folk Hero» Media Matters for America - Latest Items
01:01 Hannity: Bundy's Remarks Are "Beyond Repugnant," Reinforce "Ignorant View" That Conservatives Are Racist» Media Matters for America - Latest Items
00:09 AUDIO: Bundy Doubles Down, Calls On New York Times To Retract Accurate Quotes» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy appeared on Alex Jones' radio show today to do damage control over comments he made about "the Negro" and how he wonders whether blacks were "better off as slaves" than on government assistance.

During the appearance, Bundy denied that he is racist, called on The New York Times to retract their accurate quotes of him discussing "cotton picking," and repeatedly restated his offensive views on slavery. Bundy also defended himself by explaining "there's a black man right in my front yard right now" as part of the militia siding with him against the government.

Wed 23 April, 2014

23:43 For Fecal Transplants, Frozen Poop Just as Good» LiveScience.com
The devastating intestine infection called Clostridium difficile can be treated with a so-called "poop transplant," and now new research shows that frozen poop may work just well with fresh fecal matter.
22:52 VIDEO: Solving the world's toilet shortage» LiveScience.com
22:10 Overcoming the Water Wars (Op-Ed)» LiveScience.com
Treating water like a "bankable" commodity may help nations manage scarce water resources around the globe.
21:54 Why Adopting an Older Pet Makes Sense (Op-Ed)» LiveScience.com
If you are about to adopt a pet, it makes sense to first consider older, mellower candidates.
21:44 Obama: Russia sanctions 'teed up'» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The president says if Putin is unwilling to cooperate, the U.S. is ready to issue more sanctions.
21:18 Zoos, Aquariums and Their Visitors Are Critical Advocates for Conservation (Op-Ed)» LiveScience.com
Zoos and aquariums are hubs for inspiring the public to support wildlife conservation.
21:12 FDA proposes rules on e-cigarettes» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The move aims to eventually tame the fast-growing e-cigarette industry.
20:30 Open thread for nightowls: 'Post-legal' America» Daily Kos
night owls
Tom Engelhardt:
With Cartwright as a possible exception, the members of the national security state, unlike the rest of us, exist in what might be called  "post-legal” America. They know that, no matter how heinous the crime, they will not be brought to justice for it. The list of potentially serious criminal acts for which no one has had to take responsibility in a court of law is long, and never tabulated in one place. Consider this, then, an initial run-down on seven of the most obvious crimes and misdemeanors of this era for which no one has been held accountable.

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2005Extremist Sunday:

Tomorrow in Louisville Senator Frist and his allies will demonstrate a level of blatant extremism and hate that one thought had been removed from respectable discourse in our country. Now we find it embraced by the Republican Leader of the Senate. Frank Rich has some thoughts:

The fraudulence of "Justice Sunday" begins but does not end with its sham claims to solidarity with the civil rights movement of that era. "The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias," says the flier for tonight's show, "and now it is being used against people of faith." In truth, Bush judicial nominees have been approved in exactly the same numbers as were Clinton second-term nominees. Of the 13 federal appeals courts, 10 already have a majority of Republican appointees. So does the Supreme Court. It's a lie to argue, as Tom DeLay did last week, that such a judiciary is the "left's last legislative body," and that Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan appointee, is the poster child for "outrageous" judicial overreach. Our courts are as highly populated by Republicans as the other two branches of government.

The "Justice Sunday" mob is also lying when it claims to despise activist judges as a matter of principle. Only weeks ago it was desperately seeking activist judges who might intervene in the Terri Schiavo case as boldly as Scalia & Co. had in Bush v. Gore. The real "Justice Sunday" agenda lies elsewhere. As Bill Maher summed it up for Jay Leno on the "Tonight" show last week: " 'Activist judges' is a code word for gay." The judges being verbally tarred and feathered are those who have decriminalized gay sex (in a Supreme Court decision written by Justice Kennedy) as they once did abortion and who countenance marriage rights for same-sex couples. This is the animus that dares not speak its name tonight. To paraphrase the "Justice Sunday" flier, now it's the anti-filibuster campaign that is being abused to protect bias, this time against gay people.

Tweet of the Day:

In the wealthiest country in history, almost 30 million people wish they had full-time work. http://t.co/...

On today's Kagro in the Morning show: Trying to find the podcast? Congration You Done it! Cliven Bundy's got Marco Rubio Syndrome. Greg Dworkin tells us Digby's won a Hillman, points to NYT's 2014 analysis, and says Medicaid expansion's pretty popular. Joan McCarter says birth control coverage's pretty popular, too. And so's the AR "private option." More of the Gop "no backsies!" theory of governance. ALEC goes Bundy & Grijalva pushes back. Nixon (a 3rd one) to face impeachment? Bill Cassidy imagines a pivotal historical role for himself. NFL cheerleaders join the fight against wage theft. And listener Gilbert Aquino takes a stab at answering our theological questions.

High Impact Posts. Top Comments.

20:06 Pregnancy Diet and Nutrition | What to Eat, What Not to Eat» LiveScience.com
There's a reason they say you're "eating for two" when you're pregnant. Find out what to eat when pregnant and what foods to avoid.
19:20 4 Ways to Avoid Feeling 'Hangry' (and Save Your Marriage)» LiveScience.com
That "hangry" feeling you get, when you've waited too long between meals, can bring trouble in relationships, a new study suggests. Here's how to avoid the drops in blood sugar levels that can lead to feeling hangry.
18:51 Samantha Power is back» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Obama's U.N. ambassador is stepping into the limelight. But disasters loom around every corner.
18:50 Sotomayor through the looking glass» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Opinion: The justice's vision is of a racialized society with different rules for different groups.
17:00 Crowd goes wild after Jeb Bush announces he's 'thinking about' 2016» Daily Kos
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush speaks during the Faith and Freedom Coalition Road to Majority Conference at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Washington, June 14, 2013. REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS RELIGION) - RTX10NKK
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush tells a New York crowd that he's "thinking about running for president" in 2016 and then:
After his answer, the room went wild, and then someone said they hoped he would take the step.

“Would you call and tell my mom?” Bush quipped, a reference to his mother Barbara Bush’s comments that there have been enough Bushes in the White House.

I will say this about Jeb Bush: There's no question that he's got the ability to bring Democrats and Republicans together ... because they'd both love to see him at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016. And as long as the GOP is thinking about doing us favors, can I make a small request? Tap Ted Cruz for vice president. That'd be the perfect cherry on top.
16:27 The Truth About Marijuana: Health Risks Trivialized (Op-Ed) » LiveScience.com
Marijuana may not be the "safe" drug many think it is.
16:20 Clinton: Welcome 'older women'» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The former secretary of state says they can make a difference -- even in politics.
16:17 Not So Harmless? Pot Linked to Heart Problems» LiveScience.com
Pot may not have a chill, calming effect on everyone – evidence is emerging that for some people, smoking marijuana could increase the risk of heart problems, doctors say.
16:16 Study probes ACA impact on plans» POLITICO - TOP Stories
It shows most with canceled plans would not have continued them even without Obamacare.
16:09 FCC to consider rule gutting Net Neutrality» Daily Kos
U.S. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler testifies before the House Communications and Technology panel on Capitol Hill in Washington December 12, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS TRANSPORT BUSINESS TELECOMS) - RTX16FJ9
FCC Chair Tom Wheeler
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler will propose a new set of rules issued in response to a January federal court decision that tossed out the agency's prior Open Internet rules, The New York Times reports. It also reports that the proposed rules will essentially gut net neutrality, allowing Internet service providers what they've always wanted—the ability to charge content companies extra for preferential treatment. Pay, and you get more bandwidth, a bigger tube to send yourself out. Don't pay, you'll be last on the priority list for having your content distributed.
The new rules, according to the people briefed on them, will allow a company like Comcast or Verizon to negotiate separately with each content company – like Netflix, Amazon, Disney or Google – and charge different companies different amounts for priority service.

That, of course, could increase costs for content companies, which would then have an incentive to pass on those costs to consumers as part of their subscription prices.

Proponents of net neutrality have feared that such a framework would empower large, wealthy companies and prevent small start-ups, which might otherwise be the next Twitter or Facebook, for example, from gaining any traction in the market.

That's not the only fear. It will also be a potential disaster for sites like this one, and for nonprofits, for small businesses, for any content provider that doesn't have the big bucks to pay for priority treatment. That in turn will hurt you, the consumer of information and services via the Internet.

The rules will be considered by the commissioners for the next two weeks, before a vote on them on May 15. Stay tuned for our action to fight this proposed rule.

15:51 Now the Republican problem with Obamacare is that it doesn't cover enough people?» Daily Kos
U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) (L) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) (R) stand together at a news conference at the Republican National Committee offices on Capitol Hill in Washington October 23, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
The Republicans flailing to find a message now that Obamacare is working is kind of a blast to watch. Are they going to completely abandon Obamacare and make the election all about Harry Reid? They can't do that, they've invested way too much into convincing the tea party crazies that they'll fight this law to the end.

But now they can't keep up the fiction that it's doomed to fail. They can't call it socialism because too many regular Americans are now paying money to private insurance companies to pay for it, and they can't really call those people socialists. In their zeal to find something, anything, to attack the law, they're making a damned good case for something like Medicare for all. First we've got the Kochs telling voters that it's horrible that Democrats worked with evil insurance companies to design the law, and now Jonathon Cohn reports, they're complaining that the law isn't actually universal.

The President's health care law continues to fall short of covering the uninsured, but he still claims it's "working" http://t.co/...
Remember, House Republicans have voted to repeal Obamacare 50 times. They have voted on serious Obamacare alternatives exactly zero times. They haven’t even made a serious attempt to get a bill out of committee, let alone hold a floor debate. A few Republican lawmakers have crafted proposals on their own, as have some conservative intellectuals. But GOP leaders have made it very clear they want nothing to do with these plans.

In addition, a major reason the Affordable Care Act isn’t reaching more people is that Republicans have done their best to limit the law’s reach—primarily, by blocking expansions of Medicaid in states where conservative Republicans hold sway.

If they're really, really worried about making sure everyone gets access to health care, there's a solution. But as they've demonstrated time and time again, solutions aren't what they're after. They can only offer mindless, knee-jerk "Obamacare bad" diatribes that make less and less sense.
15:38 Tiny Insect Parts Revealed in New 3D, True-Color Images» LiveScience.com
A new scanning system, which uses basic equipment, can capture 3D models of insects in color.
15:30 Spotlight on Green News & Views: Bundy lied, Earth Day 2014, Nate Silver and climate change» Daily Kos
SolarCoin logo
Many of the dozens of environmentally related posts that appear at Daily Kos each week don't attract the attention they deserve. So, in 2006, a new weekly feature was launched to highlight those diaries. Initially called Eco-Diary Rescue, the name was change to Green Diary Rescue after a couple of years. After nearly 17,000 green diaries had been rescued, the name was changed again to Spotlight on Green News & Views. The spotlight appears twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Inclusion of a diary in the Spotlight does not necessarily indicate my agreement with or endorsement of it.
Breaking news on Bundy Ranch—by nachtwulf: "It seems that all of his claims are apparently lies. He claims that his family has been using the land since the 1870s, from which his erroneous claims derive. His family actually bought the ranch in 1948, provably, and didn't get cattle until the 1950s. And they bought the water rights to their own property but no grazing rights to the Federal land. Imagine that."
green dots
"Working to Save the Amazon & Its Communities": Ecuador, Chevron, & The Yasuni-ITT Initiative, Pt. 1—by Randle Aubrey: "Even the most stalwart of proponents of corporate benevolence are occasionally forced to concede that no major multinational corporation is above a certain level of malfeasance, especially when it comes to the petroleum industry. The global demand for oil is so high that companies will go to disturbing lengths to obtain it, committing all manner of abuses while the general public largely turns a blind eye, easily swayed by multi-million dollar PR campaigns and the promise of cheap fuel for all. Nowhere in recent years has this been more apparent than in the nation of Ecuador, and few companies have committed more atrocities in the name of oil than industry titan Chevron has within Ecuador's borders, according to Flora Lu, professor of Environmental Studies at UC Santa Cruz, Nestor Silva, a PhD Anthropology Student at Stanford University, and Pablo Fajardo, the now-famous Ecuadorian attorney who won a landmark class action lawsuit against Chevron in 2011."
green dots
The Daily Bucket : Last Whales of Autumn—by Wood Gas: "These Humpbacks are the last I saw in the fall, a group of three had passed traveling south earlier the same day, that was Sept. 5, 2013. I posted a picture in a comment on the Daily Bucket soon after. These are photos of the same pair, taken from my boat earlier that day. The first humpback I saw returning was sighted April 13, 2014. Clarence Straits, Alaska. [...] Viewing whales from a boat. Treat you neighbors respectfully, don't chase them, do not approach too closely.  Sitting still with motor idling so they can track you easily and letting the whales come to you is the best and safest way to observe closely.  They can and do avoid boats, but if you see a ring of bubbles immediately in front of the boat a little reverse might be in order, quickly."
feeding humpback whale

You can find more rescued green diaries below the sustainable squiggle.

15:30 Trade push a thumbs down for Dems» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Many Democrats say the Trans-Pacific partnership undercuts the economic fairness argument.
14:50 Cartoon: Scott Brown's New Hampshire adventure» Daily Kos
14:08 Misleading Gun-Death Chart Draws Fire» LiveScience.com
Recent news reports about how Florida's "stand your ground" law affected the number of deaths in the state have raised a few eyebrows, thanks to a strange statistical chart.
13:36 Deep-Sea Robot Explores Shipwrecks Thursday: Watch Live Online» LiveScience.com
Watch live as a remotely operated vehicle explores debris and artifacts from one of the three mysterious shipwrecks in the Gulf of Mexico.
13:29 Photos: Shipwrecks of the Deep Sea» LiveScience.com
Photos of mysterious 19th century shipwrecks in the Gulf of Mexico.
13:25 Here's just how low the Kochs will go» Daily Kos
Screenshot from ad by AFP lifted from photo of Sen. Mark Udall and President Obama following the Aurora shootings.
They really are despicable. That picture up there? President Obama and Sen. Mark Udall looking dismayed and upset, ostensibly about Obamacare? That's a screenshot from an ad from the Kochs' Americans for Prosperity. Here's where they took that picture from:
The image is from a July 2012 appearance Obama made with Udall, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, and other state officials at a hospital treating victims of the July 20, 2012, Aurora movie theater shooting.
Yep, that's about as classless as you can get, attacking the president and the senator with a picture taken when they were visiting victims of a mass shooting in the hospital.

1:53 PM PT: Some of the families of the victims of the Aurora shooting are demanding that AFP take the ad down. Via email, here's their statement:

"The use of an image taken from the President's visit to Colorado to meet with us after our children were killed in the Aurora Theater shooting is an utter disgrace. And to insinuate the somber expressions were for anything other than their compassionate response to our heartbreak is beyond unconscionable. Americans for Prosperity is exploiting our tragedy for political gain and this ad should be pulled from the air immediately. We hope Colorado television stations will exercise sound judgment and not air this ad until AFP removes the image."

Theresa Hoover, mother of AJ Boik
Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, parents of Jessica Ghawl
Terry and Tom Sullivan, parents of Alex Sullivan
Caren and Tom Teves, parents of Alex Teves

13:00 Andrew Cuomo realizes he has a problem on his left» Daily Kos
February 24, 2014- Amherst- Governor Cuomo outlines his 2014-15 Executive Budget.
Asshole Democrat and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is apparently wigged out at the Siena poll showing substantial support to his left for a Working Families Party candidate. The poll is certainly emboldening the WFP party to think big, either with a general election candidate that would seek to supplant the GOP as the state's #2 party (and its preferential place on the ballot and on commissions), or even by backing a Democratic primary challenge to Cuomo.

After spending months gleefully shitting on liberals and rival elected Democrats (pretty much everyone not named "Cuomo"), the governor is suddenly on the defensive.

Cuomo gave a defense of his liberal street cred today http://t.co/...
Cuomo says that if liberals want public financing, Dream Act, WEA passed, then work to elect people who support those measures
Cuomo on WFP challenge: "I don't know if there's a lot of space to my left."
There is as much space to Cuomo's left as there was to Joe Lieberman's left, which is to say quite a bit. Heck, on economic matters, he's a Republican.

But he's particularly wrong on that second tweet above. He says liberals should work to elect people who want those great liberal policies. Fair enough.

But it was Cuomo who signed into law the extreme GOP gerrymander that gave Senate Republicans an unfair advantage in a state in which they can barely garner a third of the vote statewide. He even supported the GOP gerrymander after spending a year pretending to fight to reform the redistricting process. Kind of like how he pretended to clean up corruption in Albany.

And still, Democrats took over the State Senate in 2012, despite that extreme gerrymander. But did Cuomo celebrate that? No, he tacitly supported a breakaway faction of Democrats that kept effective control of the chamber in Republican hands.

And don't even get Bill de Blasio started on the ways the governor is sabotaging his initiatives, in a city in which three-quarters of the electorate voted for him.

So liberals have done their part to shape New York to their liking. The only impediment left is Andrew Cuomo himself.

12:57 Sugar Wars - Food Industry Held Accountable | FED Up Trailer» LiveScience.com
From Katie Couric and Laurie David (producer of An Inconvenient Truth) comes a revealing look at the food industry's stance on weight loss. Premieres in theaters on May 9th, 2014.
12:53 Videos of Live Embryos, Cancer Cell Win 'Small World' Awards» LiveScience.com
This video might change the way you look at quail eggs. A scientist who made a stunning time-lapse video of a growing quail embryo took home top honors in Nikon's 2013 Small World in Motion Competition.
12:51 Crist: 'Obamacare is great'» Daily Kos
Former Governor of Florida Charlie Crist answers a question during the University of Southern California's Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy inaugural Symposium in Los Angeles, California, September 24, 2012. REUTERS/Gus Ruelas (UNITED
Pundits everywhere are going to have to hang up the supposed narrative of the cycle—that Democrats are running scared on Obamacare. It's just not happening. From Sens. Mary Landrieu and Mark Begich to Rep. Allyson Schwartz, Democrats are on offense on the Affordable Care Act. But Florida's Charlie Crist, running to get the governor's seat back, beats them all in his enthusiasm for the law.
Crist appeared at the Capital Tiger Bay Club and almost immediately brought up the attack ads being run by the political committee backing Scott's re-election, which show video of Crist talking about the health care overhaul and saying, "I think it's been great."

"I'm going to tell you what's great. 'Obamacare's' great," Crist said one minute into his 29-minute speech. "My opponent has spent about $6 million showing me say what's great ... Affordable health care—I think it's incredibly important and I don't back away from it, I do support it because it is great."

That's pretty smart in a state where about 1 million people are denied health care, where they are dying prematurely because of Republican politics. Out of spite.

Yes, for the people who now, finally, have health insurance they can afford and that can't be taken away from them, Obamacare is great. That's a message no Democrat should be afraid to deliver.

12:18 Not Just for Sex: Why the Y Chromosome Hasn't Vanished» LiveScience.com
Men have lost most of the genes originally included on the Y chromosome during evolution, but those genes essential for survival have persevered. These genes may contribute to differences between men and women with certain diseases, researchers said.
11:52 Quail Assembling - Nikon Small World photomicrography competition» LiveScience.com
Captured by Dr. Gabriel G. Martins of The Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia, this winning video shows a sequence of “virtual” slices through the whole embryo, revealing startling clarity and detail of such a large specimen.
11:50 Kochs reverse course, start attacking Obamacare from the left» Daily Kos

Koch ad attacking Gary Peters for "standing with health insurance companies."
Steve Benen picks up on a new trend in the right's attacks on Obamacare: they're fighting it from the left.
[Tuesday], for example, Freedom Partners, a political operation that enjoys financial support from Charles and David Koch, launched a new attack ad in Michigan’s U.S. Senate race, targeting Rep. Gary Peters (D). The voice-over tells viewers: "Congressman Gary Peters says he’s standing up to health insurance companies. The truth? Peters voted for Obamacare, which will give billions of taxpayer dollars to health insurance companies." […]

Keep in mind, this truly ridiculous pitch isn't just popping up in Michigan.

* Earlier this month in Iowa, the Koch-financed Freedom Partners condemned Rep. Bruce Braley (D) for supporting a health care reform law through which "health insurance companies stand to make billions."

* The same day, the Koch-financed Freedom Partners launched an attack ad in Colorado: "Mark Udall worked with insurance companies to pass Obamacare. Now Udall claims he’s standing up to them."

* A day later, Freedom Partners launched an attack ad in Alaska with the same message.

Who could imagine that the right would start attacking Democrats from the left when Democrats "compromise" on a policy conservatives have been pushing? That never happens!

But what this really reflects is the fact that the Kochs have pissed away millions in 2014 on ads that haven't moved the needle in polling at all. The anti-Obamacare message they've been pushing so far, with all those debunked "horror" stories, has failed. So now they think they can pick up the disgruntled left with this campaign? Good luck to them.

11:50 Justice Dept. lays out criteria for clemency release of thousands of federal drug offenders» Daily Kos
Deputy A.G. James M. Cole
James M. Cole
Deputy Attorney General James Cole announced at a press conference Wednesday the parameters of the Department of Justice's new clemency initiative for federal prisoners. Only those who have served at least 10 years of their sentences, have not engaged in violence while incarcerated, are not drug kingpins or associated with gangs or cartels will be eligible for clemency.

Given how difficult avoiding violence can be, the criteria for clemency sharply limit how many prisoners could be released. But they could still number in the thousands, many of whom are serving exceedingly long, even life, sentences. All told, there were, as of April 17, 216,265 prisoners held in the federal system.

Most inmates likely to be eligible under the criteria for clemency wound up imprisoned as a consequence of drug laws, the worst being the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986. Among other outrageous things, that law assigned a 100:1 sentencing disparity to persons holding crack vs. powder cocaine. Getting caught and convicted for possessing five grams of crack put a person away for a five-year mandatory sentence, the same penalty meted out for getting convicted for having 500 grams of powder cocaine. The disparity had a tremendous negative impact on African Americans who, statistics show, are far more likely to be targeted by law enforcement for drug crimes.

Not just cocaine or other hard drugs, either. For instance, a study last year by the American Civil Liberties Union found that blacks are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites even though the rate of use is similar for both. But the cocaine law presented the most egregious disparity.

After more than a decade and a half of attempts, that law was superseded with the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. It did away with the mandatory five-year sentence for cocaine possession and reduced the disparity between crack and powder cocaine from 100:1 to 18:1. An improvement, without a doubt, but as long as we're stuck with morally criminal, draconian drug laws there is no excuse for not making the ratio 1:1.

And no excuse for not making fair sentencing retroactive. There are, after all, thousands of people serving sentences under the old law who would have long since been released had they been convicted under the 2010 law. But such a change would take another act of Congress. That for now seems out of the question. The clemency initiative, part of Attorney General Eric Holder's Smart on Crime reform, will go part of the way to make sane what Congress will not.

Below the fold, you can read about Justice's clemency criteria and additional analysis.

11:29 1800's Shipwreck Rediscovered Near Golden Gate Bridge» LiveScience.com
A ship that sunk near San Francisco's Golden Gate in 1888 has been rediscovered by NOAA. The City of Chester sits upright in more than 200 feet of water.
11:17 Food vs. Sex: Why Some Female Spiders Eat Males Before Mating» LiveScience.com
Certain female spiders are infamous for eating their partners after sex, but some actually pounce on suitors, fangs first, before mating ever occurs.
11:17 Experimental Cochlear Implant Treatment Could Improve Hearing» LiveScience.com
Improved cochlear implants that deliver genetic instructions to stimulate regrowth of auditory nerves could give people who are deaf the ability to enjoy music again, new research suggests.
10:54 How Cold Was Winter? Starving Rats Ate Trees » LiveScience.com
Some effects of the long-lasting, sub-freezing temperatures are only now becoming apparent. One surprise was the discovery that starving rats in New York City had attacked the trees in urban parks for sustenance.
10:16 Hannity takes break from defending domestic terrorist to defend his defense of domestic terrorist» Daily Kos
Screenshot of Sean Hannity attacking Jon Stewart on his Fox News show. April 22,2014
Thin-skinned, much? Sean Hannity, chief Cliven Bundy booster and armed rebellion instigator, doesn't like it when people point out that his champion is pretty much just a crook. Like Jon Stewart did.
So the law isn’t on Bundy’s side, the court isn’t on Bundy’s side, even the Nevada state constitution, which Bundy claims to abide, isn’t on his side—who the hell is on Bundy’s side? […] Hannity!
Hannity fires back (it was probably the bit about Hannity making Glenn Beck the voice of reason that sets him off). Note that Hannity doesn't respond with any, you know, substance. Just with a pure, mean-spirited personal attack.
Sean Hannity went after Jon Stewart on Tuesday night, accusing him of being a "comedic hack" and a shill for the Obama administration.

The Fox News host said Stewart is "kind of obsessed with this program" and that he and those at Comedy Central "kind of are the chief apologists for the Obama administration."

That's not new for Hannity. He's been trying to change the subject of his untenable support for Bundy by attacking critics, like MSNBC's Al Sharpton and Ed Schultz in the same personal, nasty vein. Of course, personal attacks are pretty much all he's got for a defense of his asinine efforts to foment violence. He sure doesn't have truth, justice and the American way for back-up.
10:14 Mantis Shrimp's Attack Claw Inspires Tough New Material Design» LiveScience.com
Mantis shrimp attack their prey using a clublike claw that accelerates faster than a .22-caliber bullet. Researchers think studying the structure of this club could inspire stronger, more impact-resistant materials.
09:13 What Are the Types of Meditation?» LiveScience.com
There are many types of meditation, including Zen Buddhist meditation, transcendental meditation, Tai chi and yoga.
08:22 Army general provides a case study in how not to handle sexual assault charges» Daily Kos
Maj. Gen. Michael T. Harrison (center), commander of U.S. Army Japan & I Corps (Forward), visits with the deployable assessment team chief, Col. Frank Clark (left), while touring exercise Sapporo Epicenter, a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise held at Camp Sapporo, Hokkaido, Jan. 23-27, 2013, with Lt. Gen. Kiyofuni Iwata (right), commander of Northern Army, Japan Ground Self Defense Force.
Maj. Gen. Michael T. Harrison (center)
The military has so far succeeded at keeping decisions about sexual assault prosecution in the hands of its own commanders. Here's a crystal-clear example of why that's a terrible idea:
The sexual misconduct complaints piled up on the desk of Maj. Gen. Michael T. Harrison Sr., the commander of U.S. Army forces in Japan. A colonel on his staff had been accused of having an affair with a subordinate, of drunken and inappropriate behavior with other women at a military club and lastly, of sexual assault.

But Harrison let most of the complaints slide or reacted with leniency, according to the Army. He had known the colonel for two decades and said he didn’t believe some of the allegations. In March 2013, when a Japanese woman accused the colonel of sexually assaulting her, Harrison waited months to report it to criminal investigators — a clear violation of Army rules, according to an internal investigation.

Oh, it gets better. Harrison was eventually suspended and officially reprimanded—but only because the Japanese woman went outside the chain of command with her complaint. And despite the reprimand, Harrison was made director of program analysis and evaluation for an Army deputy chief of staff at the Pentagon. Some punishment for grievously mishandling a series of sexual assault and misconduct complaints! Harrison will retire soon, and according to the Army, all this shows that he was totally punished very severely, and we should all chill about it because they are handling things.

Maybe this is what passes for punishment of a general who puts the man he knows above the women that man mistreated and "boys will be boys" above justice. But that's something the military needs to be fixing. And the fact that they keep not doing so is just one more piece of evidence for why Congress needs to step in and force them to fix it.

08:17 7 Ways Depression Differs in Men and Women» LiveScience.com
07:28 NFL cheerleaders join the fight against wage theft, suing over minimum wage violations» Daily Kos
Buffalo Bills cheerleaders, 2010
Fast food workers. Software engineers. NFL cheerleaders. These are just a few of the groups of American workers who are suing over forms of wage theft, the umbrella term for the long list of ways employers cheat workers out of money they've earned. In recent months, NFL cheerleaders—most recently four former cheerleaders for the Buffalo Bills—have been filing lawsuits alleging that they were misclassified as independent contractors rather than employees, then paid amounts that worked out to below minimum wage.

Independent contractors are, by definition, supposed to be able to exercise at least some independence; one of the key measures of misclassification is how much control the employer exerts over the worker. The former Bills cheerleaders' lawsuit reports the team and the management companies it retained to oversee the cheerleading program exerting extensive control over every aspect of their appearance and behavior while on the job:

z65. In addition to the rules previously cited, defendants also provided the Jills with rules regarding general hygiene and body maintenance (a list of 17 rules), appearance etiquette (17 rules), conversation starters for appearances and general etiquette, etiquette for formal dining (25 rules), and rules for communicating with people with disabilities (17 rules).

66. The extensive rulebook set forth by defendants includes, inter alia, rules on how much bread to eat at a formal dinner, how to properly eat soup, how much to tip restaurant waiters, wedding etiquette, how to properly wash "intimate areas," and how often to change tampons.

Following these rules, showing up for appearances, allowing themselves to be groped and harassed, was not exactly a ticket to wealth:
Jills were not paid for working game days. Neither were they paid for the mandatory biweekly practice sessions that usually lasted eight hours in total, according to the suit. On average, the cheerleaders involved in the suit averaged only a few hundred dollars per season, the highest amount being $1,800, the lowest $150. Not surprisingly, the lady who made $150 didn't cheer the next year.
The Bills are the third NFL team to face such a lawsuit; the Oakland Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals have similarly been sued for paying cheerleaders amounts that worked out to well below minimum wage. And remember, this all is going on in an incredibly profitable industry that rakes in huge public subsidies.

Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 9:23 AM PT: The lawsuit has had one immediate effect:

The director of the Buffalo Jills has suspended all activities for the Buffalo Bills cheerleaders until further notice, after five former Jills sued the Bills and her company, which manages the Jills.

Stephanie Mateczun, president of Stejon Productions Corp., based in West Seneca, said she has no idea how long the suspension will last.

We'll see if this lasts until football season, of course.
07:00 New Daily Kos Elections interactive legislative maps of Washington, New Mexico, and New Jersey» Daily Kos

This week we have interactive state legislative district maps for Washington, New Mexico, and New Jersey. Each legislative chamber is mapped out using the presidential election results calculated by Daily Kos Elections, the legislative election results, and some info on each legislator. For maps of 21 other states' legislative chambers see the first, second, third, and fourth in this series.

Districts in solid blue were carried by Obama and are represented by a Democrat, while those in solid red were won by Mitt Romney and are held by a Republican. Lighter red districts voted for Obama and a Republican legislator, while those in lighter blue went for Romney and a Democratic legislator. All vacant seats are assigned to the party that last won them. Note that the map displays use only the two-party vote to give you a more equivalent comparison between presidential and legislative results, but the diary and Daily Kos Elections' numbers include totals for third party candidates, though the differences are minor.

Washington State Senate

A bipartisan commission drew Washington’s state legislative districts with an equal partisan split, but Democratic member Tim Ceis voted for the Republican plan that predictably benefited that party a modest amount. While Obama carried 34, Republicans hold nine. The GOP controls all 15 Romney districts. To make matters worse two renegade Democrats, SD-35's Tim Sheldon and SD-48's Rodney Tom (whose districts are colored in yellow), caucus with the 24 Republicans. This gives Team Red an effective majority of 26 over the remaining 23 Democrats. Sheldon is likely safe from losing to a real Democrat since the state's top-two system has all candidates run on the same primary ballot with top two vote winners advancing regardless of party. Sheldon also represents a swing district giving him some more room for error.

On the bright side, Rodney Tom is retiring in 2014. His seat went for Obama 62-36 and Democrats are favored to take it back, meaning the party would need to gain just one more seat for outright control of the chamber. While only half the seats are up each cycle, Republicans will be defending a lot of their 2010 gains this year, giving Democrats an excellent shot at retaking the Senate. However, the map still leans Republican with the median district voting for Obama just 54-43, putting it four points to the right of the state.

Washington State House of Representatives Position 1

Washington State House of Representatives Position 2

Along with just Idaho, Washington uses the same district map for both legislative chambers yet conducts two separate races for the lower house in each one. Obama won 68 seats to Romney's 30. Republicans hold 15 Obama seats while just two Romney seats elected Democrats, but Team Blue has a healthy 55 to 43 majority. The median seats are again the same as the Senate at 54-43 Obama, making it four percent more Republican than the state overall.

Head below the fold to see maps for New Mexico and New Jersey.

05:13 Economics Daily Digest: Repealing health care reform gets harder every day» Daily Kos
Economics Daily Digest by the Roosevelt Institute banner

By Rachel Goldfarb, originally published on Next New Deal

Click here to receive the Daily Digest via email.

Ted Cruz's Worst Nightmare Is Coming True (Politico)

As Americans get used to having access to affordable health care, repeal will become less and less likely, writes Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch. That's just as Senator Cruz predicted last summer.

AT&T Tries to Bully the Government (Bloomberg View)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford says the Federal Communications Commission should stand strong and limit how many spectrum licenses any one wireless carrier can buy at its upcoming auction.

Elizabeth Warren is the Teacher (Esquire)

Charles P. Pierce profiles Sen. Warren's work in academia and politics, framing her as an eternal educator. Today, she continues to educate on critical issues like financial reform—but also makes that reform happen.

Elizabeth Warren’s Needed Call for Student Loan Reform (WaPo)

With graduation season upon us, Katrina vanden Heuvel, a member of the Roosevelt Institute's board of directors, praises Sen. Warren's work on student debt, which she says is holding back the economy.

The American Middle Class Is No Longer the World’s Richest (NYT)

Data shows that middle-income people around the world have experienced greater gains over the past three decades than Americans, write David Leonhardt and Kevin Quealy. They tie this to rising income inequality.

Waiter, Am I Subsidizing Your Pay? (Other Words)

Marjorie Elizabeth Wood argues that taxpayers are heavily subsidizing the restaurant industry, which takes advantage of tax loopholes for high CEO pay and doesn't pay its workers a living wage.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Fellow and Director of Research Susan Holmberg and Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network alumna Lydia Austin discuss the performance pay loophole in their white paper.

The Revolt of the Cities (TAP)

Harold Meyerson looks at the new wave of progressive mayors and city councils, elected primarily with labor community coalitions. He says this new city leadership is reshaping American liberalism.

02:07 How Graham outflanked the tea party» POLITICO - TOP Stories
"Ideological people don't give you a whole lot of money," the senator says.

Tue 22 April, 2014

15:24 How evil will a Republican be to deny a poor person health care? This evil.» Daily Kos
People wait to receive a wristband number for medical treatment at the Remote Area Medical (RAM) clinic in Wise, Virginia July 20, 2012.  RAM clinics bring free medical, dental and vision care to uninsured and under-insured people across the country and a
Dozens wait the night for free medical treatment. Just what Republican like to see.
Back in February, news broke of Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal's efforts to make sure that no governor of Georgia could ever decide to take Medicaid expansion, giving the legislature veto power over any future governor's decision to do so. But it's not just Deal. Kansas's Gov. Sam Brownback (R) is doing it too.
Georgia and Kansas have left a combined 487,000 residents uncovered under Obamacare because they refused to expand Medicaid. And, though the law remains unpopular, a recent poll found that majorities of Georgians (54 percent) and Kansans (55 percent) support Medicaid expansion.
One of the architects of the Affordable Care Act, Jonathon Gruber, told Harold Pollack that the Republican resistance to Medicaid expansion—leaving nearly 5 million people deliberately out of the system—is "almost awesome in its evilness." With Deal and Brownback, I think we can get rid of that "almost" qualifier.
14:16 Arkansas' Medicaid enrolled almost 70 percent of eligible residents» Daily Kos
Congressman Tom Cotton of Arkansas speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.
What? Still no plan, Rep. Cotton?
About 225,000 Arkansans are too poor to qualify for a subsidy to buy health insurance on the exchange, and too "wealthy" to qualify for the state's traditional Medicaid. But because the state expanded, using a "private option" to provide coverage, 155,567 of them now have insurance.
"We now know that an overwhelming majority of Arkansans in the program would have likely gone without health insurance had the Legislature not passed the Private Option," said John Selig, director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services. "Clearly there was a real need in a lot of these families." […]

Statewide, 61 percent of Arkansans in the program are women and 64 percent are ages 19 to 44 years old, a somewhat younger population than those getting coverage through the federal insurance marketplaces, said Arkansas Medicaid Director Andy Allison.

"The average age and sheer number of people in the Private Option will have a significant impact on competiveness and strength of the state’s insurance market moving forward," Allison said.

This is the program that Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who is running for the Senate, doesn't have a position on. But he does know that he wants to repeal Obamacare, which someone should really tell him also means repealing Arkansas's private option Medicaid. And taking any hope of insurance coverage away from 155,567 Arkansans (and growing—there's no deadline for applying for the program).
13:41 A year after Texas fertilizer explosion, safety regulations are no stronger» Daily Kos
The remains of a fertilizer plant burn after an explosion at the plant in the town of West, near Waco, Texas early April 18, 2013. The deadly explosion ripped through the fertilizer plant late on Wednesday, injuring more than 100 people, leveling dozens o
A year after a fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, killed 14 and destroyed a good chunk of the town, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board has released preliminary findings from an investigation that should serve as a major wake-up call for how the United States—and Texas in particular—regulates dangerous chemicals:
Tiny white pellets of ammonium nitrate were stored in a wooden warehouse in wooden bins, inside a building without a sprinkler system. No federal regulations exist preventing a company from storing the chemical in such a way. The volunteer firefighters who rushed to the plant to fight a fire that broke out there before the explosion were largely unaware of the dangers of ammonium nitrate, and a local emergency planning committee had not adopted an emergency response plan for the plant. Even if they had, Texas has no statewide fire code that would have established a minimum set of standards to hold industrial sites accountable for the safe handling of chemicals.

Ammonium nitrate is stored at more than 1,300 facilities around the country, but there are no zoning regulations at any level of government to prevent such plants from being located near residential areas, officials said on Tuesday. Other countries have more rigorous standards covering both the storage of the chemical and the proximity to other buildings. [...]

Agency officials said that no other single chemical has caused more widespread harm to the public in preventable accidents than ammonium nitrate. Nevertheless, fertilizer-grade ammonium nitrate is not classified as an explosive in the United States.

Want to bet that if the question was a Middle Eastern guy buying a whole lot of fertilizer-grade ammonium nitrate, the feds would not be like "it's not an explosive, nothing to see here"? But when it comes to the safety of homes and schools next to fertilizer plants, pfft, whatever.

And over the past year, nothing has changed to prevent future such explosions in Texas.

11:36 Louisiana may force doctors to give women disinformation about abortion» Daily Kos
Anti-abortion protesters outside Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo, N.D.
Fine candidates for the committee to write the Louisiana House's desired pamphlet scaring women away from abortion.
The Louisiana House has passed a bill that would use false information to try to scare women away from abortion. HB 1262 would require that, at the beginning of the state's 24-hour waiting period, women be given a pamphlet about mental health risks that abortion opponents claim are associated with abortion. Or, as the bill puts it, women have "a right to know that undergoing an abortion may have serious psychological impacts, including severe emotional distress and mental and behavioral health afflictions." The small problem with this is that:
... in reality, the research in the field has found that women who have abortions aren’t at any greater risk of mental health issues. Although many women certainly do have mixed feelings after ending a pregnancy, they overwhelmingly say that it was the right decision for them. Ninety percent of women report that their primary emotion after having an abortion is relief — and when they do experience negative emotions, they’re often related to the societal stigma surrounding abortion, not because they regret their personal choice.
But that information won't be making it into the Louisiana pamphlet, which will be put together by a committee including "Two Louisiana residents who provide pre-abortion or post-abortion counseling in association with a nonprofit organization that does not counsel for or provide abortion," which is to say an anti-abortion group; "Two attorneys licensed in Louisiana who specialize in advocacy for women and minor females who are at risk of being coerced into or psychologically harmed by abortion"; members of the state legislature who doubtless will be chosen on the basis of their enthusiasm for this offensive bill; and others who emphatically are in no way involved with any abortion provider. It's completely rigged to produce "information" that is actually disinformation.

I'm just waiting for Louisiana to require that all women who become pregnant be informed that nine to 16 percent of postpartum women will face postpartum depression, which can "affect ability to function in everyday life and increase risk for anxiety, cognitive impairment, guilt, self blame, and fear" and "lead to a loss of pleasure or interest in life, sleep disturbance, feelings of irritability or anxiety, withdrawal from family and friends, crying, and thoughts of hurting oneself or one’s child." And that's according to the American Psychological Association, not a committee of people chosen to campaign against pregnancy.

09:02 Wage theft hits software engineers as well as fast food workers» Daily Kos
Bar graph showing value of wage theft in 2012 -- $280 million -- vs. value of street, bank, gas station, and convenience store robberies -- $139 million.
A New York Times editorial points out that software engineers and fast food workers are more similar than we might think: Both groups are affected by wage theft.
In the days ahead, a settlement is expected in the antitrust lawsuit pitting 64,613 software engineers against Google, Apple, Intel and Adobe. The engineers say they lost up to $3 billion in wages from 2005-9, when the companies colluded in a scheme not to solicit one another’s employees. The collusion, according to the engineers, kept their pay lower than it would have been had the companies actually competed for talent. [...]

The case essentially alleges white-collar wage theft. The engineers were not victimized by the usual violations of labor law, but by improper hiring practices against their interests. The result, however, was the same: Money that would have flowed to workers in the form of wages went instead into corporate coffers and from there to executives and shareholders.

The software engineers presumably made a decent living despite being cheated by their employers, which can't be said of fast food workers forced to work off the clock or not being paid overtime when they work more than 40 hours a week. But their case highlights something middle-class Americans would do well to remember: The corporate race to the bottom on wages and working conditions is coming for you, too. In fact, it probably already has, in the form of the decline of the pension and stagnant wages except at the very top. And when you fail to give a damn about the fast food worker, unless they trot out a convincing enough tale of noble poverty or dismiss the public worker's struggle for the pension they earned with "well, I don't have a pension, why should a janitor?" or scoff at the idea that software engineers and fast food workers share a common interest against the massive corporations that employ them, you're inviting that race to the bottom to hit you sooner and harder.

Mon 21 April, 2014

15:02 Federal judge rules Minnesota cannot bar purchases of coal-fired electricity from North Dakota» Daily Kos
Leland Olds power station near Stanton, North Dakota.
In a 48-page ruling Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Richard Nelson agreed with North Dakota plaintiffs and shot down a part of a 2007 Minnesota law designed to boost renewable energy. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has vowed to appeal and fight North Dakota's efforts to sell more coal-fired electricity to Minnesota.

The law at issue is Minnesota's Next Generation Energy Act, a key element of which was to reduce the state's use of fossil fuels by 15 percent of 2005 base levels by 2015, 30 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050. Utilities were not to be allowed to buy more coal-fired electricity unless emissions were completely offset. North Dakota sued in 2011, saying the law violated the Constitution's interstate commerce clause.

Nelson wrote:

If any or every state were to adopt similar legislation (e.g., prohibiting the use of electricity generated by different fuels or requiring compliance with unique, statutorily-mandated exemption programs subject to state approval), the current marketplace for electricity would come to a grinding halt. In an interconnected system like [the Midwest Independent System Operator], entities involved at each step of the process—generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity—would potentially be subject to multiple state laws regardless of whether they were transacting commerce outside of their home state. Such a scenario is “just the kind of competing and interlocking local economic regulation that the Commerce Clause was meant to preclude.”

[...] For these reasons, the Court finds that, while the State of Minnesota’s goals in enacting [the statute] may have been admirable, Minnesota has projected its legislation into other states and directly regulated commerce therein. Accordingly, [the statute] constitutes impermissible extraterritorial legislation and is a per se violation of the dormant Commerce Clause.

North Dakota generates 79 percent of its electricity with coal and plans to build more coal-fired plants without emissions offsets.

At least one environmental advocacy group, Fresh Energy, which promotes renewable energy, isn't majorly upset by Nelson's ruling. The group's executive director, Michael Noble, told Minnesota Public Radio: "The world is moving on from coal now. It's uneconomical, it's impractical. Consumers don't want any more coal." And they won't need it, he said, because installation of wind- and solar-generating facilities will provide all the new electricity that is needed.

North Dakota's Republican Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem doesn't agree with that point of view: "We are continuing to look at the prospect of additional generation here because we're living in a nation that needs it. Most of our electricity does come from coal, and that's likely to be the case for a long time to come," he said.

Stenehjem needs to catch up. The United States generated 39 percent of its total electricity with coal during the 12 months ending in January this year. In 2007, the year Minnesota's Next Generation law was enacted, coal generated 49 percent of the nation's electricity. Minnesota generated 46 percent of its electricity with coal in 2013, 21 percent with nuclear power and 15 percent with wind power.

Thu 17 April, 2014

01:56 Mitigation of Climate Change – Part 3 of the new IPCC report» RealClimate
      Guest post by Brigitte Knopf             Global emissions continue to rise further and this is in the first place due to economic growth and to a lesser extent to population growth. To achieve climate protection, fossil power generation without CCS has to be phased out almost entirely […]

Tue 08 April, 2014

05:25 Shindell: On constraining the Transient Climate Response» RealClimate
Guest commentary from Drew Shindell There has been a lot of discussion of my recent paper in Nature Climate Change . That study addressed a puzzle, namely that recent studies using the observed changes in Earth’s surface temperature suggested climate sensitivity is likely towards the lower end of the estimated range. However, studies evaluating model […]

Sun 06 April, 2014

08:02 Unforced variations: Apr 2014» RealClimate
More open thread. Unusually, we are keeping the UV Mar 2014 thread open for more Diogenetic conversation and to keep this thread open for more varied fare.

Fri 04 April, 2014

01:41 Impacts of Climate Change – Part 2 of the new IPCC Report has been approved» RealClimate
The second part of the new IPCC Report has been approved – as usual after lengthy debates – by government delegations in Yokohama (Japan) and is now public. Perhaps the biggest news is this: the situation is no less serious than it was at the time of the previous report 2007. Nonetheless there is progress […]

Sun 30 March, 2014

18:29 IPCC WG2 report now out» RealClimate
Instead of speculations based on partial drafts and attempts to spin the coverage ahead of time, you can now download the final report of the IPCC WG2: “Climate Change 2014:Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability” directly. The Summary for Policy Makers is here, while the whole report is also downloadable by chapter. Notably there are FAQ for […]

Fri 28 March, 2014

16:34 Unforced variations: Mar 2014. Part II» RealClimate
This is mid-month open-thread for all discussions, except those related to Diogenes’ comments. People wanting to discuss with commenter Diogenes should stick to the previous UV thread. All such discussion on this thread will be moved over. Thanks.

Tue 25 March, 2014

09:40 The most common fallacy in discussing extreme weather events + Update» RealClimate
Does global warming make extreme weather events worse? Here is the #1 flawed reasoning you will have seen about this question: it is the classic confusion between absence of evidence and evidence for absence of an effect of global warming on extreme weather events. Sounds complicated? It isn’t. I’ll first explain it in simple terms […]

Sat 22 March, 2014

10:06 How Many Cans?» RealClimate
XKCD, the brilliant and hilarious on-line comic, attempts to answer the question How much CO2 is contained in the world’s stock of bottled fizzy drinks? How much soda would be needed to bring atmospheric CO2 back to preindustrial levels? The answer is, enough to cover the Earth with 10 layers of soda cans. However, the […]

Thu 13 March, 2014

06:57 Can we make better graphs of global temperature history?» RealClimate
I’m writing this post to see if our audience can help out with a challenge: Can we collectively produce some coherent, properly referenced, open-source, scalable graphics of global temperature history that will be accessible and clear enough that we can effectively out-compete the myriad inaccurate and misleading pictures that continually do the rounds on social […]

Tue 15 October, 2013

Sun 22 September, 2013

06:34 The Last Post» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

The Oil Drum (TOD) was an internet energy phenomenon that ran for over eight years from April 2005 to September 2013. The site was founded by Prof. Goose (also known as Professor Kyle Saunders of Colorado State University) and Heading Out (also known as Professor Dave Summers formerly of the Missouri University of Science and Technology).

The site took off with the advent of Hurricane Rita in September 2005 and resulted in the first 200+ comment event, indicating that there was demand for a site where concerned citizens could gather round a camp fire to discuss events impacting their energy supplies and ultimately, their well being. In eight years, >960,000 comments have been posted. Two other energy linked disasters, the Deepwater Horizon blowout and the Fukushima Daiichi reactor melt downs would see readership soar to >75,000 unique visits per day.

These pages have hosted over 7,500 articles covering every aspect of the global energy system. It was not unusual for a post to attract over 600 comments, many of which were well informed and contained charts and links to other internet sources. The site would become known for a uniquely high level of discourse where armchair analysts of all stripes added their knowledge to threads in a courteous, and ultimately pro-social way that energy experts at hedge funds, corporations or universities might not have the freedom to do. It is this emergent property of smart people sharing knowledge on a critical topic to humanity's future that will be missed.

The site was built on twin backbones that would often pull the readership in opposite directions. Drumbeats, edited by Leanan (who remains anonymous to this day) provided daily energy news digest and a forum for debate. And articles, written by a legion of volunteer writers, that strove to provide a more quantitative analysis of global energy supplies and the political, social and economic events that lay behind them. All the content would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of Super G, our site engineer, who maintained and updated software and hardware as the site grew and evolved for over eight years on a voluntary basis.

In the course of 2013, a decision was made to archive The Oil Drum and the main purpose of this Last Post is to provide some direction to new and future readers of the vast content it contains. The main contributors are listed below along with links to where their writings can be now be found. If you are looking for content there are two main options. The first is to look for author specific content where clicking on the live hyper linked name of the contributor will take you to a page giving access to all the content produced by that author. The second option is to use the Advanced Search facility at the top left of this page. Simply enter a few key words and this will return a page of the most relevant articles.

Editorial board

Arthur Berman (aeberman) Arthur E. Berman is a petroleum geologist with 35 years of oil and gas industry experience. He worked 20 years for Amoco (now BP) and 15 years as consulting geologist. He gives keynote addresses for energy conferences, boards of directors and professional societies. He has been interviewed about oil and gas topics on CBS, CNBC, CNN, Platt’s Energy Week, BNN, Bloomberg, Platt’s, Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone and The New York Times.

He was a managing editor and frequent contributor of theoildrum.com, and an associate editor of the AAPG Bulletin. He is a Director of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil, and has served on the boards of directors of The Houston Geological Society and The Society of Independent Professional Earth Scientists. He has published more than 100 articles on petroleum geology. He has done expert witness and research work on several oil and gas trial and utility commission hearings.

He has an M.S. (Geology) from the Colorado School of Mines and a B.A. (History) from Amherst College.

Nate Hagens is a well-known speaker on the big picture related to the global macroeconomy. Nate's presentations address opportunities and constraints we face in the transition away from growth based economies as fossil fuels become more costly. On the supply side, Nate focuses on biophysical economics (net energy) and the interrelationship between money and natural resources. On the demand side, Nate addresses the behavioral underpinnings to conspicuous consumption and offers suggestions on how individuals and society might better adapt to the end of growth. He will be writing at themonkeytrap.us.

Nate has appeared on PBS, BBC, ABC, NPR, and has lectured around the world. He holds a Masters Degree in Finance from the University of Chicago and a PhD in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont. Previously Nate was President of Sanctuary Asset Management and a Vice President at the investment firms Salomon Brothers and Lehman Brothers. Nate is the former President of the Institute for the Study of Energy and Our Future (non-profit publisher of The Oil Drum), is current US Director of the Institute for Integrated Economic Research, and serves on the Board of the Post Carbon Institute. Nate also served as the lead editor of the Oil Drum for several years.

Rembrandt Koppelaar has since 2010 been a Research Associate at the Swiss Institute for Integrated Economic Research (IIER), where he works on modelling of costs of resource and energy flows. Since June 2012 he combines this with a PhD research position at Imperial College London, to contribute to a spatial simulation of the resource flows of an economy at a micro-level using agent-based approaches. He joined the Oil Drum in 2006 first as a contributor and later as an editor, triggering by his concern in oil depletion. An interest that also led him to establish and become President of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas Netherlands from 2006 to 2010. He is author of the book “De Permanente Oliecrisis” discussing the end of cheap oil and its consequences (Dutch language, Nieuw Amsterdam publishers, 2008). Rembrandt holds a BSc and MSc in economics from Wageningen University, the Netherlands.

Brian Maschhoff (JoulesBurn) earned a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of New Mexico and a Ph.D in Chemistry from the University of Arizona. He has worked at several academic institutions and government laboratories, and currently engages in a wide variety of scientific and technical pursuits including web-based education, data visualization, and research on salmon recovery. His research on the oil fields of Saudi Arabia is also posted at Satellite o'er the Desert. He also blogs at Picojoule, and he might eventually be found @joulesburn on Twitter.

Euan Mearns has B.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in geology from The University of Aberdeen. Following an academic career in Norway and a business career in Scotland I took time off work in 2005 to help care for two sons and two dogs and to allow my wife's career to blossom. In 2006, wondering why the oil price and the value of my oil stocks kept going up I stumbled upon the The Oil Drum that provided unique insight, at that time, into The Earth energy system. Feeling the need to put something back I submitted a couple of articles and have since written roughly 100 posts and hosted many guest posts from worthy authors.

In 2009 I was appointed as Honorary Research Fellow at The University of Aberdeen and teach occasional courses there. For the last 7 years, writing and editing articles for The Oil Drum has consumed a fair portion of my time, but I have in return learned a huge amount. I also continue to work as a consultant for the oil industry. The focus of my interest is the importance of energy to society, society's response to the infrastructure and secondary impacts of energy provision and the political response. I plan to continue writing about Energy, Environment and Policy at Energy Matters.

New post, 8th October: UK North Sea Oil Production Decline
New post 18th November: Marcellus shale gas Bradford Co Pennsylvania: production history and declines
New post, 28th November: What is the real cost of shale gas?
New post, 9th December: OPEC oil production update July 2013
New post, 18th December: OECD oil production update July 2013
New post, 3rd January: Global Oil Supply Update July 2013
New post, 6th January: The Primary Energy Tale of Two Continents

Paul Sears was born in the UK, and did a Ph.D. in chemistry at Cambridge. Since first coming to Canada on a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Western Ontario in 1973, he has worked at the University of Toronto and in the Canadian Federal Government in Ottawa. Most of his work since the mid 1970s has been on the supply and use of energy in one form or another. His interest in the limitations to oil supply dates back to about 1962, when he was at school watching a promotional film from an oil company. The subject of the film was oil exploration, and this caused him to wonder about the dependence of our society on oil and the limits to supply. Other interests are canoeing, kayaking, skiing, hiking, camping, keeping planted aquaria and learning Mandarin Chinese. Sadly, Paul Sears passed away on September 13, 2012. You can read an obituary here.

Dave Summers who writes under the pen name, "Heading Out", comes from a family that for at least nine generations has been coal miners, and he started his working life, as an Indentured Apprentice, in 1961 shoveling coal on one of the last hand-won coal faces in the UK at Seghill, after a few weeks supplying that face with the help of a pit pony. With bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from Leeds University in the UK he moved to Rolla, Missouri and Missouri University of Science and Technology (then UMR) in 1968. He was named Curators’ Professor of Mining Engineering in 1980 and for many years directed the Rock Mechanics and Explosives Research Center at MS&T. His main work has been in the developing use of high-pressure water for cutting, cleaning and demilitarization. As one of the quiet revolutions that has crept into industry during his career, his research group worked in nuclear cleanup, rocket motors, and surgical applications as well as developing tools to cut, drill and mine more mundane rock, coal and metals. The team carved the half-scale Stonehenge out of Georgia granite, using only water, and later cut Edwina Sandy’s Millennium Arch from Missouri granite, both of which are on the MS&T campus. They also used the technique in a demonstration excavation that resulted in creating the OmniMax theater under the Gateway Arch in St Louis.

He retired from the University, and was named Emeritus in 2010, and lives quietly with his wife Barbara, with occasional commutes to visit their children, located on the two coasts very far from rural America.

In 2004 he began to write a blog, and in 2005 teamed with Kyle Saunders to jointly found The Oil Drum, a site for “discussions on energy and our future.” He now writes on energy, the applications of waterjets, a little on the use of the 3D modeling program Poser, and occasionally on climate matters. His blog, where the Tech Talks continue, can be found at Bit Tooth Energy. He again thanks all those who have contributed to The Oil Drum over the years and wishes them joy and prosperity in their futures!

Dr. David Archibold Summers has written numerous articles, a textbook, Waterjetting Technology, and jointly holds several patents, the last two of which have been licensed and deal a) with the use of waterjets to remove skin cancer and b) for high speed drilling of small holes through the earth.

Gail Tverberg (Gail the Actuary) became interested in resource limits and how these affect insurance companies and the economy more generally in 2005. She began writing about this issue while working as a property-casualty actuarial consultant at Towers Watson. In 2007, she took early retirement to work specifically on the issue of oil limits.

Between 2007 and its suspension in 2013, Gail worked as a contributor and editor at TheOilDrum.com. She also started her own blog, OurFiniteWorld.com, where she continues to write on a regular basis. Her writings include Oil Supply Limits and the Continuing Financial Crisis, published in the peer-reviewed journal Energy in January 2012. She has spoken at at many conferences on subjects related to oil limits, including both academic and actuarial conferences. She now plans to write a book, tentatively called "Discontinuity Ahead: How Oil Limits Affect the Economy."

Gail worked for CNA Insurance prior to joining Tillinghast (which eventually became part of Towers Watson) in 1981. She has a BA in Mathematics from St. Olaf College and an MS in Mathematics from the University of Illinois, Chicago. She is a fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society and a member of the American Academy of Actuaries.

Her Twitter feed is @gailtheactuary.

Chris Vernon originally graduated with a masters degree in computational physics before working for ten years in the field of mobile telecoms specialising in radio network architecture and off-grid power systems in emerging markets. He subsequently returned to university to take an MSc in Earth system science and a PhD in glaciology focusing on the mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet. Chris is a trustee at the Centre for Sustainable Energy, works for the UK Met Office and maintains a personal web page.

Selected contributors

Big Gav studied Engineering at the University of Western Australia in Perth. Since then he has travelled widely and worked in the oil and gas, power generation, defence, technology and banking industries. He has been blogging about peak oil for almost 3 years at Peak Energy (Australia) and is probably the most prolific example of a techno-optimist in the peak oil world. He may be alone in thinking that peak oil represents a great opportunity to switch to a clean energy based world economy, rather than the trigger for the end of industrial civilisation.

Jason Bradford is currently a Farm Manager in Corvallis, OR and a Managing Partner for a sustainable farmland fund, Farmland LP. Most of his writing for The Oil Drum occurred while he lived in Willits, CA, where he was instrumental in the founding of Willits Economic Localization, hosted a radio program called "The Reality Report," and was a board member of the local Renewable Energy Development Institute. He also founded and ran a small farm at a local elementary school with a lot of community support and the backing of The Post Carbon Institute, where he is currently a board member. His brief but enjoyable academic career began at Washington University in St. Louis and the Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG), where he taught courses in Ecology and from which he received a doctorate in Evolution and Population Biology in 2000. After graduation he was hired by the Center for Conservation and Sustainable Development at MBG, and between 2001 and 2004 secured grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society for multi-disciplinary research on issues related to species extinction and ecosystem function. His "aha moment" came during this research period where the connections between environmental decline, resource consumption, economic growth, belief systems and institutional inertia led to a dramatic change in the course of his life's work.

He continues to blog at Farmland LP.

David Murphy is an Assistant Professor in the Geography Department and an Associate of the Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability, and Energy, both at Northern Illinois University. He serves also as an Environmental Policy Analyst for the Environmental Science Division at Argonne National Laboratory. Dr. Murphy’s research focuses on the intersection of energy, economics, and the environment. Recently, his work has focused on estimating how the extraction of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale has impacted the provision of ecosystem services from the local environment. In addition, he researches how the energy return on investment from oil is related to oil price and economic growth. Dr. Murphy's work for Argonne National Laboratory addresses the environmental impacts associated with energy development.

He tweets: @djmurphy04

Robert Rapier works in the energy industry and writes and speaks about issues involving energy and the environment. He is Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President at Merica International, a forestry and renewable energy company involved in a variety of projects around the world. Robert has 20 years of international engineering experience in the chemicals, oil and gas, and renewable energy industries, and holds several patents related to his work. He has worked in the areas of oil refining, natural gas production, synthetic fuels, ethanol production, butanol production, and various biomass to energy projects. Robert is the author of Power Plays: Energy Options in the Age of Peak Oil. He is also the author of the R-Squared Energy Column at Energy Trends Insider. His articles on energy and sustainability have appeared in numerous media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, The Economist, and Forbes.

Jeff Vail (jeffvail) is an energy intelligence analyst and former US Air Force intelligence officer. He has a B.S. in engineering and history from the US Air Force Academy and a Juris Doctor from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. His interests are in global energy geopolitics and the the "rhizome" theory of social and economic organization. He is the author of the political anthropology book A Theory of Power and maintains a blog at http://www.jeffvail.net.

Jérôme à Paris is an investment banker in Paris, specialised in structured finance for energy projects, in particular in the wind power sector. After graduating from the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, he wrote his Ph.D. in economics in 1995 on the independence of Ukraine, with a strong focus on the gas relationship between Ukraine and Russia, and he worked on financings for the Russian oil & gas industry for several years after that. He is the editor of the European Tribune, a community website on European politics and energy issues. He has written extensively about energy issues, usually from an economic or geopolitical angle for the European Tribune and for DailyKos where he led a collective effort to draft an energy policy for the USA, Energize America.

Rune Likvern After Rune's first time seeing The Oil Drum (TOD and Institute for the Study of Energy and Our Future; ISEOF), in 2005 he created an account as nrgyman2000 and later got an invitation to become part of the staff of volunteer writers at what was then TOD Europe. In 2008 he started to post under his real name.

He is a Norwegian presently living in Norway and holding a masters degree from what is now the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. For more than two decades he was employed in various positions by major international oil companies, primarily Statoil, working with operations, field/area developments (in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea) and implementation (primarily logistics) of Troll Gas Sales Agreement (TGSA) which is about natural gas deliveries to European customers. This was followed by a period as an independent energy (oil/gas fields assessments, cash flow analysis, portfolio analysis etc.) consultant and as VP for an energy hedge fund in New York. In recent years he had a sabbatical to do more in depth research, reading and participating in discussions about energy, biology (what makes human {brains} what they are and why), and not least financial and economic subjects in several global forums as well as some advisory work.

Presently he is looking for gainful employment/engagements.

He also posts on his blog Fractional Flow
(primarily in Norwegian, but some future posts are planned for in English).

Phil Hart studied Materials Engineering at Monash University in Melbourne before spending five years with Shell UK Exploration and Production, based in Aberdeen, Scotland. He worked on two new North Sea oil and gas field development projects followed by a stint with the Brent field maintenance team as a corrosion engineer. In late 2006, Phil returned to Melbourne and was for a while an active member of the Australian Association for the Study of Peak Oil. He provided many briefings to government, business and community audiences and is still available for presentations around Melbourne and Victoria. Phil now works primarily in the water industry but consults as required for The Institute for Sensible Transport as well. He is also a keen astronomer and night sky photographer: www.philhart.com.

Luís Alexandre Duque Moreira de Sousa (Luís de Sousa) is a researcher at the Public Research Institute Henri Tudor in Luxembourg and a Ph.D. student in Informatics Engineering at the Technical University of Lisbon. Luís created the first Portuguese language website dedicated to Peak Oil in 2005 (PicoDoPetroleo.net); in 2006 he would be one of the founders of ASPO-Portugal and later that year integrated the team that started the European branch of The Oil Drum. Since then he has continuously written about Energy and its interplay with Politics and Economics, both in English and Portuguese. Luís is a regular presence at the collective blog European Tribune and writes on the broader issues of life on his personal blog AtTheEdgeOfTime.

Sat 21 September, 2013

14:34 The House That Randy Built» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

One of the nice aspects of the 7+ years I have been involved with The Oil Drum has been attending conferences and meeting with some of my cyber friends, who by and large figure among the nicest bunch of folks I ever met. In 2007 I attended the ASPO meeting in Houston and it was then that I met Randy Udall for the first time. Well you know what some Americans are like - you meet, you chat a while, discover you get along, down a couple of beers and before you know it you are invited to go visit. And so it was with Randy Udall....

The house that Randy built, sunk low in the Colorado terrain, provides shelter from winter storms and from exposure to summer sun. Photovoltaics, solar hot water (on the roof) and a single wood burner (chimney) provides all the energy needs.

Three years later, my wife and I had a trip planned to the States to go visit Dave Rutledge (another cyber mate) at his mountain lodge in New Mexico and I thought it would be cool to visit Randy en route. We exchanged a couple of emails, he warned that his wife Leslie was cautious about some of his friends coming to stay and that his son once claimed that the family lived in a "mud hut" and by now I was wondering if this was such a good idea. But plans were made and we went to stay with Randy in Colorado for a couple of days in August 2011; on arrival, any trepidation melted away.

A "mud hut", not quite. The stucco exterior finish covers thick foam insulation that in turn covers compressed earth (adobe) blocks. This provides protection from winter cold and summer heat, and thermal inertia from the large temperature swings prevalent in this part of the world.

At first sight Randy's house did indeed have the feel of a "mud hut" but upon entering the reality of a beautifully and lovingly crafted passive house unfolded. I was astonished to learn that Randy had designed and built every inch of this house himself, including the manufacture of every compressed earth brick and the hammering in of every nail - in neat serried ranks.

I wish I had recorded the vital statistics but the mass of bricks was carefully calculated to provide thermal inertia, keeping the house warm in winter but cool in summer. I was also very surprised to learn that all of the insulation was on the outside of the masonry structure which is the opposite of the way we build our houses in the UK. South-facing windows collect wintertime solar energy and the adobe block walls and brick floors soak up much of that heat energy, keeping the home warm through cold nights. During the summer, just opening the windows at night cools off the massive floors and walls, helping the house stay cool during hot days. Putting the insulation on the outside of the exterior walls is the only way to make this adobe wall strategy work effectively.

The house was set low in the terrain, providing protection from winter storms and from the worst excesses of summer heat. Outside you find a large solar PV array, providing a surplus of electricity and solar hot water arrays on the south facing roofs providing all the hot water required and, if my memory serves correctly, some interior heating during winter time.

The rather plain exterior gave way, inside, to simple, beautifully crafted, elegance.

Every timber cut and every nail hammered by one man. This is a masterpiece that will hopefully endure.

Inside, beautiful craftsmanship provides simple but elegant living space to match the view of Mount Sopris that dominated the surrounding landscape. Not many of us leave a lasting legacy. Randy has left memories of a wonderful and thoughtful teacher and a house that will hopefully stand as a testimony to his passion for sustainable living for centuries to come.

The view out of the front window wasn't that bad either. Mount Sopris (3,952 m /12,965 ft) offered Randy and his family fantastic walking, climbing and ski mountaineering opportunities.

Renewable energy and renewable transport. I am seldom pleased with the pictures I take, but there is something about this one I really like.

On the second evening of our visit, we dined with the local mayor and downed a few glasses of red. Randy may look pensive but he is actually looking at his lap top, has my credit card and is planning a road trip for us through Mesa Verde and Grand Canyon en route to New Mexico, one of the best trips my wife and I have ever made. He knew this area like the back of his hand.

To some, this house and lifestyle may seem fabulously exuberant. But the house, in fact, was built for a relatively tiny amount of money with most of the cost coming by way of blood, sweat, tears, knowledge and love of a vision for the future. These Udalls lived a simple life with a very strong sense of community involvement.

Most folks who read these pages will already know that in June of this year Randy died aged 61 of natural causes while hiking alone in the Wind River range of Wyoming, hunting for wild trout. The tragedy here is that he was snatched from his family and the sustainable living community he championed 10 to 20 years prematurely.

Thank you to Leslie Udall for consent to publish this article and to Steve Andrews for some useful editorial comments.

Thu 19 September, 2013

21:27 Twenty (Important) Concepts I Wasn't Taught in Business School - Part I» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

Twenty-one years ago I received an MBA with Honors from the University of Chicago. The world became my oyster. Or so it seemed. For many years I achieved status in the metrics popular in our day ~ large paychecks, nice cars, travel to exotic places, girlfriend(s), novelty, and perhaps most importantly, respect for being a 'successful' member of society. But it turns out my financial career, shortlived as it was, occurred at the tail end of an era ~ where financial markers would increasingly decouple from the reality they were created to represent. My skill of being able to create more digits out of some digits, (or at least being able to sell that likelihood), allowed me to succeed in a "turbo" financial system that would moonshot over the next 20 years. For a short time I was in the 1% (and still am relative to 'all humans who have ever lived'). Being in the 1% afforded me an opportunity to dig a little deeper in what was really going on (because I quit, and had time to read and think about things for 10 years). It turns out the logic underpinning the financial system, and therefore my career, was based on some core flawed assumptions that had 'worked' in the short run but have since become outdated, putting societies at significant risks.

Around 30% of matriculating undergraduate college students today choose a business major, yet 'doing business' without knowledge of biology, ecology, and physics entirely circumvents first principles of how our world really works ~ my too long but also too short summary of the important things I wasn't taught in business school is below.

The Blind men and the Elephant, by Rudyard Kipling

Business as usual as we know it, with economics as its guide and financial metrics as its scorecard, is in its death throes. The below essay is going to appear critical of finance and the nations (world's) business schools. But it is too, critical, of our entire educational system. However, physicists, plumbers and plowmen do not have the same pull with respect to our cultural goals and narrative that financial folk do - as such an examination of the central assumptions driving society is long overdue. But before I point out what I didn't learn in MBA school, I want to be fair - I did learn things of ‘value’ for the waters I would swim in the future: statistics, regression, how to professionally present and to facilitate meetings, and some useful marketing concepts. Of course, like any 20 something student, 1/2 of the value of graduate school is learning to interact with the group of people that will be your peers, and the relationships and contacts that develop. Plus the placement office was very helpful in getting us jobs as well.

The culture at Salomon Brothers impressed me the most and I landed in their Private Investment Department, where we were basically stockbrokers for the uber-rich - as a trainee I wasn't allowed to call on anyone worth less than $50 million (in 1993). After Salomon shut our department down I went to a similar job at Lehman Brothers. At Lehman I increasingly felt like a high paid car salesmen and after 2 years quit to go work for a client, develop trading algorithms on commodities and eventually started my own small fund. But increasingly, instead of trading or trying to grow my business I found myself reading about oil, history, evolution and ecological issues. It really bothered me that 'externalities' were not priced into our goods or profits. One day, on a hike, it struck me that what I was doing felt spiritually hollow and despite it ‘paying the bills’ I began to realize I was more interested in learning about how the world worked and maybe doing something about improving it. In 2002 I gave my clients their money back, embarked on basically a 2 year hiking trip with my dog, and a car full of books. Eventually I would obtain a PhD in Natural Resources, but like many of you my real degree was obtained on this site, interacting with the many and varied people I met and continue to call friends and mentors. I am continuing to work on, or at least think about, making the near and long term future better, despite the tall odds, while living on a small farm in Wisconsin. More on this below.

In the years that have passed, modern society has become a crazy mélange of angst, uncertainty and worry. Many of us intuitively recognize that we’ve constructed a ginormous Rube Goldberg machine which for a number of reasons may not continue to crank out goods and services for the next 30-40 years. We blame this and that demographic for our declining prospects – the Republicans, the environmentalists, the greedy rich, the lazy poor, the immigrants, the liberals, etc. We blame this and that country or political system – evil socialists, heartless capitalists, Chinese, Syrians, Europeans, etc. We watch TV and internet about the latest ‘news’ influencing our world yet are not entirely confident of the connections. But underlying all this back and forth are some first principles, which are only taught piecemeal in our schools, if at all. Below is a short list of 20 principles underpinning today’s global ‘commerce’. I should note, if I was a 25 year old starting business school, eager to get a high paying job in two short years, I wouldn’t believe what follows below, even if I had time or interest to read it, which I probably wouldn't.

20. Economic 'laws' were created during and based on a non-repeatable period of human history

"I found a flaw. I was shocked because I'd been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well." Alan Greenspan testimony to Congress, Oct 2011

Click image to enlarge.

The above graphic shows a three-tiered time history of our planet, starting with the top black line being geologic time. The tiny black sliver on the far right, is enlarged in the second line, and the sliver on its far right is again enlarged on the bottom line, where the last 12,000 years are shown. We, both our environment, and ourselves, are products of this evolutionary history. Our true wealth originates from energy, natural resources and ecosystem services, developed over geologic time. Our true behavioral drivers are a product of our brains being sculpted and honed by 'what worked' in all 3 eras of this graph (but mostly the top 2). The dark line on the bottom is human population, but just as well could be economic output or fossil fuel use, as they have been highly correlated over this period.

The economic ‘theories’ underpinning our current society developed exclusively during the short period labeled 'A' on the graph, on a planet still ecologically empty of human systems and when increasing amounts of extraordinarily powerful fossil energy was applied to an expanding global economic system. For decades our human economies seemed to follow a pattern of growth interrupted by brief recession and resumption to growth. This has made it seem, for all intents and purposes, that growth of both the economy and aggregate individual wealth was something akin to a natural law –it is certainly taught that way in business schools. The reality is that our human trajectory –both past and future - is not a straight line but more like a polynomial - long straight stretches, up and down, with some wavy periods in the middle, and ultimately capped. Our present culture, our institutions, and all of our assumptions about the future were developed during a long 'upward sloping' stretch. Since this straight line period has gone on longer than the average human lifetime, our biological focus on the present over the future and past makes it difficult to imagine that the underlying truth is something else.

Evidence based science in fields like biology and physics has been marginalized during this long period of 'correlation=causation'. This oversight is not only ubiquitous in finance and economics but present in much of the social sciences, which over the past 2 generations have largely conflated proximate and ultimate explanations for individuals and societies. In nature geese fly south for the winter and north in the spring. They do this based on neurotransmitter signals honed over evolutionary time that contributed to their survival, both as individuals and as a species. "Flying north in spring" is a proximate explanation. "Neuro-chemical cues to maximize food/energy intake per effort contributing to survival" is an 'ultimate' explanation. In business school I was taught, 'markets go north' because of invention, technology and profits, an explanation which seemed incomplete to me even though it has appeared to be valid for most of my life. Social sciences have made great explanations of WHAT our behavior is, but the descriptions of WHY we are what we are and HOW we have accomplished a vast and impressive industrial civilization are still on the far fringes of mainstream science. Economics (and its subset of finance) is currently the social science leading our culture and institutions forward, even if now only by inertia.

19. The economy is a subset of the environment, not vice versa

If people destroy something replaceable made by mankind, they are called vandals; if they destroy something irreplaceable made by God, they are called developers.
Joseph Wood Krutch

When you have to classify the very capacity of the Earth to support life as an "externality", then it is time to rethink your theory. --Herman Daly--

Click image to enlarge.

Standard economic and financial texts explain that our natural environment is only a subset of a larger human economy. A less anthropocentric (and more accurate) description however, is that human economies are only a subset of our natural environment. Though this may seem obvious, currently anything not influencing market prices remains outside of our economic system, and thus only actively 'valued' by government mandates or by some individuals, not by the cultural system as a whole. A landmark study in NATURE showed that the total value of 'ecosystem services' -those essential processes provided to humans by our environment like: clean air, hydrologic cycles, biodiversity, etc. if translated to dollar terms, were valued between 100-300% of Global GNP. Yet the market takes them for granted and does not ascribe value to them at all!!! Part of reason is that the negative impacts from market externalities aren't immediate, and with our steep discount rates (see below), the near term 'benefits' of GDP outweigh 'abstract' costs at some unknown future date.

Mankind's social conquest of earth has brought with it some uncomfortable 'externalities'. We are undergoing a 6th great extinction, which is no wonder given that humans and our livestock now outweigh wild animals by almost 50:1. Our one species is appropriating over 30% of the Net Primary Productivity of the planet. (One can ask, how can we use 30% of sunlight yet have 50x the weight of the other vertebrates and the answer, as we will see below, is our consumption of fossil carbon). A short list of deleterious impacts not incorporated into prices/costs includes: air pollution, water pollution, industrial animal production, overfishing (90% of pellagic fishes (tuna) in ocean are gone), nuclear waste, biodiversity loss, and antibiotic resistance. Perhaps the most ominous is the threat of climate change and ocean acidification, where humans, via burning large amounts of fossil carbon, are impacting global biogeochemical systems in profound and long-lasting ways.

Since GDP, profits and 'stuff' are how we currently measure success, these 'externalities' only measurement is the sense of loss, foreboding and angst by people paying attention. Such loss is currently not quantified by decision makers. In the past, only when there was a ‘smoking gun’ e.g. in the case of chlorofluorocarbons, DDT, unleaded gasoline, did society organize and require rules and regulations for the externalities, but these examples, as serious as they were, were not anathema to the entire human economy.

18. Energy is almost everything

Without natural resources life itself is impossible. From birth to death, natural resources, transformed for human use, feed, clothe, shelter, and transport us. Upon them we depend for every material necessity, comfort, convenience, and protection in our lives. Without abundant resources prosperity is out of reach.
— Gifford Pinchot Breaking New Ground (1998), 505.

In nature, everything runs on energy. The suns rays combine with soil and water and CO2 to grow plants (primary productivity). Animals eat the plants. Other animals eat the animals. At each stage of this process there is an energy input, an energy output and waste heat (2nd law of thermodynamics). But at the bottom is always an energy input. Nothing can live without it. Similarly, man and his systems are part of nature. Our trajectory from using sources like biomass and draft animals, to wind and water power, to fossil fuels and electricity has enabled large increases in per capita output because of increases in the quantity of fuel available to produce non-energy goods. This transition to higher energy gain fuels also enabled social and economic diversification as less of our available energy was needed for the energy securing process, thereby diverting more energy towards non-extractive activities. The bottom of the human trophic pyramid is energy, about 90% of which is currently in the form of fossil carbon. Every single good, service or transaction that contributes to our GDP requires some energy input as a prerequisite. There are no exceptions. No matter how we choose to make a cup, whether from wood, or coconut, or glass or steel or plastic, energy is required in the process. Without primary energy, there would be no technology, or food, or medicine, or microwaves, or air conditioners, or cars, or internet, or anything.

A long term graph of human output (GDP) is one highly correlated with primary energy use. For a while (1950s to 1990s) improvements in efficiency, especially in natural gas plants, complemented energy use as a driver of GDP, but most of these have declined to now have only minor contributions. Since 2000, 96% of our GDP can be explained by 'more energy' being used. (For more data and explanation on this, please see "Green Growth - An Oxymoron"). Some resource economists have claimed that the relationship between energy and the economy decoupled starting in the 1970s, but what happened was just an outsourcing of the 'heavy lifting' of industrial processes to cheaper locations. If one includes energy transfers embedded in finished goods and imports there isn’t a single country in the world that shows a disconnect between energy use and GDP. Energy it turns out, not dollars, is what we have to budget and spend. Quite simply, energy is the ability to do work. How much work, we'll see below.

17. Cheap energy, not technology, has been the main driver of wealth and productivity

Click image to enlarge.

The chemical potential energy available from the burning of things (e.g. wood) is rather astounding when compared with the energy which we supply our bodies in the form of food, and the fossil fuels of coal, oil, and natural gas burn even hotter while also being much easier to store and transport. We quickly learned that using some of this heat to perform work would transform what we could accomplish in massive ways. One barrel of oil, priced at just over $100 boasts 5,700,000 BTUs or work potential of 1700kWhs. At an average of .60 kWh per work day, to generate this amount of 'labor', an average human would have to work 2833 days, or 11 working years. At the average hourly US wage rate, this is almost $500,000 of labor can be substituted by the latent energy in one barrel of oil that costs us $100. Unbeknownst to most stock and bond researchers on Wall Street, this is the real ‘Trade’.

The vast majority of our industrial processes and activities are the result of this ‘Trade’. We applied large amounts of extremely cheap fossil carbon to tasks humans used to do manually. And we invented many many more. Each time it was an extremely inefficient trade from the perspective of energy (much more energy used) but even more extremely profitable from the perspective of human society. For instance, depending on the boundaries, driving a car on a paved road uses 50-100 times the energy of a human walking, but gets us to where we are going 10 times faster. The ‘Trade’ is largely responsible for some combination of: higher wages, higher profits, lower priced goods and more people. The average american today consumes ~60 barrel of oil equivalents of fossil carbon annually, a 'subsidy' from ancient plants and geologic processes amounting to ~600 years of their own human labor, before conversion. Even with 7 billion people, each human kWh is supported by over 90kWh of fossil labor, and in OECD nations about 4-5 times this much.

Technology acts as an enabler, both by inventing new and creative ways to convert primary energy into (useful?) activities and goods for human consumption and, occasionally, by making us use or extract primary energy in more efficient ways. Even such services that appear independent of energy, are not so- for example, using computers, iPhones, etc in aggregate comprise about 10% of our energy use, when the servers etc are included. Technology can create GDP without adding to energy use by using energy more efficiently but:

a) much of the large theoretical movements towards energy efficiency have already occurred and

b) energy saved is often used elsewhere in the system to build consumption demand, requiring more and more primary energy (Jevons paradox, rebound effect). Technological improvement thus does increase efficiency, but higher levels of resource consumption and a larger scale of resource extraction offset this advantage.

Despite the power in the Trade, its benefits can be readily reversed. Firstly, if we add very large amounts of primary energy, even if it is inexpensive, the wage increases/benefits start to decline. But more importantly, and has been happening in the past decade or so, as energy prices increase, so too do the benefits of the “Trade” start to wane. The graph to the right (source, page 18) shows that as the price of energy doubles or triples the benefits of this 'Trade' quickly recede. This is especially true for energy intensive transportation, like air travel, and for highly energy intensive processes, like aluminum smelting, cement manufacture- fully 30% of US industry falls into this category. The ensuing reduction in 'salary' from large energy price increases can only partially be offset by efficiency measures or lean manufacturing moves, because the whole 'Trade' was predicated on large amounts of very cheap energy. This is why the mainstream media touting increased oil production or the growth rate in solar/wind is missing the larger point - what matters are the benefits derived at the various cost points of energy extraction/harnessing. Even with large amounts of gross energy, if it is too costly, it is much less helpful or worse, the infrastructure, trade arrangements and expectations built upon continued $40 oil and $0.05kWh electricity will have to be changed. Basically, the benefits to human societies from the mammoth bank account we found underground are almost indistinguishable from magic. Yet we have managed, over time, to conflate the Magic with the Wizard.

16. Energy is special, is non-substitutable in the production function, and has an upward sloping long term cost curve

"Oil is a renewable resource, with no intrinsic value over and above its marginal cost... There is no original stock or store of wealth to be doled out on any special criterion... Capital markets are equipped to handle oil depletion...It is all a matter of money", M.A. Adelman, Professor of Economics, MIT Source

Physics informs us that energy is necessary for economic production and, therefore growth. However, economic texts do not even mention energy as a factor that either constrains or enables economic growth. Standard financial theory (Solows exogenous growth model, Cobb Douglas function) posits that capital and labor combine to create economic products, and that energy is just one generic commodity input into the production function - fully substitutable the way that designer jeans, or earrings or sushi are. The truth is that every single transaction that creates something of value in our global economy requires an energy input first. Capital, labor and conversions are ALL dependent on energy. For instance, the intro text by Frank and Bernanke (2d ed., 2004, p. 48) offers explanations for increased productivity: …increased quantity of capital per worker, increased # of workers, and, "perhaps the most important,...improvements in knowledge and technology." Nowhere in standard economic literature is there even a hint that the "improvement" in technology they refer to has, historically, been directly linked to the progression of displacing solar-powered human and animal muscle with larger and larger quantities of energy from oil, coal, and gas. Though energy is central (in that even more difficult ore grades require more overburden to extract, requiring more diesel fuel, etc), energy is not the only key limiter – other minerals and metals are finite and deteriorating in quality and cannot be (easily) replaced.

Since energy seemed the same as any other commodity economic models assumed that energy and resources would follow the same decreasing cost curve we have come to expect from gadgets like toasters and coffee cups, where the technology, outsourcing of parts to their lowest cost countries, and efficiencies of scale have generally formed a declining cost over time. For a while, energy too followed this curve, but given that high quality resources are finite, and require high quality processed resources themselves to extract and refine, eventually the cost curve of energy and other key minerals and ores, begins to rise again. This 'dual view' of energy vs regular everyday products is a key failing in economic texts. But for most of the past 60-70 years however this omission was perhaps understandable, as there WAS a continuing supply of cheap energy so its worth seemed to be just the dollar price of it. For most, this is still the dominant worldview – dollars are more important than energy.

Historical cost curves for oil, coal and natural gas for Europe - Graph source: Rune Likvern Click to enlarge

15. Energy has costs in energy terms, which can differ significantly than dollar signals

“It is appropriate to conclude that, as long as the sun shines brightly on our fair planet, the appropriate estimate for the drag on the economy from increasing entropy is zero. William Nordhaus

“ The laws of economics are like the laws of engineering. There's only one set of laws and they work everywhere. One of the things I've learned in my time at the World Bank is that whenever anybody says "But economics works differently here", they're about to say something dumb. Lawrence H. Summers

“ ... the world can, in effect, get along without natural resources ... at some finite cost, production can be freed of dependence on exhaustible resources altogether.... Nobel Laureate Robert Solow

In nature, animals expend energy (muscle calories) in order to access energy (prey). The return on this ‘investment’ is a central evolutionary process bearing on metabolism, mating, strength and survival. Those organisms that have high energy returns in turn have surplus to withstand the various hurdles found in nature. So it is in the human system where the amount of energy that society has ‘to spend’ is that left over after the energy and resources needed to harvest and distribute that energy are accounted for. Finite resources typically follow a 'best first' concept of resource extraction. As we moved from surface exploration based on seeps to seismic surveys showing buried anticlines, to deep-water and subsalt reservoir exploration, and finally to hydro-fracturing of tight oil formations , the return per unit of energy input declined from over 100:1 to something under 10:1. To economists and decision makers only the dollar cost and gross production mattered during this period, as after all, more dollars would ‘create’ more energy flowing through our economies. Net energy can peak and decline while gross energy continues to rise, and indeed can go to zero when there is still plenty of gross resource remaining. Everything we do will become more expensive if we cannot reduce the energy consumption of specific processes faster than prices grow. Yet, financial texts continue to view economic activity as a function of infinite money creation rather than a function of capped energy stocks and finite energy flows.

Left chart - western Majors price needed for cash flow break even in yellow, overlayed on OPEC vs non-OPEC crude oil production. Source IEA, Goldman Sach 4/13 report 'Higher long term prices required for troubled industry'. Right curve total oil production from Western Majors - source

Irrespective of the dollar price tag, it requires about 245 kilojoules to lift 5kg of oil 5 km out of the ground. Similar biophysical costs apply to every energy extraction/harnessing technology we have - but they are all parsed into financial terms for convenience. After all, isn't it dollars (euros, yen, renminbi) that our system is trying to optimize? But these physical input requirements will not vary whether the number of digits in the worlds banking system increases or shrinks or goes away. Though fossil fuels are our primary source of wealth, they were created a long time ago, and in drawing down their bounty we have not needed to pay the price of their generation, only their extraction. And, despite enormous amounts of sunlight hitting the earth everyday, real (and significant) resources need to be expended in order to harness and convert the sunlight into forms and at places where it can be used.

There is an enormous difference between ‘gross’ and ‘net’ which manifests in financial sphere via costs. Irrespective of our choice of nominal statistic measuring GDP (wampum or dollars or digits or gold), an increasing % of them will be allocated to the energy sector. If our objective is just to increase GDP, we can just keep growing gross energy by locating and exploiting deeper and deeper pockets of fossil hydrocarbons, but eventually our entire food, healthcare, entertainment infrastructure will be to provide for a giant mining operation. Few media outlets (none actually) handicap the new surge in gross USA oil production by a)capex requirements going up faster than oil prices, b) the enormous increase in diesel use in the shale plays and c) the higher API gravity oil (42 for Bakken, 55 for Eagleford) which exaggerate energy content per barrel between 3.5% and 10.7%. Under current trends, the implications of energy depletion is we will move from energy costing less than 5% of our economy to 10-15% or more. In addition to the obvious problems this will create, we will be using lower quality energy as well. As oil has become more expensive, we are increasingly going towards coal and wood to replace it. Already, in countries with a large drop in ability to afford (e.g. Greece) are cutting down forests to heat their homes in winter.
Net energy is what societies should be focused on, and most don’t even know what it is.

14. Money/financial instruments are just markers for real capital

Some material things make my life more enjoyable; many, however, would not. I like having an expensive private plane, but owning a half-dozen homes would be a burden. Too often, a vast collection of possessions ends up possessing its owner. The asset I most value, aside from health, is interesting, diverse, and long-standing friends. Warren Buffet - The Giving Pledge

Some of my 'real capital': Natural capital - my backyard with trees, sun, water, Social capital Here 2 of my dogs, but equally my friends, contacts and family relationships, Built capital Our house, with solar hot water, chain saws, an aloe vera plant, and a deck, and Human Capital My health and skills (identifying edible mushrooms), my fathers health and skills (he's a doctor, and can grow vegetables, etc)

Growing a big bank account is like fat storage for animals – but it’s not, because it’s only a marker for fat – its caloric benefit stored for the future is intertwined with a sociocultural system linked to monetary and credit marker. In business school, (and on Wall St.) we were taught that stocks going up ~10% a year over the long run was something akin to a natural law. The truth turns out to be something quite different. Stocks and bonds are themselves ‘derivatives’ of primary capital - energy and natural resources – which combine with technology to produce secondary capital - tractors, houses, tools, etc. Money and financial instruments are thus tertiary capital, with no intrinsic value – it’s the social system and what if confers that has value and this system is based on natural, built, social and human capital. And, our current system of ‘claims’ (what people think they own) has largely decoupled from underlying ‘real capital’.

13. Our money is created by commercial banks out of thin air (deposits and loans are created at same time)

Though societies require ‘energy’, individuals require money in order to transact in the things energy provides. What is money anyways? I certainly didn't learn in business school (or any school for that matter). Quite simply, money is a claim on a certain amount of energy. When our economic engine kicked into gear in the early 1900s, money (not energy or resources) was the limiting factor. We had so much wealth in our natural resource bank account that we needed ways of turbocharging the broader economy so productive ventures could be undertaken by anyone with skill, products or ambition. It was around this time that banks came into existence - to increase the flow of money to match the productive output of our economies only made sense - too little money and we couldn't produce the 'power' needed by a hungry world. Creditworthy individuals/businesses could now obtain loans from commercial banks who were required to keep a small portion of their assets on reserve with a central bank. And it worked fabulously well. Correlation=causation and all that.

We were taught to view credit creation as a series of consecutive bank "intermediations", where some initial deposit rippled through the banking system and via a multiplier, created additional money. E.g. banks are unable to create credit themselves, but are just passing on some wealth already created. This is true for about 5% of money coming into existence. The reality for 95%+ of money creation is profoundly different. The standard concept of lending describes a transfer of an existing commodity to its exclusive use somewhere else. However, this new credit extended by banks does not remove purchasing power or claims on resources from anywhere else in the economy. Since banks are capital constrained, not reserve constrained they lend when (ostensibly) creditworthy customers have demand for loans, not when they have excess reserves. As such the ‘fractional reserve banking’ system taught in textbooks and demonized on the blogosphere is not the proper description. I didn't learn this until 2007 or so. Banks do not lend money, they create it. And this is why the focus on government debt is a red herring. All of our financial claims are debt relative to natural resources.

**(Edit - This new paper by Bank of England states precisely what I did just above -banks are not just intermediaries as taught in textbooks)

12. Debt is a non-neutral intertemporal transfer

The left graph, shows the disconnect between GDP and aggregate, non-financial debt. In every single year since 1965 we have grown our debt more than we have grown our GDP. The right graph shows the inverse - how much GDP we receive for each new dollar of debt - declining debt productivity. Source: FED Z.1 2013, NBER

(Note: I use the terms credit and debt interchangeably, though creditor and debtor are opposites)

Of the broad aggregate money in existence in the US of around $60 trillion, only about $1 trillion is physical currency. The rest can be considered, ‘debt’, a claim of some sort (corporate, household, municipal, government, etc.) If cash is a claim on energy and resources, adding debt (from a position of no debt) becomes a claim on future energy and resources. In financial textbooks, debt is an economically neutral concept, neither bad nor good, but just an exchange of time preference between two parties on when they choose to consume. (* we were taught in corporate finance, because of the deductibility of interest, choosing debt over equity is preferred in situations with taxes – but in the real world, when capital markets are open and credit is flowing, if a CEO has choice between financing a project with equity or debt, he/she will almost always prefer debt. And so they do.) However, there are several things that happen when we issue debt/credit that cause the impact of the convention to be much different than in the textbooks:

1) While we are issuing debt (especially on a full planet) the best and easiest to find energy and resources deplete making energy (and therefore other things) generally more expensive for the creditor than the debtor. People that choose to save are ‘outcompeted’ by people who choose to consume by taking on debt. At SOME point in the future SOME creditors will get less, or nothing. (the question now is ‘when’ and ‘who’)

2) We increasingly have to issue more debt to keep up with the declining benefit of the “Trade”, lest aggregate demand plunge.

3) Over time we consume more rather than adding productive investment capacity. This lowers debt productivity over time (debt productivity is how much GDP we get for an additional $ of debt, or the ratio of GDP growth relative to debt growth). If an additional dollar of debt created a dollar of GDP, or anything close, it would be more or less like the textbooks claim – a tradeoff in the temporal preferences of the creditor and debtor. And, when debt productivity is high, we are transforming and extending wealth into different forms of future wealth (energy into productive factories etc). But when debt productivity is low (or approaching zero as is the case now), new debt is really just an exchange of wealth for income. This is happening now in all nations of the world to varying degrees. E.g. since 2008, G7 nations have added 1 trillion in nominal GDP, but at a cost of increasing debt by $18 trillion – and this doesn’t include off balance sheet guarantees.

Debt can thus be viewed two ways – 1) from a wealth inequality perspective, for every debtor there is a creditor – a zero sum game, 2) all claims (debts) are relative to the energy and natural resources required to a) service them and b) pay off the principle. (So, think 2 Italians: Gini and Ponzi.)

11. Energy measured in energy terms is the cost of capital

The cost of finite natural resources measured in energy terms is our real cost of capital. In the short and intermediate run, dollars function as energy, as we can use them to contract and pay for anything we want, including energy and energy production. They SEEM like the limiters. But in the long run, accelerating credit creation obscures the engine of the whole enterprise - the ‘burning of the energy’. Credit cannot create energy, but it does allow continued energy extraction and much (needed) higher prices than were credit unavailable. At some point in the past 40 years we crossed a threshold of 'not enough money' in the system to 'not enough cheap energy' in the system, which in turn necessitated even more money. After this point, new credit increasingly added gross energy masking declines in our true cost of capital (net energy/EROI). Though its hard to imagine, if society had disallowed debt circa 1975 (e.g. required banks to have 100% Tier 2 capital and reserves) OR if we had some natural resource tether – like gold – to our money supply since then, global oil production and GDP would likely have peaked 20-30 years ago (and we’d have a lot more of the sub 50$ tranche left). As such, focus on oil and gas production numbers isn't too helpful without incorporating credit forecasts and integrating affordability for societies at different price tranches.

An example might make this clearer: imagine 3,000 helicopters each dropped a billion dollars of cash in different communities across the country (that’s $3 Trillion ). Citizens that get there first would stuff their backpacks and become millionaires overnight, lots of others would have significant spending money, a larger number would get a few random hundreds stuck in fences, or cracks, and a large % of the population, not near the dropzone, would get nothing. The net effect of this would be to drive up energy use as the new rich would buy cars and take trips and generally consume more. EROI of the nations oil fields wouldn’t change, but oil companies would get a higher price for the now harder to find oil because the economy would be stronger, despite the fact that those $3 trillion came from thin air (or next to it). So, debt went up, GDP went up, oil prices went up, EROI stayed the same, a few people got richer, and a large % of people got little to nothing. This is pretty much what is happening today in the developed world.

Natural systems can perhaps grow 2-3% per year (standing forests in USA increase their volume by 2.6% per year). This can be increased via technology, extraction of principle (fossil carbon), debt, or some combination. If via technology, we are accessing energy we might not have been able to access in the future. If we use debt, we are diverting energy that would have been accessible in the future to today by increasing its affordability via handouts/guarantees and increasing the price that energy producers receive for it. In this fashion debt functions similarly to technology in oil extraction. Neither one is 'bad', but both favor immediate consumption on an assumption they will be repeated in continued iterations in the future.

Debt temporarily makes gross energy feel like net energy as a larger amount of energy is burned despite higher prices, lower wages and profits. Gross energy also adds to GDP, as the $80+ per barrel oil extraction costs in e.g. Bakken Shale ends up being spent in Williston and surrounding areas (this would be a different case if the oil were produced in Canada, or Saudi Arabia). But over time, as debt increases gross energy and net energy stays constant or declines, a larger % of our economy becomes involved in the energy sector. Already we have college graduates trained in biology, or accounting, or hotel management, working on oil rigs. In the future, important processes and parts of non-energy infrastructure will become too expensive to continue. Even more concerning is that, faced with higher costs, energy companies increasingly follow the societal trend towards using debt to pull production forward in time (e.g. Chesapeake, Statoil). In this environment, we can expect total capital expenditure to keep pace with total revenue every year, and net cash flow become negative as debt rises.

In the last 10 years the global credit market has grown at 12% per year allowing GDP growth of only 3.5% and increasing global crude oil production less than 1% annually. We're so used to running on various treadmills that the landscape doesn't look all too scary. But since 2008, despite energies fundamental role in economic growth, it is access to credit that is supporting our economies, in a surreal, permanent, Faustian bargain sort of way. As long as interest rates (govt borrowing costs) are low and market participants accept it, this can go on for quite a long time, all the while burning through the next tranche of extractable carbon and getting reduced benefits from the "Trade" creating other societal pressures. I don't expect the government takeover of the credit mechanism to stop, but if it does, both oil production and oil prices will be quite a bit lower. In the long run it's all about the energy. For the foreseeable future, it's mostly about the credit

But why do we want energy and money anyways?

Continued in Part II

Wed 18 September, 2013

21:17 So, What Are You Doing?» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

It's September and we still have 7 more 'final' posts in the queue (myself, Joules, Jerome, Jason, Art, Dave Murphy, and Euan...) and will run them every 2 days until finished. Leanan will post a final Drumbeat later this week where people can leave website links contact details, etc.

For 8 years we read about what people think about energy related themes. I thought it would be a good idea to use this thread to highlight what people are actually doing in their lives given the knowledge they've gleaned from studying this topic, which really is more of a study of the future of society.

What do TOD members plan to do in the future? Herding goats, fixing potholes, creating web sites, switching careers, etc? I'll go first. Feel free to use my template or just inform others what you're doing. This might be interesting thread to check back on in a few/many years.....(Please no posting of energy charts etc. and let's not respond to others in this thread, just a long list of what people are doing w/ their time).

Ere we scatter to the ether, please share, anonymously or otherwise : what are people doing?

Thu 12 September, 2013

11:32 The Exponential Legacy of Al Bartlett» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

Dr. Albert Allen Bartlett, emeritus professor of physics at the University of Colorado, died September 7, 2013 at the age of 90. It is coincidental that, in the year that he "officially" retired from teaching (1988), I first heard his famous lecture Arithmetic, Population, and Energy (although I don't recall if that was the title at the time). I was in my last year in graduate school, and his talk was one of the keynote presentations (or perhaps during dinner) for a scientific conference. It was seemingly out of place given that the subject of the meeting was surface chemistry and physics, but it most certainly became stuck somewhere in my mind for reasons other than its novelty.

Most scientists are transfixed on interesting scientific details, some with relevance to technological problems, and perhaps buzz-worthy enough to attract funding. There has never been much money in solving problems with no real technological solution. I became reacquainted with this talk in 2006, probably via a link on The Oil Drum. TOD was by its nature dealing with limits to growth (of oil, if nothing else), and over the last few years, we have discussed the various ways in which we could perhaps keep the oil flowing or replace it with something else. Perhaps the implications of exponential growth was kept in the back room somewhere, like an embarrassing relative, while the latest "game changing" solution was bandied about. But we need to continually remind ourselves that, while important, finding the next energy source or improving efficiencies the keep the economy growing are not long-term solutions for a finite planet.

Below are some more reflections on Prof. Bartlett's legacy, from ASPO-USA (where he had long been on the advisory board) and from the University of Colorado.

Albert A. Bartlett: Ode to a Gentle Giant

Dr. Albert Allen Bartlett enjoyed 90 years of rich life on this earth; moreover, thousands of people have enjoyed and been touched by Al's life.

He is of course most widely known as a tireless, eloquent, and supremely caring voice for charting a sustainable path for humanity. With seemingly endless determination, he applied his training in math and physics and skills as a master teacher to focus attention on a simple but paramount idea--on a finite planet, "growth" is unsustainable. "Sustainable growth is an oxymoron", is how Al is sometimes quoted.

His most reknowned quote, however, is "the greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function"--referring to the accelerating rate exhibited by anything growing as a constant percentage increase.

Al developed a now-famous lecture that illustrated the power and importance of this mathematical phenonomenon, and reportedly delivered that lecture more than 1700 times over the following decades. That one man would be compelled to devote much of his career to the understanding of a basic, unassailable fact of life speaks volumes about the world we live in, as well as Al's great character.

ASPO-USA is proud to have had Al as a longstanding member of our advisory board, and I was exceptionally fortunate to be acquainted with him in his latter years. While the nature of our relationship was professional, what I will always remember is the warmth, humility, and quiet joy that he brought to his work and his relationships with his colleagues and students.

For those that dare to concern themselves with the monumental issues that concerned Al, there is a risk of gloominess creeping into our outlook on life and humanity. Al is a beautiful reminder that need not be the case.

The note that Al wrote to us after he visited his doctor was filled with the peace and happiness of a man who had understood long ago what was important in life and had lived his own life accordingly. We should all be so blessed, and some of us were also blessed to know Al.

In honor to Al, inspired and informed by his life and his friendship, we re-commit ourselves to continuing and building on his legacy.

Click below to view Al's famous lecture - Arithmetic, Population, and Energy:


Jan Mueller Executive Director, ASPO-USA


CU-Boulder campus mourns death of longtime, celebrated physics professor Al Bartlett

excerpted from here

“Al Bartlett was a man of many legacies,” said CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano. “His commitment to students was evidenced by the fact that he continued to teach for years after his retirement. His timeless, internationally revered lecture on the impacts of world population growth will live beyond his passing, a distinction few professors can claim. And we can all be thankful for his vision and foresight in making the Boulder community what it is today.”

Bartlett was born on March 21, 1923, in Shanghai, China. He earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from Colgate University and spent two years as an experimental physicist at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in New Mexico as part of the Manhattan Project before earning his graduate degrees in physics at Harvard. He then started his teaching career at CU-Boulder.

When Bartlett first delivered his internationally celebrated lecture on “Arithmetic, Population and Energy” to a group of CU students on Sept. 19, 1969, the world population was about 3.7 billion. He proceeded to give it another 1,741 times in 49 states and seven other countries to corporations, government agencies, professional groups and students from junior high school through college.

His talk warned of the consequences of “ordinary, steady growth” of population and the connection between population growth and energy consumption. Understanding the mathematical consequences of population growth and energy consumption can help clarify the best course for humanity to follow, he said.

The talk contained his most celebrated statement: “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.” A video of his lecture posted on YouTube has been viewed nearly 5 million times.

This year, the world population is about 7.1 billion and the CU Environmental Center announced a program this summer in which 50 student and community volunteers received training in exchange for a commitment to give Bartlett’s talk at least three times in 2013-14.

Before his death, Bartlett requested that any memorial gifts be made to the University of Colorado Foundation Albert A. Bartlett Scholarship Fund, in care of the Department of Physics, 390 UCB, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO, 80309.

Tue 10 September, 2013

06:59 Of Milk Cows and Saudi Arabia» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

Under the desert in eastern Saudi Arabia lies Ghawar, the largest oil field in the world. It has been famously productive, with a per-well flow rate of thousands of barrels per day, owing to a combination of efficient water injection, good rock permeability, and other factors. At its best, it set the standard for easy oil. The first wells were drilled with rather rudimentary equipment hauled across the desert sands, and the oil would flow out at ten thousand barrels per day. It was, in a sense, a giant udder. And the world milked it hard for awhile.

However, this article isn't just about a metaphor; it is also about cows, the Holsteins of Haradh. But in the end, I will circle back to the present and future of Saudi oil production.

I registered on The Oil Drum over seven years ago, and one of the subjects that fascinated me was the oil fields of Saudi Arabia. There was much discussion about the largest of these, Ghawar, and whether it might soon go into steep decline - taking the world with it. About that time, an application called Google Earth added some features which enabled users to mark up the globe with their own placemarks and such, and I set out to find Ghawar (or at least its footprints) in the vast sandscape that is the Eastern Province. Starting with published maps which could be overlaid atop the satellite imagery in Google Earth, I found some initial wells...and then a lot more...and kept going. An article authored by Saudi Aramco engineers showed well locations in northern Ghawar, and I noticed that many wells which I found yet were not on the map. I deduced that these were wells drilled after the map was drawn, and their locations seems to indicate intensive drilling in the center of the field, which was previously bereft of wells. I began publishing some of these findings on the blog Satellite o'er the Desert and was invited to contribute to The Oil Drum.

In my Google Earth-enabled virtual travels around Saudi Arabia looking for oil wells and such, I have come upon many strange sights. Some of these are of natural origin yet can only be appreciated from a satellite's perspective, as is the case for this tidal pool located near a gas oil separation plant for the Safaniya oil field:

Figure 1. My favorite Google Earth view, near Safaniyah oil field, Saudi Arabia

There are many crop circles scattered about eastern Saudi Arabia -- by which I mean circles of crops watered by central pivot irrigation (as opposed to circles of crops flattened by aliens). A line of such circles cuts across the southern tip of the Ghawar field, seemingly following the course of a dry river bed.

Figure 2. Irrigation along the southern fringe of the Ghawar Oil Field, Saudi Arabia. Arrows indicate location of features of interest.

Located on this line, just to the west of the field periphery, are three rather symmetrical structures:

Figure 3. Symmetrical objects of interest near Ghawar oil field.

Each of these is about 250 meters in radius. It took me awhile to discover what these were, as at the time, crowdsourced mapping was just getting started. It so happens that they are part of a huge integrated dairy operation, one of the largest in the world. Fodder crops are grown in nearby circles, cows are milked with state of the art equipment, and the milk is packaged and/or processed into cheese and other products before being shipped. All of this happens in the northernmost fringe of the Rub' al Khali desert, one of the most inhospitable places on earth. Start here to browse around Saudi Arabia's Dairyland on your own using Google Maps.

Turning Black Gold Into White Milk

Here is a glossy PR video describing the operations:

Although the original intent was to locally breed cows more suited to the Saudi climate, it seems they had to import them. Here is another video describing the transport of cows from Australia. A bit different than a Texas cattle drive.

They Built It, But They Didn't Come

Answering why and how these dairy farms came to be located here reveals some interesting history of Saudi Arabia. Although great wealth of the country results from its abundant store of fossil fuels, the necessity of diversifying the economy has long been recognized. The lack of food security was always a big concern. In addition, there remained the nagging problem of what to do with the Bedouins, nomadic peoples who resisted efforts to be integrated into the broader Saudi society. And since they now had it in abundance, they decided to throw money at the problems. What could go wrong?

As related in the book "Inside the Mirage" by Thomas Lippman, a problem with Saudi agriculture is that most of the private land was owned by just a few people, and they were wealthy aristocrats, not farmers, and there wasn't much local knowledge of modern large-scale agriculture in any case. One of the proposed solutions was to create huge demonstration projects by which modern techniques of farming could be learned and applied. As for labor, the goal was to provide individual farms, housing, and modern conveniences to the Bedouin, who would settle down for a life on the farm. The largest such project was the al-Faysal Settlement Project at Haradh, designed for 1000 families. It didn't work out as planned, though, because the Bedouins never came:

You know of the Haradh project, where $20 million was spent irrigating a spot in the desert where an aquifer was found not too far from the surface. This project took six years to complete and was done for the purpose of settling Bedouin tribes. At the end of six years, no Bedouin turned up and the government had to consider how to use the most modern desert irrigation facility in the world.

(From a 1974 Ford Foundation memo)

Eventually, the Saudi government partnered with Masstock, a Dublin-based industrialized endeavor run by two brothers. The Haradh project became the largest of their operations in Saudi Arabia at the time. Eventually, a new company called Almarai (Arabic for "pasture") was created which involved Prince Sultan bin Mohammed bin Saud Al Kabeer. In 1981, a royal decree created the National Agricultural Development Company (NADEC) for the purpose of furthering agricultural independence, and (for reasons I haven't discerned), NADEC gained control of the Haradh project. Almarai went on the become the largest vertically integrated dairy company in the world, and Al Kabeer is a hidden billionaire.

As a side note, NADEC sued Saudi Aramco a few years ago as a result of the latter using some NADEC property for Haradh oil operations, and a lower court ordered Saudi Aramco to vacate. The web links to those reports have disappeared, and one wonders how the appeal went. Separately, NADEC has reportedly obtained farmland in Sudan. Food security.

Speaking of Cash Cows

A half decade ago, much of The Oil Drum's focus was on possible problems with Saudi Arabian oil production. Was the flow from Ghawar tanking? Were all of their older fields well past their prime, and were their future options as limited as Matt Simmons suggested in Twilight in the Desert? My analyses and those of others here seem to suggest a rather aggressive effort to stem decline. With further hindsight, it is clear that Saudi Aramco was caught a bit off guard by decline in existing production. But over time, they were able to complete several decline mitigation projects as well as many so-called mega-projects with many million barrels per day of new production. With each project, the technological sophistication has grown - along with the expense. The Khurais redevelopment, which is reportedly producing as expected, features centralized facilities for oil, gas, and injection water processing. Water goes out, and oil comes back.

Figure 4. Left: map showing Saudi oil fields, Right: Khurais Project pipeline network (source: Snowden's laptop)

The most recent project, the Manifa field redevelopment is a logistical marvel. These have so far proven to be very successful projects (even though Manifa is not fully completed). But if one looks for the impact of the projects on their total output, one comes back somewhat underwhelmed. In the following graphic I show Saudi Arabian production with the theoretical (zero depletion) and official (as reported directly by Saudi Aramco) production capacities.

Figure 5. Saudi Arabian crude oil production increases from megaprojects since 1996, compared with actual crude production (source: Stuart Staniford). Cumulative increases are superimposed on the Saudi Aramco reported baseline value of 10.5 mbpd capacity in 1995. Blue dots denote values obtained from references 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Here are some conclusions one might draw from the above (including the references):

  • Saudi Aramco has generally been self-consistent when reporting spare capacity and total capacity in light of actual production
  • Production capacity increased subsequent to startup of megaprojects. However, the net production capacity increases were uniformly and substantially less than the planned increments. In total, 5 million barrels per day of production was added, but capacity increased by only 2 mbpd.
  • It is most unlikely that reported production capacities accurately reflected what was producible at any point in time, given the reported values as correlated with the timing of the increases from the megaprojects.
  • However, actual production did not generally increase immediately after projects were completed, indicating that production capacity was not completely exhausted beforehand. But there was certainly an impetus to add a lot of production quickly.

The gap between what might have been (red staircase) and what is reported as production capacity (blue dots) is explained by considering the net of two competing developments: 1) depletion of legacy fields (Ghawar etc.) as they are produced, and b) mitigation of this depletion by drilling new wells in these fields. Since Saudi Aramco does not release data for individual fields or new vs. old wells, we are left to speculate on the relative magnitudes of these. On the plus side, the 5 mbpd from the new projects will (hopefully) deplete less rapidly than older fields. On the minus side, only 2 mbpd capacity was added - and they have exhausted all of the major fields in the pipeline. On the double minus side (for the world, anyway), only 1 - 1.5 mbpd of actual production was added since 1995, and (according to BP) all of that increase went into internal consumption. So after nearly 20 years, though total world crude production (and population) has increased, Saudi Arabia exports the same amount of oil as before. And yet, there is still a lot of hydrocarbons under Saudi Arabia. And it seems they already realize the need for more, as there are reports of planned increases from Khurais and Shaybah totaling 550 kbpd by 2017 to "take the strain off Ghawar". I feel its pain.

Addendum: According to this news report, oil has not actually flowed yet from Manifa. The new Jubail refinery has reportedly no received any Manifa oil as of yet:

The refinery is configured to run on heavy crude oil. But two industry sources said the refinery had not received any of the heavy crude expected from Aramco's new Manifa field and that it was running instead on light crude. Aramco said in April that it had started production at Manifa.-Reuters

Still the One?

Despite all of the negativity emitted above, it is also evident that Saudi Arabia has had and will continue to have a role as the primary provider of spare capacity which can be deployed to buffer variability in world demand. It can do this because Saudi Aramco, the largest oil company in the world, can effect oil prices by virtue of what it can put on or take off the world market. Contrast the Saudi production profile with that of the United States, shown below.

Figure 6. United States monthly crude oil production (source: EIA)

Aside from some minor month-to-month fluctuations and some notable downward spikes caused by Gulf of Mexico hurricanes in 2002 (Isadore), 2004 (Ivan), 2005 (Katrina and Rita), and 2008 (Gustav), production follows a smooth trend. Especially noteworthy is the contrast between Saudi and US production subsequent to the economic downturn in 2008, when oil prices collapsed: Saudi Arabia throttled back while the US kept pumping. Any individual producer in the US had little incentive to hold back oil. However, with the increased importance of Shale plays (Bakken and Eagle Ford) to US production, this might change the dynamics going forward. Since these wells deplete rapidly, any decrease in drilling caused by low prices will also throttle demand (although with a time lag).

The Hungry Cow

The other new "above ground factor" is the problem of growing internal consumption in Saudi Arabia, of just about everyting including oil. To air condition all of those cows, it takes a lot of electricity (and currently oil). And all of that milk feeds a growing, young population. But that milk is bound to get more expensive, since the aquifers from which those massive dairy operations get their water are being rapidly depleted.

Milk consumption in Saudi Arabia reached 729.4 million litres in 2012
The Kingdom has already depleted 70% of these sources of water and must now turn increasingly to desalinisation which when factored into the cost of producing fresh milk is very expensive. Experts have estimated that it takes between 500- 1000 litres of fresh water to produce 1 litre of fresh milk if one takes into around the irrigation required to grow the Rhodes grass or Alfalfa required to feed the cows.

It seems Saudi Arabia has cash flow problems, although it is hard to imagine why, given that they are currently producing as much oil as ever at $100/barrel. For one thing, their population keeps growing:

Figure 7. Saudi Arabia population growth (source: Thanks, Jonathan!)

and they need to spread around some money to maintain political stability. Their energy use is out of control, as is their water consumption. And for those segments of Saudi society into which much of the oil revenue flows, consumption is a happening thing. And nobody really knows where the all money goes.

Saudi Aramco is overseen by the Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ministry and, to a lesser extent, the Supreme Petroleum Council, an executive body. The company pays royalties and dividends to the state and supplies domestic refineries. Revenues go to the Finance Ministry, but the amounts are not published. There is no transparency in the national budgeting process, and it is unclear how oil revenues are used. Environmental impact assessments are required, but the results are not made public. Laws and decrees concerning the extractive industries are published and include guidelines for the licensing process in sectors other than upstream oil, but do not contain details on fiscal arrangements. Saudi Arabia has no freedom of information law.

Some ends up in London, where some Saudi tourists spend the entire summer. Of course, this was true in 2002 (and oil was $26/barrel then).

But they do seem to have money to throw around to garner political influence (note that the US does the same with money that it doesn't have). And they have grand plans for looking beyond their petro-heritage:

Best hopes for wise spending.

Au revoir. Au lait.

Sat 07 September, 2013

20:05 IEA Sankey Diagrams» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

The International Energy Agency has taken its share of abuse from The Oil Drum over the years for its rather optimistic forecasts. But it deserves a hearty shout-out for an invaluable resource it has on its web site: Interactive Sankey Diagrams for the World.

Sankey Diagram showing world energy flows (Click for larger view)

As long as you understand what a Sankey Diagram is, not much more introduction is needed here. You can look at individual countries, consumption patterns as well as production, and more. Click on individual flows and graph over time.

World energy use for steel production (Click for larger view)

One curiosity, though:

The world oil imports (2295) and oil exports (2218) don't match in the top graphic. "Statistical difference"?

As with data from the BP Statistical Review series, there might be occasional quibbles with the numbers. Also, I've seen prettier Sankeys. But if you've been wondering what to do with all of your time after The Oil Drum goes on hiatus, there you go.

Fri 06 September, 2013

21:13 My Last Campfire Post» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

I checked my user profile for this site and discovered that as of today I have been a member for 7 years and 37 weeks. Wow! So much has happened to me and my family over those years and a lot of it was shared on The Oil Drum. For reasons I’ll explain, I haven’t been around much lately. My most recent article was over three years ago.

My first writings for The Oil Drum were over six years ago as guest posts through Nate Hagens, and then as a staff contributor for the “Campfire” section of the site. I am not an energy expert so my role wasn’t about modeling depletion or providing context to the energy news of the week. What I did was consider the broader relationships between energy, resources and society, and explore the implications of more expensive and less energy to our consumer-oriented economy and culture. The most complete and succinct example of this role is probably my “Beware the Hungry Ghosts” piece, which includes this passage:

Several religious traditions describe what are termed “hungry ghosts.” These sad beings have insatiable appetites, with tiny mouths and huge stomachs. Modern society creates hungry ghosts among the living. We “have” more than ever, but are constantly bombarded with messages that it is never enough. The poor go to dollar stores, the middle class spend hours at Bed Bath and Beyond, the rich buy ever larger yachts, and city planners are always looking for more land and water in which to expand their urban sphere. Wants have become indistinguishable from needs. I anxiously walk among our nation of hungry ghosts, asking myself what these addicts will do when they can't get their fix?

What many of us found at The Oil Drum was a place to share our anxieties with those who share our anxieties. I am not being dismissive of this at all! Many here have points of view that place us outside of conventional wisdom, and this can be socially difficult. Where else can we go to have conversations that may be impolite, misunderstood and dismissed by the hungry ghosts we live among?

A fine example of thinking profoundly differently is in Kurt Cobb’s essay “Upside Down Economics” in which he gives a visual representation of U.S. GDP from the perspective of an Ecological Economist:

Figure 1

Many of my articles framed topics from an Ecological Economics perspective, where the economy is a subsidiary of the planet and functions by extracting resources and depositing wastes. Essential resources like energy, mineral ores, food and fiber can only be easily ignored when they are inexpensive to buy and reliably available. Many of us are alarmed because we see existential threats to the bottom of a top heavy pyramid and would like those situated higher up to pay attention and look below.

At the bottom of Cobb’s chart you see the economic sector “Agriculture & Forestry.” That is where I currently work, and where much of my writing here was about. I didn’t just explore the food growing sector, but also the so-called Food System, that includes transportation, processing and warehousing, retailing and end-use. Classic statistics discussed, and that devoted readers of The Oil Drum can probably rattle off at any cocktail party, include:

The U.S. Food System consumes several fossil fuel calories for each food calorie eaten.

The typical grocery store has about three days supply of goods on its shelves.

Each U.S. farmer (plus machines with fuel) feeds 100 people.

Figure 2. Graphic used in the post “Ecological Economics and the Food System

Two additional posts, “Save it for the Combine” and “Energy Descent and Agricultural Population” perhaps best capture the sense of the transformative change fossil fuels made in agricultural production and labor inputs, and offer some perspectives on adaptation to lower fossil fuel availability.

Figure 3. The percent agriculture population is plotted in relation to per capita energy use.  Nations with abundant use of exosomatic energy tend to have less of their population involved in agricultural production, presumably either because they can afford to import much of their food or employ labor saving devices in food production.  For example, only about 1% of the US labor force is involved in farming.  Data comes from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) and the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).  Original article containing figure is here.

The Campfire series was not only about exploring heterodox ideas, it was also meant to be a place where practical advice was shared. Many of us wanted to go beyond the talking stage and “do something” about the information and analyses presented on the site. This brings me to why I haven’t been writing here lately.

I went to the 2008 ASPO meetings in Sacramento not only to learn, but to network and hopefully meet someone who could help me with something. I wanted to farm at a significant scale to practice and demonstrate a form of agriculture that needs much fewer external inputs and is thus adaptive to our times. I met my eventual business partner (and TOD member) Craig Wichner in Sacramento. We were able to introduce our company, Farmland LP, at ASPO 2009 in Denver, where I gave two talks that eventually became posts (here and here). Over the past four years Craig and I have taken a heterodox idea and turned it into something substantial: Farmland LP currently owns and manages 6300 acres of cropland in California and Oregon.

So, I’ve been pretty busy. I am still writing on my company website but most of my posts are news related to the business. On occasion I do develop articles that look at the big picture and do in-depth analyses, such as “ The Many Benefits of Multi-Year Crop Rotations” and “Google Earth, Rotational Grazing and Mineralization, Part 1 and Part 2” but I won’t have time for more of that sort of writing until we are done with planting this fall.

This brings me to the end of my last Campfire post. In customary fashion I will pose some questions and ask readers to share their experience, wisdom, frustrations, and final thoughts for The Oil Drum.

Did any of you follow similar paths to mine, whereby the information and critical thinking shared on this site led to significant changes in your life path? (I never thought I’d be a farmer when I grew up.)

What barriers to making the changes you wanted did you encounter? Did they stop you from going on or did you overcome them somehow? (My wife gave me the foundation I needed to do this work. She had the income-earning job and the patience to allow me time to explore. Thank you Kristin!)

Thu 05 September, 2013

06:22 The Economic and Political Consequences of the Last 10 Years of Renewable Energy Development» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

I've been privileged to be an editor of TOD over the past several years, and am glad to have been invited to do a final post as the site moves to an archive status.

When I started writing about energy on the blogs in 2003/2004, I was writing mostly about Russia, gas pipelines and gas geopolitics. There were so many conspiracy theories abounding on topics like the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan pipeline or (a bit later) Russia vs Ukraine pipeline conflicts that I felt the need to put out a different version, given that I knew the inside story on many of these issues - and that got me invited to contribute these to TOD as well. In the meantime, my job (which was, and - full disclosure - remains, to finance energy projects) slowed moved from oil&gas work to power sector transactions and, increasingly, to renewable sector deals, and I started writing about the wind business, in my mind from the perspective of a banker wanting to make sure that these projects could be paid back over periods of 15 or 20 years.

While my work is now almost exclusively focused on offshore wind in Northern Europe, I still do not consider myself a 'wind shill'... but it does give me a different perspective on the debates currently going on about energy policy in various places, and on the changes to the power sector caused (among others, by renewables) that are underpinning such debates, and I thought it would be a useful complement, together with Big Gav's overview of the clean energy sector, to the other articles more traditionally focused on the oil&gas side of things.

I'll focus on Germany, where the transformation has been most advanced (and even has brought a new word to us: the Energiewende), and where the consequences of high renewable penetration are most visible.

A lot of rather unusual things have been happening in the Germany power sector lately, from negative prices, to utilities closing down brand new power plants and, naturally, a ferocious debate as to whether to cut support for renewable energy (as has already been done in Spain).

I've long described renewable energy producers as a price takers (i.e., they don't influence market prices in the short term and have to "take" market prices as set by other factors, unless shielded by specific regulatory regimes), but we are getting to the point, in a number of places, and in Germany in particular, where the penetration of renewable energy is such that it has a real macroeconomic impact on the prices of electricity, both at the wholesale and the retail levels, and thus on the way power markets run, and on the politics surrounding them. There's the additional factor that apparent spending on renewables is targeted by governments at a time of austerity in Europe, egged on by hardly disinterested utilities.

It is worth going through what's been happening in some detail.

:: ::

In the good old days, wholesale prices of power followed the price of natural gas, as gas-fired plants are the producer of the marginal kWh most of the time. This is still the case in the USA, and it looks like this:

Source: neutroneconomy

Retail prices tend to follow the average wholesale cost, plus a slice for distribution costs and taxes which can vary quite wildly from country to country:

Source: eurostat

But we've seen prices diverging across markets over the past two years, as shown in the following graphs:

  • gas prices diverging sharply across continents (notably as a result of the gas shale developments in the US and increased demand for gas in Japan following the Fukushima disaster, while European prices remain largely indexed to oil):

  • Source: Fidelity

  • wholesale power prices diverging from gas prices:

  • Source: Die Welt, via gwpf

    Note: the lines above represent long term break-even prices for, from the bottom, nuclear power plants, coal-fired plants and gas-fired plants

  • retail prices moving in the opposite direction to wholesale prices, and increasing:

Source: wikipedia (DE)

German wholesale prices have been trending down over the past several years, despite the closure of close to half of the nuclear plants of the country, and despite the persistently high natural gas prices on the continent, while retail prices have been going up, including due to contributions to pay for guaranteed fixed prices to renewable energy producers (the "EEG" component in yellow in the last graph).

The fall in wholesale prices means that most traditional power plants are not economical at current levels, as the second graph above shows.

There are some temporary factors to the current situation. One is the general economic woes of the eurozone, which are pushing demand downwards and thus prices as well. The other is the temporary higher use of coal-fired power plants, which itself comes from a combination of short term factors:

  • cheap imports from the USA (where coal use has been displaced for a while by cheap gas in power generation) made coal more profitable than gas, and
  • regulatory incentives mean coal plants have (under the (the Large Combustion Plants EU directive) a limited number of hours to run and operators have every reason to use these up quickly, and especially if the plants are profitable, or less unprofitable than gas ones (UK coal plants have the additional incentive that a carbon tax will be imposed on them from April 2013).

These factors have made it possible to claim that Germany was increasing pollution and carbon emissions because of wrongheaded policies (depending on your stance: closing nuclear plants or pushing renewables), but this looks like a temporary arbitrage between coal and gas.

:: ::

The real long term story is that the power spot markets are being completely upended by the increasing penetration of renewable energy. In Germany, new renewables represent around 50% of the overall installed capacity, and already provide close to 20% of all power generation (split in 2012 in 3 almost equal parts between wind (7%), biomass (6%) and solar (5%)), up from almost nothing 15 years ago, and on many days now they provide 50% or more of total output:

Source: Paul Gipe

This reduces demand for mid-load producers and peakers over more and more periods throughout the year. As the graphs below shows, on good days in the warm season the PV capacity almost eliminates altogether the need for intermediate load; in winter, wind takes over (in aggregate, although not with as regular a daily profile):

Source: DoDo on European Tribune


This was the slice of demand served by coal-fired and gas-fired plants and they are simply not being used as much as they used to, and certainly not as much as their owners expected.

And prices are being squeezed down not just for these producers, but for everybody else as well, in particular during the peak day time hours which used to be the most profitable for all power plants (because baseload plants also receive the more expensive peak hour prices even if they did not bid at such prices). This means that existing capacity is less and less profitable - not just the peakers or intermediate plants, but also the nuclear and other baseload workhorses of the system. Thus the few highly publicized plant closures, and the ongoing utility complaints about lost revenues. Moreover there currently is no business case to invest in any kind of power plant (other than renewables under specific revenue regimes), which utilities use to argue against renewable support.

But here's the thing: preventing new renewables will not eliminate the current existing capacity, which means that the economics of the sector will not recover even if no new renewables were built... The wholesale market as it was designed 20 years ago (de facto based on gas-fired plants of various efficiency targeted at different points of the merit order curve setting up the marginal price) is irreversibly broken. The system is now dominated by plants with very low marginal cost of production (but high upfront investment), which means that spot prices are systematically too low for everybody - you can't invest in plants with high upfront investments (like nukes), and you can't invest in plants with high marginal running costs (gas-fired plants) unless you are betting on persistently low gas prices into the future. That may explain the push for shale gas in Europe, but who believes that shale gas will bring low prices? Even in the US prices are trending up again (and forward prices even more so).

:: ::

In the meantime, retail prices have kept on increasing, and the fact that the contribution of the support regime (in Germany, the "EEG-Umlage") to retail prices has become visible has made it a target of lobbyists and thus a political topic, despite the fact that retail prices increases have been caused, to a large extent (and in particular until 2009) by increases in gas prices.

This leads us to an hidden truth: a large fraction of the massive increase in renewable energy production is not paid for by consumers, but by incumbent producers who see their revenues decline as the price they earn per MWh goes down. Utilities, which see their margins on the retail side increase, but have very little renewable energy production capacity of their own are caught between two conflicting trends, with their upstream business losing profitability, but their downstream business earning more. IPPS are suffering, but have less voice. Unsurprisingly, utilities are focusing public attention only on the first part, and are naturally blaming renewables - not hesitating to point fingers at their support regimes as the cause of rising power prices, in the hope that these regimes will be weakened. They claim they are victims of unfair competition from "heavily subsidized" sources which have priority over them and can dump power with no worry for consequences into the network. They use a mix of real arguments and weaker ones to push against renewables:

source: Goldman Sachs, via Zero Hedge

  • one of the true arguments is that the cost of supporting solar PV has become larger than expected and faster than expected. Just 5 years ago, a number of countries had tariffs in the 500-600 EUR/MWh range, and regulators were surprised by the volumes that managed to be installed - and capture the advantageous prices levels. when they dropped the price support for new projects, they were again surprised by how fast the industry was able to match the lower prices through new technology (and a brutal price war). The result has been an amazing drop in the price of solar panels (-80% in just a few years, as shown above), bringing them close to grid parity, and a rather large (multiple GWs in Germany, Italy, Spain) stock of solar PV capacity which is entitled to very high tariffs for many years, at a visible cost to consumers;
  • in some places, the regulatory regime allowed producers to capture the best of both worlds - the higher of the fixed tariff or the market price (whether wholesale or retail), thus preventing the network, and the public, from benefitting from the "cap" that a real fixed tariff would have provided;
  • in Spain, retail power prices were kept artificially low for political reasons), and the the gross cost of the fixed tariffs was not absorbed into the general cost base of the network and instead explicitly imposed on utilities, which used that as an obvious argument against renewables (even though a good part of the price increases were linked to increased gas prices before the merit order effect acted on wholesale prices); the government's U-turn on tariffs, which imposed negative tariff changes on already operational projects, alienated the utilities further (as they had, contrary to what happened in Germany, become significant operators of renewable capacity and lost money in the process) and created a precedent that also scared off lenders and investors and put the sector in disrepute;
  • in Germany, the renewable energy surcharge applies only to retail consumers, and large sections of industrial users (but not all) are exempted. That means that the gross costs is borne by a smaller fraction of the overall consumers, and that some industries are complaining that they are being treated unfairly. Meanwhile, those benefitting from the situation (the bug consumers who benefit from lower wholesale prices and do not pay the surcharge) are staying silent so as to avoid attracting attention (they failed - this quirk is likely to be corrected soon);

But what is not true is that wind has contributed in any meaningful way to retail price increases (most of Germany's wind capacity was installed before 2008 and the EEG component is all but invisible at that date), and not has offshore wind (which is indeed more expensive, but very little of which has been built to date). When you look at average costs, one sees that onshore wind is largely competitive on wholesale markets (and yes, that does take into account grid access and balancing costs - there is enough experience with large wind penetration in various networks to know that it can be done and that it has no meaningful impact on costs), that solar is already competitive against retail prices in many markets (the famous "grid parity"), and that other technologies are somewhere in-between. Offshore wind is still more expensive, but is expected to come down in price by the time it will reach significant capacity:

source: Goldman Sachs, via Zero Hedge

Note that these average costs of production, always include very political assumptions about the cost of money, and the future price of gas, to apply to such projects. The discount rate (at the time of investment) is the main driver of the cost of wind or nuclear whereas the cost of gas-fired power is only an estimate, based an assumptions about the cost of gas in the next 20 years. And that also means that the price of power from a wind farm or a nuclear plant is largely fixed and known once the plant is built, while the cost of power from a gas-fired plant in the future is essentially unknown. The cost of money is a fundamentally political decision (derived from investors' estimates of macro risks like inflation, of regulatory risks applying to the sector, and technology risk); the consensus on future gas price estimates is also influenced by many factors, including long term projections by public bodies like the IEA, the US EIA or private firms with their various agendas.

As an aside, the more renewables you have in the system, the less it is possible to take out the regulatory support regime, because spot prices tend to go towards zero - which makes investment in renewables (or in any other kind of power generation assets, for that matter) impossible. So "grid parity" is an illusory target, in a sense, because it is a moving target. Technologies with high variable costs (all fossil-fuel plants) cannot compete at any price when there is enough zero-marginal cost capacity in the system, and technologies with high upfront investment costs need comfort about price levels over a long period as they need such prices on a constant basis to amortize the initial investment. This is why the UK government is working on a "contract for differences" (essentially the same thing as a fixed tariff) for new nuclear plants.

:: ::

Altogether, the reality is that the consumers and the utilities is paying for a few expensive years of early solar PV technology (to the tune of a few cents per kWh, ie a few hundred euros per year and per household), and now the utilities are bearing almost in full the further impact on the system: they are no longer making (much) money on their current fleet - not on gas-fired plants, barely on their coal-fired plants, and they don't have much renewable energy capacity. They are stuck with a capital stock (including recent plants), which is increasingly uneconomic in today's markets, caught between high fuel prices and lower power prices. And that is the result of strategies over the past 10-15 years that willfully ignored policies to promote renewables pursued pretty consistently across Europe, and the likely impact they would have on power prices (the infamous "merit order effect" - which I discussed in detail at least 5 years ago, and which was already the topic of academic papers before that).

So it's not like they had no warning and no notice... In a sense, utilities have been consistent: one of their past arguments was that renewables would never reach critical mass and thus were not a serious solution to reduce carbon emissions. And they surely did not take recent investment decisions (mainly to build base-load or mid-load gas-fired plants) with the scenario of heavy renewable penetration in mind, otherwise they would not have been so surprised by the current situation...

:: ::

Utilities do make a legitimate point when they underline that the system still needs their capacity (because renewables are not available on demand, and do not provide the flexibility required in the very short term), and that this needs to be paid for (and, at some point in the future, existing capacity will need to be replaced, and they need to be able to make a business case for that, which is not possible today).

In the previous regime, where power prices were determined by gas prices, it was possible to pay for the flexibility in the form of price spikes that gave the right signal for mid-load and peaker gas-fired (or oil-fired, or hydro) plants to be used, and their frequency of use was relatively predictable over a year, allowing for a sound business model to be implemented. Now, with plenty of renewables, the price signal is completely different. There are many more periods of very low prices when renewables flood the system (and this is particularly the case in places with lots of solar, as it is available during the day, ie when demand is stronger and thus prices used to be higher). This has two consequences: gas-fired plants get much less use than in the past (and less than their business plans expected), and baseload plants like nukes or big coal-fired plants get lower prices during periods when they were cashing in more money. The latter earn less money (but still run); the former now run a lot less than expected , which has income implications but also consequences for gas consumption and storage - patterns of use become very different, moving from the usual "once a day" pattern (a few hour at peak demand times), to short bursts several times a day (as renewables drop out), or very long periods of use over multiple days when renewables are not available at all.

Given that the penetration of renewables will continue to change every year, it has become really hard to identify the business model to use for flexible plants - and even harder to know what it will be in 1, 5 or 10 years from now. These flexible plants will be needed, at least to some extent, and they need to be paid for, and that cannot really happen with today's regulatory regime (and as noted above, stopping support regimes for renewables won't change that now: the existing stock of wind and solar is already big enough in several countries to keep the current market arrangements broken). One solution, thankfully being considered in several markets, and which already exists in places like California, is to put in place a capacity market, where plants make themselves available for rapid changes in output, without actually producing anything most of the time, and get paid for that availability: ie a market for MW in addition to the market for MWh.

:: ::

The politics of this transition are messy. You can have articles saying (without any real argument) that "Too much green energy is bad for Britain at the very same time that you have record cold weather, with critical weakness in the gas supply infrastructure and wind actually coming to the rescue... (in the UK last March).

People are presenting capacity markets as another subsidy to renewables, whereas system security has always required a significant margin of unused capacity for safety: power demand varies from 1 to 2 or one to 3 every day, peaks can be more or less intense depending on weather, and even large plants can go offline on a scheduled or unscheduled basis. That safety margin was simply paid for in a different way, either by imposing capacity buffers on utilities, or through spot price peaks that were high enough to pay in a few hours for the peaker plants which are otherwise idle most of the time. There's naturally a lot of talk that policies to develop renewable have failed, being costly (only partly true, as shown above, and increasingly less so as time goes by), ineffective at reducing carbon emissions (not true, each MWh of renewable energy has, by and large, replaced a MWh generated previously by fossil fuel plants) and damaging to the system (obviously not the case). But the cat is out of the bag: once renewable energy reaches a critical mass, its impact on power systems is pretty much irreversible and no amount of lobbying by utilities is going to get them their previous business model back: wind turbines and solar panels are there and they will keep on cranking out zero-marginal-cost MWh for a very, very long time...

So utilities would be well advised to focus their lobbying on fixes to the system that actually solve problems (like capacity markets, or maybe new rules on grid access for "must-run plants), and to not cut the tree on which they are sitting (killing the support regime for offshore wind, the only sector in renewables which is "utility-scale" and where they have been able to take a leading share, and the only sector of the power sector where they can actually make money these days...)(I note here again, for full disclosure, that I work in the offshore wind sector and appreciate that this may sound rather self-interested).

The politics of power prices are rather volatile, and people have little sympathy for the big utilities, which are typically seen as profiteers anyway, so the focus on the high retail prices could end up damaging them more than it impacts renewable energy producers. Energy is a rather complex topic, not really suited for soundbites, and it is easy to confuse people or say outright lies without getting caught right away. But, by and large, Germans still support the Energiewende - both the move away from nuclear and the support for renewable energy - and are willing to pay for it. And for areas like Bremerhaven, all the manufacturing activity linked to wind and offshore wind is rather welcome.

:: ::

In summary:

  • Renewable energy is reaching the scale where it has an impact on the overall system; the effects are irreversible, and highly damaging to incumbents;
  • The net cost to get there has been relatively low, and largely paid for by utilities, which have constantly underestimated the ongoing changes, even as they were both (wrongly) dismissing them and (relatively ineffectively) fighting them;
  • there are legitimate worries about the way to maintain the fleet of flexible plants that was required in the past and will continue to be needed in the new paradigm, but can no longer pay its way under current market arrangements; the solution is not to fight renewables (it won't make the existing fleet go away) but to ensure that the right services (MW on demand) are properly remunerated;
  • the shale gas revolution will have a limited impact in this context (it had almost none in Europe, other than via some cheap coal exports from the US for a short period), and does not change the economics of gas-fired plants to the point that they can be competitive in a system dominated by renewable energy production capacity;
  • more generally, the future for gas suppliers is bleaker than for gas turbine manufacturers - there will be a need for a lot of gas-fired plants but they won't be burning a lot of gas (they will be selling MW rather than MWh);
  • overall, a future with high renewable penetration is not only possible but increasingly likely, and it's a good thing.

Part of the wind power series.

Wed 27 January, 2010

12:21 Image of the Day» LiveScience.com
Amazing images every day!