Sat 25 October, 2014

11:00 Georgia Dems Use 'Hands Up, Don't Shoot' To Attract Black Voters, KochHeads Explode» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Georgia Dems Use 'Hands Up, Don't Shoot' To Attract Black Voters, KochHeads Explode

Always the defenders of Republicans' voter suppression efforts, Fox and Friends' Brian Kilmeade sought out one of the small handful of black republicans who think it's just fine to stack the deck against African-Americans in politics. In a campaign to get out the black vote, Georgia's Democratic organizers are using flyers that link poor voter turnout to the likelihood of more Mike Brown-tragedies. Based on the demographics of Ferguson, it is precisely the low black voter turnout that is responsible for the lopsided representation of the majority of citizens of that Missouri city. African Americans make up roughly 12% of the national population but only 4.3% of city councils and 2% of mayors.

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10:37 Tom Udall vs. Allen Weh Nonpartisan Candidate Guide For New Mexico Senate Race 2014» Politics - The Huffington Post
Are you looking for a nonpartisan voter guide to the Tom Udall vs. Allen Weh Senate race? One that will give you an unbiased, no-spin comparison of candidate positions on key issues? That's what our Campus Election Engagement Project guide will give you! We are a national nonpartisan initiative working with college and university administrators, faculty, and student leaders to increase student participation in America's elections. For the 2014 elections we have created and distributed voter guides to campuses in more than 20 states so they can provide their communities with accurate information for informed voting. Because these guides have been so well received and are useful for all voting citizens who want to be better informed, we are also posting them here.

We developed our guides by analyzing information from trusted resources such as www.votesmart.org, www.ontheissues.org, www.ballotpedia.com, www.politifact.com, www.factcheck.org, www.vote411.org and from candidate websites, public debates and interviews, and statements in major media outlets. We also showed them to groups like campus Young Republicans and Young Democrats at the schools we work with to verify their fairness and lack of bias.

So here are the issue-by-issue stands for Tom Udall and Allen Weh, with additional links at the bottom for each candidate if you'd like to dig deeper. (You can also find New Mexico's Governor guide here.)

Budget: Did you support raising the Federal debt ceiling with no strings attached?
Udall: Yes
Weh: No

Budget: Do you support a Constitutional Balanced Budget Amendment?
Udall: No -- Eliminates necessary flexibility
Weh: Yes

Campaign Finance: Do you support the DISCLOSE Act, which would require key funders of political ads to put their names on those ads?
Udall: Yes
Weh: Unclear

Campaign Finance: Do you support the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which allowed unlimited independent political expenditures by corporations and unions?
Udall: No--supports Constitutional amendment to reverse it
Weh: Yes. Considered decision victory for free speech, and opposed McCain-Feingold, which it overturned

Economy: Do you support raising the minimum wage?
Udall: Yes
Weh: Yes, but eliminate for workers under 26 (Follow the link for more information on Weh's position on the minimum wage)

Economy: Do you support extending unemployment benefits beyond 26 weeks?
Udall: Yes
Weh: Unknown

Economy: Do you support the Dodd-Frank Act, which established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and sought to increase regulation of Wall Street corporations and other financial institutions?
Udall: Yes
Weh: Unknown

Economy: Do you support federal spending as a means of promoting economic growth?
Udall: Yes
Weh: No

Education: Do you support refinancing of student loans at lower rates, paid for by increasing taxes on income over a million dollars?
Udall: Yes
Weh: Unknown

Environment: Do you believe that human activity is a major factor contributing to climate change?
Udall: Yes
Weh: Unclear (Weh's answer on how to respond to climate change "I strongly support clean air and clean water and will be an advocate for those policies in the U.S. Senate. And I fully support the development of alternative energy technologies and ways to economically reduce carbon emissions from the fossil fuel sources we depend on." )

Environment: Do you support government action to limit the levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere?
Udall: Yes
Weh: No

Environment: Do you support government mandates and/or subsidies for renewable energy?
Udall: Yes
Weh: No

Foreign Affairs: Should the US return troops to Iraq to counter the insurgency?
Udall: No
Weh: Ambiguous. Will not "vote to put our men and women in harm's way until it is absolutely necessary"

Gay Marriage: Do you support gay marriage?
Udall: Yes
Weh: No

Gun Control: Do you support enacting more restrictive gun control legislation?
Udall: Yes -- Supports universal background checks
Weh: No

Healthcare: Do you support repealing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare?
Udall: No
Weh: Yes

Healthcare: Did you support shutting down the federal government in order to defund Obamacare in 2013?
Udall: No
Weh: Unknown

Immigration: Do you support the D.R.E.A.M. Act, which would allow children brought into the country illegally to achieve legal status if they've graduated from high school, have a clean legal record, and attend college or serve in the military?
Udall: Yes
Weh: Unknown -- likely no

Immigration: Do you support the comprehensive immigration plan passed by the Senate in 2013, which includes a pathway to citizenship and increased funding for border security?
Udall: Yes
Weh: No -- Secure the borders first

Marijuana: Do you support efforts to decriminalize and/or legalize marijuana?
Udall: Supports federal government respecting state marijuana laws
Weh: Supports medical marijuana but not further legalization

Social Issues: Should abortion be highly restricted?
Udall: No
Weh: Yes

Social Issues: Should for-profit employers be able to withhold contraceptive coverage from employees if they disagree with it morally?
Udall: No
Weh: Unknown

Social Issues: Should Planned Parenthood receive public funds for non-abortion health services?
Udall: Yes
Weh: Unknown

Social Security: Do you support partial privatization of Social Security?
Udall: No
Weh: Unknown

Taxes: Would you increase taxes on corporations and/or high-income individuals to pay for public services?
Udall: Yes
Weh: No -- his preference is for a flat tax

Learn more about the candidates:
Udall: VoteSmart pages, On the Issues
Weh: VoteSmart pages, On the Issues
Or see their Q&A and profiles in the Albuquerque Journal's voter guide
10:20 Jerry Brown Does His Yale Law Reunion While Kashkari Keeps Attacking and Arnold Savors Paris» Politics - The Huffington Post
Republican Neel Kashkari has intensified his attack on Governor Jerry Brown, insisting that he has uncovered "Jerry Brown's Watergate." So what does Brown do? Continue to ignore the former Wall Street bailout coordinator, and continue his drive to a record fourth term as California's governor by ... spending four days back East around this weekend's 50th anniversary reunion of Brown's Yale Law School class in New Haven, Connecticut.

Since Yale Law '64 also includes former U.S. Senator Gary Hart, the two famed former presidential candidates are on a panel together. Hmm, maybe Jerry will explain "planetary realism," which he proclaimed as the name of his geopolitical strategy in his 1976 presidential campaign. Or not.

Governor Jerry Brown talks about how Prop 1 is needed to expand the state water project backbone established by his father, Governor Pat Brown.

Hart, the 1988 presidential frontrunner knocked from contention by a personal scandal spoon fed to a compliant media, talked up a potential Brown presidential run in 2016 over th summer. Unless Brown, cruising toward a third straight landslide win for governor, can figure out how to clone himself, that may not be in the cards. So perhaps Hart and Brown can discuss their unusual position as political stars of what may well turn out to be the first generation in American history not to produce a president of the United States.

Well, if that's the way it turns out, Brown can certainly find a way to inject his "dialogue and dialectic," to borrow a phrase from a certain 38-year old presidential candidate of the past, into the politics of 2016. Hart, incidentally, is a brand-new U.S. special envoy, just named as "Personal Representative of the Secretary of State," with his first work on Northern Ireland's chronic discord. He was already chairman of State's International Security Advisory Board.

Meanwhile, aside from a memorably acerbic reaction from Brown campaign spokesman Dan Newman, Brown continues to ignore Kashkari's melodramatic attacks on him for allowing a state appeal of a local LA court decision throwing out state law on teacher tenure, even after Kashkari tossed another million bucks from his fortune to push the offensively wacky "Drowning Boy" ad message I discussed on October 16th.

But Brown is very much engaged in the campaign on the air. Just not with ads telling Californians to re-elect him. The ads, from his consulting firm SCN Strategies (strategist Ace Smith, media consultant Sean Clegg, and the aforementioned Newman (oh, and a certain hands-on governor guy, too) all promote Brown's Propositions 1 and 2 to pass the $7.5 billion water bond and create a state rainy day fund.

In the latest report, Brown has spent $3.6 million from his re-election committee, almost all on Props 1 and 2, and $10 million from a new committee he controls to pass Props 1 and 2. He has a whopping $21 million left in his own campaign account and another $6 million left in the initiatives account. Brown's re-election committee has actually been outspent by Kashkari's campaign.

So Brown will end up with a huge warchest left over from a campaign which may never actually run a campaign ad for Brown himself.

UC Berkeley Professor Laura Tyson, former chair of the President's Council of Economic Advisors, discusses the need to pass Props 1 and 2 to end California's roller coaster rides on water and revenue.

Poor Kashkari. In the face of Brown's strength for re-election -- in a campaign probably clinched in November 2012 when the big win for Brown's Prop 30 revenue initiative marked the effective end of California's chronic budget crisis -- the tyro Republican is reduced to blathering about "Jerry Brown's Watergate." Which is a wild misuse of the term "Watergate."

If it were my business to spin up a spurious "Watergate" here, I might be able to come up with something. But it wouldn't be the appeal of a lower court decision on something that, while hardly insignificant, is hardly one of the biggest problems for public education. Brown says the decision needs appellate review before going into effect. (See my view of the decision, which I support.)

Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger met with French President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace in Paris earlier this month.

Maybe we should just chalk up the entire spectacle of the Kashkari campaign to a rookie having a bad time. Kashmir's certainly not having as good a time as the man who looks like the last Republican in history to win a landslide election as governor of California.

That, of course, is Arnold Schwarzenegger, who pulled off that feat twice. The champion of California's landmark climate change program, which corporate conservative Kashkari unsurprisingly opposes, is savoring his trip to France earlier this month.

There he and his Geneva and Santa Monica-based R20 group of subnational officials held a conference co-hosted with top French and international officials as part of the run-up to the big United Nations climate summit in Paris in December 2015. Schwarzenegger then met with French President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace in an event closely covered by the French media, which speculated that the diminutive Socialist was worried about being photographed next to the Terminator. But it worked out well for all involved.

Unlike the California governor's race.

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William Bradley Archive
10:20 GOP Sees 'You Didn't Build That' In Hillary Clinton Jobs Remark» Politics - The Huffington Post
Hillary Clinton rallied women voters in New England on Friday, heaping praise upon progressive champion Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and her economic populist message. But in so doing, the former secretary of state may have handed her opponents a line of attack should she decide to run for president in 2016.

Stumping on behalf of Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley (D), Clinton denounced "trickle-down economics" as espoused by Republicans and argued that businesses also depend on government investment for resources like roads and bridges.

“Don’t let anybody tell you that it's corporations and businesses that create jobs. You know that old theory, trickle-down economics. That has been tried; that has failed. It has failed rather spectacularly," she said in Boston.

The remark was immediately singled out by Republicans, who noted its similarity to comments made by President Barack Obama during his re-election campaign.

Clinton's remark was enough to "make you go hmmmm," tweeted Sean Spicer, communications director at the Republican National Committee.

"Who exactly is creating the jobs then, Sec. Clinton?" asked America Rising, a Republican opposition research firm.

Republicans made similar hay out of the president's "You didn't build that" comment in July 2012, eventually turning the line into a theme at the GOP's nominating convention. Like Clinton, Obama was laying out the progressive case that businesses owe some of their success to the efforts of government. His remarks were taken out of context, however, and featured in ads on behalf of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. But the line of attack failed: An October 2012 poll actually showed a plurality of respondents had a positive impression of the remark.

A Clinton aide told Politico on Friday that her remark referred to tax breaks for corporations. But that likely won't be enough to dissuade Republicans from featuring it in ads come 2016.

Watch the video of Clinton above.
10:04 Wealthy Chinese are literally eating this exotic mammal into extinction» Salon.com
For members of the middle class, consuming black-market pangolins is now considered a sign of wealth and status

10:01 U.S. To Recognize Same-Sex Marriage In 6 New States» Politics - The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal government is recognizing gay marriage in six more states and extending federal benefits to those couples, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Saturday.

Gay marriage recently became legal in Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, North Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming.

The government's announcement follows the U.S. Supreme Court's decision earlier this month to decline to hear appeals from five states that sought to keep their marriage bans in place. It brings the total number of states with federal recognition of gay marriage to 32, plus the District of Columbia.

Couples married in these states will qualify for a range of federal benefits, including Social Security and veterans' benefits.

"With each new state where same-sex marriages are legally recognized, our nation moves closer to achieving full equality for all Americans," Holder said.

The attorney general said the government is working "as quickly as possible" to make sure same-sex married couples in these states receive the "fullest array of benefits" that federal law allows.

The Justice Department also has determined that it can legally recognize gay marriages performed this summer in Indiana and Wisconsin after federal courts declared marriage bans in the states unconstitutional. Subsequent developments created confusion about the status of those unions, but Holder said the U.S. government will recognize the marriages.

10:00 Saturday nutpick-a-palooza: Was the world created 6,000 years ago?» Daily Kos

Today's source material:

World Net Daily story screencap: "WAS WORLD CREATED 6,028 YEARS AGO TODAY? Exclusive: Joseph Farah takes on atheist who says gravity is the author of life"

No it wasn't.

Why do I think it matters how old the Earth is?

There are two reasons:

I take the Bible literally – and seriously. And the Bible strongly affirms a date in the neighborhood of 6,000 years, at least for the age of man, who was created on the sixth day, according to Genesis. If that’s not true, it calls into question the rest of the Bible’s accuracy.

Atheists like Dawkins and Hawking are every bit as dogmatic about their theories of the age of the Earth as I am. They know they need lots of time to give their fairy tales about life spontaneously generating any credibility at all. Godless miracles require time, you know, lots of time.

Science equals fairy tales, but a book is FACT? But this is my favorite part:
I know what some of you are thinking: “Farah, what about the dinosaurs that were tens of millions of years old? How do you explain that?” Quite simply, I don’t believe it. Throughout man’s history, in every culture, we have stories, pictures and sculptures depicting dragons and leviathans and sea serpents. Are we to believe these were all concocted in man’s imagination? Even the Bible references such observations. If behemoths like the one described in chapter 40 of the Book of Job somehow threatened the Bible account of history, I don’t think it would be there.
Throughout history, we also have accounts of wizards and hobbits and Godzilla and nymphs and centaurs and Zeus and Thor and hydras and lots of other creatures that have to be true because otherwise someone wouldn't have written about them.

Phew! Fun! Now let's see the crazies respond, below the fold.

10:00 Mitch McConnell Writes $1.8 Million Check To His Campaign» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Mitch McConnell Writes $1.8 Million Check To His Campaign

With Alison Lundergan Grimes within one point of Mitch McConnell, there's a battle for the finish and it looks like Kentucky voters are going to get a barrage of ads, thanks to Mitch's checkbook.

While he claims he's not worried at all, he's also writing his campaign a personal check for $1.8 million dollars. For a guy worth about $9 million, that's a hefty chunk.

Politico was quick to reassure their readers that it doesn't mean McConnell thinks he has a problem. Nay, nay, it's just making sure resources are matched up. Sure it is.

McConnell does have a problem. He has several, in fact. Like why he paid Jesse Benton $100,000 after he resigned due to his involvement in the Iowa bribery scandal during the 2012 campaign. Benton scored a nice haul while he worked for McConnell. Altogether, he was paid almost $500,000 to serve as campaign manager. Great work if you can get it, I guess.

McConnell also has a problem with the truth. First, he tried to bury the fact that he pays people to show up at his events. Here's some video of the fallout from that:

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09:50 Senate Candidate Claims Harry Reid Is Conspiring To Let Obama Run The Country Unilaterally» ThinkProgress

Supporters of David Perdue (R-GA) told ThinkProgress they agree, and fear President Obama will "confiscate anyone's food, clothing and shelter" and "declare martial law."

The post Senate Candidate Claims Harry Reid Is Conspiring To Let Obama Run The Country Unilaterally appeared first on ThinkProgress.

09:35 Teenage Boy May Have Shot Up His School Because His Girlfriend Broke Up With Him» ThinkProgress

A student told the Seattle Times that the girl in question was one of the victims.

The post Teenage Boy May Have Shot Up His School Because His Girlfriend Broke Up With Him appeared first on ThinkProgress.

09:34 Mind Maze: How Your Memory Deceives You» LiveScience.com
Sci-fi loves to mess with memory, but memory misleads in real life, too.
09:34 From Gary Webb to James Risen: The struggle for the soul of journalism» Salon.com
Two courageous reporters dug up dark government secrets. Only one was betrayed by his peers. Why did it happen?

09:16 Clinton Says He Had It Worse Than Obama, Still Got Things Done» Politics - The Huffington Post
President Obama heads into midterm elections in which he may face crushing losses. He has been spurned by his own party, whose candidates do not even want to be seen with him. The president’s supporters say the toxic atmosphere in Washington has made it impossible for Mr. Obama to succeed.
09:02 Chevron greases local elections with geyser of cash» Salon.com
Reports reveal the multinational has been pumping money into Mitch McConnell's and John Cornyn's Senate campaigns

09:00 This week in the war on voting: Colorado's mail-in voter law changed candidates' campaign approach » Daily Kos
NC voting suppression protest
This Week in the War on Voting is a joint project of Joan McCarter and Meteor Blades.

Georgians in court over allegedly missing registrations:

By the NGP's estimate, some 800,000 Georgians—"people of color, voters between the ages of 18 and 29, and unmarried women—what the group calls the 'Rising American Electorate'" weren't registered to vote at the beginning of this year. Since then the group—founded by state Rep. Stacey Abrams, Democratic leader of the Georgia House—says it and 12 partner groups have registered around 116,000 new voters. But earlier this month, NGP complained that the registrations in five counties—all of them surrounding large Democratic strongholds in Atlanta, Columbus and Savannah—had not processed some 40,000 of these registrations. Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp said the claim is wrong.
Garrett Epps sharply questions Chief Justice John Roberts' commitment to non-discrimination as a consequence of ruling on Texas voter ID case.

GOP officials withheld data on voter ID:

[The] state officials working to pass a voter photo ID law in 2011 knew that more than 500,000 of the state’s registered voters did not have the credentials needed to cast ballots under the new requirement. But they did not share that information with lawmakers rushing to pass the legislation.

Now that the bill is law, in-person voters must present one of seven specified forms of photo identification in order to have their votes counted.

Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UCI School of Law, says Supreme Court erred badly in Texas voter ID ruling:
The Supreme Court’s decision Oct. 18 to allow Texas’ restrictive voter identification law to go into effect is deeply disturbing and simply wrong. [...]

There are so many things that are troubling about the court’s action. It is the first time in decades that the Supreme Court has allowed an election law to go into effect after a federal trial court found it to be unconstitutional race discrimination. Appellate courts, including the Supreme Court, are supposed to defer to the fact-finding by the trial courts. Here, the district court held a trial, engaged in extensive fact-finding and wrote a very detailed opinion.

Also, this continues a trend in recent weeks of the Supreme Court deciding which election systems can go into effect in unsigned orders without written opinions.

Jesse Richman and David Earnest argue that voting by non-citizens is high enough that it could alter the results of some close races.

Colorado's new voting law means candidates must make their final arguments earlier: By Friday, more than half a million Coloradans had already mailed in their ballots. By Nov. 3, the day before Election Day, it's quite possible that the majority of those who going to vote will have already voted. Every registered citizen received a ballot in the mail, and those who aren't registered can do so right up through election day.  

"Now you gotta get the vote out for literally almost three weeks," said Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who signed the election changes passed by his party and is now running for re-election against Republican Bob Beauprez, a former congressman.

Beauprez is feeling the same urgency.

"You pretty well have to have your whole game plan out there and your case made so early now," he said.

Sixth Circuit Court rejects an appeal over the right to vote absentee of Ohioans jailed but not convicted: The decision was predicated on the view of two judges on the three judge panel that the coalition of 22 churches that brought the case did not have standing. Chief Judge R. Guy Cole dissented, arguing that the coalition was right to assert standing because it had had its limited get-out-the-vote resources diverted by having to train its canvassers about the problem for "late-jailed voters" who missed the absentee deadline by being arrested and would not be able to cast a ballot in person on Election Day because they have not yet been released. Cole also stated he agreed with the district court's ruling that late-jailed people have the same right to cast a ballot as late-hospitalized people even though they have missed the absentee ballot deadline.

Right-wing True the Vote group claims elections will be stolen this year: Among the reasons: same-day registration, Department of Justice attacks on voter ID laws, Homeland Security's blocking of information that might identify non-citizens who vote, failure of electronic equipment and the alleged pre-marking of ballots.

Jonathan Chait on how Republicans justify poll taxes:

During the Obama era, the Republican Party has made the modern revival of the poll tax a point of party dogma. Direct poll taxes have been illegal for 50 years, but the GOP has discovered a workaround. They have passed laws requiring photo identification, forcing prospective voters who lack them, who are disproportionately Democratic and nonwhite, to undergo the extra time and inconvenience of acquiring them. They have likewise fought to reduce early voting hours on nights and weekends, thereby making it harder for wage workers and single parents, who have less flexibility at work and in their child care, to cast a ballot.

The effect of all these policies is identical to a poll tax. (Indeed, a study found that the cost they impose is considerably greater than existing poll taxes at the time they were banned.)

Emily Badger calls out Rich Lowry's take on voter ID: The National Review editor argues that voter ID doesn't hurt many citizens, a small percentage at most wind up not having their votes count. Writes Badger:
What stands out about this argument is the idea that any disenfranchisement would be OK, when a central rationale for voter ID laws in the first place is that any voter fraud is not.
09:00 Saturday Extra Credit Reading» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Saturday Extra Credit Reading

These are open tabs in my browser for reading and re-reading, because they're either really great insights, or they're information we should all have.

What are you reading today?

Finally, a shout-out to Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, who is fighting multiple myeloma with a smile and his usual analytical approach to things. All good thoughts go out to him from all of us here at C&L.

08:58 How Conservatives Justify Poll Taxes» Politics - The Huffington Post
During the Obama era, the Republican Party has made the modern revival of the poll tax a point of party dogma. Direct poll taxes have been illegal for 50 years, but the GOP has discovered a workaround. They have passed laws requiring photo identification, forcing prospective voters who lack them, who are disproportionately Democratic and nonwhite, to undergo the extra time and inconvenience of acquiring them. They have likewise fought to reduce early voting hours on nights and weekends, thereby making it harder for wage workers and single parents, who have less flexibility at work and in their child care, to cast a ballot.
08:43 Wow! The Most Amazing Images in Science This Week» LiveScience.com
Lions, whales and spiders, oh my! This week we found some awesome photos for you to check out.
08:30 Immigration Judge Berates Lawyer For Putting Her Clients' Interests Ahead Of Her Own» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Immigration Judge Berates Lawyer For Putting Her Clients' Interests Ahead Of Her Own

What? No war on women? Someone needs to tell immigration judge J. Dan Pelletier that, because he just waged it on a new mother who also happens to be an immigration lawyer.

An immigration judge in Atlanta denied an attorney's request to delay a hearing that fell during her six-week maternity leave and then scolded her in front of a packed courtroom when she showed up with her 4-week-old strapped to her chest and the infant began to cry, the attorney said.

Her husband drives a truck. He was on the road, and she had clients who expected their lawyer to be in court representing them unless she was granted a delay.

When Stacy Ehrisman-Mickle took on two young brothers as clients in early September, she immediately filed a request to postpone their next hearing, which was set for a month later, she said. In an order denying her request, Immigration Judge J. Dan Pelletier Sr. wrote, "No good cause. Hearing date set prior to counsel accepting representation."

Except that she knew at least two other instances where lawyers were granted a new hearing date because of maternity leave, so it was reasonable to believe she would also receive that courtesy. Alas, no.

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08:18 First U.S. Soldier Dies In Campaign Against Islamic State» Politics - The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon says a Marine who died Thursday in a noncombat incident in Baghdad was the second U.S. military death associated with the campaign against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

The Marine was identified as 19-year-old Lance Cpl. Sean P. Neal of Riverside, California. The Pentagon isn't providing more details and says it's investigating.

On Oct. 2, the Navy said a Marine who ejected from an MV-22 Osprey aircraft over the Persian Gulf was presumed lost at sea. The Osprey flew from aboard a Navy ship supporting U.S. operations in Iraq and Syria.

That was the first death associated with the fight against IS. But Pentagon officials say that Marine isn't on the Defense Department's public list of deaths because the official paperwork hasn't been completed.

08:09 Ukraine's Uncertain Future» Politics - The Huffington Post
Elizabeth Pond, the respected American author who has reported on Eastern Europe for three decades, recently wrote a eulogy for Ukraine. The seizure of Crimea, Russia's military rout of the Ukrainians in the east, and the humiliating ceasefire imposed on President Petro Poroshenko, she wrote, meant that Ukraine was again "a borderland playground" for its mighty neighbor.

Poroshenko, says Pond, gambled that the Ukrainian army could defeat the Russian-backed insurgents without provoking an outright Russian invasion. He was mistaken.

Ukrainian military defeat in late August was followed by a September 5th ceasefire, in which Poroshenko conceded three years of special status to secessionist Donetsk and Luhansk. Those districts adjacent to Russia form the core of the Donbas region that accounts for 20 percent of Ukraine' industry and 18 percent of its population.


A further setback followed. In mid-September, Poroshenko visited Washington, receiving a tumultuous reception from congress. But the Obama administration rejected his appeal for precision weaponry that could defeat the rebels.

Ukraine was exposed as dismembered and alone. Russia's objective of subjugating and destabilizing Ukraine had succeeded.

So what is the importance of Ukraine's parliamentary election on Sunday? The best that can be hoped for, say analysts, is public endorsement of Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk's program of economic and political reform.

The president's 'Petro Poroshenko Bloc' is expected to be the biggest winner with over 30% of the vote. Yatseniuk's People's Front is projected to get 6 to 9 percent. Five to ten parties are expected to enter parliament. Analysts say only 23 percent of Ukrainians in the Russian-speaking east are likely to vote.

With the election being boycotted by separatists and the party of disgraced former president Viktor Yanukovych not participating, this will be Ukraine's first election in which pro-western and pro-Russian parties are not pitted against each another.

The election, says Oxford University's Timothy Garton Ash, can provide legitimacy to Ukraine's reformist leaders. Their task, he says, is to build a properly functioning state, something that has not occurred during 23 years of independence.

The biggest problem is corruption, a fact freely admitted by
Poroshenko and Yatseniuk. This month they pushed through the outgoing parliament anti-corruption legislation of the kind required by the European Union as a condition for an economic association agreement. Yatseniuk hails the provision that government officials make public their assets and financial transactions. Poroshenko calls the legislation a "decisive step against the cancerous tumor of corruption."

But these promises have been made before and nothing happened. Transparency International, the anti-corruption agency, ranks Ukraine even lower than Russia, a dismal 144 on its corruption perception index of 177 countries. Russia is 127.

In July, an economic advisory panel advising the Kyiv government declared, "swift and radical economic reforms must be undertaken if Ukraine is to seize this historic opportunity to clean up corruption." It identified as essential: macro-economic stabilization, rule of law, regulatory reform, free market pricing for energy, tax simplification, trade enhancement, land reform, and bank restructuring.

Canadian economist Oleh Havrylyshyn, a member of the advisory body, says as of now not one of the recommendations has been implemented. However, he's optimistic that reforms will begin after the election.

When Poroshenko and Vladimir Putin met in Milan on October 17 progress was reportedly made on the acrimonious dispute over gas supplies and pricing. Opinions are mixed whether Russian gas shipments -- suspended since June -- will resume before winter. Ukraine confronts severe energy shortages, something economist Havrylyshyn says will only be resolved through the painful medicine of market based pricing.

Ukraine's economy is declining with gdp growth for 2014 forecast at minus 8%. Ukraine does have a $17 billion bailout program with the International Monetary Fund, conditioned on rigorous reforms. As with Russia, Ukraine's currency has lost value, down 18% against the dollar in the past three months.

Through the persistent gloom one analyst sees hope. Hudson Institute scholar David Satter, a former Moscow correspondent, says the Maidan protests against dictatorship and corruption have inspired Russia's long-suffering citizens. Speaking October 1 at Washington's Institute of World Politics, Satter said Russia's "unambiguous aggression in Ukraine" revealed Putin for what he is...."the head of a criminalized gang..who ignited civil war."

Post-communist Russia and Ukraine, Satter continued, evolved in similarly corrupt ways with oligarchs controlling the economy. Both Putin and Yanukovych, he said, became parasitic. Theft and corruption began at the top. Lawlessness and moral decay became pervasive.

Putin was threatened, said Satter, by Ukrainians desire to connect with the European Union, a western alternative to a hopeless status quo. Despite the current nationalist fervor, Putin's Ukraine adventure, argues Satter, hastens his eventual demise. He makes no prediction as to when.

Can Ukraine reform? Can oligarch Poroshenko and his alllies take on Ukraine's oligarchs and build the free, rule-based society they profess to want? The answer should be apparent within 6 to 12 months.


Barry D. Wood has written extensively about post-communist economic transformation. Twitter @econbarry.

A version of this post appeared on marketwatch.com.
08:08 Washington Must Recognize India as Another Great Power to Be» Politics - The Huffington Post
Before becoming prime minister, India's Narendra Modi was barred from receiving a visa to visit the U.S. A rising leader in the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), he was tied to deadly sectarian violence. But now, backed by an overwhelming parliamentary majority, he leads one of Asia's most important powers. The Obama administration rolled out the red carpet when he visited.

India won independence in 1947, but was born in violence when Britain divided the vast colony into majority Hindu India and largely Muslim Pakistan. Millions fled their ancestral lands and hundreds of thousands died in the process. The two nations fought bitterly and repeatedly. Kashmir, a territory allocated to India because a Hindu prince ruled over a Muslim majority, remains a source of conflict. New Delhi proudly asserted its international independence, participating in the "non-aligned" movement while trending toward the Soviet Union. Yet India found itself at war with China, losing territory to its equally populous and impoverished neighbor.

New Delhi long was ruled by the dynastic India National Congress Party, which enshrined dirigiste economics as the state's secular religion. As a result, a land which spawned a global network of entrepreneurs and traders remained desperately poor, its people suffering under myriad rules, regulations, procedures and laws. The government bureaucracy was legendary for its determination to obstruct any good idea; litigants sometimes died waiting for the sclerotic legal system to act. As much of the world embraced market economics India remained wedded to the socialist illusion.

Eventually, however, reality seeped into New Delhi. The Congress Party liberalized the economy. The BJP broke the Congress monopoly on power. India joined the global nuclear weapons club. New Delhi appeared ready to follow the People's Republic of China to international superstar status. But then enthusiasm for economic reform ebbed, economic growth slowed, and conflict with Pakistan flared. India again played the underachiever: poised at the cusp of great economic success and diplomatic influence, New Delhi seemed to fall back on its old ways.

However, with Modi at its helm the BJP recently handed the Congress Party the latter's greatest defeat ever. On May 26, Narendra Modi became prime minister. He recently visited the U.S. to speak before the United Nations and meet with President Barack Obama.

Of course, there was that embarrassing visa ban, the only one ever issued for that reason by Washington. It is one thing to prevent a controversial provincial leader from visiting America. It is quite another thing to bar a sitting prime minister, and the leader of a nation with which Washington desires improved relations -- especially since America routinely has engaged far worse world leaders. So the matter was quietly forgotten, though the underlying issue never was resolved.

While serving as the chief minister of the state of Gujarat in 2002 Modi was implicated in Hindu riots which killed more than 1200 people, mostly Muslims, and forced 150,000 people from their homes. It was generally agreed that some in his government were complicit in the violence and lesser officials were convicted. However, Modi escaped responsibility -- some proclaimed him innocent, others contended that evidence had been destroyed.

A number of his partisans simply argued, some in splenetic responses to my earlier writing on the subject, that those killed deserved their fate since other, unnamed Muslims may have caused the deaths of three score Hindus in the train fire which triggered the mob attacks. Christians also have suffered from periodic violent spasms in BJP strongholds, triggering similar rationalizations from Hindu nationalists. How dare missionaries care for the lower caste poor traditionally left behind in Indian society? Obviously, Hindus who convert are brainless and do so only for money. Such is the vicious mindset which abets murderous violence. Indeed, the number of attacks on religious minorities by Hindu extremists is up this year, though Modi has not encouraged the trend.

Rather, Modi so far has focused on India's future. He was elected to reform the sputtering economy, which would not be helped by fueling religious hatred. To date his administration appears to be pragmatic and practical. He should work to dampen sectarian hatreds and violence.

The prime minister's visit to America offers an opportunity for a reset in bilateral relations. The Bush administration made a major push to improve ties by accepting New Delhi's development of nuclear weapons, in contrast to the Clinton administration, which imposed economic sanctions. But little progress has occurred during the current administration, despite a meeting of the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue in 2010. Indeed, controversies over trade policy and criminal charges against an Indian diplomat put the two governments at sharp odds.

The result is a lost opportunity for both nations. Obviously, only the people of India can set their country's course. However, by hobbling the economy New Delhi's political elites have kept the great mass of people poor and dependent. Nor is the country as influential as it otherwise would be. For Beijing political influence has followed commerce and investment. The PRC now trades more with South Korea than does America. China's economic missions circle the globe, building links with Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

India, which, based on purchasing power parity, trails only America and China economically, so far performs far below its potential. India's per capita income comes in at 130 to 140 in the world. Modi naturally hopes to expand his nation's commercial ties throughout Asia, which increasingly is the world's economic center of gravity. But America remains the most important single state -- with the largest (depending on measure), most sophisticated, and wealthiest economy. Almost certainly economic development will remain Modi's first priority, despite a disappointing, largely reform-free first budget. He cannot afford to let time for reform to slip by.

Geopolitically, India has yet to play the international game as well as possible, though the new prime minister embarked upon an ambitious travel schedule abroad. New Delhi's most persistent foreign antagonist is Pakistan. America's ties with Islamabad are both historic and current, most closely tied to the war in Afghanistan. The Bush-era warming of U.S.-India relations rocked Pakistan; building closer and more enduring ties with America would help New Delhi wean Washington away from its tight Pakistani embrace, one that already makes many U.S. policymakers uncomfortable.

More important in the long-term is India's desire to develop international counterweights to China even while cooperating economically. Beijing remains well ahead of Delhi in most military and economic measures of power. Indeed, for years the PRC has dismissed India's potential. However, New Delhi is proving that India matters, for instance competing economically with China in Burma, which recently shifted Westward away from Beijing, and conducting naval maneuvers with Vietnam, which recently endured Beijing's aggressive territorial claims. Prime Minister Modi has visited Tokyo, strengthening ties with another wealthy industrialized state as well as emerging counterweight to the PRC.

The greatest prize for Modi would be the U.S. Former Indian diplomat T.P. Sreenivasan argued that economics will cause New Delhi to view America of "primary interest." Earlier this year Modi declared that "The oldest democracy in the world and the largest democracy in the world are natural allies." In an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria, the prime minister cited the recent improvement in bilateral relations and explained: "Our ties have deepened. India and the United States of America are bound together, by history and by culture. These ties will deepen further."

Washington is thinking in similar terms. When Secretary of State John Kerry visited New Delhi in July, he said he wanted the two nations to become "indispensable partners." President Obama presumably used his meetings with Modi to make the same point.

No one expects a formal military alliance, which would be in neither nation's interest. And important issues will continue to divide the two capitals. But friendlier political relations, increased security cooperation, and enhanced trade and investment would remind the PRC that its growing power is matched by that of its wary neighbors. More frequent visits and summits between Indian and American officials also would reinforce New Delhi's importance to the U.S. So would Washington's support for India's ascension to the UN Security Council, an objective advanced by Modi in his General Assembly speech.

No doubt the Obama administration feels overwhelmed. The U.S. faces another counterproductive, even disastrous Middle Eastern war, continuing confrontation with Russia over Ukraine, clamorous European allies demanding that Washington relieve them of responsibility for their own defense, Chinese assertiveness throughout East Asia, Asian allies also demanding American protection, North Korean hostage-taking in an attempt to force U.S. engagement, and a host of domestic economic and political problems. Who has time for India?

But make time President Obama must. India matters today. It will matter much more tomorrow, especially if Prime Minister Modi commits his political capital to eliminate barriers to entrepreneurship, investment and growth. China leads New Delhi, but remains an uncertain superpower, with a skewed demographic structure and authoritarian political system. India has further to travel to geopolitical greatness, but with economic reform its people would prove to be its ultimate resource. Moreover, New Delhi's always messy politics could ultimately prove to be one of its greatest strengths, giving the Indian people the ability to shape their own destiny rather than have it imposed on them. Modi, with his record as a Hindu nationalist, is well-positioned to insist religious and social tolerance.

The 21st Century will be the Asian century, with a major assist from the United States. Most analysts presume Chinese dominance, but India could prove them wrong. If Barack Obama and Narendra Modi continue to make a serious effort to overcome past differences, their governments could find themselves, like Rick and Captain Renault in the movie Casablanca, at the "beginning of a beautiful friendship."
08:01 How “Archie” went from dull to daring: The world’s tamest comic series is now our most groundbreaking» Salon.com
Archie used to be the safest, squarest comic book franchise out there. But in the past few years, something changed

08:01 Government Gold-Plating» Politics - The Huffington Post
Senator Tom Coburn released his annual Wastebook this past week. It contains a laundry list of doozies. The U.S. government's gold-plating operations included $190,000 to study compost digested by worms, $297 million for the purchase of an unused mega blimp, and $1 million on a Virginia bus stop where only 15 people can huddle under a half-baked roof. These questionable (Read: absurd) expenditures only represent the tip of the iceberg.

Just consider the following: the Speaker of the House currently receives an annual salary of $223,500, and will receive a payment of roughly that amount, depending on the years of service, for life. An annual payment of this magnitude amounts to about five times the average annual wage in the United States. But that's not all. For those who have had different positions in Congress, their retirements can be augmented. For example, Nancy Pelosi will not receive $223,500 for life, but roughly double that. Why? Because she is a member of Congress, currently the House of Representatives' Minority Leader, and a retired Speaker of the House. For purposes of computing retirement pay, Congress adds and accumulates. They do not net.

In addition to supporting members of Congress and civil servants, U.S. taxpayers support welfare recipients. And they support them lavishly, too. Hawaii, Massachusetts, and D.C. residents receive sizeable welfare payments (Read: salaries). Indeed, the magnitude of these payments exceeds the average salary of an American teacher, as well as a soldier deployed in Afghanistan, by at least $10,000 per year.

The public can forget all the clap-trap they are hearing about austerity. Indeed, a fairly dull knife could cut billions of dollars from the U.S. government's largess.

08:00 This week at progressive state blogs: Ohio job growth way behind, infighting in Beauprez camp » Daily Kos
Just as states with progressive lawmakers and activists have themselves initiated innovative programs over a wide range of issues, state-based progressive blogs have helped provide us with a point of view, inside information and often an edgy voice that we just don't get from the traditional media. This week in progressive state blogs is designed specifically to focus attention on the writing and analysis of people focused on their home turf. Let me know via comments or Kosmail if you have a favorite state- or city-based blog you think I should be watching. Inclusion of a diary does not necessarily indicate my agreement or endorsement of its contents.

At Plunderbund of Ohio, John Michael Spinelli writes—Economic Research Expert: Ohio Job Growth Has Trailed The Nation “For The Last 23 Months”:

Plunderbund blog logo
Earlier today we reported that Ohio now ranks 45th in the country for job creation (out of 50, in case you were wondering) according to Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business.

Ohio job data miners say the actual job growth rate in Ohio year-over-year for September was 0.6 percent compared to a 2 percent growth rate for the USA.
“The gap between Ohio and the USA widened in September once again, unfortunately,” said Economic Research Analyst George Zeller, who keeps tabs on the scoreboard of job growth information.

Based in Cleveland, an important region of the state for manufacturing jobs, Zeller told OhioNewsBureau via email today that “we are in recovery in Ohio, which is the good news. The bad news is that it continues to be… too slow and well below the national average.”

Zeller said he and ASU peer into the same data and are on the same page but in a slightly different way. According to Zeller, Ohio needs to desperately speed up the recovery in order “to recover the jobs that we lost since 2007.”  He said the poor performance in September is not a one month data fluke. “It has happened every month for the last 23 months consecutively.”

At My Left Nutmeg of Connecticut, ctblogger writes—Malloy must come clean on his attempt to end collective bargaining rights:
As someone who is disgusted with the stream of lies from the uniuon leadership and Gov Malloy on this issue, I hope the media will start asking questions about this subject -ctblogger
In defense of its endorsement of Governor Dannel "Dan" Malloy, the Connecticut Education Association is using its EXAMINE THE FACTS campaign to tell teachers that Malloy, "Supports teachers' rights to collectively bargain and negotiate contracts, benefits, and working conditions."

At the same time, most of Connecticut's other unions are trying to persuade their members that if elected, Republican Tom Foley will follow Wisconsin's right-wing, anti-union governor and destroy collective bargaining altogether.

But the fact remains that Governor Malloy is the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose unilaterally eliminating collective bargaining rights for a group of public employees.

In Malloy's case, as part of his corporate education reform industry initiative, he proposed repealing collectively bargaining rights for public school teachers working in the poorest schools. [...]

With less than two weeks to go until Election Day, Governor Malloy has an obligation to come clean about his position on collective bargaining.

There are more excerpts from progressive state blogs below the orange doohickey.
07:25 GOP Wave? Thank the Democrats' Cave!» Politics - The Huffington Post
Election Night forecast: It won't be pretty. Here's part of why...

07:19 Obama again devotes weekly address to calming Ebola fears» Daily Kos
President Obama dedicated his weekly address to the fight against Ebola, both outlining steps being taken by the government to combat the disease and re-emphasizing that Ebola is in fact "very hard to catch."
[T]his week, we remained focused on our fight against Ebola.  In Dallas, dozens of family, friends and others who had been in close contact with the first patient, Mr. Duncan, were declared free of Ebola—a reminder that this disease is actually very hard to catch.  Across Dallas, others being monitored—including health care workers who were most at risk—were also declared Ebola-free. [...]

Here’s the bottom line. Patients can beat this disease. And we can beat this disease. But we have to stay vigilant.  We have to work together at every level—federal, state and local. And we have to keep leading the global response, because the best way to stop this disease, the best way to keep Americans safe, is to stop it at its source—in West Africa.

To read the transcript in full, check below the fold or visit the White House website.
07:14 What You Owe Your Military» Politics - The Huffington Post
A few days after the midterm elections, our nation will observe another Veterans Day. Politicians will spout platitudes about support for the troops, newly elected (and mainly re-elected) congressmen will make appearances with flags pinned to their lapels -- and deployed American forces will try to get through another day.

The men and women in harm's way on November 11 will, once again, put everything on the line: their lives, their limbs, their futures. Everything. While their representatives back home refuse to risk anything.

In an act of appalling political cowardice, the 113th Congress left Washington in September refusing to vote on or even debate an Authorization for Use of Military Force against ISIS. Leaders offered lame excuses.

"The president didn't call us back." Congress could convene on its own.

"Better to let the next Congress vote." The current Congress was elected to handle issues that come up during this term.

The responsibility of Congress under the War Powers Resolution remains clear. The act says the president may commit forces to combat for up to sixty days; operations beyond that time require Congressional approval.

We all know the real reasons members of Congress went AWOL: They don't want to get pinned down, at least not before an election. They don't want to vote for an authorization, in case the mission goes badly. They don't want to vote against an authorization, in case the mission goes well.

Which begs a question: If politicians refuse to take a stand on their most sacred responsibility -- sending young Americans into combat -- why do they run for office at all? Purely for the government checks and the cushy benefits? Perhaps so -- which brings the concept of welfare queens to a whole new level.

So, this is where you come in. Do you want to support the troops? I mean truly support the troops; the yellow-ribbon magnet on your car doesn't count. If you do, ask yourself a question when you go to the polls: Which candidate takes war seriously enough to take a stand?

A few members of Congress actually wanted to do their jobs. Does one of them represent your district? If so, perhaps that one deserves your support, whether he or she is a Democrat or Republican.

As a veteran, I get tired of shallow patriotism. The kind of patriotism that sputters outrage over the president's careless latte salute -- yet runs and hides from tough decisions. Patriotism that demands a stronger military, but doesn't want to pay for it. Patriotism that kicks the can down the road to the next Congress.

As you read this, military aircrews are likely suiting up for their next sorties against ISIS. Unlike members of Congress, they don't get to wait until it's more politically expedient.

Real patriots take a stand when it counts. When it's politically unpopular. When it costs. When it hurts.

If your favorite candidate hasn't done that, think twice before you cast your vote. That's what you owe your military and your veterans.
07:00 23 ridiculous products you need to survive America’s “Ebola apocalypse”» Salon.com
The disease has landed in New York City, and a few online retailers are cashing in on the resulting panic

07:00 Reza Aslan’s atheism problem: “Fundamentalist” atheists aren’t the issue, apologists for religions are» Salon.com
Major religions all contain macabre fables, explicit injunctions for vile behavior no civilzed person should accept

07:00 2014 Midterm Reporting In One Screenshot» Latest from Crooks and Liars
2014 Midterm Reporting In One Screenshot

I did a search on Paul Davis' name around 9:00 on Friday night. These were the first two results.

How can Davis simultaneously lose ground and open a wider lead on Brownback? Only journalists know for sure.

Here's the Huffington Post, with their doom and gloom AP headline:

After lifting the spirits of Kansas Democrats eager to oust conservative Republican Gov. Sam Brownback over his aggressive tax-cutting experiment, challenger Paul Davis appears to be losing ground as the state's GOP loyalties and a hail of negative television ads take their toll.

The closely watched race has begun moving in the incumbent's favor since the Republican Governors Association began bombarding television viewers with spots focused on how Davis was caught as a young attorney in a strip club during a 1998 meth raid. An officer reported finding Davis in a back room with a woman wearing only a G-string, a long-ago embarrassment that Republicans have used to question Davis' judgment.

Oh, it's the AP. That explains everything.

Here's the second headline story from The Kansas City Star:

A second consecutive poll shows increasing promise for Democrat Paul Davis in his bid to unseat Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

read more

06:49 Kurdish Fighters, Iraqi Troops Recapture Territory From ISIS» Politics - The Huffington Post

By Ahmed Rasheed and Isabel Coles

BAGHDAD/ARBIL, Iraq, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Iraqi security forces made significant gains against Islamic State in a strategic area near Baghdad on Saturday and Kurdish fighters retook a northern town after heavy coalition air strikes against the Sunni Islamist insurgents.

Iraqi troops seized most of Jurf al-Sakhar, the biggest advance in months of battles against Islamic State in the town about 60 km (40 miles) south of Baghdad, senior local officials said.

A victory could allow Iraqi authorities to prevent the Sunni insurgents from edging closer to the capital and maintaining connections to their strongholds in western Anbar province as well as infiltrating the mainly Shi'ite south.

"We have managed to push out Islamic State terrorists from the town of Jurf al-Sakhar today and now we are raising the Iraqi flag over the government offices," provincial governor Sadiq Madloul told Reuters.

Islamic State swept through northern Iraq in the summer, facing little resistance from U.S.-trained government troops.

The al Qaeda offshoot then declared a caliphate and threatened to march on Baghdad, rattling the Shi'ite-led government and intensifying sectarian bloodshed.

On Saturday, a suicide bomber killed seven Shi'ite militiamen in a town just north of Baghdad, police and medical sources said.

Islamic State controls large parts of the Sunni heartland in Iraq's western Anbar province, as well as swathes of Syria and wants to redraw the map of the Middle East.

State television broadcast footage of Iraqi forces moving through a rural area surrounding Jurf al-Sakhar, where Islamic State had used roadside bombs and snipers to keep its enemies from approaching.


Sunni insurgents have been moving fighters, weapons and supplies from western Iraq through secret desert tunnels to Jurf al-Sakhar, Iraqi officials have said. Now it appears government forces have come closer than ever to disrupting that network.

Some Islamic State fighters had fled towards the western city of Falluja, which is held by the group, while fighting still raged near a bridge linking Jurf al-Sakhar to Anbar, said a commander and spokesman for Iraqi security forces.

"There has been a significant collapse among Islamic State fighters. Attacks by Iraqi army helicopters have not stopped since yesterday," said Raad Hamza, head of the Hilla Provincial Council.

Speaking by telephone, Hamza said he was in Jurf al-Sakhar with Iraqi security forces. It was not immediately possible to independently confirm his account of events in the town.

While Iraq's army and Shi'ite militias have resisted Islamic State efforts to move closer to Baghdad, Kurdish forces regained some of the territory the insurgents seized in the north.

The Kurds retook the town of Zumar and several nearby villages from early on Saturday after heavy coalition air strikes against the insurgents, security sources said.

If the Kurds manage to hold Zumar, that could enable them to disrupt Islamic State supply lines to nearby towns and cities.

A Kurdish intelligence officer in Zumar said peshmerga forces had advanced from five directions in the early morning and encountered fierce resistance, but ultimately prevailed. A spokesman for the peshmerga ministry also said Zumar was now in Kurdish hands.

Zumar was one of the first Kurdish-controlled towns to be overrun in August by Islamic State who went on to threaten the autonomous region's capital, prompting air strikes by the United States - a campaign since joined by Britain and France.

If the Kurds are able to keep Zumar, it would also make it easier for them to advance on Sinjar, where Islamic State are besieging members of Iraq's Yazidi minority on a mountain.

Helped by the air strikes, Kurds have regained ground but progress has been hampered by a lack of heavy weaponry and by homemade bombs and booby-traps laid by the militants.

Gains can be easily lost in the war against Islamic State.

The Kurds claimed victory in Zumar in September, only to withdraw from the town again after suffering heavy losses.

One peshmerga fighter deployed in the area on Saturday said a sniper was still at large in a village adjacent to Zumar, and a car bomb had exploded when they approached the vehicle, killing seven peshmerga.

In another village, Ayn al-Helwa, the peshmerga said 17 militants had been taken captive, all of them Sunni Turkmen.

While American air strikes have had some impact on the insurgents, it's not clear whether they will be enough to secure a defeat in the long term in major oil producer Iraq, and Syria.

The United States and its allies conducted 22 air strikes against Islamic State forces in Iraq on Friday and Saturday, the U.S. Central Command said.

U.S. warplanes also destroyed an Islamic State artillery piece near Kobani, Syria, officials said Saturday.

The Syrian town near Turkey's border appears in less danger of falling to Islamic State, but the threat still remains, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

The 22 strikes in Iraq included attacks in the frequently targeted areas near the vital Mosul dam, the city of Fallujah and the northern city of Baiji, home of an oil refinery. (Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Stephen Powell)
06:43 South Dakota’s Minimum Wage Workers Are Eating At Soup Kitchens — But They Could Get A Raise Soon» ThinkProgress

Many minimum wage workers eat at food banks to try to stretch their paychecks out.

The post South Dakota’s Minimum Wage Workers Are Eating At Soup Kitchens — But They Could Get A Raise Soon appeared first on ThinkProgress.

06:30 David Brooks Pronounces Democratic Voters' Issues 'Stale'. Alrighty Then.» Latest from Crooks and Liars
David Brooks Pronounces Democratic Voters' Issues 'Stale'. Alrighty Then.

Okay, kids, let's just pack it up and head home, because the Great and Mighty "Both Sides" man David Brooks has pronounced issues ordinary people care about as dead, stale, stinking carcasses voters are running away from as fast as they can.

Minimum wage? Stale as a can of tuna that sat out on the counter for a week.

Women's reproductive rights? No one cares about those.

Jobs? Who needs jobs when we've got trickle-down economics working for us?

As I was reviewing the transcript last night, we got to talking about why it is that Democrats' issues are stale, but Republicans' issues are just as fresh as if they'd been preserved in formaldehyde for years on end, or etched on stone tablets or something.

Fear? Oh yes, whether terrorists or disease or Kenyan usurpers, fear is right up there at the top, and Brooks says hey, this is a 'mood election' where people are going with what they feeeeeel, and what they feeeel is pissy because people might projectile vomit on a subway train in New York City after fighting to save lives in West Africa and The Ebola will eat us all.

If it's not Ebola, it's terrorists. Call them Al Qaeda or ISIS, it doesn't matter. The Terrorists are coming, but Republicans will save you.

Here's the real issue: President Obama. That's a fresh, new Republican issue! One that we've never quite seen before!

The Republicans, it’s not exactly Plato’s Symposium over there. But they are hitting the core issue, which is President Obama.

read more

06:19 This Store Won’t Make Its Employees Come To Work On Thanksgiving» ThinkProgress

Nordstrom is one of the major chains resisting the trend of opening on Thanksgiving Day.

The post This Store Won’t Make Its Employees Come To Work On Thanksgiving appeared first on ThinkProgress.

06:18 Ebola Cases Top 10,000: WHO» Politics - The Huffington Post
* Bulk of cases in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone

* Total includes new cases in Mali, U.S.

* WHO warns that Ebola coming closer to Ivory Coast

GENEVA, Oct 25 (Reuters) - The death toll from the Ebola epidemic rose to 4,922 out of 10,141 known cases in eight countries through Oct. 23, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Saturday.

The virus, which reached Mali through a two-year-old girl who died on Friday, now threatens Ivory Coast, having infected people virtually all along its borders with Guinea and Liberia.

Ivory Coast is the world's biggest cocoa producer. The Ebola outbreak has hurt the economic growth that has been raising living standards in the region.

The three worst-hit countries of West Africa -- Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone -- account for the bulk of the world's worst Ebola outbreak, recording 4,912 deaths out of 10,114 cases, the WHO said in its update.

The overall figures include outbreaks in Nigeria and Senegal, deemed by the WHO to be now over, as well as isolated cases in Spain, the United States and a single case in Mali.

But the true toll may be three times as much: by a factor of 1.5 in Guinea, 2 in Sierra Leone and 2.5 in Liberia, while the death rate is thought to be about 70 percent of all cases.

The WHO has said that many families are keeping infected people at home rather than putting them into isolation in treatment centers, some of which have refused patients due to a lack of beds and basic supplies.

The U.N. agency, sounding an ominous note, said that out of the eight districts of Liberia and Guinea sharing a border with Ivory Coast, only two have yet to report confirmed or probable Ebola cases.

It has also said trials of Ebola vaccines could begin in West Africa in December, a month earlier than expected, and hundreds of thousands of doses should be available for use by the middle of next year.

The WHO says 15 African states including Ivory Coast are at highest risk of the deadly virus being imported.

In the last 10 days it sent teams to both priority Mali and Ivory Coast to help national authorities gear up their capacity to detect and treat potential cases. Four WHO experts are traveling this weekend to Mali to reinforce the team there.

The agency warned on Friday that many people in Mali had potentially been exposed to the virus because the little girl was taken across the country while ill. Some 43 people with whom she was in contact, including 10 health care workers, are being monitored for symptoms that include fever.

In all, 450 health care workers have been infected to date -- including one in Spain and three in the United States -- leading to the death of 244 of them, the WHO said.

"At the same time, exhaustive efforts are ongoing to ensure an ample supply of optimal personal protective equipment to all Ebola treatment facilities, along with the provision of training and relevant guidelines to ensure that all HCWs (health care workers) are exposed to the minimum possible level of risk."

A medical worker quarantined in New Jersey on her return from treating Ebola victims in West Africa was being evaluated in a hospital isolation ward on Saturday after new contagion-control safeguards were imposed for America's biggest urban center.

Isolation wards have been used for medical personnel returning from Ebola zones since Craig Spencer, a doctor who treated patients in Guinea for a month, came back to New York City infected.

"The patient is currently in isolation at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, one of eight New York State hospitals that have been designated to treat patients with Ebola Virus Disease. Possible contacts are being identified and followed up," WHO said. (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Mark Heinrich/Ruth Pitchford)
06:14 Les Claypool: I’ve been exploding Americana for 30 years» Salon.com
The Primus lead singer on the band's new biography, Bee Gees covers and his Willy Wonka tribute

06:00 Roberta Kaplan, DOMA Attorney, Discusses Challenging Mississippi Gay Marriage Ban» Politics - The Huffington Post
Attorney Roberta Kaplan, who represented Edie Windsor in the landmark case, United States v. Windsor, which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, filed suit this week in federal court in Jackson to overturn Mississippi’s ban on same-sex marriage on behalf of two lesbian couples: Rebecca "Becky" Bickett and Andrea Sanders of Harrison County; and Jocelyn "Jose" Pritchett and Carla Webb of Jackson, who married in Maine in 2013. Kaplan noted that Mississippi has the highest percentage of gay couples with children, and that was one of the reasons why she thought it was an important case to take.

”They said, 'We need rights. We need to have our families protected the way other families are,'” she told me in an interview on SiriusXM Progress. “I agreed with them. I agreed it was the right time and we put a case together pretty quickly.”

The case has been fast-tracked by U.S. District Court Judge Carlton W. Reeves, an appointee of President Obama, who scheduled a hearing for November 12. The LGBT rights group Campaign for Southern Equality is also a plaintiff, and the plaintiffs are also represented by Mississippi attorney Robert McDuff of McDuff & Byrd, based in Jackson.

“We asked the court to kind of, on a very expedited schedule, decide that our clients were right and give them the right to marry at the very beginning of the case,” Kaplan explained. “And I have to say, writing the brief — I’m a bit of legal geek, so writing briefs for me is fun, which, already, I admit, is somewhat strange — but writing this brief was one of the best experiences of my life. [That’s] because the entire case just quotes case after post-Windsor case, just making the argument over and over and over again for why we’re right. Normally in a brief you have to analogize to other situations as to why you’re right. Here, we didn’t have to analogize. We have 40-plus decisions already deciding exactly the same thing.”

Kaplan also weighed in on the U.S. Supreme Court’s momentous decision nearly three weeks ago -- what she called its "non-decision decision" -- to let several circuit court decisions stand, bringing marriage equality to many more states but obviously not stepping in to rule on marriage equality for all 50 states, as some had hoped and expected. She referred to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s statements of a few weeks before, in which Ginsburg said the court would likely wait until a circuit court ruled against gay marriage before it stepped in. Ginsburg's remarks seemed to reflect the take-it-slow approach she has telegraphed on the issue in the past.

"Along with [the late Justice] Thurgood Marshall, Justice Ginsburg was one of the greatest strategic litigators of our country’s history,” Kaplan said.“When [Justice Ginsburg] says, ‘You know, you guys should take your victories, and let it happen,’ you know, call me crazy. But I listen very carefully to Justice Ginsburg, and I tend to take her advice.”

06:00 This week in science: Games and ... BRAINS!» Daily Kos
Happy upcoming Halloween, guys and ghouls! There are many creepy-crawlies that go bump in the night. Some man-made, some man-made-up; some all too real. On the latter, sure the Brazilian wandering spider is an unwelcome sight, some of its ancient, giant relatives, especially the Eurypterida, were even larger. But if you want to see something totally extant and really scary, check out this newly discovered bad-ass mama. And remember tonight, as you're drifting off peacefully, she's so creepy that you might hear her and even feel her, before you see her:  
Known as South American Goliath birdeater, the humongous eight-legged creepy crawly creature has a body the size of a fist and a leg span the size of a small child. Harvard entomologist Piotr Naskrecki recently encountered one while taking a nighttime stroll through a rain forest in Guyana.  

... Size isn’t the spider’s only chill-inducing quality. It makes loud clicking sounds with its front claws when threatened and defends itself by rubbing its back legs together to shoot clouds of microscopic barbs through the air that are highly irritating to the eyes and skin. If it chomps down on you with its 2-inch-long fangs, you probably won’t die, unless you are allergic. But its bite contains enough venom to make you sick for days.  

  • Google is hungry for brains, and they're gonna use those gooey, yummy sweet brains to build even bigger, artificial semiconductor brains that will no doubt enslave us all, or at least keep us company and stop us from writing hot checks. The horror!
  • Speaking of brains, I've been waiting for the debunking of "Brain expanding games" to begin in earnest for a awhile.
  • From the tangential field of technology and gaming comes a truly worthy diatribe, nay, a world class rant, from former Minnesota Viking Chris Kluwe, which expertly utilizes our newish digital medium almost as well as it skewers a small cohort of loud-mouthed, misogynist gamers who have no brains:
    There’s this herd of people ... who feel that somehow, their identity as “gamers” is being taken away. Like they’re all little Anne Franks, hiding in their basements from the PC Nazis and Social Justice Warrior brigades, desperately protecting the last shreds of “core gaming” in their unironically horrible Liveblog journals filled with patently obvious white privilege and poorly disguised misogyny. “First they came for our Halo 2’s, and I said nothing.” These paint-huffing shitgoblins think they’re “gamers,” and it pisses me the fuck off.
  • Via Maddow, Darrel Issa could clearly use a visit to The Wiz to get some brains. To put GOP Ebola hype into perspective, here's a blast from Daily Kos and Halloween's past: Don't Let the Bed-Bugs Bite!
    Way back in the 'good ole days' of 1347, those carefree times of wanton slaughter, religious torture, and massive infant mortality, another abomination arose far more gruesome than any mere manmade method of killing. It swept across Eurasia, smothering it like a thick blanket, leaving many of the dark, foreboding icons we’ve come to associate with All Hallow’s Eve still hidden and lurking in its deadly wake ...
06:00 First-Year Teacher Intervened With Marysville Shooter, Saved Lives» Latest from Crooks and Liars
First-Year Teacher Intervened With Marysville Shooter, Saved Lives

Remember this the next time someone around you says teachers are overpaid thugs. She put her young life at risk to save those students.


Erick Cervantes is a student at the school who witnessed the shootings, from the events beforehand until the moment the gunman shot himself — after being confronted by a heroic woman, he told KIRO-TV.

Cervantes thought the woman was a "lunch lady" who worked at the school, but she was later identified as a first-year social studies teacher. Cevantes confirmed to Natasha Chen of KIRO-TV that teacher Megan Silberberger was the woman he saw in action.

“I believe she’s actuality the real hero. She’s the one that intercepted him with the gun. He tried either reloading or tried aiming at her. She tried moving his hand away and he tried shooting and shot himself in the neck,” Cervantes said.

He said the gunshots followed a verbal altercation.

“It started off with an argument, but then I looked back and there was just gunshots and just people falling down,” Cervantes recalled. And immediately after the gunshots, the (woman) intervened, he said.

“She heard the gunshots first and she came in running through the door, right next to it,” he recalled.

05:28 Jim Crow persists: How Ferguson case leaks revive a shameful tradition» Salon.com
A string of leaks to the media protecting Darren Wilson are part of a very big problem. Here's the sordid history

05:12 7 facts that show the American dream is dead» Salon.com
A living wage, retirement security and a life free of debt are now only accessible to the country's wealthiest

05:00 Mike's Blog Round Up» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Mike's Blog Round Up

It wasn't so long ago that no one knew what a hashtag was. Now of course everyone does, thanks to Twitter, and they've become an essential ingredient in our social communication. Indeed, they've become so much a part of how we interact that I'm just going to make some up to go with today's links. Use them if you want. You never know what might trend, what might catch on. Like, oh, maybe, #WeinerCreep?

Prairie Weather: #SCOTUSracism.

Liberal Values: #ObamaTheRepublican.

Echidne of the Snakes: #OnlineHarassment.

All Things Democrat: #SilentGenerationConservatism.

And here's one more, taken from the title of the post:

Can It Happen Here?: #EndTorture.


read more

04:30 Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: Quarantine controversy» Daily Kos
Is it finally over? State Supreme Court rejects McDaniel appeal #mssen  http://t.co/...
New Jersey officials have quarantined a woman who arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport from a West African country and reported having had contact with Ebola victims, a source familiar with the matter said.

The woman, a U.S. citizen and healthcare worker who began her travel in Sierra Leone, did not show any symptoms. But state officials ordered the quarantine Friday afternoon, the source said, because she reported during questioning having had contact with people who had died of Ebola. She also said she was wearing protective equipment at the time of the contact, according to the person.

Potential downside would be if auto quarantine deters health care volunteers. Africa & world desperately need them: http://t.co/...
.@JohnJHarwood Craig Spencer did everything right, as per protocol. Brave, caring and considerate. Nice model for a doc.
Those in favor of strict quarantines argue that the current federal requirement — that travelers without symptoms take their temperatures regularly and report them to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — are too lax, and that it’s foolish to allow people with potential exposure to Ebola to move freely throughout society.

But those who oppose automatic quarantines insist that proper self-monitoring removes almost any likelihood of transmission, given that Ebola typically is contagious only after symptoms appear. They say that requiring a three-week quarantine would deter some aid workers from traveling to West Africa to fight the unprecedented epidemic. Hundreds of health-care workers have been cycling in and out of Africa to care for Ebola patients .

The Obama administration said it was weighing the dilemma.

More politics and policy below the fold.
03:59 Ghost of Simpson Bowles haunts 2014» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Both parties are targeting the relatively few lawmakers who've endorsed the deficit-reduction plan.
03:40 The Republican Party’s electoral philosophy: Cheating wins» Salon.com
The explosion and enforcement of restrictive voter ID laws make this one thing very clear

00:08 Is it OK to Give Your Baby that iPad? (Op-Ed)» LiveScience.com
A recent New York Times article points to a glaring inconsistency between the amount of “screen time” toddlers have using tablets, phones and computers – and the advice of many early years specialists.

Fri 24 October, 2014

23:53 Weight-Loss Superfood: 6 Tips for a Healthy Gut» LiveScience.com
Feed that microbiome right, and you'll see results in, and around, your gut.
23:43 EBOLA INVADES NYC!» Latest from Crooks and Liars

It seems hard to believe but a doctor who returned from Guinea after working with Ebola patients decided the best thing to do was to go out in public. On a packed subway. Seems like he's a good guy with bad ideas. Soooo, not the doctor I'll be going to any time soon. You?

23:29 Athletes, Sports and Violence Against Women (Op-Ed)» LiveScience.com
While the association between violence against women and elite athletes is not uncommon, it is not sports per se that are the problem.
22:54 Climate Fixes Need Realistic Compromises (Op-Ed)» LiveScience.com
While scientists gather the ground truth about climate, it's up to lawmakers to do something responsible with it.
21:24 Bill Maher Tears Into Chuck Todd For Aiding And Abetting Sam Brownback» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Bill Maher Tears Into Chuck Todd For Aiding And Abetting Sam Brownback

During his New Rules segment this Friday night, Real Time's Bill Maher took a shot at the "easily distracted" voters of Kansas, who may actually reelect their Governor Sam Brownback for another undeserved term after he wrecked the economy of their state, but the better part of his ire was reserved for the likes of Chuck Todd and Meet the Press, who allowed Grover Norquist to come on last month and attack Brownback's opponent, Paul Davis, for going to a strip club sixteen years ago.

MAHER: I like Kansas. I go there. This is not just about Kansas. This is a national disease, an unholy alliance of easily distracted voters and a shameful pandering media which used to have the integrity to filter out shit like this. But today what happens is this story ran in the local press.
Within hours Politico picked it up, and a day later Meet the Press, yes, Meet the Press further dignified the story by allowing Grover Norquist to talk about it, to say about Paul Davis that he is "not the kind of person you could ask your sister to vote for."

Hey sis I... never mind. Which led to the director of the Kansas Republicans saying about Davis, "the question becomes, is he fit to govern?" Fit to govern? Because a lady touched his pants with her ass two years before the invention of the iPod? What?

After showing another one of the attack ads airing in the state, Maher continued.

read more

20:00 “Hot goods’” hot mess: Minimum wage crackdown sparks backlash» Salon.com
Unrest in the Pacific Northwest threatens a provision of federal wage law protecting American farm workers

20:00 Open thread for night owls: David Brooks is absolutely clueless on still another subject» Daily Kos
U.S. infrastructure is crumbling and David Brooks has at his fingertips the wrong answer why.
At the Campaign for America's Future, Dave Johnson dismantles the latest David Brooks nonsense:
The New York Times’ David Brooks writes today in “The Working Nation“: ”Western economies delivered broad and growing prosperity for the middle class. This nurtured a general faith in political institutions and culminated in the democratic triumphalism of the 1990s.” But now government is not delivering, he writes. The result, he says, is that the middle class is hollowing out, earnings are stagnant, there is not enough work, people are left without purpose, morale and faith in government and institutions has plummeted.

The labor force participation rate is at its lowest in decades. Millions are in part-time or low-wage jobs that don’t come close to fulfilling their capacities. Millions more are in dysfunctional or unhealthy workplaces, but they don’t feel they can leave because they don’t think there are other jobs out there that pay the same amount.

So far so good…

Oh My God!

Then Brooks lays out his prescription to fix the problem and the only possible reaction is, “Oh my God!”.

It begins with this stunning statement: “The country is palpably in the middle of some sort of emotional recession. Yet over the past five years, the political class has done essentially nothing.”

The “political class?” And then he writes this:

…there’s a completely obvious agenda to create more middle-class, satisfying jobs. The federal government should borrow money at current interest rates to build infrastructure, including better bus networks so workers can get to distant jobs. The fact that the federal government has not passed major infrastructure legislation is mind-boggling, considering how much support there is from both parties.

“Both parties” support maintaining our infrastructure? Oh my God! It was the strategy of the Republican party to block exactly this so they could campaign on a theme of “Obama’s failed policies”! And for decades it has been the strategy of the conservative movement to make government fail and thereby turn people against government. They are succeeding, the success worries Brooks, so he points his finger at … “the political class.”

Oh my God! Brooks is not witnessing a failure of “the political class” to act, he is describing the success of conservatives and the Republican Party in shaping the current election environment using obstruction and demoralization as a strategy. [...]

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos the day after this date in 2002Politicizing intelligence gathering:

So you're a Bush Administration official looking for a reason—any reason—to invade Iraq (say, Donald Rumsfeld). You ask your intelligence agencies (CIA, DIA, NSA, etc.) for confirmation that Iraq has ties to Al Qaeda. The agencies mine their assets, review their data, train satellites and listening devices and whatever other exotic technologies they may have on the Iraqis and scattered Al Qaeda members.

And after analyzing everything, they conclude there are no ties between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

This is a setback. You can't give the real reasons for an Iraq invasion—oil, political gain, and revenge for daddy's assassination attempt. You just HAVE TO HAVE evidence linking OBL to SH.

So what do you do?

Well, given that this admininstration is the most intensely political in the history of our fair nation, you simply follow from the Rove game plan -- you create a new "intelligence agency" and fill it with political appointees who will confirm whatever lies the administration spews. […]

So to clarify, the CIA (and other intelligence agencies) gather the information. They then interpret it. But if the administration doesn't like that interpretation (e.g. Hussein and OBL hate each other and would never work together), the new agency can take a look at the info and arrive at a more "acceptable" conclusion (or in Rumsfeld's words, "assist policymakers in assessing the intelligence they receive").

The gods save us from this cabal.

Tweet of the Day
We're not really a terrorist organization.

We're just very concerned about ethics in videogame journalism.

On today's Kagro in the Morning show: Updates from Ottawa. Greg Dworkin was called away, presumably for a NYC-area Ebola-related emergency. Cruz staffer shows it's hard to know when a kook is joking. Chuck Todd says "disqualified" language was "sloppy." In a related story, Armando passes on Steve Singiser's take on the failed OR-GOV analysis. FYI: Canadian vs. US gun laws. Ernst's gimmetarian gun line, analyzed. Lead exposure's links to impulse control problems & violent crime. So where are people being exposed to the most lead? Gun ranges. Chiquita Brands is looking to pull off a tax inversion. Fine! See if we topple any more foreign governments for you!

High Impact Posts. Top Comments
17:41 Naomi Grossman of “American Horror Story”: “I’ve never been told I was so pretty until played the ugliest person on TV”» Salon.com
Naomi Grossman tells Salon about comedy, "Saturday Night Live," and her radical "AHS" physical transformation

16:30 Cheers and Jeers: Rum and Coke FRIDAY!» Daily Kos
C&J Banner


Midterm Election Reminder for America

If by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people--their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties--someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal," then I'm proud to say I'm a Liberal.
---John F. Kennedy

American protesting for a 40-hour work week
74 years ago today, liberals
gave America the 40-hour
work week.
"Reality has a well-known liberal bias."
---Stephen Colbert

"Being a liberal is the best thing on earth you can be. You are welcoming to everyone when you’re a liberal. You do not have a small mind… I’m total, total, total liberal and proud of it."
---Lauren Bacall

"Everybody knows God is nonpartisan, but I swear Jesus was a liberal---the best, the biggest, the original bleeding heart---the one who embraced the outcasts, the model for us all. Just read the stuff in the New Testament written in red."
---Molly Ivins

“Today’s so-called ‘conservatives’ don’t even know what the word means. They think I’ve turned liberal because I believe a woman has a right to an abortion. That’s a decision that’s up to the pregnant woman, not up to the pope or some do-gooders or the Religious Right. It’s not a conservative issue at all.”
---Barry Goldwater

Any questions?

Your west coast-friendly edition of  Cheers and Jeers starts below the fold... [Swoosh!!] RIGHTNOW! [Gong!!]

16:09 Vashti Bunyan: It’s hard to imagine making another album» Salon.com
Bunyan on "Heartleap," the democratization of music, and why she writes songs about her family

16:09 Lena Dunham’s “race problem” is not really her problem at all» Salon.com
Why does Lena Dunham inspire so many young women to wax poetic about our own creative potential?

16:07 Big Ag Spending Millions to Defeat GMO Labeling Campaigns» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Industry giants spend more than $25 million to defeat mandatory labeling ballot initiatives in Oregon and Colorado.

Biotech and supermarket giants are spending more than $25 million to defeat ballot initiatives in two western states that would require labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms. In Colorado, DuPont and Monsanto food companies are outspending supporters of mandatory labeling by 22-1 ahead of the 4 November vote, according to state campaign finance records.

In Oregon, meanwhile, industry is outspending supporters of the ballot measure by about 2-1.

The heavy industry spending resembles the last-minute infusions of cash for television ads, direct mail, and campaign staff that helped defeat earlier campaigns for mandatory GM labeling in California andWashington state.

“It is like David vs Goliath,” Larry Cooper, director of Colorado’s Right to Know campaign said.

He said the pro-labeling campaign had raised $625,000 by Thursday afternoon. Cooper’s opponents, meanwhile, amassed $14 million, after DuPont this week gave an additional $3 million to the campaign, and were advertising heavily on local television.

“Why they put $14 million in Colorado to keep us in the dark really doesn’t make sense to me,” Cooper said. “The bottom line is that we really don’t know what is in our food. We are shopping blindly.”

Monsanto alone has spent $4.7 million to defeat the measure. Other top donors to the campaign to defeat pro-labeling Proposition 105 read like a grocery shopping list. They include: PepsiCo, Kraft Foods, General Mills, Hershey Company, Coca-Cola and Kellogg, and Flower Food, according to Colorado state campaign finance records.

The spending is much less lopsided in Oregon where opponents of the state’s Measure 92 labeling initiative have raised $11 million while supporters have $6 million.

Monsanto is a major force in both states. “We oppose state-by-state mandatory labeling laws like Measure 92 in Oregon and Proposition 105 in Colorado,” a company spokeswoman said in an email. “The reason we don’t support them is simple. They don’t provide any safety or nutrition information and these measures will hurt, not help, consumers, taxpayers and businesses.”

Unlike Colorado, labeling advocates in Oregon have attracted some big donors to their side, including $1 million from Dr Bronners’ magic soaps.

An heir to the Hormel meat-packing fortune. Thomas Hormel, who has no connection to the company and lives in Florida, gave $500,000, according to state campaign finance records.

The company immediately ramped up its own donations, giving a total of $85,000 to defeat the labeling initiative.

Kevin Glenn, a spokesman for Oregon Right to Know, said the pro-labeling side hoped to counter the financial advantage by grassroots organizing. He said the campaign had opened five field offices in the state, and was about to start canvassing door-to-door.

Organizers also had a bit of a head start. In May, voters in two rural counties voted to ban cultivation of GM crops, on the grounds that it put conventional produce at risk of contamination.

Last year, a number of countries postponed wheat imports from Oregon after an outbreak of GM wheat from an experimental research station. Investigators have yet to discover the source of the GM outbreak, which occurred years after the tests were shut down.

Scientists generally agree that foods containing GM ingredients are safe to eat, but the “right to know” has emerged as a hugely emotional issue for some Americans.

Pro-labeling campaigners say the public has a right to know exactly what they are eating. Opponents say labels make no sense if there are no real health concerns, and risks stigmatizing their products.

Vermont earlier this year became the first US state to adopt mandatory labeling of GM foods – although the law does not go into effect until 2016.

Maine and Connecticut have also passed GM labeling laws, but put them on hold.


15:39 Einstein's Gravity Waves Could Be Found with New Method» LiveScience.com
Gravitational waves, invisible ripples in the fabric of space and time, might be detected by looking for the brightening of stars, researchers say.
15:30 Student speaks out on Don Young's offensive remarks on suicide and same-sex marriage» Daily Kos
Republican Congressman Don Young of Alaska
Alaska Republican Congressman Don Young's remarks blaming friends and family of suicide victims and comparing same-sex marriage to bestiality are still reverberating across the state and nation. Now Zachary Grier, a 17 year-old senior at Wasilla High School, where Young made his remarks, is speaking out about his reaction to what Young said, telling The Huffington Post that he "was pretty upset."

After Young said that suicide demonstrates a "lack of support" from family and friends, Grier challenged the congressman, prompting Young to call him a "smartass." But Grier wasn't apologetic for standing up to Young and said Young was the one who should rethink his words:

“To hear that it was because you weren’t a good friend, I mean that makes someone hurt more than just having that happen,” Grier said. “To hear that it’s your fault after the fact is definitely a heavier blow.”
Grier was also offended by Young's remarks on marriage equality in which the congressman compared same-sex marriage to bestiality.
“I can understand having your own opinion, and that’s fine. But having your own opinion and coming into a room filled with high schoolers and telling them that same-sex marriage is the same as two bulls having sex—in my opinion, that’s wrong.”
Grier isn't the only voice speaking out against Young. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski called on Young "to rethink the past few days and apologize to Alaskans" for what he said. Young, however, is not only standing by his remarks, but has expanded on them, adding "government largesse" to his list of things responsible for Alaska's high suicide rate.
15:27 What happened to that GOP lawsuit?» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Lawyers close to the process say they don't expect any action until after the election.
15:20 Skydiver Goes Supersonic in Record-Breaking 'Near-Space Dive'» LiveScience.com
In a harrowing plunge from the stratosphere, a Google executive broke the world record for the highest-altitude skydive today (Oct. 24).
15:07 “Be curious, I know I will forever be”: Stephen Hawking joins Facebook and instantly inspires fans» Salon.com
The brilliant cosmologist has already garnered over 900,000 likes

15:02 In Photos: Creepy-Crawly Experiment Reveals Spider's Brain» LiveScience.com
The vision of jumping spiders is almost equal to the sight of humans. Researchers, however, didn't know how to study the arachnids' visual system for one simple reason: every time they tried to look at the spiders' brains, the animals would explode.
15:00 George Will says Alison Grimes was only nominated because she's a woman» Daily Kos
George Will on the set of ABC News This Week
George Will before his banishment to Fox
Goal Thermometer

Maybe George Will should just stop talking about gender issues. His latest rambling, from a column in which he bizarrely argues that the "restoration" of the U.S. Senate's "dignity" depends on re-electing Mitch McConnell, is that Democrats only nominated McConnell's opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes because she's a woman who can "further their 'Republicans loathe women' fable."

No matter that Grimes was (a) Kentucky's highest-ranking Democratic office holder willing to run against McConnell and (b) that she polled better than other potential Democrats, Will has figured out that dishonest Democrats only nominated her as part of a scheme to falsely accuse Republicans of being sexist pigs. That's probably what a lot of Republicans believe, but if your job is to convince other people that it's true—and this is Will's job—then in your very next breath, you probably complain that Grimes gives you a headache:

Grimes’s cringe-inducing campaign has depended on a migraine-inducing argument [...]
I mean, I know Will was probably just using a figure of speech there, although it could very well be possible that Grimes does give Will a headache given how much he dislikes her. But if you're writing a screed about how Democrats are unfairly trying to accuse Republicans of hostility to women, maybe it's not a good idea to not only accuse them of picking a candidate merely because she is one, but to also criticize her because she gives you headaches.
Sick of Republicans like George Will? Help elect more and better Democrats by chipping in $3 to help us finish strong.

Defeat Mitch McConnell in just two hours. Sign up to make GOTV calls to Democrats.
And you definitely shouldn't do it the night after channeling Todd Akin by telling a crowd of college students that only "real rape" victims deserve support—as if there were somehow a flood of fake rape victims invading college campuses across America.

Bottom-line: If George Will is frustrated by the narrative about Republicans and women, he needs only look in the mirror to see why he hasn't been able to change it.

14:38 Inside the Fascinating and Terrifying Science of Ebola» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Scientists are racing to find a cure, a vaccine and an answer to the question of how Ebola mutates.

By now, educated people in America know more about Ebola than they ever thought they would. While fearmongers have tried to terrorize the whole country into thinking it is on the verge of catching Ebola, cooler heads have largely prevailed. Bottom line, while Ebola is a devastating epidemic in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, most Americans are at virtually zero risk of getting it. The exception is truly heroic healthcare workers, like the two Dallas nurses who cared for Thomas Eric Duncan as he lay dying of the disease in Dallas, both of whom are now clear of the virus. And now there is Craig Spencer in New York, a physician with Doctors Without Borders who was infected while treating Ebola patients in Guinea. 

In the October 27 issue of the New Yorker, Richard Preston delves deeply into the fascinating science behind the virus, and how genomics research may help to contain the outbreak. Preston asks Ebola researchers all the questions everyone wants to know; most notably, could the Ebola virus mutate and become airborne, and how far away is a vaccine or a cure?

Here are five fascinating tidbits from that investigation into the frontlines of Ebola research. 

1. How infectious is Ebola?

In a fatal case, a droplet of blood the size of the “o” in this text could easily contain a hundred million particles of Ebola virus. Experiments suggest that if one particle of Ebola enters a person’s bloodstream it can cause a fatal infection.

Richard Preston explains that this could account for why many healthcare workers who contract Ebola cannot remember having made any specific mistake in protocol that would have exposed them. It also explains why the disease is so dangerous for healthcare workers and why even highly trained ones are at a high risk for getting the disease when they care for patients.

2. Is Ebola mutating?

Mutations, Preston explains, are errors in the genetic code that occur as a virus multiplies. As you read this and go about your business, the Ebola virus’ code is changing. Like any living thing, Ebola wants to survive.

So, yes, Ebola is mutating. The question is how.

“Ebola is not a thing but a swarm,” Preston writes. “It is a vast population of particles, different from one another, each particle competing with the others for a chance to get inside a cell and copy itself. The swarm’s genetic code shifts in response to the changing environment.”

3. Could Ebola become airborne?

As Preston explains, there are two ways for a virus to travel through air. One is inside a droplet (of sweat or mucus, or other bodily fluid).

Ebola is already traveling, and possibly infecting, people this way. The good news is that, because of gravity, it cannot travel very far in a droplet.

“The droplets travel only a few feet and soon fall to the ground,” Preston writes. “A rule of thumb among Ebola experts is that, if you are not wearing biohazard gear, you should stand at least six feet away from an Ebola patient, as a precaution against flying droplets.”

To really go airborne in the way that is far more worrisome, the Ebola virus would still be carried by the droplet of infected body fluid, but would have to remain alive once the droplet had dried out. It would then float through the air like dust, and in this drier state, be able to float longer distances, and be inhaled.

“Particles of measles virus can do this, and have been observed to travel half the length of an enclosed football stadium,” Preston writes, but thankfully, there’s no evidence that Ebola can.

So then the question is, could the virus mutate to a form where it could travel through the air dry—in other words, become airborne?

Scientists are fairly reassuring about this question. Preston spoke to Eric Lander, the head of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, where the Ebola genome is being sequenced and tracked. “That’s like asking the question, ‘Can zebras become airborne,’" Lander told Preston. “That would be like saying that a virus that has evolved to have a certain lifestyle, spreading through direct contact, can evolve all of a sudden to have a totally different lifestyle, spreading in dried form through the air. A better question would be, ‘Can zebras learn to run faster?’ ”

What he means is, could Ebola evolve to be more contagious in ways that would not be as much of a change? One way it could, Lander told Preston, is by becoming less deadly in humans, killing a smaller percentage of them, but making them sick for longer.

“That might be good for Ebola, since the host would live longer and could start even more chains of infection,” Preston writes.

So, that’s a scary proposition.

4. Is ZMapp a cure for Ebola?

The New Yorker piece delves into the fascinating survival story of Kent Brantly, the American doctor who contracted Ebola and nearly died of it, before being brought back to Emory Hospital in Atlanta and being cured. Brantly was at death’s door when he was treated by an experimental serum called ZMapp. Before that, ZMapp had only been used on monkeys, but had shown promising results, bringing them back from being very close to death with three doses.

Brantly attributes his survival to the drug, but complete success cannot be claimed for it. A Spanish priest sick with Ebola was also treated with ZMapp and still died.

Another problem with ZMapp, which was developed in Canada, is that the world’s supply of it is now depleted.

According to Preston:

"More of the drug is growing in tobacco plants in a building in Kentucky. The plants have enough of the drug in them to make twenty to eighty treatment courses of ZMapp in the next two months, as long as there are no glitches in the process. The U.S. government and Mapp Biopharmaceutical are scrambling to get more plants growing, to increase production, but the scale-up will not be easy. The drug remains untested, and nobody can say whether it will ever become a weapon in the Ebola wars."

5. How far are we from developing a vaccine?

The New York Times reported the infuriating story Thursday that a vaccine was ready to be tested in humans 10 years ago. Had it gone forward, there could have been an Ebola vaccine in 2010 or 2011. But it went nowhere, because no one thought there was any money in it. Ebola outbreaks had been fairly limited, and only in poor countries. 

With the fresh crisis, the research is amping up again. Preston estimates that a vaccine might be available as early as next year “for use on people who have already been exposed to Ebola, though it will still not be cleared for general use.”

There are many ifs, but let's hope.  


Related Stories

14:24 Telltale Signs of Life Could Be Deepest Yet » LiveScience.com
Telltale signs of life have been discovered in rocks that were once 12 miles (20 kilometers) below the surface — some of the deepest chemical evidence for life ever found.
14:06 For the first time ever, Australian surgeons transplant “dead” hearts into patients» Salon.com
This procedure could save 30 percent more lives

14:06 Daily Kos Elections ad roundup: Bob Beauprez's pro-secession past returns to haunt him» Daily Kos

Leading Off:

CO-Gov: The DGA has two spots (here and here). The first attacks Republican Bob Beauprez over secession, which is not something you see every day. The narrator reads a Beauprez quote, where the candidate supports several conservative counties quest to form their own state.

Last year five counties voted to secede from Colorado, while six voted against it. The whole thing was symbolic since there was no way Congress and the Colorado Legislature would ever actually approve the creation of a new state as the Constitution requires. Since Beauprez announced his campaign for governor of the still-united state of Colorado he's been a lot less vocal about the idea, but the pro-secession quote in the ad is completely real.

The second Democratic spot goes after Beauprez in Spanish, while praising Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Head below the fold for a roundup of campaign ads from races across the country.

13:35 Porn star Lisa Ann on her relationship with Notre Dame wide receiver Justin Brent: “YOLO”» Salon.com
"I am very entertained by the incredible amount of commentary about my date," the 42-year-old adult actress tweeted

13:15 Famed Physicist Stephen Hawking Joins Facebook» LiveScience.com
Stephen Hawking, the world-renowned astrophysicist and author of "A Brief History of Time," has recently joined Facebook.
13:14 Creepy: Peering into Spiders' Brains Without Exploding Them» LiveScience.com
Researchers have developed a new technique that helps them peer into the brain of a jumping spider, an arachnid famed for its excellent vision, and record how the brain cells in its visual system process images.
13:07 Eight-Eyed Horror: Peering Into Jumping Spiders' Explosive Brains | Video» LiveScience.com
It’s difficult to study the jumping spider’s brain, but researchers have found a new technique that lets them analyze the spider’s neural activity.
13:04 Community Discussion: How should we protect the oceans?» Salon.com
The evidence stacks up that we're wrecking the oceans. What should we do?

13:04 A tiny town in Michigan will sell you a police badge and gun permit» Salon.com
For only a few thousand bucks, you can be Johnny law too

12:40 Record-Breaking Near-Space Dive Leaps from 135,000 Feet | Video» LiveScience.com
Alan Eustace dove from a high-altitude balloon soaring at approximately 135,000 feet. Felix Baumgartner held the record at 128,000 feet.
12:33 Update: Report: Shooting at high school north of Seattle» Salon.com
According to local television stations two people were airlifted to a hospital

12:18 McConnell’s “bipartisan” flop: Bizarrely taking ownership of a GOP political disaster» Salon.com
Mitch McConnell says his efforts to privatize Social Security show he's a bipartisan consensus builder. Wait, what?

12:17 How A Former Advocate Of Ex-Gay Therapy Is Working To Protect Others From Harm» ThinkProgress

Tim Rymel hopes conservative Christians appreciate what he's learned first-hand about the harms of ex-gay therapy.

The post How A Former Advocate Of Ex-Gay Therapy Is Working To Protect Others From Harm appeared first on ThinkProgress.

12:17 How Web Camming Is Transforming the World of Internet Porn» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Web cam models enjoy all sorts of job benefits that aren't available to traditional sex workers.

Alice* spent a month and a half working at a BDSM dungeon in New York City. During her first solo session, a 70-year-old male client requested that she dress up as a dentist and administer an oral injection of lidocaine, a common anesthetic that causes numbness. Then she used tools and sounds to imitate teeth removal. But this was far from the strangest experience she had during her stint at the dungeon. People asked her to perform everything from golden showers to fisting to different forms of cock and ball torture. One client requested she blow cigarette smoke into his mouth for two hours while they watched gay porn and listened to music he had recorded.

“You never really know what you're going to get into unless they are your regular client and you've built a relationship with them,” Alice, 23, told AlterNet via email.

Unusual requests aside, Alice says she wasn’t explicitly threatened while working in the dungeon. Each room had a panic button, and she only met with clients who had been previously vetted by other women. Still, she concedes she never felt entirely safe because management did little to protect the women. “The money outweighed the girls’ safety a lot of the time and I didn’t like that,” she said in a phone interview. Eventually, Alice left the dungeon because the work left her with a wealth of negative feelings. Some of the acts she performed fell into a legal gray area, and some acts the other girls performed were downright illegal, which still put her in jeopardy with the law, even if she wasn’t doing anything wrong. “I felt like I was suffocating under that pressure.”

These feelings of pressure began to transcend the legal issues as her experiences at the dungeon bled into her personal life. “I went there one day and I realized how much I didn’t want to be there and how much it was draining me. I was consenting to things that I normally wouldn’t do because I knew it would make me more money.” She is in a committed relationship, but recalls that when she would go home after a day of work, she “didn’t want to be touched.”

Alice has since switched to the Internet where she works as a cam model performing one-woman shows for clients. Emotionally, the differences are already apparent. “I don’t feel sexually dried up,” she says. She works on a “girlfriend” cam site, which is distinct from the group rooms hosted on popular webcam sites like MyFreeCams.com. Men go there to meet her and message her individually, making the experience more personal. She likens it to a dating page, aside from the fact that she’s not allowed to share any personal information. If she violates this rule, her account will be terminated.

Alice gets paid for every message she receives. At the time of our interview, she had been working for the site for two weeks and had already made over $100 in messages alone. If she decided to start camming, it would be a private show, and she could decide the rate-per-minute. Within the field, payment seems to vary widely. Another web cam model wrote to me on the Internet forum Reddit and told me she works eight-hour shifts, typically making $500-$600 every two weeks for a total of $1300 a month. She explained that she can make anywhere from $10 per shift to $200. Income ranges depending on both the clients and the women; some models she knows make $300 per month while others make $3000. Though the numbers could well be inflated, MyFreeCams says its most popular models can make over $50,000 a month while several others earn $10,000 per month.

On the site Alice works for, live chats are free, so she’s using these as a less pressured entry point to the unfamiliar world of webcams. “But if they want to talk dirty or something, or they are really obviously trying to get off, you can tell them, ‘okay this conversation ends unless you put so-and-so amount of credits in my account.’” This way, she can set the tone and decide how much money she wants to make.

In a recent New York Times piece, Kari Lerum, a sociologist from the University of Washington Bothell desribes the comfort and independence that comes with web cam modeling compared to other types of sex work. “The women work out of their homes, it’s safe, they have more control over working conditions,” she said. MyFreeCams expressly addresses this as a pull for would-be models. It tells them “as a model, you are always in control of your chat room, and you have hundreds of different options and settings to make the site fit your needs." VividCamModels even gives potential models the option of blocking entire states or countries from seeing their live feeds.

The Internet also affords both sex workers and clients a clearer way of establishing consent. It allows models to set their limits before they step into the chat room. As Betabeat notes, they are less likely to be exploited by a director or a costar, as one may experience in traditional pornography. Moreover, solo performances put models at a decreased risk for contracting sexually transmitted infections.

The increased control afforded by the Internet extends outside the world of web cams. An article in the Economist explains how the Internet has normalized prostitution, allowing prostitutes to create personal websites to brand and market themselves, and clients to consult review sites to gain honest feedback about their experience, similar to Yelp and other user review sites. Women and men in the sex industry can do business on their own terms. Since prostitutes now have alternative ways to access clients, pimps are less likely to be abusive, as sex workers do not need to rely on them to market. Websites and apps can even help verify identities and share STD test results. One website, Britain’s Ugly Mugs, even allows sex workers to share information on dangerous individuals. In many ways, the Internet affords sex workers more choices, allowing them to accept and reject clients as they see fit, making acts between sex workers and their clients more consensual.

The health and safety benefits that come from formalizing sex work bring us one step closer to providing the basic labor rights that workers in other industries enjoy. As journalist and former web cam model Melissa Gira Grant explains in the Nation, even labeling sex work “work” changes its perception and the resulting conversation. Grant argues that “to do so is to insist that those who do sex work, in all of their workplaces and in varied conditions, deserve the rights and respect accorded to workers in any other industry.”

Nationcolumnist Katha Pollitt doesn’t agree. She responds to Grant in her column saying that when some feminists call for the normalization of sex work “they accept male privilege they would attack in any other area.” She suggests it perpetuates rape culture by placing the power in the hands of males because they are permitted to obtain sex without attracting a woman or even meeting her needs.

Yet, while some cam models may have entered the field under coercion or out of desperation, many others haven't. And the playing field between female workers and their male clients is leveled by the intimate setting of the web cam experience. Lerum told the New York Times that men are more open here than they would be in a strip club, for example. They can start caring about a relationship that may not exist outside of the Internet. She calls camming a “mutual objectification,” contrary to Pollitt’s view of sex work.

Cam sites also provide models with more economic security. Because live shows are harder to pirate than prerecorded videos, they are a steadier source of income. The numbers speak for themselves. The Times notes that the top cam sites receive 30 million users a month, according to Compete.com, which measures Internet traffic. The article explains that, “At any given time, hundreds of models are online, some being watched by 1,000 or more people, others giving private shows. The money generated by cam sites is hundreds of millions of dollars at least, and very likely a billion or more, according to industry analysts and executives.”

Yet despite the money and relative safety, cam modeling is not a positive experience for everyone. One model I spoke with, who goes by the pseudonym Bethany Bellvue, started modeling to have some extra money to pay off her massive amount of debt. She found the experience exhausting. When we spoke, she had gone on hiatus and switched to making amateur porn clips instead. Back when she was live camming, she worked out of her one-bedroom apartment and every time she wanted to broadcast, she’d have to set up her camming area and take it down again. It became a burden, and the money wasn’t worth it.

Unlike Alice, Bethany found it difficult to get over the initial hump first-timers often experience and build a devoted fan base. She explained that a lot of successful web cam models have a day job to fall back on, but she didn't have another job. “They could just sit online...not worry about if they were getting paid,” she told me in a phone interview. “There’s just no time to do that when you’re actually relying on the money at first.”

The Times article describes other risks of camming, including clients outing the model, family members finding out, and feelings of isolation. Kathryn Griffin, a former prostitute and sex industry recovery coach, told the Times that cam modeling can act as a gateway, turning workers on to stripping or prostitution, for better or for worse. Cam models also run the risk of experiencing low self-esteem and using drugs to combat feelings of shame.

When sex workers experience shame, it raises questions about the validity of consent. In any other offline, unfinanced sexual encounter, post-coital embarrassment or remorse could indicate assault, rape or at the very least a lack of established and direct consent. The inclusion of money complicates the issue, but that’s the case for any type of service worker. How many waitresses would willingly bus tables if they weren’t getting paid? For Alice, at least, web cam sex work offers the best of both worlds. She can make money and feel in control. Physically, it’s a step removed. “I feel much freer to set my rules, my boundaries, and my hours.” For other sex workers, that could make a huge difference.

*Names have been changed by request.


Related Stories

12:16 The Restaurant Industry Is Rife With Race Discrimination» ThinkProgress

You don't want to be a person of color working in the restaurant industry.

The post The Restaurant Industry Is Rife With Race Discrimination appeared first on ThinkProgress.

12:02 How to survive an apocalypse: What pop culture taught me about living through the end of the world» Salon.com
Everything I've gleaned from such wellsprings of post-apocalyptic wisdom as "World War Z" and "The Walking Dead"

12:01 Three Things Conservatives Wrote This Week That Everyone Should Read» ThinkProgress

Helping liberals understand where their ideological foes are coming from.

The post Three Things Conservatives Wrote This Week That Everyone Should Read appeared first on ThinkProgress.

12:00 Midday open thread: More offensive than the 'F' word? Hazing ends school's football season» Daily Kos
  • Today's comic by Mark Fiore is Ebola Buddy:
    Cartoon by Mark Fiore --  Ebola Buddy
  • What's coming up on Sunday Kos ...
    • The battle for the senior vote, by Jeff Singer
    • When will the American people finally get fed up with the media-hyped right wing fearmongering, by Laurence Lewis
    • It's time for Myth McConnell to go, by Jon Perr
    • Your second-most important state official is up for re-election, too: An attorney general roundup, by Jeff Singer
    • Nuns on the bus. Ride on, by Denise Oliver Velez
    • Attention, Michael Savage: PTSD is not a weakness, by Mark E Andersen
    • 'Crazy is the new normal,' James Risen on our never-ending war on terror, by Susan Grigsby
    • Wendy Davis Texas TV news media bias in full vogue, by Egberto Willies
    • Republicans are running for Congress on their 'jobs plan'. Slight problem: It won't create any jobs, by Ian Reifowitz
    • What's the matter with [fill in the name of your state here], by David Jarman
    • The California ballot, part 1: Statewide and Congressional races, by Dante Atkins
  • Please chip in $3 to help get out the vote for our Daily Kos-endorsed candidates.
  • What's more offensive than young girls saying "fuck"? How about all that sexist shit they're saying "fuck" about?
  • Football season canceled after rookies hazed with what amounted to  waterboarding:
    With two games left, the Central Bucks High School West’s football season was cut short due to extreme hazing. According to Superintendent David Weitzel, rookies were forced to touch other players’ genitals. With their heads covered with towels, they were also led into showers, in what the players considered waterboarding. Local police department chief James Donnelly said that the shower incidents did not necessarily constitute waterboarding. After originally determining that players involved had not committed a crime, Donnelly and police are reopening an investigation into the incidents,  [...]

    Hazing in schools like Central Buck and Sayreville [New Jersey, where freshmen were sexually assaulted by veteran players] are part of a larger hazing culture in sports. A survey found that 80 percent of respondents were “subjected to questionable or unacceptable activities” upon joining a college sports team. And coaches and administrators too often turn a blind eye to players’ activities.

  • What happens when 3D printing goes wrong? Glitch art.
  • If you come at Madeleine Albright, you’d best not miss: http://t.co/... http://t.co/...
  • Chomsky says activists should work to get U.S. to live up to its own laws.:
    AMY GOODMAN: What do you think is the most—the single most important action the United States can take? And what about its role over the years? What is its interest here?

    NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, one important action that the United States could take is to live up to its own laws. Of course, it would be nice if it lived up to international law, but maybe that’s too much to ask, but live up to its own laws. And there are several. And here, incidentally, I have in mind advice to activists also, who I think ought to be organizing and educating in this direction.

  • According to Fox host Kimberly Guilfoyle, all young women are too stupid and lacking in life experience to be on juries. And they're all on Tinder. And black people are all criminals. And white men are just the best. Because every group is a monolith! Team Blackness also discussed Gamergate, updates on the Mike Brown case and Indiana's brilliant plan to cut tens of thousands off food stamps.
    Subscribe on iTunes | Subscribe On Stitcher | Direct Download | RSS
  • On today's Kagro in the Morning show: Ottawa & Ebola updates. Chuck Todd: "disqualified" was "sloppy." Steve Singiser's take on OR-GOV analysis. Ernst's gun gimmetarianism. Lead linked to violence, and gun ranges are filthy with it. Fine! No more coups for you, Chiquita!
11:58 BREAKING: Six People Reportedly Shot At Seattle High School (Updated)» ThinkProgress

A gunman reportedly opened fire at Marysville-Pilchuck High School in Seattle on Friday, before killing himself his own gun.

The post BREAKING: Six People Reportedly Shot At Seattle High School (Updated) appeared first on ThinkProgress.

11:58 NYC Mayor: Undocumented Immigrants Shouldn’t Hesitate To Seek Medical Care For Ebola» ThinkProgress

“No New Yorker, no one, no one here in this city should worry about their documentation status,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

The post NYC Mayor: Undocumented Immigrants Shouldn’t Hesitate To Seek Medical Care For Ebola appeared first on ThinkProgress.

11:55 Can You Get Ebola on Public Transportation?» LiveScience.com
News that a doctor in New York with Ebola traveled on the subway the day before he developed symptoms of the disease may have some people worried about catching the disease on public transportation.
11:50 Cincinnati Poised To Become Largest Metropolitan Area Without Any Abortion Clinics» ThinkProgress

Ohio officials are getting closer to their goal of shutting down all of the state's clinics.

The post Cincinnati Poised To Become Largest Metropolitan Area Without Any Abortion Clinics appeared first on ThinkProgress.

11:50 Did Elizabeth Warren Just Open the Door to a White House Run? » AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
After months of insisting that a 2016 bid is off the table, the Massachusetts senator sounds a different note.

Liberal activists cheered Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s electrifying keynote speech at Netroots Nation this summer with chants of “Run, Liz, run!” There’s even a Ready for Warren super PAC, formed in July with the mission of encouraging the senator to mount a presidential bid. But the longtime thorn in the side of Wall Street has insisted that she’s not running, and even took the unusual step of formally disavowing Ready for Warren in August. So Warren 2016 is off the table — right?

Not so fast. In a new interview with People magazine — flagged by The Nation’s George Zornick — Warren sounds a different note. Asked whether she’s “on board” with a presidential campaign, Warren replies, “I don’t think so.” But then she adds this: ”If there’s any lesson I’ve learned in the last five years, it’s don’t be so sure about what lies ahead. There are amazing doors that could open.”

“Right now,” Warren continued, “I’m focused on figuring out what else I can do” from the U.S. Senate.

Zornick notes that this is “more ambiguous than she’s ever been on the subject,” and while the senator stopped well short of signaling plans to proceed with a campaign, her comments certainly won’t do anything to squelch speculation.

Like Hillary Rodham Clinton — another potential White House contender — Warren has been hitting the midterm campaign trail as the 2014 elections approach, firing audiences up with her message of economic populism. By this weekend, Warren’s midterm stops have included Iowa and New Hampshire — two states she had previously been reluctant to visit for fear that setting foot in the states would set off 2016 chatter.

If Warren opts to run, don’t expect the senator to sell herself as an extension of the Obama administration. Speaking with Salon’s Thomas Frank last week, Warren unloaded on the administration, saying that its policies “protected Wall Street. Not families who were losing their homes. Not people who lost their jobs. And it happened over and over and over.”  



Related Stories

11:47 Richard Dawkins wants to create a “cosmic tombstone” of humanity and blast it into space» Salon.com
The evolutionary biologist wants there to be a record of Shakespeare, Bach and more after we're extinct

11:47 Before and after photos show the shocking extent of Sao Paulo’s water crisis» Salon.com
Southeastern Brazil is in the middle of its worst drought in eight decades

11:47 Back off Barbie, Aaron Paul» Salon.com
The "Breaking Bad" star throws shade in the wrong direction

11:39 Scott Brown can see Ebola from his porch» Daily Kos
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and former Sen. Scott Brown, during Brown's Senate campaign in NH.
The GOP's Ebola braintrust
Goal Thermometer
Scott Brown is not going to let being totally embarrassed on statewide television by Wolf Blitzer stop him from making even more totally ridiculous statements about Ebola. No, he's on a roll, and he wants all of New Hampshire to share his panic. The Republican Senate candidate is sounding the alarm about "mass infection."
"The way to stop mass infection is by swift and decisive action, including a travel ban and quarantining health workers returning from countries where Ebola is prevalent," Brown said in a statement. "This is not a time for political correctness; it's a time for common-sense prevention mechanisms." […]

"Ebola has now spread to New York City, the largest city in the United States and less than 300 miles from New Hampshire," Brown said. "The person who brought it there passed through enhanced screening at the airport and exposed himself to countless other people by riding the subway, taking a taxi and going bowling. Still, Senator Shaheen is waffling on a travel ban."

You guys!!!! Ebola is LESS THAN 300 MILES AWAY!!! MASS EPIDEMIC!!! Never mind that it's only been half a dozen people in the U.S. and that only one person has died and that most of them, including one of the nurses who took care of the one person who died, have gotten better.

It's almost enough to make Sen. Rand Paul's "cocktail party Ebola" sound like a reasonable fear in comparison.

You can donate to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen here. You can help keep the Senate blue with your $3 here.

Defeat Mitch McConnell in just two hours. Sign up to make GOTV calls to Democrats.
Oh, and that travel ban? It's not a matter of political correctness. It's a matter of the experts (who Brown may or may not believe in, he apparently hasn't decided yet) who uniformly say the travel ban would do more harm than good at this point. But Scott Brown has a script. It's far too much to ask him to learn a new one that makes sense.
11:33 School shooting north of Seattle» Daily Kos
Scene outside Marysville-Pilchuck High School
CNN is reporting an active situation involving an active shooter opening fire inside the Marysville-Pilchuck High School in Marysville, WA, about 45 minutes north of Seattle, with at least two students shot and being airlifted to Seattle's Harborview Medical Center.

According to The Seattle Times, the shooter is believed dead.

11:35 AM PT: Also according to the same The Seattle Times report, the shooter died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound and up to six people were wounded.

11:39 AM PT: CBS reports 3 people have arrived at a local hospital in Everett, Washington with gunshot wounds, one in the head, and a fourth patient is expected.

11:56 AM PT: According to KING 5, Seattle's NBC affiliate, a parent told them and police "confirmed" that the shooting began "as a fight between two students over a girl." Despite KING 5 saying the police have "confirmed that information," I haven't seen that report from other outlets.

12:01 PM PT: Now KING5 is backing off, saying it doesn't want to speculate on the cause of the shooting.

12:04 PM PT: According to a police spokesman, the shooter was a student and is dead.

12:06 PM PT: The police say they believe there was only one shooter, but are completing a sweep of the building to confirm that the scene is clear.

12:37 PM PT: KOMO reports 4 young patients suffering "critical" injuries are at the hospital. KOMO also says they are "anticipating" at least one other death aside from the shooter.

1:03 PM PT: The medical director of Providence Medical Center in Everett says three students are in the operating room in "very critical" condition with head wounds at her hospital. A fourth patient with less severe wounds is at Harborview in Seattle.

1:05 PM PT: Police now confirm a second person has died from the shooting, but aren't saying whether the victim was a student or a member of school staff.

11:31 Ruemmler drops out of attorney general race» POLITICO - TOP Stories
There were concerns about GOP lawmakers using her confirmation to get White House information.
11:31 Largest City In South America Could Run Out Of Water In 100 Days» ThinkProgress

The main reservoir feeding the city has become a dry bed of cracked earth, operating at 3.2 percent of normal volume.

The post Largest City In South America Could Run Out Of Water In 100 Days appeared first on ThinkProgress.

11:30 Clinton: 'I love … Elizabeth'» POLITICO - TOP Stories
She repeatedly praises the anti-big banks senator for going after "those who deserve" it.
11:27 'Living Paint' Transforms Bacteria Into Art» LiveScience.com
Science-minded artists can use "living paint" to create art inside petri dishes.
11:13 Meet the Kansans Who Bravely Fought for Gay Rights Against a Formidable Conservative Movement» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Their years long struggle affected families, church, work, law and politics.

Michael Nelson stared at the room packed with students from the University of Kansas’ various LGBT groups. The 2014 school year had barely begun and the white-haired pastor, poet and gay rights advocate had come to talk about his lawsuit challenging Kansas’ same-sex marriage ban and other discriminatory laws in state court. Nelson could not help but see his younger self in the students’ eager, contempletive and occasionally vulnerable faces. So as he started to speak, he took a personal turn, because in Kansas, as he and the students already knew, anti-LGBT discrimination runs deeper than what is written into law—or deliberately kept out of it.

“People do ask us, ‘Why are you continuing with the lawsuit when it looks like the U.S. Supreme Court is going to rule in favor of gay marriage equality?’” he began, glancing at Charles Dedmon, his husband of 30 years who stood steps away. “Well, let me tell you, there’s a lot more to this effort than seeing marriage equality happen in Kansas, which in time it will. It’s about every human rights effort in this state that needs attention. Every part of what we’re doing overlaps with every need of a person that has been denied their right to live a full and good life.”

Nelson and Dedmon’s story started at that same campus in Lawrence four decades ago. They fell in love but hid that reality for years, from themselves, their friends and others, causing personal, family and professional turmoil that took years to unwind. Some of what they said, such as police raiding gay bars when they were at KU, was unfathomable to the students. But other prejudices still endured, which led them to add their names to one of the legal fights for equality, they said, as they kept returning to their experiences as youths trying to make their way.

“Forty years ago, I would not have guessed we would be here today, because I did not even know what the word gay meant,” Nelson said. “But when you find out at the age of 20 that your best friend is someone more than that; that your girlfriend is not the person that you feel the strongest attraction to; and there is no organization on campus that is public enough for you to find a home in that will allow you to begin to articulate and identify who you are, you do it all in the dark—literally.”

There is no one storyline that traces the journey of an estimated 80,000 LGBT Kansans. There are gay farmers in the state’s western plains just as there are gay librarians and theologians in university towns. Some are out and some are closeted. Some are still in traditional marriages. But there seem to be common threads in their lives, where the personal almost always collides with outside pressures—as a child at home, growing up in schools and church, in family and career choices, or on the receiving end of politics in a state where social conservatives, including many top Republican elected officials in the state, still demonize LGBT people and don’t want to treat them equally under law.

These currents are still alive in Kansas today, even as it is increasingly likely that the federal court overseeing Kansas may rule any day now that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, or short of that, decree that the state must issue marriage licenses to LGBT couples who want them. But even if the U.S. District Court takes that step, the state’s political culture continues to be dominated by those like GOP Gov. Sam Brownback, a longtime opponent of LGBT and abortion rights, and a Republican-dominated legislature that is not likely to start repealing state laws that treat LGBT Kansans as second-class citizens—which is why Nelson and Dedmon, a lawyer, sued in state court: to start the repeal process.

As that history-making confrontation unfolds, it’s important to note that anti-LGBT attitudes are not merely in state law. They are in families that until recently could not accept interfaith marriages. They are in right-wing churches where the clergy preach that LGBT people are sinners who cannot have a relationship with God. They are in jobs where bosses do not want LGBT employees to speak up or fight for the same rights as others in the workplace. They are in state politics where Democrats are often reluctant to defend LGBT rights, and where right-wing Republicans keep pushing bills to stop same-sex couples from raising children and to allow businesses to discriminate against gay customers. Beyond the fight for marriage equality, there is a stubborn status quo that preserves many state laws that do not protect LGBT people, or grant benefits given to heterosexual couples. These laws range from putting a spouse’s name on a driver’s license to more dire matters such as one’s rights in family medical emergencies.

“People react against it—people react in a range of ways,” said Tami Albin, a librarian at the University of Kansas in Lawrence who has been compiling an oral history archive of LGBT Kansans. “People in Kansas do not want to be represented or seen as tragic, lonely, sad queers in the Midwest who can’t figure out how to get to a large urban city on a coast where life is supposed to be better, safer and more welcoming,” she said. “Kansas isn’t any better or worse than any other location.” 

The U.S. Census reports that there are several thousand same-sex couples in the state, a figure Albin said was ridiculously inaccurate. She points to a study a decade ago by the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School, which tracks LGBT statistics and estimated there were almost 80,000 LGBT Kansans, or 3.5 percent of its population. “We know it’s more than that,” she said, “if you start to include trans people or people who identify as queer or gender non-conforming.”

Following are the stories of several LGBT Kansans. Their lives reflect the difficulties of growing up different in rural communities that were often hostile to the mere notion of homosexuality—and the sense that although official anti-LGBT bias remains ingrained, change may be on the horizon.

Sandra Stenzel

Sandra Stenzel turned her aging pickup truck onto another dirt road south of Wakeeny, a northwestern Kansas town founded in 1879 along the old Union Pacific rail tracks that sit in the shadow of Interstate 70. In every direction, manicured mile-square fields of straw-colored grass or brown milo, a feed grain that looks like corn, color the landscape. Stenzel’s family were Russian homesteaders and she lives in the small house built a century ago by her grandfather, who also helped build the austere white Zion Lutheran Church whose spire rises above the rolling horizon.

She passed the two-room schoolhouse she attended in the early 1960s and slowed down, pointing to nearby sheds. “Right here is a chicken house. First time I kissed a girl. We said we were practicing for boys,” she said, proud of her deep links to a community built by immigrants. Stenzel drove into Zion Lutheran’s parking lot, where she and the pastor reminisced about Mark Deines, a musician who grew up with her, played the church organ and sang, but left the state as a young gay man and returned more than 20 years ago as he was dying from AIDS.

Stenzel is still moved by Deines' granite tombstone in the cemetery, complete with its engraved rainbow flag, next to the graves of Zion’s other founding families. “Mark’s death brought some awareness in this county, in this church,” she said. “These guys came home to be buried. They ended up not being ignored….Was it too high a price to pay? Yes, it was. But Mark’s been dead for 20 years and people are still talking about him.”    

Stenzel came back to Trego County a dozen years ago and tried to revive its economic life. Its largest towns were filled with empty storefronts as its population dropped when children like Deines left. She was adopted, an only child, and knew early that she was “very different” from her family. “They didn’t know what to do with me. I always had a sense that there was something wrong with me. I didn’t know what was wrong, but it was pretty fucking horrible,” Stenzel said. “I was queer like a three-dollar bill. There’s tomboy and then there’s—I don’t know what it was. I had no context for it. I didn’t know any other people like that. I just didn’t know what was wrong with me. When I got to junior high or so, I’d be sitting next to girls and I think...this is how I would phrase it, ‘If I were a boy, I’d really like to kiss her.’”

Stenzel got married when she was age 20, to prove there was nothing wrong. She was the first of 17 cousins to graduate from college, and studied economics in graduate school. She returned with her husband to the family farm and also found work at a bank. After eight years, they divorced and she left for Austin, Texas, where at age 32, Stenzel came out and found work at a national consulting firm. But after 16 years, she returned to an aging parent and her farm. “There’s a saying: You can take the girl off the farm but you can’t take the farm out of the girl,” she said.

When a county economic development job opened, she applied and got it. Then, working with a board that didn’t care about her sexuality, Stenzel did something remarkable. She didn’t organize parades or class reunions, but instead raised several million in grants to spruce up Wakeeny’s neglected downtown and build a 30-unit senior living center. She became the Trego County Democratic Party chair – all before 2004, when the religious right launched its major campaign to amend Kansas’ Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

The beginning of the end of her career came when Stenzel crossed a line she did not know existed. She got permission to take a day off and go to Topeka, the state capital, to testify against the amendment. “I got up the next morning and I was on the front page of every newspaper in Kansas,” she said, after saying that a marriage ban would be bad for business­—which, today, is commonly heard in the hallways of corporate America. “I don’t know why, but for some reason, apparently this 'bad for business, bad for depopulation' argument, really hadn’t been made and it just splashed all over. My phone started ringing, e-mails started pouring in, and I thought, oh shit."

Stenzel didn’t want to be the face of LGBT issues statewide. And neither did local clergy. “Some of the ministers in Wakeeney got together and went to the city council and said, you know, this is not good for our community to have an openly gay woman being our economic development director and representing us with this kind of visibility,” she said. “They said, ‘We need to get rid of this woman.’ And my board of directors said, ‘Screw you. We like her. She’s doing a great job.'"

But a course was set. The Trego County economic development agency didn’t get funded the next year, which prompted an unprecedented fight in which county taxpayers raised the sales tax to support Stenzel’s eforts, yielding hundreds of thousands of dollars. But in February 2005, newly elected officials found a way to shut down the agency and seize that money, using it to build a pool. That April, Amendment 1 passed with a 70 percent majority, banning same-sex marriage.

“I had people in the community who were willing to give me money to wage a legal fight,” Stenzel said, but there was no fight to be waged because under Kansas law there was—and still is—no penalty for firing a person based on sexual orientation. “The other interesting thing that happened was people would sort of sidle up to me on the street and say, ‘My son who lives in Chicago is gay,’ or ‘My daughter who lives in Dallas is gay.’ There’s no family in Trego County that isn’t touched by this.”

Yet even as her neighbors confided in her, Stenzel’s life fell apart. “I was devastated,” she said. “I would sit on my farm and I wouldn’t come to town for six weeks, and then I’d slink into town to buy groceries and slink back out. Or I would just go to a grocery store 40 miles away so I didn’t have to talk to anyone in Trego County. I quit the Democratic Party. I quit political activism. I quit everything.”

A decade later, Stenzel is still struggling. She gets spotty freelance work. She is the last of her cousins left on a farm, which she might be forced to sell. She is in a new relationship but will still drive three-plus hours to Wichita for Pride weekend, to feel less alone. She says she loves the land and her ties to it, but that western Kansans are not her people anymore.

“Talk to me about gay marriage and religious dogma,” Stenzel said, as she leaned against her doorstep. “It was a generation ago that Lutherans and Catholics didn’t intermarry. And it was a very big deal what religion their kids would be if they did. You’ve got all this religious dogma here and the descendants of that culture have heard the world would end if they intermarried. I wonder in a generation if people will say, ‘Really, gays weren’t allowed to marry?’”

Stephanie Mott

More than 200 miles east of Wakeeny sits Topeka, the sprawling state capital where skyscrapers tower over the commercial and government center. As one drives into the city, passing malls filled with chain stores and franchise restaurants, it is easy to forget that much of the state’s political identity comes from an earlier era, when farming, family and faith were the anchors.

Social conservatives from both political parties still invoke nostalgia for a Kansas where people farmed, raised families and lived by the Bible. The view that LGBT relationships are sinful comes from clergy and believers who are drawn more to the Old Testament’s fire and brimstone than to the New Testament’s spiritual renewal. The state’s best-known example of an anti-LGBT ministry is the Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church. Pastors and parishioners from the church protested at gay-themed events long before it became known nationally for interrupting the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kansas politics is filled with conservatives who only are slightly less extreme than the Westboro clan, such as top legislators promoting bills in 2014 to criminalize surrogate parenting, because it is seen as bringing children to LGBT couples; or proposing that women who miscarry must register with the state, under the guise of stopping abortion. After the same-sex marriage ban passed in 2005, the LGBT community began organizing and lobbying. For the past half-dozen years, Kansas politics on LGBT issues have been deadlocked. Right-wingers cannot pass their bills, and the LGBT community cannot pass its bills protecting gay rights or ending unequal treatment under state law.

But this stalemate hasn’t stopped LGBT activists from being visible in other ways. In September, Topeka held its first Pride weekend, drawing 2,000 people when organizers expected 300. Like many of the state’s cities and university towns, there are ministries that welcome LGBT Kansans and gay-straight student alliances in the public high schools. It was here, not in the Statehouse’s ornate chambers where Stephanie Mott, a transgender women in her mid-50s and the Kansas Equality Coalition’s past president, decided to confront the religious roots of discrimination.

“I found a church where I could be who I was and it opened up doors for me that had always been closed,” said Mott, whose soft voice belies a steeliness. “It was the Metropolitan Community Church here in Topeka. One of the ladies there asked me to go speak at a local gay-straight alliance. I said okay and I did. I was really nervous….but afterwards, this 17-year-old transgender girl came up and gave me a hug and said, ‘Oh, my God, you changed my life.’ And I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God, no, you just changed my life, because I didn’t realize that everything I had gone through had been preparing me to be able to do something like this.”

As a leader for Kansas Equality, Mott had spoken to educators, school nurses and police about LGBT youths and their struggles. But she had not taken that talk, with her life story as a starting point, into conservative churches. “My journey is a faith journey because I was seperated from God for a very long time,” Mott said. “As I’ve discovered that I could be who I am and have a relationship with God, my faith has grown tremendously. I have this relationship with God that I never knew I could have, which is a source of energy for me being able to accomplish stuff that I might not otherwise be able to do.”

This phase of Mott’s advocacy began after a Baptist preacher in Seneca, a town 75 miles north of Topeka, gave a sermon saying that government should execute gays. “He said they wouldn’t, but they should,” she said. “I went to Seneca and I did a public library presentation. The Seneca newspaper asked me, ‘Why are you coming?’ I said I wanted them to hear a different message. I wanted them to hear a message of hope because that’s a very dark message that you are unacceptable to the Creator.”

Mott said that she has been “compared to the most horrible things on the planet” in public hearings. “I guess it comes down to, do I want to respond to that or do I want to be effective at creating change?” Her conclusion is “the Transgender Faith Tour…where I am going to different religious institutions, faith institutions, and sharing my journey of faith.” She has spoken to Unitarian Universalists, Baptists, Catholics and Methodists in Kansas, and this month held events in Norman and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Mott says she starts by telling her story before turning to the Old and New Testaments. “The very first thing I remember knowing about myself is that, on the inside, I was like my sisters. On the outside, I was like my brothers,” she said. “The second thing I remember knowing about myself was therefore, that meant that I couldn’t talk to anybody about it; that there was something dreadfully wrong with me that I couldn’t be who I was. This is [when I was] a six- or seven-year-old.”

“I just go through and start telling what it was like to grow up with this chain I carried around for a long time,” she continued. “I got involved with alcoholism and spent a long time, 30 years of my life, abusively using alcohol to hide from my reality. I share that. Then I talk about finding a church where I could be me. Finding a way to have a relationship with God. Then seeing my life come back into focus, and being able to do what I hope is God’s will in the community; which is to feed the hungry, and give drink to the thirsty, and take care of the oppressed and the marginalized.”

Mott said it is hard to underestimate the psychological damage and undermining of a person’s potential that comes when they are on the receiving end of negative stereotypes and constant reminders of second-class status. In a deeply religious state like Kansas, where there are so many ministries with differing interpretations of scripture, Mott said it was crucial to challenge the religiously observant to open their hearts.

“Three years ago, the idea of me talking to a Sunday school class in the Baptist Church, I wouldn’t have even dreamed of it,” she said. “Today, I walk out of that church thinking I’m going to give a sermon here one day.”

Ryon Carey

Today, the faultline that separates western Kansas’ cradle-to-grave Republicans from easterners who will vote for Democrats literally runs through Ryon Carey’s 40-acre farm at the end of Main Street in Lindsborg, a town founded by Swedish immigrants after the Civil War. Carey is a muscle-bound man who grew up on a farm 25 miles away. He went to Bethany College, a private Lutheran school in town, and returned home, only to become frustrated as his community withered. He ended up buying 40 acres and literally moving his woodframe house there (there were no buyers) after putting in a new foundation. Carey wears many hats: he is a chicken breeder; he chairs the Kansas Democratic Party’s LGBT Caucus; and he works as a campaign consultant to elect Democrats who will embrace LGBT issues, when many will not.

Carey knew he was gay as a teenager, but, “I was busy enough on the farm and had enough things going on that I just didn’t worry about it.” By age 30, he said he didn’t care what anybody thought about him. “I just do my thing and I really don’t care what people think….There’s a lot more [gay] farmers than you would ever think, too.”

One of Carey’s political consulting partners is Tom Witt, the brash Kansas Equality Coalition director, who, among other things, has been working to get cities that are near tipping points on supporting LGBT issues to add sexuality and gender protections into local anti-discrimination laws. The coalition has waged four tough campaigns and only one anti-discrimination ordinance—in Roeland Park, a Kansas City suburb—remains on the books. Social conservatives repealed or blocked the others. Lawrence, home to the University of Kansas, has the state’s only other local LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance, adopted years ago.

“The biggest obstacle to passing non-discrimination ordinances is frankly that there isn’t a lot of overt discrimination,” Carey said, sitting at a table under a peeling antique ceiling and surrounded by oil paintings by local artists. “There are so few people who will tell someone you’re fired because you’re gay. There are so few landlords who won’t rent to people because they are gay. They are never going to tell you that.”

Deliberate silence is a predictable part of rural and small state politics, where everybody quickly knows everybody else and their stances. That silence can be a wall, or even a cancer, Carey said, that resists change. “Small towns in Kansas are dying because of their intolerance and it’s not just about gay rights. I like to describe small towns as a pot of water that’s been left on the stove on low boil. Eventually the water is gone.”

That resistence can also be found in Democratic Party circles, Carey said, where, for example, House Democratic leaders did not wage a fight earlier this year when right-wing Republicans brought and passed a “religious liberty” bill. That bill, which died in the Senate but is expected to be revived in 2015, would allow any government or private employee to refuse service to a person, such as an LGBT individual. “They were corralled by leadership not to” oppose it, Carey said.

Like other LGBT activists, Carey has found a way to speak out that fits his personality, which, in his case, is trying to remake the state Democratic Party from the inside out. The party “basically doesn’t exist west of Highway 81, which is Lindborg’s Main Street,” he said, and is “scared to death of social issues.” His response, working with Witt and Chris Reeves—who is straight but was nearly killed in a knife attack in 1995 at Kansas State University in Manhattan, where his assailants later told a judge they thought he was gay—is to try to elect Democrats who will show some backbone, including on LGBT issues.

“There are districts in Kansas where you can be pro-gay rights and pro-choice and still win,” Carey said. “We have candidates who are pretty good but don’t know how to run a campaign.”

Carey's team is now working with four Democrats running for the Kansas House of Representatives and one Democrat running for Congress. In the U.S. House race, their candidate,  Jim Sherow,a history professor and the former mayor of Manhattan, has already had an outsized impact. Sherow, who was Reeves’ professor when he was nearly killed in that hate crime, later helped to pass that city’s LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance—which right-wingers overturned. This August, at their urging, Sherow surprised the state Democratic Party establishment by not endorsing its U.S. Senate candidate, Chad Taylor. LGBT and women’s groups said they could not back Taylor, who, as prosecutor for the county containing Topeka, refused to pursue domestic violence cases because of a budget spat with the city. That helped to push Taylor out of the race, boosting independent Greg Orman, whose upstart candidacy is considered key to which party will control the U.S. Senate.

But Ryon Carey’s crew is hoping to do more than remind Democrats that there are consequences for willful inaction. Even if Paul Davis, the House Democratic leader running for governor who is tied in polls with Brownback, wins this fall, Democrats need five more seats to stop Republicans from overriding gubernatorial vetos. Carey said his candidates, such as Democrat Von Peterson, running in the Kansas House district in nearby McPherson County, are running competitive races.

“We have a chance,” he said. “And if we don’t win, we’ll get into the 40s [percent-wise], which is something that has never happened before….That’s the reason why Tom and I and Chris are working on campaigns, because these candidates are pro-choice and pro-LGBT. If they win, we’ve changed minds.”

Michael Nelson and Charles Dedmon

Back at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Michael Nelson turned to the room packed with more than 50 students from various campus LGBT groups. The Unitarian Universalist minister described how he had met his husband, Charles, almost 40 years ago, when both were KU students. That was followed by a decade of turbulence, he said. The two didn’t know what to do about their attraction to each other after they graduated.

“Charles, being the analytical one, decided that he could not be gay,” Nelson said, saying that Dedmon went to law school and he left Kansas for San Francisco. “I did my very, very best to forget him, to absolutely try to eradicate him from my heart, and I found that was impossible to do,” Nelson said. “No matter how many people I thought I might be in love with, it never touched the depths of experience and that profound place where everything comes together, and you know yourself as a real and vital human being, in a way that you haven’t known before….You don’t walk away from that.”


Nelson said both of them lived through “a decade of torture.” Dedmon got married to a woman and Nelson was his best man. He graduated from law school and passed Kansas’ bar exam, which he could not have done if it was known that he was gay. Lawyers must pass a moral fitness review to get their license, and Kansas had, and still has, criminal sodomy laws, which meant Dedmon could not swear he was not engaging in illegal activity.

By the mid-'80s, Dedmon gave up on his marriage. He and Nelson reunited and moved to Oklahoma City, where Nelson had gone after graduating from seminary. There, supposedly progressive church leaders and social workers told him to hide their relationship or give it up. The pair came back to Lawrence, where Nelson opened the city’s only LGBT bookstore. Dedmon, meanwhile, became a top public defender in the federal court system, until a freak accident in which he was disabled in a lightning strike. Both of their families came around to accepting them, after some skipped their wedding or others wouldn’t display photos of them in their homes.

Nelson and Dedmon told the students their intensely personal story because they wanted them to know that they too are deserving of equal and dignified treatment. Nelson asked how many students had come out to their parents and half raised their hands —which would have been inconceivable when he was at KU. Then he turned the podium over to the quieter Dedmon, who began by describing how deeply interwoven their lives are: buying cars and a home, combining finances, taking turns being the breadwinner.

“If you think about it, what is a household?” Dedmon asked. “All of the decisions get so inextricably entwined that you are in a marital relationship. That’s what it is. It doesn’t make any difference what someone else really calls it—unless they make sure it makes a difference. And so, that’s what all this [fight for equality] is all about.”


Dedmon said there was one story that propelled him to put his name on the lawsuit in Kansas courts to challenge the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and other state laws that treat LGBT people unequally. Several years ago, a gay couple who were married in New York moved back to Alabama, when one of the men had a very bad car accident.

“The other man went to the hospital and tried to find out how he was doing—and they wouldn’t let him,” Dedmon said. “He said, ‘Look, we have the documents right here. We have medical power of attorney. I need to know.’ And they said, ‘Sorry, this is Alabama, and we don’t recognize gay marriages in Alabama.’ He tried. He tried. He tried. And finally when the rest of the family came, which did not like the relationship, they said, ‘Okay, you can see him.’ So he’s walking down a corridor and he asks a nurse, ‘How’s he doing?’ and she says, ‘He’s dead.’”

Dedmon paused and looked at the students. “These are the kinds of things that can happen if a relationship isn’t recognized,” he said. He then referred to the legacy of similarly discriminatory policies and laws that remain on the books in Kansas.

“There’s no way to come back from that. No way. There’s no way for that ever to be made right,” he said. “To be made right requires us, who aren’t in that situation, to file a lawsuit before there is harm. Not after there’s harm. Before. Because there’s so many areas which federal law does not reach.”

This is Part II of a two-part series. In Part I, AlterNet investigated Kansas' ultra-conservative political leadership and how the state has become home to more anti-LGBT bills, laws and state policies than anywhere in the country—and how members of the LGBT community there are reacting. 

The series was supported by the American Independent Institute.


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10:59 In bold move, Bob Beauprez reverses stances on abortion, birth control. Or maybe he's lying.» Daily Kos
Bob Beauprez (R-CO)
Goal ThermometerWow, it looks like Colorado Republican Bob Beauprez, who is running to be the state's governor, has completely reversed his position on abortion, and birth control, and "personhood" and all the rest of it! This is big news!

That or he's lying, of course.

In an interview aired Wednesday on Colorado Public Radio, Beauprez, a former congressman, struck a decidedly pro-choice note when asked about abortion and birth control. He said he would not stand in the way of women having access to abortions, nor would he interfere with women choosing what kind of birth control to use. "I respect people's opinion, women's right to that choice," he said. He later added, "I don't want to run somebody else's family and make decisions for their family, their life; I want them to have the opportunity and the freedom to do that themselves."
Yes, to listen to Bob Beauprez he is now reformed. He cosponsored a "personhood" amendment in 2005; now he's saying he respects other people's opinions. He was proudly bragging of his hardline anti-abortion, anti-birth-control stances as recently as a few weeks ago; now he's completely changed his mind. It's either that or a candidate for high office in America can go to different venues and boldly lie about their opinions, their stances and their past records, but that doesn't seem right.

So it might be funnier to take the hard-right pro-personhood anti-birth-control Bob Beauprez at his word, and presume he has completely changed his mind on all of this and is now on the pro-choice side of the fence. He's ditched you, conservative anti-abortion activists! He hath denied you! If he gets in office there will be birth control for everybody! You've spent all this time working for him, and what did you get? Him telling NPR he wants nothing to do with you! Ah ha ha ha, his plan worked perfectly!

So I guess this is the end of the Bob Beauprez campaign for the gubernatorial position in Colorado. He's not trusted by Democrats because c'mon, we're not that stupid, and now the conservative base can't vote for him because he said flat-out on the radio that he "wouldn't stand in the way of people having access to" abortions or birth control, a complete reversal of his actual record on that thing. He's done for.

Then again he might come out tomorrow and say something completely different. A man would never lie about something as important as whether they were going to enforce their deeply held religious beliefs on the entire rest of the population, but politicians have been known to change their minds on things twenty times in the same day, depending on who's asking.

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As a short side note, Beauprez seems to be plagiarizing a bit from fellow Republican Cory Gardner's approach. When confronted on his past cosponsorship of "personhood"-based restrictions on abortion and birth control, Gardner simply insists it never happened, no matter how many reporters point out that it most certainly did. Colorado is frequently referred to as the Mile High state; perhaps the altitude renders the memory fuzzy, or perhaps Republicans this year are all far too potted up on the pot to recall any of the things they said before, say, last week. Take your pick.
10:59 How One Innocent Slip Turned an Online Security Expert into a Spam Magnet» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
How a little bird made me the target of hundreds of email scam artists.

I’ve got nothing against spam…so long as it’s clogging up someone else’s inbox.

But when you waste my time trying to sell me all kinds of crap or, worse, sucker me into wrecking the security of my computer or bank account, I’m going to do everything in my power to avoid you. And I have.

Since I first wrote and advised consumers about spam for Consumer Reports way back in 2002, when spam was still in its infancy, I’ve learned a lot about how to minimize the time spam wastes. For example:

• Don’t post your e-mail address publicly, especially not on a website.

• Don’t open a spam and don’t respond to it.

• An off-beat e-mail domain makes you less of a target (e.g. kool51.com)

• Using e-mail filters helps you get your important mail sooner

I’ve used these, and other techniques, to keep spam under control for many years. Not eliminate it; just keep it down to a tolerably low level. Until this past spring, that is.

There I was in March, coasting along with only 3 to 5 spams per day, nearly all of which my e-mail client, Outlook, was catching. (Yes, I know that webmail can do a better job of foiling spam. But I prefer client-based e-mail, as I explained in 4 reasons not to use webmail for Consumer Reports.)

In April, without warning, my spam experienced an uptick. By May, I was averaging about 15 per day. As the chart below shows, month by month it climbed until, by mid-August, I was often getting 150 to 200 spams per day.

Loose Lips

Where had I slipped up?

After a little research I learned that, in the course of doing me a favor, a friend had unwittingly included my e-mail address in a single tweet. That’s it. One tweet. Some 8,000 spams later, I have a far greater appreciation for that old World War II era caveat, Loose lips sink ships.

Still, how was it that spammers got hold of that tweet? It’s possible that one of my friend’s many Twitter followers was actually a spammer who jumped on that tweet. More likely, though, the tweet was picked up for a reason of which many Twitter users may not be aware: All public tweets are posted on the web and are as accessible to spammers as if they were posted on the front page of NewYorkTimes.com.

To see how many others might be revealing personal e-mail addresses through their tweets, I used Google to find some of the most common e-mail addresses on twitter.com. (You can find e-mail addresses buried with tweets this way, too. Just use the search term: “@gmail.com” site:twitter.com and substitute the domain or address of your choice between the quotes).

For you would-be spammers, here’s a handy list of how many hits I found at Twitter.com for some of the largest e-mail domains. The actual number of unique addresses and users exposed this way is likely to be far smaller. But this still shows that many e-mail addresses whose owners think they are private are publicly available to spammers.

• Yahoo.com, 230 million

• Gmail.com, 102 million

• Hotmail.com, 7.5 million

• MSN.com, 2.5 million

• AOL.com, 303,000

• Comcast.net, 148,000

What to do about it

If you don’t relish the prospect of having your e-mail address harvested by spammers combing through your (or your friends’) tweets, don’t disclose it via your tweets. And ask your friends not to use your address that way, either: “Friends don’t let friends tweet their e-mail address.”

As for me, I’ve got two choices now:

1. I can stick with Spam Assassin, the server-based spam blocker from my e-mail provider, which works very well. But if I do so, I will be forced to forever update my “white list” of contacts (now numbering 165) to keep Spam Assassin from blocking them. And because I make new contacts fairly often, I will still have to regularly comb through hundreds of spams on the server just to make sure its Junk folder doesn’t contain an important e-mail.

2. Using a domain that I own, I can create an entirely new (and hitherto unknown) e-mail address and switch my entire online life over to it, which I’ve done before. In the long run, that would probably save more time than would choice #1. Provided I keep a tight lid on the new address and make sure none of my friends tweet it 

 So here’s fair warning to my friends: Do not tweet my new e-mail address. If you disregard this request, I may be forced to take drastic measures–such as tweeting yours!


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In-person voting started in North Carolina on Thursday, while Democrats are preparing for a big get-out-the-vote operation on Sunday in Florida. For now, Democrats are seeing what they need to see in both states—something that can absolutely not be said about Nevada.

Florida: Since it started on Monday, in-person voting has helped Democrats make up some of the deficit they faced among mail voting. They have narrowed the GOP's advantage among all voters who have already cast their ballot by 1-percentage point each of the past two days. As of Friday, Republicans have an advantage of 9.8 percentage points among the 1.5 million early voters.

During the last midterms, Florida Republicans ended up with an advantage of 14 percentage points among all early voters. And this year's gap should continue to shrink as more Floridians vote in-person and offset absentee ballots. In fact, Florida Democrats have historically turned out at a higher pace over weekends thanks to their “souls to the polls” Sunday push, so stay tuned for Monday's report.

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Mussels are one of the cheapest and tastiest forms of animal protein available.

The lowly mussel is making a comeback lately, for many good reasons. Mussels are tasty, cheap, and virtually guilt free—an increasingly rare quality among animal proteins.

The environmental consequences of meat-eating are becoming difficult to ignore, which is enough to give pause to most any carnivore with a conscience. Cows fart and burp methane, which is 25 times more potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide. Pig waste is polluting waterways. Nearly a third of the earth’s ice-free land is devoted to raising animals for eating and milking—or to the farmland on which animal feed is grown. Vegetarianism, many argue, is the only responsible way to eat. But we love our animal protein. 

There are loopholes in this vegetarian guilt trip. If you live in a place where animals are sufficiently abundant that they can be hunted without pressuring the populations, you can eat wild game. You could eat insects, of which there appears no shortage, although that’s not the kind of extra protein most people have in mind. Someday soon you might be able to sink your teeth into lab-grown meat, but today that option remains prohibitively expensive.

What does that leave us? Mussels, that’s what.

Mussels are one of the cheapest and tastiest forms of animal protein available, and their environmental resume is impressive. They require no feed, as they filter plankton and other microscopic nutrients from the water. Diseases are few, making the use of antibiotics virtually nonexistent. And the fact that mussel shells are made of calcium carbonate means they absorb carbon from the environment. This is true of other shellfish as well, including clams, oysters, snails and scallops. But mussels contain the highest percentage of carbon per dry weight, in both their shells and soft tissues, of any shellfish, according to a 2011 paper published in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series.

But while mussels might be part of the solution to high atmospheric carbon dioxide, they’re also victims of the problem. One consequence of high atmospheric CO2 is it lowers the pH of the oceans, making the water more acidic, which messes with the mollusks. Off the coast of Washington state, where ocean acidification has been observed, mussel beds have been replaced by acid-tolerant algae.

A Duke University study suggests that the increased acidity takes a toll on oyster and mussel shells, weakening them, and requiring more energy for the organisms to produce calcium carbonate. But while this may be happening, it’s also possible that mussels are trying to fight back. A study by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute found that in conditions of high ocean acidification, some shellfish, including mussels, grow thicker shells to absorb the excess carbon.

Meanwhile, a study published in Nature Climate Change and reviewed in Scientific American found that lower ocean pH saps the legendary strength of the mussel’s byssal threads, often referred to as “beards,” which connect them to the rock, ship, or whatever substrate they are attached to. “The shellfish industry, already adjusting to the fact that acidifying oceans hurt the abilities of sea creatures like oysters to make their shells, is also likely to experience losses when mussels lose their ability to cling,” notes Scientific American. “If the mussels' byssal attachments are weakened, they are more likely to fall off the rope when it gets pulled up.”

Mussels are commonly grown on ropes dangling in the water. Some mussels are grown on seafloor beds, a less desirable method because dredging is necessary to harvest them. This practice is extremely disruptive to the ocean floor, according to Seafood Watch, which rates farmed mussels a “Best Choice,” and recommends seeking suspended culture mussels, which are the most common.

An order of mussels served in a wine sauce can be the most affordable meal option at many a restaurant. But before you place that order, it’s worth heeding the cautionary words of Anthony Bourdain in Kitchen Confidential:

“I don't eat mussels in restaurants unless I know the chef, or have seen, with my own eyes, how they store and hold their mussels for service. I love mussels. But, in my experience, most cooks are less than scrupulous in their handling of them. More often than not, mussels are allowed to wallow in their own foul-smelling piss at the bottom of the reach-in.”

All it takes is one bad mussel to ruin a whole meal. When cooking mussels at home, you can take precautions to avoid that one bad mussel. These measures start at the store: if you notice a lot of open shells in the mussel pile behind the seafood counter, it might be an old batch, and perhaps mussels shouldn’t be in the cards that day. If you decide to go for it, make sure the fishmonger picks through them and removes any open ones, or mussels with broken shells. Smell them before you pay—they should smell like the ocean, not like fish. Keep them cool until cooking time.

Some people recommend purging mussels before cooking, to remove grit from their bellies. This is commonly done by soaking them in saltwater with cornmeal, which they supposedly eat, while expunging the grit from their bellies. There is conflicting evidence over whether the cornmeal works. In any case, cultivated mussels are purged before being shipped, so purging is only necessary with wild mussels.

For a simple preparation of the type most commonly served in restaurants, start by sautéing a minced shallot and a few cloves of garlic in olive oil in a pot or deep pan. Add a half-cup of dry white wine and let it boil for a minute to evaporate the alcohol. I like to add a few cherry tomatoes here, but it isn’t necessary. Add your mussels and a handful of chopped parsley, and cook for about five minutes, covered, until the mussels all open. (Any mussels that refuse to open should not be eaten.) Add another handful of parsley, mix it all around, and serve, jus and all, with bread. 


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10:40 Ebola Survivor Nurse Speaks At Press Conference | Video» LiveScience.com
Nina Pham, who caught Ebola while caring for the patient diagnosed in Dallas, was released from a hospital Friday, free of the virus. (Oct. 24)
10:40 307 People Died Crossing The Southern Border Last Year, And That’s The Lowest It’s Been In 15 Years» ThinkProgress

For the first time, "Arizona was not the deadliest place to cross the border,” the Associated Press reported.

The post 307 People Died Crossing The Southern Border Last Year, And That’s The Lowest It’s Been In 15 Years appeared first on ThinkProgress.

10:37 Lawsuit over allegedly unprocessed voter registrations in Georgia being heard in Atlanta court today» Daily Kos
Georgia House Minority Leader Stacy Abrams.
Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams.
The non-partisan New Georgia Project started out 18 months ago getting people signed up for the Affordable Care Act. But as Evan Walker-Wells wrote in Facing South, the conversation soon turned to the problem presented by all the unregistered voters in the state.

By the NGP's estimate, some 800,000 Georgians—"people of color, voters between the ages of 18 and 29, and unmarried women—what the group calls the 'Rising American Electorate'" weren't registered to vote at the beginning of this year. Since then the group—founded by state Rep. Stacey Abrams, Democratic leader of the Georgia House—says it and 12 partner groups have registered around 116,000 new voters. But earlier this month, NGP complained that the registrations in five counties—all of them surrounding large Democratic strongholds in Atlanta, Columbus and Savannah—had not processed some 40,000 of these registrations. Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp said the claim is wrong.

Goal ThermometerSince most of those 40,000 people are likely to be Democrats, the consequences could have a major impact on the election, including the outcome in the tight open-seat Senate contest between Democrat Michelle Nunn and Republican David Perdue. Given the potential for disenfranchisement, the NGP, together with the NAACP, filed suit against Kemp and the county election boards.

Kemp has labeled the lawsuit "frivolous and totally without merit."

The Rev. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church of Atlanta and NGP spokesman, said the group had no choice but to sue and labeled Kemp's stance “cavalier and cynical. [...] This is not a cat-and-mouse game,” he said. “We are talking about people’s right to vote.”

Kemp said earlier this year that more than 7,000 of the registrations had problems because they were of deceased citizens, out-of-state zip codes, ineligible felons, invalid birth certificates:

Ultimately, Kemp's office announced that a review had found less than 1 percent of voter registration forms turned in by the groups—fewer than 100—were actually fraudulent or suspicious. Of those, just 25 were confirmed forgeries, though there was no evidence anyone had planned to use those registrations to cast fraudulent votes.
NGP has settled with DeKalb County, but as Ed O'Keefe reports, the lawsuit is going ahead today against Kemp and the other four counties.

What seems to be at issue here are Republican concerns that Georgia is on the verge of going heavily Democratic again, this time not the party of segregationists who mostly fled to the Republican Party in Georgia and throughout the South over the past 40 years but something a good deal more progressive.

Stacey Abrams and other Democrats have asked why it is that 800,000 eligible Georgians aren't registered and worked diligently to do something about it. That's a question Democrats nationally should be asking about unregistered citizens across the land. And doing something about it year round, whether there's an election immediately coming up or not.

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10:31 NYC Doctor Tests Positive For Ebola, Officials Quell Panic | Video» LiveScience.com
A Doctors Without Borders physician who recently returned to New York City has been diagnosed with Ebola. Officials are now working to quell panic.
10:30 Without a car or cell phone, young Lakota man in South Dakota works to help his people vote» Daily Kos
 photo WiyakawithRickWeiland_zps3c2c12e5.jpg
Wiyaka Eagleman on the left wearing the bright yellow tee shirt. That's Rick Weiland in the blue shirt.
Goal ThermometerTwenty-seven-year-old Wiyaka Eagleman registered 50 Lakota voters on the Rosebud Sioux reservation of South Dakota last week. Then he walked and hitched rides for more than 40 miles to deliver the completed forms to the Tripp County Clerk just in time to meet the Monday deadline. Then he walked and hitched home.

Eagleman (Sicangu Oyate Lakota) grew up on the sprawling reservation, one of nine in the state, home to the Sioux Nation's Upper Brulé division, the tribe of the war chief Spotted Tail, a relative of Crazy Horse. As a child, Wiyaka carried five-gallon buckets of water from an outside pump because there was no indoor plumbing. He remembers that as the best-tasting water.

Wiyaka, whose name means Feather Boy in Lakota, finished the 10th grade and then went into the Job Corps. At 18 he moved to the city to work as a roofer during the summer. After culinary academy training he worked as a cook during the winter.

This past June something changed in Wiyaka's mind and heart. He says he felt he needed to return to the reservation. He was particularly troubled by what was happening to his people because of the threat of the Keystone XL pipeline, which, if approved, will carry tar sands petroleum through the state from Canada to Texas. Wiyaka was caught in what he called a struggle. In the city there are jobs and housing. On the reservation there are not. He was conflicted over whether to help himself or his people. Soon, he decided to go back to the Rosebud even though he had no place to live:

"We need jobs on the rez. We've had a hard lifestyle. I put aside my feelings of hate and anger because of the genocide. Somebody should talk about what our people need here. I would work for my people, cut wood labor-free, but I need gas to do that and there's no money here."
Wiyaka Eagleman in the tipi he lives in.
Wiyaka Eagleman in the tipi he lives in.
Upon returning home he first met with his uncle, Russell Eagle Bear, who is a Rosebud Tribal Council member. Eagle Bear is a strong voice against the pipeline. His uncle advised Wiyaka that he should think of the next generations and should live his dream. So the young man joined the Shield the People movement that erects tipi camps to stop progress along the designated pipeline right-of-way. He's been living with others in a camp of six tipis the past four months on Highway 83 about 30 miles from the town of Mission. Fortunately, the group has arrangements to have access to a trailer for the bitter South Dakota winter.

The members of the community nourish each other, they share resources. But those resources are thin. In Wiyaka's tipi camp there is one laptop which they all share.

This is the first year Wiyaka has become engaged in politics. "This is how we change things," he says. He takes the work seriously. While gathering those voter registrations, Wiyaka covered more than 100 miles traveling to Parmelee, thru the Rosebud and then on to the county seat in Winner. He set out on foot but managed to hitch four rides. When I ask Wiyaka if he stood and thumbed for the rides or did he keep walking, he replies, "I walk like a warrior; you just keep walking."

If Wiyaka can do this, against heavy odds, then you can spend an hour making GOTV phone calls or chipping in $3. Please help get out the reservation vote in South Dakota. Contribute to South Dakota NDN Election Efforts PAC so American Indian voices can be heard!
There's more to this story below the orange fluffy frybread.

10:20 Companies Are Fracking With Harmful Chemicals Through Regulatory Loophole» ThinkProgress

A new report looks at the fracking industry's use of benzene, a carcinogenic chemical, and the loophole that allows companies to frack with it.

The post Companies Are Fracking With Harmful Chemicals Through Regulatory Loophole appeared first on ThinkProgress.

10:01 After Attack In Canada, Congressman Calls For More Surveillance Of Muslims In America» ThinkProgress

"We have to find out what's happening on the ground in these Muslim communities — what the NYPD used to do, but those morons at the New York Times Editorial Board and the American Civil Liberties Union went after them."

The post After Attack In Canada, Congressman Calls For More Surveillance Of Muslims In America appeared first on ThinkProgress.

09:58 Idaho City Says For-Profit Wedding Chapel Can Discriminate Against Same-Sex Couples» ThinkProgress

Responding to a federal lawsuit filed by the chapel's owners, Coeur d’Alene officials determined that refusing to marry same-sex couples didn't violate city law.

The post Idaho City Says For-Profit Wedding Chapel Can Discriminate Against Same-Sex Couples appeared first on ThinkProgress.

09:55 Ebola in NYC Is 'No Cause for Alarm,' Mayor Says» LiveScience.com
A doctor in New York City who recently returned from Guinea in West Africa became the first person in the city to test positive for Ebola. Officials move to prevent the spread of the disease in the city.
09:39 Rep. Chaffetz demands surgeon general head Ebola efforts. Thanks to Republicans, there isn't one.» Daily Kos
U.S. Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) (L) speaks with Representative Trey Gowdy (R-SC) (R) during
Goal ThermometerYou would be forgiven for believing that there was not one member of the Republican Party that was serious about governing the nation. You would be forgiven because it is true, as Republican House member Jason Chaffetz helps demonstrate during, of course, one of his many Fox News appearances. Now that Obama has indeed appointed an "Ebola czar" as demanded, you see, it turns out that decision was completely wrong.
“Why not have the surgeon general head this up?" Chaffetz asked in a Wednesday appearance on Fox News. "I think that’s a very legitimate question. At least you have somebody who has a medical background who's been confirmed by the United States Senate.”

“It begs the question, what does the surgeon general do?" he added. "Why aren’t we empowering that person?”

An astute observer would note that the United States currently has no surgeon general. The United States has no surgeon general because the president's nominee for the position once opined that yes, getting shot by one of America's many guns would be bad for a person's health, and that was all it took for the conspiracy theorists at the NRA to have a fit, and for Jason Chaffetz's party to block the nomination until the president nominates a surgeon general who correctly reckons getting shot with one of America's many guns should be considered a nutritional supplement. Chaffetz does not know this because he is not serious about governing, and therefore appears on Fox News only to spout whatever criticism of Obama comes to mind.

But then someone told him.

Chaffetz told The Huffington Post that he was not saying that the non-existent surgeon general should be in charge of the Ebola response, but rather that the Office of the Surgeon General should be.

"Well I do know there's an acting surgeon general, I understand that. The surgeon general is also an office. It's the Office of the Surgeon General. I know there's some confusion there, but I don't think I was confused," Chaffetz said.

That would be a good save, had he not specifically been referring to, exact quote, "somebody who has a medical background who's been confirmed by the United States Senate," and "that person." Nonetheless he quickly moved on to repeat his prior complaint that the new "Ebola czar," who we had to have only because steadfastly anti-czar Republicans were beside themselves demanding Obama get a new czar, has been on the job for nigh on a day or two now and still hasn't come to calm Congressional Republicans and talk them off the ledge they've been on.
"I question why we would have a person that was put forward as a czar, when you do have an acting surgeon general," he added. "The point is the person the president has appointed doesn't feel prepared to come before Congress."
In other words, there is absolutely nothing Obama can do that will not result in Rep. Jason Chaffetz appearing on Fox News to declare that Obama is Doing Everything Wrong. Why is there no czar? Why is there no surgeon general? Why is the nominee for surgeon general so divisive? Why is the czar not a different person? Why has not the czar come before me to show his respect? Why are we not closing the airports? Why are we not listening to Donald Trump on whether the virus has mutated into an entirely new form? Why does Obama want to send teams to fight Ebola in Africa? Why are we spending money on any of this?
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This is because Jason Chaffetz is not serious about governing, but instead appears on Fox News only to spout whatever criticism of the opposing president comes to mind.
09:35 Casino magnate to the rescue for Republicans in New Hampshire» Daily Kos
Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson
Sheldon Adelson, John Boehner's sugar daddy
Goal Thermometer
Not content with just having a healthy enough majority to make sure that absolutely nothing happens in Congress, Republicans are trying to claim a historic victory in the House for 2014. So of course, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson steps up with a massive donation to a Super PAC tied to House Speaker John Boehner, targeting Democratic Rep. Carol Shea Porter in New Hampshire.
Adelson's donation helped the Congressional Leadership Fund collect nearly $6.8 million during the first two weeks of October—nearly double what the group raised during the previous three-month period. […]

In all, the Congressional Leadership Fund, which has ties to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has spent nearly $7.3 million against Democrats in recent weeks, according to a tally by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Their top targets include Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., and Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., both of whom are facing rematches against Republicans in close contests.

Polling on Shea-Porter's rematch with ex. Rep. Frank Guinta is all over the place. (Guinta beat Shea-Porter in 2010 and lost to her by a narrow margin in 2012.) But most observers call this one 50-50.
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This is a grudge match as much as anything on Boehner and Adelson's part. They had that seat—held by a dyed-in-the-wool teabagger in Guinta—and want it back. They don't need it, but they want it. And they'll spend anything to get it.
09:27 Lawmakers Sneak Big Gift To The NRA Into Bill Banning Copper Theft» ThinkProgress

The law reduces the costs of bringing a pro-gun lawsuit, it deputizes the NRA to police gun laws enacted by city and town councils, and it gives the NRA an incentive to file as many suits as it can as quickly as possible.

The post Lawmakers Sneak Big Gift To The NRA Into Bill Banning Copper Theft appeared first on ThinkProgress.

09:13 Right on Cue: Five Craziest Right-Wing Reactions to New York's First Ebola Case» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Wait, so how is this related to Obamacare?

New York had its first Ebola patient when a doctor returning from Guinea tested positive for the virus Thursday night. The case immediately provoked legitimate concerns from some about screening procedures and the public health response, and some people even expressed concern about doctor's well-being. But, of course others reacted in a completely over-the-top manner, many of them right-wingers looking to score cheap political points on it. Here are five of the craziest reactions:

Ummm, what's the connection?

“Before Obamacare, there had never been a confirmed case of Ebola in the U.S.,” tweeted Nick Muzin, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)'s deputy chief of staff.

What's next, O-bowla?

“Bowling with ebola is a disastrous public health policy. Obama Administration slowness and inadequacy is endangering Americans,” tweeted former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

Trump, of course.

Donald Trump was quick to jump on the bandwagon, tweeting, “Ebola has been confirmed in N.Y.C., with officials frantically trying to find all of the people and things he had contact with.Obama's fault.”

Paranoid much?

Perennial presidential candidate Alan Keyes warned that President Obama had “plans for exploiting the Ebola crisis” by importing “Ebola-infected persons into the United States.”

Blame the courageous doctor.

Fox News's Megyn Kelly took out her ire on the patient himself, saying, “You’re well aware of the contagiousness of this disease. He comes back into New York City. He knows he’s been handling Ebola patients, and he’s here for a week? He doesn’t tell anybody and if he starts to feel symptomatic before his 103 fever, he’s still out there bowling and taxing taxis and not quarantining, not just self-quarantining?”

For it's part, Doctors Without Border, the main NGO coordinating medical relief in Ebola outbreak countries, issued the following statement in response to the hysteria. It reads in part: “As soon as he developed a fever, the...staff member was immediately isolated and referred to Bellevue Hospital. As long as a patient hasn’t developed symptoms, the risk of contagion is close to zero. Ebola is not an airborne virus like the flu. It is only transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids, such as blood or vomit.”

Health officials in New York have also assured a jittery public that Dr. Craig Spencer poses little public health threat, since his subway travel and bowling outing both occurred before he developed symptoms.

Not that facts will get in the way of the haters.



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09:07 How Ebola Punishes People For Being Compassionate» ThinkProgress

One of the scariest parts of the outbreak is the way that it undermines our fundamental humanity.

The post How Ebola Punishes People For Being Compassionate appeared first on ThinkProgress.

08:56 A new poll confirms it: Mike Michaud needs our help to win» Daily Kos
Mike Michaud speaking at campaign kick-off rally.
Democrat Mike Michaud
Goal Thermometer

On behalf of the League of Conservation Voters, PPP takes another look at Maine's gubernatorial contest and finds what most recent polls have found: A close and unpredictable contest between Republican Gov. Paul LePage and Democrat Mike Michaud. PPP finds the two deadlocked 40-40, with left-leaning independent Eliot Cutler taking 17.

LePage is not popular: PPP finds him with an upside down 43-53 favorability rating. Michaud and his allies have been running ads reminding voters why they dislike LePage so much: One ad describes how, among other things, LePage twice compared the IRS to the Nazis and told the NAACP to kiss his butt. Another spot features LePage's infamous remark, "If you want a good education, go to private schools. If you can't afford it, tough luck."

The problem is that national Republicans have been hitting Michaud on the airwaves, arguing that he wants to help undocumented immigrants at the expense of the middle class. PPP finds Michaud with a 47-46 rating, better than LePage but not where he wants to be. By comparison, Cutler has a 39-38 rating.

Back in 2010 Cutler came very close to beating LePage, but there's no doubt that he's holding Michaud back. In a two-way race, Michaud would lead LePage by a more comfortable 49-44. The good news for Democrats is that Cutler has all but stopped running ads, and if he fades Michaud should benefit. The bad news is that Cutler is too well known to completely crater, and he can still take enough votes to give LePage a second term. The Republicans are well aware of this, and they've been sending mailers to Democratic voters to boost Cutler and Michaud's expense. Right now it looks like Cutler's decline could give Michaud some much-needed room to grow, but in a race like this nothing is certain at all.

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Let's make sure LePage's days as governor are numbered. Please give today.
08:50 Mike Huckabee: My Fox News Show Helps Me For 2016» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Potential 2016 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says his Fox News platform is helping him in the crucial primary state of Iowa.

A Huckabee profile from Real Clear Politics (RCP) documents the Fox host's recent trip to Iowa to support Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst. According to reporter Scott Conroy, Huckabee was approached by several "Iowa Republican activists and volunteers" who told the Fox News host that they regularly watch his show.

Huckabee reportedly cited his platform at the network with helping put him in a "very good place to be" as he decides whether to throw his hat in the ring for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, explaining that it has helped increase his visibility and name recognition in Iowa because he has "been in these people's homes every week":

As a driver shuttled him between events, Huckabee told RealClearPolitics that his work on Fox has put him in a "very good place to be" politically as a self-imposed decision date looms in the early spring of next year.

"When I came up here eight years ago, nobody knew who I was," he said. "I had to spell my name. They didn't recognize me, and that was true all over the country. And now I come back, and I've been in these people's homes every week."

Huckabee isn't the first Fox employee/politician to credit their role at the network with helping their political aspirations. In July, former Fox News contributor turned Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown told Fox News Radio that being on the network "really charged me up" to run for office. When he was running for president in 2012, former Fox News contributor Rick Santorum pointed to his Fox role as having "been big" because it "helped folks remember who I am."

Fox continues to allow its employees to publicly weigh runs for office while remaining on the network payroll. As Conroy points out, Huckabee's Fox News show gives him "hundreds of hours of free advertising that hits some of the most reliable Republican voters," which is "the kind of media exposure that any of the more frequently talked about GOP contenders can only dream of."

During the run-up to the 2012 Republican primary in 2010, Media Matters calculated that Fox News had essentially gifted its five employees that were considering running with roughly $55 million in free advertising. Huckabee was by far the biggest beneficiary, with about $31 million worth of free airtime.

Though Huckabee declined to run in 2012, Conroy reports that "the consensus among many plugged-in conservatives in his orbit is that he is already determined" to enter the 2016 race.

08:50 Scott Brown: 'We don't need to be experts' to deal with Ebola (we just need Mitt)» Daily Kos
Split screen of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Sen. Scott Brown in NH Senate debate, 10/23/2014.
Sen. Shaheen can't believe her ears, either.
Goal Thermometer
This has been a rough week for Scott Brown on the debate front. On Tuesday, he had to try to explain why he thinks ISIS is poised at the border with Mexico, ready to attack. He failed. He also brought down the house, and not in a supportive way, when he tried to claim native New Hampshire cred. But to truly appreciate how much Scottie's campaign manager fears Scottie opening his mouth, you have to consider Thursday night with Wolf Blitzer on Ebola.

First there's this nugget:

Brown criticized President Barack Obama for hiring an "Ebola czar" who is not a medical doctor. […]

Brown said part of the problem is that Obama has been providing inconsistent answers on the issue and said a travel ban should be in place to and from West Africa, where Ebola has killed about 4,500 people.

"We don't need to be experts to deal with this issue," Brown said. "It's common sense."

We don't need to be experts to deal with it but Obama needs to have an expert to deal with it. That's common sense only if you're Scott Brown. But the best part, oh, the best part, is this exchange about Brown's assertion that Ebola would ever have come to the U.S. if Mitt Romney were president.
BLITZER: You said "I guarantee we would not be worrying about Ebola right now had Mitt Romney been president of the United States." Do you stand by that?

BROWN: With all respect, what I said, we were talking about many different issues. We were talking about Obamacare. We were talking about him being right on Russia. And I said and I'll say it again. Had he been in charge, we would have a clear, concise policy as to what we're going to do, where we're going, and how we can help, and with regard to immigration. …

BLITZER: Let me interrupt, Senator. You also said, "we would not be worrying about Ebola right now" if Romney had been president.

BROWN: No, that's taken out of context. ...

BLITZER: It's not taken out of context. This was in the Fox News interview last Friday.

BROWN: Once again, it was taken out of context. If you take the whole answer, when we talked about obviously him being right on Obamacare, him being right on Russia, and that he, that we would not be in this situation with regard to the economy. …

BLITZER: Let me read to you exactly what you said. You said, "Mitt was great. Can you imagine if Mitt was president right now? He was right on Russia, he was right on Obamacare, he was right on the economy, and I guarantee you we would not be worrying about Ebola right now or worrying about our foreign policy screw-ups."

BROWN: Thank you for repeating it for the fourth time.

Yes, thank you, Wolf, for repeating it four times. Because it is pure gold.
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The next debate is next Thursday, with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News as a moderator along with WMUR’s Josh McElveen. I, for one, can't wait to find out what comic relief Scottie is going to bring to that one.
08:42 100 percent vote-by-mail makes Colorado extra unpredictable» Daily Kos
Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, at what appears to be a committee hearing
Colorado Sen. Mark Udall could benefit significantly from his state's 100 percent vote-by-mail.
Goal ThermometerCurrent Colorado polling has Democrats narrowly leading the governor's race, and narrowly trailing the Senate race. Now pollsters have traditionally undercounted the Democratic vote in Colorado, in large part because of the difficulty in polling the state's large Latino population. For example, the polling aggregate had President Barack Obama winning the state in 2012 by a 2-point 49-47 margin. He won it comfortably by over five points.

That, in itself, doesn't mean current Colorado polling is understating Democratic support. If the undercount is due to Latino voters, and Latino voters don't turn out this year, then it would have little effect on the numbers. But there's something else at play that suggests that pollsters are driving blind—Colorado is now a 100 percent vote-by-mail state. That means that people don't have to drag themselves to the polls to vote; they'll be getting their ballots in the mail. Thus, any effort to model turnout based on a 2010 electorate isn't just wrong because this isn't 2010, but because the dynamics of voting have dramatically changed in these last four years.

I'm in the school that says we'll hold on to the two key races in Colorado. But at this point, that's just an educated guess. Or is it? Project New America has some intriguing data:

There are 1 million active registered voters in Colorado who voted in 2012 but didn't vote in 2010 or registered after 2012. They were sent a ballot last week. In our survey, 83 percent say they have already voted or plan on voting. According to Catalist voter file returns from Oct 23, 2014, 89,000 have already voted (making these Presidential Survey voters 21 percent of votes cast already).
The details of the poll, which remember, only covers irregular or new post-2012 voters (the kind that wouldn't pass a traditional "likely voter" screen).
* 82 percent received a ballot in the mail
* 83 percent of these Presidential Surge Voters have already voted or plan to vote
* 22 percent have already voted in the survey. The voter file shows 90,446 of them have already cast a ballot, comprising 21 percent of all votes cast through Wednesday
* Senator Udall leads 48-34 percent among these Presidential Surge Voters
* 55-36 among those who already voted
* 48-36 among whites, 56-29 among Hispanics
* 44-40 among men, 52-29 among women
* 53-27 among cell phone voters, but Gardner leads 44-42 among landline
* Governor Hickenlooper leads 49-32 percent with slightly higher margins across subgroups
In Colorado, we have endorsed in the secretary of state race, you can donate for this critical race here. You can also donate to Mark Udall at his website here, and John Hickenlooper at his website here.

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Those voters aren't counted in much of the public polling, either because they're hard to reach (cellphone only) or because they don't pass through tough "likely voter" screens (didn't vote in 2010 or, for younger voters, 2012). In Colorado, Democrats don't need to figure out a way to drag these irregular voters to the polls, they just need them to mail back the ballot—a much lighter and easier lift.
08:37 McConnell boasts of 2005 effort to create private Social Security accounts» Daily Kos
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) makes a point about his meeting with President Barack Obama regarding the country's debt ceiling, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington May 12, 2011.   REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst   (UNITED STA
This is how much you should trust Mitch on Social Security
Goal Thermometer
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, handing Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes yet another golden issue in her campaign to thwart McConnell's sixth term in the U.S. Senate during a Thursday speech at the Louisville Rotary Club:
Though he hasn’t mentioned it much on the campaign trail over the past year, McConnell specifically touted his effort to push President George W. Bush’s plans to reform Social Security in 2005, which would have set up private accounts for retirees.

“After Bush was re-elected in 2004 he wanted us to try to fix Social Security,” said McConnell. “I spent a year trying to get any Democrat in the Senate — even those most reasonable Democrat of all, Joe Lieberman – to help us.”

Another way of looking at what happened is this: Bush's scheme for private Social Security accounts was so deeply unpopular that not even Joe Lieberman, who would go on to leave the Democratic Party and endorse John McCain in 2008, could support it. It was so unpopular that Republicans, even though they controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress, couldn't push it through.
Help elect the kinds of Democrats who will fight to make Social Security stronger—chip in $3 to Daily Kos-endorsed candidates across the nation.

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And yet here we are in 2014, with Mitch McConnell bragging about his failed effort to push it through. Of course, this is Mitch McConnell, so he stopped short of saying he'd try to do it again, instead refusing to tell Insider Louisville's Joe Sonka what his plans would be:
Insider Louisville asked McConnell after the event if he would make a push for such reforms to Social Security if he was elected Senate Majority Leader and could set the agenda, but he declined to reveal if he would do so.

“I’m not announcing what the agenda would be in advance,” said McConnell. “We’re not in the majority yet. We’ll have more to say about that later,” assumedly meaning at some point after the election in 12 days.

It's worth remembering that before the 2004 election, President Bush also refused to say whether he'd try to create private Social Security accounts. Of course, that's exactly what he ended up doing, so the mere fact that McConnell—like Bush before him—is being slippery about his agenda shouldn't stop Grimes from pouncing.
08:33 ‘CitizenFour’ Documaker Laura Poitras Talks Snowden And Responsible Journalism In The Digital Age» ThinkProgress
08:29 Bullied 14-Year-Old Fights Back and Gets Severely Injured—Now HE Faces Assault Charges» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Eric Martin's ordeal continues at the hands of law enforcement.

14 year-old Eric Martin of Henrico, Virginia had reportedly been bullied for years at school, hounded with homophobic slurs and constant harassment. One day in September he stood up to his bullies, and physically confronted them. Although his family says that he did indeed start the fight, his bullies walked away with no real injuries, but Martin was so badly hurt that he ended up hospitalized.

Martin's injuries are severe enough that even seven weeks after his beating he is still receiving care from medical professionals, as he has a traumatic brain injury and broken bones.

But school officials and local police delivered another blow to Martin by charging him with two counts of assault and refusing to allow him back into the school until he signs a written statement saying that he threatened the school (which is something he denies). Local news station NBC-12 did a short report on the case. Watch it:

Martin is currently attending a different high school, and went to court for the first time last week to hear the charges against him. A judge has set a trial date for November 21st. His family's advocate, Tammy Matola, reflects on the fact that the school failed to provide a safe environment for him, which is what led to the confrontation in the first place:

The ugly truth of it all is that kids are just not speaking up anymore. After all, given the current tolerance for such otherwise intolerable behavior, why should they? When they do, too often nothing happens to the perpetrators, and they are only ostracized even more. I’m truly confused as to a school’s definition of zero tolerance. I’m over their anti-bullying policies. What’s the point in any policy if it’s not mandated and enforced? I know, with absolute certainty, that every kid deserves to walk into a school and receive an education without prejudice or persecution. For Eric Martin that day is long overdue.

The family has set up a legal fund for Martin. You can go here to donate to it.



Related Stories

08:27 Dallas Nurse Nina Pham Free of Ebola: 'I Feel Blessed'» LiveScience.com
Nina Pham, the first nurse in Dallas to be infected with Ebola, is now free of the virus, and will be released from the hospital today, officials said.
08:13 Allen West On Ottawa Attack: "Shut Down" Mosques Of Perpetrators And Deport The Imams» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Fox News contributor Allen West believes the Western world should respond to the Ottawa terrorist attack by shutting down "the mosques and Islamic Centers where these individuals are attending" and deporting the imams. West added that closing these places "of so-called worship" is "the only way we send a message into the Muslim communities" that we're "not going to tolerate these snake pits of sedition."

West was speaking on the October 23 edition of BlogTalkRadio's REELTalk. Here's his reaction to the Ottawa attack:

WEST: But I think, Audrey, the real thing that we're going to have to do is the mosques and Islamic Centers where these individuals are attending, when they commit these acts, we gotta shut 'em down. We have to send a message. The imam that's at that mosque or Islamic Center is deported. That place of so-called worship, which is just proselytizing, you know, hate and violence, they have to be shut down. I think that's the only way we send a message into the Muslim communities here in Western Civilization that we're not going to tolerate it. We're not going to tolerate these snake pits of sedition that are, you know, popping up all over the place.


We're not saying, you know, we start shutting down mosques and Islamic Centers. But the ones who are feeding us these violent jihadists, they need to be the ones that are shut down. Like I said, the imams, the mullahs that are there running these mosques and centers, they need to be deported. Because we have to say, this is, you know, a zero-sum game. We're not tolerating it.

West is an Islamophobe. He believes that "Islam is a totalitarian theocratic political ideology, it is not a religion. It has not been a religion since 622 AD, and we need to have individuals stand up and say that." He attacked Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), who is Muslim, as representing "the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established."

The former Florida congressman has similarly claimed that "Barack Hussein Obama is an Islamist" and "I don't understand where this president's loyalties lie, and I have to ask the question, whose side is he on?"

Despite his long history of incendiary rhetoric, Republican candidates and organizations have been using West as a regular surrogate on the campaign trail.

08:09 Economics Daily Digest: Executive pay, consumer rights, and the wealth gap» Daily Kos
Financial planning

By Rachel Goldfarb, originally published on Next New Deal

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

Understanding the CEO Pay Debate: A Primer on America's Ongoing C-Suite Conversation (Roosevelt Institute)

In their primer, Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Holmberg and Campus Network member Michael Umbrecht suggest a shift away from shareholder primacy to reduce incentives for high CEO pay. The primer also lays out the full history of executive pay policy, from the New Deal to the present day.

Because of Occupy Wall Street and more recently the attention on Thomas Piketty’s bestseller, Capital in the 21st Century, progressives are increasingly focused on America’s rising economic inequality. Yet while progressives recognize high CEO pay as a potent symbol of the enormous concentration of wealth in this country at the expense of working people, what is less understood is that the dramatic escalation of CEO pay actually contributes to economic stagnation.

In fact, there is a growing body of evidence that sky-high CEO pay is not just a moral issue: it is a drag on the economy. However, for those interested in the issue but new to it, the causes can be mystifying. Researchers from several academic fields have wri

08:01 After Dodging Iowa Press, Joni Ernst Retreats To Fox News» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

After spending weeks avoiding interviews with Iowa newspaper editorial boards who threatened to ask substantive policy questions, Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst took refuge on Fox News, where hosts lavished her with uncritical praise.

Ernst has recently come under fire after cancelling or declining meetings with the editorial boards of major Iowa newspapers. Staff at key Iowa papers told Media Matters that Ernst's recent avoidance of them is nearly unprecedented and pointed to the importance of local papers as forum for candidates "to explain one's positions" to voters in her state.

But Ernst isn't avoiding the media entirely.

On October 24, Ernst sat down for a softball interview with the hosts of Fox & Friends. Fox ran two of Ernst's campaign ads -- her infamous pig castration spot and a recent sequel -- while co-host Peter Johnson, Jr. commented that Ernst had "captured the imagination of voters." Co-host Brian Kilmeade called her "one of the more exciting new candidates."

After co-host Anna Kooiman suggested that Ernst had set herself apart by not deciding to go negative, Fox aired a campaign ad on economic issues from her Democratic competitor, Rep. Bruce Braley, with an on-air graphic hyping "Democratic Attacks." The hosts gave Ernst the chance to criticize Braley but failed to press her for details about a platform many see as extreme:

Fox & Friends' praise of Ernst and string of softball questions is in line with the network's previous treatment of Ernst, which has previously conspicuously avoided mention of her controversial platform. Ernst is a climate change denier and has promoted a Glenn Beck conspiracy theory about the "United Nations' superseding U.S. laws, states nullifying federal laws and impeaching Obama." She has claimed that Obama has "become a dictator" and should maybe be impeached. The Washington Post has criticized Ernst for trying to "cover her tracks" on her previous support for a 'personhood' amendment that would ban abortion and some forms of contraception.

08:00 Could this be why Joni Ernst is afraid of the Iowa press?» Daily Kos
Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst, glamor portrait.
Joni Ernst: Scarier than she wants you to know about.
Goal Thermometer

Why, oh why, has Joni Ernst been hiding from the Iowa press, refusing to do endorsement meetings with editorial boards and in-depth interviews with local television news? What topics that might come up in such interviews could the Republican Senate candidate possibly be avoiding?

Hmmm ...

Could those be some reasons for Ernst to avoid serious scrutiny from Iowa newspapers? And that's not even getting into her support of personhood legislation or the handgun she thinks will defend her against the government or the time she said President Obama "has become a dictator." Ernst's election chances hinge on seeming like a down-to-earth soldier-mom next door, and that means keeping voters from finding out about her extreme positions. So it's no wonder she's apparently decided that close scrutiny by local media would be a bad idea.

Please chip in $3 to help turn Iowa blue.

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(Side question: Why has Ernst been doing interviews with national media at the same time she's been ducking Iowa outlets?)
07:57 Mark Levin Says Eric Holder Is Guilty Of "Hate Crimes, If You Will," In Ferguson, MO» Media Matters for America - Latest Items
07:28 Scott Walker and the RGA are afraid, very afraid» Daily Kos
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker
Panic mode.
Goal Thermometer
The Republican Governor's Association is parachuting in to Wisconsin to save a faltering Scott Walker, upping their original $900,000 budget for the last days of the campaign to $2 million.
The decision comes amid a flurry of concern in GOP ranks that Walker is underfunded and at risk of losing.

The RGA, chaired by Gov. Christie (R-N.J.), has been under pressure in recent days to do more to help Walker, a tea party favorite who rocketed to political stardom after he curbed bargaining rights for most public workers in his state.

The Weekly Standard reported Thursday that there were brewing suspicions on the right that Christie, as RGA chairman, has been "undercutting" Walker, his potential rival for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

Gee, why would anyone think Christie would do that? The Weekly Standard also suggests that they'll be "scrutinizing" the FEC reports at the end of the election to make sure that the RGA does indeed fulfill its promise. Walker himself seems to be feeding this narrative, and whined this weekend that the RGA—which has put $6 million into his campaign already—was just going to need to step up with a cash infusion: "Hopefully that comes through. […] We are always looking for more help. Our main help has to be the RGA."
Fuel the Christie/Walker feud, and boot Walker. Please donate $3 to Mary Burke.

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Walker makes no attempt to hide that he is in panic mode, and for good reason. The polls are as tight as can be. This one is Mary Burke's to win.
06:51 Perdue's outsourcing ... even the Weekly Standard can't slap lipstick on that pig» Daily Kos
David Perdue
Goal Thermometer

Even the Weekly Standard is noticing the damage done by revelations about Senate candidate David Perdue's long career in outsourcing. In a rundown of the dangers Georgia Republicans face from a strong crop of Democratic candidates in the state (and, unmentioned here, by strong Democratic voter registration efforts), Perdue's outsourcing looms largest:

Suddenly, Perdue’s biggest asset—his business career—has become a liability.

And it’s one the Perdue campaign is trying desperately to avoid. Before my brief phone interview with Perdue, a campaign staffer called twice to confirm that I wouldn’t ask about the “outsourcing” comment. When I did, Perdue dismissed it as “right out of the Democratic playbook.”

“They’ve tried it since Day One,” he said. “It’s not sticking.”

The polls suggest otherwise.

It's not just that a conservative publication is talking about this, it's how frantically defensive it makes Perdue look. First trying to put the major story of the campaign off-limits. Then trying to brush off questions about, again, the major story of the campaign as just some kind of partisan manipulation. Then flatly denying a reality anyone who glances at the polls can see. That's desperate.
We don't have any Georgia endorsements this cycle, so if you want to give to Michelle Nunn, you'll have to go to her campaign site. But if you're still looking for great Democrats to give to, as this election goes down to the wire, we've got some great Senate candidates to choose from.

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It's great seeing Perdue damaged and on the defensive, but to actually beat him, Democrats will need to turn out to vote.
06:50 Cartoon: Ebola Buddy» Daily Kos

Now that politicians and pundits are using Ebola to score political points, it seems only natural for Ebola Buddy to be a vice presidential candidate, or at very least a trusted political consultant. (Never mind that thousands are dying in West Africa and you should donate to Doctors Without Borders right now.)

Suddenly, everyone on the right is an infectious disease expert and thinks they know better than those CDC scientists who work for the gubermint’. Ebola is why big government is bad, why Obamacare will never work, why cattle should graze for free and why taxes on the rich should be cut, right? The tinfoil hat, anti-government crowd in Congress (who apparently overlook the fact they receive a government paycheck) is in full swing.

And let’s not forget Rand Paul, that wise level-headed Republican, is calming everyone’s fears by saying that Ebola is more easily-spread than AIDS and, oh yes, we mustn’t forget the Spanish Flu and Bubonic Plague which killed bazillions of people. Remember, Rand Paul is the guy who apparently belongs to an organization that opposes Social Security and Medicare— the same organization that also doesn’t think HIV causes AIDS. (This is the same Rand Paul who certified himself as a “board certified” ophthalmologist.)

06:01 Ancient City Ruled by Genghis Khan's Heirs Revealed» LiveScience.com
The 750-year-old city, along with the remains of Christian temples, were part of the Golden Horde kingdom that built by Genghis Khan's grandson and controlled many of the Silk Road trade routes that connected China to Medieval Europe.
05:30 Daily Kos Elections Polling Wrap: Closing days of cycle brings a 'wave' of piss-poor poll analysis» Daily Kos
Rep. Gary Peters (D)
Recent polling confirms Gary Peters (D-MI) is pulling away in his once-tight Senate race.
Memo to my pals in the U.S. political news media: look closely at the above caption. Now, I don't want to tell you how to do your jobs—but that caption has two things going for it.

For one thing, it is accurate. In the last six polls of the Michigan Senate race (released since October 10th), Democrat Gary Peters is leading Republican Terri Lynn Land by an average margin of 11.5 percentage points. In the October polls taken before that, Peter's average lead was 7.8 percentage points. September polls? 5.5 percentage points. The trend line is clear.

For another thing, these are actual polls asking the entire potential electorate who they are voting for. Not some subset, based on their particular view on an issue, or ... say ... whether or not they are following some "scandal" closely.

I bring this up because, quite frankly, some of our colleagues aren't quite "getting it." We are now rapidly approaching the finish line, and it's time to be on top of our game. And Thursday brought three glaring examples of total airballs thrown in the name of political analysis.

They were bad, they were avoidable, and we'll discuss them after the jump (along with the customary compendium of all the recent polling goodness, which numbers a fairly "holy crap" 88 polls today!).

05:08 Photos: Ancient 'Golden Horde' City Revealed » LiveScience.com
Archaeologists have uncovered part of an ancient city founded by the heirs of Genghis Khan. Here's a look at the remains and artifacts found at the site along the Volga River in Russia.
05:00 Daily Kos Radio is LIVE at 9 am ET!» Daily Kos
Daily Kos Radio logo
It's our Friday pot luck breakfast, with contributions from Rosalyn MacGregor

And as a new feature, I thought it'd make sense to include the summary of the previous day's show, down below, so those of you still teetering on the edge of finally giving in and listening to the show could get an idea of what you'd be in for if you dared to press that play button.

But I'll bet you're scared! Come on, I dare you to do it!

Listen LIVE at 9:00 ET, here: Click this Link to Listen on your iTunes, Winamp or Windows Media Player

Daily Kos Radio's Kagro in the Morning show podcasts are now available through iTunes.


Listen to Stitcher
Help support the show through Stitcher's revenue sharing program. Be one of 5,000 "active listeners" per month, and, well, they send us money. All you need to do, believe it or not, is listen to 30 seconds of a show, once in a month. Seriously! Choose any one of the shows at this link, listen to 30 seconds' worth, and you're on board!

Did you happen to miss our last LIVE show? You can catch it here:

Emerging details from yesterday's attack in Ottawa. At least some air-dropped US weapons fell into ISIS hands. Neighbors battle over concealed carry on the way to school. And Armando can't stand it that no one seems to properly understand the nature of constitutional rights. The warrior cop supply chain makes you feel oh so safe. "The Criminalization of Schooling" raises some interesting & disparate points. Historical background on privatized prisons & revenue-driven courts: thief-takers. Sarah Palin's SarahPAC is still a champion middle-weight grifter.

Need more info on how to listen? Find it below the fold.

05:00 Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: Maine independent Eliot Cutler goes dark, boosting Democrats» Daily Kos
Eliot Cutler with some guy dressed in very patriotic gear for Fourth of July
Eliot Cutler, probably the dude on the right

Leading Off:

ME-Gov: Eliot Cutler is looking like a man defeated. Cutler, an independent who finished second in the 2010 gubernatorial race, has utterly failed to replicate his prior success and is mired at about 15 percent in the polls. Now, after spending a ton of his own money on his repeat effort, he's all but gone dark on the airwaves in the final weeks of the campaign.

This week, Cutler's spending all of $4,000 on TV, which, as Ethan Strimling reports, means he's getting outspent 100-to-1 by Democrat Mike Michaud and Republican Gov. Paul LePage when you factor in activity from outside groups. That's good news for Maine Democrats, since as almost all the polling has shown, Cutler hurts Michaud far more than he hurts LePage.

04:53 Supervolcano Cleared in Neanderthals' Demise» LiveScience.com
Neanderthals disappeared from Europe starting 40,000 years ago, after the region's biggest volcanic blast in the last 200,000 years sent superheated pyroclastic flows of volcanic gas and ash sky-high. But don't blame the volcano, scientists say.
04:42 Abbreviated pundit roundup: New Ebola measures, the fight against ISIS, and more» Daily Kos
We begin with a New York Times editorial on new measures on Ebola:
The new monitoring rules to be placed on travelers coming into the United States from three Ebola-affected countries in West Africa form a smart and workable response to a complex public health question. The measures should be more effective than a misguided ban on all travelers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, which many in Congress have been demanding.

Starting Monday in six states, and rolled out in other states soon after, travelers who visited those countries will be required to report their temperature and any other symptoms to state or local health officials daily for 21 days, the maximum incubation period for the disease to develop. The officials will be responsible for finding and possibly detaining anyone violating these rules. [...]

A ban would discourage volunteers from joining the fight against Ebola and make it harder to bring the epidemic under control, the surest way to protect this country from imported cases.

Meanwhile, on the foreign policy front, Eugene Robinson argues that President Obama is getting it wrong on ISIS:
“I don’t oppose all wars,” said Barack Obama, then an Illinois state senator, in 2002. “What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war.”

Few would describe Obama’s use of military force against the Islamic State as rash, given the time he took in deciding to act. But the more we learn about this intervention, the more it appears to violate the “dumb” half of the president’s dictum. The purposes, parameters and prospects of the war are increasingly uncertain. Americans have a right to be concerned about the whole enterprise. [...] it is necessary to ask whether Obama’s strategy offers a plausible path from the present situation to the ultimate goal, which the president says is to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State. It is also necessary to ask whether certain unintended — but glaringly obvious — consequences of the president’s war plan are fully being taken into account.

Much more on the day's top stories below the fold.
04:39 You're Being Watched: Online Stores Know Your Habits» LiveScience.com
Getting the best price while online shopping is complicated by the fact that retailers can learn a lot about you, and they often use that information to alter the options you see, new research finds.
03:11 Listen To A Muslim Community Leader Call Out Sean Hannity's Anti-Muslim Rhetoric» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

From the October 24 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:

HANNITY: Why are so many people though, why are there so many radical Islamists? What is the attraction to this way of life? What is the attraction to this extremism?

YOUNUS: First of all Sean, I disagree. I think this is sort of McCarthyism. These guys, I don't consider them Muslims. I mean you can call a rotten tomato a strawberry but that doesn't make it a strawberry. These people...

HANNITY: Excuse me, this is not McCarthyism, sir, with all due respect, If somebody is killing in the name of Allah and in the name of Islam, that views everybody else as apostates and infidels... Hang on, let me finish. If they're quoting the Quaran, they're doing it. I would agree it is a perversion, a hijacking  of a religion, but there are an awful lot of them buying into this ideology and I would also add that those that say that they're moderate Muslims, while there are some very outspoken  people, their numbers are few.  

YOUNUS: Well that's the point. First of all, I would ask you not to legitimize their distorted version of Islam. That is exactly why I'm saying these are rotten tomatoes. 


YOUNUS: You've made a lot of charges here. You've called out my Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, who said loyalty to the country where you live is part of your faith. It's because of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, that the Muslim community joins Americans all across the country, we join we call it Muslims for Loyalty. There are 40 such rallies last year on the 4th of July. I'm going to ask you after I finish, how many of those Muslims came on your show? And how many times did you talk about that on your show? I also have to say that these are the reasons, this is Islam. It's not in spite of Islam it's because of Islam that members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community are cops, they're serving as marines, and military. And when you say our laws, excuse me sir, I am also an American. This is also my country. These are also my laws. So stop othering three to seven million people because when you do that you only allow radicals to go out and recruit more.


YOUNUS: And see, I ask David one quick question. This is Faheem again. When we come out in the mass, thousands of us joining these Fourth of July parades, people like David don't want to talk about that on their radio shows.

WEBB: Yes I do. I talk about it, and what I'm talking about is when you don't come out. And I use the example of Miami, the same place where literally 10 or 12 years where the radicals come out and you can see the videos, the Clarion Project puts them out, I don't see surrounding them peaceful Muslims. I don't see surrounding them Muslims like yourself that want to go out and say this isn't us. You have to confront your own problem, because it is a problem for the world.

YOUNUS: I completely agree with you, David. I've written over 100 articles and that is the reason that I'm on this show. I completely agree that we need to work together to root out extremists because they are just as much a danger to me and my family as they are to  you. So I'm fully in line there, but I think that the idea that somehow Prophet Muhammad is tobe blamed, or the faith, or the Quran has to be blamed, it's almost like I believe that in the brain of Islam today there is a tumor. But thank god people like you are not neurosurgeons because you'd be taking an ax and chopping off that head. And that is exactly what scares me, because we need to use kind polite language to distinguish between what these people are doing. 


Watch A CAIR Representative Shut Down Fox News' Attempt To Attribute A Terrorist Group's Actions To Islam

Muslim Leaders Have Roundly Denounced Islamic State, But Conservative Media Won't Tell You That

00:31 Conservatives' Latest Example Of Potential Voter Fraud Actually Proves The System Works» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Conservative media figures pointed to the news that 145 immigrants' names were flagged on North Carolina's voter rolls as proof of potential voter fraud in the upcoming election. But the discovery of these names actually disproves the potential for voter fraud, as the state's board of election is now confirming the citizenship of individuals who were flagged.

NC DMV Discovered Names Of 145 Immigrants Who Received Deferred Deportation On Voter Rolls

Associated Press: North Carolina DMV Review Turned Up 145 Possibly Ineligible Voters. On October 21, the Winston-Salem Journal reported that the state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) found the names of 145 immigrants who received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) on the state's voter rolls. The North Carolina State Board of Elections (SBOE) plans to verify their citizenship. From AP:

A review by the Department of Motor Vehicles has found 145 voters who are ineligible in North Carolina because of questions about their immigration status.

The Winston-Salem Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1nyZcRy) the DMV searched its records for drivers under a federal program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

State Elections Board spokesman Josh Lawson says the agency will send letters to those 145 people asking for documentation that they are United States citizens. [Associated Press, 10/22/14]

Conservative Media Hype Ineligible Voter Discovery As Proof Of Potential Voter Fraud

Fox News Legal Analyst: Does This Mean "Illegal Immigrants ... Can Vote In North Carolina?"  On the October 24 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox legal analyst Peter Johnson, Jr. asked a Republican state representative from North Carolina about the "shocking discovery" of illegal immigrants on the voter rolls in North Carolina "courtesy" of the Obama administration's DACA program. He also wondered whether the discovery means "illegal immigrants" will be able to vote:

JOHNSON: Early voting kicked off in North Carolina yesterday following a shocking discovery by the state's election board. 145 illegal immigrants are on the voter rolls courtesy of the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program known as DACA


How can this be possible? How are there illegals registered to vote in North Carolina and does it appear to be a bigger problem, even nationally?


Under that program, you're entitled to drivers licenses and even work papers. But does that mean that you can vote in North Carolina? You have to be a citizen, don't you? [Fox News, Fox & Friends10/24/14]

Laura Ingraham Asked If The Existence Of Immigrants On NC Voter Rolls Is One Of "Various Nefarious Attempts To Fraud The Vote." Discussing "the latest instances of voter manipulation ballot fraud" with J. Christian Adams on her radio program, ABC News and Fox News contributor Ingraham brought up the 145 immigrants on the voter rolls in NC:

INGRAHAM: We're going to talk about these latest instances of voter manipulation, ballot fraud. We saw that James O'Keefe video. We had him on the show yesterday, and on this Friday we are going to try to tie it all together for people. What's really happening out there? Is there various nefarious attempts to fraud the vote?


Well, we find out that ineligible DREAMERs -- you know the DACA executive amnesty the president did back in June of 2012 -- apparently, lo and behold, with North Carolina and that Senate race, Christian, hanging in the balance with Kay Hagan, of course, against Thom Tillis, state election officials say they've discovered 145 names on voting rolls who are ineligible to vote because they are illegal immigrants who are here under DACA. Now I predicted this back in 2012, that they would fast track these people to voting. [Courtside Entertainment Group, The Laura Ingraham Show10/24/14]

In Reality, The Discovery Of Potentially Ineligible Voters Is Proof That Voter Verification System Works

Winston-Salem Journal: North Carolina Is Verifying Citizenship Of Flagged Voters With Homeland Security This Week. According to the Winston-Salem Journal, the state board of elections is in the process of verifying the citizenship of the 145 immigrants, and plans to have completed the check by October 24. State elections officials are also doubling efforts to make sure voter fraud doesn't occur:

 The State Board of Elections expects to find out by Friday how many of the nearly 10,000 names flagged as possible ineligible voters belong to people who apparently are not U.S. citizens, elections officials said Thursday.


At the same time, state elections officials are drafting a line of defense against voter fraud from possible ballots cast by non-citizens and will work with local elections officials as the names become known, according to Lawson.

"The state board is preparing guidance directing elections officials to challenge ballots cast by those identified as non-citizens," Lawson said.


Uncertainty had reigned over whether the SBOE would be able to cross-check all of the nearly 10,000 names against a U.S. Department of Homeland Security database, known as SAVE, by Election Day because the names had to be checked manually. But state elections officials accelerated the process by creating an automated system, according to Lawson.

By Thursday afternoon, the SBOE had run about half the names, Lawson said.


Of the nearly 10,000 names on the voter rolls, Lawson initially said, 145 belonged to people with DACA licenses. After another day of investigation, Lawson said, the SBOE pared down the number to 119.

In addition to the DACA license holders, the other names on the list of nearly 10,000 belong to license holders who were not U.S. citizens when they got a license. They may have been green-card holders, foreign workers or foreign students, for example. Most have become U.S. citizens since getting a license, according to an estimate by elections officials based on a sample of the overall list.

The state elections board has sampled about 1,600 of the 10,000 names, Lawson said. They cross-checked the names against the Homeland Security database and found that 94 percent of those 1,600 are in fact U.S. citizens, Lawson said. [Winston-Salem Journal10/24/14]

As Immigrants Who Received Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals Are Not Automatically Granted Right To Vote

DHS: DACA Does Not Grant Citizenship, A Requirement For Voting. Undocumented immigrants who received DACA status were not granted citizenship nor any right to vote. As the Department of Homeland Security states: 

An individual who has received deferred action is authorized by DHS to be present in the United States, and is therefore considered by DHS to be lawfully present during the period deferred action is in effect. However, deferred action does not confer lawful status upon an individual, nor does it excuse any previous or subsequent periods of unlawful presence. [DHS, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 10/23/14]

00:20 Evidence Piles Up Against Right-Wing Media's Defense Of Voter ID» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

As strict voter ID laws are put into effect ahead of the midterm elections, recent judicial opinions and social science studies continue to poke holes in right-wing media's defense of voter suppression.

1. Voter ID Laws Have Repeatedly Been Found To Be Racially Discriminatory, And Race Influences Public Opinion On The Need For ID

2. Voter ID Laws Require Photo ID That Is Not Needed For "Everyday Tasks"

3. Supreme Court Decision On Voter ID Law In Indiana Doesn't Mean All Voter ID Laws Are Acceptable

4. Federal Report Found Decreased Turnout Among People Of Color Was Attributable To Voter ID Laws

Right-Wing Media Suggest Legislation Like Voter ID Laws Aren't Racially Discriminatory

Rush Limbaugh: The "Real Reason" Democrats Object To Voter ID "Is So They Can Cheat." On his October 22 radio show, Rush Limbaugh claimed that President Obama's recent comments encouraging voting among those who are not affected by strict voter ID laws undercut accusations that these laws are discriminatory. Limbaugh said the reasoning of those who say voter ID "will prevent minorities from voting" is "absurd." [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 10/22/14, via Media Matters]

WSJ's Jason Riley: Obama Administration's Opposition To Voter ID Is An "Overt Racial Appeal To Get Out The Base." In a segment on the October 20 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier, Wall Street Journal opinion editor Jason Riley complained that "the voter ID stuff [the Obama administration] is talking about constantly, as if there's some sort of Republican conspiracy out there to deny blacks the franchise" was nothing more than a political ploy on the part of the administration to gin up Democratic support in the midterm elections. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 10/20/14]

Bill O'Reilly: "Laws And High-Level Decisions Are Not Based On Skin Color Anymore." On the October 21 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly insisted that modern laws are no longer rooted in racism and that Democrats are playing "the race card" in an effort "to drive African-Americans to the polls":

[Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 10/21/14]

But Voter ID Laws Have Repeatedly Been Found To Be Racially Discriminatory, And Race Influences Public Opinion On The Need For ID

Brennan Center's Andrew Cohen: "Mountains Of Evidence" Led To Federal Court Ruling That Texas Voter ID Law Was Discriminatory. Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Andrew Cohen, a contributing editor at The Atlantic and a legal fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, noted that federal courts have twice found Texas' voter ID law to be racially discriminatory, both in intent and effect. Although it will be implemented for the midterm elections, Cohen pointed out that the evidence relied on by the courts that found this law violated the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution remains uncontroverted:

It is hard to chronicle in a short space the ways in which the Texas law, one of the most discriminatory voting laws in modern history, runs afoul of constitutional norms and reasonable standards of justice. State lawmakers rammed through the measure, jettisoning procedural protections that had been used for generations in the state Legislature. By requiring registered voters to present a certain kind of photo identification card, and by making it difficult for those without such cards to obtain one, the law's Republican architects would ensure that poor voters, or ill ones, or the elderly or blacks or Latinos -- all likely Democratic voters -- would be disenfranchised, all in the name of preventing a type of voter fraud that does not materially exist.


The swift passage of this Texas law -- it was blocked by the Voting Rights Act until the 2013 Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County, then began to be hustled through the state Legislature on the very day that case was decided -- is unassailable proof that intentional racial discrimination still exists in these jurisdictions. The trial judge so found, in page after page of documentation, that Texas state officials, emboldened by the Shelby County decision, devised a way to make it harder for blacks and Latinos to have their votes counted. Read her opinion for yourself.

Only three justices on the Supreme Court -- Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan -- had the courage to call the high court's ruling the sham that it is. Ginsburg wrote in the dissent that there was ample proof the Texas law discriminates, and no proof that it doesn't. There was ample proof, she wrote, that state officials relentlessly fought against amendments to the measures that would have ameliorated the discrimination, and no proof that the new restrictions will solve whatever perceived voter fraud problems lawmakers fear. About 600,000 registered voters could be disenfranchised, Ginsburg warned.

Some stoic commentators have noted that the Supreme Court did not rule on the merits of the Texas law -- that the justices may well strike it down next year, or the year after that, when it inevitably comes back to them following a ruling on the merits at the 5th Circuit. [Los Angeles Times, 10/22/14]

University Of Delaware Study: White People Who Saw "A Photograph Of African-Americans Using Voting Machines ... Expressed Stronger Support For Voter ID Laws." According to a new study from the University of Delaware's Center for Political Communication, white survey respondents who saw an image of black voters were more likely to be in favor of voter ID laws than respondents who were shown an image of white voters. This report followed an earlier study by the same researchers, which "found that support for voter identification laws is strongest among Americans who harbor negative attitudes toward African Americans":

A newly published study conducted by the University of Delaware's Center for Political Communication reveals that seeing a photograph of African Americans using voting machines affected how white respondents answered a survey question about voter ID laws. White survey respondents who saw this image expressed stronger support for voter ID laws than those who saw no image. Seeing an image of white Americans using voting machines did not affect white respondents' support. Research faculty David C. Wilson and Paul Brewer supervised the nationwide study.

"Our findings suggest that public opinion about voter ID laws can be racialized by simply showing images of African American people," said Wilson. "The resulting increase in support for the laws happens independently of -- even after controlling for-- political ideology and negative attitudes about African Americans."


[University of Delaware Center for Political Communication, 10/10/14]

Conservative Media Claim Voter ID Is No Burden Because ID Is Needed For "Dozens Of Everyday Tasks"

Wash. Times' Ed Feulner: "If You've Ever Tried To Board A Plane, Cash A Check, Or Rent A Car, You've Almost Surely Had To Show" A Photo ID. Ed Feulner, the founder of the conservative Heritage Foundation wrote in an October 20 Washington Times column that voter ID should be required because photo identification is already required for "everyday tasks" like boarding an airplaine. The conclusion that strict voter ID "is a form of discrimination" was dismissed by Feulner as one of "fringe groups" and "people who ought to know better":

If you've ever tried to board a plane, cash a check or rent a car, you've almost surely had to show some form of identification with your picture on it. For most people, that takes the form of a driver's license, but there are other forms of photo ID. Millions of Americans produce them every day to do dozens of everyday tasks and think nothing of it.

Why should it be any different when we vote? Anyone can show up and claim to be you. Imagine if all someone had to do was state your name and address. I don't know about you, but producing a form of ID when I vote gives me some peace of mind that no one else is voting in my name.

The short answer to the above question is that it's no different at all. In fact, to the extent that it is different, you could say it's even more important to produce a photo ID for voting. What civic duty supersedes that of voting? It's a responsibility we must take seriously.

That helps explain why 31 states have some form of voter-ID laws in effect. Some are stricter than others, but all send an important message: Voting is too important not to take fraud seriously. We need to make sure that when someone shows up to vote, he is who he says he is, and not someone else.

You'd think this would be the most noncontroversial thing in the world. Who could oppose voter-ID laws? Some fringe groups? A few, yes, but unfortunately, they're joined by some people who ought to know better, such as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., whose headquarters in Washington requires a photo ID to enter. [The Washington Times, 10/20/14]

National Review's Rich Lowry: Complaints About Strict Voter ID Are "Unhinged." In a column for Politico Magazine, National Review editor Rich Lowry ignored the fact that all voting requires identification and that the current legal challenges are to the new wave of redundant and unnecessarily strict voter ID requirements that intentionally or disproportionately affect minorities. Instead, he pretended that the legal challenges to these Republican-sponsored voter ID laws seek to untether all identification from voting, unlike requirements for other acts of "modern life":

Is voting so important that it shouldn't be tethered to an ID requirement? That's not how we treat other important rights, as Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation notes.

It takes an ID to buy a gun, a constitutional right. It takes an ID to get a marriage license or check into a hotel. No one goes around complaining that these requirements infringe on the rights of minorities to own a firearm, get married, or avail themselves of public accommodations.

Voting is inevitably going to require, even in the most latitudinarian states, some effort. You have to, at least most of the time, go to the polling place. You have to fill in the bubbles correctly. You have to deposit your ballot in a box. Not all people will go to the trouble to do this, or to do it correctly, which doesn't mean they are disenfranchised. [Politico Magazine, 10/22/14]

But You Don't Actually Need The Same Type Of ID Required By Strict Voter ID Laws For Many Of These Tasks

Salon: In 2013, There Were "33 States Where You Can Buy An Assault Weapon Without ID, Versus Zero States Where You Can Vote Without Providing Some Kind Of ID." Writing at Salon, Alex Seitz-Wald fact-checked part of former President Bill Clinton's speech at the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington in which he said, "a great democracy does not make it harder to vote than to buy an assault weapon." As Seitz-Wald explained, under federal law, secondary market venues like gun shows are exempt from identification requirements and there is nowhere in the country that a voter can cast a ballot without identification:

If you live in a growing number of states, it's absolutely true. In places like Texas and Virginia with strict voter ID laws and weak gun regulations, it's pretty safe to say that it is in fact easier to purchase an AR-15 than to vote for president. Nationally, well, that's another story.

First, take a look at the voting laws. There are currently 13 states that have passed strict voter ID laws, according to Keesha Gaskins, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice. (Some of those laws haven't gone into effect yet, or are facing legal challenges, but for the purposes of this exercise, we'll treat them as if they're in place.) These kinds of laws are the most restrictive type of voting legislation around. While federal law requires some kind of ID, it could be a utility bill, student ID or, in some cases, even a signed affidavit attesting to your identity, among other things. But in strict voter ID states, it has to be a government-issued photo ID, and some states, like Texas, don't even allow out-of-state IDs. These restrictions can be a big burden for millions of people who don't have driver's licenses or birth certificates, or who lost them, or who don't live near a DMV, etc.

As for guns, under federal law, you can buy a gun through a private seller without even showing an ID. And assault weapons have been fair game since the ban on them expired in 2004.


States can add their own restrictions on top of that, but only about a third have. "Under the law in 33 states, it is legal for a person to purchase any kind of assault weapon (assault rifle or assault pistol) without any kind of background check or even showing ID, so long as the seller is not licensed as a dealer," explained Lindsay Nichols, an attorney at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which tracks firearms regulations.

And while it takes just a few seconds to complete a background check in more than 95 percent of cases, it can take hours of work and days of waiting for someone to acquire the ID they might need to vote.

Scoreboard: There are 33 states where you can buy an assault weapon without ID, versus zero states where you can vote without providing some kind of ID -- it's federal law. Meanwhile, there are 43 state where you can buy an assault weapon with an ID, and, and 37 states were you can vote without a government-issued ID. [Salon, 8/29/13]

Conservative Federal Appellate Judge Richard Posner: The Idea That You Need Photo ID To Fly Is "A Common Misconception." After the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to rehear a case involving Wisconsin's restrictive voter ID law, Judge Richard Posner dissented, arguing that the court's suggestion that "obtaining a photo ID to vote can't be a big deal, because one needs a photo ID to fly" was "a common misconception." Posner went on to explain that photo ID is also not required to open a bank account, buy a gun, or to enter the Supreme Court building:

The panel opinion suggests that obtaining a photo ID to vote can't be a big deal, because one needs a photo ID to fly. That's a common misconception. Since, despite the 9/11 attacks that killed thousands, a photo ID is not considered essential to airline safety, it seems beyond odd that it should be considered essential to electoral validity.

The panel piles error on error by stating that "photo ID is essential [not only] to board an airplane ... [but also to] pick up a prescription at a pharmacy, open a bank account ... buy a gun, or enter a courthouse to serve as a juror or watch the argument of this appeal." In 35 states, including Wisconsin, you don't need a photo ID to pick up all prescriptions. Bank customers do not need a photo ID to open a bank account. Federal law does not require a photo ID to purchase firearms at gun shows, flea markets, or online. It's true that our courthouse requires a photo ID to enter, but the Supreme Court requires no identification at all of visitors. [Frank v. Walker, 10/10/14]

Right-Wing Media Claim Legality Of A Voter ID Law In Indiana Means Every Strict Voter ID Law Is Acceptable

National Review's John Fund: Supreme Court Upheld "The Constitutionality Of Laws Requiring Voter ID At The Polls." In a column for National Review Online, Fund falsely claimed that the 2008 Supreme Court case of Crawford v. Marion County Election Board was a ruling on the constitutionality of voter ID in general:

In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld on a 6-to-3 vote the constitutionality of laws requiring voter ID at the polls. Justice John Paul Stevens, one of the left-of-center judges on the Court, wrote the opinion in a case involving Indiana's voter-ID law: He found that the Court could not "conclude that the statute imposes 'excessively burdensome requirements' on any class of voters."

But our Constitution decentralizes our election procedures over 13,000 counties and towns, and states themselves are in charge of writing voter-ID laws should they choose to do so. Some do it better than others. [National Review Online, 1/19/14, via Media Matters]

Fox's Brit Hume: "The Fight Has Gone On Despite" Supreme Court's 2008 Voter ID Decision. In an October 21 segment on Special Report, senior political analyst Brit Hume suggested that the Supreme Court's decision in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board upholding a voter ID law in Indiana should have been the end of "the fight" over ID requirements at the polls, even though the case was applicable only to Indiana. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 10/21/14]

But That Case Was "State-Specific And Record-Specific" And Not Applicable To All Voter ID Laws

U.S. District Judge: Supreme Court "Did Not Hold That All Voter Photo ID Laws Are Valid." In her extensive findings of fact and law that struck down Texas' voter ID law due to its racial discrimination, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales pointed out Crawford was not necessarily controlling. As the judge explained, voter ID laws may be flawed for a variety of reasons, and the evidence about voter ID laws and their disenfranchising effect is far more developed now than it was in Crawford:

Understandably, Defendants rely heavily on the Supreme Court of the United States' Crawford v. Marion County Election Board opinion. That case involved a facial challenge to the Indiana voter photo ID law, with the argument that it imposed an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote. The Supreme Court upheld the Indiana law, but it did not hold that all voter photo ID laws are valid. This case is different because the Indiana law is materially different from SB 14, this is an as-applied rather than a facial challenge, there are substantial differences in the evidentiary record developed in this case, and this case includes claims of discriminatory effect, discriminatory purpose, and a poll tax, which were not present in Crawford.


Even more compelling, however, is the difference in the record developed by the parties. In Crawford, the Court was confronted with sparse evidence. An expert report was deemed unreliable and the number of voters potentially disenfranchised in that case was estimated at 43,000 or 1% of eligible voters. Here, Plaintiffs' experts were abundantly qualified, produced meticulously prepared figures regarding voters who lack SB 14 ID, and that number is estimated at 608,470, or 4.5% of registered (not just eligible) voters. Unlike the record in Crawford, the experts here provided a clear and reliable demographic picture of those voters based on the best scientific methodology available.

And while the Crawford case apparently had no evidence of a single actual voter who was disenfranchised or unduly burdened, this record contains the accounts of several individuals who were turned away at the polls, who could not get a birth certificate to get the required ID, or for whom the costs of getting the documents necessary to get qualified photo ID exceeded their financial and/or logistical resources. [Veasey v. Perry10/9/14]

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens: "My Opinion Should Not Be Taken As Authority That Voter-ID Laws Are Always OK." In a 2013 interview with The Wall Street Journal, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said that his majority opinion in Crawford should not be misconstrued to mean that all voter ID laws pass constitutional muster. Stevens went on to suggest that the dissenting opinion by Justice David Souter "got the thing correct":

In an interview this week, Justice Stevens said he isn't "a fan of voter ID" and wasn't in 2008. But he said his opinion was correct because the challengers failed to present enough evidence showing the requirement suppressed poor and minority voters. "My opinion should not be taken as authority that voter-ID laws are always OK," Justice Stevens said. "The decision in the case is state-specific and record-specific."


"I have always thought that David Souter got the thing correct [in his dissent], but my own problem with the case was that I didn't think the record supported everything he said in his opinion," said Justice Stevens, who retired in 2010. "He got a lot of stuff off the Internet and inferred things and so forth." But "as a matter of actual history, he's dead right. The impact of the statute is much more serious" on poor, minority, disabled and elderly voters than evidence in the 2008 case demonstrated, he said. [The Wall Street Journal, 10/17/13, via Media Matters]

Right-Wing Media Argue That Voter ID Laws Have No Effect On Turnout

WSJ's Gigot: Paul Gigot: Voter ID Laws Have Had "Zero Effect On Turnout." Appearing on NBC's Meet the Press on April 13, Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Paul Gigot claimed voter ID laws have had "zero effect" on minority turnout because "African-American turnout was so much greater in 2012" than it had been in previously. [NBC's Meet The Press, 4/13/14, via Media Matters]

But A Recent GAO Report Found Decreased Turnout Among People Of Color Was Attributable To Voter ID Laws

Wash. Post: "Turnout Dropped At Least 1.9 Percentage Points In Kansas And 2.2 Percentage Points In Tennessee Thanks To" Voter ID Laws. As The Washington Post blog The Fix reported, a Government Accountability Office report looked at the potential effect of voter ID laws and turnout and found that turnout decreased in Kansas and Tennessee "thanks to the laws." Furthermore, the decrease was worse among people of color, young voters, and newly registered voters:

In response to a request from a group of Democratic senators, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office analyzed the effect of voter ID laws in Kansas and Tennessee on 2012 turnout. Their findings? Turnout dropped at least 1.9 percentage points in Kansas and 2.2 percentage points in Tennessee thanks to the laws. By our calculations, that's 122,000 fewer votes.

The 200-plus-page report looks at several issues related to laws aimed at tightening rules around voting. The GAO compiled detailed data on various demographic groups in states that changed their laws, reviewed past studies on the effects of new laws on turnout, and attempted to gather data on instances of voter fraud, the rationale usually provided for changing voting rules. Democrats counter that the laws are thinly veiled efforts to reduce the number of their supporters that vote, by adding additional obstacles to black and young voters.

The GAO report suggests that, intentional or not, that's what happened in Kansas and Tennessee.


According to data from the states (here and here), turnout dropped 5.5 percentage points overall in Kansas and 4.5 percent in Tennessee. With registered voter pools of about 1.77 million and 4 million, respectively, that means that 34,000 Kansans and 88,000 Tennesseans likely would have voted if the new laws weren't in place.

The effects of the change weren't evenly distributed. ... Young people, black people, and newly registered voters were the groups that were more likely to see bigger drops in turnout. [The Fix, The Washington Post, 10/9/14]

Thu 23 October, 2014

22:52 Herman Cain: 50 Percent Of Black Voters In Georgia "Probably Are Clueless"» Media Matters for America - Latest Items
22:39 Tucker Carlson: Alison Lundergan Grimes "Seems Like A Sweet Person But She's Obviously Not Qualified To Be Room Mother"» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

From the October 24 edition of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends:

Grimes, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Kentucky, is the state's secretary of state. Dictionary.com defines a room mother as "a female volunteer, often the mother of a student, who assists an elementary-school teacher, as by working with students who need extra help."


The Kentucky Senate Race And The Media's Double Standard For Disqualifying Candidates

20:00 Open thread for night owls: Massachusetts comes in first again as the most energy-efficient state» Daily Kos
energy efficiency
Click here to be transported to the interactive version of this map.
Anastasia Pantsios at Eco-Watch takes a look at the latest energy-efficiency ranking of U.S. states and cities:
How does your state stack up when it comes to energy efficiency? The nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has just issued its eighth annual State Energy Efficiency Scoreboard, which assesses states based on policies that encourage energy savings, efficiency investments and jobs in the clean energy sector. So you can look it up.

“Conversations about energy use in the United States often revolve around the need to support the growth of our national economy by expanding the energy supply,” said ACEEE. “In fact, however, we have a resource that is cleaner, cheaper and quicker to deploy than building new supply—energy efficiency. Energy efficiency improvements help businesses, governments and consumers meet their needs by using less energy. Efficiency saves money, drives investment across all sectors of the economy, creates jobs and reduces the environmental impacts of the energy production system.”

The winner for the third straight year is Massachusetts. As in 2013, it scored 42 points out of a possible 50. And it earned a perfect score for its utility policies and programs. It even includes policies that encourage a reduction in vehicle miles. [...]

“Massachusetts continues to lead the nation in energy efficiency,” says ACEEE. “The state’s Green Communities Act, passed in 2008, set a long-term framework for energy efficiency as a first-priority resource. With other states close on its heels and committed to improving energy efficiency, Massachusetts will need to continue achieving high levels of savings in the utility sector, commit to continually updating building codes and work to better benchmark energy use in the private sector.” [...]

The study also rated cities, finding Boston to be the leader in its efforts to encourage better energy use. Portland, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, Washington, Minneapolis, Chicago and Philadelphia round out the top ten.

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2008There Is Just One America:

Barack Obama in Richmond, Virginia, on Wednesday, was making his closing argument, offering his vision of one America and affirming his view that we are all in this together:
With the challenges and crises we face right now, we cannot afford to divide this country by race or class or region; by who we are or what policies we support. There are no real or fake parts of this country. We are not separated by the pro-America and anti-America parts of this nation - we all love this country, no matter where we live or where we come from.
It's amazing—despite all of McCain's "Country First" bluster, it's actually Barack Obama who seems to have a better understanding of the great promise of this nation.

Tweet of the Day
Joni Ernst's dilemma: remain silent & be thought a fool, or sit down with newspaper editors & remove all doubt http://t.co/... #iasen

On today's Kagro in the Morning show: Emerging details from yesterday's attack in Ottawa. At least some air-dropped US weapons fell into ISIS hands. Neighbors battle over concealed carry on the way to school. And Armando can't stand it that no one seems to properly understand the nature of constitutional rights. The warrior cop supply chain makes you feel oh so safe. "The Criminalization of Schooling" raises some interesting & disparate points. Historical background on privatized prisons & revenue-driven courts: thief-takers. Sarah Palin's SarahPAC is still a champion middle-weight grifter.

High Impact Posts. Top Comments
17:47 NYC Doctor Tests Positive for Ebola» LiveScience.com
A doctor in New York has tested positive for Ebola, the New York Times reported on Thursday evening (Oct. 23).
16:32 Jumping Spider Stalks and Attacks Fly - Real & Slow Mo Video» LiveScience.com
Researchers at Cornell University have been researching the brain processes of Jumping Spiders (Phidippus audax). Credit: Cohen lab (Cornell University), Tsevi Beatus, Paul Shamble, Gil Menda
16:32 'Catastrophic' Ebola Toll in Liberia Is Predicted Unless Aid Scales Up» LiveScience.com
A substantial and quick scaling up of Ebola interventions is needed to prevent a catastrophic number of cases and deaths from the disease in parts of Liberia, a new study suggests.
14:50 Cartoon: Different strokes for different folks» Daily Kos

Matt Wuerker
(Click for larger image)

14:21 Century-Old Notebook from Legendary Antarctic Expedition Found» LiveScience.com
Hidden in ice for more than 100 years, the photography notebook of a British explorer on Robert Falcon Scott's ill-fated expedition to Antarctica has been found.
14:17 Photos: Notebook from Antarctic Quest Found After 100 Years» LiveScience.com
When snow and ice thawed during the Antarctic summer last year, a lost notebook was revealed near the century-old base camp that British explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott established at Cape Evans.
14:13 Daily Kos Elections ad roundup: There is no headline to capture how insane this Iowa ad is » Daily Kos

Leading Off:

IA-Sen: The pro-GOP U.S. Chamber of Commerce has usually produced decent ads starring a Red State-friendly celebrity (see their KY-Sen one below). But this new one has one of the stupidest commercials I've seen in a very long time. It stars a chicken and hits Democrat Bruce Braley with something called "the chicken dance." It's hard to describe it: This is an ad you just have to see to believe.

On the other side, NextGen Climate spends $147,000. Presumably, none of that money went to the chicken dance.

Head below the fold for a poultry-free roundup of ads from races across the country

13:56 Ebola Suspected in NY Doctor» LiveScience.com
A doctor who recently arrived in the United States from West Africa is being tested for Ebola at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, according to the city's health department.
13:32 Leaks everywhere in St. Louis. Here's a running tally of the denials. » Daily Kos
St. Louis, Missouri: Gateway Arch
After outright refusing to release information being requested by family members of Mike Brown, the teenager shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson on August 9 in Ferguson, Missouri, strategic leaks of information are now happening almost daily.

In violation of the law, these leaks are eroding public trust and have now gained the attention of Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice. Holder was reported to be "exasperated" by them and the DOJ released a statement saying:

The department considers the selective release of information in this investigation to be irresponsible and highly troubling. Since the release of the convenience-store footage, there seems to be an inappropriate effort to influence public opinion about this case.
Below, we will keep a running tally of the denials of these leaks and update it regularly.
12:54 Hispanic man delivers absentee ballots in Arizona: Conservatives demand he be killed» Daily Kos
Goal ThermometerThis may be the stupidest conservative panic to come over the transom all year. All. Year.
In the video — which was posted at Glenn Beck’s The Blaze under the headline, “Surveillance video apparently catches guy doing something at the ballot box that left Republican monitor stunned” — Ben Marine can be seen entering the lobby of the polling station in a Citizens for a Better Arizona (CBA) shirt and delivering absentee ballots he had collected. [...]
Which would be truly terrifying—if you were stupid. Because collecting sealed absentee ballots from voters and delivering them is, in Arizona, a perfectly legal GOTV effort. You can have them delivered by a dog or a parrot or Donald Trump's hair if you want, so long as they get to the polling place still sealed. Nevertheless, this video of a Hispanic volunteer delivering absentee ballots has sent conservatives into one of their patented conservative tizzies, because Oh the humanity:
But A.J. LaFaro, the chairman of the Maricopa County Republican Committee, told the Arizona Daily Independent that Marine’s behavior was suspicious, and complained that Marine was “a vulgar, direspectful, violent thug that has no respect for our laws. I would have followed him to the parking lot to take down his tag number but I feared for my life.”
What's suspicious? Being brownish? Where was the violence? Did he crush a bug setting the box down? Is the vulgar and the thug part just because the chairman of the Maricopa County Republicans ran out of ways to say brown, or did he just not show proper deference to A.J. LaFaro when LaFaro demanded he explain his obviously suspicious brownness? My goodness, it's a wonder A.J. LaFaro didn't faint dead away in fright.

Whatever the case, this dramatic video of an ordinary community volunteer delivering ordinary absentee ballots in an ordinary way has resulted in a great tidal wave of the violent and the stupid, as conservatives demand this terrifying person be hunted down and killed for daring to deliver ballots to a polling location as part of an ordinary GOTV operation that would give every last one of them screaming public orgasms if David Koch were doing it.

Commenters on the video’s YouTube are calling for Marine’s death. “This is a high crime, it is treason to this country and a betrayal of democracy,” one writes. “This should be a crime punishable by death.”

“I am going to find this illegal-loving scumbag and kill him,” writes another.

I repeat: This may be the stupidest conservative freakout all damn year. James O'Keefe spends his days trying to coax people into saying things he can later use as evidence of vast voter-fraud conspiracies, but he's a damn nitwit because all you really have to do is find a video of a Hispanic guy doing a perfectly legal and reasonable thing and you'll have the whole conservative internet six feet deep in their own urine by the end of the afternoon. God help us—what if they figure out that black people can collect absentee ballots too? What if their grandma asks them, upstanding conservatives all, to drop her ballot off at the office—will grandma be executed then and there, or will she get a trial first? Or can we instead PLEASE tone down the rampaging, city-destroying stupidity just one damn little notch, you cabbage-headed nitwits?
This is so stupid we can't even think of good text to put here, but you can still chip in $3 to help elect Secretary of State candidates who will protect the vote, not sabotage it.

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As a capper, the aforementioned Republican official who is so concerned about the vulgar (brown) disrespectful (brown) violent (brown) thug (brooooooown guy) delivering ballots? He knows perfectly well it's legal. He was part of a far-right movement to make it illegal, as part of HB 2305, but it was so widely condemned that the legislature (yes, even the crackpot Arizona legislature) caved in and repealed it. A.J. LaFaro is part of the Russell Pearce hard-right xenophobe racist monster wing of the Arizona Republican Party, which in Arizona has no other wings, and was trying to start a freakout over a legal thing because he's been part of the effort to make Arizona conservatives soil their pants over the brown people for years. The conservative internets took him up on it because, and I repeat myself for emphasis, they are the stupidest damn jackasses to ever put themselves behind a keyboard.
12:38 Christie: Income inequality isn't the problem, so stop talking about the minimum wage» Daily Kos
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks during a news conference in Trenton, New Jersey March 28, 2014. On Thursday a law firm hired by Christie, a potential Republican 2016 contender for the White House, released a report clearing him of wrongdoing in
Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ)
Goal Thermometer

Asked by reporters to follow up on his "I'm tired of hearing about the minimum wage" comments, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was careful not to provide another "I'm tired of hearing about the minimum wage"-type headline. But he remained as wrong and dishonest as ever on the issue, continuing to ignore the fact that the average age of minimum wage workers is 35 and that 27 percent of them have children of their own, instead framing his opposition to a minimum wage increase around parents sitting at the kitchen table having greater aspirations for their children than for those children to earn a higher minimum wage.

The problem, according to Christie (video below the fold), is that "all the Democrats and the president want to talk about is the minimum wage." If only the Democrats and the president would just shut up, millions of low-wage workers would stop noticing that they couldn't pay their bills, I guess. Like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Christie is trying to keep the conversation about the minimum wage firmly rooted in the hypothetical. Don't Americans want better? Isn't it a defeat to just want to raise the wage for the lowest-paid workers when we could want to triple everyone's wages?

Except that's not talking about reality. Christie is asking us to sacrifice reality for his little fantasy. In reality, millions of people earn the minimum wage and tens of millions would benefit from raising it to $10.10 an hour. Christie and Walker want us to forget that these tens of millions of people exist, and that there's a single time-honored policy that would give them not just a chance at a better-paying job, but actual better pay at the jobs they have now. And that's something Christie opposes. All his talk about aspirations and better jobs is just an attempt to distract from the fact that he does not want employers to have to pay their workers enough to live on.

And speaking of distractions. Christie threw out a giant one with this little nugget:

What we should be talking about is not an income inequality problem but an opportunity inequality problem. People want greater opportunity in this country and better-paying jobs and the president wants to focus, because he's a class warrior, what he wants to focus on is the minimum wage.
Riiight. We shouldn't raise the minimum wage or talk about income inequality, and it's the president who's the class warrior. Bear in mind that polling consistently shows that raising the minimum wage is incredibly popular with voters. Accusing Democrats of waging class war by pushing a policy supported by a solid majority of voters isn't a serious statement about the minimum wage, it's an attempt to shift the conversation away from an unpopular issue for Republicans to some red meat for the Obama-hating base.
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12:15 Photos: Amazing Shots from 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year' Contest» LiveScience.com
A striking black-and-white photo of lions took first prize at the 50th Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, but the international panel of judges awarded a handful of other gifted artists of all ages.
12:07 Partial Solar Eclipse Occurs Today: Watch It Live» LiveScience.com
The online Slooh Community Observatory will air a special three-hour solar eclipse webcast Thursday starting at 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT). You can watch the show at http://www.slooh.com, or here at Space.com, courtesy of Slooh.
11:45 How Some Exposure to Ebola Could Lead to Immunity» LiveScience.com
Epidemics like Ebola often start when people make contact with animals carrying infectious diseases, but, paradoxically, a certain amount of human exposure to a virus at its source can actually also prevent the extensive spread of a disease, new researc
11:38 Incredible Photo of Lazing Lions Wins Wildlife Photography Contest» LiveScience.com
A stunning black-and-white photo of five lionesses relaxing with their cubs in Tanzania's Serengeti National Park has taken the top prize at the 50th Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, held this week at London's Natural History Museum.
11:26 North Carolina Republicans still trying to suppress the student vote» Daily Kos
Voter suppression
Students at Elizabeth City State University in Pasquotank County, North Carolina,
 protest efforts to keep them from voting last year.
If you can be drafted at 18, be sent overseas to kill and die for your country, you should be able to cast a ballot. That rationale got the voting age in the United States lowered from 21 to 18 in 1971 when the 26th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified. And ever since, despite a Supreme Court ruling in 1979, many county registrars have been doing their best, sometimes illegally, to block one subset of young voters from casting ballots by keeping students from registering and voting in the towns and cities where they attend college.

Goal ThermometerVoter suppression has been going on this year in North Carolina where early voting started Thursday. County election officials eliminated North Carolina State University’s early voting site. Since then, the Republican-dominated North Carolina State Board of Elections has been trying to pull an early voting location from the 18,000-student Appalachian State University:

Last week, the board filed a petition asking the state Supreme Court to stay a judge's ruling in favor of the site. On Wednesday afternoon, not having heard from the high court and with the start of early voting looming, the elections board hastily voted to keep the site on campus. Soon after, the state Supreme Court announced that it was staying the judge's ruling and sending the case back to the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

With just hours until voting began, an elections board spokesman told the Associated Press late Wednesday that the on-campus voting site would stand. But the battle over early voting in the state continues.

Last year, the board of elections in North Carolina's Pasquotank County, home to Elizabeth City State University, a historically black university, tried to keep an ECSU student off the candidate list for city council based on a bogus claim that he didn't meet the residency requirement. He managed to get on the ballot anyway, but that didn't stop mostly white county officials efforts to silence many student voters by turning them away from the polls based on a pinched interpretation of what qualified as proof of residency.

Suppressing the student vote is not confined to just one method. Efforts include making utterly false claims of consequences befalling students who register to vote at their college address. Across the country, as in Pasquotank County, county registrars have illegally—that is, unconstitutionally—refused to accept dormitories as legal addresses for the purpose of voting. Eleven years ago, the district attorney of Waller County, Texas, wrote an op-ed column in a local newspaper in which he threatened to prosecute students at the traditionally black Prairie View A&M for illegal voting. He backed off when a lawsuit was threatened. It had been voter suppression more than three decades ago at Prairie View that spurred the Supreme Court to uphold students’ rights to vote at their college address in Symm v. U.S.

In spite of that ruling, however, some officials still try to argue that when students vote at their college address they are committing a kind of fraud because they have no stake in the local community. This is nonsense, as Heather Smith, then executive director of Rock the Vote, stated in 2007:

"Students go to a college or university for 4 or 5 years and many stay on in those communities afterwards. They pay sales tax, many work full or part-time jobs and pay income tax, and they are subject to the laws of the community in which they live; they have every right to vote in that community, legally and morally.”
Young people, including students, are not second-class citizens. And officials and partisans who treat them that way when they seek to exercise their constitutional rights ought to face public disdain. And legal action.
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••• •••

smiley7 has a diary up on the subject here.

11:18 The Justice Department blasts unethical, deliberate leaks in Ferguson, but what's next?» Daily Kos
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder speaks on stage during the annual meeting of the American Bar Association in San Francisco, California August 12, 2013. The U.S. Justice Department plans to change how it prosecutes some non-violent drug offenders, ending
In the span of just a few days, a trove of confidential information and testimony sworn to remain out of public view has been released in the shooting death of Ferguson, Missouri, teenager Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson.

Highly selective and very particular in their focus, these leaks have not been a complete info dump, but seem to be a strategic release to sway the public opinion to the side of Darren Wilson. Responding to this, The Justice Department made the following statement to Matt Pearce of the Los Angeles Times:

The department considers the selective release of information in this investigation to be irresponsible and highly troubling. Since the release of the convenience-store footage, there seems to be an inappropriate effort to influence public opinion about this case.
A DOJ official, in an interview with Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post, went on to say that Attorney General Eric Holder was "exasperated" by "selective leaks" and that he and fellow DOJ officials believed it fit into a troubling pattern demonstrated for months.

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson previously released information against DOJ wishes just a week after Mike Brown was first killed.

So, with such strong words from Eric Holder and the Department of Justice regarding these confidential breeches of the public trust, many are asking what can be done about it. What follows below the fold are four immediate action steps that can be taken.

11:09 In Photos: The Oldest Evidence of High-Altitude Living» LiveScience.com
An ancient rock shelter nestled high in the Peruvian Andes reveals that humans have been living at extreme heights thousands of years earlier than previously thought.
11:05 2014: The Republicans' last stand for Obamacare repeal» Daily Kos
U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney pauses as he gives his reaction to the Supreme Court's upholding key parts of President Barack Obama's signature healthcare overhaul law in Washington June 28, 2012.  Romney said on Thursday that the Amer
Look where repeal got this guy.
Goal Thermometer
It seems that Republican candidates for governor could be the first indicator that Republicans are finally in retreat on Obamacare in reality, if not rhetorically. But even behind the rhetoric some reality lurks.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich says repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s dramatic Medicaid expansion is "not gonna happen," even if Republicans take control of the Senate. Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader aiming for a promotion to majority leader, says Obamacare should be pulled out root and branch—except for Kentucky’s successful Obamacare website. His state's online marketplace is "fine," he said in a debate.

Conservative thinkers are starting to say what must not even be hinted at—yet—by conservative politicians. Avik Roy writes in Forbes that full repeal "will cause as many problems as it will solve. A better approach, in my view, is to gradually transition away from Obamacare …" David Frum, going even further, writes in Foreign Affairs that the center-right "must accept—and even welcome—that in the United States, as in every other developed country, universal health insurance is here to stay."

Not that the tea-bagger mentality that still dominates the core of the Republican base—or the Koch brothers—is going to listen to conservative thinkers. But even conservative-skewed pollster Rasmussen, according to this story, is finding erosion in the zeal for repeal among hardcore conservatives with "repeal" and "keep and fix it" polling evenly. (Reality-based Kaiser Family Foundation has been finding that for a couple of years.)

Repeal is only real for the festering mess of extremists in the Republican base. And the Koch brothers. That means that Republicans will still make vague noises about getting rid of the law for at least the next election cycle. But they won't mean it then anymore than they really mean it now, when they know they can't make it happen.

Let's sink the final nails into the repeal coffin with more Medicaid expansion. Help elect Democratic governors do just that with your $3.

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And after the next cycle millions more will have signed up. Americans have gotten so used to the idea that they can't be dropped from their health insurance for no good reason that they won't remember a time when that could happen. When that's locked into our national psyche, Republicans will finally just have to let this one go.
11:00 Oldest High-Altitude Human Settlement Discovered in Andes» LiveScience.com
An ancient rock shelter nestled high in the Peruvian Andes reveals that humans have been living at extreme heights thousands of years earlier than previously thought.
10:44 Economics Daily Digest: Complex regulations, interest swaps, and backlash from the banks» Daily Kos

By Rachel Goldfarb, originally published on Next New Deal

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

Dodd-Frank Spawns Software to Comprehend Dodd-Frank (Marketplace)

Sabri Ben-Achour speaks to Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal and others about the complexity of the Volcker Rule. Mike says the scrutiny of the
courts has created much of that complexity.

There are also a great many gray areas and exceptions for when activities are allowed or not allowed, says Mike Konczal, a fellow with the Roosevelt Institute.

“Volcker and Dodd-Frank wanted to make sure that banks could still do what we want them to do — interact with clients, do market making, buy and sell things for their clients — and what happens is a lot of that activity kind of blurs with proprietary trading,” he says. Another reason the rules have become complicated is that, simply put, a lot of people have sued.  The rules have had to become extra detailed to pass scrutiny.

"These rules from Dodd-Frank have come under extensive criticism in the courts,” says Konczal. “We want that kind of scrutiny it’s important to have it, but it’s become so obsessive and so burdensome that it’s actually made the rules a lot clunkier than they need to be.”

Follow below the fold for more.

10:26 30 of the Most Violent Exhortations from the Bible, Torah and Quran» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
How well do you know your Holy Books?

The world has watched in horror while members of ISIS justify the next mass murder or icy execution with words from the Quran, followed by shouts of Allahu Akbar—God is the greatest! If beliefs have any power whatsoever to drive behavior—and as a psychologist I think they do—there can be little doubt that the Quran’s many endorsements of violence play a role in how exactly ISIS has chosen to pursue religious and political dominion.

At the same time, it should be equally clear a sacred text filled with violence is insufficient to trigger mass brutality unless other conditions are present as well. Culture, empathy, education and empowerment—and other factors scholars understand only in part—appear to have a protective influence, safeguarding even most fundamentalists against the worst teachings of their own tradition. We know this in part because the Bible contains commandments and stories that are as horrific as those being used to justify butchery in Iraq and Syria.

The following 30 violent exhortations are drawn from Jewish, Christian and Muslim scriptures. The generic word "God" is used for all deity names, and names of places or people have been replaced with generic terms. How well do you know your Torah, Bible or Quran and Hadith? Can you tell which is which? Give it a try and then check the key at the bottom.

1. Anyone arrogant enough to reject the verdict of the [holy man] who represents God must be put to death. Such evil must be purged.

2. I decided to order a man to lead the prayer and then take a flame to burn all those, who had not left their houses for the prayer, burning them alive inside their homes.

3. I will fill your mountains with the dead. Your hills, your valleys, and your streams will be filled with people slaughtered by the sword. I will make you desolate forever. Your cities will never be rebuilt. Then you will know that I am God.

4. Fight them until there is no more [disbelief or worshipping of other gods] and worship is for God alone.

5. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother-in-law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.

6. Whoso fighteth in the way of God, be he slain or be he victorious, on him We shall bestow a vast reward.

7. Make ready to slaughter [the infidel’s] sons for the guilt of their fathers; Lest they rise and posses the earth, and fill the breadth of the world with tyrants.

8. [God’s messenger]... was asked whether it was permissible to attack the pagan warriors at night with the probability of exposing their women and children to danger. The [holy man] replied, "They [women and children] are from them [unbelievers]."

9. Then I heard God say to the other men, "Follow him through the city and kill everyone whose forehead is not marked. Show no mercy; have no pity! Kill them all – old and young, girls and women and little children.”

10. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.

11. Keep [my holiday], for it is holy. Anyone who desecrates it must die.

12. The punishment of those who wage war against God and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement.

13. If a man commits adultery with another man's wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death.

14. It is not for a Prophet that he should have prisoners of war until he had made a great slaughter in the land...

15. Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

16. I shall terrorize the [heathens]. So wound their bodies and incapacitate them, because they oppose God and his apostle.

17. A [holy man’s] daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death.

18. So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captive and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them.

19. Everyone who would not seek God was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.

20. And when We wish to destroy a town, We send Our commandment to the people of it who lead easy lives, but they transgress therein; thus the word proves true against it, so We destroy it with utter destruction.

21. But if [a girl wasn't a virgin on her wedding night] and evidence of the girl's virginity is not found, they shall bring the girl to the entrance of her father’s house and there her townsman shall stone her to death, because she committed a crime against God’s people by her unchasteness in her father's house. Thus shall you purge the evil from your midst.

22. The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say, "O [believer]! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him."

23. If your own full brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved wife, or you intimate friend, entices you secretly to serve other gods, whom you and your fathers have not known, gods of any other nations, near at hand or far away, from one end of the earth to the other: do not yield to him or listen to him, nor look with pity upon him, to spare or shield him, but kill him. Your hand shall be the first raised to slay him; the rest of the people shall join in with you.

24. God’s Apostle said, "I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: 'None has the right to be worshipped but God."

25. Cursed be he who does God’s work remissly, cursed he who holds back his sword from blood.

26. God said, "A prophet must slaughter before collecting captives. A slaughtered enemy is driven from the land. [Prophet], you craved the desires of this world, its goods and the ransom captives would bring. But God desires killing them to manifest the religion."

27. Anyone who blasphemes God’s name must be stoned to death by the whole community of [believers].

28. When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withhold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) [your religion]; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them... If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them [a tax]. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek God's help and fight them.

29. Anyone else who goes too near the [Holy Place] will be executed.

30. Killing Unbelievers is a small matter to us.

Is the Quran more violent than the Bible? The question is hard to answer. A tally at the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible counts 842 violent or cruel passages in the Bible as compared to 333 in the Quran. That said, the Bible is a much thicker tome, and even though the New Testament endorses and adds to the violence in the Old, when percentages are compared, the Quran comes out ahead. In addition, the kinds of cruelty and violence vary as do the perpetrator and victim and the extent to which any verse can be interpreted as divine sanction for the behavior in question. Either way, this short test offers an illustrative sample from each sacred text.

Bible and Quran believers who recognize verses in this list will no doubt protest that they have been taken out of context, as indeed they have. I think the appropriate response to such a complaint is a question: What context, exactly, would make these verses uplifting, inspiring or worthy of praise? In what context are passages like these some of the most important and holy guidance that the creator of the universe might think to impart to humankind? In what context is a book that contains these passages and many, many more like them the apogee of divine goodness and timeless wisdom?

Members of each Abrahamic tradition are quick to point out the rational and moral flaws in the others. I wonder sometimes, what this world might be like if they were as quick to examine the flaws in their own.


Key: Odd numbered quotes are from the Bible, even numbers from the Quran or Hadith. 1. Deuteronomy17:12 NLT; 2. Bukhari 11:626; 3. Ezekiel 35:7-9 NLT; 4. Quran 2:193; 5. Matthew 10:34-35; 6. Quran 4:74; 7.Isaiah 14:21 NAB; 8. Bukhari 52:256; 9. Ezekiel 9:5 NLT; 10. Quran 8:12; 11. Exodus 31:12-15 NLT; 12. Quran5:33; 13. Leviticus 20:10 NLT; 14. Quran 8:67; 15. Numbers 31: 17-18 KJV; 16. Quran 8:12; 17. Leviticus 21:9 NAB; 18. Quran 9:5; 19. 2 Chronicles 15:12-13 NAB; 20. Quran 17:16; 21. Deuteronomy 22:20-21 NAB; 22.Bukhari 52:177; 23. Deuteronomy 13:7-12 NAB; 24. Bukhari 8:387; 25. Jeremiah 48:10 NAB; 26. Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 484; 27. Leviticus 24:16 NLT; 28. Muslim 19:4294; 29. Numbers 1: 51 NLT; 30. Tabari 9:69

10:13 Want war? Congressman thinks we should do this first.» Daily Kos

Rep. Charles Rangel is absolutely correct in the statements he makes in the above video. The congressman appeared on Jose Diaz-Balart. He echoed unfortunately what too few congresspeople are echoing. The ISIS/ISIL war is not an existential threat to America. I wrote about it a few weeks ago where I said the following:
The military industrial complex and its puppets in the media and Congress play into the game. After all, it is a gain for them both. For the military industrial complex they profit from the bombs, military hardware, and services they provide. Congress keeps Americans in a state of fear. Americans remain paralyzed and take their eyes off the ball. They are no longer focused on a plutocracy extracting their wealth and squandering their economic future.

Americans must wise up and make it absolutely clear to the president and Congress that ISIS is not an existential threat to the US. Instead of spending billions over there, spend it over here. Improve our security. Rebuild our infrastructure. Invest in America’s human capital.

Rep. Rangel's last statement is one every American citizen should digest. "Listen. It is a confusing thing," Rangel said. "If indeed the president knows who supports him in terms of 'this war,' if they're right, bring it to the Congress and convince the United States of America that there is a threat to our national security. And when you do that, be prepared to pay for it. Be prepared to make a sacrifice. Have a mandatory military so that we all share in defending ourselves. And also, pay for it with a war tax."

If all Americans had to sacrifice like the thousands of soldiers that have been maimed, killed, and/or had their lives or the lives of their families destroyed, our affinity for war would attenuate rapidly. Fighting them over there does little to protect us over here. Protecting us here prevents them from getting over here.

09:55 Record Bid! Early Apple Computer Sells for Nearly $1 Million» LiveScience.com
The rare Apple-1 computer, which is now the most expensive Apple computer ever sold, was built by Steve Wozniak in Steve Jobs' garage in the summer of 1976. The computer still has its original keyboard, power supply and monitor.
09:55 7 Cities That Are Playgrounds for the Rich and Terrors for the Poor» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Where housing booms for ultra rich meet rising homelessness.

Seven years after Wall Street’s near total collapse, housing markets in the world’s major cities are surging once again, driven by megadevelopers and superrich individuals flush with cash. Financial Times reports that investors spent $1.2 trillion on “high-end commercial properties in 2013,” an 80 percent increase from 2010. The seeds of the buying boom was planted in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, when the Federal Reserve cut interest rates and pumped commercial banks with cash in exchange for toxic assets (known as quantitative easing), relieving affluent buyers of risk in global property markets.

In many of the world’s major metropolitan areas, private capital investment in real estate has become a central component of urban planning, and following market logic, these cities compete with each other for developers’ money. That means that urban planners in a global capitalist hub, like New York, will bend over backwards to accommodate developers and investors so that their money doesn't go to London instead.

This jousting for capital in real estate is having an increasingly obvious side effect: Diverting attention from the growing ranks of the desperately poor. Ironically, in nearly all global cities where housing markets are booming, there is also a concurrent rise or entrenchment of homelessness.

Using a recent survey from Knight Frank on global property markets, we can glimpse at this grotesque urban duality. If anything, it captures the essence of our gilded age. Here’s a list of just 7 cities in the US and abroad that best illustrate this phenomenon.

1. New York City

There are about 3,357 unsheltered people living on New York’s streets, a 6% rise from 2013 to 2014, continuing a trend that began a few years ago. But the vast majority of New York’s homeless live in shelters across the city, and at 53,615, there are more people living in shelters than ever before.

At the same time, overall property values rose 10.4% across New York, continuing a now familiar, decades-long trend. The luxury condos cropping up in Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn show no signs of abating, but their presence has another effect: bringing in more rich people.

Between 2003 and 2013, the number of inhabitants with a net-worth of over 30 million dollars (known in wealthy circles as “ultra high net worth individuals,” or UHNWI) rose higher in New York than any other city in the world besides Singapore and Hong Kong, and their population is expected to grow 31% over the next decade.

2. Los Angeles

Overall homelessness—including sheltered and otherwise—across Los Angeles County rose last year by nearly 8,000 people, bringing the total to 57,737. Concurrently, the price of luxury properties in the city rose 14%, and it’s population of UHNWI is expected to rise by the same percentage point by 2013.

The sharp rise in LA homelessness was due in part to a sequester-related cut of nearly $10 million to programs that provided support for the homeless, including a program that gave rent vouchers to families earning less than $13,000 a year. While the city left the hole unfilled, it has gone to great lengths to attract rich developers to pour capital into the area, sometimes offering tax incentives. For example, after Korea Air proposed building a skyscraper and luxury hotel in Downtown LA, the city offered the developer a reduced tax rate for the billion-dollar project.

3. San Francisco

The overall number of homeless in the tiny urban area was roughly 7,000 in 2013, representing a 3% increase since 2005. Meanwhile, the ranks of UHNWI’s are expected to rise 11% by 2023.

Like New York, the price of luxury property rose 10.4% last year, and is expected to rise. Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is above $3,000 a month. Between April and June, homes and condos sold for over $1 million accounted for one quarter of all property sales in the Bay Area—which may partially explain why evictions are at their highest level in more than a decade. That isn’t to imply that most people evicted end up on the street, but it is a revealing nonetheless.

But this is trend is not strictly American; we can observe it in “globalized” cities across the globe, where, as one newspaper in Dublin put it, “Housing boom[s] fuel [a] surge in homelessness.”

4. Dublin

There has been little construction of new homes in Dublin since 2008. Austerity has ravaged public housing programs. As a result, many of the city’s properties are being bought up by private investors from around the globe, igniting a real estate boom even as the number of homeless reaches its highest point since the city began surveying.  

According to the Wealth Report, Dublin experienced one of the world’s highest increases in property values in 2013. As with the aforementioned American cities, much of the investment is coming from abroad. The Wealth Report describes this growth in property markets as a “rebound,” but as the Guardian noted, housing prices are rising so quickly in Dublin that there is likely a housing bubble forming in the market. That has happened before: in the 90’s and 2000’s, parts of Dublin constituted some of the most expensive real estate in the world. And like the last bubble, the people who will likely be most hurt following the pop will be the city’s most vulnerable, after the social programs they depend on are eviscerated by austerity.

5. London

London is a lot like New York City: a playground for the rich and a terror for the poor.

There were 57,350 Londoners without homes in 2013, an astounding 60% increase since 2011. At the same time, Knight Frank forecasts that 5,000 people worth over 30 million dollars will live in London by 2023.

One reason London has become so attractive for the world’s rich is because tax havens former tax havens, like Swiss bank accounts, are no longer as safe from regulators as they were in the past. Like New York, London is a place for investors to park their money because they know that real estate will remain profitable for them as values continue to rise in the future. Knight Frank notes that London was the most popular city for the elite of China, Russia, and much of Europe to park their assets.

6. Nairobi

Inequality is more extreme in real estate powerhouses outside of the Western world, where vast swaths of people live in unincorporated slums. The line between housed, slum dweller, and homeless is much more porous in Nairobi, Kenya than it is in most parts of the United States and Europe.

Half of the residents in Nairobi live in slums, and they’re being forcibly removed to make way for construction efforts ignited by a white-hot property market and a corresponding influx of rich residents, tourists and business people. Luxury real estate prices rose higher there than anywhere else in Africa, and swanky hotels and bars are proliferating like mad. Knight Frank expects a 77% increase in the number of UHNWI in Nairobi by 2023.

To clear the way for these developments, the poor are being evicted at an unprecedented rate, with developers even burning decades-old slums to force out residents. Thousands are descending from semi-homelessness literally having nothing but the clothes on their back—all for the sake of property prices.

7. Jakarta

Real estate prices rose higher in Jakarta than anywhere else in the last two years, and the number of UHNWI will soar over the next decade. At the same time, 40 percent of the country’s 250 million people still live on less than 2 dollars a day.

For over a decade, the state has forcibly evicted slum dwellers out of places with potential for real-estate development. The clearing campaigns are even more salient today, as the gulf between rich and poor is deeper and wider in Indonesia than it has ever been. And with the specter of climate change on the horizon—50,000 Indonesians were rendered homeless by flooding in 2013—it’s likely that social tensions will rupture more deeply in the future.

09:07 Rand Paul's Quest to Woo Young People -- What Does It Mean for Libertarianism?» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Win or lose, the neo-libertarian stands to change the DNA of the Grand Old Party.

No one in the political establishment seems to know quite what to make of Rand Paul, the United States senator from Kentucky and son of Ron, the three-time quixotic presidential candidate with a libertarian bent. In 2012, Ron Paul, the former congressman from Texas, said good-bye to all that, retiring his House seat and forswearing another presidential run, having prepared the ground for his progeny, who hopes to inherit the throngs of young followers nurtured by his father.

By turns quirky and cunning, rumpled and slick, Rand Paul, at this writing, is running neck and neck in the polls, according to Real Clear Politics, with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the undeclared establishment candidates for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. And it’s not inconceivable that Paul could win it—if not this time, then perhaps in 2020, when the millennial generation, whose members he’s been courting, will comprise just under 40 percent of all eligible voters, according to the Center for American Progress.

The younger Paul, an ophthalmologist by trade, bounded onto the national stage in 2010, propelled by his father’s name recognition and the internal battles of the Republican Party, when he vanquished the hand-picked candidate of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in the GOP senatorial primary of the leader’s own home state—a kind of horse’s head left at the foot of McConnell’s bed, delivered by sponsors of the Tea Party, who cared not for McConnell’s brand of pragmatic politics. Winning endorsements from the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks, and the Senate Conservatives Fund founded by then-Senator Jim DeMint, and enjoying a friendly relationship with the Koch brothers’ free-spending Americans for Prosperity, Rand Paul took his seat in the U.S. Senate as part of the great midterm Tea Party wave, the backlash election against all things Obama.

But Paul has never fit neatly under the Tea Party banner. As much as he shares the movement’s rhetoric on “limited government” and accusations of “tyranny” against the president—not to mention the Tea Partiers’ hardcore anti-abortion position—he’s prone to striking out on his own on matters of foreign policy, domestic spying, and criminal justice. On those issues, he would have you believe he’s a libertarian—meaning non-interventionist in matters abroad, and liberty-loving in matters at home. In truth, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Take, for instance, his position on same-sex marriage, which is touted as freedom-loving by his supporters because he opposes any federal action to prevent it. On closer examination, though, one finds that Paul’s bias in this instance offers no protection for the personal liberty of gay, lesbian, or bisexual people; he would leave the matter for each state to determine. Live in a red state? Tough luck.

True libertarians deplore what they call statism, but Rand Paul’s propensity for leaving the states in charge of governing this most personal of matters—whom one will marry—is a contradiction echoed throughout his approach to many matters concerning individual rights. In many ways, he’s as statist as they come.

On matters of foreign policy, when Paul has found his neo-isolationism bumping up against his political ambition, he’s been known to dial back the former, or at least try to split the difference. He may have voted against President Barack Obama’s plan for arming Syrian rebels, but just weeks before the vote—after the beheadings of two American journalists by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) began to drive public opinion—he expressed support for air strikes targeting ISIL, a reversal of his previous position.

That doesn’t mean he won’t bamboozle the various constituencies he apparently hopes to cobble together to fuel his likely presidential run: libertarian-leaning Silicon Valley donors, anti-tax Republicans, and privacy-driven millennials (defined by the Pew Research Center as those born between 1977 and 1992) whose political identities are still being formed.

It’s tempting to write off Paul, given some of his audacious antics—his epic 2013 anti-drone filibuster, his almost sure-to-fail lawsuit against the president (filed earlier this year as a challenge to the NSA’s domestic spying program)—but these are never exercised simply to draw the spotlight; they’re also organizing tools.

The filibuster, which really focused only on drone attacks against American citizens abroad, was accompanied by a ferocious Twitter campaign that engaged both social media and mainstream media for the duration of his utterances from the Senate floor that day and night, and drew in people who would ordinarily define themselves as progressives. And the quixotic lawsuit was revealed by Politico’s Katie Glueck to be a fundraising tool.

“Largely unnoticed in Paul’s effort is this: The names and email addresses of anyone who registers support for his class-action suit against the NSA,” Glueck wrote, “goes straight into the Kentucky Republican senator’s political database, which he could leverage into a campaign.”

NSA domestic abuses, like drone attacks, are among issues that should draw the vociferous opposition of liberals. Yet for the most part, Democrats offered tepid shows of concern, leaving ripe areas for Paul to exploit, especially with liberty-loving millennials.

Few in American politics know how to seize a political moment like Paul does. When police in Ferguson, Missouri, rolled out tank-like vehicles and pointed assault weapons at unarmed protesters who took to the streets in response to the police killing of the unarmed African American Michael Brown, Paul weighed in quickly with an essay on Time magazine’s website, decrying the militarization of the nation’s police forces with surplus equipment gleaned from the federal government.

It was a stroke of genius, consonant with his professed libertarian values, but also a fence-mending gesture, of which he has made many, for his rejection, based on an extreme reading of property rights, of the public accommodations section of the 1964 Civil Rights Act—the part that desegregated lunch counters, restaurants, theaters, and retail establishments throughout the nation. While Paul took pen to paper, Hillary Clinton dithered, taking another two weeks after Paul’s August 14 Time essay to make remarks on the situation in Ferguson.

Young Goldwater supporters stop on a San Francisco street, July 9, 1964, to talk with Mary Scranton, wife of Governor William W. Scranton of Pennsylvania, who vied against Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona for the Republican presidential nomination.

If a Rand Paul presidential nomination by the Republican Party seems preposterous, says historian and former Republican Party official Tanya Melich, think back to 1964. At that time, Melich was a recent college graduate and former member of the Young Republicans, a group rooted on college campuses and ultimately taken over by supporters of Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, who improbably grabbed the Republican nomination out from under the feet of New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, largely through the grassroots organizing of young conservatives. At the time, Melich said, she was covering the movement for ABC News, and “it became very clear that these Young Republican Goldwater people were really sharp,” she said in a telephone interview from her New York City home. “They knew how to organize.”

For the past two presidential election cycles, and ever since, the Paul organization has focused on campus organizing, building lists of young people excited by both father and son’s talk of liberty, and promise of freedom from foreign entanglements.

For liberals, Goldwater often fills the role of punch line, given his landslide loss to President Lyndon B. Johnson. Sure, Goldwater was routed, but his campaign brought together the minds and builders of a movement that became known as the New Right, a movement that went on to create the religious right, elect Ronald Reagan president, and set the nation on a rightward course for decades. It all began with a longshot candidacy, a quirky candidate, and a horde of highly motivated young people. Surely Rand Paul has read that script.

Win or lose, Rand Paul’s aim is to re-create the GOP in his own image, infused with the vigor of his young followers and committed to a radical dismantling of the federal government as well as an even more radical devolution to the states’ rights philosophy of the old Confederacy—not to mention disengagement from the world. This movement, if successful, could alter the party for years to come. And the old, neoconservative Republican Party establishment may never see it coming.

Of GOP leaders, Melich said: "They’re a little bit like my buddies in the Clinton camp, who couldn’t quite understand [in 2008] what the Obama people were doing.”


At the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), movement faithful gathered at a conference center at National Harbor, just outside Washington, D.C., as the Republican Party veered between soul-searching over its loss of the 2012 presidential election and contempt for campaign leaders who presided over Mitt Romney’s drubbing by President Obama. But as conference panelists looked backward in main-stage discussions with titles like “Should We Shoot All the Consultants Now?,” others were looking ahead—not least of them, Rand Paul.

On the CPAC stage, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida likely felt he was having a good outing. Warmly received by the crowd, his planned applause lines were drawing claps, and no one heckled him. But before his speech was over, the room began to fill with young people bearing professionally designed and printed signs that demanded, “Stand With Rand.” Most arrived by bus from area colleges, members and allies of the Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), a group founded as an offshoot of Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign. The students’ raucous appreciation for the son, who followed Rubio on the program, would ensure that Rubio’s speech would seem unremarkable by comparison.

As he approached the podium bearing two stuffed loose-leaf binders, Senator Paul exuded an air of satisfied triumph. Just the week before, his 13-hour talking filibuster in opposition to the nomination of John Brennan as the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency won him hours of free airtime, as news shows picked up footage of his floor performance from C-SPAN, and invited him to their sets.

Paul, who likes to present himself as a proponent of civil liberties, focused on Brennan’s support for the use of drones to kill U.S. citizens deemed to be “enemy combatants” in the Global War on Terror. The filibuster ploy was a stunning success in the annals of public relations strategy, propelling Paul to national-figure status, and serving as the opening salvo in the 2016 Rand Paul for President campaign. A day after the filibuster, Paul told Politico he was considering a run for the nomination.

At CPAC, Paul held up his binders for the audience to admire, joking, “They told me I had a measly ten minutes. So, just in case, I brought thirteen hours of material.” When he said he had intended his filibuster as a message to the president, a young man shouted, “Don’t drone me, bro!” There was laughter all around. “He just boiled down my 13-hour speech into three words,” Paul responded with a smile.

Senator Paul went on to win the CPAC presidential straw poll later that week, just as his father had done in the years before, thanks to the savvy organizing of the Young Americans for Liberty. In 2014, Rand Paul did so again.


Today, Young Americans for Liberty claims to have chapters on 527 college campuses across the nation, including seven in Iowa, and five in New Hampshire, the states that kick off the presidential nomination process with their respective caucuses and primary. Since 2008, Paul partisans have been organizing nationwide, especially among the young, via Ron Paul’s presidential campaigns, and outgrowth organizations such as the Campaign for Liberty and YAL.

With a name reminiscent of a group crucial to the Goldwater campaign (the Young Americans for Freedom), YAL appears poised to attempt a similar role for Paul: to organize young people to vote in the caucuses and primaries, and to position them as delegates to the national convention. (In 2012, even though Ron Paul only mustered a third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, the Iowa delegation cast 22 of its 28 votes for him on the convention floor, a testament to his organization’s prowess at seating delegates from the Hawkeye state. Similar situations arose in the Texas and Minnesota delegations.)

In 2016, however, first-time presidential voters will confront new voter identification laws, passed by legislatures in many of the red states, that have deemed college IDs unacceptable for ballot-casting—even those issued by state colleges and universities. Perhaps that’s one reason why Paul is casting himself as a champion of voting rights. At a September YAL event in Alexandria, Virginia, known as the Liberty Political Action Conference, or LPAC, Paul derided the GOP for trying to shrink the electorate to accommodate its needs.

“So many times, Republicans are seen as this party of ‘We don’t want black people to vote because they’re voting Democrat; we don’t want Hispanics to vote because they’re voting Democrat,’” he said to the LPAC audience. “You wonder why the Republican Party’s so small. Why don’t we be the party that’s for voting rights?” The audience, much smaller and far more libertarian than the CPAC crowd, offered a hearty round of applause.

Indeed, the millennial generation is the largest and most racially and ethnically diverse in American history, according to a 2009 report by the Center for American Progress. In surveys ranking issues by importance, such as a July study by the libertarian magazine Reason, and a 2013 report by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, millennials rank the economy as their number one concern.

In his 2013 CPAC remarks, Paul cast the millennials as the Facebook generation. “They worry about jobs and money and rent and student loans,” he said. “They want leaders that won’t feed them a lot of crap, or sell them short. They aren’t afraid of individual liberty. Ask the Facebook generation if we should put a kid in jail for the non-violent crime of drug use, and you’ll hear a resounding ‘no.’ Ask the Facebook generation if they want to bail out too-big-to-fail banks with their tax dollars, and you’ll hear a ‘hell, no!’ There is nothing conservative about bailing out Wall Street. Likewise, there is nothing progressive about billion-dollar loans to millionaires to build solar panels,” he added, referring to the right-wing obsession of the moment: Solyndra, a company that received government loans and then went belly-up.

Though the Facebook generation appears united in its concerns about the economy, its members’ view of the government’s role in the economic well-being of the people varies within the cohort. Libertarians, such as the authors of the Reason study, are quick to jump on an overall figure for the generation that claims nearly half favor a fiscally conservative (and hence, smaller) government.

“We live in a culture, technologically, where we’re becoming more atomized with our phones and the way we do things. I don’t think they necessarily think that big is better,” said Jack Hunter, a libertarian and former member of Rand Paul’s Senate staff. Hunter now edits Rare, a website that’s a kind of conservative and more political answer to Upworthy, the liberal-leaning, feel-good clickbait website whose headlines have reshaped the way online media frame stories. (“You’ll Never Believe What Happened Next!”)

But if you drill down to look at which part of the millennial cohort expresses a belief in smaller government, it’s mostly white people, and the percentage varies according to how the question is asked. A March report by Pew Research found that overall, some 38 percent of millennials, not half, favored smaller government and fewer services. But when looked at through the prism of race, 52 percent of white millennials did, while 71 percent of non-white millennials favored bigger government and more services—numbers that likely speak to just which segment of the millennial generation Paul is aiming for.

Wide Racial Differences on Views of Role of Government.
Photo Credit: 
Pew Research Center

Across the board, millennials, even those from conservative religious backgrounds, are notably more liberal than their elders on nearly all the so-called social issues, except for abortion. They grew up knowing out-of-the-closet gays and lesbians, and more than any prior generation, grew up knowing people of other races and ethnic backgrounds. They don’t like hearing LGBT people dissed or immigrants demonized.

In an interview in Rare’s stylish offices just off the famous lobbying corridor of K Street in Washington, D.C., Hunter, who frequently speaks at YAL events on college campuses, said that today’s establishment Republicans can’t reach these younger voters with what he called their “checklist of prejudices.” Compared with the famously anti-immigrant gadfly Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, Hunter said, today’s crop is even more bellicose.

“I mean, you’re talking about xenophobic comments and things—it’s really out there,” he said. “That is a turnoff to young people. They want zero to do with that. They grew up in a multicultural, multilingual, diverse America.”

So, when Rand Paul speaks of the racial injustice of the war on drugs, as he did at LPAC, or steps up on police overreach in Ferguson, it’s not likely that he does so because he expects to bring more African Americans or Latinos to his campaign. It’s to assure his almost completely white group of young followers that, despite his stance on the Civil Rights Act, he’s not a bigot.

On matters of individual liberties, the preferences of millennials track closely with libertarian positions. They don’t like the robust surveillance and data collection conducted by the NSA, for example. They’re likely to appreciate Rand Paul’s call for an end to the federal war on drugs, his advocacy for an end to mass incarceration by ending federal mandatory minimum sentences, and his support for immigration reform (after the border is secured, he now says). They overwhelmingly support the legalization of same-sex marriage. And they’re wary of war and foreign intervention, Pew found in a 2011 survey.

What they just may miss amid Rand Paul’s libertarian rhetoric is that, even by his own admission, he’s not a true libertarian. “I’m a libertarian Republican. I’m a constitutional conservative,” he told the Washington Post. What he doesn’t say is that he is a states’ rights advocate; many of his positions, such as his stance on LGBT rights, simply allow the individual 50 states to determine the scope of their citizens’ personal liberty, amounting to majority rule within the state’s borders, absent the modern understanding of the broader protections of the federal Constitution and the courts that interpret them.

When it comes to abortion, Paul is at odds with the millennial generation writ large, of which 61 percent favor keeping abortion legal. But Paul is likely not aiming for the generation writ large; he’s looking to bring in the more conservative among them. Anti-choice millennials, according to a 2010 survey by NARAL Pro-choice America, have a greater intensity of feeling for their views on abortion than do pro-choice millennials.

For women, a Paulist GOP would offer more contraction than expansion of their personal liberty. Last year, Paul put his name to a bill that would confer personhood on a fertilized egg (proposed as a way of getting around Roe v. Wade), granting it the same 14th Amendment rights as the woman carrying it—the amendment on which the Court decision rests. Of the Paycheck Fairness Act, Paul said he voted it down in 2012 because to pass it would be akin to having a Soviet-style Politburo. The marketplace should set wages, he said. So, if you happen to reside among a bigoted citizenry whose bigotry is aimed at you, well, too bad. That’s the market’s judgment.

As he does on matters of race, Paul also offers the occasional contrarian offset on matters of gender fairness. For instance, he signed on to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s failed measure to remove the adjudication of sexual crimes in the military from the chain of command. The bill offered him a way to look as though he cared about the plight of women, but in a way that suits the anti-authoritarianism of the libertarian ethos. As in the patriarchy of the Old South, women in a world ruled by Rand Paul would have little agency, left to rely on the chivalry of men.

When the Tea Party first burst on the scene, a clever T-shirt slogan was “Party like it’s 1776.” In Rand Paul’s world, you’d party like it’s 1856 and you’re living below the Mason-Dixon line. If you’re a white man with property, everything will be great.

Researchers for the Reason survey found that millennials, despite their majority support for Democratic candidates, do not have overwhelmingly firm attachments to either political party. A full 34 percent claimed no party affiliation—they saw themselves as independents who leaned toward neither party, in contrast to 11 percent of the general population over the age of 30. Reason also found that 60 percent of self-identified liberals in the millennial cohort said they were willing to vote for a libertarian-leaning candidate, though it’s unclear if they were offered a definition of what that meant.

Millennials' Partisan Identification.
Photo Credit: 
Millennials: The Politically Unclaimed Generation, July 2014

Hunter could barely contain his glee when he recounted how a recent visit to Iowa by Rand Paul generated a rash of anti-Paul fundraising emails and tweets from Democrats. As to whether Democrats could continue to count on the youth vote to put them over the top in 2016, Hunter said, “It’s not a safe bet anymore, or not guaranteed.”

David Weigel, the Bloomberg News writer, formerly of Slate, isn’t buying it. Having covered the Pauls, the libertarian movement, and national politics going back seven years to his early writing career at Reason, Weigel just doesn’t see the liberal hordes of young people abandoning the Democratic Party for Paul—especially if Hillary Clinton is the nominee, her gender being another big “first.”

“Is Hillary Clinton going to run as a supporter of police departments having tanks? I don’t think so,” Weigel said. Nor does Weigel believe that Clinton’s relative hawkishness could hurt her with millennials in a matchup with Paul. In a full-on presidential contest, Weigel adds, opposition researchers and journalists will have a field day with Paul’s positions, as they did with his father’s. “The problem is that once you have a credible bid for president, then the contradictions and associations come out,” Weigel said.


If all there was to Rand Paul are the views he expresses today, his long-shot strategy for winning the White House might be less long of a shot than it appears to the naked eye. But Paul comes saddled with some questionable associations, and several policy positions in which his opponents will no doubt rejoice—most notably his aforementioned longtime opposition to the public accommodations section of the Civil Rights Act.

His reasons for that opposition, he told Rachel Maddow just after he won the 2010 Kentucky Republican senatorial primary, were philosophical: He believed the section of the law that required private businesses to serve all who came through their doors to be a violation of property rights that was inconsistent with the constitutional guarantee of freedom of association, and also a threat to the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech. It was exactly the same philosophical opposition to the law voiced by Goldwater when he voted against it in 1964.

Paul has since tried to explain it away, saying that he accepts the whole of the act today and that he was only a toddler when the act was passed, that had he been in Congress at the time the law was being written, he would have tried to “fix” it. But he has never said he has changed his mind regarding his assessment of that section of the act.

In April of last year, I covered, for AlterNet, Rand Paul’s speech to the students of the historically black Howard University, where he suggested that his positions had been “twist[ed] and distort[ed]” by his “political enemies.”

In the question-and-answer session that followed, Paul was asked about his stance on the Civil Rights Act, in which the questioner characterized Paul as an opponent of the landmark law. Paul countered that his concerns about “certain portions” of the law anticipated unintended consequences; for example, he analogized the public accommodations section to current efforts to ban smoking in establishments that serve the public, or to require restaurants to put calorie counts on menus. But, he said, “I never offered anything to alter the Civil Rights Act, so your characterization is incorrect.”

Professor Greg Carr, chair of Howard’s Afro-American Studies department, smiled when I asked him afterward what he made of that answer. “Obfuscation would be the charitable word,” he said. “I think [Paul] would have scored more points if indeed he [showed he] was coming here for a conversation, by saying, ‘These are some of the things I’ve said in the past, and I don’t know that I would necessarily reconsider them, but let me explain to you why I said those things.’”

Paul and his supporters can be prickly when challenged about this issue. When I asked Jack Hunter about Rand Paul’s controversial position on the Civil Rights Act, he didn’t answer the substance, but immediately attacked Rachel Maddow, whose interview of Paul on that subject he termed “an ambush.” Paul had to dismiss Hunter from his staff in 2013, once media reports surfaced of Hunter’s earlier radio persona as the “Southern Avenger,” an over-the-top shtick as a racist yahoo, who famously said that John Wilkes Booth didn’t try hard enough. (Hunter apologized for his past behavior in Politico magazine, and today is a champion of Paul's outreach to African Americans and Latinos.)

In April, Paul defended Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who defied the federal government by refusing to pay fees for grazing his cattle on federal land, posting an armed militia to guard his herd. The senator was later forced to walk back his defense when Bundy said that slavery had been a good deal for African Americans.

Paul is also saddled with his father’s associations with religious extremists and, like Goldwater, the John Birch Society—which, during Goldwater’s time, was a segregationist organization. Reporting for AlterNet, Bruce Wilson discovered that, in 2009, Rand Paul appeared as the featured speaker at a Minnesota rally of the Constitution Party, the far-right party founded by the late Howard Phillips. Phillips was a disciple of Rousas John Rushdoony, the father of Christian Reconstructionism, which calls for the law of the Hebrew Bible to become the law of the land, a mandate echoed in the Constitution Party platform.

Perhaps of greater consequence, at least for mainstream media reporters, is Paul’s earlier position, since revised, opposing all forms of foreign aid, which he articulated once again upon taking office. While a position consistent with his neo-libertarian views, it was seen as uniquely hostile to Israel, the largest recipient of U.S. aid. In a quick about-face, the senator said that he would countenance funding some $5 billion in foreign aid. “Why $5 billion?” asked the Washington Post’s David A. Fahrenthold in a September 14 article. “A Paul aide said that amount would give Israel its full share—more than $3 billion per year—and still have money left over.”

At the Values Voter Summit convened in September by FRC Action, the political arm of the Family Research Council, Paul described to the largely pro-war crowd his opposition to intervention in the Middle East as the best way to protect Christians in the region from the ire of radical Islamists.

Paul’s deft backing and filling sometimes collides with his own impetuous propensity for the outrageous. On September 11, Paul told an audience of millennials in New Hampshire that he’d repeal every executive order ever passed by every president. The group he addressed was Generation Opportunity, the outfit funded by the Koch brothers as a kind of junior achievement project modeled by grown-up groups like the Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity. Remarks like these will make voters wonder just what he’d do as president.

If you happen to be an anti-regulatory neo-libertarian who finds himself in the White House, the opportunities are limitless, since you’d be in charge of the enforcement of regulation. Remember the BP oil spill, and why it happened? It was lax enforcement of regulations on oil rigs by the Minerals Management Service, first under George W. Bush, and then under Barack Obama. Imagine what a president with an expressly anti-regulatory agenda could do with such latitude.

Then there are the cabinet-level departments that Paul wants to eliminate altogether: Energy, Education, Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development. He couldn’t do so without the help of Congress, but he could keep the drumbeat and refuse to fill positions.

In the past, he’s expressed support for voucherizing Medicare, and privatizing Social Security, which he has characterized, in its current formulation, as “a Ponzi scheme.”

To hear Paul tell it, in his dream presidency, he’d get to oversee the dismantling of much of the U.S. government. And if Republicans had control of both houses of Congress during a Paul presidency, he could get much of what he wishes for.


Paul’s strategy for winning the Republican presidential nomination relies on bringing together under one banner movement constituencies that rest uneasily with each other: the party’s free-marketeers, civil libertarians, and the religious right. There’s no satisfying all of them at once; the question is whether Paul’s courting of one faction can be accomplished without alienating the others.

In his LPAC speech, Paul made no explicit mention of his extreme anti-abortion position, or his religious beliefs. A week later, before the religious-right activists at the Values Voter Summit, he played a video as a lead-in to his speech that featured a fetal sonogram in its opening shot. “As Christians, we should always stand with the most defenseless,” he said in his remarks. “I believe that no civilization can long endure that does not respect life, from the not-yet-born to life’s last breath.”

Religious-right radio host Steve Deace, for instance, seems taken with Paul, but iswary of the senator’s states’-rights approach to same-sex marriage. Likewise, some of the libertarians in attendance at LPAC expressed concerns about Paul’s willingness to sign on to the administration’s air strikes strategy for battling ISIL—even if he did decline to vote for the arming of Syrian rebels. “The question is: Where are the compromises?” one attendee said to MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin.

Some Tea Partiers, meanwhile, are put off by Paul’s endorsement of Mitch McConnell during this year’s Kentucky senatorial primary, in which the minority leader fielded a challenge from Tea Party candidate Matt Bevin.

Given the strong hold that war-mongering neocons have on the foreign policy of the GOP establishment—including many who identify with the Tea Party—Paul will need to flood the primaries and caucuses with his anti-war millennials if he’s to have a chance.

Winning the Iowa caucuses, given the strength of religious-right forces there, won’t be easy for Paul, but it’s not impossible, given the way the caucus system lends itself to grassroots organizing. New Hampshire is a more likely win for Paul, since the “Live Free or Die” state has long embraced a leave-me-alone credo.

In South Carolina, the third early primary state, Paul will again have to dance fast to show well in a state populated by conservative evangelicals, but it’s also a state that’s home to many military families, a constituency whose members donated nearly $200,000 in individual donations to his father’s 2008 presidential run, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP). And there, Paul will likely be able to tap the networks of Jack Hunter, a South Carolina native, and perhaps enjoy the support of former Senator Jim DeMint, who now runs the Heritage Foundation, and whose Senate Conservatives Fund backed Paul’s Senate race.

For Paul to maximize his libertarian credentials, he’ll need to stay in the race for the long haul, even after likely losses, to pick up delegates in Western states. And that will take an ample war chest. In September, to that end, he opened an office in San Francisco, the better to court Silicon Valley donors, many of whom lean libertarian. It’s smart strategy: In 2008, his father gleaned some $755,000 in individual donations from employees of the Internet and computer sectors, according to CRP.

Paul is also said to be courting the Koch brothers. In his Senate run, employees of Koch Industries ranked among his top 20 sources of donations. The Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity, a nonprofit organization that spent nearly $35 million on so-called issue ads during the 2012 presidential campaign, was a sponsor of LPAC, the September conference hosted by the Pauls’ Young Americans for Liberty, as was the Charles Koch Institute. That same month, Paul addressed Generation Opportunity.

David Koch is known to be keen on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who, the New York Times reported, he tried to convince to run for the nomination in 2012. But that was before the Bridgegate scandal in which Christie aides were revealed to have shut down lanes of the George Washington Bridge as payback to the mayor of Fort Lee, where the bridge originates. The mayor tangled with Christie on development projects and refused to endorse the governor’s re-election bid. And it would not be unthinkable for Koch-funded entities to help Paul stay in the race, as they did Herman Cain in 2012, if only for the purpose of pushing the rest of the Republican field toward their anti-regulatory positions.

At the top of the list of Rand Paul contributors in 2010 was the Club for Growth, a bundling operation that has had an outsized influence on the realignment of Congress to the right, a group whose members would likely shower him with dollars in a presidential run.

Then there’s the Pauls’ own Liberty Political Action Committee, and its organizing arm, the Campaign for Liberty. But whether Rand Paul could muster enough to counter the money operations of Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, which wraps its arms around the GOP’s more establishment candidates, is a big “if.” If Jeb Bush gets in, he will doubtlessly enjoy the support of the Rove-founded behemoths.

Were Paul to stay alive to the end, even without winning the nomination, he would spark a battle royal between the Republican establishment, with its targeting of older voters who are more inclined to support America’s foreign adventures and oppose immigration, and Paul’s neo-isolationists, who favor immigration reform. Should he put together a robust enough slate of delegates, there’s even the possibility of floor fights at the national convention over platform planks, and a show of disunity in the roll call of the states in the nomination process.

His presence in the race, even as an also-ran, would likely influence the Democratic primary, as well, forcing that party’s candidate to answer to Paul’s positions on NSA spying and the drug war, to name just two. Jack Hunter, for one, is rubbing his hands at the prospect of just such a spectacle. “I think it’s making people in the establishment of both parties nervous,” he said, “and I love it.”

And if Paul doesn’t make it this time, there’s always 2020.

08:59 No Proof That 'Brain Training' Games Work, Some Experts Say» LiveScience.com
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08:47 Noam Chomsky: The One Big Thing America Needs to Do to Turn Itself Around» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
We could start by actually living up to our own laws.

The following is the transcript of part 2 of a Democracy Now! interview with Noam Chomsky. 

After world-renowned scholar Noam Chomsky gave a major address on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the hall of the United Nations General Assembly last week, Amy Goodman interviewed the world-renowned linguist and dissident before an audience of 800 people. Chomsky spoke at an event sponsored by the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. “One important action that the United States could take is to live up to its own laws. Of course it would be nice if it lived up to international law, but maybe that’s too much to ask,” Chomsky said.

Below is footage of Chomsky from the United Nations, followed by a transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we return to MIT professor Noam Chomsky, world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author. Last week, he spoke before over 800 people in the hall of the United Nations General Assembly, before ambassadors and the public alike, on the issue of Israel and Palestine. After his speech, I conducted a public interview with Professor Chomsky.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think is the most—the single most important action the United States can take? And what about its role over the years? What is its interest here?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, one important action that the United States could take is to live up to its own laws. Of course, it would be nice if it lived up to international law, but maybe that’s too much to ask, but live up to its own laws. And there are several. And here, incidentally, I have in mind advice to activists also, who I think ought to be organizing and educating in this direction. There are two crucial cases.

One of them is what’s called the Leahy Law. Patrick Leahy, Senator Leahy, introduced legislation called the Leahy Law, which bars sending weapons to any military units which are involved in consistent human rights violations. There isn’t the slightest doubt that the Israeli army is involved in massive human rights violations, which means that all dispatch of U.S. arms to Israel is in violation of U.S. law. I think that’s significant. The U.S. should be called upon by its own citizens to—and by others, to adhere to U.S. law, which also happens to conform to international law in this case, as Amnesty International, for example, for years has been calling for an arms embargo against Israel for this reason. These are all steps that can be taken.

The second is the tax-exempt status that is given to organizations in the United States which are directly involved in the occupation and in significant attacks on human and civil rights within Israel itself, like the Jewish National Fund. Take a look at its charter with the state of Israel, which commits it to acting for the benefit of people of Jewish race, religion and origin within Israel. One of the consequences of that is that by a complex array of laws and administrative practices, the fund pretty much administers about 90 percent of the land of the country, with real consequences for who can live places. They get tax-exempt status also for their activities in the West Bank, which are strictly criminal. I think that’s also straight in violation of U.S. law. Now, those are important things.

And I think the U.S. should be pressured, internationally and domestically, to abandon its virtually unique role—unilateral role in blocking a political settlement for the past 40 years, ever since the first veto in January 1976. That should be a major issue in the media, in convocations like this, in the United Nations, in domestic politics, in government politics and so on.

AMY GOODMAN: The role of the media, can you talk about that, and particularly in the United States? And do you think that the opinion in the United States, public opinion, is shifting on this issue?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, the role of the—the media are somewhat shifting from uniform support for virtually everything that Israel does to—and, of course, silence about the U.S. role—that’s not just in the case of Israel, that’s innumerable other cases, as well—but is slowly shifting. But nevertheless, about, say, Operation Protective Edge, one can read in news reporting, news reporting in The New York Times, major journal, a criticism of Hamas’s assault on Israel during Protective Edge. Hamas’s assault on Israel—not exactly what happened, but that’s what people are reading, and that’s the way it’s depicted. Israel is—over and over it’s pointed out, "Look, poor Israel is under attack. It has the right of self-defense." Everyone agrees to that. Actually, I agree, too. Everyone has a right of self-defense. But that’s not the question. The question is: Do you have a right of self-defense by force, by violence? The answer is no for anyone, whether it’s an individual or state, unless you have exhausted peaceful means. If you won’t even permit peaceful means, which is the case here, then you have no right of self-defense by violence. But try to find a word about that in the media. All you find is "self-defense." When President Obama rarely says anything about what’s happening, it’s usually, "If my daughters were being attacked by rockets, I would do anything to stop it." He’s referring not to the hundreds of Palestinian children who are being killed and slaughtered, but to the children in the Israeli town of Sderot, which is under attack by Qassam missiles. And remember that Israel knows exactly how to stop those missiles: namely, live up to a ceasefire for the first time, and then they would stop, as in the past, even when Israel didn’t live up to a ceasefire.

That framework—and, of course, the rest of the framework is the United States as an honest broker trying hard to bring the two recalcitrant sides together, doing its best in this noble endeavor—has nothing to do with the case. The U.S. is, as some of the U.S. negotiators have occasionally acknowledged, Israel’s lawyer. If there were serious negotiations going on, they would be led by some neutral party, maybe Brazil, which has some international respect, and they would bring together the two sides—on the one side, Israel and the United States; on the other side, the Palestinians. Now, those would be possible realistic negotiations. But the chances of anyone in the media either—I won’t even say pointing it out, even thinking about it, is minuscule. The indoctrination is so deep that really elementary facts like these—and they are elementary—are almost incomprehensible.

But to get back to your—the last point you mentioned, it’s very important. Opinion in the United States is shifting, not as fast as in most of the world, not as fast as in Europe. It’s not reaching the point where you could get a vote in Congress anything like the British Parliament a couple days ago, but it is changing, mostly among younger people, and changing substantially. I’ll just illustrate with personal experience; Amy has the same experience. Until pretty recently, when I gave talks on these topics, as I’ve been doing for 40 years, I literally had to have police protection, even at my own university, MIT. Police would insist on walking me back to my car because of threats they had picked up. Meetings were broken up, and so on. That’s all gone. Just a couple of days ago I had a talk on these topics at MIT. Meeting wasn’t broken up. No police protection. Maybe 500 or 600 students were there, all enthusiastic, engaged, committed, concerned, wanting to do something about it. That’s happening all over the country. All over the country, Palestinian solidarity is one of the biggest issues on campus—enormous change in the last few years.

That’s the way things tend to change. It often starts with younger people. Gradually it gets to the rest of the population. Efforts of the kind I mentioned, say, trying to get the United States government to live up to its own laws, those could be undertaken on a substantial scale, domestically and with support from international institutions. And that could lead to further changes. I think that the—for example, the two things that I mentioned would have a considerable appeal to much of the American public. Why should they be funding military units that are carrying out massive human rights violations? Why should they be permitting tax exemption? Meaning we pay for it—that’s what a tax exemption means. Why should we be paying, compelled to pay, for violations of fundamental human rights in another country, and even in occupied territories, where it’s criminal? I think that can appeal to the American population and can lead to the kinds of changes we’ve seen in other cases.

AMY GOODMAN: Final question, before we open it up to each of you: Your thoughts on the BDS movement, the boycott, divest, sanctions movement?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, BDS is a set of tactics, right? These are tactics that you employ when you think they’re going to be effective and in ways that you think will be effective. Tactics are not principles. They’re not actions that you undertake no matter what because you think they’re right. Tactics are undertaken, if you’re serious, because you think they’re going to help the victims. That’s how you adjust your tactics, not because I think they’re right in principle, but because I think they will be beneficial. That ought to be second nature to activists.

Also second nature should be a crucial distinction between proposing and advocating. I can propose now that we should all live in peace and love each other. I just proposed it. That’s not a serious proposal. It becomes a serious proposal when it becomes advocacy. It is given—I sketch out a path for getting from here to there. Then it becomes serious. Otherwise, it’s empty words. That’s crucial and related to this.

Well, when you take a look at the BDS movement, which is separate, incidentally, from BDS tactics—let me make that clear. So, when the European Union issued its directive or when the—that I mentioned, or when, say, the Gates Foundation withdraws investment in security operations that are being carried out, not only in the Occupied Territories, but elsewhere, that’s very important. But that’s not the BDS movement. That’s BDS tactics, actually, BD tactics, boycott, divestment tactics. That’s important. The BDS movement itself has been an impetus to these developments, and in many ways a positive one, but I think it has failed and should reflect on its, so far, unwillingness to face what are crucial questions for activists: What’s going to help the victims, and what’s going to harm them? What is a proposal, and what is real advocacy? You have to think that through, and it hasn’t been sufficiently done.

So, if you take a look at the principles of the BDS movement, there are three. They vary slightly in wording, but basically three. One is, actions should be directed against the occupation. That has been extremely successful, in many ways, and it makes sense. It also helps educate the Western populations who are being appealed to to participate, enables—it’s an opening to discuss, investigate and organize about the participation in the occupation. That’s very successful.

A second principle is that BDS actions should be continued until Israel allows the refugees to return. That has had no success, and to the extent that it’s been tried, it’s been negative. It just leads to a backlash. No basis has been laid for it among the population. It is simply interpreted as saying, "Oh, you want to destroy the state of Israel. We’re not going to destroy a state." You cannot undertake actions which you think are principled when in the real world they are going to have a harmful effect on the victims.

There’s a third category having to do with civil rights within Israel, and there are things that could be done here. One of the ones I mentioned, in fact—the tax-free status for U.S. organizations that are engaged in civil rights and human rights violations. And remember, a tax exemption means I pay for it. That’s what a tax exemption is. Well, that’s an action that could be undertaken. Others that have been undertaken have had backlashes which are harmful. And I won’t run through the record, but these are the kinds of questions that always have to be asked when you’re involved in serious activisms, if you care about the victims, not just feeling good, but caring about the victims. That’s critically important.

AMY GOODMAN: MIT professor, world-renowned linguist, dissident, Noam Chomsky, speaking last Tuesday in the hall of the United Nations General Assembly before 800 people in an event hosted by the U.N. Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. If you’d like a copy of today’s show, you can go to our website at democracynow.org.


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07:06 Fox Hosts Lash Out At Media Matters Following Widespread Criticism For Discouraging Voters» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Fox News hosts are lashing out at Media Matters amid widespread condemnation after its hosts argued that young women were too ignorant to vote or serve on jury duty.

Host Kimberly Guilfoyle came under fire after arguing that the reason young women don't vote for conservatives is "the same reason why young women on juries are not a good idea -- they don't get it," adding that she would automatically exclude them from being on a jury so they can "go back on Tinder or Match.com."

As Huffington Post's Catherine Taibi pointed out, not only is Guilfoyle's argument a "terrible -- and illogical -- idea to convince young people not to vote," but it's also categorically incorrect. Salon's Jenny Kutner wrote that while young women may "be healthy and hot, and possibly even running around, it's doubtful they're all without a care in the world" as Guilfoyle suggested.

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05:00 Why Public Education Needs Teachers Unions» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Excluding teachers from policy-making is not only stupid, it's dangerous.

I consider it important, indeed urgently necessary, for intellectual workers to get together, both to protect their own economic status and also, generally speaking, to secure their influence in the political field.” – Charter member of AFT Local 552 (c. 1938)

There have been many assertions made over time about the negative effects of teachers unions on student performance. A number of states have moved legislatively to curtail the collective bargaining rights of teachers and, indeed, some states have never allowed teachers’ collective bargaining.

Conservative critics of teachers unions – the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, for example – claim there is no relationshipbetween high levels of union membership and high levels of student achievement. There are 10 states where there is little or no collective bargaining by teachers. If Fordham and other teachers union critics are right, these states should demonstrate student achievement that ranks very high, or at least above the national average, on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). According to commentary in the Washington Post by Matthew Di Carlo, senior fellow at the Albert Shanker Institute, out of the ten [non-union] states only one (Virginia) has an average rank above the median, while four are in the bottom ten and seven are in the bottom fifteen.” The article concludes that states “without binding teacher contracts are not doing better, and the majority are actually among the lowest performers in the nation.”

There are studies that refute the position of the conservatives and assert that teachers unions have a positive effect on student achievement. These include work done by researchers Brian Powell, Lala Carr Steelman and Robert Carini, “Do Teacher Unions Hinder Educational Performance? Lessons learned from State SAT and ACT Scores,” published in the Harvard Educational Review (Winter 2000), as well as  “Teachers’ Unions and Collective Bargaining Agreements: Roadblocks to Student Achievement & Teacher Quality or Educational Imperatives?”The study concludes that “…excluding teachers from policy-making is dangerous because teachers have vital experience and knowledge and should play a prominent role in policy-making. Teachers are also essential advocates for their students because their needs are bound up with the needs of their students to the extent that concessions for teachers benefit students and enhance teacher quality and student achievement.”

Many argue that, regardless of the number of studies pro or con on the teachers union/student achievement question, it is difficult to draw more than correlational relationships, not causal ones, on the issues. They argue that student demographics, state spending and other policies, as well as the economic status of the states are more important drivers of student achievement. What can be concluded looking at NAEP, ACT and SAT scores state by state, though, is that teacher unionization does not guarantee low student achievement and a lack of unionization does not guarantee high achievement. Teacher unionization does allow for teachers to have a stronger voice in professional matters and also allows them “to secure their influence in the political field.” State education funding per student tends to be higher in unionized, higher achieving states.

Other educational experts have spoken outon the topic of teacher unionization.

  • Diane Ravitch, in her blog, notes that unions give teachers a voice in policy decisions and allow them to be advocates for higher education spending.
  • Linda Darling-Hammond is a Stanford University education professor and chairs California’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Darling-Hammond asserts it is the education professionals who hold the keys to successful school reform: “We need the union of professionals to step up and say we care how our profession will be treated.”

The self-styled reformers frequently use international test scores to emphasize that U.S. economic competitiveness is being sacrificed to the “self-interest” of adult educators and the unions that represent them. (They never note that when scores are controlled for poverty the U.S. scores near the top.)

Finland is a small country that typically scores near the top in the vaunted international tests. Do teachers unions have any inhibiting effects on Finland, where 95 percent of teachers are unionized? According to Pasi Sahlberg, a director at the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture and now a visiting professor at Harvard, “Without the union, we really cannot implement anything. Its role is securing and protecting the rights of teachers. … It’s a very important part of the system.”

Another voice on the efficacy of teachers unions is that of the AFT charter member whose quote begins this essay. You have likely heard of him. His name was Albert Einstein.

Reprinted by permission of the author.


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Conservative media are invoking one of their favorite Benghazi hoaxes to accuse President Obama of reluctance to characterize the fatal shootings near Canadian Parliament as terrorism, despite the fact that Obama framed it in terms of "terrorism" the day of the shooting, just as he called the Benghazi attacks "acts of terror" the day after the 2012 assault.

Canadian PM Vows To Fight Terrorism After Gunman Opened Fire, Killing Soldier, Near Parliament Building

NPR"Soldier Killed, Suspect Dead In Shooting Near Canadian Parliament." On October 22, a gunman opened fire at Canada's National War Memorial and then proceeded to enter the Canadian Parliament building. As NPR reported:

In a televised address to his country, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said over the next few days "we will learn more about the terrorist and any accomplices he may have had." 

But this attack, as well as the one earlier this week, shows that "Canada is not immune to the type of terrorist attacks we see elsewhere." 

Harper, however, said that this will not intimidate his country. Instead, Canada will redouble its efforts against terrorism, he said, and make sure terrorists find "no safe haven." [NPR,10/22/14]

Right-Wing Media Pretend Obama Won't Acknowledge That Canadian Shooting Was Terrorism, Just Like After Benghazi

Fox Correspondent Ed Henry: To Understand White House's Reluctance To Call Shooting Terrorism, "Look Back To Benghazi [Where] The Administration For Days Was Suggesting It Was Not A Terrorist Attack." On the October 22 edition of Hannity, Fox's White House correspondent Ed Henry said that Obama wouldn't definitively call the Canadian shooting a terrorist attack because of their similar response to Benghazi:

HANNITY: If you look at the Canadian media as the story was developing today, and then of course the Prime Minister saying this was a terrorist act. It's hard to understand why there's this mysterious reluctance and resistance. It's sort of like Fort Hood, and it's kind of like what happened in Oklahoma, with the White House not being willing to identify this.

HENRY: Look back to Benghazi, obviously, a couple years ago. And the administration for days was suggesting it was not a terrorist attack, and then obviously got burned by that when the facts came out. That may be one reason, obviously, why they're a bit jittery or cautious about going in any direction until all the facts come in. [Fox News, Hannity10/22/14]

Fox Host Andrea Tantaros: "Why Would We Expect President Obama To Call This An Act Of Terror" When He Wouldn't Use That Term To Describe Benghazi? During an October 22 discussion roundly criticizing Obama for supposedly not calling the Canadian shooting incident an "act of terror," Outnumbered co-host Andrea Tantaros claimed there "is an apprehension and hesitancy by this White House to identify your enemy," citing the 2012 Benghazi attacks in Libya (emphasis added):

TANTAROS:  I would trust the words of the Canadian prime minister, right? You would assume, Sandra, because this happened in Canada, and they've been watching this guy for a long time, they had suspended his visa so that he couldn't leave, they have more facts than we do. So if the Canadian prime minister says that this is terrorism, I'm going to trust that they have the facts. Just like when the Libyan president called Benghazi terrorism and jihadism, our president didn't listen to him. OK? And so why, Sandra, would we expect President Obama to call this an act of terror when a hole that was large enough for twenty men to walk through was blown into our consulate and he couldn't use those terms then. There is an apprehension and hesitancy by this White House to identify our enemy. They won't even say we're at war. And to build on Eric's point, you have to identify the enemy or you'll never be able to defeat it. [Fox News, Outnumbered10/23/14]

Fox & Friends: Obama's "Failure To Recognize Terror As Terror" In The Canadian Shooting Is Like His Benghazi Response. On the October 23 edition of Fox & Friends, host Steve Doocy asked whether Obama's reaction to the Canadian shooting was putting the U.S. at risk because he failed to recognize terror. Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson, Jr. responded that Obama's response was similar to that after Benghazi (emphasis added):

DOOCY: Should this serve as a wake-up call to Canada and America, and could the president's failure to recognize terror as terror put us at risk? Peter Johnson, Jr. joins us live. 

JOHNSON: We need to take the wake-up call and say 'don't call back in five minutes.' The president, unfortunately Steve, and our friends out there this morning, has not recognized terror as terror -- Benghazi, Fort Hood, the Little Rock 2009 massacre of our American soldiers here on American soil, Alton Nolan and the beheading as you were talking about before. So the first step is recognition of the problem. We need to be strong and powerful enough to say yeah, there is a problem and we're going to contain it here in the United States. 


But the problem is, we haven't recognized it and called it as such. So today, the president needs to recognize this as terrorism. He didn't recognize it yesterday, although the Canadian prime minister did, and the world did, and anyone that could read about it or see it on the FoxNews.com site or on our television could say, what do you think it is? This is a radicalized Islamist terrorist. [Fox News, Fox & Friends10/23/14]

Rush Limbaugh: The Canadians, "They're Not Pretending It Isn't Terrorism," In Contrast To Obama. Radio host Rush Limbaugh was quick to juxtapose the Canadian PM's response next to Obama's, saying, "the Canadians, they're not pretending it isn't terrorism":

LIMBAUGH: So what a contrast, or a juxtaposition, if you will. The Canadians -- they're not pretending it isn't terrorism. Stephen Harper went right out there and told everybody why this happened, who did it, and what their objectives were, and they're not going to be intimidated. And in Washington, kind of look, I don't know, ridiculous.


Political correctness on parade there in the White House. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show10/23/14]

In Reality, Obama Framed Canadian Shooting In Terms Of "Terrorism" And "Terrorist Activity"

President Obama: "We Have To Remain Vigilant" When "Dealing With These Kinds Of Acts of Senseless Violence Or Terrorism." When asked to address the Canadian shooting on October 22, President Obama referenced terrorism or terrorist activity three different times in connection to the event (emphasis added):

THE PRESIDENT: We don't yet have all the information about what motivated the shooting. We don't yet have all the information about whether this was part of a broader network or plan, or whether this was an individual or series of individuals who decided to take these actions. But it emphasizes the degree to which we have to remain vigilant when it comes to dealing with these kinds of acts of senseless violence or terrorism. And I pledged, as always, to make sure that our national security teams are coordinating very closely, given not only is Canada one of our closest allies in the world but they're our neighbors and our friends, and obviously there's a lot of interaction between Canadians and the United States, where we have such a long border.

And it's very important I think for us to recognize that when it comes to dealing with terrorist activity, that Canada and the United States has to be entirely in sync.  We have in the past; I'm confident we will continue to do so in the future.  And Prime Minister Harper was very appreciative of the expressions of concern by the American people.


Q:    What does the Canadian attack mean to U.S. security, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we don't have enough information yet. So as we understand better exactly what happened, this obviously is something that we'll make sure to factor in, in the ongoing efforts that we have to counter terrorist attacks in our country. [Whitehouse.gov, 10/22/14]

And Immediately After Benghazi Attacks, He Called The Assault "Acts Of Terror"

Sept. 12: Obama Said Of Benghazi: "No Acts Of Terror Will Ever Shake The Resolve Of This Great Nation." On Sept. 12, the day after the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, President Obama gave a speech in the Rose Garden on the deaths of four U.S. diplomatic staff. He said, "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done." [WhiteHouse.gov, 9/12/12]

Sept. 13: Obama Again Referred To The Benghazi Attack As An "Act Of Terror" In Colorado. Campaigning in Golden, Colorado, on Sept. 13, Obama again classified the Benghazi attack as an "act of terror." He told the crowd, "So what I want all of you to know is that we are going to bring those who killed our fellow Americans to justice. I want people around the world to hear me:  To all those who would do us harm, no act of terror will go unpunished." [WhiteHouse.gov, 9/13/12]

Sept. 13: In Nevada, Obama Said Of Benghazi: "No Act Of Terror Will Dim The Light" Of American Values. Later on Sept. 13, Obama again labeled the Benghazi violence an "act of terror." He told a crowd in Las Vegas, Nevada, "As for the ones we lost last night:  I want to assure you, we will bring their killers to justice. And we want to send a message all around the world -- anybody who would do us harm:  No act of terror will dim the light of the values that we proudly shine on the rest of the world, and no act of violence will shake the resolve of the United States of America." [WhiteHouse.gov, 9/13/12]

Wed 22 October, 2014

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Goal Thermometer

Bruce Rauner, chairman of R8 Capital Partners and the former chairman of the private equity firm GTCR, based in Chicago, is running on his business record as the Republican candidate to unseat Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn. He's supposed to be one of those "job creators" so deserving of huge tax breaks the Republicans are always talking about. So this should have been a real softball debate question for him: "Mr. Rauner, can you give us specific examples, maybe one or two, of successful companies owned by you that actually have created jobs in the state of Illinois, and how are you going to use that experience to attract businesses into the state and actually create jobs in Illinois?"

His reply:

We've built one of the most respected, most successful investment companies in America at my firm. We've helped create hundreds of successful businesses.
Well, then. Here's moderator No. 2: "Yeah, I have a follow up, actually, to Erica's question. You never gave us an example of a company—one specific example over those 32 years—where you created any jobs." The reply?
Rauner: I'd encourage you to come to the website for my old firm. There are hundreds and hundreds of companies there, many of them have gone public….

Moderator #2: But you don't remember any?

Rauner: …the point is there are so many.

And out of those hundreds and hundreds he can't point to a single one that created just one job? Seems like if you're a job creator, you'd have binders full of examples of the job=creating you did, examples right at the ready for what is going to be the inevitable debate question.
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Seems like Rauner might be a bit of a fraud on that whole job-creating thing. That's not too much of a shocker though. This isn't a guy who cares particularly about workers. He wants "right to work" zones—designated areas where businesses can avoid taxes and regulations that, you know, protect workers. He's also gotten in some political trouble for saying Illinois should reduce its minimum wage, a position he's been backpedalling from for months now.
12:17 Giuliani on Rick Scott: 'This is not a guy who should be governor, it is as simple as that'» Daily Kos
Rudy image Crist campagin
Rudy Giuliani was on the campaign trail for Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday, and besides whining about Charlie Crist not endorsing him in the 2008 Florida primary, one presumes Rudy would have had something to say about Rick Scott. Maybe this:
"This is not a guy who should be governor, it is as simple as that." Giuliani said about Scott, the former head of the Columbia/ HCA hospital chain that in the '90s was immersed in  the largest Medicare fraud case in history. Scott's former company ended up paying 1.7 billion dollars in fines and penalties. "If we nominate somebody who has had serious fraud problems in the healthcare system that is going to be a big mistake."
He didn't.
11:55 Trailing in the polls, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback sinks to despicable new low» Daily Kos
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) speaks at a Family Research Council
Goal Thermometer

In December 2000, Reginald and Jonathan Carr murdered four people on a cold winter day in Wichita, Kansas. The crime became known as the "Wichita Massacre" and the community was justifiably outraged. After being shot in the head and left for dead, one of the victims was able to get help and identify the Carr brothers, who were subsequently tried, convicted and sentenced to death.

In July 2014, the Kansas Supreme Court overturned the death sentences due to errors made by the original presiding judge. The Kansas Supreme Court handed down a revised sentence of life without parole. The state is appealing, trying to get the death penalty convictions reinstated.

Absolutely desperate for last-minute votes, the flailing Gov. Sam Brownback has released a truly despicable new ad trying to connect Paul Davis to the case:

The ad says, "Paul Davis stands with these liberal judges who let the Carr brothers off the hook. Davis supported and defended these judges," among other claims.
For his part, Paul Davis is not taking this slime attempt lying down:
Davis said he knew one of the Carr brothers’ victims and that the ad was a new low for the Brownback campaign. Later, he said he knew victim Brad Heyka from when they played competitive golf as young men.

“I knew Gov. Brownback would run an ugly campaign of personal attacks, but I didn’t think the ads could get any sleazier (until) I turned on my television this morning,” Davis said. “Governor, you trying to exploit that terrible tragedy to help get elected is disgraceful. And you ought to be ashamed.”

As the Kansas City Star notes, Brownback should've left this alone:
Davis is right. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, also a Republican up for election, has been scrupulous about not inflaming public sentiment over the Supreme Court’s ruling. Brownback should do the same. Unless the governor has recently become an expert in constitutional and criminal law, he should leave this one to the appeals process.
Jump below the fold to see the repulsive ad and Paul Davis' rebuke of Gov. Sam Brownback.
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Releasing an ad like this reeks of desperation. Let's hope Wichita-area voters recognize it for the sleaze it is and send Sam Brownback off to his inevitable lobbying job in Washington.
10:55 Fox News is suddenly concerned about election spending. Because unions, of course.» Daily Kos
2012 Chicago Teachers Strike
Eeek! Teachers!
Goal Thermometer

Fox News has finally found a kind of election spending it finds worthy of comment. We're talking, naturally, about spending by teachers unions. "The teachers unions are on track to spend a record amount this cycle," Fox's Martha McCallum informed viewers, "with one union shelling out more in contributions than they have"—and here she began strenuously gesturing with a pointed finger—"ever spent before." McCallum then turned to correspondent Mike Emanuel for an answer to that very Foxy question "North Carolina is a key race that could decide the balance of power. What are the teachers unions doing there?"

The answer: "The National Education Association super PAC has spent about $3 million on ads blaming Republican Tillis for making class sizes bigger and for reduced art and sports programs." Oooh. How dare they?

The segment's tone of alarm and novelty—the eyebrows raised at the notion of unions spending millions of dollars on elections—does not extend to Fox News coverage of Republican spending, of course:

With its focus on teachers unions, Fox conveniently left out the spending from outside groups that totals nearly three times more. For example, the North Carolina chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group backed by the Koch brothers has poured in at least $8.3 million in ad money. At least $6 million has come from groups linked to conservative Karl Rove, a Fox News contributor.
I guess if you never report on and even actively downplay the money Republican groups are spending, your viewers will be amazed to hear how much unions are spending. Typical Fox News, in other words.
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Here's hoping these unions are putting as much or more effort into mobilizing teachers to vote—and getting teachers to mobilize their friends and neighbors to vote—as they are money into advertising.
10:23 4 Illegal Drugs that Could Safely Treat Depression» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Science continues to show how cannabis and psychedelics can work psychological wonders.

Next year, if all goes to plan, a dozen patients with clinical depression will be invited to a UK laboratory and given psilocybin – the psychedelic ingredient found in magic mushrooms. Over the next four or five hours, many of these volunteers will experience dream-like euphoria as colours, smells and sounds become more intense, perception of time distorts and their sense of self dissolves. Some may feel a surge of electricity through their bodies, sudden clarity of thought or hilarity. Others may experience anxiety, confusion or paranoia. These hallucinogenic effects will be short-lived, but the impact of the drug on the volunteers could be long-lasting.

There is tentative evidence that psilocybin, along with other psychedelic drugs, can "reset" abnormal functioning of the brain if given in a safe, controlled way as part of therapy. For those raised on the post-1960s dogma that magic mushrooms and LSD unleash mental illness, trigger flashbacks and cause personality changes, the idea that they could actually cure disorders of the brain is mind-blowing.

The pilot study will involve patients who have failed to respond to conventional treatment and is the idea of Professor David Nutt and Dr Robin Carhart-Harris at Imperial College's Neuropsychopharmacology Centre in London. They argue that psychedelic drugs could prove beneficial to millions of people and that it is time to end the 50-year stigma surrounding their therapeutic use. Nutt and Carhart-Harris have already used MRI scanners to study changes in the brain while 15 volunteers took psilocybin. A similar study on 20 volunteers given LSD has just finished.

"As a non-clinician, I was convinced by seeing how psilocybin affects the brain," says Carhart-Harris. "It was quite stark how similar it was to the existing treatments for depression."

The Imperial scientists are at the forefront of a hallucinogenic research revival and say they have 50 years of science to catch up on. In the 50s and 60s you could barely open a psychiatric journal without coming across a paper on LSD. Then, LSD was the latest wonder substance, with potential to treat depression, addiction and headaches. Between the late 1940s – when it was made available to researchers under the name Delysid – and the mid-60s there were 1,000 academic papers investigating its effects on 40,000 people.

But as the drug grew in popularity among recreational users – and became linked to the counter-cultural revolution and Vietnam protest – the backlash began. By the late 60s it was at the heart of a full-blown moral panic and the US government cracked down on it.

Nutt, who was controversially sacked as chair of the UK government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs in 2009 for claiming that horse-riding was more dangerous than ecstasy, says the justification for banning LSD and hallucinogens was a "concoction of lies" about their health impacts, combined with a denial of their potential as research tools and treatments.

"It was unquestionably one of the most effective pieces of disinformation in the history of mankind," says Nutt. "It led to a lot of people believing these drugs were more harmful than they were. They are not trivial drugs, but in comparison with drugs that kill thousands of people a year, like alcohol, tobacco and heroin, they have a very safe track record and, as far as we know, no one has died."

In 1971 the UN convention on psychotropic substances classified LSD, other hallucinogens and cannabis as schedule 1 drugs: dangerous substances with no medical benefit. In contrast heroin – an addictive and far more dangerous drug – was classed as a less restricted schedule 2 drug because it had known pain-killing effects.

In order to study a schedule 1 drug, UK academics need a £3,000 Home Office licence and years of form-filling. They must also source legal but not overtly expensive supplies of the drug. The red tape – and the need to persuade sceptical university ethic committees – proved stifling for research. "It's a catch-22," says Carhart-Harris. "It's difficult to study LSD and psilocybin to see if they have medical use because they are schedule 1. And they are only classed as schedule 1 because they are deemed to have no medical use."

But things are changing. The first two papers on LSD experiments since the 1970s were published this year: one by the Imperial team; the other by Swiss researchers on easing anxiety among terminally ill cancer patients. In the UK the revival of academic research into "recreational" drugs is being driven by the Imperial scientists working with the Beckley Foundation, a charity run by English aristocrat Amanda Feilding, the Countess of Wemyss and March. After taking LSD in the 1960s she became fascinated with its potential for creativity and enhancing understanding.

Her foundation supports and initiates research into psychoactive substances – including LSD, magic mushrooms and cannabis, a plant used in medicine for thousands of years. "By prohibiting research into this category of substance, because of a social misconception, we are depriving suffering ill people from a potential treatment which has a very long history," she says.

The Imperial scientists stress they are studying psychedelic drugs in safe environments to reduce the risk of negative experiences. The drugs used are chemically pure and given in controlled doses.

"Self-medication is definitely a no-no from my perspective," says Carhart-Harris. "These drugs are powerful and the therapeutic model we are going to adhere to is quite specific in that it emphasises that the drug needs to be taken in the right environment and with the right support. We have professional psychotherapists there who are trained and understand all the eventualities of what might happen, and so I think it would be reckless for people to try to do it by themselves."

LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide)

Swiss chemist Dr Albert Hoffman created LSD in 1938 from a substance in ergot fungus. After its hallucinogenic properties were discovered by Hoffman in 1943, it was used as a tool for modelling schizophrenia in healthy volunteers and taken by some psychiatrists to gain insight into mental illness. By the early 60s it was being given to patients undergoing psychotherapy.

Many of the 1,000 or so academic papers from this era discuss its use in treating depression. Dr Robin Carhart-Harris says the evidence from historical research was weak.

"Most of this stuff was anecdotal," he says. "They wouldn't have had a control group and the outcomes would be poorly defined." There is much stronger evidence that LSD can treat addiction. A 2012 meta-analysis of six controlled trials from the 50s and 60s found its clinical efficiency for the treatment of alcohol addiction to be as effective as any treatment developed since. It has also been shown to help patients who are terminally ill come to terms with dying. The mechanisms of LSD are still poorly understood. It seems to mimic some actions of the brain chemical serotonin, which is involved in memory formation, mood and reward, but how it triggers such powerful altering effects isn't clear.

The Imperial/Beckley MRI research showed that brains of volunteers on LSD become less organised and more chaotic, while parts of the brain that would not normally communicate with each other link up. In this disorganised dream-like state, the brain is open to new leaps of creativity and flights of fancy. Dr Carhart-Harris believes that hallucinogens may temporally "loosen" the rigid structures of the brain, which have developed as we age. An acid trip is a bit like shaking up a snow globe. This loosening could help the brain break the cycles of addiction and depression.

There are risks with LSD, of course, but Professor David Nutt says they are often exaggerated. The effects of taking LSD are unpredictable: users can lose their sense of judgment - and put themselves in risky situations. A minority may experience flashbacks some time after tripping; in others the experience may set off mental health problems that have previously gone unnoticed.


Cannabis has been taken medicinally for thousands of years. It was used in the 19th century to treat pain, spasms, asthma, sleep disorder, depression and loss of appetite, and was even recommended by Queen Victoria's doctor. Two chemicals in cannabis attract interest from scientists - tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive compound, which has some pain-relieving properties, and cannabidiol (CBD), which appears to confer health benefits without the high.

More than 100 trials of cannabis or cannabis-derived substances have taken place since the 1970s. A cannabis extract mouth spray marketed as Sativex was approved for use in multiple sclerosis in 2011 after a trialfound it improved sleep, reduced spasticity and the number of spasms. In the 1970s and 80s, trials showed drugs derived from cannabis could help with nausea in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. In the 1990s, research showed it could prevent anorexia in HIV patients. There is also evidence that cannabis can relieve chronic pain when taken with other medications.

In the US, 20 states allow the possession and use of cannabis for medical reasons, while two states – Colorado and Washington – have decriminalised it. It has been legal for medical use in the Netherlands for more than 25 years.

Some researchers believe cannabis has potential as a treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress and insomnia.

One of the difficulties with cannabis research is that the nature of the street drug has changed over the last few decades – partly in response to demand from users for a bigger high. Studies at the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London have shown that THC increases anxiety and short-term psychotic symptoms, while CBD - which appears to have most of the medical benefits - has the opposite effect. Modern street varieties of cannabis, or skunk, are high in THC and extremely low in CBD.

Magic Mushrooms

Like LSD, magic mushrooms are hallucinogenic. The active compound is psilocybin and, like LSD, it may be useful in treating depression. A study of 15 volunteers by Dr Robin Carhart-Harris of Imperial College London showed that the compound helps suppress the part of the brain often hyperactive in depression called the medial prefrontal cortex. This region is linked to introspection and obsessive thinking.

It is too soon to say whether magic mushrooms can treat depression, though. In 2013, Imperial College scientists were awarded a Medical Research Council grant to study the effects of psilocybin on a dozen patients with depression. The study is being hampered by red tape, but should start next year.

Psilocybin may also be useful in treating addiction. A Beckley Foundation-funded study at Johns Hopkins University gave 15 people trying to give up smoking two to three rounds of the drug. Six months later, 12 remained off cigarettes – a success rate of 80%. The best smoking cessation drugs are 35% effective. While promising, a much bigger study is needed.

The best smoking cessation drugs are only 35% effective. Some users of magic mushrooms say it helps with obsessive compulsive disorder. So far there has been just one clinical trial,involving nine people. The results were again promising – but larger studies are needed.

There is also some evidence that it can help cancer patients come to terms with their condition.

According to Professor David Nutt, the risks associated with magic mushroom use are relatively low compared to drugs such as alcohol, tobacco or heroin. On a scale of risk published in the Lancet in 2010, magic mushrooms came bottom out of 20 of the most commonly used drugs.

MDMA (Ecstasy)

First synthesised 100 years ago, MDMA was used in the 1970s during psychotherapy but exploded into the public consciousness with the arrival of the dance culture in the late 1980s.

It works by increasing the activity of three neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers, in the brain: serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline. The high levels of serotonin generate a feeling of euphoria, affection and goodwill.

A small controlled studying in the US showed that 80% of people with post-traumatic stress disorder benefited from MDMA during therapy. The current treatment for PTSD involves patients reliving their stressful experiences. MDMA seems to work by artificially raising patients' moods, and making it easier for them to recall and discuss the experiences that caused PTSD.

Professor David Nutt says MDMA may also have benefits helping with end-of-life anxiety, and couples therapy. It could also help with Parkinson's disease. More research is needed on the risks. however. Animal studies suggest it may cause long-term damage to the brains of rats, but the evidence in people is inconclusive. Between 1997 and 2012, 577 deaths were linked to ecstasy in England and Wales – mostly from heatstroke, heart problems or excess water consumption.


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10:06 7 Facts That Show the American Dream Is Dead» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
The key elements of the American dream are unreachable for all but the wealthiest.

A recent poll showed that more than half of all people in this country don’t believe that the American dream is real. Fifty-nine percent of those polled in June agreed that “the American dream has become impossible for most people to achieve." More and more Americans believe there is “not much opportunity” to get ahead.

The public has reached this conclusion for a very simple reason: It’s true. The key elements of the American dream—a living wage, retirement security, the opportunity for one's children to get ahead in life—are now unreachable for all but the wealthiest among us. And it’s getting worse. As inequality increases, the fundamental elements of the American dream are becoming increasingly unaffordable for the majority.

Here are seven ways the American dream is dying.

1. Most people can’t get ahead financially.

If the American dream means a reasonable rate of income growth for working people, most people can’t expect to achieve it.

As Ben Casselman observes at fivethirtyeight.com, the middle class hasn’t seen its wage rise in 15 years. In fact, the percentage of middle-class households in this nation is actually falling. Median household income has fallen since the financial crisis of 2008, while income for the wealthiest of Americans has actually risen.

Thomas Edsall wrote in the New York Timesthat “Not only has the wealth of the very rich doubled since 2000, but corporate revenues are at record levels.” Edsall also observed that, “In 2013, according to Goldman Sachs, corporate profits rose five times faster than wages.”

2. The stay-at-home parent is a thing of the past.

There was a time when middle-class families could lead a comfortable lifestyle on one person’s earnings. One parent could work while the other stayed home with the kids.

Those days are gone. As Elizabeth Warren and co-author Amelia Warren Tyagi documented in their 2003 book, The Two-Income Trap, the increasing number of two-earner families was matched by rising costs in a number of areas such as education, home costs and transportation.

These cost increases, combined with wage stagnation, mean that families are struggling to make ends meet—and that neither parent has the luxury of staying home any longer. In fact, parenthood has become a financial risk. Warren and Tyagi write that “Having a child is now the single best predictor that a woman will end up in financial collapse.” This book was written over a decade ago; things are even worse today.

3. The rich are more debt-free. Others have no choice.

Most Americans are falling behind anyway, as their salary fails to keep up with their expenses. No wonder debt is on the rise. As Joshua Freedman and Sherle R. Schwenninger observe in a paper for the New America Foundation, “American households… have become dependent on debt to maintain their standard of living in the face of stagnant wages.”

This “debt-dependent economy,” as Freedman and Schwenninger call it, has negative implications for the nation as a whole. But individual families are suffering too.

Rani Molla of the Wall Street Journal notes that “Over the past 20 years the average increase in spending on some items has exceeded the growth of incomes. The gap is especially poignant for those under 25 years old.”

There are increasingly two classes of Americans: Those who are taking on additional debt, and the rich.

4. Student debt is crushing a generation of non-wealthy Americans.

Education for every American who wants to get ahead? Forget about it. Nowadays you have to be rich to get a college education; that is, unless you want to begin your career with a mountain of debt. Once you get out of college, you’ll quickly discover that the gap between spending and income is greatest for people under 25 years of age.

Education, as Forbescolumnist Steve Odland put it in 2012, is “the great equalizer… the facilitator of the American dream.” But at that point college costs had risen 500 percent since 1985, while the overall consumer price index rose by 115 percent. As of 2013, tuition at a private university was projected to cost nearly $130,000 on average over four years, and that’s not counting food, lodging, books, or other expenses.

Public colleges and universities have long been viewed as the get-ahead option for all Americans, including the poorest among us. Not anymore. The University of California was once considered a national model for free, high-quality public education, but today tuition at UC Berkeley is $12,972 per year. (It was tuition-free until Ronald Reagan became governor.) Room and board is $14,414. The total cost of on-campus attendance at Berkeley, including books and other items, is estimated to be $32,168.

The California story has been repeated across the country, as state cutbacks in the wake of the financial crisis caused the cost of public higher education to soar by 15 percent in a two-year period. With a median national household income of $51,000, even public colleges are quickly becoming unaffordable

Sure, there are still some scholarships and grants available. But even as college costs rise, the availability of those programs is falling, leaving middle-class and lower-income students further in debt as out-of-pocket costs rise.

5. Vacations aren’t for the likes of you anymore.

Think you’d like to have a nice vacation? Think again. According to a 2012 American Express survey, Americans who were planning vacations expected to spend an average of $1,180 per person. That’s $4,720 for a family of four. But then, why worry about paying for that vacation? If you’re unemployed, you can’t afford it. And even if you have a job, there’s a good chance you won’t get the time off anyway.

As the Center for Economic and Policy Research found in 2013, the United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not require employers to offer paid vacations to their workers. The number of paid holidays and vacation days received by the average worker in this country (16) would not meet the statutory minimum requirements in 19 other developed countries, according to the CEPR. Thirty-one percent of workers in smaller businesses had no paid vacation days at all.

The CEPR also found that 14 percent of employees at larger corporations also received no paid vacation days. Overall, roughly one in four working Americans gets no vacation time at all.

Rep. Alan Grayson, who has introduced the Paid Vacation Act, correctly notes that the average working American now spends 176 hours more per year on the job than was the case in 1976.

Between the pressure to work more hours and the cost of vacation, even people who do get vacation time—at least on paper—are hard-pressed to take any time off. That’s why 175 million vacation days go unclaimed each year.

6. Even with health insurance, medical care is increasingly unaffordable for most people.

Medical care when you need it? That’s for the wealthy.

The Affordable Care Act was designed to increase the number of Americans who are covered by health insurance. But health coverage in this country is the worst of any highly developed nation—and that’s for people who have health insurance.

Every year the Milliman actuarial firm analyzes the average costs of medical care, including the household’s share of insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs, for a family of four with the kind of insurance that is considered higher quality coverage in this country: a PPO plan which allows them to use a wider range of healthcare providers.

Even as overall wealth in this country has shifted upward, away from middle-class families, the cost of medical care is increasingly being borne by the families themselves. As the Milliman study shows, the employer-funded portion of healthcare costs has risen 52 percent since 2007, the first year of the recession. But household costs have risen by a staggering 73 percent, or 8 percent per year, and now average $9,144. In the same time period, Census Bureau figures show that median household income has fallen 8 percent.

That means that household healthcare costs are skyrocketing even as income falls dramatically.

The recent claims of “lowered healthcare costs” are misleading. While the rate of increase is slowing down, healthcare costs are continuing to increase. And the actual cost to working Americans is increasing even faster, as corporations continue to maximize their record profits by shifting healthcare costs onto consumers. This shift is expected to accelerate as the result of a misguided provision in the Affordable Care Act which will tax higher-cost plans.

According to an OECD survey, the number of Americans who report going without needed healthcare in the past year because of cost was higher than in 10 comparable countries. This was true for both lower-income and higher-income Americans, suggesting that insured Americans are also feeling the pinch when it comes to getting medical treatment.

As inequality worsens, wages continue to stagnate, and more healthcare costs are placed on the backs of working families, more and more Americans will find medical care unaffordable.

7. Americans can no longer look forward to a secure retirement.

Want to retire when you get older, as earlier generations did, and enjoy a secure life after a lifetime of hard work? You’ll get to… if you’re rich.

There was a time when most middle-class Americans could work until they were 65 and then look forward to a financially secure retirement. Corporate pensions guaranteed a minimum income for the remainder of their life. Those pensions, coupled with Social Security income and a lifetime’s savings, assured that these ordinary Americans could spend their senior years in modest comfort.

No longer. As we have already seen, rising expenses means most Americans are buried in debt rather than able to accumulate modest savings. That’s the main reason why 20 percent of Americans who are nearing retirement age haven’t saved for their post-working years.

Meanwhile, corporations are gutting these pension plans in favor of far less general programs. The financial crisis of 2008, driven by the greed of Wall Street one percenters, robbed most American household of their primary assets. And right-wing “centrists” of both parties, not satisfied with the rising retirement age which has already cut the program’s benefits, continue to press for even deeper cuts to the program.

One group, Natixis Global Asset Management, ranks the United States 19th among developed countries when it comes to retirement security. The principal reasons the US ranks so poorly are 1) the weakness of our pension programs; and 2) the stinginess of our healthcare system, which even with Medicare for the elderly, is far weaker than that of nations such as Austria.

Economists used to speak of retirement security as a three-legged stool. Pensions were one leg of the stool, savings were another and Social Security was the third. Today two legs of the stool have been shattered, and anti-Social Security advocates are sawing away at the third.


Vacations; an education; staying home to raise your kids; a life without crushing debt; seeing the doctor when you don’t feel well; a chance to retire: one by one, these mainstays of middle-class life are disappearing for most Americans. Until we demand political leadership that will do something about it, they’re not coming back.

Can the American dream be restored? Yes, but it will take concerted effort to address two underlying problems. First, we must end the domination of our electoral process by wealthy and powerful elites. At the same time, we must begin to address the problem of growing economic inequality. Without a national movement to call for change, change simply isn’t going to happen.


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08:45 Wisconsin voters beware: Scott Walker's public and private words don't match up on key issues» Daily Kos
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker
Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI)
Goal Thermometer

Oh, look. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has been saying (or not saying) very different things on the public campaign trail and privately to far-right groups. Walker hasn't wanted to talk publicly about his position on marriage equality during this campaign, but as part of his effort to get an endorsement from Wisconsin Family Action, Walker wrote to the group that:

... he was defending the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. He said he swore an oath to uphold the constitution and he supports "marriage between one man and one woman."

"I would hope that my record and the stark contrast with my opponent's positions would garner your support," the governor wrote.

That's not all. In the letter, Walker brags about the anti-abortion laws he's signed, even though, on the campaign trail, he's not exactly advertising that he opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest.
Scott Walker has got to go. Please give $3 to help elect Mary Burke.

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Wisconsin voters have to wonder what else Walker isn't telling them about his views. After all, we know from his record that not having campaigned on a position won't stop him from pushing it hard the minute he's elected, or re-elected. It's a much better bet to trust what Walker is quietly telling the far right than what he's loudly telling average Wisconsin voters.

Tue 21 October, 2014

15:17 The American Taliban comes to Texas, Dan Patrick style» Daily Kos
Texas state Republican Senator Dan Patrick (R) speaks as state Democratic Senator John Whitmire (L, in foreground) listens during a meeting of the state Senate to consider legislation restricting abortion rights in Austin, Texas July 12, 2013.  A Republican proposal that would ban most abortions in Texas after 20 weeks of pregnancy moved toward a possible final vote in the state Senate Friday, and Democrats fiercely opposed to the measure conceded they will not be able to stop it.  REUTERS/Mike Stone (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY) - RTX11LKJ
'I don't have to follow Senate rules if God doesn't want me to' is not generally what the Founding Fathers had in mind.
Goal ThermometerTexas Republicans putting up State Sen. Dan Patrick as their nominee for lieutenant governor goes a fair way towards proof that yes, every sodding last Republican in Texas is insane. He was a conservative radio host. He's into all the right conspiracy theories. He thinks he's the official Texas incarnation of Jesus, and he's the nominee for lieutenant governor of the entire state because, and take your pick, (1) America's Dumbest Congressman Louie Gohmert didn't want to relocate or (2) because all of Texas Republican politics is based on an elaborate dare.
"While ISIS terrorists threaten to cross our border and kill Americans, my opponent falsely attacks me to hide her failed record on illegal immigration," he says in his first general-election campaign.
Please stop.
On his first book, actually titled The Second Most Important Book You Will Ever Read: "As the author, I am obviously biased," Patrick wrote in an Amazon review of his own book. But "since God inspired me to write this book," he added, "He automatically gets 5 stars and the CREDIT!'"
If you give my book less than five stars you hate God. Countless men have made similar claims of divine inspiration over the centuries, but I'm not sure I've ever seen the assertion used towards such a petty end as to goose Amazon ratings.
On squashing Wendy Davis' filibuster: Patrick told Mike Huckabee he had a Christian obligation to ignore Senate rules if the lives of fetuses were at risk.
The American Taliban often cites the requirement to ignore rules and laws and constitutional rights because their religion trumps those laws. That is why we call them the American Taliban.
Patrick tried to raise money off of Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson's comments about homosexuality in GQ, boasting that the bearded reality star was channeling another bearded visionary. "This is an exciting time for Christians," he wrote on Facebook.  "God is speaking to us from the most unlikely voice, Phil Robertson, about God's Word. God is using pop culture and a highly successful cable TV show to remind us about His teaching."
If an omnipotent God is choosing to address his people primarily through the unscripted ramblings of an American faux-yokel mouthing off between bird hunts, I for one will be very surprised. Not as surprised as hearing that he's now writing books under the byline of a mean-spirited conservative Texas radio shock-jock, but pretty surprised.
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Again, is this a dare? Are we determined to seek out all the little nuts and tinfoil hat-wearers and people who say they speak with God regularly through the fillings in their teeth—are we determined to seek them out, pluck them off their sidewalk apple crates and install every last one of them as the people who should decide how to write our laws and which ones we should enforce, or ignore? A post-apocalyptic dystopia is not the American end goal, Texas Republicans. If it's not someone you'd trust with your wallet or your car keys, maybe don't trust them with governing us all.
13:28 Bolivia Is An Example of How Socialism Can 'Work'» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
A major reason for President Evo Morales' success is the inclusion of the indigenous community in the formal economy.

Bolivian President Evo Morales last weekend won re-election by a smashing margin. His eight-year rule has weakened Bolivian property rights, indulged in frequent nationalizations and demonized capitalism. Yet it has also produced Bolivia's best growth rates in several decades, far better than the orthodox and admirable policies pursued in 1985-2003. 

Thus Morales' policy of making Bolivian clocks run backwards seems reflected by the apparent successful defiance of theory in his economics. In reality, however, there is a fairly simple explanation, and it is an important lesson for other poor countries. 

Morales, the first "indigenous" president of Bolivia, is a Latin American socialist. He enjoys denouncing capitalism, but not quite a standard one. His eccentricity was demonstrated a few months ago when he caused the clocks on the Bolivian Congress to run backwards, explaining that "clockwise" was a "Northern-Hemispherist" construct, derived from clocks following sundials in a hemisphere where sundial shadows advanced clockwise, and was hence not relevant to the Southern Hemisphere, where sundial shadows run counter-clockwise. 

He's quite right. There can be no doubt that if clocks had been invented in Australia or Patagonia, their hands would run the other way. He is, however, pushing it in respect of Bolivia, where La Paz is sufficiently close to the Equator that, for part of the year, sundials work the same way as they do up north. 

His economic policies have equally had a certain logic to them. Through nationalization and tearing up contracts, he has enabled the Bolivian state to quadruple its revenues from minerals and energy extraction at a time when prices were high and mining and energy companies would otherwise have made windfall profits from their rise. This has in turn enabled Morales to increase the Bolivian welfare state without drastically unbalancing the budget. 

Indeed, aided by the windfall in resource revenues, his budgetary policies have been a model of restraint, far better than most other Latin American countries, or indeed than the rich nations of Europe, the US or Japan. Purely judged on his budgetary policies, we might well envisage for him a post-presidential career as the successor to US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew or British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne! 

The results of Bolivia's policies have been excellent. It has had an average growth rate of over 5% since he took office in 2006, with the 2008-09 recession survived with barely a hiccup. With the budget so close to balance, Bolivia's international debts are also modest, although a 2008 default on outstanding international bonds for a time made it difficult for the country to borrow. However, in late 2012, the hyper-liquid state of global bond markets enabled Bolivia to borrow again, raising US$500 million of ten-year money at a rate of only 4.875%. 

This success is in marked contrast to the fate of the "neo-liberal" policies pursued from 1985 until 2003. During that period, while Bolivia ended hyperinflation, growth averaged only 3.1%, barely enough to keep up with the 2.3% annual population growth, and there were a number of grinding recessions. 

It is thus a paradox for supporters of free-market policies: how does it happen that Morales' statist policies are rewarded with such success, whereas better policies pursued earlier brought results that were no more than mediocre? 

Part of it is the effect of commodity prices, and of Morales' renegotiation of mining and energy contracts. If commodity and energy prices are low during the next five years, Bolivia will have considerable difficulties. 

In other countries where anti-market policies have been tried, such as Argentina, resource prices provide more or less the entire rationale for the country's relative success. In Argentina, commodity prices were low during the 1990s, so relatively sound policies produced little success and ran up debts. 

Since 2003, the combination of high commodities prices (in Argentina's case producing fine results from its privatized agricultural sector, albeit with government imposts also soaring) and the partial debt default of 2005 have brought riches. Argentina was already running a trade surplus, but using most of it for debt service so when the debt service disappeared money flowed in. As the Kirchner/Fernandez government has grown more profligate, Argentina's position has deteriorated, but in 2003-13 it had a good run. 

But that doesn't entirely apply in Bolivia, where debt service was never especially onerous even before the 2008 default. However, there is another factor that may have made the difference. As Bolivia's first indigenous president, Morales has made great efforts to include the indigenous community - currently about 40% of Bolivia's population - in the formal economy, providing both welfare payments and job preferences to increase their participation. 

This parallels the policy of Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who also focused attention on the poorest members of Brazil's very unequal society through the "Bolsa familia", providing subsistence payments to the very poor in return for keeping their children in school and other basic elements of economic participation. Like Morales' Bolivia, Lula's Brazil enjoyed several years of unexpectedly robust growth before running into difficulty as the Leviathan state continued to expand and suck up resources. 

It therefore appears that, in situations in which a large proportion of the population is so poor as not to participate properly in the economy, it is possible to achieve a "growth dividend" by bringing them into full participation. As they transition into full economic activity, their output allows the economy to grow significantly, producing extra output and extra tax revenue and enriching the economy as a whole. 

This does not appear to apply to richer countries, such as Argentina, let alone the wealthy West. But in countries both poor and unequal, like Bolivia, even the best macroeconomic policies - such as were pursued in 1985-2003 - do not produce good results if they leave part of the workforce unutilized. 

Similarly in Brazil, the improvement in growth between the 1994-2002 Cardoso administration and the 2002-10 Lula administration was not due to better economic policies, let alone to greater market confidence, but simply to the participation of Brazil's poorest in the economy and the multiplier benefits from their output. 

There are two lessons to be drawn. First, in Africa in particular it will be necessary as countries get richer for mechanisms to be put in place whereby their poorer citizens can benefit. This especially applies to countries like South Africa, with exceptionally high inequality and an exceptionally corrupt state system that has raised only a small number of its African fellow citizens out of poverty. Indeed the unexpectedly poor economic growth rates in South Africa can directly be linked to the lack of participation in the formal economy by its poorer citizens, as the country has 25% unemployment. 

Second, even decently capitalist governments need to make sure that their beautifully designed market economies extend right down the scale. There is little benefit in having an economy that would make Ludwig von Mises purr, if its benefits extend only to the top half of the income distribution, and the bottom half is mired in squalid shantytowns with no opportunities of bettering themselves. 

In uplifting the very poorest, direct cash transfers with only simple conditionality are highly effective. A program such as the Bolsa Familia costs only a couple of percent of GDP, far less than massive infrastructure schemes, yet it reaches the poorest in society effectively. Complex programs designed to meet needs precisely, with massive administrative costs and rent-seeking at all levels, generally miss the poorest and most needy, and merely add bureaucratic bloat. 

History also suggests that the simplistic cash-transfer approach to welfare works better. In Britain before 1834, the poor were given "outdoor relief" in the form of cash or food handouts, and therefore remained active in the economy. However the 1834 Poor Law, introduced by the foolish doctrinaire Whigs, invented the "workhouse" by which the poor were segregated from the rest of society in an institution deliberately designed to be "less eligible" and thoroughly unpleasant for its inmates. 

The result was a mass of leftist propaganda, starting with Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist," an inexorable rise in the cost of welfare provision and a deterioration in low-end living standards. Thus by the time Charles Booth wrote Life and Labour of the People in London in 1889, many of the urban poor lived lives far more squalid than had their great-grandfathers a century earlier, in spite of the huge rise in living standards generally. 

Capitalism needs to include the entire population, and it needs to do so through simple cash handouts and work opportunities, not through elaborate and counterproductive social engineering.

(Republished with permission from PrudentBear.com. Copyright 2005-14 David W Tice & Associates.)



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Mon 20 October, 2014

06:45 Ocean heat storage: a particularly lousy policy target + Update» RealClimate
The New York Times, 12 December 2027: After 12 years of debate and negotiation, kicked off in Paris in 2015, world leaders have finally agreed to ditch the goal of limiting global warming to below 2 °C. Instead, they have agreed to the new goal of limiting global ocean heat content to 1024 Joules. The […]

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12:26 Popular Asthma Drug's Deadly Side-Effects Revealed (Once Merck Stopped Making Money from It)» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Now that the patent has run out on Singulair, its dangers are being acknowledged.

"Cody was never mentally ill nor did he have ongoing problems," Kate Miller of Queensbury, N.Y., says. "I would not have given my son a drug that causes depression for a simple allergy. Who would? But my choice was taken away by a company that buried the risks."

Cody Miller killed himself 17 days after being prescribed the asthma and allergy drug Singulair, says Miller.

The first week Cody, who played high school football, took Singulair he experienced cramps in his legs. The second week he "was sweating profusely and couldn't calm down. He was very agitated, anxious, really having a hard time." On the last day of his life, Cody's eyes appeared sleep-deprived, Miller recounts, and he said, "Sometimes you feel like you can't take it." After taking a nap on the porch while the family ordered pizza for dinner, Cody went upstairs to shower, but instead took his own life. Cody, 15, was the Millers' only child. 

Almost 9 million people, many under 16, used Singulair in less than two years according to recent FDA data and four deaths have been linked to it. World sales of Merck’s blockbuster drug were about $5 billion a year until 2012 when its patent expired and it was the U.S.'s seventh best-selling drug. But last month, data from an FDA committee were presented that acknowledge "safety concerns" about "neuropsychiatric adverse events, including suicide and suicide attempts" with the drug. Like Vioxx, Fosamax, Paxil and Ambien, now that the patent has run out on Singulair, its dangers are being acknowledged.

Singulair is one of several “asthma controller” drugs that debuted in the last few years that are supposed to be added on to rescue inhalers and inhaled corticosteroids instead of replacing them. In addition to the cost of adding a third drug to two drugs that are already used, Singulair cost almost $200 a month until it went off patent.

Last month's concerns by an FDA committee are not the first time medical questions about Singulair have surfaced. Soon after its approval, FDA reviewers cautioned in the New England Journal of Medicine that adult studies of montelukast, Singulair's generic name "may not be predictive of the response," in children. In new drug approval documents from the 1990s hosted on the FDA website, reviewers note that Singulair levels in adolescents are different from "healthy adults," and that an infant monkey, four weeks old, had to be euthanized because "infants may be more sensitive to the toxicity," of Singulair. What? Three out of five guinea pigs also died from "severe anaphylactic responses."

In clinical trials before Singulair's safety was determined, scores of human subjects are reported to have withdrawn from trials because of "worsening" asthma and breathing problems. An asthma drug that "worsens" asthma? Reviewers write that one study "demonstrates that it is better to leave patients on beclomethasone than to switch them to montelukast." Beclomethasone, sold as Qvar, is a steroid to treat asthma. Approval documents include 10 blanked-out pages, marked, "This section was determined NOT to be releasable," and the frequent phrase, "Portions of this review were excerpted directly from the sponsor's submission."

William Busse, who chairs government expert panels on asthma despite listing 21 financial arrangements with drug companies, was involved in early Singulair testing. Busse was issued an FDA warning letter after an inspection of his facility revealed incorrect consent forms, incorrect patient enrollments and drug inventory and labeling errors according to FDA approval documents. 

Nor was Singulair marketing to children without controversy. Many considered Merck's sales partnerships with Scholastic, a leading educational publishing group, and the American Academy of Pediatrics conflicts of interest. Sales materials urged parents to give their children Singulair for allergies and sports figures were used to market the drug to children.

Parents Become Activists

What if your child suddenly developed extreme behavior and emotional problems and even acted suicidal? What if your doctor misdiagnosed and mistreated the symptoms because neither you or your doctor knew they were from the Singulair your child was taking? For more than five years, drug safety activists and hundreds of parents whose children suffered frightening side-effects from Singulair have asked the FDA to acknowledge the problem. Finally, the FDA and medical community are validating the concerns.

Last month, the FDA's Pediatric Advisory Committee called for clearer warnings of neuropsychiatric side effects on Singulair's labels and for a "dear doctor" letter to be sent to healthcare professionals.

Leading the awareness campaign in the United States about Singulair dangers to children is Parents United for Pharmaceutical Safety and Accountability, founded by Jenna Markle, whose own son suffered from Singulair’s side-effects. The group's goals include raising awareness, better information and distribution channels about risks to consumers and professionals and opposing Merck's attempt to sell the drug over the counter.

Reports of the harmful pediatric side-effects of Singulair, which were first covered nationally by Fox News in 2009, have a chilling sameness. Toddlers who were put on the drug for sniffles or wheezing, develop unprecedented tantrums, fear and self-harm. Many parents report bed-wetting and repetitive motions/tics in their children from the drug. A parent posting a report this week on the Parents United website notes how "helpless" her tantrum-prone son is while he is "in the midst of a meltdown." He has been on Singulair for three years, she says.

"I asked our new pediatrician (we moved) and she said for sure take him off Singulair, she hasn't prescribed it in years because of that effect. I felt sick to my stomach and took him off immediately. It's been four days of great behavior until tonight, tantrum came and that look in his eye was back. I'm hopeful he's made improvements and that it'll take sometime for it to get back to the norm as well as learned behavior, but how long," she writes.

This month a parent on askapatient reports her daughter "developed horrendously grotesque mouth contortions and hard eye blinking," on Singulair. "It was disturbing and alarming to watch. We thought she had Tourette syndrome. We did not make the connection until we ran out of meds and didn't refill the script for almost 2 months over the summer. Her tics went away. Most recently, our daughter's allergies flared up again and so on Monday we began giving her the montelukast again. Today, she started with the nodding and blinking tics once again. It has to be this medication."

Hundreds of similar reports of Singulair's effects on children have appeared on askapatient.com, the Parent United website and elsewhere online.

Luckily, the Parents United website offers a little reassurance about the symptoms. "With the exception of the children that we lost, our children experienced a remission of symptoms when they stopped taking Singulair," says the site.

Many parents ask why the risk information for Singulair is not more prominent. Cody Miller's mother, Kate Miller, who is a member of Parents United, told me she knew nothing about Singulair’s suicidal side effects until her sister found them on the Web and suspects the pediatrician didn't either. Even as the Millers' Queensbury, New York community tried to process the death, ads ran on TV telling future Singulair users that “side effects are mild and vary by age.” Then New York representative, now senator, Kirsten Gillibrand assembled FDA representatives in her Washington, DC. office to hear the testimony of Kate and her husband Dave Miller.

Last month, I interviewed Jenna Markle, founder of Parents United, whose members have testified on Capitol Hill, before the FDA and the NIH and appeared on Good Morning America, The Early Show and Fox News. "There are parents working all over the world to raise awareness, uniting via the International Singulair Side Effects Action Group, founded by Australian activist Vanessa Sellick," she told me. "Disturbingly, side effect information is not consistent on Singulair’s label from country to country. For example, in Canada and the Middle East, consumers are warned that asthma was reported in clinical trials as a drug related adverse experience in children. Why aren’t consumers in the United States entitled to receive this information?"

In addition to likely better warnings and "dear doctor" letters, there is another apparent victory in limiting harmful and only partially disclosed risks of Singulair. In May, the FDA Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee recommended the FDA not allow Merck's request to sell Singulair over the counter. Parents United's Jenna Markle and Jan Gilpin testified before the committee before its recommendation.

“We don’t know how Singulair causes such serious side-effects. We don’t know if it can cause long-term problems in children. But we do know that children have been harmed by this medication. Until more research is conducted, Singulair should not be given to children unless absolutely necessary,” says Markle.


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Mon 06 October, 2014

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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.

Tue 26 February, 2013

15:25 Facts About Tasmanian Devils» LiveScience.com
They have a fierce bark and bite!