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Fri 25 July, 2014

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

The premise of the experiment is that these guys performed one of their songs five times, but drinking four beers each in between performances. Then, the video allows you to click around on the annotations and see the band performing at different levels of inebriation. It's a pretty fun and unique idea, even if it probably wasn't too good for the band's health.

To view the full video and switch between states of band drunkenness, be sure to view it on YouTube.

Got any favorite musical experiments?


18:31 Obamacare Vs. Anti-Obamacare!» Latest from Crooks and Liars

17:46 Time for Some Candor From the Supreme Court» Politics - The Huffington Post
In most of the cases it decides, the Supreme Court is what it presents itself as: a court of law. The justices apply preexisting rules and standards set forth, for example, in the Constitution and statutes passed by Congress, to a dizzying array of human and institutional behaviors.

But in many highly contested cases, especially those involving the definition of broad-based rights, the Supreme Court is only slightly more a court of law than the House of Representatives or the Senate. Here the justices are often covertly and ashamedly quasi-legislative, actually deciding what sort of a society they wish to call into being, designating winners and losers on the basis what they want or hope will be best.

A powerful mythology keeps the Supreme Court and its constituencies from acknowledging this. Sore losers often claim they have been cheated by life-tenured federal judges, but such complaints are promptly forgotten because today's angry critic is tomorrow's triumphant victor, suddenly extolling the fairness of the justices.

Judges, lawyers and the interested public usually end up colluding in promoting the idea that when the Supreme Court decides that corporations have the same speech rights as natural persons, or that there need not be a recount in a contested presidential election, or that sodomy cannot be a crime, or that racial segregation in education is not only abhorrent but a violation of the Constitution, the rule of law, not the rule of men, is in operation.

The core notion we cling to is basic civics. Though chosen democratically, the justices are not elected. The information they receive and their legitimacy are rightly circumscribed, the former by laws that surround the way decisions are reached, and the latter by their unaccountability. It is feared that if the Supreme Court talked about what serious observers concede, that many major rulings are a result of value choices made in a legal context rather than on strict application of a legal rule or precedent, the ensuing contradictions would undermine the public's acceptance of its decisions.

Justice Sonia Sotomayer came as close as justices of the Supreme Court ever do to crossing this line when she pointed out the glaring inconsistency between the court's assurances in the Hobby Lobby contraception case and a decision granting Wheaton College an injunction four days later. Despite becoming instantly famous, her blunt language -- "Those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word. Not so today." -- stops far short of what an elected politician might say in a similar situation

Deeply embedded in the discourse that follows decisions in epochal cases is talk about the way the Supreme Court's reasoning connects to its conclusions and the practical consequences of the ruling. All can condemn or praise the work of the Supreme Court, but only entrenched partisans are likely to claim that the decision is purely political.

What Supreme Court majorities never admit is that the past is so contingent, and the choices made by other governmental actors so unclear, that nothing is left for the Supreme Court to do but what it thinks best under the circumstances. The thought is that it would be institutionally damaging to admit that the justices just choose the reasonable and wise course, in effect conceding that they truly act as a "revolutionary committee," as A.A. Berle once memorably put it. Given such an admission, would the next voice say, "Why not leave these choices to the elected?"

But maintaining the myth is costly. Because both unhappy losers and Supreme Court analysts know that all too often the threads of the law said to dispose of a case really stand only as a thin cover of justification (rather as an honest search for solution), the result is large-scale cynicism. Law students learn early in their first year the difference between the language of opinions and what really cuts the mustard. Practicing lawyers know well the difference between rhetoric and reality.

This gap between actual and masked reasons for a decision muddies the waters and inhibits healthy debate. And it is unnecessary. Perhaps there was a time when, in order to respect the law, the public had to believe that it was found somewhere outside our judges, a "brooding omnipresence," as it was called, but no longer. Given the massive exposure in the media to what passes for law making, people today are not quite so naïve.

More importantly, we need the justices to do more of what they do well. A deliberative process responsive to objective evidence and narrowed to real controversies is a paramount governmental function. There is probably no better way to meet the need to manage the existential controversies of a complex society than a judicial process that presents the true bases of decisions. What is no longer sustainable is the illusion that in these major cases the justices are merely the mouthpiece for decisions made by Congress or settled long ago by James Madison and his colleagues.

Michael Meltsner, Matthews Distinguished Professor of Law at Northeastern University School of Law, is the author of The Making of a Civil Rights Lawyer.
17:42 Friday Talking Points -- Prelude To Silly Season» Politics - The Huffington Post

Planes have been dropping out of the sky at an alarming rate recently. I don't know what portents such omens signify, but the media certainly has had no lack of videos of debris fields to show, that's for sure.


Back in Washington, we have one week to go before the opening of "Silly Season 2014," an annual event brought on by hordes of political reporters scrambling around, devoid of actual stories, while Congress is away on its six-week vacation. What will the main Silly Season story become, for pundits to endlessly obsess over this August? Your guess is as good as mine. Several candidates have already popped up ("Hey, let's all talk about impeachment!" for starters), but perhaps some lonely town hall meeting (with some hapless member of Congress) somewhere in the hinterlands will provide the fodder for this year's Silly Season obsession -- hopefully, with an epic rant caught on video!


But before we get there, Congress actually has one more week of "work" scheduled. They've got a lot on their plate, and it's looking like nothing much will get accomplished. "Border crisis!" was the rallying cry a few weeks ago, but the House can't agree on anything to do to fix it, so they'll likely not manage to pass anything. Likewise, few expect any action on immigration reform itself. The only thing the House may accomplish is to vote to go ahead and sue President Obama. Such is the state of modern politics. Call it fear of legislating.


House Republicans face a very basic conundrum on the border crisis. Two of their bedrock beliefs are clashing with each other, which is why they can't agree on any concrete plan. You see, when you want government to do something that you consider worthwhile, you actually have to pay for it. Need more Border Patrol agents? It costs money. More fences? More money. Waiting time for judicial hearings too long? That can be fixed, but it's going to cost money. However, Republicans believe that smaller government is always better, and budgets should always be cut, not increased. Which is why they're in such a bind on the border. They really want to live in a magical world where spending less on a problem solves it faster. Since reality doesn't work like this, they can't agree on any plan to address the problem. Instead, the House Republicans collectively are going to have a sort of nervous breakdown. That's what's on schedule for next week, at any rate.


In hopefully-unrelated news, a Republican staffer was arrested for bringing a handgun to work. Representative Tom Marino's press secretary is being charged with a felony, and has been placed on unpaid leave in the meantime.


Out in Kentucky a very Republican town came up with a novel idea to fight high gas prices: open a government gas station! That is some original thinking, as we've never before heard of such a tactic being used in this fashion by an American town. The town of Somerset is near a popular recreational lake, and the gas stations in town apparently upped their prices to fleece the tourists. Locals weren't amused. They now seem delighted with the mayor's plan to sell gas with only a small markup to cover costs -- the town is explicitly not trying to make a profit. Local gas station owners aren't happy, and are calling the move "socialism," so it'll be interesting to see how this all plays out. Perhaps more towns will consider the idea, especially after hearing how delighted this town's customers/constituents are.


Republican hawks got a slap in the face this week, as the House overwhelmingly passed a resolution stating that before President Obama sends any more troops to Iraq, he should consult Congress. Since Congress is unlikely to approve, this was a strongly anti-war vote, with a very bipartisan 370-40 split.


Paul Ryan is attempting to address poverty, once again. What he's really doing is trolling the media to write "compassionate conservative" columns about him (which, so far, doesn't seem to be working very well), to bolster his chances to get the Republican presidential nomination.


Let's see, what else? The chief judge of the 9th Circuit Court wrote some astonishing things about capital punishment this week, stating that using drugs to execute people is "a misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and beautiful" when in fact they are "brutal, savage events" which should not be masked in any way. "I've always thought that executions should be executions -- not medical procedures," the judge told the Associated Press. His answer? Firing squads.


Most of the media ignored it, but a great article from Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux appeared which exposed the criteria for being added to the "no-fly list." Unsurprisingly, the standards are quite low for inclusion, something that has been long suspected.


Netroots Nation happened, but sadly, we did not attend this year. R. J. Eskow at the Huffington Post has an excellent write-up, if you're interested in how it went.


The marijuana researcher fired by the University of Arizona is still fighting to get her job back, or (alternatively) get another school interested in helping her perform the research on post-traumatic stress disorder in returning soldiers which she finally got governmental approval to conduct.


The town of Warren, Michigan is being sued by an atheist because it allows a "prayer station" in City Hall's atrium, but turned down a request to set up a "reason station" alongside. Its mayor showed an astounding lack of knowledge of the First Amendment in his response, where he also equated atheism with Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.


Which brings us to our final story, which is an interesting historical fact from the first moon landing, which happened 45 years ago this week. Buzz Aldrin actually celebrated communion on the moon! NASA did not broadcast the ceremony, though (which is why we've never heard of it, we're guessing), because it was already being sued by Madalyn Murray O'Hair over Apollo 8's broadcast of the astronauts reading from the book of Genesis.


 


Most Impressive Democrat of the Week


Sadly, we have no Democrats who were impressive enough to get an award this week, so we will not be presenting the coveted Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this time around.


Instead, we're creating an alternative Most Impressive Opinionator Of The Week award, and handing it to Catherine Rampell for an article she wrote for the Washington Post. This absolutely brilliant article is well worth reading in full, but can be summed up (like all strokes of genius) very simply: if corporations are people, then people must be corporations. Which means people should be able to avail themselves of all the juicy corporate-welfare tax breaks given to corporate legal entities.


It's pretty easy to follow this train of thought down some very interesting tracks. We'd start by allowing individuals to only be taxed on their profits instead of their income, personally. Rampell gives several other good examples in her piece.


As we said, the idea is absolutely stunning in its simplicity. For such a brilliantly original idea, we're giving Catherine Rampell the first-ever Most Impressive Opinionator Of The Week award. Perhaps, in the future, we'll award other MIOOTW awards when faced with similar "Wow, I wish I had thought of that!" moments. For now, we're doing what we can to help the idea go viral. "If corporations are people, then I deserve the same tax breaks they get!" should become a national rallying cry among the public.


[Congratulate Catherine Rampell via her author page at the Washington Post, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]


 


Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week


We have two people worth mentioning this week.


We're not entirely sure this guy's a Democrat, but he certainly deserves some public shaming. Adam Eidinger, chair of the D.C. Cannabis Campaign, met this week with the chief of staff to the House Republican who has been very heavy-handed in thwarting the will of the voters of D.C. when it comes to relaxing marijuana laws in the District. Now, we're as against what Representative Andy Harris is doing as much as the next fellow, but there are certain lines you just do not cross in politics. One of these is "don't casually talk about armed revolution or terrorism" when trying to convince an elected official to change his ways.


Eidinger uttered what can only be read as a threat, saying: "the next step will be civil disobedience and then after that, you're talking about terrorist organizations. Do you want a terrorist organization in Washington, D.C.?" After being told he might want to tone down his rhetoric, Eidinger answered back:


I would suggest that you take democracy more seriously, OK? Because that's what happens in other countries when they don't provide local democracy -- people take up arms. And since I think your member is a pro-gun nut and thinks guns should be in everyone's hands -- if that's the case, then I think maybe we should call up some militia types and come here and defend the local democracy.


This is Exhibit A in "how not to lobby an elected official," folks. Threatening armed revolution is not the way to convince anybody of anything. Eidinger should be forced to resign from his leadership of the D.C. Cannabis Campaign, at the very least.


But this week's winner of the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week is John Walsh, senator from Montana, who was caught in a plagiarism scandal this week by the New York Times. To achieve a master's degree from the Army War College, Walsh cut-and-pasted a large part of his final paper from other sources, without attribution. This, unfortunately for Walsh, happened right before a week in which he was supposed to shine.


Walsh has only been a senator for a short time, since he was appointed to take the seat Max Baucus vacated (to become ambassador to China). He is in a very tough race to get elected back to the Senate -- a race we now consider to be a foregone conclusion. Walsh has, to be blunt, not responded well to the scandal so far.


He still has time to step down and let another Democrat have a shot at retaining this Senate seat, which at this point might be the best option for all concerned -- especially if the War College decides to yank his master's degree. What happens next is up to Walsh, but for the time being he has earned this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award.


[Contact Senator John Walsh on his Senate contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]


 


Friday Talking Points


Volume 313 (7/25/14)


This week's talking points are all over the map. You'd think things would be a little more focused, politically, in the week right before Congress takes their usual Brobdingnagian August vacation, but you'd be wrong.


Here are this week's offerings, peripatetic though they may be, for Democrats everywhere, whether appearing on Sunday morning political chatfests or just talking with your relatives at the beach house.


 


1
   I hereby incorporate!


This one is, as mentioned, a downright brilliant idea.


"If corporations are people, according to the Supreme Court, then people should be the equals of corporations in every way. It's got to be a two-way street, right? This means I shouldn't be taxed on any costs I have in living my life, such as buying a house -- or 'corporate headquarters,' I should say -- or paying bills, or any health care dollars I spend. Just like corporations, I should only pay taxes on my profits and not my whole income. It's only fair -- if corporations are people, then everyone should share the lavish tax breaks given to 'corporate persons.' Every American should automatically be considered to be a corporation from this point on, in fact."


 


2
   Obama's final gay rights action


This was really the last thing on the list for gay activists, when it comes to what President Obama can accomplish on his own.


"Since the Republican House is incapable of action on just about anything, it doesn't look like the Employee Non-Discrimination Act is going to pass any time soon. I applaud President Obama for acting on his own this week to provide this important non-discrimination protection to all federal workers and all federal contractors. Sooner or later, this important advancement in civil rights will indeed become the law of the land for all, but for the time being the president has done what he can to ensure that all Americans are treated equally in employment."


 


3
   More good news for Obamacare


Keep beating this drum, people.


"Yet another study was released this week on the effects of Obamacare, and it showed that 10 million people have acquired health insurance through Obamacare. Data continues to arrive showing the benefits of Obamacare. The interesting thing is that none -- that's none, mind you -- of the doom-and-gloom scenarios have appeared in all this data. All those things Republicans darkly warned about have not come to pass. Obamacare, just to pick one of these, is not a 'job-killer,' as a quick look at the last year's unemployment data plainly shows. For all the fear-mongering, we continue to see more new data showing the sky still hasn't fallen. Sooner or later, the public is going to realize how wrong Republicans really were about Obamacare."


 


4
   Thank you, Harry Reid


I wrote a long and detailed article earlier this week which explains this concept more fully (as it is rather complicated).


"We had two decisions from a total of six federal appellate judges this week on whether Obamacare state exchanges are the legal equivalent of the federal exchange. Four of these judges agreed that it is idiotic to think otherwise, but two judges ruled that Congress really didn't mean that at all. The next step for the case where the Obama administration lost is to be heard by the full 11-judge D.C. Circuit Court, where it is expected the ruling will be overturned. This court consists of four judges appointed by Republicans and seven judges appointed by Democrats. But if Harry Reid hadn't used the so-called 'nuclear option' to break the logjam of Republicans filibustering every nominee in sight, the court might now have only been 4-to-4. So, while watching the federal Obamacare exchange case move to its next step, I'd like to say a hearty 'thank you' to Harry Reid for the current makeup of the D.C. Circuit Court."


 


5
   Makin' stuff up


It's campaign season once again. Woo hoo!


"I see that Republicans running for office are already stooping to just flat-out lying out on the campaign trail. The Republican running for Senate in Arkansas is boldly taking credit for aid to farmers that he voted against. That takes a certain amount of brass, doesn't it? And out in Illinois, the Republican gubernatorial candidate is running one of those 'look at the scary newspaper headlines' campaign ads on television, but the only problem is that the campaign just went ahead and rewrote the headlines to say what they wanted. Don't like the headlines that were written? Well, why not just make stuff up instead? Better put on hip-waders, everyone, because if it's already getting this deep in July, imagine what things will be like come October!"


 


6
   How many states will legalize this year?


Many states decided to sit out this election, and instead make the push in the 2016 presidential year, but that hasn't stopped everyone.


"By the end of the year, voters in two more states -- and in Washington D.C. -- will get the chance to legalize recreational marijuana for adults. In November, both Alaska and Oregon may join Colorado and Washington in moving away from the War On Weed. This is an important step towards a much more rational policy nationwide. So far, political leaders at the national level have been reluctant to admit what is going on out in the states. But when 33 states have legalized some form of medical marijuana and as many as four might soon legalize recreational marijuana, it's pretty obvious that the people are indeed leading on this issue -- and sooner or later, the political leaders will follow."


 


7
   Even the protesters have given up


We saved this one for last, just because.


"Every time you think Congress can't sink any further in public opinion, they surprise you by charting new lows. I refer to an article in the Washington Post whose title asks the question: 'Has Congress Gotten So Pathetic That Even The Protesters Aren't Bothering To Show Up?' Oh, well, I suppose we can all hope that some entertaining local protesters show up at a few town hall meetings next month. It's a sad day indeed when even the 'mad as Hell and not going to take it anymore' crowd gives up on Congress."


 


Chris Weigant blogs at:
ChrisWeigant.com


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant
Become a fan of Chris on Huffington Post
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
All-time award winners leaderboard, by rank


 

17:25 Meet The Congressman Who Assumed Two Senior U.S. Officials Were Foreigners» ThinkProgress

"I'm familiar with your country; I love your country"

The post Meet The Congressman Who Assumed Two Senior U.S. Officials Were Foreigners appeared first on ThinkProgress.

17:07 A Proud Russkiy Citizen or an Upatriotic Traitor of Mother Russia?» Politics - The Huffington Post
I refuse to be defined by my passport -- both literally and metaphorically. Surely there's more to an individual than his personal identification number and/or the color of his passport?

There was a time, not so long ago, when I traveled with my parents as a post-Soviet kid, and each time we pulled out our exotic-looking, burgundy-colored passports, which the foreign immigration officials weren't yet accustomed to, they would shower us with numerous questions about Georgia, including the most common: "Country, not the state, correct?" I would then proudly boast about our nation; the iconic Georgian polyphonic music; the first bottle of wine ever produced (in Georgia?!); khachapuri, the predecessor of the widely acclaimed Italian equivalent known under the name "pizza" (Georgian!); and even Gregory Peck, the Hollywood legend whom we (falsely) claimed at one time as our compatriot, allegedly born under the name of Gregory Nizharadze. (He looked kind of Georgian, so why not?) As a tiny fish in a big pond, I thrived on my national identity stemming from an untapped territory.

Years later, as a newly naturalized Russian citizen, I traveled with another post-Soviet passport, which, I would soon discover, failed to open as many doors outside the Russian Federation. "Russkiy?" a one-word question, was often accompanied by a stern look on the immigration officer's face. All I could do in response was limit my answer to a mere nod. No longer sensing an air of fascination that had once made me feel oh-so-exotic, I realized that that fascination had been replaced by a mild case of Russophobia. The one-word question implied a hundred connotations, including but not limited to: "A Russian girl? Oh, she must be one of those new Russians, the nouveau-riche kind."

The times have changed, no doubt. Being Soviet or, as some used to simply refer to all former citizens of every Soviet republic under the sun, "Russian," is no longer exotic while carrying a Georgian passport -- not so unheard-of in this day and age. Although I am now an American citizen with another passport that is not equally loved or despised in every corner of the world, it's another color that represents a completely different set of preconceptions -- some true, others entirely inaccurate.

There are moments when I can't help but feel a severe case of "nationality crisis" brewing inside me. I was born in one country,and bred in another and am currently living and working in what used to be known as the other "superpower," at times even looked upon as my other home's geopolitical enemy, or at the very least a political rival.

Here I am in the Big Apple, on a beautiful midsummer's morning, typing away on another capitalist invention, overlooking the iconic Empire State Building -- some 5,571 miles from my native Tbilisi. Where are my roots, in hindsight? Of course, there's no denying the fact that I was indeed born in Georgia. So that automatically makes me Georgian? But what about over 10 formative years spent in Russia? Doesn't that count for something? Ever since the August 2008 war, the two neighboring nations have officially become political enemies. To further complicate matters, I currently reside in a country that is friends with my native Georgia but is rivals (another full circle?) with my adoptive home of Russia. Is calling New York, and the United States in particular, my "home sweet home" shamelessly unpatriotic?

Besides, what is patriotism? Perhaps it's not so different from isolationism, some might say. Let's compare the two terms in the words of the great, though undoubtedly controversial (due to her un-Soviet Objectivism), Ayn Rand: "Isolationism is the attitude of a person who is interested only in his own country and is not concerned with the rest of the world." One of the alleged meanings of "isolationism" is, in fact, "patriotism and national self-interest." Hmmm....

2014-07-23-RussianPassport.jpg



One last thought. A Ukrainian radio presenter, Dmitriy Chekalkin, published a photo (above) on his Facebook page that I shared on my Instagram just minutes later. I was bombarded by both pro-Russian and anti-Putin subscribers: Some called her "an unpatriotic idiot who should be banned from ever returning to the Great Mother Russia," while others applauded and sympathized with the Russian lady who had placed a handwritten note inside her passport at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, as she was crossing the French Border from her native Russia. I wonder if she'll be returning home after all.

This would have been rather funny if it weren't so tragic.
17:04 John Walsh Backtracks On Blaming PTSD For Plagiarism» Politics - The Huffington Post
U.S. Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.) is backtracking on earlier statements suggesting post-traumatic stress disorder from his Iraq War military service played a role in why he plagiarized his masters’ thesis in 2007.

In an interview Friday with KMMS Radio in Bozeman, Walsh clarified comments he made Wednesday to The Associated Press claiming his “head was not in a place very conducive to a classroom and an academic environment” at the time he wrote his thesis because he was being treated for PTSD.

“One thing … I would really like to clear up is that I am in no way -- no way -- tying what I did to any type of PTSD,” Walsh told KMMS. “It had nothing to do with the mistake that I made. People are trying to say I may have said that. … That is not in any way what I meant or said.”

Since The New York Times revealed Wednesday that Walsh plagiarized at least a quarter of his master’s thesis without citations for his degree from from the United States Army War College, he’s been criticized by veterans upset over his bringing PTSD into the discussion.

“I feel like it's a slap in the face to people who have obviously been through more than he has,” Iraq and Afghanistan combat veteran Brian Rudolph of Great Falls, Montana, told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. “I just don't see how if you have a PTSD issue it's going to cause you to plagiarize a paper. I can see how somebody could have a flashback and hit their spouse while they're sleeping. But if you're totally cognizant typing a paper and then say, ‘Ah I'm a little bit depressed so I'm not going to cite this.' It just doesn't make sense.”

The Army War College, in Pennsylvania, said it has found preliminary evidence of plagiarism and asked a review board to investigate. The school may revoke Walsh's degree if it finds he intentionally presented the work of others as his own.
16:51 European Union Imposes Sanctions On Top Russian Officials» Politics - The Huffington Post
BRUSSELS, July 25 (Reuters) - The European Union said on Saturday it had imposed asset freezes on a number of top Russian officials, including the chiefs of Russia's FSB security service and foreign intelligence service.

Alexander Bortnikov, head of the FSB, and Mikhail Fradkov, head of the foreign intelligence service, were among 15 Russians or Ukrainians and 18 companies and other organizations named in the latest sanctions list published in the EU's Official Journal. (Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Ken Wills)
16:43 Who Should Decide? States' Rights, Local Authority and the Future of the Internet» Politics - The Huffington Post
2014-07-23-localauthority_0.jpg"[W]ithout power and independence, a town may contain good subjects, but it can have no active citizens."  That was the conclusion of Alexis de Tocqueville after touring a youthful American Republic in the early 1830s, as recorded in his classic Democracy in America. Today we are engaged in a renewed debate about the authority of governments closest to the people.

On July 16, by a vote of 223-200, the House of Representatives voted to strip the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of the authority to allow communities the right to determine their broadband futures.  Republicans voted 221-4 in favor.

In a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, 60 Republicans insisted that the federal government shouldn't interfere with the 20 state laws that either prohibit or severely inhibit municipally owned broadband networks. "Without any doubt, state governments across the country understand and are more attentive to the needs of the American people than unelected federal bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.," they wrote. A similar letter, signed by 11 Republican senators, asserted, "States are much closer to their citizens and can meet their needs better than an unelected bureaucracy in Washington, D.C. ... State political leaders are accountable to the voters who elect them...."

The Republican rationale is that state legislatures should be given deference over Congress and federal agencies because they are closer, more attentive and more accountable to their constituents.  The same reasoning should lead Republicans to agree that city councils and county commissions should be given deference over state legislatures and state agencies, but it doesn't.

The Senate letter warned that the FCC "would be well-advised to respect state sovereignty." But Republicans apply the principle of state sovereignty so inconsistently that it's hard to call it a guiding principle.

In 1992 the Supreme Court ruled that states could not compel online vendors without a physical presence in that state to collect sales taxes unless Congress gave permission.  In May 2013 the Democratic Senate voted to give them that permission.  House Republicans refused. Loss of state and local revenue for 2013 was estimated at $1.7 billion. For those who may be unaware, the issue at hand is not whether we should pay taxes when we buy goods online. Almost all states require us to do so.  The question is whether online vendors must, like brick and mortar stores, collect those taxes.

Exasperated by Republicans' hypocrisy on states' rights, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-California) asked a Special Investigations Division (SID) to examine legislative actions since George W. Bush took office insisting the federal government would not "impose its will on states and local communities."  The 2006 report found "a wide gulf between the pro-states rhetoric of Republican leaders and the actual legislative record."  It cited 57 instances of Republican-approved bills preempting state authority.

One occurred when the Republican House voted to prohibit states and cities from demanding competition in broadband services.  Using language eerily similar to that used recently by Republicans in their recent letters to the FCC, six organizations representing state and local officials maintained that state and local officials, "those closest to understanding and meeting the needs of our citizens," should make such decisions.  Republicans were unmoved.

The Paternalism of Republicans

When not hiding behind the states'-rights mantra, Republicans argue that they're protecting us against ourselves:  We might support the construction of a sure-to-fail municipally owned network.  In May FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler gave the small-"d" democratic response:

I understand that the experience with community broadband is mixed, that there have been both successes and failures. But if municipal governments want to pursue it, they shouldn't be inhibited by state laws that have been adopted at the behest of incumbent providers looking to limit competition.


The debate about whether to build a muni broadband network has proven to be one of the most considered, transparent and democratic of all policy debates, certainly far more considered than those made in Washington and state capitols

Usually citizens vote on the issue directly through ballot referenda. Corporate opponents outspend community proponents by 10- to 25-to-1 or more. In many cases state laws prohibit cities from campaigning for their own proposal.

Republicans and private telecoms maintain that cities lack the capacity to build and manage broadband networks.  They're empirically wrong.  Of the 160 municipally owned broadband networks, the successes vastly outnumber the failures.  Muni networks, not Google, offered the first gigabit service. Muni networks have saved their communities hundreds of millions of dollars, created tens of thousands of jobs, and become a firm foundation for economic-development initiatives.

If the FCC is allowed to proceed, it will first respond to a petition from muni networks so successful that surrounding communities want to connect to them but are forbidden by state law. In this context, the argument that the state is protecting cities against themselves is ludicrous.

That so many muni networks have succeeded is a testament to their communities' entrepreneurialism, creativity and patience. Lawsuits delay operation for years at a significant financial cost to cities. The huge customer base of telecom companies allows them to negotiate far lower prices for cable channels than tiny muni networks.  Cities that build networks often are prohibited from tapping into other city funds if needed, while private telephone and cable companies freely use profits gained from cities in which they have a monopoly to engage in predatory pricing against muni networks. After Monticello, Minnesota, built a network, Charter Communications slashed its combined cable and broadband package price from $145 to $60 per month while maintaining the higher price in nearby cities Duluth and Rochester.

The Success of Communities

For cities that persevere, the rewards can be very great.  Tiny Kutztown, Pennsylvania, saved the community an estimated $2 million in its first few years, a result of lower rates by the muni network and reduced prices charged by the incumbent cable company in response to competitive pressure. In 2004 Gov. Ed Rendell gave Kutztown an award for its network. Shortly thereafter, to his lasting shame, he signed a Verizon-sponsored bill preventing other Pennsylvania communities from replicating Kutztown's success.

Bristol, Virginia, population 17,000, estimates its network has saved residents and businesses over $10 million. Lafayette, Louisiana, estimates savings of over $90 million.  The economic and financial benefits of munis have been amply catalogued by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and its Community Broadband Initiative.

Sometimes the arguments of private corporations are bizarre. After five North Carolina cities proved muni networks could be wildly successful, Time Warner aggressively lobbied the state legislature to prohibit any imitators.  Time Warner insisted it only wanted a level playing field. "The bill is intended to create a level playing field so if local governments want to provide commercial retail services in direct competition with private business, they can't use their considerable advantages unfairly," Time Warner declared.

You have to go a far piece to believe that tiny Salisbury, North Carolina, has a competitive edge over mammoth Time Warner, with annual revenues of $18 billion, more than 500 times greater than Salisbury's $34-million budget, and 14 million customers to Salisbury's Fibrant network customer base of 1,000.

But after Republicans gained control of the North Carolina legislature in 2012, the bizarre became the basis for public policy. The legislature passed the Time Warner bill.

Aside from their many quantifiable economic benefits, muni networks also generate equally important unquantifiable benefits.  One is far greater accountability. No longer must people rely on distant corporations for better service. Leaders in Wilson, North Carolina, describe this benefit of muni networks as the "strangle effect." If you have problems with the network, you can find someone locally to strangle.

For Harold DePriest, head of Chattanooga's state-of-the-art municipally owned broadband network (and electricity company), an even more fundamental issue is involved. "[D]oes our community control our own fate, or does someone else control it?" he asks. Questions about the digital divide and net neutrality can be debated and decided at the local level, not in some distant boardroom or by Congress, federal agencies or the courts.

The Freedom to Choose

If Congress allows the FCC to proceed and the FCC overturns state bans, an even more fundamental obstacle will stand in the way. Cities and counties are not mentioned in our Constitution.  This has has led courts to decide that local governments have little or no standing in our federalist system.  Established law relies on the famous 1868 dictum of Judge John Foster Dillon:

Municipal corporations owe their origin to, and derive their powers and rights wholly from, the legislature. It breathes into them the breath of life, without which they cannot exist. As it creates, so may it destroy. If it may destroy, it may abridge and control.


Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to foster competition.  The text of the 1996 law was crystal-clear:

No State or local statute or regulation, or other State or local legal requirement, may prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting the ability of any entity to provide any interstate or intrastate telecommunications service.


If a state or local government is in violation, "the Commission shall preempt the enforcement of such statute, regulation, or legal requirement to the extent necessary to correct such violation or inconsistency."

If anyone doubted the meaning of the phrase "any entity," they had only to read the congressional record. Consider Sen. Trent Lott's (R-Mississippi) comment:

I think the rural electric associations, the municipalities, and the investor-owned utilities, are all positioned to make a real contribution in this telecommunications area, and I do think it is important that we make sure we have got the right language to accomplish what we wish accomplished here.


But the Supreme Court didn't find the language clear at all. In 2003, by an 8-1 decision, it affirmed prohibitions on municipal networks.

The Supreme Court argued that established law considers cities and counties "created as convenient agencies for exercising such of the governmental powers of the State as may be entrusted to them in its absolute discretion."

Ultimately, then, this is a fight not about broadband but about democracy and the locus of authority.  Of course, corporations prefer to fight to protect and expand their privileges in 50 remote state capitols rather than in 30,000 local communities.  But genuine democracy depends on allowing, to the greatest extent possible, those who feel the impact of decisions to be a significant part in the making of those decisions.

Whatever Congress or the FCC decides, we need to challenge the concept that the communities in which we live are simply vassals of our state legislative lords.  This can be done on many levels.  Perhaps the most effective and productive can occur at the state capitols. A broad coalition cutting across parties and ideologies marching under the banner "freedom to choose" may be powerful enough to challenge the seemingly inexhaustible financial resources giant corporations have available to influence politics and politicians.
16:33 Cheers and Jeers: Rum and Coke FRIDAY!» Daily Kos
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From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE…

Friday Night Margaret & Helen Blogging

After posting once in January, the most famous octogenarian duo in Blogger Land---one from Texas, the other from Maine---disappeared and left their legion of fans jonesin' for 168 days. Happily they re-emerged, feisty as ever, and we can thank a certain Texas governor for it, writes Helen…

I thought I was ready to hang my quill up for good and then Rick Perry had to open his mouth again and let a whole lot of stupid fall out. When will that man realize that his brain is older and more tired than even mine? … Now the man who wants to shrink the federal government just enough to fit inside my vagina is complaining that Obama isn’t doing enough to stop the flood of immigrant children coming across the border illegally. Evidently the only children Rick cares about are the ones who haven’t been born yet. Once they are here---screw ‘em!
She also has a few words about the jerk who wants to succeed Governor Oops:
Margaret and Helen blog photo
Love what they've done
with their battle cruiser.
Do a little research on Greg Abbott folks. He is the real deal when it comes to crazy. He is suing Obama over the border issues. He hates those children too, I guess. In fact, the only thing Greg Abbott seems to hate more than immigrant children is the ability for women to limit the number of unwanted children they bring into the world. This Republican conundrum is troubling indeed---which comes first, the chicken or the vagina?

Margaret, dear, my work on this earth is not done. Texas needs another  woman in the State Capitol. I’m for Wendy.

They followed it up this week with a look at Perry's warped brand of compassionate-conservative Christianity.

Welcome back, ladies. We missed you.

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

16:21 A Mississippi Freedom Summer Pilgrimage: An Atrocity We Must Never Forget» Politics - The Huffington Post

JULIA CASS (CO-AUTHOR)


The site in the photograph below, along a back road near Philadelphia, Mississippi, was the final stop on our step-by-step journey through the final tragic day of Freedom Summer volunteers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. Our guide was Leroy Clemons, a longtime local leader and activist whose family was involved in the civil rights movement in Neshoba County and who is prominently featured in the excellent documentary Neshoba: The Price of Freedom.


We both took this journey on June 25 with a group of about 400 young people, including young women participating in the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF)’s summer leadership institute for young Black women from rural Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi, part of CDF’s Southern Rural Black Women’s Institute for Economic and Social Justice. Other young people who were in Jackson, Mississippi for the 50th anniversary commemoration of Freedom Summer joined our group too, as did Freedom Summer organizer and leader Dave Dennis; James Chaney’s sister, Julia Chaney Moss, now a minister in Willingboro, New Jersey; and Walt MacDonald and Michael Nettles from ETS -- the Educational Testing Service.


Our buses were escorted by state troopers. For a split second, that almost seemed like an honor until we quickly wondered why we needed a police escort. The site is just down the road from the families of two of the Ku Klux Klan members involved in the murders, and as the buses stopped to see the murder site, riders on some of them said that pickup trucks rode by, back and forth, in a presumed effort at intimidation.











Leroy-Clemons-Freedom-Sum.jpg
Neshoba County NAACP President Leroy Clemons
describing how the three civil rights workers were
killed at the site of the murder on June 21, 1964.
The rocks and flowers were placed there by
people who came and created a memorial.

In a flash it brought back the absolute reign of terror faced by Black people in Mississippi in those days. We’re certain all of us gathered at the murder site -- we went in small groups -- couldn’t even begin to imagine the terror the three young men felt that night as Leroy Clemons, from his study of histories, articles, court records, and his own interviews with still-living Klan members, told us what happened.


Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner were stopped and arrested by Klan member and deputy sheriff Cecil Price as they drove away after speaking with members of a Black church that had been torched a few days earlier. The rebuilt church was our first stop in recreating their day. The deputy, Cecil Price, and the Klan knew that civil rights workers had been at the church several times to talk about having a Freedom School there -- especially Michael Schwerner, who had been working in the area for some time, and they were looking for him. Chaney, the driver, was charged with “speeding” while Goodman and Schwerner were booked for investigation, and all three were taken to the former jail -- a squat non-descript building which was our second stop. After the Klan had time to gather, Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner were released around 10 p.m. and told to drive back to Meridian where they were staying.


As they were driving Price stopped them, the Klan members drove up, and they took the three young men to the spot pictured above. They selected this place, Clemons said, because Edgar Ray “Preacher” Killen, the ordained Baptist minister and local Ku Klux Klan leader who was eventually accused of directing the murders, lived on this road and wanted to see the place they were killed whenever he came and went. About 20 Klansmen, drunk and full of “blood lust,” chained James Chaney to a tree and beat him with chains. When they unchained him, he fell to the ground, and then they castrated him as Goodman and Schwerner watched. Then they shot him. Schwerner came up and cradled Chaney in his arms. A Klansman asked, “Are you that nigger lover?” and he said, “Sir, I understand your concern.” And they shot him in the heart. Andrew Goodman ran and they shot him too.


They then took the bodies to a dam a little further down the road (private property so we couldn’t go there) where a tractor had already been deployed to dig the graves. Evidence suggests Andrew Goodman was buried alive. The bullet hadn’t quite killed him because an autopsy showed red clay dirt in his lungs and also grasped in his fists from trying to dig his way out. The next day, Edgar Ray Killen took all the weapons and bullet casings to the Meridian Police Department, which destroyed them. The department was made up of Klan members.


We listened in horrified silence. James Chaney’s sister, who had never been to this place, stood completely still and stared at the makeshift memorial. Being there made the brutality vividly real and present. The night before, some of the veterans of Freedom Summer -- Dave Dennis, Rita Schwerner Bender, Michael’s widow, and a few others -- talked to the young people in the audience at a church rally in Jackson about those surreal and horrendous days in the summer of 1964. The young people also watched “Neshoba: The Price of Freedom,” which covers the events of 1964, the town’s racial complexity in the present, and the trial in 2005 of Edgar Ray Killen who was charged with murder but convicted of manslaughter and is now in protective custody at Parchman Penitentiary because when he got there he said, “it’s too many niggers in here,” according to Clemons. In 1967, in a case brought by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, seven Klansmen were convicted by a jury of Mississippi citizens in federal court of conspiracy to violate Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner’s federally protected civil rights. Eight others were acquitted and the jury was undecided on two more. None served more than six years in prison. A half-century later nobody has ever been convicted of murder in their deaths.


The Freedom Summer veterans on our pilgrimage used the courage of the three young men and the other young men and women and local Black citizens who participated in Freedom Summer to urge today’s young people to pick up and carry on the movement in this era of racial profiling, stop and frisk, chokeholds, and mass incarceration -- one in three Black boys born in 2001 will grow up to spend time in prison; voter suppression; inferior education for millions of Black children, 80 percent of whom do not read or compute on grade level in the 4th and 8th grades; and epidemic gun violence which is the leading cause of death among Black youths. Although much progress has been made, great danger lurks for so many in our community and the prospects for poor children of color in Mississippi and across our nation are diminishing. It is time for another transforming movement to honor the sacrifices of those who went on before us. We must all finish the job Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Septima Clark and Medgar Evers and so many other civil rights warriors struggled and sacrificed for.


We must make sure that our children and all of us know our history and that the atrocities that wiped out the lives of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner and countless others who died for freedom and justice during the Civil Rights Movement -- including eight other Black men whose bodies were only found as the FBI dredged Mississippi rivers and swamps searching for these three young men -- do not ever happen again. We must all do our part to create a safe and hopeful nation for every child.


It is way past time for all adults to step up to the plate and make sure that the backwards slide for poor children is stopped and light a fire under ourselves to combat with all our might the continuing discrimination, dehumanization, and lack of public support and concern for children and youths of color and poor children in America.


The need for the Children’s Defense Fund was first evident in Mississippi when the state turned down Head Start money in the new anti-poverty program after the summer of 1964 because they were trying to push poor Black people out of the state and make sure poor children would not get the skills they need to survive in the economy and to become informed citizens. But civil rights and church groups were able to apply and give children hope and skills and history not provided by the public schools. The Child Development Group of Mississippi --the largest Head Start program in the nation that year -- created hundreds of new jobs for parents and other adults free of the plantation and state Jim Crow structure and seeded new effective leaders. We do not want to go back to those days again. We do not want to return to the old days when powerful segregationist members of Congress could eviscerate food programs for poor sharecroppers who attempted to vote, and when child hunger to the point of starvation was evident in Mississippi in 1965 and 1966 and 1967. This hunger became a national issue when Senator Robert F. Kennedy went up into the Mississippi Delta followed by Dr King who later called for a Poor People’s Campaign.


We must move forwards and not backwards to the not-so-good old days during that extraordinary summer of sacrifice that transformed America in positive and fundamental ways. It is time for a new transforming movement to end child and family poverty, hunger, homelessness and illiteracy in America.

16:21 'Our neighbor isn't doing its part'» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The president of Honduras on why the United States and its drug habit are to blame for the violence and kid immigrants fleeing Central America.
16:10 It Can Be Done: Negotiate an End to the Siege in Gaza» Politics - The Huffington Post
The gutless American political class has abdicated its responsibility for the actions of the Israel Defense Forces. Few people living in the Middle East or anywhere else make the distinction between the United States and Israel, nor should they with all those weapons stamped "made in the USA." It's supremely foolish to conclude that Israel can never negotiate with Hamas on lifting the siege of Gaza.

The American rhetoric of spreading "freedom" has been a legitimizing argument dating back to the 1898 Spanish-American War when we were "liberating" the Cubans and Filipinos from the yoke of Spanish colonialism. Today in Gaza what the IDF is doing with "Operation Protective Edge" has no such legitimizing symbolic component. Unlike prototypical American interventions this one really has no redeeming or legitimizing rhetorical flourishes about "helping" the people they're bombing.

When the U.S. Senate votes 100 to zero to support whatever the IDF does in Gaza our political "leaders" might not realize it, but they're undermining the ideological architecture that has allowed them to drive this country into every other war.

United States military interventions have always been accompanied by justifications that emphasize the goal of social uplift for the country under attack. The U.S. might bomb women and children but we're there to "help" our allies build schools and clinics or bring "freedom" and "women's rights" to the dispossessed. The violence is targeted (we are told) at those opponents who would sabotage the good progress the U.S. is trying to make in Vietnam or Afghanistan or Iraq.

The discourse around the Israel-Palestine struggle has an antiquated settler state accent to it more akin to the America of the 19th Century when white people were "defending" themselves against the onslaught of Native Americans (whose lands were being annexed). In the 20th Century, especially since the Second World War, the portrayal of U.S. military action is always sold as being altruistic in nature. The U.S. engages in wars only reluctantly and for the highest ideals. There's a big disconnect here between the U.S. and Israeli systems of legitimation.

The historical context for the Israel-Palestine fight today has changed markedly from what it has been over the past half century. This is not 1967, or 1973, or 1982 (when the IDF invaded Lebanon), or the mid-'90s (with the Oslo agreement), or the time of the two Intifadas, or even 2002 when the IDF corralled Yasser Arafat and put him under house arrest in Ramallah. Today in Iraq Sunni fanatics dominate large swathes of the country and have already ethnically cleansed the Christians from Mosul after a pretty good run of 1,900 years.

With the break up of Iraq and Syria, the rise of ISIS and other newly-minted anti-Western groups and the realization that the United States is not going reinvade Iraq nor bomb Iran, the neo-conservative juggernaut, as far as U.S. policy goes (for now) is effectively finished (with or without another 9-11).

Bibi Netanyahu's stubborn conviction that Israel can never talk to Hamas fails to take into account the shifting regional and global dynamics. His viewpoint is just a fearful, right-wing reaction that fails to recognize the shifting contours of history.

Pro-war voices always say that negotiations are impossible. The white minority rulers of South Africa said it -- but Apartheid collapsed. The East German regime said it -- but the Berlin Wall came down. The Protestants in Northern Ireland said it too.

Times change. And the United States is no longer the superpower it once was. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have depleted our resources and have created a broad based domestic anti-war backlash. In addition, the nation suffers from historic levels of income and wealth inequality, chronic trade imbalances, mass incarceration, a huge national debt and a Congress with precious little connection to the will of the people. In short, the U.S. is in no position to allow its surrogates to dictate terms.

During the Vietnam War, New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy tried to explain to his pro-war detractors why he was calling for talks when they claimed the U.S. was "winning." "I thought we were at a critical time," he said. "And before we take the final plunge to even greater escalation, I think we should try negotiation. If we can't find the answer to it we can always go back to the war."

In November 1967, Kennedy questioned the moral appeals that had been made from the earliest days of the U.S. intervention. He told a panel of Washington journalists on Face the Nation that the US's "moral position" in the conflict had "changed tremendously." "[W]e're killing South Vietnamese; we're killing children; we're killing women; we're killing innocent people." Kennedy had not yet announced his presidential run but his speeches and other public remarks on Vietnam challenged the narrative that had enabled the war in the first place. Wittingly or not, RFK had shredded the pro-war moral appeals.

Kennedy was also a strong supporter of Israel. Days before he was murdered at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968, he had appeared at an event in that city wearing a yarmulke and calling for advanced fighter jets to be sent to Israel. A 24-year-old Palestinian who apparently had been enraged by RFK's views fired his $30 Iver-Johnson pistol at the Senator shortly after Kennedy won the California Democratic primary. The Canadian historian, Gil Troy, (an uncritical booster of Israel) has referred to RFK's assassination as the first act of "Arab terrorism" on U.S. soil. So, RFK, who might have become President of the United States, was murdered at the age of 42 ostensibly as an indirect byproduct of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Enough is enough.

History cannot be frozen in place. Things have a way of moving along. Just consider how social media has countered the dominant narrative of the current IDF attack on Gaza and one can see that we now reside in a new world.

There are so many stakeholders, not only in the Middle East but also in Europe and beyond, that would like to see an end to this madness in Gaza. The vital thing confronting us today is for the United States to put pressure on Israel to lift the siege of Gaza and seek a viable and realistic political solution.

And if negotiations fail, as RFK said about Vietnam in 1967, "we can always go back to the war." The vital thing is to try.
16:07 What would it take to make you cut off your own leg? The most terrifying ethical dilemmas in torture porn horror movies» Salon.com
From "Saw" to "Cabin Fever," the scariest — and most fascinating — ethical quandaries of the horror genre






16:07 From Pizza Dog to Vincent Van Goat, the best comic book pets» Salon.com
When you're a heroic avenger trying to slay criminals, sometimes the only sidekick you can count on is four-legged






16:07 5 celebrities who should actually have lifestyle websites» Salon.com
Blake Lively and Gwyneth Paltrow are boring. So someone should convince these stars to make lifestyle sites instead






16:07 The Grand Budapest Hotel is actually a department store in Germany — and it’s about to get grander» Salon.com
A German entrepreneur aims to revitalize a moribund town by renovating an Art Nouveau icon






16:01 Things Just Got Way Worse For Leland Yee» Politics - The Huffington Post
Indicted California state Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) faces additional charges that he tried to extort several sports figures, according to a new grand jury indictment filed Thursday.

Yee, who was arrested in March and has pleaded not guilty to eight charges of corruption, bribery and gun-trafficking, faces an additional three counts under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a federal law that provides for extended criminal penalties and civil action when acts are tied to a criminal organization, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The superseding indictment charges Yee with two counts of conspiracy to "obtain property under the color of official right” and one count of conspiracy to "conduct the affairs of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity.” He remains in office awaiting trial.

According to court documents, Yee was informed that an undercover agent investigating him knew the owner of an NFL team who would benefit from passage of a bill that would limit the ability of professional athletes from out-of-state teams to file for workers’ compensation over injuries sustained in California. When the undercover agent asked Yee, who controlled two votes on the committee considering the bill, how much it would cost for his votes, Yee allegedly said, “Oh no, we gotta drag it out. We gotta juice this thing.”

The indictment also accuses Yee of “extorting individuals related to the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) and the Mixed Martial Arts industry regarding retaining the existence of CSAC and its ability to regulate certain sports” in California.
16:00 Should You Trust Health Apps on Your Phone?» LiveScience.com
Only a small fraction of the smartphone health apps that are out there have been reviewed by FDA.
15:54 'Torture' report flip flop» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Ex-CIA officials were told they could view a 6,300-page report. Then, they were told they couldn't.
15:31 Second Florida Court Overturns Same-Sex Marriage Ban In As Many Weeks» ThinkProgress

Another Florida state court has ruled against the ban on same-sex marriage.

The post Second Florida Court Overturns Same-Sex Marriage Ban In As Many Weeks appeared first on ThinkProgress.

15:20 Google’s next plan: Collect medical data to create a detailed map of a healthy human being» Salon.com
The project is known as Baseline Study stands at the junction of privacy and medical discovery






15:20 The Russian Dream Is All About Empire» Politics - The Huffington Post
putin russia


worldcrunch


The Russian Dream is for the country to be a great empire and to inspire fear. Interviews I recently conducted in Moscow all ended with the same words: "First, the Olympic Games in Sochi, then we annexed Crimea. And now, we've won the hockey championships!"

Here, a popular joke says that "while everyone thought Russia was on its knees, it was just lacing up its combat boots. . ."

Over the past 20 years, the word was that we were building a Western society. Yet the fine layer that represented liberalism disappeared in the blink of an eye. We're done playing like the West. It lacks sensitivity -- it's pragmatic. The West is degenerating, while Russia is all about goodness and spirituality.

Vladimir Putin has taken on the role of defending these traditional values.


Read the full article a Worldcrunch.com
Translated from the original in Le Monde
15:14 Struggling Braley shakes up campaign» POLITICO - TOP Stories
He parts ways with his admaker and pollster after Joni Ernst gains more ground.
15:12 Obama: Most kids to be sent home» POLITICO - TOP Stories
He indicates that many of children who have crossed the border will eventually be sent back home.
14:59 Miami Judge Becomes 2nd To Overturn Florida Same-Sex Marriage Ban» Politics - The Huffington Post
MIAMI (AP) — A Florida judge on Friday overturned the state's ban on same-sex marriage in a ruling that applies to Miami-Dade County, agreeing with a judge in another county who made a similar ruling last week. Still, no marriage licenses will be issued for gay couples in either county any time soon to allow for appeals.

The ruling by Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel mirrors the decision made earlier by Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia. Both found the constitutional amendment approved by Florida voters in 2008 discriminates against gay people. They said it violates their right to equal protection under the law guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment. "Preventing couples from marrying solely on the basis of their sexual orientation serves no governmental interest," Zabel wrote. "It serves only to hurt, to discriminate, to deprive same-sex couples and their families of equal dignity, to label and treat them as second-class citizens, and to deem them unworthy of participation in one of the fundamental institutions of our society."

The effect of Garcia's ruling was put on hold when Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi filed notice of appeal. Zabel also stayed the effect of her ruling indefinitely to allow time for appeals, which could take months, and Bondi promptly followed up Friday by filing an appeal notice in the Miami-Dade case. The county of 2.6 million people is in the top 10 in population in the U.S.

Both judges were appointed by former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush and have been re-elected.

The legal battleground will next shift to the Miami-based 3rd District Court of Appeal for both cases, and most likely after that to the state Supreme Court. Nevertheless, Friday's ruling was cause for celebration for gay couples across the Miami area.

"It means so much for a court to recognize our family and say that we must be treated equally," said Catherina Pareto, one of the plaintiffs in the case. "We love this state and want nothing more than to be treated as equal citizens who contribute to the community and help make Florida an even better place for everyone who lives here."

Same-sex ban supporters argue that the referendum vote should be respected and that Florida has sole authority to define marriage in the state. The Florida amendment defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Gay marriage proponents have won more than 20 legal decisions around the country since the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Those rulings remain in various stages of appeal. Many legal experts say the U.S. Supreme Court may ultimately have to decide the question for all states.

Bondi said in a statement about the Monroe County case that "with many similar cases pending throughout the entire country, finality on this constitutional issue must come from the U.S. Supreme Court."

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia allow gay people to marry.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott has said he supports the amendment but opposes discrimination. His top Democratic challenger, former Gov. Charlie Crist, supports efforts to overturn it.

Florida has long been a gay rights battleground. In the 1970s, singer and orange juice spokeswoman Anita Bryant successfully campaigned to overturn a Dade County ordinance banning discrimination against gays. The county commission reinstated those protections two decades later.

In 1977, Florida became the only state prohibiting all gay people from adopting children. A state court judge threw out that law in 2008, finding "no rational basis" for that ban, and two years later, the state decided not to appeal, making gay adoption legal.

Gay marriage opponents said the rulings overturning the same-sex marriage ban disenfranchise nearly five million voters — the 62 percent who approved it nearly six years ago. Repealing the amendment would require at least 60 percent support.

"With one stoke of a pen, a mere trial judge has attempted to overthrow an act of direct democracy by five million Floridians who defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman," said John Stemberger, president Florida Family Policy Council, which pushed for passage of the amendment.

The cities of Orlando, Miami Beach and Key Biscayne filed legal papers supporting the gay couples' quest to have the marriage ban ruled unconstitutional. A separate lawsuit is pending in Tallahassee federal court seeking to both overturn Florida's gay marriage ban and force the state to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
14:55 HUFFPOLLSTER: Americans Are Pessimistic About Peace In The Middle East» Politics - The Huffington Post
American's views of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict are about the same as they were during a previous conflict 12 years ago. A majority of Americans say no to impeachment, no matter how hard pollsters ask. And once upon a time, Gallup's live interviewers tracked the hairstyles of their respondents. This is HuffPollster for Friday, July 25, 2014.

AMERICA'S OPINIONS ON MIDDLE EAST IN LINE WITH PAST RESPONSES - Jeffrey M. Jones - "Americans are divided in their views of whether Israel's actions against the Palestinian group Hamas is 'mostly justified' or 'mostly unjustified,' but they widely view Hamas' actions as mostly unjustified. Those results are similar to what Gallup measured 12 years ago during another period of heightened Israeli-Palestinian violence, and they are consistent with Americans' generally more positive views of the Israelis than of the Palestinians….Americans are generally pessimistic about the Israelis and Palestinians being able to settle their differences and live in peace, and while the escalated tensions between the two sides have been a major news story the last two weeks, the American public does not view it as any more serious than past conflicts. Americans continue to exhibit more positivity toward Israel than the Palestinians, but also stop short of saying Israel's actions in the current situation are justified." [Gallup]

IS GEORGIA A TOSS-UP OR A SURE GOP BET? Ben Highton explains why his model gives Democrats little chance for victory: "Our forecast for the outcome of the Georgia U.S. Senate election this year is more optimistic for the Republicans than those of many other analysts. Our most recent forecast gives them a 98 percent chance of winning. Here we explain why….Two factors from the model combine to weigh heavily in the Republicans’ favor in Georgia. First, with a Democratic president the midterm penalty (about 3 percentage points, on average) favors the Republicans and Perdue. Second, in recent presidential elections Georgia has been about 6 percentage points more Republican than the country overall, which our model suggests will translate into about 2 percentage points of the Senate vote for Perdue (compared to a state whose presidential vote mirrored the national vote)....Another factor to consider is campaign fundraising. Our model currently is based on relative party fundraising rather than candidate fundraising….In Georgia this year, the Republican Senate candidates have out-raised Nunn by about 3 to 1. Based on our model this gives Perdue another boost of almost 4 percentage points compared to if the fundraising between the parties was even. Of course, there was a hotly contested Republican primary and primary runoff on the Republican side while Nunn faced no other serious Democratic challengers. If the amount raised by all the Republican candidates combined is not a good indicator of overall Republican strength, then our model is overestimating Perdue’s chances….Going forward, as Election Day approaches our forecast will give growing weight to the polls, assuming that more are reported. " [WashPost]

NO MATTER HOW YOU ASK, MOST AMERICANS DON'T SUPPORT IMPEACHING OBAMA - HuffPollster: "In the wake of a lawsuit in the works against President Barack Obama, some Republicans like Sarah Palin have been calling for the House of Representatives to go a step further and impeach the president. Two new polls out this week, from CNN and Fox News, both asked the public to weigh in. The way each pollster approached the question, however, was a little different. CNN asked a pretty simple yes/no question, following the same format they used for polls about Bill Clinton and George W. Bush: 'Based on what you have read or heard, do you believe that President Obama should be impeached and removed from office, or don't you feel that way?' Fox, after characterizing Obama as 'bypassing Congress and acting on his own' in a previous question, asked this, which seems to take as a given Republican claims that Obama flouted the Constitution: 'Do you favor or oppose impeaching President Obama for exceeding his authority under the Constitution by failing to enforce some laws and changing other laws on his own -- or for any other reason?' Despite Fox's one-sided framing of the question, the results of the two polls were strikingly similar. In this case, people turned out to be against impeaching Obama regardless of how the question was phrased. Just 33 percent of Americans in the CNN survey, and 36 percent of voters in the Fox one, supported impeachment -- about the same percentage who favored impeaching the last two presidents." [HuffPost]

NYT USAGE OF 'POLL' SURGED IN 2012 - Two years ago, Alexis Lloyd of the the New York Times R&D Lab created a tool to graph the usage of words and phrases. On Wednesday, the Lab opened up her Chronicle project to the general public. HuffPollster immediately plugged in our favorite word, which showed a significant upward spike in 2012. Could it be a FiveThirtyEight effect? [NYT Labs, chart of useage of "poll"; via @kwcollins]

2014-07-25-NYTChronicle_poll.png


HUFFPOLLSTER VIA EMAIL! - You can receive this daily update every weekday via email! Just click here, enter your email address, and and click "sign up." That's all there is to it (and you can unsubscribe anytime).

FRIDAY'S 'OUTLIERS' - Links to the best of news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:

-Democrat Paul Davis has an 8-point lead over incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback (R). [SurveyUSA]

-Most Americans like the idea of open primaries. [YouGov]

-Gallup interviewers tracked changing men's hair trends on college campuses in the 1970s. [@alec_h_tyson]
14:53 RIMPAC 2014: World's Largest Maritime Exercises (PHOTOS)» Politics - The Huffington Post
When most people think of Hawaii, they think of a relaxing tropical vacation digging their toes in the sand and snorkeling in crystal blue waters. But, every two years, the Hawaiian Islands become a serious training ground for military forces from around the world -- and their trip to the beach looks very different.

This year, more than 25,000 military personnel from 22 nations are participating in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), the world's largest maritime exercise, according to its website. The drills, which began June 26 and are set to end on Aug. 1, are designed to cultivate and sustain international relationships international troops, particularly when it comes to securing the world's oceans and sea lanes.

Hosted by United States Pacific Fleet, RIMPAC 2014 marks the 24th exercise since it began in 1971. The exercises mostly take place in and around the Hawaiian Islands, though a small portion of the drills are held off the coast of Southern California.

The lineup of participants come from nations all over the globe, including troops from Japan, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Tonga, Brunei and the People’s Republic of China, which marks the country's first time participating in RIMPAC.

While the training may be serious business, it doesn't hurt that these folks get to practice in a place as beautiful as Hawaii. Here's a look at what they've been up to:

14:52 VA reform talks resume» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Negotiations to craft a reform bill for the Department of Veterans Affairs are back on track.
14:50 States want more time on ACA funds» POLITICO - TOP Stories
A POLITICO survey finds that 11 states are thinking about using federal dollars in 2015.
14:44 This Couple's Response To Pro-Life Protesters Couldn't Be Better» Politics - The Huffington Post
Every Saturday, Grayson and Tina Haver Currin stand outside a women's health clinic in Cary, N.C. holding signs -- but not the kind you'd expect to see outside of a facility where abortions are performed.

While pro-life protesters hold signs that read, "Babies are murdered here" and "Pregnant mothers need support not abortion," the Raleigh, N.C. couple stands beside them holding signs with irreverent messages like, "I like turtles" and "Honk if you're horny."

The "pro-choice husband/wife team" documents their adventures on their Tumblr, Saturday Chores. On their site, Tina wrote that the couple's first counter-protest "happened on a bit of a whim" in March when they were driving through Cary and passed the clinic.

womens rights expert



"We've seen the clinic in question hundreds of times. But for some reason, on this morning in particular, the protestors got under our skin a little more than normal," Tina wrote on Tumblr. "Grayson suggested that we make a sign that said 'Weird Hobby' and point at one of the protestors. We tried to buy poster board at Home Depot, but they don’t carry it. As we were leaving, I ripped a vinyl sale sign off of a display and took a Sharpie to it. We posted the results to Instagram and Facebook, and people flipped."

Check some of their hilarious signs:

weird hobby



turtles



horny



pregnant



jesus slays



Head over to Saturday Chores to see more.

[h/t DailyDot]
14:41 Koch Brothers Throw More Money Behind Long-Shot GOP Senate Challenger Monica Wehby» Politics - The Huffington Post
WASHINGTON -- The Koch brothers are making a big push for long-shot Republican Senate hopeful Monica Wehby, increasing their advertising spending on behalf of the Oregon candidate to $3.6 million.

Webhy's policy platform, meanwhile, is lining up squarely with that of the Kochs. The Oregonian, a Portland newspaper, recently posted a series of articles detailing the positions of Wehby and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) on 14 Senate votes from the past six years. Wehby took a hard conservative line. On every vote where the Koch-backed tea party group Americans for Prosperity took a position -- eight of the 14 -- Webhy sided with the Kochs.

Wehby said she would have voted to make the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy permanent and to approve the tea party "cut, cap and balance" budget bill, which includes severe across-the-board spending cuts more draconian than those in the budget proposal from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) that would have slashed Medicare and converted it to a voucher program. Wehby also said she would have voted against both Obamacare and the 2010 Wall Street reform bill. She said she would have voted to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions and to approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. She also said she'd have voted against the farm bill. All of those positions match the Americans for Prosperity congressional scorecard.

Wehby took conservative positions on votes that AFP didn't monitor for its scorecard, including the Paycheck Fairness Act, an equal pay bill that Wehby said she would have opposed.

Word of the most recent Koch ad buy was forwarded to HuffPost by the Merkley campaign and confirmed by Wehby's campaign.

"Dr. Wehby's positions are driven by nothing more than her own belief on how best to address the issues that matter most to Oregonians," Wehby spokesman Dean Petrone told HuffPost. "The outside ad buys confirm that Merkley's abysmal record on job creation, and health care has left him vulnerable, and put Oregon back on the map for Republicans."

The Kochs initially pledged $1.9 million to the race through their Freedom Partners 501(c)(4) organization (sometimes called a "social welfare" group) that promotes free-market ideology. They have now increased that figure twice, first to $3.1 million and now to $3.6 million.

Wehby trails Merkley 37.1 percent to 50.9 percent, according to HuffPost Pollster, which combines all publicly available polling data:

14:40 Sexy Thoughts: The Mind Is Key in Female Orgasm» LiveScience.com
Women who think more about their own physical sensations during sex have an easier time reaching orgasm than women whose minds on other things, new research finds.
14:33 Why we should definitely beta-test marriages» Salon.com
Plenty of millennials do want to get married -- they just want to do it a little differently






14:20 Sunday talk show tip sheet» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Paul Ryan, Madeleine Albright and Nancy Pelosi are scheduled to appear.
14:15 Judge: Executions are 'brutal, savage events', so stop trying to hide that» Daily Kos
An accused anti-Batista insurgent is blindfolded and executed by firing squad, Cuba 1956.
If we're going to be barbarians, why try to mask it?
Gotta agree with this appellate judge:
"Using drugs meant for individuals with medical needs to carry out executions is a misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and beautiful — like something any one of us might experience in our final moments," U.S. 9th Circuit Court Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote in a dissent in the Arizona death penalty case of Joseph Rudolph Wood III.

"But executions are, in fact, brutal, savage events, and nothing the state tries to do can mask that reality. Nor should we. If we as a society want to carry out executions, we should be willing to face the fact that the state is committing a horrendous brutality on our behalf."

Kozinski revealed his views in a dissent filed Monday to an order in which the full 9th Circuit refused to review a decision of a 9th Circuit three-judge panel to put Wood's execution on hold.

Now keep in mind that Kozinski, a Reagan appointee, is pro-death penalty, and is concerned that legal challenges to drug cocktails are keeping many death-row inmates alive. Yet this makes perfect sense:
"If we as a society cannot stomach the splatter from an execution carried out by a firing squad, then we shouldn’t be carrying out executions at all."
He may be blood-thirsty enough to welcome this (and the guillotine, too, which would be his preferred method), but society might not be so tolerant. And even if they were, let people know what is really being done in their name.
14:13 'Flying Flashbulb' Drones Could Light Up Photo Shoots» LiveScience.com
Photographers looking to capture the perfect shot might soon be able to call on some unlikely helpers: a swarm of small robot helicopters.
13:55 Next 'Big Earthquake' in SoCal Might Be Mid-Sized» LiveScience.com
The next big earthquake in Southern California could be smaller than expected, according to researchers who are rewriting the history of earthquakes on the San Andreas Fault.
13:44 On Media: FAA caught in world news» POLITICO - TOP Stories
My colleague Kevin Robillard and I discuss how the Federal Aviation Administration has found itself in the middle of all the major news stories this week. Produced by Madeline Marshall.
13:36 Pol sorry for nationality gaffe» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Rep. Curt Clawson apologizes for misidentifying a pair of U.S. officials for Indians.
13:21 In West Virginia Congressional Race, Both Candidates Think Climate Change Is ‘Not Our Problem’» ThinkProgress

There are two major-party candidates in the running for West Virginia's 2nd Congressional District seat in the U.S. House, and both of them think the issue of climate change is best left for other countries to deal with.

The post In West Virginia Congressional Race, Both Candidates Think Climate Change Is ‘Not Our Problem’ appeared first on ThinkProgress.

13:10 Vibrio Warnings: How to Avoid Ocean-Dwelling Bacteria» LiveScience.com
Though infections caused by a marine bacterium are more common in the summer months, people can avoid becoming seriously ill by avoiding undercooked shellfish and not swimming with open wounds.
13:06 Bel Kaufman, Author Of 'Up The Down Staircase,' Is Dead At 103» Latest from Crooks and Liars

This was such a great book. Kaufman made a huge impact with it:

Bel Kaufman, a former New York City schoolteacher whose classic first novel, “Up the Down Staircase” — shot through with despair and hopefulness, violence and levity, all manner of bureaucratic inanity and a blizzard of official memorandums so mind-bendingly illogical as to seem almost Kafkaesque — was hailed as a stunningly accurate portrait of life in a gritty urban school when it was published in 1965, died on Friday at her home in Manhattan. She was 103.

Her daughter, Thea Goldstine, confirmed the death.

First published by Prentice Hall, “Up the Down Staircase” spent more than a year on the New York Times best-seller list. It has sold more than six million copies and been translated into at least 16 languages. So fully has the novel entered the collective consciousness that its title is still used as a catchphrase to describe absurd or impossible situations.

“Up the Down Staircase” was made into a popular movie of the same name, released in 1967. Directed by Robert Mulligan, it starred Sandy Dennis as Ms. Kaufman’s idealistic young teacher, Sylvia Barrett.

13:02 LAT's Joe Flint to return to WSJ» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The media reporter returns after a five-year run with The Los Angeles Times.
13:01 Prez to sign cellphone unlocking bill» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The bill "is another step toward giving ordinary Americans more flexibility and choice," he says.
13:00 The pill might change the way women perceive other women» Salon.com
And so can natural hormone changes that happen all the time. This is no reason to hate on birth control






13:00 Stephen A. Smith is “annoyed” people “misconstrued” his comments about domestic violence» Salon.com
The ESPN host tries to clarify in a long stream of tweets






12:47 Grocery chain CEO's ouster sparks massive worker protest» Daily Kos

If you haven't been following the Market Basket story over the past week, it's worth giving some attention: Thousands of supermarket workers and managers have been taking action—serious action—over the ouster of their company's longtime CEO. Really. Market Basket CEO Arthur T. Demoulas was ousted after his cousin Arthur S. Demoulas gained control of the company's board, sparking protests:
Drivers and warehouse workers have been on what can only be called a wildcat strike. Store managers are encouraging customers to boycott their stores. Politicians are lining up to support the boycott. Even the Dropkick Murphys have tweeted their support.
The shelves in Market Basket stores have been left bare by the worker protests. An estimated 5,000 workers and supporters rallied Friday morning as Market Basket's board met. Arthur T. Demoulas has offered to buy a majority share of the company, an offer the board said it would "seriously consider." It also issued a statement pressuring workers to go back on the job. Which they will, if the board does the right thing.

So why are the workers so fiercely loyal to Arthur T.? Well, it's pretty simple: Under Arthur T., Market Basket employees have been paid well. They've gotten benefits and bonuses. And they've been treated with respect. Arthur T. Demoulas has earned his workers' respect and affection. But it's not just that:

“Market Basket employees think that without Arthur T., they won’t be able to hold on to their values and will fall into a vicious cycle,” said Zeynep Ton, a professor of operations management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who visited the picket lines this week. “I don’t blame them for fighting to keep the integrity of their business.”
In the current business environment, when a CEO who runs a profitable business while treating workers well gets the boot, you have to suspect that one of the plans for greater profit is to treat workers worse. We've seen it so many times, and clearly these workers believe they have reason to worry. What's perhaps most remarkable is that they have enough solidarity and feel powerful enough to take such strong action.
12:45 House Republicans say they've agreed on a plan to accelerate deportation of refugee children» Daily Kos
Two young girls watch a World Cup soccer match on a television from their holding area where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center in Nogales, Arizona June 18, 2014. CBP provided media tours June 18 of two locations in Brownsville, Texas and Nogales that have been central to processing the more than 47,000 unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally since Oct. 1.  REUTERS/Ross D. Franklin/Pool
The Right-wing's newest hysteria: kids.
If you're a fan of deporting refugee children, today might just be a day to celebrate because:
House Republicans will try to pass a bill addressing the border crisis next week with a pared-back price tag of less than $1 billion, according to multiple sources.

The mood in a Friday morning closed-door GOP meeting was mostly positive, and much of the strident opposition from conservatives that GOP aides and lawmakers expected did not materialize, according to sources present. Leadership is cautiously confident that a package will reach the floor next week before the chamber recesses for its August break.

Their bill would provide about one-third of the funds requested by President Obama to address the situation and would also change a 2008 law to make it easier to quickly deport unaccompanied children from Central America. But while Republicans put on a happy face today about the prospects for their deportation plan, it's clear they are worried about being able to get enough Republican votes to pass the package, in part because Shadow Speaker Ted Cruz has been meeting with House Republicans and encouraging them to not pass anything.

Cruz's argument to conservatives is that if the House passes a bill, Senate Democrats will insist on changes. That's a pretty crazy reason to not pass a bill, especially since House Republicans would have to approve any changes proposed by Senate Democrats, but since when has making sense mattered to the Cruz crowd?

GOP leadership is trying to rally support for its plan in part by telling their conference that if they don't act next week, they will face angry voters during the August recess, but they are also trying to bribe them with yet another vote on a separate piece of legislation to deport more DREAMers, even though DREAMers have nothing to do with the wave of unaccompanied minors prompting the current crisis.

We'll know next week whether Republicans have the votes to pass their funding bill, but even if they do, in order to actually pass something into law, they'll need to agree to some sort of compromise with the Senate, which seems extremely unlikely. Meanwhile, the situation on the border—and the conditions in the countries from which these children are fleeing—will remain unchanged.

Meanwhile, as Markos wrote yesterday, it's important to remember this isn't an immigration crisis, this is a refugee crisis. Overall, the number of undocumented immigrants attempting to enter the United States has dropped from one million between 1983 and 2006 to 400,000 last year. That drop dwarfs the number of refugee children, who numbered about 60,000 since October, most of whom have family in the United States who can house them while they apply for refugee status. Nonetheless, despite the fact that these kids are fleeing from horrific violence and poverty, the only question on the GOP's mind is how to send them back as quickly as possible.

12:40 Florida Lawmaker Drafts Bill To Require Every Student To Watch Documentary Explaining Why Liberals Hate America» ThinkProgress

All 1,700 Florida high schools and middle schools to show the movie to their students.

The post Florida Lawmaker Drafts Bill To Require Every Student To Watch Documentary Explaining Why Liberals Hate America appeared first on ThinkProgress.

12:40 ESPN's Stephen A. Smith gets hammered for on-air remarks on domestic violence» Daily Kos

I'm so glad there are so many pro athletes who are terrible people. It's allowed us to have so many serious national conversations about things lately. Or, you know, not:
Listen up, ladies, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith has a message for you, and it’s basically: Stop provoking men into beating you so Smith and his “fellas” don’t have to get your back.

Smith’s point—and it’s a bad one—goes something like this: Men should never hit women, but it’s really on women to make sure they don’t do anything that would trigger a violent response.

If you like watching videos of train wrecks, that one's a doozy.

Smith took to Twitter after the predictable storm of complaints:

Upon hearing what I had to say, although admitting I could have been more articulate on the matter, let me be clear: I don't understand how on earth someone could interpret that I somehow was saying women are to blame for domestic violence.

[...] But what about addressing women on how they can help prevent the obvious wrong being done upon them? In no way was I accusing a women of being wrong. I was simply saying what that preventive measures always need to be addressed because there's only but so much that can be done after the fact....once the damage is already done.

So that'll go well. On the other side, ESPN's Michelle Beadle was one of the people who called Smith out on his remarks. Her reward has been a steady stream of vulgarities and bile tweeted out from the internet's worst denizens.

This really has been a learning experience, hasn't it?

12:38 It's Friday, The World Sucks, But Joanie Loves Chachi» Latest from Crooks and Liars
It's Friday, The World Sucks, But Joanie Loves Chachi

I really needed this today:

SAVANNAH — [UPDATE] The two dogs have been placed together with a potential adopter and should travel to Florida soon with their new owner, according to the Savannah Morning News. Read the original story below.

It’s a buddy story born amid homelessness and suffering.

Chachi and Joanie formed a special bond with each other on the streets of Savannah, Georgia, and their devotion has pulled at the heartstrings of the local community.

According to animal control officers, both are strays and were found roaming the streets. At the time, Chachi – a long-hair Chihuahua mix – was suffering with a horrific eye infection.

Joanie, a white lab-pit bull mix, was carrying her stricken friend around gently secured in her mouth. Witnesses have told authorities that Joanie was seen occasionally licking Chachi’s swollen eye, attempting to ease his pain.

"It's not every day we get to see such devotion between two special dogs like this," said Animal Control Officer Christina Sutherin on the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Facebook page. "They are both such sweet animals. But the relationship they share just sets them apart.”
The veterinary staff at the Metro Animal Shelter could not save Chachi's ruptured eye, but they have been able to nurse him back to help. And earlier this week, the pair was reunited during a visit.

read more

12:29 “I was probably laid off by a computer”: Ex-Microsoft employee sounds off» Salon.com
Jerry Berg worked at the company for 15 years. His biggest fear now is providing health insurance for his son






12:24 How The U.S. Government Just Pulled Off The Equivalent Of Retiring 1.8 Million Cars» ThinkProgress

The White House announced today that federal agencies have cut their greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent since 2008.

The post How The U.S. Government Just Pulled Off The Equivalent Of Retiring 1.8 Million Cars appeared first on ThinkProgress.

12:19 Gaspipe Diplomacy: How Ukraine Set Off A New U.S.-Russian Energy Fight » Latest from Crooks and Liars
Gaspipe Diplomacy: How Ukraine Set Off A New U.S.-Russian Energy Fight

By Sylvia Todorova

Now that all eyes are on Ukraine and the potential of a bigger war looms, there’s never been a more important time to understand what is at stake.

As WhoWhatWhy readers know, the real reasons surrounding a conflict are often buried under the headlines and rhetoric. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that, behind the scenes, oil and natural gas are driving a big piece of the U.S. response to Russian involvement in Ukraine.

If you want to understand where the rubber meets the geopolitical road in the Ukraine war, you need to learn about the 1,480-mile South Stream natural gas pipeline.

The pipeline is core to the larger battle being fought over Europe between Moscow and Washington. It may even have been a motivation behind Russia’s annexation of Crimea. And if there’s a crack in the unified front between the U.S. and Europe over Russia’s role in Ukraine, South Stream is it.

Why does South Stream matter? It’s a $21.6 billion project to connect Russia’s gas reserves—the world’s largest—to Europe’s markets. Europe relies on Russia for about 30 percent of its natural gas.

Any delays in finishing the pipeline—scheduled for completion in 2018—can only help Russia’s competitors in the international energy business. And one player gearing up to challenge Russia in the European energy market is the United States.

read more

12:14 Obamacare Architect Says He Made A Mistake In 2012 Video That Wingnuts Are Freaking On» Latest from Crooks and Liars

Right wingers are up in a tizzy today after a video and a new audio surfaced by Jonathan Gruber, a main architect of the ACA, who they say backs up Boehner's lawsuit.

Brietbart: Obamacare Architect Jonathan Gruber Once Again Ties Subsidies to State-Based Exchanges

Daily Caller: Obamacare Architect Says AGAIN That Subsidies Were Only Supposed To Go To State Exchanges

Red State: Another 2012 Jonathan Gruber ‘speak-o,’ apparently.

Instapundit: WHO ARE YOU GOING TO BELIEVE — ME, OR YOUR LYING EARS?

The always great Jonathan Cohen interviewed Gruber to find out what happened:

Did the people who designed Obamacare intend to deprive millions of people of health insurance, just because officials in their states decided not to operate their own insurance marketplaces?

read more

12:12 Robert Rubin Echoes Robert F. Kennedy: GDP Is Fatally Flawed Measure Of Economic Health» ThinkProgress

He explains that tackling climate change won't harm the economy, but will save it. But we need a new measure of economic health, much as RFK argued in 1968.

The post Robert Rubin Echoes Robert F. Kennedy: GDP Is Fatally Flawed Measure Of Economic Health appeared first on ThinkProgress.

12:11 Astronaut's View on Israel-Gaza Conflict: No Borders Visible from Space» LiveScience.com
German astronaut Alexander Gerst reflected on the grief he felt as he saw signs of the deadly Israel-Gaza conflict from the International Space Station.
12:02 1-800-Adopt-A-Dude: Because Hundreds Of Thousands Of Dudes Struggle Each Day» ThinkProgress

"Will you be an angel for a fully grown, yet utterly helpless man?"

The post 1-800-Adopt-A-Dude: Because Hundreds Of Thousands Of Dudes Struggle Each Day appeared first on ThinkProgress.

12:01 New Hepatitis C Treatment: $84K Per Three-Month Course. Say What?» Latest from Crooks and Liars
New Hepatitis C Treatment: $84K Per Three-Month Course. Say What?

Since the federal government already provides so much of the R&D funding for pharmaceutical companies, and Big Pharma really exploits its stranglehold on certain drugs, maybe it's time to talk about either federal price ceilings, partial ownership of drug profits -- or taking over completely.

This would be one way to oversee the abuses in clinical trials, support orphan drugs, and steer pharmaceutical companies toward being better public citizens:

Months before Gilead Sciences’ breakthrough hepatitis C treatment hit the market, Oregon Medicaid official Tom Burns started worrying about how the state could afford to cover every enrollee infected with the disease. He figured the cost might even reach $36,000 per patient.

Then the price for the drug was released last December: $84,000 for a 12-week treatment course.

read more

12:00 Obama's throwback campaign» POLITICO - TOP Stories
If parts of Obama's midterm stump speech sound familiar, they should. They're from 2012.
12:00 Midday open thread: War College investigates Walsh's paper, America's most miserable cities» Daily Kos
  • Today's comic by Mark Fiore is Rick Perry's 'Operation Strong Candidate':
    Cartoon by Mark Fiore -- Rick Perry's 'Operation Strong Candidate'
  • What's coming up on Sunday Kos ...
    • Beyond Managing: Happy, Productive and Independent Lives For Autistic Persons, by Armando
    • Republicans, Democrats and the Great Trade, by Jon Perr
    • A state-by-state look at 2014's attorneys general races, by Jeff Singer
    • The Halbig case: or, the banality of conservative evil, by Dante Atkins
    • Ethnic Studies is not racist. But guess who is, by Denise Oliver Velez
    • National Education Association's Lily Eskelsen Garcia on teaching, testing, and fighting back, by Laura Clawson
    • Daily Kos Elections gubernatorial power rankings: Mid-Summer edition, by Steve Singiser
    • Only the bad guy wins this game, by Mark E Andersen
    • Wanna know why Republicans can't give up calling Obama "not American"? They've got nothing else, by Ian Reifowitz
    • Netroots Nation 2014 in Detroit, a recommitment to the fight for a return to moral policies, by Egberto Willies
    • Daily Kos Elections power rankings: The states (Mid-summer edition), by Steve Singiser
  • America's most miserable cities, ranked:
    It’s official: New York City has been voted the unhappiest city in America according to a new working study released this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research titled, “ Unhappy Cities,” NBC reported.

    The study collected data in a Centers for Disease Control and Protection survey based on a questionnaire, asking those surveyed, “How satisfied are you with your life?” The results were then ranked and adjusted according to income, housing prices, age, sex and race.

    New York took the crown as the most miserable metropolitan area with a population over one million followed by Pittsburgh, Louisville, Milwaukee and Detroit.

  • NFL thinks smoking pot is worse than smacking your girlfriend around.
  • Army War College probes plagiarism accusation against Sen. Walsh:
    The United States Army War College determined in a preliminary review on Thursday that Senator John Walsh of Montana appeared to have plagiarized his final paper to earn a master’s degree from the institution, and it sent a letter to the senator instructing him that an investigative panel will meet next month to conclusively assess any culpability.

    “It’s clear there is indeed strong reason to believe this is plagiarism,” said the War College’s provost, Lance Betros, a retired brigadier general. “We are initiating academic review procedures.”

  • Toronto Mayor Ford has cameo in Sharknado 4. The cast must have been filled for Idiocracy 2.
  • Florida man distracts police with fake 911 murder call to get out of speeding ticket. It almost works:
    A Florida man is facing the possibility of prison time for phoning in a phony report of an imminent murder in an attempt to get out of a speeding ticket.

    West Melbourne police arrested Julius Lupowitz, who now faces up to five years in prison in addition to a $209 speeding fine, reports FOX19.

    According to police, Lupowitz made the fake emergency call while West Melbourne police officer Ted Salem had his back turned as he was writing up a speeding ticket. Police say the man was  hoping the officer would abandon writing  the ticket in order to respond to the emergency.

  • West Bank erupts in protest over Gaza killings:
    The violence of the conflict in Gaza spread to the West Bank on Thursday with at least two Palestinians killed and scores wounded in one of the biggest clashes seen for several years.[...]

    Thousands of Palestinians took part in a demonstration after more than 15 women, children and United Nations staff were killed and around 200 injured [in Gaza] when a UN shelter for those fleeing the Israeli bombing was hit.

  • On today's Kagro in the Morning show: how to help with Detroit's water crisis; Halbig; House suit vs. Obama inches forward. Crazy gun stories. Securitizing farmland & crops. No one ever "goes Galt." Surprise! No connection between corporate performance & giant CEO paychecks.
11:53 How The War Between Israel And Gaza Is Breaking Down Public Health Systems» ThinkProgress

"People are dying at an alarming rate, being injured at a very alarming rate."

The post How The War Between Israel And Gaza Is Breaking Down Public Health Systems appeared first on ThinkProgress.

11:51 'Lucy' Thriller Revives 10% Brain Capacity Myth» LiveScience.com
The idea that we use only 10% of our brains seems pervasive, and is on display again in a new movie. However, it's just not true.
11:48 Clinton: Putin arrogant, charming» POLITICO - TOP Stories
She says in an interview that the Russian president can be "very tough to deal with."
11:43 House Votes To Gut Tax Benefit For Low-Income Immigrant Families» ThinkProgress

The bill could affect 5.5 million children and their families.

The post House Votes To Gut Tax Benefit For Low-Income Immigrant Families appeared first on ThinkProgress.

11:43 Phoenix Sets Temperature Records As Arizona Gets Punished By Extreme Heat Wave» ThinkProgress

"More people die from heat than any other weather event."

The post Phoenix Sets Temperature Records As Arizona Gets Punished By Extreme Heat Wave appeared first on ThinkProgress.

11:43 Community discussion: What will it take for the climate debate to make the front page?» Salon.com
Would a mainstream news boost increase confidence in scientific findings and urge citizens to take action?






11:43 Why the Nickelodeon star who declared “I’m not a role model!” is missing the point of Nickelodeon» Salon.com
22-year-old Jennette McCurdy is tired of the "bubblegum industry"--but that's exactly what she signed up for






11:43 A woman with deadly Ebola virus escapes quarantine, now loose in a city of 1 million» Salon.com
The deadly virus has killed 660 people across Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea since February






11:40 4 Significant Discoveries Revealed At This Week’s International AIDS Conference» ThinkProgress

The 20th Annual International AIDS Conference revealed some significant new research in the treatment and prevention of HIV.

The post 4 Significant Discoveries Revealed At This Week’s International AIDS Conference appeared first on ThinkProgress.

11:40 ESPN Anchor Defends Victim-Blaming Ray Rice’s Fiancee, Says Women Have Role To Play In Preventing Abuse» ThinkProgress

ESPN's Stephen A. Smith warned women not to provoke domestic abuse...then took to Twitter to defend himself.

The post ESPN Anchor Defends Victim-Blaming Ray Rice’s Fiancee, Says Women Have Role To Play In Preventing Abuse appeared first on ThinkProgress.

11:34 Ethics panel to review Rush, Whitfield» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The notice does not detail charges against the lawmakers from Illinois and Kentucky.
11:32 Mark Cuban: If You Sell Your Company To Save On Taxes, I'm Selling Your Stock» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Mark Cuban: If You Sell Your Company To Save On Taxes, I'm Selling Your Stock

Good for him. Let's see how many more millionaires and billionaires support him:

Mark Cuban isn't a fan of tax inversions, either.

Last night, President Obama spoke with CNBC's Steve Liesman, and their first topic of conversation was the issue of tax inversions, or mergers where U.S.-based companies acquire foreign companies and move their tax base overseas to enjoy lower rates.

Obama said this strategy, among other things, "undermines people's confidence in how companies are thinking about their responsibilities to the country as a whole."
Cuban took his rhetoric a step further: he said he's selling stock in companies that move for tax reasons.

On Twitter this morning, Cuban fired off a series of tweets about how companies that move their tax base overseas to avoid paying taxes force existing taxpayers to make it up elsewhere.

If I own stock in your company and you move offshore for tax reasons I'm selling your stock. There are enough investment choices here
— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) July 25, 2014

If you talk to me as a shareholder and ask me to accept a higher PE so you can save jobs I'm open to it. The risk doesn't leave the system
— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) July 25, 2014

. @pointsnfigures no it doesn't. Shareholder value should increase my net worth. Reduced tax receipts get paid by me and you elsewhere
— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) July 25, 2014

read more

11:13 Fox's Gregg Jarrett pleads guilty» POLITICO - TOP Stories
He pleads guilty to a disorderly conduct charge after being arrested at an airport in May.
11:11 ESPN commentator: Women should take responsibility for “provocation” when they are assaulted» Salon.com
"The elements of provocation, you got to make sure that you address them," ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said Friday






11:07 Baucus alumnus joins Cigna» POLITICO - TOP Stories
POLITICO Influence: David Schwartz heads to the health insurance company as head of public policy.
10:59 An Obamacare gotcha moment» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Conservative opponents highlight a 2-year-old video of one of the law's chief architects.
10:56 Most Female Voters Say They Won’t Support Politicians Who Back Hobby Lobby» ThinkProgress

And most of them feel strongly about it.

The post Most Female Voters Say They Won’t Support Politicians Who Back Hobby Lobby appeared first on ThinkProgress.

10:54 Alien Smog: How Pollution Could Help Locate E.T.» LiveScience.com
In the search for life beyond Earth, astronomers should look for signs of pollution in the atmospheres of alien planets outside the Earth's solar system, a new study says.
10:51 BuzzFeed's Achilles heel» POLITICO - TOP Stories
In the eyes of many, BuzzFeed is constantly walking a fine line between aggregation and theft.
10:48 The GOP's digital dilemma» POLITICO - TOP Stories
GOP techies argue there's lots left to cover in creating gadgetry needed for future elections.
10:43 Rep. Tom Cotton praises disaster relief program he voted against» Daily Kos
Congressman Tom Cotton of Arkansas speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.
Rep. Tom Cotton (R), who is challenging Sen. Mark Pryor in Arkansas this November, sent out a press release yesterday celebrating the speedy approval of disaster relief funds for Arkansas farmers impacted by crop losses after recent flooding. Good news, right? Who could ever be against that?
"I appreciate Secretary Vilsack's quick approval of Governor Beebe's disaster declaration request for the 23 impacted counties," Cotton said in a joint press release with the Arkansas congressional delegation. "I have heard from many farmers about the impact of the recent flooding, and I look forward to working with our friends in Arkansas to make sure farmers are able to access the emergency funds they need.
As it turns out, Rep. Tom Cotton was against that. As the Pryor campaign pointed out, the program granting these recovery funds was part of the 2014 Farm Bill, and Rep. Tom Cotton was against the Farm Bill. He was the only member of the Arkansas Republican delegation to vote against it, and is proud of it.
Cotton, the only one of Arkansas's five GOP legislators to vote against it, replied that Democrats had called it a farm bill to "mislead the voters" and should have called it the "food stamp bill."
Cotton is a budget extremist; he voted against the 2013 Farm Bill as well, and he's been facing campaign-trail criticism in Arkansas all year for those votes. So yes, for him to celebrate how the Farm Bill is now helping farmers seems a bit much.
10:33 The Colorado River Basin Has Lost Enough Water To Fill Lake Mead Twice Over» ThinkProgress

“We didn’t think it would be this bad. Basin-wide groundwater losses are not well documented. The number was shocking.”

The post The Colorado River Basin Has Lost Enough Water To Fill Lake Mead Twice Over appeared first on ThinkProgress.

10:31 Proof That Feminism Hasn’t Ruined Marriage» ThinkProgress

While it used to be that women who were better educated than their husbands were more likely to divorce, that's reversed.

The post Proof That Feminism Hasn’t Ruined Marriage appeared first on ThinkProgress.

10:28 U.K. envoy: EU ready for sanctions» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The diplomat says the next round of anti-Russia sanctions will mean pain for the E.U.
10:24 Roasting? 7 Scientific Ways to Beat the Heat» LiveScience.com
As summer heats up, you may be looking for ways to avoid the heat, beyond the common advice of drinking water and staying inside during the hottest parts of the day. Here are seven science-based tips for staying cool.
10:10 Republicans want to impeach Obama, pretty much everyone else disagrees» Daily Kos
U.S. President Barack Obama looks over as Speaker of the House John Boehner rises to speak during the unveiling ceremony for the Rosa Parks statue in the U.S. Capitol in Washington February 27, 2013.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS
Two new polls released today show that while most Americans oppose impeaching President Obama, Republicans disagree.

According to a survey conducted by ORC International for CNN, 65 percent of American adults are against impeaching the president, with just 33 percent in favor. Among Republicans, however, the numbers are flipped, with just 35 percent opposing impeachment and 57 percent supporting it.

A Fox News poll shows pretty much the same thing, with 61 percent opposing impeachment and and 36 percent favoring it overall, but with just 41 percent of Republicans opposing impeachment with 57 percent supporting it.

According to Fox, most Americans—58 percent—do say that the president has "exceeded his authority under the Constitution" when it comes to Obamacare, but that probably says more about the way they phrased the question than anything else. Here's the question they asked:

Do you think President Obama exceeded his authority under the Constitution when he changed the health care law on his own by executive order?
I mean, when you ask it that way, it's sort of a shock they didn't get 100 percent agreement, because last I checked, only Congress can change the law, and if President Obama is amending the text of congressional legislation that would be something of a problem. Of course, that's not happening, which is probably why when CNN asked respondents whether they supported the House GOP's plan to sue president Obama, 57 percent said they didn't.
10:09 Must see morning clip: Jon Stewart criticizes Japan’s double standards on sexuality» Salon.com
"We may have problems, but at least we're not jailing artists for 3-D printing their vaginas," he said






10:09 Amazon’s long-overdue clobbering: Why the online giant is in big trouble» Salon.com
News flash: Emperor Jeff Bezos is wearing no clothes. Investors are finally wondering: Where are the profits?






10:05 House sabotaging VA reform in committee, but Boehner uninterested» Daily Kos
House Speaker John Boehner press conference on Thursday, June 12, 2014
He sure does.
The apparent collapse of the veteran's aid in conference committee seems to underline just how uninterested the House continues to be in actually governing. We've got Rep. Jeff Miller managing reconciliation from the House side, and he's let his Senate counterpart, Sen. Bernie Sanders, know that the House will be dictating the reconciliation terms.
The most peeved, however, was Sanders. He hastily organized a press conference with fellow Senate Democrats in which he rapped Miller for demanding a vote on a proposal that, according to an aide, did not adhere to the outlines of earlier discussions.

“You cannot talk about negotiating, you cannot talk about a conference committee, when somebody is asking you to join you ... for a formal vote on ‘this’ proposal,” said Sanders.

Well no, having an unofficial "conference committee" meeting consisting entirely of House members and then telling the Senate that their new plan is what you'll be having a vote on is not quite how the process usually goes, but it certainly underscores the House's insistence that it's either their way or the (badly underfunded) highway.

For their part, the House seems conspicuously unconcerned. Follow me below the fold for more.

10:02 Israel: 12-hour Gaza cease-fire» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The military says it will start at 8 a.m. local time Saturday.
09:38 Transgender student on school’s anti-trans policies: “My own tax dollars” fund “discrimination against me”» Salon.com
A Christian school has justified its anti-trans policies in its faith, but one of its student is fighting back






09:38 House GOP’s border conundrum: Will new leadership be able to pass a bill?» Salon.com
New majority leader Kevin McCarthy and whip Steve Scalise are wrangling votes for a border bill. It won't be easy






09:34 Michele Bachmann: LGBT Movement Has A Pro-Pedophilia Agenda» ThinkProgress

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) thinks the LGBT community wants to make it easier for adults to "freely prey on little children sexually."

The post Michele Bachmann: LGBT Movement Has A Pro-Pedophilia Agenda appeared first on ThinkProgress.

09:30 Fox asks the most enlightening question in the history of political polling» Daily Kos
Jon Stewart on The Daily Show displaying Fox News slogan: "Fox News: We Read The Chain Emails Your Grandma Gets In Her Inbox Out Loud Like They're True."
Actual question from Fox's latest poll:
Do you think Barack Obama wants to be president anymore?
Fox says the results show a bare majority of the country—52 percent—do think he still wants the job. That's a good thing, because as much as it sucks having a lawless tyrannical dictator as president, imagine how much worse things could be if he didn't even want the job.
09:25 Even Zookeepers Have Their Favorites (Op-Ed)» LiveScience.com
As a zookeeper, sometimes you get to pick favorites (but don't tell the monkeys).
09:23 Obamacare’s non-smoking gun: Conservatives’ new, ridiculous claim that Obamacare is a sham» Salon.com
Conservatives say a 2012 speech by a MIT economist proves the ACA is fraudulent. Here's the real story






09:23 I’m the mom whose baby photos you’re blocking on Facebook» Salon.com
When I post a pic of my kid, it's not an act of parental one-upmanship or mommy warfare. So let me do it in peace!






09:20 Nearly Half Of Seattle’s Marijuana Citations Go To Homeless People» ThinkProgress

It's now legal to smoke marijuana in the privacy of a Washingtonian's home. But the homeless still risk citation and arrest.

The post Nearly Half Of Seattle’s Marijuana Citations Go To Homeless People appeared first on ThinkProgress.

09:09 If You Can Make Solar Power Better, Google Will Give You $1 Million» ThinkProgress

"Smaller is baller," says the Google-sponsored competition to invent a tiny household power inverter.

The post If You Can Make Solar Power Better, Google Will Give You $1 Million appeared first on ThinkProgress.

09:07 Keith Olbermann on Ray Rice: NFL teaches athletes and fans that women are “just a little less human”» Salon.com
The former MSNBC pundit blasts the league's embarrassingly small suspension of the Ravens running back
09:07 GOP mayor compares atheists to Nazis and the KKK» Salon.com
Mayor Jim Fouts refuses to give atheists a station in city hall because of "values"






09:07 Near Miss: The Solar Superstorm Of July 2012» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Near Miss: The Solar Superstorm Of July 2012

09:05 Mayor Forbids Atheist Booth, Comparing Group To KKK And Nazis» ThinkProgress

"The city has certain values that I don't believe are in general agreement with having an atheist station, nor in general agreement with having a Nazi station or Ku Klux Klan station."

The post Mayor Forbids Atheist Booth, Comparing Group To KKK And Nazis appeared first on ThinkProgress.

09:00 Activists Vow To Occupy Fast-food Restaurants To Get Higher Pay» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Activists Vow To Occupy Fast-food Restaurants To Get Higher Pay

08:59 Music Industry Experts Say Ted Nugent's Ongoing Diatribes Damaging Concert Promotion» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Ted Nugent's recent spate of offensive and racist comments that have sparked protests and canceled shows are damaging his image and could well cripple his income if he continues, according to veteran concert promoters and industry journalists.

In a week when two casinos operated by different Native American tribes canceled three separate Nugent shows set for next month and dozens protested a concert in New Jersey, concert touring experts say the National Rifle Association board member and conservative commentator is doing real damage to his money-earning potential.

"If you're going to say something political, you're going to have some backlash, it doesn't matter who you are or what you say," said Larry Magid, a Philadelphia-based promoter who has handled Stevie Wonder, Fleetwood Mac, and Bette Midler. "Nugent seems to have taken it to extremes. I don't know that you can blame anyone for not wanting to play him for all of the baggage that he brings."

Magid, who also organized the famed 1985 Live Aid benefit show in Philadelphia, said Nugent was never a huge concert draw, but his declaration earlier this year that President Barack Obama is a "subhuman mongrel" may mark a turning point.

"I don't know if that is frustration at not being a viable act, but it is stupid," Magid said of Nugent. "If you are a musician, you are trying to bring your music, your art to a broad group of people. It is one thing to take a stance, it is another thing when you are talking about the president of the United States.

"For all of the people enamored with him, there are 20 or 30 or 40 times that who are not enamored with him. To me, it's not bright. If I'm a promoter I have to think two or three or four times before I take a shot with this performer."

"No one should be surprised by any of this," said Gary Bongiovanni, editor-in-chief of Pollstar USA, which tracks concert touring receipts. "It's a free country and Nugent has always had a big mouth. But if he keeps making incendiary statements his future tours may be limited to NRA conventions and Fox News events."

Bongiovanni said the public reaction is not unusual: "Why be surprised if you can't sell tickets to them after you insult people who are gay, animal rights, or gun control advocates, or just in the majority of people who voted for Obama?"

08:58 Billionaire Blasts Companies That Jump Overseas To Duck Taxes: ‘I’m Selling Your Stock’» ThinkProgress

Mark Cuban would rather see corporate America reinvest at home than pretend that shrinking tax liability by moving overseas is good for growth.

The post Billionaire Blasts Companies That Jump Overseas To Duck Taxes: ‘I’m Selling Your Stock’ appeared first on ThinkProgress.

08:56 NY Times' Jim Stewart Channels Justice Hugo Black To Scrutinize Murdoch's Time Warner Takeover Plans» Media Matters for America - Latest Items
08:56 McDaniel campaign will delay filing election challenge» Daily Kos
Tea Party candidate Chris McDaniel delivers a concession speech in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, June 24, 2014. U.S. Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi narrowly defeated challenger McDaniel on Tuesday in a high-profile runoff election that pitted the Republi
What are they waiting for?
Last week, tea party senate candidate Chris McDaniel's election lawyer said the campaign would file a legal challenge to the results of his primary runoff against incumbent Republican Thad Cochran in Mississippi within 10 days. Well, it's been 10 days, but still no lawsuit.
Mitch Tyner, attorney for Chris McDaniel, says an expected legal challenge by McDaniel of the June 24 GOP primary runoff won't be filed today.
So, have they given up? Is it time to finally put the popcorn away? No, they say:
Tyner said in an email this morning: "We've been slightly delayed in getting some of the data that we want to include in the challenge and expect to file it next week."
For a month now, these guys have said they have evidence the election should be overturned, yet with the clock running out, they still haven't filed a challenge, and they keep on missing deadline after deadline. Either they don't actually have any evidence for their claims, or they are the stupidest sack of idiots that side of the Mississippi. Actually, probably both.
08:56 Many employers force nursing mothers to pump in bathrooms and fight for break time» Daily Kos
Breast pump
Although nursing mothers have the right, thanks to Obamacare, to take breaks at work to pump milk in a room that's clean and private and not a bathroom, many employers don't follow that law. As a result, women are forced to pump in public restrooms or in employee break rooms that aren't private. They're denied break time, and have to stop breastfeeding altogether as a result. They face retaliation when they try to exercise their rights.

Dave Jamieson reviewed 105 complaints nursing mothers filed with the Labor Department after the passage of Obamacare. Those complaints come despite the facts that many women don't know they have the right to breaks and a place to pump, and that many salaried workers aren't covered by this law, and that it's not exactly possible to file an anonymous complaint when your boss knows which worker recently had a baby. The cases Jamieson reviewed include a McDonald's worker in Grand Island, Nebraska:

Even though she obtained a doctor's note stating she needed to express milk for her child -- at her manager's insistence -- the woman wasn't given access to a private room. The employee break room had no door or curtain to keep people from walking in on her, so she was forced into the restaurant's public bathroom.

The worker filed a complaint with the Labor Department, saying her rights as a nursing mother were being violated. Within days, a manager forbade her from pumping milk anywhere in the restaurant, according to the Labor Department investigator's findings.

The woman was forced to clock out and walk 15 minutes each way to a public library whenever she needed to pump milk. This was worse than inconvenient -- it was financially damaging. The investigator determined that the worker had lost $81.24 due to those trips to the library.

Her manager dropped her hours from 20 to 7.25 for at least one week, a schedule change the investigator deemed an "apparent retaliatory action" in response to the worker's complaints.

A call center worker in California was actually fired when she complained about not getting break time. Both those women got back pay, but it's certain that many facing similar problems—similar violations of their legal rights—are too intimidated to complain. Jamieson notes that "Some women who filed complaints actually abandoned them after realizing their bosses would have to be interviewed by investigators."

This is obviously a problem faced specifically by women who are breastfeeding, but the basic pattern applies to a lot of labor law. In short, the laws protecting workers are often ignored. Retaliation is common against workers who insist on their rights. And the penalties for employers who break the law are too low to be a very effective deterrent.

08:52 Paul Krugman: California proves the GOP’s “extremist ideology … is nonsense”» Salon.com
The New York Times columnist explains how California's success puts conservative dogma to shame






08:52 Military men are three times more likely to suffer erectile dysfunction» Salon.com
Sexual function issues can diminish veterans' quality of life, but many fail to seek treatment






08:36 The right’s pathetically low curve: How it got a pass on race and poverty» Salon.com
Paul Ryan, Rand Paul and the Koch brothers get hailed for baby steps in reversing the GOP’s racial and class bias






08:31 True New Yorkers: Not Much Fazes NYC Squirrels» LiveScience.com
Researchers observed that a certain species of squirrel in New York City adapts its behavior to that of humans by avoiding unnecessary contact with people and going about its day uninterrupted.
08:30 BuzzFeed reviewing 'plagiarism' case» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The website is conducting an internal review of Benny Johnson's work amid plagiarism claims.
08:22 House GOP moves on border plan» POLITICO - TOP Stories
They'll try to pass a legislation appropriating less than $1 billion, according to multiple sources.
08:21 Eddie Vedder throws first pitch at Cubs game, sings “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”» Salon.com
The Pearl Jam frontman is a longtime Cubs fan






08:15 AFSCME parts ways with the United Negro College Fund over Koch brothers money» Daily Kos
AFSCME President Lee Saunders
AFSCME President Lee Saunders
It seems the right is up in arms over public employee union AFSCME's decision to stop a partnership with the United Negro College Fund over the UNCF's budding relationship with the Koch brothers. After the UNCF accepted a $25 million donation from the Koch brothers, much of it earmarked to a "Koch Scholars" program with two of five seats on the scholarship committee chosen by the Koch brothers, and the UNCF's president spoke at the Koch brothers' annual summit, AFSCME decided to find another partner for its own scholarship program for students of color. To some, this is an OUTRAGE!!!

AFSCME's decision hinged on a specific policy issue that you might think the UNCF would care about:

In a letter to UNCF president Michael Lomax, AFSCME’s Saunders called the Kochs “the single most prominent funders of efforts to prevent African-Americans from voting.” Lomax’s appearance at the Koch brothers’ annual summit, where they plot conservative strategy – this year’s focus was taking back the Senate in 2014 — was “a betrayal of everything the UNCF stands for.” Members of AFSCME, a union that supports Democrats with money and people power, voted unanimously to back Saunders’ decision at their annual convention in Chicago last week.
That's key. It's not just that the vast majority of the money the Kochs gave the UNCF will go not to the general pool of applicants for UNCF funding, but to the Koch Scholars program for students studying "how entrepreneurship, economics, and innovation contribute to well-being for individuals, communities, and society" (can you say "well-funded effort to train up black conservatives"?)—it's that the UNCF president went and spoke at a right-wing strategy conference at which other speakers included Charles f'ing Murray, notorious purveyor of the claim that black people are genetically less smart than white people. That is some serious bad judgment right there, and it's not crazy to think it's the kind of bad judgment that can maybe be bought by a $25 million donation.

AFSCME President Lee Saunders and 15 percent of the union's membership are African-American. The union is also deeply committed to getting out the vote—while the Koch brothers are deeply committed to voter suppression. Parting ways with an organization apparently climbing aboard the Koch gravy train seems like a very good idea, don't you think?

08:15 Confirmed, Chuck Schumer couldn't be more wrong in his wrong attempt to break voting» Daily Kos
Senator Schumer Speaking At Gun Safety Rally
Wrongitty wrong wrong wrong.
As Paul Hogarth and I noted a few days ago, Sen. Chuck Schumer's new push for a "top-2" jungle primary was an abject disaster. As I summarized:
The top-two primary system is a plague, removing the ability of voters to choose their party's nominee, electing unrepresentative officials, reducing candidate choice, and crushing voter participation.
The system is a huge boon for corporatist candidates, so maybe that's Schumer's motivation. But in any case, we now have data showing that his idea is even more wrong than previously thought. Here is Schumer:
California, which probably mirrors the diversity of America more than any other state, was racked by polarization until voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2010 that adopted a “top-two” primary system.
Got that? California was polarized, now it's not! That is what Schumer thinks. So let's see what the data has to say about that:
America’s state legislatures are polarized–just like Congress–between liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans [...]

The state that sticks out like a sore thumb is my current home state, California. It is incredibly polarized; Democrats are extremely liberal, and Republicans are extremely conservative. In fact, California’s polarization is considerably larger than that in Congress.

So not only is California "incredibly polarized", it is—by far!—the most polarized state in the country. Even more polarized than the U.S. freakin' Congress! So why would Schumer claim otherwise? Probably because despite that polarization, California is finally getting shit done, and it is finally getting shit done because Democrats have the governor's office and a super-majority in the legislature. It's amazing what can get done when Republicans are erased from the picture.

But that's not all. Guess what state clocks in as the third most polarized state in the country? Washington.And you know what Washington has in common with California? Yup, a top-2 jungle primary system.

So if it's polarization that Schumer fears, then he should run far, far away from the top-2 system he claims will solve all. In fact, he should be advocating for its repeal.

08:13 How The NRA Is Trying To Clean Up Its Bizarre Mandatory Gun Training For Kids Proposal» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

The National Rifle Association is trying to smooth over the extreme ideas presented in a recent video suggesting children should have to receive mandatory gun training "to advance to the next grade" by mischaracterizing the video and airing a deceptively cropped version of it on NRA News.

In a July 21 NRA News video titled "Everyone Gets A Gun," NRA News commentator Billy Johnson imagined a compulsory education system that would require children to become proficient with firearms, just like "reading and writing," even "if they didn't want to learn" as a requirement to advance in school:

JOHNSON: Gun policy driven by our need for guns would insist that we introduce young people to guns early and that we'd give them the skills to use firearms safely. Just like we teach them reading and writing, necessary skills. We would teach shooting and firearm competency. It wouldn't matter if a child's parents weren't good at it. We'd find them a mentor. It wouldn't matter if they didn't want to learn. We would make it necessary to advance to the next grade.

Johnson's suggestion children would have to become proficient with a gun to move on in school was widely ridiculed. Now the NRA is responding to critics with the misleading suggestion that Johnson was merely talking about the importance of teaching children gun safety.

Johnson appeared on the July 24 edition of NRA News' Cam & Company on The Sportsman Channel to defend his video. Host Cam Edwards started the conversation by saying, "One of the things that specifically the anti-gunners are flipping out about is [Johnson's] suggestion that if we had a national gun policy, that again, embraced our right to keep and bear arms, one of the things we might be talking about is educating kids about how to be safe and responsible with a firearm, regardless of whether or not their parents were gun owners. That thought ... has really got people on the anti-gun side of the equation freaked out. They're saying that you're demanding compulsory education of firearms training for kids, they are wondering why on earth any child would need to know how to be safe and responsible with a firearm and I find it fascinating because they're ignoring the fact that there are already hundreds of thousands of kids across this country who are safely and responsibly learning about firearms."

But critics of the NRA video were saying that it promoted the idea of mandatory firearms training because in the video Johnson says, "We would make it necessary to advance to the next grade."

08:13 On Dates with Men, Nice Girls Finish First» LiveScience.com
Men really do prefer nice gals, or those who are responsive to their needs, while ladies show no such attraction, say scientists who suggest such nice gals may be more sexually arousing.
07:52 Aid looms over El Salvador meeting» POLITICO - TOP Stories
When meeting with Obama, the country's new president will focus on delayed funds.
07:36 Pfeiffer: Don't shrug off impeachment» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The White House adviser warns that the possibility of an impeachment shouldn't be discarded.
07:10 Ryan: 'I will vote for' Boehner suit» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The speaker's lawsuit alleges that the president has overreached in his executive power.
07:06 Mark Halperin Predicts Hillary Clinton "Destined To Get Horrible Coverage" In Media If She Runs For President» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

From the July 25 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:

Previously:

Washington Post's Milbank On Hillary Clinton: "The Press Will Savage Her No Matter What"

06:59 More than 1,000 fast food workers gather to boost their fight for $15» Daily Kos
Striking fast food workers hold signs saying "I am a man" and "I am a woman" in Manhattan, April 4, 2013.
Fast food workers from around the country are gathering outside Chicago this weekend to build connections and plan their continuing fight for a $15 an hour wage and the right to unionize, demands around which a series of one-day strikes have centered:
About 1,300 workers will attend sessions Friday and Saturday at an expo center in Villa Park, Illinois, where they’ll be asked to do “whatever it takes” to win $15-an-hour wages and a union, said Kendall Fells, organizing director of the national effort and a representative of the Service Employees International Union. [...]

“We want to talk about building leadership, power and doing whatever it takes depending on what city they’re in and what the moment calls for,” said Fells, adding that the ramped-up actions will be “more high profile” and could include everything from civil disobedience to intensified efforts to organize workers.

“I personally think we need to get more workers involved and shut these businesses down until they listen to us,” perhaps even by occupying the restaurants, said Cherri Delisline, a 27-year-old single mother from Charleston, South Carolina, who has worked at McDonald’s for 10 years and makes $7.35 an hour.

It's got to be immensely empowering for workers to have the chance to meet and share stories with people working for the same fast food chains, sharing the same struggles, even though they live in states hundreds of miles apart. Just the ability to get this many workers to a national conference is a show of organizational strength, and a clearer sign than any "we're going to keep fighting" quote can possibly provide that, yes, they're going to keep fighting.
06:50 Cartoon: Rick Perry's 'Operation Strong Candidate'» Daily Kos

With Texas governor Rick Perry's recent announcement that he's sending National Guard troops to the border, campaign season has begun. Is it just a coincidence that he was in Iowa when this news started to break?

Yes, there is an immigration problem and an impotent Congress has been unable to get any meaningful immigration legislation passed. Governor Perry has apparently decided to begin his campaign on the backs of the poor people crossing the desert. All you have to do is watch his announcement to see Perry play acting at being president. Presto! Foreign policy cred.

It sounds strong and effective to order National Guard troops to the border, but these troops are not authorized to detain people crossing the border illegally—and local sheriffs have called instead for more police enforcement, not military muscle. Enjoy the new-and-improved bespectacled Rick Perry, and be sure to check out the story behind the cartoon.

06:00 Are Women Really the Chattier Sex?» LiveScience.com
Despite stereotypes, women are only more talkative in certain contexts, new research finds. The study highlights the need to consider the situation in understanding gendered behavior.
05:30 Daily Kos Radio is pre-recorded BUT ALL NEW, at 9am ET!» Daily Kos

Daily Kos Radio logo

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

I was going to take the day off today for travel, but I felt bad about missing another live show after having missed two last week, and having taken a vacation the week before.

So here's what I did: I pre-recorded a whole new show last night, and we'll play it over the live stream this morning at our regular air time, and post it as a podcast as well. Then I'll be able to go out to breakfast and hit the road this morning, and you're none the wiser able to happily enjoy an all-new KITM just the same. The only difference is that you can't trick me into reading your jokes on the air by tweeting them to me. Instead I'll just be reading them at breakfast and laughing little bits of pancake out my mouth.

Who loves you? Right?

And remember, we're coming up to the end of the month, which means it's your last chance to save $5 on your first purchase of fine shaving products from our sponsor, Harry's, when you enter the promo code "Kagro" with your order.

Listen LIVE at 9:00 ET, here: The Daily Kos Radio Player

Click this Link to Listen on your iTunes, Winamp or Windows Media Player

Can't see the live stream and/or podcast players in these posts? Do you use NoScript or something similar to control Javascript? Want to? Remember to enable Libsyn and Shoutcastplayer, and you'll see our players every morning!

May I have your attention, please? Want to help support the show without cracking your wallet?

Listen to Stitcher
Stitcher's got a new revenue-sharing program for shows wiht more than 5,000 "active listeners" in a month.

What's an "active listener?" Believe it or not, it's someone who listens to at least 30 seconds of a show, once in a month.

Hey, I don't make the rules! I just exploit 'em.

So, how about giving us 30 seconds of your life? Head on over to our KITM archive on Stitcher, listen to 30 seconds' worth, and then after that, your time is your own.

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

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

05:15 Comstock skips '20th century' attacks» POLITICO - TOP Stories
She claims she does not want to live in the "divisive politics of the past."
05:00 Stephen Colbert on Obamacare ruling from D.C. Circuit» Daily Kos

Last night, Stephen Colbert looked at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals panel's reasoning behind striking down the subsidies for Obamacare in all those red states that have refused to set up their own health care exchange.

STUART VARNEY (7/22/2014): Big blow for Obamacare, and we're accurate in saying it. It is a huge blow for Obamacare.
That's how you know a news organization is trustworthy—they make the extra effort to point out when they're being accurate. (audience cheering and applause)

....

You see, in a 2-1 vote, the court this week ruled that residents of the 36 states that have not set up their own Obamacare insurance exchanges cannot get federal health care subsidies, because the exact words of the Affordable Care Act say that subsidies are available to people who are "enrolled in through an Exchange established by the State." And because it's written exactly that way, the court ruled that "subsidies are only available on state-based exchanges, not on the Healthcare.gov exchange".

And they based their ruling on the well-established precedent, "You forgot to say, 'Simon says!'" (audience laughter and applause)

Video and full transcript below the fold.
05:00 Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: A new Democratic poll has Scott Peters holding his swing seat» Daily Kos
Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest banner
Want the scoop on hot races around the country? Get the digest emailed to you each weekday morning. Sign up here.
Leading Off:

CA-52: Freshman Democrat Scott Peters has been facing some ugly poll numbers, but Team Blue has finally produced a good result for him. GBA, on behalf of House Majority PAC, was in the field July 20-22: They find Peters with a 48-43 lead over Republican Carl DeMaio, a former San Diego city councilor and 2012 mayoral runner-up.

There aren't many GBA polls from within a month of the election, but the firm did have a good performance in 2012.

NM-Sen: GBA: Heinrich (D) 51-41; actual: Heinrich (D) 51-45; error: +4 D

IL-17: GBA: Bustos (D) 49-45; actual: Bustos (D) 53-47; error +2 R

NY-25: GBA: Slaughter (D) 53-43; actual: Slaughter (D) 57-43; error +4 R

This is going to be a hard fought race, but this is a good sign that Democrats think Peters still has what it takes to pull off a win.
04:59 Economics Daily Digest: The bad science behind the anti-woman agenda» Daily Kos
Economics Daily Digest by the Roosevelt Institute banner

By Rachel Goldfarb, originally published on Next New Deal

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

Debunking the Bad Science on Abortion and Women's Health (The Hill)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Andrea Flynn explains the truth behind the anti-abortion myths that are presented as fact by lawmakers who pass legislation that harms women's health.

Setting the Table for Housing Reform (Progressive Massachusetts)

Alex Lessin summarizes Roosevelt Institute | Boston's deep dive into housing policy, which led them to focus on increasing public participation at zoning meetings as a key step for fair housing.

Some Republicans Push Compassionate, Anti-Poverty Agenda Ahead of 2016 Contest (WaPo)

Zachary Goldfarb speaks to Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal, who says many of these Republican reform ideas only put a nicer spin on radical proposals like the Ryan budget plan.

Parts of Paul Ryan's Poverty Plan Even a Liberal Can Love (U.S. News & World Report)

Fixing mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines and limiting unnecessary professional licensing in some occupations are opportunities for bipartisan agreement, writes Pat Garofalo.

United Airlines' Outsourcing Jobs to Company That Pays Near-Poverty Wages Is Shameful (HuffPo)

Robert Creamer decries United for eliminating hundreds of middle-class jobs for the sake of financial performance. He writes that companies can't be permitted to put stock performance ahead of people.

Forget Too Big to Fail. Banks Bro-down to Borrow, and It May Cause a New Crash (The Guardian)

Heidi Moore calls on regulators to push new requirements on banks for their short-term lending, which she sees as a key piece of financial regulation to keep banks from failing.

New on Next New Deal

White House Summit Speakers: Look Beyond Congress for Action on Working Families

With Congress in gridlock, Julius Goldberg-Lewis, Midwest Regional Coordinator for Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network, praises the White House Summit on Working Families' focus on states and businesses.

Big Data is Watching You

In his speculation on the future for the Next American Economy initiative, Mike Mathieu, founder of high-tech business incubator Front Seat, says data-mining is coming for the human brain.


04:30 Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: How Halbig makes the blue states richer and the red states poorer» Daily Kos

Margot Sanger-Katz:

For decades, the United States has had a fragmented health policy. States called the shots on major elements of how health care and health insurance were financed and regulated. The result: a hodgepodge of coverage and a wide variance in health.

The Affordable Care Act was intended to help standardize important parts of that system, by imposing some common rules across the entire country and by providing federal financing to help residents in all states afford insurance coverage. But a series of court rulings on the law could make the differences among the states bigger than ever.

The law was devised to pump federal dollars into poorer states, where lots of residents were uninsured. Many tended to be Republican-leaning. But the court rulings, if upheld, could leave only the richer, Democratic states with the federal dollars and broad insurance coverage. States that opted out of optional portions of the law could see little improvement in coverage and even economic damage.

Dan Diamond:
"There is a geographic pattern in the distribution of the uninsured that is becoming more pronounced," RWJF's Katherine Hempstead told me.

"We are definitely seeing an increasing share of the uninsured that are both below 138% of the federal poverty level and living in states that did not expand Medicaid—meaning that there is practically speaking no real coverage options for them."

Linda Greenhouse:
Given the avalanche of world-shaking news since last week, the shrug greeting the latest chapter in the long-running affirmative action saga at the University of Texas is understandable. Even the usually lively constitutional law blogosphere has had little to say about the July 15 ruling by which the federal appeals court in New Orleans once again upheld the flagship Austin school’s admissions plan...

The opinion is a masterpiece of judicial craft, the product of two wise and experienced senior judges, one appointed by a Republican president and one by a Democrat, and for these purposes it doesn’t matter which is which. It’s worth unpacking at some length, for two reasons.

One, it’s just so interesting for its explanation of the choices Texas has made.

And two, I’ll go out on a limb and predict that this decision is not only the latest chapter in the yearslong sojourn of Texas-style affirmative action through the federal courts. It’s also the last.

More politics and policy below the fold.
04:09 Poll: One-third say impeach Obama» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The numbers generally fall in line with CNN results from the past two presidencies.
03:20 Hannity shouts at Palestinian guest» POLITICO - TOP Stories
"Is Hamas a terrorist organization?" he asked Yousef Munayyer.
03:07 Texas GOP pols sign border letter» POLITICO - TOP Stories
All 26 congressional Republicans urge the president to take executive action on the crisis.
02:07 Obama's immigration flip flop» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Forget everything he's said about having no legal authority to slow deportations on a broad scale.
01:48 Conservative Media's Favorite Economist Caught Distorting Facts About Taxes And Job Creation» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Heritage Foundation Chief Economist Stephen Moore

Heritage Foundation chief economist Stephen Moore was caught using incorrect statistics to mislead readers about the relationship between tax cuts and job creation in the United States.

On July 7, Moore published an op-ed in The Kansas City Star attacking economic policies favored by Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman. The op-ed claimed that "places such as New York, Massachusetts, Illinois and California ... are getting clobbered by tax-cutting states." Moore went on to attack liberals for "cherry-picking a few events" in their arguments against major tax cuts, when in fact it was Moore who cited bad data to support his claims.

On July 24, The Kansas City Star published a correction to Moore's op-ed, specifically stating that the author had "misstated job growth rates for four states and the time period covered." The editorial board of the Star inserted this annotation to Moore's inaccurate claims:

Please see editor's note at the top of this column. No-income-tax Texas gained 1 million jobs over the last five years, California, with its 13 percent tax rate, managed to lose jobs. Oops. Florida gained hundreds of thousands of jobs while New York lost jobs. NOTE: These figures are incorrect. The time period covered was December 2007 to December 2012. Over that time, Texas gained 497,400 jobs, California lost 491,200, Florida lost 461,500 and New York gained 75,900. Oops. Illinois raised taxes more than any other state over the last five years and its credit rating is the second lowest of all the states, below that of Kansas! (emphasis original)

On July 25, Star columnist Yael Abouhalkah explained the correction in more detail. Abouhalkah wrote that Moore had "used outdated and inaccurate job growth information at a key point in his article" and that Moore should have used data from 2009 to 2014, rather than from 2007 to 2012. Abouhalkah also argued that "the problems with Moore's opinion article damaged his credibility on the jobs issue."

Moore's credibility on "the jobs issue" is not the only troubling aspect of his economic punditry. Moore was recently brought on as the chief economist at the conservative Heritage Foundation after serving for many years on the right-wing editorial board of The Wall Street Journal and as a go-to economic commentator on Fox News. Moore has a history of disparaging reasonable economic policies in favor of fiscally irresponsible tax cuts for the wealthy and painful spending cuts to vital programs.

Moore has referred to unemployment insurance as a "paid vacation" for jobless Americans and bizarrely claimed that laws guaranteeing paid sick leave for full-time workers were "very dangerous for cities." Moore spent years basely claiming that the Affordable Care Act would reduce job creation, seamlessly transitioning from one debunked talking point to the next along the way. He is also an outspoken opponent of increasing the minimum wage, claiming that even a moderate rise in wages would result in a "big increase" in unemployment. In a recent foray out of the safety of right-wing media, Moore's anti-living wage spin was easily cut down by CNN anchor Carol Costello.

The original intent of Moore's Star op-ed was to garner support for tax cuts enacted over the past two years by Gov. Sam Brownback (R-KS), which The New York Times and other outlets have labeled "ruinous." The tax cuts have been such a dramatic failure that more than 100 members of the Kansas Republican Party have sworn to help replace Brownback with a Democrat willing to reinstate taxes and spending at their previous levels.

00:16 Is Your Life Story Written in Your Poop?» LiveScience.com
Traveling or getting sick could change the makeup of the bacteria living in your gut. But how much of a person's life story could be told by tracking such bacterial changes?

Thu 24 July, 2014

23:42 Marmots, China and the Plague» LiveScience.com
Chinese authorities have lifted a nine-day quarantine on a town in the country’s northwest that saw a resident die of the plague. The victim is thought to have caught the disease from a dead marmot, which he fed to his dog
23:31 The Aerodynamics of a Tour de France Time Trial» LiveScience.com
As the Tour de France approaches its final days, teams will be looking to place their top riders in the best possible position for the all-important individual time trial in the penultimate stage, where the winner of the Tour is determined.
23:24 Dinesh D'Souza's Political Friends Rally To His Defense» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

D'Souza

Dinesh D'Souza has been ridiculed for his conspiracy theories about President Obama and other progressives, but Republican elected officials have repeatedly rushed to his defense even when D'Souza has made absurd, unsupported allegations.

23:16 How Visuals Can Help Deaf Children 'Hear' » LiveScience.com
Experiencing sound, through sight.
22:54 Corporations are Driving the Energy Revolution (Op-Ed)» LiveScience.com
When even Walmart can't buy as much green energy as it wants, there's a problem.
20:00 Open thread for night owls. Donovan: Scions of inherited wealth are endangering our democracy» Daily Kos
Night owls
Tim Donovan at Alternet writes Today's wealthy are far more likely to have inherited their fortunes. Here's why that's going to doom our politics:

Prevailing neoliberal ideology, which perverts capitalism as an economic system into capitalism as an unyielding political ideology, lurks in the shadows of almost every major issue in America, though nowhere is its influence more obvious or profound than in the spiraling rise of income and wealth inequality today.

When Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the 21st Century” was first released in English, it followed the Culture War Playbook to perfection: First came the triumphant plaudits from like-minded thinkers, followed shortly by the hasty rebuttals of their ideological opponents, followed themselves by a torrent of commentary from pundits left and right who skimmed the book before adding their own two cents. Soon, there was the predictable “unskewing” by the right, after which came the fact-checking of the “unskewers” on the left … at which point the whole process had reached its inevitable conclusion. High-traffic angles fully juiced, our treadmill news cycle moved on to the next plank in our bitter, pointless culture clash, what author William Gibson has termed our “cold civil war.”

So it goes.

What’s so interesting about this Kabuki dance is just how few commentators at the time bothered to note that Piketty’s findings were never particularly controversial or groundbreaking. Piketty’s book became such a sensation on the left precisely because it gave weight to what anyone with a pair of eyes in the real world (i.e., not Lower Manhattan, the Washington Beltway, or Silicon Valley) can already plainly see: Wealth inequality grows each and every day, while the middle class keeps getting pummeled by this Glorious Free Enterprise System. What used to be good, stable jobs are converted into temp positions or contract work—automated, downsized or simply eliminated entirely, they’re replaced in the labor market by the worst-paying, most utterly dehumanizing low-wage gigs that our much ballyhooed “job creators” can imagine and implement.

The consequences for our democracy and our economy are perilous and unlikely to be easily remedied.

Whether or not one is generally convinced by Piketty’s thesis that r > g (or more plainly, that capital tends to grow at a faster rate than income without some form of outside intervention), it should be plain that in our system, the stage has been uniquely well-set for the unbridled expansion of wealth that his book describes. When the effective tax rates are lower for capital gains than for the incomes of the less affluent; when political processes are legally corrupted and circumvented for a price; when regulatory agencies are gutted, stalled, or simply staffed with careerists eager to make their way through the revolving door — this is not a political or economic system likely to become less unequal over time.

Will this trend toward inequality continue? According to “ U.S. Trust Insights on Wealth and Worth,” a recent survey of wealthy Americans that aims to “[shed] light on the direction and purpose of the more than $15 trillion that will be passed across generations in high-net-worth families over the next two decades,” it seems increasingly likely.

The survey, which polled 680 Americans holding at least $3 million in investable assets, unearthed a troubling trend — the birth of a new American aristocracy. As the survey notes, “Nearly three-quarters of those over 69, and 61% of Baby Boomers, were the first generation to accumulate significant wealth. Among the younger Millennial generation, inherited wealth is more common. About two-thirds are from families in which they are the second, third or fourth generation to be wealthy.” Now, it should be noted briefly that this survey relies on self-reporting, which makes these figures somewhat suspect. (More on this in a bit.) But consider two charts: The first shows the highest marginal tax rates on income and capital gains throughout the last hundred years, while the second outlines the estate tax rate during the same period. […]


Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2007Another view on censure and contempt:

Censure, as many of you know, is not my preferred method for dealing with the legal and constitutional violations of the Bush "administration." But I do think that for Senator Russ Feingold to have reintroduced the idea after having been left standing virtually alone when he last proposed it, is an act of considerable courage.

As a Senator, of course, Feingold is simply not empowered to introduce articles of impeachment, so in terms of direct action, censure is probably about the best that can be expected. Rep. Robert Wexler, on the other hand, who introduced his own resolution of censure in the House, does not have that excuse. And while he surely has a whole raft of reasons to prefer censure over impeachment, none of them are that his hands are tied by the terms of the Constitution.

The advantage of censure—if it is an advantage—is that it doesn't face the hurdle of having to garner a 2/3 supermajority in the Senate in order to pass. On the flip side, neither does ordering a large pepperoni pizza with extra cheese. And both pose about the same threat to the White House.

Still, there may be good reason to go on record, both with censure and with contempt charges.



Tweet of the Day
Would you rather be accused of having plagiarized this or having written it? http://t.co/...
@brianbeutler


On today's Kagro in the Morning show, Greg Dworkin rounds up weird news, the Cuomo ethics flap, Jeb Bush sticks with immigration reform, GOP "outreach" comes down to Rand Paul, POTUS approval ratings remain stable, and though he still hasn't been swaggering bare-chested, he's reduced inequality. Another botched execution, and "Don't Learn on Me — Are Teaching Hospitals Patient-Centered?" Next: #PoorDoor! An upscale NY apt. building with a separate entrance for lower-income residents? Ian Reifowitz joined us for another wide-ranging discussion of GOP xenophobic rumor-mongering, Halbig & the filibuster, and guns & the politics of fear.



High Impact Posts. Top Comments

18:48 The 3 options for 'Meet the Press'» POLITICO - TOP Stories
NBC News may have to reconsider what it wants its Sunday show to be.
18:30 Can you hear us now? President Obama greeted by net neutrality activists at fundraisers» Daily Kos
Net neutrality protestors on July 23, 2014 in Silicon Valley to tell President Obama: Don't kill the internet
Wednesday, July 23, marked a coordinated day of on-the-ground action on net neutrality, directed at President Obama as he attended high-dollar fundraisers in Silicon Valley and Los Angeles.  The message at both events, was clear—President Obama: Don’t kill the internet.

In Silicon Valley—the center of the tech industry—Obama attended a $10,000 a plate fundraiser, where he was greeted by more than 100 activists from netroots organizations including: Daily Kos, MoveOn, Free Press, CREDO, Color of Change, Demand Progress, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Common Cause, SumOfUs, Media Alliance, Progressives United, ACLU, Code Pink and the Greenlining Institute.

Gathered outside the security lines around the venue, on a route heavily traveled by professionals in the tech industry, activists chanted, "Barack Obama, yes you can, Stop Tom Wheeler’s stupid plan!"  This direct action drew attention to President Obama’s hands-off approach to protecting the open internet.

Later that afternoon, in Los Angeles, Obama was greeted by a similar scene of 150 activists outside the home of television producer Shonda Rhimes—creator of the hit show Scandal, and strong net neutrality supporter.

The take-away from these actions is this: Online activists are willing to go off-line to make their position clear. We need strong net neutrality rules which protect the internet as a public utility—free from corporate schemes to extract more money by creating fast and slow lanes on a tiered internet.

Because of the recent deadline for the first-round of public comments on Chairman Wheeler’s proposed rules to divide the internet, much of the attention has been focused on the FCC and their role in net neutrality.

But make no mistake, Obama has accountability on this issue because he appointed FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to this position. Tom Wheeler is a former Telecom Lobbyist, Venture Capitalist, Entrepreneur, and was an Obama Fundraiser/Bundler in both 2008 and 2012.

The internet brought President Obama into power—his campaign harnessed the power of the internet to organize people, power and money. Now, that very same level playing field he used to win could cease to exist and become a place where only corporate backed voices will be able to fully access the power of the internet.

Obama has pledged to protect an open internet and support net neutrality, yet, he is sitting idle while his appointee moves forward with a plan that would destroy the internet as we know it. This proposal will create a tiered internet with an uneven playing field where corporations who can pay-to-play will drown out independent sites, like Daily Kos.

Here at Daily Kos we’ve already sent President Obama over 97,000 direct emails—not including those from our partners and allies—and he’s not listening. It’s time to ramp up the pressure, both online and off.  

Please, take a moment of your time to send President Obama a message urging him intervene. Demand he keep his promise to protect an open internet with real net neutrality—by classifying the internet as a public utility.

P.S. Thanks to all of the Daily Kos community members who attended. Please share your stories and experiences with us.  

17:36 Did Hillary's book tour work?» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Top Democratic and Republican strategists weigh in.
17:36 Central America's apology tour» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Opinion: Leaders in Latin America have a lot of explaining to do.
17:18 Why Do We Care So Much About El Niño? » LiveScience.com
The obsessive attention to the state of the latest El Niño comes from the major global impacts it can have.
16:59 Erectile Dysfunction in Military Males Is Triple the Norm» LiveScience.com
Young men in the U.S. military are more likely to have erectile dysfunction than their civilian counterparts, but few military men get treatment, according to a new study.
16:33 IRS preps for employer mandate» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The Obama administration signals it won't back down from the health law employer mandate.
16:07 Many Parents Think Their Obese Child's Health Is Good» LiveScience.com
About a third of parents of obese children in a new study said they didn't see their child's weight as a health problem, a new study suggests.
15:01 Washington State's Sprawling Wildfire Captured By Drone Cam» LiveScience.com
The sky is thick with smoke in central Washington, as the state's largest wildfire in recorded history leaves a charred trail of burned homes and blackened trees.
14:50 Cartoon: The Gaza grip» Daily Kos

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(Click for larger image)

14:44 Of a Feather: Photos Reveal Stunning Birds of the Southwest» LiveScience.com
The birds of the American Southwest are as numerous and diverse as the multiple environments and landscapes upon which they carry on their daily life cycles.
14:44 Senate Dems brace for Walsh fallout» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The senator's caucus defends him after revelations that he plagiarized his masters' thesis.
14:36 Underwater 'Aquanaut' Mission Simulates Life in Space» LiveScience.com
Four astronauts are currently living in a school-bus-size habitat that is anchored 62 feet (19 meters) underwater for a nine-day mission to test tech for future space expeditions.
14:26 Colorado River Groundwater Disappearing at 'Shocking' Rate» LiveScience.com
The Southwest's underground water supplies are shrinking faster than they're being replenished.
14:16 Need for Speed: Pilot Recalls Record-Setting Supersonic Flight» LiveScience.com
On a September day in 1974, Capt. Harold "Buck" Adams set the world speed record in the U.S. military's SR-71 Blackbird aircraft. At the controls of the twin-engine supersonic plane, Adams flew from London to Los Angeles in a blistering 3 hours, 47 minute
14:15 House Democrats to hammer GOP on Boehner lawsuit during August recess» Daily Kos
Speaker of the House John Boehner speaking at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC.
Litigator of the House John Boehner
Greg Sargent reports House Democrats plan to use Speaker John Boehner's lawsuit against President Obama as exhibit number one on how Republicans are out of touch and focusing on all the wrong things:
This week, Republicans are expected to mark up the lawsuit in committee, and in an interview, DCCC chair Steve Israel — who oversees House races for Dems — said Dems are launching a campaign designed to “contrast Republicans focused on suing the president with Democrats who are focused on economic solutions for the middle class.” [...] “We’re going to make August very hot,” Israel told me. “Paid ads, robocalls, rallies, protests — we’re going to use earned and paid media to continue to drive the critical contrast between Republicans focused on suing the president and issuing subpoenas versus Democrats who are focused on specific economic solutions.”
If there's anything I disagree with Israel on, it's this:
“They are motivating their base with the lawsuit, but they are also motivating our base,” Israel said.
I don't think Boehner's lawsuit motivates the GOP base. Instead, I think it makes them wonder why Republicans aren't impeaching Obama already. But as for the Democratic base? No question: Boehner couldn't have done a better job reminding Democrats why they should vote.
14:04 'Whistling' Volcanic Lightning Heard Halfway Around the World» LiveScience.com
Eerie radio signals called whistlers have been detected from volcanic lightning for the first time.
14:00 Newly Discovered Virus Lives in Half the World's Population» LiveScience.com
A new virus that lives in the gut has just been discovered, and to the surprise of scientists, can be found in about half the world's population, according to a new study.
13:59 McCain: Arizona execution 'torture'» POLITICO - TOP Stories
He says what Arizona did is not an acceptable way to carry out the death penalty.
13:36 FAA lands in Mideast conflict» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The agency that deals with lost luggage and cellphones winds up in a place few would expect.
13:26 Arizona execution lasts two hours; attorney calls for external inquiry» Daily Kos
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer
Gov. Brewer: 'Wood died in a lawful manner', but will order an internal review
On Wednesday evening Arizona executed inmate Joseph Wood by lethal injection; the drugs used in the process were "secret," as were the methods Arizona used to obtain them, and the process resulted in the convicted taking nearly two hours to die.
One reporter who witnessed the execution, Troy Hayden of Fox 10 News, said it was "very disturbing to watch ... like a fish on shore gulping for air. At a certain point, you wondered whether he was ever going to die."
Lawyers filed a emergency motion with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals after this had gone on for an hour to halt the execution; Wood died before the court responsed. Now his attorneys are calling for an external inquiry.
“There is far too much that we don’t know at this point, including information about the drugs, why Arizona selected these drugs and amounts, the qualifications of the execution team, and more,” Baich said in a statement. “It is important for the people of Arizona to get answers, and only an independent investigation can provide the transparency needed following an execution cloaked in secrecy that went wrong.”
Charlie Pierce notes that executing prisoners using secret and previously untested methods amounts plainly to human medical experimentation. This wasn't a "botched" execution, this was an execution conducted as intended using a secret concoction devised by the state. They offered no proof it would work or that it would not be cruel and unusual; the convict was the (first) intended test subject.
13:18 Oldest Medical Report of Near-Death Experience Discovered» LiveScience.com
A forensic archaeologist unexpectedly found the oldest medical description of a near-death experience in a book from 18th century.
12:45 Conservatives think they've figured out how to talk about banning abortion» Daily Kos
Zipped lips emoticon
Among their advice: "Stop talking."
The New York Times takes us behind closed doors to show how a group of conservatives are training Republicans to talk about their support for banning abortion by offering tips like this:
Keep remarks as short as possible. “Two sentences is really the goal,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, the anti-abortion group that hosts the boot camps. “Then stop talking.”
Genius! Explain in two sentences why abortion should be banned and then shut up. Actually, it's kind of appropriate, given that they think the law should say pretty much the same thing to women who want to make decisions about their reproductive health.

But if push comes to shove, and you're a Republican candidate who needs to offer more than two sentences explaining why you're anti-choice, these conservatives have got you covered, or at least they think they do:

“Don’t let them corner you,” said Marilyn Musgrave, a former Republican congresswoman from Colorado who is a longtime anti-abortion activist. [...] “Put them on their heels,” Ms. Musgrave added. “Ask them: ‘Exactly when in a pregnancy do you think abortion should be banned?'  ”
Again, genius! Except for the fact that you could also turn the question around and ask them the same thing, except slightly rephrased, perhaps like this: "Exactly when is it that you think the government should start deciding whether or not a woman should become a mother?" Their answer, obviously, is that they think the government should decide from the moment a sperm fertilizes an egg—if not sooner.

No amount of spin can change the fact that most people don't think the government should be making that decision. The fact that this isn't spin is something that these conservatives simply do not understand:

“That was one of the top five public relations coups of all time: making their movement pro-choice and purging the ugly word abortion from the lexicon for decades,” said Kellyanne Conway, a Republican pollster who has conducted research on women’s issues for anti-abortion groups and the Republican National Committee.
That's complete bull. The reason the pro-choice position resonates isn't that pro-choicers are better at P.R., it's that people don't want a bunch of right-wing zealots controlling their lives.
12:27 Truth Be Told, White Lies Can Keep Relationships Strong» LiveScience.com
Lying to friends and family members may seem like a quick way to lose their trust, but new research suggests this may not always be the case. Lying for the "right" reasons can actually strengthen some social bonds.
12:00 Midday open thread: Initial jobless claims hit eight-year low, botched execution #4 takes two hours » Daily Kos
  • Today's comic by Ruben Bolling is Super-Fun-Pak Comix, feat. Vampire Hunter, Zombie Slayer & more!
    Cartoon by Ruben Bolling -- Super-Fun-Pak Comix, feat. Vampire Hunter, Zombie Slayer & more!
  • Initial claims for unemployment compensation fall to eight-year low: The Labor Department reported Thursday that seasonally adjusted initial applications for unemployment compensation decreased by 19,000 to 284,000 for the week ending July 19, the lowest level since Feb. 18, 2006. For the comparable week in 2013, the number was 343,000. The four-week running average, which flattens volatility in the weekly figures, also decreased, to 302,000, the lowest level since May 19, 2007. For the week ending July 5, the total number of people claiming benefits was 2,611,871, up 165,383 from the previous week. For the comparable week of 2013, 4,842,653 persons claimed benefits. But that huge drop is in great part due to the fact that the federal emergency unemployment compensation program expired in December, immediately cutting off 1.37 million Americans who had been out of work for 27 weeks or longer.
  • Florida newspaper joins others with regular marijuana coverage:
    This June, [Michael] Pollick, a reporter with the Sarasota (Florida) Herald-Tribune, traveled back to California to see something new — a culture, businesses, regulations and people rising around the legalization of medical marijuana. Then, he went to Colorado and did the same thing.

    Stories about what he found are running now in the Herald-Tribune and on its new site, Medical Marijuana. The site launched last Sunday, with plans to roll out a series of stories leading up to November’s ballot initiative that could legalize medical marijuana in Florida. The site includes both original reporting from Pollick and some aggregation. It joins other newspapers devoting space and ink to marijuana, including The Denver Post, seattlepi.com, The Seattle Times and Denver’s Westword.

  • Immigrant advocacy site runs faux obituary ad for Colorado GOP:
    We’ve been warning the GOP for years, but they didn’t listen.  Today, we are highlighting the GOP’s demographic demise in Colorado with a mock obituary, which will run as an online ad in the Aurora Sentinel. [...]

    [T]he Colorado Republican Party is in particular trouble. It’s heading into the 2014 midterm elections in which GOP candidates like Rep. Mike Coffman and Rep. Cory Gardner will need support from Latino voters, but they’re unable to make the case as to why they should have it. Reps. Coffman and Gardner have stood with the extremists in their party in blocking reform and voting to end DACA, failing to lead on an issue their constituents overwhelmingly support. The Latino vote, in a state where Latinos make up 13% of the electorate, may well be the deciding factor in their races.

     The Colorado GOP may think they dodged a bullet earlier this year by managing to avoid nominating arch-anti-immigrant zealot Tom Tancredo to run for governor. But the chosen GOP candidate, Bob Beauprez, has been nearly as bad, championing antiquated laws like Arizona’s SB 1070.

    With a record like this, the Colorado Republican Party—and its national counterpart—is demographically doomed. View their obituary at the Aurora Sentinel today.

  • "Modern Family's" Eric Stonestreet refused photo with Santorum:
    "Rick Santorum wanted a picture with me. It was at a time when he was publicly saying, 'Gay marriage, gay marriage [is wrong],' and I'm like, 'You know, I can't do it,'" he said. "It was with him and his kids or something like that, and I said, 'I'd be happy to take a picture with the kids, but I can't just be in a picture with [Santorum.]'"
  • Marketing firm says wind power will generate 7 percent of world's electricity by 2018: Right now it's 3 percent. More than doubling is serious business. But, according to Navigant, most of the increase won't be in the United States but in developing markets:
    "Last year was the first in which the wind industry experienced negative growth since 2004, but there are signs that the 2013 slowdown will turn out to be an anomaly," Feng Zhao, Navigant's research director told CleanTechnica. "As wind turbine vendors search for new opportunities in emerging markets, primarily in Latin America and Africa, and develop machines for maximum energy production in low windspeed areas, the industry is expected to add another 250 gigawatts of capacity through 2018."
  • Joseph Wood's is the four botched U.S. execution this year:
    Arizona had never tried the two-drug cocktail of midazolam and hydromorphone before it injected an unknown dose into Joseph Wood's veins Wednesday afternoon. Most executions by lethal injection take between 10 and 20 minutes once the drugs are injected, if performed properly. This experimental cocktail took almost two hours to end Wood's life, so long that his lawyer had time to file an emergency stay of execution in federal court, claiming that Wood had been "coughing and snorting for over an hour" by then. "I counted about 660 times he gasped," reported an Arizona Republic reporter who witnessed the execution. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said in a statement that Wood "died in a lawful manner and by eyewitness and medical accounts he did not suffer."
  • On today's Kagro in the Morning show, Greg Dworkin rounds up Cuomo, Jeb Bush & Rand Paul news; POTUS approval. Plus how "patient-centered" medicine challenges the old teaching methods. Ian Reifowitz on Gop xenophobia, obstructionism, and guns & the politics of fear.
11:49 German politicians question whether Russia should be allowed to host 2018 World Cup» Daily Kos
Vladmir Putin in Moscow.
As tensions build between Russia and the west, some German politicians are vocalizing their fears of a Russian-hosted World Cup in 2018:
Taking away Russia’s right to hold the soccer tournament may have significantly stronger impact than more economic sanctions, said Michael Fuchs, deputy head of the conservative bloc in the German parliament.

“Fifa should think about whether Moscow is an appropriate host if it can’t even guarantee safe airways,” Fuchs told Handelsblatt Online, adding that Germany and France could take over the tournament if needed.

At this point, some even said it was "unimaginable:
“If [Russian President Vladimir] Putin doesn’t actively cooperate on clearing up the plane crash, the soccer World Cup in Russia in 2018 is unimaginable,” Peter Beuth told Germany’s top-selling daily Bild.
Meanwhile, Dutch officials are waiting on the investigation to conclude:
“The Dutch football association is aware that a future World Cup in Russia stirs great emotion among all football fans and relatives in the Netherlands,” it said in a statement.

“The association believes it is more appropriate to conduct a discussion over a future World Cup in Russia at a later moment, once the investigation into the disaster has been completed.”

FIFA officials are already openly questioning whether Russia's stadiums will be ready in time:
FIFA president Sepp Blatter threw an unexpected seed of doubt into Russia's preparations for the 2018 World Cup on Monday when he said that FIFA will discuss the possibility of reducing the number of stadiums to be used there in four years time.

Two days after Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko gave media detailed background about Russia's plans for their World Cup which involves 12 stadiums in 11 cities, Blatter implied that they could be re-examined.

If Russia does continue down such a dangerous path, why reward them with the biggest sport on the biggest stage in the world? How can fans and teams expect to be safe and secure?
11:35 This Christian Right-Winger Wants to End the US Space Program Because the Aliens Are All Going to Hell Anyway» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
According to Ken Ham, spending money on finding extraterrestrial life is a deliberate rebuke of God.

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong took those famous first steps on the Moon’s surface, uttering the well-known words: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Sunday marked the 45th anniversary of that momentous Apollo 11 mission. The event left some pondering the next steps for U.S. space exploration.

Not everyone, however, is so thrilled about the U.S. space program.

On Sunday, Ken Ham, president and founder of the creationist organization Answers in Genesis (best known for debating Bill Nye), wrote a blog post calling for the end of the U.S. space program.

Why? Well, according to Ham, who also runs the Creation Museum in Kentucky, there’s no point in spending money on finding extraterrestrial life for a couple of reasons: First, the search is a deliberate rebuking of God, and second because aliens are already damned to hell.

“I’m shocked at the countless hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent over the years in the desperate and fruitless search for extraterrestrial life,” Ham wrote.

“Of course, secularists are desperate to find life in outer space, as they believe that would provide evidence that life can evolve in different locations and given the supposed right conditions!” Ham continued later in the post.

Ham does concede that the Bible does not specifically mention whether or not there is alien life. However, he is skeptical.

“And I do believe there can’t be other intelligent beings in outer space because of the meaning of the gospel,” Ham wrote. “You see, the Bible makes it clear that Adam’s sin affected the whole universe. This means that any aliens would also be affected by Adam’s sin, but because they are not Adam’s descendants, they can’t have salvation. One day, the whole universe will be judged by fire, and there will be a new heavens and earth. God’s Son stepped into history to be Jesus Christ, the “Godman,” to be our relative, and to be the perfect sacrifice for sin—the Savior of mankind.”

“Jesus did not become the ‘GodKlingon’ or the ‘GodMartian’!  Only descendants of Adam can be saved. God’s Son remains the “Godman” as our Savior,” Ham continues. “In fact, the Bible makes it clear that we see the Father through the Son (and we see the Son through His Word). To suggest that aliens could respond to the gospel is just totally wrong.”

The most upsetting part of this post is the blunt rejection of discovery because of the Bible. Ham condemns scientists’ desire to explore our universe and potentially discover other intelligent life-forms, which may give clues to the origins of life.

“The answers to life’s questions will not be found in imaginary aliens but in the revelation of the Creator through the Bible and His Son, Jesus Christ, who came to die on a Cross to redeem mankind from sin and death that our ancestor, Adam, introduced,” he wrote.

The universe, as Neil deGrasse Tyson demonstrated in “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey,” still holds many mysteries. This is a beautiful thing, because it prompts humans to ask “why?”

“It’s OK not to know all the answers,” Tyson said. “It’s better to admit our ignorance, than to believe answers that might be wrong. Pretending to know everything, closes the door to finding out what’s really there.”

NASA, it goes without saying, continuously pushes the boundaries of science, invention and exploration. Including putting men on the Moon 45 years ago — an incredible feat for mankind that inspired the world. Watch below:

 

 

Related Stories

11:34 More Than 1,000 New York City Residents Claim to be Victims of Banned NYPD Chokeholds» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
The NYPD's use of chokeholds, like the one that recently killed Eric Garner, is increasing.

According to the New YorkDaily News, numbers from the Civilian Complaint Review Board reveal that more than 1,000 New York City residents claimed to be victims of NYPD chokeholds in the past five years. The numbers were unveiled as the Board prepares to conduct a study of these chokehold allegations.

The Daily Newswrote:

As of July 1, the CCRB had received 58 chokehold complaints against the NYPD this year, but had only substantiated one of them.

Out of the 1,022 chokehold allegations reported between 2009 and 2013, only 462 of the complaints were investigated. Out of that number, just nine were substantiated, according to the CCRB.

There wasn’t enough evidence to prove a chokehold was used in 206 of the cases investigated, officials said.

TheNew York Timesreported that chokehold allegations in the city have increased from a decade ago—despite the fact that NYPD banned the use of the chokehold 20 years ago.

The city’s police commissioner, William J. Bratton, admitted that it appeared a chokehold had been used on Eric Garner, a 43-year-old father of six who died last Thursday. A video captured of scene shows NYPD officers alleging that Garner was illegally selling cigarettes. Garner says he’s done nothing wrong, that he’s sick of police harassment and that such harassment “ends today.” Officers then proceeded to arrest him, while one throws his arm around Garner’s neck from behind. Garner says repeatedly that he can’t breathe before his body goes limp.

“It ends today” became the rallying cry for anti-police brutality protesters. Last weekend, Reverend Al Sharpton rallied more than 300 people to call for justice for Eric Garner. And on Wednesday, protestors marched to the precinct stationhouse where the involved officers were stationed after holding a candlelight vigil for Garner on the eve of his funeral.  

Following Garner's death, Bratton announced that all 35,000 officers will undergo retraining while the department reviews its tactics. But a senior police official told theNew York Timesthat one of those tactics they are thinking of increasing is the use of tasers—a practice that has been fatal in the past and is dangerous for people with heart problems.

Perhaps even more egregious than the approval of cruel police tactics is the attitude some cops have taken toward the case. As PolicyMic reported, a look at police officer forums reveals some officers’ twisted defense of the NYPD’s handling of Garner. “Harsh words from public figures are good on paper, but they will become meaningless if the attitudes of these police officers don't change,” the author of the piece wrote.

This culture of violence is the outcome of the “broken windows” policing Bratton helped introduce and popularize, says Nick Malinowski, member of New Yorkers Against Bratton. This is an ad hoc group of parents who have lost children to police violence, activists, social workers, etc., formed after NYC Mayor DeBlasio announced he would bring back Bratton as NYPD Commissioner.

New Yorkers Against Bratton held a press conference outside city hall Monday, demanding that Bratton resign after Garner’s death, and to “move away from this idea that the police officers involved — this was just a bad cop sort of a thing” and understand it as a systematic issue, Malinowski told AlterNet.

Malinowski said the group also demands a federal investigation into NYPD’s culture of brutality, especially as the city’s promises of investigations, reviews and retraining often amount to empty rhetoric.

“Bratton, when he first came in, said that they were doing a unit by unit review of every aspect of the NYPD and they had this new guy they brought in to do the training,” Malinowski said. “Somehow they didn’t uncover all these issues and have to do another review of the department. So I don’t quite understand. … You would think that use of force, which has been an issue with the NYPD forever, would have been something they identified as a problem in a training initiative in the first review of the department.”

Meanwhile, Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who put his arm around Garner’s neck, has been stripped of his gun and badge while the investigation is underway. A medical examiner is still investigating Garner’s official cause of death.

Sharpton said he intends to meet with Garner’s family to discuss filing a lawsuit against the department. He also plans to meet with the U.S. Department of Justice to talk about the case.

At Garner’s funeral on Wednesday, Sharpton called on New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio and Bratton to seek true justice for Garner.

He said, “Y'all said: 'Give me a chance' … And some of us, even under attack, gave you a chance. You're in city hall now. Now we want you to give justice a chance. We want to see what you're going to do about this.”

 

Related Stories

11:14 Did All Dinosaurs Sport Feathers? Downy Beast Suggests Yes» LiveScience.com
Steven Spielberg's 'Jurassic Park' might need a little more revising — a newly discovered dinosaur species offers hints that feathers were much more common among the ancient beasts than once thought.
11:12 Forced-birthers joyful that only six abortion clinics may remain open in Texas after September 1» Daily Kos
One of the half-dozen licensed Texas abortion clinics that may remain open after September 1.
Molly Redden at Mother Jones reports that a draconian year-old law enacted specifically to shut down as many Texas abortion clinics as possible is having the desired effect. A year ago this month when Republican Gov. Rick Perry signed the law, there were 40 licensed abortion clinics across the state. Now there are 21. Come September 1, when a clause requiring clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers goes into effect, the number could drop to six:
The first wave of clinics closed or stopped providing abortions due to a provision of the law that came into force in November 2013 and required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. [...]

Some things to note: Before the state required admitting privileges, 13 cities had abortion clinics. Now, just seven do. After September, only five Texas cities—Dallas, Forth Worth, San Antonio, Austin, and Houston—will will have abortion clinics. Women in the Rio Grande Valley must now travel to Corpus Christi, a two-and-a-half hour drive, for abortion services. Soon, there won't be a single clinic providing abortions west of San Antonio.

In addition to making it harder for abortion providers to operate, the law also bans abortion 20 weeks after conception and forbids the use of medication to terminate pregnancies. At the time of its passage, anti-abortion lawmakers claimed that tougher requirements for abortion providers were necessary to safeguard women. But mainstream medical groups, such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, argue that requiring admitting privileges doesn't increase the level of care.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law in April and foes are seeking a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court. Texas isn't the only place where these new TRAP laws, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, have been passed. Since 2011, legislatures in 30 mostly Republican-controlled states have passed more than 200 abortion restrictions, about equal to the total for the previous decade. In January 2013, according to Michael Keller and Allison Yarrow, there were 724 abortion clinics still in operation. A two-thirds drop from the 2,176 licensed clinics in 1991. Now, the total number, according to various sources, has dropped below 600.

Those 30 states have made it tougher and more expensive for women seeking to end their pregnancies not only by passing the TRAP laws but by requiring women to wait 24 hours or longer after making an appointment for an abortion, requiring ultrasounds, mandating face-to-face "counseling" (often by people who oppose the procedure and lie about its physical and psychological impacts) or the reading of brochures written by abortion foes. All this often means personal and financial hardship.

The class-warfare aspect of the forced-birthers' assault is a key element of their strategy. Affluent women will, of course, always find a way to obtain an abortion. The impact of the abortion-curtailing laws—from medically unneeded procedures like ultrasounds to medically unneeded specifications for clinic design to medically unneeded requirements like hospital admitting permissions for abortion providers—falls hardest on the less well-to-do, the rural and poor. Add in bans on abortion coverage by private health insurance providers and by the new health-insurance exchanges mandated under Obamacare and that class warfare is heightened.

None of these new laws make abortions safer. None of them protect women from bad doctors. None of them have anything to do with women's health. They are all about control.

11:01 Images: These Downy Dinosaurs Sported Feathers» LiveScience.com
A newfound plant-eating dinosaur that was equipped with feathers suggest most dinosaurs may have worn such downy coats.
11:01 People Use Just 8.2% of Their DNA, Study Finds» LiveScience.com
More than a decade has passed since the completion of the Human Genome Project, the international collaboration to map all of the "letters" in our DNA. Yet, it's still unclear what percentage of the human genome is actually doing something important.
10:47 Drone Cam Captures Washington Wildfire Devastation - Part 1 | Video» LiveScience.com
Huge swaths of land, including homes and forests, were lost to raging fires in July 2014. Sy Stepanov of Chelan HD sent out his drones for a birds eye view of the destruction. Help fire victims here.
10:41 Fukushima Monkeys' Blood Shows Signs of Radiation Exposure » LiveScience.com
Monkeys living in the forests around the city of Fukushima in Japan show lower blood cell counts than monkeys from northern Japan, and have detectable levels of cesium in their bodies, a new study reports.
10:41 Drone Cam Captures Washington Wildfire Devastation - Part 2 | Video» LiveScience.com
The low-flying lens of Chelan HD’s drone catches a group of deer walking through the ash of their former forest home. Destroyed human-homes and a local relief effort are seen as well. Help fire victims here.
10:30 Drastic Emissions Cuts Needed to Curb Climate Change, Report Says | Video» LiveScience.com
According to the National Climate Assessment’s Mitigation humans need to quickly ween off fossil fuels in favor of alternative energy sources to reduce what could be a 10°F average temperature increase by 2100.
10:30 House moves towards vote on Boehner's pre-impeachment lawsuit» Daily Kos
U.S. Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX) tells reporters the House will not be voting on any budget or debt ceiling measures that night as he departs the U.S. Capitol in Washington, October 15, 2013. Stop-start negotiations to end the U.S. fiscal impasse
House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions
With the August recess right around the corner, House Republicans have taken another step towards turning Speaker John Boehner's planned lawsuit against President Obama into reality, approving a resolution in the House Rules Committee that will allow the full House to consider the lawsuit, most likely next week.

The lawsuit claims that President Obama overstepped his authority when the Treasury Department authorized transitional relief to Obamacare's employer mandate by delaying its enforcement, which, ironically, is actually the outcome that Republicans wanted to see.

That puts them in the position of arguing that while they agree with what the president did, they don't think that he had the authority to do it. It's kind of like suing a police officer for not giving them a speeding ticket when they were caught doing 70 in a stretch of road that just had its speed limit lowered to 55. That's not a strong legal position given that their lawsuit will be tossed if they can't show that they've been injured by the employer mandate delay, but House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions nonetheless defended the GOP's decision to sue, saying of President Obama's action:

This was not the way our system of government was designed to work. Laws are not a mere list of suggestions that a president can pick and choose.
Actually, the system is designed to give the executive branch discretion. And if Congress thinks the executive branch has misused its discretion, our system of government gives them all the power they need to change policy ... but that power comes from their ability to pass laws, including appropriations bills, not by asking the judiciary to intervene in disputes between one chamber of Congress and the executive branch.

If they really want President Obama to reverse his decision, maybe they should try another government shutdown. And if they don't feel strongly enough about the issue to risk the political fallout from another shutdown, then maybe they should just shut up.

10:25 In Images: Ancient Skull Reveals Brain Damage» LiveScience.com
A Paleolithic child who died 100,000 years ago likely suffered brain damage, but lived several years after his or her injury.
10:09 Not Enough Teens Get HPV Vaccine, CDC Finds» LiveScience.com
Even though the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine can protect against HPV infections as well as cancers later in life, the number of teenage girls and boys in the United States who have received the vaccine remains "unacceptably low," the CDC says.
09:59 Affordable Care Act helped 10 million Americans get insurance» Daily Kos
Cathey Park of Cambridge, Massachusetts shows her cast signed by U.S. President Barack Obama after he spoke about health insurance at Faneuil Hall in Boston October 30, 2013. The writing on the cast reads, "I Love Obamacare." REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
A new study shows that the Affordable Care Act has enabled ten million previously uninsured Americans to get health insurance. Ten million people.
Using Gallup polling and HHS data, Harvard researchers estimate that the uninsured rate declined by 5.2 percentage points in the second quarter of this year, corresponding to 10.3 million adults gaining coverage — although that could range from 7.3 to 17.2 million depending on how the data are interpreted. [...]

There was a major difference between the states that expanded Medicaid under the health law — where it caused the uninsured rate to dip by an estimated 5.1 percent — and those that didn’t, where there wasn’t any statistical change associated with Medicaid enrollment.

Compare ten million newly insured Americans with this:
[A]n astonishing 72 percent of Republicans, and 64 percent of conservatives, say the law hasn’t helped anyone.
... and marvel at the continuing ability of conservatives to simply construct their own version of reality where they're right and the events of the actual world simply don't happen. And note that with that success in lowering uninsured rates from expanding Medicaid, the denial of expanded Medicaid coverage in conservative states should be considered very nearly a crime. And note that if Obama had somehow blocked those states' expanded coverage, they'd be impeaching him right now.
09:26 Americans' Favorite Adult Beverage Is …» LiveScience.com
A new Gallup poll found that beer is the most popular alcohol in the United States, though more women still prefer a glass of wine over a pint.
09:18 A few Republicans (but just a few) want to look (but only look) like they care about poor people» Daily Kos
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). REUTERS/Jason Reed
Sen. Marco Rubio is another member of the Republican "I care about poverty, honest! Please ignore my policy votes" caucus.
Rep. Paul Ryan isn't the only Republican who's realized that maybe it would be a good idea, electorally speaking, to try not to seem entirely heartless:
[Sen. Marco] Rubio said earlier this year that it is time for Republicans to stop focusing on balancing “the budget by saving money on safety-net programs.” [...]

In the states, Republican governors John Kasich (Ohio) and Mike Pence (Indiana) — another pair of potential 2016 candidates — have made moves in their states to expand Medicaid, the health care program for the poor, under Obama’s health-care law. And former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who says he is considering another White House run, recently spent a day talking about the importance of rehabilitation with inmates at the Louisiana state prison in Angola.

It sure would be nice if Republicans were serious about some of these things! Except that most of the Republicans making nice sounds about fighting poverty and so on are really just repackaging the same old Republican attacks in a few layers of gauze and hand waving. And even with that being the case, the bulk of elected Republicans are still outraged that anyone in their party would talk as if stigmatizing the poor was anything other than a holy calling.

If Republicans want to get serious about poverty, they don't need to come up with big shiny new plans. There are some very simple things they can do: raise the minimum wage. Invest in infrastructure to create jobs and strengthen the economy. Extend emergency unemployment aid. The fact that Republicans—a handful of them, anyway—want to talk about poverty and getting people to work without making sure that the minimum wage will raise families above poverty tells you all you need to know about their sincerity. It's nonexistent.

09:02 Perry zings Christie over N.Y. hopeful» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Perry indirectly tweaked Christie, embracing a New York gubernatorial longshot whom Christie dissed.
09:00 John McCain very sad that President Obama has no desire to 'have social interface' with him» Daily Kos
US Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain (R-AZ) reacts to almost heading the wrong way off the stage after shaking hands with Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) at the conclusion of the final presidential debate at H
President Obama rebuffs McCain's attempts to have social interface with him
Sen. John McCain is a very, very sad man. And he blames it all on President Obama, because:
“The self-pity that Obama continues to exhibit is really kind of sad, really,” McCain said on Wednesday during Fox News’ “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.”
Oh, and speaking of self-pity, McCain added:
“You know, I can’t work with him at all,” McCain said. “When is the last time he really called leaders of both parties together over at the White House, say, for a dinner, a social event.”
Boo hoo hoo. The president didn't call me over for dinner, or a social event, so I can't work with him at all. His self-pity is really gnawing at my soul. And while I'd like to try to explain it ...
... I cannot explain it except to say that he does not have this desire to have social interface with people and sit down and try to work things out.”
If President Obama would just call me up for dinner or a social event, and ask me to have social interface with him, then everything would be better and the world would be a fantastic place, but he won't do that, so please excuse me while I go drown myself in a pool of tears shed over his self-pitying ways.
08:12 Long-Lost Anchor May Soon Give up Its Secrets» LiveScience.com
A rusty, barnacle-covered anchor that may be the lost anchor from an 18th century voyage around the world was pulled from the Puget Sound last month. Now, the sunken treasure will undergo a long cleaning.
08:12 House Republicans blow up VA funding talks by blowing off Democratic compromise offer» Daily Kos
Senator-elect Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is interviewed by a Reuters reporter at Sanders' office in Burlington, Vermont November 28, 2006. Sanders, a 16-year veteran of the House of Representatives who swept 65 percent of the vote in Vermont running as an inde
Sen. Bernie Sanders
The Republican position on the Department of Veterans Affairs continues to be that while the United States can certainly afford—or deficit spend to pay for—wars, when it comes to caring for the veterans of those wars, it's budget-cutting time. And, being Republicans, they're refusing compromise. House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chair Jeff Miller blew off a compromise plan from Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chair Bernie Sanders by trying to jump straight to a conference committee meeting:
Sanders said Miller had unilaterally called the conference meeting to unveil a “take-it-or-leave-it gambit.”

“This is a sad indication that the House leadership is not serious about negotiations,” Sanders said. “We don’t need more speeches and posturing. We need serious negotiations – 24/7 if necessary – to resolve our differences in order to pass critical legislation.”

Sanders was prepared to agree to some cuts to offset the cost of the bill, because while that shouldn't be required, Democrats (and affiliated independents like Sanders) are committed to governing and getting things done, unlike Republicans. According to Sanders, while his bill concedes some on offsets, "What it does not concede is that the cost of war is expensive and that the cost of war does not end when the last shots are fired and the last missiles are launched. The cost of war continues until the last veteran receives the care and benefits that he or she has earned on the battlefield."
08:12 Neil deGrasse Tyson: We'll Have to ‘Sink Lower’ Before Congress Takes Action to Save the Planet» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Tyson takes on climate deniers and challenges scientists to speak up before it's too late.

Neil deGrasse Tyson is a force. A respected astrophysicist with a custom space-theme wardrobe who moonlights as a late-night television guest, the director of New York’s Hayden Planetarium, a living meme, and in his current star turn, host of the hit series “Cosmos,” a reboot of the Carl Sagan original, he’s also, without doubt, a sizable thorn in the side of the religious right.

What he is not, Tyson tells Salon, is an advocate. He trusts, instead, that science will speak for itself. But insofar as science has a human vessel, Tyson’s inarguably embraced the role. And so long as the science demands it, he’s never been one to shy away from controversy, be it demoting Pluto from its planetary status, or more recently, representing the emerging consensus on climate change as it comes under attack from religious and industry forces.

Tyson didn’t write the script for “Cosmos” — that was the work of Ann Druyan, who told my colleague Andrew O’Hehir that she’s surprised critics talk about the show “as if Neil has had something to do with its inception or its writing.” But she acknowledges, too, that part of getting the message across is having the right messenger, and Tyson’s certainly risen to the occasion. He articulated his own take on climate-change deniers — “people, if they begin to lose their wealth, they change their mind real fast, I’ve found, particularly in a capitalist culture” — during an appearance as Chris Hayes’ much-vaunted guest on MSNBC. By now, he’s become invested in this specific iteration of the culture wars to the point that Fox News saw fit to take him and his “white liberal nerd” admirers down a few pegs.

If climate-change-denying politicians can couch their false claims by asserting, “I’m not a scientist,” Tyson has the opposite task: He is a scientist, but he’s not a climate scientist; he can speak with authority on the tenets of settled science — whether climate change is happening — but has less to say about what we should do to mitigate its effects, and can only speculate with the rest of us about whether we’ll be successful.

After watching him engage with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and his Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa on global political issues at New York’s Beacon Theatre in June for a live recording of his StarTalk podcast, Salon followed up with Tyson to learn more about how he positions himself: as an educator, as a highly visible minority in a STEM field who’s spoken, in the past, of the societal barriers that stood in his way, and as a cultural icon who, while putting the science first, is still aware of how many retweets he gets from his 2 million-plus followers.

Oh, and while he’s not a policy guy, he does have some ideas about how to solve the world’s problems. Our conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity, is below.

Lindsay Abrams: Through “Cosmos” and in recent comments you’ve made, you’ve become something of a spokesperson for the effort to fight climate change and especially to fight climate-change deniers. But you’ve also said you won’t debate deniers or creationists because the science should speak for itself. Where do you draw the line between education and advocacy?

Neil deGrasse Tyson: People, I think, may occasionally think of me as an advocate, but in my mind, I’m not. I’m just trying to get people as fully informed as they can be so that they can make the most informed decisions they can based on their own principles or philosophies or mission statement. What concerns me is that I see people making decisions, particularly decisions that might affect policy or governance, that are partly informed, or misinformed, or under-informed. And so I think there’s value as an educator, and especially as a scientist, to get as much of that information out there for people to respond to. And then I just go home and they do with it what they want, whether they reject it or embrace it or whatever. But I don’t have the energy, the interest or the urges to debate people on any topic at all. It’s just not due as an educator.

LA: Do you think that scientists should play any role in helping to shape policy or in leading calls to action from the public? Or is that just not the domain of scientists and educators?

NDT: There’s a long, storied history of scientists as advocates, scientists as major social/cultural spokespeople. And a lot of that stemmed from the Cold War where the major Cold War weaponry was completely traceable to the brain efforts of physicists — basically the Nuclear Age. So what you had were physicists who knew everything there was to know about these bombs and felt that it was not the way the world should go. And so you had these sort of “physics pacifists,” if you will, who were quite outspoken — Einstein was among them. Even though you can see in his equation the foundation of the energy derived from those bombs: E=MC². So I would say that during the entire Cold War there was a long and distinguished train of scientists who were quite visible and quite outspoken about their views on war, weaponry and this sort of thing.

In modern times, I find it odd that people turn to me to comment on these other matters. I’m an astrophysicist. But there are people who are climate scientists. I think more climate scientists should step up to the plate and serve that same corresponding role that the physicists played during the Cold War, and if they want, to empower lawmakers and the citizenry to make informed decisions about the future of the country. So I think it should happen more than it has happened. But, like I said, many of these issues are not directly at the center of my professional expertise and we have others for whom it is. So in the way that nuclear physicists stood up, I think we should have climate scientists standing up.

With any issue that comes up, when we have an emergent scientific truth, we can’t just sit back and watch people debate a scientific truth — they should be debating the politics that would follow from the emergent scientific truth. That’s really what the debates should be about, but they haven’t been. And I’m disturbed by that, because I don’t know what kind of democracy that is, if you’re gonna run around cherry-picking the results of science, of emergent scientific consensus because it conflicts with your philosophy and you want to be responsible for the governance of the nation, which involves thoughtful planning for the future of our health and our wealth, the state of the economy, all of the above.

LA: We talk about science with a capital S, as something that’s “true whether or not you believe in it” — especially settled science. And I’m wondering if that’s where some of the pushback might come from, because scientists do get things wrong sometimes, or scientific thinking changes.

NDT: So unfortunately that sentence — which I have uttered, and I think some people even have put on t-shirts, with my name on it — to fully understand what it means requires some qualification. In science, when you perform experiments and observations, and when the experiments and observations begin to agree with one another, and they’re conducted by different people — people who are competitive with one another, people who are not even necessarily in your field but do something that relates to your field — you start seeing a trend. And when that trend is consistent and persistent, no matter who’s doing the experiment, no matter where the experiment is being done, no matter whether the groups were competitive or not, you have an emergent scientific truth. That truth is true whether or not you believe in it.

On the frontier of science, stuff is wrong all the time. I mean, if I have an experiment — what typically happens is, if it’s an interesting result that nobody expected, the press will come, and then they’ll write about it and maybe my host institution will send out a press release which will feed this… state. And the press will say “New results: scientists say…” and then they say cholesterol is good for you. And then a few weeks later, cholesterol is bad for you. And the public is wondering, what the hell is going on? Do scientists even know what they’re doing? How come they don’t agree? Well, on the frontier, we don’t agree. That’s what the frontier means. That’s why there is a frontier; that’s the whole point of the frontier. If we all agreed on it, it would just be in the textbooks and we’d move on.

So people often confuse the raggedy, bleeding edge of scientific research with the established truths that consensus of observation and experiment reveal. And so that’s the whole, full explanation for that one sentence, which is hard to put into one quip. So, Earth is going around the Sun, whether or not you believe that’s true: that has been experimentally, observationally identified and demonstrated and we’ve moved on to the next question. The Sun is going around the center of the galaxy. Earlier people didn’t know that or they doubted it, some people thought we were the center of the galaxy — that was an active area of research. The evidence mounts and we learn that the Sun — in fact, there was a whole debate on this, back in 1920, to be precise — and we concluded, after better data became available, that the Sun is just orbiting the center of the galaxy, in much the same way the Earth is orbiting the Sun. And now that’s a closed issue and we’re on to other questions. So I think people are confusing the bleeding edge of science with established science, and somehow thinking that all science is like the bleeding edge, where that’s not true.

LA: It sounds like a lot of that is a communications problem and probably a lot of it is the media’s fault. But that has to make you worry about the power you have as a scientist, when you can slap a headline on something and say “Scientists say…”

NDT: Yeah, so, the press wants to be out ahead of any results, right? And it’s only an interesting headline if what the scientists found was different than what people were thinking or expecting that preceded it. So I understand that urge, but what the press doesn’t say is: “this result still needs to be verified by other experiments.” Something isn’t true because one scientist has one result from their one experiment. And I think not enough of the press recognizes this, and they need to, otherwise they’re giving a distorted view of what science is and how it works in the hearts and minds of the public.

LA: At the Beacon last month, you spoke a bit about the importance of STEM literacy. Obviously not everyone is going to go into the math, science and engineering fields, but do you have a conception of what every responsible citizen should know? Is it enough to watch “Cosmos” and get the basic concepts, or is there another level of understanding the public needs?

NDT: Excellent question. So I have an unorthodox definition of science literacy, and I’m trying to get more people to think about it in this way. I think typically when we think of science literacy, it’s “do you know what causes the seasons?” or what the DNA molecule is, or how our internal combustion engine works or what the Big Bang is or “what is evolution?” And this is chalked up as evidence of whether you’re scientifically literate or not. And while that’s an aspect of it, I think what’s more important than even that is how is your brain wired for thought, for inquiry and for curiosity.

If you are curious, and you want to learn more about something, and you question what it is you see in search of answers that would support or deny what you see, that to me is science literacy. And so it’s, how do you approach someone who makes a statement to you? Do you say “Oh, that’s great, that’s gotta be true! Tell me more” or is it “Well, why is that true? How did you come to arrive at that conclusion? What are the consequences of it? How does it affect others, how does it affect me, how does it affect civilization or culture?” To me, the capacity to even know to ask those questions is at the center of what it is to be scientifically literate.

Now, given that, we don’t want a whole world where everybody is a STEM professional; that would be boring. There would be no artists and comedians and poets, and novelists and journalists and the rest of what fleshes out what we call civilization. But at a minimum, I think everyone should be scientifically literate, no matter their profession, because here’s what could happen: Suppose we’re going into space in a big way and we’re tapping a whole generation of STEM professionals, but you’re not a STEM professional; you say “I want to become a lawyer” and so you go to law school. But then there are people worrying about who owns the rights to asteroid mining, and then you say, “Well, I understand asteroids, and I know what they are and I know what they’re made of and maybe I want to be that lawyer.”

And all of a sudden, society begins to participate on the moving frontier of STEM professionals. Artists will say, “Take me to the far side of the moon because there is a new sculpting series that I want to start and I need the inspiration that that would bring me.” Or there’s a new story that could be told about the crew of seven that was alone with one another on a generational ship. It’s a source of creativity among artists as well as others who flesh out, like I said, what we come to define civilization to be. And then everyone’s a participant.

LA: There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about science being under attack, and it seems like that could be the kind of thing that could help people become more aware of what’s going on, and maybe less hostile toward science. Or would you argue that that kind of scientific literacy would just be a way to get people to have science more involved in their lives than it otherwise would be?

NDT: Yeah, that’s a perceptive question and comment. I would say that the reason people even think that they can attack science is because they think science is this thing, this edifice. And when they choose to walk up to it, that’s when they address it and they query it, without realizing that science is so fundamentally all around us, in everything we do and say and think about. And one of the messages of “Cosmos” was how thoroughly dependent we are on science and its cousin, technology. And once you recognize that, you’re not going to say, “Today I’m not going to do science” or “I didn’t do well in science in school so I’m just going to ignore it.” It’s all around us and it invites you to embrace it. That will make you a more informed citizen of a democracy, where you elect people who will govern your lives with laws that they pass. You want them to be enlightened and informed, as enlightened and as informed as is humanly possible.

LA: After the Beacon event, you mentioned a time you got into a trouble for something you tweeted about education, that seems similar to what you’re saying now — that good teachers need to engender a love of learning. Why do you think that was so controversial?

NDT: What was controversial was that I said, “Why is it that you’re more likely to hear a teacher say ‘These students don’t want to learn’ than a teacher say ‘I suck at my job.’”

Some people said “he’s clearly never taught” but clearly they’ve never read my CV: it has all my teaching experiences clear and explicit there and it goes very far back. So, yes, it’s a strong tweet, and I just don’t ever want a teacher to put the blame of a student not learning on the student. You’re not there to just put up a lesson plan and hope that they follow it. You are if you’re a college professor, because people are paying big money to attend the school, and if they flunk out, it’s not your problem. But in the public schools, I think we should measure teachers by how much improvement their efforts bring about in the progress of students. Not by how many straight-A students they might put forth as a display of the excellence of their educational talent. A straight-A student gets straight As because the teaching talent of the teacher is irrelevant. That’s what straight As means. It means you got an A in every class you took — and that’s only possible if the variation in the teaching skills in the teachers of each of those classes is irrelevant to you.

You perform no matter how good or bad the teacher is. So the least illuminating student you can put on display at your school are the straight-A students. The one who is the greatest display of whether or not you’re a good teacher is the student who was flunking but is now maybe getting a C. Or the student who was getting a C and now is getting a B+ because of your intervention as teacher, because of your effort to think about how that student learns relative to someone else.

Now, that’s hard, particularly in big cities, especially in New York, where you might have 34 kids in a class. It may even be impossible to find the right key for every student. But the reason they’re not learning is not because they don’t want to learn; it’s because the system has not allowed you the time to find the key to every one of the students. And so the answer should not be “they don’t learn because they don’t want to learn,” it should be “they want to learn but the system does not allow me the time to figure out what their formula is.” And by the way, it’s something called individualized learning; it’s not a new educational concept. They need much smaller classes to enable that. But who I was indicting is those people who say that students don’t want to learn.

I spend every day of my life that I reach the public asking myself first “What are the receptors that exist in the audience I’m about to address?” Is it culture, is it sports, is it food, is it entertainment, is it movies? And I spend some effort of my life acquainting myself with all of these ancillary elements, so that when I do have a conversation with a person and I’m not reaching them by some traditional way, I access my utility belt that I’ve assembled for myself and say “Oh, this person likes this set of movies; I saw those movies, let’s start there.” And now the person gets excited, their eyes brighten up, and now the receptors are ready to engage in the science, which was my object of the lesson plan. You know, that’s a simplified example of what I’m trying to get across here, but you get the point.

LA: Somewhat related to that, when we talk about people who are going into the sciences — women and minorities are still significantly underrepresented in STEM — do you have thoughts about what we can do to lessen that gap? Or to encourage people who don’t traditionally go into these fields?

NDT: I don’t have a silver bullet there, but I’m thinking long and hard about that problem. And maybe I’ll have a solution or some insights that I could share with people in a couple of years but right now I don’t have deep insights to it. And there are interesting other questions: For example, there are other fields that are predominately women that don’t get the same level of analysis as the fields that are predominantly men. For example — maybe this exists but I haven’t seen it — no one is asking why veterinarians are 85 percent women. There’s no movement to reduce that number so that there’s equal numbers of men. And veterinary school is harder to get into than medical school in terms of percentage of applicants they accept. So, I wonder if the answer to that is more broadly, deeply embedded in society than just pointing to the cultural climate in one branch of science versus another.

You know, the NBA is 80 percent black — are we saying we have to reduce that number so that the blacks in the NBA are the same percent as in the population, so that there’s room for white people to play? Are we saying that? Well, we’re not. Why not? Well, there’s some expectation that there is equal opportunity for everyone, so if you can believe there’s equal opportunity, then things just shake out however they do and no one complains about it. So the challenge will be to ask, do women and minorities have an equal opportunity to study in the sciences? And if so, does that mean that that will ultimately become half women? And 12 percent black, or whatever the number is in the United States. If there are other fields where there is equal opportunity and we don’t recover the numbers that we have in society, and no one is studying why that’s the case, then that will make these other questions harder to address, is my point. So, I don’t have an answer; these are the questions that I’m posing to myself as I continue to think about the problem.

LA: So you need to figure out why this is happening before you can find a solution.

NDT: I think what would be interesting would be to go around society and look at fields that are dominated by some demographic well out of numbers to their proportion of the population. So, veterinary medicine: 85 percent women. Nursing: 95 percent women. Men could be nurses, but they’re not, so what’s going on there? Again, the NBA. You just go around and look at the list. Then you have particle physics or whatever that’s 85 percent men. So what’s the difference between particle physics and veterinary medicine? Are there opportunities that are in one place and not the other? Do we believe men have equal access to veterinary medicine? Is there discrimination against men in that field? If not, then what is attracting the women to it? Whatever that is that’s attracting the women to it, does that not exist in particle physics? And if it did exist, would it? So, I’m just saying, these are a zillion questions that are coursing through my head.

LA: To talk a bit again about climate change — not so much from a climate scientist perspective but in a general sense — in “Cosmos” you talk about the promise of green energy, but there’s also a lot of discussion lately about it being too late at this point to make meaningful change, and of people feeling discouraged. Do you think we have what it takes as a society to reverse course?

NDT: In my read of history, when things get very bad, people tend to come into agreement about what next steps they need to take and there’s less arguing. For example, in 1939, 1940 there were nationalists in America who didn’t want to engage in the war in Europe. There were strong debates in Congress and the executive branch — and then we get attacked at Pearl Harbor, and at that point everyone is aligned. And we, at the time, had the tenth or something largest army in the world — something much lower than other countries that were actively engaged in this war — but once all of our pistons were aligned, we built a military machine that tipped the balance of power in the world over a four-year period. We felt threatened, we felt down, we felt like we had to act as one.

So I’ve seen this country do that. On multiple occasions: We did it for Sputnik. If someone wants to fly over your country in the air, there’s a law, you need permission to allow them to do that. But if they’re above the air, they’re in space where there is no law that controls that — so there was Sputnik, launched in 1957, flying over the United States. A Soviet piece of hardware, launched on a vessel that would otherwise be used to carry intercontinental ballistic missiles. We freaked out. All of our pistons became aligned, and within 12 years of Sputnik going up, we are walking on the moon. We alluded to that in “Cosmos,” with reference to Kennedy’s speech about doing things not because it’s easy but because it’s hard.

So I think maybe we have to sink lower before the pistons of Congress and the electorate align to take meaningful action, to protect the planet going forward. And this idea about being too late, well that’s defeatist of course. That’s saying, “Well, okay, we don’t know what to do so therefore let’s do nothing.” By the way, I can imagine — I mean, I’m making this up, but it’s not far-fetched to imagine that someone invents some CO² scrubbing device — “scrubbing” is the word they use in the industry — where air blows in one on side and there’s some thing inside that just takes CO² and makes solid bricks out of it and it’s very effective, like the buried limestone of the cliffs of Dover. And then if you have that you can continue with industry. Because we’ve now removed the CO² that we put in, keeping Earth in equilibrium.

I mean that’s an interesting option; why isn’t anybody thinking of that? And by the way, that’s an entire world outside of my professional expertise. That’s engineering and climate and air and chemistry. So, people should know by now that if Kennedy says — before we have any spacecraft that can fly a human being without killing them — “let’s go to the moon before the decade is out,” and we go to the moon, well I remember that go-getter attitude; I’m old enough to remember that. It meant anything was possible, or at least was within technological reach — the laws of physics do prevent some things from ever happening, but technologically, there’s no limit.

LA: Because you do have this public platform and people are listening to you, are there other issues that you would want to bring to the public’s attention or that you think more attention should be paid to, be they social, political or environmental?

NDT: Yeah, people like dividing up all the problems and creating movements surrounding each one. And I think at the end of the day what we’re really missing maybe is widespread, rampant curiosity. The kind of curiosity that children have. We need more of that in adults. Because if you’re curious, then you’ll say, “Oh, I wonder why that works that way.” You didn’t have to take a class in it, your own curiosity forces you to go to Wikipedia, or get a book on it, or rent a video. And that curiosity grows the knowledge base of everyone.

I’ve tweeted multiple times on the concept and idea of curiosity and those, by the way, are some of my heavily retweeted tweets. One of them was comparing the curiosity of children to the curiosity of the adults raising them. And I was worried that if an adult loses curiosity then they won’t even see it in their children and they’ll squash it because they’ll interpret it as a destructive force in the household, when all the kid is doing is exploring what’s in the drawers or what happens if you drop a glass on the kitchen floor — things that are definitely destructive to your house but are the manifestation of just kids being curious. I was in New York the day before yesterday, and it had just rained so there were puddles in the walkway. And there was a little girl with boots and a little umbrella over her shoulder, and she’s walking straight towards the puddle. And I said, “Oh, this will be fun, I bet she jumps in with two feet.” And the mother says “No, don’t jump in the puddle, walk around it.” And I said, “There it is! There is a little bit of curiosity being squashed.”

Because what happens if you jump in the puddle? You get to — you’re losing the experiment on what a splash zone will look like and how big is the splash based on how hard you jumped in it and could you clear the puddle, based on having jumped in it? And then you learn the puddle is there because there’s a slight depression in the pavement, and so water collects where it’s a slightly low point compared to other points, that’s why it didn’t roll down the hill. There’s a whole experiment there that the kid would have done but did not because the parent didn’t want to clean the clothes.

So I promise on this: If all people were curious, that would just solve everything, I think. Almost everything. It’ll solve so much of what today we identify as problems that need separate solutions.

 

 

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08:01 Can You Guess Which American City Is Ranked Unhappiest?» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Hint: Its residents are willing to trade happiness for better wages and lower housing costs.

It’s official: New York City has been voted the unhappiest city in America according to a new working study released this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research titled, "Unhappy Cities," NBCreported.

The study collected data in a Centers for Disease Control and Protection survey based on a questionnaire, asking those surveyed, "How satisfied are you with your life?" The results were then ranked and adjusted according to income, housing prices, age, sex and race. 

New York took the crown as the most miserable metropolitan area with a population over one million followed by Pittsburgh, Louisville, Milwaukee and Detroit. 

Reasons for unhappiness include rent increases, cold temperatures and stress. Even still, researchers found such factors didn’t prevent people from relocating to unhappy cities in pursuit of job opportunities. The findings suggest Americans are willing to forgo happiness in exchange for a better income and low-cost housing, study co-author Joshua Gottlieb explained.

“Our research indicates that people care about more than happiness alone, so other factors may encourage them to stay in a city despite their unhappiness," Gottlieb said. "They may move to a less happy city because it provides a more fulfilling job, or has other attributes that enrich their lives in other ways. It suggests that people have deeper preferences than hedonic pleasure, and can consciously make complicated tradeoffs."

Interestingly, the study determined that newer residents of cities appeared to be as unhappy as longer-term residents, suggesting happiness trends are constant over time.

So just which cities were ranked the happiest? Virginia cities took the top spots with Richmond-Petersburg named the happiest metropolitan city followed by Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Newport News, which goes to show that money doesn't always buy happiness. 

10 Happiest Metropolitan Areas With a Population Greater Than 1 Million

1. Richmond-Petersburg, VA
2. Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Newport News, VA
3. Washington, DC
4. Raleigh-Durham, NC
5. Atlanta, GA
6. Houston, TX
7. Jacksonville, FL
8. Nashville, TN
9. West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, FL
10. Middlesex-Somerset-Hunterdon, NJ

10 Unhappiest Metropolitan Areas With a Population Greater Than 1 Million

1. New York, NY
2. Pittsburgh, PA
3. Louisville, KY
4. Milwaukee, WI
5. Detroit, MI
6. Indianapolis, IN
7. St. Louis, MO
8. Las Vegas, NV
9. Buffalo, NY
10. Philadelphia, PA

 

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07:56 Dear DNC, say no to Phoenix» Daily Kos
Singer Marc Anthony sings the national anthem during the final session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina September 6, 2012.    REUTERS/Jason Reed
Let's have our next convention in a place that unites us all.
We have finalist cities for the 2016 Democratic National Convention: Birmingham, Brooklyn, Cleveland, Columbus, Philadelphia, and Phoenix.

Birmingham seems silly, and not because of the politics of Alabama. The location of a convention has little effect on the final vote tally. Problem is logistics. Last cycle's Democratic convention in Charlotte was a bit of a clusterfuck, with hotels up to 50 miles away booked solid. And that's a city with a population of 775,000. Birmingham has a population of 212,000. No way they have the facilities to host a major party convention. (Also, not a single unionized hotel.)

Brooklyn has everything a convention needs, and it's convenient to the center of the US media world. Politically, it brings nothing, but like I said above, no place does. Logistically, well, it's New York. The biggest downside would be cost, because that's one expensive-ass city.

Cleveland is the site of the Republican National Convention. Logistically, it might be the easiest place to host the convention, because Cleveland will already be working to implement many of the security and support services the Dems will need. Some think that the RNC's choice knocks them out of the running, but I don't see why that should be the case. A Battle of the Bands-style convention season would be fun.

Columbus is such a low-key city that I have zero sense of their logistical capacity to host a convention this size. But it is surprisingly the largest city in Ohio with a population of over 800,000 (Cleveland is at around 400,000, Cincinnati around 300,000).

Philadelphia is in a swing state (if that matters, which it doesn't), has the logistical capacity to handle anything, isn't as expensive as New York, and is central to our nation's historical heritage. Wouldn't be a bad place to nominate our first woman president.

And then there's Phoenix, and unless Democrats want to stir up the same raw emotions and divisiveness that Netroots Nation did with their choice for that locale, it should be avoided like the plague.

With the exception of Birmingham, which is an odd addition to the list, the other four cities would unite our party and allow us to focus on the task at hand—retaining the White House, expanding our Senate majority and taking back the House. Let's focus on the places that unite us, not consider places that divide.

07:50 How All-Nighters Alter Your Memories » LiveScience.com
Sleep deprivation could raise the risk of developing false memories, a new study finds.
07:44 Paul Ryan unveils plan to do his Paul Ryan thing to poverty programs» Daily Kos

Paul Ryan is once again attempting to stoke his carefully cultivated Republican Who Cares About Poverty image. Naturally, he's doing so with a proposal that would hurt poor people. Ryan wants to consolidate as many as 11 anti-poverty programs into one block of funding that states could do with as they wished, provided they instituted work requirements, limited the duration of benefits, and provided what Ryan refers to as accountability. Ryan insists that this isn't about cutting benefits but about using them differently, but here's a clue to what he's envisioning: elderly and disabled people, as "two especially vulnerable groups" which "need specific kinds of care," would get a host of special protections. In other words, the people Ryan classifies as deserving poor would be protected from what he plans to do do all the other poor people.

As for the non-deserving (in Ryan's eyes) poor?

In the envisioned scenario providers would work with families to design a customized life plan to provide a structured roadmap out of poverty. When crafting a life plan, they would include, at a minimum:

• A contract outlining specific and measurable benchmarks for success
• A timeline for meeting these benchmarks
• Sanctions for breaking the terms of the contract
• Incentives for exceeding the terms of the contract
• Time limits for remaining on cash assistance

And screw you if there are no jobs available or if the jobs available leave you in poverty because Republicans like Paul Ryan refuse to raise the minimum wage. You're still getting punished for not magicking yourself out of poverty according to the terms of the contract you were forced to sign in order to get enough to eat. And while Ryan insists that he's not cutting aid overall, he is building a massive amount of bureaucracy into his requirements. More money might go to things like figuring out whether people should be punished for remaining poor, cutting into the amount available to actually help them. That's not even getting into the privatization aspects of Ryan's plan, either, but he would require that states use private service providers, including "approved non-profits, for-profits or even community groups unique to [the recipient's] neighborhood."

It's a recipe for a fragmented, punitive system with much of the responsibility for shaping programs turned over to state governments—to governors like Texas' Rick Perry and Florida's Rick Scott, to the same politicians who refused to expand Medicaid. In other words, it's just what you'd expect of Paul Ryan: the ultimate heartless Republican attempt to slash the safety net into ribbons, cloaked in the guise of concerned condescension.

07:30 No immigration crisis, just a refugee one» Daily Kos
Two young girls watch a World Cup soccer match on a television from their holding area where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center in Nogales, Arizona June 18, 2014. CBP provided media tours June 18 of two locations in Brownsville, Texas and Nogales that have been central to processing the more than 47,000 unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally since Oct. 1.  REUTERS/Ross D. Franklin/Pool
The Right-wing's newest hysteria: kids.
Dear god how can our nation survive the marauding hordes at the border? I mean, it's WORSE THAN EVER, right?
While the number of unaccompanied youth crossing the border has doubled to nearly 60,000 in the past year, the total number of undocumented immigrants has mostly declined. About 1 million people have been caught crossing the border nearly every year between 1983 until 2006, but that number has dropped to about 400,000 in 2013.
Huh. So it turns out that the number of undocumented immigrants crossing the border is down about 60 percent from the norm. And of those, a big chunk aren't even economic immigrants, but refugees from the drug wars of Central America?

Oh. Well then. Let's freak out anyway and put those refugee kids in kennels anyway, why don't we?

07:23 How Rupert Murdoch Pushed Australia Into A Climate Change Retreat» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Australia last week became "the world's first developed nation to repeal carbon laws that put a price on greenhouse-gas emissions." The country's carbon tax, which has been a passionate political topic there for more almost a decade, was finally instituted in 2012. But after a new conservative prime minister, Tony Abbott, was elected in September 2013, the carbon tax was aggressively targeted and then successfully repealed by Australia's Senate on July 17. 

The retreat represents a win for climate deniers in Australia who dismiss the looming dangers of climate change and the science behind it. (It's "absolute crap," claimed Abbott, echoing Tea Party-type rhetoric in the United States.) It's a win for energy and mining interests who claimed the Australian tax was too burdensome

The retreat also signals a victory for Rupert Murdoch, the Australian native whose media empire, News Corp., did everything in its power to elect Abbott last fall and to attack the tax. Days before the repeal vote, Murdoch spoke out again against climate change science, telling an Australian interviewer it should be treated with great skepticism. Murdoch's dismissal stands in stark contrast to his 2007 proclamation that "climate change poses clear, catastrophic threats."

Murdoch's anti-climate change crusade in Australia certainly mirrors his company's commitment to misinformation in America, and highlights the dangers of having news media moguls who are dedicated to propaganda efforts regarding pressing public policy issues. (Murdoch is currently eyeing a bid to buy media giant Time Warner.)  Indeed, Murdoch's media properties in Australia have been shown repeatedly to be wildly unfair and unbalanced when it comes to the topic of climate change.

Australia's carbon emissions repeal represents a dramatic U-turn for a country that just a few years ago was seen as a leader on the global issue under the guidance of previous Labor Party prime minsters, Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd. "The Brookings Institution has previously described Australia as an "important laboratory and learning opportunity" for U.S. thinking about climate change and energy policy, as it was one of the first major countries outside Europe to adopt a carbon price," The Wall Street Journal recently noted.

06:57 8 Things Straight People Get Wrong About Gay Men» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Gay men aren't only interested in sex and they don't want to date your gay best friend.

Acceptance of gay people doesn't end with acceptance. It also includes post-acceptance sensitivity and awareness. Unfortunately, just because someone's heart is in the right place, doesn't mean his or her foot will be, too. Here are eight common straights-on-gays misconceptions that can lead to inserting it directly into one's mouth, which must be as awkward and uncomfortable for them as the gaffes are for us.

1. We're all either "tops" or "bottoms."

I never imagined that anyone who isn't gay would even care who's a "top" and who's a "bottom," or that they might not realize that some guys are versatile and others don't enjoy anal sex at all. Then a straight woman recently inquired about the assigned sexual positions of a gay couple in our vicinity. I cringed, not so much at the question itself as the possibility that straight people might be as curious about it as gay guys on Grindr are. She immediately tried to qualify and excuse her curiosity by citing her plethora of gay friends, but the damage had been done to my peace of mind.

What about other straight people? While they're assuming we're all either one or the other, are they actually trying to figure out which one? Some questions are simply better left unasked.

2. Finding a great gay guy is easier than finding a great straight one.

Don't be fooled by all the fun you have with us when the drinks are flowing and the music is playing. I'd like to say gay men are more highly evolved than our straight counterparts, and that there's a surplus of quality gay men running around towns, but if that were true, so many of us wouldn't be single. Still, the theory persists among straight women that if straight men embraced more supposedly gay qualities, they'd be better men for it. Be careful what you wish for. I, for one, wouldn't wish some of the men I've dated on anyone, women included.

Not only do we not all enjoy doing all of the things many straight women assume we do (shopping, dancing, talking about our feelings), we're often just as defective as the men they wish were more like us. Ladies, we're all in the same boat: Most men, regardless of sexual persuasion, are not innately monogamous boyfriend material. Perhaps if straight women spent some time on Grindr, they'd get it. They should just enjoy our platonic company and be glad they don't have to go home with us.

3. When a woman jokingly says "What a shame/waste" to a gay man, or talks about "converting" us, we should take it as a compliment.

I used to get that all the time in Buenos Aires' mixed "gay-friendly" clubs, and I could never figure out if the women who said it meant a shame for them or a shame in general. Why does it have to be a shame at all? The world shames us enough as it is. There's no need for a female admirer to compound that shame just because she won't be getting lucky (at least not with one of us) tonight.

4. 1 gay man + 1 gay man = 1 potential couple.

They say straight men and women can't be friends. Hollywood even offered a movie (1989's When Harry Met Sally...) based on that point. Gay guys, however, can. Don't automatically assume that the friend I introduce you to, or the one I hung out with the other night is my new love interest — or should be.

5. We'd be perfect for your other gay friend (or your son).

There are plenty of gay fish in the sea (especially waters as deep as New York City or any metropolitan area with a significant gay population), and mutual attraction between two men requires more than simply both being gay. I was flattered the time a woman at Bowery Bar in NYC declared me a perfect match for her son and went so far as to leave him a voice mail raving about me. Despite her tipsy enthusiasm, though, I knew I'd never have to meet him. What self-respecting 20-something gay man would agree to be set up by his mother?

Unfortunately, I did end up meeting Felipe, the guy my friend Hollie prematurely pegged as my soulmate because, in her eyes, since we were both sassy and gay, we were destined to live happily ever after. The party where Felipe and I met face to face for the first (and only) time nearly ended in fisticuffs because we mixed like fire and gasoline. The moral of this story: If sparks are going to fly between two gay men, let them fly on their own.

6. If we think a man is attractive, we want to sleep with him.

Sometimes a handsome guy is just a handsome guy. So relax, boys, and stop assuming we're going to hit on you. It's entirely possible, even likely, that you aren't our type, and not just because you aren't gay.

7. We all sit around wondering who is and isn't gay.

The celebrity guessing game can be fun, but just because some gay activists are on the outing warpath doesn't mean all of us are. And hey, ladies: There's no need to always point out that the guy we've both been eyeing across a crowded room, or your latest hot boyfriend, isn't gay. Like the "Top or bottom?" thing, it probably hasn't even crossed my mind.

8. Being gay is all about being gay.

There's so much more to our lives than just being gay, so if you're straight, the next time you're around a gay guy, feel free not to bring it up.

 

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06:50 Cartoon: Super-Fun-Pak Comix, feat. Vampire Hunter, Zombie Slayer & more!» Daily Kos

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AND apply to join the highly selective INNER HIVE!

06:35 Reservists in Israeli Army Refuse to Serve» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Fifty reservists come forward about their opposition to the Israeli military apparatus, the war in Gaza and the conscription law.

Whenever the Israeli army drafts the reserves—which are made up of ex-soldiers—there are dissenters, resisters, and AWOLers among the troops called to war. Now that Israel has sent troops to Gaza again and reserves are being summoned to service, dozens are refusing to take part.

We are more than 50 Israelis who were once soldiers and now declare our refusal to be part of the reserves. We oppose the Israeli Army and the conscription law. Partly, that’s because we revile the current military operation. But most of the signers below are women and would not have fought in combat. For us, the army is flawed for reasons far broader than “Operation Protective Edge,” or even the occupation. We rue the militarization of Israel and the army’s discriminatory policies.

One example is the way women are often relegated to low-ranking secretarial positions. Another is the screening system that discriminates against Mizrachi (Jews whose families originate in Arab countries) by keeping them from being fairly represented inside the army’s most prestigious units. In Israeli society, one’s unit and position determine much of one’s professional path in the civilian afterlife.

To us, the current military operation and the way militarization affects Israeli society are inseparable. In Israel, war is not merely politics by other means—it replaces politics. Israel is no longer able to think about a solution to a political conflict except in terms of physical might; no wonder it is prone to never-ending cycles of mortal violence. And when the cannons fire, no criticism may be heard.

This petition, long in the making, has a special urgency because of the brutal military operation now taking place in our name. And although combat soldiers are generally the ones prosecuting today’s war, their work would not be possible without the many administrative roles in which most of us served. So if there is a reason to oppose combat operations in Gaza, there is also a reason to oppose the Israeli military apparatus as a whole. That is the message of this petition:

*      *      *

We were soldiers in a wide variety of units and positions in the Israeli military—a fact we now regret, because, in our service, we found that troops who operate in the occupied territories aren’t the only ones enforcing the mechanisms of control over Palestinian lives. In truth, the entire military is implicated. For that reason, we now refuse to participate in our reserve duties, and we support all those who resist being called to service.

The Israeli Army, a fundamental part of Israelis’ lives, is also the power that rules over the Palestinians living in the territories occupied in 1967. As long as it exists in its current structure, its language and mindset control us: We divide the world into good and evil according to the military’s categories; the military serves as the leading authority on who is valued more and who less in society—who is more responsible for the occupation, who is allowed to vocalize their resistance to it and who isn’t, and how they are allowed to do it. The military plays a central role in every action plan and proposal discussed in the national conversation, which explains the absence of any real argument about non-military solutions to the conflicts Israel has been locked in with its neighbors.

The Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are deprived of civil rights and human rights. They live under a different legal system from their Jewish neighbors. This is not exclusively the fault of soldiers who operate in these territories. Those troops are, therefore, not the only ones obligated to refuse. Many of us served in logistical and bureaucratic support roles; there, we found that the entire military helps implement the oppression of the Palestinians.

Many soldiers who serve in non-combat roles decline to resist because they believe their actions, often routine and banal, are remote from the violent results elsewhere. And actions that aren’t banal—for example, decisions about the life or death of Palestinians made in offices many kilometers away from the West Bank—are classified, and so it’s difficult to have a public debate about them. Unfortunately, we did not always refuse to perform the tasks we were charged with, and in that way we, too, contributed to the violent actions of the military.

During our time in the army, we witnessed (or participated in) the military’s discriminatory behavior: the structural discrimination against women, which begins with the initial screening and assignment of roles; the sexual harassment that was a daily reality for some of us; the immigration absorption centers that depend on uniformed military assistance. Some of us also saw firsthand how the bureaucracy deliberately funnels technical students into technical positions, without giving them the opportunity to serve in other roles. We were placed into training courses among people who looked and sounded like us, rather than the mixing and socializing that the army claims to do.

The military tries to present itself as an institution that enables social mobility—a stepping-stone into Israeli society. In reality, it perpetuates segregation. We believe it is not accidental that those who come from middle- and high- income families land in elite intelligence units, and from there often go to work for high-paying technology companies. We think it is not accidental that when soldiers from a firearm maintenance or quartermaster unit desert or leave the military, often driven by the need to financially support their families, they are called “draft-dodgers.” The military enshrines an image of the “good Israeli,” who in reality derives his power by subjugating others. The central place of the military in Israeli society, and this ideal image it creates, work together to erase the cultures and struggles of the Mizrachi, Ethiopians, Palestinians, Russians, Druze, the Ultra-Orthodox, Bedouins, and women.

We all participated, on one level or another, in this ideology and took part in the game of the "good Israeli” that serves the military loyally. Mostly our service did advance our positions in universities and the labor market. We made connections and benefited from the warm embrace of the Israeli consensus. But for the above reasons, these benefits were not worth the costs.

By law, some of us are still registered as part of the reserved forces (others have managed to win exemptions or have been granted them upon their release), and the military keeps our names and personal information, as well as the legal option to order us to “service.” But we will not participate—in any way.

There are many reasons people refuse to serve in the Israeli Army. Even we have differences in background and motivation about why we’ve written this letter. Nevertheless, against attacks on those who resist conscription, we support the resisters: the high school students who wrote a refusal declaration letter, the Ultra orthodox protesting the new conscription law, the Druze refusers, and all those whose conscience, personal situation, or economic well-being do not allow them to serve. Under the guise of a conversation about equality, these people are forced to pay the price. No more.

Yael Even Or

Efrat Even Tzur

Tal Aberman

Klil Agassi

Ofri Ilany

Eran Efrati

Dalit Baum

Roi Basha

Liat Bolzman

Lior Ben-Eliahu

Peleg Bar-Sapir

Moran Barir

Yotam Gidron

Maya Guttman

Gal Gvili

Namer Golan

Nirith Ben Horin

Uri Gordon

Yonatan N. Gez

Bosmat Gal

Or Glicklich

Erez Garnai

Diana Dolev

Sharon Dolev

Ariel Handel

Shira Hertzanu

Erez Wohl

Imri Havivi

Gal Chen

Shir Cohen

Gal Katz

Menachem Livne

Amir Livne Bar-on

Gilad Liberman

Dafna Lichtman

Yael Meiry

Amit Meyer

Maya Michaeli

Orian Michaeli

Shira Makin

Chen Misgav

Naama Nagar

Inbal Sinai

Kela Sappir

Shachaf Polakow

Avner Fitterman

Tom Pessah

Nadav Frankovitz

Tamar Kedem

Amnon Keren

Eyal Rozenberg

Guy Ron-Gilboa

Noa Shauer

Avi Shavit

Jen Shuka

Chen Tamir

The petition for Israeli soldiers and reservists is located at Lo-Meshartot.org.

 

Related Stories

05:34 Kids with Pets More Likely to Avoid Meat» LiveScience.com
Kids who spend time cuddling up with Fido or Fluffy are more likely to turn their noses up at meat later in life, a new study suggests. The reason may be such kids develop empathy toward all animals.
05:30 Jon Stewart looks at contradictory Obamacare rulings» Daily Kos

Last night, Jon Stewart looked at the two contradictory Obamacare rulings on the subsidies for states where the GOP refused to set up state health care exchanges.

See, the law says you must be "enrolled in through an Exchange established by the State". Now a normal person might say, you really think the law intended subsidies only for lower income citizens in states that weren't being dicks about the exchanges?

Well, two of the three judges in this instance said, ah, yeah. We have to take that sentence literally.  I'm just happy both judges got to work that morning, assuming that once they hit stop signs, their day ends.

Video and full transcript below the fold.
05:30 Daily Kos Radio is LIVE at 9am ET!» Daily Kos

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

We'll be joined by Daily Kos Contributing Editor Ian Reifowitz, for a discussion of something deep and insightful about one or more topics of interest!

Predicting exactly what those topics will be is as difficult as it is unnecessary. Its' always an eye-opener when Ian comes around.

Listen LIVE at 9:00 ET, here: The Daily Kos Radio Player

Click this Link to Listen on your iTunes, Winamp or Windows Media Player

Can't see the live stream and/or podcast players in these posts? Do you use NoScript or something similar to control Javascript? Want to? Remember to enable Libsyn and Shoutcastplayer, and you'll see our players every morning!

May I have your attention, please? Want to help support the show without cracking your wallet?

Listen to Stitcher
Stitcher's got a new revenue-sharing program for shows wiht more than 5,000 "active listeners" in a month.

What's an "active listener?" Believe it or not, it's someone who listens to at least 30 seconds of a show, once in a month.

Hey, I don't make the rules! I just exploit 'em.

So, how about giving us 30 seconds of your life? Head on over to our KITM archive on Stitcher, listen to 30 seconds' worth, and then after that, your time is your own.

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

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

05:18 Egyptian Carving Defaced by King Tut's Possible Father Discovered» LiveScience.com
The 3,300-year-old carving once held the face of the god Amun, but pharaoh Akhenaten, who may have been King Tut's dad, had it and the associated hieroglyphs hacked out during a religious revolution.
05:18 Cheers and Jeers: Thursday» Daily Kos
C&J Banner

From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE…

When Silence Speaks Volumes

In what Frank Luntz calls the worst political ad of this cycle, Republican senate candidate Terri Lynn Land of Michigan sits idly by for 12 seconds---robotically sipping from a prop coffee mug, shaking her head, making goofy faces and looking at her watch---after tasking the viewer to think about some mysterious thing her opponent (Democrat Gary Peters, who gave a real barnburner at Netroots Nation) said about the very real GOP "war on women." The ad is vague, it's clumsy, and it lacks any specificity:

When you're playing with pregnant pauses in advertising, you're playing with fire.

So I held my breath over a similar silence in the new TV ad for Kentucky Democratic senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes. Thankfully, this one works much better, in my opinion. After introducing herself, Grimes gives a laid-off coal miner a moment to look into the camera and ask incumbent Republican Mitch McConnell a tough question: "In the last two years we've lost almost half of our coal jobs in eastern Kentucky. Why did you say it's not your job to bring jobs to Kentucky?" Then…the pause:

Six seconds, not twelve. Enough to give the viewer time to think about a specific thing McConnell said (reinforced visually on-screen, unlike Land's ad) and ask themselves, "Yeah, why did McConnell say that dang fool thing?" Then a truck passes in the foreground and Grimes turns to the laid-off coal miner and says, "I couldn’t believe he said that either. I approved this message…because, Senator, that'll be my number-one job."

A credible and interesting setting. A credible Kentuckian on hard times asking a simple and sharp-elbowed question of Grimes' opponent, a pause to imply that McConnell has no answer, and a witty response and direct promise from Grimes that nails it down---she's going to fight to bring jobs to the state. I think it's a smart way to capitalize on McConnell's unforced error, and I hope it helps bump her favorables up a notch. Or two.

P.S. One other thing about Land's ad: why does she ask the viewer to "think about that for a moment" and then, ten seconds later, look down at a wristwatch that's so tiny I'd bet dollars to doughnuts it doesn't have a second hand? I think she's looking at the actual time because she wants to get the hell outta there. As I recall, that didn't work out so well when George H.W. Bush did that during a debate. Think about that for a moment while I stand here and make goofy faces to amuse my dog.

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

05:17 Economics Daily Digest: All the performance pay, none of the performance» Daily Kos
Economics Daily Digest by the Roosevelt Institute banner

By Rachel Goldfarb, originally published on Next New Deal

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

The Pay-for-Performance Myth (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Eric Chemi and Ariana Giorgi report on a new analysis of data on the relationship between company performance and CEO pay, which shows no relationship between the two factors.

  • Roosevelt Take: In his white paper, William Lazonick explains how stock-based performance pay incentivizes CEOs toward business practices that manipulate stock prices.

Elizabeth Warren to Help Propose Senate Bill to Tackle Part-Time Schedules (The Guardian)

Jana Kasperkevic writes that the Schedules That Work Act would establish a right to request a predictable schedule, payment for cancelled shifts, and two weeks' notice of schedule changes.

Technology, Aided by Recession, Is Polarizing the Work World (NYT)

Claire Cain Miller says a new study explains how the recession has accelerated the loss of "routine" jobs, which follow well-defined procedures and used to go primarily to men and people with less education.

Even After Open Enrollment, Activity Remains Unexpectedly High on Federal Health Insurance Exchange (ProPublica)

There have been nearly 1 million transactions on the federal exchange since the April 19 enrollment deadline, writes Charles Ornstein, as people continue to sign up for and switch insurance plans.

Paul Ryan's Anti-Poverty Plan Should Support Minimum-Wage Hike, But Don't Count on It (The Hill)

Raising the minimum wage is one of the best ways to fight poverty today, writes Shawn Fremstad, but Paul Ryan ignores research that shows higher wages wouldn't impact employment.

Highway to Hell (The Economist)

The Economist says Congress's solution to funding the Highway Trust Fund through budget tricks around pensions creates risk of greater costs on taxpayers if those underfunded pensions go bust.

New on Next New Deal

The Future Economy Will Pit Man vs. Machine

Andy Stern, president emeritus of the SEIU, presents a speculation on the future for the Next American Economy project in which technology replaces the vast majority of jobs.


05:05 In Photos: 3,300-Year-Old Egyptian Carving» LiveScience.com
An ancient Egyptian carving found in the tomb at the site of Sedeinga in modern-day Sudan shows the scars of a religious revolution and may have been gouged by Akhenaten, the possible father of King Tut.
05:00 Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: John Walsh hit by plagiarism allegations» Daily Kos
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Want the scoop on hot races around the country? Get the digest emailed to you each weekday morning. Sign up here.
Leading Off:

MT-Sen: Just as things started to look better for appointed Democratic Sen. John Walsh, he got some very bad news on Wednesday. The New York Times reported that Walsh plagiarized at least one-fourth of his final paper to graduate from war college in 2007. The Times even has sections of Walsh's paper along with the original sources he allegedly copied from without citing or quoting. Walsh is denying that he did anything wrong intentionally, and was being treated for combat-related post traumatic stress disorder when he did the paper.

Plagiarism charges have sunk more than one campaign. A recent example is the 2010 Colorado gubernatorial election, where presumed Republican nominee and former Rep. Scott McInnis never recovered from a series of accusations that he had been paid for work he had plagiarized. McInnis ended up narrowly losing the primary to Some Dude Dan Maes. We'll see what happens with Walsh, who is already facing an uphill climb to keep his seat against Republican Rep. Steve Daines.

This story comes at a very bad time for Walsh, as a few recent polls showed him gaining ground. Just before the news hit, Gravis Marketing released a (probably now obsolete) survey showing Walsh down only 45-41, the closest result any publicly released poll has ever found here. But with the alleged plagiarism story dominating the news, Walsh is going to have a tough time keeping whatever gains he's made in the last few months, much less overtaking Daines. Skilled politicians and talented campaigns have come back from worse things, and we'll see soon if Walsh and his team have what it takes to recover and move on.

02:45 Food Stamp Program Hits Historic Low For Waste, Fox Attacks It Anyway» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Fox Hypes 1/2,000th Of Budget As Unsustainable Waste

Fox News misleadingly attacked the federal food stamp program for being wasteful and unaccountable despite reports that the program achieved the lowest payment error rate in its history in the most recently available data.

Fox New complained about the findings of a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on quality control in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as food stamps. The USDA report clearly states that the 2012 fiscal year was "another year of excellent performance in payment accuracy" before noting that the most recent payment error rate of 3.42 percent was once again "the lowest National payment error rate in the history of SNAP."

On the July 24 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade cast the findings in a negative light, stressing that "the government is overpaying on food stamps by about $2 billion." Co-host Steve Doocy then questioned whether the Obama administration could "be trusted with more money," given the overpayments. Fox Business anchor Stuart Varney went on to chastise the Department of Agriculture for labeling the food-stamp payment error rate of 3.42 percent "excellent," wondering aloud "since when has that been good?"

Fox News' mischaracterization of the SNAP report continued throughout the day. On Happening Now, co-host Jenna Lee called the USDA report "startling" and said that "the administration is having a tough time managing its funds." On The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson claimed that federal spending on nutrition assistance was "reaching a breaking point" before highlighting the growth of participation in the food stamp program since 2007.

Far from indicating a managerial flaw in the Obama administration, the 2012 payment error rate in SNAP is evidence of success in rooting out improper payments. According to the report being derided on Fox News, the national payment error rate in SNAP during President Obama's first year in office was 4.36 percent. That error rate then fell to 3.81, 3.80, and 3.42 percent in fiscal years 2010-2012, respectively.

02:04 Ex-GOP sleuth eyes House seat» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Barbara Comstock, a former staffer who dug up dirt on the Clintons, is running for Congress.
01:47 Conservative Site: Homosexuality, Game Of Thrones Are Creating A "Slippery Slope" To Incest» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

An article published in WorldNetDaily blames the acceptance of homosexuality for creating a "slippery slope" to the popularization of incest, citing the popular HBO series Game Of Thrones as evidence.

In a July 23 post titled "Next Stop On Slippery Slope: Incest," notorious anti-LGBT activist Michael Brown warned that the acceptance of homosexuality had created a "slippery slope" towards "sexual anarchy" and the normalization of incest:

Gay activists constantly tell us that there's no such thing as a slippery moral slope and that the acceptance of homosexuality will not lead to the acceptance of other sexual practices, such as incest. The facts prove otherwise, and it is clear that we are rapidly sliding down the very slope whose existence they deny.

As I continually chart our society's moral free fall, the term that best describes our current condition is sexual anarchy, where men can have sex with men just as well with women, where sex outside of wedlock is just as acceptable as sex within wedlock, where marriage doesn't necessarily mean monogamy and where longstanding social taboos are cast off.

[...]

In their zeal to justify homosexual practice, these misguided teachers have opened the door wide to incest as well, removing the primary biblical texts that prohibit these sexual unions.

Society as a whole needs to take heed as well. If we don't reverse our slide down this slippery moral slope, we will soon crash and burn.

00:52 The Worst Part Of Paul Ryan's Poverty Plan Is Based On A Media Myth» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Rep. Paul Ryan's poverty proposal, which would in part punish impoverished Americans for not getting themselves out of poverty on a specific timeline, is based on the conservative myth pushed by right-wing media that blames poverty on individuals' "spirit" and personal life choices. Experts say poverty is the result of systemic inequality and lack of opportunity.

Ryan Plan: Social Safety Net Beneficiaries Must Sign "Contracts"

Ryan's Poverty Plan: Low-Income Families Will Be Held To "A Contract Outlining Specific And Measurable Benchmarks For Success." The "discussion draft" submitted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to the House Budget Committee on potential solutions to poverty in America includes the proposal that low-income Americans would have to sign "contracts" in order to remain eligible for social safety net benefits, such as food stamps, or SNAP. The contract would include: benchmarks, such as finding a job, enrolling in employment training, or even meeting "new acquaintances outside circle of poverty"; a "timeline" in which individuals are contractually-obligated to meet those benchmarks; bonuses for meeting benchmarks early; and "sanctions for breaking the terms of the contract":

In the envisioned scenario providers would work with families to design a customized life plan to provide a structured roadmap out of poverty. When crafting a life plan, they would include, at a minimum:

  • A contract outlining specific and measurable benchmarks for success
  • A timeline for meeting these benchmarks
  • Sanctions for breaking the terms of the contract
  • Incentives for exceeding the terms of the contract
  • Time limits for remaining on cash assistance [House Budget Committee, "Expanding Opportunity in America," 7/24/14]

Ryan Plan Assumes "That The Poor Somehow Want To Be Poor"

NYMag's Annie Lowrey: Ryan's "Condescending" Plan "Threatens To Punish The Poorest And Most Unstable Families For Their Poverty." Annie Lowrey of New York magazine explained that Ryan's proposal is based on the assumption "that the poor somehow want to be poor," noting that the contract proposal assumes that low-income Americans either need the threat of punishment as motivation, or that they are themselves deficient and incapable of success:

[I]t presupposes that the poor somehow want to be poor; that they don't have the skills to plan and achieve and grow their way out of poverty. The truth is that many do have the skills, and what they lack are resources -- say, enough money to pay for a decent daycare for your infant so you can work a full-time job, or cash to get your car fixed so you don't have to take the bus to your overnight gig at Walmart. Ryan is not putting more resources on the table, as far as I can tell, and thus for many families he will not be addressing the root problem.   

[...]

[I]t threatens to punish the poorest and most unstable families for their poverty and instability. Let's say you're a single mom with five kids. You break your contract. You get "sanctioned" -- a term normally used for money-launderers, terrorists, and narcotics traffickers, by the way. You suffer, and you fall deeper into poverty. But more to the point, your children suffer. [New York, 7/24/14]

Ryan Previously Blamed Inner City Men For Their Poverty. The idea that poverty is a product of lazy, deficient individuals -- rather than the product of systemic inequality and a lack of resources and opportunities -- is an idea Ryan has pushed before. Just this past March, Ryan blamed inner city men for their poverty, citing a "culture problem":

We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with. [ThinkProgress, 3/12/14]

Ryan's Poverty-Shaming Plan Echoes Right-Wing Media Rhetoric

Fox's Stuart Varney On The Poor: "Many Of Them Have Things -- What They Lack Is The Richness Of Spirit." Fox Business host Stuart Varney claimed in 2011 that because poor people have "modern conveniences," such as refrigerators and air conditioning, official poverty figures are inaccurate. After he was mocked by comedian Jon Stewart for his poverty-shaming, Varney doubled down on his show, claiming:

VARNEY: The image we have of poor people as starving and living in squalor really is not accurate. Many of them have things -- what they lack is the richness of spirit. That's my opinion. [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 7/19/11; Fox Business, Varney & Co., 8/25/11]

Limbaugh: "In Many Cases" Poor People "Have Only Themselves To Blame." Lamenting President Obama's focus on income inequality in the run-up to the 2012 election, radio host Rush Limbaugh asserted that "in many cases, speaking bluntly, the people that don't do well have only themselves to blame. And those who have no control over themselves are the ones we help." He added, "the only limits in this country on anybody's advancement is their own limitation that they place on themselves." [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 2/21/14]

Fox's Charles Payne: "Stigma" Can Serve As "Impetus To Get People Off" Food Stamps. Discussing an increase in people signing up for SNAP, Fox News contributor and Fox Business host Charles Payne lamented the lack of "stigma" surrounding food stamps. According to Payne, "I know there's a big thing trying to de-stigmatize food stamps, but the good part about the stigma is it actually does serve as an impetus to get people off of it." [Fox News, America's Newsroom3/28/13]

NRA's Ted Nugent: America's "So-Called" Poor "Whine," Even Though They Have Microwaves And "Bling-Bling." In a column for conspiracy website WND, National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent claimed that poor people in America have "no one to blame but themselves" and "whine" despite having various "luxuries" that "real poor people around the world ... can only dream of":

As the Democrats continue to get away with their crimes, the squawking poor just keep on getting poorer, and as is always the case, they have no one to blame but themselves. Stupid is as stupid does. Brainwashing only works if you give up your brain and your soul to the brainwashers.

Another mind-boggling conundrum is the fact that America's so-called poor live a life far better than do real poor people around the world and have luxuries they can only dream of.

With their cell phones, automobiles, microwave ovens, air-conditioning, new clothes, manicures and pedicures, bling-bling, clean water, more food than they can eat, pretty much redistributed everything handed to them, they still whine how America should be more like those other countries. [WND, 7/16/14]

Times' David Brooks Blames Single Mothers For Their Poverty. David Brooks scapegoated unmarried moms for their poverty in his New York Times opinion column, claiming that "someone being rich doesn't make someone poor," and arguing that discussions of income inequality have been too focused on disparities in wealth and not focused enough on the "fraying of social fabric" and the "morally fraught social and cultural roots of the problem," which he pinned in part on single motherhood. [New York Times, 1/16/14]

New York Post Columnist Michael Goodwin: "The Sense Of Shame Is Gone" From People Using "Entitlements." During an appearance on Fox News' Fox & Friends, Fox News contributor and NY Post columnist Michael Goodwin lamented that "the sense of shame is gone," which has helped lead to an "explosion of entitlements":

GRETCHEN CARLSON (co-host): Are too many Americans avoiding work to collect welfare? Well, check this out. Just last year, 45 million Americans received food stamps. That's a 70 percent increase since President Obama took office. So you have to wonder: Are entitlements the new American dream. Joining me now, Michael Goodwin, Fox News contributor and columnist for the New York Post. You know, I almost get a stomach ache saying that because when you think of the American dream, you certainly don't think about handouts, but is that what we're becoming?

GOODWIN: Well, it's interesting. The thing I write about in here is the idea that shame used to be part of this. In other words, people didn't want to accept a handout because they were ashamed to do it. There was a kind of social contract that said you don't do it. You're independent, you're reliant. That was part of the American founding virtue, as Charles Murray calls them.

And yet now we look at them, we see this explosion of entitlements. The sense of shame is gone. So I focus this week on food stamps, which I think is a real cultural issue, because it's now 47 million people in the country are on food stamps. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/21/12]

Experts Agree: Poverty Results From Inequality, Not A Lack Of Motivation

Jared Bernstein: Growing Inequality Increases Poverty. On The New York Times' Economix blog, economist Jared Bernstein noted that economic growth alone had been enough to reduce poverty "from the late 1950s to the mid-'60s," but that growing economic inequality meant poverty rates failed to decrease further:

If less of the economy's market-generated growth -- i.e., before taxes and transfers kick in -- ends up in the lower reaches of the income scale, either there will be more poverty for any given level of G.D.P. growth, or there will have to be a lot more transfers to offset inequality's poverty-inducing impact.

[...]

Inequality serves as a wedge or a funnel in this model, redirecting growth from a broad swath of households across the income scale to a narrow slice at the top. [The New York Times, Economix Blog, 1/13/14]

Paul Krugman: Income Inequality Is Caused By A Lack Of Economic Opportunity, Not A "Collapse Of The Family." Economist and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman argued on his New York Times blog that income inequality today is caused by a lack of economic opportunity, rather than social disintegration or the "collapse of the family":

These days crime is way down, so is teenage pregnancy, and so on; society did not collapse. What collapsed instead is economic opportunity. If progress against poverty has been disappointing over the past half century, the reason is not the decline of the family but the rise of extreme inequality. We're a much richer nation than we were in 1964, but little if any of that increased wealth has trickled down to workers in the bottom half of the income distribution. [The New York Times, 1/8/14]

Institute For Research On Poverty: Government Programs Cut Poverty Rate "Nearly In Half." According to research from the Institute for Research on Poverty, anti-poverty programs have lifted millions of Americans out of poverty since the 1960s. While reducing poverty is only one step toward reducing inequality, the effectiveness of anti-poverty programs shows the effect government policy could have on economic conditions (emphasis added):

The OPM [official poverty measure] shows the overall poverty rates to be nearly the same in 1967 and 2011--at 14 percent and 15 percent, respectively. But our counterfactual estimates using the anchored SPM show that without taxes and other government programs, poverty would have been roughly flat at 27 to 29 percent, while with government benefits poverty has fallen from 26 percent to 16 percent--a 40 percent reduction. Government programs today are cutting poverty nearly in half (from 29 percent to 16 percent) while in 1967 they only cut poverty by about a one percentage point one percentage point. [Institute for Research on Poverty, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 12/11/13]

Wed 23 July, 2014

21:58 Chasing Alligators, Dodging Parrots: A Zookeeper's Life (Op-Ed)» LiveScience.com
What scares a zookeeper may not be what you expect.
17:43 Why am I moving left?» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Opinion: I used to be right down the middle. But America's changed, and so have I.
17:43 Hamas' useful idiots» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Opinion: Each civilian death in Gaza is a tragedy, but who is ultimately responsible? Hamas.
13:10 Poll: Put manufacturing jobs before trade agreements» Daily Kos
Worker and partially assembled car in a Nissan factory.
It's hard to get trade deals in the headlines these days. Democrats and Republicans alike have pushed through a series of bad trade deals in recent years, and while there's good reason to believe that voters oppose many aspects of those agreements, it doesn't seem to make much of a dent. As Sen. Elizabeth Warren has said, the strategy for passing these deals seems to be hiding what's in them from voters, but "if transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States." Well, here's more reason for the crowd that wants to pass more bad-for-American-workers trade deals to keep the details of their plans secret. The Alliance for American Manufacturing has released a poll finding—again—that people want to protect jobs.
  • When asked: International trade agreements give Americans access to more foreign-made goods and products but at the risk of American manufacturing jobs being lost. What would you say is more important? Eighty-two percent believe manufacturing jobs are more important vs. 15 percent who choose foreign market access as priority. [...]
  • When asked: Some foreign countries artificially keep their goods and products cheaper on the international market by manipulating their currency. How important is it to you that any international trade agreements negotiated by the United States have specific rules preventing currency manipulation? 62.3 percent believe it’s ‘very important’, 26.6 percent believe it’s ‘somewhat important.’ [...]
  • When asked: If the Obama administration supports an international trade agreement that does not specifically prohibit currency manipulation, do you think the United States Congress should support or oppose that trade deal? A plurality of Democrats believe Congress should oppose such a deal—48 percent oppose, 41 percent support—while a majority of Republicans believe Congress should oppose a trade agreement without rules against currency manipulation—77 percent oppose, 17 percent support.
Of course, backers of bad trade deals never admit they're going to cost jobs. In fact, they always claim the deals will create jobs—but by now, we've seen enough of these to know that's false. And opponents of declaring other countries (China) to be currency manipulators would say it might jeopardize the U.S. relationship with those other countries (China) in problematic ways. Those voices, in fact, dominate our politics. They get the trade agreements passed without transparency. They go on TV and condescendingly explain that this is a global economy and in a global economy you have to race to the bottom, or you might get left behind. (As if being left behind in a race to the bottom is automatically a terrible thing.)

Polls like this show the deep-seated reservations Americans have about the kind of trade agreements that usually get pushed through without much public input. But usually, regular people aren't asked about this—because they'd give answers politicians don't want to hear.

12:58 Texas open carry activists meet on Grassy Knoll, denounce president» Daily Kos
An open carry activist at Dealey Plaza, Dallas, holding a rifle and ranting about the president.
'I don't care how much propaganda Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, that usurper foreigner president, you worry about foreigners comin' over the border we got a foreigner as president! We got a foreigner that was born in Kenya that has an illegal birth certificate as president and you guys are worried about foreigners comin' over the border!'
So this is a thing that happened.
A group of open carry gun activists who protested Saturday at Dealey Plaza in Dallas filmed a bizarre, more-than-10-minute video of their demonstration and posted it to YouTube.

One activist appeared on camera to explain that the group, which the Dallas Observer identified as Come And Take It Dallas, gathers every third Saturday of the month to pass out Second Amendment literature. The same speaker then went on a rant against foreigners and refers to President Barack Obama as a "usurper foreigner" born in Kenya.

Dallas' Dealey Plaza is the site at which President John F. Kennedy was assassinated with a rifle shot from a nearby building.

So a group of activists carrying rifles regularly meet at the scene of an infamous presidential assassination via rifle and proclaim while fondling their rifles that the current president is not the nation's legitimate leader.

That is a thing that happens.

12:54 The Most Harrowing, Heart-Breaking Dispatches from Palestinians in Gaza» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Palestinians in Gaza are using social media to connect with the outside world they are cut off from.

As Israeli forces bombard the Gaza Strip by air, land, and sea, some 1.8 million Palestinians are largely stuck inside their homes, shaken by relentless explosions, wondering if and when their turn to die will come. When death does strike, international media will recalculate the tally of the dead, dropping names if those in question are old or children, but otherwise leave untold the stories of their time alive on the crowded sliver of land they called home. Isolated and with nowhere to flee, many Palestinians in Gaza use social media to make an otherwise-impossible connection with the outside world, carving out virtual space for their existence while their physical surroundings implode in their midst.

"I tweet, therefore I am,” writes 24-year-old Muhammed Suliman. Under the bombs, tweets are a way for Muhammed to notify himself and others that he has survived the offensive thus far.

When Israel began its latest large-scale aerial offensive on Gaza on July 7, Muhammad switched from mostly Arabic-language tweets to exclusively English, and started contributing to online discourse on the conflict as a commentator. These early tweets leave out the first person, discussing the situation in general. But on the third day of the assault, as the death toll passes 70, something in Muhammed’s tone changes. His Twitter feed becomes a sort of diary, a poetic outpouring in the face of fear, a human response reflecting the uncertainty of survival.

I sit near a window, next to my wife who finally fell asleep. I hear drones buzzing overhead coupled with birds chirping. I anticipate a blast

The blast has come. Sooner than I thought. War experience enables you to expect next blast. I extend my hand to my wife, and she takes it.

Muhammed’s tweets become a narration of his life and the lives and deaths of other Palestinians in Gaza. His feed reads like a nail-biting and heart-pumping novel, or a collection of visceral haikus, only this isn’t literature but a compressed report of Muhammed’s observations, thoughts, and feelings. Real apocalyptic scenes squeezed through the filter of social media.

Petrified, my ears buzz and don't seem to recover. Leila's stomach starts hurting. Each blast sounds louder and more horrifying. Death nears

I've lost my words. Bombs rain down on my area. Behind the dining table, Leila and I sit close to each other. Death is what we are tweeting.

On other days, Muhammed’s fears subside or at least are allowed to be morphed into dark comedy. The World Cup, which is about to start its semi-final matches as the air offensive begins, provides a distraction for the bombs, something to think about besides impending death. Until a beach cafe full of soccer fans is bombed by Israel, killing eight, seemingly all civilians.

Israel's bombardment of Gaza is similar to Germany thrashing Brazil in the semi finals. Think of Palestinian violence as Brazil's one goal.

8 killed while watching the World Cup semi final. They surely ruled out the possibility of being targeted. We're not a threat, they thought.

Muhammed tweets stories that are only reported otherwise in international media as numbers, the only notable exceptions being the above and the case of four children being bombed on a beach, which he tweets about as well. 

Anas, 17, posts on Facebook, 'I'm too tired, shell our home so I can get some sleep.' A while later, his home is shelled. He sleeps forever.

Yasser receives a call from IDF. Evacuate in ten minutes. He wasn't home though. His family was. Hysterically, he phoned home. No one picked

Amir, 12, and Mohammed. 10, want to buy yogurt. Things are calm, they tell their mom. They leave the house. A blast is heard. They're dead.

I look at pictures of brothers Amir and Mohammed wrapped in white shroud stained with their blood. I feel dizzy. War is a nightmare.

In a hospital room, dad cries in agony over the body of his baby son. Holding him in his hands, he tearfully cries: Wake up, I got you a toy

Group of children go to the sea, escaping the bombs. They swim and play, mindless of Israeli warships off shore. Missiles hit them. Four die

Even through all this terror, Muhammed remains free of bloodlust. His humility and gentleness is astounding. When the first Israeli dies on the 10th day, after nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed, Muhammed tweets about it. He is not one to “blame both sides” — the conflict is not a balanced one and there is a clear oppressor and oppressed — but he values all human life.

Some Israelis wish me death. I might die. But I wish no death unto you. I want us both to live. Live together as equals in this country.

The terrifying truth is that Muhammed may in fact die, and the only way for his followers to know that he is still alive is to wait for his next tweet. Tweeting about death here is not overly fatalistic or hypothetical. Death is a very real possibility. A shadow looming over life. Muhammed’s death would be felt deeply not only by his family and friends and acquaintances, but by his followers on Twitter.

Another social media user offers a window into the mind of a creative child trapped in the center of bombardment. Muhammad Qareeqe is a talented 13-year-old Palestinian artist from the Shajaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City, and like many other kids his age around the world, he’s obsessed with Facebook. Prior to the current offensive, he’d post several times a day, promoting his art and showing off his boyhood cuteness, a kind of Gazan Justin Bieber with a paintbrush. 

Last time Israeli warplanes carried out a prolonged attack on Gaza, Muhammad was 11. The time before that, he was 9. He was born during the Second Intifada. Through the wars and in the face of the economic blockade imposed on Gaza since 2007, Muhammad has developed a seemingly innate talent for painting and drawing. He has also developed a thousands-strong fan base inside and outside of Gaza via social media. 

Most days during the last period of calm, Muhammad would start his day with a warm “good morning” Facebook post and end it with a goodnight post, along with pictures of himself being cute, garnering scores of likes. In between, he’d usually post smiley-face-heavy updates on his latest work or random thoughts on life. But ever since the bombs started falling in Gaza and didn’t stop, his social media presence has changed.

He posts a picture he drew of an Israeli warplane bombing a Palestinian house. “This is a scene from Gaza,” he says. “Bombing for ‘security.’ The homes of citizens. Targets for the world’s most despicable army.”

Another post says simply: “Patience, patience. Perseverance, perseverance.”

“I drew this because the bombing doesn’t have mercy on trees or humans, or even birds,” Muhammad writes in a post of his drawing of a fallen sparrow.

 

As hospitals and morgues overflow, Muhammad provides a distraction for himself and other children whose lives and psychological well-beings are at risk under the bombs. He gives an art lesson to the neighborhood boys and girls and posts about it on Facebook. In the pictures he includes of the session, his features seem to have changed—his smile not quite what it used to be, his hair curly and wild where it had before been carefully tamed. His arms with a tinge of muscle. As if he’s grown.

On the tenth day of the offensive, Israeli troops begin a large-scale ground operation in Gaza. The death toll spikes, nearly doubling in just 72 hours. Late Saturday and overnight, myriad warplanes buzz over Muhammad’s own Shajaiyeh neighborhood, spewing explosives every few seconds. Small arms fire can be heard in the distance as militants face off with soldiers. Muhammad's goodnight post is that of an orange sky lit not by sunlight but by Israeli bombs. “#Here_is_Shajaiyeh,” the post says. No goodnight wishes. There is nothing good about this night, which a Norwegian doctor at a nearby hospital has called “a real massacre” and “the worst night of my life.

Muhammad survives the night, though at least 66 Palestinians, more than a dozen of them children, do not. He and his family flee Shajaiyeh for central Gaza City in the morning, Facebook users find out as he posts again: “We survived death, though our hearts are dying longingly. We are now in central Gaza City without electricity or any of life’s necessities.” 

And later: “I can’t respond to your messages. What I saw today is making conversation impossible.”

Both Muhammads continue to tell their stories online as the bombs fall around them and the death toll surpasses 600. Their existences have been marked. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the victims’ stories remain largely untold or unacknowledged. The steadfast, raised voices of survivors therefore become all the more profound. Through social media, many young Palestinians — smart and talented and artistic people like Muhammad Qareeqe and Muhammed Suliman — are making their stories available, reminding themselves and others they are still alive.

 

Related Stories

12:23 Florida Gov. Rick Scott stops dodging minimum wage questions, admits he opposes a raise» Daily Kos

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has finally stopped ducking questions and taken a small step toward honesty about his position on the minimum wage. Scott opposes raising the minimum wage. Anyone who's paying attention knows this. But he apparently doesn't want the voters of his state to see him saying so openly, so he's been refusing to answer questions about it, as if "I support more jobs" is not so blatant a dodge that you can't just add "but not a higher minimum wage" onto the end of that sentence for yourself.

Presumably Scott's campaign told him that it would, in fact, be bad for his re-election if footage circulated showing him openly supporting a poverty wage. But instead, what he got was weeks of questions about why he wasn't answering direct questions, followed by having to come out and say no, he doesn't support raising the minimum wage. I guess what all that ducking and weaving bought him was time to come up with an answer trying to make the minimum wage a President Obama issue, rather than the majority-of-the-American-people issue it actually is.

Florida's minimum wage is currently $7.93 per hour, which is in fact above the federal level. But it's still less than $16,500 for a year of full-time work, which means Florida's workers still need a raise—and Rick Scott doesn't want them to have it.

12:13 NRA commentary: Let's have mandatory gun classes in schools» Daily Kos
A still from an NRA News Commentary video: NRA News commentator Billy Johnson pictured beside silhouettes of multiple guns and rifles.
Yes, gun hipsters are a thing now.
I don't know how many times we have to point out that the NRA is now an extremist organization before media and politicians will suss out that yes, the NRA is an extremist organization.
A new commentary video from the National Rifle Association suggests we can live up to the Founding Fathers' ideals by creating "gun-required zones," and making gun training for children "necessary to advance to the next grade."
Do we even have to dignify "gun-required zones" with with a comment? Schools have to struggle mightily to rustle up the money for basic textbooks these days, but by gum we'll build them all shootin' ranges?
He imagined a compulsory education system that would require children to become proficient with firearms, just like "reading and writing," even "if they didn't want to learn" in order to advance in school: "Gun policy driven by our need for guns would insist that we introduce young people to guns early and that we'd give them the skills to use firearms safely. Just like we teach them reading and writing, necessary skills. We would teach shooting and firearm competency. It wouldn't matter if a child's parents weren't good at it. We'd find them a mentor. It wouldn't matter if they didn't want to learn. We would make it necessary to advance to the next grade."
And we would do this why, now? And having every child in America know how to shoot off a gun serves what great national need? Art classes are right out, but by God you will learn how to plug a squirrel, Billy. And as a bonus, once all the kids learn proper gun safety from the NRA they'll be able to efficiently shoot themselves in the crotch just like the rest of God-fearing well-trained super-safe 'Murica does.
Like "education, healthcare, food, [and] retirement," Johnson suggested that gun ownership be subject to a government subsidies, either through "government ranges where you could shoot for free or a yearly allotment of free ammunition."
I'm out. I can't do this. This is apparently not parody, despite the fact that it really, really sounds like a parody of what a mentally unbalanced ammosexual would say if you gave them fifteen Red Bulls and a video camera, and the mere fact that the single most powerful American organization keeps releasing tapes asking why the rights of their favorite murder weapons don't obviously outweigh the rights of all other citizens has given me the dry heaves.
11:16 Whole Foods' Yogurt Is A Sugary Mess» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
A new test reveals Whole Foods' yogurt has more than five times the sugar listed on their label.

Whole Foods has stringent guidelines for anything placed on its shelves such as no products with high-fructose corn syrup or artificial colors. But according to a recent Consumer Reports test, Whole Foods has falsely advertised the amount of sugar in its 8-ounce Greek yogurt.

Through a series of tests, Consumer Reports found Whole Foods 365 Every Day Value Plain Fat-Free Greek Yogurt contained more than triple, and sometimes five times more, the 2 grams of sugar listed on its label. After analyzing six samples from six different lots they found “an average of 11.4 grams per serving.”

Even though all yogurts, including plain, contain the naturally occurring sugar lactose, it still didn't make sense. The yogurt lists 16 grams of carbohydrates per serving on its package and lactose “provides the vast majority of carbs in yogurt.” They concluded?  The numbers don't "add up.”

This isn't the first time Whole Foods' yogurts have been fact checked. In another test, Good Housekeeping said Whole Foods' yogurt's calcium content sounded too good to be true. In their own test they discovered the 365 Nonfat Greek Yogurt contained nearly 100 milligrams less than its purported calcium content, from 600 to 500 milligrams. Still, they added, it's within the legal 20% margin of allowance.

Whole Foods was understandly thrown off by Consumer Reports' findings and told them: “We are working with our vendor to understand the testing results you have provided. They are not consistent with testing results we have relied upon from reputable third ­party labs. We take this issue seriously and are investigating the matter, and will of course take corrective action if any is warranted.”

 

 

 

Related Stories

10:21 NRA Floats Idea of Kids Needing to Show Gun Proficiency to Advance to the Next Grade» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
NRA: "What if instead of gun-free zones, we had gun-required zones?"

A new commentary video from the National Rifle Association suggests we can live up to the Founding Fathers' ideals by creating "gun-required zones," and making gun training for children "necessary to advance to the next grade."

In a July 21 NRA News video titled "Everyone Gets A Gun," NRA News commentator Billy Johnson said, "We don't have a U.S. gun policy. We have a U.S. anti-gun policy" that is based on "the assumption that we need to protect people from guns" and "that guns are bad or dangerous."

Instead Johnson wondered what gun policies the United States would have "if we designed gun policy from the assumption that people need guns -- that guns make people's lives better." Johnson then made the following recommendations that would "encourage" and might "reward" people "to keep and bear arms at all times."

  • Johnson wondered, "What if instead of gun free-zones we had gun-required zones?"
  • He imagined a compulsory education system that would require children to become proficient with firearms, just like "reading and writing," even "if they didn't want to learn" in order to advance in school: "Gun policy driven by our need for guns would insist that we introduce young people to guns early and that we'd give them the skills to use firearms safely. Just like we teach them reading and writing, necessary skills. We would teach shooting and firearm competency. It wouldn't matter if a child's parents weren't good at it. We'd find them a mentor. It wouldn't matter if they didn't want to learn. We would make it necessary to advance to the next grade."
  • Like "education, healthcare, food, [and] retirement," Johnson suggested that gun ownership be subject to a government subsidies, either through "government ranges where you could shoot for free or a yearly allotment of free ammunition."

According to Johnson, "Gun policy, driven by our need for guns would protect equal access to guns, just like we protect equal access to voting, and due process, and free speech." While acknowledging that his ideas may be seen as "ridiculous," -- even by "Second Amendment advocates" -- he argued his proposal "does justice to [the Founding Fathers] intentions."

Johnson's video was published as part of the NRA's recent efforts to appeal to a younger and more diverseaudience through its NRA News Commentator program and millennial-oriented NRA Freestyle online television network. The commentary videos have frequently featured bizarre and offensive content:

  • A July 18 commentary referenced the Holocaust to promote the baseless fear that the government will confiscate lawfully held private firearms.
  • A July 7 commentary claimed that laws regulating gun ownership are "equally as unconstitutional" as Jim Crow laws.
  • A June 30 commentary insisted that the media stop calling a man who used a gun to injure or kill 11 of his 19 victims during a May 23 rampage in Isla Vista, California, a "gunman" or "shooter" because several other people were killed and injured by means other than a gun during the attack.
  • A May 30 commentary warned viewers of a "trick" where media figures "race to label anything with a gun as a shooting, because they know how much more attention they are going to get with that word."

Full transcript of Johnson's July 21 commentary:

JOHNSON: As a country we have an education policy. Imagine if that policy was about limiting who has access to public education. I mean, let's be honest, the danger in educating people to think is that they might actually start to think for themselves. Perhaps we should think seriously about who we give access to knowledge. They could use it to do a lot of damage.

As a country we have a far reaching public parks program. Imagine if that program was designed to limit who has access to those parks. You littered once in high school, sorry no park access for you.

As a country we have labor policies designed to ensure that people are given access to jobs regardless of gender, race, or creed. Imagine if that policy withheld certain types of jobs as only the purview of the government elite.

The point is that as a country we often write policy to protect access to something; education, parks, jobs. But one for one of the most important protections, a constitutional right, we write policy designed to limit access. Among Second Amendment supporters it's common to talk about U.S. gun policy. We worry that policies will encroach on our rights; we share our concerns about overreaching gun policy that fails to make any of us safer.

But we don't spend nearly enough time asking what is the purpose of policy and what should the purpose of gun policy be? We don't have a U.S. gun policy. We have a U.S. anti-gun policy. Our gun policies are designed around the assumption that we need to protect people from guns, that guns are bad or dangerous. But what would happen if we designed gun policy from the assumption that people need guns -- that guns make people's lives better. Let's consider that for a minute.

Gun policy driven by people's need for guns would seek to encourage people to keep and bear arms at all times. Maybe it would even reward those who do so. What if instead of gun free-zones we had gun-required zones?

Gun policy driven by our need for guns would insist that we introduce young people to guns early and that we'd give them the skills to use firearms safely. Just like we teach them reading and writing, necessary skills. We would teach shooting and firearm competency. It wouldn't matter if a child's parents weren't good at it. We'd find them a mentor. It wouldn't matter if they didn't want to learn. We would make it necessary to advance to the next grade.

Gun policy driven by the assumption we need guns would probably mean our government would subsidize it. I mean, perhaps we would have government ranges where you could shoot for free or a yearly allotment of free ammunition. Sound crazy? Think about it. Education, healthcare, food, retirement, we subsidize things we value. Gun policy, driven by our need for guns would protect equal access to guns, just like we protect equal access to voting, and due process, and free speech. Our Founding Fathers believed that we did need guns. That's why they codified our access to guns into the Constitution. But the idea of a gun policy that does justice to their intentions sounds ridiculous. What does that say about us? Even as Second Amendment advocates we can't fathom a world where we would treat guns as a need. 

 

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10:07 8 Surprising Celebrities Outraged by Israel's Assault on Gaza» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
The growing number of stars speaking out signals that mainstream American opinion is shifting on Israel.

Hollywood is not known as a bastion of pro-Palestinian sentiment. There has not been any hugely successful mainstream, major motion picture that accurately depicts the plight of Palestinians. Actress Vanessa Redgrave was harshly condemned for her remarks that criticized Israel in the 1970s.

But that may be changing. Since Israel’s most recent assault on the Gaza Strip began 15 days ago, a growing number of celebrities in the television and movie business and other fields have spoken out, mostly on social media, about Israeli attacks. Their missives have been amplified by their audiences who retweet and share the critical messages.

The images of dead Palestinian civilians, including many innocent men, women and children, is badly damaging Israel’s largely positive image in the United States. And while the U.S. government is still staunchly supporting the attack on Gaza, which has killed more than 600 people, the growing number of celebrities speaking out in protest may signal that mainstream American opinion is shifting--albeit slowly--towards more sympathy for Palestine. That could have an important impact on discourse and U.S. policy towards Israel in the long-run.

Here’s a rundown of 8 celebrities who have recently expressed outrage or skepticism at the Israeli assault.

1. Selena Gomez. The 22-year-old actress and singer has appeared in popular movies for children like Spy Kids and was a guest star on the TV show Hannah Montana. She also attracted attention for dating pop star Justin Bieber.

On July 18th, she attracted attention for a starkly different reason: an Instagram post that read:“It’s about humanity. Pray for Gaza.” A firestorm erupted around her, with celebrity news site TMZ asking whether Gomez was “pro-Hamas.” Unlike other stars--Rihanna and NBA player Dwight Howard--she did not delete her message, though she followed up on it with another Instagram post that read: “And of course to be clear, I am not picking any sides. I am praying for peace and humanity for all!”

2. Jon Stewart.While the “Daily Show” host hasn’t exactly expressed outright criticism of Israel’s attack, his episode last week addressed the notion that the people of Gaza should evacuate to safety. “Evacuate to where? Have you fucking seen Gaza? Israel blocked this border, Egypt blocked this border. What, are you supposed to swim for it?”

Stewart followed up on that segment with another one this week that pointed out the deeply contentious nature of criticizing Israel. In the segment, right after Stewart mentioned Israel, “Daily Show” correspondents started screaming at him and attacking him, with one calling him a “self-hating Jew.”

3. Rob Schneider. This movie star and comedian has sent out messages on Twitter deploring the impact that Israel’s assault has had on the civilians in Gaza. “The ugly inhuman siege of Gaza has had it's deadliest day today,” he wrote on July 20. The next day, he said: “To not be outraged at the killing of children is to risk your very soul. #Gaza.”

4. Rosie O’Donnell.The big news about Rosie is that she’s returning to ABC’s “The View.” But her return to the limelight hasn’t meant that she has stepped away from voicing political opinions.

On July 22, she retweeted a message sent by this reporter broadcasting an act of civil disobedience carried out by Jewish New Yorkers outraged at Israel’s attacks on Gaza. She also sent out a few of her own messages on Gaza the same day. One linked to an interview where Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi, who told ABC: “It’s nothing short of a massacre, a deliberate massacre. War crimes committed daily. But now there is a deliberate shelling and bombing and destruction of whole areas, of residential areas.”

Another said: “thank u jonathan demme,” with a link to that Oscar-winning director’s comments criticizing Israel.

5. Mia Farrow. This mega-celebrity is everywhere. She’s a UNICEF ambassador, was named as one of the most influential people in the world by TIME and has been in numerous films.

She has broadcast many messages of support for the people of Gaza since the operation began through her Twitter account. Most of them document the civilian toll the assault on Gaza is taking. “Ambulances are supposed to be protected in conflict zones but Israel has hit 10 and bombed 2 hospitals,” one message sent yesterday read.

6. Mark Ruffalo.This actor appeared in the movie The Avengers in 2012, playing the Marvel Comics character The Hulk, and has played roles in many other films. He’s also a well-known activist who particularly focuses on the harmful effects of fracking. But he’s also speaking out on Palestine.

On July 17, he tweeted: “Israel destroys el-Wafa hospital as staff evacuates all patientshttp://mondoweiss.net/2014/07/hospital-evacuate-patients.html …” In response to criticism of that post, he doubled-down: “Sorry, I thought blowing up Hospitals was something that all human beings could agree was off limits.”

7. John Cusack.This actor has never shied away from politics--and Gaza is no exception. On July 19th, he tweeted this resolute message: “I have been to Israel and Palestine &bombing civilians is not self defense.”

8. Anthony Bourdain. The celebrity chef and foodie first visited the Gaza Strip last year for his CNN show, and the result was a deeply humanizing portrait of the Palestinian people and their food and culture. He has since followed up on that with statements in support of Palestine.

One of the most devastating attacks in Gaza occurred last week, when four Palestinian boys playing soccer on a beach were killed by an Israeli strike. The New York Times’ Tyler Hicks published a widely-circulated photo of a Palestinian rescuring an injured civilian while one of the dead boys lay on the beach. Bourdain tweeted that photo and said: “Maybe it’s the fact that I walked on that beach—and have a small child that makes this photo so devastating.  #Gaza.”

Or maybe, it's just being a human being.

 

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08:36 Rich Urban Mom Addicts Get Sobriety Coaches; Poor Moms Get Jail» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
In America, addiction is judged through the lens of class.

Sobriety coaches rake in big bucks to keep 1 percenters off their substance of choice. A-listers are so busy, after all, and treatment centers are both time-consuming and detrimental to privacy. Even when the wealthy do benefit from these centers, their newfound sobriety often doesn’t outlast the first weekend home alone.

Enter one of the most lucrative jobs in the therapy business.

If you’re a celebrity like Lindsay Lohan, a trust-fund baby, or perhaps a Wall Streeter with a problem, your sobriety coach will accompany you to social events, sometimes posing as a yoga teacher or life coach, to keep you from popping a pill or snorting a line. She will pry the drink out of your fingers at weddings and polo matches. She will even move into your house to keep you from falling off the wagon.

A recent report in the New York Times, “Mothers Find a Helping Hand in Sobriety Coaches,” profiled wealthy Manhattan moms addicted to prescription painkillers and cocaine who finally got clean with the help of a paid personal sobriety trainer.

Citing the difficulties of being an urban mom striving to be thin, rich and successful, the Times story applauds these well-heeled women who have kicked the habit with the aid of a high-priced babysitter. Unlike the Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, who comes for free, a $1,000-a-day pricetag for a coach is not unusual. Terms like the “new Pilates instructor” or the “new fashion statement” are often used to describe these gold-plated companions. The company Sober Champion offers to “stay with you 24/7, helping protect your investment in yourself. Just like a full-time guardian angel.”

The report features the tale of Tamara Mellon, founder of Jimmy Choos and mother of a toddler, who battled a serious coke habit unsuccessfully until she found recovery coach Martin Freeman, whom she keeps on retainer in case she needs to be talked out of a late-night craving.

The Times cheers these women for finding their guardian angels and kicking the habit. But what happens to moms with addictions in less affluent circumstances?

In Tennessee, 26-year-old Mallory Loyola, a meth addict, recently became the first person arrested under a new state law that classifies taking illegal drugs while pregnant as an assault. Instead of recovering from childbirth and receiving proper medical care, Loyola was hauled off to jail, where she was later released on bond.

If her baby had died, Loyola could have been charged with homicide under the law. 

Tennessee is not the only place where this madness is happening. Over-zealous Alabama prosecutors are also slapping drug-addicted mothers with criminal charges. If you were a pregnant mom with a drug problem, would you want to go to the doctor to care for yourself and your pregnancy if you feared criminal charges? I’m guessing no, so both you and your fetus will not receive proper care.

If you’re a rich mom, addiction is a health issue. If you’re poor, rural, or a person of color, addiction is a crime. Women at the lower rungs of the economic ladder can have their children taken away if they are found to be using drugs or are charged with child endangerment. They are branded as bad people who do not deserve our sympathy. The social stigma and fear of losing custody of their children will keep many of these women from getting the help they need. Many will wind up in prison, with their families ripped apart and their chances of getting a job, education, or decent housing destroyed.

Does Tamara Mellon of Jimmy Choo fame fear a visit from social services or cops after announcing that she is the coke-addicted mother of a toddler? Very doubtful. And she certainly doesn't have to worry about prison.

The number of women incarcerated in the U.S. has skyrocketed by over 800 percent over the last three decades, and two-thirds of them are locked up for nonviolent offenses, many of which are drug-related. The correctional system was never set up for substance abuse treatment. Many addicted women can still get access to drugs while incarcerated, and medical care is often notoriously bad. No sobriety coaches to be found.

This is just another example of America, the land of inequality, where a two-tiered justice system and wildly divergent social standards create a situation in which the same behavior will earn you either draconian punishment or gentle pampering, depending on the size of your bank account.

 

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08:34 No, high CEO pay really doesn't lead to soaring stock returns» Daily Kos

So much for that whole "companies need to pay CEOs giant piles of money to get top talent and ensure profit" thing:

Stock returns plotted against CEO pay. Right next door to random.
Okay, it's not quite random. But it's right next door.
This graph shows the pay of 200 CEOs and the stock returns of their companies:
The trend line—the average of how much a CEO’s ranking is affected by stock performance—shows that a CEO’s income ranking is only 1 percent based on the company’s stock return. That means that 99 percent of the ranking has nothing to do with performance at all. (The size and profitability of companies didn’t affect the random patterns.)

If “pay for performance” was really a factor in compensating this group of CEOs, we’d see compensation and stock performance moving in tandem. The points on the chart would be arranged in a straight, diagonal line.

In short, nope. Further, Bryce Covert notes that:
... even when companies boast that they tie executive compensation to company performance, the country’s largest companies routinely game those systems to ensure they get their bonuses and payouts, such as setting targets so low as to be meaningless or fluffing up their reported profits. ... Worse, out of the highest-paid CEOs over the past 20 years, nearly four in ten were fired, caught committing fraud, or oversaw a company bailout. Incompetence doesn’t stand in the way of a big payday.
Not that any amount of data will ever convince companies that high CEO pay is the wrong way to go—the results they care about are in the bank accounts of top executives. But you'd think eventually it might sink in with the reporters who cover business, and we might start seeing more skeptical reporting about CEO pay.
08:32 Clueless Rich Kids on the Rise: How Millennial Aristocrats Will Destroy Our Future» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Today's wealthy are far more likely to have inherited their fortunes. Here's why that's going to doom our politics.

Prevailing neoliberal ideology, which perverts capitalism as an economic system into capitalism as an unyielding political ideology, lurks in the shadows of almost every major issue in America, though nowhere is its influence more obvious or profound than in the spiraling rise of income and wealth inequality today.

When Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the 21st Century” was first released in English, it followed the Culture War Playbook to perfection: First came the triumphant plaudits from like-minded thinkers, followed shortly by the hasty rebuttals of their ideological opponents, followed themselves by a torrent of commentary from pundits left and right who skimmed the book before adding their own two cents. Soon, there was the predictable “unskewing” by the right, after which came the fact-checking of the “unskewers” on the left… at which point the whole process had reached its inevitable conclusion. High-traffic angles fully juiced, our treadmill news cycle moved on to the next plank in our bitter, pointless culture clash, what author William Gibson has termed our “cold civil war.”

So it goes.

What’s so interesting about this Kabuki dance is just how few commentators at the time bothered to note that Piketty’s findings were never particularly controversial or groundbreaking. Piketty’s book became such a sensation on the left precisely because it gave weight to what anyone with a pair of eyes in the real world (i.e., not Lower Manhattan, the Washington Beltway, or Silicon Valley) can already plainly see: Wealth inequality grows each and every day, while the middle class keeps getting pummeled by this Glorious Free Enterprise System. What used to be good, stable jobs are converted into temp positions or contract work — automated, downsized or simply eliminated entirely, they’re replaced in the labor market by the worst-paying, most utterly dehumanizing low-wage gigs that our much ballyhooed “job creators” can imagine and implement.

The consequences for our democracy and our economy are perilous and unlikely to be easily remedied.

Whether or not one is generally convinced by Piketty’s thesis that r > g (or more plainly, that capital tends to grow at a faster rate than income without some form of outside intervention), it should be plain that in our system, the stage has been uniquely well-set for the unbridled expansion of wealth that his book describes. When the effective tax rates are lower for capital gains than for the incomes of the less affluent; when political processes are legally corrupted and circumvented for a price; when regulatory agencies are gutted, stalled, or simply staffed with careerists eager to make their way through the revolving door — this is not a political or economic system likely to become less unequal over time.

Will this trend toward inequality continue? According to “U.S. Trust Insights on Wealth and Worth,” a recent survey of wealthy Americans that aims to “[shed] light on the direction and purpose of the more than $15 trillion that will be passed across generations in high-net-worth families over the next two decades,” it seems increasingly likely.

The survey, which polled 680 Americans holding at least $3 million in investable assets, unearthed a troubling trend — the birth of a new American aristocracy. As the survey notes, “Nearly three-quarters of those over 69, and 61% of Baby Boomers, were the first generation to accumulate significant wealth. Among the younger Millennial generation, inherited wealth is more common. About two-thirds are from families in which they are the second, third or fourth generation to be wealthy.” Now, it should be noted briefly that this survey relies on self-reporting, which makes these figures somewhat suspect. (More on this in a bit.) But consider two charts: The first shows the highest marginal tax rates on income and capital gains throughout the last hundred years, while the second outlines the estate tax rate during the same period.

It’s hard not to notice that sudden dip in both charts — right around the late ’70s and early ’80s. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is when the oldest of the millennial generation’s new aristocrats were being born — into a world with far less taxation on capital gains, high incomes, and most crucially, inheritance.

In the coming years, how will this affect our society’s conception of wealth and the American Dream? How will it affect our politics?

Before we go any further, it should be noted that the wealth of the super-rich is notoriously hard to measure. Oftentimes, these individuals — having gained prominence in society due to their money and stature — have the means and the desire to hide the true extent of their fortunes. This is a big part of the reason that Piketty, along with fellow economists Emmanuel Saez, Gabriel Zucman et al., have gained such esteem for their research compiling wealth statistics from the last couple hundred years; it’s the most comprehensive collection of data on privately held wealth ever created. Their work is a departure from the self-reporting that studies like U.S. Trust’s have traditionally relied upon, and so I was curious as to how they might respond to these findings. I reached out to Professor Saez via email to see what he thought of these conclusions — despite their obvious shortcomings. “When this generation leaves its wealth to their children,” he agrees, “then indeed top wealth will become much more aristocratic. It’s possible that the U.S. Trust survey is already picking up this trend. Certainly, absent any significant increase in estate and gift taxation, this trend will accelerate in the near future.”

And right on cue, enter stage left — a fresh new wave of (many wealthy) millennial Congressional candidates. Enthusiastic and idealistic, these young Americans paradoxically promote a style of bland, Washington Consensus politics, what Pennsylvania House candidate (and proud millennial) Nick Troiano has billed “radical centrism.” As a generation generally lauded for our commitment to civil service, noted for our love of structure, and gently mocked for our aversion to risk-seeking, surely we must be the perfect generation to fix America’s broken politics… Right?

Unfortunately, probably not. Our political system, where the cost of running for national office is prohibitively high for candidates of any age, is almost certain to bend further and further toward affluent candidates in coming years. On its own, this is troubling enough as it threatens the credibility and productivity of our democracy. But when considering the political views of affluent millennials — and the rest of the generation more generally — an ominous trend emerges. Consider three graphs from a recent Reason survey, “Millennials: the Politically Unclaimed Generation.” According to every metric Reason examined, the famed liberalism of young Americans fades as soon as their bank accounts grow: 

rich millennials suck

rich millennials suck 3

rich millennials suck 2

The darkly comic silver lining here is that millennials aren’t gaining much wealth, so it’s not like we should expect some massive influx of Ayn Rand-loving hipsters in the upcoming years.

But the problem of inherited wealth remains.

Consider two current House Representatives born right on the edge of the millennial generation, Democrats Patrick Murphy (31) and Joseph Kennedy III (33). Their politics are quite divergent, but their individual circumstances are depressingly similar: Both are young white men from wealthy families who attended exclusive private schools starting at an early age. Patrick Murphy is a former Republican who switched parties to defeat conservative wacko Allen West (for which all Americans surely owe him a debt of gratitude). His politics might best be described as “smarmy,” a confusing hodgepodge of positions seemingly intended to appease his right-leaning Florida district. He’s pro-Keystone XL, pro-pointless Benghazi hearings and pro marriage equality. He says he supports “fiscal responsibility,” which is a nice way of saying that he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a center-right politician who wears a donkey pin on his lapel. He’s young enough to surely see the writing on the wall, to sense that the Republican brand is toxic to the majority of his generation.

Joseph Kennedy III’s politics are somewhat less objectionable, which only serves to underscore the deeper problems at play. A fifth generation politician, it seems fair to characterize Kennedy as the poster child of our new American aristocracy. Agreeing with his positions on some issues won’t change the underlying problem — a system that’s far too likely to keep all but the wealthiest voices out of political power.

With a few notable exceptions, the latest batch of millennial candidates aren’t any better. Almost universally children of wealth and privilege, most embrace some token aspects of social liberalism while hurrying to display their fiscally conservative bona fides. They represent the status quo of the affluent, the powerful — the inherited wisdom of a political class that has overseen decades of economic failure for all but the wealthiest among us. When compared with other candidates, most of their positions are uncontroversial — which only makes their grand pronouncements about changing Washington all the more disheartening. If these candidates are in any way representative of the next class of Americans who are both willing and able to run for national office (and I suspect that they are), they should give pause to anyone who thinks that a new generation is coming of age who will rescue our captured politics.

Up until now, Pennsylvania Independent Nick Troiano and Republican Mike Turner have received the bulk of the media’s attention. (Turner recently lost his primary bid despite outspending his opponent 3-1.) Troiano has been in the public eye for a while, most prominently as one of the founders of “The Can Kicks Back,” a tragicomic millennial astroturfing outfit that tried to sell billionaire debt-alarmist Pete Peterson’s ideological vision to young people (slashing entitlement programs so that his gazillionaire buddies won’t be forced to help shoulder the programs’ expanding costs). The Can Kicks Back has been a monumental failure; the group has struggled to stay solvent, characterized as ”nearly broke” by internal emails discovered by Politico reporter Byron Tau last February. But this is America, and kids from upper-class families and cushy private schools always manage to “fail up.” Rather than departing from politics or taking on a more humble role, Troiano has opted to foist his entitlement reform obsession upon the voters of Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional district. As for Mike Turner, at least he was honest about being a Republican: Turner’s campaign went viral recently when Mother Jones ran a story titled “This Millennial Bro Is Running for Congress Using the Family Trust Fund,” which is pretty much everything you need to know about former candidate Mike Turner.

Examining the full slate of the millennials running for Congress this term, a troubling trend emerges. Despite varying slightly on a number of other (mostly social) issues, the majority of these candidates display an almost monomaniacal obsession with “entitlement reform” and balancing the budget, as if that were the only long-term crisis facing young Americans. (It isn’tAt allEven a bit.)

Take Republican Weston Wamp (27), son of former Tennessee Rep. Zach Wamp (who once suggested that states might need to secede if Obamacare were passed). On his official website, “conservative but independent” Weston Wamp promotes “holding the federal government in check” and “promot[ing] free market principles.” He’s careful to skate around most of the social issues that his generation supports, such as marriage equality, climate change and the War on Drugs (and didn’t respond to a request for comment), though he notes his support for the “right to life and the right to bear arms.” According to recent FEC filings, the Wamp campaign has raised over half a million dollars as of this writing, with more than half of that bankroll coming from 110 individuals who contributed the legal maximum of $2,600.

Or consider Andrew Walter (32), Republican candidate for Arizona’s 9th District. A former quarterback for Arizona State and the Oakland Raiders and the founder of a senior secured business lending firm, Walter claims (falsely) that “our national debt is larger than our entire economy.” He then suggests that we “decrease the size of government,” “cut spending,” and that we add a Balanced Budget amendment to the Constitution, which is basically the worst idea ever. Walter has already raised $383,945 (and borrowed $100,000 more); half of that was provided by just 72 individuals who contributed the legal maximum.

How about Elise Stefanik (29), a New York Republican running for the House? A long-time D.C. insider and Harvard grad, Stefanik was raised by a family that owns a flooring company worth upwards of $50 million (per manta.com, h/t DailyKos). A consummate D.C. insider who’s now posing as a local small businesswoman, her campaign site is much more cagey than any of the other candidates I researched for this piece. She resorts to generalities when discussing most issues, but does tout “fiscal responsibility,” stressing the need to “balance the budget and pay down the national debt.” Stefanik has already raised a staggering $836,126 from a wide-ranging group of individuals, companies, PACs and party leadership.

Young Republican candidates Isaac Misiuk (25) and Marilinda Garcia (30) are also convinced of our oncoming debt disaster. At Maine’s 2014 State Republican Convention, Misiuk stated that “we must reduce spending and balance the budget.” Garcia follows much the same script, calling for ”entitlement reform,” the full repeal of Obamacare, and “a balanced budget amendment.” To be fair, unlike the rest of these candidates Garcia and Misiuk are no aristocrats, as is immediately apparent when examining their latest FEC filings. Combined, they raised less than almost every other candidate mentioned in this piece. And yet, the song remains the same.

In an email exchange with Forrest Dunbar, a candidate for Alaska’s 1st Congressional district, Dunbar defended entitlement programs aggressively, despite what he sees as a “dark fatalism” among millennials skeptical that they’ll ever receive those programs’ benefits. Dunbar is particularly critical of recent plans to cut Social Security and Medicare, where “‘serious’ attempts at entitlement reform include the Ryan Budget, which would turn Medicare into a voucher, slash veteran’s healthcare, raise taxes on the middle class… and then turn around and plough those savings into a giant tax cut for the wealthiest people and corporations. If that’s the best Congress can do, then Medicare (and eventually Social Security) are doomed.” New Jersy Congressional candidate Roy Cho agrees, stating in an email that “[m]aking drastic and immediate cuts to so-called entitlements might balance the budget, but it will [...] plunge our economy back into a recession. Spending is certainly a large part of the problem with the dysfunction in Washington, but the bigger problem is that bipartisan cooperation no longer exists between the two parties.”

These few liberal millennials running for Congress this cycle — Wes Neuman (27), Roy Cho (32), Gabriel Rothblatt (31) and Forrest Dunbar (30) — tend to focus on more traditionally left-wing issues such as clean energy, education and campaign finance reform. They’ve also raised a lot less money than their conservative peers, a detail that only confirms the most cynical reading of this emergent political reality. With the exception of New Jersey candidate Roy Cho (who’s raised almost half a million dollars for his campaign — with about a quarter of that coming from 51 donors who gave the legal maximum), the millennial Democrats are tragically underfunded: They’ve raised just under $150,000 combined, or less than any of the Republican candidates besides Maine Congressional hopeful Isaac Misiuk.

Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that campaign finance reform is featured prominently in the platforms of all four young Democrats running for office. As Cho sees it, we need “real campaign finance reform before the only people who have the means to run for office are those who have never known what it’s like to have to struggle to succeed.” But limiting the influence of money in our elections — if even possible — will not suffice. As long as mainstream politicians from both parties refuse to even consider the drastic, progressive measures that might start reversing our deeply rooted inequality, nothing will change. So it’s not particularly encouraging that common-sense solutions meant to narrow our wealth gap and expand the federal balance sheet — such as implementing a ”Robin Hood Tax” or raising rates for inheritances, gifts, and capital gains — currently exist so far outside the mainstream.

Wealth has always been a feature of American democracy, and perhaps these concerns seem overwrought. But the changing shape of America’s upper class, the $15 trillion projected to flow from the old to the young in the coming decades, is a force too powerful to be ignored or overlooked. As long as the cost of running for office continues to rise, the pool of potential candidates will continue to shrink. We must address this new reality before trust in government erodes beyond repair.

Without political intervention this country will become increasingly aristocratic, and faith in our democracy and her institutions will continue to diminish. That might be an acceptable condition for those affluent individuals who’ve already made their fortunes, who’ve seen their wealth rise to unprecedented heights in recent years.

But for the rest of us? Aristocracy can only spell disaster.

 

 

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08:00 Gangs, Guns and Judas Priest—The Secret History of a U.S.-Inflicted Border Crisis» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Central America did not always have a gang epidemic. We exported that.

Visiting El Salvador over the past year, it was hard not to think the country's number-one job is standing around outside with a gun. In the region from which child migrants are fleeing to the US, personal security is largely a question of what you can afford to pay. El Salvador has, by one estimate, 25,000 private guards in a country with 20,000 police officers. In Honduras, which boasts the highest murder rate in the world and has seen the largest exodus of young people to the American border this year, guards outnumber cops five to one.

Wealthy Salvadorans can retreat to residential compounds that resemble a militarized version of a Palm Beach retirement community, complete with golf carts. Behind high walls and even higher voltage wires, one economist gushed to me: "This place has everything – we never have to go outside!" For the rest, those who stay and those who get sent back, gangland drama is a fact of life.

For Americans behind our own wall, there is a sense of bewilderment. We wonder why these young people are showing up at our borders, if they are enticed by some false promise of amnesty. And then we send them back.

But child migrants escaping north are not so irrational, and the current wave is neither new nor terribly mystifying. The factors that push and pull them – extreme violence, extortion, forced gang recruitment and a desire to reunite with family – are rooted in the United States's heavy hand in the region.

Central America didn't always have a gang epidemic. That was exported there by us. And the current immigration crisis is as much a United States legacy as it has become a local tragedy – a consequence of US-financed civil wars from the 1980s that sparked the first migration wave, and of US policies toward those migrants after they arrived.

Both major gangs now plaguing the region originated in Los Angeles. The gang that became MS-13 was originally an informal collection of teenage civil war refugees and metal-heads who borrowed their devil-horns hand sign from Judas Priest. Their onetime ally-turned-rival, Mara 18, traces back to the 1940s but shared with the newer gang an open-door membership for Central Americans that put them both at odds with the area's more established, exclusively Mexican gangs. When those gangs began to terrorize the new immigrants, MS-13 and Mara 18 fought back. Only later would they spread to the countries which their parents had left, through deportations, and contribute to today's migration wave.

In time, MS-13 and Mara 18 came to surpass their oppressors, thanks in part to a citywide police sweep that preceded the 1984 LA Summer Olympics, busting up the known Angeleno gangs but overlooking the new Central American rivals – and also their propensity for violence, notoriously favoring machetes for attacks.

These street battles would have been of little concern to most Americans were it not for President Clinton and his desire to triangulate Republicans on crime. In 1996, he signed a law that ratcheted up deportations of immigrants with criminal records – including those with citizenship – by making things like drunk driving and petty theft deportable offenses.

Shipping off undesirable immigrants proved enormously popular among Democrats and Republicans alike, and mass deportations continued apace under Presidents Bush and Obama – overwhelmingly to Mexico and Central America. According to Homeland Security data, annual criminal deportations to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have since jumped from 1,987 in 1995 to 106,420 in 2013. Add the non-criminal deportation boom that will explode this year should Obama get the expedited deportation authority he's currently seeking, and you'll have the makings of yet another migration crisis just down the road.

Of course, deporting hundreds of thousands of criminals has been far less popular in the countries to which deportees are sent "home" – to a place many left as toddlers and do not remember. Mostly unemployable, some speaking little to no Spanish, many reconstituted their maras in countries ill-prepared to deal with them, still in the midst of postwar reconstruction, with underequipped and easily corruptible police in only nominal control of public safety.

It's a cycle: With each planeload of deportees, the gangs grew stronger, expanding their activities and recruiting younger members by force – taking a page from the armies Washington had backed a generation earlier – and it is precisely those children they target who await processing in our border detention facilities today.

Once again, migrants fleeing a conflict zone we helped create are showing up at our doorstep, and our solution, once again, is to send them back. Basic humanity dictates that we consider the plight that brought them here, and that we prioritize family reunification. So, too, does the law – one which Congressional Republicans, who routinely charge Obama with not enforcing immigration law, are now clamoring for him to ignore, and Obama remains just as eager to oblige them.

During El Salvador's recent presidential elections, the opposition party posted billboards in regions from which the largest number of migrants are leaving. Under pictures of Salvadoran families in DC, California and New York read lines like I WANT TO RETURN TO A COUNTRY FREE OF GANGS. It's an ambition unlikely to be realized as long as the US believes we can deport our problems away, because eventually, those problems tend to come back to haunt us.

 

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07:28 Fox Host Megyn Kelly Flubs Ukraine Flight Limits To Bash Obama Over Israel» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Fox News host Megyn Kelly misinformed her audience by claiming that that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not issued a travel ban over Ukraine, in order to bash President Obama over Israel. In fact, the FAA has banned commercial travel over Ukraine since April.

Megyn Kelly Falsely Claims FAA Has Not Limited Flights Over Ukraine

FAA Bans Flights To Israel For 48 Hours Over Safety Concerns Stemming From Israel-Hamas Fighting. On July 22, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a notice prohibiting U.S. airlines from flying to or from Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport for 24 hours after a Hamas-launched rocket landed near the airport. On July 23, the FAA extended the ban for another 24 hours. [Federal Aviation Administration, 7/22/14]

Megyn Kelly: This Ban Exists Despite Lack Of Ban Over Ukraine, Where Airliner Was Shot Down. Fox News host Megyn Kelly claimed that the Obama administration's move represented a victory for Hamas and a boycott of Israel. She fraudulently illustrated her point by drawing a contrast with what she falsely called the administration's failure to issue a similar flight ban over Ukraine when a recent Malaysian Airlines flight was shot down:

KELLY: The ban was extended despite the fact that there is no similar ban in place on flights over Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen -- not even one over Ukraine, where a commercial airliner was just shot down. [Fox News, The Kelly File, 7/23/14]

Fact: FAA Has Banned Flights Over Ukraine Since April

Wash. Post: FAA Has Banned Flights In Other Dangerous Areas, Including Where Airliner Was Shot Down Over Ukraine. The Washington Post reported that the FAA has issued flight bans and other flight advisories for many dangerous countries in the world, including over Ukraine after a Malaysian Airlines flight was shot down:

The FAA had already prohibited flight operations over Crimea beginning in April. After Flight 17 was shot down July 17 in a separatist-controlled area of Ukraine, the FAA expanded the prohibited area to encompass the eastern part of the country. [The Washington Post, 7/22/14]

07:27 10 Exciting Things About Sex You'll Learn As You Get Older» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
You’ll have sex that’s as good or even better than when you were younger.

My mother was 40 when I was born, creaking with antiquity by 1964 standards, and she used her advanced decrepitude as a kind of get-out-of-everything-free card. When I would ask why she didn’t get manicures, perms and divorces like the other moms she’d say “because I’m old.”  She was  too old for popular music, for makeup (“What am I,  Baby Jane?”) and too old to offer advice on a dating world that had changed radically since Moses took her to the prom. The closest thing to advice my mother ever gave me on intimacy was “If a man pinches you on the subway, scream “Get your hands off me, pervert!” Then she gave me a police whistle. 

Even if she had offered advice that was less, well, practical, I’d probably have been incapable of taking it, largely because, well, what teen or 20 something believes anything older people have to say? 

Here, then are ten things true things  about sex and dating that you’re incapable of believing when you’re young. Because old people don’t know anything about sex. They bought their kids on the internet. 

1. You’ll have sex that’s as good or even better than when you were younger.

Last year Miley Cyrus, then 20, informed Matt Lauer it was her understanding that people stopped having sex at 40, reports NBC contributor Brian Alexander

You don’t have to squint to see why young people find it hard to believe that people who can’t get stand up without groaning can still have sex so mindblowing the neighbors might think someone next door is being murdered.  

Miley’s dad is 52. It’s a fact that thinking of one’s parents as sexual is so gross and mortifying that denial is necessary. Miley should be glad to know, though, that there is no deadline, no “off” switch that halts hormone production and caulks up various ducts and orifices on one’s 40th birthday. Sexuality changes with age, but good sex is about health, state of mind and chemistry: if you’ve got that you’ll have sex that’s loud enough to scare the dog well into your twilight years. 

2. Your hot pants will cool off… and it’s a relief.

So the brakes won’t slam on your sex life, but that doesn’t mean your body won’t ease up on the accelerator. This page about the effects of aging on sexuality details numerous change that can slow down your sex drive with age. 

The good news is it’s not a bad thing. Gloria Steinem, on her 80th birthday, talked about how a lower sex drive frees up the "mind for all kinds of things." I agree. Now that I’m nearing 50, it’s a relief to be able to write a story, sit through a movie, or wash the car without my nether regions issuing demands, like that plant in Little Shop of Horrors.

3. Nobody really thinks you wake up looking like that.

When I was younger, after nights of romantic passion, I would sneak off to the bathroom to repair hair, makeup and even jewelry before my partner would wake up. I don’t think any of them really believed I woke up looking as though I was going out to see, or perhaps perform, Cabaret, but I finally figured out that if he's seen your naked body you probably don’t have to worry about him seeing your naked face.

4. All the romantic cliches are stupid, but you should do them while you’re limber and naive.

When you’re young and you don’t have a place of your own or if you’re just rampantly horny you’ll do it anywhere, and you should, because there will come a day when the idea of having sex in a Honda Civic will just make your lower back hurt. 

You’ll also find that satin sheets are, as Madonna said, very romantic, until you slip out of them and almost break your nose, and that if you want to experience sex on the beach you should just put a half a cup of sand in your mouth and your underwear and you’ll get the idea. 

The older you get the less you’re willing to put up with discomfort or risk of arrest, so do all the daring, crazy things now, while "safe sex" still means wearing condoms instead of slipping a disc.

5. There’s more to sex than sex.

Many people in my generation learned a lot about sex and relationships from porn and Hollywood, which only show you about 10% of what it’s really like out there. Porn, especially, is like high school: you can learn some useful basics but there’s a ton of crap you’ll never use and you’ll probably walk away without any knowledge of chemistry.

There is so much more to sex than sex, chemistry included. In fact, combine sexual chemistry and intimacy and you have the strongest force in nature that doesn’t ever take up time on the Weather Channel. In my cocky youth I thought it was mostly about the physical, but when you start adding in those elements, plus self-knowledge, emotional maturity and experience, you get so much depth and breadth of feeling it's like going from a black-and-white set to 3D HD with surround-sound. Had I known the sublime joy and horrible sorrow it would cause I don’t know whether I’d have sought it out sooner or fled to a convent and never emerged. 

6. Sex is not a cure for loneliness.

This notion was kicked in by my friend Charles Martin, and though it wasn’t something I thought applied to me, upon reflection, I can remember times when I pulled people in more as tranquilizers than human beings. It can work for a few minutes, until you realize that you’re often the loneliest when you’re with the wrong person. 

7. You will wrinkle like a linen suit.

When you’re young you can’t fathom it, but changes —age spots, gray hair, menopause — will come, like growth spurts did, like puberty did and the more you do now in regard to diet, exercise, dental care, etc., the more these efforts will make you a happier, healthier, sexier old bag of wrinkles than if you do nothing. Maintenance is easier than repair. The excuse. “I could die tomorrow, I don’t want to waste time on a treadmill,” doesn’t wash when U.S. life expectancy is 76 for men and 81 for women.

Face it: you’re going to live long enough to start caring about your lawn. 

8. There are always new tricks.

A girlfriend told me that in her younger years she never could have believed she could have hands-free orgasms, as discussed here on The Doctors by author and sex teacher Sheri Winston.  

I’ve asked her to teach me how. If it works, you’ll never hear from me again. 

But it speaks to the fact that not only does sex not stop after 40 but learning new, exciting things about sex doesn’t stop either. After all, Olympic athletes are the best of the best, and they never stop using coaches. 

9. Whatever is tying you in knots right now is temporary.

Whether it’s a new crush or a broken heart, a friend’s betrayal or a Miranda Priestly boss, whatever feels like the end of the world right now probably isn’t. 

Trust me: I know this like I know Beginner’s Math. As you get more and more distance from those peas under your mattress, you will realize that about 95% of the things that cause you sorrow and anger are things you won’t remember two months from now. Change them or drop them, but don’t dwell on them.

If you need proof, watch any of the murder shows on TV: Snapped, Swamp Murders, Secret Lives of Stepford Wives — they’re all full of people who couldn’t just drop it until one was dead and the other was in jail. See what happens when you don’t listen to that damn Disney song from Frozen, let it go?

10. Don’t be afraid to talk about money

When you’re young and in love and hot for each other there’s no bigger buzz kill than a big, fat stack of bills coming in that you’re not sure how you’re going to pay, something most of us have faced in the last decade or so. That’s true when you’re older, too: cash flow issues can suck the wind right out of your romantic sails sometimes, but talking openly about your financial situation, expectations and hopes is just as important as talking about sexual, emotional or other issues. 

 Take it from The Guardian’s Suzanne McGee in her Seven Ways  to Stop Arguing With Your Spouse About Money: “…research suggests that if you can find a way to sync your approach to money, that’s going to do more for the health of your relationship than a dozen roses or a diamond will do.”

It’s especially helpful to know if one of you is the type who thinks it should have been two dozen roses and a diamond in a gold bracelet and the other thinks all of that could have gone towards paying off the car. It doesn’t mean you can’t work together, it just helps to know that about who you’re working with.

 

 

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07:24 The Day I Was Nearly Arrested for Having an Autistic Son» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Moms have been arrested for going on job interviews and letting their kids play outside. It almost happened to me over a tantrum.

When my son, who has autism, was 4, he had such a titanic tantrum on the street in Providence, Rhode Island, where we lived, that I couldn’t control him. He started screaming, running into the street, hitting and biting me — and himself — in a panicked frenzy, and all I could do was sit on the curb and try to keep him reasonably safe. His high-pitched shrieks soon attracted a crowd, people openly staring with disapproval and commenting about how I couldn’t control my own child.

No one spoke to me directly, save for an older man sitting on the terrace of a restaurant; he hollered to me that I needed to bring J over so he could spank him. A few people took their phones out (pre-smartphone era; this episode would otherwise have been immortalized on YouTube), and I thought, finally, someone wants to help. Maybe they’d call my spouse, who was at home a few blocks away, so he could give me a hand. I had broken glass in my knee and one of J’s tiny sandals had been dropkicked so far into the middle of the intersection that there was no way I could retrieve it myself and still hang on to him.

I was about to ask a bystander to retrieve it, when I noticed that one of the ladies who had her phone out, someone who’d made disparaging comments about my parenting a few seconds earlier, was giving me a very disapproving look and stood poised, with the flip-phone to her ear, her finger at the ready at the keypad.

And I realized: Oh, boy, she’s about to call the cops. Instead of me being a sweaty mess of a mother trying to calm my autistic child, now I’m an abuser/kidnapper/potential felon/who knows what.

In retrospect, however, one of truly taxing days of my life had actually been stopped from being much, much worse when my friend suddenly spotted me in the middle of the mob and ran to my aid. My friend is white and clearly looks like a professional, non-felon, etc., and the crowd mutteringly dispersed.

Fast-forward some years; our son is now 11. At the checkout of the Whole Foods, something sets him off and without warning, he screams and sinks his teeth into my hand, biting so hard the joint in my thumb swells to the size of a plum. He starts kicking and screaming; my husband and I carefully escort him out of the crowded store and to our car. He runs the last 10 feet, jumps in the back and slams the door. He has his own jump seat in the back of our station wagon, an enclosed space where he feels safe. We open the windows on a gorgeous 70-ish day and let him finish his tantrum in peace. The tantrum sputters out quickly, and we open the hatch to put our groceries in. I turn back to my cart and see a cop walking toward us, while an entire line of bystanders — Whole Foods employees and shoppers — stare at us from the entrance.

“This lady called us,” he says, gesturing to a middle-aged white woman standing a few yards back.

“I wouldn’t treat a dog the way you treat your child!” she screeches at us, her voice dripping with condensed hate and disdain.

My husband and I look at each other. Was she talking to us? What did we do?

Then I remembered her. She was eating a sandwich, sitting in a junky van as we passed by, my husband and I, one hand on each of our son’s arms so he wouldn’t scratch himself or us. I remember giving her an apologetic look – Sorry to disturb your lunch – as we guided our screaming son back to the car. I didn’t realize that, in her eyes, she saw us abusing our son. Or kidnapping him? I still don’t know what she saw.

“Like a dog,” I heard her snarl to the person next to her, an employee in a Whole Foods apron, who nodded, absently. “Worse than a dog.”

J was perfectly calm, sitting in his seat. He might have even said hi to the cop. He likes saying hi to people; he likes policemen and firemen and garbagemen. The cop does not look overly perturbed. My husband and I are middle-aged; he’s white, I’m Asian. We are both college professors and probably look it. How much more stereotypical can we be with our recycled shopping bags and older-model Volvo station wagon? These things shouldn’t matter, but I think they do. The cop tuned out the screeching lady and calmly listened to us.

“We weren’t abusing him,” I said. “He has autism and was having a tantrum and being inside the car makes him feel safe. And we were standing here with him the whole time. It’s 70 degrees, and the window is open.”

“Yeah, I know,” he said. The cop said his nephew was autistic. “My nephew does stuff like that all the time.” He wished us well and walked away, not even bothering to ask our names.

*

I walked at a brisk clip toward the woman, our accuser. She, along with the crowd, had stood there observing the cop calmly walking back to his squad car. I wanted to know what she thought she saw. I wanted to know why she didn’t merely talk to us. Before I could get close enough to hail her, she jumped back in her van, refused to make eye contact, and peeled out. The employees faded back into the store. I summoned the store manager.

Yes, he’d seen us here with J numerous times. So had the employees. This wasn’t the first time he’d had a tantrum in the store. My husband and I would not have done a single thing differently, even if we had a whole department of cops and social workers staring at us. But it made me wonder: Sometime, when we are away from home and people who know us, or the cop doesn’t have an autistic nephew, are we going to get arrested? What would happen to J?

*

A recent spate of arrests of mothers has me thinking about this now more than ever. At what point did parenting go from a communal activity to an actionable crime?  A mother in her 40s, Debra Harrell, is currently in jail for letting her 9-year-old daughter play in well-populated park while Ms. Harrell was at work. Tanya McDowell, a homeless single mother, was charged with felonious larceny when she hoped for a better education for her son, using her babysitter’s address instead of her last known permanent address in a worse neighborhood, to enroll her son in kindergarten. (i.e., “stealing” a free public education). Shanesha Taylor, another single homeless mother, had no one to watch her two small children, so she left them in the car during a job interview. She got the job — and then returned to find the cops waiting for her. (The district attorney in Scottsdale, Arizona, has now agreed to dismiss the charges, as long as Taylor completes parenting courses, and establishes education and child-care trust funds for her kids.) In all three cases mothers were separated from their children for the act of mothering.

*

I grew up in the ’70s, when we kids were expected to entertain ourselves, which meant, largely, that we were left on our own. I sometimes walked home from elementary school by myself; when my mother was pursuing her undergraduate degree at the same time, we were often left for long periods under the supervision of my teenaged brother. Being home alone after school was routine for my latchkey friends. The tiny county jail would not have been able to fit all the moms who left kids napping in the car while they ran into the grocery store.

A beloved professor told me that in order to get her PhD while being the mother of five, she had to take her youngest to school with her — and she let him play in the hall outside the lecture room while she attended class. “What else was I supposed to do?” she said. She laughed, also, surveying the no-trimester-is-too-early-to-start-the-Baby-Einstein-tapes of women of my generation. “We didn’t even talk to babies back then — we thought they wouldn’t understand!” Her children survived and even went to Harvard. Her parenting strategy 20 years ago showed pluck, can-do-ness, and other admirable traits, not unlike my mother’s letting my brother cook us no-bake cheesecake for all our meals for weeks at a time.

Now, the same things are seen as a crime — “neglecting” or “endangering” your child. No matter if it’s in service for something necessary like a job, more education, or to put food on the table. Or that affluent white people fudge on their addresses to jockey for a better school district, and while they do sometimes get caught, I’ve yet to hear of a case where someone’s been forced to pay restitution, never mind been arrested as happened to Tanya McDowell.

And where are these so-called arbiters of correct parenting coming from? It seems all one has to do is add a little race or class difference to a dollop of self-righteousness (I’m doing it for the children!), and you’re off to the races in the 9-1-1  race. Did the so-called good Samaritan who came across Debra Harrell’s daughter in the park — she’d been happily playing there without incident for three days — think to have a little talk with the mother, to express her misgivings? Maybe help her find a babysitter, or replace the daughter’s laptop, which had been stolen, and was the whole reason she had asked to play in the park instead of playing on the computer inside her mother’s workplace? Or, did all this woman see was a child of a black mother, a poor mother (her job was at McDonald’s) and whatever smorgasbord of stereotypes she wished to attach to that?

Shanesha Taylor was summoned for an interview for a promising job; with no childcare, she felt the potential benefit of this job was worth the risk to leave her kids in her car during the interview, the kind of risk/reward calculation that mothers make every second of the day. She did a great job at the interview, won the job, and her children were fine. This could have been a happy ending to a story of struggle for this embattled family had the woman who saw the kids in the car alone talked to the mother instead of immediately calling the cops.

Make no mistake, this behavior is not about the children, it is about punishment — for being poor, for being of color, for having children at all, for not living up to the accuser’s standards of perfect parenting. Many of these child protection laws have  no guidelines, which leaves them open for interpretation and unequal and unjust application. On a purely empirical level, the thought of Debra Harrell’s daughter playing alone at the park might be unnerving and seemingly at risk of stranger abduction, but it is statistically safe, actually much safer than an affluent mom driving her kid to summer camp — ergo, it’s the rich mom driving to camp whose daughter should be in the custody of social services at least as much as Harrell’s.

The Onion said it best with their headline, “Woman A Leading Authority On What Shouldn’t Be In Poor People’s Grocery Carts.”

*

On my accuser’s face at Whole Foods, I saw an “I care so much about the children” mask — it was not  concern about my son the individual. He was not being physically abused or kidnapped or endangered in any way. If we had been in the privacy of our own home, this is how we would have escorted our son to his room for a time-out. Thus, how would he have been “helped” by this lady if indeed the cop had arrested us? J would have been left alone, needing his pain medicine for his gut and confused and stressed. It would have taken a difficult but stable everyday  situation and made it terrible for all parties — and for no reason. For us, we had the luck of the draw — an autism-savvy cop, the positive-parenting visuals of Whole Foods, Volvo, college professors — and the fact our son had calmed down.

If you’re worried about something going on between a parent and her child, by all means, get involved if you think it necessary. But short of a child being kidnapped or injured in front of your face, you might want to start from a place of openness, empathy and concern. Don’t stand far away, launch an emotional drone via police to search-and-destroy. You think you might be helping, but remember, sometimes what you see as a crime is just a parent doing the best that she can, and even a false, disproved accusation inflicts lasting damage.

 

 

 

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07:12 Right-Wing Christians Tell Kids 'Convert or Go to Hell,' Then Accuse Liberals of Indoctrinating Christian Kids» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
It’s evident who is pushing obedience to an ideology.

For the masochists among us who tune into right-wing media, you soon learn that the all-time favorite fear pundits and preachers love to trot out is that “they” are coming for your children.

Whether it’s liberal college professors supposedly turning kids to Marxism or gay people who are accused of recruiting, over and over you hear the claim that the children of conservatives are in serious danger of being talked into everything from voting for Democrats to getting gay-married.

It’s a peculiar thing to obsess over, and not just because it suggests conservatives have an unhealthy unwillingness to allow their children to grow up and think for themselves. It’s because the imagined conspiracies of liberals trying to “indoctrinate” kids are total phantoms. A little digging shows that accusations of indoctrination are usually aimed at attempts to educate or simply offer support and acceptance. While there are always a few rigid ideologues who are out to recruit, by and large liberals are, well, liberal: More interested in arguing and engaging than trying to mold young people into unthinking automatons.  

But I think I know where conservatives get the idea that other people are sneaking around trying to indoctrinate children into unthinking ideologies. It’s because they themselves are totally guilty of it, both in terms of trying to recruit other people’s children and trying to frighten their own children about the dangers of exploring thoughts outside of the ones approved by their own rigid ideologies.

Parents in Portland, Oregon were alarmed to hear that a group calling itself the Child Evangelism Fellowship's Good News Club has been targeting children as young as five for conversion to their form of Christianity. The group pretends to be similar to more liberal and open-minded groups, claiming they are just trying to teach their beliefs but aren’t trying to be coercive. However, it’s hard to believe, in no small part because they admit they run around scaring children by telling them they are “sinners” who are hellbound unless they convert and start trying to convert others.

One mother, Mia Marceau, told the Associated Press about her 8-year-old son’s encounter with the group. “Within a few hours, however, she didn't like what the group was telling her 8-year-old son and his friends: They were headed to hell, needed to convert their friends and were duty-bound to raise money for the organization.” Those kinds of tactics aren’t about encouraging free discourse, but about creating a cult-like mentality that discourages questions and free thought.

Accusing liberals of “indoctrination” of children does serve one very valuable purpose for conservatives: It gives them cover to launch initiatives to actually indoctrinate children into rigidly Christian or right-wing views.

Nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to the issue of evolution vs. creationism. Evolutionary theory is not an ideology or a belief system. It’s part of science, a world where asking smart questions and looking at evidence and questioning what you think you know is a big part of the equation. But creationists claim that they are the skeptics who are asking hard questions and portray evolutionary biologists as the rigid ideologues who are taking their beliefs on faith. By doing so, they hope to confuse people enough about which is the science and which is the faith system so they can smuggle their beliefs into the classroom where they hope to actually indoctrinate children.

It's easy enough to see this is true if you understand how the concept of “evidence” works. All of the “questions” creationists claim to have about evolution have all been answered by scientists. That creationists hear these answers and ignore them, preferring to pretend instead that scientists have not answered the questions, shows that creationists are the rigid ideologues in the game.

Meanwhile, creationist arguments fall apart under even the most cursory examination, and unlike scientists, creationists aren’t able to answer the questions people ask them. One reason creationists struggle to get their indoctrination attempts past the courts is that once you actually bother to look at the debate in any depth, it’s clear who is teaching people how to think and who is pushing unquestioning obedience to an ideology.

You’re starting to see the same tactic used when it comes to right-wing attacks on Common Core, a set of national standards for schools endorsed by the White House. Now, there’s plenty of reason for people who are fans of critical thinking to object to Common Core, which feeds into the same “teach the test” mentality and attempts to turn our children into worker bees that have long plagued our public school system. But right-wing complaints about it have nothing to do with that. Instead they stem from a series of fanciful claims that it’s some kind of underhanded way to indoctrinate your children into liberalism.

(Indeed, in a bit of right-wing paradoxical thinking, teaching critical thinking itself is viewed as a form of indoctrination, even though it is, by definition, the exact opposite of indoctrination. If Common Core actually promoted more critical thinking, the right's claims that it's “indoctrination” would probably get louder.)

But the whole scare over Common Core doesn’t actually have much to do with the realities of Common Core at all. Most of the conservative claims are a bunch of recycled scare tactic used to scare parents into believing that education itself is the enemy and that kids should be kept at home or within strictly controlled Christian right environments geared to shut down critical thinking and encourage ideological rigidity.

That was made quite clear in Nona Willis Aronowitz’s piece for NBC News where she followed a group of Christian conservatives who hit the road trying to scare people about Common Core in Texas. Never mind that Texas doesn’t use Common Core. Scaring people about a thing they call “Common Core” that is merely a stand-in for fears kids might actually get educated if they go to school is what the entire snow job they’re pulling is all about. By raising fears that kids who get a public education are being brainwashed by some nefarious liberal agenda, these activists can justify their actual desire to, well, try to brainwash kids into unblinking acceptance of whatever authority figures in their life tell them to believe.  

One mother said she was protesting the current state of public education because she opposed “deeper, rigorous thinking” for her kids and wanted them to learn “that there are absolutes, that there are right and wrong answers,” even though, in reality, there really is a lot of gray between the black and white. No matter how much conservatives wish otherwise, teaching people to think for themselves is not “indoctrination” and trying to foist a rigidly unthinking right-wing ideology on them is not protecting them.

 

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07:02 7 Ways U.S. Foreign Policy Would Be Even More Disastrous If There Were a Republican in the White House» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Conservatives scapegoat Obama over foreign crises, but their solutions would be far more scary.

It's hard to recall a time when the world presented more crises with fewer easy solutions. And for the Republicans, all of these woes have a common genesis: American weakness projected by Barack Obama.

People in the Middle East, former Vice President Dick Cheney said recently, "are absolutely convinced that the American capacity to lead and influence in that part of the world has been dramatically reduced by this president." He added, "We've got a problem with weakness, and it's centered right in the White House."

Really? It's instructive to ask: What exactly would a Republican president advised by Cheney do in each of these crises? Let's take them one at a time.

Iraq. It's now clear that Cheney's invasion of Iraq and its subsequent Shiite client state under Nouri al-Maliki only deepened sectarian strife and laid the groundwork for another brand of Islamist radicalism, this time in the form of ISIS, and more backlash against the U.S. for creating the mess. What's the solution -- a permanent U.S. military occupation of Iraq? Republican presidential candidates should try running on that one.

Syria. Obama took a lot of criticism for equivocating on where the bright line was when it came to Syrian use of chemical warfare. In fact, American military pressure and diplomacy has caused Syrian president Assad to get rid of chemical weapons. But the deeper Syrian civil war is another problem from hell. How about it, Republican candidates -- More costly military supplies to moderate radicals, whoever the hell they are? A U.S invasion? See how that plays in the 2016 campaign.

Israel-Palestine. A two-state solution seems further away than ever, and time is not on the Israeli side. No American president has had the nerve to tell the Israeli government to stop building settlements on Arab lands, despite $3 billion a year on U.S. aid to Israel. What Would Jesus Do? (What would Cheney do?)

Putin and Ukraine.Russian President Putin's fomenting of military adventures by ethnic Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine has created a needless crisis. But our European friends, who have trade deals with Russia, don't want to make trouble. So, what will it be -- a new U.S.-led Cold War without European support? A hot war?

Iran's Nuclear Capacity.The policy of détente with Iran in exchange for controls on Iranian ability to weaponize enriched uranium is a gamble that could well pay off. The alternative course of bombing Iran, either ourselves or via a proxy Israeli strike, seems far more of a gamble. Who's the realist here?

China's New Muscle. The U.S., under Democratic and Republican presidents alike, has become pitifully dependent on borrowing from China. Our biggest corporations have put the attractions of cheap Chinese labor ahead of continuing production in the U.S.A., creating a chronic trade deficit that requires all that borrowing. Now, China is throwing around its economic weight everywhere from its own backyard in East Asia to Africa and South America. Our troubles with Putin have helped promote a closer alliance between Moscow and Beijing. Anyone have a nice silver bullet for this one?

Those Central American Kids.What do you think -- failure of immigration policy or humanitarian refugee crisis? On the one hand, American law says that bona fide refugees can apply for asylum and that children who are being trafficked fall into the category of refugees. On the other hand America is never going to take all the world's refugees. Border Patrol agents interviewing terrified nine-year-olds lack the capacity to determine who is a true candidate for asylum. If shutting down the border -- ours or Mexico's -- were the easy solution, we would have done it decades ago.

And I haven't even gotten to Afghanistan, or the problem of nuclear proliferation, or new Jihadist weapons that can evade airport detection systems, or the total failure of democracy to gain ground in the Middle East.

The Republican story seems to be: we don't need to bog down in details -- somehow, it's all Obama's fault.

Here's what these crises have in common.

  • They have no easy solutions, military or diplomatic, and U.S. leverage is limited.
  • They are deeply rooted in regional geo-politics. U.S. projection of either bravado or prudence has little to do with how recent events have unfolded.
  • Some of these crises were worsened by earlier U.S. policy mistakes, such as the Cheney-Bush invasion of Iraq, or the bipartisan indulgence of Israeli building of settlements, or the one-sided industrial deals with China, or 20th-century alliances with Middle Eastern despots to protect oil interests.

When I was growing up, there was a nice clean division between the good guys and the bad guys. Hitler was the ultimate bad guy. Or maybe it was Stalin. America won World War II, and we won the Cold War when the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union collapsed.

Policy choices were easy only in retrospect. The neat world of good guys and bad guys started coming apart with the Vietnam War.

Today's crises are nothing like the ones of that simple era. Who are the good guys and bad guys in Syria and in Iraq? In China's diplomacy in South America? Among the murdered Israeli and Palestinian children and the children seeking refuge at our southern border?

To the extent that policy options are even partly military, the American public has no stomach for multiple invasions and occupations.

As Republican jingoists scapegoat President Obama for all the world's ills and try to impose a simple story of weakness and strength on events of stupefying complexity, you have to hope that the American people have more of an attention span than usual.

 

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07:00 A state-by-state look at lieutenant gubernatorial elections in 2014» Daily Kos

 photo LieutenantGovernorRacesBaseline_zps263ef1a5.png

One of the often overlooked offices in America, state lieutenant governors have powers that vary from state to state with some presiding over the state Senate and others simply collecting a paycheck. Some lieutenant governors are elected on a ticket with the governor and some are elected in their own right, while several states hold primaries for both offices but in the general election run on a single ticket. As we saw in 2009 when President Obama appointed then-Arizona governor Janet Napolitano as Department of Homeland Security secretary, the departure of a governor can flip the office to the other party, who in that case was Republican Jan Brewer.

In this diary I want to take a look at the elections for lieutenant governor in 2014 or whichever office is first in line to the governorship where those offices are separately elected in a general election. This year there will be 11 states that directly elect a lieutenant governor separately in the general election while in two the separately elected secretary of state is first in line and in four states the state Senate president is first in line. Overall Democrats are defending five states while Republicans are defending 12 and below the fold I'll detail each race.

05:44 O'Reilly: Extending Affordable Health Insurance To 40 Million Americans Is "Harmful" Income Redistribution» Media Matters for America - Latest Items
05:00 For New Grads, Depression After the Diploma» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
With unemployment rates high, recent grads are feeling the pressure.

For Dolaphine Kwok, the euphoria of graduating from college was quickly replaced by a growing unease about the road ahead.

“You just feel scared. Your academic bubble is popped, you feel unsure of yourself,” says the 22-year-old California native who graduated earlier this year from the University of Arizona with a degree in Optical Engineering.

The uncertainty eventually led to doubts about her choice of career path. “You feel trapped by your degree, and you wonder if you are really doing the right thing for yourself.”

Her experience is not unique. Many young people experience post-college depression.  For most, the period marks the first time outside of a school setting, causing an identity crisis of sorts. No longer students, work becomes the next foundation upon which to build a life.

But with youth unemployment persistently high across the country, a number of new graduates are struggling to make the transition from student to professional life. Many are returning home instead, with one-in-five Americans under 30 now living with their parents. That’s up from one-in-10 a generation ago.

And while overall unemployment numbers have dipped recently, for 18-29 year olds it continues to hover around 16 percent. For Hispanics and African Americans in the same age bracket the figures are even higher, at just under 16 and 24 percent, respectively.

The consequences for the economy are dire: apart from the billions in lost taxes, studies show billions more in lost earnings and lost years of potential experience for young people who remain unemployed for extended periods.

“I graduated a quarter early to hopefully get a head start on finding a job,” says Bowen Tan, 22. With a degree from UC Santa Cruz in Business Management, Tan says the job search has taken longer than anticipated. In the meantime, he’s returned to his parent’s home in the Bay Area. “It was pretty stressful, but after I moved back home, the anxiety hit hard, it felt like the stress doubled.”

Like Kwok, Tan says coming home after four years in college has led him to question the value of his time in school. “You lived here before you went you college, and now, you’re living here after college. It almost feels like my four years at college were a waste.”

UCLA psychology graduate TK Truong spent two years on the Student Advisory Council for the school’s mental health organization Active Minds. She says a lot of students don’t talk about depression, whether during school or after graduation.

“Depression is many times pushed to the side [because of the] negative stigma around it,” she says. “At a lot of big schools, mental health is also combined with general health services” and so gets less attention.

As for graduation, she says it’s a time when “everyone is taking pictures, asking about future plans … there is so much pressure.”

Glenn Matchett-Morris, associate director of Counseling and Psych Services at the University of Arizona, agrees. “Graduating is a major life transition,” he explains. “It actually is similar to college freshman moving away from home to go to school, but … scarier.”

As Matchett-Morris notes, returning home can be troubling for students who see no alternative. “You think going home is like it was before you went to college, but everything has changed. In your mind, it isn’t a safety net anymore. Suddenly, you think to yourself, ‘even home isn’t okay.’”

Matchett-Morris adds that if left unaddressed, these bouts of post-graduate depression can lead to more serious issues, including disruption of sleep patterns and withdrawal from daily social activities.

That’s what happened to Jeff Clear, who recently finished his degree in computer science. After returning to his parents’ home in Tucson, Clear, 22, took to video games and streaming movies on the Internet. “I would kill a season in a few days, and would just keep watching,” he says. “When I finished, I would immediately try to find another show to watch.”

Enrique Morales works as an academic counselor at City College of San Francisco, where he says he sees an increasing number of these kinds of cases. He warns parents not to ignore signs of possible depression in their kids, including excessive gaming or sleep.

But he adds that not all new grads are taking things lying down. Many are returning to school to gain skills employers are looking for. “There’s been a ridiculous amount of college graduates not being able to find work,” he says, and so they come to places like CCSF, which offers skills-based courses that can lead directly to jobs.

At the height of the Great Recession community colleges across the country saw spikes in enrollment ranging anywhere from 5 to 10 percent. While those numbers have dipped, Morales says there remains a steady stream of college graduates aged 22 to 25 without work and in need of additional training.

Many, he notes, tell him they are “scared about their future.”

 

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03:57 WSJ Buys Into Right-Wing Rhetoric And Decides "Affordable Care Act" Really Means No Tax Credits For Working Americans» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

The Wall Street Journal portrayed the D.C. Circuit's radical decision nullifying tax credits for consumers on the federal exchanges of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a check on President Obama's "penchant for treating laws as unlimited grants of power," all while ignoring the fact that multiple federal courts -- including the Supreme Court itself -- have upheld or acknowledged the very same tax breaks that the Journal now condemns as "illegitimate."

On July 22, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued its split decision in Halbig v. Burwell, one of many lawsuits applauded by conservatives that have challenged the ACA since President Obama signed it into law in 2010. Three of these lawsuits are based on the same legal arguments of Halbig, and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a Halbig-like challenge and upheld the validity of the tax credits on the same day Halbig was decided. The plaintiffs in these cases, relying on a legal theory that has long been a favorite of right-wing media, argued that, somehow, a law drafted to make insurance affordable for all Americans actually denies crucial tax credits for the 5 million consumers who purchased insurance through the federal exchange because their home states refused to set up their own health insurance sites.

Celebrating the majority decision in Halbig by calling the case a "remedial civics lesson" for the Obama administration, the Journal misleadingly claimed that the "plain statutory language of ObamaCare repeatedly stipulates" that the tax credits are only available for state exchanges. The editorial board largely ignored the contradictory ruling from the Fourth Circuit and the vast majority of experts knowledgeable with the law and the basics of statutory construction that took no issue with the administration's commonsense execution of the ACA's tax credits:

The courts usually defer to executive interpretation when statutes are ambiguous, but Mr. Obama's lawyers argued that the law unambiguously means the opposite of the words its drafters used. Judge Thomas Griffith knocked this argument away by noting in his ruling that, "After all, the federal government is not a 'State,'" and therefore "a federal Exchange is not an 'Exchange established by the State.'"

The White House also argued that the court should ignore the law's literal words because Congress intended all along to subsidize everybody, calling the contrary conclusion an "absurd result." Yet this is merely ex post facto regret for the recklessness and improvisation of the way ObamaCare became law, when no trick was too dirty after Democrats lost their 60-vote Senate supermajority. Nancy Pelosi said we had to pass the bill to find out what's in it. Now we know.

Tue 22 July, 2014

16:57 Ex-Lowe’s Employee Sues After ‘N*gga Black’ Paint, Other Racist Incidents Go Unchecked, Lawsuit Claims» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Racial, disability and sex discrimination allegedly cultivated at Gainesville, Va. store.

A Lowe’s home improvement store in Gainesville, Va. cultivated a workplace where racist remarks were tolerated and managers could get away with joking that an employee undergoing treatment for breast cancer was as "worthless as a goldfish with tits," a former employee claims in a federal lawsuit.

Diane Almond-Ward, who began working at the Lowe's in Gainesville in 2004, says her eight-year tenure at the location was rife with racism, sexism and other elements of a hostile work environment. Of the examples of alleged racial, disability and sexual discrimination listed in the 17-page lawsuit, several were particularly glaring.

Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, Almond-Ward took unpaid leave from May to September to deal with her illness. When she returned to work in September, she claims her store manager refused to accommodate her so that she could attend cancer treatments. Almond-Ward claims the store manager purposefully changed her schedule so it would conflict with her medical appointments. The manager insisted that Almond-Ward take vacation to attend her medical appointments instead of expecting accommodation, the lawsuit claims.

On Nov. 15, 2008, Almond-Ward complained to management about being assigned an excessive number of closing shifts. When she asked her manager why she was “being screwed on the schedule,” he told her, “You're being screwed because you're black."

Two other managers were present at the time the comment was made, according to the lawsuit. One said, “You can't say that." The manager who made the remark allegedly responded, "Yes, I can, that’s Diane."

Almond-Ward says she immediately documented the incident and reported it to the area human resources representative. But, instead of getting support, she said the HR rep told her not to stop speaking with the department manager.

"[The HR representative] said, ‘I don't want her to think this is retaliation,’" Almond-Ward told AlterNet. "I said, excuse me. You want me to talk to her so she won't feel like I'm retaliating against her? Aren't you saying that the wrong way around? Shouldn't I be the one who you're saying that to? Shouldn't I be the one you're reassuring that I won't be the one where retaliation won't be used against me? Isn't that what you meant to say? She said, ‘No. I don't want [the department manager] to think we are retaliating against her.’ So she meant what she said. Basically, I was just flabbergasted."

Almond-Ward, who claims in the lawsuit that the same manager referred to her as "too ghetto" to carry out a task on a separate occasion, said the incident was never addressed again.

On Feb. 21, 2010, Almond-Ward claims she received a call from store associates who needed help locating an "NFL" brand paint color. After scanning the computer attached to the paint machine, she found the term "NIGGA BLACK" entered to describe a particular color. Though Almond-Ward reported the incident to management and submitted information on an individual she suspected of inputting the racial slur, no investigation took place, according to the lawsuit. 

On Aug. 2, 2012, an assistant store manager told Almond-Ward that some members of management would hold "male bonding meetings" where they actively conspired to thwart her efforts in the workplace. The organizer of the meetings, the assistant manager confided in Almond-Ward, joked that she was "as worthless as a goldfish with tits."

A veteran of the United States Army, Almond-Ward lost a breast during her battle with cancer. She said the joke caused extreme emotional distress, but no disciplinary action was taken against the person suspected of making the remark, according to the lawsuit.

After filing numerous complaints over her treatment, she was terminated from her position on Dec. 19, 2012.

Almond-Ward’s attorney, Mark Schwartz, told AlterNet that he has rarely represented a client who has suffered as much workplace abuse as Almond-Ward.

"In the 30 years I’ve taken cases, they just get worse and worse and this case is right up there with the worst of them," he said. "I’ve never heard of these terms ‘useless as a goldfish with tits.’ That’s just not part of my vocabulary. I don’t know where this stuff comes from."

Almond-Ward is suing for emotional distress and wrongful termination, based on race, sex, disability and medical condition and is seeking punitive and compensatory damages in excess of $150,000. A Lowe’s representative told AlterNet in an email that the company has not been served with the lawsuit. The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, is being handled by the Doumar Martin law firm in Arlington, Va. 

 

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15:59 'Witch Hunt': Fired MSNBC Contributor Speaks Out on Suppression of Israel-Palestine Debate» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
As Gaza body toll mounts, NBC executives crack down on criticism of Israel.

MSNBC contributor Rula Jebreal’s on-air protest of the network’s slanted coverage of Israel’s ongoing assault on the Gaza Strip has brought media suppression of the Israel-Palestine debate into sharp focus. Punished for her act of dissent with the cancellation of all future appearances and the termination of her contract, Jebreal spoke to me about what prompted her to speak out and why MSNBC was presenting such a distorted view of the crisis.

“I couldn’t stay silent after seeing the amount of airtime given to Israeli politicians versus Palestinians,” Jebreal told me. “They say we are balanced but their idea of balance is 90 percent Israeli guests and 10 percent Palestinians. This kind of media is what leads to the failing policies that we see in Gaza.”

She continued, “We as journalists are there to afflict the comfortable and who is comfortable in this case? Who is really endangering both sides and harming American interests in the region? It’s those enforcing the status quo of the siege of Gaza and the occupation of the West Bank.”

Jebreal said that in her two years as an MSNBC contributor, she had protested the network’s slanted coverage repeatedly in private conversations with producers. “I told them we have a serious issue here,” she explained. “But everybody’s intimidated by this pressure and if it’s not direct then it becomes self-censorship.”

With her criticism of her employer’s editorial line, she has become the latest casualty of the pro-Israel pressure. “I have been told to my face that I wasn’t invited on to shows because I was Palestinian,” Jebreal remarked. “I didn’t believe it at the time. Now I believe it.”

An NBC producer speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed Jebreal’s account, describing to me a top-down intimidation campaign aimed at presenting an Israeli-centric view of the attack on the Gaza Strip. The NBC producer told me that MSNBC President Phil Griffin and NBC executives are micromanaging coverage of the crisis, closely monitoring contributors’ social media accounts and engaging in a “witch hunt” against anyone who strays from the official line.

“Loyalties are now being openly questioned,” the producer commented.

The suppression campaign culminated after Jebreal’s on-air protest during a July 21 segment on Ronan Farrow Daily.

“We are disgustingly biased on this issue. Look at how much airtime Netanyahu and his folks have on air on a daily basis, Andrea Mitchell and others,” Jebreal complained to Farrow. “I never see one Palestinian being interviewed on these same issues.”

When Farrow claimed that the network had featured other voices, Jebreal shot back, “Maybe for thirty seconds, and then you have twenty-five minutes for Bibi Netanyahu.”

Within hours, all of Jebreal’s future bookings were cancelled and the renewal of her contract was off the table. The following day, Jebreal tweeted: “My forthcoming TV appearances have been cancelled. Is there a connection to my expose and the cancellation?”

Jebreal is the author of Miral, a memoir about her coming of age in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Her former partner, Jewish-American filmmaker and artist Julian Schnabel, adapted the book into full length film. A widely published journalist and former news presenter in Italy, Jebreal was a vocal supporter of the now-extinct peace process and a harsh critic of Islamist groups including Hamas. Her termination leaves NBC without any Palestinian contributors.

According to the NBC producer, MSNBC show teams were livid that they had been forced by management to cancel Jebreal as punishment for her act of dissent.

At the same time, social media erupted in protest of Jebreal’s cancellation, forcing the network into damage control mode. The role of clean-up man fell to Chris Hayes, the only MSNBC host with a reputation for attempting a balanced discussion of Israel-Palestine. On the July 22 episode of his show, All In, he brought Jebreal on to discuss her on-air protest.

In introducing Jebreal, Hayes took on the role of the industry and network defender: “Let me take you behind the curtain of cable news business for a moment,” Hayes told his viewers. “If you appear on a cable news network, you trash that network and one of its hosts by name, on any issue — Gaza, infrastructure spending, sports coverage, funny internet cat videos — the folks at the network will not take kindly to it.”

In fact, MSNBC Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough has publicly attacked fellow MSNBC hosts and slammed the network for its support for the Democratic Party.

“I did not think that i was stepping in a hornet’s nest,” Jebreal told me. “I saw Joe Scarborough criticizing the network. I thought we were liberal enough to stand self criticism.”

Yet when she appeared across from Hayes, Jebreal encountered a defensive host shielding his employers from her criticism. “We’re actually doing a pretty good job” of covering the Israel-Palestine crisis, Hayes claimed to her. “I think our network, and I think the New York Times and the media all around, have been doing a much better job on this conflict.”

Jebreal appeared on screen as a “Palestinian journalist” — her title as a MSNBC contributor had been removed. When she insisted that American broadcast media had not provided adequate context about the 8-year-long Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip or the roots of Palestinian violence, Hayes protested that he had wanted to host Hamas officials alongside the Israeli government spokespeople he routinely featured but that it was practically impossible.

“Not all Palestinians are Hamas,” Jebreal vehemently replied.

“Airtime always strikes me as a bad metric,” Hayes responded. “I mean there are interviews and then there are interviews. I had [Israeli government spokesman] Mark Regev on this program for 16 minutes, alright? That’s a very long interview but there was a lot to talk to him about.”

The NBC producer remarked to me that the network’s public relations strategy had backfired. Hayes’ performance was poorly received on social media while Jebreal appeared as another maverick journalist outcasted by corporate media for delivering uncomfortable truths.

For her part, Jebreal told me she was disturbed by Hayes’ comments. “I admire that Chris [Hayes] wanted to have me on but it seems like he was condoning what happened to me,” she said. “He was saying, ‘What do you expect? We rally around our stars.’ Well, I rally around reality, if that still matters in media.”

Jebreal continued: “I didn’t tell him this on air but I said, ‘I hope you don’t condone other things the network did, like what happened with Ayman.’”

Jebreal was referring to NBC correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin and his sudden removal by the network from the Gaza Strip. Mohyeldin, a rising star in the network and its only Arab-American reporter in the region, was an eyewitness to the Israeli killing of four young boys who had been playing soccer on a beach near Gaza City.

Moments after the killings, Mohyeldin relayed intimate accounts of the scene through Twitter, then released harrowing footage of the boys’ mother wailing as she learned of their deaths. Oddly, NBC correspondent Richard Engel was summoned to deliver Mohyeldin’s package that evening.

The NBC producer told me that the network was deluged with angry letters and phone calls from pro-Israel activists about Mohyeldin’s reporting.

Hours later, Mohyeldin’s summary of the US State Department’s statement defending Israel’s actions disappeared from his Facebook and Twitter accounts. He had apparently been forced to delete the postings. Next, NBC removed Mohyeldin from Gaza, sending him out of the area on the first plane available.

To replace Mohyeldin, NBC dispatched Engel, a veteran foreign correspondent well-liked by top brass and regarded as the network’s “star.” Engel was the keynote speaker at a 2013 event at the Newseum in Washington DC honoring journalists killed that year. Under Israel lobby pressure, the Newseum had removed the names of three Palestinian journalists killed in targeting Israeli strikes during the November 2012 assault on Gaza, accepting claims by anti-Palestinian groups like the Anti-Defamation League that their employment by Hamas-affiliated outlets rendered them enemy combatants. During his speech, Engel carefully avoided condemning the Newseum for its capitulation.

The removal of Mohyeldin sparked an international backlash, with tens of thousands from around the world protesting the decision through viral Twitter hashtags like, #LetAymanReport and #FreeAyman. Two days later, an apparently chastened NBC returned Mohyeldin to the Gaza Strip, but the damage had been done.

Unwilling to explain its unusual actions, NBC left it up to media critics to guess at its motives. CNN Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter chalked up the removal of Mohyeldin to “infighting and bureaucracy,” claiming that NBC was concerned primarily with ratings. Glenn Greenwald, the editor-in-chief of the The Intercept, wrote that Mohyeldin was ordered out of Gaza by David Verdi, a top NBC executive, for political reasons — his reporting was deemed too sympathetic to Palestinians.

The NBC producer insisted that Greenwald’s account was the more accurate one. “Greenwald was right,” the producer told me. “And I hate to say that.”

For her part, Jebreal does not expect to be welcomed back on MSNBC again. “I’m done there,” she told me. “It’s not happening any more. My contract is over. I’m fine with it. I’m not complaining.”

She cited the distorted coverage of Israel-Palestine in American broadcast as the central reason behind the American public’s support for Israel’s assault on Gaza.

“I believe this is a shifting moment in history and we need to make a decison,” Jebreal said. “It’s easier when there’s Bridgegate but there is another gate: This is Mediagate and we need to begin to challenge our responsibilities.”

 

 

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11:14 The Youngest Victims of the Drug War at Home and Abroad» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
52,000 unaccompanied children have fled devastating violence that stems from US-led drug policies.

Perhaps the terrible truth of drug war violence will finally be addressed as all of America bore witness this summer to the horror of some 52,000 unaccompanied children who were fleeing devastating violence that had erupted in Central America. Alone, they had braved the treacherous crossing of the border that divides America from Mexico and most of us first encountered them when we saw the smallest of children, terrified, and being held in cages. Those images put before our national consciousness the most heart-wrenching cost of the American taxpayer funded drug war: how it displaces and disassembles the lives of defenseless children. But the truth is that children have always been casualties of this failed war, both in Central and Latin America, and here in the U.S.

In Latin America, the core of this crisis faced by children in vulnerable communities is directly linked to the longstanding drug prohibition policies, which are as failed and dangerous today as they were in Chicago during alcohol's prohibition during the 1920s. Yet, the United States employs tactics as wrongheaded and deadly now as they were then. As we did then, we are engaged in a hyperbolically militarized law and order campaign to combat drug trafficking. Now, like then, it's an utter failure. Most people did not stop drinking if they were inclined to drink then, and today, those inclined to get high, do. But more lives than we may ever be able to count have been destroyed. Murder rates and the numbers of those disappeared have left a terrible haunting that hangs like a heavy tarp across the future of mothers and fathers, sons and daughters who want only to something other than despair. And major regions of Central America are destabilized now, along with the opportunities for creating viable livelihoods. This is what leaves parents so desperate that they send their children on the perilous journey to the U.S. in search of refuge and safety. They only want their babies to live, to have a chance.

Just like us.

Here in America, where drug war monies have disrupted primarily African American communities, Black parents clamor and pray for opportunities not afforded their precious young ones. Instead of African American communities being provided with jobs, resourced schools, sports and arts programs and other stabilizing institutions, they've gotten excessive and biased policing. Despite roughly equal drug use across the races. African Americans are subjected far out of proportion to incarceration and criminalization. Theirs has been the experience of a criminal justice system on steroids; indeed the U.S. incarcerates more people for drug law offenses than Western Europe incarcerates for all offenses combined, and African Americans represent over 40 percent of those numbers despite being 13 percent of the population. And here, among the forgotten many who bear the burden of these policies, are the children, who are often displaced from their homes and separated from a beloved parent who perhaps -- and only perhaps -- needed a public health intervention, not a criminal one. Every night in America, 2.7 million children are growing up in a home in which one or more parents are incarcerated, two-thirds of which are for nonviolent offenses -- including a substantial proportion who are behind bars for a drug law violation.

We hope that in this terrible moment before us -- with children sleeping on floors in cages at the border, and children going to bed without their mothers and fathers in what is widely acknowledged now as a new system of Jim Crow -- we can finally stand together as one nation, setting aside the disingenuous politics of fear and stigma and demonstrate a real commitment to family values by putting the most vulnerable among us -- our beloved children -- at the center of our policies on drugs, incarceration and immigration.

This article first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance Blog

 

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08:14 Meet the New GOP Prototype for Enriching Local Elites While Enacting Christian Right Dogma » AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Kansas under Gov. Sam Brownback is in fiscal ruin, but the wealthy still stay wealthy.

It is said that states are political laboratories for political ideologies. On that score, there are few states that better exemplify how the working class has been used as an unwitting pawn for the elites than Kansas. Today, Kansas is dealing with its worst fiscal crisis in living memory. How did it get here?

Geographically, Kansas sits smack in the middle of the continent, which is appropriate given that for much of its history, the state has literally been all over the map. It was the hotbed for left-wing and socialist populism in the late 19th century. Pragmatic centrism was the rigor du jour in the 1980s. In the 1990s, Christian fundamentalism became the political ideology of the state’s most agitated citizens, especially after the high-profile anti-abortion protests of 1992.

In the midterm elections of 1994, the Christian Right took all three leadership positions in the state’s legislature, and introduced what they called a “Contract with Kansas,” which amounted to little more than a solemn pledge to execute more prisoners and save more fetuses. It was also the year Sam Brownback, the son of one of the wealthiest families in the state, was elected to the House of Representatives.

Brownback quickly promoted his Christian dominionist bona fides. His 15 years in Congress are remembered more for outlandish non-legislative starters like supporting persecuted Christians in third-world countries and opposing human cloning than for attaining wins for the people of Kansas. Nevertheless, the Christian Right swept Brownback into the governor’s mansion in the Tea Party wave of 2010.

What’s the Matter With Kansas? is the title of Thomas Frank’s 2005 political bestseller, which demonstrates how conservatives won the heartland of America. Shortly after Brownback became governor, conservatives crowed that what’s the matter with Kansas is what’s right for America.

In 2012, Gov. Brownback implemented what has been proven an abject failure wherever it has been tried: trickledown economics. He signed into law massive tax cuts for the state’s wealthiest citizens, which eliminated income taxes for businesses, and cut the highest income tax rates by 25 percent. The working-class foot soldiers of the Christian Right were placated with a bill that declared “life begins at fertilization.”

The conservative think tank Americans for Tax Reform hailed the Brownback tax cuts for the rich as “the story of the next decade,” despite the fact that the same tax cuts enacted at the federal level by President Bush in 2002 led to the slowest job and economic growth since World War II. But facts are just liberal opinions in the far-right alternative universe. In fact, the Koch brother-funded Cato Institute gave Brownback’s tax cuts an “A” in fiscal leadership.

Today, Kansas is in fiscal ruin. The Wall Street Journal reported that tax revenues fell by $685 million in the first 11 months of the fiscal year, putting Kansas on track to blow through its $700 million reserve fund by the middle of next year. With 40 percent of state revenue traditionally coming from those taxes and no specific plan to make up the shortfall, Moody’s Investor Service recently downgraded the state’s debt rating.

“Over the last three decades they have smashed the welfare state, reduced the tax burden on corporations and the wealthy, and generally facilitated the return to a nineteenth-century pattern of wealth distribution,” writes Frank. “Thus the primary contradiction of the backlash [conservative movement]: it is a working-class movement that has done incalculable, historic harm to working-class people.”

While the Brownback tax cuts have made the already wealthy even wealthier, it has failed to boost the state’s economy, with Kansas’ rate of job growth putting in the bottom 10 percentile in the nation. Moreover, Kansans are earning less than they were in 2012, and more businesses have failed than have started in the state.

Of course, that’s the intention of the string pullers within the Koch brother-funded conservative movement: to enrich the wealthiest few, while simultaneously starving government of the funds it needs to invest in infrastructure and services for the working class and poor.

“Here, after all, is a rebellion against 'the establishment' that has wound up cutting the tax on inherited estates. Here is a movement whose response to the power structure is to make the rich even richer; whose answer to the inexorable degradation of working-class life is to lash out angrily at labor unions and liberal workplace-safety programs; whose solution to the rise of ignorance in America is to pull the rug out from under public education,” writes Frank.

Education has been one of the biggest victims under Brownback, with a 3 percent cut to education spending. As for Brownback’s Christian Right ballot box lever pullers, what have they received? Well, like always, they’ve been used as a tool to enrich the lives of the people they work for. They voted to stop abortion, but have instead received something that most likely doesn’t benefit them—a rollback on capital gains taxes and a cut to public services, including the blocking of the Medicaid expansion. They voted to have creationism taught in the classroom, but have instead received lower wages, more dangerous jobs, dirtier skies, and de-regulations that encourage monopolies and thus higher costs of living.

The game never changes. The victims are always the same: a working-class that votes against its own economic interests, in the name of a celebrated champion of the poor and working class: Jesus Christ.

 

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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:

http://peak-oil.org/2013/09/arithmetic-population-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


Source:carboncounter

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.

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