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Thu 21 August, 2014

10:00 Matthew Weiner’s disastrous “Are You Here”: Why it’s so hard for showrunners to follow up a hit TV show» Salon.com
The "Mad Men" creator is famous. He's critically beloved. And now he has a genuinely bad movie to his name






09:56 Women Seeking Flextime Pay Heavier Price Than Men» LiveScience.com
Women are perceived as less likable and competent than men when they ask for flexible work arrangements to accommodate childcare responsibilities, a new study suggests.
09:50 Paul Ryan Thinks John Boehner Smells Too Much Like Cigarettes» Politics - The Huffington Post
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) really doesn't like House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) cigarette habit.

In a Q&A with the House Budget Committee chairman, Time's Belinda Luscombe asked Ryan if he ever asks Boehner to refrain from smoking.

"No," Ryan said. "But I try to sit as far away from him as I can in meetings that I know are going to be stressful. I just hate getting that smell in my clothes."

HuffPost reached out to Boehner's office for comment on Ryan's remarks. We'll update if we hear back.

During an appearance on NBC's "The Tonight Show" earlier this year, Boehner said he had no plans to give up cigarettes and red wine -- even if that precluded him from ever seeking the presidency.

"I like to play golf," Boehner told host Jay Leno. "I like to cut my own grass. I do drink red wine. I smoke cigarettes and I'm not giving that up to be President of the United States."

Earlier in the Time interview (which is mostly behind the magazine's paywall), Ryan was asked who he thinks is next in line for Boehner's job.

"You’d have to put Jeb Hensarling high on the list," Ryan said. "I prefer the policy-chairmanship route. [Speaker of the House] is a good job for an empty nester."

(h/t Talking Points Memo)
09:49 Americans Oppose Police Militarization, Poll Finds» Politics - The Huffington Post
Most Americans think it's unnecessary for the police to use military weapons as tools for law enforcement, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll.

According to the new poll, 28 percent of Americans think it's necessary for police to use military weapons and armored vehicles, while 51 percent think use of such items is going too far.



Democrats in the poll said by a 63 percent to 21 percent margin that they think militarization of local police is going too far, and independents said so by a 52 percent to 26 percent margin. On the other hand, Republicans were more likely to say that police use of military weapons and armored vehicles is necessary than that it's going too far, 44 percent to 34 percent.

A Reason-Rupe poll, which mentioned drones in addition to weapons and armored vehicles, had similar findings in December. In that poll, 37 percent said that such militarization is necessary and 58 percent said it's going too far.

Police militarization has come under fire recently in part because of the reaction of police in Ferguson, Missouri, to protesters there after the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by white officer Darren Wilson. Officers have used tear gas and armored vehicles among crowds of protesters, and some officers have carried assault rifles.

President Barack Obama spoke on Monday about the Pentagon program that allows local police departments to purchase many of those weapons, saying, "I think it's probably useful for us to review how the funding has gone, how local law enforcement has used grant dollars, to make sure that what they are purchasing is stuff they actually need."

And Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) announced last week that he would introduce legislation to scale back that program.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted Aug. 16-17 among 1,000 U.S. adults, including 117 black respondents, using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here.


See updates on the situation in Ferguson below:

09:45 Former Cop Condemns Lt. Ray Albers' Threats To 'Shoot The Public' In Ferguson» Politics - The Huffington Post
A former cop told HuffPost Live on Thursday that the suburban St. Louis police officer who threatened to kill protesters in Ferguson was completely out of line with law enforcement standards.

Arthur Rizen, a former police officer and current associate law professor at West Virginia University, spoke with host Alyona Minkovski to shed some light on the escalating tension between police and civilians in Ferguson.

Speaking specifically about Ray Albers, Rizen described feeling "astonished" that the St. Louis lieutenant "didn't know better" than to wield such a powerful weapon in such close proximity to Ferguson civilians while issuing brash threats.

"He's holding an assault rifle," he said, referring to Albers. "That weapon is designed to engage the enemy, because it's a military weapon, up to 300 yards. There's no reason for him to be pointing that weapon at close range, except to look menacing and to look like he's trying to intimidate people and scare people. Or maybe, in fact, he was thinking about shooting individuals."

Rizen said Albers was acting outside the law during the incident.

"There isn't a policy in the United States that I'm aware of where any individual is able to act like that," he added. "That was outrageous behavior by the individual."

Sign up here for Live Today, HuffPost Live's new morning email that will let you know the newsmakers, celebrities and politicians joining us that day and give you the best clips from the day before!
09:45 William Kristol demands Obama start the war he already started» Salon.com
Kristol is outraged that Obama has done "nothing" against ISIS (except airstrikes and aid to Iraqi forces)






09:32 Deep Justice in Ferguson» Politics - The Huffington Post
Black 'hood, white cops. "Get the fuck on the sidewalk."

And so it begins, and begins, and begins. An African-American boy dies for walking in the street -- for yet one more insanely small transgression. Protesters cry for justice. The legal bureaucracy hunkers down, defends itself, does what it can to paint the deceased 18-year-old, Michael Brown, as a bad guy. Sides harden in the media. Once more it's us vs. them. Nobody talks about making things right; nobody talks about healing.

But we can't talk about healing -- yet. We can't talk about Ferguson, Mo., and the standoff between angry residents and the heavily militarized police, now two weeks old, without talking about institutional racism. In a healthy, free society, the idea of a "standoff" like this would be absurd, because the police aren't a separate entity, controlling that society on outside orders, like an occupying army. In a healthy society, police serve the community; they're part of it.

What has happened, and is happening, in Ferguson is sufficiently preposterous and cruel that the mainstream media coverage hasn't completely surrendered its sympathy to the police and portrayed all the protesters as rioters. A young man, walking in the street with a friend, was shot six times -- twice in the head -- by a police officer. Even if the police version of events (he was defiant, there was a struggle) is true, the shooting was an act of breathtaking aggression and should never have happened. And so many witnesses dispute this story, the reality looks a lot more like cold-blooded murder; thus the residents of Ferguson have a right to demand answers, and justice.

What they also have a right to demand, though most of the coverage hardly acknowledges as much, is control over their own community and complete assurance that they are not regarded by their "protectors" as the enemy. They have a right to demand deep justice -- and deep change. Michael Brown's shooting was not an isolated incident; it's part of the legacy of manifest destiny, a.k.a., racism that has shaped the United States of America.

"Michael Brown's tragic death," writes Nadia Prupis at Common Dreams, "is part of a much more pervasive trend of police brutality on large and small scales that is strengthened and perpetuated by militarization -- one that encourages the police to see the people as an enemy, and vice versa."

The enemy, in particular, are people of color. Prupis quotes Eastern Kentucky University professor Victor E. Kappeler: "The institution of slavery and the control of minorities . . . were two of the more formidable historic features of American society shaping early policing."

Slavery, of course, is "history." The conventional understanding is that we're long past that regrettable era. Human enslavement occurred so long ago it might as well be part of some other national history -- some other universe. Bringing it up, at least in the media, is in poor taste, apparently, guaranteed to summon groans and eyeball rolls. This is the case even though it's been barely a generation since the civil rights movement curtailed slavery's direct descendant, the Jim Crow laws and vicious racial discrimination on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line. Confederate flags still decorate public space and private consciousness. No matter. Slavery is history. Let's move on.

But, as Kappeler, who is in the School of Justice Studies, goes on to say: "The similarities between the slave patrols and modern American policing are too salient to dismiss or ignore. Hence, the slave patrol should be considered a forerunner of modern American law enforcement.

"The legacy of slavery and racism did not end after the Civil War," he adds. "In fact it can be argued that extreme violence against people of color became even worse with the rise of vigilante groups who resisted Reconstruction."

One phrase lingers: "control of minorities." Could it be that such an imperative is part of our social DNA? This is institutional racism. It would put the Ferguson killing into an all-too-graspable context, beginning with Officer Darren Wilson's command -- "Get the fuck on the sidewalk" -- to Michael Brown and his friend. The officer wasn't keeping order in Ferguson; he was controlling the movement of two young African-American males, who are "minorities" despite the fact that Ferguson is mostly black.

I have no doubt that the standoff in Ferguson -- the demand for change -- goes this deep. I also have no doubt that tear gas won't pacify the protesters and replace their anger with fear of authority. Neither will all the military hardware the Defense Department can supply.

Fascinatingly, the standoff between police and protesters all but ended for one evening a week ago, when the governor pulled the local police force off the front lines and gave control of the situation to Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Instead of confronting the protesters as the enemy, Johnson, who is black and grew up in Ferguson, joined them. There were no gas masks, no armored vehicles -- and, suddenly, no standoff.

At Michael Brown's memorial service, Johnson said: "I will protect your right to protest." Turning to the boy's family, he added: "My heart goes out to you. I'm sorry."

This was a mirage, of course. The tear gas and confrontation -- the occupying army -- returned soon enough, and the community split apart again.

But deep change is coming. The events in Ferguson have forced our history out of hiding.

- - -
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press), is still available. Contact him at koehlercw@gmail.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com.

© 2014 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, INC.
09:29 “Just do what I tell you”: Why cops’ tasing people is nothing to laugh at» Salon.com
People think videos of cops tasing people are funny. Here's why it's anything but harmless






09:29 Politicians, doing the “Ice Bucket Challenge” doesn’t make up for the millions you cut from ALS research» Salon.com
The "ALS Ice Bucket Challenge" is sweeping the nation -- politicians included






09:28 Worker To Starbucks: 'I'm Not Able To Parent The Way I'd Like To'» Politics - The Huffington Post
Changes to Starbucks’ erratic system for scheduling its workers' hours can’t come quickly enough for Allison Montgomery.

“Starbucks is not catering to parents at all, it’s been going on for a long time,” Montgomery said Wednesday during a segment on HuffPost Live. “You’re at the mercy of the software.”

Her woes mirrored those of Jannette Navarro, the single mother profiled in a New York Times story published last week that exposed the plight of Starbucks workers balancing home life with the chain's irregular hours.

Since becoming a barista at the coffee chain two years ago, Montgomery, a single mother in Chester, Pennsylvania, has struggled to get her four children to daycare. Her unpredictable hours caused her wages to fluctuate, making it impossible to accurately document her income for government benefits. Montgomery said she was "cut off" from state-funded child care subsidies in part because she couldn't provide proof of a regular source of income. After she lost access to a car, Montgomery woke up at 3 a.m. to safely deliver her kids to a babysitter before beginning her commute by two separate buses to work.

"I can't tell you how many times I've had to panic before work, getting a babysitter or calling out, being late," Montgomery said. "It's hard to find reliable, affordable daycare."

Montgomery said she pleaded with her manager to give her more consistent hours, but said "nothing could ever be done about it."

Last week, Starbucks vowed to update its scheduling software to make hours more consistent and enforce new guidelines to discourage managers from slotting the same workers for back-to-back open and closing shifts. In a company-wide email, Cliff Burrows, Starbucks’ president for the U.S. and Americas, also pledged to post shifts at least one week in advance.

But worker advocates said the promised changes failed to secure steady hours for employees.

Starbucks did not immediately respond to a request from The Huffington Post for comment.

“I’m not able to parent the way I’d like to,” Montgomery said. “I would like to just have a normal schedule, something I can look forward to.”
09:24 Conservation Is a Winning Conversation With Latinos» Politics - The Huffington Post
I visited Shenandoah River State Park on a recent sunny weekend with my family and was pleasantly surprised to see so many fellow Hispanics enjoying the outdoors. The park offers scenic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and river-front picnicking, fishing, hiking trails and boating. It was rewarding to see so many children enjoying the outdoors, as my team and I have spent years educating and encouraging Latino families to visit and enjoy their public lands, like this Virginia state park.

Now, a new research brief from leading pollster Latino Decisions and Hispanic Access Foundation indicates that Latinos aren't just appreciating and increasingly advocating for our environment - they may even vote for candidates who will see it protected.

Our research brief, "Hispanic Voter Perspectives on Conservation and Environmental Issues," analyzes nine major public opinion polls from the last three years. It finds Latinos overwhelming support greater environmental protections, such as preserving parks and public lands, so much so that conservation issues could influence voting decisions in the mid-term elections.

There is ample evidence Latinos in the West and Southwest, especially, have strong cultural ties to the public lands and rivers in the region, and regularly partake in outdoor activities. This personal connection to the outdoors helps to sharpen interest in conservation policy issues.

2014-08-20-DSC06396.jpg

Just last month, the inaugural Latino Conservation Week demonstrated nationwide interest among Hispanic community organizations on environmental issues. Throughout the week, in events from California, Colorado, New Mexico and others, Latino groups organized hiking and camping outings, participated in community events, and held presentations designed to show their support for permanently protecting our land, water and clean air.

And now this report provides definitive proof: there is a significant, growing Latino movement that is advocating for greater environmental protections of our parks and public lands. As the report says, "When it comes to policies and candidates, Hispanics consistently articulate their preference for an agenda that actively promotes a cleaner environment and preserving public lands."

"Clean air and water, preserving public lands, climate change and promoting clean energy solutions are all matters of concern for this rapidly-growing electorate," said Dr. Adrian Pantoja, Senior Analyst for Latino Decisions and Professor of Political Studies at Pitzer College in Claremont, California in a press release about the new report. "Decision-makers and advocates with national and regional constituencies will need to demonstrate their attention to these concerns and policy preferences as the Latino population and electorate continues to grow into the foreseeable future."

The Latino population is the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population - and increasingly engaged in electoral politics. Some pundits believe Latino voters will be key to Colorado's midterm races for instance, but I think we can expect to see candidates nationwide paying tribute to Hispanic Heritage Month. More importantly: how many political campaigns will also reach out to local Latino organizations to recognize National Public Lands Day (September 27) or visit a nearby park or national forest, in light of this new report? Only the savvy ones.
09:18 Michael Brown killing: CNN presents anonymous source with a secondhand story as an eyewitness » Daily Kos
Screenshot of Piaget Crenshaw on CNN, giving eye witness account of shooting of Michael Brown
Hey, CNN, this is what an eyewitness looks like. You may recognize her from CNN.
Carol Costello, the host of CNN Newsroom, was really on a roll today with her coverage of events in Ferguson, Missouri, in the aftermath of an unarmed black teenager being gunned down by a white police officer on August 9. Her focus?

DIFFERENT ACCOUNTS OF SHOOTING

... with Costello presenting a line of photos of the four main witnesses who have come forward to tell what they saw that day: Dorian Johnson, Tiffany Mitchell, Piaget Crenshaw and Michael Brady, with Costello saying that there are "seven or eight discrepancies of the eyewitness testimonies" that are "likely be used to break down their credibility" should they ever be called to testify on what they saw that day.

And indeed, depending on where they were and their own points of view, there were some minor differences in their stories. But here is what three of those witnesses agree on: Michael Brown was running away, Officer Darren Wilson was shooting at him, Brown stopped and turned around—with his arms raised, according to Johnson and Mitchell—before being shot multiple times. Michael Brady, who ran outside after seeing the initial altercation from his apartment window, saw Brown falling to the pavement as Wilson shot him three or four more times.

And then, Costello breathlessly tells us:

Other witnesses tell a different story.
And we get ... a silhouette, the name "Josie" and a graphic saying:
Brown shoved Wilson into car, officer fired in self defense.
So, who is "Josie"? That would be the anonymous, alleged friend of Darren Wilson's girlfriend, who was allegedly told Wilson's version of events, before calling in to tell the alleged second-hand story to a right-wing radio show.

That would be the other witness telling a different story. Except for, you know, that part about not actually being a witness.

Nice job, Carol.

09:17 Secret Terror: Fate Of Journalist Steven Sotloff Now On World Stage» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Secret Terror: Fate Of Journalist Steven Sotloff Now On World Stage

09:15 At Least 10 Percent Of Fracking Fluid Is Toxic» ThinkProgress

For another third we have no idea.

The post At Least 10 Percent Of Fracking Fluid Is Toxic appeared first on ThinkProgress.

09:14 Kevin Sorbo’s insane, racist Ferguson rant: Calls protestors “losers” and “animals”» Salon.com
Writing trolly things is one way to stay relevant...






09:13 Hot and Getting Hotter: Heat Islands Cooking US Cities » LiveScience.com
Since 1970, cities have been warming, and have been getting hotter far faster than adjacent rural areas
09:10 Say What? Israel Just Outlawed Water Fluoridation» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Say What? Israel Just Outlawed Water Fluoridation

09:09 Bob McDonnell Testifies That He Is No Longer Living With His Wife» Politics - The Huffington Post
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell says tension in his marriage was fueled in part by his wife's difficulty dealing with her staff.

McDonnell testified Thursday that it got so bad that he eventually stayed in his office longer than necessary rather than go home and listen to his wife's complaints.

He also said he often heard his wife, Maureen, yelling at assistants. He said she didn't appreciate it when he tried to rein her in.

According to NBC's Rachel DePompa, McDonnell testified that he is no longer living with his wife and has instead been staying with his pastor.


The marriage is a key issue in the McDonnells' public corruption trial. Defense attorneys suggest they couldn't have conspired in a gifts-for-favors scheme with a wealthy businessman because their communications had broken down.
09:06 States Escaping No Child Left Behind Can Get More Time On Teacher Evaluations» Politics - The Huffington Post
For years, the Obama administration has made tougher teacher evaluations a centerpiece of its education agenda, giving states incentives to grade educators partially in accordance with students' standardized test scores. But on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced most states will get a reprieve of sorts.

Deborah Delisle, assistant secretary of elementary and secondary education, wrote in a Thursday letter to state school chiefs that states that have received waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act will be able to continue to evade the law even if they did not use test scores in this year's teacher evaluations. But states are still required to show the test scores to teachers.

"Testing should never be the main focus of our schools ... No test can ever measure what a student is, or can be," Duncan wrote in a blog post Thursday. "Testing issues today are sucking the oxygen out of the room in a lot of schools."

Beyond the question of when states have to use test scores in teacher evaluations, Duncan said states can request other types of flexibility. "We want to make sure that they are still sharing growth data with their teachers, and still moving forward on the other critical pieces of evaluation systems that provide useful feedback to educators," Duncan wrote.

The letter built on previous incremental announcements about the administration's piecemeal changes to the waiver program. No Child Left Behind, the 2001 much-maligned George W. Bush law that mandated regular standardized testing, expired in 2007. After Congress failed to rewrite it, Duncan and President Barack Obama told states in 2011 that they could escape some of its components by agreeing to policies preferred by the Education Department. Since then, more than 40 states have garnered the waivers, but 35 states' waivers expire this summer. So far, 18 have received one-year extensions.

States that received the waivers were expected to fully implement their new teacher evaluation systems by this school year. But that deadline coincides with the first year during which states are supposed to be using tests aligned to their newer, higher standards, another waiver requirement. (In many states, these tests are aligned to the Common Core State Standards, a controversial set of items that dictates what students are expected to know by the end of each grade in math and English language arts.)

Many teachers and their unions have warned that the confluence of these two drastic changes could spell major trouble because of the statistical pitfalls of using new tests to measure student growth, as well as the simple fact that changes might require time for adjustment.

So with these challenges, parents rebelling against standardized testing and the pressure of No Child Left Behind advocates who said the waivers didn't do enough to hold schools accountable for the teaching of disadvantaged students, Duncan found himself in a pickle of sorts. Should he continue to push hard on the administration's banner priority of rigorous teacher evaluations, or should he ease the pressure, and risk the perception that the Education Department has little leverage as it phases out NCLB?

Thursday's announcement proved to be something of a middle path. "This announcement cannot be viewed as a gift to people who have chosen not to take the harder path," said John White, Louisiana's school superintendent. (Louisiana's waiver extension process is up in the air amid Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R) attempts to move the state away from the Common Core as the school year begins.)

"When making an announcement that they are going to relax some of those stiff requirements for accountability, they should send a clear signal that states that have maintained stringent accountability commitments and kept true to their long term plan have done the right thing," White said. "There are a lot of people out with scars on their backs who did the right thing and whose efforts should be respected because they saw through the commitments that they made five years ago."

One such state is New Mexico, which has not revised its evaluation timeline under the waivers. "We believe education decisions affecting the states should be made by the states," said New Mexico's school chief, Hanna Skandera. "That's why New Mexico was an early supporter of the administration's efforts to offer waivers allowing states to develop local reforms that best serve our students."

The news follows the May announcement that the Education Department would consider extending waivers in states whose evaluation systems were not at the level of implementation originally promised.

Some were pleased with Thursday's move, which comes as the administration faces criticism for being overly prescriptive in its use of waivers. Earlier this summer, congressional Republicans Rep. John Kline (Minn.) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate the waivers. They emphasized in their request that "states were required to comply with a new set of requirements, not authorized by Congress."

Others questioned the premise of the evaluations, most of which rely on a metric called "value-added," which is supposed to tease out a teacher's impact on student test scores, stripping away external factors such as poverty and previous academic performance.

"Value-added doesn't work, it's a cruel hoax," said Lily Eskelsen García, president-elect of the National Education Association. "Whether this department is giving you a waiver for one year but afterwards you still use an equation that makes no sense, we will still be working to eliminate anything that serves a high-stakes consequences with the value-added voodoo number."

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, called the move a good start.

"The Department's admission today that testing has gone too far is a good step, if there is a real course-correction that is linked to concrete action and not just words," she said.

This post has been updated to include a statement from Randi Weingarten.
09:04 Africa Will Add More Renewable Energy In 2014 Than In The Last 14 Years Combined» ThinkProgress

Renewable energy is getting cheaper, and Africa is taking advantage of it.

The post Africa Will Add More Renewable Energy In 2014 Than In The Last 14 Years Combined appeared first on ThinkProgress.

09:03 Koch-Backed Ad Betrays Fundamental Misunderstanding Of Congress» Politics - The Huffington Post


The Following post first appeared on FactCheck.org.

An ad from a Koch-backed group labels Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley an ineffective leader because he “wrote only one bill that became law” in six years. This kind of claim is an attack ad staple, but it betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the ways of Congress.


First-term senators, like Merkley, typically get their names on very few bills that stand a chance of becoming law, and even then, the bills usually are relatively minor.


By the ad’s measuring stick, virtually every senator who came into office at the same time as Merkley has been a slacker. Two senators have had two sponsored bills each that became law. Merkley was one of four who had one. Four of the senators — including the only two Republicans who took office that year — have had none.



The claim also ignores proposed bills that Merkley sponsored that didn’t pass as stand-alone legislation but were incorporated into larger bills. And it overlooks a number of amendments that Merkley proposed that ended up being part of bills that ultimately passed.


Freedom Partners, a conservative group that has current and former Koch Industries officials on its board, has invested heavily in the Oregon Senate race, which pits the incumbent, Merkley, against the Republican challenger, pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby. The ad is part of a reported $3.6 million ad campaign from Freedom Partners in Oregon. The election is on Nov. 4.


’Just One’


“We work hard,” the narrator in the Freedom Partners ad begins. “We deserve leaders who work just as hard for us. But Sen. Jeff Merkley? In six years, Merkley wrote only one bill that became law. Just one.”


That one bill was the relatively obscure S. 1448. Introduced by Merkley in July 2009, it sought to authorize a handful of Oregon Indian tribes to obtain a 99-year lease for trust land. The bill was described by tribal attorney Brett Kenney as a noncontroversial proposal that didn’t appear to have any legislative detractors. It passed the House and Senate unanimously and was signed into law by President Obama in late 2010.


American Enterprise Institute scholar Norman J. Ornstein warned, however, that measuring a first-term senator’s record based solely on a count of sponsored legislation that became law is fundamentally flawed.


Most bills that pass are sponsored by committee chairs or the committee’s ranking member of the minority party, Ornstein explained, or sometimes subcommittee chairs. Those positions are largely based on seniority. Merkley currently chairs two subcommittees, the Senate Banking Committee’s Subcommittee on Economic Policy and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s Green Jobs and the New Economy Subcommittee. But he wasn’t appointed to either position until February 2013.


Unless you are a committee chairman or the committee’s ranking member of the minority party (currently Republicans in the Senate), Ornstein told us, you are unlikely to have your name attached to a bill, unless it is a minor bill. The statistics back him up. Of the 37 Senate bills that have been signed into law in 2013 and 2014, 23 were sponsored by either a committee chair or ranking member of the committee. The rest were sponsored by subcommittee chairs or ranking members of subcommittees, or by the Senate majority or minority leaders.


In the backup material Freedom Partners supplied to us for the ad, the group noted that when Merkley came into office, Democrats controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress, and had a supermajority in the Senate. They also noted that Oregon’s senior senator, Democrat Ron Wyden, authored and passed six bills during Merkley’s tenure. That’s true, but it only serves to reinforce Ornstein’s point. Wyden has been in the Senate since 1996 and has much more seniority than Merkley. Wyden currently chairs the Senate Committee on Finance.


We looked at the legislative record of all 10 senators who, like Merkley, came into office in January 2009. Two of them, Democratic Sens. Tom Udall of New Mexico and Mark Warner of Virginia, have had two sponsored bills become law. Four, including Merkley, had one. And four others — including the only two Republicans to take office at that time — have had none.


Since taking office, Merkley has sponsored 227 bills, amendments and resolutions. That ranks him fourth among the 10 senators who took office in January 2009, based on our analysis. Merkley ranks in the middle of the pack with regard to the number of pieces of sponsored legislation that got committee consideration, floor consideration or passed one chamber of government.


But Ornstein warns that those types of quantitative measures can be misleading.


“This is in no way an effective way to measure the effectiveness of a senator,” Ornstein said. Having only a small number of laws with your name on them “doesn’t mean you are not having an impact on legislation or the legislative process.”


For example, he said, Sen. Al Franken’s name isn’t on the Affordable Care Act, but Franken introduced an important amendment on medical loss ratios, requiring insurers to spend 80 percent to 85 percent of premiums on medical care (rather than administrative costs). When former President Bill Clinton touted the Affordable Care Act in his speech at the Democratic Convention in 2012, he highlighted the fact that “individuals and businesses have already gotten more than a billion dollars in refunds from insurance companies because the new law requires 80 to 85 percent of your premium to go to your health care, not profits or promotion.”


Franken, who came into office six months after Merkley in 2009, hasn’t written any stand-alone bills that have become law.


Some bills don’t pass as stand-alone legislation, but later get folded into larger bills. For example, in July 2009 Merkley proposed the Small Business Jump Start Act of 2009, a bill that sought to increase a tax deduction for start-up businesses. As a stand-alone bill, it was referred to a committee and died. But Merkley later added it as an amendment to the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, which was sponsored by former House Financial Services Committee chairman Barney Frank and became law.


Similarly, Merkley’s bill, the Bank On Our Communities Act of 2009 — which sought to create a $30 billion fund to provide capital to community banks for small-business loans — also stalled as stand-alone legislation. But it was folded into the Small Business Jobs Act as an amendment.


Other examples include Merkley’s Crowdfund Act — a bill that sought to limit how much small investors could put into crowd-funding sites — which was added as an amendment to the JOBS Act in 2012, and Merkley’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2013 — a bill that sought to provide loans for communities to repair their water systems — which was added to the Water Resources Development Act of 2013.


Merkley’s campaign provided a number of other examples, but you get the idea.


Merkley also authored the so-called Volcker rule, a key provision of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act — a bill that President Obama called “the toughest financial reform” since the Great Depression. Named after Paul Volcker, a former Fed chairman and Obama economic adviser who proposed it, the rule places restrictions on certain banks and financial firms on proprietary trading — that is, it limits the ability of financial institutions to invest their own money in stocks, bonds and other products for their own profit. Politico called Sens. Carl Levin and Merkley “the two top advocates of strengthening the ‘Volcker rule’ throughout the Wall Street reform debate.” And while the Volcker rule amendment didn’t pass, a compromise was forged in conference committee that Merkley and Levin called “a victory.” Merkley touted the controversial rule as one of his top achievements in Congress in an interview with the Huffington Post in January.


Merkley was also part of a small group of Democratic senators who spearheaded important changes to the filibuster rule, to help expedite executive- and judicial-branch nominations.


Ornstein said that if you talked to committee and subcommittee leaders, “they’d tell you that Merkley is a very effective lawmaker.” We at FactCheck.org take no position on that, of course, but we caution readers not to put much stock into a claim about the effectiveness of a first-term lawmaker based on the number of sponsored stand-alone bills that have become law.


Obamacare and Higher Premiums


The narrator in the Freedom Partners ad also attacks Merkley for his support of the Affordable Care Act, which it refers to as Obamacare.


“He promised to fix Obamacare,” the narrator says, “but last year, our premium increases were the highest on the West Coast. This year, they’re going even higher.”


On screen, the ad shows a graphic claiming rates have gone up 55 percent for people aged 27, 24 percent for people aged 40, and 31 percent for people aged 64. The ad cites a Forbes article about a study of insurance premiums by the conservative Manhattan Institute.


Although the ad, without qualifiers, seems to suggest that rates have gone up by these amounts for all Oregonians, the Manhattan Institute study looked at the changes in insurance rates in the individual market after passage of the Affordable Care Act. The individual market is for those who buy insurance on their own as opposed to through an employer. About 267,000 Oregonians, 7 percent of the state’s population, purchased their own insurance in 2012, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.


We have written previously about other qualifiers people ought to consider when weighing the Manhattan Institute analysis. For example, the analysis looked at the five least expensive plans before and after enactment of the ACA, but did not adjust for the fact that the ACA requires certain minimum benefits, which many individual market plans didn’t meet. By and large, the post-ACA plans are more robust (whether purchasers like or want that or not).


The Manhattan Institute analysis also didn’t include premiums for catastrophic plans, which could offer a cheaper option to those 27-year-olds. Nor did it account for subsidies, which the Manhattan Institute estimates will be available to 45 percent of uninsured Oregonians, or 303,690 people.


As for the claim that “this year” insurance premiums are “going even higher,” Freedom Partners points to an Associated Press story that reported that Moda, the insurance company with the largest share of the individual market in Oregon, will increase rates by 10.6 percent on average in 2015. That’s accurate, according to an Aug. 1 report from the state’s Department of Consumer and Business Services, but the report also noted that a number of other companies will be reducing rates in 2015.


Although the rate changes vary by insurer, as well as age, location, number of family members and plan choice, Oregon’s Insurance Commissioner Laura Cali stated in a press release that “the approved rates are lower on average than in 2014, reflecting the effect of competition and Oregonians’ expanded access to health coverage.” We caution, however, that that’s not a weighted average, meaning the rates of smaller insurers were counted equally with those of larger insurers. A spokesman for the department said a weighted average was not calculated because people can select any plan they wish in the market exchange.


A table showing sample rate changes in 2015 by company and plan can be viewed here.

09:00 Morning Joe Forgets Bush's 'Now Watch This Drive'» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Morning Joe Forgets Bush's 'Now Watch This Drive'

09:00 Colleagues Remember James Foley With Touching Tributes» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Colleagues Remember James Foley With Touching Tributes

I still haven't processed the evil that ISIL has unleashed, culminating in their public execution of American journalist James Foley. It's inhuman, barbaric, and downright evil. Coming on the heels of everything else these past two weeks it's also incomprehensible. There's only so much evil I can handle before just shutting down.

It is, then, a breath of fresh air to hear Foley's colleagues pay tribute to his humanity, his goodness and his commitment to tell the stories of people in the countries he covered. I do believe there will be justice for those who took his life, and part of that justice will be that their evil act won't erase the good he did.

AFP journalists took some time to remember him and his good deeds. For me, it's far more productive to remember the good in someone than the evil that took his life. So here's a few snippets. You should read the whole thing.

The message:

"He tried to show childhoods cut short by indiscriminate bombings, elderly survivors pulled from wreckage," Belaid said.

"His images often spoke for themselves, but his accompanying mails always mentioned the names of those he had interviewed and even of those he filmed after they had died under the bombardment.

"For him, no victim was anonymous, he made it a point of principle to find out their names, to gather information about their lives."

The humanity:

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08:59 One Of The Two Officers Involved In Fatal Wal-Mart Shooting Is Back At Work» ThinkProgress

Michael Brown was one of several black men shot dead by police last week. Another was 22-year-old John Crawford III, shot inside a Wal-Mart while carrying a BB gun he picked up in the toy aisle of the store.

The post One Of The Two Officers Involved In Fatal Wal-Mart Shooting Is Back At Work appeared first on ThinkProgress.

08:58 Dick Cheney: More beheadings in store if Obama can’t “deal with this crisis” in Iraq» Salon.com
The former vice president warns that more casualties are in store because of our "weak and ineffective" president






08:56 LIVE: American Ebola Workers Released From The Hospital» Latest from Crooks and Liars
LIVE: American Ebola Workers Released From The Hospital

Experts say they don't know which part of the treatment worked, but figured intensive support would help:

Two Americans who contracted the Ebola virus while working in West Africa have been released from an Atlanta hospital. Dr. Kent Brantly, 33, worked with Christian aid organization Samaritan’s Purse in Liberia treating patients with the deadly virus when he got sick.

"Today is a miraculous day. I am thrilled to be alive, to be well and to be reunited with my family," Brantly told a news conference.

"Please do not stop praying for the people of Liberia and West Africa and for an end to this Ebola epidemic," Brantly pleaded in a brief statement. He hugged his doctors and nurses as he left, and officials at Emory and the CDC emphasized that the patients posed no risk to public health.

Brantly, who clutched the hand of his wife, Amber, before speaking, said he would be spending a month in private with his family before sharing any more of his story. "But for now we need some time together after a month apart," he said.

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08:53 North Carolina Senate Race Deeply Divides Men And Women» Politics - The Huffington Post
A tight race for one of North Carolina's Senate seats is turning into a veritable battle of the sexes, with a huge and growing gulf between male and female voters.

A new Suffolk University/USA Today poll shows that Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) is leading her challenger, State House Speaker Thom Tillis (R), by 18 points among women voters. But Tillis leads by 14 points among men, adding up to a whopping 32-point gender gap in the race -- significantly wider than the 20-point gender gap that launched President Barack Obama to victory in 2012.

Overall, Hagan leads Tillis by only two percentage points, 45 percent to 43 percent. But Hagan leads among women voters by a margin of 52 to 34 percent, while Tillis leads among men by 52 to 38 percent. Women voters outnumber men in North Carolina by about 500,000, so Hagan's re-election chances could hinge on whether those women turn out to vote.

Democrats are pinning their hopes for control of the Senate on women candidates and women voters. EMILY's List, a well-funded political action committee that boosts women candidates who support abortion rights, is spending millions to turn out women for Hagan, New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D), Kentucky Democratic Senate nominee Allison Lundergan Grimes and Georgia Democratic Senate nominee Michelle Nunn.

The group is spending $3 million on Hagan's race alone, and recently launched an ad highlighting Tillis' efforts to kill equal-pay legislation as state House speaker.

EMILY's List has also hit Tillis on his cuts to education funding and pointed out the contrast between the two candidates on abortion rights. Hagan supports the right to a legal abortion, while Tillis believes abortion should be banned except in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is in danger. Tillis said he favors a measure that would give fetuses legal personhood rights and supported a controversial anti-abortion amendment in the state Senate that was oddly attached to a motorcycle safety bill.

"Thom Thillis has built his political career by targeting women and families - it's no wonder the women of North Carolina are rejecting him," said Marcy Stech, EMILY's List spokeswoman. "They are looking for a leader who respects them, not someone who prioritizes killing equal pay legislation, blocking access to women's health care and cutting education funding. Tillis is among the worst offenders when it comes to the issues that matter to women – and the gender gap shows North Carolina women know it.”

In hopes of narrowing the gender gap, Tillis is deploying his wife to boost support from Republican women. Susan Tillis visited five cities throughout the state this week with Republican National Committee co-chair Sharon Day as part of the RNC's 14 in '14 initiative to engage women voters.

"I was thrilled to work with so many wonderful ladies this week through the 14 in '14 Initiative, as there are so many critical issues at the center of this election," Susan Tillis said in a statement. "It's clear the Republican Party is the way for women in North Carolina."
08:51 Giffords, Kelly ALS challenge LaPierre» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The former congresswoman and her husband say they hope the NRA head can someday agree on more than supporting ALS research.
08:50 Police Accountability After Ferguson» Politics - The Huffington Post
When I awoke to news of the National Guard coming to Ferguson Monday morning, I felt like I had been transported back to Newark, New Jersey. Not the Newark I left a few months ago to return to St. Louis, but the Newark of the summer of '67, when violence erupted, tanks rolled in and any remaining tendrils of trust between police and citizens burned with the city.

Over the 13 years I spent in Newark as Executive Director for the ACLU of New Jersey, I worked to repair the culture of police misconduct that lingered in Newark since that devastating summer. Each year, the ACLU office received countless requests for help with policing issues, many from parents seeking to address harassment and abuse on behalf of their children. A typical story is that of Tony Jetter-Ivey who police stopped, harassed and roughed up (along with his Pop Warner football coach and another player) without cause, leaving all three in fear for their lives and permanently eroding 13-year-old Tony's trust in police.

Such interactions remain the most direct and dangerous confrontations that citizens have with their government. African Americans and other communities of color are disproportionately targets. Given this reality, it's hard to understand why we have not enforced strong standards and practices nationwide to put an end to all-too-frequent tragedies like the killing of Michael Brown, and all abuse of power. Following Newark's uprisings, its citizens endured more than four decades of difficulties with the police. Today, in Ferguson and the rest of the country, we cannot abide by such a timeline. We need police accountability now.

But what does real police accountability look like? No single approach fits or fixes all. Instead, it requires three-prongs: internal controls (such as in-service training, use of dashboard and body cameras, and strong and credible internal affairs offices), progressive police leadership, and independent, external oversight. Together these can lead to sustainable reform.

But even with all stars aligned, improving policing in departments with entrenched cultures has proven a challenging endeavor. Departmental culture plays a defining role in how police officers conduct their work, and it flows from the top, or, as they say, rots from the head. Thus, we can only make progress on accountability with the right police leaders. In addition to recruiting qualified officers who reflect the communities they serve, cities must select chiefs with the kinds of qualities that will enhance the integrity and professionalism of the department. We need police professionals who, despite the natural discomfort of subjecting one's work to outsider review, embrace best practices and understand the role of oversight. In Ferguson we have seen indicators of such leadership from Captain Ron Johnson, who walked side-by-side with protesters, listened to people's concerns and spoke authentically about his own feelings on the matter.

I worked with two very different police directors in Newark. The first, brought in from NYPD, came to the table and made commitments, but did not take accountability seriously enough to follow through with any meaningful reforms (much to the expressed frustration of engaged citizens). To my surprise, the second, who rose through the ranks in Newark and had a reputation, neither dismissed nor acted defensively in response to our concerns. We often disagreed, but where we found common ground, he made improvements and in doing so strengthened police relationships with the community (and may have even avoided costly litigation). Even the simple step of providing clear policy guidance and training to officers that affirmed citizens' rights to videotape police in public went a long way toward deflecting hostilities between police and citizens, not to mention helping prevent false arrests and mistreatment, like that experienced by Newark high school student Khaliah Fitchette (now at Cornell University) who police took into custody when she used her phone to record officers responding to a problem on a city bus.

The most critical prong of sustainable reform is an independent and empowered external oversight body. These offices can take different forms. Some police departments become the subject of external monitoring as a result of a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation. A number of cities including New York and San Diego have citizen review boards, though many lack sufficient resources, authority and access to information to succeed. Some jurisdictions, like Orange County, California and Denver, have permanent independent monitors. Departments with consistent, ongoing monitoring have the best hope to sustain reforms and maintain accountability.

Engaging with the DOJ is often necessary to force police departments to abide by their own internal controls. In Newark, the ACLU ultimately petitioned the Department of Justice to investigate police misconduct. Newark did not have a high-profile shooting like in Ferguson to bring attention to its problems, but we used the scant public records available to document 418 incidents of police misconduct over two and a half years, including nine wrongful deaths or deaths in custody. Last month, more than four years after the ACLU's petition, the DOJ completed its investigation and announced long-term monitoring for Newark.

Meanwhile, in Ferguson, numerous groups have already called for a DOJ investigation of Michael Brown's death, as well as the overall climate of discriminatory policing in St. Louis' North County. While the death of Michael Brown ignited this uprising, the community knows all too well that years and years of frustration with police harassment built the fire, and it isn't limited to Ferguson.

Even in the best scenario, it takes many years and significant resources to change police culture and build trust. To adequately respond to the crisis in Ferguson - for Missourians and across the nation - our leaders must commit to reform, both philosophically and financially. Naysayers should consider costs of reform against the costs of doing nothing: community distrust, loss of life, and chaos in the streets.

We are all witnesses to the fact of Michael Brown's death and the brutality that has followed, by virtue of the ever-present coverage of the news coming out of Ferguson. We have seen the stunning failure of the government to respond with measure, reason or transparency. As witnesses, let's seize this opportunity to participate in ensuring a system of police and government accountability to the people it serves. Each of us is responsible for fighting to make this the priority it deserves to be across the country. For our nation, police accountability is long, embarrassingly and heartbreakingly overdue.
08:48 Take Heart — Americans’ Cardiac Health Is Improving» ThinkProgress

"The findings are jaw-dropping."

The post Take Heart — Americans’ Cardiac Health Is Improving appeared first on ThinkProgress.

08:46 Kristin Chenoweth Speaks Out For Gay Marriage As Part Of HRC's 'Americans For Marriage Equality' Effort» Politics - The Huffington Post
Tony and Emmy-winning actress Kristin Chenoweth is the latest celebrity to join the Human Rights Campaign's Americans for Marriage Equality effort.

"Look, the bottom line is that regardless of how you were made or who you love, you should be able to get married if you want to get married," the star of "Wicked" and "Pushing Daisies" says in the new clip. "I truly believe it's that simple."

Chenoweth follows Anthony Bourdain, Tony Hawk and Susan Sarandon in joining the HRC campaign. The actress, who is slated to return to Broadway in "On the Twentieth Century" next year, has previously spoken out on behalf of the LGBT community.

"If it was a sin to be short, what would I do? Well, I'd be right on the hell bus," she told Piers Morgan. "I don't believe God makes mistakes, and that includes a person's sexuality."

In 2013, she also offered her gay fans a heartwarming Valentine's Day wish on Twitter.
08:37 'Herculues' Actor Kevin Sorbo Calls Ferguson Protestors 'Animals,' 'Losers'» Politics - The Huffington Post
Former "Hercules" star, political conservative and outspoken Christian Kevin Sorbo unleashed a Facebook rant about the protestors in Ferguson, Missouri, labeling them "animals" and "losers."

Sorbo took to Facebook Wednesday, Aug. 20, to discuss the Ferguson protestors who have been calling for justice since the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. The actor criticized those who have been gathering in the St. Louis suburb for having what he said are ulterior motives.

"Ferguson riots have very little to do with the shooting of the young man," Sorbo wrote. "It is an excuse to be the losers these animals truly are. It is a tipping point to frustration built up over years of not trying, but blaming everyone else, The Man, for their failures. It's always someone else's fault when you give up. Hopefully this is a reminder to the African Americans ( I always thought we just Americans. Oh, well.) that their President the voted in has only made things worse for them, not better."

He then copy and pasted a portion of text from an article written by Alicia Colon for the Jewish World Review titled "Media Clueless About the Inner City." In her article, Colon -- who is also a Breitbart columnist -- accuses the press of catering to "media whores seek only to generate news that reflects their own bleeding heart ideology."

The media's frenzy that descended upon Ferguson, Mo. once again demonstrates its complete ignorance of life in the inner city. Anyone who has survived the barrios and the ghettos would recognize the usual cast of characters that converge on these incidents and would stay far away from them. But no-these media lapdogs shove mikes in their faces and actually believe their 'eyewitness' versions that nearly always turn out to be bogus and nothing other than a self-serving photo op.


Conservative rantings are nothing new from Sorbo, who currently appears in Investigation Discovery's "Heartbreakers." Earlier this week, Sorbo dubbed atheists "angry" while promoting his recent film, "God Is Not Dead," in which he plays an atheist, according to RawStory. Last year, he took aim at Hollywood for liberal hypocrisy.
08:37 Police Quarantine, Open Fire On Liberian Neighborhood Over Ebola Crisis» ThinkProgress

The eruption of violence in a Liberian neighborhood is part of a larger narrative of fear and distress throughout the country.

The post Police Quarantine, Open Fire On Liberian Neighborhood Over Ebola Crisis appeared first on ThinkProgress.

08:31 What Comes After Ferguson» Politics - The Huffington Post
Twelve grim days after a policeman in Ferguson, Missouri, gunned down Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, there finally is some welcome news.

Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation's top law enforcement officer, has arrived on the scene with a presidential mandate to pursue justice for the Brown family and the community. There is halting progress in the vital work of determining exactly what happened in the moments leading up to Brown's death. The incidents of violence triggered by the shooting seem to be subsiding.

And perhaps most important, the country is absorbing another reminder of the yawning gap between our ideals of individual liberty, equal opportunity and racial harmony and the reality of life in thousands of communities across the country.

So what happens now?

In the short term, local authorities, Attorney General Holder, and the Obama administration must deliver a thorough, credible, transparent investigation and vigorous prosecution of any offense it uncovers.

Holder has an unenviable burden; he must demonstrate that the administration will neither tolerate police brutality nor minimize the challenges faced by cops on the beat.

The available evidence appears damning to Ferguson Patrolman Darren Wilson; if it holds up, he must be called to account. Holder and the Justice Department will do the nation a tremendous service if they can begin to reverse the sense among African-Americans that police are an arrogant, out-of-control occupying force in their communities.

But however culpable Wilson appears, Holder must see to it that any prosecution gives him the presumption of innocence our justice system guarantees -- though often fails to deliver -- to every criminal suspect. And he must reassure good cops across the country that they're not being blamed for the misdeeds of a few.

Beyond that, it's up to elected officials in Ferguson and communities across the country, and to the people who live in them, to address the deep-seated societal problems that fueled the explosion of outrage following the Brown shooting.

For starters, elected officials and community leaders must get busy fielding police departments that reflect their populations. The Justice Department reports that more than 1 in 4 police officers nationally are members of racial or ethnic minority groups, but hundreds of localities like Ferguson still have few if any officers of color. There are just three African-Americans among 50 officers in Ferguson but 66 percent of the city's residents are black.

Even when police departments look like their communities, there will be tensions between officers and the people they serve. So police everywhere -- and particularly in communities of color -- must work as hard to build rapport with residents as to track down suspected offenders.

And while officers called to a mass shooting like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary may have legitimate need for assault rifles and tear gas, the everyday use of such gear sends residents an ominous message: you're the enemy. News that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will review shipments of surplus military weapons to local police is welcome; Congress and the Pentagon should put strict limits on the use of that equipment.

Perhaps the toughest challenges revealed once again by the Brown shooting are economic and political. Fortune magazine reported last week that the median household income in metropolitan St. Louis, including Ferguson, is $75,000. But the median in majority-black Ferguson itself is just $44,000. And while white unemployment in the area is slightly more than 6 percent, the jobless rate among African-Americans tops 26 percent.

"Studies link income inequality to higher infant mortality rates, higher crime rates, and lower economic growth," Fortune observed. The fact that violent protests have erupted in a community like Ferguson, where inequality is so dramatic "is not a coincidence," the magazine asserted.

To prevent more Fergusons, the nation must attack such inequality. Incentive programs that bring good jobs with solid career prospects to young people of color would be a good start, along with major investments in education and job training. And to give immediate relief to the folks who stock shelves at Walmart or flip burgers at McDonald's, we need Congress to raise the minimum wage to at least $10.10 and states and localities to adopt a living wage of $15.

Politically, Congress and state legislatures must attack barriers to voter participation and instead take proactive steps to increase registration and turnout. That means repealing unneeded voter ID requirements, increasing registration opportunities including Election Day registration, providing additional early voting opportunities, and passing laws restoring the rights for citizens with felony convictions.

Just as important, residents in communities like Ferguson must put aside their resentments of white-dominated political systems -- however justified by history -- and get engaged. Despite the city's substantial black majority, Ferguson's six-member city council has just one African-American, and in municipal elections this year only 12.3 percent of eligible voters bothered to cast ballots.

"I think there is a huge distrust in the system," said Leslie Broadnax, a Ferguson native and African-American who lost to a white candidate in her bid to become St. Louis County's chief prosecutor. "Many blacks think, 'Well it's not going to matter anyway, so my one vote doesn't count,'" she told MSNBC. "Well, if you get an entire community to individually feel that way, collectively we've already lost."
08:27 Justice for Ferguson’s families: Turning libraries into schools, keeping food pantries stocked» Salon.com
In addition to daily protests, people in Ferguson are ensuring kids' needs are met and families aren't going hungry






08:27 Cell phone video appears to contradict officer accounts in Kajieme Powell killing» Salon.com
Within 15 seconds of arriving at the scene officers fired on Powell






08:21 California Is ‘Woefully Unprepared’ For Sea Level Rise, Says A New Report» ThinkProgress

California likely faces three feet of sea level rise by the end of the century, along with billions in damage to its economy, according to a report from the state's legislature.

The post California Is ‘Woefully Unprepared’ For Sea Level Rise, Says A New Report appeared first on ThinkProgress.

08:13 Racist Much, Columbia Tribune?» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Racist Much, Columbia Tribune?

One of my closest friends is from Columbia, and the other day she said to me, "How could I not have seen how racist these people were when I lived there?" Here's an example:

Singling out a couple of knuckleheads and then using them as representative of an entire group? Yeah, racism.


08:11 CNN Ferguson panel devolves into chaos: “Why do you have to insult me all the time?”» Salon.com
Brooke Baldwin tried to moderate a conversation about the mental health of young men of color... It didn't go well






08:07 Utah's Brigham Young University Removes Hallmark's Gay Marriage Cards At Store» Politics - The Huffington Post
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Greeting cards celebrating same-sex marriages turned up at the Brigham Young University bookstore Tuesday.

Placed by Hallmark, the cards reading "Mr. and Mr." and "Mrs. and Mrs." were quickly removed when bookstore staff discovered them after photos surfaced online. The outside vendor stocked the shelves without realizing the school wouldn't want to sell the cards marketed to buyers celebrating unions between two brides and two grooms, BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said. It wasn't immediately clear when they were placed, but Jenkins said they weren't up long. BYU staffers have spoken with the company about leaving similar cards off university store shelves in the future. The school doesn't plan on ending its contract with Hallmark.

"This was just someone stocking the shelves who wasn't aware," she said. "We've been able to work with them."

Asked why they were removed, Jenkins referenced the BYU honor code. It states that while being attracted to people of the same gender doesn't violate the honor code, acting on those feelings is a violation.

"Homosexual behavior includes not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings," it states.

BYU is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has stood behind its belief that marriage should only be between a man and a woman despite a growing societal movement in support of legalizing gay marriage.

Calls to Hallmark weren't returned Wednesday.

Samy Galvez, president of the group Understanding Same Gender Attraction (USGA) and a senior at BYU, said changes to the honor code in 2007 and 2010 allowed students to talk about their sexual orientation without fear of being expelled.

Though he declined to comment on the greeting cards, calling it an accident, Galvez said he's generally found a welcoming environment at BYU.

"I was really amazed to see how welcoming and how loving people are," he said. "Even though you know people adhere to a standard of conduct of not advocating for same-sex marriage, at the same time that doesn't mean they aren't capable of showing empathy."
08:06 McDonnell: Wife struggled with 'public glare'» POLITICO - TOP Stories
McDonnell says his marriage began blissful but grew strained over the years.
08:00 Random Acts Of Kindness: Feeding And Caring For Ferguson's Children» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Random Acts Of Kindness: Feeding And Caring For Ferguson's Children

How about some happy stories from Ferguson for a change?

A North Carolina teacher has raised over $100,000 to help feed the kids there, many of whom rely on federal and state lunch and breakfast programs to eat.

But in the midst of the violence and unrest came a glimmer of good news: a teacher from North Carolina has raised more than $100,000 for the St. Louis Area Foodbank to feed children in the area. The original goal was $80,000.

The fund had topped $120,000 as of Wednesday morning, with donations from more than 4,000 supporters. It raised more than $30,000 in its first day. The teacher at the helm of the effort, Julianna Mendelsohn, wrote on a blog detailing the progress of the campaign, “We’ve blown past every fundraising goal set for this campaign, and the generosity keeps pouring in.”

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07:56 Can Fark’s anti misogyny policy work?» Salon.com
The Internet still has a "problem with women"






07:47 6 Ways New MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred Can Improve Baseball» ThinkProgress

As Rob Manfred prepares to take the helm, the business of baseball is booming. Here are six ways he could make the game even better.

The post 6 Ways New MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred Can Improve Baseball appeared first on ThinkProgress.

07:46 Abortion Access In Ohio Is Quietly Disappearing» ThinkProgress

The biggest fight over reproductive rights you've never heard of.

The post Abortion Access In Ohio Is Quietly Disappearing appeared first on ThinkProgress.

07:40 It’s racism, not “principled conservatism”: The South, civil rights, GOP myths — and the roots of Ferguson» Salon.com
True GOP believers insist their small government beliefs have nothing to do with race. They're deluding themselves






07:40 Richard Dawkins: It would be “immoral” not to abort a fetus with Down syndrome» Salon.com
The atheist thinker misconstrues the meaning of reproductive choice
07:36 The Facts And Fiction Of Racial Reassignment Surgery» ThinkProgress

Talking to Jess Row about his new novel, "Your Face In Mine."

The post The Facts And Fiction Of Racial Reassignment Surgery appeared first on ThinkProgress.

07:33 Female Firefighter Complained About Porn Hung Up In Fire House, Was Sexually Harassed In Retaliation» ThinkProgress

Two years after her complaint about pornography brought a Jacksonville firefighter even more hostility from coworkers, Candice Buckner is suing the city.

The post Female Firefighter Complained About Porn Hung Up In Fire House, Was Sexually Harassed In Retaliation appeared first on ThinkProgress.

07:32 DOJ investigating Foley death» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Attorney General Eric Holder said the U.S. will hold the perpetrators responsible.
07:32 Las Vegas Team's Heavy Bats Crush Taney, 8-1, Force Another Game» Latest from Crooks and Liars

I knew it wasn't going to be easy. Mo'Ne was good but she didn't have her A game. And out of the 13 kids on the Vegas team, 12 of them bat over .300, so Vegas bats got them an early lead. Then they tacked on five insurance runs at the top of the 5th, and though Taney threatened twice with three men on, they never had the hits to bring them home.

A side note: Bad officiating is part of every sport, and despite the frustrations, you just have to suck it up and deal. But the home plate umpire had one of the most baffling and erratic strike zones I've ever seen, and I imagine that had a lot to do with Mo'ne's performance:

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) — Mo'ne Davis didn't have her best stuff when she and her Philadelphia teammates needed it most, and Las Vegas took advantage.

Dallan Cave and Brennan Holligan hit two-run homers, lefty reliever Austin Kryszczuk got out of two big jams, and Las Vegas beat Philadelphia and its star pitcher 8-1 in the Little League World Series on Wednesday night.

Davis, just the 18th girl to play in the Little League World Series and the only one to win a game on the mound, took the loss.

"Mo'ne didn't have her A game today," Philly manager Alex Rice said. "At this point, we're playing to get to Saturday."

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07:25 Aaron Paul is organizing a “Breaking Bad” scavenger hunt to celebrate the Emmys» Salon.com
If you live in L.A., this is what you should be doing on Sunday






07:16 Low-Paid Jobs Now Pay Even Worse Than Before The Recovery Began» ThinkProgress

The trend is troubling, given that low-wage jobs have seen the strongest growth.

The post Low-Paid Jobs Now Pay Even Worse Than Before The Recovery Began appeared first on ThinkProgress.

07:15 Rove grills Obama's golf 'mistake'» POLITICO - TOP Stories
He says the president should not have gone golfing after addressing the James Foley's killing.
07:09 Pierce Brosnan shares hilarious story about Robin Williams from the set of “Mrs. Doubtfire”» Salon.com
The actor describes the "foul-mouthed and funny" antics of Williams while filming the movie






07:09 Jimmy Fallon, thank you for trimming Jared Leto’s unkempt beard» Salon.com
The actor has been growing his bushy beard since the Oscars






07:09 “Checks and balances” thrown in the garbage: A new out-of-control spying loophole» Salon.com
Forget the courts! The executive branch can now collect Americans' communications by going outside of our borders






07:00 How Novel! Mark Pryor Lauds Obamacare In Arkansas» Latest from Crooks and Liars
How Novel! Mark Pryor Lauds Obamacare In Arkansas

Yes! This is what Democrats running for office nationwide should be doing. Republicans have given up on trying to use the Affordable Care Act as a wedge in 2014, but it's about time Democrats started talking about what good they've done instead of pretending they shot their grandmother when they voted for the Affordable Care Act.

Greg Sargent:

The spot represents an effort to shift the debate over the law away from the land of GOP talking points where it has resided so long — in this and so many other Senate races — and back to one of the fundamental moral imperatives driving health reform, i.e., protecting the sick and vulnerable from insurance industry abuse. Republicans have long sought to dominate in the anecdote war — stressing hyper-exaggerated horror stories about canceled plans and lost coverage — while refusing to acknowledge the existence of the law’s many beneficiaries. And Dems have been perhaps not engaged on this front forcefully enough, because in places where control of the Senate will be decided, pointing to the folks gaining coverage might not be compelling to the persuadable voters Obamacare has alienated.

[...]

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07:00 Hannity Mansplains Justice To Black Committeewoman From Ferguson» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Hannity Mansplains Justice To Black Committeewoman From Ferguson

Here's your classic Fox News paternalistic sexism on full display. Watch Sean Hannity mansplain justice to Committeewoman Patricia Hynes.

Newshounds:

However, I suspect Hannity was looking for a (racial) fight. With a resentful edge in his voice, Hannity said to Bynes, “You don’t know if this case is about police brutality, do you?”

Bynes replied, “There is no way that a young man who is unarmed should have two shots in his head. That’s a little excessive. That’s what we mean when we say police brutality.”

[...]

Hannity – while trying to paint Bynes as unreasonable – obviously had no interest in hearing anything she had to say. His behavior was reminiscent of his shocking treatment of a Palestinian-American guest a few weeks ago.

Instead of responding to Bynes’ concerns, Hannity tried to demean her:

Let me educate you about the legal system in America. …In our system of justice, a person is innocent until proven guilty and there are eyewitness reports tonight that the officer suffered severe facial injuries, had an orbital eye socket fracture and was – that Michael Brown charged at him. What if that turns out to be true?

read more

06:53 There’s a huge amount of an ozone-depleting compound in the atmosphere and NASA scientists have no idea where it’s coming from» Salon.com
According to NASA, "we are not supposed to be seeing this at all"






06:53 Bill O’Reilly defends police killings: “Many of them are justified!”» Salon.com
The Fox News host returned early from his vacation to give us a piece of his mind






06:50 Cartoon: Billy Dare and the protective flashback» Daily Kos

Follow @RubenBolling on Twitter and Facebook.

AND HAVE FUN by joining the Tom the Dancing Bug subscription service, the INNER HIVE!

06:45 DOJ reaches $17B BofA settlement» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Bank of America's settlement includes a $9.65 billion fine and about $7 billion in aid for homeowners.
06:38 Lauryn Hill dedicates “Black Rage” to Ferguson» Salon.com
She released her "old sketch" via Twitter, writing, "Strange, the course of things."






06:38 Zombies and Prosthetic Limbs? The Many Uses of 3D Scanners» LiveScience.com
Ever wonder why the zombies in the film "World War Z" appear so lifelike? It's not just makeup — some of them were created with the aid of high-tech scanning technology.
06:33 North Carolina Lawmakers Pass Coal Ash Bill, Set Loose Timeline For Cleanup» ThinkProgress

Every year the U.S. produces 140 million tons of coal ash pollution, the toxic by-product that is left over after the coal is burned.

The post North Carolina Lawmakers Pass Coal Ash Bill, Set Loose Timeline For Cleanup appeared first on ThinkProgress.

06:31 New Mineral Hints at Livable Mars» LiveScience.com
A tiny, clay-filled bubble found in a Martian meteorite boosts the chances that Mars was habitable for life.
06:25 Gallery: 3D Scans in Hollywood and Hospitals» LiveScience.com
Producers for Hollywood films like "World War Z" and shows like "The Big Bang Theory" use 3D scanners to produce lifelike models of their characters.
06:22 2013 Was The Worst Year In Modern History For Humanitarian Crises. 2014 Is Now Even Worse.» ThinkProgress

More than 50 million people are in need of help. Here's a look at the four biggest crises.

The post 2013 Was The Worst Year In Modern History For Humanitarian Crises. 2014 Is Now Even Worse. appeared first on ThinkProgress.

06:19 Meet The Undocumented Immigrants Whose Futures Now Hinge On President Obama» ThinkProgress

“[Our] lives are more than a nine-digit magic number– a social security number,” Jong-Min You, an undocumented immigrant from South Korea said.

The post Meet The Undocumented Immigrants Whose Futures Now Hinge On President Obama appeared first on ThinkProgress.

05:58 David Gregory writing book on Judaism» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The recently ousted host of "Meet the Press" is writing about his spiritual journey.
05:52 Ferguson has a 'very good night' ... but still no answers on why Michael Brown was shot down» Daily Kos
Lightning brightens the sky in the background as women hold a placard while protesting the killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri August 20, 2014. A thunderstorm and heavy rains struck just after dark, scattering demonstrat
A "very good night for Ferguson" ... but still no answer to this question
Overnight, things were relatively peaceful in Ferguson, Missouri, 10 days after a white police officer gunned down an unarmed black teenager:
“Tonight was a very good night for Ferguson,” said Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who thanked community leaders,clergy, teens and law enforcement officials. Police made six arrests, vs. 47 arrests Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning. “We saw a different crowd that came out tonight...less agitators,” Johnson said.
And here's one of those agitators ... who was lucky enough to get police protection instead of tear gas or rubber bullets:
Wednesday night, a white woman carrying a sign calling for justice for Officer Darren Wilson - the Ferguson cop who shot 18-year-old Brown - walked among throngs of black protesters for about 10 minutes. Many of them taunted and yelled at her, as several police officers surrounded her before rushing her from the scene.
Wednesday also saw Attorney General Eric Holder in Ferguson, where he met with Michael Brown's parents, various officials investigating the case, and Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol. Holder also addressed the lack of trust for the police in the black community:
"I understand that mistrust," Holder said. "I am the attorney general of the United States. But I am also a black man."
Meanwhile:
In nearby Clayton, a grand jury began hearing evidence to determine whether Wilson should be charged in Brown's death. A spokesman for St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch said there was no timeline for the process, but it could take weeks.
Weeks? Well, that should help ease tensions in Ferguson.

In the meantime, perhaps the Ferguson Police Department can finally get around to releasing the police incident report on the shooting. You know, instead of the only report they've managed to release in the nearly two weeks since Michael Brown was gunned down. You know, the one designed to smear the victim.

05:51 The dark truth about American military power» Salon.com
The U.S. military has been corrupted by its addiction to airstrikes. Here's why that's so dangerous






05:44 The Historic Drop In Teen Births Illustrated In One Chart» ThinkProgress

The rate has been falling for half a century, but it particularly plummeted over the past two decades.

The post The Historic Drop In Teen Births Illustrated In One Chart appeared first on ThinkProgress.

05:35 Kill the Bookends column: Why the New York Times Book Review’s most frustrating feature has to go» Salon.com
Sure, Bookends seems harmless enough. But it actually represents the worst impulses of today's critical culture






05:19 Cheers and Jeers: Thursday» Daily Kos
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From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE…

Headlines You Won't Read Today

Police shout obscenities, point guns at angry tea party protesters

Ferguson police release incident report on Michael Brown death

Bundy ranch militia members arrested for pointing weapons at police

Newspaper headline regarding Dwight Eisenhower's farewell speech
A headline we did read 54 years ago.
Rick Perry presidential prospects brighten

George W. Bush sees irony in crying out in agony as water dumped on head, threatening ability to breathe

Caligraphist runs out of room while listing Eric Cantor's achievements as House majority leader on grain of rice

More Democrats than Republicans booked on Sunday morning shows

ISIS leaders smarter than a fifth grader

Cows admit role in global warming, form climate task force

Saturday Night Live expected to be the same without Don Pardo

Majority of Americans agree: summer going by too slowly

Cheers and Jeers starts below the fold... [Swoosh!!] RIGHTNOW! [Gong!!]
05:09 Awkward! How Facebook Complicates Breakups» LiveScience.com
When people break up, social media such as Facebook can often add to their distress, by providing constant reminders of the breakup and temptations to check up on the ex, new research shows.
05:04 Bundy ranch standoff emboldens antigovernment extremists» Salon.com
A new report from the Department of Homeland Security says we can expect more attacks in the months to come






05:03 10 Tips for Healthy Facebook Breakups» LiveScience.com
From changing passwords to deleting an ex from a friends list, people can take several steps to have a healthier breakup online, researchers say.
05:00 Daily Kos Radio is LIVELY at 9am ET!» Daily Kos
Gilbert Stuart the materials used is oil on canvas, this picture was painted in 1846 his portrait was based on the uncompleted Antheneum portrait by Stuart; the uncompleted portions were filled in by Peale. This copy has been published in pre-1923 materi
This is an old episode. So here is a picture of an old guy.
Live-ly! Get it! Haw haw! It's not live, per se, but... you get the idea.

Yes, I had to make a quick and unexpected trip out of town today, so we're reliving the August 21, 2013 experience.

What were we doing a year ago this morning? Well, for one thing, we were talking to Joan McCarter, which we didn't get to do yesterday. We laughed at Ted Cruz & Rick Perry, noted the then-latest developments on Internet traffic surveillance, the NRA's hypocrisy in maintaining their own massive database of gun owners, lamented the continued existence of No Labels, and enjoyed a clever WalMart protest aimed at their CEO's expensive (but taxpayer funded) hobby.

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

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

05:00 Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: Mark Pryor doubles down on Obamacare» 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:

AR-Sen: Well, this is different: A vulnerable red state Democrat is running an ad in support of Obamacare! Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor's spot is running for a "six figure buy" and features his father, former Gov. and Sen. David Pryor. The elder Pryor describes how Mark almost died of cancer: While he pulled through, the family ran into problems after the insurance company didn't want to pay for the life-saving procedure. Sen. Pryor then declares, "No one should be fighting an insurance company while you're fighting for your life. That's why I helped pass a law that prevents insurance companies from canceling your policy if you get sick, or deny coverage for preexisting conditions." While the ad doesn't say that this law is Obamacare, Pryor is clearly taking the most popular parts of the bill and running on them.

Pryor's spot comes at an interesting time in the campaign season. A piece in Bloomberg describes something we've been seeing in our ad roundups: Republicans are using Obamacare far less in their campaign commercials than they were a few months ago. Jonathan Bernstein of Bloomberg View helps explain why. Healthcare as a campaign issue is becoming far less important to voters, likely as memories of the Obamacare launch fade.

Bernstein also describes how Republicans are in a more awkward position when it comes to the law than they used to be. In 2010 and 2012 before the major parts of the program kicked in, it was easy for Team Red to call for its full repeal. However, it's becoming clear to voters and to Republican politicians that Obamacare is here to stay. While the GOP may hit Democrats for voting for it in the first place and attack some of the more unpopular aspects of the bill, they can't convincingly argue that they'll just repeal the program and be done with it. Republicans in tough races are having to take more nuanced positions: As Bernstein puts it, "they still almost all say they support repeal, but they weasel around the idea that various ACA programs and benefits will be included in that supposed repeal."

By no means is Obamacare dead as an issue. In just the last few days Crossroads GPS ran ads against Sen. Mark Udall in Colorado and CA-07 Rep. Ami Bera completely focused on Obamacare. Pryor's Republican rival Rep. Tom Cotton has also been hitting him on the bill. Still, it's becoming apparent that this cycle will not be a straight up referendum on Obamacare that some people may have predicted just a few months ago. Ads like Pryor's are also a sign that while red state Democrats may still be unwilling to outright express support for the program, they are finding ways to turn it into a positive. (Jeff Singer)

04:55 Poll: Obama doing OK on Ferguson» POLITICO - TOP Stories
A separate poll also shows a racial divide on opinions about the situation in Missouri.
04:49 Bad news for Obamacare haters: In Arkansas, Dems go on offense on ACA» Salon.com
Arkansas' Mark Pryor releases an ad promoting the Affordable Care Act, upending the GOP's anti-Obamacare narrative






04:48 The surprising everyday ingredient that can reduce pot paranoia» Salon.com
The next time you get blazed, you may want to keep the peppercorn handy






04:48 The ultimate white privilege: Darren Wilson and being “afraid for your life”» Salon.com
Claiming you shot someone out of fear of your life can be a "get out of jail free" card -- depending on who says it






04:30 Cheney: Magnify Foley by 'a million'» POLITICO - TOP Stories
He says Foley is just the start of the violence if Obama doesn't "deal with this crisis" in Iraq.
04:30 Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: Can Darren Wilson be convicted?» Daily Kos
Total arrests related to protests: 155
Refusal to disperse: 123
Burglary: 20
Unlawful use of weapons: 4
http://t.co/...
@WesleyLowery
Wesley Lowery:
Several people have been arrested more than once during the ongoing unrest in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb. The records show that the vast majority of the arrests (126) were of Missouri residents – primarily from the St. Louis area.

Nine of those arrested were of Illinois residents, six were from New York, five from California, three from Texas, two from Ohio, and one each from Georgia, Washington D.C., Alabama and Iowa.

The roster includes some journalists, including Ryan Deveraux of The Intercept. However, the list of arrests does not include the majority of journalists who have been detained or arrested, which numbers at least a dozen but could be higher.

Most are not from Ferguson, but surrounding St Louis county.
Reporting in non-Ferguson St. Louis County. There are problems here. Words sources have used: Crushing. Staggering. Entrenched. Unfixable.
@radleybalko
Yishai Schwartz:
Convicting Darren Wilson Will Be Basically Impossible
You can thank Missouri law for that

We may never know what actually happened during the violent encounter between teenager Michael Brown and policeman Darren Wilson. But legal judgments rarely happen with perfect knowledge and absolute certainty. In their place, we rely on presumptions and standards that guide our thinking and discipline our judgments. In general, we presume innocence. But when we know that a killing has occurred and can definitively identify who committed the act, our presumptions are supposed to shift. Now we are supposed to presume guilt, and it is the shooter who must prove that his actions were justified. Unless the shooter is a policeman. And unless the victim is a black male. And unless the shooting happens in Missouri.

In any clash of witness testimony, police officers begin at huge advantage. Although the courts insist that juries give policemen no extra credence because of their badges as an “essential demand of fairness,” that’s not how jurors actually think or behave. Large percentages of potential jurors readily admit to giving police testimony extra weight, and many more likely act on this implicit bias. And in this case, the favoring of police testimony is compounded by another more pernicious bias: racial prejudice. Extensive research shows that Americans are far more likely to believe that African Americans—and especially young black men—have committed crimes and display violent behavior. It therefore won’t take very much to convince a jury that Officer Wilson was acting out of self-defense.

Cop who pointed rifle at protestors and said “I’ll fucking kill you” suspended indefinitely: http://t.co/...
@ezraklein
More politics and policy below the fold.
04:16 2 Americans with Ebola sent home» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The two became the first people in the world to receive ZMapp, an experimental Ebola drug.
03:41 Sharpton 'garbage' enrages O'Reilly» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The Fox News host blasts Sharpton's handling of unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.
03:26 Ferguson officials show Wilson video» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The city releases video of police officer Darren Wilson receiving an award in February.
03:03 Johnson: Ferguson has 'good night'» POLITICO - TOP Stories
"We've been taking small steps every night," says the Missouri State Highway Patrol captain.
02:04 Expecting an immigration brawl, getting a shrug» POLITICO - TOP Stories
"It definitely doesn't show up in any surveys as a big issue for the right or left."
02:03 Billionaires silent after big splash» POLITICO - TOP Stories
"I don't think anybody believes anything can happen this year."

Wed 20 August, 2014

22:57 Port Arthur, Texas, and Its Fight Against Keystone (Op-Ed)» LiveScience.com
For a Texas community already surrounded by oil refineries, there is a personal drive to fight the Keystone XL pipeline.
20:00 Open thread for night owls: Ferguson courts a 'chronic' violator of the rights of poor residents» Daily Kos
Night Owls
The Arch City Defenders report on St. Louis Municipal Courts and their pattern of using traffic fines both as steady cash generators and as gateways for criminalizing the poverty of their citizens:
We observed over 60 different courts during our court watching program and obtained sworn statements from clients and individuals we encountered. Three courts, Bel-Ridge, Florissant, and Ferguson, were chronic offenders and serve as prime examples of how these practices violate fundamental rights of the poor, undermine public confidence in the judicial system, and create inefficiencies. [...]

[F]or many of the poorest citizens of the region, the municipal courts and police departments inflict a kind of low level harassment involving traffic stops, court appearances, high fines, and the threat of jail for failure to pay without a meaningful inquiry into whether an individual has the means to pay. [...]

Another group of defendants waiting outside of a municipal court noted that there were no white individuals waiting with them. In fact, one said, ““You go to all of these damn courts, and there’s no white people,” while another defendant even ticked off specific municipalities that he thinks engage in racial profiling. He said, “In Dellwood, Ferguson, basically in North County, if you’re black, they’re going to stop you.”

In addition to dramatic differences between the rate of traffic stops and subsequent arrests for black and white residents, the report outlines illegal steps taken by the courts, such as barring public entry, and notes a recurring theme of violators not being properly informed of their right to an attorney.
Defendants are also sentenced to probation and to the payment of unreasonable fines without a knowing, voluntary, and intelligent waiver of defendant’s right to counsel. Despite their poverty, defendants are frequently ordered to pay fines that are frequently triple their monthly income.
According to the report, Ferguson makes 2.6 million dollars a year from court fees. In 2013, the court "disposed of 24,532 warrants and 12,018 cases, or about 3 warrants and 1.5 cases per household."

There's your smoking gun. If it seems the town of Ferguson sees protesters as something less than human and more like cattle that have escaped their pen, it may be because the town has been "farming" their mostly-black population as a vital source of revenue for a good long time. In Ferguson, a ticket for jaywalking can be the gateway to repeated jail stays, homelessness, and a lifetime of poverty.



Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2003What "compassion" means to Bush:

Hey everyone, check out Bush's definition of "compassion".

Apparently, it means talking to black people.

(Thanks to reader K.Y. for catching this "disturbing trend".)

Update: From Lis in the message boards:

Looking at further photo albums on the site makes it more clear how anomalous the Compassion section is.

But the only non-whites in 15 Homeland Security images and 16 National Security are Powell and Rice, and I think there's one African American park ranger off to the side in one photo of the 16 on the Environment.

In contrast, of 20 photos illustrating Compassion, 17 prominently show non-Caucasians; the other three are solo photos of Bush, but two of those are before the National Urban League and in front a map of Africa.

And RonK emailed to remind that Slate's Will Saletan noted a short while back that when Duhbya calls somebody "gifted", "He doesn't mean exceptional. He means ethnic."

Saletan provides chapter and verse re blacks, Iraqis, Palestinians, Hispanics, Chinese, Russians, Irish, Cubans, and South Koreans.


Tweet of the Day
RT @UpshotNYT: Indeed, the middle-income American family is worse off than it was 14 years ago. http://t.co/...
@BillMoyersHQ




On today's Kagro in the Morning show: Ferguson, day 12, gives us cause to compare the treatment open carry protesters get from cops. Is it the cameras? Because they don't solve everything. Top MO Republican finds Ferguson voter registration drive "disgusting." Would it be out of bounds to say so if there were a clear & definitive constitutional right to vote? Breitbart says the famous photo of a protester throwing back a canister of tear gas is their evidence of "Molotov cocktails." Google data finds two different Americas, and so did The Upshot. The click-bait headline everyone's talking about: "I’m a cop. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t challenge me." Another new gun violence study.



High Impact Posts. Top Comments
18:10 Against the Ferguson mob» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Opinion: Protesters in Missouri truly don't want justice, and there has been no peace.
18:10 Stop depending on the Fed» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Opinion: We are asking too much of the Federal Reserve and not enough of our elected officials.
18:09 DNC chair on O'Malley: 'I agree' on border children» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Debbie Wasserman Schultz thinks deporting children detained at the border is sending them to "certain death."
17:58 In July, DNC outraises RNC» POLITICO - TOP Stories
But the Republican National Committee still has a bigger bank account.
17:15 Michael Brown's Autopsy: What It Can (and Can't) Tell Us» LiveScience.com
The results of two autopsies of Michael Brown, the unarmed teenager shot by a St. Louis police officer on Aug. 9, can't provide crucial information about the circumstances surrounding the shooting.
16:30 Social media more spark than fix» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Social networks like Twitter highlight tensions in the moment rather than calm them.
16:30 Ultra-wealthy Republican Terri Lynn Land paid less than 3 percent in federal income taxes» Daily Kos
Terri Lynn Land addresses Republican Michigan Convention (2010)
Who knew that "Terri Lynn Land" was actually an anagram of "Willard Mitt Romney"? Like her more-famous fellow Michigander, Land hails from a very wealthy family. And just like Mitt, it turns out that she also pays well below her fair share in taxes. In fact, she makes Romney's accountants look like chumps. It turns out that Rep. Gary Peters, Land's Democratic opponent in Michigan's Senate race, paid an effective federal income tax rate of 18 to 19 percent over the last three years, and even Romney paid 13 percent. Land, however, paid less than 3 percent!
Comparison of federal income tax rates between Gary Peters and Terri Lynn Land, 2011-2013
Goal Thermometer

But wait a minute. Didn't I tell you Land was loaded? Yes, yes she is! In fact, her family's worth at least $35 million, and she's self-funded her campaign to the tune of $3 million so far. So how is it that she made "just" $90,000 last year and "only" half that the year before? Simple: By having it both ways.

You see, Land's husband, Dan Hibma, is loaded. But obviously Land doesn't want to look quite as out-of-touch as Romney always did, so she's filed her taxes separately in recent years—hence the suspiciously low income. However, as a candidate for federal office, she's still required to disclose all her assets, including property held together with her spouse, something she rather pointedly failed to do. (It was "inadvertent," her campaign said. Oh, undoubtedly!)

What made this non-disclosure so glaring is, of course, that series of checks adding up to $3 million that she's written to herself. Nowhere in her financial reports did Land indicate she had control of any bank accounts or other assets that would allow her to spend so freely. She did eventually amend her disclosures to include a fat checking account shared with her husband, but that just raised the question of where those funds came from in the first place: Candidates can spend joint assets without limit, but one spouse can't simply funnel money to another for use on a campaign.

And these latest revelations about Land's tax rates only heighten her contradictions further. As congressional scholar Norm Ornstein put it, Land is trying to sell an image that she's "salt of the earth" while at the same time pouring big bucks of unknown provenance into her own campaign coffers. But paying an ultra-low tax rate only calls more unwanted attention to Land's too-modest income and incomplete disclosures about her wealth.

All the negative news stories in the world, though, don't change the fact that Land is still more than capable of out-spending Peters, no matter what kind of games she's playing with her finances.

So please give $3 to Gary Peters today to help him level the playing field against Land.

16:28 U.S. troops tried to rescue Foley» POLITICO - TOP Stories
An official said the operation was "focused on a particular captor network within ISIL."
15:09 Daily Kos Elections ad roundup: Defying Beltway wisdom, Mark Pryor bets big on Obamacare» Daily Kos

Leading off:

AR-Sen: Well, this is different: A vulnerable red state Democrat is running an ad in support of Obamacare! Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor's spot is running for a "six figure buy" and features his father, former Gov. and Sen. David Pryor. The elder Pryor describes how Mark almost died of cancer: While he pulled through, the family ran into problems after the insurance company didn't want to pay for the life-saving procedure. Sen. Pryor then declares, "No one should be fighting an insurance company while you're fighting for your life. That's why I helped pass a law that prevents insurance companies from canceling your policy if you get sick, or deny coverage for preexisting conditions." While the ad doesn't say that this law is Obamacare, Pryor is clearly taking the most popular parts of the bill and running on them.

Pryor's spot comes at an interesting time in the campaign season. A piece in Bloomberg describes something we've been seeing in our ad roundups: Republicans are using Obamacare far less in their campaign commercials than they were a few months ago. Jonathan Bernstein of Bloomberg View helps explain why: Health care as a campaign issue is becoming far less important to voters, likely as memories of the Obamacare launch fade.

Bernstein also describes how Republicans are in a more awkward position when it comes to the law than they used to be. In 2010 and 2012 before the major parts of the program kicked in, it was easy for Team Red to call for its full repeal. However, it's becoming clear to voters and to Republican politicians that Obamacare is here to stay. While the GOP may hit Democrats for voting for it in the first place and attack some of the more unpopular aspects of the bill, they can't convincingly argue that they'll just repeal the program and be done with it. Republicans in tough races are having to take more nuanced positions; as Bernstein puts it, "They still almost all say they support repeal, but they weasel around the idea that various ACA programs and benefits will be included in that supposed repeal."

By no means is Obamacare dead as an issue. In just the last few days Crossroads GPS ran ads against Sen. Mark Udall in Colorado and CA-07 Rep. Ami Bera completely focused on Obamacare. Pryor's Republican rival, Rep. Tom Cotton, has also been hitting him on the bill. Still, it's becoming apparent that this cycle will not be a straight-up referendum on Obamacare that some people may have predicted just a few months ago. Ads like Pryor's are also a sign that while red state Democrats may still be unwilling to outright express support for the program, they are finding ways to turn it into a positive.

Follow below the fold for more ads.

15:08 McConnell polished at Ky. forum» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Alison Lundergan Grimes, meanwhile, says it is time to put the minority leader "out to pasture."
14:50 Cartoon: Military industrial surplus» Daily Kos
14:42 As Republicans Stop Talking About Obamacare, One Vulnerable Democrat Is Touting Its Success» ThinkProgress

"That’s why I helped pass a law that prevents insurance companies from canceling your policy if you get sick, or deny coverage for preexisting conditions," he says.

The post As Republicans Stop Talking About Obamacare, One Vulnerable Democrat Is Touting Its Success appeared first on ThinkProgress.

14:35 Drone Pilots Suffer PTSD Just Like Those in Combat» LiveScience.com
Military personnel who fly drones, and may be stationed far from the battlefields and bloodshed of war, may still suffer PTSD after their tours of duty, a new study finds.
14:25 Conservatives to media: Stop covering Ferguson» Daily Kos
Getty Images photographer Scott Olson (C) is arrested by a highway patrol officer during a protest for the shooting death of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri August 18, 2014. He was arrested because police required media to be within certain areas, me
Police arrest Getty photographer Scott Olson in Ferguson.
Olson was covering protests after the shooting death of Mike Brown.
When a federal law enforcement officer tasered one of Cliven Bundy's sons in the Nevada desert, conservatives agreed: The Bundy Ranch standoff was an enormous story that demanded 24x7 coverage from the media.*

But now that a Ferguson police officer shot and killed an unarmed teenager, conservatives are singing a different tune—they think the media should shut up already. Take New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, for example:

Speaking at a town hall in Long Branch, Christie said "TV anchor people ... are making a spectacle" of the police shooting that killed an 18-year-old black teenager and sparked unrest in the Missouri town.
And conservative pundits too...
...including MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, who suggested that [arrested Washington Post reporter Wesley] Lowery should have been more compliant with the demands of law enforcement.
And:
In a post for Hot Air on Tuesday, Noah Rothman argued that “the press is no longer serving as objective chroniclers of the proceedings.”

[...] Matt Lewis, a blogger at The Daily Caller, agreed with Rothman and also wondered about the careerist motivations that might drive some journalists’ coverage.

“[I]f you were an overly-ambitious, and perhaps quixotic, young reporter or blogger,” he wrote, “wouldn’t it make sense to intentionally become part of this sort of story — especially if you thought the risk-reward ratio was favorable.”

There are a million different reasons that's crazy, but here's the most fundamental one: The only reason cops are arresting reporters in Ferguson is that cops there want to arrest reporters. It's not like these reporters are going on looting sprees—they're just doing their jobs. And yes, it's news when reporters get arrested for doing their jobs.

And it's not just the reporters that are getting arrested. When CNN's Jake Tapper reported a couple of nights ago that police in Ferguson were showing excessive force—using miitary-grade semi-automatic weapons to patrol peaceful protests—he was delivering the news, not making it. If you're a conservative and you don't like hearing stories about the police using excessive force, don't blame the people telling those stories: Blame the police using excessive force.

::

*Of course, they shut up once Bundy exposed himself as a hardcore racist, but that's a different story.

14:01 Will New 'Lab Rat' Ads Stop Teens from Smoking Pot?» LiveScience.com
A new ad campaign in Colorado that likens people who smoke marijuana to "lab rats" is intended to steer teens away from using pot, but some communication experts say the campaign is unlikely to be effective.
13:53 U.K. Ad Council Rules ‘Clean Coal’ Isn’t Clean, Bars Peabody Energy From ‘Misleading’ Public» ThinkProgress

The U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority has barred Peabody Energy from using the term “clean coal” to imply coal is emission-free or “the solution for better, longer and healthier lives.”

The post U.K. Ad Council Rules ‘Clean Coal’ Isn’t Clean, Bars Peabody Energy From ‘Misleading’ Public appeared first on ThinkProgress.

13:50 Clinton to host Sept. 9 fundraiser» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The invitation for the event was sent out by Sen. Tammy Baldwin and tickets start at $10,000.
13:48 Lemur Lady Patricia Wright Discusses Her Passions | Video» LiveScience.com
Award-winning scientist and conservationist Patricia Wright talks about how she came to love lemurs and how important they are to save.
13:37 Doctors Outraged By Claims That Health Officials Ignored Residents Sickened By Drilling» ThinkProgress

Doctors and other health professionals called for an independent investigation into the claims, and reform of the Pennsylvania health department's response procedures.

The post Doctors Outraged By Claims That Health Officials Ignored Residents Sickened By Drilling appeared first on ThinkProgress.

13:23 DOJ told to yield Fast & Furious log» POLITICO - TOP Stories
A judge rules it has until Oct. 1 to give the documents to the House Oversight panel.
13:22 Immigration Activists Urge Obama To Include Detainees In Upcoming Executive Action» ThinkProgress

Protesters demand an immigration reform that locks up fewer people in for-profit prisons.

The post Immigration Activists Urge Obama To Include Detainees In Upcoming Executive Action appeared first on ThinkProgress.

13:15 St. Louis PD releases incident report from yesterday's shooting. On Michael Brown, still nothing.» Daily Kos
Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson announces the name of the officer involved in the shooting of Michael Brown as officer Darren Wilson, in Ferguson, Missouri August 15, 2014. The briefing was held near a QuikTrip convenience store that had been burned
(crickets)
The St. Louis Police Department has already released the incident report from yesterday's fatal shooting, less than 24 hours after that shooting took place.

We're going on 10 days and counting and the only reports released by the Ferguson Police Department were ones outlining an unrelated alleged robbery by Brown. Nothing on the shooting itself.

STL Chief of police says he will give us a DVD with 911 calls, dispatch comm, and surveillance video... http://t.co/...
@DIANAZOGA
Meanwhile in Ferguson, we get thirdhand reports from "friends" and unsubstantiated leaks from anonymous sources.
13:12 Iceland Evacuates Some Tourists, But No Signs of an Eruption Yet» LiveScience.com
The waiting and watching continues in Iceland, where Barðarbunga volcano still shows no signs of erupting.
13:12 Pentagon weighs more troops to Iraq» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The Pentagon is considering sending about 300 more troops to Iraq to enhance security.
12:51 Republicans find it 'disgusting' that blacks could vote» Daily Kos
A poll worker hands a sticker to a voter at a polling place in Charlotte, North Carolina October 27, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Keane
To Republicans, that's "disgusting".
Diarist librarisingnsf covered this yesterday:
In an interview with Breitbart News, Missouri RNC executive director Matt Wills expressed outrage about the reports of voter registration booths popping up in Ferguson, Breitbart reports.

“If that’s not fanning the political flames, I don’t know what is,” Wills said, “I think it’s not only disgusting but completely inappropriate.”

Wills explained that the shooting death of Michael Brown was a tragedy for everyone.

“This is not just a tragedy for the African American community this is a tragedy for the Missouri community as well as the community of what we call America,” he said. “Injecting race into this conversation and into this tragedy, not only is not helpful, but it doesn’t help a continued conversation of justice and peace.”

I've been giving this some serious thought, because it's so much crazy, packed into so little space.
“If that’s not fanning the political flames, I don’t know what is,” Wills said, “I think it’s not only disgusting but completely inappropriate.”
The Missouri GOP thinks registering to vote is "disgusting" and "completely inappropriate." Why? Because it's Democrats doing it? Not really. It's non-profits. So there's no partisan element. And there's nothing stopping the RNC or Freedomworks from setting up their own voter registration booth.

But no, the fact that black people are registering to vote is "disgusting" and "completely inappropriate." Because, you know, participating in the political process "fans the political flames." So weird.

More below the fold.

12:49 Holder recalls being hassled by cops» POLITICO - TOP Stories
"I remember how humiliating that was and how angry I was," the attorney general says.
12:45 Fight back in the War on Voting: Daily Kos endorses Nina Turner for Ohio secretary of state» Daily Kos

Goal ThermometerOhio is the center of the political universe every four years. So naturally the Buckeye State has been front and center in the Republican War on Voting.

Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, swept into office in the 2010 wave, has become one of the GOP's rising stars thanks to his aggressive attacks on the right to vote. In just four years, he's managed to cut early voting hours favored by black voters, launch an error-prone purge of the state voter rolls, and fire Democratic elections officials who disagreed with him.

Husted is a partisan hack using his office to try to tip the scales in his party's favor. We can't allow that—especially in swing states like Ohio.

That's why Daily Kos is endorsing Nina Turner for Ohio secretary of state.

This is our first endorsement in a secretary of state race. Ohio is an important state and Turner has made voting rights the centerpiece of her campaign:

As an added bonus, electing Turner would also break one major glass ceiling, becoming the first black Democrat elected to statewide office in Ohio.

Chip in $3 to elect Democrat Nina Turner and end the Republican War on Voting in Ohio.

12:43 No, We Still Don’t Have Proof That Private Medicare Plans Are Better» ThinkProgress

A growing debate over the Medicare Advantage program has big ramifications for the future of American seniors' health coverage.

The post No, We Still Don’t Have Proof That Private Medicare Plans Are Better appeared first on ThinkProgress.

12:29 City Spiders Are Bigger, More Fertile Than Country Cousins» LiveScience.com
Perhaps even creepier than spiders are city spiders. New research has found the humped golden orb-weaving spider grows larger and produces more eight-legged babies in urban areas.
12:15 Court puts hold on Va. gay marriages» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Same-sex couples would have been able to wed Thursday if the Supreme Court hadn't intervened.
12:15 Midday open thread: 4th coal terminal nixed, is the internet making airline flights longer?» Daily Kos
  • Today's comic by Matt Bors is Fear of a black victim:
    Cartoon by Matt Bors -- Fear of a black victim
  • These Daily Kos community posts were the most shared on Facebook August 19:
    90-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor, Hedy Epstein, Arrested in Ferguson Protest, by David Harris Gershon

    Let's Not Let This Get Buried: Deported Children Being Killed After Being Sent Back., by jpmassar

    Study: 1 in 7 Americans Now Rely on Food Banks; GOP Responds By Cutting Food Aid, by Dartagnan

  • Rick Perry gets his mugshot taken, then goes out for ice cream:
    But what's next for the longest-serving governor in Texas history isn't so glib: Perry's high-powered and pricey legal team will now quickly try to extinguish the case against him, which includes two felony charges stemming from his veto last summer of state funds for public corruption prosecutors.

    An arraignment is scheduled for Friday, but Perry doesn't have to be present — and he's already planning to be in New Hampshire that day to court GOP voters as he mulls another White House run.

  • Has the Internet contributed to making airline flights take longer?
    The icing on the cesspool that is air travel circa 2014 (American edition) is that it's not even fast anymore. Sure, it's faster than its competition, but the competition is a rail system-qua-punchline forced to pad already slow long-distance schedules with extra hours of travel time to account for oil train traffic jams. Oh, and the bus. Have you taken a Greyhound cross-country? So, yeah, that's the state of things: prolonged misery on every front.

    On the air travel front, there's all the bonus time spent dealing with security and luggage scans and whatever new thing there is by the time you read this, but actual travel times are getting longer too, like from airport A to airport B. This effect is described in a new paper in the The Review of Economics and Statistics, which describes the increased times as an intentional cost-cutting move on the parts of airlines.

  • $21,000 bag of casino cash falls off roof of N.J. armored car.
  • Inequality and web search trends:
    This summer, The Upshot conducted an analysis of every county in the country to determine which were the toughest places to live, based on an index of six factors including income, education and life expectancy. Afterward, we heard from Hal Varian, the chief economist at Google, who suggested looking at how web searches differ on either end of our index.

    The results, based on a decade of search data, offer a portrait of the very different subjects that occupy the thoughts of richer America and poorer America. They’re a glimpse into the id of our national inequality.

  • Another proposed coal terminal terminated:
    In a blow to the struggling U.S. coal industry, yet another proposed coal export terminal on the West Coast has been turned down. “Oregon has rejected Ambre Energy’s plan for barging coal down the Columbia River to be exported to China, the fourth Northwest shipment terminal project to bite the dust,” reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “The denial of a dock permit by the Oregon Department of State Lands leaves just two proposals on the table, the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point north of Bellingham, [Wash.,] and the Millennium Terminal at Longview, [Wash.,] on the Columbia River.”
  • Conspiracy theorist GOP foe of Oregon's Rep. Pete DeFazio wants people to mail him their pee:
    "My name is Art Robinson," read one of the mailers he sent to 500,000 Oregon residents in March. "I am a scientist who has lived and worked in Josephine County for 34 years. My colleagues and I are developing improved methods for the measurement of human health. Please consider giving us a sample of your urine."

    Robinson is a scientist, and that's part of the problem. For the last three decades, when he's not running for office, the Caltech-educated chemist has run a research non-profit out of a family compound in the mountain town of Cave Junction, near the California border. In a monthly newsletter called Access to Energy, Robinson has used his academic credentials to float theories on everything from AIDS to public schooling, to climate change (which he believes is a myth). In perhaps his most famous missive, Robinson once proposed using airplanes to disperse radioactive waste on Oregon homes, in the hopes of building up resistance to degenerative illnesses.

  • Ferguson, Missouri. It's all we can think about at the moment. There's the gross incompetence of the police that started it all. There's the huge divide between what the mainstream media is covering and what the people who are actually on the ground are reporting. There's the sadness and frustration of the people of Ferguson. Team Blackness continues to report as the story unfolds and also discusses a man in Texas who has been in prison for 34 years but hasn't actually been convicted, a Brooklyn resident who received a $125,000 settlement after being arrested for filming a stop-and-frisk incident, and how an ER visit to bandage a finger cost a man $9,000.
    Subscribe on iTunes | Subscribe On Stitcher | Direct Download | RSS
  • On today's Kagro in the Morning show: Ferguson vs. open carry stops. What role do the cameras play? Top MO Republican political operative calls Ferguson voter drive "disgusting," because politics. Google data finds two Americas. The "don't challenge me" click-bait cop.
12:07 Killing four people while white gets you probation» Daily Kos
Hollie Boyles and Shelby Boyles
No justice for Hollie Boyles and Shelby Boyles, killed by teen who wasn't black.
Ethan Couch, teen hooligan.
On June 15, 2013, according to authorities and trial testimony, Couch was witnessed on surveillance video stealing two cases of beer from a Walmart store, driving with seven passengers in his father's Ford F-350 pickup truck, and speeding (70 MPH in a designated 40 MPH zone). Three hours after the incident, he had a blood-alcohol content of 0.24, three times the legal limit for adult drivers in Texas. Couch also tested positive for Valium.

Approximately an hour after the beer theft, Couch was driving his father's truck at 70 MPH on a dark, rural road where motorist Breanna Mitchell's sport utility vehicle had stalled. Hollie Boyles and her daughter Shelby, who lived nearby, had come out to help her, as had passing youth minister Brian Jennings. Couch's truck swerved off the road and into Mitchell's car, then plowed into Jennings' parked car, which in turn hit an oncoming Volkswagen Beetle. The truck then flipped over and hit a tree. Mitchell, Jennings, and both Hollie and Shelby Boyles were killed, while Couch and his seven teen passengers (none wearing seat belts) survived, as did the two children in Jennings' car and the two people in the Volkswagen.

Got it? Teen steals beer, gets hopped up on valium, then goes on to kill four people. And what did he get? Probation.

Michael Brown steals some cigars, kills no one, and gets murdered by police.

The difference? Well, here's Ethan Couch:

Screencap of news report on Ethan Couch, who killed four while drunk.
We can all figure it out.
11:59 Intern blamed for think-tank's 'suck-it' tweet to Amnesty Int'l for observing policing in Ferguson» Daily Kos
Amnesty team in Ferguson, Missouri, August 2014
Members of the Amnesty International team in Ferguson, Missouri.
You know, or you should know, that your town's in trouble when Amnesty International feels compelled to send a delegation to see what the hell is going on there instead of in Chad, Cambodia or Honduras. That's what's happened in Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of the police slaying of Michael Brown. Amnesty sent in a 13-member team after seeing and reading about how the cops have treated citizens, visitors and reporters. Molly Reilly reports:
“Amnesty International has a long and tested history of monitoring and investigating police conduct, not just in foreign countries, but right here at home in the United States,” executive director Steven W. Hawkins said in a Sunday statement. “Our delegation traveled to Missouri to let the authorities in Ferguson know that the world is watching. We want a thorough investigation into Michael Brown’s death and the series of events that followed.” [...]

“This is a moment for people around the country -- and around the world -- to join the Ferguson community in raising concerns about race and policing, and about the impact of militarization on our fundamental right to peacefully assemble," Hawkins said

Sam Brodey at Mother Jones notes:
To find the closest parallel to what Amnesty is doing in Missouri, though, you have to look abroad. Huang says that Amnesty's work during Turkey's massive anti-government protests in 2013 most resembles the Ferguson mission. In Istanbul, activists gave medical assistance to injured protesters and observed the violent clashes involving protesters, police, and sometimes members of the press. They ultimately produced a huge report detailing the numerous human rights abuses carried out by Turkish police. Their concerns then—police brutality, harassment and detainment of the press—were also articulated in a statement about Ferguson.

What's happening in Ferguson and what happened across Turkey last year aren't the same, of course. But the similarities between the two situations—and the fact that Amnesty is in Ferguson in the first place—are, for many, making what's unfolding now even more troubling.

Somebody at the Center for Strategic & International Studies didn't much like Amnesty's decision to scrutinize what's happening in Ferguson. Consequently, this happened:
CSIS, Amnesty International
That generated some heat. But soon there was an apology from CSIS with the blame placed on an intern.

There is more below the orange tangle.

11:57 The Odd Way Tuberculosis Was Brought to America» LiveScience.com
When European explorers landed in the Americas, they brought tuberculosis (TB) and a wave of other deadly diseases with them. However, some strains of TB may have already been lurking in South America, a new study finds.
11:45 Officer to protesters: 'I will f--king kill you'» Daily Kos

What the hell is going on in this town?

11:55 AM PT:

ACLU of MO calls on Highway Patrol to remove officer who threatened to kill people last night: http://t.co/...

@chrisgeidner
1:23 PM PT:
@chrisgeidner The officer has now been removed from duty. Great work @ACLU_MO!

@ACLU
11:42 New Wrinkle for Botox: Drug May Treat Stomach Cancers» LiveScience.com
The toxin used commonly for beauty treatment may prove useful in treating stomach cancers, new research in mice suggests.
11:42 Hagan, Tillis deadlocked in new poll» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Hagan leads Tillis, 45 percent to 43 percent, with Libertarian Sean Haugh coming in at 5 percent.
11:29 Brown family to N.Y. rally Saturday» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The Ferguson family will march for Eric Garner, who died after police put him in a choke hold.
11:16 Tiny Jurassic Mammals Were Picky Eaters» LiveScience.com
A new fossil-analysis technique revealed that early mammals from the Jurassic period were probably more picky insectivores than scientists previously thought.
11:09 Real Paleo Diet: Ancient Humans Ate Snails » LiveScience.com
Paleolithic early humans in Spain ate snails nearly 30,000 years ago, about 10,000 years earlier than other humans in the Mediterranean.
11:00 Don't lecture people on 'due process' when you're pointing guns at their heads» Daily Kos
A riot police officer aims his weapon while demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri August 13, 2014. Police in Ferguson fired several rounds of tear gas to disperse protesters late on Wednesday, on the fou
An American police officer shooting an unarmed black man is something that happens often enough that there can be studies done on it. Now that's depressing.
It remains to be seen whether Wilson will face criminal charges, but a limited review of similar killings by police suggests that the officers more often than not walk away without an indictment, and are very rarely convicted. Delores Jones-Brown, a law professor and director of the Center on Race, Crime, and Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, looked at 21 publicized cases from 1994 through 2009 in which a police officer killed an unarmed black person. Of those, only seven cases resulted in an indictment—for criminally negligent homicide, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, or violation of civil rights—and only three officers were found guilty.
You know something? I'm fine with the whole notion of not-rushing-to-judgment in this case. I'm fine with it taking a while to figure out "what happened." The vast majority of America is fine with that as well.

What's not fine was and is the apparent disinterest of the Ferguson authorities in finding out. A half-dozen eyewitnesses, not interviewed. No explanation of the officer's side of events at all, save an anonymous "friend" of his "fiancé" giving out a thirdhand account on CNN. The aggressive and militarized and very violent response to protesters asking for more justification than the fistful of nothing that the police have handed out. The department is either utterly incompetent, so incompetent that the lot of them needs to be canned and the town be placed under the jurisdiction of God knows who, or crooked, in which case ditto. Regardless of whether the shooting itself was "justified," the response has ticked off all the marks of what a racist and hyper-agressive police response would look like, and every last protester can see that firsthand, and if you can't figure out how that might be confirming every one of the neighborhood's suspicions about how the shooting of Michael Brown went down, neither I nor anyone else can help you out on that one.

Witnesses to the shooting said the officer acted with excessive violence and a person who wasn't resisting ended up dead. Every last day and night since then has demonstrated exactly why their neighbors believe they're telling the truth. Having politicians and prosecutors and law enforcement officers get the vapors because the community wants more information than rubber bullets or a tear gas canister can provide is condescending twaddle. You want to defend the shooting, you do that—Christ, we would all love to get to the point where there's a defense other than "the guy smoked pot" or "he wasn't just a jaywalker, he was a hardcore, thug jaywalker." But there is no defense—none—of the police actions from then until now. Pointing military-castoff rifles at reporters asking for directions is not okay in America, and to have this go on for days on end with absolutely no repercussions is a damn fine indication that whatever the residents say about their local law enforcement and how it treats them on a daily basis, they are very much damn right.

Here's the single best thing Eric Holder could do during his time in Ferguson. Appoint one black officer from his department to go undercover, posing as a reporter or as citizen. Have that officer wander around the town, during the day and at night, doing nothing but existing alongside the protesters and reporters. And every last police officer, from any department, who points a rifle at that man for no reason gets fired ten minutes later.

You do that, maybe we start to get somewhere. Put up or shut up. Don't give an entire town lectures about due process and the rule of law when you're pointing guns at their heads for walking where they're not supposed to walk.

10:46 Former Ferguson police officer accused of brutality is now on the City Council» Daily Kos
A sign and a pin are pictured on the back of a demonstrator during a protest against the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri August 13, 2014. Police in Ferguson fired several rounds of tear gas to disperse protesters late on We
Former Ferguson, Missouri police officer Kim Tihen, who was previously accused of participating in the beating of Henry Davis and then charging him with destruction of property for getting his blood on the uniforms of the four officers involved, has had a new job since 2012:
Davis pleaded guilty to reduced charges and ended up moving to Mississippi. Officer Tihen, for her part, is no longer with the Ferguson Police Department. In 2012, after four years on the force, she won election to the city council, becoming one of the six-person body's five white members. (The sixth is Latino.) Two-thirds of Ferguson's residents are black, but the city holds elections in the spring, making for low turnout—in April 2012, when Tihen was elected, less than 9 percent of eligible voters went to the polls.
This civil case is ongoing and expected to resume in December.

All the more reason for the people of Ferguson to get out the vote on future elections.

Daily Kos user SusiesPurl previously wrote about it here.

10:38 Right-wingers suggest doing a full Reagan after reporter executed by ISIS» Daily Kos

The gruesome murder of American reporter James Foley was horrific enough, but now right-wing bloggers and conservative commentators seem determined to make it more grotesque still. With word from ABC News that the Obama White House was aware that ISIS was threatening to kill Foley and fellow journalist Steven Sotloff in retaliation for American air strikes against its fighters in Iraq, the Republican amen corner is blaming the president for what it deems a "preventable atrocity." Obama, they seem to suggest, should have freed the hostages by kowtowing to or negotiating with terrorists—just like Ronald Reagan.

In her time of grief, James Foley's mother implored the kidnappers to "spare the lives of the remaining hostages" who are innocents with "no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world." But the right-wing noise machine had a different message. Conveniently ignoring the killings of Daniel Pearl and Nick Berg during President Bush's tenure, Israel Matsav declared "This is the result of the world perceiving a weak America," adding, "Thank you Hussein Obama." The oxymoronically-named Independent Journal Review proclaimed that "bringing these terrorists to justice transcends partisan politics," only to declare in the next sentence, "We can only hope that President Obama weighs his decisions [about further air strikes against ISIS] carefully and thoughtfully." And the always execrable Hot Air offered the most obscene assessment of all:

The revelation that the White House was aware of the threats to Foley's life and was unable to provide for his safety will prompt administration critics to sharpen their attacks on Obama's approach to the crisis in the Middle East. In the wake of what may have been a preventable atrocity, some of that criticism will be quite valid.
Valid criticism? Not from anyone now suggesting the U.S. "strike a deal with the Islamic State" or ever accused President Obama of "negotiating with terrorists." After all, that was Ronald Reagan's approach.

Continue reading about Reagan negotiated with terrorists below.

10:38 Stop Testing 'Alternative' Treatments, Some Researchers Say » LiveScience.com
Trials that test some types of alternative medicine, such as homeopathy and Reiki, should be stopped because the therapies are not grounded in science, some researchers argue.
10:14 Christie: Boss OK with using tunes» POLITICO - TOP Stories
A woman questions the lawmaker on whether he's allowing to play Springsteen's music at events.
10:06 Your daily reminder that cable news is a pox on us all» Daily Kos

No, I didn't title it that.
Please stop.
Everyone’s seen the security video of the robbery Mike Brown allegedly committed right before he was shot by Officer Darren Wilson, but you have not really seen it until you’ve seen it meticulously recreated, in split-screen, with [Fox News reporter Griff Jenkins] as the terrorized shopkeep and Fox News Senior Black Friend Ted Williams, former D.C. homicide detective and current criminal defense attorney, playing the role of Mike Brown the Cigarillo Thief.
The above clip is only part of the much longer piece, and I encourage you to not actually watch it because that's nine minutes of your life that you will never get back and which will permanently make you stupider via magic Fox News osmosis. The reenactment quality is really top-notch, much akin to my kindergarden class' reenactment of the landing of the Mayflower featuring a boat made out of large cardboard boxes adorned by numerous unexplained but colorful hand turkeys, and is probably the closest many Greta Van Susteren viewers will ever get to experiencing the raw terror of being around a Black Person Probably Up To No Good.

Reporter Jenkins also was happy to confirm to Van Susteren that he had "just about" gotten into a confrontation with a Scary Black Man while he was there, thus confirming the dangers faced by excessively nerdy Fox News reporters in their war-zone dispatches from American convenience stores.

All that said, however, what really gets me is that Griff Jenkins appears to be one of the only people in America, reporter or bystander or otherwise, who can jaywalk in Ferguson without getting shot or tear gassed or having the stuffing beaten out of him by the world's most heavily armed traffic enforcement team. He really needs to tell veteran Getty photographer Scott Olson and the other arrested journalists his secret, because being able to stand in the middle of a street in Ferguson, Missouri, without being zip-cuffed afterward very nearly counts as a superpower.

10:03 Humans Did Not Wipe Out the Neanderthals, New Research Suggests» LiveScience.com
Neanderthals went extinct in Europe about 40,000 years ago, giving them millennia to coexist with modern humans culturally and sexually, according to new research that also suggests modern humans didn't cause Neanderthals to die out rapidly.
10:00 Cold, Dark and Alive! Life Discovered in Buried Antarctic Lake » LiveScience.com
Lake Whillans teems with nearly 4,000 species of microbes, forming a rich ecosystem that lives underneath Antarctica's ice sheet.
10:00 Mineral Munching Microbes Found Deep Beneath Antarctic Ice | Video» LiveScience.com
Boring through ½ mile rock-hard Antarctic ice, researchers discover a completely isolated community of microorganisms living in Subglacial Lake Whillans. The finding could be an analog for subsurface life on Mars, Europa, Enceladus and other worlds.
09:54 Paul Ryan thinks it's the police's job to shoot unarmed teens» Daily Kos
Police officers point their weapons at demonstrators protesting against the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 18, 2014. Police fired tear gas and stun grenades at protesters on Monday after days of unrest sparked by the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white policeman. REUTERS/Joshua Lott
Rep. Paul Ryan is a-ok with all of this!
Oy.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) waded into the Ferguson, Missouri, controversy on Tuesday and said the best way to bring about resolution is to let law enforcement do whatever they need to do.

"We should take a deep breath, sit back and let law enforcement do their job," he said during an interview with SiriusXM's David Webb.

Take a deep breath! Well, unless you're in Ferguson. Breathing in tear gas isn't too good for you.

And definitely let law enforcement do anything they want, without checks or balances or regard to Constitutional protections that conservatives pretend to cherish. So shooting unarmed teens? It's their job. Looking like stormtroopers? Their job. Pointing assault weapons at people exercising their First Amendment right to assembly? Their job, I mean, it's not like we're talking about the SECOND Amendment, aka "the only one that matters." Arresting and jailing journalists for merely being present? Their job. Stonewalling the investigation into the shooting of said unarmed teen? Their job.

Funny, though, I don't remember Ryan calling for law enforcement to do their jobs at the Bundy Ranch. But of course, stealing millions is fine if you're white. Allegedly stealing tens while black is a capital offense, and police have no choice but to execute such dangerous criminals.

It's only their job.

10:22 AM PT:
The police have raided the church we were at last night and took ALL the supplies that were donated to give protesters.
@Nettaaaaaaaa
That's okay. It's just police doing their job, because they can do anything they want.
09:30 No, Capt. Ron Johnson was not 'flashing gang signs'» Daily Kos
screenshot of tweet: CNN 'ireport' image of Ron Johnson making hand gesture w/ tweet 'Captain Ron Johnson throws up 'gang signs?' Really @CNN? You're just gonna leave that up.'
I just can't even deal with this crap anymore, and I encourage everyone else to not be able to deal with this crap anymore either.
Today in Ferguson, Mo., news, The Washington Post takes on the assertion that Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson has been photographed flashing gang signs with members of the community. [...]

Capt. Johnson is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi, a black fraternity that was formed in 1911 at Indiana University in Bloomington, and the hand sign you see in the pictures below is a Kappa greeting.

Black police captain "flashes hand sign," and it's immediately presumed that he is a Secret Gang Thug indicating his sympathies in a very public way that only the cleverest of white racist bastards will catch on to. Just as when a black president and his wife bump fists, the standard greeting of the American "bro" movement becomes a terrorist fist bump, and when a black child walks home with Skittles and iced tea the press summons people to describe what sort of drug paraphernalia might be constructed with Skittles and an iced tea.

A frat sign. Well, that is a gang sign of sorts, I suppose. And if you are the sort of person who immediately suspected that Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson is a secret gang member seeking to reassure his secret gang members that their secret plan to do ... something ... is alive and well, we do not need to be hearing from you right now. You need to go sit in a corner, any corner will do, and let the grown-ups talk without being interrupted by your constant little hissy fits.

09:30 McConnell unveils governing agenda: Another shutdown» Daily Kos
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-KY) speaks to reporters after Senate luncheons as he is accompanied by  Sen. John Cornyn,( R-TX)  at Capitol Hill in Washington, July 16, 2013. REUTERS/Jose Luis Magana
Mitch is promising exactly what you'd expect from the GOP
If you thought the headline of this post was an exaggeration, think again:
Mitch McConnell has a game plan to confront President Barack Obama with a stark choice next year: Accept bills reining in the administration’s policies or veto them and risk a government shutdown.
Specifically:
“We’re going to pass spending bills, and they’re going to have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy,” McConnell said in an interview aboard his campaign bus traveling through Western Kentucky coal country. “That’s something he won’t like, but that will be done. I guarantee it.”
And:
McConnell said it would be up to the president to decide whether to veto spending bills that would keep the government open.

Obama “needs to be challenged, and the best way to do that is through the funding process,” McConnell said. “He would have to make a decision on a given bill, whether there’s more in it that he likes than dislikes.”

That's exactly what the House tried to do last year, and it blew up in Republican faces. Perhaps they won't pay the price that they should, largely because 2014 is a midterm election and because the initial rollout of Obamacare erased the government shutdown news from the headlines, but if they try a shutdown strategy ahead of a presidential election, 2016 is going to make 2008 look like a stroll in the park for the GOP.
09:18 Photo Gallery: Images of Martian Meteorites» LiveScience.com
See stunning photos of Martian meteorites.
09:07 Dan Sullivan wins GOP Senate primary in Alaska, but did Democrats miss a chance to boost Joe Miller?» Daily Kos
Portrait of Dan Sullivan (R), standing outdoors in front of snow-covered evergreen trees
Dan Sullivan, the newly minted Republican nominee for Senate in Alaska
Once again, the polls were really, really wrong in Alaska—and in a way that may have hurt Democratic Sen. Mark Begich's chances of keeping his crucial Senate seat. Pollsters did indeed correctly predict that Dan Sullivan, the former head of the state's Department of Natural Resources, would win the Republican nomination on Tuesday night, which he captured with 40 percent of the vote.

But in a huge shocker, tea partier Joe Miller, whose destructive 2010 Senate bid tore open a deep fissure in the GOP, finished in second with 32 percent of the vote. Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who'd long appeared to be the only serious threat to Sullivan, brought up the rear with 25. The polling data, however, had it exactly backwards. Miller never once so much as grazed second place all year, and a final poll from Sullivan's own pollster, Moore Information, put him 25 points ahead of Miller! So the question is, was private Democratic polling similarly awry?

Perhaps Miller never had any shot of stopping Sullivan, but no one ever tried to help him. Democrats ran a few ads that seemed aimed at boosting Treadwell's profile, but surely it would have been worth attempting a Claire McCaskill-style ratfuck painting Sullivan and Treadwell as insufficiently purist while portraying Miller as the one true believer. As an added benefit, this would have been true! And it seems like a real missed opportunity, because Miller's performance against Begich in the polling averages was much worse than his two opponents':

Charts of AK-Sen poll averages
But that's all "what if" territory now. Begich, at least, expected Sullivan all along, given that he was the choice of the Republican establishment. And Sullivan certainly has his own weaknesses, particularly his thin ties to Alaska, a state that takes citizenship very seriously. This was always going to be one of the most difficult holds for Democrats, though, and nothing about that changed on Tuesday night.
09:01 Ryan the betrayer» POLITICO - TOP Stories
In his new book, he condemns conservatives as crazies even as he pretends to embrace our message.
08:56 Cartoon: Fear of a black victim» Daily Kos

08:55 Ecstasy Law Does More Harm Than Good, One Researcher Argues» LiveScience.com
The 2003 RAVE Act has made club promoters reluctant to take safety measures such as offering water or having medics at electronic music dance parties.
08:55 Good news for Ferguson: Mayor promises a more diverse police force » Daily Kos
Police officers react to the movements of a rowdy group of demonstrators during protests in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown near Ferguson, Missouri August 18, 2014. Police fired tear gas and stun grenades at protesters in Ferguson, Missouri on M
Just give him a few decades ...
In the aftermath of the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, a disturbing piece of information that emerged was that in a city where blacks make up nearly 70 percent of the population, its police force of 53 officers only has three black members.

Well, good news: Ferguson's mayor is promising to "bolster minority hiring." But don't get too excited, because the mayor warned:

“We don’t hire a new cop every year,” [Mayor James] Knowles said.

So, just give him a few decades. (Oh, and by the way, this is the same jamoke who earlier this week called Ferguson is a "model for the region.")

08:52 Watch a Cyborg Moth Twirl on the Dance Floor (Video)» LiveScience.com
With the goal of one day making tiny living drones, a team of engineers created a cyborg moth and watched it spin inside an "insect disco" full of flashing lights.
08:29 Wash. Times Baselessly Claims That GA Gubernatorial Candidate Is Keeping His Pro-Equality Views A "Secret"» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

The Washington Times editorial board accused Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jason Carter of concealing his support for LGBT equality in order to win over the state's voters, ignoring Carter's own words offering his full-throated support for marriage equality and mounting evidence that gay rights are decreasingly a wedge issue with voters, even in traditionally conservative states like Georgia.

In an August 19 editorial, the Times alleged that when it comes to his opinion on "homosexual demands," Carter "dodges, weaves, and deflects, eager not to offend religiously conservative Georgia." Writing that Carter can't win his closely contested race against Republican Gov. Nathan Deal if he embraces "the full rainbow agenda," the Times asserted that Carter is hiding behind statements from his spokesman and supporters in the gay rights community:

Jason Carter wants to follow in his famous grandfather's footsteps. Mr. Carter, a Democrat, is running for governor of Georgia, a position Jimmy Carter held for a term before moving on to the White House. Jason Carter is willing to say pretty much whatever it takes to win. When someone asks his opinions on homosexual demands, he dodges, weaves and deflects, eager not to offend religiously conservative Georgia. But his gay supporters are saying it for him.

Georgia remains committed to traditional marriage. The left-leaning Public Policy Polling discovered last year that 6 of 10 Georgia voters want to keep the thousands-of-years-old definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. If Jason Carter yearns to come out in support of the full rainbow agenda, he knows better than to do it before the election.

[...]

The pro-homosexual website Project Q Atlanta doesn't like the sneaky approach, either. "Jason Carter collects gay cash, but stays mum on LGBT issues," the site noted earlier this month about a fundraiser held for Mr. Carter. The event, organized and hosted by homosexual activists, raised nearly $90,000 for the Carter campaign. Reporters were barred from the fundraiser, lest the secret leak.

[...]

One man's pragmatism is another man's dishonesty. Voters deserve to know, loud and clear, what they'll get if they put another Carter in the governor's mansion on Nov. 4. Gov. Nathan Deal, the Republican incumbent running for re-election, should pressure Mr. Carter to say unequivocally whether he would be prepared as governor to fully defend Georgia's state constitutional amendment, enacted by the people, that defines traditional marriage.

It's true, as the Times noted, that some gay rights activists in Georgia expressed unease with Carter's previous relative silence on LGBT issues during the campaign. But the Times conveniently omitted the fact that this month Carter addressed those concerns head-on, affirming his longstanding support for marriage equality. This, by the Times' standards, apparently constitutes "dodg[ing], weav[ing], and deflect[ing]" on marriage equality:

08:15 DiCaprio voices climate change film» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The actor is lending his voice and support to a new short film, bringing attention to climate change.
08:11 2,800-Year-Old Zigzag Art Found in Greek Tomb» LiveScience.com
The tomb, which also contains the remains of a possibly wealthy individual, was built when Greeks were colonizing the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea. The pottery with zigzagging decorations is one example of art during the Geometric period.
07:57 Obama, Race, And The Right-Wing Media's Heckler's Veto» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

The lament has spread all across the media spectrum this week, as the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri unfolds and people search for answers to the police killing of unarmed teen Michael Brown.

"Obama Should Go To Ferguson, Pronto," urged a Businessweek headline, beseeching the president to fill a leadership vacuum on the ground in Missouri. "Obama, can't you see black anger in Ferguson?" asked Marc Lamont Hill in a CNN essay. Writing at Daily Beast, Stuart Stevens lamented that Obama had "lost faith in his voice in Ferguson"; that he was "increasingly uncomfortable with the role of healer-in-chief," while the Washington Post's Joel Achenbach urged Obama to give another "national address" on race because that's what the crisis demands.

Maureen Dowd's New York Times column today's mocks Obama as a "the most ordinary of men" with a "bored-bird-in-a-gilded-cage attitude" who is unwilling to engage with the issue of racial strife.

Most of the of the do-something commentary has adopted the same premise: Obama could help the Ferguson crisis by giving a speech about race or addressing the situation more forcefully, but he won't. He won't use his powers. (See: The Green Lantern theory that Obama could convince a recalcitrant GOP Congress to pass legislation if he only tried.)

That premise though, and most of the commentary, completely ignores the corrosive role of the right-wing media in America, how it has spent years trying to silence and intimidate Obama on the topic of race, and how it's used some of the most offensive, guttural rhetoric and personal attacks to do so.

Through Obama's two terms, most of the Beltway press has remained strangely silent about the astonishingly ugly race baiting that now passes for mainstream conservative media commentary. That same press corps is now turning a blind eye to the tangible damage that kind of rhetoric has done to public debate, or the chance of public debate, and how the right-wing media has tried  to implement a heckler's veto on Obama; to effectively shout him down.

It's fine for pundits to yearn for open dialogue and rhetorical leadership from the White House. It's less helpful for them to ignore the unpleasant realities of nasty partisan politics in the age of Obama. It does no good to pretend race baiting hasn't become a badge of honor and a professional path to success for lots of right-wing pundits.  

For Obama to aggressively insert himself into the Ferguson story now is to invite a right-wing media hurricane that would likely rage for weeks. How do we know? Because again and again we've seen President Obama's attempts to engage on similar issues act as a lightning rod for these angry voices, quickly making it impossible to focus on the pressing issue at hand.

07:55 Teen Birth Rate Hits New Low» LiveScience.com
The birth rates of U.S. teens continues to decline, and hit a new historic low in 2013, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
07:55 In Photos: Ancient Greek Tomb With Zigzag Art Discovered» LiveScience.com
Archaeologists working at the ancient city of Corinth, in Greece, have discovered a tomb that dates back about 2,800 years. Inside pottery with zigzagging decorations was found.
07:53 Michael Brown's death: Will it be a grand jury investigation or a whitewash?» Daily Kos
A protester throws back a smoke bomb while clashing with police in Ferguson, Missouri August 13, 2014. Police in Ferguson fired several rounds of tear gas to disperse protesters late on Wednesday, on the fourth night of demonstrations over the fatal shoot
McCulloch: "Come on, man, they were doing great!"
Later today, a grand jury will begin hearing evidence in the shooting death of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager who was gunned down by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9. And as is everything else surrounding this case, it is already aswirl in controversy:
[Missouri Gov. Jay] Nixon said Tuesday he doesn’t intend to ask County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch to step aside from the case amid criticism that McCulloch will be biased in favor of the police officer who shot Brown.
And the basis for those concerns about bias? Besides the fact that McCulloch's father was a police officer killed by a black suspect, his critics says that:
In both his prosecutorial decisions and public comments ... he has shown a clear bias toward police in cases where officers’ actions are in question.
And those critics are particularly concerned with McCulloch's reaction when Nixon had the Missouri Highway Patrol take over security from the Ferguson and St. Louis County police departments last week:
“It’s shameful what he did today, he had no legal authority to do that,” McCulloch said of Nixon at the time. “To denigrate the men and women of the county police department is shameful.”
Nixon defends his decision to stick with McCulloch and suggested his only out was if McCulloch recused himself. But the Missouri attorney general disagrees, saying that "Nixon did indeed have the right to remove McCulloch if the governor declared a state of emergency."

So, does anyone really doubt that the nearly two weeks of police clashes with protesters in the wake of Michael Brown's death qualifies as a state of emergency? And does Gov. Nixon intend to allow even a question of bias to surround the decision on whether or not Darren Wilson is indicted for shooting Michael Brown? Seriously?

07:51 Underwater Maids: Mussels and Clams Could Mop Up Waterways» LiveScience.com
They might not have feather dusters, brooms or even arms and legs, but bivalves — such as clams, mussels and oysters — make good underwater maids, a new study suggests.
07:00 Reforming the program that has militarized police will be an uphill fight» Daily Kos
The Nebraska State Patrol Light Armored Vehicle LAV 150
The Nebraska State Patrol Light Armored Vehicle LAV 150. It's one of the military items that
Rep. Hank Johnson has proposed to prohibit the Pentagon from passing along to local and state police.
Loading up local police forces with military hardware has crept into the spotlight as a consequence of the reaction to the slaying of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Not that the federal program doing that is new or has gone unnoticed by people whose political views have brought them into direct and sometimes violent contact with the police over the years. As a result of that public attention, there's a move in Congress to chop or reform the program, known as 1033 for the section of the defense budget authorization it was originally part of. As reported previously, Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia plans to introduce reform legislation on 1033 when the August recess is over.

Just one problem: The program has considerable Democratic support and opposition to reducing its budget. That became apparent two months ago when Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida could only muster 62 votes, including his own, for cutting funding and limiting what kind of hardware could be transferred from the Pentagon to local police agencies. Democrats opposed Grayson on the move by a 3-1 margin. And the majority included 35 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Jennifer Bendery, Ryan Grim and Zach Carter report:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a leading voice for progressives, says it’s time to reassess the way the program is carried out, not end it altogether.

“The Leader supports examining the overall federal effort of giving military-type equipment to local police departments,” said a Pelosi spokeswoman. “Cutting off all funding—like the Grayson amendment—is a blunt instrument, but oversight and appropriate scale of funding for such programs need to be examined.”
But Grayson's legislation wouldn't have cut off all funding for the Pentagon program—instead, it would have banned funding for a specific set of heavy-duty gear, including grenade launchers, toxicological agents and drones, all of which may legally be transferred to police departments under current law.

And it's the same story with Johnson's legislation. It would not eliminate transfers of all the flat-panel monitors, kneepads, communications and similar gear from 1033. Instead, the Pentagon would no longer be allowed to provide local law enforcement with: automatic weapons not generally recognized as particularly suitable for law enforcement purposes, including those that are .50 caliber or greater; tactical vehicles, including highly mobile multi-wheeled vehicles, armored vehicles, and mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles; armored drones; aircraft; flash-bang or stun grenades; and silencers.

Although the hurdles to getting this modest legislation passed are high, there is some sense of movement in the matter. Unnamed congressional aides say support will grow for Johnson's proposal or similar legislation. Getting there will require amplifying the voices of the likes of Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen, who says that wartime weapons are inappropriate for use "against our own citizens when there is civil unrest and civil protest. Even if it got to the point where it did where they are breaking some glass, that's no reason to come with the amount of force and appearance that was brought by the police in Ferguson."

Indeed, it's not. But we can expect repeats of situations like Ferguson's and against protesters elsewhere as long as police are armed and uniformed like soldiers and act akin to invading armies instead of community protectors. To reiterate what I've said before, it will take more than a change in hardware to fix the police. But de-militarizing local law enforcement would be a good start. Please show your support for Rep. Johnson's proposal.

06:41 The New Street Drug to Watch: Acetyl Fentanyl» LiveScience.com
Emergency doctors may soon see more cases of what appears to be a heroin overdose but is actually related to the deadly and relatively new designer drug acetyl fentanyl, a researcher says.
06:13 Bush's ice challenge to Clinton» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The former president takes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge after being challenged by his daughter.
06:12 Body Odor and Brain Waves: 5 Cool New ID Technologies» LiveScience.com
For the most part, society still relies heavily on ID cards to prove who people are, but identification technologies are moving into new realms with devices that could distinguish individuals by their veins, brain waves and even body odor.
05:51 Surprising Survivor: Little Ancient Reptile Outlived Dinosaurs» LiveScience.com
A new fossil find reveals that a family of lizardlike reptiles survived the Cretaceous extinction that killed the dinosaurs and lived for millions more years in South America.
05:38 Breaking news out of Ferguson: Police say they didn't lob tear gas last night» Daily Kos
A man is doused with milk and sprayed with mist after being hit by an eye irritant from security forces trying to disperse demonstrators protesting against the shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 20, 2014. Police in r
Doused with milk to treat a little "eye irritant" ...
As protests continued 10 days after a white police officer gunned down an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, this is what now passes as good news:
The authorities made at least 47 arrests after demonstrators tossed bottles toward police officers, some of whom used pepper spray — but not tear gas, as they often have — to subdue some protesters. [...]

Captain Ronald S. Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol was quick, though, to declare Tuesday “a turning point” for Ferguson.

Huzzah. Now about that police incident on report on the shooting that Ferguson police still haven't released? Where is it? Because so far, the only thing Ferguson police have provided—aside from a trigger-happy cop and military-style assaults on protesters—is a smear campaign against the victim.

Later today, a St. Louis County grand jury will begin hearing evidence in the shooting death of Michael Brown and Attorney General Eric Holder will be in Ferguson to be briefed on the federal civil rights investigation launched last week.

Stay tuned.

05:21 Economics Daily Digest: Inequality among roots of Ferguson unrest» 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.

Ferguson's Race Injustices Have Their Roots in Economic Inequality (The Guardian)

Suzanne McGee ties the situation in Ferguson, MO to the severe economic inequality facing the Black community in the U.S., which she says limits Black access to political power as well.

Meet the Ordinary People Who Are Mobilizing Around Monetary Policy (WaPo)

Activist groups concerned with democratizing the discussion of monetary policy are sending low-wage workers to speak a Federal Reserve conference in Wyoming. Ylan Q. Mui reports.

The Tax Dodge That Has Plagued the U.S. for More Than a Decade (The Atlantic)

Joe Pinsker looks at the history of companies looking to reincorporate abroad to dodge U.S. corporate income taxes, and explains how the process has changed (and yet not) in the past decade.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz proposes a full slate of corporate income tax reforms in his latest white paper.

Lagging Demand, Not Unemployability, Is Why Long-term Unemployment Remains So High (EPI)

In a new report, Josh Bivens and Heidi Shierholz argue that long-term unemployment is still a component of cyclical weakness in the economy from the recession, rather than a structural shut-out.

How to Save the Net: Don’t Give In to Big ISPs (Wired)

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings calls on the Federal Communications Commission to expand its focus to regulate the relationships between companies like his and the Internet service providers.

OSHA fines company $1M for violating truckers' hours-of-service rule (The Hill)

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's fine is about protecting workers and the public, reports Tim Devaney. Trucker rest rules are in the limelight after high-profile crashes.

San Diego Defies Mayor, Raises Minimum Wage (CNN Money)

Katie Lobosco reports that the city council overturned the mayor's veto, approving a gradual minimum wage hike that ties the wage to inflation, as well as paid sick leave.


05:20 Fox's Keith Ablow: "Something Is Deeply Wrong With The Psyche" Of Ferguson Residents» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Ablow

Fox News medical contributor Keith Ablow wrote that there is something wrong in the minds of Ferguson residents who reacted to the shooting death of 18 year-old Michael Brown by a police officer with protests.

In an August 20 opinion piece posted on FoxNews.com, Ablow opined that the psyche of Ferguson needs to be investigated following the unrest that erupted after Brown's killing. Ablow suggested that the community's reactions were racially motivated; accusing the residents of presuming "the moral depravity of whites," which they would not have done if the teen was raped or killed by a black police officer:

The psychology of those who rioted and committed other lawless acts in Ferguson is as suspect at this moment as the psychology of Darren Wilson, because their psychology presumes the moral depravity of whites - at least those in authority.

[...]

If a black officer had shot and killed Michael Brown, chances are there would be no protests at all. Perhaps there would be a civil suit. Perhaps there would be criminal charges against the officer involved. But there would be no unrest.

When a woman is raped even if by a police officer, the community does not erupt in violence, with throngs of women breaking windows and threatening to storm the police command station.

Whether or not Officer Darren Wilson is guilty of anything, something is deeply wrong with the psyche of the community in Ferguson, Mo. And understanding and addressing that pathology should be the first order of business of community leaders - even as the work of investigating the Michael Brown shooting is unfolding.

Community leaders and residents in Ferguson have worked to keep demonstrations peaceful, and media reports indicate that many of the people arrested for violence in Ferguson have come from outside the community to confront police. Some Ferguson residents have also worked to protect local businesses from looters.

Ablow continues to use his Fox News platform to make inflammatory claims and attack the Obama administration, most recently coming under fire for his comments calling Michelle Obama too fat to be a credible voice on school nutrition.

05:10 Daily Kos Radio is LIVE at 9am ET!» Daily Kos
Death Star from Star Wars (1977)
OK, now I just think they're overdoing it in Ferguson. This is just not necessary.
It's Wednesday, but we're Joan-less. I've got a bad feeling about this.

Guns are still FAILing, cops are still flailing. We'll dig through the headlines and stories that have been waiting in the wings, and in the end, we'll have another show pretty much unlike any other you're likely to hear anywhere else.

There. I think that's sufficiently nebulous.

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05:00 Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: With Brownback and Roberts looking sickly, we move two ratings» 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:

KS-Gov, -Sen: How do you go from a landslide victory to fighting for your political life in a state that heavily favors your party? Ask Kansas's Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. Brownback easily won his seat in 2010, and used his victory as a mandate to turn his state into a petri dish for a right-wing freakonomics experiment. Brownback cut taxes without any real idea on how to make up for the lost revenue, and now Kansans are feeling the effects of his brutal budget cutbacks.

Several recent polls have shown Brownback struggling against state House Democratic Leader Paul Davis, and PPP gives the governor more bad news: They find Davis up 39-37, with Libertarian Keen Umbehr at 9. This is better for Brownback than some recent SurveyUSA surveys have shown, but not at all good. Umbehr is probably going to have a hard time staying at 9 percent, and if he loses support, Davis should benefit, because in just a two person race, Davis leads 44-39. Brownback is horrifically unpopular, sporting a 34-55 job approval rating. Davis isn't too well known, but he's above water with a 32-26 favorable rating.

There has always been a real possibility that Kansas's deep red hue could save Brownback. The governor and his allies at the RGA are doing everything they can to link Davis to President Obama. If they're successful, this could save Brownback because Obama sports an even worse 33-59 approval rating in the state. Still, it's clear that Brownback is in for a very tough campaign and Daily Kos Elections is changing our race rating from Lean Republican to Tossup.

Head below the fold for a look at the even weirder U.S. Senate race in Kansas.

04:54 Cheers and Jeers: Wednesday» Daily Kos
C&J Banner

From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE…

The Amazing Adventures of Super Barney

Compared to years past, the town hall spittle-slinging has been quiet this summer. Since nature abhors a vacuum, here's a classic moment from August of '09, when Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank gave a Nazi-card playing Lyndon LaRouchebot something to cry in her strudel about when she framed health insurance reform this way:

Woman holding photo of Obama with a Hitler mustache: Why do you continue to support a Nazi policy, as Obama has expressly supported this policy? Why are you supporting it?
Barney, it's all yours:



"When you ask me that question, I am going to revert to my ethnic heritage and answer your question with a question: on what planet do you spend most of your time?"
Jon Stewart answered it best, I think: "Apparently a planet where a mixed-race president and a gay Jew qualify as Nazis."

Consider this your moment of zen.

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

03:45 Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: A Rick Perry primer; thoughts on Ferguson» Daily Kos
The case has no substance. It'€™s using the courts in a politically motivated way. Are we talking about the Rick Perry indictment, or Halbig?
@DemFromCT
Every time @GovernorPerry cries politics, we should report, as
@WayneSlater did, the fact that spc pros. & judge who appt'd him are Repubs
@PaulBegala
Here is @WayneSlater's story & @GovernorPerry mugshot: http://t.co/...
@PaulBegala
Well, either the Gov. Rick Perry indictment is criminalization of politics—>
Rick Hasen:
This seems to be the season for investigations of governors. New Jersey’s Gov. Chris Christie has his “bridgegate.” The U.S. attorney is investigating New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s potential interference with the Moreland Commission—a commission he created himself to investigate corruption. State prosecutors in Wisconsin have been investigating Gov. Scott Walker’s involvement in potentially illegal coordination of campaign finances between his political campaign and outside groups. And then, of course, there are McDonnell, Perry, and Blagojevich, as well as Connecticut Gov. John Rowland, who went to jail for graft, and Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, who went to jail for bribery and fought his conviction (unsuccessfully) all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. At least the endless prosecutions appear to target both Democrats and Republicans.

But the problem facing prosecutors, in the Perry case and the others noted above, is this: State officials have tremendous power, and many of them abuse that power for personal benefit. But many state officials also engage in unseemly conduct and hardball politics that do not clearly cross the line of illegality.

or folks are just missing the point—>
Forrest Wilder:
Among elite commentators, this seems to be the emerging consensus—that the pursuit of Perry somehow was a fundamental departure from legal norms and represents an attack on the very practice of politics. Incidentally, this is precisely the line that Rick Perry is taking. On Saturday, he called  the prosecution a “farce” and lamented that “some would use partisan political theatrics to rip away at the very fabric of our state’s constitution.”

Since uninformed speculation is apparently the coin of the realm, allow me to opine on what I think is going on. In the last few months, political reporters have begun writing the Rick Perry 2.0 Comeback story. National Journal had a particularly credulous piece—titled “The New Rick Perry”—that spent more than a thousand words allowing Perry to explain his decision to adopt those MSNBC glasses. More significantly, the piece basically chucked out almost everything we’ve learned about Rick Perry over his decades in politics to posit that he’s suddenly, mutatis mutandis, some sort of serious “bipartisan uniter” who’s shucked off the focus groups and polling and is finally just being his charming, fun-loving awesome self. It’s at best meta-level campaign bullshit, but this is how political journalism is practiced. The indictment—and the possibility that Perry could be knocked out of the running and even facing prison time because he’s a corrupt bully—blows a giant hole in the script.

There’s also a tendency on the part of political journalists to criticize anything that sanitizes the bloodsport of partisan politics. Like those football fans who belly-ache about new safety-conscious rules that “sissify” the game, political junkies are wedded to the idea that all’s fair in politics. That’s one reason, I think, why the press outside of Texas has been so incapable of seeing this through anything other than a partisan lens. The zealousness with which that line has been pursued—and reinforced by Perry’s allies—has led to some serious factual blunders and misconceptions. In the interest of trying to bring this episode back to reality, here are a few things to keep in mind.

More politics and policy below the fold.
02:07 McConnell's plan to halt Obama» POLITICO - TOP Stories
How he would lead the Senate if Republicans gain control of the chamber in 2015.
02:05 A bad week for Common Core» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Two polls find the public souring on the issue.
02:05 Pols on Ferguson: Sound of silence» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Democratic strategists say there's little to be gained by weighing in beyond brief statements.
02:04 Holder's big test: Ferguson» POLITICO - TOP Stories
And when he arrives, the attorney general will stare down his biggest political test.
01:14 Geraldo Rivera And The Victim-Blaming Of Black Teenagers» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Geraldo Rivera

Geraldo Rivera is once again citing alleged appearance as a mitigating factor in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager, evoking footage of Trayvon Martin wearing a hoodie to contextualize potential police motive for killing Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

While newly released video footage purports to show 18-year-old Brown robbing a convenience store prior to his death, Ferguson police have emphasized that the suspected crime is entirely unrelated to the police stop and subsequent shooting that resulted in Brown's death. According to the town police chief, Brown was stopped because he was "walking down the middle of the street blocking traffic."

This fact did not stop Fox News host Rivera from citing Brown's appearance in the video as potential evidence to the justification of Brown's death.

In an August 15 editorial for Fox News Latino, he wrote that even though police don't link the alleged robbery to Brown's police stop, "At the very least, watching the surveillance video of Brown allegedly robbing the convenience store should alter our perception of the victim. According to Rivera, "The portrait of the kid as an unarmed, innocent, college-bound youth ruthlessly shot in the back while trying to surrender seems incomplete at best." A few days later in a Fox News appearance, Rivera predicted that "menacing" footage of the unrelated robbery could lead to the acquittal of the officer who shot and killed Brown:

RIVERA: The white jurors will look at that convenience store surveillance tape. They will see Michael Brown menacing that clerk. The white jurors will put themselves in the shoes of that clerk. They'll say, of course the officer responded the way he did. He was menaced by a 6' 4", 300-pound kid, 10 minutes fresh from a strong-armed robbery. The officer was defending himself. The white jurors will put themselves in the white officer's place. The black jurors will see Michael Brown, despite his flaws, as the surrogate for every black youngster ever shot.

In both instances, to illustrate his point, Rivera invoked the appearance of Trayvon Martin. Citing surveillance video of Martin, a black teenager wearing a hoodie in a convenience store prior to his shooting death at the hands of George Zimmerman, Rivera wrote that the teen looked "like every 7/11 robbery suspect ever caught on tape."

Martin's appearance led to the acquittal of his killer, Rivera claimed, because "the jury of six women, five white and one Hispanic ... saw the young man through Zimmerman's eyes, threatening and dangerous."

The Fox host gained notoriety in 2012 for blaming the shooting death of Martin on his hoodie, what Rivera deemed "wannabe gangsta," "thug" attire. And despite promising in early 2014 to discontinue using the phrase "thug," which he conceded was akin to "the new n-word" following Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman's explanation that the words carried the same racial connotations, only four months later Rivera returned to using the pejorative on the Fox News airways.

Take a look at Rivera's record of using appearance as an explanatory variable when it comes to the shooting deaths of black teens:

00:19 Experts: Pro-Smog Pollution Report Is "Unmoored From Reality"» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

A recent study from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) claims that smog regulations proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will cost the economy $270 billion. But the regulations, necessary to alleviate the unsafe smog pollution currently experienced by 140 million Americans, will likely achieve net benefits by reducing costs associated with medical expenses and premature deaths, while experts have said the NAM study uses "fraudulent" claims and is "not based in economic reality."

Smoggy Skyline

EPA Required To Strengthen Smog Standards, Save Lives

Agency Required By Law To Propose More Stringent Regulations. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is legally required to regulate ground-level ozone pollution, commonly known as smog, under the Clean Air Act. The Act requires that the EPA revisit its National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) every five years to take the latest science into account, and most recently, the science showed that the agency needs to strengthen its ozone standards.  In June 2014, the EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee recommended that the agency lower the limit of ozone pollution from its current standard at 75 parts per billion (ppb) to between 60 and 70 ppb. A federal judge ruled that the agency needs to produce a draft of new, more stringent ozone regulations by December. [EPA.gov, accessed 8/19/14; EPA.gov, 6/26/14; Huffington Post, 4/30/14]

Current EPA Ozone Regulations Expose 4 In 10 Americans To Dangerous Pollution. The American Lung Association's State of the Air report found that between 2010 and 2012, more than 140 million Americans, or more than 4 in 10 Americans, lived in areas with dangerous levels of ozone. ALA detailed the risks of living in such a situation:

More than 140.5 million people live in the 296 counties that received an F for ozone levels. These people live where the monitored air quality places them at risk for premature death, aggravated asthma, difficulty breathing, cardiovascular harm and lower birth weight. The actual number who breathe unhealthy levels of ozone is likely much larger, since this number does not include people who live in adjacent counties in metropolitan areas where no monitors exist. [American Lung Association, State of the Air 2014, accessed 8/19/14]

Stronger Ozone Rules Would Help Prevent Up To 12,000 Premature Deaths Per Year, Bring $100 Billion Economic Benefits. The EPA has performed a regulatory impact analysis of the forthcoming rule and determined that more stringent, scientifically sound standards could help prevent up to to 12,000 premature deaths per year, and provide up to $100 billion in economic benefits from mortality and health improvements. [EPA.gov, 1/7/10

Proposed Regulations Under Attack, Industry-Funded Report Spreading Through Nationwide Media

Industry Lobbyists Already Attacking Proposed Rules -- Even Though They Don't Yet Exist. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), a trade group which lobbies for oil industry powerhouses like ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute, commissioned a report from NERA Economic Consulting to attack the forthcoming rules on ozone pollution. The study asserted that the EPA's more stringent ozone regulations will have huge effects on the economy, analyzing specifically a potential standard of 60 ppb of ground-level ozone. From the report's executive summary:

A new study by NERA Economic Consulting and commissioned by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) reveals that a new ozone regulation from the Obama Administration could cost $270 billion per year and place millions of jobs at risk.

This would be the most expensive regulation ever imposed on the American public.

[...]

The study found that a stricter new ozone regulation could:

  • Reduce U.S. GDP by $270 billion per year and $3.4 trillion from 2017 to 2040;
  • Result in 2.9 million fewer job equivalents per year on average through 2040;
  • Cost the average U.S. household $1,570 per year in the form of lost consumption; and
  • Increase natural gas and electricity costs for manufacturers and households across the country.

In brief, such a rule could place tremendous cost and compliance burdens on states and their resources. [The Hill, 5/1/08; National Association of Manufacturers, July 2014]

NAM Report Cited By Media Across The Country. Several national and state newspapers and a wire service have covered the report's findings uncritically or cited it to attack the EPA:

  • Bloomberg News amplified NERA's findings uncritically on August 1. The article noted that several Congressmen used the study to criticize the EPA, including Sen. David Vitter's (R-LA) statement that the regulations would "throw our country's economy into a black hole." [Bloomberg News, 8/1/14]
  • An op-ed published in the conservative news site Daily Caller cited the study to claim that environmental groups are only demanding "steadily more restrictive standards" because these groups "need to stay in business," while the regulations are unnecessarily costly. [Daily Caller, 8/15/14]
  • The Oklahoman board published an editorial titled "EPA regulations provide little long-term benefit," citing the NAM study to conclude that "with friends like the EPA, enemies are redundant." [The Oklahoman, 8/13/14]
  • A column from Anastasia Swearingen was published in the Tampa Tribune, the American-Statesman, and the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and claimed that the proposed strengthening of the ozone regulation is an "overreach that promises shared pain for minimal gain, one that serves only to extend Obama's control over the economy." Swearingen is a senior research analyst at the "Environmental Policy Alliance," an industry lobbying and public relations group spearheaded by Rick Berman, someone who relishes being called "Dr. Evil," that has targeted several EPA regulations.  [Tampa Tribune, 8/14/14; American-Statesman, 8/19/14; Las Vegas Review-Journal, 8/19/14; Huffington Post, 3/7/14]
  • The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed from Jay Timmons, the CEO of NAM, to tout the report's findings and demanded that the "EPA should put on the brakes and allow the existing ozone standards to be implemented." [Wall Street Journal, 8/13/14]
  • Several more newspapers and news sources across the country amplified the NERA report. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 8/10/14; Examiner.com, 8/9/14; American Press, 8/11/14; CNS News, 8/8/14; The Daily Signal, 8/4/14; Times-Picayune, 7/31/14]

Media Should Be Wary: Experts Criticize Report's Many Flaws

NYU's Michael Livermore: They Calculated Costs "In An Insane Way." Michael Livermore, senior advisor at New York University's (NYU) Institute for Policy Integrity explained during a telephone interview with Media Matters how NERA calculated costs in their study. Livermore noted that the EPA has concluded that existing technologies are not sufficient to meet the proposed ozone standards, and that the agency forecasted that technological advances will be necessary to reach them. But NERA extrapolates from the "Cash for Clunkers" program to account for the non-existing technologies, which Livermore stated was "an insane way" of doing so as the vehicle scrap program is not ideal for achieving environmental benefits. He expanded (edited lightly for clarity and emphasis added): NOx [nitrogen oxide] 

When EPA proposed revising the ozone NAAQS in 2010, it developed a list of technologies and their cost per ton of NOx [nitrogen oxide] reduction. Based on that list, NERA noted that existing technologies are not sufficient to meet the standards and then extrapolated an estimate for the costs of achieving the standards. So far so good. But they basically go about that extrapolation in an insane way.

For an anchor point, they look at the Cash for Clunkers program, which was basically an economic stimulus program, not an environmental program. And everyone agrees that it was an extremely expensive way to achieve environmental goals. As an environmental program, nobody thinks that this is a good idea. They look at that, they then look at the cost per unit of reduction of carbon dioxide in the Cash for Clunkers program and then draw a comparison to ozone. They estimate what they call a 75% NOreduction and extrapolate a cost of a half a million dollars per ton of NOreduction. Then they use a linear model to estimate the cost of achieving a new, tighter ozone standard, landing at a marginal cost of $120,000 per ton. 

[...]

That's what they do, and on the basis of that per-year reduction estimate, they generate claims that there's going to be... $1600 per person per family cost and other extravagant numbers about what the economic effects of the ozone standards are going to be. But the foundational cost estimates are unmoored from any economic reality. Certainly from any political reality. [Michael Livermore, 8/15/14, via Media Matters]

MIT's Frank Ackerman: Job-Loss Estimates Are "Fraudulent." Frank Ackerman, lecturer in climate and energy policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a senior economist at Synapse Energy Economics, criticized NERA for catering to the "demand" for "huge job loss[]" estimates by using "fraudulent" job-loss calculations. From an emailed statement to Media Matters:

[T]he job-loss calculations reported by NERA are completely fraudulent. As a careful reading of the report will reveal, the model they use NEVER calculates any actual job losses. It assumes full employment in every situation, following the theoretical prescriptions of the conservative, free-market-oriented economics that is based on. Yet, in the partisan circles they travel in, the demand for job loss estimates is overwhelming: what says "bad policy" better than "huge job losses"? So what they do is, literally, calculate a loss of income - typically based on complex economic modeling that suggests a slight reduction in average incomes - for the fully employed population. Then they divide the estimated total income loss by the average worker's income, and call the result "job-equivalent losses." That is, if they estimate a 1% overall drop in incomes (with everyone still employed, as their model always assumes), they report that as if it were a loss of 1% of all jobs. And since there are more than 100 million people employed in the US, 1% is more than a million people. [Frank Ackerman, 8/15/14, via Media Matters]

NERA Assumed "Unrealistic Picture" On Existing And Non-Existing Technologies. The EPA notes that technologies don't necessarily exist yet to bring ozone pollution levels down to the scientists' recommendations. Livermore explained that this is a common occurrence, and actually speaks more to why the regulations are necessary in an effort to spur needed technological development:

The EPA, in its own analysis, acknowledges that new technologies will need to be developed in order to reach the standard. That is not unusual, because companies don't have incentives to develop pollution control technologies if you haven't placed requirements on them. And so that's often the context when you have more stringent environmental regulation. When you have controls that you're expecting to be developed over time, it's hard to predict how much they're going to cost.

Typically, the costs of environmental regulation have not been as high as anticipated because we live in a dynamic economy - there's innovation, and there are a variety of ways that businesses figure out how to achieve environmental goals at low costs. So normally, the EPA adopts a regulation, businesses figure out how to comply, and it ends up being less expensive than anticipated. [Michael Livermore, 8/15/14, via Media Matters

Yet NERA's findings jump on the fact that not all technologies exist yet, and fill in their own version of how they will be accounted for, according to Ackerman:

The NERA report simply rejects EPA's cost projections, and decides to use the cost of scrapping old vehicles as the basis for the costs of many future emission reduction technologies. This produces a big number for the cost of future technologies, which then can be used to project a big income loss, which then turns into a big "job-equivalent" loss even though everyone is still (by their own assumption) fully employed. [Frank Ackerman, 8/15/14, via Media Matters]

Livermore added that NERA's analysis developed "an extraordinarily high and basically unrealistic picture of how expensive those costs are going to be" because they fail to account for the economic reality of businesses achieving low-cost ways to meet the standards:

What NERA's done is they've taken this fact that we don't know what the technologies are going to be, and developed an extraordinarily high and basically unrealistic picture of how expensive those costs are going to be. And that picture is unrealistic for many reasons. They use the Cash for Clunkers program to develop their baseline, which is highly problematic. They fail to account for the fact that, in past environmental regulations, we've seen businesses and industries develop and achieve low-cost ways of meeting standards. [Michael Livermore, 8/15/14, via Media Matters]

NERA Doesn't Account For Well-Established Flexibility, Adaptability. Livermore explained that the regulations will take years to implement as states submit their own plans for approval, and that the EPA is typically very flexible in the time period for allowing areas to reach compliance with the standards, but that NERA doesn't account for this reality in their economic analysis:

There is flexibility built into the NAAQS process that is meant to address cost issues. This is a multi-year process: EPA proposes the standards and then the states have to propose their state plans. To get an accurate picture of costs, you need to account for the time lag, and the fact that states will develop plans that reduce costs, and the fact that EPA won't, as a political reality, impose ridiculous or draconian costs.

Finally, to estimate employment effects, which is always a difficult and complex endeavor, NERA's analysis (in addition to using cost estimates that have some basis in reality) would need to accurately predict the macroeconomic situation several years from now, when the standards are actually implemented. [Michael Livermore, 8/14/14, via Media Matters]

  • In fact, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy released a statement on August 14 that the EPA is going to allow time for several areas around the country that are still in non-attainment with the current ozone standards to reach compliance, writing that "the EPA believes it is appropriate to allow time for the affected states to consider appropriate measures to address the air quality problems." [E&E News, 8/18/14]

NERA Doesn't Account For Any Benefits, Is Answering A "Senseless Question": The EPA has estimated that even with the most stringent standard of 60 ppb, the economic benefits of a stronger ozone regulation would outweigh the costs: up to $100 billion in benefits compared to $90 billion in costs. Ackerman explained that by not including the benefits, NERA is answering a "senseless question" in their economic analysis:

[T]here's no reason to follow NERA in forgetting the health benefits - that's the whole point of a regulation like this.

So in cost-benefit terms, they are answering the senseless question, "If there were no resulting health and environmental benefits, would it be worth engaging in environmental regulation?" The negative answer is not surprising, and is also not informative. If you don't need food, is it worth spending money in a supermarket? Yet the supermarkets are full of shoppers. Many costly environmental regulations have benefits far exceeding their costs; but you can't tell that from a study like NERA's. [EPA.gov, 1/7/10; Frank Ackerman, 8/15/14, via Media Matters]

NRDC Attorney: NERA Leaving Out The Benefits "Speaks To What A Propaganda Piece This Is." Emily Davis, an attorney at the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), stated in a telephone interview with Media Matters that the omission of benefits "speaks to what a propaganda piece this is and how divorced it is from reality" (edited lightly for clarity):

To take an even bigger step back, the most egregious part of their report is but also they don't even acknowledge anywhere that there are any benefits at all to reducing air pollution. We know for a fact that there are 150 million Americans in the country that breathe air that is unhealthy. Certainly they don't assign benefits to the tighter standards which is totally disingenuous in itself, and they don't even acknowledge that there's millions of Americans that have asthma, that have COPD, that have missed days of school and work because they can't go outside. More than anything, that failure to acknowledge the harms caused by air pollution, speaks to what a propaganda piece this is and how divorced it is from reality. [Emily Davis, 8/18/14, via Media Matters]

Analysis "Overlooks" Corresponding Strategies That Will Reduce Ozone. In a written statement to Media Matters, John A. "Skip" Laitner, a resource economist and principal consultant at Economic and Human Dimensions Research Associates, explained that the NERA analysis "overlooks two major strategies that are already in play which will both reduce costs and provide large-scale reductions in [o]zone concentrations," including the EPA's clean power plan (111d) which will reduce carbon pollution:

At the same time, the NERA analysis overlooks two major strategies that are already in play which will both reduce costs and provide large-scale reductions in Ozone concentrations. The first is the major fuel savings and emissions reductions from the new vehicle standards signed in to effect by the Obama Administration in August 2012...

The second is the large scale reductions catalyzed by the proposed EPA section 111d standards. In a May 2014 memo written by the EPA... the agency found that in addition to the climate benefits of reducing carbon dioxide emissions from electric power plants, health care benefits might range from $16 to $41 billion per year by 2030. [Skip Laitner, 8/18/14, via Media Matters]

There is well-established research showing that global warming worsens ozone concentrations, so the EPA's efforts to mitigate climate change will help alleviate smog pollution. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2011]

EPA: NERA's Study Is Premature. An EPA spokesperson stated in an email to Media Matters that NERA's analysis is "premature" and "not based on actual agency actions," and pointed out that the 40-year-old Clean Air Act has a track record of cutting air pollution while still growing the economy:

Any economic analysis on a new standard would be premature at this point and not based actual agency actions. History has proven time and time again we can reduce pollution--and grow the economy at the same time. Over the past 40+ years, we've cut air pollution by more than 70 percent and in the same time GDP has tripled. [EPA, 8/14/14, via Media Matters]

Pro-Industry Bias Makes NERA Regulation Report "Suspicious"

NERA's Industry Bias Makes The Report "Suspicious." NRDC attorney Emily Davis stated that NERA has a history of economic analyses with "flaws in assumptions" and "built-in industry bias," and said that they "reveal themselves" in the latest report when they "essentially call for gutting the Clean Air Act":

They reveal themselves in the last paragraph [of the executive summary], where they essentially call for gutting the Clean Air Act. I think that is the real driving force here in that industry has a fundamental problem with the fact that the Clean Air Act requires standards to be based on health and health alone.

[...]

We've come across a number of reports that NERA has done in a few different contexts that NRDC has blogged about... the flaws in assumptions and typical of the built-in industry bias in their reports is easy to pull out and just makes this report look even more suspicious. [Emily Davis, 8/18/14, via Media Matters]

NERA Consistently Finds "Environmental Protect" To Be "Horrendously Expensive." MIT's Frank Ackerman agreed that report's conclusions were predictable, as NERA consistently uses a model to find that "environmental protection is horrendously expensive":

The NERA report uses a model that they have used, again and again, to find that environmental protection is horrendously expensive. It's reliable; try it on a new problem, you'll get the same answer. [Frank Ackerman, 8/15/14, via Media Matters]

NERA Produced Similarly "Disingenuous" Report In 2011. NRDC has detailed the flaws in previous NERA reports, including a similar "disingenuous" study in 2011 on the EPA's ozone regulations. NRDC's Laurie Johnson wrote that "the company has conducted numerous analyses at the behest of polluters." [NRDC, 8/16/11]

Image at top from Flickr user JC Tuclaud with a Creative Commons license.

Tue 19 August, 2014

23:44 Media Carry Water For NRA's False Attack Ad That Claims Michael Bloomberg Wants To Ban Guns» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Media outlets are uncritically reporting the false claim in a new attack ad from the National Rifle Association that gun safety advocate Michael Bloomberg wants to "ban ... your guns." In fact, Bloomberg supports the right to own a gun.

The NRA is launching an ad campaign against Bloomberg due to the former New York City mayor's position as a chairman of gun violence prevention group Everytown for Gun Safety and his pledge to spend $50 million this election cycle in support of gun safety measures.

Although he is not a candidate for office in 2014, the NRA plans to run an ad in Senate battleground states attacking Bloomberg over his support for gun safety proposals. 

In the ad a narrator states, "Bloomberg tries to ban your snack food, your sodas and most of all, your guns." But neither Bloomberg nor Everytown for Gun Safety are proponents of general gun bans, a fact that some media outlets covering the NRA ad are leaving out of their reports.

23:38 What The Media Should Know About GOP Surrogate And Fox News Contributor Allen West» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Fox News contributor Allen West is endorsing and holding events for GOP candidates and organizations across the country. Republicans are accepting West's help despite his history of toxic remarks, including calling President Obama an "Islamist" and "disgusting racist," attacking feminists for "neutering American men," and smearing Democrats as communists, Nazis, and anti-Semites.

Allen West Is Endorsing Republican Candidates Across The Country

West Created The Allen West Guardian Fund To Support Republican Candidates. The Allen West Guardian Fund states it "was established as a PAC to support conservative military veteran and minority Republicans running for state and federal office, in the same vein as Allen West." West wrote in an email that he has "hand-picked 14 hard-charging conservatives that I know we can count on to bring conservative values back to Washington and I'm doing everything in my power to see that they are successful." [AllenWestGuardianFund.com, accessed 8/20/14; Allen West Guardian Fund email, 8/19/14

West Is Endorsing At Least Nine 2014 Candidates. West's endorsements include Dan Bongino (MD-6), Tom Cotton (AR-Senate), Joni Ernst (IA-Senate), Will Hurd (TX-23), Larry Kaifesh (Il-8), Barry Loudermilk (GA-11), Mia Love (UT-4), Lee Zeldin (NY-1), and Ryan Zinke (MT-At Large). He also promotes candidates "to watch" on his website, including Jorge Bonilla (FL-9). [AllenWestGuardianFund.com, accessed 8/20/14

West Attends Numerous Events For Republican Candidates. West has been participating in numerous events for Republicans candidates this election cycle such as Tom Cotton (AR-Senate), Dan Bongino (MD-6), and Mia Love (UT-4). [Arkansas Times, 5/16/14; ConstantContact.com, accessed 8/20/14]

West Is Keynoting Republican Party Fundraisers. West has been participating in numerous Republican Party fundraisers. West has headlined events for the Sarasota Republican Party (FL), Palm Beach County Republican Party (FL), and Knox County Republican Party (TN), among others. [Media Matters, 2/26/14]

Media On West's Support: "Controversial," "Extremist," Won't Appeal To Mainstream Voters

Arkansas Times' Brantley: "Do You Really Want To Be Seen" With West? Arkansas Times writer Max Brantley noted West's history of incendiary remarks and wondered why Arkansas Senate candidate Tom Cotton accepted the support of an "extremist." Brantley added: "Do you really want to be seen in public with this kind of person when mainstream voters will decide this election? It's another striking comment on Cotton's lack of judgment." [Arkansas Times, 5/16/14]

Newsday: "He's Not Going To Appeal To The District's Democrats And Some Non-Aligned Voters." Newsday's Washington correspondent Tom Brune reported on West's upcoming September 8 event with New York congressional candidate Lee Zeldin, and noted that West is "a controversial tea-party hero" who "will fire up Zeldin's conservative followers, but he's not going to appeal to the district's Democrats and some non-aligned voters." [Newsday, 8/14/14]

West's Smear Of Duckworth Became Campaign Baggage For Republican Challenger. In May, West questioned the "loyalties" of decorated veteran and Illinois Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D) for serving with her fellow Democrats on the Benghazi select committee. The attack became a campaign issue, as Duckworth's campaign criticized challenger Larry Kaifesh for accepting West's support. Media outlets, including the Chicago Sun-Times and Daily Herald, covered the controversy. [Media Matters, 5/22/14Daily Herald, 5/23/14; Chicago Sun-Times, 5/22/14]

West Smears Democrats As Racists, Communists, Nazis, Slaveholders

West Called Obama And Attorney General Holder "Vile And Disgusting Racists." West wrote of President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder: "How long will it be before 'you people' realize you have elevated someone to the office of president who abjectly despises you -- not to mention his henchman Holder. Combined they are the most vile and disgusting racists." [AllenBWest.com, 1/14/14, via Media Matters]  

West: "Barack Hussein Obama Is An Islamist." West wrote on his website that Obama "is purposefully enabling the Islamist cause" and concluded: "Sorry, but I can only explain this one way: Barack Hussein Obama is an Islamist in his foreign policy perspectives and supports their cause. You can go back and listen to his 2009 speech in Cairo, where Muslim Brotherhood associates were seated front and center." West repeated his claim in the media, telling Boston Herald Radio that "deep down inside, you know, Barack Hussein Obama has an Islamist sympathy ... I don't understand where this president's loyalties lie, and I have to ask the question, who's side is he on?" [AllenBWest.com, 8/13/14; Boston Herald Radio, Trending Now, 8/19/14]

West's Response To Whether Obama Is A Muslim: "The President Has An Eastern Orientation, I'll Put It That Way." At a July 12 event hosted by Republicans, West didn't dispute an audience member who falsely claimed that "Obama is a Muslim." Instead, West responded that he's "not going to get into that" but the president "has an Eastern orientation, I'll put it that way." He later added: "Don't care whether or not he's a Muslim. I care about his orientation. And his association." [Media Matters, 7/15/14]

West Said Holder Is A "Worse Threat" Than Al Qaeda. In a fundraising email, West claimed that Holder was a "bigger threat to our Republic" than terrorist Ayman al-Zawahiri, a former deputy of Osama bin Laden. [Media Matters, 6/7/13]

West: "The Democrat Party Is An Anti-Semitic Party." During an interview on Boston Herald Radio, West claimed Obama was "withholding" aid to Israel, and that the "Democrat Party is an anti-Semitic party." [Boston Herald Radio, Trending Now, 8/19/14]

West Compared Democrats To Nazis, Called Media "Complicit." West told reporters in December 2011: "If Joseph Goebbels was around, he'd be very proud of the Democrat Party, because they have an incredible propaganda machine ... Let's be honest, you know, some of the people in the media are complicit with this and enabling them to get that type of message out." [Media Matters, 5/17/13]

West Falsely Accused Dozens Of Congressional Democrats Of Being Communists. West accused roughly 80 Democratic House members of being "members of the Communist Party. ... It's called the Congressional Progressive Caucus." [Media Matters, 5/17/13]

West Invokes Slavery To Attack Democrats. West has claimed that Democrats are keeping black voters on a "plantation." He also said that "the Democratic appetite for ever-increasing redistributionary handouts is in fact the most insidious form of slavery remaining in the world today" and President Obama would "rather you be his slave." [Media Matters, 5/17/13]

West Uses Toxic Rhetoric Against Women

West Agreed With Radio Host That "Khmer Rouge Feminists" Are Attempting A "Coup" Against The Military. During an appearance on Michael Savage's radio program, West agreed with Savage's assertion that "Khmer Rouge feminists" are attempting a "coup" against the military by proposing to change the military chain of command in sexual assault cases. West also criticized liberals for wanting to "put women into combat arms units ... so that they can meet some socially engineering goal or egalitarian goal." [Media Matters, 6/6/13]

West: Feminists Are "Neutering American Men." West has criticized liberal women for "neutering American men and bringing us to the point of this incredible weakness" and said "we are not going to have our men become subservient." He was also denounced for comments about Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) in which he wrote to her, "You have proven repeatedly that you are not a Lady, therefore, shall not be afforded due respect from me!" [Media Matters, 5/17/13]

West Has A Conspiratorial And Inconsistent Take On Current Events

West Called For Obama's Impeachment -- Then Took It Back. West has fundraised off of the prospect of the impeachment of President Obama, which he supported and claimed was "gaining speed!" When Democrats began to push back against impeachment talk, West flip-flopped and told followers that impeachment is "not happening" because  "evil" Democrats had "successfully made the word 'impeachment' verboten in America," adding, "In fact, they've managed to turn it into political heyday as they celebrate fundraising records based on generating fear among their base over something that's not happening." [Media Matters, 7/30/14]

West: "Fishy" Focus On Kidnapped Nigerian Girls Is Meant To Distract From Benghazi. West wrote a post headlined, "Focus on Boko Haram right now seems fishy to me," which accused the Obama administration of disingenuously caring about the kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls by the Boko Haram terrorist organization, claiming the administration was attempting to distract the public from "all the scandals facing the Obama administration, especially Benghazi and the Select Committee." [Media Matters, 5/12/14]

West: Obama "Purposefully Creating Drama" Like Malaysia Airlines MH17 Crash. West wrote on his website:

Sadly, hundreds of Ukrainians and 298 souls on MH17 have paid the price for the weakness and abject cowardice of Obama's "flexibility."

And here in America we quibble over a lawsuit against this charlatan.

The blood on Vladimir Putin's hands was poured by Barack Obama who is indirectly responsible, accountable and no different than Neville Chamberlain's weakness in the face of the 20th Century maniacal dictator Adolf Hitler.

So much for no drama Obama. He is purposefully creating drama globally. [AllenBWest.com, 7/18/14, via Media Matters]

West Dismissed Capture Of Benghazi Terrorist Suspect After Previously Calling For His Capture. In June, West dismissed the capture of Benghazi terrorist suspect Ahmed Abu Khattala as a "smoke and mirrors" ploy and questioned whether Abu Khattala was really the "mastermind" behind the attacks or "the Obama administration's fall guy." But in January, West co-signed a letter calling for Khattala's capture because he was the "ringleader of the attack." [Media Matters, 6/18/14]

West Has History Of Other Toxic Behavior

West Assaulted An Iraqi Detainee. In 2003 West admitted that he "threatened to kill" an Iraqi detainee in his custody; watched "four of his soldiers from the 220th Field Artillery Battalion beat the detainee on the head and body"; and, according to military prosecutors, he "followed up on that threat" to kill the detainee by shooting near his head. He was eventually "stripped of his command after pleading guilty to assaulting an Iraqi detainee during interrogation." [Media Matters, 2/8/10]

West Has A History Of Islamophobia. West claimed that "Islam is a totalitarian theocratic political ideology, it is not a religion. It has not been a religion since 622 AD, and we need to have individuals stand up and say that." [Media Matters, 5/17/13]

West's Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric. West has warned that illegal immigration is like an "invasion into your country." He's also accused Democratic officials of being "almost treasonous" by inviting undocumented immigrants to attend a hearing on the DREAM Act. [Media Matters, 5/17/13]

West Left Conservative Website After He Reportedly "Had An Anti-Semitic Exchange With A Staffer, Calling Her A 'Jewish American princess.'" West left the conservative website Pajamas Media after, according to BuzzFeed, West had "an altercation with a female staffer in which he allegedly called her a 'Jewish American princess' ... Asked specifically whether he referred to the employee as a 'Jewish American princess,' West said simply, 'There was an exchange, that's all.'" [BuzzFeed, 9/26/13]

West Claimed Government Safety Net Programs Create "Economic Dependency Plantation" In Inner Cities. [Fox News, On The Record with Greta Van Susteren, 2/4/14, via Media Matters

23:07 Fox News Falsely Portrays Federal Investigation In Ferguson As Unusual» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Fox News has repeatedly dismissed the federal civil rights investigation into the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, calling it "political optics" and an example of President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder playing "the race card." In fact, under long-standing civil rights law, the federal government has parallel investigative powers alongside local authorities and frequently investigates local police departments that may have a pattern or practice of abuse.

Federal Investigation Underway In Case Of Michael Brown Shooting

Federal Investigators Focus On Violations Of Federal Civil Rights, Not State Criminal ChargesThe Wall Street Journal explained that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is working parallel to the St. Louis County Police. The federal investigation is a "civil-rights probe," whereas the local police department is in charge of the main criminal investigation.

[T]he decision of whether to charge Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the death of the unarmed 18-year-old is subject to a process that can be exhaustive and prolonged, with any outcome expected to be weeks or more away. And the U.S. Justice Department's civil-rights probe probably will take months, a law-enforcement official said.

St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch could begin presenting evidence on Wednesday to a 12-member grand jury, which will decide on criminal charges, his office said.

[...]

St. Louis County Police are in charge of the main investigation into Mr. Brown's death. At the same time, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into whether his civil rights were violated. [The Wall Street Journal8/18/14]

Fox News Claims Federal Investigation Unusual And Unprecedented

On Fox, WSJ's Jason Riley: DOJ Investigation Is "Being Done Purely For Optics." During the August 18 broadcast of Fox News' Special Report With Bret BaierWall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley said that the Department of Justice is conducting its own investigation for political optics:

RILEY: I've talked to some former federal prosecutors in the Department of Justice and they find this very odd, this parallel investigation going on. They say normally if the feds sit back, they let the local authorities do their job. They see something amiss then they intervene. That has not been alleged here. Or if the police department has a history of civil rights violations, then the Department of Justice might intervene early. Again, that has not been alleged here.

I think this is a parallel investigation being done purely for optics, political pressure that the president is feeling from his left to be shown doing something, I think that's what driving it. [Fox News, Special Report, 8/18/14]

Fox News Legal Analyst Peter Johnson Jr.,: Federal Autopsy Of Brown Is "Absolute Garbage." On Fox & Friends, guest host Peter Johnson Jr., commented on the federal autopsy of Michael Brown, part of the federal civil rights investigation, calling the procedure "inherently political" and "absolute garbage" (emphasis added):

KILMEADE: Are you surprised the attorney general weighed in so heavily? He's given in to the family's request for a third autopsy by the federal government. He said yes. Is it right?

JOHNSON JR.: It's inherently political. It's not right. It's wrong. Michael Baden, greatest forensic pathologist in the country, has done independent autopsies. The state is doing an autopsy. This is done to appease crowds. This is done to mollify the masses. This is done to say the president is in it, the president cares about Michael Brown. This is absolute garbage. This is nonsense. It's disrespectful to Michael Baden. It's disrespectful to the local authorities. And the federal government is saying that time and time again, forty F.B.I. Agents, they're saying the president is calling on three, four times a day. That's what he is preoccupied with during his vacation. He's saying I'm going to see what happens there in Ferguson. I'm going to get justice done. [Fox News, Fox & Friends8/18/14]

Fox's Bret Baier Said Federal Investigation Implies Local Investigation Doesn't Meet Standards. On August 19, Fox News' Bret Baier claimed that the federal investigation into civil rights violations implied that the local investigation into the death of Michael Brown was not "meeting standards." Fox News guest and Wall Street Journal editor Jason Riley claimed that a federal investigation was unprecedented and argued that it was President Obama's attempt to be a "racial healer." [Fox News, Special Report8/19/14]

Frequent Fox Guest: Obama And Eric Holder Are Playing The Race Card. Regular Fox News guest Niger Innis, an executive director of TeaParty.net argued that President Obama and Eric Holder's handling of the Michael Brown case was an example of playing "the race card" because a "black attorney general is investigating it." [Fox News, On The Record with Greta Van Susteren8/15/14]

In Fact, Federal Investigations Into Deaths Caused By Law Officers Are Based On Long-Standing Civil Rights Law

AP: "Many Federal Civil Rights Cases Involve Police Or Other Authorities Abusing Their Power." The Associated Press explained that the federal government's mandate to investigate potential abuses of authority by state authorities dates back to Reconstruction through modern cases such as the Rodney King beating. AP pointed out that federal investigations can involve hate crimes and civil rights violations, especially in "racially charged cases":

The federal government has claimed its power of protecting civil rights against violence as far back as the Reconstruction era. Empowered by constitutional amendments and early civil rights laws passed after the Civil War, the government sought to protect newly freed blacks and their voting rights, mostly from the Ku Klux Klan.

[...]

Many federal civil rights cases involve police or other authorities abusing their power under "the color of law." Unlike in hate crime cases, prosecutors don't have to prove that these civil rights violations were motivated by racism or other bias.

Still, the best-known convictions came in racially charged cases:

--Rodney King led law officers on a high-speed chase in March 1991 and, once stopped, was slow to obey their commands. Police reacted by kicking King, clubbing him with their batons and shocking him with stun guns, causing 11 skull fractures. A witness' video of white policemen pummeling a black man as he lay on the ground played over and over on national television. Four Los Angeles officers were charged with assault; a jury with no black members acquitted them. The verdicts sparked rioting that set Los Angeles aflame and cost 55 lives, prompting King's famous plea "Can we all get along?" The Justice Department charged the officers with civil rights violations. After a second trial, two were convicted and sentenced to 30 months in prison. Two were acquitted. [Associated Press, 8/18/14]

Since 1994, Many Police Departments In U.S. Have Entered Into Consent Decrees Following Federal Civil Rights Investigations. Joe Domanick, associate director of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice (CMCJ), has explained that the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act passed in 1994 in response to the police beating of Rodney King and gave the U.S. government the power to sue police agencies for a "pattern and practice" of violating civil rights. DOJ can compel these police departments to change their actions through a consent decree and subsequent federal monitoring, a type of court supervision "about 20 cities have entered into":

One of the most significant pieces of civil rights legislation passed in the closing decades of the 20th century is also one of the most overlooked.

The 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, passed following the savage 1991 beating of African American motorist Rodney King by four LAPD officers and the catastrophic Los Angeles Riots a year later, gave the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice an extraordinary mandate.

One of the law's provisions empowered the government to sue police agencies anywhere in the country if they exhibited a "pattern and practice" of using excessive force and/or violating people's civil rights--and compel them, under what's known as a "consent decree," to change those practices.

Since the law came into effect 20 years ago, two things have become apparent: how resistant many police departments remain to fundamental reform; and how critical, therefore, the consent decree has been--first, in forcing police departments to jettison their often brutal racist, and unaccountable warrior-cop cultures; and second, in transforming them into organizations committed to policing constitutionally and with legitimacy among the populations they serve.

Currently about 20 cities have entered into consent decrees or "memos of understanding" with the Department of Justice (DOJ), usually under threat of civil rights lawsuits filed by the DOJ if they refused.

The departments and police agencies vary widely: they have included Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Oakland, New Orleans, Portland, Oregon, Cleveland, New York City, Detroit, the New Jersey State Police, the Virgin Islands PD, and, most recently, departments in Seattle, Albuquerque, NM and Newark, NJ. [The Crime Report, 7/15/14

Investigations Into Police Departments For Civil Rights Violations Intensified In 2011. According to The Washington Post, the Obama administration ramped up investigations of civil rights abuses in local police departments nationwide in 2011, addressing a problem "experts on police brutality" had long complained about:

The Obama administration is ramping up civil rights enforcement against local police nationwide, opening a number of investigations to determine whether officers are guilty of brutality or discrimination against Hispanics and other minorities.

In recent months, the Justice Department has begun inquiries into major city police departments such as Portland, Ore., where officers shot several people who had mental health issues, and Seattle, where police were accused of gunning down a homeless Native American woodcarver. The department issued a scathing report earlier this month accusing Puerto Rico police of a "staggering level of crime and corruption.''

Justice's Civil Rights Division is conducting 17 probes of police and sheriff departments -- the largest number in its 54-year history. The investigations are civil, meaning they will not lead to criminal charges, but can result in court-enforced reforms.

The federal effort, part of the administration's heightened enforcement of civil rights laws, has won praise from advocacy groups and experts on police brutality.

[...]

Robert McNeilly, who was police chief in Pittsburgh during a five-year court-approved monitoring period after a Justice Department probe, said "there is some unnecessary alarm about these investigations.''

"There is no doubt it was an enormous help because dramatic change happened so quickly,'' said McNeilly, whose former department was accused of excessive force and other violations and released from monitoring in 2002.

"It changed the culture of the entire organization,'' he said. "We became more accountable.'' [The Washington Post,9/17/11]

Connor Land and Cal Colgan contributed research to this report. 

22:55 Fox Host Suggests All Muslims Are Like ISIS, Says Problem Should Be Solved "With A Bullet To The Head"» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

From the August 20 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:

ANDREA TANTAROS: If you study the history of Islam. Our ship captains were getting murdered. The French had to tip us off. I mean these were the days of Thomas Jefferson. They've been doing the same thing. This isn't a surprise. You can't solve it with a dialogue. You can't solve it with a summit. You solve it with a bullet to the head. Its the only thing these people understand. And all we've heard from this president is a case to heap praise on this religion, as if to appease them. 

Previously:

How Fox News Has A Conversation About Islam

Laura Ingraham Defies Reality, Suggests Muslim Leaders Haven't Condemned ISIS Violence

Right-Wing Media Try To Make Boko Haram The New Face Of Islam

22:54 Daily Kos Elections: Alaska primary liveblog #3» Daily Kos
Daily Kos Elections Liveblog Banner
Tonight voters in Alaska go to the polls in their party primary, and the GOP will pick their nominee in the hotly contested U.S. Senate race. (Wyoming is also up, but there aren't any notable statewide or federal races to watch there.)

There will also be a special election in Virginia's SD-38 that will either cement the Republican majority or hand the chamber back to the Democrats. Our guide to both races can be found here. Poll close in Virginia at 7:00 PM ET and in Alaska at 12 AM ET and we'll be bringing you tonight's results as they come in. You can keep track of the winners just below.

Results: Alaska: Summary, by State House District (district descriptions) | Virginia | Wyoming

Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 11:06 PM PT: There are two Dan Sullivan's on the statewide ballot tonight. One is the Senate candidate and former State Natural Resources Commissioner. The other is the Anchorage Mayor, who is easily winning the Republican primary for lieutenant governor. In Alaska governor and lieutenant governor candidates are nominated separately but shackled together in the general on one ticket.  

Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 11:06 PM PT: 32 percent in and things are a little closer again for U.S. Senate. Sullivan leads Miller 39-33, with Treadwell at 25.

Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 11:13 PM PT: A good chunk of that vote was from Miller's base outside Anchorage, with some of the city itself thrown in. Some rural areas like Kodiak also came in.

The needle didn't change too much on Measure 1: It now leads by 478 votes.

Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 11:27 PM PT: It looks like quite a bit of Mat-Su's in. Miller doesn't seem to be where he needs to be right now.

Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 11:32 PM PT: Now at 38 percent in and Sullivan remains ahead 39-33. Measure 1 is down now, losing by 1,069 votes. This is the largest gap of the night.

Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 11:36 PM PT: That last batch had more Mat-Su, with Anchorage and Kenai mixed in. Miller's just not doing what he needs to do.

12:03 AM PT: 56 percent reporting and Sullivan's lead is back to 40-33. This one is over. Sullivan will face Democratic Sen. Mark Begich is one of the most hotly contested races in the country. Referendum 1 remains tight, with No up 2,066.

With that, we're calling it a night here. Thanks for reading and see you next week for Arizona, Florida, and the OK-05 GOP runoff.

21:15 Memory Making Linked to Gene and Protein, Research Shows» LiveScience.com
Discovery of the Arc gene and its like-named protein is leading to breakthroughs in how memories form and are recalled as well as giving hope to developing treatments for memory disorders like Alzheimer’s.
21:00 Daily Kos Elections: Alaska primary liveblog #2» Daily Kos
Daily Kos Elections Liveblog Banner
Tonight voters in Alaska go to the polls in their party primary, and the GOP will pick their nominee in the hotly contested U.S. Senate race. (Wyoming is also up, but there aren't any notable statewide or federal races to watch there.)

There will also be a special election in Virginia's SD-38 that will either cement the Republican majority or hand the chamber back to the Democrats. Our guide to both races can be found here. Poll close in Virginia at 7:00 PM ET and in Alaska at 12 AM ET and we'll be bringing you tonight's results as they come in. You can keep track of the winners just below.

Results: Alaska: Summary, by State House District (district descriptions) | Virginia | Wyoming

Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 9:08 PM PT: Alaska does not report results by county (or borough), but by state House district. You can check out the district description tab for a look at what district corresponds with area of the state.

Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 9:42 PM PT: In 2008 and 2010, we got our first Alaska results at about 1:15 AM ET. The good news is it represented over a quarter of the vote both times. No guarantee that'll happen again, but worth noting.

Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 10:00 PM PT: Something you may notice is that Democrats, Libertarians, and the Alaska Independence Party is listed on one ballot line. Those primaries are open to any voter, while the Republican primary is closed to only registered Republicans and unaffiliated voters. Somewhat weirdly, it means mark Begich is running under the ADL ballot line tonight, even though there is no "ADL" party.

Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 10:06 PM PT: Results! With 17 percent reporting, national party favorite Dan Sullivan leads tea partier Joe Miller 40-33, with Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell at 24.

Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 10:18 PM PT: Results are coming in from all parts of the state, but the Fairbanks area seems to be further ahead than anywhere else. We can't get district by district results yet so we can't tell who that would benefit. The good news for Miller is that much of suburban Anchorage where he cleaned up last time is still out, but far from clear at this point where things stand.

Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 10:26 PM PT: Now up to 21 percent reporting and things are still where they were.

Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 10:31 PM PT: The good news for Miller is his 2010 base in suburban Anchorage (namely the Mat-Su Valley) is almost all out. That area corresponds roughly to HDs 7-14, a lot of heavily red area around Anchorage.

Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 10:40 PM PT: We have a tight race for Measure 1: If passed, the state's tax break for oil companies will be repealed. Yes (pro-repeal) leads 51-49, or by 552 votes. There's a lot to go, and the very red areas outside Anchorage and in the Mat-Su Valley are largely out.

Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 10:42 PM PT: We also have a close race for Measure 1: If it passes, it would repeal the state's new tax cut for oil companies. Yes leads 51-49 (by 552 votes), but a lot of red areas outside Anchorage and in the Mat-Su Valley are out.

Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 10:48 PM PT: 25 percent in and Sullivan has slightly extended his lead to 40-32. Measure 1 is up 686 votes.

Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 10:55 PM PT: The liveblog continues here.

20:00 Open thread for night owls: Carbon Tracker warns investors that oil megaprojects have megarisks» Daily Kos
Night Owls
Elizabeth Douglass at InsideClimate News, writes Wall Street Warned About $91 Billion of High-Risk Oil Megaprojects:

Critics of environmentally risky oil projects proposed for deep undersea and Canada's tar sands got new ammunition last week when a report labeled those ventures and others as the industry's most financially questionable pursuits.

The new report, published by the Carbon Tracker Initiative (CTI), identifies a host of drawing-board oil projects that would cost a combined $91 billion over the next decade—and that would lose money if lower demand, carbon restrictions or other factors forced crude prices below $95 a barrel. Many of the projects need oil prices to settle substantially higher than $110 a barrel to break even, CTI said.

It's the latest in a string of offerings from London-based CTI, a non-profit that has been highlighting climate-related risks and costs that they believe are not being addressed by fossil fuel companies or reflected in financial markets. Through a pair of earlier reports, the group helped popularize the notion that fossil fuel companies could end up with valueless "unburnable carbon," or stranded assets, if governments move to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

By highlighting the financial risk of specific mega-projects in its latest work, CTI hopes to convince more Wall Street analysts and oil company investors to pressure ExxonMobil, BP, Shell and others to justify the expenses or cancel development.

"I think by drawing attention to the questionable nature of some of these projects, this gives investors more power to challenge the [money] that's being spent on them," said Andrew Grant, financial analyst for CTI and primary author of the new report. "The more [spending] that gets cancelled, the fewer projects that go ahead, the less carbon emitted into the atmosphere." […]


Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2006A Sense of Urgency, Please:

It's difficult to appreciate the magnitude of self-censorship in the American media until you're exposed to how the foreign press reports on a given conflict. Watching the news here in Greece has helped to put things into perspective.

Here, and in nations across the globe, America's dirty little secret is exposed for the entire world to see. It's a difficult transition to make, the one from filtered news dolled up in blazing graphics and theme music to this unadulterated version of reality pouring into television sets around the globe. The anchor will usually preface the segment with a warning ("the images you are about see are disturbing, but we feel we have to show them to you"), and before your heart has a chance to tell your mind to look away, you're looking at Iraq. The camera pans the street. It's strewn with debris, not flowers. The blackened skeleton of some family car is in the foreground. There's a screaming woman on her knees, slapping her hands on the ground (the puddle of blood she's in, the reporter kindly reminds us, is that of her son). And suddenly, you feel that all-too familiar feeling as your eyes begin to sting and tear up for the death of a stranger.

Of course, it's not just the death of this particular Iraqi, this stranger that affects us so. It is the death of thousands who preceded him that weigh like a million anvils on our conscience, and it's the inevitable death of thousands more that make the shame rise so quickly to our cheeks when we're confronted with the consequences of our action (or inaction, as it may be).


Tweet of the Day
It would be a huge mistake to excuse the latest #Ferguson area murder by police because victim allegedly had a knife http://t.co/...
@peterlauer


On today's Kagro in the Morning show: Ferguson news continues this morning, as the bigger name national press declares it OK to consider the situation outrageous. GunFAIL is back in the news this morning, with the accidental shooting of a 7-year-old boy by his grandmother, who mistook him for an intruder. Again. Greg Dworkin brought us another round of Rick Perry indictment news, and a thought or two about Ferguson. Updates via Rei and WaPo on volcanic rumblings in Iceland. 3-D printed guns actually made out of metal have arrived. And GideonAB calls in to give us the overseas observers' view of Ferguson, and point to Phoebe Loosinhouse's diary on the subject.


High Impact Posts. Top Comments
18:35 Ferguson media blur the lines» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Some national journalists inject their perspective and even themselves into the story.
18:27 What Is Fluid Dynamics?» LiveScience.com
Fluid dynamics is the study of the movement of liquids and gases. Fluid dynamics applies to many fields, including astronomy, biology, engineering and geology.
18:19 The making of Vladimir Putin» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Opinion: His aggression makes sense with what has defined his presidency: turning back the clock.
18:03 Ten Questions to Ask Your Doctor After a Cancer Diagnosis» LiveScience.com
If diagnosed with cancer, these questions can help you "prepare for battle."
16:30 Obamacare fades from GOP's 2014 campaign playbook» Daily Kos
U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney pauses as he gives his reaction to the Supreme Court's upholding key parts of President Barack Obama's signature healthcare overhaul law in Washington June 28, 2012.  Romney said on Thursday that the Amer
Didn't work then. Not working now. And finally giving up.
With Obamacare causing uninsurance rates to plummet and delivering insurance to millions of newly insured Americans, this is no surprise:
Who could possibly have guessed that the reality of Obamacare—specifically, plummeting uninsurance rates and millions of newly insured Americans—would lead the GOP to back away from its anti-Obamacare campaign?
The numbers are clear:
In April, anti-Obamacare advertising dwarfed all other spots in North Carolina. It accounted for 3,061, or 54 percent, of the 5,704 top five issue ads in North Carolina, according to Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group. By July, the numbers had reversed, with anti-Obamacare ads accounting for 971, or 27 percent, of the top issue ads, and the budget, government spending, jobs and unemployment accounting for 2,608, or 72 percent, of such ads, CMAG data show.
According to Bloomberg, the same thing is happening in Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, and in other competitive races around the country. And, as you might recall, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was ahead of the curve in Kentucky when he actually tried to claim that repealing Obamacare nationwide wouldn't undo his home state's implementation of the law.

The fact that Republicans are starting to walk away from Obamacare-bashing now that it's becoming reality is exactly what everyone paying attention to this should have expected. And the fact that it's happening should encourage Democrats to go on the offense: Republicans might not be spending as much money to advertise their support for repeal, but they still support repeal. And supporting repeal means that they want to repeal insurance from millions of Americans. That's not a good position to have when you're asking people for their votes, but the only way they're going to pay price for it is if Democrats make them pay a price.

16:09 Get a Death Grip! Why Snakes Don't Slip When Climbing Trees» LiveScience.com
Some snakes seem to be little scaredy-cats, as research finds when climbing trees, they hold on for dear life, using a much greater force than is needed to grip tree trunks. The finding suggests snakes prefer to play it safe than conserve energy.
16:09 How Snakes Slither Up Trees | Video» LiveScience.com
A carpet python climbs a tree (not slow motion). The graph above shows the force being exerted as the snake grips the tree on the way up.
14:50 Cartoon: New Michael Brown info» Daily Kos

Keep Keef cartooning! Become a patron at PATREON!!

14:30 Daily Kos Elections ad roundup: As things get worse for Ed FitzGerald, the RGA piles on» Daily Kos

Leading Off:

OH-Gov: Things sound pretty rough for Democrat Ed FitzGerald, who's reportedly losing many of his top staffers and consultants, including his campaign manager and communications director, just seven weeks before the start of early voting in Ohio. These departures, though, are just outward symptoms of severe, ongoing problems.

For one, FitzGerald has a serious lack of campaign cash that may keep him off the air after Labor Day. For another, FitzGerald's public image has taken a serious hit after recent revelations that he went a decade without a valid driver's license but drove vehicles paid for by taxpayers during that time. Making matters worse, he repeatedly punished his own employees for the exact same offense.

The Republican Governors Association is pouncing on this serious lapse in judgment with a new ad that features clips of TV news anchors discussing the story, as well as man-on-the-street interviews from those same news reports with folks who pronounce the whole episode "shady." The spot also references the fact that FitzGerald's campaign was anything but forthcoming about the whole affair. With his communications staff heading for the exits, answering those questions won't get any easier.

Meanwhile Republican Gov. John Kasich, who FitzGerald is hoping to unseat, goes positive. His spot features a police officer describing Kasich as tough, but effective. Interestingly, the guy says that when Kasich came into office he upset many working people, including him, but the governor listened to his critics. Seems like a reference to the 2011 SB-05 debacle, and Kasich's subsequent recovery. (David Nir & Jeff Singer)

Head below the fold for more.

14:20 Flu Shot Recommended for All Pregnant Women» LiveScience.com
Pregnant? Then you should get a flu shot, according to new guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
14:16 House says no to 'ice challenge'» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Lawmakers posting videos of the challenge on official accounts are violating House rules.
14:01 Runtastic Orbit: Fitness Tracker Review » LiveScience.com
The Runtastic Orbit is a fitness tracker that monitors both daily activity and sleep habits, but does it stand out from other fitness trackers?
13:39 Beyond Bulletproof: New 'X-Vehicles' Take Stealth to the Extreme» LiveScience.com
Imagine an armored truck that can drive itself, is invisible to enemies and can travel at extreme speeds. That's the type of truck the Pentagon is hoping to develop through its new ground X-vehicle (GXV-T) program.
13:31 In Images: Stealthy Armored Vehicles Go Beyond Bulletproof» LiveScience.com
Imagine an armored truck that can drive itself, is invisible to enemies and can travel at extreme speeds. That's the type of truck the Pentagon is hoping to develop through its new ground X-vehicle program.
12:55 Police to Al Jazeera: 'I'll bust your head right here'» Daily Kos
A police officer gesturing. Chyron: 'Police to Al Jazeera journalist in Ferguson: 'Ill bust your ass'
Al Jazeera America producer Aaron Ernst recounts his team's encounter with law enforcement last night near Ferguson, Missouri. And yes, they filmed it:
At this point, the officer approached me and grabbed my wrist.

Officer 1 (holding my arm): Don’t resist. I’ll bust your ass. I’ll bust your head right here.

Me: (to JP) Are you filming this?

Officer 1: Film it! I don’t give a sh*t. Because you’ll go, and I’ll sure confiscate your film for evidence. [...]

[T]he more I thought about it, the more the encounter seemed emblematic, albeit on a vastly smaller and, by comparison, almost insignificant scale, of the dynamics we’re reporting on in Ferguson.

Not insignificant, and not smaller. A three-person media team with a camera rolling nearly had got their heads "busted" for the non-crime of stopping in a neighborhood that the local cops didn't want him in. That's what's happening in Ferguson every night, between the militarized police and fed-up citizens. They're not tear gassing "violent" protesters, they're tear gassing anyone who dares be outside their own home at night. Ferguson has become a sundown town for the press and its own residents.

If that encounter is what happens to people with cameras rolling, you can bet that it would have been much, much worse if the camera wasn't there—and that's what we're seeing, night after night. Tear gas, rubber bullets, and an entire neighborhood being treated like residents are stray dogs. The police aggression seems so routine; all the reporters are reporting the same things, coming from different officers in different jurisdictions and departments. It may have been happening for 10 or 20 or 50 years in these neighborhoods, when the cameras weren't there, but now that the cameras are there, they're showing police forces acting out in a pattern that clearly didn't start a week ago. We wondered at first why the authorities were acting in ways that would obviously generate public rage; it seems clear at this point that the persons orchestrating the police response simply do not care if they generate rage or not.

They don't see it as a mission to restore public safety, they see it as a mission to quell an insurrection against them. And the "rioters," the people in the neighborhoods who are fed up, understand this too. They understand this much better than the reporters do, or the photographers, or anyone else.

12:53 Bored with Your Fitness Tracker? Better Devices Are on the Way» LiveScience.com
About a third of people who buy a smart wearable, such as a fitness tracker or smartwatch, abandon the device after six to 12 months, according to a recent poll.
12:52 How Do Monster Black Holes Form? New Find May Provide 'Missing Link'» LiveScience.com
Black holes are some of the strangest objects in the universe, and they typically fall into one of two size extremes: "small" ones that are dozens of times more massive than the sun and other "supermassive" black holes that are billions of times larger th
12:01 Cop cams could change police behavior, but technology can only do so much » Daily Kos
Oakland cops at Oscar Grant protests, Nov. 5, 2010.
Most police don't like having their actions filmed. That's been pretty obvious in Ferguson, Missouri, given the number of journalists who have been arrested. Not to mention the number of citizens who have had their phones or cameras confiscated because they contain video or still shots of police at protests or other situations making arrests. Cops have blocked photographers (and sometimes roughed them up) and smashed their cameras whether they are journalists or just tourists. Such police behavior was typical at Occupy protests. They've used strobe lights to blind cameras and fired rubber bullets to block video from being recorded or still shots from being snapped. The Department of Justice has made clear that citizens have a broad right to record video of police activity. But that obviously hasn't filtered down everywhere it should.

Not that this new. Camera-wielders—protesters, journalists, passersby—have been special targets of police harassment, confiscation and whacks with billyclubs for decades.  The problem for them now is that photos and video can go viral while the police action is still underway.

There could be a change in the wind, however. Putting body cameras on the cops the same as dash cams in patrol cruisers is gaining support among police critics and even in a few law enforcement circles. Here's Christopher Mims reporting:
So it is in Rialto, Calif., where an entire police force is wearing so-called body-mounted cameras, no bigger than pagers, that record everything that transpires between officers and citizens. In the first year after the cameras' introduction, the use of force by officers declined 60%, and citizen complaints against police fell 88%. [...]

Michael White, a professor of criminology at Arizona State University and, as the sole author of the Justice Department's report on police and body-mounted cameras, says the cameras, now a curiosity, could soon be ubiquitous. It has happened before: Taser's guns went from introduction to use by more than two-thirds of America's 18,000 police departments in about a decade. "It could be as little as 10 years until we see most police wearing these," says Dr. White. [...]

In the U.K., where tests with them began in 2005, studies have shown that they aid in the prosecution of crimes, by providing additional, and uniquely compelling, evidence. In the U.S., in some instances they have shortened the amount of time required to investigate a shooting by police from two-to-three months to two-to-three days.

White's 2014 report—Police Officer Body-Worn Cameras: Assessing the Evidence—notes that advocates of attaching body cameras to officers predict the outcome to be better behavior by both cops and the people they come into contact with, transparency that leads to more trust and fewer violent confrontations, and even less swearing and fewer racial slurs.

But these are merely perceptions since less than a handful of U.S. surveys—like the one in Rialto—have been undertaken to see whether the predicted outcome comes to pass. But the evidence we do have, from here and abroad, indicates that cop cams can make a positive difference. The question that arises is why a pallet or two of the tons of money spent on inundating police departments with military hardware couldn't be spent instead on outfitting every officer in America with a body camera. A lot more benefit to the citizenry doing that than handing out more machine-guns, grenades and mine-resistant armored vehicles.

But, whether cop cams become ubiquitous or not, it will take a good deal more than technology to change police forces in the systemic way that is so badly needed.

10:29 Zombie Fungus Makes 'Sniper's Alley' Around Ant Colonies» LiveScience.com
A fungus that turns worker ants into zombie henchmen has a surprisingly clever strategy to recruit new hosts.
10:02 Rare Mid-Sized Black Hole Discovered In Old Probe Data | Video» LiveScience.com
NASA's decommissioned Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) satellite is still bearing fruit with the discovered of the object in the Messier 82 galaxy. The black hole (M82 X-1) weighs in at about 400 solar masses. Full Story: http://goo.gl/z2MBrk
09:19 These Adorable Fur Balls Survived a Raging Forest Fire» LiveScience.com
Pint-size pikas survived Oregon's Dollar Lake fire, providing new insight into their resiliency to environmental change.
09:05 Dirt and Corn? Test Reveals Hidden Coffee Ingredients» LiveScience.com
Chemists can now use a test to identify counterfeit coffee made with filler ingredients like soybean, corn and twigs.
08:00 Splat! Why Some Snakes Are Easy Roadkill» LiveScience.com
Concrete roads may help cars go fast, but they slow down snakes, new research finds. A speed test for the northern pine snake shows that it takes the snakes 2 minutes to cross a two-lane concrete road, versus 45 seconds on a sandy area of the same length.
07:26 Fox Turns To New Black Panthers Fabulist To Argue "Eric Holder Cannot Be Trusted" To Investigate Michael Brown Shooting» Media Matters for America - Latest Items
06:05 Fox's Bolling Doubts Eric Holder Can "Be Fair And Balanced" On "A Race Case" Like Michael Brown Shooting» Media Matters for America - Latest Items
05:02 Economics Daily Digest: With inequality, it's women and children first» 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.

Among the Poor, Women Feel Inequality More Deeply (NYT)

The burden of inequality falls more heavily on poor women, says Patricia Cohen, because they are more likely to be raising a family and get little support for the "second shift" of household management.

Blame Employers, Not Workers, for Any Skills Gap, Economist Says (WSJ)

Josh Zombrun looks at a new working paper from a University of Pennsylvania economist, which argues that employers who complain about lack of skills are accountable for refusing to provide training.

The Hunger Crisis in America’s Universities (MSNBC)

Ned Resnikoff reports on how colleges across the country are tackling rising food insecurity. Many are looking to Michigan State University, home of an established campus food pantry, for guidance.

A Co-op State of Mind (In These Times)

Ajowa Nzinga Ifateyo looks at the rise of worker cooperatives in New York City in light of the City Council's new $1.2 million initiative to support and grow such enterprises.

What Does the Fed Have to do with Social Security? Plenty (AJAM)

Dean Baker notes that Federal Reserve policy can influence unemployment rates, and when more people work, especially in low- and middle- wage jobs, Social Security revenues increase.

How Outdated Parking Laws Price Families Out of the City (CityLab)

A-P Hurd argues that requiring developers to build parking lifts the costs of housing out of the affordable range for most families. Hurd looks at a more family-friendly urban housing model.

New on Next New Deal

Curbing Campus Sexual Assault is Not About the Money

Campus Network's Hannah Zhang responds to critics of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act who call the bill's fines outsized to the problem of sexual assault on campuses.


04:57 Men Who Make Virginity Pledges Struggle with Sex Once Married» LiveScience.com
Though men who pledge to remain chaste until marriage get strong social support from Christian networks prior to marriage, they are left in the dark once they tie the knot.
00:26 Karl Rove Smears Obama With Distortion Of President's Ferguson Comments» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Fox News contributor Karl Rove distorted comments made by President Obama in the wake of unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, suggesting the president downplayed the acts of violent rioters and refused to distinguish between peaceful protesters and "outside agitators." But Obama unequivocally denounced violent protests during a statement about the ongoing demonstrations in the St. Louis suburb.

On August 18, Obama delivered remarks on the progress of airstrikes in Iraq and violence in Ferguson, Missouri after the death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, who was allegedly shot by a St. Louis County police officer.  On August 19, Rove condemned Obama's remarks on Fox's Happening Now, claiming that the president failed to draw a strict line between the "peaceful protesters" and the "outside agitators" in Ferguson. Rove also accused Obama of creating a "moral equivalency" by placing the police and violent protesters on "the same level," concluding that Obama's statements were "not worthy of the president."  

However, in Obama's remarks on Ferguson, he drew a line between the peaceful protesters and rioters when he condemned violence of any kind, explaining that "It undermines rather than advancing justice":

So, let me close just saying a few words about the tensions there. We have all seen images of protesters and law enforcement in the streets. It's clear that the vast majority of people are peacefully protesting. What's also clear is that a small minority of individuals are not.

While I understand the passions and the anger that arise over the death of Michael Brown, giving into that anger by looting or carrying guns, and even attacking the police only serves to raise tensions and stir chaos. It undermines rather than advancing justice.

Let me also be clear that our constitutional rights to speak freely, to assemble, and to report in the press must be vigilantly safeguarded: especially in moments like these. There's no excuse for excessive force by police or any action that denies people the right to protest peacefully.

Mon 18 August, 2014

23:22 Rush Limbaugh Invokes Benghazi To Attack Obama Administration Over Ferguson Response» Media Matters for America - Latest Items
13:40 American Family Association: Michael Brown 'tanked up' on pot, probably went 'berserk'» Daily Kos

It probably went something like this?
Oh, American Family Association. It must take such practice to be this bad at everything you do. Also, Not The Onion.
On his radio program today, [Bryan Fischer] sought to bolster this narrative by citing a few new bits of recently released information, such as the report that Brown was shot six times in his front and had marijuana in his system, claiming that this proves that Brown was "tanked up" on pot, which made him go berserk and attack the police officer.

"We know now he did have marijuana in his system," Fischer explained, "and we've had stories, remember, we've had stories from Colorado, people going berserk on marijuana and killing people, hyped up on marijuana. So it's more dangerous than people think"

I'm not sure why the American Family Association feels they have a stake in whether this particular member of a family really needed gunning down, so I'm going to just assume it's because they're general bastards, etc.
07:00 Daily Kos Elections: Alaska primary and Virginia state Senate special election preview» Daily Kos
Portrait of Dan Sullivan (R), standing outdoors in front of snow-covered evergreen trees
Republican Dan Sullivan is looking to capture his party's nomination for U.S. Senate to face Democratic Mark Begich
Voters in Alaska go to the polls Tuesday to select candidates in their state's primary. Additionally, there were be a special election in Virginia for state Senate that will decide control of the chamber. Wyoming will also hold its primary Tuesday but there isn't much to watch there. Below is our guide to each state. We'll be liveblogging the results at Daily Kos Elections starting at 7:00 PM ET when polls close in Virginia, and returning to Alaska when polls close there at 12:00 AM ET.  

AK-Sen (R): Democratic Sen. Mark Begich will be one of the top Republican targets in the nation, and three noteworthy Republicans are facing off to take him on.

Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell entered the race early but his disorganized campaign led national Republicans to look elsewhere. They settled on former State Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan (not to be confused with the Anchorage mayor of the same name who is running for lieutenant governor). Sullivan and Begich have been trading blows and for months it has looked like the nomination was Sullivan's for the taking. In recent weeks some polls have shown Treadwell narrowing his deficit with Sullivan, but it would be a major upset if he won. It's not obvious who would be the better foe for Begich. Treadwell has raised little money especially compared to Sullivan. However, Treadwell is harder to attack as a carpetbagger than Sullivan, and Republican groups would compensate for his cash deficit.  

Tea partying 2010 nominee Joe Miller is also running. Miller shockingly beat Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the primary that year but his subsequent campaign alienated much of his own party and allowed Murkowski to win in a write-in campaign. Democrats would love to face Miller, but it looks very unlikely that he'll get a second chance.

Virginia Senate: Democrats got a nasty surprise a few months ago when Democratic Sen. Phil Puckett resigned from very red seat, SD-38. Puckett left to take a job with the state Tobacco Commission and to get Republicans to reconfirm his daughter's judgeship. While Puckett's job fell through, the effects of his departure are keenly felt. The chamber had been tied 20-20 with Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam breaking the tie, but with Puckett gone, the Republicans have control.

SD-38 has been trending heavily in the Republican's direction in recent cycles, and Romney won it with 67 percent of the vote. A Democratic hold is unlikely but Team Blue has a viable candidate in Tazewell County Supervisor Mike Hymes. The Republicans are fielding Del. Ben Chafin, and left-leaning independent Rick Mullins is also in the mix. This has become a very expensive race and no one is taking it for granted. If Democrats won here they'd get the chamber back, but Hymes is expected to have a tough time prevailing here.

Other Races:

In Wyoming, Republican Gov. Matt Mead faces a primary challenge from state Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill. This is notable not because Mead looks like he's in any danger but because Hill, a statewide elected official, managed to avoid being impeached during the campaign for misconduct.

In Alaska, there will be a ballot measure that would repeal tax breaks to oil companies: A Public Policy Polling survey had it tied 42-42. There will also be two special elections for the Virginia House of Delegates. Both HD-48 and 90 are heavily Democratic, but Republicans are making a play for the Northern Virginia-based HD-48.

Sun 17 August, 2014

10:45 Feds can't sell booby-trapped property of terrorist tax evaders» Daily Kos

These things happened in the United States this year. An unarmed man was killed by police, supposedly for stealing some cigars. Those who took to the streets simply seeking truth, among them some looters, were denounced by some conservatives and an entire news network as "thugs" and "lynch mobs." Just months earlier, a Nevada tax cheat owing the federal government a million dollars welcomed dozens of heavily armed militia members who threatened to murder government officials. An entire news network and a Republican United States senator called them "patriots" and "freedom riders." (The FBI suffers from no such confusion: the Bureau under the last three presidents has labelled Cliven Bundy's ilk "domestic terrorists.")

But while all eyes have been focused on Ferguson, Missouri, the latest chapter in the saga of another terrorist tax evader was quietly being written in New Hampshire. There, federal officials were unable to sell the properties confiscated from Ed and Elaine Brown because prospective buyers the lands and buildings might be booby-trapped.

As the AP reported:

The auction of Ed and Elaine Brown's fortress-like home on 100 acres in Plainfield was held at U.S. District Court in Concord on Friday. The minimum bid was $250,000.

Elaine Brown's dental office in a prime Lebanon commercial zone also was being auctioned with a minimum bid of $507,500, but it too attracted no bidders.

Federal marshals had arranged 16 folding chairs in a courtroom at the federal courthouse in Concord. They remained empty, serving as a stark reminder of the lack of interest as Deputy Chief U.S. Marshal Brenda Mikelson went through the motions of asking for minimum bids on both properties before the auction ended two minutes later.

Prospective bidders were not allowed to tour the properties, in part because the U.S. Marshals Service raised the possibility that explosives or other booby traps could be buried on the residential property.

They also cited the hordes of Brown supporters the 2007 standoff attracted.

That's right. Years before militia members with automatic weapons descended on Cliven Bundy's ranch to enable him to continue to collect "food stamps" for cows, Ed and Elaine Brown were threatening federal marshals simply trying to collect what the tax deadbeats owed Uncle Sam.

Please read below the fold for more on this story.

08:31 100 GunFAILs: GunFAIL LXXVII» Daily Kos
Over 250 presumably responsible gun owners have claimed to have completely forgotten they were carrying guns at airport security checkpoints since our last GunFAIL publication.
It's been a while since I published the last GunFAIL compilation. Lots of travel and other summer activity made it difficult to put the lists together on time, but I never stopped collecting the stories. Once things settled down, I realized that the sheer volume was going to make publishing the stories in the ordinary format rather awkward, too. So here's what I've decided to do: instead of publishing a week's worth of GunFAIL stories at a time, I've just picked up where I left off, and listed the next 100 incidents as they happened. I've counted up our usual categories of GunFAILs, as well. But of course, the numbers are usually for one week, and here they'll span a period of a little more than three weeks, give or take one or two leftover stories that didn't make the news or that were otherwise missed when they happened earlier.

These 100 GunFAILs include: 10 "home invasion shootings" in which our fellow patriots' freedom projectiles were shared with neighbors; 37 people who accidentally shot themselves; 9 people who shot themselves but tried to lie to the cops about someone else shooting them; 20 kid victims; 6 accidental shootings by kids; 15 fatalities; 8 stray bullet incidents*; two accidents while cleaning loaded guns; 8 very expensive medical evacuations by air; 2 guns that went off in pockets; 3 target shooting accidents; 9 cops involved in various FAILs; 9 FAILs by carriers out shopping, dining or otherwise engaging in everyday commerce among the public; 2 bathroom GunFAILs; 1 firearms instructor who shot himself, and 1 person who thought it'd be a fun idea to have someone shoot him while he was wearing a "bullet-proof" vest.

[* Here I have included stray bullets not fired by accident, but which missed their intended targets and hit bystanders, nearby homes, etc. "Home invasion shootings," in my categorization, typically involve unintended discharges.]

Outstanding stories worthy of your notice: #16, from Erie Township, OH, involves a man who accidentally shot himself at an NRA-sponsored shooting competition; #17, from Lakewood, CO, in which a man shot a neighbor's dog, but also accidentally shot himself, not particularly noteworthy in itself, but in light of recent events it's worth noting that the local SWAT team was dispatched; #35, from Durango, CO, in which a police officer responding to a man barricaded in a home with a weapon fired a shot that missed and entered a nearby home; #50, from Freemont Township, MI, was an incident which gained some online infamy, involving a woman who shot herself in the face when she slammed a rifle butt into the ground during an argument "to make a point"; #66, from Prince George, VA, involving a man who accidentally shot himself in the shoulder with the .45 he kept under his pillow; #89, from Washington, DC, involving a pork industry representative from South Carolina visiting Capitol Hill while carrying a loaded pistol; #91, from Daytona Beach, FL, in which a guest at the Windham Ocean Walk Hotel accidentally fired his pistol through the wall, hitting a 12-year-old boy in the next room, and #99, involving the tragic death of a five-months pregnant woman accidentally shot by a friend showing off his gun collection.

But let's just roll this thing out, and start getting back on track. There are another 100 GunFAILs to go before we're up to date. So without further ado, 100 GunFAILs, below the fold.

Wed 13 August, 2014

17:03 How much methane came out of that hole in Siberia?» RealClimate
Siberia has explosion holes in it that smell like methane, and there are newly found bubbles of methane in the Arctic Ocean. As a result, journalists are contacting me assuming that the Arctic Methane Apocalypse has begun. However, as a climate scientist I remain much more concerned about the fossil fuel industry than I am […]

Tue 05 August, 2014

06:58 Unforced variations: Aug 2014» RealClimate
This month’s open thread. Keeping track of the Arctic sea ice minimum is interesting but there should be plenty of other climate science topics to discuss (if people can get past the hype about the Ebola outbreak or imaginary claims about anomalous thrusting). As with last month, pleas no discussion of mitigation strategies – it […]

Thu 10 July, 2014

01:49 Rossby waves and surface weather extremes» RealClimate
A new study by Screen and Simmonds demonstrates the statistical connection between high-amplitude planetary waves in the atmosphere and extreme weather events on the ground. Guest post by Dim Coumou There has been an ongoing debate, both in and outside the scientific community, whether rapid climate change in the Arctic might affect circulation patterns in […]

Sun 06 July, 2014

07:05 Release of the International Surface Temperature Initiative’s (ISTI’s) Global Land Surface Databank, an expanded set of fundamental surface temperature records» RealClimate
Guest post by Jared Rennie, Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites, North Carolina on behalf of the databank working group of the International Surface Temperature Initiative In the 21st Century, when multi-billion dollar decisions are being made to mitigate and adapt to climate change, society rightly expects openness and transparency in climate science to enable […]

Wed 02 July, 2014

06:55 Unforced variations: July 2014» RealClimate
This month’s open thread. Topics of potential interest: The successful OCO-2 launch, continuing likelihood of an El Niño event this fall, predictions of the September Arctic sea ice minimum, Antarctic sea ice excursions, stochastic elements in climate models etc. Just for a change, no discussion of mitigation efforts please!

Sun 01 June, 2014

16:35 Unforced variations: June 2014» RealClimate
June is the month when the Arctic Sea Ice outlook gets going, when the EPA releases its rules on power plant CO2 emissions, and when, hopefully, commenters can get back to actually having constructive and respectful conversations about climate science (and not nuclear energy, impending apocalypsi (pl) or how terrible everyone else is). Thanks.

Thu 08 May, 2014

06:39 El Niño or Bust» RealClimate
Guest commentary from Michelle L’Heureux, NOAA Climate Prediction Center Much media attention has been directed at the possibility of an El Niño brewing this year. Many outlets have drawn comparison with the 1997-98 super El Niño. So, what are the odds that El Niño will occur? And if it does, how strong will it be? […]

Fri 02 May, 2014

06:35 Unforced variations: May 2014» RealClimate
This month’s open thread. In order to give everyone a break, no discussion of mitigation options this month – that has been done to death in previous threads. Anything related to climate science is totally fine: Carbon dioxide levels maybe, or TED talks perhaps…

Wed 30 April, 2014

04:36 Faking it» RealClimate
Every so often contrarians post old newspaper quotes with the implication that nothing being talked about now is unprecedented or even unusual. And frankly, there are lots of old articles that get things wrong, are sensationalist or made predictions without a solid basis. And those are just the articles about the economy. However, there are […]

Fri 25 April, 2014

19:57 Nenana Ice Classic: Update» RealClimate
Somewhat randomly, my thoughts turned to the Nenana Ice Classic this evening, only to find that the ice break up had only just occurred (3:48 pm Alaskan Standard Time, April 25). This is quite early (the 7th earliest date, regardless of details associated with the vernal equinox or leap year issues), though perhaps unsurprising after […]

Tue 15 October, 2013

Sun 22 September, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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


Editorial board

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her Twitter feed is @gailtheactuary.

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







Selected contributors

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

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

He continues to blog at Farmland LP.

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

He tweets: @djmurphy04

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

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

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

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

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

Presently he is looking for gainful employment/engagements.

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

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

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

Sat 21 September, 2013

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

Thu 19 September, 2013

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


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

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


The Blind men and the Elephant, by Rudyard Kipling

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

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

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

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

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

Click image to enlarge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click image to enlarge.

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

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

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

18. Energy is almost everything

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

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

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

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

Click image to enlarge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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



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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

12. Debt is a non-neutral intertemporal transfer



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But why do we want energy and money anyways?

Continued in Part II

Wed 18 September, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

Thu 12 September, 2013

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

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

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

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

Albert A. Bartlett: Ode to a Gentle Giant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Wed 27 January, 2010

12:21 Image of the Day» LiveScience.com
Amazing images every day!
Sources