Saturday, April 30, 2011

asshole: Rep. Danny Rehberg (R-MT) , Whose Net Worth Is $31 Million, Says He’s ‘Cash Poor’ And ‘Struggling’ #p2 #tcot

Democrats Form Group To Go Head To Head With Republican Fundraising #p2

real deathpanels: Insurers Getting Rich By Not Paying for Care #teaparty #p2

If I had stayed in the insurance industry, my net worth would have spiked between 4 p.m. Wednesday and 4 p.m. Thursday last week -- and I wouldn't even have had to show up for work.

I'm betting that just about every executive of a for-profit health insurance company, whose total compensation ultimately depends on the value of their stock options, woke up on Good Friday considerably wealthier than they were 24 hours earlier. Why? Because of the spectacular profits that one of those companies reported Thursday morning.

Among those suddenly wealthier executives, by the way, are the corporate medical directors who decide whether or not patients will get coverage for treatments their doctors believe might save their lives.

UnitedHealth Group, the biggest health insurer in terms of revenue and market value, earned so much more during the first three months of this year than Wall Street expected that investors rushed to buy shares of every one of the seven health insurers that comprise the managed care sector. In my view, it would be more accurate to call it the managed care cartel.

UnitedHealth is always the first of the big seven to announce earnings every quarter, so investors consider it a bellwether. If UnitedHealth exceeds Wall Street's expectations, as it has been doing consistently, investors assume that the other six will do likewise. Sure enough, all seven -- Aetna, CIGNA, Coventry, Health Net, Humana, UnitedHealth and WellPoint -- saw their stock prices close Thursday afternoon at or near 52-week highs.

UnitedHealth's shares shot up more than 8 percent during the day. Increases of that magnitude are so rare that I could almost hear the champagne corks popping in the Minnetonka, Minnesota office of UnitedHealth's CEO, Stephen J. Hemsley.

Wall Street analysts had worried that health insurers would have such a hard time complying with the provisions of the year-old health care reform law that their profit margins would decline. Those concerns were put to rest when UnitedHealth reported that its operating margins were "stable" at 8.7 percent in the quarter. The company's stellar performance should also put to rest -- forever -- the myth that "ObamaCare" is "bleeding insurers dry," as industry apologist Sally Pipes contended in a Feb. 24 commentary in Forbes.

Noting that UnitedHealth's 13 percent increase in profits prompted the company to raise its full-year earnings forecast, the Minneapolis Star Tribune opined, "Life under new health care reform laws may not be so rough after all."

Indeed. Consider these numbers: UnitedHealth's profit during the first three months of this year increased to $1.35 billion from $1.19 billion a year ago. When you do the math to determine the company's earnings per share, the result is nothing short of jaw-dropping. On that basis, UnitedHealth's profit jumped from $1.03 to $1.22 per share. Wall Street analysts had been expecting the company to earn just 89 cents a share. When you beat Wall Street's expectations by 33 cents a share, you have accomplished something that most CEOs can only dream about.

UnitedHealth's CEO at Top of Forbes 2011 Executive Pay List

Speaking of CEOs, Stephen Hemsley in particular made out like a bandit Thursday. Already at the very pinnacle of Forbes 2011 "Executive Pay List" (you read that right, his total compensation of $101.96 million last year made him the highest paid corporate executive in the United States of America), Hemsley saw his net worth skyrocket last week.

Of that $101.96 million Hemsley "earned" last year, $98.55 million came from stock gains, mostly from exercising options. And that doesn't even count the value of stock options he hasn't yet cashed in. According to published reports about the company's Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings, the total value of the options Hemsley had not exercised by the end of last year totaled almost $745 million. Considering the fact that the price of UnitedHealth's stock has increased by more than $20 per share in just the last nine months, you can be pretty certain that Hemsley is now sitting on a stash of options worth well over $1 billion. That doesn't count the shares of UnitedHealth stock Hemsley owns outright, the value of which was estimated to be $111.4 million at the end of 2010 and which, of course, is much higher now.

As you can imagine, Hemsley and other UnitedHealth executives were peppered with questions during the company's conference call with Wall Street analysts last Thursday. They wanted to know how UnitedHealth had pulled off such a stunning accomplishment.

As it turned out, they pulled it off by paying far fewer medical claims than anyone had expected. That in and of itself is not new. Last year was one of the industry's most profitable years because, the big insurers insisted, their policyholders had not needed to go the doctor or check into the hospital as much as they had in the past. Consequently the insurers did not have to pay as many claims. The reason they gave was that the flu season last year was much less severe than predicted.

Insurers Mum on What's Really Making Their Profits Skyrocket

Well, it turns out that dog won't hunt anymore. UnitedHealth executives admitted during the call with analysts Thursday morning that "the incidence of influenza was substantially higher this quarter than last year." So, even though more people had to be treated for the flu during the first three months of this year than UnitedHealth had expected, the company still managed to spend less on medical claims during the quarter than investors had expected.

Not being able to attribute the unexpected decrease in medical spending to a mild flu season this time, Hemsley and his colleagues said it was because of the unexpected decrease in stormy weather.

I'm not making this up. They blamed the company's good fortune on "the effect of severe consistent winter weather conditions across significant portions of the country."

Veteran analyst Christine Arnold of Cowen and Company apparently wasn't buying it, so she pressed for more "clarity" during the call.

"Excluding places where you saw winter storms," she asked, "was utilization (of health services) up?"

Earlier in the call, the executives seemed to be suggesting that the number of inpatient hospital "bed days" was down considerably because of bad weather.

"So, excluding storms," she probed, "were bed days up?"

UnitedHealth's chief financial officer, Dan Schumacher, finally had to 'fess up.

"Bed days excluding storms were flat to slightly down depending on the geography," he replied.

In other words, it wasn't the stormy weather after all. Unfortunately, Arnold did not press further ("OK. That's helpful. Thanks," she said) and no one asked the logical follow-up question: "Well, then, what was it?"

Insurers Pinch Policy Holders for Higher Premiums and Out-of-Pocket Costs

Author Wendell Potter, former head of PR for CIGNAAuthor Wendell Potter, former head of PR for CIGNAContrary to what insurance company bigwigs try to make us believe, it is not snow, sleet and freezing rain or mild flu seasons that enables these companies to blow Wall Street's estimates out of the water. What they will not admit is that their companies are making record profits by pushing more and more of us into benefit plans that require us to pay a whole lot more out of our own pockets before they will pay anything for our medical care.

And I'm betting that if the insurers had to disclose their rates of claim denials and the number of procedures their medical directors are refusing to pay for, we would see that those numbers are increasing, and maybe substantially. Medical directors know they play a key role in meeting Wall Street's expectations, and they're rewarded with raises, bonuses and, yes, stock options, if management is pleased with their job performance. The less money these companies pay out for care, the more is left over to reward shareholders and a bunch of corporate executives.

This is why, folks, that "utilization" is down. Growing numbers of people who have insurance, who are paying hard-earned money every month for coverage that is increasingly inadequate as well as expensive, simply can't scrape up enough cash to go to the doctor or hospital or, in many cases, even pick up their prescriptions.

That is a trend that the insurers are determined to continue. And while we are being forced to go without necessary care and empty our pockets to pay our premiums, insurance company billionaire Stephen Hemsley and his cohorts are stuffing their pockets -- with our money.

Japan radiation adviser quits in rebuke to government – Radiation limits too high at schools near the Fukushima nuclear site #p2

Why Is Damning New Evidence About Monsanto’s Most Widely Used Herbicide Being Silenced? #p2

Reagan insider: @GOP destroyed economy - Gold. Tax cuts. Debts. Wars. Fat Cats. Class gap. No fiscal discipline

ARROYO GRANDE, Calif. (MarketWatch) -- "How my G.O.P. destroyed the U.S. economy." Yes, that is exactly what David Stockman, President Ronald Reagan's director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in a recent New York Times op-ed piece, "Four Deformations of the Apocalypse."

Get it? Not "destroying." The GOP has already "destroyed" the U.S. economy, setting up an "American Apocalypse."

Yes, Stockman is equally damning of the Democrats' Keynesian policies. But what this indictment by a party insider -- someone so close to the development of the Reaganomics ideology -- says about America, helps all of us better understand how America's toxic partisan-politics "holy war" is destroying not just the economy and capitalism, but the America dream. And unless this war stops soon, both parties will succeed in their collective death wish.

But why focus on Stockman's message? It's already lost in the 24/7 news cycle. Why? We need some introspection. Ask yourself: How did the great nation of America lose its moral compass and drift so far off course, to where our very survival is threatened?

We've arrived at a historic turning point as a nation that no longer needs outside enemies to destroy us, we are committing suicide. Democracy. Capitalism. The American dream. All dying. Why? Because of the economic decisions of the GOP the past 40 years, says this leading Reagan Republican.

Please listen with an open mind, no matter your party affiliation: This makes for a powerful history lesson, because it exposes how both parties are responsible for destroying the U.S. economy. Listen closely:

Reagan Republican: the GOP should file for bankruptcy

Stockman rushes into the ring swinging like a boxer: "If there were such a thing as Chapter 11 for politicians, the Republican push to extend the unaffordable Bush tax cuts would amount to a bankruptcy filing. The nation's public debt ... will soon reach $18 trillion." It screams "out for austerity and sacrifice." But instead, the GOP insists "that the nation's wealthiest taxpayers be spared even a three-percentage-point rate increase."

In the past 40 years Republican ideology has gone from solid principles to hype and slogans. Stockman says: "Republicans used to believe that prosperity depended upon the regular balancing of accounts -- in government, in international trade, on the ledgers of central banks and in the financial affairs of private households and businesses too."

No more. Today there's a "new catechism" that's "little more than money printing and deficit finance, vulgar Keynesianism robed in the ideological vestments of the prosperous classes" making a mockery of GOP ideals. Worse, it has resulted in "serial financial bubbles and Wall Street depredations that have crippled our economy." Yes, GOP ideals backfired, crippling our economy.

Stockman's indictment warns that the Republican party's "new policy doctrines have caused four great deformations of the national economy, and modern Republicans have turned a blind eye to each one:"

Stage 1. Nixon irresponsible, dumps gold, U.S starts spending binge

Richard Nixon's gold policies get Stockman's first assault, for defaulting "on American obligations under the 1944 Bretton Woods agreement to balance our accounts with the world." So for the past 40 years, America's been living "beyond our means as a nation" on "borrowed prosperity on an epic scale ... an outcome that Milton Friedman said could never happen when, in 1971, he persuaded President Nixon to unleash on the world paper dollars no longer redeemable in gold or other fixed monetary reserves."

Remember Friedman: "Just let the free market set currency exchange rates, he said, and trade deficits will self-correct." Friedman was wrong by trillions. And unfortunately "once relieved of the discipline of defending a fixed value for their currencies, politicians the world over were free to cheapen their money and disregard their neighbors."

And without discipline America was also encouraging "global monetary chaos as foreign central banks run their own printing presses at ever faster speeds to sop up the tidal wave of dollars coming from the Federal Reserve." Yes, the road to the coming apocalypse began with a Republican president listening to a misguided Nobel economist's advice.

rest at

Freshman GOP Rep. Hultgren Dumbfounded After Constituent Grills Him On Oil Subsidies #p2

Laura Flanders Asks @AndrewBreitbart Why He Won't Apologize to Shirley Sherrod #p2

Laura Flanders Asks Andrew Breitbart Why He Won't Apologize to Shirley Sherrod

Click here to view this media

Thank goodness we had Laura Flanders to keep Andrew Breitbart in check on HBO's Real Time on Friday night, because Bill Maher sure as hell wasn't going to do it. Why he and his producers felt the need to have Breitbart on there in the first place is beyond me, but I could say the same thing about CNN, MSNBC, Fox and anywhere else that gave him an opportunity to push this book of his over the last couple of weeks, the most disgusting of which was Dylan Ratigan's fawning interview with him on MSNBC.

Sadly, Bill or Laura didn't ask him about his latest video editing hit job, which Karoli covered here -- Breitbarted Again? BigGovernment Uses Deceptively Edited Video To Smear University Professors - UPDATED. I didn't expect much from Maher after the way his prior shows in which he had Breitbart on as a guest proceeded. I think Flanders might have called him out for it if she was given more time to talk.

For a little reminder of just how obnoxious Breitbart was in one of his previous appearances, here's this little blast from the past with Breitbart defending Rush Limbaugh and getting his butt handed to him by Michael Eric Dyson. And Matt called him out for having him on last year in September -- Dear Bill Maher: Andrew Breitbart Is Not A Journalist.

But never mind that he's been a completely obnoxious guest during past appearances, or that he and his cohorts are known liars who put up one deceptively edited smear video after another, and that he is nothing but a right-wing flame thrower with no regard for truthfulness or accuracy, as Media Matters has documented. Let's bring him on one more time to do Real Time so he can play the misunderstood victim again and feign ignorance about the content that he controls that goes up at his site and what he's really all about, which is lining his own pocket while doing the bidding of the Koch brothers and company and their astroturf "Tea Party" movement.

We've done so many posts on Breitbart, I've lost count, but you can see the better part of them with a quick
Google search. Despite his history, our corporate media continues to have him on the air as though he's someone credible without laying out his history of lies and distortions and ambush "journalism", the latest of which is now Bill Maher.

You can let HBO know what you think of their decision on the HBO forum here.

And if you're on Twitter Maher's user name is @billmaher. - Make a Donation to Donation

gaffe: Romney says he’ll “hang” Obama at GOP group dinner #p2 #tcot

In a speech at the pro-GOP Americans for Prosperity dinner, former Massachusetts governor and contender for the GOP presidential nomination Mitt Romney said he would "hang" Obama, then immediately realized his gaffe and tried to smooth over his mistake. His spokeswoman said the blunder was not meant to be malicious.

Referring to Ronald Reagan's "misery index" that he wanted to "hang around Jimmy Carter's neck" in the 1980 presidential election, Romney said of Obama, "Well, we're going to have to hang the 'Obama Misery Index' around his neck."

Romney continued, "We're going to hang him — " before pausing, Politico reported, then continuing and clarifying. "So to speak — metaphorically. You have to be careful."
The implications of mentioning "hanging" in reference to an African-American are not positive.
Romney's spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, told Politico that the comment was not intended to be malicious.
"It is not what the governor meant and that was very clear in what he actually said," she said. "It's a ridiculous exaggeration of his actual comments."

idiot: Bachmann compares debt crisis to Holocaust #p2 #tcot

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Rep. Michele Bachmann invoked the Holocaust Saturday morning as she described the tax burden that America's next generation will face unless action is taken to reduce federal spending and the national debt.

cry poor: Texas Sized Tax Break for Yacht Owners #p2 #tcot

Friday, April 29, 2011

Reporter tossed from White House press pool for taking video of Obama protest #p2 #tcot

Phil Bronstein, a contributing editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, revealed in his column "Bronstein at Large" today that Chronicle reporter Carla Marinucci has been dismissed from the White House Press Correspondents' Association's pool of Bay Area print journalists. She was dropped from the pool because of a video she posted last week of protesters at a fundraiser for President Obama.

Last Thursday, a group of anti-war protesters, disgruntled over the Obama administration's treatment of alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower Pfc. Bradley Manning, interrupted a speech from the president with a self-penned song. The song highlighted Manning's treatment in the Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va. (he's since been moved to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where he has allegedly received better treatment), before ending with the lines, "We paid our dues; where's our change?" in three-part harmony. Marinucci's video of the incident is below:

The group reportedly paid nearly $80,000 for the chance to sing their song to President Obama. Bronstein contends that it was the video that did Marinucci in, leading an embarrassed and angry White House to drop her from the press corps.

Buried in Bronstein's column is the fact that the White House did arguably have legitimate reasons for dismissing Marinucci from the press pool:

The White House Press Correspondents' Association pool reporting guidelines warn about "no hoarding" of information and also say, "pool reports must be filed before any online story or blog." While uploading her video probably was the best way to file her report, Carla may have technically busted the letter of that law.

Still, Bronstein points out that the dismissal was a decision handed down by the administration of a president who was elected on promises of transparency and commending whistleblowers. Bronstein makes much of the fact that the Obama campaign prided itself on being plugged in to new technology and is paradoxically punishing a reporter for using technology. The larger issue, however, appears to be that transparency sticking point.

CBS News' Mark Knoller has decried the limited access afforded to the press when it comes to Obama fundraisers like the one in San Francisco. Although the bylaws of the White House Press Correspondents' Association state that print reporters can take pictures and video while on duty, the fundraiser at the center of the controversy was technically closed to dedicated video and audio coverage. Such limitations on press coverage have been the case with many recent Obama fundraisers, a fact that Knoller challenged White House Press Secretary Jay Carney with as not being a "consistent" policy.

The news follows last month's high-profile incident in which Orlando Sentinel reporter Scott Powers was kept in a supply closet for the duration of a Florida fundraiser at which Vice President Biden was the guest of honor. At the time, a Biden spokesperson apologized not for blocking press access to official events, but for the "lack of a better hold room."

Bachmann backs up: Now vows to 'keep our promise' to current and future seniors #p2 #tcot

There's growing evidence that the Republican establishment is increasingly concerned about the heat members, particularly freshmen, are feeling back home over the Republican budget. Speaker John Boehner himself has inched away from it, saying "I'm not wedded to one single idea." Perennial presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich took a page from Sarah Palin, and posted on his Facebook page his own idea for the plan which would make privatization voluntary.

So that's establishment Republicans. You know that there's a serious problem with this plan when Rep. Michele Bachmann, of all people, starts to back off.

In a blog post at, potential 2012 candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) explained that she supported Ryan's budget despite concerns about the Medicare scheme. "We must keep our promises to those who receive Medicare benefits," she wrote, "and those who are nearing the age of Medicare eligibility."
The House of Representatives recently signified their support of the Republican's 2012 budget proposal which will reduce the federal budget by $4.4 trillion. It does so by cutting out unnecessary spending. It would defund ObamaCare of its unspent pre-appropriated funds which are an astonishing tens of billions of dollars that were buried in the bill by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Plus, it would make the tax code flatter and simpler, making Tax Day a less dreaded time of the year. I supported that budget blueprint, though I've expressed caution about how we approach the issue of Medicare. We must keep our promises to those who receive Medicare benefits, and those who are nearing the age of Medicare eligibility. Our challenge is to reduce the soaring amounts that government spends on health care, without burdening those who are most vulnerable.

Although other Republicans maintain that the Ryan plan will "save"Medicare, the reality is that it would make life much more expensive for future seniors, while potentially raising costs for current
as well. As Bachmann hinted toward, it does not "keep our promises" to those nearing the age of retirement, not to mention their children and grandchildren.

Of course, she already voted for the thing that she now calls "a blueprint." That Bachmann is now trying to sound like a voice of reason is kind of scary—there's far loonier than her now in elected office in the United States. But it's also encouraging, seeing that the loony branch of the party might be cluing in to just how far they've overreached.

Either way, using this vote to show the contrast between the two parties is going to be key for Democrats in 2012. But that will also have to mean protecting Medicare—and Social Security—against the rising tide of austerity fever.

Birther Conspiracy Theory, Part Deux #p2 #tcot

After President Obama released his long-form birth certificate earlier this week, you'd think that the birther scandal would be finally put to rest. But no. Obama-hating conspiracy theorists have thought up a brand new angle on the birth certificate dispute, alleging they have proof that the document is a Photoshopped forgery.  —YL

Talking Points Memo:

The fringe theory's rapid spread within hours of the certificate's release presents almost a perfect example of one of the White House's justifications for taking on the birther issue—namely, that thanks to the internet, conspiracy theories can migrate quickly from the fringe and into the mainstream if left unchecked.

In this case, it took only hours. The forgery claim appeared to have first started as an offbeat blog post from an Atlanta-based art director at an ad firm, Bryan Michael Nixon, less than two hours after Obama's statement. By the end of the day it had become a headline on Drudge Report, one of the single most trafficked news sites on the internet. The debunked forgery revelation drew thousands of comments on messageboards, migrated to birther and truther conspiracy guru Alex Jones' site, while a video explanation was viewed over 160,000 times on YouTube.

The basis for the forgery claim lay in a basic misunderstanding of how computer image formats work. Nixon observed in his post that the PDF file of Obama's long form birth certificate could be broken down into "layers," including a background and separate foreground text. "This in no way proves that anything on it is fake, but only that the document from the WH was composed of multiple elements," he wrote. "How to interpret it is up to the viewer."

Read more.

.@andrewBreitbart Breitbarted Again? BigGovernment Uses Deceptively Edited Video To Smear University Professors

Oklahoma GOP Refuses To Reprimand Lawmaker Who Called ‘Blacks’ Lazy #p2 #tcot

Oklahoma state Rep. Sally Kern (R), who said this week that "blacks" don't work as hard as white people, will not be admonished by the Oklahoma House's GOP leadership. Kern issued a written apology claiming she "misspoke" when she said during a 10-minute floor speech on Wednesday that African Americans and women don't work as hard as whites or men because they're dependent on the government and men, respectively.

The NAACP says that's not enough, calling on Kern to resign. "You cannot commit racism and then offer an apology for the racist statement that you make," Anthony Douglas, the president of the Oklahoma NAACP, said. "The citizens of Oklahoma, the constituents, can no longer stand by and allow this type of action to happen."

But apparently the leadership of the Oklahoma House of Representatives is willing to stand by Kern, the Tulsa World reports:

[GOP House Speaker Kris] Steele said he thought the apology was enough, that she handled it appropriately and that a public reprimand was not necessary. [...]

Steele spent most of his weekly briefing with reporters fielding questions about Kern's comments and SJR 15. He said he does not believe Kern's speech has hurt the state's image and that he supports SJR 15.

Even though Steele said he told Kern "I disagreed with her comments," Senate Democratic leader Andrew Rice is calling on state Republicans to officially reprimand Kern, saying a failure to do so "can only be seen as tacit agreement with Sally Kern." The Black Legislative Caucus also condemned Kern.

GOP drive to recall Wisconsin Democrats fizzles #p2 #tcot

MADISON, Wis. - Republicans here have been able to file petitions to recall only three of eight Democratic state senators they are trying to unseat. And the petitions they have filed may end up being thrown out by election authorities who have been unable to verify that the GOP has submitted the required number of valid signatures.

The Republicans had less than the required number of valid signatures to recall four other senators they want to unseat, and then missed the deadline for filing valid signatures to recall them.

Republicans said they targeted the eight senators because the Democrats had fled the state to delay passage of Republican Gov. Scott Walker's bill destroying collective bargaining rights for public service workers.

Meanwhile, a broad coalition of trade union, community and Democratic Party activists filed more than 26,000 signatures by yesterday to recall a sixth Republican state senator - Robert Cowles of Green Bay - who voted for Walker's bill.

All the petitions to recall the six Republicans had well over the minimum number of required signatures. That number must equal 25 percent of the total vote for governor in November's election in each Senate district.

The 26,524 signatures submitted to recall Cowles were 166 percent of the required number in his district. A filing of 15,960 signatures is stipulated for that district under the 25-percent-of-the-gubernatorial-vote formula.

Earlier, pro-union activists filed recall petitions for Alberta Darling of River Hills, Shelia Harsdorf of River Falls, Luther Olsen of Ripon, Dan Karpanke of LaCrosse and Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac.

If Democrats can win three of the six seats, they will wrest control of the Wisconsin Senate from the Republicans.

There is seemingly no end to the woes Republicans are facing as a result of Gov. Walker's right-wing budget bill.

The latest in the long list of problems it has caused came today with the U.S. Department of Agriculture saying Wisconsin would break a federal law if it hires a private contractor to decide who is and who is not eligible for food stamps. The Walker budget removes this function from county governments and turns it over to private firms. The federal government has warned Wisconsin that privatization of state food assistance programs could cost the state $20 million federal dollars each year.

Yesterday, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called similar privatization efforts in Indiana and Texas "complete failures marked by technical difficulties, staffing shortages and inadequate training of private call-center staff resulting in adverse impacts on the state and its people."

video testimony - reacting with outrage at the perverse priorities of the Ryan budget #p2 #tcot

oil companies - Pigs Get Slaughtered, And They Deserve It! from #p2


Now before the animal rights folks get up in arms, I'm talking about oil companies, not swine (then again, maybe I'm talking about the same thing).

One lesson of history is that sooner or later the greedy get theirs. This is a lesson harshly learned. The trick, I guess, is to get as much as you can without looking greedy.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Democrat from Montana, where they probably have more cows than cars, has released a plan to end billions of dollars in tax breaks for large, multinational oil and gas companies. According to Baucus, with energy prices rising and large oil companies announcing huge first quarter profits, now is the time to stick it to big oil.

As we all know, Baucus is not alone. President Obama has been out to get big oil since he got into office. And Republican House Speaker John Boehner stepped in big oil a couple of days ago when he said he was open to eliminating their tax breaks.

Some say this is an attack on the industry. Well, duh.

A Tax Foundation blog post diplomatically points out that all this fuss about oil tax subsidies in isolation doesn't really make rational sense. Fair point, but there's nothing rational about a taxpayer staring at a gas pump and realizing it says his fill-up just cost him 50 bucks. Yeah, let's get those oil companies!

Going after oil and gas tax subsidies in isolation may not make much sense from a policy standpoint, but this effort has legs. And the oil companies may have to learn that historical lesson: pigs really do get slaughtered sometimes.

White House Punishing Press for Reporting on Bradley Manning #p2 #tcot

Groupon Pulls Ads From Trump's Show After "Birther" Quest #p2

.@gop GOP Freshman Rick Crawford (R-AR) Ends First Town Hall After Tough Questions On Tax Cuts For The Wealthy: ‘We’re Done’ #p2 #tcot

Freshman Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR) became the latest Republican to face the ire of his own constituents for voting for the Medicare-ending GOP budget when he was repeatedly challenged by attendees at a town hall meeting in Jonesboro, AR last night. At his first town hall since being seated, Crawford had attendees write their questions on index cards and then read them out loud, "but a handful of audience members weren't satisfied and shouted at Crawford from their seats."

While Republicans have insisted that their budget saves Medicare, Crawford veered off message at one point, responding to the question "why are you going to end Medicare as we know it?" by saying, "the answer to that is because Medicare as we know is bankrupt."

Later, Crawford faced a heated question about why the GOP budget cuts taxes for the wealthy and corporations while slashing social services. Crawford replied, "I don't support tax cuts for the wealthy over help for socio-economically challenged individuals." A number of his constituents repeatedly challenged him on this claim, accusing Crawford of "class warfare against the poor people" and explaining that tax cuts don't create jobs. Crawford apparently did not appreciate this, and ended the session:

CONSTITUENT 1: [The GOP budget ] is a significant tax cut for the wealthy.

CRAWFORD: A 10 percent tax cut?

CONSTITUENT 2: Wouldn't that be class warfare against the poor people?

CRAWFORD: Well, you're asking me if I want to continue taxing at a higher rate the people that are creating jobs and no –

CONSTITUENT 2: They're not creating jobs, though! They haven't created any more jobs! … They're taking them all overseas!

CONSTITUENT 3: Are you taking any more questions?

CRAWFORD: No, we're done.

CONSTITUENT 3: We're done?

CRAWFORD: We're done.

CONSTITUENT 4: During the Bush administration, and the tax cuts, how many jobs were created?

CRAWFORD: I don't have those numbers.

CONSTITUENT 4: Three million. During the Clinton administration, where he raised taxes on the highest bracket to 39.5, how many jobs were created? 22 million. You're going to tell me that tax cuts create jobs?!

Watch a video shot by Arkansas progressive blog Blue Arkansas, and edited by ThinkProgress for length (full videos here):

Crawford walked away from the podium and left the meeting moments later.

McDonalds Hires 62,000, Turns Away Over 938,000 Applicants For Minimum Wage, Part-Time Jobs #p2

Source:  Zero Hedge

This is what the US economy has been reduced to: McDonalds reports that as part of its employment event to hire 50,000 minimum wage, part-time (mostly) workers, subsequently raised to 62,000 it received a whopping 1 million applications, or a Tim Geithner jealousy inducing 6.2% hit rate (h/t X. Kurt. OSis). Alas, the US economy is now so pathetic that the bulk of the population will settle for anything. Literally anything. And the saddest part: over 938,000 applicants were turned away. Here's hoping to Burger King needs a few million janitors in the immediate future too. And yes, aside from reality, things in America are really recovering quite nicely.

From Bloomberg:

McDonald's and its franchisees hired 62,000 people in the U.S. after receiving more than one million applications, the Oak Brook, Illinois-based company said today in an e-mailed statement. Previously, it said it planned to hire 50,000.

The April 19 national hiring day was the company's first, said Danya Proud, a McDonald's spokeswoman. She declined to disclose how many of the jobs were full- versus part-time. McDonald's employed 400,000 workers worldwide at company-owned stores at the end of 2010, according to a company filing.

Earlier this month, McDonald's said sales at stores open at least 13 months climbed 2.9 percent in the U.S. after it attracted more diners with items such as beverages and the Chipotle BBQ Bacon Angus burger. The fast-food chain has about 14,000 stores in the U.S. and more than 18,000 abroad. About 80 percent of all McDonald's stores are franchised.

Massachusetts Dems vote to strip public unions of bargaining rights #p2

Weren't Democrats supposed to be in favor of collective bargaining rights? Well, maybe not.

Welcome to bizarro world.

The Democratic-controlled Statehouse in Massachusetts voted earlier this week to strip public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights, as part of the state's budget measure. It passed by a vote of 157 to 1.

That's precisely the same action taken by Republicans in Wisconsin, where it sparked a massive democratic outcry and weeks of rowdy protests.

The Massachusetts legislation would allow local municipalities to make unilateral changes to agreed-upon benefits, like health care, bypassing the need for union approval. It would, however, leave open a 30-day window where unions may be consulted on changes to benefits.

According to The Associated Press, the budget also cuts $800 million from the state's Medicare-like program MassHealth, and strips more than $65 million in aid to state agencies and municipalities. Another $200 million would be withdrawn from the state's "rainy-day fund" to help close their spending gap for this fiscal year.

"These are the same Democrats that all these labor unions elected," Massachusetts AFL-CIO president Robert J. Haynes said in a media advisory. "The same Democrats who we contributed to in their campaigns. The same Democrats who tell us over and over again that they're with us, that they believe in collective bargaining, that they believe in unions."

He also pledged that the unions would fight this arrangement "to the bitter end."

"We deserve better in Massachusetts. Working families lost collective bargaining rights in Game 1 of this budget process. It's on to the Senate, then conference, then the Governor. Working people need to know who is for our right to collectively bargain and who is not."

It was unclear if state Senate President Therese Murray would allow the budget to proceed.

Kochs' campaign to try to smear Mayer in the press #p2 #tcot

Koch bros Desperate Campaign to Discredit Jane Mayer author of new yorker article #p2 #tcot!5725466/the-desperate-campaign-to-discredit-jane-mayer

new yorker article: what a bunch of shits the conservative cartoonish evil billionaire Koch Brothers are #p2 #tcot

Koch Brothers’ Main Activity Is Whining About New Yorker Article #p2 #tcot!5797065/koch-brothers-main-activity-is-whining-about-new-yorker-article

How Donald Trump Dodged Vietnam [Frauds] #p2 #tcot!5796927/how-donald-trump-dodged-vietnam

APRIL 28--Despite Donald Trump's claim this week that he avoided serving in the Vietnam War solely due to a high draft number, Selective Service records show that the purported presidential aspirant actually received a series of student deferments while in college and then topped those off with a medical deferment after graduation that helped spare him from fighting for his country, The Smoking Gun has learned.

During a TV interview Tuesday morning, Trump--who spent his high school years enrolled at the New York Military Academy--said, "I actually got lucky because I had a very high draft number. I'll never forget, that was an amazing period of time in my life."

He went on to recall, "I was going to the Wharton School of Finance, and I was watching as they did the draft numbers and I got a very, very high number and those numbers never got up to." The word "deferment" was not mentioned by Trump during his chat with the morning show hosts on WNYW, the Fox affiliate in New York City.

However, Selective Service records reveal that Trump, the fortunate son of a multimillionaire real estate baron, took repeated steps to avoid serving in Vietnam.

By the time his number (356) was drawn during the December 1, 1969 draft lottery, Trump had already received four student deferments and a medical deferment, according to military records on file with the National Archives and Records Administration. An extract of Trump's Selective Classification record, seen here, was provided in response to a TSG records request.

In fact, the December 1969 draft lottery occurred about 18 months after Trump graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied business at the Wharton School. So, while claiming that he would "never forget" being at Wharton watching the draft numbers being drawn, the 64-year-old Trump seems to have misremembered, as candidates are fond of saying.

Trump obtained his first two Class 2-S student deferments in June 1964 and December 1965, when he was student at Fordham University in the Bronx. He was briefly reclassified as 1-A--or "available for military service"--in late-November 1966, but that classification was switched back to 2-S three weeks later.

Another 2-S deferment is dated January 16, 1968, just months before his graduation from UPenn (to which he transferred following his sophomore year at Fordham).

Following his UPenn graduation, Trump--no longer qualified for a 2-S deferment--was again briefly classified as available for service on July 9. However, three months later, on October 15, his classification was switched to 1-Y, which was given to men deemed qualified for military service "only in time of national emergency."

The 1-Y classification came a month after Trump underwent an "Armed Forces Physical Examination," according to Selective Service records, which note the results of the exam as "DISQ." While the military records do not further detail why Trump was granted the 1-Y deferment, a 1992 biography of the businessman by journalist Wayne Barrett reported that Trump received a medical deferment following the September 17, 1968 exam.

Trump's 1-Y classification stayed in effect until February 1, 1972 when it was changed to a 4-F classification (which covered registrants not qualified for military service). The change in classification was likely prompted by the military's December 1971 decision to abolish the 1-Y classification.

The Selective Service records also include a copy of the registration card signed by Trump in June 1964, 10 days after he turned 18. The possible future Commander-in-Chief, it turns out, has birthmarks on both his heels. (3 pages)

nuts: Mission America’s Linda Harvey Blames Mortgage Crisis On Homosexuality from Right Wing Watch #p2 #tcot

Mission America's Linda Harvey knows what is really responsible for the country's economic difficulties and foreclosure crisis: tolerance of gays and lesbians. According to Harvey, who believes that gay people use "demonic manipulation" to recruit children and told parents to "separate your child" from their gay friends, maintains that same-sex couples create a "sin-based family" that is "constructed around sexual deviance." By affirming and promoting sin, Harvey says that "other sins are more likely to scurry in through the cracks," like "substance abuse" and "poor decisions about finances." She claims that the mortgage crisis has its roots in tolerance of homosexuality since "sexual and material covetousness are usually sin siblings," and alleges that the acceptance of gay and lesbian families leads to social ills like "infidelity, divorce, gambling or porn addictions, job instability, credit card default, domestic abuse, sexual deviance, and criminality," along with more children born out of wedlock and declining church attendance:

The foolish man builds his house on sand ( Matthew 7:26) or even, builds his house with sand. What is being embraced is the sin-based family.

Families constructed around sexual deviance stand in defiance of God's eternally –revealed truth. No matter how "conservatively" and faithfully two men or two women operate as they consider themselves a marital union, the structure is still in defiance of God's created order of male and female as the framework for marriage. Men and women already have the right to marry, because they are free to marry someone of the opposite sex, so the goal is a new structure.

Just as a child is far less likely to suffer abuse in the home of his/her married, heterosexual parents, so the opposite is true. Where the structure is sin-based, other sins are more likely to scurry in through the cracks. Substance abuse and self-destruction accompany sexual deviance. And some of this means poor decisions about finances.

The mortgage crisis was the sin of temptation being offered by those who relaxed legitimate standards, offered to those without the personal standards to resist. This easy-pay physical structure was too good to be true, and appealed to an increasingly covetous segment of our culture. Sexual and material covetousness are usually sin siblings. It would be interesting to study the families who have defaulted on mortgages for the correlations between structural and/or functional weaknesses like infidelity, divorce, gambling or porn addictions, job instability, credit card default, domestic abuse, sexual deviance, and criminality. There is also a high likelihood that poor or no church attendance would show up as a factor as well.

But back to our main point, probably few such households are homosexually-headed, because few homosexuals want to settle down to any kind of permanence, despite the plea for the honor of the marital designation. Many unmarried mothers of children born out of wedlock are on public assistance, which means they are unlikely to have had a mortgage. So when we look at the mortgage crisis, we could analyze it as a shift in the American family, but these families would not begin to reflect where the greatest structural weaknesses already exist.

$100,000+ pensions for 27 retired IL pols backed by Illinois taxpayers

Top 20 Conspiracy Theories That Have Already Sprung Up Around President Obama’s Birth Certificate

How to Make Your Lie Go Mainstream in 26 Easy Steps #p2 #tcot

Obama Administration punishes reporter for using multimedia in Wikileaks/Manning-related coverage #p2

Obama Administration punishes reporter for using multimedia #p2


The hip, transparent and social media-loving Obama administration is showing its analog roots. And maybe even some hypocrisy highlights.

White House officials have banished one of the best political reporters in the country from the approved pool of journalists covering presidential visits to the Bay Area for using now-standard multimedia tools to gather the news.

The Chronicle's Carla Marinucci - who, like many contemporary reporters, has a phone with video capabilities on her at all times -shot some protesters interrupting an Obama fundraiser at the St. Regis Hotel.

She was part of a "print pool" - a limited number of journalists at an event who represent their bigger hoard colleagues - which White House press officials still refer to quaintly as "pen and pad" reporting.

But that's a pretty Flintstones concept of journalism for an administration that presents itself as the Jetsons. Video is every bit a part of any journalist's tool kit these days as a functioning pen that doesn't leak through your pocket.

In fact, Carla and her reporting colleague, Joe Garofoli, founded something called "Shaky Hand Productions" - the semi-pro, sometimes vertiginous use of a Flip or phone camera by Hearst reporters to catch more impromptu or urgent moments during last year's California gubernatorial race that might otherwise be missed by TV.

The name has become its own brand; often politicians even ask if anyone from Shaky Hand will show at their event. For Carla, Joe and reporters at other Hearst newsrooms where Shaky Hand has taken hold, this was an appropriate dive into use of other media by traditional journalists catering to audiences who expect their news delivered in all modes and manners.

That's the world we live in and the President of the United States claims to be one of its biggest advocates.

Just the day before Carla's Stone Age infraction, Mr. Obama was at Facebook seated next to its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, and may as well have been wearing an "I'm With Mark" t-shirt for all the mutual admiration going back and forth.

"The main reason we wanted to do this is," Obama said of his appearance, "first of all, because more and more people, especially young people, are getting their information through different media. And historically, part of what makes for a healthy democracy, what is good politics, is when you've got citizens who are informed, who are engaged."

Informed, in other words, through social and other digital media where videos of news are posted.

The President and his staffers deftly used social media like Twitter and Facebook in his election campaign and continue to extol the virtues and value. Except, apparently, when it comes to the press.

rest at

Editorial: Online sales taxes should be U.S. law

Amazon to take away 1,249 jobs in S.C. over sales tax beef

Thursday, April 28, 2011

for real?! concrete evidence that HAARP triggered the Japan earthquake and ensuing tsunami

[This sounds nuts; Gov Jessie Ventura talked about this a few weeks ago on Howard Stern......]


The HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program) website has been down for the past 3 weeks. It was ordered taken down by the US government to conceal US weather modification and earthquake inducing warfare activities against foreign states. The HAARP website was publishing very damaging evidence of US military weather modification and earthquake triggering operations against foreign states. HAARP's waterfall charts and magnetometer charts gave evidence of an ongoing weather war between the United States government and foreign states. The magnetometer presented concrete evidence that HAARP triggered the Japan earthquake and ensuing tsunami.

HAARP's magnetometer can be used to predict as well as give evidence of a HAARP created earthquake. A magnetometer measures disturbances in the magnetic field in Earth's upper atmosphere. HAARP was broadcasting a 2.5 Hz frequency (the signature frequency of an earthquake) from just before midnight on March 8, 2011 and continued to broadcast the frequency for the entire days of March 9, 2011 and March 10, 2011. The 2.5 Hz frequency continued to be broadcasted and recorded by the magnetometer for another 10 hours the day of the Japan 9.0 magnitude earthquake.

Scientists at the HAARP institute discovered that a 2.5 Hz radio frequency is the signature frequency of an earthquake. Since this discovery the HAARP phased array antennas have been used by the US military to beam the earthquake frequency into the ionosphere and the ionosphere reflects it back to Earth – penetrating as deeply as several kilometers into the ground, depending on the geological makeup and subsurface water conditions in a targeted area.. By beaming the frequency at a specific trajectory HAARP can trigger an earthquake any place on Earth. A short burst isn't enough to disturb solid matter (the Earth crust) so they keep beaming the 2.5 Hz earthquake frequency for hours or days – until the desired effect is achieved.

Read Full Article

.@gop Rep. Barletta (R–PA) Laughs At Constituents Who Question His Support For Oil Subsidies #p2 #tcot

At a time when oil companies are posting record profits, Republican congressmen across the country are being challenged by constituents about their support for roughly $4 billion in annual tax incentives for the oil industry. Last month, every single Republican voted to preserve these subsidies, but under pressure, several GOP leaders, including Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), have buckled admitted that Big Oil shouldn't continue to receive taxpayer-funded subsidies. But yesterday Congressman Lou Barletta (R–PA) took at different approach: scoffing at the idea.

When a constituent asked him how he could vote for tax breaks for the oil industry, the congressman simply laughed at the woman and shook his head, ignoring her question. Another constituent then responded angrily, telling Barletta, "You're our congressman, don't laugh at us!" Barletta continued to smirk in amusement as constituents began to debate one another, at one point even turning his back on the crowd and rifling through papers as he appeared to completely disengage from the discussion. Watch it:

This is not the first time the freshman Republican has responded dismissively to tough questioning at home. At a town hall event one week ago, constituents confronted Barletta about his vote to end Medicare through the Ryan budget plan. He was rebuked by a 64-year-old woman who wanted to know why he backed "a plan that will destroy Medicare." The congressman's office brushed aside the complaint and tried to smear the woman, claiming she was part of a coordinated Democratic campaign to disrupt the event.

The congressman's condescending attitude toward his constituents' concerns is disconcerting, but not altogether surprising, given the generous support he's received from oil companies. In the 2009-10 election cycle, the oil & gas industry was one of the largest contributors to Barletta's campaign, kicking in more than $30,000.

Today two of the world's largest oil companies, Exxon and Shell, announced nearly $18 billion in profits in the first quarter, thanks to higher gas prices around to the world. Taxpayers have made it clear that they are tired of paying more at the pump while footing the bill for subsidies to an industry that's doing fine on its own. Democratic leaders Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have called on Republicans to end the incentives.

.@gop where are the jobs? House GOP expected to defund state health insurance exchanges #p2 #tcot

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans in the U.S. Congress are launching a fresh attack on the healthcare law by targeting grants to states for creating insurance exchanges, just as congressional budget analysts said on Thursday setting up the marketplaces may be delayed.

Next week, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to take up a bill that would repeal funding for $1.9 billion in grants for establishing exchanges where individuals can purchase health insurance.

While the measure is expected to pass the Republican-controlled House, this latest attack against President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul will likely go nowhere in the Democratic-led Senate.

The exchange idea is a key component of Obama's healthcare law, which has faced numerous challenges in Congress and the courts since it was passed a year ago.

Exchanges must be operational by January 2014 and self-supporting by January 2015.

But the Congressional Budget Office said in a new analysis the exchanges are not expected to reach full enrollment until 2016.

"That expectation reflects the likelihood that some states will encounter delays in achieving fully operational exchanges in the first few years," CBO said. "In addition, participation rates among potential enrollees are expected to be lower in the first few years as employers and individuals adjust to the features." More than half the states, along with business groups and individuals, have sued, saying the law's requirement that people buy insurance is unconstitutional and that the law usurps states' sovereignty.

The Republican-controlled House voted to repeal the law this year. But with Senate Democrats standing in the way of full repeal, House Republicans are now working on bills to try to undo the law bit by bit.

Two weeks ago, the House passed a bill that would yank money for a prevention and public health fund. A bill repealing grants for operating school-based health centers also could come to the House floor as early as next week.

The CBO, which estimates the costs of legislation, said blocking state grants for exchanges would reduce the U.S. deficit by about $14 billion from 2012 through 2021.

Rescinding the funds, though, would not eliminate the exchanges. Instead, it would shift much of the responsibility for creating the marketplaces to the federal government, which could in turn push up U.S. costs, CBO said, although it did not estimate the size of those obligations.

States can create exchanges alone, band with neighboring states, or opt out entirely and have the federal government establish exchanges within their borders.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert and Donna Smith; Editing by James Dalgleish)

Republicans target state health insurance exchange funds

Reuters US Online Report Top News

Apr 28, 2011 16:29 EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans in the U.S. Congress are launching a fresh attack on the healthcare law by targeting grants to states for creating insurance exchanges, just as congressional budget analysts said on Thursday setting up the marketplaces may be delayed.


Next week, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to take up a bill that would repeal funding for $1.9 billion in grants for establishing exchanges where individuals can purchase health insurance.

While the measure is expected to pass the Republican-controlled House, this latest attack against President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul will likely go nowhere in the Democratic-led Senate.

The exchange idea is a key component of Obama's healthcare law, which has faced numerous challenges in Congress and the courts since it was passed a year ago.

Exchanges must be operational by January 2014 and self-supporting by January 2015.

But the Congressional Budget Office said in a new analysis the exchanges are not expected to reach full enrollment until 2016.

"That expectation reflects the likelihood that some states will encounter delays in achieving fully operational exchanges in the first few years," CBO said. "In addition, participation rates among potential enrollees are expected to be lower in the first few years as employers and individuals adjust to the features."

More than half the states, along with business groups and individuals, have sued, saying the law's requirement that people buy insurance is unconstitutional and that the law usurps states' sovereignty.

The Republican-controlled House voted to repeal the law this year. But with Senate Democrats standing in the way of full repeal, House Republicans are now working on bills to try to undo the law bit by bit.

Two weeks ago, the House passed a bill that would yank money for a prevention and public health fund. A bill repealing grants for operating school-based health centers also could come to the House floor as early as next week.

The CBO, which estimates the costs of legislation, said blocking state grants for exchanges would reduce the U.S. deficit by about $14 billion from 2012 through 2021.

Rescinding the funds, though, would not eliminate the exchanges. Instead, it would shift much of the responsibility for creating the marketplaces to the federal government, which could in turn push up U.S. costs, CBO said, although it did not estimate the size of those obligations.

States can create exchanges alone, band with neighboring states, or opt out entirely and have the federal government establish exchanges within their borders.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert and Donna Smith; Editing by James Dalgleish)

Source: Reuters US Online Report Top News

trump: fetid, smug, hate-filled, wealthy white man taking credit for the release and yet still not being satisfied #p2 #tcot

Supreme Court: Class Action Lawsuits Are A Privilege, Not A Right #p2 #tcot

There is a takeaway message from this latest devastating ruling by the Supreme Court, which says there is nothing wrong with giving corporations the power to prevent cheated consumers from banding together to mount class-action lawsuits, and it is this: corporate interests are on a slash-and-burn campaign against any sort of collective action on the part of the American people. —YL

The Los Angeles Times:

The Supreme Court gave corporations a major win Wednesday, ruling in a 5-4 decision that companies can block their disgruntled customers from joining together in a class-action lawsuit. The ruling arose from a California lawsuit involving cellphones, but it will have a nationwide impact.

In the past, consumers who bought a product or a service had been free to join a class-action lawsuit if they were dissatisfied or felt they had been cheated. By combining these small claims, they could bring a major lawsuit against a corporation.

But in Wednesday's decision, the high court said that under the Federal Arbitration Act companies can force these disgruntled customers to arbitrate their complaints individually, not as part of a group. Consumer-rights advocates said this rule would spell the end for small claims involving products or services.

Read more

douche chills: Joey Lawrence Endorses Donald Trump #p2 #tcot

Ron Paul: Cases of rape, incest should be dealt with by morning-after pill, not abortion #p2 #tcot

Following his Tuesday announcement that he will launch a 2012 presidential exploratory committee, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) went on CNN's show In the Arena, where he argued with Eliot Spitzer about the constitutionality of Social Security, among other things.

Watch part of the interview:

Leading up the interview, In the Arena's blog posted an excerpt from Paul's new book Liberty Defined: Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom, in which Paul explains his anti-abortion rights stance from the perspective of an OB/GYN and suggests that America has overstepped "the bounds of morality by picking and choosing who should live and who should die."

Addressing abortion as a constitutional right, Paul asserts that the federal government should not have authority to "grant permission to destroy [life]" but writes that states should be able to enact their own laws dealing with abortion. For example, he suggests victims of incest or rape — rather than having abortions to terminate their pregnancies — should take emergency contraception, such as the morning-after pill, to prevent pregnancy.

From Liberty Defined:

On one occasion in the 1960s when abortion was still illegal, I witnessed, while visiting a surgical suite as an OB/GYN resident, the abortion of a fetus that weighed approximately two pounds.

It was placed in a bucket, crying and struggling to breathe, and the medical personnel pretended not to notice.

Soon the crying stopped. This harrowing event forced me to think more seriously about this important issue.

That same day in the OB suite, an early delivery occurred and the infant born was only slightly larger than the one that was just aborted.

But in this room everybody did everything conceivable to save this child's life. My conclusion that day was that we were overstepping the bounds of morality by picking and choosing who should live and who should die.

These were human lives. There was no consistent moral basis to the value of life under these circumstances.

Some people believe that being pro-choice is being on the side of freedom. I've never understood how an act of violence, killing a human being, albeit a small one in a special place, is portrayed as a precious right.

To speak only of the mother's cost in carrying a baby to term ignores all thought of any legal rights of the unborn. I believe that the moral consequence of cavalierly accepting abortion diminishes the value of all life.

It is now widely accepted that there's a constitutional right to abort a human fetus. Of course, the Constitution says nothing about abortion, murder, manslaughter, or any other acts of violence.

There are only four crimes listed in the Constitution: counterfeiting, piracy, treason, and slavery. Criminal and civil laws were deliberately left to the states.

It's a giant leap for the federal courts to declare abortion a constitutional right and overrule all state laws regulating the procedure. If anything, the federal government has a responsibility to protect life—not grant permission to destroy it.

If a state were to legalize infanticide, it could be charged with not maintaining a republican form of government, which is required by the Constitution.

If we, for the sake of discussion, ignore the legal arguments for or against abortion and have no laws prohibiting it, serious social ramifications would remain. There are still profound moral issues, issues of consent, and fundamental questions about the origin of life and the rights of individuals.

There are two arguments that clash. Some argue that any abortion after conception should be illegal. Others argue that the mother has a right to her body and no one should interfere with her decision.

It's amazing to me that many people I have spoken to in the pro-choice group rarely care about choice in other circumstances. Almost all regulations by the federal government to protect us from ourselves (laws against smoking, bans on narcotics, and mandatory seat belts, for example) are readily supported by the left/liberals who demand "choice."

Of course, to the pro-choice group, the precious choice we debate is limited to the mother and not to the unborn.

The fact is that the fetus has legal rights—inheritance, a right not to be injured or aborted by unwise medical treatment, violence, or accidents. Ignoring these rights is arbitrary and places relative rights on a small, living human being.

The only issue that should be debated is the moral one: whether or not a fetus has any right to life. Scientifically, there's no debate over whether the fetus is alive and human—if not killed, it matures into an adult human being.


So if we are ever to have fewer abortions, society must change again. The law will not accomplish that. However, that does not mean that the states shouldn't be allowed to write laws dealing with abortion. Very early pregnancies and victims of rape can be treated with the day after pill, which is nothing more than using birth control pills in a special manner. These very early pregnancies could never be policed, regardless. Such circumstances would be dealt with by each individual making his or her own moral choice.

Read the full excerpt here.

Pump pain, Big Oil gain - Oil giants post massive Q1 profits, demand huge subsidies #p2 #tcot

Exxon stood head and shoulders above the other big five oil companies with first-quarter profits of nearly $10.7 billion.  CAP's Valeri Vasquez has the details.

The first anniversary of the BP fatal oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico reminded Americans of the enormous human and economic costs of our oil dependence. One year later, BP is posting first-quarter profits of nearly $5.5 billion. This 17 percent growth from 2010's first-quarter earnings comes despite BP having distributed a mere 19 percent of the $20 billion it agreed to pay oil spill victims and their families.

The four other Big Oil companies—ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, and Shell—also enjoyed massive profits in the first quarter of 2011 compared to 2010 due to high oil prices. These four companies reported a combined $18.2 billion in first-quarter earnings—profits that together mark a 40 percent increase over last year. Exxon stood head and shoulders above the rest with a nearly 70 percent increase over 2010 first-quarter profits, clocking in at nearly $10.7 billion. Shell was a distant second with earnings listed at $6.9 billion.

Oil prices have risen by a third in just more than two months, spurred largely by speculators capitalizing on unrest in North Africa and the Middle East. The jump in crude prices from $85 per barrel to $112 per barrel since January 2011 has boosted gasoline prices by 22 percent.

President Barack Obama warned in an April 26 letter to congressional leadership that "if sustained, these high prices have the potential to slow our economy's growth at precisely the moment we need to be accelerating it."

Analysts agree, projecting that a sustained $10 increase in the cost of a barrel of oil can reduce our gross domestic product by up to 0.2 percentage points in 2011 alone. A sustained $20-per-barrel increase in oil prices could yield at least a 50-cent-per-gallon hike in gasoline costs.

This month, drivers are paying an additional 30 percent at the pump compared to April 2010. And this year, an increase of 70 cents per gallon in just more than two months is costing American families dearly. According to some estimates, every "penny increase at the pump sucks $1.5 billion from household spending nationwide."

Big Oil doesn't need tax subsidies with billions in profits

But the burden on American taxpayers begins well before they fill up at the gas station. More than $4 billion in unnecessary tax subsidies for domestic drilling and production are doled out to oil companies annually, activities the companies would undertake and profit from without federal assistance.

The handout is supported by Big Oil's Republican representatives in Congress. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's (R-WI) proposed fiscal year 2012 budget resolution that passed the House of Representatives on April 15 preserves Big Oil subsidies while nearly eliminating investments in the clean energy technologies of the future that are essential to reduce oil use and foster long-term economic growth.

The House Republicans also unanimously opposed and defeated a "motion to recommit" a short-term extension of government funding for FY 2011 in March. The motion would have eliminated these Big Oil tax loopholes.

Big Oil strongly supports the retention of these tax loopholes, of course. Four of the five Big Oil companies have already shown their appreciation to House Republican leaders who led efforts to retain them. These companies gave $280,000 in campaign contributions to their Republican benefactors. This includes House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who according to a Center for American Progress analysis has received $15,000 from oil interests since January. ExxonMobil was the largest overall donor to overall campaign contributions. It gave more than 80 percent of this campaign cash.

Speaker Boehner, however, indicated a willingness to consider eliminating Big Oil tax loopholes on Monday. He told ABC News:

We're in a time when the federal government is short on revenues. We need to control spending but we need to have revenues to keep the government movin'. And they [Big Oil] oughta be payin' their fair share.

President Obama wrote Speaker Boehner and other congressional leaders in response, urging them to "take immediate action to eliminate unwarranted tax breaks for the oil and gas industry, and to use those dollars to invest in clean energy to reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) wants to make the repeal of the Big Oil tax loopholes one of the first orders of business when Congress returns from its spring recess on May 2. Hopefully Speaker Boehner will ignore his oil contributors and instead join along by promptly allowing a House vote on Rep. Earl Blumenauer's (D-OH) bill, H.R. 601, which would eliminate Big Oil tax loopholes.

This quarter's $18.2 billion in profits certainly demonstrates that the big five oil companies can do without $40 billion in tax subsidies over a decade.

Valeri Vasquez is a Special Assistant for the Energy Team at American Progress.

he's not a fan of the monarchy: Thomas Jefferson: On the breeding of kings



As the world prepares for the royal wedding between Prince William and soon-to-be Princess Kate, it's important to take a look back at our own American traditions, and what our founding fathers had to say about royalty. We are, after all, a nation born out of a revoultion against a monarchy. With that in mind, we present to you Thomas Jefferson's letter, "On the Breeding of Kings." We're guessing that Jefferson wouldn't have been enthused by the pomp and pageantry.

To Governor John Langdon
Monticello, March 5, 1810

When I observed, that the King of England was a cipher, I did not mean to confine the observation to the mere individual now on that throne. The practice of Kings marrying only in the families of Kings has been that of Europe for some centuries. Now, take any race of animals, confine them in idleness and inaction, whether in a sty, a stable, or a state-room, pamper them with high diet, gratify all  their sexual appetites, immerse them in sensualities, nourish  their passions, let everything bend before them, and banish  whatever might lead them to think, and in a few generations  they become all body and no mind ; and this, too, by a law of  nature, by that very law by which we are in the constant  practice of changing the characters and propensities of  the animals we raise for our own purposes. Such is the regimen in raising Kings, and in this way they have gone on for centuries. While in Europe, I often amused myself with contemplating the characters of the then reigning sovereigns of Europe. Louis the XVI was a fool, of my own knowledge, and in despite of the answers made for him at his trial. The King of Spain was a fool, and of Naples the same. They passed their lives in hunting, and despatched two couriers a week, one thousand miles, to let each other know what game they had killed the preceding days.  The King of Sardinia was a fool. All these were Bourbons.  The Queen of Portugal, a Braganza, was an idiot by nature.  And so was the King of Denmark. Their sons, as regents, exercised the powers of government. The King of Prussia, successor to the great Frederick, was a mere hog in body as  well as in mind. Gustavus of Sweden, and Joseph of Austria, were really crazy, and George of England, you know, was in a strait-waistcoat. There remained, then, none but old Catharine, who had been too lately picked up to have lost her common sense. In this state Bonaparte found Europe; and it was this state of its rulers which lost it with scarce a struggle. These animals had become without mind and powerless; and so will every hereditary monarch be after a few generations. Alexander, the grandson of Catharine, is as yet an exception. He is able to hold his own. But he is only of the third generation. His race is not yet worn out. And so endeth the book of Kings, from all of whom the Lord deliver us, and have you, my friend, and all such good men and true, in His holy keeping.

Image: Dome Poon // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0