Saturday, March 29, 2014

@abcnews @NBCNews @CBSNews @foxnews BP Lake Michigan Oil Spill - why no coverage?


BP has recently more than doubled their estimate of how much crude oil has leaked into Lake Michigan following a spill from the Whiting refinery in northwest Indiana. Officials are now pegging the number between 15 and 39 barrels, each of which contains 42 gallons of crude oil, up from just 9-18 barrels.

While comparatively minor compared to other recent incidents, Lake Michigan serves as an water source for some 7 million people; the 68th St. water intake crib is just 8 miles northwest of the spill. It's also unclear just what BP let leak into the water; conventional crude oil is bad enough, but the refinery was recently upgraded to handle much higher amounts of heavy crude derived from tar sands, which is much more difficult to clean up.

Despite this, there's barely been any major media coverage of the incident, which raises serious questions about BP safety standards as the Whiting facility ramps up processing of tar sands crude.

This image sums up how most of us watching the situation are feeling:

Even the state's senators are concerned. Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Dick Durbin, both from Illinois, say that "Given the Whiting refinery's recent expansion of its operations to double the amount of heavy oil sands being processed, this spill raises questions about the long-term safety and reliability of BP's new, expanded production."

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Friday, March 28, 2014

forget #cancelcolbert this guy is an idiot: "Fox News' Geraldo Rivera Says That Minorities Are More Likely To Be Politically Corrupt "


"The discussion between Doocy and Rivera went along the line that media outlets want to portray Republicans as hypocrites when caught being corrupt and never want to label Democrats as it goes against their preconceived narrative.

Then, Rivera made the following statement:

“Usually, the politicians who are robbing on the democratic side tend to be ethnic politicians, as in these cases…We are the antidote to that particular problem.”"

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scary: Nate Silver: GOP Ahead In Race For Senate


Silver's data-driven journalism website FiveThirtyEight made one of its first major political predictions since its relaunch: Republicans will take back the Senate in the midterm elections behind held later this year

Famed statistician and political prognosticator Nate Silver is predicting that the Republicans are the slight favorites to take control of the senate in the 2014 midterm elections.

Silver’s data-based journalism site FiveThirtyEight relaunched last week with new backing from ESPN and made its first prediction about this year’s midterm elections since last July. Silver says current polling suggests the GOP will win at least six seats in the Senate, enough to give them an overall majority.

Silver, the founder and editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight, correctly predicted the winner of all 50 states and the District of Columbia in the 2012 presidential election battle between President Barack Obama and Republican contender Mitt Romney. That same year, Silver correctly predicted 31 of 33 U.S. senate races. He announced in 2013 that FiveThirtyEight would move from The New York Times to become a standalone site under the auspices of ESPN.

According to FiveThirtyEight, here’s what would need to happen for the Republicans to take advantage of the drop in Obama’s approval ratings and win the senate:

Republicans have great opportunities in a number of states, but only in West Virginia, South Dakota, Montana and Arkansas do we rate the races as clearly leaning their way. Republicans will also have to win at least two toss-up races, perhaps in Alaska, North Carolina or Michigan, or to convert states such as New Hampshire into that category. And they’ll have to avoid taking losses of their own in Georgia and Kentucky, where the fundamentals favor them but recent polls show extremely competitive races.”

However, Silver says that it “wouldn’t take much” for the Democrats to recalibrate in the coming months and pull ahead.

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First Climate Article On Nate Silver's Data Website Uses 'Deeply Misleading' Data, Top Climatologists Say


One of the first articles on Nate Silver’s highly anticipated data-driven news site used flawed data to make its conclusions, according to some of the nation’s top climate scientists.

Silver’s FiveThirtyEight published its first article about climate change on Wednesday, entitled “Disasters Cost More Than Ever — But Not Because of Climate Change.” But climate scientists are condemning the article and its author, Roger Pielke Jr., saying he ignored critical data to produce a “deeply misleading” result.

The crux of Pielke’s article is this: Extreme weather events are costing us more and more money, but that is not because climate change is making extreme weather more frequent or intense. The reason we are losing more money, rather, is because we have more money to lose. Pielke came to this conclusion by measuring rising disaster damage costs alongside the rising global Gross Domestic Product. He also cited a U.N. climate report, along with his own research, to assert that extreme weather events have not been increasing in frequency or intensity.

“Pielke’s piece is deeply misleading, confirming some of my worst fears that Nate Silver’s new venture may become yet another outlet for misinformation when it comes to the issue of human-caused climate change,” said Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. “Pielke uses a very misleading normalization procedure that likely serves to remove the very climate change-related damage signal that he claims to not be able to find.”

Pielke, a political scientist who has proven to be Silver’s most controversial hire to date, has actually been making his argument about increased disaster costs for years.

His story in FiveThirtyEight is one that he has written before, in Chapter 7 of his 2011 book “The Climate Fix.” Just like in his article, the chapter argues that increased wealth and development is the principal cause of increased monetary losses from extreme weather events — not more extreme weather from climate change.

But just as Pielke’s article has been written before, so too it has been criticized before. Dr. Kevin E. Trenberth, a distinguished senior climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, has criticized Pielke’s data for its simplistic nature. Simply showing that an increase in damage has corresponded to an increase in wealth ignores the fact that communities are now more prepared than ever for extreme storms, Trenberth wrote at the time.

Trenberth says data on increased disaster preparation measures should, to some degree, cancel out Pielke’s findings.

“This is the same old wrong Roger,” Trenberth said by e-mail. “He is demonstrably wrong and misleads.”

Mann agrees that the data analysis is too simplistic. “Pielke, in this case, continues to use an extremely controversial ‘normalization’ procedure when analyzing these data,” he told Climate Progress in an e-mail. “That procedure assumes that damages increase with population but it completely ignores technological innovations (sturdier buildings, hurricane-resistant structures, better weather forecasting, etc.) that have served to reduce societal vulnerability, thus likely masking some of the aggravating impacts of climate change.”

Pielke’s article also says that intensifying weather events can’t be causing more damage, because they aren’t occurring in the first place. Pielke cites the fifth IPCC’s report, which he said showed “little evidence of a spike in the frequency or intensity of floods, droughts, hurricanes and tornadoes.”

“In fact, today’s climate models suggest that future changes in extremes that cause the most damage won’t be detectable in the statistics of weather (or damage) for many decades,” Pielke wrote, citing his own research.

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

@Boeing 's Lobby paid off: $8.7 bil tax break to produce 777X in Washington State is largest state tax subsidy in US history for a corp


In November of 2013, Washington state’s Governor Jay Inslee signed into law the largest state tax subsidy for a corporation in United States history as part of an effort to convince Boeing Company to produce the new Boeing 777X in the Evergreen State, as reported by the Washington Post.

An evaluation by the National Institute on Money in State Politics of recent lobbying reports and campaign contributions shows that Boeing has been actively involved in legislative efforts.

A close look at Boeing’s 2012 donations shows that the company gave the maximum amount ($900) to 24 Washington lawmakers, and it also gave the maximum ($1,800) to Jay Inslee, who ran for governor in 2012. Throughout 2013, Boeing spent $356,605 lobbying Washington lawmakers, and in November of that year, during a three-day special session of the legislature, Washington passed a bill that gave an estimated $8.7 billion in tax breaks to Boeing. Three months later, in February of 2014, the aircraft and defense company threw a party for Washington state lawmakers to thank them for their “efforts to land the 777X in Washington state.”

Institute data shows that the aerospace giant contributed  $26,700 to candidates in Washington: $21,600 to 24 lawmakers; $3,400 to Jay Inslee and incumbent Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen; $900 to then-Representative Mary Haugen, the only recipient of Boeing’s 2012 Washington contributions who lost her reelection bid; and $800 to the incumbent insurance commissioner.

Overall, 90 percent of Boeing’s contributions to Washington candidates went to 26 incumbents who sought reelection; 10 percent went to two incumbents seeking election to a different office. Contributions were split between Democrats (63 percent) and Republicans (37 percent).

The Institute also examined Boeing’s lobbying expenses from the Washington Public Disclosure Commission’s online database. While Boeing did not contribute large sums to Washington candidates in 2012, it did put a concerted financial effort behind lobbying those lawmakers in 2013.

10 Years of Boeing Political Spending in Washington State, 2004-2013

10 Years Boeing Contributions 2004-14

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Wisconsin Poised to Pass ALEC's Deadly Asbestos Bill to narrow access to the courts for asbestos victims


Wisconsin could become the latest state to narrow access to the courts for asbestos victims in a bill up for a vote on March 20, joining a national coordinated effort that can be traced back to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Rep. Andre Jacque, a member of the ALEC Civil Justice Task Force, introduced Assembly Bill 19 in April of 2013. A version of the legislation passed the Wisconsin Senate last week on a nearly party line vote, and is now before the Assembly. It resembles the ALEC "Asbestos Claims Transparency Act," which was adopted as a "model" by members of the ALEC Civil Justice Task Force in 2007. In December of 2012, Ohio became the first state to pass the legislation. In the 2013 session, nearly identical legislation has been introduced in Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Illinois and Texas.

The legislation would benefit corporations like Crown Holdings, a Fortune 500 company with over $8 billion in annual sales that has worked with ALEC for years to legislate its way out of compensating asbestos victims, as well as ALEC member Honeywell International, which has faced significant asbestos liability in recent years.

The bill could allow corporations like Crown Holdings or Honeywell to delay a lawsuit until a victim files claims with any other asbestos or personal injury "trust funds," which are accounts set up after a company goes bankrupt to pay claims to injured parties. This requirement, advocates say, is intended to drag out a case until after a sick victim dies -- an especially pointed concern given that asbestos cancer victims usually die within a year after being diagnosed. Families often don't continue litigation after the victim dies, and juries change their assessment of the case, advocates say.

Asbestos-related diseases kill at least 10,000 Americans every year, in many cases from mesothelioma, an incurable and painful cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. For decades, asbestos was used for insulation and industrial purposes, and the diseases particularly affect veterans, firefighters, construction workers, and individuals who worked in factories with high-heat machinery. In Wisconsin, veterans groups have been some of the most vocal opponents of the legislation: veterans make up just 8 percent of the population, but are 30 percent of mesothelioma cases.

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@gop candidates Jeb Bush Scott Walker Chris Christie John Kasich falling at Sheldon Adelson's feet in Vegas looking for cash


Despite claims to be focused exclusively on this year's gubernatorial election, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and other GOP presidential hopefuls are jetting off to Las Vegas for an exclusive gathering with billionaire Republican donor Sheldon Adelson, who is reportedly assessing the field for 2016 after plowing $92 million into the 2012 presidential election cycle.

During Walker's hotly contested 2012 recall elections spurred by Walker's crackdown on collective bargaining, Adelson wrote the Wisconsin governor a $250,000 check.

Walker will join former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and Ohio Governor John Kasich at Adelson's Venetian hotel, in what one Republican strategist calling the "Sheldon Primary."

Officially, the potential 2016 candidates will be attending a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, "But some of the most important events will occur between the poker tournament, Scotch tasting and strategy workshops. That’s when Adelson is scheduled to hold casual one-on-one chats — over coffee, at dinner or in his private office — with the prospective candidates," the Washington Post reports.

Adelson spent $15 million in 2012 on long-shot candidate Newt Gingrich, extending the GOP primary season and hobbling the eventual nominee, Mitt Romney. For 2016, he is trying to be more careful.“The bar for support is going to be much higher,” Andy Abboud, Adelson’s top political adviser told the Washington Post. “There’s going to be a lot more scrutiny.”

An anonymous senior Republican strategist told the Post that the candidates "are just falling at [Adelson's] feet.”

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Government Computer Glitch Forced Thousands Of Families To Go Hungry


Camilla Lewis and her son, Jamarri, did not receive food stamp payments for three months. (Photo: Gerry Smith/Huffington Post)

WAKE FOREST, N.C. -- Janette Simon has four chicken legs and five kids to feed.

Her freezer is bare. And her latest trip to the food pantry yielded little else for dinner this night: a bag of day-old croissants, a box of Corn Flakes, and some canned goods.

She slathers barbecue sauce on the chicken, slides the pan in the oven, and begins her nightly ritual of distracting her five children from hunger.

The 44-year-old single mother often skips dinner herself. She hides Ramen noodle packets in her closet to ration food. She tells her two youngest kids to play outside “so they ain’t thinking about eating.”

“That’s what I have to worry about,” she says. “I gotta look at these kids with their sad faces and no food.”

On the 13th of every month, she has counted on seeing a $600 payment on her food-stamp debit card. But now, that payment is a month late.

Simon and thousands like her in North Carolina had enough to worry about before a computer glitch began to fray this basic part of the social safety net.

Last July, government computers across the state repeatedly crashed, preventing caseworkers from processing food stamp applications and recertifications for weeks. Eight months later, North Carolina officials are still scrambling to clear the resulting backlog.

The food stamp delays can be traced to troubles with a computer system designed by Accenture, one of the world’s largest consulting firms. The company is among a small group of politically connected technology contractors that receive government business across the country despite previous criticism of their work.

Accenture won the North Carolina contract after spending thousands of dollars on political contributions and lobbying in the state. North Carolina hired Accenture even though at least six other states -- Colorado, Florida, Wyoming, Kansas, Wisconsin and Texas -- have canceled contracts with the company in the past decade over problems with its computer systems.

The glitches in North Carolina mark another example of government technology gone awry, turning a program created to sustain millions of people through hard times into a new aggravation. The high-profile failure of the federal health care exchange last fall illustrated what many low-income people have encountered for years: faulty computer systems and websites that prevent them from receiving public assistance on time.

In North Carolina, the fix was simple: In August, caseworkers found that their computers stopped crashing if they switched browsers from Internet Explorer to Google Chrome.

But the backlog kept growing. By the end of last year, more than 30,000 families in North Carolina had waited more than a month to receive food stamps -- a violation of federal rules that require routine applications be processed within 30 days. About one third of those families had waited three months or more.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the federal food stamp program, has threatened to take a rare and drastic measure: cutting off $88 million in funding to North Carolina if the state doesn’t clear the backlog of cases by March 31.

“These delays are completely unacceptable and a serious failure on the part of North Carolina,” Donald Arnette, the USDA’s regional administrator, wrote in a December letter to state officials. “We have grave concern for the low-income people of North Carolina who are waiting for the assistance.”

Aldona Wos, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the state’s food stamp program, declined to be interviewed for this story. In a statement to The Huffingon Post, Wos said North Carolina is “committed to providing quality services to our residents by ensuring accurate, timely processing of food stamps.”

She said the state met an initial federal deadline in February to process the longest-waiting food stamp cases after a “herculean effort” by government employees. “As we approach the USDA’s March 31 deadline, the counties and state are continuing to work tirelessly to meet federal timeliness standards,” Wos said.

Last week, Wos said county and state officials expect to meet the deadline. About 1,000 food stamp cases were still considered to be “untimely” by federal standards, according to state figures released last week.

North Carolina officials blame the food stamp delays partly on Obamacare. Under the health care law, states were required to update their aging computer systems to accept Medicaid applications by Oct. 1 of last year.

North Carolina chose to combine food stamp, Medicaid and other welfare programs into a single computer system. When state officials updated the software in July to comply with the law, they did not have time to properly test the system and ran into glitches that created the food stamp delays, according to Julie Henry, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Human Services.

But the USDA has dismissed the state’s explanation, noting in a January letter that many other states complied with the federal health care law “without the dramatic impacts” on food stamp processing that occurred in North Carolina.

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IRS: Bitcoin should be treated as property, not currency, for US federal tax purposes


The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued much-needed tax guidance on March 25 to provide clarification for users of Bitcoin and other digital currencies. It has decided that cryptocurrencies should be treated as property, not currency, for US federal tax purposes.

As was noted by National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson in her 2013 annual report to Congress in January this year, Bitcoin usage increased by over 75 percent in the four months between July and December 2013 – from about 1,700 transactions per hour to over 3,000 – and, over the same period, the market value of Bitcoins in circulation rose more than ten-fold from about USD1.1bn to USD12.6bn.

With taxpayers being unsure previously of the tax rules to which they should comply, it is now hoped the provision of IRS guidance will promote tax compliance, particularly among those who want to report digital currency transactions properly, and provide tax certainty.

The IRS guidance has been issued in the form of answers to frequently asked questions, so as to provide clear and basic information on the US federal tax implications of transactions in, or transactions that use, virtual currency.

While, in some environments, virtual currencies operates like fiat currency, the IRS points out that they do not have legal tender status in any jurisdiction, and that, consequently, it should be treated as property for US federal tax purposes.

It is therefore confirmed that the general tax principles that apply to property transactions apply to transactions using virtual currency. This means, for example, that wages paid to employees using virtual currency are taxable to the employee, must be reported by an employer on a Form W-2 (Wage and Tax Statement) , and are subject to federal income tax withholding and payroll taxes.

In addition, payments using virtual currency made to independent contractors and other service providers are taxable, and self-employment tax rules generally apply, with payers normally required to complete Form 1099-MISC (Miscellaneous Income).

Meanwhile, the treatment of the sale or exchange of virtual currency depends on whether the virtual currency is a capital asset in the hands of the taxpayer.

Next, the IRS has clarified that a payment made using virtual currency is subject to information reporting to the same extent as any other payment made in property.

Although the fact that virtual currency will not be treated as currency by the IRS will mean that no foreign currency gain or loss is generated for US federal tax purposes, payments made using virtual currency are subject to backup withholding to the same extent as other payments made in property. Therefore, payers making reportable payments using virtual currency may need to solicit a taxpayer identification number from the payee, the IRS said.

Given that Bitcoin investors may be subject to an income tax liability that has not been previously specified, they may also be subject to penalties for failure to comply with tax laws, even for transactions or investments concluded before March 25, the IRS guidance says. In addition, failure to report virtual currency transactions when required to do so may be subject to information reporting penalties. However, it is stressed that penalty relief may be available to taxpayers who are able to establish that the underpayment or failure to file information returns is due to reasonable cause.

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.@AFPhq Americans for Prosperity's Jennifer Stefano [ @JenniferStefano ]makes an ass of herself on tv over Obamacare extension


It's safe to say Chris Hayes did not see this one coming.

During a discussion on conservative outrage over the Obamacare deadline extension Wednesday night, Hayes found himself in a full-blown feud with his guest, Americans for Prosperity’s Jennifer Stefano.

Things started out on a good note. Hayes pointed out that despite the Republican attacks on the Obama administration, former president George W. Bush also extended the deadline for a key medicare benefit back in 2006. Stefano then talked about providing her children with health care and Hayes wondered why that had anything to do with a health care extension. But the conversation quickly took a turn for the worst.

"How dare you, like Harry Reid, try to undercut the voice of a woman simply because she disagrees with you," she said. "How dare you!"

Hayes seemed very confused at first, and pleaded with her to "just be honest" about why she really "wakes up everyday and thinks about how to destroy Obamacare."

"You know nothing about me," she shouted. "You have no idea why I wake up in the morning.... You know nothing about me, you know nothing about my family. You don't know if I was born and raised in a trailer park."

"You have absolutely no idea about me or my life," she continued. "I don't care!"

"What are you talking about?" Hayes asked several times throughout the interview, even rolling his eyes at one point.

Watch the video for the full clip.

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heartbreaking: Homeless Woman's Children Taken Away After She Left Them In Car During Job Interview


Shanesha Taylor, a woman from Scottsdale, Arizona, is homeless. So when she got asked to come in for a job interview last Thursday, she must have been excited by the prospect. But when you’re homeless, there isn’t always an easy way to take an hour off from watching your kids to be at an interview. That’s how Taylor, 35, wound up losing her children to Child Protective Service — and losing out on the potential job.

Taylor was charged with two felony counts of child abuse for leaving her six-month-old and two-year-old in a car with the windows cracked last Thursday for at least 45 minutes as she sat in an interview for a potential job. She told officers that she was homeless, so she couldn’t leave her children in the house, and she had no one else to watch them.

“She was upset,” Sargent Mark Clark, Public Information Officer for Scottsdale Police, told WFSB. “This is a sad situation all around. She said she was homeless, she needed the job. Obviously, not getting the job. So it’s just a sad situation.”

Taylor remains in jail, an official from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s office confirmed, and will likely remain there until her first court date.

It is undeniably very unsafe to leave a child in a locked car. Thirty-eight children suffer heat-related deaths every year from being locked in a vehicle, according to Kids and Cars. But Taylor’s story raises an important issue: People in her situation are left with only bad options.

“It’s reasonable to turn the lens back on us,” Shahera Hyatt, Project Director for the California Homeless Youth Project, told ThinkProgress. “What did we do to not help her find childcare when she had that appointment?”

Hyatt points to her own state, California, which has cut 110,000 subsidized child care slots, about a quarter of the total spots in the program, since 2008, leaving low-income parents with few feasible options for child care on short notice.

Arizona’s child care situation for its low-income residents is, if anything, worse than California’s. In the past four years, the state has cut 40 percent of its total child care budget, $81 million, which led to an estimated 33,000 children who would otherwise be eligible for subsidized care to go without it. (By the numbers, that’s less than California — but Arizona’s population is about one fifth of the Golden State’s.) Between 2012 and 2013, there was a decrease in the number of children served for every single child care program in the state except for Child Protective Services.

But even when child care programs are available, the system to help out parents like Taylor isn’t always responsive enough. “There’s not really a great infrastructure to provide things like that, like child care. Mom got an interview this week? She might be on a waiting list for a really long time. She can’t do it at the last minute,” Hyatt said.

Homeless people also struggle with more than child care when looking for work — they can have difficulty finding an internet connection to apply to job or transportation to get to interviews, clean clothes, or a place to put their belongings. And once they land a job offer, they can run into even more problems, especially if they don’t have things like an ID or birth certificate. It’s a vicious cycle; not having a job perpetuates homelessness, which can in turn make it even harder to find a job.

This is likely the position Taylor found herself in when she had the opportunity to interview last week. She is probably “not an evil, criminal, bad woman,” Hyatt added. “She is just trying to do the right thing.”

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

@McConnellPress @Team_Mitch front page of Lexington Herald-Leader in wake of McConnell's web ad celebrating Duke's 2010 nal c'ship


From the front page of today's Lexington Herald-Leader in the wake of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's web ad accidentally celebrating Duke's 2010 national championship instead of the University of Kentucky:

Lexington Herald-Leader front page, March 26, 2014
attribution: Lexington Herald-Leader
Yeah, I'll admit this is far from the worst thing that Mitch McConnell has done. But when he tries to escape his record with a bogus feel-good ad exploiting his home-town college basketball team—and can't even get that right—he deserves all the mockery he gets.

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@HobbyLobbyStore case is in the supreme court to deny women coverage to birth control but they have no qualms about covering Viagra.


"Boxer wondered aloud why those who are objecting to women having their birth control covered by their health insurance have no similar objection to the same insurance covering Viagra for men.

“I have never heard Hobby Lobby or any other corporation, I could be wrong, or any other boss complain that Viagra is covered in many insurance plans, practically all of them, or other kinds of things, you know, for men, which I won’t go into.”

Jansing then responded back that those who are objecting aren’t doing so due to premarital sex or an aversion to sex in general, but because this ‘is a life issue.’ Boxer then hammered back at that argument and pointed out the slippery slope that this presents. If corporations like Hobby Lobby are allowed to circumvent the law of the land by stating it infringes on the company’s religious freedom, then what else can a corporation be allowed to get away with?"

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facts to back up assertion that Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger would be bad for prices, competition and the future of the Internet


When the nation’s two biggest cable and Internet companies decide to get hitched, it can take a while to crunch the numbers on what that will mean for people.

But new Free Press research shows that the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger would create a media behemoth with unmatched power to raise prices, squash competition and reshape the future of the Internet.

If the merger is approved, all kinds of bad stuff will happen. (Click the thumbnails to get the full scoop.)

First off, Comcast will be the largest pay-TV provider in 104 markets encompassing 65 percent of the U.S. population. (See this map.)

Comcast market share

Wait, it gets worse: Comcast’s service area will cover almost two-thirds of the U.S., and it will be the only broadband provider that can deliver Internet and pay-TV services to nearly four out of every 10 U.S. homes. (See the company’s reach.)

Comcast broadband availibility

And to top it all off Comcast will control half of the truly high-speed U.S. Internet market, half of the TV/Internet-bundle market and a third of the pay-TV market. (See what Comcast will control.)

Comcast market share

To get a glimpse of the future you sometimes need to look at the past. We reviewed Comcast’s prices for its basic and premium cable packages from 2009–2013 and found that Comcast has hiked its rates far more than competitors AT&T, Cablevision and DISH. In fact, during this same period Time Warner actually lowered its prices for basic cable.

Comcast price hikes

If the merger goes through, Time Warner Cable customers can say goodbye to that trend.

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according to the Pentagon, @GOP 's Benghazi Witch Hunts Have Cost Millions of Dollars and Accomplished Nothing

"The Department of Defense is officially going on record to tell Congress that their Captain Ahab-like quest to slay the white whale that is Benghazi is way too expensive and wastes a ton of time.

While nearly every person in the country has moved on to different political battles, there are still some in Congress who cannot let the idea of a Benghazi cover up go. It’s tiresome for everyone (the public has shown absolutely no interests in more Benghazi investigations, if they even remember what it was about in the first place), but especially tiresome for the Pentagon, who, by law, has to comply with congressional investigations regardless of how baseless and speculative. After nearly three years, they are beginning to lose their patience.

According to a letter from the Pentagon to a top-ranking Democrat:

The Department has devoted thousands of man-hours to responding to numerous and often repetitive congressional requests regarding Benghazi which includes time devoted to approximately 50 congressional hearings, briefings, and interviews which the Department has led or participated in. The total cost of compliance with Benghazi related congressional requests sent to the Department and other agencies is estimated to be in the millions of dollars.

The Pentagon says that they “continue to work fervently to address outstanding items,” but the frustration is palpable. Benghazi has been reviewed over and over. The public has, at best, lost interest, and at worst use the investigation as a punchline to mock right-wing conspiracy theories more generally. Frankly, everyone acknowledges that their are more important things to be spending time, energy and money on. Yet, even considering all of that, the Benghazi quest continues."

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BP @BP_America @BPGlobalPR refinery on Lake Michigan spilled tar sands oil into the drinking water supply of 7 million people

A BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana leaked an unknown amount of oil into Lake Michigan Monday afternoon, an incident that occurred less than two weeks after the U.S. lifted BP’s ban on seeking new oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

BP says the spill, which has since been stopped and contained, was caused by a “disruption in the refining process” at its Whiting refinery in northwest Indiana. Dan Goldblatt, spokesman at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, told ThinkProgress that his office was notified at about 4:30 CDT Monday of an oil sheen, which EPA officials said on a press call Thursday totaled about 5,000 square yards, on Lake Michigan. Mike Beslow, On-Scene Coordinator for the EPA, said that when he visited the site around 9 p.m. Monday, the sheen was no longer visible. Neither Goldblatt nor EPA officials had information on how much oil had spilled, but CBS, citing unnamed sources, reports that between 10 and 12 barrels — around 500 gallons — spilled into the lake.

Lake Michigan acts as the drinking water source for 7 million people in the Chigago area alone, but EPA officials said on the call that the drinking water wouldn’t be affected by the spill. The EPA, BP and the Coast Guard are leading the cleanup effort, which involves placing booms on the water, scooping up oil, which has been turned hard and waxy by cold weather, with their hands, and cleaning up a nearby beach that was contaminated. BP told Reuters that they have had “no reports of any wildlife impacted,” and EPA officials confirmed this on the call.

The presence of a sheen on a body of water is typically viewed as a violation of the Clean Water Act, and EPA Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman said during the call that officials would look into whether action should be taken against BP.

“I can assure you that EPA’s lawyers will be looking at this matter and determining whether or not enforcement action will be appropriate,” she said.

The Whiting refinery, which was recently upgraded to process oil from the Canadian tar sands, has drawn the ire of environmentalists in the past, due to its pollution of Lake Michigan. Last September, Indiana regulators ruled that BP must cut the amount of mercury pollution it releases annually into Lake Michigan from the refinery from 23.1 parts per trillion of to 8.75 parts per trillion. The new rule marks a “modest but significant” change, according to the NRDC, but is still above the federal mercury limit of 1.3 parts per trillion.

The Whiting refinery was also at the center of a November lawsuit by Chicago residents, who sued BP, Koch Industries, and other companies over the storage of vast piles of petroleum coke, a byproduct left over from the refining of tar sands oil. The Whiting refinery currently produces about 600,000 tons per year of petcoke, but the recent $3.8 billion expansion has the potential to up its petcoke production to 2.2 million tons per year.

Spokespersons at BP did not immediately respond to ThinkProgress’ request for comment. The spill comes on the heels of a barge collision that spilled up to 170,000 gallons of oil into into Galveston Bay Saturday, and just over a week after a spill of 20,000 gallons of oil was reported in an Ohio nature reserve.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Real Numbers On 'The Obamacare Effect' Are In-Now Let The Crow Eating Begin


After years of negative speculation on the part of the opponents of Obamacare, hard data is finally coming in with respect to the anticipated negative side-effects of the law.

The results are guaranteed to both surprise and depress those who have built their narrative around the effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act.

Let’s begin with the meme threatening that healthcare reform will lead to a serious decline in full-time employment as employers reduce workforce hours to below 30 per week in the effort to avoid their responsibility to provide health benefits to their employees.

It turns out that there has, in fact, been no such rush to reduce work hours. Indeed, numbers released last week reveal that precisely the opposite is taking place.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of part-time workers in the United States has fallen by 300,000 since March of 2010 when the Affordable Care Act was passed into law. What’s more, in the past year alone—the time period in which the nation was approaching the start date for Obamacare—full-time employment grew by over 2 million while part-time employment declined by 230,000.

And it gets even more interesting.

Despite the cries of anguish over the coming destruction of private sector work opportunities at the hands of Obamacare, it turns out that the only significant ‘cutter’ of work hours turns out to be in the public sector where cops, teachers, prison guards and the like are experiencing cuts in work time as cities, states and universities seek to avoid the obligations of the health reform law.

Correct me if I am wrong, but is it not the very same folks who strenuously oppose Obamacare who are constantly screaming for smaller government? Are these not the same people who have, for as many years as I can recall, been carping about swollen government payrolls?

But the false narrative that has been peddled to make us believe that the private sector can’t wait to lower our hours of employment turns out not to be the only false note being played by anti-Obamacare forces.

For months now, we have been pounded with the story of the millions of Americans who have lost their non-group, individual health insurance policy due to cancellations forced by Obamacare.

Yet, a new study just out by Lisa Clemans-Cope and Nathaniel Anderson of the Urban Institute tells a very different story.

How many times have readers, along with television and radio audiences, read or heard me point out that few ever expected to hang onto their individual insurance policy for longer than a year or two following date of purchase? Long before there was Obamacare, it was always clear that when someone purchased an individual health instance policy, it was pretty much a given that they would either be moving on to an employer provided group plan when they get a job or that their policy would respond to the ordinary, pre-Obamacare changes that occurred from year to year and result in the consumer having to purchasing a new plan after a short period of time.

Indeed, it was this very reality that made it clear to those who follow the health insurance industry that Obama’s “If you like your policy you can keep your policy” proclamation was a near impossibility for those participating in the individual marketplace. This simply wasn’t the way the individual market worked.

The Urban Institute study bears this out, noting that “the non-group market has historically been highly volatile, with just 17 percent retaining coverage for more than two years.”

While Obamacare foes have been quick to jump on this statistic when it comes to condemning the President for uttering his promise that you could keep your insurance if you are happy with your policy, the same people have somehow managed to miss the reality that a huge percentage of those who received cancellation notices last year were going to get that notice even if the Affordable Care Act had never existed.

But that is not all that critics have been missing as they’ve sought to exploit the supposed high number of cancellations they claim are due to Obamacare.

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how unrestrained power of a Koch oligopoly slammed MN with huge gas increase 40cents overnight to influence MN legislature in 2013

worth the read:

Koch Power is not the name of a company.  It is the oligopolistic power wielded by the Koch brothers over the Minnesota retail gasoline market. On May 16, 2013, they exercised that power to raise the price of retail gasoline by 40 cents a gallon overnight. But that story, like all stories involving the Kochs, does not end there.  Below the fold you will read a story that could easily be titled House of Cards: Minnesota.

The House of Cards, for the unacquainted, is fundamentally a story about how private economic power intersects and conflicts with government power, with each sector manipulating personal ambition to achieve their respective goals. The power conflicts are personified by a billionaire electric power baron who is a friend and financial backer of the president of the United States, and  Francis Underwood, an unscrupulously ambitious Democratic leader in the House of Representatives. In one episode (spoiler alert), the baron shuts off electric power to Washington DC by shutting down one of his power plants, and threatens to shut down his power plants serving much of the southeastern United States, claiming the plants need scheduled maintenance, all in order to force the president and congress to adopt policy changes favorable to his business interests in China.

The parallel episode in Minnesota can be fully understood only with an understanding of the retail gasoline market in Minnesota and of the governor and state legislature.

Two refineries supply almost all the gasoline sold to Minnesota consumers.  One is the St. Paul Park refinery, owned by Northern Tier Energy, and the other is the Pine Bend refinery, owned by Flint Hills, which is owned by Koch Oil, which is, in turn, owned by the Koch brothers.

The Pine Bend Flint Hills refinery supplies between 50% and 75% of the Minnesota gasoline market, depending upon who you talk to. See footnotes on sources, below. (Koch’s refinery is of course privately owned by the two brothers and the exact gasoline sales are not public. But if both Minnesota refineries were operating at capacity, Pine Bend would provide 78% of the gasoline produced.) In any event, there are only two suppliers selling into the retail gasoline market in Minnesota, and the smaller one claims that it supplies 25% of the Minnesota market.

If you are a gasoline station operator in Minnesota, you will receive a telephone call pretty much every day from your supplier informing you of the   wholesale price you will pay on your next order. Station operators must raise or lower their prices immediately upon a change in the wholesale price, for reasons that are irrelevant to this post. Although no one to my knowledge has alleged that Flint Hills has conspired to fix retail gasoline prices, those prices move in daily unison at all stations pretty much statewide. Koch's Flint Hills refinery is the price leader and is happily followed by the only other, much smaller supplier, and so the prices move in unison.

Now for state government. In 2012, control of the state legislature switched from the republicans to the democrats. The new democratic leaders of the legislature elected in 2012 campaigned on, and made it clear that their election would result in, significant new taxes to close the projected $6.2 billion biennium government deficit, and significant new spending on education and transportation infrastructure. With Mark Dayton, democrat, as governor elected in 2010, the democrats were situated to deliver on their campaign promises.

The first democratically controlled state legislature after the 2012 elections convened on January 8, 2013, and was constitutionally mandated to adjourn at midnight, May 20, 2013. The way the Minnesota legislature works, particularly in years when the biennium budget is on the agenda, is that nothing gets done until the last 4 or 5 days of the session, when all-night sessions are the rule.  More importantly for political players and lobbyists, legislation that was considered dead can come back to life in those 5 days, so nothing is over until it is over, and votes take place at ten minutes to midnight on May 20th . Lobbyists and the usual power brokers live in terror those last 5 days, knowing that all their prior efforts during the session can go down the drain.

During the 2013 session, in early April,  the House Transportation Committee proposed to raise taxes on gasoline by 5 cents per gallon. Dayton, for reasons unknown, let it be known that he was opposed.  In response, in late April, the Transportation Committee proposed a tax on wholesale oil suppliers.

Which brings us to the week of May 14-May 21, 2013. On May 16, 2013, the price of gasoline jumped 40 cents overnight. The price increase pushed the per-gallon price of gasoline to the highest in the continental United States. Blame for the increase was placed on the usual suspects, except one. Bad weather in the Gulf of Mexico, trouble in the Middle East, jump in demand, shortage of supply, etc.were bandied about, but my favorite reason (because it fit so perfectly the House of Cards script) was that the Pine Bend Refinery had to close for “maintenance.”

On May 20, the legislature adjourned, increasing taxes on the wealthy and on  business. The tax increases were bitterly opposed by the Chamber of Commerce and the business lobby, but all the proposed tax increases passed, except one: the oil tax increase failed. Who wants to explain an oil or gasoline tax that would increase gasoline prices even more than the then (suddenly) prevailing $4.29 per gallon price?

Dire warnings of gasoline prices going even higher were rampant.

Now the curious part. Check out the gasoline and oil prices for Minnesota for 2013:

attribution: None Specified
[Charts used by permission of GasBuddy]

The reason that a “jump in oil prices” could not be blamed for the jump in gasoline prices was  because it could be too easily verified to be untrue. Oil prices actually fell that week.

More importantly, the price of gasoline fell a dollar gallon in the two weeks following the legislature’s adjournment to slightly below its price in the weeks before adjournment, and before the May 16th price increase.

Now take a look at gasoline prices in the states surrounding Minnesota:

Funny thing. Wisconsin feels no pain, but Minnesota gets whacked.  Now let me think about the difference between Wisconsin and Minnesota... Oh, yeah, that’s right Wisconsin’s governor takes personal phone calls from David Koch.

I cannot guess what evil motives lurk in the  hearts of men like the Kochs, but I have a whole lot more evidence of their economic and political buccaneering  –and outright financial harm to the public- than the Kochs  have in their multi million dollar fraudulent attack on Obamacare.

Are Tea Party republicans so far gone that they cannot see how government power, in which they at least have a voice, helps protect them from the direct out-of –pocket harm inflicted by  the unrestrained power of a Koch oligopoly, in which they have no voice?

Epilogue.  The tax and spending increases passed by the Democrats turned a $6.2 billion biennium deficit into a $1.2 billion surplus and reduced unemployment from 6.7% to 4.7% within 18 months. Only transportation infrastructure got stiffed, thanks to the Kochs.


Gasoline prices went up 40 cents a gallon overnight-,E&p_text_date-0=4/2/2013%20to%206/1/2013)&p_field_advanced-0=&p_text_advanced-0=(%22price%20of%20gasoline%22)&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&xcal_useweights=no

Pine Bend owned by Flint hills owned by Koch Industries supplies 70% of gasoline to MN market-

Koch refinery in MN

St Paul Park produces 25% of gasoline in MN-
[“Minnesota Refineries “]

[“The Flint Hills and St. Paul Park facilities refined about 128 million barrels of crude oil in  2011.’]

[“Flint Hills is almost four times larger than the St. Paul Park refinery: its operating capacity is 277,200 barrels per day, compared with the latter’s 74,000. They jointly produce the vast majority of petroleum products consumed in Minnesota.”]

MN legislature considers gas tax in 4/09/2013=

MN legislature considers oil wholesale tax – 4/17/2013-

MN legislature adjourns 5/20/2013-  [“Democratic-Farmer-Labor lawmakers delivered on much of what they promised. On the last day of the session, they passed a hefty tax increase to plug a hole in the state budget and pump more money into education, property tax relief and jobs creation.”  “Not done: Legislators rejected raising gas taxes or metro-area sales taxes for transit. A task force last fall said the state needs to raise $50 billion more for transportation projects over the next 20 year”]

2-year chart of TC MN gas and oil prices- showing 5/16/2013 spike-

Gas prices spike in MN in 2013 highest in continental US; gas price map by state [“Experts said that indicates that the refineries don't have the capacity now -- apparently because of the maintenance work -- to process the same amount of crude oil they did last year.”]

Government hearing on how gas prices are determined-

MN State budget deficit 2011-2012

I usually take a year or two to figure out what just happened

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douche canoe @gop "GOP Hipster" @ampscreative Is a Pampered Babbling Sack of Horse Hockey


"I shouldn't have to check my bank account before I fill up my car. Sooo much of my paycheck ends up going to gas. We haven't even talked about my heating bill at home. So when it comes to energy policy for this country, I'm for everything—solar, wind, shale gas, oil, whatever. I'm a Republican because we should have an all of the above energy policy.

First, if he likes "all of the above" energy policies, he should vote for Obama. Second, he shouldn't like "all of the above" energy policies, because they don't make his gas cheaper. They make all of the energy companies richer. Third, stop fucking driving everywhere. Or at least car pool with your awesome unemployed friends. What kind of a hipster are you?

Is this more evidence of the GOP's inability to resonate with young voters? It would be, if youth outreach really was the aim of this campaign. Certainly it evinces the same post-2006, post-2012 implosion reasoning we've seen Republicans display: "It's not our philosophy that's wrong! It's our messaging!" They've seen all the Obama ads, and they think the ads' cultural currency lies in their special sauce of buzzwords and images, not in the underlying ideas and beliefs. Conservatives give liberals credit for pathos, but never for ethos and logos, probably because of conservatives' pathological belief in their own ethical and logical superiority.

But I'm not convinced this is a serious effort, any more than the GOP's half-hearted, comically failing efforts at online crowdsourcing, grassroots outreaching, cyber innovating, or Hispanic bridge-building. It's not as if they made a truly bold ad showing Scott talk about how glad he is that his gay friends can finally share work benefits through marriage because so many GOP leaders have acceded to public opinion on that particular issue. They didn't make that ad because they don't want to alienate, you know, real Republicans.

More likely, an old donor wants to see some youth outreach, and the RNC finds Scott, a young Beltway acolyte to provide them with a simulacrum of youth culture for a couple of shekels. We have the horn-rimmed glasses! The pomaded hair! A brick tenement across a city street! Talk of money problems and friends!

The RNC likely doesn't give a flying rat's patoot if this campaign hooks in a single under-35 voter. But if it impresses a couple of rich country-club grandpas and loosens up their checkbooks, it will have served its purpose. This is marketing for dollars, not for votes. When the alpha and omega of your philosophy is market capitalism, you assume dollars can always buy votes. And until the American electorate starts proving Republicans wrong on a regular basis, the shitty, laughably cynical ad-making business will persist."

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@Walmart Walmart discloses in its financials how much SNAP benefit cuts hurt their earnings

Nestled in the latest annual report from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is a line that underscores just how much the world’s largest general merchandise retailer and its shareholders have depended on public assistance programs in recent years.

The Bentonville, Ark., company’s report for its fiscal year ended Jan. 31 includes the cautionary statement that’s required under securities regulations from all publicly listed companies. The purpose is to inform the public of factors that could harm future profitability. Such statements are routine and tend to list just about any potential risk factor. In Walmart’s case, the sentence disclosing risk factors is a staggering 668-words long and includes dozens of risks, including natural disaster, civil unrest, changes to income and corporate tax rates and ongoing investigations against the company.

A couple of items stand as newcomers to Walmart’s menu of risks. Here’s what the annual report released on Friday says:

“Our business operations are subject to numerous risks, factors and uncertainties, domestically and internationally, which are outside our control ... These factors include ... changes in the amount of payments made under the Supplement[al] Nutrition Assistance Plan and other public assistance plans, changes in the eligibility requirements of public assistance plans, ...”

In other words, Walmart for the first time in its annual reports acknowledges that taxpayer-funded social assistance programs are a significant factor in its revenue and profits. This makes sense, considering that Walmart caters to low-income consumers. But what’s news here is that the company now considers the level of social entitlements given to low-income working and unemployed Americans important enough to underscore it in its cautionary statement.

For the fourth quarter ended Jan. 31, Walmart said it earned $4.43 billion, a drop of 21 percent from a year earlier. The company cited the unusually harsh winter that struck many parts of the U.S. as a primary factor.

Prior to the earnings report, Walmart Chief Financial Officer Charles Holley said the company didn't anticipate how much the end to such programs as the unemployment benefits extension would affect it. Specifically, reductions to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that went into effect on Nov. 1, the first day of the company’s fourth quarter, pose a potential concern. The cuts led to a between $1 and $36 reduction in SNAP benefits per household, or up to $460 a year. Congress is debating reinstating the extension to the program and making the benefits retroactive to Nov. 1, something Walmart would clearly consider beneficial to its growth.

Enrollment in SNAP benefits increased by 70 percent between 2007, a year prior to the subprime lending crisis that sent the U.S. into its longest recessionary period since the Great Depression, and 2011, when enrollments began to level off.

Walmart has paid $7.23 per share in dividends over the past five years, according to Thomson Reuters. It’s expected to pay out $1.98 to shareholders this year and $2.19 in fiscal 2015, according to analysts’ estimates.

Friday, March 21, 2014

@DukeEnergy Duke Energy Caught Intentionally Dumping 61 Million Gallons Of Coal Waste Into North Carolina Water


North Carolina regulators on Thursday cited Duke Energy for illegally and deliberately dumping 61 million gallons of toxic coal ash waste into a tributary of the Cape Fear River, which provides drinking water for several cities and towns in the state.

The incident marks the eighth time in less than a month that the company has been accused of violating environmental regulations. The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said Duke — notorious for the February Dan River disaster which saw 82,000 tons of coal ash released into state waters — was taking bright blue wastewater from two of its coal ash impoundments and running it through hoses into a nearby canal and drain pipe.

Duke is reportedly permitted to discharge treated wastewater from the ash ponds into the canal, but only if they are filtered through so-called “risers,” pipes that allow heavier residue in the water to settle out. DENR told ABC News on Thursday that Duke’s pumping bypassed the risers.

“We’re concerned with the volume of water that was pumped and the manner it was pumped,” DENR Communications Director Drew Elliot told ABC. “It did not go through the treatment facility as it should have.”

Duke’s most recent incident was discovered after the environmental group Waterkeeper Alliance last week released aerial surveillance photos taken from a fixed-wing aircraft that showed Duke workers pumping wastewater from the two toxic coal ash lagoons into a canal.

Waterkeeper Alliance tried to go to the source of the pollution via boat but were warned off by plant employees and a policeman, so they resorted to aerial surveillance, as seen in this clip from the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC.

The toxic water that Duke allegedly dumped is a byproduct of coal ash, a waste product from coal-fired power plants. Coal plants generate millions of tons of waste every year, and that waste is contaminated with toxic metals including lead, mercury, arsenic, chromium, and selenium. More than two-thirds of that waste — called coal ash — is dumped into landfills, storage ponds, or old mines.

The news is just the latest in a string of environmental violations surrounding Duke in the last few months. But Duke is not the only North Carolina entity that has been engaging in questionable conduct. DENR itself has earned a good deal of mistrust from environmentalists in no small part due to its questionable handling Duke’s many serious environmental violations. The U.S. Justice Department has recently opened a criminal investigation into DENR due to its handing of the February Dan River spill, questioning the relationship between the agency and Duke — a company that also was a 28-year employer of Gov. Pat McCrory.

In addition, emails obtained by the Associated Press last week suggested staff at DENR were coordinating with Duke Energy officials before intervening in a suit by citizen groups against the company.

The state has also been in the spotlight in past years for its climate change denial, most notably marked by a law passed in 2012 to stop the use of climate-related science to plan for future events. Specifically, that law forces coastal counties to ignore observations and the best science-based projections in planning for future sea level rise.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

@reppaulryan @pryan Paul Ryan Confronted At Town Hall Over Inner-City Poverty, Obamacare (Video)

@FoxNews @TeamCavuto Mocks Actress @IMKristenBell For Tweeting That The Rich Can Afford Higher Taxes

asshole and prostitute hound @DavidVitter : "Koch Bros @Koch_Industries 'most patriotic Americans in the history of the Earth


Sen. David Vitter (R-$$$), for who all his faults I think we can agree is one of the gilded institution's most accomplished experts on the subject of what might make for a good and thoughtful whore, cannot lavish praise on the billionaire conservative-bankrolling Koch brothers thickly enough. But Lord knows he'll try.
"I think the Koch Brothers are two of the most patriotic Americans in the history of the Earth," Vitter said. That line sparked applause from the audience.

Later on during the town hall, Vitter heaped some more praise on the Koch brothers, which again, sparked applause.

"Maybe this is a good example because I'll be honest with you, God Bless the Koch brothers," Vitter added. "They're fighting for our freedoms."

Specifically, the freedom to own as many politicians as it is your God-given right to own, the freedom to alter the very climate of the planet if doing so will bring you a profit, and the freedom to breathe whatever the hell the invisible hand of the free market tells you you'll breathe, you communist.

Tear down the Lincoln Monument, boys, and pave over Monticello. A new band of patriots are in town, and they are the greatest patriots in the history of the Earth.

Video below the fold, via American Bridge.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Gov. Bobby Jindal's new excuse for denying coverage to 240,000 low-income Louisianans: Medicaid is bad for people with disabilities


If Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) hoped rejecting Medicaid expansion would be easy, he’s no doubt disappointed right now. Health care proponents aren’t letting this go, and the governor appears to be flailing a bit in coming up with a defense.
Arguably the highest-profile aspect of this debate is the billboard ad from, condemning Jindal’s decision to deny coverage to 242,000 low-income Louisianans. The Jindal administration responded by filing a lawsuit to have the billboard taken down, accusing the progressive group of a trademark violation and insisting that MoveOn’s message is causing “irreparable harm, injury, and damages” to the state’s culture tourism office.
But that’s not all the governor has said. Jindal also tried to claim the moral high ground, arguing last week, “What does have against individuals with disabilities? … “I won’t accept lectures in compassion from those who would expand our safety net beyond comprehension, and jeopardize the care of our most vulnerable citizens in the process.”
Yes, according to the Republican governor, to support Medicaid expansion for low-income families is to support discriminating against Americans with disabilities, The problem, as Dylan Scott explained, is that Jindal’s claims are patently false.
[The Affordable Care Act] actually sets up new demonstrations to help improve care for the disabled enrolled in Medicaid – and Jindal should know that because his state has participated in several of them. […]
The theory starts with the fact that Obamacare offers enhanced federal funding, 100 percent for the first three years and never less than 90 percent after that, for states to expand Medicaid eligibility to 138 percent of the federal poverty level…. Jindal argues that because the law provides such generous funding, more generous than the traditional Medicaid program, to cover childless adults, it “prioritizes” that population over the disabled, many of whom are enrolled in the traditional Medicaid program.
But Jindal, ostensibly one of his party’s wonks, especially on health care policy, is wrong.
More from the TPM report on the policy details that “effectively undermine the whole line of attack”:
First, some disabled people could actually qualify for health coverage under the Medicaid expansion…. Second, Obamacare should have no policy bearing on the traditional Medicaid program. Federal funding for the traditionally eligible population remains exactly the same, and the states retain the same flexibility to manage their programs as existed prior to the law. The ACA brings a new population into the program, but there is no policy reason that it would lead to “discrimination” – as Jindal calls it – or any other detrimental effects for disabled people enrolled in the traditional program. […]
Third, and perhaps most devastatingly to Jindal’s theory, Obamacare actually expands programs and funding for so-called “long-term services and supports” under Medicaid – the kind of long-term care that the disabled would utilize. What’s most puzzling is Jindal should know this because, according to Kaiser’s tracking, his state has participated in three of the demonstrations authorized by the law.
I can appreciate why Jindal is feeling defensive. After all, the governor, for reasons that remain unclear, is singlehandedly denying health care coverage to nearly a quarter of a million struggling Louisianans. It hurts those personally affected; it undermines state finances; and it’s awful for state hospitals. The governor needs some kind of defense for this, especially as he cultivates his national ambitions.
But what does it tell us about the merits of his argument when Jindal’s central claim is exposed as a ridiculous falsehood?

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attacks on U.S. Embassy personnel under George W. Bush FAR surpasses those under President Obama

HBO's Paycheck to Paycheck shows us a portrayal of women's lives that's less about work/life balance and more about work/life survival

When we talk about the challenge for today’s workers in finding balance between work and family, many may think of the need to telecommute, change work hours, or take a little time out of the workforce to be with children. Translated into pop culture, they think of movies like I Don’t Know How She Does It, where Sarah Jessica Parker plays a finance executive breadwinner, or the upcoming movie version of Lean In, which is sure to to center around the story of a professional woman like the book’s author Sheryl Sandberg and her fight for better parking and maternity leave when women get pregnant.

HBO’s Paycheck to Paycheck shows us a portrayal of women’s lives that’s less about work/life balance and more about work/life survival.

The movie is produced in association with the Shriver Report, a project that focuses on providing women a path to success. According to the group, one in three women –- 42 million total –- live in poverty or just on the brink, and 13 million are mothers of young children. Paycheck to Paycheck gives us a rare glimpse into one such woman’s life: Katrina Gilbert, a single mother of three children under the age of seven trying to make life balance while earning $9.49 an hour as a certified nursing assistant at a nursing home.

“Balance,” for her, looks like a constant string of impossible choices.

Wisconsin Republican Legislator Slams His Own Party For Voter Suppression

As his own party pushed through the Wisconsin Senate the latest in a series of measures to make it harder to vote in the state, Sen. Dale Schultz (R) blasted the efforts as “trying to suppress the vote” last week.

Schultz, who is not seeking re-election and was the lone Republican to oppose a bill last week to limit the hours of early voting in every jurisdiction in the state, was a guest on The Devil’s Advocates radio program on Madison’s 92.1 FM last Wednesday. Asked why his party pushed the bill, Schultz responded, “I am not willing to defend them anymore. I’m just not and I’m embarrassed by this.”

Schultz argued that this and dozens of similar bills before the Senate this were based on “mythology” that voter fraud is a serious concern: “I began this session thinking that there was some lack of faith in our voting process and we maybe needed to address it. But I have come to the conclusion that this is far less noble.”

Noting that Republican President Dwight Eisenhower championed the 1957 civil rights law, Schultz said that he could not “find any real reason” for his party’s effort to make it harder to vote:

SCHULTZ: It’s just, I think, sad when a political party — my political party — has so lost faith in its ideas that it’s pouring all of its energy into election mechanics. And again, I’m a guy who understands and appreciates what we should be doing in order to make sure every vote counts, every vote is legitimate. But that fact is, it ought to be abundantly clear to everybody in this state that there is no massive voter fraud. The only thing that we do have in this state is we have long lines of people who want to vote. And it seems to me that we should be doing everything we can to make it easier, to help these people get their votes counted. And that we should be pitching as political parties our ideas for improving things in the future, rather than mucking around in the mechanics and making it more confrontational at the voting sites and trying to suppress the vote.

Schultz added that the suppression was “just plain wrong,” adding, “It is all predicated on some belief there is a massive fraud or irregularities, something my colleagues have been hot on the trail for three years and have failed miserably at demonstrating.” The GOP-controlled Assembly has already passed a similar bill.

A 2011 study by the non-partisan Brennan Center found just seven cases of voter fraud in Wisconsin’s 2004 election, out of three million votes cast — a fraud rate of just 0.0002 percent.