Restore Teachers' Salaries and Ed First President and Founder, Pat Hayes today made his first political endorsement by supporting candidate Paul Tinkler for SC Senate Seat 41.
"I could not be prouder to receive the endorsement of Pat and his organization. When elected I will continue to advocate and fight for our teachers to provide every child in South Carolina with a world class education. That starts by ensuring our schools are fully funded and that our teachers are fully supported."
Here is some more information about the group now. Pat started this group from the ground up a few months ago and now has a 10,000 member following.
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CERN accidentally publishes video announcing new particle discovery. [...]
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Sorry, but no apology is, well, no apology. Despite the fact that Bill O'Reilly said specifically he would apologize for being an idiot if the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, he straight-up said he wasn't sorry and then made a pathetic excuse about how he had no idea the Roberts Court would uphold it under the taxing power.
That's a bullsh*t excuse and O'Reilly proved himself the idiot that he is. Because you see, ahead of the oral arguments, both sides file this thing called briefs. And those briefs are thorough. In fact, common wisdom says that briefs are given far more weight in the Justices' decision than oral argument. Oral argument simply offers the opportunity for justices to ask questions or clarify points they haven't quite pulled out of the brief.
Here's the thing. Those briefs were filed in this case long before the oral arguments and you know what else? They've been posted online for anyone -- even a production assistant for a jerk like Bill O'Reilly -- to read ahead of time.
Guess what is in the government briefs (PDF)? Pages and pages and pages of arguments for why the Affordable Care Act individual mandate is constitutional not only under the commerce clause, but also under the taxing power. Here are some key sections for BillO's reference. I refuse to read them to him because there are just some things one should have to do themselves:
If BillO was truly shocked, and I doubt he was, perhaps he should pull his head out of his butt and actually pay attention to how these things work.
There should be some kind of penalty for broadcast idiocy, because if even one single person on this poor excuse for a broadcast had actually bothered to pay attention, they'd know this wasn't some kind of huge conspiracy to undermine the conservative movement. It is far more likely that Chief Justice Roberts simply agreed with the arguments as made in the filed briefs by Solicitor General Verrilli.
So no, I don't accept your half-assed pathetic excuse of an apology, Bill. Nor should anyone.
Republican politicians across the country claim that Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid, the widely popular program which makes health insurance available for lower-income Americans, will increase costs for states. Ten Republican governors have pledged not to accept the Medicaid expansion funds and 22 other governors are considering turning down the money.
Directly disproving Republican claims, an extensive study reveals that the Affordable Care Act significantly benefits states by reducing their uncompensated care costs. In the months preceding the passage of the ACA, the President’s Council of Economic Advisors released a report on the impact of the Affordable Care Act on state budgets. Though the bill hadn’t yet passed when the report was written, the Council studied the Medicaid expansion which has since become law. The Council looked at the uncompensated care spending of 16 states demographically and geographically representative of the country (AR, CA, FL, ID, IN, IA, ME, MI, MN, MO, NE, NC, OR, PA, VT, WY).
The report reveals that states are currently spending billions each year providing coverage to the uninsured in three ways. Obamacare addresses each source to reduce state health insurance costs.
1. Under Obamacare, states no longer have to finance health insurance for people above 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Many states fund health insurance programs which cover residents living at more than 133 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). Obamacare makes residents at higher than 133 percent of the FPL eligible for subsidized health insurance through state insurance exchanges at no cost to states. For example, Idaho would no longer have to fund health insurance for its 63 percent of uninsured residents who are above 133 percent of the FPL, reducing its $47 million annual uncompensated care cost to $17.3 million.
2. Under Obamacare, states pay billions less to cover people below 133 percent of the federal poverty line. States pay billions in health insurance programs for residents living at less than 133 percent of the FPL. After five years of Obamacare, the federal government will cover 90 percent of insurance costs for state residents making less than 133 percent of the FPL. For the first three years of the expanded Medicaid program, the federal government will cover 100 percent of Medicaid costs. The surveyed states will save $4.2 billion (100 percent of their uncompensated care costs) annually for the first three years, and $3.0 billion annually starting in 2019. For example, Michigan pays $212 million annually in uncompensated care costs. After five years of Obamacare, Michigan would have to pay only $68 million annually in the expanded Medicaid program.
3. By making health insurance universally available, Obamacare slashes the “hidden tax” states pay in health insurance premiums. States pay a “hidden tax” in the form of higher insurance premiums to account for the cost of covering the uninsured. “By greatly reducing uncompensated care,” the Council explains, Obamacare works to “reduce this hidden tax.” For example, North Carolina would see its annual $58.6 million insurance premium “tax” reduced to reflect a much smaller number of people without health insurance.
This study blows a hole in Republican claims that Obamacare has ill economic effects. In reality, Obamacare saves states money while improving the overall economy. Republicans who care more about fiscal responsibility than political gamesmanship would do well to embrace it.
This past Friday night a devastating storm swept through the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions, knocking out power for millions of homes and businesses across 10 states and the District of Columbia. As of Monday more than 2 million consumers were still without electricity.
This disaster highlights how critical electricity is to our everyday lives, and it emphasizes the need for reliable power. Fortunately, there are steps that utilities, policymakers, and consumers can take to reduce the frequency and impact of outages.
We need to do three basic things to make our power more reliable: Reduce damages to the grid, make the grid more resilient in the face of inevitable damages, and speed the repair time for the damages that do happen. We also need to invest in energy resources that reduce the greenhouse gas pollution that?s causing more extreme weather.
What causes power outages?
Power outages have numerous causes, and no magic bullet will eliminate them. Outages can be caused by an overstressed electrical grid trying to deliver large amounts of power on hot days. Sometimes outages are manmade such as when market manipulation by Enron led to rolling blackouts in California. While the current outages are primarily due to downed distribution lines?the lines that carry power through neighborhoods and into houses?other large-scale blackouts were caused by problems with the transmission grid, which carries large amounts of electricity from power plants into communities.
The massive problem currently affecting the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest was caused primarily by trees and limbs falling on power lines. When this happens the local utility sends workers out to look for downed lines, but they generally rely on consumers to tell them about specific problems. After problems are identified, utility linemen have to physically repair every mile of damaged lines, a painstaking process that can take days, weeks, and, in some horrific cases, months.
There aren?t a whole lot of ways to speed up the repair process besides getting more workers and trucks in the field; that?s why there are line crews from across the United States working in the Mid-Atlantic today.
How we can make our power more reliable
While the United States has remarkably reliable power, there?s no way around the fact that other industrialized countries have fewer outages than we do. Americans lose power an average of 214 minutes per year, compared to 21 minutes in Germany and an extraordinary 6 minutes in Japan.
Much of the difference in reliability between the United States and other countries is due to these countries? recent investments in more dependable electricity infrastructure. Germany, for example, now puts all of their new distribution lines underground, which is more expensive than putting them on poles above ground but also makes them impervious to falling trees.
We should follow Germany?s lead and put more of our new lines underground. But we can also make investments in a more resilient electric system, so that damages to power lines and other parts of the grid don?t cause people to go without power for days on end.
First, smart meters?devices in consumers? homes that monitor their power use and communicate with the utility?can make it much easier for line crews to respond to outages without waiting for consumers to call the utility. This would be especially useful in times when telecommunications systems are damaged, and people can?t call the utility.Second, we need more power generation distributed around the grid, rather than all of it being centralized in large power plants. When we rely on centralized power plants, damages to just one line can cause massive outages. If the generation was spread widely across the grid, then damage to that same line will not have the same catastrophic consequences. While some people help by buying a diesel-burning generator (which pollutes the air and has very high fuel costs), many people could make a much smarter investment by putting solar panels on their rooftops.
Finally, when the lights do go out, we need to get them turned back on faster. Smart meters will certainly help get crews dispatched faster, but we also simply need more crews. The utility industry has a remarkable record of cooperation?utilities often lend workers to each other in times of need. But with utility workers retiring extremely quickly, the industry faces a labor shortfall in the near future. We need more qualified people to enter the industry.
Utilities, government, and consumers can all play a role in making these changes happen.
What utilities can do
Utilities need to take their obligation to provide safe, reliable service seriously. To start, they should all follow the guidelines for tree trimming laid out in May by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. This would help prevent trees from falling onto wires in storms.
They also have a communications role and need to keep consumers informed with timely and reliable updates on outages. It?s hard to imagine that some of the current anger with PEPCO?the local utility in Washington, D.C., and parts of Maryland?isn?t related to PEPCO?s historically dismal reliability performance.
Finally, utilities need to make sure that new technologies they install on the grid such as new transformers improve reliability.
What government can do
Government has a regulatory role in enforcing reliability standards. Certainly, when a utility is negligent in maintaining their grid, the government needs to use every means possible to force compliance with the law. But it can also partner with the industry.
Because of the unique structure of the utility industry, government officials approve most major utility expenses. They should work to encourage investments that improve reliability, including putting wires underground and installing smart meters in homes. They can do this both by approving appropriate investments and by providing financial incentives for new technologies.
Although most of this control over investments is at the state level, the federal government could play a useful role by developing guidelines for educating consumers about smart meters. The federal government should also increase funding for relevant educational programs for future utility workers, including training programs at community colleges.
What consumers can do
Consumers also have a role. Of course, we can make our own investments in the grid by putting solar panels on our rooftops or installing some other type of clean energy resources. More likely, though, most consumers will let the local utility make reliability investments for them. But because most of those costs will ultimately get passed along through electricity bills, consumers have an interest in utilities not making any investments at all?reliability or otherwise. Instead of a knee-jerk opposition to utility investments, consumer advocates need to develop a more holistic understanding of reliability and support investments in technologies such as smart meters that will make their lives better.
Finally, it?s worth noting that we can keep spending money to deal with the impacts of storms, but this will be an endless cycle unless we deal with the storms themselves. As climate change leads to increases in severe weather, we?ll inevitably see more outages similar to the one currently afflicting the Mid-Atlantic. Instead of just investing in the electric grid, we need to also invest in the clean energy resources that will help reduce the greenhouse gas pollution causing climate change.
Richard W. Caperton is the Director of Clean Energy Investment at the Center for American Progress. Adam James is a Special Assistant on the Energy Opportunity team at American Progress. This is a cross-post.
I was on the road yesterday when Anderson Cooper, in response to an Entertainment Weekly cover story about celebrities who are coming out in increasingly casual ways, came out in an email to Andrew Sullivan. Gawker publisher Nick Denton, reflecting what seem to be sour grapes about not getting the story himself, has already complained that Cooper didn’t make a big enough deal of his coming out, as if a long and thoughtful email to the biggest blog at a major publication doesn’t constitute a significant enough event.
Celebrities’ lives are funny things: we enter them midstream and assume we know an enormous amount about these people who create selves they put out for our consumption, whether it’s old-school rooting for Rosie O’Donnell to find the right guy or the entire sector of the magazine industry that’s supported by speculation about what it means to Jennifer Aniston that she’s divorced. That intense attention and sense of ownership creates an opportunity for stars to either make major news events out of their lives or for them to slip new relationships or new information about themselves seamlessly into the news cycle. Cooper could have as easily just taken his boyfriend to an Oscar party or walked the red carpet with him and acted as if everyone already knew he was gay, as if the proper name of the person he’s seeing is the news, and not the fact that the person he’s seeing is a man.
There’s no question that we’re still at a point where the availability of out, happy, successful, and clearly-identifiable gay role models is important to young people, and where coming out is still changing hearts and minds by forcing people to confront whether they really feel differently about people like Cooper now that audiences know they’re gay. But I wonder if we’d be a lot better off with more casual celebrity coming-out stories that build room for flexibility and growth into the narrative. It would be awfully nice if people like Cynthia Nixon or Lindsay Lohan could go from relationships with men to relationships with women and have the news be the specific person rather than their gender. For some people, coming out is the stating of an immutable fact about themselves. For others, it’s a matter of a specific relationship. Not all coming out stories are the same, and the same formula of magazine covers and talk show sit-downs, won’t make sense for all people in the public eye. Knowing that there are famous, successful gay people among us is a first step. Recognizing that their experiences, as with the experiences of civilians, aren’t all identical is second, and critically important.
A small group of military veterans from Veterans for Peace decided they were not going to leave Independence Mall, even though their permit expired at 9 pm EST. One of the veterans, Bill Perry, negotiated with police as occupiers came to see the veterans[...]
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House GOP leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor (Larry Downing/Reuters)Lest there be any doubt that House Republicans intend to keep voting on repeal, they're voting on repeal as soon as they get back to town following the latest vacation. They'll be tacking on a defunding effort to the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act.
The House as early as next week will pass legislation prohibiting the IRS from receiving any money from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to implement the 2010 healthcare reform law. [...]The committee in question, Appropriations, should have known about the $20 million because they should have known it was in the Affordable Care Act. But they're not going to let a little thing like that get in they way of their tantrum. By the way, why would the IRS need $20 million to implement the Affordable Care Act? Because the tax credits for small business to begin to provide coverage for employees have kicked in, which the IRS has needed to oversee. (BTW, last time we checked in with House Republicans, they said it was $500 million.)
The report notes that in 2010, HHS allocated $20 million to the IRS for enforcing the healthcare law "without the Committee's knowledge." It also notes that the IRS received $168 million from HHS to implement the law in 2011, and plans to get another $322 million from HHS in 2012.
This does, however, raise the major wrinkle of the Affordable Care Act, uncovered by TPM's Brian Beutler. If states refuse to set up their own exchanges under the law, the federal government has the authority to set up exchanges for them. But, in drafting the law, "they neglected to include automatic appropriations for federally facilitated exchanges (FFEs)." That means that, while there's money to give to the states, there will be a big fight for the money for the federal government to set up exchanges for the states that refuse to do it.
Which is just one more very compelling reason to make sure Nancy Pelosi gets the gavel back. We need a House that will pass the necessary appropriations to make sure this law is implemented as intended.
Natural gas prices have been depressed for just a few years, but it feels like a lot longer. Numerous analysts (myself included) have tried to spot the bottom for this clean, abundant energy . . . → Read More: Natural Gas Is up 40%… Time to Buy?
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Prosecutor declines to pursue charges against former Commerce Secretary John Bryson in hit and run case.[...]
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