Four Marcellus shale drilling companies donated most of the $65,000 that the nonprofit Junior Achievement (JA) of Western Pennsylvania spent to research and develop its new pro-fracking Careers in Energy program, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. “The Energy Corporation of America donated $25,000, the largest amount. Other money came from Cabot Oil & Gas, Talisman Energy, Chesapeake Energy and the Marcellus Shale Coalition, a Cecil-based trade group.” Pittsburgh Public Schools and numerous Catholic schools partner with JA, which “teaches more than 61,000 K-12 students in Western Pennsylvania about work force readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy through hands-on programs.”
Last week, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) signed into law a plan that limits the ability of New Jersey’s public employees to collectively bargain for health care benefits, and cuts the paychecks of those workers in order to increase their contributions towards their health care and pensions. All of this was done under the guise of a budget crisis.
But at the same time that he’s asking the Garden State’s public employees to sacrifice in order to bring his state’s finances into order, Christie has let the wealthiest New Jersey residents off the hook, vowing to veto a millionaires’ surtax favored by the state’s Democrats. (A recent poll showed that nearly 60 percent of New Jersey residents approve of the surtax.)
But that isn’t the only way in which Christie is favoring the state’s wealthy over the rest of its population. New Jersey allows the governor to exercise a line-item veto over the budget, and last week Christie released his edits of the budget passed by the state legislature. As the Newark Star-Ledger reported, Christie saw fit to nix health care funding for low-income workers, tax credits for the working poor, and money for AIDS relief and mental-health services, while adding in money for school districts in some of “the wealthiest towns in the state“:
[Christie] mowed down a series of Democratic add-ons, including $45 million in tax credits for the working poor, $9 million in health care for the working poor, $8 million for women?s health care, another $8 million in AIDS funding and $9 million in mental-health services.
But the governor added $150 million in school aid for the suburbs, including the wealthiest towns in the state. That is enough to restore all the cuts just listed.
Senate President Stephen Sweeny (D), who is facing considerable blowback after collaborating with Christie on the pension deal, criticized the governor’s set of priorities. “[F]or him to punish people to prove his political point? He?s just a rotten bastard to do what he did,” Sweeny said.
Of course, providing more education funding is a good thing, but there’s no need to do it by raiding programs on which low-income workers depend. As I’ve noted before, adopting the millionaire tax that Christie is so dead set against would enable him to reverse all of the education cuts he’s proposed, with millions of dollars left to spare. In another signal of Christie’s priorities, he has recently been vociferously defending his decision to provide a $400 million bailout to a giant corporate mall complex.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, writing in the Washington Post:
At our 25th college reunion in 2003, Grover Norquist - the brain and able spokesman for the radical right - and I, along with other classmates who had been in public or political life, participated in a lively panel discussion about politics. During his presentation, Norquist explained why he believed that there would be a permanent Republican majority in America.
One person interrupted, as I recall, and said, "C'mon, Grover, surely one day a Democrat will win the White House."
Norquist immediately replied: "We will make it so that a Democrat cannot govern as a Democrat."
In a way, Republicans have accomplished that. This spring, in an effort to reduce the deficit, a Democratic president proposed to cut $2 trillion in spending, much of it from domestic programs Democrats have long championed. Last week, Republican leaders withdrew from talks with the vice president on a bipartisan plan to reduce the deficit because, as another part of the solution and like every bipartisan budget deal for decades, the president proposed to raise revenue. Specifically, he proposed to raise $1 in new revenue (through closing loopholes or ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans) for every $2 in spending cuts. In response to that modest proposal, Republican leaders walked out.
It is now clear that the Republican strategy is to drive America to the brink of fiscal ruin and then argue that the only way out is to cut spending for the powerless. Taxes - a dirty word thanks to Norquist's "no new taxes" gimmick - are made to seem beyond the pale, even as the burden of paying for our society shifts disproportionately to the middle class and working poor. It is the height of fiscal folly. It is also not who we are as a country.
Via Steven Benen, who concludes:
There was also this summary of recent history.For nearly a decade, our federal government paid for two wars and a costly prescription drug benefit with borrowed money. Our government paid for the Bush tax cuts with borrowed money. Now, after exhausting the budget surplus left by the Clinton administration, the only spending Republicans are willing to discuss cutting is spending that helps the poor and vulnerable - meaning anything that does not touch the interests of large corporations and the very rich. Last December, Republican hard-liners held hostage benefits for people out of work in exchange for an agreement to extend the Bush tax cuts for those who make a million dollars or more a year. Last month, many of the same lawmakers rallied to protect special tax benefits for oil companies that have made record profits on high gas prices.
Meanwhile, some mom-and-pop stores and college students pay more in taxes than some of our largest corporations. Still, taxes are sin to the hard-liners, though they have difficulty demonstrating a correlation over the past decade between tax cuts and economic growth.
As the Democratic message goes, those two paragraphs aren't a bad summary.
A group of tea party Senators plans to filibuster over raising the debt ceiling, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) announced in an interview that aired on C-SPAN Sunday.
"I was part of a group this week that said, 'No more,'" Paul explained. "We're tired of talking about extraneous issues. We've had not one minute of debate about the debt ceiling in any committee. We haven't had a budget in two years. We haven't had an appropriations bill in two years."
"So I'm part of the freshman group in the Senate that's saying, 'no more.' We're not going to let them go to any issue if we have a say in it. We will filibuster until we talk about the debt ceiling, until we talk about proposals, and many of us in the conservative wing are going to present our own proposal next week. And that is to raise the debt ceiling. We will actually vote in favor of raising the debt ceiling next week if we can but it will be contingent upon passing a balanced budget amendment."
Strangely, Americans do not seem to be rushing to embrace the repug plan to kill Medicare. Indeed, they seem to be rushing to reject everyone associated with the terminally toxic "Ryan Plan."
So the repugs are ramping up the lies - and the projection.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) sure sounds defensive (and incoherent), doesn't he? "Here's the deal on our Medicare plan: ObamaCare ends Medicare as we know it," he said today.
First, the Affordable Care Act doesn't "end Medicare as we know it." That's deeply stupid. The ACA eliminated a wasteful and unnecessary giveaway to insurance companies, and as Igor Volsky explained, the law "reduced annual increases in payments to hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, home health agencies and other institutions to spur productivity and cut overpayments to private insurers that are not delivering value for Medicare dollars. It used that money to expand coverage to 32 million Americans - many of whom were receiving uncompensated care at these institutions - to extend the life of the Medicare program and invest in new demonstration projects that aim to encourage providers to deliver quality care more efficiently."
As for the substance behind the claim, it's worth noting that this isn't just about semantics - the GOP claim that their scheme doesn't include vouchers is just wrong. Paul Krugman explained:[T]he ACA is specifically designed to ensure that insurance is affordable, whereas Ryancare just hands out vouchers and washes its hands. Specifically, the ACA subsidy system (pdf) sets a maximum percentage of income that families are expected to pay for insurance, on a sliding scale that rises with income. To the extent that the actual cost of a minimum acceptable policy exceeds that percentage of income, subsidies make up the difference.
Ryancare, by contrast, provides a fixed sum - end of story. And because this fixed sum would not grow with rising health care costs, it's almost guaranteed to fall far short of the actual cost of insurance.
This is also why Ryancare is NOT premium support; it's a voucher system. No matter how much they say it isn't, that's exactly what it is.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, premiums for Americans with pre-existing conditions are shrinking.
The AP chronicles how the House GOP is undoing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law, passed just one year ago.
Days ago, one Republican-run House committee approved bills diluting parts of the law requiring reports on corporate salaries and exempting some investment advisers from registering with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Another House panel voted to slice $200 million from Obama's $1.4 billion budget request for the SEC, which has a major enforcement role.
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are continuing a procedural blockade that has helped prevent Obama from putting Elizabeth Warren or anyone else in charge of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which opens its doors in two weeks....
"It's mostly setting a marker for the election. And it helps with their campaign contributions," said Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., who chaired the Financial Services Committee last year and was a chief author of the law. "But it also tells people in the financial community that if they win the next election, they'll be able to undo it all."
Besides denying the SEC extra money next year, the House Appropriations Committee would limit the consumer protection bureau to $200 million, well below the $329 million Obama wants. The full House has voted to hold the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which oversees derivatives, to $171 million, short of this year's total and less than two-thirds of what Obama wanted.
The GOP is hoping that the people won't notice their actions on behalf of Wall Street. Not a bad bet, since most of us are so worried about keeping our jobs and trying to hang onto our underwater homes (the mess the banksters got us into in the first place) we won't have the luxury of being able to pay attention to how we're all going to get screwed next.
July 4th marked the First Anniversary of The Stars Hollow Gazette. Over the next week we will be taking a look at that first week republishing some of our first diaries and talking about the future. Come join the celebrationOur regular featured[...]
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By now I am sure that you have heard about the disturbing and disgusting hack-attack on the @Foxnewspolitics Twitter account, and the tweet that "announced" that President Obama had been assassinated while campaigning in Iowa, then later tweets filled in detail.
For several hours the tweets remained up, while Fox insisted that they had been hacked. Of course they got no small amount of grief over it in the Twittersphere, and they were severely mocked. I know -- I was doing some of the mocking and didn't believe that it was really a hack at first.
Honestly, I figured it was a drunk intern.
But if it had been an inside job and they would have had control of their account, the tweets wouldn't have stayed up for nine or ten hours before being taken down.
The person who spoke for them when they went public said that they are "looking to find information about corporations to assist with antisec. Fox News was selected because we figured their security would be just as much of a joke as their reporting."
The Script Kiddies are the latest offshoot of Anonymous to appear, and their appearance to take credit for the hack shifted the conversation from mocking Fox and accusing them of lying about being hacked to talk of groups like Anonymous and Lulzsec and now Script Kiddies. During that conversation, I tweeted back to a friend of mine "I strongly suspect that in the age of the flash-mob these groups can pop up and disband in moments. And you now what? Good."
Okay, I am going to state the obvious here -- I am a giant SciFi geek, and I love British teevee.
That said, have you ever watched a British SciFi series called The Tripods? Set in a dystopian future where giant alien beings have invaded the Earth, enslaved humanity, and taken all earth's resources for their needs.
I have started looking at groups lile Anonymous and Lulzsec and now the Script Kiddies as real-life pre-incarnations of the handful of humans that constitutes a band of rebels who fight back and resist being controlled by the aliens.
Whatever they are calling themselves this week, they are the little gremlins that pop up from time to time to throw sand in the gears and slow down the behemoths -- the real world they are corporations -- as they lumber toward total control of the lives of human beings.
As the spokesperson for Script Kiddies said in the one interview they have given --
It will be a never ending battle. The names change from time to time like LulzSec and Anonymous or Script Kiddies. But their will always be a group of people that need to stand up for everyone else and attempt to keep the government in balance with it's people. Without groups like Anonymous, what is there to prevent corruption?
What is there, indeed? Not our illustrious politicians. They are wholly owned subsidiaries of big oil, big pharma, big insurance, big ag, etc. etc. etc.
In fact, they own the republicans to the point that consumer safety is now an onerous burden to business. Not only should theycorporations be allowed to sell you shoddy, unsafe products; you shouldn't have the right to sue if you are harmed by one of them. Tough shit, they say. You're just a data point as the free-market sorts it all out...
Okay, you say, how about the courts? The ones the republicans want to bar you from taking your case to? Good luck. Even if you prevail against a corporation, they will prevail should they appeal it all the way to the Supreme Court because Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas should have fucking sponsorship logos on their robes like NASCAR drivers' jumpsuits.
So more power to them. If the fear of being one of the few randomly selected for an audit keeps most people from cheating on their taxes, maybe the fear of hacktivist attacks and public revelation of malfeasance will keep some of it from happening. And those who get busted, well, just desserts, Bub. Grab a spoon.
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A DOJ memo released last week provides reason for alarm among those in favor of decriminalizing marijuana, as it signals the federal government may leave medical marijuana patients and caregivers alone but cultivators or distributors of marijuana could[...]
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Believe it or not, Republican claims that the White House is hiding secret data showing the stimulus package has cost the country more than a quarter million jobs turns out not to be true. [...]
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David Brooks is amazed that Republicans aren't taking all the tax cuts the Obama administration has given up in the debt-ceiling kabuki negotiations and going so far as calling them a "Not Normal" party.
The Democrats have agreed to tie budget cuts to the debt ceiling bill. They have agreed not to raise tax rates. They have agreed to a roughly 3-to-1 rate of spending cuts to revenue increases, an astonishing concession.
Moreover, many important Democrats are open to a truly large budget deal. President Obama has a strong incentive to reach a deal so he can campaign in 2012 as a moderate. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, has talked about supporting a debt reduction measure of $3 trillion or even $4 trillion if the Republicans meet him part way. There are Democrats in the White House and elsewhere who would be willing to accept Medicare cuts if the Republicans would be willing to increase revenues.
If the Republican Party were a normal party, it would take advantage of this amazing moment. It is being offered the deal of the century: trillions of dollars in spending cuts in exchange for a few hundred million dollars of revenue increases.
A normal Republican Party would seize the opportunity to put a long-term limit on the growth of government. It would seize the opportunity to put the country on a sound fiscal footing. It would seize the opportunity to do these things without putting any real crimp in economic growth.
The party is not being asked to raise marginal tax rates in a way that might pervert incentives. On the contrary, Republicans are merely being asked to close loopholes and eliminate tax expenditures that are themselves distortionary.
This, as I say, is the mother of all no-brainers.
But we can have no confidence that the Republicans will seize this opportunity. That?s because the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.
The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch in order to cut government by a foot, they will say no. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch to cut government by a yard, they will still say no. The members of this movement do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities. A thousand impartial experts may tell them that a default on the debt would have calamitous effects, far worse than raising tax revenues a bit. But the members of this movement refuse to believe it.
It's not shocking to us. They haven't been a normal party for a long time and the Obama administration has allowed them to control the narrative anyway. Of course they are going to push and push and push for more and more and more. Does anybody believe that Republicans will eventually not raise the debt ceiling with what they are already getting? I heard from Andrea Mitchell today that the date is around July 22nd in which the CBO needs to get the information from Congress to score so they can have it ready before the August 2nd deadline.
Is this the big hope for Team Obama? They agree to off-the-chart spending cuts hoping to get a nominal increase in revenue somewhere -- which, in the scope of the negotiations, is meaningless -- and then hope Rand Paul or somebody else refuses even a deal that David Brooks can't believe happened, and then they win the Beltway Villagers over to their side?
The debt ceiling was always raised with no muss or no fuss because the American economy is not the same as my personal bank account. Tremendous amounts of monies flow through the world and this country and not raising it would be catastrophic. Since Brooks is so connected to the grand poobahs of the GOP, you have to wonder if some of them worried that the Tea Party element actually won't allow them to raise the debt ceiling unless they get 100% of what they want, and so they sent him out to do some dirty work. Or is it a ploy to start singing kumbaya for all the spending cuts they've gotten already from the Dems once the ceiling is raised?
Richard Cohen even joins in the fray on our side for a change and calls the GOP 'a cult' -- but what of it? Where were Brooks and Cohen when they were really needed? Steve Benen wonders if the GOP has pushed the Villagers too far this time:
In general, this political establishment is ?wired? in Republicans? favor. It?s GOP ideas that get attention; it?s GOP talking points that get internalized; it?s GOP voices that get aired.
But when it comes to the debt ceiling and debt-reduction talks, and the fact that Democrats are the only ones willing to compromise, I can?t help but wonder if the tide of elite opinion is starting to turn against Republicans. If so, it?s pretty late in the game ? Brooks and Cohen should have picked up on this months, if not years, ago ? but here?s hoping the circumstances and radical tactics have left Villagers with no other choice.
I seriously doubt it.