Taking a page from fellow GOP propagandist Grover Norquist, James Pethokoukis of AEI and CNBC wants everyone to forget about the calamitous economic record of the Republican administration that left office a mere 180 weeks ago, and focus instead on one that's nearly 30 years old.
Just how long ago was the "Reagan Recovery"?
In 1984, the USSR was boycotting the Los Angeles Olympics, Sarah Palin was named "Miss Wasilla," Nelson Mandela was in jail, only 15% of American children had access to a computer, the Dow was hovering around 1100, minimum wage paid $3.35/hour and adjusted for inflation, the 128K Apple Macintosh sold for around $5200.
Oh, and most inconvenient for James -- the top marginal tax rate was 50%.
2012 isn't 1984, wingnuts. Move on.
American citizens and political leaders are increasingly drawing the connection between climate change and extreme heat, drought, fires and floods. That seems like a good thing. Until we see what that really means.
It’s people like Colorado resident Hani Ahmad facing the brutal reality of extreme weather who are making that connection. After losing his home to the Waldo Canyon fire — the most destructive fire in Colorado’s history — Ahmad asks if people will start paying attention: “It bothers me when people say this is junk science. I’m convinced that this planet is warming and that this is part of the result of that. The west is a tinderbox and it’s so early in the season. I’m terrified for everybody in the west.”
Ahmad’s story comes from the Climate Desk, a fabulous outfit covering the impact of climate change on the ground level. Check out the short film below to see how Ahmad and others are reacting to the destructive wildfire season:
In 2010, conservatives tried to block the Affordable Care Act in Congress. They lost, and President Obama signed the landmark legislation into law.
Rather than respect the legitimate act of a democratically elected legislature, health reform’s opponents responded by immediately asking the courts to invalidate what the American people’s representatives brought into being. They lost again — although by a depressingly narrow margin considering how absurd their legal arguments were.
Now that that attempt to subvert democracy has failed, an Oklahoma lawmaker relaunched an even more constitutionally challenged attack on the law:
State Rep. Mike Ritze said Tuesday he plans to reintroduce a bill to ?nullify? the individual mandate in the 2010 federal health care legislation in Oklahoma.
?I disagree with the Supreme Court?s ruling and believe that state governments were intended to serve as a check on the federal government,? said Ritze, R-Broken Arrow. ?The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which is better known as ObamaCare, is an example of federal overreach and my legislation will authorize the state to resist it and ban the enforcement of it.?
Of course, Ritze’s bill violates the express language of the Constitutional, which states that Acts of Congress ?shall be the supreme law of the land . . . anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.” Yet, while his tactic is clearly unconstitutional, it is not unprecedented. In the 1950s, when Jim Crow lawmakers objected to the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, they too claimed the power to simply decree that the Court was wrong and act like they can do whatever they choose.
A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that southern states would see the most dramatic reduction in their uninsured populations because of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. The study found that all states would benefit from the expansion, but southern states — many run by conservative governors who have pledged to opt out of the measure — would see their adult uninsured populations drop by about 50 percent. According to the report:
Overall, the Medicaid expansion is expected to result in a decrease in the number of uninsured of 11.2 million people, of 45 percent of the uninsured adults below 133 percent of poverty. States with low coverage levels and higher uninsured rates will see larger reductions (Alabama 53.2 percent and Texas 49.4). [...]
If states fall short of implementation expectations, fewer individuals will be covered and more individuals will remain uninsured. Under this scenario, states would also forgo large sums of federal funding tied to the coverage of those made newly eligible under reform.
With its ruling, the Supreme Court put the fate of millions of uninsured Americans in the hands of the states, and many southern governors have pledged to refuse the expansion of their state programs. Florida Gov. Rick Scott has promised to reject the Medicaid expansion, denying 1 million Floridians health insurance who would have otherwise been covered.
Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion would provide health insurance for 15.1 million previously uninsured Americans. About 11 million of the newly eligible adults have incomes below the poverty level and would therefore not be able to receive any additional help obtaining health insurance coverage under Obamacare should their state not expand its Medicaid program.
While a few southern Republicans are flexing their gubernatorial muscles against the “cost” of Obamacare, the Urban Institute estimates that 21 to 45 states would actually save money by taking the Medicaid expansion. Not to mention the expansion would also help hospitals currently footing much of the bill for uncompensated care.
If Republican governors end up making good on their promise to reject the expansion, they would likely be doing so at the expense of millions of uninsured citizens who would benefit the most from Obamacare.
In a recent interview with an NBC affiliate in Maumee, Ohio, President Barack Obama blasted Mitt Romney for claiming that the individual mandate at the heart of the Affordable Care Act is a “tax” while labeling a virtually identical provision in Massachusetts’ 2006 health care reform law a “penalty. Obama explained that “Mr. Romney was one of the biggest promoters of the individual mandate” and that “in Massachusetts, his whole idea was that we shouldn’t have people who can afford to get health insurance to not buy it and then force you or me, or John Q. Public to have to pay for him when he gets sick.” The president also pointed out that Romney’s continued contradictions could well be the result of campaign pressures. Watch it:
Historically supplying the majority of America’s electricity, the coal industry has long been called “King Coal.” But this king’s throne is now under threat.
For the first time in U.S. history, natural gas electricity generation equaled coal generation, according to preliminary April figures from the Energy Information Administration:
EIA provides more context to the preliminary data (which is subject to change):
Recently published electric power data show that, for the first time since EIA began collecting the data, generation from natural gas-fired plants is virtually equal to generation from coal-fired plants, with each fuel providing 32% of total generation. In April 2012, preliminary data show net electric generation from natural gas was 95.9 million megawatthours, only slightly below generation from coal, at 96.0 million megawatthours.
As shown in the chart above, there are strong seasonal trends in the overall demand for electric power. In April 2012, demand was low due to the mild spring weather. Also in April, natural gas prices as delivered to power plants were at a ten-year low. With warmer summer weather and increased electric demand for air conditioning, demand will increase, requiring increased output from both coal- and natural gas-fired generators.
As the agency points out, there are a variety of factors that contribute to the changes in generation such as seasonal variability, changes in prices, age of infrastructure, and rising or falling inventories. But looking at the chart above, we can see a clear longer-term trend: use of coal is declining steadily and natural gas is filling in the gap.
In fact, recent data from the EIA showed that generation from coal dropped 19 percent between the first quarter of 2011 and first quarter of 2012 — moving from 44.6 percent to 36 percent. If this preliminary data is correct, that means that coal generation fell another 4 percent between March and April of this year.
This is a mixed blessing from an emissions perspective. The fall in coal generation means we’ll likely see a decline in CO2 emissions from the fossil fuel sector by 3 percent this year, according to EIA. That will add to the 1.9 percent drop seen in 2011.
However, a large-scale switch to gas is no environmental panacea. Along with local air and water-quality concerns from natural gas fracking, scientists and environmental regulators are increasingly warning about lifeycle methane emissions from gas. Methane is a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. While there is still no definitive study on the methane intensity of natural gas, recent research suggests that leakages in the drilling and transport of gas could make it more harmful than coal.
Reacting to the concerns about methane leakages, a group of investors worth $20 trillion in assets recently penned a letter to the oil and gas industry calling on companies to proactively address the problem. Craig McKenzie, Head of Sustainability for the Scottish Widows Investment Partnership, told Climate Progress that his organization believes natural gas does play a role in the current energy transition — but not without controls on methane:
“Many climate hawks are skeptical that the shale gas revolution has any role to play in tackling climate change. We disagree – there’s a narrow window of a decade or two where it could help significantly. It may just be the fastest way to eliminate coal from the power sector in the US, and may be China. This isn’t just theoretical. US coal power generation has fallen a massive 20% in one year largely, due to switching to cheap shale gas. But, as we’ve argued, even this defense of gas falls apart if the industry doesn’t eliminate fugitive methane emissions, which cancel out the climate benefit of a coal-gas switch for the first few decades. This major new investor initiative calling for best practice methane control technology and better regulation – globally – is intended to help make shale gas serve its climate purpose.”
Scottish Widows Investment Partnership, a major investor in fossil fuel projects, recently released a report concluding that that fugitive methane emissions from natural gas wipe out any climate benefits from a shift away from coal. The International Energy Agency has also warned that a massive global switch to natural gas could result in more than 6 degree F warming — resulting in out-of-control desertification, water shortages, and continued sea level rise.
Clearly, natural gas is playing a central role as the U.S. transitions away from its dirtiest resource, coal. And that’s a good thing for carbon emissions in the short term. The question is, will unchecked growth and improper proper pollution controls negate any positive impact that natural gas may offer?
The website Drudge Report, an aggregator that sends a massive amount of web traffic to stories linked on its pages, posted a report from the 9/11 Truther website InfoWars in which two of the nation’s leading right-wing conspiracy theorists Alex Jones with Joseph Farah discuss their paranoia about being attacked by the Obama administration.
In the interview, Farah said he saw a drone over his property in Northern Virginia and suggested that the Obama administration was targeting him. Here’s a screen capture of the Drudge link, with the words “Spy Drone Buzzes Journalist’s Secluded Home…” highlighted in red:
In the interview, Farah told Jones:
I live in one of the most rural places you could possibly live in Northern Virginia and there could only be one thing that this drone was spying on and that would be me, that would be my property. [...]
This is the first term. If [Obama] is re-elected, it’s going to be war. They will be openly at war. We will be hunted down like dogs.
Farah also mentioned another damaging right-wing conspiracy theory that vaccine programs are a dangerous and airport security patdowns as evidence of government “attempts to control us.” He went on:
This is where the resistance starts. Because this is part of conditioning for what is really the ened game for them…
It’s everything our founding fathers fought against. And we gotta be like our founding fathers all over again. And the only question in my mind is whether we have the fearlessness, the courage and the conviction that they had to do that.
When the Romney campaign recently outlined its strategy to ignore mainstream media and work its message through right-wing websites, Drudge was at the top of the list. ThinkProgress noted at the time that Drudge has a history of promoting Birtherism and Jones?s 9/11 Truther website InfoWars.
But it’s hard to keep track of the dizzying number of conspiracy theories Alex Jones and Joseph Farah can expound upon in one ten-minute interview. What’s most remarkable is that Mitt Romney’s favorite news aggregator linked to it. (HT: Michael C. Moynihan)
I loved last night’s episode of Louie, starring Melissa Leo as a woman Louie is set up with on a blind date and ends up having a hilarious, insane, uncomfortable discussion about sexual reciprocity with, which I thought did something brilliant: gave an uncomfortable but important idea the least effective spokesman of all time for it, and validated it anyway. As I wrote about the episode at Slate:
Louie claims that Laurie has suckered him into an unfair bargain. “If you doing that for me hinged on me doing that for you, you should have said something,” he grouses, inadvertently proving her point. Louie’s default assumption is that he can get something he wants without having to give anything up or think about the other person’s needs in return. There’s something refreshing about the blast of rage Laurie sends back to him. “You know how many dicks I sucked that I didn?t want to suck, because I?m a good kid?” she asks, her voice echoing with years of pent-up indignation. Laurie may be a scary, irritating pain. But Louie doesn’t have an answer to her question, or a defense against the accusation that he’s let a lot of women go unsatisfied even as he’s judged them for being attentive to his desires. Once they’re over the shock of Laurie, I doubt anyone in the audience has a good justification for that double standard either.
To other people, though, what was powerful?and in some cases overwhelming and uncomfortable?about the episode was its depiction of a man getting coerced into sex. As Zach Dionne wrote at Vulture in a piece I read after writing my own:
Laurie sears through a handful of stages ? anger, Obama-blaming, bargaining, accusing Louie of homosexuality ? before finally arriving at the logical endpoint, which is rape. Argue this if you want, but a woman smashing a man’s head into a car window, climbing upon his stunned head and growling “lick it or I’ll break your finger!” with a bloodthirsty war face … is female-on-male rape, making a rare televised appearance. The shock is so strong it raises the question of why Louie is cool with going out again.
I pinged a bunch of my TV critics buddies to talk it over, and I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about this scene. One of them raised the question of whether Louie, in the context of the show, thinks he’s been assaulted, and whether that’s different from the show’s perspective. Is he afraid to get out of Laurie’s car? It sure seems like she’d be willing to run him over on that motorcycle. Or is he staying because he wants to prove her right even though he knows the entitlement he’s displayed is fundamentally untenable?
I think the ultimate point of this episode of Louie though, is that Louie’s feelings and motivations, and our reactions to them are confusing. The show is a sharp rebuke to the idea that all sexual encounters are marked by clarity, that not knowing what you want to do in a fraught moment and feeling guilty and ambiguous about it later are the products of women’s weak wills or ill intent towards men they later resent. Laurie’s behavior is frightening and coercive and violent and inherently ridiculous, and confusing in part because one of the arguments she’s making is appealing to Louie, that if he gives her what he wants, he’d be doing the equality-oriented, fair thing, and make her happy. And at the end of the day, that’s what date rape often looks like: it’s violent, and scary, and coercive, and upsetting, and the rapist in question holds out something the victim wants, the ability to validate the victim’s behavior and whole person. Laurie may be a wild character, but her behavior is not actually more ridiculous, illogical, or effectively coercive than the way male date rapists behave towards women. Her actions recast a common event and make it freshly upsetting. Louie is upset and confused because anyone would be confused in that situation.
I can’t think of another show that could do what Louie did last night, demolishing two double standards at once by giving credence to both a victim and an attacker. Laurie has a right to be angry, in both a specific and a global sense, about the fact that she’s both expected to and shamed for pleasing the men she’s with. And Louie has a right to be angry, confused and frightened about what Laurie is doing to him. Unlike most conversations about sex and fairness and consent, the episode doesn’t force you to side solely with one of them. Both of these points are correct, and both of them are vitally important.
In general, borrowers get something in the mail that looks like a scam letter. It doesn't specify what they could receive from this government review of their foreclosure. Even the most savvy borrower - if they can be found, since they probably don't[...]
Read The Full Article:
In a powerful editorial with a cover to match, The Advocate, one of the nation's preeminent LGBT publications, has endorsed the reelection of Barack Obama and blasted Mitt Romney. The editorial marks the first time the editors say the publication has endorsed a
presidential candidate in decades:
Barack Obama is a leader of undeniable accomplishment, vision, and integrity on LGBT rights. His opponent Mitt Romney betrays equality on numerous issues and aligns himself with a faction of the Republican Party that does not include equality among its declared ideals. [...]
By saying aloud, ?I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,? in a televised interview on ABC, he has sparked conversation domestically and internationally. While he is our president at home, globally he?s an icon, a symbol of the promise of America, of the promise of equality. Obama may be the most prominent man on the planet ever, given the pervasiveness of modern media and his anomalous and historic nature as the first black American president; he is surely the single most recognizable head of state on the globe. By virtue of his unique position, his endorsement of marriage equality is not merely rhetoric. His words constitute action. On the very face of it, his statement is enormous, and has the power to move millions in a way that a statement from no other person could have. [...]
He has approached many of our challenges with intellect and foresight, though the long game was not often apparent to many, including this publication when we argued for a quicker pace for change. Obama deftly ended the military?s 17-year-long ?don?t ask, don?t tell? policy, allowing enough military leaders to reject the policy before pushing for repeal so that there was little room for Republican opposition. He has directed the Justice Department to not defend aspects of the extraordinarily discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, calling it unconstitutional and urging its repeal. Now five federal judges have declared parts of DOMA unconstitutional.
And in every speech, at every opportunity, Obama describes LGBTs as his brothers and sisters, full members of our society. In college commencement addresses, in his address to the NAACP, in an ?It Gets Better? video message to teenagers, at the National Prayer Breakfast, he has called for respect, dignity, and equality for LGBT people. At an address to the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2011 the president said, ?No country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.?
If we assume that words mean nothing, then we?ve forgotten the lesson of the damage done by a president who largely refused to utter the term AIDS during his administration, and how desperately we ached for him to acknowledge the humanity of those dying of the disease. [...]
We cannot expect any president to be the balm for all our ills, but Obama has demonstrated through word and deed that he is capable of understanding and tackling the issues, with foresight and intellect, that affect a minority population, particularly the last group of people it?s still legally permissible to deny rights to in the United States.