Vice President Joe Biden has endorsed same-sex marriage, becoming the highest ranking American official to back marriage for gay and lesbian people. His comments signify a split within the Obama administration and may pave the way for President Obama — who says he supports civil unions and is still evolving on the matter — to also embrace equality.
Biden made his remarks during an appearance on Meet the Press, telling host David Gregory that he is “absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women.” He added, however, that “the President sets the policy” and did not say if he would support marriage in a second term. Biden credited the change-of-heart to the show Will & Grace, which aired on NBC from 1998 to 2006 and featured numerous gay characters:
GREGORY: Have your views evolved?
BIDEN: The good news is that as more and more Americans come to understand what this is all about is a simple proposition. Who do you love? Who do you love and will you be loyal to the person you love? And that’s what people are finding out what all marriages at their root are about. Whether they are marriages of lesbians or gay men or heterosexuals. [...]
GREGORY: You’re comfortable with same-sex marriage now?
BIDEN: Look, I am Vice President of the United States of America. The president sets the policy. I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men marrying women are entitled to the same exact rights. All the civil rights, all the civil liberties. And quite frankly I don’t see much of a distinction beyond that. [...] I think Will & Grace probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody has done so far. People fear that is different and now they’re beginning to understand.
Biden has backed equal rights for the LGBT community throughout his career, but this is the first time he has publicly acknowledged his support of full marriage rights.
In December of 2010, Biden predicted, “I think the country’s evolving and I think there’s an inevitability for a national consensus on gay marriage.”
But when asked if he supports gay marriage during the 2008 Vice Presidential debate Biden was far more circumspect, saying, “No. Barack Obama nor I support redefining from a civil side what constitutes marriage. We do not support that.” He even sought common ground with Sarah Palin on the issue and noted that both believe that “there should be no civil rights distinction, none whatsoever between a committed gay couple and a committed heterosexual couple.”
Since that performance, the administration has touted its accomplishments on behalf of the LGBT community — from the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to its refusal to defend the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Yet Biden’s support for marriage could excite the LGBT community — many of whom have recently expressed outrage over Obama’s unwillingness to issue an executive order prohibiting employment discrimination in federal contracting — just ahead of the 2012 election.
Obama first told blogger Joe Sudbay that ?attitudes evolve [on marriage equality] including mine? in October of 2010 and the administration last commented on his position during a press gaggle on March 30, 2012. “I don?t anticipate that the President would make news on [marriage equality],” Press Deputy Josh Earnest told a reporter en route to Burlington, Vermont when asked about Obama’s “evolving position.”
Gay and lesbian couples can wed in six states and the District of Columbia. Washington and Maryland both passed same-sex marriage laws in 2012, but they are currently being challenged by voter referenda.
The campaign is trying to walk back Biden’s remarks:
Politico notes that a Biden spokesperson has issued this statement: The Vice President “was saying what the President has said previously-that committed and loving same-sex couples deserve the same rights and protections enjoyed by all Americans, and that we oppose any effort to rollback those rights.”
Surely Organizing for America NC is going to use its resources in its upcoming get-out-the-vote messaging before the May 8 primary to tell people going to the polls on May 8 to vote against Amendment One.[...]
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Today's line up of guests on the Sunday shows. [...]
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It's an improvement, but it doesn't go far enough and it's not even in the books yet. This probably means Big Energy will have time to water down the already watered down rules. The proposed new rules include publishing a list of the chemicals being used for the public but there are of course, loopholes.
Interior Secretary Salazar claims that the requirement for using the loopholes are going to be limited but if history tells us anything about this industry and their relationship with governments, the loopholes will be miles wide and abused early and often.
The other problem is that the new rules will not force the fracking companies to publish the chemicals before drilling, so there could be many unpleasant surprises for local communities with their drinking water.
For this new proposal to work, it's going to require some tough minded people to hold Big Energy accountable and there's very little history that suggests we will see that. Even if it passes "as is" the next administration could easily lower the bar for Big Energy and ignore complaints about polluted water sources and side with Big Energy. More on the proposed changes at Nature.com.
Don't get nervous about how nerdy this Rachel Maddow clip begins-- you know her; it gets much less nerdy really fast... when she starts talking about how the recall against Wisconsin neo-fascist leader, Scott Walker, is going. Short version-- pretty well. The Koch brothers and other dangerous far right elements fighting to end democracy in America once and for all, have pumped millions of dollars into the Walker campaign. And the results... hillarious. Watch Rachel above.
Few people who aren't paying very close attention are aware that Walker's bid to stave off his recall defeat could rest with a criminal case he's involved with. How do we know he's involved since it's all hush-hush? He's the first governor in the history of Wisconsin to have his very own criminal defense fund. Walker has dipped into the $13 million he's collected from fascists-- both big and small-- around America and he's transferred at least $60,000 to the criminal defense fund-- on top of the nearly quarter million dollars he's already spent in the criminal cases pending against him.
Gov. Scott Walker?s assertion that he is not the target of an ongoing John Doe investigation in Milwaukee County means that his criminal defense fund is illegal, the Wisconsin Democratic Party says.
Walker announced the formation of the fund in March, a move provided for under Wisconsin statute only in the event that a state government official or their agent is being investigated for or charged with a violation of campaign finance laws or prohibited election practices.
Walker has told the press repeatedly, however, that while he hasn't been "told directly" that he is not a target in the John Doe probe, "others" have told attorneys who work for his campaign that he is not a target.
When asked who the "others" were Walker said he hadn't been told and hadn't asked.
Walker?s statements and the existence of the criminal defense fund appear to contradict one another, which is why the Democrats have now filed a formal complaint with the Government Accountability Board asking that they ?address and adjudicate? the question at their next meeting May 15.
?If Walker is not the target of the investigation then the fund is illegal,? said Democratic Party spokesperson Mike Tate in a call with reporters Tuesday.
The G.A.B. was apparently consulted by the Walker camp about the initial creation of the fund and recommended it as a course of action to deal with legal fees incurred from the ongoing investigation.
Kirk Walters via politicalcartoons.com
It's always amusing to see which new shiny object ("... and will it hurt the candidate? News at 11") will be the subject of a few hours of political press speculation, and which prematurely dismissed story has staying power.
To be fair, some stories declared important really are important. Look no further than the economy on that one. And, in advance, in context, "less important" doesn't mean it doesn't matter. Gas prices, for example are hugely important to everyone, but they and unemployment numbers (a shrinking job force because of baby boom retirement is not the same as "discouraged about working") don't decide elections the way GDP and growth do. And even they don't decide elections by themselves. Nate Silver reviewed some of the economic models and found them useful but wanting:
This seems like a healthy state of affairs. Simple economic variables can account for a little less than half of the variability in election results. The other half falls into the ?everything else? category, including factors such as foreign policy successes and failures, major scandals, incumbency, candidate quality, controversial social legislation and structural factors like changes in partisanship. Technically speaking, some of the variability may also be explained by economic factors that weigh upon voters? minds, but which are not easily quantified by measures like G.D.P. and inflation.In order to capture the "everything else" category, political scientists often use presidential approval, hence the value of that particular measure (who measures it and how is a story for another day).
Political scientists at George Washington, Yale and UCLA believe most elections can be predicted with just a few pieces of information. They created a formula that uses economic growth, presidential approval ratings in June and incumbency to forecast President Obama?s share of the two-party vote in the Nov. 6 election.John Sides, one of the designers, comments at the Monkey Cage, on the key fundamental of party identification:
The Fundamentals. I completely agree with the thrust of [Jay] Cost?s post. He says that because of party identification, 90% of the electorate is ?locked in.? I?ve been blogging about that for a while?e.g., here or here or here.That's a key fundamental, and while it won't predict election results, it helps explain why polling numbers don't move all that much, why the election will be close, and why people (politicans and the press) concentrate on the elusive mythical swing voter (who isn't really all that interested in politics or they'd be part of the 90 percent and not the 10 percent).
Still, while party ID is key, it's also a variable. Perhaps the key factor this year influencing that variable is how damaged the Republican brand has become. The less Republicans there are, the bigger the difference in the vote.
That's why dismissing the Republican war on women (it's real and at state level and in the Republican House), unpopular Republican governors seen as overreaching on union and social issues (Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Jon Kasich in Ohio, Rick Scott in Florida), or Romney's recent flap over his gay foreign policy spokesperson, Richard Grenell, is a mistake. Together, these issues paint a picture of an intolerant and unwelcoming Republican Party. That matters when people vote. So, although imperfect, look at the (it's a variable!) party ID from poll to poll, and also begin to look closer at voting enthusiasm as we get closer to November. Matched numbers mean a closer election. And if you can, look regionally and state by state (especially in barometer states like IA, NC, VA, PA, OH and FL. Overwhelming dislike of Obama in the Deep South and WV doesn't matter for this purpose; he's not carrying those states, but they will slant national numbers.)
The third of the important factors to add to presidential approval and the economy is incumbency. I still remember this piece from Democratic pollster Mark Mellman on the eve of the 2004 election:
First, we simply do not defeat an incumbent president in wartime. After wars surely, but never in their midst. Republicans have been spinning this fact for months, and they are correct.Obama's trip to Afghanistan on the anniversary of the death of bin Laden, while Romney pretended to deliver pizzas to a NYC firehouse, is a perfect example. Whether it's dominating local news (the news people actually watch) with a visit, or national news with a speech or an event like OBL's demise, incumbency is powerful.
Romney, by the way, got heckled by an onlooker while handing off those pizzas to an aide. ("Just don't put 'em on the roof of the car.") And that (Mitt Romney Heckled Over Dog-On-Roof Story) brings up another point: the dog on the roof from 20 years ago? It matters. Gail Collins isn't the only one who talks about it (see Mitt Romney?s dog-on-the-car-roof story still proves to be his critics' best friend.)
Other things that matter (and when they say it doesn't, they're wrong):TPM polling summary
Things that don't matter (and when they say it does, they're wrong):
I am sure you have your own list of the above. If you are trying to sell papers, your first list is longer, but try not to get distracted from what really matters. (Let's just say it: The Republicans are the problem.)
All in all, I take the models, the fundamentals, the things that matter (including state-by-state polls and party loyalty) together and foresee a close race, but one that Obama wins. Of course if that's true, the next question that matters is what happens next?
by Mindy Lubber, via Ceres
This weekend in theaters in Los Angeles, and in coming weeks in Phoenix, San Diego and Atlanta, a powerful new documentary premiers. Look closely at the early screening locations and you just might guess the topic: water scarcity.
?Last Call at the Oasis? does far more than recount the alarming woes of our country?s most water-stressed regions; it?s a beautifully produced, detailed picture of an immense global crisis bearing down on us as we speak ? and thankfully a roadmap of sorts to what we can do about it.
I hesitate these days to even string together words like ?immense global crisis? ? there?s much crisis fatigue, and so many people and issues screaming for our attention.
But water?s one of the really big issues ? we literally can?t live without it, our economies depend on it and in many regions supplies are running short. Two billion people are already being affected by water shortages. Population growth and climate change add even more pressure to the situation.
In America, where clean water is taken for granted, it?s far too easy to forget this reality. But if we can view what?s portrayed in ?Last Call? as a giant opportunity to change our world for the better, it just might infuse us with hope and energy instead of dread.
One of the experts interviewed in ?Last Call? frames a key source of our problem with water. ?We think of it as the air,? says Robert Glennon, a law professor at Arizona State University, ?infinite and inexhaustible.?
But it?s neither ? even in hydrologically-blessed countries like our own.
We are overdrawing, over-polluting and under-pricing this exhaustible resource here and globally, and like an overdrawn bank account approaching zero we will soon see the consequences. Think oil in the Middle East ? the pressures on vital resources even in faraway places can deliver disruption to our own, more secure doorsteps.
So we?ve got to get water use and management right, and it?s going to take loads of work and some true paradigm shifts. Here?s where the good news starts: Scientists, some major businesses, and organizations like mine are fixated on this challenge and are eager to spread their knowledge.
At last week?s Ceres conference in Boston, Michael E. Sullivan, IBM?s top executive for water solutions under the company?s ?Smarter Planet? effort, told an audience of 600 that better access to data and better ways to analyze it have created big opportunities for companies to cut water use and save money.
IBM?s own experience at its big semiconductor plant in Burlington, VT, is an example worth emulating. The plant once used half of Burlington?s municipal water supply, but new water-management techniques cut that usage by 30 percent. An unanticipated surprise was that Burlington?s water prices rose as IBM?s usage dropped ? but Sullivan said significant savings from reduced energy and chemical use led to cumulative savings totaling about $3.6 million annually ? and that doesn?t count the environmental benefit.
Other Ceres conference speakers had their own real-world examples of dramatically reduced water use. Places like water-poor Singapore, which has shored up its water supply through massive investments in efficiency, rainwater capture and recycled wastewater. And giant water users like Coca-Cola, which has improved its water efficiency by nearly 20 percent and has a worldwide water stewardship program in place to monitor its water performance globally.
But greater political will and public focus is essential, and businesses can play a big role as catalysts. Global problems demand large-scale solutions. Business, researchers, NGOs and governments must join hands on water scarcity ? just as they often do for medical, defense and other forms of research.
One great current example are two complementary and free-of-charge water risk tools pioneered by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and Ceres. With much of the data provided by Coca-Cola, WRI?s new Aqueduct tool maps localized indicators of water risks globally, identifying company operations and supply chains facing potential water challenges. Then companies can use detailed steps outlined in Ceres? new Aqua Gauge tool to catalyze effective water risk management.
Collaborations like these get the whole picture: This one accurately values water and lets stakeholders help shape resource protection strategies. It also gives investors a tool to evaluate growing water risks in their portfolio companies.
More collaboration is vital. Journalist Alex Prud?homme, whose book ?The Ripple Effect: The Fate of Freshwater in the Twenty-First Century,? inspired ?Last Call at the Oasis,? put it this way in an interview at the Ceres conference:
?I?d like to see the private sector play a greater role in working with the public sector. The private sector?s done a reasonably good job at developing new water efficiencies. I think they can do a lot more, and I think they can share some of those lessons with public bodies. So I?d like to encourage them to become part of this policy debate.?
Water scarcity is a global issue ? one that we will need to solve together. The business world is a crucial part of the equation, and as ?Last Call? shows us, there?s no room for sitting this one out.
Mindy S. Lubber is the president of Ceres. She also directs Ceres? Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), a group of 100 institutional investors managing nearly $10 trillion in assets focused on the business risks and opportunities of climate change. This piece was originally published at Ceres and was re-printed with permission.
Cross posted from The Stars Hollow GazetteThis is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.Find the past "On This Day in History" here.Click on images to enlargeMay 6 is the 126th day of the year[...]
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Advocate - at least Bill Clinton will come out against North Carolina Amendment 1;
His Vorpal Sword - Mittbott 3000 attempts to engage with wingnut media, mostly a FAIL;
Mad Kane - advice for the Black Eagle;
Mahablog - conservatives are never wrong because conservatives are never wrong because ...
The American Prospect - the Mittbot 3000 seems competent, and that's dangerous.
For years, multi-million-dollar lawsuits have failed to force local police departments to discourage knee-jerk uses of tasers, much less discipline officers who electrocute people who are sick, mentally ill, rude or plain innocent.
Maybe the example of one courageous town will start to turn the tide.
This may not be the first case in the country, but it's the first time that I know of that a police officer is being disciplined for misusing a Taser. This is a small, gritty town on the Philadelphia border that's seen quite a few ups and downs over the past several decades, and in the past, has had a lot of problems with their police force:The acting head of the Colwyn Borough Police Department was suspended today while borough and county officials investigate an incident involving a juvenile who was Tasered while handcuffed in a holding cell at the department.
Deputy Chief Wendell Reed is the second person to be suspended for the April 24 incident, said Mayor Daniel Rutland. The officer who allegedly administered the shock, Cpl. Trevor Parham, was suspended earlier this week and a third officer who was allegedly present when it occurred is expected to be suspended as well, according to sources and Rutland.
State police were called to the scene today for back up as Rutland delivered the news to Reed, but Reed left on his own accord.
Detectives with Delaware County's Criminal Investigation Division, who act as Internal Affairs investigators for the county's police departments, were also on scene and removed computers and a Taser from the department.
Rutland said no documentation of the incident was made and the proper procedures were not followed. He said he only found out about it after receiving calls from concerned citizens. He said the only person from the department to notify him was Lt. Wesley Seitz, who will now act as head of the department.
Rutland said "there was word" that Reed had been planning to suspend Seitz today for investigating the incident and reporting it.
Meanwhile, we now have scientific proof of the obvious: tasers kill.
I'm fairly sure nobody will pay the least bit of attention to this:The electrical shock delivered to the chest by a Taser can lead to cardiac arrest and sudden death, according to a new study, although it is unknown how frequently such deaths occur.
The study, which analyzed detailed records from the cases of eight people who went into cardiac arrest after receiving shocks from a Taser X26 fired at a distance, is likely to add to the debate about the safety of the weapons. Seven of the people in the study died; one survived.
Advocacy groups like Amnesty International have argued that Tasers, the most widely used of a class of weapons known as electrical control devices, are potentially lethal and that stricter rules should govern their use.
But proponents maintain that the devices - which are used by more than 16,700 law enforcement agencies in 107 countries, said Steve Tuttle, a spokesman for Taser - pose less risk to civilians than firearms and are safer for police officers than physically tackling a suspect. The results of studies of the devices' safety in humans have been mixed.
Medical experts said on Monday that the new report, published online on Monday in the journal Circulation, makes clear that electrical shocks from Tasers, which shoot barbs into the clothes and skin, can in some cases set off irregular heart rhythms, leading to cardiac arrest.
"This is no longer arguable," said Dr. Byron Lee, a cardiologist and director of the electrophysiology laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco. "This is a scientific fact. The national debate should now center on whether the risk of sudden death with Tasers is low enough to warrant widespread use by law enforcement."
The rest of the experts interviewed (aside from the Taser international representative, of course) suggested that the use of tasers be limited in light of these findings. As I have said many times before, if tasers were a drug that killed this many people they would have been banned long ago.
This is simple common sense. And not just because they quite obviously are deadly to some people, although that should put any further debate to rest. The fundamental reason they should be limited is because in a free society the police should not be allowed to inflict terrible pain on citizens for any reason they choose, no matter how petty or inconsequential. If police are to be allowed to carry tasers they must be strictly controlled. At the moment, this is far more common than not: