Dr. Taj and his family celebrating Eid in Canton over the weekend
We usually have our live chats with Blue America candidates on Tuesdays at 11am (PT)/2pm (ET). But our newest candidate, Dr. Syed Taj, sees patients on Tuesdays and he asked if we could move the chat to Wednesday. I think that's a good reason to move the chat-- so, we'll be meeting Dr. Taj live tomorrow at CrooksandLiars.com, same time.
Dr. Taj's Michigan district is the newly drawn 11th, covering southwestern Oakland and northwestern Wayne counties. He?s spent 40-plus years in the medical field, working his way up to Chief of Medicine at Oakwood Hospital in Dearborn, Michigan, and in 2008 became a rare Democrat elected to the Canton Board of Trustees. You might know the 11th district from the electoral scandal that led to former Congressman and failed-Presidential candidate Thaddeus McCotter?s resignation earlier this year. This leaves taxpayers on the hook for a $650,000 special election to fill his remaining term, which Dr. Taj has opposed and will not participate in.
With the open seat, Dr. Taj has a more than favorable chance to win. His opponent is Kerry Bentivolio, reindeer rancher, failed business owner and part-time actor who has never held elected office. He has strong ties to libertarian financiers and Tea Party activists but has been ostracized by the Republican Party establishment, having taken large donations from Liberty for All Super PAC, affiliated with Ron Paul. Bentivolio sells his candidacy on the belief that America?s greatest achievements were gross infringements of government that are bankrupting our nation, all while lauding the tax giveaways for the rich that left us in this mess in the first place. Although he never balanced a budget, he did bankrupt a company but Bentivolio claims to know how best to address our federal deficit. With student loans, tax reform, the environment, energy, education and health care, he supports the Ron Paul, everyone-for-themselves prescription. These are dangerous Tea Party talking points, not real solutions.
Dr. Taj likes his chances and knows that, with the right help, Democrats can take back a district once designed to be a Republican stronghold. ?I?m running to bring sanity and reason back to our political process,? he tells us.
?As a physician and small business owner, I know how the medical and financial sides of our health care system actually work. This experience has taught me how to treat the symptoms of a problem and when to treat the actual problem. My number one priority in Congress is to protect Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security as we know it because these are public trusts, not merely entitlements. We need proactive leadership in Congress, not more of the same obstructionism that?s left faith in public institutions at historic lows.?
This is a guy who knows his stuff, and people across Michigan are taking notice. The Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, Observer and Eccentric Newspapers, Senator Debbie Stabenow, Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN), the Michigan Nurses Association, the American Federation of Teachers, among others, have endorsed him. Dr. Taj is enthusiastic about his campaign and with good reason: as well as President Obama, Senator Carl Levin would also have won in the new district in 2008, making it not as conservative as people have come to believe.
Coming off a clear primary victory against a lunatic LaRouche Democrat in August 7, Democrats' first task is presenting voters with the stark choice they face in November: Bentivolio, a Ron Paul minion and star of a low-budget conspiracy film that blamed the Bush administration for 9/11; or Dr. Syed Taj, a distinguished physician, public servant and proven champion of the progressive movement with fantastic ideas to bring to the table. Health care is much more than a consumer good or service, which is why we need real medical professionals in Congress to write healthcare legislation, not lawyers or career politicians.
Dr. Taj can win this race, but he needs our help. Please consider helping his campaign and Blue America prevent another Tea Party, right wing extremist from shutting down Congress by contributing here on our Act Blue page. And come meet Dr. Taj tomorrow at 2pm (ET) at CrooksandLiars.
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Now that conventions are TV miniseries with no suspense, politicians desperately need big-name cameos for ratings. On opening night Republicans reach for the master of hype, the Donald himself.
Trump promises to be ?really amazing,? but may, as usual, just grab attention and embarrass his hosts. Ann Romney is the featured speaker of the evening, but can she compete with shameless Trumpery?
The only suspense is over what direction Trump?s self-promotion will take. Suggestions that he may parody Celebrity Apprentice and fire Obama don?t do the man justice--much too tame and predictable.
As a public service for bored TV watchers, herewith a suggested stunt that would be more in character. To match his unending zeal over Presidential birth history, Trump could reveal results of tracking down Mitt Romney?s death certificate and proving that, counter to rumors, the GOP nominee is alive and well rather than a robotic Manchurian candidate.
That service Romney would more than offset worry warts like ex-W speechwriter Michael Gersonthat ?Trump?s appearance at the Republican convention represents a disturbing tolerance for disturbing ideas...
?What does it say about the modern GOP that the leading advocate of the theory that Obama is Kenyan is on the convention schedule, while the leading advocate of, say, mainstream climate science would risk being booed off the stage??
Climate science? Are we talking about 2012 Republicans?
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While states across the country are facing crunched budgets and struggling to reduce unemployment and put people back to work, they are sitting on more than $470 million in unspent transportation funds meant to pay for road, highway, and other infrastructure projects, the Dept. of Transportation said last Friday. In an effort to speed up spending ?that will create jobs and help improve transportation,” the Obama administration said it would free up those funds for other projects if they aren’t used in the 2013 fiscal year.
Roughly $473 million in funds that were earmarked in 2003 to 2006 appropriations packages remain unspent by states, according to DOT. As this chart from Transportation Nation shows, Alabama ($51.5 million) and California ($43.1 million) lead the nation in unspent funds, and three other states have at least $28 million in transportation money that has not been spent:
In a release Friday, President Obama and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that the funds would be freed up for transportation projects other than those for which they were specifically earmarked. If states fail to spend the money or re-obligate it to other projects by the end of the 2013 fiscal year, it will be released for use in other states. ?We are freeing up these funds so states can get down to the business of moving transportation projects forward and putting our friends and neighbors back to work,? LaHood said.
Elliott Abrams, a former Bush Administration official who focuses on the Middle East, took to the pages of the Weekly Standard to argue that neither Iranians nor Israelis think the Obama administration is “serious” about attacking Iran, and that the only real way to convince them is having Congress vote for war:
In any event, the debate over a joint resolution will clarify who stands where. At the moment, no one is persuaded that the United States will use force to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. That situation worries Israelis and emboldens Iranians, not the outcome we want. A clear statement now that is backed by the nominees of both parties and elicits widespread support in Congress would demonstrate that, whatever the election results, American policy is set. That is the best (and may be the only) way to avoid an Israeli strike in the near future and the best (and may be the only) way to persuade Iran to negotiate seriously. And if we are unwilling as a nation to state that we will act to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, that conclusion should solidify support for what would then become the inevitable Israeli strike. A refusal by the White House to seek such a joint resolution would itself suggest that, while ?all options are on the table,? the likelihood is that that is precisely where they will remain.
The weight of the evidence (according to the Pentagon and the U.N.) suggests that, far from emboldening Iran, the Obama administration’s diplomacy and sanctions policy has significantly slowed Iran’s nuclear policy relative to the baseline left by the Bush administration. Abrams’ claim that Iran is more likely to come to the table if threatened by war is also highly improbable, given that the specter of an American attack is one of the regime’s most effective tools for dealing with its domestic problems. Finally, the Obama administration has already taken a number of steps that credibly establish the possibility of an U.S. strike — having Congress authorize military force would likely add nothing to these steps other than lock the United States down a path that could result in a costly war.
Indeed, Romney appears to at least implicitly know this. He’s been unable to distinguish his Iran policy from Obama’s and has recently pushed back against the idea that Congress should authorize military force, arguing that the President is already legally empowered to launch strikes unilaterally. However, the fact that an adviser who played a key role in molding Ryan’s foreign policy views is defending dangerous brinksmanship raises serious questions about whether the Romney-Ryan policy might tilt hawkish once in office. Indeed, one commonality amongst the advising corps is a worrying willingness to casually advocate the use of American military force.
It’s also important to note that, Abrams’ distortions notwithstanding, President Obama has said Iran with a nuclear weapon poses a threat to regional and international security has made a “categorical statement” that his administration’s policy is preventing Iran from acquiring one. Western intelligence estimates give the West time to pursue a dual-track approach of building international pressure and using diplomacy to resolve the crisis. Questions about the efficacy and potential consequences of a strike have led U.S. officials to declare that diplomacy is the ?best and most permanent way? to resolve the crisis.
It has been over a year since civil unions became law in Rhode Island, but in that time, only 68 same-sex couples actually obtained a license. Compare this to Delaware, a state with a smaller population, where 85 civil union licenses were issued in just the first month they were available. In May, Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I) issued an executive order recognizing marriages in other states, recognizing the fact that all of Rhode Island’s neighboring states already offer the freedom to marry. State House Speaker Gordon Fox (D) has promised the legislature will vote on marriage equality next year, but in the meantime, the state will continue missing out on a significant source of income.
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) is doubling down on behalf of his colleague Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) who said Sunday that it’s unlikely for a woman to get pregnant from “legitimate rape” because her body would “shut that whole thing down.” In an interview with Iowa’s KMEG-TV, King denied ever hearing about anyone getting pregnant from statutory rape or incest, saying: “Well I just haven’t heard of that being a circumstance that’s been brought to me in any personal way, and I’d be open to discussion about that subject matter.” King is one of Akin’s very few remaining defenders as Republican politicians try to distance themselves from the controversy. Just a few weeks ago, King claimed that it’s perfectly legal to rape and kidnap a young girl and then transport her across state lines to force her to get an abortion to “eradicate the evidence of his crime.”
Hero Complex has a long interview with Kelly Sue DeConnick, who is writing Marvel’s new Captain Marvel book which has a woman, Carol Danvers, taking on that mantle. In a particularly interesting section towards the beginning of the conversation, DeConnick goes back and forth on the question of whether, though Danvers was conceived of as an explicitly feminist character, she is writing a feminist book:
I don?t think this is new to my interpretation of Carol. I think that she?s an incredibly driven individual. The single line that I use for her off the top of my head is: Crackerjack pilot races to prove dead daddy wrong. I think Carol?s wound comes from ?. well, she comes from a family of three kids, two younger brothers. Her dad was an old-fashioned construction foreman who loved her very much. This book was conceived as an unapologetically feminist book. It happened in the ?70s during the feminist movement and that was very much what the book was about. We?re much more skittish about that today, interestingly. Well, her dad opted not to pay for her to go to school and thought it?d be better spent on her brothers. That?s why she enlisted ? to get her education paid for. I think that hurt her, and she?s always been trying to prove to her dad that she?s worthy. But her dad?s gone now, so it?s not a thing that she?s ever going to be able to get closure on…I?m not trying to write a feminist agenda. This is part of who the character is. And I?ve heard people question the Absorbing Man thing, like ?Since when is the Absorbing Man a misogynist?? That wasn?t my intent. My intent with him was that he was pushing her buttons. It wasn?t that it was a particular thing with him. Although he is a very old-fashioned character, and I think it?s hilarious. It was trash talk in a fight.
I’d argue that given that the first lines that are spoken in DeConnick’s take on the character are Carl Creel’s snarl “Lucky me! If it ain’t Captain America’s secretary, Mrs. Marvel,” and that he goes on to clock Carol, declaring “I’ll show you smarts, lady!” and to tell to Cap, “You lettin’ the little missus give the orders now? Wouldn’t catch me getting bossed around by no broad,” she’s probably writing a feminist comic. When someone brings gender (or race or sexual orientation or religion) into trash talk, they’re not just joshing someone, they’re setting up a hierarchy where whatever characteristic they’ve singled out is disqualifying, and that someone allied with their target will suffer a worse loss because they’ve inverted the gender heirarchy, etc.?they won’t just be defeated, they’ll be degendered.
Feminism isn’t just about getting women into positions traditionally occupied by men. The second half of the DeConnick response I’ve quoted there is in response to the question from Hero Complex, “We?ve already seen some dismissive behavior from Absorbing Man in the first issue. Will her proving herself as a hero in a male-dominated super-landscape be an ongoing theme?” Feminism is also about what happens when women get there, about the fact that earning the job is often the first step in dismantling sexism, and sexists don’t exactly roll over and die when women obtain positions of power. And fighting sexism isn’t solely women, or superheroines’ purview. Part of what’s thrilling about reading DeConnick’s version of Captain Marvel is watching Captain America joke with Carol about Absorbing Man’s sexism mid-fight and afterwards to encourage her to take up the Captain Marvel mantle, saying “Bottom line is this: you have led the Avengers. You have saved the world. Quit being an adjunct.” Their conversation is just the superheroic version of a mentor encouraging a female mentee to give herself credit instead of deferring it, pitch more ambitious stories, or to ask for that raise.
In other words, just because we’ve moved from one phase of feminism into the next isn’t a reason to abandon that as a framework as a character (or for an actress like Melissa Leo, whose work is clearly feminist, to declaim the label). Sexism isn’t over, in the superhero world, in the real world, or in the places that they intersect. And that sexism’s become more diffuse and complicated just means there are more ways to use gender dynamics to tell fascinating, complex stories about how people, male and female alike, construct their identities and understand their relative positions in the world.
When the Supreme Court ruled on Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, SB 1070 — invalidating much of the law and limiting the scope of the law?s ?show me your papers? provision — its ruling clarified the constitutionality of the harmful state immigration laws also but left many questions unanswered about laws in other states that went even further than Arizona’s.
But in the first ruling on a state immigration law following the Supreme Court’s SB 1070 decision, the 11th Circuit federal appeals court struck down most of Alabama’s HB 56, including the worst provisions like the state’s attack on school children:
– School officials cannot ask about students’ immigration status: Under HB 56, schools were required to determine the immigration status of every newly enrolled student. As a result, students stayed home from school once the provision went into effect in late September out of confusion over the law and fear that they or their parents could be deported. By February, 13 percent of Latino students dropped out by February as families fled Alabama because of the immigration policy.
– Alabama cannot ban contracts between lawful and unlawful residents.: Alabama’s HB 56 included an unprecedented ban against contracting with undocumented immigrants. No other state or nation has such a measure, which, for example, could have made it illegal for a landlord to rent an apartment to someone who is not a legal resident. Politicians readily admitted that the goal of HB 56 was to make Alabama a hostile place for undocumented immigrants, and in blocking the contracts provision, the court recognized that the point of the contracts section was “forcing undocumented individuals out of Alabama.”
Additionally, the 11th Circuit stopped Alabama and Georgia from making it a crime to transport or harbor an undocumented immigrant in those states. Both states included these provisions in their similar anti-immigrant laws approved by state legislators more than a year ago. Arizona’s SB 1070 also makes its a crime to harbor or transport someone who is not a legal resident, but the Supreme Court did not rule on it. Today, a civil rights coalition is asking a federal judge in Arizona to block this section of SB 1070 especially now that it has been struck down in Alabama and Georgia.
But in its ruling about Alabama’s 2011 law, the federal appeals court let a portion of HB 56 stand that makes it a felony for an undocumented immigrant to ?attempt to enter into a business transaction with the state or a political subdivision of the state. Originally, this provision was interpreted so broadly that it prevented undocumented immigrants from having running water at their homes, but legislators made changes to the measure last spring so that it only applies to a ?public records transaction,” like a driver’s license or business license. The court ruled that the state could prevent undocumented immigrants from applying for these licenses just as it agreed that the state could prevent people who are not legally in the U.S. from attending state universities and community colleges.
The federal court removed most of the worst portions of the state immigration laws, and as the Supreme Court ruled on SB 1070, it left a window open for future legal challenges against Alabama and Georgia’s “show me your papers” provisions requiring law enforcement officers to determine the immigration status of anyone they have ?reasonable suspicion? to believe is in the country illegally. In all, the 11th Circuit’s ruling is a victory for immigrant advocates and a significant — if not total — loss for proponents of extreme “self-deportation” immigration policies.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) is reporting that most of the new electric generation capacity added in the first half of 2012 used either natural gas or renewable energy.
“Other renewables” includes hydroelectric, geothermal, landfill gas, and biomass power.
This is a trend that has been going on for quite some time. As the EIA notes:
Most of the new generators built over the past 15 years are powered by natural gas or wind. In 2012, the addition of natural gas and renewable generators comes at a time when natural gas and renewable generation are contributing increasing amounts to total generation across much of the United States.
The EIA is reporting here only on generators greater than 1 MegaWatt in capacity. So it counts the big utility-scale solar plants and misses virtually all new commercial and residential systems:
Solar has shown significant growth in the electric power sector over the past two years. From the beginning of 2010 to the end of June 2012, 1,308 MW of new utility-scale solar capacity has come online, more than tripling the 619 MW in place at the end of 2009. Despite this significant increase, these additions understate actual solar capacity gains. Unlike other energy sources, significant levels of solar capacity exist in smaller, non-utility-scale applications (e.g., rooftop solar photovoltaics). These appear in a separate EIA survey collecting data on net metering and distributed generation.
Other good news is that a lot of coal-fired capacity is being retired.
More capacity was added in the first half of 2012 than was retired. A total of 3,092 MW was retired, from 58 generators in 17 states. Over half of this was coal, and another 30% was petroleum-fired generators.
If you were wondering who is building new plants running on coal or petroleum/other, here’s the answer:
Yes, it’s the President’s home state of Illinois:
Only one coal-fired generator was brought online in the first half of 2012, an 800-MW unit at the Prairie State Energy Campus in Illinois. In its 2011 annual survey of power plant operators, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) received no new reports of planned coal-fired generators. Of the planned coal generators in EIA databases, 14 are reported in the construction phrase, with an additional 5 reporting a planned status but not yet under construction. However, only one of the 14 advanced from a pre-construction to an under-construction status between the 2010 and 2011 surveys.
The Prairie State Energy Campus website proudly explains that an “on-site coal mine produces nearly 7 MILLION TONS per year.” So I suppose it’s like locally-grown food, if you grew and ate poisonous mushrooms locally, that is. You’ll be glad to know that this is “clean coal” — or it could be in some alternative universe where homo sapiens are actually sapiens:
Prairie State is part of a balanced energy portfolio that can help us transition to lower intensity carbon generation. The plant has the potential to accept greenhouse gas capture systems when the technology is commercially available.
Seriously. As for Texas, “70% of the capacity added was in the industrial sector and not the electric power sector: the Formosa Plastics Corporation added two generators burning petroleum coke.”
Bottom line: The U.S. grid is slowly cutting its carbon intensity. Unfortunately, the U.S. (and global) climate is rapidly deteriorating. Avoiding far more extreme weather and devastating droughts post-2040 would require taking U.S. electric generation carbon emissions to near zero by 2050. There just is very little room for new natural gas and no room for new dirty coal.
The pragmatic Republican establishment (despite the Tea Party, there still is one) is frantic to jettison Representative Todd Akin?s toxic comments on conception and rape, and to quarantine the scientifically-challenged congressman.
Much of the commentary has been about how Akin?s clumsiness connects to Republican vulnerability on other issues important to women. But this raises a larger question: Why is the Republican lunatic position politically toxic only on this particular issue?
The Tea Party position, after all, has become (or already was) the ?mainstream? Republican position on at least a dozen other issues?denying climate change, rejecting evolution, embracing bogus science on homosexuality, destroying regulation of palpable harm to consumers, defending the right of assassins to bring AK-47s to schools, and on and on.
So why is this lunatic fringe position different from all other lunatic positions? Here are some conjectures:
Almost everyone is a feminist on the subject of rape. A politician can?t appear to be condoning it, even indirectly. It?s this, and not the ignorance of how women?s bodies work, that makes the congressman radioactive.
And why is almost everyone a feminist on the subject of rape? Because the basic gains of the women?s movement on core issues, despite its supposed recent eclipse, were durable. The political scientist Jane Mansbridge of Harvard, in her research on ?everyday feminism,? found that most women, even they did not use the label, have attitudes on a wide range of issues from work to sexuality, that by any measure are feminist.
So why do the several other lunatic positions of the Republican Party not turn out to be politically radioactive?
Because the media cuts the far right too much slack?just look at the respectful coverage of climate change deniers and anti-evolution nuts rebranded as ?Intelligent Design.?
Because Democrats have no guts on such issues as gun control.
Because the women?s movement was a movement, while many of the other issues where Republicans embrace insane views do not have movements on the other side.
This leaves two intriguing other questions:
Are enough crazies on the rape issue, (like those who see the rape exemption in anti-abortion legislation as a ?loophole?), that this whole affair smokes out latent animosities between the Tea Party base and the pragmatic (though equally lunatic) party elite?
One thing the Tea Party base hates is being dictated to by party professionals. That?s why they delight in taking out incumbents. That?s why they?d rather be right than win. Akin shows every sign of becoming a martyr for this faction. The dust-up just confirms that Romney is nothing but a pragmatist.
And will the connections between Akin?s comments on legitimate rape and Republican vulnerability on other women?s issues lead Democrats and the press to make some of these other connections to the broader range of extremist views that now pass as the Republican mainstream?
Akin was no accident. When true crazies take over your party, they eventually display their true colors?and yours.Political parties in the United StatesSocial philosophyEthicsPoliticsCrimesRapeViolenceFeminismDemocratic PartyMaryland Republican PartyRepublican PartySocial Issues