Today, the New Jersey Assembly is expected to vote on its version of the bill. Speaking to the New York Times about the bill, Bob Master, who is the political director at the Communications Workers of America, District 1, noted that the bill would perversely ask teachers to pay more than upper-income earners were asked to pay in a tax that was rescinded in 2010:
Bob Master, political director of the Communications Workers of America, District 1, which represents most state workers, points to the inverted math. Under the tax surcharge rescinded in 2010, a couple who made $750,000 would have paid about $4,800 a year, or slightly less than a teacher making $65,000 will be forced to pay in higher health care and pension payments under the new plan.
Indeed, the so-called “millionaire’s tax,” which New Jersey eliminated in 2010, increased taxes for upper-income earners by less than 2 percent, and the number of millionaires in the state actually grew while the tax was in effect. But it now appears that New Jersey is on the path to demand that teachers and other hard-working public workers pay more of their income for health care and pension plans — 5 to 10 percent by some estimates — than the state’s richest had to pay under the now-expired tax.
ThinkProgress filed this report from a campaign event in Columbia, South Carolina
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) joined the list of candidates criticizing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s (R) health care plan Wednesday, using an appearance on Good Morning America and a campaign stop in South Carolina to say Romney lacked credibility in the health care debate.
Romneycare, which Huntsman and other Republicans don’t count as a “free market” solution, has plenty of credibility in Massachusetts. Recent polling shows that 63 percent of Massachusetts residents view Romneycare favorably, and the law has been successful on multiple fronts, most notably reducing the state’s uninsured rate to just 1.9 percent. Comparatively, in Utah, 14 percent of the population remains uninsured despite Huntsman’s so-called “free market” reforms.
Yesterday, Huntsman chose to ignore those facts when he argued that Romney had no credibility on the issue:
HUNTSMAN: The question was, when someone who passed and signed that particular law is talking about free market health care, do they have credibility? Otherwise, governors can do whatever they want to do, whatever the aspirations of the people in their state dictate, they can move in that direction. I think the answer was, he would have little credibility talking about market-based health care plans having signed onto that.
Huntsman, who once flirted with the idea of a mandate himself, is correct that Romney lacks credibility on health care. But it’s because Romney has chosen to change his position and ignore the success of the law he signed, not because he signed a law that isn’t working.
Something that comes up when I write about immigration is the idea that the United States is somehow running short of capacity to absorb immigrants. I see no reason to believe that this is the case. The USA historically maintained an open borders immigration policy precisely because it was such a sparsely settled place, and we abandoned that policy amidst a panic about Communism and the allegedly un-democratic values of Catholics, leaving us to continue to be a relatively sparse country.
For a window into that, I asked Matthew Cameron to whip up a fun little chart. It shows how many people the USA would contain if the entire land area of the 48 contiguous United States were as densely settled as some of our member states currently are today:
New Jersey, if you’ve been there, isn’t exactly a dystopian nightmare of overcrowding. It doesn’t even contain a major city. It’s basically a lot of old-school suburbs, plus a few small cities, with room for farms and even the infamous Jersey Shore. And yet if the whole land area of the non-Alaska, non-Hawaii United States were as dense on average as New Jersey it would hold 3.5 billion people. Obviously there are a number of practical problems with this, including the fact that only 145 million people even want to move here, but the point is simply that accommodating the people as such is not the issue. The fact that infrastructure can’t be built out instantly is a real issue, but we’ve had population growth rates 0.5-1 percentage point higher than we do now with no problem.
You guys. There are SO MANY THINGS WRONG WITH THE FOOTLOOSE REMAKE (beyond the existence of yet another remake, and another movie where people in their 20s play teenagers, that is):
First, banning dancing is a stupid response to a drunk-driving incident. If I were a mainstream evangelical, or a sensible small-town preacher, I might be seriously vexed right around now. Second, if this is a reasonably integrated community (at least when it comes to illicit teenaged dance parties), one would imagine there is a lawyer worth his salt somewhere in hollering distance who will sue the city to get rid of a clearly constitutionally untenable dance ban if only for the free publicity and to get himself to a firm at a bigger city. And finally, I am kind of depressed that in a town that seems like it is maybe sort of a baby theocracy, fighting against said clearly unconstitutional dance ban in City Hall is the epitome of teenaged activism. At least Hairspray had some nod to the idea that integration is a dandy idea if only because it lets you date cute guys. I cannot imagine what life is like for gay kids in this burb.
I mean, I get it, nostalgia is mandatory, logic is optional. And I get that there’s nostalgia for a time when our problems were smaller and our differences seemed more resolvable ? and it’s true that the culture war still matters, that the right to express yourself matters, particularly when you’re 17 or 18. But as much as I’d like to believe we’re going to resolve the rifts in our politics and all make it to the big dance together, I don’t really believe we’ve packed our shoes for the same party.
Since Robert Nozick blogging is hot now, let me chime in and say that I think Jon Chait and Steven Metcalf have misunderstand what the “Wilt Chamberlain Example” in Anarchy, State, and Utopia is supposed to prove (though arguably so does Jason Kuznicki). It’s a weak argument, but for basically different reasons than is commonly supposed. The issue is that Nozick starts by considering something he calls a “patterned” theory of fair distribution of economic justice. Like maybe you think economic arrangements are fair if and only if they create a such-and-such gini coefficient. So the point here is that you, the dastardly egalitarian, have conceded the justness of the ex ante income distribution. And then suddenly a bunch of people show up voluntarily and voluntarily pay Wilt Chamberlain money to watch him play basketball. Suddenly Wilt Chamberlain is rich and the “pattern” has been disrupted. But what’s wrong with that?
This isn’t supposed to prove anything about Wilt Chamberlain or any high-income individuals. It’s supposed to prove that you shouldn’t hold to a “patterned” theory of distribution. Which is fine, since as best I can tell nobody does hold such a theory. This argument is identical in its force to the one John Rawls gives for focusing on the justice of social institutions (the “basic structure” in his phrase) rather than particular situations. Rawls indicates that optimal social institutions would feature a progressive consumption tax, such that there’s nothing wrong with Chamberlain acquiring a vast stockpile of cash in the bank. Then when he starts spending that money on stuff, taxes will be paid. Sensible utilitarian accounts of morality bring us even further afield from the slightly odd idea of a “patterned” theory of just distribution.
In general, I think it’s quite difficult to say what any of this has to do with actual political controversies. In my experience as a professional political pundit, the study of political philosophy doesn’t get you very far in terms of illuminate real controversies even relative to other branches of philosophy.
A round-up of climate and energy news. Please post other stories below.
“Both al Qaeda and Chechen terrorist groups have repeatedly considered sabotaging nuclear reactors — and Fukushima provided a compelling example of the scale of terror such an attack might cause,” Matthew Bunn of Harvard University said.
Some countries had “extraordinarily weak security measures in place,” he said in an Internet blog posted this week, without naming them.
“The nuclear industry in many countries is much less prepared to cope with security incidents than with accidents,” wrote Bunn, an associate professor at Harvard Kennedy School who specializes in nuclear issues.
Steps to protect against both sabotage of nuclear facilities and theft of nuclear weapons or the materials to make them were “particularly urgent.”
Bunn was reacting to new proposals by the head of the U.N. nuclear agency aimed at improving international nuclear safety following Japan’s crisis which was caused by a massive earthquake and huge tsunami on March 11. Three reactors at the Fukushima complex went into meltdown when power and cooling functions failed, causing radiation to leak and forcing the evacuation of some 80,000 people.
“The chance that the next big radioactive release will happen because someone wanted to make it happen may well be bigger than the chance that it will happen purely by accident,” Bunn said.
Google Inc and Citigroup are investing another $204 million in the Alta Wind Energy Center in Southern California’s Tehachapi Mountains, bringing their total combined investment in the project to $314 million.
The additional funds will be split evenly between the two companies, according to Terra-Gen Power, which is building what is expected to be the nation’s largest wind energy project.
The new investments specifically finance the Alta V Project, which is projected to generate 168 megawatts of electricity. Google and Citi had previously jointly invested $55 million in the nearby Alta IV phase of the project.
Terra-Gen Power, the project developer, is an affiliate of ArcLight Capital Partners and Global Infrastructure Partners.
The AWEC site is currently generating 720 megawatts of power, according to Terra-Gen Power.
By year end, another 300 megawatts of power are projected to be online, Terra-Gen says, bringing the facility up to 1020 megawatts.
The U.S. Energy Department said it would provide a partial loan guarantee for a solar power project that could meet energy needs of more than 88,000 homes.
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said his department was providing a partial guarantee for $1.4 billion to support Project Amp.
Project Amp envisions the installation of solar panels on industrial buildings across the United States. It calls for the installation of around 733 megawatts worth of solar panels, which is roughly the total amount installed in the country last year.
Chu’s loan is part of the so-called SunShot program, which would spur U.S. innovations to reduce the costs of solar energy.
“This unprecedented solar project will not only produce clean, renewable energy to power the grid in states across the country but it will help us meet the SunShot goal of achieving cost competitive solar power with other forms of energy by the end of the decade,” he said in a statement.
Canadian politicians and ratepayers alike must accept that the days of cheap electricity are over as aging infrastructure demands investment and the choice of power sources — renewables, fossil fuels or nuclear — becomes more limited, green energy CEOs said on Wednesday.
It is not only green energy, such as solar and wind power, that is lifting electricity prices but also investment in infrastructure, such as transmission lines, which has been neglected for decades, they said at a conference in Toronto.
“We’re all living off the legacy of 60 years ago because we did not invest a lot in the energy infrastructure in that time,” Brookfield Renewable Power Chief Executive Richard Legault said.
“We still believe, ‘I live in Quebec and get power delivered to my house for 6 cents a kilowatt’. It doesn’t cost that,” Legault said.
Buttressed by large hydroelectric stations, especially in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia, Canada has some of the lowest electricity rates among industrialized nations.
An aversion to coal-fired power stations, because of pollution, and increased wariness about nuclear-generated electricity after Japan’s Fukushima disaster mean there are fewer options in the future for generation.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee is slated to vote on a bill aimed at accelerating federal approval of a controversial pipeline that would expand U.S. imports from Canada?s oil sands projects.
The oil industry-backed bill ? which House GOP leadership hopes to bring before the full chamber this summer ? would require an Obama administration decision on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline by Nov. 1.
Republicans and some Democrats call the pipeline a major step toward creating jobs and boosting supplies from a friendly neighbor.
But opponents say the pipeline carries major environmental risks, citing potential leaks and the ecological impact of greenhouse gases emitted form Alberta?s oil sands project.
The committee will also mark up a bill Thursday that would block EPA from regulating a byproduct of coal-burning power plants as hazardous waste under the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act.
A growing number of people are turning to nature to help them save electricity this summer, creating so-called green curtains of climbing plants.
According to the Energy Conservation Center, Japan, a key element in power conservation is reducing the use of air conditioners, which consume the most electricity in homes. A green curtain helps block the sun and keep room temperatures from rising through transpiration of the plant’s leaves.
Green curtains can be easily set up at home, and Tokyo’s Itabashi Ward Office has been promoting them as an effective way to battle global warming.
With power shortages expected this summer as a result of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the ward office has received an increasing number of inquiries from local residents about growing green curtains.
It also received more than two applications for every spot available in a class organized by the ward office on how to grow a green curtain.
Likewise, Katsushika Ward of Tokyo distributed free goya bitter gourd seeds to residents in late April. All 500 packets were taken by the second day.
A Katsushika Ward official in charge of distributing the seeds said, “Interest is higher (in growing goya) than usual. Many people are trying to grow it for the first time.”
Even as China prepares to open bullet train service from Beijing to Shanghai by July 1, this nation?s steadily expanding high-speed rail network is being pilloried on a scale rare among Chinese citizens and news media.
Complaints include the system?s high costs and pricey fares, the quality of construction and the allegation of self-dealing by a rail minister who was fired earlier this year on corruption grounds.
But often overlooked, amid all the controversy, are the very real economic benefits that the world?s most advanced fast rail system is bringing to China ? and the competitive challenges it poses for the United States and Europe.
Just as building the interstate highway system a half-century ago made modern, national commerce more feasible in the United States, China?s ambitious rail rollout is helping integrate the economy of this sprawling, populous nation ? though on a much faster construction timetable and at significantly higher travel speeds than anything envisioned by the Eisenhower administration.
Work crews of as many as 100,000 people per line have built about half of the 10,000-mile network in just six years, in many cases ahead of schedule ? including the Beijing-to-Shanghai line that was not originally expected to open until next year. The entire system is on course to be completed by 2020.
As the Republicans today turned up the volume on their call for the Obama administration to OK a politically divisive U.S.-Canada oil pipeline, a group of boldface-named environmentalists plotted to push back by protesting against the project on the president’s doorstep.
House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders are poised to win votes from some panel Democrats today for a bill aimed at forcing a ruling by Nov. 1 on Keystone XL, a $7 billion pipeline that would nearly double U.S. imports of crude from the Canadian oil sands. But even as liberal Democrats maneuvered against that measure, some fellow foes of Keystone XL were mounting resistance of their own.
In an open letter released today, 11 widely known green and liberal activists call on opponents of the pipeline to join them at the White House starting in mid-August for “civil disobedience that will quite possibly get you arrested.”
The environmentalists, including film actor Danny Glover, former federal climate scientist James Hansen and authors Wendell Berry, Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben, described themselves as “pretty sure that without serious pressure,” the administration would deem Keystone XL in the national interest and approve its construction.
That point was not disputed today by the senior Democrat on Energy and Commerce, Rep. Henry Waxman (Calif.), who urged colleagues to oppose the bill and let the administration’s internal review process go forward as currently set — with a decision anticipated before 2012.
Congressional Republicans have been attacking the Dodd-Frank financial reform law in a variety of ways, including gutting the budgets of the regulatory agencies charged with implementing the law and trying to repeal various pieces of it that they particularly don’t like. In their latest move, Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee yesterday voted to repeal a provision of the Dodd-Frank law that requires public companies to disclose the ratio between the pay of their executives and that of their median worker:
The panel also approved, 33-21, the repeal of an 18-line provision from Dodd-Frank that requires all publicly traded companies to report the ratio between chief executive officer compensation and that of their median employee salary. The provision in Dodd-Frank is ?a burdensome regulation that provides no benefit and has substantial costs,? said Representative Nan Hayworth of New York, the Republican sponsor of the bill.
There is plenty of evidence that outsized and poorly designed executive pay at the nation’s biggest banks played a role in bringing about the financial crisis of 2008. As outgoing FDIC Chair Sheila Bair said last year, there is “an overwhelming amount of evidence that [executive compensation] is clearly a contributor to the crisis and to the losses that we are suffering.”
The provision that the GOP repealed is aimed at keeping workers, investors, and shareholders informed of the amount by which the growth in CEO pay is outstripping that of worker pay, in the hopes that transparency will lead to restraint in the growth of executive compensation. Today, American CEOs make 263 times the average compensation for American workers, up from a 30 to 1 ratio in the 1970s. In 2010 alone, CEO pay went up 27 percent while average worker pay went up just 2 percent. Over the last 10 years, as Americans experienced a lost decade for wages, bank CEOs made $19 million per year.
This week, a new report shows that 32 companies in the S&P 500 spent more on pay for their top executives last year than they paid in taxes. Meanwhile, “a mounting body of economic research indicates that the rise in pay for company executives is a critical feature in the widening income gap.” Still, House Republicans are attempting to repeal an extremely modest step towards reining in executive pay by claiming that it “provides no benefit.”
Extreme conservative House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has pulled out of the ongoing debt ceiling[...]
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Here are excerpts from an obituary that recently appeared in The Cincinnati Enquirer for Frank[...]
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The right-wing media reacted to President Obama's address on troop withdrawals in Afghanistan by dredging up familiar, petty attacks, such as criticizing the number of times Obama referred to himself, and claiming the address was a "campaign speech" instead of a "war update." This follows a long history of the right-wing media launching frivolous attacks over speeches Obama makes on all manner of issues.
Hannity:"I Heard The President Mention Himself, 'I, I, Me, I, I, I,' I Think AboutA Dozen Times." Onthe June 22 edition of Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity said,"The one thing -- I don't know if you noticedthis -- I didn't hear General Petraeus' name. I heard the Presidentmention himself, 'I, I, me, I, I, I,' I think about a dozen times. Ididn't hear him mention General Petraeus in this speech. That was an omission?How is that possible?" [Fox News, Hannity, 6/22/11,via Media Matters]
Fox& FriendsCounts The Number Of Times Obama Said "I" During Speech. The June 23 editionof Fox News' Fox & Friends edited Obama's speech to isolate thenumber of times Obama said "I." The segment featured a running counter in thecorner of the screen. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/23/11,via Media Matters]
FoxNews.com:"The President Chose To Use The East Room Of The White House To Offer ... ACampaign Speech." Ina June 22 FoxNews.com op-ed, DC International Advisory President and formeraide to Dick Cheney Stephen Yates wrote:
Americans can be forgiven for wondering whatexactly was offered up by their president as he announced his timetable forwithdrawal from Afghanistan Wednesday night. Quite naturally they wouldanticipate an update on progress made in the year and a half since he announceddeployment of the surge - albeit half of the forces requested by hisbattlefield commander.
On that count, President Obama delivered asexpected, reporting success and announcing the withdrawal of surge forces overthe next year. That 30-second bit of information could have capably beendelivered from the White House press podium or in a brief televised update fromthe Oval Office (which this president -- unlike all recent predecessors --oddly seems to avoid).
Instead, the president chose to use the East Room of the White House to offer afairly simple campaign speech, not a war update or national security strategy.[FoxNews.com, 6/22/11]
FoxNation: "In Afghanistan Remarks, Obama Offers A Campaign Speech Not A WarUpdate Or National Security Strategy." Fox Nation linked to the Fox News op-ed underthe headline, "In Afghanistan Remarks, Obama Offers a Campaign Speech Not a WarUpdate or National Security Strategy." From Fox Nation:
[Fox Nation, 6/22/11]
Obama:Instead Of War, "We Must Invest In America's Greatest Resource - Our People." From PresidentObama's June 22 speech:
Aboveall, we are a nation whose strength abroad has been anchored in opportunity forour citizens here at home. Over the last decade, we have spent a trilliondollars on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times. Now, wemust invest in America's greatest resource -- our people. We must unleashinnovation that creates new jobs and industries, while living within ourmeans. We must rebuild our infrastructure and find new and clean sources ofenergy. And most of all, after a decade of passionate debate, we mustrecapture the common purpose that we shared at the beginning of this time ofwar. For our nation draws strength from our differences, and when ourunion is strong no hill is too steep, no horizon is beyond our reach.
America,it is time to focus on nation building here at home. [WhiteHouse.gov, Remarksby the President on the Way Forward in Afghanistan, 6/22/11]
PowerLine: "The Promotion Of 'Green Jobs' Doesn't Really Belong In This Speech." In a June 23 post onPower Line, blogger Scott Johnson wrote, "Speaking of unintended humor, thepromotion of 'green jobs' really doesn't belong in this speech. It may be timeto rewrite Samuel Johnson to say that 'green jobs' are the last refuge of ascoundrel." [Power Line, 6/23/11]
FoxNation: "Obama Pushes Green Energy In Afghan Speech." A June 23 post on FoxNation linked to the American Spectator blog under the headline, "Obama PushesGreen Energy in Afghan Speech." From Fox Nation:
Ace OfSpades: "Obama's Mission Accomplished Speech." On his blog Ace ofSpades, blogger Ace titled a short post on Obama's address "Obama's MissionAccomplished Speech" and went on to write, "We fought this war, but I made all the right decisions." It wasposted two minutes after President Obama began speaking. [Ace of Spaces, 6/22/11]
RedState: "Mission Accomplished - Just [Don't] Ask How." A June 22 post on theconservative blog Red State had the subtitle, "Mission Accomplished - JustDon\'t [sic] Ask How." The post went on to state, "Whatever you do, though,don't forget tonight's declaration of success in a war whose purpose mostAmericans have long forgotten -- just don't ask how that success was achieved,how it's being defined, or how long it can be expected to last." [Red State, 6/22/11]
WSJ: "We Half Expected ToSee A 'Mission Accomplished' Banner Somewhere In The Background." A June 22 Wall Street Journal editorialstated:
PresidentObama delivered a remarkable speech last night, essentially unplugging theAfghanistan troop surge he proposed only 18 months ago and doing so before itsgoals have been achieved. We half expected to see a "missionaccomplished" banner somewhere in the background. [Wall Street Journal, 6/22/11]
Fox& Friends Text: "MissionAccomplished?" The co-hosts of FoxNews' Fox & Friends discussed Obama's speech several timesduring the June 23 edition of the show. During one segment, the following textaired on screen:
[Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/23/11]
Right-WingMedia Attack Obama's 2009 Cairo Address. As Media Matters has noted, theright-wing media attacked President Obama's 2009 address in Cairo, Egypt onrelations with the Muslim world.
Formore information about the right-wing media's attack on Obama's Cairo speech, SEEHERE.
Right-WingMedia Attack Obama's Address On Libya. As Media Matters has noted, theright-wing media attacked Obama's address on military actions in Libya.
Formore information about the right-wing media's attack on Obama's Libya speech, SEEHERE.
Right-WingMedia Attack Obama's 2011 State Of The Union Address. As Media Matters hasnoted, the right-wing media attacked Obama's 2011 State of the Union address.
Formore information about the right-wing media's attack on Obama's 2011 State ofthe Union address, SEE HERE.
Right-WingMedia Attack Obama's 2010 State Of The Union Address. As Media Mattershas noted, the right-wing media also attacked Obama's 2010 State of the Unionaddress.
Formore information about the right-wing media's attack on Obama's 2010 State ofthe Union address, SEE HERE.
Right-WingMedia Attack Obama's Memorial Address Honoring The Victims Of The January 2011,Tucson, AZ Shooting. AsMedia Matters has noted, the right-wing media attacked Obama's memorialspeech following the January 2011 shooting in Tucson, AZ.
Formore information about the right-wing media's attack on Obama's Tucson shootingvictim memorial speech, SEE HERE.