Following President Obama?s “all-the-above” energy speech last Thursday, conservatives have ignored the speech and instead latched onto a single point about investing $14 million in algae-based biofuel research. “Believe it or not, we could replace up to 17 percent of the oil we import for transportation with this [algae] fuel that we can grow right here in the United States,” Obama said.
Newt Gingrich said the president’s comments are ?worthy of Leno or Letterman.? The same candidate who wants moon colonies during his presidency attacked the president for a “weird” technology both Republicans and their industry allies have endorsed.
Gingrich isn’t alone in the right-wing attempt to simplify the administration’s multifaceted energy proposals:
Newt Gingrich: ?And maybe what we ought to do at Newt.org is we ought to get t-shirts that say ?You choose.? Gingrich went on to suggest the slogans, ?You have Newt: Drill here, Drill Now, Pay Less. You have Obama: Have Algae, Pay More, Be Weird.?
Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY): I think the American people realize that a president who?s out there talking about algae when they?re having to choose between whether to buy groceries or to fill up the tank is the one who?s out of touch.
Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer: Why build a keystone pipeline with real oil from Canada to put in real refineries and put in real existing cars when you can do algae? I think he is on to something. And I think this shows the vision, the hope and change he promised in 2008.
Rush Limbaugh: This guy is so out of his league, to throw out there, “I’m looking at algae.” It’s patently absurd. In a sane world this guy would be laughed out of office, not voted out.
By mocking the president, conservatives ignore a history of party leaders and their industry allies endorsing algae research.
Republicans from Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) to Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE) have requested Department of Energy grants for algae research. All three lawmakers wrote that algae investments would reduce America’s oil use. For instance, Johanns wrote that an algae biotechnology center “would develop technology to decrease our dependence on imported oil.”
On energy, the administration is doing far more than budgeting for biofuel research. The White House’s FY 2013 budget provides billions for R&D and manufacturing in clean energy technologies, while higher fuel economy standards will reduce U.S. oil consumption by more than 2 million barrels per day. Meanwhile, under Obama, domestic production of oil has reached record levels of quadruple the drilling rigs over the past three years.
Since HB 56, Alabama’s extreme immigration law, went into effect last fall, children stayed home from school out of fear that their parents would be deported, and U.S.-born children have been denied food stamps because of their parents’ immigration status. Public utility companies denied service to anyone who did not provide ID to prove they were legally in the U.S. Farmers watched their crops rot in the fields after their workers left Alabama. In all, one study shows that the damage from HB 56 could end up costing Alabama about 100,000 jobs and billions in GDP losses.
After officials began enforcing HB 56, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) set up a hotline for Alabama residents to report how the law affected them. Thousands of calls poured in, and the SPLC has collected some of the most egregious stories: undocumented immigrants denied pay, U.S. citizens harassed because they look like immigrants, a family surviving without water in their home. “The result is a crisis that harkens back to the bleakest days of Alabama?s racial history,” according to the report, which highlights 10 of these stories:
[The stories] illustrate the devastating impact HB 56 has had on Alabama Latinos, regardless of their immigration status. The stories also illustrate that HB 56 has unleashed a kind of vigilantism, leading some Alabamians to believe they can cheat, harass and intimidate Latinos with impunity. These consequences were easily foreseeable.
The law was forged within a legislative debate rife with stereotypes, misinformation, incendiary rhetoric and bigotry. The Senate sponsor told colleagues they needed to ?empty the clip? to deal with immigrants. The House sponsor, Rep. Micky Hammon, cited the increase in Alabama?s Latino population to illustrate the growth of the state?s undocumented population. Hammon?s conflation of ?Hispanic? with ?illegal immigrant? during the legislative debate was so egregious that a federal judge cited it in a recent opinion.
When legislators supporting HB 56 can?t distinguish between ethnicity and immigration status, it should be no surprise the law brings the chaos and confusion described in the following pages. As the Latinos whose stories are told here can attest, HB 56 has been a dangerous, failed experiment?a humanitarian disaster.
?There is no fixing this law,? said SPLC legal director Mary Bauer. ?It does not need to be re-written or tweaked at the margins, as some Alabama legislators have suggested. It should be repealed.? State Sen. Billy Beasley (D) described the repeal effort as an “uphill battle.” Three other senators are supporting Beasley’s proposed legislation that would repeal the bill entirely, and a Republican state senator has introduced a bill that would repeal some of the worst parts of the law.
Alabama lawmakers have had a few months to see the irrevocable damage HB 56 has already done to their state. Gov. Robert Bentley (R) should have called a special session sooner for the legislators to do something about this harmful immigration law, but the SPLC’s new report simply highlights how necessary it is that legislators roll back at least the worst parts of HB 56, if not the entire law — and soon.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) launched a pre-emptive strike against the GOP’s forthcoming budget during a committee hearing Tuesday morning, arguing that the Republicans’ plan to transform Medicare through “premium support” would increase costs for seniors. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) is expected to release the party’s budget sometime next month, which will call for lowering federal health spending by providing seniors with a “premium support” voucher to purchase insurance from an exchange of private health care plans.
During a question and answer session before the house committee, Rick Foster, the program’s chief actuary, confirmed that traditional Medicare is more efficient than private insurers and went on to say that shifting beneficiaries from fee-for-service Medicare into private plans does not lower overall health care costs. “If you’re simply transferring the Medicare beneficiary from the Medicare system into the private health market and the growth in cost in the private health care market is the same or higher than Medicare, they’re not going to contain any less, are they?” Van Hollen asked. “Other things being equal that’s correct,” Foster responded.
Foster also agreed that the GOP’s “premium support” plans are different than the health care policies members of Congress enjoy through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan (FEHBP), where each member’s “premium support credit” keeps up with actual health care costs:
VAN HOLLEN: The Federal Employee Health Benefits System (FEHBP) — which every member of Congress is on — is targeted to the market price. But members of Congress are guaranteed a certain share of their premiums will be paid by the federal government, I think that’s right.
FOSTER: That’s correct.
VAN HOLLEN: Ok, and there is a big difference between that — in terms of economic security — between that and a system where the amount of the voucher or premium support (whatever you want to call it) is not linked to the market price, but could be linked to an indicee that does not rise as the same rate cost-wise as the market. Right?
FOSTER: Yes. [...]
VAN HOLLEN: In your testimony, you point out that in those cases where your support — the amount of your voucher doesn’t keep pace with the market cost of health care, you may have to choose to either pay a lot more out-of-pocket or not get a health care plan that covers all your needs. Is that correct?
FOSTER: That’s certainly a risk and it’s a pretty important risk.
Watch a compilation of the exchange:
This year?s House budget will likely be similar to Ryan?s proposal from last year, which passed in a vote of 235-193 with no Democrats in support, but may include some changes to the Medicare provisions, akin to the plan Ryan unveiled with Senate Democrat Ron Wyden (D-OR). The proposal may maintain traditional Medicare as an option and grow the premium support credit with the actual cost of the policies. Ryan?s 2011 budget grew the premium support substantially slower than actual health care costs, shifting health care costs to beneficiaries.
The House of Representatives is expected to vote today on H.R. 2117, also known as the Protecting Academic Freedom in Higher Education Act. The legislation, which is supported by several higher education associations, would repeal the Department of Education’s new standardized definition of the term “credit hour” and end federal efforts to ensure states get to regulate lower-quality educational institutions operating within their borders, a more acute problem with the rapid growth of online education.
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), the chief sponsor of the bill, defended it in a press release, claiming that “heavy-handed regulation threatens to crush the very innovative new programs we need to make education more affordable and efficient.” Rep. John Kline (R-MN), chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, was quoted as saying, “This legislation will help protect student choice, reduce job-destroying regulations, and encourage the establishment of more innovative programs to better serve both students and the local workforce.”
But as the Center for American Progress’ Julie Margetta Morgan writes, this is a hollow argument:
House Education and Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) claims that repealing these regulations is a step toward tackling rising college costs. It?s simply not true. Those who support H.R. 2117 are trying to protect colleges from additional regulation at the expense of students and taxpayers. Repealing these program integrity standards would allow low-quality educational institutions to continue receiving federal financial aid, and students will end up wasting both their own money and the federal government?s when they pursue worthless credentials. [...]
As we wrote last year?the previous time H.R. 2117 was up for consideration in the House Education and Workforce Committee?the credit hour definition and the state authorization rule are not perfect. But it’s ludicrous to think that the status quo?wasteful spending on inflated credit hours and little regulation of online education providers?is better.
The costs of attending college have risen sharply in recent years, with graduates now owing an average of $25,000 in student loans once they leave. President Obama has pledged to tackle the rising costs of higher education, telling colleges that “If you can?t stop tuition from going up, then the funding you get from taxpayers each year will go down. We should push colleges to do better. We should hold them accountable if they don?t.? The effort to control costs and protect students should likewise extend to institutions which offer little in the way of career benefits yet saddle students with debt.
The bill is not expected to become law, with Democrats likely to block its passage if it reaches the Senate.
Fox News’ Gretchen Carlson is very concerned that Michigan’s Muskegon School District will be introducing a new comprehensive sex education program. The new curriculum will teach fourth- and fifth-graders about homosexuality and transgender issues paired with diversity education and anti-bullying advocacy. It also includes assignments they will complete at home with their parents, to help facilitate those conversations with their families. During a segment this morning, Carlson and her guest, conservative Kyle Olson, discussed how the new curriculum supposedly amounts to indoctrinating young children with “cultural issues” and “political philosophy” in ways that trample on parents’ rights to keep their kids from learning about their own bodies and identities. Watch it:
Vida, an organization devoted to examination and discussion of the roles women play in literature, has released its latest survey of the articles and reviews published by women in major magazines in 2011, and the results aren’t encouraging.
Of articles published by The Atlantic in 2011, 64 were by women and 184 were by men. In the Boston Review, the ratio was 60 to 131; in Harper’s, 13 to 65; in the London Review of Books 30 to 186; in The New Republic, 50 to 118; in the New York Review of Books a truly embarrassing 19 to 133; the New Yorker published 165 stories by women to 459 by men; and the New York Times Book Review printed 273 articles by women to 520 by men. The Nation, ostensibly a progressive publication, published 118 articles by women and 293 by men. Granta’s the only publication that’s close to parity?in fact, it published slightly more pieces by women than by men, 34 to 30. Perhaps some of these other publications should ask how Granta finds women, a task that appears so phenomenally daunting to the rest of the publishing world that it suggests that women, rather than man, are the most dangerous game.
Because really, the only answer here is not that these publications can’t find women. It’s that they don’t really care if they do or not. These numbers, and the annual discussion of them, seem to have succeeded in making a lot of female journalists and readers angry and frustrated, but they don’t appear to have made editors feel ashamed, much less called to action. And I’m not quite sure what it would take to persuade them to shake off their lethargy and acceptance of the status quo, which really means accepting sexism. Do we really have to educate editors that women can bring new perspectives on major stories, and not just to stories about living as a single woman or going through a divorce? What level of evidence would it take to persuade folks that while Katherine Boo and Marie Colvin are and were utterly extraordinary, they are not the only women who can go into profoundly difficult settings and win sources’ trust? Because at this point, I would like to know what it would take to humiliate or convince editors at the major magazines to think more creatively about story assignments and recruiting pitches. Numbers clearly aren’t doing the trick.
The radio host also conceded the Michigan Democrats' effort to injure Romney's standing would likely not take down the candidate entirely.If you're in Michigan, do your civic duty to hand Mitt Romney his home-state defeat and keep the hilarity that is the Republican primary season going. Click here to find your polling place.
"I don't think we are going to be able to stop him, but we can certainly hurt him," Trupiano said. "I have no problem doing it and I have no problem admitting that."
Response from listeners has already been strong, Trupiano said.
"This morning it's been call after call after call from listeners saying, 'I'm voting for Rick Santorum,'" he said.
Gov. Jerry Brown tangled with a reporter from the conservative Washington Times newspaper after his meeting with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Sunday.
At one point Brown, who was defending his earlier tenure as governor and his efforts to bridge the state?s budget gap, asked the reporter: ?Are you a Moonie??
A Florida church has caused outrage by turning away children from its popular Sunday services to cater to a pastor who is a registered sex offender.
The decision to allow convicted child molester Darrell Gilyard into the pulpit has angered neighbouring pastors and members of the congregation of the Christ Tabernacle Missionary Baptist church in Jacksonville.
Gilyard, 49, is allowed no contact with minors under the terms of his release from a three-year jail sentence for abusing a 15-year-old girl at another church in 2009. As a result church leaders have made his services "adults only".
The ?upper class,? as defined by the study, were more likely to break the law while driving, take candy from children, lie in negotiation, cheat to raise their odds of winning a prize and endorse unethical behavior at work, the research found. The solution, Piff said, is to find a way to increase empathy among wealthier people.
?It?s not that the rich are innately bad, but as you rise in the ranks -- whether as a person or a nonhuman primate -- you become more self-focused,? Piff said. ?You can change that by reminding upper-class people of the needs of others. That may not be their default, but have them do it is sufficient to increase their patterns of altruistic behavior.?
New clues have emerged in what could be described as the world's oldest murder case: that of Oetzi the "Iceman", whose 5,300-year-old body was discovered frozen in the Italian Alps in 1991.
Oetzi's full genome has now been reported in Nature Communications.
It reveals that he had brown eyes, "O" blood type, was lactose intolerant, and was predisposed to heart disease.
They also show him to be the first documented case of infection by a Lyme disease bacterium.
Yes, it's a sad commentary on the state of American politics that we had to poll this question in the first place, but here is the good news: a majority of Americans oppose state-mandated rape.
Public Policy Polling for Daily Kos & SEIU. 2/23-26. Registered voters. MoE ±3.1% (no trendlines):
Q: Would you support or oppose a law requiring women to receive a transvaginal ultrasound before getting an abortion?That would be the bill passed earlier this month by the Virginia House, requiring women seeking an abortion to first submit to a state-mandated rape-by-probe?for their own good, of course, because otherwise, they might not understand there's a baby in that there womb. Because women are, according to the pro-rape legislators of Virginia, that stupid.
Not sure: 24
Fortunately, most people in the state and around the country took the oh-so-radical position of opposing state-mandated rape, leading Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, who had promised to sign it into law, to back away from the bill, quickly followed by the legislature bravely postponing the vote.
Despite such less-than-persuasive arguments as CNN bobblehead and Andrew Breitbart protege Dana Loesch's insistence that rape-by-probe is no big deal, since women obviously enjoy vaginal penetration or they wouldn't be pregnant in the first place, those arguments failed to persuade a majority of Americans who think raping women might not be such good policy after all.
While Virginia seems to have learned its lesson, this hasn't stopped pro-rape legislators in other states?like Pennsylvania, Idaho, Michigan and Alabama?from flirting with the idea. (Although even Alabama legislators are having second thoughts, which should tell you everything you need to know about how extreme this is.) Given the unpopularity of state-mandated rape, maybe they should take a long hard look at the numbers so they can think about the consequences of their actions and what it would mean to enact rape requirements against the will of the American people. You know, because it seems they really are that stupid.
According to Think Progress, the National Organization for Marriage continued its losing streak in front of the courts with a huge loss at the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court chose not to hear NOM's appeal against a Maine law requiring they disclose their[...]
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A couple weeks ago, the Florida Senate rejected a measure that would have privatized 27 prisons and displaced more than 3,500 corrections officers. Nine Republicans voted against the measure, giving the bill's opponents a narrow 21-19 win.
It was an impressive victory at the time, but now we're discovering just how hard-fought it was. A senator who's suffered five heart attacks became the focal point of the debate, where advocates hoped to pressure her into changing positions on the bill. Things got so bad, she actually had to have protection.
The debate over privatizing much of Florida's prison system last week probably marks one of the few times a couple of senators provided an escort for one of their colleagues ? from the opposing political party, no less. It attracted little attention last week when Sens. Charles Dean, R-Inverness, and Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, walked onto the Senate floor before the debate on privatizing prisons with Sen. Larcenia Bullard, D-Miami, between them. Bullard, who has been seriously ill with a recurring heart condition, had been in tears after days of pressure from Senate leaders and lobbyists who wanted her to be the deciding vote in favor of a bill that would have privatized 27 South Florida prisons.Turns out, members on both sides of the aisle took turns sitting with Bullard to protect her from strong-arming tactics. Some colleagues worried Bullard could wind up in the hospital, unable to vote on the measure. One senator described it as "straight out of a gangster movie." Ultimately Bullard hung on and voted against the bill. The Times mentions that the defeat was an embarrassment for Senate leaders, who don't normally call up a bill unless they can pass it. I'd say that's hardly the only thing they should be embarrassed about.