It's depressing that so much energy is being put toward stirring fear, loathing, and strife through what some believe is THE interpretation of a holy text and "forgetting" -- or purposely ignoring -- the separation of church and state our country was[...]
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How one little dog is less-than-thrilled at the (literal) obstacles Hurricane Sandy has thrown in her path.
THE housing bust finally seems to be over. Health care costs have slowed. The unemployment rate has fallen below 8 percent, much sooner than forecasters were predicting a few months ago. Consumer confidence has reached a post-recession high.President Obama inherited an economic disaster, and his economic policies have put the country on the road to recovery, while his opponent, Mitt Romney, wants to return to the policies that caused the economic disaster in the first place. Yeah, this presidential campaign matters. But Leonhardt is interested in who will get credit, if Romney is elected and the recovery continues.
There is still no guarantee that the economy is on a stable path to recovery, given its structural problems and the false starts of the last few years. But the odds that the recovery has finally begun have never been higher. Which is one more reason the presidential campaign, for all the groaning it has inspired from left, right and center, matters so much.
President Obama and his aides quietly chafe at the idea that Mitt Romney would be able to take credit for a recovery. Publicly, Mr. Obama has begun to emphasize the economic good news in recent weeks. Mr. Romney, for his part, has said he expects the economy to improve early in his presidency, not because of his policies but because of optimism about what he will do.And there you have it. Obama's policies sparked the recovery, but if he is elected Romney will claim credit for it. And lest anyone worry that returning to the policies that caused the meltdown in the first place might stall or reverse the recovery, Romney says it's not about the policies, it's just that people will be so optimistic about what Romney would do as president that what he actually would do as president won't matter. It's all about faith.
The frightening thing is that this actually is the argument made by the presidential nominee of one of this nation's two major political parties. The disturbing thing is that there are millions of people stupid enough to accept that as a serious argument. And the bottom line is that if Romney is elected, his austerity policies will ensure that the recovery doesn't continue.
President Obama and Mitt Romney are both on pace to raise more than $1 billion with their parties by Election Day, according to financial disclosures filed by the campaigns on Thursday.
America?s healthcare system, more accurately described as a non-system sick care system, totaled 17.6 percent of the economy in 2010, compared to an average of 9.2 percent in the other 33 countries, as the OECD data shows.
In the United States, total public and private cost of healthcare is significantly greater than the total of corporate and individual income taxes, as well as payroll taxes. For each dollar paid in all three of those taxes in 2010, healthcare came to $1.29.
If we just lowered our costs to those of France, which has universal care in what is widely regarded as one of the best systems if not the best, it would save almost as much money as Americans paid in individual income taxes in 2010. The French spend 6 percentage points less of their economy on healthcare. In the United States, the individual income tax in 2010 came to 6.3 percent of the U. S. economy, the lowest since Truman was president.
The publication Thursday of 20 years worth of secret records kept by the Boy Scouts of America reveal a widespread effort by the organization to cover up a scandal involving allegations of sexual abuse against 1,200 scout leaders.And as with the scandal in the Catholic Church, this story is only beginning to come to light. Samuel Smith says it?s time for the feds to consider RICO charges.
The records, known within the Boy Scouts itself as the ?perversion files,? cover the years 1965-1985 and detail the names of the alleged perpetrators, their hometowns and other information. The files were results of the organization?s own internal investigations into sexual abuse among its leaders and include court documents, newspapers clippings in cases where charges were actually filed and other material....
Like the recent pedophilia scandals involving Penn State University and the Roman Catholic Church, the Boy Scout cases involve trusted members of the community who had access to children they were supposed to mentor and to protect, but who instead exploited that access to groom and to molest the most vulnerable of them.
The research concluding that some organics may have health benefits above and beyond their conventional cousins is every bit as robust as the research arguing that those advantages aren?t particularly large or widespread. But the media have shown a clear preference for the latter, and it?s not because of the different methods that scientists use. It?s because of the media?s own biases.
Penn State University scientist Michael Mann, whose work showed that Earth?s temperatures have risen along with increased fossil fuel use, announced Tuesday he had filed a lawsuit against the conservative National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute for defamation, complaining that they falsely accused him of academic fraud and compared him to convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky.
Organizations that deny climate change is a serious problem have condemned Mann for years.
Mann was one of the scientists whose emails were hacked from a climate research center at Britain?s University of East Anglia in 2009. Climate skeptics quoted portions of the emails in an attempt to discredit the scientists in what the critics dubbed "Climategate." But government and university investigations found no misconduct.
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As Digby rightfully noted, Marco Rubio is a blithering idiot if he actually believes this.
His family left Cuba. The Florida Senator was introducing Romney in Florida on Saturday.
UPDATE: On Mitt Romney's campaign plane shortly after the rally, Rubio was asked what he meant by the comments.
"I'm talking about big government. I'm talking about countries where the government dominates the economy," Rubio, whose parents left Cuba, replied, noting that "virtually every country in Latin America" was governed by the policies he was condemning.
"The president's just not a supporter of the free enterprise system," he said, adding, "This isn't the first time I've said it, and I believe it with all my heart."
And from Digby's post, here's more from Think Progress on just how stupid Rubio's assertion is -- ?Anti-Business? Obama Is Best President For Corporate Profits Since 1900:
Since he came into office, Republicans have consistently attacked President Obama for supposedly being anti-business. As ThinkProgress noted last week, the data shows that this charge is nonsense.
In fact, as the financial website Motley Fool noted today, President Obama is far and away the best president for corporate profits since 1900:
There were two polls out in Minnesota on Saturday: one gave President Obama an eight-point lead, but another had Mr. Obama with a smaller lead of just three points.
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One of the issues in this campaign is the allegation that the EPA/Obama Administration has usurped its authority to go after coal and oil on climate change. Like many of the arguments from the Republican camp, the Republican think they can get away with this big lie because most people do not know how a regulation comes into place or the history that led to the current EPA action.
The basic rule in this country is that Congress (or a state legislature) can delegate the authority to write regulations to an adminstrative agency like the EPA. To do this, the law granting that authority must give specific guidance on when and how the agency is to adopt regulations. Typically, especially for an agency dealing with scientific issues like the EPA, the regulation process begins with an investigation into the facts of an issue followed by an initial proposal followed by a public comment period before a final regulation is adopted. After the final regulation is adopted, someone harmed by the regulation can seek judicial review over whether that regulation is supported by the evidence and complies with the grant of authority to the agency.
In the case of climate change, ther are several key statutes governing the scope of the EPA's authority. The first is the part of the Clean Air Act addressing EPA regulations of motor vehicles: US Code, Title 42, Section 7521(a)(1). Under this statute, the EPA must establish standards governing the release of air pollutants that "may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare." The definition section of the Clean Air Act (Section 7602) defines air pollution as "any . . . substance or matter emitted into the ambient air," and defines effects on welfare as including effects on climate. The EPA has also traditionally taken the position that, if something is an air pollutant for motor vehicles, it is also an air pollutant for stationary sources (offices, factories, power plants, etc.). For stationary sources, there is a requirement for a pemit based on the nature of the stationary source and the amount of pollution released (either 100 tons per year or 250 tons per year based on the nature of the source) under Sections 7475, 7479(1), and 7602(j).
The process began in October 1999 when a coaltion of environmental groups and green industry groups filed a petition asking the EPA to investigate and make findings on greenhouse gases and climate change. Given the time involved in the regulatory process, the EPA was not able to conclude this process during the Clinton Administration. Ultimately, the G.W. Bush Administration issued its decision in September 2003 finding that it did not have the authority to issue greenhouse gas regulations and, alternatively, finding that it would be unwise to issue such regulations.
In response to this finding, a coalition of environmental groups asked for judicial review. During the judicial review, these groups were joined by several states and cities (with some business groups and states joining in support of the EPA). Among the state in support of the EPA were several states with Republican Governors including Massachusetts under then-Governor Mitt Romney. This petition was denied by a panel of the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit in a split decision (with two judges in separate opinions supporting the EPA and one judge supporting the challengers).
The challenges led by Mitt Romney's Massachusetts asked the Supreme Court to review this decision and the Supreme Court accepted. In April 2007, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court said that the EPA was wrong. The Supreme Court noted that under the statutes governing the regulation of motor vehicles, the EPA was required to regute any air pollutant that posed a threat to public welfare. Furthermore, the definitions of air pollutants would include green house gases and the definition of public welfare would include climate change. As such, the EPA was required to make a finding on whether green house gases did have a negative impact on the climate. Furthermore, the Court held that the Clean Air Act did not give the EPA discretion to decline to regulate a pollutant merely because the EPA thought it was unwise. Any decision against regulating would have to be based on a finding that greenhouse gases were not likely to have a negative impact on the climate or some express provision of the Clean Air Act that authorized the EPA to decline to issue regulations.
After the issuance of this decision, Congress attempted to enact climate change regulation to preempt EPA action (primarily through cap and trade proposals), but all attempts to pass such legislation betweeen 2007 and 2010 failed. While this action was taking place on Capitol Hill, the EPA was busy complying with the Supreme Court order by conducting the required study on greenhouse gases and, after concluding that study, releasing a preliminary finding for public comment.
In December 2009, in compliance with the Supreme Court's order, the EPA issued its finding (referred to by the DC Circuit as the "Endangerment Finding"). In what would only be a surprise to the climate change deniers, the EPA found that a group of six greenhouse gases did contribute to climate change. For the purpose of further regulation, the EPA converted the other five gases into a carbon dioxide equivalent.
Having made the finding that greenhouse gases were an air pollutant that did endanger the public welfare, the EPA proceeded to the next step mandated by the Supreme Court -- determining what, if any, regulations needed to be imposed on motor vehicles. In May 2010, the EPA issues its final regulations on motor vehicles (referred to by the Courts as the "tailpipe" rules.
Based on the EPA's past interpretation of the Clean Air Act, the enactment of the tailpipe rule required the EPA to also enact rules for stationary sources. Prior to issuing the tailpipe rule, the EPA issued a "timing" rule noting that any regulations for stationary sources would take effect at the same time as the rule for motor vehicles. Then in June 2010, the EPA issued its rule for stationary sources (referred to by the courts as the "transition" rule). The transition rule noted that the normal pollutant levels under the Clean Air Act (100 tons per year and 250 tons per year) would impact a substantial number of businesses and create an instant backlog. To avoid this backlog, the EPA would initially apply its rules on stationary sources only to sources emitting, respectively, 75,000 tons per year or 100,000 tons per year.
As with the previous decision agsinst regulating greenhouse gases, the decision to regulate greenhouse gases spawned a court challenge. The case was again heard by a three-judge panel of the DC Circuit (with two of the judges -- one from the majority and the dissenter --on the new panel). This time the DC Circuit issued a unanimous opinion. As this decision was issued the same week as the Supreme Court was issuing its decision on the Arizona immigration law and the Health Care law, the DC Circuit's action slipped under the radar of the national media.
The DC Circuit made several key findings.
First, the claim that there was some dissent to the consensus on climate change was not enough to overcome the requirement in current law that the EPA regulate pollutants. The law merely requires a reasonable expectation of harm, not absolue certainty. The evidence received by the EPA more than meets that standard.
Second, the EPA has correctly interpreted the Clean Air Act as requiring it to regulate stationary sources upon a determination that it is required to regulate automobiles. The potential cost of such regulation of stationary sources is not a basis for declining to regulate motor vehicles. The decision on the appropriate regulations in the Tailpipe rule was limited to considering the impact on the motor vehicle industry.
Third, the fact that other agencies can also impose regulations on fuel standards would not have authorized the EPA to decline to adopt the tailpipe rule.
Fourth, the regulations contained in the tailpipe rule are reaasonable and supported by the evidence.
Fifth, those covered by the Transition rule can't object to that rule on the basis of the decision to temporarily exempt smaller polluters from potential regulations. Any invalidity of the provisions exempting smaller polluters does not invalidate the remainder of the rule. As that exemption does not harm the larger producers, they do not have standing to challenge the exemption.
The bottom line of the DC Circuit's decision is that the actions of the EPA in regulating coal was required by the scientific evidence and merely went as far (and arguably not as far) as the law requires. Rather than usurping Congressional authority, the EPA only did what earlier Congresses had mandated. If individuals do not like these rules, the solution is to have Congress change the EPA's authority. Of course, the Obama Administration had attempted to avoid implementing these rules by seeking such change, but the Republicans blocked that change. As I noted back before the regulations were issued, the failure to pass the legislation was guaranteed to lead to regulations that the industry would not like. Three years later, the coal industry wants to blame everyone but themselves for the tough regulations that it is facing. If you know somebody in the southeast Ohio, don't let the coal industry get away with this lie.
Today the most overrated player and the second most overrated player in the NFL will take on Lauren Tannehill's husband's team in American non-metric futbol.Also. Too.[...]
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I don't remember reading about anything like this before, and I can't quite figure out why this isn't, in effect, a public option -- but I'm not complaining. As for the concerns about meeting state standards, the administration has done a conscientious job with the new Affordable Care Act so far, so I'm going to assume they have this covered until I see information that indicates otherwise. I hear a lot of people say they're worried about their employers wanting to drop health insurance, and this will be a ready option:
WASHINGTON ? The Obama administration will soon take on a new role as the sponsor of at least two nationwide health insurance plans to be operated under contract with the federal government and offered to consumers in every state.
These multistate plans were included in President Obama?s health care law as a substitute for a pure government-run health insurance program ? the public option sought by many liberal Democrats and reviled by Republicans. Supporters of the national plans say they will increase competition in state health insurance markets, many of which are dominated by a handful of companies.
The national plans will compete directly with other private insurers and may have some significant advantages, including a federal seal of approval. Premiums and benefits for the multistate insurance plans will be negotiated by the United States Office of Personnel Management, the agency that arranges health benefits for federal employees.
Walton J. Francis, the author of a consumer guide to health plans for federal employees, said the personnel agency had been ?extraordinarily successful? in managing that program, which has more than 200 health plans, including about 20 offered nationwide. The personnel agency has earned high marks for its ability to secure good terms for federal workers through negotiation rather than heavy-handed regulation of insurers.
John J. O?Brien, the director of health care and insurance at the agency, said the new plans would be offered to individuals and small employers through the insurance exchanges being set up in every state under the 2010 health care law.
[...] National insurance plans will be subject to regulation by the federal government, state insurance commissioners and state insurance exchanges. That mix could cause confusion for some consumers who have questions or complaints about their coverage.
The federal standards will pre-empt state rules in at least one respect: the national health plans will automatically be eligible to compete against other private insurers in the new exchanges, regardless of whether they have been certified as meeting the standards of those exchanges.
This isn't a participatory democracy. It's the reality show of politics, with two guys battling it out over who gets to screw the public.[...]
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Try watching this without feeling the bile rise in your stomach because Willard Mitt Romney?s presidential hopes haven?t yet been stomped utterly into oblivion?