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Sunday Talk: Small fish in a big pond

Sat, 04/18/2015 - 23:00

This week, Marco Rubio—the thirsty little senator from Poland Spring (by way of Cuba)—dove head-first into the kiddie pool of Republican candidates for president.

It was a risky move, given the pool's depth (read: lack thereof).

Obviously, he was hoping to make a big splash with his announcement—and he would've gotten away with ittoo, if it weren't for those meddling burritos.

Unbeknownst to Rubio, shortly before he took the stage, Hillary Clinton and her gang of corporate crime-fighters had stopped for lunch at Chipotle.

This caused a tidal wave of breathless coverage to form, and Rubio's message quickly drowned in its wake.

But, really, that's just the tip of the iceberg, as far as his problems go; beneath it all, he's just not that impressive.

Open thread: Banned books, Donald Trump, and Americare

Sat, 04/18/2015 - 22:00

Coming up on Sunday Kos ...

  • Banned books, authors of color and characters of diversity, by Susan Grigsby
  • If the 2016 GOP presidential field is so deep, why is Donald Trump beating so many of their 'stars'? by Steve Singiser
  • The Twenty Percent Solution, by Jon Perr
  • 90 for 90. Getting out the vote in Virginia, by Denise Oliver Velez
  • Thomas Edsall is wrong. Obamacare did not make Americans more conservative, by Egberto Willies
  • The submerged state: Welfare for the well off, by Dante Atkins
  • We won't be calling it Obamacare in 2045. How about 'Americare'? by Ian Reifowitz
  • Beyond the Hubble, by DarkSyde
  • The 2016 election is not about the presidency. It is about the Supreme Court, by Mark E Andersen

This week at progressive state blogs: equal pay in NH, tax day in MI, sharia fears in ID, guns in VA

Sat, 04/18/2015 - 19:00
Progressive State Blogs This week in progressive state blogs is designed specifically to focus attention on the writing and analysis of people focused on their home turf. Let me know via comments or Kosmail if you have a favorite state- or city-based blog you think I should be watching. Inclusion of a diary does not necessarily indicate my agreement or endorsement of its contents.

At Eclectablog, LOLGOP writes—All the proof you need that the Republican Party exists to make the richest richer:

Who are Republicans worried about on tax day?

The millions of Americans who haven’t had a raise in 15 years?

Nope. The richest .2 percent of Americans who will leave more than $5.4 million dollars to their kids. They want to cut these taxes on the inheritances of theses extraordinarily rich people—none of whom are family farmers, as much as Republicans like to pretend they are—to ZERO.

And I’d like to thank them for this, since it has zero chance of becoming law.

Republicans like to pretend their priorities are multifaceted but all connected by big themes like “life” and “personal responsibility.” In doing this, they’ve managed to trick many of the Americans who have been most brutalized by their economic failures to vote for them. …

More excerpts from progressive state blogs can be read below the orange gerrymander.

This week in the war on workers: Union membership falls. The middle class falls. Not a coincidence.

Sat, 04/18/2015 - 17:55
Chart showing declining union membership against the share of income going to the middle 60% of families. Oh, look. Another chart showing how declining union membership goes hand in hand with the declining strength of the middle class. Shall we look at some more specifics?
  • Collective bargaining raises the wages and benefits more for low-wage workers than for middle-wage workers and least for white-collar workers, thereby lessening wage inequality.
  • Collective bargaining also raises wages and benefits more for black, Asian, Hispanic, and immigrant workers, thereby lessening race/ethnic wage gaps.
  • The decline of unions has affected middle-wage men more than any other group and explains about three-fourths of the expanded wage gap between white- and blue-collar men and over a fifth of the expanded wage gap between high school– and college-edu­cated men from 1978 to 2011.
  • The states where collective bargaining eroded the most since 1979 had the lowest growth in middle-class wages and the largest gap between rising productivity growth and middle-class wage growth.
Continue reading below the fold for more of the week's labor and education news.

Study: Some insurance companies skirting contraceptive coverage mandate in Obamacare

Sat, 04/18/2015 - 17:00
Protesters against Susan G. Komen Foundation's undermining of Planned Parenthood Obamacare requires that every insurance policy covers certain things with no additional out-of-pocket charges for the policy-holder. One of those things to be covered is prescribed birth control, whether pills or an IUD or implants or any kind of birth control prescribed by a doctor. Insurance companies are not allowed to make customers pay anything for them, but some are doing it anyway, as the Kaiser Family Foundation finds.
The analysis looked at 20 health insurers in five states and found companies that provided limited or no coverage for some forms contraception. In some cases, the insurers imposed copays or required women to pay the full cost of a drug.

For example, seven insurers didn't pay the full cost of vaginal rings, and one company does not pay for ParaGard, the only nonhormonal IUD available to women. It can cost up to $1,000.

"That's a flagrant violation of the law," says Gena Madow, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood.

Insurance companies disagree, saying that the law gives them latitude and that the federal guidelines on coverage of contraception "makes clear that plans do not have to cover every single form of birth control." So, take the case of two emergency contraceptive pills: Plan B or ella. According to a recent study, ella could be more effective than Plan B at preventing pregnancy. But ella is newer and might be more expensive for insurance companies to provide. So they only provide Plan B. A woman wanting more assurance that the drug will work and choosing to use ella would have to pay for it herself.

Planned Parenthood disagrees that this picking and choosing by insurance companies is not, in fact, complying with the law, and has asked the government to make insurers comply with the actual law, not their interpretation of it.

Spotlight on green news & views: Lomborg's jackpot, Earth Day interview, renewables on the march

Sat, 04/18/2015 - 14:00

See madmsf's post.

Many environmentally related posts appearing at Daily Kos each week don't attract the attention they deserve. To help get more eyeballs, Spotlight on Green News & Views (previously known as the Green Diary Rescue) normally appears twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The most recent Wednesday Spotlight can be seen here. More than 22,285 environmentally oriented diaries have been rescued for inclusion in this weekly collection since 2006. Inclusion of a diary in the Spotlight does not necessarily indicate my agreement with or endorsement of it.

We Just Had the Hottest March In Recorded History—by Dartagnan: "On Friday the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its global temperature records for the month of March 2015, ranking it as the warmest March in their 136-year archive, or since 1880.  March now joins eight of the past twelve months which have set record temperatures for their respective months, globally. [...] Think (or maybe try to feel ) what "March" is.  It's just a unit of measurement, tallying a thirty-one day time frame that represents the transition between what we know as 'seasons.' In this country, March traditionally marks the beginning of Spring, as temperatures gradually moderate, people begin to shed our winter coats or jackets, and start breathing in the fragrant, mild, warmer air. In the Northeast and Northwest, cookouts and grilling begin, people at work start to eat their lunches outside. Runners and hikers dress down for warm weather exercise. Birds wake us up in the morning, and the sun feels warm to our skin. It's the same every March, or it used to be. But while Americans may not realize it or even think about it, this March is hotter than every March they've ever lived through, every March their parents and grandparents have lived through, and every March their parents and grandparents before them lived through.  It's a good deductive bet that March 2015 was likely hotter than any March of the rest of the 4500 years or so of civilized human history, but since humans didn't have a way of keeping track of global temperatures back then, well, I guess we'll never be able to 'prove' that, which probably delights that species of people who call themselves 'climate skeptics.'"
Safari Game Hunter & Guide Ian Gibson Killed By His Elephant Prey—by Leslie Salzillo: "The death of Ian Gibson, a well-established game hunter in Africa, made news across the globe this past week. Gibson was crushed on Wednesday by the mammoth animal he set out to track and kill. A letter was released to Gibson's clients, via AfricaHunting.com. [...] The details are just starting to emerge as we write this. However it appears that Ian and his client had been on the tracks of an elephant bull for approximately 5 hours when they decided to take a break and allow the client to rest. Feeling he was quite close to the elephant, Ian and his tracker Robert continued to follow the tracks in hopes of getting a look at the ivory as the client, stayed with the game scout to rest. Robert indicated the bull was in musk. They eventually caught up to the bull, spotting him at about 50-100 meters. The bull instantly turned and began a full charge. Ian and Robert began shouting in order to stop the charge. At very close range, Ian was able to get off one shot before the bull killed him."

You can find more rescued green diaries below the orange garden layout.

View from the left—Rubio's big gay wedding issues

Sat, 04/18/2015 - 13:00
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) at CPAC 2015. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio spent Monday night selling himself as the 2016 campaign's fresh face of tomorrow. Yet on Tuesday, MSNBC's Kasie Hunt immediately zeroed in on one of Rubio's major problems: his stance on same-sex marriage is so 1999.
Kasie Hunt: Seventy-four percent of young Americans show in the NBC poll that they back same-sex marriage. Are you out of step with younger generations on that issue?

Marco Rubio: No—well, ultimately the decision on how we define marriage has always belonged to the states.  And if in fact, as the polls indicate, a growing number of Americans believe that sex—marriage between two individuals of the same sex should be—legal, then they can petition their state legislatures and change their state laws.

And in fact, I suspect you’ll see that happen.  It’s already begun to happen.  So at the end of the day, I always believed marriage is regulated by states.  I’ve never supported a federal constitutional amendment on—on marriage. 

Rubio followed the new GOP playbook on gay marriage—stating his support for the right of states to decide the issue. But there's two problems with his answer: first, he appears to have lied about never supporting a federal marriage amendment (FMA). In his inaugural bid for a U.S. Senate seat in 2010, Rubio filled out a candidate questionnaire for the Christian Coalition saying he supported an FMA.
A Christian Coalition spokeswoman confirmed that Rubio had filled out a candidate survey in 2010 when he was running for the Senate in Florida and attested to the voter guide’s accuracy, which she said was rigorously checked against candidate’s questionnaires, votes, and public statements. Head below for his second reason and for how Rubio faired the rest of the week.

More insured Americans means more profits for medical industry

Sat, 04/18/2015 - 11:00
Who could have possibly predicted that a sharp increase in the number of Americans with comprehensive health insurance would result in more paying customers for the medical industry? Outside of anyone in Congress with an "R" after their name and the frothing-mad reality-challenged voter base that inflicted them on the rest of the nation, all it takes to make that simple prediction is the ability to count and do basic arithmetic: Spending on prescription medicines by U.S. patients may rise 41 percent to as much as $480 billion by 2018, according to a new study from researcher IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. The biggest drivers in the rise in spending are the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, an aging American population, and higher drug prices, the report said.

Medicaid prescriptions jumped 25.4 percent in states that expanded Medicaid coverage, compared with 2.8 percent in the states that didn't expand coverage. With the Affordable Care Act going into effect in 2014, that led to a 13 percent jump in spending last year, the highest level since 2001, the report found.

If you're employed or invested in the medical industry, the best news is there's mountains of mo' money waiting unclaimed on the table for companies and their lobbyists who successfully expands the ACA to its full potential in every state. Your only real obstacles are Republicans at the state and federal level who have sworn an oath to keep it out of your hands using the three "L's" strategy: legislation, lawsuits, and lies.

Actual Senator Rand Paul says he knows a 'secret' that will doom Hillary, but he's not telling

Sat, 04/18/2015 - 10:00
Rand Paul speaking to his father's supporters at a For almost two weeks now, presidential candidate Rand Paul has been assuring audiences that something big will be coming out "in the next couple of weeks" to doom the Hillary Clinton campaign. Oh, he knows what it is. But he's not telling, because that would ruin the surprise!
"I think there is big news coming on the Clinton Foundation," said Paul. "I think there are things that went on at the Clinton Foundation that are going to shock people. I think they're going to make people question whether she ought to run for president."

"Can you tell us what you're talking about?" asked Cameron.

"Then it wouldn't be a secret, Carl!" said Paul. "It's coming soon."

Ah, the old I have information which would doom my opponent if it ever got out, but I'm not telling anyone what it is ploy. It's even older than the I have a secret plan to balance the budget but will only let you know what it is after you elect me pledge, or the I have a plan to win our current war but—sucks to be you, our American boys overseas—will only be sharing it if I win the White House, otherwise you can all go to hell promise.

Well step up, Rand. There's a lot of people whose careers ride on beating each and every supposed Hillary Clinton "scandal" into the ground, then digging it back up and starting over. They've been analyzing "the Chipotle visit" for days now, their souls withering away with each bored, newsless day—and you're holding out on them?

Obama in weekly address: 'No greater threat to our planet than climate change'

Sat, 04/18/2015 - 09:00
This is an issue that’s bigger and longer-lasting than my presidency. It's about protecting our God-given natural wonders, and the good jobs that rely on them. It's about shielding our cities and our families from disaster and harm. It's about keeping our kids healthy and safe. This is the only planet we've got. And years from now, I want to be able to look our children and grandchildren in the eye and tell them that we did everything we could to protect it. President Obama, in an early acknowledgement of Earth Day, focused this morning's weekly address on climate change, in a strong and passionate declaration of commitment and an outline of what's at stake. "There’s no greater threat to our planet than climate change," he told listeners, before listing the consequences:
Stronger storms. Deeper droughts. Longer wildfire seasons. The world’s top climate scientists are warning us that a changing climate already affects the air our kids breathe. Last week, the Surgeon General and I spoke with public experts about how climate change is already affecting patients across the country. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. The president spoke of an upcoming visit to the Florida Everglades on Earth Day, one of the areas where the environment is most fragile—and where, he points out, the economic impact of climate change will be most pronounced. And he vowed to commit the United States to a leadership role in facing the crisis:
So climate change can no longer be denied – or ignored. The world is looking to the United States – to us – to lead. And that’s what we're doing. We're using more clean energy than ever before. America is number one in wind power, and every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008. To read the transcript in full, check below the fold or visit the White House website.

This week in science: pinko-world

Sat, 04/18/2015 - 08:00
Dwarf planet planet Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, acquire a pinkish hue as seen by New Horizons' color camera recently. Click image for more on mission and timeline Do you think scientists go into science for the money? Have you often wondered if NASA faked the moon landings and is now running a global conspiracy to trick people into believing global warming? Are you or someone you know willfully ignorant of the difference between day-to-day weather and longer term weather trends?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, you may be suffering from Climate Change Denial Disorder. CCDD is a fast-moving condition that affects the brain's neurons. It starts with the critical thinking cortex and spreads rapidly, quickly rendering its victim unable to comprehend basic text or read the numbers of a simple thermometer. It is highly infectious with insidious results: even as it reduces patients to a gibbering ditto-head, the disease makes them feel smarter and more confident than ever. To learn if you or someone you love may be in the early stages of CCDD, watch this short video.

  • Suspended animation a reality soon?
  • Tomorrow on Sunday Kos I'll be introducing the planned successor to the Hubble Space telescope. We hope to see you there!
  • Once upon a time, I was a proud night owl and late riser: Victory is mine!
  • SpaceX successfully launched a resupply module to the ISS this week and came close, so close, to landing the lower stage safely on an autonomous floating barge for reuse on future missions. See video here.
  • Anatomically modern humans all share a distinctive feature not found in our closest relatives: the pointy chin.
  • As long as all eyes are on Iowa: Iowa's Science Standards Review Team, a panel of 16 science experts and educators, made the decision during its meeting Tuesday at the Science Center of Iowa. The review team plans to recommend to the Board of Education that the state adopt the Next Generation Science Standards with only minor alterations, including none to the standards themselves, which include benchmarks dealing with climate change and evolution.

Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: Christie under a shadow

Sat, 04/18/2015 - 06:30


“When I took over as governor of New Jersey, my predecessor, Governor Jon Corzine, had left us a mess — record deficits . . . the highest top tax rates and overall tax burden in America,” the Republican governor said. “People said New Jersey could never be turned around. But we took action.”

Christie’s remarks, laced with blunt criticism of President Obama’s record, were reflective of the image that he has spent years cultivating — that of a bipartisan broker dedicated to fixing long-standing fiscal problems once and for all. That image is also one that would serve as the centerpiece of a 2016 run by Christie for the White House.

An examination of Christie’s record by The Washington Post and ProPublica, however, paints a more complicated story of his fiscal stewardship of one of the biggest state budgets. It’s a story that will probably face far greater scrutiny should he declare himself a presidential candidate.

Why wait? And if his henchmen and cronies are indicted, why treat him like a contender?

Chris Cillizza:

Chris Christie sat down with "Today" host Matt Lauer to talk about his political future on Wednesday. And, Lauer, to his credit, got right to it -- asking the New Jersey governor: "[Has] your moment passed?"

Christie gave the answer he was supposed to give. "I don't know and neither do you," he told Lauer. "We'll see."

It's a really, really good question though -- and one I've been thinking a lot about lately.

As well you should.

More politics and policy below the fold.

Open thread for night owls: Can new populist agenda harness passions, create movement from below?

Fri, 04/17/2015 - 22:00
green architecture Switching to sustainable green architecture and infrastructure means good jobs and a better future. Joe Queally writes, Can New Populist Agenda Harness Passions, Create Movement From Below? An excerpt:
Hoping they can drive a revamped public conversation and fuel a populist counter-movement from the left against an otherwise rightward lurch in the country, a coalition of progressive organizations this week is championing a new agenda designed to galvanize those demanding an economic, political, and ecological transformation in the United States.

Representing more than 2 million active members from their respective organizations in more than 32 states, the four members of the coalition—the Campaign for America's Future, National People's Action, US Action, and the Alliance for a Just Society—say that the nation's numerous and interwoven crises have drawn them together during a historic moment that demands a populist response.

"We're in a populist moment here in America," said Roger Hickey, co-director of the Campaign for America's Future, on a Thursday press call. "Even conservative Republicans are telling us that and average Americans nod in agreement when Sen. Elizabeth Warren tells us that our economy and our government have been rigged in favor of the wealthy and the big corporations."

According to Hickey, the 12-point agenda the group has unveiled—which will be featured prominently at the Populism2015 Conference running through this weekend in Washington, DC—goes well beyond what any politician is now offering. "It is an integrated platform to create jobs and sustainable prosperity," he said.

Isaiah Poole, CAF's communications director, says the agenda—officially titled, Populism 2015 Platform: Building A Movement for People and the Planet—was designed to put "on notice politicians who offer workers patches and palliatives to soften the blows of actions that have served to shrink the middle class and concentrate wealth at the top. This is not about remediation. The demand is for restructuring." [...]

"There is a bottom-up progressive populist sentiment building in this country," said George Goehl, executive director of National People’s Action, "It's no secret that we are looking for political leadership, but we are also not waiting for that leadership. Populism2015 and the agenda we are organizing is one sign of that. The ideas in our agenda create a clear line in the sand for all candidates. At the end of the day the question is simple: do you stand with everyday people or do you stand with big-monied corporate interests?" [...]

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2013Two final gun amendments fail. Reid orders bill carried over until Thursday:

Two of the final four amendments to the gun bill the Senate considered Wednesday followed the path of the first five into defeat. All amendments needed 60 votes to pass because: friggin' filibuster rules.

The Burr amendment would have mandated that people can only be barred from buying firearms for mental health reasons when a judicial authority has made that determination. Defeated 56-44.

The Lautenberg-Blumenthal amendment would have imposed a limit of 10 rounds in ammunition magazines. Defeated 46-54.

Tweet of the Day Few things more amusing than news outlets chasing burrito clicks by writing news stories condemning burrito coverage chasing burrito clicks.
On today's Kagro in the Morning show, we took a time-traveling, patchwork approach to today's show. If you only heard the show live, check out the extended podcast version & what see we mean! First, some discussion of the exploding scandal of the Tulsa County, OK "reserve deputy" program. Then, Meteor Blades checks in with an update on the Iran deal and the related congressional maneuverings, plus a heads-up on the fast-moving TPP situation. Finally, the long-awaited reading and discussion of James Fallows' "The Tragedy of the American Military."

High Impact PostsTop Comments The Evening Blues
Daily Kos - Build Community Store footer ad Below the fold you can read the entire New Populist Agenda.

The plot thickens on 'Orphan Black'

Fri, 04/17/2015 - 21:30
Maria Doyle Kennedy in BBC America's 'Orphan Black' About two years ago, the United States Supreme Court ruled unanimously biotech companies could not patent human genes. However, the court made a distinction between DNA that occurs in nature and synthetic DNA created in a laboratory. According to the ruling, manipulating a gene to create something not found in nature, through cDNA, is eligible for patent protection.

The ruling was name-checked last year in BBC America's Orphan Black, where eugenics and questions of identity are significant parts of the plot. For those unfamiliar, the critically acclaimed series, created by Graeme Manson and John Fawcett, centers around multiple "Neolution" conspiracies dealing with clones that all look like the very talented Tatiana Maslany. Much like an X-Files conspiracy, the show is a search for answers about why they were created and for what purpose? But at every turn a new question arises. And beyond bioethics and drama, the show's subtext is feminist concerns and class issues.

As the series begins its third season, the female clones of Project Leda are no longer alone. However, like a lot of mythology heavy TV shows, there is a question of how deep down the rabbit hole can a series go before it becomes a tangled mess of its own creation? You might need a pencil and paper to keep track of all the factions (and the factions within factions), who is on which side, and the purpose and agenda each group is working toward. And at times, it seems like the writers aren't really sure about the answers to those points, or know where they're going with them. But the draw and reason to watch is still Maslany, who amazes in multiple performances.

Continue below the fold for more.

Congress nearing agreement on Patriot Act reauthorization legislation

Fri, 04/17/2015 - 20:45
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) (R) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) (L), confer before listening to NSA Director General Keith Alexander (not pictured) in Washington December 11, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron (U Some provisions of the Patriot Act, including Section 215 which the FISA court has interpreted to allow the government to collect the phone records of virtually every person in the United States, are up for renewal this spring with a June deadline. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) pushed hard for reforms of the program at the end of last year, but their efforts narrowly failed. So they're back at it, and reportedly are nearing a deal.
According to people involved in the discussions, the plan would largely mirror last year's failed effort to end the NSA's bulk collection of millions of Americans’ phone records. […]

Multiple advocates of NSA reform told The Hill they are optimistic that the latest bill would provide a greater check on U.S. spying powers, nearly two years after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked explosive information about the NSA's activities. […]

Like previous efforts, the new version of the USA Freedom Act would effectively end the metadata program by requiring the NSA to obtain a court order before searching through records held by private phone companies, people involved in the negotiations said.

The plan would reform the secretive court that oversees U.S. intelligence activities by adding a panel that would provide an alternate voice to the government. It would also allow tech and telecom companies to disclose more details about the records they hand over to federal authorities.

Aides who spoke anonymously to The Hill said that its a "stronger" bill than the watered-down bill the House ended up with last year and ends bulk collection. Apparently there's not support in either chamber for them to reauthorize the law unchanged, but that's always subject to change if negotiations drag out right down to the deadline. That's as much as we know for the moment, besides the fact that there's been a full-court press this week from the NSA and the FBI in classified, secret briefings with Congress to scare them into preserving their massive spying powers.