Robert Reich:

Even Social Security’s current inflation adjustment understates the true impact of inflation on the elderly. That’s because they spend 20 to 40 percent of their incomes on health care, and health-care costs have been rising faster than inflation. So why adopt a new inflation
adjustment that’s even stingier than the current one?

Social Security benefits are already meager for most recipients. The median income of Americans over 65 is less than $20,000 a year. Nearly
70 percent of them depend on Social Security for more than half of this.
The average Social Security benefit is less than $15,000 a year.

Besides, Social Security isn’t in serious trouble. The Social
Security trust fund is flush for at least two decades. If we want to
ensure it’s there beyond that, there’s an easy fix — just lift the
ceiling on income subject to Social Security taxes, which is now

Why are Democrats even suggesting the inflation adjustment be
reduced? Republicans aren’t asking for it. Not even Paul Ryan’s
draconian budget includes it.

Democrats invented Social Security and have been protecting it for
almost 80 years. They shouldn’t be leading the charge against it.


And the people at Strengthen Social Security,

The Infeasibility of Protecting Vulnerable Populations from the Chained CPI:

Some policymakers are considering accepting a grand bargain that includes the chained CPI for Social Security. This is no minor technical change – it is a benefit cut that compounds to become very large over time. The chained CPI would cut the annual benefit of the average earner (someone making $43,518) by $658 at age 75, $1,147 at age 85, and $1,622 at age 95.1 The cumulative cut for that individual would be $4,631 – more than three months of benefits – by age 75; $13,910 – nearly a year of benefits – by age 85; and $28,004 – more than a year and a half of benefits – by age 95.2

Given the severity of the chained CPI benefit cut, many have proposed exempting segments of the beneficiary population from its impact. According to the Director of the National Economic Council, Gene Sperling:
“[A]ny agreement to make this change to the CPI must include a dedication of a portion of the savings to protections for low-income Americans, certain veterans, and older Social Security beneficiaries.”3
While exempting these groups sounds good, one discovers, upon closer examination, that the goal is unworkable in reality.

Groups the Administration Recommends Exempting
Poor beneficiaries. The Administration has recommended shielding from the chained CPI benefit cut the lowest-income seniors and people with disabilities, but it proposes shielding only the benefits they receive from the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. However, there are 2.8 million so-called dual eligibles – poor aged or disabled who receive modest Social Security benefits in addition to SSI. And there are at least 9.4 million poor or near-poor people who receive Social Security, but not SSI. Indeed, around one out of five Social Security beneficiaries is poor or near-poor.4 Exempting SSI does not shield these poor and near poor seniors and people with disabilities dependent on Social Security benefits.

Veterans. The Administration has suggested that veterans be shielded from the chained CPI benefit cut. Because of the number of programs that would be subject to the chained CPI, veterans could receive double, triple, or more hits from the chained CPI. Military and veterans benefits that are indexed in the same manner as Social Security include Military Retirement pensions, for which many veterans are eligible; Veterans Pension benefits; Veterans Disability Compensation; and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.5 But most of those receiving these benefits are also receiving Social Security and indeed other benefits not limited to veterans but vitally important to them. All of these other benefits would be cut by the chained CPI. About 9.3 million veterans received Social Security benefits in 2009 – just over one in five Social Security beneficiaries.6 It is not surprising that numerous groups representing veterans, including the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, oppose the chained CPI – not just for narrowly-defined veterans programs, but also for Social Security and other programs crucially important to those who have served our nation in uniform.

The oldest old. The third group the Administration has explicitly discussed shielding from the chained CPI cut is “older Social Security beneficiaries.” Those 85 and over numbered 5.8 million in 2010, are projected to increase to 7.6 million in 2030, and to 19 million in 2050.7 Some have proposed a so-called “20th-year birthday bump,”8 which, to compensate for 20 years of receipt of a lower cost of living adjustment (COLA), would provide a small increase in benefits9 from age 82 to 86.10 As other fact sheets reveal in detail,11 those over age 85, who are primarily women, would not be made whole by proposed birthday bumps; rather, they would have to get by, even with the birthday bump, on greatly reduced incomes as they age. For those who live to age 95, for example, even with the birthday bump the chained CPI would cut their benefits cumulatively by a total of $16,663, and in their 95th year, by over 9 percent, or around $1,600, on average.12

Savings Lost from Exempting These Groups
Most Americans who receive Social Security live on modest means. Half of elderly Americans live on less than $19,939/year and have Social Security benefits of less than $13,376/year.13 Of the $725 billion in total benefits paid in 2011,14 Social Security paid:

  •  $58.3 billion to people who are poor or near-poor (excluding those aged 85 and older);15
  •  $131 billion to those who are aged 85 or above (including veterans);16 and
  •  $176.4 billion to veterans and their families17 (net of the above two groups).18

Together, this amounts to $356.8 billion, or 50.5% of total benefits. In other words, if Congress truly wanted to protect these groups, it would in essence have to use the current COLA for half of Social Security’s beneficiaries and the chained CPI for the other – and the groups are not static. People’s overall income shifts from month to month; married couples who are different ages could have one partner subject to one COLA, the other subject to another. These are only some of the complexities which would result from efforts to shield vulnerable groups and veterans.

Others Who Should be Exempted
People with long-term disabilities. The circle of economically vulnerable Social Security beneficiaries extends well beyond the above groups. The Disability Insurance component of Social Security is a lifeline to 8.6 million Americans with disabilities and their 2 million dependents.19 Those who are disabled at a young age could be subject to the chained CPI cut for 30, 40 years or more. The effect of the COLA cut compounds over time, so people with disabilities would see a
much larger benefit cut from the change in the COLA than any other group of beneficiaries. The so-called birthday bump could be applied to them, but, as discussed above, the proposed bump up is inadequate and insufficient – and, of course, does nothing at all for those in their 19th year or earlier of benefit receipt.

People currently 55 and over. Many in Congress have pledged to shield all Americans aged 55 and over from Social Security cuts; this principle was repeated most recently in the FY 2014 Budget Resolution introduced in the House by Rep. Paul Ryan.20 If Congress were to honor this principle, any change to the Social Security COLA would have to be delayed until today’s 54 year olds reached retirement age, and then the change would have to be phased in. Keeping this pledge would forgo virtually all of the projected Social Security savings from the chained CPI over the coming decade, which is the focus of today’s budget negotiations.

The idea of adopting the chained CPI for Social Security as part of deficit reduction efforts is bad policy because the program does not contribute to the deficit, because the claim that the current COLA overestimates inflation experienced by seniors and people with disabilities is not empirically justified, because Social Security benefits are modest by virtually any measure, and because the nation is facing a retirement income crisis and cutting Social Security will make that crisis worse.21 Exempting the poor and near-poor, veterans, and the oldest-old sounds good but is unworkable. Even if it could be done, it would require foregoing most of the savings generated from Social Security by the chained CPI. Perhaps most important, the vast majority of beneficiaries – far more than the circle of the poor and near-poor, oldest old, and veterans – lives on modest means, and cannot easily absorb such a large cut to their benefits. In short, the notion that one could humanely implement the chained CPI cut by carving out certain needy and worthy groups – and still achieve considerable budget savings – is false.

Based on analysis by Social Security Works, “Social Security COLA Cut: a Benefit Cut Affecting Everyone,” February 2013. Percent benefit reduction under chained CPI from SSA Chief Actuary, “Effects on Social Security Financial Status and on Benefit
Levels of Two Potential Modifications to the Automatic Annual Cost of Living Adjustment Requested by Representative Xavier Becerra,” June 21, 2011. Projected wage-indexed benefits for a worker with average earnings claiming benefits at age 65 from SSA, Table 2.A26, “Monthly benefit
amount for selected beneficiary families with first eligibility in 2011, by average indexed monthly earnings for stipulated yearly wage levels, effective December 2011 (in dollars),” Annual Statistical Supplement, 2012, 2012.

Social Security Works, Ibid.

Reddit “Ask Me Anything” with Gene Sperling, Director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to President Obama for Economic Policy, March 13, 2013.
There are 2,780,000 people who receive both Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Meanwhile, 12.2 million (12,188,042) Social Security beneficiaries have incomes below 125% of the poverty line, which for single households is $14,628 for individuals under age 65 and $13,485 for individuals aged 65 or older—over 1 out of 5 (22
percent) total Social Security beneficiaries. These figures include people aged 85 or older and people on Supplemental Security Income. Since the 2,780,000 dual-eligible individuals must have incomes at or below the poverty level, they are included among the 12,188,042 Social Security beneficiaries with incomes under 125% of poverty. Thus the number of Social Security beneficiaries with incomes under 125% of poverty who are not on SSI is 9,436,005. SSA, Table 1, “Monthly Statistical Snapshot, January 2013,” February 2013. US Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, “POV27. Source of Income by Ratio of Poverty Thresholds for Families and Unrelated Individuals,” 2012 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement, March 2012.

For a more detailed discussion, see Alison Shelton, “Inflation Indexation in Major Federal Benefit Programs: Impact of the Chained CPI,” AARP Public Policy Institute, March 2013.

SSA, Anya Olsen and Samantha O’Leary, “Military Veterans and Social Security: 2010 Update,” Social Security Bulletin Vol. 71, No. 2, May 2011.

Grayson K. Vincent and Victoria A. Velkoff, “The Next Four Decades. The Older Population in the United States: 2010 to 2050,” Current Population Reports, U.S. Census Bureau, May 2010.

Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, co-chairs of the President’s 2010 Fiscal Commission, proposed a 20th-year bump, as did the Domenici-Rivlin Debt Reduction Task Force. The latter applies it only to retirement benefits.

The 20th-year bump-up would increase benefits by 1% of the benefit of a worker with average lifetime earnings, each year for 5 years, starting after 20 years of eligibility (age 82 for retirees).

For disabled workers, the 20th-year bump up would kick in 20 years after initial determination of disability.

Joan Entmacher and Katherine Gallagher Robbins, “Chained CPI Imposes Painful Social Security Benefit Cuts and a Benefit Bump-Up Provides Only Limited Relief,” National Women’s Law Center, December 2012.; and Social Security Works, “The Chained CPI is a Bad Idea – Even with a 20th-Year Benefit ‘Bump Up’,” forthcoming.

The chained CPI would cut benefits of the average worker retiring at 65 by $28,004 by age 95; the 20th-year birthday bump would provide a benefit bump-up of $11,341 over 5 years (age 82-86). The net cut: $16,663.

March 2012 Current Population Survey, PINC-08.

SSA, “Estimated total annual benefits paid, by state or other area and program, 2011 (in millions of dollars),” Annual Statistical Supplement, 2012, 2012, Table 5J1.

Figure reflects combination of Social Security income for people with incomes under 125% of the poverty threshold including unrelated individuals under age 65, individuals in families under age 65, unrelated individuals aged 65 or older, and individuals in families aged 65 or older. (Poverty thresholds in 2011 were as follows: for one-person households $10,788 for age 65 and over, $11,702 for those under 65; for two-person households: $13,609 for age 65 and over, $15,139 for those under 65.) An estimate of those benefits that went to people aged 85 or older with incomes under 125% of poverty was then subtracted from the total. US Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, “POV27. Source of Income by Ratio of Poverty Thresholds for Families and Unrelated Individuals,” 2012 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement, March 2012.

For purposes of analysis, it was assumed all people aged 85 or older with incomes under 125% of poverty receive Social Security. Social Security benefits were calculated by multiplying total benefits for people aged 65 or older by the percentage people aged 85 or older represent of people 65 or older. U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, “POV01. Age and Sex of All People, Family Members and Unrelated Individuals Iterated by Income-to-Poverty Ratio and Race,” 2012 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement, March 2012.

Calculated by multiplying number of veterans by one-and-a-half times the average veteran’s benefit, in order to account for the benefits received by veterans’ family members. Thirty-five percent of Social Security beneficiaries are veterans or their family members. Estimates of benefits received by veterans with incomes under 125% of poverty and aged 85 or older were subtracted from the total figure. SSA, Anya Olsen and Samantha O’Leary, “Military Veterans and Social Security: 2010 Update,” Social Security Bulletin Vol. 71, No. 2, May 2011.

Benefits for people with severe disabilities are a significant part of benefits in every category examined. After people with severe disabilities reach the full retirement age – currently 66 – they no longer receive benefits from the Disability Insurance trust fund. As a result, benefits to, for example, people aged 85 or older, may go to people with
disabilities, but they are not technically disability benefits.

SSA, “Disabled Workers and Dependents: Average Monthly Benefit, by Type of Benefit, Sex, and Age, December 1957-2011, Selected Years,” Annual Statistical Supplement, 2012, 2012: Table 5.E2.

“Concurrent Resolution establishing the budget for the United States Government for fiscal year 2014 and setting forth appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal years 2015 through 2023,” submitted March 11, 2013.

Economic Policy Institute, No empirical basis for reducing Social Security COLA, November 20, 2012.

Aside | Posted on by | Leave a comment

News Roundup, April 3

National News:

NRA Task Force Recommends Training School Personnel Who Want To Be Armed

What are the states doing about gun control?

Quietly and behind the scenes, gun research and regulation has been stymied

Background Checks Are Still Stumbling Block in Gun Law Overhaul

NRA’s School Security Plan Cites Phony Shooting

The gun lobby’s report on safeguarding America’s school kids cites a terrible massacre—that didn’t actually happen.

Marian Wright Edelman: What the NRA Doesn’t Want You to Know

Crazy Gun-Toting Insurrectionists

A Gun In Every Home? Nelson, Georgia Residents Debate New Law Mandating Forced Ownership of Firearms

Educators begin surrendering in alleged Atlanta cheating scandal

Outsiders Should Evaluate Teachers as Well as Students

❖ GOPers in ND, AR and TX are “pushing bills that would defund comprehensive sex education programs for at-risk teenagers.” Don’t want to jeopardize our claim to having the  “highest teen pregnancy rate in the developed world.”

NC GOPers now want to further relax requirements for charter schools (which are already “very relaxed” when compared to those for public schools).

Investments in Education May Be Misdirected

 Abortion clinic to open in Wichita, the first in four years

Trans-Pacific Partnership Targets Internet And Labor Rights

 Can Worker-Owners Make a Big Factory Run?

Whistle-Blowers Tell Stories of Fear and Vindication

Who Polices Prosecutors Who Abuse Their Authority? Usually Nobody

 New York needs the NYPD to stop stop-and-frisk – and stop it now …. This discriminatory police tactic is costing us dear, both in tax dollars and community relations. New Yorkers want rid of it

Suddenly, NYPD doesn’t love surveillance anymore — Law enforcement agencies monitor our most basic acts. But try assigning them a watchdog and they resist with fury

Suddenly, NYPD doesn't love surveillance anymore

National Politics:

Wonkbook: Gay marriage hasn’t won, but its opponents have lost.

The Koch Bros., ALEC and the Power of the State

GOPers’ anti-labor temper tantrum continues in MI: they want to repeal a 1965 law guaranteeing “workers on state and public school projects are not paid below the prevailing hourly rate or benefits for construction projects” in local communities.

GAO report:  Observations on Lobbyists’ Compliance with Disclosure Requirements

The curious case of the vanishing lobbyists
More on “vanishing” lobbyists, those who have deregistered but are still working at the same firm and doing similar work. New GAO report on LDA compliance.


Lobbyist de-registration: Be careful what you wish for

As Obama begins fundraising swing, campaign finance watchdogs growl
 CNN on the tripReuters.

Democrats fear Obama group will siphon money from them

Rand Paul-backed group attacks Republicans

Sen. Rand Paul, the tea party favorite and possible 2016 presidential candidate, is raising money for a conservative gun rights group that’s targeting fellow Republicans, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

 Hawaii advances public financing bill to fix outdated system

Efforts in Hawaii to pass a public financing upgrade, featuring quotes from Voter-Owned Hawaii’s Kory Payne and stare Reps. Della Au Belatti and Karl Rhoads. Belatti: “It’s a good way to amplify the smaller donors’ voice and it requires candidates to really, kind of, get into the community and connect with the voters.”

Felony Charges Dropped Against Colin Small, Republican Accused Of Destroying Voter Registration Forms

Can Obama’s new panel defuse the voting wars?

WaPo editorial: Open Justice Department’s legal interpretations to the public

Drone Legislation: What’s Being Proposed in the States?

An Urgent Proposal to Protect People From Domestic Drones

There are four vacancies on the D.C. Circuit Court, out of 11 seats, and why that matters.

A rare Republican, Sen. Collins remains optimistic

“They don’t tolerate dissent within the party,” Snowe, who retired out of frustration last year, said in an interview with the AP. “That’s why they find themselves in trouble.”

Good governance requires political leaders who are prepared to threaten the interests of their own class”:  The African Century The unlucky continent finally seems to be on a real path to growth, but is democracy essential to sustain Africa’s rise?

 Liz Cheney Is Even More Bonkers Than We Suspected

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

News Roundup, April 2nd

My apologies for any screwy formatting, WordPress likes to buck spacing easily.


National News:

Weekly Review — The Supreme Court considers skim-milk marriage, a hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay expands, and Egyptian scuba divers sabotage SEA-ME-WE-4
Median Household Income Down 7.3% Since Start of

S&P 500 closes at record nominal high

  “The S&P 500, a bellwether for the US economy and professional investors, closed at a record high on Thursday, completing a strong recovery from the depths of the financial crisis….Since hitting an intraday low of 666.79 in March 2009, the S&P has rallied 135 per cent, boosted by aggressive monetary easing by the Federal Reserve and record US profits from the index’s 500 constituents.”


Help shrinks as poverty spikes in the U.S.

Wages stink at America’s most common jobs

There’s a reason your food server or retail salesperson seems disgruntled, and it’s not just because you’re asking about gluten-free options or return policies. New BLS data shows that seven of the 10 most common occupations pay less than $30,000 a year.


America is raising a generation of interns
“People my age expect to start at the bottom,” says one 25-year-old. “But in this economy the bottom keeps getting lower and lower.”


 More on Devolution and the Walmartization of Our Economy

 The Walmartization of the American food chain is making communities poor and poorly fed


 How Big Corporations are Unpatriotic


Recession Redux (TNR)

John Judis is pessimistic given that we’ve opted not to pursue the New Deal-era approach to reform and investment that built a stronger, more stable economy, but are instead repeating the mistakes that led to the recession to see if we can really nail it this time.


Thousands Protest the UK Government’s Brutal Austerity


The Labour party has failed us. We need a new party of the left,” by Ken Loach, Kate Hudson and Gilbert Achcar. The Guardian, March 25, 2013.

This week’s article complements the selection from last week on the defections from the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), a factional split that has resulted in productive efforts to form a new broad front social democratic party—or shall we say— a British Syriza.


 For Unionists, Iraq’s Oil War Rages On — The leader of Iraq’s oil union is being threatened with prison – again.


Why We Tax: A Timely Reminder for Tax Day



 Inside the NRA’s Koch-Funded Dark-Money Campaign — How the National Rifle Association sold its grassroots firepower to the Kochs, Karl Rove, and conservative donors.

 “Your Fight Has Become Our Fight”: A brief history of the NRA’s transformation from a gunowners’ group to the voice of the gun industry.


Connecticut lawmakers reach deal on tough gun law,0,4439221.story

Gun Control Moves to the States – For now, that’s where the momentum is.

Georgia Town Passes Mandatory Gun Bill

Firearms advocates target gun-control measures

“Gun-control measures that seemed destined to become law after the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., are in jeopardy amid a fierce lobbying campaign by firearms advocates. Despite months of negotiations, key senators have been unable to find a workable plan for near-universal background checks on gun purchases — an idea that polls show nine in 10 Americans support.”


 Great Gun Gobbledygook: The Paradox of Second Amendment
Hardliners Conservatives say armed citizens are an essential guard against government tyranny. They also support massive military spending. How is that supposed to work?



 The White Supremacist Group That May Be Targeting Law Enforcement For Revenge


 “National School Shield” a Radical Proposal

“The proposal includes potentially radical elements, including getting the federal government in the business of supplying arms to teachers, without any evidence that doing so would make children safer.”


Tennessee Advances Legislation That Would Tie Welfare To Children’s Grades


A Good Old-Fashioned Education
As some districts experiment with charters, vouchers, and high-stakes testing, educators in Union City are finding that time-tested, traditional approaches to teaching students work best.


Ex-Schools Chief in Atlanta Is Indicted in Testing Scandal



 Creeping Privatization of Justice


How insurers flipped a Medicare pay cut into a pay raise


The confused debate over Obamacare and insurance premiums

White House Trial-Balloons Medicare Cost Increases



The Dark Side of DNA Evidence — Collecting DNA upon arrest can identify the guilty and exonerate the innocent. But it also amounts to an expanding racial dragnet


  Fetal-Heartbeat Abortion Laws Are Dangerous Even If Judges Reject Them


North Dakota’s only abortion clinic isn’t going anywhere


Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, an opponent of Obamacare, pushes controversial plan to expand Medicaid


Newly released data reveal extent of veterans’ backlog

 John Stanton talks to a soldier who’s going back to war because the 27 percent pay cut of sequestration ruined his finances.



 Sequestration Effects: Cuts Sting Communities Nationwide



Risk and reward at the dawn of civilian drone age
The dawn of the age of aerial civilian drones is rich with possibilities for people far from the war zones where they made their devastating mark as a weapon of choice against terrorists.

 Government Pain = Drone Makers’ Gain — “We are not darkening the skies yet,” says executive at SoCal civilian drones conference, “but we are poised.”

Have US drones actually produced more terrorists in Pakistan?  That’s important to assess, but so are other factors:  lack of balance in “hard and soft power”; the sharp decline in schools in tribal area regions saturated with drones; displacement of and deep fear among children.

 Cartels dispatch agents deep inside U.S.

Cruel and Unusual Punishment: The Shame of Three Strikes Laws
     While Wall Street crooks walk, thousands sit in California prisons for life over crimes as trivial as stealing socks

Bank of America Finds Profit in Foreign Tax Credit Moves

Bank of America Corp. more than doubled its profits in 2012 — with some help from the tax code. What the bank calls “restructuring” of its non-U.S. operations yielded $1.7 billion in foreign tax credits, or 41 percent of the $4.2 billion the company reported in 2012 earnings

Counterparties: Hoard of directors

It’s still a lovefest between Wall Street and regulators (Guardian)

Heidi Moore notes that recent copouts in an SEC investigation and the Libor manipulation case show banks are still allowed to get away with “neither admitting nor denying” their crimes, introducing an element of quantum physics into financial regulation.

Who will be the next Fed chair? Here are Wonkblog’s odds.

 Could the Banksters Grab Your Bank Deposits?

 Wells Fargo’s “Reprehensible” Foreclosure Abuses Prove Incompetence and Collusion of OCC

 “The Violent Disorder of Our Public Mind,” by Richard Lichtman. Truthout, March 25, 2013.

The proliferation of random violence in American society is not simply a public health concern, a technocratic problem solvable by laws and regulations. Nor is the “insanity” driving such bloodshed an individual malady. As philosopher Richard Lichtman powerfully articulates, profound alienation is endemic to capitalism, particularly in this hyperactive and potentially terminal phase. Violence and hatred is a mode of “reconstruction.” “To destroy is to remake the universe, to eliminate from it something—not necessarily what confronts one—but what that fragile presence before us symbolizes,” Lichtman writes. “Violence contracts what cannot be embraced or even expanded; it minimizes what cannot be enlarged or shared: one’s powers, one’s love, one’s creative affirmation of the humanity of life in a world that bears the possibility of transcendence in beauty.”

Wu-Tang Clan’s GZA Teaching Science in NYC Schools



National Politics:

Playing around even in the slightest with the interactive chart shows how insane it is that Congress will ignore the Progressive Caucus’s budget:
   Six lessons from the Post’s awesome budget charts

 Obama’s new budget will reportedly include GOP’s beloved entitlement cuts. Why he’s overlooking the real solution’t_die/

Why Wouldn’t the President Cut Social Security and Medicare? That’s Up to You.

One day we may look back with regret on the Great Medicare and Social Security Cuts of 2013. And we won’t be asking ourselves why Obama did it. We’ll be asking ourselves why we didn’t stop it. It’s time to stop wondering about the president’s motives and take a good look at our own.

‘Consider the Source’ e-book tells story of how money dominated Election 2012

Lee Fang:   The Right Leans In
     Media-savvy conservative think tanks take aim and fire at progressive power bases in the states.

Flip-Flopping Federalists: On Obamacare, conservative judges were glad to limit Congress’ power. To uphold DOMA, they’ll need to do the opposite.

Arkansas’ GOP-led Legislature passes voter ID law

Supreme Court rejects call to change voting district head counts,0,4268573.story

Tennessee’s Colossally Bad Plan to Change Its Primary System

Obama picks Brian Deese as deputy budget director nominee

Obama Shouldn’t Buy The Lower-Corporate-Taxes Line

K Street Files: CEOs Lobby for Tax Reform

 In a letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees, the executives noted the United States’ 35 percent top statutory rate for corporate taxes puts it at the top of the industrialized world “as the country with the highest statutory corporate rate.”

This “Reforming America’s Taxes Equitably” coalition = AT&T, Altria, Boeing, FedEx, Ford, Disney, CVS…

The nihilism of David Stockman

“Stockman and I seem to be direct antagonists on this fundamental question: Should government, in particular central banks, endeavor to corral the ups and downs of capitalism to try to steer their nation toward prosperity? [P]ause for a minute to consider how fundamentally nihilistic Stockman’s view of the economy seems to be: that basically anything the state does to try to fix things is undermining some elegant capitalist order and will inevitably lead to chaos.”

 The anatomy of a misleading fundraising email — Democrats’ pitch rife with curious, questionable statements




 Coal miners call April 1 rally to protest pension, health cuts — Patriot Coal uses bankruptcy to tear up union contracts anyone who missed this two weeks ago, it really is an appalling scam by Peabody Energy & other coal giants:
Oooops.  EPA uses tactics similar to Wisconsin ALEC members:
   Lawsuit against EPA seeks evidence of hidden messages Hauter on Democracy Now! today:
   The Monsanto Protection Act? A Debate on Controversial New Measure Over Genetically Modified Crops

  Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America from Monsanto to Wal-Mart

Top Senator Apologizes for Monsanto Protection Act

Seven things you learn driving the length of the Keystone XL pipeline

 Keystone XL: The Science, Stakes, and Strategy Behind the Fight Over the Tar Sands Pipeline

Pipelines Can’t Handle North American Oil Boom

Everything You Need to Know About the Exxon Pegasus Tar Sands Spill

 Why Won’t Exxon Come Clean on the Arkansas Oil Spill Details?

Arkansas Is What Happens When Powers Behind Oil Spills Get Together Again

Everything’s Worked Fine Since The Last Catastrophe

Bill McKibben:  The Methane Beneath Our Feet

Dr. James Hansen:  Doubling Down on Our Faustian Bargain

Cooling on Warming

   Congressional stalwarts are working new carbon-tax legislation, but don’t hold your breath. This month, during a free-for-all of amendments in the Senate budget debate, Whitehouse actually did propose a nonbinding resolution establishing “a fee on carbon pollution.” The amendment failed, 41 to 58.

Multi-Toxin Biotech Crops Not Silver Bullets, Scientists Warn

 Private sector cannot ignore small-scale farmers

Halliburton worker testifies at Gulf spill trial

Oil industry complains that billions in Alaska tax cuts aren’t enough
(…two decades after Exxon’s 11-million gallon oil spill is still causing damage.)

Hands Off Yoko! Oil and Gas Drillers Complain About Anti-Fracking Campaign




The Koch brothers’ media investment  They are rumored to want the Tribune chain. A look at gives some clues about what that might mean.

The Issue Groups Taking to TV So Far in 2013

The Transformation of American Journalism Is Unavoidable

The real scam: Don’t let broadcasters shut down FCC political ad database over online ripoff

CISPA Explainer #1: What Information Can Be Shared?

Google and privacy: 6 E.U. countries take action

 Cruelest month for sequester-related cuts?  Layoffs and furloughs are going into effect—coverage needs to keep up

 National Magazine Awards 2013 Finalists Announced

Columbia & Steve Coll Look Ahead in an Age of Disruption

‘Connect with everyone, even the devil’

Listening Post? Assignment Desk? Explore Investigative Reporting on Reddit

Thomas Friedman Invented His Own Job, Why Shouldn’t You?

After the Newspaper Building: Struggling dailies are abandoning their grand old buildings.

Can Vice Save the Media from the Business Insider?

What False Equivalence Looked Like in the Civil War Era




   If you are in Wisconsin, or know anyone who lives here, please make sure they vote today!

Today is Election Day: Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Low turnout predicted for Tuesday’s elections.

GOP senators on proposed budget deficit: No way!
   Owing to a projected shortfall of $664 million, Gov. Scott Walker’s budget is getting a cool reception among lawmakers, including Neenah’s Mike Ellis (pictured), in his own party.

Budget hearings get under way this week
Scott Walker:   Budget allocates money to help move Wisconsin forwardJob slump is Walker’s fault

Evangelical conservative confirms Ryan-esque GOP agenda is slashing social programs and giving the savings to billionaires

Kathleen Vinehout:  State budget decisions affect you

Sen. Shilling. Column: The state budget is no joke.


Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance. Rising state debt concerns some lawmakers.
Lawmakers Might Reduce Cuts To Court Sytem In Walker Budget

Fallone campaign says Roggensack flip-flopped on recusals

We need to start somewhere in getting control of our election spending, the Appleton Post-Crescent writes on election eve. Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizen United that opened the floodgates to unlimited spending, at least let’s pass laws that require full disclosure of who’s doing the spending, the paper pleads.

Bill proposes to make it harder to launch local recall effort
   It would be harder to launch a local recall effort under a bill to allow it only against officials charged with criminal or ethics law violations.


    Frac Sand Companies Skirt Regulation Through Annexation

Coalition Aims To End Tar Sands Pipelines In Great Lakes Region

 Walker’s Act 10 leads to downfall of Milwaukee labor publication

Why Labor Press publishes final edition
There were some – still are — who tolerated Walker’s policies as an effort to cut the fat. He has now cut into the heart muscle. What used to be the lifeblood of democracy – the freedom to communicate and organize – has become a punctured artery.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Milwaukee Labor Press publishes final issue.

Nine aldermen urge vote on same-day voter question

Wisconsin elections board hopes to fill vacancy

Which companies will offer plans on the state health care exchange?

In an in-depth post, Political Environment blogger James Rowen traces what he calls Scott Walker’s “fateful decision” to scuttle the passenger rail plan to connect Madison with Milwaukee and eventually the Twin Cities. Rowen recounts Walker’s actions and how they have left the Milwaukee-Madison corridor unconnected in a world of advancing technology. Just one of the reasons Wisconsin is lagging other states in job creation, he notes.

Governor Walker needs to get a grip

Madison School Board election media roundup.

On FightingBob, David Giffey today writes about “vouchering ourselves to death,” in which he uses comments by educator Barbara Miner who talks about the false facade that’s being created by the push for vouchers and charter schools. It’s all an effort to siphon public money for private purposes, he suggests.

Sen. Grothman, Rep. Kaufert. Unveil tax credit for private school tuition.
Beloit Daily News. Editorial: Don’t discourage options in school.
Report Paints Grim Picture Of Wisconsin’s, And Nation’s, Infrastructure

Appleton Post Crescent. State cashes in on selling voter rolls.
Wisconsin Wildlife Federation. Creates Conservation Leadership Corps.
Green Bay Press Gazette. Let’s make it easier to sue over wind turbines, Lasee says.
Wisconsin Supreme Court. Accepts six new cases.
Madison-Kipp asked governor’s office to interfere in lawsuit, DNR official says

WFoIC:  Child-care, elder records easier to get

Rightwing Watch:

RW’s Key Reads

 Same Day Registration Referendum is Liberal Turnout Gimmick

Wisconsin tax climate among the worst in the country (Media Trackers)

Unemployment fraud in Wisconsin (MacIver Institute)

Records request: What’s going on with vacant Milwaukee school buildings?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

News Roundup, March 18th

National News:

 Iraq 10 Years Later: The Deadly Consequences of Spin

Krugman:  Marches of Folly

Tim Price: Ten years after the invasion of Iraq, Paul Krugman looks back on how the U.S. was persuaded to act against its best interests by a deceitful and manipulative political elite and a compliant media. Thank goodness we all learned our lesson that time.


 Ever More Shocked, Never Yet Awed

Bush Speechwriter: I Met Ahmed Chalabi At Christopher Hitchens’s Apartment

A decade later, veterans weigh in on “A War, Before and After”

VA’s ability to quickly provide benefits plummets under Obama’s-ability-quickly-provide-benefits-plummets-under-obama-4241

A war’s misleading anniversary

NSA Whistleblower Thomas Drake on the US Secrecy State as Predator of the First Amendment

Rupert Murdoch Wins Contract to Develop Common Core Tests

A Tough Road for Charter Proposal
Dan Patrick, the Texas Senate education chairman, has plans to expand the state’s charter school system, but they will have to pass a Legislature that defeated more modest proposals just two years ago.

Alabama: Governor Signs Law Granting Private School Tax Credits
Gov. Robert Bentley signed a law on Thursday granting tax credits to families who want to send their children to private schools or better-performing public schools.


Most low-income students who have top test scores and grades do not even apply to the nation’s best colleges

Justice official Thomas Perez to be nominated to top Labor slot

Get ready to hear a lot about this from the GOP when they surely move to block him:
 Obama to nominate Justice official cited in negative report for Cabinet

Gideon’s Muted Trumpet
“A poor person has a much greater chance of being incarcerated now than when Gideon was decided, 50 years ago today [This is] because of prosecutorial policies that essentially target the poor and relegate their lawyers to negotiating guilty pleas, rather than mounting a defense.”

Bill in North Dakota Bans Abortion After Heartbeat Is Found
Shortly after Arkansas adopted the country’s most stringent abortion limits, North Dakota’s Legislature approved a bill blocking the procedure as early as six weeks into pregnancy.


 Ohio Teenagers Guilty in Rape That Social Media Brought to Light

Steubenville Rape Guilty Verdict: The Case That Social Media Won

In Some States, Gun Rights Trump Orders of Protection — Facing Protective Orders for Abuse, yet Allowed to Keep Guns

In the mid-1990s, Wisconsin became one of the first states to require the surrender of firearms with full protective orders. But in 2010, seeking to strengthen enforcement, advocates for domestic violence victims pushed for the statewide adoption of procedures that had been successful in a few counties. Among a host of provisions, people subject to protective orders would have been required to list their firearms and surrender them to the county sheriff or a third party within 48 hours.
The N.R.A. mobilized, calling the measure “a blatant violation of Americans’ Fifth Amendment rights” in an alert to its members. Jordan Austin, an N.R.A. lobbyist, expanded in his testimony on the bill before an Assembly committee: “Once a person has an injunction issued against him, he is already a prohibited person. He cannot, under the Fifth Amendment, be forced to disclose whether he is in possession of firearms, because that would be tantamount to forcing him to admit a crime.”
The bill died in the State Senate.


Weld County, Colorado Sheriff  Cooke won’t enforce new state gun laws


Drones: A Booming Business?
Unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones, may soon become commercialized. In Grand Forks, N.D., people are preparing for a coming boom in drones-related business.

Court Orders the C.I.A. to Disclose Drone Data


For the second year in a row the Justice Department has been given the not-so-prestigious Rosemary Award by the National Security Archive. The group gives the award annually to a public agency with a bad track record of transparency and openness over the past year.


Obama Inc.: What businesses want to learn from the president’s campaign
The president raised a billion dollars for his reelection campaign, but the staffers who engineered his victory may be worth even more to corporations and other groups that are eager to unlock the trade secrets that made the Obama brand so successful.


A Look Behind the Curtain at Wall Street’s 24/7 Effort to Gut Finance Reform

{about this huge article:}
He Who Makes the Rules — Barack Obama’s biggest second-term challenge isn’t guns or immigration. It’s saving his biggest first-term achievements, like the Dodd-Frank law, from being dismembered by lobbyists and conservative jurists in the shadowy, Byzantine “rule-making” process.


Records show Detroit’s emergency manager has tax liens on Maryland home


More Work and No Play Puts Today’s Moms in a Tough Bind (Forbes)

Bryce Covert notes that a study finds men have stepped up their presence at home since the ’60s (in that they no longer behave like visitors from out of town), but women still shoulder the burden of work whether they’re at home or, well, work.


Still true after 40 years: Voters prefer cuts in theory, spending in practice


NYT editorial board:  The Real Spending Problem (is $1.1 trillion in tax breaks annually)


Generational wealth in decline:
“People in their 30s and younger currently have a net worth half of what” their parents had at the same age.


Wall Street Execs Should Face Criminal Consequences

President of Dallas Fed Says Too-Big-To-Fail Banks Need To Be Broken Up

Steve Cohen’s SAC will pay more than $600 million to settle insider trading allegations

 JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon showed too much hubris and too little humility: The JP Morgan debacle was not a momentary lapse. It was an issue of culture – and it reflects badly on its charismatic CEO

Counterparties: Ina the belly of the London whale

Trading Hearings Put Focus Back on JPMorgan’s Chief

Elizabeth Warren: St. Patrick drove snakes out of Ireland…to Wall Street


White House Urged to Fire a Housing Regulator
Edward J. DeMarco, acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, has been at odds with the White House over a proposal to reduce the principal on underwater mortgages.

Yet Another Bank Fined for a Magnetar Deal, With Yet More Revealing Emails

Number of Cases Filed by SEC Slows

“The Securities and Exchange Commission is filing significantly fewer civil fraud cases this year, as its efforts to punish misconduct related to the financial crisis start to ebb. The agency is likely to fall short this fiscal year of its record-breaking number of enforcement actions in the previous two years, said people familiar with the matter But the new chairman may have to explain later this year how her tough rhetoric dovetails with a fall in the annual level of enforcement actions.”



Resistance in Cyprus Grows to Europe’s Bailout Plan
President Nicos Anastasiades delayed a vote on a $13 billion bailout that set off outrage for calling on bank depositors in Cyprus to bear part of the cost, while stocks markets faltered on concerns over the plan.

Things to know about the Cyprus bailout, in one FAQ

 Cyprus: The next blunder






National Politics:

How Republican consultants launched Tea Party Express & much more by repeatedly raising money to fight “Obama’s socialist agenda”:
 Inside Game: Creating PACs and then Spending Their Money

Obama-Republican Budget Battle Isn’t Only Taxes and Cuts
“The wrangling of President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans over the federal budget underscores a clash of core philosophies about how the economy works that supersedes any skirmish on taxes or spending cuts.”

Speaker Boehner Admits ‘We Do Not Have An Immediate Debt Crisis’

Even Paul Ryan Admits That America Isn’t Facing A Debt Crisis

House Appropriations Chair Takes Down Republican Budget: It ‘Cuts Too Much’

Competing Visions: Rep. Paul Ryan, Sen. Patty Murray, and House Progressives Release Budget Proposals for 2014

NYT editorial:  Senate Democrats Finally Take a Stand

The Budget Wars: An Outbreak of Sanity or the Foundations for a New Offensive?

Nun wishes Pope Francis would write to Paul Ryan about his ‘extremely unjust’ budget

Chris van Hollen: House budget ‘Romney plan on steroids’

The Congress-Does-Nothing Deficit Reduction Plan — How “bracket creep” (the good kind) could make the long-term fiscal outlook better than everyone thinks.

In its much-awaited “autopsy” report of the GOP’s problems and path forward, the Republican National Committee on Monday endorsed comprehensive immigration reform, committed to a $10 million outreach effort primarily in minority communities, and proposed major reforms to its digital operations to catch up with Democrats. The committee also suggests shortening the Republican presidential primary process and moving up its nominating convention several months, among dozens of recommendations.

The full report can be viewed here:

It’s The Policy, Stupid: 4 Policies That Undermine The GOP’s New Voter Outreach Strategy

Conflicts of interest run rampant in state legislatures — Rules are few, oversight weak so lawmakers vote regularly on bills that affect their outside interests

 Obama’s support group OFA off to sluggish start

 Club for Growth targets look to John Boehner for help

Gingrich’s American Solutions Reborn as Nonprofit

 Mitch McConnell Will Fundraise With Billionaires After Saying the GOP Is Not The Party of Billionaires

Game on: Early GOP auditions for 2016 election

How could that be?
 RNC: Voters see GOP as ‘scary’ and ‘out of touch’

Anyone who may’ve missed this over the weekend, this is a disturbing must-read:
CPAC’s ‘Trump the Race Card’ Panel Derailed by Actual Segregationist

CPAC Event On Racial Tolerance Turns To Chaos As ‘Disenfranchised’ Whites Arrive

At CPAC, Hunger for New Leadership

Marxists Infiltrated The Catholic Church, And Four Other Crazy Things We Learned At CPAC

Priebus Announces Minority Outreach Initiative at RNC

Dallas Fed’s Fisher And CPAC’s Fishy Too-Big-To-Fail Event







 How Monsanto Outfoxed the Obama Administration — The inside story of how the government let one company squash biotech innovation, and dominate an entire industry

New ‘Monsanto Protection Act’ Gives Monsanto Power Over US Government

Bills seek end to farm animal abuse videos

How to Force Ethics on the Food Industry

 University of Tennessee Wins Approval for Hydraulic Fracturing Plan
  The university says leasing land to a gas company to conduct hydraulic fracturing would allow researchers to study the impact in a closed environment.

Shale formation in Montana frustrates oil drillers
“What we haven’t been able to crack the code on is how to make these wells produce economically”

Bill McKibben:  America’s Dirtiest Coal Company

In the fall of 2007, Peabody Energy Corp., the coal-mining giant, spun off all its unionized mines into a new company, Patriot Coal Corp.  In the process, it got rid of the promises it had made over generations to coal miners and their families.
Or, as Peabody’s chief executive officer put it, “We’re reducing our legacy liabilities roughly $1 billion.” This was such a good idea that another coal giant, Arch Coal Inc. (ACI), unloaded its union mines on Patriot as well, though it cycled them first through yet another front. All totted up, Patriot now had 10,000 retirees and their health-care benefits on its books.
This company was designed to fail. Patriot is almost certainly the only five-year-old company on earth with three times as many retirees as employees, 90 percent of whom never worked for the company. And fail it did, declaring bankruptcy last summer. Now it’s going through Chapter 11 reorganization and hoping to emerge freed of its obligations for the pensions and medical care of those miners.


Oil giant BP is taking legal action in the US to limit payouts by a fund set up to compensate those affected by the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico

How Vernal, Utah, Learned to Love Big Oil

Cars in the U.S. are more fuel-efficient than ever. Here’s why.

“Modern chicken has no flavor” — let’s make it in a lab.  KFC, Chipotle and other chains know natural flavors don’t survive mass production. Here’s how they fake it

Research Finds Wind Farm Health Concerns Probably Caused By Anti-Wind Scare Campaigns

Spring Rain, Then Foul Algae in Ailing Lake Erie








Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism The State of the News Media 2013 – An Annual Report on American Journalism

Nearly one-third of U.S. adults have abandoned a news outlet due to dissatisfaction

U.S. Looked at Wall Street Journal Over Claims of Bribery[]

Alberta lobbies for Keystone XL in New York Times ad — Influential newspaper ran editorial last week urging Obama to reject pipeline

 Could Twitter Have Stopped The Media’s Rush To War In Iraq?

Kochtopus Tentacles Reaching For Media Outlets

Lawsuit tests bloggers’ freedom of speech rights
A colleague of the late conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart is asking a federal court of appeals to throw out a defamation case brought against him by former government employee Shirley Sherrod, saying the lawsuit violates the blogger’s right to freedom of speech.
The Cyprus bailout fiasco  Get ready for a week (if we’re lucky) of euro crisis news

Security reporter speaks about hacked 911 call that sent SWAT team to his house

 Bizarre New York Times Article on Lousy Finances of the Young Gives Undue Prominence to Housing as an Investment

Insult to injury: stolen wages, weak enforcement

CNN’s Steubenville coverage called too sympathetic to teens found guilty

How the media took sides in the Steubenville rape case

This Week in Review: The lessons of Google Reader’s death, and the free labor of news sources

Dean Baker:  Capitalism, Steven Pearlstein, and Morality

Circulation down, challenges up at alt-weeklies

The Boston Phoenix closing is another sign that glossing up print doesn’t work miracles
 The alt weekly, one of the nation’s best, announced its closure Thursday after nearly 50 years of publishing.




Washington Post. Scott Walker says he would consider run for president. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The Tennessean. DPW. 

Wis. governor thrills gathering of conservatives

Janesville Gazette. GOP superintendent’s campaign blacklists news reporters.
LFB. Summary of Governor’s 2013-15 budget recommendations.
 DOA could sell off state property in governor’s budget proposal

Appleton Post Crescent. Budget language over land sales raise concerns.

The state would have much broader power to sell or lease state-owned properties — including buildings overseen by the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents — under Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed 2013-15 budget, according to a newly released budget summary by the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau. The state Department of Administration could sell those and other properties with or without the approval of the agency having jurisdiction over them.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Paul Ryan, Scott Walker tout conservative views on TV talk shows.
 Paul Ryan Warns of Debt Crisis on ‘Face The Nation’

 Reince Priebus: “We’ve Got To Win The Heart War”

Reince Priebus says Republican Party will spend $10 million to connect with (brown-skinned) voters at community level

U.S. Rep. Ryan. Remarks on the passage of the SKILLS Act.
Sheboygan Press. Dems see Ryan budget as campaign sledgehammer.

How the Social Security issue exemplifies the politics of deceit — Sure, the program needs tweaking, but Wisconsin Republicans like Paul Ryan ‘star’ in a misleading political dialogue that prevents it.

On BloggingBlue, blogger James Richard Bailey compares today’s corporate power to that of King George in pre-revolutionary America. He blames the U.S. Supreme Court for creating this anomaly and recommends two actions to overcome it: an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that spells out corporations aren’t citizens and one that provides public financing for all elections.

Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. Bill denies purchase of unhealthy foods with food stamps.
La Crosse Tribune. Bill would change retirement age for Wisconsin public employees.

Will a New Mining Law Erode the Quality of Life and Water in the Northwoods?  Metallic mining in Wisconsin used to be tightly regulated. Mining Bill SB 1, signed into law by Scott Walker on Monday, is changing that.

Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. Editorial: Boon or disaster? Let mining experts study and report.
Green Bay Press Gazette. After decades of mining, industry remains unpredictable.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Challenges to iron-ore mine likely to wind up in Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Enbridge seeks to pipe more Canada oil to Superior

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Conflict region mineral rule could prove costly for manufacturers.

The Chief and The Sheriff: Two views of Milwaukee’s homicide picture

Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter. Jobs outlook in Wisconsin a ‘mixed bag.’
WJFW. Jobless benefits affected by sequester.

In her Isthmus column, Ruth Conniff of the Progressive writes that federal budget cuts are having serious consequences in Wisconsin, impacting everything from school funding to Head Start.

DFER Wisconsin, American Federation for Children, Milwaukee Charter School Advocates, Wisconsin Charter Schools Association.  Letter to Joint Finance Co-Chairs in support of independent charter school expansion.


Let the sunshine on the Legislature, the Beloit Daily News editorializes, pointing out that the Assembly and Senate make rules for everyone else, but then exempt themselves.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Walker proposal to end residency rule opposed by municipalities’ board.


Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Proposed bill looks to light up Wisconsin’s solar sector.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Roggensack gets backing of police union.
As if the corporate media isn’t biased enough, contends  blogger Chris Liebenthal, now the news that the Koch brothers may be buying the Chicago Tribune newspapers. Apparently Charlie Sykes isn’t effective enough, he chortles. On FightingBob, Ed Garvey notes that the Koch news is a reason to start worrying.

Madison  blogger Brenda Konkel contends that she was harassed by the cops when she and others helped move the homeless from their temporary shelter at Token Creek Park.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. J.B. Van Hollen wants to appoint solicitor general.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Botched signature on paratransit bid takes taxpayers for $8.6 million ride.
DWD. Lt. Gov. Kleefisch Sec. Newson praise Second Chance Partners as model for educating, training new generation of skilled workers.

Right Wisconsin’s “Key Reads”

Week In Review: Wisconsin could use a little more sunshine

Wisconsin Reporter. Workforce Development calls bull on BLS’ Wisconsin employment numbers.

Rep. John Jagler:   School Choice Opponents Should Be Careful What They Wish For

 You Can Join the Fight for Educational Freedom

Also is a sponsored post at Right Wisconsin:

Van Hollen Says Tuesday’s Decision Doesn’t Matter

Posted in Newz | Leave a comment

ALEC and Koch Front Groups Attack Kansas Clean Energy Standard

By Connor Gibson

Crossposted from Greenpeace USA

A recent flood of Koch-supported think tanks, junk scientists and astroturf groups from inside and outside of Kansas are awaiting the outcome of a bill this week that could stall progress on the growth of clean energy in Kansas.

States around the country, including Texas, Ohio, Missouri and North Carolina are poised to cut back on government support for clean energy jobs using model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC, which brings companies together with state lawmakers to forge a wish list of corporate state laws behind closed doors, is coordinating this year’s assault on state laws that require a gradual increase of electricity generated by clean energy sources.

ALEC and a hoard of other Koch-funded interests operating under the umbrella of the State Policy Network have hit Kansas legislators hard with junk economic studies, junk science and a junk vision of more polluting energy in Kansas’ future. Koch Industries lobbyist Jonathan Small has added direct pressure on Kansas lawmakers to rollback support for clean energy.

This fossil fuel-funded attack ignores the good that wind energy has done for Kansas, a state known for its bipartisan support for its growing wind industry (see key report by Polsinelli Shughart). The state now has 19 operating wind farms that have brought millions to farmers leasing their land and millions more to the state, county and local levels (NRDC). The American Wind Energy Association says that Kansas wind industry jobs have grown to 13,000 with the help of incentives like the renewable portfolio standard.

Unfortunately, clean energy is not palatable to the billionaire Koch brothers or the influence peddlers they finance.

All of the following State Policy Network affiliates (except the Kansas Policy Institute) are directly funded by the Koch brothers, while most of the groups get secretive grants through the Koch-affiliated “Dark Money ATM,” Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, which have distributed over $120,000,000 to 100 groups involved in climate denial since 2002.

Beacon Hill Institute

  • $53,500 grant from Donors Trust in 2007
  • Koch-funded (Washington Post)
  • State Policy Network member

Based out of Suffolk University’s economics department, the Beacon Hill Institute wrote the fundamentally flawed analysis that ALEC is using to scare legislators into thinking that renewable portfolio standards will destroy the economy. In reality, electricity prices do not correlate with state RPS laws (see also Kansas Corporation Commission).

An extensive debunk of the Beacon Hill report was done by Synapse Energy Economics, and similar critiques can be read in the Portland Press Herald and the Maine Morning Sentinel, the Union of Concerned  Scientists, the Nature Resources Defense Council and the Washington Post.

The definitive Post article confirms that the Beacon Hill Institute is Koch-funded. This may be through $729,826 in recent grants (2008-2011) from the Charles G. Koch Foundation to Suffolk University. The Kochs tend to send grants to economics departments, causing controversy at Florida State University and other schools over professor hiring processes.

Beacon Hill’s Michael Head co-authored the reports that ALEC and the State Policy Network are using in several states. Mr. Head specializes in STAMP modeling, a form of economic analysis that has been criticized for its limitations and poor assumptions in the case of energy analysis. Michael Head testified before the Kansas legislature on February 14th to promote the flawed findings of his report. Mr. Head testified alongside members of the Heartland Institute, Americans for Prosperity and the Kansas Policy Institute (see more on each, below), all of which are members of ALEC and SPN.

American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)

ALEC is leading the nationally-coordinated attack on state renewable portfolio standards as part of an ambitious dirty energy agenda for the members of its anti-environmental task force, like Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, Peabody Energy, Duke Energy and other major oil, gas and coal interests.

ALEC’s “Electricity Freedom Act” is a full repeal of state laws requiring increasing electricity generation from clean sources, although in some states the model has morphed into a freeze of those targets rather than a full repeal. Kansas is one of those states.

The bills running through Kansas’ House and Senate are co-sponsored by legislators who are members of ALEC. The Senate Utilities committee sponsoring SB 82 has at least three ALEC members and the House Energy & Environment committee that introduced HB 2241 has at least three ALEC members:

  • Senators Forrest Knox, Ty Masterson and Mike Petersen.
  • Representatives Phil Hermanson, Scott Schwab, and Larry Powell (member of ALEC’s anti-environmental task force that created the Electricity Freedom Act)
While it’s unclear if the lead House sponsor Rep. Dennis Hedke is directly affiliated with ALEC, he spoke directly with a Koch Industries lobbyist about the bill and has a close relationship with the Heartland Institute, which promoted one of his books.
The Heartland Institute:

Heartland is based in Chicago and perhaps best known for its billboard comparing those who recognize climate change with the Unabomber (for which they lost over $1.4 million in corporate sponsorship along with the “mutiny” of their entire Insurance department, now the R Street Institute).

The Washington Post reports that ALEC’s “Electricity Freedom Act” was created by the Heartland Institute. Heartland has long been a paying member of ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force along with Koch, Exxon and others. Citing the flawed Beacon Hill reports, Heartland has encouraged a repeal of Kansas’ clean energy incentives on its website.

Heartland lawyer James Taylor testified before the Kansas legislature in February, opining that the growth of Kansas’ clean energy sector is “punishing the state’s economy and environment.” James Taylor was flown into Kansas City for an Americans for Prosperity Foundation event intended to undermine the Kansas RPS law. The AFP Foundation is chaired by David Koch.

Americans for Prosperity:

Americans for Prosperity was created by the Kochs with help from Koch Industries executive Richard Fink after the demise of their previous organization, Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), which split into AFP and FreedomWorks in 2004.

In addition to hosting an event against the Kansas RPS law featuring Heartland’s James Taylor, AFP’s Kansas director Derrick Sontag testified before the Kansas House committee on Energy and Environment. AFP’s Sontag urged for a full repeal rather than a simple RPS target freeze:

“We believe that HB 2241 is a step in the right direction, but that it doesn’t go far enough. Instead, AFP supports a full repeal of the renewable energy mandate in Kansas.”

Derrick Sontag apparently only cited a range of debunked studies (the “Spanish” study and the flawed Beacon Hill report) and information from Koch-funded interests like the Institute for Energy Research and “State Budget Solutions,” a project of several State Policy Network groups including ALEC and the Mercatus Center, a think tank founded and heavily-funded by the Kochs.

Kansas Policy Institute

The Kansas Policy Institute (KPI) has been the central coordinating think tank within Kansas as outside interests have backed ALEC’s attack clean energy laws. KPI co-published the debunked Beacon Hill Institute report that ALEC has used for its clean energy standard repeal in Kansas (see sources in Beacon Hill section above for debunking).

Kansas Policy Institute Vice President & Policy Director James Franko testified in the Kansas legislature alongside representatives of Heartland Institute, Americans for Prosperity and Beacon Hill Institute on Feb. 14 to weaken Kansas’s renewable portfolio standard.

Reasserting the false premise that clean energy standards substantially increase electricity prices, James Franko told the legislature’s Energy & Environment committee:

We have no objection to the production of renewable energy. […] Our objection is to government intervention that forces utility companies to purchase more expensive renewable energy and pass those costs on to consumers.

James Franko’s free market logic comes with the usual holes–no mention of the “costs” of coal and other polluting forms of energy that taint our air, water and bodies, nor any mention of how the government spends billions each year propping up the coal and oil industries.

After KPI’s Franko testified before Kansas legislators on February 14, KPI hosted a luncheon for legislators at noon on the same day. The luncheon, hosted at the Topeka Capital Plaza Hotel, featured Beacon Hill’s Michael Head. From KPI’s email invitation:

“Given the importance of this issue, we would like to invite you to join us for lunch on Thursday 14 February to hear from the author of a study we published last year exploring the costs and benefits of the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). Not only will we be discussing KPI’s study but offering a review of different studies that have been presented to the Legislature.”

KPI has served as the glue for other State Policy Network affiliates entering Kansas to amplify the opposition to clean energy.

Chris Horner — Competitive Enterprise Institute & American Tradition Institute

Chris Horner is a senior fellow at CEI and the lead lawyer at ATI, a close CEI affiliate known for its litigious harassment of climate scientist Michael Mann alongside Virginia attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who just worked with coal utility companies to kill Virginia’s renewable energy law. ATI was behind a leaked memo encouraging “subversion” among local groups opposed to wind energy projects.

Horner testified before the Kansas legislature on February 12 to encourage the false notion that the renewable energy portfolio standard is going to make consumer electricity bills skyrocket (again, there is no correlation between state RPS laws and electricity prices). He cited the long-debunked “Spanish” study, which Koch front groups have cited for years in attempts to undermine clean energy.

Chris Horner is affiliated with several other Koch- and Exxon-funded State Policy Network affiliates such as the National Center for Policy Analysis and Tech Central Station (set up by DCI Group).

Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform:

ATR president Grover Norquist wrote a Feb. 27, 2013 letter supporting the Rep. Dennis Hedke’s House bill shortly before the bill was kicked back into the House Utilities commission. This Kansas letter followed an ATR op-ed in Politico encouraging rollbacks of state clean energy incentives, claiming they are a “tax,” which is Norquist’s consistent tactic against anything the financiers of ATR don’t feel like supporting.

Junk scientists with Koch and Exxon ties:

Disgraced scientists Willie Soon and John Christy were flown in by Americans for Prosperity to assure state legislators that global warming isn’t a problem (it’s already a $1.2 trillion problem annually). Doctor’s Soon and Christy themselves directly funded by Koch or directly affiliated with several Koch-funded interests like the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Heartland.

Willie Soon in particular has a habit of conducting climate “research” on the exclusive dime of coal and oil interests over the last decade:

  • ExxonMobil ($335,106)
  • American Petroleum Institute ($273,611 since 2001)
  • Charles G. Koch Foundation ($230,000)
  • Southern Company ($240,000)

Dr. Soon’s questionable climate research now receives funding through the Donors Trust network–$115,000 in 2011 and 2012.

See Skeptical Science’s profile of John Christy for a through explanation of why he is not a credible voice in the scientific community studying climate change, using peer-reviewed climate research as refutation.

State Policy Network


  • Based in Wichita, Kansas
  • Operations in oil refining, oil and gas pipelines, fossil fuel commodity & derivatives trading, petrochemical manufacturing, fertilizers, textiles, wood and paper products, consumer tissue products, cattle ranching, and other ventures.
  • $115 billion in estimated annual revenue
  • 84% private owned between brothers Charles Koch and David Koch, each worth an estimated $34 billion (Forbes) to $44.7 billion (Bloomberg).
  • Member of ALEC’s anti-environmental task force
  • Associated foundations fund State Policy Network, ALEC, Heartland Institute, Americans for Prosperity, Beacon Hill Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Americans for Tax Reform and Dr. Willie Soon.
  • Koch brothers founded Americans for Prosperity and helped establish the Heartland Institute.

The money trail of the out-of-state groups inundating Kansas with their sudden interest in killing the state’s incentives for wind energy leads back to the Koch brothers. While Koch Industries has deployed its own lobbyists to compliment the effort, the brothers who lead the company have tapped into their broader national network to aid the fight against clean energy in Kansas.

Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers who own Koch Industries, have spent over $67,000,000 from their family foundations on groups who have denied the existence or extent of global climate change, promote fossil fuel use and block policies that promote clean energy development.

The Kochs obscure millions more in annual giving through Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, which collect money from the Kochs and other wealthy corporate interests and pass it on to State Policy Network groups. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

News Roundup, February 13th :|: S.O.T.U edition

Flip The Debt campaigns to *truly* fix the debt

National Politics:

 Analysis: Minimum wage plan a new test for Obama
Bid on Minimum Wage Revives Issue That Has Divided

The Minimum Wage and Economic Growth

Obama Urges Minimum Wage Increase and First-Ever Indexing

Raising Minimum Wage Would Ease Income Gap but Carries Political Risks

Top Republicans Oppose Obama’s Call To Raise The Minimum Wage

Raise the Minimum Wage! And make it higher than what Obama just proposed

 Obama Retrades Broken First Term Campaign Minimum Wage Promise in State of the Union Address

The Minimum Wage: Time to Start Working On the Next Increase

FACT CHECK: State of the Union

6 Game-Changing Ideas In The State Of The Union

Wonkbook: All about the policies of the State of the Union

 What Obama Said – and what he meant – about Climate Change, War & Civil Liberties

Rand Paul’s State of the Union tea party response full of red meat

Where were Marco Rubio’s new ideas?

Let’s All Watch Marco Rubio’s Panicked Drink Of Water In Extreme Slow Motion

The end of western civilization:

What Do Republicans, Rubio And Rand Have If They Don’t Have Deficits?

The GOP’s renewed (and dangerous) push to reform Medicare and Social Security

Three ways Obama wants to cut Medicare

Fact Sheet: Examples of How the Sequester Would Impact Middle Class Families, Jobs and Economic Security

We Can Fix This? In SOTU, Obama Shoves Voting Reform into ‘Sock Drawer,’ Leaving Many Disappointed

Will the Bauer-Ginsberg Election Reform Commission Improve Our Dismal Election System?

More Reactions to the Bauer-Ginsberg Commission

Obama Appoints a Controversial GOP Lawyer to His Voting Commission

Boxer And Nelson To Co-Sponsor Election Reform Bill

Obama Administration Defends Detention Power in Appeals Court Hearing 

   (here’s unfortunate justification of Obama-loathing rightwing reactionaries’ paranoia) in the State of the Union 2013, not much to

 Obama gift-wraps the SEC — Mary Jo White isn’t just a semi-compromised corporate crony. She’s the embodiment of a corrupt Wall Street culture

The staff memo for Thursday’s Senate Banking Committee hearing on the implementation of Wall Street reform

Will Ron Johnson and Elizabeth Warren Pair Up to End ‘Too Big to Fail’?

State of the Union: Four worrisome issues for 2014 Democrats

Obama’s Record On Political Money One Of Ambivalence

 Ron Wyden: Campaign Disclosure Reform Chances ‘Greater Than Ever Before’

Capital Eye Opener, Feb. 13: Obama Donors Picked for Plum Slots, and GOP Tweets Bilingually

NRA Responds To ‘Connecticut Effect’ Controversy, Falsely Claims No Association With Wisconsin Lobbyist

K Street Files: Giffords PAC Hires Seasoned Strategists

This headline makes me respect Dave Weigel all the more:
  The Biz vs. the Nuge

Tea Party super-PAC girds for coming primary clashes with Karl Rove group

 The GOP “civil war” is going to make both sides rich — Karl Rove and the conservative movement’s never-ending gravy train

Club for Growth Bites Back at Barbour’s Critique


Daily Reporter. Tribe threatens state’s mining plans.

Ashland Listening Session Sends Strong Message: “There Will Be No Mine”

WJFW. Medford Rep. Williams hopes to keep mining costs to towns in check.

 Riverway sand mine applicant cited for DNR violations

MPS board committee to consider contract with non-union charter operator

The politics of Wisconsin’s declining union membership

Has Paul Ryan remained consistent in talking about what he calls society’s “takers” and “makers?”   Nope.

Walker Administration Sued over Free Speech in the Capitol

 Judge’s offer to recuse himself because of own protest past delays Capitol sing-along case

Ultrasound bill a ‘priority’ for anti-abortion lawmakers: The proposed bill would require all women to have an ultrasound and be told of the image details prior to an abortion.

The Wisconsin Capitol is a friendly place right now for those who oppose abortion.

That’s the message Wisconsin Right to Life Legislative Conference attendees repeatedly heard Tuesday from the state’s top two Republican lawmakers, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.

“We are in a very good place in Wisconsin,” Vos said. “We have a pro-life Legislature, pro-life governor in Scott Walker and a pro-life attorney general (J.B. Van Hollen). We can all wrap our arms around this agenda.”

And it sounds like the first bill to get a warm reception from Republicans will be what’s being dubbed the “Woman’s Right to Know her Unborn Child Act.”

Wisconsin NRA lobbyist’s remarks rile gun-control advocates



In Wausau, An NRA Convention Helps Distribute Literature Calling For Secession And Civil War

DPW. Secession? More Scott Walker Tea Party distractions.

Former Police Officer: “We Are Not At War”

Medical examiner advised assistant to leave after Derek Williams ruling

Gov. Walker. Investing $14 million in Wisconsin: Protecting the innocent and seeking justice for victims.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Walker proposes boost in state budget for DNA collection. Wisconsin State Journal.

Wausau Daily Herald. Editorial: It’s not too late to accept Medicaid expansion.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Gov. Scott Walker to announces a middle path on BadgerCare expansion under health law.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin. Media reports on Walker BadgerCare plans disturbing.

 Conflict of interest rules vary among state Medicaid drug programs

 Wisconsin Assembly backs amendment to protect transportation fund

Julie Lassa: Bills will help Wisconsin get in on manufacturing boom

DNR Sec. Stepp. Statement on lawsuit to re-list Western Great Lakes wolves

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. U.S. Sen. Johnson links Democrats to Marxists.

State of the Union responses: U.S. Rep. Ribble. U.S. Rep. Moore. U.S. Rep. Ryan.

Fox 11. Wisconsin lawmakers react to president’s speech.

White House. President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address – as prepared for delivery. Excerpts. U.S. Sen. Baldwin. U.S. Rep. Kind.

Blogger Jeff Simpson pounces on the Scott Walker administration over the news that a cleaning company it hired to clean marble at the Capitol caused considerable damage to the surface. Another example of privatization not working, he says, noting that an out-of-state crew did the job. He also notes the irony of the now-damaged Capitol given the supposed damage inflicted by protesters over Act 10.

 Wisconsin scientists help search for alien life


Media Trackers:
Wisconsin Physicians and Privately Insured Subsidize Medicaid
Medicaid Patients Get Terrible Care, Democrats Overlook Facts
Left Side of Medicaid Debate Becomes Fact-Free Zone
Far-Left Flocks to Supreme Court candidate Fallone
Chart of the Day – Is The President’s New Spending Based On Faulty Assumptions?
Generous Federal FoodShare Eligibility Could Neutralize Work Requirements
Wisconsin Reporter:
Walker wants money for DNA testing, GPS tracking
12 things the president won’t say
Is WI’s Walker kicking around a hybrid Medicaid expansion plan?
National News:

The Rich Continue to Get Richer: the Top 1% Got 121% of Income Gains Since 2009

Git ’em!   Where The US Top 5% Live

“Flip The Debt” Protesters Confront CEO and “Fix the Debt” Leader over Corporate Tax Breaks

Another Study Confirms That Taxes And Regulations Aren’t Holding Back Job Creation

New report details how unemployed workers are hit with one-two punch: as states cut weeks off unemployment programs, losses in federal aid follow.

 State Tax Systems Need to Become More Progressive, Not Less

 Mr. Lew: How Would You Run the Financial Stability Oversight Council?

8 Subjects Senators Should Bring Up At Jack Lew’s Confirmation Hearing

Hey Congress: Pre-K is a better investment than the stock market

The State of the Kindergarteners Should Be Strong

How Head Start Can Make a Difference

Michelle Rhee And The Relentless Marketing Of Education ‘Reform’

Public schools lose millions to crooks, cheaters

Attorney-client meeting room was bugged, Navy lawyer testifies at Guantánamo

Unusual Moves in Confronting Apple’s Huge Pile of $140 Billion in Cash

IRS Wins Big Tax Ruling against Bank of New York Mellon

Big Banks Are Told to Review Their Own Foreclosures

SAC Probe Said to Be Hampered by Auto-Deleted E-Mails

Disparate Impact and Fair Housing: Seven Cases You Should Know

Counterparties: A minimal vision at Barclays

States Gear Up to Pitch Health Exchange Plans

*Remember that 6-week ban turned 12-week ban making its way through the Arkansas state legislature? It’s being further delayed while more changes are considered.
*Also in Arkansas, Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe has signed into a law a bill to ban insurance exchanges created under Obamacare from covering abortion.
*In Virginia, Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell is working to make sure that the insurance exchanges created in that state are banned from covering abortion, but the Virginian-Pilot is reporting that even some Republicans are skeptical of the move.
*In Colorado, Democrats defeated in committee a Republican-backed bill that would have required doctors to investigate why a woman was seeking an abortion.
*A similar bill has been proposed in Kansas this year, too and is seen as likely to be passed by the Republican-controlled legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.
*Lawmakers in Oklahoma are considering a bill that would tighten the state’s existing parental notification law for girls under age 18 seeking abortion.
*In Arizona, a federal judge has overturned the state’s effort to defund Planned Parenthood. The measure had already been blocked, pending this week’s ruling.

Gun Lobby Helps Block Data Collection by Crimefighters

The Stronger the Outrage After Bloodshed, the Greater the Gun Surge

The faces behind the numbers: Six victims of long weekend’s gun violence

Greek Factory Under Workers Control

The Breach of Security that Revealed the Secret World of the Vatican

 Price for a New Hip? Many Hospitals Are Stumped

Jaime Rosenthal, a senior at Washington University in St. Louis, called more than 100 hospitals in every state last summer, seeking prices for a hip replacement for a 62-year-old grandmother who was uninsured but had the means to pay herself.
The quotes she received might surprise even hardened health care economists: only about half of the hospitals, including top-ranked orthopedic centers and community hospitals, could provide any sort of price estimate, despite repeated calls. Those that could gave quotes that varied by a factor of more than 10, from $11,100 to $125,798.


State Of Denial: More Dirty Energy Policies Expected From Koch-Fueled Marco Rubio

EPA unaware of industry ties on cancer review panel

Ouster of scientist from EPA panel shows industry clout

Obama gives Congress a climate change ultimatum

 In address, a pledge to fight global warming

Obama wants to double U.S. energy efficiency by 2030. Is that possible?

Huge Climate Change Rally Targets Keystone XL Pipeline

Why Organized Labor Must Stand Against the Keystone XL Pipeline

 Sierra Club chief & others to risk arrest over oil pipeline

Fracking Threatens OPEC as U.S. Output at 20-Year High

Exporting U.S. Natural Gas Show Senate Leaders’ Split

Toxic sludge, polluted water can be byproducts of making solar panels

 Do GMO Crops Really Have Higher Yields?

Genetic Roulette is a 2012 documentary on Monsanto & GMOs

 States have varying success with GM labeling bills

Connecticut will again try passing a GMO food-labeling bill

Report Confirms Food Corps Using Junk, Misleading Science to Protect Profits


After Instagram controversy, a watchdog site tracks shifting Terms of Service — Docracy tracks changes across thousands of Terms of Service agreements, with surprising Weird.  Twitter and Amex to let you pay with a

How Fear of a Cyber Pearl Harbor Is Uniting Washington

5 reasons mobile will disrupt journalism like the Internet did a decade ago

Glenn Kessler and the Neverending End of ‘Fact-Checking’

 A fresh view of George Orwell: Honoring the reissue of several works, a reevaluation of Politics and the English Language

 Al Jazeera hires lobby firm DLA Piper

Kabletown purchases the last 49% of NBC they didn’t already own

Jonah Lehrer apologizes, makes everyone angrier

Posted in Newz | Tagged | Leave a comment

Your Governor Cares

Your Governor Cares

Never forget when he bravely banded together with our Attorney General and the Waukesha County Sheriffs to budget for your pubic safety.

Image | Posted on by | Tagged | Leave a comment