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Open thread for night owls: Protesters take on Monsanto and GMO foods in more 400 cities worldwide

May 26, 2013 - 11:30pm

Vignesh Ramachandran reports Worldwide Protest in 436 Cities Targets Monsanto and GMOs:

More than 2 million protesters in 436 cities across the world took to the streets Saturday, in a unified charge against agribusiness giant Monsanto and genetically modified foods. The AP reported that the "March Against Monsanto" protests took place in at least 52 countries and 436 cities.

The movement grew from a Facebook page — reportedly created months ago — that called for the May 25 demonstrations. The organizers advocate for boycotts against Monsanto-owned companies that use GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and pushed for GMO labeling, in addition to further studies of the health effects of GMOs.

Genetically modified organisms have been engineered with ideal traits. Monsanto, which ranked #206 in 2013's Fortune 500 list, is a large producer of genetically modified seeds.
In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) supports voluntary labeling for foods produced via genetic engineering. This year, President Barack Obama signed a bill that included a "Farmer Assurance Provision," which reportedly could make it more difficult to stop the sale of questionable crops. That's why critics nicknamed it the "Monsanto Protection Act."

From Arturo Gonzales:

Besides protesting [Monsanto]’s practice of making genetically-modifying seeds, protesters vowed to make their voices heard against the U.S. Senate after it rejected an amendment introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that would have allowed states to require labels on foods made with modified ingredients.

Sanders’ amendment failed on Thursday in a 71-27 vote, three days after one of his colleagues, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), released a statement promising to repeal the so-called “Monsanto Protection Act,” which allows farmers to buy and plant genetically-altered seeds while its regulatory approval is being challenged in court.

Dorothy Muehlmann, who organized the march in Los Angeles, California, told the Los Angeles Times that the protests were also designed to heighten consumer awareness about Monsanto’s business dealings.

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2008Senator, VA Secretary Disrespect Troops on Memorial Day:

On Memorial Day weekend, Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) and VA Secretary James Peake stood side-by-side in Fairbanks, Alaska to showcase their opposition to--and lack of respect for--today’s newest veterans.

Speaking at the Disabled American Veterans’ 19th Annual Department Convention, Senator Stevens told the majority of America’s most recent war veterans that they had not yet sacrificed enough to have earned a GI Bill that would cover the full cost of their educations.  

Sen. Ted Stevens warned of a "mass exodus" from the military Saturday if the so-called 21st Century GI Bill goes into law without major changes. 
"There are worries that people who are already in for two years will serve one more and leave, and there’s really no incentive to stay," Stevens said. What Stevens is really saying is that today's troops are unpatriotic--that they're only in it for the money and the college.  And while Stevens’ "mass exodus" theory has been thoroughly discredited by the Congressional Budget Office, the true irony of the situation lies in the fact that Stevens earned his own college degree after World War Two by using the same GI Bill he’s aiming to prevent today’s veterans from receiving.  

Tweet of the Day:

Terrific use of limited newsroom resources. @macloo: 4,000 journalists at Cannes? Okay, that's necessary.
@jayrosen_nyu via web

Every Monday through Friday you can catch the Kagro in the Morning Show 9 AM ET by dropping in here, or you can download the Stitcher app (found in the app stores or at, and find a live stream there, by searching for "Netroots Radio."

High Impact Posts. High Impact Posts of the Week. Top Comments.

The end of perpetual war

May 26, 2013 - 9:00pm
President Barack Obama prepares to take the stage as he is introduced at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C., May 23, 2013. President Barack Obama, in yesterday's national security speech:
Beyond Afghanistan, we must define our effort not as a boundless ‘global war on terror’ – but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America [...] And:
I believe, however, that the use of force must be seen as part of a larger discussion about a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy. Because for all the focus on the use of force, force alone cannot make us safe. We cannot use force everywhere that a radical ideology takes root; and in the absence of a strategy that reduces the well-spring of extremism, a perpetual war – through drones or Special Forces or troop deployments – will prove self-defeating, and alter our country in troubling ways. This might've been Obama's most substantive speech of his presidency. Conservatives are angry that Obama criticized the previous administration's use of torture and his continued insistence on shutting down Gitmo. Some liberals are angry that Obama has only partly curtailed the use of drones. But this was an eminently pragmatic speech and vintage Obama—straddling the line between two opposing forces and trying to find his sensible center. In this case, I actually think he found it.

But aside from the argument over the details (which I'm sure is what'll get hashed out in the comments), the two passages above point to the most important takeaway from the speech: the declaration that our "war on terror" as we know it is over. The Republican approach—the immediate resort to violence, the debasing of our values by resorting to torture, the curtailment of our civil liberties—has failed.

So I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate. And I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further. Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands. Extremism can't be eradicated. It can only be controlled, contained, and with luck, nullified. But as Boston and the horrific attack in Woolwich a few days ago shows, it's impossible for us to prevent every isolated religious nut (whether Islamic or home-grown Christian) with a gun, pressure cooker, or even a meat cleaver from carrying deadly attacks.

This is an amorphous, faceless enemy. There is no Osama Bin Laden calling the shots anymore. And engaging in large-scale military operations overseas does nothing to make us safer at home. Indeed, there is little more we can do at home to make us safer, short of becoming a bona fide police state.

A terrorist inherently understands he is at a power disadvantage. They don't have any. Their numbers are too few, their resources too limited. Their foes are too strong. Thus, they engage in actions that create outsized fear and distress. They are only effective when they their limited actions can generate an outsized response. Osama Bin Laden is the most successful terrorist in the history of the world precisely because 9-11 dragged the United States into two wars, cost it thousands of lives, and cost it over a trillion dollars and counting. At the cost of what, a few box cutters and the meaningless lives of a handful of his followers?

With Al Qaida effectively dismantled, we can't keep acting like every two-bit terrorist is part of the same struggle. Stop treating these copycats as evil masterminds and instead treat them like common criminals, and they lose some of their power. Stop smearing entire religions based on the actions of a few and treat them like ideological cranks, and they lose some of their power. Stop retaliating with brute force, vandalism, and threats, and treat their home communities well (be it Mali, or the local mosque in Boston), and these terrorists lose some of their power.

None of that is as glorious as shocking and awe'ing Baghdad, but they promise better results than the status quo. The "war against terror" was always a stupid concept. It's good seeing Obama put it to rest. And not with a "mission accomplished" banner and ticker-tape parade, but with the acknowledgement that this will be an ongoing struggle, likely lasting our lifetimes. And the best way to deny wannabe terrorists their victory is by refusing to let them affect our way of life.

What does that mean? It means that the thousands of runners who'll line up for the 2014 Boston Marathon will do more to combat terrorism than 1,000 Iraq invasions ever would.

Catholic hospital mergers put women's health at risk

May 26, 2013 - 7:00pm

Since the overwhelming Republican triumph in the 2010 elections, conservative majorities in states across the nation have implemented draconian new abortion restrictions at a dizzying pace that shows no signs of letting up. So-called "human life" amendments, punitive clinic regulations, "personhood" initiatives, fetal heartbeat bills, mandatory, invasive ultrasound procedures and outright abortion bans are typical of the 694 proposals produced in the states in just the first three months of 2013.

But it's not just Kansas, North Dakota, Mississippi and other reddest of the red states that are making a mockery of the very idea of the "health of the mother." Outside of the statehouses, governors' mansions and courtrooms, another disturbing trend is fast making access to abortion and other reproductive services a thing of the past across large swaths of the country. In Washington, Oregon, Illinois and other strongly pro-choice states, the rapid consolidation of smaller, rural and even teaching hospitals by expanding Catholic chains is putting women's reproductive health—and sometimes their lives—at risk. Thanks to these mergers, acquisitions and strategic partnerships, decisions about contraception, abortion, sterilization and live-saving care aren't being made by patients and their doctors, but by bishops.

For over a hundred years, Catholic hospitals have been one of the cornerstones of the U.S. health system, providing care to tens of millions of Americans of all faiths, races and ethnicities. Last year, the New Republic's Jonathan Cohn explained just how big a role they play and the public support they enjoy in return:

Today, Catholic hospitals supply 15 percent of the nation's hospital beds, and Catholic hospital systems own 12 percent of the nation's community hospitals, which means, according to one popularly cited estimate, that about one in six Americans get treatment at a Catholic hospital at some point each year. We now depend upon Catholic hospitals to provide vital services--not just direct care of patients, but also the training of new doctors and assistance to the needy. In exchange, these institutions receive considerable public funding. In addition to the tax breaks to which all nonprofit institutions are entitled, Catholic hospitals also receive taxpayer dollars via public insurance programs like Medicare and Medicaid, as well as myriad federal programs that provide extra subsidies for such things as indigent care and medical research. (Older institutions also benefited from the 1946 Hill-Burton Act, which financed hospital construction for several decades.) But increasingly, Cohn cautioned, "the dual mandates of these institutions—to heal the body and to nurture the spirit, to perform public functions but maintain private identities—are difficult to reconcile." For many communities, a Catholic facility is already the only choice. And with the accelerating trend of hospital mergers and partnerships, policies forbidding contraception, abortion and sterilization are becoming the norm at formerly public hospitals. In cities around America, the result is growing confusion for physicians and greater risk for their patients.

As the New York Times detailed a year ago, over the previous three years about 20 new partnerships combining stand-alone hospitals or smaller systems with larger, financially stronger Catholic institutions is adversely impacting the availability of common reproductive health care services. For example:

In Seattle, Swedish Health Services has offered elective abortions for decades. But the hospital agreed to stop when it joined forces this month with Providence Health & Services, one of the nation's largest Catholic systems. And when Seton Healthcare Family in Texas, a unit of Ascension Health, began operating Austin's public Breckenridge hospital in 1995, it curbed reproductive health care services available to its patients:
In that case, Mr. [Charles] Barnett [of Ascension Health] says the system never agreed to provide services like elective abortions and sterilizations, and public officials and hospital administrators initially struggled to find a compromise. Although another system eventually offered sterilizations on a separate floor of the hospital, complete with a separate elevator, another hospital now provides those services. Continue reading below the fold.

Book review: Mary Pipher's 'The Green Boat'

May 26, 2013 - 5:00pm
The Green Boat: Reviving Ourselves in Our Capsized Culture
By Mary Pipher
Riverhead Books: New York
240 pages
Paperback: $16.00; Kindle edition, $9.99
June 2013
Many humans know that when problems are too big to face, the best solution is to grow bigger. Writer and clinical psychologist Mary Pipher has become, over the span of her career, something of a therapist-at-large to our culture, addressing the stresses that modernity has placed on family life in The Shelter of Each Other and the low-confidence crisis of adolescent girls in Reviving Ophelia. Now Pipher is tackling head-on the most depressing crisis of all: the end of the world as we know it. In other words, climate change.

It's not an easy topic. Those most involved in environmental causes suffer from burnout and depletion. The problem itself is complex and interlocking, with some regions suffering immediate effects and others experiencing—for now, at least—nearly undetectable changes.

We can deal with our cultural and environmental crises only after we deal with our human crises of trauma, denial, and emotional paralysis. This will require that most difficult of all human endeavors, facing our own despair. This involves waking from our trance of denial, facing our own pain and sorrow, accepting the world as it is, adapting, and living more intentionally. Pipher asks several deep and hard questions in The Green Boat, which you can find under the fold:

Midday open thread

May 26, 2013 - 3:00pm

The floor is yours.

  • This is actually pretty cool. The Los Angeles River will be opening to the public for kayaking and fishing for the first time in a long time:
    This kind of open access hasn't been seen since the river was "channelized" in the 1930s, according to organizers.

    You are now allowed to boat, kayak, walk and fish. Just don't spray paint. (But we know at least a few of you will).

    In many parts, the Los Angeles River looks more like an aqueduct, since it's channeled into a cement bed.
  • According to a recent survey, there is 47 percent support for legalizing the growing of marijuana. Don't tell Mitt Romney—he doesn't like that number too much.
  • Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) is vetoing a budget item for funding for Teach for America. Here's his statement why:
    Teach for America (TFA) is a well-established, national program with revenues totaling $270 million for fiscal Year 2011 (its most recent annual report). With total  expenses of $219 million, TFA’s net assets increased by over  $50 million and now total over $350 million. With those financial resources available, it is not clear why a $1.5 million grant from the State of Minnesota is required to continue or expand the organization’s work here.
  • Excellent read on how to evaluate a teacher. Here's, in my estimation, the most compelling graf:
    This brings me back to my opening paragraph; the most important role a teacher plays in the lives of his or her students is not as an examiner, but as a nurturer. Attempting to evaluate a teacher based on standardized tests is like evaluating a doctor solely on whether a patient lives, dies, or is cured. Just as every doctor gives his or her all attempting to save and cure patients, every teacher gives his or her entire self to students (who we treat more like our own children than our students). I can't imagine a world where teachers are so fearful of losing their jobs because their students, who may be going through so many various and horrible circumstances, that they disregard the emotional role of an educator and focus solely on the academics.
  • Things might not work out well if Michele Bachmann were to challenge Al Franken for Senate:
    Things would go very badly for Rep. Michele Bachmann if she dared to challenge Al Franken for his Senate seat. The latest PPP poll found that Franken would defeat Bachmann 55%-38%.

    Al Franken is turning out to be a very popular senator. Sen. Franken has an overall approval rating of 51%. Franken’s approval is 87% with those who are very liberal, 83% with somewhat liberals, 66% with moderates, 15% with somewhat conservatives, and 5% with very conservatives. Franken’s approval rating with Minnesota’s Obama voters is 88%. Sen. Franken leads every single one of his potential Republican challengers by at least 15 points. His biggest lead (18 points) comes against Rep. Michele Bachmann.

    All the more reason to hope she takes the plunge.

A twist in the wind

May 26, 2013 - 1:00pm

There are few spectacles on earth more awe inspiring than a tornado over land or sea. If they seem unearthly, with all our modern science and perspective, imagine how they appeared to ancient people who might see or hear about a single such event in their lifetime! But tornadoes are a dramatic representation of one of the most common weather phenomenons on earth and throughout the cosmos as far as we can discern: the vortex. A tornado starts out way up in the clouds, concealed from sight, and that's where its engine resides. The part we see is almost an afterthought. But it's no afterthought if you're in its way. That visible part can plow the ground and tear families apart.

It's more than fascinating, it's a serious, routine concern for a lot of Americans. The majority of tornadoes occur in North America and most of those hit in a region called tornado alley. As I write this, perched in the lower outskirts of that region, the sky overhead is a puke green, the clouds tumultuous, and the the air hangs heavy with moisture as thick as a rain forest. This is twister weather.

Follow me below the fold to learn more about a typical tornado.

Book review: Barbara Garson's 'Down the Up Escalator'

May 26, 2013 - 11:00am
Down the Up Escalator: How the 99 Percent Live in the Great Recession
By Barbara Garson
288 pages, $26.95
April, 2013

About a chapter into reading Barbara Garson's Down the Up Escalator, I was wondering why I bothered. I've read so many of these books and articles and written so many of these blog posts. They lay out the policies that benefited the rich over everyone else and allowed the financial manipulations that crashed the economy. They tell us stories of people caught in this terrible economy. Maybe they remind us of the policies we already know could start to fix the problem. But we've seen that all before. We know what happened. We know the policies that would fix it. What we don't know is how to get there, how to overcome a broken Senate and a gerrymandered House and both political parties being more responsive to big money than to working people. What could this book offer that was new? What could any book offer that's new, beyond the faint hope that this will be the book that gives us a new way of talking or thinking about our economy and politics and somehow turns the tide?

Well, Garson's book won't do that. But it still turned out to be more interesting and engaging than I expected in those early dispirited evenings of reading, maybe because it wears Garson's alert human gaze so close to the surface. In fact, she's straightforward about the same sense of frustration I felt in those early chapters. When a woman whose home is being foreclosed on says to her, "I prayed about [going to be interviewed by Garson], and then I said 'I'll go meet her. I'll go because she is tiny. She can't do me no harm,'" Garson writes:

Oh, God, I can't hurt her, because I'm small. "No, I'm not going to do you any harm," I said, "but I'm not going to do you any good. That's the problem." Then I moved to Alice's side of the booth and cried because my books never do anyone any good. That sense of human connection and care is woven through Garson's compelling rendition of the economic story we've come to know so well, the squeeze not just on people at the bottom but people who were—or at least thought they were—in the middle, as well. As a result, Down the Up Escalator does add to all those other books, to Jacob Hacker's The Great Risk Shift and Donald Barlett and James Steele's The Betrayal of the American Dream, to name a couple I've reviewed in the past. Down the Up Escalator is rich with information (as of August 2010, "nearly 8 percent of African-American families had lost a home in the Great Recession compared with 4.5 percent of white families," for instance). It reports on just what happens in foreclosure courts and makes blindingly clear how badly the deck is stacked against families struggling to keep their homes not by focusing on the worst of those courts but by focusing on one of the best.

But more unusually, it offers a vision through Garson's eyes of how destabilized our understanding of the economic world we live in has become. She shows how people who thought, not unreasonably, that their comfortable lives were stable lives had the rug pulled out from under them when they were laid off and, despite solid work histories, couldn't find new jobs; how people could think they were getting ahead until suddenly they were underwater. She's clearsighted about mistakes some of her subjects made along the way, but also about the enormous structural challenges that all of them faced—that most of us face. Our sense of class, of what kind of lives and stability people should have according to their education and employment histories, has become unmoored; Garson writes:

I was still mildly shocked to hear well-dressed professionals coolly consider default. But I was beginning to realize that white Californians who drive new cars and speak TV announcer English may be poorer than they look. I don't know exactly what these women earn; it's enough to make air commuting worthwhile. But apparently, it hadn't been enough to own middle-class homes in pre-crash California. At least not as I understand home ownership. She turns this gaze on a home health aide and on a woman with old, old New England money who has only recently learned "that I did not have an 'income' as in a Jane Austen novel. I had a finite amount of money"; on a blind woman losing her home because of a mortgage the mentally disabled cousin she cares for had been tricked into signing and on a banker who, at a relatively low level, did the kind of work that contributed to the financial crisis, a man about whom Garson writes, "There was no sense asking him about social value. You can't undo a master's in business administration in one afternoon."

I went into the reading of Up the Down Escalator feeling dispirited because it was sure to be full of sad, illuminating stories reinforcing how screwed working people are, without any means of changing things. And it is full of them, and the forces keeping the economy organized this way are as overwhelming as they ever were. But Garson's curious eye and warm presence throughout the book create a sense of connection rather than the hopelessness I'd feared feeling. As for her policy prescription, the one that inevitably comes at the end of such books, leaving you thinking, "I know, I know, but how?" Garson skips over restoring Glass-Steagall or passing a public option or ending subsidies for big oil companies—the things that on most days are the policies we fantasize about. Instead, she has a simple answer: "It's time for a Jubilee."

The race to Gracie Mansion

May 26, 2013 - 9:00am
Gracie Mansion. The official residence of the mayor of the City of New York. Built in 1799, Gracie Mansion has been the official residence of New York City mayors since 1942 when Fiorello H. La Guardia moved in. Currently not the home of Emperor Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who wanted to end the tradition, the upcoming Nov. 5, 2013 NYC mayoral election will more than likely see it once again with a tenant.

The odds are that the tenant will be a Democrat. Just which Democrat will be decided by the crowded Sept. 10 primary, which may end up with a runoff on Sept. 24.

The NYC mayoral race garners attention across the U.S. and in the international press. As The Guardian pointed out:

[T]he mayor of New York is in charge of a city that has a greater population than 39 states. Mayors have taxation powers, rule over a small army (that is, the New York Police Department), preside over planning and development in what is, arguably, the business capital of the world, host many social functions, and act as the default spokesman for the country's mayors in general. As a NYC homegirl, currently living outside of the city, I have no vote, but plenty interest. I read the opinions of pundits and pollsters, but am going to put my faith this year on the efficacy of boots on the ground, changing demographics, and the call for an independent monitor for the NYPD. Do I have a horse in the race? Yup. I'll stand on the sidelines (and also do some GOTV) rooting for Bill de Blasio, in solidarity with my friends and fellow grassroots and union organizers.  

Why de Blasio?

Follow me below the fold.

Abbreviated Pundit Round-up

May 26, 2013 - 1:49am

The New York Times isn't fawning over Apple the way all too many senators did when CEO Tim Cook dropped in to talk taxes.

Even before last week’s Senate hearing on Apple, it was clear that the aggressive use of tax havens and other tax avoidance tactics had become standard operating procedure for global American companies.

Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard were the focus of a similar Senate hearing last September, while Google, Amazon and Starbucks have drawn recent scrutiny in Europe. And, of course, there is General Electric, which achieved a perfect zero on its United States tax bill in 2010. In fact, G.E. was reputed to have the world’s best tax avoidance department until Apple came along with tactics to stash some $100 billion in Ireland without paying taxes on much of it anywhere in the world and, apparently, without breaking any law.

That oft-stated truism that corporations have an obligation only to their shareholders, and are breaking the law if they don't do everything to maximize profit? Yeah, that's not true. Never was. Until a few decades ago, many corporations -- including Perfect Zero G.E. -- put making their shareholders rich at the bottom of their list of priorities, well behind contributing to their communities and providing fair salaries for their employees. What changed wasn't the law. It was corporate culture.

Dodging taxes is just part of a culture that approves of companies keeping salaries down while putting $100B in the bank, cheers for high margins while workers are forced to demonstrate higher and higher levels of "productivity," and looks the other way when the CEO is paid $378 million (Tim Cook, 2011) while workers make less than $5000 a year.

Come on in. Let's see what else is going on this morning.

Sunday Talk: Wag the dog

May 26, 2013 - 12:00am

Monday afternoon, in a transparent attempt to divert attention from the über-Nixonian scandals plaguing him, President Obama staged an EF5 tornado in Oklahoma.

This wasn't the first time that Obama has conducted a #FalseFlag operation, nor was it the first time he's used the weather as a weapon; it was, however, the first time that he has directly targeted America's heartland.

With many questions about the president's actions requiring answers, no doubt there will be Congressional investigations (and maybe even a special prosecutor); but one thing already seems clear—all roads lead to Benghazi.

Mitch McConnell exposes Barack Obama's 'culture of intimidation'

May 25, 2013 - 7:00pm
Mitch "Stop intimidating me" McConnell meets with the Intimidator-in-Chief Writing in Thursday's Washington Post, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell provides evidence that he says substantiates his assertion that President Barack Obama is responsible for a "culture of intimidation" that "goes well beyond one agency or a few rogue employees."

For example, McConnell says:

The president’s lawyers circulated a draft executive order in 2011 that would have required anyone bidding for a government contract to disclose political donations. The message was clear: If you want a government contract, be careful which causes or candidates you support because the White House will know. Yep, you read that right. According to Mitch McConnell, requiring firms that do business with the government to publicly disclose how much political cash they've given to the politicians from whom they seek contracts and special treatment is all about intimidating companies into silence. Of course, that was not the idea at all. The real idea was to let the public know whether companies that made anonymous political contributions were getting special treatment from the government.

Ask yourself which is a bigger threat to democracy: The possibility that a company doing business with the government would withhold a political contribution out of fear of retribution from White House or Congress ... or the possibility that a company would funnel money anonymously into a 501(c)(4) while quietly claiming credit under the table in order to win favorable treatment from regulators, contracting officials, or Congress?

Corruption is obviously a bigger problem—it's not even close. But even though the idea floated by the Obama administration had nothing to do with intimidation, it was spiked shortly after McConnell thundered his opposition to it. If anybody was doing the intimidating, it was Mitch, and if anybody was intimidated, it was the administration.

Open thread: Mayors, tornadoes, and page-turners

May 25, 2013 - 6:00pm

What's coming up on Sunday Kos ...

  • The end of perpetual war, by kos
  • Book review: Mary Pipher's 'The Green Boat,' by Susan Gardner
  • A twist in the wind, by DarkSyde
  • Book review: Barbara Garson's 'Down the Up Escalator,' by Laura Clawson
  • The Race to Gracie Mansion, by Denise Oliver-Velez
  • Catholic hospital mergers put women's health at risk, by Jon Perr

NRSC makes itself and Gomez ridiculous in Massachusetts Senate race

May 25, 2013 - 5:00pm
This is just stupid. A super PAC created by California billionaire Tom Steyer, NextGen PAC, is talking about launching a campaign against Republican Gabriel Gomez in the Massachusetts Senate race with Ed Markey. Markey doesn't want anything to do with it and "has called on Steyer to stay out of the race." That's because Markey has signed a pledge (that Gomez has not signed) to limit outside spending in his campaign—the "People's Pledge."

With that established, enter the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), which sent out a press release whining that Markey "is the first to violate the 'People’s Pledge.'" You know, the pledge that isn't in effect because Gomez hasn't signed it. Which Markey couldn't technically violate because it isn't in effect, and because he's asked Steyer to stay out of it, and because it hasn't actually happened anyway because Steyer hasn't spent any money yet.

Cue Boston Magazine's David Bernstein:

[E]ven if we granted NRSC all of this, and agreed that "violate the People's Pledge" means "have an outside group announce plans to spend money on your behalf in what would be a violation of the People's Pledge if the candidates had actually entered into such an agreement," it would still be a lie to say that Ed Markey is the first to violate the pledge.

That’s because Gomez has already violated it.

As Paul McMorrow writes over at CommonWealth, the Massachusetts Republican Party—an outside group under the People's Pledge—has spent more than $300,000 on ads currently running; you’ll notice they disclose at the end that they are paid for by the MassGOP.

Unbelievable. Except that it isn't, because it's the NRSC and the Gomez campaign, which seems incapable of coming up with any thing in this campaign other than "Ed Markey is picking on me!" And all of the instances in which Ed Markey is being a big ol' meanie are actually complete lies!

Boy, the Republicans sure got themselves a winner this time around.

Please contribute $3 to Ed Markey.

Green diary rescue: The redwoods, the High Plains Aquifer and fracking ourselves crazy

May 25, 2013 - 4:00pm
Every week Daily Kos diarists write dozens of environmentally related posts. Many don't get the readership they deserve. Helping improve the odds is the motivation behind the Green Diary Rescue. In the past seven years, there have been 227 of these spotlighting more than 12,723 eco-diaries. Below are categorized links and excerpts to 78 more that appeared in the past seven days. That makes for lots of good reading during the spare moments of your weekend. [Disclaimer: Inclusion of a diary in the rescue does not necessarily indicate my agreement with or endorsement of it.] Green Diary of the Week

Top Comments: The magic of old growth Redwood forests—by Steveningen: "It is no secret that California is a diverse and beautiful state. The scenery here is as varied as its people and everyone has their favorite place to visit. For some, it's Yosemite National Park, others are drawn to our beaches or the Sierra Nevada mountains. For me, it is California's old growth Redwood forests, particularly those in the Redwood National and State Parks on the North Coast of California. The first time I went, I nearly wept at the awesome beauty around me. The stillness and majesty of these ancient trees never fails to restore my soul. Knowing just how much I love these forests, my friends took me there to heal the weekend after my mother died. I even have instructions in my will to scatter a very small amount of my ashes in one of my favorite groves. That is how much they mean to me."

••• ••• •••  

520 scientists sign statement on Maintaining Humanity’s Life Support Systems in the 21st Century—by Laurence Lewis: "In the one month since it was written, 520 global scientists have signed on to this statement. You can, too. There is more information, including ideas for solutions, at Stanford University's Millenium Alliance for Humanity & the Biosphere website. [Here is the beginning]: Earth is rapidly approaching a tipping point. Human impacts are causing alarming levels of harm to our planet. As scientists who study the interaction of people with the rest of the biosphere using a wide range of approaches, we agree that the evidence that humans are damaging their ecological life-support systems is overwhelming. We further agree that, based on the best scientific information available, human quality of life will suffer substantial degradation by the year 2050 if we continue on our current path."

••• ••• •••

Interview with second citizen arrested for demanding fracking meeting with Illinois Governor—by willinois: "A second person in two days has been arrested for demanding that Governor Pat Quinn meet with citizens about proposed fracking legislation. Southern Illinois resident Dayna Conner was arrested for refusing to leave the Capitol building Wednesday after two days of waiting outside Quinn's office with others who want a meeting. [...] I spoke with Dayna earlier Wednesday outside the Governor's office while she waited for a meeting. Here's a short clip of why she felt her arrest was necessary."

A whole lot more links and teasers to green diaries can be found below the fold.

Midday open thread

May 25, 2013 - 3:00pm

An open thread to kick off a long weekend right.

  • Hmmm...the Ohio School Board is considering teaching kids creationism in schools. Daily Kos emerita Kaili Joy Gray:
    Um, no. No, wrong, fail, and no. While proponents of creationism like to say that it is simply another “theory” that should be taught side-by-side with evolution, it isn’t. Evolution is an actual theory with actual scientific evidence to support it. Creationism has, um, people who believe stuff, but, like, believe it really really really a lot. While that apparently passes for “science” among, for example, 20 percent of Pennsylvania’s science teachers, actually, it isn’t.
  • The Florida teenager who is being prosecuted for having a same-sex relationship with a younger girl is rejecting a harsh plea agreement:
    Florida teen Kaitlyn Hunt, who has been charged with a felony for having a sexual relationship with her younger girlfriend, has rejected a plea deal that would have included two years of house arrest and having to register as a sex offender. A statement released by her lawyers argued that she is being selectively prosecuted for having been in a same-sex relationship when she turned 18. Precisely: If this had been a heterosexual relationship, it would not have been prosecuted. Still--facing trial is a bold move.
  • Employees at Centerplate, the subcontractor that provides vending at San Francisco Giants games, are striking today. As someone from Los Angeles, I can personally testify to how morally superior many Giants fans feel about their baseball team--so hopefully, those in attendance at AT&T Park will stand with UNITE-HERE Local 2 and show solidarity with the striking workers at AT&T Park.
  • For those who missed it, Los Angeles elected new citywide elected officials this past Tuesday. DNC member Eric Garcetti won the election, and will be our new mayor starting on July 1st. He will be the city's first elected Jewish mayor (his ancestry became a campaign topic, as he is Jewish and Latino with an Italian last name), and he will be the youngest mayor in over a century. But that's not the only history LA has made: by electing Ron Galperin as City Controller, we just elected our first-ever openly LGBT candidate to citywide office in Los Angeles.

    There is a downside to this past week's results: no citywide elected official, nor any one of the 14 sitting councilmembers, will be women when the new council is seated on July 1. That will change quickly, as the two candidates in a runoff for a vacant seat in the Northeast San Fernando Valley are both women. But 1 of 15 is far too low for a city like Los Angeles.

  • More progress, all the time:
    The Puerto Rican House of Representatives on Friday (24 May) approved a sweeping nondiscrimination bill that protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in employment, housing, governmental services, public accommodations and private entities.

    The Senate has already approved the bill and Governor Alejandro García Padilla has vowed to sign the legislation into law.

    The vote occurred as similar legislation - the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) - remains stalled in the US Congress.

  • Here, have a handy structurally deficient bridge infographic.

This week in the War on Workers: Low-wage workers keep pressuring fast food chains

May 25, 2013 - 1:55pm
Several of the low-wage federal contractors who went on strike on Tuesday were told not to come back to work on Wednesday, Josh Eidelson reports:
Bassett’s employee Suyapa Moreno told The Nation in Spanish that three of her outlet’s four staff went on strike Tuesday, and that when they showed up to start their shift on Wednesday, “the owner told my co-worker she was fired. So I said, ‘If you’re going to fire her, I’m not coming back to work.’” She said her manager told them that “she didn’t want to see us again.” Moreno said she believes her co-worker was targeted because management saw her as the ringleader who convinced Moreno and a third Bassett’s worker to strike.

Moreno said the workers then waited at the food court until other workers, organizers and community supporters gathered to protest the terminations. According to the Good Jobs Nation campaign, about a hundred total supporters converged in the food court to protest ten total terminations by four outlets. Once there was a big enough group, said Moreno, “We went back to talk to the owner, and she accepted us back.” The Good Jobs Nation campaign told The Nation that managers or owners from Subway, Quick Pita and Kabuki Sushi also agreed to reverse the terminations once confronted by crowds of supporters.

Tuesday's strike wasn't the only low-wage worker activism of the week. Workers also showed up at shareholder meetings of top fast food chains. At the Wendy's shareholder meeting, Fast Food Forward workers chanted "$15 and a union" while:
Down the block, another demonstration against Wendy's was convened by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, an advocacy group calling for better wages for farmworkers through its Fair Food campaign. The Immokalee Workers have had success in persuading some fast-food giants to sign on to the campaign. Taco Bell, McDonald's, Burger King, Subway, and Chipotle have all pledged to pay a penny more per pound of tomatoes to help support farmworkers wages. Wendy's, to date, hasn't. Pathetic that Wendy's isn't keeping up with Taco Bell, but exciting to see so much activism targeting low-wage employers.

Come below the fold for more of the week's labor news.

Saturday nutpick-a-palooza: Gitmo is like BEENGHAAAAAAAZZZZEEE

May 25, 2013 - 1:00pm

Today's source material:

Gird your loins, America. President Obama intends to empty out Guantanamo Bay and send scores of suspected Muslim terror operatives back to their jihadist-coddling native countries. Goaded by anti-war activists and soft-on-terror attorneys (including those from Attorney General Eric Holder's former private law firm), Obama announced Thursday that he'll lift a ban on sending up to 90 Yemeni detainees home and will initiate other stalled transfers out of the compound. I hope your loins were properly girded!

Head below the fold for the subsequent histrionics.

This week in the war on voting: Bipartisan election commission seen as weak tea by some critics

May 25, 2013 - 12:00pm
This week in the war on voting is a joint project of Joan McCarter and Meteor Blades

Voting Commission could modernize elections: President Obama announced the members of the new Presidential Commission on Election Administration Tuesday. The task of the 10-member commission is to "to identify non-partisan ways to shorten lines at polling places, promote the efficient conduct of elections, and provide better access to the polls for all voters," according to a commission press release.

The commission is co-chaired Bob Bauer—the White House counsel from December 2009 until 2011. He was also general counsel to the president’s re-election committee as well to the Democratic National Committee—and Ben Ginsberg, who served as national counsel to the Bush-Cheney presidential campaigns in 2000 and 2004, and as national counsel to the Romney for President campaigns in 2008 and 2012.

“We urge the commission to recommend bold solutions to modernize voting,” Democracy Program Director Wendy Weiser told MSNBC. “America needs to upgrade how we register voters, when we vote, and how we manage polling places.” Nathaniel Persily, a professor at Columbia Law School who has generally been skeptical of voting restrictions aimed at combating fraud, will be the commission’s senior research director.

But some critics aren't happy that none of the members are voter-rights advocates. Rick Hasen, founder and editor/publisher of the acclaimed Election Law Blog, said this omission may have been intentional to avoid squabbling:

“While including voting-rights advocates might make sense in the abstract, the Commission is walking a difficult political line to stay above the partisan fray as much as possible,” Hasen said via email. “Including voting-rights advocates would have led those on the right to call for more balance.”

Elizabeth McNamara, the president of the League of Women Voters, criticized what she views as the panel’s narrow mandate.

“This is a weak response to a big problem,” McNamara said in a statement. “We need bold action to protect Americans from the risk of disenfranchisement.”

San Francisco voting guide for fall 2013 clocks in at 500 pages: The phonebook-sized guide is courtesy of a city law that requires the full text of a referendum, as it was presented during the signature drive, to appear in the voter's guide.

The legal text for the referendum—regarding the height of a condo project—includes numerous pages of text from the city's planning commission, board of supervisor meeting testimony and environmental studies.

You can find more war on voting news below the fold.

Animal Nuz #150

May 25, 2013 - 11:00am

This week in the world of progressive state blogs: Gov. Tancredo? Pipeline votes. Cutting 1%er taxes

May 25, 2013 - 11:00am
Each Saturday, this feature links and excerpts commentary and reporting from a dozen progressive state blogs in the past seven days around the nation. The idea is not only to spotlight specific issues but to give readers who may not know their state has a progressive blog or two a place to become regularly informed about doings in their back yard. Just as states with progressive lawmakers and activists have themselves initiated innovative programs over a wide range of issues, state-based progressive blogs have helped provide us with a point of view and inside information we don't get from the traditional media. Those blogs deserve a larger audience. Let me know via comments or Kosmail if you have a favorite you think I should know about. Standard disclaimer: Inclusion of a diary does not necessarily indicate my agreement or endorsement of its contents. At Blogging While Blue: News & Views of a Few Georgia Democrats, bloggingwhileblue writes 2014 Georgia Elections Are Worth the Attention: There’s been some encouraging news for Georgia Democrats this week. On Monday, Better Georgia released polling data that shows Georgia Democrats being competitive in Georgia’s 2014 open United States Senate race. In addition, Roll Call ran a piece about the groundwork that right wing conservative groups are doing to drop money in those races. On its face, the last piece of news doesn’t seem positive, but we think it is. [...]
The mere notion that Anderson and the Koch brothers are coming to Georgia will scare some people. But Democrats shouldn’t worry too much. Democrats have proven in the last two election cycles that we can match the money and strategies of the best of the third party groups. There will be no more swift boating of democratic candidates without response. If the big GOP super PACs enter Georgia next year, they will likely be met by democratic super PACs. At OrangeJuiceBlog of California, Irvine Valkyrie writes Irvine Svengali: Is Jeff Lalloway the Dick Cheney to Mayor Choi’s Bush?: Back during the George W. Bush presidency, many critics of the president  suspected and suggested that VP Dick Cheney was the real president, pulling the strings behind the scenes.   A similar dynamic seems to be taking place at the Irvine City Hall where many believe that Mayor Steven Choi is nothing more than a figurehead,with City Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Lalloway really calling the shots. Both publicly and behind the scenes, Lalloway is asserting his power and influence over the larger strategy of the Republican party in Irvine.

Writing in the Liberal OC, columnist Dan Chemielewski may have had an interesting find in his discovery of David Cordero, the Chief of Staff for Jeff Lalloway.  It’s not unusual for politicians in a large city like Irvine to have a Chief of Staff.  What is unusual is the fact that the Mayor, Steven Choi, does NOT have a Chief of Staff, while Jeff Lalloway does.

At ColoradoPols, Jason Salzman writes Will Tancredo’s GOP allies, like Coffman, denounce Tancredo’s anti-immigration views?:

Now that former Congressman Tom Tancredo is officially running for governor, you wonder how many Republicans will go out of their way to denounce Tanc's anti-anti-anti (that's triple anti-) immigration views.

It's a question reporters should put to Republicans (why not denounce Tancredo on immigration?) not only because numerous Republicans are trying to cozy up to Hispanics (See Gardner, Coffman, Penry) but also because many leading Colorado Republicans endorsed Tancredo over the years. [...]

As you know if you follow Tancredo from microphone to microphone, Tancredo's true conservative values start with immigration, which still comes up in one of every ten of his breaths.

More news and views from progressive state blogs can be found below the fold.

Dr. Radut