Good morning! It’s National Hat Day, so dress appropriately. Here are some of the stories we’re reading on a crisp Wednesday in NYC…
Fight continues –> A federal judge has ordered supervision for elections in Evergreen, Alabama, through 202o — the first such ruling since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act last year.
Speaking of Alabama –> Salon’s Natasha Lennard writes that the case of Roger Shuler, the blogger imprisoned indefinitely for refusing to remove posts about local politicians, is even worse than some outlets have reported.
But still no high-level bankers –> Josh Harkinson reports for MoJo that an 83-year-old nun who broke into a weapons complex in an act of protest faces 30 years in prison.
R.I.P. –> Michael Hiltzik in the LAT: “Net neutrality is dead. Bow to Comcast and Verizon, your overlords.”
Report card –> ProPublica’s Charles Ornstein grades Obamacare at the midway point of the rollout.
Love wins again –> Oklahoma gay marriage ban ruled unconstitutional. The decision won’t go into effect pending a certain appeal. ALSO: Amanda Holpuch reports for The Guardian that a prominent Republican gay rights advocate who co-founded GOProud is quitting the party over its “tolerance of bigotry.
Good morning, and happy Ratification Day! 230 years ago, the Treaty of Paris was ratified by the Confederation Congress, officially ending the Revolutionary War — it’s been a pretty good run since. Here are some of the stories we’re reading on this historic day…
Old-school detective work beats spying –> Analysis of 225 terror cases by the New America Foundation, reported by WaPo’s Ellen Nakashima, finds that NSA surveillance did little to make us safer. According to the study, traditional law enforcement techniques have been highly effective.
They really want a war –> Just days before the interim agreement with Iran goes into effect, Carol Lee reports for the WSJ that the House plans to pass new sanctions that threaten to undermine the current detente.
Race to the top –> At TNR, Nancy Cohen reports that Los Angeles is considering a $15 per hour minimum wage for hotel workers. It joins Seattle and Chicago in considering $15 per hour laws for at least some groups of workers.
Fallujah, ten years after the battle –> At The Guardian, USMC vet Ross Caputi says that exaggerated claims about Fallujah being taken over by al Qaeda today remind him of the same false claims made in 2004. Click through for what he sees as the real story.
High cost of lax regulation –> MoJo’s Chris Mooney says that the West Virginia chemical spill highlights our government’s coddling of the industry.
Power struggle –> Scotusblog’s Lyle Denniston runs down what’s at stake in a challenge to presidents’ recess appointment powers before the Supreme Court.
Money makes you selfish –> At Pacific Standard, Tom Jacobs looks at a new study which finds that people are less willing to help others if they’ve just held some cash in their hand.
And in dinosaur news –> Scientists believe they’re observed modern alligators and crocodiles using lures to trick their prey. If their use of tools is confirmed, it could tell us something about the complexity of dinosaur behavior, according to Brian Switek at NatGeo.
Plutocracy much? –> Daniel Byce reports for the Milwaukee J-S that a wealthy GOP donor, frustrated by how much child support he was ordered to pay, is trying to go around the courts by having a friendly lawmaker write a law capping child support for high-earners.
Big money behind perma-war –> At AJA, Jonathan Turley looks at how big bucks from the military-industrial complex helps keep the US on a permanent war footing, and what that does for our economy.
Yet some progress on peace –> Jay Solomon, Carol Lee and Laurence Norman report for the WSJ that Iran will begin rolling back its nuclear program in a week as the interim agreement with the US and other powers goes into effect.
TPP on the rocks? –> At the HuffPo, Michael McAuliff and Zach Carter report that the Obama administration’s big trade deal isn’t being received well by Congressional Dems.
Here’s a good idea –> At ThinkProgress, Bryce Covert notes that for what the government already spends on indirect subsidies and loans, it could make public colleges tuition-free for all current students.
“The degenerate races” — At The Fix, drug policy analyst Maia Szalavitz recalls the racist history of pot prohibition.
Telling –> Republican national committeeman Dave Agema thinks Russia’s anti-gay laws are just a matter of “common sense,” according to Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade.
Death’s icy grip –> Fascinating longread from over the weekend: Peter Stark writes beautifully about what it’s like to freeze to death for Outdoor Magazine.
Christie bullied whom? –> Rachel Maddow raises the possibility that “Bridgegate” was done in retaliation for something other than the non-endorsement of the mayor of Fort Lee (video).
Climate bizzaro-world –> At DeSmogBlog, James Powell notes that only one out of over 9,000 authors of peer-reviewed scientific papers published last year rejects the reality of climate change caused by humans.
Potentially big deal –> Sarah Kliff reports for the WaPo that Maryland is about to embark on an experiment in health care cost-control that could have wide-ranging ramifications for our insanely expensive system.
Confusing cause and effect –> At TAP, Matt Bruenig argues that those who believe the decline in marriage has led to more poverty are getting it backwards.
LIZ!! –> Elizabeth Warren offers new legislation that would require regulators to disclose details of the settlement deals they cut with banks allowing them to avoid prosecution.
Smells like freedom! –> 300,000 residents of West Virginia are without water — and bars, restaurants and schools have been shut down — after a company called Freedom Industries spilled a toxic chemical used in the coal industry into the Charleston river. Regulators discovered the leak by following the odor.
Corporate indoctrination –> Radio Disney is in hot water for touring Ohio schools with a program touting the wonders of fracking that was funded entirely by the energy industry. Peter Moskowitz reports for AJA.
Cuomo vs de Blasio? –> At The Nation, Bryce Covert writes that universal pre-K — a central campaign promise of NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio — will be a big test for Andrew Cuomo, the state’s fiscally conservative governor.
Headline says it all –> Jeff Bryant at Salon: “The truth about charter schools: Padded cells, corruption, lousy instruction and worse results.”
Fake –> At Washington Monthly’s “Ten Miles Square” blog, Daniel Luzer points out that the Duck Dynasty crew were a bunch of clean-cut yuppies until TV transformed them into “genuine” rednecks.
My, that’s big! –> James Morgan reports for BBC that astronomers have measured the size of the universe to 1 percent accuracy. Spoiler alert: it’s really big.
Smokey but no Bandit –> The Houston Chronicle reports that an 18-wheeler caught on fire near Austin, Texas. But the truck was filled with Coors so an off-duty firefighter was able to extinguish the blaze with beer.
The EPA has published a rule first proposed in September that would cap carbon emissions on new power plants and make construction of the kind of coal-powered plants currently in operation across much of the US illegal. The initiative is one of the most substantive regulations to come out of President Obama’s climate change speech, delivered in June of last year. Joanna M. Foster has the story at ThinkProgress:
The regulation mandates that all future coal plants can emit just 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour. An average US coal plant currently dumps over 1,700 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for every megawatt-hour of energy it produces. The rule also covers new natural-gas fired plants. Natural gas plants, 100 megawatts or larger, will be limited to 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour, while smaller plants could emit no more than 1,100 pounds.
Modern combined-cycle natural gas plants are essentially already able to meet this standard. The rule, will however, make it very difficult for new coal-fired power plants to be built in the United States. Utilities will only be able to build new coal plants if they are able to capture 20 to 40 percent of the carbon they emit and store it underground. This technology is known as carbon capture and storage (CCS). Many coal advocates in Congress and fossil-fuel industry leaders have argued that the standard is designed to nix new coal plant construction, claiming that the CCS technology needed to meet the standard simply isn’t ready for commercial deployment.
One of America’s best known scientists, Neil deGrasse Tyson, is reviving the late Carl Sagan’s popular television series Cosmos, which aired on PBS in 1980. Starting this spring, Tyson will host Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, premiering Sunday, March 9, 2014 on Fox and airing the following night on the National Geographic Channel.
Tyson, an astrophysicist with a gift of explaining complicated ideas simply, told Bill in a recent Moyers & Company episode that the new Cosmos will continue Sagan’s “epic exploration of our place in the universe,” and examine new discoveries of the past four decades.
“We have other stories to tell beyond the ones that went on back then … At the time of the original series, there were no known planets outside of those orbiting the sun. Right now, we’re rising through 1,000 planets happily orbiting stars that are not the sun. So that’s not simply new science. It’s new vistas of thought and imagination,” said Tyson.
According to the Fox website the new show, will “re-invent celebrated elements of the legendary original series, including the Cosmic Calendar and the Ship of the Imagination. The most profound scientific concepts will be presented with stunning clarity, uniting skepticism and wonder, and weaving rigorous science with the emotional and spiritual into a transcendent experience.”
And here’s a fun fact showing there may be order in the universe: Tyson met Carl Sagan while in high school and applying to colleges. Unbeknownst to Tyson, his application to Cornell was forwarded to Sagan, who was a professor of astronomy at the university. Sagan sent Tyson a letter inviting him for a personal tour of Cornell, which he accepted. ”One of my favorite memories is he reaches back, pulled out one of the books that he wrote and signed it to me, and I said to myself, ‘That is awesome. If I ever am in a position of influence the way he is, then I will surely interact with students the way he has interacted with me,’” Tyson told Bill.
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is co-produced by Seth Macfarlane, of Family Guy and Ted fame, and Ann Druyan, the widow of Carl Sagan and one of the coproducers of the original Cosmos. As with the original series, there will be 13 episodes.
“A routine school disciplinary infraction should land a student in the principal’s office, not in a police precinct.” — Eric Holder
The Department of Justice issued new guidance Wednesday aimed at curbing harsh, discriminatory over-punishment of school discipline violations. The materials disseminated with the Department of Education aim to increase legal compliance after DOJ filed several lawsuits against cities that dole out criminal punishment to students for violations as minor as dress code violations.
“A routine school disciplinary infraction should land a student in the principal’s office, not in a police precinct,” US Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday.
These policies have trapped students in what is known as the school-to-prison pipeline, which funnels students out of the classroom and into the criminal justice system. This pipeline has had a dramatic disproportionate impact on black students with disabilities. Fueling this trend are “zero tolerance” policies that impose harsh punishment for minor violations, and oftentimes remove school officials’ discretion. In some states such as Michigan, zero tolerance is mandated by a state law. The DOJ’s announcement is supported by reports and research that paint a picture of perverse, counter-productive school disciplinary policy: MORE
Bully gets a scandal –> Traffic-jam-gate has blossomed into a full-blown scandal for NJ governor Chris Christie. At WaPo, Ezra Klein says that Christie’s real problem heading toward 2016 is that he’s a genuine bully.
Country of millionaires, sort of –> Norway has taken its oil revenues and banked them, creating a huge sovereign wealth fund whose assets reached the equivalent of one million Krones per citizen ($160,000). Allistair Doyle reports for Reuters.
Speaking of governors –> At ThinkProgress, Bryce Covert reports that Maine Governor Paul LePage’s quest to root out food stamp fraud turned up almost no food stamp fraud. This always happens.
Speaking of millionaires –> Richard Trumka writes in The Guardian that Steve Forbes, who’s worth over $400 million, is launching a campaign against raising the minimum wage.
Going on offense on repro rights –> Salon’s Katie McDonough reports that lawmakers in Vermont are considering legislation that would codify a woman’s right to choose in state law.
Not that into science –> Over at The Atlantic, David Graham wonders why the share of Republicans who believe in evolution has dropped off dramatically in a few short years.
Alaska next? –> Hunter Stuart reports for HuffPo that Alaska voters will likely vote to legalize marijuana in August, after organizers delivered 45,000 petitions for a referendum on the question.
War on Terror –> Obama recently said he’d be “open” to repealing the 2003 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, which paved the way for the Iraq war. According to Olivier Knox at Yahoo News, Sen. Rand Paul plans to offer legislation to do so this Friday.
Good morning! Here are some of the stories we’re reading as we try to keep warm on a freezing morning in NYC…
Revealed –> 40 years ago, a couple of burglars broke into an FBI office and exposed COINTELPRO, a program to surveil and undermine domestic political groups. Now they they’re beyond prosecution, the burglars have come forward for a new book — Mark Mazzetti reports for the NYT.
Battle continues –> At The Hill, Alexander Bolton writes that we should expect the fight over extended unemployment benefits to consume DC during the next few months.
60 Minutes at it again –> Fresh off of its embarrassing Benghazi report, CBS offers a factually challenged narrative about renewable energy. Zoë Carpenter catalogs the problems for The Nation.
Closing the courthouse doors –> At Politico, labor lawyer Craig Becker explains how a court’s little-noticed ruling threatens the right of all workers to take their bosses to court.
Ideological harm –> TPM’s Dylan Scott offers a chart showing the human cost of “Obamacare sabotage.”
Beaten down –> W.J. Hennigan and Maria La Ganga report for the LAT that the raw deal Boeing machinists in Washington state accepted in order to keep production of the 777 shows how weak labor is today.
Polluted –> AP investigation in four fracking-friendly states reveals that contamination issues are far more common than the states reported.
Yellen era commences –> At the National Journal, Michael Hirsh says that newly confirmed Fed Chief Janet Yellen’s agenda has the potential to transform our economic discourse.
Clueless –> The deficit has been cut by half since 2009, but as John Aziz notes at The Week, the vast majority of Americans never get the memo.
In brief –> The great Jim Hightower ponders what a tranquil Texas county could possibly do with a 14-ton, mine-resistant and ambush-protected armored vehicle.
A strange idea of reform –> Nebraska GOP senate candidate says that since all the lobbyists are in Washington, DC, simply moving the nation’s capitol to Nebraska might fix our corrupted democracy. Ed Kilgore has some fun with it at WaMo.
Baby it’s cold outside –> Jon Stewart loses his mind over conservative claims that cold weather disproves climate science.
The Moral Mondays protests that began in North Carolina in 2012 in response to extreme right-wing policies are spreading to Georgia.
Over the past year, droves of activists in North Carolina have descended on the state legislature building to demand that lawmakers reverse some of their more brutal policies such as cutting unemployment benefits, refusing to expand Medicaid and rolling back voting rights. Thousands of people showed up for North Carolina’s Moral Mondays to disrupt the legislative session with acts of civil disobedience, resulting in the arrests of more than 900 individuals.
Now Moral Mondays are coming to Georgia.
Progressives from across the state will gather during the legislative session beginning on January 13 to express their concerns about what the Atlanta Progressive News calls the “extremist veto-proof Republican-led Legislature that is working in concert with a like-minded Gov. Nathan Deal.”
Georgia progressives’ complaints will sound familiar to the North Carolina Moral Mondays crowd: Gov. Deal’s failure to expand Medicaid, efforts to put restive voting measure in place and education spending policies that divert funds from public schools to private schools.
Moral Mondays Georgia describe themselves as “a multiracial, multi-issue coalition of citizens working for positive change for the public good.”
“Georgia has gone hard right at a time when income equality is at its height, unemployment is high, we have the creation of an economy designed to provide low paying, dead-end jobs and we need an effort to respond to that,” said State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), who will be speaking at the rally. “Moral Mondays is exactly that kind of effort.”
Speakers in addition to Fort will include Rev. Timothy McDonald III from First Iconium Baptist Church, Georgia NAACP President Francis Johnson, North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William Barber, and Georgians directly affected by lack of access to Medicaid. Barber started the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina.
Tim Franzen, from the Quaker social justice organization American Friends Service Committee, as well as Occupy Atlanta and Occupy Our Homes, told The GA Voice he is very excited that Moral Mondays is coming to his home state.
“We’ve been really inspired and it’s like nothing we’ve seen since the civil rights movement. It has forced people in North Carolina and all over the country to look at state budgets not as a random shopping list but as a list of our moral priorities,” he says.
Franzen added he’s distressed by Gov. Deal’s decision not to accept federal funds for the Medicaid expansion.
“It’s the ultimate insult to hardworking people, to struggling folks who are working their butts off at a fast food joint or Wal-Mart, and here’s an opportunity where they can get free healthcare,” he says. “We’re talking about real lives here, real beating hearts that are going to die because of ideological stubbornness. We find it unacceptable, both morally and fiscally.”
But organizers caution that the first Georgia Moral Mondays won’t be on the same scale as the North Carolina protests, and might not feature arrests. Rather, the January gathering will set the tone for future actions.
Franzen told The GA Voice, “We hope the governor will come to his senses and do what is morally right, and if not then people might fill up the jail.”
“These opportunities for educational outreach will bring together a remarkable cross-section of people representing different groups, causes and identities, coalescing around a common agenda of fundamental human rights and equality,” the Atlanta Progressive News explains.
Reverend Timothy McDonald from First Iconium Baptist Church in East Atlanta wants members of his congregation to join the Moral Mondays protest.
WABE 90.1 FM:
“Georgia is one of those states, and we aren’t surprised, who doesn’t want to extend Medicaid. It would help over 600,000 Georgians, and it would bring in all kinds of money, federal money, into our state.”
After the service, McDonald said expanding Medicaid would greatly help his churchgoers.
“There are people in our congregation and probably every congregation who don’t have any kind of health care”.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 400,000 people in Georgia will be denied Medicaid coverage by state leaders.
“The fact that Governor Deal would turn down Medicaid money is a shame and a crime before God. Folks under the Gold Dome say that [Medicaid] is a Grady problem or an Atlanta problem. Let’s be real—what they are saying is that Medicaid is a black problem, but it’s about hospitals statewide,” State Senator Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) said at a recent rally outside of Grady Hospital, the largest hospital in Georgia.
“There are six hospitals in the Piedmont Healthcare System. One in Pickens County, one in Henry County and one in a rural county in North Georgia. Some of these hospitals are in counties that are not predominantly African American or Democratic. Some are in Republican, rural and suburban counties. This is not an Atlanta problem, but a Georgia problem,” Sen. Fort said.
He added: “Every year, a thousand people die for every one million people who don’t have health care. Don’t take my word for this, the Harvard Medical School did this research. Because of Governor Deal’s partisan politics, the six hundred and fifty thousand Georgians who do not have health care, six to seven hundred of them will die next year.”
Allison Kilkenny is the co-host of the progressive political podcast Citizen Radio and independent journalist who blogs at allisonkilkenny.com. Her work has appeared in The American Prospect, the LA Times, In These Times, Truthout and the award-winning grassroots NYC newspaper the Indypendent.
Numbers keep getting bigger –> In 2012, we’d never heard of the Koch brothers-backed Freedom Partners. As media orgs continue to dig into the shadowy group, the amount of money we know it spent keeps growing — in today’s WaPo, Matea Gold reports that the group raised $400 million.
Iraq war: the sequel? –> At The Nation, Greg Mitchell says that while there won’t be boots on the ground, more US military action in Iraq is likely after al Qaeda-aligned militants seized control of Fallujah.
Labor on the precipice –> Salon’s Josh Eidelson on a key case coming up before the Supreme Court which could result in all public workers falling under the disastrous Right-to-Work-for-Less law.
The rich are different –> At Slate, Matthew Hutson looks at new research which finds that the wealthy believe they are inherently superior to — and more deserving than — the rest of us.
Related? –> Robert Reich says that 2013 was a high-water mark in wealth redistribution — that is, in upward redistribution from America’s working majority to its investor class.
Freaking out –> In Utah, opponents of marriage equality are calling for an “uprising,” and one of them has launched a hunger strike. Tony Merevick reports for Buzzfeed. UPDATE: This morning, the Supreme Court blocked same-sex marriages from being performed in Utah until the state’s appeal is heard by a federal appeals court in Denver. Adam Liptak has the breaking story for the NYT.
Enforcing laws is so pre-9/11 –> FBI quietly drops law enforcement as its highest priority. John Hudson reports for FP that the agency is now focused primarily on national security.
At the end of this week’s edition of Moyers & Company, Bill updates our interview from last year with public health historians Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner , reporting on the recent California court decision that three lead paint companies created “a public nuisance” by concealing the dangers of lead. According to Markowitz and Rosner, the companies “pursued a campaign against the regulation of lead and actively promoted the use of lead paint in homes, despite knowing that it was highly toxic…
“Lead paint was outlawed for residential purposes by the Federal Government more than 35 years ago, yet it is still present in more than five million homes built prior to 1978 in the represented cities and counties, and continues to threaten the health of California’s families and children. In 2009 alone, 10,875 children in the cities and counties prosecuting the case had been poisoned by lead.”
Judge James P. Kleinberg of the Santa Clara Superior Court ruled that “[t]he Defendants against whom judgment is entered, jointly and severally, shall pay to the State of California $1,100,000,00… into a specifically designated, dedicated, and restricted abatement fund.” The more than a billion dollars will be used to remove paint from all homes that meet the fund’s criteria in ten California cities and counties, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland and San Diego. MORE
ER –> New study finds that increasing Medicaid enrollment leads to more, not fewer, trips to the emergency room for treatment. Sarah Kliff with the details at WaPo.
NRA with peace signs –> The SFChron’s Carla Marinucci reports on the growth of the Liberal Gun Club, whose members are otherwise progressive but just as reactionary as the NRA in their opposition to even modest gun safety laws
Fired –> The title of this fascinating Deadspin post by marriage equality activist Chris Kluwe says it all: “I Was An NFL Player Until I Was Fired By Two Cowards And A Bigot”
Ohio civil war –> At the Daily Beast, David Freedlander looks at the simmering conflict between Republican Governor John Kasich and his erstwhile tea party supporters.
Let your crazy shine –> Local NC politician says he’s quitting to start a write-in candidacy against Senator Kay Hagan on the Constitution Party platform. The twist? He wrote his resignation in Klingon.
Good morning, and a belated happy New Year! Here are some of the stories we’re reading as we get back into the groove for 2014…
Blocked –> The AP’s Jesse Holland reports that Justice Sonia Sotomayor has issued a temporary injunction against the ACA’s requirement that insurers include contraceptives on their lists of copay-free preventive medicines.
Bad news –> New study suggests that “cloud mixing” will force global temperatures to the high end of previous estimates. Dan Vergano reports for National Geographic.
Keep the bums in? –> In the LAT, Mark Barabak makes the counterintuitive argument that despite Congress’ pathetic approval ratings, highly polarized voters will likely blame the other party and the result may be that they end up sending most incumbents back to DC for another term.
Speaking of Congress –> Joshua Green writes at Businessweek that the end of extended unemployment benefits for 1.3 million people just after Christmas is going to hurt not only the long-term jobless, but the larger economy as well.