Obama to see Irene damage first hand

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-08-2011-05-2008

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First Read: On Wednesday the White House announced the president will travel to Paterson, N.J., to survey the damaged region.

Michigan state senator proposes privatizing teachers

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-08-2011-05-2008

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Apple with F

Michigan has already passed laws limiting collective bargaining for teachers and dropping the standard for teacher demotion from “reasonable and just cause” to anything short of “arbitrary and capricious” reasons. But Phil Pavlov, the head of the state Senate Education committee, wants to go well past that. Pavlov wants to privatize teachers:

“I look at it as offering options,” Pavlov said. “If there is something out there that can offer school officials the same options at a lower cost, schools need to take a look at that. It needs to part of the conversation on reform.”

[…]

The privatization piece would require teachers from a private firm to have all of the same qualifications as current instructors. The difference would be that school districts could take bids for instructional services once an existing contract expires.

First off, this is a naked attempt to worsen wages and working conditions for teachers. That’s a feature, not a bug.

Second, it would be terrible for students. High teacher turnover hurts student achievement, as a recent National Bureau of Economic Research report shows. The effects of teacher turnover go beyond the question of whether a bad teacher is replaced with a good one—high turnover has much broader effects, including effects on the students of teachers who stay at a school. Now imagine that teaching is contracted out to a private company that’s always trying to maximize profit by replacing existing teachers with cheaper ones. It’s not clear from descriptions of the bill (in fact, the details of the bill are not finalized), but conceivably, a private company could get the exclusive contract on a school and then a couple years later, when its contract ran out, be replaced by a cheaper company, producing massive teacher turnover all at once.

This is insane, and it’s coming from one of Michigan’s top lawmakers on education.

(h/t Eclectablog; see that diary for further discussion)


Ron Paul wants President Obama to reschedule his jobs speech because Republicans are having a debate

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-08-2011-05-2008

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Paul thinks Americans would rather watch this than see the president push for jobs
 

Dave Weigel reports that Ron Paul may formally object to President Obama’s jobs speech next week because it conflicts with a GOP presidential debate:

“Dr. Paul is weighing his options,” says the congressman’s campaign spokesman, Jesse Benton. “Our campaign, however, thinks it is undignified that the President of the United States would resort to such transparent tactics to step on our Republican debate. The real losers here are the American People who deserve the opportunity to hear from both the President and the GOP contenders.”

There’s something like twenty GOP presidential debates already in the calendar, including at least three of them next month alone. So if we have to put everything on hold every time they take the stage to blather on about how the Earth is 6,000 years old and how the most important issue facing the country is whether two people of the same sex want to get married, we’re going to be doing a lot of putting things on hold.

And while Ron Paul and tea partying Republicans might think their debate is more important than pushing Congress to finally get something done on job creation, I’ll bet every last cent in my pocket that the rest of America disagrees.

12:39 PM PT: HuffPost’s Michael Calderone reports that common sense prevails:

John Harris tells me NBC/Politico’s GOP presidential debate will be after Obama is done.


Obama pushes for transportation spending

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-08-2011-05-2008

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President Barack Obama, accompanied by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, left, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Chief Operating Officer David Chavern, speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2011, to urge Congress to pass a federal highway bill.Warning of dire consequences for the nation’s workers, President Barack Obama on Wednesday urged Congress to extend a federal highway bill that he said would protect a million jobs.

Midday open thread

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-08-2011-05-2008

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  • Good times:

    Lt. Dan Choi testified in his own defense yesterday for over three hours, arguing that his arrest for protesting Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell on the White House fence was a form of censorship. Today, his attorney Robert Feldman will question Randy Myers, assistant solicitor general at the Department of Interior, why he advised U.S. Park Police to pursue federal charges against Choi. The prosecution apparently made Choi an offer Friday to delay the trial four months and dismiss it if Choi avoids arrest in that time. Choi laughed and said no — at least not without an apology from Myers or a higher official.

  • Always nice to see the crazies disagree:

    Rep. Allen West (R-FL) criticized his fellow Tea Party Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) today over her call for oil drilling in the Florida Everglades. In an interview with the AP this weekend, Bachmann said we should look for new sources of domestic oil, offering the Everglades as a possible location. West rebuffed that suggestion at a town hall in Palm Beach Gardens today, calling it “an incredible faux pas,” the Palm Beach Post reports. “When I see her next week, I’ll straighten her out about that,” he added. West is a member of Bachmann’s Tea Party Caucus.

  • The protests continue:

    The protests against the sludge-oil-carrying Keystone Pipeline is growing. More arrests occurred today outside the White House, including actress Darryl Hannah this time, and protests sprung up in Minneapolis. NBC News (my emphasis):

    “Sometimes it’s necessary to sacrifice your freedom for a greater freedom,” Hannah said in Lafayette Park before her arrest. “And we want to be free from the horrible death and destruction that fossil fuels cause, and have a clean energy future.”

    With dozens of others, Hannah sat on the sidewalk in front of the White House and refused three requests from the Park Police to move.

    The group organizing the protest, Tar Sands Action, has said the Keystone pipeline — which will stretch from Canada to the Gulf — is among the most important environmental decisions that confront the president.

  • No doubt from the same people who voted for Bristol Palin week after week:

    “Dancing With the Stars” aims for provocative casts, and Chaz Bono joining the show this week has already yielded strong reaction — some of it ugly.  […]

    Among the other comments:

    “Chaz Bono How low can this show sink. Well you have certainly addressed the gay commuity. Guess this will not be a family show any longer!!!! Lost my family!”

    “YOUR choice to bring Chaz Bono into the mix goes too far. I am not about to risk the potential for on screen dialogue about sex changes and gender confusion while my 7 and 9 year old are watching. If you want the ‘anything goes’ hippy culture, then soon that is all you will get. You’ve lost us. In case any of you are wondering … no, we are NOT tolerant. We are not tolerant to allow any and all influences to come unfiltered into our home and especially to our children.

  • Comedy:

    Rachel Figueroa-Levin has a dog, three cats, five fish, a snake, a turtle, a parakeet, a gecko (“like the Geico lizard,” she explained) and two sugar gliders (picture little flying opossums). The gliders’ cage sits beside a screen that streams “Sesame Street” videos for her 9-month-old daughter, Adiella, whose playpen and bouncer are strategically arranged by the living room’s centerpiece: a Macintosh computer where Ms. Figueroa-Levin blogs, posts messages on Twitter, and writes about, well, anything.

    It was there, on Saturday morning, that @ElBloombito was born. Hurricane Irene was bearing down on New York City, and Ms. Figueroa-Levin was chuckling about Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s heavy American accent and prolific mispronunciations when he delivered warnings in Spanish about the storm during a news conference the previous night.

  • A very sad story:

    Vines creep across Tomioka’s empty streets, its prim gardens overgrown with waist-high weeds and meadow flowers. Dead cows rot where they were left to starve in their pens. Chicken coops writhe with maggots, a sickening stench hanging in the air.

    This once-thriving community of 16,000 people now has a population of one.

    In this nuclear no-man’s land poisoned by radiation from a disaster-battered power plant, rice farmer Naoto Matsumura refuses to leave despite government orders. He says he has thought about the possibility of getting cancer but prefers to stay – with a skinny dog named Aki his constant companion.

  • A list of the top 100 books off all-time … did your favorite make the list?
  • (Via DS) I have posted the full text of the Texas Space Alliance’s letter to politicians concerning the future of NASA

    “This funding transfer will rapidly accelerate the progress of American companies currently developing innovative crew and cargo transport vehicles here in the United States – all of which are based in or have significant and expanding operations in Texas,” said TXA’s Rick Tumlinson. “These companies; SpaceX, Boeing, Sierra Nevada, and Blue Origin are leading a revolution, and they need to see our legislators fighting for them – not against them.”


Palin/O’Donnell feud fouling up Tea Party for America rally

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-08-2011-05-2008

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Still calling the shots
(Roger H. Goun/Wikimedia Commons)

In your internal list of random political dramas that nobody really cares about but have implications anyway, feel free to add this one: Sarah Palin apparently no longer likes fellow crazy person Christine O’Donnell (of “I am not a witch” fame).

Why does this matter? Because bickering over it is really fouling up a major Tea Party of America rally in Iowa this weekend, making everyone involved look petty, incompetent, or both.

First Sarah Palin was scheduled to attend the Tea Party of America’s Iowa rally this weekend. Then Christine O’Donnell was invited. Then Christine O’Donnell was uninvited. Then she was re-invited. Now Palin is out. Maybe.

Easy to follow, right? According to the Wall Street Journal, Palin will not share the stage with O’Donnell, who she famously endorsed in 2010, because the ex-governor is sick of “continual lying” by the event’s organizers.

Now O’Donnell has been uninvited, again (she was uninvited once because even other tea partiers were complaining about the invite, but then re-invited, so this is now the second un-invitation). And maybe Palin will now be showing up again, but it’s still not confirmed.

Event organizers are being almost goofily circumspect about what’s going on, but every indication is that Palin just doesn’t want to be seen with O’Donnell:

Crow said two of [Palin’s latest] requests were logistical details: Email a copy of the program today, and address concerns about back-stage security and who will be allowed in that area.

Asked about the third request, Crow said: “Can I let that remain private for now?”

Meanwhile, Crow telephoned staff for O’Donnell, a Delaware Republican who ran for the U.S. Senate, to say she can’t speak at Saturday’s event.

“We’re all friends and she’s not coming,” he said, referring to O’Donnell.

Does Palin loathe O’Donnell, after once endorsing her? And if so, why? Wow … I really don’t care even one little bit. It is nice, however, to see the tea party and their heroes keeping up their usual dysfunctional patterns. To think: These people actually insist they know how to run our government.


Key Republican announces opposition to tar sands pipeline

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-08-2011-05-2008

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Gov. Dave Heineman

Gov. Dave Heineman

This is big news for the large coalition of groups, and individuals, fighting the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Nebraska’s Republican governor has written a letter urging President Obama and Sec. of State Clinton to reject a pending permit application for the pipeline.

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) urged President Obama on Wednesday to reject a pending permit application for a controversial pipeline that would carry Canadian oil sands through his state.

[…] Heineman stressed that he is not opposed to oil pipelines generally. But he blasted TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline because it would cross part of Nebraska’s Ogallala Aquifer, which provides water for the state’s farmers and ranchers.

“Maintaining and protecting Nebraska’s water supply is very important to me and the residents of Nebraska,” Heineman said in the letter. “This resources is the lifeblood of Nebraska’s agriculture industry.”

Heineman’s letter lends a high-profile Republican voice to ongoing efforts by environmentalists, ranchers, public lands groups and many Democrats to scuttle the project, which would carry Canadian oil sands from Alberta to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast.

The Republican governor rejected the State Department’s final environmental impact statement, which said a pipeline spill would “affect a limited area of the aquifer around the spill site.”

The State Department’s rather blasé attitude toward the potential environmental impacts of this pipeline has been blasted by the opposition, including NASA scientist James Hansen, who called the report greenwashing. Hansen’s argument is global, focusing on the global warming impacts that tar sands exploitation would create.

Heineman’s objection is, rightly, local, and it’s opposition that has stretched from Idaho and Montana, where the megaloads—massive trucks carrying equipment to the tar sands—threaten some of the most pristine waters in the lower 48, through all of the states where the actual pipeline will run.

Now that there’s bipartisan opposition to the plan, the White House might start taking it a little more seriously. It’s time that the president and his staff finally talk about the issue.

Don’t miss the extensive coverage of the issue by the Daily Kos community.


Back when Rick Perry was against destroying public documents…

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-08-2011-05-2008

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Shredder

Via Sam Stein, Houston Chronicle, June 9, 1994:

[Agriculture Commissioner Rick Perry] also took a swipe at [Governor Ann] Richards, whose staff shredded some phone records last year after misreading state rules on archiving public documents.

“My staff knows the difference between a file cabinet and a paper shredder,” Perry said.

Yet seventeen years later, they apparently they haven’t heard of a backup hard drive, because Rick Perry’s office automatically deletes all staffer emails after seven days.


USA Today: Tea party freshmen pushing legislation to help campaign donors

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-08-2011-05-2008

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Tea bag

USA Today releases a “review of legislative and campaign records” that shows freshmen lawmakers “are pushing legislation that could benefit some of their most generous campaign contributors.” For example:

Five months after taking office, Rep. Stephen Fincher, a cotton farmer from a mostly rural swath of Tennessee, introduced a bill to mandate swift federal approval of genetically modified crops for commercial sale. Fincher has received more campaign money from agribusiness than any other industry.

Here’s another: Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) is pushing a bill to help the mining industry avoid EPA regulation:

In the first six months of this year, the mining industry has contributed more than $176,000 to McKinley’s re-election effort — nearly double the amount he received from those interests in the two years leading up the 2010 election.

And let’s not forget Rep. Sean “Strugglin’ on $174k” Duffy (R-WI):

Duffy, who gets a significant portion of his campaign funds from financial services companies, is the lead sponsor of a measure that would dilute the powers of a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Thanks to those lawmakers and others like them:

House freshmen collected $37.2 million during the first six months of the year, a 34.3% jump over the campaign money raised by new House lawmakers at the same point in the 2010 election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission data.

A third of the donations this year to House freshmen who have joined the Tea Party caucus came from political action committees, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

With priorities like this, is it any wonder that tea party ratings are now at an all-time low?


Virginia governor splits with Cantor on disaster relief

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-08-2011-05-2008

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Gov. Bob McDonnell (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Via Think Progress, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has another problem (besides his record) in his insistence that disaster relief funding has to be offset by other cuts.

Now his governor, and fellow Republican, has publicly split with him over the issue.

Virginia GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell, breaking with Cantor, on Tuesday suggested that deficit-spending concerns should not be a factor as Congress and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) respond to the hurricane.

“My concern is that we help people in need,” McDonnell said during his monthly radio show. “For the FEMA money that’s going to flow, it’s up to them on how they get it. I don’t think it’s the time to get into that [deficit] debate.”

Before Irene hit, McDonnell had requested emergency help from FEMA in 10 districts, including Cantor’s. All the requests were granted. Roughly 360,000 people lost electricity in the metro-Richmond area – the hardest hit region in Virginia, according to local reports.

Ouch. That’s quite a dig there, concern that “we help people in need,” versus using the natural disaster in the political game that the deficit debate has become.