New Jersey Governor heads to UK for trade, politics, soccer

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-01-2015-05-2008

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Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie speaks at the Freedom Summit in Des MoinesBy Megan Davies and Hilary Russ NEW YORK (Reuters) – New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a likely 2016 Republican presidential contender, will be promoting his state's life sciences industry in a trip to the United Kingdom starting Sunday, where he is also scheduled to meet the Prime Minister and catch an Arsenal match. The UK is the third largest trading partner for New Jersey after Canada and Mexico, and the trip will focus on pursuing new opportunities for growth between UK and New Jersey in the field of life sciences, Christie told reporters on Friday in embargoed remarks. "One of the main objectives for the trip is to focus on the opportunities that exist between the UK and New Jersey and our country as a whole," said Christie.

Sunday Talk: Grifters gonna grift

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-01-2015-05-2008

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Last weekend, at Rep. Steve King’s first annual Iowa Freedom Summit, Sarah Palin let it be known that she is “seriously interested” in running for president in 2016.

And she isn’t the only one.

Donald Trump announced that he, too, is considering a presidential campaign; and, not only that, he claimed that he would’ve beaten President Obama in 2012—if it weren’t for those meddling kidsor something.

This news was warmly received on the left, but not so much on the right.

Conservative pundits and activists were quick to cast doubt about Palin and Trump’s real intentions, with many exhibiting outright hostility towards the prospect of either or both of them running.

Apparently, there’s only room enough in the field for two scam artists—and Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee already have those positions covered.

Open thread: Health care, black history, and Scott Walker’s poor priorities

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-01-2015-05-2008

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What’s coming up on Sunday Kos …

  • Religious freedom gives me the constitutional right to violate your constitutional rights. Right? by Ian Reifowitz
  • Is split-ticket voting dying? by Steve Singiser
  • Abortion: good intentions, or bad, and the road to hell, by Susan Grigsby
  • In King v. Burwell, we already know the plaintiffs are wrong. But will SCOTUS care? by Dante Atkins
  • Americans are enslaved by the most dependent of us all, the wealthy, by Egberto Willies
  • Scott Walker’s priorities are all wrong, by Mark E. Andersen
  • Five years later, GOP still has no plans for health care or tax reform, by Jon Perr
  • How much do you know about black history? by Denise Oliver Velez
  • Three billion miles to Pluto, by DarkSyde

Scott Walker as presidential contender? The jury’s still out.

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-01-2015-05-2008

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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at CPAC 2013.

Meh.

The short version of this piece is that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker should be taken seriously as a presidential candidate because while he is excruciatingly boring, a bad thing, he makes up for that by being a dedicated and creative con artist.

One of his biggest applause lines was his mention that Wisconsin requires photo identification before voting. That’s true, but Walker didn’t mention that the requirement has been blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court and may never be enforced.

Walker boasted about the “big and bold” tax cuts on his watch—$2 billion in savings for individuals and businesses—without mentioning the projected $2.2 billion budget shortfall Wisconsin faces in the coming two years.

That indeed can be considered a political “skill,” and one that plays well in critical-path Iowa (see: Joni Ernst). Whether or not Walker’s ability to steadfastly flee serious questioning can carry him through the rough-and-tumble of a Republican primary season is more dubious. Fleeing all serious questioning while somehow coming off as not the dullest and most generic person in the room is also a bit of a trick.

“I’m not negative about him, but I just look at what happened to Pawlenty,” Steve Roberts, a former Iowa Republican Party chairman said comparing Walker to the former Minnesota governor who sputtered out in the last Republican nomination race. “He’s a hero, but whether that is enough to take him to the next level is an open question.”

Walker is taken very seriously by a lot of people as a presidential threat. I admit I’m not one of them, at least not so far. It is true that Walker has achieved hero status in the conservative movement—primarily by wounding public unions and shoving through tax cuts that, coincidentally, have blown an identically sized hole in state budgets, go figure—but he will be placed in the same uncomfortable position as all the other primary candidates, having to decide between embracing far-right positions or being booed off the debate stage, and there has been no “Wisconsin miracle” that might catapult him into better contention or give him gravitas to compete against the other, more seasoned contenders. To be blunt, I think Jeb Bush would wipe the floor with this fella.

Walker also has a single looming negative that he has been able to dodge so far, but which will come up during any serious primary contest on day one and will be broadcast by every Super PAC and outside interest group in the nation by day two: The man is surrounded by political corruption. The man is apparently damn lucky not to be in jail himself, if released documents are any indication. Whether or not Walker himself has escaped the indictments that have dogged the people who have worked for and with him and have shared the same lunch table, the man’s political tenure has been so riddled with corruption that it makes BridgeGate look picayune in comparison. The press may be letting him skirt responsibility for all those staffers that have ended up in handcuffs, but no opposing political operative worth his or her salt or million-dollar fees would do the same. The mailers all but write themselves.

Big banks want to merge into bigger bank, run astroturf to pressure Fed

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-01-2015-05-2008

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A community protest at OneWest bank HQ in December 2014

Housing advocates protest OneWest Bank’s appalling record on foreclosures.

Two banks with troubled histories of foreclosures and squandered public bailouts are now asking the Federal Reserve to merge, making them “too big to fail”—and they are getting really creative in their tactics.

It is very rare for the Federal Reserve to deny bank mergers, but OneWest Bank is not taking any chances. They have set up an online petition to support the merger on the bank’s website that has netted 1,900 signatures.

The bank is even trying to pressure regulators to approve the merger with no public hearing, and the facts behind the two banks—OneWest and CIT Bank—make it clear why.

OneWest has a terrible record on foreclosures—they recently attempted to evict an 103-year-old Texas widow because she forgot to pay her homeowner’s insurance.

They are asking to merge with CIT Bank—who received $2.3 billion in taxpayer funds to help small businesses, and then filed for bankruptcy to be discharged of this obligation. If the Federal Reserve approves the merger, experts say they would become “too big to fail.”

Daily Kos was approached by consumer advocates, who asked for our assistance—so we set up our own online petition opposing the merger.

Please read below the fold for our progress so far.

Republican states at war over Obamacare case

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-01-2015-05-2008

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Supreme Court Justices John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Anthony Kennedy

It’s a war of words, anyway. In conflicting briefs submitted to the Supreme Court in the King v. Burwell health insurance subsidy case, Republican attorneys general argue either for or against the federal government’s case that the intent of the statue was to provide health insurance subsidies to all who qualify based on income, regardless of whether they got their insurance through a state or the federal market. There are six state Republicans arguing with the plaintiffs, and seven Republican states in a group of 22 agreeing with the feds.

And the evidence, as it has been throughout this case, is all on the side of the states on the side of the feds. As is Supreme Court precedence.

To prevail, however, the plaintiffs in King must do more than simply show that they have discovered the best way to read Obamacare’s text. Under the Supreme Court’s decision in Pennhurst State School and Hospital v. Halderman, a state cannot be bound by an alleged condition tucked into a federal grant program “if a State is unaware of the conditions or is unable to ascertain what is expected of it.” Rather, when Congress says that it will only pay out money if a state takes a particular action, the Supreme Court insists “that Congress speak with a clear voice.” Thus, if there is uncertainty about how to read the law, that uncertainty must be resolved against the plaintiffs’ reading and in favor of the view that the law does not make tax credits conditional upon anything.

And that’s not all the bad news for the King plaintiffs. Under the Supreme Court’s opinion in Arlington Central School District v. Murphy, the question of whether a state is able to ascertain whether federal money comes with conditions must be evaluated “from the perspective of a state official who is engaged in the process of deciding whether the State should accept . . . the obligations that go with those funds.” Thus, if there is a wealth of evidence showing that state officials did not read Obamacare in the same way the King plaintiffs do—and it turns out that there is—that evidence also cuts strongly against a decision for the plaintiffs in King. […]

On Wednesday, a much larger bloc of 22 states plus the District of Columbia filed their own brief opposing the King plaintiffs’ attempt to cut of tax credits. After reading that brief, it is not hard to guess why the smaller group of anti-Obamacare attorneys general were not able to muster any evidence for their position—there are piles of evidence demonstrating that the six attorneys general are simply wrong about how state officials understood the law.

So you’ve got six Republican AGs arguing that of course all the states completely understood that their residents were going to be penalized by not getting subsidies if they didn’t set up their own exchanges. And yet, they would argue, all those states decided to use the federal exchange and punish their own residents. Worse for them, there are actually statements by the governors and other officials on those six states clearly stating that they understood the law to mean that the states had flexibility and that their residents would get the subsidies, no matter what the state decided to do about setting up an exchange.

It’s a contradiction so glaring that a Supreme Court justice would have to be completely blinded by ideology not to acknowledge. I can think of at least three who will fit that description.

Do any Republicans really believe what they’re telling the SCOTUS now about Obamacare?

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-01-2015-05-2008

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Paul Ryan with nose extended like Pinocchio

The standard line from Republicans now that the Supreme Court has decided to hear the challenge to Obamacare subsidies in King v. Burwell is that, of course, they all knew that Congress meant to exclude millions of people from getting federal subsidies to purchase their insurance. They insist, in propping up the ridiculous case, that Congress was using the stick of withholding subsidies on the federal exchange to make states establish their own. This is critical to the plaintiffs’ case, which is based on the presumption that Congress really meant for the Affordable Care Act not to be affordable for millions of people.

The problem with this newfound orthodoxy is that none of them seemed to notice back when the law was passed or as it was being implemented that this was the case. In fact, they all seemed to accept the exact opposite interpretation—subsidies would be available on both the state and federal exchanges.

An August 2013 letter to then-Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius shows how Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) made this exact shift. Back then, Ryan declared these subsidies would cost taxpayers more than $1 trillion—an amount only possible if they were available nationally, not just in the 15 state-run exchanges in place at the time.

This acknowledgment of the Affordable Care Act tax credits for low- and middle-income households in every state contradicts a brief Ryan and 14 other GOP lawmakers filed to the Supreme Court last month. […]

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wy.) is another of the 15 Republican lawmakers whose brief to the Supreme Court declares subsidies were only meant for state-run exchanges. But in 2011, Barrasso had a different point of view, Salon reported Tuesday.

At a press conference touting legislation that would have allowed states to opt out of Affordable Care Act insurance regulations, Barrasso stated the subsidies in question would be provided no matter what a state did. Taxpayers are “not going to give up that right to have an opportunity to use that money,” he said.

That same year, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who was chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, issued a report titled “Uncovering the True Impact of the Obamacare Tax Credits.” In the footnotes of that report, he and his staff adopted the argument that Obamacare defenders now use to defend the legality of sending subsidies to all eligible recipients, regardless of what exchange they shop on. […]

Also in 2011, Republicans unanimously supported a bill using subsidy funding to pay for a change in tax law. Doing so explicitly assumed those tax credits were national, as The New Republic reported last week.

Huffington Post tried to get a comment from Ryan’s spokesperson, Brendan Buck, about the glaring inconsistency, but he refused to address it, saying instead that the “increasingly half-baked ‘evidence’ that defenders of the law are citing is revealing quite a sense of rising panic that Obamacare is in real trouble.” Not that one should expect substance from Ryan or his staff. But the reality is—as usual with Republicans—that they have no problem at all with making shit up. Even if it is diametrically opposed to the shit they made up previously.

What’s the state of income inequality in your state? Bad, terrible, or appalling?

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-01-2015-05-2008

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Average share of growth during economic expansions captured by the top 1%, 1949-2012. The expansion beginning in 2009 is startlingly more to the top 1% than others, but overall there's a marked increase after 1979.

The top one percent is out of control. As the economy recovered from recession between 2009 and 2012, the top one percent sucked up an estimated 95 percent of all income growth in the United States. There were 39 states where the top one percent took at least half of the income growth in that period. Emphasis on “at least”:

The states in which all income growth between 2009 and 2012 accrued to the top 1 percent include Delaware, Florida, Missouri, South Carolina, North Carolina, Connecticut, Washington, Louisiana, California, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Idaho, Massachusetts, Colorado, New York, Rhode Island, and Nevada.

That’s 17 states, if you’re counting. In another seven states, more than 80 percent of the income growth went to the top one percent.

If you’re wondering why raises have been few and far between for a generation, this is your answer. Between 1979 and 2007:

… the average income of the bottom 99 percent of U.S. taxpayers grew by 18.9 percent. Simultaneously, the average income of the top 1 percent grew over 10 times as much—by 200.5 percent.

There are four states—Nevada, Wyoming, Michigan, and Alaska—where the average income of the bottom 99 percent actually fell while the top one percent just kept getting richer. Related: How messed up is it that when we talk about the American economy these days, we talk about “the bottom 99 percent”? That shouldn’t even be a meaningful concept for “bottom,” but given the way income and wealth are skewed, it makes perfect sense in this context.

Spotlight on green news views: Senate okays Keystone XL, Obama opens more offshore drilling

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-01-2015-05-2008

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That video was captured by by EdMass and retitled Climate Change: The Best Evah Weather Report.

Many environmentally related posts appearing at Daily Kos each week don’t attract the attention they deserve. To help get more eyeballs, Spotlight on Green News & Views (previously known as the Green Diary Rescue) normally appears twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The most recent Wednesday Spotlight can be seen here. More than 21,740 environmentally oriented diaries have been rescued for inclusion in this weekly collection since 2006. Inclusion of a diary in the Spotlight does not necessarily indicate my agreement with or endorsement of it.

Because of the relatively small number of eco-diaries the past few days, the categories usually included with the Green Spotlight have been dropped for this edition only.

The Ugly Truth about Methane Pollution from Fracking—by Earthworks Action: “Recently, the Obama administration came out with its plans to regulate methane from oil and gas wells. These rules will be the first of their kind, and underscore two of the most important problems with fracking-enabled oil and gas production—its impact on the climate and its impact on human health. Oil and gas operations across the country are a major source of air pollution of all types. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), coupled with nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide (together known as NOx) and sunlight, produce ozone, which is hazardous to human health and can cause premature death. Exposure to hydrogen sulfide gas, found in many shale oil and gas formations, can cause difficulty in breathing and eye and throat irritation. High levels of exposure can be fatal. Families living with oil and gas development nearby experience these health impacts when the wind blows these toxic chemicals near homes and schools. Earthworks has documented this VOC pollution using our FLIR Gasfinder camera—you can hear the stories of people living with this type of development and see the invisible pollution we’ve captured using infrared technology.”

green dots

NRDC Attorney Defends Clean Air Act Health Standards From Attack by Energy-in-Depth—by LakeSuperior: “I’ve been a member of the national environmental group, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), for 40 years. I still remember the first NRDC workproduct I ever reviewed. It was a 1974 briefing paper on the Clean Air Act of 1970 and what state air pollution control program requirements had to be met to gain EPA approval of individual State Implementation Plans. NRDC is a principle guardian and steward of the Clean Air Act, including the heart of  the Act with Senator Muskie’s vision and enactment of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to protect public health from common pollutants called “criteria pollutants” named for the Air Quality Criteria that are the basis for EPA’s setting of NAAQS. In this recent blogpost, NRDC Attorney John Walke, a former EPA air enforcement attorney, shows Democrats and everyone else, just how public trust defense of the Clean Air Act and outstanding, highly effective environmental & public health advocacy is done.”

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

View from the left—the 2016 Republican dilemma

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-01-2015-05-2008

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Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) delivers remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, March 15, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst    (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR3F259

Nothing has been quite so clear in the past couple weeks as just how out of step the GOP establishment is with the GOP base—a disconnect that has stunning implications for 2016.

Only a few weeks ago, for instance, Republican strategists started selling the idea that a Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide would neutralize the issue for Republicans on the campaign trail. They could simply say what Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker did after a federal appeals court ruled in favor of marriage equality and the Supreme Court declined to hear the state’s challenge to the decision.

“For us, it’s over in Wisconsin,” he told reporters.

But Rep. Steve King’s Iowa summit last weekend proved that to be nothing but wishful thinking. Even as some GOP hopefuls tried to sidestep the topic, here’s what one conservative Republican who has first-hand experience with Hawkeye State politics had to say about the issue.

“If you dodge the question, then it’s the kiss of death,” said social conservative Sam Clovis, who finished second behind Joni Ernst in last year’s Iowa GOP Senate primary. “Candidates have got to be declarative about where they stand. Period.”

“If you’re not vocally pro-life and pro-traditional marriage, I don’t think you can win here because you’re going to get hammered,” added Clovis.

And it’s not just the voters pushing the divide, it’s the candidates. Head below the fold for more on the GOP dilemma.