Friday, September 30, 2011

Gallup: The Continuing Democratic Voter Enthusiam Gap

Democrats and independents who always vote Democratic, otherwise known as the Democratic base, are not enthusiastic about the upcoming Presidential election year according to a new Gallup poll.

When the Democratic base voters and activists are enthusiastic about an election Democrats usually win that election.

In the 2008 election about 80% of the Democratic base was very enthusiastic about the election. Obama and Democratic congressional candidates won big at the polls that year.

In contrast, the Democratic base, disappointed by the failure of elected Democrats to stand up to Republican and defend progressive values as strongly as Republicans defend conservative values, polled an enthusiasm level of only 60 percent. The 2010 enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans allowed Teapublican candidates to win control of the U.S. House, as well as many state legislatures and governors' mansions.

According to the new Gallup poll, the gap between the Democrats’ level of enthusiasm compared to the Republicans’ level of enthusiasm is the largest it has been in a decade. A large enthusiasm gap is a bad thing in any political environment, but it’s especially problematic for the Obama campaign, which depended on high enthusiasm to get large turnout numbers from infrequent voters groups, such as young adults in 2008.

After the 2010 Democratic wipeout there was some hope among Democrats that the 2012 Congressional elections wouldn’t be as bad because having Obama on the ballot would inspire his 2008 surge voters to come out again. At this point though, it looks as if Obama’s ability to increase base enthusiasm or turnout is limited.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Poll: Republicans in Congress Help The “Haves” More Than The “Have Nots”

Almost half of all respondents to a new Washington Post poll say Republicans in Congress are doing more to help the “haves” than “have nots,” with fewer than a third saying the GOP treats both sides equally. A tiny 7 percent say Republican lawmakers are helping the have-nots. For contrast, a plurality say President Obama treats society’s “haves” and “have-nots” about equally.

Washington Post:

Nearly half of all Americans say President Obama treats society’s “haves” and “have-nots” about equally, perhaps blunting Republican criticism that he is engaged in “class warfare.” Still, nearly three in 10 see the president as overly favoring the “have-nots,” according to a new Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll. Half as many see the president as favoring the “haves.”

Public opinion about Republicans is a bit harsher: almost half say Republicans in Congress are doing more to help the haves, with fewer -- under a third -- saying the GOP treats both sides of the divide about equally.

Yet, despite worsening economic conditions -- and a growing gap between rich and poor -- fewer than half of all Americans, 45 percent, see society as fundamentally divided between haves and have-nots. A slim 52 percent majority say it is not, though that number has dropped significantly since the early days of the Obama administration.

When asked to classify themselves, 48 percent of poll respondents identify among the haves and 34 percent among the have-nots. Current opinions on these questions are close to their long term trends.

Nearly three-quarters of African Americans say society is divided, compared with 40 percent of whites. And more than half of African Americans identify as being among the have-nots. Most whites identify as being among the haves.

Republicans are more apt than others to see Obama helping the have-nots. About four in 10 see this happening, with 16 percent seeing him helping the haves and 31 percent treating both equally. A 46 percent plurality of independents see Obama helping both.

Judgment about the Republicans in Congress is more clear cut, with 47 percent overall seeing them helping the haves; a slender 7 percent the have-nots. That’s very similar to views of former presidents George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan in Pew and Gallup polls.

More than seven in 10 Democrats say Republicans are biased toward the haves. But 60 percent of Republicans say their own party is treating each group about equally. More independents, 46 percent, say the GOP is preferring the haves, while 34 percent say they treat haves and have-nots equally.

Read the full poll results.

Boston Globe: A Deep Health Care Divide In Texas

This Boston Globe story speaks volumes. The average percentage of uninsured working adults in this country is 22%, the average for Massachusetts is 7% and the average for Texas is 32%. For children ages 18 and under, 10% on average are uninsured in the U.S., compared to 17% for Texas and just 3.5% for Massachusetts.

So Texas has 10% more uninsured adults and 7% more uninsured kids than the national average. Meanwhile, Massachusetts has 15% fewer uninsured adults and 6.5% fewer uninsured kids than the national average. But in conservative world up is down and black is white -- Rick Perry brags about healthcare in Texas while Romney can't run fast enough away from the good he did in this regard as MA's governor.
Boston Globe: "Texas has the highest rate of uninsured people in the country - 24.6 percent - and the number of uninsured that has grown by 35 percent during Governor Rick Perry’s 11-year tenure....

And what is the price Texas pays for so many without insurance? A host of health problems, researchers have found. Overall health care quality for Texas is poorer than in every other state, especially when it comes to preventive, acute, and chronic care, as well as care for diabetes, heart, and respiratory diseases, according to the 2010 report of the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality....

Texas ranks third to last in the country for the percentage of adults with a regular source of medical care, according to Commonwealth Fund data on state health system performance....

In a state where 16.8 percent of children are uninsured, more than all but one other state, only half of Texas children have a medical provider who knows them and coordinates their care. More than a third of them have not received recommended medical and preventive care within the year, and immunization rates are low as well. Texas also ranks last in the country in the percent of children who receive needed mental health care....

Doctors recount horror stories of uninsured patients who die of treatable diseases because families delay seeking medical help or must endure long waits for appointments with specialists."

Some Texas miracle....

GOP Trickle Down Tax Cuts Have Never Helped American Families

15 million Americans are unemployed and 10 million more underemployed.

We see the rich getting richer while everyone else is working harder for less money and going more into debt.

Let's figure out where our jobs and wages went and, most importantly, how to get them back.

Our largest multinational corporations are hording a record treasure of several trillions of dollars in cash rather than investing that money in America and the richest 1% of Americans are sitting on yet more unused wealth.

The Federal Reserve reports corporate cash balances alone grew to $2.05 trillion in September 2011 on a quarter over quarter cash reserve growth rate of nearly 5 percent. Neither the cash rich corporations or the richest 1% of Americans are not putting their decades worth of tax cuts to work to create jobs for Americans.

Doling out yet more tax cuts to the richest 1% of Americans and our largest multinational corporations will not induce them to use their already huge treasure trove of cash to create new jobs or move the jobs they have already off shored back to the U.S.We hear talk of trillions over here and billions over there, of government shutdowns, of cutting 100... no 61... no 38 billion dollars from Social Security, Medicare, FEMA disaster recovery, road and bridge maintenance, so our bridges stop falling down. What the heck? If you're like me, you might be thinking -- "Wait, I might actually like that stuff..."

There is a truly courageous alternative — the Congressional Progressive Caucus' Budget proposal, which represents what the American people really want. The Congressional Progressive Caucus has proposed a budget that balances the budget in just ten years without cutting Social Security and Medicare.
The Progressive plan repeals the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, which saves three trillion dollars. Second, the plan cuts corporate taxpayer handouts to pharmaceutical, insurance and petrochemical industries and adds a new income tax bracket for billionaires. That raises at least an additional three trillion dollars. In the next decade the plan also cuts defense spending by about $1.8 trillion. The Progressive plan also lifts the Social Security payroll cap of $106,800 per year (2011) so that wealthy individuals who take home millions and billions of dollars in earnings every year can pay their fair percentage share of Social Security support, too.

The Progressive plan not only protects and strengthens Social Security and Medicare for decades to come, it puts America back to work through infrastructure and high tech investments.
President Obama is now calling for millionaires, billionaires and billion dollar multinational corporations to pay their fair share of taxes as part of a debt reduction package, In response, Republicans are not only defending the tax cuts they gave to the wealthy over the past decade and more, they are calling for yet more tax cuts for the rich.
The wealth are the job creators, Republicans argue, and the "trickle down" tax cut economic growth will be hampered if the rich are required to pay their fair share to maintain America's roads and bridges.
Americans are starting to understand the truth of the about graph and graph at right; the trillions of dollars of tax cuts Pres. G.W. Bush and Republican controlled congresses gave to millionaires, billionaires and billion dollar multinational corporations in the last decade has never trickled down to every day working man and woman.
In the first public polling available on the so-called "Buffett Rule" specifically -- the proposal to raise taxes on millionaires advocated by billionaire investor Warren Buffett -- Daily Kos/SEIU's weekly "State of the Nation" survey asked the following:
Q: Do you support or oppose ensuring that people who make over a million dollars a year pay the same percentage of taxes or more on their total income as those who make less than a million dollars a year?
Support: 73
Oppose: 16
Not sure: 11
The answer even wasn't close. 73 percent of all Americans, including Republicans, supported the idea, versus 16 percent who did not, and 11 percent who were unsure. Every demographic sub-group favors the idea. Republicans back it 66-17 -- Even self-identified tea partiers, the weakest supporters, are at 52-29.
In recent polling, voters have shown a willingness to include raising taxes within a plan to address the deificit, and especially on those Americans making $250,000 or more. A recent Pew survey showed 66 percent support for that idea, and 63 percent in a poll from CBS News and the New York Times. The President himself has seemingly grasped on to that sentiment, going on the road promoting his jobs and debt reduction plans with populist rhetoric. It's also further evidence that Obama is distancing himself from the ongoing squabbling of Congress, embracing more popular proposals and taking them directly to voters.
Charts from


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

L'Shanah Tovah - May You Have A Good Year!

Rosh HaShanah (ראש השנה) is the Jewish New Year. It falls once a year during the month of Tishrei and occurs ten days before Yom Kippur. For 2011, Rosh HaShanah begins at sunset September 28, 2011 and ends at nightfall on September 30, 2011. Together, Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are known as the Yamim Nora’im, which means the Days of Awe in Hebrew, or more commonly, the High Holy Days.

Rosh HaShanah literally means “Head of the Year” in Hebrew. It falls in the month of Tishrei, which is the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar. The reason for this is because the Hebrew calendar begins with the month of Nissan (when it's believed the Jews were freed from slavery in Egypt) but the month of Tishrei is believed to be the month in which God created the world. Hence, another way to think about Rosh HaShanah is as the birthday of the world.

Rosh HaShanah is observed on the first two days of Tishrei. Jewish tradition teaches that during the High Holy Days God decides who will live and who will die during the coming year. As a result, during Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur (and in the days leading up to them) Jews embark upon the serious task of examining their lives and repenting for any wrongs they have committed during the previous year. This process of repentance is called teshuvah. Jews are encouraged to make amends with anyone they have wronged and to make plans for improving during the coming year. In this way, Rosh HaShanah is all about making peace in the community and striving to be a better person.

Even though the theme of Rosh HaShanah is life and death, it is a holiday filled with hope for the New Year. Jews believe that God is compassionate and just, and that God will accept their prayers for forgiveness.

Happy New Year!

Challenge To Texas Voter Registrar Rules And Process

Last week Voting for America (Project Vote) sent a letter to the State of Texas, alleging that various parts of the state's voter registration rules and process violate the National Voter Registration Act.

The challenged areas include the geographical restrictions on where Texas voter registrars may operate, the lack of standards for training voter registrars, the lack of guidance about when an application is considered incomplete, and the requirement that green cards be returned in person within five days.

Project Vote (or Voting for America, Inc.) is a national nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)(3) that promotes voting in historically underrepresented communities, working to ensure that our constituencies can register, vote, and cast ballots that count. The organization was incorporated in 1994 as 'Voting for America,' and officially became 'Project Vote/Voting for America' in 1997. Project Vote is unrelated to Project VOTE!, for which President Obama worked in 1992.

Project Vote has been tied by the right wing messaging network to one of the right's favorite, and now defunct, punching bags, the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now (ACORN). A sizable number of Republicans -- 25 percent -- still think ACORN (and by association, Project Vote) is plotting to steal the election for Obama in 2012.

The Voting for America letter to TX SOS Hope Andrade says,

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Water Development Board Report Says Texas "Will Not Have Enough"

The Texas Water Development Board has published a draft of its five year 2012 water report for the state. The 295-page plan published last week in the midst of the worst-ever single-year drought Texas has ever experienced, is a sobering read.

This year just set the record for most Federal Emergency Management Agency declared disasters declared in the U.S. And we’ve still got 3 months to go. Most of those disasters are associated with record-shattering extreme weather events matching events climate scientists predict will occur as heat-trapping gases are pumped into the atmosphere fueling global warming and long term climate change.

Chart of Annual Federally Declared Disasters
h/t Tamino for the FEMA chart. FEMA’s data is here.

It is clear that the trendline of major disasters in this country is upward and likely will continue upward for the foreseeable future. And these disasters aren’t merely increasingly in number, but in ferocity.

For Texas the ongoing disaster of increasing ferocity will be that "In serious drought conditions, Texas does not and will not have enough water to meet the needs of its people, and its businesses, and its agricultural enterprises," according to the Texas Water Development Board's report.

According to Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon, Texas will break another record for the driest 12-month period on record by the end of September. He said the drought has cost Texas $5.2 billion in agricultural losses alone, with at least another billion from drought-related wildfires, and the NCDC says this is already Texas' most costly drought in recorded history.

The Texas Water Development Board's report says that if Texas does not plan ahead, a drought as bad as that of the 1950s could cost Texans $116 billion a year by 2060, the report says, and cause the potential loss of more than one million jobs. Building new reservoirs and wastewater treatment plants and other water infrastructure is projected to cost $53 billion.

The report offered a number of recommendations to the Legislature. Texas lawmakers, it said, should get moving on three reservoir sites (Turkey Peak Reservoir, Millers Creek Reservoir Augmentation, and Coryell County Reservoir). Lawmakers should also make it easier to site other reservoirs, and to transfer surface water between different areas. They should require public water utilities to audit their water losses annually rather than every five years.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Whatever Happened To The American Left?

NYTimes: The left must realize that when progressives achieved success in the past, whether at organizing unions or fighting for equal rights, they seldom bet their future on politicians. They fashioned their own institutions — unions, women’s groups, community and immigrant centers and a witty, anti-authoritarian press — in which they spoke up for themselves and for the interests of wage-earning Americans.

Today, such institutions are either absent or reeling. With unions embattled and on the decline, working people of all races lack a sturdy vehicle to articulate and fight for the vision of a more egalitarian society. Liberal universities, Web sites and non-governmental organizations cater mostly to a professional middle class and are more skillful at promoting social causes like legalizing same-sex marriage and protecting the environment than demanding millions of new jobs that pay a living wage.

A reconnection with ordinary Americans is vital not just to defeating conservatives in 2012 and in elections to come. Without it, the left will remain unable to state clearly and passionately what a better country would look like and what it will take to get there. To paraphrase the labor martyr Joe Hill, the left should stop mourning its recent past and start organizing to change the future.
Read the full story @ The NYTimes

Associated Press May Day celebration in Union Square, New York City, 1934.

Obama Draws More Confidence Than GOP Leaders On Deficit

A new Pew Center report finds that most support raising taxes on high incomes to reduce the deficit and that the public's confidence in congressional leaders, particularly Republican leaders in Congress, has plummeted as the nation prepares for another round of deficit reduction debates. Just 35% say they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in Republican leaders in Congress to do the right thing when it comes to dealing with the federal budget deficit, down from 47% in May. Fully 62% say they have little or no confidence in the Republican leaders on this issue.

Public confidence in Barack Obama on the budget deficit, by comparison, has remained largely unchanged.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Sept. 22-25 among 1,000 adults finds that 52% express at least a fair amount of confidence in Obama to do the right thing when it comes to dealing with the deficit, virtually unchanged from 55% earlier in the year.

Public trust in Democratic congressional leaders has also suffered - 43% say they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in Democratic leaders, down from 51% four months ago.

The survey also finds continued public support for raising the tax rate on high incomes as a way to reduce the federal budget deficit and the size of the national debt.

Read the full report to see comparisons of opinion among Republicans, Democrats and independents, as well as the views of Americans on specific proposals for reducing the nation's debt.

Texas Gov Deverting Public School Funds To Big Oil Tax Refunds

APNewsBreak: Texas Refineries May Get Back $135M

Three commissioners appointed by Gov. Rick Perry may grant some of the nation's largest refineries a tax refund of more than $135 million — money Texas' cash-strapped schools and other local governments have been counting on to help pay teachers and provide other public services. Full AP Story

On June 28, 2011 Gov. Perry signed a $172 billion budget passed by the super Republican majority Texas House and Senate. The budget signed by Gov. Perry cuts $15 billion from the level of spending last authorized in the 2009-11 state budget. The largest individual cut was to public education, which lost over $4 billion over the biennium. While public education received the deepest cuts, other agencies that saw their budgets reduced, too. Other agencies cut included public universities and community colleges (with the two largest universities in the state losing $100 million in funding) and state health and welfare programs, which saw Medicaid and food stamp funds slashed by up to $2 billion. [Full story on Texas debt growth and budget cuts]

The American Petroleum Institute argues that giving oil companies government handouts will create jobs. However, a new report by the House Natural Resources Democratic Staff finds that the major oil companies have actually shed employees while reaping record profits. From 2005 to 2010, Exxon, BP, Chevron, and Shell dumped 11,200 U.S. employees while raking in $546 billion in profits.

2011’s Off the Charts Weather and Climate Stats

Climate Central: This year is shaping up to be one of the most extreme — if not the most extreme — years in the United States since instrument records began in the late 19th century. Consider a few statistics from just this past June through August to get a better picture of what's been taking place.

Keep in mind that many studies show that certain types of extreme events, such as heavy rainfall events and heat waves, are already becoming more frequent and intense as the climate warms in response to human emissions of greenhouse gases. However, none of these events listed below have been the subject of detailed climate change attribution studies yet, since those take several months to complete, so it would be premature to speculate how big of a role climate change played in their development and evolution.

Map showing the number of days with temperatures above 100 degrees F during summer 2011. Credit: NOAA/NCDC.
  • This summer was the second-warmest on record in the United States, and the eighth-warmest globally.
  • Of the Lower-48 states, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Louisiana had their hottest summers on record. Two states — Texas and Oklahoma — had average temperatures that were so high, they broke all-time summer heat records for any state in the country. In Texas, the average statewide temperature for the summer was a whopping 86.8°F. Both Texas and Oklahoma eclipsed a benchmark set during the Dust Bowl, when a multiyear drought and a series of withering heat waves transformed the Central states into an arid landscape, driving a mass migration westward.
  • During the summer of 2011, every state in the Lower-48 except North Dakota and Vermont experienced at least one day with a temperature exceeding 100°F.
  • As of today, nearly 88 percent of Texas is locked in the grips of "exceptional drought" conditions, which is the most severe category on the U.S. Drought Monitor. In order to climb out of the deep rainfall deficit, parts of Texas and Oklahoma would need nearly two feet of rainfall, yet new climate outlooks for the next several months show drier than average conditions are likely to continue through the winter.
  • According to Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon, it is likely that Texas will soon break a record for the driest 12-month period on record, unless there is widespread heavy rain during the second half of September. He said the drought has cost Texas $5.2 billion in agricultural losses alone, with at least another billion from drought-related wildfires, and the NCDC says this is already Texas' most costly drought in recorded history.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Entitlement, My Foot, I Paid Cash For My Social Security Insurance!!!!

By Rob Tornoe - You can find more of his work here.
Remember, not only did you contribute to Social Security but your employer did too. It totaled a percentage of your income before taxes. If you averaged only 30K over your 49 year working life, that’s close to $220,500.

If you calculate the future value of $4,500 per year (yours & your employer’s contribution) at a simple 5% (less than what the govt. pays on the money that it borrows), after 49 years of working you’d have $892,919.98.

If you took out only 3% per year, you would receive $26,787.60 per year and it would last better than 30 years, and that’s with no interest paid on that final amount on deposit! If you bought an annuity and it paid 4% per year, you’d have a lifetime income of $2,976.40 per month.
Entitlement, my foot, I paid cash for my Social Security insurance!!!!
Just because congress invested $2.67 trillion of our Social Security Trust Fund in T-Bills, which is counted as 19 percent of our federal debt, doesn't make my Social Security payment benefit some kind of charity or handout!! (The TRUTH About Who Really Owns All Of America's Debt)

Congressional benefits include free healthcare, outrageous retirement packages, 67 paid holidays, three weeks paid vacation, unlimited paid sick days, now that's welfare, and they have the nerve to call my retirement entitlements !!!!!!

Republicans call Social Security and Medicare an entitlement even though most of us have been paying for it all our working lives, and now, when it’s time for us to collect our paid up insurance benefit, Republicans demonize it as an "entitlement" because they want to privatize it to Wall Street to cut the massive debt they created with tax cuts for the rich. "Starving the Government Beast" through tax cuts is a fiscal-political strategy adopted by American conservatives in the 1970's to create or increase existing budget deficits via tax cuts to force future cuts and eventual privatization of Medicare, Social Security, Public Education and every other public government service. [Starving The Beast]
Cartoon by Jen Sorensen with hat tip to the Jobanger blog

Unnecessary Tax Cuts, Unnecessary Austerity

"We're broke!" Or so claim Tea Party governors and lawmakers all over the country. Our states and our nation can no longer afford, their plaint goes, the programs and services that Americans expect government to provide. We must do with less. We need "austerity."

But we're not broke. Not even close. The United States of America is awash in wealth. The richest 1% of Americans and our largest multinational corporations are hording a record treasure of several trillions of dollars in cash. The Federal Reserve reports corporate cash balances alone grew to $2.05 trillion in September 2011 on a quarter over quarter cash reserve growth rate of nearly 5 percent.

Doling out yet more tax cuts to the richest 1% of Americans and our largest multinational corporations will not induce them to use their already huge treasure trove of cash to create new jobs or move the jobs they have already off shored back to the U.S.

Presidential Approval Ratings

Find out about presidential approval ratings in this infographic.

A recent Associated Press-GfK poll showed that nearly 8 in 10 people considered Obama a likable person, and slightly more than half said he understands the problems of ordinary people. Even among those who said the United States is headed in the wrong direction, 43 percent had a favorable opinion of the president, 10 points higher than his job approval rating among that group. Obama's advisers point to his favorability ratings as an asset when the eventual GOP nominee tries to make the case for change in the White House in 2012.

Republican War On Birth Control

With Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) leading the war on women, Texas Republicans this year cut funding for family planning clinics by two-thirds. When the Texas Tribune asked Texas state Rep. Wayne Christian (R-Nacogdoches), a supporter of the family planning cuts, if this was a war on birth control, he said:
“Well of course this is a war on birth control and abortions and everything.”
Family planning clinics are routinely referred to by many Republican lawmakers across the U.S. as “abortion clinics.” None of the 71 family planning clinics in the state of Texas that receive government funding provide abortions. Those family planning clinics provide reproductive health care services to women as well as information about and access to contraceptives.

Listen to NPR's report on Texas' Cuts to Women's access to birth control choices
As NPR notes, the state estimates that 300,000 women will lose access to family planning services because of these cuts, resulting in roughly 20,000 additional unplanned births. “Texas already spends $1.3 billion on teen pregnancies — more than any other state.”

The GOP’s concerted campaign against women’s health and right to choose to use birth control prescriptions has resulted in about 1,000 anti-abortion bills in state legislatures across the country that include attempts to eradicate women’s access to contraceptives by redefining “personhood” rights as beginning at the moment of conception. Such laws will criminalize the most common birth control choice - the birth control pill.

Mississippians are set to vote on a ballot measure this November that would redefine the word "person" in the state constitution to include embryos and a fertilized egg that hasn't even yet implanted in the womb. Members of the medical and legal communities have raised concerns that the amendment could have unforeseen, far-reaching implications for women's health, such as banning the birth control pill, which prevents pregnancy by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb, in-vitro fertilization and stem cell research.

In defining a legal human being from the moment of fertilization, Mississippi Initiative 26, often called the "Personhood Amendment," would criminalize abortion in Mississippi, with no exceptions for rape, incest or life of the mother. Personhood USA, the advocacy group pushing the amendment, and the Yes on 26 campaign are painting the issue as a black-and-white abortion ban.

"Plain and simple, this seeks to establish human life in the womb," Greg Sanders, the executive director of the Yes on 26 campaign, told HuffPost. "Obviously there's no exception for rape and incest. It's a human life, no matter how it's created."

Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, says the language could also have a whole host of legal implications, including some that have nothing to do with women's health.

"What does it mean for property or inheritance law? What happens when you're trying to make districts for voting, and you have to consider fertilized eggs as legal persons?" she told HuffPost. "The meaning of the provision could come up in any number of lawsuits."

Many people do not remember that the purchase and use of birth control products, even by married couples, was against the law in many states until 1965. Use of birth control products may again be criminalized in states that pass "personhood" laws or constitutional amendments.

There are those who, for the last 46 years, have worked to reverse the 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut Supreme Court finding that Americans have a fundamental right of privacy to make family planning decisions, which includes the right to use birth control contraceptives.

Read more:

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Wealth Gaps Rise to Record Highs Between Whites, Blacks, Hispanics

The median wealth, or net worth, of U.S. households fell from $96,894 in 2005 to $70,000 in 2009, a drop of 28% when adjusted for inflation.

Pew Research Center: The precipitous decline in wealth was not evenly distributed across racial and ethnic groups. Minority households--Hispanics, blacks and Asians--experienced far steeper declines than white households.

In 2009, the median net worth of white households ($113,149) was the highest of all groups.

In sharp contrast, Hispanic and black households had a median net worth of $6,325 and $5,677 respectively. Asian households, with a median net worth of $78,066, had much more wealth in 2009 than Hispanics and blacks but much less than whites.

All groups experienced drops in wealth from 2005 to 2009 but there were sharp differences among them.

Hispanics' median net worth fell 66%, from $18,359 in 2005 to $6,325 in 2009. Black households experienced a loss of 53%, from $12,124 in 2005 to $5,677 in 2009. The drop in the wealth of white households was modest in comparison, falling 16% from $134,992 in 2005 to $113,149 in 2009.

As a result, the median wealth of white households is now 20 times as high as the wealth of black households and 18 times as much as the wealth of Hispanic households. These ratios are about twice as high as the ratios that existed before the onset of the housing crisis, the stock market crash and the Great Recession (which began in late 2007 and ended in 2009)

Minority households experienced greater losses than whites because they are more dependent on home equity as a source of wealth. As noted above, housing values started to fall sooner than stock prices and, unlike the stock market, the housing market has not yet begun to recover.

Hispanics and Asians were further affected because they are disproportionately likely to reside in states that have been among the hardest hit by the housing crisis: California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona. Hispanics and blacks have also been more susceptible to home foreclosures, and their home ownership rates have dropped more than any other group.

Read the full Pew Research report

So, Where Is America's Wealth Going?

Friday, September 23, 2011

DOJ v. SCOTUS On Texas' Voter Photo ID Law

All IDs must be unexpired or expired no earlier than 60 days before the election. Acceptable identification includes:
  • A driver’s license, election ID certificate, or personal ID card issued by the Department of Public Safety (an election certificate issued to a person 70 years or older does not expire);
  • U.S. military ID card that contains the person's photograph;
  • U.S. citizenship certificate with a photograph;
  • U.S. passport; or
  • A license to carry a concealed handgun.
Student IDs and Military Veteran IDs are not accepted in Texas for purposes of identification for voting.
Updated Friday, September 23, 2011 @ 6:45 PM

The status of Texas' new voter photo identification law remains unresolved. In response to Texas' request for pre-clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) voting section, the head of the Department's voting section today wrote Ann McGeehan, Texas Director of Elections, asking for more details on how the state will implement the stricter voting law signed by Republican presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) last May.

"The information sent is insufficient to enable us to determine that the proposed changes have neither the purpose nor will have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group," wrote T. Christian Herren Jr. , chief of the Justice Department's voting section.

Herren wrote McGeehan saying that the DOJ needs to know specifics on how the state will alert voters about the new government issued voter photo ID requirement. Texas officials have said that 605,576 residents do not have a Texas drivers license, photo ID card [, or likely any one of the other required government issued photo ID documents]. USDOJ officials also want to know how many of those residents without IDs have Spanish surnames and an explanation of when and where the state will make free voter photo identification certificates available, as well as specifics on how they will educate the public about how to obtain such certificates.

The state must now re-submit the pre-clearance request to the USDOJ with the additional information requested that includes, among others things, how election officials will be trained to correctly implement the voter photo ID law. The USDOJ will have 60 additional days to review the state’s revised request.

Acceptable forms of ID include: a Texas driver's license; a personal ID issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety; an election certificate, which is a new form of state photo identification created by the legislation; a U.S. military ID card; a U.S. passport; or a Texas concealed handgun permit. State university IDs and veteran's IDs are not acceptable. (Herren's letter to McGeehan at the bottom of this article)

Original Post Wednesday, September 14, 2011 @ 8:56 PM

Because Texas and South Carolina have a history of voting rights discrimination, the states are required to have changes to their election laws pre-cleared by the U.S. Department of Justice or the courts under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

DOJ: Texas Congressional Redistricting Map Violates Voting Rights Act

Updated Friday, September 23, 2011 @ 6:41 PM

The U.S. Department Justice (USDOJ) said late today (Friday Sept. 23, 2011) that based on their preliminary investigation, a congressional redistricting map signed into law by Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry appears to have been "adopted, at least in part, for the purpose of diminishing the ability of citizens of the United States, on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group, to elect their preferred candidates of choice to Congress."

USDOJ's Civil Rights Division specifically challenges the redistricting maps for Texas congressional Districts 23 and 27, which they say would not provide Hispanic citizens with the ability to elect candidates of their choice to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Civil Rights Division lawyers say they need more information on the congressional plan to determine what the purpose of the redistricting plan was for sure. But the federal agency came out stronger against the state House of Representatives plan, which they flat out said "violates Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in that it was adopted, at least in part, for the purpose of diminishing the ability of citizens of the United States, on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group, to elect their preferred candidates of choice to the Texas House of Representatives."

USDOJ said that no matter the purpose of the congressional plan, it would have a discriminatory effect on voters.

"When compared to the existing plan, the proposed Congressional plan will have a retrogressive effect in that it will diminish the ability of citizens of the United States, on account of race, color or membership in a language minority group, to elect their preferred candidates of choice to the United States House of Representatives," USDOJ said in its latest filing. (see the Sept. 23, 2011 USDOJ filing at the end of this post.)

Original Post Monday, September 19, 2011 @ 2:38 PM

Obama: 'I Am A Warrior For The Middle Class'

In a fiery political — and personal — speech in front of the Brent Spence Bridge in Cincinnati, President Barack Obama called on Speaker of the House John Boehner twelve times on his home turf to "Pass this jobs bill."
Speaking in front of a "functionally obsolete" Brent Spence Bridge in Cincinnati,just few miles from Boehner's home district that connects to the home state of the Senate's top Republican, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Obama was critical of House Republicans for failing to act on his jobs plan.

Making a point to choose a bridge linking House Speaker John Boehner's home state of Ohio with Kentucky, the home of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, Obama challenged, "Mr. Boehner, Mr. McConnell, help us rebuild this bridge . . . Help us rebuild America. Help us put construction workers back to work. Pass this bill."

The president's incursion into northern Kentucky and southern Ohio is one of his most direct and defiant challenges to leaders of the opposition party as he said:

'We used to have the best infrastructure in the world here in America. We’re the country that built the Intercontinental Railroad, the Interstate Highway System. We built the Hoover Dam. We built the Grand Central Station. So how can we now sit back and let China build the best railroads? And let Europe build the best highways? And have Singapore build a nicer airport? At a time when we've got millions of unemployed construction workers out there just ready to get on the job, ready to do the work to rebuilding America.

So, Cincinnati, we are better than that. We're smarter than that. And that’s why I sent Congress the American Jobs Act 10 days ago. This bill is not that complicated. It's a bill that would put people back to work rebuilding America -- repairing our roads, repairing our bridges, repairing our schools. It would lead to jobs for concrete workers like the ones here at Hilltop; jobs for construction workers and masons, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, architects, engineers, ironworkers -- put folks back to work."

In a shift from the president's outreach to Boehner this summer, when the two men tried to work out a deal that would extend the nation's borrowing authority and cut long-term deficits as well, Obama said: "So my question is, what's Congress waiting for... Why is it taking so long?"

The Social Contract

By NYTimes columnist PAUL KRUGMAN

This week President Obama said the obvious: that wealthy Americans, many of whom pay remarkably little in taxes, should bear part of the cost of reducing the long-run budget deficit. And Republicans like Representative Paul Ryan responded with shrieks of “class warfare.”

It was, of course, nothing of the sort. On the contrary, it’s people like Mr. Ryan, who want to exempt the very rich from bearing any of the burden of making our finances sustainable, who are waging class war.

As background, it helps to know what has been happening to incomes over the past three decades. Detailed estimates from the Congressional Budget Office — which only go up to 2005, but the basic picture surely hasn’t changed — show that between 1979 and 2005 the inflation-adjusted income of families in the middle of the income distribution rose 21 percent. That’s growth, but it’s slow, especially compared with the 100 percent rise in median income over a generation after World War II.

Meanwhile, over the same period, the income of the very rich, the top 100th of 1 percent of the income distribution, rose by 480 percent. No, that isn’t a misprint. In 2005 dollars, the average annual income of that group rose from $4.2 million to $24.3 million.

So do the wealthy look to you like the victims of class warfare?

Read the full OpEd @ The NYTimes

Paying Your Fair Share

This video is of former White House financial reform adviser Elizabeth Warren, who is running for Edward Kennedy's former U.S. Senate seat from Massachusetts, at a campaign "house meeting" stop in Andover, Massachusetts, blasting Republicans for accusing Democrats of engaging in "class warfare."
The video was shot, edited and posted on YouTube by one of the house guests - not associated with the Warren campaign - who decided to become a "citizen journalist."

This video was initially passed person to person in Massachusetts through online social networks, but now the video has gone viral nationally and moved into the mainstream media.

The video captures Warren passionately refuting the Republication Party's meme that the Democratic policy that everyone should pay their fair share of taxes amounts to “class warfare” against the wealthy.

Warren speaks lucidly and eloquently to the sort of Rand-ian, “I am an island” Libertarian rhetoric that is so prevalent among Republican and Tea Party members of congress.

“There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own,” Warren says in the clip, “Nobody.”

She shoots down the notion that the wealthy owe nothing back to society by pointing out that entrepreneurs and business owners rely on publicly built and maintained roads and bridges as well as a vast array of other public services like public schools and law enforcement. Warren explains that everyone paying their fair share is part of the American “social contract” to give back to the society that has given them so much:
“You built a factory out there? Good for you.

But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.

You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.

Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

Texas Healthcare System Withering Under Gov. Perry

LA Times: When Texas went to court last year to block President Obama's healthcare overhaul, Gov. Rick Perry pledged to do everything in his power to "protect our families, taxpayers and medical providers." Texas, he said, could manage its own healthcare.

But in the 11 years the Republican presidential hopeful has been in office, working Texans increasingly have been priced out of private healthcare while the state's safety net has withered, leaving millions of state residents without medical care.

Interactive Map: People without health coverage, by state - LA Times

On June 28, 2011 Gov. Perry signed a $172 billion budget passed by the super Republican majority Texas House and Senate. The budget signed by Gov. Perry cuts $15 billion from the level of spending last authorized in the 2009-11 state budget. The largest individual cut was to public education, which lost over $4 billion over the biennium.

While public education received the deepest cuts, other agencies that saw their budgets reduced, too. Other agencies cut included public universities and community colleges (with the two largest universities in the state losing $100 million in funding) and state health and welfare programs, which saw Medicaid and food stamp funds slashed by up to $2 billion.

Even after cutting billions of dollars from state education, Medicaid and other state agencies Republican legislative leaders in Texas acknowledge the 2011-13 budget signed into law by Perry under-funds the state’s projected Medicaid costs by about $5 billion.

A summary portion of the budget says that’s the amount the state expects the program to need in supplemental state aid in 2013. Also, the 2011-13 budget defers $2.3 billion state payment to K-12 public school districts to fiscal 2014.

[Full story on Texas debt growth and budget cuts]
"Texas just hasn't proven it can run a health system," said Dr. C. Bruce Malone III, an orthopedic surgeon and president of the historically conservative Texas Medical Assn.

More than a quarter of Texans lack health insurance, the highest rate in the nation, placing a crushing burden on hospitals and doctors who treat patients unable to pay.

Those costs are passed to the insured. Insurance premiums have risen more quickly in Texas than they have nationally over the last seven years. And when compared with incomes, insurance in Texas is less affordable than in every state but Mississippi, according to the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund.

That has taken a toll, as nearly a third of the state's children did not receive an annual physical and a teeth cleaning in 2007, placing Texas 40th in a state ranking by the fund. Over the last decade, infant mortality rates have risen in Texas while declining nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Seniors, despite guaranteed Medicare coverage, also are suffering, as nearly 1 in 5 ends up back in the hospital within a month of being released, one of the highest readmission rates in the country and a leading indicator of system wide problems.

Read the full story @ The LA Times

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Republicans Stall Disaster Relief For Millions Hit By Tornadoes, Hurricanes, Drought, Wildfires And Floods

Sept. 4th Wildfire Near Bastrop, Texas 2011 -- The Inquisitr
Sparks from electric power lines likely started the blaze that became the most destructive wildfire in Texas history, fire officials said Tuesday. One fire began when winds toppled a dead pine tree onto power lines, showering the dry vegetation below with sparks. The other fire ignited when fallen tree branches became tangled with power lines, showering dry grass and branches with sparks. The fire near Bastrop, about 25 miles east of Austin, destroyed more than 1,500 homes and killed two people.
Republicans again threaten a government shutdown over funding of disaster aid.

Both the Senate and House must approve a continuing resolution to keep the government running past September 30, but Republicans are refusingd to replenish the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) fund to help areas in the mid west, south and northeast recover from drought, wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes and floods. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) insists the GOP approve $3.65 billion for FEMA.

With recent hurricane and tropical storm related flood damages measured in the billions for the northeast alone, questions are being raised about how to pay for this latest round of disaster aid. Beyond the northeast, wildfires are raging in Texas, parts of the mid west and south remain in splinters from April's intense tornado outbreaks, while other parts of the mid west are devastated by spring flooding along the Missouri River.

If it seems like 2011 has been remarkable in terms of widespread meteorological chaos, that's because it has. According to a report from the National Climatic Data Center, 10 separate weather events this year have each inflicted more than $1 billion worth of damage. That beats a previous record of nine events in 2008, and it's only September.

In total, the 10 major events in 2011 has, so far, caused more than $35 billion of destruction, which is five times more costly than all of last year's disasters combined. Additionally, the Climatic Center finds the number of billion dollar disasters per year has been rising due to a more violent climate combined with population increases and economic development in disaster-prone areas. That $35 billion estimate is likely to increase given there's no end in sight to the Texas drought, hurricane season continues for another two months and 2011 still has three and half months to run.

Driving the urgency of legislation to replenish FEMA’s disaster fund is that it will likely run out before the end of this month. FEMA spokeswoman Rachel Racusen has said that the disaster fund has less than $400 million in it and could be depleted by Sept. 26 — or sooner if another disaster strikes.

If the fund runs out, FEMA would have to suspend aid to victims of Hurricanes Irene and Lee, which have hit the East with major flooding and other damage, much of it concentrated in states like Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, which tend to be hit less frequently by disasters than other states. And FEMA still has emergency costs in Joplin, Missouri and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, which were hit by devastating tornadoes this spring.

The FEMA account is so low that new rebuilding projects like rebuilding sewer systems and other public infrastructure have been put on hold to give emergency help like shelter and cash assistance to victims of Irene and Lee.

The White House requested $5.1 billion in additional disaster aid money only last Friday, which had been a source of frustration for lawmakers responsible for funding disaster accounts. The administration requested just $1.8 billion for FEMA’s disaster funding in February, well short of documented needs to respond to past disasters like hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Gustav and the massive Tennessee floods of last spring. The tornadoes in Joplin and across Alabama this spring only made the problem worse.

With the Northeast still reeling from the impacts of Hurricane Irene and the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee that stalled and sent plumes of additional precipitation to the Northeast. The area along the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania and New York was in the bulls-eye raising flood waters surpassing the previous record event set in 1972 when Hurricane Agnes dropped a torrential downpour on the area.

In Wilkes-Barre, PA, 75,000 people were evacuated as the Susquehanna River crested at a record 42.7 feet. Local authorities said that levees were under “extreme stress,” but they held up, saving much of the city. An estimated 5,400 homes and businesses suffered some form of flood damage during the event, and 124 sewerage treatment plants were affected by the flooding, with 14 of them spilling raw sewerage into waterways.

Traditionally, the federal government has filled much of the disaster aid gap, but FEMA’s disaster fund is now under $400 million and will be depleted by September 26, even if another disaster doesn’t strike in the meantime. Rebuilding projects have already been put on hold to secure short-term funding for shelters and other emergency help. If Congress does not act to replenish the fund, all forms of aid to the weather and wildfire disaster victims in Texas and around the nation will be cut off.

Unfortunately, the acrimonious Tea Party atmosphere on Capitol Hill over budget deficits suggests that relief may not be forthcoming for many hard hit areas. Senate Democrats overcame a Republican filibuster to pass a $7 billion emergency disaster aid package, but the measure is now blocked by House Republicans.

Weather disasters in 2010 and 2011 have put a strain on the FEMA budget that has yet to be resolved. With Federal Flood Insurance already billions in debt and the federal government struggling to provide disaster aid, climate change is only increasing the risk that these costs will continue to rise.

As climate change increases the risk of extreme weather, which science clearly shows will happen, it remains to be seen how future disasters will be paid for, or whether they will be at all as Republicans continue stall the legislative process.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Plano Sen. Florence Shapiro Announces Retirement

District 8 State Senator Florence Shapiro, a Plano Republican, announced this afternoon that she will not seek re-election next year. Shapiro has served in the state Senate since 1992, where she has chaired numerous committees including the Transportation Committee and most recently the Public Education Committee. Shapiro is also a member of the powerful senate Finance Committee which helps craft the state budget.

When first elected to the senate Shapiro represented a rural suburban district that stretched from Collin County north of Dallas to Smith County in East Texas. Since then, her district has been consolidated into the fast-growing suburbs of Collin and north Dallas counties. In the statement announcing her retirement Shapiro said,

“My parents came to the United States in search of the American dream, and I lived it. I entered public service as a Plano city council member, then mayor. I entered the Texas Senate, with a desire to promote opportunity and to make a difference in the lives of everyday people. It has been humbling to serve in the state Legislature with so many outstanding men and women from all across our great state. I am leaving public service, knowing that I have given my best to hopefully make Texas better.”

On June 28, 2011 Gov. Perry signed a $172 billion 2011-13 budget passed by the super Republican majority Texas House and Senate. The budget signed by Gov. Perry cut $15 billion from the level of spending last authorized in the 2009-11 state budget.

Serving as chair of the Education Committee and a member of the Finance Committee Shapiro helped shape the biennium budget, in which, the largest individual spending cut was to public education. Over $4 billion was cut from the public education budget for the current biennium, which started on September 1, 2011.

During the 2011 legislative session Shapiro argued that school districts should be allowed to give teachers unpaid furloughs and cut their salaries to help pay for the spending cuts.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Corporate Tax Cuts Don't Create Jobs.

If tax cuts are the most stimulative approach to rebooting the economy, as Republicans claim in rejecting Obama's jobs stimulus plan, then the economy should already be racing, given the trillions of dollars in tax cuts President Bush and Republicans already gave the nation over the past eight years. Right? Wrong!

Unfortunately, Reagan's "supply-side" mythology that "tax cut stimulus works best" is alive and well and still promoted by conservatives today, despite all evidence to the contrary. The outcome of Pres. Bush's 2001 tax cuts was "the weakest employment growth in decades." Republican tax cuts in 2004 didn't fare much better, with resulting job creation well below historical averages. When Bush's White House proposed more tax cuts in 2003, Republicans promised that it would add 5.5 million new jobs between June 2003 and the end of 2004. But "by the end of 2004, there were only 2.6 million more jobs than in June 2003." And, remember President Bush's February 2008 promise that his $168 billion tax cut/rebate economic stimulus plan would stave off economic recession and job losses? Wrong again! All these broken Republican promises stem from a broken understanding of how the world really works.

Corporate Tax Cuts vs. Corp. Job Creation
Source: U.S. Dept. of Commerce: Federal Reserve; U.S. Dept. of Labor; Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis; Wall Street Journal
American corporations are holding more cash on their balance sheets than at any time in nearly a half century, as they continue to save instead of investing or hiring workers, according to a Federal Reserve report released last Friday.

At the same time, Republican presidential candidates and corporate leaders continue to lobby for lower corporate tax rates and huge corporate tax giveaways under the guise that they will lead to higher rates of job creation.

According to the report, non-financial corporations held more than $2 trillion in cash at the end of June, a $88 billion jump since the end of March. Cash holdings made up 7.1 percent of all company assets, the highest level since 1963.

And the report doesn’t even include foreign cash holdings, though 11 companies — including Apple, Microsoft, and Cisco — have foreign cash holdings of at least $10 billion.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Republican Moderates Cower From ‘Alternative-Reality Right'

OpEd by Paul Fanlund, editor of The Capital Times of Madison Wisconsin

Like many 1970s-era college students who took part in anti-Vietnam War protests and wore George McGovern buttons, I watched with fascination as Richard Nixon's presidency unraveled during Watergate.

But now, I'm here to admit, I miss Richard Nixon.

Not the paranoid and crooked part, but I do miss Nixon's intelligence and, by 2011's standards, his squishy centrism.

Nixon opened relations with China and effectively negotiated arms limits with the Soviet Union. And Nixon's record on the economy, as well as on the environmental and regulatory front, would look intrusive and soft to the tea partiers of today. In fact, long after his defeat in the 1972 election, McGovern said Nixon, other than on Vietnam, would ultimately get high marks from historians.

Politicians like Rick Perry make me miss Nixon.

The governor of Texas has vaulted ahead in polls for the Republican presidential nomination in recent days by taking positions like these:

  • Evolution is "just a theory that's out there."
  • Scientific consensus on climate change is "all one contrived phony mess that is falling apart under its own weight."
  • All top jobs in his administration would be filled by abortion foes.
  • It's time to "turn America over to God" for Him to fix.
  • Social Security is a "Ponzi scheme" and it and Medicare are unconstitutional.
  • Gay Americans are "part of Satan."
  • Actions by the Bush-appointed chairman of the Federal Reserve are "treasonous."
  • President Obama is not sufficiently American or does not necessarily love his country.
Who knows whether Perry actually believes this stuff. He was, after all, once a Democrat who worked for Al Gore.

David Brooks, the New York Times columnist, warns that Perry could actually become president. Brooks notes Perry does especially well with what he calls the "alternative-reality right," those who do not believe in evolution, global warning or that Obama was born in the United States.

But here's my question: Where is the "reality right?"

Friday, September 16, 2011

Drought Spawning La Niña Continues To Next Year - Could Pose Problems for Texas Power Plants

La Niña, which contributed to extreme weather around the globe during late 2010 and 2011, has re-emerged in the tropical Pacific Ocean and is forecast to gradually strengthen and continue into winter and next spring.

Forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center have now upgraded last month’s La Niña Watch to a La Niña Advisory indicating there will be a continuation of warmer and drier than normal conditions across the southern tier of the United States and wetter than normal conditions in the Pacific Northwest and Ohio Valley from now through at least late spring 2012.

“This means drought is likely to continue in the drought-stricken states of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico,” according to Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center. “La Niña also often brings colder winters to the Pacific Northwest and the northern Plains, and warmer temperatures to the southern states.”

The strong 2010-11 La Niña contributed to record winter snowfall, spring flooding, the record shattering heat wave and extreme drought across the United States during late 2010 and 2011 to date, as well as other extreme weather events throughout the world, such as heavy rain in Australia and an extremely dry equatorial eastern Africa.

La Niña is a naturally occurring climate phenomenon located over the tropical Pacific Ocean and results from interactions between the ocean surface and the atmosphere. During La Niña, cooler-than-average Pacific Ocean temperatures influence global weather patterns. La Niña typically occurs every three-to-five years, and back-to-back episodes occur about 50 percent of the time. Current conditions reflect a re-development of the June 2010-May 2011 La Niña episode. While La Niña is a naturally occurring climate phenomenon climatologists believe global warm has enhanced weather extremes associated with this climate cycle.

If the La Niña drought in Texas continues well into next spring and summer, some power plants could be forced to stop operating according to a statement from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the state's electric grid operator.

Politics & Global Warming

Learn how political affiliation affects acceptance of scientific findinds in this infographic.
Source: LiveScience
A survey report, “Politics & Global Warming”, by George Mason University and The Yale Project on Climate Change Communication details how Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and members of the Tea Party respond to the issue of global warming.

The Tea Party has become an important new player in American politics, so this report for the first time separates their views on global warming from the traditional political categories of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.

The wide accord on energy research, incentives for efficient vehicles and renewable electricity — and expanded domestic oil and gas production — identified by this survey is particularly noteworthy.

Here are some key findings of the survey:

Global Warming Beliefs

Majorities of Democrats (78%), Independents (71%) and Republicans (53%) believe that global warming is happening. By contrast, only 34 percent of Tea Party members believe global warming is happening, while 53 percent say it is not happening.

While 62 percent of Democrats say that global warming is caused mostly by human activities, most Tea Party members say it is either naturally caused (50%) or isn’t happening at all (21%).

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The GOP's Genius Plan to Beat Obama in 2012

If Pennsylvania Republicans and their buddies in other states execute a plan to change election rules, Obama has a one-way ticket to Losertown — Nick Baumann

Global Warming Amplifying Texas Drought, Wildfires, Scientists Say

Reprinted from Climate Central

This year has been the state's hottest and driest summer in recorded history, with many parts of the state smashing all-time records by wide margins. Texas state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon announced this was the hottest summer on record for Texas — and the hottest summer ever for any U.S. state, based on preliminary numbers — and last month he declared Texas is in the midst of its worst one-year drought on record.

The blend of hot weather and parched land has made for perfect fire conditions, and this has been the worst year for Texas wildfires in over a decade. Nearly 3.6 million acres of the "Lone Star State" have burned so far this year, an area roughly the size of Connecticut.

The heat and drought are record-breaking, but how unusual are they? According to Nielsen-Gammon’s own blog, it’s in a category unto itself:

"The year 2011 continues the recent trend of being much warmer than the historical precipitation-temperature relationship would indicate, although with no previous points so dry it’s hard to say exactly what history would say about a summer such as this one. Except that this summer is way beyond the previous envelope of summer temperature and precipitation," Nielson-Gammon wrote.

Crunch Time for U.S. Science Funding

This op-ed appears in Nature magazine.

September 2011
By Jay Gulledge

The current U.S. debt crisis sets the stage for a potential tipping point in federal science spending. The ideology that government-sponsored science is crucial to the well-being of society has eroded along with the cold-war security agenda, which embraced and fortified science for decades. Meanwhile, science has been pulled repeatedly into political clashes on cultural issues. Against this backdrop, the global economic crisis portends a decade-long reduction in federal budgets. To avoid a permanent retraction of government support for research, the science community must be more strategic and aggressive in conveying the value of its work to society and in gaining robust support from politicians.

US federal science spending has long been rooted in the national security agenda. The National Science Foundation (NSF) was established shortly after the Second World War “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense”. NASA was established less than 10 months after the Soviets launched Sputnik 1 in 1957, in a frenzied response to the Soviets’ early lead in developing ballistic missiles. Through the decades of the cold war, support for science straddled party lines.

But, after the fall of the Berlin wall, the United States stood as the sole great power and shifted its strategic emphasis from establishing scientific superiority to cultivating democratic movements in the developing world.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hot Summer of 2011 Rewrites Record Books

Dallas Texas set another weather record today, according to the National Weather Service (NWS), with an unprecedented number of 100-degree-or-above days. The temperature hit at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit 70 times this year, a new record for most 100 F days in a year for the city. The city tied its 1980 record of 69 days at 100°F yesterday.

Dallas-Fort Worth became the 15th metropolitan area among 19 around Texas to break a record for triple-digit days this year with several Texas cities nearly doubling their records. The high temperature at Dallas today was 107°, smashing the old daily record by 7°.

Pres. Obama To Congress: Pass The American Jobs Act Now!

Photo: White House/Chuck Kennedy

President Barack Obama addresses a joint session of Congress on jobs and the economy - video & fact sheet

Open Questions: The American Jobs Act - Join senior White House officials as they field your questions on the American Jobs Act on Thursday, September 15th at 4:00p.m. EDT.
by Beverly Bandler

“We do know how to generate growth and create jobs. As a large and growing body of research shows, we just have to spend money...The economy needs additional stimulus to get back to normal rates of unemployment. The Republicans may block this path, but at least then the public might understand that people are unemployed or underemployed because of a political decision, not an act of God.”
- Economist Dean Baker

“The answer from economics is: There is plenty we can do to create jobs and promote growth.”
- Economist Joseph E. Stiglitz

“The time-honored principle, backed by economists right and left, is that temporary bursts of spending — which usually arise when there’s a war to fight, but can also arise from other causes, including financial crises and natural disasters — are a good reason to run temporary budget deficits. Rather than imposing sharp cuts in other spending or sharply raising taxes, governments can and should spread the burden over time, borrowing now and repaying gradually via a combination of lower spending and higher taxes.”
- Economist Paul Krugman.

“Playing it safe is not going to cut it. Not proposing anything bold and not trying to do something to definitively deal with our problems would mean that we’re going to have another year and a half like the last year and a half...”
- Economist Christina Romer