Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: Fall into the Income Gap Edition

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Nicholas Kristof reminds us that the structure of our economy is not an inevitable outcome. It's a choice.
The eruptions in Baltimore have been tied, in complex ways, to frustrations at American inequality, and a new measure of the economic gaps arrived earlier this year:

It turns out that the Wall Street bonus pool in 2014 was roughly twice the total annual earnings of all Americans working full time at the federal minimum wage.

I'm going to pause here to let that sink in. The bonus pool, not the salaries of everyone on Wall Street, but just the bonus pool of a few people in a single city, working at tasks most of us could not name and few of us would miss, exceeded the total income of everyone across the nation who waited on you at a restaurant, who picked up your trash and recycling, who stocked the shelves in your grocery, and a hundred other daily things that you would most certainly notice if they were to vanish.
We've been walloped with staggering statistics like this long enough that although this used to be a Democratic issue, Republicans are now speaking up. “The United States is beset by a crisis in inequality,” warned Senator Mike Lee of Utah, a Republican with Tea Party support (although he added that his concern is gaps in opportunity, not wealth).
Yet another ridiculous Republican rephrasing (RRR) of income inequality. This RRR is almost as good as the old saw that the real problem is that the rich are paying too much in tax, while lazy poor people pay too little. Which causes income be as big as it should be?
We as a nation have chosen to prioritize tax shelters over minimum wages, subsidies for private jets over robust services for children to break the cycle of poverty. And the political conversation is often not about free rides by corporations, but about free rides by the impoverished.

Kansas’ Legislature is so concerned with this that it recently banned those receiving government assistance from, among other things, spending welfare funds on cruise ships (there is, of course, no indication that this was a problem). Will Kansas next address the risk that food stamps are spent on caviar and truffles? We all know that public money is better used to subsidize tax-deductible business meals by executives at fancy restaurants.

Well, Missouri already took care of that caviar business. In fact, the Missouri bill would keep people from using food stamps on any fancy sea food, like say Mrs. Paul's Fish Sticks.

But the point here is this is all political. A yawning income chasm is not a given. It's something we've created through a thousand paper cuts.

Come on in. Let's see what other punditry is afoot.

Sunday Talk: Scorching #HotTakes

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Given that the Apocalypse is coming, we'll probably never really know whether Freddie Gray got away with murdering himself and framing six of Baltimore's finest in the process, as is suggested by a recent Washington Post article.

For, to paraphrase Iraq War mastermind Donald Rumsfeld, "There are known knowns, and known unknowns; and there are also unknown unknowns."

Now, all that being said, after staying at a Holiday Inn Express last night, I know that I know this:

If it weren't for gay marriage; minority voting; Planned Parenthood; anchor babies; food stamps; the international so-called "global warming" conspiracy; unrighteous judges; Democrat [sic] witch hunts; the genetic inferiority of blacks; daddy issues; and our modern society's lack of morals, we wouldn't even be having this discussion right now.


Open thread: Riots, roots and racists

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What's coming up on Sunday Kos ...

  • 'Sir, are you injured anywhere?' vs. 'f*ck your breath'. Only one kind of approach provokes riots, by Ian Reifowitz
  • Reclaiming secularism is the key to protecting religious liberty, by Jon Perr
  • On "riots" and roots, by Denise Oliver Velez
  • The White House Correspondents' Dinner: America's political saturnalia, by Dante Atkins
  • The most racist areas in the United States, by Susan Grigsby
  • Happy Birthday, Customer, by Mark E Andersen
  • Do we all live in a giant hologram, by DarkSyde
  • Hillary Clinton on Foreign Policy : Critical Perspectives from the Left, by koNko
  • A constitutional amendment is the only solution to our fraudulent politics, by Egberto Willies

Is it a UK parliamentary constituency or a Game of Thrones location?

Messrs. Sturgeon, Miliband, Cameron, Clegg, Lannister, and Lannister
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Two important things are currently going on, for fans of complex, impenetrable stories about people with impressively highbrow-sounding accents forming ever-shifting coalitions in order to try to gain control of an isolated island with bad weather. One is season 5 of Game of Thrones on HBO. The other is the United Kingdom parliamentary election, the first since 2010, to be held on May 7.

While there are plenty of wikis and fan sites devoted to Game of Thrones, I haven't seen anyone trying to apply FiveThirtyEight-style quantitative analysis to the question of who holds the Iron Throne. On the other hand, there are numerous sites devoted to predicting who holds No. 10 Downing Street. Polls currently show the Conservatives nearly neck-and-neck with Labour, who are poised for a comeback after the UK's economic recovery lagged the US's, thanks in part to the Conservatives' austerity agenda.

It's not a simple case of which party gets the most votes nationwide, though; there are 650 different constituencies in the House of Commons, and a first-past-the-post election in each one. Complicating matters greatly is that third (and fourth and fifth) parties play a much larger role in the UK. This means that not only are individual seats much more difficult to predict than in American congressional elections (because, in a left-leaning constituency, multiple left-of-center parties might split the vote in a way that lets the Conservatives win), but also that no party is likely to control a true majority of seats and that power must be held through a coalition.

For instance, the Conservatives (who, confusingly, you'll often see referred to as the Tories) won only 306 seats in the last election, and hold power today only because of a coalition with the centrist Liberal Democrats. However, both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are expected to lose seats next week. Good news for Labour, right? Not quite: Labour is likely to pick up a number of seats from the Conservatives, but also lose a number of seats in their previous stronghold of Scotland to the Scottish National Party. While the SNP is perhaps even further to the left than Labour, they're focused on Scottish autonomy and not necessarily disposed to form a full coalition with Labour. One of the likeliest outcomes might be no coalition at all, but a Labour/SNP informal relationship that limps along until another election will be held.

The element of chaos that third parties bring to the mix (even greater this year, with the rising impact of the Greens on the left and the UK Independence Party on the right), is an enjoyable part of following UK politics. But another enjoyable aspect is simply the constituencies themselves: there are no boring, American-style numeric designations like CO-06 or FL-18 here. Instead, they have pleasing, evocative names, many of which sound like they're straight out of the mists of medieval times ... or from fantasy literature, like Game of Thrones itself. With that in mind, we thought a fun quiz mixing the two would be a good way to delve deeper into both. So, for each location below, which is it? A UK parliament constituency, or a location from Game of Thrones?

1. Amber Valley
2. Barrowlands
3. Beaconsfield
4. Casterly Rock
5. Castle Point
6. Eddisbury
7. Great Grimsby
8. Hazel Grove
9. Highgarden
10. King's Landing
11. Maidstone and the Weald
12. Mole Valley
13. Pyke
14. Riverrun
15. The Eyrie
16. The Wrekin
17. Vale of Glamorgan
18. White Harbor
19. Wolfswood
20. Wyre Forest
Head over the fold for the answers!

Cartoon: Animal Nuz #249 - Bending Towards Justice Edition

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strip 249 panel 1

This week at progressive state blogs: Lynch and the power of black women, SD polygamists seek water

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This week in progressive state blogs is designed specifically to focus attention on the writing and analysis of people focused on their home turf. Let me know via comments or Kosmail if you have a favorite state- or city-based blog you think I should be watching. Inclusion of a diary does not necessarily indicate my agreement or endorsement of its contents.

At Montana Cowgirl, Cowgirl writes—In Montana, No One is Minding the Store for Legislative Ethics:

Cowgirl of Montana logo
Unlike many states, Montana lacks an  independent commission that regulates conduct of state legislators – such as conflicts of interest, abuse of power, abuse of office, post-term employment restrictions, and financial disclosure.

The only oversight of ethics in the Montana legislature is an “ethics committee” made up of legislators themselves. But in our state, the fox isn’t even bothering to guard the henhouse.  As far as I can tell, the ethics committee never meets.

There is no one watching out for whether they pass legislation or budget appropriations which would benefit their employers, their families, or themselves.

Montana legislative candidates are required to disclose their business interests, but such disclosures are not audited.  No one knows whether they have really disclosed their investments nor not.  Many lawmakers simply put a profession, such as “real estate”  and don’t list who their employer is.

State legislators in Montana are not required to disclose the junkets they attend on lobbyists’ dime.  For example, it has been an open secret in the 2015 session that Fred Thomas, Art Wittich, Cary Smith and others were treated to a trip to Florida by the Florida “Foundation for Government Accountability” the ALEC-affiliated right-wing think tank that works with AFP to oppose Medicaid expansions.  Nor must they disclose how many steak dinners or gifts they accept on behalf of lobbying organizations. [...]

Please continue below the orange gerrymander for more excerpts from progressive state blogs.

This week in the war on workers: Death on the job

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This week, in honor of Workers Memorial Day, the AFL-CIO released its Death on the Job report. Some facts:
In 2013, 4,585 workers were killed on the job in the United States, and an estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases, resulting in a loss of 150 workers each day from hazardous working conditions.

Nearly 3.8 million work-related injuries and illnesses were reported, but many injuries
are not reported. The true toll is likely two to three times greater, or 7.6 million to 11.4 million injuries each year.

Over the past four years, the job fatality rate has declined slightly each year, with a rate of 3.3 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2013 compared with a rate of 3.6 per 100,000 workers in 2010. [...]

Latino workers continue to be at increased risk of job fatalities. The fatality rate among Latino workers increased in 2013 to 3.9 per 100,000 workers, up from a rate of 3.7 per 100,000 in 2012. At the same time, the number and rate of fatalities for all other races declined or stayed the same. There were 817 Latino workers killed on the job in 2013, up from 748 deaths in 2012. Sixty-six percent of the fatalities (542 deaths) in 2013 were among workers born outside the United States. There was a sharp increase in Latino deaths among grounds maintenance workers. Specifically, deaths related to tree trimming and pruning doubled among Latino workers since 2012, and 87% of the landscaping deaths among Latino workers were immigrants. [...]

Workplace violence continues to be the second leading cause of job fatalities in the United States (after transportation incidents), responsible for 773 worker deaths and 26,520 lost-time injuries in 2013. Women workers suffered 70% of the lost-time injuries related to workplace violence.

The cost of job injuries and illnesses is enormous—estimated at $250 billion to $360
billion a year.

Continue reading below the fold for more of the week's education and labor news.

House seeking to slash spending on Earth science

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Hard to believe there were times when either political party regularly distinguished itself and alternately embarrassed the entire nation when it came to science. Or that for a few brief shining years in the early days of the Cold War, the US actually stressed science and technology.

But it would be short-lived. America won the space race, Nixon swept into power, and conservatives turned to exploiting the cold civil war that had been simmering for a century on the heels of Reconstruction. With that came a fierce brand of willful ignorance worn proudly like a badge of honor by bigots and idiots alike. And not just way down south, in Dixie.

This week those forces of ignorance struck again, savagely slashing funding from NASA earmarked for Earth Science on behalf of their billionaire paymasters:

As I wrote this morning, Republicans on the House Committee for Science, Space, and Technology passed a nakedly partisan budget authorization bill for NASA that drastically and brutally slashes hundreds of millions of dollars from NASA's Earth Science Division, which studies how climate change is affecting our planet.
Don't let anyone waste your time trying to convince you both sides are "the same" when it comes to science, that it's only the issues that change. Poll after poll shows progressives and independents are better informed and more in tune with the consensus of science on virtually every major issue than conservatives. And by and large, the more conservative the person is, the more Fox News and right-wing talk radio he or she consumes, the worse the person compares, on everything.

That's not a coincidence. Conservatives have invested heavily in misinformation infrastructure for decades and science was one of their primary targets from the beginning. Since the cold war began to wind down more than 20 years ago, a handful of mostly former DoD scientists put themselves on the market, willing and eager to stamp their degrees on any zany nonsense that would pay. Over the years they've been joined by many more, and that nonsense is channeled through an impressive network of churches, radio, TV, and print media straight into the ears and eyes of conservatives who want to believe it.

We simply have nothing that compares to the carefully managed feedback loop of willful ignorance that has developed, we couldn't match it if we wanted to, and we don't want to. Knock pseudo-science when you see it, on the left or on the right, but there's no need to help out the usual suspects by exaggerating the influence of a few misinformed, stubborn people on our side of the aisle. Traditional media, wary of some vague idea of balance, already does that anyway.

Baltimore Orioles team executive explained the Freddie Gray protests as few have

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The Baltimore Orioles baseball team has been inadvertently caught in the middle of the public uprising over the brutal death in police custody of Freddie Gray. First, its fans were temporarily locked inside the team's Camden Yards baseball stadium, as the chaos roiled around it, then a home game was played to empty stands, out of fear for fan safety. Local sports broadcaster Brett Hollander decried the inconvenience to fans, and criticized the protests. Orioles Chief Operating Officer John Angelos, whose father Peter is the team's owner, responded:
Brett, speaking only for myself, I agree with your point that the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. MLK, Gandhi, Mandela and all great opposition leaders throughout history have always preached this precept. Further, it is critical that in any democracy, investigation must be completed and due process must be honored before any government or police members are judged responsible.

That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.

That a baseball executive is able to contextualize what so many politicians and media mouthpieces can only stereotype and vilify contextualizes the depth of dysfunction in our politics and media.

Spotlight on green news & views: Super El Niño forms, oil & gas drilling damage, wind power soars

Three tropical cyclones churned the waters around Australia on March 11, 2015,
including Pam, one of the strongest storms ever in the region. See FishOutofWater's post here
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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 22,400 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.
Super El Nino Likely as Huge Warm Water Wave Hits West Coast, Extreme Marine Die Off Developing—by FishOutofWater: "In early March, the strongest wave of tropical convection ever measured (known as the Madden Julian Oscillation) by modern meteorology moved into the western Pacific from Indonesian waters bringing an outbreak of 3 tropical cyclones, including deadly category 5 Pam which ravaged the south Pacific islands of Vanuatu. This extreme outburst of tropical storms and organized thunderstorms pulled strong westerly winds across the equator, unleashing a huge surge of warm water below the ocean surface. Normally, trade winds blow warm water across the Pacific from the Americas to Australia and Indonesia, pushing up sea level in the west Pacific. When the trade winds suddenly reversed to strong westerlies, it was as if a dam burst, but on the scale of the earth's largest ocean, the Pacific. The front edge of that massive equatorial wave, called a Kelvin wave, is now coming ashore on the Americas. [...] The forecast of a strong El Nino brings good news to California. NOAA's CFSv2 model is forecasting above well above normal precipitation for October through December, 2015. Because models are forecasting El Nino conditions to continue through January 2016 there is a good chance that heavy winter rains will break the California drought. The downside will be massive landslides and flooding in areas that have been affected by recent wild fires."
New Oil Drilling in West Scarred Land, Harmed Ecosystems, Used Water = 3 Lake Superiors—by Steven D: "A recent study published in the prestigious journal Science shows that the fragile ecosystems of the West have suffered extensive damage as a result of increased drilling for oil and gas. This damage resulted from the complete removal of all native trees, shrubs and grasses on land used used for new (not existing) drilling operations conducted during the years of 2000-2012. How large is the affected area? It's huge. From Scientific American: New research shows that an area larger than the land area of Maryland—more than 11,500 square miles—was completely stripped of trees, grasses and shrubs to make way for more than 50,000 new oil and gas wells that were developed each year between 2000 and 2012. Such broad industrialization may harm the ability of some regions to recover from drought and damage the ability of the land to store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. As this graphic from the research paper, 'Ecosystem services lost to oil and gas in North America,' published on April 24, 2015, shows, most of this new drilling occurred in the Rocky Mountain and Northern Plains region of the US and Canada."

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

View from the left—the scourge of inequality persists

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While I scrambled to assemble posts this week about the Supreme Court’s oral arguments on same-sex marriage, I simultaneously watched pain flood the streets of Baltimore on my TV screen.

The oral arguments for same-sex marriage were in large part a celebration for the LGBT equality movement. It was just a decade ago that antigay marriage amendments swept the country over a couple election cycles. Yet now, the movement seemed miraculously poised to score a big win that would bring both legal marriage rights and a powerful affirmation of our humanity to every corner of this country. Whether that outcome proves true, still remains to be seen. Nonetheless, the equality movement is expectant—hopeful that the dawn of a new day is upon us.

By contrast, the scene in Baltimore was a poignant moment of pure anguish—a festering wound that deepened by the day. Far from getting a momentous forward push, the headwind seemed to stiffen for a movement that LGBT Americans have drawn so much inspiration and so many lessons from. As I watched the two dramas unfold, I was immediately taken back two years to the week in June in which the Supreme Court issued back-to-back rulings: one pushed equality forward for gays by overturning the Defense of Marriage Act while the other set equality back for black Americans by gutting the Voting Rights Act.

The movements, which have not always sat comfortably together, now seem disconcertingly out of step with one another, which is not to suggest that they are at odds. And yet the commonality between the two movements is that, to their core, they are a yearning for respect—respect for our community, for our families and for ourselves. While the LGBT lawyers at the Supreme Court sought for our love to be recognized equally in the eyes of the law, the kids on the streets of Baltimore made an urgent plea to be seen by a country that seems to have either willfully or willingly forgotten about them.

As a gay American who has both covered the LGBT movement and fought for it over the last decade, it felt almost unsettling to be seeking currency from a system that has systematically devalued so many others. Even as our lawyers argued away in the court room, elected officialsincluding President Obama—referred to the kids who had taken to the streets on Monday night as "thugs."

Please head below the fold for more on the tale of two dramas.

How Apple single-handedly lays waste to conservative ideology

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Tuesday morning, riding high after yet another gangbusters quarter, Apple reached a new high, worth more than $760 BILLION. This makes it worth more than, well, a ton of things, including all but 18 COUNTRIES in the world.

Think about that ... Apple is worth more than the GDP of Saudi Arabia, or Switzerland, or Sweden. And despite being this financial juggernaut, the company is still experiencing double-digit growth. In just the past three months, Apple booked profits of $13.6 billion on $58 billion in revenue. Four years ago, the last of Steve Jobs' reign, he bragged about hitting $50 billion in revenue ... for the YEAR.

Not only are those numbers eye-watering, but that profit margin is the envy of the entire business world. The company has just shy of $200 billion in its cash horde, even as it has stepped up efforts to return cash to its shareholders. A $1 trillion valuation isn't far away.

So by all objective measures, Apple is the most successful company in the modern era. (The Dutch East India Company wins overall top honors, with an inflation-adjusted valuation of $7.3 trillion.) Yet, keep in mind the following:

* Apple is based on California, and continues to expand its operations in the state. Conservatives bray incessantly about the Golden State's "high taxes and burdensome regulations," yet the world's most high-value and innovative companies continue to be based here. You don't see Apple or its peers fleeing to tax havens like Alabama. Why? Because those taxes and regulations actually create a favorable business climate for Apple, delivering it the talent it desperately needs.

More below the fold.

Had you ever even heard of police doing rough rides before Freddie Gray? They're everywhere.

Freddie Gray being loaded into a van by Baltimore Police
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On April 12th, six Baltimore police officers assaulted Freddie Gray and took him on something I'll admit I've never heard of before called a "rough ride."

A "rough ride," also called a "cowboy ride," is when a handcuffed man or woman is put into the back of a police van or paddy wagon, without being buckled in or secured. The vehicle then drives recklessly, making sharp, dangerous turns and sudden movements in ways that throw the passenger violently around the vehicle.

When Freddie Gray was arrested in Baltimore, he was actually only five city blocks away from the precinct. The drive to take him there should've only taken two minutes, but instead, Freddie Gray was taken on a 40 minute rough ride. New evidence suggests that Freddie Gray received a catastrophic spinal injury in the back of the van just 14 minutes into the ride.

These rough rides, though, have a deep and ugly history in Baltimore and beyond.

Dondi Johnson, 43, was picked up on a public urination charge in November 2005. Officers placed him in a police van without fastening his seat belt, his family alleged. Johnson complained about needing to use a bathroom, so he was driven to the closest police station, according to the family’s lawyer. Upon arrival, however, the officers found him on the floor of the van “complaining about how the car was driven,” according to the family.

The officers pulled Johnson from the van, placed him in a patrol car and took him to Sinai Hospital, where tests showed he had a fractured and dislocated spine, resulting in quadriplegia, according to the family.

After fighting to survive for two weeks, Dondi Johnson died in the hospital on Dec. 7, 2005.

Tissue alert: Lesbian moms learn sign language for their newly adopted daughter

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This is apparently a first—an American bank featuring an LGBT couple in a national ad. Wells Fargo follows the couple as they learn sign language for their newly adopted daughter, who is deaf.

"Nice to meet you."
"Are you cold?"
"I'm so proud of you."

They forgot, "Do you need a tissue?"

Tony Perkins claims churches will lose federal tax exemptions over marriage equality ruling

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Located in Greenville, South Carolina, Bob Jones University is a deeply conservative institution catering to fundamentalist Christians. The laundry list of rules students must abide by are laughably archaic. I'm sure it will floor you to learn that Bob Jones University once had a serious problem with racism.

As late as 1971, BJU did not accept blacks into their school. This policy would not change until the IRS threatened to pull their federal tax exemptions over their racially discriminatory admissions policies. At that point, they acquiesced and began enrolling black students with the bizarre caveat that they be married, a requirement not demanded of any other students.

With the Runyon v. McCrary case looming at the Supreme Court in 1975 over racial exclusion in private schools, the University Board of Trustees saw the handwriting on the wall. They authorized a change in policy to admit even unmarried black students prior to the Supreme Court decision. But that wouldn't be the end of their woes with the IRS.

Please continue reading below.

Obama touts education programs in weekly address

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In a global economy, we’ve got to help ensure that everyone, of every age, in every zip code—urban and rural—has the chance to learn the skills that lead directly to a good job.
President Obama touted his education initiatives in this morning's weekly address, including high-speed internet in schools and free community college. Delivering the address from a public library where he had met with students, Obama said:
All of us have a responsibility to not only make sure our own children have pathways to success but that all children do. And a great education is the ticket to a better life like never before. Making sure all our kids receive one is the surest way to show them that their lives matter. And it’s the smartest way to prove to them that in communities like this, and in a country like ours, we believe in opportunity for all.
To read the transcript in full, check below the fold or visit the White House website.

This week in science: stardrive?

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There is great excitement in some corners of the space exploration community this week, as several NASA people opened up a discussion with engineers and others outside the agency over a mysterious, possibly radically new type of engine:  

After consistent reports of thrust measurements from EM Drive experiments in the US, UK, and China – at thrust levels several thousand times in excess of a photon rocket, and now under hard vacuum conditions – the question of where the thrust is coming from deserves serious inquiry.

Applications: The applications of such a propulsion drive are multi-fold, ranging from low Earth orbit (LEO) operations, to transit missions to the Moon, Mars, and the outer solar system, to multi-generation spaceships for interstellar travel.

Under these application considerations, the closest-to-home potential use of EM Drive technology would be for LEO space stations – such as the International Space Station.

Be hopeful, but cautious, and remember cold fusion. It's not at all clear if this thing really works, yet. Even if it pans out in the most ideal way, a lot of hurdles would have to be cleared before a souped up version could be designed.

But in theory, a drive that can accelerate and decelerate up to say, a middling 50-100 miles per second, within a few weeks, and that doesn't have to carry the fuel on board to do so, would open up our solar system in much the same way advances in wind power and navigation enabled the systematic exploration of the Earth's surface during the Age of Discovery starting about 500 years ago.  

  • Science writer Jennifer Ouellette has a flair for fearlessly tackling some of the most complex topics in physics and cosmology with superb writing and top-notch research. Here she dives into a classic form of analysis on a classic paradox in physics and a related, mind-bending idea, written for the benefit of the layperson, and one that we'll flesh out more tomorrow on Sunday Kos, called the holographic principle.
  • Health care is part science, part policy, a bunch of inside baseball from the insurance industry, and a ton of politics these days. Which is why I never miss a post by Richard Mayhew over at Balloon Juice on those topics. I almost always learn something from him.
  • NASA's Messenger Mercury spacecraft intentionally ended its life this week when it finally ran out of fuel for station keeping and plunged into that dense little planet. Craters on Mercury are named after artists and writers, even Tolkien has one! Messenger left a small, respectable crater behind, who do you think should get the honor?
  • Blue Origins rockets into the private space-race:
    Three weeks after revealing that its liquid hydrogen- and liquid oxygen-fueled rocket engine was ready to fly, Blue Origin, a startup space company owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, launched its New Shepard spaceship on its first flight into suborbital space, the company said Thursday.

    Powered by the recently completed BE-3 engine, the rocket blasted off from Blue’s privately owned test site in West Texas on Wednesday (the time was not disclosed) and soared almost to the edge of space 62 miles (100 kilometers) above the planet.

Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: Chris Christie's end will be bitter and messy

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.@mikiebarb all but declares Christie over
NY Times:
No matter how Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey spins the George Washington Bridge scandal as he eyes a run for president, one thing should be clear: These are his people, charged with a conspiracy to exact revenge against a local mayor by closing lanes to one of the world’s busiest bridges.
There have been plenty of pundits refusing to admit Chris Christie is toast (I'm not one of them.) But the end game is upon us.

NY Times:

Brigid Harrison, a professor of political science at Montclair State University who has studied Mr. Christie closely for years, said the indictments of Bridget Anne Kelly and Bill Baroni, once two of the governor’s most loyal and trusted lieutenants, spelled the death knell for his national aspirations.

“Even if he is not directly connected to the indictments,” Professor Harrison said, “he is guilty of creating a political culture in which corruption was allowed to flourish.”

Mr. Christie faces the specter of a lengthy and embarrassing criminal trial overshadowing the 2016 presidential campaign, in which the star witness — David Wildstein, a onetime Christie loyalist who pleaded guilty on Friday to two counts of conspiracy — still maintains the governor was aware of the lane-closing plot as it happened.

Nate Cohn on Bernie Sanders' political issues:
The presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders, a senator from Vermont and self-described socialist who will most likely champion the liberal cause, won’t change that fact that Hillary Rodham Clinton is poised to win the Democratic nomination without a serious contest.

That’s true even though the Democratic Party’s liberal activist base, which strongly opposed her bid in 2008, has considerable reservations about her ties to Wall Street, her foreign policy, the recent allegations about foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation and the revelations about the private email account and server she used when she was the secretary of state.

This is mainly because of Mr. Sanders’s own weaknesses as a candidate and Mrs. Clinton’s strengths. But there is another, strangely simple reason Mrs. Clinton will have an easy road to the nomination: The left wing of the Democratic Party just isn’t big enough to support a challenge to the left of a mainstream liberal Democrat like Mrs. Clinton.

I love Bernie, and I'm glad he's running. But political reality is what it is.

More politics and policy below the fold.

Open thread for night owls: FAIR takes on economist pundit who disappeared economist critics of TPP

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At Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, Jim Naureckaswrites NYT Lets Economic Pundit Disappear TPP’s Economist Critics:
The New York Times (4/24/15) handed its readers an exploding cigar this weekend–in the form of an “Economic View” piece by Greg Mankiw headlined “Economists Actually Agree on This: The Wisdom of Free Trade.” In this piece, Mankiw–an economic adviser to George W. Bush and Mitt Romney who writes regularly for the Times–put forward an argument in favor of fast-tracking the TPP and TIPP trade pacts whose logic was so tortured it might shock Dick Cheney.
“The issue at hand,” wrote Mankiw, is whether Congress will give President Obama “fast track” authority to negotiate a trade deal with our trading partners in the Pacific…. Among economists, the issue is a no-brainer…. Economists are famous for disagreeing with one another…. But economists reach near unanimity on some topics, including international trade.

So all economists are for TPP because TPP is a “free trade” bill and all economists are for “free trade.” Simple, right? The only reason Congress wouldn’t pass fast track, Mankiw suggests, is if politicians listened to voters who were “worse than ignorant about the principles of good policy.”

You would never know, reading Mankiw’s piece, that many economists in factoppose TPP and fast track. Or that economists can and do reject the characterization of TPP and the like as “free trade” bills. Or that there is no consensus in the economics field that free trade necessarily benefits most people. [...]

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2005Buffett: Thumbs Down on Bush's SS Piratization:

Warren Buffet doesn't think much of Bush's SS scam. This quote below is from the Omaha World-Herald (registration required):

Warren Buffett, the 74-year-old chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, and his 81-year-old partner, Charlie Munger, launched an impassioned defense of Social Security at the company's annual meeting Saturday, with Munger terming Republican efforts to overhaul the program "twaddle."

While they did not directly discuss President Bush's proposal to allow Americans to divert some of their Social Security taxes to individual investment accounts, Buffett and Munger said the country faces far more pressing problems than the projected Social Security insolvency in 40 or 50 years. [...]
Munger, who called himself a "right-wing Republican," said, "Republicans are out of their cotton-picking minds to be taking on this issue now. "Munger cited nuclear tensions with North Korea and Iran as issues the administration should be working on instead of "wasting its good will over some twaddle." [...]

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in the 60s, cons used "law + order" to get into power, but WHAT IF we on the left decided that LAW AND JUSTICE could be a change catalyst?

On today's Kagro in the Morning show, Capitol GunFAIL! Greg Dworkin rounds up Bridgegate, Sanders, Republican demands for work requirements for Medicaid expansion, Rick Scott's continuing contortions, and Jeb's Charles Murray fandom. The invasion of TX is underway. Conservatives prepare their gay marriage freak-out. A near "perfect storm" of GunFAIL: school cop shoots himself with a derringer in his pocket while at Walmart. Armando on VT's GMO labeling law & TPP, plus Dickerson's thoughts on Sanders. More on ShotSpotter; Samsung's TV that listens to you; the surveillance we "volunteer" for, and; how Motel 6 reportedly started faxing all its guests' names to the cops!

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Daily Kos and coalition partners deliver 160,000+ signatures to Nancy Pelosi against Fast Track

Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco chief of staff Dan Bernal meets with Daily Kos, CREDO Action, Sum of Us, Electronic Frontier Foundation & Corporate Accountability International
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As House Republicans and the White House whip votes to pass fast-track legislation for the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal, passage depends on House Democrats—and everyone knows it.

Daily Kos members have been very engaged on pressuring Congress to reject Fast Track, and we have been working with coalition partners like CREDO Action, Public Citizen, Sum of Us, Corporate Accountability International, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Food & Water Watch.

Today, I joined a delegation from these groups—all of whom are San Francisco constituents of Nancy Pelosi—to the House minority leader’s office as we delivered 160,000+ signatures against fast track.

“In 2014, Leader Pelosi said no to fast track for the TPP and now she has a chance to be a hero again,” said Murshed Zaheed, Deputy Political Director at CREDO Action. “If Leader Pelosi uses her power and influence to lead Democrats in the House to stop Fast Track, that will mean the end for the TPP.”

President Obama is meeting with 30-odd House members today from the conservative “New Democrat Caucus,” hoping to peel off just enough Democratic votes to pass fast-track. That is why our petition delivery today was so important.

Since Friday, Daily Kos has generated over 1,400 constituent phone calls to House Democrats. If your member of Congress is a Democrat, please call the Capitol Hill switchboard at (202) 224-3121 today or tomorrow and leave the following message with your member’s office:

I am one of your constituents. As a Democrat, I am urging you to stand up for working people and say NO to a secret corporate trade deal that will ship jobs overseas and endanger our environment. Please vote NO on fast-track approval for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.
House Democrats are under a lot of pressure, so we need to keep enough in line. Please make a quick phone call.


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