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The GOP clown car made headlines a few years when an assembled panel was asked during a debate if they accepted the organizing principle in evolutionary biology and several signaled "no." This cycle is not shaping up to be any prettier, even with a neurosurgeon and an ophthalmologist in the fray:

But despite assorted elite educations and illustrious careers, none can apparently make up their minds about basics of modern science – that the Earth is about 4.5bn years old, that humans evolved from earlier primates over millions of years, and that people are making the world dangerously warm.

“I think on issues like climate change and evolution it ends up being a proxy for identity politics,” said Michael Halpern, a program manager for the nonprofit and nonpartisan Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). “You’re not actually talking about the science, you’re talking about values.”

So far the candidates have mostly hemmed and hawed – save Carson, who outright rejected the theory of evolution when speaking to Faith & Liberty radio last year. “Carbon dating, all these things,” he said “really doesn’t mean anything to a God who has the ability to create anything at any point in time.

Carson is alluding to the appearance of age dodge, the idea that a creator being painted detailed images of age into light from Quasars billions of light-years away, and other objects closer to home. Make of it what you will.
Reposted from Daily Kos Labor by Laura Clawson
President Barack Obama meets with Amy Rosenbaum, Deputy Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs and Stephen Hedger, Senate Legislative Affairs Liaison, in the Oval Office, April 24, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The Labor Department is moving ahead with President Obama's eagerly awaited overtime pay expansion. That's good news, but we don't know yet how good. Currently, workers who make as little as $24,000 a year can be denied time-and-a-half if they're considered managers—even if most of the work they do isn't managerial. Obama has promised to raise that threshold to cover more salaried workers, but hasn't said how high it will go, and the fact that the Labor Department has finalized a plan doesn't change that. Yet:
The full proposal is now under review by OMB officials and won't be made public for at least several weeks. After it is published, there will be a review period during which interested parties can comment on the proposed rule. The details of the rule are eagerly awaited by employers and worker advocates -- not to mention overworked Americans -- since they will ultimately determine who receives time-and-a-half pay when they work more than 40 hours in a week.
Just 11 percent of salaried workers qualify for overtime under the current rules. To cover the same proportion of workers who were eligible for overtime in 1975, the threshold would have to be raised from $23,660 to $69,004 ($58,344 if you adjust for increased education). To adjust for inflation since 1975, the number would be $51,168. Any increase will be an improvement that means overtime eligibility for millions more workers—meaning employers can't save on wages by hiring salaried "managers" and expecting them to stock shelves 10 hours a day—but here's hoping the Obama administration has chosen a number that will get us back to 1975 by one measure or another.
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) answers questions from reporters after the weekly Republican caucus luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington March 11, 2014.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
There's real momentum in Congress to actually end some of the NSA's surveillance powers with a reform bill that would replace the provisions of the Patriot Act that expire at the end of May. But while the bipartisan movement grows on both sides of the Hill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can stop it by playing out the clock and forcing a last minute extension vote. Right now it looks like that's exactly what he intends to do.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday he intends to push for a straight extension of expiring PATRIOT Act provisions, setting up a clash with House leaders who prefer a bill that would end the National Security Agency's bulk data collection program.

McConnell said that, given the time constraints, he is planning to put on the Senate floor legislation to preserve the Section 215 bulk data initiative, as well as roving wiretap authorization and a so-called lone wolf provision allowing intelligence gathering on individuals who aren't connected to any known terrorist organization. […]

"The most likely outcome is some kind of extension," McConnell said. "It will be open for amendment whenever we fully turn to it. The question is whether we can do all of that between now and Memorial Day. And I can't tell you that right now."

McConnell controls the Senate calendar. If he wants to make sure there's enough time between now and Memorial Day, he can. But he doesn't have the votes right now for a clean extension in the Senate, and there isn't enough support for it in the House. The only way he can get it would be to wait until the very last minute before the provisions expire and force everyone to vote under duress. That's possibly a factor in Minority Leader Harry Reid's ploy to block action on fast-track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, not allowing McConnell to jam Congress at the last minute.

Meanwhile, new information from the Snowden documents shows how the NSA can use the masses of information they collect and conduct "bulk listening." Through speech-to-text software, the NSA can automatically recognize and search for content within phone calls. This helps answer the "needle in the haystack" question of how the agency could possibly be dealing with the masses of information they collect on everyone's phone calls—they automate it. Not surprisingly, this technology was apparently developed in secret, without Congress's knowledge, and thus is outside of the scope of existing law.

These latest revelations aren't likely to help McConnell as he tries to make his case for reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act as is, but he still has control of the calendar. It's going to be up to Senate Democrats and a handful of Republicans to refuse to respond to blackmail and to let the expiring provisions die. Then they can come back and do some real reform, which could include restricting the agency's use of all this text they're creating.

Somebody needs to wipe the climate-change-denying smile off Lamar Smith's mug.
The story about Republicans in committee axing big hunks of government science budgets sparked a deluge of social media and other commentary last week. Here's Elizabeth Kolbert at The New Yorker:
Last week, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, headed by Texas Republican Lamar Smith, approved a bill that would slash at least three hundred million dollars from NASA’s earth-science budget. “Earth science, of course, includes climate science,” Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Texas Democrat who is also on the committee, noted. (Smith said that the White House’s NASA budget request favored the earth sciences “at the expense of the other science divisions and human and robotic space exploration.”) Johnson tried to get the cuts eliminated from the bill, but her proposed amendment was rejected. Defunding NASA’s earth-science program takes willed ignorance one giant leap further. It means that not only will climate studies be ignored; some potentially useful data won’t even be collected.

The vote brought howls of protest from NASA itself and from wider earth-science circles. The agency’s administrator, Charles Bolden, issued a statement saying that the bill “guts our Earth science program and threatens to set back generations worth of progress in better understanding our changing climate.” In an opinion piece for the Washington Post, Marshall Shepherd, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Georgia and the former president of the American Meteorological Association, said that he could not sleep after hearing about the vote. “None of us has a ‘vacation planet’ we can go to for the weekend, so I argue that NASA’s mission to study planet Earth should be a ‘no-brainer,’ ” he wrote.

As Kolbert notes, the committee had previously whacked significant amounts from the budgets for the National Science Foundation’s geosciences program and Department of Energy's new energy sources program.

It's always tempting to label the politicians who take such actions buffoons, dingbats, dolts, dullards, dunces, know-nothings, simpletons, numskulls, morons, blockheads, harebrains, lamebrains or just plain brainless.

But that, accurate as it may be, lets them off the hook.

Their actions in this regard are, it's true, stupid, myopic and backward. But the intent of these mutha-fucking marionettes is perfectly in line with the fossil fuelists who pull their strings. That's not stupid when the campaign coffers are being filled.

Defunding the scientists and programs dedicated to learning more about what is the only humanly inhabitable planet in many a parsec is not just idiocy. It's meant to bolster the goals and, most importantly, the bottom line of the corporations whose products are the driving force behind the global warming that is steadily making Earth less humanly habitable.

If we don't collect data, don't dig into alternatives and don't study impacts, then who's to say we cannot continue business as usual—the oil, coal and gas business, that is?

These men and women can set back progress in climate science. They can censor scientific voices just as Rick Scott won't let public employees say "climate change" and North Carolina barred using scientific evidence of sea level rise. But no matter what Exxon and the Koch brothers pay them to vote and to say, these politicians cannot censor global warming itself.


Lefty Coaster has a post discussing this here.

Freddie Gray being loaded into the police van
Which is it?


This is a problem. Day in and day out, in every major city across America, police officers are driving in from out of town, into the inner city, to police men and women they don't know and most often don't understand in any empathetic fashion. In a sweeping study done by the Center for Public Integrity, it was determined that regardless of whether a large city had a majority African-American or Latino population, the majority of police forces in every city but Atlanta had a far greater share of white officers than the actual population.

In another study of the 75 largest cities in America, it was found that while 50 percent of African-American and Latino police officers lived in the actual cities they serve as officers, only 35 percent of white officers can say the same.

The disparity is starkest in cities with largely black populations. In Detroit, for example, 57 percent of black police officers live in the city but just 8 percent of white ones do. Memphis, Tennessee; Baltimore; Birmingham, Alabama; and Jackson, Mississippi — also majority black — likewise have large racial gaps in where their police officers live.
As a nation, as we seriously think through how to make significant improvements in public safety, we must consider the detrimental impact of these trends. It's far too easy to use force on people you don't know, aren't connected with, and likely never will be.
Screenshot of Harry Reid in NBC News interview with John Harwood, 4/14/2015
Still not onboard with fast-tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Under the rubric of "prioritize jobs" Democratic Sens. Tammy Baldwin (WI), Sherrod Brown (OH), Al Franken (MN), Gary Peters (MI), Brian Schatz (HI), Tom Udall (NM), the Ohio Democratic Party and the Searchlight Leadership Fund are sponsoring a petition that says no to fast-tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Searchlight was founded 18 years ago by Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate Minority Leader who is retiring at the end of his current term.

An email under Reid's name duplicates the language on the petition website:

Dear xxxxxx,

Free trade agreements have a history of killing jobs in America.

NAFTA displaced almost 7OO,OOO American jobs. CAFTA caused more than 5O,OOO job losses.

Since I’ve always put American jobs first, I’ve never supported a trade agreement. I’m certainly not going to support authority to move trade agreements through Congress faster.

That's why we're organizing a grassroots push to demonstrate support for putting U.S. jobs first. We’d like you to join us. Click here and add your name to the petition today.

We're just coming off a recession that hit Nevada particularly hard -- we cannot afford to speed through another trade agreement that doesn't protect American workers.

Thank you for adding your voice today.

Harry Reid

Reid's opposition to fast-tracking is no surprise. Sixteen months ago, when he was still majority leader, his opposition killed fast-tracking for the 113th Congress. At the time he said:
“Everyone knows how I feel about this,” Reid said just off the Senate floor. “Sen. Baucus knows. Sen. Wyden knows. The White House knows. Everyone would be well-advised to not push this right now.” [...]

The U.S. business community has lobbied hard for the legislation. Told of Reid’s comments, John Murphy, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s vice president for international affairs, said the effort to open new markets “starts” with the fast-track trade promotion authority bill.

“Refusing to move forward with [fast-tracking] only guarantees that foreign barriers against American goods stay in place,” Murphy said.

On the contrary, what refusing to move ahead did a year ago January and what it could do now is give Congress and the American people the opportunity to give this massive, corporate-kowtowing trade deal the thorough scrutiny it deserves, not the abbreviated look the Obama administration wants for it.
river otters
See Gwennedd's post
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 Saturday Spotlight can be seen here. More than 22,425 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.
"Volcanoes" of gas, mud (chemicals?) and water erupt during drilling.—by Pakalolo: "Steam, mud, gas and water (including possible fracking chemicals) exploded from a well in early April which had been drilled to a depth of 1600 feet. The explosion rocked the commune of Kuman located in SW Albania. The craters were 650 feet from the actual drill site. The terrorized inhabitants of the Kuman commune panicked while tons of clay fell on houses and their land. Walls of some of the houses cracked and large craters  appeared throughout the village. Nearly 70 houses were damaged by gas explosions, 35 of them have grave and serious damages, three are uninhabitable, while the others will be assessed by a commission established by the region. Thankfully, no deaths or serious injuries were reported. The image above shows what appears to be a flash flood of fluids from the drill site. A Canadian firm, Bankers Petroleum was responsible for the catastrophe and criminal proceeding against the company have been launched according to the  Marinza, Fier Police Directorate."
Fly Like an Eagle, SOAR Like a Hawk: Wind Power and the Fate of the Allegheny Flyway—by ruby red shoes: "SOAR's activities so far have been centered on penning letters to the editor of the Lewistown Sentinel. They also take local hiking groups up onto the ridges now and then, to look at areas that are either threatened by or already developed for wind power. They keep an eye on things. They evaluate sites, talk to landowners in the planned path of and adjacent to and downhill from wind power installations, and seek cooperation from the companies building the turbines. SOAR would like to stop wind development permanently in our neck of the Allegheny ridges. But where wind power already exists in the Flyway or can't be stopped, they want to see it meet ideal specifications related to protection of wildlife and the local landscape. The group and its issues are about as NIMBY as it gets. Many of us are against fossil fuels: oil, coal, natural gas. Nuclear power? No thank you. There are those against the stupidity of design and land-use  in deciding to construct gigantic solar monocultural fields when there are so many new, ingenious ways to keep solar small and decentralized. Burning wood contributes to deforestation and fills the air with smoke. Now we’re against wind power too? We have to use something, right? Who decides these things? A better question is, who decided NIMBY was so bad?"

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

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Wed May 06, 2015 at 03:00 PM PDT

Cartoon: Cinco de Mayo hangover

by laloalcaraz

Reposted from Comics by Barbara Morrill
Uncle Sam loves Mexican food and drink, especially on that colorful holiday Cinco de Mayo! But on May 6th things go back to normal and the US goes back to hating Mexicans. Congress goes back to fighting back Comprehensive Immigration Reform, and states go back to passing anti-immigrant laws. Enjoy your year long hangover!
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (L) and Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stand together during a ceremony to present Golf legend Jack Nicklaus with the Congressional Gold Medal “in recognition of his many contributions to the game of golf and his
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, at odds once again
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is working to up-end Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's plan to quickly pass fast-track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Reid says he'll hold up that bill until the Senate first addresses highway funding and PATRIOT Act reauthorization—both of which have deadlines attached to them. Then, Reid says, once those important and time-sensitive issues have been resolved, he'll be fine with the Senate turning to Trade Promotion Authority (though he opposes that legislation). Republicans are ... unhappy with him.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell implored his caucus to band together against Reid, sources inside the room said.

“It takes a bit of an adjustment to move from majority leader back to minority leader,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who has served as an emissary between Reid and McConnell. “Maybe Sen. Reid has got some adjusting to do. It’s the prerogative of the majority leader to set the schedule. … He should understand that.”

And it's the prerogative of the minority to hold things up and get in the way, as Republicans well know, that having been their specialty when in the minority. If there are 41 Democrats who don't want TPA to move forward until highway funding is no longer in danger of running out, they can make that happen. Republicans just want Democrats to play by different rules than they themselves play by. As usual.

With few exceptions, Senate Democrats—even some who may support TPA—are on Reid's side:

“The TPA has time. The highway bill and a couple of other things don’t,” [Sen. Dianne] Feinstein concluded. [...]

“Look, here’s the bottom line. We have two immediate deadlines: [Surveillance] and highways. If we get on trade, we’ll never get to them,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “What Harry has done makes some sense.”

Probably the bigger threat to Democratic unity on this is that President Obama very much wants TPA passed, and some Democrats who would stand firm against Republicans may be more vulnerable to pressure from the White House. That said, Obama also wants highway funding, which expires at the end of the month, right in time for construction season. So he at least has something to think about when deciding how hard to pressure Democrats to vote for TPA now, first, right away.

Whatever happens, Harry Reid continues to be a delight in his current role.

U.S. Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), still rejecting Obamacare reality.
Republicans can, more or less, learn. Or they can at least drop one lie and switch to another. In this case, it's grudgingly admitting that lots of people got coverage under Obamacare now that there's no way they can plausibly deny otherwise. But while they may have to now accept that millions have coverage, now they're arguing that Obamacare is bad coverage so it shouldn't really count.
Asked Sunday about his previous statement, Boehner said on NBC's "Meet the Press": "Yeah, you know why there's more people insured? Because a lot more people are on Medicaid.

"Giving people Medicaid insurance is almost like giving them nothing, because you can't find a doctor that will see Medicaid patients, Boehner added. "And so where do they end up? The same place they used to end up, in the emergency room."

Speaking on the Senate floor last week, Barrasso did not mention the number of people who have signed up; he instead focused on the caliber of the coverage, saying, "there is a difference between coverage and care."

When a Republican says "It's a fact," that's when you know they're being less than fully truthful. But it's actually kind of funny to hear a Republican use the argument that liberals have used for years to argue for single payer. No, coverage isn't the same as care, but it's not really true that the problem is as bad—or worse—under Obamacare than back in the bad old days. Even if you accept the false premise that most of the new enrollees have worthless Medicaid, Medicaid isn't worthless. Ask an expert. In this case, Rachel Garfield, senior researcher at the Kaiser Family Foundation, who says "On most measures, people with Medicaid fare about as well as people with private insurance, particularly with access to basic services. […] Where Medicaid has had some challenges is in access to specialty care."

How about the inability to find care? No, not so much according to a Commonwealth Fund survey. As of last July, 60 percent of people who had the new coverage—both private and Medicaid—said they'd already found and visited a doctor or gotten prescriptions filled and 75 percent said finding a doctor was easy. And 67 percent of them were able to get an appointment within two weeks. But only 58 percent were able to get an appointment with a specialist within two weeks. But wait! Cuz 58 percent is still a large majority.

Surely, though, people on Obamacare must hate it. Once again, no. Turns out, according to JD Powers and Associates, people with private plans on Obamacare like them better than people who have employer-sponsored coverage. Why? Because they have choice, and they feel like they're getting a good deal.

One more Obamacare lie, circling the drain. But hey, if they really are worried that there isn't enough access to care out there, maybe they should focus their "replacement plans" on making access better. Like that'll ever happen.

Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX) questions U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on
America's Dumbest Congressman, also known as Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, has finally weighed in on the frothing conspiracy theories surrounding Jade Helm 15 because of course he has.
“Over the past few weeks, my office has been inundated with calls referring to the Jade Helm 15 military exercise scheduled to take place between July 15 and September 15, 2015. This military practice has some concerned that the U.S. Army is preparing for modern-day martial law.
Keep in mind that Louie Gohmert represents the single dumbest district in all America, as evidenced by Louie Gohmert being put in office at all. When he says he's being inundated by calls from deeply paranoid stupid people, I think we can believe him.
Certainly, I can understand these concerns. When leaders within the current administration believe that major threats to the country include those who support the Constitution, are military veterans, or even ‘cling to guns or religion,’ patriotic Americans have reason to be concerned. We have seen people working in this administration use their government positions to persecute people with conservative beliefs in God, country, and notions such as honor and self-reliance. Because of the contempt and antipathy for the true patriots or even Christian saints persecuted for their Christian beliefs, it is no surprise that those who have experienced or noticed such persecution are legitimately suspicious.
TL;DR: Obama scary. Longer version: We have already concocted so many different conspiracy theories about Obama that a group of paint-drinking lunatics claiming Obama will be using the military to round up "patriots" and imprison them in Walmart sounds pretty reasonable at this point.
Once I observed the map depicting ‘hostile,’ ‘permissive,’ and ‘uncertain’ states and locations, I was rather appalled that the hostile areas amazingly have a Republican majority, ‘cling to their guns and religion,’ and believe in the sanctity of the United States Constitution. When the federal government begins, even in practice, games or exercises, to consider any U.S. city or state in 'hostile' control and trying to retake it, the message becomes extremely calloused and suspicious.
While godforsaken desert hellholes do tend to skew conservative all over the world, can't imagine why, I'm going to guess it's a coincidence. That said, one of the points of conducting such training exercises is that in a real conflict troops will probably be working in "hostile" or "uncertain" territory, and so the pretended-at map of the exercise ground probably has to mark out at least some area as "hostile" or it wouldn't be much of a war game, now would it. An exercise in which all areas are labeled "super-friendly" or "puppy playdate center" would be grand if the sitting president wanted to invade Lollipop Mountain, but as of now most such conflicts take place in blisteringly hot desert hellholes with poor infrastructure, heavily armed roving gangs of authority-defying nutjobs, and led by hostile theocratic regimes that think the American president might be the devil. If some group of military leaders considers all that and thinks "Texas?" you have only yourselves to blame.

But wait, there's more below the fold.

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Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) speaks at the 42nd annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, MD, February 26, 2015. Potential Republican presidential candidate Walker told grassroots conservatives on Thursday that his battle
Hillary Clinton lobbed a grenade into the Republican field Tuesday when she gave her full-throated support to the undocumented community—backing both a path to citizenship and deportation relief for Dreamers and their parents.
"I'm ready to have this discussion with anyone, anywhere, anytime," she said.
It didn't take long for some GOP hopefuls to pounce. Newly minted Republican candidate Carly Fiorina told CNN that Clinton was "pandering." Then she offered this innovative fix:
"I think we need to start with some basics, ya know, I think we need to secure the border."
Oh, that Carly—just so fresh and entrepreneurial. But the GOP's new darling in Iowa, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, was not to be outdone, going on an anti-immigrant tweet rant Wednesday.
.@HillaryClinton's full embrace of amnesty is unfair to hardworking Americans & immigrants who followed the law to achieve these rights -SKW
RT if you agree: by supporting @BarackObama's lawless executive action, @HillaryClinton once again believes she's above the law. - SKW
Surprisingly, only 63 of Walker's 128,000 followers retweeted that last one within the first hour. Certainly, Walker expected more given the latest New York Times/CBS News poll showing that nearly half of Republicans think undocumented immigrants should be deported.
On immigration, 46 percent of Republicans said illegal immigrants should be required to leave the United States, while only 16 percent of Democrats said the same.  And while 71 percent of Democrats said illegal immigrants should be able to stay in the country and apply for citizenship, just 38 percent of Republicans said they should be allowed to remain in America and pursue citizenship.
That same poll, released Tuesday before the immigration event, found Clinton dominating even the GOP's most immigration-friendly candidates.
The Latino Vote: In new NBC/WSJ poll, Hillary leads both Jeb (66%-28%) and Rubio (63%-32%) among Latino voters
Interestingly, neither Marco Rubio nor Jeb Bush has had any response to Clinton's event. That's probably because they know they can't win the White House without at least some Latino support.

But if you want to get a sense of the tough spot Clinton has created for Republicans in the general election, one need only look at yesterday's Twitter feed from conservative Latina pundit and former McCain National Hispanic co-chair, Ana Navarro. Navarro attempted to tamp down the enthusiasm of immigration activists and rebut the media's read on Clinton's comments.

It's not that easy. Folks have heard it before "@BuzzFeedAndrew: Hillary Just Won Over Much Of The Skeptical Immigrant Activist Movement..."
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