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torture
When the news first came out that the United States had tortured suspected terrorists, there were three responses: Some Americans said, good, they deserved it; some were shocked and appalled; some were not surprised, knowing full well this no new thing. In fact, the CIA had by then a long history of engaging in torture as well as training its counterparts and the military of other nations on how to do it.  Torture hasn't been carried out by rogue and renegade agents, but by people following orders.

Barbara Myers at The Nation writes The Secret Origins of the CIA’s Torture Program and the Forgotten Man Who Tried to Expose It:

The witness reported men being hung by the feet or the thumbs, waterboarded, given electric shocks to the genitals, and suffering from extended solitary confinement in what he said were indescribably inhumane conditions. It’s the sort of description that might have come right out of the executive summary of the Senate torture report released last December. In this case, however, the testimony was not about a “black site” somewhere in the Greater Middle East, nor was it a description from Abu Ghraib, nor in fact from this century at all.
The testimony came from Vietnam; the year was 1968; the witness was Anthony J. Russo, one of the first Americans to report on the systematic torture of enemy combatants by CIA operatives and other US agents in that long-gone war. The acts Russo described became commonplace in the news post-9/11 and he would prove to be an early example of what also became commonplace in our century: a whistleblower who found himself on the wrong side of the law and so was prosecuted for releasing the secret truth about the acts of our government.

Determined to shine a light on what he called “the truth held prisoner,” Russo blew the whistle on American torture policy in Vietnam and on an intelligence debacle at the center of Vietnam decision-making that helped turn that war into the nightmare it was. Neither of his revelations saw the light of day in his own time or ours and while Daniel Ellsberg, his compatriot and companion in revelation, remains a major figure for his role in releasing the Pentagon Papers, Russo is a forgotten man.

That’s too bad. He shouldn’t be forgotten. His is, unfortunately, a story of our times as well as his.


Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2013This week in the war on voting: Ohio looks to internet registration, NYC to use old voting machines:

A case of a Republican doing the right thing:

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell said Wednesday that he is waiving the waiting period and automatically restoring the voting rights of non-violent felons who have completed their sentences and satisfied certain conditions.

The decision by McDonnell, a former prosecutor who has supported restoring voting rights, underscores a long-held position. McDonnell (R) has granted the right to vote to more ex-felons than any of his predecessors at a time when other Republican across the country have adopted more strict voting requirements, including photo IDs and shortened early voting periods.

“When someone commits a crime, they must be justly punished,” the governor said during remarks in Richmond. “However, once these individuals have served their time and fully paid for the offenses they committed, they should be afforded a clear and fair opportunity to resume their lives as productive members of our society.

Some reform-minded Virginians have unsuccessfully sought to create a process to restore rights that don't require the governor's doing so on an individual basis.

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On today's Kagro in the Morning show: We're back! Greg Dworkin rounds up news on Sanders, O'Malley & Clinton; Kasich's moral grounds for Medicaid expansion; Biden's tragic loss. The Hastert story & legal hairsplitting. Can a judge order a newspaper article "removed?"

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Doyle McManus at the Los Angeles Times writes—Bernie Sanders: Why the guy who won't win matters:

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the self-described socialist who kicked off his presidential campaign on Tuesday with a characteristically fiery speech, isn't going to win the 2016 Democratic nomination unless lightning strikes. To be really effective, in any case, the lightning would have to strike Hillary Rodham Clinton, who holds a prohibitive lead in every poll. But Sanders will still have a major impact on the Democratic race, and that could, paradoxically, be good for Clinton.

The Vermont senator preaches a bracing populist message that's likely to thrill millions of voters on the left, the ones who sometimes dub themselves "the democratic wing of the Democratic Party." A lot of those progressives are democratic socialists, whether they realize it or not; the only unusual thing about Sanders is that he actually uses the "S-word."

"There is something profoundly wrong when the top one-tenth of 1% owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%," Sanders said at a raucous lakefront rally in Vermont. "This type of rigged economy is not what America is supposed to be about." [...]

Second, until now most of the media coverage of Clinton's campaign has focused on secret emails, entanglements with uranium moguls and outlandish speaking fees. If Sanders forces a robust debate on issues such as healthcare, taxes and trade, the media will have to pay attention to that instead. Sanders' entry into the race will allow Clinton, who has already veered left, to call for vaguely similar policies and still say: "He's a socialist; I'm not."

More pundit excerpts can be read below the fold.
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Matt Ford at The Atlantic writes The Missing Statistics of Criminal Justice:
After Ferguson, a noticeable gap in criminal-justice statistics emerged: the use of lethal force by the police. The federal government compiles a wealth of data on homicides, burglaries, and arson, but no official, reliable tabulation of civilian deaths by law enforcement exists. A partial database kept by the FBI is widely considered to be misleading and inaccurate. (The Washington Post has just released a more expansive total of nearly 400 police killings this year.) “It’s ridiculous that I can’t tell you how many people were shot by the police last week, last month, last year,” FBI Director James Comey told reportersin April.

This raises an obvious question: If the FBI can’t tell how many people were killed by law enforcement last year, what other kinds of criminal-justice data are missing? Statistics are more than just numbers: They focus the attention of politicians, drive the allocation of resources, and define the public debate. Public officials—from city councilors to police commanders to district attorneys—are often evaluated based on how these numbers change during their terms in office. But existing statistical measures only capture part of the overall picture, and the problems that go unmeasured are often also unaddressed. What changes could the data that isn’t currently collected produce if it were gathered?

In one sense, searching for these statistical gaps is like fishing blindfolded—how can someone know what they don’t know? But some absences are more obvious than others. Bruce Western, a professor of sociology at Harvard University, cited two major gaps. One is the racial demography of arrests and criminal records. An estimated 65 million Americans, or roughly 25 percent of the U.S. population, have a criminal record of some kind. But the racial makeup of those records isn’t fully known. “There are estimates, but with [65 million] people in the FBI criminal record database, we have no systematic knowledge of their demographics,” Western told me.  [...]

Without reliable official statistics, scholars often must gather and compile necessary data themselves. “A few years ago, I was struck at how many police killings of civilians we seemed to be having in Philadelphia,” Gottschalk said as an example. “They would be buried in the newspaper, and I was stunned by how difficult it was to compile that information and compare it to New York and do it on a per-capita basis. It wasn’t readily available.” As a result, criminal-justice researchers often spend more time gathering data than analyzing it.


Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2012Palm Beach supervisor of elections won't participate in Florida voter purge with bad lists:

Writing at Rolling Stone, Ari Berman says that the Florida Republicans' voting purge is taking voter suppression to a "brazen new extreme." How brazen and extreme is it? Enough to make one county elections supervisor refuse to participate in it.

Think Progress interviewed Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher, who has refused to purge the 115 voters the state identified in her county as being non-citizens and ineligible to vote. [...]

Bad lists be damned, the state not only isn't reconsidering the purge, it's going to intensify it. Which could mean tens of thousands of eligible voters purged from the rolls. So far, about 2,700 of the 180,000 plus voters the state has identified as being non-citizens have been challenged, and a very high percentage have been incorrectly identifed. Berman extrapolates from that data:

The first batch of names was riddled with inaccuracies. For example, as the progressive blog Think Progress noted, "an excess of 20 percent of the voters flagged as 'non-citizens' in Miami-Dade are, in fact, citizens. And the actual number may be much higher." If this ratio holds for the rest of the names on the non-citizens list, more than 35,000 eligible voters could be disenfranchised. [...]

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Progressive State Blogs
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 Capital & Main of California, Steven Mikulan writes—Is Voter Turnoff Inviting a Progressive Rollback?

state blogs. Capital & Main, a California blog
It’s become an unsettling fact of political life that as election turnouts dwindle, campaign spending skyrockets. Los Angeles’ recently concluded school board races, which drew a paltry 7.6 percent of potential voters, underscored this point. Ref Rodriguez, who unseated the District 5 incumbent, received most of the $2.2 million contributed by political action committees (PACs) controlled by the California Charter Schools Association Advocates. Rodriguez has co-created several charter schools and his backers, unsurprisingly, came from that community. Among the familiar local names of extreme wealth and influence were Eli Broad, Richard Riordan and William Bloomfield. Equally familiar to followers of school privatization were more distant funders such as Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Walmart heir Jim Walton, Laurene Powell Jobs, the Gap Inc.’s Fisher family members and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Rounding out Rodriguez’s cascade of thousand-dollar checks were names associated with high-powered investment firms, various charter schools and charter-advocacy groups, such as Parent Revolution and StudentsFirst. Even among this varied and far-flung group, two names stuck out: Amplify Learning president Larry Berger of New York, and New Majority California, which calls itself the state’s largest Republican PAC.

Amplify Learning is probably the easier of the pair to figure out. It’s Rupert Murdoch’s education information division, headed by Joel Klein and built on the foundation of Berger’s old Wireless Generation company, which Murdoch’s News Corporation purchased in 2010. The friendlier the nation’s second-largest school system’s board of education is toward charter schools, the more likely Amplify is to land lucrative contracts with the Los Angeles Unified School District. New Majority California, on the other hand, is a political money funnel for corporate interests.

More excerpts from progressive state blogs can be found below the fold.
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Red-Earred Slider. See Lenny Flank's photo diary.
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 22,700 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.
Texas & Alaska Floods: El Nino & Hot Oceans Start a Year of Hellish Weather. It Will Get Worse.—by FishOutofWater: "Global CO2 levels have rapidly risen above 400ppm causing a large imbalance between incoming and outgoing radiation levels. Almost all of the difference between incoming and outgoing amounts of energy has gone into heating the oceans. The warm subtropical waters of the global oceans expanded, the Indian ocean warmed and a large, deep pool of hot water grew around the Philippines. But then three
supertyphoons rocked the Pacific in late fall 2013. Typhoon Haiyan, with had the strongest winds ever recorded at landfall, 'broke the dam' created by years of stronger than normal tropical convection and strong trade winds that held an enormous body of hot water close to the Philippines. A first surge of hot water moved across the Pacific in spring 2014, lowering the height of the seas around the Philippines but stronger than normal trade winds kept blowing in the south Pacific holding huge amounts of excess heat near Indonesia. Then supercyclone Pam and the strongest convective burst ever recorded near Indonesia and Australia, sent a massive wave of hot water towards the Americas. Now a super El Niño is developing. [...] This is just the beginning of the hurricane season in the eastern and central Pacific but hot water already covers a huge area from the tropics south of Hawaii to the huge warm pool off of the southwest coast of Mexico. A tropical disturbance is now in the process of organizing. I was stunned to find that the model of potential tropical cyclone intensity is off scale, The potential intensity, which will not be reached for this disturbance, is lower than the lowest pressure in history. While this disturbance will likely not have enough time over warm water to become a major hurricane, conditions will be more favorable later in the season for extremely intense hurricanes to develop. Warmer than normal water extends across the tropical north Pacific. Conditions are potentially developing for this to become the most intense Pacific tropical cyclone season on record."

You can find more excerpts from green diaries below the orange spill.

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It's Friday, so forget politics for three minutes and watch these felines have a blast
 in a cardboard cat maze. Notice they can't even herd themselves. Best part after 2:05.


Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2009Clarity on Torture Photos a No-Brainer:

Since the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph published their first error-filled stories last week about withheld torture photos, there's been a gradual festering that finally erupted in the past two days.
owl
I was personally suspicious after reading the Telegraph's May 15 story last week claiming that the Australian channel SBS had shown previously unshown photos. When I saw the photo included with the Telegraph's story that was first posted in this regard, it rang a bell. Sure enough, a few minutes on the Google proved to me that it was identical to one of the 15 shown by SBS in February 2006. A naked, hooded prisoner, hanging upside down from an equally naked bunk-bed frame. Only the manner in which his genitals were censored was different. You can see the Telegraph's version here and SBS's via the BBC here. Here's an archive of all the SBS photos from 2006 if you have the stomach for it.

Having my skepticism all but confirmed by this, I took out my trusty phone card and called SBS. It was the weekend in Australia, so I couldn't get the boss. But, I was told by a staffer of the program "Dateline" that contrary to the Telegraph's claims, the station had not shown any photos the night before the newspaper's story was published that had not previously been shown in 2006. [...]

The entire imbroglio stems from the administration's decision not to release 44 photographs to the ACLU, which has - and they deserve our undying thanks for this - sought for six years to acquire ALL documents, photos and videos of torture and abuse at ALL prisons (known and secret) used to house terror suspects. Not for purposes of some voyeuristic desire to watch torture porn, but to build cases against torturers and those who ordered torture.


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On today's encore Kagro in the Morning show, it's the June 2, 2014 episode. Greg Dworkin rounds up top stories, including the POW exchange, the EPA's new emissions rules (and all the controversy that comes with them), the VA, and how Gop intransigence accidentally yielded a national health care exchange. A musical interlude from Lauren Mayer (aka PsychoSuperMom), "GOP Hypocrisy Blues." An extended discussion of the issues wrapped up in the POW swap. Another open carry demonstration, this time hijacking the Home Depot brand. And now, even the NRA recognizes that this is kind of dumb. And speaking of guns & dumb, Scott Brown is tangled up in something weird & getting weirder.



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  • Today's comic by Mark Fiore is Mitch McConnell and Snuggly the Security Bear Beg to Spy:
    Cartoon by Mark Fiore -- Mitch McConnell and Snuggly the Security Bear Beg to Spy
  • What's coming up on Sunday Kos ...
    • The myth of lost manhood in America, by Mark E Andersen
    • The white riot that burned Greenwood to the ground, by Denise Oliver Velez
    • Book Review: Dire Predictions 2nd Edition, by DarkSyde
    • The most accurate pollsters of 2014...(and why that title, quite frankly, doesn't mean very much), by Steve Singiser
    • No longer girls, they are military veterans, by Susan Grigsby
    • When it comes to voting, conservatives want some people to count more than others. Sound familiar? by Ian Reifowitz
    • Americans need more than a listening and learning tour from Hillary Clinton right now, by Egberto Willies
  • U.S. GDP contracted in first quarter: Real, that is inflation-adjusted, gross domestic product fell at an annual rate of 0.7 percent in the first quarter of 2015, according to the second estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis Friday. The first estimate had put the rate at 0.2 percent, but the consensus of experts had forecast that the second estimate would be negative. In the fourth quarter, real GDP had increased at an annual rate of 2.2 percent. It's the third time we've seen a first-quarter contraction since the economic expansion after the Great Recession began. In the first quarter of 2014, for instance, the annualized rate of growth fell 2.1 percent. A key measure, real final sales of domestic product, which excludes inventories, fell 1.1 percent in the first quarter, the steepest plunge since the first quarter of 2009, during the depths of the recession. Many economists see the contraction as a blip.
  • Sandy victims blame Gov. Christie for the fact they're still not back in their homes:
    More than two and a half years after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the coast, thousands of residents are still waiting for their homes to be rebuilt and for funding to come through. And this week, the New Jersey department overseeing the recovery announced that almost half of the low-income homeowners who applied for rebuilding aid had been rejected. [...]

    But Christie has been resistant to moving forward legislation which would help the victims recover. Early last year, federal officials said they were investigating his use of millions of dollars in Sandy relief funds for ads to promote tourism that also prominently featured the governor. And the state is currently disputing the Fair Share Housing Center’s claim that 15,000 families are still waiting to rebuild, saying it’s “a gross and irresponsible distortion of the facts.”

  • Gallup: Nation's pro-choice views lead for first time since 2008:
    “Half of Americans consider themselves 'pro-choice' on abortion, surpassing the 44% who identify as 'pro-life.' This is the first time since 2008 that the pro-choice position has had a statistically significant lead in Americans’ abortion views.”
    But 20 years ago, 6 percent more Americans were pro-choice than now and the forced birther cohort was way below 40 percent. Among Democrats, 68 percent are pro-choice; among Republicans, 31 percent are.
  • Greatest photobomb ever?
  • 66 chimpanzees that were key to developing hepatitis vaccine have been left to die:
    In 2005, the New York Blood Center left its research chimps to retire with a promise of lifetime care on an island. In March, it abandoned them for somebody else to worry about.

    The 66 chimps are currently surviving on a reduced feeding schedule paid for through emergency funds pieced together by the Humane Society and the personal donations of a handful of individual conservationists. But they only have enough money to support the chimps’ care for a few more weeks.

  • The extent of Arctic ice for this time of year is at an all-time low (since satellite data have been available):
  • Surprise! Jeb Bush to cozy up to coal barons at closed-door meeting:
    Jeb Bush will convene next week with a clutch of coalmining barons and reliable Republican party donors who have paid at least $7,500 each to huddle in secret with the presidential hopeful at a golfing and fly-fishing retreat in a hidden-away corner of Virginia.

    Bush’s scheduled one-hour speech at the Coal & Investment Leadership Forum will take place at the members-only Olde Farm club in Bristol, Virginia, where the civil war-themed golf tournament is a “cherished tradition.”

  • Team Blackness discusses the fact we live in a stupid world as epitomized by the people wasting their time hating on Dwayne Wade just because he paints his toenails.  Apparently many of his 4.3 million Instagram followers judged him for it, but that's not stopping Wade: “I was on vacation in the Bahamas with LeBron and when he saw my toes he was like, ‘Something is seriously wrong with you.’ But eventually Bron was like, ‘You know what? You’re crazy, but that’s just you.’ Also discussed were the abolition of the death penalty in Nebraska, why Chuck Johnson is a dick, and how Iyanla is going to "fix" Baltimore.

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  • On today's encore Kagro in the Morning show, alphabet soup with Greg Dworkin: POW; EPA; VA. How the Gop accidentally forced a nat'l health care exchange. PsychoSuperMom's "GOP Hypocrisy Blues." How open carry hijacks brands. Scott Brown's into something shady.

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Explosion in late 2014 variously described as an ISIL truck bomb or a U.S. airstrike in the town of Kobane on the Turkish-Syrian border.
Explosions in late 2014 variously described as an ISIL truck bomb or a
U.S. airstrike in the town of Kobane on the Turkish-Syrian border.
Michael Crowley reports from Washington that there's a push for a new "surge" in Iraq. And guess what? It's being promoted by some of the same imperialist jackasses who proposed the first one in 2007.

The idea this time is to send perhaps 20,000 U.S. troops there and embed them with front-line Iraqi soldiers to fight ISIL, the extremist militants also known as ISIS, the Islamic State and Daesh. Those troops would, goes the talk, rarely engage in combat, but rather work as advisers and trainers as well as spotters for precision U.S. airstrikes:

“It will take accepting risk. It will take accepting casualties,” retired Gen. Jack Keane, a former Army vice chief of staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week. Keane helped persuade Bush to order his surge of [30,000] troops against the opposition of military commanders who insisted their Iraq strategy was working; Obama opposed that surge but later admitted that it “succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.”

In an interview with POLITICO, Keane said he supports sending between 10,000 and 20,000 troops to Iraq, primarily to speed up the training of Iraqi forces and tribal fighters in Sunni areas where ISIS is especially strong. His view is backed by another Bush surge architect, Fred Kagan, a military strategist at the American Enterprise Institute, who also discussed the proposal with POLITICO.

Kagan is a good deal more than that. He (along with his father Donald and brother Robert) were all signatories of the 90-page seminal neoconservative document Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategies, Forces, and Resources For a New Century (2000), which called for a steep rise in military spending and continued global dominance by the United States with emphasis on its "'constabular' duties associated with shaping the security environment." Like other neoconservatives associated with the Project for a New American Century, Fred Kagan was pushing for an attack on Iraq as early as 1998.

Kagan, Sen. John McCain and others who back a new surge in a new form, have all sharply criticized President Obama for bailing on the Iraqis when he ordered the last U.S. combat troops to exit the country in 2011. They've blamed that withdrawal for the emergence of ISIL. And they've credited the original surge with great success, indeed with "winning" the Iraq war. So why not do it again?

Hmmmmm. We "won" the Iraq war? Could have fooled me. Given the convenient amnesia regarding the invasion and occupation being displayed of late by many prominent American hawks, including Jeb Bush, as well as Obama's own unfortunate if reluctant praise for the surge, this revisionism about Iraq should surprise nobody.

In fact, it was Bush who in 2008 signed off on the timeline for combat troop withdrawal and it was the Iraqi government that refused to sign an agreement to allow U.S. forces to remain. More importantly, the surge didn't win the war. It merely helped tamp down the insurgency temporarily.

More on the new surge below the fold.

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Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2014Texas legislature gives 1.5 million poor residents the finger:

It's not enough just to refuse federal health care funds to expand Medicaid. Not in Texas. The legislature there has passed a bill prohibiting the state from taking the funds. Gov. Rick Perry is expected to sign the proposal.

AUSTIN, Texas, May 26 (Reuters) - The Republican-majority Texas House and Senate on Sunday sent Governor Rick Perry a proposal to prevent the state from expanding its Medicaid program as outlined by President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law. [...]

The proposal, an amendment to a Medicaid-related bill, says state health officials "may only provide medical assistance to a person who would have been otherwise eligible for medical assistance or for whom federal matching funds were available under the eligibility criteria for medical assistance in effect on December 31, 2013."

There are approximately 1.5 million low-income Texans who are uninsured and would have qualified to receive Medicaid under the terms of the expansion. That means that 1.5 million Texans will still be forced to use the emergency room—the least efficient and most expensive option available—for their primary means of health care. It also comes on top of $700 million in cuts the state has made to hospitals because of a budget shortfall.

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On today's "encore" Kagro in the Morning show, it's our May 30, 2014 episode. Greg Dworkin sampled the morning's headlines. The House actually passed a gun background check funding amendment. Further UCSB fallout and gun safety roundup. Honest conservative snipe hunt. McConnell called out for ACA buffoonery. No, the VA is not an Obamacare preview. Microsoft billionaire Steve Ballmer looks to buy the Clippers from the most-hated man in America. More NSA & national security state discussion, based on Eben Moglen's "Privacy under attack."



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April State Employment and Unemployment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics
Click here and scroll briefly for an interactive version of this map.
David Cooper at the Economic Policy Institute analyzes the latest state jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. He labels it "A Few Green Shoots in the April State Jobs Report, Mostly Just Mud":
The April State Employment and Unemployment report, released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed most states are still plodding along with job growth sufficient to slowly bring down unemployment rates. A few states, particularly on the west coast, are showing more robust signs of improvement. At the same time, the states that had seen strong job growth from the oil and gas boom of the past few years may have cooled somewhat in recent months.

Between January and April, 38 states and the District of Columbia added jobs, with Maine (+1.3 percent), South Dakota (+1.1 percent), South Carolina (+1.1 percent), Nevada (+1.0 percent), and Oregon (+1.0 percent) making the largest percentage gains. These states more than doubled the average pace of growth for the country over the same period (+0.4 percent). Oregon and its neighbor to the north, Washington, have had the second and third largest percentage gains in the country, respectively, over the past year. [...]

Now nearly 6 years into recovery, 36 states and the District of Columbia still have unemployment rates above their pre-recession levels. Although there are stronger signs of improvement in a few parts of the country, there is no reason to think we are anywhere close to a full recovery. Job prospects remain weak for too many job-seekers, especially for young high school and college graduates. Policymakers nationwide, and particularly those at the Federal Reserve, need to keep faster job growth as their number one priority.

As we shall see when the second report on first quarter gross domestic product is released Friday—the consensus being that it will be in negative territory—that plodding isn't likely to change any time soon.
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  • Today's comic by Ruben Bolling is Introducing Louis 'Flash' Maltby:
    Cartoon by Ruben Bolling -- Introducing Louis 'Flash' Maltby
  • Initial claims for unemployment compensation remain low: Initial jobless claims were 282,000 for the week ending May 23, up 7,000 form the previous week. They remain at historic lows as does the less volatile four-week average, which rose 5,000 to 271,500. A month ago, the average was about 10,000 more. This level of claims are a match for the best 12-month period of the Clinton administration.
  • Rent increasingly out of reach for tenants in many cities:
    From Boston to Miami, New York to Los Angeles, more than half of tenants are paying what experts consider unaffordable rents, says a report by New York University's Furman Center, which studies real estate and urban policy, and bank Capital One, which is a leading affordable-housing lender and financed the research.

    While various housing experts have noted such trends, the study zooms in on 11 of the nation's most populous cities. Overall, it's a portrait of increasing competition and often slipping affordability, but the picture isn't universally bleak and looks noticeably different from city to city.

  • It looks as if Kentucky may accidentally meet federal emissions standards as coal plants shut down.
  • Lindsey Graham retiring from U.S. Air Force Reserve: The South Carolina Republican is expected to announce his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination on Monday. His AFR retirement comes about because he's reached the service's mandatory retirement age of 60. After active duty in the early '80s, Graham joined the South Carolina Air National Reserve and in 1995, the U.S. AFR. Unlike many Southern politicians over the past century and a half, he can legitimately call himself "Colonel," having been promoted to that rank in 2004.

    But he bullshitted on his website in 1998, calling himself a veteran of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm even though he never left the country then. When this was uncovered, he said: "I have not told anybody I'm a combatant. I'm not a war hero, and never said I was. I never intended to lie. If I have lied about my military record, I'm not fit to serve in Congress." He went on to say: "It makes me mad that some people would try to denigrate my military service record and that of thousands of others who served stateside during the war. I was called up and served on active duty ... I left my business, my home and friends to perform the duties I was trained for just as the veterans who served in past conflicts have done.''

    But Angelo Perri, a retired Army colonel and actual Gulf War veteran, said at the time "he's claiming to be somewhere he wasn't.''

  • Award-winning veteran Connecticut high school teacher forced to resign for reading Ginsberg poem to class.
  • All you need to know about Duggar coverage in one graphic thanks to Media Matters:
  • Kevin Drum finds that Cubans don't like Marco Rubio:
    The more interesting thing, to me, was that they saved a particular brand of venom for Marco Rubio. Cab drivers, bartenders, artists—everyone seem to have something to say about Marco Rubio, and none of it was kind. A few suggested that as a Cuban-American Rubio should display some concern for economic struggles of every day Cubans, or to at least recognize that he was afforded an opportunity that millions of poorer Cubans never had, namely having parents who moved to the United States before Castro took over. (Or as Rubio used to tell it, barely escaping the revolution while Castro personally shot at their raft.) The fact that he was pledging to double down on the embargo was a pledge to make their lives worse, to deny them the new hope they’ve been given these last few years, all to suck up to the aging exile community in Florida.
  • Team Blackness discussed the image recently surfaced of two Chicago police kneeling over a black suspect wearing deer antlers as if he were a fresh kill. Law enforcement at its finest, folks. Also discussed were the narcotics cops being ordered to stop arresting suspects over 40, B.B. King's daughters claiming their father was murdered, a rant on all things San Francisco, and the man who asked the city of Pendleton, Oregon, to ban farts.
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  • On today's "encore" Kagro in the Morning show, Greg Dworkin notes a gun measure surprise in the House; the honest conservative snipe hunt; McConnell called out; no, VA ≠ Obamacare. More NatSec state discussion, based on Eben Moglen's "Privacy under attack."


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