Skip to main content


Yesterday, in honor of Earth Day, Glenn Beck regaled his conservative radio audience with faulty predictions made years ago, for example, that in 1970 we were entering an ice age.

“Because Earth Day started in 1970 and we so respect it, we want to go back and give you some of the predictions,” Beck said with heavy sarcasm on his radio program. “Let me tell you something, you won’t believe how spot-on these things are.” Link
Beck's point was that if past predictions were so wrong, today's predictions about climate change and sea level rise are equally "ridiculous." It is obvious, however, that in his review of past predictions Beck did not look for any that proved true, such as those reported in 1981 Climate Change Predictions Were Eerily Accurate published in 2012. This describes a 10-page paper in the August 1981 journal Science that projected future climate change and global warming based on CO2 emissions. The paper was written by a team of atmospheric physicists led by James Hansen at the NASA Institute for Space Studies.
Continue Reading

Fri Nov 21, 2014 at 07:44 AM PST

League of Women Voters letter to FEC

by ybruti

Yesterday an email from the League of Women Voters asked me to tell the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) to "Restore Transparency and Enforce Disclosure" of election spending that Citizens United has unleashed. Its suggested letter says the FEC has the authority to prevent special interest spending by outside groups that is not really “independent.” The League strongly advises sending your own words, but I couldn't improve on this:

The Federal Election Commission must stop the dark money polluting our elections and the so-called “independent” spending by outside groups that is poisoning our political system. The FEC has authority under existing law to require disclosure of election spending and to rigorously define “coordination” to prevent millions of dollars of special interest spending by outside groups that is not really “independent.” Do your duty and enforce the law.

Our American democracy depends on having well-informed voters, and your refusal to require disclosure is undermining our representative democracy. Voters have a right to know who is funding political campaigns – whether it is corporations, wealthy individuals or labor unions. The Supreme Court has endorsed disclosure and it is unacceptable that the FEC is failing to restore transparency to political campaigns.

I am tired of big-money special interests overwhelming our elections. Super PACs and other outside groups are raising and spending unlimited sums, which reached more than $600 million dollars in 2014. The rationale that allows this to continue is that the spending is somehow “independent.” But we know that Super PACs and others have many ways to coordinate with candidate campaigns – leading to inevitable corruption. FEC regulations need to rigorously define “coordination” to end the charade of “independent” expenditures.

Fair and clean elections, determined by the votes of American citizens, should be at the center of our democracy – not big money from secret sources. As long as dark money groups hide their funders and outside special interest groups can spend unlimited amounts behind the mask of “independent” spending, our democratic principles are at risk.

I urge you to restore transparency and enforce robust disclosure rules. http://participate.lwv.org/...

I decided a shortened version of the letter might be useful and sent this:
The FEC has authority under existing law to require disclosure of election spending and to rigorously define “coordination” to prevent millions of dollars of special interest spending by outside groups that is not really “independent.” Do your duty and enforce the law.

The Supreme Court has endorsed disclosure and it is unacceptable that the FEC is failing to restore transparency to political campaigns. Super PACs and other outside groups are raising and spending unlimited sums.  The rationale that allows this to continue is that the spending is somehow “independent.” FEC regulations need to rigorously define “coordination” to end the charade of “independent” expenditures.

If you'd like to send a letter, the link is here: http://participate.lwv.org/...
Continue Reading

Wed Oct 01, 2014 at 01:12 AM PDT

California bans plastic grocery bags

by ybruti

Yesterday, the Governor of California signed into law Senate Bill 270, which will prohibit grocery stores, drugstores, and convenience stores from providing single-use plastic bags for their customers. It will first go into effect in large grocery stores next year in July, and to encourage people to use their own bags, stores will be required to charge a minimum of 10 cents each for paper and other kinds of bags. This is the first state-wide ban on single use plastic bags in the U.S.

But such bans are not new in many parts of the state. 127 California cities and counties have already developed their own plastic bag ordinances, and where there are no local policies, supermarkets have led the cultural change with signs like: "Did you remember your reusable bag?" Some even offer a 5 cent discount if we use our own bags. The new 10-cent charge for a bag will be a strong incentive for people to use their own bags. An article in the Guardian: No more 'paper or plastic': California adopts strict new law on grocery bags emphasizes that new businesses making reusable bags will be encouraged by the ban. In fact, the state will help plastic bag producers in California to make the switch, thus saving the jobs of approximately 1800 employees. $2m in grants will be available for in-state plastic bag producers so that they can change to manufacturing reusable bags.

Opponents of the bill charged that supporters were influenced by "false environmentalism", but the Guardian reports this reply from the vice president of the California Grocers Association: “The opposition can throw out all kinds of numbers. There is nothing to support that. This is an environmental issue and it’s about getting plastic bags out of the waste stream.” The director of Californians Against Waste, who has been working on the issue for ten years, said: “California policy makers have made a clear and strong statement in enacting the bag ban: Producers are responsible for the end of life of their products. If a product is too costly to society and the environment, California is prepared to move to eliminate it.” In the end, environmental arguments as well as the success of local ordinances overcame strong resistance to the bill. http://www.cawrecycles.org/...

Continue Reading

Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 03:03 PM PDT

Good news re California Disclose Act

by ybruti

A recent email from the California Clean Money Campaign had this welcome news:

GREAT NEWS! It was "Do-or-die time for campaign funding disclosure bill", as the San Francisco Chronicle said. And SB 52 did!

The California DISCLOSE Act just passed out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee on a vote of 13-4 and is on its way to the full Assembly -- so political ads have to show who REALLY pays for them.

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION urging the Assembly to pass it -- and ask your friends to sign! https://www.facebook.com/...

By clearly identifying who pays for political ads, whether the ads are paid for by corporations, unions, or billionaires, the Disclose Act will ensure that the names shown on ads are the original source of contributions even though they may be funneled through other groups with misleading committee and non-profit names. http://www.yesfairelections.org/...

The measure now needs a two-thirds vote to pass the Assembly, and that will be difficult but not impossible to obtain. (Votes are needed from three Republicans and all Democrats in the Assembly.)

Examples of the effect of anonymous spending on ballot issues:

1) An oil severance tax to pay for alternative energy was supported by nearly three-to-one in early polls for Prop 87 in 2006. It lost after $94 million in ads by unknown “Californians against Higher Taxes”. Most voters never knew its largest funders were Chevron, Aera Energy, and Occidental Oil and Gas.

2) Increased cigarette taxes led in the polls by two-to-one for Prop 29 in 2012. It was defeated by $66 million in ads with largest funders Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds Tobacco. But voters only saw the fine print “Paid for by Californians Against Out of Control Taxes and Spending”.

3) Government-changing propositions are passed by hidden special interests spending millions on deceptive ads. For example, Prop 26, which prevents the state or cities from raising fees without a 2/3 vote, was passed in 2010 after $18 million in ads from a group called "Stop Hidden Taxes." The Disclose Act would have shown that actually the three largest funders were Chevron, the American Beverage Association, and Philip Morris.

How disclosure helps voters make the right choices:
The attempt by Texas oil interests to overturn California's landmark climate change law with Prop 23 in 2010 failed because opponents had enough funds to disclose to voters that it was funded by Texas oil companies.

Despite tens of millions spent in 2010 on Props 16 and 17 by PG&E and Mercury Insurance, both lost because enough people knew they were the largest spenders and took that into account when viewing their ads. http://www.caclean.org/...

For more information, see diary by Joan McCarter yesterday: California could lead the fight against Citizens United
Discuss

Sun Jun 08, 2014 at 07:50 AM PDT

Marchers for Democracy reach Fresno

by ybruti

The 12-member group marching for democracy from Los Angeles to Sacramento arrived in front of Fresno City Hall on Friday evening, June 6. On the 21st day of the 37-day march they had walked 22 miles in 100-degree heat, but if they were exhausted, they didn't complain.

                 photo d74c5d99-112b-4aa2-8b47-f88e2decb950.jpg

Here are the marchers with the people who greeted them at City Hall:

                photo 337454c2-2a06-45ae-bdd4-08ce81e5f391.jpg

And their mascot, Leo, who usually rides in the car accompanying the group.
                         photo 409d25a8-2e11-4ce9-8237-f6c6756ae873.jpg

The leader, Kai Newkirk, said they were walking the 480 miles from LA to Sacramento hoping to encourage others to join the fight against corruption of the political process by Big Money. Then everyone in the group eloquently explained why they had joined the march.
                           photo KaiXX.jpg

Kai said when they get to Sacramento, they will demand that the California legislature rein in "the corrupting influence of Big Money on our democracy" with these three actions:

1) issuing a formal call for a federal Constitutional Convention to propose an Amendment outlawing big money corruption by passing Assembly Joint Resolution 1;
2) giving California's voters the chance to formally instruct the US Congress to propose such an Amendment and the California legislature to ratify it by passing Senate Bill 1272;
3) reducing the influence of unlimited, anonymous big money in elections by passing the DISCLOSE Act, SB 52, which requires that top donors to be prominently revealed in every political ad they fund.
Continue Reading

Sun Mar 16, 2014 at 01:41 PM PDT

Anti-fracking rally in Sacramento

by ybruti

In Sacramento on Saturday, March 15, two busloads of "fractivists" from Fresno and Merced joined many other groups from around the state for a huge, well-organized anti-fracking rally. Young people as well as raging grannies and everyone in between were there with a great outpouring of creative signs and props. Unfortunately, my camera battery ran low before I could get a picture of a woman dressed as a shower with flames pouring down on her. But I did manage to get a few pictures.

At the beginning of the program, members of the Winnemem Wintu tribe of Northern California emphasized the need to protect water resources and to oppose raising the Shasta Dam even higher. I recognized some of the people from the documentary Dancing Salmon Home and was able to congratulate them on that extraordinary film.
                           photo tribalwaterrightsKK.jpg

Idle No More was present. This is a protest movement which began in December 2012, "originating among the Aboriginal peoples in Canada comprising the First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples and their non-Aboriginal supporters in Canada, and to a lesser extent, internationally."
                           photo IdlelnomoreKKKK.jpg

Fracking uses vast amounts of water and poisons it. Hence, the many signs concerned with water:
                            photo waterforsalmonKK.jpg
                            photo waterdrinkersKK.jpg
                           photo nowaterforoilKK.jpg

Somewhat representative of the messages for Governor Brown was this sign held by a child:
                          photo achildssignkk.jpg
A pre-schooler proclaimed this:
                         photo averysmallchildssignKK.jpg
Many of the participants carried this message:
                             photo getthefrackoutKK.jpg
This was unique:
                            photo gasholesKK.jpg

Finally, since energy is the issue, several people had signs supporting wind and solar. One was simply a picture of the sun with the words USE ME in the middle. And there was this:
                            photo developrenewablesKK.jpg

Continue Reading

Here is a letter dated March 12 from Mike McKay, a New Zealander working on an oil rig near Vietnam:
 photo malaysian_airlines_letter_E1.jpg

McKay's email also said:

"From when I first saw the burning plane until the flames went out (still at a high altitude), was 10-15 seconds. There was no lateral movement. So it was either coming toward our location, stationary (falling), or going away from our location."
McKay expressed some doubts in his letter about what he saw:
"I believe I saw the Malaysian Airlines plane come down...."
"I observed (the plane?) burning at high altitude...."
"While I observed the burning (plane) it appeared to be in ONE piece."
A New Zealand article reports:
Doan Huu Gia, deputy general director of Vietnam's air traffic management, told BBC: "We received an email from a New Zealander who works on one of the oil rigs off Vung Tau. "He said he spotted a burning [object] at that location, some 300 km southeast of Vung Tau." Woodruff reports that Vietnamese officials say they found nothing at the site. http://tvnz.co.nz/...
For picture of the oil rig, maps, and more details from the worker's letter, see: http://www.malaysia-chronicle.com/...
Other links to the story:
http://www.businessinsider.com/...
http://intellihub.com/...
http://mashable.com/...

See also this diary published at 2:12 pm (h/t commenter lgmcp): Breaking News: On Flight 370-China Releases Satellite Images that may show Crash Site

Discuss

On Tuesday, February 18, Edward Snowden was elected rector by Glasgow University students to represent their interests for three years. Various British and American news sources reported the story, with information about the duties of the rector, famous rectors in past centuries, and Snowden's reaction to the honor. They used different labels for Snowden: exiled American whistleblower, former NSA analyst, fugitive whistleblowing traitor, intelligence whistleblower, NSA whistleblower, former National Security Agency contractor.

The U.S. News & World Report wrote: "Exiled American whistle-blower Edward Snowden was elected rector of the University of Glasgow by students Tuesday, defeating three other candidates." The article explained:

At American universities, the title rector generally designates the powerful chairman of the school's governing body, but at the University of Glasgow, the position is largely symbolic. The rector does serve as the chairman of the University Court, which administers the university’s financial resources, but cannot vote....Students at the University of Glasgow have a legacy of making controversial rector picks. Winnie Mandela was elected rector in 1987 and  Mordechai Vanunu, who leaked information about Israel's nuclear weapon program, was elected in 2005. Neither took up residence in Scotland.
The same article has a picture of demonstrators in Brazil demanding Snowden be granted asylum, some of them wearing masks of the "former NSA analyst," the Brazilian president and Barack Obama. The article also quotes Glenn Greenwald:
The U.S. Government and its loyalists consider Edward Snowden a criminal, but all throughout the rest of the world, he's considered a hero, especially though not only among the younger portions of the population, which have a unique appreciation for the values of internet freedom and individual privacy he risked his liberty to defend.
A long article in the Daily Mail called Snowden "a fugitive whistleblowing traitor" and said other rectors of the university included Adam Smith (elected in 1787 and 1789) and Edmund Burke (elected in 1785 and 1793). It gave details of the 2014 election (more than 6,500 students voted – double the number who voted three years ago) and reported student responses to the outcome. It also included a statement from the group which nominated Snowden:
We are incredibly delighted to see Edward Snowden elected as the new rector of Glasgow University. We have a proud and virtuous tradition of making significant statements through our rectors and we have once more championed this idea by proving to the world that we are not apathetic to important issues such as democratic rights. Our opposition to pervasive and immoral state intrusion has gone down in the records. What is more, we showed Edward Snowden and other brave whistleblowers that we stand in solidarity with them, regardless of where they are.
The BBC reported that "intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden" had been elected under the single transferable vote system. Snowden received 3,124 votes in the first round and 3,347 in the second, and the next candidate had 1,563. It quoted a student spokesperson: "I think we've shown that we oppose mass surveillance and intrusion to our private lives and that also we stand in solidarity - that we believe whistleblowers should be honoured and they're heroes rather than traitors."

The Guardian included a statement by "the NSA whistleblower" upon his election.

I am humbled by and grateful to the students of Glasgow University for this historic statement in defence of our shared values. We are reminded by this bold decision that the foundation of all learning is daring: the courage to investigate, to experiment, to inquire. If we do not contest the violation of the fundamental right of free people to be left unmolested in their thoughts, associations, and communications - to be free from suspicion without cause - we will have lost the foundation of our thinking society. The defence of this fundamental freedom is the challenge of our generation, a work that requires constructing new controls and protections to limit the extraordinary powers of states over the domain of human communication. This election shows that the students of Glasgow University intend to lead the way, and it is my great honour to serve as their rector.
The Guardian also reported that Snowden said: "In a world where so many of our developing thoughts and queries and plans must be entrusted to the open internet, mass surveillance is not simply a matter of privacy, but of academic freedom and human liberty."

The Hill, which publishes daily when Congress is in session, identified Snowden as "the former National Security Agency contractor." It says a rector is expected to attend meetings, but that would be "unlikely" for Snowden.

Discuss

Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 08:48 AM PST

"But there aren't enough doctors!"

by ybruti

Most ACA critics now grudgingly admit that people are getting insured after all, but they say there's a catch. "Where are we going to get all the doctors?" a social worker asked me recently. "We're overwhelmed as it is." A letter in the local paper said, "People aren't really covered unless someone accepts their 'insurance', and if nobody is accepting it, then why should people pay for it?"

I briefly answered the letter writer online, saying that the solution was in the provisions of the Affordable Care Act to increase the primary care workforce not only with more primary care doctors but also more nurses, nurse-practitioners and physician assistants. I was then curious to find out more about what the ACA has been doing to upgrade primary care in the U.S. and found that it has already made major improvements.

To train more primary care physicians and other personnel, the ACA has provided scholarships and loans. For example, in 2011 the White House reported that the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund was helping to train 600 new nurse practitioners and nurse midwives by 2015 and "the investment in Nurse Managed Clinics is projected to help train more than 900 nurses by 2013 and serve 94,000 patients."

To further strengthen primary care, the ACA allocated $1.5 billion over five years to the National Health Service Corps, founded in 1972. In 2011, up to $28 million was available for NHSC scholarships for physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners, nurse-midwives, and physician assistants. Graduates agree to work for several years in areas where there is a shortage of health care professionals. In addition, the ACA provided $11 billion for Federally Qualified Health Centers, 2011-2015, serving 15-20 million more patients by 2015. The ACA has also enabled community health centers to add 3,000 nursing positions since 2009.

To encourage more doctors to accept Medicare and Medicaid patients, the law increased primary care reimbursement rates. It allotted $3.5 billion for a 10% pay hike in 2011-2016 for Medicare providers, and $8.3 billion for Medicaid providers for the years 2013-2014. Sarah Kliff, who writes about the ACA for the Washington Post, explained in Obamacare is about to give Medicaid docs a 73 percent raise that the increased pay is temporary, but if it brings more doctors to the program, higher Medicaid rates may be maintained in the future.

The primary care physician shortage could be reduced by 50% or more by 2025, according to a Forbes article: Doctor Shortage Could Ease As Obamacare Boosts Nurses, Physician Assistants. The article cautions, however, that this may require "changes in policy, such as laws to expand the scope of practice for nurse practitioners and physician assistants, and changes in acceptance, on the part of providers and patients, of new models of care."  

Continue Reading

Wed Jan 01, 2014 at 09:42 AM PST

"US health reform's Gettysburg moment"

by ybruti

In January 1 2014: US health reform's Gettysburg moment, a veteran of decades-long battles over health care policy sees a parallel between the Union Army's victory at Gettysburg in 1863 and today, which he calls

the most transformational day in the history of United States health care policy, ever....the first day of fundamental reform of the business and regulation of health insurance in all 50 states.
In his article, John E. McDonough, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and the author of Inside National Health Reform, lists these accomplishments of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), which was signed into law by Barack Obama on March 23, 2010:
Banning the practice of "medical underwriting" by which insurance companies rate enrollees based on their health status and medical history,
Banning pre-existing condition exclusions from US health insurance everywhere,
Establishing "guaranteed issue" as the new operating paradigm for individual health insurance,
Completely eliminating lifetime limits on all health insurance, and
Establishing "minimum essential benefits" that must be included in nearly all licensed health insurance policies everywhere.  
Continue Reading

Thu Nov 07, 2013 at 09:22 AM PST

Al Gore says NSA will be reined in

by ybruti

Speaking at McGill University in Montreal on Tuesday, Al Gore described the NSA measures revealed by Edward Snowden as "outrageous" and "completely unacceptable." According to the Guardian, Gore also said he doubted the far-reaching surveillance would be allowed to continue: "I think they will have to pull this back. I think you will see a reining in." He also said that Snowden "has revealed evidence of what appears to be crimes against the Constitution of the United States."

"I say that as someone who was a member of the National Security Council working in the White House and getting daily briefings from the CIA," Gore said, in comments reported by the Canadian Press. Gore had previously said he believed the practice of the NSA collecting US citizens phone records was unlawful and "not really the American way", but his comments on Tuesday represent his strongest criticism yet.
Wryly, Gore added: "When you are looking for a needle in a haystack, it's not always wise to pile more hay on the haystack."
Continue Reading

Sun Oct 27, 2013 at 08:20 PM PDT

A digital core for the government?

by ybruti

After experiencing many failures of IT systems developed with private contractors, the United Kingdom now has a "government digital service" with 300 employees. It also has a cabinet-level position for the director, who was quoted on NPR (10/23) in U.K. Official Urges U.S. Government To Adopt A Digital Core. The NPR report begins:

A federal IT project plagued with high-profile problems, integration breakdowns involving dozens of contractors, and taxpayers footing a multimillion-dollar price tag. Well, that scenario has also played out in the United Kingdom - so many times, in fact, that it led to big changes in how government tech work gets done there....The tipping point for the U.K. government came when a system for the National Health Service got contracted out, cost more than a billion pounds and - you guessed it - didn't work right for its end-users....
The report explains that the in-house team has made available "through one site and streamlined system" nearly all public services, such as voter registration, tax payments, student loan applications and passport renewal, thus saving British taxpayers nearly $20 million a year.  Not unexpectedly, one of the loudest critics of the new UK system was the president of the U.K. branch of CGI, the biggest contractor on healthcare.gov.
Continue Reading
You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.

RSS

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site