Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ring Lardner Tonight: Part 2 of "The Young Immigrunts" -- Still en route to "Shut up he explained"


The extraordinary Lardner boys: [top] John and Jim at 24, [bottom] Ring Jr. at 18 and David at 17 (from Ring Jr.'s The Lardners)

Just as Ring Sr.'s older brothers had preceded him as successful newspaper writers, all four of his sons established themselves remarkably early as writers. Tragically, three died young, two as war correspondents -- James (1914-1938) in the Spanish Civil War, David (1919-1944) in World War II. John (1912-1958) survived his years as a correspondent in World War II and even survived a siege of his father's nemesis, tuberculosis, but succumbed to heart disease. Ring Jr. (1915-2000), a noted film writer probably best known for the screenplay for M*A*S*H, was a survivor of a different sort -- of the McCarthy era blacklist, as one of the Hollywood 10.

"No sooner had we reached Herkimer when the clouds bersed with renude vigger and I think my old man was about to say we will stop here and have lunch when my mother sugested it herself.

"No replid my father with a corse jesture we will go on to Little Falls."

-- from Chapter 6 of "The Young Immigrunts"

by Ken

If you're coming in at this point, last night we had the first installment of Ring Lardner's "The Young Immigrunts," the story of the migration of a family very much like the Lardners from their roots in the Midwest to a new life in the East. This little book, we were told by the Father who claimed to have edited the manuscript, was written by the four-year-old son who accompanied his parents on the drive while his three brothers made the trip by train in the care of the family nurse.

As I mentioned in the update to last night's post, the question of the book's factuality -- notably, how close is it to the actual migration undertaken by the Lardner family in 1919, is it? It turns out that the question is neatly answered in Ring Lardner Jr.'s evocative 1976 memoir of his remarkable family, The Lardners, which I hadn't looked at in too long a while. "Bill" Lardner, as Ring Jr. was known, also has some valuable insight into the form of the parody his father undertook here -- and we'll get to all that in a moment, in the click-through.

You'll note a change in plan. With six chapters of "The Young Immigrunts" still to go, we already had a heavy load for tonight's installment. So I've reverted to a three-part plan -- the background from Ring Jr. plus the long Chapters 6 and 7 tonight, then the concluding Chapters 8-11 tomorrow night (instead of the usual Friday Sunday Classics Preview).


Check out the series to date



Huh? Tom Tomorrow is moving??? Just remember: Change isn't by itself a good or a bad thing -- it all depends on the change


UPDATE BELOW: Tom Tomorrow moves to Daily Kos

Lights out
Hard to believe we're moving after all these years


by Ken

Okay, if you must know, I'm still working on that post I mentioned last night I was working on in connection with the annual meeting of the Municipal Art Society, and the celebration of the miraculous revival of Times Square. Let me add this much: The keynote speaker, Rocco Landesman, who was an important player in that revival as head of one of the largest Broadway theater operators, Jujamcyn, and was perhaps so successful that he is now chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, made a fine speech in which he explained that he considers the Times Square revival a model for cities all over the country, and he's got oodles of them bellying up to the NEA bar to talk about it.

The only thing is, I'm not so sure that revival has been all that miraculous. I wish I could promise you a glittering exposition of this tomorrow. All I can say for now is that it's likely to be better than it would have been if I'd tried to force it to a quick conclusion to be ready for tonight.

Meanwhile, what the hell is the deal with Tom Tomorrow?


Thanks to commenter bujeeboo for pointing us to a This Modern World blog entry from Tuesday titled "A period of transition," in which Tom T recalls how the This Modern World strip found its way to Salon in 1994-95 and, more importantly, what's happening now. All Tom Tomorrow fans will want to read the whole post, but here's the immediately relevant portion for us:
, , , [A]fter a couple rough years of attrition and budget cuts, mine is the only cartoon left running in Salon -- and today marks my last appearance there.

I’ve had an extraordinary run at Salon, and it has been a fantastic platform, which I have been privileged to share with many talented contributors over the years. But as Blinky notes in this week’s farewell cartoon, I’ve been there for about a million years in internet time. My contract was up for renewal at the end this month, and I was feeling vaguely ready for a change, when I was approached by Markos Moulitsas with an intriguing offer -- the chance to not only publish my own work on the Daily Kos, but to serve as the site’s Comics Editor, to help create an entirely new space online for political cartoons.

I’ve been quietly agitating for something like this for quite a while. These are difficult times for cartoonists, particularly those of us working in the subgenre of altweekly cartooning. The papers are still vital to my survival, and I’m grateful beyond measure to the many editors who continue to run my work in print each week — but the larger trend over the past few years has not exactly been encouraging. Too many papers have decided that they no longer have any use for this art form which grew in their stead, adapting itself entirely to their rhythms, and as that market contracts, there’s been no simultaneous expansion online. The niche that editorial cartoons filled in newspapers is almost entirely occupied by Daily Show clips online. Why do so few political sites feature political cartoons? Why did the Huffington Post, with verticals devoted to almost any topic you can imagine, never launch a comics section?

I’ve got a chance to help counter that trend, in some small way, at a site I’ve been reading since 2002. (I believe I actually sent Markos some of his earliest traffic, back–as absurd as it sounds now–when my little vanity site had the higher readership.) It’s an experiment for both of us, I think, but an exciting one. My cartoon will start running there next Monday. Over the next few months we’ll be adding others, and, I hope, building up a go-to destination for progressive cartoon commentary.

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Arizona Republicans Working To Make The State Unattractive To Companies That Need Even A Minimally Educated Work Force


Arizona fressers: noted Nazi, J.T. Ready & state Senate Pres. Russell Pearce

A few weeks ago, alarmed Arizona business leaders pulled the Republican rug out from under Arizona's blatantly racist Senate President, Russell Pearce.
The state legislature's focus on illegal immigration is hurting the state, a group of 60 Arizona business leaders said Tuesday.

"We strongly believe it is unwise for the Legislature to pass any additional immigration legislation," said a letter to state Senate President Russell Pearce, signed by executives from around the state.

The letter said that immigration issues, including changing the 14th Amendment's guarantee of birthright citizenship, are best left to Congress.

The state's move to enact immigration legislation has hurt Arizona's economy and brand, the letter said.

Almost instantly, Pearce's 5 most recent racist immigration bills were defeated. Racism is something that Arizona Republican Party dearly loves, but they know where their bread gets buttered and when Business speaks, Republican hacks listen... and jump. Pearce went down fighting, of course: “The lack of political courage is the only impediment to step up pressure on illegal immigration." His goal is to make Latinos feel unwelcome in Arizona and to drive them out of the state. Businessmen have noticed that this is nothing short of economic suicide.
One of the bills would have required hospitals to report people who lack insurance and cannot demonstrate legal status. Another would require schools to report on enrollments of illegal immigrant students. The fifth would have made it a crime for illegal immigrants to drive in Arizona.

And speaking of business leaders, pressure on the lunatic fringe of the GOP, and education, Tucson Congressman Raúl Grijalva has been fighting to keep jobs in Arizona and to protect the state's fragile and deteriorating education system. Like the other powermad Republican governors attempting to wreck public education, Jan Brewer and her right-wing legislature has been undermining the state's education at every level. Grijalva sent me this article from the Arizona Daily Star yesterday:
The former chief executive of Intel Corp. told legislative and business leaders Tuesday Arizona won't be a real magnet for new business until it turns out more qualified high school and college graduates.

"The educational system in the United States and in Arizona in particular is not particularly attractive," Craig Barrett told the Arizona Commerce Authority. The situation is so poor, he said, that if Intel were looking for a site to build an entirely new operation, as opposed to expanding its $10 billion Arizona presence, Arizona would not even be on the list of Top 10 choices.

He was not alone in his comments.

"The education system here is very weak," said Doug Pruitt, chief executive of Sundt Construction. And Judy Wood, who runs Contact One, a small call center, said even her firm, which does not need college graduates, is having trouble finding Arizona high school graduates who can properly compose a sentence.

Their audience included Gov. Jan Brewer, who co-chairs the authority and is proposing to cut state aid for universities by $170 million, or about another 20 percent.

Pearce has forced through a budget that cuts another quarter billion dollars from K-12 education, which fits his short-term vision of targeting Latinos but leaves Arizona vulnerable to further economic collapse in the future. Of course, even in the short run, Brewer's and Pearce's education cutbacks are an unmitigated disaster for Arizona.
Several hundred jobs could be cut as the University of Arizona struggles to manage deep budget cuts proposed by state leaders.

This comes on top of more than 600 jobs eliminated since 2009 as the state cut 25 percent of its appropriation to the UA.

Gov. Jan Brewer wants the UA to take a $67 million state budget cut next year.

The Arizona Board of Regents ordered the UA to absorb $39 million of that in reduced spending. The UA plans to make up the rest by raising tuition and spending reserves.

If Pearce, Brewer and the Arizona Republican Party share a vision to stop growth, it looks like they've found the way to do it. Meanwhile, this morning I got an e-mail from Bill Moran, who is directing an effort to mount a recall against Brewer based largely on her anti-education jihad.

Arizona university students are getting the shaft along with university faculty and staff.

They are being asked to bear the brunt of drastic cuts to the state’s budget initially proposed by Governor Jan Brewer, and subject to further increases under a recent proposal by the state Senate.

The Governor appears to be exploiting the larger cuts proposed by the Senate to prop up support for her cuts as a "reasonable" plan. "What’s "reasonable" about:

* Tuition increasing up to $9,000 a year for in-state students and up to $21,807 a year for out-of-state undergraduates – with even high tuition for graduate students?

* Eliminating the state’s contribution to the Arizona Financial Aid Trust, a vital financial aid program that students will need to rely on more than ever?

* The likelihood of larger class sizes, reduced programs and faculty lay-offs that will almost certainly diminish the quality of the education that students will now be paying premium prices for?

* Increased numbers of students unable to complete their degree in 4 years.

* Quality Educators leaving the state to seek employment in a more "education-friendly" state. (Previous budget cuts at already have resulted in layoffs, mandatory furloughs, early retirement incentives, streamlined majors and discontinued programs.)?

* Even greater challenges competing for jobs with the real or perceived devaluation of an Arizona university degree?


Gov. Brewer’s spin machine is showcasing her proposed cuts to state university funding as the "better alternative" to the Senate proposal when, in fact, it is nothing more than the "lesser of two evils." Neither proposal is good for Arizona’s university students, faculty, staff or academic reputation!


Over last 2 years, on Gov. Brewer’s watch, higher education cuts have totaled $200 million which the Governor has signed into law. During the last 5 years, tuition at the state's public universities has risen a whopping 73.3% at U of A, 48.1% at ASU and 55.1% at NAU. Two+ yearsof these hikes have been Governor Brewer's watch.

Rallies, protests and letters to state legislators are unlikely to change anything!


Shareholders in a business exercise their right to vote out an ineffective and irresponsible leader. If you are a registered Arizona voter (or would like to register to vote online right now by clicking here!)

– You can do the same by helping us FIRE Gov. Jan Brewer!

She got this ball rolling. She signed all the previous budget cuts resulting in the drastic tuition hikes at our state universities over the last three years. She refuses to hold down tuition by cutting non-essential programs that do not affect Higher Education, or to consider raising revenues by supporting a sales tax on luxury services such as spa treatments or country club memberships.

She prefers proposals that take from students, the sick and the needy. Some feel this is merely because she does not feel they have the wherewithal do anything about it!


Students, faculty and staff who are registered Arizona voters can sign our official petition to RECALL Gov. Jan Brewer. If we gather enough signatures by the legal deadline of May 28, 2011, the voters will have an opportunity to remove her from office through the election process just as they voted her in!

Help us send the strongest message possible, one with real teeth, to the elected officials and policy makers who are dictating Arizona’s future. By successfully recalling Gov. Brewer, we are giving notice that who we elect, we can un-elect. We are taking back lost ground.


Even if you are not an Arizona registered voter, you can help by volunteering to circulate our recall petitions, help to take our effort viral by spreading the word through online social networking and by helping us to expand our effort with a small donation of $20, $15 or even just $10. (If you can do more, that would be great!).


Students made history by stopping a war and changing the world just a generation ago. We believe you can help us change the world again. Unlike Gov. Brewer, we do not underestimate what you are capable of! Please support our effort in every way that you can. The world will take notice. They will know you did it!

Help us gather 100,000 recall petition signatures from Arizona’s university campuses today!

And, be sure to visit our website at to see how else you can support our effort!

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Two Democratic Women Who Lost In November Are Running Again: Ann Kuster (NH) And Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ)


Perhaps you'll recall that last year Blue America endorsed Ann McLane Kuster in a fierce primary battle against a Joe Lieberman type conservative in the New Hampshire primary for the seat that had opened up when Paul Hodes vacated the seat to run for the Senate. Ann trounced her cash-rich Establishment-backed opponent 71-29%. We also endorsed her in the general election against Republican corporate shill and rubber stamp Charlie base-- whose campaign was partially financed by Beijing-- but she lost by a heartbreaking 3,000 votes. Bass has been as awful a congressman as we expected, consistently voting against the interests of his own constituents and in favor of corporate demands and the right-wing ideological agenda. We expect to endorse Ann again when she officially throws her hat into the ring.

Not so with another Democratic Party candidate across the country in Arizona, also an Ann. This one, Ann Kirkpatrick, lost her seat to teabag extremist Paul Gosar in November after running up one of the most worst voting records of any Democrat in Congress. But she wants the seat back.
"It's clear to me, now that Paul Gosar has a record, that he is toeing the party line rather than serving the district," she said. "The real key for me is the number of people who I've been hearing from in the district-- and this is Democrats, independents, Republicans and even folks who are actively involved in the 'tea party'-- that they feel he is deeply out-of-touch with the district."

Kirkpatrick said she hopes the 2012 political climate will be more hospitable to her candidacy because it is a presidential year and likely will have a bigger turnout.

When Kirkpatrick first ran in 2008 for the sprawling open seat that takes up most of the state she took 56%-- 155,791 votes (as opposed to 109,924 for his GOP opponent). She won 6 of the district's 8 counties with the biggest, Yavapai, being a virtual tie-- 45,014 for her and 45,487 for her opponent). Last year, her confusing voting record-- she stuck with the Republicans whenever it mattered most-- depressed Democratic turnout and the results were astonishing. Gosar won even more GOP votes than Hay, the character she first ran against-- 112,816 but over 50,000 of her initial supporters evaporated. She only managed to get 99,233 votes, a pathetic result of a pathetic 2 years in Congress. She only won 3 counties of the 8-- and was trounced by Gosar 47,449- 27,179 in Yavapai.

There is no path to victory for Kirkpatrick in Arizona. The Democratic activists and the base hate her and all the corporate cash the DCCC will dump into the district will be wasted. This is the repulsive hallmark of Steve Israel as DCCC chair. The Democrats would be better off finding a real Democrat who represents the interests of working families in one of the nation's poorest districts rather than some corporate shill whose one claim to fame is that she isn't as bad as the teabagger in office. Ann Kirkpatrick is a loser and Steve Israel is a loser for recruiting her again and a loser for falling back on a tired, self-defeating formula that encompasses his own conservative worldview. At least the Sierra Club, which endorsed her in 2008, is unlikely to make the same mistake twice.
Between a vote to swap federal lands to allow mining near Superior, and the vote against the climate bill, the Sierra Club is not pleased... "Her district will feel the effects of climate change significantly, especially in the greater Grand Canyon area," said Grand Canyon Chapter Director Sandy Bahr. "Reduced flows in our rivers and streams is only one of many issues. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that the higher temperatures will result in even more dead trees and more significant forest fires." 

..."There are certainly a lot of progressive Democrats who are disappointed by her votes at this point," said Democrat Avtar Khalsa. But those sentiments appear to stop somewhere near the city limits, with farther-flung Democrats more supportive. 

 ..."I basically think that Ann Kirkpatrick should return to her Republican roots," said Democrat Debbie Leavitt, referencing Kirkpatrick's childhood in a home that was politically divided. "I don't think she should be allowed to continue pretending to be a Democrat." 
Others spoke on parallel tracks, including one of her more generous donors in Flagstaff. 
"I am very disappointed in her promise versus performance on environmental issues," said William Putnam of Lowell Observatory. 

Perhaps some local Democrats didn't fully understand who they were electing, said city councilwoman Karla Brewster. 
"The people I've talked to are angry ... and believed she would be more liberal than she has been voting," Brewster said. "In talking to Ann myself, I've believed she would be more moderate." 
...Democrat Bill Breed supported Kirkpatrick and congressional candidate Howard Shanker last year, before siding with Shanker. 
"She doesn't vote like a Democrat," he said of Kirkpatrick.

UPDATE: And A Third

This time it's anti-Choice fanatic and arch-conservative Kathy Dahlkemper, who lost last November after two pathetic years in office, who wants to try to reclaim her old seat representing the Erie area (PA-3). In 2008 she had narrowly edged out incumbent Phil English 146,846 (51%) to 139,757 (49%) with a big win in Erie County (71,332 votes, 57%), a close win in Mercer and losses Butler and the 4 smaller counties. Last November, after an excruciating 2 years of aisle-crossing and trying to please Republican voters while screwing Democrats and having given her own base no real reason to bother coming to the polls, she lost the seat to a rich car salesman, teabagger Mike Kelly 111,909 (56%) to 88,924 (44%). Over 60,000 of her voters sat it out, while GOP drop off from the presidential year was less than half that. Her vote in Erie County went down by over 30,000 and she lost Mercer and every other county. Steve Israel and the DCCC may think recruited Dahlkemper ticks off some boxes but she has no path to victory-- short of the Republican legislature and Republican district redrawing (enlarging) the district to make it more Democratic. That's not going to happen.
"Is this the best way for me to continue to serve the community that I love so much? I'm trying to make the best decision for me and my (former) constituents,'' she said.

Dahlkemper, 53, said it's difficult to say when she will decide. But she said she couldn't wait too long because of the need to raise campaign funds and get her message out.

She announced in October 2007 when she ran in the 2008 election cycle. "Waiting until fall would put me or anyone else at a great disadvantage,'' she said.

Dahlkemper confirmed that she's talked to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee about a possible run.

Bill Cole, the Erie County Democratic Party chairman, said he also asked Dahlkemper in a recent phone conversation about her future political plans.

"Though she has not made a firm commitment to running, she was going to do some exploratory activities to see whether she'd run again-- kind of test the waters, to see how people felt,'' Cole said.

...The political environment could be better for a Democratic congressional candidate in 2012 than it was in 2010 because President Barack Obama will be seeking re-election, said Robert Speel, associate political-science professor at Penn State Behrend.

That could boost voter turnout among Democrats and help a Dahlkemper candidacy, he said.

"We'll have to see President Obama's popularity at the time of next year's election, but right now, I would say she probably would have a better chance of winning next year than she had last year,'' he said.

Dahlkemper said she thinks running during a presidential year would help.

"Hopefully, the Democrats will be more engaged and enthused than they were in the 2010 election," she said. "I think that they are already showing signs of that.''

Dahlkemper offers pretty much the same weak tea to Democratic voters that Republicans do: "We're not as bad as they are." Obama nearly tied McCain in the 3rd district in 2008-- but he still lost. And that was when there was Hope and Change in the wind. Now all there is is an alternative to a pack of mad dogs running the GOP.

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Energy Policy: Obama Gets A "D" Which Might Not Be As bad As A Solid Republican "F" But Still Won't Save The Country


The headlines in the dumb-and-dumber mass media are that Obama wants to reduce oil imports. But his essentially conservative/don't rock the boat approach is pretty much what the Republicans want with a itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny patina of the kind of change the country either accepts or goes down to disaster. His "plan" to reduce foreign oil imports calls for increasing domestic production of coal and oil, encouraging conservation and fuel efficiency in autos (36 mpg by 2016), and shifting to natural gas (see video above) and biofuels.

Obama's been a supporter of off shore drilling and taxpayer-subsidized nuclear pants. His "new" policy calls for requiring utilities to buy 80% of their power from what he calls "cleaner" sources: wind power, solar, "clean" coal (which doesn't exist except as propaganda), nuclear energy (and idea that just toppled a state government in Germany that has been held by the conservatives since the demise of Hitler, but voted for anti-nuclear Greens last Sunday). Clear, bold leadership and a national consensus (with the bought-out/sold-out Party of No) is not a big part of the mix.

The savvy blog, Get Energy Smart! NOW! makes the point that Obama has turned "energy dumb" and that his policies are "politically tone deaf." He needs to look to Germany on both levels-- to see a nation striving towards a green future based on renewables, as well as for the political lessons to be learned-- quickly-- about Baden-Württemberg and the political demise of nuclear energy booster state premier Stefan Mappus (and the impending doom of Angela Merkel, largely due to following policies along the same lines-- although not even as bad-- as the ones Obama was espousing at his Georgetown speech). Merkel, at least, isn't embracing the suicidal corporate/conservative "Drill, Baby, Drill" template... as Obama has.

Nearly absent from the president's energy agenda was the electric car... remember that? Plus several other means for actually reducing America's dependence on toxic oil imports (and the wars inherent in them):
* A Steel Interstate of Electrified Rail (with moving significant cargo off trucks onto electrified rail), high-speed rail, and various electrified public transit (subways, trams, etc);

* Greenways (and bicycles) and other ‘local’ individual transportation options;

* ‘Location efficiency’ in mortgage financing and other ’smart growth’ paths forward;

* Home heating oil efficiency;

* Requirement for a flex-fuel standard for all future light-duty vehicles;

* Telecommuting, alternative work schedules, and other paths to enhance the work experience for a good portion of Americans while cutting oil demand.

Oh-- and bold leadership and a commitment to that change thing. Obama seems more interested in an empty, venal bipartisan suicide pact than in leading the country towards making the painful lifestyle choices that could save the country from taking a major tumble.

RELATED-- In Case You Don't Feel Energy Policy Is "Political"

Our old friend, Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC) sent his list this yesterday:
Dear Friend:

In case you haven’t gotten the call yourself already, here’s the script for a recorded call going to voters here:

“Hello. I’m calling from the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee. Feeling the pain at the pump every time you fill up your tank? Well you should know that your congressman Brad Miller is supporting policies that could raise gas prices even more. Miller is still detached from the realities of all families in North Carolina forced to pay more than $3.50 a gallon. Miller has been in Washington supporting big government policies that lead to higher gas prices and restrain the production of American-made energy. Call Miller today and tell him you’re paying too much at the pump. This call was paid for by the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee. Thank you.”

Now here’s what it really means: the oil and gas industry does not own me lock, stock and barrel the way they own Republicans in Congress.

According to, the oil and gas industry has given $238.7 million in federal campaign contributions in the last 20 years. Seventy-five percent of that was to Republicans.

The truth is that we have two percent of the world’s oil reserves and we’re using a quarter of the world’s oil supply. We have proven reserves of 22.3 billion barrels of oil. We are consuming 6.0 billion barrels a year.

We’ve known for more than a generation that there would eventually be hell to pay for our dependence on foreign oil. But instead of investing in research on alternative sources of energy and energy efficient technologies, Republicans in Congress have made oil company profits their first priority.

So now we import two-thirds of the oil we use and we have to snuggle up to some of the world’s most brutal and corrupt dictators.

Yes, I support environmental protection and safety rules for the production of American-made energy. Have Republicans not heard about the stricken nuclear power plant in Japan? Have they already forgotten about the Gulf oil spill?

But according to the Bush Administration’s Department of Energy, opening our entire continental shelf to oil drilling without regard to any environmental concern would not lower the price at the pump at all.

No amount of chanting “drill, baby, drill” is going to change all that. We don’t need cheap, childish sound bites. As lead Democrat on the Science Committee’s Energy and Environment subcommittee, I will fight for a real energy policy.

But here’s what else the recorded call means: I need your help right now to fight off this attack and the even more preposterous attacks that are coming. The political gurus disagree about what arguments are persuasive to voters, but I can tell you for sure what arguments are not: the ones they never hear.

If you'd like to help Brad out, you can do it through ActBlue.

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Boehner And The GOP Breach The Wall Separating Church And State


Though Cantor & Boehner have been threatening Republican caucus members with committee demotions if they dared to vote for unions in the onslaught of anti-worker legislation Boehner is delivering for the Kochs and other nefarious characters who bankrolled his ascension to the Speakers chair, yesterday 9 Republicans broke with the GOP's latest anti-worker bill (and Boehner only managed to hold onto one-- the weakest and most craven-- conservative Democrat, Dan Lipinski (IL). As part of the Republican drive to destroy public education and the teachers unions, they passed some crap voucher program that is unlikely to go anywhere. The Republicans sticking with the teachers unions and with public education and giving Boehner and Cantor the finger, were:
Judy Biggert (IL), desperate to make people forget about her anti-jobs outburst Tuesday
Robert Dold (IL)
Sam Graves (MO)
Morgan Griffith (VA)
Tim Johnson (IL)
Frank LoBiondo (NJ)
Ron Paul (TX)
Dave Reichert (WA)
Mike Simpson (ID)

The bill itself will cost $300 million-- which, breaking House rules, is not off-set by any cuts elsewhere-- and help exactly 879 students enroll in Catholic schools.
The Founding Fathers must be frowning on House Speaker John Boehner; you can almost envision the furrow on Thomas Jefferson's brow.

How could this fine conservative lawmaker from Ohio, who often cloaks himself in the Constitution, go on a crusade to give federal funds to D.C.'s Catholic schools? What happened to the separation of church and state?

It was Jefferson who first articulated the notion that the new country he helped found should create some distance between organized religion and the its government. In a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802, he wrote that he contemplates "with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State."

People For the American Way termed the legislative boondoggle costly, ineffective and constitutionally troubling. PFAW's President, Michael Keegan saw right through Boehner's strategy:
“While Republicans in Congress try to cut millions of dollars from public education programs in the name of ‘fiscal responsibility,’ they are positively eager to pour $100 million into an ineffective voucher program that raises troubling constitutional issues and that DC doesn’t even want. Study after study has shown that the voucher program has done nothing to help DC’s kids learn-- the main beneficiaries are the religious institutions that receive funding that would be better spent on public schools, and Republican members of Congress who receive a talking point for their base. House Republicans need to stop using DC’s kids as pawns in their culture war, and start working to fix the budget crisis that they claim to be so concerned about.”

And don't forget Lipinski. He has a primary opponent next year, John Atkinson.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ring Lardner Tonight: Part 1 of "The Young Immigrunts" -- The road to "Shut up he explained"


The dust-jacket photo on Ring Jr.'s family reminiscence features a photo that would date from perhaps a couple of years after the heroic journey chronicled in "The Young Immigrunts."

"The next thing was how was we going to make the trip as my father had boughten a new car that the cheepest way to get it there was drive it besides carrying a grate deal of our costly bagage but if all of us went in it they would be no room left for our costly bagage and besides 2 of my brothers always acts like devils incarnite when they get in a car so my mother said to our nurse."
-- from Chapter 2 of "The Young Immigrunts"

by Ken

As travel odysseys go, the one we begin tonight seems to me only slightly more fraught with tension and peril than that prototype Odyssey of Homer's. My original plan was to split the tale into three parts, but now that we've had two night's worth of grounding in the particular world of Ring Lardner ("Who's Who -- and Why" and the Preface to "How to Write Short Stories" Monday night, and the Prefaces to "The Love Nest" and "The Story of a Wonder Man" last night), I've decided we're going to do it in two -- the Preface and Chapters 1-5 tonight, Chapters 6-11 tomorrow night.

Perhaps Lardner scholars have worked it out, or perhaps only the Master himself could tell us how true this account is to the epic journey of the Lardner clan -- father Ring, mother Ellis, and sons John (born in 1912), James (born in 1914), Ring Jr. (born in 1915), and David (born in 1919) -- in 1919 when the family pulled up stakes and moved east. There seems no reason to doubt that the division of the travel party was as represented by the four-year-old narrator, with his three brothers journeying by train in the company of the family nurse and young Bill, as Ring Jr. was known, riding with his parents in the family's new car.
UPDATE: I belatedly got my copy of Ring Lardner Jr.'s The Young Lardners off the shelf for the first time in goodness knows how long, and it turns out that the putative four-year-old author of "The Young Immigrunts" has answers to questions of its background and factuality. We'll have that with Part 2 tomorrow.

Ready? Then, eastward ho!

UPDATE 2: With the additional material from Ring Lardner Jr., and related issues, there's just too much ground still to cover, so we're going back to my original plan, to do "The Young Immigrunts" in three parts.


Check out the series to date



Your 2011 Republican Party: You could laugh or you could cry


Instead of (better than?) an actual post . . .

In case the dog ate the House GOP's world atlas . . .

by Ken

With today's unusual schedule I'm not going to do a proper post this evening. I've started writing about my attendance last night -- such an unexpectably grown-up thing to do! -- at the annual meeting of New York's Municipal Art Society, for a post tentatively titled "The 'new' Times Square is the key to revitalizing cities all over the country. Or is it?" With luck and favorable winds I'll have that for tomorrow evening. For tonight, maybe I'll slide "Ring Lardner Tonight" up from 9pm to 8pm PT. Assuming I get it done in time!

Meanwhile, thanks to my colleague Mike Stark for catching this gem. Northeast Pennsylvania Times-Tribune staff writer Borys Krawczeniuk reported today on area congressional representatives' stances on American involvement in Libya, including (wait for it!):
Rep. Tom Marino, R-10, Lycoming Twp., said he supports Mr. Gadhafi's removal but said Mr. Obama should have consulted Congress before acting.

Instead, the president's action raised questions about whether he violated the constitutional provision that gives Congress the power to declare war, or the War Powers Act, Mr. Marino said.

"The bottom line is I wish the president would have told us, talked to Congress about what is the plan. Is there a plan? Is the mission to take Gadhafi out?" Mr. Marino asked. "I think he's fumbling through this."

Mr. Marino, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he hopes to ask questions of administration officials at a committee hearing today. He questioned whether humanitarian reasons are good enough for intervention.

"Where does it stop?" he said. "Do we go into Africa next? I don't want to sound callous or cold, but this could go on indefinitely around the world."

Not to worry, Congressman Tom, I don't think there's any chance we could ever be going into Africa. I mean, really, Africa? What would we be doing in Africa?

By the way, as Mike points out, Congressman Tom is on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Well, they've probably got an atlas around the office in case of emergency. Or then again, in the era of the New House Republican Majority, maybe not on the majority side.

UPDATE: It Gets Better

Ken's pal Rep. Marino isn't just on the Foreign Affairs Committee-- he's a member of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights. I swear I'm not making this up. -- Howie


Oh Lordy, Lordy! No, you couldn't make these people up. -- Ken

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Will The Real Scott Brown Please Stand Up


Yesterday we were disappointed that Alternet's otherwise awesome post on the 8 worst governors in America-- Rick Scott (FL), Scott Walker (WI), Paul LePage (ME), Rick Perry (TX), Jan Brewer (FL), Rick Snyder (MI), Tom Corbett (PA) and John Kasich (OH)-- left out an obvious member of that sordid fraternity, New Jersey's loudmouthed Limbaughesque slob, Chris Christie. If they're juggling Jim DeMint, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, Ben Nelson, Jeff Sessions, Miss McConnell, John McCain, Ron Johnson, Lieberman, David Vitter, Rand Paul, Jim Inhofe and Pat Toomey for a similar post on the country's worst senators, I'm certain there's someone who won't be a contender: Scott Brown. That's why it's a must for them-- and everyone in Massachusetts-- to read the exhaustive and well put together feature on Senator Brown by Eileen McNamara in this week's Boston magazine, Campaign Confidential. She's read Brown's much-ballyhooed autobiography so the rest of us don't have to:
Brown’s memoir might be a voyeur’s delight, but it has no wisdom to impart. No counsel to offer battered women besides making better choices. No guidance to offer children trapped in violent households besides toughing it out. No example to offer sexual abuse victims besides getting on with their lives.

Make no mistake: There can be only compassion for a boy abandoned by his father, kicked around by brutish stepdads, shipped out to resentful relatives by a beleaguered mother, set upon by neighborhood bullies, and molested by a camp counselor. But the bromides Brown peddles as the lessons to be learned-- self-reliance and human resilience-- undermine the hard-won recognition that violence and sexual abuse are not private traumas to be overcome by force of will; they are pressing public health emergencies that demand a communal (dare I say governmental?) response.

...Brown is in the mythmaking business, weaving childhood hardship into a narrative that casts himself as the inspirational hero of his own life. He and his ghostwriter have rewritten the well-worn fable of the American Everyman, an ordinary guy who, fueled only by his dreams and his determination, overcomes the odds to achieve extraordinary things.

But Brown’s emphasis on the individual’s capacity to bend circumstances, no matter how horrific, to personal will is a disservice to those without his remarkable ability to shake off the past. The hundreds of traumatized children counseled every year by Boston Medical Center’s Child Witness to Violence Project. The 30 domestic violence victims in Massachusetts, age 2 to 75, who were sent to their grave last year by their abusers. The thousands of sexual abuse victims worldwide who are forcing the Vatican to confront its decades of complicity in crimes against children.

Brown claims he wrote his book for people like them, to reassure them that “we each create our own playing fields and that we are all capable of overcoming whatever challenges might otherwise hold us back.” Because he “knit back stronger in the broken places,” he tells us he would not change his childhood-- not the sexual assaults, not the violence perpetrated by psychopaths against his mother and kid sister. I suspect his mother and sister might feel differently, but this is Scott Brown’s story, not theirs. It is the story of a very special man, unique among the sexual assault survivors I have met during a long reporting career in not devoutly wishing that the abuse had never happened.

So completely has Brown triumphed over the past that, in a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, he could equate all the publicity generated by his book’s abuse revelations to his halcyon days as a nude centerfold. “I haven’t felt so exposed since I appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine back in 1982,” he joked.

So successfully has Brown remade himself that he sees no contradiction between his mother’s reliance on federal assistance and his support for a political agenda to dismantle the very safety net that put that “government-issue cheese” in his family’s refrigerator.

So effectively has he distanced himself from his predatory camp counselor that he can write that he “purposefully erased his name from my mind” and tell interviewers that while he actually does remember the man’s name, he sees no need to pursue him legally, since “he’d probably be 70 now”-- as if child molesters come with expiration dates and he has no responsibility to protect the children his assailant might yet target.

As he travels the country hawking his book, Brown makes much in interviews of his efforts on behalf of child abuse victims. His book, which devotes fewer than six pages to his legislative career in Massachusetts and almost 60 to his campaigns, is a more accurate reflection of his record. Brown was on Beacon Hill from 1999 to 2010 before moving on to Washington. During that decade there were lawmakers who worked tirelessly on behalf of abuse victims, but Scott Brown was not among those indefatigable advocates. That he jumped on an overloaded bandwagon in the wake of the sexual abuse crisis in the Archdiocese of Boston falls somewhere short of leadership on the issue.

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The Whore Of Babylon... Florida?


Florida's 3-headed dog of dysfunction & corruption

Maybe they figured with all the heat on the execrable Governor Rick Scott and his own detested clown show, Florida voters wouldn't notice if the legislature did something as bad as anything the fake parliaments in Egypt, Tunisia or Libya ever did. Really. Howard Troxler explained in the Miami Herald how the Florida legislature just disgraced itself beyond repair, actually legalizing bribery even beyond the pretense of innocence that shrouds it in most of the rest of the states-- as well as nationally.

Originally passed in 2010, the Florida Bribe Your Legslator Bill, was vetoed by increasingly popular then-Governor Charlie Crist. Now that they've got one of their own with the signing pen, they went for it again:
There is no state, no nation, no planet and no universe where it should be legal to pay off a Legislature directly.

There is no government in which a sworn lawmaker should be able to take unlimited payoffs from those seeking favorable treatment.

And yet this is now precisely the law of Florida.

In an earlier column I called the Florida Legislature “the Whore of Babylon” for passing a law last week that legalizes its own bribery.

But the topic cries out not to be forgotten-- because this is a turning point in the state of Florida’s history.

It is now legal in Florida for the leaders of our House and Senate, of both the Republican and Democratic parties, to operate what are laughably called “leadership funds.”

If you are an interest group in Florida, a corporation, a lobbyist seeking favor, you go to these “leadership” funds run by lawmakers.

And you pay them.

They will launder the money into local elections around the state, to keep electing more obedient followers.

This is so astonishing a corruption that it defies belief.

And Florida state legislative leaders Mike Haridopolos and Adam Hasner want to run against U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, who isn't very popular or well liked but absolutely kicks their asses.

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G.E. Management Aren't The Only Crooks Not Paying Their Fair Share-- Bernie Sanders Exposed The 10 Worst Tax Cheats In America


That clip above is from a senatorial “Back Off Social Security" rally to rescue Social Security from the clutches of the deranged House Republicans. I liked what Bernie had to say-- as usual-- but other senators participating included Harry Reid, Al Franken, Tom Harkin and Richard Blumenthal. Obviously I wouldn't expect corporate shills like Ben Nelson, Mark Pryor or Joe Manchin at this kind of event but any Democrat who thinks he or she has a higher priority than saving Social Security ought to state what it is and exactly how it kept him or her from the rally. Paul Ryan's Wall Street proposal to begin dismantling Social Security through partial privatization would do exactly what Republicans are doing in every state they control-- wrecking the social safety net and disabling countervailing forces (be they government or unions, public media or even teachers) standing in the way of complete corporate domination of the nation-- a form of classic fascism, which is inevitably and always what right-wing ideology leads to.

As Bernie pointed out, just lift the unfair and ridiculous cap on payroll taxes so that the wealthy start paying the same as everyone else pays and Social Security is home free for eternity.

The day before the rally Bernie called on wealthy individuals and corporations to pay their fair share and called out the worst tax cheats by name, something few if any, other senators would ever even consider doing.
1) ExxonMobil made $19 billion in profits in 2009. Exxon not only paid no federal income taxes, it actually received a $156 million rebate from the IRS, according to its SEC filings. [Note: Our post last April reported that ExxonMobil was owed $46 million by the IRS.]

2) Bank of America received a $1.9 billion tax refund from the IRS last year, although it made $4.4 billion in profits and received a bailout from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department of nearly $1 trillion. 

3) Over the past five years, while General Electric made $26 billion in profits in the United States, it received a $4.1 billion refund from the IRS.

4) Chevron received a $19 million refund from the IRS last year after it made $10 billion in profits in 2009.

5) Boeing, which received a $30 billion contract from the Pentagon to build 179 airborne tankers, got a $124 million refund from the IRS last year. 

6) Valero Energy, the 25th largest company in America with $68 billion in sales last year received a $157 million tax refund check from the IRS and, over the past three years, it received a $134 million tax break from the oil and gas manufacturing tax deduction.

7) Goldman Sachs in 2008 only paid 1.1 percent of its income in taxes even though it earned a profit of $2.3 billion and received an almost $800 billion from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury Department.

8) Citigroup last year made more than $4 billion in profits but paid no federal income taxes. It received a $2.5 trillion bailout from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury.

9) ConocoPhillips, the fifth largest oil company in the United States, made $16 billion in profits from 2007 through 2009, but received $451 million in tax breaks through the oil and gas manufacturing deduction.

10) Over the past five years, Carnival Cruise Lines made more than $11 billion in profits, but its federal income tax rate during those years was just 1.1 percent.

This morning Russ Feingold, replaced by an outrageous corporate shill and no longer in the Senate but still fighting for ordinary working families, joined with in demanding that GE's CEO step down as Obama's jobs chief.
It’s everything that’s wrong with corporate power today: News broke last week that General Electric, America’s largest corporation, made $14,200,000,000 in profits last year and paid $0 in taxes-- that’s right, zero dollars in taxes. At the same time, C.E.O. Jeffrey Immelt saw his compensation double. Now I hear that GE is expected to ask 15,000 of their unionized workers to make major concessions in wages and benefits.

But what really adds insult to injury is the prestigious and influential position Jeffrey Immelt holds as chair of President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. That’s wrong. Someone like Immelt, who has helped his company evade taxes on its huge profits-- and is now looking to workers to take major pay cuts after his compensation was doubled-- should not lead the administration’s effort to create jobs...

How can someone like Immelt be given the responsibility of heading a jobs creation task force when his company has been creating more jobs overseas while reducing its American workforce? And under Immelt’s direction, GE spends hundreds of millions of dollars hiring lawyers and lobbyists to evade taxes. All of this at a time when Fox News and the right wing are demonizing public workers, like teachers, as the cause of our economic problems.

It’s time for policymakers to stop coddling corporate interests, and get to work creating jobs and wealth for Main Street. We shouldn’t reward wealthy CEOs and Wall Street for behavior that undermines the nation’s economy.

Earlier this morning Joe Scarborough had his make-believe Democrat on to defend G.E. for not paying any taxes-- Harold Ford. Hopefully Ford isn't planning to move to Vermont, but let's make sure Bernie's campaign coffers will help him win his Senate seat next year-- or any other office he decides to run for. Remember, besides this real champion, the other night Jon Stewart reminded us about what also passes as our "champion"...

UPDATE: Think We Need An Investigation?

As Digby explained this morning, don't look to Republican House Investigator-in-Chief Darrell Issa, caught scamming earmarks for his own personal benefit, "is, and was, a crook. It's his defining characteristic. Why anyone thought it was good idea to put him in charge of an investigative committee is anyone's guess. (Maybe they just didn't have anyone better?)" Yeah, maybe... or maybe they just needed the most corrupt Member of Congress they could find for a job they hoped to turn into a McCarthy-like partisan goon squad that will ignore corporate power crushing the life out of America.

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The Republican Party Is On The Attack-- Now It's The Environmental Protection Agency


I'm not claiming Republican Party congressmen want to kill your children-- let alone their own; they just don't care. To them the dead and dying, whether in Afghanistan or in the American heartland, are just collateral damage in their quest for corporate profits. And this is nothing new. This is always how conservative have behaved.

The video above was released by American Family Voices and their take on what the Republicans are trying to do to the EPA is pitch-perfect. Their main point is that Congress’ multiple bills to defund, eliminate and take authority away from the EPA is an all put war on public health… By working to block EPA from implementing new safeguards for cean air they’re putting big polluters before our families and filling the air we breathe with harmful, toxic pollutants that threaten the health of our families and children.
The Clean Air Act protects the public health and reduces health care costs for all by preventing thousands of adverse health outcomes, including cancer, asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes, emergency department visits, hospitalization and premature deaths. Bills proposed by Congress would slash EPA’s budget by a third, prevent scientists from updating new standards for air pollution and allow polluters to continue to emit into the air toxics like arsenic, mercury, lead, soot, smog and carbon.

“The Clean Air Act prevented 160,000 early deaths last year, including 230 infants, yet Congress is busy working to prevent the EPA from updating and enforcing standards that would limit toxic pollutants that endanger the public health,” said Mike Lux, President of American Family Voices. “If we don’t curb those pollutants, they’ll end up in our air, water and food and eventually in our children. Congress needs to let the EPA do its job to protect public health.”

A recent bipartisan survey conducted for the American Lung Association indicates the overwhelming view of voters:

• 69 percent think the EPA should update Clean Air Act standards with stricter limits on air pollution;

• 64 percent feel that Congress should not stop the EPA from updating carbon dioxide emission standards;

• 69 percent believe that EPA scientists, rather than Congress, should set pollution standards.

A recent EPA analysis, The Benefits and Costs of the Clean Air Act from 1990 to 2020, found that the air quality improvements under the Clean Air Act will save $2 trillion and prevent at least 230,000 deaths annually by 2020.

As we saw yesterday, the most conservative state in Germany, Baden-Württemberg, which has been dominated by conservatives for 58 straight years, just defeated them-- over environmental policy-- and handed the state premiership over to a Green! We should do the same... if we care half as much for our future and our children's futures as the Germans do.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ring Lardner Tonight: Prefaces to "The Love Nest" and "The Story of a Wonder Man" -- It was part of his charm


"The publication of this autobiography is entirely without the late Master's sanction. He wrote it as a pastime and burnt up each chapter as soon as it was written; the salvaging was accomplished by ghouls who haunted the Lardners' ash bbl. during my whole tenure of office as night nurse to their dromedary."
-- Sarah E. Spooldripper, in the Preface
to The Story of a Wonder Man

by Ken

I know I piled a lot on in last night's inaugural Ring Lardner Tonight: first, by way of background, his own 1917 autobiographical précis "Who's Who -- and Why ('Remarks by Himself')" and some biographical information by the editors of the 1976 Lardner anthology Some Champions,and then first getting into the Preface to the collection How to Write Short Stories. If you missed them, they're just a click away (well, a click apiece).

Tonight we have two more prefaces (one quite brief), written, curiously, not by Lardner himself but by the Lardner family wolfherd, Sarah E. Spooldripper. Note that later she represents herself as taking care of the family dromedary, which suggests that she may not be all that accurate a source of information, which may be worth keeping in mind. It was part of her charm.


TOMORROW in RING LARDNER TONIGHT: Part 1 of "The Young Immigrunts" (finally!)

Check out the series to date



Whew! Now that "Junior" Assad has accepted the cabinet's resignation, everything's going to be jim dandy in Syria, right?


(Oh, and a couple of thoughts about Libya)

Reuters caption: Tens of thousands of Syrians gather for a pro-government rally at the central bank square in Damascus March 29, 2011. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accepted his government's resignation.

by Ken

What a relief to know that the problem in Syria was just the cabinet! Thanks goodness that's taken care of!

As for the Libyan mess, you probably can't believe how much I don't want to get into it, especially considering how uncomfortably far out of step I'm finding myself with my deliriously smug compadres on the Left. Nevertheless, I will throw out a couple of thoughts.

(1) The morally exalted, doubt-free high-grounders don't seem to get that people who aren't unambiguously and unalterably opposed to military invention in Libya, or just don't know what exactly to think, understand every word of every argument they make against intervention, every bit as well as they do, and in all likelihood better. This is the cause of our agony, of which the high-grounders don't seem to be experiencing any at all.

(2) On TV I saw Secretary of State Clinton evoking the memory of the genocide in Rwanda, and our failure even to attempt to do anything about it. She wondererd how we would live with watching inactively as Colonel Qadaffi launched his massacre of his enemies. Others, in the same vein, have raised the specter of Srebrenica, where again we knew it was going to happen, then knew it was happening, and stood by. In response I've heard from the high-grounders shameful smart-aleckry, every kind of intellectual sophistry, and a heaping helping of fairly monstrous character assassination, but amid it nothing that constitutes an answer to Secretary Clinton's point. I would like to think that the actual answer on the Left isn't: Well, let the slaughter begin, yee-ha, get the popcorn going! (Organic, of course. And maybe some nice vegan wienies.)

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And It's Not Just In The Midwest Where Voters Are Repelled By Right-Wing Overreach


Yesterday's Washington Post column by E.J. Dionne, The Midwest's New Class Politics makes the point that Republican governors in the Midwest, particularly Kasich in Ohio, Rick Snyder in Michigan, and Walker in Wisconsin, are saving the Democrats from their own lameness. He's completely correct but I don't know why he makes it a Midwest story. Neither would Paul LePage (ME), Nathan Deal (GA), Rick Scott (FL), that loud, fat guy from New Jersey, Tom Corbett (PA), Sean Parnell (AK)... and has everyone just erased the ugly memories of secessionists Jan Brewer (AZ) and Rick Perry (TX)?
Republican governors, particularly in Wisconsin and Ohio, denied themselves political honeymoons by launching frontal assaults on public employee unions and proposing budgets that include deep cuts in popular programs.

Democrats in the region are elated at the quick turn in their fortunes. A few months ago, they worried that a region President Obama dominated in 2008 was turning against him. Republican triumphs in Wisconsin and Ohio, as well as in Indiana, Michigan and Iowa, all pointed to trouble for the president.

Now, for reasons having more to do with decisions by GOP governors than with anything the president has done, many voters, particularly in the white working class, are having second thoughts.

“We certainly addressed the issue of Reagan Democrats,” said Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee, referring to the blue-collar voters who began drifting Republican in 1980. Barrett lost to Gov. Scott Walker in November by 52 percent to 46 percent, but recent polls suggest he would defeat Walker if the election were rerun. In Ohio, the approval rating of Republican Gov. John Kasich, who won narrowly in 2010, has fallen to as low as 30 percent in one poll.

In telephone interviews last week, Democratic politicians across the Midwest avoided premature victory claims. “I don’t think we’ll know until November of 2012,” Gov. Mark Dayton of Minnesota replied when asked if the Republican moves against public employee unions would turn out to be a major error.

It’s a political irony that Republicans clearly believed unionized public employees were so unpopular that taking them on would play well with voters.

“It was part of an intentional strategy on the part of the right-wing Republican ideological machine to split private-sector workers from public-sector workers,” said Dayton, a Democrat who beat back the 2010 Republican tide. After decades involving “a giant transfer of wealth to the very top,” Dayton said, the campaign against public unions was “a way to distract attention” by creating “a fight over who is getting a dollar an hour more or less.” The effort, he added, “has not worked as well as they thought it would.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, said that even union sympathizers were surprised at the degree to which the Republicans’ approach “blew up in their faces” and that “the poll numbers of support for collective bargaining for public-sector workers are stronger than even most labor supporters expected.”

Another surprise: the extent to which Democrats, long wary of being accused of “class warfare,” are now more eager than ever to cast the GOP as the party of the privileged.

Barrett recounted a parable making the rounds among Wisconsin Democrats, telling of a room in which “a zillionaire, a Tea Party person and a union member” confront a plate of 12 cookies: “The zillionaire takes 11 of the cookies, and says to the other two, ‘That guy is trying to steal your cookie.’"

Still, Democrats are aware that the flight from the Republicans is also a reaction against ideology. Dayton saw the GOP’s heavy-handed methods in Wisconsin as playing badly in a region proud of its tradition of consensus-building and good government.

And Brown said that while joblessness was the most important issue in last year’s election, one of the most effective Republican arguments was the claim that “Obama was governing by ideology.” That charge has been turned on its head because “now, they are so overdoing governing by ideology.”

And nowhere more than in Florida, where Governor Rick Scott is too extreme and ideological even for many Republican legislators, let alone for ordinary residents of the state who just want to get on with making a living for themselves and their families. Scott's ideological jihad has turned that on it's head, killing high speed rail, embracing Big Oil, instituting intrusive, authoritarian, random drug tests for state employees and wrecking the state's already wobbly education system, again, all in the name of right-wing, Randian orthodoxy. He was right on top of Alternet's list of America's worst governors this morning, as they also indicted him for working to to slash $4 billion in spending while cutting taxes for millionaires; working to use state funds to build golf courses in state parks while cutting education by 10 percent and corporate taxes by 5 percent; requiring 600,000 government workers (including police officers, teachers, firefighters, judges, and retirees) to contribute 5 percent to their retirement; lopped off $2,300 a year in teacher salary to give massive tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy; and racism. ["He proposed eliminating state support for two HBCUs (Historically black colleges and universities). He's shutting down a state agency that assists minority businesses, and he refuses to appoint an African American to any significant position in his administration. Where's Kanye West when you need him?"]

Florida Education Commissioner Eric Smith opined this month that Senate Bill 736 elevates "the teaching profession to the esteemed level it deserves."


The measure would end job security for incoming teachers and weld their pay schedule to student learning metrics that are notoriously hard to define.

Accountability is good, but this measure is a teacher-morale buster. The last thing teaching-- a difficult job that is not a high-paying one-- needs is further disincentives.

Education majors who read this bill may decide to give up on the classroom and seek other careers.

If so, we wouldn't blame them.

SB 736, which Gov. Rick Scott signed into law Thursday with as the disingenuously named Student Success Act, appears to be an effort to make Florida schools more accountable, effective and more rewarding for teachers who excel.

Unfortunately, the bill's approach is heavy-handed, administratively intense, drastically short on funding and lacks a reliable means of measuring teacher performance.

Under SB 736, new teachers' employment contracts would be year-to-year, following a probationary period. Their jobs and salaries would be tied to annual evaluations that follow a formula prescribed by the legislation.

Student-learning growth over a three-year period, as measured by the flawed Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and other exams that have yet to be developed, would constitute half of the evaluation.

...The problem is that SB 736 is almost all stick and no carrot. It takes away teachers' solid job foundation. And, despite a lack of evidence that the proposed approach will improve teacher and student performance, the bill puts teachers at the year-to-year mercy of test scores.

That's hardly the "esteemed level" that educators deserve.

Just yesterday evidence began surfacing that cheating has been an integral part of the trumped up "successes" conservatives are claiming in their quest to demolish teacher's unions and sell off the public education system to for-profit corporations (charter schools) looking for another way to steal taxpayer dollars.
Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of public schools in Washington, D.C., became a conservative star of sorts for her willingness to take on the teachers’ union and the education establishment, among other things by firing teachers whose students did not improve on standardized testing. As chancellor, Rhee also instituted a lucrative bonus program for teachers and principals at schools that did show significant improvement.

The policy change had an effect; standardized scores rose significantly during Rhee’s three-year tenure. Eventually, however, her brash, combative style contributed to the re-election defeat of her most important champion, Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty, and last year Rhee was forced to resign as DC chancellor.

However, that career setback conferred martyr status on Rhee, who launched a nationwide speaking tour to spread her message of reform. Earlier this year, she was welcomed at the Georgia Capitol with a hearing in her honor in the Legislature and a private session with Gov. Nathan Deal.

However, as USA Today reports, the claim of sudden, significant improvement in DC schools might not bear close scrutiny. Consider, for example, Washington’s Crosby S. Noyes Education Campus, which was lauded by Rhee and others as a shining illustration of what her new approach could accomplish. In 2006, only 10 percent of Noyes students tested as proficient or advanced in math; two years later, that number had jumped to 58 percent.

But all the deviations showing better results from public schools were based on cheating and conservative deception in the service of corporate chicanery and the bottom line-- nothing even remotely to do with educating students. "The consistent pattern," USA Today reports, "was that wrong answers were erased and changed to right ones." And that was the pattern over years. Like everything the GOP is offering, it may look good on paper, but when it comes to offering America a viable future... well, like Rick Scott says, "Sue me."

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The Future Belongs To... Germany? Non-Fossil Alternatives To Nuclear Energy


It's been raining a lot in L.A. and today it's been drizzling on and off and has been pretty cloudy. I just checked the meter in my house that shows the output of solar energy from my new rooftop panels. It's producing more than I consume. It always produces more than I consume. My monthly bill went from around $1,000 to zero. Actually, the DWP owes me money, but they don't pay cash, they just give you credits-- like if we ever have 40 days of darkness, I'll still get free electricity from them.

On top of that, I have the satisfaction of knowing I'm not burning any fossil fuels to run computer that powers a blog that rails against Big Oil... and to know that when everyone in southern California turns into a mutant because of inevitable catastrophes at the Diablo Canyon and San Onofre nuclear plants, it won't be my fault.

If you follow DWT you may have noticed that there are a lot of things I don't like about Obama but one thing I'll always credit him for is taking the big step on solar power. Politicians are more likely to follow than lead but Obama used his earliest post-inaugural political capital to push a solar energy program that will-- if the GOP doesn't gut it (they're being paid very well to try)-- drag America into the 21st Century, something the Koched-up Big Oil & Gas powerhouses feel threatened by and oppose with all their might. If the U.S. catches up with Germany on solar power usage, the impact on oil profits could drop. Decisions like these are decisions societies make when they reach an historical crossroads that determines if they're going to continue to grow or dive onto the trash heap of history. Conservatives always choose the latter; it's in their DNA.

As for Germany-- you know, cloudy, rainy Germany-- solar production increased from 2009 to 2010 to 2% of total energy consumption, as they hurtle along towards their 2050 goal of 25%. This is from a Washington Post feature way back in 2007:
Last year, about half of the world's solar electricity was produced in the country. Of the 20 biggest photovoltaic plants, 15 are in Germany, even though it has only half as many sunny days as countries such as Portugal.

The reason is not a breakthrough in the economics or technology of solar power but a law adopted in 2000. It requires the country's huge old-line utility companies to subsidize the solar upstarts by buying their electricity at marked-up rates that make it easy for the newcomers to turn a profit. Their cleanly created power enters the utilities' grids for sale to consumers.

The law was part of a broader measure adopted by the German government to boost production of renewable energy sources, including wind power and biofuels. As the world's sixth-biggest producer of carbon-dioxide emissions, Germany is trying to slash its output of greenhouse gases and wants renewable sources to supply a quarter of its energy needs by 2020.

...Matthias Machnik, an undersecretary for the German ministry of the environment, said the country can't hope to compete in the long term with perpetually sunny ones in generating solar power. But it hopes to expand its exports of solar technology and become the leader in that field as well.

"Unless climate change accelerates, we only have a certain amount of available hours of sunshine," Machnik said in an interview. "For us, of course we will use solar power, but it is more important to secure the know-how for research and development."

Last year, German exports accounted for 15 percent of worldwide sales of solar panels and other photovoltaic equipment, according to industry officials. German companies hope to double their share of the global market, which amounted to $9.5 billion last year and is growing by about 20 percent annually, said Carsten Koernig, managing director of the German Solar Industry Association, a trade and lobbying group.

"It's been very important to create the necessary market in Germany," Koernig said. "We not only want to master the German market, but to conquer the world market as well."

Even before the catastrophe in Japan, Germany had started phasing out all nuclear plants (which produce 25% of its electricity currently), something they hope to complete by the end of the decade-- and Sunday's election results confirm that Germans want that done even sooner. They hope to replace the electricity generated by nuclear plants with solar and wind power and continue building the world's first major renewable energy economy. "Germany is accelerating its efforts to become the world's first industrial power to use 100 percent renewable energy-- and given current momentum, it could reach that green goal by 2050." Unlike Paul Ryan's roadmap to the decline of America, Germany has an energy roadmap to a bright sustainable future.
A new Roadmap published by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment sketches out the route the world's largest exporter plans to take to switch over completely to renewable energy, and add 800,000 to 900,000 new cleantech jobs by 2030 as it does so.

To overhaul key parts of the German economic juggernaut while it is hurtling down the highway, the roadmap lays out an integrated approach, involving measures for greater energy efficiency as well as a steady expansion of all types of renewable energy and a stronger focus on research and development into the next generation of green technologies.

"It's ambitious, but Germany can be running on renewable energy by 2050 if there is the political will," said David Wortmann, Director of Renewable Energy and Resources at Germany Trade and Invest, a government body supporting the country's renewable energy sector.

In 2008, the percentage of renewables in Germany's primary energy consumption was 7.3, but that figure is predicted to increase to 33 percent by 2020 as the country thunders on ahead of other European countries in renewable energy development.

According to the plan laid out in the roadmap, a raft of new energy efficiency measures, including the construction of a smart grid, should reduce the country's primary energy consumption by 28 percent in the next twenty years from 13,842 PJ (peta-joules) in 2007 to 12,000 PJ in 2020 and 10,000 PJ in 2030, slashing billions off the bill that the country has to pay for increasingly costly energy imports.

By 2020, 30 percent of the electricity consumed in Germany is set to be coming from renewable energy sources, with wind energy contributing the most at 15 percent, bioenergy second with 8 percent and hydropower third with 4 percent. By 2015, photovoltaics are expected to reach price parity and so become commercially viable.

Making optimal use of Germany's natural wind resources concentrated along the northern coastlines, huge offshore wind parks, placed in the North Sea, should have the capacity to generate as much as 10,000 MW, feeding electricity into a smart national grid able to transport the energy from the north and east of the country or from the south and west with optimal efficiency using high voltage direct current (HVDC).

The Roadmap estimates that by 2030, as much as 50 percent of Germany's electricity will be coming from renewable energy sources. In twenty years time, a smart grid interconnected with the entire European electricity grid will be in place.

Solar energy will be imported via Italy from the solar thermal plants operating in the sun drenched deserts of North Africa.

At a cost of €6 billion [US $8.12 billion] the national power grid comprising 60,000 kilometers will have been expanded by 850 kilometers and upgraded by around 2015.

It is estimated that introducing tighter energy efficiency measures will reduce total electricity demand in Germany by 10 percent to 550 TWh per year by 2020.

Electric powered cars will be racing down the country's Autobahns using batteries charged from renewable energy sources, slashing the need for oil and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Arizona doesn't have oil resources like its two neighbors, California and New Mexico, but it could be a solar energy powerhouse... if the state's politicians weren't putting every bit of their own energy into a battle over racism and political extremism. Yesterday the Yuma Sun wrote with a tinge of wistful envy about the progress Germany is making.
For Germany, the Japan experience hits a little closer to home than perhaps it does in some other parts of the world. The residents of that country started becoming wary of nuclear power after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the Soviet Union. Radioactivity from the Chernobyl accident - considered the worst nuclear power incident so far - drifted over Germany.

Germany sees itself as a potential model for other nations wanting to move away from nuclear power, according to an Associated Press report, perhaps including the United States which generates about the same percentage of electricity from nuclear plants.

Here in America, however, the government remains officially committed to nuclear power for now. In fact, nuclear power has been experiencing something of a renaissance here due to concerns about global warming and the desire to reduce use of carbon based fuels. Nuclear power in recent years has been seen as a companion to efforts to promote renewable energy sources like solar power and wind power.

That could change, however, if public concern grows about the safety of nuclear plants. And that is a distinct possibility if the situation worsens in Japan.

Already polling is showing some loss of support. One poll showed 70 percent of Americans are now concerned about nuclear power safety. Another showed fewer than half of Americans support new nuclear plant construction after Japan's crisis, a sharp drop from the 62 percent who were in favor last year.

Moving away from nuclear power in America-- or anyplace, for that matter-- would not be cheap.

True; switching to renewable energy is costly. But, it's what societies that have determined a course forward do to ensure a future. The Republican Party would rather see Americans all turn into mutants. Meanwhile Germany is just boogeying along and on February 7 of last year reached a renewable energy electricity penetration of more than 30%. Wind turbines, hydroelectric plants, solar cells, and biogas digesters now provide nearly 17% of Germany's electricity.
Germany uses an advanced system of feed-in tariffs to pay for renewable energy generation, and has an aggressive target of meeting 39% of its electricity supply with renewable energy by 2020. Its system of advanced renewable tariffs has enabled Germany to exceed its 2010 target of 12.5% by a wide margin.

...Doubling its previous record, the German solar PV industry installed 7,400 MW from nearly one-quarter million individual systems in 2010.

German homeowners, farmers, small businessmen and large industrial concerns are all installing solar energy at a rate far surpassing the sunny U.S.A., where half the political system is invested in wrecking the future of the nation because they're angry a colored guy with an Ivy League education was elected president. It's worth remembering that just last week, total power output of Germany's installed solar PV panels hit 12.1 GW-- greater than the total power output (10 GW) of Japan's entire 6-reactor nuclear power plant. Oh-- we forgot to mention how China is winning the future (while we cope with Koched-up, deranged teabaggers and blatant corporate whores like Brian Bilbray):

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