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An all male panel of clergy testifies before Darrell Issa's House Oversight Committee on birth control access. 2/16/2012
Testimony to Issa's oversight committee: women having sex makes us sad.
You never seem to hear the conservative all-our-religion-is-belong-to-you outrage machine on this stuff.
The federal Department of Health and Human Services dispatched its Office of Inspector General to review Medicare payments for vacuum erection systems, less formally known as penis pumps.
Certainly, there may certainly be individual wags out there who are miffed that their tax dollars are going for medical treatments to allow older people to have sex. There may be cranky folks who do not think that anyone should be getting Viagra for any reason, because if God wanted them to have an erection God would have taken care of that already.

But it's not a movement. You don't see a dozen conservative women all lined up in a row to testify to Congress that allowing men past childbearing age to have sex is an abomination unto their Lord, or nationwide hobby supply shops demanding that the entire national health care system be restructured to allow them to personally decide which of their male employees ought not to be receiving medical care for insufficient sexytimes. Their religion may dictate that nobody have sex unless they are married, and unless they are fertile, but there is no nationwide, Fox-News-covered movement afoot to demand that the appropriate health care remedies be given only to married and fertile people. You don't hear the Fox News talking heads going on about that.

It's only American women that get that treatment. Nobody's screening the menfolk to ensure that they only get their Viagra or their vacuum erection systems if their employers are all right with that sort of thing. There is not 1/100th of the attention spent to deciding whether employers, or taxpayers, or random lawmakers of particular theocratic bent ought to have veto power over sexual health care for men that they are all presumed to have by "natural law" over women. And it is not a case of hobby shops or taxpayers or theocratic lawmakers simply never having the idea, until some other wag pointed it out, because wags have been pointing it out for a very, very long time now to no effect whatsoever. Nope; it is still only the womenfolk whose fertility needs to be managed and ensured, never the men.

How to explain it? It is a mystery.

Just as states with progressive lawmakers and activists have themselves initiated innovative programs over a wide range of issues, state-based progressive blogs have helped provide us with a point of view, inside information and often an edgy voice that we just don't get from the traditional media. This week in progressive state blogs is designed specifically to focus attention on the writing and analysis of people focused on their home turf. Let me know via comments or Kosmail if you have a favorite state- or city-based blog you think I should know about. Inclusion of a diary does not necessarily indicate my agreement or endorsement of its contents.

At Bleeding Heartland of Iowa, desmoinesdem writes—Branstad determined to make Kim Reynolds the next Iowa governor:

Bleeding Heartland
Governor Terry Branstad confirmed on Iowa Public Television this weekend that he wants Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds to succeed him in office.

Although he added that it's "his intention" to serve an entire sixth term if re-elected this year, his comments are not likely to persuade skeptics (including me) who believe that he would resign early to give Reynolds a chance to run as an incumbent governor in 2018. [...]

Bleeding Heartland has commented before on the Branstad administration's consistent (almost obsessive) branding of the "Branstad-Reynolds team" as a single unit.  I want to emphasize how unprecedented it is for Iowa's governor and lieutenant governor to do so many public appearances together. Traditionally, the lieutenant governor's role has been to help the administration cover more ground. Reynolds' predecessors were sent around the state to attend events that did not fit into the governor's schedule.

The "joined at the hip" scheduling has fueled rumors that Branstad has an undisclosed health problem, requiring Reynolds' presence in case the governor has some kind of episode.

At Progress Illinois, Ellyn Fortino writes—Environmentalists Hold Vigil In Chicago To Protest Keystone XL Pipeline:
state blogs, Progress Illinois
About 100 environmentalists held a vigil outside of the U.S. State Department's Chicago regional office on Monday evening to demand that President Barack Obama reject the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline. [...]

Debra Michaud of Tar Sands Free Midwest pointed out that tar sands oil is the "dirtiest transportation fuel on the planet."

At Nevada Progressive, atdnext writes—Family Values:
Nevada Progressive
Every so often, we hear politicians crow about their "morality" and "family values". What do they actually mean? And what does it actually mean to millions of American families?

We couldn't help but brainstorm these questions while supposed "defenders of family values" across the nation fought for "family values" like banning second parent adoption, en shrinking workplace discrimination, driving transgender people to suicide, and denying loving couples the freedom to marry. Wait, these aren't "family values"? So why are G-O-TEA politicians falling over each other to fight for policies that espouse anything but "family values"?

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Opportunity is the idea at the heart of this country – that no matter who you are or how you started out, with hard work and responsibility, you can get ahead.
Opportunity. The president is on it.

Wrapping up a road show of visits pushing his new opportunity agenda first put forward in his State of the Union speech, President Obama devoted his weekly address this morning to outline his initiatives to the American people, from job training to new retirement accounts.

It's an agenda with four parts, he said:

Number one: more new jobs. Number two: training folks with the skills to fill those jobs. Number three: guaranteeing every child access to a world-class education. And number four: making sure that hard work pays off, with wages you can live on, savings you can retire on, and health insurance that’s there when you need it.
If moving this country toward these goals means acting in the face of congressional obstruction, so be it, he said:
But in this year of action, whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, I will. I’ve got a pen and a phone – a pen to take executive action, and a phone to rally citizens and business leaders who are eager to create new jobs and new opportunities.
Across-the-board reform of training programs, new "my-RA" retirement accounts, persuading tech company CEO's to focus on helping workers develop skills and wiring all of the nation's schools, meeting with business leaders to pressure them to hire the long-unemployed: he's on it.

Underscoring his commitment, he concluded:

So when you hear me talk about using my pen and my phone to make a difference for middle class Americans and those working to get into the middle class, that’s what I mean. And I’m going to keep asking students and parents and business leaders to help – because there are millions of Americans outside Washington who are tired of stale political arguments, ready to move this country forward, and determined to restore the founding vision of opportunity for all.
To read the transcript in full, check below the fold or visit the White House website.
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When presidential candidates get together onstage for a group discussion it's often called a debate. But real debates have well-defined scoring determining a winner as sure as the Super Bowl. Real debates have real coaches and real star players. And on any given Sunday, the underdog can prevail. But they're entertaining, as was watching engineer turned science educator Bill Nye (Seen on Daily Kos here) going up against Creationist Ken Ham. Oddly, one person telling Ham to please STFU was Pat Robertson:

“Let’s face it, there was a bishop who added up the dates listed in Genesis and he came up with the world had been around for 6,000 years,” Robertson began. “There ain’t no way that’s possible … To say that it all came about in 6,000 years is just nonsense and I think it’s time we come off of that stuff and say this isn’t possible.”

“Let’s be real,” Robertson begged, “let’s not make a joke of ourselves.”

Some advice for any news networks looking for someone to represent science when covering this: there's an entire blog full of talented professionals with loads of public speaking experience called the Panda's Thumb and a whole degreed faculty who do this for a living called the National Center for Science Education. Both institutions feature dedicated spokespeople armed with zippy one-liners and camera-friendly smiles.
  • Phil blogging at Bad Astronomy responds to 22 classic creationist points of malarkey and I swiped the same questions and followed suit.
  • A new preserved human footprint has been found dating to almost a million years earlier than when Ken Ham claims the world was created.
  • Enough of that messy wet science! The quantum computer goes commercial:
    Advocates claim quantum computing could be more powerful than standard silicon processing in that its small scale of operations can simulate problems too large to be represented in traditional computing systems. D-Wave markets its machines, which it started selling in 2011, as very large co-processors, handy for solving complex optimization and machine-learning problems that could overwhelm classically designed computers. Google has invested in one of D-Wave's computers and is evaluating the results.
House Republicans are moving toward introducing a bill that would lift the debt limit until the first quarter of 2015, while patching the Medicare reimbursement rate for nine months and reversing recent changes to some military retirement benefits, according to multiple sources familiar with internal deliberations.

The bill could come up for a vote as soon as next week.

Patching the reimbursement rate for doctors who treat Medicare patients — known as the Sustainable Growth Rate or “doc fix” — and changing cost of living benefits for the military could be costly. Under the emerging plan, House Republicans would seek to pay for those items with an extra year of cuts to mandatory spending and changes to pension contributions.

But wait. On the one hand, WH refusal to negotiate on the debt ceiling means all that extra stuff might just be stripped out after House passage. And meanwhile in a parallel universe:

Association of Health Care Journalists:

An agreement has finally been reached in both houses of Congress that replaces the Medicare physician sustainable growth rate formula, or SGR, with plan that provides stable funding updates based pay-for-performance and increases reimbursements by 0.5 percent annually for the next five years. The SGR, part of the 1997 Balanced Budget amendment, essentially ensured that the yearly increase in the expense per Medicare beneficiary does not exceed the growth in GDP.

However, as health care costs began to outpace inflation, the SGR began to fall short of the actual cost of health care services and Congress has repeatedly stepped in to suspend or adjust the payments (“doc fix”). Many physicians groups, including the AMA, have called for a more permanent, less formulaic, solution.

Sarah Kliff:
Something weird is happening on Capitol Hill right now. Something just about unprecedented: Republicans and Democrats are agreeing on a multibillion-dollar health policy proposal.

On Thursday, legislators released a plan to overhaul how Medicare pays doctors, one that would do away with the "doc-fix" ritual and more closely tether the amount that providers make to the quality of care they provide.

So while one GOP proposal treats the "doc fix" as a temporary political sweetener in the debt limit scheme (the one that has to pass with or without extra stuff), another proposal in Congress looks at the long term correction to SGR that's been decades in coming. More on this below the fold.
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At Consortium News, Beverly Bandler writes Fear Itself: Democrats Duck FDR’s Lessons:

Last Thursday – Jan. 30 – was the 132nd anniversary of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s birth. You’d think that the Democratic Party would celebrate the occasion: the birth of the Democratic president who led the nation out of the worst economic crisis in its history, who guided the country through a catastrophic global war, who fulfilled the constitutional mandate on the federal government to “provide for … the general Welfare,” and who devised the policies that helped create the Great American Middle Class while also stabilizing the capitalist system.

“No president since the founders has done more to shape the character of American government,” notes historian Alan Brinkley in his biography of Roosevelt. “No president since Lincoln served through darker or more difficult times. The agenda of postwar American liberalism was set out by FDR in 1944, when he called for an ‘economic bill of rights.’”

Nicholas Lemann in his review of Ira Katznelson’s book, Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time, reminds us that during Roosevelt’s first term the threat of fascism was real, that “alternate systems were on the verge of imposing themselves by force on many other countries.”

Yet, by the counter-force of his personal will and his creative policies, Roosevelt steered America – and arguably the world—away from that abyss. But modern Democrats are hesitant to celebrate the contributions of FDR and his New Deal.

These days, the Democratic Party acts more like an enabler of the Republican Party as it seeks to poison the memory of the 32nd president and bury the significance of what FDR accomplished. Instead of highlighting Roosevelt’s remarkable legacy, today’s Democrats seem afraid to argue the point that government is vital to a successful society. They shy away from that debate despite the fact that the lessons of Roosevelt are central to solving the problems that the nation faces in 2014.

Besides the mainstream Democrats and their timidity, many average Americans suffer from “terminal historical amnesia” and appear oblivious of the history of FDR’s era. Too many who came of age in the years of Ronald Reagan (and after Reagan) bought into his idiom that “government is the problem” and his prescription of ”trickle-down economics” (giving massive tax cuts to the rich and trusting that their investments and spending will spill over to raise the living standards of working- and middle-class Americans). […]

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2013Republicans start to squirm over sequester:

Republicans are starting to squirm and look for ways out of the upcoming sequester. And no wonder: If it goes into effect, it would deal another blow to the economy. It would be wildly unpopular. And, for all the GOP's efforts to pin it on President Obama, Republicans would be in for blame from the public—as they should be. After all, at the time the sequester was signed into law, John Boehner said he'd gotten 98 percent of what he wanted. So how do you solve a problem like the sequester? For Republicans, the answer is a foregone conclusion. You demand massive cuts to the programs that people rely on, and ultimately give in grudgingly on cosmetic compromises on a few teeny tiny revenue increases that Democrats and voters want and that would help the economy.

Here are some of the blows to ordinary people Republicans would be willing to trade to get rid of the sequester: raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67. Changes to Medicare premiums. "Reforming" federal pension programs. Chained CPI. Changes to Medicaid. Get the picture?

Tweet of the Day:

"Austerity is like a suicide pact. No large country has ever recovered from an economic downturn through austerity."

On today's Kagro in the Morning show, we check back in on the Sochi hacking story, now called into question. Greg Dworkin gives us a flu update, and I catch the flu, live, during the broadcast. Next, an explainer on the "doc fix" and how it relates to... the CVS story! Plus: a new poll out of KY shows Grimes with a slight edge over McConnell; new jobs numbers confound the pundits, and; Jared Bernstein expands on the CVS model. The first ever hostage video featuring a captured military service dog raises some questions. AOL's new accounting trick gives C-Level Suite Looters a crack at your 401(k). And another installment of the Cocaine, Inc. story.

High Impact Posts. Top Comments.

Reposted from Daily Kos Economics by Roosevelt Institute
Economics Daily Digest by the Roosevelt Institute banner

By Rachel Goldfarb, originally published on Next New Deal

Click here to receive the Daily Digest via email.

When It Comes To High-Speed Internet, U.S. 'Falling Way Behind' (Fresh Air)

Dave Davies interviews Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford, who discusses why net neutrality is so important and how the FCC can preserve it. They also talk about the Internet infrastructure in the U.S., which needs improvements to compete globally.

Cities at Work: Progressive Local Policies to Rebuild the Middle Class (CAP)

Joel Rogers and Satya Rhodes-Conway introduce their new report on why local governments are best suited to strengthen the middle class. They point to cities' wealth, sustainability, and democratic values and organization as key reasons.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Associate Director of Networked Initiatives Alan Smith discusses the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network's "Rethinking Communities" initiative, which is similarly focused on local economic development.

Skating Close to the Edge, Again, on the Debt Ceiling (NYT)

Annie Lowrey writes about global fatigue over the U.S. debt ceiling standoffs, with everyone from Democrats in Congress to international financial managers expressing exhaustion with the tactic. She says the damage to the country's financial reputation is done, no matter the outcome this time.

Obamacare Cures 'Job Lock' (USA Today)

Theda Skocpol and Katherine Swartz praise the end of "job lock," when workers are reluctant to leave jobs because they need the employer-sponsored health insurance. Freeing those workers is going to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship.

Senate Still at Odds Over Whether to Extend Unemployment Benefits for Long-Term Jobless (WaPo)

Paul Kane reports that Senate Democrats again failed to pass an extension of long-term unemployment benefits, falling just one vote shy of the supermajority needed to break a filibuster. Of course, he notes, House Republicans have shown no interest in taking up this issue anyway.

The Shame of America's Long-Term Unemployment Crisis (The Atlantic)

Derek Thompson says that Washington is failing on long-term unemployment, which is a serious crisis for the U.S. job market. There could be ways to incentivize hiring the long-term unemployed, but that would require the GOP to care about this problem.

New on Next New Deal

A CBO Report Shows How Obamacare Will Help the Working Poor

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and Director of the Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative Jeff Madrick writes that the money that low-income families won't have to spend on health insurance, thanks to Medicaid expansion and insurance subsidies, will boost the economy when it's spent elsewhere.

Reposted from Ian Reifowitz by Ian Reifowitz
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) listens to testimony during a hearing on
Paul Ryan thinking about how wrong it is for workers to have the freedom and security to work less than he thinks they should.
Unbelievable. Here's Paul Ryan (R-WI) on the new report from the Congressional Budget Office on Obamacare, which found that gaining access to health insurance would lead to the equivalent of 2.3 million full-time workers choosing not to seek employment:
"It's adding insult to injury," he said. "As the welfare state expands, the incentive to work declines -- meaning grow the government, you shrink the economy."
Ryan also claimed that this means Obamacare is really a "poverty trap" because it will lead fewer people "to get on the ladder of life, to begin working, getting the dignity of work, getting more opportunities, rising their income, joining the middle class." Such a claim reflects the larger conservative argument encapsulated in the statement Ryan made in 2012 that the lack of a strong safety net will, wait for it, be good for poor people:
"We don't want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency, that drains them of their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives."
Please read below the fold for more of Ryan's brilliance.
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Reposted from Scout Finch by Jen Hayden

It appears Russian LGBT advocates are already being arrested in Moscow on the first day of the Sochi Olympics. From Grand TV (via Google Translate):

Police detained gays and lesbians, who sang the Russian national anthem in Red Square at the start of the Olympic Games in Sochi. February 7, 2014, video Dmitry Zykov
Pictures of athletes making a stand for equality at the opening ceremony below the fold.
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Reposted from Joan McCarter by Joan McCarter
net neutrality sign

Federal Communications Chair Tom Wheeler has said that the FCC will most likely address net neutrality violations one at a time, now that a federal court has ruled that it couldn't use the blanket enforcement it had on the books. The FCC might just have its chance to take on the first violation. Though Verizon denies purposefully slowing service for Amazon on Netflix on its FiOS network, there's allegations to the contrary.
On Wednesday, a Texas man named David Raphael wrote on his blog that Verizon was intentionally throttling Netflix subscribers and other Internet users who rely on Amazon's cloud computing service. Verizon quickly denied the complaint, saying it continues to treat all traffic equally.

Raphael, a software engineer for the cloud-based security firm iScan Online, said he was first alerted to the problem on Jan. 26 when the president of his company complained of "major slowdowns" while using iScan remotely. After determining that nothing was amiss with iScan's product, Raphael returned home to find that his own connection to Amazon Web Services—on which iScan runs—had been degraded.

Connections to AWS were limited to 40 kBps, Raphael said—about 240 times slower than the 75 Mbps fiber optic connection Raphael was paying for. Raphael discovered that even content hosted on AWS by others, including Netflix, was also slower.

The slowdowns only occurred on Raphael's and his boss's home networks on FiOS; he couldn't replicate the problems on their work network. He contacted Verizon and captured this bit of chat he had with the customer service representative, who said that the company was "limiting bandwidth to cloud providers."
Screenshot of chat between David Raphael and Verizon customer service rep.
Now, as Brian Fung says in this article, you can't take the customer service representative's word at face value: would this person be privy to decisions the company had made if it was deliberating limiting bandwidth to certain traffic? Verizon says it's investigating, and that this employee was misinformed. They insist that they continue to follow the principles of net neutrality.

At the very least, the FCC needs to be on the lookout for more reports from FiOS customers. But to truly be proactive, Wheeler needs to look into these allegations. And while he's at it, he should think very seriously about reclassifying Internet Service Providers at utilities that the FCC can more directly regulate.

Reposted from Joan McCarter by Joan McCarter
Congressman Paul Ryan after being introduced by Mitt Romney as vice presidential choice, 11 August 2012
What are Republicans for these days, other than making sure of full employment for fact checkers? There's going to be a good nine months worth of employment out of this week's CBO report debacle. However Republicans spin the CBO report, you know it's going to be misleading. Enter fact checker for the Washington Post, Glenn Kessler, who tries to deal with two attacks.

The first is the ad I wrote about Thursday. Sen. Kay Hagan's (D-NC) challenger, Rep. Thom Tillis hopped on the 2 million lost jobs bandwagon, and earns three Pinocchios from Kessler.

The Tillis ad gets in trouble by using language such as “Congressional Budget Office estimates 2 million lost jobs due to Obamacare.” First of all, it’s not jobs, but workers. Second, it is lacking context, since that is off a base of more than 160 million workers (i.e, less than 2 percent.)
Clearly a lie. Clearly. The one that right-wing media just isn't going to let go of (hell, they're still talking about death panels). Then there's the trickier move by some more establishment Republicans, like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) who basically acknowledge the truth, but attack Obamacare as an economic catastrophe anyway. That's what the NRSC did in a news release about the report, and where our fact checker gets all waffle-y.
The headline actually tries hard to be restrained and relatively accurate. It says that the law will “reduce employment” and then carefully notes this is the “equivalent” of a number of jobs. The release further says “fewer people will be employed and fewer hours worked because of the unpopular law.” That’s phrased correctly.
That gets them off the hook from being fact checked by Kessler, but it's still pretty far from what the CBO actually said. Phrasing the CBO's findings as the law will "reduce employment" and "fewer people will be employed" clearly implies "jobs will be lost," which is not what the report says. Kessler's letting the NRSC skate on a technicality, but they're still saying that Obamacare is a job killer. Now they just have the cover provided by the so-called liberal media.

Expect them to milk that for all it's worth, and to keep up this lie.

Reposted from Joan McCarter by Joan McCarter

At a Senate Banking Committee hearing this week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) slammed JPMorgan Chase and government regulators for the huge payout the bank made to CEO Jamie Diamond. She pointed out that Dimon got a $17 billion raise for "for activities that were illegal that he presided over," after she rattled off the long list of JPMorgan's activities.
"In 2013 alone, JP Morgan spent nearly $13 billion to settle claims with the federal government. Claims relating to its sale of fraudulent mortgage-backed securities, its illegal foreclosure practices like robo-signing, its manipulation of energy markets in California and the midwest, and its handling of the disastrous London Whale Trade," Warren said. "You might think that presiding over activities that led to payouts for illegal conduct would hurt your case for a fat pay bump." [...]

"I think this raises questions over whether our enforcement strategy is working or whether it's actually so bad that we're making it more likely for big banks to break the law," Warren said, adding that it is now a common belief in the banking industry to make money by any means necessary because the government fines will never reach the level of profits potentially made through questionable and illegal practices.

"Does anyone on this panel seriously think the government's current enforcement system for financial crimes is actually working in the sense of deterring future lawbreaking?" Warren asked the regulators.

The regulators weren't able to provide an adequate answer. Daniel Turollo, a member of the board of governors for the Federal Reserve, basically admitted that the Fed is more interested in financial companies' fiscal fitness than how they conduct their business or whether their CEOs are rewarded for malfeasance. Clearly, this Fed board member doesn't think the Fed should be in charge of creating deterrents and enforcing them. Clearly, Sen. Warren feels otherwise.
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