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Going big on entitlements

Isn’t it great that campaign adviser David Plouffe wanted (and probably still wants) Obama to “go big on entitlements”? And that Obama doesn’t like us to know what he’s doing?

Via Brad DeLong, excerpts from Christina Romer’s new book:

[Top Adviser David] Plouffe urged the president to give [entitlement reform] a shot. “I said he [Obama] should be big on entitlements,” Plouffe told one former administration official, by which he meant reining in these budgetary elephants. Sure, this would enrage the party’s base. But the political upside with the rest of the country would more than make up for it … “Plouffe is pretty big on accomplishments trump normal politics,” said one White House colleague. “Plouffe’s view is that big trumps the little.”…

[W]hile internal staff disputes did play a role, Scheiber ascribes blame ultimately to the president. As he concludes:

[T]he Jobs Act punctuated the chronic confusion about the connection between politics and governing. Too often, the two activities were treated as an either-or proposition in the West Wing. Obama generally believed the way to pass his program was to engage earnestly with the opposition, not take his case public. A president never has more leverage with Congress than when he’s riling up voters, but Obama rarely exploited the massive stature of his office as a tool for influencing legislation.

Caterpillar calls the shots

Now that he’s on the campaign trail, President Obama says he’s working hard to come up with incentives that will encourage American companies to bring home jobs that have been outsourced. However, an item in Reader Supported News sheds light on how badly American workers can expect to be treated by these companies. More here.

The long game

Are Obama’s attempts at bipartisanship a conscious strategy?

Thou shalt not cock-block the Lord

Stephen Colbert recently explained the theological underpinnings of the Church’s opposition to contraception, and warned birth control users that their sin is a grave one:

The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God. You see, to Catholics, sex isn’t two drunk strangers getting their freak on at closing time. It is the mystical union of two people inspired to create new physical life while God adds a soul in a divine and ineffably beautiful three-way. So, when you use contraception, you are not only sinning, you are cock-blocking the Almighty.

More here.


What Violet said. Nothing needed to be done.

Taking hostages

To protect Big Oil. They’re not much good for anything else.


Joseph Kennedy III to run for Barney Frank’s seat.

Oil prices on the rise

From Sen. Bernie Sanders in August, after leaking documents related to oil speculation to the Wall Street Journal:

While making this confidential information public may have upset Wall Street oil speculators, the American people have a right to know exactly what caused gasoline prices to skyrocket to more than $4 a gallon back in the summer of 2008… Further, there is little doubt that the same speculators who caused gasoline and heating oil prices to unnecessarily spike in 2008 are playing the same games again in 2011. This is simply unacceptable and must not be allowed to continue.

It seems the Obama administration wasn’t listening. From ThinkProgress, yesterday:

Oil is once again trading above $100 per barrel, bringing with it estimates that U.S. gas will cost more than $4 per gallon by May, if not sooner. The Obama administration is already bracing for higher gas prices and the political cost that they could exact.

But it isn’t increasing demand for oil that is driving the recent price increase. In fact, demand is the lowest it’s been since April, 2007, according to the Oil Price Information Service (OPIS). Instead, OPIS points to speculators as the party responsible for driving up prices…

Obama should listen to Bernie and take action, if only because his re-election bid might be derailed if his Wall Street buddies push gasoline prices too high.

I get so sick of liars like Charles Murray, a man who’s made a 30 year career of shoveling shit. I don’t mean to suggest he works on a farm: that’s actual work. No, Murray writes “scholarly books” he refuses to submit for peer review, because his data and conclusions are made of excrement.

This time, he’s slandering Philadelphia’s working class. So he’s our piggie of the week.

Amnesty: Time for Taser controls

Seems like every day, there’s another inappropriate tasing! Notice how this recent Occupy D.C. protester was hit directly in the center of the back. Now, read this excerpt from a lawsuit settled against a California police department:

During March 2006, however, a TASER-funded study documented that current from a Model X26 to the chests of test animals “captured” the heart’s electrical system, leading the researchers to advise TASER that “avoidance” of darts near the heart “would greatly reduce any concern for induction of ventricular arrhythmias.”

Nevertheless, in May 2006 TASER issued “Training Version 13,” which continued the misrepresentations that TASER ECDs cannot affect cardiac rhythm. Training slides pictured officers shooting Model X26 darts directly into the chest, and instructed officers to aim for “center body mass,” where the heart is located. The WPD relied exclusively on these fraudulent TASER training materials, and believed that a shock to the chest could not affect the heart.

Taser International has done all kinds of interesting things to avoid dealing with these issues, including threatening coroners with lawsuits for citing Tasers as a cause of death. But the information is mounting anyway:

According to data collected by Amnesty International, at least 500 people in the USA have died since 2001 after being shocked with Tasers either during their arrest or while in jail.

On 13 February, Johnnie Kamahi Warren was the latest to die after a police officer in Dothan, Alabama deployed a Taser on him at least twice. The 43-year-old, who was unarmed and allegedly intoxicated, reportedly stopped breathing shortly after being shocked and was pronounced dead in hospital less than two hours later.

“Of the hundreds who have died following police use of Tasers in the USA, dozens and possibly scores of deaths can be traced to unnecessary force being used,” said Susan Lee, Americas Programme Director at Amnesty International.

“This is unacceptable, and stricter guidelines for their use are now imperative.”

Strict national guidelines on police use of Tasers and similar stun weapons – also known as Conducted Energy Devices (CEDs) – would effectively replace thousands of individual policies now followed by state and local agencies.

Police forces across the USA currently permit a wide use of the weapons, often in situations that do not warrant such a high level of force.

Law enforcement agencies defend the use of Tasers, saying they save lives and can be used to subdue dangerous or uncooperative suspects.

But Amnesty International believes the weapons should only be used as an alternative in situations where police would otherwise consider using firearms.

In a 2008 report, USA: Stun Weapons in law Enforcement, Amnesty International examined data on hundreds of deaths following Taser use, including autopsy reports in 98 cases and studies on the safety of such devices.

Among the cases reviewed, 90 per cent of those who died were unarmed. Many of the victims were subjected to multiple shocks.

Most of the deaths have been attributed to other causes. However, medical examiners have listed Tasers as a cause or contributing factor in more than 60 deaths, and in a number of other cases the exact cause of death is unknown.

Other factors include: Lack of regular calibration of the instruments (resulting in the delivery of a much more dangerous shock than intended), lack of a policy and procedures guide for officers, updated training on new models which deliver continuous voltage instead of the automatic cutoff off earlier models, and Taser International’s very cozy relationship with police departments across the nation.

This is what freedom looks like!

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