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Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 12:08 PM
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Environmental Scientist

Journal Archives

Tuesday Toon Roundup 1: War Powers

Slowpoke Toon: Treating Our Home Badly

Toon: CONgress and the War Authorization

The rolling disaster of John Boehner’s speakership

By Paul Waldman February 16 at 12:59 PM
For years now, John Boehner’s continued occupation of the House speakership has been in doubt. Would the tea partyers evict him in a coup? Would he simply not want this thankless task anymore? The presumption, which I’ve always shared, is that Boehner is in a nearly impossible position. Pressed by a large right flank that sees any compromise as a betrayal, he is constrained from making the deals necessary to pass legislation. While Mitch McConnell can successfully corral his caucus to vote as a unified bloc, the one over which Boehner presides contains so many extremists and cranks that it’s just impossible to hold together.

All of that is true. But might it also be true that Boehner is just terrible at his job?

Look at the two stories about Boehner making the rounds today, both of which were addressed in an appearance he made on “Fox News Sunday” yesterday. The first is the possibility of a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security if Congress can’t pass a bill to fund the department. At a moment when the news is being dominated by terrorism, both in the Middle East and in Europe, a shutdown would be a PR disaster for the GOP (even if, in reality, the key functions of the department would continue with little interruption). The House passed a bill to fund the department, including a provision revoking President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. Everyone knows that such a bill is going nowhere — it failed to overcome a Democratic filibuster in the Senate, and even if it had, Obama has made clear that he’ll veto it.

Asked repeatedly by host Chris Wallace whether the House would revisit the Homeland Security spending bill, Boehner kept repeating that “The House has done its job.” And he couldn’t have been clearer on the possibility of a shutdown


Scientists think there could be life on Jupiter's moon Europa. Here's why.

Our best shot at finding extraterrestrial life inside the solar system isn't on Mars. It's on Europa: a moon of Jupiter that likely has a vast water ocean under its ultra-cold, icy surface. And if all goes as planned, NASA will begin planning an uncrewed exploration mission to Europa next year.

"We think Europa has the ingredients for life," says Robert Pappalardo, the mission's project scientist. "Not just liquid water, but probably the right elements and chemical energy that might permit life too."

After years of failed attempts, NASA appears to be on the verge of finally getting funding for a mission to learn more about Europa, with dedicated money in President Obama's proposed 2016 budget and support from Republicans in Congress.

The mission's probe, called the Europa Clipper, would be launched in 2025 and eventually enter orbit around Jupiter, allowing it to fly by the icy moon dozens of times and gather data on the liquid ocean believed to exist under its surface



Aid to Needy Often Excludes the Poorest in America

The safety net helped keep Camille Saunders from falling, but not Charles Constance.

The difference? Ms. Saunders has a job, and Mr. Constance does not. And therein lies a tale of a profound shift in government support for low-income Americans at a time when stagnating wages and unstable schedules have kept many workers living near or below the poverty line.

Assistance to needy Americans has grown at a gallop since the mid-1980s, giving a hand up to the disabled, the working poor and married couples with children. At the same time, though, government aid directed at the nation’s poorest individuals has shrunk.

“Most observers would think that the government should support those who have the lowest incomes the most, and provide less help to those with higher incomes,” Robert A. Moffitt, an economist at Johns Hopkins University, writes in a forthcoming article in the journal Demography. “But that is not the case.”



Report: Netanyahu may have leaked US secrets to hurt Iran negotiations

1 US officials believe that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has authorized his government to release secret details of the US nuclear negotiations with Iran to the Israeli press, according to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius.

2 The alleged leaks would appear designed to undermine the negotiations, which Israel opposes.

3 In response, according to Ignatius, the US has decided to "reduce the exchange of sensitive information about the Iran talks" with Israel.

This would be a major new low in the US-Israel breakdown

It is important to note that Ignatius does not detail his sources for the story, and has no official confirmation from either the Israeli or American governments. The columnist is known as a non-partisan reporter with a strong track record and close links in US intelligence agencies, so his report is so far being taken seriously.


President's Day in Alabama isn't Washington/Lincoln, it's Washington/Jefferson

America honors its first chief executive during the annual President's Day holiday. And while the day remains mainly one to honor George Washington, it has come to represent a time to celebrate all U.S. leaders.

It turns out, however, that who exactly is honored on the day can vary from state to state and, wouldn't you know it, in Alabama, we've chosen to march to the beat of our own Southern-sounding drum.

First, a bit of history...

The President's Day holiday traces its roots to 1800 when it was set aside to honor Washington, who had died the previous year. Back then, it was celebrated on Feb. 22, the day of Washington's actual birth. It remained an unofficial holiday until the late 1870s when it became a federal holiday. It originally was celebrated only in the District of Columbia, but, in 1885, was expanded to the entire country.

The day was originally designed to honor Washington alone. It would remain the only holiday honoring an individual until the establishment of the Martin Luther King holiday in 1983.


The War on the War on Poverty

en years ago, fresh off his loss to Bush/Cheney as John Kerry's running mate, John Edwards returned home to open a center on poverty at the University of North Carolina School of Law, his alma mater.

Today, that move looks downright prescient: Ranked better than average in poverty in 2005, North Carolina has since experienced the greatest increase in concentrated poverty in the country. Charlotte has the worst upward mobility of America’s 50 biggest cities. In the east, hundreds of black agricultural towns are neglected and abandoned, and in the west, the Blue Ridge Mountains of Appalachia are suffering from a meth and prescription drug epidemic.

The Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity was formed by Edwards—the son of a mill worker—and UNC Law School Dean Gene Nichol with a stated mission to “advocate for proposals, policies and services to mitigate poverty in North Carolina.” Edwards used the center to hone his “Two Americas” platform for 2008, and an early bipartisan event featured former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Jack Kemp. Then Edwards left to run for president.

After a controversial stint as president of the College of William & Mary, Nichol took over the Poverty Center in 2008. The following year, the Great Recession forced education cuts that ended public funding for the center, which carried on with a $117,000 budget made up of private grants from the UNC Law Foundation and Z. Smith Reynolds.



Boehner, GOP poised to gut Homeland Security funding

As a result of a truly ridiculous budget scheme congressional Republicans cooked up for themselves, current funding for the Department of Homeland Security will be exhausted literally next week. John Harwood noted yesterday that avoiding a shutdown is a “rock-bottom, de minimis test of GOP governance.”

It is a test Republicans are poised to fail on purpose.
House Speaker John Boehner said Sunday he’s “certainly” willing to allow funding for the Department of Homeland Security to lapse in less than two weeks.

The Ohio Republican called on Senate Democrats to act on funding legislation the House passed earlier this year, indicating that his chamber won’t produce an alternative measure.

The beleaguered Speaker’s feeble talking point is, “The House has acted. We’ve done our job.” Boehner surely knows his argument is absurd – the lower chamber passed a right-wing bill that House Republicans knew couldn’t pass the Senate and couldn’t earn President Obama’s signature. In other words, the GOP majority “acted” by passing a bill that everyone knew was doomed to fail.

Boehner went on to say the Republican-led House and Republican-led Senate can’t fund Homeland Security because of Democrats “are the ones putting us in this precarious position,” which really is as pitiful as it sounds.


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