June 27, 2017

Word

I'm unfamiliar with the economic theory that says tax cuts for billionaires trickle down to working people in the form of health insurance. —Jason Kander

Appeals court says Oxford comma is necessary

The Write Life - An appellate court recently ruled in favor of Maine dairy drivers in a labor dispute that hinged on the oft-debated piece of punctuation. For anyone who’s ever wondered what all the fuss is about over Oxford commas, the circuit judge’s opinion says it all: “For want of a comma, we have this case.”

Approval of gay marriage has substantial boost

Two years after the Supreme Court decision that required states to recognize same-ex marriages nationwide, support for allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally is at its highest point in over 20 years of Pew Research Center polling on the issue.

By a margin of nearly two-to-one (62% to 32%), more Americans now say they favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry than say they are opposed.
Views on same-sex marriage have shifted dramatically in recent years. As recently as 2010, more Americans opposed (48%) than favored (42%) allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally. In the past year alone, support has increased seven percentage points: In March 2016, 55% favored same-sex marriage, while 37% were opposed.
The national survey finds striking increases in support for same-sex marriage among some demographic and partisan groups that, until recently, had broadly opposed it, including:
Baby Boomers. For the first time, a majority of Baby Boomers favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally. Currently, 56% of Boomers favor same-sex marriage, while 39% are opposed. Last year, opinion among Boomers was divided (46% favored/48% opposed).
African Americans. Blacks have long been less supportive of same-sex marriage when compared with whites, but the share of African Americans who favor same-sex marriage has risen 12 percentage points since 2015, from 39% to 51%.
Republicans. For the first time, a majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents do not oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally. Today, 48% of Republicans and Republican leaners oppose same-sex marriage, while 47% favor this. As recently as 2013, Republicans opposed gay marriage by nearly two-to-one (61% to 33%).
Younger white evangelicals. Overall, white evangelical Protestants continue to stand out for their opposition to same-sex-marriage: 35% of white evangelical Protestants favor same-sex marriage, compared with a 59% majority who are opposed. But younger white evangelicals have grown more supportive: 47% of white evangelical Millennials and Gen Xers – age cohorts born after 1964 – favor same-sex marriage, up from 29% in March 2016. Views among older white evangelicals (Boomers and Silents) have shown virtually no change over the past year (26% now, 25% then).

Pentagon seeks exemption from Freedom of Information Act

Open the Government - Open Th eGovernment and a coalition of organizations committed to government openness and accountability are calling for Congress to oppose the Department of Defense’s proposal to alter the Freedom of Information Act. The exemption proposed by the DoD would severely undermine the FOIA by creating an unnecessary secrecy provision at odds with FOIA’s goals of transparency and accountability.

The DoD’s proposal to exempt from disclosure “information on military tactics, techniques, and procedures, and of military rules of engagement,” would create a carve-out to the FOIA for much of the information and documents created by the Pentagon, the largest executive branch agency with the largest discretionary budget. The DoD’s proposed language could be used to conceal information about the military’s interrogation and treatment of prisoners, its handling of sexual assault complaints, oversight of contractors, and other matters of compelling public interest.

Housing prices hit another record

CNN - The median existing home price climbed to $252,800 in May, according to the National Association of Realtors, exceeding the peak hit in June 2016 of $247,600.

At this point, home prices have been rising every month for more than five years.While that's good news for home sellers, buyers are having a tough time finding homes they can afford.

Cities across the U.S. are facing major housing shortages, which means buyers have to compete for homes with bidding wars and offers well above asking price.

Four million would lose employer-provided healthcare under Senate bill

The Hill - Four million people would lose employer-provided insurance coverage in 2018 if the Senate's plan to repeal ObamaCare became law, the Congressional Budget Office  projected on Monday. The nonpartisan budget analyst attributed the drop to the GOP's plan to repeal ObamaCare's two central mandates: the requirement to have health insurance and the requirement that most large employers provide it.

World thinks less of America with Trump as boss

Reuters - Five months into Trump's presidency, the survey spanning 37 nations showed U.S. favorability ratings in the rest of the world slumping to 49 percent from 64 percent at the end of Barack Obama's eight years in the White House. But the falls were far steeper in some of America's closest allies, including U.S. neighbors Mexico and Canada, and European partners like Germany and Spain.

TSA wants to spy on passengers' reading matter

Truthdig - The Transportation Safety Administration is considering implementing a new national policy that would require passengers to remove books from their bags at airport checkpoints, like they do laptops. And given the administration’s reputation for religious profiling, the procedure could be used to violate passengers’ First Amendment rights.

“Books raise very special privacy issues,” Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, wrote in response. “There is a long history of special legal protection for the privacy of one’s reading habits in the United States, not only through numerous Supreme Court and other court decisions, but also through state laws that criminalize the violation of public library reading privacy or require a warrant to obtain book sales, rental, or lending records.”

How the Senate Bill Would Raise Premiums, Deductibles, or Both for Most Marketplace Consumers

Free government healthcare saved Mitch McConnell's heart

June 26, 2017

At last: an article on how our voting systems can be hacked and what to do about it.

This article points out issues that should be raised about the way we go about voting. One state that does it better is Maine: "Experts say Maine is one of the least vulnerable states because all polling stations use paper ballots – which enable non-hackable hand recounts in the event of uncertainty – and same-day voter registration, which removes the possibility that people would be prevented from voting if the state’s central voter registration databases were compromised."

Republican senator compares preexisting conditions to crashing a car

Raw Story - During an interview on Meet the Press, host Chuck Todd noted that Republicans in the Senate had held no hearings on their health care bill and so they could not say for sure why insurance companies were abandoning some markets.

Johnson sidestepped the refusal to hold hearings and insisted that he already knows the answer “but nobody wants to talk about it.”

The Wisconsin Republican pointed to Obamacare rules that forbid insurance companies from charging more for people with preexisting conditions.

“We know why those premiums doubled,” he opined. “We’ve done something with our health care system that you would never think about doing, for example, with auto insurance, where you would require auto insurance companies to sell a policy to somebody after they crash their car.” Report Advertisement

“States that have… guarantees for preexisting conditions, it crashes their markets,” he continued. “It causes the markets to collapse. It causes premiums to skyrocket.”

Latino homelessness surges in Los Angeles

National Institute for Latino Policy - Recent figures released by [Los Angeles] county show that Latino homelessness shot up by 63% in the past year, a staggering number in a county that saw its overall homeless population soar by 23%, despite increasing efforts to get people off the street.

Nearly every demographic, including youth, families and veterans, showed increases in homelessness, but Latinos delivered one of the sharpest rises, adding more than 7,000 people to the surge.

"I would say it's a whole new phenomenon," said County Supervisor Hilda Solis, whose district saw Latino homelessness go up by 84%. "We have to put it on the radar and really think outside the box when we consider how to help this population."

Homeless officials and outreach groups say Los Angeles' rising rents and stale wages are the main drivers pushing many out of their homes.

One percent expected to control 70% of America's wealth by 2021

Popular Resistance - A new study by the Boston Consulting Group has found that while wealth inequality is growing on a global scale, it has kicked into overdrive in the United States – where America’s 1% are expected to control 70 percent of the nation’s private wealth by the year 2021.

The firm found that the already massive gap between the world’s wealthy elite – the approximately 18 million households that hold at least than $1 million in assets – and everyone else is continuing to widen at a remarkable rate. The estimated 70 million people who make up these households were found to control 45 percent of the world’s $166.5 trillion in wealth. And in just four more years, it is estimated that they will control more than half of the world’s wealth, despite representing less than 1 percent of the world’s current population.

However, while rising inequality is a global phenomenon, it is especially pronounced in the United States. While wealth inequality in the U.S. is by no means an unknown phenomenon, the U.S. is significantly more unequal than most other countries, with the nation’s elite currently holding 63 percent of the private wealth. The U.S. elite’s share of national wealth is also growing much faster than the global average, with millionaires and billionaires expected to control an estimated 70 percent of the nation’s wealth by 2021.

TV, film performers may go on strike

Variety - SAG-AFTRA has decided to seek a strike authorization vote from its membership amid contentious film and TV contract talks with the major studios.

The performers union said in a message to members Sunday night that the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers has pushed for “outrageous rollbacks” in the negotiations that began May 31. SAG-AFTRA’s current master contract for film and primetime TV expires June 30. The union has about 160,000 members.

British Airways finds new way to rip off passengers

Daily Mail, UK - British Airways is facing a backlash from passengers after forcing them to pay extra to guarantee sitting with their family on flights.

Furious travellers complain that they are being split up from loved ones as they head off on holiday.

Worst affected are passengers who have bought the cheapest deals. But even BA's executive club members who have been awarded 'companion vouchers' to go on a romantic break or honeymoon with their partner are being separated on flights.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4638270/British-Airways-asks-fee-guarantee-seats-together.html#ixzz4l7E53KFO Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Trump appointee is Saudi lobbyist

Alternet - One of President Donald Trump’s newest appointees is a registered agent of Saudi Arabia earning hundreds of thousands of dollars to lobby on the kingdom’s behalf, according to U.S. Department of Justice records reviewed by the Center for Public Integrity.

Since January, the Saudi Arabian foreign ministry has paid longtime Republican lobbyist Richard Hohlt about $430,000 in exchange for “advice on legislative and public affairs strategies.”

Trump’s decision to appoint a registered foreign agent to the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships clashes with the president’s vow to clean up Washington and limit the influence of special interests.

Oceans warming rapidlly

June 25, 2017

With GOP healthkill bill, Citizens United comes home to roost

Sam Smith - The GOP healthkill bill, if passed, will do more domestic damage than any congressional action since the war on drugs. A couple of estimates are that about 45,000 people will die as a result of lost healthcare.

But what is also extraordinary is that only 17% of Americans support the GOP plan. Why does a major political party back a measure so lacking in popularity?

One answer is that Citizens United has really come home to roost - leading Republicans to think about money as an adequate alternative to intrinsic political appeal. Money buys advertising which allows you, as our president demonstrates on a daily basis, to lie with impunity.

This is not just a political change; it is a cultural one. If you don’t like a fact, you spend money to call it false news and it may well fade.

A recent case in point was reportedly recently by the Portland Press Herald:
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., announced that he could not vote for the legislation without revisions, singling out the measure’s long-term spending cuts to Medicaid as the reason for his opposition. The announcement caught some Republicans in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s orbit by surprise.

It also prompted a Republican super PAC to plan a seven-figure advertising campaign in Nevada to pressure Heller – raising the specter of an ugly intraparty fight that could serve as a harbinger of the political clashes to come during next year’s midterm elections…

Word: Eugene Robinson on GOP health theft

Eugene Robinson, Washington Post - The “health-care bill” that Republicans are trying to pass in the Senate, like the one approved by the GOP majority in the House, isn’t really about health care at all. It’s the first step in a massive redistribution of wealth from struggling wage-earners to the rich — a theft of historic proportions.

Fundamentally, what Republicans in both chambers want to do is cut nearly $1 trillion over the next decade from the Medicaid program, which serves almost 70 million people. Medicaid provides health care not just for the indigent and disabled but also for the working poor — low-wage employees who cannot afford health insurance, even the plans offered through their jobs.

The tough state of renters

Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies - Despite a slight improvement from 2014, fully one-third of US households paid more than 30 percent of their incomes for housing in 2015. Renters continue to be more likely to face cost burdens. Indeed, the number of cost-burdened renters (21 mil- lion) considerably outstrips the number of cost-burdened owners (18 million) even though nearly two-thirds of US households own their homes. While the share of renters with housing cost burdens was down 1.0 percentage point in 2015, the decline reflects an increase in the number of higher-income renters rather than improved affordability among low- and moderate-income households.

Climate oddity: More Antarctic ice

Washington Post - Antarctic sea ice has grown to a record large extent for a second straight year, baffling scientists seeking to understand why this ice is expanding rather than shrinking in a warming world. On Saturday, the ice extent reached 19.51 million square kilometers, according to data posted on the National Snow and Ice Data Center Web site.  That number bested record high levels set earlier this month and in 2012 (of 19.48 million square kilometers). Records date back to October 1978.

A man ahead of his time