Monday, February 6, 2012

Open Thread for Night Owls: Trillions in energy savings coming

Architecture 2030, a building sector research and advocacy group, issued a report last week asserting that the greening of the U.S. building sector is on track to deliver far more energy savings than government officials predicted only a handful of years ago, with important implications for the country's energy and climate picture.  [...]
Energy consumption from buildings will increase by 14 percent from 2005 to 2030, the EIA said, down from the 44 percent spike it predicted seven years ago. Architecture 2030 says it amounts to eliminating the electricity output from 490 500-megawatt coal-fired plants over the same 25-year period.
The new projections mean Americans will save an additional $3.7 trillion on energy bills through 2030.

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2005:
Permit me to indulge in a bit of timely nostalgia: Two years ago to this very day, on a chilly (but not bitter) winter night, fifteen New Yorkers of all stripes crowded into a tiny bar in lower Manhattan for the very, very first Dean meetup ever. Perhaps a couple of hundred other Americans were doing the same thing in different spots around the country.
We were from Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan; we were young and not so young; we were black, white and Asian; we were gay, we were straight - in other words, we were a quintessentially New York crowd. And above all, we were excited about this guy named Howard Dean, who was running for president and saying the kind of things we had all been longing to hear.
Our enthusiasm, though, was tempered a bit by our uncertainty. No one had heard a peep from the campaign (which had only posted a link to on its website a few days earlier - quite some time after Jerome Armstrong first started promoting it at MyDD). Meetup (the company) had also never done political gatherings before, so they were not in a position to offer much guidance, either.
What struck me most - what surprised me most - was that I alone among this group had previously worked on a political campaign. [...]

Tweet of the Day:

High Impact Posts are here. Top Comments are here.

Posted: 05 Feb 2012 07:00 PM PST

Billboard from Un-Fair Campaign
Though a lot of attention has been focused on the racism and privilege inherent in recent remarks made by Republican presidential candidates, designed to garner support from the party's southern and tea party base, and the actions of elected officials like Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, too often, fingers are unfairly pointed at our warmer climes as being the sole site of racist activity and/or attitudes. Frankly, the history of racism in the U.S. has no regional boundaries; it was embedded in our roots from the moment indigenous occupants were attacked and removed. Hand in hand with systemic racism goes what those engaged in civil rights struggles and the academic study of racial disparity have dubbed "white privilege," which is a cornerstone of  the academic discipline of Critical Race Theory (CRT).
A northern case in point is Duluth, Minnesota, where there has been controversy over a recently launched campaign designed to confront racism and white privilege.
Dubbed the Un-Fair Campaign, a coalition of local groups and two area colleges and universities are engaged in sparking a dialogue to address and fight against racism and privilege as a responsibility of not just those who are oppressed by it, but also those who may not even realize that they contribute to it. Only when members of the white majority engage in self-examination and action about our history and current day racial divides will we vanquish a prime corroding element in our democracy.
The Twin Ports is a predominantly white community (89%). In a recent report by the Knight Foundation entitled Soul of the Community, the results of a three-year study reports: The [Duluth area] community significantly under-performs against the comparison group overall in four of the seven individual openness measures. [...] Fewer residents than in other comparable communities say it is a good place for racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, young adults without children, and talented college graduates looking for work.
People of color experience incidents of racism every day, and they have long asked "when will white people in our community stand up and speak out about racism?" This campaign is part of a response to that question. Racial justice will never be achieved until we as white people address white privilege and work to change it.
Continue reading below the fold.

Posted: 05 Feb 2012 05:00 PM PST
Mitt Romney measures his ... support from independents (Brian Snyder/Reuters)
Gov. Romney visualizes his concern for the poor (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Mitt Romney stepped in it the other day. Normally, this would be news in the same way that the sun rising would be news: in other words, not at all. But the way he did it was shocking. He not only made his fateful statement about his disregard for the poor in a monotone, callous fashion, but then, when his interlocutor gave him the chance to walk it back, he repeated it. Again, with the same callous, contemptuous attitude reflective of a lack of understanding of the way people without $250 million to their name actually live.
"I'm in this race because I care about Americans. I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I'll fix it."
The extent of Romney's concern for the poor is to make sure that there's a safety net adequate to making sure the very poor don't starve to death on the street. And if, for some reason, the safety net is "broken" and has a problem keeping the very poor from starving in the street, he'll fix that. After all, starving people on the street wouldn't look good for Romney if he's president. He's going to be running for re-election, for pete's sake. But will he do anything to actively help the very poor no longer be very poor in a way that actually involves keeping them alive? Doesn't seem that way; after all, he's not very concerned about them.
But maybe leaving the very poor alone is the best we can hope for from Republican candidates. Barring a brokered convention resulting from party stalwarts realizing in absolute horror what type of nominee awaits them, the only other remotely possible Republican nominee is Newt Gingrich. At the crest of his popularity, the former speaker of the House had just dominated the South Carolina primary, leading to a second round of speculation that winning the nomination was within the realm of possibility for him. At his victory speech, this is but a small part of what he had to say:
And I want to go into every neighborhood of every ethnic background in every part of the country and say to people very simply: if you want your children to have a life of dependency and food stamps, you have a candidate: that's Barack Obama. If you want your children to have a life of independency [sic] and paychecks: that's Newt Gingrich, and I'll bet you we have votes everywhere.
Unlike Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich actually is concerned about the very poor. While many people may take a quick look at Gingrich's association of ethnic backgrounds and food stamps—or his comments that poor children lack a work ethic and need to work as school janitors—the truth is more complicated, as Peter Beinart explains:
The fascinating thing about the exchange is that Gingrich is not a racist. I suspect he genuinely cares about the African-American poor. In fact, he's convinced himself that his willingness to say things that many African-Americans consider insulting is an expression of that concern; that only he cares enough about African-Americans to speak the "politically incorrect" truths that black leaders won't.
Gingrich's problem isn't racism; it's ignorance. Only someone profoundly ignorant of African-American politics would suggest that black Americans have spent the past few decades seeking food stamps, not jobs.
Yes, Gingrich and many ofhis fellow conservative ideologues are concerned about the poor and may actually want to help, but their definition of "helping" isn't the same one that you or I might have. A person with common sense may take a look at the plight of the poor and understand the importance of ensuring access to education, jobs and environmental justice. Conservative ideologues like Newt Gingrich think about the poor differently: In this worldview, the poor—especially black people—are no longer capable of taking advantage of those opportunities because the welfare state and food stamps have eroded their ability to have the work ethic required to take advantage of those opportunities. Consequently, the logic goes, the social safety net must be destroyed and poor minorities will have to swallow the bitter medicine that will make them and the country better in the long run.
Conversatives can keep wondering why so many poor people vote for Democrats. Perhaps its because the Republican Party only offers two approaches: the aloof, dispassionate plutocracy as embodied by Mitt Romney, or the destructively ideological social engineering espoused by Newt Gingrich. Democrats like Barack Obama, meanwhile, continue to try to expand equality of opportunity, and the results in November will once again reflect that philosophical disparity.

Posted: 05 Feb 2012 03:00 PM PST
With its decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood, the political agenda of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation finally is becoming widely recognized. The foundation that supposedly is all about fighting breast cancer now is understood to be controlled by right-wing ideologues who are waging a dangerously dishonest war against reproductive choice. But the story is even worse. Because even as it uses its very public position as sponsor of various breast cancer awareness events, the Komen group also has been more quietly undermining the real fight against breast cancer.
In an article originally published in Harper's in 2001 and now available on her website, Barbara Ehrenreich wrote of her own experience with our culture's approach to breast cancer:
The effect of this relentless brightsiding is to transform breast cancer into a rite of passage -- not an injustice or a tragedy to rail against, but a normal marker in the life cycle, like menopause or graying hair. Everything in mainstream breast cancer culture serves, no doubt inadvertently, to tame and normalize the disease: the diagnosis may be disastrous, but there are those cunning pink rhinestone angel pins to buy and races to train for.
And she pointed to feminist breast cancer organizations that long have worked more quietly and directly to emphasize the science of prevention, detection and treatment, and to challenge different unproven and at times questionable approaches that became popular fads.
Feminist breast-cancer activists, who in the early nineties were organizing their own mass outdoor events -- demonstrations, not races -- to demand increased federal funding for research, tend to keep their distance from these huge, corporate-sponsored, pink gatherings. Ellen Leopold, for example -- a member of the Women's Community Cancer Project in Cambridge and author of A Darker Ribbon: Breast Cancer, Women, and Their Doctors in the Twentieth Century -- has criticized the races as an inefficient way of raising money. She points out that the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, which sponsors three-day, sixty-mile walks, spends more than a third of the money raised on overhead and advertising, and Komen may similarly fritter away up to 25 percent of its gross. At least one corporate-charity insider agrees. "It would be much easier and more productive," says Rob Wilson, an organizer of charitable races for corporate clients, "if people, instead of running or riding, would write out a check to the charity."
And that was one of Ehrenreich's main themes: that the cuddly pink popular breast cancer culture not only is normalizing the presence in our lives of a deadly disease, it is actually distracting from and even undermining a more salubrious scientific approach.
Their emphasis on possible ecological factors, which is not shared by groups such as Komen and the American Cancer Society, puts the feminist breast-cancer activists in league with other, frequently rambunctious, social movements -- environmental and anticorporate.
But today theirs are discordant voices in a general chorus of sentimentality and good cheer; after all, breast cancer would hardly be the darling of corporate America if its complexion changed from pink to green.
Ehrenreich didn't want her breast cancer to be considered normal, or acceptable, or distractingly empowering. She wants breast cancer to be understood for what it is. She doesn't want it to be a gateway to a sisterhood of survivorship; she wants it to be prevented, detected and treated. We cancer survivors do often find support and comfort in one another, but we never should forget the most basic facts about cancer. Like that it is a horrible disease. That kills.
To the extent that current methods of detection and treatment fail or fall short, America's breast-cancer cult can be judged as an outbreak of mass delusion, celebrating survivorhood by downplaying mortality and promoting obedience to medical protocols known to have limited efficacy. And although we may imagine ourselves to be well past the era of patriarchal medicine, obedience is the message behind the infantilizing theme in breast-cancer culture, as represented by the teddy bears, the crayons, and the prevailing pinkness. You are encouraged to regress to a little-girl state, to suspend critical judgment, and to accept whatever measures the doctors, as parent surrogates, choose to impose.
Worse, by ignoring or underemphasizing the vexing issue of environmental causes, the breast cancer cult turns women into dupes of what could be called the Cancer Industrial Complex: the multinational corporate enterprise that with the one hand doles out carcinogens and disease and, with the other, offers expensive, semi-toxic pharmaceutical treatments.
And that's the real story, not only about our nation's approach to cancer and cancer awareness, but very specifically to the Susan G. Komen foundation.
Continue reading below the fold.

Posted: 05 Feb 2012 12:55 PM PST
Daniel Straus
Daniel Straus (right) labor law violator and
philanthropist, with the president of NYU (center)
(Straus Institute)
When a contract expires and the union and the company bargain over a new one, there are a few possibilities. In the majority of cases, after negotiation, they come to an agreement, in all likelihood involving compromises on both sides. If they can't reach an agreement, a strike by workers is a possible outcome—but one that's declining in frequency, "just one-sixth the annual level of two decades ago," Steven Greenhouse reports. Another outcome, or perhaps cause, of stalled negotiations is becoming more common, though: The lockout, which has:
... grown to represent a record percentage of the nation's work stoppages, according to Bloomberg BNA, a Bloomberg subsidiary that provides information to lawyers and labor relations experts. Last year, at least 17 employers imposed lockouts, telling their workers not to show up until they were willing to accept management's contract offer.
We've seen it in both the NFL and the NBA in the past year, of course. But in many cases, companies lock out workers who are struggling even to stay in the middle class, because they won't give up the things that might put them in the middle class. Companies lock out workers to get them to give up their pensions, to pay more for health care, to accept pay cuts, to sacrifice job security. They rely on no one noticing (besides the workers, for whom their contempt is already clear), and on any public notice the lockouts do gain assigning blame at least equally to the workers—after all, shouldn't they feel lucky just to have jobs, and be willing to make whatever concessions management demands? As Charles Pierce wrote of the NBA lockout:
[L]ockouts are, and will always be, things willed into being exclusively by management. They are not natural phenomena. They are never truly unavoidable. They don't "just happen," and they certainly do not occur because "both sides" are at fault. Lockouts occur when management believes that unions are too strong, and they occur when management believes that unions are too weak, and they occur when management doesn't want a union to exist at all. Lockouts are not devices of economic correction. That's just a byproduct. Lockouts are attempts by management to exercise control over their workers. Period.
That's what's on the rise: Management attempting to exercise control over their workers—in a brutal display of power. Give in to us or lose your paycheck right now.
Greenhouse focuses on the American Crystal Sugar lockout, which has now stretched to six months. "With American Crystal earning record profits before the lockout, the workers strongly opposed its push for concessions," he writes. Management "denies that it is seeking to break the union." But this is the company whose CEO compared a union contract to cancer, saying "At some point that tumor's got to come out. That's what we're doing." As for the significant costs of the lockout, including the cost of hiring replacement workers and dealing with accidents resulting from having inexperienced replacement workers doing tasks that require experience and skill, the CEO presented those as an investment.
As you'd expect, this is devastating the lives of 1,300 locked out workers, who have gone without paychecks for months because—it bears repeating—they wouldn't just cave when a hugely profitable company demanded that they accept benefit cuts and allow it to outsource jobs.
Nursing home workers in Connecticut are in the second month of a similar struggle, having been locked out shortly before Christmas. HealthBridge Management demanded that the workers at the West River Health Care Center in Milford accept a pension freeze, with new hires not getting any pension; pay $1,500 for individual health insurance up to $7,300 for family coverage; lose their paid lunch breaks; accept cuts on sick days and holidays and overtime pay. In addition to those direct hits at workers' wages and benefits, HealthBridge was demanding they make enormous concessions on job security and stability, giving up guaranteed hours so that a full-time worker could be made part-time with no notice or recourse, hours and shifts could be changed without notice or negotiation, allowing management to cut staffing levels to the bare minimum. (Workers report that those staffing levels have already been cut, from "six nursing assistants for each floor of 60 residents" under previous ownership to "five, and sometimes four" under current ownership.) HealthBridge touted a 12 percent pay raise they were offering in exchange for all of this—but that doesn't come close to covering the benefit cuts, let alone the loss of job security.
The workers, represented by SEIU 1199, asked HealthBridge to agree to binding arbitration, but HealthBridge said not unless workers accepted a pension freeze prior to beginning arbitration. The union offered a concession on health care costs, though not at the rates management had demanded. Management claimed it wasn't a concession at all. This strategy by HealthBridge isn't just about the Milford nursing home—it's intended as a blueprint for the five other unionized nursing homes the company runs in Connecticut. And even beyond—HealthBridge is in turn owned by Care One, which in November was ruled by the National Labor Relations Board to have illegally fired four workers in New Jersey. Workers at the Milford nursing home are waiting for the NLRB to rule on their claim that HealthBridge has not been bargaining in good faith.
Here's the best part about HealthBridge and Care One's war on their workers: At the same time as the companies are trying to get nursing home workers earning $32,000 a year to accept pension freezes and health care cuts, Daniel Straus, Care One's owner, is acting as Mr. Benevolent Major Philanthropist. His signature act of philanthropy is that he has endowed the Straus Institute for the Advanced Study of Law and Justice at New York University, where visiting fellows are paid $100,000 for a year of subsidized living in Manhattan to do research related to a yearly theme, with "a determination not to be merely an 'ivory tower', but to merge premier academic and intellectual conditions with community integration and a sense of public service." Incidentally, while Straus is demanding that his $32,000 a year nursing home workers give up their paid lunch breaks, his $100,000 a year fellows are provided with a weekly lunch.
The model of the research institute is a wonderful one that can contribute greatly to scholarship on important topics, like law and justice. But the notion that someone can be accepted and even fawned over as a believer in and supporter of anything including the word "justice" while doing what Daniel Straus is doing to his workers is a perfect symbol of how our society has come to accept that there are different rules for the 99 percent and the 1 percent. In a just and equitable society, you wouldn't get to be hailed as a voice for public service while trying to accelerate the race to the bottom for vulnerable workers.
Workers joined with NYU students to protest this week at NYU, and family members of nursing home patients joined a candlelight vigil in Milford, where:
One daughter released a letter to Straus, saying scabs at the nursing home had put her family "through hell." She accused the temporary replacements of administering medications improperly, causing serious side effects.
"You are dealing with patients who are frail, insecure, and who depend on the familiar faces and personalities of their caregivers," read the letter. "How would you feel if one of your family members was treated this way?"
But Daniel Straus wouldn't have to worry about that. He can afford to endow an institute in his parents' memory.
The details of every lockout are individual and appalling: NFL owners demanding that football players play more games in a season, knowing that it will appreciably shorten their lives; NBA owners issuing ultimatum after ultimatum well after basketball players had conceded enormous amounts of money; American Crystal Sugar's CEO comparing a union contract to a cancerous tumor even though his company had been wildly profitable under that exact contract; NYU lavishing Daniel Straus with praise for his commitment to ethics and justice even as he illegally fires workers and locks workers out and in every way works to increase the inequality between his income and the incomes of the workers who keep his businesses running. But the basic story of all of them is the same: Owners thought they could get more profit out of their workers. We know—JP Morgan tells us—that wage reductions drove corporate profit increases from 2000 to 2007. In the wake of the recession, with high unemployment and workers terrified that they'll be next, corporations have moved decisively to push wages down still more, to extract still more profits from workers through reductions to wages and benefits. Lockouts are just one tool of doing that, and they're visible only because they happen to unionized workers, who can fight back at least a little bit.

Posted: 05 Feb 2012 12:00 PM PST
  • In theory, Nevada Republicans will be releasing the final totals from yesterday's caucuses today. In theory. The hold up is Clark County (Las Vegas).
  • Deborah Small:
    The party that claims to be for limited government and personal freedom is pushing to have government collect urine from people applying for public assistance, unemployment insurance, food stamps, job training and public housing. At a time when the national poverty rate has reached its highest level in decades (15%) and people are forced to turn to the social safety net they are increasingly finding the price for admission is a urine sample.
  • There are so many things wrong with this, beginning with the idea that anyone ever would want to make or see a movie about him, but Newt Gingrich wants Brad Pitt to play him on the big screen.
  • The Rude One is just done with the Republican presidential candidates and their race to the bottom:
    They simply don't matter. Romney's gonna win the nomination. He's gonna lose to Obama. Badly. Period.
    Remember Bob Dole? Didn't think so.
  • For one day, Donald Trump managed to recapture the headlines. Of his endorsement of Newt Gingrich Mitt Romney, we can turn to Melissa McEwen:
    There are three ways to look at this scintillating endorsement news: 1. Donald Trump knows how toxic he is, and hopes his grody endorsement hurts Mitt Romney. 2. Donald Trump doesn't know or care about anything except his own ego and flipped a coin to see which of the two conservadipshits he'd endorse once all the cameras were pointed at him. 3. Who gives a fuck.
    My preference is #3. YMMV.
  • In one respect, we have achieved true bipartisanship: money makes the politics go around.
  • Wall Street clearly has noticed President Obama's increasing focus on economic fairness and his new harder-line approach to corporate criminality:
    President Barack Obama has been abandoned by the world of finance.
    Over the course of the 2012 election, his presidential campaign has received about one dollar in donations from the financial sector for every five dollars given to his top competitor, Mitt Romney, according to figures provided by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP). During the final three months of 2011, however, the margin has widened dramatically.
    The 1 percent has made its choice.
  • The Washington Post once again allows a right wing ideologue to use its Opinion Page to spread disinformation about poverty. It's one thing to promote open conversation, it's another to promote lies.
  • Austerity does not help. Even the IMF is beginning to understand that austerity does not help. It's like watching a slow-motion car crash.
  • Droning.
  • Emphasis mine:
    U.S. forces will cede the lead role in combat operations in Afghanistan next year, but will keep fighting alongside Afghan troops, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Thursday, as the Obama administration struggled to clear up confusion over its Afghan exit strategy.
    Panetta surprised allies on Wednesday by suggesting the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan would end in 2013, the first time Washington had floated such a deadline.
    On Thursday, Panetta emphasized to reporters that U.S. troops in Afghanistan would remain "combat-ready" as the United States winds down its longest war. But he said the troops would largely shift to a train-and-assist role as Afghan forces take responsibility for security before an end-2014 deadline for full Afghan control.
  • The fossil fuels industries sure do love to hate climate scientist Michael Mann.
  • No surprise:
    Poor, urban and minority residents are most at risk for health problems linked to climate change, according to a new California Department of Public Health analysis of Los Angeles and Fresno counties.
    The department examined social and environmental factors ranging from the rising sea level to public transportation access and found that African Americans and Latinos living in these counties are more likely to be exposed to health and safety risks related to poor air quality, heat waves, flooding and wildfires stemming from climate change.
  • In case you haven't seen it, and for me thanks go to Mary Elizabeth Williams, here's the best YouTube video ever:

Posted: 05 Feb 2012 10:00 AM PST
Obama and Sotomayor
Obama and The Court: Forwarding Progressivism. The President and his first Supreme Court nominee, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor
Tis the season: the season where reluctant progressives disenchanted with the Democratic Party and a Democratic president get barraged with attacks, entreaties, cajolements, analysis and more.
Consider this my all-wrapped-in-one entry. First, let me tell you where I stand with regard to President Obama's term so far: he's been a decent president who missed a chance to be great. His misreading of the politics and political bargaining, his reluctance to reshape the financial system, and his tardiness on fighting for fairness, meant that the real chances for transformative change were missed. Moreover, as is the wont of most presidents, he found a new "perspective" on executive power once it was his to wield. As David Leonhardt writes:
Ideologically, however, [Obama] has largely followed Mr. Clinton's left-center playbook, preferring a mix of market-based and government solutions (like health-insurance exchanges) to a more radical approach (like Medicare  for all). "The Obama presidency is not one in which the Democratic Party has been transformed," said Julian E. Zelizer, a Princeton historian. "Instead, it has been four and maybe eight years in which the path of the '90s was solidified."
I can't claim to be disappointed. I argued that this was in essence what Obama promised in his 2008 campaign. I thought he could do better as president, especially after the September 2008 financial meltdown. But that's looking back. Let's look forward. But let's abandon the Obama-centric approach and focus instead on the issues. Let's look forward to how progressives can forward their issue positions in the coming election and beyond. How will supporting President Obama's reelection help? This is a focus I have forwarded often in the past:
Yes, they are all pols. And they do what they do. Do not fight for pols. Fight for the issues you care about. That often means fighting for a pol of course. But remember, you are fighting for the issues. Not the pols.
What I suggest then is an appraisal of the upcoming election from the perspective of what is at stake, in the short and medium term, for the issues progressives care about.  I'll engage in this exercise below the fold.

Posted: 05 Feb 2012 08:00 AM PST

When an organization adopts a purportedly blanket policy as cover for undertaking a biased action, the natural laws of the universe (at least of the PR universe) mandate that said policy wrap tightly back on an organization like a pink straitjacket woven with threads of hypocrisy and gall.
That the Susan G. Komen Foundation thought it could get away with stripping funding for Planned Parenthood is not surprising. One of the nation's biggest charities is likely to have some hubris in that regard. That they hired Ari Fleisher to manage the policy rollout and got, well, Ari Fleisher'd is not terribly remarkable either. That the media bought the Komen half-hearted, quasi-sorta reversal as some complete 180 that guaranteed Planned Parenthood funding was also to be expected.
What I didn't expect was that this scandal would still, days later, be a never-ending black hole filled with excuses, contradictions and confusion. It's a marathon of a scandal, and Komen doesn't look to be in any shape to finish strong.
The "investigation" excuse
As soon as news broke that Komen was relying on the existence of a sham federal investigation to pull Planned Parenthood's funding, thousands of keyboard researchers put on their Google mining hats and went digging. They found gold.
The most obvious grant that highlighted Komen's hypocrisy was the $7.5 million to Penn State (Penn State is under federal investigation for its role in a sexual abuse scandal). Others were just as embarrassing. Days before the Komen scandal erupted, the USDA announced it launched an investigation into Harvard's treatment of primates in its research labs. The Education Department had just announced an investigation into whether Harvard discriminated against Asian-Americans in its undergraduate admissions policies. Meanwhile, two members of Komen's prestigious Scientific Advisory Board work at Harvard, while Harvard Medical School and the affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Institute received over a million dollars in Komen funding.
From Komen-funded hospitals being investigated for Medicare fraud (example) to Komen-funded universities being investigated for civil rights violations, it became immediately apparent that the "local, state or federal investigation" prohibition cast a shadow over a substantial portion of Komen's good work. Within hours of the scandal breaking, it was clear Komen needed a new excuse.
The "education" and "pass-through grant" excuses
Komen founder and CEO Nancy Brinker appeared on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports" and proclaimed that the real reason Komen cut off almost all grants to Planned Parenthood was because "many of the grants were education-oriented. We don't need to do that kind of education anymore" (watch the video here). In other media outlets, she again disassociated Komen from the "investigation" excuse, reiterated the "education" position and also embraced a "pass through grant" excuse:
"It was nothing they were doing wrong," Brinker said of Planned Parenthood. "We have decided not to fund, wherever possible, pass-through grants. We were giving them money; they were sending women out for mammograms. What we would like to have are clinics where we can directly fund mammograms."
More from Brinker from the Mitchell interview:
Our issue is grant excellence. They do pass-through grants with their screening grants. They send people to other facilities. We want to do more direct-service grants. You know, we contacted them in the fall, because we've been a longtime partner of Planned Parenthood, almost 20 years.
BRINKER: We've given them over $9 million. Many of our grants worked for a long period of time. This is not -- this is about the restructure of our grant program.  [...]
MITCHELL: Are you going to put out the evidence that you have that there's been anything flawed in the way they've delivered services to --
BRINKER: All we're doing is explaining, again, to our mission, what the criteria for new grants and community-based grants are, for our organization, for the time we are.
Many of the grants were education-oriented. We don't need to do that kind of education anymore. We've done it for 30 years. Now we need to translate this care into usable clinical care in communities.
Think Komen abandoned the "direct funding" and "education" excuse with their new mea culpa policy?
Think again.
Both excuses survive even in Komen's new policy (emphasis added):
We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities.
It is our hope and we believe it is time for everyone involved to pause, slow down and reflect on how grants can most effectively and directly be administered without controversies that hurt the cause of women.
The absurdity of Komen's position is best evidenced by taking a look at their most current IRS filings. I've put the grant data from both Komen's Parent and Group filings into public spreadsheets here and here.  The classifications of "education," "treatment," "research" and "screening" are Komen's own grant classifications.
Even a cursory review of the data reveals the selectivity of the past and possibly future slash-and-burn approach used against Planned Parenthood.
While Planned Parenthood was singled out by Brinker for its use of "education" grants, that organization actually uses a lower percentage of its grants on education than other organizations that receive grants from Komen affiliates:

Brinker's reliance on a "pass through" grant excuse never made any sense either. Take for example the YWCA, an organization that does great work for women coast to coast. Even though YWCA received more than double the funding of Planned Parenthood and spends more on "education" than Planned Parenthood, and even though it spends more actual dollars on pass-through grant screening, Komen didn't make a peep about that funding. In fact, despite repeated demands from the press and the public, Komen was unwilling to cite a single other organization that fell under Komen's purportedly blanket policy.

Brinker's words, both before and after the "reversal," box Komen into a corner. If true, the desire to shift Komen funding away from education ("we don't need to do that kind of education anymore") and towards "directly administered" screenings and treatment would mean a seismic shift in the organization. Indeed, that's what Brinker suggested in the Mitchell interview when she stated that "this is about the restructure of our grant program." If Brinker was telling the truth, it would mean that thousands of charities, small and large, whose funding is 100% categorized as "education" by Komen would suffer:

That doesn't even take into account the millions in funds meant for screening services undertaken by organizations that do not "directly administer" medical services.
Of course, the truth is, Komen isn't going to stop funding clinics and foundations that offer support groups, education and doctor referrals. The outcry to that policy would be even more deafening. The sudden aversion to "education" and "pass through" grants is nothing more than a doorstop meant to keep hope alive for anti-choice groups and to give Komen a possible out to decrease, if not eliminate, future Planned Parenthood funding.
The policy from the very start was hand-tailored specifically for Planned Parenthood's circumstances, which is why it was and still is so ill-suited for blanket application.
Komen was rated the nation's most trusted charity in 2010. With this debacle, its standing is sure to suffer. Although that pink ribbon has been transformed for many into a badge of shame, and although Komen is still tying itself in knots over how to resolve the matter, the real victims of Komen's biased plan and bungled PR strategy are the thousands of organizations whose funding may be in limbo because Komen can't get its story straight and the thousands of women who depend on those organizations to save their lives.

Posted: 05 Feb 2012 06:00 AM PST
NY Senate
Marriage equality passes the New York Senate, July 2011 (Celebration Chapel/Wikicommons)
As with every election season since time immemorial, the top priority of the New York Democratic Party is to capture majority control of the Senate. It's within reach, just a couple seats need to flip in 2012.
There is, however, this year a potentially awkward new dynamic that may play out in New York between Democratic loyalists and the LGBT community. Democrats looking to take out four specific Republican senators may find themselves at odds with one of their most dependable constituency and allies, the gays.
The ties that bind Democrats and LGBT groups are strong and go way back. Empire State Pride Agenda, Human Rights Campaign, and Marriage Equality New York are widely credited with playing a key role in the 2008 Democratic takeover of the Senate (which Democrats lost in 2010). The implicit bargain was, "Give us the majority, we'll give you marriage equality."
But unfortunately for everyone in the progressive coalition, that isn't how things worked out.
Marriage came later, and with the help of the Republican caucus—who didn't block the vote, though it was absolutely in their power to do so, and with the votes of four Republican senators.
Which immediately placed the LGBT community in the odd and nearly uncharted territory of being indebted to a few key Republicans.
New York has led on many nascent movements in the country's history, and this fall they may be providing another new template, namely: What does the LGBT movement look like when it truly goes bipartisan?
The 2011 legislative effort could well stand as a case study in success.
It remains to be seen if the 2012 elections will be a case study in diplomatically dealing with the potentially awkward consequences of bipartisan support for the LGBT movement.
Gays "supporting" Republicans is an incendiary topic, perhaps because there seems to be a great deal of anxiety among Democrats that LGBT victories will ultimately result in an attrition of that demographic (perhaps because we all know the LGBT community is monolithically male, rich and white, right?). The attrition worry seems overblown, perhaps fueled by the traditional media's outsized fascination with all things gay Republican. In truth, OpenSecrets reveals that for the 2010 national election cycle, Log Cabin Republicans and GOProud combined reported 112 donors representing about $188,000, to spread across every race nationwide. (It's also worth noting that heterosexual Republican Paul Singer makes up a huge portion of this these funds.) In a post-Citizen's United world, that is a drop of spit in the ocean. There isn't a lot of evidence they warrant as many appearances on CNN and other outlets as they are afforded. It's likely gay Republicans get so much attention because they are masterful, like Glenn Beck, at exploiting their iconoclastic branding with whacky antics and endless fail.
By contrast, Human Rights Campaign's national fund is considered a "heavy hitter" on OpenSecrets and spent nearly a million dollars in 2010, 97 percent of it in support of the Democratic candidates. And HRC represents only the largest electoral machine; there are countless others, like Victory Fund and state organizations like Empire State Pride Agenda, Equality Illinois and Equality California, who enjoy cozy relationships and endorse Democrats and have no Republican equivalent at the state levels.
It's easy enough to forget that these LGBT advocacy organizations are mostly incorporated as non-partisan issues advocacy groups, since there is criticism (or resignation, or delight, depending on your perspective) that HRC functions primarily as an arm of the Democratic National Committee.
So, I've been curious to see how this potentially incendiary dynamic of gays rewarding these Republicans would play out as the election draws closer. When queried on their 2012 electoral plans, major LGBT advocacy organizations assume the common talking point, "We'll stand with those who stood with us." And of course the best politics is built on mutually respectful relationships and delivered, not broken, promises.
A similar dynamic promises to play out in Washington state, where four Republican senators also crossed party lines last week to vote for marriage equality. It seems the lobbying for those votes went rather more swiftly and smoothly than the convoluted multi-year process in New York. Perhaps they got a whiff of the fundraising reports of the GOP marriage equality yes voters in New York? In a Jan. 18 article, titled "Money Flows to Republican Backers of Gay Marriage", the New York Times reported some truly eye-popping numbers for the GOP four. I was glad to see that supporting gay rights was framed as profitable, but I also braced myself for the inevitable screams of "filthy gay traitors!" from other coalition members.
I anticipated that sooner or later, the partisan battle over who owns "the gays'" money and activism to would bubble up, and probably not in a helpful way. I admit, though I did not anticipate it coming from first from the gay community.
Continue reading below the fold.

Posted: 05 Feb 2012 05:30 AM PST

Posted: 05 Feb 2012 04:58 AM PST
Visual source: Newseum
Aaron Blake:
Mitt Romney confirmed his status as the prohibitive front-runner in the GOP presidential race Saturday with a win in the Nevada caucuses.
But Romney's apparently large margin of victory may say more about his opponents than his own candidacy.
Karen Tumulty on Ronmey's dilemma:
Move toward the center, he infuriates the base; refuse to, he will alienate independent voters. And however he maneuvers, will voters be left with a clear picture of why he is running? Nothing is more central to the GOP self-identity than that this is the party that stands for big ideas...
In the view of some in his party, Romney has an additional — and more serious — problem heading into the general election: He has thus far failed to brand his candidacy with an expansive vision.
"The fundamental question is whether Romney's leadership can shape the Republican Party or will the far, far right define Romney?" Duberstein said.
After a likely second-place finish in the Nevada caucuses Saturday, former House speaker Newt Gingrich sought to dispel the idea that he might drop out of the Republican presidential nomination any time soon, promising a hotel ballroom filled with reporters that he will fight on to the convention in the summer.
Des Moines Register:
The undeniable tension between conservatives who want to light the fuse now on a single-minded fight against the president, and those waiting for a miracle from a long shot, will be a central theme of a national rendezvous of conservatives this week.
Fight's over, folks. You got nothin' and Romney's your man. Now suck it up and live with him.
Maureen Dowd on Callista and Newt:
While a trophy wife is admired by her man, the admiring eyes of a Transformational Wife are there to propel her man to the next level. And when a woman who wants to be a Transformational Wife merges with a man who calls himself a Transformational Figure, you can expect a narcissistic blastoff.
Castellanos weaves the common tale of a "great but frustrated" man: "The first wife, and often the second, do not grasp his brilliance or grandeur. The starter wives try to confine him in their small world. But his drive to fulfill his gargantuan potential is too powerful. He rebelliously breaks conventions.
"Then he finds the muse who sees him as he sees himself. He is a man of history and belongs to something larger. She agrees that his rejections have been the fault of the audience. They cannot stare into a light so bright. She directs and channels him, saying, 'This is what you have to do to achieve your destiny.'
"Now he is unleashed. The best and worst of him have been fed and watered."
Oy veh.
Theda Skocpol:
"Many tea party folks are going to find me, I believe, to be the ideal candidate," the Republican presidential contender said in a news conference in December. "I sure hope so."
These words were uttered not by Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul or Rick Perry — but by Mitt Romney. Yes, the same Romney who has been pegged as too moderate to attract tea party voters and hard-core conservatives.


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