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Levon Helm 1940-2012

04/19/12 05:43PM

Drummer, singer, purveyor of the sublime, Levon Helm died this afternoon in New York City at age 71.That's Levon singing "The Weight" with the rest of The Band and the Staple Singers in Martin Scorsese's "The Last Waltz." That's what it sounds like when it's good, and it's deep and it matters. read more

Thursday's Mini-Report

Thursday's Mini-Report

04/19/12 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:* Here's a geopolitical eye-opener: "India successfully test-launched a long-range missile on Thursday that would give it the capability for the first time of sending a nuclear warhead as far as China's capital, Beijing, officials said."* Syria: "The secretary general of the United Nations gave a dark appraisal of the Syria conflict on Thursday, accusing its government of failing to carry out nearly every element of the peace plan that took effect a week ago, obstructing work by an advance team of cease-fire monitors and doing nothing to alleviate an intensifying read more

Romney's misfire on plant closings

Romney's misfire on plant closings

04/19/12 04:26PM

For much of 2011, Mitt Romney's campaign relied heavily on a specific campaign tactic: they'd hold an event in front of a closed factory, then blame President Obama for the plant's troubles. Most of the time this didn't make any sense for those who care about details and facts, but Romney seemed to like it, so the Republican campaign kept doing it.But that was last summer, when the recovery stalled and talk of a "double dip" was ubiquitous. read more

What Roosevelt, Wilson, and House Dems have in common

04/19/12 03:33PM

I honestly didn't intend to return to the subject, but so long "Allen West, Communist Hunter," is still out there digging, we might as well follow to see how low he'll go.Last week, the right-wing Florida congressman insisted that all 80 or so members of House Progressive Caucus are secretly "members of the Communist Party." This week, he doubled down, saying that his colleagues really are communists, while adding, "I think that if you would take the time to study the political spectrum of ideologies, you'd understand that at the turn of the century, American Communists renamed themselves as read more

Go with the flow

Go with the flow

04/19/12 03:10PM

NASA's Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio gives us this amazing animation of ocean currents around the globe, Perpetual Ocean.It pairs well with this Wind Map animation showing wind speeds across the U.S., which is intended more as an artistic project than a scientific tool but still feels insightful in a scientific way.Your first thought upon looking at them might be about weather forecasting, but together they remind me of a piece I read recently about solar forecasting (I don't know anything about this source, I'm just saying the subject matter was interesting). read more

The carrots are cooked (French lessons for Romney)

04/19/12 02:49PM

Francophone presidential candidate  Mitt Romney, take note. It looks like Nicolas Sarkozy may be on the way out le door as President of France. Or as Prime Minister, François Fillon put it, "The carrots are cooked."Reports The Independent: Confronted with plunging polls and deserting allies, President Nicolas Sarkozy faces the prospect of a rout in the two-round French presidential election starting this weekend, with senior members of his government already said to be certain of defeat. read more

Rubio moves further from VP consideration

04/19/12 01:30PM

Back in January, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), in response to questions about possibly joining his party's 2012 ticket as vice president, told Ken Auletta, "I'm not going to accept it." This didn't generate much attention, though, and the far-right senator continues to face questions about his ambitions.This morning, Rubio reiterated the point, which at least reinforces the appearance of sincerity."I don't want to be the vice president right now, or maybe ever," Rubio said at a National Journal forum in Washington on Thursday. read more

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has seen the GOP budget plan -- and they don't like it.

Boehner vs. the Bishops

04/19/12 12:41PM

The House Republican budget plan is simply brutal towards the poor, with most of its budget cuts targeting programs that benefit struggling families. Funding for food stamps, health care, housing assistance, and education would all face severe cuts.The U.S. read more

Thursday's campaign round-up

04/19/12 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items that won't necessarily generate a post of their own, but may be of interest to political observers:* A new Quinnipiac poll shows President Obama leading Mitt Romney nationally by four points, 46% to 42%.* Obama told voters in Ohio yesterday, "I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth." Though the president has been using this line since 2009, Romney took offense, and told Fox News this morning that the president "likes to attack fellow Americans."* New Hampshire, home to one of Romney's houses, appears likely to be a battleground state thi read more

GOP explains opposition to fair pay laws

GOP explains opposition to fair pay laws

04/19/12 11:29AM

Last week, Pete Hoekstra, the Republicans' U.S. Senate hopeful in Michigan, called the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay law "a nuisance" that should be stripped from the books. This week in New Hampshire, state Republican Party Executive Director Tory Mazzola, a top Romney campaign, said the law is little more than "a handout to trial lawyers."Other surrogates for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, rushed out to defend Mitt Romney's record on women's issues, despite their opposition to the Ledbetter law.And then there's Wisconsin Gov. read more

'Skin in the game'

04/19/12 10:52AM

If there's one unshakable, unwavering rule in American politics in the 21st century, it's this: Republicans oppose any tax increases on anyone by any amount for any reason, no matter the consequences. Full stop.There is, however, a pesky little asterisk tied to this rule that often goes overlooked: a whole lot of Republicans support tax hikes on the poor. Indeed, the House Republican budget plan, as written by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), actually increases the tax burden on those at the very bottom of the income scale.ThinkProgress' Scott Keyes asked Rep. read more

White House draws line in the sand on spending

White House draws line in the sand on spending

04/19/12 10:19AM

The Obama administration drew a pretty hard line yesterday, telling Congress that Paul Ryan's House Republican budget includes spending levels that break a bipartisan deal, and if GOP lawmakers don't back down, they'll force a government shutdown later this year.Acting White House Budget Director Jeff Zients wrote to the heads of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees on Wednesday to lay down the threat."Until the House of Representatives indicates that it will abide by last summer's agreement, the President will not be able to sign any appropriations bills," the letter states.House Ap read more

Violence Against Women Act takes center stage

04/19/12 09:29AM

We first began reporting two months ago on the legislative fight surrounding the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which has traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support. This year's effort has drawn Republican opposition, however, because the bill includes provisions to bolster LGBT protections, defenses for victims of domestic abuse who are undocumented immigrants, and expand the authority of Native American tribes to prosecute crimes.In previous years, VAWA sailed through the Senate with nary a discouraging word. read more

Jobless claims stuck at four-month high

Jobless claims stuck at four-month high

04/19/12 08:44AM

For several months, the general trend on initial unemployment claims has been encouraging, reaching a four-year low just a few weeks ago. But today's new report is the second discouraging news we've received on this front in as many weeks.The new figures are a slight improvement over last week's total, but that's only because last week's number was revised in the wrong direction.The number of Americans who filed requests for jobless benefits totaled 386,000 last week, keeping claims at a four-month high, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday. read more

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is taking the lead on yet another tax cut bill.

House GOP eyes tax cut, ignores 'debt crisis'

04/19/12 08:00AM

The Senate's Democratic majority this week pushed a measure, known as the "Buffett Rule," that would have closed a tax loophole benefiting millionaires and brought in roughly $46 billion to the Treasury over the next decade. It died after a GOP filibuster.Today, the House Republican majority will vote on a measure of its own, known as the "Small Business Tax Cut Act," that will cost roughly $46 billion, and which is expected to pass. Is the bill any good? Actually, no. read more