Backlash in Kansas sends at least 11 Tea Party clodhoppers looking for honest work


“Doing OK in cooking and sewing classes?”

A top Senate leader and at least 10 other conservative Kansas legislators have lost their seats as moderate Republicans made GOP primary races a referendum on education funding and the state’s persistent budget woes.

Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce was among the lawmakers ousted amid a backlash against Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and his allies.

The voting occurred against the backdrop not only of the state’s fiscal woes but ongoing legal and political disputes over funding for public schools. The state Supreme Court could rule by the end of the year on whether the Legislature is shorting schools on their state aid by hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Kansas has struggled to balance its budget since the GOP-dominated Legislature slashed personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback’s urging to stimulate the economy. That’s created concerns among educators about future spending on schools, even as many Republicans see the $4 billion-plus a year the state now spends as generous…

“He seemed to care more about what the Brownback administration wanted rather than what the people he represented wanted,” said Mary Dondlinger, an 80-year-old retired Hutchinson teacher and Republican who voted for Berger.

Five other conservative senators lost in races that spanned the state. So did five conservative House members, all of them from affluent Kansas City-area suburbs in Johnson County, the state’s most populous, where voters have cherished good public schools for decades

Cross your fingers and keep at it, folks. This just may foretell the next best news we may get from the big election in November. I’m more and more confident about Trump failing in his Tea Party Putsch; but, I really hope a batch of Americans wake-up to the threat to everything from education to science to the rule of civil law from populist poopchutes.

Might be nice to have a return to essential debates over differences in approach to progress – instead of how many angels fit atop pinhead reactionaries and their ignoranus fears.

Privacy and civil liberty watchdog confronts right-wing limits in Congress

A leading Democrat in Congress is pushing back against an effort to impose new constraints on a civil liberties watchdog agency that investigates the nation’s security programs.

The agency, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, is a bipartisan five-member panel that Congress created after a recommendation by the commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Its members and staff have security clearances and a mandate to investigate government practices that affect individual rights…

Since the independent board began fully operating three years ago, it has produced a high-profile report about the once-secret National Security Agency program that collected bulk records of Americans’ phone calls. It called the program ineffective and illegal and said it should be shut down. Congress later did so by enacting the U.S.A. Freedom Act.

The oversight board also issued a report that brought to light new details about how the warrantless surveillance program authorized by the FISA Amendments Act worked. It is currently scrutinizing programs that operate under Executive Order 12333, which sets rules for espionage activities that Congress has left unregulated by statute.

In the letter, obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, described the provisions as “completely unacceptable” and “misguided.” He deplored what he portrayed as an emerging pattern of efforts by the intelligence panels to undermine the oversight board’s independence and authority. He also said any proposed changes to the board should go through the Judiciary Committee.

That proposal comes at a time when the Obama administration has highlighted the privacy board’s role in negotiations over a recently completed trans-Atlantic agreement for handling private data amid concern in Europe about using internet and technology companies based in America. Those concerns came after leaks by the former intelligence contractor Edward J. Snowden about National Security Agency surveillance programs.

As usual, Senator Leahy is more polite to his most reactionary colleagues than truth presumes necessary. The usual cabal of right-wing creeps who care less about individual liberty than a controlling power of the free speech and thought, privacy and progress of American citizens. Regardless of the number of lies and contradictions they author.

RTFA for any details you might want. It ain’t news. It does require as much vigilance as ever.

31 leading scientific societies speak as one on climate change

In a consensus letter to U.S. policymakers, a partnership of 31 leading nonpartisan scientific societies…reaffirmed the reality of human-caused climate change, noting that greenhouse gas emissions “must be substantially reduced” to minimize negative impacts on the global economy, natural resources, and human health.

“Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research concludes that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver,” the collaborative said in its 28 June letter to Members of Congress. “This conclusion is based on multiple independent lines of evidence and the vast body of peer-reviewed science.”

Climate-change impacts in the United States have already included increased threats of extreme weather events, sea-level rise, water scarcity, heat waves, wildfires, and disturbances to ecosystems and animals, the intersociety group reported. “The severity of climate change impacts is increasing and is expected to increase substantially in the coming decades,” the letter added. It cited the scientific consensus of the vast majority of individual climate scientists and virtually every leading scientific organization in the world, including the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the U.S. National Academies, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Chemical Society, the American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society, the American Statistical Association, the Ecological Society of America, and the Geological Society of America.

“To reduce the risk of the most severe impacts of climate change, greenhouse gas emissions must be substantially reduced,” the group said, adding that adaptation is also necessary to “address unavoidable consequences for human health and safety, food security, water availability, and national security, among others.”

I believe there are volunteers available to spell out the big words for Congressional know-nothings who have a problem with concepts requiring an understanding greater than a second-rate 6th-grade education.

Click through to the article to see a complete listing of organizations and brief notes from leadership.

Obamacare is costing trillions – yes, trillions – less than forecast

The United States is spending trillions — yes, trillions — less on health care than government forecasters expected when Obamacare passed in 2010.

Back then, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the United States would spend $23.7 trillion on health care between 2014 and 2019.

But the forecasting agency has regularly and repeatedly revised spending estimates downward over the past six years. In 2015, it estimated that health care would cost the United States $2.6 trillion less over that same five-year period, a new analysis from the Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows…

This isn’t to say that the health care law caused health costs to grow slower than expected. The authors of the report make it clear that while the Affordable Care Act may have played some role, it is far from the main contributor.

Rather, the figures show that the Affordable Care Act hasn’t exploded the federal budget, as critics charge. Quite the opposite — health costs have risen modestly as the uninsured rate has dropped to the lowest level on record.

Medicare alone has cost $455 billion less than expected

One remarkable fact about the lower-than-expected health costs is that they stretch across the entire health care sector. Medicare spending has come in lower than expected…

So has Medicaid spending…

And so has private insurance.

But, hey, if you want to listen to your favorite Republican beancounter – and liar – that’s your problem. Look at all the wonders they have delivered in recent years – from the Middle Eastern wars to the greatest financial crash since the Great Depression. No doubt, you don’t mind that you will be paying for those for decades to come.

Know-Nothing Congress roadblocks US policy on mitochondrial therapy

Scientists believe they can now remove disease-causing mitochondrial DNA from human embryos, providing new cures for previously untreatable conditions, but the policy signals coming from Washington DC are in stark contradiction, according to a new Viewpoint essay published in JAMA.

On Feb. 3, 2016, the Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies issued a report on mitochondrial replacement therapy commissioned by the Food and Drug Administration. The division recommended that under certain conditions, MRT clinical trials should be allowed to proceed. But just six weeks before, President Obama signed an appropriations bill that included a bit of language essentially forbidding those trials…

❝ “One big step forward was taken by the IOM report when it concluded that it is “ethically permissible” to embark on first-in-human clinical trials of MRT subject to rigorous safety and efficacy imperatives,” wrote Dr. Eli Adashi…and I. Glenn Cohen…“However, two steps back were taken with the enactment of a policy rider which precludes the FDA from further consideration of MRT…”

Meanwhile in the United Kingdom, the government has approved MRT clinical trials and some might begin this year. But despite the National Academies recommending a similar advance to the FDA, legislation has left U.S. policy at a standstill, wrote Adashi and Cohen.

Whether or not the eventual births of disease-free children in the UK will change congressional hearts and minds remains to be seen,” they wrote. “Failing such, progress in the prevention of mitochondrial DNA diseases will remain the domain of a biomedical enterprise an ocean away.”

The same ignoranus mindset George W Bush brought to US government is alive and well in a Congress governed by shortsighted and foolish conservatives, embraced by Republicans, Tea Party Trumpkins and Blue Dog Democrats. American voters may never learn to vote in their own economic and social interest; but, you’d think they’d eventually figure out that passing laws that help your children to die really ain’t too bright.

Poor school districts receive less federal funding than rich ones – Who thinks that’s OK?

On April 4, a terse letter signed by the heads of the major education lobbying organizations in Washington — teachers unions, school boards, superintendents, principals and governors — landed on the desk of John King Jr., the secretary of education.

It had been less than three weeks since the Senate had confirmed Mr. King, a former high school teacher and education commissioner in New York. Yet as the letter showed, he had already managed to irk the entire school establishment, as well as the Republican majority in Congress. His offense? Trying to make good on a long-unkept promise to the nation’s low-income schoolchildren that they should receive as much education funding as everyone else.

A few months before this clash, Congress had finished renewing the omnibus federal education law known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act…after years of difficult negotiation. The next move was for the Education Department to issue regulations detailing how provisions of the law were to be put in place. The department proposed a rule that would require local school districts to give schools enrolling large numbers of poor children at least as much state and local money as other schools — thus prompting the letter.

Equal funding doesn’t sound too crazy, yet many districts currently fall short. Nationwide, districts with high levels of poverty receive $1,200 less per pupil from state and local sources than districts with low levels of poverty…

But fixing such funding inequities can be expensive, as well as disruptive to longstanding arrangements of which teachers get to be in which schools. That’s why the unions, districts and state leaders wrote the letter urging Mr. King to “refrain from defining terms and aspects of the new law” — that is, to simply not regulate at all…

Revisiting the classic conflict – often stereotyped – between craft unions and industrial unions. Ethics and policy in the former may reflect a lack of concern for anyone outside the “immediate family”. In this case, the students. Especially low-income pupils.

While the particulars may seem technical, the underlying issue is large. It comes down to whether the federal government will require states and districts that voluntarily accept federal funds to use their own money fairly, a crucial question as students and teachers are held accountable for meeting exacting new educational standards like the Common Core. In late April, a coalition of civil rights organizations, including the N.A.A.C.P, the A.C.L.U., the Children’s Defense Fund and the National Council of La Raza, delivered their own letter to Mr. King, supporting the new rule.

RTFA and reflect on the united front between the teachers’ unions and the Tea Party. Their concern is the “danger” of standards being applied, e.g., requiring local districts that accept federal funds to prove they are distributing their own funding as fairly as they are required to with the federal dollar$.