NC-Sen: Marshall wins runoff, will face Burr

North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall has won today's runoff Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. With most of the votes counted, Marshall leads Cal Cunningham by 60 percent to 40 percent. Marshall will face first-term incumbent Richard Burr, whose approval ratings have long been anemic.

I'll never understand why the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee intervened on behalf of Cunningham in this race. Since the campaign began, Marshall has polled better against Burr than Cunningham. In fact, Tom Jensen, director of North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling, noted today

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Marshall is looking considerably more competitive against Richard Burr at this point in the election cycle than Kay Hagan did against Elizabeth Dole two years ago. Our most recent poll found Marshall down 46-39 to Burr. In late June of 2008 Dole led Hagan 51-37 in our polling. Certainly the 2010 election cycle is not shaping up as positively for Democrats as the 2008 one did. But Burr's approval numbers are weaker than Dole's were, his lead in the race at this point is smaller than Dole's was, and the fact that he is easily the most endangered Republican incumbent in the country should ensure this race gets a lot of national money poured into it. Burr is favored to win but it will be close, and Democratic voters ensured that today with their votes for Marshall.

A win for Democrats in North Carolina would virtually eliminate any chance the GOP has of retaking the Senate this November. At the very least, the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee will now have to spend precious resources on defense here.

Weekly Mulch: Politics, Power, and the Environment Beyond BP

by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger

Washington has a blind spot when it comes to the environment. BP and the oil spill brought the government’s failures into the spotlight, but the same problems crop up across industries: Corporations pollute water, blast through mountains, and pour carbon into the atmosphere with insufficient oversight. But no one—Congress, the environmental community, or the president—seems to have the power to address these issues.

The Senate says it will take up energy legislation soon, but staffers are saying the body won’t pass a strong climate bill without more public pressure. Energy companies are ripping resources from the land and leaving destruction in their wake, while clean energy technology, though popular, has yet to form a new platform to fill the country’s needs.

And where’s presidential leadership on this issue? “The president had a good meeting a couple days ago with senators from both parties that have led on this issue,” Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told the press this week, according to Mother Jones. “We have not made any final determinations about the size and scope of the legislation except to say that the president believes, and continues to believe, that putting a price on carbon has to be part of our comprehensive energy reform.”

President Barack Obama has taken his time to reveal definitive policy stances on issues like health care and the war in Afghanistan; in those cases, it was clear a decision was coming. On climate, it’s less clear that the president is moving towards a decision that will push Congress to act.

The Senate

The problem is not a lack of policy ideas. The Senate has already produced two decent bills that put a price on carbon, an effort that would over time decrease the country’s contributions to the world’s emissions. The second of those bills—the American Power Act, also known as the Kerry-Lieberman bill—would reduce the deficit by $19 billion, as the Congressional Budget Office announced this week.

Plenty of Senators have trumpeted about the need to reduce to the deficit. But in Washington, even a $19 billion reduction won’t help push forward legislation that Senators have decided to shirk. As Aaron Wiener writes for the Washington Independent:

“Will that be enough to get the bill passed? Of course not. The very same centrist senators who frequently raise deficit concerns are wary of legislation that could raise energy prices, and so the APA appears all but dead.”

Clean energy technology

At Grist, Jesse Jenkins suggests that enviros needs to reframe the issue altogether. “If you look at what Americans support in poll after poll, it is clean energy technology,” he says. “Put investment in clean technology front and center—and oh, by the way, we’re going to pay for this with a modest fee on carbon.”

Part of the problem could be that the country’s waiting for big corporations to lead the energy revolution. At Chelsea Green, however, Greg Pahl argues that smaller projects should play a bigger role, too. “Given the choice between a large, corporate-owned coal-fired power plant or a large, corporate-owned wind farm, the obvious choice is the wind farm, regardless of who owns it,” he writes. “But that’s no reason to exclude smaller…community projects that are far more effective in promoting distributed-generation strategies.”

Yes, your Majesty

It should be embarrassing for the Senate that, as a body, it’s more conservative than the Queen of England. This week, Queen Elizabeth told the United Nations that climate change was a front-line issue. Care2 reports that the Queen’s “brief statement was largely unremarkable but for the fact that she called out climate change, placing it on a par with terrorism in terms of today’s challenges.”

On environmental issues in general, though, the American government isn’t living up to its potential. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), for example, could be working to minimize the impacts of oil and gas drilling on public lands, but “the agency is reluctant to wiled that power after a drilling lease is granted,” Public News Service reports.

National Marine Fisheries Service

BLM is just one of a tangle of agencies that could, in theory, push back against the interests of big energy companies. They haven’t done so. In the case of the BP oil spill, for instance, TPMMuckraker reports that the National Marine Fisheries Service missed an opportunity to push back against BP’s lease, but, using bad information from the Minerals Management Service, rubber-stamped the operation. Rachel Slajda writes:

“In 2007, the National Marine Fisheries Service, which enforces the Endangered Species Act, was asked to give its ‘biological opinion’ on the impact of new oil drilling leases—including the lease of the now-leaking Macondo prospect—on endangered species, including turtles, sperm whales and sturgeon. … In the report (PDF), NMFS estimated the impact of a major spill on endangered species and concluded that the new drilling ‘is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of these species.’”

New Dawn

Energy companies are not the only ones tipping the balance against the environment, either. At the American Prospect, Monica Potts delves into Dawn detergent’s less than pristine environmental record. The detergent has benefited lately from a spate of good press because wildlife groups are using Dawn to clean oiled birds in the Gulf. But Potts writes that Dawn’s parent company, Procter & Gamble spent more than $4 million last year on lobbying and opposed measures that would, for instance, regulate household chemicals.

“Procter & Gamble lobbied against a 2009 effort to disclose ingredients in household cleaning products, instead supporting  an industry-led voluntary-disclosure effort. It also lobbied against  bans in various states on dishwashing detergent containing high levels of phosphorus and fought  to delay the bans’ implementation,” Potts explains. “The company opposed stricter household chemical regulations in the European Union in 2003 and is rated poorly by Greenpeace for the chemical content of its household products. Those chemicals, including ones banned in the EU because they can be harmful to fish and humans, end up in the environment.”

The list of such offenses goes on, and touches legions of companies. However limited, a climate bill would be a good start to addressing the country’s environmental woes. The Senate says it needs to hear this from more people before taking real steps to combat climate change; anyone who’s concerned about the planet’s future might want to start speaking up.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Weekly Pulse: Sharron Angle Mocks Insurance for Autism; The Fight to Save Food Stamps

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

The woman gunning for Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-NV) job doesn’t believe that autism exists.

Yes, you heard right. Sharron Angle believes that the neurodevelopmental disorder know to medical science as “autism” is actually a government-backed hoax to redistribute wealth from hardworking health insurers to pesky kids and their greedy parents.

Angle was caught on tape promising to abolish mandatory insurance coverage for autism. “Everything that they want to throw at us is covered under ‘autism’,” Angle told the American Association of Underwriters this summer, tracing scare quotes with her fingers as she said “autism.”

Care2’s Kristina Chew, the mother of a 13-year-old boy with autism, responds to Angle’s airy dismissal:

…By saying that you don’t think there should be health care for autism, I take it that you don’t think that children, and individuals, with disabilities are in need of such things—living with their families and in their communities, healthy and safe, being loved and cared for? Being treated as we would all like to be?

The fact that Angle opposes mandated coverage for private insurers should concern voters, especially since she wants to privatize all government health care programs. In other words, Angle wants to turn health care over to the private sector and stamp out public competition. And yet, Angle’s campaign admits that the candidate and her husband receive both government health care and a Civil Service pension, according to Eric Kleefeld of TPM. If Angle is so morally opposed to government health care, she should set an example by declining the coverage.

Andy Kroll of Mother Jones has more on Angle’s record: She once told impregnated rape victims to buck up and make “lemons out of lemonade” by bearing their attacker’s child. Angle also denounced people on unemployment insurance as “spoiled.”

Food vs. health care

It may soon get even harder for poor families to make ends meet. The Senate is poised to slash the extra food stamp benefits in the stimulus before they expire. The Senate already raided $6.7 billion from the the so-called “food stamp cookie jar” to bail out Medicaid and save teachers’ jobs at the state level. Now they want to take even more money to fund the child nutrition bill.

The cuts would fund a marginal improvement in school lunches, notes Monica Potts of TAPPED. That’s all well and good, but why provide slightly better weekday lunches if the poorest children get less at every other meal?

Annie Lowery of the Washington Independent interviews anti-hunger activist Joel Berg about the cuts. Berg says that if the cuts go through, families will have to make do with considerably less than the current $4.50 per person per day. He notes that Congress wants to cut food stamp benefits in the face of rising food prices.

When families make do with less, healthy foods like fruits and vegetables will be the first casualty. Berg argues that it is economically short-sighted to prematurely terminate one of the most efficient economic stimuli in the entire stimulus package:

And we know that we aren’t only feeding people. We come at this from a moral position, a nutritional position, and an economic recovery position. This cut is so insane from an economic position as well — we know food stamps are the most effect form of stimulus. The jury is still out on parts of the stimulus — but the jury isn’t out on food stamps. It was a 1,000 percent, beyond home run grand slam success, if you’ll excuse me mixing metaphors. The money went to people who needed it, rapidly, and without a lot of bureaucracy.

In the Progressive, Ruth Conniff has a personal take on the politics of improving school lunches. Her kids’ school got a USDA Fresh Fruits and Vegetables grant to introduce more local produce into school meals.

“Bridalplasty”

The laws of Reality TV: 1) The most important thing in life is to be very beautiful so that a man will want to marry you; 2) You have until your wedding day to make yourself look like someone else.

The E! network is launching a new reality show in which brides-to-be receive free cosmetic surgery to make them look acceptable for their Special Day, as Stephanie Hallett reports at Ms. blog. Hallett notes that armchair psychiatrists are already diagnosing the contestants with Body Dysmorphic Disorder, a condition that causes sufferers to become obsessed with imagined physical imperfections.

Hallett also argues that competitive plastic surgery shows like Bridalplasty and The Swan are dramatic exaggerations. Labeling the contestants as “sick” or “crazy” implies that they are limited-edition freaks, not individuals on the extreme end of a continuum of self-loathing that affects most women.

Ectopic pregnancy

Anti-choicers have already attacked hormonal birth control as crypto-abortion. Their next target may be lifesaving surgery for a deadly complication of pregnancy. At RH Reality Check, Lon Newman writes about a young woman that survived a life threatening ectopic pregnancy.

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg takes root outside the uterus, nearly always in a fallopian tube. Tubal pregnancies are among the deadliest gynecological emergencies because the woman can rapidly bleed to death if the tube ruptures. Obviously, once a fertilized egg takes root outside the uterus, there is no chance that it will survive. However, some anti-choice extremists still maintain that treating ectopic pregnancies is a kind of abortion.

One of the ectopic pregnancy survivor’s friends actually told her that she should have respected “God’s will” and refused lifesaving surgery. “I have had friends who said that I should have ‘gone with God’s will,’ imposing their beliefs on my will to live,” the woman said.

Some friend.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Weekly Pulse: On Health Care Repeal, House GOP Full of Sound and Fury

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

House Republicans will hold a symbolic vote to overturn health care reform on January 12. The bill, which would repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and set the nation’s health care laws back to the way they were last March, has no chance of becoming law. The GOP controls the House, but Democrats control the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that the Senate Democrats will block the bill.

Suzy Khimm of Mother Jones reports that the 2-page House bill carries no price tag. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the ACA would save $143 billion dollars over the next decade. The GOP repeal bill contains no alternative plan. So, repealing the ACA would be tantamount to adding $143 billion to the deficit. So much for fiscal responsibility.

Why are the Republicans rushing to vote on a doomed bill without even bothering to hold hearings, or formulate a counter-proposal for the Congressional Budget Office to score? Kevin Drum of Mother Jones hazards a guess:

[Speaker John] Boehner [(R-OH)] knows two things: (a) he has to schedule a repeal vote because the tea partiers will go into open revolt if he doesn’t, and (b) it’s a dead letter with nothing more than symbolic value. So he’s scheduling a quick vote with no hearings and no CBO scoring just so he can say he’s done it, after which he can move on to other business he actually cares about.

An opportunity?

Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly argues that all this political theater around repealing the Affordable Care Act is an opportunity for Democrats to remind the public about all the popular aspects of the bill that the GOP is trying to strip away.

Last weekend several key provisions of the ACA took effect, including help for middle income seniors who are running up against the prescription drug “donut hole.” Until last Saturday, their drugs were covered up to a relatively low threshold, then they were on their own until they spent enough on prescriptions for the catastrophic coverage to kick in again. Those seniors will be reluctant to give up their brand new 50% discount on drugs in the donut hole.

Another crack at turning eggs into persons

A Colorado ballot initiative to bestow full human rights on fertilized ova was resoundingly defeated for the second time in the last midterm elections. Attempts to reclassify fertilized ova as people are an attempt to ban abortion, stem cell research, and some forms of birth control. Patrick Caldwell of the American Independent reports that new egg-as-person campaigns are stirring in other states where activists hope to take advantage of new Republican majorities.

Personhood USA, the group behind the failed Colorado ballot initiatives, claims that there is “action” (of some description) on personhood legislation in 30 states. Caldwell says Florida may be the next battleground. Personhood USA needs 676,000 signatures to get their proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot. Right now, they have zero, but they promise a “big push” in 2011.

Ronald McDonald = Joe the Camel

In AlterNet, Kelle Louaillier calls for more regulation of fast food industry advertising to children. New research shows that children are being exposed to significantly more fast food ads than they were just a few years ago. Other studies demonstrate that children give higher marks to food products when they are paired with a cartoon character. Louaillier writes of her organization’s campaign to prevent fast food companies from using cartoons to market fast food to kids:

For our part, my organization launched a campaign in March to convince McDonald’s to retire Ronald McDonald, its iconic advertising character, and the suite of predatory marketing practices of which the clown is at the heart. A study we commissioned by Lake Research Partners found that more than half of those polled say they “favor stopping corporations from using cartoons and other children’s characters to sell harmful products to children.”

Local elected officials are joining the cause, too. Los Angeles recently voted to make permanent a ban on the construction of new fast food restaurants in parts of the city. San Francisco has limited toy giveaway promotions to children’s meals that meet basic health criteria. The idea is spreading to other cities.

2011 trendspotting: Baby food

The hot new snack trend for 2011 is mush, as Bonnie Azab Powell reports in Grist. In an attempt to burnish its portfolio of “healthier” snack options for kids Tropicana (a PepsiCo company) is introducing a new line of pureed fruit and vegetable slurries. The products, sold under the brand name Tropolis, feature ground up fruits and veggies, vitamin C, and fiber in a portable plastic pouch. These “drinkified snacks” or “snackified drinks” will be priced at $2.49 to $3.49 for a four-pack, making them more expensive than fresh fruit.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

The Worst Republican Senate Candidates of 2010, Part 1

This is the first part of two posts analyzing patterns in the 2010 Senate midterm elections. The second part can be found here.

The 2010 congressional midterm elections constituted, by and large, a victory for the Republican Party. In the Senate Republicans gained six seats. While this was somewhat below expectations, it was much better than Republican hopes just after 2008 – when many expected the party to actually lose seats.

The Senate results provide some interesting fodder for analysis. The table below indicates which Republicans Senate candidates did the worst in 2008. It does so by taking the Republican margin of victory or defeat in a given state and subtracting this by the Cook PVI of the state (the Cook PVI is how a state would be expected to vote in a presidential election in the event of an exact tie nationwide). Given that Republicans won the nationwide vote this year, the average Republican candidate would be expected to do better than the state’s PVI. A bad Republican candidate would actually do worse than the state’s PVI.

Let’s take a look at this table:

State Republican Margin Cook PVI Republican Overperformance South Dakota 100.00% 8.9% 91.10% North Dakota 53.91% 10.4% 43.51% Kansas 43.72% 11.5% 32.22% Iowa 31.05% -1.0%32.05% Idaho 46.25% 17.4% 28.85% Oklahoma 44.50% 16.9% 27.60% Florida 28.69% 1.8% 26.89% South Carolina 33.83% 7.8% 26.03% New Hampshire 23.22% -1.6%24.82% Arizona 24.14% 6.1% 18.04% Alabama 30.47% 13.2% 17.27% Ohio 17.44% 0.7% 16.74% Georgia 19.31% 6.8% 12.51% Arkansas 20.96% 8.8% 12.16% Missouri 13.60% 3.1% 10.50% Illinois 1.60% -7.7%9.30% Louisiana 18.88% 9.7% 9.18% Utah 28.79% 20.2% 8.59% Indiana 14.58% 6.2% 8.38% North Carolina 11.77% 4.3% 7.47% Wisconsin 4.84% -2.4%7.24% Pennsylvania 2.02% -2.0%4.02% Kentucky 11.47% 10.4% 1.07% Washington -4.73%-5.0%0.27% Alaska 11.94% 13.4% -1.46% Colorado -1.63%0.2% -1.83% California -10.01%-7.4%-2.61% Nevada -5.74%-1.3%-4.44% Connecticut -11.94%-7.1%-4.84% Delaware -16.58%-7.0%-9.58% Oregon -17.98%-4.0%-13.98% New York (S) -27.84%-10.2%-17.64% Maryland -26.44%-8.5%-17.94% West Virginia -10.07%7.9% -17.97% Vermont -33.41%-13.4%-20.01% New York -34.10%-10.2%-23.90% Hawaii -53.24%-12.5%-40.74% Total/Average 5.54% 2.3% 8.08%

(Note: The data in Alaska and Florida refer to the official candidates nominated by the parties, not the independent candidates – Senator Lisa Murkowski and Governor Charlie Crist – who ran in the respective states).

This table reveals some fascinating trends. There is a very clear pattern: the worst Republican candidates ran in the bluest states – and the bluer the state, the more the Republican underperformed. This does not just mean that these Republicans lost, but that they lost by more than the average Republican was supposed to in the state. Republican candidates did worse than the state’s PVI in thirteen states; nine of these states had a Democratic PVI.

There seems to be a PVI tipping point at which Republicans start underperforming: when a state is more than 5% Democratic than the nation (PVI D+5). Only one Republican in the nine states that fit this category overperformed the state PVI (Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois ).

Something is puzzling about this pattern. It is true that states like Connecticut or Maryland will probably vote Democratic even in Republican victories. The Cook PVI predicts that Democrats will win by X% in the event of a national tie in the popular vote. One would thus have expected Republican candidates to do better than this in 2010, given that 2010 was the strongest Republican performance in a generation.

Yet this did not happen. In a lot of blue states Democrats actually did better than the Cook PVI would project them to do – that is, said blue states behaved like the Democrats had actually won the popular vote, which they certainly did not in 2010. The bluer the state, the stronger this pattern.

There are a couple of reasons why this might be. The first thing that comes to mind is the money and recruiting game. The Republican Party, reasonably enough, does not expect its candidates to win in places like New York and Maryland . So it puts less effort into Republican candidates in those states. They get less money – and therefore less advertising, less ground game, and so on. Nobody had any idea who the Republican candidate in Vermont was, for instance. That probably contributes to Republican underperformance in deep-blue states.

The second factor might be a flaw in the model the table uses. Democratic and Republican strongholds, for whatever reason, behave differently from “uniform swing” models. In almost all the counties President Barack Obama won, for instance, he improved upon President Bill Clinton 1992 and 1996 performance – despite the fact that Mr. Clinton won by similar margins in the popular vote. This holds true from San Francisco to rural Mississippi . In the 2010 Massachusetts special Senate election, the most Democratic areas of Massachusetts swung least towards Republican Senator Scott Brown. The fact that the worst Republican candidates ran in the bluest states fits the pattern.

The table presents another startling pattern, which will be discussed in the next post: there are surprisingly few Republicans who did worse than they were supposed to in red states.

 

 

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