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Elizabeth Warren Explains How Washington Corruption Protects the "Tender Fannies" of The Rich

| Fri Apr. 10, 2015 9:54 AM EDT

During a spot on the "Daily Show" Thursday night, Senator Elizabeth Warren broke down the ways in which big banks and large corporations have rigged Washington politicians in order to ensure "the tender fannies of the rich and the powerful are always carefully protected."

"Powerful corporations, rich people, have figured out that if you can bend the government to help you just a little bit, it’s a tremendous payoff," Warren told host Jon Stewart. "And if you can bend it to help you just a little bit more, and a little bit more, the playing field just gets more and more tilted, and the rich and the powerful just do better and better."

The Massachusetts senator, whose appearance was tied to her book A Fighting Chance, went on to explain how both the steady circulation of money and the constant presence of lobbyists in Washington have worked together to create a culture in which such corruption is the norm. Watch below:

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Even If Walter Scott's Family Wins in Court, the Cop Won't Pay a Dime

| Fri Apr. 10, 2015 9:45 AM EDT
Anthony Scott holds a photo of himself, center, and his brothers Walter Scott, left, and Rodney Scott, right, at his home near North Charleston, S.C., April 8, 2015.

The family of Walter Scott, the man who died on Saturday after being shot eight times by North Charleston police officer Michael Slager, has decided to sue Slager, the city of North Charleston, and its police department. The civil lawsuit, which will seek damages for wrongful death and civil rights violations, follows murder charges already filed against the now-dismised officer.

Scott's family is hardly the first to seek civil damages after a police killing. In recent months, relatives of Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, and Eric Garner have all pursued civil court claims, where success isn't contingent on a criminal ruling against any police officer. But in the event that the Scott family wins a settlement, it's highly unlikely that Slager himself will have to pay. As I reported in January:

Instead, taxpayers will shoulder the cost. Between 2006 and 2011, New York City paid out $348 million in settlements or judgments in cases pertaining to civil rights violations by police, according to a UCLA study published in June 2014. Those nearly 7,000 misconduct cases included allegations of excessive use of force, sexual assault, unreasonable searches, and false arrests. More than 99 percent of the payouts came from the city's municipal budget, which has a line item dedicated to settlements and judgments each year. (The city did require police to pay a tiny fraction of the total damages, with officers personally contributing in less than 1 percent of the cases for a total of $114,000.)

This scenario is typical of police departments across the country, says the study's author Joanna Schwartz, who analyzed records from 81 law enforcement agencies employing 20 percent of the nation's approximately 765,000 police officers. (The NYPD, which is responsible for three-quarters of the cases in the study, employs just over 36,000 officers.) Out of the more than $735 million paid out by cities and counties for police misconduct between 2006 and 2011, government budgets paid more than 99 percent. Local laws indemnifying officers from responsibility for such damages vary, but "there is little variation in the outcome," Schwartz wrote. "Officers almost never pay."

Schwartz's study did not include North Charleston or any other law enforcement agency in South Carolina. But if other jurisdictions serve as any indication, Slager likely won't pay a dime, even if a jury finds him guilty of murdering Scott. Out of the 7,000 cases of police misconduct Schwartz studied, only 700 officers were convicted of a criminal charge. And only 40 officers ever contributed to a civil settlement out of their own pocket.

Hillary Clinton May Ruin Pundits' Weekend, Announce Campaign Sunday

| Fri Apr. 10, 2015 8:53 AM EDT

Hillary Clinton is set to announce her run for president this Sunday, The Guardian, CNN, and other outlets are reporting. She reportedly plans to release a video with the news on Twitter and follow up with campaigns stops in Iowa.

If she secures the Democratic nomination, Clinton will become the first woman from either major party on the presidential ballot. For a deeper dive into the key players inside her campaign, read our inside look at the man tasked to guide her to the White House.

I Can't Stop Laughing At This Photo Of David Cameron

| Thu Apr. 9, 2015 6:45 PM EDT

The British go to the polls next month to determine whether Tory PM David Cameron gets to stay at 10 Downing St or if Ed Miliband and Labour get to form a government. Polls are close. It's getting down to the wire. Fascinating stuff. This post is not about that.

During a photo-op at a school in Westhoughton yesterday, Cameron gave some students a "reading lesson." But what one precocious child learned was how to steal the scene.

I wish the kid had fallen asleep because that would be hilarious but the video makes clear she only momentarily "head-desked" out of embarrassment after stumbling on a word.

(Don't worry, kid. It happems.)

The photo is amazing but even more amazing is that the same thing happened to Australian Tory PM Tony Abbott last year.

Since things tend to happen in threes, Canadian Tory PM Stephen Harper should consider himself warned.

Fox News Host Sees No Racial Factor in South Carolina Killing

| Thu Apr. 9, 2015 2:41 PM EDT

Fox News host Greg Gutfeld is not racist. How not racist is Greg Gutfeld? Very not racist! You're a racist. (You're a racist.) But Gutfield doesn't even see race. What's race? A race? Are we running a race? The word "race" for Greg Gutfeld only has one definition: a competition of speed.

White cop guns down unarmed black man in cold blood: a thing that happens unbelievably often in the United States. Almost always the cop gets to walk away scot-free. But this time the cop is actually charged with murder! Not because South Carolina is so evolved (haha), but because a video emerges that puts on display the undeniable reality of the cop's crime.

The Fox News chyron even calls it straight: "Video shows white police officer shooting black man in back." But apparently the Fox News chyron is less evolved than Fox News host Greg Gutfeld. Because Greg Gutfeld saw something else:

"I didn't see a black man killed by a white cop. I saw a man shoot another man in the back."

If Greg Gutfeld were at Wounded Knee, he'd say he didn't see white soldiers massacring Native-Americans.

If he were at Stonewall, he'd say he didn't see straight cops beating gay men.

And if he were in Pleasantville, he'd say he never saw color.

(via TPM)

Finally, a Candidate for People Who Think Jeb Bush Isn't WASPy Enough

| Thu Apr. 9, 2015 1:56 PM EDT
Tanned. Tested. Ready. Chafee.

Last week it was Ted Cruz. On Wednesday it was Rand Paul. And now, meet your newest presidential candidate: former Rhode Island Republican senator turned former Rhode Island Democratic governor Lincoln Chafee! Bet you didn't see that one coming.

Rhode Island Public Radio reported the news this morning:

Chafee said the launch of his exploratory committee will be made via videos posted on his website, Chafee2016.com.

"Throughout my career, I exercised good judgment on a wide range of high-pressure decisions, decisions that require level-headedness and careful foresight," said Chafee. "Often these decisions came in the face of political adversity. During the next weeks and months I look forward to sharing with you my thoughts about the future of our great country."

Lincoln Chafee, of the Rhode Island Chafees, won't be the next president, although he does enter the Democratic primary with strong name recognition among people who use "summer" as a verb. Chafee's father, great-great grandfather, and great-great uncle all previously served as governor of the state. Lincoln ran for the family seat only after losing his spot in the Senate in 2006 to Sheldon Whitehouse (of the Rhode Island Whitehouses), whose father had roomed with Chafee's father at some college in New Haven before entering the diplomatic corps (like his father before him).

But there is something worth highlighting in his announcement interview:

Chafee said his focus will be on building a strong middle class coupled with environmental stewardship. Chafee, who voted against former President George W. Bush's Iraq War, noted that Mrs. Clinton voted for it. He said he aims to send a clear message that "unilateral military intervention has damaged American interests around the world."

Did you catch that? It's easy to forget now that she's the email-destroying, dictator-courting villain of Benghazi, but there was a time when Hillary Clinton's biggest weakness was something else entirely: Iraq. Clinton's support for that war (and her inability to assuage its opponents) was the fuel for Sen. Barack Obama's rise in the polls in 2007. Eight years later, the issue has been all but erased from the political debate.

Don't bet on Chafee being the man who brings it back.

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Elizabeth Warren: "I Don't Support the Death Penalty" for Boston Marathon Bomber

| Thu Apr. 9, 2015 1:47 PM EDT

On Thursday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said she is opposed to sentencing Dzohkhar Tsarnaev to death, one day after the Boston Marathon bomber was found guilty on all 30 charges related to his involvement in the deadly 2013 attack.

Speaking on CBS This Morning, Warren said, "Nothing is ever going to make those who were injured whole…My heart goes out to the families here, but I don't support the death penalty." "I think he should spend his life in jail, no possibility of parole," she said. "He should die in prison."

"The alternative to the death penalty—it's not as if you set this guy free. He's put away…he's not someone who is able to keep sucking up a lot of energy. The families need their chance to move on."

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R), on the other hand, supports putting Tsarnaev to death.

Watch the full video here:

These Maps Show Why We Keep Electing Climate Change Deniers

| Thu Apr. 9, 2015 5:45 AM EDT
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) uses a snowball to disprove global warming.

One of the most significant obstacles to addressing climate change is the fact that huge numbers of US politicians reject the overwhelming scientific consensus that humans are warming the planet. Why does the situation persist? How can a senator who (literally) holds up a snowball as evidence that global warming is a hoax keep winning reelection? How can someone who declares himself a climate "skeptic" be a front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination? As newly released research from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication makes painfully clear, GOP climate deniers actually hold views that are quite similar to those of the voters who elect them.

The Yale research is based on data from more than 13,000 survey responses since 2008. It estimates that nationwide, just 48 percent of people agree with the scientific consensus that global warming is caused "mostly" by humans. While other recent polls have found a somewhat higher percentage who say they believe humans are causing the planet to warm, Yale's numbers are not a good sign for those—like billionaire activist Tom Steyer—who are trying to turn climate change denial into a disqualifying political position.

Things look even more discouraging when you use the researchers' snazzy interactive maps to break down the estimates by congressional district. The blue districts on the map below are places where the researchers' statistical model predicts that fewer than half of respondents believe that humans are primarily responsible for climate change. Yellow/orange districts are places where at least half of respondents accept the scientific consensus. As you can see, there's an awful lot of blue—according to the data, 58 percent of US congressional districts have majorities that don't accept the climate science.

congressional districts
Yale Project on Climate Change Communication

The margin of error on the data makes it impossible to rank with certainty the districts with the most climate denial. Still, the two darker blue portions on the map are noteworthy—these are the only congressional districts in the country in which under 40 percent of residents are estimated to accept the scientific consensus. Texas' 1st District (where 38 percent believe the science) is represented by Louie Gohmert, a Republican who thinks that the world "may be cooling" and that the rising level of carbon dioxide is a good thing because it will mean "more plants." Alabama's 4th District (39 percent believe climate science) is represented by Republican Robert Aderholt, who has argued that "Earth is currently in a natural warming cycle rather than a man-made climate change." And it's hard to see on the map, but California's 12th District has the highest percentage of residents projected to believe that humans are causing climate change—65 percent. That district is in San Francisco, and it's represented by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Adding elected officials' party affiliations to the Yale data makes it clear that these aren't simply one-off examples: In the average district with a Democratic member of Congress, 54 percent of adults believe humans are largely responsible for global warming; in the average GOP-controlled district, less than 46 percent agree.

Similar patterns exist at the state level:

state map
Yale Project on Climate Change Communication

In Oklahoma—home to snowball-wielding climate denier Sen. James Inhofe—just 44 percent of residents believe humans cause global warming, according to the researchers' estimates. The same is true in Kentucky, which is represented in the Senate by Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul. Paul has said that he's "not sure anybody exactly knows why" the climate is changing.

One final note: Take a look at the early presidential primary and caucus states—Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. According to the Yale data, none of these states have majorities that accept the scientific consensus. (Nevada, at 50 percent, is the best of the four.) And when you consider that Republican primary voters are far more hostile to climate science than the general population, there seems to be very little incentive for GOP presidential candidates to embrace the truth about global warming.

The GOP's Campaign to Make You Hate The IRS Is Kind of Genius

| Wed Apr. 8, 2015 3:46 PM EDT

People hate the IRS. Of course they do! When Pew Research asked people earlier this year how they feel about various parts of the government, every agency received positive marks—except the IRS. And last month, Rasmussen found that a scant 31 percent of voters trust the tax agency to fairly enforce the law. Let's face it: the agency tasked with taking money out of paychecks is never going to be popular.

But people have even more reason to despise encounters with the agency these days, thanks to a concerted effort by Republicans in Congress to slash the tax collector's budget. From the front page of today's Washington Post:

Since 2010, Republicans on Capitol Hill have slashed the IRS budget by $1.2 billion, or about 17 percent, adjusting for inflation. Just this fiscal year, $346 million was cut.

By contrast, cuts across the rest of the government have been far more modest and concentrated. Between 2012 and 2014, automatic spending reductions shrank non-defense spending, as adjusted for inflation, by 1.3 percent, while IRS spending was chopped 5.6 percent, according to Scott Lilly, a budget expert at the Center for American Progress.

Those budget cuts have made dealing with the IRS this tax season a true pain in the ass. As the Washington Post details, just four in ten callers to the IRS's help line are actually able to get assistance from a real human, while the number of unintentional hang-ups from an overworked phone system have ballooned. And the cuts are actually costing the government: thanks to a 5,000-person reduction in the agency's staff over the past four years, tax cheats can more easily skate by.

Attacking the IRS is one of the simplest lines a politician can roll out. It's a favorite rhetorical turn for presidential candidate and senator Ted Cruz, who's said he'd like to "abolish the IRS, take all 125,000 IRS agents and put them on our southern border," to applause at this year's CPAC.

Meanwhile, Democrats are wary about offering an equally vocal defense of the IRS, hesitant to be tarred as just typical tax-and-spenders. Sure, President Obama has included increases for the agency in his congressional budget requests, but it's never been a major issue that he'd consider wielding his veto pen over. But without a more robust defense, the IRS could wither away and replace the DMV as a punch line for why government doesn't work.

Another State Agency Just Banned the Words "Climate Change"

| Wed Apr. 8, 2015 3:45 PM EDT
Madison, Wisc.

The climate change language police just struck again.

Last month it was in Florida, where former staffers with the state's Department of Environmental Protection alleged that senior officials, under the direction of Gov. Rick Scott (R), had instituted an unwritten ban on using the phrases "climate change" and "global warming." Scott denied the claim.

This week's incident is much less ambiguous. Yesterday, the three-person commission that oversees a public land trust in Wisconsin voted 2-1 to block the trust's dozen public employees "from engaging in global warming or climate change work while on BCPL time."

In proposing and voting on the ban, the commission "spent 19 minutes and 29 seconds talking about talking about climate change," according to Bloomberg:

The move to ban an issue leaves staff at the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands in the unusual position of not being able to speak about how climate change might affect lands it oversees…

The Midwest warmed about 1.5F on average from 1895 to 2012. Pine, maple, birch, spruce, fir, aspen, and beech forests, which are common in the region, are likely to decline as the century progresses, according to the latest US National Climate Assessment.

The ban was proposed by newly elected State Treasurer Matt Adamczyk, a Republican who ran on the unusual campaign promise to swiftly eliminate his own job. At a public meeting on Tuesday, according to Bloomberg, Adamczyk said he was disturbed to learn that the agency's director, Tia Nelson, had spent some time co-chairing a global warming task force in 2007-08 at the request of former governor Jim Doyle (D). Dealing with climate issues—even responding to emails on the subject—isn't in the agency's wheelhouse, he said. Adamczyk didn't immediately return our request for comment.

Adamczyk was joined in voting for the ban by State Attorney General Brad Schimel (R), also newly-elected. Schimel is handling Gov. Scott Walker's lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency over President Barack Obama's new climate regulations. The ban was opposed by the commission's third member, Secretary of State Bob La Follette, a Democrat.