TPM News

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) appointed three Democrats to a 12-member deficit Super Committee Tuesday, giving observers and advocates an early indication of how the committee will function as it seeks over a trillion dollars in further deficit cuts by the end of the year.

Just as important as who serves on the panel, though, is the question of whether it will function like most Congressional committees do -- open to press and voters, with conflicts of interest disclosed publicly, if not always swiftly or conveniently.

So often, high-stakes negotiations like these are conducted in private, where members feel free from accountability, and, to a lesser extent, from special interest influence. And because the debt ceiling statute that created the panel included no significant transparency requirements, the expectation has been that it will operate away from public scrutiny.

But there is growing pressure on Congressional leaders to pull back the curtain on the panel, including from influential members of their own parties. And now it seems as likely as not that the proceedings will take place in a way that makes it difficult for members to hide deal-making from the public.

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Less than two months after Keith Olbermann made his debut on Current TV, the progressive television network has made another high-profile hire.

David Bohrman, formerly CNN's vice president of programming and Washington bureau chief, has been tapped as president of Current TV. And he'll have his work cut out for him. The network is planning to build its programming around Olbermann's "Countdown" -- currently its flagship program.

After securing "Countdown" in the lineup, Current co-founder and CEO Joel Hyatt told TPM "we realized what we needed, at the senior level of leadership at the company ... someone with the expertise in TV news programming and production. We set out to find the very best person, and all roads led to David Bohrman."

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A creationist theme park slated to be built in Kentucky has big ambitions, including erecting a full-size wooden ark, a walled city with plenty of outdoor parking. And now it's set to receive a 75 percent property tax discount to do it.

The 75 percent property tax break will span the next 30 years, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. Rick Skinner, the mayor of Williamstown -- in Grant County, where the park will be built -- said the offer will be followed by a formal deal in the coming months, according to the report. Skinner did not immediately return TPM's requests for comment.

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Post updated: 1:30AM

Wisconsin Democrats have fallen just narrowly short of an ambitious goal - the attempt to pick up three state Senate seats through recall elections and take a majority in the chamber. As of early Wednesday morning, with six incumbent Republicans on the ballot, Democrats have defeated two -- but narrowly missed out in two others.

Democrats defeated Republican state Sen. Dan Kapanke, who represented the most Dem-leaning seat of any Republican in the chamber, by a 55%-45% margin. They also won a 51%-49% victory over state Sen. Randy Hopper, whose campaign was also damaged by a messy divorce, and allegations by his estranged wife that he "now lives mostly in Madison" after having an affair.

This would get Democrats from their previous 19-14 minority, following the 2010 Republican wave, to a 17-16 margin. In two more safe Republican districts, incumbents Robert Cowles and Sheila Harsdorf won by margins of 60%-40% and 58%-42%, respectively.

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Fanboys are breathless from so much wanking today, paralyzed by genital turgidity because Apple briefly surpassed ExxonMobil as the most valued company in the stock market. Right now, Exxon is still number one at 352.9 billion compared to Apple's 346.74 billion.
But even if Apple's stock market capitalization were actually higher than Exxon's, would it be a more valuable company? The answer is probably no.

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By Kurt Ernst

China wants to reward automakers for building fuel-efficient cars, but it's been forced to redefine the standards of an overly-successful incentive program.

In June of 2010, the Chinese government launched a subsidy program for automakers building fuel-efficient cars. Any vehicle with an engine of 1.6-liters or less, and fuel economy of 34 mpg or higher, qualified for a government-funded subsidy of $465 for each unit sold.

By all accounts, the program was a success, perhaps too much so: by the end of June 2011, funding for the program had been depleted, thanks to the sheer number of qualifying models.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has announced that Sens. John Kerry (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Max Baucus (D-MT) will serve a new deficit Super Committee. Murray will be the Democrats' top member.

"I have great faith in Senator Murray as the co-chair of the committee," Reid said in a statement. "Her years of experience on the Senate Budget and Appropriations committees have given her a depth of knowledge on budget issues, and demonstrated her ability to work across party lines. Senators Baucus and Kerry are two of the Senate's most respected and experienced legislators. Their legislative accomplishments are matched only by their records of forging strong bonds with their Republican colleagues."

Entitlement defenders were hoping for a more progressive bunch than this. But the key on the Democratic side of the new committee isn't so much whether members will agree in principle to some entitlement cuts -- most say they will -- it's whether they'll require as a concession that Republicans agree to increase tax revenues.

And through that prism, there's some reason for optimism.

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An appeals court has struck down as unconstitutional California's requirement that DNA collection be part of post-arrest routine in the state, reports Wired.

The DNA Act (Proposition 69), which passed voter approval and has been in use in the state since 2009, requires any adult arrested for a felony to submit to a DNA sample. The First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco ruled that this was a violation of the Fourth Amendment as a "warrantless and suspicionless search of individuals" before they have been convicted of a crime, for evidence of a crime "unrelated to that for which they have been arrested."

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