ThinkFast: February 18, 2010

As the annual Conservative Political Action Conference kicks off in Washington, D.C. today, a new CNN poll finds that Tea Party activists “tend to be male, rural, upscale, and overwhelmingly conservative.” Although this movement tries to portray itself as independent from either political party, the poll “indicates that Tea Party activists would vote overwhelmingly Republican in a two-party race for Congress.”

A tea party gathering in Washington state “turned more than a bit ugly on Saturday when a featured speaker actually called for the hanging of Sen. Patty Murray.” HuffPost’s Sam Stein writes, “That a sanctioned speaker called for a hanging of an elected official…seriously pushes the boundaries of First Amendment freedom.”

New IRS statistics show that President Bush’s 2007 tax cuts disproportionately benefited the very wealthy. “The average income reported by the 400 highest-earning U.S. households grew to almost $345 million in 2007, up 31 percent from a year earlier.” Each of these top 400 households “paid an average tax rate of 16.6 percent, the lowest since the agency began tracking the data in 1992.”

Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell suggested on Fox News’ website this week that “President Obama’s nomination of two liberal law professors to senior posts constitutes a ‘pogrom’ against Christians.” Blackwell is currently a senior fellow at the Family Research Council and a fellow at Liberty University.

Seven more Democratic Senators have signed onto a petition asking Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to bring the public option up for a vote under budget reconciliation rules. Eleven Senators have now signed the letter, and a few others have expressed interest in the idea.

Republican leaders in the Senate are reportedly “hoping to persuade waffling members of their Conference to block Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) $15 billion jobs bill.” GOP leadership aides laid out their strategy to a gathering of more than 100 lobbyists yesterday.

Donations by the top 15 health care political action committees rose to $11.7 million in 2009, a nearly 14% increase from 2007, the most recent non-election year,” according to a USA TODAY analysis. The National Community Pharmacists Association “had the biggest jump.”

In the wake of Anthem Blue Cross’ proposed 39 percent hike in premiums in California, the Health and Human Services Department warned in a new report released yesterday that “similar pressure on premiums is being felt in at least six other states.” “[E]xperts predict these increases will continue,” the report said.

Environmental activists are growing increasingly disgruntled with President Obama’s energy policies. “The grumbling of the greens has grown louder in recent weeks as Mr. Obama has embraced nuclear power, offshore oil drilling and ‘clean coal’ as keystones of his energy policy,” the New York Times writes.

And finally: Barack and Michelle Obama or Edward and Bella? Both couples are competing for the “Cutest Couple” award at this year’s Nickelodeon “Kids’ Choice Awards.”

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