Friday, January 30, 2015

Last Call For Demolition Derby Night

Republicans have finally come clean on their intent to watch SCOTUS fatally wound Obamacare, and to then watch it bleed to death.

Leaders in the GOP-controlled House and Senate see the court challenge as their best hope for tearing apart a law they have long opposed. If the court strikes down the subsidies, Democrats are expected to clamor for lawmakers to pass a measure correcting the language in the law to revive them. Congressional Republicans say there is no possibility they would allow that.

Greg Sargent notes this could play out as overreach as 30 states aren't going to sit idly by and do nothing with taxpayers suddenly having unaffordable health care because the GOP Congress won't fix it.

It is for this reason that there is a hidden upside in a Supreme Court ruling with the challengers. It just might finally force Republicans to own the consequences of their actual current stance on health reform, which is that they favor blowing up Obamacare and replacing it with nothing. Republicans could very well just allow the disruptions to unfold in hopes that chaos is their political friend in the 2016 election. Alternatively, Republicans could enter into real negotiations to fix the law in exchange for changes they want. Or Republicans could finally coalesce behind an alternative that would purport to expand coverage to those who lost it and continue to go without it. Or maybe that alternative wouldn’t purport to do this. Either way, that alternative could be evaluated against what Obamacare had been doing in many states before SCOTUS gutted it. Then we could re-litigate all this in 2016.

I think Greg has it right with the first option:  since when have voters over the last six years punished Republicans for causing chaos?  Certainly not in 2010, and they were rewarded with Senate control in 2014 for doing just that.

So yes, Federal exchange states will burn, it'll become a crisis, and voters will blame Obama not for causing the problem, but for being unable to convince Republicans to fix it.  If this keeps up for two years, the GOP may coast to an easy win.  So what if millions of Americans lose their health care? Most voters will say "Well, the Supreme Court decided the Republicans were right all along" and will choose to punish Democrats.

And the GOP knows it.

Persecution Not-So-Complex

The Department of Justice investigated reporter Sharyl Attkisson's claims that the Obama administration had hacked her computer in order to spy on her as a critic of the President, and found that the woman is pretty much talking out of her ass.

Attkisson, who has written a book about her experiences trying to cover the Obama White House which includes the allegation of hacking, has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice, outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, and the Postmaster General for the alleged hacking of her home and work computers. Today, Attkisson testified at Lynch's confirmation hearing.

The report from the DoJ's Office of the Inspector General casts a different light on Attkisson's allegations:

The OIG found after inspecting Attkisson's personal computer that the episode she recorded video of—in which the contents of a Word document were being deleted off her screen—was caused by a stuck backspace key. And examination of Attkisson's iMac found that file metadata for the computer's logs had been altered by whoever inspected it. "The OIG’s forensic examination further found what appeared to be searches and queries performed by an examiner with knowledge of computer logs," the report noted.

"However, it appeared that the searches and queries were conducted while the computer was in operation and without write protecting the drive, which altered file information. This method of forensic examination is not forensically sound nor is it in accordance with best practices." And when the OIG asked for a copy of the report from the technician who did the examination, Attkisson said, "My attorney says our material isn't yet in a form that's ready to share."

CBS would not make Attkisson's work laptop available to the OIG for inspection, though it had issued a statement saying that her computer had been compromised. But CBS told the OIG that it hadn't hired anyone to perform a forensic test on her iMac, counter to Attkisson's claim.

Ah but in the end she's a hero to the tinfoil morons on the wingnut circuit, and always will be, another victim of Obama's evil liberal conspiracy to silence voices in the press that dare criticize him.
The best part is while the knuckleheads are clearly lunatics, their votes count precisely as much as yours, the difference being that while crazy, they actually vote, and vote Republican.

Bonkers?  Certainly.  But right now the party of bonkers controls 246 House seats, giving them a 58 seat advantage, 54 Senate seats giving them an 8 seat advantage, and control 24 state legislatures and governor's mansions completely, with another 19 states they split with the Dems.

Republicans are winning, and if they get the White House, then the party of Sharyl Attkisson will rule the country.  It's easy to make fun of her.  it's a whole lot harder to get off your ass and vote to stop the people she represents.

Breaking StupidiNews: Mitt Rom-Not

Mitt's out.

Mitt Romney said Friday that he would not seek the Republican nomination for president in 2016. 
Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, shared his decision on a conference call with a small group of advisers. 
In a second call to a larger group of supporters, Mr. Romney said, “After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I’ve decided it is best to give other leaders in the Party the opportunity to become our next nominee.”


Texas School Justice Time

Now I can't think of anything that could possibly go wrong with giving teachers loaded weapons and telling them that yes, they can use them on students who are a "threat".

People who are concerned about the use of excessive force by law enforcement may have to deal with another fatal can of worms. If Texas state Rep. Dan Flynn (R) gets his way, teachers will have the right to use deadly force against students in Texas classrooms, in the near future. 
The Lone Star State already permits teachers to have firearms in the classroom, but H.B. 868, also known as the Teacher’s Protection Act, would authorize instructors to use “force or deadly force on school property, on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored event in defense of the educator’s person or in defense of students of the school that employs the educator.” Instructors would also have the right to use deadly force “in defense of property of the school that employs the educator.” Moreover, civil immunity would be granted to those who use deadly force, meaning they would not be liable for the injury or death of student.

For a group of small government conservatives, Texas Republicans sure do want to give government employees the right to use deadly force against people, and to make those employees the sole arbiter of when and when to use that deadly force.

Of course, if you were a Texas Republican, armed with the knowledge that the state's school students are now majority Latino, well maybe you'd overreact with a bill like this too, right? 


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Last Call For The Religion Of Tolerance

Republicans continue their outreach to red state Muslims, and they're doing a literally unbelievable job of it.

A Republican state lawmaker in Texas is sending a message to her Muslim constituents: if they want to come calling at her Capitol office, they better pledge allegiance to the United States.

Newly-minted state Rep. Molly White (R) wrote Thursday in a Facebook post that she'd left an Israeli flag on the reception desk in her Austin office to mark the occasion of Texas Muslim Capitol Day. She said she also instructed her staff to "ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws."

"We will see how long they stay in my office," White wrote.

The best part of Texas Muslim Capitol Day?

Embedded image permalink

But remember, health care for poor people is liberal fascism.  Meanwhile, demanding loyalty oaths from citizens is just being a patriot.  I'm probably trying to silence her or something.

Post-Racial America Update

Old habits tend to die hard here in Post-Racial America.

A white politician in Virginia reportedly addressed a black reporter as "boy" at a meeting on Monday, but then tried to backpedal quickly.

Augusta County Supervisor Tracy Pyles, an independent who has run for office as a Democrat in the past, was apparently critcizing reporter Calvin Trice, 43, of the Virginia News Leader newspaper when the offending remark took place. 
"You got it wrong, boy — uh, son," Pyles told the reporter, according to the Virginia News Leader
"That has bothered me," Pyles later told the paper. "It certainly came out, and then I went to 'son.'" 
The News Leader reported that Trice, as well as others present at the briefing, were offended by the way Pyles addressed him. 
"The context was obviously angry and that's a term that when its been used against me was a racial slur, a put down," Trice told his newspaper. 
Pyles said it's just the way he talks, even to those who are dearest to him.

Black reporter reporting facts you don't like?  Hey, it's just the way the guy talks when you call him "boy" right?

And speaking of black professionals in Post-Racial America, it's interesting to note that black professionals with advanced degrees on average earn about the same as  white workers with bachelor's degrees.

You’ve heard of the racial wealth gap, the racial employment gap, and surely also about racial job callback disparities. Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers an updated look at another dynamic of our racialized economy: the racial income gap. 
As in: In 2014, while white workers 25 years or older with at least an undergrad degree took home median earnings of $1,219 per week, similarly aged and educated Latino workers made $1,007, and Asian workers made $1,328 per week. Black workers with at least a college degree, meanwhile, posted median earnings of $970 per week
The racial income gap is so pronounced that black workers with an advanced degree made $1,149—roughly the same as white workers who had only a bachelor’s degree ($1,132).

But if you work hard and educate yourself, you'll make it in America as a black person, right?

Oh, and starting with some college education, your average black employee earns less than your average woman.  And black and Hispanic women?  That is a national tragedy right there.

Even when we play by the rules we lose.

Barack And Bibi And Not Buddies

The Obama administration has been holding its tongue over Republicans inviting Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress without informing the White House so far, but it looks like that period of silence has more or less ended with a bang.

The Obama administration, after days of mounting tension, signaled on Wednesday how angry it is with Israel that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted Republican leaders’ invitation to address Congress on Iran without consulting the White House.

The outrage the episode has incited within President Obama’s inner circle became clear in unusually sharp criticism by a senior administration official who said that the Israeli ambassador, Ron Dermer, who helped orchestrate the invitation, had repeatedly placed Mr. Netanyahu’s political fortunes above the relationship between Israel and the United States.

The official who made the comments to The New York Times would not be named, and the White House declined to comment. The remarks were the latest fallout after Mr. Dermer, without the White House’s knowledge, worked with House Speaker John A. Boehner to arrange the speech, which is scheduled for March.

If there is a head around here that's going to roll, it's going to be Ambassador Dermer's.

Mr. Dermer, an American-born former Republican political operative who is so close to Mr. Netanyahu that he is often called “Bibi’s brain,” became Israel’s envoy to the United States in 2013. White House officials were at first wary that Mr. Dermer would politicize relations between Washington and Jerusalem, but over time cultivated a working relationship with him after concluding that there were advantages in his closeness to Mr. Netanyahu.

The last week has borne out their initial concerns.

Mr. Dermer relayed the invitation to Mr. Netanyahu from Mr. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, without notifying top officials in Washington or Jerusalem. American and Israeli officials said that Mr. Dermer, in the course of a lengthy meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry just before Mr. Netanyahu’s speech was announced, never mentioned it.

Let's not forget that Dermer was one of Frank Luntz's boys back in the GOP's "Contract With America" days of Speaker Newt Gingrich.  He's a GOP operative through and through, and he decided that his loyalties to Israel and the GOP trumped all.

We'll see how this shakes out, but the crosshairs are definitely on Dermer's career right now should the White House decide to persona non grata his ass.  That however would be a major escalation on our part.

It may very well be warranted.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Last Call For The Great Beturbaned Horde

I think of all the Republican politicians I dislike the most, Bobby Jindal has to be at the top of the list simply because he's smarter than a great percentage of them and chooses to spout ignorance like this anyway.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) expressed fears of an extremist Muslim “invasion” of America in an interview on Monday, outlining a strict vision for how Muslims should assimilate into the United States and doubling down on his recent controversial comments about Muslim “no-go zones” in Europe. 
According to Buzzfeed, Jindal spoke at length about Muslim immigration during an interview on the Washington Watch radio show, hosted by Family Research Council president Tony Perkins. Jindal began the segment by defending remarks he made earlier this month about so-called “no-go zones,” or areas in England and France that some American conservatives have erroneously claimed are so dominated by extremist Muslims that police forces simply do not enter.

If we’re not careful the same no-go zones you’re seeing now in Europe will come to America,” Jindal said. “What is not acceptable and what you’ve seen in Europe and this is a very serious particular threat, you’ve got those that do want to try to impose a form of sharia law. And sharia law is antithetical, mutually exclusive of freedom, in treating women as first-class citizens, it is antithetical to the values we hold dear. And you see, third, fourth generation immigrants in the U.K., France, in other places in Europe that don’t consider themselves part of those societies and that’s very dangerous.”

No-go zones are a complete lie, but Jindal understands that being an Islamophobic Republican as well as a man of Indian descent allows him to make a contrast as "one of the good immigrants" in this country.  He's lowering the discourse on purpose to further his own political ambitions. It's a form of self-hatred and loathing that's been practiced here for centuries, but it's just as tiring now as it was in the days of blaming the Irish, Italian, Greeks and Catholics coming into the country to join America.

Jindal should frankly know better about a lot of things.  But he's lying to his base for a reason.

Cut And Bleeding Red

Reuters reporter Andy Sullivan has a piece today that all but accuses the Obama administration of cutting discretionary federal grants to red states more than blue ones for political reasons.

For the analysis, Reuters divided the U.S. into three categories: Republican-leaning "red" states where Obama got less than 45 percent of the vote in the 2012 election; competitive "purple" states where he won between 45 percent and 55 percent of the vote; and Democratic-leaning "blue" states where he won more than 55 percent of the vote.

Red, purple and blue states have all shouldered steep spending cuts after a 2011 budget deal, the analysis found. But those cuts have not been doled out evenly.

Discretionary grant funding to red states like Mississippi fell by 40 percent to $15 billion between fiscal 2009 and fiscal 2013, the most recent year for which reliable figures are available. Purple states like Ohio and North Carolina saw a smaller drop of 27 percent, to $19.8 billion, and blue states saw a yet-smaller drop of 22.5 percent, to $27.6 billion. (The tally does not include disaster aid handed out after Hurricane Sandy, which went largely to blue states like New Jersey.)

The disparity doesn't show up in payments like Medicaid that are distributed through pre-set formulas. It also does not appear in Obama's 2009 recession-fighting Recovery Act. It only shows up in federal aid that is most directly controlled by the administration: "project grants," which are doled out on a competitive basis by career civil servants and political appointees.

Of course, many factors other than politics come into play. Some states aren't good at writing grant proposals - researchers at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, for example, found that poor planning has hurt that state's ability to compete for federal dollars. A governor from an oil-producing state may be less inclined to pursue green-energy grants.

But the disparity can't be fully explained by these factors. At Reuters' request, Hudak ran a statistical analysis of spending over this period, controlling for differences in population, economy, percentage of elderly residents, miles of federal highway and the number of research universities and hospitals.

Red states still came up short. After 2011, the average red state got 15 percent fewer grants and 1.3 percent fewer grant dollars than the average swing state. That comes out to roughly 500 grants and $15 million for an average-sized red state like Tennessee - enough to pay for 115 additional police officers or upgrade a rural airport to handle larger planes.

All of this seems pretty odd until you remember that the Senate gave up earmarks in 2011 under this same budget deal, and oh yes, Sullivan does admit that previous presidents played the same game.

This approach isn't unique to Obama. Under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Hudak found that purple states got about 7.3 percent more grants and 5.7 percent more grant dollars than states that were firmly in one camp.

So federal grant money goes towards presidential swing states?  Whoever would have guessed that?

Super Zandar Funtime Land

And who should come along just under the deadline for filing for running for Kentucky governor than our old cockfighting friend Matt Bevin...

Months removed from a Republican Senate primary loss to Mitch McConnell, the fiery tea-party candidate launched another statewide race Tuesday, this time for Kentucky governor. 
Bevin's unexpected and late entry—he officially joined the race less than two hours before the state's 4 p.m. deadline—is a boon for the party's most conservative elements, as it will boost their voice in a crowded campaign. But for the party as a whole, it complicates an already difficult task: preventing the competitive primary from crippling its candidate before the general election begins. 
With Bevin, Republicans now have a four-way race. State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer is the perceived front-runner, but he was already competing against wealthy Louisville businessman Hal Heiner and former Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Will Scott. And with Bevin, the GOP adds a candidate with a combative history—particularly in his nasty race against McConnell last year. 
And if the party is unable to prevent its primary season from becoming an all-out brawl, it risks losing the governor's mansion yet again: Republicans have long sought the Kentucky governorship—and thought they had opportunities to take it in recent races—but the state hasn't had a Republican governor since Ernie Fletcher was ousted after one term in 2007. And over the past 50 years, Republicans have held the state's top spot for only eight.

"They'll beat each other up. Even if they're all good candidates, we'll have four months having a family feud, or at least a family discussion, and that's going to put [Democrats] in a good position," said Trey Grayson, Rand Paul's 2010 Senate primary opponent.

You can read more about Bevin's brutally ugly primary fight against Mitch the Turtle, his "cock-up" of a fall over cockfighting in the Bluegrass State, and a not-so-gentle reminder that Bevin didn't exactly hurt Mitch too much.

Having said that, cone of the other Republicans running for governor here are anywhere near as politically savvy as Mitch, so Bevin might turn out to be real trouble for them.

Which is good for Jack Conway and the Democrats.  We'll see.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Last Call For H-E-Double Hockey Sticks

The Canadian dollar isn't doing so well against its US cousin recently as the economy has stagnated and the Bank of Canada has cut interest rates.  Canada avoided the worst of the subprime housing crash seven years ago, but now the problem is oil prices in freefall, and that's causing a number of painful side effects.

Just ask Canada's NHL teams.

A low Canadian dollar hurts the NHL in a multitude of ways, and both the league and the seven Canadian teams keep an eye on its fluctuations daily. They engage in what’s known as currency hedging to protect themselves from drops, but dramatic falls such as those of late are difficult to protect against. Because player salaries are paid in U.S. dollars, every currency drop hurts those teams’ bottom line. For a wealthy franchise such as Montreal or Toronto, that simply means a lower profit margin. For a team closer to the break-even point, such as Ottawa or Winnipeg, an 80-cent dollar may well push them $5-million into the red and affect personnel decisions in the future. 
Spending to the cap may no longer be possible. 
The dollar’s shift is only one factor, but there’s evidence its movement translates to success on the ice. Between 1994 and 2000, the dollar sat around 70 cents and Canadian teams had an average of only 75 points a season – nearly 10 below U.S.-based ones. Meanwhile, Canadian teams’ most successful season, points-wise, came in 2005-06, when the dollar began to shoot back up to close to 90 cents.

 But it can actually get worse for Canad's small market teams like Winnipeg and Ottawa:

The biggest doomsday scenario for the cap would be if players themselves decide they don’t want it to rise. Every June, the NHL Players’ Association has to greenlight a 5-per-cent cap inflator that helps drive the league’s ceiling higher in anticipation of revenue growth. 
With players currently paying 14 per cent of their salaries into escrow, – a figure that could increase the rest of the season as the dollar falls – they may not want the cap to rise. 
A low or no-growth cap would create massive pain for successful-but-capped out franchises such as the Chicago Blackhawks, who have been signing players under the assumption the NHL’s ceiling will continue to rise. Already, some teams around the league are considering a “vulture” strategy, where they’ll purposely head into the summer with a lot of cap room in order to take advantage of distressed teams.

So yes, the biggest factor heading into the NHL's 2015 summer offseason may be where the Loonie is compared to the Greenback.  There's been talk of the NHL trying to expand to 32 teams as well. The fate of that may depend on currency traders more than anything else here in the next year or two.

Even if expansion is put off, the free agency period could be really interesting this year.

Pence's Professional Pravda

Are you a Republican governor who's thinking about a 2016 presidential run? Tired of "liberal news media" printing their "facts" instead of your truth about your administration? Want to turn your press release department into the actual press, only with taxpayer dollars and your direction?  Then you too can be like Indiana GOP Gov. Mike Pence and start your own news agency!

Gov. Mike Pence is starting a state-run news service that will provide pre-written news stories to Indiana news outlets, as well as sometimes compete with them for news about his administration, according to documents obtained by The Indianapolis Star.

Pence is planning to launch "Just IN" in late February, a website and news service that will feature stories written by state press secretaries and is being overseen by a former Indianapolis Star reporter, Bill McCleery.

"At times, Just IN will break news -- publishing information ahead of any other news outlet. Strategies for determining how and when to give priority to such 'exclusive' coverage remain under discussion," according to a question-and-answer sheet distributed to communications directors for state agencies last week details.

The Pence news service will take stories written by state communications directors and publish them on its website. Stories will "range from straightforward news to lighter features, including personality profiles."

A Pence spokeswoman declined comment Monday, saying the administration would release more details soon.

Hey after all this is the party that swore to destroy the "dead tree" media.  Just put bloggers in charge and "publish information ahead of any other news outlet" yourself!  No need for an adversarial press when you control the information and the means to get it to taxpayers, right?

How long until other states start doing this?
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