Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Last Call

One in four Californians lack health insurance.
The numbers are staggering. According to a newly released study by researchers at UCLA, 24% of Californians now say they don’t have health insurance.

That means that 8.2 million residents of the state are crossing their fingers and hoping they don’t require medical care, a jump of nearly 2 million from 2007.

Why have the numbers grown so precipitously? In part, because of unemployment:
The number of uninsured has swelled in tandem with California’s unemployment rate, which rose to 12.3% in December from 5.7% two years earlier, and as employers shifted more healthcare costs to employers.
This is the private sector at work. Without the intervention of a government plan, it’s not hard to see where this trend line will continue to move. Insurance companies are poised to raise rates by double digit percentages. Employers will pass on those costs, or drop plans altogether. As a result, more employees will simply go without.
California's uninsured is more than the entire population of Virginia.  Two million people in the state lost their insurance over the last three years, just in California alone.  If this health care plan is defeated, that number will rise dramatically.

What happens when your company decides to drop health insurance coverage altogether?

You think the Teabaggers give a damn?

I don't.

[UPDATE 11:42 PM] Bonus depressing fact:  The 10 least populated states in the US combined equal about 8.9 million Americans.  The number of uninsured just in California alone is 8.2 million.

The 8.9 million Americans in the ten least populated states in the nation get 20 Senate votes.  The 8.2 million uninsured in California get 2.

Wonder why there's no public option?  There's your answer.

Throwing Out The Bums

The latest WSJ/NBC poll on Congress is not good news for either party, but it offers a direction for House Democrats on the health care bill:
On health care, 46 percent say it would be better to pass the president’s plan and make changes to the nation’s health care system, versus 45 percent who would prefer not to pass it and keep the system as it is now.

Thirty-six percent believe Obama’s plan is a good idea, versus 48 percent who think it’s a bad idea. That’s a slight (but statistically insignificant) change from January, when 31 percent said it was a good idea and 46 percent said it was a bad one. 

The poll also shows that Americans are divided over how their congressman or congresswoman should vote on the health care bill, which is expected to reach the House floor on Friday or Saturday of this week.

If their representative votes with Republicans to defeat the bill, 34 percent say they would be less likely to re-elect that member, 31 percent say they would be more likely to vote for the member, and 34 percent say it makes no difference. 

But if their member of Congress votes with Democrats to pass the legislation, 36 percent say they would be less likely to re-elect that member, 28 percent say they would be more likely to vote for the member, and 34 percent say it makes no difference. 

Translation: "There is no easy place right now in the health care debate," says McInturff, the GOP pollster.
Democratic respondents are overwhelmingly supportive of Obama’s health care plan -- they think it’s a good idea by a 64-16 percent margin, according to the poll.  Hart argues that such strong support from the base will ultimately make a "yes" vote an easier sell for Democrats who are on the fence. 

The key concern for these lawmakers isn’t losing some voters in the middle, he says. "It is alienating the base."
And that's the real bottom line:  Republicans and some independents are going to vote against House Dems anyway.  They will not gain any votes in November for voting against the health care reform bill.  No Republican voter will seriously say "Well that Democrat voted against Obamacare, I'll vote for them over the Republican in the race."  It's a ludicrous idea.  However, they stand to lose a healthy chunk of their base if they do oppose Obama.  Democrats overwhelmingly support the measure.  Killing it will depress the base even further.

It's real simple, House Dems.  Vote for health care reform, and you may lose in November.  Vote against it, and you will lose in November.  This poll makes that clear.

There are also some cautionary notes for Republicans as well:
Only 17 percent approve of how lawmakers on Capitol Hill are doing their jobs. Given the choice, half of respondents say they would vote to defeat every single member of Congress, including their own representative
Attention Republican incumbents:  This means you too.  And then there is this:
Looking ahead to the midterm elections in November, the poll shows Democrats with a three-point edge on the generic ballot: 45 percent say they prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress, while 42 percent want a GOP-controlled one.   
The GOP's still not doing as good as the Village and the Wingers say they are.

The point remains however:  Pass.  The Damn.  Bill.

Grandson Of The Revenge Of 1.99 Million Invisible Teabaggers

So that "Kill the Bill" rally at the nation's Capitol today that the Teabaggers promised would shut down Washington and destroy any hope of health care reform forever attracted...maybe 1,000 people.  Perhaps that's why GOP leaders have thrown in the towel and are already looking for people to blame.
U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint said Monday he's "less confident" that Republicans can stop President Barack Obama's health care overhaul from passing now that it's down to a few votes.

But the South Carolina Republican said he isn't backing down from his prediction last July that health care could be Obama's Waterloo. The comment propelled DeMint into the national spotlight among conservative activists.

"I don't back off of it at all. It's true. This is a critical week for us, because it's important we stop the health care bill," DeMint said outside a campaign luncheon. "If not, there's a wave of big-government agenda items right behind it that are going to be harder to stop if we can't stop health care."

DeMint toured South Carolina with a beneficiary of his newfound influence. Florida U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio and DeMint had joint fundraisers in Charleston, Columbia and Greenville. Reporters were not allowed into the events. DeMint talked to reporters outside. Rubio was not made available.

Obama officials have predicted health care legislation will clear the House by the end of the week. DeMint said the top question from voters Monday was whether it could be stopped.

"Frankly, I don't know," he said. "I'm less confident we can, now that it's just down to flipping a few Democrats. They'd have to be remarkable people not to fall under the kind of pressure they'll be under."

Hurting Your Cause

One one hand, I give the Obama administration a lot of crap for getting smacked around by Israel.  On the other hand (as BooMan points out) the Palestinians have only made US support for Israel stronger since 9/11.

While bin-Laden did achieve his goal of expelling U.S. troops from the land of the two mosques (Mecca and Medina), he absolutely destroyed support for the Palestinians with the American people, whose support is crucial to getting American politicians to force Israel into making needed concessions. If the name of the game is to sway American public opinion, the Intifada and the Second Intifada (combined with 9/11) had the exact opposite effect, making the use of terrorism about the most counterproductive and pointless exercise imaginable.
Terrorism, in other words, is a really, really lousy way to get your point across.  Support for the Palestinians has remained around 15% since 1988.  Support for Israel on the other hand has gone up significantly.  The only difference is how many undecideds there are.  The Palestinians try an Intifada, America's undecideds go with the Palestinians until they get sick of the Israelis blowing up the West Bank.  However, post 9/11, the Palestinians have gotten crushed opinion-wise.  The best they were ever able to do was the first West Bank incursion by Israel back in '07.  That got the Palestinians up to a whopping 20%.

At this point, we're at a juncture where Israel can declare war on the West Bank, drop phosphorus weapons in, and nobody really gives a damn in the US.  Palestinians respond with rocket attacks however, and nobody likes them.  When you've been the terrorist for 35 years, nobody really much listens to what you have to say, even if you do have a point.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Which speed is faster, the velocity at which Democrats are throwing Obama under the bus to please the Republicans on Israel, or the velocity at which Democrats are throwing Obama under the bus to please the Republicans on "deem and pass"?

I'm sure the Republicans will completely stop attacking now because of these brave souls. 

It must be so tiring having to try to walk around without a backbone all day.  No wonder they don't have the energy to put up a fight.

Because Clearly CNN Was Jealous Of Pat Buchanan On MSNBC

No, it's not a joke:  CNN really has hired Erick Erickson of Redstate.com as their newest political commentator.  Steve Benen:

This is easily the worst decision CNN has ever made. That the network probably reviewed Erickson's work before hiring him, and offered him a job anyway, suggests CNN's professional standards for what constitutes "an important voice" have all but disappeared.

The point here isn't that it's disappointing to see CNN hire yet another conservative voice, adding to its already-large stable of conservative voices. To be sure, it's frustrating, but it's nothing new.
The problem here is with Erickson himself.

For example, it wasn't long ago when Erickson explained his belief on why the left has a stronger online presence than the right. He attributed it to an asymmetry in free time, since conservatives "have families because we don't abort our kids, and we have jobs because we believe in capitalism."

This is the same Erickson who recently called retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter a "goat f--king child molester," referred to two sitting U.S. senators as "healthcare suicide bombers," praised protesters for "tell[ing] Nancy Pelosi and the Congress to send Obama to a death panel" (he later backpedaled on that one), and described President Obama's Nobel Prize as "an affirmative action quota."

And perhaps my personal favorite was the time, just last year, when Erickson was angry about new environmental regulations relating to dishwasher detergent. He told his readers, "At what point do the people tell the politicians to go to hell? At what point do they get off the couch, march down to their state legislator's house, pull him outside, and beat him to a bloody pulp for being an idiot?"

There was a point when major professional outlets would look at a voice like this as an "extremist," to be shut out of the mainstream of America's civil discourse. CNN, however, considers this record of radical rhetoric, and concludes it should pay him to offer on-air political commentary.
There really is no way to fail as a wingnut.  The more of a divisive, callous, dimwitted jagoff you are, the more the Village wants you so they can prove they're not the "liberal media".  The Wingers then turn around and demonize any media to the left of FOX News as too liberal anyway, and the process continues unabated.

But as Benen says, the real issue is that CNN is willing to whore itself out and pick up someone as odious as Erickson just to try to give them "conservative cred" that they will never, ever have.

It's pretty pathetic.

Housing Double Dip

Meredith Whitney is predicting a double-dip housing depression in 2010-2011.
The US housing market will face another retreat while mortgage-backed securities and Treasurys are likely to go through a "material" correction, Meredith Whitney, CEO of Meredith Whitney Advisory Group, told CNBC Tuesday.

"The housing market surely will double dip," Whitney told "Worldwide Exchange."

Government programs to support housing have been "murky" and when the modifications caused by them come to an end, a lot of supply may come to the market and that's when the real-estate market is likely to go down, she explained.

Hopes that an improvement in liquidity and continuing investment from China in US assets will prop up mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and Treasurys are exaggerated, Whitney also said.

"The asset classes of MBS and Treasurys are priced for a material correction in my opinion," she said. "The only buyers of agency MBS are the Fed and banks so you see how precarious that market is."

"If the Fed pulls back, that's a really big deal... because there's no substitute buyer."
And that may be the chain reaction that knocks the economy back down into recessionary territory.  After all, the banks are busy playing the same credit default swap games again and using them to put away record profits again this year.

So what happens when the housing market goes through another major collapse?  It'll make 2008 look like a picnic.

The Slaughter Solution

Steve M. has an excellent point on the House use of deem-and-pass to try to spare vulnerable Dems from actually having to take a recorded vote.  It's a tactic both sides have used before, most recently on Bush's No Child Left Behind legislation, but Steve smells a massive backfire here.
Look, Republicans are going to try to turn health care reform into a constitutional crisis no matter what. As it is, lawmakers in more than two thirds of the states are trying to challenge the health care mandate or other provisions of the bill. But using this procedure -- which Republicans say is unconstitutional ...

...conservatives warned that Pelosi's use of deem-and-pass in this way would run afoul of the Constitution. They pointed to a 1998 Supreme Court ruling that said each house of Congress must approve the exact same text of a bill before it can become law. A self-executing rule sidesteps that requirement, former federal appellate judge Michael McConnell argued in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

... just makes the task of ginning up a constitutional crisis infinitely easier -- and not just because far-right Republican presidents have appointed most of the federal judges who'd hear any challenges.

Our side doesn't understand that the right has figured out how to turn political anger into popular entertainment -- at least for the like-minded. The right has made more Republicans by training right-leaning citizens to turn to talk radio and Fox the way other people turn to HBO or Netflix, for fun. As a result, those citizens really keep up with politics, or at least politics Limbaugh/Fox style.

Right-wing message disseminators are already describing this procedure as the "Slaughter Solution," after Louise Slaughter, the House Rules chair. This crowd -- and some swing voters who also find this programming entertaining -- will get this argument. They'll find it exciting and infuriating. And they're still going to be talking about it in November 2010, and November 2012, just as they were talking about "back room deals" all through Scott Brown's campaign.

I'd add that violent wingnuts are also going to develop an unhealthy fixation on this vote -- the next right-wing crazy who attempts or commits political terrorism will have mentioned this vote specifically in his Web rantings. No, you can't let violent paranoids dictate your actions as a legislator. But nonviolent paranoids are another story. The right has created a lot of them, and they're going to march, and call for impeachment, and offer support to demagoguing state legislators and attorneys general who want to sue over this law, and vote in big numbers in November.

I hope the benefits of the procedure outweigh all that.
As I've said before, the goal here is to undermine the legitimacy of the federal government itself.  If the Club For Growth crew and the Freedomworks astroturfers can convince Republicans, Independents and even Democrats that the very process of governance of this country is immoral and illegal, then they can call for the dissolution of the programs and laws that Club For Growth opposes.

If you want to hamstring government to the point where it has no power to regulate commerce, enforce laws, or ensure the safety of the American people, this is the classic way to do it, and it's working brilliantly.  The solution of course will be to increasingly give those powers to corporations instead.  After all, if the people so despise the government that they prefer the profiteering corporate giants controlling every aspect of our lives, held unaccountable in any way, then there's no reason to have a federal government, right?

And isn't that the endgame of the whole mess?  For Texas to tell California and New York "You're on your own, we're going our own way"?

Steve is right.  This is playing right into the hands of the Tenthers.

A Hero For Shutting Down Unemployment Funds

Here in the NKY, GOP Sen. Jim Bunning dropped by last Saturday night to a fundraiser in Hebron and drew praise from those who thought it was a great idea to cut off benefits to Kentucky's double digit unemployed.
Back home, the former major league pitcher and hall-of-famer is known as a budget hawk standing against out-of-control federal spending. Some 400 people paid $60 to $100 each to reserve seats to honor him at a dinner Saturday evening. McConnell was conspicuously absent, but scores of other politicians lavished Bunning with praise.

"Jim Bunning has been right more than he's been wrong," said Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, a Republican who thinks of Bunning as his mentor. "And history will show that he, more than anyone else, predicted some of the economic problems we're having now and worked to try to prevent them."

Bunning had been widely considered the most vulnerable Republican incumbent heading into this year's elections, and with the GOP trying to retake majority control of the Senate, they encouraged the 78-year-old not to seek a third term. Many feared he couldn't hold the seat against one of the two prominent Democratic candidates, Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo and Attorney General Jack Conway.

But given the change in political mood, Alecia Webb-Edgington – who helped organize the dinner – believes Bunning might have been written off too quickly.

"He's incredibly popular," she said. "I truly believe he could have easily won another term."

Grayson, who is running for the Senate seat, called Bunning "a Hall of Famer in baseball, politics and life."

This is the same Bunning who has been known to curse at reporters, the tenacious campaigner who once described a Democratic challenger of Italian descent as looking like one of Saddam Hussein's sons. He apologized for that comment.

And, last year, he apologized again after he predicted Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, would be dead within a year.

"Jim Bunning may not be known for his sense of humor," Kentucky Republican U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis said in an interview, "but he is a man of unimpeachable integrity."
No need to impeach his integrity, he's on his way home back to NKY here.  The "incredibly popular" Bunning is being told to retire because there's no way he'd win a third term.  The problem is the men trying to replace him:  the oily Trey Grayson and nutbar crazy Rand Paul on the GOP side, and the DINO Jack Conway and good ol' boy insider Dan Mongiardo on the Democratic one.

Kentucky seems increasingly serious about replacing one insane senator with one who's actually far more dangerous.  On the other hand, it seems to be a race to the bottom to see who can piss off more of the Bluegrass State first, Lt. Dan trying to use UK basketball to attack Jack Conway thus drawing the wrath of Kentucky Sports Radio's Matt Jones, or Rand Paul telling the Louisville Metro Republican Women's Club to go intercourse themselves by suddenly pulling out of their sponsored debate with Trey Grayson.

I may be from North Carolina myself, but even I know you don't mess with 'Cats basketball in March in this state.  It's like all four candidates want to lose.

Cleaning Up The Mess, Part 4

With the AIPAC annual convention in town, Republicans are lining up to attack an American president and defend a foreign country on US soil, the country in question of course Israel.
House Minority Leader John Boehner issued a statement Monday criticizing the Obama Administration's "escalated rhetoric" toward the Middle Eastern nation.

The attack came after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a list of demands to Israel in hopes of restoring diplomatic relations between the two countries.

"The administration has demonstrated a repeated pattern since it took office: while it makes concessions to countries acting contrary to U.S. national interests," Boehner (R-Ohio) said in his statement. "It ignores or snubs the commitments, shared values and sacrifices of many of our country’s best allies."

Boehner argued that the President should be more concerned with the behavior of Iran rather than Israel.
Clinton took issue with Israel's announcement that it would expand a Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem, which was made during Vice President Joe Biden's visit last week.House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, the House's only Jewish Republican, echoed Boehner, saying "To say that I am deeply concerned with the irresponsible comments that the White House, Vice President, and the Secretary of State have made against Israel is an understatement."
Once again,  I ask readers "Can you name another foreign country that the Republicans would defend so loudly by attacking the President?"  The criticism of Israel here is fair.  They are building settlements just to take land away from Palestinians and ruining any chance of Obama being able to restart peace talks on purpose, then are acting like the injured party and waiting for the GOP to deliver their response.

There is something fundamentally wrong with the balance of power in this relationship.  Not the relationship itself, for Israel is an ally in the Middle East.  But Israel controls the whip hand against America, and this last week in US-Israel relations is yet more proof of that.

What the Republicans call irresponsible, the rest of the world calls "diplomacy".  Only the Republicans would consider the use of such to be wrong.  After all, the only diplomacy most of them believe in comes at the end of a barrel of a weapon.

Israel in the meanwhile has told the US to go screw themselves again.


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