Thursday, June 30, 2011

Last Call

As of Friday, all abortion clinics in Kansas will be shut down for failure to comply with the state's new building code regulations, which were released, oh, ten days ago.

It's official. Every abortion provider in the state of Kansas has been denied a license to continue operating as of July 1. As we reported last week, strict new laws put in place there this month threatened to close the three abortion clinics in the state. While at least one, a Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland Park, thought it could survive the strict new standards, it too was denied a license to continue operating—effectively cutting off access to legal abortion in the state.

The new law, which takes effect Friday, sets strict new standards for abortion providers, requiring changes to the size and number of rooms, requiring them to have additional supplies on hand, and even mandating room temperatures for the facilities. Given that the rules were released less than two weeks before clinics were expected to be in compliance, many providers knew they weren't going to be able to obtain a license to continue operating. The laws, often called "targeted regulation of abortion providers," or TRAP laws, are an increasingly common legislative maneuver to limit access to abortion by making it difficult, if not impossible, for providers to comply.

With today's announcement that the Overland Park clinic was also denied a license, Kansas becomes the first state to effectively make the legally protected right to access abortion services unavailable in the state. One clinic in Kansas has already filed suit against the new rules, and a hearing on that suit is planned for Friday. Planned Parenthood is also expected to sue.

So unless there's some sort of injunction, Kansas will as of July 1 be the first abortion-free state in the nation.

To recap, the number one Republican legislative priority in state after state is not jobs, not the economy, not shrinking the size of government, not removing burdensome regulations, not saving us from the horros of having the state get between the doctor and their patients, but using the law strictly as a power grab over women for their own purposes of imposing their will upon the American people.

Smaller government means "As long as we can continue to use it against people we don't like."  Then it's a necessary function of the state.

[UPDATE] AP says one Kansas clinic will remain open, so that's something.  Hire their building contractors.

In a statement issued Thursday evening, Peter Brownlie, president of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, seemed to hold out some hope that its clinic could still obtain a license to continue operating, even as the organization sought an injuction to block the law from taking effect. "We have been targeted in this bill and Kansas women are the ones who will suffer if their health care is taken away," said Brownlie. "This is radical, extreme government intrusion into private health care."

Nice job, Kansas.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

Our media sucks.  We've got "liberal media" like Mark Halperin of Time, on MSNBC, calling President Obama a "real dick" on national TV for the mortal sin of calling out the Republicans on their intransigence.  But Republicans, they're such nice people, and Obama, well, you know how they are.

Asshole. I'm with Benen, he did this on purpose. He and Mika there had a good laugh about it. Halperin of course has been suspended from MSNBC, but that's treating the symptoms, not the cause.

Our press is broken beyond repair.

Land Of 10,000 Shutdowns

This being June 30 and all, it's the last day for fiscal 2011 for Minnesota.  And there's no budget for fiscal 2012, which starts tomorrow.  If you guessed that means "government shutdown chaos" then yes, you'd be on the right track.  And that's going to leave tens of thousands in the lurch.  Some functions will continue:

As Minnesota Public Radio reports, the court ruled that Minnesota is required to fulfill its obligations to the federal government, continuing to pay for programs like welfare, Medicaid and food stamps. Failing to do so would "violate the the constitutional rights of the citizens of Minnesota," the court said.

Beyond the "critical core functions," the court decided it doesn't have the authority to order more funding, as the Star Tribune reports.

But others will not.

If the state's government does shut down, state parks would close right before the Fourth of July weekend, and MPR reports that up to 22,000 state workers could be left without jobs.

Lawmakers have until the end of the week to avert shutdown. But with the deadline looming ever closer, the chances of reaching a deal before then seem to be fading.

Things are looking bad for a deal, too.  They've been at this for five months, but Minnesota Republicans say they'll keep the government shut down rather than raise a single additional dime of tax revenue, which is ridiculous.

How this plays out could have serious ramifications down the road at the national level.  If Minnesotans clearly side with Gov. Dayton or with state Republicans, it could weigh on our own national debt ceiling hostage situation.

Why The Sixth Circuit's Opinion On The Individual Insurance Mandate Matters

Yesterday, the Sixth Circuit court of appeals across the river in Cincy ruled 2-1 that the individual mandate provision in the Affordable Care Act was constitutional.  The reason why this matters?  The deciding vote and opinion was authored by Judge Jeffrey Sutton, a Bush 41 appointee and former clerk to Justice Scalia, and he came out for the mandate.

The Sixth Circuit majority held that the mandate was “facially constitutional under the Commerce Clause” for two reasons.

“First, the provision regulates economic activity that Congress had a rational basis to believe has substantial effects on interstate commerce,” Judge Martin wrote. “In addition, Congress had a rational basis to believe that the provision was essential to its larger economic scheme reforming the interstate markets in health care and health insurance.”

The court directly addressed whether a choice to go without health insurance qualifies as an “activity” that substantially affects interstate commerce, which is the standard set in prior Supreme Court decisions on the breadth of the Commerce Clause.

“The activity of foregoing health insurance and attempting to cover the cost of health care needs by self-insuring is no less economic than the activity of purchasing an insurance plan,” the opinion stated.
The majority emphasized that the case should not hang on distinctions about whether the failure to buy insurance should be defined as activity or inactivity, a question the Supreme Court has never considered. “The constitutionality of the minimum coverage provision cannot be resolved with a myopic focus on a malleable label,” the judges said.

In his concurrence, Judge Sutton added, “Inaction is action, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse, when it comes to financial risk.” Whether an individual buys an insurance policy or not, the judge wrote, “each requires affirmative choices; one is no less active than the other; and both affect commerce.” 

In other words, despite all the silliness that by affirming the ACA that Congress will be able to compel Americans to buy green socks or force Americans to take up subsistence farming or face penalties that you would expect from a Scalia disciple (and indeed, the minority opinion was centered around the idea of an unlimited Commerce Clause) but Judge Sutton did not bite.

It bodes very well for the real battle at the Supreme Court.

Like The Wonder Twins, Just A Lot More Stupid

Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin have tackled the hard issues, like mud wrestling and bus tours.  Check this article out.  From the safely conservative look, the similar outfits, and identical slightly puzzled looks, these two surely can't think anyone can take them seriously.

Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann reportedly told a voter Wednesday that the media want her to get into a "mud wrestling fight" with potential presidential rival Sarah Palin.
"They want to see two girls come together and have a mud wrestling fight," the Minnesota congresswoman said in South Carolina, according to CNN, "and I am not going to give that to them."
Way to hold to your morals, babe.  I am very glad you will milk publicity and hem and haw around technical answers, but I am greatly relieved you will not mud wrestle.  I know Zandar has thoroughly covered this, but once in a while I am so disgusted I have to vent a little. 

Bachmann also said there was room for both her and Palin in the presidential race, arguing that Republicans should remember to keep focused on "the ultimate goal" of defeating President Obama next year.

To me, that sums up the entire problem right there.  For them, it's about winning and defeating when it should be about rebuilding and renewing.  Our country's future is just a game to them, more like competing for prom queen than managing the needs and course of millions of people.  Here is her attempt at being serious, and revealing she had a miscarriage, conveniently stirring sympathy and providing a chance to use this private matter to get in a good abortion quote.

“At that moment, we didn’t think of ourselves as overly career-minded or overly materialistic but when we lost that child, it changed us, and it changed us forever,” she said. “We made a commitment that no matter how many children were brought into our life, we would receive them because we are committed to life.”
I'm not immune to the tragic side of her comment,  but her emotional and personal response tells me how she would lead, and how she views the world.  Neither of these twits show the least bit of consideration for allowing people to make life decisions for themselves.  There is no respect for the Constitution.  There is only the notion that we need to be raised and taught how to be better, more like them.  If you're not their kind, you don't belong in their America.

Now there's two of them.  It's like Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie had a mid-life crisis and decided to lead the country.  If pressed, they can always fall back on mud wrestling or crying that they are bullied. 

A Story About A Singing Penis

Yeah, I had to read it as well.  This is a clear case of an article's subject making it a requirement.  

Scientists from France and Scotland recorded the aquatic animal "singing" at up to 99.2 decibels, the equivalent of listening to a loud orchestra play while sitting in the front row.
The insect makes the sound by rubbing its penis against its abdomen in a process known as "stridulation".
Researchers say the song is a courtship display performed to attract a mate.

And single guys thought they had it hard.   I can't decide if that pun is intended, I'll leave it hanging.

Colbert's Joke Is On Us, Apparently

Campaign finance reform advocates are worried that Stephen Colbert's SuperPAC shtick may open the door to some real abuses by the corporate-owned press depending on how the FEC rules.

For its part, the commission has been treating Colbert's request like any other. It's created some quirky moments, like when Colbert had to assure the commission that the cash he collected outside their office was "received by Mr. Colbert personally as payment for shaking his hand" and wasn't going to his yet-to-be-formed "super PAC."

Ultimately, if they follow the suggestions of their staff, the FEC seems set to let the Colbert Super PAC go forward one way or another. The commission will consider one of three draft opinions authored by their staff, all of which appear to let Colbert's parent company Viacom pay for the Colbert Super PAC's expenditures without having to publicly report their donations.

That's a move that has campaign finance reformers worried. Public Citizen wrote a letter to the FEC on Wednesday calling on the commission to reject the request.

"This would carve out a gaping loophole in campaign finance laws, allowing any company involved in media to foot, in secret and without limit, the electioneering expenses of political committees," Public Citizen's government affairs lobbyist Craig Holman said in a statement.

Holman warned that if the FEC granted Colbert's request, "the next request will be for media companies to directly finance unlimited candidate campaigns under the press exemption - an abuse that is already being advocated in some quarters."

Now, nobody does satire like Colbert.  The whole point of satire is to play the absurd straight and let the unintentional humor shine through.  And I honestly think Public Citizen is overreacting.  Colbert is clearly drawing attention to corporations and their control over media influence and elections, which seems to be the entire point of the exercise.   Yes, if media corporations are allowed to use the press exemption to get around campaign finance laws, it would be a disaster (what campaign finance laws we have left, anyway.)  But there do seem to be some potentially ugly ramifications here if the FEC approved Colbert's PAC as is.

I personally think the FEC understands this and will not approve Colbert's request for precisely that reason.  The press exemption is pretty ludicrous, and needs to be examined.  Colbert I believe is using this farce to force the FEC to erect some strict barriers on using the press exemption and spell them out in the campaign finance rules.  The whole point is for Colbert to play all this out by drawing attention to just how ludicrous it all is on its face.  He does it daily.

At least, I hope that this is where all this is going.  If the FEC says "Hey sure, press exemption, whatever, go for it media conglomerates!" then the joke's truly on us.

Not So Slick Rick

Word is Rick Perry will announce his candidacy for President...sometime...maybe...kinda.  We're not sure.  But the latest poll from Public Policy Polling actually has Perry losing Texas to Obama right now.

Perhaps the clearest indication of the weakness of the Republican field is
their performance in ruby red Texas. Texas wants to be rid of President Obama with only
42% approving of his performance and a 55% majority disapproving. However, it would
be a single digit race against any of Obama’s perspective Republican opponents. Obama
performs weakest against Mitt Romney, trailing 42-50 (49-42 in January). Obama trails
native son Ron Paul 40-45, Michele Bachmann 44-47, and Tim Pawlenty 43-44. Obama
ties Herman Cain 43-43, and leads Sarah Palin 46-44 (46-47) and Texas Governor Rick Perry 47-45 (45-45).

Anyone still wondering why Palin and Perry haven't announced yet?  Not me.   Yes, Obama loses to Romney and Ron Paul, but everyone else would make Texas a battleground state, and even then Obama's competitive.

But if Perry can't even muster a win in Texas, he's done.

No Dealing On The Debt Ceiling, Part 24

And now the GOP games on the debt ceiling just got serious.

Standard & Poor's will drop the U.S.'s credit rating from its current triple-A to a D if the government misses its debt payment on August 4, Reuters' Walter Brandimarte reports. S&P's managing director John Chambers explained, "If the U.S. government misses a payment, it goes to D. ... That would happen right after August 4, when the bills mature, because they don't have a grace period." The company would downgrade Treasury bills unaffected by the blown deadline, but not as much.

The Treasury Department says that the federal debt ceiling must be raised by August 2. Two days later, the department must pay $30 billion in short-term debt. But negotiations between the White House and Congressional Republicans have broken down to the extent that some Democrats are debating whether to just declare the debt limit unconstitutional and ignore it.

Say goodbye to the economy.   Say hello to interest rates in the double digits.  This is what the GOP is risking now with their hostage nonsense, and the American people are going to pay dearly for decades for their stupidity.

What will happen of course is that our debt payment will be made.  It will come at the expense of government workers, or soldier's paychecks, or Social Security checks for the month.  But that $30 billion will get paid.  The American people on the other hand...well...

So where do we go from here?  Ezra Klein notes yesterday's presser signifies the negotiations are done.

The best advice I’ve gotten for assessing the debt-ceiling negotiations was to “watch for the day when the White House goes public.” As long as the Obama administration was refusing to attack Republicans publicly, my source said, they believed they could cut a deal. And that held true. They were quiet when the negotiations were going on. They were restrained after Eric Cantor and Jon Kyl walked out last week. Press Secretary Jay Carney simply said, “We are confident that we can continue to seek common ground and that we will achieve a balanced approach to deficit reduction.” But [Wednesday] they went public. The negotiations have failed.

I still think the economic and financial powerhouses and Wall Street tycoons are going to step in and get something done.  Ezra believes differently.

What the two parties are really doing is trying to position themselves politically to survive the consequences of their failure. We don’t yet know if we’ll get to the point where the market will panic, but it could. We’re very likely to get to the point where we have to stop funding certain government services, which could mean as little as delaying payments to military contractors and hospitals or as much as halting Social Security checks. Either way, the public is likely to ignore the political breakdown until the consequences begin. At that point, both parties are hoping they will have framed the debate such that the electorate’s fury falls squarely on the other’s shoulders. That’s what today’s news conference was about.

Who will take the blame for the default?  If we're really down to that question, then we're all screwed.

[UPDATE]  Sen. Reid has just canceled the July 4th Senate recess to work on the debt ceiling idiocy.


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