Friday, March 16, 2012

Last Call

My Senator, Rand Paul, is trying to do everything he can (along with fellow GOP members Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham) to sell seniors on taking a step back from Medicare and embracing "Obamacare".  It's a hell of a thing to do putting seniors at the tender mercies of the insurance companies with vouchers and subsidies, but they're selling it as "the same health care that members of Congress get".

Under the plan, seniors would be subsidized up to 75 percent of their monthly premiums, with wealthier seniors receiving smaller subsidies. The eligibility age would also climb, slowly. But FEHBP per-capita costs are rising faster than Medicare’s — so even if the plan were able to save money at the outset as Paul claims, the costs of the new program would likely surpass projected Medicare costs in the near future.

Unlike ObamaCare, Paul says there would be no mandate requiring seniors to buy insurance — “The system is voluntary in that sense,” he said. “But it will be the new Medicare.This will be Medicare. Medicare will be the federal employee health care plan.” But that would create an incentive for healthier seniors to opt out of the program, triggering what health policy experts term adverse selection — and a “death spiral” for insurance premiums.

In all other ways, the plan is structurally akin to Obama’s health care law. It even kicks in in 2014 for all seniors, just as Obama’s law does for the uninsured. DeMint explained, in admirably honest terms, why Republicans are OK with, essentially establishing Obamacare for seniors, but not for everyone else.

“Medicare is already set up as a government program,” DeMint said. “So we’re beginning to privatize with this idea. To go the other way in the private sector for people who have private employment, and to bring that under government control and to define benefits is completely the opposite direction. So what we’re trying to do with Medicare is move it back toward a plan that we would like.”

A plan that would leave most seniors paying the majority of their health care costs and healthier seniors opting out altogether, assuring that insurance rates for seniors would increase exponentially.  Yeah, that's a great plan: the end of Medicare in under 2 years.  Awesome.

Texas Goes All In On Voter Suppression Hold-'Em

Texas Republicans tell Eric Holder and President Barack Obama exactly where they can stick their opposition to the state's voter suppression laws as they go for broke and demand that the Supreme Court rule on the Voting Rights Act being constitutional.

Attorney General Greg Abbott on Wednesday made a direct constitutional challenge to a piece of the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965, which singles out Texas and several other states.

Abbott took aim at a section of the act that requires Texas and several other states, mostly in the South, that have histories of discrimination to "pre-clear" any changes to election laws. Abbott seems to be using the U.S Department of Justice's recent denial of pre-clearance of the Legislature's controversial voter ID law, which would require voters to present a valid form of photo identification before casting ballots, as a way to try to change the larger decades-old requirement.

"For the Department of Justice to now contend that Texas cannot implement its voter ID law denies Texas the ability to do what other states can rightfully exercise under the Constitution," Abbott, a Republican, said in a statement.

Yes, Texas is going there, trying to strike down not just pre-clearance, but the entire act and the voting protections it entails, citing that the Tenth Amendment outweighs the legislation.  The pre-clearance measure, Section 5 of the act, is the target but the real goal is to overturn the entire bill.

Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Scalia and Anthony Kennedy would be all it would take in order to gut the VRA as much as possible.  If as part of their voter ID law case SCOTUS agrees to hear this too, it's entirely possible that the VRA could be gone before November.

If that happens, all bets are off.

How Dare You Force Us To Vote Against Women!

No really, that's the Senate GOP's excuse for vowing to destroy the Violence Against Women Act.  The evil Democrats made the bill actually protect women, so of course it has to be destroyed.  Women don't merit protection, sillyheads.

Republicans are bracing for a battle where substantive arguments could be swamped by political optics and the intensity of the clash over women’s issues. At a closed-door Senate Republican lunch on Tuesday, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska sternly warned her colleagues that the party was at risk of being successfully painted as antiwoman — with potentially grievous political consequences in the fall, several Republican senators said Wednesday. 

Some conservatives are feeling trapped. 

“I favor the Violence Against Women Act and have supported it at various points over the years, but there are matters put on that bill that almost seem to invite opposition,” said Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, who opposed the latest version last month in the Judiciary Committee. “You think that’s possible? You think they might have put things in there we couldn’t support that maybe then they could accuse you of not being supportive of fighting violence against women?” 

So what horrible things does this bill do that destroys comity in the most august of deliberative bodies?

The legislation would continue existing grant programs to local law enforcement and battered women shelters, but would expand efforts to reach Indian tribes and rural areas. It would increase the availability of free legal assistance to victims of domestic violence, extend the definition of violence against women to include stalking, and provide training for civil and criminal court personnel to deal with families with a history of violence. It would also allow more battered illegal immigrants to claim temporary visas, and would include same-sex couples in programs for domestic violence. 

Republicans say the measure, under the cloak of battered women, unnecessarily expands immigration avenues by creating new definitions for immigrant victims to claim battery. More important, they say, it fails to put in safeguards to ensure that domestic violence grants are being well spent. It also dilutes the focus on domestic violence by expanding protections to new groups, like same-sex couples, they say. 

Brown women and LGBT women aren't "women", they're objects to be ridiculed.  Why would anyone want to expand protections to cover these immoral groups who would never vote for Republicans?  Certainly not Republicans, that's who!

His Word VS. The Other Guy... Who Is Conveniently Dead

George Zimmerman was the subject of complaints to police, regarding his overzealous methods as neighborhood watch captain.  Those details aren't available, but they do portray a man who takes himself very seriously, and has at the very least annoyed neighbors.

And then there's the day he shot a young black man after police told him to stand down.  He called 911 to report Trayvon Martin walking home from the convenience store.  He blatantly disregarded the advice to stand down.  He instead followed Martin, making a comment about how "they always get away" and escalated the situation.  He then shot and killed the boy, and when witnesses appeared he told them it was self-defense and put the gun down.

An officer on the scene was narcotics, not homicide.  He corrected a witness when she told him she heard the teenager screaming for help.  By correcting her, I can't see an alternative besides implying it was actually Zimmerman shouting for help.  But that seems mighty strange from a man who expressed frustration and determination to force events to a head.  After all, it was he who chased Martin, not the other way around.  Martin was just walking home, with some iced tea and candy.

There seems to be a decided reluctance to prosecute Zimmerman.

“In this case, Mr. Zimmerman has made the statement of self-defense," Lee said during Monday’s press conference. "Until we can establish probable cause to dispute that, we don’t have the grounds to arrest him.”

I hate to be the one to bring this up, but the other guy is conveniently dead.  The evidence is there in the fact that this man clearly pushed for confrontation against advice and common sense.  A young man who had nothing to do with this craziness was shot dead.  He left to buy iced tea and candy, and he died on the way home.  Now this man gets to call self-defense and the best they've got is turning it into one man's word against a dead body?  Where is the culpability for pursuing this violence?

I understand innocent until proven guilty.  I'm saying there is enough probably cause here to warrant those charges, and enough evidence to warrant trying.  The events could not have transpired if he had not disobeyed orders to wait.  He was armed and determined to use his weapon.  There was no justice for the victim in this, not even a hint.

Abandoned Boy Thanks Foster Parents For Not Locking Him Up

A boy was kept in a squalid trailer, sleeping on a urine-soaked mattress.  Mice have gotten into the food in the cabinet, contaminating it with hair and droppings.  It would seem the boy wasn't much of a threat to them, and the house reeked of animal urine.

The boy was found cowering under a porch in Colorado.  His mother had left him more than two weeks ago, she had moved out of state to live with her boyfriend and left the boy to fend for himself.  He was barely eating, and had not been to school in at least three years.

The mother was sentenced to three years in prison.  Her legal team had requested a non-prison sentence, but the judge said it was rightfully pointed out that with comfortable temperatures and regular meals, she was living in more ideal conditions than the boy had endured.

The boy is in a foster home now, and has thanked his foster parents for  not locking him up.  Can you imagine ever stopping to feel grateful for not being locked up in a filthy room that reeks of pee?  For coming to the conclusion that your mother wasn't coming back?  That kid has seen misery most of us will never know, all before he is old enough to shave.  I rarely buy into the "life owes me" mentality, but karma owes this kid a break or two.

Perceived Crimes And Collective Punishment

I'm honestly wondering if we do understand that the larger, more salient point of crazy, clearly unconstitutional insanity like Arizona's "right to fire people for using birth control" bill is to assure the Republican base that the coalition of "others" that elected Barack Obama to the White House: all "those" people who "don't know their proper place" like African-Americans, Latinos, young people, women, the LGBT community, and "traitor" liberals in general, are going to be punished in 2013 and only they will be punished, right?

Look, Republicans are basically saying "Hey, look, we know you're scared.  When push came to shove, the America you thought you knew sided with the black guy and for a lot of you that was pretty much the last straw.  So here's the deal:  we promise to make laws that will assure that, demographic shift be damned, they're never going to have that kind of financial or political power again for a long, long time.  We're going to force the reckoning that you know has to be coming soon and we'll make sure the bill goes to them, not you.  And here's the best part.  We'll design the laws to be guilt-free code-word stuff.  We'll give you the power to make the decisions on winners and losers and keep the losers losing for a long time to come.  We've got all kinds of experience with that.  Don't worry about the courts, we've got those covered.  If you side with us now they'll be backing us for decades, that's where there real long game is and then the control at the local and state level really pays off.  But we need you with us, because anyone against us, don't want to be them when this train leaves the station, because it's going to run over everyone else, got it?  What do you say?"

And yes, that means that a healthy chunk of our political process in this country is motivated by the "plot" of GCB.  It's all about vengeance, both petty and fever-bright.  Never mind the GOP's real aim is to screw over the people who support them in the end, but they need the political support for now.  They figure once they get back into power, they won't make the same mistakes of the Dubya era as far as allowing that power to slip through their fingers again.  It's time to reboot America, they believe.  They're not too far away from being able to pull it off, either.  Demographic tides and all be damned if they can lock down power at the state level to simply ignore federal laws they don't like and simply treat the unwashed "others" unlucky enough to live in a red state as untouchable lepers who need to be driven off to the urban hellholes and liberal enclaves.

Something to keep in the back of your mind when you hear the GOP make their pitches this campaign season.

Enjoy The Weather Before It Tries To Kill You

Unusually warm winter, meet unusually warm spring to follow.

A streak of above-normal temperatures that led to the fourth-warmest U.S. winter on record is expected to continue for the next three months, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

NOAA said the southern states of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi will have the highest chance of warm weather from March through May. The forecast was part of a report that said Texas may get drought relief and that the risk of spring river flooding will be the lowest in four years. 

That's actually good, Texas's drought over the last three years has been awful while here in Ohio we got record flooding.  But that will change, right?

The Ohio River Valley and Louisiana have an elevated risk of high water, Furgione said. They aren’t expected to face anything close to the record flooding that swept down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers last year.

The report also said parts of northeastern Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas may get some relief from a severe drought. However, a large part of the southern U.S. from California to Florida is still struggling with drought and that is expected to continue, said David Brown, director of NOAA’s Southern Regional Climate Services.

“The historic magnitude means recovery from the drought will be a very slow process,” Brown said on the conference call.

Brown said the drought caused $6.5 billion in agricultural losses in Texas and Oklahoma last year and led to wildfires that burned 4 million acres in Texas alone. 

Well...better than nothing.  But hey, Cincy has flash flood warnings today.  Looks like more will be on the way.  Wonderful.


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