Thursday, March 29, 2012

Last Call

Remember, it wasn't the "Senate" that refused to vote to end oil subsidies for companies making record profits, it was Republicans who filibustered it.

The Senate on Thursday thwarted Democratic plans to strip billions of dollars in tax breaks from the largest oil companies, just an hour or so after President Obama urged the chamber to kill off the deductions.

Lawmakers voted 51-47 to move forward with Sen. Robert Menendez’s (D-N.J.) bill. Sixty votes were needed to advance the measure.

Two Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both from Maine — crossed party lines and voted to repeal the tax breaks. Four Democrats — Sens. Mark Begich (Alaska), Mary Landrieu (La.), Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Jim Webb (Va.) — voted against the bill.

The outcome of the vote was not a surprise, given that a similar plan failed 52-48 last May. But the decision to take another shot at passing the bill— and the decision by the White House to wade into the fight — underscore the political salience of rising gasoline prices in an election year.

The senators bought and paid for by big oil made sure they get to eat from the government trough even though they collectively made billions in profits last year.  Good ol Mitch the Turtle complained that the oil companies would immediately turn around and punish consumers if they lost their fat government subsidies, so it was in fact Republicans who were protecting you from higher gas prices.

No, stop laughing.

The free market is necessary.  Except when the government is paying corporate donors.

Chris Bag O' Matzohs

So with all the "will he or won't he" speculation about Marco Rubio being the Marquis de Mittens Liason To The 99% or something this week, I wondered what our old friend Chris Christie is doing in the meantime when all the attention is on Marco here.  Don't feel too bad for Christie though.  Turns out he's heading to Jerusalem for Holy Week on somebody else's dime.

In a trip billed as a "Jersey to Jerusalem Trade Mission", Gov. Chris Christie will travel to Israel during Holy Week to expand business opportunities, experience the culture and meet with world leaders. He will also spend time in Jordan with King Abdullah II.
A delegation of business and religious leaders will join Christie, his family and staff, the administration announced this afternoon. The Republican governor will be in Israel from Sunday through Thursday and Jordan until Easter Sunday.
“I think it’s important for me to continue to get a greater awareness of the world around me as a leader and someone who now has a bit of a national voice,” Christie said in an interview in Washington in late February. “I think it’s important for me to continue to open up my mind and my experience to things that are outside of the state of New Jersey.”

Good general advice for anyone, I would think.  Worked for Dubya, after all.  Heck, the same group that inflicted him and Mittens on Israel is picking up the tab for Christie here, the Republican Jewish Coalition.  He may not be the flavor of the month, but he's still on the fast track to be the face of compassionate austerity for the party.  Who knows.

So no, the GOP hasn't kicked Chris off a cliff or anything.  They're still investing plenty in him so he'll plague us later.  Oy vey.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

And Tom Maguire at Just One Minute goes there on the new police station surveillance video that shows a relatively uninjured George Zimmerman being brought in to the Sanford, Florida police station after killing Trayvon Martin.

AND NOW A TOUGH ONE:  Ok, where is the wound on the back of Zimmerman's head on this ABC News video?  The best view is at the 1:01 mark, and I don't even see anything that looks like a band-aid.

Minimal damage would not have surprised me, especially to the face - normally broken noses and black eyes reach their flowering the next morning, so clean off his face and he might look fine that night. But the cut to the back of the head mentioned in the police report?  Where is that?
Well, unless this is a massive police cover-up with phony reports released to the public, someone saw bloodHmm, 'Truthers' become 'Trayvoners'...

Yes, because the folks who believed Dubya killed thousands on purpose are just as insane as people who believe black folk might get shafted by police when the killer is the son of a retired judge, because that never happens. Jesus seal the airlocks.

Need A Cheap Hobby? Try Stalking.

For only $3.99 per month, OnStar customers can now track drivers of their vehicles.  They can tell where you are, how fast you drove, where you stopped, and how long you stopped there.

But noooo, that's not over the line.

Sure, concerned parents can use it to monitor their kids.  Psychos can use it to stalk their significant others.  Law enforcement and OnStar have the ability to go way beyond our expectation of privacy. We don't just have to look at this service, but how it can be used against us, because that is inevitable.  For every alibi verified, or teen spared from teen stupidity, how many will be snooped without knowledge or permission?

Just because you can doesn't mean you should.  There are apps and other ways to show a person's location, there is no need to give even further intrusion.  You can slap a sticker on it that says concerned parent, but I'm not buying it.

Screw That, Man

An Illinois couple is behind bars after a man allegedly beat his 12-year-old stepson, made him eat two screws and then forced him to do hundreds of pushups.

James Jennings and his wife, Lashawn Jennings -- who is the victim's adoptive mother -- were charged with child endangerment and other counts after the boy reported the alleged assault to his school nurse, CBS News reported.

He was also beaten with a wooden paddle until it broke. His back and arms were bruised. Nobody is even trying to pretend this is the first time. What did he do? He ate a cookie and got crumbs in the floor.  I cannot imagine what abuses and terrors he suffered that built up to the event that brought it all down.  I hope he is safe tonight, and is placed with someone who will care for him.

Eating screws?  Please let me follow up and report they didn't get away with this.

Supreme Superlatives, Part 2

Lyle Denniston, of SCOTUSblog, ladies and gents.  Shorter SCOTUS:  "Bill's too long, didn't read."

The Supreme Court spent 91 minutes Wednesday operating on the assumption that it would strike down the key feature of the new health care law, but may have convinced itself in the end not to do that because of just how hard it would be to decide what to do after that.  A common reaction, across the bench, was that the Justices themselves did not want the onerous task of going through the remainder of the entire 2,700 pages of the law and deciding what to keep and what to throw out, and most seemed to think that should be left to Congress.  They could not come together, however, on just what task they would send across the street for the lawmakers to perform.  The net effect may well have shored up support for the individual insurance mandate itself.

The dilemma could be captured perfectly in two separate comments by Justice Antonin Scalia — first, that it “can’t be right” that all of the myriad provisions of the law unrelated to the mandate had to fall with it, but, later, that if the Court were to strike out the mandate, “then the statute’s gone.”  Much of the lively argument focused on just what role the Court would more properly perform in trying to sort out the consequences of nullifying the requirement that virtually every American have health insurance by the year 2014.

The Wednesday morning argument offered the Court three mutually exclusive options: strike down all of the Affordable Care Act along with the mandate (the challengers’ position), strike down only two core changes in the way the health insurance system works (the government position), and strike down nothing but the mandate (the position of a Court-appointed lawyer).   Not one seemed to be especially appealing to members of the Court, and each of the three lawyers who came to the lectern faced tough and often skeptical questioning, from across the bench.

Congress’s capacity to react in a sensible way also came into some question, particularly from Justice Scalia and, in a way, from Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, both of whom seemed to harbor doubts that the lawmakers would be up to the task of working out a new health care law if this one failed, either totally or partially.  Scalia noted the problems in the filibuster-prone Senate.  Kennedy wondered whether expecting Congress to perform was a reference to “the real Congress or a hypothetical Congress.”

At this point it's looking like the health care law will stand not on its legal merits, but because the only people less inclined to expend energy to fix the law than Antonin Scalia is Congress itself.

Awesome.  Washington is full of awesome.

The Rock Biter's Guide To HCR

"So," they said.  "We don't think SCOTUS will repeal the entire health care reform law, or gut the law and effectively end it, because that would put all the pressure on the GOP to replace it with something.  There would be a hole in one-sixth of the US economy.  They'd have do something about it."

And as anyone who is familiar with The Neverending Story can tell you, the GOP is all about embracing the Nothing as far as health care reform (and with it, government itself).  As the Rock Biter said when asked what was destroying his peoples' lands and what was left as a result:

A hole would be something. No, it was...Nothing.

Steve Benen points out that the GOP is perfectly okay with the HCR Nothing taking over. Repeal and Replace is now just Repeal and The Nothing.

When the debate over health care reform got underway in earnest in 2009, Frank Luntz and other GOP pollsters/strategists warned the party that Americans expected improvements to the dysfunctional system, and Republicans couldn't simply say "no" to everything.

Three years later, that's effectively where the party has ended up: wanting to go back to the mess "Obamacare" is cleaning up.

But what about McConnell's main idea? It's one of the GOP's favorite talking points: we don't need real reform; we just need to let consumers buy across state lines. President Obama and the Affordable Care Act allow this, but set minimum standards that states must abide by. McConnell and his party want to go further, removing, or at least severely weakening, those standards.

This is generally called the "race to the bottom." Under McConnell's vision, state policymakers would tell insurers that if they were to set up shop in their state the rules would be written in the industry's favor. The industry would go with the state that offered the sweetest deal -- which is to say, the most lax oversight with the fewest restrictions -- and before long, it would be consumers' only choice. Why? Because every insurer would move to that state, leaving Americans with no other coverage to buy.

That's exactly what happened with the credit card industry, and it's a model to be avoided, not followed.

But tossing us all into The Nothing is what the GOP wants. They "want to give the power to the states" because it's FREEDOM and junk, and instead we'll get the same awful abuses that the credit card industry has been perpetrating on consumers for years, only far worse because this time it will involve health insurance and health care itself. The cheapest, meanest policies that cover the least in health care and have massive deductibles will be the only ones left for the vast majority of Americans and the insurance industry will pocket the difference.  Can't afford it?  There's Nothing you can do about it.  Keen observers will note that the Nothing applies to any social government functions:  Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and retirement, environmental protections, education, food safety, financial products, everything.  You can't provide it yourself because you can't afford it?  You get Nothing.

So no, I don't believe for a second that the GOP will have to replace HCR with something. That would be something, after all. What they want is Nothing.

And the folks that are expecting single payer to rise from the ashes should HCR get mauled?  With a GOP House?  No.  the rocks must be delicious in your world, but single payer ain't happening until there's a seismic shift in the red/blue ratio.  Unless you think this particular SCOTUS is going to rewrite the universe and declare that Congress has to pass a single payer law, in which case the rocks are delicious in your world and they're made of 100% unicorn poop.


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