Friday, June 22, 2012

Last Call

David Paul Kuhn of Real Clear Politics declares the President doomed beyond all hope of undooming as his prediction that Team Obama may get on the sunny side of a third of the white male vote is all but guaranteed absolute doom that will doom his doomed head.

Pundits often note that Romney cannot win with his current level of Hispanic support. That's likely true. But so is the converse: Obama cannot win with his level of white support unless white swing voters withhold their votes from Romney as well.

Today, fewer whites back Obama than any Democratic candidate since Walter Mondale. Romney does not need to emulate Ronald Reagan to win. Should he match Reagan’s share of the white vote in 1984 -- presuming all else remains constant since 2008 -- Romney would rout Obama.

Of course, America has changed since Reagan. Non-Hispanic whites were 89 percent of the electorate when Reagan first won the White House in 1980. They were 85 percent in 1988. By 2008, whites were 74 percent. That shift has upended the electoral landscape. But only so much.

Take Michael Dukakis’ fate as an example. In 1988, George H.W. Bush’s margin of victory exceeded Obama’s in 2008. But if Obama’s level of white support in 2012 equals Dukakis’, and all else remains the same from 2008, Obama would likely narrowly win. He would lack a mandate and risk immediate lame-duck status. But he would survive with white support that once sundered Democrats.

Unless . . .

What if Obama doesn't even match Dukakis with whites? That’s the dynamic of 2012. This electorate has a white floor. And it has broken for this president. Democrats cannot depend on demographics to save them.

So, if you're wondering why a bunch of red states have passed laws designed to make it harder for urban and poor voters to vote (many of which are non-whites) then you probably haven't been paying attention to this blog for the last 3 years.   Is there anything Obama can do, pray tell?  Kuhn isn't saying, you'd have to buy his book on why white men are the neglected victims of politics.

And to Kuhn, it's too late for Obama, of course.  Dooooooooooooooom.

In 2010, whites backed GOP House candidates by a 60-38 margin. It gave Republicans a historic landslide. The white margin two years ago roughly matches the break-even point today. That’s because presidential electorates are browner and blacker, though possibly not enough for Democrats. Plainly put, the data shows that Romney will likely win if he matches his party’s minority support in 2008 and its majority support in 2010.

So if Romney gets more votes than McCain did in 2008, he could win.  What trenchant analysis.  White people hate Obama more than Michael Dukakis now?  What's happened in the last 3 years or so to make that happen, one has to wonder.  Stock market's up.  Unemployment is down.  But white men overwhelmingly turned on the President's party in 2010.

I can't imagine why.

The Stakes Next Week

Ahead of next week's Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act, it's important to remember the legislation is providing benefits and help to people right now, and billions of dollars in coverage expansions and aid to providers is already being used.  If SCOTUS strikes the law down, all of that could instantly go away in places like Peekskill, NY.

In this small city about an hour from Manhattan, pregnant teenagers, laid-off professionals and day laborers without insurance receive care at a community health center that has been part of the social fabric here for nearly four decades.

Because of the sweeping federal health care law passed two years ago, the center, part of the Hudson River HealthCare network, received a $4.5 million grant last month to expand. It plans to add six more medical and seven more dental exam rooms, allowing it to see as many as 5,000 additional patients, many of whom are without insurance, on Medicaid or have limited coverage. An additional 730 community centers or so like it are to be renovated or built across the country in the next two years for patients like that. 

Unless the Supreme Court says otherwise

And you'd better believe Republicans will take health care away from millions to give tax cuts to Mitt Romney and his friends.

Critics of the law, particularly Congressional Republicans, argue that much of the spending already allocated and authorized is wasteful. They have been particularly concerned over the Prevention and Public Health Fund, whose funds have already been cut by a third as lawmakers sought to find money for other programs. 

“Instead of helping Americans prevent health problems, the president’s new law actually uses this so-called prevention fund as a Washington slush fund,” Senator John Barrasso, a Republican from Wyoming, said last month. 

Barrasso is calling the Hudson River HealthCare network liars and a slush fund.  Of course, he gets free health care being a Senator.  Do you?

As a result, people like Linda Ellis, 64, are now insured. Ms. Ellis could not find a private insurance company to cover her when she lost her employer-sponsored plan after being laid off. Her husband is already enrolled in the federal Medicare program, so she had to try to find coverage on her own. She was not eligible for the state Medicaid program. Because of a shoulder condition and minor ailments like sinusitis, no one would offer her a policy when she scrambled to find coverage. 

“People don’t realize you can get rejected in the private market even if it’s not life-threatening,” said Ms. Ellis, who now pays $428 a month for insurance from a federally financed state program in Ohio. Ms. Ellis had contacted Families USA, a consumer advocacy group that provided her contact information to The New York Times. 

But Ms. Ellis said she had no idea whether she would continue to be covered if the Supreme Court declared the entire law unconstitutional. When she asked the office of her United States senator, she was told no one could say, and federal officials declined to comment on what might happen to any program now financed under the law. “Obviously I’m concerned,” she said. 

She should be.  Five guys with free health care for the rest of their lives could take affordable health coverage from people like Linda here as early as Monday.   Folks, the Affordable Care Act is doing good things now and I damn well bet it's doing good things for some of the people who are reading this right now.   All that could vanish next week.  Doesn't that bother anyone?

Supreme Irony, Yet Again

We may not have gotten the fateful Affordable Care Act or Arizona immigration law decisions from SCOTUS this week (those are coming next week presumably, the last week of term before recess) but we did get two pretty big cases as Scott Lemieux discusses here.

Two other major rulings today, however, illustrate the importance of partisan and ideological divides on the Court. Dorsey v. U.S. is a case that arose from attempts by Congress to correct the vastly disproportionate sentences given to possessors and distributors of crack cocaine (as opposed to powdered cocaine). The crack/powder disparity was particularly problematic because it disproportionately burdened African-Americans. The question the Court addressed was whether the less disproportionate sentence (which reduce the crack/powder disparity from 100-1 to 18-1) applied to those who committed an offense before the new guidelines took effect but were not sentenced until afterwards.

In a 5-4 decision among ideological lines—with the Court's most moderate Republican, Anthony Kennedy, joining the Court's four Democratic appointees—the Court logically held that the new guidelines did apply retroactively in these cases.

This was the 5-4 split we expect from SCOTUS these days, with Kennedy calling the shots.  This time he made the right call.  Far from this paradigm was the other major ruling today, Knox v. SEIU.

Another important case today also fell along ideological lines, although in a more complex way (with two of the Court's more liberal justices joining the judgment of the Court's Republican appointees but not the reasoning.) Going far beyond what was necessary to decide the case at hand, the majority in Knox v. SEIU held that when public-sector unions levy a special assessment it must be done on an "opt-in" basis (requiring affirmative consent) rather than an "opt-out" basis (which allows people to not to pay an assessment related to political action after being given notice.) The idea that the First Amendment requires an opt-in procedure is such radical policy-making that, as Justice Sotomayor argued in her concurrence, that the argument was not even made by the individuals bringing the challenge to the SEIU's actions, who "did not question the validity of our precedents, which consistently have recognized that an opt-out system of fee collection comports with the Constitution." As reflected by the fact that Sotomayor and Ginsburg concurred in the judgment, the outcome of the case is more defensible than the reasoning.

And that's the far more shocking ruling, especially given it almost completely contradicts the reasoning given in Citizens United.  There, the majority said that a corporation's right to political speech was paramount over everything else including the employees and shareholders of the company who may object.  The Knox decision is basically the opposite:  the individual non-union members have a greater right to First Amendment rights than the unions do.  What this effectively does is place shackles on unions in the political speech through money category, but leaves unfettered corporations as a political entity.

But there's a much bigger problem in the Knox decision's language on the opt-in requirement as Garrett Epps points out:

That new rule would impose substantial administrative costs on the union, and reduce the amount it collects. But more significantly, the majority’s rationale would seem to apply to all agency payments by non-members. And indeed, language in the opinion suggests that the majority thinks the whole idea of agency fees is a violation of the First Amendment. “[C] compulsory fees constitute a form of compelled speech and association that imposes a ‘significant impingement on First Amendment rights,’” the Court said, quoting an earlier case.  “Our cases to date have tolerated this ‘impingement,’ and we do not revisit today whether the Court’s former cases have given adequate recognition to the critical First Amendment rights at stake.”

If I were the National Right to Work Legal Defense Committee, these words might sound to me very much like, “Bring us a case and we will void the agency shop altogether.” That’s particularly true given language later in the opinion calling the entire “free rider” rationale into question. If workers can’t be required to join a union or to pay agency fees, then the so-called “right to work” zone will cover 50 states and Puerto Rico.

What Epps is saying here is mind-numbing.  If he's right in interpretation here, it means with the right case, the Scalia-Thomas-Alito-Roberts-Kennedy majority are indicating that the freedom to not belong to a union is so important that it literally means that unions themselves may violate the First Amendment on non-union workers by collecting membership dues and then using those dues for political action that the employees may not agree with, and almost certainly means the complete end of unions and collective bargaining in the United States could be just a few years away.  At the very least the decision indicates the conservatives on the Roberts Court want to take up the question of if unions should even be allowed to exist, of if they violate freedom of speech of non-union workers.

Think about thatCitizens United said that as a business entity engaged in political speech, corporations have unlimited resources and can donate whatever they want and take whatever political positions they want regardless of what shareholders and employees think.  But unions as a business entity engaged in political speech?  Alito seems to be suggesting that when unions use dues for political activism, anything short of a unanimous decision of all contributing union members is a violation of freedom of speech of those who dissent.  Corporations are people and get unlimited political speech and can donate unlimited money to make that speech heard.  But unions?  One dissenting, dues-paying union member is enough to eliminate that right.

If there was still any doubt in your mind that the Supreme Court in this country is corrupt beyond imagining, this decision should chill you to the bone.

Celebrity Roundup

Natalee Holloway's mother is suing The National Enquirer.  She says they published information they knew was not true in order to profit from the story.  I'm not sure what prompted this now, but I believe the Enquirer did a fair amount of keeping the story in the public eye, following leads and turning up clues.  After the nasty lawsuit business from the late 80s, the Enquirer may not be a snooty publication, but their stuff pans out more often than not.  When I worked as a printer, we kept magazines around because we could read short little articles while the presses ran.  I'd read the gossip and forget about it, until I heard it on major news weeks later.  I don't think Holloway has a chance, but we'll see.

Terminator 3 star Nick Stahl left rehab, and this time his wife isn't searching for him.  She may feel he's in danger but she also knows his absence is voluntary, so she isn't requesting police assistance or applying pressure on Stahl to return.  "He knows exactly where home is," she said.  Here's hoping this troubled fellow gets a grip before something really bad happens.

Jeff Daniels confirms Dumb and Dumber To, perhaps the least anticipated sequel of all time,  is officially dead.  Therefore, I have regained just a little faith in Hollywood's judgment.  Not a lot, but it's a refreshing change.

Boy Searched At School Without Mother's Knowledge

Clarinda Cox told North Carolina TV station WRAL that the assistant principal at Union Elementary school, Teresa Holmes, ordered her son, Justin, to remove his shoes, jeans and shirt, leaving him in his boxers and a T-shirt.
No one from the school contacted her about the accusations or the search. She said she found out about the incident when her son came home and appeared upset, Cox said.
Holmes acknowledged searching the boy on June 1, but in a statement to WRAL, she said that when $20 fell from a female classmate’s pocket in the cafeteria, “seven or eight” students saw the Justin dive to pick it up.
Holmes said she called a male janitor to witness the search in her office. Justin was made to remove his shoes, socks, jeans and shirt. The items were checked thoroughly before they were returned to him. She also acknowledged running her hands “outside of the waistband of his boxers.”
So, seven or eight kids  saw the entirely wrong thing?  And because she says he has lied in the past, something she can't prove, she decides he deserves to forfeit his privacy?  She told him she had the authority to search him because others said he had the money.  And somehow, she thinks hugging him afterwards makes it even slightly better.

The mother wasn't notified.  Childcare 101 says that you don't do anything without parental knowledge and consent.  The school called her overzealous in her actions.  What she did was criminal.  Because she did it to a minor who doesn't know better only makes it worse.  He was coerced into removing clothing for a search without his mother's permission. There is no way that could be considered the right thing to do.

Sounds to me like seven or eight kids, two teachers, and one very thoughtless assistant principal owe this boy an apology.

Racing To The Bottom

Steve M. catches a recent YouGov poll on America's foreign policy that includes the Birther Question.  America failed miserably.


Ugh.  To recap, less than 50% of America now believes for sure that the President was born in the US, and the reason why that's so low is less than 20% of Republicans are now sure the President was born in Hawaii.

You realize, Republicans, you have to introduce articles of impeachment over this if you're correct.  Which you're not, you're just assholes.

The nearly as depressing number: the roughly 10% of Democrats who think the President was not born in the US and the 11% more who aren't sure.   Betting a lot of them live around my neck of the woods.

And that still leaves less than half of independents who believe the President was born in the US.  Look folks, even if a fraction of the people in the Birther/not sure categories are just completely full-blown racists, less than half the country still believes in this staggering ignorance after four years.  It's awful.  Just awful.  And I'm betting these numbers are damn close to matching opinions on the Affordable Care Act too, just as a thought.

Not So Fast And Absolutely Furious, Part 2

Over at Maddowblog, Steve Benen rightfully points out that the entire Fast and Furious contempt "controversy" is being sold as a massive conspiracy to purposely arm Mexican drug cartels so that they kill Americans so that Obama takes your guns.

Newt Gingrich appeared on CNBC last night and argued, with a straight face, that the so-called "Fast and Furious" controversy was part of an elaborate ploy to enact gun control. He wasn't kidding.

As Gingrich sees it, the Bush and Obama administrations deliberately attempted misguided sting operations so there would be deadly gun violence along the U.S.-Mexican border, which in turn would repulse the American mainstream, which in turn would create a demand for gun-control legislation, which in turn would cause Congress to pass gun-control laws, which in turn would cause a breakdown of Second Amendment rights.

Well, you might be thinking, Newt Gingrich is, you know, Newt Gingrich. Surely more sensible and more responsible figures in American politics see this conspiracy theory as ridiculous. But therein lies the point: this crackpot idea is the basis for the "controversy" itself.

Republicans have been banging on the OBAMA IS COMING FOR YOUR GUNS drum now for four years, and yet it hasn't happened.  Democrats haven't even tried to introduce any sort of gun control legislation, but the Republicans have now taken the controversy to the point of trying to remove the Attorney General through intimidation and threat of contempt of Congress.

The GOP has most of all declared war on anyone who isn't a Republican.


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