Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Last Call For Republicans Terrified Of Obamacare

How scared are Republicans of Obamacare working?  Here in Ohio, SuperPACs are taking out ads in order to convince people to not sign up for Obamacare at all.  Steve Benen catches this story from the Dayton Daily News:

With time running out, opponents of the Affordable Care Act have taken to the airwaves in Ohio and elsewhere with ad campaigns not only attacking the bill's merits but also actively encouraging uninsured Americans not to sign up for coverage under the health care law.
The Obama administration has acknowledged the success of the law, commonly referred to as Obamacare, depends in large part on broad-based participation in federal and state-run health exchanges that will begin selling government-subsidized health plans to the uninsured on Oct. 1.
The anti-enrollment campaigns reflect the resignation and desperation of many Obamacare opponents who have given up hope of a government repeal or court-ordered injunction to stop full implementation of the law beginning next year.

Nice of them.

To recap, Republicans hate President Obama getting credit for Obamacare so much that they're spending SuperPAC money in order to con people into staying without health care in Ohio's exchange, in order to try to make Ohio's exchange not work.

This is the Republican solution to affordable health care, spending money on telling people to not get health care.  That's how much they fear Obamacare.  Benen summarizes:

To reiterate what we discussed last week, I hope folks will pause to let this sink in for a moment. Unlike every other industrialized democracy on the planet, the United States -- easily the wealthiest nation on earth -- has tolerated a significant chunk of its population going without basic health care coverage. These Americans and their families can't afford to see a doctor and are one serious illness from financial ruin. Many have died because they live in a country that allows people to go without access to basic care.

After nearly a century of politicians talking about the problem, President Obama actually signed the Affordable Care Act into law three years ago, giving working families a level of health-care security they've never had before, and throwing a life preserver to the uninsured. Now, Republicans aren't just actively trying to sabotage the law, they're telling struggling Americans it's better to drown than accept the life preserver.

Republicans want you to suffer, to risk your family's health and access to affordable care and hey, maybe even their lives, for the political gain of getting to "prove" that government can't be the solution.

That is your Republican party, folks.  At this point, they are actively trying to kill people to win.

If You Wonder Why People Hate Congress

Let's start with House Republicans spending the final week or so before their next five week vacation approving bills that have zero chance of passing, rather than doing anything about jobs, the economy, or any other actual problems we have.

Among 10 bills headed for a floor vote this week are measures that would add new restrictions on federal agencies charged with crafting rules. Another bill would give Congress more power to block the costliest regulations.

The votes are part of the GOP’s “Stop Government Abuse Week,” a moniker that is drawing fire from public interest groups that argue the government has a responsibility to protect public health and safety.

“Apparently, they’re trying to equate the functions of various federal agencies with abuse, and I don’t think that resonates well,” said Rachel Weintraub, legislative director for the Consumer Federation of America.

The centerpiece of the GOP push is the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, which would require Congress to approve any federal rule that carries an annual price tag of $100 million or more.

The legislation would create a new hurdle that regulations would have to clear before taking effect. It has been introduced in the last three Congresses, and the latest incarnation, offered by Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.), has attracted 164 co-sponsors.

But with companion legislation in the Democratic-controlled Senate likely going nowhere, Weintraub dismissed the vote as political theater.

“I think it’s a show. They want to do something they can point to, going into the recess,” she said. “This fits into their anti-regulatory narrative.” 

To recap, the guys in government that say the federal government has too much power, want more power over the federal government.  To a Republican, the fact that Democrats exist is "government abuse". And yet after these clowns pass this legislation, they're on vacation all summer until after Labor Day.  Nice work if you can get it.

Or in this case, no work.  By the way,under the REINS Act, the House GOP could then veto basically every executive branch rule on the books by saying its impact on the economy was more than $100 million.  Republicans could then shut down every executive branch agency and cabinet department at will.  They know it won't pass, and they'd never hand that kind of power to Democrats with a GOP president.  But they'll waste time passing it anyway, because that's what they do.

Like I said, clowns.

We Don't Want To Be The Party Of Bigots, But...

Apparently the Young Republican National Federation is kind of bummed that the party is being run by racist, misogynist, bigoted homophobes and such, and they really wish party leaders and Republicans in Congress would be, you know, less embarrassing, according to newly elected federation chairman, Jason Weingartner.

Weingartner said House Republicans, who won’t pass the Democratic-led Senate’s version of an immigration overhaul, should pass their own version that at least “streamlines and expands” legal slots for foreign students and workers.

For now, he said, that would sidestep Republicans who demand border security and Democrats who demand a citizenship path for immigrants already in the country illegally.

On health care, Weingartner said that besides regularly voting to repeal Obama’s law, the GOP should emphasize its own ideas such as buying insurance across state lines, while better explaining the Affordable Care Act’s cost shift onto younger, healthy individuals.

On same-sex marriage and abortion, young GOP leaders say Republicans should tolerate a range of views, even while maintaining a socially conservative identity. Some of these activists say their party must tread lightly after the Supreme Court recently threw out the most powerful part of the Voting Rights Act, the law that became a major turning point in black Americans’ struggle for equal rights and political power.

“We don’t have to lose our principles,” said Angel Garcia, who leads the Young Republicans in Chicago, Obama’s hometown. “But we have to have a conversation on all these issues so we don’t leave Democrats to say we’re just old white men and racist, bigoted homophobes.”

I got news for you, YRNF.  Your party already abandoned its principles, and only cares now about causing as much damage to the American people as possible in order to convince them it's Obama's fault.  They don't have new ideas or any alternatives to fix the problems we face because they don't want those problems fixed.  They don't have any intention of tolerating anyone they don't agree with.  I'm glad you recognize the fact, but the grim reality is there's no "saving" this Republican party, because they oppose government itself.

That conversation you long for has already happened in the minds of tens of millions of Americans, and you guys lost.  And you're going to have to do a hell of a lot more than just mope about a conference to get anyone to listen to what you have to say, Democrat or Republican.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Last Call For Hoosier School Grades

Just in case you still thought Republicans gave a damn about fixing schools rather than destroying them and privatizing the ashes or something, meet current Florida state school superintendent Tony Bennett, who recently joined Gov. Skeletor McBatBoy from Indiana, where Mr. Bennett still has a few pieces of embarrassing business to deal with back Indianapolis way.

Former Indiana and current Florida schools chief Tony Bennett built his national star by promising to hold "failing" schools accountable. But when it appeared an Indianapolis charter school run by a prominent Republican donor might receive a poor grade, Bennett's education team frantically overhauled his signature "A-F" school grading system to improve the school's marks.

Emails obtained by The Associated Press show Bennett and his staff scrambled last fall to ensure influential donor Christel DeHaan's school received an "A," despite poor test scores in algebra that initially earned it a "C."

If you're shocked an appalled by this, you really haven't been paying attention to what Republicans are doing to public schools at the state level, have you?  GOP fat cat donor with a shiny charter school wasn't going to get a C grade from the state, no sir.  You buy those politicians, they stay bought.

Though Indiana had had a school ranking system since 1999, Bennett switched to the A-F system and made it a signature item of his education agenda, raising the stakes for schools statewide.

Bennett consistently cited Christel House as a top-performing school as he secured support for the measure from business groups and lawmakers, including House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long.

But trouble loomed when Indiana's then-grading director, Jon Gubera, first alerted Bennett on Sept. 12 that the Christel House Academy had scored less than an A.

"This will be a HUGE problem for us," Bennett wrote in a Sept. 12, 2012 email to Neal.
Neal fired back a few minutes later, "Oh, crap. We cannot release until this is resolved."

By Sept. 13, Gubera unveiled it was a 2.9, or a "C."

So Bennett and his GOP buddies retooled the entire state school grading scale just to give a multimillionaire donor's school an A.  Because that, ladies and gentlemen, is how "accountability" works when you're a Republican.  You buy it, then you tell everyone how awesome charter schools are, and how miserable public schools are, and then you have justification to take money from public schools and give it to charter ones, and all the right people make fat stacks of cash.

Meanwhile, let's keep telling ourselves the problem with schools are teachers and poor minority kids and not for-profit raiders like Tony Bennett.

Stuck In The Past, Romney-Style

It's nice to know that if America had elected Mitt Romney, he'd still be arguing over whether or not he made that famous 47 percent quote.  You know, the one on tape.  Apparently, he thinks we forget or something (or that Google disintegrates after 200 days.)  David Corn:

Poor Mitt Romney. He seems unable to come to terms with one of the most significant episodes in his public life: the 47 percent video that undercut his chance of becoming president of the United States.

Sunday's Washington Post featured an article adapted from reporter Dan Balz's new 2012 campaign book, Collision 2012, and the excerpt focused on Romney's take on why he entered the race and why he lost. Toward the end of the article, which was based on a series of interviews Balz conducted with Romney, the twice-failed Republican presidential candidate was forced to confront his 47-percent remarks, and he just couldn't do so forthrightly.

There's a shocker.

[Romney] was in California and said at first he couldn’t get a look at the video. His advisers were pushing him to respond as quickly as he could. "As I understood it, and as they described it to me, not having heard it, it was saying, 'Look, the Democrats have 47 percent, we’ve got 45 percent, my job is to get the people in the middle, and I’ve got to get the people in the middle,'" he said. "And I thought, 'Well, that’s a reasonable thing.'... It's not a topic I talk about in public, but there's nothing wrong with it. They've got a bloc of voters, we've got a bloc of voters, I've got to get the ones in the middle. And I thought that that would be how it would be perceived—as a candidate talking about the process of focusing on the people in the middle who can either vote Republican or Democrat. As it turned out, down the road, it became perceived as being something very different."

In other words, he tried to pull one over on Dan Balz.  What Romney actually said of course, was:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what… These are people who pay no income tax..."[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

David Corn should know, he was the guy that got the tape and broke the story...and most likely ended Mitt Romney's 2012 run cold.  But he's outright lying to the DC press, because they figure they still won't hold him accountable for his own actions.  They figured we forgot.  We did...we just didn't forget why he lost.

Pope Francis Hits A Home Run

It's things like this that make reading news so rewarding.  With absolutely no warning (it was never on my radar whatsoever) Pope Francis has not only broadly opened up the door to acceptance for gay people, but demonstrates a genuine respect for people in general.  In other words, he just showed something we haven't seen from the religious front in a while.

ABOARD THE PAPAL AIRCRAFT (AP) -- Pope Francis reached out to gays on Monday, saying he wouldn't judge priests for their sexual orientation in a remarkably open and wide-ranging news conference as he returned from his first foreign trip.
"If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?" Francis asked.

Even a jaded old broad like me can appreciate the Pope taking such a stance, and not forcing a cat and mouse game where the answers are carefully extricated, pulled through layers of political spin and carefully placed vagueness.  A question was asked, and he answered it.  Directly, openly, completely and awesomely.  

We may have a Pope who is full of surprises, and some of the compassion and humility that a true leader needs to show for those who look to him for answers.  If nothing else, we can know from this that he is not a puppet, repeating the tried and true responses that deflect nosy reporters.  And for that reason, I have a newfound respect for Pope Francis.  He blasted this one out of the park.

[Zandar's note:  It's good to see Bon back and hopefully you'll be seeing more of her soon.  On the other hand, I trust Pope Francis about as far as he can throw me.]


Monday, July 29, 2013

Last Call For City Employee Healthcare

As far as major American cities with employee medical costs are concerned, a bunch of them are looking at putting employees on Obamacare in order to save local taxpayers millions, starting with of course Detroit:

As Detroit enters the federal bankruptcy process, the city is proposing a controversial plan for paring some of the $5.7 billion it owes in retiree health costs: pushing many of those too young to qualify for Medicare out of city-run coverage and into the new insurance markets that will soon be operating under the Obama health care law

Officials say the plan would be part of a broader effort to save Detroit tens of millions of dollars in health costs each year, a major element in a restructuring package that must be approved by a bankruptcy judge. It is being watched closely by municipal leaders around the nation, many of whom complain of mounting, unsustainable prices for the health care promised to retired city workers. 

Similar proposals that could shift public sector retirees into the new insurance markets, called exchanges, are already being planned or contemplated in places like Chicago; Sheboygan County, Wis.; and Stockton, Calif. While large employers that eliminate health benefits for full-time workers can be penalized under the health care law, retirees are a different matter

That's probably the best way forward for Detroit, frankly.  I don't like it, but it's better than the alternative:  no health care.  And once again, the more people making a success out of exchanges, the more people will use them.  Eventually, we'll be getting to a single-payer model.  But for now, Obamacare's exchanges are going to be where health care is going to go over the next several years.

Picasso Baby Blues

I had a very interesting and enlightening discussion with a good friend over the weekend about Jay Z's new project, Picasso Baby.  Rolling Stone:

Earlier this month, Jay Z gave a impressively Herculean performance in New York City, rapping the Magna Carta Holy Grail track "Picasso Baby" over and over again for six hours straight at the Pace Gallery.

The performance was filmed, and HBO just announced that it will be airing the resulting work, Picasso Baby: A Performance Art Film. The special will debut on Friday, August 2nd at 11 p.m. Eastern time, immediately after the rapper's appearance on Real Time With Bill Maher. In the trailer for the film, Jay Z can be seen interacting with Alan Cumming, Judd Apatow, and the artist Marina Abramovic, who were all spotted at the gallery during the performance. 

My friend's argument was that Jay Z was guilty of massive appropriation of culture here, and that the art community was furious with him for doing the full nouveau riche on it.  She's somebody with a couple of art degrees and on the subject she's far more qualified than myself to speak, so I listened.  The inclusion of Marina Abramovic was really deep into shark-jumping territory, she argued, and in his quest for artistic legitimacy, Jay Z has simply blundered into the world of performance art and taken over through his money, not his talent.  She didn't think Jay Z had any methodology in the piece, either, no root in art of the body, no paradigm, just "kids playing dressup."

My counter-argument was that if Jay Z was anyone else but Jay Z, it would be considered a major boost to the world of performance art, and that the guy was far from the only putative art snob dropping ridiculous amounts of money to buy art (in this case, he basically bought himself an HBO special) in order to get the access and power its exclusivity and legitimacy provides.  Why shouldn't a black man who has legitimately made it not push the boundaries of culture?  Jay Z didn't need the art world to become famous, maybe it needs someone like like him to expand it.

But, she rebutted, that's what makes the project so brazenly and transparently shallow.  Everyone can clearly see Jay Z is doing this not for the love of art, but for the sake of that exclusivity, that attention, and that power he's thirsting to receive.  It's culture appropriation in an attempt to become something he's not, and that it's not really that much different from other examples of appropriation, say, if Marina Abramovic went on her next world tour as a performance artist and chose rap as her medium.

My rebuttal was that the judgment of Jay Z has been pretty harsh, especially since the project hasn't aired, and that if say, a white musical artist like Bono or Sting were combining their music with performance art in a gallery, it would be applauded.  We both then agreed to at least watch the special Friday night to see what Jay Z is at least capable of.

What say the rest of you?  Any interest in Picasso Baby?  Is Jay Z and Beyonce's "life as performance art" mode over the last couple of years, meticulously documented and packaged, presented, and dissected really art?  Is it buying legitimacy, or earned?  Is it belittling the world of art, or is it strengthening it?  What role does race play in all of this?

I think it's fascinating, but I want to hear from you guys.

Four Out Of Five, Folks

A new Associated Press economic report finds some pretty grim numbers for the large majority of American workers.

Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.

Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor and loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.

The AP defines this struggle pretty clearly:

The gauge defines "economic insecurity" as experiencing unemployment at some point in their working lives, or a year or more of reliance on government aid such as food stamps or income below 150 percent of the poverty line. Measured across all races, the risk of economic insecurity rises to 79 percent.

I know I meet that criteria on the first condition, more than a few times (as I expect most of us will), and come very close to qualifying for the second as well (and as a result of the first leading to the second, I came close to the third to boot.)  But here's the food for thought: if income inequality in America really is this bad (and it is) what does that mean for low income voters voting Republican?

Sometimes termed "the invisible poor" by demographers, lower-income whites are generally dispersed in suburbs as well as small rural towns, where more than 60 percent of the poor are white.  Concentrated in Appalachia in the East, they are also numerous in the industrial Midwest and spread across America's heartland, from Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma up through the Great Plains.

More than 19 million whites fall below the poverty line of $23,021 for a family of four, accounting for more than 41 percent of the nation's destitute, nearly double the number of poor blacks.

Nearly 20 million poor whites, many of them right here in my area:  the Ohio/Indiana/Kentucky tristate, as well as other red states in the Midwest.  And overwhelmingly these are the voters that install Republican governments at the state level to make inequality worse, with massive tax cuts for the rich at the expense of programs that go to help these very voters.

They've been taught time and again that the problem is too much government interference in corporate America that's forcing these good, upstanding business giants to lay people off, and besides, it's all the black president's fault.

In 2013 poverty is far less about race than it is simply not being among the one percent, and we're fighting battles over the scraps that the corporations give us.  That's just the way they want it.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Last Call For Hannity And Rush

And finally, the end may be near for the radio hatemongers on the right, done in by the most implacable foe of all...


In a major shakeup for the radio industry, Cumulus Media, the second-biggest broadcaster in the country, is planning to drop both Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity from its stations at the end of the year, an industry source told POLITICO on Sunday. 
Cumulus has decided that it will not renew its contracts with either host, the source said, a move that would remove the two most highly rated conservative talk personalities from more than 40 Cumulus channels in major markets.

The decision comes after negotiations between Cumulus and Premiere Networks, the division of Clear Channel that distributes Limbaugh and Hannity's shows, broke down due to disagreements over the cost of the distribution rights, the source said. Cumulus is known to drive a hard bargain on costs, and Clear Channel is known to seek top dollar for big names. 
As industry insiders caution, Cumulus and Clear Channel have come to the brink before during contract negotiations only to resume talks. But the source told POLITICO that Clear Channel was unlikely to reduce the cost for distribution rights to a level that would satisfy Cumulus.

Another major win for Angelo Carusone, the Media Matters crusader who went after Glenn Beck's advertisers and got him off the air.  He's been going after Rush and Hannity's advertisers, and without the ad revenue, Clear Channel is forced to raise rates on distributors.  And they're not going to pay for a damaged product that could cost them listeners and advertisers to boot.

Hitting Hannity and Rush in the wallet has been the most effective strategy so far.  We need to keep it up.

Motor City Bailout Is Out Of Gas

Having not bailed out any other municipality that has declared bankruptcy, the Obama administration isn't about to make an exception for Detroit.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Sunday defended the administration’s decision not to help bail out Detroit, saying that the city would need to negotiate its own resolution with creditors.

“Detroit’s economic problems have been a long time in developing. We stand with Detroit trying to work through how it approaches these issues,” said Lew in an interview on ABC’s “This Week.”

But he added that “when it comes to the questions between Detroit and its creditors, that’s really something that Detroit is going to have to work out with its creditors.”

Lew’s comments come one week after Detroit became the largest municipality in American history to declare bankruptcy.

Labor unions have pressed the administration to intervene and provide a federal bailout to help protect the pensions of city workers and retirees. The AFL-CIO on Friday called for an “immediate infusion of federal assistance.”

I don't know why the AFL-CIO is trying to put President Obama in an impossible position.  They have to know a bailout is politically and most likely legally impossible.  So why are they screaming for President Obama to produce the impossible?

The real problem here is the Michigan GOP, Gov. Rick Snyder, and the odious Emergency Manager laws that unconstitutionally forced Detroit into bankruptcy and disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of Detroit voters.  There's your actual person to blame, folks.  Not President Obama.

Nobody's talking about that aspect of this story, and that's criminal.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Last Call For Hometown Disaster

Some pretty brutal flooding in the part of North Carolina where I grew up this weekend:  Catawba County and my hometown of Hickory got up to 12 inches of rain since Friday night, and that's put a lot of people and places I grew up with in a hell of a lot of danger as the Unifour area is facing record flooding.

Hickory Mayor Rudy Wright declared a state of emergency, telling residents to stay indoors and away from flooded roads and washed-out bridges.

“This is a time for all of us to be very careful and patient,” Wright said. “The cleanup is going to take a while.”

Heavy rain pushed into the Charlotte area early Saturday afternoon, when a nearly stationary weather system dumped more than 12 inches of rain in some parts of Catawba, western Lincoln and northern Cleveland counties.

Some 50 to 60 roads were closed in Catawba County, and at least six were expected to remain closed for at least three months, the Hickory Daily Record reported.

The heavy rain sent large volumes of water into streams and creeks that feed into the Catawba River. High Shoals Lake in Catawba County was a foot above full level Saturday evening, and the water level rose nearly 5 feet between 4 a.m. and 2 p.m. 

ZandarDad says he and ZandarMom are fine, but things are pretty bad in low-lying areas, including one of the streets I used to live on being completely washed out.  He hasn't seen anything this bad since Hurricane Hugo came inland and drew a line from Charleston to Charlotte to Hickory back in '89.  It could be months before some roads are open again, and bridges have been pretty badly damaged along the Catawba River and Lake Hickory.  States of emergency have been declared, and I hope the federal government comes through.

If you're back in my old neck of the woods, guys, keep safe.

What The Loss Of Section 5 Means

As Joey Fishkin at Balkinization points out, the real losers with the elimination of Section 5 are local and county races in pre-clearance states where there was nobody but the DoJ looking over the shoulders of voting officials.  Take the example of school board elections in Beaumont, Texas:

This is a convoluted tale, as these tales often are. But in brief, three candidates who lost in the last election to three of the four black school board members are trying to get a state court to oust those three black incumbents and install them (the losing candidates) instead. The losing candidates pulled off a sneaky, and rather brazen, subterfuge: they filed candidate papers for a special election that had not yet been announced, and then subsequently convinced a state court that state law required ordering the election, with a retroactive filing deadline that had already passed. Since the three black incumbents did not file candidate papers—understandably, since no election had been called for their seats, and they are only halfway through their terms—the non-black challengers say the court should just install them, the challengers, as winners by default.  

Now, with Section 5 in place, the DoJ shut that nonsense down.  Section 5 is now gone.  Guess what that means?
What a difference a couple of months makes. Today, because “things have changed in the South,” Beaumont is out from under Section 5. Consequently, the federal court has just declared that it lacks any jurisdiction over this dispute.  It has sent the case back to state court, where the non-black candidates have renewed their mandamus motion for a court order ousting the black incumbents and installing themselves as the new school board.

And there's basically nothing to stop them.  Three duly-elected black school board members are simply going to be thrown off the board because white people can now get away with it.  The argument is that what the DoJ did to make elections fair in Beaumont is now 100% illegal, so those elected under those standards should be tossed from office.

This will happen in states across the South, which is why Section 3 is now so vital...because what Republicans mean when they say "Voter ID" is "Voter Suppression".

StupidiNews, Weekend Edition!

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Kroog Versus The GOP's Last Stand

How terrified are Republicans that Obamacare will work?  Terrified enough to threaten to shut down the government.  Paul Krugman:

Leading Republicans appear to be nerving themselves up for another round of attempted fiscal blackmail. With the end of the fiscal year looming, they aren’t offering the kinds of compromises that might produce a deal and avoid a government shutdown; instead, they’re drafting extremist legislation — bills that would, for example, cut clean-water grants by 83 percent — that has no chance of becoming law. Furthermore, they’re threatening, once again, to block any rise in the debt ceiling, a move that would damage the U.S. economy and possibly provoke a world financial crisis

Yet even as Republican politicians seem ready to go on the offensive, there’s a palpable sense of anxiety, even despair, among conservative pundits and analysts. Better-informed people on the right seem, finally, to be facing up to a horrible truth: Health care reform, President Obama’s signature policy achievement, is probably going to work

The wing of the GOP that actually wants to win elections, specifically, is terrified.  They're now seeing the extremist wing of the GOP that would rather burn the country to ashes juggling flaming torches in a fireworks factory while standing on an oil-soaked tightrope.  They stopped giving a damn the second President Obama got re-elected.  For them, it's about enacting bloody revenge against the people who made Obama's second term possible:  women, working-class parents and their families,  African-Americans and Latinos, and the Millennial generation.

Since these are the groups that will be helped by Obamacare, Obamacare has to go: long-term it's the end of the GOP.  But the wingers are willing now to shut the government down in order to stop it.  Let's be clear here:

It's a bluff.

The corporate interests that control Washington will never allow the government to be shut down.  The resulting chaos will cost them billions and they know it.  They will take the GOP out rather than lose 10, 11, 12 figure sums.  So no, the government won't blow up, and the debt ceiling will be raised.

That puts the GOP in a tough position:  if they somehow do pull the plug, they're done.  If they don't, they're done.  How much damage will they do to America before they grind to a halt?

We're about to find out.

A Knife With A Smile

If you wanted proof that Alison Lundergan Grimes is A) her father's daughter, and B) in it to win it, scope this campaign introduction where she tears Mitch the Turtle a new one, and does it with a pleasant smile on her face.

“Now this part’s for you, Senator. Your campaign wants to play silly games about where I am and where I stand?  Well I’m right here in Kentucky, Senator, where I’ll be holding you accountable for voting to double Medicare premiums on Kentucky seniors, including our retired coal miners, for being against requiring the Department of Defense to buy equipment that’s made in America first, for failing to stand up for women when you voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and the Violence Against Women Act, and for opposing raising the minimum wage over and over again while you became a multimillionaire in public office.”

I think she just might have a chance, folks.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Last Call For High Stakes Texas Holder 'Em

While the Supreme Court has struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act as overly broad, AG Eric Holder and the Department of Justice still have recourse in Section 3 of the VRA, the so-called "opt-in" clause.  If a Federal court finds that a voting jurisdiction has committed voter suppression, it can, under Section 3, choose to opt that jurisdiction into pre-clearance coverage.

Eric Holder has decided that's what needs to happen with a particular, specific jurisdiction, namely the entire state of Texas.  Lyle Denniston:

Here is the Holder statement on the Section 3 issue:

“Today I am announcing that the Justice Department will ask a federal court in Texas to subject the State of Texas to a preclearance regime similar to the one required by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. This request to ‘bail in’ the state – and require it to obtain ‘pre-approval’ from either the Department or a federal court before implementing future voting changes – is available under the Voting Rights Act when intentional voting discrimination is found. Based on the evidence of intentional racial discrimination that was presented last year in the redistricting case, Texas v. Holder – as well as the history of pervasive voting-related discrimination against racial minorities that the Supreme Court itself has recognized – we believe that the State of Texas should be required to go through a preclearance process whenever it changes its voting laws and practices.”

A three-judge U.S. District Court in San Antonio is now considering the question of whether to put Texas back under the preclearance requirement in a pending case involving new election districts for the Texas state legislature and for its membership in the House of Representatives. Advocacy groups for minority voters in the state have already asked that court to take that step. Texas, however, has cautioned that court that such a step might raise new constitutional issues, unless the Section 3 provision is used only in quite narrow circumstances.

The advocacy groups have also asked a three-judge district court in Washington to take the same step. That is the court that found flaws in parts of the Texas redistricting maps in the case that the Attorney General mentioned – Texas v. Holder. The Supreme Court sent that case back to the district court to apply the Shelby County decision. The Justice Department is due to file on Friday its views on the Section 3 question in that case. Holder’s remarks presumably mean it will embrace a Section 3 approach in that case, too.

So while voting rights may be damaged, they're not done for yet, folks.  Remember, the three-judge panel last year found Texas had serious, massive problems with its redistricting scheme. Now that the DoJ has to do things the hard way, the battle begins now in earnest.

A Big Pile Of Ground(swell) Beef

Remember "Journolist", the email list of DC politics reporters talking about the news of the day, and how Republicans made such a stink over it that it cost list founder Dave Weigel his job at the Washington Post?

It turns out Karma is a cold, cold woman, unfeeling in her dispensing of justice in the form of a nice little leak to David Corn.

Believing they are losing the messaging war with progressives, a group of prominent conservatives in Washington—including the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and journalists from Breitbart News and the Washington Examiner—has been meeting privately since early this year to concoct talking points, coordinate messaging, and hatch plans for "a 30 front war seeking to fundamentally transform the nation," according to documents obtained by Mother Jones.

Oops.  The outfit is apparently called "Groundswell", and if you were wondering why the goofy-ass talking points coming out of the unapologetic, xenophobic right all sounded like they were half-baked in a dingy factory with cartoon music blaring 24 hours a day, Groundswell is apparently your factory floor.

One of the influential conservatives guiding the group is Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, a columnist for the Daily Caller and a tea party consultant and lobbyist. Other Groundswell members include John Bolton, the former UN ambassador; Frank Gaffney, the president of the Center for Security Policy; Ken Blackwell and Jerry Boykin of the Family Research Council; Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch; Gayle Trotter, a fellow at the Independent Women's Forum; Catherine Engelbrecht and Anita MonCrief of True the Vote; Allen West, the former GOP House member; Sue Myrick, also a former House GOPer; Diana Banister of the influential Shirley and Banister PR firm [2]; and Max Pappas, a top aide to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Among the conveners listed in an invitation to a May 8 meeting of Groundswell were Stephen Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News Network; Dan Bongino, a former Secret Service agent who resoundingly lost a Maryland Senate race last year (and is now running for a House seat); Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society; Sandy Rios, a Fox News contributor; Lori Roman, a former executive director of the American Legislative Exchange Council; and Austin Ruse, the head of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. Conservative journalists and commentators participating in Groundswell have included Breitbart News reporters Matthew Boyle and Mike Flynn, Washington Examiner executive editor Mark Tapscott, and National Review contributor Michael James Barton.

It's a rogue's gallery of failed Dick Tracy villains conservative masterminds!  What earth-shattering ideas did these scions of conservatism put forth?

The Groundswellers feel that they too often lose the political narrative to their progressive rivals. One memo that circulated among members declared, "We must reclaim the language and put 'a face' on our messages; tell stories. Write articles on 4th grade level!" 

Well that rarely fails to happen, boys.  Read Corn's full expose' and have a good laugh:  and remember, we've got prima facie evidence of lawmakers, journalists, activists, and the wife of a Supreme Court Justice all privately colluding on how to bring the GOP to total power.

Not so funny anymore, is it?

Kentucky Science Edumacation

"A public hearing on science education standards in Kentucky schools, you say?  Why, what could possibly go wrong", Zandar said hopefully.

Supporters of Kentucky's new science education standards said the changes are needed to keep pace with other states and prepare students for college and careers. Opponents countered that the standards are "fascist" and "atheistic."

Oh this is going to be fun.

"Students in the commonwealth both need and deserve 21st-century science education grounded in inquiry, rich in content and internationally benchmarked," said Blaine Ferrell, a representative from the Kentucky Academy of Sciences, a science advocacy group that endorses the standards.

Dave Robinson, a biology professor at Bellarmine University, said neighboring states have been more successful in recruiting biotechnology companies. He said Kentucky could get left behind in industrial development if students fail to learn the latest scientific concepts.

Now, in a normal state where people recognize that science actually exists, this is where our public interest story would end.  Alas, this is frigging Kentucky.

The critics included parent Valerie O'Rear, who said the standards promote an "atheistic world view" and a political agenda that pushes government control.

Matt Singleton, a Baptist minister in Louisville, called teachings on evolution a lie that has led to drug abuse, suicide and other social afflictions.

"Outsiders are telling public school families that we must follow the rich man's elitist religion of evolution, that we no longer have what the Kentucky Constitution says is the right to worship almighty God," Singleton said. "Instead, this fascist method teaches that our children are the property of the state."

Another opponent, Dena Stewart-Gore of Louisville, suggested that the standards will marginalize students with religious beliefs.

Several critics said the new teachings will not fully incorporate evidence that may contradict human evolution and man-made climate change.

Darwin wept. 

I weep too because as moronic as these fine examples of Kentucky education are, their votes count precisely as much as yours and mine when it comes to filling local school boards with idiots who believe the nonsense that evolution causes death camps and scabies and The Dreaded Gum Disease, Gingivitis.

Wherever you live here in the states, folks, get involved in your local politics.  Know your school board, your city council, your mayor, your county commissioners.  Get involved yourself.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Last Call For Ohio Inequality

Over the river in Ohio, a federal judge has used the recent Supreme Court decision striking down parts of DOMA as unconstitutional to rule that a gay couple married in Maryland must have their marriage recognized in the Buckeye State, and that Ohio's 2004 constitutional ban on recognizing other state's same-sex marriages is unlawful.

A federal judge in Ohio ordered state officials Monday to recognize the marriage of two men that was performed in Maryland on the death certificate of an Ohio resident in hospice care who the judge says “is certain to die soon.”

“The end result here and now is that the local Ohio Registrar of death certificates is hereby ORDERED not to accept for recording a death certificate for John Arthur that does not record Mr. Arthur’s status at death as ‘married’ and James Obergefell as his ‘surviving spouse,’” Judge Timothy Black wrote in granting the couple a temporary restraining order Monday. The order is in effect until 5 p.m. Aug. 5, unless the court extends the order at a later date.

By treating lawful same sex marriages differently than it treats lawful opposite sex
marriages,” the judge concluded, Ohio’s 2004 constitutional amendment banning recognition of same-sex couples’ marriages and Ohio’s statute addressing the same issue “likely violate[] the United States Constitution.

That's a pretty big dent in state same-sex marriage bans.  Pretty much all the states that have state bans on performing same-sex marriages also ban state recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states.

SCOTUS practically begged for a state case on banning same-sex marriage, and they'll almost certainly get one soon.

Looking at Ohio’s bans on recognizing same-sex couples’ out-of-state marriages, while acknowledging its recognition of the marriages of opposite-sex couples who would not be allowed to marry in Ohio, Black concluded, “The purpose served by treating same-sex married couples differently than opposite-sex married couples is the same improper purpose that failed in Windsor and in Romer: ‘to impose inequality’ and to make gay citizens unequal under the law.

Ding ding ding! 

When one of these state cases reaches SCOTUS, things are going to get interesting, I suspect.

Great White Way

Well, this is some depressing stuff.  Pew Research's latest poll on President Obama's approval rating has some pretty...what's the word I'm looking for...divided?  Divided breakdowns.  Total, he's at 46% approve, 46% disapprove.  The crosstabs get pretty hinky, but it's the last section on white poll respondents that's a whopper:

My observations:  I'm honestly surprised that among white Republicans, the president's approval numbers are even 6%.  Also, not surprised at all to see one in 5 white Dems unhappy with President Obama.

But to see working class white folks 2 to 1 against this President is astonishing.

If you make less than $75k a year and you're white, you pretty much despise this President, and for the life of me I can't explain why.  I mean, I can postulate.  President Obama has a very positive approval rating among white college graduate women, 55-40.  But 22% among white men without a college degree?  Are you serious?

TNR's Nate Cohn seems to think this isn't quite a complete disaster for POTUS.

But these numbers also show the difficulty of winning with gains among white working class voters alone. Despite Obama’s monumental collapse among white working-class voters, his approval rating is only at minus-5 among registered voters. That might seem like a silly complaint, since the GOP would gladly take a 5-point win in a presidential election. But the GOP won’t sweep the white working-class voters who supported Obama in 2012 but now disapprove of his performance. More than half of them are self-identified Democrats—and it’s tough to imagine that most won’t return to the next Democratic nominee. And if these Democratic white working-class voters ultimately come home, then Democrats would still win, narrowly, on the strength of their resilient "new coalition" of minorities and well-educated whites.

Additional gains among white working class voters will almost certainly be part of the next winning GOP coalition. But it’s hard to win with narrow gains concentrated among a single demographic group. At some point, the GOP will reach the point of diminishing returns, where they start running into the problem of ideology and partisan loyalties. That seems to have happened (at least in this poll) in the South, where Obama hasn’t lost very much additional ground among white voters since last November’s election. And the Electoral College discourages narrow gains: The GOP needs to win back states like Virginia, Colorado, and Florida, where there are fewer white working-class voters than the national average. So it would be prudent for Republicans to broaden their appeal across the board, even if the newest polls suggest they have a particularly fruitful opportunity among downscale whites.

And while the President's approval rating is down sharply among white's up 8 points with Latino voters.

Food for thought.

Not Even Pretending Anymore

North Carolina Republicans, apparently sick of this "nonsense where Democrats are allowed to vote" and all, have decided that removing hurdles to vote just won't work, and if "those people" want to vote, well then they can just be massively inconvenienced like everybody else.  Here's what the NC voter suppression bill will do:

  • Implementing a strict voter ID requirement that bars citizens who don’t have a proper photo ID from casting a ballot.
  • Eliminating same-day voter registration, which allowed residents to register at the polls.
  • Cutting early voting by a full week.
  • Increasing the influence of money in elections by raising the maximum campaign contribution to $5,000 and increasing the limit every two years.
  • Making it easier for voter suppression groups like True The Vote to challenge any voterwho they think may be ineligible by requiring that challengers simply be registered in the same county, rather than precinct, of those they challenge.
  • Vastly increasing the number of “poll observers” and increasing what they’re permitted to do. In 2012, ThinkProgress caught the Romney campaign training such poll observers using highly misleading information.
  • Only permitting citizens to vote in their specific precinct, rather than casting a ballot in any nearby ward or election district. This can lead to widespread confusion, particularly in urban areas where many precincts can often be housed in the same building.
  • Barring young adults from pre-registering as 16- and 17-year-olds, which is permitted by current law, and repealing a state directive that high schools conduct voter registration drives in order to boost turnout among young voters.
  • Prohibiting paid voter registration drives, which tend to register poor and minority citizens.
  • Dismantling three state public financing programs, including the landmark program that funded judicial elections.
  • Weakening disclosure requirements for outside spending groups.
  • Preventing counties from extending polling hours in the event of long lines or other extraordinary circumstances and making it more difficult for them to accommodate elderly or disabled voters with satellite polling sites at nursing homes, for instance.
 It's a greatest hits collection of barely legal voter suppression, all roped into one behemoth of awfulness, and with the Voting Rights Act now defunct, there's nothing anyone can do to stop it.

If passed, HB 589 will almost certainly have a disastrous impact on voting in North Carolina. As Ari Berman notes, 56 percent of North Carolinians voted early in 2012, including a disproportionate number of minorities. In addition, more than 155,000 voters registered to vote at the polls last year. And with 10 percent of North Carolinians — 613,000 people, a third of whom are black and half of whom are registered Democrats — lacking photo ID, it doesn’t take Encyclopedia Brown to figure out which party will be helped by HB 589.

No, it doesn't.  And they're not even pretending any more that they care about anything other than reducing turnout, reducing the number of overall people who can vote, reducing the college vote, reducing the minority vote, and reducing the poor vote.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Last Call For The Next GOP Shutdown

And so it begins:  with Obamacare going live January 1, 2014 and state insurance exchanges up on October 1, increasingly desperate Republicans are running out of time to stop Obamacare.  Their last ditch effort is now to threaten a government shutdown over funding for the program.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) declared on Monday that he and other congressional Republicans would be willing to shut down the federal government in order to block further implementation of President Barack Obama's health care reform law.

Speaking on Fox News, Lee said Republicans determined that refusing to fund Obamacare was the "last stop" before the individual mandate and the law's health insurance exchanges are set to go into effect at the beginning of next year.

“Congress of course has to pass a law to continue funding government -- lately we’ve been doing that through a funding mechanism called a continuing resolution," Lee said. "If Republicans in both houses simply refuse to vote for any continuing resolution that contains further funding for further enforcement of Obamacare, we can stop it. We can stop the individual mandate from going into effect.”

But Lee is bluffing.  There's nothing he can do and he knows it.  He's already given up the game.

Lee added that his effort, which he said was backed by "13 or 14" Senate Republicans and a host of House Republicans, wouldn't target popular Obamacare provisions that already had gone into effect, like a measure that allows children to remain on their parents' health insurance until the age of 26.

Lee's talking about at most shutting down the government over the individual mandate, a fight the GOP has already lost in the legislative, executive, and judicial branches.  He's bluffing.  The wingers know it too, and they're pissed:

Congress should completely defund Obamacare by October, when the government next runs out of money. To paraphrase Ecclesiastes, there are times for half-measures, and there are times to get the job done. If Republican leaders intend to vote only on an individual mandate delay, then this half-measure will serve only to keep Obamacare limping along now to wreak its havoc and ruin on the economy later.

Republican leaders are understandably wary of being blamed for a government shutdown at the next showdown about running out of money (yet again).

But Congress must not do anything to prop up this faltering law. For the moment the Obama administration declared the employer mandate would be delayed until after a tough election, this debate transcended a fight over health care and became a fight about transforming our constitutional system of separate but equal branches of government.

This is now about ceding power to a runaway executive branch that the Constitution simply does not allow.

Except of course the Supreme Court indeed ruled that the Constitution does allow it. Any wonder then that the GOP plan over the month-long recess is to snow job voters at home during town hall meetings?

While Republicans have a familiar rhetoric, leadership does suggest that members seek out diverse groups during the break with “Meetups” — forums to “ensure the Member is engaging with all demographics.”

“Potential groups to organize Meetups around include women, Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and millennials,” the kit explains.

As always, don’t forget to assign a staffer to live-tweet the event with photos, Vines and a consistent hashtag. The memo loves the budding Vine app, which has traditionally been used as a means for frat brothers to share their drunken misadventures in six-second bursts, not as a means for House Republicans to spread their limited-government message.

To get the conversation rolling in the right direction, the playbook suggests planting questions: “Prepare a few questions in advance in case the conversation slowly starts.”

“Invite at least 3-4 people with whom the member already has an established relationship,” the memo instructs. “This will strengthen the conversation and take it in a direction that is most beneficial to the member’s goal.”

Make sure you throw in a few minorities to look good.  Use social media.  Plant a few questions.  Forget it, Republicans.  You lost on this, there's nothing you can do other than drag your feet kicking and screaming, and the voters will cure you of that pretty quickly.  But if you're willing to shut down the government over this, go ahead.  I'm sure the Democrats would be thrilled to actually pick up seats in the sixth year of a Democratic president's time in office.

The Next SCOTUS Test

The next big case for the Supreme Court later this year could determine the future of abortion in the US.  Kate Sheppard at MoJo recaps the fight in Cline vs Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice and the coming battle over "medical abortions".

Roe v. Wade, watch out. The Supreme Court will venture into the abortion debate later this year when it considers the constitutionality of an Oklahoma law restricting the use of oral medications for abortions. The case could have major implications for the 16 states that have passed laws limiting the use of drugs that induce abortions.

Oklahoma's governor signed the state's medicine abortion law in May 2011, putting in place new restrictions on the use of RU-486 (also known as mifepristone or Mifeprex) and any other "abortion-inducing drug." The law mandates that doctors follow the exact protocols for the drugs that are described on the Food and Drug Administration-approved label. Off-label use of drugs is legal and fairly common, and in the years since the drug was first approved for use in 2000, doctors have found that RU-486 and other drugs can be effective at lower doses and can be done with fewer visits to the doctor's office than outlined on the FDA label. Doctors have also found that RU-486 is effective up to nine weeks into a pregnancy, not the seven weeks for which it was originally approved. Oklahoma's law bans doctors from using that new knowledge to help their patients.

After Oklahoma's governor signed the law, the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice and the Center for Reproductive Rights sued—and won. A trial judge struck down the law in May 2012. When Oklahoma appealed to the state Supreme Court, it lost again. The state then appealed to the US Supreme Court, which indicated in June that it would consider the case. Reproductive rights groups say Oklahoma's law—and similar ones in other states—are a transparent attempt to limit access to medication abortions. The groups argue that the new laws would make medicine-induced abortions virtually inaccessible, since the drugs are so frequently used off-label. "What this law will do is deny women the benefits of nonsurgical options for terminating a pregnancy," says Julie Rikelman, the director of litigation at the Center for Reproductive Rights. "We think it's an extreme law."

Remember, states like North Carolina, Texas, and Ohio have recently passed laws that require women to jump through the same ridiculous hoops (waiting periods, mandatory ultrasounds, mandatory counseling, etc.) to use RU-486 as they would for surgical abortion procedures.  These states also require a doctor in order to prescribe it (not a nurse practitioner) and the doctor must be on-hand to give RU-486 to the woman.

Ohio's law goes further, redefining "fetus" and "pregnancy" to be from conception, meaning that technically, the same ridiculous measures a woman would have to go through in order to get RU-486 would be required for birth control like Depo Provera or an IUD.

Something to think about.  I'm sure there's already 4 votes to side with the anti-choice side as is, if not already 5.  If so, it could be end of medical abortions in the US, and in some cases, the end of birth control as we know it too.

Land Of The Rising Core Temperature, Still Rising

Hey folks, a not-so-gentle reminder that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster didn't just go away because the US press stopped covering it.

A Japanese utility has said its crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is likely to have leaked contaminated water into sea, acknowledging for the first time a problem long suspected by experts.

Experts have suspected a continuous leak since the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant was ravaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. had previously denied contaminated water reached the sea, despite spikes in radiation levels in underground and sea water samples taken at the plant. Japan's nuclear watchdog said two weeks ago a leak was highly suspected, ordering TEPCO to examine the problem.

Surprise, after 28 months, TEPCO finally coming clean on the fact that radioactive water has leaked and most likely is probably still leaking into the Pacific.  Workers and cleanup crew there face serious health risks as a result.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., or Tepco, the operator of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, said Friday that about 2,000 people -- 10 percent of those who were part of the emergency crew involved in the cleanup after the plant’s meltdown in 2011 -- face an increased risk of thyroid cancer due to exposure to nuclear radiation.

And that risk continues to grow as the waters off the bay continue to be contaminated.  Little coverage on that, it seems.  But the problem's still there, folks.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Last Call For Six Feet Under Six Flags

Texas's apparent need to disregard any possible reason for government oversight of exploding fertilizer plants also extends to oversight of roller coasters that kill people.

“With No Safety Oversight, Six Flags Will Investigate Roller Coaster Death Itself,” says a U.S. News headline that we totally could have written. Does it surprise you to learn that this death trap of an unregulated roller coaster is in Texas? No, of course it doesn’t. Does it surprise you that there are absolutely zero elected or appointed officials charged with coordinating the legislative, bureaucratic, or legal ramifications of such a death? No, it is Texas, so this too is unsurprising.

So guess who is investigating Six Flags in Arlington?  Why, Six Flags!  Why?  There's NOBODY ELSE TO LOOK.

Six Flags initially said in a statement that it was “working with authorities” to figure out what happened. But it later had to admit that it was running the investigation itself because there are no authorities to work with.

There's no oversight investigating Texas amusement parks, because there's literally no oversight governing Texas amusement parks.

America, because freedom.

Last Call For The Confederate Luchador

Rand Paul's racist buddy Jack "Check out my Confederate flag wrestling mask" Hunter is finally out of a job.

Jack Hunter, the aide to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) who has in the past expressed pro-Confederate views, has resigned.

Hunter said in an e-mail to the Daily Caller that he will resume his career as a pundit and that he didn’t want to be a distraction for the senator, who is considered a top potential 2016 presidential candidate.

“I’ve long been a conservative, and years ago, a much more politically incorrect (and campy) one,” Hunter wrote. “But there’s a significant difference between being politically incorrect and racist. I’ve also become far more libertarian over the years, a philosophy that encourages a more tolerant worldview, through the lens of which I now look back on some of my older comments with embarrassment.”

Paul stood by Hunter two weeks ago, saying his past comments were “absolutely stupid,” but that he didn’t think Hunter held any racist views.

“If I thought he was a white supremacist, he would be fired immediately,” Paul said.

Instant termination if you're 100% sure, but apparently if you're only relatively sure your social media campaign guy is a white supremacist, firing him takes two weeks or so.  Meanwhile, Hunter is going back to his "pundit" roots where he can be a racist shock jock and actually get paid for it.

Nice work if you can get it, I guess.

Meanwhile, this will fix Rand Paul's little racism problem, right?

Bluegrass State Priorities

What's more important here in Kentucky to our state politicians, good governance or UK basketball? Here's a hint: if it took you more than half a second to arrive at the obvious answer, you don't live here.  here's Think Progress sportswriter Travis Waldron on the state's two religions: coal and basketball.

Now, with one of those industries in sharp decline and the other enjoying its return, as head coach John Calipari says, to its “rightful position atop the mountain of college basketball,” their paths are crossing in a way that will leave many of Kentucky basketball’s biggest fans holding the short end of the stick. Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray (D)announced plans this week to renovate Rupp Arena, the home of UK basketball since 1976. How the state plans to pay for the estimated $300 million cost, which includes renovations to the attached convention center, is unclear. But to cover the multimillion-dollar cost of the planning and design phase, which will begin soon, Kentucky is diverting $2.5 million in revenues raised from the 4.5 percent tax levied on the sale price of all coal produced in Kentucky.

The so-called coal severance tax generates more than $200 million a year in revenues for Kentucky. Half of that revenue goes immediately into the state’s general fund. The other half is split between two separate accounts for reinvestment into coal-producing counties, with those investments aimed at funding economic development projects that aren’t related to coal, and to foster economic development partnerships between eastern Kentucky counties. In the past, it has funded the creation of industrial parks, road, water, and other infrastructure projects, and scholarship programs for students from coal country. It is meant to address a reality that is staring Kentucky in the face: coal won’t be there forever, and the counties whose mountains have produced it for more than a century need something to turn to when the coal either runs out or is no longer worth mining.

What it isn’t meant to do is build arenas in Lexington. “That’s not what this money is for,” Carrie Ray, a research associate at the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development, an organziation based in Berea, Kentucky, told me. “It’s not intended to build a basketball arena that’s nowhere close to the coalfields.

The state doesn't mind sticking Kentuckians with a $2-$5 toll each way on replacing the Brent Spence bridge to Cincy, but replacing Rupp Arena, well the state will bend over backwards to get that done ASAP.  And these are the Democrats here doing this.  Good ol' Dinosaur Steve and friends are happy to get Rupp Arena renovated.  The Brent Spence?  Not so much.

And people wonder why Kentucky is full of red state Dems.

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