Friday, January 31, 2014

Last Call To Replace "Repeal And Replace"

If you're wondering where this month's Senate GOP's plan to replace Obamacare went, and why nobody is talking about it on the conservative side, it's because it took all of a couple days to figure out Senate Republicans were about to hit tens of millions of middle-class Americans with a substantial tax increase to pay for their overpriced high-risk pool scheme.

The apparent change centers on the plan's tax treatment of health insurance. Right now, health insurance contributions by employees and their employers are not taxed; the GOP wanted to include a cap on how much of those contributions can remain untaxed. 
But the devil is in the details. The original eight-page proposal released by the Senate Republicans -- Richard Burr of North Carolina, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, and Orrin Hatch of Utah -- said that the new cap would be "65 percent of an average plan's costs." Health policy experts told TPM that this would likely result in a big tax increase on most Americans and some would probably lose their insurance. 
"It's obviously a substantial increase on people who get employer-sponsored insurance," Gary Claxton, vice president at the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation, told TPM of the original proposal. "This would be a meaningful hit on people. It's a big radical change. This is not an incremental thing, and it affects most people under 65." 
The Congressional Budget Office recently analyzed a similar, though not identical, proposal and estimated that it would raise $613 billion in revenue over nine years, while six million people would lose their employer coverage in the five years after it took effect
The initial reporting on the GOP's new proposal, by the Washington Post and National Journalas well as TPM, highlighted that the plan would likely lead to many Americans paying more for their insurance. National Journal observed that, under the GOP's plan as originally proposed, if you had an average health plan, you'd pay taxes on 35 percent of its costs.
So, say you earn $60,000 a year and have an employer-sponsored health plan for your family of four.  Let's say that plan is worth $10,000.  Under the GOP plan, you're responsible for taxes on 35% of that plan as additional income, and the marginal federal tax rate at $60k is 25%.  So 25% of $3,500 is an extra $875 in federal taxes you pay.  Gosh, that seems so much better than Obamacare, right?

No wonder they're scrambling to "fix" their plan:

So they're only going to tax the highest earners with the "most generous" insurance plans?  Oh, I'm sure THAT will go over well with the one percenters.

Christie's Bridge Now Sinking In Radioactive Lava

And the aide GOP New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie fired for being "responsible" for the lane closures last year on the George Washington Bridge is now publicly saying Christie knew everything and lied to pretty much everyone in his rambling press conference last month.

The former Port Authority official who personally oversaw the lane closings on the George Washington Bridge in the scandal now swirling around Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said on Friday that the governor knew about the lane closings when they were happening, and that he had the evidence to prove it
In a letter released by his lawyer, the official, David Wildstein, a high school friend of Mr. Christie’s who was appointed with the governor’s blessing at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the bridge, described the order to close the lanes as “the Christie administration’s order” and said “evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference” three weeks ago. 
“Mr. Wildstein contests the accuracy of various statements that the governor made about him and he can prove the inaccuracy of some,” the letter added.

If this is true, he's done.  Good night, Chris.  Shut off the lights on the way out of Trenton.

[UPDATE]  The Newark Star-Ledger calls for Christie's resignation if Wildstein's allegations are true.  Fecal matter just became empirical.

Republicans Have A Bigger Problem

Republicans are hoping that Americans will only care about the problems with Obamacare and vote solely based on that in November.  Unfortunately, the GOP has one glaring, massive problem that is threatening to split the party again, and it's once again immigration reform.

For more than a year House Republican leaders have insisted the chamber would act on new immigration laws. And for more than a year, Republicans have done virtually nothing on the issue — despite intense pressure from activists, business groups, and the nation’s changing demographics.
And although there are a variety of reasons for inaction, one Republican lawmaker recently offered a frank acknowledgement that for many House Republicans, there’s one issue at play that’s not often discussed: race.
Part of it, I think — and I hate to say this, because these are my people — but I hate to say it, but it’s racial,” said the Southern Republican lawmaker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “If you go to town halls people say things like, ‘These people have different cultural customs than we do.’ And that’s code for race.”

Republicans know that Latino voters will make up an increasingly larger share of the voting population, and while immigration reform is far from the top priority of most Latino voters, the absolute bigotry many Republican lawmakers display towards Latinos is going to keep them from ever winning the White House anytime soon, and they know it.

"Amnesty is wrong in any circumstance, and if we are going to fix our broken immigration system--and we should--it makes much more sense to do so next year, so that we are negotiating a responsible solution with a Republican Senate majority rather than with Chuck Schumer," Cruz said in a statement to Breitbart.

In other words, Republicans figure they can force President Obama to sign a ridiculous bill rather than a real, long-term solution.  Because Republicans don't want to fix the problem.  They need to keep the issue alive to rally the Tea Party.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Last Call For Henry Waxman

40-year House veteran Democrat Heney Waxman of California is calling it quits after serving 20 terms, and he's blaming the Tea Party.

Representative Henry A. Waxman of California, a diminutive Democratic giant whose 40 years in the House produced some of the most important legislation of the era, announced Thursday that he would retire at the end of the year.

Mr. Waxman, 74, joins a growing list of House members who are calling it quits, many in disappointment over the partisanship and ineffectiveness of a Congress that may end up as the least productive in history.

“It’s been frustrating because of the extremism of Tea Party Republicans,” Mr. Waxman said in an interview on Wednesday. “Nothing seems to be happening.”

The frustration is felt on both sides. More than 30 House members have announced they will retire, resign or run for other offices this year, including stalwarts like George Miller, Democrat of California; Tom Latham, Republican of Iowa; Frank R. Wolf, Republican of Virginia; and Howard P. McKeon of California, chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

Waxman knows things aren't going to get any better in 2014, and with the Republicans still not having anyone who can win in 2016, they'll be just as insane then, too in the House.

Why would you want to stick around in this funhouse of stupid?

The Illigitimate Presidency

After five years and two elections, you'd think Republicans would accept the fact that Barack Obama is President of the United States.  But of course, you'd be wrong.

Congressional Republicans are taking President Obama to court over his use of executive power to sidestep Congress.

The executive actions that Obama touted during the State of the Union speech are adding fresh urgency to the legal efforts of Republicans, who say he is using the authority of his office in unprecedented ways.“We can go to court,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said. “We haven’t got many more options except [to] tell the American people that we’re seeing an abuse of the intent of the Constitution.”

Republicans have launched a salvo of legal actions to challenge the president on issues ranging from the implementation of the Affordable Care Act to the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance programs.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Republicans would not sit idly by as Obama takes unilateral actions like raising the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10 an hour.

“We’re going to watch very closely, because there’s a Constitution that we all take an oath to, including him, and following the Constitution is the basis for House Republicans,” Boehner said.

Remember, these are the same guys who said when Bush was President that not only could the "plenary executive" regularly override the other two executive branches, but absolutely had to in order to win the Warren Terrah.

Now, the President with the fewest number of executive orders in modern history somehow must be reined in by a nearly all-powerful Congress who must resort to the judicial branch to stop any constitutional actions they don't like.  They've all but killed the recess appointment, now they're looking to destroy executive actions in the courts.

The real goal of course is impeachment...

The Jersey Takedown

GOP New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie continues to drown in bad news, and the latest is a brutal NY Times piece on Christie's inner circle, portraying a man (that despite his protestations that he had no idea what his aides were up to) was in total control of every aspect of his influence machine.  Christie knew exactly what his inner circle was up to.

His campaign called them “the Top 100,” the swing towns that Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey wanted to win as he prepared for a re-election campaign. Capturing these towns, sometimes referred to as mini-Ohios or mini-Floridas, would validate the governor’s argument that he would be the most broadly appealing Republican choice for president in 2016.

Staff members in the governor’s office created tabbed and color-coded dossiers on the mayors of each town — who their friends and enemies were, the policies and projects that were dear to them — that were bound in notebooks for the governor to review in his S.U.V. between events.

Long after most of the State House had been shuttered for the night, Mr. Christie’s aides worked on spreadsheets, documenting calls and meetings with key players in the towns — one Republican called it “political Moneyball” — as the governor tried to win endorsements and friends.

New Jersey's mayors were the key to Christie's bi-partisan credibility -- and thus, the key to his 2016 ambitions.  Christie and his aides played hardball with them every step of the way.

Officially known as “intergovernmental affairs,” the operation was a key element of the permanent campaign that allowed Mr. Christie to win twice in a largely Democratic state. It was led by Bill Stepien, his two-time campaign manager and deputy chief of staff, and then by Bridget Anne Kelly, who succeeded him in his role in the governor’s office.

They were part of what one high-ranking Republican called “the crew” around Mr. Christie: friends who strategized at Mr. Christie’s kitchen table in Mendham and socialized with him in the governor’s box at MetLife Stadium.

Now this operation is at the heart of the growing scandal over the closing of lanes at the George Washington Bridge in an act of political retribution against the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J.

Mr. Christie has said that he had not been aware of his office’s involvement in the maneuver, and nothing has directly tied to him to it. But a close look at his operation and how intimately he was involved in it, described in interviews with dozens of people — Republican and Democrat, including current and former Christie administration officials, elected leaders and legislative aides — gives credence to the puzzlement expressed by some Republicans and many Democrats in the state, who question how a detail-obsessed governor could have been unaware of the closings or the effort over months to cover up the political motive.

In other words, the notion that Christie didn't know what was going on is patently absurd.  Absolutely everything was a political calculation to the man, and everything had a political motive.  Christie's political machine ran roughshod over New Jersey, and those that crossed him found out the hard way that there was a lot of political damage Christie's office could do if they didn't play ball.

Everything that the Republican party has attributed to the Obama administration for last five years was really happening in Trenton, in Chris Christie's inner circle.

And it's all crashing to earth around them.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Last Call For Louisiana Cookin'

Louisiana is the latest state to attempt to regulate all of the state's abortion clinics out of existence, something that's working very well so far in places like Ohio.

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) is currently in process of finalizing new regulations on abortion clinics. The complicated rules, which are more than 20 pages long, could end up closing all five of Louisiana’s abortion clinics — effectively banning the procedure in the state. 
DHH first enacted the rules at the end of November, and has scheduled a public hearing for the beginning of February to finalize them. State officials, who likely intended to slip the new regulations under the radar, have already attempted to diffuse media attention. After media outlets began reporting on one provision in the new regulations that would require a 30-day waiting period before women could proceed with an abortion, DHH officials said they would rescind that particular rule. 
Even without the proposed waiting period, however, the new regulations still represent an alarming threat to abortion access in Louisiana.

So yes, they were about to be caught throwing in a thirty day waiting period for abortion, which would have effectively ended all abortions.  Now they'll have to sneak other things in:

For instance, one of the most concerning aspects of the new rules involves a new licensing procedure for clinics. Each abortion clinic will need to apply for a “certificate of need” in order to renovate its facility, to build a new clinic, or even to transfer ownership of a clinic. The state’s health department has complete power over accepting or denying these certificates. Meanwhile, providers will lose the right to appeal potential citations to outside parties. Essentially, DHH is endowed with the ultimate authority over clinics, and could choose to close facilities at whim
Another new requirement stipulates that an abortion can’t be performed until 24 hours after a woman’s blood work has been processed and entered into her chart. For the clinics that don’t have the capacity to do blood work, and typically send out samples to be analyzed elsewhere, that will ultimately require them to delay abortion procedures.

Just run all the clinics out of business, and you win.  You win reducing women to chattel with no control over their own reproductive systems.

Rep. Mike Grimm In "Breaking Bad"

New York City cable news station NY1 caught up with Staten Island GOP Rep. Michael Grimm at the Capitol Rotunda after the State of the Union address to ask him a few questions.  Reporter Michael Scotto apparently touched a nerve when he asked Grimm about the federal investigation into his 2010 campaign spending.  After happily bashing President Obama, Grimm gave a terse "This is only about the President" in response to Scotto, and the interview was over.

So Congressman Michael Grimm does not want to talk about some of the allegations concerning his campaign finances," Scotto said before tossing back to the station. But as the camera continued to roll, Grimm walked back up to Scotto and began speaking to him in a low voice. 
"What?" Scotto responded. "I just wanted to ask you..." 
Grimm: "Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again I'll throw you off this f-----g balcony." 
Scotto: "Why? I just wanted to ask you..." 
[[cross talk]] 
Grimm: "If you ever do that to me again..." 
Scotto: "Why? Why? It’s a valid question." 
[[cross talk]] 
Grimm: "No, no, you're not man enough, you're not man enough. I'll break you in half. Like a boy."

The best part:  Grimm's office released arguably the worst possible statement ever explaining the incident.

"I was extremely annoyed because I was doing NY1 a favor by rushing to do their interview first in lieu of several other requests. The reporter knew that I was in a hurry and was only there to comment on the State of the Union, but insisted on taking a disrespectful and cheap shot at the end of the interview, because I did not have time to speak off-topic. I verbally took the reporter to task and told him off, because I expect a certain level of professionalism and respect, especially when I go out of my way to do that reporter a favor. I doubt that I am the first Member of Congress to tell off a reporter, and I am sure I won’t be the last."

Keep in mind this all happened after Grimm went on NY1 to call President Obama divisive.  This is the same guy who screamed about the IMPERIAL OBAMA PRESIDENCY when Richard Cordray was appointed to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, calling the President arrogant and a sham.

But don't you dare ask the great and powerful Michael Grimm a question, because he really is the most important guy ever.

The State Of The Union

President Obama commenced with his 5th SOTU address, and the theme was both very powerful and very obvious:  He's going around Congress.

Obama said he will order the U.S. Treasury to create a new federal retirement savings account called MyRA, a savings bond that he added would guarantee "a decent return with no risk of losing what you put in." It will be available to those whose jobs don't offer traditional retirement savings programs, he said. 
Additionally, Obama called for: 
-- Eliminating $4 billion in tax subsidies for the fossil fuel industries "that don't need it" and instead "invest more in fuels of the future that do. 
-- Women who make 77 cents for each dollar a man earns to get equal pay for equal work, adding "that is wrong, and in 2014, it's an embarrassment." 
-- Setting new fuel standards for American trucks to help reduce U.S. oil imports "and what we pay at the pump." 
-- Reworking the corporate tax code. He urged Congress to work with him to close "wasteful, complicated loopholes that punish businesses investing here" and instead "lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs right here at home." 
-- Congress to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay in 2014. 
Obama also reiterated that he will veto any new sanctions bill from Congress that would derail talks on preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, adding that "for the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed."

 Republicans aren't happy about it.  Of course, they haven't been happy since November 2008, so frankly, who gives a damn about them anymore?


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Last Call For Executive Actions

The paranoid winger right is fully mobilized against the notion that President Barack Obama has any right to issue executive orders, and are doing everything they can to suggest that him doing so is not only immoral, but criminal and even necessitating armed rebellion to stop him.

A retired Army general and Fox News analyst told a Tea Party group that he would lead a military coup against the U.S. government, if only reluctantly.

Paul Vallely, a retired major general and senior military analyst for the conservative news channel, told the Surprise, Arizona, Tea Party Patriots during a Dec. 3 speech that other retired military personnel and veterans groups had contacted him about the possibility.

I had a call this afternoon from Idaho, the gentleman said, ‘If I give you 250,000 Marines to go to Washington, will you lead them?’” Vallely said as the group laughed and gasped. “I said, ‘Yes, I will, I’ll surround the White House and I’ll surround the Capitol building, but it’s going to take physical presence to do things.”

Vallely, who has suggested a variety of extra-constitutional remedies to remove President Barack Obama from office, said extraordinary means were necessary to achieve the legislative results he wanted.

“Writing letters to these senators and congressmen, I am so frustrated because nothing happens,” Vallely said. “I’m not inciting a revolution, but we’ve got to get more physical and stand up and protest.

He said such a protest would be a continuation of Tea Party activism.

Sure, you're not inciting a revolution.  But you wouldn't have any problem with one, or leading one if given the opportunity.  That seems like a sane, responsible thing to do, right?

But what of Obama's hundreds upon hundreds of executive orders that must spark a second American revolution to bring him down?  Surely these patriots of justice wouldn't be lying about his 923 executive orders, would they, Snopes?

The item reproduced above purports that President Obama has so far issued a whopping 923 executive orders (compared to about thirty each for previous presidents) and offers supposedly alarming provisions of some of those orders. However, the entirety of this item is erroneous.

First of all, the number of executive orders issued by President Obama is grossly exaggerated here. Through the first five years of his presidency (i.e., as of 20 January 2014) the count of all executive orders issued by President Obama was 168, not 923. Moreover, compared to President Obama's predecessors in the White House, this is not an unusually large number of orders for a modern president: President George W. Bush issued 291 executive orders during his eight years in office, while President Bill Clinton issued 364 such orders over the same span of time. 

So then, far fewer executive orders than Bush 43 or Clinton (and it turns out far fewer than Eisenhower's 484, Nixon's 346, or Reagan's 381.)  Poppy Bush issued 166 order in 4 years, Ford 169 in 4.  In other words, Obama has issued the fewest number of executive orders per year of any modern President, not the most.

Turns out if you really do want to see a President who issued a metric crapton of EOs, take a look at either Roosevelt.  Teddy issued over a thousand, and FDR over thirty five hundred.

But Obama is, you know, Kenyan and stuff.  So WOLVEREEEEEEEEEEENES!

The Greatest Glibertarian Meltdown Ever

Oh Truth, you are not only stranger than Fiction, you are also far, far more entertaining at times.

U.S. government agents have arrested Charlie Shrem, the CEO of Bitcoin exchange BitInstant, charging him with laundering money for customers of online drug bazaar Silk Road.

Just the first sentence is pure Dudebro rage fuel:  A Bitcoin exchange CEO, getting busted by Evil Government Types, for using the cryptocurrency to by drugs online. And Shrem is no small fish, either.

The U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York said Shrem helped someone he hadn't met in person, Robert Faiella, sell more than $1 million worth of bitcoins to Silk Road customers. Faiella, a 52-year-old Florida man, allegedly ran an underground Bitcoin exchange using the alias BTCKing.

Shrem was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on Sunday, and Faiella was arrested at his home in Cape Coral, Fla., on Monday, prosecutors said. Both are charged with conspiracy to launder money and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business. Additionally, Shrem faces a charge for not tipping off the feds to what was allegedly going on.

Here's the best part:

Shrem, 24, is a major player in the Bitcoin world. The BitInstant exchange, based in New York City, lets people buy bitcoins locally at more than 700,000 locations in the United States, as well as Brazil, Russia and elsewhere. It received a $1.5 million investment last year from Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. Shrem is also vice chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation, one of the currency's biggest advocates.

On the board of the Bitcoin foundation AND took angel money from the Winkelvii.   The story is literally GOLD! WEED! END THE FED!

Bonus question:  What did you guys think glibertarian tech dudebros were using an all-digital, non-country based currency for, anyway?  To cure cancer?

SNAP Off The Heater, Will Ya?

There's a deal on Capitol Hill to finally cut expensive red state direct farm subsidies pork in the farm bill, but Republicans get to extract their pound of flesh from blue states where there's an additional state bonus to SNAP checks to help pay for heating.

The bill changes the current agricultural subsidy system. It ends direct payments to farmers for planting crops and replaces it with a revamped, beefed-up crop insurance program.

"Today's bipartisan agreement puts us on the verge of enacting a five-year Farm Bill that saves taxpayers billions, eliminates unnecessary subsidies, creates a more effective farm safety-net and helps farmers and businesses create jobs," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat who chairs the Senate agriculture panel.

The changes to food stamps would trim $8 billion from the program over the next 10 years, according to congressional aides. That's less than the $39 billion that Republicans had wanted to cut from the program, but double what Democrats had suggested.

Lawmakers say the deal will prevent 17 states from doling out more generous food stamps to people who get federal help to heat or cool their homes, even if the help is as little as $1. They stress the move won't cut families from food stamps, it will just shrink the amount some families get. 

So, not only do the SNAP cuts at the end of this year become permanent, there's $8 billion more being cut from the program.  Granted, it will only affect a small number of total SNAP beneficiaries (850,000 or so out of 47 million) but the cuts will be significant:  as much as $90 a week.  That's real money to real people who are going to have real problems this winter.

I don't like this deal, but given the fact that Republicans wanted to cut nearly $40 billion from SNAP, it's something of a Pyrrhic victory.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Last Call For His Inevitable Be-Trey-al

Turns out GOP Rep. Trey "The Red-Nosed Coke Fiend" Radel's insistence that he won't be quitting Congress after his cocaine bust in October was a much of a snow job as the rest of his time as a Tea Party nimrod.

Embattled Rep. Trey Radel of Florida plans to resign Monday evening, a little more than two months after pleading guilty to misdemeanor cocaine possession. 
Radel, 37, a Republican from Fort Myers, submitted a resignation letter to House Speaker John Boehner saying he will step down effective at 6:30 p.m. 
"Unfortunately, some of my struggles had serious consequences," Radel said in his letter to Boehner. "While I have dealt with those issues on a personal level, it is my belief that professionally I cannot fully and effectively serve as a United States representative to the place I love and call home, Southwest Florida." 
Radel sent shorter resignation letters to Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who will have to coordinate the special primary and general election to choose the next person to represent Florida's 19th District.

Same guy who said Obama should be impeached for "the decisions he's making", same guy who voted for legislation that would require all SNAP recipients nationally to be drug tested.  This freakin' guy, eh?

I said a while ago that as soon as the GOP found someone to run for Radel's seat, he'd be forced out.  At the time it looked that person was former GOP Rep. Connie Mack IV, son of former Florida Senator Connie Mack III.  Mack wanted back in Congress after losing to Bill Nelson in 2012 for his dad's old Senate seat.

Mack said he would only seek the seat (which used to be his old House seat) only if Radel didn't seek re-election.  Seems to me that this is now the case, and I'm betting that Mack decided to run with the blessing of (and serious money from) the RNC.  As such, I'm sure Radel was told in no uncertain terms that he would be getting no support from the party, and that if he continued to remain in Congress, life would become very, very uncomfortable for him.

The special election will allow Connie Mack IV to waltz right back into Congress.  I said it was a no-brainer then, and I'm honestly surprised it took this long to execute the obvious plan.

Anarchy For Thee But Not For Me

Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds has another ridiculously boneheaded anti-Obamacare column in USA Today again, which reads in part:

If the program fails, it won't be because Republicans stopped it, despite all the House votes and defunding efforts. It will be because millions of Americans' passive resistance brought it to its knees.

Now, putting aside Reynolds inability to objectively analyze anything more complex than a paper bag, let's break down the core of this "reasoning" here.  He's basically saying that in a representative democracy like the United States of America, when your side loses a free and fair election, the answer is to break the system.

Indeed, at the top of his article, he does this:

In his excellent book, Two Cheers For Anarchism, Professor James Scott writes:
"One need not have an actual conspiracy to achieve the practical effects of a conspiracy. More regimes have been brought, piecemeal, to their knees by what was once called 'Irish Democracy,' the silent, dogged resistance, withdrawal, and truculence of millions of ordinary people, than by revolutionary vanguards or rioting mobs."

Now here's the funny part:  Reynolds is basically advocating bringing down Obamacare through mass refusal, refusal to participate, refusal to work within the system to fix the problems, refusal to acknowledge that the program may be helping people (and refusal to do anything other than shrug and say "gotta break a few eggs" when it comes to folks like this) but most of all, refusal to legitimize the fact that all three branches of the federal government signed off on this.

The second half of Reynolds' column deals with Colorado's pot laws, something he considers again to be a de facto defeat of federal law.  He then lays out this passive resistance as a way to destroy Obama (and get high.)

The irony about all this is that this really is an example of classic "Saul Alinsky playbook" tactics to destabilize a government, something the "intelligentsia" of the right have been accusing Barack Obama of doing pretty much all his adult life.

Just goes to show you that the louder the right is accusing the left of doing something, the more they themselves are the ones doing it.  We've gotten to the point now where Instagoofball is confusing bureaucratic inertia with mass refusal, and imagining a massive silent condemnation of Obamacare, Obama, Democrats and liberalism some tens of millions strong.

Why, I bet he thinks since only 65 million people voted for Barack Obama in 2012, the other 250 million people or so in the United States are silently standing strong against him, too.

Meanwhile, somebody should tell Glenn here that Republicans are running in 2014 on how great Obamacare is.

In an interview with National Journal last week, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, expected to be effectively unopposed for the Republican nomination for the open U.S. Senate seat in West Virginia, had some of the kindest words yet for one of Obamacare's key provisions from a GOP candidate.

"Coverage is great and having more people covered is excellent," Capito said of the expansion. She included a number of caveats -- she's concerned about long-term costs -- but she simultaneously acknowledged that repealing Obamacare is likely an unachievable goal and that aiming to improve the health care reform law while keeping people insured is a preferable pursuit.

"Hopefully, when I get to the Senate and we begin to make changes in the Affordable Care Act, that we will be able to find a way through tax credits and subsidies to keep folks in that insured area," she said. "And then, as they move up and we grow the economy -- because of better policies we're putting forward -- once they move up they're able to move out of that category, maybe in a more gradual fashion than one day you're on, one day you're off."

Capito's borderline heresy likely has a very pragmatic source: Medicaid expansion is a pretty good deal for her state. With the federal government covering all of the expansion costs for the first three years and 90 percent thereafter, the Kaiser Family Foundation projects that 116,000 West Virginians would be covered by the expansion by 2022.

Yeah, people are going to line up around the corner to remain without health insurance.  And this is West Virginia, arguably the most anti-Obama state in the nation.

Shutting Down Reality

Sen Ted Cruz has a memory problem.  Or a reality problem.  Or both.  Crooks and Liars has the video of Cruz tal;king with CBS Face The Nation host Bob Schieffer:

"Well, Bob, with all due respect, I don't agree with the premise of your question," Cruz replied. "Throughout the government shutdown, I opposed a government shutdown. I said we shouldn't shut the government down. I think it was a mistake that President Obama and the Democrats shut the government down this fall." 
"The question I asked you was, would you ever conceive of trying to shut down the government again?" Schieffer pressed, clearly not buying in to the alternate reality. 
"As I said, I didn't threaten to shut down the government the last time," Cruz insisted. "I don't think we should ever shut down the government. And I repeatedly voted..." 
"Well," Schieffer interrupted, laughing out of frustration. "If you didn't threaten to shut down the government, who was it that did?" 
"President Obama," Cruz said. 
Schieffer dropped his head as the Republican senator's rant continued: "I understand the White House said over and over again that the shutdown is the Republicans' fault. And I understand that's what you're repeating. But the reality is, I voted over and over again to fund the federal government."

"Remember when President Obama and the Democrats shut down the government?" will be all over 2014 and 2016 political ads, and Cruz, Rand Paul, and the rest of them will simply say it's Obama's fault.  And none of our "liberal media" folks will dare correct them.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Last Call For The American Dream

Income mobility in the United States depends very, very much on where you live.  If you're poor in a state like Utah, you've got opportunities.  If you're poor in a state like South Carolina, you basically have no chance.  The results from a landmark study looking at where the best and worst metro areas to be poor in America shouldn't shock anyone.

It's no surprise then that the worst states to be poor in are the Carolinas and Georgia.  Your odds of moving up in the world when you're poor in those areas are 1 in 4, maybe 1 in 3 at best.  It's twice that in other parts of the country.  Salt Lake City is number one, and Charlotte is dead last (yes, even worse than Detroit.  So is Raleigh, Indy, and Atlanta.)

What do these areas with the least mobility have in common?  The Altlantic's Matthew O'Brien:

1. Race. The researchers found that the larger the black population, the lower the upward mobility. But this isn't actually a black-white issue. It's a rich-poor one. Low-income whites who live in areas with more black people also have a harder time moving up the income ladder. In other words, it's something about the places that black people live that hurts mobility. 
2. Segregation. Something like the poor being isolated—isolated from good jobs and good schools. See, the more black people a place has, the more divided it tends to be along racial and economic lines. The more divided it is, the more sprawl there is. And the more sprawl there is, the less higher-income people are willing to invest in things like public transit.  
That leaves the poor in the ghetto, with no way out for their American Dreams. They're stuck with bad schools, bad jobs, and bad commutes if they do manage to find better work. So it should be no surprise that the researchers found that racial segregation, income segregation, and sprawl are all strongly negatively correlated with upward mobility. But what might surprise is that it doesn't matter whether the rich cut themselves off from everybody else. What matters is whether the middle class cut themselves off from the poor. 
3. Social Capital. Living around the middle class doesn't just bring better jobs and schools (which help, but probably aren't enough). It brings better institutions too. Things like religious groups, civic groups, and any other kind of group that keeps people from bowling alone. All of these are strongly correlated with more mobility—which is why Utah, with its vast Mormon safety net and services, is one of the best places to be born poor. 
4. Inequality. The 1 percent are different from you and me—they have so much more money that they live in a different world. It's a world of $40,000 a year preschool, "nanny consultants," and an endless supply of private tutors. It keeps the children of the super-rich from falling too far, but it doesn't keep the poor from rising (at least into the top quintile). There just wasn't any correlation between the rise and rise of the 1 percent and upward mobility. In other words, it doesn't hurt your chances of making it into the top 80 to 99 percent if the super-rich get even richer. 
But inequality does matter within the bottom 99 percent. The bigger the gap between the poor and the merely rich (as opposed to the super-rich), the less mobility there is. It makes intuitive sense: it's easier to jump from the bottom near the top if you don't have to jump as far. The top 1 percent are just so high now that it doesn't matter how much higher they go; almost nobody can reach them. 
5. Family Structure. Forget race, forget jobs, forget schools, forget churches, forget neighborhoods, and forget the top 1—or maybe 10—percent. Nothing matters more for moving up than who raises you. Or, in econospeak, nothing correlates with upward mobility more than the number of single parents, divorcees, and married couples. The cliché is true: Kids do best in stable, two-parent homes.

It's a stark reminder that Oh, and locally, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Indianapolis are all in the bottom 10 cities for mobility.  Ohio is nearly as bad as the Carolinas and Georgia.  If you're poor here, you're going to stay poor.   Why?  We refuse to invest in our cities, our infrastructure, and our people.  The Republican plan to fix all this?  Cut taxes on the rich and corporations, so there's even less revenue to invest, cut investment in schools, transportation and public safety, and inequality gets worse.  Meanwhile, the rich take their social capital and move to the exurbs, or as with Cincy, gentrified downtown areas and price out the poor.

There are developing nations with better income mobility than Charlotte.  Because America, right?

Hostage Crisis For All The Boys And Girls

Just a reminder that both Kentucky senators are dangerous idiots.  Mitch The Turtle on FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace:

WALLACE: So are you saying right here, “We are going to attach something to the debt ceiling”? And if so, what? 
MCCONNELL: What I’m saying is we ought to attach something significant for the country to [President Obama's] request to increase the debt ceiling. That’s been the pattern for 50 years, going back to the Eisenhower administration. I think it’s the responsible thing to do for the country. [...] 
We’re never going to default — the Speaker and I have made that clear. We’ve never done that. But, it’s irresponsible not to use the discussion — the request of the President to raise the debt ceiling — to try to accomplish something for the country.

It's irresponsible to not hold the country's economy hostage to get what you want.  So please proceed, congressional Republicans, and remind America why you have a 19% approval rating.

The Kids Are Not Alright With Rand Paul

To recap the Rand Paul stance on government, kids, and poverty: government has no role in birth control or safe abortion services because they're both immoral and children must be brought into the world, but government should be used to punish women for having too many children.

During a Lexington luncheon Thursday, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul discussed the possibility of cutting government benefits for unwed mothers who have multiple children, though the potential Republican candidate for president in 2016 didn't directly endorse such a policy. 
During a question-and-answer period following his remarks at a Commerce Lexington luncheon, Paul responded to a question about workforce development by including a warning about unwed young mothers doomed to poverty.
Although he said the job of preventing unplanned or unwanted pregnancies should be left to communities and families, Paul left open the possibility of a role for government. 
"Maybe we have to say 'enough's enough, you shouldn't be having kids after a certain amount,'" Paul told the business group at one point. 
An aide to Paul declined to comment Thursday night when asked to clarify the senator's statements about unwed mothers. 
Paul told the audience that being "married with kids versus unmarried with kids is the difference between living in poverty and not."

So what glibertairans really can't stand is single motherhood.  It all comes down to punishing the sluts and whores who dare to have sex without being married.  Why?  They tend to vote Democrat, of course.

Besides, how does cutting off assistance for single mothers help get mothers and kids out of poverty, especially when Republicans refuse to acknowledge that government helping to provide birth control is cheaper than providing SNAP and other safety net programs, or the state taking the children and putting them in foster care?

Paul then "clarified" his answers earlier today:

"I mused about how you'd have a government policy, but I actually came down saying it would be very difficult to have a government policy," the potential 2016 presidential candidate said. 
"I mostly concluded by saying it's a community, it's a religious, it's a personal problem, but it is a problem," Paul said.

Government is hard.  Let God sort it out.

[UPDATE]  Steve M nails it:

The GOP has been telling us for years now that there's no racism in America anymore (except anti-white racism) and anyone who thinks otherwise is a dupe living on the "liberal plantation." You can see the success of that in the massive black vote Republicans are able to run up in every election. 
Since that talking point is working so well for Republicans, Rand Paul figures it'll work even better with The Ladiez.

There's no racism except for anti-white hatred, and there's no sexism except for misandry from feminazis.

You know, I don't see so much that women are downtrodden. I see women rising up and doing great things. In fact, I worry about our young men sometimes because I think the women really are out-competing the men in our world.

If you believe that the only victims in America are white men, Rand Paul's your candidate.

Read more here:

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Last Call For Love And No Marriage

It seems that Oklahoma lawmakers would rather burn down the chapel than let same-sex marriage happen in the state since a judge threw out the state's ban on same-sex marriage earlier this month, even if it means ending marriage in the state for everyone in an effort to get the state riled up enough to maybe, I dunno, lynch some LGBTQ folks or something.

State lawmakers are considering throwing out marriage in Oklahoma. 
The idea stems from a bill filed by Rep. Mike Turner (R-Edmond). Turner says it's an attempt to keep same-sex marriage illegal in Oklahoma while satisfying the U.S. Constitution. Critics are calling it a political stunt while supporters say it's what Oklahomans want. 
"[My constituents are] willing to have that discussion about whether marriage needs to be regulated by the state at all," Turner said. 
Other conservative lawmakers feel the same way, according to Turner. 
"Would it be realistic for the State of Oklahoma to say, ‘We're not going to do marriage period,'" asked News 9's Michael Konopasek. 
"That would definitely be a realistic opportunity, and it's something that would be part of the discussion," Turner answered. 
Such a discussion will be made possible by a current shell bill -- something that can be changed at almost any time to react to upcoming rulings on Oklahoma's same-sex marriage ban.

So if Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriage is found to be unconstitutional, the state will simply refuse to recognize any and all marriages.  Because that's how much these Republican assholes hate anyone different from them.  If they can't have their way, then they have no problem using the power of government to make everyone suffer.

The Republican party cannot be excised from American history quickly enough.

The Paranoid Style Will Never End

We've gotten to the point now where the right-wing victimization complex has gotten so insane that the super-rich view themselves as actual Holocaust victims when they write letters to the WSJ, like venture capitalist Tom Perkins, who gives us this derangement:

From the Occupy movement to the demonization of the rich embedded in virtually every word of our local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, I perceive a rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent. There is outraged public reaction to the Google buses carrying technology workers from the city to the peninsula high-tech companies which employ them. We have outrage over the rising real-estate prices which these "techno geeks" can pay. We have, for example, libelous and cruel attacks in the Chronicle on our number-one celebrity, the author Danielle Steel, alleging that she is a "snob" despite the millions she has spent on our city's homeless and mentally ill over the past decades. 
This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendant "progressive" radicalism unthinkable now?

"Will no one rid America of these troublesome ninety percent?"

Perkins isn't some crazy fringe nut, Kleiner Perkins, Caulfield & Byers is one of the country's largest Silicon Valley venture capital firms, the big money behind Spotify, Soundcloud, and yes, Facebook and Twitter.

And the fact that there's even a discussion of income inequality has the super-rich making comparisons to 1938 Germany.  We're all Nazis just for questioning our betters, and you'd better believe the right will take time out from their busy schedule of screaming about how Obama is destroying free speech to crush any mention of income inequality in America.

The victimization complex will never, ever end with these guys.

StupidiNews, Weekend Edition!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Last Call For A Tragic End

Authorities in Maryland have found the body of 35-year-old Ryan Loskarn, the former social media aide to Tennessee GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander, who was charged with child pornography possession and distribution last month.

”At approximately 12pm yesterday, Carroll County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to a private residence in the 6900 block of Kenmar Lane for a report of an unconscious male, believed to be deceased,” said a statement from Colonel Phil Kasten of the Carroll County Sheriff’s office. “Family members reported finding 35 year old Jesse Ryan Loskarn unresponsive in his basement where he’d been residing with family since this past December. The preliminary investigation indicates that Loskarn may have taken his own life, and his body has since been transported to the State Medical Examiner’s Office for Autopsy. The investigation continues….” 
Loskarn, who was awaiting the outcome of grand jury proceedings in his case, had been staying with his parents since being released on his own recognizance. He was scheduled to next appear in federal court on Feb. 10. Loskarn had been ordered not to use the Internet and was required to wear an electronic ankle bracelet. 
In a brief statement, Alexander said: “For everyone involved, this is a sad and tragic story from beginning to end.”

A pretty awful story here all around.  Loskarn was most likely in real trouble, using congressional resources in possible connection with the pornography, and the victimization of the children is of course the top priority.

Loskarn apparently decided this was the way he should face the music.

The Completely Paranoid And More Than A Bit Insane Style

The perpetual victimization machine of right wing politics is throwing a gasket this month, with Chris Christie's problems in New Jersey growing weekly, former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife now facing felony corruption charges, and conservative hack Dinesh D'Souza facing campaign finance violations.

The wingers are completely losing their minds.  Glenn Reynolds gets to write stuff like this in USA Today:

Spend a little while on Twitter or in Internet comment sections and you'll see a significant number of people who think that the NSA may have been relaying intelligence about the Mitt Romney campaign to Obama operatives, or that Chief Justice John Roberts' sudden about-face in the Obamacare case might have been driven by some sort of NSA-facilitated blackmail. 
A year ago, these kinds of comments would have been dismissable as paranoid conspiracy theory. But now, while I still don't think they're true, they're no longer obviously crazy. And that's Obama's legacy: a government that makes paranoid conspiracy theories seem possibly sane.

Of course, Glenn isn't saying Obama is coming for conservative white America with his army of Funktastic Blackity Black Thug Life Thugs, but you could be excused for believing it.  I mean, it's not like the FBI is going after Democrats or anything.  OH WAIT.

The federal criminal investigation into New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez is broader than previously known, NBC 4 New York has learned. 
The Department of Justice is investigating Menendez's efforts on behalf of two fugitive bankers from Ecuador, multiple current and former U.S, officials tell NBC 4 New York. The probe into Menendez’s dealing with the bankers comes as federal authorities are also investigating his relationship to a big campaign donor from Florida. 
The criminal investigation is focusing in part on the senator’s ties to William and Roberto Isaias and whether the senator crossed a line in trying to help the two brothers stay in the United States.

The Isaias brothers have been fugitives from their native Ecuador for more than a decade -- sentenced in absentia for embezzling millions as the bank they ran there was collapsing.

Can't wait for Reynolds to defend Sen. Menendez as another one of Obama's victims.  Of course, wingers, the "party of personal responsibility", see themselves as being victimized on a daily basis by mean old liberal fascists.  The end result?  Republicans, in a stunning and completely hypocritical reversal, are now against the NSA gathering information.

In a jarring break from the George W. Bush era, the Republican National Committee voted Friday to adopt a resolution demanding an investigation into the National Security Agency’s spy programs. 
According to the resolution, the NSA metadata program revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden is deemed “an invasion into the personal lives of American citizens that violates the right of free speech and association afforded by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.” In addition, “the mass collection and retention of personal data is in itself contrary to the right of privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.” 
Titled a “Resolution To Renounce The National Security Agency’s Surveillance Program,” it was passed by a voice vote as part of a package of RNC proposals. Not a single member rose to object or call for further debate, as occurred for other resolutions. 
Nevada Committeewoman Diana Orrock told msnbc over the phone that she introduced the resolution at the RNC’s summer meeting, but she wasn’t able to attract the necessary co-sponsors to advance it until now. The only major change she says she made to secure support was to drop the word “unconstitutional” from the title. 
“I have to thank Edward Snowden for bringing forth the blatant trampling of our First and Fourth Amendment rights in the guise of security,” she said. “Something had to be said. Something had to be done.”

So these programs were perfectly fine and 100% necessary when they were created by Republicans, but until Obama got re-elected and Chris Christie is now facing investigation and Benghazi and the IRS and Fast and Furious all fizzled out, Republicans need to change the subject again so they can have more hearings on how evil Obama is.  The victim complex never ends with these guys.

Obama Derangement Syndrome is now part of the GOP platform.  Oh, and they removed the word "unconstitutional" from the attack on Bush's programs because they would then have to seriously entertain impeachment, which they would lose on.

The best part is not only is Obama a master manipulator and super-intelligent arch villain, he's also apparently a totally boring, stupid, irrelevant non-entity at the same time.

Why, pretty soon these nutjobs will be trying to convince you Obama was born in Kenya or something.

Dinesh D'Indictment

I've talked about professional right-wing hack and "movie auteur" Dinesh D'Souza before (he's the clown behind the failed 2012 winger anti-Obama "documentary 2016: Obama's America) but it seems his political activities in 2012 got him in more than a bit of trouble as the Department of Justice rang him up on campaign finance violations today.

Dinesh D'Souza, a conservative commentator and best-selling author, has been indicted by a federal grand jury for arranging excessive campaign contributions to a candidate for the U.S. Senate. 
According to an indictment made public on Thursday in federal court in Manhattan, D'Souza around August 2012 reimbursed people who he had directed to contribute $20,000 to the candidate's campaign. The candidate was not named in the indictment. 
Attempts to reach D'Souza and a lawyer representing him were unsuccessful. 
D'Souza was charged in the indictment with one count of making illegal contributions in the names of others, and one count of causing false statements to be made. 
Federal law in 2012 limited primary and general election campaign contributions to $2,500 each, for a total of $5,000, from any individual to any one candidate.

Supposedly, the candidate in question was New York Republican Wendy Long, who D'Souza donated to in 2012, only to have her get stomped by Kirsten Gillibrand's wildly successful re-election campaign.

FEC campaign finance records show Mr. D’Souza made two $2,500 contributions to long-shot Republican New York U.S. Senate candidate Wendy Long in March 2012—the maximum allowed. Mr. D’Souza’s wife at the time, Dixie D’Souza, also gave $5,000 that March, records show. The indictment says the candidate in question was unaware of Mr. D’Souza’s allegedly illicit activities. Ms. Long was handily defeated in the general election by Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand.

So not only did he apparently get caught, but it looks like he basically risked breaking the law backing a candidate that lost by 44 points.

But totally worth it, right?


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Last Call For The Paranoia Bubble

Just a reminder that in the FOX News/AM Talk Radio alternate reality, the real (and only) racism in America is against white people, the poor dears.  Raw Story:

A Christian radio host insisted last week that white people were no longer racist, and even if they were, it’s the fault of racist black people. 
Sandy Rios, of American Family Radio, was offended when a listener suggested she was racist toward black people, who she blamed for inciting white racism. 
I think the racist garbage coming from the — uh, a lot of blacks right now who are just filled with bitterness and rage is just amazing to me,” Rios said. “It is racism, I am seeing it constantly here in D.C., you know, I think — and it’s causing white citizens to become more racist than they ever were.” 
She continued, referring to white people using the term for Germanic tribes that once dominated England and is now generally associated with British-American Protestants and white supremacists. 
I think for the most part, the American Anglo-Saxon crew really has moved past racism, they did it quite a long time ago,” she said.

And Sandy's living proof of that, right?

To recap her worldview:
  1. Black people are all angry bitter racists.
  2. White people aren't racist at all.
  3. ...Except for the white people who are.
  4. But that's okay because it's caused by the fact that...
  5. Black people are all angry bitter racists.
The fact I'm pointing this out is proof of this, right?

Jim DeMented's Job Review

Former senator Jim DeMint left Congress to run the Heritage Foundation in 2013 to give the organization the, ahem, credibility it needed to count as an outside Tea Party group rather than the DC insider think tank that it is, and a year later, it looks like the Powers That Be aren't super happy with the arrangement.

In its first year under former senator and tea party godfather Jim DeMint, there was a growing consensus -- and concern -- that the foundation once renowned for its intellectual rigor might now be more of a political advocacy outlet than a home for scholarly research, albeit of the conservative variety. 
Heritage saw a study on the supposed cost of immigration reform blasted by those within its own ideological sphere as methodologically shoddy. One of its authors was forced to resign after revelations of anti-immigrant views in his earlier work surfaced. Its Obamacare research has come under scrutiny for its inherent bias, as TPM has reported
Those unforced slip-ups, and its advocacy arm's growing reputation as a bully toward any kind of moderation, have started to call the foundation's reputation into question on Capitol Hill. Conservatives lamented to the New Republic that Heritage had become a political action group "with a research division," burning bridges with the House GOP, something totally foreign to "the gold standard of conservative, forward-looking thought" that it used to be. The foundation's $82 million budget was reportedly being scaled back, with more money flowing to the advocacy efforts that have so chafed Hill Republicans.

In other words, what passes for the "intellectually rigorous conservative community" is shocked -- shocked I tell you! -- to discover that one of the most virulent anti-science Senators in Republican history hasn't provided them with the gravitas they were looking for.  They're apparently even more shocked that DeMint is using academic research and the studies they produce in a fashion that would make cigarette companies blush with embarrassment, fitting data to ideological means and damn the results!

Further proof that "conservative think tank" may be the biggest oxymoron in Washington DC.

The Church Of The New Masters Of The Universe

The Church of the Invisible Hand Of The Free Market dictates that the most moral of us are the wealthiest, because hard work is rewarded.  So the 85 wealthiest people on earth are collectively better morally that the bottom 3.5 billion of the world's population because they are collectively as wealthy.

So rejoice, the Church says. These people are as Saints among you, if not Gods themselves.  You should emulate them in every way!

If you were disheartened by Oxfam's recent report that the 85 richest people in the world hold more wealth than the 3.5 billion poorest people, it's probably just because you lack the entrepreneurial spirit of Kevin O'Leary. 
O'Leary, the businessman and reality television star, reacted to the report with glee earlier this week on the eponymous Canadian talk show, "Lang and O'Leary Exchange." 
"It's fantastic and this is a great thing because it inspires everybody, gets them motivation to look up to the one percent and say, ‘I want to become one of those people, I’m going to fight hard to get up to the top,’” he said. “This is fantastic news and of course I applaud it. What can be wrong with this?"

Bow before your masters, lowly peons!  If you were worthy, you'd be as rich.  You're not, which means you're just too lazy.  Work harder!

The reaction from O'Leary's co-host, Amanda Lang, said it all. 
"Really?" she said. "So, someone living on a dollar a day in Africa is getting up in the morning and saying, ‘I’m going to be Bill Gates’?”

Why there's nothing at all stopping them from doing just that!  The only reason that person in Africa living on a dollar a day hasn't made as much as Bill Gates yet is because they are lazy and immoral, Q.E.D. and Amen!

[UPDATE] And a new Pew Research poll on income inequality bears out that -- surprise! -- most Republicans are members of the Church of the Invisible Hand, while a large majority of Democrats and a slight majority of Independent voters believe in societal advantages and disadvantages.

Republicans of course can't admit that there are structural economic barriers in place in America that have to do with class, gender, and race, otherwise they'd have to admit they're largely responsible for perpetuating them.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Last Call For Cincinnati's Shame

And Ohio's ridiculous abortion law leaves the Queen City one step closer to being the largest American metropolitan area with no abortion access whatsoever.

A women’s clinic in Cincinnati, Ohio has lost its bid for a reprieve from new, restrictive anti-choice laws in the state and may be forced to close. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, this leaves the city one step closer to being the largest in the U.S. without any local abortion provider. 
The state moved to revoke Women’s Med Center of Sharonville’s license to practice in the state based on its inability to comply with Republican-sponsored laws aimed at gutting women’s health options in Ohio. State health officials appointed by Gov. John Kasich (R) say that they are acting to protect women’s safety, but Kellie Copeland of the Ohio chapter of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) told the Enquirer that the state’s motivations are ideological. 
“Governor Kasich and his political appointees at the Ohio Department of Health are abusing their regulatory authority by moving to close an abortion clinic without any medical justification,” charged Copeland. 
At issue are so-called transfer agreements with local hospitals. Clinics that provide abortions are required to partner with a local hospital. While most abortions are simple outpatient procedures, sometimes there are complications and a patient must be transferred to a hospital.
Republican lawmakers made it illegal for women’s clinics to partner with hospitals that receive state money. Private hospitals, on the other hand, are reluctant to partner with women’s clinics, creating a Catch-22 in which clinics must meet requirements that they are unable to fulfill. This is one of the many ways in which state-level Republicans are attempting to make abortion illegal in the U.S. by default. 
Women’s Med has been operating under a variance request as it searches for a partner hospital. On Friday, Health Department Director Theodore Wymyslo — a Kasich appointee — denied the clinic’s request to renew the variance.

There are a grand total of two abortion clinics in Cincinnati.  One is about to close.  The other, the Planned Parenthood clinic in Mt. Auburn, is about to run out of time on its own transfer agreement on October 1.  If that happens and this clinic closes as well, by the end of the year, you will not be able to get an abortion in Cincinnati, period.  

Or at least, a safe and legal one.  I'm betting you'll be able to get an unsafe and illegal one still.

Working It Out

The latest case to come before the US Supreme Court may be the end of public employee unions, and thus organized labor, in America.  The case is Harris v. Quinn, and it just may be the case that makes "right-to-work" the new normal for all 50 states.  Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSBlog:

In the end, it may not happen, but the demise of public employee unionism was at least on the table for lively discussion in a Supreme Court argument Tuesday morning. The case of Harris v. Quinn would only spell doom for government workers’ collective action, it appeared, if Justice Antonin Scalia could be persuaded to join in doing it in; there just might be enough other votes.

This seemed an unlikely case to even raise that issue, but raise it, it surely did. The case only involves home-care workers who provide medical services for patients one on one, and the prospect that their activities might pose a threat to labor peace appeared remote indeed. Several members of the Court, though, were insistent that this case raises very large issues about labor relations in the public sector — an issue that is stirring up a good deal of agitation around the country, especially in state and local government.

Aside from what was said explicitly from the bench, the atmospherics of Tuesday’s argument suggested strongly that this case has very large potential. The mood of the Court’s more liberal members was one of obvious trepidation, and that of its more conservative members — except for Justice Scalia — was of apparent eagerness to reach anew the core constitutionality of compulsory union support among public workers.

In other words, the only thing keeping public employee unions alive in this country is Justice Scalia, who might consider a court mandate busting practically every union in the country governmental overreach.

It's not looking good.  Nina Totenberg:

"What I don't understand," said Justice Samuel Alito, "is why the union's participation in this is essential. ... Why do they need to have the union intervene here?" All of the benefits negotiated by the union could have been granted unilaterally by the state.

Alito suggested that former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, now in prison on corruption charges, recognized the union in exchange for a large campaign contribution. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli replied that in fact the union recognition program was enacted by large bipartisan majorities in the state Legislature

"In an era when government is getting bigger and bigger," said Justice Anthony Kennedy, "suppose the young person thinks that the state is squandering his heritage on unnecessary or excessive payments or benefits." Can the union "take money" from an employee who disagrees with the union on such "a fundamental question"?

In other words, Justice Kennedy is strongly implying that if a union doesn't have unanimous support among all members, they are unconstitutionally violating First Amendment rights.  It's ridiculous, but there you have it.  And that's a slippery slope, too.  What's to stop them from then saying if a law doesn't have the support of all the people it affects, it's unconstitutional?  If I don't agree with a law, does that mean my First Amendment rights are being trampled?

Who knows?

Bob-bing For Prison Time

The hammer, the anvil, the bellows and the entire blacksmith's shop has fallen on former GOP Virginia Gov. Bob "Invasive Ultrasound" McDonnell, as he and his wife were indicted on federal charges on Tuesday.

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife were indicted Tuesday on corruption charges after a monthslong federal investigation into thousands of dollars in gifts the Republican received from a businessman and political donor. 
A bond hearing and arraignment is set for both defendants Friday in U.S. District Court in Richmond. 
"Today's charges represent the Justice Department's continued commitment to rooting out public corruption at all levels of government," Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman said in a news release. "Ensuring that elected officials uphold the public's trust is one of our most critical responsibilities." 
McDonnell left office earlier this month after four years in the governor's office. Virginia law limits governors to a single term. 
A federal investigation overshadowed the final months in office for the once-rising star of the Republican Party, with authorities looking into gifts he and his family received from Jonnie Williams, the former CEO of dietary supplements maker Star Scientific. 
In July, McDonnell apologized and said he had returned more than $120,000 in loans and other gifts from Williams. He insisted that he had done nothing illegal on behalf of Star Scientific but said he'd do "things differently today than choices I made a couple of years ago." 
On Tuesday, McDonnell repeated that apology but insisted he had done nothing wrong. 
"I deeply regret accepting legal gifts and loans from Mr. Williams, all of which have been repaid with interest, and I have apologized for my poor judgment for which I take full responsibility," McDonnell said. "However, I repeat emphatically that I did nothing illegal for Mr. Williams in exchange for what I believed was his personal generosity and friendship."

I'll go ahead and save you the trouble of a GOP response:  "This is a politically motivated prosecution by Obama's corrupt and Orwellian 'Department of Justice' against yet another political enemy, with the goal of distracting America from the failure of Obamacare and from the Democrat party's role in the four deaths of brave Americans in Benghazi."

Feel free to use that, Republican operatives.  America really does need a good belly laugh at you clowns.

Oh, and you know who should be really sweating right now?  Chris Christie.

TPM has a recap of the most interesting bits from the indictment here, including the knowledge that the McDonnells were deep in debt, and the suggestion that McDonnell was considering letting Star Scientific use state employees as guinea pigs for human testing of their products:

In August 2011, following an email from Bob McDonnell to Virginia's secretary of health, Maureen McDonnell met at the Executive Mansion with Williams and one of the secretary's senior policy advisors. At that meeting, according to the indictment, Williams discussed the idea of having Virginia government employees use Anatabloc, Star Scientific's anti-inflammatory dietary supplement, "as a control group for research studies." 
This wasn't the only time this kind of idea came up. In October 2011, according to the indictment, Maureen McDonnell accompanied Williams and a research scientist who consulted for Star Scientific to a company event in Grand Blanc, Mich. They took Williams' private plane, and during the flights there and back, they discussed the potential health benefits of Anatabloc, the company's anti-inflammatory dietary supplement, and the need for clinical studies. The scientist later emailed Maureen McDonnell a summary of their discussions. In it, he suggested it might be useful "to perform a study of Virginia government employees… to determine the prevalences [sic] of autoimmune and inflammatory conditions."

Because Republicans care.
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