Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Last Call For Lost Plans

If you're wondering what the Republican plan for fixing America's health care system is after they magically repeal Obamacare, don't worry!  They still don't have one, but that's not actually stopping them.
Senior House Republicans — struggling to find consensus for health care legislation to replace the Affordable Care Act — are planning to test ideas in April at town-hall-style meetings that could provide a path toward a long-promised alternative to President Obama’s signature legislative achievement.

The “House ObamaCare Accountability Project” is still months away from producing actual legislation. With Democrats opposed, Republican leaders will have a hard time finding enough votes for any plan, and Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio remains cool to guaranteeing a vote.

But a road map is developing.

“It’s important to show the American people that there is a better approach to improving health care for Americans than Obamacare,” said Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the majority whip. “Unlike the president and congressional Democrats, we have been listening to the American people, and what Americans want is affordability, greater flexibility and access to care, which we are focused on achieving.”

"We just have no idea how to actually achieve that,"  McCarthy forgot to add.  And let's note that an accountability project doesn't seem to involve repealing Obamacare at all...

With every passing week, the Affordable Care Act is changing the political terrain, Republican leadership aides concede. The Department of Health and Human Services announced on Monday that enrollment in private health plans through the health care exchanges had passed the five million mark, with two weeks to go before the first sign-up period ends.

That may be below the goal of seven million set initially by the administration in internal documents, but the final number will not be far below that, and it does not count millions more enrolled through an expansion of Medicaid.

The reality is that Republicans lost this battle in 2010, plain and simple.  They will make gains in 2014 because of it, but those gains will be tempered by the fact they don't have anyone in 2016.  They know they've lost.  They're trying to figure out how to take 100% of the credit for "fixing" Obamacare problems that have largely been created by Republicans themselves in red states refusing to participate.  Once that all gets ironed out and states like Texas and Florida buy in out of necessity, the game ends.  The fact that Republicans are still trying to come up with a "road map" four years after Democrats passed legislation tells you exactly how dedicated Republicans are to do anything about health care.  That would require actual governance, which is something they are intellectually incapable of.

They're desperately trying to figure out a way to prevent Obamacare from becoming the law of the land, but they have no real plans for fixing anything, and they know it.

They're far too late.

Sanction You Very Much, Comrade

The US and EU slapped sanctions on Russian officials and Putin aides on Monday, and Russia's response is to ban US senators and members of Congress.  Josh Rogin:

U.S. senators, congressmen and top Obama administration officials are sure to be on Vladimir Putin’s sanctions list; a response to the Obama Administration’s announcement on Monday that 7 Russian officials and 4 Ukrainian officials would be barred from holding assets or traveling to the United States.

Putin is expected to release his retaliation list as early as Tuesday and while the final list is still being crafted, it will include top Obama administration officials and high profile U.S. senators, in an effort to roughly mirror the U.S. sanctions against Russian officials and lawmakers, according to diplomatic sources. At the top of the list in Congress is Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, who recentlyco-authored a resolution criticizing Russia’s invasion of Crimea.

Durbin’s inclusion on Putin’s list would mirror Obama’s naming of Valentina Matvienko, the head of the upper chamber of the Russian Duma. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are not expected to be on the Russian sanctions list.

The response from US senators from both parties is exactly what you would expect.

Durbin told The Daily Beast in a statement Monday: "My Lithuanian-born mother would be proud her son made Vladimir Putin’s American enemies list."

Sen. John McCain, who traveled to Kiev last weekend to meet with Ukrainian leaders, told The Daily Beast that he expects to be on the list and is happy about it.

“You think I’m not going to be on it?” McCain said. “I would be honored to be on that list.”

With so many gigantic egos involved, of course this is going to degenerate into comedy.  Too bad it's deadly serious for the Crimea region, Ukraine, and Europe.

As things stand today, Putin has announced that Russia will now formally annex the Crimea.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, defying Ukrainian protests and Western sanctions, told parliament on Tuesday that Russia will move forward with procedures to annex Ukraine's Crimean region.

Putin signed an order "to approve the draft treaty between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Crimea on adopting the Republic of Crimea into the Russian Federation". The order indicated the president would sign the treaty with Crimea's Russian-installed leader, who is in Moscow to request incorporation into Russia, but it gave no date.

Possession is still nine-tenths of international law, apparently.

Welcome Back, Mr. Silver

The new FiveThirtyEight has launched this week, now with ESPN (let's remember they started out modeling baseball stats), and Prognosticator Supreme Nate Silver explains his site's take on what he calls "data journalism" and what it means for the media landscape.  He starts out confessing that his modeling for the 2012 elections was in fact overrated because other folks came to very similar conclusions about Obama vs Romney, and for one other reason:

The other reason I say our election forecasts were overrated is because they didn’t represent the totality, or even the most important part, of our journalism at FiveThirtyEight. We also covered topics ranging from the increasing acceptance of gay marriage to the election of the new pope, along with subjects in sports, science, lifestyle and economics. Relatively little of this coverage entailed making predictions. Instead, it usually involved more preliminary steps in the data journalism process: collecting data, organizing data, exploring data for meaningful relationships, and so forth. Data journalists have the potential to add value in each of these ways, just as other types of journalists can add value by gathering evidence and writing stories.

The breadth of our coverage will be much clearer at this new version of FiveThirtyEight, which is launching Monday under the auspices of ESPN. We’ve expanded our staff from two full-time journalists to 20 and counting. Few of them will focus on politics exclusively; instead, our coverage will span five major subject areas — politics, economics, science, life and sports.

So here's where we are in 2014:  fact-driven journalism is shiny and new, as opposed to endless punditry, opining, spin, and agenda-driven lying.  I can't think of a better person to fill this "niche" than Nate Silver.  Here's wishing him luck.

It's a pretty high bar, and judgement is so far reserved.


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