Later On

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Archive for the ‘GOP’ Category

Megyn Kelly explains why Nancy Pelosi is sexist and Hobby Lobby is not

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Laura Clawson has a very good post at Daily Kos:

Nancy Pelosi’s objections to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision are sexist, according to Fox News host and noted sexism expert Megyn Kelly. Pelosi, of course, noted correctly that the five justices who put the religious beliefs of corporations over the health care rights of actual people (though women people, who obviously matter less than others) were all men, and suggested that this was a problem. Here is Kelly’s impeccable logic demonstrating that Pelosi is ignorant or intentionally misleading:

“First of all, the gender of the justices in the Hobby Lobby majority is totally irrelevant,” Kelly said, pointing out that the justices who ruled in the majority for Roe v. Wade were also men. “Does Ms. Pelosi think those justices were ill-equipped to fairly decide that case? Or is it only when a judge disagrees with Ms. Pelosi that his gender is an issue.”

Or else, it’s an issue when a group of one type of people acts to remove rights from a group of another type of people, but it’s a different thing when one group of people acts to expand rights to another group of people. Just a thought. Kind of like how it was white people who enslaved black people, and that was bad, and it was also white Abraham Lincoln who signed the Emancipation Proclamation and mainly white politicians who passed the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, and that was good. Funny how that works, eh?

She added, “If Speaker John Boehner made a similar comment about the female Supreme Court justices, Nancy Pelosi would be crying sexism — and that’s what she is guilty of here.”

Yes, and this is happening in a fictional land in which there are five female Supreme Court justices acting unanimously to harm men, while insisting that their decision should in no way ever be applied to women.

This is where I point out that Megyn Kelly is one of the smartest, most-making-sense people hosting shows on Fox News. And then we all choose one of the following responses: cringe, facepalm, or wearily disgusted head shake.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 July 2014 at 12:18 pm

Posted in GOP, Law

Bill Maher on the GOP’s zombie lies

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They continue walking the earth even after they have been completely exposed as counterfactual. As Maher says:

What they do is they pass a zombie lie down to dumber and dumber people, who believe it more and more.

Hank Paulson may be over the one about climate change being a hoax, but it’s still good enough for Sean Hannity. Who then gets quoted by Michele Bachmann. Who forms the intellectual core of the thinking of Victoria Jackson. And when you think the zombie lie has finally gone to die at the idea hospice of the absolutely stupidest people on Earth, there it is being retweeted by Donald Trump.

But that’s just the summation of a very good rant about all the zombie lies about Obamacare. Maher goes through the list—lies that have been solidly refuted but never acknowledged by the GOP, which simply moves on to the next round of lies, leaving their litter of lies to blow around and soil our daily lives.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 July 2014 at 11:28 am

Posted in GOP, Healthcare

7 papers, 4 government inquiries, 2 news investigations and 1 court ruling proving voter fraud is mostly garbage journalism

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Christopher Ingraham reports in the Washington Posti:

Voter ID laws are back in the news this week after a group of college students joined a lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s new restrictive rules. And as Catherine Rampell pointed out earlier this week, it’s not just ID laws – Republican state legislatures have been busy devising all manner of creative ways to make voting more difficult for traditionally Democratic-leaning groups.

All of these restrictive measures take their justification from a perceived need to prevent “voter fraud.” But there is overwhelming scholarly and legal consensus that voter fraud is vanishingly rare, and in fact non-existent at the levels imagined by voter ID proponents. That hasn’t stopped many Republican lawmakers from crying “fraud” every time they’re faced with an unfavorable election outcome (see also: McDaniel, Chris).

For reference, a round-up of the latest research is below. Let me know in the comments if I missed anything. . .

Continue reading.

And, of course, a Republican official in Florida, I believe it was, said quite openly that the purpose of the laws was to reduce Democratic turnout in elections. Pure and simple. That’s the goal, and if you look at the measures passed, that is exactly the (intended) effect.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 July 2014 at 1:46 pm

Posted in Election, GOP

The continuing downfall of the United States

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Paul Krugman points out that the GOP in Congress doesn’t even want to repair our nation’s highways. His concluding paragraph:

What’s useful about the looming highway crisis is that it illustrates just how self-destructive that political choice has become. It’s one thing to block green investment, or high-speed rail, or even school construction. I’m for such things, but many on the right aren’t. But everyone from progressive think tanks to the United States Chamber of Commerce thinks we need good roads. Yet the combination of anti-tax ideology and deficit hysteria (itself mostly whipped up in an attempt to bully President Obama into spending cuts) means that we’re letting our highways, and our future, erode away.


Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2014 at 11:21 am

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government

Hurting for Work in Texas: What happens to workers when businesses run the government

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The human and social costs behind the Texas push to help big business—costs such as:

Investigative Findings

  • Texas stands alone in allowing employers to forgo workers’ comp insurance, and over 500,000 workers have no coverage if they are hurt or killed.
  • Texas doesn’t regulate private occupational insurance, which often provides fewer due process rights and stingier benefits than workers’ comp.
  • More than 90 percent of employers without workers’ comp flout a requirement that they notify the state of their opt-out status.
  • A quarter or more of employers without workers’ comp underreport lost-time injuries, recent audits suggest.
  • Major court decisions have eroded protections injured workers once had, including the right to sue certain employers who fire them for filing an injury claim.
  • Nearly half (45 percent) of all workers’ comp claims were initially denied or disputed in whole or in part from 2008 to 2013.
  • Workers are losing far more major disputes with workers’ comp insurers, and their margin of defeat has increased.

The four-part story by Jay Root is worth reading, since other state legislatures are likely to take or be pushed into taking a similar course:

Drive almost anywhere in the vast Lone Star State and you will see evidence of the “Texas miracle” economy that policymakers like Gov. Rick Perry can’t quit talking about.

From the largest U.S. refinery in Port Arthur to the storied Permian Basin in West Texas, Big Oil is back. In formerly depressed South Texas, gas flares from the fracking boom can be seen from outer space.

Toyota is moving its North American headquarters to suburban Dallas. And in the once-laid-back university town of Austin, it’s hard to find a downtown street without a construction crane towering overhead.

This hot economy, politicians say, is the direct result of their zealous opposition to over-regulation, greedy trial lawyers and profligate government spending. Perry now regularly recruits companies from other states, telling them the grass is greener here. And his likely successor, Attorney General Greg Abbott, has made keeping it that way his campaign mantra.

It’s hard to argue with the job creation numbers they tout. Since 2003, a third of the net new jobs created in the United States were in Texas. And there are real people in those jobs, people with families to feed.

There’s something about the thriving economy, though, that state leaders rarely mention: Texas has led the nation in worker fatalities for seven of the last 10 years, and when Texans get hurt or killed on the job, they have some of the weakest protections and stingiest benefits in the country.

While Texas has a Division of Workers’ Compensation, it is the only state that doesn’t require any private employer to carry workers’ compensation insurance or a private equivalent, so more than 500,000 people have no occupational benefits when they get injured at work. That means they often rely on charities or taxpayers to pay for their care.

Most Texans who are outside the workers’ comp system — more than a million people — do get private occupational insurance from their employers. But those plans aren’t regulated by the state and can be crafted to sharply limit employees’ benefits, legal rights and health care choices. Only 41 percent of the plans include death benefits, for example, according to state surveys.

Then there’s the state-regulated workers’ compensation system, which covers 81 percent of the Texas workforce. On paper, the policies look great: They all include death benefits, partial income replacement for employees too hurt to work and lifetime medical benefits for serious injuries.

But for thousands of workers, the promised benefits never materialize. Nearly half of all employee claims are initially denied or disputed in whole or in part, and when those denials blossom into a major disagreement before the Texas Division of Workers’ Compensation, workers lose most of the time, according to state data.

“They throw these workers away like tissue paper. They’re nothing more than a used Kleenex,” said Joe Longley, an Austin employment attorney who served as chief of the consumer protection division of the attorney general’s office in the 1970s. “We don’t provide for the workers. We provide for the businesses.”

Workers’ Compensation Commissioner Rod Bordelon has a different view. . .

Continue reading.

Given the corporate takeover of the government—Jim Hightower has a story of 300 Koch-led businessmen are going to spend $500 million to seize control of the Senate.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 July 2014 at 1:07 pm

Kansas being stupid

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Paul Krugman has a good column:

Two years ago Kansas embarked on a remarkable fiscal experiment: It sharply slashed income taxes without any clear idea of what would replace the lost revenue. Sam Brownback, the governor, proposed the legislation — in percentage terms, the largest tax cut in one year any state has ever enacted — in close consultation with the economist Arthur Laffer. And Mr. Brownback predicted that the cuts would jump-start an economic boom — “Look out, Texas,” he proclaimed.

But Kansas isn’t booming — in fact, its economy is lagging both neighboring states and America as a whole. Meanwhile, the state’s budget has plunged deep into deficit, provoking a Moody’s downgrade of its debt.

There’s an important lesson here — but it’s not what you think. Yes, the Kansas debacle shows that tax cuts don’t have magical powers, but we already knew that. The real lesson from Kansas is the enduring power of bad ideas, as long as those ideas serve the interests of the right people.

Why, after all, should anyone believe at this late date in supply-side economics, which claims that tax cuts boost the economy so much that they largely if not entirely pay for themselves? The doctrine crashed and burned two decades ago, when just about everyone on the right — after claiming, speciously, that the economy’s performance under Ronald Reagan validated their doctrine — went on to predict that Bill Clinton’s tax hike on the wealthy would cause a recession if not an outright depression. What actually happened was a spectacular economic expansion.

Nor is it just liberals who have long considered supply-side economics and those promoting it to have been discredited by experience. In 1998, in the first edition of his best-selling economics textbook, Harvard’s N. Gregory Mankiw — very much a Republican, and later chairman of George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers — famously wrote about the damage done by “charlatans and cranks.” In particular, he highlighted the role of “a small group of economists” who “advised presidential candidate Ronald Reagan that an across-the-board cut in income tax rates would raise tax revenue.” Chief among that “small group” was none other than Art Laffer.

And it’s not as if supply-siders later redeemed themselves. On the contrary, they’ve been as ludicrously wrong in recent years as they were in the 1990s. For example, five years have passed since Mr. Laffer warned Americans that “we can expect rapidly rising prices and much, much higher interest rates over the next four or five years.” Just about everyone in his camp agreed. But what we got instead was low inflation and record-low interest rates.

So how did the charlatans and cranks end up dictating policy in Kansas, and to a more limited extent in other states? Follow the money.

For the Brownback tax cuts didn’t emerge out of thin air. They closely followed a blueprint laid out by . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2014 at 8:54 am

Zero for six: Obamacare predictions that fell flat

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Once more we see expectations contradicted by experience. Paul Krugman notes in his blog:

For reference: I count at least six distinct predictions of Obamacare doom made by the usual suspects, not one of which has come true. Here they are:

1. Enrollment will be very low, and

2. Even if people sign up, they won’t pay their premiums.

Reality: Signups exceeded expectations, and the vast majority paid.

3. More people will lose coverage cancelled by Obamacare than gain it.

Reality: Sharp drop in the number of uninsured.

4. Rate shock.

Reality: Like it says, affordable care.

5. Young people not signing up, and death spiral.

Reality: Pretty good demographics.

6. Soaring health costs.

Reality: Health costs are below anyone’s expectations.

It’s quite an impressive track record, actually. And what’s even more impressive is that none of the usual suspects will even consider admitting having been wrong.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2014 at 4:02 pm

Posted in GOP, Healthcare

Kevin Drums tries to shame Inflation Hawks

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It won’t work, but it’s a damn good try. From the link:

So: we have low growth, low price inflation, low wage inflation, and unemployment is still high. This is really not an environment in which spending cuts and lower deficits are the answer.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2014 at 12:54 pm

Legislating Ignorance About Guns

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Whenever there’s a concerted movement to fight gaining knowledge, it’s a dead giveaway that people fighting against knowledge believe that the knowledge to be gained will undermine their beliefs or position: that thus the fight against the science of evolution and the science of climate change. Thus the fight by the DEA and Congress against scientific study of marijuana and its effects. And thus the fight by NRA and conservatives against the study of gun violence. They fear that any knowledge gained will contradict things that they very much like to believe, so they are determined to keep their (and our) ignorance intact on this issue.

Generally, when people disagree about something, they will look to facts to settle the dispute. This works only if both parties are willing to change their views if the facts so dictate. Some are not willing: they want to hold to their beliefs regardless of facts. I find communicating with these people is difficult, since the only input they will accept is that which coincides with the views they already have. They view gaining a better understanding and modifying their position as a kind of ego death, something that is intolerable. So they stop learning and remain frozen in their tomb of ideas.

The NY Times has a good editorial about how Congress legislates to promote ignorance about gun violence:

Eighteen months and dozens of school shootings after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., public-health experts still lack basic information on the roots of gun violence and how best to prevent it.

And if pro-gun members of Congress have their way, it will stay that way.

In 1996, at the behest of the National Rifle Association, Congress effectively barred federally financed research on gun violence. After Newtown, President Obama called for an end to the ban and asked Congress to provide $10 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study gun violence. He also included the $10 million request in his recent budget proposal to Congress. In addition, Democrats in the House and Senate have introduced legislation authorizing appropriators to provide funding.

Recently, however, Representative Jack Kingston, a Republican of Georgia and leader of the House subcommittee that sets the C.D.C. budget, told ProPublica that “the president’s request to fund propaganda for his gun-grabbing initiatives through the C.D.C. will not be included in the FY2015 appropriations bill.” Mr. Kingston does not have the last word; the full appropriations committee has yet to finalize the C.D.C. budget. But his stance does not bode well for gun-violence research or for science-based policy making more broadly.

The aim of such research is the same as research into any other health threat, like car crashes or smoking: to use scientific methods to chart the dimensions of a threat, identify remedies and address the problem collaboratively.

That is a different approach from one that views gun violence through the lens of law enforcement or mental health. And that is one reason the gun lobby and its toadies in Congress oppose it. It is potentially transformative, in the way that norms, behaviors and laws involving drunken driving and smoking have been transformed.

Questions that could usefully be examined were detailed in a report last year by experts convened by the federal Institute of Medicine at the request of the C.D.C. For example, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 June 2014 at 9:05 am

Posted in Congress, GOP, Guns

Angry but accurate: A post about Iraq

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Written by LeisureGuy

14 June 2014 at 10:15 am

Seeking advice on Iraq from those who have been consistently wrong…

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In the Washington Post Paul Waldman wonders why the media looks to those with a record of being wrong to get advice on Iraq:

At noon today, President Obama issued his first statement on the deteriorating situation on Iraq. “This is not solely or even primarily a military challenge,” he said. “The United States will do our part, but understand that ultimately it’s up to the Iraqis as a sovereign nation to solve their problems.”

Obama left the door open to unspecified “actions,” but repeated that the Iraqis themselves had to seize the opportunity that the years of American effort gave them.

This will no doubt be greeted by the President’s opponents with something akin to apoplexy. They will be arguing that in fact the problem does have a military solution, that the U.S. can solve it, and that whatever is happening, everything would be better if we applied more force.

We have now reached the rather ironic situation in Iraq where we find ourselves allied with Iran in an effort to save the corrupt and thuggish government of Nouri al-Maliki, while the army we spent eight years training falls apart. I’m not going to pretend to have unique insight into Iraqi politics (I’d suggest reading Marc Lynch, for starters, as a way of getting up to speed on what has led to this point).

But there are few people who understand Iraq less than the Republican politicians and pundits who are being sought out for their comments on the current situation.

As you watch the debate on this issue, you should remind yourself that the most prominent voices being heard are the very ones who brought us the Iraq War in the first place, who promised that everything was simple and the only question was whether we’d be “strong” and “decisive” enough — the same thing they’re saying today. They’re the ones who swore that Saddam was in cahoots with Al Qaeda, that he had a terrifying arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, that the war would be quick, easy and cheap, that since Iraq was a largely secular country we wouldn’t have to worry about sectarian conflict, and that democracy would spread throughout the region in short order, bringing peace and prosperity along with it.

We can start with the man on every TV producer and print reporter’s speed dial, John McCain. McCain does provide something important to journalists: whatever the issue of the moment is, he can be counted on to offer angry, bitter criticism of the Obama administration, giving the “balance” every story needs. The fact that he has never demonstrated the slightest bit of understanding of Iraq is no bar at all to being the most quoted person on the topic.

For context, here’s a nice roundup of some of the things McCain said when he was pushing to invade Iraq in the first place. When asked if Iraqis were going to greet us as liberators, he answered, “Absolutely.” He said, “Post-Saddam Hussein Iraq is going to be paid for by the Iraqis” with their oil wealth (the war ended up costing the American taxpayer upwards of $2 trillion). And my favorite: “There is not a history of clashes that are violent between Sunnis and Shias, so I think they can probably get along.”

The conflict between Sunnis and Shiites is the central dynamic of the Iraq conflict, of course. Yet today, the media once again seek out John McCain’s wisdom and insight on Iraq, which is kind of like saying, “Jeez, it looks like we might be lost — we really need to ask Mr. Magoo for directions.”

Of late, he has a habit of walking out in the middle of briefings where he might actually learn what’s going on so he can head to the cameras and express his dudgeon. His current genius idea is for the administration to rehire David Petraeus and send him to Iraq, where he’ll…do something or other. He showed his deep knowledge yesterday by saying . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 June 2014 at 1:26 pm

Posted in GOP, Iraq War

The GOP should consider Philip K. Dick’s epigram

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Philip K. Dick: “Reality is that which, when you stop believing it, doesn’t go away.” I immediately thought of climate change and the GOP’s strategy for combatting it.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 June 2014 at 11:46 am

Posted in Global warming, GOP

Findings from the latest Pew Poll

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Explained in the Washington Post with charts. Some highlights:

  • Conservatives dislike Democrats more than liberals dislike Republicans
  • Conservatives are more likely to say that the opposition’s policies are a threat to America
  • Conservatives surround themselves with people who share their views
  • The conservative echo chamber encompasses media too
  • Compromise is not a conservative value

The article concludes:

A few weeks ago, Tom Mann wrote the following in The Atlantic:

Republicans have become a radical insurgency—ideologically extreme, contemptuous of the inherited policy regime, scornful of compromise, unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of their political opposition. The evidence of this asymmetry is overwhelming.

With the release of today’s Pew study, that overwhelming evidence becomes even stronger.

It’s worth reading the article. The charts are interesting and the commentary helpful. For example, in the comment on the last chart (“compromise is not a conservative value”), the article notes:

This may be the most telling chart in the Pew report. You’d expect partisans on either end of the ideological spectrum to be less fond of compromise than those in the middle. But as it turns out, compromise is basically a liberal value – 82 percent of consistent liberals prefer politicians who make compromises. Less than a third of consistent conservatives say the same.

It’s important to note that when it comes to the actual practice of compromise, both liberals and conservatives have a hard time grasping what the word actually means. But liberals are much more into the notion of compromise as a political ideal. Conservatives, on the other hands, have a stated preference for candidates who “stick to their positions.”

A party that is ideologically predisposed against compromise is going to have a very hard time governing, particularly within a divided government. You can see this reflected in the Tea Party’s repeated enthusiasm for shutting the entire government down instead of passing pieces of legislation they disagree with. [And that's the same attitude that brought us the Civil War, when the South took up treason as a cause. - LG]

Kevin Drum has a good post how how this conservative cocoon is built and maintained: Fox News. Well worth reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2014 at 2:30 pm

Posted in Democrats, GOP, Media, Politics

Interesting take on Rep. Brat: The Elizabeth Warren of the Right

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Ryan Lizza writes in the New Yorker:

On January 14th, David Brat, the college professor who defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Tuesday, in a Republican primary in Virginia, was reading the Wall Street Journal’s opinion section when the premise of his improbable campaign was revealed to him.

Randall Stephenson, the C.E.O. of AT&T, had recently been named chairman of the Business Roundtable, a pro-Republican group that is made up of C.E.O.s from major American companies and has spent well over a hundred million dollars lobbying Congress during the past decade. Stephenson was a good fit for the organization. AT&T is known as a G.O.P.-leaning company; in their political donations, its political-action committees and employees have favored Republicans over Democrats almost two to one in the past two election cycles. Randall’s piece, which came after a year of Tea Party-inspired upheaval in the House, was called “A Business Short List for Growth,” and in it he laid out his group’s policy agenda for Congress in 2014. At the top of the list for Randall was “stability,” by which he meant an end to the crisis policymaking that has regularly threatened a government shutdown or debt default in recent years.

Brat, a free-market purist and a devotee of Ayn Rand, read the op-ed and turned to his wife. As he recounted several times on the trail this spring, he told her, “This guy just wrote my stump speech for me!” What was useful to Brat about the Wall Street Journal article was not that it echoed his own views, but that it clarified for him everything that Cantor was for and that Brat was against. “Stability,” for Brat, was simply code for a status quo in which companies like AT&T fleece the government.

From what I’ve observed, Brat has not talked like a forty-seven-per-cent conservative complaining about how tax dollars are being shovelled to the undeserving poor (although maybe he does believe that and didn’t emphasize it in the campaign). He comes across, instead, like a ninety-nine-per-cent conservative who sees the real villain as corporate America and its addiction to government largesse. One of his biggest applause lines is about how bankers should have gone to jail after the 2008 financial crisis. Brat is the Elizabeth Warren of the right.

The divisions within the Republican Party since 2010 are not always obvious from the shorthand we commonly use: Tea Party versus establishment, conservatives versus moderates, outsiders versus insiders. Brat’s stump speech, inspired by the country’s top corporate-lobbying group, was notable for the clarity with which it defined these often opaque categories. Eric Cantor “is running on the Chamber of Commerce growth plan,” Brat told a small gathering at the Life Church in Hanover, Virginia, last April. “The Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable. If you’re in big business, he’s good for you. But if you’re in any other group, it’s not good for you.”

What Wall Street was asking from Washington was, “Just keep it stable for us so we can make profits.” Brat went on:

I’m an economist. I’m pro-business. I’m pro-big business making profits. But what I’m absolutely against is big business in bed with big government. And that’s the problem.

Put aside for a second whether it’s actually true that a C.E.O.’s plea for an end to fiscal brinksmanship is actually a mask for extracting corporate subsidies. The more interesting phenomenon is that, for Tea Party conservatives, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page had morphed into the voice of the enemy.

In his campaign against Cantor, Brat turned every issue into a morality tale about big business cheating ordinary Americans. He attacked Cantor for supporting the farm bill (“Do those billions of dollars go to the small American farmer? No, they go to huge agribusiness, right? Big business again.”), the flood-insurance bill (“Who does that go to? A lot of the money goes to gazillionaires on both coasts who have homes in nice real-estate locations.”), and the STOCK Act, an effort to stop insider trading by congressmen, which Cantor gutted by including an exception for spouses. In his Randall-inspired stump speech, Brat was more worked up about the STOCK Act than anything else. He promised, “If you tell your friends or neighbors about this issue, I will be your next congressman!”

Granted, at the core of Brat’s ideology is an unvarnished belief, one that does not maintain majority support in any recent national poll that I have encountered, that the government should return to its pre-New Deal roots. This is not surprising. He’s a libertarian. But his message, which today is being embraced by Tea Party candidates around the country, is also sharply different from the Romney-Ryan view of limited government celebrated by Republicans in 2012.

Instead of lecturing the most vulnerable about the moral beauty of the marketplace, Brat targets the most well off. “Free markets!” he declared in Hanover, like a teacher about to reveal the essence of the lesson. “In a nutshell, what does it mean?”

It means no one is shown favoritism. Everyone is treated equally. Every firm, every business, and you compete fairly. And no one, if you’re big or small, is shown special attention. And we’re losing that. . .

Continue reading.

And another very interesting column on Brat and the issues that drove him to victory.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 June 2014 at 4:42 pm

Va. lawmaker to resign, paving way for jobs for self, daughter, according to associates

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Bribery and corruption are so much a part of US politics now that they are conducted in the open. Here’s an article by Jim Newell in Salon giving context for the latest example:

Since late 2009, it’s been an untouchable article of faith among Republicans that the Affordable Care Act was passed under such murky, corrupt circumstances that the law itself will never be fully legitimate and wasn’t passed in good faith. Indeed, there was some horse-trading in Congress in order to enact the law. And the most infamous of those side-deals with Democratic senators was the “Cornhusker Kickback.”

Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson was one of the most difficult holdouts for majority leader Harry Reid in late December 2009, as the Senate was trying to pass the ACA. Nelson was demanding, especially over language regarding federal funding for abortion. Even after a deal was cut on that, he needed something else. And so he got it: a carve-out in the Senate legislation in which the government promised to cover 100% of Nebraska’s Medicaid expansion. In other states, the deal was that the government would cover 100% of the costs for the first few years of implementation and then gradually reduce its commitment to 90%. (Still a good deal!) This secured Nelson’s vote, and the Senate was able to break a Republican filibuster and pass the ACA on Christmas Eve.

The backlash against the “Cornhusker Kickback” — the term of art coined by a proud Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell – was swift. Republicans wielded it as an objection to the ACA as a whole. And Democratic members and governors from other states were upset that they’d be receiving fewer dollars from the federal government than Nebraska. The deal backfired on Nelson, too, who wasn’t greeted so much as a hero at home for his masterful negotiations so much as he was heckled at local pizza parlors for being terrible and corrupt.

That’s why the “Cornhusker Kickback” never made it past the final hurdle into law. After the House passed the Senate bill in March 2010, the Senate passed a package of “fixes” including the removal of the “Cornhusker Kickback.” Even though the provision was eliminated in the end, however, “Cornhusker Kickback” has still served as an opponents’ rallying cry against the law, and the Medicaid expansion, ever since.

But it appears that corruption surrounding the Medicaid expansion is coming full circle. Because for whatever deals the Democrats made (and then later eliminated) to secure the Medicaid expansion, you should see what the other side’s up to now to ensure it’s never implemented.

One of the country’s hottest state legislative battles is in Virginia, where new Gov. Terry McAuliffe is trying to fulfill a campaign pledge to expand Medicaid and bring coverage to a supposed 400,000 eligible citizens. He’s being met with stiff Republican opposition. If an agreement can’t be worked out and a budget deal isn’t cut by July 1, the state government will shut down. Key to McAuliffe and the Democrats’ plans was control of the state Senate, which is split 20-20 but controlled by Democrats since there’s a Democratic lieutenant governor.

But McAuliffe’s plan has suddenly, and shockingly, taken a turn for the worse. As the Washington Post reports, Republicans are poised to take control of the state Senate now through an act of quid pro quo corruption so brazen it would even make John Roberts blush: . .

Continue reading.

And here is Laura Vozella’s story in the Washington Post:

Republicans appear to have outmaneuvered Gov. Terry McAuliffe in a state budget standoff by persuading a Democratic senator to resign his seat, at least temporarily giving the GOP control of the chamber and possibly dooming the governor’s push to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Sen. Phillip P. Puckett (D-Russell) will announce his resignation Monday, effective immediately, paving the way to appoint his daughter to a judgeship and Puckett to the job of deputy director of the state tobacco commission, three people familiar with the plan said Sunday. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

The news prompted outrage among Democrats — and accusations that Republicans were trying to buy the Senate with job offers in order to thwart McAuliffe’s proposal to expand health coverage to 400,000 low-income Virginians.

Del. Scott A. Surovell (D-Fairfax) said Republicans were unable to win the policy argument about Medicaid expansion, so they have resorted to other means.

“It’s astounding to me. The House Republican caucus will do anything and everything to prevent low-income Virginians from getting health care. . . . They figure the only way they could win was to give a job to a state senator,” Surovell said. “At least they can’t offer Terry McAuliffe a job. I hope Terry continues to stand up to these bullies.”

Puckett, a senator since 1998, did not respond to calls seeking comment. Other Republicans denied that Puckett was offered the jobs in exchange for his resignation.

Continue reading.



Written by LeisureGuy

9 June 2014 at 1:11 pm

Posted in GOP, Government, Healthcare

Good insight to the VA problem

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GOP members of Congress are, no surprise, that it’s not their fault for cutting funding for the VA. I imagine they were chanting, “Do more with less. Think outside the box. Work smarter not harder—oh, hell, work harder, too.” and so on.

Kevin Drum offers some good insights in the source of the problems and why they showed up in Phoenix first.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 June 2014 at 5:11 pm

The common conservative response to disliked facts: Deny, deny, deny

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And what that sort of denial is called is “dishonesty.”

Paul Krugman has a good example:

A while back I published an article titled “The Rich, the Right, and the Facts,” in which I described politically motivated efforts to deny the obvious — the sharp rise in U.S. inequality, especially at the very top of the income scale. It probably won’t surprise you to hear that I found a lot of statistical malpractice in high places.

Nor will it surprise you to learn that nothing much has changed. Not only do the usual suspects continue to deny the obvious, but they keep rolling out the same discredited arguments: Inequality isn’t really rising; O.K., it’s rising, but it doesn’t matter because we have so much social mobility; anyway, it’s a good thing, and anyone who suggests that it’s a problem is a Marxist.

What may surprise you is the year in which I published that article: 1992.

Which brings me to the latest intellectual scuffle, set off by an article by Chris Giles, the economics editor of The Financial Times, attacking the credibility of Thomas Piketty’s best-selling Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Mr. Giles claimed that Mr. Piketty’s work made “a series of errors that skew his findings,” and that there is in fact no clear evidence of rising concentration of wealth. And like just about everyone who has followed such controversies over the years, I thought, “Here we go again.”

Sure enough, the subsequent discussion has not gone well for Mr. Giles. The alleged errors were actually the kinds of data adjustments that are normal in any research that relies on a variety of sources. And the crucial assertion that there is no clear trend toward increased concentration of wealth rested on a known fallacy, an apples-to-oranges comparison that experts have long warned about — and that I identified in that 1992 article.

At the risk of giving too much information, here’s the issue. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 June 2014 at 8:13 am

Posted in Books, Business, Daily life, GOP

Benghazi forever

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Kevin Drum has a very nice and clear post on Chris Wallace’s thumping away enthusiastically on the dead horse Benghazi.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 June 2014 at 9:59 am

Posted in GOP

It’s very premature to call US a “post-racist” society

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Take a look. South Carolina’s governor believes it’s important not to have large numbers of African-Americans on the beach. She did not mention any similar concern for large numbers of whites on the beach.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 May 2014 at 1:24 pm

Liquidating the US

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The GOP seems to be involved in an effort to liquidate the US. Rather than support the institutions and services that made the US what it is, the effort seems to be to cut government services to the bone so that the wealthy will not have to pay taxes—and the wealthy already pay very little in tax compared to the recent past.

Even the liquidation makes no sense: cutting postal services for a decade to pay for one year of highway maintenance. So next year the postal service be be cut for another ten years?

I am dismayed to see all the support our country once offered its citizens decimated simply to provide more support to the wealthy. The GOP does not have a problem with this—the GOP is the party of the wealthy—but it shows how quickly a country can decline.

Curtis Tate reports in McClatchy:

With the federal highway trust fund set to run out of cash in August, House Republicans are circulating a proposal to pay for a one-year extension by cutting back most U.S. mail delivery to five days a week.

The highway fund, which pays for highway and transit projects in all 50 states, is supported by a federal motor fuels tax that Congress hasn’t increased in more than 20 years and never indexed to inflation. Increased construction costs as well as higher fuel efficiency have eroded its buying power.

Rather than raise the tax or find some other stable source of revenue, Congress has borrowed $54 billion in general funds since 2008. The House Transportation Committee projects that as much as $15 billion would be needed to extend the highway fund for just one year.

The Republican proposal would eliminate the delivery of first class and bulk mail on Saturdays. Packages, priority and express mail deliveries would continue, and post offices would stay open on Saturdays. The plan would save $10 billion over 10 years _ funds that would help offset a one-year extension of surface transportation programs. . .

Continue reading.

Obama also supports cutting postal services, but Obama has been in thrall to Wall Street and Big Business from the start.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 May 2014 at 9:34 am


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