Saturday, November 16, 2013

Holy Jolly Friday: Frosty The Snowman

Why People Should Stop Referring To Problems As "Obama's Katrina

OLIVER WILLIS/Media Matters For America:

Media figures are comparing the troubled rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to the Bush administration's botched response to Hurricane Katrina. This comparison ignores a crucial difference: Nobody has died because of problems with, whereas at least 1,833 people died as a result of Katrina.
The media have repeatedly referred to crises during the Obama administration as "Obama's Katrina."
[Source: Tropical Cyclone Report: Hurricane]
The problems with the rollout of ACA include the malfunctioning website, problems with state health care exchanges, and confusion over insurance companies changing policies to comply with the law's requirements. In a November 14 press conference, President Obama announced changes that would accommodate people whose insurance policies have been canceled, while members of Congress are reportedly working on legislation to fix problems in the law.
To date, no major news outlet has reported that anyone has died as a result of the problems with the rollout of the law, though Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified to Congress that delays in implementing the law -- something Fox News has pushed for -- could lead to deaths.
After Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana, the Bush administration was criticized for its slow and inadequate response to the storm, which eventually took the lives of 1,833 people.
On November 15, The New York Times compared the loss of confidence in the Obama administration to the way the response to Katrina affected the George W. Bush administration:
President Obama is now threatened by a similar toxic mix. The disastrous rollout of his health care law not only threatens the rest of his agenda but also raises questions about his competence in the same way that the Bush administration's botched response to Hurricane Katrina undermined any semblance of Republican efficiency.
Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy and Research noted that "the comparison to the response to Hurricane Katrina has to qualify as more than a bit over the top":
People died because of the failed response to Katrina. For whatever reason, President Bush was unable to organize a response to a hurricane hitting a major American city even though its course and ferocity had been accurately predicted a week in advance. People in New Orleans died because they could not get access to food, water, and medical care. It seems more than a bit over the top to compare the difficulties that people are facing arranging for insurance to this sort of catastrophe.
Slate's Matthew Yglesias similarly noted that the comparison is flawed even in the most generous interpretation:
Obviously, George W. Bush and his administration are not responsible for all of those deaths. A storm's a storm. But let's be very generous to Bush and say that the underlying bad fundamentals are responsible for 95 percent of the damage and the bungled response gets just 5 percent of the blame. That's 91 dead people. How many people have died using I'm pretty sure it's fewer than one. In fact, despite all the problems over 160,000 people have already gotten Medicaid.
Among the media figures who have made the comparison:
ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulous on Twitter: "How can President Obama recover from his Katrina?"
In a segment that aired on ABC's Good Morning America, Stephanopoulous said that "what happened with Katrina, once those questions about [Bush's] competence took hold" and asked former ABC political analyst and former Bush staffer Matthew Dowd if Obama is "in that kind of a position right now." Dowd noted that the storm and the reform were "qualitatively different" but that parallels could be drawn.
Former Bush speechwriter David Frum wrote on Twitter: "President Bush did not design and enact Hurricane Katrina."
Fox News anchor Geraldo Rivera asked on the November 15 Fox & Friends: "Is this is like weapons of mass destruction? Is this like President George W. Bush after Katrina?"
Bloomberg columnist Al Hunt said on the November 14 Morning Joe: "I think Katrina may be the best analogy" to the handling of the ACA rollout.
The same problem holds for comparing the ACA rollout to the Iraq War:
[Source: Operation Iraqi Freedom Casualties,]

Tea party money brews trouble

GOP revives ugly ACA-Katrina comparison

Disrespect, Race and Obama

By CHARLES M. BLOW/New York Times

In an interview with the BBC this week, Oprah Winfrey said of President Obama: “There is a level of disrespect for the office that occurs. And that occurs, in some cases, and maybe even many cases, because he’s African-American.”

With that remark, Winfrey touched on an issue that many Americans have wrestled with: To what extent does this president’s race animate those loyal to him and those opposed? Is race a primary motivator or a subordinate, more elusive one, tainting motivations but not driving them?

To some degree, the answers lie with the questioners. There are different perceptions of racial realities. What some see as slights, others see as innocent opposition. But there are some objective truths here. Racism is a virus that is growing clever at avoiding detection. Race consciousness is real. Racial assumptions and prejudices are real. And racism is real. But these realities can operate without articulation and beneath awareness. For those reasons, some can see racism where it is absent, and others can willfully ignore any possibility that it could ever be present.

To wit, Rush Limbaugh responded to Winfrey’s comments in his usual acerbic way, lacking all nuance:

“If black people in this country are so mistreated and so disrespected, how in the name of Sam Hill did you happen? Would somebody explain that to me? If there’s a level of disrespect simply because he’s black, then how, Oprah, have you managed to become the — at one time — most popular and certainly wealthiest television personality? How does that happen?”

No one has ever accused Limbaugh of being a complex thinker, but the intellectual deficiency required to achieve that level of arrogance and ignorance is staggering.

Anyone with even a child’s grasp of race understands that for many minorities success isn’t synonymous with the absence of obstacles, but often requires the overcoming of obstacles. Furthermore, being willing to be entertained by someone isn’t the same as being willing to be led by them.

And finally, affinity and racial animosity can dwell together in the same soul. You can like and even admire a person of another race while simultaneously disparaging the race as a whole. One can even be attracted to persons of different races and still harbor racial animus toward their group. Generations of sexual predation and miscegenation during and after slavery in this country have taught us that.

Alas, simpletons have simple understandings of complex concepts.

But it is reactions like Limbaugh’s that lead many of the president’s supporters to believe that racial sensitivity is in retreat and racial hostility is on the rise.

To be sure, the Internet is rife with examples of derogatory, overtly racial comments and imagery referring to the president and his family. But the question remains: Are we seeing an increase in racial hostility or simply an elevation — or uncovering — of it? And are those racist attitudes isolated or do they represent a serious problem?

Much of the discussion about the president, his opposition and his race has centered on the Tea Party, fairly or not.

In one take on race and the Tea Party that went horribly wrong this week, Washington Post opinion writer Richard Cohen wrote:

“Today’s G.O.P. is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the Tea Party, but it is deeply troubled — about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts — but not all — of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.”

What exactly are “conventional views” in this context? They appear to refer specifically to opinions about the color of people’s skin.

Cohen seemed to want to recast racial intolerance — and sexual identity discomfort — in a more humane light: as an extension of traditional values rather than as an artifact of traditional bigotry. In addition, Cohen’s attempt to absolve the entirety of the Tea Party without proof fails in the same way that blanket condemnations do. Overreach is always the enemy.

I don’t know what role, if any, race plays in the feelings of Tea Party supporters. It is impossible to know the heart of another person (unless they unambiguously reveal themselves), let alone the hearts of millions.

But nerves are raw, antennas are up and race has become a lightning rod in the Obama era. This is not Obama’s doing, but the simple result of his being.

Eric Cantor won’t bring Immigration Reform to the floor for a vote because has technical issues

By Anomaly/Freak Out Nation

On Friday afternoon, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) gave one of the most mind boggling reasons for the House not voting on the bipartisan Senate immigration reform bill that was passed in June because — wait for it — he didn’t want to “repeat the mistakes” of Obamacare. Whatever that means.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) argued that a vote on immigration reform should occur by the end of the year, because it can garner 218 votes.
Think Progress reports, “Cantor responded that Senate Democrats and White House officials have been unwilling to talk and instead insist on a “my way or the highway kind of mode of operation.”
That sounds so familiar. In fact, in August, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) — one of the most hardline immigration opponents — called reform “a waste of time,” and said that the House should focus its attention on Benghazi instead.
Transcript via Think Progress:
HOYER: Bring it to the floor and see if the House thinks it’s a bad bill. See if the House believes that it’s a bill that is not worthy to be considered and passed as a fixing of a broken immigration system … He has the power to bring that bill to the floor.
CANTOR: We don’t want a repeat of what’s going on now with Obamacare. That bill, constructed as it is by the Senate, last-minute-ditch effort to get it across the finish line … let’s be mindful, Madam Speaker, of what happens when you put together a bill like Obamacare and the real consequences to millions of Americans right now, scared that they’re not going to even have health care insurance that they have today come January 1.
[...] I’d say to the gentleman again. The track record of this administration and the majority in the Senate has indicated an unwillingness to sit down and talk. They’ve not done so, certainly the White House has not done so on the immigration issue, did not do so on the health care issue, and again it doesn’t help the American people for their insistence on a “my way or the highway” kind of mode of operation.
After an insane amount of attempts to repeal Obamacare, what Cantor is saying is that he will block any measure Obama supports because he lost the fight to destroy Affordable Health Care.
And also because today ends in a Y.
Cantor refuses to do more than one thing at a time, and the only thing he has tried to accomplish has taken years, and he’s failed over and over again. It also cost this economy a lot of money. A lot.

Republicans Reject Obamacare ‘Fix’ Because It Includes Too Many Consumer Protections

BY IGOR VOLSKY/Think Progress
Republicans used a technicality on Friday to prevent the House of Representatives from considering a measure that would have extended additional consumer protections to beneficiaries who remain in their existing individual health care plans.
Democrats offered their “motion to recommit” as an alternative to a proposal introduced by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) that allows insurers to maintain their existing policies and permits issuers to offer these plans to new customers. The Democrats’ version only extends grandfather status to current policyholders who have received cancellation notices and includes consumer protections missing from the Upton bill. For instance, the measure mandates that insurers notify policyholders of exchange options and consumer protections. It also explicitly clarifies that existing rate review authorities apply to renewed plans.
But after Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ) introduced the Democrats’ proposal, Upton stood up and objected to the consumer protections contained within it, arguing that they went beyond the scope of his own bill. The chair, Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS), then read off the offending provisions and ruled that the proposal was not germane, preventing the House from even considering it:
The amendment proposed in the motion to recommit in pertinent part requires state insurance commissioners to examine notices of health insurance cancellations or conversions. It also addresses the regulation of health insurance rates, specifically the amendment delineates what would constitute inadequate notice of cancellation or conversions of health insurance coverage and directs state insurance commissioners to investigate such cases of inadequate notice. Additionally, it permits the Secretary of Health and Human Services or the relevant state insurance regulator to take corrective actions if health insurance rates are determined to be excessive, unjustified, or discriminatory….The chair therefore finds that the amendment proposed in the motion to recommit goes beyond the subject matter of the underlying bill. The point of order is it is therefore not germane.
Watch it:
Andrews sought to defend his measure ahead of the ruling, arguing that while the Democrats’ proposal includes additional safeguards, it “does not rise to a difference in germaneness.” Although he appealed the chair’s decision, the GOP-controlled House voted against him.
The House approved Upton’s bill in a vote of 261 to 157. 39 Democrats voted for it, 4 Republicans opposed it.

Homeowner Who Shot Girl Seeking Help At His Door Charged With Murder

A Detroit-area homeowner who shot in the face a 19-year-old girl at his door will be charged with murder, Wayne County prosecutors announced Thursday. The charges include murder in the second degree, which carries a term of up to life in prison; a manslaughter charge with a maximum term of 15 years in prison; and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony or attempted commission, which carries a term of two years in prison.
In the two weeks since Renisha McBride was shot dead outside the Dearborn Heights home, protests have escalated around the country to charge the homeowner, suggesting comparisons to the killing of Trayvon Martin. The shooter was white and McBride is African American. While the homeowner, now identified as Theodore P. Wafer, age 54, initially told police he discharged the gun by accident, his lawyer since told the press the shooting was “justified”and “reasonable,” invoking language from Michigan’s “Shoot First” laws that allow immunity for some self-defense shootings. At a press conference Friday, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said her office determined that Wafer “did not act in lawful self-defense.”
It is now clear that Michigan’s Stand Your Ground-like laws did not stop prosecutors from charging Wafer. Wafer may, however, still seek immunity from charges at trial.
Here’s what we know:
  • Police believe McBride was in a car accident and knocked on the door of the home for help. Worthy reported Friday that McBride, was bloodied, confused, and disoriented. Toxicology reports also show that her blood alcohol level was above the legal limit.
  • The shooter didn’t know McBride. In audio released by the police, the homeowner told the dispatcher he shot someone he didn’t know.
  • The homeowner’s lawyer is calling the shooting “justified.” The homeowner initially said he accidentally discharged the gun, but when his lawyer, Cheryl Carpenter, spoke to the press, she said the shooting was “justified” and invoked the language of Michigan’s “Shoot First” laws that could immunize the homeowner from prosecution if he was acting in self-defense. Carpenter also told NPR that the knocking sounded like a lot of banging, rather than a knock.
  • There were no signs forced entry into the home. Prosecutor Worthy said during the press conference Friday that McBride had not attempted to forcibly enter the home. For Wafer to successfully invoke immunity under what is known as the “Castle Doctrine,” which authorizes deadly force without a duty to retreat in one’s home, he would have to show that McBride was “in the process of breaking and entering a dwelling.” He could also use the state’s Stand Your Ground law to show that he reasonably believed force was necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm.

According To Media Reports, Obama Is Responsible For At Least 8 ‘Katrinas’

BY JUDD LEGUM/Think Progress
On Friday, the New York Times ran a lengthy piece comparing the troubled rollout of Obamacare — including a dysfunctional website and the cancelation of some existing individual insurance policies — to President Bush’s botched response to Hurricane Katrina, a tragedy which cost at least 1,833 people their lives. ABC’s Good Morning America featured a similar segment, and both outlets relied on former advisers of George W Bush to bolster their point. But this is just latest in a long line of “Katrinas,” that Barack Obama is responsible for, according to the media. Here is a sampling:

1. BP Oil Spill

“[I]t’s getting baked in a little bit in the media that BP was President Obama’s Katrina.” [NBC News, Brian Williams, 8/29/10]

2. Bank Bailout

“A CHARMING visit with Jay Leno won’t fix it. A 90 percent tax on bankers’ bonuses won’t fix it. Firing Timothy Geithner won’t fix it. Unless and until Barack Obama addresses the full depth of Americans’ anger with his full arsenal of policy smarts and political gifts, his presidency and, worse, our economy will be paralyzed. It would be foolish to dismiss as hyperbole the stark warning delivered by Paulette Altmaier of Cupertino, Calif., in a letter to the editorpublished by The Times last week: ‘President Obama may not realize it yet, but his Katrina moment has arrived.’” [New York Times, Frank Rich, 3/21/09]

3. Benghazi Consulate Attack And The IRS

“When House Republicans decided to reopen investigations into the White House and State Department response to the attacks on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, few thought it would inflict any serious damage to the president. Then came an admission from the IRS that it had unfairly singled out conservative groups for scrutiny during the 2012 campaign…This is President Obama’s Katrina moment. If he cannot regain control of the narrative, he will face the same loss of public confidence suffered by President Bush.” [Baltimore Sun, 5/19/13, Todd Eberly]

4. Hurricane Sandy

“I want to show you this report by our own David Lee Miller of a public housing unit in New Jersey, and — I’m sorry, in Brooklyn — devastated. This is Obama’s Katrina. And now the people are seeing that the gas lines and the suffering and the millions without power, the millions without heat, the millions — the ten and thousands that have lost their homes, and the cries for help.” [Fox News, Sean Hannity, 11/5/12]

5. Unemployment

“‘Will The Unemployment Crisis Be Obama’s Katrina?’ There’s a Category 5 storm about to make landfall, and the president and the officials in charge of preparing for the approaching disaster don’t seem to be particularly worried. Sound familiar? Just as Katrina exposed critical weaknesses in the priorities and competence of the Bush administration, the unfolding unemployment disaster is threatening to do the same for the Obama White House.” [Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington,11/23/09]

6. The Underwear Bomber

“To the list of phrases it may be best for political leaders to avoid after a major security incident, add ‘the system worked’ right after ‘Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.’ Just as the public did not really share President George W. Bush’s assessment of how things were going after Hurricane Katrina, so too was there a good deal of skepticism when President Obama’s homeland security secretary declared faith in a system that failed to stop a guy who tried to blow up a passenger jet on Christmas Day.” [New York Times, 12/29/09]

7. Haiti Earthquake

“‘Haiti: Obama’s Katrina.’ Four years ago the initial medical response to Hurricane Katrina was ill equipped, understaffed, poorly coordinated and delayed. Criticism of the paltry federal efforts was immediate and fierce. Unfortunately, the response to the latest international disaster in Haiti has been no better, compounding the catastrophe.” [Wall Street Journal, 1/25/10]

8. Obamacare

“‘Health Law Rollout’s Stumbles Draw Parallels to Bush’s Hurricane Response.’ President Obama is now threatened by a similar toxic mix. The disastrous rollout of his health care law not only threatens the rest of his agenda but also raises questions about his competence in the same way that the Bush administration’s botched response to Hurricane Katrina undermined any semblance of Republican efficiency.” [New York Times, 11/14/13]
Four years ago, the New York Times derided comparing every Presidential error to Katrina as “a Category 5 cliché.” Melissa Harris Perry, writing in the Nation in 2010, was even harsher: “These metaphors reduce catastrophe to an object lesson, implying that the effects of the disaster have been resolved, that the plot has been resolved and that the continued suffering of our fellow citizens is little more than a literary device.”
For Louisiana Republicans, Hurricane Katrina is Obama’s Katrina — a recent poll found more blame Obama than Bush for the federal response to the 2005 tragedy.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Fox Airs Another Misleading Obamacare "Horror" Story

JUSTIN BERRIER/Media Matters For America

After attacking Obamacare by highlighting easily debunked personal anectodes, Fox hosted another guest who falsely claimed the health care law would harm him personally without checking to make sure his story was accurate.
In a November 14 Salon post, former senior counsel to Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-MT), Eric Stern wrote about a conversation he had with Bill Lawrence, a man featured on Fox's The Kelly File after  writing a letter to Fox News explaining that he and his partners "had to sell our company because we couldn't afford the almost $400,000 in either penalties and fines or insurance premiums that we would have to pay as a result of ObamaCare." In the uncritical interview, host Megyn Kelly responded to Lawrence by asking his "thoughts on having your livelihood directly affected based on what politicians in Washington felt was best for you."
Stern contacted Lawrence after the segment aired and Lawrence admitted that he had sold his Texas-area car wash for multiple reasons, many of which had nothing to do with the ACA:
I then pressed Bill on whether there were any other reasons he was selling his business. He admitted to me that there were plenty of others ("myriad reasons," in his words). What were some of them?  "You ever run a business?" he asked with a chuckle. And then he began ticking off a bunch of problems in his life that he said he'd now be glad to be rid of.  The headache of managing workers. Taxes, fees and permits of every shape and size and color (dumpster permits, gate permits, this permit, that permit). He complained to me that he has to pay $300 for an "auto dealer's" permit just to sell air fresheners at the checkout counter of his car wash centers.
From the sound of it, Gov. Rick Perry is more to blame for Bill's choice to retire than Obama. Perhaps Texas is not the pro-business eden that Perry portrays it to be.
Nonetheless, Bill insisted that the Affordable Care Act was the "primary" reason he chose to sell out and retire after 22 years. He told me he spent a year attending seminars and seeking advice from lawyers and insurance experts on the employer mandate, and it was universally made clear to him that the new federal law would make it too costly to stay in business.
There's no questions that Bubbles Car Wash will have to absorb a new cost under the employer mandate. The question is how great it will be, and whether it will impact the business enough to have required Bill to unload it. Although Bill wouldn't show me any hard financial data, I asked him if he could give me a brief sketch of his company's revenue. He thought for a while, and then said he'd estimate that the company had around $13 million a year in revenues and about $900,000 in earnings -- earnings, meaning post-salary (he wouldn't tell me what his annual salary had been as an owner of the business).
Perhaps more disturbing, Lawrence told Stern that Fox made no effort to verify his claims before putting him on air to attack the ACA:
My first question to him was: Would he show me some of his business's financial records? Maybe an annual report, preferably something audited, so I could analyze his claim about the catastrophic effect Obamacare would have had on his business? He would not.
Did Megyn Kelly request such verification? No, he said, she did not.
And as for Megyn Kelly, she asked very few probative questions before or during the interview, preferring instead to just take Bill's claim about Obamacare at face value. But clearly there was another side of the story. 
This is not new, Stern has exposed Fox's false Obamacare horror stories before. In an earlier Salon post, Stern contacted three couples who were highlighted in a Hannity special on October 11. After discussing their appearances, Stern found that none of the couples' stories were accurate and ACA's exchanges would actually save them money.

The real reason GOP wants to impeach Holder

President Obama Check-Mates Health Insurance Lobby

 by Spandan C/The People's View

There are a lot opinions going around about President Obama's press conference this morning on the Affordable Care Act and its implementation. I see it as a singular thing: check mate. Once again, to quote my fellow contributor here at TPV, the president saved the Democrats' bacon, and once again, with his back to the wall, he delivered a masterful stroke of political genius curved out to avoid any interference with policy.

The headlines tell you that Obama will let Americans who are being dropped from their plans keep those plans for another year, and that is absolutely true. But the headlines do not tell the whole story. With the withering assault on health reform from the media, the Republicans and some Democrats, the president took the most blistering attack line against him, and turned it into a weapon against reform opponents. Here is what I believe were the two most important sentence the president spoke in the nearly hourlong presser (transcript).
 We’re also requiring insurers to extend current plans to inform their customers about two things: One, that protections — what protections these renewed plans don’t include.Number two, that the marketplace offers new options with better coverage and tax credits that might help you bring down the cost.
This, my fellow progressives, is how you keep your eyes on the prize. The entire problem of people who are currently in the individual insurance market being dropped resulted not from the president making a disingenuous promise to the contrary but from insurance companies making the conscious decision to drop their insured and blame it on Obamacare. Insurers have had more than 3 years to bring their plans into alignment with the minimum coverage requirements of health reform, and they have chosen not to do so over time, instead choosing this moment to scare their subscribers.

The president just turned the tables on the great villain, the insurance companies. He knows what everyone in Washington and the beltway media also know but won't tell you: insurance companies are dropping their coverage without offering reasonable alternatives to their individual market subscribers for one primary reason: they want a piece of the federal subsidiesavailable to millions of Americans through the health insurance exchanges. They need people buying from the exchanges with the subsidies to help their bottom lines as much as President Obama needs Americans to sign up in order for the Affordable Care Act to succeed. They want a piece of that pot of money, but they want to blame the Obama administration for dragging you there.

And so what the president did was simple, yet brilliant: he told Americans who are distressed that yes, they could keep their insurance plans if they like, instantly making all the cancellation letters blaming the ACA moot and taking away the insurance company's excuses for dropping people. But, with that same brilliant stroke, he forced insurance companies to do something they haven't been familiar with in decades: to tell their subscribers the truth. Insurance companies will now have to tell their subscribers whom they wish to sell junk plans to what essential benefit their plan will not cover: whether it's maternity care, mental health, hospitalization, prescription medication or another crucial essential requirement of the ACA. Oh, and they also have to tell their subscribers that they are likely to find a better plan for a cheaper cost on their state's exchange.

That the insurance industry wants people to move to the exchanges to buy coverage is not mere conjecture on my part. It is patently evident in today's apoplectic press release from AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignani:
 Changing the rules after health plans have already met the requirements of the law could destabilize the market and result in higher premiums for consumers. Premiums have already been set for next year based on an assumption of when consumers will be transitioning to the new marketplace. If due to these changes fewer younger and healthier people choose to purchase coverage in the exchange, premiums will increase in the marketplace and there will be fewer choices for consumers. Additional steps must be taken to stabilize the marketplace and mitigate the adverse impact on consumers.
I'm glad to see Ms. Ignani and AHIP suddenly recognize how important it is for consumers to move to the health insurance exchanges to purchase coverage, and that ACA's coverage requirements are a central catalyst to making that happen. One only imagines how much better it would have been if America's Health Insurance Plans instructed its member companies to convey that importance to their customers in the first place without the dramatic hoopla of trying to create political destruction for the president by omniously blaming the ACA for something insurance companies themselves want.

Because it is a dirty little open secret that the insurance companies want people in the exchanges as much as the administration, there is little risk of an actual negative effect from the president's announcements today on the exchanges. The president called the insurance companies' bluff, and the top lobbyist for insurers was immediate sent scurrying. People will still move to the exchanges, but it will no longer be because the big bad government is forcing one to, but because their insurance companies don't want to cover them outside the exchange.

The insurance industry, throughout the whole process - from the beginning of the health care debates in 2009 till now - have constantly acted like petulant children, and been treated as such by the administration and regulators. They tried to keep overhead high, and the law limited that to no more than 15-20% of premium revenue. They then tried to term insane things like collections as a "medical" expense, and the regulators showed them the door. They tried to jack up rates in retaliation, and in many cases they got shamed into retreating. They tried to protect Medicare Advantage overpayments, and Obamacare even did away with that. At every turn, the president has beaten them.

So this was their last play - to try to retaliate for politics' sake by blaming the Affordable Care Act for canceling people's coverage without telling them just what they didn't cover. For a while, it looked like they were winning. The media was completely on their side, telling trumped up stories about people losing their health insurance. The website issues added some fuel to that fire. Republicans were smelling blood, and some spineless Democrats found themselves ready to capitulate.

All these players though failed to count on one thing: a community organizer turned president named Barack Obama who has consistently turned in his best performances when his back was up against the wall. He nearly single-handedly rescued comprehensive health reform when many in Congress were ready to give up and his advisers were telling him to do it piecemeal. As a candidate in 2008, his best moment came in light of a loss to Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire. And in 2012, just when Chris Matthews was having a heart attack over his performance in the first debate, he came back in the second and leveled Mitt Romney (please proceed, governor.).

And he did it again. Today. With nearly no one having his back, the president struck a huge blow - not just against the intransigent health insurance companies but for reform, for the 40 million people who will be directly helped, and for countless millions who no longer have to fear cancellations or caps in coverage just when they need insurance the most.

Never, ever, EVER bet against this president. You will lose every single time.

Pennsylvania county Republican chairman accused of sexual assault after GOP dinner

By David Edwards/Raw Story

The chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Committee in Pennsylvania is reportedly being investigated for allegedly getting drunk and sexually assaulting a woman following a GOP dinner last month.
According to the Philadelphia Daily News, Chairman Robert J. Kerns got drunk at what the paper called a “major GOP power-broker dinner” on Oct. 25 and then sexually assaulted the woman.
“Somebody alleged that he was drinking and sexually assaulted her,” a source told the Philadelphia Daily News. “It was supposedly a woman that worked with him. It took place the following evening, 24 hours later – not associated with the county dinner.”
WCAU reported that investigators had been seen at Kerns’ home in Upper Gwynedd. One source told the station that a search warrant had been filed to obtain evidence in the case.
A Center City defense attorney confirmed to WCAU that he had been retained to represent Kerns, but would not say why. The District Attorney’s office has also declined to comment.
Kerns, who is a partner in a Lansdale law firm, is married and has two grown sons.
Watch this video from WCAU, broadcast Nov. 13, 2013.

Today’s Republicans Really Are More Radical Than Ever

Is the Tea Party uniquely crazy, or have conservatives always been like this? In a fascinating essay in newest Nation, Rick Perlstein argues it’s the latter. There have always been reactionary nuts, he says, but now they’re powerfulreactionary nuts:
The reactionary percentage of the electorate in these United States has been relatively constant since McCarthy’s day; I’d estimate it as hovering around 30 percent. A minority, but one never all that enamored of the niceties of democracy—they see themselves as fighting for the survival of civilization, after all. So, generation after generation, they’ve ruthlessly exploited the many points of structural vulnerability in the not-very-democratic American political system to get their way. For McCarthy, that meant using the rules of Senate investigations — in which the accused enjoy few of the procedural protections of the courtroom –to shape the direction of the government through the sheer power of intimidation. For the Goldwaterites, that meant flooding low-turnout party caucuses at the precinct and county level to win control of the Republican nomination process. In the past, such minoritarian ploys were stymied in the end by bottlenecks. For McCarthy, it was the canons of senatorial courtesy. For the Goldwaterites, it was the necessity of actually winning general elections. Now, however, the bottlenecks against right-wing minoritarian power are weaker than ever; America’s structural democracy deficit has never been greater. And that’s the biggest difference of all.
Perlstein is correct that there has always been a hardline reactionaryism in American political life. He digs up a particularly prescient memo from an awed Gerald Ford aide about Reagan conservatives’ “rule or ruin” attitude towards the GOP that’ll lodge itself in your brain. But a key element of Perlstein’s argument — that there’s nothing really new about the Tea Party — isn’t quite true. The modern right really is importantly different than previous generations of conservatives. And understanding why is critical to understanding how to respond to it.
Perlstein’s basic analysis presents an obvious puzzle. If reactionaries make up a constant 30 percent of the electorate throughout modern history, why have they only taken over the Republican Party now? His explanation is that weaker restrictions on individual donations post-Citizens United, joined with gerrymandering and a significantly more well endowed conservative activist infrastructure, has given unprecedented power to the crazies.
There’s an element of truth to this argument. The Sunlight Foundation put together data on donations from the one percent of the one percent, America’s very wealthiest, and its effect on the ideological makeup of the Republican and Democratic congressional delegations. They found that Republicans who get direct donations and PAC money from the super-duper-rich tend to be more conservative than Republicans that don’t.
But the correlations the Sunlight Foundation put together, while interesting, are too weak explain the long-running shift in the Republican Party’s positions. If big money explained the GOP’s conservative turn, you would expect to see a close correlation between between Republican legislators’ donations from the mega-rich and their political ideology. On this chart, that would show the red dots (Republican legislators) falling on or near the dotted or solid lines:
But they don’t. That means, while donations from the wealthiest do in general seem to go to more conservative Republicans (that’s why the lines slant upwards), donations don’t predict individual legislators’ conservatism all that well. That means there are likely a lot of other factors driving the GOP’s rightward moves.
That makes sense in historical context: campaign finance laws are actually stronger now than they were for the vast majority of American history. Perlstein makes much of the radicalism of McCarthy era conservatives, but before Watergate, there were only the weakest of restrictions on political contributions. In 1956, donations from two oil tycoons (not two companies, two peoplehelped in Eisenhower thrashing Adlai Stevenson in the presidential fundraising race. The Supreme Court’s destruction of the 2002 McCain-Feingold act wasn’t helpful, to be sure, but the 1974 Federal Election Campaign Actmeans that we’ve still got more regulation in place than we did before Tricky Dick.
That brings us to the biggest problem with Perlstein’s explanation: the GOP started becoming more uniformly conservative in the 70s, and kept going at a pretty steady clip. This chart of the mean political views of Republican House members (higher numbers mean more conservative) makes the point fairly clearly:
asymmetric polarization
So after the strongest restrictions on campaign finance in American history were imposed in 1974, the GOP got rapidly more conservativeCitizens Unitedbarely registers as a blip in this long-running trend, suggesting that rich people’s money is not the cause of the Republican Party’s growing radicalism.
There’s a plausible alternative explanation, but it involves acknowledging a genuine shift in American public opinion. Perlstein likes playing up the radicalism of McCarthy and Goldwater, but up until the 60s, moderate and even liberal Republicans played a crucial role in internal party politics. That’s because the Republican base was much more diverse than it was today, and the Democrats tenuously held on to one naturally conservative coalition — Southern whites who resented federal intrusion into their affairs — by virtue oflingering anger over the Civil War.
After the contradictions in the Democratic coalition became unsustainable, Southern whites began bolting from the Democratic Party. That’s right around the time you see that big uptick in House Republican conservatism (the trend looks the same in the Senate). Southern Democrats, who as recently as the 40s voted like economic liberals, converted to hardcore, across-the-board conservatism. This Southern conservatism then took over the rest of the GOP, creating a cycle wherein moderates left the party, leading to more conservative primary electorates electing more conservative legislators who in turn drove out more moderates. The South’s conversion to reactionary conservatism birthed the Tea Party, not big money.
The organized conservative movement played a role in this transformation, but not quite in the way that Perlstein suggests. By electing Barry Goldwater, who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, conservatives sent an important signal to Southern racists that the GOP would welcome their opposition to federal civil rights legislation, albeit on states’ rights and small government grounds. While Goldwater’s victory and the subsequent wholesale conservative takeover of the GOP owes a great deal to the type of organizing Perlstein documents, that allhappened several decades ago. The strength of conservative organizations now owes more to the structural changes in the electorate their predecessors shepherded than the unique strength of conservative activist groups today.
The point of all this is a dispute over what to do about Republican radicalism. Perlstein’s analysis suggests we need to pass better campaign finance laws and push back against gerrymandering. I think reforming the electoral system in those ways are important for all sorts of reasons, but they won’t un-polarize a Republican Party that’s been pushed right by much deeper structural trends on their own.
My demographic explanation suggests, on the other hand, a somewhat happier conclusion. While Perlstein hangs his hopes on unlikely-to-pass laws, I think that the Republican Party’s condensation to Southern, older white voters will inevitably push the GOP to a breaking point. Either it will collapse as a party or moderate to appeal to an increasingly young and multicultural electorate. Paradoxically, the reactionary forces Perlstein eloquently traces through American history are both stronger and weaker today than we might believe.