You may have noticed that a strange telepathy pandemic has swept DC since the Supreme Court upheld the ACA. Its most potent vector is this CBS report that John Roberts changed his mind weeks into the deliberations and decided to join the liberal wing of[...]
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Post columnist Marc Thiessen goes into full Lord of the Flies mode on John Roberts, embraces new legal doctrine of stare defucit.[...]
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In 2008, the United States had a year-long debate about health care. A year before, polls showed that 90% of Americans thought the current system needed fundamental changes. So, half a dozen different presidential candidates including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Mitt Romney all put forth plans that would ostensibly address this problem.
McCain's proposal mostly amounted to tax breaks. Mitt Romney's was similar, though it hinted at a requirement to buy health insurance. Barack Obama's and Hillary Clinton's, however, were much more ambitious, and included a complete overhaul of the current system, an expansion of Medicaid, and a public option.
Obama and McCain wound up winning their respective parties primaries. Health care was debated extensively on the campaign trail and in the three nationally-televised debates. It was also contentiously debated in Congressional campaigns, with Republicans mostly calling for tax cuts and deregulation and Democrats proposing an extensive overhaul.
The result of the election was that Barack Obama won a higher percentage of the popular vote than Ronald Reagan in 1980, and was given even larger majorities in the House and Senate than the Democrats had won in 2006.
With their electoral mandate, Democrats shortly after began to put together the legislation that Obama had campaigned on, though the bill that ultimately passed was more conservative, including a mandate and omitting the public plan. The Democrats finally were able to pass the Affordable Care Act -- barely -- after a year of Teabaggers screaming "death panels" and corporatist Democrats and Blue Dogs watering it down.
And yet, we get this from Faux News.
See? 2008 never happened.
I'm in this whacky club, the Elders of Beltway Wanna-Be Progressivism. We had a meeting right after Gabby Giffords announced she wouldn't be running again this year. A substantial number of the members are also in cahoots with the DCCC so almost everything progressive is doomed from the start but nonetheless there was a discussion. Her conservative hack of a district director, Ron Barber, was promising that he just wanted to finish her term and if he won the special election, we were promised, he wouldn't run in the general. So the other Democrats who had been expressing interest-- including several progressive legislators-- decided not to run against him in the special. I mentioned at the time that this was bullshit and an obvious tactic to get a clear shot for himself and that he would immediately run in the general.
Barber outraised a right-wing crackpot, Jesse Kelly, $1,193,698 to $756,173 and the DCCC and their allies outspent the NRCC and their allies. Barber ran by beating a fringe lunatic whose campaign literature had him posing with a machine gun. The Republican running in November is a far more attractive and mainstream (for a Republican) candidate, Martha McSally. That 20% of Republican voters that went for Barber will probably not vote for him in November. The district he just ran in-- the old 8th CD-- is significantly different from the new 2nd CD. In 2008, Obama wound up with 38% of the vote (against McCain's 61%) in the 8th and Giffords was reelected that year with 55%. Even in the face of the Great Blue Dog Apocalypse of 2010, she won again with 49% (against Kelly, who got 47%). The new 2nd district is considerably more Democratic. McCain would have still beaten Obama, but with 50% of the vote, not 61%-- and that's his home state.
So Barber beats the crackpot extremist, takes his seat-- and immediately lines up to start voting with Boehner and Cantor. His first vote in Congress set the tone when he joined a small pack of 16 reactionary Blue Dogs and New Dems to vote to trash 36 environmental, health, and tribal laws (including the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Superfund Law, and the Clean Water Act) within 100 miles of U.S. land borders-- in other words, much of his own district. Democrats who had worked so hard to elect him were dismayed and angry. And it didn't end there.
Darrell Issa and Eric Cantor were desperate to find some easily corruptible right-wing Democrats who would give them the cover so that Issa's witch hunt against the Obama administration wouldn't look as grotesquely partisan as it is. They always want to be able to crow that even their most insane extremist legislation is "bipartisan." And they found Barber. When Issa introduced one of his witch hunt resolutions to authorize "the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to initiate or intervene in judicial proceedings to enforce certain subpoenas," 21 Democrats went along with it-- Barber being one of them. I wonder if the DCCC is happy their SuperPAC spent $700,000 to win the seat for this guy. (I don't really wonder; I know they're delighted. He's their kind of "Democrat.")
Meanwhile, back in Arizona, progressive state Rep, Doctor Matt Heinz, who campaigned for Barber in the Special, is running hard against him for the primary. He's the newest Blue America candidate and he'll be joining us for a live blogging session at Crooks and Liars tomorrow (Tuesday) at 11am (PT). This is what he had to say about Barber's treachery on the move against Eric Holder:
?The recent civil contempt vote against U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in no way helps Arizona with its border security issues. The congressional investigation into the scandal has revealed systemic flaws that should be the focus of a national discussion. Instead of working to solve the problem, Barber crossed over to support a partisan attack, placing the seal of Southern Arizona voters? approval on this political circus.
?We need to put politics aside and confront the root of the gun smuggling problem. We should be creating a clear federal mandate to crack down on gun trafficking that funnels thousands of weapons daily to violent drug cartels. This political distraction is exacerbating the problem-- while the ATF has been under political attack, gun seizures in Arizona have dropped by 90 percent.?
In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, Republicans adamantly opposed to the Affordable Care Act are suddenly being forced to reassess their positions, and take action. Some states — Texas, Florida, Arizona, South Carolina, and Wisconsin — have said they will not yet set up the parts of the health care law that they do not support. Those states will wait, though for what is unclear.
Other state legislators are sucking up their anger at the health care law and getting down to business. States have until January 1, 2014 to set up health care exchange programs for their residents. If they don’t meet that deadline, the federal government will set up the exchange in their stead.
Here are some of the Republicans who are re-charting their course because of the Supreme Court’s decision:
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R): Christie vetoed the health care exchange program that his state legislature set up, saying he would wait until the health care decision came down from the Supreme Court. Politicians speculated that this was a signal to Mitt Romney that Christie was ready to be Vice President. Now that the court has upheld the law, Christie said he will unhappily meet the deadline for the exchanges, much to the chagrin of his right-wing supporters.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R): Snyder will begin implementing the exchanges immediately, though begrudgingly. Michigan Republicans have delayed funding the process for as long as possible, and now, with the clock running down, Michigan may need to seek help from the federal government to implement the law.
Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna (R): McKenna was one of the state representatives suing for Obamacare to be struck down. But this week, he says he is embracing the health care law. McKenna, who is running for governor in Washington, promised the health care exchanges and Medicaid expansion would both be implemented. McKenna has said “[t]here are a number of good provisions in this law that ought to be maintained.”
States are still processing what to do, and many have been silent on what form implementation will take. Other states — those run by Democratic legislatures — are well on their way to implementation and will likely meet the January 1, 2014 deadline.
Syed Farhaj Hassan dropped out of college in 2001 and joined the U.S. Army. In 2003, he was at the vanguard of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Now, the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) spying program on his New Jersey Muslim community has the current Army reservist up in arms again — this time through the courts.
Hassan, who learned of the spying from the AP’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series, is one of a number of New Jersey Muslims suing the NYPD over its surveillance program of Muslims across the Hudson River from its own jurisdiction. He says he feels “betrayed” by the spying program, which he says is an “invasion of our privacy” and targets innocent people. But Hassan’s participation in the suit is, like his service in Iraq, focused on defending the rights of others:
I was upset that this was happening to a community, simply based on their faith…
My concern as a concerned citizen, as an active participant in democracy is: Who?s next and what?s next? That?s what upsets me.
Watch a video of Hassan being interviewed:
Hassan’s military record makes clear that he’s not an opponent of providing security for Americans. “If there is actionable intel, then by all means, conduct the law-enforcement operation that you need to,” he told the Star-Ledger. But that doesn’t mean spying on innocent Muslims simply for being Muslim. In fact, he says, this could be counter-productive. He says trusting relationships meticulously built up between law enforcement and Muslim-American communities could be set back by more than a decade by the surveillance:
All the inroads that certain departments of the government have made (with Muslim communities), have been thrown asunder, i.e., the FBI perhaps ? or municipal police departments ? because of the actions of this one police department. And this is national.
It?s a slap in the face.
The FBI’s Special Agent in Charge in Newark agrees. ?It?s starting to have a negative impact,” special agent Michael Ward said. “When people pull back cooperation it creates additional risks.”
Other top officials are concerned about the program as well. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) objected to being left in the dark about the spying, and the Justice Department said in February it was reviewing the issue.
This weekend, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes and Freedom to Marry senior advisor Sean Eldridge tied the knot at their home in Garrison, New York. They have been dating since 2005. Hughes has committed large donations to marriage equality campaigns and also recently acquired The New Republic.
by Justin Guay, via the Sierra Club
Despite what the coal industry would have you believe, the days of cheap, affordable coal fired power are over.
That?s the conclusion of the Sierra Club’s most recent report Locked In, which analyzes the wide array of financial risks coal plant investments face. We decided to look into these risks because while the environmental and human health impacts of coal plant investments are increasingly well known, the financial impacts are not. What we found was eye opening – some of the world’s largest coal plants are on the verge of bankruptcy and an emerging ‘Organization of Coal Exporting Countries’ (OCEC) on the rise. As the title of our report suggests, avoiding locking ourselves into this risky environment is tremendously important because social and environmental damages aside ? new coal plants are just lousy investments.
Here?s the biggest risks coal plant financiers face:
Plant construction costs are rising and increasingly unpredictable: Over the past decade, in the U.S. and abroad, plant costs have increased by up to 100 percent. Add to that lengthy design and construction periods (5-7 years) and you get cost projections that are wildly out of date and that significantly understate the cost of new plants.
Coal prices are volatile, increasing, and exposed to an emerging ‘OCEC’: Just like oil prices, coal prices have trended sharply upward around the world. Worse, just like the oil market, the international coal market is highly concentrated; The top two producers alone ? Australia and Indonesia ? are responsible for roughly 50 percent of all internationally traded steam coal. That leaves new coal plants at the whim of an emerging “Organization of Coal Exporting Countries” (OCEC) that is increasingly, directly or indirectly, acting to maintain high prices.
Competing clean, renewable energy sources are coming down in price further increasing market uncertainty: Most reliable estimates put the cost of new wind power between 5 and 10 cents/kWh – at or below the cost of new coal-fired power in the United States. The same is true for solar photovoltaic (“PV”) in the sunniest parts of the US where it now competes for peaking power applications with the cheapest fossil fuel ? natural gas. While high in capital expenditure (CapEx) clean energy sources like wind and solar are not exposed to fuel price (OpEx) volatility. In essence, investors lock themselves into the ever increasing costs of coal while competitors increasingly offer attractive returns that are not just environmentally preferable, but also economically preferable.
‘Too Big to Fail’ coal projects like Tata Mundra can and should be avoided: Despite significant coal price increases many new projects routinely underestimate price volatility, the cost of construction and the risk of cost overruns. Way too often the optimistic scenarios predicted by coal proponents fail to materialize, leaving financial wreckage in their wake. For example, even before construction of the 4 GW Tata Mundra project in India is complete, coal prices are three times those cited in its bid. The problem is Tata Mundra is bound by a contract that fixes prices for decades to come forcing the government and investors to face billions in losses if they do not pass on significant price increases to average Indian consumers.
Ultimately, it’s quite clear to us that international coal markets are far riskier than most think. These risks are wide ranging ? from soaring fuel prices to coal cartels ? and they are not easily mitigated. Luckily a grassroots rebellion in the US and a growing clean energy revolution in the EU has helped avoid new coal plant lock in. But as the euro zone crisis rages and contributes to a slowing Chinese and Indian economy a significant lock in threat looms as investors seek to finance a new era of coal. But can these economies really afford to lock themselves into billions of dollars in financially risky new coal plant investments? The only rational answer to come to is a resounding NO.
Justin Guay is with the Sierra Club’s international program. This piece was originally published by the Sierra Club.
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is not unfamiliar with sexism in politics. But over the weekend, she explained exactly how women are affected by a political system riddled by latent sexism.
Appearing on Melissa Harris Perry’s show on MSNBC, Pelosi argued that women are unfairly judged for being equally tough as their male counterparts. This, she explained, makes it hard to increase the number of women in politics, especially in the current, high-conflict Congress:
PELOSI: I really believe as a woman in politics, and one of my goals and a crusade I’m on is always to increase the number of women in politics. I don’t think it’s really possible as long as we’re playing on a playing field created by others where money, money, money, money is the currency of the realm where it should be ideas, ideas, ideas, and that the stridency, the harshness, they suffocate the system with money, they suppress the vote, and they poison the debate. That’s not a good formula for women because women need to have a civil conversation. The minute a woman gets tough in the debate, you know what people say about her.
The world of fundraising is equally challenging to women, who might have a harder time gaining credibility among wealthy donors — who, for other gender-driven reasons, are mostly male.
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