In a rare moment of journalism, Chris Wallace gets Sen. Mitch McConnell to finally admit the fact that Republicans don't give a shit that tens of millions of Americans are uninsured.
Asked a third time how Republicans would insure those 30 million people, McConnell said: ?That is not the issue. The question is how you can go step by step to improve the American health care system.?Then Wallace presses him:
WALLACE: You don?t think the 30 million people who are uninsured is an issue?That's a pretty clear answer: No, 30 million uninsured Americans isn't an issue. It's never been the issue. You've heard the refrain from Republicans again and again for years: "They can just go to the emergency room. What's the problem?" It's willful and deliberate ignorance about what's driving the spiraling costs of health care in the United States. But it's ideologically consistent. No "undeserving" person should get anything because that means something is being taken away from me.
MCCONNELL: Let me tell you what we?re not going to do. We?re not going to turn the American health care system into a western European system.
Just as aspiring movie stars covet being among the nominees for cinema?s ultimate prize, ambitious politicians want to have their names on the oft-repeated list of potential vice presidents. Getting on the ticket is the ultimate goal, but even being a finalist ? or convincing the media you were a finalist even if you weren?t ? brings benefits, too. – Vice president hopefuls play the name game, by Jonathan Martin
IT’S TOO BAD Gov. Chris Christie has no class. That he’s proud of it makes it even worse.
The Politico piece above goes on and on skimming the veep history of recent memory. What it doesn’t touch is the paucity of Boy Wonder choices for Mitt Romney, who isn’t exactly Mr. Excitement. But then again, this isn’t an exciting year for Republicans, with many feeling the same about Democrats, though at least Pres. Obama brings game and a record. Romney has a record and game as Massachusetts governor, but his wingnut-Tea Party base won’t let him use it.
Gov. Chris Christie is one of the more interesting possibilities, but he brings with him the Biden factor times three. He can’t be held to a script, often veers wildly off into the weeds, but unlike Biden he’s got a crude and insulting tick that goes off without warning. There are many, many ways to tell the press to stuff it, so to speak. This just isn’t one of them. It’s comes at around 2:30 in the tape above.
?Did I say on topic? Are you stupid? On topic, on topic. Next question.? – Gov. Chris Christie
Right-wingers love Republicans taking it to the press, however, Team Romney might not be that impressed.
A better response, still in the Christie mode, would have been, “Come on, man, are you dense or what? On topic means on topic, you should know that by now.”
That this type of verbal belch is antithetical to Mitt Romney’s whole buttoned up, starched, patriarchal persona goes without saying. It’s why I’d love to see Christie as the veep nominee, but I’m a liberal.
We’re likely to witness something a lot more vanilla. Rob Portman of Ohio is the current flavor of the moment even though Christie would actually liven up this never ending zombie campaign fit for only hyper-partisans and hacks.
When CNN and Fox both sent out text message alerts and erroneously reported that the Supreme Court had overturned the Affordable Care Act, I had my doubts about whether that news came to them in real time. When Tea Party True Wingnut Richard Mourdock published his "Yay! ObamaCare is unconstitutional!" video prematurely a week before the decision was actually released, my hair stood up on end because it dovetailed with numerous celebratory emails I was receiving from different Tea Party groups.
At the time, I speculated that if there was a leak from the court, it came via Ginni Thomas. I remain somewhat convinced that might be the case, since leaking anything from the US Supreme Court is widely considered to be a career-ending act.
Like everything else, though, this Supreme Court is unlike others, and CBS has two confirmed insider reports that Chief Justice John Roberts "flipped" from the conservative decision to overturn the entire law to the final decision which preserved the mandate, and thus the law, under the taxing power of the constitution.
In her report for "Face the Nation" today, reporter Jan Crawford claims to have two sources inside the Court who confirm that Roberts flipped his vote on the mandate (aka Personal Responsibility Donation), much to the chagrin of the other four justices, Kennedy in particular.
Chief Justice John Roberts initially sided with the Supreme Court's four conservative justices to strike down the heart of President Obama's health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act, but later changed his position and formed an alliance with liberals to uphold the bulk of the law, according to two sources with specific knowledge of the deliberations.
Roberts then withstood a month-long, desperate campaign to bring him back to his original position, the sources said. Ironically, Justice Anthony Kennedy - believed by many conservatives to be the justice most likely to defect and vote for the law - led the effort to try to bring Roberts back to the fold.
"He was relentless," one source said of Kennedy's efforts. "He was very engaged in this."
But this time, Roberts held firm. And so the conservatives handed him their own message which, as one justice put it, essentially translated into, "You're on your own."
The conservatives refused to join any aspect of his opinion, including sections with which they agreed, such as his analysis imposing limits on Congress' power under the Commerce Clause, the sources said.
Instead, the four joined forces and crafted a highly unusual, unsigned joint dissent. They deliberately ignored Roberts' decision, the sources said, as if they were no longer even willing to engage with him in debate.
Leaks or speculation?
The Federalist Society is a favorite of Justices Scalia and Thomas, so it's not all that difficult to imagine leaks walking out of the court a little ahead of time, especially if those leaks actually spark some news reports that might find their way back to a "wobbly" Chief Justice.
Crawford notes that around Memorial Day, there were many reports emerging in the media about how damaged the Roberts Court would be if they struck down the entire law along partisan lines. Examples here, here, here, here, here and here.
And then on June 2, 2012, this tweet from Barton Gellman, quoting Ramesh Pannoru of National Review:
Ponnuru: inside sources at Supreme Court (really?) tell me the initial vote was 5-4 against Obamacare, but Roberts since turned wobbly.
— Barton Gellman (@bartongellman) June 2, 2012
Marcy Wheeler sees some correlation between that tweet and the Crawford quote in the article which also characterizes Roberts as "wobbly."
Jan Crawford has interviewed Justice Scalia at least one other time at a Federalist Society function, where he famously confessed to perhaps having a lax conscience:
Following up on this, Crawford asked Scalia if he ever found himself in a situation where he was torn between his personal conscience and his professional duty as a justice. He said no. After Crawford expressed a hint of incredulity ? you?ve never encountered such a situation, in your many years on the bench? ? Scalia quipped, ?Maybe I have a lax conscience.? The resulting laughter cleared the air nicely.
It would appear that there's a better than even chance that his "lax conscience" may have also extended to lax lips, which in turn gave permission for some loose talk ahead of the actual opinion. While there were certainly other pointers that could have led media outlets to their preset belief that the conservative majority would outweigh the liberal minority on the court, nothing speaks louder than the early and noisy general consensus of those in the media that the Court would overturn the Affordable Care Act in its entirety.
That would explain this report, which felt like a non-sequitur at the time, where conservatives issued a strong warning to Republicans to "stand firm" on Obamacare. While this was ostensibly in response to the possibility that Republicans were actually considering a plan to replace the ACA, the loudest voices were the Club for Growth and Freedomworks. Freedomworks, of course, has direct ties to Ginni Thomas. Club for Growth has close ties to FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity, American Majority, and other TeaBircher groups. Let's just call Ginni the middle gear between the media (Daily Caller), the TeaBirchers (FreedomWorks, Club for Growth) and the United States Supreme Court (Clarence Thomas).
As I noted in mid-June, FreedomWorks sent an email invitation out to their members inviting them to a celebration of the end of Obamacare. Yes, they included a small disclaimer that even if the Court upheld the law, there would be reason to celebrate, but the gist of the email was an undeniable certainty that they would prevail.
So there were leaks, so what?
This should trouble everyone for a number of reasons. First, the law should have been the only concern here, and while there is certainly no single interpretation of the law and constitution, it seems to me that there are many, many instances where Scalia, at the very least, contradicted himself in order to twist the commerce clause around his little finger. In his opinion in Raich, the 2005 medical marijuana case Scalia stretched the commerce clause and twisted it far beyond precedent to interpret intrastate commerce as indirectly impacting interstate commerce in order to find a pathway to a conservative outcome.
Yes, the Court is partisan, without question. But when partisan agendas overtake reasonable interpretations of the law and actually seek to overturn the will of Congress, I'd say that falls into that most hated conservative category of "judicial activism."
Further, when those conservative justices then use public opinion by leaking key parts of their deliberation to key conservative players in order to conduct an internal debate outside of the confines of the Court's chambers, I'd say we have a problem with judicial integrity. A serious one.
We already know Clarence Thomas, and Antonin Scalia have sworn allegiance to Koch, et al over their constitutional duties. Samuel Alito is another idealogue with views just to the right of Attila the Hun, particularly when it comes to sentencing children to life sentences. We know that Anthony Kennedy is a conservative libertarian who is not any kind of moderate swing vote at all, and also holds his own views as hovering above legislative intent or the common welfare of the country.
In Roberts' case, it seems less clear. Marcy Wheeler thinks it relates to his corporatism. Imani Gandy thinks it was a way to put a limiting principle on the commerce clause while upholding legislative intent. Bmaz over at Marcy's place speculated ahead of the opinion, saying it would be a legitimate reading of the commerce clause (he expected it to be struck down on that basis).
However you interpret the opinion, I think we can all agree that legal principles were secondary to ideology. For over one hundred years, health care has been the last stand of conservatives and corporatists alike, and it all related to who could get it and who could not. This was true in Teddy Roosevelt's time, Franklin Roosevelt's, Harry Truman's, JFK's, Lyndon Johnson's, Bill Clinton's, and Barack Obama's. It was only THIS time that finally, we managed to shatter the principle that health care was the privilege of the moneyed few.
For that reason, I tend to think that Roberts stood against the harsh blowback of his fellow conservatives on the court for two reasons: First, because a 5-4 decision overturning the entire act would have been seen as entirely partisan and cynical, and his time as Chief Justice would have forever lived as the Citizens United Teabagger Court. The written briefs offered a reasonable and constitutional argument for the taxing power and he agreed with them, even if he doesn't much care for taxes. It's possible that he also viewed it as far more difficult politically for liberals to exercise their taxing power legislatively than commerce clause powers.
It's also possible that as a man who has had seizures in the past, he understands what it would mean to Americans who could not access health care because they were excluded from the payment system for that health care by virtue of a condition over which they had no control, and for that moment, had at least a measure of compassion for them.
Whatever the reasoning, there can be no question that the conduct of some conservatives on the Court was shameful with regard to this decision, just as it was in Citizens United, and history should be as unkind to them as it was to FDR's "Four Horsemen" along with Hoover appointee, Owen Roberts.
The GOP is fired up and ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater. It's unclear why it makes sense to eliminate the entire program if they're primarily against the unpopular individual mandate. Since the GOP has made it clear that they have no plan to do anything about healthcare, anything Boehner says about keeping the popular parts of the plan can't be taken seriously. The GOP owned...
A new Reuters poll finds a significantly higher support for health reform in the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent decision confirming that it is constitutional. “Among all registered voters, support for the law rose to 48 percent in the online survey conducted after Thursday’s ruling, up from 43 percent before the court decision. Opposition slipped to 52 percent from 57 percent.”
A new report conducted by the Marine Corps [PDF] reveals that Camp Lejeune, the largest Marine Corps base on the East Coast, reported 70 cases of sexual assault. Corps wide, the Marines reported 346 cases of sexual assaults, a 10 percent increase from 2011.
“We have been ineffective at addressing and eliminating sexual assault within our ranks,” the report states. “In far too many cases across the Marine Corps, poor command climates due to unengaged leadership are eroding the trust necessary for victims to safely report these crimes.”
The International Business Times charted the reported incidents at Marine bases worldwide. For example, Okinawa, Japan reported 67 sexual assaults and Camp Pendleton in San Diego reported 64.
“[R]esearch shows that sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes in the United States,? Marie Brodie, manager for Marine Corps Community Services Lejeune Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program, told The Jacksonville Daily News. Estimates suggest that approximately 80 percent of sexual assaults in the Marine Corps go unreported.
As evidenced in the documentary “The Invisible War,” the military’s system of vesting investigative, prosecutorial and sentencing responsibilities to a unit’s commanding officer is part of the problem. Since sexual assaults are perceived as matters of unit discipline, commanding officers have little incentive or ability to refer the investigation up the chain of command or to an independent prosecutor.
Rachel Natelson, legal director of the Service Women?s Action Network, blogged in the New York Times on Friday that the military justice system is in desperate need of reforms if it is to address the growing problem of sexual assaults. She wrote:
Command discretion, moreover, affects offenders as well as victims, leaving those of lower rank and achievement vulnerable to outsize punishment. In fact, it was to protect the rights of defendants from misguided prosecution that Canada, Britain and Australia successively transferred authority over criminal cases from the commanding officer to an independent prosecutor, on the premise that courts-martial were not sufficiently separated from the military chain of command to be considered impartial tribunals by constitutional and international treaty standards.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently announced a plan to shift authority over sex crimes to senior ranking officers instead of the junior commanders who frequently handle such cases and several Congressional offices have introduced legislation to transfer such cases to military proecutors and allow members of the armed services access to federal courts for civil tor and discrimination claims.
Next year, the Supreme Court will have its first opportunity to weigh in on same-sex marriage, as House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has filed an appeal in one of the many cases in which the Defense of Marriage Act has been found unconstitutional. Though numerous cases are advancing, House Republicans appealed the pair of cases from the First Circuit: Gill v. Office of Personnel Management and Massachusetts v. HHS. In the filing, Boehner’s attorneys continue to ignore the reality of same-sex families, arguing that Congress did nothing to harm or discriminate against them:
DOMA does not bar or invalidate any marriages but leaves states free to decide whether they will recognize same-sex marriage. Section 3 of DOMA simply asserts the federal government’s right as a separate sovereign to provide its own definition which “governs only federal programs and funding.”
Congress, of course, did not invent the meanings of “marriage” and “spouse” in 1996. Rather, DOMA merely reaffirmed and codified the traditional definition of marriage, i.e. what Congress itself has always meant ? and what courts and the executive branch have always understood it to mean ? in using these words: a traditional male-female couple.
In addition, the filing argues that Congress wanted to save money by simply not paying for the tax benefits same-sex couples would be afforded with marriage equality. Besides the blatant discrimination inherent in that argument, there 1,138 federal rights, benefits, and privileges that are denied to couples under DOMA. Republicans’ interest in “traditional marriage” ignores the millions of same-sex couples raising families who are denied the same securities and protections as their heterosexual neighbors.
This DOMA case may not be the Supreme Court’s only opportunity to weigh in on marriage next year. Proponents of California’s Proposition 8 have also promised to take their case to the Supreme Court, though they have not yet filed such an appeal. It is possible, though, that the Court could rule in favor of equality in both cases without mandating a right to same-sex marriage. For Proposition 8, the Justices could simply rule that it’s unconstitutional for a state to revoke a right like marriage equality after it’s already been granted. Similarly, the Court could overturn DOMA, requiring the federal government to recognize same-sex marriage but not mandating that any state to do the same ? navigating the so-called “Alabama Problem.” Regardless, it will be an interesting year for human rights jurisprudence.
On Sunday, a federal judge temporarily blocked a Mississippi law that would have shut down the only abortion clinic in the state. The Republican-backed legislation effectively outlaws abortion in Mississippi “by imposing medically unjustified requirements on physicians who perform abortions.” The judge who blocked the law wrote that “though the debate over abortion continues, there exists legal precedent the court must follow.” On July 11, the court will revisit the law, which would have gone into effect on Sunday. If the clinic is shut down, Mississippi would be the only state in the country without an abortion provider.
The 20th century was characterized by the frenzied acquisition, storage, and use of oil. But many experts believe that the 21st century will be remembered as the century of water.
One of the most alarming emerging issues is the symbiotic — and often conflicting — relationship between electricity generation and water.
A new report called “Burning Our Rivers: The Water Footprint of Electricity” details this relationship, illustrating the massive amounts of water resources used for electricity generation — particularly from fossil fuels and nuclear.
An average U.S. household?s monthly energy use (weighted by cooling technology and fuel mix) requires 39,829 gallons of water, or five times more than the direct residential water use of that same household…. Electricity?as we generate it today?depends heavily on access to free water. The impact to our freshwater resources is an external cost of electrical production. What the market considers ‘least cost’ electricity is often the most water intensive.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, 53 percent of all the fresh surface water withdrawn for human consumption in 2005 was used for electricity generation.
While consumption in the U.S. is falling, coal is still the most dominant source of power in the country. It is also the single largest consumer of water resources:
A MWh of electricity generated by coal withdraws approximately 16,052 gallons and consumes approximately 692 gallons of water…. On average (a weighted average taking into account the current mix of cooling technologies being used at coal plants in the U.S.), coal-fired electricity requires the withdrawal of approximately 13,515 gallons and the consumption of 482 gallons of water per MWh for cooling purposes.
The water not used directly for power generation is used in mining coal and other treatment before burning, creating millions of gallons of “sludge” that can potentially pollute freshwater supplies.
Nuclear power is not much better:
Similar to coal-fired power plants, nuclear power plants traditionally operate with single-cycle cooling technologies, which are systematically more water intensive than all other thermodynamic cooling technologies. Additionally, because nuclear fission is less thermodynamically efficient than the combustion of coal, the water required to generate nuclear power is slightly greater than that of coal-fired power.
According to the report, Nuclear power plants “(withdraw) approximately 14,881 gallons and (consume) 572 gallons of water per MWh.” Large amounts of water are also used in the uranium mining process and for storage of fuel rods. In Georgia, for example, two large nuclear power plants use more water than all the water used by people living in Atlanta, Augusta and Savannah combined.
Non-fossil fuel power alternatives offer some hope for decreasing our water consumption. Increasing the penetration of photovoltaic solar and wind power “to 40% of the grid would … reduce consumptive water use by 11%.” However, we must be careful not to assume that all green power sources are water efficient. “Every day, approximately 9 billion gallons of water? enough to meet the daily demands of more than 50 million Americans?evaporates from reservoirs behind hydroelectric dams.”
Water and energy are mutually dependent resources. There will always be trade-offs for various energy technologies. But if we want to get serious about reducing our demand for precious water resources, we need to transition away from the most water intensive resources.
Max Frankel is a senior at Vassar College and an intern with the Center for American Progress.
Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson was asked about employer insurance covering those with cancer. He says now, because that just denies other people's rights.[...]
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