Thursday, March 5, 2015

Today's Cartoon And Retrospect On SCOTUS Obamacare Oral Arguments

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(Jack Ohman, The Sacramento Bee)

The four deciding words, in fact, are "established by the State," as in exchanges. In oral arguments before the Court in King v. Burwell yesterday, there were some surprises, as well as the usual malicious input from "justices" Scalia and Alito.  Here's Ian Millhiser's take on the somewhat positive turn things took yesterday:
The most important moment in the argument, however, was probably a concern raised by Justice Anthony Kennedy, one of five Republicans that the Justice Department needs at least one of in order to win its case. If tax credits are cut off in states with federally run exchanges, premiums will spike, and healthy people will likely drop insurance that they can no longer afford. Once that happens, however, the insurance companies will no longer have enough revenue to pay for sick peoples’ costs, so they will have to raise premiums even further. That, in turn, will cause more healthy people to drop care. The result is a “death spiral” where higher premiums beget fewer customers, which beget higher premiums, which beget fewer customers. 
This threat of a death spiral raises constitutional concerns, because the Supreme Court’s first Obamacare decision forbids Congress from coercing states into taking certain actions. If states are forced to choose between setting up their own exchange or watching their individual insurance markets collapse, that could amount to unconstitutional coercion. 
Justice Kennedy appeared to believe that it did. There’s “something very powerful” to this coercion argument, Kennedy said, adding that Carvin’s interpretation of the law raises a “serious constitutional problem.” Later in the argument, he indicated that the Court may have an obligation, under something known as the “constitutional avoidance doctrine,” to read the law in a way that does not raise constitutional doubts.  [snip] 
Obamacare is not out of the woods yet, and neither are the millions of people who will lose coverage or the thousands who will die if this case goes badly for the government. After Wednesday’s argument, however, those individuals have good reason to be optimistic. At least one of the Court’s Republicans appears to have come to work wearing his judicial robe, and not his partisan hat.  (our emphasis)
As for Scalia and Alito?
Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito were the only certain votes to strike down the credits, but their arguments at times painted them as political naifs. Alito, at one point, harped on the fact that only six states that refused to set up their own exchanges joined a brief urging the Court to uphold the tax credits — a fact that can be explained largely by partisan politics. Scalia asked: “won’t Congress fix” the problem if the Court breaks the law? 
Verrilli had a sharp response to that later question: “This Congress, your honor?” 
Verrilli's response was greeted with laughter in the chamber, a sign that whatever the partisan right-wingers on the Court might have thought, people were probably on to the "we'll fix Obamacare" charade Republicans were floating to give cover to a fatal blow to affordable health insurance.

Hillary Clinton's E-Mails: More Grist For The Scandal-Driven Media

When you start seeing the puerile "mainstream media" tossing around terms like "bombshell" and "scandal," you can generally bet it's an Obama- or Clinton-bashing tale.

The latest kerfuffle is over the fact that Hillary Clinton used a private e-mail account when she was Secretary of State.  Unforced error?  Obviously.  Legal?  Probably so.  "Scandal worthy?" Benghazi!!! Let's start with Jon Stewart's take on the matter:

O.K.  Fair enough.  In fact, we would heartily endorse Digby's "disclaimer" about the media's latest "pseudo-scandal" (with our emphasis):
I am going to issue the standard disclaimer that if Clinton did something real bring it on.  But this is a patented pseudo-scandal planted by the Benghazi bullshit squad and I'm not jumping on the bandwagon. 
If somebody wants to do an expose of Clinton's cozy relationship with Wall Street, her hawkish foreign policy or her penchant for nonsensical bipartisan cant, that's perfectly fair.  In fact, it's necessary. I think a hardcore investigation into the Clinton Foundation and all its opaque financial dealings is absolutely in bounds. But when they start recycling rightwing Benghazi crapola, referencing Whitewater,talking about her "calculating Machiavellian character"  and don't even have a clue about what it is she's supposed to have done wrong, just that it doesn't "pass the smell test", I'm going to be ornery. This is the Village in all its glory and I'm sad to say that a new generation of Villagers is just as willing to chase the shiny object for the Dark Ops wingnuts as their forebears
This is the scandal-driven media at its absolute worst... again... fed by a Republican smear machine that is pulling out all the stops to rough up Clinton.

Hey, you want a real scandal?  How about how the media has ignored or played down the greatest political story of the last 50 years:  the radicalization of the Republican Party.  They can still take a cue from Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein, who identified the problem in April 2012 (spoiler alert: "the Republicans are the problem") and offered this advice to the media:
We understand the values of mainstream journalists, including the effort to report both sides of a story. But a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality. If the political dynamics of Washington are unlikely to change anytime soon, at least we should change the way that reality is portrayed to the public.

Our advice to the press: Don’t seek professional safety through the even-handed, unfiltered presentation of opposing views. Which politician is telling the truth? Who is taking hostages, at what risks and to what ends?
(Ed. note: Of course, if the Beltway Village actually followed that advice, it would depopulate the Sunday talking heads shows of both politicians and pundits.)  We're sure the media will hop on that just as it did 3 years (and a lot of insanity) ago, after they finish flogging "e-mailgate."

Repression And Violence Presaged Boris Nemtsov's Assassination

The atmosphere of repression and violence in Russia that forms the backdrop of the assassination of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov is the subject of an article in today's once great Washington Post Bezos Bugle.  It's rather chilling to read how completely Russian President Tsar Vladimir "Vlad the Invader" Putin has returned his country to a state of paranoia and violence not seen since the days of Joseph Stalin.  Here are snippets, but read the article if you can for the full picture of the tragedy that's befallen this nation whose potential continues to be thwarted by its malevolent rulers:
Putin gave official sanction to the sharpened tone against the political opposition a year ago, many of his critics say, when he warned that “a fifth column” and “national traitors” were undermining Russia from within. Banners soon hung in the heart of Moscow that said Nemtsov and fellow opposition leaders were “aliens among us.” And Russia’s powerful state-run television stations were quickly suffused with grim tales of Western-backed crimes against their countrymen in Ukraine, further fueling popular disbelief that any Russian could support the other side.
Of course, the Russian government has its own version of our own Republican Party's Fox "News", which propagandizes shamelessly:
State-run television is a key linchpin of the Kremlin’s strategy to foster anti-Western sentiments, analysts say. Trusted far more than Soviet-era broadcasts ever were, networks transmit a skillful blend of fact and spin, unrelentingly promoting the idea that Russia is a nation under attack from inside and out. Their budgets have been bolstered this year, even as other state agencies have been forced to cut.  [snip]
Ahead of a nationalist rally held less than a week before Nem­tsov’s death, slick promotions ran constantly on federal news channels imploring people to turn out. The protest, held on the first anniversary of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych’s ouster, was billed as an “anti-Maidan” rally to prevent what happened in Kiev from repeating in Moscow.
If you've got the sense that playing the victimization and "aliens among us" cards by Putin's kleptocratic dictatorship sounds familiar, it's what we've been hearing from the far-right in the United States (and Europe) for decades.  That kinship among reactionaries may be why so many Republicans swooned over Putin's as a "real leader", as opposed to their twice- popularly- elected President.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Asked And Answered

This year's African-American fig leaf for the Rethuglican Party base's racist id and expert on "the gays," Dr. Ben "On Meds?" Carson, "absolutely" believes that being gay is a choice.  Why? Here's his impeccable reasoning:
“A lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight – and when they come out, they’re gay. So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question.”
OK, we asked ourselves that question, but the only answer we come up with is "you're a moron."  (He's just opened an "exploratory committee" for a run for the 2016 Rethug nomination, so he needs to ramp up the hate speech for his audience).

Breaking Wave Mid-Week Song

U2, perhaps the world's best known active rock band, has been creating great music since their formation in Dublin in 1976. Their latest single, "Every Breaking Wave," from their recent album "Songs of Innocence," is our mid-week selection.  Enjoy.

Today's Cartoons And Read - Bibi's Bomb, Cont.

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(Steve Benson, via

(Signe Wilkinson, via

And if successful, what would be the upshot of Israeli Prime Minister Bibi "Bomb Bomb" Netanyahu's brazen attempted "coup" of U.S. foreign policy (with an invaluable assist by the despicable eunuch John Boehner)?  Frequent blind squirrel Dana Milbank on Bibi's end game:
The prime minister demanded more favorable terms. “If Iran threatens to walk away from the table — and this often happens in a Persian bazaar — call their bluff,” he counseled. “They’ll be back, because they need the deal a lot more than you do.” 
And if Bibi is wrong? No problem for him: The Israeli leader will have committed the United States to war with Iran.  (our emphasis)
Americans as the tip of the spear, shedding blood and treasure fighting another Middle East war only Bibi, his Likudnik extremists and Republican neo-cons see as beneficial.  How has their judgement panned out in the past?  See "Today's History Lesson" below.   

"Words Can Kill" Quote of the Day

"We often hear that words can’t hurt you ... well how about anti-Semitic whispers? And how about a radio ad that calls someone a 'little bug,' and that is run anonymously over and over again? ...Words do hurt. Words can kill.  That has been proven right here in our home state." -- (emphasis added) former Republican Sen. John Danforth (MO), delivering the eulogy of Tom Schweich, Missouri's Republican state auditor and candidate for Governor.  Schweich, who had committed suicide, was the victim of an anti-Semitic whisper campaign by Rethuglican state party chairman John Hancock.  To his credit, Danforth made it clear that his state party's chairman's whisper campaign led to Schweich's suicide.

Today's History Lesson

"Enormous, positive reverberations."  Bibi Bomb Bomb's 0 for 1 as far as predicting events in the Middle East, and now he wants us to initiate a new war because the last one turned out so well. (Note the smug-looking gent over Bibi Bomb Bomb's left shoulder:  it's none other than former Rethug operative and current Likudnik Ambassador to the U.S. Ron "Dermertitis" Dermer).

(image:  h/t to Balloon-Juice)

SCOTUS Hears Obamacare Case Today

Today is the day at the Supreme Court for oral arguments in King v. Burwell, the latest (and perhaps flimsiest attempt by right-wing Republicans to take down the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and, with it, affordable health insurance for nearly 10 million Americans.  The fact that such a bogus case should never has come before the Supreme Court doesn't alter the fact that it's an extremely dangerous case, given the propensity of the five Republican "justices" to ignore precedent and intent whenever it suits their ideological ax-grinding.

For some great background in the case, take a look at Lyle Denniston's SCOTUSblog's summary. Also, Armando at Daily Kos has things to look for in today's questioning by the various justices.

Following oral arguments, it's expected the Court will have an initial vote on Friday and assign opinion responsibilities, with formal decision due in June.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Reactions To Bibi Bomb Bomb's Bombast

Some choice reactions (h/t Raw Story) to Netanyahu's theatrical campaign speech to Congress:

And from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA):
"The unbreakable bonds between the United States and Israel are rooted in our shared values, our common ideals and mutual interests," Pelosi said in a Tuesday statement following Netanyahu's speech to Congress. "That is why, as one who values the U.S. – Israel relationship, and loves Israel, I was near tears throughout the Prime Minister’s speech – saddened by the insult to the intelligence of the United States as part of the P5 +1 nations, and saddened by the condescension toward our knowledge of the threat posed by Iran and our broader commitment to preventing nuclear proliferation."
 That's why Bibi's blunder will come back to haunt him and, unfortunately, Israel.

UPDATE:  Here are more reactions to the speech, with the common thread that Bibi's bombast was deeply disrespectful of the President and the government of the United States:

Chris Matthews (MSNBC):
 “This man from a foreign government walked into the United States legislative chamber and tried to take over U.S. foreign policy. He said, ‘You should trust me, not your president on this. I am the man you should trust, I am your true leader on this question of U.S. geopolitics. To protect yourself, you must listen to me and not this president.’”
Jeffrey Goldberg (The Atlantic, on CNN):
The interesting thing for me is that the topic, the text was Iran, but subtext was Obama - the target of this speech was President Obama, John Kerry and their negotiators and basically his message to congress was, "do not trust Obama get a good deal." "He is too naive." Despite about all of the rhetoric Kelly pointed out, Obama's done this for Israel, that for Israel, but you can not trust them to do this. 

EPIC Fail: Boehner, Republicans Caving On Homeland Security Funding

As anyone with a grip on Reality knew would happen eventually, Weeper of the House John Boehner (Eunuch-OH) has thrown in the towel on holding Homeland Security funding hostage to his Crackpot Caucus' demand that a poison pill provision be included overturning President Obama's immigration actions:
In a major victory for President Barack Obama, the Republican-led House relented on Tuesday and will back legislation to fund the Homeland Security Department through the end of the budget year, without restrictions on immigration. 
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, outlined the dwindling options for his deeply divided GOP caucus on Tuesday morning after the Senate left the House with little choice. Boehner pointed out that the issue is now in the hands of the courts.
(Obligatory musical accompaniment)

"Nothing to see here, move along, move along:"  The decision was clearly timed to coincide with Bibi "Bomb Bomb" Netanyahu's speech to Congress this morning, but it won't be enough of a fig leaf to hide this disaster for the Republican/ New Confederate/ Stupid Party.

Today's Cartoon - Bibi's Bomb, Cont.

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(Tom Toles, once great Washington Post Bezos Bugle)

Dispatches From The Republican Civil War

Take a look at this ad from the American Action Network targeting Republican uber- nutball Rep. Tim Heulskamp (Yahoo-KS) -- and "dozens" of other Republicans -- on the pending Homeland Security appropriations bill, which he and those fellow crackpots have insisted be held hostage in a doomed effort at overturning President Obama's immigration actions.  Oh, the American Action Network?  It's a political action committee tied to Republican  Weeper of the House John "Mr. Tangerine Man" Boehner.  It's delightful to see right-wingers use the same tactics against their own as they have against Democrats for more than half a century (h/t/ Daily Kos)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Loyalty Today, Secession Yesterday

“I think it falls flat in the face of the American people when it comes to, are you going to trust an individual who has taken that much money from a foreign source? Where’s your loyalty?” (emphasis added) -- former Texas Governor and secessionist spokesperson Rick "Oops" Perry calling into question the loyalty of  former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday.

 “[W]hen we came into the nation in 1845, we were a republic, we were a stand-alone nation. And one of the deals was, we can leave [the U.S.] anytime we want. So we’re kind of thinking about that again.” (emphasis added) -- the same intellectually-challenged hack that questioned Secretary Clinton's loyalty, speaking in 2009, coincidentally of course, after the election of our first African-American President.  The only thing missing was the rebel yell and waving the flag of treason.

BONUS:  More batcrap nuttery from TexAss:  law enforcement raids a secessionist meeting.

(photo:  "I look smarter with these glasses.  Now if only I could keep my tongue in my mouth.")

Walker's Backflip On Immigration

Wisconsin's dimbulb Governor and Koch Industries' employee of the year Scott "Kochhead"Walker continues to show that, although the wingnuts at CPAC love his schtick, he's not ready for prime time.  Yesterday, on GOP-TV the Fux Network, he was confronted with his statement made just two years ago that there should be a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.  It seems that the Governor has seen the far-right light, and now says that his "view has changed."  Now, the slippery Governor wants to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants an "immigration system that works," despite the fact that Congressional Rethugs have blocked every attempt to pass comprehensive immigration reform -- border security, bringing immigrants out of the economic shadows and giving them an opportunity to become citizens.

This certainly won't be Kochhead's last flip-flop while the nativist Rethuglican base sizes up the candidates for 2016, but it's certainly one of the most egregious.

(photo:  "You like that answer better?")