PPACA

The Tale of Those Who Left

In southern Brazil, there still exists remnants of the American Confederacy. Each April, the Descendants of American Southerners don hoop skirts and the grey uniform to celebrate their shared history. Thousands of Southerners migrated to Central and South America after finding themselves on the losing side of the war and their relatives are called Confederados. (Photo by Paulo Whitaker/Reuters, 2015)

This seems worth mentioning:

Every April, the Fraternidade Descendencia Americana gather in the south of Brazil to celebrate a strange and incongruous shared history. “Stonewall Jackson’s Way” is piped out of speakers, chicken is fried, and girls in hoop skirts dance to old Dixie tunes. Men in Rebel-gray uniforms with yellow trim browse dozens of stands of Confederate memorabilia. The Confederados, as they’re known, are the descendants of Americans who fled after losing the Civil War. Now, 150 years later and 5,000 miles away, they continue to gather under the banner of the Stars and Bars to pay homage to their ancestry.

The setting for this festival is Santa Barbara d’Oeste, which abuts a 200,000-person municipality called Americana. It’s there that a long-forgotten enclave of Confederate descendants rebuilt their lives in the years after the War between the States. At a time when the Confederate flag has sparked tension and protests anew across the United States, this small community in South America still celebrates its controversial history with a fervor.

(Strohlic)

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The Ted Cruz Show (Hair-on-Fire Apoplexy)

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) responds to the 2015 State of the Union address in an online video, 20 January 2015.

“As ridiculous as Cruz’s posturing seems, it’s important to remember the broader context: national GOP candidates have a built-in incentive to be as hysterical as possible right now, in the hopes of currying favor with the party’s base. Mild, reasoned disappointment with the court doesn’t impress far-right activists; unrestrained, hair-on-fire apoplexy does.”

Steve Benen

This is an obvious point, or, at least one might think.

Steve Benen points to his msnbc colleague Benjy Sarlin’s report Friday last detailing the 2016 GOP presidential reactions following the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in favor of same sex marriage:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) went so far as to call for a constitutional convention to overturn the court’s decision while campaigning in Iowa, according to CNN. In an interview with Sean Hannity he called the back-to-back rulings on health care and gay marriage “some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation’s history.”

While the Texas junior is hardly the only Republican presidential candidate opting to skip out on posturing his response within the realm of general dignity, Mr. Benen responded aptly:

Hannity, incidentally, found Cruz’s rhetoric quite compelling, responding, “I couldn’t say it more eloquently.”

For what it’s worth, it’s not hard to think of some genuinely tragic 24-hour periods in American history. The Lincoln assassination comes to mind. So does the time British troops burned the White House. There were days during the Civil War in which tens of thousands of Americans died on the battlefield. Just in the last century, we witnessed the JFK assassination, Pearl Harbor, and a corrupt president resign in disgrace.

For the Republican presidential hopeful, learning that Americans will have health benefits and loving couples will get married belongs on the same list.

The thing is that Mr. Cruz is not entirely wrong; the rest, as Benen points out, is a matter of perspective.

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The Messenger

Congressional Budget Office Director Keith Hall, in undated photo from Bloomberg News.

This is not surprising:

The economist that Republicans handpicked to run the Congressional Budget Office just told Republicans that one of their favorite arguments about Obamacare is wrong.

According to a report the CBO released Friday, repealing the Affordable Care Act wouldn’t reduce the deficit, as Republicans have long claimed. It would increase the deficit, by at least $137 billion over 10 years and maybe a lot more than that — with the effects getting bigger over time.

Of course, that’s in addition to the effect repeal would have on the number of Americans without health insurance. The CBO says the ranks of the uninsured would increase by 19 million people next year.

(Cohn)

While it doesn’t necessarily count as a surprise, there is still one mystery here: How does this keep happening?

After all, conservatives have a rough tradition of aiming to subordinate reality to politics in public service, with inconsistent results because enough of these appointed servants still remember what they’re on about. And once again, there is simply no way to twist reality to suit Republican fancy; after all their effort to find a CBO director who would say all the things they want, Keith Hall just couldn’t do it.

We might, then, wonder why they bother trying this sleight in the first place.

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Image note: Congressional Budget Office Director Keith Hall, in undated photo from Bloomberg News.

Cohn, Jonathan. “Obamacare Repeal Would Swell The Deficit Even Using GOP’s New Math, Budget Office Says”. The Huffington Post. 19 June 2015.

King v. Burwell (Wingnutshell Party Mix)

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), January, 2014.  (AP Photo)

“Just once, I want to hear an ACA critic admit what is plainly true: King v. Burwell is a brazenly stupid con, but they’re playing along with the charade because they really hate the president and his signature domestic policy initiative.”

Steve Benen

Really, it is a reasonable suggestion.

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Benen, Steve. “The importance of setting Sessions straight”. msnbc. 5 June 2015.

The Ben Carson Show (Interesting Pilot)

Ben Carson announces his candidacy for president during an official announcement in Detroit, Monday, May 4, 2015.  Carson, 63, a retired neurosurgeon, begins the Republican primary as an underdog in a campaign expected to feature several seasoned politicians.  (Photo: Paul Sancya)

This is going to be interesting.

As you might have heard, Dr. Ben Carson is running for president:

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson slammed “slick politicians” in both parties as he launched his bid on Monday for the 2016 Republican nomination for president, casting himself as a problem-solver whose experience sets him apart from the field.

Carson, a favorite of conservative activists, said the upcoming elections should bring in leaders with “common sense” to enact policies like reversing President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care overhaul and revamping the U.S. tax code.

“I’ve got to tell you something. I’m not politically correct, and I’m probably never going to be politically correct because I’m not a politician,” Carson said in a speech in Detroit, his hometown.

“Politicians do what is politically expedient, and I want to do what’s right,” he said.

Carson, who is 63 and the only black person currently seeking the nomination in either the Republican or Democratic parties, is a political neophyte. In polls of the Republican Party’s wide field of likely candidates, he currently gets about 4.8 percent of the vote, according to Reuters/Ipsos polls.

(Stephenson)

It is hard to know where to start. To the one, Dr. Carson presents the possibility of simply being yet another clown with delusions of the White House. Or maybe he is looking forward to book sales. Nonetheless, inasmuch as any candidate can tell us why he or she is running for office, a certain question sometimes remains, like, “But why are you running for office?”

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The Ted Cruz Show (Epistemic Closure Loop Mix)

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, during the Iowa Agriculture Summit, Saturday, March 7, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC)

It would be wrong to start with, “One of the comforts of life …”. After all, that’s a low standard for comfort. Still, though, we can rest assured that in today’s political climate, time is on … uh … the side of … er … well, I guess reality, but that is so self-evident as to be anti-climactic.

Right.

Let us start, then, with Dave Weigel for Bloomberg:

After Texas Senator Ted Cruz addressed the First in the Nation summit in Nashua, New Hampshire, on Saturday, he headed to a basement conference room for a conversation with young Republicans. There was no filming of the speech, but reporters were allowed to sit in as Cruz fielded questions about Iran, millennials, and his own fitness for president. When one audience member asked Cruz what executive experience he could bring to the job, Cruz lambasted the “greybeards” in Washington for coming up with the “senator versus governor” framework in the first place.

“Obama is not a disaster because he was a senator,” said Cruz. “Obama is a disaster because he’s an unmitigated socialist, what he believes is profoundly dangerous, and he’s undermined the Constitution and the role of America in the world.”

Remember, this is Sen. Cruz’s response to a question about executive experience, and his answer was to reframe the issue as one of Republican moderates versus hardliners:

According to Cruz, the only reason that pundits were saying the GOP needed to run a governor, not a senator, was that “most of the establishment moderates” in the field were governors. “In 1980, the strong conservative running in the race was Ronald Reagan,” Cruz said. “You didn’t hear ‘we need a governor’ then, because he was a governor. So none of those voices said, ‘We need a governor.’ They said, ‘You know what? We need a former congressman, named George Herbert Walker Bush. Likewise, in 2008, the moderate choice was a senator, John McCain. Go back and look at the TV discussions to find any of these voices going on television, saying ‘we need a governor’ in 2008. Then, the choice of those voices was that candidate, so that argument didn’t get used.”

Still, in the middle of it all, Cruz needs to take a moment to beat a dead horse.

Thus, something completely different―a backstory.

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When the GOP Turns Against ‘Job Creators’

Mike Huckabee, circa 2012.  (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

“But let’s not miss the forest for the trees – since when do Republicans argue, in effect, ‘Let’s stop listening to private-sector business leaders’?”

Steve Benen

It’s a fair question. And it’s also an ugly, sticky mess Republicans have gotten themselves into.

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Benen, Steve. “The GOP finds itself at odds with ‘job creators'”. msnbc. 6 April 2015.

Your Quote of the Day (Mix for the ACA)

President Barack Obama (D) smiles during the 2012 State of the Union Address. (Photo: Unknown)“I mean, we have been promised a lot of things these past five years that didn’t turn out to be the case: death panels, doom. A serious alternative from Republicans in Congress.”

President Barack Obama

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Obama, Barack. “Remarks by the President Marking the Fifth Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act”. White House Office of the Press Secretary. 25 March 2015.

A Note on Fact Checking, Equivocation, and the American Press

House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo)

“Sometimes a lawmaker will wander on the floor of the House or Senate and begin speaking without any notes. That’s a big mistake, especially for someone like Sessions — who is chairman of the House Rules Committee and was speaking about the federal budget.”

Glenn Kessler

The American political discourse is a strange brew of curious and even counterintuitive histories. There are the politicians, as a general classification, and if everything that can be said about them has been, it still isn’t enough. Voters are viciously demanding, and often contradictory unto themselves, both generally as a classification and particularly as individuals. The press is a business proposition―not the Fourth Estate―that has discovered better profits pretending that all things are equal.

Perhaps we might recall John Kerry’s run for president in 2004. The former U.S. Senator and current Secretary of State encountered a familiar problem along the way, a group of right-wing scandalmongers that had dogged him with their complaints for decades. He did what he always did, what people in Massachusetts were accustomed to, which was try to ignore them.

In the end, that didn’t work, because the press didn’t just treat the Swiftboat controversy as a shiny object, but as a shiny new thing. The American mainstream press is a business proposition, not the Fourth Estate. Due diligence in American journalism is simply enough explained: If somebody says something about somebody else, ask that other person. If there is a history defining the original claim as false, that is not of any useful concern to the press.

For Kerry, the fix was essentially in. Addressing the fake scandal was to stoop; ignoring the fake scandal was bad politics. That these people were lying and always had been was not of any useful concern to the press, despite the dishonesty being apparent from the outset.

In the end, Kerry was vindicated when a Newsweek reporter tracked down the third person who received medals for his actions on the day in question, and even the official paperwork showed Larry Thurlow to be a liar. The press’ response? To complain about John Kerry.

Voters? Hell, most can’t even be bothered to read the state voters’ guides. They need the press to tell them what’s in it, except most years the press doesn’t bother, either.

The response over the years has become a specialized cottage industry within journalism: fact checking. And it needs to be a specialty, because, well, you know, even by allegedly respectable standards, facts have nothing to do with being a reporter.α

In the 2012 cycle, reporter Matt Appuzzo deliberately tanked a fact check, an act of journalistic activism the Associated Press defended as appropriate. And in a certain sense, one can argue it really was: The fact check would have been unkind to one candidate, which is a problem for a press in which equivocation is a professional standard, so poor Matt Apuzzo had no choice but to invoke irrelevant history in order to throw Romney a bone.

All of which leads us up to a consideration of “why lawmakers should not speak without notes”:

A 'pinnocchio', as awarded by Glenn Kessler, fact-checker for The Washington Post.Sometimes a lawmaker will wander on the floor of the House or Senate and begin speaking without any notes. That’s a big mistake, especially for someone like Sessions — who is chairman of the House Rules Committee and was speaking about the federal budget.

Kessler and the WaPo team awarded “four pinnocchios”, and advised that, “Senior lawmakers should not be uttering nonsense math on the House floor”. But this analysis falsely adheres to the notion of “all things being equal”, when in fact they are not.

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The Affordable Cow Act

"The MO Senate is now debating the Affordable Cow Act. Insurance subsidies for dairy cows is okay. Not for people though. #moleg" (Missouri State Rep. Jeremy LaFaver, R-25, via Twitter, 19 March 2015)Obamacow.

Obamacow.

Obamacow.

Missouri is the “Show-Me State”―

Touted by sponsor Rep. Bill Reiboldt, R-Neosho, as the Dairy Revitalization Act, the measure earned a second nickname Thursday: “Obamacow.” The name stems from a provision of the bill that would subsidize federal dairy insurance for up to 70 percent of farmers’ premium payments.

Before voting in favor of the bill, Republican Sen. Ryan Silvey of Kansas City questioned helping provide dairy insurance while the majority party has resisted growing a federal health care program for low-income adults. Silvey is one of the few GOP members who this session has joined Democrats in calling to expand eligibility for Medicaid.

Silvey called the bill “Obamacow,” drawing a parallel with the term “Obamacare.” That term is used by some Republicans to describe President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, under which states can receive enhanced federal funding if they raise eligibility for adults earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level — or $33,465 for a family of four.

(Ballentine)

―and what they’re showing is not quite inexplicable.

And it’s almost funny.

Obamacow.

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Ballentine, Summer. “Bill to help Missouri’s dairy industry heads to governor”. SFGate.com. 19 March 2015.

LaFaver, Jeremy. “The MO Senate is now debating the Affordable Cow Act”. Twitter. 19 March 2015.