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“The GOP’s Obamacare Obsession Will Sink Them In 2014”: As A Democrat, I Like The Republican Strategy, For It’s Political Suicide

2014 has arrived – an election year. President Obama is surely happy to have 2013 behind him, excited to have a new year ahead to work on issues that the American people care about: immigration reform, the budget, extending unemployment benefits, job creation and raising the minimum wage to name a few.

Republicans are also excited about the year ahead. And their agenda?

Replace, repeal, demonize and continue to oppose Obamacare.

Yes folks, the 47 attempts to repeal this law at your time and expense (literally); weren’t enough.The fact is that the Republicans promised, ‘hey, vote for us, we’ll take over the House and create jobs!’ was a broken, empty promise.

The fact is that Americans still care about the economy (a category into which job creation, extending unemployment benefits and raising the minimum wage fall), still ranks numero uno on their list of must haves for 2014.

The fact is that poll after poll shows that the majority of Americans feel there is a disparity of wages in America, want unemployment benefits extended and support raising the minimum wage to a more livable wage.

The fact is that in the last election, Democrats won landslide victories by hitting home the point of income inequality in America and how it must be changed.

And the fact is that, polls show, the majority of Americans don’t like Obamacare, but do like “The Affordable Care Act” and don’t want it repealed or replaced, just repaired – and they do not want Republicans fighting over it or voting on it anymore. Despite all that, Republicans are still betting that their opposition to Obamacare will help them win and win big in November 2014.

And the machine’s already in motion. It started with the Republican National Committee’s announcement that it would emphasize the Democrats’ support of Obamacare, hoping to gain seats in both the House & the Senate in the next election. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, said Obamacare is going to be the issue of 2014. As the new year starts, so starts the launch of a multistate radio ad campaign targeting Democrats.

Although Republicans see the continued attack of “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it” comment by the president as their golden egg, I believe it will eventually fall on deaf ears. Those that aren’t Democrats or don’t like the Democrats won’t vote for them, whether they like their insurance, their plan, their doctor or not.

And by November, the website will be fixed, even more people will be insured as millions more will sign up for Obamacare by the end of March and by November rather than death panels we’ll be hearing about how many people were able to have early detection of cancer and get it treated and be cured, rather than die; due to having health insurance and receive preventative care.

We will hear how no jobs were lost due to Obamacare and the economy will continue to improve; despite Republican claims otherwise. In other words, there will be – and Democrats better drive these points home – more success stories and satisfaction with Obamacare than not.

So as a Democrat I like the Republican strategy, for it’s political suicide; oh but it will gain seats in the House and the Senate … for the Democrats.

 

By: Leslie Marshall, U. S. News and World Report, January 8, 2014

January 9, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Blisteringly Ignorant”: The Republican Reaction To The Polar Vortex Explains Why So Many Scientists Are Democrats

When I walked to work Tuesday morning, it was 4 degrees Fahrenheit, the coldest temperature I’ve experienced in the last two years living in Washington, D.C. The cold snap has sparked the inevitable snow trolling—that this weather somehow disproves climate change’s existence—from A-list conservative commentators like Matt DrudgeErick Erickson and the usual stable of Fox pundits. This is only a rawer form of the climate-change denial that is now party dogma, comporting with, for starters, the party’s 2012 presidential candidate and the entire Republican membership of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. They are, of course, completely wrong. But this kind of Lysenkoist behavior isn’t just wrong; it has catastrophically discredited the party among scientists.

The Republican position here, at least as outlined by its loudest and most influential members, seems to be this: The theory of global warming predicts that everywhere will be hot all the time. Therefore, the continued existence of cold things disproves the theory. Donald Trump tweeted, “We are experiencing the coldest weather in more than two decades-most people never remember anything like this. GLOBAL WARMING anyone?” Some guy at Red State gloated over the fate of the climate research vessel Akademic Sholkalskiy, and Rush Limbaugh joined in with similar thoughts:

It’s an abject, total fraud. Well, obviously there is no melting of ice going on at the North Pole. If they’re gonna tell us the polar vortex is responsible for this cold, that means record cold is also happening in the North Pole, which means there isn’t any ice melting, and we know about the global warming expedition that went down to the South Pole, Antarctica, to prove that the ice is melting.

It’s almost impossible to overstate how blisteringly ignorant this sounds to a scientist. The argument, if it can be dignified as such, is 100 percent straw man. As far as the Akademic Sholkalskiy is concerned, the vessel’s mission was general climate research, not to disprove the existence of sea ice (we use satellites for that kind of measurement, cause the Earth is real big), and the International Panel on Climate Change never predicted that all sea ice would be gone forever. The vessel was trapped by weather-shifted pack ice, not unseasonable overall ice coverage. And while it is true that (unlike in the Arctic) Antarctic sea ice has been growing, for a variety of reasons, Antarctic land ice, which is what matters for sea level rise, is melting fast.

And contra Limbaugh, as Climate Central’s Andrew Freeman details, there is a strong case that even the current cold snap in the U.S. can be laid at the doorstep of climate change. Climate models predict that typical wind patterns will be disrupted, and that’s exactly what is causing freezing Arctic air to pour across North America. Meanwhile, the Arctic itself is correspondingly much warmer than average—on Tuesday much of Alaska was warmer than Atlanta and Mobile.

But the most elementary subtleties of reasoning are lost on many Republicans, who descend into anti-intellectual capering at the slightest provocation. Surely this is part of what accounts for the yawning partisan affiliation gap among scientists. A 2009 Pew poll found that 55 percent of scientists identified as Democrat, and just 6 percent as Republican.

These days, top Republicans are constantly yowling about things—from climate change to evolution—that aren’t just controversial, but preposterous. Even a scientifically informed business person might be able to look past that stuff, but such beliefs are radioactive in the scientific community. What’s more, the GOP won’t allow within its ranks anything less than angry denials of settled scientific consensus—admit climate change is real, and you’ll be frog-marched out of office. By contrast, the Democrats have a few scientifically challenged loons (vaccine deniers and GMO paranoiacs come to mind), but they don’t suffuse the party.

Democrats no doubt benefit in the long run from the GOP’s denialism, but it’s a shame nonetheless. Ideally, both parties would agree upon an empirical reality, allowing a policy debate over values and priorities, not inconvenient facts. Some have predicted that a new generation of GOP leaders like Chris Christie will finally take on the party’s willful ignorance of climate change, but there’s little sign of that. And until then, scientists will keep supporting one side overwhelmingly.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, Web Editor, The Washington Monthly; Published in The New Republic, January 8, 2014

January 9, 2014 Posted by | Climate Change, Global Warming | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Gun Nuts Target One Of Their Own”: No Space For People Of Good Will To Seek Common Ground

Here is what he said: “…all constitutional rights are regulated, always have been, and need to be.”

It would seem to be a self-evident truth. After all, your First Amendment right to freedom of speech is regulated. If you don’t believe it, write something libelous about a guy with deep pockets and man-eating lawyers. Your Fourth Amendment right to freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures is regulated and then some. If you don’t believe that, pick up your phone and ask the NSA agent tapping your line.

Unfortunately for him, Dick Metcalf, who made the aforementioned observation, was not referring to the First Amendment or the Fourth. No, he was talking about the Second. He’s been out of work ever since.

We are indebted to New York Times reporter Ravi Somaiya for bringing this story to light on Sunday. Metcalf, who lives in Barry, Illinois, is not a gun hater. To the contrary we are told that he is — or was, at any rate — one of the most prominent gun journalists in the country, a self-described “Second Amendment fundamentalist” who, at 67, has devoted most of his adult life to gun rights. He hosted a TV program about guns. Gun makers flew him around the world and sent him their products for review. And he had a regular column in Guns & Ammo magazine.

In his December column, Metcalf offered a nuanced argument that gun enthusiasts should accept some minor regulation of their Second Amendment rights. Specifically, he said, a requirement that people who wanted to carry concealed weapons undergo 16 hours of training was not “excessive.” The way his fellow gun lovers responded to this, you’d have thought he’d argued for U.N. confiscation of every gun, arrow and slingshot in America.

There were death threats. He lost his show. Subscription cancelations poured in. Advertisers demanded he be fired. And he was.

The community he had supported so faithfully had made him a non-person. See, that community has a simple credo: guns — no restrictions. And even the slightest deviation from that absolutist mantra is grounds for expulsion. If you are only with them 99 percent, you are not with them at all. George Orwell had a word for it: groupthink.

Metcalf’s experience is eye-opening, disheartening and worth remembering next time there is a mass shooting — they come with the regularity of buses — and you find yourself wondering why we can’t all agree on some simple, common-sense ideas to take weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of those who should not have them.

Why not expanded background checks? Why not mandatory gun-safety classes? Why not some system of mental-health reporting?

Think of Metcalf when you hear yourself asking those questions. Then ask yourself how many other Metcalfs must be out there, how many other gun-rights advocates who know in their hearts something has gone haywire when mass shootings are so frequent they barely count as news. And maybe these people would speak up as Metcalf did — except they know they’d be treated as Metcalf was. So they say nothing. And silence enforces silence.

This is the tragedy of the American gun debate. It offers no space for people of good will to seek common ground. Gun-rights advocates have embraced a “with us or agin us” ethos under which even someone as unimpeachably pro-gun as Dick Metcalf becomes an enemy just because he has a (slightly) different idea.

For their sake and the country’s, thoughtful gun owners must find the moral courage to face and fix that sad state of affairs. Until they do, the debate over guns is likely to ricochet from one mass tragedy to the next without ever finding consensus. It takes two sides to reach consensus.

And in America, one side’s not even trying.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., The National Memo, January 8, 2014

January 9, 2014 Posted by | Gun Control, Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Not A Creator Or Manufacturer In The Lot”: America’s Would-Be Aristocrats Forget The Most Important Thing About Business

To paraphrase Tolstoy, every successful small business shares the same traits. And they all begin with high-quality employees. I’m thinking of three local establishments where I’ve traded for years: an auto repair garage, a dentist’s office, and a one-size-fits-all country store where I buy cattle- and horse-feed.

Along with just about everything else the aptly-named “Toad Suck One-Stop” might conceivably carry: from crickets and minnows to motor oil, pain remedies, kitty litter and homemade sandwiches. If you get up early enough, they’ll even fix you breakfast while somebody else loads feed sacks into your truck. (Toad Suck is a place name designating a long-ago ferryboat stop on the Arkansas River.)

It’s much the same at George Jett’s auto garage down in Little Rock; also at my dentist (his name is Lamar Lane). The first thing you notice is familiar faces. People who work at these places stay for years. And they do so because they’re well-paid, earn decent benefits, and are treated respectfully. So they like their jobs, take pride in their work, and are glad to see familiar customers.

Now I’m not going to lie that I love going to the dentist. But I do like feeling among friends, even if it means hearing Dr. Lane carry on about his LSU Tigers. (Because my wife was born in Baton Rouge, where her daddy played ball, I get a double dose.)

Something else: how a business treats employees also tends to be a reliable predictor of how they treat customers. Dr. Lane does high-quality work and stands by it. If a crown breaks, he replaces it free without asking if you were shelling pecans with your teeth.

My man George Jett hires good mechanics, values their skills, and guarantees their work. If the rattle’s still there, he’ll drive the vehicle around the block and then put it back on the lift to figure out why—also at no additional charge.

Jason down at the One-Stop isn’t exactly a philanthropist — at least not where Bermuda grass hay and Canadian night-crawlers are concerned. Keeping a business with so many moving parts running requires constant attention to detail. New hires that stand out back smoking when shelves need restocking tend not to last. Loyal longtime employees won’t cut them much slack.

Gas is cheaper at the Walmart across the river in Faulkner County, but the One-Stop’s pumps stay busy. It’s the community’s unofficial town hall. If you want to know who’s looking for a lost blue heeler or how Holly’s orphaned baby raccoons are doing, it’s got to be the One-Stop.

Ordinarily, such commonplaces would hardly be worth recording. So there are friendly folks at the country store.

Who’d have thunk it?

Unless, that is, you live in the United States of America, a large proportion of whose tycoon class appears determined to drag us back to the Gilded Age.

If they gave a Scrooge McDuck Award for the nation’s greediest knucklehead, the 2013 winner would be Home Depot’s billionaire founder Kenneth Langone, a Catholic who voiced public alarm at Pope Francis’s seeming enthusiasm for the gospel of Matthew 19. That’s where Jesus observes that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

The Pope didn’t cite that verse, nor discuss politics as such. However, his encyclical Evangelii Gaudium did warn against “crude and naive trust in the… sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

What, not worship money? Never mind that this is elementary Christian doctrine. Langone warned that American plutocrats don’t want to hear about it, even in church.

You may not be surprised this same worthy also regards President Obama as “petulant” and “unpresidential.” His hawklike visage appeared prominently in a Forbes photo lineup of “Anti-Obama Billionaires.”

Scrutinizing the list, I noticed that almost everybody on it made his pile either by manipulating money or squeezing minimum-wage workers dry: casino operators, real estate speculators, corporate buyout scammers, hedge fund geniuses, fast-food franchisers, big-box retailers, and Donald Trump.

Not a creator or manufacturer in the lot. This is our would-be new American aristocracy, largely bereft of — indeed actively hostile toward — the retail virtues I’ve celebrated. (None of whose practitioners necessarily share my partisan views; I’m talking morals here, not politics.)

But the good news is that according to Adam Davidson in the New York Times, old-fashioned business ethics may be making a comeback through the unlikely agency of a Turk.  According to Davidson, the going thing in corporate circles is The Good Jobs Strategy, a book by Zeynep Ton, an M.I.T. business professor.

Ton argues that what some call the “Costco” strategy of hiring better-trained, better-paid employees “will often yield happier customers, more engaged workers and—surprisingly—larger corporate profits.”

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, January 8, 2014

January 9, 2014 Posted by | Businesses, Economic Inequality | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“It Was All For Spite”: A Scandal We Can Sink Our Teeth Into

During the Lewinsky scandal, our nation’s brave pundits spent a good amount of time fluttering their hands in front of their faces and expressing dismay that they had to spend so much time talking about something so lurid. The truth was that they loved it like a labrador loves liverwurst, but some scandals are just more fun than others. Does it concern a lot of dull policy arcana, or something a little more human? Is there room for lots of speculation about people’s motivations? Are there interesting characters—your Gordon Liddys, your Linda Tripps—to liven up the proceedings? These are the things that make a scandal.

We haven’t yet met the people at the heart of the Chris Christie George Washington Bridge scandal, but since they’re people in New Jersey politics, I’m guessing that if we ever get them in front of the cameras, a new media star or two would be born. And what I find glorious about this story is that the action in question had no practical purpose whatsoever. It didn’t enrich anyone or give anyone an unfair political advantage. It was just for spite. Members of the Christie administration, it now appears, created monumental traffic tie-ups in the town of Fort Lee, which abuts the G.W. Bridge, simply because the mayor, a Democrat, didn’t endorse Christie in an election he would win by 22 points.

We now have some fabulous emails and texts, including the smokingest of smoking guns, where a top Christie aide emailed a Port Authority official and said, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” to which he replied, “Got it,” and it was made so. If it sounds like something out of an episode of “The Sopranos,” that isn’t just because it takes place in New Jersey. The only danger I see is the possibility that the cat has been let out of the bag too soon, and there won’t be even more juicy revelations to come. But we can hope.

In all likelihood, Governor Christie will say that he knew nothing of these nefarious doings, and nobody’s angrier about it than he is. Anyone whose name is on an incriminating email will be shown the door forthwith, having so brazenly subverted the tradition of integrity in public service for which the state has long been known. It may well be that Christie knew nothing about it; after all, he isn’t an idiot, and only an idiot would think screwing over a small-town mayor in so public a fashion, just before an election you’re going to win in a walk, would be a good idea.

But it does present a problem for him, because it’s the kind of scandal you’d dream up if you wanted to undermine the Christie ’16 bid. As Ezra Klein reminds us, Chris Christie doesn’t just have a reputation for being a bully, he’s actually a bully. And it would take a bully to say to a town of 35,000 people, “Your mayor didn’t endorse me? Well see how you like it when it takes you two hours to get over the Bridge, you worms.”

But what we need is to get everybody involved under oath, so we can get to know them and hear their stories. Maybe give them immunity; that’s what Congress did with Oliver North, and his testimony was riveting. Benghazi? Boring. IRS? Snoozeville. This is a scandal that could offer some real entertainment.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, January 8, 2014

January 9, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 1 Comment

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