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“Fiorina The Smooth Operator”: The Essence Of Fiorina ’16: A Smooth Exterior With Little Beneath It

In a piece at Vox today that you should most definitely read if you are following what passes for a bipartisan debate on climate change, Dave Roberts looks closely at a four-minute segment of an interview Katie Couric did with Carly Fiorina that Republican flacks are praising as a genius tour de force (for Carly, of course, not for Katie). He goes through ten claims Fiorina–not a climate change denier but rather someone who finds infinite excuses not to do anything about it–made in the interview against Democratic climate change proposals and shows they are more than a bit factually challenged. A sample of an argument Carly advanced as a Californian:

California “destroys lives and livelihoods with environmental regulations”

California’s climate regulations are indeed the most ambitious in the nation, and they just keep getting more ambitious. (A pair of new climate bills has cleared the Senate and is headed to the Assembly.)

If California were its own country, it would be one of the world’s top 10 in total renewable energy generation and one of the bottom two in carbon intensity. It is the top state in the nation for venture capital investments in cleantech, cleantech patents, and advanced-energy jobs. In fact, it leads the nation in virtually every cleantech category, from electric vehicles to green buildings to solar capacity to policy to investment, reliably topping the US Cleantech Leadership Index.

Meanwhile, between 1993 and 2013, thanks to energy efficiency, the average residential electricity bill in California declined, on an inflation-adjusted basis, by 4 percent, even as bills rose elsewhere in the country. Between 1990 and 2012, the state cut per-capita carbon emissions by 25 percent even as its GDP increased by 37 percent. Its total carbon emissions are declining, even as its economy continues to grow.

Oh, and California created more jobs than any other state in the nation last year, with the fifth-highest GDP growth rate. And its budget is balanced.

Looks like the state is surviving its environmental regulations so far.

After nine other, similar expositions, Roberts concludes:

However smooth Fiorina may be, in the end it’s not going to make sense to voters to acknowledge the science of climate change and then say you’re against every solution to it except handing out subsidies to the coal industry. That is some unstable derp. If I had to predict, I’d say political pressure will be such that Fiorina will either be forced back into outright denialism or she’ll have to offer something less vaporous on the policy front. She won’t be able to stay where she is.

But note that qualifier “in the end.” Untutored folk watching Fiorina may simply notice how “smooth” she is. And the fact that it’s Katie Couric interviewing her is instructive. A series of Couric inteviews took Sarah Palin down several notches in 2008 because the nationally unknown Alaska governor was anything but smooth. But that’s the essence of Fiorina ’16: a smooth exterior with little beneath it.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 21, 2015

August 22, 2015 Posted by | Carly Fiorina, Climate Change, Coal Industry | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Vague Hand-Waving Promise Is Not A Plan”: The Republican Plans To Replace Obamacare Have Been Tried, And They Failed

Before Obamacare, the individual insurance market for people who could not get health care through their job was a nightmare. The only way for insurers to make money was to avoid getting stuck with customers who would rack up high medical bills, forcing them to expend enormous time and expense to screen potential customers for preexisting conditions. Even people who could find plans with affordable premiums had to sign contracts loaded with fine-print exclusions leaving them responsible for unexpected costs. Obamacare overhauled that market, eliminating insurers’ ability to screen out healthy customers. In the new, regulated individual markets, people buy plans regardless of their prior health status. This has been a godsend to those unable to obtain coverage before.

Republicans would repeal all these new protections. But never fear, conservatives insist. In their place will be new protections. Ramesh Ponnuru, writing in National Review, points to two protections put in place by Scott Walker’s proposal, which is the prototypical Republican “see, we do too have a plan to replace Obamacare” plan.

Ponnuru mentions two protections. The first is a provision that would “bar insurers from charging higher prices to sicker customers provided they had maintained continuous coverage.” Republicans have taken to using this line a lot, because it sounds to the average person tuning in a lot like a promise to protect people with preexisting conditions, but the last six words are crucial. Maintaining continuous coverage is really hard. We know this because Congress passed a law in 1996 letting people who have employer-provided insurance keep their plan if they maintain continuous coverage. It has proven nearly useless. Maintaining continuous coverage is really hard for people who have financial distress, and it’s harder if the insurance company has every incentive for you to miss a payment or fail to dot one of your i’s or cross one of your t’s, so they can kick you out. And, of course, in a market where insurers can charge higher prices to sicker customers, “maintaining continuous coverage” means buying insurance that’s really expensive and can deny you coverage for lots of treatments you need.

The second provision is high-risk pools. This is a special market for the customers with the most expensive medical needs. Many states have tried high-risk pools. They also work really, really badly. There are all sorts of practical barriers that make it hard to operate a special insurance system for people with the most expensive conditions. For instance, how do you determine eligibility? Tens of millions of Americans have something in their medical history that makes them a less than perfect risk, from the insurance company’s standpoint. Where do you draw the cutoff for eligibility? And how do you keep insurance companies from skimming the high-risk pools, too — after all, they’ll want to cover the least costly people in the high-risk pool, not the most costly ones.

Even if it is possible to devise solutions to these problems, the biggest single impediment is that high-risk pools cost money. There’s no magic secret in a high-risk pool that makes insurers able to sell affordable insurance to people who need lots of medical care. And where would Republicans get the money to finance the high-risk pools? They don’t say. And they all have signed the Grover Norquist pledge that they will never raise taxes under any circumstances — even if aliens come to Earth and threaten to destroy humanity unless the president agrees to raise taxes by a single penny.

The funding problem is not ancillary. There’s an old joke in which a chemist, a physicist, and an economist are trapped on a desert island, and some cans of food wash up onshore. The physicist devises a plan to smash open the cans. The chemist comes up with a plan to heat them open. And the economist says “assume a can opener.” This is the problem not just with the high-risk pools, but the Republican health-care plans as a whole. They assume the availability of funding, but the party is theologically opposed to raising revenue of any kind. Like having a can opener, if the Republicans were able to overcome their fanatical opposition to revenue, the problem wouldn’t exist in the first place. Any reform that assumes Republicans will find a way to fund it is assuming a can opener. It’s premised on a fantastical assumption. That is why, in the absence of some concrete way around the no-taxes-ever problem, a vague hand-waving promise can’t be called a real plan.

Before Obamacare took effect, different measures were tried to reform America’s cruel and dysfunctional individual health-care marketplace. The continuous-coverage protection and high-risk pools both failed. One thing that succeeded was tried in Massachusetts, by Mitt Romney. The Obama administration decided to build that model out nationally, and it has worked very well — premiums have actually come in well under projections. But since it was Obama’s plan, Republicans oppose it. But since Obamacare is working, they need to have something they can say they’ll replace it with, and they’ve turned to the things that have already failed.


By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, August 21, 2015

August 22, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Care, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Sinvergüenza”: Trump, Bush Don’t Care That ‘Anchor Baby’ Isn’t ‘Politically Correct’

The idea that pregnant women are crossing the Mexican border in droves in an effort to make their babies American citizens is mostly untrue, so it’s fitting that this week’s debate over the so-called problem has already morphed into a less substantial dispute over the term “anchor babies.” Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, and several other GOP candidates used the term this week, prompting objections from those who say it’s a slur. “Children are widely seen as innocent and pure … yet there is an unspoken racial element there, for children of color are all too often pictured as criminals or welfare cheats in training,” Ian Haney López, author of Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class, told NBC News.

Unsurprisingly, the man who kicked off his campaign by calling Mexican immigrants rapists has no problem with the term. At a press conference on Wednesday, Donald Trump snapped at a reporter who said it’s offensive. “You mean it’s not politically correct, and yet everybody uses it?” he said. “I’ll use the word ‘anchor baby.'”

Also unsurprisingly, Bobby Jindal was quick to side with Trump in the controversy du jour. He told Fox News on Thursday that people are “too politically correct” and “too easily offended,” adding, “The real issue here — yeah, I’m happy to use the term — but the reality is the real issue here is we need to secure our border.”

Jeb Bush also doubled down on his decision to take a slightly more Trump-esque tone. On Thursday, Bush got testy when a reporter asked if he regrets referring to “anchor babies” in a radio interview on Wednesday. “No, I didn’t. I don’t! I don’t, regret it!” Bush said. “Do you have a better term? You give me a better term and I’ll use it. Don’t yell at me behind my ear, though.” He dismissed the suggested phrase “children born of undocumented immigrants in the U.S.” as too clunky and noted that he merely said they’re “commonly referred to” as “anchor babies.” “I didn’t use it as my own language,” Bush said.

“From the depths of my heart, I look at someone like Jeb Bush, who really should know better and that all I can think of is the Spanish term, sinvergüenza, which means somebody who is completely without shame to attack children this way,” Representative Linda Sanchez, chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, told NBC News.

As the New York Times recently noted, “anchor baby” isn’t the only derogatory term making a comeback in the 2016 race. During the 2013 immigration debate there was a push for media outlets and politicians to stop using the “I-word,” yet there was a question about “illegals” in the first GOP debate, and the preferred term “undocumented immigrants” has not caught on with Republicans.

Still, not everyone is embracing “anchor baby.” When asked about the issue in a CNBC interview published Thursday, Marco Rubio took the opportunity to show he’s more compassionate than his rivals on the immigration issue. “Well, these are 13 million — those are human beings,” he said. “And ultimately, they are people. They are not just statistics. They are human beings with stories.”


By: Margaret Hartmann, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, August 21, 2015

August 22, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Immigrants, Jeb Bush | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Nature Of Campaign Reporting”: The Circular Logic Behind Media Coverage Of The Clinton Email Story

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton took some questions from the press about her emails, a story that jumps back on to the front pages whenever there’s some new development, whether it’s truly meaningful or not. And without much indication of serious malfeasance on Clinton’s part, we’re reaching the point where a circular logic is taking over: the story is a story because it’s a story, and therefore we need to keep talking about it because it’s a story.

A reporter asked Clinton at that press conference: “Is this an indication that this issue isn’t going to go away for the remainder of your campaign?” It was an all too familiar meta-inquiry, not about the substance of the issue (though there were questions about that too) but about the questions the reporters themselves are asking, and whether the candidate thinks reporters are going to keep asking them. Unfortunately, candidates get questions like that all the time. How will this controversy affect your campaign? Why aren’t these questions going away? Doesn’t this issue suggest that this is an issue? It’s as if the reporter decides that asking about the substance isn’t getting anywhere, so they might as well treat the candidate like a panelist on The McLaughlin Group. And the candidate never says anything remotely interesting or informative in response.

Now before the chants of “Clinton apologist!” begin, let me say that like many liberals, I have complicated feelings about Clinton, some positive and some not so positive. I’ve written many critical pieces about her in the past; I’ve even criticized her for setting up a private email server.

But we have to be clear about just what it is we’re looking for in this story.

Republicans are no doubt hoping that lurking somewhere in Clinton’s emails is evidence of a terrible crime she committed whose revelation will destroy her career forever and deliver the White House to the GOP for a generation. But just for the sake of argument, let’s assume that no such horror will be revealed. What do we have then? Well, we have the plainly foolish decision to use a private server for work email, which we’ve known about for months. Maybe you think that a person who would do such a thing is unfit for the presidency, or maybe you don’t (though that would disqualify Jeb Bush).

Then there’s the possibility that she discussed sensitive or classified material in emails. She says she didn’t, but as yet we don’t know for certain. You might or might not consider that disqualifying as well. But the government classifies an absurd amount of material, even things that are publicly available; what would really matter is the details, like whether somebody else said something about a classified matter in an email to her (which wouldn’t be her fault), and more importantly, what specifically the material was. And while some argue that private email servers are more vulnerable to hackers and therefore it’s particularly bad if she ever discussed classified information there, government systems get hacked all the time. That isn’t to excuse the original decision to set up the private account, it’s just to say that if there’s going to be a new accusation, like “She received classified information!”, then we should get as specific as we can about it so we can judge how serious it is.

Or maybe you want to argue that this issue is important because it shows that Clinton has a “penchant for secrecy.” Which she obviously does, but you have to go further and say exactly what that means and how it might affect her presidency. It isn’t enough to say, “Cuz, um, Nixon!” The problem with Richard Nixon wasn’t that he was secretive. All presidents are secretive to one degree or another. The problem with Nixon was that he and his aides committed dozens of crimes, for which many of them went to prison.  Out of Watergate we got the oft-repeated cliche, “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up,” but that’s completely misunderstood. It’s the cover-up that gets you caught; the crime is what matters (and in Nixon’s case, the cover-up involved committing more crimes).

We’re still waiting for somebody to explain the crime Hillary Clinton committed. And to repeat, maybe there is one; who knows. Reporters who find this story interesting should keep digging into the substance, and eventually they and the investigators looking into it will be able to tell us definitively whether there’s anything there.

But the campaign reporters trailing Clinton around aren’t adding much of anything to the story, they’re just asking whether they’ll be asking more questions about it. That’s partly the nature of campaign reporting, and partly because with a Democratic race that’s far less compelling than what’s going on over on the Republican side, they’re starved for things to talk about (and they’d be much more interested if Bernie Sanders and Clinton were attacking each other, which they aren’t). It’s also because of what are often referred to as the “Clinton Rules,” which state that when it comes to Bill and Hillary Clinton, you can whip up a faux scandal out of nothing, then keep talking about it because it’s “out there,” regardless of whether anything problematic has actually been discovered.

The email story may not be the most ridiculous fake scandal in the history of the Clintons, because there’s a lot of competition for that title. As has often been the case, it was a poor decision Hillary Clinton made that got the scandal ball rolling. But there are only so many times you can ask “What is she hiding???” before you have to come up with something that she might actually be hiding.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, August 19, 2015

August 22, 2015 Posted by | Clinton Emails, Hillary Clinton, Media | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Anti-Immigrant Police-State”: The GOP’s Crazy Birthright Citizenship Debate Could Have Real Consequences

A droll Politico headline earlier this week nicely summed up the state of bemusement and incomprehension surrounding the Republican Party’s revived fixation with ending birthright citizenship.

“Trump to O’Reilly: 14th Amendment is unconstitutional.”

Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly grilled Trump on Tuesday, based on the widely shared premise that ending birthright citizenship would require changing the Constitution to excise or edit the first sentence of the Fourteenth Amendment. That sentence states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

Republicans are racing to catch up with Trump, creating a fresh consensus among the party’s presidential candidates that birthright citizenship is bad, and a presumption among most critics and reporters that these candidates believe the Constitution is flawed, and should perhaps be changed.

Neither of these presumptions necessarily describes anti-birthright candidates. Many Republican presidential hopefuls share the belief that giving the children of immigrants citizenship automatically is bad. In less abstract terms, they’re affirming an unfounded nativist anxiety that birthright citizenship creates an incentive for child-bearing immigrants to stream across the border and secure all the benefits of citizenship, including welfare, for their offspring—what conservatives derisively refer to as “anchor babies.” But they disagree among themselves over how to address the problem. And because the point of contention is so politically toxic—a dramatic shift to the right relative to the also-toxic Republican primary consensus in 2012—the candidates have little interest in explaining their personal theories of how the imaginary “anchor baby” crisis should be resolved.

All of the possibilities are equally crazy.

Under the status quo, the children of undocumented immigrants are conferred citizenship by the Fourteenth Amendment. If you believe this is bad, and that we should be willing to tolerate a permanent, minority underclass of stateless noncitizens, you can address it in three ways: by changing the Constitution, by stepping up enforcement so dramatically so that all unauthorized immigrants are expelled before they give birth, or by getting courts to reinterpret the Constitution as it is currently written.

In general, the Republicans who want to change the subject from birthright citizenship to literally anything else pay lip service to the issue. But they insist, for better or worse, that citizenship is a constitutional right of the children of immigrants, and that the Constitution is not going to change. Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush are in this category. Both intimate that they oppose automatic citizenship for the children of people without any documentation who are trying to game the Fourteenth Amendment, but argue that the right is enshrined, and it isn’t going away.

Perhaps intentionally, they are blinding themselves to the other strategies. In a statement to reporters earlier this week, Scott Walker’s spokeswoman explained how he would tackle the issue. “We have to enforce the laws, keep people from coming here illegally, enforce e-verify to stop the jobs magnet and by addressing the root problems we will end the birthright citizenship problem.” If there were no undocumented immigrants in the country, then birthright citizenship would become a mere abstraction. Without touching the Constitution, Walker suggests he would use a draconian enforcement regime to effectively moot the birthright clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This is almost certainly not feasible, but it lays down a marker for immigration enforcement on the rightmost conceptual end of the policy debate—promising to deport immigrants at such an intense clip that vanishingly few will remain in the country long enough to give birth.

Trump’s goal is even more ambitious. He supports a Walker-like anti-immigrant police-state, too, but argues that the Fourteenth Amendment doesn’t say what it appears to say. A popular argument on the fringes of conservative legal thought holds that the original meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment—and of the term “jurisdiction” in particular—precludes the notion that it should create a right to citizenship for the children of non-citizen immigrants. Trump has bought into it. He’s not a fan of amending the Constitution, as he told O’Reilly, because “It’s a long process, and I think it would take too long. I’d much rather find out whether or not anchor babies are citizens because a lot of people don’t think they are.” This flies in the face of a century and a half of law. It was the source of O’Reilly’s confusion, and of the tongue-in-cheek Politico headline. To test the theory, a conservative state government could pass a law stripping citizenship benefits from children of immigrants, and defend it in court. This would be easy to laugh off in a different milieu, but in a world where scores of federal judges and three or four conservative Supreme Court justices are willing to vouchsafe plainly absurd and self-serving conservative legal arguments, it is alarming. Especially if you consider the possibility that a Republican candidate wins the presidency on an anti-birthright platform, and obtains the power to nominate nativists to the federal bench.

These views are so extreme that they’re often dismissed as harmless campaign trail pandering. Since the Constitution isn’t going to be amended anytime soon, at least not for this purpose, most reporters don’t take the anti-birthright frenzy as much more than a garden variety Republican primary spectacle. That’s a big error. GOP candidates are telling us how they would use levers at their disposal to antagonize immigrants, and we should be listening.


By: Brian Beutler, Senior Editor, The New Republic, August 21, 2015

August 22, 2015 Posted by | Birthright Citizenship, GOP Base, Immigrants | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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