Posted: May 27, 2015 Filed under: morning reads, Republican politics, U.S. Politics, Women's Rights | Tags: Australia's Tampon Tax, Koch Brothers, Lindsey Graham, Scott Walker
Do you want ever wonder what the hell is going on with politicians today and how they can get away with this kind of shit to begin with in the first place?
That is a rhetorical question…but the setup is legit.
And away we go….
Lindsey Graham: I Know Iran’s Lying Because I Ran My Family’s Pool Room | Mediaite
In pre-taped remarks to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference over the weekend, Senator Lindsey Graham says he knows Iran’s lying because he learned how to spot a liar in his parents’ pool room.
Graham, of course, kept the focus largely on politics, talking about his background, his belief in the greatness of America, his expected 2016 run, his foreign policy chops, and Hillary Clinton.
But it was when he talked about growing up that he made the connection between his time working at the pool hall and the current Iran nuclear negotiations:
“My family owned a restaurant, a pool room, and a liquor store. And everything I know about the Iranians I learned in the pool room. I ran the pool room when I was a kid and I met a lot of liars, and I know the Iranians are lying.”
As the comic image above states, “What the fuck is this bullshit?”
Then you have the other one, Walker…the Kochsucker favorite I guess, who says… about those forced ultrasounds he makes the women in his state take who are looking to get an abortion…yeah they should just shut up about that because you know, forced ultrasounds are “lovely” and “cool.”
Scott Walker: Women should be forced to have ultrasounds because they’re ‘a cool thing’
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker defended a bill he signed that required women to undergo ultrasound examinations before seeking an abortion, saying the medically unnecessary procedures were a “lovely” and “cool thing.”
The likely Republican presidential candidate told conservative talk radio host Dana Loesch on Friday that the law, portions of which were struck down earlier this year by a federal judge, was misrepresented by a hostile media, reported Right Wing Watch.
“The media tried to make that sound like that was a crazy idea,” Walker said. “Most people I talked to, whether they’re pro-life or not, I find people all the time that pull out their iPhone and show me a picture of their grandkids’ ultrasound and how excited they are, so that’s a lovely thing. I think about my sons are 19 and 20, (and) we still have their first ultrasounds. It’s just a cool thing out there.”
Yes, there is nothing more lovelier than what basically can be described as a forced (uh, emphasis on forced for all those dumbass shitbags who don’t think the word rape is violent enough) rape on a woman by sticking a vaginal probe ultrasound stick up her v-hole to get a cool picture of a clump of “misogynist funded government up your uterus.”
See what I mean: The Koch brothers try to rein in the GOP presidential clown show – The Washington Post
…there are currently 10 candidates who are declared or all but certain to run, and another four who will probably run. But while the voters might find this an embarrassment of riches, for the party’s leaders and financiers, it looks like a recipe for trouble.
In a Saturday interview on the Larry Kudlow Show, a nationally syndicated radio broadcast, David Koch let it slip that the roughly$900 million that he and his brother, Charles, plan to lavish on the 2016 presidential race could find its way into the hands of more than one GOP contender.
“We are thinking of supporting several Republicans,” David Koch said, adding, “If we’re happy with the policies that these individuals are supporting, we’ll finance their campaigns.”
Koch said the brothers would begin writing checks to individual candidates in “the primary season, winter and next spring.”
Up until now, the Koch brothers hadn’t indicated that they’d be taking a side in the primaries. It almost seemed that they viewed that as the kind of thing amateurs like Sheldon Adelson do, throwing money at some candidate based on overly irrational personal feelings, while they keep focused on the real goal of getting a Republican — any Republican — into the White House. By saying they’re going to support several candidates in the primaries, the Kochs are pledging to accelerate the winnowing process, by which the race’s chaff can be sloughed off and the focus can stay on the serious contenders.
Don’t be fooled by the line about them supporting all the ones whose policies they’re happy with. That’s because there’s almost no disagreement among the candidates, at least on the issues the Kochs care about. All of them would like to see low taxes on the wealthy (most have even advocated a flat tax, a boon to people like the Kochs), a dramatic reduction in regulations that affect corporations and a rollback of the social safety net. Where the Kochs personally disagree with the candidates (as they may on some social issues or on immigration), they disagree with all the candidates, because the candidates’ positions are so similar.
Gawd, I hate those fuckers.
The rest of today’s links below are on the quick, because the Koch Brother’s have disgusted me so…
Supreme Court Agrees to Settle Meaning of ‘One Person One Vote’ – NYTimes.com
The Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to hear a case that will answer a long-contested question about a bedrock principle of the American political system: the meaning of “one person one vote.”
The court’s ruling, expected in 2016, could be immensely consequential. Should the court agree with the two Texas voters who brought the case, its ruling would shift political power from cities to rural areas, a move that would benefit Republicans.
I can’t believe this: Australia wants to scrap the tampon tax – Business News – Business – The Independent
Posted: May 26, 2015 Filed under: Crime, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Air Force, Anna Duggar, Charles C. Johnson, Deray Mckessen, Grand Forks ND shooting, Houston flooding, incest, internet trolls, Josh Duggar, Racism, sexual abuse, sexual assault, Texas, Twitter, Walmart, weather
Texas has been experiencing really bad weather for the past few days. From the Houston Chronicle:
Texas storms leave multiple dead, 12 missing.
Recovery teams were resuming the search early Tuesday for 12 members of two families who are missing after a rain-swollen river in Central Texas carried a vacation home off its foundation, slamming it into a bridge downstream.
The hunt for the missing picked up after a holiday weekend of terrible storms that dumped record rainfall on the Plains and Midwest, caused major flooding and spawned tornadoes and killed at least eight people in Oklahoma and Texas. More than 1,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed in Texas, and thousands of residents are displaced.
Authorities were also searching for victims and assessing damage just across the Texas-Mexico border in Ciudad Acuna, where a tornado Monday killed 13 people and left at least five unaccounted for.
Scene from Houston last night
More on the flooding in Houston from the Chronicle: Heavy rains flood freeways, close schools, delays bus service.
Houston motorists woke Tuesday morning to swamped freeways and closed roads as heavy thunderstorms raked the region overnight, making the morning commute dangerous and even impossible for most.
The 610 Loop as well as Katy, North and South freeways were underwater in spots throughout the area. Other major roads blocked by high water include Memorial Drive and Allen Parkway near downtown.
No injuries have been reported, but dozens of vehicles were stranded in high water throughout the city. In many cases, the water came up to to the driver’s side windows of the abandoned cars, Other vehicles are almost submerged.
Firefighters with the Houston Fire Department were dispatched to several water rescues throughout the city. Areas along Brays Bayou near the 610 Loop were particularly hard hit with several rescues during the early morning hours Tuesday. Memorial Drive and Allen Parkway are closed.
According to the National Weather Service homes were reportedly flooded in the Larchmont subdivision about six miles southwest of the city early Tuesday morning. Some homes in Rosenberg were threaetened as more than three feet of water rose in the Greenwood subdivision a few hours before dawn Tuesday.
See some amazing photos posted on Twitter at News.Mic: 17 Photos of the Devastating Floods That Hit Houston. More photos at ABC 13. The Weather Channel is providing live updates.
NBC News reports that other states could be affected by the storms: Houston, Texas, Hit by Unprecedented Flooding; Seven States At Risk.
Flash-flood watches and warnings were issued across seven states early Tuesday as an unprecedented downpour of torrential rain triggered “extremely dangerous and potentially life-threatening” conditions in Houston.
More than 30 million Americans were told to brace for dangerous thunderstorms — including flooding, hail and possible tornadoes — as meteorologists warned the weather that has centered on Texas and Oklahoma since Saturday could expand to other areas.
At least 12 people were still missing, eight people have been killed, and countless more evacuated amid the deluge that has inundated Texas and Oklahoma with record-breaking floods since Saturday.
In Houston, more than 80,000 people were without power and the flood waters closed roads including Interstate 10 and Interstate 45. Houston was among 24 counties where Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster on Monday.
I hope RalphB and his family are safe. Dakinikat could also be in the path of the damaging weather. New Orleans is expecting thunderstorms for the next few days.
In other news, there has been a shooting at a Walmart in Grand Forks, North Dakota–where the University of North Dakota is located. My Dad got his Masters degree there.
Scene outside Grand Forks Walmart early this morning
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports: 2 fatally shot inside Grand Forks Wal-Mart; Air Force member involved.
The shooting occurred shortly before 1:05 a.m. in the supercenter store on 32nd Avenue, just east of Interstate 29, according to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) near Grand Forks.
Grand Forks police said officers discovered “multiple victims” inside the store and one of them was taken to Altru Hospital in Grand Forks for injuries that are not considered life-threatening.
The AFOSI said there were three people involved and one was an airman. The base is about 20 miles west of the store.
Neither police nor Air Force personnel released details about whether the airman was the shooter or one of the victims. There is also no immediate information about what prompted the violence, but Deputy Police Chief Mike Ferguson added, “the Police Department does not believe there is any further on-going immediate public safety risk at this time.”
There isn’t a lot of information about the incident as yet. From the Fargo Forum:
In a press conference at the Grand Forks Police Department, Zimmel said there was no active shooting when officers arrived on scene.
Zimmel said at this time, police believe the shooter is among the dead. Only one person involved in the incident is believed to have had a gun, Zimmel said.
Police are still investigating the motive behind the shooting, whether it was targeted or random….
Andy Legg, who was in the store at the time, told a WDAZ reporter he heard “popping sounds” going off in the store and that he and a group of customers were herded to a section of the store by authorities. Legg said he and the group later exited the building passing a Walmart employee covered in blood. Legg says he’s not sure of the person’s condition but that it “didn’t look good.”
Shortly after 4 a.m., a police SWAT team, using a special robot, began searching a car in the parking lot.
Remember Charles C. “Chuck” Johnson, the right wing a-hole and twitter troll? His account has once again been suspended by Twitter after he threatened activist Deray Mckessen. From re/code:
Notorious Twitter troll Chuck Johnson was placed in time-out Sunday — at least temporarily — and it looks as though the company’s new policy on violent threats was the reason.
Twitter suspended Johnson, who has a long history of Internet trolling, for what appears to be a threat against civil rights activist DeRay McKesson. Johnson tweeted this morning asking people to donate money for “taking out” McKesson, who responded, saying that he took Johnson’s comments as a “serious threat.”
The account suspension is nothing new for Johnson. But what’s worth noting is that this appears to be an example of Twitter’s new policy on threats coming into play. The company changed the policy’s wording last month so that it no longer included phrases like “direct” and “specific.” Essentially, those qualifiers were limiting the types of tweets Twitter could act upon.
Not anymore. This looks like the kind of threat that may have slipped through the system a few months back. So this is good for Twitter, a company that has struggled mightily when dealing with bullying and threats.
A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment on Johnson’s suspension, so there’s no way of knowing how long he’ll be blocked from the service.
From Raw Story: ‘Hate is organized in America': Black activist fights back after death threats from pro-cop blogger.
In a statement to Re/code, Johnson accused Twitter of “censorship.”
“I was speaking metaphorically about exposing DeRay in much the same way Slate was speaking metaphorically when they talked about ‘taking out’ a Supreme Court justice,” he wrote.
But in an interview with CNN on Monday, Mckesson said that Johnson should have known better.
“For someone who considers themselves a journalist, I firmly believe that he understands the power of his words,” Mckesson explained. “And his words are his words. ‘Take out’ functions in a certain way. And if I got on any media outlet and said something to the effect of ‘take out the police,’ nobody would think that I was talking about an exposé.”
“I was proud that Twitter took the action to move so quickly, and remember that racism doesn’t exist only in the extremes,” he continued. “It’s not just slavery and the n-word. It functions in these subtle ways too. He, again, knew very clearly what he was doing by using this language.”
And from Pando Daily’s David Holmes: Here’s the remarkable letter Chuck Johnson’s attorney sent to Twitter threatening legal action.
For at least the fourth time in his sad, shameful, misogynist, racist career, Twitter has suspended the rightwing blogger Chuck Johnson….
…Johnson is outraged over the suspension, tweeting under a new account @citizentrolling– which a few minutes prior to my writing this sentence has now also been suspended — that Twitter is guilty of “censorship” and writing that the company’s enforcement of its policies exhibits a clear political bias against rightwingers like himself.
“Twitter doesn’t seem to have a problem with people using their service to coordinate riots,” Johnson wrote. “But they do have a problem with the kind of journalism I do.”
I’m struggling to know where to begin in describing the lunacy of Johnson’s argument. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t engage at all with Johnson who has failed to build a career through producing quality journalism or analysis and instead — in what must be an overwhelmingly sad discovery — has found that the only thing anyone will pay him for anymore is to spew hatred at the most vulnerable members of society, in particular rape victims. But his complaints raise some important misconceptions about Twitter, free speech, and who controls what can or can’t be said in the new digital content paradigm.
Now it appears that Johnson is threatening legal action against Twitter for loss of income that would otherwise be generated by his hateful tweets. Johnson emailed me the letter his attorneys sent to Twitter demanding the reinstatement of his accounts, attached in full below. What makes it so absurd is the notion that Twitter is somehow guilty of “censorship” or that the company owes him a living.
Read the letter at the Pando link.
Sigh . . . When will “journalists” finally figure out that Hillary Clinton is a separate person from her husband and there is no reason for her to feel bound by decisions Bill Clinton made back in the 1990s?
Melinda Henneberger at Bloomberg Politics: Will Hillary Clinton Run Against Her Husband’s Welfare Legacy? I’m not even going to quote from the article. It’s just a rehash of 20-year-old events. Get a clue, Melinda. Hillary is not Bill, and over the past 20 years there has been a lot of water under the bridge. Hillary is not bound by things she or her husband said and did in the distant past.
Some Duggar updates:
Anna and Josh Duggar
Raw Story: GOP ally suggests criminal charges for police chief who released Duggar sex abuse report.
State Sen. Bart Hester (R-Cave Springs) told KSFM-TV that Kathy O’Kelley, chief of the Springdale police, had harmed Duggar’s sisters and other girls he admitted to fondling as they slept in 2002, when he was 14 years old.
“The law to protect minors’ identities is not a suggestion,” Hester said. “So sad to see the person charged with protecting the community being so reckless and irresponsible. I believe it is unavoidable that the Springdale police chief should be terminated. She has re-victimized these young ladies.”
I guess Hester hasn’t heard of the Freedom of Information Act.
“From every indication I have, the chief and city attorney reluctantly did what they had to do to comply with the state (freedom of information) law,” said Dough Sprouse, the Springdale Mayor.
Hester, sponsor of an Arkansas bill similar to Indiana’s anti-LGBT “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” wondered whether other sex abuse victims should worry that O’Kelley would publicize their identities.
Like he cares even an iota about abuse victims. Give me a break!
Us Weekly: Anna Duggar Shared Cryptic Quote About Forgiveness Days Before Josh Duggar Molestation Allegations Surfaced.
Days before news broke of Josh Duggar allegedly molesting five girls back when he was a teen, the 19 Kids and Counting star’s pregnant wife Anna Duggar shared a cryptic quote about forgiveness with her Instagram followers.
“The three most beautiful and liberating words in the English language are these,” the mother of three wrote on May 17, quoting pastor Lon Solomon on her page. “‘I forgive you.'” (Solomon, a senior pastor at a Virginia megachurch, is the author of a book titled Brokenness: How God Redeems Pain and Suffering.)
Well, she apparently knew all about Josh’s history and still decided to have children with him.
Finally, from TMZ: Josh Duggar Cracks Molestation Joke. Dating Family Is What We Do!
Back in 2008 — long before Duggar’s molestation past came to light — he made a quip during an episode of what was then called “17 Kids and Counting.”
Josh describes a double date scenario with his then-fiancée Anna … he ended up going with 2 of his siblings.
Josh explains, “We chose Jana and John David. We thought why not, have a double date … We are from Arkansas!”
He then broke out in laughter.
Not so funny now …
Not funny then either, IMHO.
So . . . what else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday!
Posted: May 25, 2015 Filed under: open thread | Tags: Christianist Cults, Racism, sexual abuse, The Duggars
Today is Memorial Day but it’s also known as Decoration Day! It’s the day we celebrate the sacrifice of the soldiers and sailors who gave their lives in service to their country. Wouldn’t it be nice if no one lost their lives to war?
“Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.”
The passage of the National Holiday Act of 1971 by Congress made it an official holiday.
I have a few news items to share with you. As an economist, I cannot understand the contribution of John Nash’s game theory to our understanding of high concentrated markets like duopoly or oligopoly. Dr. Nash and his wife were killed in a car accident over the weekend.
US mathematician John Nash, who inspired the Oscar-winning film A Beautiful Mind, has died in a car crash with his wife, police have said.
Nash, 86, and his 82-year-old wife Alicia were killed when their taxi crashed in New Jersey, they said.
The mathematician is renowned for his work in game theory, winning the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1994.
His breakthroughs in maths – and his struggles with schizophrenia – were the focus of the 2001 film.
Russell Crowe, who played him, tweeted: “Stunned… My heart goes out to John & Alicia & family. An amazing partnership. Beautiful minds, beautiful hearts.”
The film’s director, Ron Howard, also tweeted his tribute to the “brilliant” John Nash and his “remarkable” wife.
Alicia Nash helped care for her husband, and the two later became prominent mental health advocates.
I loved the movie that detailed the mental health struggles of Nash and how he because the hero of his own life.
BB and I talk a lot about homeschooling and how–in the majority of cases–it’s a clear form of child abuse. Children really need to be with their peers to learn socialization skills as well as learn about their idea of self in a world full of different kinds of people. Many parents that home school are in it to assert control over their children and most rely on dubious curricula. No where is this more clear than in the Christianist Cults identified by BB in her post on Saturday. The more we learn about the kinds of things these children have been subjected to, the more outrage we should feel. Children are not their parents property to use and abuse for their personal hang ups. Here’s a disturbing item on how to handle sexual abuse in home schooling environments but out by some even scarier people. It undoubtedly leaves children quite scarred. This is the material from Gothard-the Grabber–covered a bit in BB’s post. The details are just profoundly upsetting to any one that cares about young girls.
According to its website, the ATI is a “home education program” that provides parents with curriculum and support to teach their children with a Biblical worldview.
The ATI operates under the Institute of Basic Life Principles, a conservative Christian nonprofit group.
The group came under fire last year after its founder, Bill Gothard, resigned in the wake of sexual harassment allegations against him.
Gothard was accused of hiring young women, some of them teens, to work for him and then making unwanted advances toward them. The allegations stretched back for decades, the Christian Post reported.
The family has also discussed sending their sons to an ATI program called ALERT, which “focuses on training men in Biblical disciplines and character within the framework of learning skills for crisis response and ministry support.”
After the sexual abuse allegations against Josh Duggar emerged, documents from ATI’s programs about sexual abuse came under heavy scrutiny.
One document in particular, called “Lessons From Moral Failures in a Family,” is particularly striking because it describes circumstances eerily similar to what allegedly happened in the Duggar home.
The document was shared by Recovering Grace, a website dedicated to those impacted by the teachings of Gothard and ATI.
The website says the document was distributed in the late 1990s by ATI at several of its conferences.
The document describes a situation in which social workers visited a home and informed the parents that their oldest son had sexually abused younger members of his family.
According to the document, the boy repented for what he had done and was later asked to answer a list of questions in writing to shed more insight on what happened.
The questions included asking what factors had contributed to his sin, what could have been done to prevent it, and what factors “in the home contributed to immodesty and temptation.”
“The information he gives is so helpful that every parent should read it and diligently apply the lessons that this family learned the hard way,” the document states.
The most striking part of the document comes when the boy seems to blame his actions on the lack of “modesty” in his home, especially when it came to his young sisters.
The boy wrote that modesty was a “factor” in his actions because it “was not at the level is should have been in my family.”
“It was not uncommon for my younger sibling to come out of their baths naked or with a towel,” he wrote.
He also said his younger sisters acted inappropriately when they wore dresses, saying they “did not behave in them as they should.”
He then said his sisters didn’t realize what they were doing to him because they didn’t realize their “own nakedness,” and it wasn’t taught properly to them. He seems to blame this on his mother, who he says didn’t see the human body as a big deal because she is a nurse.
The boy said he spoke with his mother who had “no idea” how “visual” men are sexually compared to women. He said changes have since been made in his home.
“This was not a major reason for the offending, but it allowed my little sister to be open to what I made her do,” he wrote.
He then wrote, “A different lifestyle, with more modesty, might have prevented what happened.”
The document then provides guidelines as to how to prevent this type of situation. These include “[insisting] on modesty at all times” and “[not allowing] boys to change diapers.”
This advice filled with victim shaming and blaming is totally disgusting. The more information that comes out about the Duggar scandal, the more that fans of the show realize how the behavior they’ve seen in the girls is explained by their molestation and shaming. There are all kinds of tweets that mention how their behavior differs from the show that tries to show a happy cheery family that I admit to never having watched. Tbogg lists a series of tweets that express concern for the girls, something that has failed to reach any critical level among the Quivering Cult and Mike Huckabee.
Fans express concern and support for Duggar daughters on Twitter: ‘Run away and be free!
In their statement to the media, parents Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar — who hushed up the scandal — mentioned “God” six times without mentioning their daughters once.
Fans of the show, and of the daughters in particular, expressed more support for the girls on Twitter, with one advising eldest daughter Jana to “Run away and be free!”
Many noted that some of the daughters seemed to have a darker side on the normally bright and peppy show, and wondered if it was a manifestation of being molested when they were little.
Particular attention is being paid to 25-year-old Jana Duggar, known as “Cinderella Duggar,” because she is unmarried, still lives at home, and is treated like a maid, taking care of the younger Duggars.
What is even more disturbing is that an Arkansas State Senator is calling for the police chief’s head who released the Duggar records on a FOI request.
A state senator from Northwest Arkansas is calling for the Springdale police chief to be fired over the recent release of a 2006 police report detailing accusations that Josh Duggar as a teenager molested five underage girls.
Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, said the girls have been re-victimized now that the report is public. He said Police Chief Kathy O’Kelley acted recklessly in releasing the report and should be held accountable.
“The law to protect minors’ identities is not a suggestion,” Hester, pictured, said Saturday (May 23). “So sad to see the person charged with protecting the community being so reckless and irresponsible. I believe it is unavoidable that the Springdale police chief should be terminated. She has re-victimized these young ladies.”
Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse said O’Kelley and Springdale City Attorney Ernest Cate determined after researching the matter that the report had to be released under law.
“From every indication I have the chief and city attorney reluctantly did what they had to do to comply with the state FOI (freedom of information) law,” Sprouse said Saturday (May 23).
The Springdale police report was obtained by In Touch Weekly magazine and posted on the magazine’s website this week. The names are redacted in the report. On May 21, Washington County Juvenile Judge Stacey Zimmerman issued a court order that the police report be destroyed and expunged from the public record.
That’s great. Fire a police chief for doing his job! Makes perfect sense in the twisted authoritarian minds of those trapped in Christianist cults.
In other news, hateful expressions of racism are still resplendent all over our country. This is an example from New Orleans. It’s hit the press now but most of us that know the Neville family received notice about 5 minutes after it happened. I’m still pretty shocked frankly. This is a prime example of a privileged little white boy who got a job from his general manager father and just seems to think he can do anything to any one.
The waiter who wrote the N-word on a New Orleans restaurant receipt knew what he was doing when he unleashed the racial slur that caused intense backlash and calls for boycotts, according to one former coworker.
“I printed those receipts 50 times a day. I know for a fact he knew it would show up on his receipt,” a former Huck Finn’s waitress told the Daily News. “I was like, are you that hateful that you would put that on the receipt?”
Dakota Crochet, 23, was fired from the French Quarter sports bar this week after the phrase “N—– 100% dislike” appeared on a check he gave to a group of black customers Thursday.
One of the diners, Liryca Neville Branch — the daughter of New Orleans musician Cyril Neville — is now mulling a lawsuit and demanding a personal apology from both the canned waiter and the restaurant’s management.
“I’ve never had anything like this happen before to me,” she said. “Trust me — this is not over. I refuse to let this die out.”
Branch, 33, was eating lunch with three coworkers when they were given a bill with the racial slur in all capitals staring them in the face.
Another disturbing racist letter was sent to a family in Lindenhurst NY.
Suffolk County police are investigating a possible hate crime targeting an African-American family in Lindenhurst.
Ronica Copes, a resident of the suburban neighborhood, received a letter saying “YOU DON’T BELONG HERE” and other hateful words on Thursday.
Understandably so, she was disappointed at the sight of the hateful letter.
“Unbelievable but then it’s not…our daily reality, I’ve just never seen it in this form,” Copes posted on Facebook.
The writer of the flyer who says “Lidenhurst is 84 percent white” urges Copes in bold capital letters to “LEAVE AS SOON SHE CAN” because “IT WILL BE BETTER FOR ALL OF US.”
The racist letter gained the attention of county executive Steven Bellone, who lashed out against the author of the flyer in a statement Friday.
“To the coward who committed a hate crime against an innocent family in Lindenhurst — There is no place for intolerance in Suffolk County. I know the Suffolk County Police Department will do everything possible to solve this hate crime, out you and see you punished. I stand together with all Lindenhurst residents who decry this act of hatred. This community and all of Suffolk County are better than that.”
While police continue their investigation, Copes is thankful for the support she’s received during the ordeal.
So, today is a day to remember all of the beautiful minds that we’ve lost. It is also a day to ensure that the not-so-beautiful minds don’t get away with ruining other people’s lives. On many levels, we are still fighting the Civil War.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Posted: May 24, 2015 Filed under: just because
For years there has been an inside joke in my house, my brother Denny has to watch two shows daily. Bonanza and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. If there is any satellite issues and he can’t see these shows, which air on one of those Turner networks, he has a fit of Rainman proportions.
Now for the joke. I tease Denny about his favorite show Bonanza by calling out the name Cartwright, Cartwright…like the episode from Seinfeld, where the crew are waiting for a table in a Chinese Restaurant.
In the episode, George is waiting for a woman to call him at the Chinese restaurant. When she does call, the host calls out “Cartwright” instead of George’s name. It’s super hilarious and prompts this discussion between Jerry and George:
I’m Cartwright …
You’re not Cartwright.
[EXPLODING] Of course I’m not
Well, it turns out that my little joke with Denny is more on target than even I thought.
Classic ‘Seinfeld’ Joke Is Revealed To Be A Huge Easter Egg
Secret gags in “Seinfeld” are real, and they’re spectacular.
There are Superman figures slyly appearing in episodes, writers dropping in the names of their friends and tons of hidden references the show creators even forgot were there. Well, now we know of at least one more.
When “The Chinese Restaurant” episode aired on May 23, 1991, NBC was not a fan. Larry David has said the network “hated” the episode and didn’t think waiting around to get a seat in a restaurant would work as a storyline. Now, it’s recognized as one of the most iconic episodes, and it turns out its most memorable joke has been an Easter egg this whole time, according to former “Seinfeld” writer Spike Feresten.
“Like Deep Throat … This goes all the way to the top,” said Feresten, who went on to reveal the famous line’s hidden meaning to The Huffington Post.
So what and how does “Cartwright” figure in this whole thing?
The Big Reveal: “Costanza (sounds like) ‘Bonanza’ = Cartwright”
Yep. This whole time Cartwright has been a reference to the classic Western show “Bonanza,” which followed the wild adventures of the Cartwright family.
Though the episode happened before he joined the show, Feresten says the info comes from “an unimpeachable source.” The writer was mum on if it was in fact one of the show creators — either David or Jerry Seinfeld — but, as we mentioned, did say it went “all the way to the top.”
So there you have it, kids. The mystery of why the host calls out “Cartwright” has finally been solved. Now if only Jerry could get a table …
It’s the little things that get us through the day sometimes. This little tidbit just made my day, which is good because aside from what has happened in Ireland…this has been a shitty week all around.
Referendum has changed republic forever, says Yes Equality
Irish people have woken up in a kinder, more accepting Ireland
Friday’s referendum changed more than the Irish Constitution, “it has reshaped forever the republic in which we live”, the Yes Equality Campaign has said.
Speaking at the organisation’s final press conference in Dublin on Sunday, organised to thank the Irish public for voting Yes, Brian Sheehan, co-director of the campaign, said people woke up on Sunday in a kinder, more gentle, more accepting Ireland.
He said Irish people have given a new sense of belonging to their lesbian and gay family members, friends and neighbours.
The campaign was set up by the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (Glen), the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) and Marriage Equality to canvas for a yes vote in last Friday’s referendum to allow same-sex marriage.
Some 62 per cent of voters accepted the constitutional amendment.
Gráinne Healy, co-director of the campaign, said a question was asked, that question was answered resoundingly, and all of us are the better for that.
Oh yes. That is the truth.
If only we could say the same for all of us here in the US of A.
All churches in Ireland in need of ‘reality check’
The family won the same-sex marriage referendum for gay people
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin is of course correct. The Catholic Church does indeed need a reality check in the wake of the same-sex marriage referendum.
As the unequivocal result of the referendum became clear he said: “I think really that the church needs to do a reality check, a reality check right across the board, to look at the things it’s doing well, to look at the areas where we really have to start and say, ‘Look, have we drifted away completely from young people’?”
It’s not just young people. The people who voted for this referendum included tens of thousands of practicing older Catholics in the cities, towns and countryside of Ireland. People who will continue to practice their faith but who no longer accept that their gay sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, grandchildren, even their gay parents, are “objectively disordered” with a tendency to evil, as their Church teaches.
Rather, by voting Yes last Friday, they embraced their gay minority and trumpeted to the world “you are my son, you are my daughter, you are my brother, you are my sister, you are my grandchild, you are my mother, you are my father, you are my equal inlaw whatever the church may teach.”
It is an irony that those who opposed the referendum out of concern for the family were defeated by the family. The difference being that the No family was a concept, whereas last Friday’s Yes families were flesh and blood, living, breathing, flawed, impossible, loving humanity.
Read the rest at the link.
More on this fabulous news from the Green Isle…
Ireland – Lawyers, Guns & Money
The Victory for Same-Sex Marriage in Ireland – NYTimes.com
Same-sex marriage: Catholic church needs reality check, says Dublin archbishop | World news | The Guardian
Ireland overwhelmingly votes to legalize same-sex marriage – The Washington Post
Greek hospitals cannot afford painkillers, scissors or sheets as budget cuts bite – Europe – World – The Independent
It’s been a year:Let’s Victim-Blame Women for Elliot Rodger’s Murders! | Feministe
On the issue of women: When the Rapist Doesn’t See It as Rape – NYTimes.com
The rest of the links in dump format.
Peace Activists Cross Demilitarized Zone Separating Koreas – NYTimes.com
Gloria Steinem and female activists cross Korean demilitarised zone | World news | The Guardian
71 Protesters Arrested After Cleveland Police Officer Acquitted
Cleveland police make 71 arrests as protests over acquittal ‘cross the line’ | US news | The Guardian
This guy jumped up on the hood of the car and shot the unarmed drivers…to pieces.
137 shots, no justice: Cleveland protests as another cop goes free – Salon.com
DuPont Chemical Plant Kills 4 Employees, Pays $99,000 Fine. That’ll Learn ‘Em. | Wonkette
History News Network | Florida professor to burn Confederate flag
“Battle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War” uses vivid art to tell the story of America’s darkest war – Salon.com
‘You don’t belong here': Black family receives hateful note from white neighbors | theGrio
Google Explains Why the White House Topped in Racist Search Results
Zandar Versus The Stupid: Last Call For Sons Of The South
Las Vegas tycoon Sheldon Adelson will face graft accusations in US court | US news | The Guardian
Addicting Info – PATHETIC: Conservatives Badly Photoshop Posters To Fake Anti-Clinton Sentiment (PHOTOS)
Cannonfire-They are really going after Hillary, aren’t they?
Addicting Info – Hillary Clinton Apologizes For Iraq War Vote, Says It Was A ‘Mistake’
Dan Savage Points Out Hypocrisy Of Duggar Family Values
This next link is connected with the shitstorm Dugger and Huckabee…can you guess?
Walker Fills Open Judge Seats With Political Appointees | Crooks and Liars
You know that Huckabee had one of his appointed Judges make those Dugger kid molestation files disappear…anyway.
Huckabee: That Duggar Boy Made A Mistake, Just Like When My Son Murdered That Dog | Wonkette
Mike Huckabee: Next president must obey ‘Supreme Being’ instead of Supreme Court on gay marriage
Huckabee: Distrust of government at new high | TheHill
Yeah, distrust of government, nothing like it when you can’t trust your law enforcement, justice system and courts. ..when it comes to cover-ups and Jeezus.
Wallace Grills Huckabee: Would You Have Ignored SCOTUS on Desegregation, Too? | Mediaite
Shit GOP idiots say:
Larry Pratt Said Black Protesters Should be Shot, Among Other Insanities. Does Ted Cruz Agree? | The Bob and Chez Show | News and Politics Podcast and Blog
GOP Rep. Compares DREAMers to Germanic Barbarians and ISIS | The Bob and Chez Show | News and Politics Podcast and Blog
Gohmet: Iraq Was Going Fine Until Secret Muslim Obama Ruined Everything | The Bob and Chez Show | News and Politics Podcast and Blog
Oh …Memorial Day Started With a Deeper Meaning
Racing to Preserve the Underground Cities of World War I | Joseph V. Micallef
Yellowstone National Park, Super Volcano Is Active
Vampire Myth Likely Caused by Disease, Scientists Say – That article is something…be sure to read it.
10 Old English Words You Need to Be Using | Mental Floss
“Mugwump is a derogatory word for somebody in charge who affects to be above petty squabbles and factions. So when your boss tries to make peace at the meeting table like an impartial angel, he is being a mugwump.”
“A rawgabbit, just in case you were wondering, is somebody who speaks in strictest confidence about a subject of which they know nothing. A rawgabbit is the person who pulls you aside and reveals in a careful whisper that the head of Compliance is having an affair with the new recruit in IT, which you know to be utterly untrue because the head of Compliance is having an affair with you, and the new recruit in IT hasn’t started yet.”
Bob Dylan: 5 Most Memorable Moments in Film (Video) – Hollywood Reporter
110 photojournalists run National Geographic’s Instagram account | Poynter.
For BB: Baby Bats Babble through Childhood Like We Do – Scientific American
And this one too: The Book of Forgetting – Scientific American
This is an open thread.
Yeah it is hella late.
Posted: May 23, 2015 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: Arkansas Department of Human Services, Bill Gothard, christian cults, Duggar family, Jim Bob Duggar, Jim Hutchens, Josh Duggar, MIcah Murray, Oprah Winfrey, The Learning Channel
The Duggar family
I decided last night that I was going to write about the Duggar family today, but I’m really resisting getting started. I spent quite a bit of time yesterday reading about Josh Duggar, the Duggar family, and Bill Gothard, who heads the home schooling/religious cult they follow.
I’m beginning to realize that I should be watching more television. I pretty much broke the TV habit back in 2008 when I wanted to avoid all the Hillary hate, and I’ve never really gotten back to watching regularly. I’ve never watched a reality TV show, and now I think I should have been checking them out selectively so I would know what’s going on in popular culture.
I come from the days of situation comedies like I Love Lucy, Mary Tyler Moore, Dick Van Dyke, and Bob Newhart. When did TV become so sick and strange? Does it trace back to those awful talk shows that used to be on–the ones that brought on weird people to be mocked by the audience?
Everyone knows by now that one of the Duggar children, Josh Duggar has been revealed to have molested four of his sisters and another girl 12 years ago. Josh is now married with his own children, who are certainly in danger.
Here are the essentials of the scandal, based on a police report obtained by In Touch magazine, which broke the news a couple of days ago.
Josh Duggar was investigated for multiple sex offenses — including forcible fondling — against five minors. Some of the alleged offenses investigated were felonies. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar were interview by the Springdale Police department on Dec. 12, 2006. The report says that James told police he was alerted in March, 2002 by a female minor that Josh — who turned 14-years-old that month — had been touching her breasts and genitals while she slept. This allegedly happened on multiple occasions. In 2006, Jim Bob told police that in July, 2002 Josh admitted to fondling a minor’s breasts while she slept. “James said that they disciplined (redacted, Josh) after this incident.” The family did not alert authorities.
Jim Bob told police that about nine months later in March, 2003 “there was another incident.” Josh was again accused by a female minor of touching her breasts and genitals. Josh was accused by several minors of touching their genitals, often when they slept, but at times when they were awake.
Children of The Family cult from Australia
Jim Bob then “met with the elders of his church and told them what was going on.” No one alerted the police or any other law enforcement agency. Instead they decided to send Josh to a “program [that] consisted of hard physical work and counseling. James said that [redacted, Josh] was in the program from March 17, 2003 until July 17, 2003.”
He said the program was a “Christian program.” Michelle Duggar later admitted to police that Josh did not receive counseling and instead had been sent during that time to a family friend who was in the home remodeling business.
Asked about the training center that Jim Bob said Josh was sent to, Michelle told police, according to the report, “it was not really a training center. Det. [Darrell] Hignite asked if the guy [redacted, Josh] talked to was a certified counselor. She said no. She said it was a guy they know in Little Rock that is remodeling a building. Det. Hignite asked if the guy was more of a mentor. She said “kind of.”
So basically, the kid was sent to do some construction work, presumably on assumption that he didn’t have enough to do with his hands? And what about the girls? What help did they receive for their traumatic experiences?
The Duggars told police that Josh “apologized” to the female minors and that they had “forgiven” him.
An alleged victim told police in 2006 that Josh had told “mother and dad what had happened… (and) asked for forgiveness.” The report notes the alleged victim says Josh “sought after God and had turned back to God.
Josh Duggar and growing family
Oh. And then there’s this:
Jim Bob told police in 2006 that when Josh returned home in 2003, Jim Bob, accompanied by some of his church elders, took Josh to Arkansas State Trooper, Jim Hutchens. Jim Bob knew Hutchens personally. Hutchens did not take any official action and instead gave Josh a “very stern talk.” As In Touch magazine reports exclusively in this week’s issue, Hutchens is now serving 56-years in prison for child pornography. He took no action on the Duggar case.
Again, why were these sick people ever on TV? I don’t understand, and I’m realizing I need to become more aware of what’s happening. It’s just unbelievable to me that religious cults are being promoted on what are supposedly publicly-owned airwaves!
From Jezabel: The Duggars Aren’t Just a Family, They’re a Cult, by Tracie Egan Morrissey.
It’s also noteworthy that Josh’s history of sexual assault has been known by plenty of people since at least 2006 when Oprah Winfrey learned about it and reported him to the Arkansas Department of Human Services? Are we to believe that The Learning Channel didn’t find out about this before now? Come on!
The other important fact about the Duggars is that they are active participants in a “christian” cult, which was headed by Bill Gothard until he was forced to resign over accusations of sexual abuse of young girls. From the Washington Post: Conservative leader Bill Gothard resigns following abuse allegations.
Bill Gothard, an Illinois-based advocate for home schooling and conservative dress who warned against rock music and debt, has resigned from the ministry he founded after allegations of sexually harassing women who worked at his ministry and failing to report child abuse cases.
Gothard’s resignation from the Institute in Basic Life Principles, according to a letter sent to families affiliated with the ministry he founded, comes a week after he was put on administrative leave. According to an organizer involved in the whistle-blowing website Recovering Grace, 34 women told the website they had been sexually harassed; four women alleged molestation….
Gothard’s ministry had been a popular gathering spot for thousands of Christian families, including the Duggar family from TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting.” Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute conferences were also popular among families within the Quiverfull movement, who eschew birth control and promote big families.
Gothard has also rubbed shoulders with Republican leaders. He and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee were photographed at a campaign lunch together; former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue spoke at one of Gothard’s conferences; and Sarah Palin, when she was a small town mayor in Alaska, attended his International Association of Character Cities conferences declaring Wasilla among Gothard’s “Cities of Character.”
From an insider:
On Growing Up in Bill Gothard’s Homeschool Cult, by Micah Murray
We talked about how it was a cult, joking at first. Outsiders could point and accuse and question, but we knew that it wasn’t what it looked like.
Yes, we were often mistaken for Mormon missionaries. Yes, the red neckscarves were reminiscent of Nazi youth. Yes, we knew that sometimes we were simply trotted out as props for political stunts. We knew, and we joked about it. Don’t worry, it’s not what it looks like.
I remember saying, more seriously than joking, “If this is brainwashing, it feels good to be brain clean.”
But as I spiraled closer and closer to to the center, the realization began to sink in. The jokes became real.
“Cult-like”, sure. I’d call it that. Authoritarian, legalistic, overbearing. But not a real cult.
The worst thing about brainwashing is that you can’t see it for what it is. You never think you’re in a cult when you’re in a cult.
Until the day you can’t deny the reality of what you’ve seen, what you lived. Until the day you speak out loud what your mind has known for a while,
“I grew up in a cult.”
And now, perhaps, “I grew up in a cult run by a sexual predator.”
Read more of Murray’s story at his website (link above).
Duggar girls with serial abuser Bill Gothard
After the revelations about Gothard, JM Bishop wrote at The Powder Room: How are the Duggars dealing with the Gothard sex scandal?
If there is anything that the Duggars love more than tater tot casserole and Aussie Instant Freeze Hairspray, it is the Institute of Basic Life Principles (which is the umbrella organization that runs, among other things, the Advanced Training Institute, providing homeschoolers with a Bible Based curriculum, including the promotion of ideas around Young Earth Creation), the organization founded by fallen leader, Bill “Grabby Hands” Gothard. And why does he deserve this delightful moniker? Bill has harassed and assaulted many women in his organization. In response, the Duggars’ increasingly glamorous fundamentalist sheen is perhaps being used to distract us from his multitude of sins.
So let’s start with who Bill Gothard is. Bill Gothard is the famously unmarried, 79 year old head of an organization which emphasizes women’s Godly obedience to men within the confines of marriage and separateness from potentially harmful secular influences, like public school, television or the democratic party. Micah J. Murray, who grew up in “Bill Gothard’s homeschool cult,” wrote that Bill Gothard cultivated an atmosphere that was “system of absolute authoritarianism” that built on “the idiosyncratic whims of an old man with way too much money and power.”
Earlier this year, 34 women brought forth allegations that Gothard sexually harassed them and 4 women reported being sexually assaulted. In response, Gothard was forced to step down from his leadership when he was placed on indefinite leave.
Again, go to the link to read about how this relates to the Duggar family and their behavior.
There are hundreds–if not thousands of these christian cults around the world. I don’t understand it, but there’s obviously something about human psychology that makes us susceptible to being drawn in by authoritarian movements like these. What better way to brainwash people than to begin in early childhood?
These people are dangerous, and they have burrowed into our politics, our system of education, and popular culture. It’s frightening.
I’m running out of space and time, but here’s Amanda Marcotte on the phenomenon of right wing christian cults and sexual abuse:
Duggar Revelations Are Just the Latest Sex Abuse Scandal to Rock Far-Right Fundamentalism.
Score one for the tabloid press. Josh Duggar, the eldest son of the creepy super-fundamentalist clan at the center of the TLC show 19 Kids and Counting, has admitted to charges of molesting multiple underage girls when he was a teenager; he has since stepped down from his position as a sex scold for the Family Research Council. Duggar admitted to molesting five girls—some of them reportedly his sisters—and while the family claims to have addressed the situation, a timeline constructed by Gawker suggests he did not get counseling while managing to dodge any prosecution.
The family’s fame guarantees this story will stay in the public memory for awhile, but it’s far from the first sex abuse scandal in the tight-knit world of far-right fundamentalism. As I wrote last year for Slate, Doug Phillips of the far-right group Vision Forum was forced to step down after admitting to “a lengthy, inappropriate relationship with a woman.” The woman in question, Lourdes Torres-Manteufel, claims it was more than “inappropriate,” noting that they met when she was 15 and that he “methodically groomed” by moving her into the house as a nanny and becoming “the pastor of her church, her boss, her landlord, and the controller of all aspects of her life” before pushing for sex. The Duggars were tight with Phillips and Vision Forum, which promoted a lot of Duggar-related material.
Marcotte also discusses Gothard, with lots of good links to more information. Check it out.
As always, this is an open thread. Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread, and have a great Memorial Day weekend!
Posted: May 22, 2015 Filed under: Affordable Care Act (ACA), Domestic Policy, Health care reform, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Affordable Care Act, King v. Burwell, SCOTUS
I’ve got all kinds of personal reasons to hope that when the Supreme Court decides King v. Burwell next month that one just one Republican-appointed justice will consider the complaint trivial and it will be dismissed. That’s because I will be among the millions of people that will lose their health care. Jonathan Chait-writing for New York Magazine--wonders if that’s really what Republicans want in the year running up to a Presidential election.
Next month, the Supreme Court will rule on King v. Burwell. If all five Republican appointees support the plaintiffs (there’s no chance any of the Democrat-appointed justices will take the lawsuit seriously), some 7 million Americans will quickly lose their insurance. The prospect that this will occur has induced a wave of panic — not among the customers at risk of losing their insurance, who seem largely unaware, nor even among Obamacare’s Democratic supporters, but among Republicans. The chaos their lawsuit would unleash might blow back in a way few Republicans had considered until recently, and now, on the eve of a possible triumph, they find themselves scrambling to contain the damage. It is dawning on the Grand Old Party that snatching health insurance away from millions of helpless victims is not quite as rewarding as expected.
Unlike the Obamacare lawsuit that failed three years ago, the latest case is not based on a radical legal theory. Instead it is based on a novel reading of legislative history. The law allows states to set up their own exchanges to sell insurance to those who don’t have it through employer coverage, Medicare, or Medicaid. If states don’t establish an exchange, the federal government sets one up for them and, as it does with the state exchanges, offers customers tax credits. The trouble is that the law authorizing tax credits defines the exchange as “established by the state.” This ambiguity — does “by the state” not also mean the federal government? — was a technical omission. Many other parts of the law indicate its intent to make tax credits available to customers on the federal and the state exchanges alike.
The plaintiffs are led by a Vietnam veteran in Virginia named David King who makes $39,000 a year and objects to having to purchase insurance on a federal exchange. He would be exempt from this requirement were he not eligible for the tax credit — his $275 monthly payment would rise to a disqualifyingly unaffordable $648 — and this exemption, his lawyers argue, was exactly Congress’s intent. Without tax credits, the insurance would be unaffordable to most customers, triggering an actuarial death spiral that would destroy the individual insurance market in any state that attempted it. The plaintiffs insist Congress created the threat of self-destructing federal exchanges to coerce states into creating their own. (Disregard the copious evidence that the law’s drafters, and officials at the state level in both parties, believed federal exchanges would include tax credits.)
The lawsuit works more on the level of an elaborate prank than as a serious reading of the law. And yet it stands at least some chance of success — it only needs to persuade Republican-appointed judges. That prospect has grown suddenly unnerving because, unlike previous Republican efforts to strangle the law, the current one comes as Obamacare is functioning extremely well. Premiums on the exchanges have come in well under projected costs, customers report higher satisfaction with their coverage than those who have employer-sponsored insurance, and overall medical costs have grown far below the projected rate. It is one thing to take away a scheduled future subsidy, of which most intended beneficiaries are unaware. It is quite another to take away a benefit they’re already using.
Can you imagine the optics of people being taken off chemotherapy, dialysis, or insulin shots? So, Republicans are gearing up a way to blame it on Obama or trying to find a way to get the extreme right to compromise and provide a short term extensions of the credits should SCOTUS agree with the plaintiffs.
Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska has likewise warned that a successful lawsuit would create problems. “Chemotherapy turned off for perhaps 12,000 people, dialysis going dark for 10,000. The horror stories will be real,” he wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. For decades, medical deprivation of this sort used to be a uniquely American fact of life, at least among industrialized countries. Obamacare has turned it into something different: an actual political problem for opponents of universal health insurance.
Neither Johnson nor Sasse has a real plan designed to stop those horrors from taking place. Instead, their aim is to give Republicans a way to divert the blame onto Obama. The party is circulating contingency plans to temporarily restore the tax credits in exchange for crippling the law in other ways. Phil Gramm, the former Republican senator turned conservative-think-tank “visiting scholar” and financial-industry lobbyist, has proposed that Republicans pass a bill to temporarily extend the credits in return for eliminating the law’s regulations prohibiting insurance companies from rejecting old or sick customers. Competing proposals by Johnson and Sasse would likewise weaken Obamacare’s insurance regulations, ultimately destroying the law’s functionality. Gramm evenacknowledges that his plan “would put Obamacare on the path to extinction.” Obviously, Obama is not going to sign a bill that puts Obamacare on the path to extinction. The purpose is simply to give Republicans a talking point — they can say they passed a bill and blame Obama for vetoing it. But odds are that Republicans will fail to unify around a bill that can pass both houses of Congress with only Republican votes, because some will deem even a bill that causes Obamacare’s eventual demise unacceptably conciliatory.
At that point, it will fall to the states to either establish their own exchanges or watch their individual-insurance markets collapse. Neither option is terribly attractive for Republicans. The former means surrender. Doing nothing means sowing chaos, deprivation, and death. Will Republicans let this happen?
Legal Analyst and Lawyer Jeffrey Toobin has a lengthy article in The New Yorker examining the issues.
So that’s the theory: millions will suddenly be uninsured, and will blame Republicans. As Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, put it recently, “I don’t think they will [win the case]. If they do, that’s a problem that the Republicans have.”
No, it’s not. If the Obama Administration loses in the Supreme Court, the political pain will fall almost exclusively on the President and his Party. To paraphrase Colin Powell and the Pottery Barn rule, President Obama will have broken health care, so he owns it. To the vast mass of Americans who follow politics casually or not at all, Obamacare and the American system of health care have become virtually synonymous. This may not be exactly right or fair, but it’s a reasonable perception on the part of most people. The scope of the Affordable Care Act is so vast, and its effects so pervasive, that there is scarcely a corner of health care, especially with regard to insurance, that is unaffected by it. So if millions lose insurance, they will hold it against Obamacare, and against Obama. Blaming the President in these circumstances may be unfair, but it’s the way American politics works.
Republicans, of course, will encourage this sentiment. The precise legal claim in King v. Burwell is an esoteric one. It is not based on a claim that Obamacare is unconstitutional. (The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the law three years ago.) Rather, the central assertion by the plaintiffs is that the Obama Administration violated the law itself. In any event, the subtlety of the issue at the heart of the case will surely be lost in its aftermath. The headlines will read, correctly, “Court rules against Obamacare,” and this will be all that matters. The Republicans will argue that the Supreme Court showed that the law was flawed from the start, that the Obama Administration is lawless, that a full repeal of the law is the only appropriate response to the Court’s decision—and that the millions who lose their subsides should blame the sponsor of the law. Watch for references to a “failed Presidency.” There’ll be plenty of them.
Understandably, perhaps, the Administration has courted this kind of reaction. Better than anyone, Administration officials know the scale of the problems that would be created by a loss in the Supreme Court. Advertising this possibility makes sense as a litigation strategy; Obama officials don’t want to make it easy for the Supreme Court to rule against them. In testimony before Congress and elsewhere, Sylvia Burwell, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (and the defendant in the case), said that the Administration has no contingency plan for an adverse ruling in the Supreme Court. But playing chicken with the Justices only works if it works. If the Supreme Court strikes down the subsidies, the Administration will also have to answer for why it didn’t prepare for this possibility.
“Conservatives” have tried to laugh off the concerns.
A few weeks ago, the Heritage Foundation’s Edmund Haislmaier published an “Issue Brief” entitled “King v. Burwell: A Loss of Subsidy Does Not Mean a Loss of Coverage.” That’s a provocative title, considering 87 percent of the 8.8 million enrollees from federal exchanges receive those tax credit subsidies, meaning they have low or moderate incomes.
Haislmaier recently was seen saying it’s “premature” to conclude the huge drop in the uninsured rate since Obamacare passed is the result of Obamacare passing. In this brief, he correctly points out the Affordable Care Act and previous federal and state laws would enable current Obamacare enrollees to switch to some other form of health insurance if the lawsuit he supports succeeds in making their current plans unaffordable. (The brief also chides low-income people for using their subsidies to buy “king-crab-legs-and-steak” insurance rather than take the cheapest possible “powdered-milk-and-frozen-peas” plans.)
“In sum, should the Supreme Court’s eventual ruling in King v. Burwell result in people losing insurance subsidies, the affected individuals will have options for maintaining their coverage or choosing replacement coverage,” Haislmaier wrote. There’s even a chart.
Is that good news for people at risk of losing their health insurance subsidies? Maybe not. “Of course, some might still not be able to afford the unsubsidized premium even if they switched to a less expensive plan,” Haislmaier adds as a disclaimer. Of course.
That seems like it could be a problem, since 83 percent of Obamacare enrollees on the federal exchanges have annual incomes of 250 percent of the federal poverty level or less, which works out to no more than $23,450 for a single person, according to Avalere Health, a consulting firm. In other words, these aren’t Americans with a lot of extra money. And the average value of the tax credits they stand to lose is $263 a month, a substantial amount for people at this income level.
There’s a lot of variation in the price of health insurance, but a look at national average premiums and cost-sharing requirements illustrates what the “Let them eat Bronze plans” line of thinking ignores.
A 40-year-old at the poverty line, which is $11,770 for a single person, would pay $20 a month for a mid-tier Silver plan with tax credits. That amounts to about 2 percent of her annual income. Take away the subsidies, and her premiums jump almost 14-fold to $276 — or about 28 percent of her income.
What about dropping down to a lesser Bronze policy with higher out-of-pocket costs like deductibles?
That would cost almost 11 times as much as the subsidized Silver plan, at $213 a month, or about 22 percent of her income. Another person making twice as much money as her would see his premiums for the same Silver policy rise by 80 percent, which would eat up 14 percent of his income. His premiums would rise by 39 percent if he switched to a Bronze plan, which would cost him 11 percent of his yearly earnings.
Even opting for a slimmer policy might not make sense for lower-income people, considering how much more Bronze policyholders have to spend before their coverage kicks in. For example, the average deductible for an individual Bronze plan is $5,181, compared to $2,927 for a Silver plan, according to Health Pocket.
And this doesn’t even factor in the effects of a second type of subsidy only available to people earning up to 250 percent of poverty, which reduces their out-of-pocket health care expenses, and which also would go away in the high court rules for the plaintiffs.
Some are seeing this as the classic American “State’s Right’s” argument that has been responsible for–among many other things–the Civil War.
But what may eventually prove to be the key line of questioning may have been kicked off by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who expressed concern about the consequences of a ruling for the challengers. If a state’s residents don’t receive subsidies, she told Carvin, it will lead to a “death spiral”: because a large group of people in those states will no longer be required to buy health insurance, but insurers will still be required to offer insurance to everyone, only sick people will buy health insurance. And that will cause everyone’s insurance costs to rise, leading more people to drop out of the insurance market. States will then feel like they have no choice other than to establish their own exchanges to ward off the “death spiral” – a scenario that is so coercive that it violates the Constitution.
Perhaps critically for the government, Justice Anthony Kennedy – who is often regarded as a strong supporter of states’ rights – also expressed concern about the possibly coercive effect of a ruling for Carvin’s clients. There is, he told Carvin, “something very powerful to the point” that if the challengers prevail, the states have to choose between the death spiral and creating an exchange. “There’s a serious constitutional problem,” he concluded. (Carvin tried to downplay this concern by telling Kennedy that the government had not raised this issue, but Kennedy quickly retorted that “we sometimes think of things the government doesn’t argue.”)
Like Carvin, Solicitor General Don Verrilli – the government’s top lawyer at the Supreme Court – also faced questions about the challengers’ right to sue. But between his acknowledgement that, as Carvin had asserted, a veteran who had only served a short time would not be eligible for free health care and the lack of certainty about the plaintiffs’ 2014 annual incomes (which would determine whether they would be required to buy health insurance at all), the issue didn’t seem to have much traction with the Justices.
On the merits of the challenge to the subsidies, Verrilli faced repeated questions from Justices Scalia and Alito, who were both obviously skeptical of the government’s arguments. Scalia pushed back against Verrilli’s argument that the challengers’ reading simply doesn’t work, while – by contrast – the government’s interpretation accounts for the ACA’s structure and design. The question, Scalia admonished Verrilli, is not what Congress intended; the question is what it actually wrote in the statute. But in any event, Scalia queried a few minutes later, if the Court were to rule for the challengers, did Verrilli and the government actually expect Congress to “really just sit there while disaster ensues?” (Based on Verrilli’s response – a dubious “This Congress?” – the answer appeared to be yes.)
Justices Alito and Scalia also contested Verrilli’s assertion that, had Congress actually intended to force states to choose between setting up their own exchanges and depriving their residents of subsidies, it would have done so more clearly. Scalia asked rhetorically why, because the ACA is “not the most elegantly drafted statute,” would it “be so surprising” if Congress didn’t make the states’ obligations obvious? Alito added that, if Congress didn’t want to limit the subsidies to the residents of states that had set up their own exchanges, it could have used more precise language to do so – as it did, for example, in making clear that the District of Columbia (which is not a state) nonetheless qualifies as a “state” for purposes of the ACA.
So, we’re down to brass tacks again. Will the ACA go down on a technicality which, essentially, is what the law is all about?
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