SocraticGadfly: 6/24/12 - 7/1/12

June 29, 2012

Obamacare likely won't help the poorer that much

Why not? Slate has the details, and here's my thumbnail.

Much of Obamacare, like Romneycare, is/was predicated on expansion of Medicaid.

Well, with Obamacare, the biggest "loss" for Dear Leader in the Supreme Court ruling is that the federal government can't force expansion of Medicaid the way the legislation planned. Slate estimates that Obamacare will likely cover, at most, just half of the currently uninsured.

Sure, that is a half-loaf that's better than none. But, if Obamacare's OK actually makes it harder, not easier, to pass a single-payer system, then a short-term win could actually be a long-term loss.

Add in the fact that the feds may not necessarily do the best in cost controls on an expanded Medicaid, for states that opt in on that, and the issue looks like it's kind of serious. 

I'll admit that it's often my nature to be a bit of a pessimist. However, since Obama junked the public option, and included (in my opinion) inadequate cost controls in what he did propose, I've not seen a lot to make me highly optimistic.

Overall, I fear this will likely wind up being a case where the good is the enemy of the best. And, while Slate confirms that, I didn't need that confirmation.

That said, let's point out one other thing.

One of the most popular portions of the bill was and is the one letting parents keep their kids on the parental insurance until they're 26. Well, that's squarely targeted at the middle class; working poor can't afford that, and likely will in many cases still not qualify for Medicaid, even in states that expand it, and won't be coerced into buying insurance for themselves, let alone 22-year-old kids, by a fine/tax.

And, as election season continues, Obama will tout those portions of the bill most. 

As for the tax portion, or penalty, that forces the mandate? First, most working poor who don't qualify for Medicaid might not readily be able to afford the tax, either. What's Obama going to do then? Still dun them? Push Congress to expand the Earned Income Credit to offset this?

And, since it is now a tax, not a penalty,  does this  put enforcement in the hands of the IRS, not Department of Health and Human Services? Do you think the IRS has time and manpower to chase down "health insurance deadbeats"? Do you think it wants that PR nightmare, either?

Beyond the Byzantine administrative issues (not as bad as "Hillarycare" but bad enough), these are major issues.

And, the relatively modest amount of the tax hit, even if it is still unaffordable for some, is apparently part of why Chief Justice Roberts was OK with Obamacare as long as the "ding" is a tax, and not regulation of commerce, as noted here. Indeed, it's arguable that conservatives shouldn't be moaning as much as they are. Yet more on that line of thought here.

Next question — in light of "Hillarycare" and the issue of who would enforce the "ding," especially if it had to be considered as a tax (assuming Dear Leader at least assumed there would be a constitutional battle over this), did Obama think through the issues I just lined out? Especially if he did, doesn't think underscore just how much this is a neoliberal bill,  not a truly liberal one?

The middle class votes. The poor, not so much.

June 28, 2012

The New York Times is haunted

Haunted by bad guest op-ed columnists who write blather about a psychic and how said psychic melted their pseudo-skepticism.

Maybe that's another reason the NYT doesn't have a real paywall; it knows people wouldn't pay for stuff like this.

I mean, if I want to read blather at the NYT, I've got David Brooks already; for inanity,  there's plenty of Tom Friedman.

Global warming: a capitalist conspiracy

With a record-setting (and, we're talking all-time records, not just for this date in history; Fort Wayne, for example, at least tied its all time record of 106) heat wave threatening to stay locked in place until at least mid-July, the header is legit.

It's no less conspiratorial, for example, to say this is a CAPITALIST PLOT by Big Coal to force more people to use more coal-fired electricity than to hear denialists claim that global warming is nothing other than a scare tactic, part of a drive to implement socialism.

Think about it.

Global warming will force you to use more electricity. You may be forced to retrofit your home's insulation and windows. As more places consider privatizing water utilities, what happens to that bill?

And, of course, Big Oil doesn't want you to drive hybrids, pure electric cars, or anything other than "drill, baby, drill," then let you, not it, pay for the global warming consequences. Add to that having to run your car A/C more in hot weather.

Let's not forget the environmental bill of more mountaintop mining that Big Coal wants to do, and the fracking that Big Oil wants.

Repeat this to any denialist: Global warming is a capitalist conspiracy. It's more true than their denialism.

Dem refutes Greg Abbott and Rick Perry's Texas Miracle

Jim Riley, the Democratic nominee for Texas 11th Congressional District, to face incumbent Mike Conaway, has the best way to attack Republicans like Greg Abbott on Obamacare — personalize this issue. In the same press release, he also pulls off the bank shot of repudiating Rick Perry's "Texas Miracle" claims:
“I am particularly pleased that Texans, and especially hard working families with children will benefit from provisions that keep children on our insurance after they turn 18, that pre-existing conditions will no longer prevent working people from getting health insurance for children like my youngest son who has asthma, or people like me with diabetes and high blood pressure, or any other reason insurance companies have used in the past to either refuse to sell health care insurance or charge unreasonable and often unaffordable rates to working people.”

This is indeed a good day for the country, and a great day for Texas where we have more uninsured people, where according to CNN Money, 24.6% of our citizens have no health care insurance. For Texans, for working people in Texas, for the people I hope to represent in the 11th District, who will reap the benefits of affordable health care, this is indeed a historic day!
Indeed, that's the way to do it. If Obamacare doesn't affect a Democratic candidate, or Green candidate!, personally, get people up there on stage with you. 

And go on the offensive. Ask why Republicans don't like people like that. Be blunt.

Texas AG Abbott goes Orwell on Obamacare loss - it seems

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is the leading prosecutorial officer in Texas and was one of the leaders in 26 states' lawsuits against "Obamacare."

Given the press release below, which I got via office email, you'd think he and his 25 fellow state AGs won the case, not lost it:
"This is an historic victory for individual liberty, states’ rights, and limited government. Today the Supreme Court made crystal clear that the federal government is more restrained than yesterday and yet, through a novel application of the facts, the Court did what Congress was afraid to do--called ObamaCare a tax on all Americans. This is particularly ironic since President Obama, himself, insisted this was not a tax.

"The decision marks a turning point in constitutional history. The Supreme Court rebuked a runaway federal government that tried to hijack the Constitution by imposing an unprecedented requirement forcing Americans to buy a product against their will. In doing so, the Court dismantled the centerpiece of ObamaCare—the federal government’s authority to compel Americans to purchase a product.

"The Court also agreed that States are individual sovereigns that cannot be commandeered by the federal government. In this instance, by forcing States to expand Medicaid, the federal government tried to hold States hostage.

"Our challenge to ObamaCare was never about healthcare or insurance – it was about the rule of law and a fight against a federal government that continues to expand. In this respect, today’s decision was a total victory. As the federal government seeks to impose the remainder of ObamaCare, it must do so within the limits prescribed by the Constitution.

"Although the individual mandate was ruled unconstitutional, the remainder of ObamaCare may be on life support—and we will continue our work to pull the plug on this unworkable and unpopular law. It is time for Congress to step in and end the ObamaCare nightmare by repealing an unprecedented tax on all Americans."
Historic victory? How?

However, the whole thing is a Poe, I think. The start of it is also posted on the state AG's website, but clicking the link for the rest of it goes to his last press relase of a couple of weeks ago.

But, if it is a Poe, that means the website got hacked. Not surprising, given his office's lack of security in the Congressional  redistricting court fight.

Either that, or per my previous blog post, Abbott's office stupidly released the wrong pre-written press release.

UPDATE, 1 p.m. It was office stupidity that released the wrong press statement, it seems. Either that, or the AG got some stupid information; given that both Faux and CNN misreported, that's possible, too. In any case, Abbott has a new one statement on the AG's website that is, itself, still semi-Orwellian:
While today's ruling rebuked an overreaching federal government, the Supreme Court nonetheless upheld the insurance requirement by calling it a tax. The Supreme Court made crystal clear that the federal government is more restrained today than yesterday. Relying on a novel application of the facts, the Court did what Congress was afraid to do--called ObamaCare a tax on all Americans. This is particularly ironic since President Obama, himself, insisted this was not a tax.

The Court also agreed that States are individual sovereigns that cannot be commandeered by the federal government. In this instance, by forcing States to expand Medicaid, the federal government tried to hold States hostage.

Our challenge to ObamaCare was never about healthcare or insurance – it was about the rule of law and a fight against a federal government that continues to expand. As the federal government seeks to impose the remainder of ObamaCare, it must do so within the limits prescribed by the Constitution.

Although the individual mandate was found to exceed Congress' authority to regulate commerce, the Court allowed ObamaCare to stay intact by ruling that the mandate is a tax. We will continue our work to fight this unworkable and unpopular law. It is time for Congress to step in and end the ObamaCare nightmare by repealing this unprecedented tax on all Americans.
The Gregster offers no proof that Obama was "rebuked" in any way. So, the rest of his idiotic statement falls apart after that.

Meanwhile,  other wingnuts like John Cornyn are now bloviating on the Senate floor.

Abbott does have one "skill." He makes Rick Perry look smooth when he lies.

Why Glenn Greenwald is no liberal

Have you ever seen/heard/read him talk about things like labor rights or income (in)equality?

Well, maybe that's in part because this ardent defender of the ACLU butters his bread on those issues the same way the ACLU does, including getting Koch dollars.

Yep, you read that right.

ExiledOnline has details. This is why, among civil liberties groups, I tout the Center for Constitutional Rights, not the ACLU.

Beyond that, Glenn's never addressed issues such as the ACLU board purge several years back.

Gay rights and Gitmo? Yes, Glenn's great.

But, always remember, he's a libertarian, at bottom line, with a strong civil liberties streak. And nothing else. That part may be too harsh; he has commented about the banksters and all the problems they've caused. But, one word ever about unions? Or  fair trade instead of free trade? Nope.

Here's my in-body response to Glenn's first comment:

I may (or may not) have overstated the “not a liberal” part, but other complaints against Greenwald? No I haven’t.

First, I was a semi-regular to regular reader of his Salon column from 2008-2011, and somewhat, earlier. In the last 6-9 months, that’s faded off.

That said, let’s start with issues related to Exiled’s piece and move from there more directly to its “no liberal” issues —

1. Glenn has, to the best of my  knowledge, NEVER written about the mid-2000s purge attempt within the ACLU board led by then-president Nadine Strossen and meant to cover up for hypocrisy by executive director Anthony Romero over the Patriot Act. I know because I’ve tweeted and emailed him more than once.

2. Glenn has also never, to the best of my knowledge, written about other problems at ACLU in the past 10-15 years, including problems of “inside the Beltway” type self fixation. These, as well as the board purge and much more, have been expertly covered by Wendy Kaminer. To the best of my knowledge, Greenwald’s never addressed her. More here, and here, from others.

I mean, data mining members? Glenn craps his pants over the government doing stuff like this. Romero should have resigned at the time this became public, rather than, over a separate issue, trying to silence Kaminer and another board member, literally, to try to institute a gag order preventing internal disagreements from being discussed with the press.

3. When Glenn did address problems at CREW a year ago, his focus was narrow and related to his personal concerns. He never addressed the issue of why Lanny Davis got connected to CREW in the first place, because he was somewhat of an "insider," perhaps. He never has mentioned Davis’ support for anti-liberal for-profit colleges, a big concern for a group that was supposed to be for responsibility and ethics and against "insiderism." Again, I know because I tweeted and emailed him.

4. Glenn has had somewhat of a “bromance” with Ron Paul as “the” civil liberties presidential candidate. This ignores that Gary Johnson is more of a civil libertarian and all-around libertarian. Even more, it ignores Green Party candidates of past and present. Again, I know because I’ve tweeted and emailed him. And blogged about it here.

5. Glenn has, when (rightfully) bashing the U.S. for its gay immigration policy vis-à-vis the Brazil of his boyfriend, has ignored the economic inequality of Brazil. This was pointed out in an excellent column I’ve blogged about, included in the link immediately above. (Brazil also has some gay rights problems of his own; don’t know if Glenn has written about them or not.)

6. During the period I was a semi-regular to regular reader, we had the 2008 and 2010 elections. Glenn may well have occasionally written about economic liberalism, i.e., job and labor rights, income inequality, etc., but it wasn’t a regular focus of his. 

7.  We also see why he doesn't like Exiled, given this "profile piece" on him. And, Glenn, sorry, but, if you will, liberalism and libertarianism clashed head-on in Citizens United, And, by your own words, you chose the libertarian side. Yes, it may look tough as a balancing issue, but the government has long regulated campaign donation *amounts* by individuals. Or do you have a problem with that, too?

Add in that SCOTUS has now gutted Montana law on financial regulations, and its clear which said of the issue supports representative democracy, and it ain't libertarianism. Sorry, Glenn.

8. Let's not forget that Glenn was a libertarian before 9/11, too. If it hadn't been for the Patriot Act, in all likelihood, we wouldn't even be discussing this issue. We'd all know Glenn is a libertarian.

9. And, I ain't alone. Per the links above, it's also "nice" to note that the word "liar" gets used frequently. Again, your fault as much as anybody's, Glenn. And, can all the other concerned people in comments on the links above all be "tone trolls"? I think not.

Glenn's a great civil libertarian, don't get me wrong. But, per the link, so is Nat Hentoff, and it's clearer and clearer he's no liberal, either.

So, per other "challenges" you've gotten, Glenn, I'll challenge you to directly address Kaminer's writing about the ACLU. And, on unions, write about a truly liberal one. Since you think Occupy is good (even if you take away with the left hand by equating it and tea partiers), write about the Longshoremen.

SCOTUS vs. Obamacare - my advance prediction

Individual mandate gets rejected, 5-4. Most of the rest stays in, some by a 5-4 margin, some by broader margins.

Prediction No. 2: By 30 seconds after the announcment, GOP and Democratic political committees and 500 PACs are all hitting cable TV, blogs and YouTube with pre-recorded videos asking you and I for massive amounts of money to either find new ways for health care for all, or to finish putting a stake in the socialist Obama administration.

Prediction No. 3: Dear Leader never, ever mentions the one way to actually get health care for all - a single-payer system. Never mentions it.

We'll see in about 9-10 hours if the first group of predictions are true. No. 2 will be true in some way shape or form.

And, if No. 1 is true, I'll bet my bottom dollar on No. 3 being true.

And, shockingly, I was wrong. The individual mandate passed, even with Kennedy opposed. The "umpire," the Chief, John Roberts, favored it.

And, so, the wingnut side of those commercials will really ramp up now.

And sadly, Prediction No. 3 will be true indeed, along with likely rising insurance rates and little cost containment. (Which we need more of, anyway.)

June 27, 2012

Rex Tillerson of #Exxon plays Chris Mooney, others for suckers

Rex Tillerson
Science journalist ("and on YouTube, I play the role of an actual scientist") Chris Mooney recently touted a book by another author (name escapes me) about how much “better" eXXXon Mobil was on global warming under current CEO Rex Tillerson than under his predecessor, Lee Raymond.

Well, with the latest Tillerson salvo, it looks like “better” is the difference between being hit by an H-bomb vs. by an A-bomb.

Yes, Tillerson is still acknowledging global warming is real. As for actions? No change.

How bad is Rex? Well, he calls the Council on Foreign Relations an “advocacy group.”

He appears to be speaking to a mix of Christian rightists, who believe God will always deliver the divinely chosen U.S. (unless gays and socialists provoke his wrath) and “salvific technologists” who believe that technology is always the cavalry coming over the hill:
In a speech Wednesday, Tillerson acknowledged that burning of fossil fuels is warming the planet, but said society will be able to adapt. The risks of oil and gas drilling are well understood and can be mitigated, he said. And dependence on other nations for oil is not a concern as long as access to supply is certain, he said.
That’s only the half of it.

Here’s the second barrel:
Tillerson blamed a public that is "illiterate" in science and math, a "lazy" press, and advocacy groups that "manufacture fear" for energy misconceptions in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Yes, the public is science illiterate. That’s why many tea partiers believe global warming doesn’t exist, that claims about it are a socialist plot, etc.

And, the CFR as advocacy group? What a laugh.

Then, there’s the third barrel.

While acknowledging climate change, he thinks predictability of its exact effects is overblown.

And, all of this in the context of “drill, baby, drill.”

Exxon ain’t greening up, no way, no how, and Chris Mooney and others who got suckered by Tillerson are fucking idiots.

Even worse is the talk of adaptation while ignoring control of climate change’s worst effects.

That’s because Rex wants to stick you and me, not eXXXon, with the bill.

But, that's usually the way of socially irresponsible American big biz. It's not so much denying they're contributing to a problem as it is the greed in refusing to pay to help fix it. Just like Big Tobacco. Maybe a seaside village of Native Alaskans needs to sue.

Why nonprofit newspapers, like #TexasTribune, are bad

Editor and Publisher has a great synopsis of why they're not good for journalism. Three main points.

1. Their news coverage is restricted by wealthy donor interests and pressures. (E&P has specifics in the TT's case, re John Sharp/Texas A&M.) So, no "probing" journalism, if told not to. (That said, I've experienced that at for-profit papers, too.)

2. "Freeloading" by for-profit papers, with the possible result of further salary depression, etc.

3. Back-scratching for friends. Evan Smith's $315K salary as the Trib's executive editor has been mentioned by me before. I consider it out of line in general, especially since one of the Trib's "sponsors," Texas A&M, gets taxpayer money.

The first point is something I've seen coming down the point for some time. Rich funders of nonprofit papers, whether individuals or foundations, can steer these papers into boutique journalism, spike or lighten negative stories and more. 

Here's another T-Trib story, a good one that could have been better, about drought and farmers depleting the Ogallala Aquifer. But, no questions were asked, facts stipulated, or anything else, about global warming and climate change. Why not?

Anyway, next time you see the Trib do an in-depth piece, ask further questions of the story.

June 25, 2012

Rick Perry lies about Texas jobs

Got a long email from Perry's office boasting about Texas jobs. (Apologies for the partial post earlier.) Here's what's at the core of the email:
Here in Texas, we are fiscally sound and conservative.  Texas has no state-income tax.  And to help create jobs, we recently exempted thousands of small and start-up businesses from paying taxes.

I know what Washington can’t seem to grasp balanced budgets and a relatively low tax burden encourage private sector job creation.

Texas led the nation in job growth over the past 10 years.  Between March 2002 and March 2012, the Lone Star State added 1.318 million new nonfarm jobs.

We added 225,800 jobs over the past year along, with Forbes magazine recently ranking Texas cities 1st, 2nd, 4th and 6th of top 25 best job climates in America.

A strong job climate is no accident.  It takes an entrepreneurial spirit, which we have in our people.  It takes common-sense tax and regulatory policies.  And it takes disciplined lawmakers, who can say no to special interest excess.

The Texas Legislature have been conservative and fiscally responsibly in recent years, but there is no guarantee that will continue.

That’s why I recently introduced the Texas Budget Compact - Principles for a Stronger Texas.

We all have a vested interest in the future of Texas, we need to do everything we can to help our state become a stronger, more prosperous state, better prepared to deal with the unexpected and better positioned to care for our own. That's what the Budget Compact is all about, a unique opportunity to do right by Texans. 

"The Texas Budget Compact," comprised of five simple yet effective principles that will lead to a stronger Texas:

  • Practice truth in budgeting.
  • Support a Constitutional limit of spending to the growth of population and inflation.
  • Oppose any new taxes or tax increases, and make the small business tax exemption permanent.
  • Preserve a strong Rainy Day Fund.
  • Cut unnecessary and duplicative government programs and agencies.
To be honest, these are pretty simple prescriptions for budget health in Texas.

Reality? Perry refused to do more for education, whether taxes or Rainy Day Fund, and therefore has costs thousands, if not tens of thousands, of local jobs.

Reality? As I blogged last year, the "Texas Miracle" is a largely an illusion; and the illusion of it is largely based on immigration, including illegal immigration.

Reality? Many of the jobs that have been created are low-income jobs, usually without healthcare benefits.

Reality? That reflects larger "quality of living" issues in Texas.

Reality? The "no new taxes" has been an excuse to mask rising "fees" in a variety of areas, including things such as car registrations and titles that impact people regularly.

Worst of all? Tricky Ricky sent this out as a solicitation email.

Speaking of "no debt," it sounds like he's got plenty from his ill-fated presidential campaign.

If he were president, we'd see the income gap get even wider, more colonias, increases in all sorts of federal user fees (and the money not dedicated to specific budgets), slashed public health care programs and worse.

June 24, 2012

Failure is OK, and need not be an orphan

Some poetic thoughts of mine, following reading a VERY interesting column that was referenced in my previous post

Failure IS an option

I am not a failure,
And I am not the sum of my failures
But I am a person who has failed, and will fail,
Many, many times.
I am also anxious, fretful, and pessimistic –
A toxic brew.
Accepting that failures are not moral faults
Is not always easy to do;
Even harder to accept
Is that because of luck and the actions of others
Failure says little about my skills in many cases.
But self-flagellation
Is a means of trying to assert control
Rather than feeling powerless from its lack.
But that’s not reality.
The truth?
Many of my actions
Have countless outside tangential influences.
But even that is not all of reality.
Even my most important actions, most consciously decided
Have many subconscious influences
From chaotically driven, chaotically competing subselves.
Kennedy and others were all wrong here.
Failure has just as many fathers as victory,
Even if they scurry for dark corners
After the lights of the mind are turned on.