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The big obstacle to the Supreme Court Obamacare case: Politics

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 10:45
U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts attends the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington April 18, 2008.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst   (UNITED STATES) After the Wall Street Journal and Mother Jones scrutiny in the past few weeks of the plaintiff problem in King v. Burwell, the Supreme Court case that could gut Obamacare, the traditional media is now paying more attention. Here's USA Today weighing in, not looking just at the problem plaintiffs, but at the legal basis for the case itself, and concluding that it has some serious hurdles.
The four plaintiffs' qualifications to bring the lawsuit have been cast in doubt because of their low incomes and potential eligibility for other government benefits. At least one of the four Virginians must show that the law constitutes a burden.

The legal theory behind the complaint — that Congress intended to deny financial aid to consumers in states that use a federal health insurance exchange — has been refuted by the law's authors. Officials from 22 states told the court they were never warned of that possibility.

The assumption that the administration, Congress or the states would rescue millions of purchasers if the court strips away their federal tax credits has been discredited (in the case of Congress acting anytime soon) or disputed (by officials in several states).

"Piece after piece after piece of evidence that they have put forward to try to support their far-fetched interpretation of the statute has fallen apart as we approach oral argument," says Elizabeth Wydra, chief counsel at the liberal Constitutional Accountability Center. "That's legally relevant, because it demolishes their claim that anyone thought the law works this way at the time."

That leaves the question of the day, "whether any of the atmospherics will influence the nine justices who have Obama's signature domestic policy achievement in their hands." The challengers are defiantly confident, if not downright cocky, about their prospects. Their final brief to the court, submitted Wednesday, didn't address any of the standing questions that have arisen in the past few weeks and instead focused on the premise that's been refuted by members of Congress and state officials—that Congress meant to leave millions potentially uncovered. The people behind the challenge have no problem with the fact that their case, as Robert Weiner, a former Justice Department official, says is "a political case that is part of an overall political battle raised by opponents of the Affordable Care Act." In fact, the response to the charge that they couldn't come up with better plaintiffs from one of them is to make it even more political.
"They don't want to get audited," Cannon said, "and this administration has a history of using the IRS for ideological purposes." So it's all down to how the five conservatives on the court want to proceed, whether they're willing to prove that they really are hyperpartisans.

Cartoon: The long war of foreverness

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 09:50

While most people are focused on ISIS (or ISIL, Islamic State or whatever we’re calling that group of jihadist lunatics these days) and their theatrically brutal atrocities, President Obama just sent his Authorization for the Use of Military Force to Congress. The 2001 AUMF is the thing that has allowed us to skip all over the globe conducting military operations legally, and now Obama has made a new one that is tailored to the latest batch of terrorists.

The only thing is, the 2001 AUMF is still in place so Obama (or President Cruz, Bush or Clinton) can use either authorization as legal justification for doing pretty much anything with our military. I’m not saying the world is a happy, safe place and we should just stay home and contentedly drive our Priuses, but it seems establishing a one-size-fits-all legal justification(s) is not the way to do this.

As crazy and scary as ISIS is, let’s not forget the greater death toll from Assad, who doesn’t play the gory propaganda card quite like the Islamic Staters. Do we really need to give the current and future presidents carte blanche to use our military all the time, anywhere, forever? (Sure, Obama’s current AUMF has a time limit, but that’s meaningless if the 2001 AUMF is still in effect.) I wonder if Obama’s campaign speeches about endless war ring in his ears the way they are ringing in mine? As usual, you can find more links to news stories behind the cartoon here.

Rudy Giuliani: I wasn't being racist because Obama's mother was white

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 09:45
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani Rudy Giuliani Former New York City mayor and 2008 presidential primary flop Rudy Giuliani is basking in all the attention he's gotten since saying that "I do not believe that the president loves America" because "He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country." Basking, and offering ridiculous explanations of how totally not racist those statements were:
“Some people thought it was racist — I thought that was a joke, since he was brought up by a white mother, a white grandfather, went to white schools, and most of this he learned from white people,” Mr. Giuliani said in the interview. “This isn’t racism. This is socialism or possibly anti-colonialism.” Rudy, Rudy, Rudy. If you're going to claim you're not being racist, you first have to start by using an actual dog whistle instead of whatever it was you used in the "loves America" comments, because maybe you thought that was a dog whistle, but people could totally hear it. Then, you have to do better than "but his mother was white." It's a funny thing, but turning to completely racially based logic is about the least convincing possible way to rebut charges of racism.

Predictably, "I wasn't talking about race, because race race race" is totally working for the Fox News crowd:

Rudy doubts @BarackObama love of country...do U doubt as well? do u think his honesty hurts GOP? @foxandfriends 1866408-7669
@kilmeade Well trolled, Rudy! You've staved off having your complete irrelevance noticed and acted on for yet another presidential cycle.

Daily Kos Radio is LIVE at 9 am ET!

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 08:30
Daily Kos Radio logo Welcome to the Frozen Friday edition of the show!

It's a billion degrees below zero, and schools are closed purely because it's cold enough outside to give the kids frostbite at the bus stop.

When I was a kid, if you froze solid on your way to school, they thawed you out and made you go to class even if the world in which you awoke frightened and confused you.

Anyway, on with the show. Or as Bill O'Reilly would say, "I'm in a war zone."

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Did you happen to miss our last LIVE show? You can catch it here:

The morning's Twitter chatter was all about the repugnant Rudolph "Noun, Verb, Dog Whistle" Giuliani, the Walmart wage hike. And yesterday: the MI woman who accidentally killed herself adjusting her bra holster. Greg Dworkin has plenty to add on Giuliani, then wraps up the Jeb news, polling on the 2016 field, and Oklahoma's A.P. derp. Armando filled in for a bit, and had more for us on Giuliani, plus more analysis of the Texas case blocking executive action on immigration and how it plays in Congress. FYI: the ISIS thinkpiece collection. The crazy idiots think they've seen a "gang sign" again. Some Gop-ers wring their hands over scam fundraising. Gun advocates latch on a new argument for arming campuses, and it's a subject they're great at handling: rape.

Need more info on how to listen? Find it below the fold.

Arizona State professor assaulted by campus police after being cited for ... jaywalking

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 08:21
Ersula Ore wrongly arrested Dr. Ersula Ore, an English professor at Arizona State University, never expected when she crossed a street on campus that an officer would demand her identification, ticket her, and eventually assault her with brute force. See the full video below the fold. It's hard to imagine a similar scenario with a white woman on campus playing out in the same way, and the incident is similar to when Dr. Henry Louis Gates, also an African American, confronted by a white officer, was wrongly arrested by Harvard Police while trying to get into his own home on campus.

After an unbiased investigation found that Officer Stewart Ferrin wrongly confronted, cited, and assaulted Dr. Ore, he resigned just moments before he could be fired—a technicality that may keep the ordeal off of his record.

According to the Arizona Republic:

An Arizona State University police officer who has been fighting to keep his job resigned instead Monday after an independent investigation found fault with his arrest last summer of a university professor. In a letter to the officer from ASU Police Chief, Michael Thompson, it was made clear that Dr. Ersula Ore should never have been arrested or cited for jaywalking in the first place:
Your rigid, power-based approach to law enforcement and unwillingness to exercise discretion and sound judgment culminated in you arresting Dr. Ore without a lawful basis. In doing so, your actions brought discredit to yourself and ASUPD. An independent report paid for by Arizona State University, also confirmed:
Ferrin committed multiple ASU police- and university-policy violations when arresting Ore, including those involving judgment, legal authority, search and seizure, alternatives to arrest and code of conduct.

The officer had no reasonable basis for arresting the professor for obstructing a road when she was walking down the street, and he wrongfully arrested her for refusing to provide ID, according to the report. The investigation says a pedestrian can cross the road as long as he or she yields to vehicles, and evidence suggests Ore yielded to the officer's patrol car.

In June 2012, while a police recruit in the academy, Ferrin received a letter of reprimand for untruthfulness, insubordination and code-of-conduct violations.

Economics Daily Digest: Civic engagement, raises at Walmart, the gig economy

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 08:09

By Rachel Goldfarb, originally published on Next New Deal

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

College as a Catalyst for Civic Engagement (Medium)

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network member Zach Lipp builds on a recent column by Frank Bruni, arguing that liberal education should develop the skills of civic engagement, not just citizenship.

Do colleges and universities exist to promote learning and citizenship or to produce skilled workers? New York Times columnist Frank Bruni took readers to this gulch in two recent columns. In one column, Bruni reflects on a particular lecture on Shakespeare’s “King Lear” as transformative. But many politicians dismiss such learning as superfluous. Bruni mentions Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s recent proposal that state universities shift their missions toward “work force needs.” This debate is not new — but the divide between the two sides seems to be growing. “In a democracy,” writes Bruni “college isn’t just about making better engineers but about making better citizens, ones whose eyes have been opened to the sweep of history and the spectrum of civilizations.”

As a current college student, I see the merits in both sides. Politicians have a point: for many students, college is explicitly pre-professional. However, Bruni is also correct: liberal education exists to develop citizens. I’d expand on Bruni’s argument. The role of colleges in fostering citizenship extends beyond simply opening students’ eyes to history. College years function as a pivotal time for civic engagement.

Follow below the fold for more.

Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: Missouri Democrats hope Kander smokes Blunt

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 08:00
Democratic Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander Jason Kander's decision puts the Missouri Senate race on the map Leading Off:

MO-Sen: On Thursday, Democratic Secretary of State Jason Kander announced that he would challenge Republican Sen. Roy Blunt for re-election. Kander gives his party a credible candidate in a tough race, and ensures that Team Red will need to work to safeguard another Senate seat in a cycle where they're mostly on the defensive.

Kander enters the contest with the backing of Missouri's Democratic statewide elected officials, and he's unlikely to face any real primary opposition. Kander has only won statewide once, but he proved in 2012 that he is capable of prevailing in tough races. He defeated then-state Rep. Shane Schoeller 49-47 at the same time Mitt Romney was carrying the Show Me State 54-44. As an Afghanistan veteran, Kander also has a background that contrasts well with Blunt, who has served in Congress for decades.

While Kander expands the map for Senate Democrats, Blunt is still the clear favorite at this stage. Missouri has become increasingly Republican in recent years, especially at the federal level. And while Blunt is not an exciting candidate, there's little doubt that he's ready for a real fight. Blunt has been stockpiling resources for his re-election campaign and has scared off notable primary challengers. Blunt also starts out far better known than Kander, and he'll work to make sure that voters do not get a good first impression of the Democrat.

This is still the GOP's race to lose, and Kander and his allies are going to need to work hard to pull off an upset. But Kander's entrance gives his party the chance to pull off a win in a contest that, only a few months ago, looked like a lock for the GOP. We'll be watching all the developments closely.

Abbreviated pundit roundup: 2016

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 07:59
Paul Krugman at The New York Times explains Governor Scott Walker's courtship of economists who have been proven wrong time and time again:
Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, is said to be a rising contender for the Republican presidential nomination. So, on Wednesday, he did what, these days, any ambitious Republican must, and pledged allegiance to charlatans and cranks. [...]

[O]n Wednesday, Mr. Walker, in what was clearly a rite of passage into serious candidacy, spoke at a dinner at Manhattan’s “21” Club hosted by the three most prominent supply-siders: Art Laffer (he of the curve); Larry Kudlow of CNBC; and Stephen Moore, chief economist of the Heritage Foundation. Politico pointed out that Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas, attended a similar event last month. Clearly, to be a Republican contender you have to court the powerful charlatan caucus.

So a doctrine that even Republican economists consider dangerous nonsense has become party orthodoxy. And what makes this political triumph especially remarkable is that it comes just as the doctrine’s high priests have been setting new standards for utter, epic predictive failure.

Turning to Governor Chris Christie, Maggie Haberman and Nicholas Confessore report on his "bubble":
He does not return phone calls. He does not ask for support. He arrives late for meetings. And he acts as if he has all the time in the world.

The complaints have piled up for weeks, dismaying many longtime supporters of Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and sending others into the arms of his rivals for the presidential nomination, according to interviews with more than two dozen Republican donors and strategists.

As a half-dozen other candidates aggressively raise money and chase endorsements in Iowa and New Hampshire, friends and detractors alike say Mr. Christie’s view of his status and pre-eminence within the Republican field is increasingly at odds with the picture outside his inner circle.

Much more below the fold.

Vandals spray paint 'Nigg*r' on sign of nation's first black college, Lincoln University

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 07:26
Racial slur painted on Lincoln University entrance sign Founded in 1854, Lincoln University is the oldest Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in the nation. With Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah among its most prestigious graduates, Lincoln University is a proud and special place.

That's why, 161 years after its founding, it's so outrageously despicable that a racial slur was just spray-painted on the entrance sign to the campus.

Acting President Dr. Valerie Harrison released a statement on the incident:

"This incident is a sober reminder that our forebearers persevered in the face of hatred and intimidation, yet achieved and maintained standards for excellence which Lincoln University has become known," acting president Valerie I. Harrison told the university community.

"Let's not allow the cowardly acts of others distract us from our commitment to maintaining this legacy or cause us to act in a manner that is inconsistent with our greatness," Harrison said.

She asked public safety officers to make every effort to find whoever is responsible.

While it may be that social media simply makes us all more aware of incidents of racism, 2015 has been full of them, ranging from a "white power" sign and racial slurs used by Texas high school students to a Mississippi judge indicted for assaulting a disabled man and calling him a nigger. It appears that racists feel emboldened to act on their worst impulses.

Open thread for night owls: Log Cabin Republicans rejected by CPAC, yet again

Thu, 02/19/2015 - 23:00
CPAC 2013 convention hall, mostly empty Come see the incredible shrinking tent. If at first you don't succeed, maybe you should take the hint already.
For yet another year, the Conservative Political Action Conference will exclude from its list of sponsors the Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative group that advocates for gay rights. The conference has increasingly become an exhibition for the movement’s more bombastic characters, but it remains one of the more high-profile conservative events each year, providing a window into the id of the Republican Party at a given moment. Several potential presidential candidates, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), are slated to attend this year's conference, which will be held next week. [...]

“We were asking the ACU, ‘Will you take our money in support of the conservative cause?'” said Gregory T. Angelo, the executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans. “And the answer is no.”

Gay groups have been excluded from CPAC since 2011, when the Heritage Foundation, Family Research Council and other organizations threatened to boycott the annual event if pro-LGBT groups were allowed to participate.


Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on the day after this date in 2009Troop Surge in Afghanistan Means No Progressive Consensus:

President Barack Obama's Tuesday announcement that the U.S. will be adding 17,000 fresh troops to those already fighting in Afghanistan upended hopes among some progressives that the 60-day policy review he announced February 10 would be completed before any such surge. As has been becoming publicly clear for a while now, progressives themselves are split on the issue.

A few have complained that those who are objecting to Obama's course should have spoken up during his election campaign. This, delivered with a straight face in spite of the fact that there was broad progressive consensus that getting into a fight over Afghanistan would not help Obama's chances against McCain. So progressives who opposed a troop escalation in Afghanistan kept mostly silent. Back then, their perspective was simply that there would be time after November 4 to persuade Obama that expanding the U.S. military presence was a bad idea. But since they shut up then in the interests of the greater good, they are told they should shut up now because they didn't speak up then. Catch-22, subsection 3.

What was a campaign is now an administration. And while diplomacy and rebuilding efforts will surely be getting more attention, there is now every possibility that U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan will double, bringing the total NATO and American armed forces in that country close to 100,000. The NATO contingents are iffy in the long run, but the hints from generals like Petraeus, Odierno and McKiernan indicate that Americans could remain there for five years or more. In the view of some, including progressives, why not? After all, the U.S. still has tens of thousands of troops in Germany and Japan, and look how that turned out. Others see: quagmire.

The split among progressives became pronounced today in the form of a letter soon to be sent by the Get Afghanistan Right coalition to the President, his most powerful Cabinet members and the chief of the Afghanistan policy review team, ex-CIA employee Bruce Riedel. The letter, which argues that it is misguided to escalate U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, comes in response to efforts by the National Security Network to present a progressive consensus statement on the situation.

Tweet of the Day
free advice: stop digging; RT @JuddLegum "President Obama didn't live through September 11, I did" -- Rudy Giuliani http://t.co/...
@EricBoehlert

On today's Kagro in the Morning show: The repugnant Dolph "Noun, Verb, Dog Whistle" Giuliani. GunFAIL follow-up: MI woman accidentally killed herself adjusting her bra holster. Greg Dworkin has plenty to add on Giuliani, then wraps up the 2016 field polling and news, plus Oklahoma's A.P. derp. Armando filled in for a bit, and had more on Giuliani, plus the Texas case blocking executive action on immigration, and how it plays in Congress. The ISIS thinkpiece collection. The crazy idiots think they've seen a "gang sign" again. More on scam PACs. Gun advocates latch on a new argument for arming campuses, and it's a subject conservatives are great at handling: rape.


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Next generation battery developers want you off the grid

Thu, 02/19/2015 - 22:00

As oil prices edge higher amid growing Middle East tension and US fossil fuel production grapples with price volatility and safety concerns, one entrepreneur has offered up a possible, intriguing new piece of what our future, collective energy solution might look like:

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, announced Wednesday that the company is working on a new kind of battery that would be used to power homes. Based on Tesla’s lithium-ion battery technology, the new battery is expected to help the company become a leader in the growing home energy-storage market.

At this moment, many solar or wind-powered homes have to remain on a the grid because there has not been a way to store extra power for lean hours. If given a relatively cheap and reliable battery to hold the power needed, building off-grid in the country will become commonplace ...
 

Generation capacity in alternative energy including solar has grown dramatically over the last decade or two. But longer term storage of energy in general remains an issue for designers. Especially in places like this week's wintery Northeast, where peak energy consumption often coincides with lower levels of alternative production and traditional distribution headaches.

But when it comes to cars and batteries, Musk is not the only one pursuing next generation technology:

New reports suggest that Apple is developing an electric and possibly driverless iCar to rival Google and Tesla. Apple are poaching Tesla employees with Elon Musk admitting Apple are offering a $250k signing bonus and a 60% pay increase. There have also been sightings in the US of Apple registered cars with some interesting tech attached to them.