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Today, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in King v. Burwell, a case with enormous consequences for both the millions of people receiving subsidies on health exchanges operated by the Federal Government, and for our system of government itself. An adverse ruling would be such a blatant abuse of judicial power and a brazen thumbing of the nose at democratic governance that I think we need to seriously grapple with a potential radical response: ignoring the Court and sparking a temporary Constitutional crisis.

By now you now the nature of the case. Mostly because of the convoluted process that led to the passage of the ACA (bribing moderate Democrats to pass a sloppy bill in the Senate and then being unable to go to conference with the House because Martha Coakley decided to insult local sports franchises), the statute contains what is clearly a drafting error. The section that discusses insurance subsidies says they are available for exchanges "established by the State." The IRS (correctly) interpreted that to include both state exchanges and federally-operated exchanges within states. Nobody really noticed this error until a bunch of nihilists at libertarian think tanks concocted this crackpot theory in a last ditch attempt to kill a law they hated. First, they surmised that there was a drafting error, but smugly argued that we must adhere to a literal reading of an isolated passage of a 2000 page law because textualism!

That "strict textualism" argument is fatally flawed for a number of reasons related to statutory interpretation. First, another section of the law states that HHS must submit reports on subsidies available on federal exchanges. Why would they be required to submit a report if subsidies weren't allowed? Second, the statute states that you qualify for a FEDERALLY run exchange if you "reside in the State that established the exchange." Under the convoluted reading of the King plaintiffs, this means that literally nobody could join a federal exchange at all, because the state itself has not "established an exchange." Understanding isolated language within the context of a broader statute, and avoiding absurd results are two key tenets of statutory interpretation. This is the sort of absurd result that should have led every single judge to throw this case in the shredder. Sadly, a District Judge and two Circuit Court judges allowed this farce to continue, and four Supreme Court Justices (presumably) voted to hear the case.

Not content with a flimsy textualism argument that can be best explained by a Seinfeld episode, the libertarian theorists of this case, Michael Cannon of the CATO Institute and Jonathan Adler of Case Western University came up with an even more absurd theory: this is what Congress intended all along! The theory goes that Congress deliberately wanted to withhold subsidies from federally-run exchanges so that States would be coerced into setting up their own exchanges. It's pretty clear, first of all, from the title of the law that the goal was to provide AFFORDABLE health insurance to ALL Americans. Why would Congress deliberately take an action that substantially undermines the stated purpose of the law? That is to say nothing of the myriads of contemporaneous evidence from those that wrote the law that this ad hoc theory is patently absurd.

Even beyond these laughable substantive arguments, it still amazes me that the case made it to the Court in the first place. In order to get a case into Federal court, a plaintiff must have standing, which Justice Scalia describes as the "what's in it for me" question. Not to rehash Con Law 101, but to establish standing, a plaintiff must have suffered an actual harm; that harm must be traceable to the action of the defendant (in this case, the IRS interpretation); and a favorable ruling would redress this hardship. On first glance, it seems ridiculous that anyone could claim an injury by NOT getting money to buy health insurance. But fear not, conservatives! The smug jerks who developed the theory for this case also came up with an innovative argument for standing. If certain people didn't receive subsides through federal exchanges, they would potentially qualify for a hardship exemption from the law's individual mandate, and thus would not have to purchase health insurance at all. Put aside, for a second, the question of whether the government giving you money to buy health insurance seriously counts as an "injury." The plaintiffs that these lawyers found may not even qualify for standing under this brilliant theory! A couple of them are veterans, and thus would appear to qualify for free socialized medicine through the VA. One of the plaintiffs is about to turn 65, so she will qualified for single payer government insurance by the time this case is decided. Two of the plaintiffs may even qualify for a hardship exemption even if they did get subsidies. Because they are smokers, their insurance premiums will be a high percentage of their income, which triggers the mandate exemption.

The lawyer in me wanted to carefully argue the patent absurdity of this case, and show how ridiculous it is that the Supreme Court is wasting its time on it this morning. But on a more basic level, who the hell would 5 Justices be to take away health care from 8 million people on such flimsy, nakedly partisan reasoning? This would be an epic violation of established judicial precedent, and a naked abuse of power. Such a ruling would require an equally drastic response: the Obama administration should temporarily ignore it and continue to issue subsidies.

I don't make this argument likely. I am fully aware of the risks of provoking a even a temporary Constitutional crisis. I'm also fully aware that a future GOP President would use this incident to justify not obeying some Court decision I agree with in the future. But the consequences of accepting this decision would be even more dire. From a policy standpoint, millions of people would not receive subsidies, and therefore won't be able to afford health insurance. As a result, the pool of insured individuals will be depleted, which will raise premiums for those already enrolled. This is what health policy wonks refer to as the "death spiral." From another perspective, this would be precedent for the Supreme Court to arbitrarily gut progressive legislation for pretty much any silly reason whatsoever. I'm sure the libertarian lawyers will start combing through the Social Security Act looking for errors as soon as this case is resolved.

So how would the Constitutional crisis play out? The Obama administration would announce that it will refuse to sign any piece of legislation unless Congress passes a law correcting the decision by the middle of July. If Congress does not act, the administration will continue to subsidize insurance on the federal exchanges for a couple of months in spite of the Supreme Court decision. Congress may try to begin impeachment proceedings, but Democrats in the Senate could prevent any sort of conviction. In the meantime, such a brazen act would be covered all over the national press, and would put the Supreme Court decision firmly into the public light. At least, the public would be aware of how radical the decision was and how it was such a violation of established democratic norms. The increased attention, at least in theory, may spur Congress to act to correct the statute. Even if it doesn't, it will be a profound illustration of a major flaw in our democratic system, which is important for the public to see.

Eventually, I don't think anyone wants to live in a society where the President does whatever he wants. I also want to win the 2016 Presidential Election. So I think after a couple of months of defiantly keeping this issue in the public eye, he can announce that he will now respect the Supreme Court's decision, in order to preserve their power elucidated in Marbury v. Madison to "determine what the law is." But he could give a speech questioning the entire premise of letting 5 unelected guys in robes arbitrarily upend the democratic process. Perhaps even a temporary crisis would begin to change the radical and profoundly undemocratic direction the Court has taken since Bush v. Gore was decided in 2000.  

This action would be dramatic. This action would carry significant risks. But the stakes of 8 million people, and our democratic system of government itself, would make it worth it.

Discuss

Thu Feb 26, 2015 at 05:16 PM PST

Every CPAC Speech Ever

by Barnaby Tucker

Rush Transcript:

Thank you! Thank you all very much. Obama's teleprompter, am I right?

Thanks again. Wow it is cold outside. So much for that global warming, huh? Guess Obama can't play golf!

It's so good to be here among friends. I love America. I grew up on a farm. On that farm, we learned about America's greatness and loving America. After childhood, I supported myself through college working nights at my father's general store. There, I learned the values of hard work and personal responsibility. And I learned that anything is possible in this country Today, we are united as conservatives. We are ready to march on and take our country back! Here's how we do it.

First, we need to repeal and replace Obamacare. This law is an abomination. Remember what Nancy Pelosi said, that we had to pass the law to find out what's in it? It was 2000 pages!! Obamacare is a job killer. Obamacare is taking away everybody's insurance. Remember when Obama said that if you liked your plan you can keep it? Now we know that was just not the truth.

Second, we need to get rid of these burdensome taxes and regulations. Small businesses across American are being held back by government bureaucrats at the EPA and the IRS. The EPA is carrying out Obama's radical environmental agenda in the name of "global warming." And how could there be global warming, it's so cold outside! Also, Al gore is fat!!! (Hold for applause).

The IRS, we now know, is attacking you because you're conservative. It's time we stop these thug tactics right in their tracks! We need to pass tax reform so that we can get government off the back of America's entrepreneurs.

Third, we need to end our culture of dependency. Democrats and liberals have tried to buy votes of inner city urban people by giving them free government stuff, paid for by you the taxpayer. We need to give these people real opportunity, by taking away their government hammocks and introducing them to the concept of American values. That means working hard and pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. And while we're at it, let's stop these Democrats from dividing us into categories. They'll try to talk about a "war on woman" or things being "racist." But then they bring out race hustlers like Al Sharpton and Barack Obama to incite racial strife. Remember what Martin Luther King Jr, who was a Republican by the way, said about race: you should be judged by the content of your character. That means we should stop ever talking about race! It's just something liberals do to divide us.

Fourth, we need to save the economy and create jobs. We all know how that's done. First, we need to build the Keystone XL pipeline! It's a no-brainer that will bring us millions of new jobs. We need to support an "all of the above" energy strategy that takes advantage of our resources to end our dependence on foreign oil. We need to cut wasteful government spending and balance our budget. Did you know our national debt is now at $18 trillion? That's TRILLION, with a T!!! Finally, we need to stop punishing and degrading success. America's job creators are the engines of our economy and we need to celebrate their success.

Fifth, we need to defeat Islamic extremism. Yeah, I said it. I know the left-wing liberal media doesn't want to hear those words, but we're not gonna hold back and be politically correct! The President won't say Islamic terror, and that's why we still face a terror threat. How about we try a new strategy in the war against radical Islam? It's called winning! We must defeat these murderous thugs!

Sixth, we need to return to the values that make our country strong. That starts with respecting the Constitution and protecting religious liberty! There's nothing more offensive to me than bakers who are forced to defy their belief that marriage is between a man and a woman! Talk about discrimination! And we need to value every single life, including the life of the unborn!

Finally, we need to end Obama's executive amnesty. This lawless President unilaterally and illegally granted amnesty to millions of illegals. We, as Republicans, have to do everything in our power to stop this power grab.

My friends, I love America. I believe in America. Ronald Reagan once talked about a shining city on a hill. It's as true today as it was in 1980. In fact, I think we're on the cusp of another 1980. Conservatives are ready to take this country back, but we need your help! Go out and donate money to my PAC, America Loving Americans. We will stop the march to socialism and restore the America we know and love.

Thank you. Thank God. And God Bless the United States of America!

Discuss

In case you've missed my earlier entries, I've been combing through the columns of Washington's worst pundit, Ron Fournier, to point out his many logical fallacies, using this helpful website as a guide. Amazingly, Fournier had two non-objectionable columns in a row, including a surprisingly decent take on the Israeli Palestinian conflict. But fear not! We're never more than a couple of days away from a Fournier stinker! Let's take a dive into today's pointless, vapid column, "When Impeachment Becomes Fundraising Bait".

Anecdotal: Really the stupidest part of this article is that the entire premise relies on one quote from one White House official. The "White House" hasn't engaged in a fundraising pitch based on impeachment. The White House official, Dan Pfeiffer, simply said that he's taking impeachment seriously. Fournier has absolutely no evidence that Pfeiffer was coordinating this message with Democratic fundraising committees, even though Fournier presents coordination as an established fact. A comment from one White House official is a far cry from "using the office of the Presidency...as bait for campaign cash."

No True Scotsman: This one is a bit of a stretch, but I think it works here. The way this fallacy works is that you constantly change the definition of "x" so that "person y" can never be an "x." I think this applies to Fournier's refrain (repeated in every column) that Obama's action goes against the promises he made in his 2008 campaign. If you're constantly making up things that Obama promised to do and didn't, you can always claim that Obama is not living up to his promise. Did Obama promise to never be political? Did he promise not to use the GOP's crazy ideas against them? Obviously not. He said some vague (and perhaps unwise) things about rising above the old politics, but his campaign certainly engaged in its share of politicking. Who doesn't? Nevertheless, Fournier can use Obama's vague 2008 talk of a "new politics" to constantly claim he's breaking promises (promises that he never really made).

Black and White: Check out this quote:

A better choice would be to sic the White House's team of taxpayer-funded lawyers on the lawsuit, while the rest of Obama's team runs the country and manages foreign policy crises. Clinton proved in the 1990s that good governing trumps bad Republicans.
Fournier cannot foresee a possible scenario in which one White House staffer makes one comment about impeachment, while lots of other people are focused on foreign policy crises. He can't even conceive of that? I think one person can walk and chew gum at a time....certainly hundreds of White House staffers collectively can do the same.

Loaded Question: I think this excerpt gives great insight into "loaded questions."

Pfeiffer has denied Obama moral high ground on impeachment. Yes, Democrats will say that Republicans started it. But why lower your party to the GOP's level? Why lower the presidency? Why sound like a kindergartner whining to his teacher, "He started it!"
By asking these questions, Fournier is taking for granted that Obama is lowering the Presidency. Really? One adviser makes an offhanded comment and now the Presidency is "lowered?"

So there you have it! Despite these obvious logical flaws, Fournier still will get thousands of clicks and lots of $$ to write pure drivel! Meritocracy FTW!

Discuss

Sadly, I've been away the past few days and have thus been derelict in my duty to apprise readers of the many fallacies in Ron Fournier's articles. If you're new to this page, I have begun chronicling all of the logical fallacies in the columns of Washington's must irritating pundit, using this very helpful guide. Over the past few days, Fournier has amazingly written some non-objectionable content on Senator Joe Manchin's daughter's decision to repatriate her business overseas. I'll give him a pass on these columns. But luckily, we still have two doozies to review. Let's start with this vapid piece from July 21, entitled: Is the White House Lying or Just Bad at Crisis Communications?

Straw Man: Fournier starts the piece by quoting Obama spokesperson Jennifer Palmieri saying that Obama wouldn't interrupt his daily activities during international crises "just for show." To Fournier, this is "indicative of the Obama White House conceit that their guy is above politics." This is indicative of no such thing, besides the White House not wanting to do something just because it would make Ron Fournier happy. The White House has never said or intimated that it Obama is above politics (save perhaps for Obama's 2004 convention speech).

Appeal to Emotion: Fournier is arguing that the absolutely harrowing events overseas mean that Obama should do what Fournier wants, which is to get back to Washington and act Presidential.

A ground war in the Middle East and raining bodies over Ukraine are cause for alarm.
That sure does rely on an appeal to emotion. I like the "raining bodies" imagery! But that's not a good argument as to why it would make ANY difference to ANYONE if Obama got off the campaign trail to show "leadership." Furthermore, it offers no substantive rebuttal to the White House claim that it didn't want to cause the public to panic.

Special Pleading: One of the best/worst aspects of this article is that the entire premise turned out to be false. Fournier's initial criticism of the President's activity, on Twitter, assumed that a Russian report claiming that 23 American citizens were on Flight MH17 were true. It turned out not to be true, but fear not! Fournier will not let a major fact get in the way of the argument he wants to make. Look at this beauty of a sentence:

The Russian report was wrong, which isn't a surprise, and which doesn't substantially alter the urgency of the moment: Let's go, sir.
It seems that this is a bit of a special pleading: "The President needs to panic and change his schedule because 23 American citizens died"

"That's not true."

"Oh. Well, he STILL should because, you know, serious and stuff."

Loaded Question: Check out the headline.

Let's move onto this article from July 22, entitled: Fiscal Doom: What You Weren't Told About the Latest Budget News. We've got some good old fashioned deficit/debt scolding! On to the many fallacies!

Straw Man:

Fournier argues that what we REALLY need to address the debt problem is a grand bargain between President Obama and Speaker Boehner (he, of course, doesn't really care what goes into the grand bargain). He then claims that neither leader has the courage and/or ability to strike a deal.  The history doesn't support this claim. For better or worse, Obama had agreed to a $4 trillion debt deal during the Summer of 2011, and Boehner had to back out because his caucus was not willing to go along.

Appeal to Emotion: Instead of arguing why a projected increase in the long-term debt really means we should do what Fournier wants (cutting entitlements), he gins up the fear machine.

Higher taxes, fewer entitlements. It's going to happen sooner or later, painfully or more painfully, and nobody in charge in Washington seems to care.

You wish. There are ways to cut debt to sustainable levels (which could very well be a higher percentage of GDP than recent debt/GDP ratios) without cutting entitlements, especially in the near/medium term. But the frame here makes things sound extra gloomy. CUT SOCIAL SECURITY NOW!

The Slippery Slope: Most debt panic relies on slippery slope arguments. "If we don't starve granny, we'll turn into Greece!!!" The long-term debt is a problem, but Fournier is more interested in envisioning a debt hellscape in which our entitlements and taxes have to go up immediately before the bond vigilantes take over!

Black or White: This is Fournier's main problem, vis-a-vis his deficit scolding. Either we solve the problem now by making drastic changes that will cause a lot of people to suffer, or we'll have to raise taxes and cut entitlements. There are alternatives. You could try policies that accelerate economic growth. You could enact immigration reform. You could add a public option to Obamacare. All of these things would decrease the deficit, but are not good enough for Fournier because he really really wants to cut entitlements.

Middle Ground: Fournier fetishes the so-called "Grand Bargain." It must be good, because it is bipartisan! He once claimed that he didn't care how the country cut the debt, he just wanted a deal to get done. Fournier doesn't grapple with the possibility that a grand bargain would actually be terrible policy. If it is a middle ground between the two parties, it must be good!  

I know I've given you a lot of fallacies to digest, but the news gets worse: he could be releasing a new column today.

Discuss

Yesterday, I started a new series of posts called "Fournier's Fallacies" in which I dissect every column from Washington's most famous "Obama must lead" terrible pundit and point out the very obvious logical fallacies (have I mentioned that he's bad at his job?). Lucky for us, Fournier is out with a new gem this morning, so we can really start to get this series off the ground!

Straw Man: I think the essence of this column is a giant straw man argument. Partisans may argue that their side is "less bad" than the other side, but they know that this is not a very effective slogan, nor a way to consistently win elections. Ideally, a party wants its policies implemented. When the popular ones aren't implemented, a party wan to explain WHY they're not implemented. Usually, it is because the other party has gone out of its way to STOP the policy from being implemented (our system allows for that!) Nobody is actually proud of being the "less bad" party, but sometimes it is still important to emphasize the negative implications of voting for another party.

False Cause: We got a a great "false cause" argument today. Take a look:

When both parties in a two-party system measure themselves not by promises kept and problems solved but by the Pyrrhic victories awarded to least-lousy combatants, you get what we've got in this country: Record-low trust in government, a broken political system, and a deeply disillusioned public.
This is classic Fournier. This is what he WANTS the cause of record low trust in government and a disillusioned public to be, because that would confirm the thesis of every article. But there are far more plausible explanations, like unprecedented Republican obstruction, a stilted economic recovery from a Great Recession etc.

Black or White: In this column, Fournier doesn't consider the fact that the "other party is worse" argument is a secondary argument that compliments, instead of replaces, a party's key argument, which is that their policies are better. If you gathered a full sample of political advertising, political speeches and Congressoinal testimony, you would find some instances of a party making the "other party is worse" argument, but that doesn't mean that it is each party's ONLY argument. In fact, it most decidedly is not. It's just something Fournier assumes so that he can write his stupid column.

Ad Hominem: Lastly, we have a nice ad hominem attack on Media Matters' Eric Boehlert. He calls him a "liberal mouthpiece." Much easier than engaging in the substance of his work!

Discuss

I stumbled upon this list of logical fallacies yesterday. It is really spectacular, and explains in depth why conservatives on the internet are terrible. The good thing about conservatives on the internet is that no one really listens or pays attention to them. On the other hand, lots of people pay attention to National Journal resident "Obama must lead" expert Ron Fournier. Even though his articles are terrible, they're often picked up by other media outlets, especially conservative ones, because he supposedly represents the pure centrist mainstream.

Well, I've had enough. It's time to employ this logical fallacy list to tear down every stupid Ron Fournier column. Let's start with today's, entitled "Mr. 'I, Me, My': Obama Oughta Know He's Not the Hero."

Today's Fallacies:

Bandwagon: Fournier believes that the President's sliding approval ratings (which really haven't slid in awhile) are proof that his thesis is correct!

Appeal to Authority: This is a Fournier classic. Of course, one of the key sources for Fournier's hypothesis that Obama sees himself as a hero, is a "Democratic operative" who works "intimately with both the administration and Hillary Clinton's team." So since one anonymous guy believes it, it must be true! Thesis confirmed!

Anecdotal: Another Fournier specialty! My favorite anecdotal part of today's piece is when he says "Even Democrats are starting to tire of their president sounding less like a leader than a kindergartener – whiny." Fournier does not cite any data here, so presumably this is based on one conversation with an anonymous "Democratic operative"

The Texas Sharpshooter: I think this one might be the most relevant to today's article. Fournier is cherry-picking several incidences of Obama talking about himself, or calling himself "the Bear" without even mentioning the thousands upon thousands of speeches he's given that focus excluslively on the American people.

I think those are the fallacies for today's piece. We'll be back next time he decides to write a crummy article! Did I miss any fallacies??

Discuss

Thu Jun 05, 2014 at 07:34 AM PDT

Mizeur for Maryland

by Barnaby Tucker

The Maryland primary election is just a few weeks away, and I wanted to add my voice in strong support of State Delegate Heather Mizeur for Governor. She is not only the candidate that most embodies progressive values, she also has shown a streak of pragmatic leadership during her tenure in Annapolis. She is not a flamethrower, but a problem-solver; and one who happens to be more daring in her progressive policy proposals than almost any other candidate running nationwide.

The race for the Democratic nomination in Maryland is between three candidates: Mizeur, Lt. Governor Anthony Brown (the odds on favorite) and Attorney General Doug Gansler. I was able to cross off Gansler pretty quickly when making my decision as to who I would support. Gansler is sort of a bombastic type who frequently makes unforced (and frequently humorous) errors. In law school, we all had to learn about the time Gansler got in trouble for pre-trial publicity during the DC sniper case of the early-2000s. At the beginning of this campaign, a photo came out of Gansler standing around looking chill while a lot of underage drinking was clearly taking place around him. I don't really fault Gansler for these things, though I'd rather have a Governor who could avoid embarrassing him or herself and the state. My real problem with Gansler is that he is basically running as the Republican in the Democratic primary. In his campaign appearances, he mostly chastises the current administration for raising taxes on the wealthy that are "repelling businesses" away from Maryland, a refrain more common in GOP debates. In fact, unemployment in Maryland is quite low relative to the national average, and recently, our state's job growth has been better than our neighbor Virginia. Also, I know I'm not supposed to base my vote on things like this, but Gansler just rubs me the wrong way personally. He has a very bombastic personality that comes off as arrogant. He has been bizarrely negative toward the other candidates during the debates, even when he didn't have to be. So yeah, Gansler's a no.

The choice between Mizeur and Brown was a much closer one for me. Brown is the choice of the entire Democratic establishment, including Presidents Obama and Clinton, current Governor Martin O'Malley, and most of the state's Democratic Congressional delegation. Brown's story is inspiring. He grew up in a poor household, the son of immigrants, and rose to become a Harvard graduate. He then joined the Army and served in Iraq, where he earned a Bronze star. Oh, he also was serving in the Maryland House of Delegates while he was deployed overseas. Governor O'Malley chose Brown to be his running mate in 2006, and he has been the Lieutenant Governor ever since.

I like Brown, and I certainly admire his story. I think he would make a very good Governor. He's basically running for Martin O'Malley's 3rd term, and I have no problem with that. O'Malley has instituted some excellent progressive policies during his tenure. But Brown has a couple of flaws that make him an inferior candidate to Mizeur. First, he botched the execution of the Maryland Health Exchange. Brown was put in charge of Maryland Health Connection, the state exchange that was an absolute disaster. The State had to abandon its computer system and will use Connecticut's during the next open enrollment period. As a result, thousands of Marylanders will not have access to health insurance. I have no idea whether Brown's leadership role was more symbolic or whether he was really in charge of the day-to-day functioning of the exchange. Neither option reflects well on Brown. He either was completely negligent in overseeing the flawed exchange, or he screwed it up himself. When Democrats have a chance to implement groundbreaking progressive policy, they better not screw it up, because it gives that policy a bad name. Brown screwed it up, and he has no excuse.

Where Brown falls far short of Mizeur is in the boldness of his policy proposals. Mizeur is proposing a bold universal preschool program for all 4 year olds, and low-to-middle income 3 year olds. She is proposing the full legalization and taxation of Marijuana, with the proceeds going to offset middle class and small business tax cuts and education. She is an ardent opponent of fracking. She has specific proposals to increase enrollment in the state's Medicaid program for low-income Marylanders. Mizeur also doesn't just talk a good game; she made the most of her time as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates. She sponsored and won passage of the "Kids First Act of 2008" which gave healthcare to over 100,000 children. She sponsored and won passage for a bill that would expand family planning services to women on Medicaid.

In contrast, Brown's proposals are generally good, but not particularly bold or groundbreaking. His pre-school plan does not extend to 3 year olds. He does not support the full legalization of marijuana. He is more of a Democratic standard-bearer, which would be fine if there wasn't a better option.

There is immense value in promoting a strong, progressive governing agenda. Not every item on the agenda is going to be enacted into law (though as Heather says, Marylanders don't get enough credit for how progressive they really are). Part of leadership is taking risks by proposing bold, new solutions to difficult problems. As Governor, Mizeur would show the rest of the country what true progressive governance would look like.

Mizeur was also instrumental in the fight for marriage equality, which resulted in the passage of the marriage equality bill in 2012 General Assembly session, and the ratification by the voters in that fall's election. I hesitated up to this point to mention that Mizeur would be the first openly gay Governor in our nation's history. Though I want to base my votes purely on vision and policy proposals, I can't help but be moved by the potential significance of having a gay governor. Diverse voices and experiences bring important perspectives into our national political conversation. I think Mizeur would be that voice for Maryland.

For all you Maryland Democratic voters, I hope you'll join me in voting for Delegate Heather Mizeur on June 24th!

Poll

Who do you support in the Maryland Democratic Gubernatorial Primary Election?

6%2 votes
78%25 votes
15%5 votes

| 32 votes | Vote | Results

Discuss

Let me draw your attention to this Twitter exchange between the great Greg Sargent and all around "Why won't Obama lead?" expert Ron Fournier. The exchange begins in response to Fournier's article, from today (or any other day, really. He gets paid to write the same article several times a week).

What we learn from this exchange is that even Obama's ill-considered offers to compromise with Congressional Republicans, including but not limited to:

1. Proposing Romneycare instead of single-payer, and accepting a bill with no public option to please Olympia Snowe, who voted against the bill anyway.
2. Including Chained CPI in last year's formal budget proposal.
3. Offering a $4 trillion budget compromise with Speaker Boehner in 2011 that contained $3 trillion in proposed spending cuts.

Even though Obama wrote these things down on pieces of paper as offers, they don't count as offers because supposedly we shouldn't believe that an offer to compromise is really an offer to compromise. My question for Fournier was (and is), what could Obama possibly do? Ron rejected my idea of literally putting social security money, physical dollars, on a table.

If your entire gig is to write "Obama can't lead" columns every day to get as many Drudge hits as possible, you end up contorting yourself to demanding ridiculous things from the President that are not possible for any human being.

I should note that Fournier never answered the question as to what specifically, beyond offering several tangible compromises, should Obama do to signify his intention to compromise. Why won't Fournier lead????

Poll

What can Obama do to offer to compromise?

30%3 votes
70%7 votes

| 10 votes | Vote | Results

Discuss

The small subset of the country that pays attention to midterm elections is focused this year on the United States Senate. The House of Representatives, due to gerrymandering, Democratic clustering and a roughly tied generic ballot is going to stay Republican, sadly. The Democrats' 55 seat majority in the Senate is, of course, in major peril. But you can read about that on any number of secretly giddy political prognostication sites (looking at you, Charlie Cook!).

The races that are somewhat under the radar (for Governor's offices) and completely under the radar (state legislatures) are the ones I would like to focus on. Unlike conservatives and Wall Street Democrats, the progressive grassroots has a finite amount of money and time to give to political races. We must spend our dollars and donate our hours in a way that will give the highest marginal benefit to the progressive cause.

U.S. Senate campaigns are deluged with tons of $$ from both sides. In high profile races, the main candidates will have plenty of money to saturate the airwaves with TV ads. The strength of our dollar or effort will thus have a comparatively low impact. Furthermore, once our preferred candidates do make it to the Senate, they'll be stuck in a broken-down sausage factory. Sure, with new filibuster rules, these Senators can have a big impact in staffing the executive and judicial branches with more progressives. But with filibusters for legislation, and a solidly Republican House, the potential return on investment is somewhat limited.

Money given to U.S. House candidates can go a bit further. Many good candidates with plausible chances of winning are legitimately underfunded. But with the major institutional obstacles to Democratic control mentioned above, the amount of progressive policy you will get per dollar/hour wont' be very high.

The area you will get the most value is at the state level. Controlling Governor mansions are extremely important. A Democratic Governor in Kentucky is the difference between a well-run health insurance exchange and not even a Medicaid expansion. A Democratic Governor in Virginia means that the threat of trans-vaginal ultrasounds can stay on the shelf for a few years. On the other side of the ledger, Democratic gubernatorial losses in 2010 have yielded some catastrophic policy outcomes. Scott Walker, Tom Corbett, John Kasich and Rick Snyder have turned blueish midwestern states into laboratories for anti-labor, pro-big business "paradises."  And I won't even mention what we've lost after two crushing defeats in New Jersey.

Within governor's races, there is a strong variance as to how far your money/time will go toward achieving good policies. Of course, a dollar in a small state with cheap media markets will go further than one in a large state with expensive media markets. Getting a message out to 500,000 people is a lot easier than getting a message out to 30 million people. The flip side is that you're only influencing the policy of 500,000 people,and not 30 million. To really get the most value, you should donate to candidates in states in which governors have stronger powers. For example, in Michigan the Governor has full responsibility for the state's budget making power and can line item veto appropriations bills. Conversely, in Colorado the Governor shares responsibility for the budget, has no line item veto power. With scarce resources, assuming equally good candidates, it would make more sense to send money and time to Michigan. If you really want to play Moneyball, go to this site and play around with the Council of State Government tables.

The real gold mine is at the State Legislative level. If you take away one thing from this diary, USE YOUR RESOURCES TO DONATE AT THE STATE LEGISLATIVE LEVEL. First, while some state races are expensive, your dollar is guaranteed to go much further in a race for 40,000 or even 100,000 constituents than it does for 750,000 constituents in a House District. Heck, if you have a lot of time and some money, you should run yourself. State filing fees (if the deadline hasn't passed) are generally pretty low. If you live in New Hampshire you should really consider running. Each House District represents only a few thousand people.

Second, the impact of State Legislative elections are enormous, and enormously underrated. The only reason Governors Walker, Kasich, Corbett and Snyder were able to implement anti-worker legislation is because they brought in Republican legislatures with them. State legislatures also can get things done, and relatively quickly. Wendy Davis had to stage her famous filibuster, because Texas Republicans really could jam through anti-abortion legislation in one day. In the Maryland General Assembly (where I have some experience), the minority can, at most, delay legislation for a day. If a majority wants something to pass, it can pass. Since the last major slate of State Legislative elections in 2010, the following has happened at the state level:

-California went from a massive deficit to a massive surprlus with its new Democratic supermajority.

-Illinois, Delaware, Rhode Island, Maryland and Hawaii approved same-sex marriage legislation.

-Michigan (Michigan!) instituted right-to-work laws.

-32 state legislatures have enacted restrictions on abortion procedures.

-North Carolina has become a mecca for terrible conservative policies (ending unemployment insurance, curtailing voting hours etc).

And that is just a very small sample of the kind of profound change happens during short periods at the State level. The races aren't sexy, and are rarely talked about, even by state media sources. But state legislative races are the best opportunities to maximize the progressive policy per dollar/hour donated ratio.

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The conventional wisdom in progressive circles is that there is a mainstream media that is relatively bad at doing it's job, and leans right in many ways, and then there is a right-wing media apparatus led by Fox News which spreads conservative propaganda to the masses. But this analysis is forgetting the news that is closest to home, literally.

Local news is terrible. It is sensationalist, unsophisticated, and frequently downright sloppy. Yet, a lot of people watch it, and rely on it. According to a Pew survey, 74% of adults use local news broadcast as their main source for local news. Even though the news on these broadcasts is ostensibly local, it has the ability to affect people's perception on national issues.

I don't really watch local news, but my wife does, so sometimes it's on in our apartment when I wake up. Sometimes it comes on after a football game and I can't find the remote and I'm too lazy to turn the TV off. From the little local news that I do watch, I can see how it contributes greatly to the conservative psyche. Here are some of the problems:

1. Anecdotes. Local news loves anecdotes. They're out to "find the story" and not to present information in its full context. I remember after the ACA Supreme Court decision, my local Fox station went around and interviewed "small business owners" who all said that their businesses would have to shut down because of Obamacare. There was no real fact-checking of these claims, and more importantly, no discussion of the positive aspects of the ACA. If this was broadcast in the national media, at least a group like Media Matters would call them out. But I don't think Media Matters has the resources to comb through every local news broadcast.

This love for anecdotes has been especially prevalent in the last month during the rollout of the ACA. I've seen story after story on local news about person A losing their health insurance, but absolutely no stories about the millions of uninsured people who finally have access to care.

2. Context-free "Investigations." The "best" part of local news are the investigations from the "Investigation team" or some pithy name like that. In Baltimore, the local NBC station runs a series on "Wasting your tax dollars!" This makes for good TV, because usually the story they are telling is pretty outrageous. Government worker has 3 government cars! Of course, the broadcasts never give any context as to how little money is lost due to dime store corruption in the context of a larger state budget. And it gives the unchallenged perspective that the government really just sits around and flushes your money down the toilet.

3. Crime coverage. Remember in Bowling for Columbine, when Michael Moore gave us that montage of local news broadcasts describing every suspect as a "young black man." He was right on. You rarely see a local news broadcast without some reference to a black criminal. It perpetuates racial stereotypes in a subtle way that seeps into people's sub-conscience.

To an extent, all of these are problems with the national media too. But at least on national issues, there is a place to find an alternate perspective, and there are enough Media Matters-types who will call out the news media for shoddy coverage. Local news largely gets by unscathed. There's really no rebuttal to the way the stations present local issues, especially in localities that are too small to have their own alternative news sources.

The worst part is that local news anchors become local celebrities and celebrated personalities, meaning people listen to them. Progressives have a responsibility to call out terrible local news coverage and not let this slop define public opinion.

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Big news, guys! I've been given access to the National Journal article template. Apparently they sit around all day because the computer generates all or their articles. Without further ado:

In light of (recent event), it has become clear that President Obama has failed to live up to his promise to (restore bipartisanship/usher in a new era of politics/singlehandedly save the country). According to (Insider Republican Strategist who enjoys concern trolling), Obama will have to change his behavior if he wants to see his agenda enacted (DO NOT WRITE ANYTHING SUBSTANTIVE HERE ABOUT THE AGENDA!).

The big problem, according to (Stale University professor or presidential historian), President Obama is not leading. He should lead just like (Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, FDR, Lincoln).

Yes, we acknowledge that the opposition is (bat-shit crazy or similar term). And we acknowledge other Presidents did not have to deal with this, but it doesn't matter because that's just the way it is.

What President Obama should do is (talk more to Republicans, invite Republicans out to dinner, propose really conservative policies that Republicans will reject anyway, propose way to cut deficit that would hurt poor people). (DO NOT EVALUATE THE MERITS OF THESE POLICIES).

In conclusion, if he had led more, then (something that probably wouldn't have happened anyway) may happen. If not, he'll be remembered as a weak leader if we have anything to do about it.

Apparently, the secret template is proving to be quite useful!!

Discuss

Fri Aug 02, 2013 at 08:04 AM PDT

Sabotage

by Barnaby Tucker

I know this subject has been covered extensively on this site and others, but the extent of Republican sabotage of the Affordable Care Act is unprecedented, immoral and...just really makes me mad.

Today, the House will pass the 40th bill that repeals all or part of Obamacare. This particular bill will prohibit the IRS from using the enforcement powers it was given under the 2010 bill. This bill, like all 39 before it, has no chance of becoming law, but it is more evidence of the absolute insane obsession conservatives have with denying millions of Americans access to health insurance.

Let's go over some history:

1. Democrats stupidly bend over backwards for six months in 2009 to make the health care bill bipartisan. As part of this effort, Democrats abandon provisions that would have made the bill more effective, such as a public option. Senator Olympia Snowe, who  writes books about bipartisanship and gets lots of money for it, decides to vote for the bill in the Senate Finance Committee. Even though basically the entire bill was designed for her support, she decides to abandon the bill for no reason in particular. This means that Democrats have to find votes from some pea-brained moderates, like Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman.

2. In January 2010, the Senate had just passed its flawed version of the health care bill with zero votes to spare. While the House and Senate are finalizing a compromise, the Massachusetts Attorney General, Martha Coakley, decides not to campaign and to insult local sports franchises, and therefore loses a Senate race to a guy who drives a pickup truck and hates the ACA. The Democrats no longer have the votes to overcome a Republican filibuster, so they have to turn Plan B which is for the House to pass the Senate version of the bill, and for both chambers to correct the bill via a reconciliation measure. This means that many of the stupid provisions in the Senate bill, written to appease people who didn't vote for the bill anyway, remain in the bill, making it significantly worse.

3. In November of 2010, Republicans win control of the House and decide to make it their cause to repeal the health care bill.

4. Republicans try like 30 times in 2011 to repeal the bill, and of course don't succeed because Democrats control the Senate and the White House.

5. Meanwhile, ideological Republican governors refuse to set up state-based exchanges because somehow that would be "appeasing" the libruls. The whole idea of state-based exchanges was introduced into the bill to appease Olympia Snowe and others who didn't want the federal government controlling everything. Olympia Snowe and others didn't support the bill, but the provision stayed in anyway. This means that the Federal Government has to set up a bunch of state-based exchanges.

6. The Supreme Court upholds the Affordable Care Act, but decides that states shouldn't have to accept one of the bill's major provisions, the expansion of Medicaid. A bunch of ideological Republican governors refuse to accept Medicaid, thus making lots of people suffer, and making the law work less effectively.

7. Republicans run a national election on repealing Obamacare, and they lose. Democrats retain the White House and pick up seats in the House and Senate.

8. Republicans, thinking that Obama only won the election because he gave out Obamaphones to minorities, or something, decide that their crusade to undermine the Affordable Care Act is just beginning! They decide to spend most of 2013 on more and more repeal votes.

9. A bunch of problems with implementation arise in 2013, largely because of the obstruction of Republican governors. Republicans revel in these failures, and instead of trying to solve the problems, double down on repealing the bill.

10. Republicans and conservative groups begin URGING young people not to sign up for Obamacare. Young people need to sign up for Obamacare. That was the whole point. In order to allow everyone to get coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions, there need to be a bunch of young healthy people in the insurance pool. The acts of sabotage reach new heights!

11. Republicans complain endlessly about how employers are cutting back hours of employees because of the ACA's requirement that employers with 50 or more employees provide health insurance to all full-time workers. The media can't get enough anecdotes from the few companies that have been cutting back hours, even though there is no evidence that this has become a trend. In response to these complaints, the administration delays the employer mandate for one year. Republicans, the very people who complained about this provision in the first place, deride this decision and say it is unconstitutional. They also use it as further justification to have more repeal votes.

12. Republicans continue to complain that implementation of the bill is a train wreck, while at the same time continuously trying to sabotage its implementation. Now many of them want to shut down the entire government to keep the bill from being funded. The media continues to cover the bad parts of the bill, because those parts affect rich people. They never mention that the bill has tradeoffs, and that 30 million more people will get health insurance. They never mention that increases in premiums are because people will be getting more comprehensive coverage, and they never mention that a majority of users of the new health insurance exchanges will be paying less because they will be getting subsidies. Instead, they interview some more rich people about how they "have" to cut more employee hours.

That's the history of sabotage. Even mild-mannered observers like Storman Norman Ornstein begin to see how freaking insane this is. If this doesn't inspire people to get out and vote, at all levels of government, I don't know what will.

In conclusion: Sabotage.

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