Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

And furthermore…

Posted: April 14, 2014 by mitchethekid in Conservative Shenanigans, Current Events, Uncategorized

It is well past debate that a majority in the Teaparty have overtones of the old south, revisionist history and a pervasive Dominionist ideology. Here is another example of the lunacy of these cock-a-roaches. I’ll bet it galled this guy to insanity that an African American is president. And without a legitimate birth certificate to boot.

I live in Overland Park, Ks. As the crow flies, I live about 5 miles away. I’m Jewish. My children attended the  preschool at the JCC as well as many years of day camp. If god was messing with Darwin by creating the Platypus, then maybe he was messing with this assassin because all of the victims were not Jewish. In an effort not to offend, I will keep the remainder of my thoughts on this private.

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In honor of the latest Republican talking point, here you go:

 

Fascist Republicans attempt to destroy career DoJ lawyer over her exercising her right to free speech – http://www.journalgazette.net/article/20140110/NEWS03/140119996/0/NEWS09

Fascist Republicans block civil rights nominee for upholding the right to a fair trial – http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/02/10/republicans-vow-continued-opposition-to-obamas-civil-rights-nominee/

Fascist Republicans and fascist NRA oppose Surgeon General nominee – http://articles.latimes.com/2014/mar/15/nation/la-na-surgeon-general-20140316

Fascist Michelle Malkin leads charge to get Colbert off the air – http://crooksandliars.com/2014/03/michelle-malkin-led-twitter-horde-attacks

Fascist conservatives boycott the Girl Scouts – http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2014/01/30/girlscout-boycott-continues

Fascist Republicans boycott Mozilla – http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/apr/4/conservatives-launch-boycott-mozilla-after-gays-pr/

Fascist conservatives boycott Al Sharpton – http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/10/07/al-sharpton-politicsnation-advertisers-targeted-in-new-boycott.html

Fascist One Million Moms boycotts Nabisco – http://onemillionmoms.com/issues/honey-maid-offends-conservatives/

Fascist conservatives threaten boycott of Cracker Barrel – http://dailycaller.com/2013/12/22/mike-huckabee-boycotts-cracker-barrel-over-duck-dynasty-uproar/

Fascist National Organization for Marriage boycotts Starbucks – http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/03/25/starbucks-ceo-doubles-down-on-gay-marriage-support-telling-shareholder-to-sell-stake-if-he-doesnt-like-views/

 

We could do this all day…

Satellite Geolocation and Flight 370

Posted: April 8, 2014 by Marner in Uncategorized

The other day I provided a link to a story about investigators using satellite-based geolocation to narrow the search area. It was interesting to me because it is tied to my background in electronic warfare. The article didn’t go into any detail on the process, but I’ll explain it here for those fellow geeks who are interested.

Inmarsat, a satellite communications (SATCOM) company, provides transportation SATCOM services for ships and aircraft. This is accomplished via a transponder installed in the vessel that send a short message to one of the Inmarsat satellites every hour. The transponder is activated when the trip begins and deactivated when it ends. The amount of information contained in one of these messages, or pings, varies depending on what level of service the vessel has subscribed to. The pings can provide location, velocity, altitude, and direction of travel, or they can contain no data other than the vessel’s terminal identification number. In the case of MH370, it looks like they subscribed to the latter level of service.

Inmarsat’s satellites are geosynchronous, meaning they remain at one spot in relation to the surface of the Earth by orbiting at around 22,300 miles altitude. That altitude matches the satellite’s orbital speed with the rotation of the Earth, keeping the satellite over one particular spot at all times. The first principle Inmarsat used in narrowing the search area was called time difference of arrival (TDOA), also known a differential time offset (DTO). The signal coming from the plane’s transponder is electromagnetic energy, which travels at the speed of light, approximately 186,000 miles per second. Inmarsat measured how long it took for the transponder signal to travel from the plane to their satellites and from that they were able to determine how far the plane was from the satellites. The difference in the time that each satellite received the signal tells how much farther the plane was from one satellite versus the other satellite. The maximum altitude the plane was capable of attaining generated a wide arc running north-south, or longitudinal. That still left a massive area to search.

To narrow it down even more, they used another process called frequency difference of arrival (FDOA), also known as differential frequency offset (DFO). This uses the Doppler Effect to find intersecting east-west, or latitudinal, arcs. While the speed at which electromagnetic waves travel is a constant (the speed of light), the frequency isn’t. The Doppler Effect is when a wave becomes compressed or elongated when it arrives at a receiver. Sound waves and electromagnetic waves work the same way in this regard. When something is moving away from a receiver, the wave will be stretched, resulting in a slightly lower frequency. Inversely, if the object is moving toward the receiver, the wave will be compressed and the frequency will be slightly higher. Using the shift in frequency, Inmarsat was able to determine the intersecting latitudinal arcs. To do so, they had to look at signals sent previously by other aircraft (reference signals) along the last longitudinal arc to make comparisons and narrow the size of the latitudinal arcs. This brought it down to two areas: one in the north over land and one in the south over the Indian Ocean. The northern route was ruled out because of the lack of radar or visual sightings of the aircraft, leaving the current search area as the last likely location of the aircraft. The southern area was so large because Inmarsat lacked a sufficient number of reference emitters to narrow it down any further than they did and they had no way of determining how far or what direction the plane flew after the last ping.

So, at a very broad level, that is how the search area got restricted to a specific area in the Indian Ocean. It wasn’t magic or guessing, as some pundits on the news channel have suggested, it was simple physics. It is a proven process that has been used for a long time to geolocate emitters interfering with satellite communications which Inmarsat used for the first time to try to locate a lost aircraft. Rather than beat up on Inmarsat for taking so long to narrow the search area, as I’ve seen some pundits do, we should be applauding them for the hard work they did in adapting this process to help find the plane and the victims.

Still Searching for a Victim

Posted: April 8, 2014 by Marner in Uncategorized

Despite Herculean efforts to find Obamacare victims to parade before the public, the Republicans are still striking out.

First we have Todd Starnes, Professional Christian Victim™, who asks the question, “Hey, Harry Reid, is this Baptist preacher a liar, too?” No, Todd, he’s a fucking idiot.

“Matthew Morgan was crumpled on the pavement lying in a pool of blood. Bones had torn through his flesh. His left foot was nearly severed. As he lapsed into and out of consciousness, a jarring thought crossed the Baptist preacher’s mind: he no longer had health insurance.

“That was one of the first thoughts I had after I got hit,” Matthew told me in a telephone interview from his home in Indianola, Miss.

Matthew is a bi-vocational pastor. He ministers to two congregations and works a full-time job at the Indianola Pecan House. The 27-year-old is married and has four children. His oldest is five, the youngest is one. And on Feb. 17th he became a victim of ObamaCare.”

So, Todd, tell us how Mr. Morgan became a “victim.”

“Matthew and his wife used to have insurance through Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Like many Americans, they received a letter in 2013 informing them of a hike in premiums. The couple had been paying $550 per month for their plan and Blue Cross was raising the rate by more than 15 percent. Even though they liked their insurance plan, Matthew said it was no longer in their budget.”

So, what did Mr. Morgan do about it? Did he get a policy that was cheaper and provided better coverage? Nope. He said he tried using the Healthcare.gov website to purchase a policy, but it was just too frustrating for him. Did he pick up a phone and call to find coverage? Nope, apparently that also took too much effort. Did he find a Navigator who could help him in person? Nope.

It seems getting health insurance for himself, his wife, and four children was just not a real high priority for the Pastor. He finally found a policy (no comment from Starnes on whether or not he is paying less than for his old plan), but it doesn’t take effect until April. Here’s the kicker: His accident occurred on February 17th. That means he received his notice of his old policy’s rates increasing, most likely before January, but Starnes doesn’t say. He then purchased a policy and CHOSE not to have it take effect until April. He would have had to purchase the policy before February 17th or Starnes’ whole “victim” story falls apart even more than it already does.

It sucks that Mr. Morgan was injured in an accident, but his lack of insurance was the result of his conscious choice to not ensure he and his family were covered. He claims he would have been covered if not for Obamacare, but that is pure bullshit. The odds are his rates would have increased anyway, as rates always go up, and Starnes noticeably does not say that Blue Cross/Blue Shield’s letter blamed the ACA. Mr. Morgan should accept responsibility for his own actions and be thankful that now his insurance company can’t dump him for being too expensive. He can also be happy that he can’t be denied coverage because of the injuries he sustained in his accident. Consider it a life lesson.

Next we have the Kock Brothers’ latest poster child gone wrong. Julie Boonstra appeared in an ad for Americans for Prosperity, a Koch front group, claiming that Obamacare had jeopardized her health. She was diagnosed with leukemia and she says that under Obamacare her out of pocket expenses are unaffordable. That turned out to be less than true. There is a $2.00 difference in the total costs of her old plan compared to her new plan. When questioned about the facts, Boonstra went on the attack, making appearances on friendly Fox News. Unfortunately, she didn’t address the discrepancies in her story, she only attacked the people questioning the story.

Now, it appears her new plan is actually going to cost her considerably less than her old plan.

“Boonstra’s old plan cost $1,100 a month in premiums or $13,200 a year, she previously told The News. It didn’t include money she spent on co-pays, prescription drugs and other out-of-pocket expenses.

By contrast, the Blues’ plan premium costs $571 a month or $6,852 for the year. Since out-of-pocket costs are capped at $5,100, including deductibles, the maximum Boonstra would pay this year for all of her cancer treatment is $11,952.”

In response, Boonstra said:

“When advised of the details of her Blues’ plan, Boonstra said the idea that it would be cheaper “can’t be true.”

“I personally do not believe that,” Boonstra said.”

Ms. Boonstra, you too are a fucking idiot.

Who’s the Intimidator Here?

Posted: April 8, 2014 by Marner in Uncategorized

Darrell Issa’s ongoing witch hunt over the IRS actually got somewhat interesting this week. At Thursday’s hearing where Issa hoped to continue his slander campaign against the DOJ career civil servant leading the IRS investigation, Catherine Engelbrecht of True the Vote dropped a bit of a bombshell. She announced during the hearing that she had filed a complaint with the Ethics Committee against Rep. Elijah Cummings for harassment and intimidation.

True the Vote was one of the organizations applying for tax-exempt 501(c)(4) status that had been selected for additional scrutiny. Engelbrecht, as the founder and President of the group, insists that she has personally been targeted for political reasons by the IRS and by Cummings. After all, according to her, True the Vote is completely non-partisan and engages in social welfare simply by trying to improve the integrity of the election process. There should be no reason to suspect that True the Vote is anything but what they say they are, right? Wrong.

Let’s start with Engelbrecht herself. She claims in interviews that what she saw as a poll worker in 2008 was her “eureka” moment, except for other times when she says, “Then in 2008, I don’t know, something clicked,” she said. “I saw our country headed in a direction that, for whatever reason — it didn’t hit me until 2008 — this really threatens the future of our children.” Gee, what could have happened in 2008 that would give her that distinctly non-partisan impression? Perhaps her group’s activities since then could give us a clue.

In 2010, True the Vote, which started as an outgrowth of Engelbrecht group, King Street Patriots, began gearing up for mid-term elections. They focused on Texas, specifically Houston, since Engelbrecht lived nearby. Engelbrecht went searching for evidence of voter registration fraud in Harris County. True the Vote only “examined” low-income, minority districts and flagged households with six or more members as fraudulent registrations. They also erroneously claimed that people were registered with addresses that were vacant lots. Engelbrecht accused a local civic group, Houston Votes, of generating fraudulent voter registrations, calling them the “the Texas office of the New Black Panthers.” At the same time, Engelbrecht’s Tea Party group, King Street Patriots, put up a video where a black woman’s protest sign had been altered to read, “I only got to vote once.” The sign actually said, “Don’t Mess With Our Vote.” Engelbrecht’s unfounded allegations led to Houston Votes receiving threatening, racist emails and severely impacted the group’s attempts to register new voters. True the Vote’s actions before that election were so egregious and generated so many complaints that the DOJ sent election monitors to the state.

True the Vote’s next major “non-partisan” foray was to interfere with the recall of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. True the Vote, in a collaborative effort with two other Tea Party groups, claimed that their proprietary software was able to determine that the recall petitions were filled with multiple ineligible signatures. True the Vote said their “analysis” showed the petitions were 6,000 signatures shy of the required amount, but they failed to even look at over 14,000 pages of petitions. They stopped before their own analysis would prove them wrong. Some of the specious criteria that True the Vote claimed made a signature invalid were:

  • Adding the abbreviation “WI” after a zip code
  • Stray marking on signature dates
  • Forgetting to add the year on a signature date

Under Wisconsin law, these would all be considered valid signatures. True the Vote also counted as invalid signatures where their own people had incorrectly entered data into their database. The actual petitions showed that the signatures were completely valid. Finally, they considered as invalid signatures they flagged as needing “further investigation.” Those signatures represented almost half of the number of signatures required for the petition to be successful. True the Vote’s claims were quickly rejected by the state.

In the 2012 election, True the Vote focused their efforts on several states. Invariably, they only investigate low-income, minority, or heavily Democratic districts. They never challenge voters in affluent, majority white, Republican districts. They also engaged in attempts to purge college students, trailer park residents, homeless people, and African Americans in Ohio counties that President Obama won in 2008 through tactics such as voter caging. In 2012, a Texas judge ruled that True the Vote was acting as a political action committee, violating state campaign finance law. That alone should have disqualified the organization from receiving tax-exempt status.

Engelbrecht is a fixture on the right-wing circuit, speaking regularly at events organized by conservative partisan groups. In 2012, she opened her speech at the GOP’s Voter Vigilante Project Summit in Colorado this way:

The summit began with a classic political attack video—dark imagery, brooding camera angles, dropping all the names of liberals that Republicans love to hate, such as ACORN and Project Vote (which helped run ACORN’s voter drives). The screen decried “dead people” on the rolls, duplicate registrations, double voting, registrations with addresses from empty lots, and other would-be horrors that scholars say are the vast exception not rule in voting.

In October 2012, Cummings opened an investigation based on the multiple reports of True the Vote’s voter suppression tactics. In his letter to Engelbrecht, Cummings wrote, “”At some point, an effort to challenge voter registrations by the thousands without any legitimate basis may be evidence of illegal voter suppression,” wrote Cummings. “If these efforts are intentional, politically-motivated, and widespread across multiple states, they could amount to a criminal conspiracy to deny legitimate voters their constitutional rights.” Based on True the Vote’s history, Cummings had justification to investigate their activities, just as the IRS had every justification to question whether True the Vote was conducting predominately social welfare activities as opposed to partisan political activities. If you look at Engelbrecht’s history, you see this:

  • Some momentous event happened in 2008 that threatened the future of our children.
  • This event caused her to create the King Street Patriots Tea Party group
  • She felt driven to challenge the ability of low-income, minorities, and Democrats to cast their votes, but not affluent, white Republicans

On its face, you can’t help but to be drawn to the suspicion that just maybe Engelbrecht is not being forthright. Her goal appears to be to elect 1) Republicans, 2) whites, or 3) a combination of the two, using unethical and potentially illegal tactics. Rep. Cummings needs to stay strong and not allow Engelbrecht to intimidate him like she tries to intimidate the wrong kind of voters. I have no doubt that he will. He does not seem to be the type of person that is easily intimidated.

When All Else Fails – BENGHAZI!!!

Posted: April 8, 2014 by Marner in Uncategorized

John Boehner has been having a pretty rough time as Speaker of the House since the Republicans became the majority in 2010. Flush from victory, he thought he would be able to get some Republican policies passed by using his majority to negotiate with the Senate. Unfortunately for everyone, it didn’t quite work out that way because of the Tea Party Representatives that were also elected in 2010. They weren’t a large portion of the 435 House members, but the Republican majority was small enough that they could control the agenda. They have enough numbers to prevent Boehner from passing anything unless he relies on Democratic votes. That reality has been a big driver in this Congress being the least popular and least productive Congress in history.

The Republican-led House has spent the last three years doing little more than passing meaningless bills that are nothing more than political posturing for future elections. They have had somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 votes to repeal or defund the ACA, knowing full well those bills weren’t going anywhere. Boehner couldn’t even get enough Republicans on board to pass the Farm Bill, a normally non-contentious that usually sails through both chambers. They shut down the federal government in order to keep pushing their ACA repeal political point without any regard as to the cost of their foolish actions.

The latest headache for Boehner is the looming debt ceiling. He started off insisting that there would be no clean debt ceiling increase, but he couldn’t herd his cats into a coherent strategy. The Tea Party faction demands more ACA repeal votes, again without regard to the cost. They now want to eliminate risk corridors even though doing so would increase the deficit and cause insurance premiums and deductibles to skyrocket. Some don’t understand that fact, but most just don’t care.

It looks like Boehner has resigned himself to the unfortunate fact that he simply is not capable of accomplishing anything as Speaker. He trots out silly excuses to not address immigration reform, such as not being able to trust President Obama to enforce the law. The fact that border enforcement and deportations are way up under this administration doesn’t have any bearing on Boehner’s feeling, but it does expose it as bullshit.

Boehner doesn’t want to do his job as Speaker, but he doesn’t want to abdicate the throne. There are too many rounds of golf to play and too many open bars to attend. He knows his House is incapable of doing anything more than obstructing whatever comes out of the Senate, so he’s just going to ride it out until the next election. If the Republicans can win enough seats to take the Senate, then he can go back to passing meaningless bills that President Obama will just veto. Until then, he still has to do something to keep the Tea Party faction mollified. That thing is BENGHAZI!!!

Boehner threw the zealots a bone by putting up a website consolidating all of the documents produced by the House Republicans’ witch hunt. You now have a one-stop-shop for all of the crazy conspiracy theories put forth by their Party. You can read the joint report released by the Republicans on 5 House committees (no Democrats). You can peruse the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Republican (no Democrats) Staff report on Benghazi. You can read Darrell Issa’s (no Democrats) report on the Accountability Review Board. When you get to the bottom of the page you get a couple of bipartisan reports from the HPSCI and SSCI and the nonpartisan Accountability Review Board report. Well played, Mr. Boehner. I’m sure that will keep the Tea Party off your back for a while.

Primary Sources

Posted: April 8, 2014 by Marner in Uncategorized

Much ado was made yesterday about the CBO’s release of its new Economic Outlook report. If you read the headlines from the usual suspects on the right, you would believe that the CBO said the ACA was a job killer.

Fox News – Cost of ObamaCare: 2.3 Million Jobs

Daily Caller – CBO Triples Estimate of Obamacare work force cuts to 2.3 Million

Washington Times – Obamacare Will Push 2 Million Workers Out of the Labor Market: CBO

Newsmax – CBO: Obamacare to Kill 2 Million Jobs

Townhall – Obamacare Driving Millions Out of Work Force, Price Tag Tops $2 Trillion

Casper mentioned in the previous thread that he prefers primary sources and this is a great example of why. If you just read the headlines, or even the full articles, without examining every word you would think that over 2 million workers’ jobs were going to be eliminated by employers because of the ACA. That is not true and it is not what the CBO said. The Washington Times shows how this is done. Their first sentence is, “Obamacare will push the equivalent of about 2 million workers out of the labor market by 2017 as employees decide either to work fewer hours or drop out of the job market altogether, according to estimates released Tuesday by the Congressional Budget Office.” The Times uses the verb “push” to imply that workers will be forced out of their jobs, but they also say that employees will make the decision as to whether or not to work. The other thing they do in that sentence is say the “equivalent of 2 million workers,” not literally 2 million workers. If 10 workers choose to work 10% fewer hours, that is the equivalent to the loss of one worker. Other than using the verb “push,” this sentence is accurate. The CBO report says, “CBO estimates that the ACA will reduce the total number of hours worked, on net, by about 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent during the period from 2017 to 2024, almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor—given the new taxes and other incentives they will face and the financial benefits some will receive…The estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply, rather than from a net drop in businesses’ demand for labor[.]” The rest of the Washington Times article is actually a pretty accurate report, but most of its readers won’t get past the headline.

Matt Yglesias explains who these people are that make up the bulk of those who will choose not to work or to work part-time instead of full-time. They are people who are near retirement, but can’t stop working because they aren’t old enough for Medicare. They are new mothers who want to work part-time or stay at home, but need to work full-time for the health insurance. They are the workers that are doing exactly what Republicans said they wanted them to be able to do.

The other talking point from the right about the CBO report is that it is going to increase the deficit. The CBO said the deficit will initially shrink, but will increase in the out years, assuming no changes to any laws are made. However, deficit projections are still lower than before the ACA was passed. One of the aspects of the ACA that positively impacts the deficit is the Republicans latest target: Risk corridors. In the first few years of the ACA, risk corridors were established to protect the insurance market from wild swings in risk pools. If an insurance company’s pool more costly than they projected when building their rates, the government will pay them the difference. If a company’s rick pool is less expensive, they pay the government the difference. According to the CBO, this is a net plus for the government, as insurance companies will pay more than they receive by $8 billion over 10 years. Put simply, repealing risk corridors, as the Republicans want to do, will increase the deficit even further and increase insurance premiums as insurance companies over-estimate how much their pools will cost in order to protect themselves. The other thing about risk corridors is that the Republicans’ opposition is a new-found principle. They fully supported the exact same risk corridors when President Bush instituted Medicare Part D in 2003.

So, when you see breathless headlines, the best thing to do is to go to the primary source, in this case the actual CBO report, and see for yourself what the truth is.

 

 

McConnell’s Feeling the Heat

Posted: April 8, 2014 by Marner in Uncategorized

What do you do if you’re an extremely conservative Senate Minority Leader and you’re facing a reelection threat from your right flank? Well, you could campaign against your opponent by making your case to the voters about your conservative credentials or you could go to a dead guy’s Internet rag to throw out some red meat lies to your Party’s base about their favorite boogeyman, President Obama. Guess which path Mitch McConnell decided to take.

McConnell published an op-ed accusing Obama of attempting to infringe on the Constitutional rights of fine, upstanding conservative groups.

“Referring to infringements on our freedoms, the Father of the Bill of Rights once wrote that such encroachments were more often “gradual and silent” than “violent and sudden.”

That’s exactly what we’re seeing with President Obama’s proposed regulation on so-called 501(c)(4) groups: a stealth attempt to stifle the ability of ordinary Americans to participate in the political process.”

McConnell goes on to say that Obama has been after conservative political groups ever since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, first with the DISCLOSE Act and now with an IRS rule. McConnell throw out the charge that Obama is trying to restrict Conservatives’ rights to free speech by tightening the rules on what qualifies an entity for 501(c)(4) status. 501(c)(4) is a tax-exempt status given to “social welfare” groups. Current laws state that a preponderance of the group’s activity must be spent on social welfare activities rather than political activities, but it leaves a hole large enough to drive a truck through as to what constitutes political activities. Political dark money groups love this status not only because of the tax exemption, but also because they do not have to disclose their donors.

McConnell claims that Obama signaled to the IRS that it should give extra scrutiny to conservative groups, so the IRS targeted them. We already know this is a lie, because the IRS gave extra scrutiny to 501(c)(4) applications from both political sides, but Darrell Issa tried to skew the facts to make it look like only conservatives were targeted. According to McConnell, since Obama was thwarted in this nefarious plot, he has decided to change the IRS rules to go after these conservative groups. His Tea Party base may eat this up, but anyone who’s reasonably informed will see it for the pathetic attempt to keep his Senate seat that it is.

The current 501(c)(4) rules define a qualifying organization as one that is “not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.” Organizations whose primary purpose is partisan political activity do not qualify as a 501(c)(4). The problem is that the definition of what constitutes “partisan political activity” is poorly defined in the existing law, leaving it up to the IRS to decide what qualifies and what doesn’t with little guidance. This is the true cause behind the IRS “scandal” that McConnell is trumpeting, not some sort of vendetta against conservative groups. The proposed new rules attempt to provide some actual definition to the term to reduce the ambiguity.

The proposed rule states that “candidate-related activity” is not to be considered part of the social welfare activities. Candidate-related activity is defined as:

1. Communications

Communications that expressly advocate for a clearly identified political candidate or candidates of a political party.

Communications that are made within 60 days of a general election (or within 30 days of a primary election) and clearly identify a candidate or political party.

Communications expenditures that must be reported to the Federal Election Commission.

2. Grants and Contributions

Any contribution that is recognized under campaign finance law as a reportable contribution.

Grants to section 527 political organizations and other tax-exempt organizations that conduct candidate-related political activities (note that a grantor can rely on a written certification from a grantee stating that it does not engage in, and will not use grant funds for, candidate-related political activity).

3. Activities Closely Related to Elections or Candidates

Voter registration drives and “get-out-the-vote” drives.

Distribution of any material prepared by or on behalf of a candidate or by a section 527 political organization.

Preparation or distribution of voter guides that refer to candidates (or, in a general election, to political parties).

Holding an event within 60 days of a general election (or within 30 days of a primary election) at which a candidate appears as part of the program.

With the exception of voter registration and “get out the vote” drives, I defy anyone to explain how any of the listed activities can be defined as social welfare and not partisan political activities, but McConnell sees these common sense rules as a blatant attack on conservatives’ freedom of speech. In truth, conservatives and liberals would have no less freedom of speech under these rules than they have now. Everyone would still have the ability to fully participate in the political process. What they wouldn’t have is the unfettered ability of the rich to disguise their partisan political activities as social welfare. McConnell is butt-hurt because these rules would restrict political groups that provide support to his campaign. When donors have to be disclosed because a group is no longer exempt from that requirement, deep pocket backers are less likely to shovel millions of dollars into a group. I would hope that people of all political persuasions would be able to support this common sense reform.

Cry Me a River

Posted: April 8, 2014 by Marner in Uncategorized

By now you’ve all heard about Mike Huckabee’s comment in a speech to the RNC the other day. Huckabee said:

“If the Democrats want women to believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it, let us take this discussion all across America because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to be.”

It was initially reported that Huckabee said he believed women couldn’t control their libidos without the help of the government, rather than actually attributing that belief to Democrats. That’s true context isn’t much better, since it displays an incredible level of ignorance and self-projection, but conservatives went wild wailing about how horrible it was that Huckabee had been taken out of context. I have one thing to say about that:

Cry me a fucking river.

There’s an old saying that if you live by the sword, you die by the sword. The right wing media has perfected the art of taking a single quote out of context and using that spin to provide red meat for their base. We can look at Melissa Harris Perry’s show joking about the incongruity of a single black child in a Romney family photo. The show was mocking the whiteness of the Republican Party and the right wing spun it as a personal attack on Romney’s grandchild. We can also point to Governor Cuomo’s remarks where the right claimed Cuomo said conservatives were not welcome in New York. That was yet another lie that Sean Hannity has been trying to milk to try and regain relevance in a crowded wingnut field. What Cuomo actually said was that extreme right winger candidates can’t win in New York because they aren’t welcomed by voters. Or we can point to Hillary Clinton’s “What difference does it make” sentence that has been twisted and exploited or President Obama’s “You didn’t build that.”

Just know that if the right is crying about how their feelings are hurt by something said on the left, odds are that the left never said it.

Here We Go Again

Posted: April 8, 2014 by Marner in Uncategorized

It must be an election year. Once again, some Republicans (this time in the Senate) have put forward a “plan” to replace the Affordable Care Act. Just like every one that has come before it, it is nothing more than a collection of old Republican talking points with little substance behind them, no idea of what it will cost, and no ideas on how to pay for it.

The Republican Senators, Hatch, Coburn, and Burr, start off in the most predictable way: repealing the ACA. I really wish these guys would get some new material, because this line is getting tiresome. Anyone with a brain larger than a peanut knows that Obama will veto any attempt to repeal the ACA and the Republicans will never hold enough seats to override the veto. Anyone that argues that repeal is even remotely an option (Cruz) is blowing smoke straight up your ass. Now these guys are not only saying that the ACA must be repealed, but they are exempting from repeal all changes to Medicare. Those would remain in effect, including the hundreds of millions of dollars they claim Obama cut from Medicare. It would also keep cuts to Medicare Advantage that Republicans have been so worked up about. I guess they’ve given up on trying to get any traction with those. But let’s just overlook this repeal pandering and get to their proposal.

To their credit, these Senators do maintain the ACA provisions that poll well, sort of. They keep the ability of parents to have their children on their plans until they turn 26, but then they tell the states they can opt out of that requirement. They still eliminate benefit caps and also state that insurers can’t kick people off their plans when they cost too much. One other provision they sort of keep is the ability to change plans without regard to pre-existing conditions. The catch is that the customer can’t have a break in coverage. If you lose your job and can’t afford to pay for insurance for a few months until you find a new job, it sucks to be you.

The ACA restricts age-adjusted premiums to no more than three times the premium for a healthy young person. The Republican plan would increase this ratio to five times. If you think Boehner’s upset about how much he has to pay as a smoker in his 60’s now, just wait until he sees his bill under this plan! But it’s not enough for them to raise seniors’ rates another 60%+. No, they say that if a state wants to increase that ratio even more, or just eliminate it altogether, they only have to pass a law stating so. That’ll certainly go over well with the AARP crowd.

This plan does offer a tax credit for people earning up to 300% of Federal Poverty Level, while the ACA goes up to 400%. For someone age 35-49, the credit is $2,530 per year. That only comes out to $211 a month, but it’s a tax credit so you wouldn’t see it until you filed your taxes. Given that this plan eliminates price caps, I don’t see that credit going very far.

As expected, this Republican plan eliminates the individual mandate, but does nothing to answer the question of how to keep premiums down with a self-selected pool. They also dust off the old idea of state high-risk pools, but with no explanation of how states can afford to run them without charging premiums that are way too high for anyone to afford. One other old idea they resuscitate is allowing insurers to cross state lines. That will lead to states allowing insurers to go back to issuing the worthless policies that are now forbidden, but reciprocity would force other states to recognize those policies as valid.

These Senators haven’t given up on their desire to privatize Medicare by allowing states to use Medicare funding to enroll people in private plans. They also make the obligatory call for tort reform, even though it would result in less than 1% in savings for health care costs.

In reality, this “new” plan is no different than the old plans that have been floated previously. If enacted, it would do nothing but leave more people uninsured than before the ACA and increase the costs of those who are able keep their insurance. Medicare would eventually be privatized and patients would lose the ability to be compensated for damage done to them by doctors. I’m sure someone thought this plan was a great idea, but it was probably the same person who thought shutting down the government was a brilliant strategy. The rest of us see it for what it is: a desperate attempt to keep the base riled up.