Browsing the blog archives for March, 2011.


Now the Teabaggers Are Going After AARP

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Obama Administration

You’ll remember that during the 2009 Summer of Hate over health care reform, when teabaggers were being coached to disrupt town hall meetings, some of the wrath was turned on the venerable AARP. Why? Because AARP had decided to endorse the principal bills being debated in the House and Senate at the time.

This endorsement was provisional on the bills’ promise of eventually closing the “gap” in Medicare Part D coverage. For those who haven’t been filled in on the gap — Medicare Part D as crafted by the Bush Administration helped pay for prescription drug costs up to $2,700 per year. Beyond that, the seniors were on their own until their costs reached $6,154. Any amount over $6,154 could be partly paid for under Medicare catastrophic coverage. But the $3,454 that fell into the “doughnut hole” had to come entirely out of the seniors’ pockets. One of the things the Affordable Care Act does is close (eventually) the “doughnut hole.” It has been shrunk a bit already.

Anyway, the closing of the Part D gap was given as the AARP’s principle reason for endorsing the bills, along with the bills’ promises to reduce waste and fraud and keep Medicare solvent generally.

AARP Chief Executive A. Barry Rand said the organization supports the House bill over other proposals because the measure does more to lower drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries, strengthen Medicare and bar insurance companies from denying people coverage because of their health or age. The bill also would lower premiums for Americans ages 50 to 64 who have to buy insurance in the private market and would create a voluntary long-term care insurance program.

The AARP attempted to hold some discussion forums on the health care reform issues, and teabaggers showed up and shouted down the speakers without hearing what they had to say.

One of the raps against AARP at the time — that they were endorsing health care reform to get more “Medigap” coverage — has resurfaced. Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee have released a report that challenges AARP’s tax-exempt status.

So, first they came for ACORN, then Planned Parenthood, and now the AARP.

Very basically, the claim is that since payments for Medicare Advantage plans will be cut, people will have to bail out of Medicare Advantage, and a lot of those people will fall back on a combination of regular Medicare and supplementary or “Medigap” insurance, and AARP is the biggest seller of Medigap insurance. Allahpundit of Hot Air summed it up in a headline — “GOP report: AARP stands to make $1 billion from ObamaCare, IRS should investigate.”

One hole in the logic here is that AARP also offers Medicare Advantage plans, which (the GOP says) from now on will be less profitable. And one does wonder how Republicans manage to demand cuts in Medicare one minute and then complain about “Obamacare” cutting Medicare the next minute without getting whiplash.

Several rightie bloggers today are salivating at the idea of destroying the AARP. They must be punished for endorsing bills sponsored by Democrats, of course. From RedState:

… there’s growing evidence that the policies supported by AARP — namely Obamacare — aren’t nearly as popular among its target democraphic. According to the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll this month, a majority of seniors have an unfavorable view of the law. Just 19 percent think the Medicare program will be better off under Obamacare.

The 19 percent figure probably comes from the March 2011 Kaiser tracking polls on health care reform, which breaks opinion down by age. But while it’s true that only 19 percent of seniors polled think health care reform will make Medicare better (see page 7), the percentage thinking Medicare will get worse also is a minority — 39 percent. The remainder don’t think it will make any difference to them. So it’s not like the entire senior citizen population is preparing to take to the streets to denounce the Affordable Care Act.

Full disclosure — I pay dues to AARP and get my dental coverage and auto roadside assistance through them. Which takes me to my next point — AARP is not an organization like ACORN that mostly involved urban minorities, nor is it Planned Parenthood, which primarily provides reproductive health services for women of modest means. AARP is an institution among the American middle class.

I couldn’t find a demographic breakdown of AARP members versus the senior population as a whole, but I suspect membership skews toward people who are not wealthy but who have some money to pay for things like AARP-sponsored insurance and travel packages. Joining the AARP when one turns 50 is practically an American middle-class right-of passage. The bulk of the Baby Boom generation is eligible now, I believe.

If AARP loses its tax-exempt status, I suspect a lot of member benefits will disappear or be priced out of reach. Does the GOP really want to risk pissing off a large part of middle-class Americans aged 50 and older?

Keep in mind also that if “Obamacare” were entirely repealed, seniors might have to return the prescription drug benefit rebate checks they’ve already received.

I think righties may find that AARP is not the vulnerable, low-hanging fruit that ACORN was and that Planned Parenthood may prove to be. So, bring it on, teabaggers. Let’s see what you’re made of.

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Wingnutism Doesn’t Have to Make Sense

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Obama Administration

A lot of people are snickering about this pronouncement from Newt —

“I have two grandchildren — Maggie is 11, Robert is 9,” Gingrich said at Cornerstone Church here. “I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they’re my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.”

As Joe Klein said, “There is genius in this: no other human had located the secular humanist wing of radical Islam before.”

But of course, the imagined collusion of the communist-atheist axis with the Islamist-jihadist axis has existed in rightie imagination for awhile, even though it makes no rational sense to assume that jihadists would have anything to do with atheists, communist or otherwise.

But, y’know, it doesn’t matter. On the Right, the only classifications that matter are Us and Them. And if you ain’t an “us,” you must be a “them.”

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The People’s Republic of Fitzwalkerstan

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By now you’ve heard that the Wisconsin judge who put a temporary restraining order on the union-busting bill has issued a clarification, saying in no uncertain terms that the bill is restrained. The Wisconsin GOP seems to think they can ignore this, however, or that the judge didn’t say what she said, or something.

Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi said that her original restraining order issued earlier this month was clear in saying no steps should be taken to advance the law. The GOP governor’s administration did so after the bill was published Friday by a state agency not named in Sumi’s earlier temporary restraining order.

“Further implementation of the act is enjoined,” Sumi said.

“Apparently that language was either misunderstood or ignored, but what I said was the further implementation of Act 10 was enjoined. That is what I now want to make crystal clear.”

She warned that those who violate her order could face court sanctions.

But outside the courtroom, Assistant Attorney General Steven Means said the legislation “absolutely” is still in effect.

Unreal. Can we revoke Godwin’s Law now?

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The Hypocrisy of Joe Scarborough

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Obama Administration

Not that I expect Scarborough to be any less of a gasbag than he is, but he’s got a column at Politico calling the “American Left” hypocrites for cheering the intervention in Libya after all those years of complaining about Dubya’s Iraq Adventure.

America invaded its third Muslim country in a decade. The American left meekly went along. Without the slightest hint of irony, liberals defended the president’s indefensible position by returning again to a pose of moral certainty.

Democrats streamed to the floors of the House and Senate to praise the president for invading Libya. It was, after all, a moral mission that would stop the slaughter of innocent civilians. Whether protesting for peace or calling for war, these liberals once again convinced themselves of the moral superiority of their positions.

Strictly speaking, I don’t think the Libyan intervention meets the literal definition of “invasion,” and even if it does, it’s not “America’s invasion,” IMO. There seems to be genuine and spontaneous international consensus that Qaddafi must go now. Further, the reaction on the Left has ranged mostly from suspended judgment to extreme discomfort to outright opposition. And a number of Democrats in the House, at least, have been openly critical of it.

The only “leftie” (I assume) blogger I can think of who genuinely supports the intervention is Juan Cole. And he wrote an open letter to the Left on Libya, chiding lefties for not appreciating the merits of the intervention.

And who doesn’t remember the moral smugness of those who urged us to charge into Iraq because Saddam Hussein was a bad man who was “gassing his own people” (15 years earlier)? Anyone who voiced caution was shouted down for not caring enough about the suffering of oppressed Iraqis. I’m sure if we looked around we could find some videos of Scarborough in morally smug mode back then.

That said — the most worrisome thing about President Obama’s speech last night may be that Bill Kristol liked it. Be afraid.

But Kristol seems to think the speech shows that President Obama has changed his mind on the use of military force, somehow. If you saw Maddow last night, you saw her explain that everything he said in his speech was consistent with what he’s said in the past about military intervention.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The real flip-flopping, of course, is on the Right, which has suddenly noticed that wars cost a lot of money and kill people.

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Well, It Was a Nice Country While It Lasted

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We’re eleven days from a government shutdown, and apparently the teabaggers are maneuvering Congress into something like a fiscal suicide pact. The Right wants budget cuts that would shoot the U.S. economy in the foot. And, as I understand it, if they don’t get their cuts they’re threatening to refuse to raise the debt ceiling, which would be shooting the U.S. economy in the head.

And no, the Dems are no good at negotiation. And are expert at the Republicans the “bad cop/insane cop” act. But I’d also guess that only a small percentage of the voting public understands what is going on in Washington, and I blame media for that.

By design, or by ignorance, or both, the GOP is determined to kill what little recovery we had going on. Then they can blame President Obama and take back the White House in 2012.

Update: See “The Austerity Delusion.”

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Wingnuts Versus Humor

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Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

There’s a video of Bill Ayers joking that he wrote President Obama’s book Dreams of My Fathers, adding, “And if you help me prove it, I’ll split the royalties with you.”

And of course, wingnuts are too stupid/humor impaired to recognize Ayers was being facetious. They think it’s a real confession. More proof that it’s a waste of time to try to reason with them.

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The Banana Republic of Florida

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Talk about the fox in charge of the chicken house. Yikes. See also “Don’t Elect a Criminal to Be Governor.”

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Geraldine Ferraro, 1935-2011

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A footnote, or a milestone?

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Wisconsin GOP: Above the Law?

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Labor, Republican Party, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

You might remember that a judge in the People’s Republic of Wisconsin [update: to be known henceforth as Fitzwalkerstan] last week issued a temporary restraining order that stopped the publication of the state’s new union-busting law. This was to keep the law from going into effect, per Wisconsin state law, until a suit challenging the law is decided.

Yesterday the text of the law was published on a website of the Legislative Reference Bureau, which provides research and drafting services for the state legislature. The head of this bureau, Stephen Miller, said that this publication did not constitute action that would put the law into effect. But Wisconsin Republican are saying, aha! The law was published! It can go into effect now.

It appears Miller was maneuvered into publishing the bill by state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Fitzgerald and Miller met Friday. Miller said Fitzgerald asked him to publish the law and, after reading the statutes, Miller agreed that he could do so. He said he had never published a law without being given a date by the secretary of state during his 12 years of running the reference bureau.

After the restraining order was issued March 18, La Follette sent a letter that same day to the reference bureau rescinding earlier instructions to publish the bill Friday. “I further instruct you to remove all reference to March 25, 2011, as the publication date and not to proceed with publication until I contact you with a new publication date,” his letter said.

The Republicans’ argument, as I understand it, is that the court order barred the Wisconsin Secretary of State from publishing the law, which is usually done in a newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal. However, the court order didn’t say the non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau couldn’t publish it. And the website publication meets the state’s public notice requirements for putting a law into effect, they say.

Miller himself says the publication was only an “administrative step,” according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette, a Democrat, says he doesn’t think the website publication satisfies the legal requirements for publishing, and the law is not in effect. But Scott Fitzgerald says it is too in effect, nyah nyah nyah.

I’m neither a lawyer nor an expert on Wisconsin state law. However, since the restraining order was broadly worded and clearly intended to stop the law from going into effect while it was being challenged in court, it is not unreasonable to assume that Fitzgerald’s maneuver does not satisfy the publishing requirement. But the lawyers and judges will have to duke this one out.

It’s fascinating to me that the Wisconsin Republicans aren’t even trying to not look like the old Soviet Politburo now. They’re so all-fired eager to bust unions and punish their opponents they can’t wait a few weeks for the courts to decide the pending suit.

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Wisconsin’s Cultural Revolution

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Labor, Republican Party, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

James Fallows writes from Beijing that the activities of Republicans in Wisconsin remind him of … Beijing.

A University of Wisconsin history professor, William Cronon wrote an op-ed for the New York Times critical of Gov. Scott Walker, and now Wisconsin Republicans are in all-out McCarthyite witch hunt mode, trying to find some way to shut him up or discredit him. More details from Josh Marshall and from Professor Cronon.

The state Republican Party wants access to the professor’s university email account so that they can see who he’s been talking to about Gov. Walker and his union-busting activities. Writes James Fallows,

The reason this strikes me particularly hard at the moment: I am staying in a country where a lot of recent news concerns how far the government is going in electronic monitoring of email and other messages to prevent any group, notably including academics or students, from organizing in order to protest. I don’t like that any better in Madison than I do in Beijing.

Since Cronon is a state employee his university emails legally are public property, but if there’s any reason for the Wisconsin Republicans to go after the professor’s emails other than intimidation, I can’t think of it. See also John Nichols.

No rightie blogger that I’ve seen has commented on this yet, but when they do, I predict they will defend the Wisconsin Republicans and then go back to screaming about how they’re the defenders of liberty from Big Government.

Speaking of emails — an Indiana deputy prosecutor has resigned because of an email he sent to Gov. Walker suggesting some staged union “thuggism.”

“If you could employ an associate who pretends to be sympathetic to the unions’ cause to physically attack you (or even use a firearm against you), you could discredit the unions,” the email said.

“Currently, the media is painting the union protest as a democratic uprising and failing to mention the role of the DNC and umbrella union organizations in the protest. Employing a false flag operation would assist in undercutting any support that the media may be creating in favor of the unions. God bless, Carlos F. Lam.”

The prosecutor, Carlos Lam, also said the pro-union protests presented “a good opportunity for what’s called a ‘false flag’ operation.” The email was obtained by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, which obtained Gov. Walker’s emails concerning the union-busting bill.

What strikes me about the email is the implied assumption that Republican thuggishness is justified, even sanctioned by God, because the DNC and unions are inherently bad, somehow. It was no secret that the DSCC and the AFL-CIO supported the pro-union protests, but I guess the union thugs weren’t being thuggish enough.

And yeah, another blogger already made the comparison with Donald Segretti and CREEP.

In other developments from the Cheese State — yesterday a state appeals court punted the legal challenge to the Wisconsin’s union-busting bill to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

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