Serendipity SOUL | Wednesday Open Thread | Phil Collins Week!

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64 Responses to Serendipity SOUL | Wednesday Open Thread | Phil Collins Week!

  1. LIVE coverage of President Obama in Rome

  2. rikyrah says:

    Orange Julius comments:

    March 26, 2014, 11:29 am
    ‘What the hell is this, a joke?’
    By Russell Berman

    What the hell is this, a joke?” Boehner said at his weekly press conference.
    He was responding to the administration’s announcement on Tuesday evening that people who had begun the process of signing up for insurance through the federal exchanges would have until mid-April to do so, instead of March 31.

    The Speaker called the move “another deadline made meaningless,” adding it to a litany of unilateral changes that the administration has made to the law.

    “This is part of a long-term pattern of this administration manipulating the law for its own convenience,” Boehner said. “It’s not hard to understand why the American people question this administration’s commitment to the rule of law.”

    Here was the response from the Administration:

    In response to Boehner, [Health and Human Services spokeswoman Joanne] Peters compared the situation to Election Day, when voters who are in line when the polls close are still allowed to cast their ballot.
    “The law is the law. Consumers need to know the deadline is March 31,” she said. “But just like on Election Day, if you are in line when we close, you get to enroll. We’re experiencing near-record volume and the site, and we’re not going to turn people away who tried and couldn’t complete their enrollment. This is about helping people who want to get health insurance.”

    Peters noted that a similar extension was offered under the Bush administration in 2006 for the implementation of the Medicare prescription drug benefit

  3. rikyrah says:

    Obamacare news:

    Florida’s Republican leaders have fought the Affordable Care Act at every turn, banning navigators from county health departments, offering no state dollars to boost outreach efforts to 3.5 million uninsured and leading the fight to repeal the law. Yet the state has emerged as a tale of what went right with President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.
    More than 440,000 Florida residents had been enrolled through the federal marketplace through the end of February

  4. rikyrah says:

    Jon Favreau @jonfavs
    Oh no, what will the latest Obamacare delay mean???

    More people with health insurance.

    8:51 PM – 25 Mar 2014

  5. rikyrah says:

    Justices Divide By Gender In Hobby Lobby Contraception Case
    by Nina Totenberg
    March 25, 2014 4:00 PM

    There was a clear difference of opinion between male and female justices at the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday. The issue was whether for-profit corporations, citing religious objections, may refuse to include contraception coverage in the basic health plan now mandated under the Affordable Care Act.

    The female justices were clearly supportive of the contraception mandate, while a majority of the male justices were more skeptical.

    The lead challenger in the case is the Hobby Lobby corporation, a chain of 500 arts and crafts stores that has 13,000 employees. The owners object to two forms of contraception, IUDs and morning-after pills, which they view as a form of early abortion.

    Hobby Lobby lawyer Paul Clement had barely begun his argument when he was pelted with a series of hypotheticals.

    Justice Sonia Sotomayor led off: What about employers who have religious objections to health plans that cover other basic medical procedures — blood transfusions, immunizations, medical products that include pork?

    Clement replied that each would have to be evaluated by the courts to see if it is fully justified and accomplished by the least restrictive means.

    Justice Elena Kagan observed that using that reasoning, an employer might have a religious objection to complying with sex discrimination laws, minimum wage laws, family leave laws and child labor laws, to name just a few.


    How, asked Sotomayor, does a for-profit corporation exercise religion? Whose religion is it? The shareholders’? The corporate officers’? How much of the business has to be dedicated to religion? And once you go down that road, aren’t you having to do something that the court has “always resisted — measuring the depth of someone’s religious beliefs?”

    Kagan noted that the Obama health law doesn’t require corporate employers to provide insurance. The Hobby Lobby owners could have paid a fine, which, she observed, is much less than the cost of insurance. It’s “a choice,” she said.

  6. rikyrah says:

    Barbara Boxer: Why no Viagra complaints?

    By TAL KOPAN | 3/25/14 11:28 AM EDT

    As the Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday about the Obamacare mandate on birth control coverage, Sen. Barbara Boxer questioned why those up in arms about the requirement have no problem with most insurance covering Viagra.

    “I have never heard Hobby Lobby or any other corporation, I could be wrong, or any other boss complain that Viagra is covered in many insurance plans, practically all of them, or other kinds of things, you know, for men, which I won’t go into,” Boxer said Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Jansing & Co.”

    Read more:

  7. rikyrah says:



    The Worst Wing
    How the East Wing shrank Michelle Obama

    In the fall of 2010, the nasty midterms drawing to a close, Michelle Obama was contemplating her next move. Two years into her tenure as first lady, the breathless fixation on guest lists and china selections was subsiding into routine, and she wanted a plan for the rest of her husband’s time in office. Of course, her calendar would never lack for National Hostess duties—the obligatory social functions outlined in binders left by Laura Bush’s team. She had already launched Let’s Move!, the childhood obesity initiative, and Joining Forces, a program to help military families and veterans, was also in the works. But she wondered whether she should do more. And so the first lady directed her staff to conduct a review of her options and to hire a top-flight communications director to lead the effort. Some palace watchers had been underwhelmed so far by her agenda, and this was an opportunity to prove these critics wrong.

    Perhaps no first lady in recent memory has entered the stately recesses of the East Wing under a higher burden of expectation than Michelle Obama. From her earliest appearances on the 2008 campaign trail, it was clear that she possessed rare political gifts. Like Hillary Clinton before her, she was an accomplished lawyer with policy smarts. But unlike Clinton, she was also an electrifying speaker, able to translate her husband’s lofty agenda into a grounded, commonsense morality. When Michelle Obama entered the White House in 2009, she attracted staffers eager to bring about the policy prescriptions that she had so forcefully advocated on the trail.

    This meant that, when it came to the search for a communications director, the office had no trouble finding a candidate with impressive credentials. Kristina Schake, a California political operative, had led the fight against California’s Proposition 8 and helped steer Maria Shriver’s annual women’s conference, widely hailed as a breakout success. Schake’s hiring seemed to signal that the first lady was ready to embark on a new phase, focused on issues of public health and equality. “Reading the tea leaves, I was struck by the level of ambition it communicated,” says Jodi Kantor, the New York Times political reporter and author of a book about the Obamas.

    Two and a half years later, Schake would be out the door, replaced by an executive from Estée Lauder. What Schake couldn’t have known in 2010—and what Mrs. Obama’s hyper-motivated, highly accomplished staffers would never publicly admit—is that the first lady’s office can be a confining, frustrating, even miserable place to work. Jealousy and discontentment have festered, as courtiers squabble over the allocation of responsibility and access to Mrs. Obama, both of which can be aggravatingly scarce. Fueling these sentiments, according to former East Wing insiders, is the exacting but often ambivalent leadership style of the first lady herself.

  8. LIVE: President Obama Speaks at the Palais Des Beaux-Arts (BOZAR)

  9. rikyrah says:



    Crimean women are shocked by the amount of child benefits in Russia

    03.23.2014 Censor.NET

    Financial allowances for the birth of a child in Crimea will decrease substantially in accordance with Russian laws.

    This was reported by Censor.NET with reference to the Facebook page of journalist Viktor Ukolov.

    “Well, it seems as if the amount of child benefits in Russia will become a truly sobering cold shower over the heads of many moms in the heated Crimea. The first surprise lies in the term of a maternity leave, during which a workplace spot is preserved. The Crimean people will have to get used to the fact that it [maternity leave] does not last a year, as it does in the Ukraine they are so weary of. In the Russian Federation a maternity leave can either be short or long, 70 or 84 days respectively. A longer leave is provided if the parents are expecting twins or more children,” Ukolov said.

    According to his data, the size of a child benefit depends on the salary at the last place of employment and may vary from RUR 25 563 to RUR 207 123, i.e. from UAH 6 774 to UAH 54 887 [from USD 719 to USD 5,827].

    “In Russia it’s especially hard (how can one forget the famous journalist Dmitriy Kiseliov here) for those moms who worked less than six months before taking a maternity leave. In this case they will only receive RUR 5 554 (data for 2014), or UAH 1471 [USD 156]. Meanwhile, unemployed moms are not supposed to receive a one-time maternity and child benefits at all,” informs the journalist.

  10. President Obama Takes A Big Risk And Scores A Big Win For Democracy-And No One Gives a damn…

    President Obama pulled off a master stroke this week. He deployedU.S. military force in support of an infant democracy that desperately needs our help. The result was a resounding success, a vivid illustration of how the United States can put its unchallenged power to positive ends. He did it, once again, by sending in the SEALs, the U.S. Navy’s famous special forces. But this time they weren’t double-tapping a terrorist. Instead they seized a mysterious tanker that had skipped out of Libya with a shipment of oil that one of the country’s rogue militias was trying to sell on the open market. By doing it the SEALs foiled a potentially game-changing challenge to the authority of Libya’s hard-pressed government – one of the very few in the Arab world to have actually been elected by its own country’s people.

    The reaction in Washington: a giant yawn. Deafening silence from Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who are always quick to demand U.S. military action in situations where it will usually make things worse. Fox News barely noticed. Nor was there a word of praise from the president’s liberal allies on Capitol Hill. Even the New York Times ran a perfunctory report. And as for the rest of America: Well, hey, the NCAA tournament is getting under way, and there are big controversies from the world of reality TV that need attending to. The collective disinterest is even more appalling when you consider that the country we just helped is Libya. You remember, right — the place where our ambassador was killed by terrorists two years ago? The president’s critics never tire of bringing that up, since they can use it to score political points against him

    Oil is Libya’s lifeblood. The economy entirely depends on it; turn off the taps and everything grinds to a halt. Make no mistake: This was not “leading from behind.” This was an act of daring from a president who’s often typecast as too passive for his own good. But it was also a smart, calculated move — a truly surgical operation of a kind that probably only the United States could have pulled off with such confidence. It sends exactly the message that needs to be sent: If you try freelancing with oil resources that rightfully belong to the Libyan people, you won’t get far.

  11. rikyrah says:

    Why Is a Florida Man Facing Life in Prison For Lending a Friend His Car and Going to Sleep?

    Ryan Holle, who has no prior record, is currently serving his eleventh year of a life sentence.

    Charles Grodin

    March 24, 2014

    Several years ago I read a piece in The New York Times by Adam Liptak about Ryan Holle. Ryan, who had no prior record, is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole in Florida. He was convicted of pre-meditated murder, even though no one, including the prosecutor, disputes that Ryan was asleep in his bed at home at the time of the crime. This could only happen in America, because we are the only country that retains the Felony Murder Rule. What the Felony Murder Rule essentially says is if anyone has anything to do with a felony in which a murder takes place, such as a robbery, that person is as guilty as the person who has committed the murder. Every other country including England, India and Canada has gotten rid of it because of its unintended consequences. In America, Michigan, Kentucky and Hawaii no longer have the law. The Canadian Supreme Court ruled, when they discarded the Felony Murder Rule, that a person should be held responsible for his own actions not the actions of others.

    Exactly what did Ryan Holle do? At a party in his apartment over ten years ago, he lent his car to his roommate and went to sleep. He had lent his car to his roommate many times before with no negative consequences. This time the roommate and others went to a house where they knew a woman was selling marijuana from a safe. They planned to get the marijuana, but in the course of their break-in a teenage girl was killed. Those at the scene all received appropriately harsh sentences, but so did Ryan Holle. I got involved with the case shortly after I read Adam Liptak’s piece. I have been advocating on behalf of clemency for Ryan, who was first offered a plea deal of ten years but chose to go to trial. I’m sure it was difficult for a young man, who had never been arrested, and who believed he had done nothing to accept that he should go to prison for ten years, so he went to trial, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole. He is now in his eleventh year of incarceration. Again, this is a young man who was home asleep in bed at the time of the crime. I personally know of no other felony murder conviction where the person was not even present, and the pre-meditated part of the conviction suggests that Ryan knew his car was going to be used in the course of a murder, which to me, isn’t credible. To the best of my knowledge, in the entire history of the criminal justice system in America, no one has ever been convicted and sentenced to life in prison for loaning a car and going to sleep.

  12. The Right to Heal: 11 Years After Iraq Invasion, U.S. Urged on Reparations for War’s Enduring Wounds

    Eleven years ago this month, the U.S. invaded Iraq. Today, a group of Iraq civilians and U.S. veterans of the war are coming together in Washington to demand the U.S. government be held accountable for the lasting effects of war at home and abroad. We are joined by two members of “The Right to Heal” coalition: Joyce Wagner, co-director of Iraq Veterans Against the War, who served two tours in Iraq; and Yanar Mohammed, President of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq. She recently gathered thousands of signatures in Baghdad to request a hearing before the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights — a request that was denied.

  13. rikyrah says:

    W-T-F is this foolishness?


    Mar 25, 2014 9:42AM ET / Culture

    Sasha Obama Is About to Become Teen-in-Chief

    Esther Zuckerman

    Sasha Obama is about to become a teenager, and photos from her trip to China with her mom prove she is about to become the ultimate teenager, the teenager-in-chief, shall we say.

    Sasha turns 13 in June. But she’s been barely concealing her disdain for basically everything for a while now. She was so over the turkey pardon. She yawned at the inauguration. Now she’s taking her famous sass on the road. Cue the McKayla Maroney references. (Thanks, New York Post.)

    See, for instance, how she shoots a glance almost directly at a camera as she and her mother and sister are met by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

    • Ametia says:

      Well you know, it’s like mother like daughter. the angry black woman meme.
      These folks are despicable and have absolutely no life, no class, no SOUL.

    • Liza says:

      I think this is actually a pathetic attempt by the writer, Esther Zuckerman, to be noticed.

      Okay, Ms. Zuckerman, you have been noticed, but in a bad way. Now stop writing nonsense and leave Sasha Obama alone.

  14. Secret Service agents on Obama detail sent home from Netherlands after night of drinking

    Three Secret Service agents responsible for protecting President Obama in Amsterdam this week were sent home and put on administrative leave Sunday after going out for a night of drinking, according to three people familiar with the incident. One of the agents was found drunk and passed out in a hotel hallway, the people said.

    The hotel staff alerted the U.S. Embassy in the Netherlands after finding the unconscious agent Sunday morning, a day before Obama arrived in the country, according to two of the people. The embassy then alerted Secret Service managers on the presidential trip, which included the agency’s director, Julia Pierson.

  15. rikyrah says:

    Matthew @mistabaka
    More than 1.1M people visited yesterday. 2nd highest traffic day ever – @jbendery @Breaking

    8:05 PM – 25 Mar 2014

  16. rikyrah says:

    Sunday, March 23, 2014
    Last Call For Rand 2016

    Elias Isquith (who I don’t always agree with) does get it right on why Rand Paul has no shot in 2016.

    To recap, here’s the case for Rand Paul, millennial hero: He’s against surveillance and drone strikes, two issues on which the millennial vote is divided; he’s against comprehensive immigration reform and same-sex marriage, two things that millennial voters strongly support; he’s against big government and universal health care, two more things a majority of millennial voters back; and he likes to talk about getting people of color to vote for him, despite supporting voter suppression and the right of businesses to engage in race-based discrimination. Oh, and he’s comfortable telling the first black president, the one who “surrounds himself with Martin Luther King memorabilia in [the] Oval Office,” how he’s failing to live up to King’s legacy.

    So can we stop with this nonsense now? Please?

    It’s very true that the youth vote won 2012 for President Obama, particularly in Virginia, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. It’s also true that voting restrictions have been toughened in all four of these states. President Obama won the under 30 vote in all four states by getting at least 60% or more, and that if Romney had split the youth vote 50-50 in those four states, he’d be President right now.

    But in order to believe that Rand Paul has a legitimate shot of winning in 2016, you have to believe that there’s a large enough Dudebro contingent to abandon the Dems entirely and that this group is large enough to somehow erase Hillary’s lead with women, and that Hillary will somehow manage to alienate voters of color more than Rand Paul.

  17. rikyrah says:

    GOP line prevails on Ukraine aid package
    03/25/14 03:36 PM—Updated 03/26/14 01:42 AM
    By Steve Benen

    By late yesterday, an aid package for Ukraine appeared to be on track. The Senate easily overcame Republican opposition to advance the bill, which included changes to the International Monetary Fund to expand loans to developing countries, including Ukraine.

    But for reasons even many conservatives struggle to explain, House Republicans continued to insist that they would kill the bill if it included what’s effectively an accounting change within IMF rules.

    Democrats had a decision to make: drop the IMF provision or watch Republicans kill the entire proposal. They went with the former.

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced Tuesday that Democrats have agreed to nix the International Monetary Fund provision in a Ukraine aid package, in what amounts to a victory for House Republican leaders and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and a defeat for the White House.

    The Nevada Democrat told reporters Tuesday that he would like to move the bill quickly – perhaps today.

    Earlier, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., conceded that removing the IMF provisions was the likely outcome.

  18. rikyrah says:

    Russia Is Not Exactly a Big Winner in the Crimean Dispute
    —By Kevin Drum
    Mon Mar. 24, 2014 2:36 PM PDT

    So how are things going on the anti-Russia front? A quick recap:

    Last week President Obama announced sanctions on high-ranking Russians. He also signed an executive order allowing him to impose sanctions on Russian industry. France has threatened to cancel the sale of two warships to the Russian navy. The G8 has effectively kicked Russia out of the club. Ukraine has cut off electricity to Crimea. The countries on Russia’s borders are increasingly united against their next-door neighbor. The Russian economy, hardly robust in the first place, has already begun to tank. Ukraine has agreed to sign an association agreement with the European Union, precisely the action that Vladimir Putin so desperately tried to head off last year—and which triggered the Maidan protests that brought down the Ukrainian government. Today, European leaders made it clear that further economic sanctions against Russia were likely in the near future. And that’s just so far.

  19. rikyrah says:

    A chess player who only makes poor moves
    03/25/14 05:00 PM—Updated 03/26/14 01:46 AM
    By Steve Benen

    Many Republicans in D.C. continue to believe Russian President Vladimir Putin is a strategic wiz – “running circles around” us inept Americans – but there’s ample evidence that we’re watching a grandmaster chess player who only makes misguided moves.

    Russia’s economy is barely growing, inflation is rising fast, and capital is pouring out of the country, the Economy Ministry said on Monday, a sign that international tensions around Ukraine are already inflicting severe economic costs.

    In February Russia’s gross domestic product eked out growth of just 0.3 percent year-on-year, up from a revised 0.1 percent in January, Russia’s Deputy Economy Minister Andrei Klepach said.

    Last year the economy grew by just 1.3 percent, far below initial forecasts, but there had been hopes that growth would rebound this year. Instead Russia’s economic performance is deteriorating further as the international tensions around Ukraine lead capital to flee Russia.

    Behold, the Russian genius that continues to amaze American conservatives.

  20. rikyrah says:

    Obama admin shows flexibility on ACA deadline
    03/26/14 08:00 AM
    By Steve Benen

    President Obama and many of his allies have been working overtime lately, reminding consumers that the Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment period ends on March 31, now just five days away. Knowing how common it is for people to wait until the last minute, the White House has been pushing aggressively to get the word out about the deadline.

    But as of last night, there’s some newfound flexibility in that deadline for some consumers.

    The Obama administration has decided to give extra time to Americans who say that they are unable to enroll in health plans through the federal insurance marketplace by the March 31 deadline.

    Federal officials confirmed Tuesday evening that all consumers who have begun to apply for coverage on, but who do not finish by Monday, will have until about mid-April to ask for an extension.

    Under the new rules, people will be able to qualify for an extension by checking a blue box on to indicate that they tried to enroll before the deadline.

    This is hardly shocking; we saw similar flexibility in December for consumers hoping to sign up for coverage that would start on Jan. 1. The administration has frequently compared this to those who are still in line to vote when technically the voting period has ended – if you’ve made a good-faith effort to show up, you won’t be turned away.

  21. rikyrah says:

    House Dems look to force vote on immigration

    03/26/14 08:37 AM
    By Steve Benen

    It wouldn’t take much for Congress to successfully pass comprehensive immigration reform. By most estimates, the popular, bipartisan Senate bill would very likely pass the Republican-led House if only GOP leaders would bring it up for a vote. So far, they’ve refused.

    And with this in mind, House Democrats are launching a discharge petition today, intended to force the issue.

    They’ll need to get 218 signatures on the petition in order to compel GOP leadership to bring up their legislation, which mirrors the Senate-passed immigration bill, except for some tweaks in the border security language. […]

    Democrats will also be touting a Congressional Budget Office report reaffirming that overhauling the nation’s immigration system would cut the deficit by about $900 billion over twenty years, a figure that had lawmakers crowing Tuesday.

  22. rikyrah says:

    Texas’ Perry sees pay-equity fight as ‘nonsense’
    03/26/14 09:09 AM
    By Steve Benen

    Perhaps more than anywhere else in the country, Texas is home to a spirited argument over pay equity. Lately, it’s an argument the right has been losing.

    Last week, Cari Christman, the executive director of a political action committee for Texas Republican women, got the ball rolling when she struggled to explain her party’s opposition to pay-equity laws. She said women don’t need measures like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, in part because “women are extremely busy.”

    Soon after, Beth Cubriel, the executive director of the Texas Republican Party, said women are to blame for receiving unequal pay for equal work. She argued that if women “become better negotiators,” the problem will take care of itself.

    Yesterday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) appeared on msnbc and seemed annoyed by the entire subject, calling the debate “nonsense,” and urging Democrats to focus on “substantive issues” – as if this issue isn’t substantive at all.

    The answer is that the laws on the books aren’t “clearly taking care of this.”

    For example, as Laura Bassett noted last week, Abbott, the Republican gubernatorial candidate and former state attorney general, has “actively fought against equal pay legislation in his career, successfully defending a state college that had paid a female professor less than her colleagues for the same work.”

    For that matter, in Abbott’s Texas office, “most female assistant attorneys general make less on average than do men in the same job classification.”

  23. rikyrah says:

    The Answer is Class

    [ 132 ] March 23, 2014 | Erik Loomis

    This Times op-ed on why people born in certain counties dominate Wikipedia entries spends a lot of words to miss the obvious answer. An excerpt:


    Or, it’s because you are born rich or you are born poor and that fact goes a very long ways in determining your future in this nation. Even his discussion of African-Americans and immigrants shows this–his examples are people born into the elites of these groups. It’s remarkable how obvious this is and how he totally misses this in a 21st century America where class-based analysis is unfashionable.

    The mention of “genes” is basically playing with eugenics, although I’m sure this is unintentional.

  24. rikyrah says:

    March 24, 2014 5:41 PM
    The Mess That is Rand Paul’s Foreign Policy Platform
    By Ed Kilgore

    Those paying attention to Sen. Rand Paul’s efforts to lay the groundwork for a 2016 presidential candidacy are probably aware that he has been gradually and somewhat stealthily distancing himself from his father’s rigorous non-interventionist position—particularly when it comes to enabling himself to join the general Republican assault on Barack Obama for “weakness.”

    The first comprehensive analysis of where Rand stands today on foreign policy was written by my friend Will Marshall for Politico Magazine. And the technical term he uses is “a mess,” which has gotten messier as Paul has criticized Obama for an insufficiently confrontational policy towards Russia’s recent behavior (not exactly helped by his father’s question about the Russian acquisition of Crimea: “What’s the big deal?”).

    Paul’s mishmash of contradictory ideas for dealing with the Crimea crisis doesn’t bode well for his presidential prospects. It reflects his failure to fuse libertarians’ minimalist conception of the state’s role with “peace through strength” conservatism.

  25. rikyrah says:

    March 25, 2014 9:47 AM
    The Crumbling of Common Core Begins
    By Ed Kilgore

    Watching opposition to the state-developed, business-supported Common Core Standards for K-12 schools steadily increase has sort of been like watching an earthquake shake a mountain: it could produce a calamity or just a bad memory. But now that Indiana has become the first state to formally withdraw from the initiative, it’s going to be interesting to see if and when other states follow.

    As AP’s Bill Barrow notes in a good summary of where the initiative stands, there has long been bipartisan opposition to Common Core, with some conservatives calling it an impingement on local control of schools (even though it’s not a federal initiative), and anti-testing activists supported by some teachers unions on the left opposing it for very different reasons. But it’s conservatives who are now taking the lead, in state after state, to take down Common Core. So given the business community’s central role in supporting Common Core, and the heavy involvement of Republican governors in developing it, it’s inevitably going to be a big deal in intra-GOP politics, up to and including the 2016 presidential race. Some very familiar names on the national scene are already choosing up sides and going at it:

  26. rikyrah says:

    The End of Anti-Discrimination
    The stakes in Tuesday’s Hobby Lobby arguments couldn’t be higher

    This week, the Supreme Court is considering two cases that may determine whether the justices invoke the First Amendment to blow up anti-discrimination laws and the Affordable Care Act. On Monday, the Court delayed a decision about whether to hear Elane Photography v. Willock, a lawsuit filed by a photography studio in New Mexico whose owners said they had a religious objection to shooting a same sex commitment ceremony. And on Tuesday, the Court will hear 90 minutes of oral arguments in the most closely watched cases of the term, Hobby Lobby and Conestega Woods, which raise this question: Can religiously motivated employers in for-profit corporations claim an exemption from the Obamacare requirements to provide contraceptive carriers?

    Although there are technical differences between the two cases, both will force the justices to confront the future balance between the First Amendment on one hand and anti-discrimination laws on the other. In particular, the justices will have to decide whether the logic of Citizens United—that individuals who organize themselves as for-profit corporations have the same First Amendment rights as natural persons—includes rights of religious freedom as well as free speech. The justices may find narrower grounds to decide all three cases, but taken to their logical conclusion, the claims of the religious business owners in all of them would mean the end of anti-discrimination laws as we know them.


    Epstein hopes the Court in both the Elane Photography and Hobby Lobby cases will extend the logic of Citizen United to hold that commercial enterprises have the same First Amendment rights of religious expression and free speech as natural persons. “Citizens United held that nobody, when they adopt the corporate form, has to surrender individual rights,” he said. “Every person should have the ordinary ability to pick the people with whom they wish to deal and the terms and conditions under which they want to trade. The Supreme Court dashed that to bits with the employment cases in the 1930s and 1960s and I regard that as a mistake—there’s no evidence that the heavy hand of the government can do better than the competitive market.” Dorf’s response: “Society has decided, not withstanding Professor Epstein, that we need public accommodations laws and anti-discrimination laws. Will the Court say that, even in the economic realm, we have a libertarian principle that prevails over the egalitarian one? There’s no way to adopt that without going back to a pre-1937 view of the Constitution.”

  27. rikyrah says:

    March 25, 2014 12:23 PM
    Work and Its Rewards
    By Ed Kilgore

    I noticed an interesting disconnect in a new Battleground survey (jointly conducted by the Republican Tarrance Group and the Democratic Lake Research Partners) out today. There was a battery of questions aimed at divining contemporary attitudes towards what might be termed the American Dream, or more specifically, toward the connection between work and economic success.

    The very first tested that ancient proposition: “In America, anyone can get ahead if they work hard enough.” 64% of respondents agreed (38% strongly).

    But a bit later, an inverse proposition was offered: “People who work hard for a living and play by the rules never seem to get ahead.” 54% agreed (30% strongly), while 44% disagreed (only 19% strongly).

    Right after that, 64% (44% strongly) agreed that “The economic rules in this country unfairly
    favor the rich.” And 59% (41% strongly) agreed that “The government should be doing something to reduce the gap between the rich and everyone else.” But “everyone else” may be an ambivalent concept, since fully 72% (44% strongly) agreed that “Middle class people have it the toughest in our economic system. There are assistance programs for the poor and tax breaks for the rich, but no real help for middle class people.”

  28. rikyrah says:

    March 25, 2014 4:01 PM
    College of the Confederacy

    By Ed Kilgore

    If there’s an American city that could use a break from identification with its role in the Civil War, it’s probably Charleston, SC. It has a lot going for it—notably world-class cuisine, distinctive architecture and a vibrant arts scene—without preoccupation with Fort Sumter or its citizens’ and its state’s more general role in beginning the secession landslide. The Civil War history is obviously there, for those interested in it. But why bring coals to Newcastle by drawing attention to it?

    Unfortunately, that’s what is happening with the appointment of SC Lieutenant Governor Glenn McConnell as president of the College of Charleston.


    The head of the SC NAACP, had an especially tart comment, per TPM’s Eric Lach:

    Dr. Lonnie Randolph Jr., president of the South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, criticized the way McConnell landed a “plush job without having the credentials.” Randolph pointed out that the college’s board of trustees are elected by the state’s General Assembly, where McConnell served for decades.

    “The process is best described as the good ol’ boy system at [its] best in South Carolina again,” Randolph told TPM in an interview this week. “It’s just unfair to any good-thinking person that the best candidate was chosen for the job.”

    Randolph said McConnell’s “image is not reflective of America.”

    “If they wanted to be called the College of the Confederacy rather than the College of Charleston, he would be a perfect fit,” Randolph said.

  29. rikyrah says:

    March 25, 2014 2:53 PM
    Is Nate Silver Biting the Hoof That Feeds?
    By Ed Kilgore

    After a rocky rollout of the new FiveThirtyEight site, producing considerable criticism of specific posts and of the general claims being made for “data journalism,” Nate Silver’s getting a new round of criticism, this time specifically from Democrats, after his initial 2014 Senate forecasts projected a probable GOP takeover of the chamber. I discussed the projections themselves yesterday, but it’s worth taking a look at Dave Weigel’s analysis of the blowback Nate’s getting from elements of the Donkey Party:

  30. rikyrah says:

    Read This One Document To Understand What The Christian Right Hopes To Gain From Hobby Lobby
    By Ian Millhiser on March 24, 2014 at 9:36 am

    2009 was a grim year for social conservatives. Barack Obama was an ambitious and popular new president. Republicans, and their conservative philosophy, were largely discredited in the public eye by a failed war and a massive recession. And the GOP’s effort to reshape its message was still in its awkward adolescence. If the conservative movement had a mascot, it would have been a white man dressed as Paul Revere and waving a misspelled sign.

    Amidst this wreckage, more than two hundred of the nation’s leading Christian conservatives joined together in a statement expressing their dismay at the state of the nation. “Many in the present administration want to make abortions legal at any stage of fetal development,” their statement claimed, while “[m]ajorities in both houses of Congress hold pro-abortion views.” Meanwhile, they feared that the liberals who now controlled the country “are very often in the vanguard of those who would trample upon the freedom of others to express their religious and moral commitments to the sanctity of life and to the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife.”

    The signatories to this statement, which they named the “Manhattan Declaration,” included many of America’s most prominent Catholic bishops and clergy of similar prominence in other Christian sects. It included leaders of top anti-gay organizations like the National Organization for Marriage, and of more broadly focused conservative advocacy shops such as the Family Research Council. It included university presidents and deans from Christian conservative colleges. And it included the top editors from many of the Christian right’s leading publications.

    Perhaps most significantly, however, the document’s signatories includes Alan Sears, the head of one of the two conservative legal groups litigating what are likely to be the two most important cases decided by the Supreme Court this term. Indeed, the Manhattan Declaration offers a virtual roadmap to understanding what religious conservatives hope to gain from Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood v. Sebelius, two cases the justices will hear Tuesday which present the question whether a business owner’s religious objections to birth control trump their legal obligation to include it in their employee’s health plan.

  31. rikyrah says:

    How Two Republican Judges Could Blow Up Obamacare Tomorrow
    By Ian Millhiser on March 24, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    At 9:30am on Tuesday, thirty minutes before the Supreme Court convenes to decide the closely watched Hobby Lobby case, three lesser known judges will hear a last ditch effort to blow up the Affordable Care Act masterminded by a conservative law professor and a staffer at one of the nation’s leading conservative think tanks.

    The lawsuit is unlikely to win. Then again, legal scholars from across the political spectrum said the same thing about the first round of lawsuits seeking to undermine the Affordable Care Act, and the Supreme Court came within a hair of embracing the legal theory behind that lawsuit. As two of the three judges hearing Tuesday’s case are Republicans, there is no guarantee that the panel will turn down this opportunity to carve a hole in President Obama’s leading accomplishment.

    The Affordable Care Act gives states the option to either run their own health care exchange or to allow the federal government to run an exchange for them. The theory behind Halbig v. Sebelius is that residents of the 34 states who took the second option are not allowed to receive subsidies that are intended to enable them to pay for health insurance. Should the plaintiffs succeed, an estimated 6.5 million fewer people will obtain health coverage by 2016, and many of those who do obtain it will have to pay much more to do so.

    The legal arguments in this case are almost nauseating in their complexity, but they more or less boil down to this: the plaintiffs identified two places in the Affordable Care Act’s text which, if taken out of context, suggest that Congress did not intend federally-run exchanges to offer subsidies. Specifically, they note two places which seem to tie the subsidies to “an Exchange established by the State.” Indeed, as a federal trial court that rejected their arguments acknowledges, this language when “viewed in isolation, appear to support plaintiffs’ interpretation.”

  32. rikyrah says:

    Justice Kennedy Thinks Hobby Lobby Is An Abortion Case — That’s Bad News For Birth Control
    By Ian Millhiser on March 25, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    WASHINGTON, DC — Justice Anthony Kennedy thinks gay people are fabulous. All three of the Supreme Court’s most important gay rights decisions were written by Justice Kennedy. So advocates for birth control had a simple task today: convince Kennedy that allowing religious employers to exempt themselves from a federal law expanding birth control access would lead to all kinds of horrible consequences in future cases — including potentially allowing religious business owners to discriminate against gay people.

    Kennedy, however, also hates abortion. Although Kennedy cast the key vote in Planned Parenthood v. Casey upholding what he called the “essential holding of Roe v. Wade,” he’s left no doubt that he cast that vote very grudgingly. Casey significantly rolled back the constitutional right to choose an abortion. And Kennedy hasn’t cast a single pro-choice vote in an abortion case in the last 22 years.

    So Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, the two companies claiming that they should be exempt from the birth control rules had an ace in their pocket as well. Their path to victory involved convincing Kennedy that their cases are really about abortion — and it looks like Kennedy convinced himself of that point on his own.

    It was clear from the get go that the Court’s liberals understood that their best course involved highlighting the dangerous consequences of a victory for Hobby Lobby. Paul Clement, the de facto Solicitor General of the Republican Party who argued the case on Hobby Lobby’s behalf, barely uttered his first sentence before Justice Sonia Sotomayor cut him off to ask what other medical procedures religious employers could refuse to cover in their employee health plans. Justice Elena Kagan quickly joined the party. If Hobby Lobby can deny birth control coverage, Kagan asked, what about employers who object to vaccinations? Or blood transfusions?

  33. rikyrah says:

    Bizarro World
    Posted by John Cole at 10:34 pm

    Everyday when I check the news, I really think I’m having flashbacks from a different lifestyle 25+ years ago. It boggles my mind that a major news network spent two weeks doing wall to wall coverage on a plane that obviously had crashed at sea. No, it was not sucked up into a black hole, no, no one took it to wherever, etc. Wasn’t it fucking obvious they were all dead? Don’t terrorists who hijack plans either make demands or crash it into something to make a point? Wouldn’t a letter taking responsibility have surfaced? But yet CNN spent fucking days covering every preposterous angle. Of course it is a tragedy, but why do we have to turn it into speculation porn?

    The major news of today is that the Supreme Court’s swing vote sociopath, Anthony Kennedy, thinks the Hobby Lobby issue is about abortion. It’s depressing enough that this troglodyte has this much power over Americans, but it is not more depressing than the fact that he is the fucking swing vote, which means that almost half the court is already so far gone that we have to worry about fucking Anthony Kennedy’s personal lady parts issues. And even worse than that is this has even gotten to the Supreme Court. That’s the most fucked up thing- we are dealing with this issue because our religious nuts are that much in control of the national debate. For me, the whole Hobby Lobby case boils down to this

  34. rikyrah says:

    March 25, 2014, 8:13 am

    Things Go Better With Kochs

    Hey, I had to use that headline before someone else claimed it.

    David Weigel reports that Democrats are finding the Koch brothers an effective fundraising tool — emails that bash the Kochs raise three times as much as emails that don’t.

    And you can see why: the Kochs are perfect villains. It’s not just what they are — serious evildoers who use their wealth to push hard-line right-wing, anti-environmental policies that redound very much to their own benefit. It’s also what they aren’t: they’re wealthy heirs, not self-made men, they aren’t identified with innovation (which you can at least argue for Bill Gates), they haven’t made money for other people like Warren Buffett. So focusing on the Kochs is a way to personalize a vision of conservative politics as a defense of people with unearned privilege.

    And here’s the thing: that vision is basically right. Very few of the superrich are movie stars, even if the usual suspects love to pretend otherwise. Not many are innovators. A fair number are self-made wheeler-dealers, but a growing number probably were born to great wealth.

  35. rikyrah says:

    Good Morning, Everyone :)

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