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Protesters rally at the steps of the Supreme Court as arguments begin today to challenge the Affordable Care Act's requirement that employers provide coverage for contraception as part of an employee's health care, in Washington March 25, 2014. The U.S. S
Or, alternatively, get a grip.
While the Supreme Court weighs whether or not the Congress of the United States intentionally wrote the Affordable Care Act in such a way as to make it largely dysfunctional (no, really), can we all just take a moment to reflect on just how dreadfully important it is to some people that we as a nation not give people slightly better health insurance? I mean ye gods, people.
Signs declaring the law a success were countered with accusations of gross, illegal manipulation. [Affordable Care Act opponent] Kerpen, now in a coat, accused the administration of using the prospect of state-based health insurance market calamities to “intimidate the court to decide not on legal grounds, but on policy ground and political grounds.” Down the block, pro-Obamacare groups produced in-the-flesh examples of what that calamity would look like.
Well sure you have all your people with pre-existing conditions who were largely shut out of the American healthcare system before on grounds that it just wasn't profitable to keep them alive, but that's a small price to pay for ... what? Ol' Biff here not having to participate in a system of rampant health-having? This notion that the old system of people just not getting treated for their conditions until they had to go to the emergency room, after which point they would quickly be reduced to poverty or bankruptcy—this pining for the old system as the true American way, a way that didn't need reforming, is more than a little bit nuts.
If the emotional gulf between supporters and opponents was wide, the political one seemed unbridgeable. Asked what he thought about the millions of people who might lose their health care if the subsidies are struck down, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) argued that they’d welcome a return to the pre-Obamacare days. This struck several advocates as, well, insane.

“I would ask, who is he talking to?” said Dr. Debra Hatmaker, executive director of the American Nurses Association.

Indeed, Steve King does strike many people as insane. That's not really new, actually, but I dare say they may be onto something, what with Steve King's pronouncement that sick people don't actually want health care. Because true patriots die on their couch after years of battling treatable illnesses with crappy profit margins, we presume. Or again I might point to my daughter, wholly uninsurable for any illness for the first decade of her life due to an inconsequential heart murmur at birth that had vanished within a year: fuck yes, Rep. Steve King, what would America be if children like her were allowed to visit the doctor's office for minor and unrelated illnesses or injuries without paying exorbitant rates that poorer families could never afford. What monsters we would be.

Who are these people, that pine for the not-very-old days? You would assume they were people who had never been sick a day in their lives nor known anyone who was, but there are extraordinarily stupid people like militia wanker Richard Mack who spend their days vowing to never buy themselves gubbermint-mandated insurance even while they beg for funds to treat their own medical conditions. Yes, that is a fairly good definition of insane.

Y'all are nuts, and I mean that sincerely. We can argue over the precise mechanisms of how the American healthcare system should be structured—have you met my good personal friend, single-payer?—but this notion among sign-wavers at the Supreme Court that the old, colossally expensive, sucks-to-be-you system was the only true American way was and remains a symptom of lunacy. And no, it is still not covered.

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U.S. Senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL) (L) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) (R) chat before United States Attorney General Eric Holder (not pictured) testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on oversight of the Justice Department and the reform of government surveillance programs, in Washington January 29, 2014.        REUTERS/Gary Cameron  (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW MILITARY) - RTX17ZW5
Hey Jeff, how 'bout you quit stabbing me in the back.
Alabama's anti-immigration senator, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, doesn't want to discriminate in his disdain for immigrants—he uniformly wants to keep them out! It doesn't matter if they fall under President Obama's 2014 immigration actions or they might be eligible for an H-1B visa for highly skilled workers, Sessions opposes them.

Fresh off his failed crusade to defund Obama's executive actions in the Homeland Security bill, he's mounting his next battle, reports Seung Min Kim:

Using his new gavel on the Senate immigration panel, Sessions said he plans to hold oversight hearings on H-1B visas that benefit high-skilled immigrants — one of the tech industry’s top priorities in Washington. Sessions has been in touch with tech employees who say they’ve been laid off in favor of foreign workers.
You gotta give the guy credit—he's consistent. After helping to block a George W. Bush-backed immigration bill in 2006/2007 and helping to ensure the House would ultimately torpedo the Senate's bipartisan 2013 bill, he's taking on his own party again.
Now Sessions is moving to line up opposition against H-1B visas in case Senate Republicans move forward on legislation. Building a more robust high-tech workforce through immigration has been a rare area of agreement between the two parties, even as the H-1B issue itself has stalled over the years.

Earlier this year, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced the so-called Immigration Innovation — or “I-Squared” — which would boost the number of H-1B visas issued each year to as high as 195,000. Currently, the H-1B cap is set at 65,000 annually, though an extra 20,000 visas are set aside for immigrants with a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. school. The measure is backed by a handful of Senate Democrats and key Republicans, including Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, John McCain of Arizona and Jeff Flake of Arizona.

That of course, is a tech-backed bill with bipartisan support that might actually be able to reach the president's desk. But not if Sessions can help it.

Progressives really should thank ol' JBS. He's helping to ensure Republicans won't have anything to show for their majority control, other than alienating an entire generation of Latino voters.

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Iran's Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant.
The Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran.
Burgess Everett and Manu Raju report that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has chosen to delay a vote on the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 that he had slated for next Tuesday:
He informed the Senate Republican Conference of the decision on Thursday afternoon following Senate Democrats’ decision to vote against advancing the bill before March 24.

“It is clear that Senate Democrats will filibuster their own bill—a bill they rushed to introduce before the White House cut a deal with Iran. So, instead, the Senate will turn next to the anti-human-trafficking legislation while Democrats decide whether or not they believe they and Congress as a whole should be able to review and vote on any deal the President cuts with the leaders of Iran,” said Don Stewart, a spokesman for McConnell.

Wait a minute. It was not the five Democratic sponsors of the bill who were rushing it. The bill, which would require congressional approval of any deal struck between the United States, five other nations and Iran over development of its nuclear program, was introduced by Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee on Friday. He said then that he wanted to move it out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in time for a floor vote next week.

Just hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave an unprecedented speech criticizing terms of the deal to a joint session of Congress Tuesday, McConnell announced the bill would be voted on next week. Soon thereafter, Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Bob Menendez of New Jersey, two of the bill's Democratic sponsors, raised objections to holding a vote before the Foreign Relations Committee had held hearings and before the March 31 deadline the United States has set for the deal to be completed. Soon, the other three Democratic sponsors joined those two and said they could no longer support an accelerated consideration of the bill. Subsequently, they threatened to filibuster it if it came to the Senate floor before committee hearings are held.

While it's certainly fair to call this a bipartisan bill—six Republicans, five Democrats and one independent are co-sponsors—it was retooled from a bill introduced last July by Corker. That one got zero Democratic sponsors at a time when the Senate had a Democratic majority.

President Obama has vowed a veto. Critics say it could, especially if passed before the March 31 deadline, wreck the negotiations seeking to ensure Iran's nuclear program is peaceful—which Tehran has claimed has been the case since 2002. It would also remove economic sanctions being imposed on the regime because officials in the United States and other nations involved in the negotiations say Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons or at least the capability to quickly build some if it decides to do so.

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Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) speaks at the 42nd annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, MD, February 26, 2015. Potential Republican presidential candidate Walker told grassroots conservatives on Thursday that his battle
Groping for the truth. (Psst—it's not there, Guv.)
A pro-choice group has some friendly advice for Iowans that comes from their Wisconsin neighbors: Scott Walker has lied to us and he will lie to you too. The warning came in the form of a full-page ad in the Des Moines Register right as Walker preps for a visit this weekend. Here's some details from Mary Spicuzza:
"Voters of all political stripes in this country want candidates who are honest about where they stand on critical issues so that we know what we're getting," reads the ad from NARAL Pro-Choice America that ran Thursday in the Des Moines Register. "We are Wisconsinites who know for sure that our governor, Scott Walker, will never be honest with you."
It's a great point: whether we're conservative or liberal, don't we all want to vote for someone we think is honest? Walker would dearly love to make Iowa his first win in the 2016 GOP primary and has been avidly courting the social conservatives that dictate the outcome of the state's Republican caucus. Just yesterday he announced that he was all in on signing into law an abortion ban bill should it reach his desk.

During his re-election campaign last year, Walker suggested that he believed in leaving "the final decision to a woman and her doctor." Based on yesterday's announcement, that was clearly a lie.

More from the ad:

Last October, he repeatedly sidestepped reporters’ questions about whether he would favor abortion bans if re-elected. But seeking support for a presidential campaign in a private meeting this January in Iowa, he made clear his early support for “personhood,” which would ban all abortions, in-vitro fertilization, and certain types of contraception…

We all believe in the freedom of women and families to make the reproductive decisions that are best for them without meddling from politicians. We wanted that for our state, as we do for Iowa and America. We also want a president with integrity, one whose word we can trust. Scott Walker cannot be trusted, and we thought you should know.

Sincerely,
Your Wisconsin Neighbors

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Oh, if only we could believe him.
"I simply have decided I'm not going to really talk about that issue anymore because every time I'm gaining momentum, the political press says, 'Let's talk about gay rights.' And I'm just not going to fall for that anymore," Carson said.
Yes. The entire LGBT rights movement is just a ploy to get you to say stupid things on television. Also, too: health insurance reform. And education. And America. In fact you'd best just not comment on anything anymore, just to be safe. It's been working out great for Scott Walker.

(Side note: Sean Hannity seems to have firmly established himself as the "safe zone" for Republicans who have just shot themselves in the foot and need a comforting place to recover. At some point two Republicans are going to say stupid things on the same day and they'll have to resort to fisticuffs to determine who first gets to partake of Dr. Hannity's rehabilitating elixirs.)

While it is doubtful that presidential would-be candidate Ben Carson can truly refrain from commenting on How People Become Gay for the rest of his (presumably short) campaign, he has also issued an apology of sorts for his most recent comments, the ones supposing that prison turns people gay so therefore that makes it a "choice." He says now:

I do not pretend to know how every individual came to their sexual orientation. I regret that my words to express that concept were hurtful and divisive. For that I apologize unreservedly to all that were offended. [...]

I am not a politician and I answered a question without really thinking about it thoroughly. No excuses.

But of course he's made comments on this topic before and made similar gaffes, so that may be a hint that Dr. Ben Carson might want to spend some quality time "thinking about it thoroughly" before again venturing forth into the murky waters of having opinions on things. A potential president of these United States is generally expected to think about things thoroughly. That is sort of the point of the job.

Or, again, you can just go the Scott Walker route and have opinions on things only as each individual donor check clears. That might work too!

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Jumaane Cook (bottom R), age 5, of Cleveland, Ohio stands with his father James Cook (obscured, holding sign at R) as they join Obamacare supporters demonstrating at the Supreme Court building in Washington March 4, 2015. The U.S. Supreme Court will consi
Do the boys in the black robes care?
The uninsured rate for the first two months of the year is down 0.6 percentage points from the fourth quarter of 2014 ... if the downward momentum continues, the drop in the uninsured rate may be slightly larger than this preliminary figure.

And don't forget, the uninsured rate hit a new low in 2014 ... thanks to Obamacare and expanding Medicaid.

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Mike Brown
Mike Brown Collage
The fight for justice for Mike Brown is far from over.

Just this morning, at a news conference at Greater St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis County, family attorney Darryl Parks, alongside Mike Brown's parents, announced that a civil lawsuit would soon be filed.

The family always intended on filing this suit, but chose to wait until after the grand jury and DOJ proceedings were complete—with the hope that Darren Wilson would be found guilty in at least one of the investigations. When he wasn't, they released the following statement:

We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions.

While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.

Join with us in our campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera.

We respectfully ask that you please keep your protests peaceful. Answering violence with violence is not the appropriate reaction.

Let's not just make noise, let's make a difference.

Details are forthcoming on the lawsuit.
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Reposted from Paul Hogarth by Paul Hogarth
https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/16521198760/
In blatant defiance of the Obama Administration's attempts to reach a diplomatic agreement with Iran, House Speaker John Boehner had Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu speak to a joint session of Congress this week.

While Netanyahu spoke, the Daily Kos community had something to say as well. Over 58,000 Daily Kos members sent more than 175,000 emails to their members of Congress to demand: No new sanctions on Iran. Give peace a chance.

Add your voice here. Please take five minutes to make a phone call to your member of Congress, urging them to reject sanctions on Iran. Let diplomacy work.

To reach your members of Congress, call the Capitol Hill switchboard at (202) 224-3121. After you're done, please fill out this form to let us know how the calls went.

Please head below the fold for more.

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People gathered at Hance Park to protest against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Phoenix, Arizona October 14, 2013. The demonstration organized by the immigration rights group Puente are demanding that President Barack Obama and Immigration a
Federal Judge Andrew Hanen still hasn't issued a ruling regarding the U.S. government's request that he lift his temporary hold on President Obama's 2014 immigration actions. If he fails to do so by the end of next Monday, government lawyers are now saying they will bypass him and go straight to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals with their request. Josh Gerstein has the details.
“Absent a ruling by close of business on Monday, March 9, 2015, Defendants may seek relief from the Court of Appeals in order to protect their interests,” the DOJ lawyers wrote in their new submission.

Hanen could be tempted to think that the federal government is crying wolf, since back on Feb. 23, the Justice Department leveled a similar threat to proceed to the 5th Circuit if he didn’t rule on the stay by Feb. 25.

The government shouldn't hold its breath. Hanen, a Texas-based judge, has developed a track record of not so favorable rulings regarding immigrants. As we noted here, he may be too busy handling anti-immigrant cases from the likes of birther queen Orly Taitz to deal with requests from the U.S. government.

Immigrant rights groups have been pressuring the administration to act more aggressively in seeking to stay Hanen's order.

Some legal experts view the stay effort as a longshot, but activists fear that Obama’s immigration actions could lose momentum if they’re on hold for months or longer while an appeal plays out.

Hanen issued a preliminary injunction on Feb. 17 barring the administration from proceeding with an expansion of a deferred action program for illegal immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children and with a new program for illegal immigrant parents of U.S. citizens or green card holders.

Hanen has not yet ruled on the merits of the GOP-led challenge to Obama's actions brought by 26 states. Rather, he temporarily blocked the program from moving forward because he said that it should have gone through a formal public comment period that the government often uses for major policy changes. Hanen did, however, express his skepticism that the program is constitutional—an indication of where his final ruling may be going.
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Gay marriage supporter Vin Testa waves a rainbow flag in anticipation of U.S. Supreme Court rulings in the cases against California's gay marriage ban known as Prop 8 and the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), outside the court building in Washi
It's on! The Supreme Court has set the date of April 28 to hear oral arguments in several cases that challenge statewide bans on same-sex marriage.

Here are the two questions attorneys will spend two and a half hours exploring:

• Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?

• Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?

Same-sex marriage is currently legal in 37 states. The court is expected to issue a ruling on the cases in June.
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When a University of Oregon rape survivor sued the school earlier this year for bungling her case, campus officials dug into the student's confidential therapy records in order to counter her claim. It's a total invasion of privacy that also appears to be legal, writes attorney and social justice advocate Katie Rose Guest Pryal.
The Oregon administration accessed the rape survivor’s therapy records from its counseling center and handed them over to its general counsel’s office to help them defend against her lawsuit. They were using her own post-rape therapy records against her.

It was a senior staff therapist in the counseling unit who blew the whistle on the administration’s actions. In her public letter, she sounds horrified that the work she thought was protected by medical privilege could be violated in such a fashion.

The university came firing back, arguing that because the rape survivor had asserted a legal claim of emotional distress, Oregon was entitled under, of all things, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to use her medical records to defend against her suit.

Pryal writes that she initially thought the university's legal justifications for its actions were ludicrous, but upon digging further, she concluded that they did have the legal authority to do what they did. "And that means everything has to change," she writes.

But legal considerations aside, this is truly frightening and someone—or multiple people—should be made to answer for it. It's worth noting that university officials also threatened the job of the therapist, who both sought outside counsel and eventually cried foul.

University of Oregon officials have now completely undermined any trust a student might have in accessing campus mental health services in the wake of something so horrific as gang rape. If that breach of trust isn't also a dereliction of duty, I'm not sure what is.

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