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Medicaid Matters Rally 5  Participants in the Medicaid Rally., March 5, 2013
There's an outside chance at real political change in Texas soon, not at the hands of the growing Latino population there. It could come from a much more powerful, and deep-pocketed source: business leaders. They're fed up with the state's Republican governor and legislature's stubborn refusal of Medicaid expansion, and the billions it's going to cost the state.
"It's our money that we are sending to Washington, D.C.," says Bill Hammond, CEO of the Texas Association of Business, which includes many of the state's richest and most powerful business owners. "We are not getting it back," he says. "We pay for it with corporate income tax, we pay for it with our personal income tax and we pay it in the fact that our premiums are higher than they would be if everyone was insured."

"Texas businesses pay almost 63 percent of all state and local taxes," Hammond says.

He says if the state expanded Medicaid it would save Texas business billions of dollars a year that could be invested in upgrading equipment, hiring new employees, providing raises and rewarding shareholders.

For every dollar the state would pay into Medicaid expansion, it would earn back $1.30 from the economic activity created, according to an analysis by Ray Perryman. He's an economist who has consulted for the Texas Legislature and six governors. That economic activity would top out at $3 billion in 10 years, creating 300,000 new jobs each year, he says. […]

Totally aside from the health benefits, Perryman says, when you look at the numbers, "You look at them and you say, 'This is a no-brainer. We need to be doing this.' It's really an apolitical situation. It's just math."

What that means in real terms is that one in four Texans is uninsured. It also means that the state's hospitals are losing billions. Parkland Hospital in Dallas, alone, lost $765 million last year in providing uncompensated care helping those uninsured people. All the state's hospitals combined lost $5.5 billion. That's not sustainable, not for Parkland, not for any hospital and certainly not for the state.  

Yeah, it's simple math and it's a no-brainer, but for Texas Republicans none of that matters because it's Obamacare. Is it going to be enough for a political revolution in Texas?

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Rancher Cliven Bundy gestures at his home in Bunkerville, Nevada April 12, 2014. U.S. officials ended a stand-off with hundreds of armed protesters in the Nevada desert on Saturday, calling off the government's roundup of cattle it said were illegally gra
The hero of Fox News speaks again
Hey look, Sean Hannity's favorite Nevada private-army-having land-stealing government-not-recognizing freedom-patriot is back to explain welfare and slavery and black people again. Well step up, Cliven Bundy, the conservative movement needs your wisdom.
“Receiving welfare and housing – is that a sense of slavery when you get caught up in that and can’t get out of it for generations?" Bundy said, as quoted by The Guardian. "They don’t have freedom.”
Cliven Bundy may be the perfect conservative—which is, of course, why he became a cause célèbre on Fox News and in other conservative venues. He not only laps up all the government welfare he can get his hands on, in the form of heavily subsidized grazing rights on land that isn't his, and refuses to pay even the remaining pittance he's asked to pay, and considers himself so entitled to all of it that he'll demand armed insurrection if the government tries to take those things away from him, but if you then ask him what's wrong with America today he'll gladly tell you that it's all the other people sucking on the government teat that are the problem. They're not independent and hardworking, like he is. Real Americans don't collect meager government stipends so that they can feed their families even after they've lost their jobs, real Americans rustle up a band of mentally unbalanced, heavily armed goons and demand the government give them free things at gunpoint. You know: Patriotism.

Yup, Cliven Bundy is Fox & Friends in a western hat. It's too bad he had to spoil his moment of fame by explaining to the nation that the problem with "the Negro" nowadays is that "they never learned to pick cotton." Cliven again wants you to know that he misspoke on that one, and that some o' them black Americans are really getting somewhere these days.

Bundy also told the publication that he often sees well dressed blacks when he flies, which he said was a sign of progress for the black community.

"They really are progressing and prospering," the rancher said. "I understand they’ve raised themselves up to a point where they are equal with the rest of us. And I’m so happy for them. But what about those that are in the ghetto and can’t get out?”

Why the hell does this guy not have his own Fox News show? His theories on who should get free government money and who shouldn't perfectly mesh with those of Sean Hannity or Neil Cavuto. His admiration of black Americans who can wear suits pairs perfectly with Bill O'Reilly's astonishment when he sees them visiting fancy restaurants.

No, you pulled the plug on this guy too soon, Fox News. He is to your network what airplane crashes are to CNN. Cliven Bundy is your wheelhouse.

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U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) (2nd R) addresses reporters after a House Republican caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington December 2, 2014. Also pictured are Repuplican House Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) (L), House Majority Leader Kevin Mc
A Mensa meeting it's not.
Five years after the fact, Republicans are learning yet again that slogans don't actually equate with policy. They're also figuring out that while it's really easy to hold 55 symbolic votes to repeal Obamacare, making it actually happen isn't so easy—never mind coming up with something to replace it with!
Repealing the law “root and branch” is probably out of the question, the chamber’s parliamentarian is hinting, because some parts of Obamacare don’t affect the federal budget. That’s a must in order to use the obscure procedure known in Senate parlance as reconciliation, which allows lawmakers to avoid the 60-vote filibuster hurdle and pass bills on a simple majority vote. […]

The conundrum has many on the far right urging GOP leaders to take on the Senate parliamentarian, who will ultimately rule what can and cannot be repealed through reconciliation, and try to repeal the entire law using a one- or two-line sentence that simply reads: "Repeal the Affordable Care Act."

But policymakers and staff working on the matter are finding it's not so straightforward. The so-called Byrd rule prevents reconciliation from being used to make policy changes that don't affect the deficit, which is the main goal of the fast-track procedure.

"We're really just trying to game out all of the different options our members have to basically repeal in whole or in part," said one senior GOP Senate aide. "We definitely are preparing to do only budgetary things."

That means lots of hard work. And it means trying to figure out what will save money instead of just costing—and because so many of the provisions actually raise significant amounts of revenue, it's really complicated to try to tease out that balance. The simple idea of "repeal," sold by people with simple minds to voters with simple minds just isn't how it works in reality.

But they don't have to work in reality! That's because they have the "fairy dust" magic they created by imposing "dynamic scoring" on how the Congressional Budget Office figures out what stuff is going to cost. So they can at least make it all look like it could work, and on paper they can look like they're doing real stuff. And they know they won't have to suffer the consequences of it all blowing to hell, because a presidential veto will save them from that. So maybe this governing thing isn't that hard, after all. They can just keep pretending to do something.

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Governor Scott Walker, potential Republican presidential candidate, speaks at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma May 21, 2015. REUTERS/Rick Wilking - RTX1E0LB
Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI)
Last fall, as he campaigned for re-election as governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker ran an ad claiming that one of his anti-abortion bills "leaves the final decision to a woman and her doctor." As dishonest as that was at the time, check out where Republican-presidential-primary Scott Walker lands: He's happy to sign a 20-week abortion ban without exemptions for rape or incest.
Walker, who had previously expressed support for the bill that's on a fast track in the Wisconsin Legislature, said it didn't matter whether there was an exemption. As introduced, there is none in the bill.

"I think for most people who are concerned about that, it's in the initial months when they are most concerned about it," Walker said when asked about the exemption. "In this case, it's an unborn life, it's an unborn child, that's why we feel strongly about it. I'm prepared to sign it either way they send it to us."

So the decision is less between a woman and her doctor than between a rapist and Scott Walker, huh? Let's be clear: Walker is not simply saying he doesn't care, he's inviting Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature to pass this bill without rape or incest exemptions.

Funny, isn't it, how in a competitive general election against a woman, he was all about the final decision being between a woman and her doctor (if they could get around all the hurdles he'd thrown up, but he wasn't exactly mentioning that), and now that he's trying to win over Republican primary voters in states like Iowa and South Carolina, he's a full-on culture warrior? If he gets to the general election, he may find that it's a little harder to dodge his real record this time around—but women in Wisconsin will already have paid the price.

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Fox covers Caitlyn Jenner
"Call me Caitlyn," the upcoming cover of Vanity Fair says, over a picture of the woman who became famous as Olympic champion Bruce Jenner and had more recently been prominent on reality television as Keeping up with the Kardashians' husband and stepfather. Jenner's decision to come out as transgender has been heavily covered by the media, but the Vanity Fair cover represents the first time she has made the name Caitlyn public and asked to be referred to with female pronouns.

Leave it to Fox News to turn this into an occasion for mockery and ignorance.

Practically squealing in his effort to convey how totally ca-razy this is, Neil Cavuto opens by asking "What the hell is going on?" But what's going on isn't information you'd learn in the segment that follows, with reporter Dagen McDowell explaining that:

Well, that's how you transition Bruce Jenner—let's give him credit. HE is the only person on planet Earth who knows how to one-up his most famous stepdaughter, Kim Kardashian. [...] That's he unveiled his new identity, um, kind of, um, leaving his male identity behind with Caitlyn, I mean, he figured out an interesting way to spell it right now C-A-I-T-L-Y-N and Bruce, now Caitlyn, says, this is part of the transitioning, leaving that male identity behind, will use female pronouns from now on, but it isn't a [makes squeaking noise] ... what about the outfit? It's a white, satin, corset. Very Playboy bunny-esque, isn't it, Neil?
At which Neil Cavuto both pretended not to know what a Playboy bunny outfit looks like and ensured that viewers know how uncomfortable he is looking at Caitlyn Jenner, while McDowell teased him with a "He looks hot—or, she looks hot, rather." Hey! Look at that. Dagen McDowell gets the right pronoun after using the wrong one more than half a dozen times.

The whole tone of the segment is of pop-eyed disbelief, as if transgender people were some brand-new phenomenon no one ever heard of, rather than part of the world we live in and have lived in for some time. Somehow even the perfectly ordinary name Caitlyn comes in for disbelief, as if merely by association with its bearer's transition it's become exotic.

It's not just obnoxious and hateful. It's gleefully obnoxious and hateful, for its own sake.

(Video below the fold.)

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U.S. Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) listens during remarks about leadership elections on Capitol Hill in Washington, November 16, 2010.   REUTERS/Jim Young
We'll see how this works out for him. After completely bungling a strategy to avoid reforms to the Patriot Act, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decided to finally allow the USA Freedom Act, a House bill that contains some reforms of the program, to go forward. McConnell's nemesis on this is the guy he endorsed for president: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). Paul successfully blocked McConnell on any kind of extension of the Patriot Act, insisting that he would be happy to have the USA Freedom Act come to the floor as long as he had the opportunity to offer amendments. McConnell, however, has set up an amendment process that will prevent Paul—or anyone—from offering amendments.
By "filling the tree" with what he called "modest" to the measure, McConnell effectively blocked off debate on other potential amendments—including two Paul had said he would stand down for if he was promised simple-majority votes on them.

A Paul aide confirmed that the GOP presidential hopeful would not be getting votes on his desired amendments. […]

McConnell's amendments are considered "germane," meaning they will need only a simple majority to pass—not 60 votes. If any of them pass, they would need to go back to the House, which could prompt a game of legislative Ping-Pong delaying the bill's final passage—and keep the Patriot Act lapse from ending.

The changes McConnell is demanding weaken the reform bill, which right there jeopardizes the bipartisan House coalition that passed it last month. One of McConnell's amendments would strike language in the bill that requires the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to declassify significant opinions, a requirement that prevents the court from de facto passing "secret laws" like bulk collection of phone data—something that was not authorized by Congress in the law. Another amendment would require that the director of national intelligence monitor and certify that the new NSA phone-records program works as intended. McConnell also wants to weaken a requirement that the FISC consult with a group of experts to discuss privacy problems in any of the court's orders. McConnell also wants to lengthen the transition of the bulk collection program—taking it away from the NSA and putting it in the hands of the telecoms—from six months in the existing bill to one year, and would require that phone companies give a six-month notice to the government if they plan to change the way they retain their call records. That comes too close to an actual mandate on phone companies to collect the data than some tech companies and privacy experts are comfortable with.

McConnell can probably get the 51 votes he needs on these amendments, but that doesn't clear all the legislative hurdles that can still arise and stalling that Paul can achieve, if he really is intent on fighting this to the bitter end. But those changes will require a whole new set of wrangling in the House, which has been downright hostile to McConnell and his efforts to screw this up. This is going to take a while.

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Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush speaks at a town hall meeting on topics ranging from education to U.S.-Israeli relations to business support in Tempe, Arizona May 14, 2015.  REUTERS/Deanna Dent - RTX1D077
Jeb Bush
Man, Jeb Bush is taking all the popular positions. In an appearance on CBS News' Face the Nation in which he hilariously insisted he hasn't yet decided if he's running for president and that, "if" he does, his campaign won't coordinate with the super PAC for which he is so enthusiastically fundraising now, Bush added to his pile of quotes about what he's learned from his brother George W. on Iraq and discussed his plan for attacking Social Security.

Bush insisted that "my brother is not going to be a problem at all. I seek out his advice. I love him dearly. I have learned from his successes and his mistakes." Wait a second—a Bush admitting that another Bush made mistakes? Go on ...

Well, the successes clearly are protecting the homeland. We were under attack, and he brought -- he unified the country and he showed dogged determination. And he kept us safe.
Ah, yes, the old "George W.'s job 'keeping us safe' started immediately after the 9/11 attacks, which don't count," to say nothing of the view that the Iraq War did anything to keep the United States safe. But about those mistakes:
And I think I learned also from not having -- keeping the reins on spending. Because of the war and because of the focus on protecting the homeland, I think he let the Republican Congress get a little out of control in terms of the spending.
Riiight. "He let the Republican Congress get a little out of control." They just ran roughshod over the poor guy, who would never have spent all those billions on his own war of choice. So we can infer that Jeb Bush will go to war, he'll just somehow be more thrifty about it.

George W.'s wars weren't the only unpopular policy for which Jeb reiterated his support. He also advocated raising the retirement age for the "supplemental retirement system" (that would be Social Security—words he carefully avoided using, and more than a supplement for too many Americans) to 68 or 70, which prompts me to advocate for him to go out and lay bricks or clean hotel rooms for a few months and see how it feels for him now, at 62, and look forward to how it would feel at 68 or 70.

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Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R) leaves the stage after introducing U.S. President Bush to speak at a campaign fundraiser in Chicago October 12, 2006. Bush appeared publicly for the first time with Hastert on Friday since former Rep. Mark Foley's r
Dennis Hastert
Things that make you go "hmm": a federal judge presiding over a criminal case against a former politician to whom he donated a bunch of money.
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Durkin gave Hastert for Congress $500 in 2002 and $1000 in 2004, according to the Federal Election Commission.
Oh, and there's also this:
The donations could fuel questions about the judge’s impartiality in the case. News outlets have already noted that the judge’s brother is a prominent figure in the state’s GOP leadership. Jim Durkin serves as minority leader in the Illinois House, a post he was elected to in 2013.
Judge Durkin made those contributions before he became a judge, and it's certainly possible that he could be scrupulously fair. Indeed, if his contributions to the former speaker of the House had anything to do with Hastert's stated views on punishment of "repeat child molesters," then Hastert has reason to worry.

But I'm sure the judge will understand that he's under a little extra scrutiny, right?

Discuss
U.S. Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum addresses his Michigan primary night rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, February 28, 2012.  REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES  - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)
Most of America is ready for the Supreme Court to grant nationwide same-sex marriage rights. Most, but not all.
American voters say 56 - 38 percent they would support a U.S. Supreme Court decision granting same-sex couples the constitutional right to marry, according to a Quinnipiac University National poll released today. Voters support 56 - 36 percent same-sex marriage in general.

Backing a possible Supreme Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage are Democrats 70 - 24 percent, independent voters 61 - 34 percent, men 55 - 41 percent and women 57 - 35 percent. Republicans are opposed 62 - 34 percent, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe- ack) University Poll finds.

Once again, note the huge difference between what the Republican base thinks and everyone else. There's a twenty point difference between Republican and independent voters; for the party, it's not a long-term sustainable position.

But in the short term, their candidates will find that it is a required position, whether it alienates non-Republican voters or not. Repeat candidate Rick Santorum has vowed he'd be distancing himself from social issues and running as the hero of the middle class, but by gum if the Supreme Court comes to the wrong decision on this one then a President Santorum could never put up with that.

"Of course I'd fight it," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "Roe versus Wade was decided 30 some years ago, and I continue to fight that, because I think the court got it wrong. And I think if the court decides this case in error, I will continue to fight, as we have on the issue of life ... We're not bound by what nine people say in perpetuity."
Isn't that a cheery thought. No matter how long it takes to do the right thing, the Rick Santorum wing of the party (which, if the polls are any indication, is the only wing that still matters) will still be railing against it for thirty years after that.
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Rep. John Delaney explaining something very important.
Rep. John Delaney (D-Doofus)
Holy crap this guy is a doofus.
Rep. John Delaney (Md.), a centrist House Democrat, on Friday warned that voices on the left have "hijacked" his party’s message.
Oh my gosh, the party of the left has been hijacked by the left? About time! Let's go directly to the source and see what has this guy all riled up.
With Washington already broken, the last thing we need is a left-wing version of the tea party. But I am worried about where some of the loudest voices in the room could take the Democratic Party.
Yeah, the last thing Democrats need is the sort of activism energy that has given Republicans their biggest House majority in nearly a century and control of the Senate. That would be horrible, you know, getting to run shit.
Rejecting a trade agreement with Asia, expanding entitlement programs that crowd out other priorities and a desire to relitigate the financial crisis are becoming dominant positions among Democrats.
That stuff sounds awesome! I thought this guy was criticizing his own party.
Although these subjects may make for good partisan talking points, they do not provide the building blocks for a positive and bold agenda to create jobs and improve the lives of Americans.
Oops, nevermind. Apparently, shipping jobs overseas, starving seniors, and letting the bank barons get off scot-free for destroying the world economy is a "positive and bold agenda" that improves people's lives. Who knew? More below the fold.
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U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) leaves the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct on Capitol Hill in Washington October 24, 2006. Hastert appeared before the bipartisan congressional ethics panel for questioning about what
Dennis Hastert
The scandal surrounding former House Speaker Dennis Hastert's indictment for attempting to conceal bank withdrawals to pay off an extortionist has reached the stage where, in the absence of major news, we're watching the effects of what we do know play out. The biggest news, if it holds up, is that there is reportedly a second alleged victim of abuse by Hastert during his days as a high school teacher and coach. That makes a lot of sense, since abusers don't typically stop at one, but we just don't know a lot about it yet. Beyond that, Hastert faces a barrage of (deserved, if the allegations are true) humiliations.

The search is on for every piece of hypocrisy Hastert committed during his time as a House Republican, and this is a major one:

“It is important to have a national notification system to help safely recover children kidnapped by child predators,” it said. “But it is equally important to stop those predators before they strike, to put repeat child molesters into jail for the rest of their lives, and to help law enforcement with the tools they need to get the job done.”
So will he be volunteering to take the punishment he proposed?

Meanwhile, Hastert's alma mater stripped him of an honor:

“In light of the charges and allegations that have emerged, the college has redesignated the center as the Wheaton College Center for Economics, Government and Public Policy at this time,” the school said in a news release that was updated on Sunday. The center had been called the J. Dennis Hastert Center for Economics, Government and Public Policy.
Hastert also resigned from the center's board of advisers, as he had resigned from his job as a lobbyist. Presumably this is not the end of organizations and allies distancing themselves from Hastert, who is due to be arraigned this week.

11:32 AM PT: In what passes for good news for Hastert these days, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said it would be "premature" to talk about removing Hastert's portrait from the Capitol.

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