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Fire bad! Denying people healthcare good!
This morning, Katrina vanden Heuvel thinks voters should know which party is really a threat to healthcare... Errol Morris explores the narrow, dark confines of Donald Rumsefeld's mind... the New York Times editorial board finds state legislators behaving badly... Anne-Maria Slaughter isn't ready to sign onto the genius of Sarah Palin... and you're not getting older, you're getting smarter! (okay, you're also getting older).

But first...

Ruth Marcus pokes at the monster.

Most disputes about religious freedom are bilateral — with the government on one side and the individual claiming infringement of religious liberty on the other.

But Tuesday’s cases, involving Oklahoma-based crafts store Hobby Lobby and Pennsylvania cabinetmaker Conestoga Wood Specialties, implicate a third party — the companies’ employees, and their rights under the Affordable Care Act to no-added-cost contraception. Respecting the religious claims of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood threatens to diminish the rights of their workers.

Of course, to even get to that point requires addressing the central oddity of the case: the notion that corporations possess religious beliefs. The Citizens United campaign finance ruling was a disgrace, but for all the uproar over the corporations-are-people-too aspect of the case, the notion of a corporate interest in political speech is well-grounded in First Amendment jurisprudence.

The for-profit corporation as religious adherent is another matter entirely. This is not what Congress had in mind in writing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the law at the heart of Tuesday’s arguments.

Katrina vanden Heuvel looks into what has Bobby Jindal so gall-darned upset.

With one week remaining before the March 31 deadline for health coverage this year, a Republican filing a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act has become a familiar, if tiresome, sight.

But Republicans filing a lawsuit against the law on the grounds of copyright infringement? That’s something new.

Yet that is effectively what happened this month in Louisiana. On March 14, the state’s lieutenant governor sued the progressive group over a billboard criticizing Gov. Bobby Jindal’s refusal to expand Medicaid in the state. The billboard uses Louisiana’s tourism slogan — “Pick Your Passion!” — and adds: “But hope you don’t lose your health. Gov. Jindal’s denying Medicaid to 242,000 people.” The lawsuit claims that the MoveOn ad will “result in substantial and irreparable harm, injury, and damages” to the Louisiana tourism office — as if denying health insurance to the neediest will not cause the state “substantial and irreparable harm.”

Legal experts say Jindal’s ploy has no chance of succeeding, thanks to the First Amendment. (This would be the same First Amendment that the governor passionately invoked in defense of “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson’s right to spew racist and homophobic vitriol.)

Jindal’s reason for refusing to expand Medicaid is as specious as his reason for suing MoveOn. He claims, falsely, that the expansion would divert funds that now go to disabled individuals under traditional Medicaid. In reality, the health-care law doesn’t harm the existing program. It creates several programs to improve care for the disabled receiving Medicaid; Jindal enrolled Louisiana in three of them. But this hasn’t stopped him from blaming the ACA for his own bad policies, including cuts he made to state Medicaid funding for pregnant women.

Jindal knows that making threats against MoveOn is far more important to his political future than helping the citizens of his state. But wait a sec... irreparable harm to the tourism office? It's not like government offices are real people, you know, like Hobby Lobby.

Errol Morris goes after the jabberwock of foreign policy.

When I first met Donald Rumsfeld in his offices in Washington, D.C., one of the things I said to him was that if we could provide an answer to the American public about why we went to war in Iraq, we would be rendering an important service. He agreed. Unfortunately, after having spent 33 hours over the course of a year interviewing Mr. Rumsfeld, I fear I know less about the origins of the Iraq war than when I started. A question presents itself: How could that be? How could I know less rather than more? Was he hiding something? Or was there really little more than met the eye?

Many people associate the phrases the known known, the unknown known and the unknown unknown with Rumsfeld, but few people are aware of how he first presented these ideas to the public. It was at a Pentagon news conference on Feb. 12, 2002. Reporters filed in to the Pentagon Briefing Room — five months after 9/11 and a year before the invasion of Iraq. The verbal exchanges that followed provide an excursion into a world no less irrational, no less absurd, than the worlds Lewis Carroll created in Alice in Wonderland.

Behold that moment in history...
JIM MIKLASZEWSKI[NBC]: In regard to Iraq weapons of mass destruction and terrorists, is there any evidence to indicate that Iraq has attempted to or is willing to supply terrorists with weapons of mass destruction? Because there are reports that there is no evidence of a direct link between Baghdad and some of these terrorist organizations.

DONALD RUMSFELD: Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.

That's just the start of a conversation that becomes more surreal at every word.

The New York Times editorial board looks at a Georgia legislative #Gunfail.

There’s a lot of concern about new legislation in Georgia that expands how people can buy, carry and use guns. It reduces some licensing requirements and provides Georgians with a stronger “Stand Your Ground” defense should they feel threatened and decide to open fire. Some critics were calling it the “guns everywhere” law. That’s so unfair. Georgia’s lawmakers are not allowing everyone’s safety to be endangered by gun-slinging people. They are deeply concerned, for example, with their own.

The bill, passed on Thursday and awaiting the governor’s signature, will, among other things, allow people to carry concealed weapons into more places — including ones, like bars, which conveniently enough are spots where they are likely to be put to use.

They may also be carried in unsecured areas of airports. ...

But, while patting themselves on the back for protecting the Second Amendment rights of their fellow citizens and dismissing any notion that guns could be a danger to the public, Georgia lawmakers were careful to continue to ban the carrying of weapons in government buildings with security checkpoints, like the Capitol itself, though guns are welcomed in buildings without screening.

Wait, is that the arrival of spring? Nope, that's just a steady breeze of hypocrisy blowing from the south.

Anne-Marie Slaughter is not the next stop on the "Mitt Romney was right about Russia after all" television tour.

...the United States would do well to tone down its sanctimony. Putin’s annexation of Crimea violated international law. But so did the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the NATO intervention to protect Kosovo, even if the latter was, to many, including me, a legitimate violation. Insisting that this is a new era because Moscow is bent on violating international law may indeed propel the world into a new era. But that would be a choice of our making, not Russia’s.

Moreover, that choice would strengthen Putin and undercut the democratic movement in Russia. Just because members of the band Pussy Riot were imprisoned and Alexei Navalny was not elected mayor of Moscow and the size of protests against Putin’s government ebb and flow does not mean that this spirit has been crushed. On the contrary, these protests are like an aspen grove; fueled by social media, they spread in ways we cannot see until the next opportunity for their flowering emerges. Meanwhile, elevating Russia to global enemy No. 1 feeds the hard-liner narrative in Moscow just as it does in Iran. A better strategy would be to tone down the rhetoric and let Europe take the lead, while making clear that a Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine would be met with the strongest possible economic response.

Ultimately, the absence of that invasion is the most striking event of the past month. ...

For some frustrated with the complexity of the post-Cold War world, redividing the globe along an East-West axis would be comforting. Yet doing so serves military and defense interests all too well, as George Kennan understood as he watched his original doctrine of containment become an entrenched enmity licensing military adventures in the name of anti-communism.

Fabiola Santiago isn't feeling all that kindly about the Scott campaign.
My favorite part of Miami CEO Mike Fernandez’s email to Gov. Rick Scott’s top advisors: “I will say this again, I am not a Yes Man and don’t mistake my smile and courteous nature as a weakness.”

There isn’t a politically-savvy Hispanic voter reading the email that foretold Fernandez’s abrupt resignation from Scott’s reelection campaign and not thinking: “ Así es.”

Right on.

They want our money, our endorsement, and our vote — but we need to stay in our designated place as the supporting choir, not in the starring role of decision-makers.

In some quarters, and in this day and age, that kind of power is still reserved for the “mainstream” — aka, non-Hispanic whites, even if they come from elsewhere in the country to La Florida to run a political campaign and are dumb enough to mimic Mexican accents on the way to Chipotle Mexican Grill.


No amount of cute kid-of-color hugging and arepa-tasting will save Scott from his tea party-Republican record.

To echo Fernandez’s eloquence, don’t ever confuse our polite smiles in a photo-op for an endorsement.

More on the Scott campaign's Hispanic "outreach" in this diary from SemDem.

Carl Hiaasen looks at how the pro-life party is doing with real live babies.

Most of the dead are babies and toddlers, and they perish in horrible ways — starved, punched, shaken, burned, thrown from cars or simply forgotten. There’s nothing left to protect them except the state of Florida, which fails over and over.

Kyla Joy Hall was beaten to death by her father at age 10 months. Eight months earlier, she’d been hospitalized with multiple fractures and a bleeding brain, yet no one got arrested.

Tavont’ae Gordon was smothered at age 2 months while sleeping on a couch with her mother, who was high on coke. Tavont’ae’s sister, Tariji, was removed from the home by child welfare officials, but she was later returned when Rachel Gordon said she’d kicked her drug habit.

A few months later, Tariji was killed by a blow to the head and buried in a shallow grave by her mother, now in jail.

Since January 2008, at least 477 children have died for no other reason than being overlooked by the system. Their families were known to the Department of Children & Families, yet they’d been allowed to remain with reckless parents in high-risk homes. ...

Under Gov. Rick Scott, more case investigators were hired, yet money for oversight and family counseling was slashed. The agency’s budget shrunk by $100 million during this fiscal year alone.

A decade ago, the state embarked on a new child welfare strategy of “family preservation,” the mission being to not take children from their parents but rather work to improve the situation in the household.

The concept was meant to placate advocates of “parental rights,” with an added cost-cutting benefit of reducing the number of children in state-funded foster homes (which have also generated plenty of nightmarish stories).

A key component of the new system was to ask troubled parents to sign “safety plans” promising they’d do a better job of caring for their children. This approach has been, to put it mildly, disastrous.

It's a good thing those parents weren't asking for help providing food for their children. If that was the case, there would be some serious questions to answer (and drug tests to take).

 Michael Ramscar and Harald Baayen say the best is yet to come for your brain.

IT IS one of life's eternal mysteries: why does it get ever more difficult to recall the name of the person you were just introduced to? Surely it is a no-brainer that our cognitive powers fade as we grow older? Research seems to back this up: as we age, our scores in tests of cognitive ability decline.

Is this picture really correct? When we applied the techniques we use to study language learning to this evidence, we came to a different conclusion. In fact, counter-intuitively, many of these lower scores reflect cognitive improvement.

It's not that you're getting worse at recalling things, you just have so much more to recall and so many more possible connections, associations, and cross-references. You have trouble finding the keys only because you've put the keys down so many, many times. Which isn't very comforting when you're trying to remember where you left the keys.
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