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helping hands
Another two hands not clapping for Ted Cruz.

After an epic onslaught of right wing misinformation, lies and silliness stretched out over the entire life of the healthcare debate -- from the first negotiations through the bill's passage, court review, and now implementation -- it's no wonder polls show many Americans don't understand it.

42% don't know it exists.  

But you do. The fact that you're here -- and reading a health care diary -- all but guarantees that you understand it better than 90+ percent of Americans.  Heck, maybe you're a real expert.

If so -- if you know even a little -- please help others.  It's so easy and so important.

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Details are obviously still emerging, but it appears that perhaps nearly 20 people, including many young children, were murdered in cold blood today in Connecticut by a man wielding a semi-automatic gun of some sort.  

Initial reports are that many shots were fired.  The shooter is also apparently among the dead.

Meanwhile, eerily enough, in China today is a strikingly similar story.  Apparently a knife attack at a primary school in Henan province wounded 22 children and an adult.  The attacker is in custody.  

Hard not to draw parallels between these two stories.

Both crimes are despicable, reprehensible, and the very worst of humanity.  To kill an innocent child is to descend to the very lowest place of human existence, as far as I'm concerned.  

And certainly the victims of the attack in China deserve all our thoughts and prayers as well, and that attacker deserves to face a trial and appropriate justice.

However, it's hard to look at each story and not wonder what the results might have been like in Connecticut if the attacker there had had to make do with a knife rather than a gun.  If he'd had to rush his victims and get close enough to them to physically stab them rather than being able to indiscriminately fire at them from across rooms and down hallways.  How many more of the children whose lives ended tragically today might have survived, albeit with injuries?  Would the attacker have been able to end his life and escape the penalties for these crimes as easily?  Would the tragedy have been carried out at all?

It goes without saying that gun laws in China are extremely strict.  The linked article above even notes that after a spate of knife attacks in some areas in recent years, laws were put in place requiring some form of identification and registration if you wanted to purchase a large knife!  

Look: I know it's never, ever, ever, ever ok to discuss gun laws in this country.  But when the media is presented with such a ready-made comparison I hold out some hope that some outlets will pick it up and put it before the public for examination.  No one wants this to be a communist state.  No one wants knife licenses.  But too often anyone advocating for stricter gun laws is told that they won't solve anything.  Killers will still find a way, we're always told.  Keeping guns away from law-abiding people won't translate into fewer gun crimes, we're always told.

Look at these two stories side-by-side -- same day -- and tell me that.

Tell that to these parents.  Ask them if they'd rather have their child alive and in surgery right now to replace a stab wound rather than dead.  

Evil exists.  But weapons matter.  

These folks are all in my prayers.  Incomprehensible.

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Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 07:52 AM PST

Rand Paul's bright idea

by Save the clock tower

Yesterday on CNBC, Rand Paul appeared to enter the "mocking sarcastic acceptance" phase of grief over his party's election loss, throwing his hands up and flatly suggesting that he loves America so much that it's his duty to stand back and let it screw itself, because dammit that's the only way it'll learn:

"I have yet another thought on how we can fix this. Why don't we let the Democrats pass whatever they want? ... All the Republicans vote present and let the Democrats raise taxes as high as they want to raise them ... and then make them own the tax increase. And when the economy stalls, when the economy sputters, when people lose their jobs, they know which party to blame."
Folks, I love this idea.  

I love that a true firebrand conservative icon, defacto leader of the Paul-ite movement and Jim DeMint disciple is coming to the conclusion that it's time to raise taxes on the rich.  Big of him.

And of course I thoroughly enjoy his fatherly scolding way of doing it.  "So go ahead assholes!" he's saying, "I double dog dare you!  Return from today's temporarily low rates to the slightly higher rates of the recent past.  Morons!  You'll regret it!"

"In the Senate, I'm happy not to filibuster it, and I will announce tonight on your show that I will work with Harry Reid to let him pass his big old tax hike with a simple majority if that's what Harry Reid wants."
Cool!  Thanks Rand!  Thanks for stating up front that you're willing to pass on using your Constitutionally-granted about-to-expire minority veto power over Senate debate to allow an actual vote on this issue.

Oh but actually, before you kick a chair, scream at an intern, toss your papers into the air and storm out, it's probably important for you to recognize that this isn't, actually, "what Harry Reid wants."  It's what the American people want, Rand.  

I mean, not your people -- not the far-right, immigrant-crazed, Benghazi-obsessed, brown-fearing, anti-science stump remnant of the once-respectable Republican party -- but the rest of us.  

The majority of us, Rand.  

Most Americans.  

Most Americans want to see marginally higher taxes on the rich as part of a broader solution to our long-term fiscal woes.  

But thanks for your concern trolling Rand.  You just sit on your hands or vote 'present' or pout in the corner or do whatever it is you need to do, and let the adults govern as the people elected them to do.  When it all goes south, you can say you told us so!  (oh -- and vice versa, mmmk??)

"Why don't we let the Democrats pass whatever they want?"
Letting the majority rule?  Wow.  Just when you thought Rand Paul couldn't get any crazier.
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Can we all just agree that it would be far better to go over the cliff, roll the dice on surviving the bright lights of the blame game for a few weeks (odds looking good), and then come out the other side with the "Bush tax cuts" dead and gone, once and for all??

I don't pretend to know every tiny detail of the austerity bomb/fiscal cliff/slope whatever it is that's coming, but I certainly know this: after midnight on December 31, if we do nothing, the infernal Bush Tax Cuts will be no more.  They will expire, as they were always designed to do, and be replaced with Clinton-era tax rates across the board.  Whether or not we then replace those with something else (and one assumes we would, at least those for the middle class), the "Bush" part will be dead forever.

I would certainly LOVE to be able to stop saying the word "Bush" in reference to something that we as a country ostensibly like and value.  It's a travesty that it's gone on this long.  I'd be fine letting more rates than just the upper brackets return to Clinton-era.  But whatever -- the pols will duke it out, the pundits will have their say, pollsters will weigh in, various negotiators will get the best they can for their side, and the matter will be settled one way or another.  

I'm just voting for a cliff dive to rid us of the Bush reference.  Whatever new rates exist in 2013, they'll be the work of President Barack Obama -- a Democrat -- along with a Democratic Senate and deeply divided House (led by, one expects, Democratically whipped votes courtesy of Nancy Pelosi).  Let them be exactly the same if they need to be.  Fine.  But let's try to make the cosmetic change of referring to them as the "Obama Tax Cuts" from that day forward.  That's what they'll be, and Democrats will deserve the credit for them.

* * * * * * * * * * *

One more thing: for those much smarter than me, are there tweaks that could be made to the tax rates that would further differentiate them from their Bush predecessors?  Another expiration date?  Permanence?  Changes in distribution, etc.?  Anything else to guarantee that commentators don't just lazily refer to them as another "extension of the Bush tax cuts" for another X years?  Just curious.

Discuss

Some of you may be familiar with the concept of the “Five Whys.”  Basically it’s an investigation technique designed to help you get past looking at the symptoms of a problem and get right to the root of it.

You start by stating the initial problem – say, “The ER patient’s condition is not improving.”  Then you ask “why?” and come up with a logical answer. Then when you get that answer, you ask "why?" again.  And then again.  Five times.  It's very useful.

For example:

The ER patient’s condition is not improving.  

(#1) Why?  Because he got the wrong medication.
(#2) Why?  Because the nurse misread the label and gave it to him by mistake.
(#3) Why?  Because a drug with a similar name was stored next to it.
(#4) Why?  Because we store them in alpha order for quicker re-stocking.
(#5) Why?  Because we’re under pressure to save money by making staff do re-stocking as quickly as possible.

The problem is the patient’s condition, and you might be tempted to blame the nurse or the storage system, but the root cause is about something deeper.  It might be counter-intuitive to say “The patient’s condition is not improving ... because we’re under pressure to stock our drugs too fast,” but when you dig down that’s what you find.

What happens if we apply this technique to the reasons serious conservative commentators are coming up with to explain Mitt Romney’s humiliating, totally unexpected, wholly surprising loss in Tuesday’s election?  Because let's face it -- the GOP has a lot of work to do, and it's no use trying to solve the problem if you misdiagnose it right?

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President Obama is a classy guy who ran a classy campaign four years ago and ran a classy campaign again in 2008.  Even after four straight years of having rabid right-wingers openly question his patriotism, his religion, his culture, his intelligence, his values and even his nationality, he refused to sink to their level.  Not even when it might have helped him win reelection.

Case in point?

No one is voting against Mitt Romney because he is a Mormon.

Right?  Remember Mormonism?  It was supposed to be a big deal, if you recall.  

Four years ago, Barack Obama was accused of participating in a poorly understood religion supposedly at odds with mainstream Christianity, and this was used against him.  People claimed he was a Muslim and that "otherness" was used as a cudgel at every opportunity by his detractors.  (Nevermind that it was 100% false.)

And today?  President Barack Obama found himself matched up in the general election with a man who actually did belong to a poorly understood religion considered by many to be at odds with mainstream Christianity.  During the primary, commentators openly wondered if this would affect his chances or cost him votes.  But never -- not once -- did anyone associated with the Obama campaign make even the slightest issue of Mitt Romney's Mormonism, or suggest even in passing that anything about it ought to disqualify him from serving as President in any way, or cause others to think of him as an "other." This, despite the President's treatment by the right wing -- and the fact that it happened to be true -- Mitt Romney actually was Mormon!

Simply put, they chose not to go there.  They took the high road, even when the low road was so easy and might have yielded some results.

I'm proud of that.

Was it a 100% positive campaign?  Of course not.  Negative ads do work.  Millions of Americans simply don't vote very often, and in order to motivate the many who only do so if they really really feel it's important (sigh) it is sometimes helpful to inject a little hyperbole into the proceedings.  

But even when it was negative, it was never mean-spirited.  It was never dirty.  Mitt Romney claimed to be a wizard with money, but never released his tax records.  He flip-flopped on issue after issue.  He called half the country irretrievably lazy on video tape.  He picked the author of the most right-wing budget in recent memory as his running mate.  He vowed to end Planned Parenthood and PBS.  

These things are real, and relevant to people's votes for President.

His religion is not relevant -- and so, Obama's team chose not to mention it.  Ever.

You can't tell me they didn't poll it, and you can't tell me that, when they did, they didn't discover there were more than a few folks (certainly including some in OH, VA, FL, IA, NC and NH) that weren't sure someone with the unusual beliefs espoused in Mormonism was right for the country.  Some bigots vote Democratic, too, sorry to say, and some racists and some other similarly close-minded folks.  I have to believe some staffer somewhere must have sensed a possible advantage there and suggested the campaign gingerly take it.

But they didn't.

Classy.

It's not hard to imagine what Team Red would have done were the roles reversed here.  Does anyone doubt that Crossroads would have had a whole unit dedicated to the effort?

But Team Blue is classier than that.  And we win anyway.

I'm proud to be on that side.

Discuss

Would this not get legs pretty quick?

So listen up, Columbus -- I'm here to tell you that as President, I will not be cutting funding for PBS.  There are a lot of great reasons we should fund it -- and lots of other things that make early childhood education accessible to our young people.

But even more importantly, I think Sesame Street has a lot that it can teach today's Republican party leadership!

And it's nominee for President!

For example -- for example --

They should be talking with The Count about that budget of theirs -- maybe he can explain why a $5 trillion tax giveaway that doesn't hurt the middle class is mathematically impossible!

And if there's anyone who's going to need health insurance and probably has a pre-existing condition, it's Cookie Monster!  No way he would qualify under the old rules before Obamacare, when an insurance company could deny you coverage or drop you for no reason at all.

And they should be talking with Oscar the Grouch -- because I don't think even he would be so heartless as to tell millions of aging Americans that it's time to end Medicare as we know it, and leave them on their own with a voucher system in the years ahead fending for themselves.  Maybe Oscar could teach them something there.

And I think Snuffleupagus might have something to teach today's Republicans and Governor Romney!  That's right!  Because you know Governor Romney famously said we should just let Detroit go bankrupt.  Just let America's auto industry self-destruct.  If we'd done that, I think Snuffy would have been the only way we'd been able to get around anymore!  Poor old Snuffy!  

[laughing] No auto industry, gotta ride Snuffy around!

And Governor Romney was quick to ridicule the work we've done to come up with a sensible energy policy in this country, pretending climate change and rising ocean levels are of no concern to us as a nation, or our future security.  And while rising sea levels might be great news for Ernie and that rubber ducky of his, for most Americans it's a crisis that needs to be addressed!  

So that's why we have to keep funding PBS, Governor Romney -- because they have a lot to teach you.  Handing Big Bird a pink slip is not a serious proposal for how to solve this nation's debt crisis.  With apologies to Elmo, it's no laughing matter.  

These are serious problems that require serious solutions, and so far the American people aren't hearing any honesty from you on them.  

One of the things the President has to be is honest with the American people.  It's not good enough just to promise tax cuts with no trade-offs -- to ignore math and common sense -- to proclaim that all we have to do is trust you and we'll all have sunny days!

Americans deserve better than that!  

Right?
Discuss
An open letter to Erick Erickon over at RedState, bless their little hearts.
Dear Erick,

You moron.  

I'm trying to figure it out, this conservative meme surrounding the supposed "skewing" of the polls to advantage Democrats.  I actually understand polling and have a research job, and I understand that most Americans do not.  Scientific polling can be counter-intuitive and complicated to the layman -- "what do you mean they only asked a handful of people and can now predict what others they did not ask would have said, if they had?" -- so I get that the average conservative might be confused.

But I'm really struggling to understand why you and others seem to think it serves the larger conservative movement -- if there is such a thing -- to embrace this complexity and throw its collective hands up in mock frustration.  

In fact, I'm not sure it does.  I think you're blowing it, Erick.  

I think this is going to come back to bite you.

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No surprise to anyone here, but the MSM is beginning to make it official:

From CBS News:

Nancy Cordes ‏@nancycordes

CBS moves Ohio to lean blue.

Nancy Cordes ‏@nancycordes

OH remains a battleground state in @cbsnews analysis, tho it leans blue after today's polls. PA moves to likely blue, not a battleground.

And RealClearPolitics:
9/26    Ohio    Toss Up     »»»     Leans Obama    Obama 265 - Romney 191    Obama +4.0
At RCP that revises the electoral map total to a current (hypothetical) 265-191 drubbing in terms of statistically likely votes, with 82 still up for grabs.

And as you probably know, that 82 includes:

Colorado's 9 EV (Obama up 2.3 RCP avg),
Nevada's 6 EV (Obama up 4.2 RCP avg),
Iowa's 6 EV (Obama up 4.0 RCP avg),
Florida's 29 EV (Obama up 3.1 RCP avg),
Virginia's 13 (Obama up 4.5 RCP avg),
and even North Carolina's 15 EV (Obama up 1.0 RCP avg after trailing all year -- huge turnaround, we may yet keep NC blue!)

To be clear:

If Obama keeps Ohio and wins ANY ONE of these additional states -- ONE -- he wins the election.  Of course, in all likelihood he will in fact win ALL of them (along with New Hampshire and its 4 EVs, where the RCP avg has him up 1.0... but that plus Ohio wouldn't put him over 270).

Folks: that massive ball of anger and stress and anxiety and "omg no no no NOOOO!" you hear building is the sound of a million right-wing heads beginning their slow, 42-day explosion.  

This was not supposed to happen.

Obama was supposed to be a one-term proposition.

Obamacare!

Jobs!

Apology tour!

Unemployment!

Unless something odd changes, conservatives are going to be faced with looking at electoral college estimators for the next 5+ weeks that show President Obama within just 5 EVs minimum of victory.

And another small shift or two could easily push Virginia, Iowa, Nevada, or another of the above toss-ups into "Leans Blue" status, meaning they'd be looking at an electoral map that already gave Obama the win, provided he kept the states he was "currently holding."

Imagine how demoralizing that will be for them, after all that bitching, all those grand predictions of a tea party takeover, all that chest-thumping, all those blog posts, all those millions of dollars in donations...

Devastating.

Not just a close-call victory on Election Day --- but a slow-build melt-down several weeks in the making, all the while staring at EV calculators everywhere (not just in pollsters' back rooms) showing the obvious coming result:

A win for Obama.

Let's bury them.  Rub their noses in it.  Run up the score.  Remind them how hopeless it is.  Remind them how incompetent they've been.  Dance in the end zone.  

(and -- yeah -- Get Out our own F-ing Vote too!)

Discuss

I know there are WAAAY more important issues in the world, but just as a sort of trivia item I am curious about what actual term the President will use to address Mitt Romney when he is speaking to/about him in the debates.

Before you roll your eyes --- there is definitely a segment of the population, possibly including some independents, who notice social-nicety protocol sorts of things like this.  And you know Team Obama is gaming out every tiny detail of the debates (you know how long they haggle over things like who will stand where and what color the table will be and that sort of junk, right?) to make sure that the impression created is favorable.  Scott Brown's people in MA-SEN have studiously been referring to Elizabeth Warren as "Professor Warren" in ads -- apparently concluding (or, God-forbid, having focus-tested) the idea that making her seem more academic makes her less attractive as a candidate (the anti-intellectualism of the nation is a subject deserving of its own diary...).

So what should he go with?  

Poll

What should he call Mitt Romney during the debates?

42%80 votes
13%26 votes
14%27 votes
1%3 votes
20%39 votes
6%12 votes

| 188 votes | Vote | Results

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I'm sure we'll get more instruction on this later in the day, but fellow Democrats ---- let's make sure we don't let the GOP run with the idea that Obama's speech was moved out of the 85,000-seat stadium to the 20,000-seat arena because of lack of interest.

Let's make sure we find ways to show that there were thousands more interested in attending the event who could not, so there's no question that demand wasn't an issue.

Is it people watching from other large organized venues nearby? (not sure this is practical given the timing)
Is it people watching from the streets outside? (tail-gating the stadium, as it were? Could it be simul-cast in some fashion?)
Is it people watching from house parties but registering somehow so their numbers can be logged?
Is it people "liking" a Facebook group called "I Would Have Watched the President's Address Live from the Stadium" or something, so a count can be started? (no such group exists to my knowledge -- just an idea)
Other suggestions?
I'm not sure -- but already I abhor the idea that the GOP will try to add to it's "the thrill is gone" narrative with this new, purely weather-related change to the schedule.

The threat is very real, by the way -- and folks got soaked yesterday around Charlotte.  I think we can agree that a last-minute evacuation of the stadium, huge numbers of empty seats from unprepared dressed up folks (no umbrellas allowed, remember), or a soaking POTUS would all be much less desirable than this shuffling.

But let's remove any doubt.

Optics are important.  Messaging matters.  If you're a low-info voter who's not really paying attention, let's make sure you don't get the idea this was a debacle.

Let's organize in the next 34 hours to make sure that there's no question that the President would have filled that venue to overflowing with people excited to hear him speak and itching to get him renominated and reelected to another four years!!

Discuss

An extremely short diary, but important today before events at the convention begin and the volume of content begins to overwhelm us, that:

Huge HAT TIP to Team Obama for picking Charlotte, NC for the convention.
As you may recall, Democrats were considering Cleveland, Minneapolis, St. Louis and Charlotte for the convention; these were the four finalists.

I'm an Ohioan and pulled at the time for Cleveland (which ended up being the runner-up). It's a city that has struggled mightily in recent years and is, hopefully, in the early stages of a renaissance. I don't know as much about Minneapolis or St. Louis, but by all accounts they are somewhat similar (though not nearly so badly off, I suspect).

But from a state-by-state electoral standpoint, Charlotte was hands down the right call.
Polls show Obama leading in Minnesota by double digits. To me, the optics of him heading up north following the GOP event down south would be one of retreat, to circling the wagons and having a safe convention in a safe state Obama was all but assured of winning. Bad.

Conversely, Missouri looks like a safe bet for the GOP, with recent polls averaging a Romney lead of six points. There is some flux there of course, on the heels of the Todd Akin controversy, and one never knows. But overall my sense is that the optics of a Missouri convention would be that of overreach, of Obama hubris trying to naively force a win in a state that was impossible to win. There's also the likelihood that a Missouri convention would have drawn even greater attention to Akin's remarks than there will be already (if that's possible), and while on the whole it's clearly a winning issue for Democrats, I think one runs the risk of having a "small" convention too focused on one issue rather than one that thinks big and looks at the whole picture.

Finally Cleveland. Ohio is certainly a battleground again this year, and a near must-win for anyone's winning coalition. It's a state that went for Obama in 2008 but swung hard to the right in 2010 in state offices and the governorship, and a convention here could have made a statement by Democrats eager to take it back.

But the state offices in question aren't on the ballot in 2012, so that desire would have felt misplaced. And every state officeholder, all Republicans, would have been working against him. And with polls showing Obama holding an oddly stable lead here (if only of 1-2 points), a convention here might again take on that "circling the wagons" feel. Gotta hold Ohio. Can't lose that one. Safe. Hesitant. Anxious.

*   *   *   *   *

Charlotte is different. North Carolina is the perfect battleground for Democrats this year. You can argue about whether Virginia is "the south" or not (to this Ohioan, it is), and some think of Florida as somehow not "the south" either, but there's no doubt about North Carolina. That's the south. Not Mississippi, but definitely the south. And Democrats are competing there now.  Obama won it against all odds in 2008, by a hair, and would like to do so again. Polls show a tight race -- certainly in the 1-2 point range -- with Obama behind.  So it's a reach -- but not a naive one, not a waste of money, not an overreach.  Contesting it forces the GOP to spend here.  And it's in the "hold" category, not the "new win" category.

Honestly if you skim down the list of RCP battleground states as of September 4, 2012, I'm not sure you could pick one better than NC.

All of this is to say kudos to the planners that decided more than a year ago to hold the convention there. The weather, the economy, the statements of others, international events, state-by-state polling, etc. -- all of these were unknowns, and they could just as easily have gotten unlucky.  But they didn't.  They got it right.

Can't wait to see what happens.

[short prediction below the jump for anyone interested]

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