Thursday, October 31, 2013

GOP Pollster: Stop Pandering to Racists!

It won't happen, and this is not surprising, but the messenger is interesting:
A prominent Republican pollster is urging his party to resist stoking racial anxieties among white voters and "throw in the towel on the immigration issue."

Freed Steeper, who served as an adviser to both Presidents Bush, told the New York Times in a story published Wednesday that the GOP may continue its struggles in national elections if it keeps up its often derisive rhetoric toward Hispanic voters.

“Racism may be a part of it,” Steeper admitted. “The Republican Party needs to stop pandering to that.”

Steeper then gave Republicans some blunt advice on the matter.

“The Republican Party needs to throw in the towel on the immigration issue," he said.

The prospects of immigration reform have been shrouded in doubt after months of inaction by the GOP-led House of Representatives on a bill that passed the Senate. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who helped lead the push to pass that legislation, said earlier this week that Congress should dial back its reform efforts.
Gerrymandering will prevent this from happening, since many republicans don't need to worry about appealing to non bigoted conservatives in order to win re-election. More people on the right will probably start pointing the dangers of this strategy out, but until the electoral calculus (or the racist GOP base) changes, the behavior of those pandering to them will not.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

No, Obama Administration. We Don't Need to Cut Social Security.

Their never ending quest continues. The level of urgency and frustration here from Sperling is telling:
In his usual elliptical and prolix way, Sperling seemed to be laying out the contours of a bargain with Republicans that’s quite a bit different that what most Democrats seem prepared to accept. What stood out to me was how he kept winding back around to the importance of entitlement cuts as part of a deal, as if he were laying the groundwork to blunt liberal anger. Right now, the official Democratic position is that they’ll accept entitlement cuts only in exchange for new revenue—something most Republicans reject. If Sperling mentioned revenue at all, I missed it.
But he dwelt at length—and with some passion—on the need for more stimulus, though he avoided using that dreaded word. He seemed to hint at a budget deal that would trade near-term “investment” (the preferred euphemism for “stimulus’) for long-term entitlement reform. That would be an important shift and one that would certainly upset many Democrats.

Here’s some of what Sperling had to say. He led off with the importance of entitlement cuts. (All emphasis is mine):

“Sometimes here [in Washington] we start to think that the end goal of our public policy is to hit a particular budget or spending or revenue metric—as if those are the goals in and of itself. But it’s important to remember that each of these metrics … are means to larger goals. … Right now, I think there is among a lot of people a consensus as to what the ingredients of a pro-growth fiscal policy are. It would be a fiscal policy that—yes—did give more confidence in the long run that we have a path on entitlement spending and revenues that gives confidence in our long-term fiscal position and that we’re not pushing off unbearable burdens to the next generation. That is very important.”

That’s a vague, guarded, jargon-y Washington way of saying, “We’re going to have to accept entitlement cuts—get used to it.” Then came the justification, which was the weakness of the economic recovery:

“You have to think about this as part of an overall pro-growth, pro-jobs strategy. Also, there’s no question that right now we still need to give this recovery more momentum. We cannot possibly be satisfied with the levels of projected growth when we are still coming back from the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Sperling repeatedly drew a distinction between a deal that “hits a particular metric” and one that is “pro-growth,” leaving no doubt that the White House favors the latter. I took “hits a particular metric” to mean “secures X amount of dollars in new tax revenue.” Sperling’s clear implication was that that’s not something the White House is concerned about.
They won't stop. As long as Obama is in the White House, he will continue to use his political capital on pushing for a grand bargain that cuts social security. That's the reality of it, and how we respond is on us.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

If You Need Health Insurance, Please Stand By

With the amount of time I spending reading and trying to learn more about politics, I'd like to think I'm not terrible at vaguely predicting things. Sometimes I get things right, sometimes I get things wrong, but I'm usually in the ballpark. It's the times when something hits me completely out of left field that I take notice. The disastrous ACA rollout is one of those times.

For a background of anyone that is not used to reading this blog, here are two qualifiers:

-I am not a fan of vast majority of the policies President Obama has pursued done during his time in office.

- I am not a fan of the ACA as a law, and to this day debate whether I would have voted for the law had I been a member of congress.

With that out of the way, here is why I'm shocked:

-My endless policy disagreements aside, I feel like Obama's Administration has been well above average as far as executing their agenda competently. I actually get annoyed when liberals confuse Obama having a different policy agenda to theirs with incompetence.

-I have spent years writing about the ACA and reasons I think it is a shitty law and could/will be a disaster. Technical fuck ups of this scale would not have made the top 1,000 of those reasons. I think that creating all this infrastructure was no an efficient way of doing things and not needed if we had done my preferred option of a medicare buy in... but that's not even really the same as this. These are purely technical fuck ups could actually prevent the law from working:
This is an "834 EDI transmission." Insurers sometimes call it, more simply, "an 834." It is a technical, back-end reporting tool that consumers never see. It is meant to be read by computers, not human beings. It's the form that tells the insurer's system who you are and what you need. And it might be the new health-care law's biggest problem.

Insurers report that, in some cases, 834s are coming in wrong. That's a much more serious problem than the online traffic bottlenecks that have dominated coverage of the health-care law's rollout.

If people can't get into the Web site, then they simply have to come back later. But if they believe they've signed up for a plan but their 834 is a garbled mess -- or, even worse, clear but wrong -- it could mean chaos when they actually go to use their health insurance. For that reason, inside the health-care industry, the 834 problems are the glitch that is causing the most concern.

To back up a moment: 834 transmissions aren't new. They have been around for decades as the standard form that employers use to tell their insurance companies which workers are on their health insurance plan each month.

An 834 transmission contains enrollment data like an individual's social security number, their dependents and the plan that they picked. That data is, obviously, critical: If it comes in wrong, an applicant may not get the right plan, or family members may not be covered, or identity may not be verifiable.
The 834 transmission is the one form, in the giant machinery of, that lets insurance companies know who signed up for their product. It is the electronic file that lets them get to work printing member cards, mailing them out and, eventually, paying claims.

The 834 transmissions have begun filtering out to health insurance plans. The only problem? A lot of them are wrong.

The Wall Street Journal reported that one insurance plan got an 834 for a subscriber who, according to the data, had three spouses. This was surprising because the individual was not a polygamist. Two dependents had been incorrectly coded as spouses.

Others have gotten reports for people joining the plan, unenrolling and re-enrolling multiple times in the course of a week -- or even the same day.

Right now, health-insurance plans say they can manage these problems. Few enough enrollment forms are coming in that they're able to hand-check each one. "What our company, and I'm assuming others, are doing is throwing people at it," one insurer told Wonkblog. "We're overcoming the tech flaws with manual reviews and manual rigor and manual processes. That's fine right now, but when you start looking at the scale of what the Obama administration wants to do, that's just not going to scale up."

This approach undermines the very point of 834s, which is to make it possible for the computer system to automate the process of enrolling tens or even hundreds of thousands of applicants each day.

"The purpose of the electronic transaction is to be able to do this with a minimum amount of human intervention," says Stanley Nachimson of Nachimson Advisors, a health IT consulting firm. "The hope would be that the health plan's computers will be able to understand the transaction and do all the processes automatically."

Some in the industry believe's traffic problems have been a blessing-in-disguise for the program: If applicants were being able to sign up easily but the 834 forms were coming in with this many errors the results could be disastrous.

"Some days its going to be 100,000 coming in," Laszewski says. "The good news right now is there is a small enough number that they can scrub the data manually."
There are plenty of other problems, but I wanted to highlight this because I think it's something that's been missed in the coverage. You can fix a shittily designed or slow website. This is a far more serious problem. If people think they're signing up for insurance and they aren't or even worse, they are and they are signed with the wrong information - that is obviously a disaster, maybe one the implementation can't recover from.

I know the Republicans have been trying to destroy Obamacare and hurt it's implementation every step of the way. That sucks, but if you expected any different you should be out of a job.You had THREE FUCKING YEARS to get this up and running.

There is still time to get this together, but while they fix it people are getting letters like this, telling them they are being kicked off their current plan, and must find insurance in the exchanges by January 1st or go without insurance.

The stakes are high and they better get their shit together. I had honestly thought the technical feasibility of this law was the least of their concerns, and boy was I wrong.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Democrats Organizing to Cut Social Security (Part 10,000)

If it's a day that ends in y during the Obama Administration, there is some group of democrats attempting to lay the groundwork for social security cuts. DSWright at firedoglake:
You would think after winning the shutdown and debt ceiling battle Democrats would press their advantage, instead they seem to be volunteering cuts to Social Security as a solution to a future budget deal. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin went on Fox News to promote a deal that would cut Social Security in exchange for tax increases.
Durbin said that Republicans had to put tax revenue on the table to get entitlement cuts. Fox host Chris Wallace noted that Durbin has previously supported entitlement cuts, and asked why Republicans should have to give up tax increases to get something that many Democrats support. President Barack Obama has repeatedly endorsed Social Security cuts as part of budget deals, and Durbin acknowledged that he did support Social Security reforms.
“Social Security is gonna run out of money in 20 years,” Durbin said. “The Baby Boom generation is gonna blow away our future. We don’t wanna see that happen.”
Yeah, social security is not going to "run out of money in 20 years" but if you've read this blog or spoken to me in the last 10 years you probably already know that. They want desperately to cut social security. They try every which way to make it happen. They pre-compromise with social security cuts not because they're bad negotiators but because THEY ACTUALLY WANT THESE CUTS. The administration is pushing this, and the congressional leadership has made it clear during the other 10,000 times they've floated this idea that they're on board as well.

We'll fight them like hell on this, and hopefully we win again. But seriously, fuck these people.

Monday, October 21, 2013


The Bush Administration really contained some of the worst people in the universe (via atrios)
A senior official from former President George W. Bush's administration is quoted in “Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House” saying American troops went into Iraq because the U.S. was looking for a fight.

"The only reason we went into Iraq, I tell people now, is we were looking for somebody’s ass to kick. Afghanistan was too easy," the anonymous official said, according to Politico.
This is the same week a study came out showing that the Iraq war killed 500,000 people. How the fuck do they sleep at night?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Less Shame?

I don't know the source for this outside of the fact that it was sent from ToT reader Dan, but this is absolutely fantastic:

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Shutdown is Over

Several weeks ago I wrote this about the shutdown:
(1) The house GOP is legitimately nihilistic and gives no fucks and cares about basically nothing other than standing up to the black Kenyan Muslim. They don't care about the consequences of shutting down the government or sending the world economy into a great depression. It doesn't seem like much will convince them otherwise, and any non insane ending to this saga involves the house passing something with a lot of democratic votes.

My best guess is that the government shuts down for a week or two and enough Republicans panic that the house passes something with majority democratic support which ends the standoff. This would lead to unspeakable carnage on the Republican side, but it's kind of hard not to see that regardless of what happens here.
And several weeks later this is basically what happened. I'd like to pretend I'm some sort of master prognosticator, but the reality is the ending of this idiocy was obvious for some time now. There was absolutely no reason this needed to happen. And yet, for really dumb reasons, it did. Fuck all those involved. Ted Cruz in particular, because seriously fuck that guy.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

They Are Who We Thought They Were

Chris Hayes' segment on the rally at the WWII memorial furthers the point I was making in the last post on the GOP base. Just appalling stuff:

Thursday, October 10, 2013

It's Not About Obamacare

It's about this:

Obamacare has become an avatar for Obama, and that's the only reason anyone in the wingnut base cares. It's about pandering to racist shits and the absolute dumbest people on earth. If you're looking for an upside it's that a lot of these people will be dead in 20-30 years.

And by the way I'd be willing to bet fucking anything that former White House spokesman Ari Fleisher isn't a racist. He just knows the bigoted neanderthals he needs to appeal to do stay relevant on the wingnut TV/Radio appearance/Book tour circuit that pays his bills.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Better Plan: Stop Pandering to Racists

Republicans have this thing figured out:
The Republican National Committee announced Monday that it has hired "Hispanic engagement staff" in seven states to improve the party's outreach to Latino voters.

“Today’s announcement is unprecedented,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a release. “This off-cycle effort will ensure our message of ‘opportunity for all’ reaches voters. We are building a ground game that will allow us to compete for every voter and will outlast any one cycle or campaign. I’m certain with these early and unprecedented investments we can achieve Republican victories up and down the ballot now and for years to come.”

A Gallup poll released in August found that Hispanics overwhelmingly favor the Democratic Party. Priebus admitted this summer at a gathering of Latino public officials that the GOP had done a "lousy" job of connecting with the Latino community.

The RNC hired Hispanic state directors and field directors in California, Florida, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia, according to the release.
This is all well and good, but the better plan would be to have elected officials in your party stop loudly saying racist stuff all the time. You don't need re-branding, you need to stop trying to appeal to the racists that make up a large portion of your party's base.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Government Shutdown Explained

The shutdown was caused by house Republicans trying to defund Obamacare in the budget. It was their way of trying to hurt Obamacare one last time before it becomes law. Until it wasn't:
“This is not just about Obamacare anymore,” centrist Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., said.

“We’re not going to be disrespected,” conservative Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., added. “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”
Obamacare was convenient because it's OBAMAcare and the bill is not very popular at the moment, but it could have been anything. This has always been about the performance art of standing up to the Kenyan Muslim as a way to impress their crazy base. And they're willing to shut down the government and send the world into a recession to prove that point. Fun times. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Obamacare and the long term fight for a sane Healthcare System

At this point my thoughts on the subject largely echo atrios'. As usual I think he said this really well:
As I've written plenty of times, I remain somewhat optimistic that Obamacare will be a modest improvement over the current system, though I do think there are some worries about how it will evolve long term. On one hand I support decoupling insurance from employment, but on the other hand if the decoupling happens without genuinely affordable substitutes being available then we aren't improving things. This stuff should be easy, not complicated, but DC is allergic to doing anything to help people without adding a Rube Goldberg layer on top of it, and funneling money to the Rube Goldberg machine operators in the process.
At the time of passage I was extremely torn on how I would have voted if I was in congress. In the end I figured I would have voted for it, because crappy private insurance is better than no insurance and there are a lot of people with no insurance. With that said, I have huge concerns of how it will evolve going forward having permanently cemented the private insurance industry's role in this process when they serve no beneficial purpose for anyone and should not exist.

I think the new exchanges system will work very well in states with good democratic governors (especially ones that want to run for president), and be anything from workable to inconvenient to a disaster everywhere else.

Looking into the future I think the next logical step is organizing around a medicare buy-in option to be added to all exchanges while trying to pass single payer systems on a state level. The system won't improve to the degree it needs to until we've added a medicare element, and let's go for the real deal, not some watered down public option. Until the private insurance industry is removed from the equation, there is only so much we can do to improve the system. That's obviously a long term goal (and one we've just made more difficult for ourselves), but the most important aspect of a campaign is picking the right target. Our main target needs to be putting the private insurance companies out of business, and we can move out on the hospitals and pharmaceutical companies from there.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Government Shutdown

My guess is that this lasts a few days or a week, the pressure will mount enough on house Republicans to cave and pass a clean budget, but with sequester cuts because the Democrats already pre-compromised on that because of course they did.

Also guessing this deal will include a debt limit raise, because at that point the house republicans are going to be in such dire straights that they won't want to do this again.

There were a lot of really dumb moves here, but then again, when you're working with this crowd it's far form unexpected. The shutdown will do well at preventing people from being primaried, but will make the rest of the country hate them with a ferocity that could cost them the house in 2014.

It's also an example of how the GOP is hurt by the conservative media bubble that these folks operate in. A lot of the house genuinely believe that they will be greeted as liberators for shutting down the government to block Obamacare. "Obamacare" is not popular, but it's also not THAT unpopular. You know what is THAT unpopular? Shutting down the government, especially when people find out it's to block Obamacare. While people might not like "Obamacare" in the abstract form it's been in until today, they REALLY won't like the people who caused the government shutdown. Just about everyone outside of the conservative bubble has figured this out, including the house and senate Republican leadership. All that's left are lonely house tea partiers fighting the good fight while making their national party more toxic by the minute. If these neanderthals weren't fucking up the economy and putting people out of work, it would be goddamn hilarious.