Mar 12-26 – DIRECT eZine for Democrats #875

ON THE RECORD ….

“Believing that Cruz cares about anything other than getting headlines and anyone other than his far-right base is like believing Justin Bieber cares about the two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.” — Dean Obeidallah on Ted Cruz’s proposed alternative to Obamacare. 03.05.15

“Though it was “unlikely,” it would not be a “huge jump” to predict that the Obama administration could call an end to the prosecutions of African Americans for any crime.” —Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, one of the chief architects of the anti-immigrant movement’s legal and legislative strategies. 3/04/15

“Conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza decried Hillary Clinton’s “lawlessness” in a Skype interview from San Diego, California, where he is currently serving his eight month sentence in a “community confinement center” for violating campaign finance laws.” — Matt Wilstein in Mediaite 3/05/15

“Voters do not give a shit. They do not even give a fart. Find me one persuadable voter who agrees with HRC on the issues but will vote against her because she has a non-archival-compliant email system and I’ll kiss your ass in Macy’s window and say it smells like roses.” — Longtime Clinton ally and Democratic strategist Paul Begala 3/05/15

“Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky, won’t face legal questions over their use of email but won’t have to turn anything over, either, because Congress exempts itself from open records laws.” — Eric Bradner and Alexandra Jaffe, CNN 3/06/15

“Fifty years ago, registering to vote here in Selma and much of the South meant guessing the number of jellybeans in a jar or bubbles on a bar of soap. It meant risking your dignity, and sometimes, your life. What is our excuse today for not voting? How do we so casually discard the right for which so many fought? How do we so fully give away our power, our voice, in shaping America’s future?” — President Obama in Selma. 3/07/15

“Despite a small minority of Democrats and Israeli reporters seeking to curry favor with Obama, Netanyahu’s speech to Congress elicited overwhelming support.” — Israel Hayom in Israel Today, the money-losing free news daily which Sheldon Adelson set up in 2007 mainly to support Benjamin Netanyahu. 3/06/15

“Make no mistake, this is your father’s Republican Party. This is the exact same trans-vaginal ultrasound, all white-guy committee chair, aspirin between your knees Republican Party we have been fighting for thirty years. Shame on them. They are trying to fool women. And shame on us if we let them get away with it. They don’t support women. They don’t trust women. They don’t respect women so don’t tell me that there is no war on women. And don’t bother asking for a truce. We didn’t start this fight but mark my words. We are going to win it. — Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock (video)

“I don’t email. You can have every email I’ve ever sent. I’ve never sent one. I don’t know what that makes me.” — Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). A Luddite? NOTE: Senator Graham sits on the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law 3/08/15

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“I’ve been very good over the last year and a half about not posting things about Obama, but this one was too good to pass up,. I promise this will be the last one for some time.” — Maine State Sen. Michael Willette (R), who shared a Facebook post suggesting that President Barack Obama has family members of the ISIL. 3/09/15

“From issuing a completely unnecessary subpoena to Secretary Clinton to Republican fundraising off of the tragedy in Benghazi, it appears that the Select Committee has given up any pretense of a legitimate investigation, and now has just become a surrogate for the Republican National Committee.” — Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) on reports that the RNC is fundraising off of the controversy over Hillary Clinton’s private email accounts. 3/09/15

“The Hillary Clinton email story is getting ugly, showing the nasty side of a longtime D.C. institution. Not Clinton herself, though. The political media. Political reporters are in an orgasmic frenzy at the chance to play out the tired narratives about the Clintons that they long ago bought from Republican operatives. They’re outraged about the difficulties of getting last-minute press credentials at the United Nations. And because it’s Hillary Clinton, they feel confident in explaining what’s in her head, what this story Tells Us About Hillary, as if it’s not a story that basically only a certain class of political reporter gives a shred of a damn about.” — Laura Clawson in The Daily Kos 3/11/15

1. FLASHBACK: When Millions Of Lost Bush White House Emails (From Private Accounts) Triggered A Media Shrug

Even for a Republican White House that was badly stumbling through George W. Bush’s sixth year in office, the revelation on April 12, 2007 was shocking. Responding to congressional demands for emails in connection with its investigation into the partisan firing of eight U.S. attorneys, the White House announced that as many as five million emails, covering a two-year span, had been lost.

The emails had been run through private accounts controlled by the Republican National Committee and were only supposed to be used for dealing with non-administration political campaign work to avoid violating ethics laws. Yet congressional investigators already had evidence private emails had been used for government business, including to discuss the firing of one of the U.S. attorneys. The RNC accounts were used by 22 White House staffers, including then-Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, who reportedly used his RNC email for 95 percent of his communications.

As the Washington Post reported, “Under federal law, the White House is required to maintain records, including e-mails, involving presidential decision- making and deliberations.” But suddenly millions of the private RNC emails had gone missing; emails that were seen as potentially crucial evidence by Congressional investigators.

Back in 2007 Fox News seemed utterly uninterested in the Bush email story days after the news broke. A search of Fox archives locates only one panel discussion about the story and it featured two guests accusing Democrats of engineering a “fishing expedition.”

From then-Fox co-host, Fred Barnes: “I mean, deleted e-mails, who cares?” 3/10/15 Read more at http://mediamatters.org/blog/2015/03/10/flashback-when-millions-of-lost-bush-white-hous/202820

2. The DAILY GRILL

Forty-seven Senate Republicans warned in an open letter to Iran’s leaders Monday that any agreement between the White House and Tehran on nuclear weapons could be quickly nullified or changed once President Barack Obama leaves office. The letter, which was signed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and a number of top committee chairmen, said that unless approved by Congress, any agreement between world powers and Iran would be seen by GOP lawmakers as an executive agreement between Mr. Obama and Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei. Such an agreement may not stay in effect under future administrations and could be modified by lawmakers in the future, they wrote.” 3/09/15

VERSUS

— “Republicans are undermining our commander in chief while empowering the ayatollahs. … Even at the height of our disagreements with President George W. Bush, Senate Democrats never considered sending a letter to Saddam Hussein or other Iraqi leaders at the time. It’s time for Republicans to accept that the citizens of our country twice elected President Obama by large margins as president of the United States. Obviously. Republicans don’t know how to do anything other than juvenile political attacks against the president.” — Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) on the letter 47 GOP senators wrote to the Iranian leadership. 3/10/15

— “In our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy. It is very interesting that while negotiations are still in progress and while no agreement has been reached, some political pressure groups are so afraid even of the prospect of an agreement that they resort to unconventional methods, unprecedented in diplomatic history.” —Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif. 3/10/15

— Republicans have a “long and rather sordid history” of putting military options ahead of diplomatic ones.” The letter, signed by 47 GOP lawmakers is “the continuation of a partisan strategy to undermine the president’s authority.” — White House press secretary Josh Earnest 3/09/15

— “In 36 years in the United States Senate I cannot recall another instance in which senators wrote directly to advise another country — much less a longtime foreign adversary — that the president does not have the constitutional authority to reach a meaningful understanding with them.” — Vice President Joe Biden 3/9/15

— “When we see a major party, on a partisan basis, try to undercut and kill the negotiations while they are going on at this very moment in Geneva, then that goes a step too far. I am saddened.” — Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), 3/10/15

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3. Florida Officials Told Not to Use Term ‘Climate Change’

Officials at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection have been ordered not to use the term “climate change” or “global warming” in any official communications, emails, or reports, the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting reports.

“This unwritten policy went into effect after Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011 and appointed Herschel Vinyard Jr. as the DEP’s director, according to former DEP employees. Gov. Scott, who won a second term in November, has repeatedly said he is not convinced that climate change is caused by human activity, despite scientific evidence to the contrary.” 3/09/15 Read more at http://fcir.org/2015/03/08/in-florida-officials-ban-term-climate-change/

4. The Error in the Senators’ Letter to the Leaders of Iran

It appears from the open letter from 47 Republican senators to Iran’s leaders that the Senators suggests that the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran that do not understand our constitutional system or the power to make binding agreements. Instead, it appears from the letter that the Senators are the ones who do not understand our constitutional system or the power to make binding agreements.

The letter states that “the Senate must ratify [a treaty] by a two-thirds vote.”  But as the Senate’s own web page makes clear: “The Senate does not ratify treaties. Instead, the Senate takes up a resolution of ratification, by which the Senate formally gives its advice and consent, empowering the president to proceed with ratification” (my emphasis).  Or, as this outstanding  2001 CRS Report on the Senate’s role in treaty-making states (at 117):  “It is the President who negotiates and ultimately ratifies treaties for the United States, but only if the Senate in the intervening period gives its advice and consent.”  Ratification is the formal act of the nation’s consent to be bound by the treaty on the international plane.  Senate consent is a necessary but not sufficient condition of treaty ratification for the United States.  As the CRS Report notes: “When a treaty to which the Senate has advised and consented … is returned to the President,” he may “simply decide not to ratify the treaty.” 3/09/15 Read more at http://www.lawfareblog.com/2015/03/the-error-in-the-senators-letter-to-the-leaders-of-iran/

5. From MEDIA MATTERS (They watch Fox News so you don’t have to)

Limbaugh Dismisses DOJ Report Finding Racial Bias In Ferguson As “Throw[ing] A Bone To The Civil Rights Coalition” http://mediamatters.org/video/2015/03/05/limbaugh-dismisses-doj-report-finding-racial-bi/202775

“B-i-itch Battle”: Limbaugh Describes Possible Primary Between Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren http://mediamatters.org/video/2015/03/05/b-i-itch-battle-limbaugh-describes-possible-pri/202771

O’Reilly Highlights Christiane Amanpour’s Time In Iran To Undermine Her Criticism Of Netanyahu’s Speech http://mediamatters.org/blog/2015/03/04/oreilly-highlights-christiane-amanpours-time-in/202768

The Conservative Myth Of The Ambassador Ousted Over A Personal Email Account http://mediamatters.org/research/2015/03/06/the-conservative-myth-of-the-ambassador-ousted/202789

Fox’s Outnumbered Takes Its Own Poll Out Of Context To Downplay Positive Jobs Report http://mediamatters.org/blog/2015/03/06/foxs-outnumbered-takes-its-own-poll-out-of-cont/202787

Conservative Columnist Uses Clinton Email Investigation To Revive Bigoted Muslim Brotherhood Conspiracy http://mediamatters.org/blog/2015/03/06/conservative-columnist-uses-clinton-email-inves/202782

Justice Scalia Once Again Repeating Right-Wing Media Talking Points In Health Care Challenge http://mediamatters.org/blog/2015/03/06/justice-scalia-once-again-repeating-right-wing/202781

Ben Stein On Fox: Michelle Obama’s Healthy School Lunch Initiative Is Orwellian http://mediamatters.org/video/2015/03/09/ben-stein-on-fox-michelle-obamas-healthy-school/202812

Breitbart.com: Gabby Giffords Is A “Human Shield”http://mediamatters.org/blog/2015/03/09/breitbartcom-gabby-giffords-is-a-human-shield/202809

After Right-To-Work, The Conservative Media Coronation Of Scott Walker Signals A New War On The Middle Class http://mediamatters.org/blog/2015/03/10/after-right-to-work-the-conservative-media-coro/202823

O’Reilly: “Let’s Be Frank,” Hillary Clinton Email Scandal Is About Benghazi http://mediamatters.org/video/2015/03/10/oreilly-lets-be-frank-hillary-clinton-email-sca/202835

Fox Host Said Clinton Was “Lying,” But She Couldn’t Use Two Email Accounts On A BlackBerry In 2009 http://mediamatters.org/blog/2015/03/10/fox-host-said-clinton-was-lying-but-she-couldnt/202833

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Fox News Adopts Gowdy’s Fallacy To Accuse Clinton Of Hiding Emails http://mediamatters.org/blog/2015/03/10/fox-news-adopts-gowdys-fallacy-to-accuse-clinto/202826

Two Names The Press Omits From Email Coverage: Colin Powell And Jeb Bush http://mediamatters.org/blog/2015/03/11/two-names-the-press-omits-from-email-coverage-c/202847

6. MarkFiore: Greater Republica

https://vimeo.com/121319069

7. Late Night Jokes for Dems

“President Obama said he wants the United States to establish an embassy in Cuba by April. When asked if Cuba would establish an embassy here, Obama said, ‘What do you call Miami?'” –Jimmy Fallon

“Jeb Bush is getting his presidential campaign in gear. Last week he said he supports a path to citizenship for immigrants. He said, ‘I believe in an America where hard work and dedication can lead to any job that your brother and dad once had.'” –Conan O’Brien

“Today during his speech in Washington, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly referred to Congress as ‘my friends.’ It was a move that had many in Congress Googling the word ‘friend.'” –Seth Meyers

“This weekend the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC, featured several speakers including Sarah Palin and Phil Robertson from ‘Duck Dynasty.’ It was a good weekend for conservatives — and a great weekend for wild animals.” –Jimmy Fallon

“During the CPAC conference, Rand Paul told the crowd it was time for a new president and that people need to help make the change. Of course, most people agreed with him, since that’s how term limits work.” –Jimmy Fallon

“RNC chairman Reince Priebus criticized Joe Biden, saying that he can’t control his mouth. That’s kind of like someone trying to say the name ‘Reince Priebus,’ which sounds like a drunk person trying to say ‘rented Prius.'” –Jimmy Fallon

“In New Jersey, Chris Christie joked that he gave up The New York Times for lent. But then his priest told him he had to give up something he’d actually miss.” –Jimmy Fallon

“Hillary Clinton is receiving criticism after telling a crowd to ‘unlock their full potential,’ because that line is commonly used by another possible candidate, Carly Fiorina. People said, ‘You can’t just steal someone’s slogan like that!’ And Hillary said, ‘Yes we can!'” –Jimmy Fallon

8. GOP’s War Against Workers (Cont.): Scott Walker Makes It Official: Signs Right-To-Work Bill

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) signed right-to-work legislation on Monday, finishing a quick turnaround after conservatives in the state legislature vowed to fast-track a right-to-work bill. 3/09/15 Read more at http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/scott-walker-signs-right-to-work-bill

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9. Ferguson judge behind aggressive fines policy owes $170,000 in unpaid taxes

The judge in Ferguson, Missouri, who is accused of fixing traffic tickets for himself and colleagues while inflicting a punishing regime of fines and fees on the city’s residents, also owes more than $170,000 in unpaid taxes.

Ronald J Brockmeyer, whose court allegedly jailed impoverished defendants unable to pay fines of a few hundred dollars, has a string of outstanding debts to the US government dating back to 2007, according to tax filings obtained by the Guardian from authorities in Missouri.

Brockmeyer, 70, was this week singled out by Department of Justice investigators as being a driving force behind Ferguson’s strategy of using its municipal court to aggressively generate revenues. The policy has been blamed for a breakdown in relations between the city’s overwhelmingly white authorities and residents, two-thirds of whom are African American. 3/06/15 Read more at http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/mar/06/ferguson-judge-owes-unpaid-taxes-ronald-brockmeyer

10. GOP Hopefuls Silent on Clinton Email Controversy

The GOP presidential field has been unusually silent this week as scrutiny mounts over Hillary Clinton’s email practices, there’s a logical explanation: Many of them are tormented by their own email demons.

At least a half-dozen 2016 Republican prospects have felt the sting of sustained negative press coverage over their email practices, with the common denominator being an attempt to sidestep public scrutiny attached to official government accounts. While the scope and scale of the controversies range widely — and they’re not comparable to the Clinton circumstances — their histories with electronic communications have left them with their own unique vulnerabilities on the issue. 3/05/15 Read more at http://www.politico.com/story/2015/03/hillary-clinton-email-flap-creates-awkward-gop-silence-115781.html#ixzz3TW0OKCuG

11. Transcript of Obama’s speech in Selma

http://www.vox.com/2015/3/7/8168085/president-obama-selma-50

You can watch a video of 3 segments of Obama’s speech at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WyIx1qan3v8

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12. Jon Stewart: Revolutionary Road & Skyfail

http://www.hulu.com/watch/762605

13. Andy Borowitz: Iran Offers to Mediate Talks Between Republicans and Obama

Stating that “their continuing hostilities are a threat to world peace,” Iran has offered to mediate talks between congressional Republicans and President Obama.

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, made the offer one day after Iran received what he called a “worrisome letter” from Republican leaders, which suggested to him that “the relationship between Republicans and Obama has deteriorated dangerously.”

“Tensions between these two historic enemies have been high in recent years, but we believe they are now at a boiling point,” Khamenei said. “As a result, Iran feels it must offer itself as a peacemaker.”

For their part, the Republicans said they would only agree to talks if there were no preconditions, such as recognizing President Obama’s existence.

ELSEWHERE: In an unusually forthcoming interview with the Korean Central News Agency (K.C.N.A.), KimJongun said it was “hurtful” that the Republicans would send a letter to one of the United States’ most longstanding enemies while “totally snubbing” another. Read more at http://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/iran-offers-to-mediate-talks-between-republicans-and-obama

14. The GOP’s War on Women (Cont.): West Virginia bans abortions after 20 weeks over governor’s veto

The Republican-controlled West Virginia legislature on Friday banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, overriding the governor’s veto and joining 11 other states in prohibiting abortion at that point. 3/06/15 Read more at http://news.yahoo.com/west-virginia-bans-abortions-20-weeks-over-governors-231832732.html

OPINION

1. Joe Conason: Is This a Scandal — Or a ‘Scandal’?

Angry Republicans on the House Select Committee that is forever investigating Benghazi, plainly frustrated by years of failure to find any evidence that incriminates Clinton or President Obama in the loony conspiracy theories cherished by tea party Republicans, are behind the email stories first published by The New York Times. In fact, Clinton’s use of a private account has been publicly known for more than two years — but that fact didn’t seem to trouble the Republicans until now, as she prepares to run for president. And today the House Government Operations Committee, chaired by Rep. Jason Chaffetz — a right-wing extremist whose own business card lists his Gmail address – is poised to take up the “investigation.”

This unappetizing scenario is most reminiscent of the bad old days, when a House committee chair “investigated” the tragic suicide of White House aide Vince Foster by pumping several pistol rounds into a watermelon in his backyard. Back then, various Senate and House committees chaired by Republicans endlessly “investigated” Whitewater, the FBI files, and other putatively scandalous matters, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars, with no purpose beyond selective, salacious leaks to reporters at the top newspapers and networks. Then everybody would feign outrage for a day or two, and the latest whatever would pass into oblivion.

Someone should ask the Republicans and their media enablers what they expect to find now. Is there any evidence of actual wrongdoing by Clinton and her staff, or merely the familiar stink of insinuation? Will they seek the testimony of former Bush aide Karl Rove — who misplaced thousands of White House emails on an RNC.com address during a criminal probe — or any of the other ex-officials, like Powell, who have used private email addresses to conduct public business over the past decade or so? Or will they simply continue a partisan hunting expedition with taxpayer millions, which is what they seem to believe they were elected to do instead of governing? 3/05/15 Read more at http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2015/03/05/is_this_a_scandal_–_or_a_scandal________125830.html

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2. E.J. Dionne: The Wound Netanyahu Left

It was disconcerting to watch Congress cheer wildly as a foreign leader, the prime minister of one of America’s closest allies, trashed an American president’s foreign policy. It was equally strange that the speaker of our House of Representatives interjected the United States Congress into an Israeli political campaign.

John Boehner’s unprecedented act of inviting the leader of another nation to criticize our own president, and Netanyahu’s decision to accept, threaten to damage the bipartisan and trans-ideological coalition that has always come together on behalf of Israel’s survival.

Netanyahu may have spoken the words, “We appreciate all that President Obama has done for Israel,” but the rest of his speech painted the president as foolish and on the verge of being duped on a nuclear deal by the mullahs in Tehran.

The Israeli leader reached for the most devastating metaphor available to him, the appeasement of the Nazis that led to the Holocaust. He urged the United States “not to sacrifice the future for the present” and “not to ignore aggression in the hopes of gaining an illusory peace.” This is what he was accusing Obama of doing. No wonder House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi described herself as “near tears” over Netanyahu’s “condescension toward our knowledge of the threat posed by Iran.”

The crux of the difference between Obama and Netanyahu is about a bet on the future. The Israeli prime minister argued that “the ideology of Iran’s revolutionary regime is deeply rooted in militant Islam, and that’s why this regime will always be an enemy of America.” He added, “I don’t believe that Iran’s radical regime will change for the better after this deal.”

Obama’s bet, by contrast, is that a deal opening up space and time provides the best chance we have of encouraging political evolution in Iran. Of course there is no guarantee of this, but it’s a reasonable assumption that ending the negotiations would set back the forces of change.

Skeptics of an agreement, Netanyahu included, can usefully push Obama to get the longest time line and the toughest guarantees he can, and American negotiators can try to use the threat of opposition in Congress to strengthen the final terms.

But Netanyahu never gave a satisfactory answer to the most important question: What is the alternative? As for Netanyahu’s provocative and divisive intervention in American politics and Boehner’s meddling in Israel’s election, the voters of our friend and ally will render a judgment soon. 3/05/15 Read more at http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2015/03/05/the_wound_netanyahu_left_125825.html

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3. David Brock: There’s no scandal in Hillary Clinton’s emails

How do Republicans try to breathe new life into an old scandal? We’ve seen it time and time again. Here’s how it works:

Step One: Republicans, with nothing in their arsenal to use against Hillary Clinton, selectively leak to reporters a “scandalous” tidbit — often one that has been previously reported.

Step Two: The new media bites.

Step Three: The media hyperventilates and suffocates the airwaves with repetition of the same story.

Step Four: Upon further examination, the story falls apart.

This is exactly how the latest media hype, this time over Hillary Clinton’s use of emails at the State Department, has played out. And it presents yet another chapter in the Benghazi hoax.

The New York Times story about Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account at the State Department is a perfect example of “gotcha” journalism, where reporters will take any bait the Republicans give them without proper vetting. The New York Times has a history of this. (Whitewater, anyone?)

The Times story suggests Secretary Clinton broke federal rules in relation to her email. But the Times’ main source for this allegation says Clinton violated no laws.

Republican investigators seeking to hype the current Benghazi investigation leaked the issue to keep a dying investigation alive.

And once again, reporters bit. In the days since The New York Times posted its story, there have been dozens and dozens of stories written on the topic. Why?

Because the Clintons are held to a double standard when it comes to media scrutiny. Their perfectly usual, above board behavior is spun as secretive and unaccountable — while Republicans are left relatively unscathed.

In the end, all we are left with is the benign fact that Hillary Clinton used a personal email account at the State Department. This isn’t even a revelation — it has been known for years. Looks like the Republicans wasted their breath, once again, for nothing. 3/05/15 Read more at http://edition.cnn.com/2015/03/05/opinions/brock-hillary-clinton-email/index.html

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4. Economist Editorial: Don’t kill Obamacare

AMERICA’S health-care system is the costliest in the world, gobbling up 17% of GDP. The average for rich nations is only 9%; even the French spend less than 12%. Despite this avalanche of cash, one American in ten has no cover and American life expectancy, at 79, is four years worse than Italy’s.

The Affordable Care Act of 2010, better known as Obamacare, was supposed to deal with these problems. Five years later, Barack Obama’s most important domestic reform is unpopular (56% of Americans disapprove of it) and under renewed attack. This week the Supreme Court heard yet another legal challenge. In King v Burwell, the law’s opponents argue that its subsidies for individuals buying health insurance on the federally organized online exchanges are illegal. They are unlikely to prevail but, if they do, the law will be gutted and the insurance market thrown into turmoil.

That would be a terrible shame, for Obamacare appears to be working better than expected. First, despite the incompetent rollout of healthcare.gov (the website that allows people to use the federal exchanges), the proportion of Americans who lack cover has fallen from 16.2% to 12.3% since 2009. Second, the previously terrifying pace of medical inflation has slowed. The amount that America spends on health care grew by 3.9% a year in nominal terms between 2009 and 2011—having grown by 7.3% a year in 2000-08. The trillion dollar question is: how much of this squeeze is because of Obamacare?

Annual spending per Medicare beneficiary has fallen in real terms from $12,000 in 2011 to an estimated $11,200 in 2014. This is highly unusual—the last time Medicare spending fell was in the late 1990s. Granted, Medicare beneficiaries are healthier than they were, since swarms of baby-boomers have pulled down their average age. But the program has also grown more efficient. The Congressional Budget Office projects that Medicare spending per head will be no higher in 2020 than it is now. By then, spending on Medicare and Medicaid (cover for the poor) could be $160 billion a year less than previous estimates. In the wider market, too, health inflation is subdued (see article).

As Americans age and Obamacare continues to extend coverage, federal outlays on health will probably start to grow again as a share of GDP over the next decade. America still spends far more than it needs to on health care, as the gap with other nations shows. But there is hope at last that health inflation can be made more manageable. Scrapping Obamacare and starting again from scratch would make this harder. Far better to build on what appears to be working. For the Supreme Court to rule for the challengers would be a woeful outcome. 3/07/15 Read more at http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21645730-supreme-court-considers-whether-gut-obamacare-evidence-mounting-law

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5. Congressman John Conyers: 50 Years Later: I’m Still Standing with Selma

My first speech on the House floor as a Member of Congress was to recount the events I’d seen firsthand in Selma and urge my colleagues to pass the Voting Rights Act. It didn’t solve all inequality, but it finally forced elected officials to be accountable to uphold the constitution they were elected to defend.

Fast forward to present day and we still find ourselves having to defend the right to vote – the very cornerstone of our great democracy. States with a history of discrimination at the polls are now allowed to resume such practices because the Voting Rights Act’s most important sections were gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013.

It is up to Congress to restore the critical sections of the Voting Rights Act and the only thing stopping them are those in the political majority who have chosen to forget our history. They are the same Republicans who have removed “Civil Rights and Human Rights” from the title of a Senate committee that oversees these critical issues. This is the same party who passed an unprecedented number of voter identification laws that disproportionately affects young people, people of color, low-income people, veterans, and the elderly. Even more appalling is how they continue to defend these laws that have disenfranchised so many Americans.

The same Congress that can’t seem to pass a fix to the Voting Rights Act, was able to recently pass a bill honoring the marchers of Selma. They must do more. And you and I know they can. 3/06/14 http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/03/06/1369020/-50-Years-Later-I-m-Still-Standing-with-Selma

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6. Bill Moyers, Michael Winship: Netanyahu Speaks, Money Talks

Everything you need to know about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress Tuesday was the presence in the visitor’s gallery of one man – Sheldon Adelson.

The gambling tycoon is the Godfather of the Republican Right. The party’s presidential hopefuls line up to kiss his assets, scraping and bowing for his blessing, which when granted is bestowed with his signed checks. Data from both the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics and the Center for Public Integrity show that in the 2012 election cycle, Adelson and his wife Miriam (whose purse achieved metaphoric glory Tuesday when it fell from the gallery and hit a Democratic congressman) contributed $150 million to the GOP and its friends, including $93 million to such plutocracy-friendly super PACs as Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, the Congressional Leadership Fund, the Republican Jewish Coalition Victory Fund, Winning Our Future (the pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC) and Restore Our Future (the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC).

Not only is this casino mogul the unofficial head of the Republican Party in America (“he with the gold rules”), he is the uncrowned King of Israel — David with a printing press and checkbook instead of a slingshot and a stone. All of this came to the fore in Netanyahu’s speech on Tuesday: the US cannot determine its own policy in the Middle East and the majority in Congress are under the thumb of a foreign power.

Like a King Midas colossus, Sheldon Adelson bestrides the cause of war and peace in the most volatile region of the world. And this is the man who — at Yeshiva University in New York in 2013 — denounced President Obama’s diplomatic efforts with Iran and proposed instead that the United States drop an atomic bomb in the Iranian desert and then declare: “See! The next one is in the middle of Tehran. So, we mean business. You want to be wiped out? Go ahead and take a tough position and continue with your nuclear development.”

Everything you need to know about Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress Tuesday was the presence in the visitor’s gallery of that man. We are hostage to his fortune. 3/05/15 Read more at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/03/05/netanyahu-speaks-money-talks

7. Leslie H. Gelb: GOP Hates Obama More Than a Nuclear Iran

That letter to Iranian leaders from 47 Republican senators could well destroy critical bipartisanship in U.S. foreign policy for years to come and treacherously undermine the bargaining power of the person constitutionally authorized to conduct American affairs abroad—the President of the United States. On top of what House Speaker John Boehner did by unilaterally inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress, this letter seriously points to one terrible conclusion: A formidable number of congressional Republicans hate President Obama more than they love America.

These acts go entirely beyond legitimate criticism of presidential actions abroad. They are not like a few legislators wandering in foreign lands and expressing their disagreement with their government. They surely exceed the usual congressional resolutions of disagreement with presidential policy.

Beyond these negotiations, the effects on our national security may well be profound and lasting. Just look at the future implications of what these Republican senators said in their letter. They maintained, in effect, that this thing a president of the United States has been negotiating will either be thrown out by Congress or discarded by the next president, so don’t waste your time. Did the 47 even consider how future Congresses would apply such words to future presidents?

For one moment, did these senators think about how their actions could affect the ability of President Barack Obama to protect the safety of America? Did they consider how their insistence that he doesn’t matter affects his power to protect American interests and lives in the Middle East or NATO countries? These noble legislators were saying Mr. Obama doesn’t speak for Congress or the American people, and bad guys of the world, you can defy him and thus the United States however you wish.

The House Republicans who invited a foreign leader to Congress to attack the president of the United States, and the 47 Republican senators who undermined U.S. national security with their letter, can’t be expected to repent. Anyone who would do these things may well be beyond redemption. But Republican leaders who have effectively and nobly carried out U.S. foreign policy in the past and may do so in the future must step up now to protect America’s future. 3.10.15 http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/03/10/open-letter-to-iran-shows-gop-senators-hate-obama-more-than-they-love-america.html

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8. Ben Collins: The Campaign Cash That Can Kill the Open Internet

All but two of the 31 co-sponsors of a House bill to kill net neutrality received thousands from telecoms in just the last election cycle. Is their cash enough to end a free Web?

“The Internet Freedom Act” is a House bill intended to destroy newly instituted Net Neutrality rights. And of the bill’s 31 co-sponsors, all but two of them received money from a major telecom or its lobby in 2014 alone.

The 29 co-sponsors received over $800,000 from AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and their lobby, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA).

The bill was brought to the House floor by Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and 30 Republican colleagues. In the last year, Blackburn received $87,000 from those Internet service providers, or ISPs, and their lobby, through her campaign committee and her political action committee, MARSHA PAC. This included a maximum $25,000 donation from AT&T.

Five other co-sponsors received $50,000 or more in the same cycle. An FEC mandate caps donations at $10,000 per candidate for each company (or $25,000 for those with PACs).

The NCTA spent $196,500—or 28 percent of its total Republican House spending budget—funding just 23 co-sponsors of this bill. There are 245 Republicans in the House, and the NCTA donated campaign money to 126 in the 2014 election cycle.

The bill has virtually no chance of passing. President Obama insisted in this year’s State of the Union Address and in recent public comments he’d veto any legislation that would allow ISPs to block traffic or create a speed toll for competitors or consumers on the Web. This legislation would likely bar the FCC from the ability to enforce punishments for—let alone seek out wrongdoers of—that kind of anti-competitive behavior. 3/09/15 Read more at http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/03/09/the-campaign-cash-that-can-kill-the-open-internet.html

9. Juan Williams: How conservatives capsized school reform

The House had planned a vote on the “Student Success Act” on the last Friday in February. 

After years of difficult debate, Republicans seemed to be on their way to passing a bill that at least provided a basis for future negotiations with the Senate. 

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) enthused that it was a “good conservative bill that empowers America and does not empower the bureaucracy here in Washington.”

But with the largest GOP majority in memory, the Speaker still could not get the votes to pass the bill and Republicans cancelled the vote. The Associated Press described it as a “political embarrassment for Republicans.”

It was a national embarrassment.

Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, managed to say only that he hoped to “finish this important work soon.” 

But House Republican leaders have not scheduled another vote.

That means years of work on school reform have gone up in smoke. Why? The answer is a purely ideological grandstand play in which Republicans demanded the bill completely eliminate the federal hand in dealing with failing schools.

What happened on Capitol Hill to the school reform bill is the biggest, most tragic sign in years of a broken Congress. 3/09/15 Read more at http://thehill.com/opinion/juan-williams/234979-juan-williams-how-conservatives-capsized-school-reform

10. Paul Waldman: Republicans are beginning to act as though Barack Obama isn’t even the president

It’s safe to say that no president in modern times has had his legitimacy questioned by the opposition party as much as Barack Obama. But as his term in office enters its final phase, Republicans are embarking on an entirely new enterprise: They have decided that as long as he holds the office of the presidency, it’s no longer necessary to respect the office itself.

Is that a bit hyperbolic? Maybe. But this news is nothing short of stunning:

A group of 47 Republican senators has written an open letter to Iran’s leaders warning them that any nuclear deal they sign with President Barack Obama’s administration won’t last after Obama leaves office.

Organized by freshman Senator Tom Cotton and signed by the chamber’s entire party leadership as well as potential 2016 presidential contenders Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, the letter is meant not just to discourage the Iranian regime from signing a deal but also to pressure the White House into giving Congress some authority over the process.

It’s one thing to criticize the administration’s actions, or try to impede them through the legislative process. But to directly communicate with a foreign power in order to undermine ongoing negotiations? That is appalling. And just imagine what those same Republicans would have said if Democratic senators had tried such a thing when George W. Bush was president.

And it isn’t just in foreign affairs. In an op-ed last week in the Lexington Herald-Leader, Mitch McConnell urged states to refuse to comply with proposed rules on greenhouse gas emissions from the Environmental Protection Agency. Never mind that agency regulations like these have the force of law, and the Supreme Court has upheld the EPA’s responsibility under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon emissions — if you don’t like the law, just act as though it doesn’t apply to you. “I can’t recall a majority leader calling on states to disobey the law,” said Barbara Boxer, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, “and I’ve been here almost 24 years.”

But as has happened so many times before, Republicans seem to have concluded that there is one set of rules and norms that apply in ordinary times, and an entirely different set that applies when Barack Obama is the president. You no longer need to show the president even a modicum of respect. You can tell states to ignore the law. You can sabotage delicate negotiations with a hostile foreign power by communicating directly with that power.

I wonder what they’d say if you asked them whether it would be acceptable for Democrats to treat the next Republican president that way. My guess is that the question wouldn’t even make sense to them. After all, that person would be a Republican. So how could anyone even think of such a thing? 3/09/15 Read more at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2015/03/09/republicans-are-beginning-to-act-as-though-barack-obama-isnt-even-the-president/

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11. Steve Almond: The vast right-wing conspiracy is still real. Also, the media is really stupid

Let me start by admitting, upfront, how truly fucking boring I find the Hillary Clinton e-mail story. Not only is it unclear whether the former Secretary of State and future presidential candidate did anything illegal, but the fact that she’s willing to turn her emails over to the State Department casts doubt on the Republican fever dream that her now-infamous private in-box will contain mash notes from foreign donors to her husband’s foundation, or explicit instructions to her underlings to shred vital documents related to the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya.

It’s not a non-story, exactly. It’s more like a fishing expedition, a la Whitewater and Travelgate and the Clinton Christmas card list.

The primary motive of such stories isn’t really to root out genuine instances of moral turpitude. It’s to retail a narrative of insinuation that sells newspapers and baits clicks, one that the press has been working for three decades solid when it comes to the Clintons.

Emailgate (as it will surely be dubbed) is a story that arises from confirmation bias—without the confirmation of wrongdoing. Because the media have portrayed the Clintons as slippery and secretive for so many years—masters of the massive cover-up!—we should all assume that Hillary doing business on her private email is slippery and secretive and evidence of some massive cover-up.

But if you look at the history of the Clinton scandals, none of them, other than the Lewinsky nonsense, ever amounted to a hill of beans. All they did was prove to American news consumers (and to Hillary in particular) that the media really were engaged in a “vast, right-wing conspiracy” to take her family down.

What the Hillary email kerfuffle demonstrates more broadly is the warped filter our Fourth Estate uses in making editorial decisions.

It may turn out that Hillary Clinton wanted a private email system so she could hide nefarious deeds. But it’s much more likely that this “scandal” will turn out to be more sound and fury, signifying nothing.

The beauty of scandalism, from a business perspective anyway, is that scandal stories don’t have to lead to a revelation of corruption to be considered successful. They don’t have to deliver on their promise, so long as the pitch is seductive enough to dominate the news cycle.

To use an analogy more appropriate to the milieu: scandalism is the journalistic equivalent of spam. 3/09/15 Read more at http://www.salon.com/2015/03/09/the_vast_right_wing_conspiracy_is_still_real_also_the_media_is_really_stupid/

12. Amy Davidson: Congress’s Poison-Pen Letter to Iran

Forty-seven senators, all of them Republicans, have sent a letter to Tehran that might be summarized this way: Dear Iran, Please don’t agree to halt your nuclear-weapons program, because we don’t like Barack Obama and, anyway, he’ll be gone soon. That may be shorthand, but it is not an exaggeration of either the tone or the intent of the letter, which was signed by the Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, as well as John McCain, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul.

What is the source of the crying need that certain members of Congress, particularly Republicans, feel to make sure that everybody, and every last mullah, knows that they are much more important than some guy named Barack Obama? One pictures Tom Cotton walking through the streets of Montreux, where John Kerry, the Secretary of State, has been doing his best to negotiate a deal that will keep Iran from getting the bomb, asking random strangers with briefcases, “Don’t you know who I am?” Iran and the United States have been in an intimate, often hostile embrace for half a century. The Iranians have been watching us pretty closely, through coups and revolutions and wars and hostage negotiations and the imposition of sanctions. (I wrote about the current talks, which resume this Sunday, in the magazine this week.) The Iranians were adept enough in their knowledge of American electoral politics to time the release of the American Embassy hostages, in January, 1981, to Ronald Reagan’s completion of his Inaugural Address. (Split screens in the news coverage showed a tired-looking Jimmy Carter, who had actually negotiated the deal, on the phone, while Nancy Reagan waved at the crowd.) They probably know that they would be signing an executive agreement, not a treaty that the Senate would ratify.

As with the invitation that John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, extended to Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, to speak before Congress, it is not clear whether the primary impetus has to do with foreign policy or with partisan theatrics. Is the intention to scuttle the nuclear negotiations, without regard for the ugliness that it brings to our politics? Or is it to humiliate and insult President Obama, no matter the cost to the goal of nuclear nonproliferation—even if it means another bomb in the world? 3/09/15 Read more at http://www.newyorker.com/news/amy-davidson/congress-letter-iran-nuclear-negotiations-netanyahu

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