Earlier tonight, California District Court Judge Virginia Phillips officially rejected the government’s request to stay her injunction against enforcing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, arguing that the defendants “have not shown” “a likelihood they will suffer irreparable harm.” Phillips had issued her injunction last week, after ruling that the policy violated the due process clause and the First Amendment in September.
“[T]he injunction requires Defendants to cease investigating and discharging servicemembers pursuant to the Act. It does not affect Defendants’ ability to revise their policies and regulations nor to develop training and education programs, the only activities specifically mentioned in the Stanley Declaration,” Phillips wrote, referring to a memo from Clifford Stanley, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, who said the injunction would create a burden for the military. Phillips similarly dismissed a Rolling Stone interview with President Obama, which the government also submitted, calling it “hearsay.”
“The public has an interest in military readiness, unit cohesion, and the preservation of fundamental constitutional rights,” she wrote. “While Defendants’ interests in preventing the status quo and enforcing its laws are important, these interests are outweighed by the compelling public interest of safeguarding fundamental constitutional rights.”
The Pentagon is complying by the orders of the injunction while it’s in effect and announced earlier today that it has issued new guidance instructing recruiters to accept gay and lesbian applicants. The Department of Justice is now expected to seek a stay on the injunction before the ninth circuit court of appeals.
One of the many differences between science and religion is that science is almost completely unconcerned with what any individual scientist believes, no matter how famous. Religions, of course, are typically built around famous individuals, like, say, Mary Baker Eddy, and what they believe. Sadly, these days, journalism — even at once-great newspapers — also appear to care more what one individual believes than what scientific observation and analysis actually tells us.
Last week I wrote about how a physicist named Hal Lewis who doesn’t know the first thing about climate science resigned from the American Physical Society because he doesn’t know the first thing about climate science. I debunked the laughable — and unintentionally ironic — post by “former television meteorologist” Anthony Watts comparing Lewis’s words of resignation to “a letter on the scale of Martin Luther, nailing his 95 theses to the Wittenburg church door.”
Only anti-science disinformers believe scientific views are no different from religious ones, that a letter from a non-climate-scientist (particularly one who hasn’t bothered to learn the first thing about climate science or talk to actual climate scientists) would carry any weight at all, let alone lead to a major new science religion of Lewisism (Wattsism?), since, of course, that’s not how science works.
I never would have imagined in a hundred years, though, that the once respected Christian Science Monitor would publish a piece by Watts that opens with this pure anti-science headline and subhead (and picture of Martin Luther):
During the height of hysteria among the far-right over the recently-passed health care law, former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin outlandishly claimed that the bill authorized the creation of “death panels” that would put disabled Americans to death.
During a recent podcast reported by the conservative Heartland Institute, Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) resurrected this smear, tying in the stimulus bill. Broun claimed that the stimulus bill set up “comparative effectiveness research” that would determine the cost of spending health care dollars on people of different ages. Broun then hypothesized that “Obamacare” would deny care to people who are too old, or Americans who are disabled. He concluded that the combination of the two laws will “kill people by denying care“:
BROUN: We see so many unintended consequences, or intended consequences, that are gonna force people off medicare advantage. Obamacare if it stays in as the law of the land is going to hurt the elderly more than anyone else […] In the stimulus bill Nancy Pelosi set up a panel or something called comparativeness effectiveness research, what they’re doing there with that is they’re not comparing effectiveness as well as I and all the physicians will do, they’re comparing effectiveness of spending a dollar on one person versus another, which means the elderly are gonna be denied the care to keep them living and keep their health in good shape so they can have a useful, fruitful productive life. So see marked rationing of care for the elderly and those who have disabilites and those who have illnesses that will be terminal over a fairly short period of time, that may be who knows, ten years, those people are gonna be denied coverage of care of their health problems under Obamacare. […] It’s gonna kill people by denying care.
Listen to it:
Given that Broun is a medical doctor by trade, he should know better than to try to scare voters with falsehoods about the stimulus’s health care provisions and the recently passed health care law. The comparative effectiveness research included within the stimulus bill is designed to discover how to best spend health care dollars to provide the most care to people for the best price, not to deny people health care. There are, of course, no “death panels” or any other provisions within the health care law to put the elderly or disabled to death.
The only things resembling death panels that do exist are the rescission and denial practices followed by private health insurers that the bill is slowly outlawing. A congressional investigation recently found that “the nation’s four largest for-profit health insurers denied coverage to more than 651,000 people over a three-year period, citing pre-existing conditions” — one out of every seven Americans who applied for insurance was denied. If anyone supports health care being denied to Americans, it is Broun, who has a longhistoryoffearmongering about efforts to reform the American health care system.
Boeing is now walking back claims that it’s changing its health care plan in response to the Affordable Care Act, telling reporters that it was considering altering its plans before reform became law. Late last week, the company had written a letter to employees blaming “the newly enacted health care reform legislation” — specifically the excise tax on high cost plans that does not go into effect until 2018 — [for] adding cost pressure.” The company told its nonunion employees they will pay a 10 percent coinsurance and higher deductibles next year, attributing the changes to competition, rising costs in health care, and some provisions from the Affordable Care Act.
But yesterday, a Boeing spokeswoman said: “Yes, we are making health care changes. If you would’ve asked me if we would’ve made these changes without the enactment of the law, I would’ve said yes“:
“We’re just out of line with market. We’ve been contemplating what can we do to reduce costs,” Forte said. “It came down to, we’ve got to pass some of these costs down to our employees.”
Forte said Boeing was “keeping an eye” on the new health care law, which in 2018 would impose a significant tax on “Cadillac” health plans in 2018. However she said the federal changes were not the main reasons for Boeing’s move.
Indeed, Boeing has continued to offer a comparatively generous insurance plan since 1999. For instance, the average paycheck contribution for Boeing employees for health care is $13 per month per individual and $39 per month per family, while employees at similar companies pay $60 per individual and $210 per family.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius echoed the sentiment during a news conference this afternoon, saying that “a number of companies and my guess is employers will cite this bill with some specificity for whatever premium increase they are suggesting. But since the first of the consumer protections became effective, less than a month ago and since the trend of lines of health insurance plans cost increases have been building over time, year after year, I think that…until there is some underling data to make that connection, it’s kind of hard to justify the kind of rate increase or a massive cost shift based on a new law. ”
By 2018 some companies offering benefits beyond threshold of the new excise tax will have to start offering less generous benefits if they want to avoid paying the new fee. But reformers believe that before then, companies and employees will be able to switch into cheaper, but still comprehensive insurance plans, thus reducing overall health care spending.
But Right Wing Watch notes that the group has upped the ante a bit this week, releasing a new ad that calls President Obama “the Angel of Death” and those who presumably support him as lurking from the depths of hell:
Watch the ad here:
Politics Daily reports that “that Amendment 62 would ban all abortions, without exceptions for rape, incest or to save a mother’s life. It also would ban stem cell research and birth control other than ‘barrier methods.’” Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards said the amendment “reaches into birth control, it reaches into fertility treatments. The legal turmoil this could create is so immense. I think that’s just the purpose of this amendment…to go far beyond choice; it’s to take away women’s right to family planning.”
Ezra Klein mentioned this yesterday and I want to echo his view that the liberal insistence that Republicans are somehow “better at politics” perhaps because of their greater willingness to engage in “hardball” strikes me as pretty dubious. Over the past twenty years, Democrats have won three out of five Presidential elections and carried the popular vote in one of the two elections they lost. Democrats controlled the Senate from 1991-94, from 2001-2002, and from 2007-2010—just about half the time, with the GOP margin coming from the few months before Jim Jeffords switched parties. Democrats have also generally won more votes in the House of Representatives:
So insofar as being “good at politics” means “persuading people to vote for your candidates,” the Democratic Party has a pretty impressive record over the past two decades. It’s true that a 50-50 split in the House vote leads to a Republican majority, which puts the DCCC at a perennial disadvantage. But that’s not a problem of tough campaign ads or aggressive messaging or what have you. Unfortunately, few people understand this quirk of the political system which derives from the fact that the most lopsided congressional districts are full of Democrats.
A cornerstone of the House Republican pitch on economic policy — first introduced by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and reinforced in the Pledge to America — is immediately returning non-defense discretionary spending to its 2008 level. The GOP claims that this will reduce federal spending by $100 billion overnight, but flatly refuses to name specific programs that would come under the knife. “The line item would be across the board,” asserted Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the Pledge’s architect.
With partisanship at record levels in the run-up to the midterm elections, Obama’s education-reform agenda — once the calling card for his commitment to bipartisan good governance — is under threat from both the left and right. Congressional Republicans, including those, like [Sen. Lamar] Alexander (R-TN), who once praised Obama’s education policies, are now calling for a return to 2008 levels of federal spending, which would stop the White House from funding additional Pell Grant student loans and cancel plans for another round of Race to the Top, Obama’s signature education-reform grant competition.
Let’s unpack the numbers here a bit. In 2009, Pell Grant funding was $25.3 billion. In 2008, it was about $16 billion. So cutting back to the 2008 level would mean $9 billion less in funding for students, even though demand is likely to go up as the effects of the Great Recession continue to be felt across the country.
Of course, it’s extremely unlikely that Republicans would actually go through with reducing every non-defense discretionary program back to the 2008 level. After all, the Drug Enforcement Administration, food safety inspectors, federal highway funding, and the Secret Service are all on the discretionary side of the budget. But that just means, to get to $100 billion, they’d have to make even bigger cuts in other programs, with education funding providing one of the biggest potential pots.
And that, in the end, is why it would be folly to actually employ the sort of blunt budgeting apparatus that the GOP advocates. (A federal spending freeze also falls into this category.) Such a move has nothing to do with setting priorities, increasing funding for successful programs, or eliminating unsuccessful ones. It just provides a good sound bite. Here’s an actual attempt to cull the education budget for ineffective or duplicative programs.
Republicans have made repealing the Affordable Care Act a central part of their governing agenda, including it in their “Pledge to America,” while Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has demanded “blood oath” that the law will be “ripped out completely, lock, stock and barrel – root and branch – no vestige left behind, not a DNA particle of Obamacare retained.”
In a new interview with Newsmax, far-right tea party favorite Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) — who vowed to make the defeat of health care reform President Obama’s “Waterloo” — echoed King, placing such importance on repealing the law that he said, “if we give up on repealing the health care bill, I think we’re giving up on our country”:
HOST: Do you think they’ll actually rescind the health care bill or stop the funding?
DEMINT: Well, I’ve to believe we can. If we give up on repealing the health care bill, I think we’re giving up on our country. I really believe this will destroy our health care system, I think it’ll bankrupt our country.
But despite claims of unity, not everyone in the GOP is on board. Outgoing Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) led the fight against the Affordable Care Act in the Senate, but during an appearance on Fox Business last night, Gregg — who has proposed a health bill that’s similar to what Democrats passed in March — said, “I don’t think starving or repeal is probably the best approach here.” He endorsed some Medicare cuts in the law and conceded that repealing it could allow insurers to continue increasing premiums:
CAVUTO: Would you repeal it or as John Boehner has indicated, starve it?
GREGG: I don’t think starving or repeal is probably the best approach here.
Watch DeMint’s and Gregg’s comments:
As The Hill notes, this statement is a shift for Gregg, who has previously supported the GOP’s repeal and replace strategy. “Our view is, you repeal and replace this bill,” Gregg said on CNN in March. “You replace it with better law and better approaches towards healthcare.” He also said on CNBC as recently as last month that using the budget reconciliation process to repeal major parts of healthcare reform would be an option, too.
But there seems to be a growing recognition among more moderate GOP lawmakers and candidates that repealing the entire law, especially popular parts that have already gone into effect, such as letting children stay on their parents’ insurance until they are 26, is a bad idea politically and substantively. For example, during a debate Friday, Ohio GOP House candidate Steve Stivers said the Affordable Care Act does “some things right” and should not be repealed, but rather “fixed.” Even tea party-backed House candidate Allen West said there are parts that are “good and I agree with.” Meanwhile, as ThinkProgress has noted, 7 of the GOP’s health care ideas in their “Pledge to America” are actually already included in the Affordable Care Act.
Urban real estate isn’t a “free market” anyplace that I’m familiar with, but market forces are an important factor in most urban real estate markets. Consequently, you tend to get taller buildings near the center where land is most expensive, and lower-density construction on less-valuable land that’s further away. For much of the twentieth century, however, many countries engaged in a big-time experiment in doing construction in a totally non-market way which apparently lead to a distinctive pattern of urban growth, as explained by Alain Bertaud and Bertrand Renaud in “Socialist Cities without Land Markets” (that’s via Stephen Smith):
How does the spatial dynamics of the socialist city compare with that of the market city? What happens when all investment decisions are made administratively in the absence of land markets? Russian development is the longest socialist experiment on record. Its outcome is of paramount interest to urban economists. This paper reports the first analysis of the structure of Russian cities after 70 years of Soviet development. The main finding is a perversely positive population density gradient. The Soviet city also has a disproportionate share of industrial land, often in prime locations. Free property trading started in Russia in 1992. The emerging negative price gradient contrasts totally with the positive population gradient that is the legacy of administrative land allocation. These two conflicting gradients highlight the land misallocation and inefficiency of the socialist city.
Here’s a chart illustrating the contrast between Paris and Moscow:
Given the way tea partiers are throwing the term “socialism” around to mean any kind of provision of social welfare it’s worth being clear here that the issue isn’t high taxes on the rich to finance to finance rent subsidies. The issue is that instead of land being allocated according to who had the means and inclination to pay for it, it was allocated by political insiders to whatever they preferred.