Friday Morning Open Thread: Debate Hangover

Pretty fair summary: A tweet I can’t find now said that “This debate asks do you feel more comfortable with mean, dumb or mean and dumb.”

That being said, so far the consensus is that Trump was the clear winner, because he was smart enough not to show up. And Ted Cruz was the clear loser, because… well, have you seen Ted Cruz? Listened to him? Much less had to be in the same room with him? Read more

On the Bad Faith and Dishonesty of the GOP’s Attack on Planned Parenthood

As a follow-up to Cole’s post earlier, Igor Volsky’s devoted his twitter feed this evening to highlighting the duplicity of the GOP candidates (and their mouthpiece Fox News) on today’s court decision against David Daleiden and his fellow ratfvckers.


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The Malheur “Rebellion”, Beyond the Snark

As of this evening, Bundy and his merry men are refusing to go away quietly, per the Huffington Post:

The leader of a group of armed protesters occupying the headquarters of a U.S. wildlife refuge in rural southeastern Oregon on Thursday rejected a sheriff’s offer of passage out of the state to end the standoff.

During a meeting at a neutral site, Harney County Sheriff David Ward offered to escort Ammon Bundy and his group of occupiers out of Oregon, but Bundy declined…

Following the brief meeting, Bundy told reporters that he would consider Ward’s position, but the sheriff had not addressed their grievances. “We always consider what people say,” Bundy said.

The takeover that began on Saturday at the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, about 30 miles (48 km) south of the small town of Burns, is the latest incident in the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion, a decades-old conflict over federal control of land and resources in the U.S. West…

Federal law enforcement agents and local police have so far kept away from the occupied site, maintaining little visible presence outside the park in a bid to avoid the deadly violence that erupted during conflicts with militants in Idaho and Texas in the 1990s…

Harpers, despite its staunch no-freebies policy, has unlocked a report on the long venal history behind that “Sagebrush Rebellion” grift — “The Great Republican Land Heist”:

… In 1885, William A. J. Sparks, the commissioner of the General Land Office, reported to Congress that “unscrupulous speculation” had resulted in “the worst forms of land monopoly . . . throughout regions dominated by cattle-raising interests.” West of the hundredth meridian, cattle barons had enclosed the best forage along with scarce supplies of water in an arid landscape. They falsified titles using the signatures of cowhands and family members, employed fictitious identities to stake claims, and faked improvements on the land to appear to comply with the law. “Probably most private range land in the western states,” a historian of the industry concluded, “was originally obtained by various degrees of fraud.”…

This culture passed seamlessly to the Bureau of Land Management, which was created out of a merger between the Grazing Service and the General Land Office, in 1946. That same year, members of the American National Livestock Association met in Salt Lake City to discuss how best to undermine what few regulations had been placed on them. The Taylor Grazing Act had made grazing permits revocable. The livestock-permit holders wanted this provision overturned, for obvious reasons. But the stockmen’s ambition went further: they wanted the federal government to transfer control of all federal land, including the national parks, to the states…

One could write a postwar history of the West as a chronology of ranchers’ resistance to federal regulation, and the center of resistance has always been Nevada. In 1979, following the passage of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which for the first time mandated environmental protection of territory controlled by the BLM, cattlemen pushed a law through the Nevada state legislature declaring that federal public lands were now the property of the state. They called it the Sagebrush Rebellion Act. The cattle barons styled themselves “sagebrush rebels,” and engaged in acts of defiance against the BLM, opening dirt tracks onto grazing allotments that had been closed, bulldozing new roads, overstocking their allotments, violating permit agreements, and refusing to pay grazing fees. As the rebellion spread, a conservative interest group called the American Legislative Exchange Council joined the fight. ALEC was founded in 1973 to craft “model legislation” for state governments; it brought together conservative state legislators and industry representatives in closed-door sessions. Copycat Sagebrush Rebellion Acts were passed in Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, and New Mexico…

The ALEC agenda has also found its way back to Congress. The vehicle has been the Republican leadership in the House Committee on Natural Resources, which controls the Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation. The bills proposed in the most recent congressional session speak for themselves. The State-Run Federal Lands Act, sponsored by Representative Don Young, a former ALEC member from Alaska, authorizes federal-land managers to “enter into a cooperative agreement for state management of such federal land located in the state.” The Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act, sponsored by Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah, directs the secretary of the interior to “offer for disposal by competitive sale certain federal lands in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming.” With Republicans now in control of both the House and the Senate, these bills have a good chance of passing…

The wholesale transfer of public lands to state control may never be achieved. But the goal might be more subtle: to attack the value of public lands, to reduce their worth in the public eye, to diminish and defund the institutions that protect the land, and to neuter enforcement. Bernard DeVoto observed in the 1940s that no rancher in his right mind wanted to own the public lands himself. That would entail responsibility and stewardship. Worse, it would mean paying property taxes. What ranchers have always wanted, and what extractive industries in general want, is private exploitation with costs paid by the public…

Mother Jones has a short profile of one of the most enthusiastic legislative figureheads for the billionaires’ land grab:

As a young man, Ken Ivory served as a Mormon missionary in Guatemala. These days, he’s still looking for converts. Ivory, a Republican state representative from a Salt Lake City suburb, has spent the past three years traveling the American West to convince state and local officials that they can claim millions of acres of federal land to use as they wish…

… Ivory’s concept has caught on beyond the militia types who are demanding that the feds give up control of their holdings such as the eastern Oregon wildlife refuge currently held by armed occupiers. The Republican National Committee has endorsed the idea of turning over federal land to the states, and in March, the Senate passed a budget amendment sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) that would create a fund for selling or transferring the land. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has set forth a proposal that the federal government cannot own more than half the land in any state. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has also endorsed state or private control of federal land… Read more

Tuesday Morning Open Thread: “Welcome to Hell”

Simon Maloy, in Salon, has some “Irrational hopes for 2016“:

Well, it’s officially 2016. Welcome to hell! The presidential election is still nearly a year away, which means there’s plenty more time to build on the surreal and debased politicking that marked the last six months of 2015…

Ed Kilgore, at NYMag, recaps some useful history in “Here Comes Iowa, for a Whole Month”:

When the apple dropped on Thursday night, we formally entered a presidential election year. In the last two cycles, the first voting event — the Iowa caucuses — occurred immediately, on January 3. But this year, thanks to some energetic maneuvering by both parties to discourage states from rushing toward the early parts of the calendar (a.k.a. “front-loading”), we’ll be treated to an entire month of post-holiday corn-fed political goodness from Iowa before voters gather on Monday, February 1. Since an awful lot of caucusgoers have in the past changed their preferences in the last couple of weeks (with 2012 winner Rick Santorum the last to surge out of nowhere in the past few weeks), the extra time adds some extra drama to the race…

Since the Donald seems to do relatively well among independents and even some registered Democrats, it’s worth noting that Iowa allows registered voters to change their party affiliation at the door on Caucus Night. Fortunately for all the candidates, the Republican caucuses (unlike those held by Democrats) feature simple candidate-preference straw polls that don’t take a lot of time or training…

Like the Democrats, the Republicans will hold a debate in South Carolina this month (on January 14, a Thursday, with the Fox Business Network sponsoring). But they’re also holding a Fox News debate in Iowa on January 28, on the brink of the caucuses. This unusual event will probably have sky-high ratings in Iowa, and could immediately precede the release of the final Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll, a highly regarded survey conducted by Iowa pollster Ann Selzer that has been known to capture — and perhaps stimulate — late momentum. The timing of both these events is especially significant for Republicans insofar as last-minute switching from doomed candidates is very likely…

Though polls sometimes don’t adequately capture how likely it is that respondents will actually turn out on a cold night to a caucus, Clinton has led Sanders in every published poll of Iowa since September. In the RealClearPolitics average of recent polls, Clinton has 50 percent in Iowa, Sanders has 38 percent, and Martin O’Malley has 6 percent.

While Sanders may have an enthusiasm advantage, grassroots organization could be a different matter. Aside from the head start Clinton has from her 2008 contacts in the state, and the fairly extensive infrastructure set up by the Ready for Hillary super-pac before she announced, she’s benefiting from overwhelming support from unions that are politically active in Iowa. She’s been endorsed by three of the most significant: AFSCME, SEIU, and the Machinists, along with both teachers’ unions. That means she will have hundreds of organizers on the ground to identify supporters, get them to their precincts, and train them on what to do when they arrive (not as easy a proposition as in the Republican caucuses, since Democrats don’t just vote for their favorites but instead go through a lengthy process of dividing up into preference groups, redividing if there are candidates who don’t meet a minimum “viability” threshold — as will be the case in many precincts with Martin O’Malley supporters — and then electing delegates to a county convention)…

As noted above, the Republican results reported by the news media on Caucus Night will be based on simple preference ballots cast by caucusgoers. For Democrats, the numbers you will see are actually percentages of estimated state convention delegates for each candidate based on how many county convention delegates they’ve actually snagged. Candidate spinners and the media will be on hand to help the rest of the country “understand” what it’s all supposed to mean. And a lot of the hype you’ll hear between now and February 1 will be designed to shape what opinion leaders think of it all…

Apart from getting out the pig-manure-proof waders, what’s on the agenda for the day?

Bevin Makes His Move

As promised, newly elected Kentucky GOP Gov. Matt Bevin announced today that the plan is to scrap Medicaid expansion for 400,000 Kentuckians and to replace it with…something…in 2017.

Bevin, who campaigned on a pledge to reshape Medicaid and the expansion under the Affordable Care Act, said it will take time to change the program but he expects to succeed.

“We are going to transform the way Medicaid is delivered in Kentucky,” Bevin said.

Bevin has enlisted the help of Mark Birdwhistell, a former secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services under former Gov. Ernie Fletcher.

Birdwhistell, vice president for health services at the University of Kentucky, said he’s ready for the challenge.

“The people of Kentucky need a Medicaid system that is affordable and sustainable,” he said.

Bevin and Birdwhistell said Kentucky will begin work on a waiver they will ask the federal government to approve to let Kentucky establish its own Medicaid plan, as Indiana and some other states have done.

They expect to introduce the plan in 2017.

Bevin Wednesday morning voiced support for a Medicaid waiver system similar to the one used by Indiana to hold down costs and said an effort during the coming six months will show “whether this will work or not.”

Bevin went on to blame former Gov. Steve Beshear for getting Kentucky into an “unsustainable” Medicaid expansion which he called a “lie”, and mentioned Indiana’s Healthy Insurance Plan program as the model, which of course leaves the question “If Indiana’s Medicaid expansion replacement plan is working so well, why is GOP Gov. Mike Pence so upset about it being evaluated?”

Richard Mayhew can probably answer way more about this than I can, but so far to me it looks like Bevin is trying to set up Steve Beshear (and of course President Obama) to blame when a “workable alternative” to the current expansion magically fails to materialize six months down the road.


Richard Mayhew here: I am even more cynical than Zandar but more optimistic.  Bevin looks like he is setting up a committee to set up a committee.  It is a bureaucratic dodge as every hospital executive in the state has talked to Bevin’s people by now and told them they need Medicaid expansion to balance their books.  What will happen is the alternative plan will be more punitive, more confusing and more expensive than a straight up expansion but it will still cover 400,000 or more people in the summer of 2017.  It just won’t be called Medicaid Expansion, it will be Bevin AwesomeCare with Health Savings Accounts and Personal Responsibility Initiative Points.

Dispatches From Bevinstan

Somehow, I think I’m going to be writing a Stupid Shit My Governor Does column enough so that I should just make it a weekly “all in one place” kinda thing.

Anyway. now that ol’ Matt has had a few weeks in house, he’s starting to warm up to this whole “executive order” thing when it comes to those pesky same-sex mariage licenses that cause trouble over the fall.

To ensure that the sincerely held religious beliefs of all Kentuckians are honored, Executive Order 2015-048 directs the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives to issue a revised marriage license form to the offices of all Kentucky County Clerks. The name of the County Clerk is no longer required to appear on the form.

So a win for Kim Davis.  Who else can Bevin make happy?  You remember Steve Beshear signing an order to restore voting rights to felons?


While Governor Bevin has been a strong advocate for the reinstatement of non-violent felony offenders’ voting and civil rights, Executive Order 2015-052 suspends the provisions of Executive Order 2015-871 as that order is contrary to the Kentucky Constitution and undermines the very right it seeks to restore by circumventing elected representatives in the state legislature and the voice of the people at the ballot box. The Office of the Governor will continue to utilize the processes and procedures under current law in the same manner as the previous administration pending further study and consideration by the Kentucky General Assembly. This Executive Order does not affect anyone whose rights have already been restored by the previous Executive Order.

Also gone, higher minimum wages for state employees and vendors

Executive Order 2015-049 relieves executive branch agencies and vendors of the obligation to comply with the higher minimum wage established by Executive Order 2015-370, except as to classified employees with status who have already received increases as a result of the Executive Order. Their remuneration will not be affected.

…and a new permanent hiring freeze on state positions.

Executive Order 2015-050 prioritizes effective and efficient management of state government operations by implementing a new moratorium on hiring. This order removes all oversight of the merit system hiring from the Governor’s Office. Unlike Gov. Beshear’s Executive Order, which had the Secretary of the Governor’s Executive Cabinet approve all personnel actions regarding merit employees, this Executive Order transfers that responsibility to the Personnel Secretary. Approval of non-merit employees will remain the duty of the Secretary of the Governor’s Executive Cabinet. Furthermore, effective immediately, all vacant positions in any agency will be reviewed to determine if they are necessary to the maintenance of essential government services.

Going to be real fun when Bevin determines that current employees are no longer essential to government services and fires tens of thousands of state workers.

The fun’s just beginning here in Bevinstan, folks!

Huckleberry Hounded Out

Sen. Lindsey Graham is smart enough to take his Christmas vacation early, it seems.

Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is dropping out of the presidential race.

“While we have run a campaign that has made a real difference, I have concluded this is not my time,” he said in a statement Monday

Graham, who first told CNN of his decision in an interview, faced the deadline Monday to be removed from the ballot in his home state of South Carolina. Graham has been mired at the bottom of polls – both nationally and in his home state – and could have faced an embarrassing showing in the state’s February primary.

The hawkish South Carolina senator had been the Republican field’s most vociferous early critic of Donald Trump.

Which is true, and being the “Hey guys, Trump is goddamn crazy on immigration and Muslims but let’s send tens of thousands of US troops into Syria” candidate got him a whopping 0% at the polls and seriously threatening to break the crucial 1% mark.

I’m thinking since we’re in effectively in election news dump mode until January, we’re going to see a few folks drop out over the next week or two anyway.

Time to catch up on your Netflix queue, man.