The Widdershins

2014 election

(sigh) So when is it going to end?  This 2014 election cycle that is.  I am getting hammered (as I’m sure we all are) with the emails, regular mail, commercials on the local channels and even on my computer when I watch the local New Orleans channels on the computer!  And, I’ve had to block my cell phone to just my known contacts because of all the calls even coming in there! Oy vey!  If you don’t have any contested elections in your area then count your lucky stars.  I’m sure everyone is complaining except for the teevee stations who are just raking in the dollahs.

Of course the election that I have a personal interest in is the Senate election in Louisiana pitting incumbent Mary Landrieu against not one but two Republican candidates.  Louisiana has an open primary system.  Actually what we have is called a nonpartisan blanket primary.

Under this system, the candidates receiving the most and second-most votes become the contestants in the general election—as in a runoff election, in a two-round system. (In some cases, this second round of voting is only necessary if no candidate receives an overall majority on the initial ballot.) However, there is no separate party nomination process for candidates before the first round, and political parties are not allowed to whittle-down the field using their own internal processes (e.g., party primaries or conventions). Similarly, it is entirely possible that two candidates of the same political party could advance to the general/run-off.

In Louisiana there is a second round (runoff) between the top two candidates if no candidate wins a simple majority (more than half of the votes) in the first round of balloting. This happens more often with open seats, as incumbents more easily win majorities. The runoff constitutes the general election under Louisiana law even if the general election had two candidates of the same party, a phenomenon which frequently occurs. The only labels originally permitted under the Louisiana law were Democrat, Republican, and No Party; however, as of 2008 the labels of any “registered political party” may be used.[3] The primary has been used in statewide elections since 1975. The system was designed by then-GovernorEdwin Edwards after he had to run in two grueling rounds of the Democratic Primary in 1971 before facing a general election against a well-funded and well-rested Republican, Dave Treen (who himself was elected governor under the new system in 1979).

So on the absentee ballot I just marked, there were any number of candidates from various organizations and then after this primary there will be a second, general election in December.  So after Nov. 4th, we get another month of the mailings, emails, etc.

It’s almost certain that Landrieu will come in first in the primary and then have to face off against Congressman Bill Cassidy.  No one is projecting that she will get the needed fifty percent to avoid the runoff election.  Still, there was an interesting article on nola.com about the election.  It seems there has been a surge in new voters heading into the primary election.

In the badly headlined article on nola.com it stated:

There are 35,918 more registered voters in Louisiana than there were on Aug. 1. This includes 18,912 more black voters and 18,888 more independent or minor political party voters.

And this further:

The Democratic-lead voter drives could be why there is a surge in black voters, who have typically been supportive of Landrieu. There are more African Americans registered to vote in Louisiana in 2014 than there were in 2008 — a surprising statistic given that President Barack Obama was first on the ballot six years ago.

I also found this little tidbit interesting:  “there was also a bump in black voters who are independents or associated with a minor political party — about 7,800 more people in this category”.

While this may be encouraging news for Mary, the numbers aren’t what they used to be:

Overall, Democratic voter registration in Louisiana is significantly lower than the last time Landrieu was on the ballot. There are 171,736 fewer registered Democratic voters than there were in 2008, during the last U.S. Senate race. Meanwhile, Republicans have picked up 68,702 voters in that same time period.

I believe the two things leading to those reduced Democratic numbers are:  (1) The Katrina diaspora where so many A.A. folks in New Orleans ended up mainly in Houston Tx and Atlanta Ga and decided to stay in those cities, and (2) the continued reddening of the state getting it more in line with the other southern states.  It used to be that you could take a map of Louisiana and draw a horizontal line across the state boarders with that line centering on Alexandria La.  Anything above that line would be pretty much Republican with anything below the line, Acadiana and the metro Nola area being pretty much Democratic.  Now not so much.  Now it’s pretty much just Orleans parish which is predominantly Democratic.  Even with the reduced A.A. population it is still a majority A.A. city/parish.

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Remember the movie, UP? In it there was a particularly eloquent dog who could carry on conversations courtesy of his Up -- Squirrel“magic collar”. He could have the most lucid conversations until he saw a squirrel — at which time, after screeching “SQUIRREL!” his attention was completely lost.

This past week while the media and the opportunistic politicians were squealing “Squirrel!” over Ebola and who voted for whom in the 2012 Presidential election, there were plenty of attention-worthy issues slipping by totally unnoticed. So I thought I would devote today’s post to a couple of “desquirrelification” issues that have long-term consequences.

Medicare

Here’s an issue I bet you didn’t see this past week and you‘ll never see in a political ad because of the pornographic word that is “Obamacare”. There will be no increase in the Medicare Part B premium or deductible in 2015. A radical departure from 2000 through 2008 when the Medicare premium shot up 112 percent — jumping from $45.50 to $96.40.

The main reason, and yes, there are others, but the main reason premium growth has shown such a dramatic decline is the Affordable Care Act. Over the past four years, Medicare spending per capita has averaged only 0.8% a year — compared to an average growth rate of 6.3% a year from 2000 to 2008.

The ACA has also dramatically affected senior care with free preventative service such as mammograms and colonoscopies. In 2013 alone, Thirty-seven million seniors received free preventative services.

Add to that the 8.3 million seniors who have saved more than $12 Billion on their prescription drugs with an average savings of $1,443 per senior.

Here’s the real hidden acorn of truth that would propel the little tree rodents into onrushing traffic in a mad, suicidal squirrel rage: Since the enactment of the ACA, the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund has been extended by 13 years! The Medicare Trustees now project the Trust Fund will remain solvent through 2030.

A particularly Republican squirrel...

A particularly Republican squirrel…

In the alternative fact-free universe inhabited by Faux News and talk radio devotees, they will never hear about the Medicare premiums or the fact that the number of companies competing to offer policies under the ACA will increase by 25 percent in 2015. They will never hear about it because the narrative has been and continues to be, the ACA is killing competition, but the truth is — competition is increasing.

In this alternative universe devoid of enlightenment, few, if any conservatives realize the premiums under the ACA are lower-than-expected, and that the ACA’s costs are also lower-than-expected — $104 Billion lower to be exact.

Obamacare’s competitive insurance marketplaces are actually doing what they promised to do: Forcing insurers to compete for customers by cutting costs. The Congressional Budge Office explains the cheaper-than-expected premiums because of:

[L]ower payment rates for providers, narrower networks of providers, and tighter management of their subscribers’ use of health care than employment-based plans do.

That is an extraordinary sentence. Obamacare, a government program, is forcing insurers to run leaner and more cost-effective programs than the private sector, employer-based programs. Simply put: The government is more cost-effective than the private sector. Somewhere there is a squirrel that looks a lot like Paul Ryan whose little Ayn Randian head is exploding.

Tax Reform

Speaking of Paul Ryan and his innate squirrelliness, he has a new idea for the math associated with reviewing budgets. Here’s the idea: Ryan wants the CBO to always assume that tax cuts will pay for themselves. You read that sentence right — Paul Ryan wants to cook into the budget review process the overarching principle that tax cuts will pay for themselves.

That has NEVER happened — NEVER. It didn’t happen during Reagan’s term when he sold it to the country through Tax Cuts and Wars are one half public debt by 2019voodoo economics. It didn’t happen during Dubya’s term when the Heritage Foundation proclaimed that the Bush tax cuts would “pay off the national debt.” In fact, according to the CBO, the Bush tax cuts and his credit card wars of choice will account for one-half of all the public debt by 2019.

Now Paul Ryan is a smart guy — why on earth would he scurry into this squirrel’s nest? Simple, this type of dynamic scoring would only be able to look at how much a bill cost in total, and not provision-by-provision. This type of dynamic scoring is also very complicated especially when you start out with the loblolly, upside-down, backassed assumption that tax cuts pay for themselves.

So why is Ryan pursuing this change — it is a way to hide a multitude of corporate greed, tax loopholes, and corporate welfare while getting an unrealistic favorable political talking point. Better said: It is a way to hide from view the true impact of tax cuts and conversely force cuts in the social safety net while acquiring tongue splinters from performing fellatio on corporate boards. A remarkable feat even if the squirrelly fellow does P90X.

There are many other examples, but there just isn’t enough room or time and I’m having trouble keeping my attention focused. Squirrel!

So enjoy your Tuesday and feel free to take this conversation in any direction you may desire.

Good Monday, Widdershins. It’s getting close to Election Day for Senators, Representatives and Governors all over these United States. Now, I know it’s not National “I Told You So” Day yet, but it might as well be.

Female voters powered President Barack Obama’s victory over Mitt Romney in 2012, as Democrats leaned heavily on social issues to rally single women and suburban moms to the polls.

But with two weeks until Election Day, the president’s diminished standing with women is quickly becoming one of the biggest liabilities facing Democrats as they struggle to hang onto the Senate majority.

In battleground states across the country, Obama is underwater with female voters — especially women unaffiliated with a political party — and it’s making it harder for Democrats to take advantage of the gender gap, according to public polling and Democratic strategists.

The “gender gap” is what the media calls the tendency for women to vote Democratic, which, if female voter turnout is high, overcomes the tendency of men to vote Republican. By “social issues,” the article is referring to this:

Democrats in this trio of states [Iowa, New Hampshire and Colorado] have focused heavily on abortion rights, contraception access and other female-targeted wedge issues.

It’s not clear whether those efforts are translating. Rob Collins, the executive director of the Senate GOP campaign operation, said Thursday he believes the messaging efforts around female reproductive rights have turned off swing women voters in these states. “This isn’t the only thing that women care about,” he said. “This is why they have not been able to maximize their gains despite massive investments on this issue.”

Somehow, women don’t seem to be that enthusiastic about coming out to vote for “abortion rights.” Gee, I wonder why? Maybe these Democratic strategists should have asked women in their states what the top issues for them are right now instead of assuming it’s All About Abortion?

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Good weekend, Widdershins.  I have a whopping case of laryngitis.  Therefore, it is only reasonable to spend the weekend dis cussing music about talking.  I can live subliminally through these tunes while resting my vocal chords.  My throat is scratchy, but not awful.  I just do not have a voice.  I have even stopped answering the phone, because I cannot croak at a sufficient volume to be heard.  Yes. it is awful.

So, please join me in musical conversation, or whatever else captures your fancy in this wide open thread.

(1) Sweet Talking Guy – The Chiffons

(2) Jive Talkin’ – The BeeGees

(3) Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About –  Bonnie Raitt

(4) Talk to Me – Sunny and the Sunglows

(5) Everybody’s Talkin at Me –  Harry Nilsson

 

looking-telescope

So has anyone seen Chip today?  I’m sure you all know Chip.  If you’re like me and you have ever signed an online blog petition of any liberal group, once they’ve got your name and email address they are going to continue to email you and it will go on…and on…and on.  The story line is always the same:  Can you chip in $25 to help out in our fight against:  The Koch Bros, ALEC, the Republicans, every right wing kook out there.

Back during the 2008 primaries, I made a number of contributions to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.  None were that large and I certainly didn’t go over or even approach the limit of what an individual can give.  Still those actions were enough to get me on “lists”.  Between that and the online petitions I have signed, I sorta feel like the girl in high school who wondered why she got so many calls at home until she found that someone had scrawled on the boys’ bathroom walls:  “For a good time, call Suzy 555-1212″.  At first I was flattered.  Wow, it’s so important that I contribute to this campaign.  Nancy Pelosi is counting on me to help the Dems regain control of the House. Such a heavy lift there, but yeah I can do it (no I can’t – no one can help you get the House back right now). Then they started bargaining with me about how much they wanted.  “Can you just chip in $5.00 to help out?” When what they really wanted to say was “HEY!  It’s 5 measly bucks!  And besides, we know you spend more than that on:  pizza, beer, nachos smokes and the other stuff”

And then the emails got more plaintive:  “Fred I’m begging you…”.  And then the next one would be “Fred don’t make me beg again to throw some dollahs at our effort.”  Finally it was the plaintive “Please don’t delete – this is too important!”.  Yeah, okay. [del]

And then it was Mary Landrieu.  Now I have contributed to Mary several times, but I reached my limit which was self imposed.  My reasons for contributing were varied:  Landrieu is more of a centrist than to the left of the party and when it has been important (like in post-Katrina nola and Louisiana) she’s brought home the bacon and then some.  She has been successful in delivering contracts for ships to be built by Louisiana shipyards and helped secure a portion of the BP oil spill money to go to the state.  In other words, she has served her state well. And the other reason is her opponent Bill Cassidy sucks.  But I’m even getting a little tired of Mary right now.  I have done what I could within my self-imposed spending limits but she can’t take no for answer.

But then, I found out some stuff about Mary.  Mary has been two-timing me and it’s with the “big boys”.  She’s not only sending me nice little emails and letters asking me to help out but she’s courting these other fellas and I’m just not sure what she’ll have to do for them, if you get my drift.  The info below is from a blog Louisiana Voice written by Tom Aswell.

Tom did the research on the major candidates this year to research their contributions, and as he said:

Because we have long been opposed to the dominance of big money in the electoral process, particularly on behalf of the best politicians money can buy, we decided to basically ignore the individual contributions in favor of shining the bright disinfecting light of sunshine on Political Action Committee (PAC) money.

It is, after all, PAC money that reduces the role of the individual voter to that of insignificant pawn even though it is that same individual voter/insignificant pawn who must ultimately go to the polls and pull the lever for these instruments of the special interests. In effect, we vote not for a particular candidate, but for the special interest or lobbyist of our choice when we cast that ballot. And yet, because we must, in the final analysis, be the ones who actually go through the process of voting, we delude ourselves into believing that our form of corrupt democracy actually works.

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Sometimes, just like the confluence of rivers, events roll out just like well-choreographed troops presenting themselves for review. Last night was one of those times.Fox photo

Last evening was the one and only debate between Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes. It was an hour — sixty whole minutes — where the two candidates, who have subjected the good citizens of Kentucky to over $100 Million in ads, got to speak for themselves.

The event itself was lackluster for the most part — akin to anticipating a beautifully wrapped Christmas present and finding socks. Over and above the novelty of actually having a debate, what was noteworthy?

The race is symptomatic of the larger political affliction in the post-Citizen United world. It is a world where the message can be as corrosive and fantasy-infused as anything ever oozed from the addled brain of Hunter Thompson, but it is world where the messenger paying the freight on the manure haul is never identified and forever remains slithering under the rocks of a tax-exempt charity. A tax-exemption where the cost is footed by the rest of us for the privilege of corrupting the political process.

The cavalcade of organizations taking part in the Kentucky senate race would take up a good-sized phone book. There’s the NRA, the national Realtors, Crossroads, Americans for Prosperity, Bankers’ Association, sundry “Leadership” councils, Senate PACs, and the Brothers Koch masquerading as anything but what they are. To hear these purveyors of political poppycock tell it, Alison personally smuggled about 48,000 Latinos across the border in the trunk of her car and drove them to the nearest welfare office. Well, not all 48,000 — she had to drop off the ISIS terrorists and those with Ebola at daycare centers, Starbucks, or Churchill Downs.

She then drove the getaway car for thousands of home invasions where she had, just days before, personally confiscated all their guns. With her being a particularly talented multi-tasker, after she finished the home invasions, she foreclosed on their mortgages. And this is the really amazing part, Alison Lundergan Grimes is Barack Obama in drag! You might ask how, but it isn’t that difficult these days for the President to get away from D.C. for extended periods of time given the narcolepsy afflicted Secret Service.

Of course I am exaggerating — except for the part about Alison being Obama in drag. No one can prove me wrong since the two will never be seen together on the campaign trail. There have been more pictures of Obama in anti-Grimes ads than there have been pictures of her.

KET photoYou have to hand it to McConnell though. With 69 billionaire contributors and only 3% of his donations coming from contributors under the $200.00 watermark, it takes some mighty serious political danglies to have as your campaign positions: Against the minimum wage, against reducing student loan costs, against paycheck fairness, and against mortgage refinancing legislation. And what is he for: Reducing food stamps affecting 850,000 Kentuckians (1 out of 5) and eradicating “root and branch” the health insurance for over 500,000 citizens who have never before enjoyed the experience or the well-being of going to a doctor outside an emergency room.

Given the particularly rough and tumble of this year’s midterms, these ads are pretty “run-of-the-mill” stuff, but the political environment in which they run is what makes this post-Citizen United world so apocalyptic. The playbook is delegitimization. Virtually all of talk radio and Fox News, inexplicably the most watched cable channel, are 24/7/365 engaged in the systematic delegitimizing of the presidency. I don’t for a moment believe their actions can be limited to just the occupant of the Oval Office, it is atrophying the presidency itself. It was done to Bill Clinton, it has been done to Obama, and it will be attempted upon Hillary.

Woe be to us all if the Senate race in Kentucky is prophetic, we will all be drowning in the river of money unleashed by the Supreme Court in their ill-conceived and activist decision in Citizens United. In one way it has come full circle since Mitch McConnell has been at the forefront of opening the flood gates of unlimited contributions since his election in 1984.

Here’s hoping your Tuesday is a good one — take the conversation wherever you like since this is an open thread.

Good Monday, Widdershins.   Glad tidings from the Vatican today for all who claim humanity, but especially so for all of our Rainbow Widdershins.

After much soul-searching, an enclave of bishops has published a document outlining the need to find a place within the Church for gays and same-sex couples.  This is a tall order for an institution which asserts that sex is solely for procreation, but on the bright side, neither birth control nor abortion will be an issue.

The Huffington Post notes that the document did not relax the basic RC attitudes, the author called its language “less judgemental” and “more compassionate”.

The document will be the basis for discussion for the second and final week of the assembly, known as a synod, which was called by Pope Francis and focuses on the theme of the family.

It will also serve for further reflection among Catholics around the world ahead of another, definitive synod next year.

“Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a further space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home,” said the document, known by its Latin name “relatio”.

“Are our communities capable of proving that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?” it asked.

And this:

It said that the 1.2 billion-member Church should see the development of its position on homosexuals as “an important educational challenge” for the global institution.

While the Church continued to affirm that gay unions “cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman”, it should recognize that there could be positive aspects to relationships in same-sex couples.

“Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners,” the document said.

Pope Francis has said the Church must be more compassionate with homosexuals, saying last year: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge.”

The Church teaches that while homosexual tendencies are not sinful, homosexual acts are.

The document also showed considerable opening to heterosexual couples who were married only in civil services or who were living together, mentioning “positive aspects” of such unions, especially if the couple saw them as a prelude to marriage in the Church.

No doubt, this represents a sea change in the Holy See.  Whether it is an actual invitation to the gay community or just part of  the time-honored “hate the sin, love the sinner” principle remains to be seen.

This is an open thread.

 

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