Blogs

Hating On Obamacare Not Really a Great Strategy for GOP Governors

| Mon Aug. 25, 2014 9:40 AM EDT

Does opposing Obamacare hurt you or help you if you're a Republican governor? To find out, Sam Wang took a look at nine Republican governors who were first elected in 2010 and are now running for reelection. The chart on the right tells the story. Governors who have resisted Medicaid expansion—a key part of Obamacare, and the one that most directly affects individual states—are generally doing poorly. Those who accepted Medicaid expansion are polling pretty well. However, Wang notes that Obamacare probably isn't entirely responsible for this divide:

Think of the Medicaid expansion as a “proxy variable,” one that is predictive of stands on many other issues. For example, even as Pennsylvania voters have trended toward the Democrats, Corbett got behind several radical redistricting schemes, cut education funding deeply, and compared gay marriage to incest. In Maine, LePage has called legislators idiots and state workers corrupt, told the N.A.A.C.P. to “kiss [his] butt,” and held multiple meetings with “sovereign citizens” who advocate secession. In short, if you’re too hard-core or offensive, some of your constituents can get turned off.

The Republicans Susana Martinez, of New Mexico, John Kasich, of Ohio, and Rick Snyder, of Michigan, look as strong as they did when they were first elected. All three accepted the Affordable Care Act and its Medicaid expansion....This stance by Martinez, Kasich, and Snyder has been predictive of their support of other issues with that have drawn support from both parties. Martinez and Kasich, for example, have pursued education-reform policies that have gained a lot of traction among both Democrats and Republicans. To the extent that governors hold on to their offices in close races, it may be because they have focussed on issues that are important to the voters in their states rather than the core views of their party.

In other words, refusing the Medicaid expansion is the mark of a true-believing wingnut, and that's not such a great place to be right now. Conversely, accepting the Medicaid expansion is the mark of a pragmatic conservative, and those folks have remained relatively popular.

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Music Review: "To Turn You On" by Robyn Hitchcock

| Mon Aug. 25, 2014 6:00 AM EDT
robyn hitchcock

TRACK 3

"To Turn You On"

From Robyn Hitchcock's The Man Upstairs

YEP ROC

Liner notes: Hitchcock gives Bryan Ferry's morose love song a charming, irony-free makeover, setting his surprisingly tender vocal to a delicate chamber-folk arrangement.

Behind the music: The former Soft Boys leader teamed with producer Joe Boyd (Fairport Convention, Anna and Kate McGarrigle) for this vibrant mix of originals and covers (Doors, Psychedelic Furs).

Check it out if you like: Vital vets like Richard Thompson and Marshall Crenshaw.

This review originally appeared in our September/October issue of Mother Jones. 

Liam Bailey's "Definitely Now" is Sneakily Addictive

| Mon Aug. 25, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

Liam Bailey
Definitely NOW
Flying Buddha/Sony Music

Liam Bailey

Liam Bailey's smoky rasp of a voice would enhance any setting. On this sneakily addictive debut, the UK singer skillfully mixes slick modern pop, old-school soul, torch ballads, and a dash of reggae, creating a familiar yet fresh brew reminiscent of the great Amy Winehouse, an early champion of his. Where some young vocalists tend to emote excessively in an attempt to show off their skills, Bailey makes a virtue of understatement. He's thoroughly engaging on uptempo numbers like "Villain" and "Fool Boy," but especially effective on slower late-night tunes such as "Autumn Leaves" (not the pop standard) and "So, Down Cold." Make it mellow, Liam.

Also read: Bailey spoke to photographer Jacob Blickenstaff about making the album and his split with Jimi Hendrix's old label, Polydor.

10 of the Worst Congressional Acronyms Ever

| Mon Aug. 25, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

Ten of the worst (or possibly greatest) congressional backronyms—intentional acronyms created by attention-seeking lawmakers, or more likely, their poor staffers:

CHOMP: Consumers Have Options for Molar Protection Act, sponsored by former Rep. Diane Watson (D-Calif.)

STALKERS: Simplifying The Ambiguous Law, Keeping Everyone Reliably Safe Act, sponsored by Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.)

HELLO: Help Eliminate the Levy on Locution Act, sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)

SWEETEST: Saccharin Warning Elimination via Environmental Testing Employing Science and Technology Act, sponsored by former Rep. Joseph Knollenberg (R-Mich.)

CHURCH: Congressional Hope for Uniform Recognition of Christian Heritage Act, sponsored by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)

DRONES: Designating Requirements On Notification of Executive-ordered Strikes Act, sponsored by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)

PROSTATE: Prostate Research, Outreach, Screening, Testing, Access, and Treatment Effectiveness Act, sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.)

STOP SMUT: Special Taxation On Pornographic Services and Marketing Using Telephones Act, sponsored by former Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.)

CAN SPAM: Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act, sponsored by ex-Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.)

DAIRY: Dairy Augmentation for Increased Retail in Yogurt Products Act, sponsored by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)

HONORABLE MENTION
SAFETEA-LU:
Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, sponsored by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) in honor of his wife, Lu

For many more wonderfully bad backronyms, check out Noah Veltman's "congressional acronym abuse" tracker.

Bonus Sunday Cat Blogging - 24 August 2014

| Sun Aug. 24, 2014 11:53 AM EDT

I've gotten several queries about how Mozart is doing, and as you might expect, the answer is that Mozart is delighted with his new home. Last night at dusk he was leaping around in my mother's native habitat garden and chasing all the little things that only cats can see at dusk. Everyone else is doing fine too. So as a bit of bonus catblogging, here's my mother's entire brood. From top to bottom, we have Mozart, Ditto, and Tillamook. Enjoy.

5 Ways Climate Change Is Ruining Your Breakfast

| Sun Aug. 24, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

Welcome to the worst breakfast-related crisis since Lord of the Rings: There might be an impending Nutella shortage. And there's a good chance the culprit is climate change.

The price of hazelnuts, a main ingredient in the delicious chocolate spread, is up 60 percent after unseasonable ice storms devastated hazel tree farms in Turkey's Black Sea coastal region this year. And colder winters and heavier precipitation are exactly what the EU's Centre for Climate Adaptation says the Black Sea coast should expect as climate change advances. Though Nutella's manufacturer hasn't raised its prices yet, it's facing increasing strain as palm oil and cocoa get more expensive, too.

It would be bad enough if Nutella were the only food that melting ice caps and changing weather patterns are threatening to rob from the breakfast table. But no—the list of climate change's culinary casualties goes on. Here are some other ways it's making the most important meal of the day a little less satisfying:

  1. Rising cereal prices. Kix might be kid-tested and mother-approved, but have fun buying them in 2030, when their cost could be as much as 24 percent higher due to drought-stricken grain crops, according to an Oxfam International report. (And that doesn't even account for inflation.) Lovers of Frosted Flakes and Kellogg's Corn Flakes should also start stockpiling now—Oxfam predicts their respective prices will rise by 20 and 30 percent by 2030.
  2. A global bacon shortage. The aporkalypse is nigh. Even if you're on a no-carb diet, shrinking grain supplies are bad news. Pricier corn and soybeans equals pricier pig feed, and pricier pig feed equals smaller pig herds. In 2012, Britain's National Pig Association announced that a pork and bacon shortage "is now unavoidable."
  3. Bland-but-costly coffee. There's an epic drought in Brazil, the world's largest coffee exporter. As a result, one commodities trading firm says caffeine addicts will consume 5 million more bags of beans than coffee growers can produce in the 2014-2015 season, and the price of coffee futures has already doubled to $2 a pound. To make matters worse, beans grown at higher temperatures don't develop the blend of aromatic compounds that give coffee its distinctive flavor.
  4. Waffle woes. The nation had to collectively leggo its Eggos in November 2009, when record flooding in Atlanta stopped waffle production at the local Kellogg plant. Sure, this has happened once so far, but according to the Environmental Protection Agency, "projected sea level rise, increased hurricane intensity, and associated storm surge may lead to further erosion, flooding, and property damage in the Southeast."

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Sarah Palin's Ice Bucket Challenge Video Is Actually Kind Of Funny

| Sat Aug. 23, 2014 7:59 PM EDT

Here is Sarah Palin's ice bucket challenge video. I don't get the Diet Dr. Pepper bit, but the ending made me laugh.

Iowa GOP Official Warns That Child Migrants Might Be Highly Trained "Warriors"

| Fri Aug. 22, 2014 4:25 PM EDT

Iowa Republican National Committee member Tamara Scott has a special theory about the flood of child migrants entering the United States: What if they're secretly ninjas?

Republican congressmen have previously argued that the 70,000 youths who will come across the border in 2014 are being brought over to bolster Democratic voter rolls at some point in the distant future, or that they are carrying a deadly disease that does not actually exist in their home countries. Scott, in a Thursday radio segment flagged by Right Wing Watch, sought to outdo them all:

For us just to open our borders it's chaos we don't know orderly who's coming in, who's not. When we see these kids, you and I think young kids, we think maybe 12-year-olds, maybe even…middle-schoolers. But we know back in our revolution, we had 12-year-olds fighting in our revolution. And for many of these kids, depending on where they're coming from, they could be coming from other countries and be highly trained as warriors who will meet up with their group here and actually rise up against us as Americans. We have no idea what's coming through our borders, but I would say biblically it's not a Christian nation when you entice people to do wrong.

This is a terrible idea for a Red Dawn sequel.

Friday Cat Blogging - 22 August 2014

| Fri Aug. 22, 2014 2:55 PM EDT

Here's Domino helping Marian with a bit of gardening in the front yard. The days may not be sunny and warm forever, so she's taking advantage of whatever ones are left to her.

Did Obamacare Wreck a Baseball Game?

| Fri Aug. 22, 2014 2:20 PM EDT

A few days ago, a Chicago Cubs game was called in the fifth inning after the grounds crew had so much trouble spreading a tarp that the field got soaked during a rain delay and play couldn't be continued. The Corner reveals what really happened:

Insiders at the ball club report that the real culprit is Obamacare. Because the Affordable Care Act requires offering health benefits to employees who work more than 130 hours per month or 30 hours a week (“full time”), the Cubs organization reorganized much of its staff during the off-season. Sources that spoke to the Chicago Sun-Times claimed that, on Tuesday night, the crew was drastically “undermanned.”

Huh. What do you think of that, Dean Baker?

The problem with this story is that employer sanctions are not in effect for 2014. In other words, the Cubs will not be penalized for not providing their ground crew with insurance this year even if they work more than 30 hours per week. Apparently the Cubs management has not been paying attention to the ACA rules. This is yet another example of the skills gap that is preventing managers from operating their businesses effectively.

Quite so. My guess is that this is just another installment in the long-running effort of American corporations to use Obamacare as a scapegoat for everything under the sun. Usually this has to do with raising copays for their employees or something like that, but the ingenuity of American capitalism knows no bounds. Why not blame a rain delay on Obamacare too?

For a more likely cause of penny pinching on the grounds crew, the Wall Street Journal has you covered.