2012 - %3, July

Grandstanding Over Medicaid Begins in Florida, South Carolina

| Mon Jul. 2, 2012 12:35 PM EDT

Following Thursday's Supreme Court decision, Republican governors in the South are starting to trip all over themselves to see who will be first across the line to turn down the Medicaid expansion that's part of Obamacare. As it turns out, Florida's Rick Scott and Louisiana's Bobby Jindal took the checkered flag. Sarah Kliff assesses the damage:

The Affordable Care Act would have extended Medicaid to cover everyone who earns less than $14,500, regardless of whether they have children or not. That expansion, to cover higher earners, would have covered 951,622 Floridians, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report.

In South Carolina, the expansion was expected to cover 330,932 people. Taken together, that’s 1.2 million people—about 7.5 percent of the 17 million people expected to gain Medicaid coverage—who would no longer have access to the program.

Needless to say, we should expect a lot more of this. I figure every Republican governor in the South, and at least half of them elsewhere, will do the same thing.

For now, though, I'm treating this as simply part of campaign season. It's an easy way of ginning up the base, but it means nothing until 2014 rolls around and the Medicaid provisions of ACA actually kick in. I don't doubt that some states will continue to hold out, but if Obama wins in November and ACA stays intact, I expect things to cool down over time. Some of the ideologues will stick to their guns, but not all of them. Eventually most will probably take the money.

Nevertheless, this is a good argument for one of my favorite policy prescriptions: we should federalize Medicaid. There's never really been any good argument for making it a joint state-federal program, and there are plenty of good arguments for taking this monkey off the backs of state budgets and letting the federal government run the whole thing, just like they do with Medicare. Now, with the Supreme Court imposing new limits on federal authority to manage joint programs, we have yet another argument for federalizing it.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Mitch McConnell Demonstrates the "Repeal and Replace" Tap Dance

| Mon Jul. 2, 2012 11:37 AM EDT

On Sunday Chris Wallace interviewed Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, and tried manfully to get him to comment on the "replace" part of "repeal and replace." He didn't succeed:

WALLACE: One of the keys to "Obama-care" is that it will extend insurance access to 30 million people who are now uninsured. In your replacement, how would you provide universal coverage?

MCCONNELL: Well, first, let me say the single the best thing we could do for the American health care system is to get rid of Obamacare....

WALLACE: But if I may, sir, you've talked about repeal and replace. How would you provide universal coverage?

MCCONNELL: I will get to it in a minute. The first step we need to take is to get rid of what is there....

WALLACE: But respectfully sir, because we are going to run out of time and I just want to ask, what specifically are you going to do to provide universal coverage to the 30 million people who are uninsured?

MCCONNELL: That is not the issue....

WALLACE: You don't think the 30 million people that were uninsured is an issue?

MCCONNELL: Let me tell you what we are not going to do....

I think it's safe to say that Republicans have exactly zero intention of replacing Obamacare with anything at all except a few miscellaneous gifts to their campaign contributors (state-level regulation for insurance companies, tort reform for the Chamber of Commerce, etc.). The 30 million uninsured will be quickly and completely forgotten, as McConnell's robotic dedication to GOP talking points showed. How about if we all stop pretending that they were ever serious about this in the first place?

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 2, 2012

Mon Jul. 2, 2012 10:24 AM EDT

Michigan Army National Guard infantry soldiers and Reserve Officer Corps Training cadets of the 1st Battalion, 125th Infantry, Rear Detachment conduct an air assault mission using UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters and foot patrols at Camp Grayling, Mich. Photo by the US Army.

Why John Roberts Changed His Mind

| Mon Jul. 2, 2012 9:37 AM EDT

Yesterday's big story came from Jan Crawford of CBS News, who reports that two separate sources within the Supreme Court confirmed to her what people have been speculating about since Thursday: Chief Justice John Roberts was initially planning to join the court's conservatives to strike down Obamacare, but then changed his mind. But why?

Some of the conservatives, such as Justice Clarence Thomas, deliberately avoid news articles on the Court when issues are pending....But Roberts pays attention to media coverage. As Chief Justice, he is keenly aware of his leadership role on the Court, and he also is sensitive to how the Court is perceived by the public.

There were countless news articles in May warning of damage to the Court — and to Roberts' reputation — if the Court were to strike down the mandate....It was around this time that it also became clear to the conservative justices that Roberts was, as one put it, "wobbly," the sources said.

Hmmm. Maybe. In any case, it sure sounds like Crawford's sources are a couple of pissed-off conservative justices, doesn't it? I'd tentatively view this story though that lens, anyway. Then there's this:

Some informed observers outside the Court flatly reject the idea that Roberts buckled to liberal pressure, or was stared down by the President. They instead believe that Roberts realized the historical consequences of a ruling striking down the landmark health care law....To strike down the mandate as exceeding the Commerce Clause, the Court would have to craft a new theory, which could have opened it up to criticism that it reached out to declare the President's health care law unconstitutional. Roberts was willing to draw that line, but in a way that decided future cases, and not the massive health care case.

This sounds plausible to me — mainly, I admit, because it was precisely what I thought the court should do:

If they don't want a rerun of the 1930s, which did a lot of damage to the court's prestige, but they do want to put firmer limits on Congress's interstate commerce power, the [justices should] find a limiting principle of their own. But find one that puts Obamacare just barely on the constitutional side of their new principle. This would avoid a firestorm of criticism about the court's legitimacy — that they're acting as legislators instead of judges — but it would satisfy their urge to hand down a landmark decision that puts firm limits on further expansion of congressional power. Liberals would be so relieved that Obamacare survived that they'd probably accept the new rules without too much fuss, and conservatives, though disappointed, would be thrilled at the idea that the court had finally set down clear limits on Congress's interstate commerce power.

As it happens, that's pretty much how it went down: Obamacare was upheld, but new limits were placed on Congress's power. Roberts just wasn't able to get any of the other conservatives to go along.

If I had to guess, the bait for the conservatives was the possibility of getting liberal buy-in for new restrictions on Commerce Clause power. A decision that went 7-2 or 8-1 in favor of some concrete restriction, at the price of letting Obamacare slide in on a technicality, might have seemed appealing. And it's possible that some of the liberals were willing to go along. But if that was the pitch, apparently none of the conservatives was willing to bite. In fact, the story suggests they're pretty bitter about the whole thing:

Roberts [] engaged in his own lobbying effort — trying to persuade at least Justice Kennedy to join his decision so the Court would appear more united in the case. There was a fair amount of give-and-take with Kennedy and other justices, the sources said. One justice, a source said, described it as "arm-twisting."

....The majority decisions were due on June 1, and the dissenters set about writing a response, due on June 15. The sources say they divided up parts of the opinion, with Kennedy and Scalia doing the bulk of the writing....The fact that the joint dissent doesn't mention Roberts' majority was not a sign of sloppiness, the sources said, but instead was a signal the conservatives no longer wished to engage in debate with him.

Will we be hearing more about this? I hope so! Every other agency of government leaks like a sieve, and I don't know why the Supreme Court should be any different. I want the dirt, and I want it now. Who is going to be the TMZ of Supreme Court gossipmongering?

The Mountain Goats Rule the Interwebs

John Darnielle's impassioned lyricism and the web itself have something in common.

| Mon Jul. 2, 2012 6:01 AM EDT
John Darnielle (center) with drummer Jon Wurster (left) and multi-instrumentalist Peter Hughes (right).

I consider myself a pretty big Mountain Goats fan. That said, going to see them perform is always a very humbling experience for my fan ego. It’s not just the band's staggering 14-album discography, which frontman John Darnielle insists even he can't keep track of. It's how you can look around you at their shows and see a room full of wide-eyed, almost tearful, fans who live and bleed the Mountain Goats, or at least quite possibly listen only to them.

Romney Left Bain Later Than He Says, Documents Show

The big takeaway from David Corn's Monday-morning bombshell.

| Mon Jul. 2, 2012 6:01 AM EDT
Mitt Romney (center) and his Bain Capital buddies mug for the camera.

David Corn published an important story Monday morning about Mitt Romney's time at Bain Capital, the private equity firm Romney co-founded. Using documents from the Securities and Exchange Commission, David proves that Romney was involved with Bain's investment in Stericycle, a medical waste firm that has been criticized by opponents of abortion rights for disposing of aborted fetuses. Just as important, though, is the evidence that Romney was signing important documents for Bain—and running Bain-associated companies—well after February 1999, the point when both the Romney campaign and Bain itself claim that Romney left the firm. Here's the key paragraph from David's piece:

The Stericycle deal—the abortion connection aside—is relevant because of questions regarding the timing of Romney's departure from the private equity firm he founded. Responding to a recent Washington Post story reporting that Bain-acquired companies outsourced jobs, the Romney campaign insisted that Romney exited Bain in February 1999, a month or more before Bain took over two of the companies named in the Post's article. The SEC documents undercut that defense, indicating that Romney still played a role in Bain investments until at least the end of 1999.

The Post and the Obama campaign have been attacked for criticizing Romney about deals that Bain made after Romney supposedly left the company in February 1999. But as the government documents and Bain statements highlighted by David demonstrate, Romney remained involved with Bain at least through the end of 1999—and perhaps longer. Here's another key section, in which Bain directly contradicts the contents of a document that Romney himself signed:

In response to questions from Mother Jones, a spokeswoman for Bain maintained that Romney was not involved in the Stericycle deal in 1999, and insisted he had "resigned" from the company months before the stock purchase was negotiated. The spokeswoman noted that following his resignation Romney remained only "a signatory on certain documents," until his separation agreement with Bain was finalized in 2002. And Bain issued this statement: "Mitt Romney retired from Bain Capital in February 1999. He has had no involvement in the management or investment activities of Bain Capital, or with any of its portfolio companies since that time." (The Romney presidential campaign did not respond to requests for comment.)

But the document Romney signed related to the Stericycle deal did identify him as an participant in that particular deal and the person in charge of several Bain entities. (Did Bain and Romney file a document with the SEC that was not accurate?) Moreover, in 1999, Bain and Romney both described his departure from Bain not as a resignation and far from absolute. The Boston Herald on February 12, 1999 reported, "Romney said he will stay on as a part-timer with Bain, providing input on investment and key personnel decisions." And a Bain press release issued on July 19, 1999, noted that Romney was "currently on a part-time leave of absence"—and quoted Romney speaking for Bain Capital. In 2001 and 2002, Romney filed Massachusetts state disclosure forms noting he was the 100-percent owner of Bain Capital NY, Inc.—a Bain outfit that was incorporated in Delaware on April 13, 1999—two months after Romney's supposed retirement from the firm. A May 2001 filing with the SEC identified Romney as "a member of the Management Committee" of two Bain entities. And in 2007, the Washington Post reported that R. Bradford Malt, a Bain lawyer, said Romney took a "leave of absence" when he assumed the Olympics post and retained sole ownership of the firm for two more years.

There is now an immense body of evidence that Romney was deeply involved with Bain Capital and related companies well past the February 1999 date that the campaign has previously cited. Not convinced? Read David's piece.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Congress' Big Gift to Monsanto

Big Ag's big bucks get results on GMO labeling.

| Mon Jul. 2, 2012 6:00 AM EDT

If you want your crops to bear fruit, you have to feed the soil. Few industries understand that old farming truism better than ag-biotech—the few companies that dominate the market for genetically modified seeds and other novel farming technologies. And they realize that the same wisdom applies to getting what you want in Washington, DC.

According to this 2010 analysis from Food & Water Watch, the ag-biotech industry spent $547.5 million between 1999 and 2009. It employed more than 100 lobbying firms in 2010 alone, FWW reports, in addition to their own in-house lobbying teams.

The gusher continues. The most famous ag-biotech firm of all, Monsanto, spent $1.4 million on lobbying in the first three months of 2012, after shelling out $6.3 million total last year, "more than any other agribusiness firm except the tobacco company Altria," reports the money-in-politics tracker OpenSecrets.org. Industry trade groups like the Biotechnology Industry Organization and Croplife America have weighed in with $1.8 million and $524,000, respectively.

What fruits have been borne by such generous fertilizing of the legislative terrain? It's impossible to tie the fate of any bit of legislation directly to an industry's lobbying power, but here are two unambiguous legislative victories won on the Hill this month by Monsanto and its peers.

The Men's Campfire Songs

The Brooklyn post-punkers on their Catskills retreat, tour-van music, and questions they'd rather you not ask.

| Mon Jul. 2, 2012 6:00 AM EDT
The Men

It's a Sunday night at San Francisco's Bottom of the Hill—a glowing, dimly lit stakeout of a rock venue—and I've never seen anything quite like it: A guy in the audience who'd hobbled into the crowded room on crutches is now standing near the front of the stage, bouncing up and down, holding those crutches over his head.

The band that apparently has the power to heal the sick—or at least make him forget about the pain until after the show—is post-punk foursome the Men, and the song is a track off their latest album, Open Your Heart. Lanky bassist/producer Ben Greenberg also bounces; guitarists/vocalists Mark Perro and Nick Chiericozzi lunge their instruments at negative space; drummer Rich Samis rolls and flicks his head in furious rhythm. A third of the room is a mosh pit. I desperately fish around in my bag for the earplugs I've left at home, then realize that tinnitus is inevitable.

It's okay—I've made my peace. Back in Brooklyn, the Men enjoyed a reputation for two things: First, being one of the loudest yet most versatile bands around. Second: Not giving a fart about how anyone (i.e. bloggers) tried to pigeonhole their sound according to one of many noise, psychedelic, or classic rock reference points. The result, maybe, is the rare energy of shows like these, and albums that can slap an indie listener out of background-music worship. The lost frequencies are worth it.

Should You Leave the AC On for Your Cat or Dog?

Veterinarians weigh in—plus, cute photos of critters trying to beat the heat.

| Mon Jul. 2, 2012 6:00 AM EDT
Hot kitty.

I've been told that in the Mother Jones DC bureau last week, a debate raged over whether or not it's only crazy cat ladies who leave the air conditioner on all day for pets. I can see both sides: Sure, it's pitiful to see dogs pant and cats make themselves as flat as possible to beat the heat, especially during gnarly heat waves. And yes, it's true that pets are unable to doff their fur coats.

On the other hand, their ancestors lived outside for eons before we domesticated them, so surely they must be heartier than we give them credit for. What's more, round-the-clock AC is exorbitantly expensive and contributes significantly to climate change, as the New York Times recently reported. Because of the soaring demand for air conditioning worldwide, and because the gases emitted by modern cooling equipment are extremely potent planet warmers, scientists estimate that AC units could account for a staggering 27 percent of global warming by 2050.

So is it really necessary to chill Fido all day long? I decided to call a few veterinarians to settle the argument once and for all. Dr. Helen Myers, veterinarian at the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center, had this to say in an email:

When the temperature and humidity rise, it becomes crucial to keep our pets comfortable and safe. Animals cool themselves by panting, a process of exchanging warm air from their lungs for the cooler air outside. This cannot happen when it is hot and humid, which leads to increased risk for heat stress and exhaustion. Leaving the air circulating with fans or, better yet, leaving the air conditioning on will help to keep pets cool and healthy. Thermostats should ideally be set at 78-80 degrees, an appropriate comfort level for most pets. Basements are typically cooler than the rest of the house, so if your basement is a comfortable place for your pet to be, having them spend time down there during a heat wave is also an option. Pets should also always have access to fresh water, as they can get dehydrated.
 
Both cats and dogs are susceptible to excessive heat and humidity, but cats are more likely to control their activity so as not to add heat from muscle activity. Elderly, overweight, and pets with heart or lung diseases should be carefully watched, as they are highly susceptible to heat stroke. Pets with short muzzles like pugs, bulldogs and Persian cats are at a higher risk of becoming overheated because they cannot effectively pant. These pets should be kept in rooms with air conditioning so they can stay cool.

Kimberly May, a veterinarian and spokeswoman for the American Veterinary Medicine Association, added that it's important to observe your pet and adjust the indoor temperature according to its particular needs. "Keep an eye on your pet and see where your pet hangs out," says May. "If your dog is constantly by the AC vent, you probably shouldn't turn it off. But if you see the dog sitting in the sunlight, you might have a little more leeway." As a general rule of thumb, cats are often slightly more heat-tolerant than dogs, and for both species, the longer the fur, the more uncomfortable the animal will be in extreme heat.

As for the argument that animals don't need AC since their forebears dealt with heat just fine, May doesn't buy it. "We've domesticated them and ruined all that," she says. "It's not smart to make an assumption about their needs based on their ancestors. We've changed their diets; we've changed a lot of things."

A few other tips from May: You can try putting ice in your pet's water bowl, but only if your animal is comfortable with it; some cats and dogs are freaked by ice and won't drink ice water at all. Some dogs like the pricey cooling pads sold at pet stores and on the internet (this one is $79.99 on eBay) but others won't go near them. Walk dogs in the early morning or evening, and keep the walks short. Don't go running with your dog, since dogs will keep going, even if they're overheating.

How can you tell if your animals are hot? Why, compare them to pictures of sweltering critters on the internet, of course. A few to get you started:

These cats are eagerly awaiting the unveiling of their cooling station:

cuttlefish/Flickrcuttlefish/FlickrDog in a cooler:

Inspire Kelly/FlickrInspire Kelly/FlickrHere's a hot cat hanging out by a window:

Muffet/FlickrMuffet/FlickrCat meets fan:

Photo by Kate SheppardPhoto by Kate Sheppard

Three-dog heat wave:

Tobyotter/FlickrTobyotter/FlickrHere's a hot cat in Tokyo:

Tata_Aka_T/FlickrTata_Aka_T/FlickrAnd here's one who finds a potted plant cooling:

Violette79/FlickrViolette79/Flickr

Adventures in Sexist Pork Industry Pamphlets

Ladies, rejoice: Thanks to the Pork Information Bureau, women can finally use a BBQ—just like men!

| Mon Jul. 2, 2012 6:00 AM EDT

With July 4th approaching, perhaps you're planning for the cornerstone of patriotic party-making: the barbeque. An Americana standard, this is the sacred time when friends and family gather round the grill. Dad flips burgers, and Mom, well, she sets out the lemonade or fusses over the napkins or something.

Well ladies, behold the post-feminist era's gift to you: Now you can turn the tables on your unsuspecting spouse/lover/friend/dad with "Girl Grill Power!" a guide to help ladies navigate the open pit, presented by "The Other White Meat" campaign.

Pork Information BureauPork Information Bureau

According to the Pork Information Bureau, here's what you need to know to become a lady-grillmaster:

1) Confused? Just pretend your grill is a man you're trying to romance.

PIB

This pamphlet is your staple "little black dress" to ensure you look good on your "first date with the grate." Just "work it," and your first hangout with Mr. Char-Broil will be a smashing success!

2) Grilling meat will make you "one hot mamma."

PIBAnd another thing that will make you the most fetching of grill-ladies? Absolutely no risk-taking at all when it comes to your homecooking. Heaven forbid you should gamble on your family's taste buds! Just make "certain they're satisfied," and you'll "light up the night."

3) You'll probably better understand how to prepare meat for the grill if the directions are couched in a sexual metaphor.

PIB

The Pork Information Bureau recommends that, when prepping your grub, you "rub it right" with the "Spicy Girl's Dry Rub," which you can use a little or a lot of, "depending on your mood." Really?

4) But don't forget about gender equity!

PIBWouldn't want to make your man feel like you're treading his territory, i.e. "the grilling throne". And of course your partner is a man, because meat grilling is something only heterosexual couples do.

5) Everything should be perfect. Always and forever.

PIBIf your table is absolutely flawless, all your female friends will be double-floored by your gender-bending grill antics.

6) Grilling is empowerment!

PIB

Yeah, enough with the booze already. Think of the calories! And speaking of: You might not know what "loin" means—tough word, I know—but just be sure it's on your meat label. That means it's healthy! And another vocab tip: "Loin" is two words. No, really: