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Friday Cat Blogging - 22 May 2015

| Fri May 22, 2015 12:00 PM EDT

One of the reasons we got a pair of sibling cats last year is because I've always wanted a couple of cats who would sleep together in an adorable little kitty pile. And that's worked out pretty well. Is there anything cuter than Hilbert and Hopper snoozing together in the picture below? I don't think so. I really don't.

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Don't Panic: Health Insurance Rates Aren't About to Rise by 50 Percent

| Fri May 22, 2015 10:53 AM EDT

Here's the latest Fox News bait from the Wall Street Journal:

Major insurers in some states are proposing hefty rate boosts for plans sold under the federal health law, setting the stage for an intense debate this summer over the law’s impact.

In New Mexico, market leader Health Care Service Corp. is asking for an average jump of 51.6% in premiums for 2016. The biggest insurer in Tennessee, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, has requested an average 36.3% increase. In Maryland, market leader CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield wants to raise rates 30.4% across its products. Moda Health, the largest insurer on the Oregon health exchange, seeks an average boost of around 25%.

All of them cite high medical costs incurred by people newly enrolled under the Affordable Care Act.

Well, of course they do. It's a handy excuse, so why not use it?

In any case, we've all seen this movie before. Republicans will latch onto it as evidence of how Obamacare is destroying American health care and it will enjoy a nice little run for them. Then, a few months from now, the real rate increases—the ones approved by state and federal authorities—will begin to trickle out. They'll mostly be in single digits, with a few in the low teens. The average for the entire country will end up being something like 4-8 percent.

So don't panic. Sure, it's possible that the Obamacare shit has finally hit the fan, but probably not. Check back in October before you worry too much about stories like this.

Josh Duggar Resigns From Family Research Council Amid Molestation Allegations

| Thu May 21, 2015 10:56 PM EDT

On Thursday, Josh Duggar resigned as head of the Family Research Council's lobbying arm amid allegations from a sealed police report obtained by In Touch Weekly that he sexually molested multiple underage girls when he was a teenager.

Duggar, the eldest son of the reality TV family on TLC's 19 and Counting, expressed regret for his actions in a statement on the Duggar family's Facebook page:

Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends. I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life.

Josh's parents Jim Bob and and Michelle Duggar reportedly knew about the alleged sexual misconduct, which began in 2002, for more than a year before reporting it to the authorities. After the Springdale Police Department received an anonymous tip in 2006, they investigated, but Duggar was never charged with anything. You can read the partially redacted police report here

The Duggars emerged as political players for the social conservative right in 2007, when Jim Bob, a one-time state representative, endorsed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for president. After the 2012 election, when the family backed Rick Santorum, Josh Duggar catapulted into conservative circles in Washington as the executive director of FRC Action.

The family remains an influential force among social conservatives due to its pro-life views and strong Christian faith. In December, Michelle Duggar pushed for the repeal of a measure in Arkansas that would have prevented housing and employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

In May, Jim Bob and Michelle endorsed Huckabee, calling him "a man of faith." As of Thursday night, Jim Bob's endorsement is still on Huckabee's presidential campaign site. Mother Jones has reached out to the Huckabee camp for comment.

mikehuckabee.com

 

Could LA's $15 Minimum Wage Sweep the Nation?

| Thu May 21, 2015 4:46 PM EDT
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti after announcing his support for a $15 minimum wage.

On Tuesday, Los Angeles became the third major West Coast city to pass a $15 minimum wage ordinance. Though the law won't fully go into effect until 2020, it's a huge deal. LA is larger than San Francisco and Seattle, the two other $15-an-hour cities, combined. It also has a much larger contingent of low-wage workers. The ordinance will give a raise to an estimated 750,000 Angelenos, or about 46 percent of the city's workforce.

LA's wage hike points to the potential for a major minimum wage boost to sweep the country. Although experts disagree about the LA measure's impact on growth and employment, the City Council passed it by a 14-to-1 margin. The $15 wage polls well in LA and nationally, despite a dearth of national politicians pushing for such a large increase. If organizers play their cards right, this suggests a $15 wage could gain traction in other cities.

"The facts and campaign brought to bear in LA were in many ways only a next step in the move to address income inequality."

So how did it happen? The original proposal, after all, was a more modest one. The measure's backers attribute their success to a combination of grassroots and national organizing. The umbrella group leading the push, the Raise the Wage Coalition, includes more than 260 local organizations from labor, business, entertainment, and the civil rights movement. It marshaled economic studies to justify a $15 wage and delivered more than 100,000 petition signatures in favor. But it also benefited from what organizers call "air support"—the national campaign to pressure Walmart and McDonald's into implementing a $15-an-hour base wage.

"It created a narrative that made it really hard for council members to simply look past the realities of what hard-working people are experiencing," says Rusty Hicks, executive secretary treasurer of the LA County Federation of Labor. "The facts and campaign brought to bear in LA were in many ways only a next step in the move to address income inequality."

The organizers are already eyeing other SoCal cities. "It is not our intention to just stop in LA," says Laphonza Butler, president of the Service Employees International Union in California and co-organizer, with Hicks, of Raise the Wage Coalition. "We need to raise the wage all across the region."

The group's next most likely contenders are Pasadena and West Hollywood.

New York City Is Not the Bohemia You May Think It Is

| Thu May 21, 2015 2:50 PM EDT

Greenwich Village, 1917:

On a cold winter's night in January 1917, [socialist artists] mounted to the top of Washington Arch and strung up some balloons. [Gertrude Drick] then read aloud the document she and Ellis had prepared, declaring the secession of Greenwich Village from the America of big business and small minds. They called on President Wilson to extend protection to their domain as one of the small nations, the "Free and Independent Republic of Washington Square."

"Declaration of Independence of the Greenwich Republic" John Sloan Manuscript Collection, Delaware Art Museum.

Greenwich Village, 2015:

Capital One Opening Coffee-Shop-Meets-Bank Concept on Union Square

The President of the Boy Scouts of America Just Endorsed Dropping the Ban on Gay Leaders

| Thu May 21, 2015 2:14 PM EDT

The president of Boy Scouts of America is calling for an end to the organization's ban on gay leaders, saying the "status quo in our movement's membership standards cannot be sustained." Robert Gates, who was speaking at the group's annual summit on Thursday, said the changes would not be made at the meeting, but indicated officials should look into revisions in the future.

In Gates's remarks, the former defense secretary urged the organization to "deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it be." His address, sure to ruffle a few feathers, stopped short of supporting gay rights outright. Instead, Gates said that the policy shift was necessary to keep the organization nationally relevant.

"While our work won't be done until we see a full end to their ban on gay adults once and for all, today's announcement is a significant step in that direction," Zach Wahls, director for Equality, said in response to Thursday's announcement. "I'm proud to see Dr. Gates charting a course towards full equality in the BSA."

In 2013, the Boy Scouts of America voted to allow openly gay scouts—gay leaders however were not included in the changes. Just yesterday, the Girls Scouts of America double downed on the group's welcoming of transgender girls.

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Republicans Hate Obamacare Even If They Like Their Own Obamacare Plans

| Thu May 21, 2015 1:17 PM EDT

A new Kaiser poll gives us an in-depth look at what people think about health insurance plans purchased through an Obamacare exchange. Some of the results are unsurprising: people like plans with low deductibles; most say it was easy to shop for a plan; and most were pretty satisfied with the plans they purchased. But unless I'm badly misreading something, there's one result that's pretty gobsmacking. First off, here's a chart showing basic satisfaction levels with Obamacare plans:

That's pretty good. Positive responses increased a bit from 72 percent to 74 percent. That compares very favorably with satisfaction levels toward employer plans. But now take a look at this chart that breaks down Obamacare favorability attitudes by party:

This is crazy. This isn't a general survey of all Americans. It's a survey specifically of people who don't have group coverage. Most of them (probably more than two-thirds) have actually purchased Obamacare plans and therefore have personal experience with them, but favorability is nonetheless still driven mostly by party ID. You can buy an ACA plan on the marketplace, get a subsidy, and be happy with your plan—but if you're a Republican you still overwhelmingly hate Obamacare by 74-25 percent.

Folks, that is hardcore.

This Story Maggie Gyllenhaal Just Told Perfectly Explains the Hollywood Sexism Complex

| Thu May 21, 2015 12:46 PM EDT

Maggie Gyllenhaal recently lost a film role because she was apparently "too old" to play the love interest of a 55-year-old man, the 37-year-old actress revealed in a new interview with The Wrap.

"There are things that are really disappointing about being an actress in Hollywood that surprise me all the time,” Gyllenhall said. "I'm 37 and I was told recently I was too old to play the lover of a man who was 55. It was astonishing to me."

While she declined to identify the project's name—because Gyllenhall is all class—she said she was eventually able to laugh off the rejection. 

"It made me feel bad, and then it made me feel angry, and then it made me laugh."

Back in January, Gyllenhaal picked up a Golden Globe award for her performance in the BBC miniseries The Honourable Woman. During her acceptance speech, she stressed the importance of Hollywood embracing the roles of real women.

"When I look around the room at the women who are here and I think about the performances that I've watched this year what I see actually are women who are sometimes powerful and sometimes not, sometimes sexy, sometimes not, sometimes honorable, sometimes not," she said onstage. "What I think is new is the wealth of roles for actual women in television and in film. That's what I think is revolutionary and evolutionary and it's what's turning me on."

Despite Gyllenhaal's optimism, it sure looks like Hollywood is hell bent on keeping ageism securely intact. 

CNN Plans to Feature Peanut Gallery Debate as Warmup for Main Event

| Thu May 21, 2015 11:29 AM EDT

CNN will be hosting the second Republican debate, and they've come up with a....unique way of dealing with the fact that there are just too damn many candidates. To handle the crowd, they're going to have two separate debates:

"The first 10 candidates — ranked from highest to lowest in polling order from an average of all qualifying polls released between July 16 and September 10 who satisfy the criteria requirements ... will be invited to participate in 'Segment B' of the September 16, 2015 Republican Presidential Primary Debate," the network states in its candidate criteria. "Candidates who satisfy the criteria and achieve an average of at least 1 percent in three national polls, but are not ranked in the top 10 of polling order will be invited to participate in 'Segment A' of the September 16, 2015 Republican Presidential Primary Debate."

Did you get that? All the yokels—Carly Fiorina, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, etc.—will go on first. They'll be sort of the warm-up act. Then they'll get shuffled off the stage and the big guns will have prime time all to themselves. This is pretty humiliating for the also-rans, but presumably if they play by the rules they'll have a chance to move up, just like in English Premier League soccer. Perhaps Rick Perry will stumble and get relegated to the minor leagues for the next debate, while Jindal will knock everyone's socks off and get promoted to the show. I don't know if I'd quite call this "fun," but it would certainly make for some interesting office pools.

The first debate, which is hosted by Fox, will feature none of this nonsense. The top ten candidates will be invited to the debate, and that's that. If you're outside the top ten, you can watch the debate on your big-screen TV at home. Or, if Fox is feeling generous, perhaps the sad sacks polling at the 1% level will be allowed to while away their time in the spin room, where they can try to buttonhole reporters and explain why they really should have been up on the stage. Maybe the saddest story will win a prize.

Job-Seeker Hillary Clinton Posts Resume on LinkedIn

| Thu May 21, 2015 10:38 AM EDT

Have you heard the news? Hillary Clinton is on the hunt for a new gig.

And in an effort to attract prospective employers, the former secretary of state just joined LinkedIn with her very own profile. She even dressed up her page with an article on how to "jump-start small business." 

Enjoy the imminent deluge of spammy messages, Hillary! Everyone deserves a distraction from "sensitive but unclassified" emails.