Athletes Respond to the Anti-Choice Super Bowl Ad

Olympic gold medalist Al Joyner and former college and professional football player Sean James respond to the Focus on the Family anti-choice ad running this Sunday during the Super Bowl: 

This web video won't run this weekend -- but it looks to be a pitch perfect retort to the conservative one that will.

Playing By the Rules Pays Off

Josh Marshall flags a key quote from an ABC News report underscoring the value of the Obama administration's approach towards the Christmas day bombing.

“One of the principal reasons why his family came back is because they had complete trust in the US system of justice and believed that Umar Farouq would be treated fairly and appropriately," the senior official said. "And that they would be as well.” 

The FBI and Abdulmuttalab's family approached the subject and “gained his cooperation. He has been cooperating for days," the official said. 

NBC News reports further that the intelligence being provided by Umar Abdulmutallab post-Miranda -- a procedural step, I might add, that the Bush administration afforded four times in two days by the Bush administration to the Shoe bomber -- is "good intelligence", and further that more intelligence is coming. That is to say, when America acts in accordance with its values, and interested parties understand that (in this case, both Abdulmutallab and his family), real dividends can ensue. 

A State of the Union Bounce?

It's still too soon to gauge whether or not Barack Obama received a lasting bounce from his State of the Union address last week -- but we are beginning to get an indication that he has received a short-term-bounce, at the least.

In Gallup polling in the field from January 25 through 27, the last survey in the field almost entirely before Barack Obama's speech, the President's approval rating stood at 47 percent -- matching an all-time low in the poll -- with 46 percent disapproving. 

Today's numbers from Gallup are significantly more bullish for the President. In polling in the field January 30 through February 1, Barack Obama's approval rating is up a net 8 percentage points from before the State of the Union Address, with 51 percent approving and 42 percent disapproving. 

These numbers are volatile, and yet preliminary. But at this point, it appears that President Obama has seen positive movement out of his speech last week.

Adding 15 Million to the Rolls of Medicaid, CHIP

Ezra Klein is getting pessimistic about the chances healthcare reform will pass based on comments by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and I don't think he's wrong to be.

But at the risk of beating a dead horse, I really think it's worth considering what is being given up by giving up on healthcare reform: The prospect of advancing the cause of universal healthcare.

The Senate bill is not a perfect bill -- but it is a bill that does a lot of good. Looking at just the toplines, the bill will ensure that 30 million more people have health insurance than currently do today. In doing so, the bill would also decrease the deficit by more than a trillion dollars over the next two decades.

Many have chided the Senate bill for not including a public option. This of course overlooks the fact that the House was unable to round up even a simple majority for the type of robust public option -- one with rates tied to Medicare -- that could actually help reduce costs. Nevertheless, this is a fair criticism.

That said, this criticism does miss a key aspect of the Senate healthcare bill: Half of those 30 million newly covered under the legislation would be enrolled in a government program. Here's the relevant portion of the CBO score (.pdf):

By 2019, CBO and JCT estimate, the number of nonelderly people who are uninsured would be reduced by about 31 million, leaving about 23 million nonelderly residents uninsured (about one-third of whom would be unauthorized immigrants). Under the legislation, the share of legal nonelderly residents with insurance coverage would rise from about 83 percent currently to about 94 percent. Approximately 26 million people would purchase their own coverage through the new insurance exchanges, and there would be roughly 15 million more enrollees in Medicaid and CHIP than is projected under current law. [Emphasis added]

Enrolling 15 million more Americans in a government healthcare program, as well as enabling an additional net 16 million to access health insurance -- in the process increasing "the share of legal nonelderly residence with insurance coverage from about 83 percent currently to about 84 percent," while also reducing the deficit by more than $1 trillion -- still seems like a worthwhile achievement, even if not a perfect one. And considering that the alternative appears to be doing nothing, or close to it, I'm not sure that it doesn't make sense for the House to pass the Senate bill.

Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers

The New York Times takes offense:

The president appeared to have mischaracterized the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn restrictions on corporate-paid political commercials by suggesting that the decision invited political advertisements by foreign companies, too.

[...]

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., a member of the majority in that decision, broke with the justices’ usual decorum to openly dissent. He shook his head no and mouthed the words “not true.”

The majority opinion in the case, Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission, specifically disavowed a verdict on the question of foreign companies’ political spending.

“We need not reach the question of whether the government has a compelling interest in preventing foreign individuals or associations from influencing our nation’s political process,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote. The court held that the First Amendment protected the right of American corporations to spend money on independent political commercials for or against candidates. Some analysts or observers have warned that the principle could open the door to foreign corporations as well.

President Obama called for new legislation to prohibit foreign companies from taking advantage of the ruling to spend money to influence American elections. But he is too late; Congress passed the Foreign Agents Registration Act in 1996, which prohibits independent political commercials by foreign nationals or foreign companies.

You can watch the exchange here:

While The Times' David D. Kirkpatrick, who wrote this brief, believes that he's doing a fact-check here, that he really caught President Obama, he didn't. Last week's Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case does exactly what the President says it does. To say otherwise is to mince words to the point of removing them of meaning.

It is true that the Supreme Court claimed not to be addressing the question of whether foreign money would be allowed in American elections. Yet at the same time, the Court opened up the door to unlimited corporate spending in American elections in a way that would almost undoubtedly lead to a flow of foreign capital into our politics.

Publicly traded corporations based in this country have foreign shareholders just as they have American ones. It is hard to envision a feasible rule going forward -- whether one devised by Congress or one envisioned by this Court -- that could create a genuine firewall to ensure that money originating from foreign shareholders would not seep into American elections. This is true not only for natural persons (actual people) who are citizens of other countries but also for foreign corporations and even sovereign wealth funds owned by foreign governments that own shares of nominally American corporations allowed under Citizens United to spend freely in American elections. Unless the Court were to rule that no American corporation with any foreign ownership was subject to the new rule in Citizens United -- a holding that would remove from the scope of Citizens United virtually any and all publicly traded corporations (presumably all of which have at least a single foreign shareholder) -- it is unclear exactly how Congress or state legislatures would be able to stem the flow of foreign capital into American elections. A subsequent decision that limits are permitted on entirely foreign-owned subsidiaries incorporated in the United States would not go nearly far enough.

So in the fact-check of The Times' fact-check, I give the paper a thumbs down, and firmly believe that the President was correct in stating that foreign money -- including money stemming from foreign corporations -- appear to have been permitted at least to some extent under the recent Supreme Court opinion.

[UPDATE by Jonathan]: And just to add, if you watch the video, it's pretty clear that Justice Alito begins taking offense not at mention of foreign corporations, as The Times asserts, but rather when the President spoke about the decision's strengthening of the position of special interests.

State of the Union Thread

[UPDATE by Jonathan]: MyDD Blog Talk Radio's post State of the Union show is now up and running. You can leave a comment here or call in to 646-652-2585.

I'm tweeting my thoughts on Barack Obama's State of the Union address over @jonathanhsinger, and after the speech we'll be hosting a special episode of MyDD Blog Talk Radio starting at 10:30 PM Eastern/7:30 PM Pacific.

What are your thoughts on the speech (the full text of which is below the fold)?

 

There's more...

MyDD Blog Talk Radio Post-SOTU Show

Join Josh Orton, Adam Conner, Aaron Banks, me and a very special guest tonight after President Obama's State of the Union Address for a great episode of MyDD Blog Talk Radio. Set your alarms for 10:30 PM Eastern/7:30 PM Pacific, when we'll begin our broadcast. Look forward to you joining us.

[UPDATE] The very special guest = Sam Seder. 

More Thoughts on Progressive Populism

Last night I wrote about how the election in Oregon, where the state's notoriously anti-tax voters broke with 80 years of history by raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy, suggested that there is a wave of populism sweeping the nation. The populist sentiment, I wrote, isn't always expressed in the same way. In Oregon, the populism took a progressive slant, asking everyone to pay their fair share, while in Massachusetts the populism took a different slant, opposing the coronation of a new Senator. Nonetheless, the trend seems clear.

In the comments section of the post, Jerome alluded to a quote from the campaign manager of the Yes efforts.

Kevin Looper, who is running the campaign to ratify the ballot measures, said that "when we started doing focus groups, it was amazing to hear voters demanding to know where the banks were on these measures. Because they wanted to be on the opposite side."

While the political class in Oregon clearly heard the message, adopting a new populist tone asking everyone to pay their fair share in taxes -- note that national polling from last year showed that 60 percent believed "upper-income people" are paying too little, rather than their fair share, in federal taxes, with 67 percent saying the same about corporations -- it remains to be seen is the Beltway elite will get the message too.

Progressive Populism Works

After the Beltway elite read the results of the special Senate election in Massachusetts last week as an indication of conservatism on the rise, Oregon voters clarified the message: It's not conservatism, but rather populism that is on the rise.

The notoriously anti-tax voters in Oregon went to the polls this month to vote on measures that would firm up state finances by raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy. The state's fickle electorate had spurned countless tax measures in past years, and indeed had not approved an increase to the state's income tax since 1930.

But with roughly 80 percent of the precincts reporting as of about 8:45 PM Pacific, Oregonians are bucking their anti-tax trend. By a 549,277-vote (55 percent) to 450,190-vote (45 percent) margin, voters are approving of increased taxes on high-income earners. By a similar 547,670-vote (54.3 percent) to 460,477-vote (45.7 percent) margin, voters are backing new taxes on corporations.

The message out of Oregon, like the message out of Massachusetts, is resonating: Voters are in a populist mood right now -- not an anti-government one, necessarily, but a populist one nevertheless. The progressive brand of populism that resonated with Oregonians this month is slightly different than the one that rang true in Massachusetts. Yet the message is just as clear.

The real question now is whether DC will listen, or if instead it will continue to cling to its common wisdom.

Conservative Activist Arrested After Bugging Attempt on Senate Office

What is this country coming to?

Alleging a plot to tamper with phones in Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu's office in the Hale Boggs Federal Building in downtown New Orleans, the FBI arrested four people Monday, including James O'Keefe, 25, a conservative filmmaker whose undercover videos at ACORN field offices severely damaged the advocacy group's credibility.

Also arrested were Joseph Basel, Stan Dai and Robert Flanagan, all 24. Flanagan is the son of William Flanagan, who is the acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, the office confirmed. All four were charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony.

This is seriously scary stuff. An arrest is not a conviction, and allegations are not stone cold facts. But if what appears to have happened actually happened, we have real reason to be concerned about the direction in which this country is going.

The dangers involved in these allegations cannot be overstated. If proven, they represent a shot across the bow to our Democratic system, a signal that some believe themselves to be above the Constitution and our laws. Again, if proven, today's news would represent a very sad day for our democracy.

[UPDATE by Jonathan]: Media Matters reports that 31 House Republicans -- more than one-sixth of the party's caucus -- backed a resolution honoring O'Keefe not all that long ago.

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