Quote of the Day

“The Christmas season has officially started. Today I saw Herman Cain wearing his mistletoe belt buckle.” –Jay Leno

Majority Support Provisions Of Affordable Care Act

A Kaiser Health Tracking Poll shows the same trend that has been present in most polls on health care reform–most people support the specific measures in the act  (with one notable exception) but are misinformed about what is contained in the Affordable Care Act:

  • After taking a negative turn in October, the public’s overall views on the ACA returned to a more mixed status this month.  Still, Americans remain somewhat more likely to have an unfavorable view of the law (44%) than a favorable one (37%).
  • The survey also finds that individual elements of the law are viewed favorably by a majority of the public.  The law’s most popular element, viewed favorably by more than eight in ten (84%) and “very” favorably by six in ten, is the requirement that health plans provide easy-to-understand benefit summaries.  Also extremely popular are provisions that would award tax credits for small businesses (80% favorable, including 45% very favorable) and provide subsidies to help some individuals buy coverage (75% favorable, including 44% very favorable), as well as the provision that would gradually close the Medicare doughnut hole (74% favorable, including 46% very favorable) and the  “guaranteed issue” requirement  that prohibits health plans from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions (67% favorable, including 47% “very” favorable).
  • Despite strongly partisan reaction to the law overall, many of its provisions are popular among Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike.  The elements of the law with the highest levels of bipartisan support include requiring plans to publish easy-to-understand summaries (88% of Democrats, 87% of independents, and 76% of Republicans favorable), tax credits to small businesses (88%, 77%, and 73%, respectively), and allowing individuals to appeal their health plans’ decisions to an independent reviewer (82%, 70%, and 70%, respectively).
  • Far and away the least popular element of the health reform law is the individual mandate, the requirement that individuals obtain health insurance or pay a fine. More than six in ten (63%) Americans view this provision unfavorably, including more than four in ten (43%) who have a “very” unfavorable view.
  • More than a year and half after health reform was enacted, there is much about the law that the public still does not know, including some of its more popular elements. For example, about four in ten (42%) are unaware of the law’s most popular provision, requiring health plans to produce straightforward benefits summaries.  The least well-known provisions — eliminating cost-sharing for preventive services and the medical loss ratio requirement, which fewer than four in ten recognize as being included in the law — are each favored by at least six in ten people, including a third who see each as “very” favorable.
  • Substantial shares also incorrectly believe the law does two specific things that it does not.  For instance, more than half (56%) think the law includes a new government-run insurance plan to be offered along with private plans (while another 13% don’t know if the law does this). And a third (35%) think the law allows a government panel to make decisions about end-of-life care for people on Medicare (with another 12% saying they don’t know). Those numbers have changed little in the past year.

While most people do support the actual provisions of the Affordable Care Act, general polling on opinions on health care reform often provide negative results for three reasons: 1) Many people are unaware of the benefits which are in the act (and which they support), 2) Many people believe items which are not in the act are contained in it, and 3) many oppose the individual mandate.

As I’ve pointed out many times before, the individual mandate is an old Republican idea which the Democrats foolishly adopted, as opposed to utilizing other possible measures to deal with the free rider problem. Most of the current Republican candidates are on record as having supported the mandate in the past. This not only includes Mitt Romney, who has taken both sides on virtually every issue during his career, but has also included current front-runner Newt Gingrich as can be seen in this video:

Gawker summarizes:

At a forum in 2005, alongside then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and former Sen. John Breaux (D-LA), Gingrich explained the tradeoffs that both the right and the left would have to make in health care: For the right, some transfer of wealth is involved in providing health care for the working poor, the disabled, and other groups. And for the left, individuals should still have control over their health care, rather than total government management.

“I mean, I am very opposed to a single-payer system – but I’m actually in favor of a 300 million-payer system. Because one of my conclusions in the last six years, and founding the Center for Health Transformation, and looking at the whole system is, unless you have a hundred percent coverage, you can’t have the right preventive care, and you can’t have a rational system, because the cost-shifts are so irrational, and create second-order problems.”

This led Gingrich to a few conclusions of how to implement such a system: Convert Medicaid into a health insurance voucher system as it applies to the working poor (on the rationale that the creation of food-stamps do not involve the government running its own grocery stores); Create very large risk pools for individuals to purchase insurance (i.e., exchanges); and minimize insurance companies from cherry-picking customers.

“I know I risk not sounding as right-wing as I should, to fit the billing,” Newt said at one point, which did indeed trigger some audience laughs.

Gingrich then invoked the example of welfare reform in the 1990’s – perhaps his single biggest accomplishment from when he was Speaker – and how it got people off of the welfare rolls.

But my point to conservatives is, it’s a model of responsibility. If I see somebody who’s earning over $50,000 a year, who has made the calculated decision not to buy health insurance, I’m looking at somebody who is absolutely as irresponsible as anybody who was ever on welfare. Because what they’ve said is, a) I’m gambling that I won’t get sick, and b) I’m gambling that if I do get sick, I can cheat all my neighbors.

Now when you talk to hospitals, a very significant part of their non-collectables are people who have money, but have calculated that it’s not worth the cost to collect it.

And so I’m actually in favor of finding a way to say, if you’re above whatever – whatever the appropriate income level is, you oughtta have either health insurance, or you oughtta post a bond. But we have no right, we have no right in this society, to have a free-rider approach if you’re well off economically, to say we’ll cheat our neighbors.

As Media Matters has previously pointed out, as late as 2008 Gingrich was still advancing the mandated insurance/bond approach for people above a determined income level.

It was a major mistake for Barack Obama to reverse his campaign position of opposing the mandate, adopting an old Republican position, and underestimating the degree to which Americans oppose being told what to do by government. If not for this mistake, I believe that support for health care reform in general, as well as for Obama’s reelection, would be much higher than they are now.

Support For Tea Party Falling In Districts Which Elected Members To Congress

Support for the Tea Party continues to decline, even in districts which voted for one of them to represent them in Congress. In addition, their view of the Republican Party has also declined along with the Tea Party.  The Pew Research Center reports:

Since the 2010 midterm elections, the Tea Party has not only lost support nationwide, but also in the congressional districts represented by members of the House Tea Party Caucus. And this year, the image of the Republican Party has declined even more sharply in these GOP-controlled districts than across the country at large.

In the latest Pew Research Center survey, conducted Nov. 9-14, more Americans say they disagree (27%) than agree (20%) with the Tea Party movement.  A year ago, in the wake of the sweeping GOP gains in the midterm elections, the balance of opinion was just the opposite: 27% agreed and 22% disagreed with the Tea Party. At both points, more than half offered no opinion.

Throughout the 2010 election cycle, agreement with the Tea Party far outweighed disagreement in the 60 House districts represented by members of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus. But as is the case nationwide, support has decreased significantly over the past year; now about as many people living in Tea Party districts disagree (23%) as agree (25%) with the Tea Party.

The Republican Party’s image also has declined substantially among people who live in Tea Party districts. Currently, 41% say they have a favorable opinion of the GOP, while 48% say they have an unfavorable view. As recently as March of this year, GOP favorability was 14 points higher (55%) in these districts, with just 39% offering an unfavorable opinion

Among the public, 36% now say they have a favorable opinion of the Republican Party, down from 42% in March.

It is no surprise that the Tea Party has not only declined in support but has also dragged down the GOP. Polls have also showed declining support for the Occupy Wall Street movement but obviously we cannot have a comparable study of Congressional districts which have elected OWS candidates. I expect OWS to continue to lose support as long as they concentrate on fighting over being able to occupy public property as opposed to concentrating on their original issue of income inequality. If OWS continues on its current road and falls in support, hopefully they will neither drag down the Democratic Party or cause people to forget about the underlying issue–an area of original success.


Teen Stands Up To Brownback, Refuses to Apologize For Negative Tweet

I recently posted a story about a teenager who tweeted a negative comment about Kansas Governor Sam Brownback to her sixty-five followers. Brownback’s office, monitoring for negative on-line comments, found the tweet and reported this to her school’s principal. Neither the principal or Brownback’s office showed any appreciation of First Amendment rights and the principal demanded that the girl apologize to Brownback.

The student has refused to apologize. AP reports:

A Kansas teenager who wrote a disparaging tweet about Gov. Sam Brownbacksaid Sunday that she is rejecting her high school principal’s demand for a written apology.

Emma Sullivan, 18, of the Kansas City suburb of Fairway, said she isn’t sorry and doesn’t think such a letter would be sincere.

The Shawnee Mission East senior was taking part in a Youth in Government program last week in Topeka, Kan., when she sent out a tweet from the back of a crowd of students listening to Brownback’s greeting. From her cellphone, she thumbed: “Just made mean comments at gov. brownback,” and then specified what the comments were.

She actually made no such comment and said she was “just joking with friends.” But Brownback’s office, which monitors social media for postings containing the governor’s name, saw Sullivan’s post and contacted the Youth in Government program.

Sullivan received a scolding at school and was ordered to send Brownback an apology letter. She said Prinicipal Karl R. Krawitz even suggested talking points for the letter she was supposed to turn in Monday.

Her mother is showing far better understanding of freedom of speech than either the principal or Brownback.

Sullivan’s mother, Julie, said she isn’t angry with her daughter, even though she thinks she “could have chosen different words.”

“She wasn’t speaking to the 3,000 followers she has now,” Julie Sullivan said. “She was talking to 65 friends. And also it’s the speech they use today. It’s more attention grabbing. I raised my kids to be independent, to be strong, to be free thinkers.

“If she wants to tweet her opinion about Gov. Brownback, I say for her to go for it and I stand totally behind her.”

 Update: Brownback has apologized for the over-reaction of his staff.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who Christmas Special And Other News; Terra Nova Secret Revealed; Once Upon A Time; Merlin

Several new pictures from the Doctor Who Christmas special, The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe, have been released, such as the one above. More can be seen here. The official synopsis has also been released, and the trailer was posted here.

It’s Christmas Eve, 1938, when Madge Arwell comes to the aid of an injured Spaceman Angel as she cycles home, in this year’s Doctor Who Christmas Special, starring Matt Smith as the Doctor.

He promises to repay her kindness – all she has to do is make a wish.

Three years later, a devastated Madge escapes war-torn London with her two children for a dilapidated house in Dorset. She is crippled with grief at the news her husband has been lost over the channel, but determined to give Lily and Cyril the best Christmas ever.

The Arwells are surprised to be greeted by a madcap caretaker whose mysterious Christmas gift leads them into a magical wintry world. Here, Madge will learn how to be braver than she ever thought possible. And that wishes can come true…

Madge Arwell is played by Claire Skinner, Lily Arwell by Holly Earl and Cyril Arwell by Maurice Cole.

Matt Smith told WalesOnline that he would like to see more action in Doctor Who:

Doctor Who star Matt Smith said he wants to see “more action” in the next series of the Timelord’s adventures.

The actor, who is reported to have recently split up with girlfriend Daisy Lowe, said the sci-fi show’s Christmas special had a “Narnia-esque shape and feel” to it.

He told the Radio Times: “Whereas last year felt more like a Christmas romp, there’s a slow-burning, ethereal magic to this. We’ve covered a whole forest in snow. The scale is vast and there’s just something wonderfully magical about it because it’s never that snowy in this country, except maybe in Scotland … and on the telly. It does it for you: all the snow and the lovely smell of the pine trees. I’m really, really looking forward to Christmas now.”

Smith also revealed he had been doing his stunts for the show – one of which involved him dodging a giant fireball.

 He said: “Believe me, the fireball does so much of the acting for you. It was only afterwards that I realised I could have been seriously charred.

“I’ve been really enjoying it. Hopefully we’ll see more action/an adventure-y Doctor next season.”

The Christmas special also includes appearances from familiar faces including comic Alexander Armstrong, Arabella Weir and Bill Bailey.

Bailey, who is a devoted fan of the long-running BBC show, said appearing on it was “the equivalent of a knighthood”.

Smith has held several other recent interviews in light of the upcoming special and the release of the DVD box set from last season. Above is a video of his interview last week on BBC Breakfast. Stories include the presence of three Doctors (including himself) at a party for Steven Moffat’s birthday. Smith has confirmed that he will be returning for the upcoming season, next year’s Christmas special, and the 50th anniversary special of Doctor Who.

Karen Gillan said that Amy and Rory will only have a cameo role in the Christmas special, which reconciles previous reports that she will not be in the show along with reports of filming a scene outside Amy and Rory’s home.


Alex Kingston was on Craig Ferguson’s show earlier this month (video above).

This trailer for BBC1’s Christmas shows includes an appearance by Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, and a Cyberman.

Terra Nova revealed the shows’ big secret in last week’s episode, although there is the possibility that Taylor was lying. His claim is that his son and the Sixers are conspiring to make the portal two-way so that the resources from the past could be taken to 2149. The explanation given didn’t fully explain why only certain people were in on this. Possibly there is conflict in 2169 regarding who gets sent back. This make it especially important the the past shown in the show was previously revealed to be a different timeline.

Movie Overmind spoke to Jennifer Morrison and producer Steven Pearlman about Morrison’s key role as  Emma on Once Upon A Time:

We’ve only seen four episodes of Once Upon a Time, but it’s become clear what type of show it is, as well as the format. Each episode is almost a self-contained story in the fairytale world, giving us another piece of the main characters’ backstory as fairytale characters, while introducing a few new ones along the way (like Cinderella). In addition, the Storybrooke characters continue to develop and grow alongside their fairytale counterparts.

But two characters don’t have fairytale counterparts in Once Upon a Time: Emma and Henry. Emma is clearly one of the central characters of the show, and it’s her relationship with Henry – and the other town’s characters – that has prompted this independent woman to put down roots and become part of a family. During a trip to the Vancouver set of Once Upon a Time last month, we had the opportunity to speak to Jennifer Morrison about her character and how Emma will develop throughout the first season.

Morrison acknowledged that there’s really no way to do the “Emma episode” of Once Upon a Time, because she doesn’t have a fairytale counterpart. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect to gain more insight into her character. The writers will give the audience ”a slower, steadier revelation of who she is. She’s revealed a little bit at a time through her relationships as the story goes on. Her willingness to get involved with certain people and her way of connecting to those people in those moments ends up revealing parts of her past. Those story lines, in a sense, become her flashbacks by proxy.”

Once Upon a Time’s executive producer Steven Pearlman told us that Emma will spend the first half of the season “coming to grips with the fact that she has a kid and her relationship to Henry and what it means to be a parent, what it means to be a single parent and what it means to give up your kid for adoption.” While Emma has decided to indulge Henry’s belief that the Storybrooke characters have fairytale counterparts, she doesn’t really believe it. However, Pearlman says “…these things keep happening….suggestions that maybe [Henry’s stories] are true. She herself is kind of caught in this place of ‘am I a believer or am I not a believer?’”

The biggest problem I see in keeping this story going as a weekly series is dealing with the fact that Emma is the one who has the power to reverse the spell. They obviously cannot have Emma be successful at this or the series comes to an end. More on Once Upon A Time from Jiminy Cricket’s perspective here.

While Jennifer Morrison is probably best known for her role on House. she also played Winona Kirk in rebooted Star Trek movie.

Johnny Capps and Julian Murphy, creators of BBC’s Merlin series, answer some questions here. Beware, the interview and the episode descriptions at the link have a lot of spoilers for those who have not started season for yet. Here’s a few questions without spoilers:

Q: Is there any more info on the Merlin movie?
A: it’s in early stages – we’re discussing talent right now, e.g writers, directors

Q: Will there be a sixth series of Merlin?
A: We’ve always planned five series, but it depends on how popular the show is . There’s every possibility it could continue…

Q: Will we see either Arthur or Gwen confront Morgana this series?
A: Yes, there’s a very exciting confrontation coming up between Gwen and Morgana!

Q: Will we get a glimpse of redemption for Morgana?
A: The end of this series is very surprising for Morgana! Stay tuned…

Q: Do you feel that Merlin has become a stronger show each series?
A: Yes – fantasy shows often grow with confidence. The closer we get to the legend, the richer and more interesting it gets… The ambition each year is to keep pushing the envelope. We’re always working to make the show better!

There were also questions regarding whether characters who have died this season might return. To avoid spoilers I have not posted the full questions, but the answers included comments such as “Who knows?? There’s no such thing as real death in Merlin.” In an answer about another character, they said “We loved working with  ***, we’ve got plenty of ideas as to how *** could return! But when, we’re not sure…” The identity of these characters is revealed at the link.

Happiness Is Crushed Buckeye Nuts

Freedom To Complain About Government Officials

Yesterday I noted a story about someone who criticized President Obama and wound up being interviewed by the Secret Service. The person has signs up at his business with fallacious criticism, and has criticized Obama on Facebook. He was acting within his First Amendment rights, regardless of how absurd his claims are. Unless there is more to this story than I am aware of, such as statements promoting violence, there was no reason for any law enforcement agencies to get involved. Reportedly his statements made it to the Secret Service who interviewed him and laughed off the incident.

Today there is a report of a high school student being harassed due to a tweet which was critical of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback:

A Kansas teenager is in trouble after mocking Gov. Sam Brownback during a mock legislative assembly for high school students.

Emma Sullivan, a senior at Shawnee Mission East High School in Prairie Village, was in Topeka on Monday as part of Kansas Youth in Government, a program for students interested in politics and government.

During the session, in which Brownback addressed the group, Sullivan posted on her personal Twitter page:

“Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot”

On Tuesday, Sullivan was called to her principal’s office and told that the tweet had been flagged by someone on Brownback’s staff and reported to organizers of the Youth in Government program…

Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag said her office had forwarded a copy of Sullivan’s tweet to organizers of the school-sponsored event “so that they were aware what their students were saying in regards to the governor’s appearance.

“We monitor social media so we can see what Kansans are thinking and saying about the governor and his policies,” Jones-Sontag said.

“We just felt it was appropriate for the organizers to be aware … because of what was said in the tweet.”

Sullivan, 18, said she posted the comment because she doesn’t agree with Brownback’s policies, particularly recent cuts in state aid to schools. She is a registered Democrat.

“Some of my friends were joking about what they’d really like to say (to Brownback), so I just took out my phone” and tweeted, she said. “I guess it was kind of a heat-of-the-moment thing.”

This sounds like a quite clear violation of First Amendment rights, with both Governor Brownback’s office and the school principal acting inappropriately.

Update: I did receive this link from a reader who says that the person in the first incident was a member of right wing militias and had threatened the president. If that is the case, then the Secret Service was right to interview him. It is the principle as opposed to the specifics of this particular case which is most important–merely criticizing a government official, regardless of party and regardless of the validity of the criticism, should not lead to retaliation from any unit of government.


Turkey of the Day: Georgia Businessman Blaming His Business Problems on Obama

In honor of Thanksgiving, I’ll respond to this news report by declaring Bill Looman the Turkey of the Day:

A west Georgia business owner is stirring up controversy with signs he posted on his company’s trucks, for all to see as the trucks roll up and down roads, highways and interstates:

“New Company Policy: We are not hiring until Obama is gone.”

“Can’t afford it,” explained the employer, Bill Looman, Tuesday evening. “I’ve got people that I want to hire now, but I just can’t afford it. And I don’t foresee that I’ll be able to afford it unless some things change in D.C.”

I hardly see what Obama has to do with his inability to hire more people. The last time I hired a new employee, I even got a tax break thanks to President Obama.

Either this person is an unsuccessful businessperson, which has nothing to do with Washington, or his business is slow due to the underlying economy. The recession was caused by Republican policies under George Bush. Since Obama took office, the Republicans have done everything they possibly could to prevent recovery for political gain.

Yes, we need change in Washington, but the solution is getting rid of the Republicans who are preventing recovery. We need to reelect Obama and to give him a less hostile Congress so that the economy can recover.

There was another amusing side to the story. Someone reported Looman to the FBI as for being a threat to national security. From his account, this was  ultimately transferred to the Secret Service, which did not take this seriously as a threat. Being misinformed and mistakenly criticizing the president hardly makes someone a threat to national security, but it does make Looman a turkey.

The Possibility Of The Republican Race Going To The Convention

With conservatives hating Mitt Romney, but each of the conservative candidates currently in the race having major flaws, I have speculated several times in the past about the possibility of the nomination being decided by the convention. I have wondered if it is possible that, as during the past year, each conservative candidate might have periods of time and places where they could do well against Romney. Each conservative candidate might have a significant block of candidates which, while less than Romney’s might total over half the delegates. This might lead to a situation where Romney has the largest block of delegates, but not enough to clinch the nomination.

The possibility of this would partially depend upon the rules for each primary. If the primaries were winner-take-all, then Romney would have an easier job of coming in first in enough states to accumulate enough delegates to clinch the nomination. However, proportional division might result in Romney’s delegates being outnumbered by anti-Romney delegates, even if none of the conservative candidates comes close to Romney’s total. Salon has analyzed the primary rules and found that this scenario is possible.

The key rule is that states holding primaries and caucuses prior to April 1 will all have proportional division of delegates, making it much harder for one candidate to accumulate enough delegates in the early states to have enough to a lead to make their nomination inevitable.  This rule means that 1,163 of 2,380 total delegates will be chosen before the first winner-take-all states. A substantial number, perhaps a majority, will be delegates for more conservative candidates. It is possible that by April only around 350 anti-Romney delegates divided among more conservative candidates would be needed to deny Romney the nomination.

If this scenario does play out it is possible that nobody will be able to win the nomination on early ballots and another candidate could ultimately be chosen. This would save the Republicans from having to chose from a particularly poor field. The question still remains whether any candidate who is acceptable to the far right of the Republican Party could be found who isn’t too extreme to win in a general election. Such a candidate might receive some benefit from a probable post-convention bounce and lack of public knowledge of their negatives. There will still be time for the candidate’s faults to come out, as occurred with Sarah Palin in 2008.  Perhaps a right-wing dominated convention might even be foolish enough to nominate Palin, although polls of Republicans suggest that is unlikely. There is also the question as to how much of an advantage it would be for Obama to be able to campaign against Republican policies in general through the spring and summer, even if he didn’t have a specific opponent, while the Republicans would have no candidate going into the convention. Regardless of how it plays out, it does raise the possibility of interesting developments in the horse race after going for decades where the conventions ceased to have much meaning.

Mitt Romney’s Low Standard For Honesty

Once again Mitt Romney shows that, despite doubts from many conservatives, he really is one of them. The favorite form of argument used by conservatives is to distort the views of others, being unable to provide meaningful responses. This includes cutting audio and video to make it appear that Democrats said something entirely different from what they are actually saying. Mitt Romney did this in his first campaign ad:

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s first ad of the 2012 presidential campaign quotes President Obama out of context in what the Romney campaign is calling a deliberate attempt to show that Mr. Obama “doesn’t want to talk about the economy.”

In the ad, which goes up Tuesday in New Hampshire, Mr. Obama is heard saying “if we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.”

But when Mr. Obama made that statement, he was actually quoting an aide to John McCain, his 2008 rival for the presidency. “Senator McCain’s campaign actually said, and I quote, if we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose,” Mr. Obama said.

Ryan Lizza responded to the ad, and the Romney campaign’s spin:

This is one of those cases where a candidate has put out something that is demonstrably false. If a journalist or writer quoted someone in such an intellectually dishonest way, you would never trust the person’s writing again. And yet this episode is being reported by some as a clever tactic by the Romney camp to spark a debate about the ad’s accuracy that will serve to highlight its overall message that Obama has been a failure. (See, it worked!)

Think Progress showed what would happen if Mitt Romney’s words were taken out of context in a similar manner in this video:

The out of context statements form Mitt Romney include:

“We should just raise everybody’s taxes!”

“There’s nothing unique about the United States.”

“Government knows better than a free people how to guide an economy.”

“Fiscal responsibility is heartless and immoral.”

“Let us just raise your taxes some more. We just need a little bit more.”

“America’s just another nation with a flag.”