Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Update Florida: Two Things To Anger The Blood

First up, an update on Rick "No Medicaid For Florida" Scott's idea of suing the Obama administration into keeping afloat a Medicaid funding program that does not exist anymore: he went through with it, the crooked bastard:

Yesterday, the governor took this one step further, going to court to force Washington to give Florida federal funds for a program that will no longer exist. Scott wants health care money from the Obama administration to help Floridians (through LIP), but at the same time, he also doesn’t want health care money from the Obama administration to help Floridians (through the ACA).

LIP doesn't exist anymore, and doesn't need to because the ACA program provides Medicaid funding at a reduced cost to taxpayers and for better coverage.  But Scott would rather fight to the death to get LIP extended another year, all because he's horrified to take anything Obamacare-related.  He's spent his entire political career (even before he was elected Governor in 2010 he fought health care reform plans) against it: accepting any reform funding would kill his self-image and standing among the wingnut voters who flock to him.

The solution to this is simple: Rick "No Ethics" Scott needs to man up and recognize the state of Florida needs that Medicaid money, not only to balance the state's internal budgets but because IT'S THE RIGHT F-CKING THING TO DO FOR 800,000 RESIDENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES.  /headdesk

And speaking of state budgeting, back to the Florida Legislature's mini-Civil War unfurling as the Senate leadership tries to trout-slap the taste out of the House's collective mouth.  Per the Tampa Bay Times again:

...The Florida Legislature's chaotic session hit a new dysfunctional low Wednesday as an irate Senate demanded that House leaders bring lawmakers back to work or risk violating the state Constitution...
...Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said the House "trick" of shutting down Tuesday could violate a provision in the Constitution that says: "Neither house shall adjourn for more than 72 consecutive hours except pursuant to a concurrent resolution" signed by the two chambers. The session is scheduled to end by midnight Friday.
"You adjourned the Florida House of Representatives in contravention of express provisions of the Florida Constitution," Gardiner wrote in a letter to Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island. "I respectfully request that you reconvene your chamber to finish the important work of the people of Florida."
After the letter was read and senators gave Gardiner a standing ovation, he told them: "This new trick that they did is not part of the negotiating tools. It's wrong, not just for the Senate, but it's wrong for the state of Florida, to essentially say that one chamber is not relevant..."
"...I understand that you are angry that the House concluded our business," Crisafulli wrote (back). "I told you that the House could not pass Obamacare expansion. It's not something that I can force them to pass … This is a matter of the House exercising its constitutional duty to represent those who elected us..."

The problem with your position, Crisafulli, is that there was more on the table to deal with than just the Obamacare funding.  You refused to deal with other budgeting matters.  You left the Senate hanging without resolution to matters covering water policy, state prison reforms, utilities oversight, and even funding for the Far Right's pet project of charter schools.  The House abandoned any effort to work out a budget, and basically flipped off the Senate on the way out the door (the Times article makes it clear most of the House Republicans are pissing on their Senate colleagues over this).  You basically quit out from doing your jobs, and kudos to the State Senate if they decide to charge you ass-clowns in the House of violating your constitutional duties/oaths of office.

...Wait, did I just praise Republicans in the state Senate?!  (rushes off to the bathtub to scourge self)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Florida: Where State Republicans Won't Do Their F-cking Jobs

It just keeps getting worse.  Per the Tampa Bay Times' headline:

Florida House abruptly adjourns session early, saying impasse is insurmountable


This is all about the Florida House Republicans - as noted last time I ranted about the f-ckers, which was less than a week ago -  unwilling to resolve the Medicaid funding gap that's due to open up in June.  Rather than even pretend to care about the matter - which they don't - the House leadership just up and sent everyone home for an early vacation.

Florida's Legislature collapsed into chaos Tuesday as the House unilaterally ended the annual session with more than three days left, leaving dozens of major bills dead and escalating tensions between the House and Senate over their health care stalemate...
...House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, gaveled the legislative session to a close at 1:15 p.m. Tuesday. "We didn't get everything we wanted, and we won't get everything that we hoped, but we have done all that we can do for this session," he said. He then told House members to go home "until the Senate decides they are ready to negotiate."
It marked the first time in Florida's modern history that one chamber shut down and went home on a different day than the other in a regular session. Adjournment records go back only to 1971...

The departure not only left the Medicaid matter unsettled, the House refused to consider other matters as well, effectively abdicating ANY accountability for what they're supposed to do up in Tallahassee.

The House's early exit left unfinished major policy bills that would have rewritten the state's water policy, decided how to spend money from the Amendment 1 environmental measure, increased economic and educational options for people with special needs, reformed the state prison system, revised ethics rules at the Public Service Commission and provided financial benefits to charter schools.

Lazy, unfocused, undedicated...  these bastards do not deserve to draw a paycheck from the taxpayers.

So of course this all means that the Florida Legislature has to call back a special session, which means more money wasted, more time wasted, more political posturing to the base.  It's sick and it's wrong.

The presiding officers of each chamber must now agree to come back in special session in order to complete the state budget — the only bill they are required to pass each year by the June 30 deadline — or Gov. Rick Scott could order them back together.

Given that Rick "Medicare Fraud" Scott is openly opposed to the Senate's proposal to go ahead and switch over from the old LIP Medicaid funding to the new ACA "Obamacare" Medicaid funding, I doubt Scott would feel the need to give that order.

Of course, this could all be just political posturing on the part of the Republicans.  There is every likelihood the state leadership is aware they've got few options here, and have to make the switch-over to the ACA Medicaid funding to keep the whole state budget afloat.  This may all be an elaborate kabuki dance, where they'll fidget and postpone all the way up to the June 30 deadline, giving themselves political cover with their wingnut Teabagger base by railing against the dreaded Obamacare directives, and then "reluctantly" play ball with the federal government and take the ACA money.  That way they can claim they were "forced" to submit to EVUL OBAMA and placate that voting base from primarying against them in 2016.

Then again, this might not be a ruse.  We are at the state level of government: where the political players are more partisan and pandering than they would be at the federal level where more attention is paid to what elected officials do (considering how wingnut the Congressional Republicans can get, that's how bad the state Republicans are).  The elected leaders in the state House are a little too sincere, a little too eager to twist the knife in on the whole "killing Obamacare" agenda.  And with a sitting governor in Scott who's proven a few too many times to suck up to the partisan crowd - especially as he's eyeing a Senate run to prolong his political career - there is every likelihood that the state government will let LIP expire without getting replacing ACA funds.

In that scenario, 800,000 Floridians will suddenly lose Medicaid health care funding.  We're talking poor elderly, we're talking poor families with sick kids.  We are talking about nursing homes and assisted living housing losing funds to keep their residents fed and cared for.  We are talking about enough people here in state that everyone will know at least one person suffering because of this.  This will be a level of pain no one will be able to ignore.

And in that scenario, I would not at all be surprised to see the House Republicans and Rick "No Ethics" Scott eagerly point the finger of blame at their Senate colleagues for THEIR not compromising to Scott's plan (of talking the feds into continuing the LIP program for one more year, as though that solves anything).  None of us should be surprised when Scott accuses Obama as being responsible for Scott's refusal to do the right thing for a massive number of Florida residents.

This is the modern Republican Party on full display here.  This is not a party that wants to govern, or make decisions, or do the hard things that need doing.  This is a political party obsessed with "winning", whatever the hell that is, either winning the election cycle or winning the photo op news cycles.

This is what we get Floridians, when enough of you buy into the Republicans' snake-oil con jobs, when enough of you refuse to show up to vote for Democrats who would at least TRY to pass legislation and do their jobs.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

We're At the Point Where Obama Truly Has No F-cks To Give

It used to be conventional wisdom that a President entering the last two years of a second term will suffer as a Lame Duck.

Two points: because his leadership begins to suffer as he ends up having few chips to trade with Congress to get things done; and because a fresh round of Presidential candidates rise up - sometimes even within his own party - either to dismiss or deny his efforts at meaningful legacy bills during those years.  Reagan seemed to suffer from it, as had Eisenhower and Bush the Lesser.

But that's not always the case.  In each of those Presidencies, a lot had to do with the failures of those administrations coming back to haunt each one (Eisenhower's failures in foreign policy, Reagan's corrupt administration collapsing under the scandal of Iran/Contra, Bush the Lesser's inept rule and bad wars).  Effective Presidents entering this phase can still craft out legislation and effective policy changes at will, even with an opposing Congress: Clinton had success during his last two years even with the Lewinsky impeachment vote, and now it's looking like Obama might with opening relations with Cuba and Iran.

In particular, Obama seems freed from the obligations of "playing nice" with an opposition party of the Republicans that obstructed him from Day One.  In the past few months, ever since he dissed Congress during his SOTU, Obama has basically been slapping the taste out of the Republicans' mouths.

Obama, as the saying now goes, has zero f-cks left to give.

Leading to this moment at the White House Correspondents' Dinner:

Yup.  Zero f-cks.

Makes me think of the cool memes we got when he started his Presidency...

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Two Crazy Flavors Of Florida, One To Make You Laugh, One To Make You Cry

"Don't all the nuts roll downhill to Florida?"
- from the X-Files episode Agua Mala.

One of the things I've tracked since the beginning of this blog has been the crazy nature of my adopted home state Florida.

I haven't been the only one who noticed.  Since even before the population boom of the 1980s that brought busloads of shifting populations, Florida has been one of the crazier states out of the United States in our past 230-year history.  Florida, thanks to a mad land-scam craze in the 1920s, may have been one of the causes of the Great Depression.  Florida, source of early political conflict when it was a Spanish-held territory in the early 1800s.  Florida, just say "hanging chad" and watch half the nation cry.

FloridaMan and FloridaWoman have Twitter accounts.

TV Tropes documents the atrocities.  FARK has an entire tag devoted to Florida- the only state so honored - as a source of all the crazy stories they report.

There's a popular GIF people like to show whenever they talk about Florida:

Okay, so that's the setup to this blog article.  A couple of things happened recently that highlight how psychotic Floridians can be.

First, the story that sent half the Internet into fits of giggles.  A self-described "Floridian-American" woman filed a law suit against a Georgia judge that pretty much violated every rule of legal etiquette and crossed every line.  Per Raw Story:

... (the) sovereign citizen submitted a nine-page, profanity-laced tirade against a judge who dismissed a lawsuit she filed on behalf of her husband and son.
Tamah Jada Clark alleges that her civil rights were violated when she was arrested nearly five years ago in an armed plot to break her baby’s father out of prison.
“F*ck this court and everything it stands for,” Clark titled her April 20 filing.
“Look here, old man, when I told you I AM Justice – I meant it,” Clark notified U.S. District Court Judge Willis B. Hunt. “It took me about 1 month to study the history of the world and to learn the history and inner workings American jurisprudence, literally. I was born to do this here. Don’t you know that your FBI and CIA have been trying to recruit me since grade school? Lol. But they’re unscrupulous losers like you, so it won’t be happening.”

There aren't a lot of legal briefs that include an LOL.  There aren't a lot of legal briefs that openly insult a sitting judge.

The thing about audacity is that even in the craziest, scariest moments like this you gotta respect the willingness of the crazy person to tap-dance over the Line That Dare Not Be Crossed.

The entire brief deserves reading, much thanks to Gawker for posting screen-captures (shown here are two of the pages with some of the most no-f*cks-given epic insults you will see in your life):

"Just for the record: you are a hoe. This court is a hoe. And I will backhand you both, should you continue to waste my time." - Tamah Jada Clark's submission for quote of the year.

In all honesty, Ms. Clark is in a sh-tload of trouble.  Someone up the chain of the judicial system is going to consider her rant troubling as she mentions her gun-ownership and willingness to get violent to those she views as "hoes".  At the least, this rant falls into Contempt and defamation towards a sitting judge that could well lead to jail time.

Still, the rant itself crosses the line into a warped kind of brilliance.  It's every conspiracy nut's arrogant self-worth elevated to Everest-level heights.  Read how Clark insists she's "much too intelligent" and that the FBI and CIA have been trying to recruit her since grade school.  That she's able to read all of world history in one hour, and how she knows a complex legal system that even half our law students can barely grasp.  That she's the Most Important and Powerful Person In the World... who was easily captured running around Georgia during a half-baked prison break scheme.  /headdesk

Second, the story that outraged much of the nation.  A group of drunken fraternity brothers - so far confirmed as being from my alma mater University of Florida - were caught insulting and spitting on war veterans, as well as stealing a veteran's flag and pissing on it:

A University of Florida fraternity already on conduct probation is under investigation after being accused of disrespecting a group of disabled military veterans by spitting on them and stealing their flags at a Panama City Beach resort last weekend...
...Fraternity members from the UF and Emory University chapters of Zeta Beta Tau holding their spring formals at the Laketown Wharf Resort in Panama City Beach disrupted the Warrior Beach Retreat Friday night, witnesses said...
One letter to UF's President Fuchs described students spitting on veterans, throwing beer bottles over a balcony, ripping flags off their cars and urinating on an American flag.
“These guys were getting out of control,” Cope said. “I was just in tears. This was supposed to be a safe place.”
Cope also said the students had to have known they were insulting veterans from the Warrior Beach Retreat because these veterans were wearing caps and T-shirts.
“They knew who they were and were just getting a kick out of it,” she said. “It is heartbreaking as a mom with a son who sacrificed so much for their freedom.”
About 60 veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan attended the retreat, which has been held twice a year for the last six years, Cope said...
The last I ever heard about anybody spitting on war vets was from legends about the Vietnam War, something that hippies did back in the 1960s and 1970s (although the stories themselves remain apocryphal).

The problem with fraternities reach far across the nation, not just here in Florida, but this particular assault on men and women makes me reflect on the darker, dangerous aspect of the Florida Crazy.  The drunken, violent aspect.  There is nothing audacious or funny about what those fraternity men (not frat boys, which implies youthful indiscretions rather than adult criminal misdeeds) did at that hotel.  Nothing about what they did was forgivable.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Florida Problem #947: We're Led By Crooks and Crazies

Back to the brewing disaster that is Republican leadership in the state of Florida.  To wit, the fight over the state budget over Medicaid funding.  To the Tampa Bay Times coverage:

Blaming the federal government for Florida's financial woes, Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday said he was prepared to call Florida lawmakers back for a special session to complete the budget — and even encourage them to pass a bare-bones budget if necessary...
"...If (lawmakers) fail to cut taxes in this legislative session, it is clear that cutting taxes by more than $1 billion will become the top priority for next year's legislative session when there is no longer any uncertainty around health care funding, which is already over 40 percent of our state's $77 billion budget..."
...The statement came as the Senate and House convened rare meetings — one in the open and the other out of the public eye — but showed no signs of ending the budget showdown that has crippled the legislative session.
During a closed-door meeting, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, could be heard encouraging the Republican caucus to hold firm in its opposition to Medicaid expansion, one of the key sticking points of the session...
...Senate President Andy Gardiner, meanwhile, received a standing ovation from the entire Senate — and applause from lobbyists and activists in the audience — when he said the Senate would continue its fight for expanded coverage.
One of Gardiner's top lieutenants, Senate budget chief Tom Lee, called out the House and Scott for failing to discuss the issue in a public meeting.
"I do not think that the House or the governor wants this blood on their hands when this cart goes into the ditch because people will not come to the table and have an honest political discussion about legitimate differences we have over health care funding..."
There's Rick "Never My Fault The State I Run Is Broken" Scott blaming the federal government for something he as governor is supposed to do himself.  Then again, what did you expect from a guy who never took responsibility for his healthcare company committing massive acts of Medicare fraud?

So why the crisis?  Why the split between what's usually been a unified state Republican den of thieves?

...With just 10 days left before the 60-day session is scheduled to end, the House and Senate remain at odds over how to handle a potential $1.3 billion hole in the state health care budget.
Its source: the federal government's plan to end the Low Income Pool, a program that helps hospitals cover the costs of treating uninsured and Medicaid patients.
If the program expires on June 30, as it is scheduled to do under an agreement with the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), it could result in an $86 million budget cut for Tampa General Hospital and a $200 million budget cut for Jackson Health System in Miami. Children's hospitals throughout the state stand to lose $117 million.
State health officials have formally petitioned the federal government to continue the program and presented a Senate plan to distribute the funds more evenly than in the past. But it remains unclear how the Legislature would provide support to hospitals if the funding fell through.
The LIP program was a Bush the Lesser era law that helped finance Medicaid-style block grants.  When Obama oversaw the passage of the ACA "Obamacare" program, LIP still co-existed as an alternative.  Especially after the Supreme Court ruling that eventually protected Obamacare but changed the mandatory Medicaid funding to an optional plan.  However, this year Obama's administration said it would phase out LIP - which they're not required to continue - in favor of the Obamacare funding.

This created an ideological choking point for the Republicans.  On one hand, Republicans realize that any loss of federal funding on this scale is a huge hit to their annual budgets that they cannot hide without raising taxes (suicide with their anti-government wingnut base) or slashing other vital programs too deep (suicide with the rest of the state including a lot of businesses that rely on state aid).  On the other hand, Republicans hate Obama to the point that ANYthing Obamacare is toxic to them, even when it works.

Hence the split.  Scott campaigned in 2010 and 2014 to the Far Right in opposition to Obamacare.  The state House is filled with a lot of gerrymander-safe wingnuts who can hide from the general public and play to their base without retribution.  The state Senate doesn't have that luxury: fewer in number and higher-profile - they're usually the ones who run for congressional seats later in their careers - these are the ones fully aware of the human costs if Medicaid funding disappears and 800,000 Floridians are suddenly sh-t out of luck.

That 800,000 covers kids, families, elderly... hospitals and nursing homes rely on Medicaid funding to keep the doors open.  We're a major retiree state with a lot of those retirees thinking the Republicans are serving them.  What do you think will happen when most of them find by June that the Republicans are the ones that screwed them instead?  Despite Scott's efforts to pin this on Obama, it's up to HIM and the Florida legislature to work things out.  The Republicans can easily come up with an alternative means of accepting the Medicaid funding without calling it dreaded "Obamacare": other states have done so.  But Scott won't even budge on that one compromise.

Let's see what Johathan Cohn at the Huff Po says about this:

...Conservatives have plenty of genuine, intellectually honest reservations about the changes that came with Obamacare. They don't like the new government spending and regulation, for example. In some cases, conservatives object to the whole notion of government-sponsored insurance.
But the Florida dispute demonstrates that differences over policy can't, on their own, explain the fervor now on display. The law and its enactment have tapped into something deeper and more primal -- about what the law represents, or, perhaps, the president who signed it...
...But Florida's budget situation is about to change, in ways that make opposition more difficult for these officials to justify. Like many states, Florida hospitals have access to some special federal grants designed to offset the losses that they take when they provide discounted or free care to the poor. These grants date back to a Bush-era program, enacted before the Affordable Care Act was around to give those same people insurance. The federal government has discretion over when to make those grants and, last year, the Obama administration made clear it would not be renewing Florida's beyond 2015, now that the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid money is there for the taking.
Republican leaders in the state Senate understood the implications. They'd have a big hole in the budget to fill unless they came up with some other way to finance health care for the poor. Among the first things to go would be a tax cut that Republicans cherish. "It really puts everything at risk," Andy Gardiner, leader of the Senate Republicans, told The Washington Post's Greg Sargent, who's been following the story closely. "It jeopardizes the tax cuts, it jeopardizes increases in education funding, it jeopardizes our priorities."
Rather than give up on those, Senate Republicans passed a bill to expand Medicaid, albeit with a few conservative modifications. (The merits of those modifications, and what they'd do to Medicaid, are subjects for another day.) It's precisely the strategy that Republican officials in Arkansas and Michigan, among other states, have used. But Florida House Republicans, who met behind closed doors on Tuesday, aren't budging. And neither, it seems, is Scott. Instead, he's decided to sue the federal government -- on the theory that, by refusing to extend the special grant for hospitals, the Obama administration is engaged in unconstitutional coercion of a state.
Gardiner has called Scott's decision "difficult to understand." It's even more difficult to understand given the math.
A few years ago, the Kaiser Family Foundation published an analysis by researchers at the Urban Institute. It projected the cost of expanding Medicaid in each state and then broke down the implications for state budgets. The numbers for Florida were striking. Over 10 years, the researchers found, making Medicaid available to all low-income people would cost about $71 billion above and beyond what the state's Medicaid program would otherwise cost.
That's a lot of money, for sure. But roughly $66 billion of the total, the researchers found, would come from the federal government. That would leave Florida taxpayers on the hook for the remaining $5 billion, with at least some of that money coming back to them in the form of reduced spending on other programs.
To put it another way, expanding Medicaid in Florida would likely require a net investment by state taxpayers that, over the course of a decade, would work out to less than a half-billion dollars a year. That's without accounting for any additional growth and tax revenues that the huge infusion of federal dollars might provide. That's also without accounting for the more than $1 billion a year in that, without expanding Medicaid, Florida would probably have to scrounge up in order to help hospitals defray the cost of charity care.
In short, if the numbers were lopsided in favor of expanding Medicaid before, they are even more lopsided now. And it's not as if anybody is arguing seriously that those grants are a superior way of financing care for the poor. If anything, the opposite is true -- and it's one reason the editorial page of the Tampa Bay Times called Scott's position "indefensible." Other editorial pages, civic organizations, and business groups across the state have made similar statements.
In response, Scott has said he's just looking out for state finances, because the federal government might someday pull back on its Medicaid commitment and leave state government responsible for financing a much larger Medicaid program. But as another Kaiser report has noted, the federal matching rate for Medicaid has remained remarkably stable over time -- except for rare changes that, on balance, meant the feds were paying more.
Of course, conservative fervor to block or repeal the Affordable Care Act has always seemed a bit disconnected from reality, given that the law consists almost entirely of pieces that existed, without such fuss, long before Obamacare came along. The lone exception is the "individual mandate," the requirement that people carry insurance or pay a fee. And that's an idea that plenty of conservatives tolerated -- and some even supported -- less than a decade ago. In fact, it was a conservative expert at the Heritage Foundation who many historians credit with the idea.
No, the level of hostility to Obamacare makes very little sense -- unless it's about something beyond the policy particulars. It could be the fact that Democrats finally accomplished something big, for the first time in several decades, thereby expanding the welfare state at a time when conservatives thought they were on their way to shrinking it. Or it could be the idea that, on net, the Affordable Care Act transfers resources away from richer, whiter people to poorer, darker people. Or it could be the fact that "Obamacare" contains the word "Obama," whose legitimacy as president at least some conservatives just can't accept...

There's the reason why Florida is screwed: the dominant state party - Republicans - hates Obama.  And it's an irrational hate, based on a fictional persona pumped up by wingnuts and Fox Not News.

If we get to June and there's no Medicaid funding, it's an irrational hate that's gonna get a lot of Floridians killed.  And that won't be the fault of Obama: it will be the fault of a governor and state-level Republican Party that can't swallow its pride and recognize that government can work if you know what you're doing.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Off-Topic: Summer Movie 2015 Mayhem

Technically it's started with the April blockbuster releases, but it really doesn't count until my birthday, so there.

All that's missing is the Star Wars movie, all because THAT one is coming out in December and not the summer... :(

So here's the Star Wars trailer as well.
I'm pumped.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Still Thinking About Scandals And How To Rank Them

It's frustrating that every other week the media is filled with politicians and "experts" bleating about this and that being "worse than Watergate" as a scandal.

So I'm trying to come up with a simple chart of Yes/No where we can determine just how bad a scandal really is.

Scandal Grading Curve

Insert -Gate Here

Yes No
Did a crime occur?

Was it a felony?

Did it involve one or more murders?

Did people die in some way?

Did it involve theft or fraud?

Did it involve rape?

Was it consensual sex but still salacious?

Did it involve assault?

Was it an unauthorized political operation?

Did it involve overseas allies?

Did it involve overseas rivals / rogue nations?

Were there false statements or facts given to the public before or during the event(s)?

Were false statements given to investigators? Was there obstruction?

Was evidence destroyed?

Have documents normally considered public record been sealed in violation of FOIA rules?

Did the event(s) compromise American civil liberties / rights?

Did it involve unusual or illegal use of public or military resources?

Did it involve bribery or extortion?

Did it involve third parties who could profit from the illegal acts?

Is it something both sides of the political spectrum recognizes as a “problem”?

This is what I've come up with so far.  I also need to scale the severity of the possible crimes / points of scandal: some items on the list need to move up in terms of how horrible they may be.  If I've missed any points of contention that need to be added, please use the Comments field to make the suggestion.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Just Needs To Be Said: Almost Every American Pay Their Taxes And They DON'T Complain About Paying

With all the Republican/Libertarian anti-tax rhetoric in the media, it might surprise most Americans to realize that most Americans (hi, everybody) don't mind paying taxes in the first place:

That Americans hate taxes has become a truism, but it’s not true. Although they disagree sharply about how tax money should be spent, most Americans actually take pride in paying their taxes. Taxpayers in the United States are unusually honest and reliable compared to those in other countries. And, increasingly, Americans are voting for tax hikes.

I can speak with anecdotal evidence here.  Libraries are one of the last places that carry printed tax forms for the public to use (Post Offices used to, but for some reason stopped).  Every year I've gone through the hassle alongside other librarians to get the basic 1040s and the specialty Schedules out on racks and tables for people.  Except this year: due to budget cuts and Congressional delays, the IRS only sent out just the basic forms, AND no instruction booklets.  Everything had to be done online.  The only complaints I got this year were that we didn't have the instruction booklets, or that people uncomfortable with computers had to go online to do their taxes this time.

I have rarely, if ever, gotten complaints about filing taxes, period.  Everyone coming in over the years griped about the complexity of the calculations, or the number of papers they had to file, or the lack of time they had if needed forms were late.  I can't recall the last time I had someone rant about the unfairness of the taxing itself.  Maybe those people weren't coming in looking for forms to begin with.

My anecdotal evidence fits well with the real evidence that Vanessa Williamson brings up in her Atlantic article:

...In national surveys, over 95 percent of Americans agree with the statement, “It is every American’s civic duty to pay their fair share of taxes,” and more than half see taxpaying as “very patriotic.” One man from Ohio called it a responsibility to “the Founding Fathers.” A former Marine said taxpaying is “the cost of being an American,” while a man from California said tax avoidance is the equivalent of “shorting the country.”
The feeling is bipartisan. Surveys show that Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats to agree that taxpaying is a moral responsibility. One woman in Kansas called taxpaying “a responsibility that we have to our country as citizens” because “the country has to be taken care of.” She is a Christian conservative active in her local Tea Party group. While Tea Party activists and other staunch conservatives object to paying for “the Obama agenda,” as she described it, they regularly use the status of “taxpayer” as shorthand for being an upstanding, contributing citizen.
You might wonder if these attitudes are nothing more than a nice sentiment, but Americans put their money where their mouths are, so to speak. Compared to 14 European countries, Americans report the highest willingness to pay taxes, and the United States has one of the highest rates of tax compliance in the developed world. One might credit this to fear of the IRS, but economists have concluded that high-compliance rates in the U.S. cannot be explained solely by the level of enforcement...

As another point about the IRS, they really don't enforce that much to begin with.  Audit rates are hilariously low.  I'd like to think most Americans know that the odds of getting into trouble with the taxman is rare compared to getting into trouble with the boss if you skip work to go fishing (note to boss: I don't fish, I swear).  The only ones who do get into trouble are the few who try to game the tax system in the first place.

If there's any complaints about our taxes, it comes mostly from the ones who pine for a flat tax or a sales tax over the income tax system we have.  And they're idiots.  The rest of the complainers are the ones who want to shrink / kill government in the first place, so going after our government's means of raising revenues is their agenda.  And they're con artists/frauds.

Real American pay real taxes, because guess what?  We're citizens.  We view the paying of our taxes as our commitment to the nation, to our communities, to our own well-being.  We are - each of us - aware that our taxes go towards such things as roads, clean air and water, regulated utilities, schools, libraries, small loan programs for business start-ups and large loan programs for higher education.  Most of us don't sign up as volunteers to serve in the military: paying for that military with our taxes is our commitment to our soldiers, to their service and direct sacrifice.

Real Americans only complain about how the tax revenues are being wasted, which is a reflection on the lousy approval numbers for a dysfunctional Congress, or they complain about how the tax burden should involve the rich.

What's sad is that there are ways to increase the uber-wealthy individuals and corporations into paying their honest-to-God fair share of the tax revenues without affecting the economy, but we can't pursue a single method because the modern Republican Party is too beholden to those uber-wealthy individuals and corporations who are un-American in their desire to avoid their responsibilities to the United States.  Per Weissmann's Slate article:

Let’s say your only interest is in maximizing the amount of revenue the Feds collect. Conservative guru Art Laffer became famous for pointing out that, at some point, raising taxes becomes counterproductive, because people either stop working or find ways to hide their income. Thankfully, we’re probably nowhere near that point. In their most recent work on the subject, co-authored with Harvard University’s Stefanie Stantcheva, Piketty and Saez conclude that governments would net the most money from a top marginal rate somewhere between 57 percent and 83 percent (that includes state taxes, too). Why the range? The three researchers acknowledge that, when taxes go up, the rich seem to earn less on the job. If you think that’s entirely because they choose to work less, then 57 percent is your number. However, Piketty, Saez, and Stantcheva argue that lower taxes don’t seem to spur executives and other highly paid professionals to work harder so much as they encourage them to bargain harder for extra pay, whether it’s from their board of directors or their partners at a law firm. Negotiating a bigger paycheck for yourself doesn’t actually add anything to the economy. So, if you believe taxes simply discourage that kind of tough bargaining without making star workers much less productive, then 83 percent is your figure.

It's a debate to consider, whether we should impose higher rates.  And it's not like everyone is arguing the top tax rate should go as high as 89 percent or anything, but even talking about bumping the top rate from 39 percent up a full percentage to 40 percent (still way lower than 89 and lower than the 57 percent Weissmann's article hints should be the range) is cause for riots in the halls of Congress for some reason.

In fact, Congress is passing a bill that practically guts the estate tax for the very rich families of our nation.

...Certainly, it’s hard to see how anyone can possibly believe that the Republican Party, which fetishizes low taxes for the rich above all other priorities, truly cares about wealth inequality; but perhaps this is one of those times when the mere pretense of caring signals that they understand how badly their reputation of callous disregard for everyday Americans’ economic security has hurt them.
In any case, this shallow attempt at appearing to give a damn was short-lived. This week the GOP is voting, as they always do, to ensure that the heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune won’t be faced with the terrible responsibility of having to pay taxes on their inheritances...

To clarify about what's at stake here, via The Hill:

Under current law, the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that 5,400 estates will have to deal with the tax over the next several years, out of the well over 2 million deaths that occur annually.
That’s because individuals with estates valued at less than $5.43 million this year, and married couples with estates worth less than $10.86 million, are exempt. The 2013 “fiscal cliff” deal set the current parameters, which also include a 40 percent rate and linking the exemption parameters to inflation.

Notice how many people this spares from taxation?  Roughly 5,400 families.  Depending on the actual number, we're still in the low tens-of-thousands affected.  This is out of roughly 317 MILLION Americans.  We're not even talking 1-Percenters, we're talking a percent of a percent.  And the current cutoff of $5 to $10 million as the exemption?  How many people do YOU know are over that rate to qualify paying for the estate tax?  We're talking about a tax that affects a very minor portion of the population.  And a tax that is littered with enough loopholes - means of hiding the overall value - to avoid paying a full rate.

And THIS is what the Republican Congress is fighting to pass?  Nothing about eliminating taxes for middle-class families in the millions across this nation.  Nothing about the regressive tax burdens that are shifting onto the majority of poorer Americans.  They want to save the kids of the insanely wealthy.  Who will still be millionaires and billionaires even after they pay the estate tax anyway.

So like I said in the blog article title: ALMOST Every American Pay Their Taxes.  And ALMOST Every American Doesn't Complain About It.

Just the insanely wealthy greedheads and their Republican suck-ups refuse to pay their taxes, and then complain about it.

Remind me which side are the Real Americans again?

When Your State's Governor Just Wants to be a Dick

This is not going to end well (via the Tampa Bay Times):

Republican Gov. Rick Scott announced Thursday he will sue the federal government for allegedly coercing Florida to expand Medicaid.

I've made it clear before I am not a fan of Rick "Medicare Fraud" Scott.  That said: MOTHERF-CKING SONOFAB-TCH.

On two points:

  1. Scott has already decided not to expand Medicaid coverage for Florida, much to the dismay of 800,000 residents and their families who could benefit and much to the dismay of health care providers like nursing homes and hospitals that could see improved revenues.
  2. Lawsuits can be complete wastes of taxpayers' money, considering that what Scott is suing over are changes to other Medicaid programs that haven't been decided yet by the legislature.

Back to that Times article:

The legal maneuver, which comes amid a tense standoff between the House and Senate over Medicaid expansion, was simultaneously lauded and lambasted. It also complicates negotiations over this year's budget.
The agency targeted by the lawsuit — the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS — is still deciding whether to renew a $2.2 billion program called the Low Income Pool that helps Florida hospitals treat low-income patients. And if no LIP dollars are awarded, Florida could be looking at a $1.3 billion budget gap.
The suit, which has yet to be filed, is only the latest round in an ongoing feud between Scott and CMS in connection with the LIP.
The program is scheduled to expire in June under an agreement between Florida and the federal government. Federal health officials have said they are open to negotiating a successor program, but no deal has been reached.
The negotiations took a turn Tuesday, when CMS told Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration that any decision regarding LIP would be tied to whether the state accepts federal Medicaid expansion money — a politically charged policy option Scott once supported, but now opposes.

Scott's contention is that the federal agency is trying to force Florida to accept the Medicaid expansion against the earlier SCOTUS ruling that said that was illegal.  But what's really happening here is that Scott is making it harder for the state legislature to pass a deal on Medicaid and save its budget:

In Tallahassee, Scott's announcement Thursday exposed the deepening divide between the House, which opposes expansion, and the Senate, which supports expansion and has proposed a plan to extend the LIP program.
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said Scott was making an important point: "You can't force the state to take on Medicaid expansion."
Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee, R-Brandon, said he wasn't sure if the move was political posturing or if Scott had standing to bring the lawsuit.
"But if they think the federal government has stepped out of bounds, they've got an obligation to defend the state of Florida," he said.

If the legislature fails to pass a deal on LIP, we're seeing a situation where a lot of health care providers lose funding, families lose support... and sick people who could get (and stay) healthy suddenly facing death.  One-point-three billion dollars is a lot of money to find for funding, and the state would either have to make drastic cuts in other social services that are ALREADY cut to the bone or else take a huge cut to health care.  The alternative - raise taxes to generate state revenues to fill the gap - is unthinkable to Republicans controlling this gerrymandered politically-rigged state.

Rick "I'm Trying to Scam Companies In Other States to Move to Florida As It Turns Into a Dystopic Toxic Swamp" Scott is just doing this purely on partisan obstructionism.

To every Floridian who voted for this fraud, burn in hell.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Anniversary: Lincoln's Passing to the Ages

April 14th, 1865, there was another performance of Our American Cousin at the Ford Theater.  Abraham Lincoln had seen the play before but was in the mood for another night out with the wife.

The play itself doesn't translate well into the modern age.  It trades on the satirical views of Americans as simple-minded and vulgar, but also honest and blunt about the hypocrisies of European manners.  The selling points were the various ad-libs allowed to the minor characters such as Lord Dundreary, whose mixed-up bad homilies became known as "dundrearies"

But it was popular for the day, and akin to the modern audience's willingness to watch a half-decent Adam Sandler repeat on the Comedy Channel, Lincoln and others would re-watch repeat performances.

Lincoln was in a good mood anyway.  The war effort was winding down as Lee's surrender was the death-knell of the Confederacy's fighting spirit.  While the ongoing efforts to plan a reconstruction to bring the rebel states back into the Union were looking messy, there was a lot to look forward to.  He had plans to travel the length of the nation, to be the first President to view the Pacific coast from California, to be witness to the efforts of rebuilding the United States through Homestead-granted lands and pioneering citizens (in more fanciful what-ifs, Lincoln could well have visited San Francisco and met the Emperor Norton: there's evidence the two had exchanged letters...).

Unfortunately, the word that Lincoln would attend that evening's show got to an actor (I refuse to name him, although it's already too well-known) familiar to that theater (he was not a member of the cast) who also happened to be a Confederate sympathizer with a local circle of allies.  Seeing an opportunity to avenge a defeated Confederacy, he schemed a quick plan to act out his fantasies of being a national hero at the deadly expense of the nation's leader.

Which becomes one of the most macabre jokes in American history: Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

The loss of Lincoln at the key moment of our history becomes one of the disasters that haunt us to this day.  Instead of a Republican with pragmatic and long-range visions of the national dilemmas over race and poverty leading our nation, we ended up with a Democrat in Andrew Johnson whose political ambitions drove him to institutionalize racism and allow the Southern political powers to retain control.

As much as we need to remember Lee's surrender at Appomattox, we need to remember how the loss of Lincoln tainted our nation's chances to build a stronger Republican that lacked the racism and hatred we cope with to this very day.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Predicting Character: The Hathos of Hillary Clinton

"Hathos" is a rare word, relatively recent in origin, and doesn't have an official definition in a lot of dictionaries (Merriam-Webster and OED don't recognize it).  It's a portmanteau (not the luggage, the second thing) of two words "hate" and "pathos."  Pathos is "a quality that causes people to feel sympathy and sadness."  Hate is "a very strong feeling of dislike."

Put together, Hathos is "enjoyment derived from hatred of a person or thing."  To Andrew Sullivan, it's "an attraction to something you really can't stand; it's the compulsion of revulsion."  It's something like "Love to hate," similar to Schadenfreude (malicious joy at the suffering of another), but with a more genuine revulsion as Schadenfreude still leaves a person with a regret of having maliciously enjoyed another person getting chewed up by Fate.  In some of my writings against the likes of Rick "No Ethics" Scott or Sarah "Quitter" Palin, I may have been using hathos instead of schadenfreude.  My bad.

Hathos is a very political word in an age of mudslinging and fearmongering.

It is a word that fits Hillary Clinton as a subject of other people's hate to a tee.

Today is the day she officially announces her 2016 campaign for the Presidency.  Per Washington Post:

The announcement - designed to be as low-key as anything involving Clinton can be - will start with a video and social media push. Then, starting as early as Tuesday, she will visit Iowa and other early primary states to meet and greet voters in restaurants and other modest venues.
A former secretary of state, U.S. senator and first lady, Clinton enters as the prohibitive favorite among Democrats while also polling far ahead of any potential Republican rival now on the scene.
More celebrity than politician, Clinton is almost universally known. Nearly every American already has an opinion of her, whether good or bad.

Every part of that coverage - the parts I highlighted in bold - aptly defines the undercurrent of snark, dread, and enjoyment the mainstream media has about Hillary's move.  Enjoyment to be had because the media lives for conflict, controversy, a reason to get up every morning to anger up their viewer/reader base into watching more outrage.  Another word the mainstream media likes to use describing Hillary is "polarizing", and in all the wrong ways.  But also the dread, because there is something about Hillary that makes her uncomfortable to support as a political figure.

Even I share in that dread.  What I wrote about her back in 2008 when she campaigned among the other Democratic candidates then still applies.  I will highlight my own hathos in bold as well.

Hillary Clinton (Clintonland) (current note: arguably she'll represent New York, where she served as Senator, but this underscored for me the fact Hillary was too nationally known - too politically connected across the nation - to where she is for all intents her own corporate brand)
PROS: She's Hillary Clinton. Who else is as ruthless, driven, capable, prepared, as she is? There are remote tribes in the Kalahari that know who she is. There's a massive campaign machine behind her, there's a thousand cameras on her, there's a million people voting for her. Simply because of who she is. There are enough voters who can compare her husband Bill's 8 years in office to Bush the Lesser's 8 years in office, and who will think things were better then and overlook the blemishes now.
CONS: She's Hillary Clinton. No other candidate brings as much baggage as her. While the Republican Mudslinging Machine is gonna trash any Democrat that wins the nom, Hillary will be their biggest, easiest, most desired target. Any other Democrat could keep the GOP dispirited and divided: Hillary would unite them, and give them enough motivation to win. There is also the growing ennui of having another Clinton in the White House: a dueling family feud between Bushes and Clintons. Not so much Scandal Fatigue, which is obvious, but simply Clinton Fatigue, that we've already seen this TV show before. Some voters will think she's already been President (twice). And speaking of Scandal Fatigue, there are questions about where Clinton is getting her money from. Clinton is also ruthless to the point of savagery. Clinton's camp is willing to pick up on a nasty Republican slander on Obama, underlying how desperate she is to win. And despite all her political skill, if you ask any of her supporters, they can't tell you what she's FOR (other than being President). Nearly every other popular candidate, especially Obama, can be seen as running for someTHING. Hillary doesn't. For all her power and reputation, there's no PASSION for the office...

Things have changed between 2008 and 2016.  Eight years can be an eternity in a political lifespan, and situations Hillary's been through can well have altered her world-view and character.

Since I'd written those words, Hillary lost that primary to the eventual winner Obama.  She spent the following four years serving as Obama's Secretary of State, which obviously beefed up her resume for 2016 (since running in 2012 against the incumbent would have been too spiteful even for her, see I'm still writing with the hathos, I'm not bragging I'm just being aware of it).  Her tenure as Secretary had its low points (not in my humble opinion, because I don't emphasize BENGHAZI to the point of parody the way her enemies do) but she also presided over a relatively effective yet low-key period in the department's foreign affairs.  This is from professor Walter Russell Mead, guest writer at the Post:

...Just as the best lawyers aren’t the ones with the most famous courthouse victories but those who quietly keep their clients out of trouble and litigation...
...How did Clinton understand the interplay of America’s power, its interests, its resources and its values? Was she able to translate that vision into policies that won enough support throughout the government to be carried out? Was she able to gain or keep the president’s confidence, and was the State Department under her leadership able to hold its own in the bureaucratic battles of the day...?
First, Clinton is what I call a Hamiltonian, believing that America’s interests are best served by an adaptation of traditional British strategies: sea power, commercial expansion and a focus on strategic theaters in world politics. She thinks that Asia is where America’s interests are most vitally engaged for the long term, and she consistently argued for a greater focus on the region in our foreign policy...She also shares the optimism about America found in the Methodist religious tradition in which she grew up. The spirit of the 19th-century missionaries who fanned out across the world to promote development, human rights, and social and economic reform lives in her and shapes her basic thoughts about what American power is for. For some realists, “global meliorism” — the belief that U.S. foreign policy can and should try to make a better world — is a dirty word. For Clinton, it is a bedrock conviction. “We are the force for progress, prosperity and peace,” she said during a remarkable speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in early 2013... 
...While she did not win all the battles she fought — the president resisted her counsel on Syria, and she failed to persuade him to back Richard Holbrooke’s diplomatic efforts in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region — she managed the relationship successfully and won his trust, to the point that the president wanted her to stay on the job well into his second term. This outcome was not a given; Clinton’s association with Obama began in their bitter 2008 Democratic nominating contest, and her success at building a strong relationship with a president not known for embracing new friends or Washington insiders testifies to her formidable interpersonal skills...
...Clinton was an influential secretary of state and a savvy manager with a clear agenda that, at least in part, she translated into policy. So how did it all work out?
The answer: Historians will probably consider Clinton significantly more successful than run-of-the-mill secretaries of state such as James G. Blaine or the long-serving Cordell Hull, but don’t expect to see her on a pedestal with Dean Acheson or John Quincy Adams anytime soon.
She weighed in hard and strong in favor of the president’s risky but ultimately justified decision to attack Osama bin Laden’s last refuge. The focus on Asia — relabeled a “pivot” before it became a “rebalancing” — reinvigorated America’s Pacific alliances but also elicited a more aggressive China, which has taken a harder line with Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam since the pivot began. The “reset” with Russia enabled concrete cooperation on Iran’s nuclear program and at the United Nations (notably on the resolution authorizing intervention against Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi), but it would be hard to argue that Washington and Moscow have ended up in a good place...

It's neither a harsh critique nor a hagiography: Mead clearly points out where policy efforts led to backlash... but then again every foreign policy has a give-and-take as other nations react then act on what a major player like the U.S. is doing.  The key takeaway from Hillary's tenure as State Secretary is that during her service our nation's foreign relations with other major powers improved after the disasters that were the Bush the Lesser years.

If there is anything else to take away from this, in my estimate, is that the harsh view of Hillary's ambition needs to be taken down a notch (just the one for now).  Rather than sabotage Obama's agenda from within (in any noticeable way, ach I gotta stop doing this): Hillary worked with the administration, followed through on input, provided input on her own that the others accepted as honest counsel, and performed with enough savvy to leave her tenure on relatively successful terms.  The thing I'd say about it was that she had "mellowed," having turned away from a previous documented behavioral norm of undercutting others or pursuing an ambitious agenda that made her reputation so dreaded in the first place.

Hillary is coming back into the Presidential campaigning as one of the most-written about political figures of our time.  There are autobiographies/memoirs aplenty - from which we shouldn't make observations, as memoirs are always self-serving and contain many glaring omissions - and a ton of political hit-jobs and hagiographies from which we can't rely on much either.  Hillary-hate has existed ever since 1992, when the Republicans campaigned as much against her than campaigned against her husband - the actual candidate and eventual President - Bill Clinton.

Are there any reliable sources of Hillary's life - her childhood and formative years - to which we can apply James David Barber's techniques of figuring out Hillary's world-view and her likely Presidential Character?

For that, you'd have to go through the hundred or so books written about her, about Bill, and about them as a team (the Clintons essentially guarantee a successful publishing industry just by standing there, that's not hathos by the way just a sarcastic complaint against an obsessed wingnut media).  For a quick link here to my blog with something (relatively) reliable online, I went with Peter Beinart's "Unified Theory of Hillary" article for the National Journal:

The more I read, the more I became convinced that she possesses some of the qualities most necessary for presidential success. But if she struggles, there's reason to suspect it will be for the same reason she appears to have struggled with the D.C. bar exam in 1973. She's terrific at developing and executing a well-defined plan. She's less adept at realizing that a well-defined plan is not working and improvising something new. Single-mindedness is both her greatest strength and greatest flaw... (note: this is italicized for emphasis but not for hathos, I'm bolding any hathos for the purposes of this blog entry)

It's telling that Beinart's primary impression of Hillary is that she could be the "Lyndon Johnson to Barack Obama's John F. Kennedy."  Because for the seven people who've kept up with my blog, you've read my Barber-inspired reviews of both LBJ and Obama and you know my views on Obama being Active-Positive... and LBJ being Active-Negative.

Back to Beinart:

...In her recently released papers, Hillary's late friend Diane Blair recounts a 1994 conversation in which Hillary was "furious" that Bill "can't fire people, exert discipline, punish leakers." Throughout his presidency, Bill had trouble making decisions, in part because he had trouble telling people things they didn't want to hear. By contrast, Hillary, even as an undergraduate at Wellesley, was "notably direct in almost everything she did," Bernstein writes. (Including her famed decision to approach Bill in the Yale Law School library after she spotted him eyeing her.)
...Hillary will never be the orator Obama is, and how well she'd rally the public to her side in policy disputes is an open question. But inside the Beltway, she'd likely do a better job of both rewarding her friends and making people fear being her enemy... ...Bernstein quotes Bob Boorstin, who oversaw communications for Hillary's health care task force, on how Bill and Hillary differ: "He gets angry, and he gets over it. She gets angry, and she remembers it forever." In HRC, Allen and Parnes point out that, in 2012, Bill Clinton repeatedly intervened in Democratic primaries to help candidates who had backed Hillary against rivals who had backed Obama—thus reminding Democrats that even when Hillary loses, opposing her carries a price...

Beinart goes into detail about how Hillary's dedication and focus can translate into legislative success, and then highlights how the biggest defeat she suffered - the failure to get any health care reform passed in 1993 when Bill made her the chair of his administration's efforts - had little to do with such efforts.  Her existing management skills - which required secrecy, control of the message, failure to accept or acknowledge input from outside her committee - ran against the more complex, messier stage of national politics:

At task force meetings, Bernstein notes, participants were forbidden from copying draft documents or, in many cases, even taking notes. The secrecy alienated not only members of Congress, health care activists, and the press, but key figures in the Clinton administration as well. Hillary and Magaziner both knew a great deal about health care policy. But neither knew as much about health care politics as Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen, Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, or Office of Management and Budget Director Leon Panetta. Yet because of the task force's secrecy, and because they feared directly confronting the president's wife, Bentsen, Panetta, Shalala, and others in the administration often felt marginalized. As Haynes Johnson and David Broder document in The System—their indispensable book on the health care battle—Clinton officials angered by their lack of influence repeatedly leaked damaging information to a press corps angered by its lack of access...

This is where irony is more painful than hathos.  And this is where Hillary's reputation as a control freak - and the hate-fest from the Beltway media elites - gets its foundation.

Beinart's article doesn't delve much into Hillary's childhood, which is where Barber would prefer us going to establish Hillary's world-view, but her performances as an adult and as a leading national figure are already well-documented enough to get an idea what her views are.

A consistent behavior that emerges with Hillary is a Compulsive trait, intelligent and focused but also calculating and inflexible once a course has been plotted.  Hillary won't be anywhere near a Bush the Lesser in terms of inattention, but she won't be anywhere near the political game-player Obama is (whose failures are not so much aloofness that Beinart implies in his article, but from open obstruction with a Republican faction that chose to deny Obama any legislative victories that history would view favorably).

In this regards she mirrors Lyndon Johnson moreso than other past Presidents who were Active-Negatives in their own ways. Unlike Nixon who was self-destructive in his quest for personal crises, unlike Hoover who avoided a more aggressive reform effort believing himself limited in power, Hillary Clinton would be a major backer of legislative efforts that would ensure her legacy while having the political skills - knowing objectives, knowing the political players who can get things done - to get them passed.  Her faults will most likely fall along the same faults LBJ's were: any failures or rejections would be taken as personal defeats, with a creeping series of defensive layers piled up in an Us vs. Them mindset - to where valued critical voices within her circle would get sent in exile - that would make her administration inflexible to ongoing crises.

If Hillary's got positives, they are mostly in the comparative sense.  Where I wrote that Hillary's got baggage (true), I should note that this time most of her opponents (especially the Republican potentials) are bringing even bigger, messier personal issues than she has.  In terms of appealing to average voters, Hillary wins in double-digits mostly because of how terrible, ill-informed, tone-deaf the entire Republican Party leadership (and their platform) is today.  In the matter of dynasty vs. dynasty, the most dreaded of campaigns between the Clinton and the Bush, the current polling shows Hillary stomping on Jeb 55 percent to 40 percent.

This is because in spite of Hillary's own personality, in spite of the lack of progressive support from her own party, in spite of the hatred the Far Right has for her, in spite of the hathos, Hillary represents a Democratic Party platform that's currently pro-immigrant, pro-gay marriage, pro-women, pro-finance reform, pro-jobs, pro-health care, pro-let's not start more wars.  While Hillary's voting record - and past inaction for gay rights (Don't Ask Don't Tell) - may still be a problem, Hillary can easily argue her positions have evolved much the way the Democrats' positions evolved (even Obama evolved on gay rights issues: when he did, you could see the narrative shift tilt the nation towards a civil rights victory), and the regular Democratic voting base will forgive her.  The only sticking point will be her Iraq war vote, and her refusal to admit it was a mistake when it mattered.  After two terms of Obama struggling with the entire Middle East, the Democratic voters will give her a pass as long as she avoids taking the Far Right position of "Bomb Everybody".

That noted, Hillary doesn't have to stand much FOR anything so much as allow her Republican opponents to stand AGAINST everything, which they are doing on their own in rather obvious and self-destructive ways. (This is hathos directed at the Republicans, so there)

For all of Hillary's Active-Negative traits, they pale in comparison to the entire Republican Party, where each major candidate is pretty much Active-Negative themselves and backing a more Compulsive, bitter, self-serving agenda far worse than anything Hillary stands for.  Compared to the entire GOP line-up, Hillary's practically an Active-Positive.

In simple math, all Hillary has to do is win electorally the same states Obama did in 2012 (Obama only lost two states - Indiana and North Carolina - from 2008, still allowing him a clear electoral victory to match his popular vote).  As of right now, none of the Blue states look primed to switch over to vote as Red states to the GOP (not even Florida, where the massive South Florida immigrant voting bloc will swamp any support regular state voters might have for Jeb... and Jeb's not that well-liked to begin with).  If the Republicans nominate a clear anti-immigrant candidate or an openly gay-bashing social conservative who can (and probably will) say the dumbest things about sex, Hillary could arguably win over previously Red states wavering on the demographic tipping points.

Another advantage Hillary currently enjoys as a candidate is that among the Democrats, she's it.  There are few current rivals or opponents on the stage able to steal away the disgruntled progressive supporters that are eager for a "true" Leftist visionary to lead us all to a happy utopia (this is why the "Draft Warren" efforts will not stop until Election Day 2016 itself, and yes, that bold hathos is my disdain for the obsessive Democratic voting bloc that would rather not vote for a sane pro-government candidate all because Hillary is "Centrist", and allow an obviously insane anti-government Republican win the White House and doom us all.  I will keep calling you cowards, Democrats, when you keep refusing to use your electoral advantages - there are more of you than Republicans - out of spite).  While other names are out there - and some are arguably solid candidates like O'Malley, more on him when I get the chance - there are none that are as charismatic as Obama was when he challenged Hillary's supremacy in 2008... and won.

Hillary has the advantages of 1) getting the best campaign managers now unlike 2008, and 2) being the best candidate to run on incredible legacies, BOTH Bill Clinton's lasting legacy of a popular Presidency AND Obama's current legacy as a popular President.  Yes, Fox Not News, Obama is still popular at this late stage of his administration, Obama is still viewed a success in spite of Dick Cheney's hate, and he's never dipped as low as your boy Bush the Lesser.  One of the historical lessons taken from Gore's failure to win in 2000 - other than "never use a butterfly ballot" - was that he ignored the evidence of Bill Clinton's continued popularity - he bought into the Beltway mindset that Bill's sex scandal was toxic - and refused to use that legacy to win over voters.  Hillary won't be running from Obama's successes she will be using them to prop herself and the Democratic Party, and can easily keep the voters Obama earned in 2012 to win in 2016.

I just hope to God the Vice-President she chooses is a Passive-Positive.  She'll go crazy if the Veep is Active-Positive, and will likely suspect anyone Active-Negative to the point of paranoia...  Ahem, just saying.

Update (4/19): Just a link here to a blog article from Forward Progressives about the best, positive reason that liberals, progressives, moderates and independents should have to back Hillary and vote FOR her.

The next president we elect (assuming he or she serves two terms) could very well be the individual who selects four Supreme Court Justices...
...So, while I understand that Hillary Clinton isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I can promise you this much – she’s a hell of a lot better than any Republican alternative. So to all of you liberals who loathe her and feel that voting for her would be “selling out,” do you really want a Republican president potentially replacing four Supreme Court Justices?...
...It all goes back to one simple fact: If liberals don’t want to get behind whomever is the Democratic candidate for president in 2016, then a Republican is going to occupy the White House after President Obama. This isn’t me trying to sensationalize anything or using hyperbole, I’m just telling you the truth. Even if we break this down to its simplest form, ignoring any mention of who is or isn’t running for president, then the question really comes down to: Who do you want potentially replacing four Supreme Court Justices in the next 8 to 10 years – a Democrat who supports same-sex marriage, abortion rights, health care and the separation of church and state, or a Republican who opposes all of that and then some?