Saturday, September 28, 2013

Generation Grift

Jill and I blundered into a fair today while walking to the Post Office (side note: Jill and I have wandered into many fairs in our day, and I don't think we've ever done so intentionally). It was fun -- there was a chili cook off and we registered to vote. And as we were walking, we saw a booth for an outfit called "Generation Opportunity." It rang a very faint bell, but it sounded like one of those neat non-profits that helps empower underprivileged high school students, so we decided to check it out.

They described their mission as surveying young people to find out what their priorities were, then advocating for those values. They gave an example of a proposed sales tax which I didn't know much about, then suggested we fill out one of their surveys. Jill, good quantitative researcher that she is, immediately asked what methods they had for ensuring that their surveys were actually representative of our generation by including low-income young people and people of color. The mumbled response about how there were other people who did that might have served as a red flag.

But then we took the survey, and it took one question for me to say "This is a push poll!" ("uhh ... yeah, the questions are worded terribly, I've talked to them about that."). "Do you think jobs are created by lowered taxes or bigger government?" "Do you think we should improve the economy and lower the debt by increasing government spending or decreasing it?" "Do you want to exercise your right to opt out of Obamacare?"

That last one was a subject near and dear to the staffer's heart -- he was very keen on informing us that we could decide not to participate in the Affordable Care Act. "I thought if I didn't participate Obama would, like, throw me in jail, but it's really just a fee you pay." I wanted to ask him if, given that his old sources were so terrible he thought he'd be imprisoned if he didn't get health insurance, if maybe he had thought about turning elsewhere for information on Obamacare, but I didn't. After turning down the offer of various swag emblazened with "opt out" (surely, a slogan our generation will get behind), I walked away.

Jill was actually a pretty happy camper -- she says she enjoys push polls because you know exactly what answers will piss the pollsters off ("why yes, I think larger government is the key to a healthy economy"). But I found myself very annoyed. These guys were basically grifters. The "opt out" movement is terrible -- it encourages people to go without health insurance to prove a political point, but you can bet dollars to donuts that if any of these kids actually get sick their erstwhile allies will do nothing but encourage them to die quickly. And even if they stay healthy, the goal of the program -- to deprive the health insurance market of healthy people to make it unaffordable for sick people -- is unspeakably evil. Frankly, I found it quite disgusting.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Standing Against the Tide

Ted Cruz's filibuster of futility has come to a close, but his office claims that the people are behind him: nearly 3,000 phone calls, as of late last night, mostly supportive.

I'm not saying I doubt the figure or the distribution, but I'm curious if a Senate office has ever released figures that said their boss got "almost 3,000 phone calls, mostly calling for his head on a spike."

In related news, just 14% of Americans support defunding Obamacare via government shutdown, versus 65% opposed.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


On Friday, Kevin Drum stated that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was in a bit of pickle due to the particular procedural posture of the government funding bill. Cruz, of course, wants to stop the funding of the Affordable Care Act. Now, the normal Republican tool to stop anything they don't like is a filibuster. But procedurally Cruz can only filibuster the bill before cloture is called, and before cloture is called the bill is still the House bill -- which is to say, still defunds Obamacare. Once cloture passes, then Harry Reid will offer an amendment restoring funding to the ACA, but both the amendment and the final bill itself will only require 50 votes to pass. Oh no! Whatever will Cruz do?

I wish I had the foresight to put this on paper, because I promise I predicted the right answer: he'll filibuster his own bill, the one that actually does defund Obamacare. This may mark the first time a Senator has filibustered a bill that he fervently supports, but many things about this debate have been unprecedented.

Once he heard about that possibility, Drum thought it would come off as "ridiculous". I'm not exactly sure that's true -- the niceties of Senate procedure won't interest the average tv viewer, who will generally view the matter as Cruz trying to stop Obamacare from being refunded. The wonky procedural posture that leads Cruz to be filibustering what is essentially his own bill will be chalked up to that strange institution the Senate, just as Harry Reid often is seen voting against his own bills in order to preserve a later motion for reconsideration.

Of course, that doesn't mean the ploy will work -- it still would result in a government shutdown for which Republicans would assuredly be blamed, and they do not want that (and resent Cruz for foisting it upon them). But that Cruz was nutty enough to try this gambit I had no doubt about.

UPDATE: And now he just voted to consider the bill he just spent 20 hours railing against.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Clarity of Rescue

Israeli security forces have reportedly been on the scene in Nairobi, possibly because some of the businesses at the targeted mall may have been Israeli-owned. Thus we get this story:
Two Kenyans who survived and escaped the terror attack at the partially Israeli-owned Westgate Mall, in Nairobi, told the Guardian they were rescued by “a man they believed was an Israeli security officer,” according to live postings on the Guardian website.

The extent of Israeli involvement in the rescue operation remained unclear on Sunday, as official sources in Jerusalem declined to comment beyond saying that Israel is advising the Kenyan government on rescue initiatives.
If you're feeling a bit of cognitive dissonance, just chant "this proves it was a Zionist plot all along!" over and over until it goes away.