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Polls can be manipulated to get the results you want. It all depends on the questions you ask. And often its a matter of asking incomplete questions or not clarifying what it is that people are actually saying.  Such is the case with support for the Affordable Care Act. Republicans love to call it Obamacare so that Republicans who don’t like Obama will be against it, even through it was the US Congress not President Obama who passed the legislation. But their strategy is not working as a close analysis of polling shows.

Charles M Blow in the New York Times in an article entitled Kamikaze Congress points out how right wing Tea Party Republicans in the US House continue their relentless drive to try to undo the Affordable Care Act as if a majority of Americans oppose it.This is their strategy:

Delay and defund. And default.

That is the House Republicans’ brilliant plan in their last-ditch effort to block implementation of the Affordable Care Act. It is a plan that threatens to grind the government to a halt and wreak havoc on the economy.

If they can’t take over Washington, they’ll shut it down. It’s their way or no way. All or nothing.

This is what has become of a party hijacked by zealots.

The problem is that the majority of Americans do not support what they are trying to do. Republicans seriously misread the polling data and the American public. And it all has to do with understanding the actual polling data.

Tea Party Republicans in the House are blinded by their hatred of President Obama and thus continue their unrelenting drive to try to deny him any victory – having voted some 42 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The problem is as Blow points out:

Some of them twist poll results to buttress their bitterness. They point to polls showing that most Americans opposed the law as fuel for their fight. What they neglect to reveal is that a sizable portion of those who opposed the law do so because they don’t think it goes far enough, not because it goes too far. A May CNN/ORC poll found that 43 percent of Americans favored the law while 54 percent opposed it. But it also found that of those polled, 16 percent opposed the law because they thought that it wasn’t liberal enough. Put another way, 59 percent of Americans support the law or want it to be more liberal.

Furthermore, a poll released this week by the Pew Research Center found that of the 53 percent of Americans who said they disapproved of the law, the percentage who want elected officials who oppose the law to try to make it work as well as possible was larger than the percentage who wanted them to try to make it fail.

The American people are not on the far right’s side in battle. House Republicans are on a quixotic mission.

These results are significant and point out how polling can be used to manipulate and misinterpret what it is the public actually believes. There are many of us, including me, who believe the law does not go far enough. That should not be falsely interpreted as our wanting to see the Affordable Care Act repealed. Instead we are pushing for a better system, like a single payer system or expanding Medicare to cover everyone, so that we can remove the money that goes to pay corporate healthcare executives and billing companies and others, and put it toward actually providing healthcare at a much cheaper cost, like many other European Countries currently do.

As PBS points out in “Health Costs: How the US Compares to Other Countries”

$8,233 per year? That’s how much the U.S. spends per person.

Worth it?

That figure is more than two-and-a-half times more than most developed nations in the world, including relatively rich European countries like France, Sweden and the United Kingdom. On a more global scale, it means U.S. health care costs now eat up 17.6 percent of GDP.

We can do better. Going backward like Tea Party zealots in the US House of Representatives propose is a losing proposition.

 

The infamous Koch Brothers have entered the 2012 Washington State Governor’s race.  Surprise – they are supporting Republican Rob McKenna. McKenna is running against former Democratic Congressman Jay Inslee.

On Thursday, October 18, 2012, Americans for Prosperity, based in Arlington filed a C6 with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission that they were spending $27, 985 on a radio ad supporting Rob McKenna.

Americans for Prosperity  was founded by the oilmen Koch Brothers –  David H. Koch and Charles G. Koch, both of Koch Industries.

Wikipedia notes that:

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is an American conservative political advocacy group headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. AFP’s stated mission is “educating citizens about economic policy and mobilizing citizens as advocates in the public policy process.” The group played a major role in the Republicans’ 2010 takeover of the House of Representatives, and has been called “one of the most powerful conservative organizations in electoral politics.”

Sourcewatch writes that:

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is a group fronting special interests started by oil billionaire David Koch and Richard Fink (a member of the board of directors of Koch Industries). AFP has been accused of funding astroturf operations but also has been fueling the “Tea Party” efforts.  AFP’s messages are in sync with those of other groups funded by the Koch Family Foundations and the Koch’s other special interest groups that work against progressive or Democratic initiatives and protections for workers and the environment. Accordingly, AFP opposes labor unions, health care reform, stimulus spending, and cap-and-trade legislation, which is aimed at making industries pay for the air pollution that they create. AFP was also involved in the attacks on Obama’s “green jobs” czar, Van Jones, and has crusaded against international climate talks.

So far the spending by Americans for Prosperity is small potatoes in this state but this could quickly change. Kirby Wilbur, the Washington State  Republican Party Chair, was the state coordinator for Americans for Prosperity in 2010 and they successfully dumped money into last minute mailers against Democratic legislators who did not have sufficient time to respond to the last minute mailers. They are spending lots of money nationally and are doing it without disclosing their donors. This needs to change in disclosure laws.

As the Guardian in a just released articles states:

Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party-aligned group part-funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, is building a state-of-the-art digital ground operation in Ohio and other vital battleground states to spread its anti-Obama message to voters who could decide the outcome of the presidential election.

The group hopes that by creating a local army of activists equipped with sophisticated online micro-targeting tools it will increase its impact on moderate voters, nudging them towards a staunchly conservative position opposed to President Obama’s economic and healthcare policies. Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is spending tens of millions of dollars developing its local strategy, already employing more than 200 permanent staff in 32 states. …

AFP has already spent $30m so far this election cycle in opposing President Obama and other prominent Democratic candidates and their policies. It says it aims to reach up to 9 million targeted voters in crucial swing states, through the efforts of its 2 million activists.

 

President Obama has chosen a strong progressive Democrat to head up the Democratic National Committee. Obama today picked Florida Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz to replace Tim Kaine of Virginia who resigned to run for the US Senate.

As Politico reports:

Wasserman Schultz, 44, was chosen for her strength as a fundraiser and as a television messenger and for her clout in the crucial swing state of Florida, the sources said….

Since she was first elected to Congress in 2004, Debbie Wasserman Schultz has emerged as one of the most outspoken leaders in the Democratic Party, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, said in a statement.

“A strong voice for ordinary people who didn’t cause the recession but are too often asked to pay the price, Wasserman Schultz will be a great advocate for President Obama and for Democrats across the country who are fighting to grow the economy and create jobs for middle-class families.”

Vice President Joe Bidden in an e-mail to DNC members that was posted on Huffington Post noted that:

“Debbie has served the people of Florida – first in the Florida State Legislature, and more recently in Congress – for nearly two decades. During that time, she has fought for America’s children, seniors, and men and women in uniform.

In selecting Debbie to lead our party, President Obama noted her tenacity, her strength, her fighting spirit, and her ability to overcome adversity. President Obama expressed great admiration for her as a leader, and he was honored that she accepted this important challenge on behalf of the Democratic Party.

No one should have any doubt that Debbie will work hard to strengthen our party and our country. I hope you will welcome her as President Obama’s choice for the next Chair of the DNC.”

The White House announced today that Greg Nickels has been appointed by President Obama as the  Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-fifth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

The White House bio for Greg Nickels notes that:

Greg Nickels is currently a Distinguished Urban Fellow for Living Cities, a collaboration of 22 of the largest philanthropies and financial institutions in America.  In the spring of 2010, Nickels was appointed as a fellow-in residence at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University.  Prior to that, he served as the 51st Mayor of the City of Seattle from January 1, 2002 through December 31, 2009 and as an elected member of the King County Council for 14 years.  From 1978 to 1987, he served as legislative assistant to then-City Councilmember Norm Rice.   In 2009 Nickels was elected the 67th President of the United States Conference of Mayors.

Greg Nickels on his Facebook page comments on his new position.

Tuesday, when the 65th Session of the UN General Assembly was gaveled to order, I was sitting “behind the flag”, i.e. behind the placard that read “United States”. That seat is reserved for the country’s senior person in attendance. As I looked around the massive chambers and the huge UN logo behind the rostrum, it was… surreal to think I was representing our country to the world.

A once in a lifetime honor!

Yes, It is an honor and we are fortunate to have one of our own from Washington State and Seattle representing us to the World.

One of the myths fostered by the right wing is that liberal judges are activists and conservative judges are strict constructionists and only follow the law.  The right wing froths at the mouth, painting judges they don’t like as trying to write new law through their judicial decisions.  Yet as Jeffrey R Stone points out in an article in the New York Times entitled “Our Fill-in-the-Blank Constitution” conservatives are grossly misrepresenting the actions of conservative judges when the record is examined.

As Stone points out:

Rulings by conservative justices in the past decade make it perfectly clear that they do not “apply the law” in a neutral and detached manner. Consider, for example, their decisions holding that corporations have the same right of free speech as individuals, that commercial advertising receives robust protection under the First Amendment, that the Second Amendment prohibits the regulation of guns, that affirmative action is unconstitutional, that the equal protection clause mandated the election of George W. Bush and that the Boy Scouts have a First Amendment right to exclude gay scoutmasters.

Whatever one thinks of these decisions, it should be apparent that conservative judges do not disinterestedly call balls and strikes. Rather, fueled by their own political and ideological convictions, they make value judgments, often in an aggressively activist manner that goes well beyond anything the framers themselves envisioned. There is nothing simple, neutral, objective or restrained about such decisions. For too long, conservatives have set the terms of the debate about judges, and they have done so in a highly misleading way. Americans should see conservative constitutional jurisprudence for what it really is.judicial activism

The right wing has done a good political job of framing the issue through its aggressive media advocacy to infiltrate and indoctrinate its message into the news media. The left has not been as successful.  David Brock wrote a book a few years back entitled, The Republican Noise Machine Right-Wing Media and how it Corrupts Democracy, that details how the right wing came to be adept at getting their message out.  The current manipulation of the Tea Party by Republican operatives like former House Speaker Dick Amery at Freedom Works is a current example of the resurgence of the Republican Noise Machine as a backlash against Obama.

Expect in the upcoming effort by President Obama to appoint someone to fill the US Supreme Court seat being vacated by Justice John Paul Stevens that the right wing will vigerously denounce any Obama nominee as too liberal and extreme and that the false mantra of judicial activism will be brought up with any prospective nominee  involved in decisions not supported by the right wing. Keep the Republican Noise in perspective and realize that the volume of noise by the Right Wing, including the so called Tea Party folks, in no way is a valid measure of the truth.

As Media Matters notes in an article entitled “Right-wing media demonstrate “judicial activism” by urging landmark healthcare bill be overturned by courts”,  it is the right wing that is practicing judicial activism.

A 2005 study by Yale University law professor Paul Gewirtz and Yale Law School graduate Chad Golder showed that among Supreme Court justices at that time, those most frequently labeled “conservative” were among the most frequent practitioners of at least one brand of judicial activism — the tendency to strike down statutes passed by Congress. Those most frequently labeled “liberal” were the least likely to strike down statutes passed by Congress.

A 2007 study by Cass R. Sunstein (subsequently named by President Obama to head the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs) and University of Chicago law professor Thomas Miles used a different measurement of judicial activism — the tendency of judges to strike down decisions by federal regulatory agencies. Sunstein and Miles found that by this definition, the Supreme Court’s “conservative” justices were the most likely to engage in “judicial activism” while the “liberal” justices were most likely to exercise “judicial restraint.”

Speculation is that 90 year old US Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens will retiresometime in the next few months.  This will give President Obama  a second nominee to the U S Supreme Court. The current makeup and history of the Court suggests that he should nominate another woman to fill the next vacant seat.

Last year Obama  appointed Sonia Sotomayor to replace Justice David Souter. In the Supreme Court’s 220 year history, Justice Sotomayor was only the third woman nominated and subsequently approved by the US Senate. This is despite the fact that there have been a total of 16 Chief Justices and over 100 Associate Justices since the Court began.

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was the first woman appointed. Ronald Reagan appointed her in 1981 and she retired in 2006.  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was appointed by President Clinton in 1993 and is still serving.  This brings the current Supreme Court composition to 2 women and 7 men.  Justice Ginsberg has had health problems including pancreatic cancer last year and is currently 77 years old. She has been rumored also to possibly step down soon but right now Stevens resigning is more likely in the short term.

The Wall Street Journal mentions two women as likely candidates to succeed Stevens:

“One is Mr. Obama’s solicitor general, Elena Kagan, a former dean of Harvard Law School who was considered for the nomination that ultimately went to Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Despite her scholarly career, Ms. Kagan hasn’t produced the kind of provocative writings that could provide ammunition for conservative opponents, legal experts say.

That also dims enthusiasm for her from liberal groups, who have been hoping for a full-throated progressive ready to joust with such determined conservatives as Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Scalia.

Liberals see a surer voice in another finalist for last year’s vacancy, Judge Diane Wood of the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. On a court known for its intellectual heft, Judge Wood has proven a serious counterweight to such influential conservative judges as Richard Posner and Frank Easterbrook, legal observers say.

For the same reason, conservative activists say they are more likely to fight Judge Wood’s nomination.”

Jeffrey Tobin in an interview last month on NPR agreed regarding Kagan as a strong possibility:

” I think it’s going to be Elena Kagan, the current solicitor general and the former dean of Harvard Law School. She has a reputation as a consensus builder. She is someone who brought vigorously fighting factions at Harvard together. She worked in the Clinton administration and had good relationships with Republicans in Congress at the time. She has never been a judge, which I think is a point in her favor for Obama. There are all former judges on the court now, and I think Obama wants people of more different backgrounds. So I think she’s the likely choice.”

Given the uncertain future of Justice Ginsberg and the almost total male dominance of the Supreme Court appointees over the lifetime of the Court, it is time to balance out the Court by appointing more women.  Obama needs to appoint future Supreme Court Justices that reflect the principles he ran on and that won him election.

No matter who he nominates, it is certain that the Republicans will filibuster or stall the nomination process for any Obama Appointee.  The worst thing he could do is try to nominate someone who will appease the conservatives and further push the Supreme Court to the right. After the health care fight it is pretty obvious that Republicans will do anything they can.

Obama’s best chance to regain and strenghten public support for his Presidency is to do the right thing, rather than cater to political inaction and right wing fear mongering. Appointing another woman to the US Supreme Court is the right thing to do. It’s time to right this injustice to women who comprise one half of our nation.  A proper balance would be to have 4 or 5 women Justices on the US Supreme Court.

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