Scott Lemieux

Public Option Would Fix Health Insurance Marketplace

Last week's announcement by Aetna that it would stop selling health insurance in 11 of the 15 states where it offers coverage through public exchanges is not a death blow to the Affordable Care Act, but it’s certainly not good news for President Obama’s signature health-care law.

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Affirmative Action Is Back in Court. Arguments Against It Make No Sense

American conservatives have been engaged in a long war against the constitutionality of affirmative action at public universities and other institutions. The latest battle reached the US supreme court on Wednesday, as the justices once again heard oral arguments in Fisher v University of Texas, the challenge to the school’s affirmative action program.

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Republicans are Still Trying to Destroy Obamacare, and They're Still Losing

The Republican party’s effort to deny any (if not all) access to affordable healthcare for as many people as humanly (though not humanely) possible took a major blow on Thursday, when the full DC circuit court of appeals decided to review the anti-Obamacare decision issued by two Republican-appointed judges earlier this year.

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Conservative Judges Are Ganging up to Steal Your Affordable Healthcare

Tuesday morning, two competing courts – and the conservative judges turned silent partisan assassins that dominate them – put at risk the affordable health insurance on which millions of Americans have already come to rely. These six robed men in Washington and Virginia, within about two hours, have now set up yet another US supreme court showdown on the Obamacare law Republicans on Capitol Hill just couldn't kill, despite trying more than 50 times.

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4 Ways the Government Keeps You In the Dark About What It's Doing

As generally happens during wartime, the war on terror pursued since the 9/11 terrorist attacks has led to a substantial increase in government secrecy. This worrisome trend can be seen in a number of areas.

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Are Police Building a Massive DNA Database?

On March 19, New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill expanding the ability of the police to collect DNA samples from citizens of the state. The state has been able to collect samples from those convicted of certain violent felonies since 1996. The new law, however, permits the the police to get genetic samples from almost anyone convicted of any crime in New York state. People convicted of possessing low quantities of marijuana for the first time are exempt, but otherwise even those convicted of non-violent misdemeanors are subject to the law. Like a lot of “crime control” legislation, the bill passed without a great deal of opposition in the Assembly. But also like a lot of legislation purporting to combat crime, the benefits of the bill are more dubious than its supporters claim and the civil liberties problems posed by the bill were largely ignored.

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5 Important Things You Should Know About Privacy and the Supreme Court Ruling on GPS Tracking

Antoine Jones was sentenced to life in prison on drug distribution charges. The key evidence against him came from a month’s worth of data collected by a GPS tracker that police had attached to Jones’s car. The GPS, however, was attached without a valid warrant (police had obtained a warrant, but is was expired and for another jurisdiction.) Jones appealed his conviction, arguing that the warrantless GPS tracking violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibitions against “unreasonable search and seizures.” The government replied that the installation of the GPS did not constitute a “search,” and hence could not have violated Jones’s constitutional rights. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected the government’s argument, however. And earlier this week in United States v. Jones, the Supreme Court unanimously agreed that the police actions constituted a “search” and were subject to the restrictions of Fourth Amendment.

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Why Conservatives Need to Stop Whining About Robert Bork

One of the great triumphs of Republican propaganda has been to turn the word “Bork” into a verb. The defeat of Robert H. Bork’s Supreme Court nomination in 1987 has come to stand for unfair attacks and political obstructionism. Joe Nocera’s recent New York Times column is the latest example of Bork being turned into a martyr who explains and perhaps justifies many dysfunctional aspects of American politics. The failure of the Bork nomination, Nocera asserts, was “obstructionist, mean-spirited and unfair.“ This Republican rhetorical triumph is particularly impressive because the claims about Bork are utter nonsense. The defeat of Bork was based on legitimate reasons, was not unprecedented, and was done the right way.

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Primary Battle Completely Understandable

Walter Shapiro asks "Whose fault is the Clinton-Obama stalemate?" The article then more or less argues that although Clinton's campaign has been egregiously incompetent, Obama's campaign has also had a significant share of "substantial misadventures." But shouldn't we consider the possibility that the race has reached a quasi-equilibrium with Obama in a relatively narrow but decisive lead because both of the candidates are really, really impressive? That the core supporters of both aren't moving because they, I dunno, really like their preferred candidate? Doesn't this seem considerably more likely?

This is especially true since the examples Shaprio offers are either trivial (anyone want to make a case that the race would be significantly different if Clinton kept the same slogan?) or projection (I certainly think it's outrageous to push to try to seat delegates based on a straw poll with one major candidate on the ballot, but I'd love to see evidence that this has been a factor for a significant number of actual primary voters.) Even the one really consequential Clinton blunder that Shapiro identifies -- allowing Obama to run the table in the February caucuses with nearly token opposition -- was the outgrowth of a strategy that was reasonable (invest resources to end it on Super Tuesday) that just didn't work out.

I know we're trained to be cynical, but at some point you have to consider the possibility that the race has gone on because the Democrats have two broadly ideologically similar candidates with, in different ways, formidable political skills. All campaigns make mistakes, but that's the key dynamic here; the race wouldn't be close for so long if both candidates didn't have a lot of strongly committed supporters.

Anti-Vaccination Crankery Is Dangerous


Seriously, Obama needs to stop with this public-health-damaging nonsense immediately.

...what Megan says in comments is worth elevating here:
And to second (third, fourth, whatever) those above - the science is not inconclusive. But I am willing to concede that this is one of those times when the precise language of scientists (and in particular, statisticians) can become misconstrued. In particular, no study can ever 'disprove' much of anything. All it can do (and many, many studies consistently have, in this case) is fail to find a link. In statistical terms we always call this 'failing to reject the null hypothesis of no relationship.' It's a weird double negative, but it's careful for a reason - we always set up our experiments assuming the thing we're trying to disprove is true. Our conclusion options are to reject the null (and conclude that a relationship exists) or fail to reject the null. We typically shy away from clearly stating that this means conclusively that no relationship exists, since as scientists we're always open to the possibility of being wrong - perhaps another study will come along with better/different methodology and contradict our findings, perhaps someone will have more money and more time and collect more data and contradict our findings, etc. However, all that hemming aside, just like a scientific theory is treated with more confidence than the layman interpretation of the word 'theory,' when numerous studies consistently fail to reject the null hypothesis, most reasonable scientists are comfortable assuming that this means that no relationship exists.
...Clinton too, ack.
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