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Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., attends the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., Thursday, March 14, 2013.  (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

ACA makes health care more affordable in Arkansas

08/27/14 09:33AM

Rep. Tom Cotton (R), his party's U.S. Senate hopeful in Arkansas, has been a fierce critic of the Affordable Care Act, vowing to destroy the system if given an opportunity. The far-right congressman even went so far as to argue that some Arkansans, because of "Obamacare," could "face triple-digit increases in the cost of their health care premiums."
 
As of yesterday, that's not quite what happened. The Arkansas News Bureau reported:
Insurance policies sold through the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace are projected to see a net aggregate decrease of 2 percent in premium costs for 2015, Gov. Mike Beebe's office announced Tuesday.
 
Beebe's office said the projection includes policies offered through the so-called private option, which uses federal Medicaid money to subsidize private health insurance for Arkansans earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Premiums under the private option are projected to decrease slightly but remain essentially flat.
For much of the recent debate about health care policy, the argument about premiums has been based on two sets of expectations. ACA detractors predicted premiums would "skyrocket," while ACA proponents suggested modest increases, consistent with trends that existed before the Affordable Care Act became law.
 
But for the second time in as many weeks -- Connecticut last week and Arkansas yesterday -- we're actually seeing some projections of modest premium decreases. Obviously, Cotton's rhetoric about "triple-digit increases" looks pretty silly now.
 
Is it any wonder the political debate, especially in Arkansas, has gone so topsy turvy?
Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives at an event in Moscow, Russia, June 22, 2014.

Those who long for Putin as 'head of the United States'

08/27/14 08:44AM

From time to time in recent years, Republicans and conservative pundits have celebrated Russian President Vladimir Putin as their kind of leader. The more reckless and autocratic the Russian president became, the more conservative lawmakers and their allies lauded Putin as some kind of heroic genius.
 
Yesterday on Fox News, however, Republican affection for Putin went just a little further.
 
Media Matters posted the video of a hard-to-watch Fox segment in which co-host Greg Gutfeld launched an unhinged tirade about the ISIS threat: "Obama should get his head out of his golf bag or get out of town..... If our president isn't up to it, then find someone who is. Maybe it's better if he stays on the course, for good." (Gutfeld didn't mention the 93 airstrikes Obama ordered on ISIS targets over the last two weeks.)
 
Noting British plans to address citizens who leave the U.K. to become terrorists, Gutfeld then asked Fox's Kimberly Guilfoyle about whether measures can be implemented "without so-called violating their civil liberties." Guilfoyle responded:
"Guess what, I don't care. And in fact, I hope we violate a lot of their civil liberties. [...]
 
"I mean, can I just make a special request in the magic lamp? Can we get like Netanyahu and like Putin in for 48 hours, you know, head of the United States? I don't know. I just want somebody to get in here and get it done right."
I won't pretend to understand this perspective because I have no idea why anyone would look at Vladimir Putin as someone who should be "head of the United States."
 
But Guilfoyle's appeal seems predicated on some bizarre assumptions. The first is the notion that a bold, get-tough leader -- apparently someone in the mold of Netanyahu or Putin -- could simply use military force, deploy troops, and wipe out ISIS ... somehow. This shouldn't be necessary, but it might be worth noting that counter-terrorism and a coherent national-security policy doesn't work this way. It's not like a U.S. president could wake up, decide to eliminate ISIS, make an order, and watch it happen.
 
Indeed, as the Fox hosts might recall, the Bush/Cheney team thought it could invade Afghanistan and Iraq, and in the process, wipe out al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other foes. How'd that work out?

Rubio moves further right, scolds Dream Act kids

08/27/14 08:00AM

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) sent President Obama a written warning yesterday: use executive actions to address problems in our immigration system and it will "close the door" to congressional Republicans tackling the issue "for the foreseeable future."
 
For many involved in the debate, Rubio's threat rang hollow. As the White House already realizes, Republicans refuse to work on immigration anyway.
 
But while the Florida Republican's warning drew chuckles among stakeholders yesterday, Peter Hamby's report on a Rubio appearance in South Carolina this week was far less amusing. The conservative senator was in the Palmetto State to campaign alongside far-right Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), but was interrupted at an event by Dream Act kids.
For an ambitious Republican looking to prove his conservative bona fides and rub out the stain of working with Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid, the interruption was something of a gift. A plugged-in Republican operative turned to a reporter and observed dryly, "I couldn't think of a better way to make Rubio look good in South Carolina."
 
The audience of nearly 1,200 conservatives jeered the protestors as Rubio waited for them to be escorted out of the Anderson Civic Center, scolding them in the process.
 
"We are a sovereign country that deserves to have immigration laws," Rubio said. "You're doing harm to your own cause because you don't have a right to illegally immigrate to the United States."
According to the CNN report, not only did the audience cheer Rubio on, one attendee "angrily stalked" the Dream Act kids out of the building, clutching a cane "as if it were a baseball bat."
 
Greg Sargent called it a "seminal moment," which it definitely was. Two years ago, when Rubio was still an enthusiastic supporter of his own plan for comprehensive immigration reform, the senator was interrupted by young Dreamers, and instead of scolding them, the Floridian was gracious and sympathetic in response.
 
Rubio circa 2012 didn't fully appreciate the anti-immigration animus that drives so much of contemporary Republican politics. The 2014 version of Rubio better understands the demands of the GOP's far-right base and has no qualms about pandering in advance of a likely national campaign.
 
But the shift comes at a cost.

Congress and climate change and other headlines

08/27/14 07:59AM

Pres. Obama seeks a global climate accord in lieu of a treaty. (NY Times)

Ferguson protesters get an hour-long meeting with the U.S. Attorney instead of getting arrested. (Huffington Post)

Arizona House primary race too close to call. (Politico)

Sen. Marco Rubio hints at a government shutdown fight over immigration. (Huffington Post)

L.A. Mayor expected to announce plan for a $13.25 minimum wage. (LA Times)

Who are the Americans fighting alongside Islamic extremists in Syria? (NBC News)

Former hostage Peter Theo Curtis has returned home. (AP)

Civil War officer to receive Medal of Honor. (AP)

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Maddow: 'Imperative' Congress address ISIS

Maddow: 'Imperative' Congress debate ISIS policy

08/26/14 11:18PM

Senator Tim Kaine, member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, talks with Rachel Maddow about why he hopes Congress takes up the debate over whether to authorize President Obama to use military force in pursuit of ISIS. watch

Ahead on the 8/26/14 Maddow show

08/26/14 08:15PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Senator Tim Kaine, Senate Armed Services Committee, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
  • Hannah Rappleye, Investigative Unit reporter, NBC News

And here's Cory Gnazzo with a look at what's coming up:

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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 8.26.14

08/26/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Cease fire: "Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday reached a long-term cease-fire after seven weeks of fighting, according to officials on both sides, halting the longest, bloodiest battle either side has experienced in years -- but without resolving many of the bigger issues underlying the conflict."
 
* Well, this complicates things: "Ukraine said Tuesday its forces detained a group of Russian paratroopers who crossed the border into eastern Ukraine, and the U.S. ambassador to Kiev warned of a possible "Russian-directed counteroffensive" by pro-Moscow separatists, raising tensions between the two countries as their presidents attended a regional summit."
 
* ISIS: "President Obama on Tuesday vowed to address the threat posed by the 'barbaric terrorists' of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as the administration weighs the possibility of expanding U.S. airstrikes to target militants operating in Syria. Airstrikes are already taking place in Iraq."
 
* Syria: "The battle in itself seemed tragically normal. Two Syrian opposition groups fought and there were heavy casualties on both sides. Then victorious rebels rifled through the pockets of the dead. One contained about $800 in cash -- and an American passport. Douglas McAuthur McCain, of San Diego, California, was killed over the weekend fighting for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), according to the Free Syrian Army."
 
* On a related note: "President Obama has authorized surveillance flights over Syria, a precursor to potential airstrikes there, but a mounting concern for the White House is how to target the Sunni extremists without helping President Bashar al-Assad."
 
* Congress has some work to do: "The Obama administration must get congressional approval before carrying out airstrikes against Islamist militants in Syria, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Tuesday. 'We should certainly authorize this,' Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said on MSNBC."
 
* A lot of the early reporting on this turned out to be wrong: "Investigators found no conclusive proof that delays in medical care caused patient deaths at the Phoenix VA Health Care System."
 
* Climate: "Runaway growth in the emission of greenhouse gases is swamping all political efforts to deal with the problem, raising the risk of 'severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts' over the coming decades, according to a draft of a major new United Nations report."
 
* Ebola: "That makes five. The first was Guinea. Then, three days later on March 27, the World Health Organization reported that there were 'suspected' cases of Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Months passed before the disease, which has now killed 1,427 people across West Africa, reached Nigeria in early August. Now it's the Democratic Republic of Congo."
 
* On a related note, much of this isn't rational: "According to a Harvard School of Public Health/SSRS poll, 68 percent of the US population believes Ebola spreads 'easily.' Four in 10 are worried there will be a large outbreak in the United States. And a quarter of Americans are afraid the virus will infect them or someone in their families."

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