California’s New Fracking Rules Are Toughest in the Nation

L.A. Times: “State officials on Wednesday formally adopted new rules governing hydraulic fracturing in California, setting in motion some of the toughest guidelines in the nation for the controversial oil extraction practice. The oil and gas agency also released its environmental impact report that concluded fracking could have ‘significant and unavoidable impacts’ on a number of fronts, including air quality, greenhouse gas emissions and public safety.”

“The regulations, which lawmakers approved in 2013, require oil companies to expand monitoring and reporting of water use and water quality, conduct broad analysis of potential engineering and seismic impacts of their operations, and comprehensively disclose chemicals used during fracking and other operations.”

The accompanying environmental impact report concluded that “fracking could, in a worst-case scenario, ‘generate greenhouse gas emissions that may have a significant impact on the environment.’ The operations could also increase pollutants ‘to levels that violate an air quality standard or contribute substantially to an existing or projected air quality violation.'”

Democrats Take the Lead in Party Affiliation

Gallup: “In the second quarter of 2015, Democrats regained an advantage over Republicans in terms of Americans’ party affiliation. A total of 46% of Americans identified as Democrats (30%) or said they are independents who lean toward the Democratic Party (16%), while 41% identified as Republicans (25%) or leaned Republican (16%). The two parties were generally even during the previous three quarters, including the fourth quarter of 2014, when the midterm elections took place.”

Americans' Party Affiliation, Recent Quarterly Trend

“Republicans have lost ground versus Democrats over the last three months in terms of the percentage of Americans who align with each party, essentially resetting the political map to what it had been in 2013 and early 2014, and putting the Democrats in a favorable political position as the 2016 campaign is getting underway.”

“Democratic gains in party affiliation may be partly linked to more positive views of President Barack Obama … The recent changes in party affiliation may also reflect Americans’ fading memory of the GOP’s electoral successes in the 2014 midterm elections.”

Could California’s New Vaccine Law Be a Model for Other States?

Katie Palmer in Wired writes that California’s new vaccine mandate “is a prime opportunity to carefully study the effects of legislation like this on both vaccination and disease rates.”

“Just take a look at the vaccination rates in other states, compared to where they stand on the two types of exemptions: religious and personal belief. The top-vaccinated state in the nation, Mississippi, is one of the only two states that doesn’t allow either exemption. Hey! Look at that! A correlation! But traveling down the list, the connection between exemption status and vaccination rate gets a little murkier. West Virginia, the other no-exemption state, doesn’t appear in the list of the top-ten vaccination rates (it’s number 18), and three states that allow both types of exemptions appear in the top-ten list.”

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“If you look broadly at these figures, though, it does seem like states with more exemptions are more likely to have low vaccination rates. Now is the time to test that hypothesis. California is at a historical inflection point. If public health researchers and politicians can look carefully at the state of the state’s vaccination rates and disease numbers before and after SB277 is enacted, they’ll get a powerful tool to either support more bans of these exemptions—several of which are on the table in other states right now—or drive the United States toward different, perhaps more effective strategies to reduce vaccine-preventable disease. Let’s see what comes out of the lab.”

Overwhelming Majority Approve of Court’s Ruling on Obamacare Subsidies

Kaiser Family Foundation: “When told that the Supreme Court decided to keep the health care law as it is so that low and moderate income people in all states can be eligible for government financial help to buy health insurance, just over 6 in 10 (62 percent) say they approve of the Court’s decision and about a third (32 percent) say they disapprove. Approval is higher in this case than it was following the 2012 Supreme Court decision upholding most major provisions of the ACA. In the June 2012 Kaiser Health Tracking poll, the public was more evenly split, with 47 percent approving and 43 percent disapproving of the Court’s decision in the earlier case.”

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“Despite the majority’s favorable opinion of the King v. Burwell decision, though, the new poll finds the public’s view of the ACA remains largely unchanged immediately after the June 25 ruling, with 43 percent viewing it favorably and 40 percent unfavorably.”

Jeb Bush Profited From Obamacare

New York Times: One of Jeb Bush’s financial endeavors “included serving as a paid director to the hospital company Tenet Healthcare, which backed President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The position invited questions for Mr. Bush, who as a candidate opposes the health care law.”

“Mr. Bush profited handsomely from his Tenet shares. According to the newly released tax returns, Mr. Bush acquired $441,203 worth of stock in Tenet Healthcare in May 2011. The stock doubled in value by the time he sold it in October 2013, earning him a profit of $462,013 in just 29 months.”

“Like other hospital stocks, Tenet rose sharply from October 2012 through March 2013, when President Obama’s re-election made it likely that the health care law would be carried out. The law was considered a boon for hospitals because it was expected to increase business and reduce the expense of caring for uninsured patients who could not pay their bills. Mr. Bush resigned from the Tenet board in 2014 when he was preparing for his presidential campaign.”

The Limited Impact of the Court’s Ruling on Gerrymandering

Washington Post:  “Our partisan Congress is a relatively new thing. In the 1970s, there were a significant number of Democrats and Republicans crossing over. But it’s slowly faded, to today, where it doesn’t happen much at all. Here’s that divide illustrated by Pew, with the House on the right.”

“So what if states suddenly adopted redistricting commissions en masse and we got state legislators out of the map-drawing business for good? There would almost definitely be more competitive districts, but perhaps not a ton more. The United States is a country very polarized between rural and urban, after all, and map-drawers’ goal is not to create competitive districts, but rather to create compact ones that bring together similar groups of people. In most areas areas of the country, there is simply no prospect of creating new, competitive districts.”

“So while the Supreme Court’s redistricting decision will be hailed as a sign of progress by good-government types, it’s important to note how limited its effect might be on the coming Congresses — to say nothing of how many states will actually join the few who have already adopted such commissions.”

All is Not Lost for Obamacare Lawsuit Supporters

Jonathan Cohn: “The activists, attorneys, and partisans who conceived of and then brought the King lawsuit to court still managed to achieve something. By pushing the case as far through the legal process as they did, and sending the political world into a tizzy over it, they were able to freeze the political debate in place — to maintain the fevered, highly polarized argument over whether the health care program should even exist.”

“That’s worked out pretty well for Republicans, because it’s meant they can keep using Obamacare to rally their activist supporters. It’s worked out poorly for Democrats, because it’s meant they can’t get serious about fixing the law’s very real shortcomings.”

“It’s impossible to know how the arguments about King v. Burwell affected perceptions of the Affordable Care Act. But the case certainly inflamed partisan hatred of the law, giving Republican leaders new opportunities to attack it and the president’s management of health care reform.”

“But Democrats and Republicans could probably find ways to at least make deals, with benefits for each side, if only they could have a constructive conversation about piecemeal changes to the law. The ruling in King v. Burwell makes it possible to imagine such a conversation taking place, even if it’s still a long way off.”

Has the Supreme Court Become More Liberal?

Ezra Klein asks: Is the Supreme Court “getting more liberal or are the cases getting more conservative?”

“The Obamacare ruling is a good example. One way to read the outcome of that case is that the Court sided with liberals, and that’s evidence of a more liberal term. But another way to read that case is that it only made it to the Supreme Court because the Court has become so conservative — any other Court wouldn’t have bothered, and so the proper interpretation is that King v. Burwell is evidence of the Court’s conservatism.”

“But there’s another thing all these measurements miss: the importance of various rulings. The same-sex marriage ruling is a liberal ruling of enormous, even historic, magnitude. The scores will count it as one case, equal to any other case, but it isn’t — and its presence alone will ensure that liberals long remember this Court.”

Which Professions Are the Whitest?

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The Atlantic: BLS data has a more detailed dive into which professions are the whitest. Overall, 81 percent of the workforce is white, but there are 33 occupations in America that are more than 90 percent white. When it comes to professions with outsized shares of minorities, blacks are overrepresented in community and social-service occupations (as well as barbers and postal-service clerks). Asians make up a large share of computer workers, medical scientists, and personal appearance workers—a category that includes manicurists, makeup artists, and facialists. Hispanics are overrepresented in construction, maintenance, and agriculture work.

Frum: Republicans Need to Accept That Obamacare is Here to Stay

David Frum, writing in the Atlantic, tells Republicans to move on from their Obamacare attacks.

“The party has never managed to coalesce around any replacement plan … What is clear, however, is that the Republican alternatives, such as they are, would remove coverage from many who have it now. In my opinion, that one fact is likely to cost Republicans the White House in 2016, no matter who they nominate.”

“Republicans draw comfort from polls that show Obamacare supported by less than 50 percent of the population. Those polls did not rescue them in 2012, when very few people yet benefited from the ACA, and they will do the GOP even less good in 2016. Polls asking people their views of complicated and poorly understood laws don’t tell us much about how people will behave when confronted with the stark calculus of what repeal will mean for them personally. People who disapprove of President Obama are highly likely to disapprove of a thing called ‘Obamacare’  even as they jealously protect their personal gains from that same law.”

“Republicans should accept the Affordable Care Act as a permanent new fact of American society. They should accept universal healthcare coverage as a welcome aspect of any advanced democracy. Instead of fruitlessly seeking to repeal a law now that will in 2016 enter into its fourth year of operation, they should specify the law’s most obnoxious flaws and seek a mandate to reform them.”

What Would the Nation Without Gerrymandering Look Like?

Vox: “What would a world without gerrymandering look like? Check out the map below, in which each colored district has a roughly equal population, for one possible glimpse. (Note that this map draws districts that cross state borders as well, which is impossible under our current system, but would end the overrepresentation of some small states.)”

“The map was created by the Center for Range Voting, which was founded by math PhD Warren Smith and engineer Jan Kok to float innovative election reform proposals. To make it, they used what they call the shortest splitline algorithm. Basically, they used the shortest possible line to cut a state into two halves with roughly equal populations. Then they did so again, and again, and again, until they had the proper number of overall districts.”