TPM Cafe: Opinion

Recently New York Mets baseball player Daniel Murphy decided to take two days of paternity leave to be with his wife as she underwent a cesarean section, missing the first two games of the season. (He is allowed three days of leave under Major League Baseball rules.) Sports commentator Boomer Esiason criticized Murphy for making this decision, stating, “C-section before the season starts. I need to be at opening day. I’m sorry, this is what makes our money.” Esiason later apologized days after public outcry about his statement, but he was not alone in his sentiment. Another radio host, Mike Francesa, said of Murphy’s decision, “You are a Major League Baseball player. You can hire a nurse.”

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Last month’s Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby case raised a number of interesting questions about the Affordable Care Act, contraception, corporations, and the Supreme Court. But it is also notable for a specific question asked by Antonin Scalia.

No, not whether certain forms of contraception were “terribly expensive stuff,” as memorable as that question is. But for the comment that preceded that question—that the only forms of birth control that Hobby Lobby didn’t want to cover were abortifacients.

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David Letterman is calling it quits—and with his final late night on Late Night will fall the final pillar of the genre’s old guard. And so the question is: what will CBS do? NBC already made the bold move of replacing an older white man, Jay Leno, with a younger white man, Jimmy Fallon, on the Tonight Show; and that other funny Jimmy (Kimmel) is otherwise occupied. How will Late Night reinvent itself, if indeed it would like to compete as fresh and relevant?

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It will probably be days, maybe weeks or even months before we know exactly what happened at Fort Hood that led Specialist Ivan Lopez to kill three people and himself on Wednesday. This much is confirmed: Lopez served four months in Iraq in 2011, and had been under evaluation for possible Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress. In an information vacuum, this will undoubtedly be that prevailing narrative.

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On Wednesday, Chief Justice John Roberts used a slim five to four majority to strike down a major part of the 40-year-old “aggregate limits” on federal campaign donations. Is the decision as bad as Citizens United, the Court’s 2010 decision to overturn a century of precedents and allow unlimited expenditures by corporations seeking to elect or defeat political candidates? No ... but it’s not good. If Citizens United is the Charlie Sheen of bad decisions that undermine electoral equality, then the McCutcheon decision is the Justin Bieber -- smaller in scale but with plenty of capacity to do harm.

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A big U.S. social insurance program is enacted into law – only to face delays and fierce controversies. Regulations are imposed on businesses and taxes collected well before citizens get sizable benefits. Right-wingers fight for repeal or evisceration, and many on the left are also disgruntled. Outright failure remains possible for years after enactment.

Obamacare? No, we’re talking about the early life of the program called Social Security, now hugely popular and regarded as virtually untouchable politically.

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The good news this week: as the deadline for this year’s enrollment hits, the Affordable Care Act is working.

After all the obstacles, technological failures, political attacks and confusion, the new ACA exchanges have hit their goals: 7 million people have signed up for a plan in the new marketplaces.

One study suggests that, under all the ACA’s coverage provisions, some 9.5 million people who didn’t have insurance before have coverage now.

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We’re at that time of the election cycle when you start hearing a great deal about the relative “enthusiasm” of each major party’s “base,” with the assumption being this is the key to a robust turnout in November. Do this and don’t do that, we are told (especially by conservative Republicans, but increasingly as well by progressive Democrats), or you will dampen base enthusiasm and court disaster.

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With the recent closure of the initial enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there is enormous jockeying around interpreting the number of enrollees in state and federal exchanges. Proponents and opponents of the law are interpreting the preliminary numbers in the way that best makes their case. But what neither side is emphasizing enough is that enrollment in the ACA is far from over now that March 31st has passed. This is because millions of individuals will lose their insurance during 2014 – and Obamacare will be there to catch them.

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Want to contribute to TPM Cafe? Email ideas for your pieces to us at talk@talkingpointsmemo.com

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