Speaking in Detroit on Friday night, Senator Rand Paul responded to a question from the audience about whether he’d run for president in 2016. Paul said that, at the moment, his wife was opposed to the idea.
“Where’s my cell phone? Can I call my wife?” Paul joked. “There’s two votes in my family. My wife has both of them and both of them are ‘no’ votes right now.”
“If I’m a very able politician, I’ll tell you in a year whether I’m able to persuade my wife. Right now, I don’t know yet, but I thank you for your interest,” he said.
Mrs. Paul, a former political consultant who has been married to the senator for 23 years, told Vogue magazine earlier this year what troubled her about Rand running for president:
“In this day and age it’s mostly about character assassination,” she said. “When I think of the tens of millions of dollars in opposition research that they’d be aiming right at us and our family – that’s what it’s about.”
This is not an uncommon attitude that spouses have about their husbands running for president. Even the most political of wives fear being ground down by a process that demands so much from the candidate and his family.
But as Paul says, he’s got a year to convince her otherwise.
Paul was in Detroit pushing an innovative plan to rescue distressed cities — a resurrection of Jack Kemp’s old “enterprise zones” idea:
“Detroit’s future will not come from Washington. The magic of Motown is here in the city,” he told nearly 400 people at the Motor City Casino in Detroit.
Paul proposed a wide-ranging plan to revitalize the nation’s cities through the creation of “economic freedom zones.” His plan would cut federal taxes in communities that have an unemployment rate of 12% or more.
Federal personal and corporate taxes would be lowered to 5%, and the federal payroll tax would be cut to 2% each for employees and employers.
“Inside these zones, we’ll suspend the capital gains tax and allow small businesses to deduct most of what they invest,” he said.
The plan would save Detroit $1.3 billion over the next 10 years, Paul said.
The tax breaks themselves aren’t much considering Detroit’s dire straits. But Paul is counting on a change in the psychology of the city which would lead to a flood of private investment and risk taking. It’s an untested concept, but if you need an urban laboratory, you won’t find a better place than Detroit. Any help at this point should be welcome.
The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Mike McCaul, sees terrorism spreading overseas like “a wildfire” and says that America is no safer today than it was in 2011.
“I personally see it spreading like a spiderweb, like a wildfire, through Northern Africa and the Middle East,” Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Texas, told CNN’s Candy Crowley on “State of the Union.”
“As that threat increases overseas, so too does it increase to the homeland – and that’s my basic concern as Homeland chairman, is to keep that threat outside the United States.”
Leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees told CNN earlier this month on “State of the Union” that terrorists have gained ground in the past two years and that the U.S. is not any safer than it was at the outset of 2011. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, agreed that the Obama administration has lost ground in the ongoing battle with global terrorism.
McCaul said that though policies put in place as a result of the September 11 terrorist attacks have prevented a similar large-scale event on U.S. soil, President Barack Obama is pushing a false narrative about the nation’s safety in the world.
“When the President of the United States talks about the, downgrades the threat, his narrative is that al Qaeda is on the run, and since bin Laden has been killed the threat is no longer existing – I think is a false narrative and premise because, as we see this threat all throughout northern Africa, as we saw Egypt fall, Libya, now Syria is a great culmination of the Sunni-Shia conflict.”
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said Feinstein’s and Rogers’ comments surprised him but acknowledged that low-level attacks by lone-wolf actors, like the Boston Marathon bombing, are still “very threatening.”
But is the U.S. more effective now at keeping terrorism off its shores?
“I think we are better now than we have ever been, but we are never going to be 100% safe,” Schiff said, pointing to the ongoing conflict in Syria, a country that he said has become a “magnet” for those looking to join Jihad.
McCaul agreed: “I think Syria is now the training ground for the world. … These rebel forces are more of a threat than anything.”
It’s an interesting concept — the idea that we’re better now than we ever have been at keeping terrorism out of America but will do next to nothing to protect our borders. The mind that can harbor both ideas and believe them to be true isn’t firing on all cylinders. Obama, Schiff, and the Democrats are delusional if they try to disconnect border security from protecting the homeland from terrorism. They strenuously oppose GOP efforts to impose minimum security along the border because it will anger their Hispanic base, but keep insisting that, with bin Laden dead, the threat of a mass casualty attack is greatly lessened.
“Lone wolf” terrorists are not the problem. Groups like Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula who have publicly stated they wish to expand their operations to the US are. We’re not ready for them, nor are we ready for any other terrorist group who is already here and plotting.
President Obama used his weekly radio address on Saturday to encourage Congress to extend jobless benefits to the long term unemployed.
The current extension is set to run out for 1.3 million 3 days after Christmas.
“If Members of Congress don’t act before they leave on their vacations, 1.3 million Americans will lose this lifeline,” he said in the White House weekly address. “They’re our friends and neighbors; they sit next to us in church and volunteer in our communities; their kids play with our kids. And they include 20,000 veterans who’ve served this country with honor,” he continued.
The president’s statement comes as the White House said Friday it wouldn’t insist on including jobless benefits in the emerging budget deal.
“The vehicle that they use to do that is less important than the fact that they do it,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also said Thursday it wouldn’t necessarily have to be inserted into the deal that is expected to be finalized next week.
“Hopefully, it could be part of the budget, but it doesn’t have to be part of the budget,” Pelosi said. “It could be on its own vehicle, as it goes forward, but it’s something we must consider.”
“If Congress refuses to act, it won’t just hurt families already struggling – it will actually harm our economy,” Obama said. “Unemployment insurance is one of the most effective ways there is to boost our economy.”
The president spoke about the inequality gap Wednesday in a major speech from the White House, as he shifts focus from the healthcare law to the economy.
The unemployment rate dropped to seven percent Friday—the lowest in five years.
Pelosi had previously said that there would be no budget deal without an extension, so this is a significant walk back. A group of House Republicans, led by Rep. Chris Gibson, is also backing an extension. They are writing a letter to Speaker Boehner requesting he take the measure up as a separate bill before recess.
The proposal would extend benefits by about 3 1/2 months:
More than a quarter of 4.1 million long-term unemployed people — 718,000 fewer than in November 2012 — will lose their extended unemployment benefits Dec. 28 with 3.6 million more set to see their benefits end at the close of 2014 unless Congress acts — an unlikely prospect given the mood among House Republicans.
Extended benefits were available for an average 53 weeks in 2010 and now are available for 28 weeks. A proposed extension would cut that to 14 weeks.
“We have very little appreciable income coming in. In fact, it’s just my state unemployment,” said Volk, who said she spends 8 hours a day searching for work. She said she has a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and a master’s in immunology — and lost her job in May as a result of the sequester.
Her state benefits run out this week.
The President’s happy face contention that unemployment benefits help the economy notwithstanding, there is a serious crisis in the job market — especially for those over 50 years old, many of whom have been laid off for more than the average 37 weeks. A hearing held last week on the Hill highlighted the plight of these older workers:
“Millions of jobless workers are facing severe hardship, even homelessness in many cases, if Congress allows the EUC program to expire. The value of the emergency benefits program, and the urgent need to maintain it in 2014 — for workers, their families and the economy — was evident in the testimony of … worker witnesses, whose stories clearly struck the hearts and consciences of the House members who were present.
“It’s hard to imagine that anyone hearing today’s witnesses would doubt the sincere desire of the long-term unemployed to get back to work … the crucial importance EUC benefits play in making it possible for them to get by while looking for work, and the urgent need for Congress to act — before the [holiday] recess — to renew this vital program.”
Long-term benefits average $1,166 a month — about 83 percent of what an average family spends on housing alone, NELP said.
It’s a phenomenon unique to this recession; rampant age discrimination. When an employer gets upward of 100 applications for each job opening, most don’t even look at resumes from those over 50. There is a very real possibility that many of these older workers will never find a decent job again. The economy is being hollowed out by the president’s policies, and the effect on those over 50 have been devastating.
But Senator Rand Paul believes we’d be doing these workers a favor by denying them an extension of jobless benefits:
“I do support unemployment benefits for the 26 weeks that they’re paid for. If you extend it beyond that, you do a disservice to these workers,” he said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”
About 1.3 million long-term jobless Americans will lose federal benefits if Congress fails to reauthorize the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which expires at the end of December.
Without congressional action, the most time that people could get would be six months of state unemployment benefits.
“When you allow people to be on unemployment insurance for 99 weeks, you’re causing them to become part of this perpetual unemployed group in our economy,” Paul argued on “Fox News Sunday.”
Paul is repeating the claim that increasing benefits to the unemployed discourages them from looking for work. That possibility has to be weighed against the fact that there are many pockets of unemployment in the country where jobs — even at fast food restaurants — are few and far between. Workers in these areas can’t even find one job, much less the 2 that they would need to live without government assistance.
Will the prospect of losing benefits act as a spur for the unemployed to stop holding out for the perfect job and take what’s available? It’s a compelling argument that, unfortunately, lacks proof. And that still doesn’t help those who live in areas where depression-levels of unemployment still exist.
Most Republicans oppose an extension so it is unlikely to pass. The casualties of the Obama economy continue to mount and would do so even if an extension of benefits was granted by Congress.
Covered California, California’s health exchange, is sharing tens of thousands of names, addresses, and phone numbers with insurance companies despite the consumers not granting their consent for them to do so.
Consumers who visited the site and may have partially registered but not purchased insurance are seeing their personal information given out to companies because Covered California believes it will help people sign up before the December 23 deadline.
In other words, they’re only trying to be helpful.
Raising concerns about consumer privacy, California’s health exchange has given insurance agents the names and contact information for tens of thousands of people who went online to check out coverage but didn’t ask to be contacted.
The Covered California exchange said it started handing out this consumer information this week as part of a pilot program to help people enroll ahead of a Dec. 23 deadline to have health insurance in place by Jan. 1.
State officials said they are only trying to help potential customers find insurance and sign up in time. But some insurance brokers and consumers who were contacted said they were astonished by the state’s move.
“I’m shocked and dumbfounded,” said Sam Smith, an Encino insurance broker and president of the California Assn. of Health Underwriters, an industry group.
Smith said he was under the impression from the exchange that these consumers had requested assistance. He received the names of two consumers this week but has not yet contacted them.
“These people would have a legitimate complaint,” Smith said.
The names provided include people who started an insurance application on the Covered California website since enrollment launched Oct. 1, but for whatever reason never picked a health plan or completed the sign-up process.
The state said it provided information on tens of thousands of people who logged into the state’s website, but it didn’t know the exact number.
The exchange said agents were given names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses if available.
No other information on the application, such as Social Security numbers, income and other personal details, was shared, according to the exchange.
Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, acknowledged that these consumers did not ask to be contacted by the state or its certified insurance agents. But he said the outreach program still complies with privacy laws and it was reviewed by the exchange’s legal counsel.
“I can imagine some people may be upset,” Lee said in an interview Friday. “But I can see a lot of people will be comforted and relieved at getting the help they need to navigate a confusing process.”
This is a drop in the bucket. In fact, it’s a feature, not a bug, of Obamacare that personal, private data of Americans be widely distributed — even delicate, personal health information.
Ellen Wu, executive director of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, said health plans are sitting on a mountain of data. Why not look at who among their customers has diabetes, for example, and target interventions to them, Wu asked.
“The general sense is absolutely we have to treat this data appropriately,” Wu said. “It must be confidential and have the right protections, but it’s also important that it’s shared and analyzed. One is not exclusive of the other.”
And for Californians, it’s only the beginning. This is from the Covered California website:
In contracts with health insurers, the state health insurance exchange requires health plans to work with Covered California “to determine how data can best be collected and used to support improving health equity.”
The exchange seeks to reduce health disparities across:
Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee earlier this year said that the exchange seeks to be “a results-driven organization, including looking at how we are promoting better health and health equity while lowering costs for all Californians.”
Apparently, this goal of sharing our personal medical information to eliminate “disparities” across racial and gender lines is just another part of Obamacare where we had to read it to know what’s in it:
The federal health care law broadly requires government to report on health care disparities.
Covered California structured its contract in a way that the agency says allows it to obtain protected information from insurance companies without violating another federal law governing privacy of health information, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
A previous version of the model contract indicates that the exchange initially was after more information than currently contemplated and on a more frequent basis.
It would have required insurers to submit all claims – covering everything from medical procedures to prescribed drugs – on a quarterly basis to the exchange or a designated recipient. By 2015, it wanted claims broken down by race, ethnicity, gender, primary language, disability status and sexual orientation.
The privacy breach by Covered California is all the more remarkable for their casual reaction to the outraged response. Given this kind of attitude, it appears that our personal, private, health information is in the very best of hands.
The idea that a chimp or whale (or elephant) should be granted the rights of “personhood” lampoons itself. Animals in no way should be recognized as anything except what they are: dumb beasts with few legal rights compared to humans.
But in the last 20 years, science has made epic leaps of knowledge in our quest to unravel the mysteries of the brain. And the surprising discoveries that have been made challenge our notions of what defines a “person” and whether a select group of animals might qualify under that definition.
We’ve known for decades that chimpanzees share 98.7% of their DNA with humans. More recently, we’ve made the startling discovery that chimps and other great apes are “self-aware” — that they have a sense of individualism and an awareness of their existence in time and space.
But does this mean we should grant animals who demonstrate varying degrees of consciousness and self-awareness binding legal rights? This is more than idle speculative chatter, in that many of these animals are used in science and commerce for experimentation and study. If they are self-aware, does that mean they have free will? And if they are determined to have free will, what right do we have to force them into captivity and use them as we see fit?
These are ethical and scientific questions that we’ve only begun to address. And this weekend at Yale, a conference is underway to wrestle with the question of “What is a person?”
A conference on “Personhood Beyond the Human” will be held at Yale University, on December 6-8 of 2013 . The event will focus on personhood for nonhuman animals, including great apes, cetaceans, and elephants, and will explore the evolving notions of personhood by analyzing them through the frameworks of neuroscience, behavioral science, philosophy, ethics, and law.
The conference will be co-sponsored by the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies in collaboration with the Yale Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics, Yale Animal Ethics Group and endorsed by the Nonhuman Rights Project.
Special consideration will be given to discussions of nonhuman animal personhood, both in terms of understanding the history, science, and philosophy behind personhood, and ways to protect animal interests through the establishment of legal precedents and by increasing public awareness.
By the close of the conference, attendees will have gained an enhanced understanding of the neurological, cognitive, and behavioral underpinnings of personhood and those traits required for such consideration; personhood theory; the history of personhood consideration and status (both in terms of philosophical and legal conceptions); and the legal hurdles and requirements for granting personhood status outside of the human species.
The Nonhuman Rights Project will be presenting some research from the past five years including research on the varying legal causes of action that the Nonhuman Rights Project will use to argue legal personhood for specific nonhuman animals.
PJ Media columnist J. Christian Adams appeared on The Kelly File on Fox News on Friday to talk about his recent article detailing how the Department of Homeland Security has recently hired activist immigration attorneys who worked for pro-amnesty, pro-asylum, and open borders groups in the past.
Now, sources inside DHS have provided PJ Media with the employment history and pro-amnesty backgrounds of the newly hired lawyers who will be enforcing federal immigration laws.
The ideological histories of these new DHS lawyers undermine confidence that the federal government will vigorously enforce federal laws, notwithstanding any congressional “mandates” to do so.
These lawyers were hired through unconventional means by former DHS chief counsel for Citizen and Immigration Services Stephen Legomsky. Sources at DHS report that when Legomsky was hired by Secretary Janet Napalitano’s Department, he was not even an active member of any bar association. After resigning in October 2013, Legomsky is now a professor of law at Washington University. His scholarship is most notable for its hostility toward barriers to entry for foreigners coming to the United States.
Here’s the video:
Update: Video now replaced. It’s also online here, if it’s not playable in this post.
An elderly American veteran held more than a month by North Korea and accused of committing “hostile acts” during the Korean war has been “deported.”
Eighty-five year old Merril Newman was released on Saturday following direct contact between the US and North Korean governments. Earlier, Newman had written an “apology” for his actions during the war:
In the note — which was dated November 9 — Newman talked about his having advised the Kuwol Unit, part of the “intelligence bureau” fighting against Pyongyang during the Korean War. He detailed how he commanded troops to collect “information” and wage deadly attacks.
“After I killed so many civilians and (North Korean) soldiers and destroyed strategic objects in the DPRK during the Korean War, I committed indelible offensive acts against the DPRK government and Korean people,” Newman said, according to that KCNA report.
The reported message also touched on his return 60 years later to North Korea, saying that he “shamelessly … had a plan to meet any surviving soldiers and pray for the souls of the dead soldiers.”
His statement ended: “If I go back to (the) USA, I will tell the true features of the DPRK and the life the Korean people are leading.”
Newman had traveled to North Korea as a tourist, and it is still not clear what set off the North Korean government and caused them to seize him.
Before leaving on a plane for San Francisco, Newman gave a statement from the airport in Beijing:
Hours earlier, in the airport in Beijing, video showed him smiling as he walked past a cavalcade of reporters. He felt good, he said, and was looking forward to seeing his wife
“I’m very glad to be on my way home,” Newman said. “And I appreciate the tolerance the DPRK government has given to me to be on my way.”
The communist country “deported” the veteran of the Korean War, North Korea’s state news agency KCNA reported early Saturday. The move coincided with a visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden to South Korea, where he laid a wreath in honor of those who died in the war that pitted North against South.
A senior administration official said that Newman’s release was the result of direct contact between Washington and Pyongyang. The official said the North Koreans had told the Obama administration in a telephone call that they were releasing Newman; no explanation was offered.
There were hopes that Newman’s release might lead to the freeing of American missionary Kenneth Bae, who was sentenced to 15 years in a labor camp, also for “hostile acts,” earlier this fall. The State Department reiterated its demand that the North Koreans pardon and release Bae, who has been in captivity for more than a year.
How bad is the error rate for consumers who have enrolled in Obamacare insurance plans through the HealthCare.gov website?
Bad enough that Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released the information in a Friday afternoon document dump. And bad enough that liberal cheerleaders are claiming a huge success that the error rate has dropped from 25% to less than 10%(!).
First, the story that CMS was trying to hide:
After refusing for weeks to detail the extent of back-end problems with healthcare.gov, the Obama administration on Friday said a technical bug affected approximately 25 percent of enrollments on the federal exchanges in October and November.
Those technical bugs, separate from the troubles consumers had experienced accessing information on the website during the first two months, are posing a significant new problem for those who signed up and are expecting insurance coverage come Jan. 1.
One in four of those applications either did not get transferred to insurers, were transferred in duplicate form, or had major errors in information shared.
Insurers are supposed to receive the 834 Forms from healthcare.gov. The forms, meant to be read by computers, provide insurers with information on enrollees and what plan they have chosen. Without the information, insurers have no way of knowing who has signed up on the Obamacare exchanges and what coverage they need.
Sign Up for the Politics Today newsletter!
A spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Friday suggested that the only way those who enrolled in October and November can be sure they will be covered in January is by paying their insurance bill and contacting their insurer to confirm their standing.
“I would certainly encourage any consumer that has a question of their insurance choice to contact the insurance company of their choice to get additional information,” CMS spokeswoman Julie Bataille told reporters Friday.
Bataille said CMS, along with the outside firm QSSI, is working furiously to fix the back-end problems, and has succeeded in reducing the number of erroneous 834 Form communications to insurers to 10 percent of all applications.
That error rate could still be affecting a significant amount of applications, especially considering that healthcare.gov is operating much more smoothly this week and has seen its traffic spike.
“To be clear, we do not have precise numbers [of those affected] at this time,” she said.
My editor at American Thinker, Tom Lifson, had some choice words about that error rate:
A 25% error rate in processing transactions is completely unacceptable. Hell, a 1% error rate would not be tolerated at any private sector firm, claims of “private sector velocity” to the contrary notwithstanding.
As true as that statement is, Jonathan Cohn at the New Republic thinks he’s found the pony in that pile of manure:
But the 834 problem is fixable and, according to multiple sources in the public and private sectors, it is being fixed. In fact, one administration official tells The New Republic that preliminary estimates, just now becoming available, suggest the error rate has fallen from one in four during October to one in ten now. And most of those are files insurers received with errors, as opposed to files insurers never received. Plenty of work remains—namely, completing repairs that reduce the error rate further and dealing with the flawed data insurers have already received. But the administration is working with insurers and contractors on both issues.
“Dealing with flawed data” is a rather curious way to describe the clusterfark of Obamacare. It makes a 25% error rate seem almost normal — like this kind of incompetence happens in the private sector all the time and it’s of little consequence.
In truth, CMS — and Cohn — haven’t a clue how big the problem truly is. People who think they’ve signed up, but haven’t; people who’ve signed up but whose inaccurate information was sent to the insurer; there may even be people who didn’t sign up but had their info relayed to the insurers anyway. Who knows?
The bottom line: If you signed up for insurance via healthcare.gov in October and November, there’s a 25% chance you are mistaken. And that translates into tens of thousands of angry people.
By all reports, it was an impossibly beautiful morning in Honolulu when, at 7:48 AM, waves of Japanese fighters, bombers, and torpedo planes appeared over the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor and unleashed a devastating attack.
“Air raid Pearl Harbor. This is not a drill,” read the message to all commands. Despite the fact that knowledgeable people knew that war with Japan was inevitable, the attack came as a complete surprise, catching the U.S. fleet with its battleships lined up in a row, making them easy targets for Japanese torpedo planes and bombers.
Eight battleships were put out of commission that day, with two — the Arizona and the Oklahoma – damaged beyond repair. Ten other ships were also heavily damaged. More than 2,400 Americans were killed.
President Roosevelt, fearing a full blown panic if the full-truth of our losses were known, hid the ghastly news from the American people. Eventually, a commission set up to examine the attack released its findings in 1943 and the full story of what occurred that day was revealed.
It’s 72 years later and the living survivors of that attack are rapidly dwindling in number. They can never forget December 7, 1941 — but why do we?
Former Louisiana state Sen. Jackson B. Davis, now 95, who was a Navy officer assigned to intelligence duties, says he has not been asked to talk to any groups this year. “That is unusual. I usually do.”
“It’s the same old story,” Davis said, illustrating his point by taking it to an extreme. “We don’t hear much about Gettysburg anymore, or Bunker Hill. Or when the Normans took over England – we don’t hear much about that.”
Davis is one of only three known Pearl Harbor survivors still alive in Shreveport-Bossier City.
“There’s not many of us left to think about it,” Davis said.
In 1991, at least two dozen local Pearl Harbor survivors received commemorative medallions belatedly authorized by Congress for the 50th anniversary of the attack. The delay was largely because of a general feeling that defeats are not celebrated, no matter how great their historic importance.
So why is this important U.S. military event of the 20th century fading in the popular memory? It could be that 2013 marks an irregular anniversary, 72 years. That doesn’t convey the same urgency as a 50th or 75th anniversary. More likely, observers say, the culprit is time.
“In the 1920s, there were still reunions of Confederate veterans. But in the 1930s, there were very few of them left,” Shreveport historian Gary Joiner said. “In fact, the last reunion was held here. People remember that because these were the guys who experienced it.” When the last of these men died in the 1950s, there was a great resurgence of interest in that conflict, “and then it came too late.”
Joiner sees a parallel with World War II veterans, especially Pearl Harbor survivors, veterans of the oldest and most significant part of U.S. involvement. “With World War II, we’re losing so many veterans every day that we are seeing the same type of thing. It’s almost a natural progression, from current events to memory to history.”
As with the Civil War veterans, the work of preserving and processing the story of the Pearl Harbor veterans will shift to others.
“Now it’s going to be the place of the professional historians and good amateur historians to come in and do for World War II veterans what was done in the late 1950s and since to the Civil War,” Joiner said. The parades may stop, but the assessment will continue.”
We are losing 2,000 World War II veterans every day. But even when the last survivor passes over, the story will not end, nor will the memories of those who served be lost. They will be kept alive by us, their descendants — a labor of love and respect for those who sacrificed in ways that seem to us remarkable.
Just what we need — a nice healthy debate that will be rather one-sided because liberals are already calling anyone who agrees with an RNC tweet commemorating the arrest of Rosa Parks 58 years ago a racist.
In truth, the tweet is inelegant:
Today we remember Rosa Parks’ bold stand and her role in ending racism. pic.twitter.com/uxIj1QmtkU
— RNC (@GOP) December 1, 2013
Recognizing the inadequacy, the RNC followed up with another tweet:
Previous tweet should have read “Today we remember Rosa Parks’ bold stand and her role in fighting to end racism.”
— RNC (@GOP) December 1, 2013
Think Progress (“When You Think Progress, Think Idiocy”) was very helpful in telling us that racism is not over, and that it has actually increased since Barack Obama became president:
Racism, of course, hasn’t ended and may have actually increased since the election of President Obama in 2008.
Some research contends that “racism cost the president more than five million votes in 2008 and 2012″ and a 2012 survey from the Associated Press found that “51 percent of Americans explicitly express anti-black prejudice, up from 48 percent in 2008.” The survey concluded that 79 percent of Republicans are likely to express outright racial prejudice, compared to 32 percent of Democrats.
Following the re-election of Obama in 2012, Colin Powell publicly condemned the GOP’s “dark vein of intolerance” and the party’s repeated use of racial code words to oppose the president and rally white conservative voters. Without mentioning names, Powell singled out former Mitt Romney surrogate and New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu for calling Obama “lazy” and Sarah Palin, who, Powell charged, used slavery-era terms to describe Obama.
This is why the right loses this argument before it even starts. When calling someone “lazy” becomes a term of racial intolerance, what’s the use of debating? And which “slavery era terms” did Palin use? Are those terms still in wide use today?
A little specificity, please, before you smear a public figure as a bigot.
Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota just happens to be a Muslim. He also happens to be a certified, looney tunes, 100% Obama apologist.
Sheesh — even the New York Times wasn’t as forgiving of Mr. Obama’s tall tales about the American people being able to keep their insurance if they wanted.
Does Ellison really expect anyone to believe this?
Rep. Keith Ellison (D., Minn.) did his best to spin President Obama’s debunked promise about Americans keeping their health care plans if they liked them Sunday on This Week, saying Obama showed “integrity” in apologizing to Americans who “misunderstood” him about the Affordable Care Act.
Obama made some version of the promise publicly at least 36 times while campaigning for Obamacare and then after it was passed. With millions of cancellation policies being sent around the country and public support for the law crumbling, Obama apologized last month in an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd.
“He owned it,” Ellison said. “He said, look man, if you misunderstood what I was trying to say, I’m sorry about that. I think that shows integrity. He didn’t do anything to self-promote.”
Ellison also misquoted the president as saying, “If you like your decent insurance that works, you can keep it.” Obama never said that.
Rep. Tom Cole (R., Okla.) chuckled at Ellison’s remarks before saying that Republicans had seen the cancellations coming since 2009, and documents showed the administration knew that tens of millions of people would lose their insurance as well as early as 2010.
The actual quote is even more alarming. Shouldn’t someone who believes this be committed?
KEITH ELLISON: You know, I just want to say that I think that the everything the president said and did was in pursuit of trying to get all Americans health care, so I think even though he may have said, if you like your decent insurance, your insurance that works, then you can keep it, I think that people really get that. He owned it. He said, look man, if you misunderstood what I was trying to say, I’m sorry about that. I think that shows integrity. He didn’t do anything to self-promote. What he was doing, he was trying to do to help Americans all over this country for decades –
“Get Americans health care?” By law, no one can be denied health care in America if they need it even if they can’t afford it. That trope — along with the notion of “decent insurance” — has been used up already. Most of the cancelled policies were perfectly suitable. The deductible certainly wasn’t any higher than the deductibles forced on people by the Obamacare plans. And, of course, they didn’t have mandated coverages for things the consumer didn’t want.
Pushing Ellison forward as a spokesman for the party was a mistake by Democrats. The guy is too dumb to be a Congressman and now everyone knows it.
Retailers, desperate to find ways to bring more people into their stores, tried the gimmick of opening on Thanksgiving night to give shoppers a head start on Black Friday. It was a dubious tactic that brought much criticism from both left and right for disturbing a truly family holiday while asking employees to abandon their families for a few hours in order to work.
Well, the gambit worked — sort of. Sales climbed a very modest 2.3%. But whether Black Friday actually blackened their bottom line is another story.
Retailers offered more and steeper deals on merchandise from flat-screen televisions to crockpots that, while luring shoppers, may ultimately hurt fourth-quarter earnings. Many consumers showed up prepared to zero in on their favored items while shunning the impulse buys that help retailers’ profits.
“You could get the same deals online as you could get in the store, and yet there were still a ton of people out there,” Charles O’Shea, a senior analyst at Moody’s Investors Service in New York, said in an interview. Going out to stores, “is part of the experience,” he said.
About 97 million people planned to shop online or in stores on Friday, with about 140 million intending to do so Thanksgiving through Sunday, the National Retail Federation said. That’s down from 147 million last year.
With more stores opening on Thanksgiving, sales were pulled forward from Friday, Bill Martin, ShopperTrak’s founder, said in a telephone interview. Sales on Friday fell 13.2 percent from last year, with foot traffic down 11.4 percent. Foot traffic for the combined Thanksgiving-Black Friday period rose 2.8 percent to more than 1.07 billion store visits, ShopperTrak said.
“The consumers really responded to Thursday’s openings, actually more than anybody anticipated,” Martin said.
Jennifer Doval had an easier time getting to the stores for her Black Friday shopping this year at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.
“It’s just quiet — I don’t know if it’s because it was open yesterday,” Doval, a 42-year-old stay-at-home mother from nearby Edina, said on Friday while shopping for clothes for her 12-year-old daughter and gifts for her parents. She arrived at 7 a.m. and was “shocked how empty the parking ramps were.’
The continued rise of e-commerce also may have kept some shoppers at home. Online sales rose 20 percent from last year on Thanksgiving and 19 percent on Black Friday, IBM Corp. said. Target Corp. (TGT) said it had twice as many online orders early on Thanksgiving morning as a year ago. Amazon.com Inc. lured shoppers by offering discounts as often as every 10 minutes during the holiday week.
My intrepid shopping reporter — my better half — went shopping in the middle of the night on Thanksgiving. She reported modest crowds and absolutely marvelous deals — 40-50% off quality stuff. The American shopper now expects these huge savings and has become smart enough to avoid the impulse buying that retailers count on and cherry pick the bargains.
The family is shopping with a plan, and she prepared by looking at retailers’ websites last week.
“You’ve got to know specifically what you want to buy,” said Suazo, who already had two Barbie dolls in her cart marked down to $8 from $20.
While traffic at the Mall of America was higher than last year, shoppers planned ahead of time where they were going and what they were buying, said Maureen Bausch, the mall’s executive vice president.
There was “a lot of mission shopping, and you don’t normally see that until later in the season,” she said.
That’s bad news for retailers, who normally get about 20 percent of their holiday sales from impulse purchases, said Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst for NPD Group Inc.
With online shopping growing by leaps and bounds every year, cyber-retailers are figuring out how to drive traffic to their sites — pretty much the same way brick and mortar stores do it. Free shipping is a big draw and some of the discounts are incredible. I saw a 32″ LED HD TV for $229.
Some municipalities may ban Thanksgiving shopping next year. But that will only disadvantage businesses in their area. The only problem is that now, we have to come up with a clever name for the shopping day before Black Friday.
I believe nothing coming from the the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) about the website. That’s because whatever claims they make will be next to impossible to prove for outsiders.
And those claims are pretty impressive.
“Dramatic progress has been made,” the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) stated in a report released Sunday morning. “[But] there is more work to be done to continue to improve and enhance the website.”
The mixed message highlights the challenge facing the Obama administration as it seeks to ensure that millions can sign up for individual health plans online by the end of March.
HealthCare.gov debuted with serious technical problems on Oct. 1, plunging President Obama into a political firestorm that engulfed the White House for two months.
The question now is whether the system can handle the high volume of user traffic expected in December. Consumers must complete the sign-up process by Dec. 23 in order to obtain plans that begin Jan. 1.
Administration officials also acknowledge that some problems with HealthCare.gov have yet to be fixed. The severity of these issues is unknown, but it is possible that some errors have not yet been discovered.
In its report, CMS touted metrics indicating its progress in shoring up the site. Many of data points had been previously released or alluded to by federal health officials, such as faster page load times and fewer error messages.
According to the document, HealthCare.gov’s repair team has made more than 400 technical fixes to the site since Oct. 1 and has restored the site’s capacity to the originally intended level of 50,000 concurrent users.
Both hardware and software upgrades have made the system much more stable, CMS said, such as improvements to the network and the registration database.
The report contained some technical language but few details about individual bugs that have been addressed. CMS noted that the system is now available above 90 percent of the time, a sign that some users at some times will still be unable to access the system.
The agency’s progress should help tamp down some of the criticism surrounding HealthCare.gov botched rollout, provided the site remains fairly stable in the coming weeks.
Republicans are preparing to use any signs of failure, or anecdotes about user difficulty, to argue that the administration was unprepared to launch the Affordable Care Act’s signature enrollment system
I doubt whether they’ve seen anything close to 50,000 people trying to use the site at the same time so their claim that it’s loading “90% of the time” is hogwash.
But some tech experts said that metric was misleading, given that any claim below a 100% success rate could not be verified.
“It prevents anyone from the outside from contradicting them,” said Jonathan Wu, co-founder of the consumer financial website ValuePenguin.
He told Reuters only those working on the website know whether the 90% figure is accurate.
The only truth to be found in this mess will be seen in the number of people who complete the entire enrollment process — including registration, choosing a plan, getting a subsidy, and, finally, paying their premium. Clearly, HealthCare.gov is incapable of performing all those tasks at present. And the fact that the administration is settling for less is significant. The constant moving of goalposts means that fewer people will make it all the way to the finish line, throwing a wrench into Obamacare’s works.
Considering where they started on October 1, the improvement has been dramatic. But that isn’t saying much at all. To go from not working at all to sometimes working to usually working isn’t good enough. Nobody is going to sit in front of a monitor for an hour or more, dealing with a balky website and hoping against hope that their personal information isn’t being stolen by some crooked Obamacare navigator or hacker.
Eventually, the site will work adequately. That’s what happens when you have unlimited funds and time to get it right. But it remains to be seen if the American people will embrace the exchanges and purchase insurance in numbers that will save Obamacare.
Illinois has the absolute worst funded state pension system in the country — a shortfall of at least $200 billion according to Illinois Opportunity.org, but is “officially” pegged at $100 billion.
It got so bad that from 2005-2009, the state felt compelled to lie to municipal bond brokers about the severity of the shortfall. The SEC socked the state with a fraud charge which they were allowed to settle without admitting guilt or paying a fine.
Eventually, all the lying, the accounting tricks, and the excuses couldn’t hide the crisis and two years ago, Illinois lawmakers resolved to reform the system and put it back on firm financial footing.
They thought they had a deal earlier this year, but the state Senate shot down a measure that public employee unions fiercely opposed.
Now, lawmakers reached an accord earlier this week that most analysts say falls far short of reform and won’t solve the basic problem of how public pensions are defined.
Under the plan being debated in Illinois, the state would be required to make additional payments into the pension system until it is fully funded, no later than the end of 2044. Workers who are 45 or younger would need to retire later — working as much as five years longer, depending on their age. And cost-of-living increases would apply only toward a portion of a person’s pension in many cases, under a formula based on how long they held their job.
While top legislative leaders of both parties here say they are working to win enough votes to pass an overhaul many fiscal experts call necessary, if painful, labor leaders denounced the plan as “catastrophic,” and written behind closed doors without public comment. They said they intended to lobby lawmakers against it at every opportunity before a vote during a special session scheduled for Tuesday.
“This is a grotesque taking of employees’ retirement security that seems both patently illegal and unfair,” said Daniel J. Montgomery, the president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers. “It’s a sharp jab in the eye — and the heart — of public employees. There’s a lot of anger out there.”
For years, the state has wrestled with an overwhelming pension problem. The system is underfunded by $100 billion, helping to make Illinois the state with the worst credit rating in the nation. That has meant, according to a recent report, that about 20 cents of every taxpayer dollar must be dedicated to pensions, money that could go to other state needs.
Still, answers have been hard to come by. Democratic leaders in the legislature have long disagreed about how to solve the problem without infuriating labor unions and how to navigate the Illinois Constitution, which prohibits pension benefits from being “diminished or impaired.”
Ted Dabrowsky of the Illinois Policy Institute has a few reasons why the plan won’t work:
At best, Madigan’s bill reduces the state’s unfunded liability to 2011 levels – levels that had already thrown Illinois into crisis and that Democrat leadership used as justification for its 2011 tax hike. That’s hardly reform, and the remaining $80 billion pension shortfall will continue to cripple Illinois going forward.
The bill doesn’t means-test COLAs. Reforming cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, is the single-largest lever for bringing down the state’s $100 billion unfunded liability. A full suspension of COLAs until the pension systems are healthy again can cut Illinois’ pension shortfall by nearly a third.
But Madigan’s bill continues to provide an automatic 3 percent COLA to all retirees, regardless of need. His bill bases COLAs on the number of years worked by a retiree, multiplied by a $1,000. A retiree who worked 25 years, for example, will receive a COLA on $25,000.
That means COLAs will continue to be paid to tens of thousands of retirees with five-figure and six-figure yearly pensions, some as high as $500,000. That’s hardly fair to a 29-year-old teacher who sees little chance of receiving a pension check in the future.
The bill continues to allow state workers to retire in their late 50s with full benefits. Madigan’s bill increases the retirement age for workers who are younger than 45. For each year a worker is younger than 45, his retirement age increases by four months. No information as to the maximum age of retirement has been released.
But Madigan’s bill still allows today’s 40-year-old state workers to retire in their late 50s with full benefits. That means private sector workers, still stung by a weak job market, declining earnings and low home values, will have to work longer to support state retirees who retire early.
Illinois needs to adopt a plan like the one adopted by Rhode Island, which moves workers to the retirement age required by Social Security. Their plan protects those workers near retirement, yet aligns public sector retirements with those in the private sector
The bill reduces state worker contributions, putting an even larger burden on taxpayers. The previous version of the Cross/Madigan bill required workers to increase their contributions by 2 percent of their pay. Even the recent Chicago Park District pension bill increased worker contributions by 2 percent. This version of the bill, however, cuts worker contributions by 1 percent of their pay. That’s a 3 percent swing in the wrong direction.
Pension contributions are already way out of sync with benefit payouts. This will only make the situation worse and increase the burden on taxpayers.
The fundamental problem is that Illinois and most other states continue to utilize a defined benefit plan rather than a defined contribution plan that most private sector companies use. A defined benefit plan puts the taxpayers on the hook for any shortfalls, as Illinois residents are going to find out eventually.
The problem has spiraled out of control in Illinois and Democrats are reluctantly coming to the conclusion that they are going to have to ignore the unions and do what’s best for the state. While inadequate, if this is the best that the politicians can do, it should certainly be passed with the hope that future lawmakers will be able to put more than a band aid on a gaping wound.
An elderly tourist, held more than a month by North Korea, has issued an “apology” for committing “hostile acts’ against the Korean people.
A statement, purportedly from Merrill Newman, an 85 year old Korean War veteran from Palo Alto, CA, detailed Newman’s supposed “crimes” he committed during the Korean War.
“After I killed so many civilians and (North Korean) soldiers and destroyed strategic objects in the DPRK during the Korean War, I committed indelible offensive acts against the DPRK government and Korean people,” Newman said, according to the “apology” reported by KCNA.
His statement ends: “If I go back to (the) USA, I will tell the true features of the DPRK and the life the Korean people are leading.”
This story claimed that Newman tried to “look for spies and terrorists who conducted espionage and subversive activities against the DPRK.” Investigators determined that, as a member of the U.S. military, he “masterminded espionage and subversive activities … and, in this course, he was involved in the killings of service personnel of the Korean People’s Army and innocent civilians.”
“The investigation clearly proved Newman’s hostile acts against the DPRK, and they were backed by evidence,” the KCNA story added. “He admitted all his crimes and made an apology for them.”
Until now, Pyongyang had not explained why it was holding Newman.
There was no apparent immediate response from the U.S. government to the reported apology or the accompanying North Korean official news report.
Washington does not have diplomatic relations with Pyongyang, and it has been working through Sweden — the U.S. protecting power in North Korea — to obtain information about the American.
The retired financial consultant was last seen aboard a flight from Pyongyang to Beijing. Just minutes before the plane was to depart, he was removed from the flight by North Korean authorities.
According to his family, he had been on a 10-day organized private tour of North Korea. From phone calls and postcards he sent, the trip was going well and there was no indication of any kind of problem, his son said.
It’s a shame we’ve become so civilized. Treating Kim Jong Un like a Barbary pirate who snatched an American citizen on the high seas would certainly have its emotional benefits.
But that’s what Dear Leader has done. He has acted like a pirate and the international community should treat him as such. Instead, he will use poor Mr. Newman as a bargaining chip to extort more food from the US to feed his starving population.
China doesn’t seem very interested in reining in Kim and his odorous regime. One wonders what Beijing would do if Kim kidnapped a Chinese national. Somehow, I don’t think the prospect of a reward for bad behavior would be forthcoming. More likely, a cut off of Chinese aid and some typically inscrutable — but menacing — warnings would be issued and the Chinese citizens would be returned with some alacrity.
Let’s hope that Mr. Newman is released in time to celebrate Christmas with his family.
The Chinese military announced that they had scrambled fighter jets in their recently declared “air defense zone” over some disputed islands in the East China Sea in order to follow some US planes flying into the zone. The action comes on the heels of a US training mission that saw 2 B-52′s fly through the zone, ignoring China’s requirement that all planes flying through the area must file a flight plan with the military.
The US and Japan do not recognize the air defense zone as legitimate.
The ministry of defence announced the move, which is the first time China is known to have sent military aircraft into the zone alongside foreign flights, stepping up its response to the challenge after its unilateral establishment of the zone. It previously said it had monitored US, Japanese and South Korean aircraft and had flown routine patrols in the area on Thursday.
The ministry’s statement said two US reconnaissance aircraft and 10 Japanese early warning, reconnaissance and fighter planes had entered the zone.
The airforce “monitored throughout the entire flights, made timely identification and ascertained the types”, defence ministry spokesman Shen Jinke told the official China News Service.
The Pentagon has yet to respond to the statement. Japanese officials declined to confirm details of any flights, saying that routine missions were continuing.
Late on Friday the US state department advised American commercial airlines to notify Chinese authorities of flight plans over the East China Sea. But a US administration official said that did not mean Washington accepted Beijing’s jurisdiction, the Reuters news agency reported.
“The US government generally expects that US carriers operating internationally will operate consistent with Notams [Notices to Airmen] issued by foreign countries,” the state department said in a statement.
“Our expectation of operations by US carriers consistent with Notams does not indicate US government acceptance of China’s requirements.”
The developments came as South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said officials were discussing how to expand its own air zone.
In Taiwan, legislators issued an unusual joint statement chiding Ma Ying-jeou’s government for its tempered response to China’s announcement of the zone and urging it to lodge a tough protest with Beijing. The government later said it would convey its “stern position”.
Earlier the European Union’s foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton expressed its concern that the zone had contributed to tensions in the region, saying that the EU called on all sides to exercise caution and restraint.
What is China’s gambit? They’ve spent a lot of money over the last 10 years on their military — especially their navy. It could be they are flexing their muscle a bit while testing US resolve in the region.
This is certainly a more aggressive move by China than we’ve seen previously. While almost certainly not trying to start a war, it reflects the notion that China is an economic super power and that perhaps they should start acting like one militarily as well.
As I’m sure you know, today is the day that all America has been waiting for: the day that the Obamacare website — HealthCare.gov — is supposed to work for the “vast majority” of users.
How’s that coming, guys?
A crucial weekend for the troubled website that is the backbone of President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul appears to be off to a shaky start, as the U.S. government took the HealthCare.gov site offline for an unusually long maintenance period into Saturday morning.
Just hours before the Obama administration’s self-imposed deadline to get the insurance shopping website working for the “vast majority” of its users by Saturday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it was taking down the website for an 11-hour period that would end at 8 a.m. EST on Saturday.
It was unclear whether the extended shutdown of the website – about seven hours longer than on typical day – represented a major setback to the Obama administration’s high-stakes scramble to fix the portal that it hopes eventually will enroll about 7 million uninsured and under-insured Americans under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
At the very least, the shutdown suggested that nine weeks after the website’s disastrous launch on October 1 prevented most applicants from enrolling in coverage and ignited one of the biggest crises of Obama’s administration, U.S. officials are nervous over whether Americans will see enough progress in the website to be satisfied.
For the administration and its Democratic allies, the stakes are enormous.
How’s this for supreme irony? The White House is eager to get people signed up for Obamacare through the website — but not that eager. They are actually urging people not to visit the site today so that it doesn’t crash due to the crush of users.
It’s fascinating to see how the administration has moved the goalposts on progress for the site:
Officials, over the past few weeks, have steadily lowered expectations for that Nov. 30 deadline. First, they said it would be fixed. Then they said it would be significantly improved. On Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the site is “on track” to give a “significantly different user experience” by this weekend.
The comments reflect concern that traffic could once again overwhelm the site, despite improvements made since the Oct. 1 launch.
Does it sound like the administration is going to achieve its goals?
According to Jeff Zients, a former administration official brought in to lead efforts to fix the website, success would mean that 800,000 people can successfully visit HealthCare.gov each day, with up to 50,000 of them online at the same time.
He told reporters at a White House briefing on Tuesday that teams working 24/7 still were making improvements intended to boost capacity to handle an expected surge in visitors with the end of November deadline.
“What we are comfortable with is that the 800,000 consumer visits a day will handle the demand across the coming months,” Zients said.
It better. Republicans already are declaring the website and the sweeping health law a failure.
While the website exposed a serious flaw in executing the program and was a political embarrassment, Obama’s poll numbers have slid sharply over individual policy cancellations that disproved his repeated refrain when selling the program publicly that people could keep their coverage if they preferred.
Very little in the news today. That’s because everyone was busy staying out of trouble yesterday.
The big news appears to be that Americans can get quite cranky on Black Friday, jostling, growling, and even shooting their neighbor while standing in line to get those great deals.
Solution: Shop online, idiots.
But there is one story in the news guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. Down the road a piece from where I live is Washington, IL — a sleepy little dot on the map that, until 9 days ago, nobody ever heard of.
Then a tornado roared through the area and leveled most of the town. Most of the people lost everything. And for one National Guardsman, the storm took his beloved 6 month old Pit Bull puppy Dexter.
Jacob Montgomery was working his civilian job when the storm hit on November 17. His third floor apartment disappeared along with, he thought, his puppy Dexter. Jacob was called to duty to help with the aftermath of the storm and went off to help his fellow central Illinoisans, but still managed to stop by the ruins of his home every day, calling for Dexter.
Then, a miracle:
“Apparently he [Dexter] waited in the apartment for nine days,” Montgomery said in a telephone interview Thursday. “I don’t know how or why he did that, but he just did.”
A member of Rescuing Animals in Need of Central Illinois Inc. was looking for Dexter and other animals that vanished after the tornado and “saw his ears sticking up” from the rubble of the apartment building’s top floor, said Randy Wheat, the president of the group based in Downstate Danvers.
The volunteer who spotted the dog called for the building’s maintenance worker, who brought a ladder to reach Dexter, Wheat said. The building’s roof and walls were blown off, he said. Dexter was found near the spot on the apartment’s floor where the kitchen sink had ended up after the tornado.
The dog “was emaciated,” Wheat said. “You could see his ribs. That said, he checked out OK. He had nothing to eat and drink except snow.”
Wheat said Montgomery had stood outside the ruined apartment building calling out Dexter’s name every day since the tornado.
A neighbor sent a Facebook message, “I’ve got your dog right here,” to Montgomery, according to a news release from the Illinois Army National Guard.
“It was a feeling of crazy relief,” Montgomery said. “I did not give up. I just had a feeling.”
A remarkable story. An indication of how nothing much bad is happening in the world is when the two main stories of the day include Zombie Shoppers from Hell and a persevering Pit Bull.
The analysts at CNN attribute a 7 point jump from their last poll in Governor Chris Christie’s support to all the publicity surrounding his landslide win earlier this month.
That’s logical, although three years out you might expect a beauty contest. What’s interesting is that Christie’s margin came at the expense of support for Rep. Paul Ryan:
Twenty-four percent of Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP questioned in the survey say they’d be likely to support Christie for the Republican nomination, up seven percentage points from a CNN poll in early September. Back then, Christie and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the House Budget chairman and the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, were virtually tied at the top of the GOP list, with Christie at 17% and Ryan at 16%.
But Ryan, who’s stayed mostly away from the political spotlight the past few months, has dropped to 11%, putting him in third place, slightly behind Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, at 13%. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who like Paul has made multiple trips this year to the states that kick off the presidential primary and caucus calendar, like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, stands at 10% in the survey, the only other Republican White House hopeful to get double-digit support.
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is at 9% in the poll, with longtime Texas Gov. and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry at 7%, and former two-term Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who battled eventual GOP nominee Mitt Romney deep into last year’s primaries and caucuses, each at 6%.
The poll suggests a wide divide over income among Republican voters.
“Among Republicans making more than $50,000, Christie wins 32% support, 20 points higher than Cruz, Ryan, or Marco Rubio, all of whom get 12% among higher-income GOPers, and 23 points higher than Paul,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “But among Republicans who make less than $50,000 a year, Christie’s support drops 19 points, only good enough for second place behind Paul.”
On the Democratic side, Hillary is the choice of 63% of party members. But what if she doesn’t run?
If that’s the case, the poll suggests that 43% of Democrats would support the Vice President, with Warren at 17%, Cuomo at 15% and O’Malley at 6%.
Warren’s popularity is pretty much with the internet left. She has little name recognition outside of Massachusetts. That may change, but it’s not likely she could challenge Clinton, who is going to have more money and a bigger organization than she had in 2008.
The Jerusalem Post is reporting that the British are acting as a mediator in talks between the United States and the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah.
The US and Hezbollah are in secret indirect talks managed by London dealing with the fight against Al-Qaida, regional stability and other Lebanese political issues.
Senior British diplomatic sources, quoted in a report in Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai on Wednesday, said British diplomats are holding discussions with leaders of the Lebanese organization and transferring the information to the Americans.
The discussions “are aimed at keeping tabs on the changes in the region and the world, and prepare for the upcoming return of Iran to the international community,” according to diplomatic sources in Washington.
Because the US, unlike the UK, recognizes both the political and military wings of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and refuses to distinguish between them, US officials cannot legally meet with any member of the party. But according to the sources, the US is willing to hear the views of the party and “warm up to a direct relationship in the future.”
Al-Rai noted that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke to British Prime Minister David Cameron last week, and placed the talks with Iranian-backed Hezbollah in the context of the ongoing negotiations between the West and Tehran, which show Washington’s willingness for diplomacy with the Islamic Republic.
A grain of salt must be taken with this story, considering it originated in a Kuwaiti newspaper. But Hezbollah’s siding with President Assad in the Syrian civil war has made the terrorist group into a regional actor of some importance and it would seem logical for the US to recognize that.
I wonder how “warm” the Obama administration would feel toward Hezbollah if one of their cells — believed to be active in the US — were to carry out a terrorist attack on Americans?
In the article’s tease, mention is made of discussing “Lebanese political issues.” What’s there to discuss? Hezbollah and their allies lost an election and used their military power to effect a change in government. The feeble democrats of the Future Party utterly failed to challenge Hezbollah while they held power, fearing a civil war. Now, with Hezbollah’s support of Assad, al-Qaeda has been attacking targets inside Lebanon. This has ratcheted up tensions among Sunni/Shia/Christian factions and may give them the same result.
Recognizing the reality of Hezbollah’s growing influence is one thing. But seeking a “direct relationship in the future” with terrorists should only be undertaken with great caution — something this administration has yet to demonstrate.
Robert Jensen, a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin, has made a career out of writing anti-Thanksgiving diatribes. And today, in Salon, he continues his own holiday tradition by bashing Americans for being “hypocrites” and authors of an Indian “holocaust.”
“Thanksgiving is for sociopaths,” he writes. In this case, I would offer the opinion that it takes one to know one.
In other words: Don’t many of us feel just a bit uncomfortable with a holiday that is defined by obligatory family gatherings that often cover up unresolved strife and/or apathy; thoughtless overeating simply because so much food is available; spectacle sports that have become painfully close to Roman gladiator contests; and relentless consumption that often involves buying stuff that many people don’t really want and no one really needs? Of course not everyone in the United States has access to all these markers of affluence, but these Thanksgiving Day routines are more the norm than aberration.
These reflections are not confined to one day; we live in this corrosive culture 365 days a year. For me, much of what is considered “normal” in the United States isn’t very appealing. I think we eat too much cheap food, are spectators to too much cheap entertainment, and buy too much stuff (some of it cheap and some expensive, but all costly to the larger living world). And many people struggle with family dynamics that are stuck in unresolved pathologies which quietly coerce people into ignoring problems for the sake of family “harmony.”
I have long felt that at the heart of Thanksgiving is a denial of reality and an exercise in numbing ourselves, individually and as a culture. I am not claiming that everyone’s celebration of Thanksgiving is defined by these negatives; individual experiences vary widely, of course. But the alienation I’m describing is not hard to understand, and not limited to a few surly people on the margins.
And whatever one’s personal relationship to the holiday, the political question remains: Why is it “normal” in the United States to celebrate a holiday that is based on a profound distortion of history? That kind of inquiry should lead us to related questions.
Why is it “normal” to embrace the hierarchy and wealth inequality of corporate capitalism, even though most of us claim to hold moral and/or theological principles that are rooted in the centrality of human dignity, equality, and solidarity? How compatible is capitalism with the values that are essential to a decent human community?
Why is it “normal” to assert that we are the world’s most advanced democracy, without acknowledging that the concentration of wealth in the U.S. economy has left most of the population outside of the formal political process? Are capitalism and democracy compatible?
Why is it “normal” to express concern about environmental issues without ever questioning an economic system that is obsessed with the very growth that is undermining the integrity of the ecosystems on which are own lives depend? Is capitalism compatible with a sustainable human presence on the planet?
Using Thanksgiving to criticize capitalism isn’t unique but it is revealing of just how warped Mr. Jensen’s worldview has become. His hatred of Thanksgiving is grounded in his belief in the native American “holocaust” perpetrated by the European “invasion” of America.
He wrote in 2006:
One indication of moral progress in the United States would be the replacement of Thanksgiving Day and its self-indulgent family feasting with a National Day of Atonement accompanied by a self-reflective collective fasting.
In fact, indigenous people have offered such a model; since 1970 they have marked the fourth Thursday of November as a Day of Mourning in a spiritual/political ceremony on Coles Hill overlooking Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts, one of the early sites of the European invasion of the Americas.
Not only is the thought of such a change in this white-supremacist holiday impossible to imagine, but the very mention of the idea sends most Americans into apoplectic fits — which speaks volumes about our historical hypocrisy and its relation to the contemporary politics of empire in the United States.
That the world’s great powers achieved “greatness” through criminal brutality on a grand scale is not news, of course. That those same societies are reluctant to highlight this history of barbarism also is predictable.
But in the United States, this reluctance to acknowledge our original sin — the genocide of indigenous people — is of special importance today. It’s now routine — even among conservative commentators — to describe the United States as an empire, so long as everyone understands we are an inherently benevolent one. Because all our history contradicts that claim, history must be twisted and tortured to serve the purposes of the powerful.
Simply put: Thanksgiving is the day when the dominant white culture (and, sadly, most of the rest of the non-white but non-indigenous population) celebrates the beginning of a genocide that was, in fact, blessed by the men we hold up as our heroic founding fathers.
How sure are you that the Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving in America? Was the first Thanksgiving really about family? About religion? Did the Pilgrims eat turkey?
Hopefully, this fun piece by Rick Shenkman, the editor of History News Network, will enlighten as well as entertain.
Texans claim the first Thanksgiving in America actually took place in little San Elizario, a community near El Paso, in 1598 — twenty-three years before the Pilgrims’ festival. For several years they have staged a reenactment of the event that culminated in the Thanksgiving celebration: the arrival of Spanish explorer Juan de Onate on the banks of the Rio Grande. De Onate is said to have held a big Thanksgiving festival after leading hundreds of settlers on a grueling 350-mile long trek across the Mexican desert.
If by Thanksgiving, you have in mind the Pilgrim festival, forget about it being a family holiday. Put away your Norman Rockwell paintings. Turn off Bing Crosby. Thanksgiving was a multicultural community event. If it had been about family, the Pilgrims never would have invited the Indians to join them.
What did the Pilgrims eat at their Thanksgiving festival? They didn’t have corn on the cob, apples, pears, potatoes or even cranberries. No one knows if they had turkey, although they were used to eating turkey. The only food we know they had for sure was deer. 11(And they didn’t eat with a fork; they didn’t have forks back then.)
So how did we get the idea that you have turkey and cranberry and such on Thanksgiving? It was because the Victorians prepared Thanksgiving that way. And they’re the ones who made Thanksgiving a national holiday, beginning in 1863, when Abe Lincoln issued his presidential Thanksgiving proclamations…two of them: one to celebrate Thanksgiving in August, a second one in November.
Puritans Hated Sex
Actually, they welcomed sex as a God-given responsibility. When one member of the First Church of Boston refused to have conjugal relations with his wife two years running, he was expelled. Cotton Mather, the celebrated Puritan minister, condemned a married couple who had abstained from sex in order to achieve a higher spirituality. They were the victims, he wrote, of a”blind zeal.”
I’m glad for that. Nice to know early Americans had their priorities straight.
The value of myth debunking — although this is more tongue in cheek than serious scholarship — is that it usually illuminates people and events, placing them in an entirely new light and giving the student of history a dramatically new perspective. When you strip away the myths surrounding most historical figures, I find that it hardly diminishes them. Their real exploits assume a new importance and you gain an appreciation for both their failings and achievements.
By the way — Like the Pilgrims, I’m not eating turkey today. Thankfully, I won’t be eating venison either. I’m stuck with being forced to consume a 7 lb prime rib roast.
The next time some climate hysteric talks about global warming “deniers,” maybe they could include a smidgeon of criticism for loons like Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) warns sports stadiums are at risk from the “sea level rise effects of climate change,” and that climate change specifically threatens hockey and skiing.
“We see significant sports facilities, the palaces of – of sport that are at risk from the storm, climate, sea-level rise effects of climate change,” Sen. Whitehouse said today following a closed-door climate discussion with executives from the NFL, NHL and NBA.
He said the threat to hockey is that people will no longer be able to play outdoors on frozen ponds:
“Without cold enough weather for frozen ponds, the kind of hockey that you play out of doors with your friends gets a little bit harder to achieve.”
Whitehouse also suggested climate change will prevent his family from continuing to go skiing in Rhode Island:
“I took my kids skiing at Yawgoo Valley ski slopes in Rhode Island. The New York Times recently reported that we can expect all the ski slopes in Connecticut and Massachusetts to be gone.
“Obviously, given Rhode Island’s location, if that’s true of Connecticut and Massachusetts, that will also be unfortunately true of Rhode Island.”
The problem with nutters like Whitehouse is that they assume people in coastal cities where these sports stadiums would supposedly be at risk of being inundated would stand stupidly and watch as the water reached their ankles, then lapped at their knees, then rolled over their shoulders, until, still standing like a stone, watched as the water rose over their heads.
Human beings really are clever creatures and we figured out long ago how to deal with sea level. Just ask the Dutch. For 900 years, they’ve kept the North Sea at bay by building a system of dikes that has reclaimed land once under water.
If the sea level rises any significant amount (it was already rising as a result of warming going on for the last 15,000 years), there are means — some, surprisingly inexpensive — to keep most of the water out.
If global warming advocates want to be taken seriously, they’re going to have to muzzle idiots like Senator Whitehouse.
Two of the fastest growing economies in the world — China and India — got a “Get out of Carbon Jail Free Card” from the 200 countries taking part in the climate conference in Warsaw. The two countries received vastly reduced goals for emissions as a price for their support of the final agreement.
Todd Stern, the federal government’s special envoy for climate change, said Warsaw “was quite a tough negotiation” but also “quite useful.”
“This is a quintessentially global problem, so you have to have action all over the world. Climate change isn’t local – the carbon you emit anywhere in the world affects everywhere in the world,” Stern said.
“It gives a strong message to civil society and the private sector that this is going to be dealt with at the global level.”
Developing and developed countries have long been on different pages when it comes to tackling climate change.
But even a narrow agreement at Warsaw, where close to 200 countries took part, could help lay the groundwork for a longer-term agreement in 2015. Negotiators are scheduled to meet in Paris that year to discuss a potential global climate change agreement.
On Twitter, Connie Hedegaad, the European Union’s commissioner for climate action, acknowledged the difficulty negotiators had in finding an agreement. “I’m sure there are more comfortable ways” to Paris in 2015, she sad, “but now we can move forward.”
Outside groups pushing for action on climate change said, that while the U.N. efforts in Warsaw might have found an agreement, countries still need to pick up the pace.
“In the nick of time, negotiators in Warsaw delivered just enough to keep things moving,” said Jennifer Morgan of the World Resources Institute.
There is also a matter of how much developing countries can extort from the industrialized west to pay for the effects of climate change:
Loss and damage was one of the key rows in the early stages of the meeting, as some developing countries demanded “compensation” from rich countries for the damage they suffered from extreme weather. A compromise was reached with a new “Warsaw international mechanism” by which the victims of disaster will receive aid, but it will not be linked to any liability from developed countries.
Another success at the conference was the completion of a new mechanism to keep the world’s remaining forests standing. Called REDD+, for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation, this has been in the works for most of the last decade.
But all countries admitted that most of the preparation work for Paris still remains to be done. Politically, the battle between the like-minded group – which is separate from, but claims to lie within, the broader G77 group of the majority of developing nations – and the US and the EU will be key. For both sides, gaining support from the rest of the unaligned developing nations – some of which are highly vulnerable to climate change and are desperate for a deal, but others who are courting economic investment from China – will be crucial.
It’s all a useless exercise as long as the world’s number one carbon emitter — China — and the number three — India — continue to receive special treatment. It isn’t just that it puts the US at a competitive disadvantage. If these people were really concerned about carbon emissions, why come to an agreement that doesn’t reduce CO2 by one single molecule?
If global warming was as serious a crisis as many of the climate hysterics are claiming, they sure are going about solving the problem in an incompetent and ineffective manner.
For what some Obama worshipers in the press are calling an “historic” agreement,” members of Congress appear to be mostly unimpressed — even Democrats.
The #2 Democrat in the House, Steny Hoyer, called the agreement a “marginal improvement” and told Face the Nation that “we don’t trust Iran.”
The ranking Democratic member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel, said, “I don’t think you make them bargain in good faith by going squishy.” Like many Republicans, Engel was disappointed that the deal didn’t call for Iran to suspend its enrichment program.
Republicans appeared far more skeptical.
“Amazing what WH will do to distract attention from O-care,” the Senate Minority Whip tweeted shortly after the deal was announced.
The #3 Republican in the House, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, nixed that suggestion:
“I would never judge upon that when we’re dealing with international,” McCarthy said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“I know they need some type of other news, but that would be the biggest mistake any administration could do.”
The California Republican also endorsed the plan, now laid out by both Democrats and Republicans, to continue with congressional sanctions legislation but to delay its implementation for at least six months.
And McCarthy cautioned Obama “from overselling this deal,” noting Israel’s concerns and that the deal stops short of fully stopping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.
“We should not take this lightly,” McCarthy said. “We have to have a full dismantling if we want the world to be safer.”
Some Republicans weren’t very charitable at all:
Iranian negotiators could view the fresh nuclear deal as a chance to gain an edge over an Obama administration lacking “intestinal fortitude,” according to Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).
Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Corker said that Iran views the president’s team as “weak,” and could use the new deal on its nuclear development to win relief from economic sanctions without any major changes to their nuclear program.
“If you see the reaction in Iran right now, they’re spiking the football in the end zone,” said Corker, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who also sits on that panel, also emphasized the need to closely watch Iran to make sure they follow through on their end of the deal, but praised the administration’s diplomatic efforts.
“The bottom line is that we have to work with the international community,” he said. “Are we concerned that Iran will try to circumvent this agreement? You bet we’re concerned about that.”
A remarkable story in the Washington Post about the behind-the-scenes turmoil at CMS in the weeks leading up to the launch of HealthCare.gov.
It seems incredible, but the main contractor on the project — CGI Federal — was so overly optimistic about progress being made in constructing the site that they were able to snow CMS officials and make them think that things were going a lot more smoothly than they actually were.
At a meeting in Baltimore just five weeks before the rollout, administration officials nervously questioned CGI executives about what was really happening. Let’s just say that CGI’s presentation wasn’t entirely accurate:
For that day and the next, CGI staff huddled with government officials in the semicircular conference room at the headquarters of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency overseeing the project. They combed through 15 pages of spreadsheets they had brought, which spelled out the company’s level of confidence — high, medium or low — that individual components would be ready.
By the time HealthCare.gov launched 51/2 weeks later, many of those predictions proved wrong, according to internal documents obtained by The Washington Post and officials familiar with the project.
A final “pre-flight checklist” before the Web site’s Oct. 1 opening, compiled a week before by CMS, shows that 41 of 91 separate functions that CGI was responsible for finishing by the launch were still not working.
And a spreadsheet produced by CGI, dated the day of the launch, shows that the company acknowledged about 30 defects on features scheduled to have been working already, including five that it classified as “critical.” For instance, one critical defect was that people who had finished creating applications — an early step in enrolling — got incorrect messages that their applications were incomplete if they tried to sign back in.
All told, of the 45 items in which CGI had expressed high confidence at the late August meeting in Baltimore, most were still not ready by the time consumers were supposed to be able to start to buy health plans online through the federal marketplace, according to a government official familiar with the project who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private information.
During those crucial final weeks before the marketplace opened, the official said, CGI often delivered components on time, but they contained such faulty computer code that features did not hold up under closer scrutiny — or failed later if more than several thousand people at a time tried to use them. These included essential but arcane parts of the Web site, as well as facets that have attracted substantial public and congressional attention, such as a feature — still not working — that was supposed to let insurance-seekers browse the health plans available to them without first registering for an online account.
It was either Pollyanna or Mata Hari who was in on the construction of this clown-car screw-up of a website. Such a level of incompetence is rare, even for government work. Imagine a similar method of construction being applied to an F-15. We’d wonder if the contractor was actually working for the enemy.
Can you imagine the nightmare? You’re stuck circling an airport waiting to land for an hour and your seatmate is engaged in a necessarily loud and obnoxious conversation. There’s no escape because you’re in a steel tube, hurtling through the skies at 550 MPH.
Please, FCC — make it stop.
While many airline passengers like being able to listen to music or play games on their devices, the idea of being stuck on a plane for hours next to someone carrying on an obnoxious conversation has prompted a dramatic backlash.
One FCC commissioner received hundreds of outraged emails within hours of the announcement, an aide said.
“Playing ‘Words with Friends’ is different than passengers having lengthy, loud ‘conversations with friends’ while in the tight, inescapable confines of an airline passenger cabin,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the FCC.
Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee, said the issue will “surely be a spirited topic of discussion” at next month’s oversight hearing of the FCC, which is expected to feature testimony from all five FCC commissioners.
“Like most Americans, when I heard the news that the FCC was considering allowing cell phone calls on commercial flights, I was concerned to say the least,” Walden said.
The union for flight attendants also bashed the proposal.
“Flight Attendants, as first responders and the last line of defense in our nation’s aviation system, understand the importance of maintaining a calm cabin environment. Any situation that is loud, divisive, and possibly disruptive is not only unwelcome but also unsafe,” the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA said in a statement.
The aide to the FCC commissioner said the backlash appears to have taken the chairman’s office by surprise.
Wheeler has only been on the job for a few weeks, and it seems unlikely that he was looking to pick a political fight over cellphone use on planes.
“I am sure that everyone expected this to be a feel-good, let’s make airline consumers happy, type of an inquiry,” a former FCC official said. “I don’t think anyone was prepared for it to become such a hot news story.”
The former official argued that the FCC should have put more emphasis in its initial announcement on mobile Internet access, instead of allowing the media and the public to focus on the possibility of phone calls.
Call me a curmudgeon, but people with their cell phone glued to their ear — and kids who can’t stop texting long enough to pay the damn clerk and keep the line moving — are the rot eating away at Western civilization. To burden my peace and quiet on an airplane by allowing these barbarians to invade my space with their useless and unnecessary phone calls is a travesty. Those flight attendants are talking about people like me who would very likely reach a breaking point, grab the phone out of the idiot’s hand, and then toss the device out of the window I’ve just broken with the caller’s head.
Let’s nip this idea in the bud and keep the skies friendly — and relatively quiet.
I think if Robert Byrd had still been alive and serving in the Senate, the adoption of the nuclear option would have failed.
Say what you want to about the old Kluxer, he revered Senate tradition and history. But those traditions that Byrd held dear have now been trampled in the dust by a new breed of Democratic Senator; contemptuous of minority rights, extremist in their politics, and disdainful of their own leadership.
Call them the Elizabeth Warren Wing of the Democratic Party. And their greatest triumph was the destruction of the filibuster. What’s worse, they’re not finished.
“The Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party definitely are showing that they have growing influence in the caucus, and in government in general,” said Matt Wall of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a group that works to promote progressive candidates and issues in Democratic primaries. On Friday, Warren circulated a fundraising letter to supporters on behalf of Merkley and Udall, thanking them for their role in changing the rule. Both men face reelection in 2014.
The changing Democratic tactics may reflect a generational shift occurring in the Senate. It’s almost certain that by the start of the next Congress in 2015, more than half of the Democratic caucus will have been elected since 2008, when gridlock reached new heights. But nine of the new Senate Democrats are former Congress members, all of whom served at least part of their time under Republican majorities. Three were governors who served with Republican legislatures.
The shift among Democrats has at times confounded Republicans, particularly on the filibuster issue. Aides to Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), the third-longest-serving Republican, said they had felt that Reid’s most recent moves telegraphing the nuclear option were a bluff.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday railed against the actions of “uninitiated newcomers in the Democratic caucus,” reminding them they had never served in the minority in the Senate. Those who have a longer memory “should know better,” he added.
Six-term Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan was the only Democrat to speak out against his party’s move, citing the late institutionalist Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and Robert C. Byrd in arguing against tinkering with long-standing rules.
“Before we discard the uniqueness of this great institution, let us use the current rules and precedents of the Senate to end the abuse of the filibuster,” said Levin, who will retire after next year.
But those pushing for the rule change won over one Democratic stalwart.
“There are many of us that really wanted to keep things the way they were, because that’s the way they were,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). “One thing I know: that you learn from history. And right now we can’t let the present be the future. So you’ve got to make the change, or this becomes a body that doesn’t mutate.”
Levin is correct. The carefully built structures in the Senate that put a brake on the passions of the people’s House — not to mention a grasping executive branch — are now history. The Senate is now just another legislative body — a pale echo of the House and little more than a rubber stamp for whatever schemes and schemers the president wishes to inflict on the American people.
The new Democrats may, indeed, rue the day they voted for the nuclear option. But by the time they do, it’s an open question how much of the “old Senate” will still be worth saving.
There are many serious consequences that will flow from Harry Reid’s filibuster-busting power grab, but none that has more potential for long term and permanent damage to the economy than regulations governing carbon emissions being planned by the EPA.
Almost every business, large and small, would be impacted. The cost will surely climb into the billions of dollars and may be so onerous that some companies will have to shut their doors.
And those regulations, once finalized, will be challenged in the appeals court where the Democrats are about to install 3 controversial liberal judges who are expected to tip the balance on the court and uphold the regulations.
Green groups might be the biggest winners from Senate Democrats’ decision to gut the minority party’s filibuster rights on nominations.
Their top priority — President Obama’s second-term regulations on climate change — is likely to have a better shot at surviving legal challenges once Obama’s nominees are confirmed for the crucial U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Melinda Pierce, a policy expert for the Sierra Club, said the addition of Obama’s three nominees would be an “improvement” to the D.C. Circuit, which is second only to the Supreme Court in influence and power.
“But filling up all 11 seats, a full panel is an improvement to the current situation in the court,” Pierce said. “And we hope these additions will ensure that the climate regulations are upheld.”
Pierce also defended the three nominees — Patricia Millett, Robert Wilkins and Nina Pillard — saying they “are by no means activists.”
The D.C. Circuit, which handles the majority of legal challenges to regulations, currently has eight members split evenly between Democratic and Republican appointees.
Green groups suffered a major defeat at the circuit court last year when rules to cut soot-and smog-forming power plant emissions that cross state lines were shot down. Those rules had been a pillar of Obama’s air pollution agenda, and are now before the Supreme Court.
Advocates are hoping to avoid a similar defeat when the separate, upcoming carbon emissions standards face litigation at the court, which is a near certainty.
The environmental movement was heavily involved in the fight over limiting the filibuster.
Sierra Club was part of a coalition of liberal groups and unions that pressured Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to limit the use of the filibuster through a majority vote.
Pierce said the end of the 60-vote filibuster for nominees could change the way Obama approaches judicial nominations for the rest of his term.
“It may free Obama up to be more ambitious about putting forward folks that share [the administration's] philosophy and be less fearful because of the 60-vote threshold,” Pierce said.
The same goes for nominations to agencies, which might begin to move through the Senate faster.
That’s good news for nominees to senior roles at the EPA.
One of the major benefits of the filibuster was that it put a brake on radicalism. Presidents couldn’t risk naming extremist nominees because their chances of being confirmed were next to zilch. Now, with a compliant Democratic Senate — who share the views of extremist judges anyway — Obama could send a Mao clone up to the Senate and have him confirmed with no problem.
Think of all the Republican judges that Democrats either forced President Bush to withdraw or who withdrew on their own accord because the Democrats deemed them “radical.” Now, Obama won’t have to worry about any of that nonsense.
By the time he’s through, the judicial branch of government is going to make the law school faculty at Berkley look like the Young Republicans by comparison.
He also sees unicorns in the Rose Garden, elves in the Oval Office, and faeries under his bed. I suppose we should really start to worry if he starts seeing cave trolls in the bowels of the White House basement.
The president touted his record on the economy in his remarks, while jabbing Republicans for standing in the way of those achievements.
Obama’s remarks were an effort of sorts to move away from the showdown that gripped Washington in recent weeks, beginning with the government shutdown and ending with a last-minute deal to raise the nation’s debt limit. Obama said he knows the public has heard a lot about Washington’s woes, but “there are some good things happening in the economy” below the surface.
“After decades in which the middle class was working harder and harder just to keep up, and a punishing recession that made it worse, we made the tough choices required not just to recover from crisis, but to rebuild on a new foundation for stronger, more durable economic growth,” he said. “Five years later, we have fought our way back.”
The president touted his work on energy and health care as key economic boons. He noted steady job growth the economy has seen in recent months, underscoring 200,000 new jobs created in October.
He also noted that the auto industry has essentially recovered from its near bankruptcy and bailout and is helping support growing U.S. manufacturing. All this happened while the deficit has been cut in half, he added.
Both parties have battlegrounds immediately ahead of them; if a budget conference committee cannot strike a spending deal in the coming weeks, the U.S. could yet again be faced with another federal government shutdown. And the nation’s borrowing cap will need another increase sometime this spring.
The president chided Republicans for repeatedly fighting back against his efforts, painting them as mere obstructionists getting in the way of a resurgent economy. He also made passing mention to the ongoing woes surrounding the rollout of his signature healthcare law, which has been the dominant GOP priority for weeks.
“Imagine how much farther along we could be if both parties were working together. Think about what we could do if a reckless few didn’t hold the economy hostage every few months, or waste time on dozens of votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act rather than try to help us fix it,” he said.
First of all, under his watch, the middle class has fallen further behind. And what exactly is this “new foundation” for economic growth? With GDP growth hovering near 2% — and less — who is he trying to kid that there’s much of a recovery at all?
Yes, we have “fought our way back”…to the 1970s and a stagnant economy. No wonder all this great news about the economy lies “beneath the surface.”
It shouldn’t surprise us that an entitlement sold to the people with lies and half-truths would continue to keep hidden those elements that might cause Americans grief.
The latest revelation involves the so-called “anonymous shopper” function of the website and why the administration won’t activate it — despite it being one of the few working features on healthcare.gov:
The window shopping feature allows website visitors to compare health insurance plans without opening an account, verifying their identity or determining whether they qualify for a federal subsidy. The tool was turned off before HealthCare.gov launched and is still unavailable to users.
This, despite the fact that a test of the anonymous shopper feature prior to the website rollout showed it to be working well, as CNN discovered:
When the troubled federal health care website came online, the key “Anonymous Shopper” function was nowhere to be found — even though it passed a key test almost two weeks before HealthCare.gov launched.
That successful test, noted in documents obtained by CNN and confirmed by a source close to the project, contradicts testimony from an Obama administration official overseeing HealthCare.gov, who told lawmakers earlier this month the function was scrapped because it “failed miserably” before the October 1 launch.
Like much of the HealthCare.gov rollout, the subject has become political fodder for Republicans, who claim the decision to nix the anonymous shopper was made by administration officials worried it would produce rate estimates so high they would deter potential enrollees.
What does the anonymous shopper function do?
Using anonymous shopping, visitors would have been able to enter their age, ZIP code, county, number of people in their household and whether they use tobacco, to obtain an array of almost instant quotes and detailed comparisons for various health insurance plans available to them.
Like a supermarket that carefully lays out products in aisles, gently guiding the shopper around the store through strategic placement of staples, healthcare.gov designed a system to guide insurance shoppers to the good stuff first – the subsidies – and then sprung the bad news of expensive premiums on them.
Not exactly what President Obama had in mind when he described the way the website would work:
“Just visit HealthCare.gov, and there you can compare insurance plans, side by side, the same way you’d shop for a plane ticket on Kayak or a TV on Amazon,” Obama said on October 1, the day the website went live. “You enter some basic information, you’ll be presented with a list of quality, affordable plans that are available in your area, with clear descriptions of what each plan covers, and what it will cost.”
Yet on that day, and even now, that’s not really possible.
The absence of the online shopping tool is “a major design failure,” said Sam Karp, vice president of programs at the California HealthCare Foundation, an Oakland-based nonprofit that supports and promotes the president’s signature health care program in the Golden State.
Blocked out at HealthCare.gov? Bypass on way soon, feds say.
A “design failure?” Or a deliberate choice to avoid sticker shock for most consumers?
The IT chief at CMS, Henry Chao, testimony about the anonymous shopper function is riddled with lies:
In a congressional hearing earlier this month, Henry Chao, the Deputy IT director for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, was asked whether there were any political considerations involved in the last-minute decision to delay the “anonymous shopper” function at Obamacare’s online insurance portal, Healthcare.gov.
He responded that there were “none whatsoever.”
“I look at the facts of whether—if a system is going to be ready,” Chao said, “and of course not everything is going to be 100 percent perfect, and there are certain tolerances. But in this case it failed so miserably that we could not consciously use it.”
CNN reported exactly the opposite — that the function passed a key test before the website went live on October 1. And as Peter Suderman at Hit and Run points out, the political considerations took precedence even over ease of use:
But there’s some reason to think that CNN’s story is not incomplete, and that Chao, in his response, did not tell the truth. The CNN report backs up, and seems to confirm, an October report in The Wall Street Journal, which said that the federally run insurance portal “was initially going to include an option to browse before registering, but that tool was delayed.” The Journal report included an explanation for why the function was removed—an explanation that said nothing about technical failures. “An HHS spokeswoman said the agency wanted to ensure that users were aware of their eligibility for subsidies that could help pay for coverage, before they started seeing the prices of policies.”
In other words, officials didn’t want people to see the true price of the insurance premiums on offer through the exchanges, so they created a system which only allowed for plan shopping after subsidy eligibility was confirmed.
That doesn’t sound like it was simply a question of system readiness, as Chao claimed before Congress. And if Chao lied about the test results, it’s reasonable to wonder whether he also misled about the reasoning for disabling the feature.
The administration is incapable to telling the truth about anything related to Obamacare. How can they when the truth would only make things seem worse? Not activating the anonymous shopper function will only make the online experience for consumers wishing to purchase insurance that much more difficult.
A small consideration when stacked against the political damage that would accrue otherwise.
Gee — only 12? You would think an Obamabot like Matthew Lynch (“Ed.D.”), a clueless git writing at Huffpo, could have come up with at least a half dozen more reasons why President Obama is one of the best presidents in the history of…history.
I will give you a sampling of each reason — no sense spoiling your appetite.
1. He is for The People. Say what you will about Barack Obama, but unlike the many presidents who preceded him, he cares about what is best for the greater good.
I will probably mention this more than once. This is a guy with a doctorate degree. Why does he think like a sophomore in high school?
2. He is for civil rights. He has consistently spoken on behalf of the disenfranchised, the underdog and the most controversial members of society — despite the fact that it was politically unpopular to do so at the time.
It has not been “politically unpopular” to speak about civil rights for about 30 years. But don’t stop him. He’s on a roll.
3. He is for one race — the human race. In just a few short years, Obama’s professional achievements and continued demonstration of equality and integrity have done wonders for race relations.
I almost stopped reading at this point. But I was compelled to continue — much for the same reason I watch NASCAR: I am intensely curious about what cars are going to spin out in turn 3.
4. He is for a healthcare system that brings hope and healing to the hurting.
OK — we get it. He’s a great guy. Now, about that “healthcare system”…
5. He is for the middle class. Here are just a few of the comments made by President Barack Obama in recent months: “Rebuilding our economy starts with strengthening the middle class. Extending tax breaks on 98 percent of families now would give hardworking Americans the security and confidence they need.”
Yes, he talks a good game. No doubt he has made thousands of comments complimentary of and dripping with concern for the middle class. Too bad his policies haven’t done anything to help them.
6. He is for women’s rights. Obama’s very first executive action as President was to sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a bill specifically designed to annihilate wage discrimination barriers for women.
Well, at least some womens’ rights. And don’t you love our good doctor of education’s vocabulary? “Annihilate” wage discrimination barriers? Like I said, my 15-year-old cousin could write rings around this jamoke.
Nancy Pelosi had a very interesting appearance on Meet the Press this morning. She channeled Alfred E. Neuman by saying that Democrats would “stand tall” behind Obamacare in the coming mid term campaign. She also claimed that she and President Obama did not mislead the American people about Obamacare and that Democrats were not losing confidence in the ACA:
Pelosi told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that her members will “stand tall” behind the law during next year’s mid-term elections. Her comments follow the disastrous rollout of the government’s insurance web site and millions of health insurance plan cancellation notices sent to Americans despite Democrats’ pledge that they would be able to keep their policies.
“I don’t think you can tell what will happen next year [at the polls],” she said, “but I will tell you this: Democrats stand tall in support of the Affordable Care Act.”
“This is an issue that has to be dealt with. But it doesn’t mean, oh, it’s a political issue, so we’re going to run away from it. No. It’s too valuable for the American people. What is important about it is that the American people are well served, not who gets reelected.”
She downplayed the significance of the 39 Democrats who on Friday joined a Republican bill allowing insurers to continue offering plans that don’t meet the law’s requirements. She said that number is similar to the number that has voted on bills delaying the law’s mandate on employers and individuals.
“When the Republicans put forth a political initiative,” she said, “people respond to it politically.”
Pelosi called the rollout of the insurance web site “terrible,” but promised it will be fixed. She said jobs would dominate the election, “as it always does.”
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), interviewed right after Pelosi, said Republicans would continue to press for overhauling the law.
“No matter how congresswoman Pelosi tries to spin this, this is a mess,” Ayotte said. “It’s time for a timeout … so we can go back to the drawing board.”
Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Newman’s motto is, “What? Me Worry?” And the laughable image she paints of panicky Democrats ducking for cover — equating that with “standing tall” — is the ultimate denial of reality.
A Tea Party-backed candidate loses to an anti-establishment outsider who supports Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion?
Welcome to the befuddled nature of the 2014 campaign.
Louisiana State Senator Neil Riser was heavily favored going into yesterday’s runoff election with political novice, businessman Vance McAllister. Riser picked up nearly twice the number of votes in the non-partisan primary in October than McAllister and had the backing of establishment politicians at the state and federal level. He also won the endorsement of the Louisiana Tea Party and Freedom Works, the Washington-based advocacy group closely associated with the Tea Party.
But McAllister, who spent $800,000 of his own money, had a secret weapon; Duck Dynasty star Willie Robertson endorsed him. The hit reality TV show is shot in the district and the support of the quirky Robertson family made voters feel comfortable about voting for him, according to some analysts.
McAllister made it a point to mention that he had never visited Washington, D.C. That kind of “outsider” image should work very well for candidates from both parties challenging incumbents.
“Plain and simple, this was Riser’s election to lose. Riser was the favorite going into the evening. He had the dollars. He had the endorsement of the Republican establishment. He had a strong showing in the primary. Yet, he lost it,” said Joshua Stockley, a political science professor at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.
Riser and McAllister are both conservatives and largely agreed on many issues. Both oppose abortion, favor strong gun rights and criticize the levels of federal spending and debt.
Their sharpest distinction rested with President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.
Both opposed the health overhaul, but Riser wanted only repeal, saying the law will harm businesses and families and can’t be fixed.
McAllister said repeal had no chance with Democrats leading the Senate and White House, so he said Congress should work to improve the law. He also wants Louisiana to expand its Medicaid program to give insurance to the working poor, an expansion that Riser opposes.
The positions put McAllister at odds with some tea party supporters but generated support from Democrats who had no candidate of their own in the runoff.
Stockley said voters in the very strongly conservative 5th District “signaled that McAllister’s pragmatism seems to be a more tenable governing solution.”
McAllister will represent a largely rural district along the Mississippi River delta dotted with farmland and plagued by poverty. The 5th District covers all or part of 24 parishes, from northeast and central Louisiana into southeastern parishes bordering Mississippi.
The congressional seat was vacant because Republican Rodney Alexander decided to leave Washington in the middle of his sixth term and take a job in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration. In the race to succeed him, Alexander was supporting Riser, an ally of Jindal.
Best known for a constitutional provision toughening Louisiana gun rights, Riser announced his campaign immediately after Alexander announced his departure, raising accusations that Jindal and Alexander tried to influence the election for Riser. All three denied the claim.
“Riser got punished for being too closely allied to Gov. Jindal,” Stockley said.
The biggest loser in the race might be House Majority Leader Eric Cantor who endorsed Riser prior to the primary in October. Cantor’s “Eric-Pac” gave Riser $5,000 and his endorsement led the way for Hill Republicans — including most of the Republican Louisiana delegation — to line up in support of Riser.
There’s only one lesson to take away from this contest; anyone with the taint of Washington — or the establishment — on them is going to have to run like hell to overcome this liability. I don’t necessarily see McAllister’s “pragmatism” on Obamacare as much of a factor. It was a political gamble taken in order to attract moderate Democratic voters — and it worked. Despite the toxicity of Obamacare, this was one district where it probably helped more than it hurt to support Medicaid expansion.
But few would recommend other Republican underdogs using the same strategy. Obamacare is the one-ton rock that is likely to sink Democrats next year and any small concessions to it will likely draw a nuclear response from other Republicans.
Among the 39 Democrats who defected on Friday and voted with the GOP to delay a key health-care provision was Rep. Bruce Braley (Iowa), a reliably liberal vote for much of Obama’s agenda in his first term. Braley is the consensus Democratic nominee for the Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) — a seat that Democrats have held for 33 of the past 39 years. Braley represents a district that the president won by 14 percentage points in 2012 and he wants to represent a state Obama won twice but, as evidenced by his vote Friday, Braley has begun to put some political distance between himself and the president.
The reaction among some Iowans shows the peril ahead. Jerry Crawford, a longtime Democratic activist, defended Braley’s vote as one that fit with what Iowans want in politicians: problem-solvers who keep their word.
But his vote upset Sue Dvorsky, a former special-education teacher and state Democratic Party chairman. She thinks that bills like the one Braley supported give Republicans more momentum to criticize the health-care law. “Democrats — elected officials and activists — need to buckle down and take a breath,” she said Saturday.
In Iowa, the disappointment in Obama and the health-care law’s rollout is deeper and more personally felt than in much of the rest of the country. That’s because, nearly six years ago, Iowans propelled Obama’s national career with his upset victory in the January 2008 presidential primary caucuses, setting the stage for beating Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination.
“It’s terrible, it’s painful to watch. We really do know him,” Dvorsky said. “Watching this is gut-wrenchingly painful.”
Dvorsky’s advice to her fellow Democrats — that they should grit their teeth and ride out the storm — is useless. It’s wishful thinking to believe that politicians who are in as much trouble as congressional Democrats won’t thrash about looking to keep their heads above water until the situation changes.
No doubt over the next year, there will be ebbs and flows as the website improves its functionality, and the subsidies start to flow, which will almost certainly be followed by other nasty surprises, like millions of more cancellations, that will once again put Democrats in jeopardy. The safe play is to get as far away from Obamacare as possible.
If Obamacare is still a big issue on election day, there will be nothing to protect Democratic incumbents from the wrath of the voters.
A majority of state insurance commissioners across the country have made it clear that applying President Obama’s “fix” to Obamacare isn’t possible and would only make matters worse.
But the very first insurance commissioner who made that argument has been fired.
From the Washington Post:
A day after he questioned President Obama’s decision to unwind a major tenet of the health-care law and said the nation’s capital might not go along, D.C. insurance commissioner William P. White was fired.
White was called into a meeting Friday afternoon with one of Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s (D) top deputies and told that the mayor “wants to go in a different direction,” White told The Washington Post on Saturday.
White said the mayoral deputy never said that he was being asked to leave because of his Thursday statement on health care. But he said the timing was hard to ignore. Roughly 24 hours later, White said, he was “basically being told, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ ”
White was one of the first insurance commissioners in the nation last week to push back against Obama’s attempt to smooth over part of the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act: millions of unexpected cancellations of insurance plans.
In persuading Congress to vote for the health-care overhaul, Obama had promised that Americans who liked their insurance plans would be able to keep them. When that turned out to not be the case, Obama apologized last week. And to stem growing bipartisan dissent, he announced Thursday that plans slated to be canceled next year to comply with the legislation could be extended for one year.
While the president’s plan sounded like a simple fix, it rattled the insurance industry, which had set prices for next year based on many of its products changing to comply with the health-care law. Allowing some plans to continue beyond Jan. 1 could also run afoul of provisions in laws passed by dozens of states and the District to implement the Affordable Care Act.
In a statement issued Thursday, White hinted strongly that he opposed the idea.
“The action today undercuts the purpose of the exchanges, including the District’s DC Health Link, by creating exceptions that make it more difficult for them to operate,” the statement said.
He also pointed to a statement issued by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners that said the Obama order “threatens to undermine the new market, and may lead to higher premiums and market disruptions in 2014 and beyond.”
“We concur with that assessment,” White said Thursday.
It’s tempting to draw a line from the White House to the D.C. mayor’s office and speculate on why Mr. White was good enough to perform his duties on Thursday but not on Friday after making a statement questioning the Obamacare fix offered by the president. It seems rather sudden, doesn’t it?