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Rick Moran

Rick Moran is PJ Media's Chicago editor and Blog editor at The American Thinker. He is also host of the"RINO Hour of Power" on Blog Talk Radio. His own blog is Right Wing Nut House.
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Obama’s Response to Sony Hack: Slow and Inadequate

Sunday, December 21st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

A curious CNN interview conducted between Candy Crowley and President Obama aired today, with the president claiming that North Korea’s hack of Sony Corporation was not “an act of war” but “an act of cybervandalism.”

Obama said in a Friday news conference that Sony made “a mistake,” and that he wished the company had called him first. That led Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton to tell CNN that Obama and the public “are mistaken as to what actually happened.” He blamed movie theater companies that opted not to show the film, saying they forced Sony’s hand.

Obama shot back, saying: “I was pretty sympathetic to the fact that they have business considerations that they got to make. Had they talked to me directly about this decision, I might have called the movie theater chains and distributors and asked them what the story was.”

The President told Crowley that his problem wasn’t with Sony specifically, but with the precedent the company’s decision set.

The FBI on Friday pinned blame on North Korea for a hack into Sony’s computer systems. Obama said both foreign governments and hackers outside government present cyberthreats that are part of the modern business landscape.

“If we set a precedent in which a dictator in another country can disrupt through cyber, a company’s distribution chain or its products, and as a consequence we start censoring ourselves, that’s a problem,” Obama said.

“And it’s a problem not just for the entertainment industry, it’s a problem for the news industry,” he said. “CNN has done critical stories about North Korea. What happens if in fact there is a breach in CNN’s cyberspace? Are we going to suddenly say, are we not going to report on North Korea?

“So the key here is not to suggest that Sony was a bad actor. It’s making a broader point that all of us have to adapt to the possibility of cyberattacks, we have to do a lot more to guard against them.”

It’s a problem that the president is simply not addressing. Congress has been complaining since news of the hack broke that the government has been dragging its feet on cyber security measures. And House intel chair Rep. Hal Rogers thinks that the president’s reaction to the hack itself has been lacking:

President Obama should move have moved swiftly against North Korea following a cyberattack on Sony Pictures that has cost the company tens of millions of dollars and caused it to pull its controversial comedy, “The Interview,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said Sunday.

“Saying ‘aloha’ and getting on the plane to Hawaii is not the answer,” Rogers said on “Fox News Sunday,” referring to Obama’s annual holiday trip. “This was a nation state attack on the United States.”

In fact, one tech analyst is wondering why Sony has been left to deal with the North Koreans. Isn’t that the president’s job?

President Obama was quick to second-guess Sony Pictures Entertainment for its handling of the North Korean terrorist threat, which has critics asking why a movie studio has been left to conduct foreign policy instead of the White House.

“This is not something Hollywood is equipped to handle, which is, ‘How do you battle a foreign country?’” said Hemanshu Nigam, a cybersecurity expert who previously headed worldwide Internet enforcement for the Motion Picture Association of America.

“That’s the job of the White House, and if anyone needs to show leadership in that area, it’s the White House,” he said.

Byron York reminds us of what a strong leader is capable of when confronted by the kind of bullying facing Sony. In 1940, a Captain America comic appeared that showed the hero punching Adolf Hitler in the face. The creators received death threats because of it. York relates what happened next:

“The theme was ‘death to the Jews,’” Simon wrote in his memoir. “At first we were inclined to laugh off their threats, but then, people in the office reported seeing menacing-looking groups of strange men in front of the building on 42nd Street, and some of the employees were fearful of leaving the office for lunch.”

Simon called the cops, and as soon as the police showed up, the phone rang. Mayor Fiorello La Guardia wanted to speak to the creators of Captain America. Simon got on the line. “You boys over there are doing a good job,” the voice squeaked. “The city of New York will see that no harm will come to you.’”

That is how it’s supposed to work in a democracy.

Mayor De Blasio made no offer to safeguard New York theaters. President Obama certainly didn’t call the theater chains and offer federal security assistance. All Obama did was second-guess Sony for their decision not to release the film — a moot point when all the major chains refused to run it.

A president shouldn’t give only lip service to freedom of speech. He should do everything in his power to defend it. I wonder if it had been a controversial film about race if the president would have immediately offered federal security for movie theaters under threat.

Just asking.

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De Blasio Reaping What He Sowed

Sunday, December 21st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is hearing it from all sides today as he pays the consequences for his ill considered remarks following the failure of a grand jury to indict a police officer in the death of Eric Garner.

De Blasio enraged police when he told a crowd of supporters in Staten Island earlier this month that he feared for his bi-racial son’s safety when dealing with the police:

Chirlane and I have had to talk to Dante for years about the danger that he may face … how to take special care in any encounters he has with the police officers who are there to protect him.”

De Blasio added, “We are dealing with centuries of racism that have brought us to this day. That is how profound the crisis is.” The implication was clear that he thought the officer’s actions were motivated by racism.

Needless to say, the police unions were livid over these remarks, as well as the general tone of de Blasio’s support for the protestors.

The whole thing now has blown up in his face because of the execution style murders of two officers in Brooklyn yesterday. The police unions, politicians, and pundits are letting him have it.

Rudy Giuliani didn’t pull any punches:

Critics of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) and President Obama claimed the two stoked hostility against law enforcement by empathizing with protesters who have bemoaned the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, two black men killed by police this year in New York and Missouri.

“We’ve had four months of propaganda — starting with the president — that everybody should hate the police,” former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) said in an interview on “Fox and Friends Weekend.” “I don’t care how you want to describe it: That’s what those protests are all about.”

Authorities said the man who shot the officers on Saturday later took his own life.

Giuliani added that he thinks “it goes too far to blame” de Blasio for the deaths of the officers. But, he added, “I don’t think it goes too far to say the mayor did not properly police the protests.”

That’s for sure. Just ask Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who was spattered with fake blood in Times Square during a protest against grand jury decision.

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Former New York Governor  George Pataki said that he was “sickened by these barbaric acts, which sadly are a predictable outcome of divisive anti-cop rhetoric” of the mayor and Attorney General Eric Holder.

But the real venom was unleashed by Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch:

“There’s blood on many hands tonight,” Lynch said Saturday, adding, “That blood on the hands starts at City Hall in the office of the mayor.”

Lynch’s members showed their utter contempt for de Blasio when he came to pay his respects to the dead officers at the hospital:

Believing City Hall has betrayed them, cops demonstrated their anger Saturday by turning their backs on Mayor de Blasio as he entered a Brooklyn hospital to pay his respects to two murdered officers.

A startling video shows a hallway at Woodhull Hospital filled with officers silently facing away from de Blasio as he walks a blue gantlet.

The demonstration, captured by WPIX11 News, included the presidents of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and the Sergeants Benevolent Association.

 

New York Rep. Gregory Meeks defended the mayor:

“I think the tone that the mayor is trying to set is a tone that brings people together,” Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) said on “This Week.” He called comments made by Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch criticizing de Blasio “unfortunate.”

“We stand with the police department. No one has ever given up on the police department or said we were anti-police department. What we were crying for was just saying how African Americans feel — how their communities are policed,” the congressman said.

Protestors aren’t anti-police. When New York protestors chanted “What do we want? Dead cops!” and when they threw fake blood on Commissioner Bratton, they were only spreadin’ the love, man.

President Obama, AG Holder, and de Blasio have been the three major enablers of these protests. They speak piously of peaceful protestors when most of the demonstrators are visibly and vocally anti-police.

What has made their actions and rhetoric so despicable over the last few months is that they know exactly what they’re doing. They claim to want to unite people, when they deliberately try to drive a wedge between the races.

They are the ones who have exacerbated this issue so that the nation is split along racial lines. I wish I could give them the benefit of the doubt and ascribe noble motives to their actions. But we’ve all been watching these people for six years and doubts are all that’s left.

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Social Media Explodes in Joy as News Breaks of Dead NY City Police Officers

Sunday, December 21st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised by the outpouring of nauseating hate and joy expressed by many on the left over the execution of two New York City police officers. In truth, there is a case to be made to ignore the celebration of death, not give it any oxygen to breathe nor acknowledge it exists in any way.

But holding up these examples of inhumanity for all to see is both necessary and proper. It is necessary because it’s a record of hypocrisy that the entire left cannot ignore. And it is proper because it is instructive as to the depths that humans can sink in their depravity.

They were compiled — many of them — by LilMissRightie from #BlueLivesMatter, a hashtag hijacked by protestors earlier.

I will simply let the tweets speak for themselves. Via Twitchy:

 

 

LMR apologizes for upsetting people:

It gets worse:

 

 

 

LilMissRightie should be commended for her compilation of mentally unbalanced thoughts from some pretty despicable human beings. Two more from her on the next page.

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Rep. Peter King Calls on Sports Teams to Wear NYPD Patch in Honor of Slain Officers

Sunday, December 21st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Recently, professional athletes have made their feelings known about the protests sweeping the country over grand jury decisions not to indict police officers for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

Four members of the St. Louis Rams ran on to the field with their hands up, indicating their solidarity with protestors advancing the myth that Michael Brown died while surrendering. NBA players Derrickk Rose and LeBron James both wore “I can’t breathe” T-shirts during warm ups before recent games.

Whether intended or not, the protests cast blame upon the police, and caused much anger in the ranks of officers.

Now, New York Representative Peter King is suggesting that pro sports teams wear a NYPD patch on their uniforms to honor the officers executed yesterday. In an email, King urged:

To honor the memory of the two NYPD officers who were assassinated yesterday and to demonstrate solidarity with the brave men and women of law enforcement, I urge college and professional basketball, football and hockey teams to wear NYPD insignia on their uniforms. This would bring honor and dignity to the NCAA, the NBA, the NFL and the NHL.

The players would almost certainly refuse to wear the patches. How could they when they’ve already sworn allegiance to protestors who are celebrating the death of the officers? Will there be any signs of solidarity with police at all?

The players have placed themselves in an impossible situation. They swear their protest was not directed against the police. But that’s exactly how the protestors viewed their actions. Changing their stance and wearing a NYPD patch on their uniforms would bring cries of hypocrisy from the activists who are fanning the flames of racial unrest.

My guess is that before NFL games today, there will be a moment of silence to honor the police officers. That will be the extent that the NFL sticks its neck out for the police.

 

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Two NY City Police Officers Shot Dead in Brooklyn

Saturday, December 20th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Two New York City police officers were shot dead in Brooklyn while sitting in their patrol car.

The suspect came up behind them and shot them execution style. The perp then fled to a subway station, where he eventually shot himself.

Fox News reports:

“The perp came out of the houses, walked up behind the car and lit them up,” a high-ranking police official told the Daily News.

An NYPD spokesman confirmed to Fox News that two officers were shot in the incident and were immediately moved to a nearby hospital. Police later told The Associated Press that both officers died from their injuries..

The New York Post reported that both officers were shot in the head at point-blank range.

“It’s an execution,” one law enforcement source told The Post.

The gunman just started “pumping bullets” into the patrol car, another source said.

The suspect then fled to a nearby subway station before he shot and killed himself.

The shooting comes at a time when police in New York and nationwide have been criticized by some over the circumstances surrounding the chokehold death of Eric Garner, a black man who was stopped by police for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.

Now, if I were to analyze this incident the same way that liberals analyze similar incidents where they think they can blame conservatives, I would blame the shootings of these two officers on liberal websites fanning the flames of rage against the police. I would blame the murders on Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, the Black Caucus, the parents of Michael Brown — all the race hustlers who have been exploiting the situation for their own benefit.

I’d blame Eric Holder and Barack Obama for pandering to black anger. I’d blame the climate of cop hatred that has been created by so-called activists and has sprung up and infected black communities across the country.

But I’m not a liberal so I am going to withhold judgment until we find out why the perpetrator committed this horrific act. Anyone who takes their own life is a disturbed individual, so it’s possible that all of the above had little or nothing to do with his act of murder.

More from Ed Driscoll: 

Its Orgin and Purpose, Still a Total Mystery

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A Christmas Present Courtesy of Obamacare

Saturday, December 20th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

To the old adage ‘Nothing is certain in life except death and taxes” can be added…and Obamacare.

It appears that once the government has their claws into you after you purchase an insurance plan at healthcare.gov, the government is not going to let you go. A new rule promulgated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will re-enroll you automatically in a new Obamacare plan without your knowledge or consent, nor with knowledge of your medical history.

Outrageous? You betchya. And millions of people who don’t realize they have to renew their policy every year are going to fall victim to it.

Washington Times:

It seems CMS is taking a page from Jonathan Gruber’s book; rather than allowing the “stupid” masses to make a decision on their own health plan, CMS has proposed a new rule that includes an overly reaching provision allowing CMS to re-enroll anyone who has not made the annual trek back to healthcare.gov in a cheaper plan of CMS’ choosing.

That’s right, the government will choose your plan, perhaps limit access to your doctor, and ultimately make the decision on what is “best” for you.

Not to worry, just like Lady Justice, who wears a blindfold when determining guilt or innocence, CMS will use a blindfold to pick your plan. The agency will select your plan without knowing your medical history. They will do so without knowing if you are currently undergoing treatment or working with a specific doctor. They will do so without knowing your financial status. Despite the fact that the millions of people who already enrolled chose the plan that they believed was best for them.

CMS has laid the perfect trap: Sign up at healthcare.gov one time in your life and we will never let you go. If you don’t continually re-enroll each and every year, CMS will keep you on the plan that it chooses because, after all, CMS knows what’s best and they always make the best decision. Oh, and if you don’t believe that, please go to the 600 million dollar website that will give you all kinds of testimonials handcrafted by MIT professors.

To be clear, a citizen will sign up once for a private plan with a healthcare provider, only to have that plan changed by the federal government. Moreover, CMS will change your plan after the open enrollment period ends, leaving you and your family stuck with a potentially unwanted plan for the year.

The only people that will be happier than the MIT economics professors and “government-knows-best” elitists will be the lawyers who will have the chance to litigate this bureaucratic fiasco. I actually just advised my son to change his studies to healthcare law.

More complexity and subterfuge. This is a feature, not a bug of this law. Think of how much of the law has not been implemented yet because doing so would be wildly unpopular. Hiding the bad news from citizens appears to be the goal of bureaucrats who continue to expand their power at our expense.

Now, in America we have a kind of law called the Constitution and I bet you thought that document would save us from this idiocy. They’ve ignored the Constitution so far, why should they start paying attention to it now?

I hope Republican candidates are making a list and checking it twice of idiotic and inane rules and regulations being foisted on the public by the Obama administration. The list is so long it will probably take two terms for the Republican president to address it.

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Cuban Dissidents Cite ‘Betrayal’ by Obama

Saturday, December 20th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

President Obama and those supporting the opening to Cuba have been repeating a mantra the last few days that our engagement will help the Cuban people toward their goal of achieving democracy.

What do the people fighting for freedom in Cuba today think? Perhaps the president should have talked to them before taking this step. An editorial in the Washington Post details the reaction of major dissidents in Cuba, and, not surprisingly. it turns out that they feel betrayed by the president.

PRESIDENT OBAMA said he decided to normalize relations with Cuba because “we can do more to support the Cuban people and promote our values through engagement.” So it’s important to know the reaction of those Cubans who have put their lives on the line to fight for democracy and human rights. Many have supported engagement and opposed the U.S. embargo. But they are now pretty much unanimous in saying that the way Mr. Obama has gone about this is a mistake.

Actually, “mistake” is the polite word used by Berta Soler of the Ladies in White, an astonishingly courageous group of women who march each week in support of political prisoners. “Betrayal” was the term used by several others, who asked why Mr. Obama had chosen to lift economic restrictions and dispatch an ambassador without requiring the “significant steps toward democracy” he once said must precede liberalization.

Guillermo Fariñas, the general director of the dissidents’ United Anti-Totalitarian Front, told reporters in Havana that Mr. Obama had promised in a November 2013 meeting with himself and Ms. Soler that any U.S. action on Cuba “would be consulted with civil society and the nonviolent opposition. Obviously this didn’t happen . . . they didn’t take into account Cuban democrats.”

What does a promise to people risking their lives for freedom matter when there’s history to be made! This president’s mania for getting his name in the history books has already led to a gargantuan health insurance law that isn’t working, the enabling of Iran (the world’s most fanatical and dangerous regime) to build a nuclear weapon, the abandonment of Iraq to the forces of evil in his historic bid to end the war, and the amnestying of 6 million people without congressional approval.

The president is making history, alright — no matter how many people are hurt along the way.

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NLRB Drops the Hammer on McDonald’s Corporation

Saturday, December 20th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

We’ve got two years left of this crap, while the president and his appointees are going to constantly redefine the concept of “transforming America.”

The National Labor Relations Board took the unprecedented step of filing complaints against not only McDonald’s franchises for labor violations, but also the parent company, McDonald’s Inc. The franchise agreement explicitly states that McDonald’s, Inc. will have nothing to do with hiring, firing, and supervising franchise restaurant employees. But the NLRB, seeking to boost the employee drive to unionize, targeted the parent company as well as franchises in their complaints.

Politico:

The complaints allege that the company and its franchisees retaliated against protesters by reducing their hours or firing them. It’s illegal to retaliate against any worker for “concerted activities” to protest workplace conditions, even when no union organizing takes place — which was almost always the case in the fast food protests.

The action, undertaken by the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel, will be met immediately by a high-spending business campaign to counter it through litigation, lobbying and public relations. The International Franchise Association, the most active Big Business lobby opposing the complaints, has already retained lobbyists at the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, including Ed Pagano, a former Senate liaison and deputy assistant to President Barack Obama for legislative affairs and longtime staffer for Democratic Sen. Pat Leahy of Vermont.

NLRB general counsel Richard Griffin, who acts as a sort of prosecutor, may issue legal complaints against any business, including a franchisee. In July Griffin drew considerable consternation from McDonald’s and other franchisors when he determined that the McDonald’s corporation could be named a “joint employer” in such complaints.

Griffin did just that on Friday, alleging in 13 complaints against franchisees around the country that McDonald’s jointly employed workers against whom franchisees unlawfully retaliated for protesting working conditions — chiefly low wages. That’s a first for the NLRB and makes McDonald’s potentially liable, financially, for any back pay that an administrative judge or the NLRB may order, and potentially responsible, legally, for any failure to carry out an order to reinstate an employee. (The NLRB is unable by statute to impose fines or require payment of compensatory or punitive damages.) By questioning McDonald’s Corp.’s contention that it exists entirely separate and apart from its franchisees, Griffin’s actions could eventually set in motion NLRB actions that compel McDonald’s to bargain with franchisee employees.

If you’re confused about this, you’re not the only one. Here’s the NLRB’s explanation for the action:

“Through its franchise relationship and its use of tools, resources and technology,” the office of general counsel said, McDonald’s “engages in sufficient control over its franchisees’ operations, beyond protection of the brand, to make it a putative joint employer with its franchisees.” This finding, the statement said, was “further supported by McDonald’s’ … nationwide response to franchise employee activities while participating in fast food worker protests to improve their wages and working conditions.”

A “putative joint employer”? What the heck does that mean? The parent company still doesn’t hire employees, or fire them, or set their hours, or exercise any other “control” that a reasonable person would recognize as such. Clearly, there is some other logic at play that makes the NLRB think they can railroad the company into granting the demands of the workers.

For the record, the NLRB is not supposed to take sides in labor disputes. In this case, they have bent over backwards, overreaching to find McDonald’s, Inc. liable for something they are not. It may be the most egregious example yet of pro-union bias by the agency during the Obama years.

Given the nature of the fast food industry, there could be any number of reasons why an employee is fired, or has their hours reduced — most notably, in addition to going out on “strike,” they may be consistently late or call in sick, or screw up on the job. Fast food employees are not rocket scientists, and my experience with teenagers and young adults working in menial jobs is that many of them are irresponsible, having no idea how to hold down a job, and take no pride in the work itself.

This NLRB action is a shot across the bow to the fast food industry. It will also be a test of a union strategy to bring fast food corporations to their knees in order to make them do their bidding.

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Obamacare Tax Rules a Boon for Preparers

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Tax preparation for the average American is going to be a lot more complicated this year as Obamacare penalties will be assessed for those who fail to purchase government-approved insurance.

Taxpayers have until February 15 to buy an approved insurance plan. Failure to do so will result in a fine being assessed of $325 or 2% of your income, whichever is greater.

Both insurance companies and tax preparation outfits are playing up the fines for non-insurance as a marketing tool. Companies like H&R Block and Jackson-Hewitt are inviting tax payers to pay them a visit to ensure they are in compliance with IRS regs.

The Hill:

Part of the pitch is helping consumers avoid the mandate through an exemption if they are eligible.

A variety of hardship qualifications makes this route possible for many people, including those who experienced the death of a close relative, had their previous health plan canceled or saw an increase in necessary expenses due to caring for an aging family member.

“There are a lot of people who will qualify for an exemption,” said Avalere Health CEO Dan Mendelson. “If a company can save someone the 2 percent fine on $50,000 of income, that is significant.”

Firms are also offering to help current enrollees understand how changes in income can affect their tax credits to buy coverage. In some cases, they can also help the uninsured select health plans.

In promotional materials, H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt Tax Service say they can provide consumers relief, arguing that healthcare reform is making tax planning more difficult.

“The ACA [Affordable Care Act] has changed the landscape of both healthcare and tax,” H&R Block states online, inviting consumers to calculate their mandate penalty or receive a “tax impact analysis” when they become a client.

Jackson Hewitt urges consumers to stop by one of its locations, promising that their employees “work harder to keep up with the latest tax law changes to protect you from possible penalties — not everyone else does.”

The marketing around the healthcare law is taking flight at a time when surveys show the public remains deeply confused about the mandate.

Almost half of U.S. adults are unaware they must report their health insurance status on their 2014 tax returns, according to a TurboTax survey released earlier this month.

And while about three in five uninsured people know the law penalizes people without coverage, nearly 90 percent do not realize the 2014 deadline has already passed.

As a result, experts are urging insurers and the federal government to do more to emphasize the mandate this enrollment period.

Some Americans are going to get a nasty surprise when they realize what exactly the individual mandate means. It’s relatively simple if you have insurance through your employer. But if you buy insurance on the open market, here are 13 pages of instructions that tell you how to fill out IRS Form 8965. (PDF)

Of course, most taxpayers won’t even attempt it, which is where the boon for tax prep companies is going to be huge. Complexity in this case is not a bug; it’s a feature.

But there’s a dirty little secret that the IRS doesn’t want you to find out. They won’t have a clue if your insurance plan is in compliance with the law or not:

Call it confusion over what to call the law – “Obamacare,” the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” the “Affordable Care Act,” the “PPACA,” or the “ACA.” Or a technical glitch. Or insufficient funding to write the program. But for whatever reason, the IRS has absolutely no way of verifying whose insurance coverage did not qualify under the law and who pays the penalty.

With just under 25 million people enrolling in the federal and state health exchanges (including Medicare and Medicaid recipients), plus the estimated 150 million who have employer-paid health care plans, there are still some 62 million people who would have to pay a penalty but likely will not. For those who do the math the IRS apparently did not, that’s a potential loss of nearly $6 billion in revenue – potentially out-pacing the EITC fraud everyone is so enraged over.

But wait, it gets worse. Some 3.6 million more people were laid off during the year and lost their health benefits – becoming liable for some or all of the penalty for the months they were not covered. Call that another billion and a half dollars.

And even worse. Those who successfully did enroll in Obamacare and received a premium credit must repay the overage if the IRS finds that the customer’s 2014 income increased over the 2012 income used as a benchmark. That’s the theory, but with the start of tax season mere weeks away there is no mechanism to make that comparison. The final rules say there will be income comparisons, but who will do this?

And worse yet. Those who do not meet the “essential minimum coverage” threshold for individuals can still avoid paying the penalty if they meet one of the dozen or so exemptions, which seem to be granted to any person who breathes air, or has a life crisis like missing a utility bill payment, or having a family member becomes ill or even a family pet with a flea problem. It really doesn’t matter, because there is no place to report either the coverage status or the exemption if you are not already enrolled in a qualified program. Those are supposed to be covered under rules that the IRS has not yet drafted.

This is a clusterfark waiting to happen. Literally millions of Americans have no idea the piano that is about to be dropped on their heads. Of course, for many of them, it’s their own fault for not paying attention to what’s going on in the country. You would think that by this time, Obamacare would hold no surprises for an informed citizenry.

But an “informed citizenry” is a relative term these days, so millions won’t see the piano. Meanwhile, H&R Block and their fellow tax preparation companies are leading the way in Obama’s economic recovery, generating wealth (their own) and creating jobs.

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Nations Reach Deal on Outline of New Climate Treaty

Sunday, December 14th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

A deal to reach a deal next year on a new climate change treaty was reached by 190 nations in Lima, Peru, on Sunday, as nations put off big decisions on what to do about global warming until a conference in Paris in 2015.

Major points of agreement included appeasing emerging economies like China and India by making rich nations mostly responsible for funding third world climate mitigation efforts, despite the fact that China is the number one emitter of greenhouse gases in the world and India is 4th.

The Lima deal also recognizes for the first time that all nations have to cut their emissions — a sop to rich countries who complained that global warming is a global problem and that all countries must participate in the reduction schemes.

But in the end, the deal is relatively meaningless. All the issues that nearly caused the talks to collapse were put off until the Paris conference next year.

Associated Press:

More than 30 hours behind schedule, delegates from more than 190 countries agreed on what information should go into the pledges that countries submit for the expected Paris pact.

They argued all day Saturday over the wording for the watered-down deal, with developing nations worried that the text blurred the distinction between what rich and poor countries can be expected to do.

Many developing countries, the most vulnerable to climate change’s impacts, accuse rich nations of shirking their responsibilities to curb climate change and pay for the damage it inflicts.

The final draft of the deal alleviated those concerns with language saying countries have “common but differentiated responsibilities” to deal with global warming.

“As a text it’s not perfect, but it includes the positions of the parties,” said Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, who was the conference chairman and had spent most of the day meeting separately with delegations.

In presenting a new, fourth draft just before midnight, Peru’s environment minister gave a sharply reduced body of delegates an hour to review it. Many delegates had already quit the makeshift conference center on the grounds of Peru’s army headquarters.

It also restored language demanded by small island states at risk of being flooded by rising seas, mentioning a “loss and damage” mechanism agreed upon in last year’s talks in Poland that recognizes that nations hardest hit by climate change will require financial and technical help.

“We need a permanent arrangement to help the poorest of the world,” Ian Fry, negotiator for the Pacific Island nation of Tuvalu, said at a midday session.

However, the approved draft weakened language on the content of the pledges, saying they “may” instead of “shall” include quantifiable information showing how countries intend to meet their emissions targets.

Also, top carbon polluter China and other major developing countries opposed plans for a review process that would allow the pledges to be compared against one another before Paris.

In Lima, the momentum from last month’s joint U.S.-China deal on emissions targets faded quickly as rifts reopened over who should do what to fight global warming. The goal of the talks is to shape a global agreement in Paris that puts the world on a path to reduce the heat-trapping gases that scientists say are warming the planet.

That “financial and technical assistance” will come out of the pockets of largely western taxpayers. Cost estimates have varied wildly, but one study predicted a cost of $2 trillion a year worldwide by 2050, with most of that being born by the US and the EU. By then, the US is expected to decrease its carbon emissions by 80%.

Not all of that cost will be in taxes, but a sizable portion will be. There are also expected to be some savings as we move to more efficient energy sources. But that’s just for morale. The fact is, climate change will cut economic growth significantly, which means fewer jobs created and less wealth.

The world seems hell bent on fighting climate change even though there is scant evidence that the “solutions” being offered will affect the rise in temperatures. What these treaties will accomplish will be the social goal of transferring wealth from rich countries to the control of thugs, deadbeats, kleptocrats, and fanatics in poor countries.

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Ted Cruz: The Democrats’ Best Friend

Sunday, December 14th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Senator Ted Cruz is now officially on the outs with most of the GOP caucus. I’m sure that suits him fine, and no doubt wins him friends and supporters among those conservatives who cheer his grandstanding and futile legislative gestures that have zero chance of passing.

For Cruz, playing to the peanut gallery on the right in service to his overweening ambition to be president trumps all. Forget reason. Forget logic. Why bother with those trivialities when there’s red meat to throw at his supporters?

And if, in the process of satisfying the bloodlust of his supporters, he helps the opposition and damages his party and its causes, that is secondary to his narcissistic compulsion to make everything about him.

Twenty-four Obama administration nominees to the bench and important agency positions that were blocked for months by his fellow Republicans were set on the path  to easy confirmation over the weekend because Cruz wanted to blow up the budget deal. By preventing the Senate from leaving town on Friday when he objected to the unanimous consent request by Majority Leader Harry Reid to adjourn until Monday, Cruz not only forced a vote on his motion to deny funding to Obama’s executive orders on immigration on Saturday night — a vote that would have happened Monday anyway — he allowed Reid and the Democrats the extra time they needed to ram through a couple of dozen ultra-liberal nominees who will do more damage to the causes in which conservatives believe than all of Obama’s executive orders put together.

The judges will be sitting for years. The agency personnel will be writing regulations for the next two years that I doubt Cruz would be happy with. Just what possessed this demagogue to put his personal, political interests ahead of the goals of his party and his ideology?

There was never any chance his legislative gambit would work, as evidenced by the final vote on his amendment — 74-22. Meanwhile, Obama’s choice for surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, whom Republicans had been blocking for months, will be confirmed in a vote later this week. Murthy once suggested that guns should be regulated as a health hazard.

Thanks a lot, Ted.

Democrats are also thanking Cruz:

Most Republican senators had no idea what Cruz was trying to accomplish. Cruz joined them in that cluelessness:

“GOP [senators] should quit complaining about Cruz and Lee and start working with us to stop amnesty,” tweeted Amanda Carpenter, Cruz’s spokeswoman.

What does Cruz think the rest of the caucus was doing when they got the Democrats to agree to a short-term funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security? The whole point of the limited funding for DHS is so that the issue of Obama’s executive orders on immigration can be revisited when Republicans have a majority in both houses of Congress.

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Senate Republicans Grumbling Over Cruz Tactics

Saturday, December 13th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Late Friday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was all set to enact an agreement he made with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that would adjourn the Senate for a nice weekend and then come back on Monday to vote on the Cromnibus spending bill.

Reid proceeded with the pro forma motion to adjourn — until Senator Ted Cruz objected. From that point forward, all of Reid’s and McConnell’s best laid plans went haywire.

Instead of adjourning, Reid is using the time this weekend to ram through several nominations. Meanwhile, Cruz is trying to maneuver Reid into holding a vote on his amnesty defunding bill. It doesn’t appear the majority leader is about to give in, and Cruz’s tactics have some Republican senators grumbling.

Associated Press:

Asked if Cruz had created an opening for the Democrats, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah said, “I wish you hadn’t pointed that out.”

Hatch added, “You should have an end goal in sight if you’re going to do these types of things and I don’t see an end goal other than irritating a lot of people.”

Added Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.: “I fail to see what conservative ends were achieved.” He also said he was worried about what the events means for next year, when Republicans are in charge.

“The other concern I have here now is the nominations that are going to get through that otherwise wouldn’t,” said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.

Appearing irritated, some Republicans spoke with Cruz on the Senate floor about his actions. At another point, Cruz huddled in the rear of the chamber with Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, who had supported him on Friday evening, and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, another tea party-backed lawmaker.

The GOP leader, Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, made no public comment on the events, even though Cruz suggested Friday night McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, should not be entirely trusted to keep their pledge to challenge Obama’s immigration policy when Republicans gain two-house control of Congress in January.

“We will learn soon enough if those statements are genuine and sincere,” Cruz said.

Cruz and the Banzai Charge Caucus in the Senate will not get their way this time around. Most Republicans — even those adamantly opposed to the president’s immigration orders — would prefer to keep their powder dry and, less than a month from now, take on the defunding issue when Republicans control both houses of Congress. At the very least, it is likely some kind of defunding measure will end up on the president’s desk, forcing him to veto it. That route is far preferable to the futile gesture of trying to get a defunding measure passed through a Democratic Senate.

Cruz doesn’t care what other senators think of him — a rarity on the Hill. His constituency is outside of Washington and sees nothing wrong with his hopeless, but emotionally satisfying, tactics. Americans overwhelmingly reject the president’s actions on immigration but they are equally opposed to shutting down the government. But Cruz and his small band of GOP outriders aren’t listening, which only makes them look petulant and small.

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Cops Union Tells de Blasio to Stay Away from Their Funerals

Saturday, December 13th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

A police union in New York City is so incensed with Mayor de Blasio’s statements following the grand jury decision in the Eric Garner case that they are asking their members to sign a waiver requesting that the mayor refrain from attending their funerals if they are killed in the line of duty.

The union is also asking members to disinvite Council Speaker Melissa ​Mark-​Viverito.

The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association sent out a flyer headlined “Don’t Let Them Insult Your Sacrifice,” urging members to download and sign the waiver from their website.

New York Post:

“I, as a New York City police officer, request that Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito refrain from attending my funeral services in the event that I am killed in the line of duty,” the waiver states.

“Due to Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Mark-Viverito’s consistent refusal to show police officers the support and respect they deserve, I believe that their attendance at the funeral of a fallen New York City police officer is an insult to that officer’s memory and sacrifice.”

Officers can download the form on the PBA’s Web site and drop off a signed copy to their PBA delegates.

The mayor traditionally attends funerals for fallen officers.

“This is deeply disappointing,” the mayor and the council speaker said in a joint statement.
“Incendiary rhetoric like this serves only to divide the city, and New Yorkers reject these tactics.

“The mayor and the speaker both know better than to think this inappropriate stunt represents the views of the majority of police officers and their families.

Hizoner is being deeply disingenuous. The mayor told a group of protestors that he had warned his mixed race son to be careful around the police:

“We’ve had to literally train him, as families have all over this city for decades, in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him,” the mayor said.

PBA President Patrick Lynch reacted to that by accusing the mayor of throwing cops “under the bus.”

The Post reported that amid protests on the Garner verdict, a “Pro-Cop Rally” at City Hall is being planned for next Friday.

Ordinarily, the advice given by de Blasio to his son is sound, although then was not the time to say it and the way he said it implied he was in danger. Most of these recent police shootings are the direct result of people not doing what the police are telling them to do. Trying to be a hard ass and resist the police is extraordinarily dangerous. When encountering the cops, no matter what the circumstances and even if you think the police are in the wrong, cooperation with their wishes is not only smart, it’s the law.

That’s the message that black parents should be giving their children. When stopped by an officer, do as you’re told, don’t mouth off or talk back, and if taken into custody, don’t resist. If you know it’s a mistake, keep your mouth shut until you get legal representation. These simple rules are a no brainer when dealing with the police and are virtually guaranteed to prevent the kinds of tragedies that have occurred in recent weeks.

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How Long Can Elizabeth Warren Resist the Siren Song of High Office?

Saturday, December 13th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

You are probably familiar with the creatures from Greek mythology known as the Sirens. They lived on an island in the Aegean Sea and it was said that if sailors heard their seductive and beautiful song, they would go mad and crash their ship into the island’s rocky shores.

In Homer’s Odyssey, the hero Odysseus very much wanted to hear the song of the Sirens, but he didn’t want to be shipwrecked. So he had his men tie him to the mast and plug their ears with beeswax. He ordered them not to release him under any circumstances, no matter how much be begged or threatened them.

Sure enough, as Odysseus’s ship sailed past the Sirens’ island, the singing drove the hero to near madness. He pleaded and begged his men to release him, to no avail. But Odysseus became known as the only human who resisted the siren song, albeit because he was restrained.

You have to wonder if Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, whose profile has been raised considerably this week because of her public break with President Obama and her opposition to Cromnibus, is lashed tight enough to the mast in order to resist the growing chorus from the left, urging her to run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

For months, Warren has been almost Shermanesque in her denials that she’s running for president. But you have to wonder if the left’s Siren Song urging her to run might be giving her second thoughts.

The liberal magazine that used to be The New Republic features an article by Danny Vinik that highlights Warren’s anti-Wall Street cred with the liberal base of the Democratic Party, embodied in two issues: opposition to the Wall Street giveaway in Cromnibus, and the nomination of Antonio Weiss to be undersecretary of Treasury for Domestic Finance:

It’s rare for such a nominee to become a political issue, much less a political issue within a party. But that’s what has happened to Antonio Weiss, whom Obama nominated on November 12.

A week later, Warren came out vocally against Weiss, arguing that he was both unqualified for the job and another example of Democrats’ filling senior government positions with people from Wall Street. “The over-representation of Wall Street banks in senior government positions sends a bad message,” she wrote in the Huffington Post. “It tells people that one—and only one—point of view will dominate economic policymaking. It tells people that whatever goes wrong in this economy, the Wall Street banks will be protected first. That’s yet another advantage that Wall Street just doesn’t need.”

On Tuesday, Warren took her criticism of Weiss’s nomination up a notch. Speaking at a conference on the Federal Reserve, Warren tore into Weiss’s qualifications and ripped her party for cozying up to Wall Street.

This is red meat for the rabid anti-capitalist base of the Democratic Party, and the netnuts cheered her on.

But it is her threat to shut down the government over language in the spending bill that grants Wall Street some security in derivatives trading that has the base so excited:

But Warren’s biggest moment this week was her crusade against a must-pass spending bill over a little-known policy rider that would have eliminated a part in the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill. Section 716 prevents banks from using taxpayer-backed funds to trade in riskier financial products known as custom swaps. On Wednesday, Warren delivered a vicious speech on the Senate floor in which she implored House Democrats to kill the bill.

“Now, the House of Representatives is about to show us the worst of government for the rich and powerful,” she said. “The House is about to vote on a budget deal, a deal negotiated behind closed doors that slips in a provision that would let derivatives traders on Wall Street gamble with taxpayer money and get bailed out by the government when their risky bets threaten to blow up our financial system.… This provision is all about goosing the profits of the big banks.”

The provision has also garnered significant Democratic support in the past. In 2013, for instance, 70 Democrats voted for it in a bill that died in the Senate. Warren’s speech had made the issue toxic and persuaded other House Democrats to vote against not just the provision but a massive spending bill.

This position put her at direct odds with the White House. President Obama not only supported the bill, but he and Vice President Joe Biden made calls to individual Democratic congressman asking for their votes and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough was dispatched to the Hill as well. In the end, Obama prevailed. Fifty-seven Democrats sided with 162 Republicans and the bill barely passed. But Warren had taken on the Democratic establishment and came within just a few votes of winning.

Warren is a populist whose appeal crosses party lines on issues like income inequality and Wall Street reform. It would be a mistake to underestimate her. Just because she’s a rabid leftist who wants to arrest bankers and punish the wealthy (she is the originator of the “you didn’t build that” theme) doesn’t mean that a decent Republican candidate could defeat her easily. She is very tough and would be a formidable opponent.

But could she beat Hillary for the Democratic nomination?

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Taliban Condemns US Torture, Then Takes Responsibility for Suicide Bombing

Thursday, December 11th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The obliviousness — or cynicism — of third world thugs and terrorists who are criticizing the United States for torture is beyond belief. Now comes word that those fine respecters of human rights and the rights of the accused — the Taliban — have weighed in on the issue and has harshly condemned the US for its interrogation practices.

A couple of hours earlier, the Taliban had blown up a French cultural center killing 4 innocents and injuring 23.

NBC News:

Among the critics blasting U.S. policy in the wake of a Senate CIA torture report are the Taliban — the same group that routinely carries out suicide attacks, and just on Thursday claimed responsibility for a bombing at a film screening in Kabul that killed at least four people.

The Taliban, which calls itself the Islamic Emirate, released a statement Thursday that said the Senate report “reveals the true face of America.” The report, released Tuesday, said U.S. interrogators used extreme tactics that included simulated drownings, beatings and confinement in coffin-sized boxes in the years after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The Taliban said that the alleged abuses in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s long-awaited report are continuing in Afghanistan, and called for the international community to investigate.

Earlier Thursday, the Taliban claimed responsibility after a teenage boy blew himself up in a packed auditorium at a French cultural center in Kabul, where a documentary — about suicide bombers — was being screened. The Taliban also vowed revenge against American forces for the alleged abuses in the CIA torture report.

I’m sure it slipped the Taliban’s mind that they tortured US deserter Bowe Bergdahl when they held him for 5 years.

Those who are protesting the loudest are usually the ones who are guilty of even more horrific acts than a few interrogators at the CIA. Torture is built into the Taliban culture; their punishment for adultery is stoning, arguably generating more terror and pain than the CIA ever caused a terrorist.

Those who live in glass houses…

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Will Michigan Governor Snyder Ride Detroit Resurgence to the White House?

Thursday, December 11th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Don’t look now but the city of Detroit, which has gone through the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history, is poised to regain control of its own destiny.

And that’s very good news for Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.

To be sure, Detroit’s underlying problems are immense and whether civic leaders have learned anything from the past is open to question. But the city has gotten it’s pension problems under control, it has shed billions in debt, police and fire response times have improved, and there appears to be a new determination among politicians to address problems that previous administrations allowed to fester.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Snyder announced that the emergency manager he appointed to guide the city’s finances through the bankruptcy would be stepping down, giving city fathers control over their budget once again. And it wasn’t lost on observers that Snyder said he wanted to take the message of Detroit’s resurgence on the road next year to “explain the Michigan story to the rest of the country.”

Politico:

“As we solve these problems, one of the things you find is the perception of an area tends to lag five or 10 years behind the reality of it,” he said. “As we’ve shown the vast improvement over the last few years, now it’s time to start talking about the success in Michigan.”

Although officially the trips are aimed at promoting the local economy, they will also help boost Snyder’s national profile at a time when the emerging 2016 GOP field is anything but settled.

And while Snyder’s uneasiness talking about social issues means he will have a tough time winning the party’s nod — and he’s not taking active steps toward a candidacy — his economic background and success governing a blue state could make him an attractive running mate.

Snyder plays coy when asked if he’ll run for the White House, keeping the door wide open. He says his focus – “right now” – is on launching his second-term initiatives.

“I don’t want to even start that speculation, but you know that there are traditional timelines that people have to look at if they’re looking at those things,” he said. “I’m just focused on being governor right now. I appreciate you asking, though.”

Michigan is a purple state with enough of a blue tinge that the Democratic Senate candidate asked President Barack Obama to come campaign with him, even as most in his party shunned him this year.

Detroit in particular has been a haven for Democrats. Obama won Wayne County — which includes Detroit — by 47 points in 2012.

When Snyder put Detroit into managed bankruptcy, Democrats pushed back. Public employee unions said they would not let allow any cuts to benefits. But the Republican governor, who just won reelection in November by 4 points, worked with local leaders, creditors and the conservative state legislature to strike a so-called “grand bargain.”

Snyder, a former chief executive of Gateway Computers, told POLITICO that the federal government could learn a lot from what he and his allies just accomplished.

Snyder is one of several governors who have emerged in the Obama era as “technocratic Republicans.” Mitt Romney was the most prominent of this new breed of GOP politician, until he tried to rebrand himself as a conservative ideologue.

Basically, the technocrats eschew ideology in favor of conservative pragmatism. Social issues like abortion and gay marriage are downplayed in favor of fiscal conservatism and competent governance. This is a formula that has proven itself successful for Republicans who govern in blue and purple states, which is why Snyder has suddenly gotten some people interested in his chances for 2016.

Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker, Iowa’s Terry Branstad, and Snyder would all be considered second tier presidential candidates if they were to run. But what about the second spot? A strong conservative like Ted Cruz might look very hard at a blue or purple state governor for the vice presidential slot. Not so much to “balance” the ticket but because their statewide organizations would be of great help in getting out the Republican vote in the general election.

But who knows? By 2016, Detroit might be in big trouble again and people will have forgotten Rick Snyder’s role in saving it. And it’s not like the GOP doesn’t have enough candidates already. Snyder isn’t even the most prominent RINO who would be entering the race.

Given all of that, Snyder will probably pass on running in 2016.

 

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Elizabeth Warren Wants to Shut Down the Government

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Senator Elizabeth Warren is bat guano crazy. She is calling on Democrats in the House to oppose the bi-partisan budget bill negotiated by the House and Senate because an obscure rule dealing with derivatives contained in the Dodd-Frank financial regulation reform bill has been removed.

If House Democrats follow her lead, the budget bill will fail and the government will be forced to shut down at 12:01 AM on Friday. At present, Speaker Boehner does not have enough votes for Republicans to pass the measure themselves. That’s because some conservatives in the House are also bat guano crazy and insist they can defund the president’s immigration orders, despite a majority of Democrats in the Senate and a certain veto from President Obama, even if they could somehow get the measure through the upper body.

I have yet to hear one right-winger explain just how defunding can work under these circumstances. Do they plan to hypnotize 15 Democratic senators and, through the power of suggestion, get them to vote for the provision defunding the immigration executive orders? Maybe they don’t know that President Obama has to sign the bill for them to achieve victory. Lacking a coherent plan, their futile gesture will fail and make them look, well, crazy.

Politico:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called on Democrats in the House to use their leverage and reject a bipartisan spending bill to keep the government open until a measure tucked inside rolling back a piece of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law is removed.

“Who does Congress work for?” Warren said in a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon. “Does it work for the millionaires, the billionaires, the giant companies with their armies of lobbyists and lawyers, or does it work for all the people?”

Warren’s call went further than House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who said Wednesday that she is “deeply troubled” by the banking measure. The Democratic discontent with the measure could make passing the bill more difficult, as House Speaker John Boehner is not expected to have enough votes on his own.

(Also on POLITICO: Coburn threatens spending deal over defense bill)

Warren, a popular figure on the left, told Democrats to withhold their support for the funding bill until the Wall Street provisions are removed. Warren, a fierce opponent of Wall Street, is a populist who has supported reforming banks for years.

“Now, the House of Representatives is about to show us the worst of government for the rich and powerful,” she continued. “The House is about to vote on a budget deal, a deal negotiated behind closed doors that slips in a provision that would let derivatives traders on Wall Street gamble with taxpayer money and get bailed out by the government when their risky bets threaten to blow up our financial system.”

She acknowledged that bipartisan House and Senate negotiators have worked “long and hard” on the spending bill, and that Senate leadership “deserve great credit for preventing the House from carrying out some of their more aggressive … fantasies about dismantling even more pieces of financial reform.”

Note: The amendment to Dodd-Frank would mostly help farmers and other commodity producers.

Some House conservatives want to join with liberal House Democrats to assure a government shutdown. They probably wouldn’t admit it, but that is the practical effect of their plans. But for rabid ideologues of the right and left, “practical” is just another word for “cowardice.”

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Senator Udall Reveals Classified Info in Blasting CIA

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Outgoing Colorado Senator Mark Udall took to the floor of the Senate to skewer the Obama administration and the CIA over the CIA torture report, at one point calling for a “purge” of the CIA and accusing the agency of continuing to lie.

Udall didn’t stop there. He discussed the findings of a classified report known as the Panetta Review, claiming that the administration was keeping the document from the Senate.

He also called for the resignation of current CIA chief John Brennan:

National Journal reports:

In a career-defining speech, Sen. Mark Udall took to the Senate floor Wednesday to discuss a largely classified internal CIA investigation into the agency’s Bush-era “enhanced interrogation techniques,” and to call for the current CIA director’s resignation.

Udall, an outbound Democrat from Colorado, began highlighting key conclusions from the CIA’s so-called Panetta Review, written in 2011 and named after then-agency Director Leon Panetta. Its critical findings, in addition to the agency’s attempts to prevent the Senate from seeing it, Udall said, demonstrates that the CIA is still lying about the scope of enhanced-interrogation techniques used during the Bush administration.

That deceit is continuing today under current CIA Director John Brennan, Udall said.

“The refusal to provide the full Panetta Review and the refusal to acknowledge facts detailed in both the committee study and the Panetta Review lead to one disturbing finding: Director Brennan and the CIA today are continuing to willfully provide inaccurate information and misrepresent the efficacy of torture.”

Obama, Udall said, “has expressed full confidence in Director Brennan and demonstrated that trust by making no effort at all to rein him in.” Udall additionally referred to Brennan’s “failed leadership” and suggested that he should resign.

Udall said that redactions in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s landmark torture report obfuscated key details about the CIA’s harsh interrogation methods. Among those, Udall said, the report is ambiguous about how many CIA officials participated in the brutal practices. In reality, it was only a handful, he said.

As he spoke, Udall continued to give a blistering and detailed account of the CIA leadership’s and its refusal to come clean with the American people on the Bush-era program. Udall accused the CIA of outright lying to the committee during its investigation.

“Torture just didn’t happen, after all,” Udall said. “Real, actual people engaged in torture. Some of these people are still employed by the CIA.”

Udall said it was bad enough not to prosecute these officials, but to reward or promote them, he said, was incomprehensible. Udall called on Obama “to purge” his administration of anyone who was engaged in torturing prisoners.

“He needs to force a cultural change at the CIA,” Udall said.

And, Udall said, the institutional problems are far from over. “CIA was knowingly providing inaccurate information to the committee in the present day,” he said.

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How’s that Medicaid Expansion Working Out For Ya, Barry?

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

One of the signature parts of the Affordable Care Act was the expansion of Medicaid to those earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level (about $32,900 for a family of 4 in 2014). Originally, all states were required to adopt this expansion. But the Supreme Court decision in June, 2012 that declared the individual mandate legal also struck down the mandatory expansion of Medicaid and made state participation in the program voluntary. Subsequently, 26 states and the District of Columbia adopted the expansion.

The federal government promised the states to pay 100% of the bill for those participating in the expanded Medicaid program through 2016. In 2017, the feds promised to pay 95% through 2019. And in 2020 and forever after, 90%.

Medicaid expansion is a success story for Obamacare — sort of. Although more than 9 million Americans took advantage of the expansion to sign up for Medicaid, an already broken program is now being threatened with collapse due to the massive increase in demand for services. The reason? There just aren’t enough doctors and hospitals out there willing to accept the far below market reimbursements for services. And now, a new report from the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services reveals just how bad the problem of finding a doctor is for new Medicaid patients.

New York Times:

Large numbers of doctors who are listed as serving Medicaid patients are not available to treat them, federal investigators said in a new report.

“Half of providers could not offer appointments to enrollees,” the investigators said in the report, which will be issued on Tuesday.

Many of the doctors were not accepting new Medicaid patients or could not be found at their last known addresses, according to the report from the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services. The study raises questions about access to care for people gaining Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

The health law is fueling rapid growth in Medicaid, with enrollment up by nine million people, or 16 percent, in the last year, the department said. Most of the new beneficiaries are enrolled in private health plans that use a network of doctors to manage their care.

Patients select doctors from a list of providers affiliated with each Medicaid health plan. The investigators, led by the inspector general, Daniel R. Levinson, called doctors’ offices and found that in many cases the doctors were unavailable or unable to make appointments.

More than one-third of providers could not be found at the location listed by a Medicaid managed-care plan.

“In these cases,” Mr. Levinson said, “callers were sometimes told that the practice had never heard of the provider, or that the provider had practiced at the location in the past but had retired or left the practice. Some providers had left months or even years before the time of the call.”

About 8 percent of providers were at the locations listed, but said they did not participate in the Medicaid health plan with which they were supposedly affiliated. Another 8 percent participated in Medicaid, but were not accepting new patients.

“When providers listed as participating in a plan cannot offer appointments, it may create a significant obstacle for an enrollee seeking care,” Mr. Levinson said. “Moreover, it raises questions about the adequacy of provider networks. It suggests that the actual size of provider networks may be considerably smaller than what is presented by Medicaid managed-care plans.”

Investigators called 1,800 providers listed by more than 200 health plans under contract with Medicaid in 32 states. In all cases, insurers confirmed that the doctors were supposed to be taking Medicaid patients.

You might ask why states aren’t jumping to take the deal offered by Washington. Usually, a state splits the cost of Medicaid 50-50 with the federal government. So when the feds offer to reimburse states for 90-100% of Medicaid costs, you’d think it was an offer they couldn’t refuse.

Some GOP governors couldn’t refuse. But those governors that declined to receive the Medicaid expansion cash did so for good reason; Washington “guarantees” on funding are not set in stone. Congress could cut the reimbursement amount and leave states holding the bag. States would then be forced to either cut physician reimbursement rates further or trim the Medicaid rolls. Neither option is palatable, but is the probable future of those states that accepted the expansion.

So, a program already teetering because physicians were opting out of Medicaid networks or refusing to take new patients at all, finds itself becoming even more dysfunctional as millions of new enrollees enter the system and are having a difficult time finding a doctor to treat them.

One option being proposed — whispered by Obamacare proponents — is to force doctors to take Medicaid patients. If you can mandate that individuals buy insurance, why not mandate that doctors take Medicaid patients? It’s this sort of illogic that got Obamacare passed in the first place and will ultimately lead to a complete takeover by government of the health care system.

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CIA Torture Report: Why Now? Why at All?

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

US embassies around the world are bracing for violence as the Obama administration is set to release a 500-page report on interrogation techniques used by the CIA to get intelligence from terrorists following the attacks on 9/11.

If I were an American traveling in a Muslim country today, I would find a very deep hole to hide in and ride out the storm of protests and attacks that is sure to follow this report’s release. That’s because the people who dance in the streets when an American gets his head lopped off by their co-religionists are going to throw a tantrum over depriving a terrorist of sleep.

To be sure, this report is no Pentagon Papers, which were stolen and then published by the New York Times. The report is based on a much larger 6,000 page classified study. The similarity between the two is that the authors never expected their work to see the light of day.

Despite the threat board blinking red all over the world, the report is going to be released anyway. And Republicans are up in arms about it.

Fox News:

Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Jim Risch, R-Idaho, spoke out in a statement Monday after lawmakers and Obama administration officials warned that releasing the report could lead to a backlash against Americans around the world.

Rubio and Risch called the choice to release the report a “partisan effort” by Democrats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, saying the report is not “serious or constructive.”

“We are concerned that this release could endanger the lives of Americans overseas, jeopardize U.S. relations with foreign partners, potentially incite violence, create political problems for our allies, and be used as a recruitment tool for our enemies,” the senators said. “Simply put, this release is reckless and irresponsible.”

The lawmakers spoke out as alleged new details of the report, which is expected to be released Tuesday, began to emerge. The 480-page report, a summary of a still-classified 6,000 page study, amounts to the first public accounting of the CIA’s alleged use of torture on suspected Al Qaeda detainees held in secret facilities in Europe and Asia in the years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Reuters reported Monday night that the report contains graphic details about the techniques, including sexual threats made to detainees.

According to Reuters, the report describes how at least one detainee was threatened in a sexual manner with a broomstick. In another example, Reuters reported, a detained Al Qaeda operative was threatened with a buzzing power drill.

U.S. officials who have read the report say it includes disturbing new details about the CIA’s use of such techniques as sleep deprivation, confinement in small spaces, humiliation and the simulated drowning process known as waterboarding.

A former CIA officer told Fox News Monday that the agency’s techniques led to helpful intelligence. The former officer noted that once accused Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s will was broken, he generated more than 2,000 intelligence reports.

In addition, three former CIA officers from the program told Fox News that they believe the Senate report seeks to minimize intelligence that led the U.S. to Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti– Usama bin Laden’s trusted courier.

Another former officer told Fox News that the CIA was encouraged by lawmakers “to do whatever it takes” to prevent another attack on the scale of Sept. 2001. The former officer said that Hill leadership was briefed more than three dozen times before the program was shuttered.

So some of the very same Democrats who will bemoan what’s in this report sat in a committee room and listened to some of the details of the interrogations without saying a word.

Is threatening sodomy with a broomstick and threatening to use a power drill on a terrorist the same as actually using the broomstick and power drill? The fact that our enemies wouldn’t hesitate to use either torture technique — and with great glee — is apparently lost in translation.

I’m sure there’s a good reason to risk American lives and the damage to our international standing by releasing this report. I just can’t think of one at the moment. Has there been a domestic outcry from all sides to get this report out? Haven’t heard it. Is there an international crisis that will improve with the publication of this report? Can’t think of one.

Will it make President Obama a hero to the rabid dog left? Well…there’s that, of course.

This sort of self-flagellation is good for us, we are instructed. It is absolutely imperative that the American people be told of what their government does in secret to terrorists, we are lectured.

But why the excruciating detail? I suppose the nature of torture makes it necessary to fill in some blanks, but why the PR campaign in advance of publication?

If laws were broken — domestic or international — the perpetrators should be tried in an American court and sent to jail if found guilty. But why the public secret spilling? We keep hearing that we can try terrorists in civil court because our legal system can adopt to the secret nature of much of the evidence against them. We can’t do the same for American citizens charged with torturing prisoners?

There is no good or compelling reason to release this report now, if at all. I question the motives of those on the left who seek to air our dirty laundry and who piously proclaim they’re only seeking the truth. If it is truth you seek, read the Bible, or the Koran, or the Hindu Bhagavad Gita. The human, transient truth regarding actions the United States took after the horrific attacks of 9/11 is far more complicated and deserves more consideration than those who want this report released because it will lay America low in the world and justify their hatred of their own country.

If one American dies because of this report’s release, their blood will be on the hands of the Obama administration and their supporters who would sacrifice innocent lives in service to their political agenda.

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The Return of French Toast Crunch Cereal

Monday, December 8th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

I wept when I read this news today:

2006 was the year Twitter debuted and Pluto was demoted to dwarf planet status. It was also the last time French Toast Crunch cereal was for sale in U.S. stores.

Now, General Mills has given the sugar-blasted breakfast treat new life, announcing its return to supermarket shelves after an eight-year hiatus.

The distinctive “little toast-shaped, maple-flavored bites of deliciousness,” as General Mills describes them, were survived by their sister cereal Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

General Mills said it was responding to demand by relaunching French Toast Crunch.

But it also wants to ride a wave of nostalgia: Children who ate the cereal in the mid-to-late 1990s are now in their 20s and buying cereal themselves.

For now, French Toast Crunch is available in only a limited number of grocery stores, but it will be available nationally in January.

While French Toast Crunch was discontinued in the U.S., it has been available in Canada; in French-speaking parts, it sells as “Croque Pain Doré.” Devotees ordered the cereal online from there, but General Mills said “the shipping fees were often steep” and only “a lucky few” could score a supply.

French Toast Crunch cereal should be a separate food group. The blast of maple flavor, along with a sublime consistency that holds up very well when milk is added, makes the product far more than a run-of-the-mill breakfast cereal. French Toast Crunch can be eaten for lunch, for dinner, as a snack right out of the box, and is particularly attractive if you run string through individual pieces and wrap around a Christmas tree.

Of course, even “part of a complete breakfast,” French Toast Crunch is unsuitable for children. The sugar rush will have them bouncing off the walls to begin the day, and then falling asleep in the middle of class when it wears off. So if you want to enjoy it, make sure they don’t see it and place it on a shelf beyond their reach.

But for discriminating adults, you can’t beat it. I had a friend who substituted beer for the milk and swore he was in heaven.

Now if I can only get Sue to buy it for me so I can get her hooked on it too.

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Rep. Rogers Questions Whether Pentagon Performed ‘Due Diligence’ on Released Gitmo Detainees

Monday, December 8th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Six detainees from the prison at Guantanamo were transferred yesterday to Uruguay, where they will be released and treated as “refugees.”

House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Mike Rogers, appearing on CNN’s State of the Union, wondered whether the Pentagon is really performing “due diligence” when considering the release of those accused of being terrorists.

“I’ve been opposed to this notion that we’re going to farm out Gitmo to places,” Rogers told Candy Crowley on CNN’s “State of the Union,” noting most of the detainees sent to Uruguay are not originally from there.

According to Rogers, the foreign intelligence services the United States pays to monitor the newly released detainees in countries such as Uruguay are often ill-equipped to handle the job.

“What we have found in the past is it doesn’t work very well,” he said. “I don’t think that surprises anybody. So I argue that maybe we ought to rethink what we’re doing here.”

Rogers: Torture report will cause deaths

Echoing the sentiments of many members of Congress, Rogers said some previously released prisoners are now re-engaged in the terrorist fight.
Hostages killed in failed rescue attempt

“We knew that was going to happen,” Rogers said. “That’s why those of us who were trying to do the review of this were so concerned, because they were so interested in getting them out, that they forgot to do the due diligence — I think — that would allow them to at least protect those that were going to go back into the fight, from getting back into the fight.”

[...]

Outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who recently announced his resignation in light of administrative pressure, authorized the prisoner release, according to the Pentagon. His reluctance to approve the mission until now could have been a part of the tension leading to his resignation.

But House Intelligence Committee member Adam Schiff, D-California, defended Hagel’s decision to delay the authorization of the mission, citing his continued concerns over the timing of the prisoner release.

“There were a couple of things I think Secretary Hagel had some continued concerns over,” Schiff said on CNN’s “Newsroom.” “He wanted to make sure that he was satisfied that he could sign on the dotted line.”

Schiff pointed to Uruguay’s recent presidential election as one of the roadblocks.

“There was an election taking place in Uruguay, and I think the president — who agreed to accept these detainees — didn’t want it to be an issue in the presidential campaign,” Schiff said. “And so it was stayed until after that election was over.”

The Pentagon has tried to track the released terrorists to find out how many rejoin terrorist groups. Their latest figures show about 8% of detainees released since 2009 have re-entered the fight against America. Before that, the figure was over 32%.

What these numbers don’t show is how many released detainees have been providing material support to terrorists. Some of them may not have picked up a gun, but are assisting our enemies in other ways. Some government officials put that number a lot higher than 8%.

Of course, statistics mean little unless it’s your loved one killed in a terrorist attack carried out or planned by a former Gitmo inmate.

We are paying the Uruguayan government to monitor these former detainees, which, as Rogers points out, doesn’t often work well. Consider the Taliban 5, released in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl. The US government apparently has no knowledge of whether the Qatari government is keeping track of them as promised. And as trained terrorists, those released to Uruguay may be able to evade that country’s intelligence agencies.

This is a bad idea all around, and further transfers should be scrutinized by Congress.

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Melissa Harris-Perry: Arson, Looting ‘Not Necessarily Violence’

Sunday, December 7th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry hosts one of the lowest-rated shows on television. This is no surprise given the tiresome twaddle she and her liberal guests spout on every show.

You may recall an ad for her show that aired last year, telling us we have “to break through our kind of private idea” that raising children is the responsibility of parents:

…we’ve always had a private notion of children, your kid is yours and totally your responsibility. We haven’t had a very collective notion of these are our children. So part of it is we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.

This sort of nonsense would get any run-of-the-mill TV host escorted out the door. But MSNBC has a small problem with the “diversity” of its TV lineup, and firing an African American woman would shrink their miniscule audience of fanatical liberals even more.

No matter. We can count on Harris-Perry to say something off the wall on a regular basis. And on Saturday, she didn’t disappoint our expectations.

Speaking of the civil disturbances surrounding the protests against the Ferguson grand jury decision, Harris-Perry offered up this little gem of wisdom:

HEAD (Michael Brown’s stepfather): “Burn this b*** down! Burn this mother f***er down!”
[clip ends]
HARRIS-PERRY: “That night, some in Ferguson committed acts of arson, vandalism and theft and by the next day twelve commercial buildings in the city have been destroyed by the fire. And let me also just point out, arson and looting, while illegal and not things that I support and I think also counterproductive in many ways, are also not necessarily violence in that they are they are violence against property, and that does actually carry a legal difference, right? I mean, violence against property ought to be different than violence against bodies?”
NELSON: “Certainly harming a human being is worse than burning down a building.”
HARRIS-PERRY: “Right, it should be, right?”

Harris-Perry tries her best to bend over backwards to say that she doesn’t “support” violence and that in “many ways” violence is “counterproductive” — implying that in some ways, it is productive.

But it sure sounds an awful lot like she’s trying to excuse the arson and looting, doesn’t it? I mean, no one got hurt so it’s OK, right?

The differentiation between violence against people and violence against property is a false one. Violence is an action. Its definition does not depend on who or what it is directed against. The act of setting a building on fire is a violent act. The act of smashing a window is a violent act. The act of looting is a violent act in that an object with monetary value is taken by force.

Harris-Perry is trying to advance a political agenda by minimizing the mayhem that broke out in Ferguson after the grand jury decision. It may assuage her conscience and the conscience of those who agree with her to comfort themselves with the knowledge that no one was killed as a result of the actions of arsonists, looters, and vandals. But to make a case that what went on in Ferguson the night the protestors tried to burn the town down was not “violent” is dishonest and hypocritical.

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Mystery Surrounds Israeli Air Strikes Near Damascus

Sunday, December 7th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Planes apparently belonging to Israel struck two targets near the Syrian capital of Damascus on Sunday. Both the Syrian military and the opposition group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced the attacks but differed on the targets struck.

Haaretz:

There were no reports of casualties in the reports, but the general command of the Syrian army said in a statement that several facilities had been hit, both at the Damascus International Airport and in the area of Dimas.

According to the reports, the Israeli air force flew at least 10 sorties over the Dimas area and attacked several military targets. Residents of Damascus reported hearing loud explosions on the outskirts of the city.

Al-Mayadeen, a pan-Arab television channel that is regarded as being close to both Hezbollah and the Syrian regime, reported that Syrian anti-aircraft batteries stationed at the airport had fired two missiles at the planes during the attack.

Israeli officials have neither confirmed nor denied the reports and it is unclear how reliable they are.

“This aggression proves Israel’s direct involvement in supporting terror in Syria, along with other Arab and regional countries,” the Syrian military command said..

“The Israeli attack was designed to lift the morale of the terror groups, primarily Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State, after the blows they have received from the Syrian army.”

Lebanese sources that the Israeli air force had been flying over southern Lebanon since Sunday morning. It was not specified whether the planes entered Syrian air space or fired from within Lebanese air space.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled a planned live video broadcast on Sunday evening due to “events in Jerusalem.” The premier made do with a short, pre-recorded speech to the Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum, being held in Washington.

Earlier, during the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that Israel “is following the Middle East and what is happening very closely, with wide open eyes and ears – and a lot is happening.

CNN reports that last October, the Israeli air force struck targets suspected of transferring sophisticated missiles to Hezbollah:

In October, Israeli warplanes struck a military base near the Syrian port city of Latakia, an Obama administration official told CNN.

The target, according to the official, was missiles and related equipment the Israelis feared might be transferred to the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah. The official declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the information.

Asked for comment on that strike, an Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman told CNN, “We don’t refer to foreign reports.”

In May of 2013, Israeli jets hit the same airport in Dimas, destroying a shipment of Iranian missiles bound for Hezbollah. It seems more than possible that the Israeli attack today was to interdict weapons bound for Israel’s enemies.

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Berkeley Protests Turn Violent

Sunday, December 7th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Protests in Berkeley, California, against the Ferguson and Eric Garner grand jury decisions turned violent as several dozen protestors hurled objects at police and vandalized stores near the campus.

Police were forced to use smoke, tear gas and rubber bullets to keep the unruly crowd under control.

During the chaos, several protestors were injured, including Cindy Pincus, an intern at a local church:

She shared her account of what happened with Berkeleyside, and said she is at the hospital and receiving staples to treat her injury.

“The police began walking forward and in 2-3 seconds were pressed up against us with their batons held parallel between them and us. I shouted ‘Be calm, be calm, we’re peaceful!’ And they kept walking forward. I looked to the left and a police officer had begun jabbing a protester with the end of his baton. I turned around to retreat and passed a woman who had fallen and was being trampled. I bent down to pick her up under one armpit while another woman grabbed her other arm. As we were lifting her backwards I saw an officer raise his baton over my shoulder and was struck on the back of the head as I was bent forward. My vision momentarily blacked out and I saw stars. I put my hand to the back of my head and started running. I felt a welt rise immediately and blood ran down my neck and covered my hand.”

A local photographer took pictures of the violence and acts of vandalism — until the rioters saw him and surrounded him:

Lurie told Berkeleyside: “The vast majority of people there were peaceful, but a small group (5-15 people) of black bloc / anarchist agitators continually engaged in acts of vandalism, including tagging buildings with spray paint, breaking windows, and overturning trash cans. I had photographs of these acts, but some in the group saw me taking pictures, at which point I was surrounded and forced to delete all my pictures. I don’t know what would have happened to me if I had refused, but I definitely felt physically threatened.”

This account from the Berkeley police suggests there were considerably more violent protestors than “5-15″ troublemakers:

Berkeley Police say splinter groups caused the peaceful protest to turn violent tonight. In a release issued around 11:45 p.m., BPD spokesperson Officer Jenn Coats said splinter groups broke off and began hurling bricks, pipe, smoke grenades, and other missiles at officers. “Numerous officers were struck, and one officer was struck with a large sandbag, and treated at a local hospital for a dislocated shoulder,” she wrote. “These splinter groups also ran through several Berkeley neighborhoods vandalizing cars and breaking windows and looting businesses.”…”Berkeley Police used smoke and tear gas after crowds refused to disperse and continued to vandalize local businesses and pelt officers with rocks, bottles, and pipes. Numerous police vehicles were vandalized as the crowd moved through the south campus area.” … Coats said BPD was being supported by more than 100 officers from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, police from Oakland, Pleasanton, Hayward, and Alameda, as well as from California Highway Patrol and the BART Police Department.”

An account from the San Jose Mercury News:

An officer suffered minor injuries as a protest in downtown Berkeley on Saturday evening became unruly and police made efforts to disperse the growing crowd.

Police deployed smoke, rubber bullets and flares in an effort to disrupt the march, which turned from peaceful to aggressive around 6 p.m. when protesters began fighting and looting businesses — including a Trader Joe’s grocery story on University Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

“They fired rubber bullets and some smoke grenades,” said Tawanda Kanhema, a video journalist who was on the street in front of Trader Joe’s. “No one was injured, as far as I could tell,” said Kanhema, who estimated there were at least 1,500 protesters and 100 law enforcement personnel.

Police announced early Sunday that six people were arrested, one of them a juvenile. Police did not have a list of the charges they will face.

Berkeley police Officer Byron White said on Twitter that the demonstrators were also releasing gas into the crowd.

Several people on social media posted pictures of smashed windows at Trader Joe’s and officers in riot gear surrounding the doors while shoppers inside waited to exit.

Clearly, the vast majority of protestors were peaceful — at least, by Berkeley standards. Trying to goad a policeman into reacting precipitously might not constitute a “violent” act, but it certainly can’t be considered “peaceful” in the truest sense of the word.

Nevertheless, the police showed admirable restraint for the most part and the violence was contained.

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Cassidy Buries Landrieu in Louisiana Senate Runoff

Sunday, December 7th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The least surprising contest of the 2014 midterms is over. Rep. Bill Cassidy ran a mistake-free campaign and massively outspent incumbent Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu to win the runoff election by 56% to 44%.

Landrieu was abandoned by the entire Democratic Party establishment, including the Democratic National Committee that pulled nearly $2 million in ad buys from her campaign a few days before the November election.

Politico reports on the raw numbers:

Landrieu publicly criticized the party for giving up on her, and she asked female colleagues to try cajoling DSCC leaders to reverse their decision.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee also scaled back its buys after the Democrats pulled out but still spent around $1 million in the runoff. Also spending around $1 million were American Crossroads, Freedom Partners and the National Rifle Association. Ending Spending, the conservative group, spent $1.7 million on TV ads and direct voter contact.

The Republican National Committee said it spent $2.9 million on the ground game, including an effort to test new tactics it wants to try during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The main outside group helping Landrieu on TV during the runoff was the Humane Society Legislative Fund, which spent a paltry $123,000.

In total, outside groups supporting Landrieu aired about 100 TV ads, compared to more than 6,000 commercials from anti-Landrieu groups.

Before the November election, Landrieu’s campaign aggressively reached out to the African-American community, which is about one-third of the electorate. But they did so carefully to avoid linking the senator too closely with Obama.

During the runoff, the campaign became much less cautious. Her chief of staff was caught on hidden camera bragging to a predominantly African-American crowd that his boss votes with Obama 97 percent of the time and would continue to — a statistic already being cited in Republican attack ads.

Also believing the runoff was ultimately a base election, Cassidy focused on winning over conservatives who didn’t vote for him in the first round. The Friday after the election, Cassidy took fellow Republican Rob Maness, who won 14 percent of the vote in the primary, to dinner at Ye Olde College Inn in New Orleans. Maness agreed to endorse Cassidy at a unity rally the following Monday.

The phones were ringing off the hook at Cassidy campaign headquarters with top-flight surrogates, including potential presidential candidates, trying to help so they could claim some credit for an anticipated win. Among those who campaigned on the ground were Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), along with former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), neurologist Ben Carson and Sen.-elect Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) sent fundraising emails, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush headlined a high-dollar fundraiser in Washington this week.

Landrieu brought in a handful of lesser-known Senate colleagues. Hillary Clinton hosted a fundraiser for her at the start of this week, but it was in New York City.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Jerry Moran (no relation) told the crowd at Cassdy’s victory speech something that should depress national Democrats:

Republicans now control every Senate seat, governor’s mansion and legislative body from the Texas high plains to the Atlantic coast of the Carolinas.

I remember a lot of political obits written about Republicans over the years, most recently the “death” of the GOP in the Northeast. Today, the NERPs are on the rise and running highly competitive races from New England to the Mid-Atlantic states.

So as you read all the stories bemoaning the downfall of Democrats in the South, you would do well to understand that eventually — probably not in the immediate future — the Democrats will be back and competitive again in the South. The deadwood has been swept away and new, younger Democrats who understand how to reach out to Southern voters will rise.

How successful they’ll be will depend on whether they’ve learned the lessons lost on their elders who badly misread what ordinary people care about.

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China Gets Serious About Rooting Out Corruption

Saturday, December 6th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

One of the most powerful and feared men in China has been kicked out of the Communist party and arrested on corruption charges.

The former head of China’s domestic sercurity apparatus, Zhou Yongkang, has been charged with numerous counts including bribery, plundering government assets, and leaking official secrets.

New York Times:

The announcement signaled the biggest move yet in Mr. Xi’s two-year campaign to curb graft and malfeasance in the party hierarchy. Mr. Zhou, 72, became the first member of the elite Politburo Standing Committee, retired or active, to face criminal investigation in a corruption case. The state news media celebrated the decision as a confirmation that Mr. Xi was serious about cleaning up officialdom.
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“Corruption is a cancer that has invaded the party’s healthy tissue,” an editorial in People’s Daily, the party’s main newspaper, said Saturday. “We must use investigating and dealing with Zhou Yongkang’s grave violations to thoroughly advance the struggle against corruption.”

The decision by the Communist Party Politburo, a council of 25 senior officials, to expel Mr. Zhou and place him under a legal investigation made it all but certain that he would face trial, conviction and a heavy sentence from one of the party-run courts that were once part of his political fief.

The official Xinhua news agency, which issued the announcement, said the Politburo made the decision on Friday.

“Zhou Yongkang’s actions were totally in contravention of the party’s essence and mission,” said the report, citing the Politburo decision. “This has severely damaged the party’s image, and brought major damage to the affairs of the party and the people.”

Separately, China’s top prosecution office, or procuratorate, which handles corruption inquiries, said that Mr. Zhou had been arrested. The office did not provide details of the charges.

Until now under Mr. Xi, the Communist Party anticorruption agency has investigated dozens of powerful officials, including Xu Caihou, a former People’s Liberation Army commander who confessed to taking enormous bribes, according to the official news media. But none of these fallen officials were as formidable as Mr. Zhou.

Mr. Zhou stepped down from power in November 2012, at the same congress that appointed Mr. Xi the party’s leader. For five years starting in 2007, Mr. Zhou held a seat on the Politburo Standing Committee, the party’s top decision-making body, and at the same time ran a committee overseeing the police and domestic security forces, as well as courts, prosecutors and prisons.

What’s incredible about this story is not only the fact that Xi would arrest such a powerful person, but the fortune amassed by Zhou must be astronomical:

His son landed contracts to sell equipment to state oil fields and thousands of filling stations across China. His son’s mother-in-law held stakes in pipelines and natural gas pumps from Sichuan Province in the west to the southern isle of Hainan. And his sister-in-law, working from one of Beijing’s most prestigious office buildings, invested in mines, property and energy projects.

In thousands of pages of corporate documents describing these ventures, the name that never appears is his own: Zhou Yongkang, the formidable Chinese Communist Party leader who served as China’s top security official and the de facto boss of its oil industry.

But President Xi Jinping has targeted Mr. Zhou in an extraordinary corruption inquiry, a first for a Chinese party leader of Mr. Zhou’s rank, and put his family’s extensive

Even by the cutthroat standards of Chinese politics, it is a bold maneuver. The finances of the families of senior leaders are among the deepest and most politically delicate secrets in China. The party has for years followed a tacit rule that relatives of the elite could prosper from the country’s economic opening, which rewarded loyalty and helped avert rifts in the leadership.

Crony capitalism, nepotistic capitalism — is this America’s future? Obviously, there are laws against this kind of corruption in China. But if the law is ignored or applied differently depending on your party loyalty or family ties, you get the kind of society that has made Chinese citizens cynical and angry.

Yes it could happen here. Liberals would blame capitalism. But clearly, the fault lies with the character of leaders that are elected or, in the case of China, appointed. Weakening the delicate fabric of law that has made us strong in the past, and prevented the kind of corruption we see in China, will only serve to hasten the day when politicians and their cronies will become so ensconced in power that it will be difficult to remove them.

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Coming Soon to a Theater Near You: The Shelly and Barry Love Story

Saturday, December 6th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

We should be used to the fawning adoration of Barack and Michelle Obama by now. It may not be as intense or as widespread as it used to be, but this story shows that Obama worship is still alive in some corners of the land.

A film is in the works that will depict the “legendary” romance of Barack and Michelle Obama. The movie will center on the early days of their romance, including a re-enactment of their “epic” first date.

Bringing this romantic drama to the screen will be an indie film company, Homegrown Pictures, and will star Get On Up’s Tika Sumpter as the young Michelle Robinson. No actor has been chosen to play Barack yet, which is probably just as well. Only a larger-than-life actor like Heston or Eastwood could possibly portray such an iconic figure.

From Deadline Hollywood:

As Presidential lore has it, the date took some convincing. Obama, then an idealistic first-year Harvard Law student, took a summer job as an associate at Chicago law firm Sidley Austin where he fell for lawyer Michelle Robinson, his younger boss. Southside With You spans the day she agreed to go out with him when the two visited the Art Institute, took a long walk, and caught a showing of Spike Lee’s new film, Do The Right Thing. They were married in 1992.

Richard Tanne (Worst Friends, The Roman) is helming the indie feature from his own screenplay, and former Warner Independent exec Tracey Bing and Columbia Pictures alum Stephanie Allain (Hustle & Flow, Beyond The Lights) are producing for Allain’s Homegrown Pictures. The project originated with Tanne and Sumpter, who developed the script together and will executive produce. Filming is set to begin in July on location in Chicago.

“I took her to this new movie that everybody was talking about, directed by a guy that not that many people had heard of, but it was supposed to be pretty good,” Obama recalled during the film’s 25th anniversary celebration this summer. The site of the Obamas’ first kiss – curbside, outside a Baskin-Robbins in Chicago’s Hyde Park – was commemorated with a city plaque in 2012.

The inscription on that plaque is all that any Obamabot could hope for. It’s a quote from the president’s interview that appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine:

On our first date, I treated her to the finest ice cream Baskin-Robbins had to offer, our dinner table doubling as the curb. I kissed her, and it tasted like chocolate.

That’s very nice. I’d hate to read a plaque describing my first date with my ex-wife. It would come with an “R” rating. And that’s after it was cleaned up.

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Landrieu Delusional as Time Runs Out

Saturday, December 6th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Facing almost certain political extinction, Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu appears to have retreated into her own private world of delusion and denial, telling a local radio host that Obamacare was not the president’s “signature legislation” and questioning whether the local radio host interviewing her could read.

Her disdain for the host was probably due to the fact that he is a well-known Tea Party conservative. Jeff Crouere was relentless in his questioning and Landrieu eventually hung up on the host before the first segment was over.

It marked a sad end to a campaign that the incumbent was destined to lose anyway.

The Panama Post reports:

Crouere began by asking her why she had been absent for so long, to which she apologized — albeit awkwardly — and then countered that “I’ve been looking for you as well.”

The first question of substance was on why Landrieu gave a decisive vote in favor of Obamacare, since Crouere sees it as the death knell to her career in the US Senate. After she responded for 50 seconds, acknowledging that the law had flaws but diverting attention to Hurricane Katrina aid, he gently interjected, “well, right,” but he could not get another word in.

“Hold on, Jeff,” she said curtly. “You asked me a question. Let me finish.”

After Crouere then suggested that her loyalty to Obamacare and the president had placed her in a vulnerable position, she let loose, and not in a way likely to score points with the listeners.

“Let me just tell you something. I am really sorry you’re a part of the Tea Party, because they’re taking this country in the wrong direction.”

She then went on to compare Obamacare to Social Security and Medicare, two other fiscal train wrecks that apparently she sees as monumental and admirable. But Crouere countered that it “has killed [her] campaign.”

Then came an exchange that can only be termed bizarre:

LANDRIEU: “I voted for the Affordable Care Act. I did not vote for Obama. I voted for the Affordable Care Act for Louisiana —“
NN HOST: “His signature legislation.”
LANDRIEU: “That isn’t a truth.”
NN HOST: “That’s his signature legislation. His number one accomplishment.”
LANDRIEU: “That is such baloney! You know what his signature legislation was?”
NN HOST: “I think it’s ObamaCare.”
LANDRIEU: “Jeff, you are smart enough. Jeff.”
NN HOST: “That’s his number one. When the history books are written they gonna say ObamaCare in the first paragraph, senator, you know that.”
LANDRIEU: “Jeff. Jeff. Where did you go to high school?”
NN HOST: “Del Sol.”
LANDRIEU: “OK. The brothers at Del Sol would teach you to read. Do you know what his signature education, I mean his signature healthcare plan was? It was single payer.”

Calling the observation that Obamacare is the president’s signature legislation “baloney” is indicative of a politician in total denial. She is so desperate to separate herself from the president in the final hours of the campaign that she attempts to change history — or, at least, posit an alternative universe where she’s almost saying “Barack who?”.

Right before she hung up on the host, she had this to say in response to a question about fraudulent ballots cast on her behalf:

“Love you man, love your family. Jeff, take care.”

She did accept one more question from Crouere, but it was regarding an allegation of fraudulent votes in her favor, so there was no let up.

“It is such an insult for you and your listeners to claim that black people in the state, or African-Americans, cannot cast votes honestly. It’s truly sickening.… You’re repeating it because it makes you just such a happy person.”

At that point she repeated her out-of-context pleasantries and hung up abruptly.

Landrieu’s blow up is a bizarre coda to a discordant campaign that the voters of Louisiana are probably relieved is now over.

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American Journalist Killed by Terrorists in Yemen During Rescue Attempt

Saturday, December 6th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

American journalist Luke Sommers, held by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula terrorists for more than a year, was killed during a rescue attempt by a joint US-Yemen military action early Saturday.

Also killed during the raid was a South African aid worker, Pierre Korkie.

Secretary Hagel made the announcement from the Pentagon early Saturday. He said “there were compelling reasons to believe Mr. Somers’ life was in imminent danger.” Hagel is referring to a video released by AQAP earlier in the week that said Sommers would be killed in 3 days unless their demands were met.

CNN:

The President condemned AQAP’s killing of the two hostages and explained his decision to authorize the rescue attempt in a statement.

“Earlier this week, a video released by his terrorist captors announced that Luke would be killed within 72 hours,” the statement said. “I also authorized the rescue of any other hostages held in the same location as Luke.”

In a statement, Secretary of State John Kerry said that a recommendation to authorize the operation had been made to the President.

Obama offered his condolences to Somers’ family.

“I also offer my thoughts and prayers to the family of a non-U.S. citizen hostage who was also murdered by these terrorists during the rescue operation,” the statement read. “Their despair and sorrow at this time are beyond words.”

Navy SEALs

An Osprey aircraft transported a team of U.S. Navy SEALs to the captives’ location. A firefight quickly broke out, and the hostages were loaded onto the plane and flown to a nearby U.S. ship, a U.S. official said.

One of the hostages died before reaching the ship. The other died afterward.

Drones and fighter jets patrolled overhead during the mission.

The U.S. forces who carried out the mission are safe, a U.S. defense official said. Both the President and Kerry praised their valor.

The hostages were being kept at a location close to another where U.S. and Yemeni forces had carried out a previous raid.

This rescue missions was particularly difficult, in part due to Yemen’s sparse population, retired Lt. Col. James Reese, global affairs analyst for CNN, said Saturday.

Reese noted that it would have been difficult for the military to travel a significant distance by air and still maintain the element of surprise in a rescue operation.

“It has to take precision,” he said. “This is like brain surgery.”

There had been a previous rescue attempt last month, during which US and Yemeni forces freed 8 hostages. Unfortunately, Sommers was not present at the location.

There is a claim by the aid group that Korkie worked for that he was to be released on Sunday:

During the raid, the militants with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) also killed South African hostage Pierre Korkie, according to his employer, the relief group Gift of the Givers.

Korkie was to be released on Sunday, the group said in a statement.

He and his wife Yolande had fallen into the hands of abductors in May of last year, but they subsequently let her go. On Friday, a team of local leaders was finalizing arrangements to reunite Pierre Korkie to his wife and children, the statement reads.

Gift of the Givers recently told his wife that “the wait is almost over.”

“Three days ago we told her ‘Pierre will be home for Christmas,’” the group said. “We certainly did not mean it in the manner it has unfolded.”

How many times have we heard in recent years that a deal to release a hostage was near completion only to see the terrorists withdraw from the agreement at the last minute? I’m sure the aid group was negotiating in good faith and believed the terrorists were going to do as they promised. But terrorists are, by definition, pathological liars which is why negotiating with them is impossible.

This is the fifth hostage rescue attempt that we’ve heard about. Only one has been successful. Previous attempts have either failed to find the hostage or, as today, a hostage is killed. But when you consider the alternative, a rescue operation is probably the only chance these hostages have of surviving.

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MSNBC Analyst: Obama No Dictator…Compared to Kim Jong-Un

Friday, December 5th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Sheesh. Alex Wagner answered a question that nobody asked her which came out making her look ridiculous.

For some reason, Wagner felt compelled to defend President Obama from detractors who compare him to a dictator. At the end of a segment detailing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s decree that no one in his country can share his name, Wagner offered up her opinion on what a real dictator looks like.

ALEX WAGNER: There is only one Kim Jong Un and in North Korea, that’s a law. By directive of the North Korean regime, the name Kim Jong Un is now off-limits to any other citizens of the secretive and repressive state. Birth certificates with the name Kim Jong Un are rejected and anyone who happens to share the supreme leader’s name must change it. The order dates back to 2011 when Kim came to power after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il who incidentally participated in the very same vanity project as did his father before him.

The cult of personality is nothing new to North Koreans who are required to hang portraits of Kim’s father and his grandfather on the walls of their homes and offices. North Koreans also wear lapel pins featuring their leaders and riotous applause is strongly encouraged wherever and whenever the one and only Kim Jong Un appears.

To all the detractors who compare our American president to an emperor and a dictator, this is what dictatorship actually looks like. And to the 169 babies born between 2007 and 2011 named Barack: you can keep your name. That’s all for now; I’ll see you back here tomorrow.

“Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations,” says Mark Finklestein of Newsbusters. Indeed. NoKo’s Kim is a tyrant, no question.

But Wagner’s straw-man argument is absurd. I can’t think of anyone who has compared Obama to Kim, even if they think he’s acting more like a dictator than a constitutionally-bound American president. If “dictator” can be defined as a leader exercising arbitrary power, you can make a case against Obama — a weak case, in my opinion, if only because President Obama was elected and the Congress is hanging on to some powers, like the power of the purse and the power to investigate the executive branch.

How about comparing Obama to Vladimir Putin? I see possibilities in that comparison. But Wagner thought she was being amusing by taking an extreme example of dictatorship and tried to tar Obama’s opponents as crazy.

Better luck next time, Alex.

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Congressman Who Feared Guam Might ‘Capsize’ Recites Police Brutality Poem on House Floor

Thursday, December 4th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia is no stranger to making strange, off-the-wall comments. He demanded that Rep. Joe Wilson be censured for calling out “You lie” to Obama during his health care speech before Congress in 2009, saying, “We will have people with white hoods running through the countryside again,” unless Wilson was severely punished.

And who can forget his bewildered comment about overpopulation on Guam:

“My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize.”

Johnson joined about a dozen members of the Congressional Black Caucus in their “hands up don’t shoot” demonstration earlier this week on the House floor. Today, Johnson used his one minute speech to recite a little poem that was both incoherent and incomprehensible, using Eric Garner’s “I can’t breathe” as a refrain of sorts:

Black men and boys killed by police.

I can’t breathe.

Impunity for the killers – no justice, no peace.

I can’t breathe.

Militarized police met peaceful protesters on their knees.

I can’t breathe.

Weapons of war – a show of force on our streets.

I can’t breathe.

Disenfranchised youth driven to violence as speech.

I can’t breathe.

Cynical media think this makes great TV.

I can’t breathe.

This cowardly Congress afraid of losing our seats.

I can’t breathe.

Half-hearted reform when there’s more that we need.

I can’t breathe.

Just thinking about the despair that this breeds.

I can’t breathe.

Black lives matter. Hear my pleas.

I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.

I’m having a little trouble catching my breath myself after reading that gibberish. This is too juvenile to take seriously enough to dissect in its entirety, but the line ” Disenfranchised youth driven to violence as speech,” is just too objectively nonsensical to let go.

Looting and burning is not speech; it’s thuggery. Shooting at police is not speech; it’s a felony. Any violence committed in Ferguson and elsewhere cannot ever be excused for any reason, and for Johnson to try and justify rioting and mayhem as another way for young black men to express themselves — well, it doesn’t get any worse than that.

Johnson should have stuck with offering his opinion about the nautical dangers of overpopulation on an island. As for the poem…don’t quit your day job, Hank.

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Ornstein: ‘The Pernicious Effects of Gerrymandering’

Thursday, December 4th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

No rational person is in favor of gerrymandering congressional districts. In recent years, the process has become ridiculous, as the party in charge of a state legislature redraws districts to the ultimate advantage of their party. Or, the parties collude in the drawing of districts to assure their incumbents are safe.

The reason is partly due to demographics, and partly due to powerful new data available at the click of a mouse. Segmenting the population into ever expanding subsets related to race, zip code, income, and other markers, the data helps identify party voters using Census Bureau information. Highly sophisticated computer programs are used to carve out safe districts with the precision of a scalpel. The technology combined with old-fashioned politics leads to polarization and hyper-partisanship, as Resident Scholar at AEI, Norman Ornestein points out in the National Journal:

Gerrymandering has leached much of the broader heterogeneity out of congressional districts, contributing to the echo-chamber effect, where members’ ideological predilections are reinforced, and not challenged, back home. A corollary is the racial segregation of districts—the fact that so many Republican districts now have barely more than trace elements of minorities, giving GOP lawmakers little incentive to reach out or be sensitive to issues that resonate with those groups. Partisan gerrymandering skews results away from the broader sentiments of voters in a state, as much research, including a new study by Duke University’s Jonathan Mattingly and Christy Vaughn, demonstrates powerfully.

And, of course, gerrymandering has helped create a huge number of districts that are fundamentally safe for one party. This is sometimes done by a dominant party in a state “packing” the other party’s districts to limit its chances in other districts. Other times it is done by an unholy alliance of both parties to keep all incumbents safe. Gerrymandering adds both to the homogeneity of districts and to making low-turnout primaries dominated by ideological activists the only meaningful elections.

More broadly, gerrymandering moves House and state legislative elections away from any meaningful responsiveness to the will of the people. And the pattern of lawmakers choosing their voters instead of voters choosing their lawmakers creates more disaffection and cynicism among the public.

There have been several ideas put forth that seek to address the problem of gerrymandering. One proposal, known as “Fair Voting,” is intriguing:

Under fair voting, members of Congress are elected in multi-member districts of three to five representatives instead of just one. In those districts, candidates are elected in proportion to their vote share. A majority of votes always wins a majority of seats, and minority groups of voters that make up more than a certain threshold of votes (25 percent in a three seat district) are always able to elect a representative.

Some proposals are similar, but would give weight to other factors than population, basing district lines on a broad range of criteria:

How do we reform the redistricting process in this country? Through independent commissions that can use multiple criteria—not just equal population in districts, but factors such as competitiveness, compactness, and communities of interest—to create districts that more closely reflect broader public views. But creating independent commissions is no easy task; doing so through legislative action requires buy-in from the same lawmakers who draw the district lines—and who have the least incentive to give up their power via reform.

With the exception of Iowa, where the state Legislature turned the drawing of lines over to a nonpartisan agency in 1981 after disputes and deadlocks handed the power to the Iowa Supreme Court, the one outlet for change has been using the initiative process to implement such commissions. That process worked in Arizona in 2000 and in California in 2008, and while the results are no panacea, the reforms have brought more competitiveness and more fairness to the process.

Unfortunately, many states cannot change the way they draw districts without going to Washington and begging the attorney general for permission. There’s a difference between “non-partisan” and “non-discriminatory,” making any attempted change in drawing congressional districts for many states a crapshoot.

There’s also a bill in Congress that would require states to set up such commissions:

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) in January introduced legislation that would do just that. Called the John Tanner Fairness and Independence in Redistricting Act — named after former Tennessee Rep. John Tanner (D), who pushed similar bills during his tenure — the legislation would require every state to appoint an independent commission to draft a redistricting plan that “emphasizes geographical contiguity and compactness of districts rather than political affiliations.”

Could you program a computer to draw lines fairly? It’s possible, but you would have to get both sides to agree on what’s “fair” — a herculean labor that would probably be beyond the ability of most state legislatures.

I’m not convinced that simply reforming the way in which we draw congressional districts will lead to comity and bi-partisanship at the federal level. There are other factors at work, including the very real chasm-like differences on many issues that afflict Congress. Those differences will not disappear by waving a magic wand over the redistricting problem, hoping that excessive ideology and hyper-partisanship will go away.

But if there’s a chance that it can help, we shouldn’t stand in the way.

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Landrieu Tries to Criticize Her Party’s Energy Policy; Hilarity Ensues

Thursday, December 4th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

I’m actually starting to feel sorry for Senator Mary Landrieu.

Not so much that I want to see her win Saturday’s runoff election against Republican Bill Cassidy — that’s probably not going to happen. But the Democratic party has pulled their support, cancelling more than $2 million in ad buys while some outside groups who supported her candidacy have actually switched sides and are now backing Cassidy. Major party figures have found something else to do besides coming to Louisiana and appearing on her behalf and local Democrats, besides being dispirited and uninterested in the runoff, are going to be staying home in droves on election day if early voting patterns hold up.

So things couldn’t get much worse for Landrieu — except they just did.

Landrieu has been a strong backer of the oil and gas industry in Louisiana. Considering how many jobs in the state are dependent on that industry, she could hardly have survived this long without being a fossil fuel booster.

But in a last ditch attempt to prove her independence from liberal Democrats, Landrieu warned her constituents that if she lost, the next ranking member of the Senate Energy Committee, Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington, would be a Senator “who’s all for windmills and alternative energy, and doesn’t support the oil and gas industry.”

Landrieu said this just as Cantwell issued a fundraising letter on her behalf.

Seattle PI:

Beleaguered Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., underdog in her forthcoming Senate runoff election, warned Pelican State voters on Wednesday that her defeat would elevate an advocate of “windmills” to a powerful position on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

She was speaking about Democratic colleague Sen. Maria Cantwell, who just then was sending out an email appeal to raise money for Landrieu.

“There’s … much we can accomplish together if we send Mary Landrieu back to the Senate,” Cantwell told her donors.

Louisiana is a big oil and gas producing state, and Landrieu is a big ally of the industry. She has chaired the Senate Energy Committee with Democrats in the majority. She will become ranking minority member if she survives re-election. Otherwise, Cantwell will become senior Democrat on the panel.

Hence, this warning from Landrieu in New Roads, Louisiana:

“If I don’t get back there as a senior member of the committee, we’re gonna have a woman who I like very much (but) I’m not sure Louisiana is going to think very much of a senator from Washington state who’s all for windmills and alternative energy, and doesn’t support the oil and gas industry.”

Cantwell has been a major wind energy advocate on Capitol Hill, and a critic of billions in federal subsidies to the oil and gas industry.

[...]

Despite their differences, Cantwell has gone to the mat for Landrieu. Earlier this year, Landrieu and other endangered Democrats were feted at the home of a major Seattle donor to the League of Conservation Voters. Cantwell and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., were on hand to smooth out any rough spots over oil and gas legislation.

Cantwell was still at it Wednesday.

“Your calendar might say Election Day passed a month ago, but Mary Landrieu is still fighting for a critical seat in the Senate,” Cantwell told donors.

She warned that Landrieu’s GOP challenger, Rep. Bill Cassidy, has “the Koch brothers and shadowy right wing groups on his side, but Mary’s got us.”

Beware the Koch Brothers and shadowy right wing groups like the Republican National Committee. Whatever.

Landrieu’s desperation to appear more Republican is only fueling the notion that she’s a liberal Democrat. Trailing politicians frequently make this mistake and it never works. Trying to fool people into thinking you’re something you’re not usually ends up making the candidate look pathetic.

And as the hours count down to the end, the last Democratic Senator still on her feet in the south starts to sink into political oblivion.

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IRS Shared Taxpayer Data With White House

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

What is the IRS doing sharing tax data from individuals with the White House?

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration informed the group Cause of Action that, even though thousands of documents relating to the IRS sharing tax information with the White House existed, the group couldn’t have them due to privacy concerns. Cause of Action had filed an FOIA request for the documents and a judge ruled the IRS must turn the docs over by December 1.

The obvious question is why the White House can see the data and not private citizens? There is probably some rule relating to vetting appointees that makes it legal for the White House to view tax data, but more than 2000 documents?

Fox News:

On Tuesday, an attorney with TIGTA wrote a letter to Cause of Action, and acknowledged that the watchdog had located “2,509 pages of documents potentially responsive to your request.” Of those, TIGTA confirmed that 2,043 were in fact responsive to the request.

However, TIGTA said it could not release the documents to the group, citing the tax code.

“These pages consist of return information protected by 26 U.S.C. § 6103 and may not be disclosed absent an express statutory exception,” the letter said. “Because no such exception exists here, we are withholding those.”

Dan Epstein, a spokesman for Cause of Action, told FoxNews.com he believes that the IRS “essentially ignored the order of the court” with this declaration and that the group is considering the best path forward to force the IRS to disclose the documents.

However, Epstein said that the group feels that TIGTA’s acknowledgment of the documents is “absolutely” a victory in their investigation. He said the sheer number of relevant documents indicates that wrongdoing occurred on the part of both the IRS and the White House.

“That indicates scandal,” he said.

When asked about the case Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said he wasn’t familiar with it but that the administration “very closely” adheres to rules that ensure the IRS operates without political interference.

“I can tell you that, as a rule, that the Obama administration has been very rigorous in following all of the rules and regulations that govern proper communication between Treasury officials and White House officials and the Internal Revenue Service,” Earnest said.

Epstein said it is clear that’s not true.

“We know for a fact that the IRS broke the law,” he said.

Epstein said he hopes that TIGTA’s revelation will spur Congress and the Department of Justice to investigate the issue, and possibly get access to the documents themselves.

“If there is any evidence that the White House requested (unauthorized taxpayer information), then people in the White House are going to be implicated,” he said.

Not a “smidgeon” of corruption, eh Barry?

In case you didn’t catch the significance of this revelation, the IRS scandal just shot to #1 on the Obama administration biggest scandals chart. And the arrogance of this White House in their response only shows that they know this is a non-story being reported by the non-media. They have nothing to worry about from the lapdog press. It’s already disappearing down the memory hole

You would hope that Cause of Action would continue their quest, but federal privacy laws are tough to overcome. They may request that a judge order the IRS to turn over the documents with the private info redacted. But requiring that the IRS redact the private information in the docs would be an open invitation for the agency to strike out 90% of what’s written.. That’s a favorite tactic of the FBI and CIA when FOIA requests come too close to government wrongdoing.

It’s very difficult to make a case in defense of the White House’s actions in this matter. Absent evidence to the contrary, one has to assume that the politicians in the White House either used the information to intimidate their enemies or researched the tax data of their political opponents to use against them in campaigns.

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