President Obama was asked at his year-end press conference today about the state of black America at the conclusion of 2014:
Like the rest of America, black America in the aggregate is better off now than it was when I came into office.
The jobs that have been created, the people who’ve gotten health insurance, the housing equity that’s been recovered, the 401 pensions that have been recovered: a lot of those folks are African-Americans. They’re better off than they were.
The gap between income and wealth of white and black America persists, and we’ve got more work to do on that front.
I’ve been consistent in saying that, you know, this is a legacy of a troubled racial past, Jim Crow and slavery. That’s not an excuse for black folks, and I think the overall majority of good black people understand it’s not an excuse.
They’re working hard. They’re out there hustling and trying to get an education, trying to send their kids to college. But, you know, they’re starting behind oftentimes in the race. And what’s true for all Americans is we should be willing to provide people a hand up, not a hand out, but help folks get that good early childhood education, help them graduate from high school, help them afford college.
If they do, they’re gonna be able to succeed, and that’s gonna be good for all of us.
And we’ve seen some progress. The education reforms that we’ve initiated are showing measurable results. We had the highest high school graduation that we’ve seen in a very long time. We are seeing record numbers of young people attending college. You know, in many states that have initiated reforms, you’re seeing progress in math scores and reading scores for African-American and Latino students, as well as the broader population.
But we’ve still got more work to go.
Now, obviously, how we’re thinking about race relations right now has been colored by Ferguson, the Garner case in New York, a growing awareness in the broader population of what, I think, many communities of color have understood for some time, and that is that there are specific instances, at least, where law enforcement doesn’t feel as if it’s being applied in a colorblind fashion.
The task force that I formed is supposed to report back to me in 90 days not with a bunch of abstract musings about race relations but some really concrete, practical things that police departments and law enforcement agencies can begin implementing right now to rebuild trust between communities of color and the police department.
And my intention is to — as soon as I get those recommendations — to start implementing. Some of them, we’ll be able to do through executive action. Some of them will require congressional action. Some of them will require action on the part of states and local jurisdictions.
But I actually think it’s been a healthy conversation that we’ve had. These are not new phenomena. The fact that they’re now surfacing, in part because people are able to film what have just been in the past, stories passed on around the kitchen table, allows people to, you know, make their own assessments and evaluations. And you’re not going to solve the problem if it’s not being talked about.
\President Obama today signed a bipartisan bill to extend extra support to Israel as a major strategic partner — accompanied by a statement that he reserved the right to interpret the legislation as he sees fit.
The United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014 was introduced in the House by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) and in the Senate by Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).
First and foremost, the legislation expresses the sense of Congress that Israel is “a major strategic partner.”
It allows the Defense Department to transfer surplus equipment to Israel, beefs up U.S. defense stockpiles in the country by $200 million, and expands U.S.-Israel cooperation in the fields of energy, water, agriculture, and alternative fuel technologies.
It authorizes the president to share more research and intelligence with Israel and authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to launch pilot programs in coordination with Israel to increase their border, maritime and aviation security. It directs the president to report to Congress on potentials for expansion of cyber-security cooperation.
It includes Israel in the visa waiver program and requires that military sales to other countries in the Middle East won’t harm Israel’s military edge, and the administration has to regularly report to Congress on Israel’s qualitative military edge over its neighbors. It also says the administration must move toward granting top-tier status to Israel for certain license-free exports.
“At a time when Israel is facing many external threats, the U.S. Congress today sends to the president’s desk the U.S. – Israel Strategic Partnership Act seeking to bolster closer ties with our ally, the democratic Jewish State of Israel,” Ros-Lehtinen said at the beginning of the month. “At a time when the Iranian regime continues to advance its nuclear ambitions, Hamas unrelentlessly terrorizes Israeli citizens and the Palestinian Authority continues to incite violence and undermine the peace process at every turn, it is important for Congress to stand with Israel in a bipartisan effort.”
“That is why in passing this bill, we will afford Israel the unique status as our major strategic partner and we reaffirm our support to enhance Israel’s qualitative military edge so that it can continue to defend itself and its citizens from all threats.”
Today, in a flood of year-end legislation that passed Obama’s desk, the president signed the bill into law.
He issued a separate statement on it, though.
“This bipartisan piece of legislation reflects the importance placed by my administration on strengthening and deepening U.S.-Israel bilateral cooperation and ties,” Obama said. “It reinforces critical defense and security programs, which have reached an unprecedented level under my administration. It also lays the groundwork for increased trade and cooperation across a range of cutting-edge fields, including energy, water, agriculture, and technology.”
“Sections 11(b) and 12(c)(2) of this bill purport to require me to provide to the Congress certain diplomatic communications and direct the Secretary of State to undertake certain diplomatic initiatives,” he added. “Consistent with longstanding constitutional practice, my administration will interpret and implement these sections in a manner that does not interfere with my constitutional authority to conduct diplomacy and to protect the confidentiality of diplomatic communications.”
The legislation comes as the administration is eager to push Israel to a two-state solution with the Palestinians. “It’s a particularly sensitive moment because we understand the frustrations of Palestinians,” Secretary of State John Kerry said this week in London. “We understand the frustrations of the Palestinian Authority and President Abbas and those who are pushing hard, because they don’t see another course at this moment.”
Boxer said in a statement that she applauded Obama for signing the bill “to strengthen our historic relationship with Israel.”
“This law will enhance cooperation between Israel and the United States on a wide range of issues – from defense to energy to cyber security – so we can work together to address the many challenges facing both countries,” she said.
The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said the hacking attack against Sony is part of a longer-running plot — and the administration has had “no real policy” to face such attacks.
“This is part of a much bigger picture. It really began in 2008 with robberies by cyber of both the Royal Bank of Scotland and Citibank, to the tune of about $8 million and $10 million, respectively. It has gone on and graduated to the point where most companies have been attacked one way or another. In the last two years, we have JPMorgan Chase, we have Home Depot, we have eBay and we have Target,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told CNN today.
“What’s different to me about this attack is the monumental size of it, and secondly, there is extortion involved with it. In other words, the North Koreans are saying, unless you do this, we will do that. And this is where it becomes extraordinarily dangerous.”
She added that “in the six years that have gone by, we have no real policy to handle this.”
“Now, right now, you can look at North Korea, taken off the terrorist list, you can see this attack is in a sense a terrorist attack. You could put them back on. You can levy financial sanctions against them,” Feinstein continued.
The State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism only includes four countries by this point — Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria — and the Obama administration is considering taking Cuba off the list. President George W. Bush took North Korea off the list in 2008.
“But the big problem is developing an international agreement with teeth to stop this kind of behavior because we’re going toward bloodshed, I believe, if we don’t solve it. We have tried to pass a cyber information-sharing bill,” the senator said. “…We’re getting into the arena of major attacks. Right now, it has to do a great deal with private industry. But the cost for private industry is now in the trillions of dollars. And it has to be stopped.”
President Obama said he wished Sony had consulted him before yanking the film from theaters, but Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton told CNN he did consult with the White House after the threats.
“This is a complicated matter. And there is the question of liability. If something were to happen, who is liable for the loss of life?” Feinstein said.
“Now, this attack took place almost a month ago. So, we’re 3 1/2 weeks into it and still going back and forth as to what might be done or who should have done what. And this can’t continue to happen, in my view. This is a problem that’s going to be with us for a very long time. And so, we have to get certain structures in place and the ability to handle it.”
Whatever the administration decides to do, the senator stressed, “I would hope that we can convince the North Koreans that this carries a very heavy price.”
“Certainly, we have attacks from China. We have attacks from Russia. We have attacks from Iran and we have attacks from within our own country. So, it has become a very sad way of life. And at some point, we face a disastrous attack. And this is what we must prevent.”
It came from the deep. The very, very deep. Recorded during a recent exploration of the Mariana Trench (the deepest place on the planet), the strange-looking new species has set a record for fish depth. Jeff Drazen and Patty Fryer, the University of Hawaii researchers who led the expedition, believe that this is a new species of snailfish.
But this creature, which was filmed several times at a depth of 8,143 meters, or 26,715 feet, has a different body shape from known species of snailfish, so it might be something else entirely. But one thing is for certain, the scientists told the BBC — it’s definitely not a species we’ve seen before.
“We think it is a snailfish, but it’s so weird-looking; it’s up in the air in terms of what it is,” Alan Jamieson of the University of Aberdeen told the BBC. “It is unbelievably fragile, and when it swims, it looks like it has wet tissue paper floating behind it. And it has a weird snout — it looks like a cartoon dog snout.”
Have a look for yourself on the next page.
New York Rep. Charlie Rangel (D) said the extradition of a cop killer given political asylum by Fidel Castro might not be in the best political interests of the new relationship with Cuba.
Joanne Chesimard was serving a life sentence for the execution-style murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973. She escaped from prison in 1979 and sufficed in Cuba in 1984, where she is believed to still be living.
Chesimard was put on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list last year. A reward of up to $1 million is offered for information leading to her capture. The state is offering additional money.
Colonel Rick Fuentes, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, said in a statement that they “continue to work closely with the FBI towards the capture” of Chesimard.
“We view any changes in relations with Cuba as an opportunity to bring her back to the United States to finish her sentence for the murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973,” Fuentes said. “We stand by the reward money and hope that the total of two million dollars will prompt fresh information in the light of this altered international relationship.”
Rangel told CNN that the extradition of Chesimard is “remotely possible.”
“You know, we’re fighting a war of terrorism and I have no idea what priority she would have. I know she’s wanted by the state of New Jersey, but it’s abundantly clear that this is an international appreciation of our country. It’s one of the greatest things that’s happened in recent history. The people of Cuba and the people of America love each other notwithstanding our serious government conflicts,” Rangel said.
“Quite frankly, I haven’t heard her name come up in decades. Nor did we even know about the Cuban spy that they had arrested and been holding for 20 years.”
When it was pointed out that her name was brought up recently — on the Most Wanted Terrorists list — the congressman replied, “Well, what we’re talking about is what’s in the best interest of the people of the United States from a foreign policy point of view and I think you would agree with me that on that radar screen her name doesn’t even come up.”
“And so quite frankly this is the most historic thing that’s happened in this hemisphere. We can talk about really getting at ISIS and terrorists, we can talk about communicating with people who love us and we love them and before I left Havana last night, a lady grabbed me and I never felt more proud of being American and she said, ‘Congressman, do you know that there are two reasons why Cubans love America so much?’ I said, ‘No, what are they?’ She said, ‘United States movies and all the other great reasons.’ Now, you know you have to feel good about that. And whether in Miami or Havana you feel like that nation is going forward.”
After the next interview question, Rangel referred to the cop killer as “this other lady’s name.”
“I’ve been in Congress over 40 years, we’ve been involved with this over 50 years. You’re the first person that has actually brought her name up to me and so there’s no question that there are even a lot of older Cubans, some that are located in Florida, that have emotional ties,” he said.
“Senator Rubio and a couple of other politicians, but the president of the United States has to decide what is good for the people of the United States of America. And with all the serious crises that we have, I don’t think those voices that are against this policy will get much coverage.”
Kate Upton, that is:
Mirror mirror on the wall, Kate Upton is the Sexiest Woman of all. So says People magazine.
The mag crowned the Sports Illustrated model, 22, with the title of “Sexiest Woman” on Thursday night during its first People Magazine Awards show in Beverly Hills. Hunky Eric Dane, no slouch in the sexy department himself, presented Upton with her award, saying, “There are a lot of reasons why Kate is sexy. Style, career, achievements, sense of humor, personality – oh and did I mention her … looks?”
Did somebody say looks?
God Bless America.
President Obama said at his year-end press conference that he would have told Sony not to cancel the Christmas release of The Interview, had the studio consulted him first.
“Sony’s a corporation. It suffered significant damage. There were threats against its employees. I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced,” Obama said. “Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake.”
“In this interconnected digital world, there are going to be opportunities for attackers to engage in cyber assaults, both in the private sector and the public sector,” he continued. “Now, our first order of business is making sure that we do everything to harden sites and prevent those kinds of attacks from taking place.”
Obama said he long ago deployed a cyber-security interagency team “to look at everything that we could do at the government level to prevent these kinds of attacks,” including “coordinating with the private sector.”
“But a lot more needs to be done. We’re not even close to where we need to be,” he said. “And, you know, one of the things in the new year that I hope Congress will is prepared to work with us on is strong cybersecurity laws that allow for information-sharing across private sector platforms, as well as the public sector, so that we are incorporating best practices and preventing these attacks from happening in the first place.”
“But even as we get better, you know, the hackers are going to get better, too. Some of them are going to be state actors. Some of them are going to be non-state actors. All of them are going to be sophisticated and many of them can do some damage. We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States. Because if somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary that they don’t like or news reports that they don’t like. Or even worse, imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of somebody whose sensibilities probably need to be offended.”
Canceling the movie after a hack from North Korea, he said, is “not who we are. That’s not what America is about.”
“Again, I’m sympathetic that Sony as a private company was worried about liabilities and this and that and the other. I wish they had spoken to me first. I would’ve told them, ‘Do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks,’” Obama said. “Imagine if, instead of it being a cyber threat, somebody had broken into their offices and destroyed a bunch of computers and stolen disks. And is that what it takes for suddenly, you to pull the plug on something?”
“So we’ll engage with not just the film industry, but the news industry, the private sector around these issues. We already have. We will continue to do so. But I think all of us have to anticipate occasionally there are going to be breaches like this. They’re going to be costly. They’re going to be serious. We take them with the utmost seriousness. But we can’t start changing our patterns of behavior any more than we stop going to a football game because there might be the possibility of a terrorist attack; any more than Boston didn’t run its marathon this year because of the possibility that somebody might try to cause harm.”
The president was asked if he would watch The Interview in solidarity with the censored filmmakers.
“I’ve got a long list of movies I’m going to be watching,” Obama replied. “You know, I never release my full movie list. But let’s talk to the specifics of what we now know.”
“The FBI announced today that — and — and we confirm that North Korea engaged in this attack. I think it says something interesting about North Korea that they decided to have the state mount an all-out assault on a movie studio because of a satirical movie starring Seth Rogen and James Flacco.”
That’s James Franco; Obama’s goof of the actor’s name sent “James Flacco” shooting to the top of Twitter trending topics.
“I love Seth. And I love — and I love James. But the notion that that was a threat to them, I think gives you some sense of — of the kind of regime we’re talking about here,” he continued. “They caused a lot of damage. And we will respond. We will respond proportionally, and we’ll respond in a place and time and manner that we choose. It’s not something that I will announce here today at a press conference.”
“More broadly, though, this points to the need for us to work with the international community to start setting up some very clear rules of the road in terms of how the Internet and cyber operates. Right now, it’s sort of the Wild West.”
… a political party — Democrats, doing what they do best: suing to beggar people and profiting from it. Now with even more kickbacks! What scum:
When they met at the J. W. Marriott Hotel two blocks from the White House, Linda Singer, a former attorney general turned plaintiffs’ lawyer, approached Attorney General Gary King of New Mexico with an unusual proposition.
Ms. Singer wanted him to sue the owner of a nursing home in rural New Mexico that Mr. King had never heard of and Ms. Singer had never set foot in. She later presented him with a proposed lawsuit that did not cite any specific complaints about care. What she shared with him were numbers on staffing levels gleaned from records suggesting that residents were being mistreated there and at other facilities…
The casual nature of the exchange between the two Democrats, which was among thousands of pages of emails obtained by The New York Times, belied the enormous potential payoff for Ms. Singer’s firm if she could persuade Mr. King to hire her and use his state powers to investigate and sue, which he did.
The partnership is part of a flourishing industry that pairs plaintiffs’ lawyers with state attorneys general to sue companies, a collaboration that has set off a furious competition between trial lawyers and corporate lobbyists to influence these officials.
As the old saying goes, it’s not what’s illegal that’s the real crime — it’s what’s legal. Good for the New York Times for reporting this, even though it makes their beloved Democrats look as bad as they really are. Here’s how the scam works:
The lawsuits follow a pattern: Private lawyers, who scour the news media and public records looking for potential cases in which a state or its consumers have been harmed, approach attorneys general. The attorneys general hire the private firms to do the necessary work, with the understanding that the firms will front most of the cost of the investigation and the litigation. The firms take a fee, typically 20 percent, and the state takes the rest of any money won from the defendants…
In no place has the contingency-fee practice flourished more than in Mississippi, where lawyers hired by Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, have collected $57.5 million in fees during the last two years — three times as much as Mr. Hood has spent on running his state office during the same period.
Mr. Hood has taken in $395,000 in campaign contributions from trial law firms over the last decade, more than any other attorney general.
To be sure, it’s an equal-opportunity racket, but some players are more equal than others:
Over all, plaintiffs’ firms have donated at least $9.8 million directly to state attorneys general and political groups related to attorneys general over the last decade, according to an analysis of campaign finance data by The Times, with more than 76 percent of that money going to Democrats…
The boom in the contingency law business has been driven in part by former attorneys general like Ms. Singer who have capitalized on personal relationships with former colleagues that they have nurtured since leaving office, often at resort destination conferences where they pay to gain access…
“Farming out the police powers of the state to a private firm with a profit incentive is a very, very bad thing,” said Attorney General John Suthers of Colorado, a Republican and a former United States attorney.
Ya think? It’s a long story but well worth your time, unless you’re on your lunch hour, in which case — unless you’re a trial lawyer or a Democrat — it will make you hurl.
So your exhausting search for the ideal Christmas present for that hard-to-shop-for friend has taken you to the package store. You browse the aisles looking for the perfect bottle — something that reflects good taste at the best price — when suddenly you’ve found what you’re looking for.
Not so fast. A new Consumer Reports poll has found that a quarter of Americans surveyed see hard liquor as the least desirable holiday gift.
One in four Americans surveyed cited whiskey, vodka, brandy, rum, and other spirits as the least desirable gift to receive; 23 percent identified flowers and plants as the biggest buzzkill, while 13 percent singled out candles, picture frames, and other home décor items as the most unwanted presents. Even socks would be a better choice.
The same poll showed that consumers are much more comfortable with the idea of receiving wine as a present.
Wine, however, proved a different story. It was far more acceptable—and desirable. Only 6 percent of respondents said they wouldn’t want to receive a bottle for the holidays.
Just outside of Charleston, SC, the assistant manager of package store Bottles says she doesn’t see the aversion to the giving of booze that the poll reflects.
“I was like, ‘hmm, I guess they’re not in South Carolina’,” Sara Capparelli says of her initial reaction to the finding. “We’re selling out of gift sets.”
…liquor remains popular with Christmas shoppers in Charleston. More than 100 gift givers this weekend attended a bottle-engraving that Capparelli called the most successful such event in the Mt. Pleasant store’s three-year history.
However, Capparelli says she does understand why many people might prefer wine to liquor as a gift.
The gulf between wine and liquor makes sense to Capparelli, who points out that most Cabernet drinkers could probably be coaxed into trying Merlot. But it’s significantly harder to persuade a whiskey drinker to sip vodka, no matter how nicely the bottle is wrapped. Additionally, Capparelli says, wine offers a better value for the gift giver.
“You don’t want to give someone a $5 bottle of value liquor,” she says, whereas many well-made wines are relatively inexpensive.
So the bottom line is this: unless you really need to buy the liquor for yourself, put it back and walk over to the wine section for a better gift-giving experience.
This article contains an image courtesy of Shutterstock.
From CNN: “Source: Hackers send new message to Sony”:
The hacker message is effectively a victory lap, telling the studio, “Now we want you never let the movie released, distributed or leaked in any form of, for instance, DVD or piracy.”
The message also says, “And we want everything related to the movie, including its trailers, as well as its full version down from any website hosting them immediately.”
It warns the studio executives that “we still have your private and sensitive data” and claims that they will “ensure the security of your data unless you make additional trouble.”
The email was titled “Message from GOP.” The anonymous hackers have called themselves “Guardians of Peace.”
So how long will these trailers and clips remain up? It’s already become tricky to find online the final sequence of Kim Jong-un’s exploding head.
Yesterday I highlighted a report about Korean activists seeking bootleg copies of The Interview and predicted that the effect of North Korea bullying Sony into burying Seth Rogen and James Franco’s new film would be that it would leak all around the world and the internet, becoming unstoppable and much more damaging. But if the blackmailing goes a step further, if now Sony must start pulling the material they’ve already released in addition to legally threatening anyone who might be so bold as to share the film illegally, then I’m now not so sure.
It’s entirely within the realm of possibility that soon The Interview trailers will be pulled and an army of recently-recruited Sony lawyers will even start sending notices to websites that have written movie promotions or stories covering the controversy, asking them to delete pieces, lest more embarrassing emails be released.
The question will be: how far backwards could this go? Already the screenings of Team America: World Police announced to replace The Interview have been cancelled. Will this go further or will American companies fight back?
Obviously, it’s hard to expect them to want to fight when the example set by the Jarrett-Obama administration, per Cuba and Iran, has been to bend over backwards and embrace illiberal tyrannies.
Some have suggested the fantasy of the federal government buying the movie, endorsing it, and spreading the film around for free. My prescription goes several miles further in hawkishness, of course…
Jesus, Mary and Joseph and all the saints: for the greatest baseball announcer in the history of the planet, a recent trip to Costco in Westlake Village, Calif., might have been a disaster, but it wasn’t:
Vin Scully can find his way into our hearts even during the gloomiest winter afternoons, as he proved again Thursday when he unwittingly starred in his own holiday movie. The Ribs That Saved Christmas.
“I feel like such a dummy,” Scully said with a laugh. “Only Scully could lose a ring while putting meat in a bag.”
Seems that the legendary Dodgers announcer, 87, enjoys his outings to Costco, but on a recent trip he lost his 1988 World Series ring while piling some packaged ribs onto his cart. You remember the 1988 World Series:
One of the most memorable calls in baseball history, especially noteworthy for the more than one minute of announcer silence that precedes Scully’s great line, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!”
Meanwhile, back in Costco:
“I went into a panic, I assured him we’d do everything to help find the ring, Vin is like family to us,” said Rahhal, who printed out Scully’s receipt and began a painstaking retracing of Scully’s steps through the tower stacks and free food samples. Meanwhile, Vin called the Dodgers publicity sage Steve Brener, who immediately sent out a tweet informing the nation that Scully had lost the ring and asking anybody with information to call the Dodger Stadium switchboard. Then Vin and Sandi drove home while Vin continued to remind himself it was only jewelry and paled in comparison to the large and loving family that awaited his 88th holiday celebration.
“You know, maybe God heard me say that,” he said. Sure enough, while Vin was unloading the stacks of items, he heard a cry from inside the house. While emptying the ribs, Sandi found the ring at the bottom of the bag.
Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.
Retailing Today reports that Hershey’s has collaborated with 3D Systems to create a 3D chocolate printer for an exhibit at Hershey’s Chocolate World in Hershey, PA. The 3D chocolate exhibit opens today.
Visitors can design, “print” and purchase their own chocolate creations.
People will also be able to see what they look like in 3D chocolate … because who wouldn’t want to see that?
The 3D printing business is projected to become a $13M industry, so it’s no surprise that the chocolate kingpin would want a chocolatey piece of that action.
“This exhibit is a great example of co-creation with consumers. They will be instrumental in shaping the future of commercially available 3-D chocolate printing,” Hershey Co.’s chief research and development officer, Will Papa, said in a news release.
If you can’t make it to Hershey’s in PA anytime soon, you can watch the 3D printer in action:
CNN is reporting that the people responsible for hacking into Sony sent them a message, thanking them for acquiescing to their demands.
The message reads:
“It’s very wise you have made a decision to cancel the release of ‘The Interview.’ It will be very useful for you. We ensure the security of your data unless you make additional trouble.”
Brian Stelter described it as a “victory lap.” Both hosts opined on what President Obama would say about this later today in his press conference.
George Clooney gets it right. Via Deadline Hollywood:
The most powerful people in Hollywood were so fearful to place themselves in the cross hairs of hackers that they all refused to sign a simple petition of support that Clooney and his agent, CAA’s Bryan Lourd, circulated to the top people in film, TV, records and other areas. Not a single person would sign. Here, Clooney discusses the petition and how it is just part of many frightening ramifications that we are all just coming to grips with.
DEADLINE: I’ve been chasing the story of the petition you were circulating for a week now. Where is it, and how were these terrorists able to isolate Sony from the herd and make them so vulnerable?
CLOONEY: Here’s the brilliant thing they did. You embarrass them first, so that no one gets on your side. After the Obama joke, no one was going to get on the side of Amy, and so suddenly, everyone ran for the hills. Look, I can’t make an excuse for that joke, it is what it is, a terrible mistake. Having said that, it was used as a weapon of fear, not only for everyone to disassociate themselves from Amy but also to feel the fear themselves. They know what they themselves have written in their emails, and they’re afraid.
Be sure to read the whole interview; this exchange is priceless:
DEADLINE: What kind of constraints will this put on storytellers that want to shine a critical light on a place like Russia, for instance, with something like a movie about the polonium poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, the KGB officer who left and became an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin?
CLOONEY: What’s going to happen is, you’re going to have trouble finding distribution. In general, when you’re doing films like that, the ones that are critical, those aren’t going to be studio films anyway. Most of the movies that got us in trouble, we started out by raising the money independently. But to distribute, you’ve got to go to a studio, because they’re the ones that distribute movies. The truth is, you’re going to have a much harder time finding distribution now. And that’s a chilling effect. We should be in the position right now of going on offense with this. I just talked to Amy an hour ago. She wants to put that movie out. What do I do? My partner Grant Heslov and I had the conversation with her this morning. Bryan and I had the conversation with her last night. Stick it online. Do whatever you can to get this movie out. Not because everybody has to see the movie, but because I’m not going to be told we can’t see the movie. That’s the most important part. We cannot be told we can’t see something by Kim Jong-un, of all f*cking people.
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) wants to screen the movie that angered North Korea so at his first re-election fundraiser.
“I would say one thing — I’m pretty disappointed in Sony Pictures decision to pull The Interview under pressure from North Korea,” Kirk said Thursday on WBEZ radio, in comments captured by BuzzFeed. “I would say that I’m gonna be trying to hold the first big Kirk for Senate fundraiser at a screening of The Interview, so that everybody shows the North Koreans that you cannot edit what we want to see and do in the United States, under the First Amendment.”
“It was a terrible lesson to terrorists, to give them what they wanted — that we should, as Americans under the First Amendment, we should never have to ask North Korea for permission as to what movie we can — just think of a previous really good movie, that was Team America: World Police, that was really funny about North Korea,” Kirk said of the 2004 film from the creators of the South Park that lampooned Kim Jong-il.
Like the assassination plot against Kim Jong-un in The Interview, the elder Kim dies in Team America by being impaled on a kaiser’s helmet.
However, without explanation, Paramount has now banned theaters from screening Team America.
“And your birthright as an American citizen — you never have to ask the North Koreans for permission for what movie you can see,” Kirk said. “I hope that now all the media about this movie makes it a smash hit, and that we see many more movies like it, and teach the North Koreans a lesson about what Americans can and cannot do.”
There was no elaboration on how the Kirk campaign would get the film if Sony refuses to ever release it.
Anonymous accounts on Twitter have noted that people are asking or assuming that the power-hackers will leak the film, but they haven’t indicated that they plan to do so.
President Obama has decided on his task force to review police practices and make recommendations after the Ferguson protests.
Obama signed an executive order creating the Task Force on 21st Century Policing as “part of the administration’s efforts to strengthen community policing and strengthen trust among law enforcement officers and the communities they serve,” according to the White House.
“The Task Force will examine, among other issues, how to build public trust and foster strong relationships between local law enforcement and the communities that they protect, while also promoting effective crime reduction. The Task Force will prepare a report and recommendations to be presented to the President.”
Obama intends to appoint:
Philadelphia Police Department Commissioner Charles Ramsey (co-chair)
George Mason University professor and former Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs Laurie Robinson (co-chair)
Deputy Chief Operating Officer for Public Safety Cedric L. Alexander from DeKalb County, Georgia, who is also the National President of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives
Jose Lopez, lead organizer at Make the Road New York (MRNY), a Brooklyn-based nonprofit community organization focused on civil rights, education reform, and combating poverty
Yale Law professor Tracey Meares
Brittany Packnett, executive director of Teach For America in St. Louis, Mo.
Susan Rahr, executive director of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, formerly the first female sheriff of King County, Washington
Constance Rice, a civil rights attorney and co-director of the Advancement Project
Sean Smoot, director and chief counsel for the Police Benevolent and Protective Association of Illinois (PB&PA) and the Police Benevolent Labor Committee (PBLC); formerly a policy adviser to the Obama-Biden transition team on public safety and state and local police issues
Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala.
Tucson Police Department Chief Roberto Villaseñor
“These fine public servants bring both a depth of experience and tremendous dedication to their new roles,” Obama said in a statement. “Our nation will be well-served by these men and women, and I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come.”
The White House vaguely promised a “proportional response” toward the “sophisticated actor” who hacked Sony and brought down the planned Christmas release of The Interview.
Press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters yesterday that the cyber-crime ”is still under investigation, both by the FBI and the National Security Division of the Department of Justice.”
“I for, I think, pretty obvious reasons, am not going to get ahead of that investigation or any announcements that they may make about that investigation,” Earnest said.
President Obama will undoubtedly be asked about the North Korean threat at his year-end press conference this afternoon.
“But I can tell you that consistent with the president’s previous statements about how we will protect against, monitor and respond to cyber incidents, this is something that’s being treated as a serious national security matter. There is evidence to indicate that we have seen destructive activity with malicious intent that was initiated by a sophisticated actor,” Earnest continued.
“And it is being treated by those investigative agencies, both at the FBI and the Department of Justice, as seriously as you would expect. It has also been the subject of a number of daily meetings that have been convened here at the White House that have been led by both the president’s homeland security adviser and occasionally by his cyber coordinator. This includes senior members of our intelligence community and homeland security officials, military, diplomatic and law enforcement officials.”
However, he wasn’t ready to say how the U.S. might respond to an attack.
“Before we start publicly speculating about a response, it’s appropriate that we allow the investigation to move forward. I do understand that the investigation is progressing. And that as the members of the national security team meet to discuss this matter, they are considering a range of options,” Earnest said.
“As they do so, though, they’re mindful of the need for a couple of things. They’re first of all, as we would be in any scenario, strategic scenario like this, they would be mindful of the fact that we need a proportional response. And also mindful of the fact that sophisticated actors when they carry out actions like this are oftentimes, not always, but often seeking to provoke a response from the United States of America… So we want to be mindful of that, too.”
As far as Sony canceling The Interview, Earnest would only say that “as a general matter is that the president and the administration stand squarely on the side of artists and other private citizens who seek to freely express their views.”
“Sometimes those views can be laced with criticism, or are sometimes intended to provoke either some kind of either comedic response or one that is intended to be some element of some pretty biting social commentary,” he added.
“All of that is — is appropriate and well within the rights of private citizens to express their views. And the president has certainly been on the receiving end of some expressions like that. And while we may not agree with the content of every single thing that is produced, we certainly stand squarely on the side of the right of private individuals to express themselves. And that is a view that we — that is strongly held by this administration as it has been throughout the history of our country.”
On Thursday, Nebraska and Oklahoma asked the Supreme Court to overturn Colorado’s law legalizing recreational use of marijuana. The states claim that Colorado’s law violates the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.
Marijuana is flowing into neighboring states causing a law enforcement hassle.
Nebraska’s Attorney General Job Brunning said the law is creating problems in his states where the drug is still illegal. “Colorado has created a system that legalizes, promotes and facilitates distribution of marijuana,” Mr. Bruning said in a statement. “The illegal products of this system are heavily trafficked into neighboring states, causing an unnecessary burden on the state of Nebraska. Colorado has undermined the United States Constitution, and I hope the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold our constitutional principles.”
Oklahoma’s Attorney General Scott Pruitt is also having a tough time enforcing anti-marijuana laws.
“As the state’s chief legal officer, the attorney general’s office is taking this step to protect the health and safety of Oklahomans,” Mr. Pruitt said in a statement.
Colorado’s top law enforcement official promises to defend Colorado’s law.
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers claims the responsibility is with the federal government to enforce federal law.
“Because neighboring states have expressed concern about Colorado-grown marijuana coming into their states, we are not entirely surprised by this action,” Mr. Suthers said. “However, it appears the plaintiffs’ primary grievance stems from non-enforcement of federal laws regarding marijuana, as opposed to choices made by the voters of Colorado. We believe this suit is without merit and we will vigorously defend against it in the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper told the Denver Post that he has discussed these issues with Nebraska and Oklahoma, adding “I’m not sure filing a lawsuit is the most constructive way to find a solution to whatever issues there are.”
A new poll conducted by AP-GfK shows Americans are “skeptical that the benefits of the heralded drone revolution will outweigh the risks to privacy and safety.”
However, they do favor using drones for dangerous jobs or in remote areas.
AP reports that “by a 2-1 margin, those who had an opinion opposed using drones for commercial purposes. Only 21 percent favored commercial use of drones, compared with 43 percent opposed. Another 35 percent were in the middle.”
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is about to broaden the regulations that govern small drone use. Once those go in effect, there could be dones everywhere. Congress also wants the FAA to move on the regulations, as the drone industry is expected to “create 100,000 jobs and $82 billion in economic impact in the first 10 years they’re allowed, according to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a trade group.”
Women and seniors were least supportive of the drones while white college graduates and wealthier people were most supportive.
Only 1 in 4 people support using drones to deliver small packages and 39% were opposed. There was a similar breakdown on the question of whether drones should be used to take pictures during weddings or private events. Only 23% favor the recreational use of drones.
Larry Elder at Real Clear Politics breathes essential statistical insight into the ongoing fight over whether or not white cops have a predilection for shooting black men:
In 2012, according to the CDC, 140 blacks were killed by police. That same year 386 whites were killed by police. Over the 13-year period from 1999 to 2011, the CDC reports that 2,151 whites were killed by cops — and 1,130 blacks were killed by cops.
Police shootings, nationwide, are down dramatically from what they were 20 or 30 years ago. The CDC reported that in 1968, shootings by law enforcement — called “legal intervention” by the CDC — was the cause of death for 8.6 out of every million blacks. For whites the rate was was .9 deaths per million.
By 2011, law enforcement shootings caused 2.74 deaths for every million blacks, and 1.28 deaths for every million whites. While the death-by-cop rate for whites has held pretty steady over these last 45 years, hovering just above or below the one-in-a-million level, the rate for blacks has fallen. In 1981, black deaths by cop stood at four in a million, but since 2000 has remained just above or below two in a million.
So what’s driving this notion that there is now an “epidemic” of white cops shooting blacks when in the last several decades the numbers of blacks killed by cops are down nearly 75 percent?
As Elder points out, there was no mention of race or racial motivation in the cases of Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, or Michael Brown. When questioned about the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman verdict, “several jurors later said that during jury deliberations ‘race never came up.’” Elder asserts
This white-cop-out-to-get-black-civilian narrative advances the interest of many. The media loves what Tom Wolfe called the “Great White Defendant” — a bad white guy everybody can agree to dislike. For the Democrats, it furthers their assertion that race remains a major problem in America, that Republicans/tea partiers/black conservatives are out to get them, and you must vote for us. For “activists” like the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, and local wannabes, it gives them continued relevance.
In reality, the facts provide a startling lack of evidence in support of the theory of racial motivation. At the same time, they do provide solid evidence that both the media and so-called community activists like the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson need to promulgate the myth of ghetto culture in order to maintain power over an audience and presumed authority over an entire segment of the American population.
Carly Fiorina is laying the groundwork for what one ally says is an “imminent” presidential campaign—one that could launch as early as next month.
The former Hewlett-Packard CEO, who raised her political profile with a failed run against Sen. Barbara Boxer of California in 2010, has frequently been mentioned as a long-shot contender to seek the Republican presidential nomination. The speculation is driven by equal parts novelty and activity: Fiorina, who paid several high-profile visits to early-nominating states in 2014, acknowledged that she would likely be the only woman in the GOP field.
“Look, I think it would be great if we had female candidates—or candidate,” Fiorina told National Journal earlier this year.
Fiorina is now poised to become that candidate. According to three sources with direct knowledge of the situation, she has authorized members of her inner circle to seek out and interview candidates for two key positions on her presidential campaign: political director and communications director. Notably, the sources said, her associates are aiming to fill both positions with women.
Look, she’s a more sane option than Jeb Bush to consider this far out. Then again, I’m a better idea than Jeb Bush. Ebola is a better idea than Jeb Bush.
Are we clear on the fact that I don’t like Jeb Bush?
Kidding aside though, I’ve talked to several people in the past year who have heard Fiorina speak at different events and each one was extremely impressed. She is apparently much better with crowds now and one colleague told me that she wasn’t even on his radar for 2016 and now he’s taking her seriously for at least the VP slot.
And she’s not Jeb Bush.
A bushy-haired and bearded Dzhokhar Tsarnaev made his first public appearance in more than 17 months as a throng of conspiracy theorists massed outside a Boston federal courthouse to show support for the terrorist suspect as he prepares for trial early next year.
The 21-year-old looked a bit different Thursday than the clean-cut photo that appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine months after the April 15, 2013, Boston Marathon bombing that left three dead and more than 260 injured.
His supporters, who claim Tsarnaev was set up and is actually innocent, massed outside the court building armed with provocative signs. Two women caught the eye of marathon bombing survivor Marc Fucarile, who limped by with a cane needed after he lost his right leg in the carnage.
“That’s trickery?” Fucarile fumed as he lifted his prosthetic leg to show the damage Tsarnaev is accused of doing to score of innocents.
“We’re talking about the prosecution,” one woman shot back as Fucarile shook his head and continued in. “You should care that they get the right guy!”
How long before this little terrorist scum becomes a liberal cause célèbre? I mean, Mumia Abu-Jamal is getting a little long in the tooth and doesn’t have the wow factor for insane liberal conspiracy idiots he once did. Is there any doubt that’s exactly what Rolling Stone was trying to do for Tsarnaev with its cover profile last year?
Washington Redskins fans can relax for now: the word “Redskins” is okay:
The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday ruled the name “Redskins” is not profane or obscene. In a formal ruling, the commission rejected calls to yank the broadcast license of a radio station owned by Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder for excessively using the team’s name, which some find offensive.
George Washington University professor John Banzhaf filed a petition in September opposing the license renewal of the D.C. station, WWXX-FM.
In case you’re wondering who John Banzhaf is, take a look at his website:
Prof. John Banzhaf has been called the “Ralph Nader of the Tobacco Industry,” “One of America’s Premier Legal Activists,” “An Unsung American Hero.” “The Man Behind the Ban on Cigarette Commercials,” “the Ralph Nader of Junk Food,” “The Man Who Is Taking Fat to Court” [for using legal action to fight OBESITY], “Mr. Anti-Smoking,” “One of the Most Vocal and Effective Anti-Tobacco Attorneys,” a “Radical Feminist,” a “Man Who Lives by his Writs,” the “Father of Potty Parity,” “the Area’s Best-Known ‘Radical’ Law Professor,” ” Legal Academia’s Instigator in Chief,” One of the World’s Top “Game Theorists,” and an “Entrepreneur of Litigation, [and] a Trial Lawyer’s Trial Lawyer.”
He’s also been called — by his enemies — a “Legal Terrorist”,” the “Osama bin Laden of Torts,” a “Legal Bomb-Thrower,” and a “Legal Flamethrower,” and he has frequently been attacked on web sites (which are often inaccurate) [see, e.g., BanzhafWatch.com] by those who opposed his activities; clear indications, he says, that his many targets fear him and his legal actions.
The FCC bounced Banzhaf’s complaint on First Amendment grounds:
The commission cited the First Amendment, saying it does not withhold licenses based on a subjective view of what is appropriate programming. It noted that some racial or religious slurs are offensive to many, but it has previously declined “extending the bounds of profanity to reach such language given constitutional considerations.”
“Indeed, the Commission has held that ‘if there is to be free speech, it must be free for speech that we abhor and hate as well as for speech that we find tolerable and congenial,’” according to the commission. The commission rejected a number of complaints lodged by Banzhaf and noted that his petition was issued nearly three years too late to be considered.
But don’t worry: there are plenty of other folks, including the Senate Democratic Caucus, who will keep up the pressure until they get their way. Such is life in a “fundamentally transformed” America.
The underwhelming Florida senator, Marco Rubio, walked right into this one:
The White House on Thursday took a direct shot at Sen. Marco Rubio, the Cuban-American and Florida Republican who has emerged as the most vocal critic of the administration’s move this week to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba.
A clearly prepared White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at Thursday’s daily briefing that Mr. Rubio’s own past statements on diplomatic relationships with other dictatorial regimes conflicted with his harsh remarks on re-opening ties with Havana.
“It occurs to me that it seems odd Sen. Rubio would be reluctant and, in fact, actively seeking to block the appointment of an ambassador to Cuba when earlier this year he voted to confirm the ambassador to China that the president nominated,” Mr. Earnest told reporters.
Rubio sank himself with many conservatives by joining the Gang of Eight on an abortive immigration “fix,” revealing himself to be a “Hispanic” senator first and a a Florida senator second. Now it seems like he’s a “Cuban” senator first and everything else second.
Following the announcement Wednesday that the U.S. would end its 50-year policy of isolation toward the communist island, Mr. Rubio held a press conference and blasted the president for opening travel and business ties with Cuba in light of the nation’s dismal human-rights record.
Mr. Rubio, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, also hinted he may look to block funding for an American embassy in Havana and could hold up the appointment of an ambassador.
That would be a huge mistake. The passions over Cuba have long since cooled, except among the expatriate Cuban community in Florida. Castro will soon be dead. Cuba will become neither a greater nor lesser basket case than any other country in Latin America with the exception of sterling little Costa Rica. Life will go on. And Marco Rubio will never become president.
Are Moroccans a “race”? To a still guilt-ridden Europe, which has decided to atone for the Holocaust by committing cultural suicide, it looks like the answer is yes:
Dutch far-right populist lawmaker Geert Wilders is be tried for inciting racial hatred after pledging in March to ensure there were ‘fewer Moroccans’ in the Netherlands, prosecutors said Thursday. ’The public prosecutor in The Hague is to prosecute Geert Wilders on charges of insulting a group of people based on race and incitement to discrimination and hatred,’ prosecutors said in a statement.
‘Politicians may go far in their statements, that’s part of freedom of expression, but this freedom is limited by the prohibition of discrimination,’ it said, adding that no date had yet been set for the trial.
What did the conservative Dutch politician say now, you wonder?
The case centres on comments Wilders made at a March 19 rally after local elections. He asked his followers whether they wanted ‘fewer or more Moroccans in your city and in the Netherlands?’
When the crowd shouted ‘Fewer! Fewer!’ a smiling Wilders answered: ‘We’re going to organise that.’ In a later TV interview, he referred to ‘Moroccan scum’. The remark led to 6,400 legal complaints being lodged across the Netherlands, and criticism was even voiced within Wilders’s own Party for Freedom.
Remember, that in the brave new egalitarian world the Left is making, “countries” are just a legal fiction and (in this case) Dutchmen are those holding a passport issued by the Netherlands; in other words, it’s all one big bureaucracy. Meanwhile, in Sweden:
Sweden has led the way in European immigration, and Muslim immigration in particular. Some 20 percent of Sweden’s 9.5 million people are immigrants or the children of immigrants: the highest figure in Europe. Most European states were until recently monocultural. They have trouble assimilating immigrants, especially rural Muslims who wish to keep their cultural and religious identity. Sweden has applied the noblest of ideals—shelter to the oppressed—with the narrowness of mind that can happen when you live in a small society on the quiet side of the Baltic. The state has failed to assimilate its immigrants. Ordinary Swedes, both indigenous and immigrant, have paid the social cost. In a May 2014 poll, 44 percent of respond-ents wanted the new government to reduce immigration.
Last week, the comments sections of Swedish press websites abounded in conversions from both left and right. All said the same thing: Mass immigration has dissolved Sweden’s social cohesion and overburdened the welfare system. The established parties are too cowardly or corrupt to stop the rot… If Sweden leads the way, Europe’s political future is grim: a governing class unwilling to acknowledge a systemic failure of democracy, a populist backlash against immigration and the EU superstate, and deep hostility between an aging indigenous population and a fertile immigrant one. This is bad for Sweden and bad for Europe. And a weak, introverted, and increasingly extremist Europe is bad for the United States, too.
Remember, they’re not “immigrants,” they’re invaders. Is it too late for Europe to understand the difference?
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.
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.
In a three-hour press conference today, Russian President Vladimir Putin was asked if the country’s current economic troubles have anything to do with international penalties for the invasion of Ukraine.
“No. This is not the price we have to pay for Crimea… This is actually the price we have to pay for our natural aspiration to preserve ourselves as a nation, as a civilisation, as a state. And here is why,” Putin began.
“After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia opened itself to our partners. What did we see? A direct and fully-fledged support of terrorism in North Caucasus. They directly supported terrorism, you understand? Is that what partners usually do? I won’t go into details on that, but this is an established fact. And everyone knows it,” he said.
“On any issue, no matter what we do, we always run into challenges, objections and opposition. Let me remind you about the preparations for the 2014 Olympics, our inspiration and enthusiasm to organise a festive event not only for Russian sports fans, but for sports fans all over the world. However, and this is an evident truth, unprecedented and clearly orchestrated attempts were made to discredit our efforts to organise and host the Olympics. This is an undeniable fact! Who needs to do so and for what reason? And so on and so forth.”
Putin compared Russian policy to “a bear protecting his taiga.”
“You see, if we continue the analogy, sometimes I think that maybe it would be best if our bear just sat still. Maybe he should stop chasing pigs and boars around the taiga but start picking berries and eating honey. Maybe then he will be left alone. But no, he won’t be!” he said.
“Because someone will always try to chain him up. As soon as he’s chained they will tear out his teeth and claws. In this analogy, I am referring to the power of nuclear deterrence. As soon as – God forbid – it happens and they no longer need the bear, the taiga will be taken over.”
In a pointed reference to the Siberian autonomy movement, which has picked up steam this year, Putin added that he’s heard “even from high-level officials that it is unfair that the whole of Siberia with its immense resources belongs to Russia in its entirety. Why exactly is it unfair? So it is fair to snatch Texas from Mexico but it is unfair that we are working on our own land – no, we have to share.”
“And then, when all the teeth and claws are torn out, the bear will be of no use at all. Perhaps they’ll stuff it and that’s all,” he said. “So, it is not about Crimea but about us protecting our independence, our sovereignty and our right to exist. That is what we should all realize.”
Despite sanctions, Putin stressed, “we must decide whether we want to keep going and fight, change our economy – for the better, by the way, because we can use the current situation to our own advantage – and be more independent, go through all this or we want our skin to hang on the wall.”
“This is the choice we need to make and it has nothing to do with Crimea at all.”
Make that no Chris Christie in 2016, according to a recent poll:
A majority of voters in a poll out today say they couldn’t support Gov. Chris Christie for president. The NBC News-Wall Street Journal survey shows 53 percent of registered voters saying they couldn’t back Christie, while 27 percent said they could. The poll also found Christie faring worse than other potential GOP candidates among Republican voters more than a year before the first presidential primaries.
Other duds include also-also-ran flop Mitt Romney (60 percent disapproval) and snoozemeister scion Jeb Bush (57 percent); both had higher negative numbers than Christie, but slightly higher positive numbers as well. Illustrating the delusional fantasy land in which dwells the Establishment GOP, these figures are interesting:
Christie also was in negative territory among Republican voters, with 43 percent opposing him and 40 percent supporting him. By comparison, GOP voters said they could support Romney, 63 percent to 33 percent; Bush, 55 percent to 34 percent; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, 47 percent to 39 percent; and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), 47 percent to 34 percent.
When you’re losing to Huckabee and Rand Paul among the home crowd, you know you’re in trouble. But how about that Mitt stat — 63 percent said they could support the man who lost a Senate race to Ted Kennedy, a nomination race to John McCain and a presidential election to Barack Hussein Obama? Wow.
This is a video of Eric Holder saying that race relations are in a better place in this country following his tenure as attorney general:
That was a video of Eric Holder saying that race relations are in a better place in this country following his tenure as attorney general.
Right on the heels of Sony’s announcement that the studio would be scrapping the Christmas Day release of “The Interview,” the film’s controversial climax has surfaced.
The scene features North Korea’s leader, Kim Jung-un (Randall Park), meeting a fiery end as a missile hits his helicopter. As the tyrant perishes from the explosion, the scene is dramatically slowed down to the sounds of Katy Perry’s “Firework.”
As for the fates of Seth Rogen and James Franco, well, that’s still T.B.D. — at least until “The Interview” hits V.O.D.
Well, that certainly could have cheesed off the sawed-off runt ruler of the Hermit Kingdom. Meanwhile, via Drudge, Roger Friedman has another theory:
One thing that Kim Jong Un may or may not have objected to in “The Interview”: after a night of debauchery, he’s seen shirtless in bed with James Franco’s also-shirtless Dave Skylark character and a bevy of beauties. In the screenwriter Dan Sterling’s 2012 original version, this is how the scene read:
INT. PRIVATE LOUNGE – DAY
Dave and Kim are in a bed naked, with the four women.
They’re all playing MORTAL KOMBAT
Right so you’re thinking, either lucky Kim, or he should be so lucky. It’s hard to say if North Korea’s fearless leader would feel the same way. Certainly, the original screenplay made it seem like quite a night had occurred. By this time, Franco’s Dave and President Kim have cried together, shared their love of puppies, and Katy Perry.
Don’t worry — it gets worse. Read on, if you dare. Who greenlighted this mess?
Meanwhile, if you thought you could have a laugh at the Norks’s expense with Team America, think again:
Forget those plans by Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and other theaters to run Team America: World Police in place of The Interview. The Austin-based chain says that Paramount has now decided not to offer South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s 2004 satire that focuses on Kim Jong-il, the late father of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Alamo says that the cancellation at its Dallas theater is “due to circumstances beyond our control” and says it will offer refunds to those who have already bought tickets. Cleveland’s Capitol Theater also tweeted that Team America “has been canceled by Paramount Pictures.”
Just a short while ago, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson brought up the 2006 movie Death of a President, a classic example of the leftist “it’s intellectual when we do it” impulse, which fictionalized what might happen following the assassination of George W. Bush. The film received praise from the expected quarters, which hailed it as some sort of envelope-pushing edgy discourse, and not at all an example of subjective morality and ideology.
But Johnson just used it this morning during an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell — he seems to have arrived prepared with Death of a President to use as an analogy — as an overarching example of how speech is tolerated in this country as compared to how Sony has been threatened for its speech that denigrates the DPRK. Said Johnson:
I was offended by the movie, but people in this country have the right to produce all sorts of different accounts of things that we do not attempt to restrain in any way.
Yes, “all sorts,” but not all sorts.
Here’s a link to Glenn Woods, father of hero Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods, murdered in Benghazi, claiming that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told him she “would make sure the person who made that film is arrested and prosecuted.” That film, the one which offended the 23 or so Muslims who had actually seen it at the time of Woods’ murder. The making of the film itself was a violation of the filmmaker’s parole, but Clinton was not aware of the filmmaker’s identity at the time of her statement to Glenn Woods. She simply happened to find certain speech to be actionable, in opposition to the Constitution and to Jeh Johnson’s statement today.
Clinton had no such prosecutorial tendencies about Death of a President.
And she followed through, too:
As did Lois Lerner, and those who targeted Sharyl Attkisson.
And those who, under the supervision and direction of Johnson’s DHS, censor counterterrorist training material that challenges Islam, to the detriment of our security.
Johnson is credibly referring to the First Amendment, but not to his administration. I am terribly bothered by representatives of this administration who refer to America as they administer it to be representative of America as codified by law. Had Sony produced a film depicting the assassination of President Obama — or at the very least, a film offending the sensibilities of Muslims, or a film championing the Tea Party — this administration has a track record of taking deliberate, severe, illegal actions to restrain speech.
CNN’s South Korea correspondent, Kyung Lah, reports that activists are trying to get bootleg DVDs of the Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy that inspired the North Korean hack attack against Sony in retaliation for the film’s depiction of its tyrant’s death:
“They see it as being critical in trying to crumble the regime. That’s how potent this movie is being seen here in the peninsula. It has a significant amount of power,” Lah said.
Hacking goes multiple ways. My prediction of what happens next now that Sony has been bullied into pulling the film: someone is going to leak the whole movie online, just as celebrity naked pics and Sony emails have gone out. And it will then be impossible for the regime to stamp it out.
I wonder if next time the wife and I are at the laundromat here in Inglewood, and the guy comes around hocking the bootleg DVDs, if he’ll have The Interview. I imagine some bootleggers have probably had it already for weeks. Now what’s going to happen to demand for it on the black market?
— Kyung Lah (@KyungLahCNN) December 17, 2014
What lessons does this debacle have for activists who want to see the world’s tyrannies overthrown? Should more movies like The Interview be produced and released en masse — perhaps by non-profits and at more modest budgets — making satirical, hilarious assaults on the leaders of slave states?
Two Philadelphia-area Democrat state legislators have been indicted for accepting bribes in exchange for opposition to photo voter identification legislation. Pennsylvania state Rep. Ron Waters (D) was charged for allegedly accepting a $8,750 bribe to oppose the voter ID bill. Gifts from Tiffany Jewelry were also offered to the legislators to oppose voter ID bills.
State Rep. Vanessa Brown (D) of Philadelphia was also charged with criminal conspiracy, bribery in official and political matters, conflict of interest and failing to make required disclosures on statements of financial interest.
PJ Media aggressively called for the indictment of these Democrat legislators when it was revealed that they accepted bribes to oppose voter identification legislation. The Democrat attorney general of Pennsylvania, Kathleen Kane, refused to proceed, saying that the case lacked merit. The Philadelphia district attorney, however, took on the case and indicted the legislators today. The United States Department of Justice has conducted public corruption investigations against Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) and Republicans in the South Carolina Legislature. No federal investigation, however, seems to have been conducted involving the acceptance of bribes to oppose voter identification legislation.
You might also like at PJ Media:
The civil rights group ColorOfChange has started a petition urging Sony Pictures to fire co-chairman Amy Pascal.
In question are several emails that were hacked and leaked to the public, showing Pascal and Scott Rudin, a producer, joking about what “black” movies they should talk about with President Obama.
“Pascal’s comments are confirmation of the manipulative, exploitative relationship corporations like Sony have with Black folks” the petition reads. “Our genius, our cultural products, and our $1.1 trillion in buying power are not given the respect they deserve, regardless of the massive sums of money they result in for people like Amy Pascal.”
“We must hold Pascal accountable here; not just for her horrendous comments, but also for her role at the helm of a corporate agenda that views Black America as one big, lucrative joke,” reads the ColorOfChange letter.
Pascal has apologized for the comments in her leaked email:
“The content of my emails to Scott were insensitive and inappropriate but are not an accurate reflection of who I am,” Pascal said in her apology. “Although this was a private communication that was stolen, I accept full responsibility for what I wrote and apologize to everyone who was offended.”
Here is a copy of the petition:
Dear Sony Pictures Entertainment,
Amy Pascal’s recently-unearthed, racially-charged email exchanges are completely unacceptable.
Her comments — which included speculation about President Obama’s taste in films (“Django,” “12 years,” “Or the butler. Or think like a man?,” “Ride Along. I bet he likes Kevin Hart.”) as well as the assertion that TV deals are “the new Black baby” in Hollywood — seem to confirm a manipulative, exploitative relationship corporations like Sony have with Black folks.
With so many incredible Black entertainers contributing their time and talents to Sony pictures — and Black audiences giving millions of their hard-earned money to your films as well — Pascal’s behavior is a truly intolerable slap in the face.
We demand Amy Pascal be fired from Sony Pictures Entertainment immediately.