Obamacare Off The Rails: Oregon Considers Abandoning State Exchange After Rollout Disaster

Oregon has spent more money than any other State to bring its State-managed Obamacare website, Cover Oregon, into existence. After lavishing millions of dollars on advertising, website development and an endless series of quick fixes and workarounds, the website has failed to successfully enroll a single person in a health insurance plan.

Now Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber, who’s taken a public beating for his aloofness throughout the launch of Cover Oregon, and for walking out of an interview when pressed to discuss the site’s shortcomings (including a smoking-gun email about problems with the site), is indicating the State may just let the whole mess revert to Federal government oversight.

A health policy staffer for the governor’s office said Tuesday Kitzhaber is now considering making the switch to Healthcare.gov, a site that’s certainly not without its share of technical and security problems. But the move would amount to a political Jonah moment for Kitzhaber, who could jettison his longtime support for the State’s participation in Obamacare in order to mount a credible re-election campaign this year.

The Cover Oregon disaster isn’t the first instance of a Democratic gubernatorial administration fielding calls for a Federal takeover of its nascent Obamacare program. On the whole, the story of Maryland’s Obamacare rollout is worse than Oregon’s.

Democratic Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, however, has continually maintained that the State’s health insurance website is just about to turn a corner — even as liberal hometown critics like the editorial board at The Baltimore Sun continue to paste him for his delusional optimism.

Say-Huh? Judge Upholds 100-Mile ‘Constitution-Free Zones’ As Constitutional

This week, Federal Judge Edward Korman upheld the Federal government’s contention that law enforcement can conduct warrantless searches of individuals’ electronic equipment within 100 miles of any U.S. border, regardless of whether they have suspicion that the target is involved in any illegal activity whatsoever.

The ruling upends the efforts of the American Civil Liberties Union and other advocates to reverse U.S. Customs’ practice of stopping and searching travelers and their belongings as they move in areas at – or even near – the border. The Obama Administration has sided with Customs in defending the practice.

From Fox News:

The ACLU originally challenged the administration’s policy, which can be applied anywhere within 100 miles of the border, after U.S. Customs agents stopped student Pascal Abidor on a train traveling from Canada to New York. After noticing Abidor had two passports – not uncommon for journalists and those with dual citizenship – agents asked to see his laptop. Since Abidor was a student of Middle Eastern affairs, his computer contained photos of political rallies held by Hamas and Hezbollah, known terrorist groups.

“I explained to the immigration officer that the reason I had these photos was this was my research,” said Abidor, a U.S. citizen. “I determined they looked at my personal photos and personal chats with my girlfriend. I knew I needed help.”

Abidor’s case was considered a strong challenge to the Obama Administration because of Abdior’s citizenship: if it can happen to one U.S. citizen, it can happen to any U.S. citizen.

But Judge Korman ruled that the searches are sufficiently infrequent and judicious in their targeting of subjects to pose no threat to the Constitutional rights of Americans.

The ACLU, which coined the “Constitution-Free Zone” appellation to illustrate what’s at stake in the government’s selective application of Americans’ rights, is weighing whether to take the case to a higher court.

Mississippi Bill Would Overturn State’s Castle Doctrine

With the convening of State Legislatures for their 2014 sessions comes the inevitable early deluge of pet bills that serve the personal interests of their sponsors. So it is with Mississippi’s Deborah Dixon, a Democratic Representative who wants to overturn the State’s very strong Castle Doctrine laws with a bill that would abolish legal protection for people forced to kill someone in self defense — unless such harrowing ordeals happen to occur within 30 feet of their own homes.

The bill, HB 179 before the Mississippi House of Representatives, includes language remarkable for its apparent criminalization of innocent victims. From the Mississippi Gun News blog:

In HB 179 proposed today [Jan. 13] by Rep. Deborah Dixon (D-District 63)  the protection citizens have when defending themselves anywhere other than within 30 feet of their home would be removed.

In her bill she proposes the protections of criminal liability provided in Mississippi’s Castle Doctrine  “not be extended to any person who, in the act of resisting the commission of a felony upon him or within his dwelling, kills the aggressor outside of the immediate premises thereof.”

Dixon has a personal tragedy in her past which undoubtedly supplies an abundance of emotional fuel for a crusade to make the world a less violent place. Her son, Broderick, was murdered in cold blood in 2009 in Birmingham, Ala., by an off-duty police officer evidently jealous of his friendship with a mutual female acquaintance. But the law she’s proposing is counterproductive to her cause and, like every other attempt at re-evaluating the scope of the 2nd Amendment, is unConstitutional.

As one blog commenter pointed out, a 30-foot domicile limit on the Castle Doctrine law would, in fact, have favored the shooter in her son’s murder. Someone going by “Mississippi Guy” offered the following thoughtful breakdown:

I read the story of the tragic death of Rep. Dixon’s son at the hands of an off duty Alabama police officer “over a woman”. The police officer basically executed an unarmed man for no reason. I am very sorry for her loss.

NOW, if her son had a gun to defend himself (and survived), and a law like she filed was in effect where he lived, he would probably lose all protections of the Castle Doctrine and be subject to a civil suite [sic] by the cop or his family since he most likely was more than 30 feet from his residence when he was attacked (in his apartment parking lot and running away from the rogue cop).

I think a law to weed out mentally unstable cops would be of more value rather than to make the victim of crime a victim a second time in the courts.

Currently, Mississippi law does not subject a would-be crime victim who killed in self defense to civil recrimination for their actions — and that’s the way it should stay.

Disclosure Act Would Force White House To Stop Hoarding And Hiding Obamacare Information

Congressman Lee Terry (R-Neb.) has a proposal before the House that would require the Administration of President Barack Obama to give weekly updates to Congress on the progress of the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Predictably, the White House is against it.

The bill, dubbed the Exchange Information Disclosure Act, seeks to force the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to report on Obamacare enrollment and payment data to Congress on a weekly basis, as well as break down the demographic composition of enrollees and compare the matrix of paying insurance customers with that of new Medicaid enrollees. There would also be a tally of ongoing functional problems with Healthcare.gov and a rolling report on Obamacare Navigators’ training and certification.

The bill will come before the House this week, but the likelihood of it making it to the Senate floor — should it pass the Republican-controlled House — is anybody’s guess.

Breitbart described the effect of such a law as that of a “rolling subpoena,” an evergreen law that would compel HHS to begin sharing with Congress data that it’s so far sheltered from the public.

It obviously smells like politics; no Democrat would have ever proposed this sort of constraint on a Democratic Presidential Administration. But Terry is right when he questions the Obama Administration’s self-promoting claim of “transparency” and points out that HHS is simply not going to voluntarily share politically damaging news about Obamacare with any frequency, if at all.

“The American people have a right to know what’s happening with their health care coverage,” he said last week. “If you have nothing to hide, then there is no reason why the President and Congressional Democrats shouldn’t support the immediate passage of the Exchange Information Disclosure Act.”

Maybe so. One would have hoped that the President and Congressional Democrats would have simply shared a single conviction that HHS is responsible to deliver, without compulsion or Congressional intervention, the public’s business with the public.

The Obama Administration is pushing Democrats in Congress to go against the measure, claiming the law would frivolously waste taxpayer money. But the Congressional Budget Office has already calculated that the law will not cost a dime to implement. Someone just has to show up each week and tell Congress what only HHS and a few Administrative insiders already know — even if that news is underwhelming for those who’ve supported Obamacare.

Another Member Of Mayors Against Illegal Guns In Trouble For A Gun Crime

Last month, we offered up a sampling of hypocritical and criminal behavior from members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s pet gun control group.

One Pennsylvania Mayor who made it on the list was James Schiliro, who was arrested last February for reckless endangerment after he fired off a gun to intimidate a guest who was attempting to leave Schiliro’s home.

Schiliro, formerly the Mayor of Marcus Hook, Pa., went to jail Monday after a judge sentenced him to at least 10 months of prison, five years of probation and 50 hours of community service. He was convicted in November of reckless endangerment, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, official oppression and furnishing liquor to a minor.

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s account of Schiliro’s behavior needs no sensational embellishment:

Schiliro was sentenced to 10 to 20 months for an alcohol-fueled episode last February in which he had a police car bring a former neighbor — a 20-year-old to whom he said he was attracted — to his home, made him drink wine, and refused to let him leave for 3 ½ hours.

During the encounter, Schiliro threatened to kill himself and fired a gun into a stack of papers. The man eventually left and later called police.

… At the house that night in February, Schiliro told [houseguest Nicholas] Dorsam he wanted to commit suicide. Then Dorsam talked about Schiliro’s daughter, who was asleep upstairs.

“I was so drunk and so upset with myself for what I did, if Nick didn’t mention my daughter I would have killed myself,” Schiliro said. “That is the only thing that kept me from pulling the trigger.”

Schiliro, who sold the weapon shortly after the encounter, entered an alcohol-treatment program and underwent counseling.

Emotional testimony and passionate pleas from friends and family had little effect on Judge James F. Nilon, who said he was skeptical that Schiliro, even after the conviction, grasped the seriousness of his behavior.

National Review observed Tuesday that Schiliro was among the 600 municipal and regional leaders who signed a letter last year calling on Congress to enact tougher Federal gun control laws — and that Mayors Against Illegal Guns removed his name from the list of signers after he was arrested.

Here’s a graphic, created by the Second Amendment Foundation, that features even more current and former mayors whose esteem for the rule of law calls into question their preoccupation with legislating guns.

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Schiliro didn’t make the list because his crime took place in February of 2013 — three months after this graphic was made.

President Obama Has Begun Openly Flaunting His De Facto Fiat Power Over The Legislative Branch

“I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone.”*

That’s how President Barack Obama phrased his open threat Tuesday to bypass Congress in 2014 if his agenda suffers the same legislative opposition it met last year.

“We are not just going to be waiting for legislation to make sure that we’re providing Americans with the help that they need,” said the President. “I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone. I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward.”

Is this a preview of his State of the Union Address? The dictatorial, Constitution-abasing braggadocio comes even as the Obama Administration found itself justifying, as the defendant in a case before the Supreme Court Monday, the President’s previous end-runs around the Constitution in making board appointments while Congress is not convened at the Capitol building.

But what of this new rhetoric? Well, the “pen” part is easy, since the President had the sand to say exactly what he meant: he means to bypass Congress, which he considers inactive because it didn’t pass enough laws last year to melt his progressive heart.

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As for the “phone” part, Obama is evidently going into community organizer mode to mobilize people and companies and so on to go out in the yard and stand around a fire or…something.

I’ve got a phone that allows me to convene Americans from every walk of life, nonprofits, businesses, the private sector, universities, to try to bring more and more Americans together around what I think is a unifying theme; making sure that this is a country where if you work hard, you can make it.

Obama didn’t hint at which parts of his agenda are first in line to be decreed into law. It’s a safe bet he’s waiting for Congress to reach its first significant legislative stalemate of the year before he decides to figuratively cross the Rubicon Potomac.

 

* [Maybe it’s an Obamaphone.]

Great Betrayal: McCain Blasted By Hometown GOP

Conservative Republicans formally rebuking Senator John McCain is getting to be a thing. Last September, it was Arizona GOP Legislative District 26, which called out McCain for supporting President Barack Obama’s Federal appointees. In the new year, it’s the Maricopa County Republican Party — the local arm of the GOP that’s right in McCain’s backyard.

Maricopa County Republicans voted to formally censure McCain last week by an astonishing 1,150-to-351 margin, issuing a resolution that insinuates the former Presidential nominee had betrayed the party’s core values:

As leaders in the Republican Party, we are obligated to fully support our Party, platform, and its candidates. Only in times of great crisis or betrayal is it necessary to publicly censure our leaders. Today we are faced with both. For too long we have waited, hoping Senator McCain would return to our Party’s values on his own. That has not happened. So with sadness and humility we rise and declare:

Whereas Senator McCain has amassed a long and terrible record of drafting, co-sponsoring and voting for legislation best associated with liberal Democrats, such as Amnesty, funding for ObamaCare, the debt ceiling, assaults on the Constitution and 2nd amendment, and has continued to support liberal nominees;

Whereas this record has been disastrous and harmful to Arizona and the United States; and,

Whereas Senator McCain has campaigned as a conservative and made promises during his re-election campaigns, such as the needed and welcomed promise to secure our borders and finish the border fence, only to quickly flip-flop on those promises; and

Whereas McCain has abandoned our core values and has been eerily silent against Liberals, yet publicly reprimands Conservatives in his own Party, therefore

BE IT HEREBY RESOLVED that the Maricopa County Republican leadership censures Senator McCain for his continued disservice to our State and Nation, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that until he consistently champions our Party’s Platform and values, we, the Republican leadership in Arizona will no longer support, campaign for or endorse John McCain as our U.S. Senator.

Ouch. McCain has been hinting in recent months that he will seek a sixth term in the Senate. The Maricopa County GOP isn’t a mouthpiece for the State GOP, but it does reflect the prevailing political views of Republicans in Arizona’s most populous county, encompassing Phoenix — McCain’s hometown and the Nation’s fifth largest city — as well as massive suburban cities like Mesa, Chandler and Scottsdale.

McCain will be 80 years old in 2016, when his Senate seat comes up for election.

Psychologist: Conservatives Should Play Politics To Win And Stop Playing Not To Lose

Fred Dryer, famous back in the day as an athlete before enjoying a long career as an actor, diagnosed the fractured GOP’s communication problem with piercing accuracy in a Breitbart News radio appearance Sunday. Observing that core conservative principles are much nearer to mainstream Americans’ own values than the party’s leadership believes, Dryer wondered aloud why the GOP establishment has accepted the notion, successfully promulgated by progressives, that conservatism is a fringe ideology.

The “cowardice that is in the Republican Party today is only matched by their myopic opinions of themselves,” Dyer said. Here’s a snippet from Breitbart’s own write-up:

Dryer said the Republican Party bosses want to be liked by The New York Times and have bought into and been “intimidated into believing” the notion that, if they oppose liberal policies, they are “racist, sexist, homophobe, those types of things.” He said the establishment Republicans have done an excellent job of institutionalizing “complete stupidity” by adopting and abiding by various rules that “only weaken them” in national elections.

To Dryer, this has been going on since President Ronald Reagan left office. Dryer blasted the “neocons” aligned with President George H.W. Bush, whom he accused of undermining everything Reagan was trying to accomplish. Dryer even slammed Bush’s “1000 points of light” speech as a slam on Reagan’s “shining city on a hill” rhetoric.

Implicit in this kind of criticism is the understanding that the Republican National Committee and GOP leaders are struggling to overcome a kind of timid self-hatred — one that forces them into believing they must apologize for core conservative values while defending the party against barbs from the political left.

That makes a mockery of any adaptation the GOP might make to accommodate more libertarian ideas, because party leaders are controlled by the fear that progressives will simply celebrate any present-day tweaks in the Republican platform as an ideological victory: The GOP can’t beat us, so now they’re trying to join us.

Of course, nothing of the sort would actually be true, but the GOP establishment has painted itself into a corner when it comes to communicating the party’s own values in an affirmative — and not a reactionary — way.

That’s where psychologist Timothy Daughtry comes in. A conservative who, like Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), prefers to discuss mainstream America instead of the Republican Party’s inner sanctum, Daughtry is calling for a new communications strategy for the GOP — one that affirms deeply held convictions and doesn’t merely react to criticism from the other side.

“We have to make the left start defending socialism instead of us defending liberty,” Daughtry told The Daily Caller’s Ginni Thomas in a recent video interview. Here’s a synopsis:

Conservatives are on defense too much to succeed, he thinks, but also believes that help is on the way as citizens are waking up to the problems caused by both political parties.

“We have to make the left start defending socialism instead of us defending liberty,” Daughtry said.

… Losing cultural institutions to the left, like the media, education and entertainment, is far more significant, says Daughtry, than the harm done by the U.S. government. Daughtry also discusses how to respond to being called an extremist or a racist in this two-part interview.

He thinks conservatives should not accept the left’s premises, since the left has done incalculable damage to the black community with their policies and programs. Now more than ever, conservative solutions need to be introduced to the marketplace of ideas that many activists are now joining.

Making a strong case for the idea that conservatism, at the individual level, is far from dormant, he explained that average people still hold values that, in fact, stray farther from the ideological left than the ideological right. “We have to realize that the left is in control of most of our cultural institutions,” he said, “but they’re not in control of the dinner table.”

Bottom line: Conservatives need to stop apologizing and acting as though they’re in the ideological minority on every issue, and they need to begin demanding progressives justify their own views in the public eye. And if the Republican Party’s leadership isn’t prepared to do that, they’ll eventually be forced into a position, by the party’s own base, in which they’ll have to either come along or find themselves permanently on the outside, looking in, at mainstream America.

Obama Administration Seeks Volunteers Who Want Government To ‘Score’ Their Home Energy Consumption

The U.S. Department of Energy will introduce new software tomorrow that allows volunteers to begin assessing energy consumption in their homes by using “scoring” criteria created by the government.

The software, dubbed the Home Energy Scoring Tool, is one tool in the Obama Administration’s effort to soft-sell energy consumption to private individuals.

But the President’s recent history of unilaterally promulgating green energy rules and mandates from within the Executive Branch suggests there’s nothing to keep the program, which is now voluntary, from one day becoming policy.

As it stands, volunteers can pay an assessor to visit their homes and compile a list of variables that affect the government’s energy “score” that are unique to each home. Then the software decides how much energy each home should be consuming over the course of a year, and benchmarks that amount as the standard from which the home’s real energy usage will deviate. It assigns a numeric energy consumption score on a 1-10 scale, and compares how a home is faring relative to others in the same zip code.

As more homeowners voluntarily sign on for the program, the National database of information surrounding domestic energy consumption will grow, presumably achieving a size sufficient for the government to begin drawing generalizations about what amount of power usage is expected of a “typical” household.

Tea Party Wants To Give Boehner Something To Cry About In 2014

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is up for re-election along with the rest of his House colleagues this year, and conservatives jaded by his penchant for playing politics down the middle are mobilizing a search for a conservative candidate to defeat him in the GOP primary.

The Tea Party Leadership Fund, among the Nation’s largest and best-organized conservative political action committees, announced Friday it was sponsoring a search for a suitable Ohio candidate to oust Boehner from Congress.

“John Boehner has declared war on conservatives demanding lower taxes and limited government. Today we declare war on him.  We intend to send a message to his fellow ‘Republicans In Name Only’ that such ideologically bankrupt leadership must come to an end,” said spokesman Rusty Humphries.

The Fund is backing the campaign to rid of Boehner by launching a petition drive at primaryboehner.com, with a goal of reaching 1 million signatures by Jan. 31. It’s also buying print and television ads to promote the effort.

Breitbart reports the group is confident of its chances, thanks to a poll that reflects half of Ohio voters’ desire for more conservative representation in Congress. But the clock is ticking, since candidates have until Feb. 5 to file their paperwork for the May 6 primary election.

The Fund lists several grievances with Boehner, including his tacit support for the “funding of Obamacare” and his idle complicity in Congressional Democrats’ victory in October’s debt ceiling fight. They’re not happy about his stance on amnesty for illegal aliens and his open hostility toward the Republican Party’s most conservative members.

Oklahoma Lawmaker: Stop Punishing Schoolchildren For Making Finger Guns

A Republican Oklahoma legislator has just about had it with silly media reports of kids getting kicked out of school for making pistol shapes with their fingers or eating their Pop Tarts into the shapes of guns. So she’s drafting a State bill that would prevent schools from disciplining kids for being… well, kids.

Oklahoma State Representative Sally Kern is sponsoring what she calls the “Common Sense Zero Tolerance Act” in order to legislate the restraint that, in her opinion, adults ought to have been able to exercise on their own.

“Real intent, real threats and real weapons should always be dealt with immediately. We need to stop criminalizing children’s imagination and childhood play,” Kern told News9 in Oklahoma City last week. “We need to stop criminalizing children’s imagination and childhood play. If there’s no real intent, there’s no real threat, no real weapon, no real harm is occurring or going to occur — why in the world are we, in a sense, abusing our children like this?”

Her bill would forbid schools from taking action to “punish, humiliate, intimidate, be condescending to, or bully a student” found to be in “possession of a toy weapon.” It would also stop administrators from disciplining kids for “using a finger or hand to simulate at weapon,” “drawing a picture of a firearm” or making gun noises.

Predictably, the State’s teachers’ union is against the bill.

“The proposed legislation removes local control from teachers, counselors, administrators and local school boards,” Linda Hampton, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, told News9. “Educators are degreed professionals, trained and experienced in dealing with children.”

Obamanomics: Unemployment Falls Because Nobody’s Looking For Work

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the American economy added 74,000 jobs in December of 2013 – and yet the unemployment rate still managed to fall from 7 percent to 6 percent.

How can that be? Because nobody’s looking for work.

The civilian labor force in December shrank again, this time from 155.3 million to 154.9 million people. By percentage, that means the current 62.8 percent participation rate in today’s labor force is the lowest it’s been since 1978.

Meanwhile, there are now 91.8 million people not participating in the labor force – an all-time high that shows no sign of slowing down. About half a million people dropped out of the labor force in December alone, far outpacing the meager 74,000 added jobs.

The employment-to-unemployment ratio sits stagnantly at 58.6 percent to 41.4 percent. For all of 2013, the economy grew by an average of 182,000 jobs each month – more than double the December figure. And the matrix of 74,000 new December jobs can’t be envied for its quality. The retail sector was responsible for 55,000 of those jobs – 24,000 of which were in food and clothing stores.

In fact, if the labor force had held steady at its 2009 level of 162 million – before a “post-recession” decline that saw an additional 7 million people drop out – the actual unemployment rate would now stand at 10.8 percent. But the BLS doesn’t use workforce dropouts to tally unemployment, even though people who don’t have jobs and aren’t looking for work are, by definition, unemployed.

Who’s In Charge Of The IRS Tea Party Discrimination Investigation? An Obama Donor

Wonder why the U.S. Department of Justice’s purported criminal investigation into the Internal Revenue Service discrimination scandal, which involves the targeting of Tea Party nonprofit groups during the 2012 Presidential election season, doesn’t seem to be going anywhere?

It might have something to do with the fact that the DOJ picked attorney Barbara Kay Bosserman, a documented Barack Obama campaign donor, to lead the investigation.

Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Wednesday that the committee’s own investigation revealed that Attorney General Eric Holder had put Bosserman, who works in the department’s Civil Rights Division, in charge of the criminal probe, effectively stymieing any hope of an objective inquiry.

“By selecting a significant donor to President Obama to lead an investigation into inappropriate targeting of conservative groups, the Department has created a startling conflict of interest,” Issa and Congressman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) wrote to Holder Wednesday in a call for Bosserman to be removed from the probe. “It is unbelievable that the Department would choose such an individual to examine the Federal government’s systematic targeting and harassment of organizations opposed to the President’s policies. At the very least, Ms. Bosserman’s involvement is highly inappropriate and has compromised the Administration’s investigation of the IRS.”

Bosserman donated more than $6,000, in total, to Obama’s two Presidential campaigns, and also made separate, smaller donations to the Democratic National Committee in 2004 and again in 2008.

According to The Washington Times, which first reported on the discovery, the DOJ’s justification for not vetting Bosserman’s political affiliations is that it would be a violation of her Constitutional rights.

“[T]he Justice Department said it isn’t allowed to consider a career lawyer’s political leanings when doling out assignments and that it would violate an employee’s constitutional rights if he were penalized on the job for making legal political contributions,” the Times’ Stephen Dinan wrote.

The IRS investigation has dragged on for eight months with no evident progress, save for periodic updates — mostly filled with criticisms of the DOJ’s languorous pacing — from the Oversight Committee’s Republican leadership.

The criminal investigation is reportedly a joint task shared by the DOJ and the FBI. In his Wednesday letter to Holder, Issa reiterated his previous assertion that the FBI’s continued, “blatant” stonewalling of the Oversight Committee’s ongoing requests for information amounts to criminal obstruction of a Congressional investigation.

Colorado Bureaucrat Withstands Pressure To ‘Trash’ Obamacare Numbers

In an assiduous effort to minimize any negative publicity surrounding the rollout of Obamacare in his home State, Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.) attempted to get the Colorado Division of Insurance (DOI) to lie about the number of Coloradans whose existing policies were being canceled. But one DOI staffer wasn’t going to be bullied by the Senator.

The Complete Colorado, an independent political blog covering State politics, got access to emails that DOI Director of Internal Affairs Jo Donlin had sent to colleagues after being pressured by Udall.

Udall, an ardent supporter of Obamacare, wanted the State to report low policy cancellation numbers — but low cancellation rates were not what the numbers showed. According to The Complete Colorado:

At the height of controversy surrounding President Obama’s promises on the federal health care overhaul, U.S. Senator Mark Udall’s office worked assiduously to revise press accounts that 249,000 Coloradans received health care cancellation notices. Because the 249,000 figure was produced inside the Colorado Division of Insurance, Udall’s office lobbied that agency to revise the figure, or revise their definition of what qualified as a cancellation.

Donlin sent out a warning to colleagues in a Nov. 14 email last year, letting DOI employees know where the agency stood on the matter:

Sen. Udall says our numbers were wrong. They are not wrong. Cancellation notices affected 249,199 people. They want to trash our numbers. I’m holding strong while we get more details. Many have already done early renewals. Regardless, they received cancellation notices.

Donlin followed that up the next day by contacting Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper’s office, as well as Udall’s staff, with her breakdown of the DOI accurately arrived at the 249,000 figure. It’s worth noting also that, during the same six-week Obamacare launch window that saw the 249,000 in-State cancellations, only 3,700 Coloradans had actually enrolled in a new plan through the State-run Obamacare marketplace.

As the original story observes, the timing of Udall’s original communication with DOI — in which he first pressured the agency to spin the high cancellation numbers — came as the Senator was in the midst of an abrupt about-face in his support for the first-year mandates attached to the Affordable Care Act.

Obama’s ‘Promise Zones’ Picked For Their Strategic Value To Democratic Party

President Barack Obama designated five areas Thursday as Economic Promise Zones: three in cities, one in rural Kentucky and one on the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma – and nearly all of them offer Democrats stronger political inroads with resistant local voters.

Obama described the ‘Zones as places where kids would, with the Federal government’s help, have the same opportunities to realize the American Dream as kids in more affluent parts of the country.

“They’re neighborhoods where we will help local efforts to meet one National goal: that a child’s course in life should be not by the ZIP code she’s born in, but by the strength of her work ethic and the scope of her dreams,” the President said.

The cities selected for the first zones are Los Angeles, Philadelphia and San Antonio, while the Kentucky zone covers a multicounty region in the southeastern Highlands area. Obama said the program will be expanded to 20 locations Nationwide during the next three years.

“And each of these communities is designing from the bottom up – not the top down – what it is they think they need, and we’re working with them to make that happen,” he said. “And each of these communities is prepared to do what it takes to change the odds for their kids.”

The president said the idea was born from his own experience as a community organizer on Chicago’s South Side and on the work of people like Geoffrey Canada, who formed the Harlem Children’s Zone.

As Breitbart observed Thursday, most of the five announced locations have “interesting connections” that suggest their selection wasn’t arbitrary, nor solely based on the President’s altruistic desire to end poverty:

One of the main priorities in the 2014 election for Democrats is unseating Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), so Southeastern Kentucky, where the voters are heavily GOP, is a target which may allow Democrats to make some inroads.

San Antonio’s targeted district is the home of Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro, the twin brother of San Antonio mayor Julian Castro who is marked as a future star for the Party. That district, according to the Cook Partisan Voting Index, is only scoring a D+3, so Joaquin Castro could be in trouble.

Although Philadelphia is a Democratic stronghold, there are three suburbs nearby where GOP incumbents may be replaced by Democratic opponents: the Sixth and Eighth, which are both R+1, and the Seventh which is a tossup.

Oklahoma’s Second District is one of the five Promise Zones, and it includes the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Obama has been trying to reach out to the Choctaw nation for some time; Deborah Powell, Native American Development Specialist for the Housing Authority of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, was a guest in Michelle Obama’s box for Obama’s 2010 State of the Union Address.

The “Promise Zone” program will be administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and will dangle tax incentives and grants in front of the selected communities in order to create a dependence partnership between local government, businesses and agencies and the Federal government “to create jobs, leverage private investment, increase economic activity, expand educational opportunities, and improve public safety.”

The UPI contributed to this report.

Obama’s Poverty Pivot Invites More Poverty

As President Barack Obama attempts to stave off an election-year repeat of the public relations disaster he saddled his own party with in 2013, he’s kicking his policy rhetoric into community-organizing mode.

Launching an income inequality initiative is Obama’s way of bailing incumbent Congressional Democrats out of the Obamacare debacle they created, as they enter the 2014 campaign season. But it obviously won’t cause Obamacare to swerve from its predictable course, and it arms GOP challengers — if they’re smart enough to seize on it — with rich political fodder.

That’s because it’s illogical and factually nonsensical for the Obama Administration, in particular, to promote “income equality” policies that, in fact, demonstrably swell the ranks of the “impoverished” in America. And if precedent offers any indication of how the future will look, “poverty” under Obama is only going to increase.

In the United States, “poverty” in its classical sense is an almost meaningless word, especially among the elected class. Poverty does hold significant value as a political tool, though — and that’s what Obama is banking on in an election season that features a lot of embattled Congressional Democrats.

Democrats need a strong voter turnout to retain their Senate majority, but midterm elections are typically low-turnout affairs that tend to draw a disproportionate number of disgruntled voters to the polls. Given the year Obama had in 2013, the disgruntled voter demographic favors the GOP this year — so Democrats need a tent-pole issue to get their own political base disgruntled about.

That’s where “income inequality” comes in. But there’s a problem: The Obama Administration and its subservient, partisan Senate minions are more open than any other elected incumbents to criticism when it comes to poverty policy.

“Although the President often rails against income inequality in America, his policies have had little impact overall on poverty,” The Washington Times observed Tuesday. “A record 47 million Americans receive food stamps, about 13 million more than when he took office.”

The piece continues:

The poverty rate has stood at 15 percent for three consecutive years, the first time that has happened since the mid-1960s. The poverty rate in 1965 was 17.3 percent; it was 12.5 percent in 2007, before the Great Recession.

About 50 million Americans live below the poverty line, which the federal government defined in 2012 as an annual income of $23,492 for a family of four.

President Obama’s anti-poverty efforts “are basically to give more people more free stuff,” said Robert Rector, a specialist on welfare and poverty at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

“That’s exactly the opposite of what Johnson said,” Mr. Rector said. “Johnson’s goal was to make people prosperous and self-sufficient.”

But an America stocked with prosperous and self-sufficient citizens would obviate the far-left progressive leadership that has come to dominate the Democratic Party, because there’d be precious few people left in this country enthralled by the false promise of receiving something for nothing.

EPA Takes Land From State In Violation Of Century-Old Congressional Act

Republican Wyoming Governor Matt Mead issued a statement Monday blasting the Environmental Protection Agency for unilaterally ignoring Congressionally established law in order to take roughly 1 million acres of property out of State jurisdiction and hand it over to two Indian tribes.

The EPA ruled in December that a 1905 law that allowed non-Indians to establish homesteads inside the disputed territory did not end the territory’s reservation status. But Congress had made no such distinction at the time it passed the law.

The Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes, each of which occupies the Wind River Indian Reservation (located in the west-central portion of the State), had approached the EPA with a “Treatment as a State” request in order to acquire jurisdictional control over the territory under the Clean Air Act.

The EPA ruling’s overt implication is that the tribes now have the legal prerogative to be notified of any air quality permit filed within 50 miles of the reservation’s boundary.

But the ruling has other implications that concern municipal and State officials — especially “that land that the state, Fremont County and the city of Riverton consider to be under local jurisdiction is, in fact, Indian Country,” according to the WyoFile nonprofit news blog. “And,” WyoFile observes, “as part of the Wind River Indian Reservation, the city and surrounding area could be subject to federal policing, among other laws.”

Mead has responded to the ruling by pledging to ignore it, and to wage a court battle to have the EPA’s decision overturned.

“I understand that the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone Tribes have a different opinion about the Wind River Reservation Boundary,” his statement reads. “My deep concern is about an administrative agency of the federal government altering a state’s boundary and going against over 100 years of history and law. This should be a concern to all citizens because, if the EPA can unilaterally take land away from a state, where will it stop? …The federal government clearly had a predetermined outcome it sought to uphold.”

Income Inequality: Obama Rewards More Donors With Posh Ambassador Posts

President Barack Obama demonstrated his commitment to ending income inequality in America this week by asking the Senate to lavish five major Democratic donors with cherry ambassadorships in conflict-free countries like Iceland, New Zealand and The Netherlands.

Obama sent his picks to the Senate on Monday for confirmation, even though the nominees knew before Congress went on its Christmas break that they were in line for the posts. Here’s the rundown, courtesy of the nonprofit Sunlight Foundation government watchdog blog:

  • Rob Barber, a Massachusetts attorney nominated to represent the United States in Iceland, has donated more than $80,000 to Democratic campaigns, according to records compiled on Influence Explorer from the Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute on Money in Politics. Political Party Time shows that Barber helped host a fundraiser last year for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

 

  • Colleen Bell, a Hollywood soap opera producer whom Obama has tapped to be ambassador to Hungary, has donated more than $293,000. Her husband, fellow “The Bold and the Beautiful” producer Bradley Bell, was an especially enthusiastic funder of the Obama campaign. The couple also hosted a star-studded fundraiser for the president at their home during the last campaign, PT records reveal.

 

  • Timothy Broas, nominated to serve as ambassador to the Netherlands, has donated more than $183,000 to Democrats in addition to showing up in Party Time as a fundraising host.  As USA TODAY has reported, Obama is giving Broas a second chance at a job the DC “super lawyer” opted out of in 2012 after a drunk driving arrest.

 

  • Dwight Bush, a DC investment banker who hopes to take over the embassy in Morocco, has, together with his son, Dwight Bush Jr., made more than $140,000 in campaign contributions. With a few strategic exceptions that money went almost entirely to Democrats.

 

  • Mark Gilbert, a former baseball player turned investment banker, has donated nearly $436,000 to Democratic candidates and causes. Perhaps endearing him still further to Obama, Gilbert used to play outfield for the president’s beloved White Sox. That makes him a rarity among members of the First Fan’s favorite team, most of whom prefer Republicans. [Note: Gilbert is in line for an ambassadorship to New Zealand.]

The secular version of American simony isn’t unique to the Obama Administration. As we reported in July of last year – just after Obama had outraged our European allies by cashing in political favors with another of his ambassadorial nominations – the practice has a long and corrupt history regardless of who the President has been. But wouldn’t the President of Hope and Change, who’s set to take on the wealth gap and renew his partisan focus on equal opportunity for all Americans – carve out a little more credibility for his legacy by being the first to buck that trend?

What’s Wrong With This Picture? McConnell ‘United’ With Tea Party, Rand Paul In Campaign-Season Propaganda

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) knows that 2014 could be a long year for himself and other Congressional GOP colleagues who’ve variously attempted to conceal their RINO hearts with occasional weak overtures toward highly self-willed Tea Party conservatives.

With election season in high gear, there’s a lot of lost ground to recover with conservative voters and not much time to do it. But Washington careerists like McConnell are too elite and too aloof from their constituents to understand that they couldn’t make up the ground they’ve lost — even if the campaign season were 100 years long.

Empty symbolic gestures like the one McConnell attempted Monday represent more of the same from the unprincipled, spineless RINO set — intelligence-insulting, eleventh-hour photo ops that are designed to remind conservative voters that the GOP at its most moderate is supposedly less repugnant than any alternative.

From The Hill:

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sought to emphasize his Tea Party ties Monday by signing papers to file for reelection with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

In a video released Tuesday, McConnell is shown signing his filing papers with Paul and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer (R), who are both Tea Party favorites in Kentucky.

McConnell, long a target of grassroots conservatives, is facing a primary challenge from businessman Matt Bevin, who has already won the backing of some prominent national conservative groups.

The incumbent has been working to shore up support on his right flank for months. He won Paul’s endorsement and has emphasized conservative causes, like the Balanced Budget Amendment. He voted against a two-year budget deal approved by Congress last month.

In the filing video, titled “United,” Paul touts McConnell’s work as GOP leader in the Senate.

“What he has done, and what allows him to be the most powerful Republican up there is that he can pull people together,” Paul says, “United on ObamaCare. United for a Balanced Budget Amendment.”

Paul’s comments answer another attack McConnell is facing from his left flank, where he’s up against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes — that his leadership abilities have waned and his seniority in the Senate has made him simply out of touch with Kentucky.

It’s a ruse that infuriates the Tea Party — in part, because it bears the obvious signs of the RINOs’ manifest lack of sincerity. And it doesn’t help when anonymous insiders or hot mics catch people like McConnell saying stuff like the Tea Party is “nothing but a bunch of bullies” whom the GOP establishment intends to “punch” in the nose.

Lundergan Grimes, McConnell’s likely Democratic challenger, is onto something: McConnell is out of touch, and his spineless leadership represents a great squandering of his position of power within the Senate.

What’s more perplexing is Paul’s willingness to get this cozy with McConnell — a conservative albatross in his home State — in front of jaded conservative voters.

As surely as the GOP believes some of Paul’s Tea Party sheen can magically rub off on McConnell, it must also realize McConnell’s lukewarm leadership, lacking for a principled ideological foundation, can stain the conservative reputation of anyone who dares stand too close.

Please, Rand, just step away.

GAO: Carmakers Collect And Keep Drivers’ Location Information

The Government Accountability Office released a report Monday that reveals major carmakers are collecting information about where motorists travel, and that they retain that info indefinitely — without any legal obligation to dispose of it.

The GAO report indicates auto manufacturers use drivers’ factory-installed onboard navigation systems, such as General Motors’ OnStar, to collect location information, and that each company follows its own internal policy about how long that information is retained.

Additionally, car owners — almost none of whom even know about the automakers’ practice — have no recourse to ask the companies to dispose of their location information.

Car companies have justified the practice by pointing out the services that location tracking enables them to provide to consumers. By collecting location data, onboard navigation systems can give motorists a slew of location-specific information, including traffic updates, map directions, roadside assistance and stolen vehicle monitoring.

The GAO report covers the information collection practices of the Big Three U.S. automakers, as well as Toyota, Honda and Nissan. “If companies retained data, they did not allow consumers to request that their data be deleted, which is a recommended practice,” the report noted.

The automakers also use the location data to “track where consumers are, which can in turn be used to steal their identity, stalk them or monitor them without their knowledge,” the report continues. “In addition, location data can be used to infer other sensitive information about individuals such as their religious affiliation or political activities.”

In other words, automakers are exercising the same secretive powers as the National Security Agency — only they’re being paid by customers for the privilege.

In spite of that similarity, so far only Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) has publicly condemned the practice.

“Modern technology now allows drivers to get turn-by-turn directions in a matter of seconds, but our privacy laws haven’t kept pace with these enormous advances,” said Franken, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, in a prepared statement Monday. “Companies providing in-car location services are taking their customers’ privacy seriously — but this report shows that Minnesotans and people across the country need much more information about how the data are being collected, what they’re being used for, and how they’re being shared with third parties.”

Hopefully, the small handful of Congressmen who have an actual track record of standing up for Americans’ 4th Amendment rights will expand upon, and strengthen, Franken’s benign comments. Otherwise, this story will probably slide innocuously back into the low-contrast hum of the 24-hour news cycle until someone decides to file a class-action lawsuit.

Watch Jay Carney Dissemble To Avoid Addressing His Own Talking Point On Obamacare Enrollment

On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told CBS News’ Major Garrett that the demographic mix of Obamacare enrollees was a crucial determinant of the health care law’s long-term viability. He’d kind of been backed into a corner, because Garrett was after him about the Obama Administration’s deafening silence on just how far short enrollment is from the Administration’s stated goal of 7 million customers.  Garrett had quoted HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who had said, only one day before Obamacare’s Oct. 1 launch last year, that “success looks like 7 million people having signed up by the end of March 2014.”

Carney came back with this:

It’s important to understand that it is not — that there’s not some magic number: 6,999,999 and the system collapses; one more than that and it functions perfectly. The issue, obviously, is there has to be some volume — some estimates have been as low as 2 million — but what that make-up looks like, both demographically and geographically. So all of these issues are important.

Demographics matter, of course, because hordes of very poor, very sick people who receive subsidies to finance their expensive medical treatments simply can’t pay for their own treatments – let alone everyone else’s. Obamacare needs young, reasonably high-income enrollees to pay for the program’s enormous safety net, and the sum of the last three months’ worth of news reports strongly indicates that just isn’t happening.

Flash forward to Tuesday (Carney has to be dreading these press briefings more and more every day), when Carney found himself back in front of reporters.

One of them asked whether the Obama Administration knows – or has any plans to release whatever it knows – about the demographic composition of the people who’ve so far enrolled in Obamacare.

He had a hard time delivering a response that featured complete sentences. Carney’s dissembling reply did feature this:

But you know, when — the issue here is I guess this is sort of — this is the new thing where we’re — you know, we’re going to find some problem in the system. Well, first of all, we acknowledge problems when they arise and when they need to be fixed.

We acknowledge that there needs to be the right mix for the marketplaces to be maximally effective. We believe we will achieve that mix. But, you know, we’re not going to even imagine or hope that you’ll take our word for it. You’ll evaluate it as you, you know, see the proof of it when — as you have with the enrollment figures, when the numbers that were obviously terrible in October and gradually improved after that.

So, you know, we’ll — we’re committed to getting the data to you and you can judge it for yourselves.

Got all that?

At least he admitted the launch numbers were “terrible.”

H/T: Washington Free Beacon

North Carolina Cop Shoots, Kills 90-Pound Schizophrenic Teen Holding A Screwdriver

A mother and father in coastal North Carolina called the police to help get control of their teenage son, who suffered from depression and schizophrenia. He allegedly was experiencing a psychotic episode and had grabbed a small screwdriver. The distressed parents told the police that their son, who stood 5’3’’ and weighed less than 100 pounds, was acting “disoriented.”

Two police officers — one Boiling Spring Lakes municipal officer and one Brunswick County sheriff’s deputy — showed up at the family’s home and tried to talk to 18-year-old Keith Vidal in an effort to calm him down. Local news reports indicate that the two officers were making headway with the troubled young man simply by talking to him.

But then, a third officer from the neighboring town of Southport showed up, entered the home and told the two other officers to use a Taser on Vidal. So they did — allegedly, more than once. The officers ended up on the ground when the Southport officer allegedly remarked, “We don’t have time for this.”

From WECT News in Wilmington:

[Mark] Wilsey said officers had his son down on the ground after the teen was tased a few times and an officer said, “We don’t have time for this.” That’s when Wilsey says the officer shot in between the officers holding the teen down, killing his son.

“There was no reason to shoot this kid,” Wilsey said. “They killed my son in cold blood. We called for help and they killed my son.”

… Neighbors said Vidal played with their children and he never was violent. They said he had a history of depression and schizophrenia, but he was never harmful to others.

District Attorney Jon David held a news conference Monday but said he would not release the names of the officers involved until after the State Bureau of Investigation wraps up its inquiry. An SBI investigation is required anytime a law enforcement officer in North Carolina is involved in a shooting.

“We called for help, and they killed our son,” Wilsey told Time Warner Cable Triad News. “No reason for it; deadly force. There was no reason. They had Tasers on them, and they didn’t have to even tase him – they could have just talked to him, talked to him another 10 minutes.”

Michelle Obama’s Reviled School Lunch Program Caves To Demands That Food Taste Better, Be More Filling

First lady Michelle Obama’s initiative to combat child obesity by scaling back calories served up in public schools has been unpopular and counterproductive. Her role in folding the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 into the overarching agenda of her “Let’s Move!” childhood obesity program may be starting to fade, though.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said last week it will permanently relax rules that limit public schools’ lunchroom options, including calorie count and portion sizes, affirming the agency’s face-saving 2012 decision to temporarily lift those same requirements in the face of public backlash.

Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota announced Friday that the USDA had agreed to  loosen those requirements to the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program.

“A one-size-fits-all approach to school lunch left students hungry and school districts frustrated with the additional expense, paperwork and nutritional research necessary to meet federal requirements. These are exactly the changes included in our Sensible School Lunch Act.”

Senator Mark Pryor (D- Ark.) said he and Hoeven, both of whom have been outspoken critics of the 2010 legislation, took point in applauding the changes.

“After hearing from educators, parents, and students, Senator Hoeven and I stepped in to help school districts who were frustrated with the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program’s strict new rules,” Pryor said Friday. “I’m glad the USDA followed our lead and made these much-needed administrative changes that will give our school districts the permanent flexibility they need to keep our kids healthy and successful.”

“Today, the USDA made the permanent changes we have been seeking to the School Lunch Program,” Hoeven added. “A one-size-fits-all approach to school lunch left students hungry and school districts frustrated with the additional expense, paperwork and nutritional research necessary to meet Federal requirements. These are exactly the changes included in our Sensible School Lunch Act.”

The Sensible School Lunch Act is a bill that would amend standing Federal law governing school lunch programs so that school districts would have more flexibility in choosing how to configure their menus at the local level. It was introduced in March of 2013 in the House by Congressman Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), and has been dormant since then.

It’s great that Obama’s rubber-stamp approach to school lunches was so unpopular that it ultimately failed, but the manner in which the rules were changed begs one question: How is the USDA’s administrative tweak any different from the dozens of administrative tweaks the Department of Health and Human Services has made to Obamacare, all at the President’s behest?

The modifications were aimed at limiting fat and salt, reducing portion sizes and increasing fruit and vegetable servings. For kindergarteners through fifth-graders, their meals were capped at 650 calories. Sixth- through eighth-graders were allowed 700 calories per meal, while high school students got 850.