Senate Democrats Haunted By 2010 Vote That Paved The Way For Policy Cancellations Under Obamacare

A partisan Senate vote in 2010 that sealed the fate of millions of people whose health insurance policies are now being canceled under Obamacare could come back to haunt the Democrats who made it happen.

Incredibly, considering the source, that’s the conclusion that CNN investigative correspondent Chris Frates reached last week when he reviewed the legislative history of the Affordable Care Act.

The so-called “grandfather” rule that is now all but forcing the insurance business to drop current policies established guidelines for what kinds of policies could continue into the Obamacare era without modification. “Democrats argued then that the rule was necessary,” writes Frates, “to insure that insurance companies weren’t able to drastically change their plans and still remain exempt from Obamacare.”

The rule essentially prevents insurance companies from keeping their grandfathered status if they make changes to their plans. In practice, insurance companies are loath to leave their plans unchanged so grandfathered plans are disappearing, and people are being forced to change their plans to meet Obamacare’s more robust coverage requirements.

“More robust” can be read as “unnecessary coverage,” such as compulsory maternity care even for policyholders who, because of age, gender or circumstance, don’t need it.

Republicans had attempted to block the grandfather rule in September 2010, arguing that its provisions essentially guaranteed that coverage providers would be compelled, under the law, to drop existing policyholders in droves in order to meet Obamacare’s one-size-fits-all insurance requirements. They didn’t have the votes in the Democrat-controlled Senate, and the override bill was defeated in a partisan vote.

Now Democratic incumbents are backing away from their Obamacare voting record in an attempt to position themselves for the 2014 elections. Of the 33 Senate seats up for grabs in 2014, 21 are held by Democrats. Republicans would need to retake six seats in order to claim a Senate majority.

As campaign season gears up, get ready to see a litany of preemptive, “I-told-you-so” strikes from Republicans. CNN’s story dug up exactly one such warning from 2010, when Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said this:

The District of Columbia is an island surrounded by reality. Only in the District of Columbia could you get away with telling the people if you like what you have you can keep it, and then pass regulations six months later that do just the opposite and figure that people are going to ignore it. But common sense is eventually going to prevail in this town and common sense is going to have to prevail on this piece of legislation as well.

The administration’s own regulations prove this is not the case. Under the grandfathering regulation, according to the White House’s own economic impact analysis, as many as 69 percent of businesses will lose their grandfathered status by 2013 and be forced to buy government-approved plans.

This Video Shows Why Law Enforcement Lies To Justify Revenue-Generating Speed Zones

Although produced in Canada, this video by filmmaker Chris Thompson shows that government (on both sides of the border), the insurance industry and the mainstream media all gain by mindlessly reciting the simplistic, decades-old “speed kills” mantra – even though statistics continue to demonstrate that the majority of people drive most safely when they drive at the speed that’s comfortable for them.

Thompson notes that roads with artificially low speed limits see fewer crashes once officials agree to raise the speed limit. In fact, he persuasively argues, law enforcement is perpetuating a hypocrisy by claiming that lying in wait and ticketing motorists is a safety deterrent intended to benefit society.

It’s a bit on the long side – but it’s entertaining and informative. Pass it along.

AP Cries Over Access To Obama; ‘SNL’ Obamacare Parody Turns Out To Be True; Herding Mentally Ill Prisoners With Pepper Spray; Handing The President The Keys To The Debt Limit; Obamacare Enrollees Mostly Medicaid – TGIF Friday Morning News Roundup 11-1-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories making the Internet rounds this morning. Click the links for the full stories.

  • Editors of The Associated Press condemned the White House’s refusal to give photojournalists real access to President Barack Obama, who prefers to circulate press release-style pictures taken by his own paid photographers. These official photographs are little more than propaganda, according to AP director of photography Santiago Lyon. Source: The Daily Caller…

 

  • A “Saturday Night Live” parody of Obamacare and the healthcare.gov website got a lot of laughs when “SNL”‘s Kate McKinnon portrayed Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Little did the cast know how accurate its over-the-top satire would be when she joked only six people could use the website at once. Source: WTOP

 

  • Videotapes released Thursday by a federal court show mentally ill prisoners in California being forced from their cells by guards who douse them repeatedly with pepper spray. Source: Los Angeles Times…

 

  • Democratic senators have introduced legislation that would grant President Obama, and subsequent presidents, the authority to increase the legal limit on the federal government’s debt unless Congress subsequently voted to disapprove the increase. The bill would effectively take elected members of Congress off the hook for approving an increase in the debt. If the president certified that he was going to increase the debt limit, Congress could simply let him do it without taking a vote–and putting members on the record. Source: CNS News…

 

  • The first month of the new health law’s rollout reveals an unexpected pattern in several states: a crush of people applying for an expansion of Medicaid and a trickle of sign-ups for private insurance. This early imbalance — in some places, nine out of 10 enrollees are in Medicaid — has taken some experts by surprise. The Affordable Care Act, which expanded Medicaid to cover millions of the poorest Americans who couldn’t otherwise afford coverage, envisions a more even split with an expanded, robust private market. Source: The Washington Post…

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook. And follow our improved Twitter feed.

Obama Pans 150th Anniversary Of Gettysburg Address

President Barack Obama has appropriated the mythos of President Abraham Lincoln in facile little ways, using the Lincoln Bible at both his inaugurations and announcing his candidacy on the steps of the Old Illinois State Capital in Springfield. But he’s declined a Congressional invitation to speak Nov. 19, when Gettysburg marks the 150th anniversary of one of Lincoln’s most enduring legacies: the 16th President’s 1863 dedication speech for the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, known to generations both past and yet to come as the Gettysburg Address.

The White House declined a bipartisan invitation from Senator Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Representative Scott Perry (R-Pa.) without offering a reason for the President’s planned absence.

Area newspaper the York Daily Record noted that months passed without an RSVP until, finally, the White House notified the Congressional delegation that Obama was sending Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior. Historian James McPherson will join Jewell in delivering the event’s two keynote speeches.

The Daily Record was among a number of local newspapers that unloaded on Obama once it became clear this week that he would be a no-show in Gettysburg. In an editorial headlined “Obama’s rejection of Gettysburg Address invitation unacceptable,” the editorial staff offered this:

How could he not pay his respects to those whose ultimate sacrifices made his presidency possible?

How could he not visit and acknowledge the new birth of freedom that is his — and our nation’s — inheritance of that battle?

Well, he’s not coming.

The National Park Service this week said the president was instead sending Interior Secretary Sally Jewell — a former oil, banking and outdoor gear accessory executive who was born in England.

With all due respect to Ms. Jewell, she is an unacceptable substitute for the President of the United States.

If crucial matters of state demand the president’s attention that day, the least he could do is send the vice president.

…But whatever the reason, the declined invitation is unacceptable.

 

Barack Obama is the most powerful man on earth. If he wanted to be here on Nov. 19, he could make that happen.

The fact that he is uninterested or unwilling to do so is deeply disappointing — and likely to lead to further division in our politically cleft nation.

…President Obama could have used this occasion to offer words of healing and reconciliation — as his Illinois forefather once did.

Instead, he is sending us a little-known Cabinet member to do the job of a president, of a statesman, of an orator.

Unacceptable.

Writing for The Patriot News, a Harrisburg newspaper, Donald Gilliland’s remarks were similar:

Obama will be a no-show at the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. For a president who has so demonstrably associated himself with Lincoln…this is nothing less than a profile in cowardice.

In the end, Barack Obama simply didn’t have the stones.

It’s sad.

And telling.

Nurse Assaulted By Police For Abiding By Protocol Files Federal Lawsuit For Use Of Excessive Force

Exactly two years ago, Lawrenceville, Ga., police shocked a registered nurse with a Taser and arrested her after she refused to grant the cops access to a patient suspected of sexual assault at the psychiatric unit where she worked. Now, the woman has filed a Federal lawsuit against them.

Marthe Bien-Aime, who is suing officers Christy Vice, Mark Tinkey, C.L. Hyatt and Shawn Humphreys, alleges the police subjected her to excessive force in the Oct. 31, 2011 incident. Bien-Aime greeted the police when they showed up in response to a call alleging the patient had sexually abused another patient, but she would not allow them access to the suspect until she had obtained permission from her unit supervisor.

Bien-Aime, who was working at the Summit Ridge mental health facility in Lawrenceville, told the cops she had sworn an oath to protect her patients and that she simply needed to call her nursing director for permission to let the officers into the unit where the suspect was being treated.

But the officers claimed to have an arrest warrant for the patient and threatened to arrest her for obstruction unless she broke her own code of professional ethics, for which she herself is accountable before the law, by giving them immediate access to the patient.

From the complaint:

21. The Defendant officers had a piece of paper that they said was a warrant, but they did not allow Nurse Bien-Aime to read it, so she was unable to confirm whether it was a warrant or what patient it was for.

22. Nurse Bien-Aime then called the Director of Nursing, Shelley Beaubrun, and told her what was happening with the police officers. Ms. Beaubrun asked to speak with the officers and Nurse Bien-Aime held out the phone so that they could speak to her.

23. The officers refused to speak with Ms. Beaubrun and said they were going to arrest Nurse Bien-Aime for obstructing justice.

24. As Nurse Bien-Aime remained behind the counter in the nurse’s station, waiting for guidance from Ms. Beaubrun on the telephone, Lt. Tinkey burst through the door to the nursing station, followed by Officers Hyatt and Humphreys, and Defendant Vice grabbed the phone and began speaking to Ms. Beaubrun.

25. Lt. Tinkey, Officer Hyatt, and Officer Humphreys grabbed Nurse Bien-Aime’s hands and arms and began twisting her arms backward. Then they threw her to the floor with great force and shackled her wrists with a chain and handcuffs.

26. Nurse Bien-Aime cried out in pain due to the tightness of the handcuffs, as well as from the aggravation of an old left shoulder injury and new injuries to other parts of the body resulting from Defendants’ unreasonable and unjustified use of force against her.

27. She asked the Defendant officer several times to loosen the handcuffs but they would not do it.

28. When they got her off the floor and began escorting her out, Nurse Bien-Aime had difficulty walking and the Defendant officers kept shoving her.

29. After going through a set of double doors in the hallway, Nurse Bien-Aime lost her balance and fell to the floor. The Defendant officers yelled for her to get up but she was not able to, and they told her they would drag her if she didn’t get up.

30. Officer Vice said “let’s tase her” and then they proceeded to do so.

Bien-Aime was taken to the Gwinnett County Detention Center, subjected to a body search, given ice for her bruises and — after waiting for an arrest warrant to be issued — charged with obstruction of justice.

Atlanta’s WSB-TV News recently obtained a video of the incident. Recorded by a surveillance camera inside the mental health facility, the video shows four officers throwing Bien-Aime to the ground and handcuffing her. “Then,” reporter Craig Lucie writes, “two officers dragged her out of the nurse station and one of the officers hit her on the back.”

At the moment the officer struck Bien-Aime, she was already safely in custody with her hands cuffed behind her back. She was walking down the hallway with an officer escorting her at either side.

I Pay Dead People: Medicare and Medicaid Misspent $23 Million On Benefits For Dead Patients

A report released Thursday by the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services reveals the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) – the same agency responsible for setting the  Obamacare rollout in motion – paid more than $20 million in false benefits to dead people in 2011.

According to the report, CMS paid $23 million to providers, suppliers, Medicare Advantage organizations and prescription drug plan sponsors for dead patients, as well as $29 million in drug payouts for illegal aliens.

Altogether, the payments represent a fraction of the total amount of Medicare payouts in any given year. But the misspent money still elicited recommendations from the Inspector General’s office on how CMS must tighten the vetting process.

“The OIG offered a handful of recommendations,” The Hill reported Thursday, “such as taking action against providers and suppliers that had high numbers of claims with service dates after a beneficiary’s death, as a way to minimize further inappropriate payments.”

CMS administrator Mailynn Tavenner said the Medicaid agency accepts the findings, but she didn’t elaborate much.

“We agree that in cases where the information indicates an individual is not lawfully present in the United States, that individual should not be permitted to enroll or to remain enrolled in a Part D plan during the period where he or she is not eligible to receive federal benefits,” Tavenner said.

Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) criticized CMS for the finding, noting that the agency had been cautioned of the potential for such egregious abuses five years before they were uncovered.

Third Firearms Company Announces Relocation From Gun Control-Crazed New York

Two gun companies in New York have already announced they are relocating their operations out of the State in the wake of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s hasty signing of the SAFE (Secure Ammunition and Firearms) Act early this year. Now a third company is following suit.

American Tactical Imports, which ships other manufacturers’ firearms and also manufactures its own weapons, has announced it will relocate to Summerville, South Carolina in a move that is expected to transfer 117 jobs as part of a new $2.7 million investment.

Company officials attribute their decision to New York’s restrictive gun control stance, as well as to their belief that South Carolina offers a legal climate that hews more closely to the 2nd Amendment.

“As one of the gun industry’s top importers and manufacturers of firearms and firearm related accessories, ATI’s decision to relocate is two-fold,” the company explained Monday in a press release. “ATI believes it is imperative that a firearms importer and manufacturer do business within a state that is friendly to the Second Amendment rights of the people.”

Two other New York-based companies have announced relocation plans this year as a result of the State’s latest round of restrictions on firearms. Officials with the Kahr Firearms Group said in August their company would relocate to Pennsylvania. Remington Arms, which has been based in New York for more than 150 years, began searching in August for a site in Tennessee to relocate its 1,200-employee operation.

Is All That Technology Just A Big Headache? Yes (Literally)

As ever more-sophisticated smart phones, tablets and portable computers continue their creep into everyday life, people who grudgingly cave in to buy an iPhone or Android device can often find the learning curve to be a major pain. But reports suggest that those headaches your cell phones are giving you may be very real.

A recent series of studies has documented everything from mild nausea after viewing animations on tiny phone screens to headaches from focusing on the artificially-deep viewing plane created by advanced operating system layouts.

Apple’s newest iPhone operating system, iOS7, has even prompted some developers to come up with workaround apps to alleviate users’ headache and vertigo complaints from staring at the interface’s brightly-colored graphics and zooming, fluid animations.

But if the headaches aren’t getting to you, the strange sensation of feeling your phone vibrate when it’s not anywhere near you might. A professor at Indiana University-Purdue University in Ft. Wayne, Ind. found that 89 percent of her tech-savvy students had experienced so-called “phantom pocket vibration syndrome,” a phenomenon during which a person perceives that the cell phone is vibrating in their pocket – even though the phone is somewhere else.

That condition is supposedly caused by the way in which the brain becomes conditioned to repetitive and anticipated physical stimuli.

“I think that these two phenomena, [Fear of Missing Out] and phantom vibration syndrome, both capture the same prevailing issue,” wrote psychology professor Larry Rosen earlier this year. “We are now so primed with anxiety about our electronic world (and particularly that which involves communicating such as text messages and social media) that we misinterpret a simple signal from our neurons located below our pocket as an incoming message rather than an itch that needs to be scratched. As we are finding out, it really seems to be all about anxiety that builds up when we are not allowed to check in with our social media which young people appear to check extremely often.”

Another School To Allow Concealed Carry For Teachers

It’s only been two days since we told you about an Oregon school district that had elected to allow teachers to lawfully carry concealed weapons on campus. Well, it looks as though the dominoes are continuing to fall – this time in rural Colorado.

A school in the small town of Briggsdale, Colo., located north of Denver in rural Weld County, will begin allowing teachers to carry concealed weapons so long as they agree to participate in ongoing training that requires shooting a minimum of 100 rounds each month at a firing range.

According to NBC 9 News, school superintendent Rick Mondt said the decision, “is a benefit, we believe, to the security of our students,” stems in part from the fact that police and emergency medical response times for the small school are too great to compromise security by asking teachers and students to sit on their hands if a violent situation arises.

Weld County sheriff John Cooke, who joined other Colorado sheriffs earlier this year in taking a stand against enforcing the State’s recently-passed gun control legislation, said he fully supports the plan.

Briggsdale doesn’t have a municipal police department, and emergency responders can take 20 minutes or more to arrive. Devising a way for rural Colorado schools to deal with active shooter situations was discussed in the State Legislature after last December’s headline-grabbing massacre at a school in Sandy Hook, Conn., but a proposal to allow school systems to autonomously decide whether to allow armed teachers died during the session.

According to The Daily Caller, rural schools have attempted to get past the restriction on concealed carry by having some staff members serve double duty as trained security guards. In Briggsdale, though, the school system decided to open that dual-service role to any employee who wishes to participate and to maintain their training. Four of the school’s 18 teachers have reportedly signed on, though the school is (sensibly) declining to disclose their identities.

Halloween Special: The Dreaded Obama Mask Offends Again

A guy or girl – the offender was wearing a mask – got the suits at a Kentucky hospital all up in arms recently after participating in a Halloween costume contest while wearing a straitjacket and sporting the dreaded mask that gets everyone in trouble – the grotesque mask representing the likeness of President Barack Obama.

obamaKYcostume

WZTV Nashville reported Tuesday that the vice president of human resources at Jennie Stuart Medical Center was apologizing to hospital staff and taking personal responsibility for the incident, and was asking that “employees refrain from political, religious, ethnic and gender-based costumes at other functions.”

A hapless rodeo clown at this year’s Missouri State Fair pioneered the Obama-impersonating martyrdom phenomenon when he dared to look like this at a rodeo back in August:

obamarodeo

But if you’re a “True Blood” fan, perhaps you’ll remember this scene from season five (that’s way back in 2012), when a gang of gun-toting rednecks rode around the fictional town of Bon Temps, La. doing target practice on anybody whose existence they felt constituted a violation of the natural order of things:

truebloodobama

Remember the National flap that proceeded from HBO’s misappropriation of Barry’s mug in the portrayal of – oh, my goodness – a hate group? That’s because there wasn’t one.

As for the hospital staffer who wore the Obama mask, at least there’s a silver lining: The group featuring the Obama character earned third place in the costume competition.

Facebook Software Could Soon Track Where Your Cursor Goes On Screen

The private tech sector is playing with new marketing-driven surveillance methods that borrow from the much-reviled tactical thinking that has made the NSA an object of public outrage. If a test of Facebook’s new tracking software is successful, someone somewhere could know where your mouse is pointing anywhere on an open Facebook page – all without your knowledge.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the company is trying out technology that “would greatly expand the scope of data that it collects about its users” by following a site visitor’s passive behavior – such as how long a mouse cursor stays hovered over a link or a picture – down to a minute level of detail.

Facebook analytics chief Ken Rudin told the Journal Tuesday the company could use the additional data for myriad purposes, from ad targeting to behavioral research in the development of new offerings:

Facebook collects two kinds of data, demographic and behavioral. The demographic data—such as where a user lives or went to school—documents a user’s life beyond the network. The behavioral data—such as one’s circle of Facebook friends, or “likes”—is captured in real time on the network itself. The ongoing tests would greatly expand the behavioral data that is collected, according to Mr. Rudin. The tests are ongoing and part of a broader technology testing program, but Facebook should know within months whether it makes sense to incorporate the new data collection into the business, he said.

It’s all benign until someone gets hurt. As we’ve seen our government allows the private sector to do much of the heavy lifting in its endeavor to reap boundless information on private citizens’ Internet habits, probable cause be damned.

If Facebook and other companies deploy tracking technology that essentially watches your every move as you go about your business, it won’t only be the Facebooks of the world that know more about you than most of your buddies. Because you can guarantee the government, through subpoenas and less-legal means, will have access to that same info, too.

Food Stamp Riots? Nation’s Largest Food Bank Sees Falling Skies Over Expired Food Stimulus

The CEO of the Food Bank for New York City, reportedly the Nation’s largest food outreach program, is insinuating that riots could erupt if program cuts slated to kick in this weekend are allowed to take effect.

According to Margarette Purvis, president and CEO of the Food Bank, the scheduled expiration of food stimulus money will shrink the Federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by $5 billion dollars and create instant havoc among entitlement recipients – a recipe for rioting that could boil over as soon as this weekend.

“If you look across the world, riots always begin typically the same way: when people cannot afford to eat food,” Purvis told Salon Monday:

Purvis said that the looming cut would mean about 76 million meals “that will no longer be on the plates of the poorest families” in NYC alone – a figure that outstrips the total number of meals distributed each year by the Food Bank for New York City, the largest food bank in the country. “There will be an immediate impact,” she said.

“The fact that they’re going to lose what’s basically an entire week’s worth food” each month, said Purvis, “it’s pretty daunting.” She told Salon that while policymakers “are attempting to punish people for being poor,” and “people are comforted by believing that they know that a person has to have done something wrong in order to be poor,” in reality, “I can tell you that more and more folks have more than one job and are still needing help.” …Purvis added that cutting food stamps was “not even good business sense,” because each dollar of food stamps infuses over $1.70 of spending into the economy.

Purvis went on to add that “the first line of defense against hunger is a food stamp.”

Who knew?

Meanwhile, Neil Cavuto at Fox News has speculated that a recent $80 million outlay by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is directly related to an anticipated (or perhaps hoped for) Food Stamp riot event. DHS spent the funds to beef up armed security at government buildings in upstate New York, adding to the department’s growing list of questionable militarization measures presumably aimed at U.S. citizens who would create civil unrest by galvanizing against government policy.

“November 1st could be a very, very iffy kind of a day,” Cavuto intoned on his Fox News program. “…This could be ‘all-hell-breaks-loose day’…[O]n November 1st, the food stamp program is set to start decreasing the amount that is allocated to food stamp recipients….and they’re worried that violence will ensue.”

The whole chicken-little tone of this impending SNAP disaster almost smacks of bloodlust. The hyperbole coming from the far left and the far right – coupled with the indisputable fact that government itself is incrementally hoarding military-style armaments and equipment for uses that are ostensibly of a “civil” nature – indicate that at least a few rapturous policymakers and pundits are longing for a doomsday episode in which America’s leaders turn against American citizens.

Libertarians Don’t Identify With Tea Party Thanks To Social Issues

There’s a little bit of tea party overlap – but not a lot of lockstep agreement – among people who think of themselves as libertarians. Social issues like recreational drug use, gay marriage, abortion and the role of religion in government are the chief reasons why the majority of self-described libertarians say they don’t see eye to eye with the Tea Party movement.

Across the Internet, including on websites like this one, libertarianism and Tea Party conservatism are often conflated by casual outside observers. But a new survey, done by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), finds that 61 percent of libertarians say they don’t identify with the Tea Party.

From the survey synopsis:

The annual look at religion, values and public policy in America from the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute finds libertarians make up a smaller portion of the Republican Party than other conservative constituency groups. Twelve percent of self-identified Republicans are libertarian, compared to 20 percent of Republicans who identify with the Tea Party and 33 percent who say they belong to the religious right or conservative Christian movement.

Libertarians are also half as likely as those who identify with the Tea Party movement to say they consider themselves part of the Christian right. Only 1-in-5 (22 percent) libertarians say they belong to the religious right or conservative Christian movement. However, about half (52 percent) of Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement say they are a part of the Christian right, a connection that has held steady since PRRI began tracking this relationship in 2010.

There’s a lot of agreement between Tea Party conservatives and libertarians on fiscal policy. But the divide widens greatly on “hands-off” personal issues that elicit strong support among conservatives – particularly religious conservatives – for government regulation.

“While libertarians are aligned with other key conservative constituencies on economic issues, they are at odds with other conservative groups on a range of social issues,” said PRRI research director Daniel Cox. “A majority of libertarians oppose making it more difficult for women to obtain an abortion, and strongly support legalizing both marijuana and physician-assisted suicide.”

The survey, which randomly sampled 2,317 adults living in the U.S., interviewed respondents both online and by telephone between Sept. 21 and Oct. 3 of this year.

Read the full report of the 2013 American Values Survey here.

Pelosi Tries To Leverage Boehner On Bringing Comprehensive Immigration Reform To House Vote

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pre-gamed an anticipated battle over comprehensive immigration reform today by placing the ball in House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) court.

Posting on a question-and-answer session hosted on her Facebook page Tuesday, Pelosi boasted that such a plan would clear the House – if Boehner will give the legislation a chance.

“With 28 Republicans having publicly expressed support for a path to citizenship, we believe the votes are there on a bipartisan basis to pass a bill,” she wrote. “It’s just a question whether Speaker Boehner can muster the will to schedule a vote….There are Republicans who support this effort, we must make sure their voices are heard. The time for excuses is over — it’s time to pass this bill and get the job done for the American people.”

Supporters of the plan indeed have claimed 28 Republican House members as backers of comprehensive reform – although the definitive comments of some of those listed over at the web page for amnesty advocate America’s Voice reveal a bit of interpretive leeway in arriving at that number.

Here’s a chart listing those 28 GOP’ers who supposedly share a single mind on the amnesty question:

28gopHeads

Survey: Influence Of Tea Party Conservatism Equals That Of Obama’s Progressivism

Ah, the Tea Party. So reviled in the mainstream press. So marginalized by Congressional RINOs, Democrats and, of course, President Barack Obama. So…inconsequential.

Why, then, do polls consistently show the Tea Party’s influence to be more or less on par with that of the President?

The latest iteration of a Rasmussen survey that periodically tracks such things shows, once again, that the well-hated, amorphous conservative movement appeals to at least as many Americans as the President himself does.

From the report:

Voters are evenly divided when asked whether they agree more politically with President Obama or with the average member of the Tea Party. But an enormous partisan gap colors virtually all opinions of the Tea Party.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 42% of Likely U.S. Voters think the president’s views are closest to their own when it comes to the major issues facing the country. But just as many (42%) say their views come closest to those of the average Tea Party member instead. Sixteen percent (16%) are not sure.

The survey collected the opinions of 1,000 likely voters between Oct. 26 and 27. The results reflect a small dip in the relative prestige of the Tea Party’s involvement in national politics; a similar Rasmussen survey done in April revealed more people who identified with the Tea Party (48 percent) than with the President (44 percent).

The gulf separating the ideological positions of Tea Partiers and Obama supporters is vast, though. As a recent Rasmussen poll demonstrated, “voters who approve of the president’s job performance were slightly more likely to consider the Tea Party a bigger terrorist threat to the United States than radical Muslims.”

The loyalty to both camps, predictably, aligns equally along party lines, with 77 percent of Democrats saying the President’s views most closely reflect their own, while 76 percent of Republicans, along with 51 percent of unaffiliated voters, saying they share more in common with the Tea Party and its self-identified “members.” That 51 percent is crucial to the future success of either political party – and despite what the mainstream media reports, conservative views are nowhere near the minority fringe of American political opinion.

Oregon School District Allows Concealed Carry For Teachers

A school district in Oregon has decided to allow teachers to carry concealed firearms in classrooms as long as they possess a permit, and locals are embracing the move.

The board of the St. Helens School district voted 4-1 last week to lift a restriction on allowing on-campus employees to carry concealed. Board chairman Marshall Porter told ABC News the board agreed it was punitive to forbid teachers to exercise rights available to other Oregonians, under State and Federal law.

“The current law in Oregon allows for anybody to concealed carry on school grounds,” said Porter. “To exclude our staff seems like they’re being punished. They should have a right to protect themselves if they so choose.”

Not to mention their students, should the need arise.

“If [employees] were faced with a horrific choice, if they had to defend themselves against a kid – which has been the thing – I think it would be a hard decision for them, one that they would educate themselves on,” he added. “I do believe we’re talking about educators, people who have the interest of the children in mind.”

Porter also noted that only one parent has objected to the decision, even as he’s received several emails applauding the change. “I’ve had more parents email me saying that they approve of our decision than not,” he told ABC.

The concealed carry vote will affect seven St. Helens district schools, including two elementary schools, one middle school, one high school and three alternative schools. The district lies just north of the Portland-Vancouver metro area.

The St. Helens vote represents yet another decision by suburban and rural school boards to afford teachers the opportunity to protect themselves and their students. In August, an Arkansas school board defied a State attorney general’s advisory opinion by approving a concealed-carry plan for employees who have undergone training.

Black Boxes In Cars Could Help Government Replace Fuel Tax With Pay-As-You Drive Scheme (While Tracking Your Location)

Right at the nadir of public opinion over the government’s abuse of surveillance power comes a fresh story about cars, black boxes, real-time location surveillance and government tax collectors. It forecasts a near future when private cars will be equipped with data recorders that tell the government where you are, how you’re driving, and how much you should pay in road usage taxes.

The Los Angeles Times reported over the weekend on a new push for government to consider mandating the devices in all cars so that the tax man can “track every mile a motorist drives and transmit that information to bureaucrats…”

Oddly, the Times appears to use the story to drive some kind of wedge between the tea party and libertarians – two groups that, despite the blurring of their ideological boundaries at the edges, share a fair amount of overlap.

Libertarians have joined environmental groups in lobbying to allow government to use the little boxes to keep track of the miles you drive, and possibly where you drive them — then use the information to draw up a tax bill.

The tea party is aghast. The American Civil Liberties Union is deeply concerned, too, raising a variety of privacy issues.

Something sounds slightly…off. Libertarians for a surveillance state and innovative taxes? It will take more effort for media to redefine terms like “libertarian” if the intent is to create unfounded emotional responses from the public. Nonetheless, the plan evidently has the support of Reason’s vice president of policy, who sees the scheme as a less-unfair pay-as-you-go usage assessment on motorists.

Leaving that aside, the move toward black boxes in cars is being helped by a pilot program in Minnesota, where the State placed the devices in 500 cars to test a pay-per-mile fee system. And that program pales in comparison to a stalled effort by the U.S. Senate, in 2011, to allot $90 million for a wider pilot project that sought to deploy 10,000 similarly-equipped cars. The House killed that plan.

Notwithstanding the fact that the 18.4-cent Federal gas tax already washes the Appropriations budget with highway funds, pundits point to the higher fuel efficiency of modern cars, along with the absence of political will to raise the gas tax, as two reasons for the stagnation of the Federal Highway Trust Fund. Of course, the government is grasping not at reforms in spending existing highway dollars efficiently, but in finding new ways to ensure revenue growth by adopting a different taxation model for road infrastructure.

From the story:

“This really is a must for our nation. It is not a matter of something we might choose to do,” said Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of the Southern California Assn. of Governments, which is planning for the state to start tracking miles driven by every California motorist by 2025. “There is going to be a change in how we pay these taxes. The technology is there to do it.”

By all means, if the technology is there to do it, then it must be done. Is that the argument?

Some transportation policy planners see black box programs like Minnesota’s as the future of Federal transportation funding. “The gas tax is just not sustainable,” said UM transportation policy expert Lee Munnich. “This works out as the most logical alternative over the long term.”

Sure. But more likely is a scenario in which one new tax doesn’t simply replace an old one, but rather augments it. Taxes, fees and tolls aren’t readily repealed by governments, which always seek out visionary ways to conceal the total cost of tribute from the people, who passively sustain governments by failing to resist integral confiscation schemes.

The black box plan has a long way to go before becoming a standard, but if it takes root, it will become one of the most convenient confiscation schemes our government has yet devised. Along with Obamacare, which asks far too much personal information from private citizens, the black box model would also become one of the most egregious invasions of Federal government into private life, potentially paving the way for the Feds to extract far more from law-abiding motorists than mere taxes.

More Than Half Believe Obamacare Will Make American Health Care System Worse

A Rasmussen poll released today shows more than half of American voters sampled believe the implementation of the Affordable Care Act will ultimately damage the quality of health care offered in the United States.

The poll, which surveyed 1,000 likely voters by phone over the weekend, found that people are largely happy with the quality of the health care they have been receiving – although 52 percent don’t expect that to last under Obamacare:

“[M]ost voters (52%) still believe the system will get worse under the new law, while six percent (6%) expect it to stay about the same. Twelve percent (12%) are undecided,” the report states.

In addition, people are beginning to see the financial consequences of the way Obamacare affects the health care marketplace, with one-fourth reporting the law has forced their insurer to modify their health coverage – even though only two percent said they’d successfully signed up for an Obamacare plan through an online marketplace:

One-out-of-four voters (25%) say their health insurance coverage has changed as a result of the health care law. Two percent (2%) have signed up successfully for health insurance through the health exchange websites created by the new law, but given the problems those websites are having, 51% favor delaying the requirement that every American have health insurance by January 1.

Dropping Like Flies: The Insurance Policies Obama Promised Everyone They Could Keep

Let’s start with a video:

It’s tempting for us to run this video at the top of every story we publish about Obamacare; the disparity between the word and the deed is just that outrageous. Look at House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Joe Biden trapped in their insane, frozen rictuses of approbation behind the lying President at the 1:17 mark. Only a political career built on lies could earn someone the ability to grin like that.

It’s happened in Florida (300,000 policy terminations) and in California (119,000 terminations). It’s happening everywhere. But now, Obamacare’s goal-post moving network of new requirements is bringing mass individual insurance policy cancellations right to the doorstep of Washington, D.C.

CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield is canceling more than 76,000 individual policies in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., because of changes in the Affordable Care Act that don’t allow BlueCross to “grandfather” in current policyholders who, under Obamacare, must now meet coverage guidelines that differ from those of the policies they currently — or, rather, formerly — held.

The Washington Examiner reports that the 76,000 terminations represent more than 40 percent of the 177,000 Blue Cross CareFirst customers in the D.C. region:

“Of the 177,000 individuals under age 65 who are covered by CareFirst, about 76,000 of them are in a non-grandfathered plan — a plan that will not comply with the guidelines imposed by the Affordable Care Act at their time of renewal this year or next,” CareFirst said in an email in response to an inquiry by the Examiner.

It continued, “These individuals in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and portions of Northern Virginia will be required by the health law to purchase a new ACA-compliant health plan. This phenomenon is not unique to CareFirst and its members, but rather a result of industrywide changes in accordance with new ACA health plan standards.”

Industry-wide indeed. Blue Cross FloridaBlue has terminated roughly 300,000 policies — about 80 percent of its individual customer base. Kaiser Permanente has notified 160,000 policyholders — about half its customer base in California — that their current plans are going away. An incredible 800,000 policies offered through Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna “and others” in New Jersey must be scrapped because they don’t meet Obamacare’s “keep your policy” grandfathering requirements.

At the same time, Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion in those States which have set up their own health insurance exchanges is far outpacing the enrollment rate for would-be paying customers who’d rather be penalized than pay the ridiculous Obamacare prices.

Summarizing the first days of the Obamacare rollout, industry watcher Bob Laszewski cites Washington State as one example:

Washington state appears to be off to a very clean start. They are saying they have finalized enrollment for about 25,000 lives––most in Medicaid. They also say another 37,000 have completed insurance exchange applications that are awaiting premium payments due in December. Washington has about 1 million uninsured and another 200,000 in the individual market. So, they appear to be on their way to enrolling about 5% of their potential market in both Medicaid and the exchange. That likely says something about where exchanges would be if they had not had the problems.

I will suggest that comparing Washington state’s health exchange experience to that of the federal exchange in the coming months, and the many states running their own exchange who also had problems, will be helpful in understanding just how damaging this start was.

For perspective, Laszewski points out that the American individual health insurance marketplace is made up of about 19 million people (a remarkably low number to begin with). Of those, 16 million have held policies that do not qualify to be “grandfathered” in under Obamacare’s new industry and individual regulations.

In each case, circumstances differ greatly from one individual policy to the next. But in the majority of cases, result is the same: You can’t, it turns out, keep your current plan.

Cops, Social Media Collude On New Ways To Block Internet Posts That Organize Public Protest

We’ve already passed along a couple of disturbing things that have come out of this year’s International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) meeting, which wrapped up earlier in the week in Philadelphia.

Kenneth Lipp, an independent journalist and internet consultant, attended the event and has reported on his blog that police and social media services are in the process of teaming up to nurture development of techniques that would effectively squelch public protest organized and planned through the internet.

“Police Departments worldwide are aggressively developing methods and policy to avail themselves of both the public relations and the Big Data resources of ‘social media,’ and adapting to social media platforms as environments for strategic and tactical intelligence,” Lipp writes.

[N]ot yet reported in the press, a senior police officer from the Chicago PD told a panel on Monday that his department was working with Facebook’s security chief to block users’ [sic] from the site by account (person), IP, and device (he did not say if by UUID or MAC address or other means of hardware ID) if it is determined they have posted what is deemed criminal content. Facebook’s Joe Sullivan was scheduled to speak according to the original schedule for the panel “Helping Law Enforcement Respond to Mass Gatherings Spurred by Social Media,” but was unable to attend… [emphasis added.]

The PrivacySOS blog joined the criticism Thursday by lambasting Facebook, which already is handing the government anything it requests without compensation, for potentially colluding with police to institute a “kill switch” that targets grass-roots, organic dissemination of internet information about public protests – gatherings which, if the Constitution still means anything, can’t even be construed as illegal in and of themselves.

The ramifications are sinister: protests are implicitly illegal to law enforcement officials who view this sort of capability as an asset. Worse, sharing information on the internet about planned peaceful events, regardless of their protection under the 1st Amendment, could itself be interpreted as a crime by cops more enamored by the awesome power of technology than its awesome potential for oppressive misuse.

More Americans On Government Entitlement Than Working Full Time

There are more Americans receiving some form of means-tested government benefit than there are full time workers, according to Census Bureau data released recently.

Well, actually the data is for 2011 – but there’s every reason to believe the gap has only widened since the reporting period two year ago.

From CNS News:

There were 108,592,000 people in the United States in the fourth quarter of 2011 who were recipients of one or more means-tested government benefit programs, the Census Bureau said in data released this week. Meanwhile, according to the Census Bureau, there were 101,716,000 people who worked full-time year round in 2011. That included both private-sector and government workers.

That means there were about 1.07 people getting some form of means-tested government benefit for every 1 person working full-time year round.

What are “means-tested” benefits? Any government entitlement that is contingent on a person’s income or demographic qualifications. In many cases, means testing is applied to scale the amount of money higher-income Americans must pay the government (chiefly in taxes) in order to offset the meager or nonexistent amount that benefit recipients must pay to cover the overall cost of entitlement programs.

Food Stamps (SNAP) is a means-tested entitlement. So are Medicaid, SSI, WIC and TANF. In fact, simply being a recipient of one of these programs is now adequate proof, so far as the government is concerned, that you qualify for other means-tested entitlements you may not yet be receiving.

CNS breaks down the 2011 numbers further:

Among the 108,592,000 people who fit the Census Bureau’s description of a means-tested benefit recipient in the fourth quarter of 2011 were 82,457,000 people in households receiving Medicaid, 49,073,000 beneficiaries of food stamps, 20,223,000 on Supplemental Security Income, 23,228,000 in the Women, Infants and Children program, 13,433,000 in public or subsidized rental housing, and 5,854,000 in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Also among the 108,592,000 means-tested benefit recipients counted by the Census Bureau were people getting free or reduced-price lunch or breakfast, state-administered supplemental security income and means-tested veterans pensions.

Back in 2011, American Enterprise Institute scholar Andrew Biggs wrote a lengthy piece outlining the regressive and intrusive character of means testing as a way of calculating (and, indeed, justifying) entitlement benefits. Agree with his conclusions or not, the piece offers a thorough explanation of means testing, as well as the financial stakes of propping up and expanding government entitlements at a time when American is on the cusp of a historic surge in the drawdowns on its number-one means-tested benefit – Medicaid.

Read Biggs’ full piece here.