Guess Who’s Paying For Obamacare Attack Ads? Democrats

How do you take on “Tea Party billionaires” (aka the Koch brothers) who think “attack ads can cover the truth?”

You buy a vulnerable Democratic incumbent an ad that covers the truth right back.

The House Majority PAC — a Democrat-aligned political action committee determined to help the Party retake a majority in the House of Representatives this year (ha!) — is banking on a wave of voter backlash over Obamacare in the midterm Congressional elections. So it’s buying up ads for Democratic incumbents that portray them as frustrated everymen fighting against President Barack Obama to reach a solution.

Transcribed:

Tea Party billionaires think attack ads can cover the truth. Joe Garcia is working to fix Obamacare. He voted to let you keep your existing health plan and took the White House to task for the disastrous health care website. And Joe Garcia fought to hold the insurance companies accountable so they can’t deny coverage for preexisting conditions, or drop coverage when you get sick. Attack ads can’t change the truth. Joe Garcia is doing what’s right for Florida.

What attack ad has House Majority PAC so indignant over the “disastrous health care website?” It must be this one, funded by the Koch-affiliated LIBRE Initiative:

Pretty respectable for an “attack” ad. Christie says Garcia supports Obamacare and asks why; that’s about it.

So does he? Well, he did. He kind of does, still. He’s mad at Obama like a Republican, but he wants to fix the Affordable Care Act like a Democrat. It’s interesting that no Democrat is running on a pro-Obamacare platform this year — despite Nancy Pelosi’s delusional promises. Rather, most are trying, like Garcia, to change the message.

Credit Garcia for seeing this day coming earlier than most of his Democratic colleagues.

Garcia came to Congress in 2013 as the first elected representative of the newly created 26th District, and he  is already fighting to hang on for a second term. He validated his enthusiasm for Obamacare almost immediately after being sworn into office by joining Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the rest of Florida’s Democratic delegation for a guilt-trip letter to Republican Governor Rick Scott, whom they accused of abandoning his “expressed support of Medicaid expansion under the federal Affordable Care Act.”

That was February of last year — one month into his first term. By summertime, Garcia had wet his finger and put it to the wind — and he had begun to feel a breeze. In July, he was ready to side with the House GOP in a vote to delay Obamacare’s individual mandate. In November, he again sided with House Republicans in a vote to allow people to keep buying the insurance plans Obama falsely promised people they could keep.

No doubt Garcia was building an Obamacare track record in anticipation of the day he’d have to run TV ads to protect his incumbency.

At least he can take comfort in the fact that Democratic PACs aren’t having any qualms, this year, about shelling out money for TV ads that attack Obamacare.

Obama Administration’s ‘Transparent’ Government Drops U.S. To 46th Place On World Press Freedom Index

The United States, under the Obama Administration, has fallen to 46th place on Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index for 2014 – behind such transparency-friendly countries as Latvia, Slovenia and Romania. The U.S. came in 32nd last year.

Reporters Without Borders cites three developments in 2013 as reasons for the precipitous drop: the Administration’s handling of Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, the NSA activities Snowden’s leaks revealed and the government’s aggression toward media outlets and reporters covering topics that portray it unfavorably.

From the synopsis:

Countries that pride themselves on being democracies and respecting the rule of law have not set an example, far from it. Freedom of information is too often sacrificed to an overly broad and abusive interpretation of national security needs, marking a disturbing retreat from democratic practices. Investigative journalism often suffers as a result.

This has been the case in the United States (46th), which fell 13 places, one of the most significant declines, amid increased efforts to track down whistleblowers and the sources of leaks. The trial and conviction of Private Bradley Manning and the pursuit of NSA analyst Edward Snowden were warnings to all those thinking of assisting in the disclosure of sensitive information that would clearly be in the public interest.

US journalists were stunned by the Department of Justice’s seizure of Associated Press phone records without warning in order to identify the source of a CIA leak. It served as a reminder of the urgent need for a “shield law” to protect the confidentiality of journalists’ sources at the federal level. The revival of the legislative process is little consolation for James Risen of The New York Times, who is subject to a court order to testify against a former CIA employee accused of leaking classified information. And less still for Barrett Brown, a young freelance journalist facing 105 years in prison in connection with the posting of information that hackers obtained from Statfor, a private intelligence company with close ties to the federal government.

Just before the Snowden debacle began to unfold last year, Obama reiterated his first-term campaign boast that he would bring unprecedented transparency to the White House. “This is the most transparent administration in history,” he said during a Google Hangout session. “I can document that this is the case. Every visitor that comes into the White House is now part of the public record. Every law we pass and every rule we implement we put online for everyone to see.”

He went on to add that stalling the efforts of investigative journalists to discover his Administration’s timeline handling of the Sept. 11, 2012 Benghazi attack “is not a good example.”

Senate GOP Analysis: Obamacare Will Shrink Income

The Senate Budget Committee’s financial prognostications on how Obamacare will affect the economy at least have been more realistic than those of President Barack Obama and his dwindling coterie of partisan supporters. If you trust the Republican contingent on the committee, the Affordable Care Act is on track to sink wages.

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Committee, followed up the Congressional Budget Office’s damning report on Obamacare last week by releasing an analysis of how the law will affect real earnings over the next 10 years. Of course it isn’t pretty.

obamacare compensation graphic

According to the committee’s GOP wing, Obamacare is not only hurting actual hours worked; it’s also hurting the amount of money those who are working will bring home. Overall, Sessions anticipates the law will reduce earned compensation by more than $1 trillion between 2017 (when Obamacare’s supposed to be in full force) and 2024.

“CBO’s February 2014 baseline contains projections for total worker compensation under current law; i.e., with the President’s health law in place,” report Committee Republicans. “Senate Budget Committee Republican staff took these nominal dollar estimates and adjusted them to account for the 1 percent reduction that CBO attributes to the health care law, in order to determine what total compensation would have been if the law had not been enacted. The difference between the status quo and the status quo ante amounts to $1.016 trillion in reduced compensation over the 2017–2024 period.”

Holder To States: Give Felons The Vote

Attorney General Eric Holder, who evidently plans to step down sometime this year, said Tuesday that all States should extend voting rights to felons, ending restrictions he believes are nothing but vestiges of Reconstruction-era racial discrimination against black Americans.

If that happens, it would help round out one of Holder’s stated goals: turning the country’s criminal justice efforts away from punishment and toward social reintegration during his tenure as President Barack Obama’s top law enforcement official.

“[A]lthough well over a century has passed since post-Reconstruction states used these measures to strip African Americans of their most fundamental rights, the impact of felony disenfranchisement on modern communities of color remains both disproportionate and unacceptable,” Holder told an audience at Georgetown University.

“These restrictions are not only unnecessary and unjust — they are also counterproductive. By perpetuating the stigma and isolation imposed on formerly incarcerated individuals, the laws increase the likelihood they will commit future crimes.”

Indeed, the existence of laws does increase the likelihood that criminals of any color will commit crimes. That’s what criminals do; they break laws.

But Holder believes States that revoke voting rights for felons aren’t doing so out of any concern for the rule of law. Rather, he believes they’re simply trying to ensure ex-cons, the majority of whom are black, stay disenfranchised.

“The history of felony disenfranchisement dates to a time when these policies were employed not to improve public safety, but purely as punitive measures intended to stigmatize, shame and shut out a person who had been found guilty of a crime,” he said. “… It is unwise, it is unjust, and it is not in keeping with our democratic values.”

Perhaps it’s time for a national conversation about what the criminal justice system does to quell the promise of realizing the American dream for people who’ve been found guilty of committing a crime.

But even if that were the case, why would anyone listen to a man whose task is to dispassionately enforce the law of the land and not to advocate for or against the laws he’s supposed to enforce?

And more importantly, why would anyone find it sensible to reason with a man who insists on playing the race card nearly every time he opens his mouth to talk about any social issue?

Race Trumps Woman Beating For Leader Of Massachusetts NAACP

After Massachusetts State representative Carlos Henriquez was convicted last month for beating up a woman who wouldn’t have sex with him, there was some speculation that the State Legislature would allow him to continue his lawmaking duties from behind bars.

Henriquez was jailed on a six-month sentence last week for two misdemeanor counts of assault and battery on Katherine Gonzalves in 2012. He was also charged with another count of assault and battery, witness intimidation and one count of larceny under $250, but was not convicted.

The Massachusetts House voted 146-5 to expel Henriquez from the Legislature Monday, making him the first elected representative to be ejected from the House in 98 years.

But Henriquez, who is black, can be assured of stalwart support from the race-baiting lobby, which can look past all manner of despicable behavior as long as it’s perpetrated by someone its leaders can use.

Juan Cofield, president of the New England Area Chapter of the NAACP, asked House members to abstain from the vote that sent Henriquez packing, then defended Henriquez afterward on talk radio.

“[He] was convicted of two misdemeanors — not felonies — misdemeanors, and there is no standard in the House for expulsion based on misdemeanor convictions,” Cofield said. “Almost every one of us . . . commits a misdemeanor. Jaywalking is a misdemeanor. Would you have a state representative legislator expelled from the House for jaywalking?”

No. But thankfully, 146 Massachusetts representatives saw the difference between beating up a woman who doesn’t want to sleep with scum and crossing the wrong part of the street. Or at least they were smart enough to realize what their constituents would have thought if they had voted to let him continue making State law.

Fight Back Against NSA Surveillance With EFF Today (And Every Other Day)

We told you last month about the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF) publicity effort to get Americans to fight back against the National Security Agency’s worthless, dangerous mass surveillance program. Well, today’s the day that all culminates over at the EFF.

According to tech site The Verge, the EFF’s goal today is to generate enough visible protest against warrantless surveillance to help defeat legislation that further entrenches the unConstitutional practice, and to help support reform legislation that at least reins in what the NSA is allowed to do with the data it collects.

From The Verge:

Inside the US, participants are urged to put a banner on their website and call or email their legislators in support of Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Senator Patrick Leahy’s (D-VT) USA Freedom Act, which would reform the NSA’s metadata database. But they’re also urged to oppose Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) FISA Improvements Act, a bill that sounds just as pleasant but has been sharply criticized for enshrining the database program in law. And even these are just baby steps in the long run.

Online activism has its limits, but it has shown results in the recent past. A massive grass-roots online campaign helped stall the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in 2012 — although, as The Verge notes, “[t]he goal of the 2012 blackout was simple: spur people to call their representatives and express opposition to a new bill. The Day We Fight Back, though, is an attempt to dismantle a system that’s been in place for years.”

At the very least, there’s strength in numbers. The EFF’s “Fight Back” effort currently has 255,000 Faceboook likes. If you’re on Facebook, you can add to that total simply by going to their web page and “liking” it. You can also retweet or share on Google+, if that’s your thing.

Of course the NSA will be watching — but that’s precisely why it’s so important to “Fight Back” not just today, but every day until Congress enacts meaningful legislation to abandon this ineffective, wasteful and damaging infringement on all Americans’ Constitutional rights.

National Guard Trained To Fight 2nd Amendment ‘Terrorists’

Early last year, an Ohio television station filed a brief report covering a mock National Guard drill in the town of Portsmouth. For its context, the training exercise envisioned a terror attack staged by “[t]wo school employees who are disgruntled over the government’s interpretation of the Second Amendment.”

After repeated, unsuccessful requests to see the training documents, a media watchdog finally issued a report of its own on Monday, outlining the logic behind staging a terror drill involving people who aren’t actually mobilizing to terrorize anyone.

The scenario for the Ohio National Guard’s 52nd Civil Support Team training, conducted in January 2013, imagined an incident at a junior high school where, after discovering a dead body (gunshot wounds) and numerous people sickened by ricin and mustard gas poisoning, guardsmen stumble upon a classroom where they discover this:

On the chalk board as well as the tables there were several statements about protecting Gun Rights and Second Amendment rights. Additionally a phone number was written on the chalk board with the label William “the boss” Pierce (USPER), 304-539-6221 Area code for Charleston, WV.

At the time of the training exercise, Portsmouth police chief Bill Raisin boosted the drill, telling WSAZ-TV such scenarios represent “the reality of the world we live in. Don’t forget there is such a thing as domestic terrorism. This helps us all be prepared.”

On Monday, journalism watchdog Media Trackers released its report on the training documents it had obtained, following up with local leaders who were none too happy to be questioned about the drill scenario. From the Media Trackers report:

Scioto County [Ohio] Emergency Management Agency director Kim Carver refused to comment, telling Media Trackers she was “not going to get into an Ohio Army National Guard issue that you have with them.”

Ohio National Guard Communications Director James Sims II suggested Media Trackers was “inferring” from the ONG document’s contents as opposed to “what’s actually in the report.”

After excerpts of the report were read to him, Sims said it was “not relevant” to understand why conservatives may feel unduly targeted by ONG’s training scenario.

“Okay, I’m gonna stop ya there. I’m going to quit this conversation,” Sims concluded. “You have a good day.”

Does that exchange put Media Trackers on some kind of watch list? Hopefully not, because the same report goes on to quote Chad Baus, spokesman for the very active Buckeye Firearms Association, who criticized the government for approaching domestic terrorism from a point of view that regards citizens who know their Constitutional rights as likely terrorists.

“[I]t is a scary day indeed when law enforcement are being trained that Second Amendment advocates are the enemy,” said Baus.

Gun Control Advocate Arrested For Carrying .38 Pistol At Buffalo Elementary School

An ardent supporter of New York’s SAFE Act gun control law was arrested late last week after allegedly violating one of the sacred tenets of gun control: Never let a person with a gun come anywhere near a school campus.

Dwayne Ferguson of Buffalo, N.Y., known locally as Buffalo chapter head of MAD DADS (Men Against Destruction Defending Against Drugs and Social Disorder) and a vocal supporter of even stricter gun control laws than those found in the State’s 2013 SAFE Act, was arrested Thursday and charged with second degree criminal possession of a weapon, carrying a loaded firearm on school property and obstruction of governmental administration, according to WIVB-TV  in Buffalo.

Ferguson allegedly brought his own loaded .38-caliber handgun into the school, where he teaches an after-school program through a community-based provider affiliated with the school district. He is not a district employee. He has a permit for the weapon.

The gun’s alleged presence prompted an anonymous 911 call around 4:15 p.m., locking down Harvey Austin Elementary School and about 60 students who were attended after-school programs. A K-9 and SWAT sweep lasted for three hours before students were released to their parents.

From WIVB:

More than a dozen cop cars, the SWAT team, K9 units and the Erie County Sheriff’s Air One helicopter swarmed Harvey Austin Elementary School in Buffalo on Thursday after reports of a man with a gun near the school or on the grounds. Dwayne Ferguson, head of the Buffalo chapter of MAD DADS, was taken into custody. He will be arraigned Friday.

An anonymous call came into 911 around 4:15 p.m. that a man with a gun was seen inside the Sycamore Street school. The building was placed in lockdown and around 60 students who were in the building for after school programs were herded into the cafeteria as officers from every district in the city went room-to-room in twos and threes looking for a possible gunman. A portion of Sycamore Street and Walden Avenue were closed and parents were kept from the scene until a preliminary sweep of the school was complete.

In the preliminary sweep, no gunman was found, and school buses arrived at the school around 5:30 p.m. to take the children to School 91. But it took until at least 7 p.m. before the students began to arrive to be released to their parents.

A school spokeswoman says Ferguson is known to the district and was working for an after school provider. Ferguson is the head of the Buffalo chapter and sits on the National Board of Directors of MAD DADS, an organization that aims to “promote and demonstrate positive images of fathers engaging in community development and protecting youth and families.”

At a rally for the SAFE Act in March of 2013, Ferguson had told the same television station he felt the new gun control laws weren’t strict enough.

Ferguson, who has no criminal record, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Friday. The presiding judge ordered him to surrender his weapons and stay away from the campus until his case had been disposed. Although he said he was not aware of a long-standing State law making public schools “gun-free” zones, he apologized Friday to parents “for whatever they went through.”

SWAT Kicks Woman Out Of Home, Then Uses It As Tactical Vantage Point Without Warrant Or Permission

A Florida woman who was kicked out of her home last week so that a Jacksonville, Fla. SWAT team could gain a tactical advantage isn’t threatening legal action – she just wants an apology. So far, that’s too much to ask.

Jacksonville resident Deborah Franz told a local television station a SWAT unit from the sheriff’s office came to her door last Sunday demanding that she and the house’s occupants leave the premises, but that no one asked permission to use the inside of her home as a tactical vantage point to quell a fight at her neighbor’s house.

She found out that police had entered the home once she returned – six hours after she had been asked to leave.

“I stopped, I froze because I realized somebody had messed with my TV,” she told Jacksonville’s WTEV-TV. Franz said she noticed that her blinds had been opened and that electronics inside her home had been disconnected. In her bedroom, one of the curtains was lying in the floor.

So she called the sheriff’s office. The sheriff (presumably, though the story doesn’t make that clear) returned her call and told her, “Yeah Ms. Franz, my men did come in your house.” The next communication from the sheriff’s office came not to her, but to the television station, which received a press release that said something about reviewing the incident to refine the department’s use of best practices.

“We continuously review our tactics and operational procedures to ensure that the methods we use are both legally sound and in the best interest of the safety of our officers, the community, as well as any suspects, victims, or witnesses that may be present at any critical incident,” said the release, issued by JSO Director if Investigations and Homeland Security. “This case will get the same scrutiny to ensure that we used best practices and it will be assessed to ensure that we followed all legal and ethical guidelines.”

While the 3rd Amendment of the Bill of Rights says that no soldier can be quartered in a home, during peacetime, without the owner’s consent, (or in wartime either, “but in a manner to be prescribed by law”), it doesn’t mention anything about civilian law enforcement. Then again, civilian law enforcement in the early days of the Republic didn’t have departmental titles that included paramilitary appellations like “Homeland Security.”

It could also be that the SWAT team violated Franz’ 4th Amendment rights. A capable attorney shouldn’t have too difficult a time demonstrating that a warrantless commandeering of a citizen’s home constitutes an unreasonable seizure under the 4th Amendment.

Clean At Any Cost: Bloomberg Pushes To Shut Down Coal-Fired Power Plants

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is throwing his weight behind White House calls to end the U.S. coal economy by calling for an outright ban on coal-fired electrical power.

Bloomberg, interviewed by NPR in his new role as an envoy to the United Nations, said putting coal out of business is the single most effective way of cleaning up the planet.

“The biggest thing you can do in this country is to close coal-fired power plants. They generate a third of all of the emissions,” said Bloomberg. “And the Sierra Club has been very successful in preventing new coal-fired plants from opening. And thanks to their efforts and the lower cost price of natural gas, a lot of old power plants have been closed. And you can see it,” Bloomberg said. “And the Sierra Club has been very successful in preventing new coal-fired plants from opening. And thanks to their efforts and the lower cost price of natural gas, a lot of old power plants have been closed. And you can see it.”

In other words, availability of natural gas has reached the tipping point necessary to entirely obviate coal — which, depending on whom you ask, generates between 37 percent and 44 percent of all electrical power in the U.S. — as an inexpensive, abundant and accessible source for a Nation whose power grid was largely constructed to take advantage of native resources.

Coal remains our single biggest natural resource for the production of electrical power. Yet Bloomberg believes the U.S. can replace coal in one fell swoop without missing a beat — even though his idea of wholesale conversion involves retrofitting what’s already here, one structure at a time.

“[W]e’ve got buildings to convert from heavy fuel oil to natural gas so that cuts the pollutions [does he mean pollutants?] in the air. And this translates right now into your life expectancy,” he said.