Do I Get A Free Jersey? President Taps NBA And Other Sports Pros To Market Obamacare

In an effort to sell the dimly understood, byzantine and regressive healthcare scheme that is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Administration of President Barack Obama is reaching out to the NBA and other professional sports leagues in the hope of popularizing Obamacare to a broad demographic of uninformed, entertainment-addled Americans.

Operating on the hope that what’s cool enough for LeBron James and Kevin Durant will be cool enough for you, the Obama Administration is working through the heavily partisan Enroll America nonprofit, as well as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, to persuade the NBA to let the President hitch his healthcare star to the league’s media wagon.

The NBA hasn’t made a public statement about whether it’s on board, but the Administration is banking on aligning its target audience — Americans who don’t know much about insurance and haven’t yet thought about how they’ll approach subsidized coverage as the Oct. 1 enrollment start date nears — with the league’s popularity among young viewers, which POLITICO described Wednesday as a natural fit:

[F]or the administration, the allure is obvious. The NBA season’s calendar tracks closely with the six-month period during which Americans have a chance to sign up for subsidized insurance around the country — beginning on Oct. 1. And NBA fans fit key demographics targeted by supporters of the health law.

“You just can’t be a smoker and be obese or heavy … and be a basketball player. These folks are kind of the picture of youth and health, and in some ways, that’s the target audience,” said Jon Kingsdale, appointed by then-Gov. Mitt Romney in 2006 to oversee the implementation of the Massachusetts health law — which got a big messaging boost from the Boston Red Sox.

The possible NBA deal would serve as just one pillar supporting the Administration’s marketing bridge, as it ramps up the Obamacare rhetoric to “educate” the public about their options under the new law. With or without the sponsorship of athletic organizations, Enroll America is already launching campaigns in 18 States to bring people up to speed on what their options will be for getting poorer.

Is A Revived Border Fence Tough Enough To Coax ‘Yes’ Votes From Senate Conservatives On Immigration Reform?

Two days ago, it looked as though an effort by conservatives to force completion of a 700-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border had died on the Senate floor.

But Thursday, it appeared that a revived, retooled border security amendment had made its way back into the discussion, with some Senate Republicans — at least those who are eager to see an immigration reform bill passed — tacking the proposal back onto the Gang of Eight’s controversial, yet bipartisan legislation.

The move is designed to appease conservatives who’ve sworn they won’t support the immigration package on a final vote, especially after Tuesday’s failure of a proposal that would have mandated the border fence, which has been partially constructed in parts of the far Southwest, be finished.

The overall bill still includes a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal aliens who’ve crossed the border from Mexico to seek better economic fortunes, and many Senate conservatives have promised there’s no amount of sweetening the deal — by throwing in border fences or anything else — that will persuade them to vote for an immigration package that grants amnesty to illegal aliens.

Still, it was a Republican — Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee — who helped re-sell Senate conservatives on a reworked version of the border fence amendment. “For people who are concerned about border security, once they see what is in this bill, it’s almost overkill,” he said Thursday.

Aside from the fence itself, Corker’s border security markup apparently promises to double the number of patrol agents working the border region and to budget additional money for drone surveillance.

Gang of Eight Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), whose stock among conservatives has taken a devastating hit as his support for immigration reform (read: amnesty) has increased, also touted the Corker plan Thursday, as did Vice President Joe Biden.

Meanwhile, unwavering conservatives in the Senate don’t look like they can be persuaded. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said amnesty in any form will depress current wages and unload a flood of unskilled labor on the American economy that wouldn’t abate for more than a decade.

“This legislation — if it were to pass — the wages of American workers will fall for the next 12 years,” he warned. “They will be lower than inflation rates… It’s going to increase unemployment and it’s going to pull down wages. That is exactly the wrong thing that ought to be happening at this time. How in the world can we justify passing a bill that hammers the American working man and woman that’s out trying to feed a family?”

Session got his information from a Congressional Budget Office report released this week that attempts to estimate the long-term economic effect the immigration bill would have on the United States if it becomes law.

Among other findings, the CBO “…expect[s] that a greater number of immigrants with lower skills than with higher skills would be added to the workforce, slightly pushing down the average wage for the labor force as a whole… However, CBO and JCT [the Joint Committee on Taxation] expect that currently unauthorized workers who would obtain legal status under S. 744 would see an increase in their average wages… [An] increase in the average wage would not occur for a dozen years.”

Monsanto Exec Receives World Food Prize For Pioneering GMO Research

Robert Fraley, the Chief Technology Officer for Monsanto Corporation, has been named as one of three recipients of the World Food Prize, an honor commonly referred to as the ‘Nobel Prize’ of the agricultural world.

Fraley received the award for “independent, individual breakthrough achievements in founding, developing and applying modern agricultural biotechnology,” according to World Food Prize Foundation president Kenneth Quinn.

The U.S.-based World Food Prize Foundation advocates for the development of genetically-modified foods (GMOs). GMOs are still not approved for use in Europe, although prize co-winner Marc Van Montgau, a Belgian, said he believes his award will help “pave the way for Europe to embrace the benefits of this technology, a global condition of transgenic plants.”

Fraley and the other honorees will receive a $250,000 cash award.

Bill To Rein In Federal Abuse Of CFAA Law Hits Congress; Named For Aaron Swartz

A bill that aims to rein in the vague and easily-misapplied Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), and hopefully curb a pattern of government bullying of online dissenters, was introduced in Congress today.

Congressmen Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) introduced thebill before the House of Representatives after soliciting input from the online Reddit community to help ensure the measure’s integrity.

Dubbed “Aaron’s Law” to honor the late Aaron Swartz, the bill is intended to end the government’s ability to use the CFAA to harass people who attempt civil disobedience but, because of CFAA’s current broadness, end up facing felony prosecution. Swartz killed himself earlier this year in the midst of an ongoing Federal investigation that, under the CFAA, could have sent him to prison for decades for sharing a trove of academic documents (most of which were created with public funds) to the internet.

The bill has the endorsement of the tech media, which has grown more and more incensed with the Administration of President Barack Obama as Federal scandals involving abuse of phone surveillance powers, broad online spy programs and targeted bullying of internet-based political activists continue to mount.

The two Congressmen made a strong case against enabling the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI with pliable, permissive laws like CFAA in an opinion piece they co-authored for Wired magazine:

Vagueness is the core flaw of the CFAA. As written, the CFAA makes it a federal crime to access a computer without authorization or in a way that exceeds authorization. Confused by that? You’re not alone. Congress never clearly described what this really means. As a result, prosecutors can take the view that a person who violates a website’s terms of service or employer agreement should face jail time.

So lying about one’s age on Facebook, or checking personal email on a work computer, could violate this felony statute. This flaw in the CFAA allows the government to imprison Americans for a violation of a non-negotiable, private agreement that is dictated by a corporation. Millions of Americans — whether they are of a digitally native or dial-up generation — routinely submit to legal terms and agreements every day when they use the Internet. Few have the time or the ability to read and completely understand lengthy legal agreements.

Another flaw in the CFAA is redundant provisions that enable a person to be punished multiple times … for the same crime. …This allows prosecutors to bully defendants into accepting a deal in order to avoid facing a multitude of charges from a single, solitary act.

In Swartz’ case, that’s exactly what happened.

But Aaron’s Law would clarify and rework the definition of “exceeds authorization” so that the burden of proof to demonstrate a suspect’s evil intent would fall on the state – rather than giving the state carte blanche to investigate and charge someone based on an obvious technicality. It would also change the overlapping sentencing provision in order to “ensure that the penalty enhancement is directed at repeat offenders rather than individuals facing multiple charges.”

Barack Obama’s G8 Speech ‘An Alarming Call For An End To Catholic Education’

At least he was smart enough to test the waters on foreign soil before introducing this particular facet of his agenda in the United States.

Speaking in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the location of this year’s G8 summit, President Barack Obama flatly told a crowd of about 2,000 that parochial schools are, essentially, part of the problem. Naturally, the listening crowd had more than a few Irish Catholics in attendance.

“If towns remain divided — if Catholics have their schools and buildings and Protestants have theirs, if we can’t see ourselves in one another and fear or resentment are allowed to harden — that too encourages division and discourages cooperation,” said the President.

Catholic World News described Obama’s shocking statement as an argument “that parochial schools are an impediment to the establishment of a lasting peace in Northern Ireland.”

The Scottish Catholic Observer went further, saying the President’s rhetoric “has made an alarming call for an end to Catholic education in Northern Ireland in spite of the fact that Archbishop Gerhard Muller told Scots that Catholic education was a ‘critical component of the Church.’”

Indeed, the Vatican had recently praised the value of Catholic education over the weekend, when Muller — a direct appointee of Pope Benedict XVI to the Prefecture of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — told a Scottish audience that Catholic schools offer a convergence of “intellectual training, moral discipline and religious commitment” that serves students well in all walks of life.

Perhaps because of the setting for Obama’s remarks, most of the distress over their sinister implications has come from Catholics. But the part-Irish President equally condescended to Protestants in his statement, even though an Internet search two days after the speech turns up little in the way of alarm from non-Catholic Christians.

American Catholic priest Fr. John Zuhlsdorf spoke for many Christians of all faiths when he assessed the President’s intentions on his blog:

Another example of what this man wants: total isolation of any religious values in the private sphere alone.

…Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a foreign visit to a Islamic nation where he told people on his arrival that they shouldn’t have madrasas.  Can you?

Did he when visiting, say, Israel, say “You Jews shouldn’t have synagogue schools and you muslims shouldn’t have mosque schools.”  I can’t remember.  Did he?

Municipal Governments Slash Worker Hours To Escape Obamacare

Obamacare was ostensibly conceived to enrich the lives of Americans living near the bottom of the economic food chain. It was President Barack Obama’s bold imposition of socialized wealth redistribution on an American capitalist blueprint that, while flawed by restrictions that already had taken baby steps toward socialism (thanks largely to insurance industry lobbyists), essentially didn’t accommodate the designs of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

But with Obamacare’s 2014 start inching nearer, tangible examples are beginning to emerge showing how the President’s radical vision of wealth distribution is fast tracking everybody (well, everybody who’s not tied in with the elected class) to the poorhouse.

Until recently, all the horror stories of businesses cutting their workers’ hours in an attempt to avoid Obamacare’s minimum-coverage mandate seemed to emanate from the private sector. But Investors Business Daily has begun compiling a long list of publicly funded agencies (schools, universities, municipal governments) that are similarly turning chunks of their full-time labor force into part-time, low-wage minions who won’t be eligible for employer-backed healthcare benefits come 2014.

Here are just a few highlights. You can see the full list (which itself will undoubtedly grow) here.

  • In Kern County, Calif., county administrators are trying to cut hours for 800 employees — or else find a new supply of at least $8 million annually to afford extending Obamacare-mandated benefits (at higher prices) to a larger pool of qualifying employees.
  • The Community College of Allegheny County, Pa., is cutting hours for 400 faculty and staff to avoid a $6 million annual hike in Obamacare costs.
  • “We have the budget to pay the people, but we do not have the budget to pay for the health care,” said Medina, Ohio, Mayor Dennis Hanwell, lamenting the city’s decision to cut employee hours from 35 to 29 hours per week. The cuts avoided an additional $1 million in new healthcare coverage costs for the city.
  • The Granite School District in Salt Lake City, Utah, was facing $14 million in new health coverage costs if it continued without modifying its workers’ hours. So it slashed 1,000 of its workers’ schedules to 29 hours per week — one hour beneath Obamacare’s 30-hour threshold before employers have to offer healthcare coverage.
  • “We simply can’t afford the Afford Care Act,” said Birmingham, Mich., Commissioner Gordon Rinschler, explaining the city’s cutting of seasonal employees’ work hours. “It’s hard to believe our friends in Washington, our professional politicians, didn’t exempt municipalities from this. They exempted all their friends — I guess you have to be a defense contractor or sell light bulbs to qualify for that.”

WASTRELS: Feds Trying To Text Like (Their Idea Of) Gays In $500,000 Outreach To Promiscuous Meth Heads

The National Institutes of Health is devoting $509,000 in grant funds to a Baltimore-based outreach program aimed at curbing sexual promiscuity and abuse of methamphetamine among homosexual addicts.

How?

By sending them encouraging text messages that are linguistically tailored to align with their subculture’s perceived vernacular.

In other words, the grant’s recipient, Friends Research Institute of Baltimore, is going to send gay men who’re hooked on meth some text messages every now and then that gaily urge them to use condoms and stay away from drugs.

The messages will be crafted to accord with “gay lingo” in a bid to appear credible and, hopefully, more effective, according to lead researcher Dr. Cathy Reback.

“We did a pilot about four, five years ago with 52 out-of-treatment MSM (males who have sex with males),” Reback told CNS News. “And we sent them text messages that were gay specific — used gay lingo — and made references to the connection between high-risk sex and methamphetamine use among MSM.

“So what I wanted to do with this text messaging intervention was to optimize the opportunity to get these guys [to have safer sex] by sending text messages, as opposed to ‘Come into my brick and mortar site that’s ten miles from your house, and come for a group [session].’  I mean – you know – okay maybe! …You know, send them text messages as they’re walking into a bathhouse, or while they’re getting dressed in their home, or on the computer to hook up with somebody.”

Sadly, Reback would not divulge the content of the targeted gay text messages, nor would she offer any clue as to which gay-sounding slang words they might contain. Similarly, she didn’t explain how the Institute zeroed in on an idea of what gay meth heads generally sound like when they text.

Lacking the entertainment value to be found in that info, taxpayers truly won’t be getting their money’s worth from this wasteful use of their dollars.

AP President: U.S. Department Of Justice Is ‘Judge, Jury And Executioner’ When It Comes To Secret Spying

Gary Pruitt, president of The Associated Press (AP), told the National Press Club at a luncheon today that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) enjoys the luxury of operating with few systemic checks and balances when it comes to warrantless and secret surveillance, calling the Nation’s highest law enforcement office the government’s own “judge, jury and executioner” for breaking its own rules when it secretly culled the AP’s phone records.

Instead of notifying the news company that it had subpoenaed call records for more than 20 separate phone lines from its offices in three cities and working with the AP to hone in on whomever DOJ was targeting, Pruitt said the DOJ just made the scope of its seizure as broad as it wanted.

“There was never that opportunity,” he said. “Instead the DOJ acted as judge, jury and executioner in private; in secret.”

The fallout from the scandal, which galvanized the AP and other news organizations against the Feds and momentarily woke them to the myth of President Barack Obama’s “transparency” Administration, is strangling the relationship between news bureaus in Washington, D.C., and many of their cultivated sources from inside the government. Why? Government intimidation, said Pruitt:

The actions of the DOJ against AP are already having an impact beyond the specifics of this particular case. Some of our longtime trusted sources have become nervous and anxious about talking to us, even on stories that aren’t about national security. And in some cases, government employees that we once checked in with regularly will no longer speak to us by phone, and some are reluctant to meet in person.

This chilling effect is not just at AP; it’s happening at other news organizations as well.  Journalists from other news organizations have personally told me it has intimidated sources from speaking to them.

AT&T Customers: Why Can’t We Turn These Damn Obama Alerts Off Our iPhones!?

A software update to recent models of the Apple iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 will soon have AT&T cellular customers scratching their heads, trying to figure out a way to decline “Presidential” alerts from automatically appearing on their screens.

They can stop trying, because those alerts are “supposed” to be there; and there’s nothing you can do about it — seriously.

AT&T released this bulletin on its consumer blog earlier this week, advising people whose iPhones run iOS 6.1 and higher that they have no choice about declining an automatic, “mandatory” software update that enables push notifications for government-issued safety alerts and Presidential alerts. But, it advises, customers at least can turn off all the government alerts by switching off the “Notifications” option in their phones’ settings menu… except for Presidential alerts.

There’s no declining a message from the President, as the company’s bulletin unceremoniously makes clear:

These are government-issued safety messages that include AMBER Alerts, emergency alerts – such as man-made or natural disasters, and Presidential alerts.

Wireless Emergency Alerts are part of the FCC’s CMAS program. You may turn off alerts (except for Presidential alerts) if you choose.  Go to Settings >Notifications>Turn On/Off.

CMAS is the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Commercial Mobile Telephone Alerts system, adopted in 2008 for the “facilitating [of] the ability of consumers to receive emergency alerts through their wireless phones” from Federal, State, tribal and local governments.

While the FCC’s website describes recipients of these text-based messages as “subscribers,” it dutifully notes: “Subscribers would automatically receive these alerts if they have a CMAS-compatible handset. There would be no subscriber opt-in requirements.” If you can’t opt in, then guess what? You can’t opt out.

In other words, your phone company is the “subscriber.” As a customer, all you’re good for is funding, to pay for the use of a phone that’s surveilled, taxed and enabled to receive one-way instructions from the elected class and its enforcers.

If only the phone in President Barack Obama’s hands had no option for declining “mandatory” messages from the people…

The Numbers Don’t Lie: Chris Christie Is A RINO-DIP (Republican In Name Only; Democrat In Principle)

True conservatives largely agree that mainstream Republicans aren’t representing their interests, but find it anathema to vote for Democrats with openly liberal views on fiscal controls and the reach of government.

But if the GOP hedges on its nominee for the 2016 Presidential election by picking the candidate with the broadest cross-party appeal, conservatives could find themselves enduring another four-year wait until the White House has another chance to be free of liberals.

That’s because, at least at the moment, the potential candidate who stands to glean the greatest number of crossover votes nationwide is none other than corpulent New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

A new Gallup poll shows what many conservatives have known for a long time: Christie is more beloved outside his own party than within it.

Of five Republicans (Christie, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan) whose names Gallup ran past a random sampling of 1,529 Americans, Christie’s actually played better with Democrats than with Republicans. In fact, he was the only Republican for whom Democrats, on balance, held a favorable opinion.

Presumably on the strength of his national exposure following Superstorm Sandy, Christie scored a higher “net favorable” number (37) among Democrats than he did with his 28 rating among Republicans. As a result of all that love from the left, Christie took the poll’s top spot for the GOP candidate with the highest approval rating among Americans as a whole, regardless of party affiliation.

Republicans, on the other hand, preferred both Ryan and Rubio to Christie, with Ryan receiving a 69 percent favorable rating among GOP members.

In terms of name recognition, Christie scored high across political lines. But the Republican whose name was recognized the least — even among members of his own party — is, perhaps, the least “Republican” of the bunch.

That’s Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. Only half the Republicans surveyed even knew who he was.