Saturday, December 28, 2013

Merits & Midterms: Appointing Political Friends to Be Ambassadors

Appointing Political Friends to Be Ambassadors

By BRIAN KNOWLTON  Published: December 26, 2013  New York Times excerpt:
WASHINGTON — Charles H. Rivkin has had quite a ride, going in four years from an Obama fund-raiser and Hollywood media honcho to ambassador to Paris and now a nominee as an assistant secretary of state. 
In almost no other democracy could this happen. Diplomats are nearly always career professionals, products of intense competition and intensive training, with successive foreign rotations for posts deemed to require in-depth knowledge of a region, culture and language — not just political connections.
And so the question arises: Can a political appointee’s real-world experience, management savvy, influential contacts and even sheer star power compensate for a dearth of hard-earned familiarity with a host country’s realities?
There are success stories and embarrassments on both sides.
Consider Mr. Rivkin: While he was a leading fund-raiser for Mr. Obama as well as John Kerry, who has been his boss at the State Department, he is hardly without qualifications. He studied international relations at Yale and business at Harvard, ran a major company and speaks fluent French. In Paris, he drew high marks for a creative use of social media, vigorous minority outreach and promotion of American green technology. A State Department inspector general called him a “visionary non-career ambassador.” 

Plenty of Mr. Obama’s political picks have done well. 

But others have been harshly criticized as ill-prepared or temperamentally unsuited for the work. Inspector general reports described one such ambassadorial selection, an Obama fund-raiser, as “aggressive, bullying, hostile and intimidating”; another, a former Obama confidant, was ranked last for interpersonal relations among 80 mission chiefs surveyed recently, no great distinction for a diplomat. Both have resigned. 

The White House insists that its recruitment practices comport with those of past administrations, and that it seeks a diverse selection of highly qualified people. “Being a donor does not get you a job in this administration, nor does it preclude you from getting one,” said Eric Schultz, a White House spokesman.
Barack Obama's new ambassador to China - Merits or Midterms?
Yet, ever since President Jimmy Carter, who limited political ambassadorships to about 25 percent of the total, their number has grown. It now stands at 36 percent, according to the American Foreign Service Association. And the number of senior State Department jobs going to non-career diplomats has risen sharply. (Mr. Rivkin would be the first non-career country ambassador to lead the Economic and Business Bureau.)

Barack Obama has never acted in the best interest of the country as a whole. Cronyism combined with the  'collectivism' of the new left are just current incarnations of history's failed ideologies and only repackage repression.

Friday, December 20, 2013

WhiteWASH: IG Report - No Widespread Problems at Secret Service


No widespread problems at Secret Service?

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Homeland Security Department's inspector general's report says there is no evidence of widespread misconduct within the Secret Service.
The 145-page report was issued Friday. That's more than 18 months after the agency in charge of protecting the president was embroiled in a high-profile South American prostitution scandal.
The inspector general's office made its conclusions based on a survey answered by about 41 percent of the agency's staff and interviews with 200 managers and supervisors.
In April 2012, 13 agents and officers were accused of carousing with female foreign nationals at a Cartagena, Colombia, hotel where they were staying in advance of President Barack Obama's arrival.
Some of the women were prostitutes and the incident became public after one prostitute and an agent fought over payment.
On December 17, 2013, this news item gets little attention:
 Under fire, DHS IG Asks to be Reassigned Before Senate Hearing 



Coverups, lies and corruption are a hallmark of the criminal Obama administration.



Thursday, December 19, 2013

Passengers Take Down Armed Robber on Seattle Bus

SEATTLE (AP) — Surveillance video from a Metro bus in Seattle shows the dramatic takedown of an armed man who was robbing passengers of their phones.
The video from Nov. 25 is evidence in the case against 19-year-old Trevonnte Brown of Seattle. He pleaded not guilty on Monday to robbery charges and is jailed with bail set at $350,000.
The video shows the robber taking phones before pointing his gun in the face of one man who pushes it away and fights back. Other passengers jump in and subdue the man.
One of the passengers who was robbed, Chris Briggs, told KOMO (http://bit.ly/JLxCy9 ) he initially said no but handed over his phone when he was jabbed with the gun.
After another passenger scuffled with the robber, Briggs jumped in to help hold him.



Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Under fire, DHS IG Asks to be Reassigned Before Senate Hearing

Under fire, DHS IG asks to be reassigned

(CNN) - Under fire from Congress for allegedly unethical practices, the acting inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, Charles Edwards, has been reassigned, sources tell CNN.

Last Thursday, a senior DHS official tells CNN, Edwards "formally requested a voluntary reassignment ... to another career position, in another office within the Department. In line with existing protocols and procedures, that request for a voluntary reassignment was processed, and based on the employee's experience and technical background he has been reassigned to a career position at Science and Technology."
In June, as CNN reported at the time, the chair and ranking Republican on the Senate subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight described a number of potentially damaging allegations against Edwards, one of which was the allegation that he was susceptible to political pressure to the point that an investigation into Secret Service misconduct in Cartagena, Colombia, was scrubbed of damaging information. In the public report about the misconduct, whistleblowers told the senators, damaging information was “intentionally changed and withheld."
Other allegations by Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, and Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, included that Edwards “violated anti-nepotism laws and policies” to employ his wife, Madhuri Edwards, as a supervisory auditor in his office. Beyond that, Edwards is alleged to have misused staff to help his wife pursue a Ph.D. at a local community college, and intervened improperly to allow her to telecommute from India for seven months with an office-issued international BlackBerry phone. The allegations against Edwards also suggest that he retaliated against staff who “brought or attempted to call attention to (his) misconduct," the senators said. 

Edwards could not be reached for comment.
“Inspectors general are supposed to serve as the eyes and ears of taxpayers within our agencies, guarding against waste, fraud, and abuse of power, and we expect them to abide by the same high standards of behavior they apply to agency officials," Sens. McCaskill and Johnson said in a joint satement.
"We hope that Mr. Edwards’ departure will pave the way for a new level of accountability and transparency within the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, and we plan to continue rigorous oversight to achieve that goal,” they said.

 Homeland Security's acting deputy IG resigns before Senate hearing 

  By KELLY COHEN | DECEMBER 17, 2013
Acting Deputy Inspector General Charles K. Edwards has resigned, according to officials with the Department of Homeland Security.
Edwards has been the subject of a Senate probe of numerous allegations ranging from misusing agency money for personal travel to favoring his spouse for government positions.
Carlton Mann, the current assistant IG, will now be the acting deputy IG, DHS said.
Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill and Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson called on Edwards to resign in an Oct. 30 letter.

 McCaskill is chairman and Johnson is ranking minority member of the Senate's subcommittee on financial and contracting oversight. Edwards was to appear before the committee Dec. 19.



Thursday, December 5, 2013

‘10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty’ is Latest in Bigfoot Craze

Updated 15 minutes ago
LOS ANGELES — OK, enough with the grainy footage, the first-person accounts and questionable evidence. Spike TV is looking to get to the bottom of this whole Bigfoot mystery once and for all with its next reality competition series, “10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty.”

Not surprisingly, the series, which premieres Jan. 10, hasn’t attracted a whole lot of what you would call studious, academic types. Instead, you get a whole lot of angry, sexist rednecks yelling at each other in the woods. What better way to attract a notoriously camera-shy, quite probably mythical creature, than to have a bunch of people arguing in the woods?
But it makes for watchable TV.

Dean Cain hosts the show, which claims to offer the biggest cash prize in TV history. Though prize underwriters Lloyd’s of London probably aren’t losing much sleep over this one. The conditions for winning are definitive visual and DNA proof of Bigfoot’s existence.
Two scientific experts will be on hand for the series: Todd Disotell, a biological anthropologist who runs New York University’s molecular primatology lab and Natalia Reagan, a primatology expert.
According to Spike, DNA evidence will be processed using a mobile DNA lab. If no definitive proof is found, the group that presented the “most compelling evidence and theory” will be awarded a $100,000 research grant to keep searching.
The series is just the latest in Hollywood’s recent preoccupation with Bigfoot. As the Los Angeles Times wrote last year, Bigfoot has been the subject of Animal Planet’s series “Finding Biggoot,” the ”iCarly” episode “iBelieve in Bigfoot,” a horror film called “Exists” from “Blair Witch Project” director Eduardo Sanchez and the documentary film “Sasquatch: The Quest.”
Any chance that $10 million prize will actually get awarded? Keep dreaming, Bigfoot lovers.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Judge Rules Detroit Bankrupt - Unions React


Detroit Retirees Put on Notice in Bankruptcy Ruling

 By Steven Church & Steven Raphael - Dec 3, 2013 1:29 PM CT

Detroit can remain under bankruptcy court protection to shed debt and has the power to impose pension cuts on its employees, a judge said in a ruling that may have implications for distressed cities across the U.S.  
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes, in a decision announced today in Detroit, dismissed an argument by unions and pension systems that the bankruptcy, the largest ever for a municipality, should be thrown out because it violated state constitutional contract protections for retiree benefits. 

“The pension people around the country have positioned themselves around that argument,” said attorney Ken Klee, who represented Jefferson County, Alabama, in its bankruptcy. "They really put themselves in a box.”
Rhodes also found that the city was insolvent and had sought bankruptcy protection in good faith, two requirements of the law. Municipal unions had claimed the city always intended to file for bankruptcy and had refused to negotiate with creditors before filing. 



The decision means the city can keep enjoying the protections of Chapter 9 of the U.S. Bankruptcy code, which limits what creditors of municipalities, including bondholders and labor groups, can do to impede restructuring efforts.
Klee helped rewrite Chapter 9 in the 1970s while working as a lawyer for Congress. His client, Jefferson County, officially ended its bankruptcy today with the closing of a bond issue to raise money to pay creditors. Its $4.2 billion bankruptcy was the biggest ever by a U.S. municipality until Detroit filed on July 18, listing about $18 billion in debt.

Street Lights

Detroit has said it doesn’t have the money to pay bondholders, retirees and employees everything it owes them while still providing basic city services, such as ambulances and streetlights.
“This once proud and prosperous city cannot pay its debts,” Rhodes said. Detroit “has the opportunity for a fresh start.”

With Rhodes’s ruling, the city can now focus on writing a plan to cut the debt. That will mean contending with creditors in court and in confidential mediation, said Dale Ginter, a bankruptcy lawyer who is not involved in the case.
“None of the constituents will regard such a plan as fair or equitable, but that’s not the standard,” said Ginter, who represented retired city workers in the bankruptcy of Vallejo, California. He made the comments in an interview before Rhodes issued his ruling.
Read More  at Bloomberg News

Hope and Changed Detroit....



Monday, December 2, 2013

Obama to sign up on health exchange?

By Ian Swanson 
White House press secretary Jay Carney sidestepped questions Monday about whether the president has signed up for health insurance under ObamaCare.
“I know that he will and has said that he will, the White House has said that he will, but I don't have an update,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Monday.

 Asked what the president was waiting for — and whether his attempt to enroll in the exchange would be open to members of the press — Carney laughed.
“I'll get back to you,” he said.
In 2010, White House spokesman Reid Cherlin pledged the president would sign up o the exchanges in response to an amendment offered by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) that would have required the president to purchase coverage.
“The president will participate in the exchange,” Cherlin told USA Today. “But let's be clear: The amendments being offered by Senate Republicans, including this one, are just a ploy to delay the bill.”  
Republican lawmakers have continued to press the administration to enroll in the exchanges following implementation of the law. 
In a heated exchange on Capitol Hill, Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) repeatedly asked Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius why she had not purchased insurance on the exchanges.
Sebelius incorrectly said that it would be illegal for her to do so, because her healthcare was included in her compensation as a federal employee. Those with employer-provided insurance can purchase separate coverage through the exchanges, but are not eligible for tax credits to reduce the price of premiums. Sebelius, however, is prohibited from buying insurance because she is a Medicare enrollee.
Obama, who is younger, has no such restriction — although presidents and their immediate families are eligible for free treatment in military hospitals during and after their presidencies.
The administration separately touted increased visitors to HealthCare.gov and said technical fixes are making the site speedier and more accessible to visitors.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Army Scrapping 4 Chemical Weapons Incinerators

ANNISTON, Ala. — The Pentagon spent $10.2 billion over three decades burning tons of deadly nerve gas and other chemical weapons stored in four states — some of the agents so deadly even a few drops can kill.
Now, with all those chemicals up in smoke and communities freed of a threat, the Army is in the middle of another, $1.3 billion project: Demolishing the incinerators that destroyed the toxic materials.
In Alabama, Oregon, Utah and Arkansas, crews are either tearing apart multibillion-dollar incinerators or working to draw the curtain on a drama that began in the Cold War, when the United States and the former Soviet Union stockpiled millions of pounds of chemical weapons.
Construction work continues at two other sites where technology other than incineration will be used to neutralize agents chemically, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
AssociatedPress
At the incinerator complex at the Anniston Army Depot — where sarin, VX nerve gas and mustard gas were stored about 55 miles east of Birmingham — the military this week said it's about one-third of the way into a $310 million program to level a gigantic furnace that cost $2.4 billion to build and operate.
Tim Garrett, the government site project manager, said officials considered doing something else with the incinerator, but the facility was too specialized to convert for another use. Also, the law originally allowing chemical incineration required demolition once the work was done.
So teams are using large machines to knock holes in thick concrete walls and rip steel beams off the building's skeleton, which was previously decontaminated to guard against any lingering nerve agents or mustard gas. Metal pieces are being recycled, and the rest will be hauled to an ordinary landfill.
"It's the end of an era," said Garrett, a civilian.
The military said the incineration program cost $11.5 billion in all, with the cost of tearing down the four facilities built in from the start.
A $2.8 billion incinerator is being demolished in Umatilla, Ore., the Pentagon said, and work will begin soon to tear down a $3.7 billion incinerator at Tooele, Utah. Workers already have finished demolishing the $2.2 billion Pine Bluff Chemical Demilitarization Facility in Arkansas, the military said. The site is being cleaned up and will close officially 
While opponents of the incinerators predicted dire consequences and the possibility of floating clouds of nerve gas in the event of an accident, the CDC said no nearby residents were exposed to or harmed by chemical agents.
In east Alabama, before incineration work began in 2003, the military and emergency management workers spent millions of dollars distributing emergency kits to households, erecting warning sirens and reinforcing schools with ventilation systems to keep chemical weapons at bay during any accidents.
But Garrett said nothing worse than normal workplace injuries occurred by the time the last chemical weapons were burned in 2011.
"This place has the safety record of a library or a public school," he said.
More than 660,000 artillery shells, small rockets and land mines were stored in dirt-covered bunkers at the Anniston depot beginning in 1963 during the height of the Cold War. The prospect of a major accident was frightening because more than 360,000 people lived in the surrounding four counties by the time the incineration ended.
Crates of munitions were loaded into special containers and trucked from the bunkers to the incinerator, where machines dismantled the weapons and burned the chemicals.
With the incineration complete, employment at the incinerator has dropped from around 1,000 workers at the apex of the project to around 220 today, Garrett said. It will drop to a skeleton crew once all the work is done by spring; the site is supposed to be closed completely by then.
"It's been a career for us. A good career," said Mike Abrams, who has been working on the Anniston incinerator project in community outreach and public affairs since it began.
Chemical weapons are outlawed by international treaty, and their destruction is a global concern. International efforts are underway to destroy Syria's stockpile by next year. This week, Albania rejected a U.S. request to host the destruction of Syria's arsenal.
Multiple domestic sites have destroyed chemical weapons, and the Army says it has destroyed 90 percent of the U.S. stockpile. Plants being built in Colorado and Kentucky will destroy most of the remaining U.S. cache with a chemical process to make it harmless. Facilities previously finished destroying weapons and were idled in Maryland, Indiana and Johnston Atoll, in the Pacific Ocean.
Decades behind schedule, dismantling chemical weapons stockpile no easy task at Pueblo site
Read more at http://gazette.com/decades-behind-schedule-dismantling-chemical-weapons-stockpile-no-easy-task-at-pueblo-site/article/1508456#ORtrJa7cj73Pzewv.99
Decades behind schedule, dismantling chemical weapons stockpile no easy task at Pueblo site
Read more at http://gazette.com/decades-behind-schedule-dismantling-chemical-weapons-stockpile-no-easy-task-at-pueblo-site/article/1508456#ORtrJa7cj73Pzewv.99

Decades behind schedule, dismantling chemical weapons stockpile no easy task at Pueblo site

Excerpt:  By Kristin Jones, I-News at Rocky Mountain PBS - • Updated: October 29, 2013

 PUEBLO - On the high plains at this city's eastern edge, fields of concrete bunkers arrayed like a vast cemetery hold most of the remaining stockpile of the nation's chemical weapons. The earth-covered "igloos" with their reinforced concrete headwalls contain 2,611 tons of mustard agent in mortar rounds and artillery shells.
Slated for destruction since at least 1985, the munitions are old, leaky and expensive to protect.
The process of dismantling them is 29 years behind schedule and $33.8 billion over budget, according to Defense Department documents and historians.
In the latest Defense Department projection, the remaining 10 percent of the stockpile won't be destroyed until 2023, at a total cost of $35.5 billion.

Exclusive: Inside Chemical Weapons Destruction Plant  In Kentucky

Excerpt:
 RICHMOND, KY (WAVE) - The military is storing deadly sarin and VX nerve gas about 100 miles from Louisville and destroying it is an enormous challenge for the US Department of Defense.

"This is the last of the chemical weapons destruction in the United States," said Jeff Brubaker, project manager for $2 billion, 340,000 square foot chemical weapon destruction plant at the Blue Grass Army Depot in Richmond.

NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

Construction is almost three quarters finished but the plant still six or seven years from being fully operational and starting the destruction process of the 523 tons of sarin, vx and mustard gas stored at the depot.

 The toxic agents in Kentucky are sitting on more than 100,000 rockets and artillery projectiles. Once the plant is up and running, estimated at 2020, the chemical weapon warheads will be cut away from the rockets, using what's known, quite simply, as a rocket cutter.
In the latest Defense Department projection, the remaining 10 percent of the stockpile won't be destroyed until 2023, at a total cost of $35.5 billion.
Read more at http://gazette.com/decades-behind-schedule-dismantling-chemical-weapons-stockpile-no-easy-task-at-pueblo-site/article/1508456#ORtrJa7cj73Pzewv.99
PUEBLO - On the high plains at this city's eastern edge, fields of concrete bunkers arrayed like a vast cemetery hold most of the remaining stockpile of the nation's chemical weapons. The earth-covered "igloos" with their reinforced concrete headwalls contain 2,611 tons of mustard agent in mortar rounds and artillery shells.
Slated for destruction since at least 1985, the munitions are old, leaky and expensive to protect.
The process of dismantling them is 29 years behind schedule and $33.8 billion over budget, according to Defense Department documents and historians.

Read more at http://gazette.com/decades-behind-schedule-dismantling-chemical-weapons-stockpile-no-easy-task-at-pueblo-site/article/1508456#ORtrJa7cj73Pzewv.99
PUEBLO - On the high plains at this city's eastern edge, fields of concrete bunkers arrayed like a vast cemetery hold most of the remaining stockpile of the nation's chemical weapons. The earth-covered "igloos" with their reinforced concrete headwalls contain 2,611 tons of mustard agent in mortar rounds and artillery shells.
Slated for destruction since at least 1985, the munitions are old, leaky and expensive to protect.
The process of dismantling them is 29 years behind schedule and $33.8 billion over budget, according to Defense Department documents and historians.

Read more at http://gazette.com/decades-behind-schedule-dismantling-chemical-weapons-stockpile-no-easy-task-at-pueblo-site/article/1508456#ORtrJa7cj73Pzewv.9
PUEBLO - On the high plains at this city's eastern edge, fields of concrete bunkers arrayed like a vast cemetery hold most of the remaining stockpile of the nation's chemical weapons. The earth-covered "igloos" with their reinforced concrete headwalls contain 2,611 tons of mustard agent in mortar rounds and artillery shells.
Slated for destruction since at least 1985, the munitions are old, leaky and expensive to protect.
The process of dismantling them is 29 years behind schedule and $33.8 billion over budget, according to Defense Department documents and historians.

Read more at http://gazette.com/decades-behind-schedule-dismantling-chemical-weapons-stockpile-no-easy-task-at-pueblo-site/article/1508456#ORtrJa7cj73Pzewv.99

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Secret, Dirty Cost of Obama's Green Power Push

Associated Press:
Nov. 12, 2013 9:34 AM EST
CORYDON, Iowa (AP) — The hills of southern Iowa bear the scars of America's push for green energy: The brown gashes where rain has washed away the soil. The polluted streams that dump fertilizer into the water supply.
Even the cemetery that disappeared like an apparition into a cornfield.
It wasn't supposed to be this way.
With the Iowa political caucuses on the horizon in 2007, presidential candidate Barack Obama made homegrown corn a centerpiece of his plan to slow global warming. And when President George W. Bush signed a law that year requiring oil companies to add billions of gallons of ethanol to their gasoline each year, Bush predicted it would make the country "stronger, cleaner and more secure."
But the ethanol era has proven far more damaging to the environment than politicians promised and much worse than the government admits today.
As farmers rushed to find new places to plant corn, they wiped out millions of acres of conservation land, destroyed habitat and polluted water supplies, an Associated Press investigation found.
Five million acres of land set aside for conservation — more than Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined — have vanished on Obama's watch.
Landowners filled in wetlands. They plowed into pristine prairies, releasing carbon dioxide that had been locked in the soil.
Sprayers pumped out billions of pounds of fertilizer, some of which seeped into drinking water, contaminated rivers and worsened the huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where marine life can't survive.
The consequences are so severe that environmentalists and many scientists have now rejected corn-based ethanol as bad environmental policy. But the Obama administration stands by it, highlighting its benefits to the farming industry rather than any negative impact.

Farmers planted 15 million more acres of corn last year than before the ethanol boom, and the effects are visible in places like south central Iowa.
The hilly, once-grassy landscape is made up of fragile soil that, unlike the earth in the rest of the state, is poorly suited for corn. Nevertheless, it has yielded to America's demand for it.
"They're raping the land," said Bill Alley, a member of the board of supervisors in Wayne County, which now bears little resemblance to the rolling cow pastures shown in postcards sold at a Corydon pharmacy.
All energy comes at a cost. The environmental consequences of drilling for oil and natural gas are well documented and severe. But in the president's push to reduce greenhouse gases and curtail global warming, his administration has allowed so-called green energy to do not-so-green things.
In some cases, such as its decision to allow wind farms to kill eagles, the administration accepts environmental costs because they pale in comparison to the havoc it believes global warming could ultimately cause.
Ethanol is different.
The government's predictions of the benefits have proven so inaccurate that independent scientists question whether it will ever achieve its central environmental goal: reducing greenhouse gases. That makes the hidden costs even more significant.
"This is an ecological disaster," said Craig Cox with the Environmental Working Group, a natural ally of the president that, like others, now finds itself at odds with the White House.
But it's a cost the administration is willing to accept. It believes supporting corn ethanol is the best way to encourage the development of biofuels that will someday be cleaner and greener than today's. Pulling the plug on corn ethanol, officials fear, might mean killing any hope of these next-generation fuels.
"That is what you give up if you don't recognize that renewable fuels have some place here," EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said in a recent interview with AP. "All renewable fuels are not corn ethanol."
Still, corn supplies the overwhelming majority of ethanol in the United States, and the administration is loath to discuss the environmental consequences.
"It just caught us completely off guard," said Doug Davenport, a Department of Agriculture official who encourages southern Iowa farmers to use conservation practices on their land. Despite those efforts, Davenport said he was surprised at how much fragile, erodible land was turned into corn fields.
Shortly after Davenport spoke to The Associated Press, he got an email ordering him to stop talking.
"We just want to have a consistent message on the topic," an Agriculture Department spokesman in Iowa said.
That consistent message was laid out by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who spoke to ethanol lobbyists on Capitol Hill recently and said ethanol was good for business.
"We are committed to this industry because we understand its benefits," he said. "We understand it's about farm income. It's about stabilizing and maintaining farm income which is at record levels."
The numbers behind the ethanol mandate have become so unworkable that, for the first time, the EPA is soon expected to reduce the amount of ethanol required to be added to the gasoline supply. An unusual coalition of big oil companies, environmental groups and food companies is pushing the government to go even further and reconsider the entire ethanol program.
The ethanol industry is fighting hard against that effort. Industry spokesman Brooke Coleman dismissed this story as "propaganda on a page." An industry blog in Minnesota said the AP had succumbed "to Big Oil's deep pockets and powerful influence."
To understand how America got to an environmental policy with such harmful environmental consequences, it's helpful to start in a field in Iowa.
___
Leroy Perkins, a white-haired, 66-year-old farmer in denim overalls, stands surrounded by waist-high grass and clover. He owns 91 acres like this, all hilly and erodible, that he set aside for conservation years ago.
Soon, he will have a decision to make: keep the land as it is or, like many of his neighbors, plow it down and plant corn or soybeans, the major sources of biofuel in the United States.
"I'd like to keep it in," he said. "This is what southern Iowa's for: raising grass."
For decades, the government's Conservation Reserve Program has paid farmers to stop farming environmentally sensitive land. Grassy fields naturally convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, which helps combat global warming. Plus, their deep root systems prevent topsoil from washing away.
For Perkins and his farmer neighbors in Wayne County, keeping farmland in conservation wasn't just good stewardship. It made financial sense.
A decade ago, Washington paid them about $70 an acre each year to leave their farmland idle. With corn selling for about $2 per bushel (56 pounds) back then, farming the hilly, inferior soil was bad business.
Many opted into the conservation program. Others kept their grasslands for cow pastures.
Lately, though, the math has changed.
"I'm coming to the point where financially, it's not feasible," Perkins said.
The change began in 2007, when Congress passed a law requiring oil companies to blend billions of gallons of ethanol into gasoline.
Oil prices were high. Oil imports were rising quickly. The legislation had the strong backing of the presidential candidate who was the junior senator from neighboring Illinois, the nation's second-largest corn producer.
"If we're going to get serious about investing in our energy future, we must give our family farmers and local ethanol producers a fair shot at success," Obama said then.
The Democratic primary field was crowded, and if he didn't win the Iowa caucuses the road to the nomination would be difficult. His strong support for ethanol set him apart.
"Any time we could talk about support for ethanol, we did," said Mitch Stewart, the battleground states director for Obama's 2008 campaign. "It's how we would lead a lot of discussions."
President Bush signed the bill that December.
It would fall on the next president to figure out how to make it work.
___
President Obama's team at the EPA was sour on the ethanol mandate from the start.
As a way to reduce global warming, they knew corn ethanol was a dubious proposition. Corn demands fertilizer, which is made using natural gas. What's worse, ethanol factories typically burn coal or gas, both of which release carbon dioxide.
Then there was the land conversion, the most controversial and difficult-to-predict outcome.
Digging up grassland releases greenhouse gases, so environmentalists are skeptical of any program that encourages planting more corn.
"I don't remember anybody having great passion for this," said Bob Sussman, who served on Obama's transition team and recently retired as EPA's senior policy counsel. "I don't have a lot of personal enthusiasm for the program."
At the White House and the Department of Agriculture, though, there was plenty of enthusiasm.
One of Obama's senior advisers, Pete Rouse, had worked on ethanol issues as chief of staff to Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota, a major ethanol booster and now chair of the DuPont Advisory Committee on Agriculture Innovation and Productivity.
Another Obama adviser at the time, Heather Zichal, grew up in northeast Iowa — as a child, she was crowned "sweet corn princess" — and was one of the Obama campaign's leading voices on ethanol in her home state.
The administration had no greater corn ethanol advocate than Vilsack, the former Iowa governor.
"Tom understands that the solution to our energy crisis will be found not in oil fields abroad but in our farm fields here at home," Obama said in 2008. "That is the kind of leader I want in my Cabinet."
___
Writing the regulations to implement the ethanol mandate was among the administration's first major environmental undertakings. Industry and environmental groups watched closely.
The EPA's experts determined that the mandate would increase demand for corn and encourage farmers to plow more land. Considering those factors, they said, corn ethanol was only slightly better than gasoline when it came to carbon dioxide emissions.
Sixteen percent better, to be exact. And not in the short term. Only by 2022.
By law, though, biofuels were supposed to be at least 20 percent greener than gasoline.
From a legal standpoint, the results didn't matter. Congress exempted existing coal- and gas-burning ethanol plants from meeting this standard.
But as a policy and public relations issue, it was a real problem. The biofuel-friendly Obama administration was undermining the industry's major selling point: that it was much greener than gasoline.
So the ethanol industry was livid. Lobbyists flooded the EPA with criticism, challenging the government's methods and conclusions.
The EPA's conclusion was based on a model. Plug in some assumed figures — the price of corn, the number of acres planted, how much corn would grow per acre — and the model would spit out a number.
To get past 20 percent, the EPA needed to change its assumptions.
The most important of those assumptions was called the yield, a measure of how much corn could be produced on an acre of land. The higher the yield, the easier it would be for farmers to meet the growing demand without plowing new farmland, which counted against ethanol in the greenhouse gas equation.
Corn yields have inched steadily upward over the years as farms have become more efficient. The government's first ethanol model assumed that trend would continue, rising from 150 bushels per acre to about 180 by the year 2022 
Agriculture companies like Monsanto Co. and DuPont Pioneer, which stood to make millions off an ethanol boom, told the government those numbers were too low.
They predicted that genetically modified seeds — which they produce — would send yields skyrocketing. With higher yields, farmers could produce more corn on less land, reducing the environmental effects.
Documents show the White House budget office also suggested the EPA raise its yield assumptions.
When the final rule came out, the EPA and Agriculture officials added a new "high yield case scenario" that assumed 230 bushels per acre.
The flaw in those assumptions, independent scientists knew, was that a big increase in corn prices would encourage people to farm in less hospitable areas like Wayne County, which could never produce such large yields.
But the EPA's model assumed only a tiny increase in corn prices.
"You adjust a few numbers to get it where you want it, and then you call it good," said Adam Liska, assistant professor of biological systems engineering at the University of Nebraska. He supports ethanol, even with its environmental trade-offs.
When the Obama administration finalized its first major green-energy policy, corn ethanol barely crossed the key threshold. The final score: 21 percent.
"If you corrected any of a number of things, it would be on the other side of 20 percent," said Richard Plevin of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. "Is it a coincidence this is what happened? It certainly makes me wonder."
It didn't take long for reality to prove the Obama administration's predictions wrong.
The regulations took effect in July 2010. The following month, corn prices already had surpassed the EPA's long-term estimate of $3.22 a bushel. That September, corn passed $4, on its way to about $7, where it has been most of this year.
Yields, meanwhile, have held fairly steady.
But the ethanol boom was underway.
___
It's impossible to precisely calculate how much ethanol is responsible for the spike in corn prices and how much those prices led to the land changes in the Midwest.
Supporters of corn ethanol say extreme weather — dry one year, very wet the next — hurt farmers and raised prices.
But diminishing supply wasn't the only factor. More corn than ever was being distilled into ethanol.
Historically, the overwhelmingly majority of corn in the United States has been turned into livestock feed. But in 2010, for the first time, fuel was the No. 1 use for corn in America. That was true in 2011 and 2012. Newly released Department of Agriculture data show that, this year, 43 percent of corn went to fuel and 45 percent went to livestock feed.
The more corn that goes to ethanol, the more that needs to be planted to meet other demands.
Scientists predicted that a major ethanol push would raise prices and, in turn, encourage farmers like Leroy Perkins to plow into conservation land. But the government insisted otherwise.
In 2008, the journal Science published a study with a dire conclusion: Plowing over conservation land releases so much greenhouse gas that it takes 48 years before new plants can break even and start reducing carbon dioxide.
For an ethanol policy to work, the study said, farmers could not plow into conservation land.
The EPA, in a report to Congress on the environmental effects of ethanol, said it was "uncertain" whether farmers would plant on farmland that had been set aside for conservation.
The Department of Energy was more certain. Most conservation land, the government said in its response to the study, "is unsuitable for use for annual row crop production."
America could meet its ethanol demand without losing a single acre of conservation land, Energy officials said.
They would soon be proven wrong.
Before the government ethanol mandate, the Conservation Reserve Program grew every year for nearly a decade. Almost overnight, farmers began leaving the program, which simultaneously fell victim to budget cuts that reduced the amount of farmland that could be set aside for conservation.
In the first year after the ethanol mandate, more than 2 million acres disappeared.
Since Obama took office, 5 million more acres have vanished.
Agriculture officials acknowledge that conservation land has been lost, but they say the trend is reversing. When the 2013 data comes out, they say it will show that as corn prices stabilized, farmers once again began setting aside land for conservation.
___
Losing conservation land was bad. But something even worse was happening.
Farmers broke ground on virgin land, the untouched terrain that represents, from an environmental standpoint, the country's most important asset.
The farm industry assured the government that wouldn't happen. And it would have been an easy thing for Washington to check.
But rather than insisting that farmers report whenever they plow into virgin land, the government decided on a much murkier oversight method: Washington instead monitors the total number of acres of cropland nationwide. Local trends wash away when viewed at such a distance.
"They could not have designed a better approach to not detect land conversion," said Ben Larson, an agricultural expert for the National Wildlife Federation.
Look closely at the corn boom in the northern Great Plains, however, and it's clear. Farmers are converting untouched prairie into farmland.
The Department of Agriculture began keeping figures on virgin land only in 2012 and determined that about 38,000 acres vanished that year.
But using government satellite data — the best tool available — the AP identified a conservative estimate of 1.2 million acres of virgin land in Nebraska and the Dakotas alone that have been converted to fields of corn and soybeans since 2006, the last year before the ethanol mandate was passed.
"The last five years, we've become financially solvent," said Robert Malsam, a farmer in Edmunds County, S.D., who like others in the central and eastern Dakotas has plowed into wild grassland to expand his corn crop.
The price of corn is reshaping the land across the Midwest. In Wayne County, Iowa, for example, only the dead can stop the corn.
A gravel road once cut through a grassy field leading to a hilltop cemetery. But about two years ago, the landowners plowed over the road. Now, visiting gravesites means walking a narrow path through the corn.
People have complained. It's too narrow for a hearse, too rutted for a wheelchair, too steep for the elderly. But it's legal, said Bill Alley from the board of supervisors.
"This is what the price of corn does," he said. "This is what happens, right here."
___
When Congress passed the ethanol mandate, it required the EPA to thoroughly study the effects on water and air pollution. In his recent speech to ethanol lobbyists, Vilsack was unequivocal about those effects:
"There is no question air quality, water quality is benefiting from this industry," he said.
But the administration never actually conducted the required air and water studies to determine whether that's true.
In an interview with the AP after his speech, Vilsack said he didn't mean that ethanol production was good for the air and water. He simply meant that gasoline mixed with ethanol is cleaner than gasoline alone.
In the Midwest, meanwhile, scientists and conservationists are sounding alarms.
Nitrogen fertilizer, when it seeps into the water, is toxic. Children are especially susceptible to nitrate poisoning, which causes "blue baby" syndrome and can be deadly.
Between 2005 and 2010, corn farmers increased their use of nitrogen fertilizer by more than one billion pounds. More recent data isn't available from the Agriculture Department, but because of the huge increase in corn planting, even conservative projections by the AP suggest another billion-pound fertilizer increase on corn farms since then.
Department of Agriculture officials note that the amount of fertilizer used for all crops has remained steady for a decade, suggesting the ethanol mandate hasn't caused a fertilizer boom across the board.
But in the Midwest, corn is the dominant crop, and officials say the increase in fertilizer use — driven by the increase in corn planting — is having an effect.
The Des Moines Water Works, for instance, has faced high nitrate levels for many years in the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers, which supply drinking water to 500,000 people. Typically, when pollution is too high in one river, workers draw from the other.
"This year, unfortunately the nitrate levels in both rivers were so high that it created an impossibility for us," said Bill Stowe, the water service's general manager.
For three months this summer, workers kept huge machines running around the clock to clean the water. Officials asked customers to use less water so the utility had a chance to keep up.
Part of the problem was that last year's dry weather meant fertilizer sat atop the soil. This spring's rains flushed that nitrogen into the water along with the remnants of the fertilizer from the most recent crop.
At the same time the ethanol mandate has encouraged farmers to plant more corn, Stowe said, the government hasn't done enough to limit fertilizer use or regulate the industrial drainage systems that flush nitrates and water into rivers and streams.
With the Water Works on the brink of capacity, Stowe said he's considering suing the government to demand a solution.
In neighboring Minnesota, a government report this year found that significantly reducing the high levels of nitrates from the state's water would require huge changes in farming practices at a cost of roughly $1 billion a year.
"We're doing more to address water quality, but we are being overwhelmed by the increase in production pressure to plant more crops," said Steve Morse, executive director of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership.
The nitrates travel down rivers and into the Gulf of Mexico, where they boost the growth of enormous algae fields. When the algae die, the decomposition consumes oxygen, leaving behind a zone where aquatic life cannot survive.
This year, the dead zone covered 5,800 square miles of sea floor, about the size of Connecticut.
Larry McKinney, the executive director of the Harte Institute at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, says the ethanol mandate worsened the dead zone.
"On the one hand, the government is mandating ethanol use," he said, "and it is unfortunately coming at the expense of the Gulf of Mexico."
The dead zone is one example among many of a peculiar ethanol side effect: As one government program encourages farmers to plant more corn, other programs pay millions to clean up the mess.
___
Obama administration officials know the ethanol mandate hasn't lived up to its billing.
The next-generation biofuels that were supposed to wean the country off corn haven't yet materialized. Every year, the EPA predicts millions of gallons of clean fuel will be made from agricultural waste. Every year, the government is wrong.
Every day without those cleaner-burning fuels, the ethanol industry stays reliant on corn and the environmental effects mount.
The EPA could revisit its model and see whether ethanol is actually as good for the environment as officials predicted. But the agency says it doesn't have the money or the manpower.
Even under the government's optimistic projections, the ethanol mandate wasn't going to reduce greenhouse gas right away. And with the model so far off from reality, independent scientists say it's hard to make an argument for ethanol as a global warming policy.
"I'd have to think really hard to come up with a scenario where it's a net positive," said Silvia Secchi, a Southern Illinois University agriculture economist.
She paused a few moments, then added, "I'm stumped."
In June, when Obama gave a major policy speech on reducing greenhouse gas, he didn't mention ethanol. Biofuels in general received a brief, passing reference.
What was once billed as an environmental boon has morphed into a government program to help rural America survive.
"I don't know whether I can make the environmental argument, or the economic argument," Vilsack said in an interview with the AP. "To me, it's an opportunity argument."
Congress and the administration could change the ethanol mandate, tweak its goals or demand more safeguards. Going to Congress and rewriting the law would mean picking a fight with agricultural lobbyists, a fight that would put the administration on the side of big oil companies, which despise the ethanol requirement.
So the ethanol policy cruises on autopilot.
Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, the ethanol lobbying group, said there's no reason to change the standards. Ethanol still looks good compared to the oil industry, which increasingly relies on environmentally risky tactics like hydraulic fracturing or pulls from carbon-heavy tar sands.
Leroy Perkins, the farmer agonizing about what to do with his 91 acres, says he likes ethanol as a product and an industry. But he knows it fuels the corn prices that are transforming his county.
"If they do change the fuel standard, you'll see the price of corn come down overnight," he said. "I like to see a good price for corn. But when it's too high, it hurts everybody."
Investors from as far away as Maryland and Pennsylvania have bought thousands of acres in Wayne County, sending prices skyrocketing from $350 per acre a decade ago to $5,000 today.
One in every four acres of in the county is now owned by an out-of-towner.
Those who still own land often rent it to farming companies offering $300 or more per acre. Perkins could make perhaps $27,000 a year if he let somebody plant corn on his land. That's nothing to dismiss in a county where typical household income is $36,000.
But he knows what that means. He sees the black streaks in his neighbor's cornfields, knowing the topsoil washes away with every rain. He doesn't want that for his family's land.
"You have to decide, do you want to be the one to..."
He doesn't finish his sentence.
"We all have to look at our pocketbooks."
___
Associated Press writers Jack Gillum in Washington and Chet Brokaw in Roscoe, S.D., contributed to this report.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Axelrod & Plouffe's 2012 Ticket Spin Contradicted by Former Chief of Staff

Barack Obama's campaign apparatus failed to coordinate their latest spin over replacing Vice President Biden with Hillary Clinton in Election 2012. 


David Axelrod, who served as Obama’s senior strategist during the 2012 race, said a “swap” was never in play. He also worked as an adviser to his 2008 campaign, and served as a senior adviser to Obama from Jan. 2009 to Jan. 2011.
David Plouffe, Obama’s 2008 campaign manager and former White House senior adviser, also firmly denied the report on Twitter.
On Friday morning, however, Bill Daley—who served as Obama’s chief of staff at the time—admitted on “CBS This Morning” that he did assess such a change, and defended it.
Former White House chief of staff Bill Daley on Friday defended a decision to test replacing Vice President Biden with Hillary Clinton.
Daley described the discussions as an example of "out of the box" thinking necessary during a campaign.
He also hastened to say that discussions about replacing Biden never got serious, a day after reports that the book Double Down will say top Obama aides seriously considered moving Clinton to the No. 2 spot on the ticket.
And this:
Hillary Clinton knew this was being tested, the book says. On CBS News, Daley said he wasn't aware Clinton knew. He added there is bit of “overhype,” around the book.
The discussions about switching Biden with Clinton occurred in the fall of 2011, a few months before Daley stepped down as Obama’s top adviser in January 2012.

And we end the day with this clarification::

Messina: No one 'who mattered' wanted Biden out as veep

 
Jim Messina, the campaign manager of President Obama's reelection effort in 2012, flatly denied that "anyone who mattered" considered dropping Vice President Biden to add Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the ticket.



Targeting Conservatives: Watchdog Obtains IRS - FEC Email Exchange

Watchdog obtains IRS-FEC email exchange

 
A conservative watchdog group, Judicial Watch, said it obtained an email chain from the Internal Revenue Service in which the department provided confidential tax information to the Federal Election Commission.
The watchdog group obtained the exchange from a freedom of information request made shortly after congressional investigators began prodding the agency on whether it inappropriately shared confidential tax information about a conservative group applying for tax-exempt status. 
 Leaking Information about conservatives isn't new for Obama's IRS

Lois Lerner, then-IRS director of Exempt Organizations, who was quoted in the emails has since retired.
Judicial Watch said the IRS sent the FEC annual tax returns, request forms for tax-exempt status, and articles of organization. The watchdog received the information from the FEC. It said the IRS had not yet complied with its request for information.
Sharing taxpayer returns would violate federal law. 
The White House Lied and blamed a few 'rogue agents in the Cincinnati office'

The House Ways and Means subcommittee on Oversight released a portion of the email exchange in July questioning whether the IRS had shared confidential information. Congressional investigators had since requested more information. The exchange between Lerner and the FEC dates back to 2009.
“These extensive emails and other materials provide a disturbing window into the activities of two out-of-control federal agencies: the IRS and FEC,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement accompanying the release. “And there is the very real question as to whether these documents evidence a crime.”
Lois Lerner earns a 'bushel of Pinocchios' from the Washington Post
An IRS Political Timeline @WSJ


Other Links:
Obama's IRS Targets Conservative Groups-Leaks Info
Democrats Justify Using IRS to Target Political Opponents
Lerner Statement - Fuller Clip
Lois Lerner Invokes the 5th Amendment @CSPANVL
A bushel of Pinocchios for IRS's Lois Lerner
IRS released confidential info on conservative groups to ProPublica
Supporters of Propublica
Planted question gambit backfires on IRS officials
IRS Targeting Conservatives is 'Poor Customer Service' that Leads to Promotions
Strassel: The IRS Scandal Started at the Top
IRS's Lois Lerner's Own Words

IRS Commissioner's Opening Statement:









Thursday, October 31, 2013

Oregon Man Behind Decision to Blow up Whale Dies


 Technology Oregon Man Behind Decision to Blow up Whale Dies 

An Oregon highway engineer whose 1970 decision to use a half-ton of dynamite to blast away a beached dead whale became an Internet sensation has died. George Thomas Thornton was 84.

The Oregon Department of Transportation says Thornton was a highly respected engineer who worked for the agency for 37 years.

In November 1970, he got the call to remove a 45-foot-long sperm whale that washed up near Florence. He decided to use dynamite to disintegrate the animal. The blast rained down pieces of whale that covered spectators and flattened the roof of a car.
A Portland TV station filmed the explosion, and it was broadcast widely. The video of the whale explosion remains a popular feature on YouTube.
Perl Funeral Home in Medford confirmed Thornton died Oct. 27. His family declined to comment.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Barack Obama: Out of the Loop or Excuses?

Obama's 'in-the-dark' defense
By JENNIFER EPSTEIN | 10/28/13 8:23 PM EDT +POLITICO  excerpt:
President Barack Obama is briefed each day on a wide range of domestic and international issues, yet when it comes to major controversies, his administration’s response is often the same: the president didn’t know.
The most recent appearance of the tendency came Sunday, as the Wall Street Journal reported that Obama was unaware of the National Security Agency’s surveillance of foreign leaders until earlier this year. The story came on the heels of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s claim that the president didn’t learn of the problems with HealthCare.gov until after the site’s Oct. 1 launch.

Barack Obama: Out of the Loop or Excuses?
And earlier this year, Obama himself said he learned about the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of political groups “from the same news reports that I think most people learned about this.”
The bottom line explanation in all these instances is the same: President Obama didn’t know any more about the scandal than the ordinary person on the street, and certainly wasn’t involved in decision-making processes — at least, not until long after potential problems arose.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Clinton Ally Pens E-Book: ‘The Benghazi Hoax’

Media Matter's Propagandist David Brock Pens E-Book: ‘The Benghazi Hoax’

By MAGGIE HABERMAN | 10/19/13 8:51 PM EDT @Politico

Excerpt:
Media Matters founder and Hillary Clinton ally David Brock has co-authored a 90-page e-book called “The Benghazi Hoax,” a tome intended as a counterweight of sorts to criticisms of the former Secretary of State and President Barack Obama over the 2012 attacks in Libya.

Background on the Attack and the Special Mission Benghazi
Brock previewed the book in an interview with POLITICO last week in the liberal group’s Washington offices. He described it as an important and necessary resource on the Benghazi attacks that left four Americans dead last Sept. 11 — and which some congressional Republicans have shown continued interest in probing.
Brock insisted the book is not intended as a de facto defense of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she comes under scrutiny ahead of a likely 2016 presidential bid. Supporting the Clintons is a fraction of Media Matters’ mission, he said, and her role in the Benghazi attacks is not the sole focus of the book.

Secretary of State has to Approve High Threat Level Locations
But the mere fact of the book’s existence is an acknowledgement that Benghazi will remain a topic of debate, and one that could harm Clinton with independent and center-right Republicans. And it comes as Brock-affiliated groups could fill an organizational void for Clinton, who has no machinery of her own beyond a handful of staffers since leaving the State Department.

The book, which comes out Tuesday, is as much about pushing back against criticisms by the right that Obama is a weak president who has hurt America in the world, Brock said.

Still, he added, there are “six super PACs out there dedicated to trying to tarnish [Clinton’s] reputation.”
 The Clintonista Brock spins the coverup:
“People have missed the fact that Benghazi was not only a tragedy, but it was a night of valor,” said Brock. The book – the first such endeavor for Media Matters, which is self-publishing it – was conceived of in the spring, as the congressional hearings on Benghazi were taking place, he said.
 David Brock is just another leftist that cannot tell the truth.
The Benghazi Timeline
 The book offers a sweeping criticism of a number of Republicans, including last year’s GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, as well as members of the media. That includes but is not limited to several Fox News anchors, whom Brock describes as “hoaxters” interested in tarnishing Obama and Clinton, and, by extension, former United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice. Her Sunday show appearances defending the administration shortly after the attacks helped sink her hopes of becoming Secretary of State.

 Obama called Benghazi an 'act of terror' the next day?

More:
Was there 'accountability' with a review board? @CSPAN
Hillary Clinton, the Whistleblower and the Benghazi Mission @CSPAN  



Friday, October 18, 2013

Obamacare Rollout- Persistent Problems Plague Progress


ObamaCare problems mount

 By Elise Viebeck - 10/18/13 01:20 PM ET excerpt from The Hill:
 The problems for the main ObamaCare enrollment portal are going from bad to worse.

ObamaCare's online marketplace is reportedly creating a mess for insurance companies by approving error-ridden applications, the latest in a series of problems that threaten to dampen enrollment under the healthcare law.


Among the small number of people who have successfully purchased coverage, many have filed out duplicate enrollments, misreported family members or left data fields empty, insurers told The Wall Street Journal.

These errors were attributed to flaws in the design of the online enrollment system, which does not easily allow users to fix their mistakes.


Problems plague Obamacare rollout

 October 17th, 2013 CNN's Jake Tapper excerpt:
President Barack Obama's presidential campaign, and indeed his administration, have been well-known for being on the cutting edge of technology.
Yet when it came to the roll out of Obama's signature domestic policy achievement, someone dropped the tech-savvy ball.
The federal exchange website "healthcare.gov" has at times been slow, inaccessible to users, and – in the words of the White House – prone to frequent "glitches."
and:
"According to other IT experts, it's been software issues, in addition to not knowing what the volume was going to be," said former Medicare director for the George H. W. Bush administration Gail Wilensky.

An early policy decision put undue burden on the website, said Wilensky. Normally, online shoppers can browse products anonymously, decide whether they want to buy something, and then go through the process of providing personal information.
"The administration made the decision that they didn't want people to look at options, unless they also had the subsidy that they would receive available to them. They were afraid of sticker shock," said Wilensky.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz Releases New Book

Wasserman Schultz talks up her new book

' Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) credits an early bid for public office for giving her more opportunities in her political life.
She first ran for the Florida state legislature at the age of 25 and was elected at 26'

' In the interview, Wasserman Schultz declined to talk about political ambitions or opportunities. The congresswoman insisted she is focused on the job at hand: running for reelection to her House seat and leading the Democratic Party through the 2014 midterms.'




Saturday, October 12, 2013

Up Late: When Alec Baldwin Met Bill de Blasio

MSNBC's 'Up Late With Alec Baldwin' Debuts With Policy Discussions in a Diner

When Harry endorsed Sally
Alec Baldwin's foray as an MSNBC late night host began with jazzy intro music and a friendly chat with New York City mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio on a set that resembled  an old-time diner.

 Up Late With Alec Baldwin debuted on Friday at 10 p.m. ET, slotted in the same one hour frame as Real Time With Bill Maher.

Bill de Blasio and Alec Baldwin reenact the classic scene from  'When Harry Met Sally' 


Altruism is the morality of cannibals.









Friday, October 11, 2013

Truckers Ride for the Constitution

The Washington Post Reports: excerpt
Police authorities in Maryland and Virginia reported no major incidents Friday as a result of the much-talked about truckers protest around the Beltway. Drivers of tractor trailers had said they were going to drive slowly to block off parts of the Beltway to protest excessive government intrusion. 

There were police reports of about 30 tractor trailers with American flags and signs for their protest — “Truckers Ride for the Constitution” — driving at the same speed as the rest of traffic on the Beltway in Friday morning’s rush hour. But by mid-day the truckers appeared to have broken into smaller groups amid already-heavy volumes of traffic and rain showers on a holiday weekend.

The Associated Press cover the protest.
“We saw about 20 of their trucks this morning coming from Route 66 in Virginia into Maryland,” he said. “They were going the speed limit but it was stop and go traffic, and we’ve had six inches of rain for the last two and a half days. 
Bad weather and Bad Traffic:
“It was pretty much a non-event,” she said. “They continued to comply with the laws. I would think the heavy traffic and the rain made it hard for them to stay together.”

Virginia state police did stop four tractor-trailers Friday morning after they drove side-by-side, across all four northbound lanes of the Beltway’s inner loop. That caused traffic to slow to 15 miles per hour. State police troopers stopped the vehicles and “warned them not to impede traffic,” Geller said. The drivers were not issued tickets and allowed to “proceed on their way.”

RT America covers the protest