Archive for the ‘Moonbat’ Category
Straight from CNN: “The defense bill that just passed the House of Representatives includes a back-door fund that lets individual members of Congress funnel millions of dollars into projects of their choosing.
This is happening despite a congressional ban on earmarks — special, discretionary spending that has funded Congress’ pet projects back home in years past, but now has fallen out of favor among budget-conscious deficit hawks.
Under the cloak of a mysteriously-named “Mission Force Enhancement Transfer Fund,” Congress has been squirreling away money — like $9 million for “future undersea capabilities development,” $19 million for “Navy ship preliminary design and feasibility studies,” and more than $30 million for a “corrosion prevention program.”
So in a year dominated by demands for spending cuts, where did all the money come from?
Roughly $1 billion was quietly transferred from projects listed in the president’s defense budget and placed into the “transfer fund.” This fund, which wasn’t in previous year’s defense budgets (when earmarks were permitted), served as a piggy bank from which committee members were able to take money to cover the cost of programs introduced by their amendments.
And take they did.
More than $600 million went to a wide number of projects, many of which appear to directly benefit some congressional districts over others.
For example, that $9 million for “future undersea capabilities development” was requested by Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Connecticut, whose district happens to be home to General Dynamics Electric Boat, a major supplier of submarines and other technologies to the U.S. Navy.
And the $19 million for “Navy ship preliminary design and feasibility studies”? Rep. Steve Palazzo, R-Mississippi, asked for that. His district’s largest employer is Ingalls Shipbuilding — a major producer of surface combat ships for the Navy.
Nothing in these expenditures appears to be illegal, but critics say they still may violate the spirit, if not the language, of the earmark ban.
“These amendments may very likely duck the House’s specific definition of what constitutes an earmark, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t pork,” says Leslie Paige of Citizens Against Government Waste, a government-spending watchdog group. The group believes if modification of the National Defense Authorization Act generated savings, that money should have been put toward paying down the deficit.
In their defense, supporters say the amendments offered by various members may very well represent good governance. The $30 million Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Ohio, set aside for corrosion prevention could go far to help tackle the Defense Department’s corrosion problem, estimated to cost the military more than $15 billion a year.
However, there are two things worth considering: Sutton’s request comes on top of the $10 million already included in the bill for corrosion related programs, and Sutton’s district is home to The University of Akron, which created the country’s first bachelor’s degree program for corrosive engineering in 2008.
Then, on May 9, two days before the defense bill mark-up, it was announced that the Defense Department had given the University of Akron $11 million to build its new “National Center for Education and Research in Corrosion and Materials Performance.”
Sutton was the biggest supporter of that new spending.”
Straight from Fox News: “The Electoral College could be inching closer to extermination as California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Monday that would award the state’s 55 electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote.
The bill would take effect only if the states that hold a majority of the 538 electoral votes approve similar legislation. With California’s addition, that total now stands at 132, almost 49 percent of the 270 needed.
Under the electoral college, people don’t actually vote for president. They vote for electors, who then vote for president. It was developed as a compromise between those who wanted Congress to elect the president and those who wanted the president elected by popular vote.
California Assemblyman Democrat Jerry Hill, who introduced the bill, said the change would make California more relevant in presidential elections by forcing candidates to campaign in the state.
Former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger twice vetoed previous versions of the bill. At the time, Schwarzenegger said he did not want California’s electoral votes awarded to a candidate a majority of the state had not supported.
Seven states and the District of Columbia have passed similar bills.
The last person to win the presidency despite losing the popular vote was George W. Bush in 2000.”
Straight from Fox News: “Amtrak and rail projects in 15 states are being awarded the $2 billion that Florida lost after the governor canceled plans for high-speed train service, the Department of Transportationsaid Monday.
The largest share of the money — nearly $800 million — will be used to upgrade train speeds from 135 mph to 160 mph on critical segments of the heavily traveled Northeast corridor, the department said in a statement..
Another $404 million will go to expand high-speed rail service in the Midwest, including newly constructed segments of 110-mph track between Detroit and Chicago that are expected to save passengers 30 minutes in travel time.
Nearly $340 million will go toward state-of-the-art locomotives and rail cars for California and the Midwest. California will also get another $300 million toward trains that will travel up to 220 mph between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
“These projects will put thousands of Americans to work, save hundreds of thousands of hours for American travelers every year, and boost U.S. manufacturing by investing hundreds of millions of dollars in next-generation, American-made locomotives and rail cars,” Vice President Joseph Biden said in a statement.
President Barack Obama has sought to make creation a national network of high-speed trains a signature project of his administration. He has said he wants to make fast trains accessible to 80 percent of Americans within 25 years.
The money — initially $2.4 billion — had been awarded to Florida for high-speed trains between Tampa and Orlando. After Gov. Rick Scott canceled the project, the Transportation Department invited other states to bid for the funds. It received 90 applications seeking a total of $10 billion.
Scott said he was concerned that the state government would be locked into years of operating subsidies. However, a report by the state’s transportation department forecast the rail line would be profitable. The project initially had been approved by Scott’s predecessor, Republican-turned-Independent Charlie Crist.
Two other Republican governors elected in November have canceled high-speed train projects in their states. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker turned down $810 million to build a Madison-to-Milwaukee high-speed line. Ohio Gov. John Kasich rejected $400 million for a project to connect Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus with slower-moving trains. Both the Ohio and Wisconsin projects had been approved by the governors’ Democratic predecessors.
Republican members of Congress have also opposed funds for high-speed trains, rescinding $400 million of the money previously awarded Florida as well as other unspent money designated for trains in budget deliberations with the administration.”
“In the end, the folks I hear from in letters or meet when I travel across the country, they aren’t asking for much. They’re just looking for a job that covers their bills. They’re looking for a little financial security. They want to know if they work hard and live within their means everything will be alright. They’ll be able to get ahead and give their kids a better life. That’s the dream each of us has for ourselves and our families. So long as I have the privilege of serving as President, I’ll keep fighting to put that dream within the reach of all Americans.” – Barack Obama, Weekly Presidential Address, June 11th, 2011
Straight from Fox News: “The U.S. government has warned domestic and international airlines that some terrorists are considering surgically implanting explosives into humans to carry out attacks, The Associated Press has learned.
There is no intelligence pointing to a specific plot, but the U.S. shared its concerns last week with executives at domestic and international carriers.
People traveling to the U.S. from overseas may experience additional screening at airports because of the threat, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
“These measures are designed to be unpredictable, so passengers should not expect to see the same activity at every international airport,” TSA spokesman Nick Kimball said. “Measures may include interaction with passengers, in addition to the use of other screening methods such as pat-downs and the use of enhanced tools and technologies.”
Placing explosives and explosive components inside humans to hide bombs and evade security measures is not a new idea. But there is new intelligence pointing to a fresh interest in using this tactic, a U.S. security official told the AP. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive security information.
When the U.S. government receives information suggesting terror tactics that could threaten commercial aviation, the TSA alerts companies domestically and abroad. Last December, the U.S. received intelligence that al-Qaida’s Yemen branch was considering hiding explosives inside insulated beverage containers to carry them on airplanes. That warning was shared with domestic and foreign airlines so that security could be on the lookout, even though there was no specific plot.
Airport security has increased markedly since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. But terrorists remain interested in attacking aviation and continue to adapt to the new security measures by trying to develop ways to circumvent them.”
Straight from Fox News: “As NASA’s space shuttle program winds down, President Obama is urging the agency to change its tired, old ways and reach for something bigger…like Mars, or perhaps an asteroid.
The three-decades old program is set for completion after the shuttle Atlantis takes off on its final mission Friday; dependent, as always, on the weather. With the program’s departure, so goes some 7,000 Kennedy Space Center jobs.
Mr. Obama told participants in a Twitter town hall at the White House Thursday that he’s got much more in mind for the space agency.
“[W]e’ve set a goal to– let’s ultimately get to Mars,” the president said. “A good pit stop is an asteroid. I haven’t actually — we haven’t identified the actual asteroid yet, in case people are wondering,” he added to laughter.
The president’s mission to Mars idea isn’t new– he unveiled it last year– but the timing of the Twitter question couldn’t be more relevant.
“Now that the space shuttle is gone, where does America stand in space exploration?” the president was asked.
The president said he’s been urging NASA to re-think its way of doing things.
“We’re still using the same models for space travel that we used with the Apollo program 30, 40 years ago. And so what we’ve said is, rather than keep on doing the same thing, let’s invest in basic research around new technologies that can get us places faster, allow human space flight to last longer,” he said.
The future of low-orbit space travel is expected to fall to private companies and U.S. astronauts may have to hitch a ride on Russian capsules, but those ventures have become routine, Mr. Obama said, and he urged NASA to broaden its horizons.
Still, the president indicated it’s important not to underestimate America’s stature in the final frontier, telling the town hall, “We are still a leader in space exploration.”"
Straight from Fox News: “First moonwalker Neil Armstrong, first American in orbit John Glenn, Mission Control founder Chris Kraft, Apollo 13 commander Jim Lovell, first shuttle pilot Robert Crippen and others are pushing for a last minute reprieve for the about-to-be-retired space shuttle fleet. They’re even urging a delay of Friday’s final launch.
They may get a delay of a day or two because of bad weather. But the NASA veterans are looking for a pause of more than a year, until more shuttle parts are ready to keep flying and extend the 30-year program.
Back in June, as Atlantis headed to the launch pad, launch director Mike Leinbach on a live audio loop groused to his fellow workers “we’re all victims of poor policy out of Washington, D.C.,” for not having a new mission for the post-shuttle era.
Glenn, who returned to space at the age of 77 by flying on the shuttle Discovery in 1998, said: “I told the president, ‘We’re violating one of NASA’s critical design criteria.”‘
That means there must be a backup system for getting into space and bringing astronauts home from the International Space Station.
Armstrong, Kraft and Lovell sent a letter June 30 to President Barack Obama and NASA chief Charles Bolden asking that they keep shuttles flying and delay this final launch. Glenn, who wasn’t involved in the letter campaign, is also calling it a mistake to end the space shuttle program — planned since 2004.
Kraft said he considered a backup crucial as he ran Mission Control or oversaw the people who did — missions from the Mercury days of the 1960s through early space shuttle days. He said it is still possible at this late date to put Atlantis’ final mission on hold while NASA builds new external fuel tanks and boosters for future shuttle flights — a process that would delay the launch about 18 months.
“It’s a generational thing. It’s a culture thing and mostly it’s a political thing,” said Kraft, 87. Nearly all the signees of the letter are in their 70s and 80s. Glenn, who didn’t sign the letter, will turn 90 this month.
It’s a fight Kraft has waged for at least three years, pulling in Armstrong, 80, and others. Armstrong, in an email to The Associated Press, wrote: “Chris is an exceptional engineer and manager who has always been reliable in the many cases where he held the success or failure of American human space flight in his hands.” He wrote that if Kraft thinks this is too risky a plan, “I can readily accept that.”
For his part, NASA Administrator Bolden, a former shuttle commander, defended the shuttle retirentury approach: “This is a century with new challenges and also new opportunities.”
Scott Parazynski, a 49-year-old former astronaut who heads the educational center created by Challenger families, said in an email that he agrees with Kraft that NASA shouldn’t be left without a backup to the Soyuz, but disagrees with the idea of delaying the shuttle retirement.
“The cards have been dealt, and even though we may not all like the cards we’ve gotten, we’ve got to play,” Parazynski wrote. “I see a path forward that gives American industry (new enterprise as well as established aerospace) and NASA a bright future.”
The American public apparently wants the U.S. to continue to be a space leader. According to a poll by the Pew Research Center released Tuesday, 58 percent of Americans think it’s essential the nation continue as a leader in space.
For his part, Glenn said he doesn’t disagree with Obama’s plans, although he said he believes private spaceflight will take years longer than Bolden predicts. What Glenn objects to is the gap between the shuttle and a future spacecraft. While the Soyuz is reliable, Glenn said NASA should always want an alternative in case of a “hiccup” in the Soyuz plans.
“I think we should be keeping the shuttle going,” Glenn said. “It’s the most complicated vehicle ever put together by people.”"
Straight from Fox News: “Lawmakers working on next year’s federal finances have taken the ax to the James Webb Space Telescope.
That’s right, NASA’s next-generation space telescope, the successor to Hubble and the space agency’s biggest post-shuttle project, may be killed.
To be clear, there are many more steps in the budget process before this is final — lawmakers are working on next year’s budget despite a stalemate between the White House and Republican leadership, so a lot could change in the next couple weeks. And odds are decent that at least some lawmakers will fight to preserve this enormous technological marvel (and the jobs associated with its construction). But this is not good news for astronomy, to put it mildly.
The House Appropriations Committee released its 2012 Commerce, Justice and Science funding bill today, ahead of a scheduled committee markup Thursday. The bill provides $50.2 billion overall for the nation’s projects in those three areas, which is $7.4 billion less than President Obama’s budget request. NASA’s budget is slashed by $1.6 billion, which is $1.9 billion less than Obama wanted. About $1 billion of that comes from the end of the shuttle program, and NASA Science funding is cut by $431 million from last year.
“The bill also terminates funding for the James Webb Space Telescope, which is billions of dollars over budget and plagued by poor management,” an Appropriations Committee press release says flatly.
While management problems are a little more subjective, the telescope is indeed massively over budget, as we’ve told you before. In November, a congressional panel described the telescope as “NASA’s Hurricane Katrina,” because of its destructive toll on other agency projects. That review found the telescope’s price tag had mushroomed to $6.5 billion and that it would not be ready until at least 2015. Then, just last week, the watchdog site NASA Watch obtained a memo from Goddard Space Flight Center describing that it may not launch until after 2018 — even that is “unfeasible,” the report said.
But that earlier report, last November, also pointed out a key fact: “The funds invested to date have not been wasted.” The JWST has enabled several engineering feats, from brand-new metal compounds to a huge space umbrella that will shield it from the sun. The umbrella will unfurl in space along with an enormous 18-piece primary mirror made of material that is supposed to warp in frigid temperatures. Astronomers say the JWST will provide unprecedented imagery of the deepest corners of the cosmos.
This bombshell is not the only piece of bad news for the scientific community. The National Science Foundation is also losing funding, set to receive $907 million less than Obama requested as part of his campaign to “Win the Future.” The NSF will get a modest $43 million for core research, Politico reports. Aside from that, NOAA is down $1 billion. The Environmental Protection Agency is down $1.5 billion, about 18 percent.
Pentagon spending would grow by $17 billion in 2012, on the other hand.
Again, this is all far from over, and plenty of fiscal feuding remains before we can write the JWST’s obituary. But with a budget debate raging in Washington — and, many economists say, the specter of a new economic crisis looming — future space telescopes could be a low priority.”
“The last nail is being driven into the coffin of the American Republic. Yet, Congress remains in total denial as our liberties are rapidly fading before our eyes. The process is propelled by unwarranted fear and ignorance as to the true meaning of liberty. It is driven by economic myths, fallacies and irrational good intentions. The rule of law is constantly rejected and authoritarian answers are offered as panaceas for all our problems. Runaway welfarism is used to benefit the rich at the expense of the middle class. Who would have ever thought that the current generation and Congress would stand idly by and watch such a rapid disintegration of the American Republic? Characteristic of this epic event is the casual acceptance by the people and political leaders of the unitary presidency, which is equivalent to granting dictatorial powers to the President. Our Presidents can now, on their own:
1. Order assassinations, including American citizens,
2. Operate secret military tribunals,
3. Engage in torture,
4. Enforce indefinite imprisonment without due process,
5. Order searches and seizures without proper warrants, gutting the 4th Amendment,
6. Ignore the 60 day rule for reporting to the Congress the nature of any military operations as required by the War Power Resolution,
7. Continue the Patriot Act abuses without oversight,
8. Wage war at will,
9. Treat all Americans as suspected terrorists at airports with TSA groping and nude x-raying.
And the Federal Reserve accommodates by counterfeiting the funds needed and not paid for by taxation and borrowing, permitting runaway spending, endless debt, and special interest bail-outs.
And all of this is not enough. The abuses and usurpations of the war power are soon to be codified in the National Defense Authorization Act now rapidly moving its way through the Congress. Instead of repealing the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), as we should, now that bin Laden is dead and gone, Congress is planning to massively increase the war power of the President. Though an opportunity presents itself to end the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, Congress, with bipartisan support, obsesses on how to expand the unconstitutional war power the President already holds. The current proposal would allow a President to pursue war any time, any place, for any reason, without Congressional approval. Many believe this would even permit military activity against American suspects here at home. The proposed authority does not reference the 9/11 attacks. It would be expanded to include the Taliban and “associated” forces—a dangerously vague and expansive definition of our potential enemies. There is no denial that the changes in s.1034 totally eliminate the hard-fought-for restraint on Presidential authority to go to war without Congressional approval achieved at the Constitutional Convention. Congress’ war authority has been severely undermined since World War II beginning with the advent of the Korean War which was fought solely under a UN Resolution. Even today, we’re waging war in Libya without even consulting with the Congress, similar to how we went to war in Bosnia in the 1990s under President Clinton. The three major reasons for our Constitutional Convention were to:
1. Guarantee free trade and travel among the states.
2. Make gold and silver legal tender and abolish paper money.
3. Strictly limit the Executive Branch’s authority to pursue war without Congressional approval.
1. Federal Reserve notes are legal tender, gold and silver are illegal.
2. The Interstate Commerce Clause is used to regulate all commerce at the expense of free trade among the states.
3. And now the final nail is placed in the coffin of Congressional responsibility for the war power, delivering this power completely to the President—a sharp and huge blow to the concept of our Republic.
In my view, it appears that the fate of the American Republic is now sealed—unless these recent trends are quickly reversed.
The saddest part of this tragedy is that all these horrible changes are being done in the name of patriotism and protecting freedom. They are justified by good intentions while believing the sacrifice of liberty is required for our safety. Nothing could be further from the truth.
More sadly is the conviction that our enemies are driven to attack us for our freedoms and prosperity, and not because of our deeply flawed foreign policy that has generated justifiable grievances and has inspired the radical violence against us. Without this understanding our endless, unnamed, and undeclared wars will continue and our wonderful experience with liberty will end.” – Ron Paul, Speech to the House, May 25th, 2011
Straight from Astronomy Picture of the Day: “Explanation: In the final move of its kind, NASA’s space shuttle Atlantis was photographed earlier this month slowly advancing toward Launch Pad 39A, where it is currently scheduled for a July launch to the International Space Station. The mission, designated STS-135, is the 135th and last mission for a NASA space shuttle. Atlantis and its four-person crew will be carrying, among other things, the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module Raffaello to bring key components and supplies to the ISS. Pictured above, the large Shuttle Crawler Transporter rolls the powerful orbiter along the five-kilometer long road at less than two kilometers per hour. Over 15,000 spectators, some visible on the right, were on hand for the historic roll out.”
Straight from Slashdot: “Not satisfied with the legal conclusion of the DOJ, the Obama administration found other in-house lawyers willing to declare a bomb dropped from a drone is not ‘hostile’. The strange conclusion has big implications in determining the President’s compliance with the law. If drone strikes are in fact hostile and the Libyan campaign continues past Sunday, he may very well be breaking the law.”
User guspasho comments on the Slashdot story: “I voted for Obama because he said he would end the presidential lawlessness, end the wars, end the abuse of “state secrets” to block justice through the courts, close Guantanamo Bay and end the 4th and 5th Amendment violations that it represented, and protect whistleblowers. But since he was elected he has done the exact opposite, attempting to assassinate US citizens simply by declaring them enemies of the state with no process whatsoever, escalating the wars and even claiming the power to start more wars without consulting Congress, increased the abuse of state secrets to even prevent cases from being heard, refused to do anything about Guantanamo Bay and even opened up the greater black hole at Bagram, prosecuting whistleblowers to a far greater extent than any previous president ever did, and trying to prosecute Wikileaks under the Espionage Act. All of this is the exact opposite of what he said he would do when we elected him.
The only power citizens have to punish presidential lawlessness is to refuse to reelect them, and when possible, elect the candidate who says they will undo the lawless behavior. And when the country did that, the guy we elected broke every one of his election promises and proved to be much, much worse. And Congress, as well as both parties, have proven to be enthusiastic supporters of all of this. Senator Russ Feingold, the only one who really cared about the rule of law, lost reelection last year. When both parties support government lawlessness, in Congress and the White House, when we elect those who promise to stop it and they turn around and expand upon that lawlessness instead, what option do we have?
The precedent, I’m afraid, has already been set. Nobody who matters supports the rule of law any more; not Congress, and not the courts, nor the mass media, who are all too deferential to presidential power to want to do anything about it, not the parties who both want that power for themselves when they win the White House, and certainly not the executive who reaps the benefits. That sort of unanimity among the branches of government is what establishes precedent for a very long time, generations if not indefinitely.”
Straight from the BBC: “Barack Obama overruled the advice of administration lawyers in deciding the US could continue participating in the Libya conflict without congressional approval, The New York Times reports.
The White House insists the president did not need congressional approval to authorise US support for Nato’s mission, because the military campaign is limited in scope.
Critics argue the action violates a Vietnam War-era law limiting military action without congressional approval to 60 days.
The newspaper report said Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson and acting head of the justice department’s Office of Legal Counsel Caroline Krass had advised Mr Obama that the US involvement in the Libya air campaign constituted “hostilities”.
But the US president opted to follow the advice of White House counsel Robert Bauer and state department legal adviser Harold Koh, who argued the US involvement fell short of “hostilities”, the paper said.
US presidents can override the legal conclusions of the Office of Legal Counsel, but it is very rare for that to happen, analysts say.
The War Powers Resolution of 1973 states Congress must authorise participation in hostilities longer than 60 days, although the president can seek a 30-day extension.
Members of Congress have accused Mr Obama of violating that law since 20 May, when the 60-day deadline ended. Sunday marks 90 days since the US joined the Nato-led no-fly zone mission over Libya.
In a 32-page document delivered to Congress this week, the White House said that US forces involved in the Nato campaign were merely playing a supporting role.
That role, it said, did not match the definition of “hostilities” as described under the War Powers Resolution of 1973.
“US military operations are distinct from the kind of ‘hostilities’ contemplated by the resolution’s 60-day termination provision,” it said.
White House spokesman Eric Schultz said the law in question had been the subject of fierce debate.
There was a “robust process through which the president received the advice he relied on in determining the application” of the War Powers Resolution, said Mr Schultz on Thursday.
“It should come as no surprise that there would be some disagreements, even within an administration, regarding the application of a statute that is nearly 40 years old to a unique and evolving conflict. Those disagreements are ordinary and healthy,” he added.
The revelation that key administration officials had wrangled over the legal implications of the Libya crisis could intensify anger in Congress over continued US participation in the conflict that is said to be costing the US some $10m a day, correspondents say.
On Thursday, John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives said: “The White House says there are no hostilities taking place. Yet we’ve got drone attacks under way.
“We’re spending $10 million a day. We’re part of an effort to drop bombs on Gaddafi’s compounds. It just doesn’t pass the straight-face test, in my view, that we’re not in the midst of hostilities.”
Libya is expected to be among the issues Mr Boehner and Mr Obama will discuss this weekend as they play a round of golf at an undisclosed location.
The US role in Libya involves helping Nato aircraft with refuelling operations and assisting with intelligence-gathering, said the White House.
The Obama administration insists that the US is not engaged in sustained fighting or “active exchanges of fire with hostile forces” that put US troops at risk.
Under the US constitution, the power to declare war lies with Congress.
A bipartisan group of US lawmakers is suing Mr Obama in federal court for taking military action in Libya without authorisation from Congress.
The lawsuit alleges the president has violated the US constitution by bypassing Congress.”
Straight from Fox News: “Thirty percent of employers will definitely or probably stop offering health benefits to their employees once the main provisions of President Obama’s federal health care law go into effect in 2014, a new survey finds.
The research published in the McKinsey Quarterly found that the number rises to 50 percent among employers who are highly aware of the health care law.
McKinsey and Company, which identifies itself as a management consultant that aims to help businesses run more productively and competitively, conducted the survey of more than 1,300 employers earlier this year. It said the survey spanned industries, geographies and employer sizes.
But the White House pushed back against the report.
“This report is at odds with the experts from the Congressional Budget Office, the Rand Corporation, the Urban Institute and history,” a senior administration official told Fox News. “History has shown that reform motivates more businesses to offer insurance.”
“Health reform in Massachusetts uses a similar structure, with an exchange, a personal responsibility requirement and an employer responsibility requirement,” the official said. “And the number of individuals with employer-sponsored insurance in Massachusetts has increased.”
According to the survey, at least 30 percent of employers would reap financial gain from dropping coverage even if they compensated employees for the change through other benefit offerings or higher salaries.
The research notes among the new provisions that could spur employers to drop coverage is a requirement of all employers with more than 50 employees to offer health benefits to every full-timer or pay a penalty of $2,000 per worker. Those benefits must also be equal between highly compensated executives and hourly employees – requirements that will increase medical costs for many companies.
The findings are distinct from a Congressional Budget Office estimate that only about 7 percent of employees who currently get health coverage through their jobs would have to switch to subsidized-exchange polices in 2014.
The group said its variance is so wide because shifting away from employer-sponsored insurance “will be economically rational” given the “law’s incentives.” The law requires employers to make insurance available to low-income or part-time employees that may not otherwise be covered.
The research found that contrary to what many employers feared, most employees — more than 85 percent — would stay at jobs that no longer offered health benefits. But 60 percent of employees would expect higher compensation.
Straight from Fox News: “The White House responded Wednesday to a congressional outcry over U.S. military action in Libya, saying that President Obama has the authority to continue the campaign even without authorization from U.S. lawmakers.
In a detailed, 30-page report sent to Congress, the administration argued that the U.S. has a limited, support role in the NATO-led bombing campaign in Libya. Because U.S. forces are not engaged in sustained fighting and there are no troops on the ground there, the White House says the president is within his U.S. constitutional rights to direct the mission on his own.
The White House said that the mission has cost the U.S. $800 million as of early June and estimated that a total of $1.1 billion will be spent through the beginning of September.
The administration’s defense of the Libya mission came in response to a non-binding House resolution passed earlier this month that chastised Obama for failing to provide a “compelling rationale” for U.S. involvement in Libya. A bipartisan group of lawmakers also filed a federal lawsuit.
The resolution gave the administration until Friday to respond to a series of questions on the mission, including the scope of U.S. military activity, the cost of the mission, and its impact on other U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The report for lawmakers marks the first time administration officials have publically explained why they believe the president can keep U.S. forces involved in the Libya mission without violating the War Powers Resolution. That measure prohibits the military from being involved in actions for more than 60 days without congressional authorization, plus a 30-day extension.
Obama did not seek congressional consent for U.S. airstrikes against Muammar al-Qaddafi’s forces, and House Speaker John Boehner sent Obama a letter this week stating that the 90-day window runs out on Sunday.
Boehner, however wasn’t satisfied with the report.
“The creative arguments made by the White House raise a number of questions that must be further explored,” Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said in a statement.
“Regardless, the commander in chief has a responsibility to articulate how U.S. military action is vital to our national security and consistent with American policy goals,” he said. “With Libya, the president has fallen short on this obligation.”
Senior administration officials previewing the report Wednesday said U.S. forces are not involved in the kind of “hostilities” for which the War Powers Resolution says the commander in chief must get congressional approval.
While the U.S. led the initial airstrikes on Libya, NATO forces have since taken over the mission, which is in its third month. However, the U.S still plays a significant support role that includes aerial refueling of warplanes and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance work.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president expects congressional support for the Libya campaign will continue. With Qaddafi under pressure to leave power, he said now is not the time to send “mixed messages” about U.S. commitment to the campaign.
However, a group of 10 Republican and Democratic lawmakers sued Obama Wednesday for taking military action against Libya without war authorization from Congress. The lawmakers said Obama violated the Constitution in bypassing Congress and using international organizations like the United Nations and NATO to authorize military force.”
Straight from the Los Angeles Times: “Calling the U.S. military operation in Libya “limited,” the White House says that congressional authorization is not required to continue involvement in the coalition effort there.
That determination was explained in a 30-page memo sent to Capitol Hill on Wednesday, just shy of the 90th day of the engagement of U.S. assets in the Libya campaign.
Lawmakers have become increasingly uneasy over the administration’s interactions with Congress about the scope and duration of U.S. involvement in the NATO-led mission.
The House passed a resolution this month demanding a report from the White House on the military operation. A bipartisan majority in the House agreed this week to withhold funds for any military operation that does not comply with the War Powers Act, although the measure is unlikely to survive in the Senate.
House Speaker John A. Boehner sent the White House a letter this week saying the administration would be in violation of the War Powers Act on Sunday.
The White House says otherwise.
“Given the important U.S. interests served by U.S. military operations in Libya and the limited nature, scope and duration of the anticipated actions, the president had constitutional authority, as commander in chief and chief executive and pursuant to his foreign affairs powers, to direct such limited military operations abroad,” the memo states.
“The president is of the view that the current U.S. military operations in Libya are consistent with the War Powers Resolution and do not under that law require further congressional authorization, because U.S. military operations are distinct from the kind of ‘hostilities’ contemplated by the resolution’s 60 day termination provision,” it continues.
The memo also documents what it describes as “extensive” consultations with the legislative branch, including testimony at 10 hearings, participation in 30 briefings with lawmakers and staff, and dozens of calls and emails with individual members.
In its initial response to the memo, Boehner’s office said President Obama had “fallen short” of his obligation to properly explain the U.S. involvement.
“We will review the information that was provided today, but hope and expect that this will serve as the beginning, not the end, of the president’s explanation for continued American operations in Libya,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for the Ohio Republican.”
Straight from Fox News: “A new report by iWatch claims the Obama administration gave 200 of its biggest campaign donors key assignments within the government or granted their business interests with federal contracts.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was pressed about the issue at the White House briefing Wednesday and said that giving money doesn’t qualify someone for a post, but also doesn’t disqualify them and that decisions were based on merit.
“You asked me about supporters of the president who may have been donors who have gotten positions and I would point out to the fact that the people who got those positions got then because of their credentials. They also happen to be donors in some cases. There are obviously numerous and far many more cases of people who weren’t donors who were appointed the jobs,” Carney said.
Some are charging that the new report is at odds with President Obama’s claims on the campaign trail that he would bring a new kind of government to Washington and not cater to special interests.
“They write the checks and you get stuck with the bill,” Obama said of “cynics, lobbyists and special interests” when he announced his candidacy in February of 2007. “They get the access while you get to write a letter. They think they own this government. But we’re here today to take it back.”
“The time for that kind of politics is over,” Obama added. “It is through. It’s time to turn the page right here and right now.”
Carney Wednesday stated that the administration has held the highest ethical standards and has had bold transparency.
“[O]ur ethical standards are unmatched by any previous administration,” Carney said at the White House press briefing. “Our efforts at transparency are unprecedented. And that’s not just me saying it, it is outside groups who have said that. So I think that the fact that individuals who have been appointed also supported the President is hardly a story.”
The investigation revealed that the donors, or so-called “bundlers” were able to raise $50,000 to more $500,000 for Obama’s 2008 bid, and of course that the White House wants them back on board for 2012.
iWatch notes the example of Donald. H. Gips, telecom executive of Level 3 Communications LLC who gave more than half a million dollars to the Obama campaign along with two fellow execs who gave at least $150,000.
After the 2008 Obama win, Gips got the gig of hiring for the administration, and was later named the ambassador to South Africa.Level 3 also was able to nab $13.8 million in stimulus money. iWatch reports that Gips had stock in Level 3, but claimed he was completely unaware of the stimulus money.
The report also stated that some donors didn’t expect anything in return, quoting a hotel CEO Stewart Bainum who got invited to the White House St. Patrick’s Day party.
The iWatch investigation also concluded that 184 of 556 of the bundlers or their spouses joined the Obama administration and it bumps up even higher to 80 percent for the big-money givers. They conclude that more than half of the ambassador nominees raised more than $500,000.
Donors with connections to clean energy and telecommunications companies, which are part of the president’s economic agenda, also seemed to benefit from giving cash the report says.
iWatch is part of the Center for Public Integrity, a non-profit group that looks to do investigative journalism. Their report comes on the heels of a New York Times report earlier this week that stated the president hosted Wall Street execs at the White House before he announced his re-election campaign and that the execs also happened to be big donors. Former President Bill Clinton was similarly criticized for hosting coffees with donors in the White House Map Room.
On Tuesday, Carney defended the meeting saying it was not a fundraiser and just because the president meetings with supporters to get ideas on the economy is not that ground-breaking and that the meetings are something presidents from both parties have done.
In addition to that, The HuffingtonPost obtained a memo earlier this week detailing a strategy of retaining donors by encouraging the White House to give them a sense of access and that they were being heard.
The press secretary also stated himself as an example for someone who hadn’t given a lot of money, but still has a job with the administration.
In addition to getting government jobs, the iWatch report states that donors also nabbed key invites for social events and meetings at the White House. The White House visitor logs revealed 800 bundler visits and that Obama met with at least two dozen of them privately or in person, states iWatch.”
Straight from Fox News: “Rep. Barney Frank says there was no conflict of interest in him helping his former lover secure a job with Fannie Mae 20 years ago while he was on the committee charged with overseeing the lending giant.
“It is a common thing in Washington for members of Congress to have spouses work for the federal government,” Frank told the Boston Herald Wednesday night. “There is no rule against it at all.”
Frank explained to the newspaper that he helped his ex-companion, Herb Moses, get a job at Fannie Mae in 1991 when one of its executives approached him about Moses, who had graduated with a master’s degree in business administration from Dartmouth College and had applied for a job at the mortgage company.
Frank, who was a junior member of the House Financial Services Committee at the time, said he told the executive that he thought Moses would be “great” for the “entry-level position.”
When asked if he should have revealed his efforts to help Moses, Frank told the newspaper, “It was widely known. It was out there in the public. It’s nonsense.”
But Republicans have a different view.
“Just when you think you’ve heard the worst, Democrats in Massachusetts take shameless politics to a new low,” said Tory Mazzola, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “The fact that Barney Frank didn’t see this as a conflict of interest is alarming by itself, but it’s so deceitful that it really shows voters that he’s not looking out for them in Washington.”"
Straight from Fox News: “The public policy and legal fight over the legitimacy of President Obama’s historic 2010 health care overhaul took sharp focus in an ornate federal courtroom in Atlanta on Wednesday with two-and-a-half hours of arguments that may ultimately serve as a preview of what’s to come at the Supreme Court.
The Obama administration was faced with the difficult task of convincing at least two of the three federal judges hearing an appeal to overturn a January ruling invalidating the entire heath care law.
“Clearly, we believe the most difficult issue in the case is the individual mandate,” Eleventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Joel Dubina announced at the outset. Indeed, most of the argument time focused on whether the law’s requirement for nearly all Americans to purchase health insurance is constitutional.
Dubina also noted that part of the difficulty of determining the legal viability of the Affordable Care Act is that the Supreme Court has never issued a ruling on the application of the Commerce Clause that directly matches up with what Congress passed last year.
“If we uphold the individual mandate in this case, are there any limits on Congress’s power left?” Dubina asked.
Judge Frank Hull later asked whether Congress could pass a similar law which could require Americans to buy certain types of cars or solar panels to comply with federal energy policy. Her question encapsulated the fear shared by many: that if the law is upheld it will open the door to unprecedented federal intervention in people’s lives.
But, Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal said, “Absolutely not.”
The Obama administration’s chief legal advocate defended the law and said there is no chance for a slippery slope towards increased government regulation. He vigorously argued the law’s propriety and purpose: to make sure uninsured Americans have coverage and that insurance companies offer broader protections.
Judge Stanley Marcus offered his own hypothetical scenario, trying to find out if the government could force Americans to buy a coverage plan for long-term health care. Again, Katyal said that was a step too far from what Congress could do.
The law’s opponents already believe Washington lawmakers went too far in passing the legislation. “If you give Congress the power to regulate people who are not in the relevant market, then you’ve given them the power to literally regulate anything,” warned lawyer Michael Carvin, representing the National Federation of Independent Business, the plaintiffs in the case.
Katyal didn’t take well to his naysayers arguments saying “[T]heir solution is to ban the uninsured from the hospitals and leave bleeding victims, trauma victims and pregnant women at the door.”
For many, the fundamental debate is whether the Commerce Clause, which allows the feds to regulate interstate economic commerce, also allows the government to force people who don’t have health insurance to buy coverage or pay a penalty. In short, it’s a question over whether not having health insurance is an ‘activity’ and whether the government can regulate that decision.
“I would say that sitting in your living room and making an economic decision not to engage in the activity of purchasing health insurance cannot under plain English be economic activity,” said Carvin.
The other key plaintiffs in the case are the 26 states that sued to stop the law from taking effect. They were represented by Bush administration-era Solicitor General Paul Clement. “[The government has] a lot of authority to regulate health insurers and a lot of authority to regulate people who voluntarily purchase health insurance,” Clement said to a question from Judge Marcus. “But I would submit they don’t have the authority to compel people to engage in the transaction.”
At the end of the case, Hull hit upon another controversial matter over the penalty that’s imposed on people who don’t buy insurance. She noted with some derision the government’s enforcement mechanism for collecting fines: essentially trusting that people who don’t comply with the law will tell the truth on their tax returns.
“How is that penalty even more collectible in any way than an unpaid medical bill?” Hull asked.
Five of the plaintiff states’ attorneys general attended the arguments and added another spin on that issue, with Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott telling the media the administration was levying a new tax on Americans; one it never revealed during the health care debate.
The judges also spent time examining whether the individual mandate can be separated from other provisions and if expanding the umbrella of Medicaid eligibility puts too much of a burden on the states.
The judges aren’t expected to issue an opinion until summer’s end. Before departing the courtroom, Judge Dubina offered this prediction about the case ultimately ending up at the Supreme Court, “I doubt this is the last time we’ll be arguing this case.””
Straight from the Debka File: “Combat in Libya is winding down. debkafile’s exclusive military sources report that Muammar Qaddafi and the rebel commanders are close to concluding a series of accords for ending the war after two weeks of secret talks. Meanwhile, as NATO warplanes continued to pound Tripoli Wednesday night, May 25, fighting on the ground receded to small pockets where a few rebel commanders are still holding out. However the primary battlefields of Misrata, Brega and Ajdabia have fallen silent as the ceasefire begins to take hold.
The talks led by Qaddafi’s chief of intelligence Abdullah Sanousi made enough progress this week for both sides to agree to go public on the call for a ceasefire. This prompted Libyan Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi to send a letter to world leaders proposing an immediate UN-monitored ceasefire. He said Qaddafi’s regime is ready to enter into unconditional talks with rebels, declare an amnesty for both sides, draft a new constitution and create a different form of government. But first the fighting must stop. He made no mention of any plans for Qaddafi to quit.
Our sources report that the text of the prime minister’s letter was taken from the draft accords already covered by government and rebel negotiators.
In London, US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed after they met Wednesday that Qaddafi should step down and leave Libya but they also admitted that to achieve this objective the fighting would be drawn out. “We may have to be more patient than people would like,” said Obama. Neither ruled out a possible ceasefire.
Meanwhile, NATO continues to bomb often empty buildings in Tripoli still hoping to kill the Libyan ruler and so cut the war short with a victory. This week, too, alliance bombers targeted Nalyut 230 kilometers west of Tripoli in the Nafussa Mountains where debkafile reports Berber tribes are fighting a secessionist war against Qaddafi unrelated to the Benghazi revolt.
According to our military sources, the rebel commanders decided to go for a deal with Qaddafi when they saw the Obama administration had no intention of contributing anything further to war and without the US, NATO would never defeat him. Negotiating for terms for ending the war looked like the better option.”
Straight from the New York Times: “Two senators claimed on Thursday that the Justice Department had secretly interpreted the so-called Patriot Act in a twisted way, enabling domestic surveillance activities that many members of Congress do not understand.
At the same time, Congress and the White House were rushing to enact legislation to prevent a lapse in several of the federal government’s investigative powers under the Patriot Act that were set to expire at midnight. The Senate passed the bill 72 to 23 late in the afternoon, and within hours the House approved it 250 to 153. In an unusual move, a White House spokesman said that President Obama, who was in Europe, would “direct the use” of an autopen machine to sign the bill into law without delay.
During the debate, Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and a member of the Intelligence Committee, said that the executive branch had come up with a secret legal theory about what it could collect under a provision of the Patriot Act that did not seem to dovetail with a plain reading of the text. “I want to deliver a warning this afternoon: When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they will be stunned and they will be angry,” Mr. Wyden said. He invoked the public’s reaction to the illegal domestic spying that came to light in the mid-1970s, the Iran-contra affair, and the Bush administration’s program of surveillance without warrants.
Another member of the Intelligence Committee, Senator Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado, backed Mr. Wyden’s account, saying, “Americans would be alarmed if they knew how this law is being carried out.”
The Obama administration declined to explain what the senators were talking about. Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesman, said that Congressional oversight committees and a special panel of national security judges — known as the FISA Court — were aware of how the executive branch was interpreting and using surveillance laws.
“These authorities are also subject to extensive oversight from the FISA Court, from Congress, from the executive branch,” Mr. Boyd said.
Mr. Wyden has long denounced the idea of “secret law” — classified memorandums and rulings about the meaning of surveillance law developed by executive branch officials and the FISA Court. He and Mr. Udall had proposed requiring the Justice Department to make public its official interpretation of what the Patriot Act means. The chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, agreed to hold a hearing on their concerns next month.
The two had also sponsored a proposal to tighten the circumstances in which one of the expiring provisions, known as Section 215, could be used. It allows the F.B.I. to obtain “any tangible things” — like business records about customers.
Mr. Udall criticized Section 215, saying it lets the government get private information about people without a link to a terrorism or espionage inquiry.
In a 2009 debate over the Patriot Act, another member of the Intelligence Committee, Russell Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, also hinted that Section 215 was being used in a secret way that, he said, “Congress and the American people deserve to know” about. He was defeated for re-election in 2010.
The business records section of the Patriot Act had been set to expire, along with provisions allowing the F.B.I. to obtain “roving” wiretap orders to follow suspects who change phone numbers, and to obtain national security wiretaps against noncitizen terrorism suspects who are not connected to any foreign power.
Congressional leaders had agreed to extend the provisions before they expired. But Senator Rand Paul, a libertarian-leaning Republican from Kentucky, initially blocked an expedited vote on the bill because he wanted Senate leaders to allow a vote on several amendments. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, allowed votes on two Paul amendments, which would have offered greater privacy protections for records involving gun sales and banking.”