Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Democrat, A Union, And Myriad Businesses See Chaos In Obamacare

The Daily Reckonong ^ | 6-19-2013

Perhaps the question is no longer if Obamacare will wreak havoc on the American economy.
Instead, the query seems to have morphed into something far more dire and prophetic: Just how much chaos will the law inflict upon the American people, businesses, and the economy?
Many wonder, too, if the law will actually improve the country’s health care system.
The law is having a rough spring, with criticism coming from its own architect, job creators worried about health care mandates, and science itself.
Formally known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Obamacare should be fully phased in by Jan. 1, 2014. As the date creeps up on the federal government, some, including the point man behind the law, grow nervous about implementation.
Baucus predicts a “train wreck” if HHS botches Obamacare implementation.
“I just see a huge train wreck coming down,” Montana Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, the politico who spearheaded the reform effort, told Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at an April 17 hearing.
The now-retiring Baucus expressed grave fears that HHS isn’t adequately prepared to administer the complex law.
Republicans quickly pounced on the Democrat’s words, saying his admission is an early sign of the law’s failure. Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, of Nevada, affirmed Baucus’ position two weeks later, warning that the federal government must have adequate resources to set up the law and educate the public about its benefits.
Any taxpayer-funded public relations push would have to perform mightily to match the negative anti-Obamacare vibes spilling out of America’s private sector. Job creators routinely forecast dire effects they believe the law will have on hiring.

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

Why It Matters that Obama’s Approval Rating Is Falling

The Monkey Cage ^ | 06/19/2013 | JOHN SIDES

Despite ridiculous hype about a recent CNN poll that showed an exaggerated 8-point drop in Obama’s approval rating, there’s no doubt that his approval rating is about 4 points lower than it was in January 2013. There’s lots of speculation as to why—see, e.g., Nate Silver. But I want to say why it matters. Justin Wolfers, for one, is dubious. And a journalist also emailed me on this subject today. [Update: That journalist was John Dickerson. See his piece here.]
The decline matters for three reasons.
First, it matters for the 2014 election. A simple model of House election outcomes constructed by political scientist Gary Jacobson shows that the share of seats controlled by the president’s party depends in part on presidential approval. You can see some discussion of that in Jacobson’s post-mortem on the 2010 election. Obviously, other factors matter too. But a less popular president certainly provides headwinds for Democratic candidates.
Second, it matters for the 2016 election. Of course, that’s a long way away, and a lot can happen between now and then. But again, simple forecasting models show that, controlling for other factors, the incumbent party does better when the incumbent president is popular. (See, for example, what Lynn Vavreck and I report in Chapter 2 of The Gamble.) Approval appears to matter more when the incumbent president is running for reelection, but it still appears to matter even when that president is not running. Let’s quantify that. I estimated a model of presidential election outcomes from 1948-2012 that included change in gross domestic product over the first two quarters of the election year, presidential approval as of June of the election year, an indicator for whether the incumbent is running, and the interaction of approval and incumbency. This model suggests that when the incumbent is not running, a 7-point drop in approval is associated with a 1-point drop in the incumbent party candidate’s share of the major-party vote. If I were Hillary Clinton or any other Democratic hopeful, I’d want Obama to be as popular as possible when he leaves office. And if I were Obama and I wanted the legislative achievements of my presidency to last, I’d want a Democrat to win in 2016.
Third, it matters for whether the President gets what he wants from Congress—with some caveats. Here’s a sense of some of the scholarly literature on the relationship between presidential approval and legislative success. One question is whether Congress simply passes legislation that the president supports. In one study (gated) of 208 roll call votes in the House between 1989-2000, political scientists Brandice Canes-Wrone and Scott de Marchi found the House was more likely to do what the president wanted when the president was more popular. This effect was only significant among legislation that was both salient (mentioned a lot in news coverage) and somewhat complex (focusing on regulatory matters in particular). But, of course, that’s exactly the kind of legislation—e.g., immigration, gun control—that Obama would like to sign right now.
Another question is whether the legislation that passes is actually substantively close to what the president wanted. That is, the president may support legislation as long as it is closer to his preferences than the status quo, but still may not get what he wanted. Political scientists Andrew Barrett and Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha examined (pdf) 191 different major laws passed between 1965 and 2000 and measured how similar they were to what the president had asked for. Was the law basically a rubber stamp of the president’s position? Did the law force the president to compromise with congressional leaders? Or did the president sign it even though it was nothing like what he wanted? Barrett and Eshbaugh-Soha find that presidential approval was associated with laws that looked more like the president’s preferences.
Of course, approval is just one factor among many. And it may be less relevant now in this era of highly polarized parties. In this article, Jon Bond, Richard Fleisher, and B. Dan Wood find that presidential approval seems to matter less for legislative success as partisanship in Congress increases. One interpretation is that in highly partisan eras, presidents will get most of their party’s support but little of the opposing party’s support no matter how popular or unpopular there are. So right now it may matter less whether Obama’s approval rating is 50% or 46%.
With those caveats noted, I still think that, on balance, presidential approval matters—for elections and for policy—even in a president’s second term.

America: More Diverse yet Less Equal?

The Root ^ | June 19, 2013 | Edward Wyckoff Williams

Last week the U.S. Census Bureau released data revealing that the majority of children under age 5 were from racial- and ethnic-minority backgrounds and predicted that white Americans will officially become a minority by 2043. At first glance this appears to be positive news -- the promise of a melting pot realized. Yet the report comes in the same month that the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hand down two important decisions about race: the first a challenge by the state of Alabama to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the second questioning the constitutionality of affirmative action in college admissions at the University of Texas. (The UT case was filed by a white woman claiming that she was discriminated against in favor of supposedly "less qualified" ethnic minorities -- though her grades and test scores failed to meet UT standards, regardless of race -- displaying the epitome of petulant white privilege.)
It seems that some white Americans in particular and conservatives in general see President Obama's ascendance and the growth of minority populations as reasons for abandoning proactive policies designed to eradicate racial inequality. Indeed, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia went so far as to describe affirmative action as a "racial entitlement" -- framing the issue through a political lens rather than a legal one -- and thereby qualifying it as welfare for the undeserving.
Federal Reserve data and Bureau of Labor statistics show that although the nation is becoming less white, wealth is being disproportionately allocated into white hands. Wealth and income gaps continue to widen along racial lines, with whites earning $2 for every $1 earned by African Americans and Hispanics. That gap has remained consistent for 30 years -- despite affirmative action policies of the 1970s and early '80s.
(Excerpt) Read more at ...

To Screw America

Detroit To Dump Retiree Health Costs On ObamaCare ^ | june 18, 2013 | JED GRAHAM

The federal government isn't among the creditors Detroit has turned to for mercy, but U.S. taxpayers will bear a large share of the cost of its restructuring.
High on emergency manager Kevyn Orr's to-do list: slash health care outlays for thousands of early retirees by shifting them to ObamaCare.
Detroit spent $177 million on health benefits for 19,000 retirees last year but figures it can cut that to $28 million-$40 million a year.
Part of the savings would come from paring supplemental coverage for retirees age 65 and older, most of whom already get Medicare.
But the federal government will pick up much of the slack for early retirees through age 64, who will be eligible for subsidized coverage as long as household income is less than 400% of the poverty level.
The news is hardly surprising. While the Motor City is an early mover when it comes to shifting early retirees to ObamaCare, it's not alone and the road for doing so has been well-paved.
Last month, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel — Obama's chief of staff when the law was passed in 2010 — disclosed that the Windy City would shift 30,000 early retirees to ObamaCare. Last year, retiree health care cost the city $109 million, but that's projected to balloon to $500 million within a decade.
(Excerpt) Read more at ...

An Obama-Buffett Connection Could Keep Crude Rolling by Rail

The Washington Times via Rig Zone ^ | June 19, 2013 | William C. Triplett II

In short, Mr. Obama is about to hammer the American energy industry, and he's doing it for money.

The real elephant in the room is the Keystone XL pipeline project intended to bring Canadian oil to American Gulf Coast refineries and the resulting products onto the international market. In fact, the title of the Bloomberg article cited above includes the words "Keystone foes." Mr. Obama has already delayed Keystone, once and a final decision is coming up.

While Keystone has received a lot of press attention, there are two interrelated aspects that have not yet come to the surface.
First, as reported by the Dickinson Press in North Dakota on May 15, Lynn Helms, the director of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, told the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology that if Keystone is approved, as it comes south, the pipeline would also carry up to 100,000 barrels of sweet North Dakota crude to the American refineries, in addition to the heavier Canadian product. As North Dakota's rate of production increases, the state should be producing in excess of 800,000 barrels per day by the time Keystone passes through, taking at most an eighth of North Dakota's oil production.
Second, Mr. Helms also told the House committee that the North Dakota Department of Transportation estimates moving 100,000 barrels per day by pipeline instead of its current mode of transport would result in three to six fewer traffic deaths per year and up to 150 fewer traffic injuries. Three to six doesn't sound like a lot in comparison to the U.S. national traffic fatalities, but North Dakota has a small population and every death or injury avoided is important to families and loved ones, no matter where they are.
(Excerpt) Read more at ...

Walter Reed plans to furlough thousands; soldier advocacy groups worry about care despite assurances

Fox News ^ | 18 Jun 13 | Joseph Weber

A wounded soldier receives treatment at a rehabilitation center at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Thousands of civilian workers at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center -- the country’s top facility for wounded combat soldiers -- are facing furloughs this summer, as a result of sequester and other federal budget problems, according to the Defense Department.
Roughly 2,400 workers at the suburban Washington facility were recently notified by letter that the department needs them to take off as many as 11 days without pay this summer to help with “extraordinary and serious budgets challenges.”
The furloughs target a wide scope of non-combat facilities and civilian workers to “provide the war-fighters with what they need to protect national security,” states the May 28 letter, first obtained by Federal News Radio.
In a development that worries advocacy groups, the furloughs will impact about 94 percent of the Walter Reed civilian staff including doctors, nurses, lab technicians and physical therapists.
(Excerpt) Read more at ...
Shame on this nation.

25 Signs That Veterans Are Being Treated Like Trash Under The Obama Administration!

by VOICES on JUNE 18, 2013     Print This Post Print This Post
Why does the Obama administration treat our military veterans like human garbage? Every year on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, Barack Obama and our other politicians make very nice speeches, but the truth about how they feel about our veterans can be seen in how they are treated every single day. In the United States today, there are well over half a million veterans that have been waiting for at least 125 days to have their benefit claims processed. Many of them will ultimately have their claims sent back or denied just so a government employee somewhere can get a bigger bonus. Meanwhile, conditions at VA facilities all over the country are absolutely abysmal, and many veterans have to wait more than half a year just to get an appointment at one of those facilities. Once you start looking into how this country really treats military veterans, it becomes easier to understand why 22 military veterans commit suicide in America every single day. Our vets have a higher rate of unemployment, a higher rate of poverty, a higher rate of homelessness, a higher rate of depression and a higher rate of divorce then the general population. It is a crying shame. One of the ways that any society is judged is by how it treats military veterans, and the truth is that America has failed miserably. This has been particularly true since Barack Obama has been in the White House.
The following are 25 signs that military veterans are being treated like absolute trash under the Obama administration…
1. The average claim for veteran benefits takes more than half a year to be processed.
2. The Department of Veterans Affairs has a backlog of more than half a million overdue claims for benefits that are at least 125 days old.
3. In 2009, the number of veterans that had been waiting for more than a year to have their benefits approved was 11,000. Today, that number has soared to 245,000.
4. Thousands upon thousands of military veterans that are waiting for their claims to be processed are dealing with absolutely horrible injuries
Of those who have sought VA care:
• More than 1,600 of them lost a limb; many others lost fingers or toes.
• At least 156 are blind, and thousands of others have impaired vision.
• More than 177,000 have hearing loss, and more than 350,000 report tinnitus — noise or ringing in the ears.
• Thousands are disfigured, as many as 200 of them so badly that they may need face transplants. One-quarter of battlefield injuries requiring evacuation included wounds to the face or jaw, one study found.
5. At one VA hospital in Wisconsin, one military veteran with a broken jaw that was seeking treatment still had not had his jaw fixed after a month and a half.
6. Today, it takes military vets an average of seven months to get an appointment at a VA facility.
7. Many VA facilities are in absolutely horrific condition. A while back, ABC News conducted an investigation of conditions at VA facilities across the United States. What ABC News discovered was absolutely shocking. The following are just a few of the things that they foundduring the course of their investigation
*Bathrooms filthy with what appeared to be human excrement
*Dirty linens from some patients mixed in with clean supplies
*Examining tables that had dried blood and medications still on them
*Equipment used to sterilize surgical instruments that had broken down
*Some patients were forced to beg for food and water
*Veterans that were neglected so badly that they developed horrific bedsores and dangerous infections
8. As I have written about previously, applying for veteran benefits is extremely complicated, and VA employees are actually paid bonuses for denying claims…
The truth is that we have made it extremely difficult for our military veterans to claim the benefits that we have promised them. Vets have to fill out an absurdly complicated 23 page application and if they make even one small mistake their applications can be stonewalled for years. The U.S. Veterans Administration actually has a policy under which they pay large bonuses to employees that meet certain application processing goals. This explains why approximately 70% of the claims submitted to the Veterans Administration are refused or sent back to be redone. In fact, using the Freedom of Information Act, one local NBC station was able to learn that $250,000 was paid in bonuses to VA employees who work inside the Poff Federal Building in Roanoke, Virginia in just one year alone.
9. Large numbers of military veterans that legitimately should be getting benefits are having their claims denied by the federal government. Just check out the following example from aVeterans Today article
In one case, we found a veteran with 40 percent of his brain removed found to be healthy and employable. He was also missing his right arm. The physician who examined him over looked the arm and failed to note the cognitive degeneration the traumatic brain injury had caused.
10. Last year, more than 85,000 military veterans were treated for sexual abuse that they suffered while serving in the military. 40 percent of them were men.
11. According to a recent Defense Department survey, approximately 14,000 men in the U.S. military were sexually assaulted by other men during 2012.
12. According to the Washington Post, there is an epidemic of sexual assaults being committed by military recruiters. The Pentagon is pledging to do something about the problem…
“The secretary has made it clear that we will spare no effort to rid our military of sexual abuse,” said George Little, the Pentagon press secretary. “The fact that there have been problems of sexual abuse during the recruiting process is simply intolerable.”
13. The number of active members of the U.S. military that are killing themselves now exceeds the number that are dying on the battlefield.
14. Since the beginning of the Iraq War, twice as many members of the Texas National Guard have killed themselves as have been killed in combat.
15. According to one recent study, 22 military veterans kill themselves in the United States every single day.
16. At this point, combat veterans account for about 20 percent of all suicides in the United States.
17. The unemployment rate for military veterans is significantly higher than for the population as a whole. This is especially true for younger veterans.
18. On any given night, approximately 200,000 military veterans are homeless in the United States.
19. All over America, monuments that honor military veterans are crumbling and falling apart. For much more on this, please see this article.
20. Under the Obama administration, many military veterans have had to pay to have their medals shipped to them. For example, one soldier actually had to pay a 21 dollar shipping fee to get his Purple Heart. The following is from the Huffington Post
War comes with an incalculable human cost. And apparently a shipping fee of about $21.
Retired Sgt. Major Rob Dickerson says that’s the price he was forced to pay when his Purple Heart — the medal issued to soldiers wounded in action — arrived at his door, C.O.D.
Instead of being awarded the military honor in a formal ceremony, the vet with 29 years in the service was handed his award, and a shipping invoice, by a FedEx deliveryman outside his Sioux Falls, S.D., home.
21. In some areas of the country the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been caughtbanning the words “God” and “Jesus” during funeral services for veterans.
22. Today, the federal government provides “end of life” literature to veterans that helps them to determine when their lives are “no longer worth living“…
“Your Life, Your Choices” presents end-of-life choices in a way aimed at steering users toward predetermined conclusions, much like a political “push poll.” For example, a worksheet on page 21 lists various scenarios and asks users to then decide whether their own life would be “not worth living.”
The circumstances listed include ones common among the elderly and disabled: living in a nursing home, being in a wheelchair and not being able to “shake the blues.” There is a section which provocatively asks, “Have you ever heard anyone say, ‘If I’m a vegetable, pull the plug’?” There also are guilt-inducing scenarios such as “I can no longer contribute to my family’s well being,” “I am a severe financial burden on my family” and that the vet’s situation “causes severe emotional burden for my family.”When the government can steer vulnerable individuals to conclude for themselves that life is not worth living, who needs a death panel?
23. One study discovered that approximately one-third of all military veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq were officially determined to be mentally ill by government officials.
24. All over America, “mental illness” is being used as a reason to take guns away from military veterans.
25. The federal government is increasingly labeling military veterans as “potential domestic terrorists” if they express viewpoints that are critical of the government. The following is from a recent article by John Whitehead
Making matters worse, thanks to Operation Vigilant Eagle, a program launched by the Department of Homeland Security in 2009, military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are also being characterized as extremists and potential domestic terrorist threats because they may be “disgruntled, disillusioned or suffering from the psychological effects of war.” As a result, these servicemen and women–many of whom are decorated–are finding themselves under surveillance, threatened with incarceration or involuntary commitment, or arrested, all for daring to voice their concerns about the alarming state of our union and the erosion of our freedoms.
An important point to consider, however, is that the government is not merely targeting individuals who are voicing their discontent so much as it is locking up individuals trained in military warfare who are voicing feelings of discontent. Under the guise of mental-health treatment and with the complicity of government psychiatrists and law-enforcement officials, these veterans are increasingly being portrayed as ticking time bombs in need of intervention.
Are you upset yet?
You should be.

Support falling in polls, Harry Reid announces rush to pass immigration bill...frustration obvious! ^ | 6/18/13 | Byron York

With a new poll showing falling support for the Gang of Eight comprehensive immigration reform bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has announced an accelerated schedule in which the Senate would take a final, up-or-down vote on passing the bill by the end of next week.

"I’m just telling everybody that we’re going to either file cloture on this on Friday or Saturday or Sunday or Monday,” Reid said as the Senate opened its morning session. Filing for cloture means that a final vote would be held three days later. So if Reid filed for cloture on Monday, June 24, a final vote on the bill would be held on Thursday, June 27. The Senate’s July Fourth break starts the week after.
Reid warned his fellow lawmakers that if they want to consider amendments to the Gang of Eight bill, they need to be prepared to work virtually nonstop between now and then. "This may not be one of our normal weekends,” Reid said. “We’ve got to move forward on this legislation.”
Why? Debate in the full Senate only started last week. Why is Reid rushing to pass such a sprawling, multifaceted piece of legislation in such a short period of time? Is there an emergency?
There is no obvious, pressing reason for Reid’s schedule. But as he spoke, there were signs that popular support for immigration reform is slipping. After months of polls showing widespread support for some elements of reform, a new CNN survey showed a bare majority, 51 percent to 45 percent, supports the Gang of Eight bill. Perhaps more ominously, the poll found strong support for prioritizing border security above a path to citizenship for currently-illegal immigrants. Independents favor security before a path by a two-to-one margin, and Republicans support it by a three-to-one margin. Democrats favored a path to citizenship over security, but by the barest of margins, 50 percent to 49 percent. Overall, CNN found that 62 percent of the public favors prioritizing security before a path to citizenship, while 36 percent favored a path over security.
The polls might not have much more time to change, if Reid goes through with his schedule and immigration reform gets a final vote by the end of next week.

Joe Biden concedes White House gun push has faltered!

Politico ^ | June 18, 2013 | Reid J. Epstein

Vice President Joe Biden insisted to a subdued audience Tuesday that he and President Barack Obama “haven’t given up” on gun control.

But his remarks came at the first White House event since the Senate’s failed April 17 background checks vote. And all that he had to show gun control supporters by way of progress was a list of completed or mostly completed executive actions — and a set of new guidebooks for churches and schools on how to deal with a mass shooting situation.
Over the past two months, the White House has dramatically dialed back its gun push.
Biden chief of staff Bruce Reed’s Friday White House strategy meetings for representatives of gun control groups ended weeks ago. The barnstorming tour Biden pledged would pressure senators who voted against background checks hasn’t materialized.
No new sponsors or votes for the background check bill have emerged publicly. Neither has any sort of timeline for when Congress might take up the measure again.
Biden conceded the obvious Tuesday: The White House gun push in Congress has faltered.
“I had hoped we would have assembled in this auditorium earlier,” Biden said. “I had hoped we would have assembled here a couple of months ago celebrating the first in a number of victories that we will have.”
So Biden conceded the obvious Tuesday: the White House gun push in Congress has faltered.
“I had hoped we would have assembled in this auditorium earlier,” Biden said. “I had hoped we would have assembled here a couple of months ago celebrating the first in a number of victories that we will have.”
Instead, Biden claimed a partial victory based on what he described as an evolution in the mood of the country. More voters, he said, are willing to punish members of Congress who oppose gun control measures
“I assure you, the one thing that each of us have been saying to our colleagues about these votes is the country has changed,” Biden said. “You will pay a price, a political price, for not, for not getting engaged and dealing with gun safety.”
Yet Tuesday’s event illustrated how the White House and the gun control groups with which it has worked closely since January have grown apart: The groups received no briefing before the White House unveiled its report to the press on Monday.
The White House’s public silence over the last two months has essentially ceded the issue to these outside groups.
“I don’t know how much there is for [the White House] to do,” said a representative from one of the groups that had been meeting with Reed. “The president doesn’t twist arms and have lunch, there’s no money to put a post office or a research facility in somebody’s district. What do you do other than travel places — and now they don’t even travel.”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said after Biden’s speech that the White House now has less influence on senators than the gun control groups do.
“The five or six senators who are going to move our way aren’t going to do so because of pressure from the White House,” Murphy said. “They’re going to do so because of political pressure from outside groups who have millions of dollars to spend against them.”
Yet Murphy said it will still be necessary for Obama and Biden to speak more about gun control.
“The White House should be talking about this every chance that they get,” he said. “I’m not disappointed in the level of interest, but if I could have the president and vice president talking about gun violence every day, I’d be happy.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), overhearing Murphy’s remarks, added: “And outside of Washington, it shouldn’t be in the Executive Office Building, it ought to be out there.”
Without action from the White House and with little happening in Congress, gun control groups spent the last week trying to manufacture events to keep the cause in the public spotlight.
To mark six months since the Newtown massacre, Sandy Hook Promise has brought Newtown family members to the Capitol to lobby House members this week. Mayors Against Illegal Guns is launching a bus tour “to persuade Senators to take a second look at the background check bill they failed to pass this spring.”
And Obama’s political arm, Organizing for Action, hosted a series of local events Friday, with mixed results. One Wisconsin chapter advertised a “chalk body flash mob” on the sidewalk four floors below Sen. Ron Johnson’s Milwaukee office. A rally in San Bernadino, Calif., drew only three supporters, according to the San Bernadino Sun.
“If all that comes out of this once-in-a-generation debate is teaching kids how to duck and cover during a mass shooting, some members of Congress are going to have a lot to explain when it happens,” said Mark Glaze, the executive director of Mike Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns. “And it will happen.”
The gun control picture in the Senate is at best the same as it was before the background checks vote. The late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) has been temporarily replaced by Republican Jeff Chiesa, who hasn’t taken a public stance on the background checks deal brokered by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).
Chiesa has yet to be lobbied on the gun issue by Manchin, Toomey or any other senators, an aide said Tuesday.
There’s almost no hope of winning red-state Senate Democrats like Mark Pryor of Arkansas, who opposed the background checks bill proposed by Manchin and Toomey. Pryor, considered the most vulnerable Democrat up for re-election next year, launched his first re-election TV ad by boasting that he opposed the gun control proposal.
Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), targets of more than $1 million of negative ads, have seen their approval ratings drop.
Biden, as he has before, cited the polls as evidence the nation has turned against senators who opposed background checks.
“I will not mention names, but look at those who voted no, and look at what their poll results are in their states immediately after voting no,” Biden said. “Many who were popular and were in the 50s and 60s now find their favorable ratings in the 40s.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) asked Manchin for a briefing last week on the status of his proposal, but has no intention of bringing up the measure for another vote unless there is a dramatic boost in its support, said Democratic senators and aides.
Like Biden, who said senators who voted against background checks have asked him to “find a way for us to revisit this,” Blumenthal said he remains optimistic that 60 votes will materialize to support expanded background checks. But he said there is no way to measure progress.
“This is not like, you know, a yardstick where you can say, ‘Well, it’s this far along on the yardstick.’ There’s no metric here for percentage measurement,” Blumenthal said. “We’re not going to ask someone, ‘Are you there yet?’ unless they actually are. We’re not going to take a count until we get 60.”

Allen West open to Senate primary challenge against Rubio!

The Hill ^ 

 By Justin Sink - 06/19/13 08:34 AM ET

Former Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) said Wednesday that he may mount a primary challenge to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in their state's 2016 U.S. Senate primary.
West told station WMAL that he could run for Senate "if I see people that are not taking our country down the right path, if I see people that are not standing up for the right type of principles, and putting their own party politics before what is best for the United States of America."
Asked directly in he would rule out challenging Rubio, West responded, "Chirping... chirping... chirping."
"We'll see what happens down the pike," he added. "God will set my feet on the right path."
The one-term congressman, who narrowly lost re-election last year, acknowledged he would face an uphill battle.
"That's a pretty heavy lift, because you're talking about running against a sitting senator, and then, of course, that creates that schism that the other side would love to see happen," said West.
But the former congressman said he had a "lot of concerns" over the comprehensive immigration reform proposal crafted by a bipartisan group — including Rubio — in the Senate.
"This whole 'comprehensive' thing - I think the bill now is up to 1,075 pages - Once again, the American people don't trust that," West said.
Rubio, a Tea Party favorite, is seen as crucial to winning conservative support for the immigration bill. But the Florida senator has suggested he may oppose the measure he helped write unless tougher border security requirements are adopted.
West has said he has no plans to run for the House of Representatives again in 2014.

Berlin Speech: 200,000 for Obama in 2008; Only 6,000 Today ...“a brutal sobering up”!

Weekly Standard ^ 

Berlin Speech: 200,000 for Obama in 2008; Only 6,000 Today!  

9:18 AM, Jun 19, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER

The White House pool report reveals that only 6,000 will be in attendance for Obama's Berlin speech today:

The stage for the president's speech is set up on the East side of the Brandenburg Gate, in the old East Berlin. The sun is pounding down and there are around 6,000 invited guests according to German authorities. There are bleachers set up either side of the square, with a big two storey riser facing the stage which has a row of bullet proof glass and 12 US, German and EU flags and the grand backdrop of the Gate. There is a large standing crowd between the bleachers.
Last time around, when Obama delivered a speech in Berlin in the 2008 presidential campaign, when he was still a senator, 200,000 folks came out to see him.
As the New York Times reports:
The last time President Obama paid a visit here, as a candidate in 2008, he was cheered on by 200,000 Germans eager to see the back of George W. Bush and, as one member of that crowd recalled Tuesday, “full of wholly unrealistic expectations of what kind of miracles Obama could work.”
When he arrived here on Tuesday evening ahead of a full day of talks — capped by a speech at the Brandenburg Gate — the reception was far more restrained.
Almost five years later, Germans have undergone “a brutal sobering up” with regard to Mr. Obama, said Ralf Fücks, who heads the board of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, a nonprofit political organization in Berlin. It is, he said, as overdone as the euphoria of 2008, but also a bit alarming.

Guess Who's Getting $70 Million in Bonuses? ^ | June 19, 2013 | Katie Pavlich

Despite being under heavy scrutiny from both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill and all over the country for inappropriately targeting conservative groups, IRS employees are about to receive $70 million in bonuses.

The Internal Revenue Service is about to pay $70 million in employee bonuses despite an Obama administration directive to cancel discretionary bonuses because of automatic spending cuts enacted this year, according to a GOP senator.

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa says his office has learned that the IRS is executing an agreement with the employees' union on Wednesday to pay the bonuses. Grassley says the bonuses should be canceled under an April directive from the White House budget office.

The directive was written by Danny Werfel, a former budget official who has since been appointed acting IRS commissioner.

"The IRS always claims to be short on resources," Grassley said. "But it appears to have $70 million for union bonuses. And it appears to be making an extra effort to give the bonuses despite opportunities to renegotiate with the union and federal instruction to cease discretionary bonuses during sequestration."
And how is this even possible? Through unions and government bureaucracy

Office of Management and Budget "guidance directs that agencies should not pay discretionary monetary awards at this time, unless legally required," IRS spokeswoman Michelle Eldridge said in a statement. "IRS is under a legal obligation to comply with its collective bargaining agreement, which specifies the terms by which awards are paid to bargaining-unit employees."

Eldridge, however, would not say whether the IRS believes it is contractually obligated to pay the bonuses.

"In accordance with OMB guidance, the IRS is actively engaged with NTEU on these matters in recognition of our current budgetary constraints," Eldridge said.

The National Treasury Employees Union did not respond to requests for comment.

This news comes just as the quarterly taxes of Americans become due. As a reminder, Lois Lerner, the woman in charge of tax exempt groups during the time of the blatant Tea Party targeting, is still pulling a six figure paycheck while being put on "leave" just as summer begins. Must be niceNot to mention during the time targeting occurred, Lerner received $42,000 in bonuses and raked in $740,000 in taxpayer funded salary between 2009 and 2012. 

Keep working America, the IRS is depending on you. 

Yes, Premiums Will Go Up Under ObamaCare!

National Review ^ | June 19, 2013 | National Review

It’s an open-and-shut case: Rates will go up a lot under Obamacare.

By James C. Capretta

Last month, the Manhattan Institute’s Avik Roy — joined by Lanhee Chen, Yuval Levin, and Dan Kessler — set off a firestorm by audaciously challenging the prevailing Obamacare-friendly story about what will happen to premiums when the law’s implementation begins in earnest in 2014. Specifically, Roy and the others disputed the initial news stories coming out of California, fed by state officials, which indicated that the premiums paid by state residents enrolled in the Obamacare exchange would be lower in 2014 compared with 2013. Indeed, according to state officials, the premiums charged by plans in the exchange would be an amazing 2 to 29 percent lower than comparable coverage in 2013. A true Obamacare miracle! The law’s apologists were exultant at the news, and said so in numerous columns and blog posts.
(Excerpt) Read more at ...

MN Author Vince Flynn Dies At 47

CBS Local - Minnestoa ^ | June 19, 2013 8:20 AM | staff

Minnesota author Vince Flynn has died after a long battle with prostate cancer.

WCCO-TV has learned that Flynn died Wednesday morning at United Hospital in St. Paul.
Flynn has authored 15 novels centered around the character of Mitch Rapp, an undercover CIA agent. The majority of those novels have made it to the New York Times bestseller list.

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

TWA Flight 800 Investigators Claim the Official Crash Story Is a Lie

The Atlantic Wire ^ | 6/18/2013 | Dashiell Bennett

A new film claims the official government report on the crash of TWA Flight 800 in 1996 is an elaborate fabrication, but the most shocking part of the story is that charges are being leveled by some of the very investigators who put the report together.

Six experts who appear in the film were members of the National Transportation Safety Board investigation team that concluded the crash was an accident, but they now claim they were silenced by their superiors.

The movie, "TWA Flight 800" will debut on EPIX TV next month, on the 17-year anniversary of the crash.

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

Sleep Crisis: The Science of Slumber - Go to bed. On time. Tonight. Or else.

Maclean's ^ | JUNE 18, 2013 | Luiza Ch. Savage

The sleep doctors are coming and they want you to go to bed. On time. Tonight. Every night. Or else.
They want doctors to add a single question to routine checks of vital signs like body temperature, pulse, blood pressure and rate of breathing. The question is: How did you sleep?
If you’re like most people, probably not well, or at least not enough.
Coffee-fuelled North Americans, with our smartphones at our bedsides, are sleeping, on average, nearly two hours less than we were 40 years ago, when most people slept 8½ hours or more. More and more people are being diagnosed with sleep apnea, a disorder in which breathing is disrupted during sleep. And insomnia, which affects about 10 per cent of the population, is no longer considered merely a symptom of other medical or psychiatric problems but has been classified as a full-fledged disorder in its own right.
The scientific evidence is mounting that getting less than the recommended seven to nine hours of nightly sleep is having wide-ranging impacts on our bodies, our minds and, especially, on the health of our children, who need even more sleep: 10 to 11 hours per night.
In March, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared that “insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic.” It released a survey showing that more than 35 per cent of U.S. adults reported getting less than seven hours of sleep a night; 38 per cent reported unintentionally falling asleep at least once during the day in the preceding month.
(Excerpt) Read more at ...

Obama Thwarted: 'No Indication' He Will Win Back House (GOP stands at +5 for 2014 House Midterms)

Washington Examiner ^ | JUNE 18, 2013 | 11:28 | Paul Bedard

President Obama's nonstop fundraising for congressional Democrats is building a huge campaign war chest for next fall, but there is little hope that his party will win back control of the House and make Rep. Nancy Pelosi speaker again, according to an exhaustive new analysis.
But the report from the University of Virginia's Center for Politics also shows that Obama may suffer the fewest losses of House seats for a second-term president since Ronald Reagan in 1986, itself a big victory.
"While it would be foolish to rule out any outcome, there is no indication at this point that the Republican House majority is in jeopardy," said Kyle Kondik, the House analyst on Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball team.
His report suggest that the Republicans will boost their numbers by five seats in 2014. The average loss by the president's party in the sixth year of an administration since 1946 is 21 seats. Dwight D. Eisenhower lost a high of 48 in 1958, Reagan lost five in 1986, and Bill Clinton picked up 5 in 1998.
Sign Up for the Paul Bedard newsletter! Please enter your email address below to begin receiving the Paul Bedard newsletter. You must enter a valid email address in the field above! . The reasons for so little change, Kondik said, is that there are few vulnerable seats on either side and the the national political climate is "pretty neutral." He did warn, however, that if the scandals rocking the White House get worse, the Democrats could suffer bigger losses.
(Excerpt) Read more at ...

'Tell your boss I owe him another friggin' beer:' Hot mic catches NSA boss praising FBI chiefs

daily mail ^ | 6/18/2013 | yHayley Peterson

The director of the National Security Agency was overheard offering a round of beer to the FBI's second-in-command following Tuesday's congressional hearing on the NSA's controversial surveillance programs.

The three-hour hearing had just wrapped up around 1 p.m. when NSA Director Keith Alexander turned to FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce and praised him for his testimony.
'Thank you, Sean,' Alexander said, according to a clip of the exchange that was first reported by Ben Doernberg.

'Tell your boss I owe him another friggin' beer,' he added.

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

Leftist Nick Gates arrested for threatened kidnap, burn & murder Ted Cruz and father

Fire Andrea Mitchell ^ | 6/18/2013 | staff

The corrupt liberal media, and Democrats have gone into full smear mode ever since Ted Cruz was elected to the U.S. Senate last year. The left fears Ted Cruz like no other Republican in decades. Chris Matthews in particular has been ruthless.

A leftist in Houston identified as Nick Gates was arrested for threatening to kidnap, burn, and murder Ted Cruz and his father unless he paid him $3 million. Nick Gates identified himself as Abolfazi Akbori, so he may be a Muslim convert. Abolfazi Akbori comes from Sheila Jackson Lee’s district in Houston and obviously was missed by Obama’s NSA spying.

Calls were made to Cruz’s Austin and San Antonio offices. during the week of June 5th. Nick Gates or Muslim named Abolfazi Akbori said “Sen. Cruz owed him money or a bomb would explode.” Sounds like a terrorist to me. Great job NSA!

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

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