In the USA....United Surveillance America
October 1, 2013Google Accused of Wiretapping in Gmail Scans
By CLAIRE CAIN MILLER
SAN FRANCISCO — Wiretapping is typically the stuff of spy dramas and shady criminal escapades. But now, one of the world’s biggest Web companies, Google, must defend itself against accusations that it is illegally wiretapping in the course of its everyday business — gathering data about Internet users and showing them related ads.
The accusations, made over several years in various lawsuits that have been merged into two separate cases, ask whether Google went too far in collecting user data in Gmail and Street View, its mapping project. Two federal judges have ruled, over Google’s protests, that both cases can move forward.
The wiretapping rulings are the latest example of judges and regulators prodding Google over privacy violations. The company is on the defensive, struggling to persuade overseers and its users that it protects consumer data, while arguing that the law is stuck in the past and has failed to keep up with new technologies.
“It’s been a bad month for Google,” said Alan Butler, a lawyer at the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “What’s at stake is a core digital privacy issue for consumers right now, which is the extent to which their digital communications are protected from use by third parties.” For the most part, Google has managed to avoid major privacy penalties. The Gmail case could have broad effects, though, because nearly half a billion people worldwide use the service, and because if it is, as expected, certified as a class action, the fines could be enormous. At the same time, the case could have long-term consequences for all e-mail services — including those from Yahoo and Microsoft — and for the issue of how confidential is online data.
“This ruling has the potential to really reshape the entire e-mail industry,” said Eric Goldman, director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University School of Law.
The Gmail case involves Google’s practice of automatically scanning e-mail messages and showing ads based on the contents of the e-mails. The plaintiffs include voluntary Gmail users, people who have to use Gmail as part of an educational institution and non-Gmail users whose messages were received by a Gmail user. They say the scanning of the messages violates state and federal antiwiretapping laws.
The case revives a short-lived uproar over Gmail ads when Google introduced them in 2004. Microsoft has recently tried to call attention to the practice as part of its Scroogled campaign, including a video that shows a so-called Gmail man reading people’s e-mail. Google has continued to show new types of ads in Gmail, including ads that look like e-mails.
“Google uses Gmail as its own secret data-mining machine, which intercepts, warehouses, and uses, without consent, the private thoughts and ideas of millions of unsuspecting Americans who transmit e-mail messages through Gmail,” lawyers for the plaintiffs argued on July 11, opposing Google’s motion to dismiss the case. On Thursday, Judge Lucy H. Koh of Federal District Court denied Google’s motion in a 43-page order that fought the company at almost every turn.
Judge Koh is highly respected in Silicon Valley, with a reputation for being fearless. During the Apple-Samsung patent trial, she made headlines for asking an Apple lawyer if he was “smoking crack.”
In this case, she came down hard on Google.
In a section of the motion that was widely noted, Google also argued that non-Gmail users had no expectation of privacy when corresponding with Gmail users.
“Just as a sender of a letter to a business colleague cannot be surprised that the recipient’s assistant opens the letter, people who use Web-based e-mail today cannot be surprised if their communications are processed by the recipient’s” e-mail provider, the lawyers wrote.
Federal wiretap law exempts interception of communication if it is necessary in a service provider’s “ordinary course of business,” which Google said included scanning e-mail. That argument did not fly with Judge Koh.
“In fact, Google’s alleged interception of e-mail content is primarily used to create user profiles and to provide targeted advertising — neither of which is related to the transmission of e-mails,” she wrote in last week’s ruling.
Judge Koh also dismissed Google’s argument that Gmail users consented to the interception and that non-Gmail users who communicated with Gmail users also knew that their messages could be read.
“Accepting Google’s theory of implied consent — that by merely sending e-mails to or receiving e-mails from a Gmail user, a non-Gmail user has consented to Google’s interception of such e-mails for any purposes — would eviscerate the rule against interception,” she wrote. A Google spokeswoman, Leslie Miller, and a lawyer for the company, Michael G. Rhodes of the law firm Cooley, declined to comment on the case beyond a company statement. “We’re disappointed in this decision and are considering our options,” it said. “Automated scanning lets us provide Gmail users with security and spam protection, as well as great features like Priority Inbox.”
Lawyers for the plaintiffs, Sean F. Rommel of Wyly Rommel and F. Jerome Tapley of Cory Watson, did not respond to requests for comment.
Also last week, Google asked the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to reconsider a Sept. 10 ruling that a separate wiretapping lawsuit could proceed. That one involves Google Street View vehicles that secretly collected personal information from unencrypted home computer networks.
The federal antiwiretapping law at the heart of both cases is part of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, a 1986 law that has been under fire for years for not taking into account modern-day technology like e-mail.
“It’s not surprising we’re seeing courts struggle with applying the E.C.P.A.,” Mr. Goldman of Santa Clara said. “It’s a poorly drafted statute that has aged very poorly.”
*********Obama urges Republicans to back down with shutdown set to enter second day
President says House Republicans 'holding the entire economy hostage' after a day that saw thousands of workers sent home
Paul Lewis and Dan Roberts in Washington
theguardian.com, Tuesday 1 October 2013 23.47 BST
Link to video: Obama chastises Republicans over government shutdownhttp://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2013/oct/01/obama-chastises-republicans-over-shutdown-video
The political deadlock that forced the closure of large portions of the US government on Tuesday, bringing financial uncertainty to hundreds of thousands of federal workers, appeared likely to enter a second day without a resolution.
As national landmarks were barricaded, museums closed, and an estimated 800,000 federal employees were placed on indefinite leave, Barack Obama called on Republicans to back down over their opposition to his healthcare reforms rather than "hold the entire economy hostage".
Striking a defiant tone in the Rose Garden of the White House – one of the many government offices operating on a slimmed-down staff – Obama declared that the Affordable Care Act was "here to stay". Flanked by citizens who will benefit from the reforms, whose central provisions came into force on Tuesday, Obama said: "They've shut down the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans."
The Republican leader of the House, John Boehner, focused on the refusal by Obama and senior Democrats to negotiate.
"The president isn't telling the whole story when it comes to the government shutdown. The fact is that Washington Democrats have slammed the door on reopening the government by refusing to engage in bipartisan talks," he said.
Federal agencies affected by the shutdown began the process of closing their doors on Tuesday, hours after Congress failed to pass a budget resolution that would have ensured their continued funding.
Hardline Republicans in the House of Representatives repeatedly refused to back down from their insistence that a deal over the federal budget should be linked to various measures that would unpick the Affordable Care Act, a law that has passed both houses of Congress, survived a presidential election and that has been upheld as constitutional by a conservative supreme court.
Outside the halls of power, the impact of the shutdown was visible across Washington. Shortly after 11am, thousands of federal employees poured out of government buildings after working the maximum-permitted four hours. Many had spent the morning turning on out-of-office alerts on their emails and closing down their offices.
Meanwhile, bemused-looking tourists were unable to access any of Washington's major museum and turned back from the monuments that stretch across the National Mall, large parts of which were barricaded. The lights were off at the Lincoln memorial, where the huge edifice of the beloved 16th president sat in the shadows.
It was a similar story around the US: in New York, the Statue of Liberty was closed to visitors, as were the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Yellowstone national parks. Campers and hikers were given two days to pack up and leave.
The tax-collection agency, the Internal Revenue Service, suspended audits. Most of the staff at Nasa were furloughed, save for essential staff at Mission Control in Houston. The National Institutes of Health said that it would have to turn down an estimated 200 patients a week, 30 of them children, who applied to enrol in its clinical trials.
The most politically embarrassing moment for Congress came when a group of veterans in effect forced their way into a Washington war memorial closed by the shutdown.
But on Capitol Hill, there were few signs of a resolution, with the Republican-dominated House insisting on using the budget to impede the healthcare law, and Democrats in the Senate refusing to be strong-armed into negotiations.
Both sides blamed each other for the shutdown, although some fissures were appearing on the Republican side, particularly in the Senate. Polls suggested that the public held Republicans most responsible for a shutdown that could drag on for days or weeks.
Ominously, one senior House Republican hinted at a battle that could last weeks and incorporate a looming crisis over the debt ceiling, which could trigger a US default if it is not raised with congressional approval before 17 October.
"We think the debt limit is the forcing mechanism," Paul Ryan told reporters. "That's what we think will bring the two parties together."
In the latest salvo, House Republicans proposed measures that would involve piecemeal funding bills designed to mitigate a few of the more high-profile aspects of the shutdown that are proving most damaging in terms of public relations.
The bills, which would release national parks and veterans services from the shutdown, and could help fund basic services Washington, DC, was scheduled for a vote on Wednesday night. Serving military personnel have already been exempted from the shutdown after a rare agreement between the House and Senate over the weekend.
The White House press secretary Jay Carney dismissed a piecemeal approach on government funding as "not serious." He said: "If we want to open the government, they should open the government."
However, even if the House and Senate agree to find short-term solutions to diminish the more prominent impacts of the shutdown, the consequences for the vast apparatus of the federal government would remain.
Although it had been brewing for some weeks, the first US government shutdown since 1996 appeared to take many in Washington by surprise, with several furloughed federal workers saying they never thought Republicans would actually see through their threat.
The impact of the shutdown on Tuesday were as varied as they were surreal. Children's playgrounds around Capitol Hill were closed, restaurants that serve government workers shuttered, and some government websites and Twitter feeds suddenly became inactive. There were crowds of furloughed federal workers outside nearly every government building; some emerged clutching pot plants, unaware how long they would be locked out.
The scene that unfolded outside the Department of Labor headquarters was repeated across the city, in which the government is by far the largest employer. Inside, two Labor Department chiefs – David Michaels, an assistant secretary, and his deputy, Jordan Barab – had just finished visiting every single office to speak personally with staff. Barab did so despite being on crutches.
"There was no sense when we might come back," said Lisa Long, 45, a safety engineer. "People were demoralised and maybe even a little shocked that it was actually happening."
Employees in the Labor building include some well-paid senior officials, but others on annual salaries as low as $25,000. "These people need paychecks, they gotta eat," said Monique Tribbett, a 45-year-old IT contractor.
"I'm trying to get people to protest. Not just people in the department but, you know, all these other people who are affected. If we all went, right now, to the steps of the Capitol Building and protested, then they might start listening to us. But people don't wanna stand together. I feel like I'm on my own."
October 2, 2013House G.O.P. Pushes Piecemeal Approach as Democrats Stand Firm
By JONATHAN WEISMAN
WASHINGTON — House Republicans are likely to try again on Wednesday to pass three piecemeal spending bills that would reopen parts of the government, as both parties try to force the other to crack under mounting public pressure to end the two-day-old shutdown.
The Republicans suffered embarrassing losses on Tuesday night when the three bills — to finance veterans’ programs, national parks and museums, and federally financed services in Washington — failed to get the two-thirds majorities required to pass under fast-track procedures.
Aides to the Republican leadership said the bills would be introduced on Wednesday under ordinary rules that require only simple majorities, and they should easily pass. But Democrats are likely to be granted procedural votes of their own, which would be an opportunity to test how many Republicans would defy their leadership and vote to reopen the entire government without crippling President Obama’s health care law — the standoff that shut down the government at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday.
As public anger grows, more Republicans are coming forward to call for such a rebellion.
“The frustration and anger over Obamacare is being interpreted to be an all-or-nothing calculation,” said Representative Patrick Meehan, Republican of Pennsylvania, who now favors a simple stopgap spending measure to reopen the government. “People are very worried about Obamacare. Some of its pieces are problematic.
“But they want us to come here and work on problems across America, and we can’t get to doing that if both sides are dug in,” he said.
Democrats face pressure of their own to drop their stance of approving a spending bill only if it is free of policy prescriptions. Senate Democratic leaders say they plan to immediately kill all three of the piecemeal House bills, arguing that they will not be forced to choose between financing veterans’ programs or cancer research at the National Institutes of Health
Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, said Speaker John A. Boehner should “stop the games, think about the people he is hurting, and let the House pass the Senate’s bill to reopen the government with Republican and Democratic votes.”
Republicans said they planned to make Democrats pay a political price for voting against the bill financing veterans’ programs.
“In what can only be described as a disgraceful partisan maneuver, just after most of them voted for a government shutdown, House Democrats have now chosen to turn their backs on America’s veterans,” Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana said after 164 Democrats voted against the veterans bill, just enough to keep it from passing.
All three measures won significant support but still failed because of the two-thirds rule. The veterans bill, which would finance veterans’ disability payments, education benefits, job training and home loans, failed 264-183.
Another bill to reopen national parks, the Smithsonian and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, and the United States Holocaust Museum, failed 252-176. And a bill to help the District of Columbia provide services fell 265-163.
Democrats say they will not negotiate any changes to the health care law, nor will they reopen the government piece by piece. To do so, they said, would only encourage Republican brinkmanship.
While some Republicans are ready to cave in, the House’s most ardent conservatives said they could win the battle for public opinion and, eventually, the war over the health care law, whose insurance exchanges opened for enrollment on Tuesday.
“I’m optimistic. At the end of the day, the American people usually get their way,” said Representative Tim Huelskamp, Republican of Kansas.
To many Senate Republicans, the House conservatives’ position has become mystifying. In a meeting of Senate Republicans, Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee rose to ask how the party would respond if it controlled the White House and the Senate and a Democratic House insisted it would not finance the government unless Washington rolled back laws hampering unions.
Added Senator Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina: “All the cards are held on one side of this.”
October 1, 2013Staunch Group of Republicans Outflanks House Leaders
By JONATHAN WEISMAN and ASHLEY PARKER
WASHINGTON — They have had their fleeting moments on cable television. Their closed-door run-ins with Speaker John A. Boehner spill occasionally into the pages of Capitol Hill newspapers. But outside their districts, and sometimes even within them, few have heard of the conservative cadre of House Republicans who have led the charge to shut down the government.
In contrast to 1995, when Speaker Newt Gingrich led his band of “revolutionary” Republicans into the last battle that shuttered the federal government, this time a small but powerful group of outspoken conservative hard-liners is leading its leaders — and increasingly angering a widening group of fellow Republicans.
“We’ve passed the witching hour of midnight, and the sky didn’t fall, nothing caved in,” said Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, who still believes Republicans can achieve “the end of Obamacare.” “Now the pressure will build on both sides, and the American people will weigh in.”
Mr. King is part of a hard-core group of about two dozen or so of the most conservative House members who stand in the way of a middle path for Mr. Boehner that could keep most of his party unified while pressuring the Senate to compromise. Their numbers may be small, but they are large enough to threaten the speaker’s job if he were to turn to Democrats to pass a spending bill that reopened the government without walloping the health law. Their strategy is to yield no ground until they are able to pass legislation reining in the health care law; if the federal government stays closed, so be it.
And they believe they are winning.
“It’s getting better for us,” said Representative Raúl R. Labrador, Republican of Idaho. “The moment where Republicans are least popular is right when the government shuts down. But when the president continues to say he’s unwilling to negotiate with the American people, when Harry Reid says he won’t even take things to conference, I don’t think the American people are going to take that too kindly.”
Representative Jeff Duncan, Republican of South Carolina, also did not flinch.
“We feel strongly enough” to hold the line, he said. “I was elected in 2010. I feel Obamacare is shutting down America.”
For nearly three years, Mr. Boehner has been vexed by an ungovernable conservative group made of up ideologically committed conservatives from safe House seats. The group has defied his leadership, rallied others to its cause and worn its gadfly status proudly. Earlier this year, the speaker disregarded them and passed three major bills that attracted only a minority of his party. Instead, he relied on Democratic votes to pass a budget plan that allowed taxes to rise on the rich, relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy and an expansion of the Violence Against Women Act.
That nucleus of that group has stuck in the leadership’s craw for some time. Representative Justin Amash, Republican of Michigan, has voted against Republican positions 136 times in his short stretch in Congress. Representative Paul Broun, Republican of Georgia, has voted no on Republican motions 84 times. Representative Thomas Massie, a freshman from Kentucky, is rising in the pesky ranks with 91 no votes in nine months.
In March, Representatives Matt Salmon and David Schweikert, both Arizona Republicans, responded with a threat to bring down any bill that did not have overwhelming Republican support through procedural maneuvers. The speaker has refrained ever since.
But the influence of the group is sparking an internal backlash, as a growing band of moderate and institutional Republicans are demanding that Mr. Boehner stand up to the conservatives — to reopen the government and reach bipartisan accommodations in the future.
“You have somewhere between 180 and 200 Republican governance votes in the House, and going forward on this issue and many other issues, we’re going to have to find a coalition of Democrats to work with,” said Representative Charlie Dent, Republican of Pennsylvania, “and recognize there is going to be a few dozen people on the Republican side who just aren’t going to be there on a lot of these major governance matters.”
With much of the government shut down, patience is wearing thin among some Republicans who see the maneuvering of the coalition of conservatives as counterproductive. In 2011, the hard-liners insisted on including a constitutional amendment to balance the budget in a House spending-cut bill, splitting the Republicans in a way that many believe led to fewer cuts in the final Budget Control Act than they would have had otherwise. In December, when they brought down the speaker’s proposal to let taxes rise on incomes over $1 million, Mr. Boehner was left with two choices: let the Bush-era tax cuts expire for everyone, or accept a bipartisan Senate plan that raised taxed on households earning over $400,000. He chose the latter.
“I’m not suggesting their motives are not legitimately felt, but you get to a point where we can accomplish something here, but we’re watching the speaker constrained on what he can deliver, a practical promise from a united House,” said Representative Patrick Meehan, Republican of Pennsylvania. “We retreat from a position of strength and accept something that’s worse.”
Now, many Republicans believe conservative demands to inflict real damage to the health care law is letting slip away the chance to make more realistic changes to the law, like a repeal of its tax on medical devices.
“They have never followed any leadership plan, and now all of a sudden the leadership has adopted their plans and we’re fully implementing their strategy and plan, which is I think is actually a lack of a strategy,” said Devin Nunes, Republican of California.
House Republicans were seething Tuesday after two of the most ardent conservatives, Representatives Broun and Phil Gingrey of Georgia, voted against a House Republican bill that linked further government funding to a measure to deny federal subsidies to members of Congress and their staff, who must buy their health insurance on the health law’s new insurance exchanges. The proposal is unpopular with staff members who would have to cover the full costs of their insurance, unlike most public and private sector jobs where employers pick up part of the premiums.
They said the vote was unexpected because two weeks ago Mr. Gingrey stood at a closed-door party meeting and said members concerned about hurting their staff were misguided, since they would just go to lobbying firms “downtown” and make a half-million dollars a year.
“The congressman made a pledge that he would not vote for a continuing resolution that funded Obamacare. That was the compelling factor in his vote last night,” said a Gingrey spokeswoman, Jen Talaber.
The conservatives remain resolute against compromises, even some embraced by Republican leaders. Representative John Fleming, Republican of Louisiana, said he could not accept a repeal of the health law’s tax on medical devices as a concession to reopen the government.
“That could be bad because it could improve a bad bill,” he said. “And while it’s a terrible tax, removing a tax to make what is really an atrocious bill to the economy slightly better, I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”
To many Senate Republicans, the House’s position has now become mystifying.
“I can’t blame them for anything other than being sold a line that wouldn’t work, seeing the outside support and saying ‘maybe, maybe, maybe,’ ” Senator Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina, said of House conservatives. “Well, you know that train only in a children’s story actually gets to the top of the hill.”
*************Bleeding Money: The GOP Shutdown Will Cost Between $40-$80 Million a Day
By: Sarah Jones
Oct. 1st, 2013
MSN Money reported that the 1995-96 shutdown cost an estimated $74 million a day, “The OMB estimated that the 27-day 1995-96 shutdown cost a total of $1.4 billion, or about $2 billion in today’s dollars. Some of the lost revenue in fees and fines would eventually be recouped, according to MSNBC. Divide $2 billion by 27 and you get about $74 million a day.”
Estimates for the current shutdown vary from $40 to $80 million a day, but according to MSN Money, “share one similar prognostication: a government shutdown is bad for the economy.”
It gets worse. Annie Lowrey, an economic policy reporter for the New York Times, tweeted a staggering estimate of the damage the shutdown is doing to GDP, “David Stockton, formerly of the Fed, estimates a shutdown costs 0.15 percent of GDP growth a week.”
David Stockton, formerly of the Fed, estimates a shutdown costs 0.15 percent of GDP growth a week.
— Annie Lowrey (@AnnieLowrey) October 1, 2013
Stockton came to the same number as Morgan Stanley’s Vincent Reinhart and Ellen Zentner, who estimated the shutdown would have a direct impact on gross domestic product growth, reducing GDP growth by .15% per week. Fiscal conservatives you say? Not so much.
So, we pay when Republicans pretend to repeal ObamaCare (clearly a fail), we’d pay a lot more if they actually defunded it as it would increase the deficit, we are still paying for their 2011 debt ceiling debacle, and now we are paying for their latest temper tantrum – the GOP shutdown.
Not to get all Republican, but I’m thinking Democrats might take this opportunity to reject a short term CR at current levels. Real budget or bust.
I don’t say that to be punitive or because I’m taking this lightly. Unlike Sarah Palin, I don’t consider the functions of the government to be a big joke. Rather, the opposite.
Sometimes you have to dish out some tough love, and that time is far past. If the suicide caucus of Republicans don’t have to pay for their behavior, they’re going to keep acting like willful, petulant children. These people are not the Republicans of old. They can’t be trusted to get it. They are anarchists, sent to D.C. to serve corporations and some of them don’t even know that. These are not bright minds, capable of change and growth on their own. The only way they’re going to grow up is to be forced to face the consequences of their behavior.
The facts are you don’t always get what you want, and sometimes when you overplay your cards, you end up paying big time. I’d be very tempted to reject any short term “fixes” via a CR that will only leave the Democrats open to more hostage taking weeks down the road.
What if Republicans had to come to the table to frigging do their job for real.
What if they had to sit down for budget reconciliation and they were not allowed to use the debt ceiling or the economy as hostages. They will, if there’s even a glimmer of reality among the Tea newbies, eventually be more prone to negotiate with the shutdown hanging around their 2014 necks.
It’s time for Democrats to dish out some tough love to the hate crack addicted tea, because Speaker John Boehner obviously can’t do it and someone has to be the grown up. Boehner won’t even put a CR up for a vote that is set at Republicans’ budget levels. How’s that for stomping on your own ideas?
*************John Boehner Warns Republicans Government Shutdown Could Cost Them The House in 2014
By: Jason Easley
Oct. 1st, 2013
John Boehner is privately warning House Republicans that the government shutdown could cost them control of the House in 2014.
According to Politico, Speaker Boehner is warning House Republicans that the government shutdown could cost them control of the House next year, “The majority of polls show Republicans will bear the blame for this shutdown. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has privately warned House Republicans that they could lose their majority in 2014 as a result of shutting down the government.”
Now we understand why Boehner looked like a man who was digging his own grave, when he addressed the media shortly after the shutdown began.
Democrats have been enraged by the shutdown itself, but also see that Republican stupidity has opened the door for them to take back control of the House next year. Boehner is correct. The “Suicide Caucus” has driven House Republicans to the brink of losing their majority. The bad news for Speaker Boehner is that Democrats are not going to budge an inch on the ACA. House Republicans are going to get absolutely nothing on Obamacare.
House Democratic Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) made that clear late last night when she was asked by a reporter if Democrats could accept any small narrow change to Obamacare to get out of a shutdown. Her one word answer said it all, “No.”
Speaker Boehner knows that House Republicans are digging their own graves. Boehner has been saving the party from itself since he became Speaker, but this time, he is standing aside and letting them self destruct. House Republican leadership knows exactly what the outcome will be if this shutdown lasts for more than a couple of days. They know that their strategy of taking a hostage instead of doing the budget through regular order is backfiring. They know what they have to do, but so far they are refusing to do it.
President Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi are breaking the backs of the anti-government tea party forces. Their constant talk of a faction within the Republican Party being responsible for the shutdown is laying the groundwork for 2014. The House Republicans who have shutdown the government will be the top targets of Democrats next year.
Every minute that goes by with the government still shutdown is another step towards handing Democrats control of the House in 2014. John Boehner knows this, and for reasons only known to him, is refusing to stop it.
************Shutdown Backfires: New Poll Shows Democrats Opening Big Midterm Lead 43-34
By: Sarah Jones
Oct. 1st, 2013
Shutdown polling has grim news for Republicans. 72% oppose GOP shutdown strategy to block ObamaCare, including 44% of Republicans. Three-in-four independents (74%-19%) object.
But even worse, conventional wisdom that Republicans’ shutdown could not harm them in the midterms because only older white people vote in midterms, especially in the midterm of a president’s second term, is not as sure of a bet as the beltway has assured the GOP.
A new Quinnipiac poll shows voters picking a generic Democrat over a generic Republican 43% to 34%, which they point out is the widest Democratic margin measured so far.
Asked “If the election for the U.S. House of Representatives were being held today, would you vote for the Republican candidate, or for the Democratic candidate in your district?”
The last time Republicans were almost this low was in April, but they managed to damage the Democratic brand with the summer of fake scandals.
Speaker John Boehner tried to warn House Republicans to no avail, and he continues to try to impose reality upon the newbie Tea nihilists today, warning them that they could lose their majority in 2014 as a result of shutting down the government.
The same clueless Republicans driving the stupid in D.C. feel very assured right now that this shutdown won’t hurt them. They don’t seem to appreciate history (Newt Gingrich shutdown Clinton), polls, or reality. Nothing breaks through the cloud of narcissist tea hubris, crippled as it is by its ignorance and inexperience, and further broken by Republicans’ collective refusal to “believe” in facts. These folks live in the epistemic bubble of their highly cultivated and well funded corporate cult.
Quinnipiac cautioned that we are far out from the midterms, but that the GOP brand is taking a beating, “In general, the Republican brand is down as evidenced by the Democrats’ unusually large lead in the so called generic ballot. But we have 13 months before an election can translate this public opinion edge into electoral gains and in politics that amount of time is forever.”
Caveat: The beltway also bought into the Republican narrative of who was going to turn out to vote in 2012, and that is why no one objected to the obviously skewed polls. The conventional wisdom was that Obama voters had soured on him and wouldn’t turn out. But of course, the real “Obama voters” turned out in droves, and even stood in line for hours and faced numerous obstacles in order to cast their ballots.
“On almost all questions, voters see President Obama as more reasonable, and better able to handle the issues,” Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, explained. “But it is not because the president is beloved. He remains under water in job approval and is tied with Congressional Republicans on who best handles the budget deficit. Voters are angry at almost everyone in Washington over their inability to keep the trains running, but they are madder at the Republicans than the Democrats.”
In the end, when Republicans refuse to govern, their actions bring everyone’s approval ratings down. They count on this consistent result of dysfunction. However, in this shutdown, Republicans are too clearly leading the suicide bus over the cliff and they’re doing it over an issue that baffles most Americans. Even if people disagree with ObamaCare, they don’t want Republicans to shut the government down over it.
If you’re wondering where Paul Ryan is hiding for the days leading up to the shutdown, rumor has it that he’s busy drafting Republican demands over the debt ceiling. I kid you not. He built this shutdown with his sequester love and his budget that even Republicans couldn’t make work.
October 01, 2013 05:00 PMGOP Congress Members Threw Staffers Under The Bus Last Night
By Susie Madrak
Trying to come to an agreement with Republicans is like trying to play football against another team that uses guns and acid. They'll even throw their own people under the bus, like they did with last night's vote on the Vitter amendment -- or, as Republicans call it without a trace of conscious irony, the James Madison Congressional Accountability Act:
There's a new front in the battle over Obamacare: Republican congressional staffers are angry at their bosses for trying to deprive them of affordable insurance.
Like many Americans, most Congressional staffers receive health insurance through their employer, the federal government. And like most employers, the government covers a big portion of the cost: 75 percent. The Affordable Care Act changed this, requiring members of Congress and their staff to obtain coverage via the the health insurance exchanges created by the law. But the language in the law was unclear as to whether lawmakers and their aides would be able to keep using government money to purchase heath insurance. To clear this up, the Obama administration issued a proposed rule in August stating that the government would continue to cover 75 percent of congressional health benefits. The GOP latched onto this new regulation as an "outrageous exemption for Congress" and a "big fat taxpayer funded subsidy." Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), introduced bills that would strip out those employer contributions.
Yanking taxpayer subsidies for lawmakers makes sense politically for GOPers; it would be dangerous for Democratic lawmakers to reject a spending bill that slashes their benefits. But the proposed move has Congressional staffers—including Republicans—indignant.
"I understand it politically, and as a talking point," one rank-and-file Republican staffer says of the Vitter and McCaul measures. "But Congress literally threw staff under the bus on this… You're hurting staff assistants who are sorting your mail."
Staffers don't make as much money as you may think, he adds. "When I started on the Hill answering phone calls, I'd hear people saying, 'You're a rich congressional staffer,' and I'm like, 'you must be out of your mind.'" Some low-level congressional employees make as little as about $28,000 a year; House staff salaries are the lowest they've been since 2007. "We have folks in our office who don't make a lot of money," the GOP aide says, "and losing an employer contribution will make it hard on them."
Some Republican lawmakers agree: Rep. Peter King (R-NY), said Monday that junior staff members were being "sacrificed" for a political game. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told ABC that bumping up health care costs for staffers was "probably not a good idea," adding that low-paid staffers will "suffer."
Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, thinks the GOP has picked a losing strategy. "You never want your staffers unhappy," he says.
Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Florida), is of the same mind: "If you're going to stick pins in a voodoo doll, the doll shouldn't be people who work for you."
************Alan Grayson: Republicans are rejecting Obamacare out of drunken anger
By Arturo Garcia
Tuesday, October 1, 2013 17:23 EDT
Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) did not discount what he called “public reports” that Republican lawmakers were drinking on the job, telling Salon that it was affecting their job performance.
“It’s a fact we all have to live with,” Grayson said in an interview published on Tuesday. “It’s making them violent and abusive towards America.”
Grayson did not identify any Congress members by name, but told Salon that “you can smell alcohol on their breath as they’re voting gleefully to shut down the government and create chaos.”
Huffington Post correspondent Jennifer Bendery wrote on Twitter on Monday night that, “About every other House lawmaker I just talked to smelled like booze. It’s only 9pm.” Bendery’s account corroborates a Post report from Saturday that other media members witnessed or smelled unidentified lawmakers drinking in the midst of negotiations over shuttering government offices.Grayson also accused House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) of stymieing a vote on a “clean” continuing resolution — one providing funding for the government that also includes the Affordable Care Act — out of self-preservation.
“He enjoys his golf games with the president, and he doesn’t want to lose that perk, and so he’s desperate to maintain his relevance, and that means maintaining his position at all costs,” Grayson told Salon. “Even the kind of costs we’re seeing now for the country.”
While Republican opposition has hinged on the new healthcare law, Grayson also accused Republicans of wanting to roll back other public health programs, such as the mandate requring emergency rooms to provide health care for patients unable to pay for their services.
“When you talk to them privately, what you find is that if they could repeal Medicare they would,” Grayson argued to Salon. “If they could repeal Medicaid they would. They are literally offended by the idea that people would get the care they need to stay healthy or alive even though they can’t afford it. They regard it as some kind of crime against nature.
************Rafael, the Wacko Birds and Their Celebrated Shutdown
By: Adalia Woodbury
Oct. 1st, 2013
Only Rafael Cruz and his flock of wacko birds consider an epic fail a win. Rafael and the wacko birds celebrated the government shutdown as if they actually accomplished something. True, they got the government shutdown, which will hurt babies and their mothers who relied on the supplemental nourishment program. True, children will be hurt because the Head Start schools they go to are shut down. While the troops will be paid, 800,000 civilian government employees face furloughs for an undetermined period. Over 3 million Veterans will not get benefits. The safety of your food will be compromised because food inspectors will scale back their work. Small business growth will slow down. Disability benefits will be interrupted. Rafael and the wacko birds compromised national security and put our diplomats at risk. It means the center for disease control will shut down, as will the Statue of Liberty. Contrary to wacko bird rhetoric, shutting down the government is an expensive proposition with human and financial costs. Yeehah! So much to celebrate!
Rafael and the wacko birds don’t care that 72% of Americans oppose the shutdown because that would entail thinking about someone other than themselves. Besides, the wacko birds dumped John Boehner and appointed Rafael as the real leader of their band. They also revealed the so-called Republican moderates as wimps unable to stand up to Rafael and the wacko birds. However, Rafael and the wacko birds can claim a secondary achievement. Republican moderates are starting to find their spines. One should note that, in this case, moderate is a relative term. We’re still taking about people who think that healthcare insurance should cease to be accessible the moment someone actually needs to use it. They just don’t equate the healthcare law with Nazism, slavery and communism.
For all the suffering and the political consequences that come with a shutdown, it remains an epic fail because Rafael and the wacko birds didn’t achieve the one thing they wanted more than they wanted anything else. The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare remains law. People visited the site to learn more about the exchanges that will give them access to the healthcare system that Rafael and the wacko birds enjoy on the taxpayers’ dime. They could sign up, be it under the original named law or the same law under a revised name within their state.
Obamacare didn’t come tumbling down. Moreover, Rafael Cruz knew it during his audition for Teabilly Presidential candidate in 2016. In reality, that audition was the only “principle” that Rafael stood for.
Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. On the first day of October, Americans who the previous system denied access to “the best healthcare system in the world” gained access and with options beyond scamcare policies and the emergency room. Insurers won’t be able to cap life-sustaining services and impose gender-based penalties. The days in which illness meant bankruptcy are over.
Americans rejected Rafael’s dire warning that gaining access to healthcare is Nazism. They ignored Michele Bachmann’s equally absurd claims that somehow getting healthcare is akin to a cocaine addiction, or others who compared having access to a doctor with slavery and freedom from bankruptcy in the event of a medical crisis with communism. They just laughed at Sarah Palin’s desperate attempt to become significant by jumping on the Rafael Teawagon.
The lies will continue, because that’s what the wacko birds do. People who have the ability to think for themselves can see firsthand that if you have a pre-existing condition. you can have insurance. Your pre-existing condition will be treated immediately. Even if you have a grandfathered policy that doesn’t treat pre-existing conditions, you can still get coverage on the exchange. They’ll see every Whacko bird talking point about the ACA is a lie, including the claim that somehow a government shutdown would mean a shutdown of access to healthcare. Who knows maybe a few wacko birds will find out that the all the things they love in the Affordable Care Act but hate about Obamacare, are in Obamacare because they are the same thing.
The only thing that may shock them more is the realization that Ted Cruz and Rafael Cruz are the same person who is a dual citizen of Canada and the United States and who likes to wear ostrich skin boots.
**************Almost 3m Americans visit online healthcare exchanges amid glitches
Level of traffic to new exchange sites described as 'historic' as president says new healthcare law is here to stay
Karen McVeigh in New York
The Guardian, Tuesday 1 October 2013 23.16 BST
Up to 2.8 million Americans visited the new online healthcare exchanges that form the backbone of Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, but many were met by technical glitches that prevented or delayed their enrolment.
A further 81,000 called the telephone hotline when the exchanges opened on Tuesday, just as the federal government ground to a halt amid congressional stalemate over the same legislation.
A spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services described the level of traffic to the healthcare.gov website as "historic".
In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday afternoon, Marilyn Tavenner, the CMS administrator, said that officials had added capacity, improved the system and were hoping to speed up access of the federally-run site, which acts as a portal for 36 states.
The CMS reported that the system was now "ready" and that people have been able to complete the application process and shop for plans.
However, despite repeated requests, Tavenner refused to provide the number of people who had successfully signed up for the exchanges, or the reason for not doing so. She stressed that it was "day one" in a six-month period of enrolment.
Speaking from the White House on Tuesday, President Obama said his new healthcare law is "here to stay" and highlighted the "irony" which meant that, because of its funding sources, the healthcare law would not be affected by the government shutdown.
Obama said his administration would fix technical problems amid "this demand that exceeds anything that we had expected."
In New York state, two million people visited the site within two hours of its opening. The "overwhelming interest in the NY state of health" resulted in login issues, a message on the site said on Tuesday. It urged users unable to log in to return to the site "later, when these issues will be resolved."
A state-run exchange in Maryland also posted a message saying it was "experiencing connectivity issues" and asking visitors to try again later. There were also problems reported with security questions on the federal site.
Although no figures were available for the federal site, some states reported numbers of those who created accounts. Richard Sorian, spokesman for the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority, told the Washington Post that 1,500 residents created accounts in the first 90 minutes in Washington.
Organisers stressed that Tuesday represented just the beginning of a six-month enrolment period. A huge public information campaign is under way to inform Americans of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. For the first time, people will not be denied healthcare or charged more because they suffer from a pre-existing condition.
The White House has named 900 different groups, from the American Nurses Association to local pharmacies and advocacy groups, that are helping people get through the sign-up process. Enrolment events have been planned at public libraries, churches, festivals, sports events, and community meetings.
Coverage begins as early as January 1 2014 for people enrolling by December 15 2013. The healthcare exchanges include a range of options for patients to compare plans and find out if they are eligible for subsidies.
"We want consumers to know that they can find and compare options, check if they qualify for lower costs, and get covered," said Marilyn Tavenner, the administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
On Monday, Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, admitted there would probably be issues with the websites, and asked for patience. She likened the inevitable fixes to software updates on Apple products such as the iPhone or iPad.
"No one is calling on Apple to not sell devices for a year or to get out of the business because the whole thing is a failure," she said, according to the Washington Post. "Everyone just assumes that there's a problem, they'll fix it, let's move on … Hopefully, they'll give us the same slack as they give Apple."
Sebelius said she expected "90%" of those looking to get insurance on the health exchanges would qualify for financial help.