In the USA...United Surveillance America
November 12, 2013 03:00 PMAnother Day, Another Misleading CBS News Report
Sharyl Attkisson at CBS News strikes again. This time it's a very, very serious report about very, very serious problems with the Healthcare.gov website, the contractors who built it, and security issues. You might be very worried after hearing her report, which includes a "partial transcript" from Darrell Issa's committee about security issues, testing, and vulnerabilities.
You can imagine Issa rubbing his hands together as he produced that smoking partial transcript gun which clearly paints Henry Chao as some kind of high-flying idiot for not knowing about that secret memo setting deadlines after the website launched, right?
A partial transcript from Attkisson's report:
Henry Chao, HealthCare.gov's chief project manager at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), gave nine hours of closed-door testimony to the House Oversight Committee in advance of this week's hearing. In excerpts CBS News has obtained, Chao was asked about a memo that outlined important security risks discovered in the insurance system.
Chao said he was unaware of a Sept. 3 government memo written by another senior official at CMS. It found two high-risk issues, which are redacted for security reasons. The memo said "the threat and risk potential (to the system) is limitless." The memo shows CMS gave deadlines of mid-2014 and early 2015 to address them.
But Chao testified he'd been told the opposite.
"What I recall is what the team told me, is that there were no high findings," he said.
Chao testified security gaps could lead to identity theft, unauthorized access and misrouted data.
According to federal guidelines, high risk means "the vulnerability could be expected to have a severe or catastrophic adverse affect on organizational operations ... assets or individuals."
It's a pretty standard sleight-of-hand to drop a document in front of a witness that they've never seen before and then grill them about it. In court, the document usually needs to bear some relevance to the testimony. The same is not true in Issa Kangaroo Obamacare Court. There, anything can be tossed at a witness and they have to testify truthfully about it. Chao did, saying he'd never seen the document.
So CBS, perhaps you might have asked whether you could see the full transcript of that testimony? Or at least the context of the document? If you had, you might know you'd just been punked by Darrell Issa and his roving band of mercenary Obamacare killers.
The CBS report sounds troubling, right? Probably, at least until one picks up the phone to ask Democrats on the committee whether the CBS report is accurate.
I talked to a Democratic staffer this morning about the partial transcript and the aide said Issa’s staff “basically sandbagged this witness with a document he had never seen before and then failed to inform him that it has nothing to do with parts of the website that launched on October 1. In fact, it relates to a function of the website that is not currently active and won’t be until the spring of 2014. Rather than seeking out the truth, this press release tries to scare the public by capitalizing on confusion caused by the Chairman’s own staff.”
Oh. So, when Republicans and CBS suggest the project manager in charge of building the federal health care website was apparently kept in the dark about serious failures in the website’s security, they’re leaving out pretty much every relevant detail that points in a more accurate direction.
The Democratic staffer added that even when this part of the website is active, it “will not submit or share personally identifiable information,” but rather, will only include “insurance information plan data.”
Let’s say this again: beware of partial transcripts from Issa’s office. They keep pulling this trick; there’s no reason anyone should keep falling for it.
Attkisson is right up there with Lara Logan when it comes to agenda-based ZOMG investigative reporting. She may be best known for her claim earlier this year that her computer was hacked, which then became a vague, well, maybe not, maybe it was just...BENGHAZI.
This latest was an easy story for Attkisson to verify. It just took a telephone call to verify with some Democrats on the committee. Attkisson's failure to make that call or to even check the most basic facts before going on the national news with this is further evidence of how far CBS News has fallen.
It's sad and yet heartening all at once to know that the only news outlet doing actual reporting with real investigative work is not a United States-owned network -- Al Jazeera America. The rest of them are captives of their paymasters, who are desperate to make sure the Affordable Care Act doesn't bring this country into the 21st century anytime soon.
click to view:
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*****************Bill Clinton heaps pressure on Obama in row over healthcare
Veteran Democrat urges president to change law to allow Americans to keep their current health insurance plans
Reuters in Washington
theguardian.com, Wednesday 13 November 2013 08.57 GMT
Former president Bill Clinton has added his voice to the growing pressure on Barack Obama to adjust his problem-plagued healthcare legislation, telling web magazine Ozymandias that the president should support a change in the law that would allow Americans who are happy with their health plans to keep them.
"I personally believe, even if it takes a change to the law, the president should honour the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got," Clinton told the magazine.
The comments were significant coming from Clinton, perhaps the most popular figure in the Democratic party and a longtime supporter of efforts to help millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans obtain coverage for healthcare.
Since the 2010 Affordable Care Act came into effect on 1 October, millions of Americans have discovered their plans were being cancelled because they did not meet the strict minimum coverage levels required by the new law.
Amid criticism that he had broken his promise to those who want to keep their old health plans, Obama apologised last week for not being more clear in his statements about the law.
But the apology has done little to dampen down a wave of criticism of the president. That criticism – combined with the continuing problems at HealthCare.gov that have kept untold numbers of Americans from signing up for coverage under the new law – appeared to push some Democrats to a breaking point on Tuesday.
Hours after Clinton's comments, the Senate's No 2 Democrat, Richard Durbin of Illinois, said that although the White House has long resisted alterations to the Affordable Care Act, Democrats should be open to "constructive changes" to improve the law.
Another influential senator, California's Dianne Feinstein, issued a statement shortly afterwards, saying she would join Senator Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, in sponsoring a bill that would allow Americans to keep their current insurance plans, even if the plans do not meet the new law's standards for coverage.
"Too many Americans are struggling to make ends meet," Feinstein said in a statement. "We must ensure that in our effort to reform the healthcare system, we do not allow unintended consequences to go unaddressed."
Republicans who opposed "Obamacare" have long been critical of virtually every aspect of the law and the administration's promotion of it.
The Republican House speaker, John Boehner of Ohio, said the comments from Democrats signalled "a growing recognition that Americans were misled when they were promised that they could keep their coverage".
The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires that most Americans at least be enrolled for health insurance by 31 March or pay a fine. Americans must enrol by 15 December for coverage that begins on 1 January.
November 12, 2013Obama in Bind Trying to Keep Health Law Vow
By MICHAEL D. SHEAR and ROBERT PEAR
WASHINGTON — Under intense bipartisan pressure to answer mounting consumer complaints about the botched health care rollout, White House officials are struggling to make good on President Obama’s promise that Americans can keep their insurance coverage without undermining the new health law or adding unaffordable costs.
After the president’s apology last week for wrongly assuring Americans that they could retain their health plans if they wanted, senior White House aides said the president wanted to ensure that people who were forced off older policies with less comprehensive coverage were not stuck with higher monthly premiums to replace their insurance. But administration officials declined to say how they might achieve that goal, how much it would cost or whether it would require congressional approval.
At the same time, officials signaled the president’s strong opposition to calls from across the political spectrum — including one Tuesday from a key ally, former President Bill Clinton — to support bipartisan legislation that would allow people to keep their current insurance plans even after provisions of the Affordable Care Act go into effect next year.
White House officials refused to discuss in detail what options Mr. Obama was considering. But they made clear that the president was skeptical of any solution that would allow insurance companies to continue selling what officials consider to be cheap and substandard policies.
“Broadly speaking, we do not see that as fixing the problem,” Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said Tuesday.
The split between lawmakers and the White House reflects the dilemma the president finds himself in as he seeks to follow through on last week’s acknowledgment about his incorrect promise on health care coverage. Hundreds of thousands of people have received cancellation notices from health insurance companies because their plans do not conform with minimum standards set by the new law.
With lawmakers promoting their simple-sounding solution, the challenge for Mr. Obama is to find a workable and politically practical way to address the issue to the satisfaction of those who have lost policies.
“Any fix that would essentially open up for insurers to sell new plans that did not meet the standards would create more problems than it would fix,” Mr. Carney told reporters. It was unclear how the administration could make new plans more affordable, or whether that solution would be interpreted by Americans as keeping the promise that the president made in selling the health care law. Republicans in Congress would be certain to oppose efforts by the White House to expand subsidies.
The idea of passing legislation to allow all Americans to keep their coverage got a fresh boost on Tuesday when Mr. Clinton added his voice to the debate. In an interview, Mr. Clinton joined the intensifying criticism of the health care rollout and called on Mr. Obama to accept a change in the health care law that would allow insurance companies to keep selling policies that do not meet the new standards.
“I personally believe even if it takes a change in the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got,” Mr. Clinton said in the interview, published by Ozy, a web magazine.
Mr. Clinton, who tried to pass a health care overhaul during his presidency, has been a powerful advocate for the Affordable Care Act, especially among the president’s key Democratic constituencies. And Mr. Clinton’s wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, is weighing a White House bid in 2016 that could be affected by the fortunes of the health care law.
Mr. Clinton followed a steady stream of Democrats who have announced their support for legislation to let people keep their coverage. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, endorsed one such effort by Senators Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, both Democrats.
“Since the beginning of September, I have received 30,842 calls, emails and letters from Californians, many of whom are very distressed by cancellations of their insurance policies and who are facing increased out-of-pocket costs,” Ms. Feinstein said. “The Landrieu bill is a common-sense fix that will protect individuals in the private insurance market from being forced to change their insurance plans.”
Ms. Landrieu, who faces a difficult election fight next year, said the cancellation notices “should have never gone out.”
“We said, and the president said over and over, that if people have insurance and they like the insurance they have, they can keep it,” Ms. Landrieu said. “That is my bill. That is the single focus of my bill. It is not to undermine the Affordable Care Act. It is to strengthen it and to keep our promise to millions of Americans.”
The White House declined to comment specifically on Ms. Landrieu’s bill, but said that another effort by Representative Fred Upton, Republican of Michigan,and the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, was especially problematic. Under Mr. Upton’s bill, an insurer that had individual policies in effect on Jan. 1 of this year could continue to “offer such coverage for sale during 2014” in the market outside an exchange.
Representative Henry A. Waxman of California, the senior Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, denounced the bill as an effort to undermine the health care law.
“The bill would continue to allow insurers to exclude people from coverage based on pre-existing conditions,” Mr. Waxman said. “It would allow insurers to charge women twice as much as men for the same coverage.”
The concerns from Mr. Waxman and the White House echo those of insurance company executives themselves, who say the legislation under consideration would create huge operational challenges. Insurance is generally regulated by the states, they say, and the old policies have not been approved for sale beyond next month.
With just over a month before the deadline for consumers to enroll for coverage that begins Jan. 1, it is still not clear how many people have managed to sign up for coverage. Projections based on a Nov. 3 report attributed to the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association suggest that at most 40,000 people had enrolled for insurance through the online federal exchange by Nov. 3.
The association decided to stop issuing its weekly enrollment report after The Wall Street Journal published an article on the numbers, according to two people familiar with the decision. In a statement, Alissa Fox, a vice president at the association, said she had not seen the enrollment report and could not verify that it was authentic.
Insurers say that allowing people to keep their existing policies would upend the assumptions built into new policies and rates for next year and lead to higher premiums for consumers.
Sharon LaFraniere contributed reporting from New York.
November 12, 2013Fighting to Stop an Entitlement Before It Takes Hold, and Expands
By JOHN HARWOOD
WASHINGTON — Underlying fierce Republican efforts to stop President Obama’s health care law and the White House drive to save it is a simple historical reality: Once major entitlement programs get underway, they quickly become embedded in American life. And then they grow.
That makes the battle over the Affordable Care Act more consequential than most Washington political fights. “If it’s in place for six months, it will be impossible to repeal it or change it in ways that significantly reduce the benefits,” said Robert D. Reischauer, a Democrat who used to lead the Congressional Budget Office.
Douglas Holtz-Eakin, another former C.B.O. director, reflects the concern of fellow Republicans in framing the stakes more dramatically. Either the law’s health insurance exchanges “can’t cut it,” he explained, or “it’s Katie, bar the door — we have an explosively growing new program.”
Ever since President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal during the Great Depression, the dominant pattern for major entitlements — the term for government assistance programs open to all who qualify and not subject to annual budget constraints — has been durability and expansion. That is the record Senator Ted Cruz of Texas refers to in warning Republicans not to allow Americans to become “hooked on the subsidies” — an argument Mr. Obama sarcastically recast as, “We’ve got to stop it before people like it too much.”
Congress enacted Social Security in 1935 to provide benefits to retired workers. In 1939, benefits were extended to their dependents and survivors. Later the program grew to provide disability coverage, cover self-employed farmers and raise benefit levels.
President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society created Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s to provide health coverage for the elderly and the poor. They followed the same pattern.
In 1972, Congress extended Medicare eligibility to those under 65 on disability and with end-stage renal disease. In 2003, Congress passed President George W. Bush’s plan to offer coverage under Medicare for prescription drugs.
Lawmakers initially linked Medicaid coverage to those receiving welfare benefits, but over time expanded eligibility to other “poverty-related groups” such as pregnant women. In 1997, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which now covers eight million children whose families’ incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid.
“You pull more people in, and the benefits become more generous,” Mr. Holtz-Eakin said. “Congress knows how to fix an inequity — write a check.”
Those expansions only partly explain why spending on government assistance programs — which also include welfare, food stamps, farm subsidies and federal retirement — has grown to 56 percent last year from less than 30 percent of federal spending in 1962, according to the Congressional Research Service. The biggest reasons: the aging of the population, which has swollen the rolls of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (which also covers nursing home care), and the steady growth in the cost of health care.
Lawmakers have, in rare circumstances, shown the willingness and ability to pare back entitlements. The one recent reversal of a major entitlement occurred just a year after enactment. In 1989, older Americans irate over higher taxes pushed Congress to repeal the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act that President Ronald Reagan had signed in 1988.
In 1996, Mr. Clinton and a Republican Congress converted federal welfare benefits into a block grant to states and introduced time limits for eligibility.
“That was for a population that has little political power,” Mr. Reischauer said. The same is true for the current effort by congressional Republicans to sharply cut food assistance spending for the poor.
More influential constituencies, such as the agriculture industry, have greater ability to push back.
The Cato Institute notes that, having curbed farm subsidies in 1996, Congress later expanded them again by adding new crops to the rolls and creating a “countercyclical” price guarantee. In the same farm bill debate on cutting food stamps this summer, the House embraced higher payments to some farmers, including wealthy ones.
Mr. Obama has already raised the possibility of raising the cost of the health law by saying he has directed aides to explore relief for some customers now facing rate increases. Major employers could raise costs further by choosing to stop providing coverage for their workers, making more Americans eligible for federal subsidies.
Some Republicans see the prospect of metastasizing costs under the law as no accident.
“They see it as a subterfuge leading to single-payer,” government-run health care, said Ron Haskins, a former Republican congressional aide and adviser to Mr. Bush. Mr. Haskins, a key figure in the 1996 welfare overhaul, said Republicans should aim to limit the cost of subsidies rather than repeal the law.
The political system’s heightened focus on deficit reduction lately has increased the odds that a strategy to restrain spending could work. Moreover, some recent trends in entitlement spending point toward the possibility of slower long-term growth.
Medicare’s 10-year-old prescription drug program has cost less than forecast. Republicans credit the effects of the program’s reliance on market forces; Democrats point toward lower than expected enrollment and increased use of generic alternatives to major drugs whose patents have expired.
More important, health cost inflation over all has slowed in recent years, curbing expected growth in Medicare and Medicaid expenses. The durability and sources of that trend remain unclear; some experts point to short-term effects of a weak economy, others to changes in medical industry reimbursement practices that the health law has encouraged.
So long as it lasts, however, the trend offers hope of offsetting the long-term liabilities that budget pessimists have come to fear from major entitlement programs.
“That’s the $64 trillion question,” said Mr. Reischauer, one of two public trustees of the Social Security and Medicare programs. “I have no idea what the bottom line will be on that.”
******************Elizabeth Warren challenges Obama: Break up Wall Street ‘behemoths’
By Dan Roberts, The Guardian
Tuesday, November 12, 2013 20:28 EST
Amid speculation that she might run against Hillary Clinton in 2016, firebrand senator attacks regulators for multiple failings
Senator Elizabeth Warren cemented her growing reputation as a darling of the political left on Tuesday with a wide-ranging speech challenging the Obama administration to take on Wall Street and break up its biggest banks.
Amid renewed speculation that she might challenge Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic nomination, Warren appeared at a congressional event to attack regulators for failing to tackle the problem of financial institutions that are “too big to fail”.
“We have got to get back to running this country for American families, not for its largest financial institutions,” said Warren, who said the issue was an indictment of how little had changed since the 2008 banking crash.
The four biggest Wall Street banks are 30% larger than before the financial crisis, she said, while the five biggest institutions hold more than half the bank assets in the country.
Warren claimed this amounted to an $83bn-a-year taxpayer subsidy for some Wall Street institutions, because they were so large that they could safely rely on a government bailout in the event of a future crisis, and were therefore able to take bigger risks than rivals. She also cited research suggesting the crash had cost up to $14tn, or $120,000 for each American household.
The first-term senator from Massachusetts, who led the congressional taskforce overseeing the bank bailout, has repeatedly denied she has presidential ambitions, but growing talk of her potential candidacy has ensured that even is she doesn’t run, she will act as a counter-weight to Wall Street financial backing for Clinton.
In her speech to the Roosevelt Institute and Americans for Financial Reform, Warren did not mention wider political ambitions but focused on proposed legislation launched over the summer with Republican John McCain to break up large banks and build on the 2010 Dodd-Frank reforms.
“Where are we in making sure behemoth institutions on Wall Street can’t bring down the economy again? And make wild gambles that suck up all the profits in the good times? And stick the taxpayer with the bill when it goes wrong?” she demanded.
“Three years since Dodd-Frank was passed, the biggest banks are bigger than ever, the risks to the system have grown and the market distortions continue.”
She said current regulators do not give “much reason for confidence” and added: “It is time to act: the last thing we should do is wait for another crisis.”
Warren’s remarks came as the White House confirmed that a relatively unknown Treasury official Timothy Massad would replace former Goldman Sachs banker Gary Gensler as chair of Wall Street derivatives regulator, the Commodities and Futures Trading Commission.
Announcing the appointment, President Obama defended what he called “historic Wall Streets reforms” that had already “put in place smarter, tougher common sense rules of the road.”
“The markets have hit record highs and there is no doubt our financial system is more stable,” said Obama.
“Tim’s a guy that doesn’t seek the spotlight,” he added.
© Guardian News and Media 2013
****************The Tea Party is losing support — even among conservative Republicans
By Harry Enten, The Guardian
Tuesday, November 12, 2013 9:03 EST
Results from last week’s elections and national polling show the Tea Party has seen a major drop in popularity since 2010
It was just three years ago that the Tea Party was flying high. Riding a wave of anti-establishment and anti-Obama anger, Tea Party candidates knocked off Democrats and Republicans alike. Three years later, the Tea Party’s light seems to have faded.
One can look at the results of last week’s election in which the Tea Party underperformed. Ken Cuccinelli became the first Virginia major party candidate to lose a gubernatorial election when his party did not control the White House in 40 years. He lost to Democrat Terry McAuliffe, who is about as popular in Virginia as the Dallas Cowboys.
Cuccinelli’s even more Tea Party aligned running-mate E W Jackson got crushed. Jackson lost by over 10pt compared to just 2.5pt for Cuccinelli. One could take this as a sign that Cuccinelli would have lost by even more, if he had run further to the right.
The only member of the statewide Virginia ticket to come close was Attorney General candidate Mark Obenshain. Obenshain, who at this moment is involved in a race that is almost certainly heading towards a recount, was the least extreme of the three Republicans. He had some Tea Party ties, but went to much further lengths to distance himself from the brand. It showed in the results.
Indeed, the most successful Republican on election night 2013 was non-Tea Party member Chris Christie. Christie became the first Republican to win a majority of the vote in a statewide New Jersey election since 1988. He became the first Republican gubernatorial candidate outside of Florida to take more than 50% of the vote of the Latino vote in the last decade.
The same thing can be said for the Tea Party strength within the Republican electorate on election day 2013. Alabama’s first district special primary runoff was tantamount to victory in the heavily Republican district. While both Bradley Byrne and Dean Young are conservative, it was Young who sold himself as the “Ted Cruz guy”. Byrne had the establishment support and backing from the business community. He won by 5pt.
Yet, it would be silly to rely solely on a few off-elections to make a larger statement about the Tea Party at large. The problem for Tea Partiers is that last Tuesday’s results seem indicative of larger national trends. The percentage of Americans identifying with the Tea Party continues to collapse.
The latest George Washington University Battleground poll found that just 19% of Americans said they would consider themselves a member of the Tea Party. The NBC News / Wall Street Journal survey found a record high 70% of Americans would say they were not members. Asked slightly differently, the last CNN / ORC survey discovered that only 28% of Americans held a favorable view of the Tea Party movement, while a record high 56% of Americans held an unfavorable view.
This polling is a major change from just three years ago. Before the the 2010 midterms, NBC / Wall Street Journal pegged the percentage of Tea Party supporters at about 30%, while 60% said they were not. In terms of the margin between the two sides, it’s been a drop of 20pt against the Tea Party over the past three years.
The favorable numbers are even more telling: 37% of Americans held a favorable view of the Tea Party per CNN / ORC on the eve of the 2010 midterms. That was equal to the 37% who held an unfavorable view. Now, the Tea Party’s net favorable is 28pt lower overall. It’s not a brand politicians would want to be associated with in the general election.
In Republican primaries, it’s not entirely clear that it’s a positive either. Only 36% of Republicans said they were a member of the Tea Party in the George Washington University Battleground poll. That matches the 40% of Republicans who said they agreed with the Tea Party movement in the latest Pew survey.
I guess one could point to the fact that the CNN / ORC survey had 59% of Republicans voicing a favorable opinion against just 28% who have a negative one. Of course, the 31pt net favorable of the Tea Party within the Republican ranks is 30pt lower than how Republicans view the Republican party. The same survey also had only 43% of Republicans saying the Tea Party was mainstream, while 42% said it was too extreme. Those aren’t particularly strong for a party where most Tea Partiers reside and leaves plenty of room for a non-Tea Party candidate in a primary.
That’s quite different from three years ago when the Tea Party was quite popular among Republicans. Kaiser determined that 54% of Republicans said they were a supporter of the Tea Party in November 2010. 58% of Republicans agreed with the Tea Party in the final Pew poll before the 2010 election. Both of those percentages have dropped by 20pt now.
Republicans net favorable view of the Tea Party was +47pt just prior to the 2010 election, which has been cut by nearly 20pt as well. Only 19% of Republicans thought the people involved in the Tea Party were “too extreme” in October 2010 per a CBS News survey. Though the wording is slightly different, the CNN/ORC poll indicates that percentage has more than doubled in the past three years.
When you put it all together, it’s seems pretty clear that the Tea Party in America is on the decline at this moment. The results from last week’s elections in New Jersey and Virginia show that the candidates aligned most with the Tea Party did the worst. This mirrors the nationwide trend over the past few years where both the electorate at-large and even the Republican party voters specifically is moving away from the Tea Party.
© Guardian News and Media 2013
****************Washington Post columnist says NYC mayor’s biracial family makes ‘conventional’ people ‘gag’ (UPDATE: Cohen responds)
By David Ferguson
Tuesday, November 12, 2013 11:05 EST
The Washington Post‘s ostensibly liberal columnist Richard Cohen set off a ruckus on Monday with his latest column, in which he said that the family of New York City’s mayor-elect Bill de Blasio is unconventional enough to be physically revolting to average Americans.
In a piece entitled “Christie’s tea-party problem,” Cohen issued a standard set of Beltway bromides about the state of the 2016 race and the extent to which the Republican Party could be hobbled by far-right factions within its ranks. Then, in his seventh paragraph, Cohen took off on a tin-eared tangent about the New York City mayoral race.
“Today’s GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party,” Cohen said, “but it is deeply troubled — about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts — but not all — of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.”
Critics have called Cohen’s judgment into question, as well as his use of the word “conventional” to describe racist, reactionary viewpoints.
Salon’s Brian Beutler sarcastically tweeted, “Nothing racist at all about throwing up in your mouth a little when you see biracial couples.”
“I’m sure there’s some market niche for columns denouncing miscegenation and race mixing, but is it really the Washington, D.C. market?” asked Slate’s Matthew Yglesias, suggesting that the Post might start its new path out of bankruptcy by first firing Richard Cohen.
“Obviously eliminating Cohen-related expenditures would not, on its own, bring the Post to solvency,” he said. “But every little bit helps.”
Cohen has a history of controversy at the Post. In 1998, the newspaper mediated between Cohen and a 23-year-old female intern in a sexual harassment incident. Cohen reportedly told the new intern to “stand up and turn around” so he could see why she was hired. In the end, the Post fired the intern and kept Cohen.
In the last year, Cohen has penned columns blaming Miley Cyrus and the “twerking” dance craze for rape and sexual assault of women, as well as another piece in which he said he understood and sympathized with gunman George Zimmerman, who shot and killed unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012.
Reuters media columnist Jack Shafer tweeted Tuesday morning, “Richard Cohen just wrote his retirement notice.”
UPDATE: Talking Points Memo notes that Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth lauded Cohen’s column as “brilliant” via Twitter hours before the flap erupted.
Brilliant: richard Cohen on why Cruz beats Christie in iowa: http://t.co/Ofl85i5lf1
— katharine weymouth (@weymouthk) November 12, 2013
UPDATE: Washington Post opinion editor Fred Hiatt responded to the fracas by saying that he could have edited “one sentence more carefully.” According to Talking Points Memo, Hiatt told “The Wrap” that he supports Cohen and doesn’t believe that he’s a racist or that he intended the column to be racist.
“Anyone reading Richard’s entire column will see he is just saying that some Americans still have a hard time dealing with interracial marriage. I erred in not editing that one sentence more carefully to make sure it could not be misinterpreted,” said Hiatt, leaping to Cohen’s defense.
“I think he is a terrific columnist,” Hiatt continued. “I’m very happy to have him in the Post.”
Not everyone is so sanguine about Cohen. Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic wrote, “Right. I’m not racist. I just don’t recognize my country. Also, the sight of you, and your used-to-be-lesbian black wife, and your brown children make me sick to my stomach. It’s not like I want to lynch you or anything.”
At Think Progress, Zack Beauchamp, in a thorough and thoughtful piece about Cohen’s history of racism, sexism and homophobia, wrote that the columnist’s work boasts a “deep simple-mindedness,” and that it is its “total incuriosity about a changing world that makes Cohen uniquely odious.”
UPDATE: After refusing to comment on the column for much of Tuesday, Cohen opened up to Huffington Post, saying that the controversy is “hurtful” to him and that he has been misconstrued.
“The word racist is truly hurtful,” he said to Huffington Post. “It’s not who I am. It’s not who I ever was. It’s just not fair. It’s just not right.”
“I didn’t write one line, I wrote a column,” Cohen insisted. “The column is about tea party extremism and I was not expressing my views, I was expressing the views of what I think some people in the Tea Party held.”
He then hastened to assure Huffington’s Ryan Grim and Katherine Fung that he didn’t mean that the way it sounded.
“I don’t think everybody in the Tea Party is like that,” he said, “because I know there are blacks in the tea party. So they’re not all racist, unless I’m going to start doing mind reading about why those black people are there.”
He said that he is not a racist, although he has been criticized for insensitivity on race issues in the past. That, he said, is only because he’s not some cookie-cutter liberal who believes lock-step in the orthodoxy of liberalism.
“Every once in a while I take an unconventional stance as a liberal,” he said, and that lands him in hot water. But really, it’s just because he’s being held to an unfair standard.
“If someone on the right wrote this, no one would care,” Cohen asserted. “No one would make a big deal about it but because I veer every once in awhile from orthodoxy, or maybe more than once in awhile, I get plastered this way.”
[image of the de Blasio family via de Blasio for New York]
******************Gohmert isn’t sure if Obamacare’s ‘secret security force’ will use weapons or syringes
By David Edwards
Tuesday, November 12, 2013 15:39 EST
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) recently repeated a debunked conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama was deploying a “secret security force” as part of the health care reform law, but he wasn’t sure if they were being trained with weapons or syringes.
In a Friday interview, Christian radio host Janet Mefferd told the Texas congressman that the evidence of President Barack Obama creating a civilian security force and hoarding ammunition was adding up.
Gohmert agreed that “Obamacare wasn’t just about health care” and pointed to a section of the Affordable Care Act that created the Ready Reserve Corps to “assist full-time Commissioned Corps personnel to meet both routine public health and emergency response missions.”
While FactCheck.org has debunked conspiracy theories that claimed the health care law gave “Obama a Nazi-like ‘private army’ of 6,000 people,” Gohmert still believed there could be evil lurking behind the Ready Reserve Corps.
“I’ve continued to ask questions, what is this for?” he told Mefferd. “It says it is for international health crises, but then it doesn’t include the word ‘health’ when it talks about national emergencies. And I’ve asked, what kind of training are they getting? It provides in Obamacare that this commission and non-commissioned officer corps will be trained. But I want to know, are they using weapons to train or are they being taught to use syringes and health care items? But we’ve got no clear answers on that.”
“Some kind of secret security force is the kind of thing the United States is never supposed to have,” he later added. “We’re just not supposed to be doing that. But until we get enough members of Congress stirred up over the things that I’ve been preaching about then we’re not likely to get answers. And the way you get their attention is start cutting funding until you get answers.”
FactCheck.org noted in 2010 that the “truth about the new Ready Reserve Corps is a lot less interesting than the conspiracy theories.”
Before the law was passed, the Public Health Service, unlike other elements of the government’s seven uniformed services, didn’t have a “ready reserve” – a cadre of individuals who could be called up involuntarily in times of need. What it had was a regular, full-time corps of 2,800 doctors, nurses, scientists and other medical professionals, which was the limit under law. It also had a reserve corps. But most of the individuals in the reserve corps, which was larger than the regular corps, were on extended active duty for the duration of their careers; in other words, they worked full-time, just like the regular corps, because they were needed, but the statutory cap prevented the service from bringing them into the regular corps.
The new law eliminates the personnel cap and brings the members of what used to be the reserve corps into the regular corps, which as a result now numbers about 6,600, according to an official at the Public Health Service who spoke to us on background.
And the law creates the ready reserve of individuals who can be called up for service by the U.S. surgeon general in times of need; the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is often used as an example of an incident that might trigger a call-up.
Officials at the PHS are in the process of developing regulations that will determine how the Ready Reserve Corps is populated, but the person we spoke to said there will be limits on how long individuals could serve on active duty. Those who are activated will be paid for the duration of their service, and the bill provides $12.5 million per year through 2014 for the Ready Reserve.