In the USA...United Surveillance Amercia
November 1, 2013Snowden Asks U.S. to Stop Treating Him Like a Traitor
By ALISON SMALE
BERLIN — Edward J. Snowden, the fugitive American security contractor granted temporary asylum by Russia, has appealed to Washington to stop treating him like a traitor for revealing that the United States has been eavesdropping on its allies, a German politician who met with Mr. Snowden said on Friday.
Mr. Snowden made his appeal in a letter that was carried to Berlin by Hans-Christian Ströbele, a veteran member of the Green Party in the German Parliament. Mr. Ströbele said he and two journalists for German news outlets met with Mr. Snowden and a person described as his assistant — probably his British aide, Sarah Harrison — at an undisclosed location in or near Moscow on Thursday for almost three hours.
Mr. Ströbele had gone to Moscow to explore whether Mr. Snowden could or would testify before a planned parliamentary inquiry into the eavesdropping. Any arrangements for Mr. Snowden to testify would require significant legal maneuvering, as it seemed unlikely that he would travel to Germany for fear of extradition to the United States.
In his letter, Mr. Snowden, 30, also appealed for clemency. He said his disclosures about American intelligence activity at home and abroad, which he called “systematic violations of law by my government that created a moral duty to act,” have had positive effects.
Yet “my government continues to treat dissent as defection, and seeks to criminalize political speech with felony charges that provide no defense,” Mr. Snowden wrote. “However, speaking the truth is not a crime. I am confident that with the support of the international community, the government of the United States will abandon this harmful behavior.”
Mr. Ströbele, 74, is a seasoned left-wing defense lawyer and the longest-serving member of the parliamentary committee that oversees German intelligence. At a packed news conference after his return to Berlin, he said he was contacted about going to Moscow late last week after the German government said Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone might have been tapped by American intelligence agents. He declined to elaborate, but said he has had no dealings with the Russian authorities or the German Embassy in Moscow.
He deftly parried requests to reveal more, while appealing to the governments and citizens of Germany, France and the United States to stop treating Mr. Snowden as a criminal.
Instead, Mr. Ströbele said, echoing an opinion gaining support here, Germany should thank Mr. Snowden. After ARD, the premier German television network, reported on Thursday night about the Moscow visit, it broadcast a commentary arguing that Germany should show gratitude for his exposure of United States intelligence practices.
Mr. Ströbele said he had found Mr. Snowden lucid and well informed. He said he had been told that Mr. Snowden was allowed to go shopping, but Mr. Ströbele declined to reveal any other details about Mr. Snowden’s routine.
News about the visit to Moscow eclipsed a number of interviews given on Thursday by the American ambassador, John B. Emerson, who tried to assuage German fears that the United States Embassy in Berlin was the center for monitoring Ms. Merkel and other well-placed Germans.
Mr. Emerson, who arrived in Berlin two months ago and is a strong proponent of a landmark American and European trade deal under negotiation, was summoned to the German Foreign Ministry last week after Berlin’s suspicions about eavesdropping on Ms. Merkel were made public. The action was unprecedented in post-World War II relations between the United States and Germany.
Ms. Merkel, while palpably angry in appearances last week, has made no direct statements since, quietly sending two senior advisers to Washington this week to begin re-establishing the trust she said had been breached.
Mr. Ströbele’s news conference yielded moments of humor as well. At one point, his cellphone rang. He pulled it out, looked at it and asked cheerfully, “Does anybody know the chancellor’s number?”
Asked to speculate about which intelligence services might have monitored his trip to Moscow, he said with a smile, “I assume that they are all interested.”
November 02, 2013 01:00 AMDianne Feinstein’s Fake FISA Fix May Expand Use of Phone Dragnet
Dianne Feinstein and 10 other Senate Intelligence Committee members approved a bill yesterday that purports to improve the dragnet but actually does almost nothing besides writing down the rules the FISA Court already imposed on the practice.
I’ll have far more on DiFi’s Fake Fix later, but for now, I want to point to language that could dramatically expand use of the phone dragnet database, at least as they’ve portrayed its use.
Here’s how, in June, DiFi described the terms on which NSA could access the dragnet database.
It can only look at that data after a showing that there is a reasonable, articulable that a specific individual is involved in terrorism, actually related to al Qaeda or Iran. At that point, the database can be searched. [my emphasis]
Here are the terms on which her Fake Fix permits access to the database.
there was a reasonable articulable suspicion that the selector was associated with international terrorism or activities in preparation therefor. [my emphasis]
The bill passed yesterday does not require any tie to al Qaeda (or Iran!). An association with al Qaeda (and Iran!) is one possible standard for accessing the database. But it also permits use of the data if someone is “associated with activities in preparation” for international terrorism.
Does that include selling drugs to make money to engage in “terrorism”? Does that include taking pictures of landmark buildings? Does that include accessing a computer in a funny way?
All of those things might be deemed “activities in preparation” for terrorism. And this bill, as written, appears to permit the government to access the database of all the phone-based relationships in the US based not on any known association with al Qaeda (and Iran!), but instead activities that might indicate preparation for terrorism but might also indicate mild nefarious activity or even tourism crossing international borders.
Click to watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Jv3xq0JCtY
**************White House rejects criticism of Obama over NSA surveillance as rift deepens
Veteran diplomats question NSA director's assertion that ambassadors request monitoring of foreign leaders
Dan Roberts and Paul Lewis in Washington
theguardian.com, Friday 1 November 2013 20.10 GMT
The White House sought on Friday to distance itself from the National Security Agency's monitoring of foreign leaders, rejecting criticism that President Barack Obama was understating his knowledge of the agency's activities.
In a further sign of the growing blame game within Washington over the affair, spokesman Jay Carney said Obama paid close attention to terrorism intercepts but had no need to personally bug the phones of allies.
"The president is a very deliberate consumer of the intelligence gathered for him on national security matters," said Carney. "But when the president wants to find out what the heads of state of friendly nations think, he calls them."
The White House comments followed an admission on Thursday from secretary of state John Kerry that some surveillance practices were carried out "on auto-pilot" and had not been known to the president. That was followed on Thursday night by the NSA director, Keith Alexander, blaming Kerry's own department for driving its spying on friendly world leaders.
"The intelligence agencies don't come up with the requirements. The policymakers come up with the requirements," Alexander said. "One of those groups would have been, let me think, hold on, oh: ambassadors."
Alexander said the NSA collected information when it was asked by policy officials to discover the "leadership intentions" of foreign countries. "If you want to know leadership intentions, these are the issues," he said.
On Friday, veteran US diplomats questioned that assertion.
Thomas Pickering, who served as ambassador to Russia, India, Israel, Jordan and the United Nations, said he found it puzzling that intelligence agencies would interpret requests for information as a green light to bug the phones of friendly government leaders.
"To point the finger at ambassadors as being responsible for generating these requests seems, in my experience, to be far fetched," Pickering told the Guardian.
"In my time, intelligence requirements were never based on collection methods, they were based on intelligence interests. That an ambassador may have been interested in the views of a foreign leader is not a reason to say they had any responsibility for how that information was gathered."
Pickering, who recently led a White House review of the 2012 assassination of the US ambassador to Libya, said he had no direct knowledge but would be surprised to find the NSA was taking direction from ambassadors on such matters.
"It would be self-evident that embassies would be interested in knowing, but it is a huge jump to imagine that an ambassador could somehow be so persuasive as to persuade the intelligence community," he said.
NSA director Gen Keith Alexander. NSA director General Keith Alexander. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP
Alexander's explanation also drew scorn from James Carew Rosapepe, who served as an ambassador under the Clinton administration, who said "we generally don't do that in democratic societies" during an event at the the Baltimore Council on Foreign Relations on Thursday.
Pressed over the apparent "inconsistency" between comments by Alexander and Kerry, Jen Psaki, the state department's chief spokeswoman, said on Friday: "I don't actually think there was an inconsistency … I would just refute the notion of the question."
She added that the reviews into surveillance programs announced by the White House included all branches of government, and that Kerry's remarks applied not just to the state department.
"When the secretary made his comments yesterday, he said 'we'," she said. "He is talking about a collective 'we', as in the entire government is looking at these programs."
*****************Report: Benghazi witness was nowhere near diplomatic compound during terrorist attack
By Travis Gettys
Friday, November 1, 2013 12:27 EDT
A security subcontractor who gave his account to CBS “60 Minutes” of the events leading up to the fatal attack at Benghazi had previously told his employers he was nowhere near the diplomatic compound at the time, according to a Washington Post report.
The Oct. 27 television report was based on a yearlong investigation by reporter Lara Logan and producer Max McCellan and featured an interview with a man identified by the pseudonym “Morgan Jones,” who was described as “a security officer who witnessed the attack.”
A Fox News correspondent said the following day that the network had been working on a story with the same security officer, but those efforts ended when he asked for money in exchange for his participation.
Threshold Editions, which specializes in “conservative non-fiction,” published a book Tuesday by the same source, called The Embassy House: The Explosive Eyewitness Account of the Libyan Embassy Siege by the Soldier Who Was There.
The Washington Post report, published Thursday, said the book largely backs up the account provided to “60 Minutes,” but the newspaper says the source provided a written account to his employers three days after the attack that he’d spent the night of the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack at his own beachside villa in Benghazi.
“We could not get anywhere near (the diplomatic compound) as roadblocks had been set up,” said the security contractor, whose real name was confirmed as Dylan Davies by officials who’d worked with him in Libya.
The newspaper reported that Davies provided a 2 ½-page incident report to his employer, Blue Mountain, the British contractor hired by the State Department to guard the compound’s perimeter.
Davies said he learned U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens had been killed in the raid showed him a cell phone photo of the diplomat’s charred remains, and the security officer visited the still-smoking compound the following day to photograph what was left.
The “60 Minutes” report claimed the security officer had scaled a 12-foot wall while it was still overrun with Al Qaeda forces, and Davies said on the program that he’d personally struck one of the terrorists in the face with the butt of his rifle.
He also told “60 Minutes” that he’d gone to the hospital and seen Stevens’ body.
Davies told CBS that he and a Foreign Service officer had been worried about security at the compound.
The security officer’s co-author told The Washington Post that Davies may have been dishonest in his incident report because his employer had asked him to stay away from the compound after he was told of the attack by telephone.
A CBS spokesman told the newspaper that the network stands firmly behind its story as it aired Sunday.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) used the “60 Minutes” report to justify calling Monday for additional hearings into Benghazi and threatened to block Senate appointments until lawmakers had heard from all the surviving witnesses to the attack.
However, Graham conceded Wednesday that witnesses have already been questioned by members of Congress, but their testimony hasn’t been publicly released because the investigations are still ongoing.
David Brock, chairman of Media Matters, has called on CBS to retract its Benghazi report based on the security officer’s comments.
****************David Brock to call on '60 Minutes' to retract Benghazi report
By DYLAN BYERS |
11/1/13 1:14 PM EDT
David Brock, the Clinton ally who led the public effort to pressure CNN and NBC out of their Hillary-related film projects, is set to send a letter to the chairman and president of CBS News calling on them to retract a recent "60 Minutes" segment on the attacks in Benghazi.
In the letter, a draft of which was obtained by POLITICO, Brock cites a new Washington Post report revealing that the "60 Minutes" witness had previously stated he was nowhere near the diplomatic compound the night of the attack."
"The 60 Minutes story should be immediately retracted and an independent investigative committee needs to probe all aspects of how the story was reported," Brock writes in his letter to CBS News chairman Jeff Fager and CBS News president David Rhodes.
Brock is the head of the pro-Hillary American Bridge super PAC and the founder of Media Matters For America, the liberal watchdog group. Since the campaign against the CNN and NBC projects, he has emerged as Clinton's most vocal public defender, writing open letters to both news organizations protesting the projects, both of which were subsequently cancelled.
In the Oct. 27 edition of "60 Minutes," a man who identified himself as Morgan Jones "described racing to the Benghazi compound while the attack was underway, scaling a 12-foot wall and downing an extremist with the butt end of a rifle as he tried in vain to rescue the besieged Americans," the Post states.
"But in a written account that Jones, whose real name was confirmed as Dylan Davies by several officials who worked with him in Benghazi, provided to his employer three days after the attack, he told a different story of his experiences that night," the Post's report continues: "In Davies’s 2 1/2-page incident report... he wrote that he spent most of that night at his Benghazi beach-side villa. Although he attempted to get to the compound, he wrote in the report, 'we could not get anywhere near . . . as roadblocks had been set up.'"
In his letter, Brock states that the Post report "paints a damning picture of the credibility of the supposed eyewitness -- and thus of the CBS report itself."
His full letter after the jump:
Mr. Jeff Fager
Chairman, CBS News
Mr. David Rhodes
President, CBS News
I am writing to express my concern about a 60 Minutes segment on the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi that CBS aired on October 27. As Media Matters for America noted earlier in the week, the segment revived long-answered questions about the attack and, even more troubling, a Fox News correspondent said that he had spoken to one of the witnesses interviewed “a number of times” about the attacks but stopped after the man “asked for money.”
Today, The Washington Post revealed that the very same witness previously said he never got near the diplomatic compound the night of the attack. This completely contradicts what was reported on air by correspondent Lara Logan, who said that during the attack, the witness “scaled the twelve-foot high wall of the compound that was still overrun with al Qaeda fighters.” In the interview, the witness told Logan he had personally struck one of those terrorists in the face with his rifle butt and, following the attack, he went to the Benghazi hospital and saw Ambassador Chris Stevens’ body.
According to Post, the witness revealed none of those details in the incident report he wrote following the attack. Instead, he said that he spent most of that night at his Benghazi beach-side villa and learned of Stevens' death from a colleague. This paints a damning picture of the credibility of the supposed eyewitness -- and thus of the CBS report itself.
A network spokesman told the Post, ‘We stand firmly by the story we broadcast last Sunday.” This is not sufficient. When questions were raised about documents involving President George W. Bush’s service in the Air National Guard, CBS appointed an independent panel “to help determine what errors occurred in the preparation of the report and what actions need to be taken.” Similar standards must be applied in this case.
The 60 Minutes story should be immediately retracted and an independent investigative committee needs to probe all aspects of how the story was reported and get answers to the following questions:
· Were witnesses paid to talk?
· Did anyone bother to compare the witness’ story to the written report he filed at the time?
· If the network was aware of the incident report, why did no one acknowledge the discrepancy in the witness’ story?
· Who worked on the story at all levels?
· How was the story vetted and by whom?
The committee’s findings should be public to and, if necessary, appropriate disciplinary action should take place.
In my most recent book, The Benghazi Hoax, I chronicled how the media has, for over a year, twisted the facts about what happened the night of the attacks. CBS’ report was a new low. I hope you take this opportunity to reassure your viewers of your standards and accountability.
Chairman, Media Matters for America
cc: Kevin Tedesco, Executive Director, 60 Minutes
**************Bipartisan House gives in to Wall Street and passes Dodd-Frank rollback drafted by Citigroup lobbyists
By Travis Gettys
Friday, November 1, 2013 11:25 EDT
A bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives rolled back one of the key elements of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law passed in the wake of the 2008 economic meltdown.
The House voted 292-122 to pass Swaps Regulatory Improvement Act, which repeals a provision in the law that required big banks to move some derivatives trading into separate units that aren’t backed by the government’s insurance fund.
The vote followed months of heavy lobbying by Wall Street banks, and The New York Times reviewed emails that showed Citigroup lobbyists drafted at least 70 of the House bill’s 85 lines.
In addition, a MapLight analysis showed Citigroup had showered House members who voted for the bill with campaign cash in the three years since Dodd-Frank was passed.
One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Rep. Jim Hines (D-CT), has received more than $66,000 from the bank, more than any other House member, and the bill’s co-sponsors received an average of 16.8 times more money from Citigroup than other House members.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has received more than $917,000 from interests supporting the bill, more than any other House member, and primary sponsor Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL), has gotten more than $136,000 from the securities and investment industry.
Banks were still permitted under the Dodd-Frank law to offset their risk directly with interest rate and foreign exchange swaps, but lawmakers had sought to remove risks in trading contracts such as futures or credit default by moving them away from banks.
But members of both parties have said banks should have more options in hedging their risk, and Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, also favored the change approved by the House, saying it pushes the derivatives trading out toward less-regulated depository institutions and risked financial stability.
The White House said Tuesday it opposes the bill, but President Barack Obama hasn’t said he would veto the measure.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), the second-ranking Democrat on the House financial services committee, claimed on the House floor that the bill’s namesake favored the change, which brought a swift reaction from former Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), who issued a statement saying it would be “a mistake and destabilizing” to repeal the provision.
Another opponent, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), said banks could still perform about 90 percent of the swaps hedges under the current law that they could before the Dodd-Frank reforms were passed.
Only three Republicans, Reps. John Duncan (TN), Walter Jones (NC), and Thomas Massie (KY), voted against the measure, which gained the support of 70 Democrats.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]
*****************Republicans Deliberately Sabotaged the ACA Website, Hoping the Law Would Implode
By: Sarah Jones
Friday, November, 1st, 2013, 11:35 am
For weeks I’ve been wondering why no one is talking about how Republicans sabotaged the ACA rollout by refusing to implement state run marketplaces, and thus unexpectedly forcing all of that additional burden on to the federal website.
It reminded me of Republicans denying security funding for Benghazi and then blaming Obama and Clinton for the lack of security in Benghazi. The media were oddly uninterested in that alarming fact.
But today, Todd Purdum at Politico exposed how Republicans sabotaged the ACA rollout. One small part of their plan was the rejection of the state run exchanges.
But also, Purdum points out, Republicans refused to fund the extra work on the website after the states refused to do their parts, leaving the administration to cobble funding together for Healthcare.Gov. Putting this extra burden on the website was a deliberate effort to cause the law to “implode” on itself.
But the bitter fight over passage was only the beginning of the war to stop Obamacare. Most Republican governors declined to create their own state insurance exchanges — an option inserted in the bill in the Senate to appeal to the classic conservative preference for local control — forcing the federal government to take at least partial responsibility for creating marketplaces serving 36 states — far more than ever intended.
Then congressional Republicans refused repeatedly to appropriate dedicated funds to do all that extra work, leaving the Health and Human Services Department and other agencies to cobble together HealthCare.gov by redirecting funds from existing programs. On top of that, nearly half of the states declined to expand their Medicaid programs using federal funds, as the law envisioned.
The Republican manufactured shutdown on the very day of the opening of the exchanges further burdened the administration and disrupted last minute efforts regarding the rollout. This seems like common sense; it’s amazing that the media never asked Republicans about this in all of their incessant complaining about the website that they sabotaged.
And the cherry:
In fact, putting an excessive burden on the federal government was the explicit aim of the law’s opponents. “Congress authorized no funds for federal ‘fallback’ exchanges,” the Tea Party Patriots website noted as long ago as last December. “So Washington may not be able to impose exchanges on states at all.” The group went on to suggest that since Washington was not equipped to handle so many state exchanges, “both financially and otherwise — this means the entire law could implode on itself.
You’ve got to read the entire piece, as I narrowed this down to the salient point that caught my eye since I’ve been suggesting that the Republican states refusals to implement the exchanges placed an extra burden on the federal site and had an impact on the rollout from the beginning. Capacity is a huge part of any website. Their careful denying of funding and public plans that the combination of these forces would prove too much for the website and thus cause the law to implode shows their desperate dedication to destroying ObamaCare.
The entire two page piece carefully lays out the planned sabotage of ObamaCare. The Republican ability to surgically coordinate these plans and never get busted by the media is impressive. Or it would be if our media weren’t so pathetic. Their plan is still a fail, though, as a failed website was never going to destroy the law. Relying on their illogical, mad belief system is exactly why Republicans can’t get their act together.
Republicans might not be winning the messaging with their constant destruction of everything in their paths, but they are hurting this country.
Typically, most Democrats including Kathleen Sebelius, refuse to point the finger at Republicans. It’s rude, childish and unfitting. Instead they play the grown up, taking responsibility because the buck stops with them. That is as it should be, but it’s a big fail in this political climate.
Democrats need to drive these truths home and force the media to cover them. Politicians are the actors and the beltway media is TMZ. Make a stir. Show some metaphorical leg. Point fingers.
Yes, it will be degrading and ugly, but the truth is that Republicans are never going to stop this – they can’t be taught to behave and put country first. They will have to be shamed by the truth each time.
This media is lazy and they like their narratives to paint the Obama (who refuses to do the beltway thing) as the bad guy. That’s fine for him, as he’s not facing re-election, but Democratic lawmakers can’t afford to let the media chase Republican narratives anymore.
If for no other reason than this is hurting our country, Democrats need to buck up and kick back. Drop some soundbites, craft a narrative, be outraged. It’s theater, and the most dramatic wins when the media has turned into a Beltway TMZ.
**************NBC News Suppressed Key Details in ‘Bombshell’ Obamacare Report
by Tommy Christopher | 5:11 pm, November 1st, 2013
[goldwater] On Thursday, LA Times reporter Michael Hiltzik debunked yet another Obamacare horror story, revealing that a woman who appeared on CNBC Wednesday will actually pay less, for better coverage, under Obamacare. During that same CNBC segment, 38 year-old Heather Goldwater spoke about her difficulties in signing up for a plan to replace the one that was just canceled, but as has been the case with every TV news report on the health care law, there’s much more here than meets the eye.
Heather Goldwater is better known to her friends and neighbors as Ryan Nelson, former host of ABC4′s Lowcountry Live! and current owner of a successful PR firm. On Wednesday’s Closing Bell, she explained to host Maria Bartiromo that she received a letter in July informing her that her $510 /mo. Cigna health insurance policy was being canceled, but that the company would be sending her a letter in October with replacement options.
“It’s almost November 1 and I have not heard a word but they are cancelling my policy at the end of the year, 2013, and I can’t get on a website that works,” Nelson told Bartiromo, adding that “They’re not giving me any information. They told me don’t do anything, you just stay back. That situation, I’m a little worried.”
During her segment, an onscreen graphic proclaimed that her old $510 premium “May Double – After Obamacare.”
Ryan Nelson’s complaint is a legitimate one, and one which was also included in the Lisa Myers NBC News investigative report that the White House pushed back so hard against:
“I’m completely overwhelmed with a six-month-old and a business,” said Goldwater. “The last thing I can do is spend hours poring over a website that isn’t working, trying to wrap my head around this entire health care overhaul.”
Goldwater said she supports the new law and is grateful for provisions helping folks like her with pre-existing conditions, but she worries she won’t be able to afford the new insurance, which is expected to cost more because it has more benefits. “I’m jealous of people who have really good health insurance,” she said. “It’s people like me who are stuck in the middle who are going to get screwed.”
There’s no doubt that the difficulties with the rollout of Obamacare have caused anxiety for consumers like Ryan Nelson, and hers is an example of why Americans need to be given clear and accurate information about the new law. She, along with many other Americans, don’t necessarily have the time and energy to figure all of this out. In an extensive email exchange, Ryan told me that “I haven’t spoken with anyone at Cigna yet. I am a new mom and my business is very busy, and although it’s extremely important that I contact them, I too was counting on them to send me some details as they explained in the letter they sent me when they canceled me.”
“Honestly, when the NBC producer found me,” she added, “it was from a tweet I sent to the local healthcare reporter months ago, I never planned on it getting much attention. But I have plenty of people in my same situation who are wondering what in the world to do. And with a website that is slow and sometimes not even working, it’s hard on many of us…even though some people just think of us as the 5%.”
There are a few pieces of good news for Ms. Nelson. According to Cigna, the letter she was promised has been delayed (in five states: SC, NC, FL, TN, and CT), but will be sent out between November 10 and November 15, and will include options that comply with the Affordable Care Act. As Ryan points out via email, it would have been nice of them to let people know about the delay.
The other good news is that, in the meantime, there are 8 other Bronze and Silver plans available on the federal exchange that are cheaper than the plan that was canceled, and all of them will cover maternity, prescriptions, and other essential services, and will not charge extra for preexisting conditions, of which Ryan has several.
While consumers don’t always have the time, energy, or expertise to do research like this, investigative reporters and news producers do. There’s little excuse for people like Lisa Myers and Closing Bell‘s news producers to claim that premiums for Obamacare plans are “expected to cost more” or “May Double” when checking on those claims is a relatively simple matter, as news research goes. Ryan Nelson has told at least three reporters about her troubles with Cigna, yet none of them thought to spend five minutes calling the company. That is simple and pure negligence.
What goes beyond negligence is the fact that Ryan told NBC News producers and reporters key details about her story that they chose to omit, including this doozy about the plan that Cigna canceled: it didn’t cover maternity care, for which she paid nearly $16,000 out of pocket this year. She also told me that the $510 premium for her Cigna plan had been jacked up from $465 this year, and that the plan only covered her, not her husband and new baby. “I definitely believe there should be healthcare reform and honestly, I’m glad the reform is happening,” she told me. “The fact I am a successful woman business owner, yet had to pay out of pocket close to $16,000 to have my daughter felt like I was the one being punished. So yes, reform is necessary.”
She also told me that when she left ABC4, she tried to COBRA her group health benefits at $484 /mo, but Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina denied her coverage because of several preexisting conditions, “Which is why I am glad to see that preexisting conditions can no longer be used against you.”
Cigna did cover her conditions, but Nelson “had to do a phoner with a nurse, who was very nice I may say.”
Ryan Nelson’s story isn’t a simple one. Although she stands to pay less in premiums, while enjoying patient protections and essential services that her old plan did not, there could be some tradeoffs; her old deductible was $2000 in-network and $4000 out-of-network, while the comparably-priced Obamacare plans have somewhat higher deductibles, but lower out-of-pocket maximums, and Cigna hasn’t yet told her what they will offer.
“I’m not blaming the President because of this,” she added. “and of course there’s going to be problems in the beginning when you change. You have millions of Americans scrambling to one website….you should expect the thing to crash. It’s like everyone trying to get on one subway. It’s just not going to happen right away. However, if they knew problems with CMS were going on, they should not have given insurers and the insured a deadline. Part of my job is creating websites for clients, you know you should always expect bugs in the first weeks of launch. And then throw millions logging onto it = recipe for disaster.”
“I think that when they wrote the law, there should have been an addendum that said If the insured wants to keep their policy the way it is, even without the options required, and the insured will sign off, they should be allowed,” Ms. Nelson said. “All I want is to have coverage I can afford, where I can continue to see doctors I have an established relationship with and not pay $100 for each prescription. Is that too much to ask?”
As for NBC News, Nelson says that producer Hannah Rappleye “had planned for it to be an on-air piece, but it got pushed to the web. I think she really wanted to make it more in-depth but I only got the two blurbs.”
A former TV pro herself, Nelson is more forgiving. “I don’t think there was enough time for them to report all of it honestly, as there’s just so much,” she said. “As you can tell, figuring out the plan should probably be the length of a Dateline. For NBC Hannah definitely did a lot of questioning. For CNBC, Bonnie also asked tons of questions. Sometimes in TV, there’s such a brief period of time to tell such a long story.”
The fact that the report appeared online, where the ink is unlimited, is all the more reason that these key details should have been included. In a story that was supposed to be about people being canceled off of insurance that they liked, it seems difficult to justify suppressing the fact that Nelson’s plan left her holding the bag for $16,000, or that they jacked up her premium by almost 10%, or that she stands to pay less under the Affordable Care Act, not more, while enjoying protection from the sort of practice that caused her to lose her COBRA coverage. It’s not that NBC News didn’t ask, or didn’t know; Nelson says she told them about the rate hike and the maternity care, and they did include a half-sentence about preexisting conditions. CNBC should have, at a bare minimum, have checked on the Obamacare premiums before making the claim that they might double.
Those facts don’t do anything to undercut Ryan Nelson’s central complaint, they buttress it. The fact that these reforms are so important to her specific situation makes it that much more urgent that the Obamacare website and Cigna get their acts together. That wasn’t the story that NBC News wanted to tell though.
**************America Has Never Faced The Threat Posed by the Koch Brothers and Congressional Republicans
Friday, November, 1st, 2013, 6:04 pm
Most Americans are confident that their nation will remain fundamentally unchanged forever and in part it is due to the once stable functioning government. However, as world leaders, political scholars, and economists have noted, America’s government has been, for all intents and purposes, brought to a standstill due to Republican denial they lost two presidential elections. There is a faction in this country made up of wealthy oligarchs, religious fanatics, and conservative extremists who have intimated in various ways their only raison d’être is to destroy America from within and transform it into a mirror image of a stone-age nation like Afghanistan under Taliban rule. The war for America has been in the planning stages for two decades, but when American voters elected (twice) an African American man as President the insurgency began enacting their plan to destroy the federal government and by extension the country itself.
The groups lusting to destroy America and transform it into a libertarian theocracy certainly know that their goal could never reach fruition if they announced they were actively seeking to eliminate the functioning government, so they use catch phrases such as the Koch brothers’ infamous “transforming America” to fit their lawless vision of a nation without rules and regulations. Their staunch ally, Grover Norquist has been forthcoming that his goal is to “shrink government down to a size he can drown in a bathtub,” but his goal, like the Koch brothers, is a nation steeped in anarchy where peasants are at the mercy of a few wealthy industrialists. Although the Kochs and Norquist wield inordinate power and influence over a major political party, they are not elected representatives and depend on dark money and loyalty oaths to control Republicans at the state and federal level to enact their anti-government agendas. Now they have a powerful ally in the U.S. Senate who controls Republicans in the House and Senate and last Sunday he let it slip that his ultimate goal is destroying America.
It is fairly well-known that Rafael “Ted” Cruz is running the Republican Party due to being anointed the evangelical conservative messiah, and that he publicly announced the recent government shutdown and debt crisis was only the first battle in a longer war. Cruz has been unapologetic that his destructive strategy is part of a plan to achieve his future policy goals that he readily admits are more than defunding the Affordable Care Act he claims is responsible for the nation’s sluggish economy. However, when he spoke to Fox News’ host Sean Hannity on Sunday, he revealed that in his “multi-stage extended battle” he discovered “a model that I think is the model going forward to,” among other things, “abolish the IRS.”
Cruz’s remark was a stunning revelation that his goal is defunding the entire United States government that will serve to hasten the Koch brothers’ agenda of a nation void of laws, regulatory agencies’ enforcement, education, Social Security, healthcare, and national defense. Abolishing the I.R.S. will also invalidate the U.S. Constitution’s Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 that gives the federal government of the United States its power of taxation to fund the nation’s government. Without revenue to fund the government, America as it exists now would become a lawless, uneducated, and dangerous fascist state controlled by the wealthy and policed by religious extremists imposing the bible as the de facto law of the land.
If the power of taxation is eliminated, the government may be able to function for a couple of years at best, but it would mean selling off all federal assets and raiding Social Security’s $2.8 trillion reserves just to fund this nation’s national defense and nothing more. All regulatory and consumer protection agencies would be eliminated, education funding would cease to exist, and domestic programs would come to a screeching halt. In fact, with no revenue, the entire federal government would disappear and with it all the benefits the people depend on whether it is safe food, safe medicine, disaster relief, clean water, infrastructure, and security the people are guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. Actually, without a government, the Constitution itself will be obsolete and it would open the floodgates of regional morality laws under the purview of whichever religious group had the largest armory to enforce their edicts and transform America into Afghanistan under Taliban rule.
Without funding to operate, the US Congress, the executive branch, and judicial branch would be deemed unnecessary in a government-less state, and society would break down into little fiefdoms controlled by the wealthy and whoever they appoint to keep peasants in line. It is the ideal sought after by libertarians and 10th Amendment advocates who believe all power originates in individual states, but for Southern states wallowing in poverty and disrepair it will usher in anarchy and privatization that libertarians regard as a lifestyle improvement over living in a nation with a federal government. Wealthier states with natural resources and agricultural products to sell on the foreign market might maintain a semblance of order for a while, but the quality of life for the average American would be reduced to subsistence living without consumer, environmental, worker, healthcare, or law enforcement protections a functioning government ensures.
The only people who would survive in a nation without a government would be the extremely rich who could sequester themselves away in gated compounds patrolled by armed guards to keep out the starving peasants. In fact, the majority of Americans would fall into dire poverty because with no federal government there would be no minimum wage or workplace protections that will leave workers at the mercy of the rich who may give them work for food; if they were lucky.
The Founding Fathers were well aware that America could not survive without revenue to fund the government, but government survival is not the long term goal of the Koch brothers, Rafael Cruz, and Grover Norquist. The Koch brothers particularly welcome a nation without a federal government because they would be unshackled from any regulatory enforcement and give them the freedom to conduct their business unrestricted and untaxed with absolute power to install the dictator of their choosing to keep the peasantry in line.
America has never faced the existential threat posed by the Koch brothers and their acolytes in Congress and state legislatures, and it is likely there has never been a concerted effort to destroy the government that America faces today. It is true that Cruz does not have the people behind him like he thinks, but with the Koch brothers’ dirty money and Republican-controlled states restricting the right to vote, Cruz’s lack of popular support is not a guarantee his “multi-stage extended battle to abolish the IRS” will fail. If nothing else, Cruz has revealed that, like the Koch brothers and Grover Norquist, his goal is destroying the government by defunding it and it cements his place in America’s libertarian axis of evil that makes him a legitimate enemy of the state and the people who own it.
*************As The GOP Sinks To a New Record Low, Republicans See Ted Cruz as Their Leader
By: Jason Easley
Friday, November, 1st, 2013, 3:03 pm
Even though favorability of the Republican Party has sunk to a new all time low this week, a new PPP poll found that Republicans see Cruz as their leader.
Sen. Ted Cruz caused the government shutdown. He is the reason why approval of the Republican sunk to a new record low of 22% this week. One might think that the last person Republicans would view as their new leader would be the man who is most responsible for their misery. However, the Republican Party is in a place where they reward failure if it is done in the name of ideological purity.
This is exactly what has happened to Ted Cruz. According to a new PPP poll, 21% of GOP voters selected the Texas senator as their leader. Seventeen percent picked Chris Christie, 15% chose John Boehner, 9% went with Rand Paul, Mitt Romney showed up with 8%, John McCain was selected by 7%. Sarah Palin and Mitch McConnell each received 4%. Interestingly, Democrats (25%) and Independents (27%) both see Chris Christie as the leader of the GOP.
If Cruz runs for president in 2016, he will be a weak general election candidate. As this poll demonstrates, non-Republicans would like to see a moderate, or at least moderate sounding person at the top of the GOP ticket. However,the presence of Ted Cruz in the primary contest will force all of the Republican presidential candidates to the right. The changes that the RNC are considering making to the primary structure could also help a candidate like Cruz. The RNC wants fewer debates, but fewer debates would give a candidate like Christie less of a chance to win over the far right base that loves Sen. Cruz.
The one clear point being made by Republicans in this poll is that they don’t care about winning. The party’s rank and file want the White House back, but they want it if it comes with a president who passes their ideological purity test. Chtistie will never be ideologically pure enough for them.
Instead of trying to rebuild their party, Republicans want Ted Cruz to burn it down.