In the USA...United Surveillance AmericaMeet the secret ‘stealth drone’ the Air Force isn’t talking about
By Arturo Garcia
Wednesday, December 11, 2013 20:31 EST
The U.S. is developing a new unmanned military drone that can fly for up to 24 hours at a time while possessing stealth capabilities, CNN reported on Wednesday.
“This aircraft will likely be able to take pictures using radar,” Aviation Week reporter Amy Butler told CNN. “Radar pictures are great because they don’t get muddied up by cloud or dust cover.
Butler reported on Dec. 6 that publicly-available overhead imagery shows new hangar space designed to accomodate aircraft with a wing span in excess of 130 feet at both the Nevada government facility referred to as “Area 51,” and defense contractor Northrop Grumman’s plant in Palmdale, California.
The RQ-180, as it is called, is made to carry out surveillance, intelligence and reconnaissance missions while having the ability to fly 11 miles above the Earth.
However, both the U.S. Air Force and Northrop Grunman refused to comment to both CNN and Aviation Week when asked about the aircraft’s development program. Butler reported that the aircraft is likely to be run by the Air Force and the Central Intelligence Agency.
Watch CNN’s report on the RQ-180, aired on Wednesday, below.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcXKPQbiOAo
December 11, 2013U.S. Cites Rise in Health Plan Signups as Sebelius Testifies
By ROBERT PEAR
WASHINGTON — The number of people selecting health insurance plans in the federal and state marketplaces increased last month at a brisk pace, bringing the overall figure to nearly 365,000, the Obama administration said on Wednesday. The November number was more than double the one for October, but still well below the administration’s goal.
The new enrollment data became available as Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, clashed again with Republicans at a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Ms. Sebelius acknowledged that flaws in the federal website had “dampened enthusiasm” for the health care law and had deterred many people from enrolling. But she said that “evidence of the technical improvements to HealthCare.gov can be seen in the enrollment numbers,” which she described as “very positive.”
More than a quarter-million people picked health plans last month, and more than half of them were in state-run exchanges, the administration said in a report issued Wednesday. In the federal exchange, 110,400 people chose health plans last month, four times as many as in October, when many consumers were unable to see details of health plans because of problems with the federal website.
Ms. Sebelius also announced that she had ordered an internal investigation of the botched rollout of the site.
“I have asked our inspector general, Dan Levinson, to review the development of HealthCare.gov,” Ms. Sebelius said. “We need a thorough review of the contractor performance and program management structure that resulted in the flawed launch of the website.”
It is unclear whether the inspector general will investigate the role of Ms. Sebelius or White House officials who supervised the development of the website over the last two years.
In addition, Ms. Sebelius said that the Obama administration was creating a position of chief risk officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency that runs the health care website. The first job for the new official is to assess risks in information technology contracts, on which the agency spends more than $5 billion a year.
At the hearing, Ms. Sebelius said the federal government had made contractual commitments to spend $677 million on information technology for HealthCare.gov and had paid out $319 million through October.
However, she said that the financial management system for the federal marketplace — needed to pay insurance companies — was “in the process of being put together.” It will be ready by mid-January, she said.
The enrollment report showed that 137,200 people chose health plans through the federal exchange in October and November, the first two months of a six-month open enrollment period. The federal exchange is still lagging behind marketplaces run by 14 states, which had signed up 227,500 people through November.
Technical problems thwarted people trying to use the federal exchange in October, when 26,800 people chose a plan there. The pace picked up in November as federal officials and contractors raced to repair the website.
About 148,000 people chose health plans in the state-run exchanges last month, up from 79,400 in October, the administration said. Officials did not provide data on the ages or other characteristics of people signing up.
The new numbers do not reflect reports of a surge in sign-ups since the end of November, when the administration said the website was working well for most users. In the first week of this month, about 112,000 people selected plans through the federal marketplace, according to people familiar with the project. That means that enrollments for this month may already exceed those in November.
If sign-ups continue at the current rate, more than a million people may have selected health plans by Jan. 1, when major provisions of the new law take effect. The Obama administration was counting on having seven million by the end of the initial enrollment period on March 31.
The numbers are running behind enrollment targets developed by the administration for its own use. Federal officials were projecting that 1.2 million people would have enrolled by now through the federal and state exchanges, according to a memo prepared by the Health and Human Services Department in early September.
Even as the law provides new hope to many Americans, it is disrupting coverage for others. In recent weeks, many people have received notices saying that their private health insurance will be canceled or discontinued because it does not comply with coverage requirements of the Affordable Care Act.
“Come Jan. 1, 2014, millions more people will have lost coverage than signed up because of the health care law,” said Representative Fred Upton, Republican of Michigan and chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
Many people who are eligible to participate in the federal and state exchanges have not selected health plans. Of those found eligible, 41 percent also qualified for financial assistance to help pay their premiums. That is about half of the proportion predicted by the Congressional Budget Office. The reasons for the gap are not clear.
In states using the federal exchange, the largest numbers of people signing up and selecting health plans through November were in Florida (17,900), Texas (14,000) and Pennsylvania (11,800).
Among states running their own exchanges, those with the largest numbers were California (107,100) and New York (45,500), followed by Washington (17,800), Kentucky (13,100) and Connecticut (11,600).
In addition to people who have signed up for private plans through the exchanges, Ms. Sebelius said, 803,000 people have been found eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
December 12, 2013House Set to Vote on Budget, With the Right Still in Dissent
By JONATHAN WEISMAN
WASHINGTON — The House on Thursday prepared to vote on a bipartisan budget accord that should calm the spending battles that have paralyzed Congress for nearly three years. A deal could also marginalize the Republicans’ most conservative members, who remain implacably opposed to it.
The spending-and-tax legislation, with the backing of its conservative architect, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, Republican leaders and Republican defense hawks, is expected to pass Thursday evening with bipartisan support. But conservative activists and some liberal groups are mustering opposition, raising the level of drama.
House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio pointedly accused some conservative groups of rallying grass-roots opposition to raise money and bolster their own stature.
“They’re using our members and they’re using the American people for their own goals,” he said, speaking openly about what some lawmakers have long talked about privately. “This is ridiculous.”
The deal would reverse many of the across-the-board spending cuts, known as sequestration, that went into effect in March and were set to deepen next month. Spending on defense and domestic programs would rise from the $967 billion level expected this fiscal year to $1.012 trillion, then inch up to $1.014 trillion in the fiscal year that begins in October.
But over 10 years, deficits would go down slightly, thanks to higher airline ticket fees, larger worker contributions to federal retirement plans, slower growth in military pensions, and a two-year extension next decade of a 2 percent cut to Medicare health care provider payments.
The legislation, worked out by Mr. Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, and Senator Patty Murray of Washington, chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee, has the backing of many Republican and Democratic leaders, as well as most members of the House Armed Services Committee, the House Appropriations Committee and Mr. Ryan’s budget panel.
That should be enough to assure passage over the strident opposition of Tea Party conservatives and outside conservative groups that have vowed to kill the deal.
“We feel very good about where we are with our members,” Mr. Ryan said.
But top Republicans are divided on it. Mr. Boehner supports it. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate Republican leader, does not.
Two potential rivals for the 2016 presidential nomination, Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky, are also opposed.
Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, declared his opposition Wednesday night.
“Much of the spending increase in this deal has been justified by increased fees and new revenue,” Mr. Sessions said. “In other words: it’s a fee increase to fuel a spending increase — rather than reducing deficits.”
Some conservatives feel betrayed, as they often have since Republicans took control of the House in 2011. Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, said the entire House Republican conference agreed in the spring that spending levels exacted by the sequestration cuts would not be alleviated unless Congress and the White House could strike an accord to control long-term drivers of the federal debt, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
Representative Tim Huelskamp, Republican of Kansas, said that most of the deficit reduction in the Ryan-Murray legislation “could be in Hillary’s second term,” a nod to Hillary Clinton’s expected presidential bid and a measure of conservative demoralization.
The deal would not address the government’s statutory debt limit, which Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew has said will have to be lifted by March to avoid a devastating default. But Representative Raúl Labrador, Republican of Idaho, said that Republicans “should just cave” on that too, “because that’s what Republicans do.”
December 11, 2013Bipartisan Budget Deal Puts Ryan Under Fire From Fellow Conservatives
By JONATHAN WEISMAN
Representative Paul D. Ryan’s eight terms in Congress have produced much political celebrity and Republican respect but just two laws bearing the Ryan name — a renamed post office and a modified excise tax on arrows like the ones he uses for bow hunting.
Then on Tuesday he struck a budget deal with Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, that affixed a new label to the polished veneer of Mr. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican: deal maker and, to some, traitor.
With a modest, bipartisan blueprint on taxes and spending, Mr. Ryan is taking a risk he has previously shied away from, putting what party leaders see as a crucial need — ending the debilitating budget wars in Washington that have crippled the Republican brand — over his own self-interests with the conservative activists that dominate the early Republican presidential primaries.
For the first time, the conservative wunderkind and former vice-presidential nominee is taking withering fire from movement conservatives who see the deal as a betrayal by a former ally. Potential rivals for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 immediately went on the attack, blasting the deal and challenging Mr. Ryan’s status as the thinking man’s conservative.
“It’s not just this budget; it’s this lack of long-term thinking around here,” Senator Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican considered a 2016 contender, told Mike Huckabee on his conservative radio show on Wednesday. “There are no long-term solutions apparently possible in Washington, and we are running out of time.”
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, another potential candidate for the Republican nomination, said, “I cannot support a budget that raises taxes and never balances, nor can I support a deal that does nothing to reduce our nation’s $17.3 trillion debt.”
At the same time, Mr. Ryan may have enhanced his stature as the conservative in Washington who can actually get things done.
“He’s one of smartest people I know, trying to wrestle with our real problems,” Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, said of Mr. Ryan. “Republicans made the calculation that they want to get to the election with no more fuss, focus on Obamacare and retake the Senate, so he produced a budget that raises spending and raises taxes. It’s as simple as that.”
The budget plan, which raises spending over the next two years, with the promise of $23 billion in deficit reduction over a decade, is likely to pass the House on Thursday and clear the Senate before the Christmas recess. But it will do so with significant Republican defections. “I’m undecided,” declared Representative Raúl R. Labrador, Republican of Idaho. “I haven’t decided whether I’m a really strong no or just a no.”
Mr. Ryan shrugged off such sentiments and spent Wednesday selling the deal as a pragmatic step toward governance in a divided Washington that reduces the deficit slightly without compromising the party’s core principles.
“We know that this budget agreement doesn’t come close to achieving what we want to achieve on our ultimate fiscal goals,” Mr. Ryan said Wednesday. “But again, if we can get a step in the right direction, we’re going to take that step, and that’s why we’re doing this.”
With Ms. Murray by his side to announce the deal on Tuesday, Mr. Ryan explained his thinking: “As a conservative, I deal with the situation as it exists. I deal with the way things are, not necessarily the way I want them to be. I’ve passed three budgets in a row that reflect my priorities and my principles and everything I wanted to accomplish. We’re in divided government. I realize I’m not going to get that.”
That new pragmatism is not sitting well with professional activists who have mounted a full-throated effort to kill the deal. Heritage Action, Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity and others have all lined up against the budget compromise, if not against Mr. Ryan personally.
“The conservative base of the Republican Party was already walking away from the establishment G.O.P.,” fumed L. Brent Bozell III, chairman of the conservative group ForAmerica. “That will now turn into a stampede away from a party that has lost its principles and bearings.”
But it is a testament to Mr. Ryan’s stature with conservatives that even the most vocal opponents of the deal are reluctant to criticize the man who negotiated it.
“Mr. Ryan has done the best job he could,” given the insistent liberalism of the Senate, said Representative Andy Harris, Republican of Maryland, even as he chastised the agreement for reversing spending cuts set to go in force next month in exchange for savings that will not appear until 2021 and 2022. “We have to realize the environment in which Mr. Ryan functions.”
Representative Cynthia M. Lummis, Republican of Wyoming, took the agreement to task for making permanent a temporary provision that diminished Western states’ royalties from mineral exploration on federal land. But, she hastened to add: “The only reason I am undecided is my respect and regard for Paul Ryan. This will not diminish his standing in any way. He has been a marvelous soldier.”
In an interview on Wednesday, Ms. Murray said her negotiating partner understood from the beginning that he would be taking a hit. He never brought up presidential politics or his own future, she said. But he talked at length about the delicate politics of the Balkanized House and what he would need to get the deal passed.
“We talked from the very beginning about the fact that we would have to find a place where we wouldn’t get 100 percent of the votes in the House or Senate,” she said. “But in order to get common ground, we’d have to both take our lumps.”
The political impact of the budget deal may be mitigated by its complexity, said John H. Sununu, a former New Hampshire governor and White House chief of staff, and a kingmaker in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary. In truth, he said, no one will ever know whether the accord lowers the deficit or raises it. The consequences for Mr. Ryan will rest on the sales job — for and against.
On that end, both sides are hard at work. While Mr. Ryan was trying to keep House Republicans in line, Mr. Rubio was working the talk show circuit, first with Sean Hannity, then with Mr. Huckabee, challenging Mr. Ryan on his core selling point as a conservative thinker. Their allies, such as Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, fanned out to take shots at the deal as well.
Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, who is friends with Mr. Ryan but a consistent policy foe, wasted no tears on the chairman of his committee.
“This is what you get paid the big bucks for,” Mr. Van Hollen said. “It’s important for members of Congress to show they can work with one another. I hope it becomes habit-forming.”
December 11, 2013No Farm Bill in Sight as Recess Looms for Congress
By RON NIXON
WASHINGTON — Prospects for passage of a new farm bill before the end of the year appear dim, with just a week left before Congress adjourns for the holidays, although lawmakers insisted they were close to a deal.
The current measure expires at the end of the month. Members of the House and Senate have been meeting to reconcile their different versions of a new bill, and they agree on many things, including expanding crop insurance for farmers. But they remain far apart on issues like cuts to the food stamp program. A House proposal would cut about $40 billion from the program, while a Senate version would trim roughly $4.5 billion, mainly by making administrative changes.
Despite the differences, Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan and chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Representative Frank D. Lucas, Republican of Oklahoma, who heads the House Agriculture Committee, say they have made significant gains in trying to work out a deal that would pass both houses.
“Chairman Lucas and I are working in good faith to produce a conference report that’s good for farmers, ranchers and families,” Ms. Stabenow said.
The two lawmakers differ on what to do if they cannot get a deal in place before Congress leaves. Mr. Lucas has proposed extending the current farm bill, first passed in 2008 and extended last year, through January. He said in a statement that it would be the “responsible thing to do given our tight deadline.”
The House leadership has signaled that it is open to an extension, but Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, and Ms. Stabenow said they are opposed.
Ms. Stabenow said an extension could allow direct payments, which are made to farmers and farmland owners who may or may not grow crops, to continue for another year. The much-criticized program costs about $5 billion a year, and both the House and the Senate farm bills would eliminate it.
Ms. Stabenow said she would like the House to remain in session for another week until a deal on the farm bill can be reached.
The most immediate impact of the expiration of the current farm bill would be on milk prices. Without congressional action, the government would have to follow a 1949 farm law that would force the federal government to buy milk at wildly inflated prices, which would mean higher prices for consumers. The Agriculture Department said a jump in milk prices could be avoided if a new farm bill is in place sometime in January.
Farm groups said that despite the lack of a new farm bill this year they were encouraged by the progress.
“We would have loved to have it done by the end of the year, but if they can get something done in early January, we would be appreciative,” said Dale Moore, executive director for public policy at the American Farm Bureau Federation, the country’s largest farm organization.
***************Virginia Republican Leader Tries to Incite Assassination Attempt On President Obama
Wednesday, December, 11th, 2013, 8:21 pm
Most states in America have a tourism board that uses appealing slogans to attract visitors that represent their pleasing climate, a physical characteristic, or the mindset of its population that vacationers find too tempting to pass up. Virginia’s tourism board appeals to romantic inclinations in all human beings and claim the state is for lovers. However, over the past couple of years it is becoming abundantly clear that the state is rampant with haters; especially in the Republican Party. Whether it is the outgoing governor’s hatred of disclosure laws, or the soon-to-be former attorney general’s hatred of gays and women, Virginia’s Republican leaders belie the state’s slogan and it starts with the leadership of the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV). It is no secret that Virginia Republicans hate Americans for twice electing an African American man as President, but their hatred for the democratic process pales in comparison to their hatred for the President.
Last year, a Virginia county Republican Committee issued a warning that if President Obama won re-election in November there would be an armed rebellion that revealed their hatred of voters and the electoral process. The letter from the Republican county party chairman calling for armed rebellion is replete with a Christian bible verse on its logo that reads, “If you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36), and it said Republicans need candidates who were “intelligent and courageous and cut from the same cloth as (revolutionary hero) Patrick Henry and our attorney general and soon to be governor Ken Cuccinelli.” Fortunately for Virginians, the “soon to be governor Ken Cuccinelli” lost his bid to be governor, and when about 450 members of the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) met to lick their collective wounds at a former Confederate War hospital, the party chairman took the warning of “armed rebellion” a step farther.
The annual Virginia Republican retreat, “Advance,” was supposed to be a time for introspection to assess why Democrats swept three statewide elections and won the governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general’s offices, but instead the state party chairman accused the media for the losses. He also took aim at governor-elect Terry McCauliffe and President Obama and said, “Obama’s so close to death that Terry McAuliffe is about to buy a life insurance on him, I’m looking forward to taking the gloves off!” The head Republican in Virginia, RPV Chairman Pat Mullins, is yet another in a long string of extremist conservatives to incite an assassination attempt against the President of the United States. However, Mullins is not just another rabid teabagger inciting or threatening violence against the President; he is, like the letter calling for armed rebellion against the government, a high-ranking representative of the Republican Party.
Prior to “predicting” President Obama’s imminent death, Mullins made excuses for the first big Republican electoral defeat in 24 years blaming the media for focusing on Cuccinelli’s anti-women, anti-gay, anti-sexual freedom positions than the Affordable Care Act. He claimed there was too much attention on Cuccinelli’s “war on women” and said “our message couldn’t break through and we paid a price. This is false narrative by false prophets… Republicans do not win when we are mini-Democrats or Democrat Lite.” Clearly, Mullins assessment of Cuccinelli’s war on women as “mini-Democrats or Democrat lite” is a signal that he is not in the same political universe as the rest of the nation, and portends a lurch farther to the extreme right many conservatives assert is the key to a sweeping victory in the next election. Two Virginia state democratic senators, Mamie Locke and Donald McEachin, called for RPV chairman Mullins to step down; not because he said Republicans had become mini-Democrats, but over his comments predicting President Obama is close to death by assassination.
In a conference call, state Senator McEachin said “Sadly, this isn’t the first time Virginia Republicans have used offensive, violent rhetoric against President Obama. Saying that President Obama is close to death is unacceptable in our political discourse, and the chairman really should be ashamed of himself. He’s decried this type of rhetoric before… and yet somehow it keeps appearing in his speeches, in his public comments.” McEachin continued that, “To my mind, this is yet another example of just how unwilling to change and how unbridled in their opposition to President Obama the Republicans are. Instead of making insulting, incendiary comments about the President, intended to fire up the same Tea Party base that drove Virginia Republicans to statewide losses in 2013, Chairman Mullins would be better suited to look in the mirror and examine how out of touch Virginia Republicans have become with people across the Commonwealth.” Senator Locke agreed with McEachin and said instead of learning from their mistakes and taking a more moderate approach to governance and politicking, Republicans are bound and determined that “going forward will be to continue kowtowing to the tea party.”
Locke’s assessment certainly has a grain of truth to it, but she makes the same errant conclusion as Democrats and pundits across the nation. Republicans are not kowtowing to the teabaggers; they are the teabaggers. As McEachin noted, it “isn’t the first time Virginia Republicans have used violent rhetoric against President Obama” and it will not be the last. The calls for revolution, rebellion, and violent rhetoric against the government with an African American man as President began during teabagger protests against healthcare insurance reform when they carried signs warning that “we came unarmed this time,” and continued with Republicans threatening “2nd amendment remedies” and calling for supporters to be “armed and dangerous” as a strategy against legally elected members of Congress who fail to support teabagger anti-American agendas.
What is telling is that no Virginia Republicans, including governor McDonnell, attorney general Cuccinelli, or congressional Republicans such as Eric Cantor (who attended and spoke at Advance) have condemned the violent rhetoric from Virginia’s state Republican Party or any other anti-American teabagger extremist for that matter. However, they are very vocal in decrying the President as un-American, a socialist, and dangerous for America, and coupled with their silence makes them as guilty as extremists calling for armed rebellion, revolution, and assassination. That the chairman of the Virginia Republican party said the President is “close to death” should lead the FBI, Secret Service, and Justice Department to pay Mullins a visit and ask exactly why, what, and how he knows about an assassination plot.
The threats against this President have become so frequent that statements such as Mullins must be taken seriously and investigated with extreme prejudice. His remarks are more than Republican losers bemoaning an electoral defeat and inform a desperate political party sending a literal call to arms against the President of the United States. Coupled with his claim Republicans have to lurch farther to the extreme fringes of the right wing because they are unhappy with healthcare insurance reform, it is a just a matter of time before violent rhetoric is embraced by national Republicans. Frankly, national or state Republicans’ unwillingness to condemn the preponderance of hate speech and violent rhetoric against this President is tantamount to their unconditional endorsement.
***************John Boehner Finds a Shred of Courage and Gets Smacked Down By the Kochs and Heritage
By: Sarah Jones
Wednesday, December, 11th, 2013, 2:18 pm
A rare moment has occurred in which Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) found some courage in the land of OZ. The cowardly lion did deploy said courage in an effort to keep his troops rallied behind the “Mini Budget” crafted by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA).
Boehner must have had high hopes that his House could deliver one thing. Just one thing in a several year losing streak.
Boehner is fighting the Big Money behind “conservatism”, including the Koch Brothers Freedom Works, Heritage Action and Americans For Prosperity, and Club For Growth — all of whom are against the Budget Deal (some of them were against it before they read it, giving GOP leadership a taste of their own medicine).
Boehner was profoundly irritated. So in a presser today, he called them out for doing exactly what they are doing:
“They’re using our members and they’re using the American people for their own goals. This is ridiculous,” Boehner said loudly. “Listen, if you’re for more deficit reduction, you’re for this agreement.”
Conservative groups already fired back at the Speaker, with Americans For Prosperity, Heritage Action, and Club For Growth releasing scalding statements condemning the Speaker for failing conservative principles. Freedom Works statement exemplified the mess:
“Speaker Boehner’s real problem here isn’t with conservative groups like FreedomWorks, it’s with millions of individual Americans who vote Republican because they were told the GOP was the party of small government and fiscal responsibility,” Matt Kibbe, the president of FreedomWorks, said in a statement.
Kibbe went on: “Once again Republicans, led by John Boehner, are working with Democrats to increase spending yet again on the taxpayers’ tab while promising ‘savings’ down the road. We know how this movie ends. How can leadership credibly promise spending cuts later, after agreeing to a plan that rolls back the sequester savings promised two debt increases ago? There’s a predictable pattern here.”
Yes, there’s a pattern alright. Speaker Boehner stuck his cowardly head out from the rock he’s been hiding under, and tried to do the thing that would allow his House to do one paltry thing among its many failures. The historical failure of Boehner’s House must eat away at the Speaker, lodged as he is between a single celled jingoistic base and the endless money of big corporations. But his caucus is now being trolled by the big money, and Boehner simply can’t compete.
Can Boehner keep his caucus together under this kind of calculated, organized duress? The man can’t keep his caucus together ever, so unless Nancy Pelosi is going to step up to help Boehner pass a semi budget since he won’t permit a sit down for a real budget, Boehner might be out of luck again.
*************Man must repay $183,000 to Kochs after joining ‘Anonymous’ protest for one minute
By Travis Gettys
Wednesday, December 11, 2013 12:35 EST
A Wisconsin man who joined an Anonymous online protest for one minute has been sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to repay $183,000 to Koch Industries.
Eric Rosol admitted to federal prosecutors that he took part in a distributed denial-of-service attack Feb. 28, 2011, coordinated by the hacker activist group that shut down the company’s Kochind.com website for about 15 minutes.
Company owners Charles and David Koch were targeted due to their campaign to limit the bargaining power of trade unions.
The 38-year-old Rosol pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of accessing a protected computer using the Low Orbit Ion Cannon Code software investigators found on his computer.
The DDoS attack lasted for only one minute, but Rosol was prosecuted under a 1980s law – the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act – that many online activists say encourages sentences that rarely fit the crime.
Rosol’s attorney and prosecutors agreed that the company lost less than $5,000 as a result of the DDoS attack, but Koch Industries complained that it had hired a consulting firm to improve security for its websites at a cost of $183,000.
Another member of Anonymous, 28-year-old Jeremy Hammond, was sentenced last month to 10 years in prison for hacking into the analysis firm Strategic Forecasting’s computers to access consumers’ credit card information and email addresses.
However, Hammond’s supporters say he was acting as a whistleblower against government surveillance and data collection.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]
*****************ALEC Members Refuse to Sign a Pledge Supporting Democracy
Wednesday, December, 11th, 2013, 10:11 am
It is fair to assume that America is host to an incredibly ignorant population who know very little about their government and how it affects their daily lives. That sad fact was exposed in a brilliant 2008 book revealing that only 20% of the population can name the three branches of government and 49% think a president has the authority to suspend the Constitution. However, the population’s ignorance of their government aside, it is highly probable that every American supports democracy; unless they are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). To Americans aware of ALEC and its intent to create a corporate oligarchy and privatized government, it is not surprising that if ALEC members were asked to sign a pledge to support democracy, they would refuse, and that is precisely what happened in a little-reported story last week.
Last Thursday while ALEC was holding its annual meeting in Washington D.C., a group of working family activists, AFSCME, the Postal Workers union (APWU), AFT, and Jobs with Justice appeared at the meeting and asked ALEC members to sign a pledge “upholding the will of the people and support democracy, or leave their states.” The people at ALEC’s meeting did not sign the pledge and corporate-controlled media did not report the event because a revelation that an organization dedicated to serving corporate interests represented by the Republican Party refusing to support democracy would not play well with the public. In fact, for about 30 years ALEC has quietly been dismantling America’s democracy while hiding in the shadows, and it is just recently that a very tiny minority of the population even know ALEC exists.
Those Americans who know about ALEC and the Koch’s assault on democracy are rightly incensed that a small number of very rich Americans are responsible for authoring legislation robbing Americans of their rights and freedoms with a view towards government by corporate oligarchy. The anger at the people behind ALEC such as the Koch brothers, Wall Street, and the largest corporations in America, is truly justified, but the truth is that ALEC’s real power is not the Koch brothers, corporations, or the richest people in America. It is true their funding allows them to write template legislation responsible for destroying democracy, create a nation of peasants, and attempt to privatize and hijack the government using public dollars, but without loyal Republican legislators in the states and Congress, neither ALEC, the Koch brothers, nor wealthy corporations would have the power to dismantle America’s democracy.
There is so much focus on template legislation written by ALEC and paid for by the Koch brothers, that Americans furious their democracy is being stolen, their tax dollars handed to the rich, and their government transferred to corporate rule forget that without loyal Republicans introducing and voting for ALEC’s laws in state legislatures and Congress, America’s democracy would not be in jeopardy. The irony is that the Kochs, ALEC, the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute, and the State Policy Network are using the democratic process to dismantle America’s democracy, but it is through the democratic process that Americans can neuter those groups, take back their democracy, and force government to follow the will of the people and not the interests of the rich.
It is fortunate that ALEC, the Koch brothers, and corporate influence on government is finally being exposed, and it partially explains why ALEC was furiously writing legislation Republicans introduced and voted for to restrict the right to vote; particularly in Republican-controlled states. In some areas of the country, the exposure was too little too late, and laws such as stand your ground, right to work for less, and privatized public education are likely going to stay in place for a decade or more even if voters begin voting Republicans out of office in the next election. It does not mean that all is lost, but it does mean that it will take a long time to turn America around; especially in parts of the country where people are resistant to, and suspicious, of change and it is why ALEC targeted those areas first. It is also why the Koch brothers and their surrogates are spending millions upon millions of dollars in those areas to restrict voting rights and undermine education by portraying real democracy as an evil usurpation of their religious freedom, gun ownership, and responsible for government intrusion in their daily lives. It is an evil ploy, but it is successful because the population is inherently stupid and ignorant of how government works to benefit their well-being, and increasingly, their very survival.
It is no coincidence that Republicans have been successful in portraying President Obama as a dictator who suspended the Constitution and imposed tyrannical rule. Let’s face it, when nearly half the population actually believes a president has the authority to suspend the Constitution, it is little wonder they believe conservative propaganda from Fox News, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh that their only recourse to restore the Constitution and preserve their way of life is electing Republicans.
The good news is that America is still a representative democracy; at least for a while, and there are still enough Americans who understand their freedoms, well-being, and diminishing economic fortunes are being stolen by Republicans serving ALEC and its wealthy backers who deserve every bit of rage those who know they exist can muster. However, focusing on ALEC and the likes of the Koch brothers and ignoring their true source of power, Republican legislators, is about as stupid as ignorant Americans with no clue how government works. It is time to acknowledge that the reason ALEC and the Koch brothers will not pledge to support democracy is because their source of power, Republicans do not support democracy. If the American people cannot comprehend that simple fact, then maybe they do not deserve democracy after all and should get out of America now because they are ruining it for everyone else.
***************NBC/WSJ Poll Shows Majority of People Reject the Republican Party and Their Views
By: Justin Baragona
Wednesday, December, 11th, 2013, 12:17 pm
A new poll was released today by NBC/Wall Street Journal. While the media will focus on the President’s disapproval ratings showing as an all-time high in this poll (54%), the real story here is that, for the most part, this poll shows that the American people are still rejecting the Republican Party and its ideals, while showing more confidence in Democrats to lead on a number of issues.
When it comes to approval ratings, President Obama’s rating ticked up to 43%, up one point from NBC’s previous poll over a month ago and on par with where he had been over the summer. It is also roughly the same as it was two years ago at this time. Meanwhile, when asked to rate the performance of this year’s Congress, 51% said that this was one of the worst in history. Another 28% said it was below average. Combined, 79% of people polled said this Congress did a bad job this year. This is unprecedented for this poll, as the combined number has never been that high. Also, this is the first time a majority of people said it was one of the worst.
As for favorable ratings, the President had a net negative of 4%, as 42% view him favorably and 46% view him negatively. Meanwhile, the Republican Party came away with a net negative of 25%, with a majority of the people polled (51%) viewing the GOP negatively compared to only 26% seeing them in a positive light. The Tea Party didn’t fare much better as they had a net negative of 21% with only 24% having a favorable view of them. Democrats were also in the net negative (8%), but still viewed far more favorably than the GOP or Tea Party.
Another thing that will inevitably spun as a negative for this President but should actually show improvement overall is the direction people think the country is heading in. While a large majority of people still think the country is heading in the wrong direction (64%), this is a noticeable improvement from the past two polls. When asked this question during the shutdown, only 14% felt it was headed in the right direction. The next month, it was up to 22%. Now it is at 29%. It shows that there is a bit of hope building up among people.
To that degree, the poll showed that the public feels that the economy is getting better and that it should continue to improve. 29% feel that the economy will get better over the next twelve months compared to 24% saying it will get worse. 46% feel it will stay the same. The prior two polls showed a large net negative on this question. Also, 63% of people responded that they were at least somewhat satisfied with their personal financial situation, up 8% from the most recent poll and the highest it had been since December 2007.
Another thing the media will point to when looking at this poll is how people viewed the ACA. In regards to that, only 34% viewed it favorably compared to 50% negatively. However, on another question, 44% of people said they were very satisfied with their health care coverage, which was an improvement of 13% when that was asked in September, right before the rollout. Overall, 80% of people said they were somewhat satisfied with their coverage. This should tell us that while the public may be influenced by the media’s coverage of the ‘botched’ rollout and the cancellation of junk policies, when not asked to think about the politics of it, they are seeing improvement in their coverage and overall medical care.
Yet another item that doesn’t forecast very well for the GOP is the public’s view of the federal minimum wage. When asked if it should be bumped up to $10.10 an hour, a vast majority (63%) were in favor of it. Republican lawmakers have been trying to make the case that the minimum wage should not be raised as it will hurt businesses and the overall economy. Obviously, the message is not resonating with the majority of Americans.
An interesting section of the poll was where people were asked which party they trusted more to handle certain issues. The Democrats held the advantage on nearly every question asked. They had a huge advantage (28%) when asked who has more compassion and concern for people. They also held an advantage on immigration (5%), health care (6%) and having new ideas (8%). For some reason, Republicans had the edge in the economy (10%), which is a head-scratcher due to their obstructionist ways and shutting down of the government. However, it could be somewhat understandable due to their opposition to Obamacare being based, at least rhetorically, on the economy and jobs.
In the end, we know that the mainstream media will hammer home the high disapproval rating of the President and the ACA when discussing this poll, while almost entirely ignoring the huge negatives for the GOP. And, that is probably why, while this poll shows tons of negatives for the Republicans, they actually have a small lead in a generic Congressional vote, 44-42. Obviously, when asked specifically about their thoughts on a number of subjects, people will point out how pathetic the Republican Party is and how they view them. However, due to consistent negative coverage of the President and the health care law, many still instinctively state they’ll vote Republican. Thank you, MSM. You are doing your job!