Dec 6, 2013, 5:07pm | Guy Benson
We’ll be subbing for Hugh over the first two hours of his nationally-syndicated program this evening (6-8pm ET), going basically wall-to-wall on all the Obamacare news. Hope you’ll tune in!
Dec 5, 2013, 3:44pm | Katie Pavlich
Former President Bill Clinton just took doodling to a whole new level. According to the hacker Guccifer, President Clinton drew man parts on classified documents. Guccifer hacked into the Clinton Library and found the document below. From The Wire:
Mediaite explains it this way:
The phallus appears next to the then-Sen. Bob Dole’s name, which some have speculated could be Clinton’s stream-of-consciousness reference to the Viagra commercials that the former GOP presidential nominee was featured in at the time.
…Weird? Just some more
incite insight* on where Clinton’s head is, even when he’s getting briefed on classified information.
UPDATE: Yes, commenters, I used the wrong version of insight, not because I don’t know the difference but because I was a bit distracted by the topic at hand. My bad. Thanks for pointing it out.
Dec 4, 2013, 3:56pm | Allahpundit
It’s far and away the least creative clip among the finalists, but with a message about ignoring cost, how could it lose?
Dec 3, 2013, 3:05pm | Ed Morrissey
Due to family issues and travel, The Ed Morrissey Show will be on hiatus until further notice. I apologize to our audience and our terrific guests for the interruption, and we’ll get back on track as soon as we can.
Dec 3, 2013, 11:33am | Guy Benson
Ellen Richardson went to Pearson airport on Monday full of joy about flying to New York City and from there going on a 10-day Caribbean cruise for which she’d paid about $6,000. But a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent with the Department of Homeland Security killed that dream when he denied her entry. “I was turned away, I was told, because I had a hospitalization in the summer of 2012 for clinical depression,’’ said Richardson, who is a paraplegic and set up her cruise in collaboration with a March of Dimes group of about 12 others. The Weston woman was told by the U.S. agent she would have to get “medical clearance’’ and be examined by one of only three doctors in Toronto whose assessments are accepted by Homeland Security. She was given their names and told a call to her psychiatrist “would not suffice.’’
First off, good luck securing a last-minute doctor’s appointment in Canada. Secondly, it gets weirder:
At the time, Richardson said, she was so shocked and devastated by what was going on, she wasn’t thinking about how U.S. authorities could access her supposedly private medical information. “I was so aghast. I was saying, ‘I don’t understand this. What is the problem?’ I was so looking forward to getting away . . . I’d even brought a little string of Christmas lights I was going to string up in the cabin. . . . It’s not like I can just book again right away,’’ she said, referring to the time and planning that goes into taking a trip as a disabled person. Richardson said she’d had no discussion whatsoever with the agent at the airport about her medical history or background.
An inquiry into how this happened is underway, with Ms. Richardson’s MP calling the episode “enormously troubling.” But I’m sure Americans have nothing to fear regarding healthcare-related data security breaches. After all, Kathleen Sebelius “feels like” Healthcare.gov is secure. Case closed, right?
Dec 3, 2013, 8:44am | Allahpundit
If MSNBC’s dead set on replacing the “vacationing” Martin Bashir with another Brit who’ll happily kiss Democratic ass for a gig, I’ve got just the guy.
Dec 2, 2013, 5:37pm | Mike Antonucci
Though I have written about the fact often, it bears repeating that the National Education Association and its affiliates are employers. Between them they hire thousands of workers to perform a variety of tasks. Virtually all of these workers are covered by collective bargaining agreements in which the teachers’ union is management – bosses, to put it plainly. Union employees use the contract to set salaries, benefits, working conditions and protections against arbitrary actions by union executives.
About 500 people work at NEA national headquarters in Washington, DC. A handful of unions represent them, the largest being the National Education Association Staff Organization (NEASO). NEA and NEASO negotiated a 136-page collective bargaining agreement in June 2012, and it runs through the end of May 2015. I have posted the full document on EIA’s Declassified page, but to save you the energy of mining it yourself, here are a few provisions I thought were worthy of highlighting:
* It is explicitly noted that “An employee shall be permitted time off as necessary to use the restroom.”
* NEA must assume financial liability for an employee who is prosecuted or sued “because of any act taken by him/her in the course of his/her employment.” Under these circumstances, unless the employee is guilty of “gross negligence or gross irresponsibility,” he or she “shall be paid at his/her regular hourly rate for all time spent in jail.”
* NEA can fire or discipline an employee for just cause. Just cause for immediate termination includes “habitually being under the influence of alcoholic beverages or drugs during working hours to the extent that the employee is unable to perform adequately his/her assigned functions,” which implies that you can’t be immediately fired if you only do it once. Immediate termination can also occur for an “unprovoked assault on or threats to an NEA representative or another employee during working hours,” which implies assaulting or threatening someone during off-hours will not result in immediate termination.
* Outside of the usual crimes and misdemeanors, the only thing that will get you immediately fired is failure to pay NEASO dues.
* NEA reimburses employees for valet service if they travel for five consecutive days.
* NEA reimburses employees for loss or damage of personal items during travel if not covered by insurance.
* If NEA is forced to cancel an employee’s previously approved vacation time, it must “reimburse the employee for any deposits or other similar out-of-pocket losses necessarily sustained by him/her as a result thereof.”
* Employees can be reimbursed up to $700 for “technical equipment with a business purpose,” including broadband and Internet.
* NEA is required to provide “an appropriately furnished lounge” for employees at union headquarters. The contract specifically requires NEA to “make an ice machine available to employees in the building.”
* “An appropriately equipped and staffed health services unit shall be open during normal business hours at NEA Center. A registered or licensed practical nurse shall be on duty during those hours.”
* The contract dictates that computer monitors must be “equipped with a screen designed to reduce glare” and NEA must provide employees who work at computer monitors for an average of two hours or more per day a vision examination once every two years. NEA will reimburse employees for special lenses and frames for computer monitor use which are prescribed at that exam.
* Any “conceptual design decisions regarding the configuration of NEA office space” must be referred to joint labor-management council.
* NEA may be liable for job-related injuries or illnesses that occur while an employee is working at home.
* NEA grants administrative leave during national periods of mourning and on Inauguration Day.
* NEA provides no more than 214 parking permits for its headquarters building, and so must issue a $60 monthly commuting benefit for those who use the DC Metro, or $10 per month for those who bike to work. The contract requires NEA to maintain a bicycle rack. The issuance of parking permits is an important issue, as is evident by this paragraph:
If a non-bargaining-unit employee who holds a parking permit is moved to a bargaining-unit position, he/she shall be placed on the waiting list for a parking permit according to his/her most recent date of hire, unless his/her seniority would make him/her immediately eligible for a permit, in which case he/she shall retain his/her permit.
If a contract between union employees and union employers looks like this, it is only sensible to assume that unions believe such provisions are an essential part of the collective bargaining process. Do you?
Dec 2, 2013, 11:52am | Guy Benson
Behold, the wonders of government-run, single-payer healthcare (via the Daily Telegraph):
More than 1,000 care home residents have died of thirst or while suffering severe dehydration over the past decade, The Daily Telegraph can disclose. Elderly and vulnerable patients were left without enough water despite being under the supervision of trained staff in homes in England and Wales…Charities called for an urgent overhaul in social care, saying that the general public would be outraged if animals were treated in the same way…Figures obtained by this newspaper under freedom of information laws found that 1,158 care home residents suffered dehydration-related deaths between 2003 and 2012. Dehydration was named as either the underlying cause of death or a contributory factor, according to analysis of death certificates by the Office of National Statistics. Some 318 care home residents were found to have died from starvation or when severely malnourished, while 2,815 deaths were linked to bed sores. The real figures are likely to be far higher because residents who died while in hospital were not included.
You read that right — these statistics only include the people who literally died in their homes;* they don’t entail those who were rushed to the hospital before succumbing to the effects of gross neglect. Not that British hospital care is particularly stellar either. How many of these patients expired while sitting in ambulances queued up outside overcrowded emergency rooms? Reminder:
UPDATE - Via MBS in the comments, it appears that these figures are based on elderly patients who died in nursing homes, under the supervision of government-trained, ahem, caretakers.
Dec 2, 2013, 10:58am | Ed Morrissey
Michael Yon is working in Turkey to report on the Syrian civil war. A couple of weeks ago, we barely missed each other in Istanbul (my fault, thanks to an ambitious tour itinerary), where he and I planned to meet to discuss the coverage of the war in the US. He has a new post up reporting how al-Qaeda is growing like kudzu in Syria, but also the impossible position in which Christians find themselves in the war:
Despite their long history, some believe the days of Christians in Syria are fading. Many have fled to Turkey, possibly having already spent their final days in their homeland.
In the United States there is a tendency to view this as “Muslims vs. Christians,” yet on the scale of the troubles these are subtopics. Stories that center on the Christian suffering can make it sound like “another Christian village has fallen,” when the stories coming from Syria are “another village has fallen, and this one happens to be mostly Christian.”
The targeting of Christians is often not the result of religious differences.
Politically, some targeting stems from many Christians siding with Assad’s regime, fearing an inevitable pogrom. Assad nurtures Christian fears to gain their support.
But that hardly matters: if they side against Assad, his forces will also attack. The price of being a minority can be dammed if you do and dead if you don’t.
In the ultimate “you are with us or against us, “ there is no option to play Switzerland and pretend lofty neutrality as if that were a choice. Alpine geography and political circumstance afford lucky Switzerland the fantasy of being above it all, yet a desert village on key terrain and crucial routes has less fortunate geography and circumstance. The options are to run, surrender, or fight.
Be sure to read it all, as well as keeping up with Lee Stranahan’s reporting on the conflict.
Dec 2, 2013, 8:00am | Allahpundit
Nov 30, 2013, 12:00pm | Ed Morrissey
It looks and plays like a piano, but it sounds like a string quartet — and it took 500 years before anyone built it. Leonardo da Vinci’s flight of fancy in designing a hammerless piano, called a “viola organista,” has come to life half a millenium after da Vinci designed it, thanks to a Polish concert pianist and musical engineer. It couldn’t have sounded any better in da Vinci’s head (via Brad Thor and Dan Gainor):
A bizarre instrument combining a piano and cello has finally been played to an audience more than 500 years after it was dreamt up Leonardo da Vinci.
Da Vinci, the Italian Renaissance genius who painted the Mona Lisa, invented the ‘‘viola organista’’ – which looks like a baby grand piano – but never built it, experts say.
The viola organista has now come to life, thanks to a Polish concert pianist with a flair for instrument-making and the patience and passion to interpret da Vinci’s plans.
Full of steel strings and spinning wheels, Slawomir Zubrzycki’s creation is a musical and mechanical work of art.
‘‘This instrument has the characteristics of three we know: the harpsichord, the organ and the viola da gamba,’’ Zubrzycki said as he debuted the instrument at the Academy of Music in the southern Polish city of Krakow.
Update: Be sure to read Zombie’s comments and links. This isn’t the first time the viola organista has been built. Looks like the newspaper didn’t do its homework.
Nov 29, 2013, 10:13am | Ed Morrissey
Three days ago, the claim by a New Jersey waitress who claimed to have been stiffed on a tip because of her sexual orientation began collapsing, but unfortunately for Dayna Morales, that’s not the end of the story. After the original story went viral, the family who supposedly stiffed Morales showed NBC New York their credit-card bill, establishing convincingly that Morales did indeed get a tip — and that someone else must have written the note. Last night, NBC New York dug deeper and found a few more issues in Morales’ background, including a history of fabulism:
The New Jersey waitress whose story has been questioned after she claimed she received an anti-gay note instead of a tip on a restaurant bill was dishonorably discharged from the Marines last spring after she stopped showing up, NBC 4 New York has learned.
And that’s not all:
A woman who says she and Morales worked together at a Cheesecake Factory in Nyack, N.Y., last year said Morales told coworkers she had brain cancer.
“She came in with her hair shaved because she wanted to shave it herself before she lost it,” said Jacqie Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick said Morales also leaned on the cancer story to accept offers of help from friends at work.
Then, she abruptly quit, according to Fitzpatrick, and her coworkers didn’t see her again until she appeared in news reports about the receipt.
Morales collected $3,000 in donations from people after the original story went viral. Supposedly “most” of that money was headed for the Wounded Warrior Project. Maybe NBC New York will follow up on the story by following the money next.
Nov 27, 2013, 12:15pm | Allahpundit
A dispatch from Charles Cooke:
“As we speak, we have multiple cars monitoring us at our offices and filming us from the parking lot,” Mike McAlpine, who headed up the recall effort, told me yesterday. “This is not a one-off event. We hold sign-and-drive events on the sidewalks near to busy intersections, and we hold signs inviting people to pull over and sign the petition. Our opponents have taken to blocking us: as cars pulls in, they run up to the driver’s side door and physically stand next to the door so that the person inside cannot open the door and come outside.”
Elsewhere, opponents have formed human chains in order to block anyone who wants to sign. “They yell at the person while they’re at the table trying to sign, or blow an airhorn in their ear,” McAlpine added. “There have been a half-dozen examples of that. In addition, when we go out to knock on doors and present the petition, they will follow us down the sidewalk and scream and yell.” Recently, McAlpine told me, protesters encircled a young black man who was collecting signatures. “They yelled at him, ‘you killed Trayvon! You killed Trayvon!’”
Nov 27, 2013, 11:00am | Ed Morrissey
Which turkey will the President pardon this Thanksgiving? The Columbus Dispatch’s Nate Beeler predicts it will be this one:
On a more serious note, Ron Fournier wonders when Obama will start using his real pardon power to correct a few injustices. At the moment, he’s on track to be the stingiest President since Washington with this power, and Fournier has a good place for him to start:
Angelos was sentenced in 2004 to 55 years’ imprisonment for possessing a firearm in connection with selling small amounts of marijuana. He didn’t brandish or use a weapon, nor did he hurt or threaten to injure anybody. And yet the father of young children and an aspiring music producer was given an effective life sentence because of a draconian federal law requiring mandatory minimum sentences.
Even the judge on his case, Paul G. Cassell, found the sentence “cruel and irrational.” While urging Obama to reduce Angelos’s punishment, the Republican-appointed judge wrote, “While I must impose the unjust sentence, our system of separated powers provides a means of redress.” …
According to an analysis of Justice Department data published by Reason.com, only three presidents made less use of the clemency power than did Obama during their first terms: George Washington, who had little cause to grant clemency in the nation’s first days; William Henry Harrison, who died of pneumonia a month after taking office; and James Garfield, who was shot four months into his presidency.
After granting 17 pardons this year, according to the DOJ website, the total for Obama’s presidency stands at 39 pardons (which clear people’s records, typically after they’ve completed their sentences) and just one commutation (which shortens a prisoner’s sentence).
As you can see from the graphic, Obama still ranks at the bottom historically, and his record extends a trend of presidential intolerance that dates to the tough-on-crime demagoguery of Presidents Nixon and Reagan–both of whom, ironically, were more generous with clemency powers than Obama.
The political incentives are all set against the use of pardons at the presidential and gubernatorial level, but Obama won’t be running for office again. A pardon in this case won’t become a midterm election issue, and it’s doubtful that any pardon would be except for a member of the Obama administration that gets caught up in one of the scandals erupting this year.
Of course, it doesn’t help that Obama has Eric Holder in his Cabinet and involved in the pardon process. Holder was involved in one of the most notorious presidential pardons ever, that given to Marc Rich while still a fugitive from justice after his Democratic-donor former wife campaigned for the action. But that’s Obama’s fault for appointing Holder in the first place.
Nov 26, 2013, 1:20pm | Mike Antonucci
And that’s why it won’t let them resign their membership or negotiate their own salary, benefits and working conditions, according to David Hecker, president of AFT Michigan.
Nov 26, 2013, 11:54am | Katie Pavlich
Now this is how you deal with bullying. Right on, boys.
Nov 26, 2013, 11:30am | Guy Benson
Death spiral tremors in the Rockies:
Enrollment in the Affordable Care Act through Colorado’s health insurance exchange is barely half the state’s worst-case projection, prompting demands from exchange board members for better stewardship of public money. The shortfall could compromise the exchange’s “ability to deliver on promises made to Colorado citizens” and threatens the funding stream for the exchange itself, according to board e-mails obtained by The Denver Post in an open records request. The exchange, meant for individuals and small groups buying insurance, had projected a lowest-level mid-November enrollment of 11,108, in a presentation to a board finance committee. The exchange announced Nov. 18 that it had signed up 6,001 Coloradans so far…As federal startup grants taper off under Obamacare funding, the exchange is meant to pay for itself with per-member charges on the private insurance companies offering policies. It needs 136,300 enrollees in 2014 to raise $6.5 million of its $51.4 million expenses. Significant operational issues are not being addressed in the wake of bumpy local and national startups for Obamacare, said board member Ellen Daehnick, whose e-mails and comments are sharply critical of board leadership.
But at least one element of Colorado’s sign-up drive is right on target:
Medicaid said on Nov. 18 it had signed up 47,309 Coloradans newly eligible under expanded Medicaid income rules, well on its way to reaching the 160,000 it expects to be eligible overall.
For those keeping score at home, Medicaid is the empirically failed federal entitlement program that Obamacare massively expands via a separate enrollment process. Disproportionately Medicaid-heavy ‘coverage’ expansions are a financial drain on Obamacare’s financial model that could threaten the viability of the entire law. Colorado is one of 14 states that constructed its own Obamacare exchange, an effort quarterbacked by strong Obamacare supporter Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat. The state’s insurance commissioner arrived at her current post directly from HHS, where she had access to various states’ implementation progress. Before the October 1 launch, Marguerite Salazar chuckled that Colorado’s exchange was in pretty strong shape compared to other jurisdictions she’d seen. With December right around the corner, Colorado’s enrollments are way off pace to even hit officials’ nightmare targets.
Nov 26, 2013, 10:42am | Ed Morrissey
Nov 25, 2013, 4:16pm | Guy Benson
Democrats run the show in liberal Vermont, where the state government has set up a foundering and costly Obamacare exchange — free from the pervasive and insidious threat of “Republican obstructionism.” Nothing to see here, Vermont residents:
Officials overseeing the Vermont Health Connect website confirmed Friday there was a security breach on the system last month in which one user got improper access to another user’s Social Security number and other data. A report from state to federal officials overseeing the health insurance exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act said a consumer reported the incident with the Vermont Health Connect website on Oct. 17. The consumer, whom officials would not identify, reported that he received in the mail — from an unnamed sender — a copy of his own application for insurance under the state exchange. “On the back of the envelope was hand-written ‘VERMONT HEALTH CONNECT IS NOT A SECURE WEBSITE!’ This was also (written) on the back of the last page of the printed out application,” said the incident report. The report was prepared by Greg Needle, privacy administrator with Vermont Health Connect, and filed with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The Associated Press obtained it after a request under the state public records law to the Department of Vermont Health Access. The report did not identify the individual consumers involved in the breach.
Vermont’s Obamacare chief has assured citizens that this error was isolated and has been “responded to appropriately.” So we’re all good. Thus far, news stories on Obamacare data security breaches have involved honest citizens and IT specialists probing for weaknesses. Might there be other characters out there exploiting unknown vulnerabilities for more nefarious purposes? Not to worry; Kathleen Sebelius “feels like” the websites are secure, even as security experts urge the administration to take Healthcare.gov off-line until safeguards are enhanced. And why wouldn’t people trust her casual assessment over the urgent warnings of people whose expertise lies in the realm of online security? Suck it up and carry on, folks. It’s not like the navigators handling your private data might be convicted felons, or anything.
Nov 25, 2013, 12:08pm | Ed Morrissey
If you go by the screen credits on almost every Hollywood film released to theaters, you’d assume the answer was no. According to The Hollywood Reporter, though, the American Humane Association that awards that status has taken a remarkably nuanced approach to that designation:
As a representative of the American Humane Association — the grantor of the familiar “No Animals Were Harmed” trademark accreditation seen at the end of film and TV credits — it was Johnson’s job to monitor the welfare of the animals used in the production filmed in Taiwan. What’s more, Johnson had a secret: She was intimately involved with a high-ranking production exec on Pi. (AHA’s management subsequently became aware of both the relationship and her email about the tiger incident, which others involved with the production have described in far less dire terms.) Still, Pi, which went on to earn four Oscars and $609 million in global box office, was awarded the “No Animals Were Harmed” credit.
A year later, during the filming of another blockbuster, Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, 27 animals reportedly perished, including sheep and goats that died from dehydration and exhaustion or from drowning in water-filled gullies, during a hiatus in filming at an unmonitored New Zealand farm where they were being housed and trained. A trainer, John Smythe, tells THR that AHA’s management, which assigned a representative to the production, resisted investigating when he brought the issue to its attention in August 2012. First, according to an email Smythe shared with THR, an AHA official told him the lack of physical evidence would make it difficult to investigate. When he replied that he had buried the animals himself and knew their location, the official then told him that because the deaths had taken place during the hiatus, the AHA had no jurisdiction. The AHA eventually bestowed a carefully worded credit that noted it “monitored all of the significant animal action. No animals were harmed during such action.”
A THR investigation has found that, unbeknownst to the public, these incidents on Hollywood’s most prominent productions are but two of the troubling cases of animal injury and death that directly call into question the 136-year-old Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit’s assertion that “No Animals Were Harmed” on productions it monitors. Alarmingly, it turns out that audiences reassured by the organization’s famous disclaimer should not necessarily assume it is true. In fact, the AHA has awarded its “No Animals Were Harmed” credit to films and TV shows on which animals were injured during production. It justifies this on the grounds that the animals weren’t intentionally harmed or the incidents occurred while cameras weren’t rolling.
The full scope of animal injuries and deaths in entertainment productions cannot be known. But in multiple cases examined by THR, the AHA has not lived up to its professed role as stalwart defenders of animals — who, unlike their human counterparts, didn’t themselves sign up for such work. While the four horse deaths on HBO’s Luck made headlines last year, there are many extraordinary incidents that never bubble up to make news.
This is what happens when a voluntary industry regulator gets too close to the industry itself. This isn’t a good case for government intervention, though, as (a) it wouldn’t work anyway, (b) would cost taxpayers rather than the voluntarily self-selecting population of theater-goers, and (c) would create even more confusion than what presently exists. If the AHA and the film industry want to get serious, they would farm this out to a really unaffiliated group, perhaps like Underwriters Laboratories or something similar.
One would think that the rise of CGI would alleviate the need for this kind of animal use anyway. Perhaps stories like this will provide further incentives for that outcome.