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.
Nov 22, 2013, 2:31pm | Ed Morrissey
Actually, this is not the only literary connection to this particular date. Both C. S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley died on November 22nd, 1963, and both deaths were understandably overshadowed by the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Huxley is most remembered for Brave New World, arguably the best of the dystopian novels expressing the dangers of science combined with totalitarianism in the vain pursuit of human/social perfection.
C. S. Lewis is of another literary class, however, and a more recent personal favorite. He authored the fantasy series The Chronicles of Narnia, some volumes of which have recently been rendered in cinematic form, which remains his most popular work. Unlike J.R.R. Tolkien with Lord of the Rings, Lewis apparently intended Narnia to express Christian philosophy and doctrine in literature form to younger readers. Lewis tackled the subject more directly in his famous work Mere Christianity, but the work that resonates most with me is The Screwtape Letters, which I only read for the first time last year. It’s witty, charming, utterly accessible, and delivers one of the best and most efficient treatises on spiritual warfare imaginable. The Screwtape Letters is a surprisingly quick read, but the prose stayed with me ever since my first reading of it.
The best way to experience The Screwtape Letters, though, is to find the John Cleese audio version of the book. Nominated for a Grammy in the spoken-word category, it brings the text alive in a way that colors even the traditional reading of the book afterward. Once one hears Cleese voicing the demon Screwtape, a mid-level functionary in the “Lowerarchy” advising/warning his nephew Wormwood, it’s impossible to imagine any other voice at all for the role. Unfortunately, the John Cleese version has long since been out of print, and is almost impossible to find on the used market. YouTube has most of the Cleese recording available by chapters, with a few gaps.
Letter 22 is nearly the pinnacle of Cleese’s excellence; the final Letter 31 is best, but that gives the game away:
I have these playing in my car nearly non-stop these days. I never fail to find something meaningful for my faith and life in the recording, and find it a good way to remain vigilant in my daily life as a Christian.
Nov 22, 2013, 1:56pm | Guy Benson
It’s just like Travelocity, but for health insurance. Cutting. Edge:
KOIN 6 News confirmed Cover Oregon has added dozens of extra fax lines to handle the paper applications being sent in by fax. On Wednesday, King said they had received about 24,000 paper applications. That number now is closer to 30,000. But many people complained of busy signals when trying to send in their application by fax. Michael Cox, the Cover Oregon spokesperson, said their office has one fax number but it’s an electronic interface that can handle more than one call at once. When a fax comes in it takes two seconds per page to be transferred into the server. When the paper applications began, Cover Oregon was only able to take 500 applications per day. It was upped to 1000, and this week increased to 1500 per day.
As of October 1, US taxpayers had already spent over $220 million on Oregon’s exchange website — which has proceeded to successfully enroll exactly zero people. State Obamacare officials dropped millions more on trippy television ads promoting their dysfunctional site.
Nov 22, 2013, 1:04pm | Ed Morrissey
The latest installment in Bill Whittle’s “Your Government” virtual presidency tackles the real driver of increasing health-care costs, which is the third-party payer model of insurance. One of the many problems with ObamaCare is that it makes the pricing signals to consumers even less transparent than what it purports to reform. Instead of increasing the complexity between consumers and providers, Bill proposes a plan to simplify it and unleash the power of the private sector and competition to really lower costs:
Nov 21, 2013, 11:22am | Guy Benson
Liberal blogger and representative on the health care committee at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), turned to the liberal blog The Daily Kos, on Monday to decry the negative impact he says President Barack Obama’s signature health care law is having on grad students at his Ivy League school. ”For us, at least in the college health insurance market, the ACA has truly been the ‘law of unintended consequences,’ wrote Micheal Convente on The Daily Kos, on Monday. ”[R]elying on marketing slogans, some of which turned out not to be so correct, is turning out to be problematic,” he lamented. Convente said the “progressive” UPenn Student Health Insurance Advisory Committee (SHIAC), on which he serves, doesn’t mind funding artificial limbs or even gender reassignment surgery, but that forcing poor college students to pay for health care for children, which most don’t use, is becoming a burden.
Being an incurable ideologue, Convente insists that he still supports the law, even though it’s doing real harm to the people around him. Good stuff. What’s extra tasty about his sad-face post is that it’s attached to another DailyKos diary entry entitled, “Confessions of an Obamacare advocate with cancelled policy, facing 38 percent premium hike.” Which is not to be confused with a separate ferocious DailyKos rant authored by an embittered Obamacare fan back in September (“what the hell kind of reform is this?”) Since we’re on the subjects of dumped coverage and sticker shock, it had been awhile since I’d checked in on MyCancellation.com – but a Florida family’s plight caught my attention on Twitter just yesterday. Thanks, Obamacare:
If you can’t read the fine print, I’ll translate: This household’s existing health plan featured a $5,000 deductible with monthly premiums of $408. That coverage has now been cancelled, thanks to the so-called Affordable Care Act. The new “deal:” $671 per month in premiums with a deductible of $12,500. And before you cry “anecdote,” do note that the list goes on and on. And it’s going to get worse.
Nov 21, 2013, 10:05am | Ed Morrissey
I can’t help it — I smiled at this:
I watched that fight live on TV when the ear-biting happened, and thought it was the strangest thing I’d ever witnessed personally to that point. It might still qualify for that distinction, actually. It’s still good to see that Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson have buried the hatchet (or the teeth) and give us a chuckle all these years later.
Readers will probably like the Rodman segment best, though.
Nov 21, 2013, 8:58am | Allahpundit
Nov 21, 2013, 8:02am | Allahpundit
Nov 20, 2013, 11:37am | Ed Morrissey
Daniel Hannan, a Member of the European Parliament and a favorite of conservatives, has a new book out on the exceptionalism of the Anglosphere on private property and liberty. Inventing Freedom is more than just a review of history for history’s sake, however. Hannan wants to send a warning that the Anglosphere is in danger of forgetting the source of its exceptional stability and freedom, and therefore in danger of losing it. I spoke with Daniel earlier today about his book:
Video streaming by UstreamWe have been warned …
Nov 20, 2013, 11:24am | Guy Benson
Some supporters who tried to log in to hear President Obama defend his embattled health care law on Monday night were unable to hear him because the website of the group behind the call, Organizing for Action, failed to work for them. The website problems were an inconvenient moment for a president who has spent the last six weeks trying to explain the failure of HealthCare.gov, the online marketplace for Mr. Obama’s Affordable Care Act. “I want to cut through the noise and talk with you directly about where we’re headed in the fight for change,” Mr. Obama had said in one of many emails sent to supporters over the past several days. The emails urged supporters to log onto an Organizing for Action website at 8:15 p.m. to listen to the president’s remarks. Mr. Obama told those who could hear that there had been “a lot of misinformation” about his health care plan and noted that nearly a half-million people had signed up for Medicaid or for new insurance despite the problems with the health care website.
By all means, Mr. President, please debunk all that nasty “misinformation” floatin’ around out there — and be sure talk about how much you still believe. Words are magic:
“I am confident that by the end of this month, it’s going to be functioning for the vast majority of folks,” Mr. Obama said. “Despite all the noise out there, despite all the criticism, despite all the setbacks, I’ve never lost faith in our ability to get this done.”
Inspiring! Such a shame that the American people haven’t kept the faith along with him. And it’s too bad that so many of his biggest sycophants were unable to hear his soothing assurances due to technical difficulties. Where’s the sound, yo?
Many people who logged in said they could not hear anything, with the website reporting “connection failure” over and over again. It was unclear how many people could listen to the call. An official with the group gave a New York Times reporter, who also could not hear anything on the website, a telephone number to call and listen in. At the same time, a chat board on the website began filling up with messages:
“I can’t hear any audio?”
“Is everyone getting the ‘reconnecting’ message?”
“I did refresh twice — still no sound.”
“WHERES THE SOUND YO?”
One supporter pleaded, “Don’t tell me there are troubles with this live event like there were with the Obamacare website!!!!”
One wonders how Republicans managed to obstruct and subvert an OFA phone call. Chop chop, Barack. There’s more misinformation to combat than ever.
Nov 20, 2013, 10:31am | Allahpundit
Via Time, further evidence that the NSA is basically unnecessary.
Nov 20, 2013, 9:28am | Allahpundit
In case you’re one of the 90 percent who disapproves of the job Congress is doing, here’s your reminder that it could be worse.
Nov 19, 2013, 2:16pm | Ed Morrissey
I missed these ads while I was on vacation in the Middle East, but MRC and Dan Joseph didn’t. What’s not for women to like about being depicted as sex-crazed but otherwise unable to get your own birth control unless distribution is forced by Papa Government? Hey, it does appeal to the guys — especially the one who cheers the “working website” that even the Obama White House now admits is 40% missing. The women don’t seem nearly as enthusiastic about the depiction:
Nov 19, 2013, 1:36pm | Ed Morrissey
Glenn Reynolds writes about the latest data-mining venture by government, this time on a more local level, thanks to new technology and its massive deployment. Communities can now build systems cataloguing the movement of cars on public streets, but should they?
Here’s a thought experiment: imagine that activists, concerned with official misconduct, install license-plate readers on private property to track the location of every car belonging to the police department or a politician and upload the locations to a public database. The result: a map of where the police go, and where they don’t—along, perhaps, with politicians’ visits to motels or strip clubs.
Given that police often respond with hostility to simply being videotaped, I expect that a venture like this would prompt an outcry, and probably some efforts to shut it down. But this is precisely what officialdom is doing to citizens.
Actually, I’d bet that the police do have that data available on their own movements. Most commercial fleets have GPS tracking systems that allow managers to track vehicles in real time and create databases of their movements, and have for a number of years. If for no other reasons than safety, I’d guess that most law-enforcement agencies have this as well — although I doubt they’d be anxious to share that data with people outside their departments.
But if they’re going to track our movements, Glenn argues, then fair is fair:
In his prophetic 1998 book, The Transparent Society, David Brin wrote that technology was going to make it almost impossible to stop snooping. But, he suggested, if the government and corporations want to spy on us, they should let the public know what they are doing, too, by letting us track their data. We can set up Web feeds from every police headquarters, for a start. Today, we’re living in Brin’s world, or at least we’re halfway there. Big organizations are already watching individuals—perhaps it’s time to open things up in the other direction.
Be sure to read it all.