Friday, February 21, 2014

Random Friday video: Brian Williams Raps "Rapper's Delight

Koch Brothers Latest Obamacare Ad Is Their Most Dishonest And Deceptive One Yet

By: Justin Baragona/Politicusa

The Koch Brothers SuperPAC, Americans for Prosperity, is currently running an ad in Michigan targeting Democratic Senator Gary Peters, who is up for reelection in November. The commercial, titled ‘Julie’s Story: It’s Time To Listen’, states that a cancer patient named Julie Boonstra is being bankrupted by the Affordable Care Act. She discusses how her original plan was cancelled and now her out-of-pocket expenses are so high she finds them totally unaffordable.
Of course, after a few people dug in and investigated, it appears that, just like every other Koch Bros. funded Obamacare ad, the truth is a whole lot different than what was placed in the ad. Thanks to Benjy Sarlin at MSNBC, the Detroit News, Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog and the basic facts of the health care law, the real story is nowhere near the horror story depicted in the commercial.

When you see that ad, you’d think that Obamacare is killing Ms. Boonstra! It seems like she is dealing with a real-life horror movie where bureaucratic nonsense and an uncaring law has made her life expendable. Of course, pesky facts always get in the way of a good narrative. The truth is that Julie Boonstra did have her existing insurance policy cancelled because it didn’t meet the minimum standards of the ACA. Instead, she had to get a better policy at half the price. She was paying $1,100 a month in premiums under her old policy. She now pays $571 a month.
If she is paying less a month, how can she justify that Obamacare is bankrupting her? Well, she says it is because she now faces out of pocket expenses more often. She states that for a lot of her treatments, she is forced to do a 20% co-pay. However, under the law, there is a cap on how much she can be charged out of pocket. The cap is $6,350 a year. By her own admission, she is saving nearly that exact amount in premiums due to the ACA. So, even if she has to pay the maximum amount in out of pocket expenses a year under the new plan (doubtful), she isn’t paying anymore than she did under her old plan.
Basically, this is as dishonest as you can get with a political ad. Ms. Boonstra, at worst, is having to deal with smaller expenses on a more frequent basis, but is not spending anymore than she did previously. In fact, it is more than likely she’ll still end up spending less than before. On top of that, her old policy, that was twice as expensive, only got cancelled because it didn’t offer as extensive of coverage as it should have. She now has a better policy for half the price and she cannot be kicked off of it due to her condition.

Kessler gave the ad two Pinocchios. Personally, I think it is one of the biggest lies we’ve ever seen in politics, and that is saying something. It just goes to show how good this law really is when lobbyists and politicians have to stoop to telling outright lies in their attempts to discredit it.

Hannity's Financial Ties To Tea Party Worse Than You Think

 ERIC HANANOKI/Media Matters For America:

Fox News is allowing Sean Hannity to promote the Tea Party Patriots on its airwaves even though the group is financially connected to the conservative host.
Huffington Post's Michael Calderone reported today that Hannity, who also hosts a Premiere Radio Networks program, has been fundraising for Tea Party Patriots (TPP) in emails, and "has also promoted the group's efforts on his Fox News program."  
TVNewser reported that in response to Calderone's report, "Fox News tells us Hannity's involvement with the Tea Party group is for his radio show, and has nothing to do with his FNC show or role with the network."
But Fox's response that TPP has "nothing to do" with Fox is disingenuous and a dodge of ethical standards. A Media Matters review found that Hannity has repeatedly done promotional tie-ins for TPP on radio and then promoted or hosted the group on his Fox News program.
For instance, Hannity did radio promos for TPP on July 31 and August 12. He then hosted TPP president Jenny Beth Martin on his Fox program Hannity on August 20, and September 9. Martin was also part of a "special audience edition" of Hannity on August 16. Fox even allowed Hannity to promote TPP's website on August 1.  
Calderone reported that "Hannity made a passing reference to the Tea Party Patriots on his Fox News show" on February 19 in which Hannity said "The Tea Party Patriots are partners on my radio show." Calderone added that "was the only time on Fox News that Hannity has described Tea Party Patriots as a 'partner' of his radio program," according to Nexis.
In addition to his TPP email this week, Hannity sent an email on behalf of TPP on September 6 urging readers to "sign the National Petition to Exempt America from Obamacare right now. It's the very best way to help get rid of this horrible law before it goes into effect on October 1st." Hannity sent a TPP fundraising email in mid-December, writing that "If you've heard my radio show at all in the past few months, then you've probably heard me talk about the great Americans at Tea Party Patriots ... So please, make your monthly commitment right away." 
Though it's not clear how much Hannity is receiving for his Tea Party Patriots promotions -- representatives for Martin, TPP, and Hannity didn't respond to comment requests from Calderone --  Hannity received big money for prior promotions for another conservative group.
Politico reported in 2011 that the Heritage Foundation paid $1.3 million to Hannity's program for "promotional tie-ins, as well as regular on-air plugs - praising or sometimes defending the groups, while urging listeners to donate - often woven seamlessly into programming in ways that do not seem like paid advertising."
Fox News previously forced Hannity to cancel a taping of a 2010 Fox News show at a Cincinnati Tea Party event because it charged admission and had "all proceeds" benefiting the organization. At the time Fox portrayed themselves to media as "furious" with Hannity.
Here are four recent examples of Hannity's radio promotional tie-ins:
Hannity Tea Party Patriots Promotion, 2/17/14. Hannity told his listeners to "take action" against the IRS and its alleged targeting of conservative groups by going to TPP's website

Hannity Tea Party Patriots Promotion, 1/20/14. Hannity told listeners to show "leftists" that conservatives won't be intimidated by visiting and joining the group because "we need you."

Hannity Tea Party Patriots Promotion, 8/12/13. Hannity integrated a promotion for The Tea Party Patriots into his program while criticizing former IRS official Lois Lerner and the Obama administration. Hannity said he's supporting the Tea Party Patriots and urged listeners to go to
Hannity Tea Party Patriots Promotion, 7/31/13. Hannity claimed that the IRS is intimidating tea partiers and his "friends" at the Tea Party Patriots are creating TV ads but they need help to get them aired. Hannity then directed listeners to to donate "whatever you can afford" so "we" can get those ads up.

‘We need to rewrite stand your ground’

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer presses Texas Gov. Perry on Ted Nugent’s ‘vile’ ‘disgusting’ comments

By Tom Boggioni/Raw Story
Appearing on
CNN’s The Situation Room, Texas Gov. Rick Perry was pressed repeatedly by host Wolf Blitzer to condemn the comments made by musician Ted Nugent calling President Obama a ‘subhuman mongrel’.
“These words that Nugent said, you have to admmit that they are vile,” Blitzer said. “To call the president of the United States a ‘subhuman mongrel, that’s pretty disgusting.”
“They’re pretty tough words,” Perry responded before Blitzer cut him off, telling him that it was okay to call Nugent’s words “disgusting.”
“We agree that that is not appropriate language to use of the United States president.” Perry replied.
Blitzer then asked Perry if it was appropriate for gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott, whose campaign is employing Nugent, to continue to “embrace” him.
“I’m not going to get into this side of whether it’s appropriate or not,” Perry said “There are people who say things all the time. The idea that Ted Nugent has said something that’s outrageous shouldn’t surprise anybody.”
Blitzer responded by calling Nugent’s words “beyond the pale.”
Watch the video below:

All-white N.J. wrestling team says lynching photo of black dummy was meant ‘innocently

By Scott Kaufman/Raw Story
Eight members of a Phillipsburgh, New Jersey high school wrestling team were banned from the state tournament and suspended for three days each after a photograph of them “lynching” a black wrestling dummy wearing a rival school’s t-shirt.
The students, who are white, surrounded the black wrestling dummy dressed in a Paulsboro High School t-shirt. According to the 2010 census, 36.7 percent of residents of Paulsboro, New Jersey are African-American, compared to only 7.5 percent of Phillipsburgh.
Attorney Scott Wilhelm, speaking on behalf of the students, said that “[w]hen we spontaneously set the scene and posed for the photograph, our sole purpose was to promote school spirit and portray our wrestling team as victor over two of our archrivals — Paulsboro High School and Kittatinny High School, and not for any other purpose.”
Wilhelm insisted that the dummy was not meant to represent a person of any particular race: “The inanimate figure in the photograph is a wrestling dummy, which is owned by the Phillipsburg High School, and is used in our daily practices, and is used by most high school wrestling teams.”
“It is our understanding,” Wilhelm said, “that the dummies are manufactured in only dark leather. In outfitting the wrestling dummy, we did not give any thought to the physical appearance of the dummy as anything other than an unidentified, generic wrestler – clothed in a Paulsboro T-shirt over a Kittatinny [High School] singlet. Likewise, our dress was standard wrestling uniforms, and our poses were not premeditated, but rather, spontaneous gestures without any forethought.”
According to Wilhelm, the students’ minds were “clouded” by their recent success in a tournament, but now understand that others may have found their celebration offensive, “however innocently intended.”
One Paulsboro wrestler, Zach Richard, told a CBS 2 reporter that there was nothing “innocent” about it, saying “I think they knew what they was doing.”
The Executive Director of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA), Steven Timko, said that the photograph “violates the principles of good sportsmanship and is a flagrant violation of the NJSIAA Sportsmanship Rule.” It demonstrated a “fundamental disrespect” for opponents and used “violent imagery that has no place in high school sports.”
Watch a report on the incident from CBS 2 below.

Darrell Issa Ignores Congressional Report On Benghazi To Attack Hillary Clinton

BY HAYES BROWN/Think Progress
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Oversight Committee and one of the leading voices in attacking the Obama administration over its response to the Benghazi attack,completely ignored a recent Congressional investigation’s conclusions in the name of attacking former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Speaking at a fundraising dinner in Concord, NH on Monday night, Issa was asked about his committee’s efforts to get to the bottom of just what occurred the night of Sept. 11, 2012 when a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya came under attack. One persistent theoryamong conservatives has been that at some point during the night, a “stand down” order was given to the military, preventing them from rescuing the Americans under attack. “We need to have an answer of when the Secretary of Defense had assets that he could have begun spinning up,” Issa said at the fundraiser during a question and answer segment. “Why there was not one order given to turn on one Department of Defense asset?”
“I have my suspicions, which is Secretary Clinton told Leon [Panetta] to stand down, and we all heard about the stand down order for two military personnel,” Issa continued. “That order is undeniable.”
But there is one group of people that would deny Issa’s claims: his Republican colleagues in the House Armed Services Committee. Just last week, the committee’s majority released their report on the Pentagon’s actions during the night of the attack, which explicitly denied the existence of the order Issa claims happened. “There was no ‘stand down’ order issued to U.S. military personnel in Tripoli who sought to join the fight in Benghazi,” the report says within its first few pages.
It appears that Issa hasn’t read the rest of his compatriots’ report just yet either, judging by the rest of his remarks. “They were told not to get on – get off the airplane and kind of standby – and they’re going to characterize it wasn’t stand down,” Issa said, referring to the Obama administration. “But when we’re done with Benghazi, the real question is, was there a stand down order to Leon Panetta or did he just not do his job? Was there a stand down order from the President who said he told them to use their resources and they didn’t use them? Those questions have to be answered.”
Luckily for him, those questions already have been answered. “Given the military’s preparations on September 11, 2012, majority members have not yet discerned any response alternatives that could have likely changed the outcome of the Benghazi attack,” the report concludes.
When the Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog asked Oversight Committee spokesman Frederick Hill about the report, he responded that Issa was asking a “very straightforward question” in blaming Clinton. He also pointed out that the HASC report did not “draw a conclusion about whether the State Department sought to discourage, limit, or constrain a military response,” thus making whether or not Clinton ordered a stand down that never happened a legitimate line of inquiry.
Issa has been at the forefront of GOP attacks against the Obama administration over Benghazi, using his position to launch hearing after hearing over the situation, despite never producing the smoking gun he insists exists. Those repeated attacks over the past year and a half have yet to gain much traction among the American people. He’s also gotten in troublewith his Democrat counterparts for taking secret trips to Benghazi without informing them.
And highlighting Clinton’s role in the response is likely to become more frequent as the primary season for the 2016 presidential election approaches. Clinton is described as the presumptive front runner of the race, and is already the subject of polling about voter beliefs about Benghazi. In late December, in the face of a New York Times report on the attack, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) insinuated that a coordinated rollout of news stories was occurring to smooth the path for Clinton’s eventual nomination. (HT: Oliver Willis)

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, wrote to Issa on Friday, calling on him to apologize for his remarks:
“The definition of treason is the betrayal of allegiance owed to one’s country, and your statements seem to accuse former Secretary Clinton of this offense. You suggest that Secretary Clinton directed the Secretary of Defense of the United States to intentionally withhold military assistance that may have saved the lives of one of her own ambassadors and three other brave Americans serving their country. Your accusations are beyond the pale, and you should immediately retract them and issue a public apology.”

Exxon CEO Comes Out Against Fracking Project Because It Will Affect His Property Values

As ExxonMobil’s CEO, it’s Rex Tillerson’s job to promote the hydraulic fracturing enabling the recent oil and gas boom, and fight regulatory oversight. The oil company is the biggest natural gas producer in the U.S., relying on the controversial drilling technology to extract it.
The exception is when Tillerson’s $5 million property value might be harmed. Tillerson has joined a lawsuit that cites fracking’s consequences in order to block the construction of a 160-foot water tower next to his and his wife’s Texas home.
The Wall Street Journal reports the tower would supply water to a nearby fracking site, and the plaintiffs argue the project would cause too much noise and traffic from hauling the water from the tower to the drilling site. The water tower, owned by Cross Timbers Water Supply Corporation, “will sell water to oil and gas explorers for fracing [sic] shale formations leading to traffic with heavy trucks on FM 407, creating a noise nuisance and traffic hazards,” the suit says.
Though Tillerson’s name is on the lawsuit, a lawyer representing him said his concern is about the devaluation of his property, not fracking specifically.
When he is acting as Exxon CEO, not a homeowner, Tillerson has lashed out at fracking critics and proponents of regulation. “This type of dysfunctional regulation is holding back the American economic recovery, growth, and global competitiveness,” he said in 2012. Natural gas production “is an old technology just being applied, integrated with some new technologies,” he said in another interview. “So the risks are very manageable.”
In shale regions, less wealthy residents have protested fracking development for impacts more consequential than noise, including water contamination and cancer risk. Exxon’s oil and gas operations and the resulting spills not only sinks property values, but the spills haveleveled homes and destroyed regions.

Exxon, which pays Tillerson a total $40.3 million, is staying out of the legal tangle. A spokesperson told the WSJ it “has no involvement in the legal matter.”

The Hidden Demographic Shifts That Are Sinking The Republican Party

BY RUY TEIXEIRA/Think Progress
Most people have gotten the sense that rising diversity is making life hard for the Republican Party; ditto for the rise of the notably progressive Millennial generation. But there’s a lot more to American demographics than that — and it turns out that some of the lesser-discussed demographic patterns are likely to do quite a bit of damage to Republicans’ electoral fortunes as well.
First, look at where Republicans and Democrats tend to live. David Jarman took a detailed look recently, with great charts and interactive maps, at the relative growth in Democratic and Republican votes in the nation’s 3,144 counties between 1988 and 2012. For each county, Jarman calculates the net change in Democratic votes (increase in Democratic votes minus increase in Republican votes) over that time period.
The results are fascinating for how much and where growth is benefiting Democrats and Republicans. Start with the Democrats. The 25 top counties for net Democratic vote gain include many of the most populous counties in the country. They include Los Angeles at the top, eight of the ten most populous (LA, plus Cook [Chicago], San Diego and Orange [CA], Dallas, Kings [Brooklyn], Queens and Miami-Dade) and 15 of the top 25 most populous. The rest, without exception, are large counties that include a major city or are urbanized inner suburbs of a major city. The magnitude of Democratic gains in the top 25 ranges from 1.2 million in LA down to around 140,000.
The top gainers for the GOP, in contrast, tend to be in much smaller counties on the periphery of metropolitan areas (“exurbs”). The top 25 GOP gainers include no county in the US top 25 in population and include only one in the top 50. And the magnitude of GOP gains in the top 25 is much smaller than those enjoyed by the Democrats. Indeed, the largest GOP net gain of all—90,000 in Provo county, Utah–is not only smaller than the 25th ranked gain for the Democrats (140,000) but also smaller than Democratic gains all the way down to the 61st ranked Democratic gainer county.
Democratic strength in dense areas is clearly one reason for the Democrats’ increasing electoral potency, particularly in Presidential elections. Conversely, the concentration of GOP gains in more lightly-populated areas limits their strength now and in the future.
Second, take a peek at what Democrats and Republicans learn. A recent Pew Research Center report examined educational attainment trends by generation, particularly in terms of the payoff obtained by a college degree, combined with a recent survey of public opinion on the usefulness of a college education.
The report notes that 34 percent of Millennial generation 25-32 year olds have a four year college degree, compared to 25 percent among Gen Xers at the same age, 24 percent among both late and early Boomers and just 13 percent among those from the Silent generation. Millennials are also receiving the highest relative values from their degrees. A Millennial college graduate has median earnings of $45,500, compared to just $28,000 for a Millennial high school graduate. Back in 1965, the gap was much narrower: a Silent Generation college graduate earned $38,800 (2012 dollars) while a high school graduate earned $31,400.
Millennial college graduates also do very well in terms of unemployment (just 3.8 percent vs. 8.1 percent among those with some college and 12.2 percent among high school graduates) and poverty incidence (5.8 percent vs. 14.7 percent among those with some college and 21.8 percent among high school grads). These data should put to rest any notion that it is somehow not worth it for Millennials to invest in a college education.
That is certainly how Millennial college grads see the situation. In the accompanying public opinion survey, 88 percent said that, considering what they and their family paid for their education, their degree has already paid off (62 percent) or would pay off in the future (26 percent). In addition, 86 percent of employed Millennial college grads describe their current job as a career or career-track job, compared to 73 percent of those with some college and only 57 percent of high school grads.
These trends have important political implications. First, the continued rise in the proportion of college graduates is a powerful factor moving us toward a more open and tolerant society (see this report from CAP). It also should reduce Democratic deficits among white voters since white college graduates are considerably less hostile to Democrats than white noncollege voters.
Second, these data indicate that, despite the existence of some mismatches between education and job (e.g., college grads from fancy schools who work as baristas or cab drivers), a college degree by and large remains the gateway to a satisfying and middle class life. That means making a college education attainable and affordable for a much larger segment of the population should be a high priority for progressives. And since the GOP’s commitment to enhancing economic mobility, as Sean McElwee has pointed out, is full-throated and unequivocal — except when it involves spending money — this is an issue where Democrats can draw a particularly sharp contrast between themselves and the GOP.
Finally, we’ve got a basic question of how old Republicans and Democrats are. Most coverage of generational politics focuses on the rising (and very liberal) Millennial generation. That is understandable, but there is more to generational politics than just one generation. It turns out, according to a new Gallup report, Baby Boomers (folks born from 1946-64) are also exerting a progressive pull on American politics:
Baby boomers constitute 32% of the U.S. adult population and, by Gallup’s estimate, 36% of the electorate in 2012, eclipsing all other generational groups. Baby boomers have dominated U.S. politics on the basis of their sheer numbers since the late 1970s, when most of the group had reached voting age….If the party preferences of each generational group were to hold steady in the coming years as the Democratic-leaning baby boomers gradually replace the more Republican Silent and Greatest generations, the country as a whole would likely become more Democratic.
Thus, over time, high-turnout seniors, currently the most conservative part of the electorate by age, will be liberalized as Baby Boomers age. Moreover, the most liberal part of the generation — those born up through 1955 and termed “early Boomers” — is frontloaded, so the political impact on the senior population could be fairly rapid.

So, the changing location, education levels, and age of the electorate suggest why the Republicans’ long-term disadvantages aren’t so bad as most people think. They’re worse.