10 things you need to know today: March 28, 2015

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The Week

1.Italian court overturns conviction in Amanda Knox murder trial
Italy’s highest court overturned the 2009 murder convictions of Amanda Knox and her former Italian boyfriend Raffaelle Sollecito on Friday, officially closing the controversial case that has captivated people across the U.S. and Europe since Knox’s British roommate Meredith Kercher was murdered in 2007. The case has been an emotional rollercoaster for Knox and Sollecito, who were convicted in 2009, acquitted in 2011, and retried in 2013, after their acquittals were overturned. In 2007, Kercher was found stabbed to death in the apartment she shared with Knox. Another man, Rudy Guede, is already serving a 16-year sentence for the crime.

Source: Reuters, CNN

2.Astronauts Scott Kelly, Mikhail Kornienko begin their year in space aboard ISS
American astronaut Scott Kelly and his Russian counterpart Mikhail Kornienko successfully began their year aboard the International Space Station on Friday, rocketing away from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The duo’s mission would be the longest expedition ever, when completed. And NASA will be studying an interesting component of Kelly’s time in space, by comparing his physical changes over the course of the year against his Earth-bound twin brother, Mark Kelly.

Source: Space.com, The Washington Post

3.Jury rules against Ellen Pao in Silicon Valley gender discrimination suit
Gender was not the reason former partner Ellen Pao was passed over for a promotion at prominent venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, and Byers, a California jury in Silicon Valley ruled on Friday. Pao’s suit had asked for $16 million in compensatory damages from Kleiner Perkins, an early investor in companies such as Google and Genentech. Pao alleged that in her seven years with the firm, she was overlooked for promotions because of her gender, and subject to inappropriate behavior from male colleagues who went undisciplined. But Kleiner Perkins argued that Pao was a difficult employee who failed to improve in areas on which she was critiqued, and that she failed to build “thought leadership” with fellow employees.

Source: Time

4.Rep. Trey Gowdy: Hillary Clinton wiped email server ‘clean’
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said Friday that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wiped “clean” all private emails from her server, defying a subpoena from Gowdy requesting “any emails relating to Libya, weapons located in the country, the Benghazi attacks, and administration statements following the attacks on the compound,” Politico reports. Gowdy, who is chairman of the Select Committee on Benghazi, subpoenaed Clinton following reports that she had saved emails on a private server and used a personal email account while at the State Department. An attorney for Clinton, David Kendall, responded to Gowdy in a letter stating that the 900 pages of emails Clinton has already provided to the panel cover the subpoena’s requests.

Source: Politico

5.Investigators find Germanwings co-pilot hid medical condition from company
German investigators announced Friday that Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot of the doomed Germanwings plane, had intentionally hidden his medical condition from his employer. Lubitz reportedly spent more than a year receiving psychiatric treatment after suffering from a “serious depressive episode.” Investigators searched Lubitz’s home and found a ripped-up doctor’s note that authorized Lubitz to take time off from work due to an illness. The investigators added that they did not find “any indication of a political or religious” nature in the home, nor did they find a suicide note. Lubitz is believed to have intentionally crashed a Germanwings plane in the French Alps on Tuesday, killing all 150 people on board.

Source: The New York Times, Reuters

6.Harry Reid endorses Chuck Schumer as next Senate minority leader
Following the news that he would not seek re-election next year, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) endorsed Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to take his place during a Friday morning interview with The Washington Post. Reid’s endorsement of Schumer leapfrogged Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) who is the second-highest Democrat in the upper chamber. Schumer is third in line. Reid said Durbin would likely not oppose Schumer, and that Schumer could bring “a different style” to the leadership post.

Source: The Washington Post

7.Nigerian army re-takes Boko Haram stronghold ahead of presidential election
The Nigerian army announced on Friday that it had re-taken the town of Gwoza from Islamist militant group Boko Haram. Army officials said Boko Haram had been using the site as its headquarters, and that insurgents were seen fleeing toward Nigeria’s border with Cameroon. The news comes just ahead of today’s presidential elections; incumbent President Goodluck Johathan faces an uphill battle at the ballot box against Muhammadu Buhari, who has criticized Jonathan’s perceived failure to force out Boko Haram during his time in office.

Source: Time

8.U.N. report: More than 2,300 Palestinians killed by Israeli operations in 2014
Israel’s operations resulted in the deaths of 2,314 Palestinians in 2014, according to an annual report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The report credited most of the deaths to the Gaza Strip conflict, which ran from July 2014 through August 2014 and killed 2,220 Gazans. Of those, 1,492 people were civilians, 605 were militants, and another 123 could not be verified. In addition to the deaths, 17,125 Palestinians reported injuries as a result of Israel’s activities, and about 500,000 Palestinians were displaced during the conflict — around 100,000 of whom remain displaced. The number of casualties is the highest since the year 1967, when the West Bank and Gaza Strip occupation began, the UN report notes. Israeli fatalities due to the conflict increased from four in 2013 to 12 deaths in 2014.

Source: The Guardian

9. U.S. Senate approves GOP-led budget
The Senate approved a GOP-led budget at 3:28 a.m. on Friday, with a 52-46 vote. The budget seeks to reduce the federal deficit to zero within a decade and includes a repeal of ObamaCare. The vote comes after the House passed a similar budget blueprint on Wednesday. Both chambers now face an April 15deadline to hash out a final budget. Of the 52 votes in favor of the budget, not one was from a Democratic senator. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, meanwhile, were the only Republicans not to vote in favor of the budget.

Source: The New York Times, Politico

10.Michigan St. makes Elite Eight as lowest seed left standing
For much of the regular season, Michigan State’s men’s basketball team was decidedly average. The Spartans went 21-10, and there was some talk as to whether they’d even land a spot in the NCAA tournament. Having downed No. 2 seed Virginia and, on Friday night, No. 3 seed Oklahoma, the No. 7 Spartans are headed for the Elite Eight as the lowest seed left standing. Tom Izzo’s team takes on Louisville on Sunday; Saturday night’s matchups feature Wisconsin vs. Arizona, and Kentucky vs. Notre Dame. The other Sunday game is between Duke and Gonzaga. The winners of each will head for Indianapolis on April 4, to compete in the Final Four.

Source: Sports Illustrated

Obama Family Reportedly Thinking About Moving to NYC Because Chicago Is a Mess

President Obama and the next Mayor of NYC Bill DeBlasio leaving Junior’s Restaurant in Brooklyn October 25, 2013 | WBLS

Upstate New York or Long Island may be their preference. Residing in the city is an option as well…

Mediaite

How bad is Chicago right now? Depends on where you look (the shootings kind of suck, as does the weather) but apparently it’s losing its allure enough that the Obamas may not move back after they leave the White House.

BuzzFeed reports that the Obamas are considering a move to New York after Barack’s term ends, thanks to “messy Chicago politics and a personal craving for a new beginning when they leave the White House for the last time as residents. The first family fears the Chicago they left is not one they want to return to, and a source close to the family said the long-shot New York library bid has emerged as a serious alternative.”

This may be partly due to the non-popularity of Obama’s former Chief of Staff and current Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, who Obama heavily assisted during his election and famously has low poll numbers (though those numbers are quickly rising thanks to his re-election campaign). Or maybe they don’t like the blizzards.

But why would they move somewhere that has equal amounts of bad weather? For one, suggests BuzzFeed, they may be seriously considering Columbia University’s bid for the Obama Presidential Library (he completed his undergraduate degree there, after all). They could also be considering the sad inevitable path of…becoming pundits:

Another New York Congressman, Long Island Republican Peter King, suggested New York would offer Obama a better environment for staying relevant, should he want to.

“New York is the media capital of the world. I think that’s what he wants and you don’t get that anywhere else,” said King, who added that he’d “heard second and third hand” that Obama is seriously considering New York. “I can certainly understand why.”

Let’s hope that’s not the reason, guys.

Harry Reid choked a man for trying to bribe him, and 10 more facts about the Senate leader

Harry Reid, in March 2015 | Win McNamee / Getty

Senator Reid is a formidable opponent to those that he doesn’t agree with…

VOX

Today, Harry Reid announced his retirement from the Senate. Reid is well-known for his decade of Senate leadership, for winning the 60 votes necessary to pass Obamacare, and for changing the filibuster rules in 2013.

But he’s had a long career and a fascinating life before any of that, including a troubled rural childhood, a stint as an amateur boxer, and some tangles with the mob while he headed the Nevada Gaming Commission. Here are the highlights, drawn mainly from his memoir, The Good Fight.

  1. Reid grew up in Searchlight, Nevada, a declining gold-mining town that had 13 brothels and no churches. His parents were heavy drinkers, and his father sometimes abused his mother.
  2. Nicknamed “Pinky,” the young Reid frequently got into fights with other children. He once beat up his teacher’s son in front of his class, breaking his own hand. Eventually, he channeled his aggression into amateur boxing.
  3. Reid grew up without any religious affiliation, while his wife, Landra, was Jewish. But the couple converted to Mormonism shortly after they married. Landra’s parents did not approve of the marriage, so the couple eloped, and had their wedding dinner at a Chinese restaurant. (Before the marriage, Reid once got in a fistfight with his future father-in-law.)
  4. After Reid’s own father died, Reid found his marriage certificate and was surprised to discover that he and his younger brother were born out of wedlock. He called up his brother and said, “Hey, you little bastard,” according to his memoir.
  5. In the 1960s, Reid chose to go to law school at George Washington University. His congressman arranged a patronage job for him as a Capitol policeman, and Reid sat at the front desk in the building now named Longworth.
  6. Reid’s high school history teacher, Mike O’Callaghan, was crucial to Reid’s political rise — because O’Callaghan rose to chair Nevada’s Democratic Party and eventually became the state’s governor. Reid served as his lieutenant governor from 1971 to 1975, his first statewide political office.
  7. In the mid-’70s, Reid failed to win election to the US Senate and as mayor of Las Vegas. So his mentor, Governor O’Callaghan, intervened again, naming him chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission. This gave Reid a powerful position at a time when corruption and mafia influence on gambling were heavy. At one point, Reid’s wife’s car was rigged to explode.
  8. When a man tried to offer Reid a bribe in 1978, he reported it to the FBI. They set up a sting, but Reid ended up going off-script and choking the criminal as he was about to be arrested. “You son of a bitch, you tried to bribe me!” he said. (It was videotaped.)
  9. Reid has been involved in two incredibly close elections. He lost his 1974 Senate bid by just 0.4 percent. Then, after finally winning a Senate seat in 1986 and serving two terms, he won a third term in 1998 by just 0.1 percent.
  10. Reid became Senate Democratic whip, the number-two position in party leadership, in 1997. He described his technique as follows: “I would reserve the breast pocket of my suit jacket for [senators’] notes, requests, and complaints, and by the end of most days that pocket would be full.” When the top spot opened up in 2005, Reid became Senate Democratic leader — a position he still holds.
  11. Reid’s relationship with President George W. Bush was notoriously terrible, due to disagreements ranging from the Iraq War to the administration’s plan to store nuclear waste in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain. Reid publicly called Bush, at various times, a “loser” and a “liar.” When a Rolling Stone reporter observed that Reid had apologized for the “loser” comment, Reid responded, “But never for the liar, have I?”

Clueless Republicans gloat over Reid retirement

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) (2nd L) stifles a sob as he awards astronaut Neil Armstrong (L) with the Congressional Gold Medal at the U.S. Capitol in Washington November 16, 2011. Also pictured is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) (2nd R)

Daily Kos

Way to stay classy, Republican National Committee:

TheRNC today released the following statement in response to Democrat Leader Harry Reid announcing his retirement:”With the Democrat Party already in disarray, a national committee struggling to raise money, and a scandal-plagued presidential frontrunner, it’s no surprise Harry Reid realized he was about to suffer a humiliating defeat and decided to step aside,” said RNC Press Secretary Allison Moore.

Right. You stick with this story for the next 22 months, as Harry Reid continues to drink Mitch McConnell’s and John Boehner’s milkshakes. Let’s see, he’s kept his caucus united and stymied Republicans on Department of Homeland Security funding (and what an embarrassment for Boehner that one was) and poison pill anti-abortion legislation. That’s just three months’ worth of work for him.

And let’s just see how Republicans pull together to finally pass that Obamacare replacement plan they’ve been floundering on for—what is it, now? Oh, yes—five years. The definition of disarray since 2010 has been John Boehner House of Representatives. But hey RNC, go with what you’ve got. Harry Reid’s going to make the next two years hell for your boys, so enjoy it while you can.

Pity The Poor Multi-Millionaires And Their Waning Political Influence

MILLIONAIRE DONORS DONT COUNT ANYMORE

The Huffington Post

It probably will come as no surprise to any of you to hear the news that most of you are not making it in America. And one way in which the semi-permanent nature of our not-making-it status has deftly revealed itself is the clear alteration to our political system: It no longer really resembles a citizen-driven democracy, but rather a weird oligarchy in which the would-be leaders of the free world have to schlep around, kissing the rings of dotty billionaires, in the hopes that their favor will propel them forward in their political careers.

Of course, for most Americans, clawing their way down the eroding path of middle-class respectability, there isn’t a whole lot of time to pause and stage an aria of self-pitying lamentation. But there is one class of people that apparently do have the luxury of having the time to whine: the not-quite super-rich.

Yes, apparently the political fortunes of the merely astonishingly affluent have taken a nose dive of late, drawing the bottom nine-tenths of the top 1 percent into Thomas Piketty’s “r > g” argybargy along with the rest of us. That is, at least from their perspective. They are deeply sad about their diminished political influence, and they are granting interviews to the commoners. Take for example, Terry Neese, a one-time pretty-big-wheel down on the Bush family Ranger ranch, who now tells The Washington Post that she’s feeling as if her wealth, no longer able to quite stagger the imagination, doesn’t count for much anymore:

At this point in the 2012 presidential race, Terry Neese was in hot demand.

“Gosh, I was hearing from everyone and meeting with everyone,” said Neese, an Oklahoma City entrepreneur and former “Ranger” for President George W. Bush who raised more than $1 million for his reelection.

This year, no potential White House contender has called — not even Bush’s brother, Jeb. As of early Wednesday, the only contacts she had received were e-mails from staffers for two other likely candidates; both went to her spam folder.

Yes, the indignity of downmarket candidates reaching out through staffers, it is not to be endured. Neese, like many former in-demand toffs, has now become the poor, soot-stained matchgirl, face pressed to the window, looking on as the party to which she was once an invitee now gaily spins without her. And that is not hyperbole. As The Washington Post’s Matea Gold and Tom Hamburger explain, at the recent RNC retreat in Boca Raton, would-be presidential candidates passed on flattering the merely very wealthy gathered in attendance, making for the event’s version of the VIP room instead:

A number of White House contenders in attendance — including former Texas governor Rick Perry and Govs. Scott Walker (Wis.), Chris Christie (N.J.) and Bobby Jindal (La.) — devoted much of their time to private meetings with high rollers, according to people familiar with their schedules. Bush came to Boca Raton after an afternoon super-PAC fundraiser in Miami.

Then on Sunday, the governors made a pilgrimage to Palm Beach for a private Republican Governors Association fundraiser hosted by billionaire industrialist David Koch at his 30,000-square-foot beachfront mansion.

Welcome to class envy, you guys! Don’t say you weren’t warned. As Annie Lowrey noted in The New York Times last September, recent studies had indicated that while the “total income of the top 1 percent surged nearly 20 percent” in 2012 (as compared to the 1 percent growth experienced by the bottom 99 percent), the incomes of “the very richest, the 0.01 percent, shot up more than 32 percent.” And over at Demos,Joseph Hines elaborated further:

That’s just 16,000 Americans that make over ten million dollars a year. And their dominance is strengthening: the share of income controlled by that tiny group of people jumped over a percentage point from 3.7 percent in 2011 to 4.8 percent in 2012. This is the donor class, the same group of people that donate to political campaigns and determine the structure of the market they have so clearly mastered.

As this new, super-exclusive donor class deepens their connection to the policy-making apparatus, their capacity to consolidate their wealth and influence will no doubt continue, in a pattern of rent-seeking and favor-trading designed to ensure high returns on their capital without having to take any of those knotty “risks” that we used to consider a vital ingredient to productive capitalism.

And as this progresses, more and more of the new over/underclass will start to feel like the heroine of this Washington Post story: “Most of the people I talk to are kind of rolling their eyes and saying, ‘You know, we just don’t count anymore,’” says the once influential Neese.

In other news, a number of people in the East Village of Manhattan, paying rents that are prohibitively high for working-class New Yorkers, had their homes explode yesterday.

10 things you need to know today: March 27, 2015

Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Week

1.French prosecutor says Germanwings co-pilot crashed plane deliberately
Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz locked himself alone in Germanwings Flight 9525’s cockpit and flew it into a mountainside in the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board, Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said Thursday. Lubitz, 28, appeared to have deliberately veered down to crash “for a reason we cannot fathom right now,” Robin said. The German tabloid Bild reported that Lubitz had undergone more than a year of treatment for depression six years ago, interrupting his training.

Source: Reuters

2.Senate minority leader Harry Reid announces he won’t seek re-election
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has announced that he won’t seek re-election next year. The Senate minority leader told The New York Times that his decision to retire was not due to his eye injury, which occurred in January in an exercise accident, or to his demotion from Senate majority leader after November’s midterm elections. Reid, who has led Senate Democrats since 2005 and has served in Congress for over three decades, told the Times, “I want to be able to go out at the top of my game.”

Source: The New York Times

3.Explosion and fire destroy New York apartment building
A five-story apartment building collapsed in Manhattan’s East Village on Thursday after an explosion inside touched off a seven-alarm fire. “I heard a big boom, and everybody went to see what had happened,” said Kate Walter, who had been eating at a restaurant two blocks away. More than 255 firefighters responded. Emergency officials said one person was missing and 19 injured, four of whom were hospitalized in critical condition.

Source: USA Today

4.Saudi Arabia continues airstrikes against rebels in Yemen
Saudi Arabia, leading a coalition of regional allies, continued its bombing campaign against Shiite Houthi rebel positions in neighboring Yemen on Friday. Airstrikes hit near the presidential compound and military installations in the capital, Sanaa. Egyptian warships headed toward Yemen to help. Saudi state TV said a ground offensive was being considered. Yemeni Foreign Minister Riad Yassin said in Egypt that the government was “forced to request” foreign help asrebels overran government facilities, but hoped a “short, sharp campaign” would turn the tables.

Source: The Washington Post

5.National Guard soldier accused of trying to join ISIS
A National Guard soldier was arrested on Thursday and accused of supporting the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Army National Guard Spc. Hasan Edmonds, 22, allegedly plotted an attack on a military post in Illinois. He was arrested at Chicago Midway International Airport while allegedly trying to fly to Cairo to join ISIS. An FBI task force also arrested his cousin, 29-year-old cousin, Jonas Edmonds of the Illinois Army National Guard, at his Aurora, Illinois, home.

Source: CBS News

6.Shiite militias abandon ISIS fight over U.S. role
Three major Shiite militias on Thursday backed out of the Iraqi military’s offensive against the Islamic State in Tikrit due to the participation of U.S. warplanes in airstrikes against ISIS holdouts there. A fourth Shiite militia said it would remain in the fight but threatened to fire on foreign members of the anti-ISIS coalition. Together, the four Shiite militias represented a third of the 30,000 fighters going after ISIS, so their absence could complicate efforts to push ISIS remnants out of the mostly Sunni city.

Source: The New York Times

7.Apple’s Tim Cook says he will give away his fortune before he dies
Apple CEO Tim Cook says he plans to give away his entire $800 million fortune before he dies. Cook told Fortune he would first provide for his 10-year-old nephew’s education. He did not say which charities would get the money, but he has spoken publicly about his support of human rights and equality, and the need to stop HIV/AIDS and climate change. In 2012, Cook donated $25 million to Stanford to build a new children’s hospital and $50 million to Project Red.

Source: Fortune, The Guardian

8.England’s Richard III reburied 530 years after his death
The remains of England’s King Richard III were reburied in Leicester cathedralon Thursday 530 years after he was killed in battle. The bones were discovered in 2012 during an archaeological dig in a parking lot, and scientists said DNA tests proved to near certainty that the remains were indeed those of Richard III, the last English king killed in battle. Queen Elizabeth II sent a note saying the event was “of great national and international significance.”

Source: Los Angeles Times

9. Kentucky continues its dominance in NCAA tournament
The undefeated, top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats showed off their dominanceThursday night with a 78-39 drubbing of fifth-seeded West Virginia in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament’s round of 16. The victory gave Kentucky a 37-0 record as they move into the Elite Eight. The game was a mismatch from the start, with Kentucky rocketing to an 18-2 lead and remaining ahead by as much as 41 through the game. Notre Dame and Wisconsin West Virginia also advanced to regional semi-final games.

Source: The New York Times, Sports Illustrated

10.Downton Abbey to end after next season
Downton Abbey‘s creative team confirmed Thursday that the popular British period drama would end after its upcoming sixth season. “Inevitably there comes a time when all shows should end and Downton is no exception,” said executive producer Gareth Neame in a statement. “We wanted to close the doors ofDownton Abbey when it felt right and natural for the storylines to come together. Neame said the last episodes would have “all the usual drama and intrigue, but with the added excitement of discovering how and where they all end up.”

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

Ted Cruz is Trying and Failing to Weasel Out of His Obamacare Duplicity

Texas-Ted-Cruz

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) | Attribution: none

Note: As other GOP Presidential candidates announce their intention to run, TFC will have less news on Ted Cruz.

Sen. Ted Cruz was the first candidate to announce his intention to run for the presidency, hence the incessant coverage from all news outlets…

Daily Banter

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is a master at what Al Franken used to call “weasel words” — talking points that are carefully constructed to sound legitimate but really aren’t at all. Come to think of it, Stephen Colbert famously referred to this sort of thing as “truthiness.” Cruz is especially on his game when the topic of the complicated Affordable Care Act comes up because even top-shelf reporters don’t quite grasp all of the ins and outs of Obamacare and, frankly, the administration hasn’t been very strong at educating the public about what the law covers. And Cruz is exploiting every square mile of this supercolossal Obamacare ignorance gap.

For the last two days or so, Ted Cruz has repeatedly said that 1) as a member of the Senate, he’s required to have an Obamacare policy, 2) in spite of this requirement he was on his wife’s insurance policy until just recently, and 3) Congress is exempt from Obamacare because of an illegal move by the president. So, Obamacare is mandatory now, but it wasn’t before, and it’s actually not any more because of the allegedly “illegal” Obama exemption.

On Wednesday, Cruz sat down with a reporter from an outfit called The Daily Signal and delivered this troika of nonsense once again.

1) First, Cruz again described how for two years he’s been on his wife’s insurance — not an apparently mandatory congressional Obamacare plan.

When I announced the campaign, my wife also decided to take an unpaid leave of absence from her job. We have been for the past couple of years covered on my wife’s health insurance. When she took an unpaid leave of absence, it means that she’s also losing her benefits. And so we’re gonna do what anyone else would do, which is take their health insurance from their employer. So, in all likelihood, we’ll go on the exchange.

2) After discussing so-called “Obama subsidies,” Cruz then described why Obamacare is a requirement for members of Congress.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley introduced an amendment to Obamacare that said members of Congress have to be on the exchanges with no subsidies just like millions of Americans.

So, the “amendment” stipulates that members “have to be on the exchanges with no subsidies.” When he first mentioned this to CNN’s Dana Bash on Tuesday, he said it was “one of the great things about Obamacare.” Then why is he still not on the exchange? It’s because members of Congress really don’t “have to” use Obamacare — unless they choose employer-based health insurance from the government. If they do, the government’s plan is now the Healthcare.gov exchange rather than the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program. If members and staffers don’t want employer coverage, they can buy a plan directly from a provider or go without insurance. On top of all that, there’s absolutely nothing in the Affordable Care Act that says Congress isn’t permitted to receive subsidies or premium-sharing. Nothing. Cruz lied.

3) Next, even though he said he plans to follow the law (he hasn’t for two years now, but okay) which he claims features an Obamacare requirement, he goes on to say that Congress doesn’t have to use Obamacare after all because the White House carved out an exemption for Congress.

Now, Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats when this passed were horrified. They didn’t wanna be under Obamacare. They went to Obama and said, “Give us a special exemption.” And Barack Obama did, and his administration ignored the plain text of the statute and created an illegal exemption. I have no intention of using that illegal exemption. I’m gonna follow the law.

Inexplicably, he wants viewers to think Congress is no longer mandated to be on Obamacare (it never was) — that Congress has an “illegal” waiver to get around Grassley’s amendment. In fact, the spirit of Grassley’s language is still intact and in effect. The “exemption” is, in reality, the Office of Personnel Management’s decision to continue to cover 72 percent of the premium costs for Congress and its staffers — just like both the government and private businesses alike always have. There was no “plain text of the statute” to ignore because, to repeat, there’s nothing in the law that says Congress can’t have a premium sharing employer benefit.

While we’re here, let’s get to the bottom of who lobbied the administration for this so-called “exemption.” Politico reported that it was a collaboration between Harry Reid and Senate Democrat John Boehner. Wait. Boehner’s not a Senate Democrat like Cruz said. He’s the Republican Speaker of the House. It was a completely bipartisan move that included both the White House and congressional leaders. Let’s clear another thing up. Grassley merely proposed an amendment that failed. The Democrats later resurrected and adapted the idea and wrote it into the body of the law. Grassley only deserves partial credit for the rule, since it was ultimately a Democratic decision.

More weasel words from Cruz:

So suddenly the media goes, “Hahahaha! Gotcha!” Because Cruz is now signing up for Obamacare. Listen, I have zero intention of take any government subsidy or Obama subsidy. Rather, what I’m gonna do is pay on the marketplace for health insurance for my family, just like millions of Americans.

Well, he won’t get a subsidy because he earns significantly more than 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level — the upper limit to receive premium subsidies. Notice, though, that he didn’t say “premium sharing” or “cost sharing” or “employer contribution.” He said “subsidy.” Why would he go on the Obamacare exchange, a politically dangerous move, other than for the better deal: comparable benefits and continued employer premium sharing, just like his wife’s old plan? If he intends, on the other hand, to pay his premium dues entirely out-of-pocket without any premium sharing, why didn’t he just enroll in COBRA through Goldman Sachs or buy insurance directly from a provider, sidestepping the political mess he’s in? Obviously because he wants the premium sharing, which technically isn’t a subsidy but rather a employee benefit — just like millions of Americans receive through their employers.

It’s one thing to abide by a law you don’t like, which happens all the time, but it’s another thing entirely to abide by a law you don’t like even though you have numerous alternative options to choose from. Instead, he chose Obamacare, which he hates, and, worse, he clearly plans to accept the premium sharing “exemption” that he keeps saying was an illegal plot by the Senate Democrats. Why is he doing this? Because it’s a fantastic deal and, financially, he’d be insane not to take it. Politically, however, it was a massive blunder. You know why the press is saying “gotcha!” right now? Because Cruz just blindly derped his way into a gigantic bear trap — an unforced error — and now he’s trying to weasel out of it.

The Netanyahu Paradox: How Obama is Using Bibi’s Arrogance to Box in the Right and Promote Peace

That moment when you learn the hard way not to mess with Barack Obama | Attribution: none

I ran across this site and decided to post an article written two days ago…

The People’s View 

“Informed Citizenry: Progressive analysis, Commentary and Rants”

TPV doesn’t aim to be a “tomorrow’s news today” kind of a site. Instead, our goal is to help you understand the news in depth. That in-depth exploration, however, does become an ahead-of-time understanding of news events  sometimes.

The breaking of [March 24th’s] story of Israeli espionage against US officials in the confidential Iran negotiations is such a moment.

While it is in and of itself newsworthy that Netanyahu’s government crossed a line by disseminating it to members of Congress and while it is particularly troubling that those members of Congress participated in espionage against our own country by not immediately notifying the White House about Netanyahu’s attempt to circumvent the diplomatic process, the one element of the story that seems to be falling by the wayside is something we highlighted three weeks ago: Barack Obama is closer than any leader has ever been to striking an international pact to peacefully put nuclear weapons out of Iran’s reach.

Three weeks ago, I had to rely on the dumbness of the GOP’s move and Netanyahu’s repeated appeals to “world powers” in his speech in front of the US Congress – World powers, I pointed out then, with whom President Obama had earned enormous capital by proving that his hard work on behalf of peace wasn’t mere lip service and by already having the disarmament of a middle eastern rogue power (Syria) under his belt.

The Wall Street Journal, breaking the spying story, describes that desperation:

“Mr. Netanyahu and Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer early this year saw a rapidly closing window to increase pressure on Mr. Obama before a key deadline at the end of March, Israeli officials said.”

They decided to do so, WSJ goes on to say, by channeling to members of Congress confidential information the Israelis had learned in an attempt to derail the President’s plans. Little did they know that US counterintelligence had in short order discovered the Israeli spying however, and Netanyahu’s belligerence received blowback when the espionage turned off pro-Israel Democrats Netanyahu had counted on to scuttle the President’s plans.

But it didn’t stop at ticking off Democratic members. Netanyahu’s petulance and the following fallout not only backfired, it has angered officials who aren’t necessarily political appointees, and thus whose times of service aren’t always linked to the length of their presidents’ administrations.

““People feel personally sold out,” a senior administration official said. “That’s where the Israelis really better be careful because a lot of these people will not only be around for this administration but possibly the next one as well.””

On the other end, Netanyahu’s screw-ups – including an election-eve assertion he has now been forced to backpedal on – has enabled the White House to make a point too many American administrations have been afraid to due to fear of the We-gotta-be-more-pro-Israel-than-Israel lobby. This weekend, in a speech to J Street, a pro-Israel, pro-peace organization, the President’s Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough made the case for and end to occupation (which Netanyahu said he would expand) and the establishment of a free Palestinian state as not only the best option for Israel’s long term security but the only way for Israel to remain both Jewish and democratic.

McDonough’s speech, though making the usual rounds among the right wing echo chamber, has done what right wing dogmatism hasn’t allowed in decades: established the United States as both pro-Israel and pro-peace. McDonough was even backed up at J Street by the George Bush Sr’s Secretary of State Jim Baker (before that Reagan’s Secretary of Treasury), who lit into Netanyahu in his own speech.

Frankly, Netanyahu has done so much to draw attention to himself that even some conservatives are finding it difficult to defend his rhetoric and actions. By making himself the cause celeb, Netanyahu has put the American right wing in the uncomfortable position of having to reject the longstanding, bipartisan goal of a two-state solution and defending expanded settlements and now, spying on the United States, all at the behest of a foreigner.

The Right’s open contempt for peace and Netanyahu’s open defiance of the United States may well have had a big part in creating the atmosphere in which the White House Chief of Staff can articulate in clearest of terms that indefinite occupation and settlement does not have the backing of the United States, and that Benjamin Netanyahu is part of the problem against a peaceful resolution in the Middle East, without allowing the press to instantly brand this longstanding American position as anti-Israel. It is better understood than ever that the President is merely dropping support of a petulant, arrogant foreign leader, not his proven commitment to the security of the state of Israel.

Let’s recount. Netanyahu’s attempt to derail the Iran negotiations – from spying and secretly talking to members of Congress to the belligerent electioneering on the floor of the US Congress – not only failed but backfired, reiterating to our allies as well as to Iran that the window to make a deal is now. Bibi’s rhetoric following that has now resulted in what is a well-earned rebuke from the White House and loss of support on the Right. Not for Israel, but for Bibi.

Netanyahu may have won an election, but he seems to have lost a tremendous amount of ground on the global stage and within the US.

Barack Obama has generally taken a simple but deadly effective approach to neutralizing Right wing belligerence. Hand them enough rope, wait for them to screw up, then move in at lightening speed. He said it a long time ago, even before he was president, that he would work with anyone, but if you come at him with an attack posture, he will knock you out.

Now he has used that tactic with the precision of a neurosurgeon against Bibi’s follies, and at the same time, tied and hung Netanyahu like a sinking rock around the American far Right’s neck, all the while continuing to advance his global leadership. The GOP is back in a box: if they now back Netanyahu, they are committing sedition by backing a foreign leader who not only spied on the US but passed that info to unauthorized individuals, and if they don’t, their base is going to call them a n____ lover. Welcome to the Netanyahu Paradox.

Well done, Mr. President.

NOTE: Please please please understand that this article’s comments section is not an invitation to jump into the “Israel good, Palestine bad” or vice versa kind of a discussion. Rather, it is meant to be an introspection on American leadership and moving the peace process (both between Israel and Palestine and the current negotiations with Iran), and exactly who’s getting in the way (Netanyahu, the American Right wing).  As such, please keep your comments on that topic. I know passions run high on both sides, but since that cat has already been skinned every way possible, let’s be forward looking to the solutions. ~  (Author of this article)

(Original article dated 3-24-15)

 

10 things you need to know today: March 26, 2015

A piece of the flight recorder. (AP Photo/Bureau d’Enquetes et d’Analyses)

The Week

1.Germanwings co-pilot intentionally downed plane, prosecutor says
The co-pilot of the Germanwings airliner that crashed in the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board, seemed to have taken control of the plane and deliberately started its doomed descent, a French prosecutor said Thursday. The other pilot left the cockpit before the plane began descending and got locked out, according to investigators who reviewed the plane’s damaged cockpit voice recorder on Wednesday. The pilot knocks lightly when he tries to get back in, but “there is no answer” from the lone pilot left inside, the investigator said. “And then he hits the door stronger and no answer. There is never an answer.”Source: The New York Times
2.Former POW Bowe Bergdahl to be charged with desertion
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured by the Taliban in 2009 after leaving his post in Afghanistan, was charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy on Wednesday. Bergdahl, who could face life in prison, was held by the Haqqani insurgent network, then freed in May 2014 in a controversial exchange for five Taliban officials then being held at Guantanamo Bay. Some members of Bergdahl’s platoon complained about the deal, saying other soldiers had lost their lives searching for him.Source: The Washington Post, CNN
3.American warplanes join the fight against ISIS in Tikrit
The U.S. began bombing Islamic State targets in the Iraqi city of Tikrit for the first time on Wednesday at the request of the Iraqi government, which has been unable to eliminate pockets of resistance after retaking much of the city from militants. Iraqi government forces have been supported in the offensive by Shiite militias and Iranian military advisors, factors that have made the U.S. hesitate to get involved actively in the attempt to drive ISIS out of the strategically important, predominantly Sunni Muslim city.Source: Los Angeles Times
4.Three U.S. citizens were among passengers on crashed Germanwings jet
Three Americans were among the 150 people killed in the Germanwings airliner crash in the French Alps, State Department officials said Wednesday. Two of the Americans were Yvonne Selke and her daughter Emily, of Virginia. Also on Wednesday, investigators, already retrieving clues about what happened from the cockpit voice recorder, found the housing for the plane’s other black box, the flight data recorder.Source: Reuters, The Washington Post
5.Saudi Arabia launches military operations against Yemen rebels
Saudi Arabia and Gulf region allies launched airstrikes against rebels in Yemen to “protect the legitimate government,” the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. announced Wednesday. Shiite Houthi rebels took parts of the port city of Aden hours earlier. Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi fled the country by boat as rebels closed in. U.S. officials said rebels capturing government installations had taken secret documents with information on counter-terrorism operations.Source: CNN, The Associated Press
6.Deadly tornado hits Oklahoma
A tornado deemed “extremely dangerous” by authorities swept through parts of eastern Oklahoma Wednesday evening, killing one person and leaving another in critical condition. Both victims were at a mobile home park where the twister destroyed 25 to 30 mobile homes in the Sand Springs suburb west of Tulsa. Sixty people inside a gymnastics building in Sand Springs managed to flee before the building was destroyed. A smaller tornado overturned cars and injured three people in the town of Moore.Source: USA Today, TIME
7.Jesse Jackson Jr. to leave prison for halfway house
Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is expected to leave an Alabama prison on Thursday and enter a halfway house, his friend, former congressman Patrick Kennedy said. Jackson, 50, has served a year and a half of a two and a half year sentence for illegally spending $750,000 in campaign funds on luxury items and vacations. Jackson’s wife, Sandra, will start a one-year sentence for related crimes after he completes his sentence.Source: The Associated Press
8.California attorney general tries to block anti-gay initiative
California Attorney General Kamala Harris on Wednesday asked a judge to halt an “utterly reprehensible” proposed anti-gay ballot initiative calling for executing gays with “bullets to the head.” Harris said if the court did not step in she would be obligated to officially name and summarize the ballot and start the clock for gathering signatures. The measure, proposed by a Huntington Beach attorney, “not only threatens public safety, it is patently unconstitutional… and has no place in a civil society,” Harris said.Source: Los Angeles Times
9. Arizona passes anti-abortion measure
Arizona lawmakers on Wednesday approved a bill that would bar women from buying health care plans covering abortion through the federal marketplace. The legislation also would require abortion providers to tell women who have started the process of drug-induced abortions that they can reverse the process if they seek help promptly after taking the first of two drugs in the process. Critics say there is no science backing up that claim. Pro-life Gov. Doug Ducey (R) has not said whether he will sign the bill.Source: The Associated Press
10.Sam Taylor-Johnson will not return to direct 50 Shadessequel
50 Shades of Grey director Sam Taylor-Johnson announced Wednesday that she would not return to direct two sequels. She said the making the hit movie, which stars Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan, was “an intense and incredible journey for which I am hugely grateful.” The sadomasochistic love story has made $558.6 million worldwide, but Taylor-Johnson has clashed with the book’s author EL James over creative control. Screenwriter Kelly Marcel is not expected to return, either, to write the next film.Source: The Hollywood Reporter