10 things you need to know today: September 14, 2014

British Prime Minister David Cameron

British Prime Minister David Cameron Pool Photo / Getty Images

The Week

ISIS beheads British aid worker, American sentenced to hard labor in North Korea, and more.

1. ISIS claims to behead British aid worker
ISIS on Saturday released a video purporting to show the group beheading a British man, David Haines, who was abducted last year while working for a humanitarian group in Syria. British Prime Minister David Cameron called the execution an “act of pure evil” and vowed to “hunt down these murderers and ensure they face justice.” ISIS previously released videos showing the executions of two American journalists. [CNN, USA Today]


2. U.S. man sentenced in North Korea
North Korea on Sunday sentenced an American man who was detained in the country to six years of hard labor. The Hermit Kingdom’s Supreme Court claimed 24-year-old Matthew Miller, who tore up his passport upon entering the country in April, was guilty of espionage. Miller is one of three Americans known to be held in North Korea. [The Associated Press]


3. ‘Six Californias’ bid fails
A ballot initiative to split California into six separate states failed to attract enough signatures to appear on the ballot in November, according to the secretary of state. However, the bid’s backers claimed they did indeed have enough signatures — they said in July they’d accumulated 1.3 million of them — and would contest the ruling. Funded largely by venture capitalist Tim Draper, the campaign seeks to splinter California into six new entities, including “Silicon Valley” and “West California.” [USA Today]


4. Pope Francis warns of World War III
Pope Francis on Saturday warned that given the recent spate of violence around the globe, the world may be seeing a “piecemeal” World War III. Speaking at a memorial in Italy’s largest military cemetery, Pope Francis decried the rise of ISIS, and mourned the loss of life in Gaza and Ukraine. “Even today, after the second failure of another world war, perhaps one can speak of a third war, one fought piecemeal, with crimes, massacres, destruction,” he said. [BBC]


5. At least 29 missing in Philippine ferry disaster
At least 29 people are missing after a ferry sank Saturday off the coast of the Philippines. Three are confirmed dead, and another 100 have been rescued, after the ferry sank due to “big waves and strong current,” according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. [CNN,BBC]


6. Australia commits troops to fight ISIS
Australia has committed to send 600 troops to the United Arab Emirates to support the United States’s campaign against ISIS in the Middle East. Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the nation would also send up to eight fighter jets and several support vehicles to aid the mission. “We are not deploying combat troops but contributing to international efforts to prevent the humanitarian crisis from deepening,” Abbott said. [The Guardian]


7. Rescuers search for missing Navy pilot
Search crews are hunting for a Navy pilot who went missing after his plane crashed into another one over the Pacific Ocean. The Navy said it could not release specific details of the crash, but that one pilot had been recovered and was in “fair” condition. The crash took place about 290 miles off of Wake Island. [Wall Street Journal]


8. Obama to visit CDC to discuss Ebola
President Obama on Tuesday will visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Obama will be briefed on the Ebola pandemic in West Africa, as well as on the respiratory illness plaguing parts of the Midwest, the White House said. [CBS]


9. Golfer Greg Norman injures hand in chainsaw accident
Golf legend Greg Norman nearly severed his left hand in a chainsaw accident over the weekend. Norman says he was cutting brush in his yard when the chainsaw slipped and sliced into him. “I was one lucky man today,” he wrote on Instagram, adding, “Still have left hand.” [USA Today, The Associated Press]


10. Jay Z, Beyonce spark pregnancy rumors
Jay Z and Beyonce wrapped up their On the Run tour Saturday in Paris by hinting that they may have a second child on the way. Jay Z reportedly ad libbed the line “cause she pregnant with another one” into one of his songs, and Beyonce then cried when joined on stage by their daughter, Blue Ivy. [The Associated Press]


Paul Krugman: California proves the GOP's "extremist ideology ... is nonsense"

Paul Krugman | (Credit: Reuters/Chip East)


The New York Times columnist explains how California’s success puts conservative dogma to shame

In his latest column for the New York Times, award-winning economist and best-selling author Paul Krugman argues that California’s recent success — and Kansas’ ongoing failure — is yet more proof that conservative anti-tax dogma “is nonsense.”

After citing Justice Brandeis’ famous claim that America’s states are laboratories for democracy, Krugman turns to compare and contrast California and Kansas, noting that while the former state has seen economic growth and a successful implementation of Obamacare, the latter has had a stagnant economy and a ballooning deficit.

Not incidentally, these states decided to take opposite approaches to economic policy, with California embracing “a modestly liberal agenda of higher taxes, spending increases and a rise in the minimum wage” while Kansas “went all-in on supply-side economics, slashing taxes on the affluent” only to see paltry growth and a darkening fiscal picture.

“If tax increases are causing a major flight of jobs from California, you can’t see it in the job numbers,” Krugman writes. “Employment is up 3.6 percent in the past 18 months, compared with a national average of 2.8 percent; at this point, California’s share of national employment, which was hit hard by the bursting of the state’s enormous housing bubble, is back to pre-recession levels.”

Does Krugman expect the California example to change conservatives’ minds? Hardly. “Has there been any soul-searching among the prophets of California doom, asking why they were so wrong?” he asks. “Not that I’m aware of. Instead, I’ve been seeing many attempts to devalue the good news from California by pointing out that the state’s job growth still lags that of Texas, which is true, and claiming that this difference is driven by differential tax rates, which isn’t.”

Krugman then explains why Texas and California diverge — and how it’s not for the reasons right-wingers think:

For the big difference between the two states, aside from the size of the oil and gas sector, isn’t tax rates. it’s housing prices. Despite the bursting of the bubble, home values in California are still double the national average, while in Texas they’re 30 percent below that average. So a lot more people are moving to Texas even though wages and productivity are lower than they are in California.

And while some of this difference in housing prices reflects geography and population density — Houston is still spreading out, while Los Angeles, hemmed in by mountains, has reached its natural limits — it also reflects California’s highly restrictive land-use policies, mostly imposed by local governments rather than the state. As Harvard’s Edward Glaeser has pointed out, there is some truth to the claim that states like Texas are growing fast thanks to their anti-regulation attitude, “but the usual argument focuses on the wrong regulations.” And taxes aren’t important at all.

10 things you need to know today: June 11, 2014

A stunning defeat. 

A stunning defeat. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

The Week

Eric Cantor suffers a stunning primary defeat, insurgents take over Iraq’s No. 2 city, and more

1. Tea Party-backed challenger upsets Eric Cantor in GOP primary
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) suffered a stunning primary defeat Tuesday at the hands of David Brat, a Tea Party-backed economics professor. Brat defeated the No. 2 House Republican soundly after criticizing him for not being conservative enough. Brat also called Cantor soft on immigration. The upset was one of the biggest yet in the battle for control of the Republican Party. [The New York Times]


2. Iraq’s second largest city falls to insurgents
Al Qaeda-linked insurgents took over Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, on Tuesday, marking a major setback two years after U.S. troops left the country. A half million people fled the city after a five-day outbreak of violence in oil-rich northern Iraq increased fears that the military was caving to the insurgents. White House spokesman Josh Earnest condemned the violence, calling the situation “extremely serious.” [Fox News]


3. Student dies in Oregon school shooting
A teen with a rifle entered Reynolds High school in suburban Portland, Oregon, on Tuesday and opened fire, killing a student — Emilio Hoffman, 14 — and injuring a teacher. The gunman was killed, too, police said. It appeared that he shot himself, although police did not confirm it. The group Everytown for Gun Safety said the shooting was the 74th incident involving guns since the deadly 2012 Newtown, Conn., rampage. [Los Angeles TimesThe Oregonian]


4. Obama calls for “soul-searching” over gun violence
President Obama on Tuesday said that Americans “should be ashamed” that even the mildest restrictions on guns can’t pass Congress despite the nation’s “off the charts” gun violence. The comments came after a flurry of high-profile shootings, including the murder of two Las Vegas police officers and a civilian on Monday, and a Portland school shooting on Tuesday. “The country has to do some soul-searching about this,” Obama said. [BBC News]


5. California court throws out rules on public school teacher tenure
A Los Angeles County judge on Tuesday struck down California rules on tenure for teachers. The plaintiffs argued that the rules made it too hard to fire ineffective public school teachers. Judge Rolf Treu concluded that tenure did have a negative effect on the education of children, primarily black and Latino students, saying it violated “students’ fundamental right to equality of education” under the state’s constitution. [The Christian Science Monitor]


6. VA scandal sparks rare bipartisanship in Congress
The scandal surrounding Veterans Affairs health-care waiting lists appears to have brought bitterly divided Republicans and Democrats together. After an audit released this week revealed that the problem was worse than previously believed, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and left-leaning-independent Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) quickly found common ground on a proposal to give rural veterans vouchers to see private doctors if VA physicians can’t see them promptly. [Arizona Republic]


7. FAA approves first commercial drone flights over land
The Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday that it had granted permission for the first commercial drone flights over U.S. soil. The FAA authorized oil giant BP and drone-maker AeroVironment to use a hand-launched Puma drone to survey pipelines and other facilities in Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay. The first flight was Sunday. The approval marked the FAA’s latest attempt to loosen restrictions on unmanned aircraft. [The Washington Post]


8. Ireland launches investigation of mass grave at home for unwed mothers
Ireland’s government announced on Tuesday that it would investigate high mortality rates and evidence of abuse at homes for unmarried mothers decades ago. Researcher Catherine Corless concluded recently that 796 children, most of them infants, had died of malnutrition, pneumonia, and other causes at a home run by a Catholic religious order between 1925 and 1962. The babies were buried in an unused septic tank. [The Associated Press]


9. Ted Cruz formally ditches Canadian citizenship
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has received notice from Canada, the country of his birth, that hisrenunciation of his Canadian citizenship has officially taken effect. Cruz’s American mother and Cuban father, who later gained U.S. citizenship, lived in Alberta when he was born, giving him dual citizenship. Cruz is a potential 2016 presidential candidate, and the move could preempt questions about his eligibility. [The Dallas Morning News]


10. Women’s moles might hint at breast cancer risk
The number of moles a woman has on her skin might be an indicator of breast cancer risk, according to two new studies. American and French scientists have found that women with more moles are at higher risk — 35 percent higher than women with no moles, one study found, if they have 15 or more moles on a single arm. Still, researchers say more research is necessary to explain the link. [CBS News]


Has the NRA Finally Met Its Match in Richard Martinez, Father of Isla Vista Shooting Victim?

Victim’s dad: Politicians, don’t call me (CNN)


NRA’s trick is to silence critics by saying politics disrespects victims. But Martinez won’t be silenced.

Richard Martinez’s son Christopher was among the six college students murdered last weekend in Isla Vista, California. It’s impossible to fathom the grief that Martinez must be experiencing right now, and the simple fact that he is upright and mobile is an act of tremendous courage. Which is precisely what makes everything else that he has done in the days since he lost his son all the more astounding.

From his first public statement — a blistering and emotional indictment of “craven” politicians who refuse to act on even moderate gun reform — to the tribute to Christopher he delivered Tuesday before a crowd of thousands, Martinez has been willing to show his raw and devastating grief to the world. He has made himself the gnarled and anguished face of our broken system — the lives that it takes and the lives that it ruins. His vulnerability and righteous, focused anger is unlike anything we’ve seen in response to a mass shooting.

And it should scare the shit out of the National Rifle Association, the gun lobby and the cowardly politicians who use these deadly weapons as literal and figurative political props.

It isn’t just the force of Martinez’s emotions or political conviction that make him powerful. He is currently shouldering the unimaginable grief of being yet another parent who has lost yet another child in yet another mass shooting. He has seen this happen before, he knows the political script that’s already playing out. He has listened as gun apologists — time and again — urge the nation not to “politicize” a national tragedy out of respect for the families, and then watched them turn on these same families in order to protect our deadly —  and immensely profitable — culture of guns. And he’s using it. All of it.

Days after 26 people were murdered in Newtown, Connecticut, Wayne LaPierre denounced gun reform advocates for “exploit[ing] the tragedy for political gain.” Months later, Sarah Palin  echoed the sentiment. ”Leaders are in it for themselves, not for the American people,” she told a crowd that summer, before effectively declaring how proud she was that her son Trig would grow up in a country where men like Elliot Rodger and Adam Lanza can buy guns and hoard ammunition without authorities batting an eyelash.

Martinez may be the single most powerful force we have against this kind of slithering political cowardice. He’s already familiar with the political dirty tricks and knows where the conversation will eventually turn — that the pro-gun crowd is going to come out hard against him,  just as they have turned on other parents and survivors. “Right now, there hasn’t been much blowback from the other side,” Martinez noted during a Tuesday interview with  MSNBC. “But I anticipate that once my grieving period is over, the gloves will come off. I don’t think it’s going to be easy. They are going to try to do to me the same thing that they’ve done to all of these people. But I have a message for them: My son is dead. There is nothing you could do to me that is worse than that.”

I can’t imagine a more direct rebuttal to the LaPierres and the Palins in this country. To the ridiculous  rifle-holding Mitch McConnells and every other ludicrous coward currently walking the halls of Congress and state legislatures across the country. These are the people who — as Martinez has made explicit — are responsible for these terribly predictable and preventable tragedies. Because they have the power to implement sensible reform, but instead stand by and do nothing while more people die every single day.

Continued on Page 2…

How the Gun Nuts Try to Excuse Away the Santa Barbara Slaughter—and Why They’re All Wrong

Justin Sullivan/Getty

The Daily Beast – Cliff Schecter

The firearms fanboys have been more creative than usual, scrambling to defend their precious weapons in the wake of the massacre in Santa Barbara. It’s only made their excuses lamer.

It has been nearly four days since the shooting rampage in Santa Barbara, and in that time the firearms fetishists have been up to their usual tricks trying to excuse away yet another gun massacre in America.

They have their talking points at the ready for these, and they immediately got started: If we ban guns, they warned, then we have to ban knives and cars, because he used those to kill and injure people, too. California has liberal gun laws, and this proves they don’t work, they insisted There is nothing we can do to stop gun violence, they recited; guns don’t kill people, people do.

As usual, the gun nuts are wrong, and not one of these stands up to the slightest scrutiny.

Let’s start with the Right’s newest post-massacre trope: the banning of knives and cars, because the murderer in Santa Barbara used a knife to kill three people and a car to injure four.

Of course, compared to guns, cars are robustly regulated. There’s a strong registration regimen. More and more safety features have been added  — from airbags to seat belts. There’s a long-standing war against drunk driving that’s included checkpoints, long sentences for offenders and holding bartenders accountable who serve someone who’s clearly wasted. And, of course, there’s registration, licensing and tests required to prove you know how to drive an automobile. All of it has led deaths on our roads to plummet. This is why 2015 is projected to be the first year where gun deaths surpass traffic fatalities.

Cars also have a purpose other than killing. As do knives. And although, tragically, three young men were killed after being stabbed by the killer in Santa Barbara, perhaps the clearest comparison between gun violence and knife violence is provided by looking at the attack that occurred at a Chinese school in Henen Province the very same day as the Newtown Massacre. 23 students were attacked in Henen and none died — as opposed to 20 murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary. Or how about the 22 injured in a knife attack at a school in Pittsburgh this past April? Nobody died there, either.

Of course, to the family of a victim, one stabbing death is too many. But clearly knives can’t kill as impersonally, as many, as fast or at far a distance. Which might be why there haven’t been Presidents knifed from book depositories (or grassy knolls, whatever your preference), there aren’t drive-by knifings and we didn’t storm Omaha Beach throwing knives.

Knives also don’t have a powerful lobby to buy legislators, governors, judges, etc. with campaign contributions so they can enrich themselves with blood-stained arms dealer money. So please, put that pathetic talking point to rest.

Another favorite conservative retort to calls for stricter gun regulation has been to point to California’s “liberal” gun laws, which supposedly didn’t help Santa Barbara at all. However, the fact that the shooter possessed only 10-bullet magazines and no assault weapon–or what he could legally buy—clearly did help. As terrible as this was, it could have been much worse if the gun fetishists had their way, and any manner of weapon or magazine was for sale.

Additionally, and I know this is a tough concept to understand, but we have these territories separated only by an imaginary boundary known as states. They border one another. People can drive across them at will, as they often do from Arizona—where gun laws are among the most lenient in the U.S.–to California. It is also quite easy to drive between California and Nevada, which also has lax gun laws.

This might be why when John Patrick Bedell, another angry and troubled man with a hatred for his own government, decided to try and assassinate public servants at the Pentagon, he went next door to Nevada to get his guns no questions asked, once he couldn’t pass a background check in California. Wow, that was hard!

Of course, there is one easy case study that proves the rule: Hawaii, which is separated from every other state by quite a bit of ocean. The Aloha State, which boasts the lowest gun ownership rate and among the strongest gun laws in our country, has the lowest gun violence rate according to The Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence. Meanwhile, in Arizona, with those ridiculously nonexistent gun laws, you’re five times more likely to die from a gun than in Hawaii.

This pattern extends throughout the country, from lax regulation states like Mississippi and Alaska (18.3 and 17.6 gun deaths, per 100,000 people, respectively) to strong regulation states like Rhode Island and Massachusetts (3.5 and 3.6 gun deaths per 100,000, respectively). This really isn’t that hard.

And for those of you about to point out that cities like Chicago have both strict gun laws and horrifying gun violence, well, you might want to do some reading about how many of those guns came from Indiana, which has much less strict gun laws, or other parts of Illinois, where laws don’t come close to matching those in the city of Chicago. Use The Google, my friends. It’s free.

If lax guns laws and more guns overall made people safer, the United States would be the safest place in the world. Instead, that designation goes to countries like Japan and England, which have actually taken on this problem with the seriousness it deserves. And then there is the special case of Australia, which was heading down the same path as us until 1996, when they had their own Newtown, known a the Port Arthur Massacre. They passed not weak-tea gun laws, but a comprehensive package (passed by their Conservative Party). The results have been stunning, as not only has there not been a mass shooting since then (there were 11 in the 10 years before they passed this legislation), but their suicides and gun-related deaths have gone way down too.

In Santa Barbara, we had a young man who had been detained or interviewed three times by the police recently, including once for domestic assault. Both a social worker and his parents warned the authorities about fraying his mental state. But all of that led to no red flags popping up to stop him from buying three semi-automatic guns and enough bullets to take on the police department.

In England, Japan, Canada and Australia, that would have been enough to stop him cold. In these places, as is common sense, requirements such as third party references from family and/or friends, rigorous psychological exams and background checks. Any blemish on ones record pointing to violence would have been a red flag during these tests. Additionally, there are waiting periods before one can receive a gun after initial purchase making it more likely someone mentally unstable would be caught doing something else in the meantime, or perhaps even get the help he so desperately needed before obtaining a firearms.

But, if like foaming NRA mouthpiece Wayne LaPierre, you still are a believer in the almighty assault weapon and like your guns plentiful and unregulated, I have a fantastic vacation destination for you! It’s called Iraq. Every household with a male in it is allowed to have an assault weapon, no questions asked. If that is not your cup of tea, may I suggest Afghanistan? They also love their guns. Perplexing, that surely as the NRA wouldn’t have predicted based on their high rate of gun ownership, both these countries are overflowing with gun violence. For some reason, being awash in guns has not led them to be a modern day Garden of Eden.

Meanwhile, back in the United States, if we took gun deaths as seriously as we take terrorists (real and imagined), we wouldn’t have allowed a culture to proliferate in which we don’t allow law enforcement agencies to do their jobs by inspecting dealers and collecting and sharing information on gun sales, based on the most inane reasoning (Big Government & Black Helicopters and Agenda 21, oh my!) since Sarah Palin explained Paul Revere. We would make sure these systems ran smoothly and efficiently, make dealers report lost or stolen guns, force bad dealers out of business.

Other high-income countries don’t purposefully ensure their national police charged with investigating gun crimes are hamstrung without funding andlacking a department head for seven years! (This is the part where the Fast & Furious conspiracy-bots chime in once the tin foil’s accurately applied). If we tried to use all the information at our disposal, and made stopping illegal gun sales a priority, we’d successfully stop it, just as these other countries have done. We have let Right Wingers, the NRA and Republicans in general do just the opposite, with their constant attacks on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).

However, If you do truly fear that “the government is going to use any information to come get my guns,” then I have a real three-letter organization, not part of the government, that you may want to fear. It’s called the NRA, and they’re collecting your private information as we speak. Good luck convincing the money-grubbing charlatans among their leadership not to sell what has been called a “massive secret database” of member information to any advertiser looking to make a buck.

Meanwhile, the most commonly abused talking point to come out of this tragedy was the old standby, that “guns don’t kill people, people do.” I don’t buy it, but here is my question, if you do. Wouldn’t you support background checks for People, require serious training for People purchasing weaponry that can kill, institute waiting periods for People who are angry or suicidal at a specific moment? Shouldn’t those People also have to have liability insurance as they do with cars (personal responsibility!), so society doesn’t pick up the cost of stupid decisions made by these People?

I know, you’re mind is spinning right now. Don’t bother. You are wrong on this one, as you are on everything else. Your reaction to shootings is to think first of your guns, which is shameful. The rest of us prioritize our children’s lives first. As my friend, the brilliant host of The Zero Hour–the #1 most downloaded podcast when it debuted earlier this month–RJ Eskow says, we’re not anti-gun. We’re pro-kindergartner.

We believe in that part of the Constitution–the Preamble actually, which comes before the 2nd Amendment you don’t even understand–that promises us that our government will protect “the general Welfare” and “domestic tranquility.” I’d argue with weekly mass shootings–in the short time it has taken me to write this, there has been another gun massacre, this time in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina–Congress is directly disobeying the Constitution, as well as the Will of the People, to give special consideration to an interest group that funds their campaigns.

This was put most eloquently and heartbreakingly into words by Richard Martinez, who lost his son to our gun culture, in Santa Barbara:

“Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the N.R.A.,” he said. “They talk about gun rights. What about Chris’s right to live? When will this insanity stop? When will enough people say, ‘Stop this madness; we don’t have to live like this?’


When I wrote about this shooting on Saturday, I relied upon the earliest reporting that said that the shooter in Santa Barbara had a high capacity magazine. I was wrong. He had 41 ten round magazines, or 410 bullets at his disposal, and according to the LA Times, three semi-automatic pistols.

I also made the mistake of relying on reporting that he had shot all of his victims. Of course we now know he shot 12 people, killing three of them. He stabbed three others to death and hit four more innocents with his car, injuring them.

While not altering the thrust of the piece one bit, they were errors–not Mr. LaPierre’s purposeful lies about how “Obama Wants To Outlaw Guns in His Second Term” or shooters choose gun free zones (tell that to Ronald Reagan’s Secret Service and police protection!) for their attacks. But they were mistakes nonetheless, and I apologize for these errors.

West Wing Week 03/14/14 or “What’s Up, Captain America?”

The White House

This week, the Vice President and Dr. Biden traveled to Chile to attend the inauguration of Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, while President Obama worked on improving access to college for students, raising the minimum wage, and negotiating a peaceful settlement to the conflict in Ukraine. He also got out the word about the March 31 deadline for health insurance applications, congratulated NCAA champs, and designated a new national monument.


Friday, March 7th

·       The President and First Lady visited Coral Reef High School in Miami, Florida to speak about the importance of signing up for Federal financial aid.

Monday, March 10th

·       The President participated in a conference call with healthcare enrollment leaders.

·       The President congratulated the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Division I Champions at the White House.

Tuesday, March 11th

·      Funny or Die released an interview with President Obama on the web series Between Two Ferns.

·      The President added the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands to existing National Monument land in California

·      Later that day, the President visited a Gap Store in New York City to highlight Gap’s choice to raise the minimum wage for their               employees.

Wednesday, March 12th

·     The President met with a group of advocates who are getting the word out about the Affordable Care Act.

·      Later that day, the President held a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk of Ukraine.

·      Then, the President hosted a meeting with women members of Congressto discuss the 2014 women’s economic agenda.

Thursday, March 13th

·       The President spoke on the urgent need to get hardworking Americans the overtime pay they deserve.

·       Later, the President took a photo with the 52nd Annual U.S. Sentae Youth program.


No One Is Talking About These Obamacare Stories

David Shevlino

Delaware artist David Shevlino will get better health coverage at lower cost next year, thanks to Obamacare. Why aren’t we hearing more about him? (David Shevlino / November 25, 2013)

Los Angeles Times

The Obamacare success stories you haven’t been hearing about

Last summer Ellen Holzman and Meredith Vezina, a married gay couple in San Diego County, got kicked off their long-term Kaiser health plan, for which they’d been paying more than $1,300 a month. The cause wasn’t the Affordable Care Act, as far as they knew. They’d been living outside Kaiser’s service area, and the health plan had decided to tighten its rules.

That’s when they discovered the chilly hazards of dependence on the individual health insurance market. When they applied for a replacement policy with Anthem Blue Cross of California, Ellen, 59, disclosed that she might have carpal tunnel syndrome. She wasn’t sure–her condition was still being diagnosed by Kaiser when her coverage ended. But the possibility was enough to scare Anthem. “They said, ‘We will not insure you because you have a pre-existing condition,'” Holzman recalls.

But they were lucky, thanks to Obamacare. Through Covered California, the state’s individual insurance marketplace, they’ve found a plan through Sharp Healthcare that will cover them both for a total premium of $142 a month, after a government subsidy based on their income. They’ll have a higher deductible than Kaiser’s but lower co-pays. But their possible savings will be impressive.

More important than that was knowing that they couldn’t be turned down for coverage come Jan. 1. “We felt we didn’t have to panic, or worry,” Holzman says. “If not for the Affordable Care Act, our ability to get insurance would be very limited, if we could get it at all.”

Holzman and Vezina are exactly the type of people Obamacare is designed to help–indeed, rescue from the cold, hard world of individual health insurance of the past. That was a world where even an undiagnosed condition might render you uninsurable. Where your insurance could be canceled after you got sick or had an accident. Where your financial health was at risk as much as your physical well-being.

These are the stories you’re not hearing amid the pumped-up panic over canceled individual policies and premium shocks–many of which stories are certainly true, but the noise being made about them leads people to think they’re more common than they are.

We’ve compiled several alternative examples for this post. They’re anecdotes, sure, just like the anecdotes you’ve been seeing and reading about people learning they’ll be paying more for coverage next year.

Continue reading here…

Payback Is a Bitch for Abortion Clinic Protestors, Thanks to a Brilliant Landlord

As I state in the About Kstreet section of this blog, although I have six adult children, in my opinion, a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body is as constitutionally protected as the “right to bear arms…”

Those same folks who are protesting women’s clinics across the country seem to be selective about who should be constitutionally protected and that’s not what America is about.

The following story is well worth the read…


Todd Stave has the unenviable position of being the landlord of a building in Germantown, Maryland, which he leases to an abortion provider called Reproductive Health Services Clinic. So he knows a little something about dealing patiently with anti-abortion protesters. But when they started calling him at home at all hours and harassing his family, he got fed up and came up with a very clever solution: Do unto others as they have been doing unto you.

Problems really began for Stave at the end of 2010, when he leased his building to LeRoy Carhart, one of the only doctors in the U.S. who openly acknowledges that he performs late-term abortions. As you can imagine, he’s a controversial man, and protesters come from far and wide. There is a constant group of them parked outside, praying and holding up signs, many of which have pictures of mangled fetuses. That’s pretty much a landlord’s nightmare, and yet Stave has a very calm attitude about it. He told Petula Dvorak of the Washington Postthis week,

It’s their right. They are protected by the First Amendment. And outside the clinic is probably the most appropriate place for them to express their views.

If you’re wondering how Stave can remain so relaxed about the situation, he explains, “I’ve been a member of this fight since Roe v. Wade. Since I was 5 years old.” You see, the clinic used to belong to his father, and then his sister ran it. When he was younger, the office was firebombed, and protesters were often gathered outside his dad’s house. So he’s used to a certain level of harassment and he’ll tolerate it — but only up to a point. And recently, the usually calm, cool, and collected Stave was pushed to his limit.

It’s common practice for anti-abortion protesters to disseminate doctors’ personal information and urge people to harass them—and it can clearly go far beyond that, as with the 2009 murder of Dr. George Tiller in Kansas. LeRoy Carhart, who’s now in Stave’s clinic, had his Nebraska farm burned to the ground back in 1991. But protesters in Maryland figured out they could start targeting Stave for owning the clinic’s property. He was largely unfazed by this campaign, until last fall when they took it too far. On his daughter’s first day in middle school, a large group of people protested outside her school, and then they showed up again for back-to-school night. They were naturally carrying signs with his name and contact info and those nasty pictures of fetuses.

Stave was furious, and then it got even worse. Dozens of the protestors began calling him at home, around the clock. His friends wanted to help him fight back; that’s when Stave had the brilliant idea of turning the tables on his tormentors. He began recording the names and numbers of the assholes who called, and then he gave the list of info to his friends and asked them to call these people back on his behalf. Shazam! And the really smart part was that when someone from Team Stave called, they always took the high road. He explains,

In a very calm, very respectful voice, they said that the Stave family thanks you for your prayers. They cannot terminate the lease, and they do not want to. They support women’s rights.

Genius. While it was initially only a few friends doing the calling, the group quickly expanded. Soon, he was up to having 1,000 callers at his disposal. And they got crafty too. They’d look up information on the people who’d placed unwanted calls to Stave, and then when they called, they’d drop the names of the person’s children or their school into the conversation. They’d also, said Stave, “tell them that we bless their home on such and such street,” and then name their address. Are you getting shivers up you’re spine yet? Stave’s calling force became so powerful that sometimes he was able to hammer an unwanted caller with up to 5,000 calls in return. Looks like two can play at this game, stalkers.

Stave’s approach was so appealing that he was flooded with people from all over wanting to help. So he organized Voice of Choice, which now has about 3,000 volunteers. They don’t just fight back for Stave anymore. They’ll make calls on behalf of whoever is being bullied by anti-abortion protesters, whether it’s a doctor or a landlord or their family.

When asked if he thought this method of payback was harsh, Stave said no: “We gave them back what they gave us.” Actually, not even. You gave back a mild, family-friendly version of what they gave to you. You proved to them that you know where they live and who their children are, but you didn’t show up at their homes and schools and threaten them. You didn’t come onto their lawn with posters detailing terrible imaginary things that they’ve done. You’re serving up Revenge Lite™: Tastes great, less killing.

What’s more, Stave is strict about who Voice of Choice will make calls for. If it’s just run-of-the-mill protests outside clinics, he won’t help them because he believes in people’s First Amendment right to be out there saying what’s on their mind. Protestors must be personally harassing doctors or landlords in order for Stave to step in. If only abortion opponents had the same respect for people doing what they were allowed by law to do. Ahem.

So this is the part where the evil bullies who’ve plagued him (and others) at all hours of the day or night learn their lesson after having a taste of their own medicine, right? Yep, yep. They all realized they were being horrible, and now every anti-abortion protester is treating their pro-choice opponents with the utmost respect. HA. No. Actually this is the part in the story where it gets much worse. Ready?

Since Voice of Choice has been such a success, Stave was honored by NARAL in California last week. Knowing that he was going to be out of town receiving the award, his personal band of haters chose that moment to canvass his neighborhood with fliers that had a photo of Stave in a Nazi uniform, photos of Holocaust victims, and bloody fetuses. [Pause for a brief rage-stroke intermission.] Of course, the fliers had Stave’s contact information—and all of the phone numbers and addresses for other members of his family.

This goes without saying but, nevertheless: This is so incredibly fucked up. First of all, the guy owns a building, not a concentration camp. Second of all, what kind of person picks up a flier like that and thinks, “I need to get in touch with this Nazi!” God help us all.

Obviously Stave’s daughter and all of his neighbors saw the fliers, but the contact information for Stave’s family members must have been spread around. Because on Monday an abortion protestor showed up at the dental office owned by Stave’s brother-in-law and began doing his abortion-protestor routine outside. That’s such a great idea — I’m sure the random patient walking in for a cleaning is totally going to make the connection that the dentist’s brother-in-law owns a building where there’s an abortion clinic, and therefore abortion is wrong. At this point, Stave was back in town, so he went over to confront the protestor. And when he got there, the creep said, “How was your trip to San Francisco?” Deep inhale, slow exhale.

It is amazing that people like Stave have fortitude to stand up to psychos like this coming at them from every direction, but thank heavens they do, because, honestly, the thought that these protesters get away with so much is sickening. It’s hard to know where these nutcases will end when it comes to making Stave’s life a living hell—but it’s probably not going to get any better now that he’s getting more and more national media attention.

At least we know he’s got plenty of backup from Voice of Choice. The worse these people get, the longer VoC can keep them on the phone, telling them all about the many “blessings and prayers” they’re sending to their home addresses and to the locations of their children’s daycare centers. Then everyone will be so busy making and receiving calls that they’ll have less time to spend protesting outside clinics. And maybe in the future, we’ll get to a magical place where both sides are talking to each other 100 percent of the time, and a woman will be able to walk right up to the front door of an abortion clinic without being harassed—because everyone will be so busy talking on the phone to their enemies to notice or care what she’s choosing to do

A clinic’s landlord turns the tables on anti-abortion protesters [Washington Post]



Rep. Darrell Issa – (R-CA)

The Borowitz Report

In an explosive accusation, the House Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-California) today charged President Obama with “using all the resources at his disposal to make the Affordable Care Act work.”

Accusing the President of participating in “a wide-ranging conspiracy,” Mr. Issa told reporters that “behind closed doors, the President has quietly assembled a high-tech brain trust that is working around the clock to fix the Web site—at government expense.”

Rep. Issa said that he would call for a new round of hearings and would subpoena “all those persons suspected of being involved in the ongoing plot to fix Obamacare.”

“This is a conspiracy, if you will, that goes all the way to the top,” Rep. Issa said. “If there is a plan to fix Obamacare, what did the President know about that plan and when did he know it?”

Rep. Issa concluded his remarks on a defiant note, drawing a line in the sand: “If the President thinks he is going to repair that Web site so that it works when anyone tries to access it, I’ve got news for him: not on my watch.”


Jimmy Kimmel Shows Americans Don’t Know Difference Between ACA, Obamacare (VIDEO)



TPM Livewire

“Jimmy Kimmel Live” tested an experiment this week: Do Americans like the “Affordable Care Act” better than “Obamacare”? For that matter, do they even know that both terms refer to the same law?

After asking several individuals on the streets of Los Angeles for their opinion of each label, the late night show drew findings similar to what’s been indicated in recent polling.