You are browsing the archive for 2013 February 20.

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Sen. Paul on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360- 2/19/13

February 20, 2013 in Politics & Elections

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Why GOP and Breitbart Smear Machine Fell for 'Friends of Hamas' Joke

February 20, 2013 in Blogs

By Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America

If you want to appreciate how vast the digital divide is that historically separates conservative failures and liberal accomplishments online, and if you want to add some context to the recent New York Times Magazine feature article on how Republicans' chronic online shortcomings dim the party's electoral chances, just look at how the two camps were marking their time in recent days.

Working with Republicans on Capitol Hill trying to block Chuck Hagel's nomination to become Secretary of Defense, Breitbart's Ben Shapiro recently posted a report suggesting Hagel had allegedly received “foreign funding” over the years from a terrorist-friendly group called Friends of Hamas, but that the payments were being kept secret. The allegation served as part of the right wing's relentless campaign to smear Hagel as being anti-Israel.

Fox Business host Lou DobbsNational Review columnist Andrew McCarthy, and AM talker Hugh Hewitt all hyped Breitbart's  conspiratorial narrative about Hagel's nefarious connections with Friends of Hamas.

Slight problem. Last week, Slate's David Weigel detailed how Friends of Hamas doesn't actually exist. And as New York Daily News reporter Dan Friedman explained, he unwittingly started the Friends of Hamas rumor when he posed the Hagel question to a GOP aide in the form of “an obvious joke.” According to Friedman, he asked about both Friends of Hamas and the “Junior League of Hezbollah,” and thought that the “names were so over-the-top, so linked to terrorism in the Middle East, that it was clear I was talking hypothetically and hyperbolically.”

The GOP aide then apparently shared the Friends of Hamas inquiry with other partisans and Friedman posits that from there it found its way to Breitbart, which published it in the form of “news” under Shapiro's byline. Tellingly, the fact that the scary sounding group doesn't exist didn't stop a right-wing site from pushing the tall tale; a tale that quickly ricocheted across the conservative media landscape and was touted as a Deeply Troubling Development.

It was against that backdrop of routine right-wing dysfunction that the Times published its lengthy article. Author Robert Draper argued — and many Republican operatives agreed — that the GOP's perennial online failures have made it almost impossible for the party to communicate effectively with younger voters; voters who have developed a deeply hostile perception of the …read more

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CIA Shames Us Abroad beyond Drones

February 20, 2013 in Economics

By Nat Hentoff

Nat Hentoff

I am interrupting the end of my series on Barack Obama’s nonexistent legal justification for drone killings because of a breaking news story deeply submerged in last week’s New York Times.

A former Italian military intelligence chief and his former deputy were sentenced to prison (10 years and 9 years, respectively) for assisting the CIA in 2003 with the rendition of Egyptian Muslim cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, who was kidnapped from the streets of Milan and, later, tortured in Egypt (“Italy Jails Ex-Officials for Rendition,” Gaia Pianigiani, The New York Times, Feb. 13).

Furthermore, not many Americans probably know that, last year, Italy’s Supreme Court “upheld the conviction of 23 CIA agents and also ordered a re-trial for five Italian ex-spies who were also accused of taking part in the abduction and rendition to Egypt of Imam Abu Omar” (“Italian Supreme Court upholds conviction of 23 CIA agents,” Ken Hanly, Digital Journal, Sept. 19, 2012).

The chance of President Obama handing over the CIA agents — convicted in absentia of violating the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Italian law — to Italy for imprisonment is as likely as his giving a national prime-time speech on the vital importance of the Constitution’s separation of powers, which he has abandoned since moving into the White House.

In the meantime, however, none of those convicted CIA agents had better go to Italy as tourists, or they’ll wind up behind bars.

I have been reporting for years on the American global network of torture, starting soon after 9/11 and now ignored by the Obama administration. As this series continues, I’ll examine the extent of U.S. renditions covered in a Feb. 5 report by Open Society Justice Initiative called “Globalizing Torture,” which documented 136 people “who reportedly were subjected to CIA secret detention and/or extraordinary rendition operations” in 54 countries complicit with the CIA.

What does President Obama have to say about these appalling “rendition operations”?

Well, as Amy Goodman at reported last September, when Obama was running in 2008, he sounded like then-President George W. Bush:

“We have to be clear and unequivocal: We do not torture. Period. … That will be my position as president. That includes, by the way, renditions. We don’t farm out torture. We don’t subcontract torture” (“As Italy Sentences 23 CIA Agents in Rendition Case, Obama Refuses to Prosecute Anyone for Torture,” Democracy Now, Sept. 21, 2012).

Then how come, …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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Obamacare: Nothing to Brag About

February 20, 2013 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

During last week’s State of the Union address, one item curiously went almost unmentioned. We heard all about President Obama’s past triumphs and future plans, but his health-care-reform law was strangely missing. Sure, there was one throwaway line about how Obamacare was reducing health-care costs, but the seminal achievement of the president’s first term was almost ignored.

Perhaps that is because the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has brought little good news of late.

Insurance premiums are set to explode. Already health insurers, citing the increased cost of various Obamacare provisions, are seeking and winning double-digit premium hikes. For example, California health insurers are proposing increases for some customers of 20 percent or more: 26 percent by Blue Cross, 22 percent by Aetna, and 20 percent by Blue Shield.

Young people are especially likely to face higher premiums. Obamacare’s “community rating” provisions prohibit changing premiums based on health status and limit the degree to which insurers can charge based on age. Thus, premiums will rise more slowly for older and sicker individuals, but will shoot up for young people. According to a survey by the American Action Forum, healthy young people in the individual or small-group insurance markets can look forward to rate increases averaging 169 percent.

The president’s health-care law increasingly does less and costs more.”

Further, a study in the American Academy of Actuaries’ magazine found that 80 percent of young adults aged 18–29 not eligible for Medicaid will face higher costs, and that 20- to 29-year-olds on the individual market not eligible for subsidies will see their premiums increase 42 percent.

New federal subsidies will offset rising premiums to some degree. But that will only further drive up the law’s already rising price tag. The cost of the average exchange subsidy per person is now projected to be $5,510 in 2014, $700 more than it was projected to be last year.

And those subsidies might not exactly make exchange plans affordable. The IRS recently estimated that in 2016, for a family of five, a policy available through the exchange would cost roughly $20,000. At the same time, the IRS has decided that subsidy eligibility will be based whether one’s employer offers an “affordable” individual plan (meaning the employee-paid premium is less than 9.5 percent of his income), whatever the cost of a family plan might be.

That’s become a theme for Obamacare: costs more, does less.

For example, the Congressional Budget Office …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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The Tea Party's Stupidest Campaign Yet: The Right to Ride a Manatee

February 20, 2013 in Blogs

By Laura Gottesdiener, AlterNet

Amidst a slew of campaign losses and other embarrassing failures, the Tea Party is widely believed to be in fast retreat.

But in Florida, some contend that the Tea Party is still flexing its muscles, and the’ve chosen to defend a new civil liberty: The right to ride endangered manatees. Last night on the Daily Show, correspondent John Oliver went undercover in Florida to investigate this new movement. What he found is … well, stunning.

“Riding the manatee. [It] Stands for liberty and freedom and doing what we want to do without harming anyone else,” explained Tea Party spokesman Michael Coffman.

“Today we can’t ride a manatee, tomorrow we won’t be able to open a business…. The purpose of the endangered species act isn’t to protect endangered species, it’s to deny people private property.”

But the right to ride a manatee is simply the first threatened liberty on a slippery slope towards a full government takeover of our right to abuse and manipulate other living creatures.

“We have to understand that the federal government could eventually interfere with the ability to have monkeys trained to ride dogs,” he explained.

Think I’m kidding? Watch the episode yourself:

Wed, 02/20/2013 – 06:03

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