Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry is apparently quite the musician. Appearing on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on Tuesday, he told the late-night talk show host that music was an important part of his childhood; he played piano for “six [or] seven years,” he said, and at some point along the way, learned how to play the drums, too. How do I know this? Easy: Because the late-night comedian aired an old clip of the Texas governor rockin’ out with ZZ Top.
But before we get to the best part of the interview the question everyone seems to be asking is: will Rick Perry run for president in 2016? Kimmel scoffed at the idea, of course. It "didn't go so well" the last time, he said, so why should Perry subject himself again to another grueling presidential primary campaign?
“You know, America is a great place for second chances,” the governor responded. “Let’s just leave it at that.”
Watch the second part of the interview below (via TWS):
Get ready to meet the biggest oxymoron of a business in your life. The nation’s first ever birthing center/abortion clinic has opened in Buffalo, N.Y.
The clinic, run by Dr. Katharine Morrison, offers a traditional slate of gynecological services, including abortion up to 22 weeks, under the name Buffalo WomenServices. But they also have a freestanding birthing center called the Birthing Center of Buffalo, where women who want a nonhospital birthing experience can go while having the benefit of being attended by a certified nurse midwife and an OB-GYN who has admitting privileges at the local hospital in case of complications.
Despite reports, this center is neither "traditional" nor "beneficial." I’m sorry, but I just have a hard time understanding how doctors can morally perform both deliveries and abortions. After witnessing mothers smiling from ear-to-ear after holding their newborn sons or daughters, how can these medical professionals stand to deny them that same joy?
Slate, however, seems to think this combination birth center is a great idea.
Having a single place to go for all your pregnancy needs instead of sorting patients out depending on their preconceptions about outcome is just plain common sense.
This Buffalo clinic, then, is a major step in the right direction. It also helps counteract anti-choice propaganda that paints abortion providers as sleazy death-lovers who try to talk women into abortions to make money. The same doctor who is performing abortions is also delivering babies. There's no contradiction there.
Yes, there is. One service brings these precious little human beings into the world, the other denies them their right to even see the light of day.
On the BuffaloWomenServices website, the center claims it “provides women with safe, legal and confidential abortion services in a compassionate and supportive setting.”
This is misleading, for nothing about abortion is compassionate. It destroys lives and families – both physically and emotionally. Shame on this center for tainting the beauty of birth with services that end it just down the hall.
Hopefully, this business will have the same fate as so many other abortion clinics last year. In the meantime, check out this awesome letter to the editor in The Buffalo News, urging people of faith to boycott the center.
Dan ran through the basics of the administration's Obamacare data dump from yesterday, but I wanted to follow up with some additional analysis: (1) Exactly one month ago, we highlighted the downward trajectory of monthly Obamacare enrollments, even when taking HHS' figures at face value. Philip Klein explains why yesterday's numbers solidify that trend:
The pace of Americans signing up for privately administered insurance through President Obama's health care law slowed down in February, according to a new report from the Department of Health and Human Services, and youth enrollment is well below target levels set before the program's launch. Weeks before the health care law's exchanges launched Oct. 1, an HHS memo projected that 5.7 million individuals would enroll in a plan through one of Obamacare's exchanges by the end of February. In reality, HHS said Tuesday, just 4.2 million Americans had signed up in the first five months.
Even using their puffed-up data, the White House is still way off pace to hit their original goal -- about which they've taken to lying. And no, the lower sign-ups cannot be explained away by the relative brevity of the month of February:
In January, 1,146,071 individuals signed up for insurance on the exchanges, according to HHS. In February, that number declined to 942,800. That difference cannot be explained away merely because there are fewer days in the month in February. Originally, HHS projected that 212,000 more Americans were going to enroll in a health care plan in February than January, the belief being that enrollment would accelerate over time. The slower pace of signups is potentially worrisome for the health care law, as the administration needs to build momentum in the final weeks of open enrollment, which ends March 31.
(2) In case you'd forgotten, all of the "official" numbers should be accompanied a large asterisk because the administration tabulates "selected plans" as "enrollments." This means that if someone places an Obamacare plan in a virtual shopping cart but never checks out or pays, that act somehow "counts" as an enrollment. In reality, unpaid-for plans get dropped and their selectors are not covered. Healthcare expert Bob Laszewski estimates that non-payments account for about 20 percent of "sign ups," although some states have much higher delinquency rates. Nearly half of the (shockingly few) previously-uninsured consumers who selected Obamacare plans have failed to pay. Using the conservative 20 percent estimate as a baseline, the more accurate count of overall enrollments since October 1st is 3.4 million -- that's less than half of the overall goal, with only a few weeks to go in open enrollment. Again, the vast, vast majority of enrollees aren't "new." They're people who already had insurance prior to being dislodged from their existing coverage. The purpose of Obamacare was not to insure the insured with more bells and whistles, often at higher prices. The administration says it does not have solid numbers on non-payment rates, and is apparently referring questions about the percentage of previously uninsured consumers to the devastating study linked above:
HHS official refers reporters to McKinsey survey, which found just 27% of Obamacare signups were by previously uninsured.— John McCormack (@McCormackJohn) March 11, 2014
Here's Laszewki's analysis, updated to reflect the new data:
By their own count, there were 64 million visits to the state and federal health insurance exchanges through January. There were also almost 16 million calls to the state and federal call centers. While I expect these are not all unique visitors, it is hard to argue that the "dogs have not tried the dog food." But by March 1, only 4.2 million people hit the "enroll in a plan" button [not accounting for non-payment triage].
(3) The administration also projected that for the new exchanges to be viable, nearly 40 percent of consumers would need to be young and healthy. They've tried to retroactively back-track on their own math because the numbers weren't looking good. They remain feeble:
In February, individuals between 18 and 34 years old made up just 27 percent of those signing up — the same as January. Cumulatively, just 25 percent of signups have come from that age demographic. This makes it highly unlikely that the administration will meet enrollment goals. If March enrollment roughly doubles from February, and the exchanges end up with 6 million signups, roughly two-thirds of March enrollments would have to be from the 18-34 age group to achieve the target demographic mix.
That would be a glittering click-through rate of less than one percent. I'll leave you with a friendly reminder about the wages of an older, sicker risk pool:
25% of enrollees are young; rates were based on 40%. Do you think next year's rates will go up, or down? http://t.co/6TTk4PoUqi— Brian Faughnan (@BrianFaughnan) March 11, 2014
In response to its own inappropriate targeting of conservative, patriot and tea party groups, the IRS has proposed a new set of rules limiting the free speech of tax exempt groups. Here's a rundown of the new IRS rules from the Wall Street Journal:
Under the draft rule, the IRS would recategorize a broad swath of nonprofit actions as political, including any public communication that identifies a candidate within 30 days of a primary election or 60 days of a general election. The rule would also count any communication, public or private, as political if it expresses “a view on, whether for or against, the selection, nomination, election, or appointment of one or more clearly identified candidates or of candidates of a political party.”
This redefinition is important because 501(c)(4)s have traditionally been limited to spending somewhere around 49% or less of their activity on politics to keep their tax exemption. The new rule would instantly redefine so much behavior as politics that hundreds of groups would suddenly have to change what they do or stop promoting their issues.
But now, liberal groups like the NAACP are discovering new rules apply to them too and they're not happy about it. Eliana Johnson has that story:
“As drafted, the proposed regulations would cause the ‘primary’ activity — by any measure — of these NAACP unites to be counted as ‘candidate-related political activity,’ with the result that most branches and conferences would lose their tax-exempt status,” the chairwoman of the NAACP’s board of directors, Roslyn M. Brock, and the group’s interim president and chief executive offer, wrote in a public comment to the IRS.
Other liberal groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Service Employees International Union have also spoken out against the regulations, which would classify much of the day-to-day activity of social-welfare — voter education, non-partisan voter registration, and get-out-the-vote activities — and limit the amount of those activities permitted under the law.
The curtailment of activities like voter education and registration is a matter of particular sensitivity for the NAACP, which told IRS that its regulations would prohibit much of the work the group did, in its early years, to battle race discrimination in the administration of the country’s voting laws. The IRS’s rule making, they said, ”should not be permitted to undermine the progress we have made over the past century to expand the franchise.”
Ironically, NAACP leaders have repeatedly complained about the Supreme Court's Citizen's United ruling, the ruling that protects the free speech of tax-exempt groups, including the NAACP. Over the past few months, we've heard liberals argue that the IRS was simply "doing its job" by singling out tea party groups for further scrutiny, but as the fallout continues with new regulations affecting them and their own activities, now they're outraged.
Yesterday, blogger Pundit Pete made his way into the the daily White House press briefing to ask Press Secretary Jay Carney about the broken promises of Obamacare and reminded him that the law has never been a popular one. Pete's wife, who he calls Citizen Caryn, lost her previously held health insurance as a result of Obamacare and now their family is paying $3600 more for a new plan.
In order to avoid the security risks associated with the Obamacare exchanges, and find a plan in which she could still keep he doctor of many years, she now pays about double her previous premium.
Naturally, Carney stuck to his script by repeating talking points about "millions" of new people being covered as a result of Obamacare.
PETE: Why won’t he listen to the American people?
MR. CARNEY: You obviously haven’t seen the data because the majority of Americans do not in any poll want it repealed. The majority supports fixing it and improving it, not repealing it. I would ask you to check your data.
Secondly, the President made that pitch. Republicans in Congress fought it tooth and nail. It went to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court upheld it. It was the principal argument in a presidential election. The President won reelection.
And again, Republicans are free to make the repeal argument. My point was simply that when you go to individuals and you ask them, do you want quality, affordable health insurance, or do you want the insurance company to tell you that you’re not going to get coverage for that condition you have because the fine print says you can't. In fact, your sister, we’re going to charge her double even though you have identical medical histories because she’s a woman --
PETE: Well, my wife is getting charged double now because she lost her insurance.
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I don't know the circumstances with your wife. And what I can tell you is that the Affordable Care Act provides quality, affordable health insurance to millions of people. They are -- million are --
PETE: But that's not true. More people have lost their insurance because of the act right now than have been -- didn't have insurance and have signed up. That is a fact.
MR. CARNEY: Okay, well, you’re entitled to your facts, sir.
The video embed autoplays, so I won't embed it in this post but you can watch the exchange here.
And thus begins the midterm panic of '14:
— The Associated Press (@AP) March 11, 2014
BREAKING: Republican David Jolly wins Fla. congressional special election in test race over health care.
This seat was previously held by a long-serving Republican, but Barack Obama carried it twice, the Republican nominee was far from flawless, and the Democratic nominee enjoyed a wide name ID advantage from her gubernatorial run. Many experts saw this race as Alex Sink's to lose. She ran on a "fix, don't repeal, Obamacare" platform. She lost. Break out the tea leaves:
Looks like Jolly's night. If Dems couldn't win an Obama CD with a solid candidate against a flawed R, expect a rough November.— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) March 11, 2014
It's way GOP held FL13 that is so troublesome for Dems. Flawed underfunded cand wins, propped up by outside money aimed at health care— Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) March 11, 2014
Yes, FL-13 will be over-interpreted like most specials, but tonite Rs have to feel pretty good about picking UP seats in Nov.— Larry Sabato (@LarrySabato) March 12, 2014
Tonight, it’s the Democrats with all the expectations to meet. That’s because they have more questions to answer this year, about their ability to message around Obamacare and Social Security, and make the case against Republicans in a district with divided tendencies. Democrats won’t have candidates as seasoned or well-funded as Alex Sink everywhere. And they know privately at least that they’re looking at a dismal 2014 if they can’t win districts like this one.
Progress Texas, a liberal group in Texas that supports Democratic candidates, released what appears to be a standard attack ad against Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott--with one major exception. Abbott is portrayed in the ad standing up holding a piggy bank. Normally, this wouldn't be a big deal and hardly would merit an article, but Abbott was paralyzed from the waist down in 1984 and uses a wheelchair.
He can't stand up.
Note how Wendy Davis, the actual Democratic candidate for governor in Texas, isn't portrayed in the ad, but instead a morose Hispanic woman is shown counter to Abbott. This could be because Davis tanked amongst Hispanics in South Texas.
While modern medicine hasn't been able to cure spinal cord injuries just yet, apparently leftist Texans armed with Photoshop have figured it out.
The cumulative numbers are in: since Healthcare.gov launched on October 1, 2013, 4.2 million Americans have signed up for private health insurance, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. That being said, the White House was more than willing to help share the "happy" news:
Will the White House meet or exceed their self-imposed sign-up goal? We don’t know:
CMS spox won't say whether they expect to meet downwardly revised goal of 6 million enrollments.— Philip Klein (@philipaklein) March 11, 2014
What we do know, however, is that the March 31 open enrollment deadline cannot legally be extended. Of course, constitutional constraints have never stopped the president from making on-the-fly changes to his health care law in the past. So we'll just wait and see what happens if/when the administration comes up short:
HHS official just said "we don't have statutory authority" to extend the open enrollment period.— John McCormack (@McCormackJohn) March 11, 2014
Look for Guy’s analysis later this evening. In short, these figures are hardly encouraging, and show that enrollment sign-up trends are indeed flat-lining, despite the White House’s carefully crafted and predictable spin. Stay tuned.
Americans are anything but ecstatic about the work being done on Capitol Hill. Congress’s overall job approval rating is at only 15 percent, the lowest in March of any midterm year, according to Gallup.
In fact, 2014 is the only example in modern times of a midterm election in which there is a divided Congress and a Democratic president. There have been three midterm elections in which a divided Congress faced the voters under a Republican president: 1982 and 1986 with Ronald Reagan, and 2002 with George W. Bush.
The 1986 midterms may seem most similar to this year's elections -- the Republicans, under a second-term Reagan, held a small majority in the Senate and many of the vulnerable Senate Republicans had been elected in Reagan's 1980 landslide presidential victory. Reagan was far more popular than Obama at this point in his presidency; his approval rating in March 1986 was in the 60s, compared with Obama's ratings in the mid-40s. Yet despite Reagan's robust approval rating, his party suffered a net loss of eight seats and control of the chamber, which can't be reassuring for Democrats today.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) recently wrote he is very concerned about losing control of the Senate. “The Koch brothers are buying our elections,” he claimed, “Without your support, they’ll succeed in kicking Democrats out of the Senate majority this fall.”
The GOP only needs a net gain of six seats to claim majority control. They also have a pretty good chance of accomplishing it, according to Reuters:
Democrats have faced an uphill battle in Senate races from the start of the political cycle. Of the 35 Senate seats up for election, 21 are held by Democrats and 14 by Republicans, so Democrats have more seats to defend.
Beyond that, those Democrats include Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan in North Carolina, who represent conservative states where Obama and Obamacare are particularly unpopular.
The top challengers to all four have raised significant campaign cash, and outside advocacy groups such as Americans for Prosperity, funded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, already have spent millions of dollars on ads attacking the senators for backing Obamacare.
With control of the Senate teetering, it is no wonder Reid is desperate to patch the bruises Obamacare has brought on the Democratic party. The fact remains that despite Obamacare's overwhelming promotion to everyone from hipsters and frat bros to geeks and mothers, 57 percent of Americans still oppose it. Is it really so hard to sell a good product? No wonder Reid is starting to sweat.
One thing is certain: if Republicans can take over the bicameral legislature this fall, Obama will find his bills and nominations face a far more critical crowd.
More than half of Harry Reid's Senate Democratic caucus participated in a multi-hour "talk-a-thon," which began last evening and wrapped up earlier this morning. The ostensible purpose of the speech parade was to draw attention to what speakers described as the pressing issue of climate change. It was an odd spectacle. Not only were Democrats "demanding action" from a legislative body that they control, they did so while deliberately declining to specify what action they were demanding. Might I suggest the following inspirational chant?
What do we want?
Non-specific action from ourselves!
When do we want it?
The Washington Post pursued the elusive point of the whole spectacle, acknowledging that solutions were off the table:
At least 28 Democrats plan to use floor time to raise their concerns on the lack of attention being paid to climate change -- although there is no single bill or even set of bills for which they will be advocating. Tonight's program "isn’t about a particular bill," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who helped organize the talkathon. "This is about trying to raise the profile and being to gain some momentum on this issue. Then I think we’re in a position to ask corporate America and other groups and organizations to get more engaged and open the kind of space it will take to pass a bill. But the first thing we have to show is that we’re engaged ourselves."
In an era of ballooning debt, anemic economic growth, rampant healthcare disruptions and chronically high unemployment, global warming is nowhere near the top of most Americans' priority list. In fact, fewer than half of the population views the phenomenon as both real and primarily caused by humans, according to the most recent NYT/CBS News poll. When Rand Paul and Ted Cruz stood and spoke for hours on end, they were advocating explicit steps on resonant issues. Paul wanted a full explanation of the federal government's power to use drone strikes to kill American citizens. Cruz was angling to defund a law that is actively hurting millions of people. So why would Senate Democrats risk looking out of touch by hyping a low priority issue without even issuing concrete policy solutions for the public to evaluate? The Post piece finally landed on the actual motivating factor behind Team Reid's elaborate performance. Ka-ching:
Environmental groups spent about $20 million on ads and other activities to help Democrats in 2012 and gave about $742,000 directly to candidates during the cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics...Then there's the billionaire businessman Thomas Steyer. He's quickly emerged as a new and much-needed source of campaign money for Democrats eager to find ways to match the rise of conservative donors who are using new super PACs to spend millions of dollars attacking congressional Democrats on the airwaves...Steyer hosted a recent fundraiser at his San Francisco home that netted the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee $400,000 and where Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and the six other Democratic senators in attendance openly discussed plans for tonight's talkathon, according to reports. Reid also has vowed to allow his colleagues to discuss the issue during their weekly lunches and on the Senate floor. This year, Steyer plans to go much farther by using his advocacy group, NextGen Political Action, to spend about $100 million to help Democratic congressional candidates.
Well, well, well. Harry Reid's been ranting about the perils of allowing "un-American" billionaires to "buy" elections lately, disgracefully and inaccurately sullying cancer patients in the process. All the while, his party -- including Reid in particular -- have been cheerfully raking in mega dollars from loaded donors of their own. Evidently, politically-active billionaires can avoid being slandered on the Senate floor simply by agreeing with Harry Reid. It's a neat trick, that. One such enlightened fellow is Tom Steyer, who's committed $100 million to help beat Republicans this fall, and whose pet passion is environmentalism. In a remarkable stroke of good fortune, Reid and friends just happened to cook up this talk-a-thon at a posh fundraiser held at Steyer's San Francisco home. Given his nine-figure pledge, the NRSC notes that Steyer effectively rented the Senate floor for approximately $6 million per hour last night. The irony, of course, is that the ruinous policies Steyer would like to see enacted are too politically unpalatable to even mention in an election year. So instead of working to advance a bill that (a) would not make any measurable impact on the planet's climate, but (b) would have a decidedly measurable impact on middle class Americans' wallets, Steyer bought himself a dog and pony show. Not to fear, liberals, strings were almost certainly attached. If Democrats keep their majority thanks in large part to this man's largesse, there will be tangible legislation and votes to follow -- scheduled as far away from an election as possible. And in case you're curious: Yes, vulnerable Democrats were in fact given a hall pass on last night's posture-fest:
Mary Landrieu, the new chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, was noticeably absent from the demonstration. The vulnerable Democrat faces re-election this fall in Louisiana, a state with large swaths of conservative voters.
Republicans are highlighting Landrieu's shell game in a new "waiting"-themed web ad: