As Katie reported on Thursday, former-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is giving $50 million this year to help build a new "gun safety" group and campaign, Everytown. As my colleague Bob Owens over at Bearing Arms notes, "The prevailing theory behind the effort seems to be an attempt to market gun prohibition as “gun safety,” while attempting to destroy the number one gun safety organization the world has ever known, the National Rifle Association."
The group came out with its first big ad, and it’s exactly what one would expect of an umbrella group that houses gun control organizations like Moms Demand Action and Mayors Against Illegal Guns—it pushes all the emotional hot buttons in the gun control debate.
It’s safe to say that for this ad at least, Bloomberg would agree with the NRA about responsible gun ownership, which is something that is important to advocate. But that misses the point here, as IJR explains:
The goal [of Everytown] is to create a grassroots network of concerned mothers, mayors and Hollywood celebrities that can work to persuade Congress as effectively as the pro-gun lobby.
The difference is while groups like the NRA want to protect the rights of responsible gun owners, Everytown wants to redefine them.
They want to attack the 2nd Amendment by having gun owners register their firearms, ban ‘assault’ weapons, and make carrying guns on school, church and playground property illegal.
Since none of the measures these gun control groups are advocating would do much in the way of preventing a situation like the one in the ad from happening, what’s with the ad then? Scare tactics right out of the gate? You betcha.
President Obama addressed the White House press corps today, announcing that with the final numbers in, Obamacare's exchanges have attracted eight million sign-ups -- 35 percent of whom are "under the age of 35," he said. Several elements of his comments were misleading:
(1) At first blush, the 35 percent stat is both significant and impressive. As recently as last month, the share of "young invincibles" signing up for plans was struggling in the 25 percent range, far short of the actuarial target of nearly 40 percent. A leap into the mid-30's, while still shy of the goal, would constitute a major step, and would bode well for the risk pools' sustainability. Alas, the president was lumping children in with this group, wildly inflating the number. Among the actual key demographic (18-34), the accurate number is...28 percent. So despite the big enrollment spike at the deadline, not nearly enough of those people were young adults to move the relevant needle.
(2) As we've explained repeatedly, the number of so-called "sign-ups" does not accurately reflect the number of people who have actually secured coverage, which requires paying the first month's premium. Delinquent payments are deleted by insurers, and people who selected (but didn't pay for) those plans are not covered. Experts have estimated that roughly 20 percent of "enrollees" fall into this category, a ballpark figure that even Kathleen Sebelius has acknowledged. And the numbers vary from state to state. In California, the nonpayment rate is 15 percent. In Delaware, it's 37 percent. In South Carolina, it's 43 percent. If the one-fifth delinquency estimate is accurate, the number of paid enrollees through Obamacare marketplaces is 6.4 million. That total is higher than I thought it would be, but it's still short of the original goal.
(3) The official percentage of those 6.4 million enrollees who previously lacked coverage -- a crucial number in measuring the law's success -- is unknown. Three outside surveys peg it at somewhere between 25 and 33 percent. Applying the high end of that range (to be generous), the math would work out to 2.1 million newly insured Americans. The president glossed over these realities in his remarks, merely stating that people were gaining coverage "for the first time, in many cases." He neither offered, nor was asked, to expound on any enrollment data specifics. Of course, tracking the law's efficacy in reducing the ranks of the uninsured will be doubly difficult thanks to the Census Bureau's White House-suggested and -approved methodology change. For those of you who read this analysis, you'll be unsurprised to learn that the president again falsely attributed the recent (and ending) health costs slowdown to his law.
(4) The torpid crew of reporters (at least those who were called upon) who asked questions regarding Obamacare uniformly stuck to superficial politics and process fluff. In response to these gimmes, Obama issued a now-familiar declaration: This! Debate! Is! Over! He did allow that not everyone is a fan of the law -- a gross understatement -- but puzzled over why Republicans continue to rudely and myopically oppose a policy that was railroaded through Congress without their consultation, against the will of a majority of the public, and that remains unpopular to this day. 'Tis a great mystery. Obama also suggested on several occasions that enduring opposition was rooted in "spite" directed at him personally. As if no viable policy arguments against, say, expanding Medicaid exist. Speaking of which, he also claimed that states would be responsible for "literally zero" of the price tag associated with expanding Medicaid. That's demonstrably false -- a fact I pointed out on Twitter before effectively being told to shut up by a quasi-prominent Obamacare defender.
(5) Finally, in response to one of the aforementioned terrible questions, the president recommended that his party robustly defend Obamacare, while simultaneously averring that it's time to "move on" and deal with other issues. A telling contradiction. We love Obamacare and will defend it passionately, but it's imperative that we change the subject! The American people, he said, are more interested in more jobs, a growing economy, and improving wages than re-fighting the Obamacare battle. Perhaps he's unaware that the latter is empirically impeding the former litany of goals he laid out. Perhaps not. The important message is that Obamacare is working, resistance is futile, and we ought not waste our energy on it anymore. Tell that to these widows, or to this poor woman:
After receiving her new health coverage in January through the New York State of Health Marketplace, Arden Heights resident Margaret Figueroa, 49, who suffers from two chronic illnesses, went to her pharmacy to fill her prescriptions. Although her insurance company, EmblemHealth, assured her she was covered, her insurance card was denied. While she had signed up for new health coverage -- because her insurance carrier dropped her old plan -- the company's internal paperwork apparently wasn't filed. She also learned that all her long-time doctors didn't accept the new insurance plan. For Ms. Figueroa, who suffers from a rare neurological disease called Arnold Chiari Malformation and Syringomyelia, this has led to three months of excruciating pain, withdrawal symptoms and immobility. "It's hard," said Ms. Figueroa, through her tears Wednesday at a press conference at Rep. Michael Grimm's (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn) New Dorp office. "I have been in pain. I've been vomiting. I lost 22 pounds. The pain is unbearable. My medication helps me function during the day," added Ms. Figueroa, who has undergone four brain surgeries for her conditions, which require her to take numerous amounts of medication.
Silence, subject! The debate is over. And horror stories like yours have been "debunked" by Harry Reid and the media -- a "fact" that the president helpfully mentioned today, in an effort to minimize the financial and medical hardships his signature law is inflicting on millions of people.
Speaking from the White House late Thursday afternoon, President Obama announced there are now 8 million people enrolled in Obamacare, a small jump up from 7.1 million at the beginning of April and after former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has left office.
"Eight million people," Obama said. "Thirty-five percent of people who enroll through the federal market place are under the age of 35. All told, independent experts now estimate that millions of Americans who were uninsured have gained coverage this year."
The White House has still not produced numbers detailed how many people have paid for their insurance plans and has not defined what exactly "enrolled" means.
Beau Biden, the son of Vice President Joe Biden has announced he will run for Governor of Delaware. The race is two years away, but Beau made the announcement saying that he won’t be running for re-election as the state’s attorney general in November.
This past year, Beau faced health issues and underwent surgery to remove a small lesion from his brain. He also suffered a mild stroke in 2010. The 45 year old made the announcement about his plans for the future in a written statement today. He did not make himself available for interviews or a press conference.
Biden's announcement Thursday that he will pursue the governor's office in 2016 will have ripple effects on the First State's politics. Lt. Gov. Matt Denn, a Democrat, and Rep. John Carney, who lost a Democratic gubernatorial primary in 2008 to now-Gov. Jack Markell, also have been seen as potential gubernatorial candidates.
Biden, the eldest son of Vice President Joe Biden, was first elected attorney general in 2006 and was re-elected in 2010, dedicating significant time last year to fundraising. He raised more than $1.4 million through his campaign and political action committees in 2013 and had more than $900,000 in cash on hand at the end of the year.
Even through recent weeks, Beau’s political director claimed he was planning on running for a third term for his attorney general seat. As the election is still far away, we will have to wait and see how this race will play out. Will Joe Biden’s track record affect his son’s political future?
Well, if this isn't a burgeoning political headache for the party of “tolerance” and “inclusiveness,” I don't know what is. An Arkansas Democratic gubernatorial candidate has filed two complaints against state organizations affiliated with the Democratic Party. She claims Arkansas Democrats snubbed her at a dinner by refusing to let her speak, and on a separate occasion, referred to her primary opponent as “the next governor of Arkansas”…as she sat and listened.
From ABC’s affiliate KATV:
Arkansas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dr. Lynette Bryant has filed a complaint against the Democratic Party of Arkansas and the Saline County Democratic Party for "unfair treatment" against her candidacy.
So far, Bryant has filed the complaints with the NAACP and the Democratic National Committee. In the complaint, Bryant cites the denial of her request to speak at the upcoming Saline County Jefferson Jackson Dinner.
"Upon further conversation and restating my request to speak, Mr. (George 'Bucky') Ellis [Chairman of the Saline County Democratic Party] told me no, I could not Speak at the Saline County Jefferson Jackson Dinner again," writes Bryant.
Bryant also cites an instance where DPA Chair Vince Insalaco introduced Mike Ross, who is running against Bryant in the primary, as "the next governor of Arkansas" at an event that both candidates were attending.
Bryant concludes her complaint by asking the NAACP and the DNC to get involved in order to ensure a 'fair race.'
The Democratic Party of Arkansas (DPA) released a statement, which you can read here. The DPA claims they never endorse in primaries; but Dr. Bryant’s testimony is evidence she feels they’re not exactly being impartial, either. Of course, I assume her mistreatment has nothing to do with her race or gender, and everything to do with her own party’s eagerness to nominate a candidate other than her. Still, it’s rather ironic that the political party that always accuses Republicans of racism and waging a “war on women” is reportedly slighting an African-American female candidate who has every right to participate in the political process.
Obviously, if she is asking the DNC and the NAACP to get involved this is no laughing matter. She feels as if the system is rigged against her. And that’s wrong, no matter how you slice it.
Engaging in favoritism and shady campaign tactics is always indefensible. After all, Dr. Bryant should at least be afforded the right to make her pitch (and she will get that opportunity, we're told), even if the powers that be don't necessarily want to hear it.
Some good news out of Maine: A new poll by the Portland-based Pan Atlantic SMS Group shows incumbent GOP Governor Paul LePage with a slight lead over his Democrat challenger Rep. Mike Michaud. This is the first poll that has shown LePage with a lead over Michaud.
The live telephone survey of 400 Maine residents was conducted between March 31 and April 5 and included a mix of landline and cell phone interviews, according to Pan Atlantic SMS. It shows LePage with a 1.3 percentage point lead over Michaud, 38.6 percent to 37.3 percent, while independent Eliot Cutler trails both of his rivals with 20.3 percent. The governor's lead is well within the poll's 4.9 percent margin of error, meaning the poll shows LePage and Michaud in a virtual tie with more than seven months remaining before the election.
As LePage was elected by a razor-thin 10,000 vote margin in 2010 over independent candidate Eliot Cutler (who is running again in the 2014 race) and Democrat Libby Mitchell, the 2014 gubernatorial election has widely been labeled as a toss-up. Cutler is currently polling in a distant third.
LePage's election in 2010 marked the state's first Republican governor since 1994. LePage has focused much of his efforts on reforming the state's welfare system. Michaud is one of the few remaining members of the Blue Dog Coalition of fiscally conservative Democrats.
While it's certainly far too early to cast any electoral positions, the polls are moving the right way for a LePage reelection.
A battle between parents and educators has erupted over standardized testing in the state of New York. These exams have been the norm under the No Child Left Behind Act, but parents, frustrated that schools are using these tests for teacher evaluation - as opposed to the students' academic progress - are launching a boycott and instructing their children to sit out of the exams.
State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. said the number of students and parents refusing the standardized tests was a "small but meaningful percentage." Just take a look at a few of the more surprising numbers throughout the upper region:
School District / Number of students refusing exam / 3-8 grade enrollment / Percent of students refusing test
West Seneca 877 3,087 28.41%
Lake Shore 287 1,135 25.29%
Wilson 120 562 21.35%
Springville-Griffith 151 833 18.13%
Alden 136 800 17.00%
Hamburg 269 1,718 15.66%
East Aurora 137 882 15.53%
Downstate is no different. In in Public School 368 in Harlem, Jasmine Batista, who has two sons the school, revealed to the NY Post how the tests negatively affected her 10-year-old:
“He was concerned that he would not go on to the next grade,” she said. “He was crying, he had no appetite, he couldn't sleep. He was so happy when that test was done.”
In addition to stress, parents cited a number of other reasons for telling their kids to reject the tests:
Some are educators who are upset that the exams are being used to measure how teachers and schools perform. Some are concerned that subjects such as social studies and art are being edged out as schools focus on preparing students for math and English exams.
Now, teachers and administrators are facing the challenge of how to deal with parents who are rejecting the standardized system and what to do with children who opt out of these exams. One school district in particular, Starpoint, where 8 percent of students opted out of the English Language Arts exam, decided to add the extra expense of hiring substitute teachers to supervise children in the hall as their peers work at their desks.
Despite the hostility between parents and teachers, New York is standing by the supposed merits of standardized testing:
State Education Department spokesman Dennis Tompkins defended the testing as “one of many tools that should be used to measure student growth and help inform instruction.”
What do you think? Are these parents in the wrong for telling their children to refuse to take the tests, thus stretching schools' resources by having to hire extra help? Or are they right to challenge state regulations that don't seem to improve their kids' education?
One thing's for sure: Educators are going to get headaches either way.
Yesterday President Obama gave a speech in Oakdale, Pennsylvania with Vice President Joe Biden about skill training. Last week, just thirty miles away in Murrysville, a student went on a mass stabbing rampage at Franklin Regional High School. Twenty people were severely injured in the incident, making it one of the worst mass stabbing events in U.S. history.
But despite being close to the scene of the tragic and horrifying event, Obama failed to mention the incident during his nearly 30 minute long remarks.
I have a feeling if there had been a recent tragedy that involved a gun at a school near the location of an Obama speech, we'd be hearing all about it. Apparently, 20 people being stabbed isn't politically expedient enough for the White House.
This is really scary. According to a report in USA Today and Israeli media, Jews in eastern Ukraine have been ordered to register themselves. Russia took over parts of the region this week and have no plans to stop moving.The excuse being used for the registration is that Jews support independence from Russia. Jewish citizens of Ukraine who do not register are being threatened with deportation.
Jews in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk where pro-Russian militants have taken over government buildings were told they have to "register" with the Ukrainians who are trying to make the city become part of Russia, according to Israeli media.
Jews emerging from a synagogue say they were handed leaflets that ordered the city's Jews to provide a list of property they own and pay a registration fee "or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated," reported Ynet News, Israel's largest news website.
The leaflet begins, "Dear Ukraine citizens of Jewish nationality," and states that all people of Jewish descent over 16 years old must report to the Commissioner for Nationalities in the Donetsk Regional Administration building and "register."
It says the reason is because the leaders of the Jewish community of Ukraine supported Bendery Junta, a reference to Stepan Bandera, the leader of the Ukrainian nationalist movement that fought for Ukrainian independence at the end of World War II, "and oppose the pro-Slavic People's Republic of Donetsk," a name adopted by the militant leadership.
This latest move by Russia brings back horrific memories and Israeli officials are in talks to figure out what to do next. Sanctions imposed by the United Staters on top Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin are clearly not slowing the dangerous and rapidly escalating situation.
UPDATE: The U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine has confirmed this is happening.
UPDATE: Thank goodness, it looks like it was a false flag.
The Donetsk Jewish community dismissed this as “a provocation,” which it clearly is. “It’s an obvious provocation designed to get this exact response, going all the way up to Kerry,” says Fyodr Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs. “I have no doubt that there is a sizeable community of anti-Semites on both sides of the barricades, but for one of them to do something this stupid—this is done to compromise the pro-Russian groups in the east.”
Why? The Russian government has been playing up the (real but small) role of fascists and neo-Nazis in the victory of the EuroMaidan in Kiev. The Ukrainian government, utterly powerless to fight off the Russians and their local stooges, have had to rely on other methods, like leaking taped phone calls of allegedly local separatists getting their commands from Moscow. This may be just another tactic to smear the so-called anti-Maidan in the east of Ukraine: you think we’re fascists? Well, take a look at these guys.
Meanwhile, "pals" Barack Obama and Joe Biden are busy taking selfies in their limo.
Can Obamacare be fixed? Vulnerable Democrats are pot committed to this idea. They say most Americans do not want to repeal Obamacare and therefore the only way to make it work is to reform it. They accuse Republicans of not having a viable alternative and wasting billions of dollars on failed efforts to defund it. As a consequence, some Democrats are urging the party to stand firm on this issue, and to stop running way from a law many of them voted for.
Republicans already were pushing their luck by vowing to "repeal and replace" the health care law without having a viable replacement in mind, said Thomas Mills, a Democratic consultant and blogger in North Carolina. Now, he said, Democrats have even more reasons to rise from their defensive crouch on this topic.
"Democrats need to start making the case for Obamacare," Mills said. "They all voted for it, they all own it, so they can't get away from it. So they'd better start defending it."
Even some professionals who have criticized the health care law say the political climate has changed.
"I think Democrats have the ability to steal the health care issue back from Republicans," health care industry consultant said Bob Laszewski said. "The Democratic Party can become the party of fixing Obamacare."
Perhaps. But is this a wise strategy? That is, campaigning on Obamacare if you’re a vulnerable Democrat? A Bloomberg poll released last month suggests it isn’t:
According to the poll, 73 percent of respondents who said they would repeal the health-care overhaul known as Obamacare say the law will be a "major" factor in their vote. And 73 percent said they will "definitely" vote in this year's midterm elections.
By contrast, 45 percent of respondents who support modifications and 33 percent of those who support the law as it currently stands said Obamacare will be a "major" factor in how they vote. Meanwhile, 61 percent and 54 percent of those groups' respondents, respectively, said they will "definitely" turn out to vote.
At the same time, large swaths of the progressive base aren’t feeling particularly energized to vote in this year’s midterm elections. Question: if Democrats continue to defend Obamacare -- rather than run from it -- won’t that merely incentivize Republicans to turn out in greater numbers on Election Day? It’s true that Democrats can’t hide from their voting records given the barrage of attack ads coming their way, but to invoke the Affordable Care Act on the campaign trail in a red state at all seems like political suicide. It will remind voters that millions of Americans were promised they could keep their health care plans, when in fact they couldn’t, by the same people running for re-election. Best to ignore the issue altogether, no?
The polls show pretty consistently four years after the law passed that Obamacare is not a political winner. But if Democrats want to run on it, be my guest.