California Gov. Jerry Brown can not spend state bond revenues on President Obama's signature transportation project until the state can identify how they will pay for the entire $68 billion project, a California court ruled Monday. The decision almost certainly spells death for the project.
This August, Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny ruled that the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) “abused its discretion by approving a funding plan that did not comply with the requirements of the law."
That law would be Proposition 1A (the “Safe, Reliable, High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century”), which required the CHSRA to identify “sources of all funds to be invested in the corridor” and complete “all necessary project level environmental clearances” before construction can begin.
At the time, Democrats sold Obama's high-speed rail plan as a $40 billion project. But that number quickly skyrocketed to more than $100 billion, after California voters approved it, of course.
The CHSRA then scaled the project back down (by cutting most of its high-speed capabilities in metro San Francisco and Los Angeles) to just $68 billion, where it is today.
Through his failed stimulus law, Obama gave California more than $3 billion for the train, and the California legislature has approved more than $10 billion in bonds. But that still leaves more than $50 billion unfunded and the CHSRA has no plans on how to fill that gap.
In August, Judge Kenny declined to invalidate a separate legislative appropriation for the project, but he left open the possibility that he could forbid the state from spending bond proceeds until the came up with a full funding plan. That is exactly what Judge Kenny did Monday.
California is still free to spend the $3 billion that Obama gave them on the project, but after that, the CHSRA will be broke.
It is unlikely California voters will approve more money for the project. A recent Los Angeles Times poll found that 52 percent of Californians now oppose Obama's bullet train entirely.
Kentucky Democrat Alison Grimes is hoping to beat out Republican Senator Mitch McConnell next year for a place in the U.S. Senate. Three weeks ago, Grimes posted a photo of herself on Twitter shooting (without eye and ear protection, two big gun safety don'ts ) and invited McConnell to come along.
Whenever he's not busy pandering to DC lobbyists, I welcome Sen. McConnell to come shoot with me at the range any day pic.twitter.com/p00Zm3fGks— Alison L. Grimes (@AlisonForKY) November 8, 2013
But Grimes isn't as Second Amendment friendly as she'd like voters to think and an endorsement from Michelle Obama that she recently picked in New York City, proves it.
During a speech at a fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee at the Sheraton Hotel in Midtown Manhattan last week, Mrs. Obama made it clear President Obama needs Grimes in the Senate to push his far left agenda, which includes more gun control.
"And let's not forget about that common-sense gun legislation, that so many of us feel so strongly about. Sadly as you know, that bill failed. Anyone know by how many votes? It failed by just six votes in the Senate. Six. So make no mistake about it: the midterm elections, they matter. They matter," Obama said. "So it is critical that we elect Michelle Nunn, Alison Grimes, Natalie Tennant. It is critical that we get them to the Senate. And it is just as critical that we elect -- reelect Senators Mary Kay Hagan, Mary Landrieu, Jeanne Shaheen -- it is critical, because we all know that it’s not enough to elect Barack Obama President if we don’t give him a Congress that will help him keep moving this country forward."
It seems Grimes likes to present herself as a moderate, Second Amendment supporter to voters while in Kentucky, but sings a different tune when fundraising in fancy, far away places like New York City.
The Supreme Court agreed on noon Tuesday to hear a challenge to the controversial HHS contraception mandate. The mandate requires businesses to provide contraception to employees, even if their religious beliefs disagreed with contraception.
From the Associated Press:
The key issue is whether profit-making corporations can assert religious beliefs under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Nearly four years ago, the justices expanded the concept of corporate "personhood," saying in the Citizens United case that corporations have the right to participate in the political process the same way that individuals do.
The administration wants the court to hear its appeal of the Denver-based federal appeals court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts chain that calls itself a "biblically founded business" and is closed on Sundays. Founded in 1972, the company now operates more than 500 stores in 41 states and employs more than 13,000 full-time employees who are eligible for health insurance. The Green family, Hobby Lobby's owners, also owns the Mardel Christian bookstore chain.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said corporations can be protected by the 1993 law in the same manner as individuals, and "that the contraceptive-coverage requirement substantially burdens Hobby Lobby and Mardel's rights under" the law.
On November 1, a court ruled that requiring craft store chain Hobby Lobby to provide contraception violated the religious freedom of the owners.
The decision on this case is expected in June.
The Hill is keeping track. This is the fifth time he’s “pivoted” to jobs and the economy -- this year:
The White House, for at least the fifth time this year, is seeking to pivot to the economy, this time in a bid to change the subject from the disastrous rollout of ObamaCare.
It’s a common play for the White House, which frequently seeks to refocus attention on its jobs and infrastructure agenda when facing political crises.
The move is so familiar that NBC White House correspondent Chuck Todd has dubbed it the “déjà pivot.”
The Hill counted at least five times the White House has sought to pivot to the economy this year by reviewing news accounts.
Republicans, citing their own statistics, argue that President Obama has circled back to the economy at least 14 times since 2011.
It doesn’t matter how many times he’s “circled back” to talking about an issue voters care deeply about. The point is he only seems to do so when he’s in political trouble; in this case, over mounting and horrific stories about Americans losing their health insurance, and the federal government failing to fix Healthcare.gov before the self-imposed deadline on Saturday. Even Democratic strategists are conceding that switching the topic of discussion from health care to the economy is, well, smart:
Democratic strategist Tad Devine believes it’s smart to follow the polling and try to change the subject.
“They should be talking about areas where voters are most deeply concerned, and if you’re going to have a big fight, should it be over the implementation of healthcare reform or one on the economy? One is clearly advantageous to us,” he said.
In fairness, the president can’t focus all his attention on Obamacare, despite all the problems. The economy can and should be a top priority. But when you “pivot” to jobs 14 times in two years, according to Republicans, it’s hard to take the administration too seriously on this issue. At a certain point, Americans will see through the charade. They’ll begin asking themselves the following question: is the president more concerned about getting the economy booming again, or diverting attention from his signature health care law -- or other political crises? I have no doubt the president wants to see the economy improve. But it’s nevertheless strange he only seems to want to talk about it when things aren’t going his way. Or, perhaps, it isn't that strange at all.
MSNBC host Martin Bashir’s comments about Sarah Palin were so gross they won’t be repeated in this space. But suffice it to say that the Associated Press is now openly wondering when, if ever, the big wigs at the network will do something to curb the endless backlash. After all, weeks after the incident -- Bashir’s seemingly sincere apology notwithstanding -- his comments are creating all sorts of problems. Surprise:
NEW YORK (AP) — Martin Bashir's apology for graphic comments about Sarah Palin on MSNBC hasn't ended questions about whether the remarks deserve punishment from his bosses, giving unwanted attention to a cable network dealing with sinking ratings along with loose-lipped hosts.
Palin, in a Fox interview on Sunday, said MSNBC was guilty of "executive hypocrisy" by not publicly disciplining Bashir for his "vile, evil comments." Four days after Bashir apologized, MSNBC said it was "handling this matter internally" and wouldn't comment further.
"It's a systemic problem," said Jeff Cohen, an Ithaca College journalism professor and liberal commentator who was a producer for Phil Donahue's prime-time MSNBC show a decade ago. "It's a problem at MSNBC. It's a problem in cable news. It's a certain coarseness where everything goes. I guess they can keep sanctioning and suspending people, but there's something wrong when name-calling is considered OK."
Bashir's comments about Palin came on the same day MSNBC suspended actor Alec Baldwin from his weekly show for two episodes for his part in an off-the-air episode. Baldwin used an anti-gay slur in a confrontation with a photographer on a New York City street.
So, Baldwin mouthed an anti-gay slur off-the-air and was suspended for two shows. By contrast, Bashir suggested someone should quite literally defecate in Sarah Palin’s mouth, and essentially nothing happened. Is there a rule somewhere that if you insult a (conservative) woman it’s completely permissible, or something? The whole segment was apparently scripted, too, so it’s not as if Bashir acted alone or was speaking extemporaneously. Someone approved Bashir’s hateful tirade, no? Who?
Doesn’t matter. Nothing consequential will happen to Bashir. He’ll escape with only a slap on the wrist, it seems:
"Martin Bashir has taken responsibility publicly for his offensive commentary and also personally apologized to the Palin family," the network statement said. "Bashir offered a heartfelt apology on MSNBC earlier this week where he admitted it was a personal failing to become part of the politics of vitriol and destruction. He has committed to elevating the discourse going forward."
Of course, progressive hosts aren’t the only who’ve engaged in the “politics of vitriol and destruction.” The pendulum swings in both directions. But these comments are so over-the-top they have to be heard to be believed. What was Bashir even thinking?
Perhaps he wasn’t.
Vulnerable Democrats can hear that clock ticking and they're ready to ramp up criticism of the White House if Healthcare.gov isn't fixed by the end of the month, as promised:
Some Capitol Hill Democrats are preparing to launch broadsides against President Barack Obama if the Affordable Care Act website isn’t fixed by the end of the month. That will come in the form of more aggressive scrutiny in Republican-led oversight hearings, open advocacy for further delay in the enrollment deadline and individual coverage mandate, and more calls for a staff shake-up in the White House. “The president and his team have repeatedly assured us that the system will be working by Dec. 1. That’s when I start looking at what we have to do in our oversight function to hold the administration accountable for making it work.” Rep. Bruce Braley, an Iowa Democrat who is running for an open Senate seat said Thursday, adding that he’s contemplating whether to ask the president to fire members of his staff ... Democratic lawmakers — particularly those on the House side — are preparing to try to put distance between themselves and the president because they’re not confident that the White House has a Plan B for getting the policy right or protecting them in the mid-term elections... "When you think about it, a week after the October shutdown Democrats were experiencing a euphoric high. We thought we had Republicans on the mat. We thought we were going to win back the House and then this rollout fails,” said one House Democrat from a traditionally safe seat based in a major city. “Now, we need to be concerned, all of us, me included, that we aren’t viewed as ineffective and kicked out of our seats.” [Democrats] increasingly perceive the danger that the Senate could flip into GOP hands and that Obama’s final three years in office could be a total loss for their party’s agenda.
The people who brought you Obamacare are very worried about the failures of Obamacare, and are pinning their hopes on the White House's "repeated assurances" that thing will be working smoothly on December 1. That's your shot. Here's your chaser:
Administration officials said Monday that some visitors to ObamaCare's federal enrollment site would experience outages, slow response times or messages to try again later during the month of December. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) delivered the message in the latest attempt to downplay expectations surrounding Nov. 30, the administration's self-imposed deadline for fixing HealthCare.gov. CMS spokeswoman Julie Bataille said errors that persist past this weekend would be "intermittent" and, in line with a promise made by the White House, would not affect the vast majority of the site's users. But Bataille acknowledged that some people would still experience "periods of suboptimal performance" by the system due to either heavy traffic or technical issues that are still being addressed. "The system will not work perfectly on Dec. 1, but it will work much better than it did in October," Bataille said.
The pending ass-covering, politically-motivated, "outraged" posturing should be a sight to behold. Elected Democrats' Obamacare anxiety can't be limited to the myriad technological challenges either; the substance of the law is already harming millions of people and raising costs -- to say nothing of the major landmines primed to explode over the next year. Local news stories like this are toxic:
Whitney Johnson, an Arlington 26-year-old with multiple sclerosis, can’t afford to go without health insurance. Her life depends on it. She gave birth to her first child Sept. 2 after undergoing a series of rigorous steroid treatments, surgeries and a plasma exchange that saved her life. She pays $325 a month for an individual insurance plan — a drop in the bucket compared with the cost of her plasma protein replacement therapy, which runs $40,000 a pop. She undergoes treatment every five weeks. But now, with the Affordable Care Act in full swing, Johnson’s insurance is under threat. She recently received a letter that said her insurance plan will be canceled Jan. 1 because it does not comply with the federal healthcare law, also known as Obamacare. The insurance company told her that it was pulling out of Texas. She said she can’t afford to go on her husband’s plan because it would triple the family’s monthly premium. And she has been unable to access the federal health exchange website, which has been hampered by technical problems. “I’m scared to death to stop these treatments,” she said.
Devoting our whole show on Wednesday to how to talk about politics, news with conservative family members. Should be fun!— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) November 25, 2013
Indeed. How should one go about attempting to interact with these bizarre, vaguely racist creatures who represent 61 percent of Americans the far-right fringe of our society? My helpful contribution to the conversation:
Hate to break it to you, guys, but your crazy right-wing uncle probably knows more about Obamacare than you do. Enjoy your Tofurkey.— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) November 25, 2013
The Obamcare exchange director in President Obama's home state of Hawaii has resigned after much frustration with the failed healthcare rollout. More from CBS:
The director of Hawaii’s health insurance marketplace under President Barack Obama’s federal health care overhaul has resigned after delays in getting the exchange running and low signups in the first month.
Executive Director Coral Andrews said Friday that she was not asked to resign and decided to leave the Hawaii Health Connector on her own.
Andrews told reporters on a conference call that directing the exchange has been one of the most challenging yet fulfilling roles in her career.
“The Hawaii Health Connector has been my baby. It has required constant nurturing and attention,” Andrews said. “Although in many ways it is still growing and changing, the connector has reached a point where I now need to let go and let someone else take charge.”
As a reminder, we've only had a total of 100,000+ people sign up for Obamacare through state based and federal exchanges according to information released by the Department of Health and Human Services two weeks ago. As of mid-November, information about how many people had enrolled, meaning purchased a plan, in Hawaii's state based Obamacare exchange was "unavailable."
The Economist is out with a new magazine cover that may shock you:
A picture is worth a thousand words but I should note that a majority of people now believe that "honesty and trustworthiness" do not apply to President Barack Obama.
A growing number of Americans doubt President Barack Obama's ability to manage the nation, according to a CNN/ORC poll released on Monday that reflects the possible larger impact of his administration's fumbled rollout of its healthcare law.
The poll also found that 53 percent of those polled said Obama is not honest or trustworthy, marking the first time that the CNN/ORC polling found a clear majority questioning the president's integrity, CNN said.
My how things have changed.
Democrats in New Hampshire wasted no time in attacking conservative and four term State Representative Marilinda Garcia when she announced she will run for election yesterday in the state's second congressional district. Garcia was elected for the first time in 2006 at the age of 23 and already has an impressive resume of successes including serving as Majority Whip for the Committee on Legislative Administration and is on the advisory board for GOPAC, a group dedicated to supporting young Republican leaders. She currently serves on the Finance Committee and received a Master of Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in 2010. She believes economic and social values are equally as important to each other when it comes to how they affect the nation and its health.
“I don’t think you can separate them and expect to be able to preserve limited government and basically individual freedom,” Garcia said in the November 2011 issue of Townhall Magazine, adding that people who don’t have a strong family structure or community support system logically turn to the government for help, whether its for monetary assistance, mental or physical health and education.
Despite her impressive background, immediately after her announcement Monday morning Democrat Peter Sullivan, a prominent New Hampshire State Representative, took to Twitter and compared Garcia to reality star Kim Kardashian (who has a sex tape) and talked about her "stiletto heels."
@katbeep She's Al Baldasarro in stiletto heels, a lightweight and O'Brien clone.— Peter Sullivan (@CitizenSullivan) November 25, 2013
Bill O'Brien + Kim Kardashian = Marilinda Garcia #nhpolitics— Peter Sullivan (@CitizenSullivan) November 25, 2013
The Democratic war on women continues.
H/T NH Journal
Since the Iran nuclear deal was announced on Sunday, top Republicans and Democrats have blasted it, former Ambassador to the UN John Bolton called the deal an “abject surrender by the United States,” and one of our closest allies is “extremely angry,” to say the least. That ally, as you well know by now, is Israel. And the Sunday phone call between the two world leaders went just as you would imagine.
The Jerusalem Post reports:
A lawmaker from Netanyahu's Likud faction told an Israeli television station earlier on Monday that the premier rebuked US President Barack Obama over the interim agreement agreed upon by the Western powers and Iran on Sunday.
"The prime minister made it clear to the most powerful man on earth that if he intends to stay the most powerful man on earth, it's important to make a change in American policy because the practical result of his current policy is liable to lead him to the same failure that the Americans absorbed in North Korea and Pakistan, and Iran could be next in line," Likud Beytenu MK Tzachi Hanegbi told the Knesset Channel.
Obama called Netanyahu on Sunday from Air Force One to discuss theinterim agreementstruck between world powers and Iran.
The White House’s statement on the phone call said “the two leaders reaffirmed their shared goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” but failed to mention any disagreement between them. No surprise there.
What did come out of the phone call, however, was an agreement that an Israeli diplomatic team would come to the US in the coming days to discuss a final agreement with Iran.