Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Light at the End of the Tunnel?


Lucky shot through the bus window as we were going through a tunnel in the Presidio.

Some stuff. And a very Happy Birthday to the G today!

EXCLUSIVE: Justice Department memo reveals legal case for drone strikes on Americans
A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force” -- even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.

The NRA’s fuzzy, decades-old claim of ‘20,000’ gun laws
By any reasonable measure, this is suspicious figure. Its origin is murky, and it is inconceivable that the same number of gun laws would exist now as some five decades ago. Moreover, even experts who favor the NRA’s agenda have their doubts about the figure or its relevance. It may well be the case that there are “thousands” of laws, but what does that mean? What does counting statutes, or local regulations, say about the quality or effectiveness of those laws? We don’t play gotcha here at The Fact Checker, so we accept that LaPierre misspoke when he said 9,000 federal laws rather than 20,000 laws across the nation. But that slip of the tongue actually points out the fuzzy nature of the claim. Three Pinocchios.

Major Cantor speech seeks to recast image of GOP and conservatism
According to excerpts obtained by The Hill, Cantor will attempt to recast the GOP position on the role of government... Immigration reform for highly skilled labor, school choice, college affordability and Medicare/Medicaid reform will be among the issues that Cantor will tackle.“We will advance proposals aimed at producing results in areas like education, healthcare, innovation, and job growth. Our solutions will be based on the conservative principles of self reliance, faith in the individual, trust in the family, and accountability in government,” Cantor is set to say.

There Will Be No Budget Deal
We’re less than a month away now from the sequester, the beginning of the deep budget cuts that will kick in automatically if President Obama and Congress don’t come to a budget deal. I have a news flash for you: There is not going to be any deal in the next 25 days. And here’s another news flash: In the Republican tug-of-war between those who want to protect the Pentagon and those who want to cut spending and damn the consequences, it’s looking like the latter are winning. If they get their way, it’s also almost certain that the austerity the cuts induce will cost a lot of jobs and hurt the economy. So the only thing for Barack Obama to do now is start agitating to make sure the American public blames the right culpable party here.

Not-So-Universal Health Care
Apparently those arguments were enough to persuade the administration not to make these dependents eligible for subsidies. Instead, it simply declared that they will be exempt from the law’s requirement to get insurance. As a result, people who end up in situations like the steelworker’s late wife will continue to do what they do now—they’ll go ahead and pay for the employer insurance, even though it’s very expensive, or they’ll remain uninsured. They won’t be worse off than they are today, but they won’t be better off, either. That’s missed opportunity to help people in need—including, according to GAO estimates, up to a half million children who still won’t have health insurance.

The contraceptives lawsuits could go to SCOTUS
The new contraceptives rules published by the White House on Friday nearly guarantee widespread access to birth control for anyone with an employer-sponsored health plan. They also guarantee that the legal challenges to the coverage mandate will continue unabated.... This all means you’re likely to hear about these legal challenges for quite some time now; many legal experts expect the issue to rise to the Supreme Court. Without further ado, here’s a guide to the arguments being made on each side – and how well they’re faring with the judges.

Bills to remove federal ban, tax pot
Two Democratic congressman will introduce legislation Tuesday to legalize marijuana on the federal level and tax the drug. Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) will introduce two separate bills similar to ones backed in past Congresses by former representatives Ron Paul of Texas and Barney Frank of Massachusetts. Polis’ measure would regulate marijuana the same way the federal government regulates alcohol sales, shifting responsibility from the Drug Enforcement Administration to the freshly-renamed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana, Firearms and Explosives. Blumenauer’s bill would tax marijuana.

Waiting Times at Ballot Boxes Draw Scrutiny
Several recent polls and studies suggest that long waiting times in some places depressed turnout in 2012 and that lines were longest in cities, where Democrats outnumber Republicans. In a New York Times/CBS News poll taken shortly after Election Day, 18 percent of Democrats said they waited at least a half-hour to vote, compared with 11 percent of independents and 9 percent of Republicans. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology analysis determined that blacks and Hispanics waited nearly twice as long in line to vote on average than whites.

Many More Democrats Than Republicans Say Protecting Environment a Top Priority
Broad majorities of Republicans and Democrats see the economy and jobs as top priorities. More than seven-in-ten Republicans (74%) and Democrats (72%) say making the Social Security system financially sound should be a top priority, though they may have different views about how to do so. But there is far less consensus on other issues, with some of the largest differences over the environment, gun control, and health care. About seven-in-ten Democrats (69%) say protecting the environment should be a top priority, compared with 32% of Republicans, a gap of 37 percentage points. Overall, 52% of Americans say the environment should be a top priority for the president and Congress, putting the issue in the middle of the 21 tested.