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herding cats

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Member since: Mon Nov 18, 2013, 02:56 PM
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Firebrand Senator Ted Cruz apologizes for U.S. spending bill ruckus

Source: Reuters

Reuters) - U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, the Texas Tea Party firebrand who nearly provoked the second government shutdown in a little over a year, on Tuesday apologized to his fellow Republicans for a strategy that backfired.

A Cruz spokeswoman said the senator apologized to colleagues "for inconveniencing their personal schedules" over the weekend. Cruz still believes, the spokeswoman said, that fighting to stop President Barack Obama's new program easing deportations for millions of illegal immigrants "was critically important."

The apology to Republican senators came at a closed-door lunch when Cruz, a possible 2016 presidential candidate, "was contrite and made an effort to explain to people he wished he hadn't done it," said a source familiar with the meeting.

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Cruz's actions inadvertently allowed Democratic leaders to advance nearly two dozen Obama nominees. These included Sarah Saldana, chosen to head the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Republicans had been trying to block some of those nominations.

Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/16/us-usa-congress-cruz-idUSKBN0JU2LL20141216

Obama may not be able to salvage Obamacare if the Supreme Court invalidates its tax credits.

The fate of Obamacare will again be in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court next year -- and if the conservative justices rule to invalidate tax credits offered through the federal HealthCare.gov, dealing a punishing blow to the law, it isn't at all clear that the White House will have the legal and practical leeway to save it.

That was the conclusion of three academics in a new analysis published in the New England Journal of Medicine which outlined the challenges that the Obama administration would face in that worst-case Supreme Court scenario. The most obvious solution to an adverse Supreme Court ruling is to turn every exchange into a state exchange, allowing the law's tax credits to flow again -- but how easy will it be for the administration to do that?

"We're quite pessimistic. The operational, legal and political challenges here are immense," Nicholas Bagley, a University of Michigan law professor who co-authored the article, told TPM in a phone interview on Thursday. "The more I've looked at this, the more alarmed I've grown."

The problem is three-pronged: Legal, because the Affordable Care Act sets some very specific requirements for state-based exchanges; practical, because states might not have time or authority to act after the Court ruling comes down in June, as expected; and political, because Republican intransigence against Obamacare is currently one of the defining elements of American politics.

An adverse Court ruling in the King vs. Burwell case would invalidate the law's tax credits, received by nearly 90 percent of Obamacare enrollees in 2014, in at least 34 states that are using the federal website. Health coverage would likely then become unaffordable for many enrollees, and those who choose to keep paying the higher price are more likely to be sick and more costly, potentially sending the law into a dreaded death spiral.

That is why, as TPM reported in the past, health policy wonks expect the administration will do anything it can and exercise any discretion to keep the law afloat. But, as NEJM's legal scholars laid out in their new analysis, that won't be as easy as it might sound. Here are the three problems the administration would face.

Full article: Saving O-Care From SCOTUS Might Be A Whole Lot Harder Than It Sounds

Obama criticizes NFL's handling of Rice case

Source: Chicago Tribune

President Barack Obama said Friday during a radio interview that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell seemed to be making up policy as he went along in handling player discipline such as the Ray Rice case.

In an interview with Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio, Obama said the Rice case troubled him as it shined a spotlight on domestic violence in America.

"I think the most prominent example, obviously, was the Ray Rice situation," he said. "I'm so glad we got more awareness about domestic violence. Obviously, the situation that happened in the Rice family was important, but it did lift up awareness that this is a real problem that we have to root out and men have to change their attitudes and their behavior."

Obama said the NFL was caught off guard in dealing with the Rice case.

"The way it was handled also indicates that the NFL was behind the curve, as a lot of institutions have been behind the curve, in sending a clear message," Obama said. "You don't want to be winging it when something like this happens. You want to have clear policies in place. The fact that policies have now been established I think will be helpful in sending a message that there's no place for that kind of behavior in society, whether it's in sports or anyplace else."


Read more: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-obama-ray-rice-nfl-20141212-story.html

35 Hours Before Deadline, Agreement To Keep Government Open Breaks Down

Last night, Congressional negotiators reached an agreement that most assumed would keep the government open until September. But with just 35 hours before funding for the federal government runs out, that agreement is in serious Jeopardy.

From the left, Democratic leaders in the House are objecting to unrelated policy provisions, attached by Republicans, that would weaken financial regulations and campaign finance law.

Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), the ranking member on the House Budget Committee announced his opposition on Twitter Wednesday afternoon:

Voting NO on spending bill. Leaves taxpayers on the hook to pay for gambling at biggest banks & undoes critical campaign finance reforms.
11:15 AM - 10 Dec 2014


Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) effectively voiced her opposition as well, saying the bill included provisions “destructive to middle class families and to the practice of our democracy.”

Similarly, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) railed against the agreement, calling it “a giveaway to the most powerful banks in the country.”

http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/12/10/3601924/35-hours-before-deadline-agreement-to-keep-government-open-breaks-down/


8 Things To Know About The ‘Cromnibus’ Budget Deal Congress Just Unveiled

Senate report on CIA torture could lead to prosecutions of Americans abroad

The list of those who can't travel outside of the US for fear of prosecution from the Bush era just got longer.

US officials and military officers implicated by the Senate report on torture could face arrest in other countries as a result of investigations by their national courts, human rights lawyers said on Wednesday.

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“If I was one of those people, I would hesitate before making any travel arrangements,” said Michael Bochenek, director of law and policy at Amnesty International.

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“Obviously this is something for US justice, both military and civilian, to take up. They have the first bite of the apple,” said Richard Dicker, the director of Human Rights Watch’s international justice programme. “But we have not seen any persuasive indicators that the department of justice is willing to step up to its responsibilities.”

However, because torture is considered a grave crime under international law, other governments could arrest and prosecute anyone implicated in the report who happened to be on their territory under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

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“Some of these people will never leave US borders again,” Bochenek said. “If say, one of them goes on holiday in Paris, then France would have the legal obligation to arrest and prosecute that individual. States have clear obligation in cases of torture.”

As the repercussions of the report spread around the world, Poland’s president, Bronislaw Komorowski, said it would be critical for an inquiry underway on the running of a secret US prison “black site’’ on Polish soil. “I think the American report will revive that inquiry. I also think that it will provide, if not new information, then guidance as to the conduct of the investigation in Poland.”

Former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski admitted on Wednesday that there had been a secret CIA interrogation site in the country, but insisted he tried to convince US President George Bush to close it.

“I told Bush that this cooperation must end and it did end,” Kwasniewski said.

Polish prosecutors have asked for access to the full Senate report, which is 10 times longer than the 500-page declassified version published on Tuesday. That version said that 119 detainees in the “war on terror” were held at black sites around the world. The names of the countries were redacted but they are thought to include Afghanistan, Poland, Romania, Thailand and Lithuania. Lithuanian prosecutors have also asked to see the full report.


http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/dec/10/cia-report-prosecutions-international-law-icc


I wonder what the US reaction will be if other countries were to prosecute those responsible in their own countries for allowing the torture to take place there? It would appear it's at least a somewhat possible reality that my take place.

Ex-Leader: Poland Agreed to CIA Site, Not Torture

Source: Associated Press/ABC

After years of denials, two former Polish leaders acknowledged Wednesday they had allowed a secret CIA prison to operate on their territory but insisted they never authorized the harsh treatment or torture of its inmates.

Former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, 60, and former Prime Minister Leszek Miller, 68, spoke to journalists in Warsaw after a U.S. Senate report condemning CIA practices at secret prisons was released Tuesday in Washington. The report did not identify the host countries.

"The U.S. side asked the Polish side to find a quiet site where it could conduct activity that would allow to effectively obtain information from persons who had declared readiness to cooperate with the U.S. side," Kwasniewski said. "We gave our consent to that." He said Poland demanded that people who would be held in the country should be treated humanely as prisoners of war, according to their rights.

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Kwasniewski said Wednesday that the prison, which he referred to as a "site," was part of "deepened" intelligence cooperation with the U.S. in the fight against terrorism after the Sept. 11 attacks, and he insisted he had no knowledge of what took place inside it.

Read more: http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/leader-poland-agreed-cia-site-torture-27494436



As the repercussions of the report spread around the world, Poland’s president, Bronislaw Komorowski, said it would be critical for an inquiry underway on the running of a secret US prison “black site’’ on Polish soil. “I think the American report will revive that inquiry. I also think that it will provide, if not new information, then guidance as to the conduct of the investigation in Poland.”

Former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski admitted on Wednesday that there had been a secret CIA interrogation site in the country, but insisted he tried to convince US President George Bush to close it.

“I told Bush that this cooperation must end and it did end,” Kwasniewski said.

Polish prosecutors have asked for access to the full Senate report, which is 10 times longer than the 500-page declassified version published on Tuesday. That version said that 119 detainees in the “war on terror” were held at black sites around the world. The names of the countries were redacted but they are thought to include Afghanistan, Poland, Romania, Thailand and Lithuania. Lithuanian prosecutors have also asked to see the full report.

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/dec/10/cia-report-prosecutions-international-law-icc

N.J. pension funds to sue Christie over $2.4B money grab

Source: NJ.com

TRENTON — Trustees of New Jersey’s largest pension funds said they will file a lawsuit today against Gov. Chris Christie for slashing $2.4 billion in pension fund payments he promised to pay as part of a 2011 pension reform deal.

The lawsuit will ask the courts to force Christie to restore the cuts. The board overseeing the Public Employees Retirement System — the largest employee pension fund — voted in June to sue Christie.

“We are saying that money is due to the fund,” Tom Bruno, chairman of that fund said today. “It’s not something we relish doing, but frankly it’s got to be done.”

“We have a fiduciary responsibility, and that is to protect the fund, as well as to collect the monies that are due to the fund,” Bruno said.

Read more: http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/12/nj_pension_funds_sue_christie_over_pension_grab.html

8 Things To Know About The 'Cromnibus' Budget Deal Congress Just Unveiled

With government funding running out in a matter of days, congressional negotiators unveiled a spending bill for the coming year late on Tuesday night. Lawmakers and their staffs are poring over the 1,600-page document now and details of what it will mean for various programs are still emerging.

While the bill doesn’t make drastic changes to total government spending, it does contain a number of changes to public policy or funding levels that concern progressive groups and weaken programs for society’s most vulnerable. Here are seven important provisions buried within the so-called “cromnibus” bill.

Tax collectors will have to get by with a lot less money thanks to a second straight year of cuts to enforcement.

Congress got Wall Street two early Christmas presents.

The bill leaves homeless advocates out in the cold.

Affordable housing advocates are worried that the bill will harm low-income families.

The people who drive 80,000-pound trucks won’t have to sleep as often before getting on the highway.

Washington D.C.’s marijuana legalization effort might be disrupted. Or it might not be.

Campaign finance regulations are phased out.

The bill cuts $300 million from Pell Grants for low-income college students and gives it to student loan debt collectors.


Details of the changes on each item are in the article: http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/12/10/3601742/cromnibus-lowlights/

Updated with the cut to the Pell Grants information.

Hayden: No One Ever Warned Us Against Overreacting to 9/11

After the Senate released its torture report, Michael Hayden, who formerly led both the CIA and the NSA, granted an interview to NBC News. Under questioning by Brian Williams, he provided no persuasive rebuttal to the report's findings. But he did offer a defense of America's intelligence community that doubles as an unwitting indictment of the country's leadership in the post-9/11 era. Here's what Hayden said as if it reflects well on the people who were in charge:

I was in government for ten years after 9/11, and let me tell ya, a phrase I never heard from anybody in any position of authority: 'Whatever you guys do about this terrorism threat, please, please don't overreact.' Never heard it, Brian.

Video at link

Like so much of what Hayden says, this is factually false. Members of Congress were in a position of Constitutional authority, and some pleaded with the Bush Administration to avoid overreacting to 9/11, as Russ Feingold and Barbara Lee can attest. But let's suppose Hayden was speaking of executive branch authority figures, in accordance with the dangerous but common view that the executive is all powerful in emergencies. It's believable that neither George W. Bush nor Dick Cheney nor Don Rumsfeld warned bureaucrats beneath them against overreacting to the terror threat.

What's staggering is that Hayden still hasn't figured out what a catastrophic misstep that was. Overreacting to the terrorist threat caused the U.S. to launch a war of choice against Iraq that killed thousands more Americans than Osama Bin Laden did at a cost expected to reach $6 trillion, plus thousands of lost limbs and PTSD cases. Overreacting to terrorism caused intrusive ethnic profiling of New York City Muslims that led to zero terrorism leads and intrusive surveillance on the phone calls of American citizens that stopped zero terror plots.

Read More: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/12/michael-hayden-no-one-ever-told-the-cia-or-the-nsa-to-avoid-overreacting/383601/

Mentally ill Texas inmate's execution stayed by federal appeals court

Source: The Guardian

A mentally ill death row inmate whose impending execution attracted international condemnation was granted a reprieve by a federal appeals court on Wednesday less than eight hours before he was scheduled to die by lethal injection in the Texas state penitentiary.

The fifth circuit court issued a stay of Scott Panetti’s execution so it could “fully consider the late arriving and complex legal questions at issue”.

Panetti shot dead Joe and Amanda Alvarado, the parents of his estranged wife, Sonja, in front of her and their three-year-old daughter in the Texas hill country in 1992.

As Panetti’s execution date approached his case gained widespread attention and a number of evangelical Christians, mental health groups, legal figures and prominent conservatives called for the sentence to be commuted, along with two United Nations human rights experts.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/dec/03/mentally-ill-texas-inmate-execution-stayed-scott-panetti



Texas stirs controversy with plans to execute schizophrenic man

Attorneys and a politically diverse coalition of supporters are fighting to stop Texas from executing a schizophrenic man this week, arguing that to do so would be unconstitutional.


He confessed at trial, where he wore a cowboy costume to defend himself -- arguing he was innocent by reason of insanity -- and subpoenaed more than 200 witnesses including the pope, John F. Kennedy and Jesus. He said that only an insane person could prove insanity.

Diagnosed with schizophrenia 36 years ago, Panetti, his lawyers say, still hears voices and suffers from the delusions that the attorneys argue prevent him from understanding why he is being executed, which would violate the 8th Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-texas-execution-mentally-ill-20141202-story.html
Posted by herding cats | Wed Dec 3, 2014, 12:33 PM (7 replies)
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