The Obama Brief: The President considers his judicial legacy. (SL New Yorker)
Attorney General Eric Holder will announce tonight at the annual HRC gala that the United States federal government will treat lawful same-sex marriages sweeping equal protection under the law in every program it administers, from courthouse proceedings to prison visits to the compensation of surviving spouses of public safety officers. [more inside]
Happy Political Clusterf*ck Day (U.S.)! In one corner: the first federal government shutdown since 1996, born of the House GOP/Tea Party faction's crusade to delay, defund, and destroy Obamacare (and the Democratic Senate and President's resolve to not do that). "Continuing resolutions" have ping-ponged between the two houses, fighting over language to cancel healthcare reform (plus a few other items, such as the implementation of Mitt Romney's entire economic agenda). National parks are closed, contractors are hamstrung, and 800,000 federal workers furloughed until Speaker Boehner drops the "Hastert Rule" and passes a bill the other branches can agree to. In the other corner, heedless of the chaos (though not without glitches of its own): the official rollout of the Affordable Care Act and its state insurance exchanges. The portal at Healthcare.gov is your one-stop shop for browsing, comparing, and purchasing standardized, regulated insurance coverage with premium rebates, guaranteed coverage, and expanded Medicaid for the poor (in some states). A crazy day, overall -- but peanuts compared to what might happen if the debt ceiling is breached in 16 days. [more inside]
A middle-aged man in a red golf shirt shuffles up to a small folding table with gold trim, in a booth adorned with a flotilla of helium balloons, where government workers at the Kentucky State Fair are hawking the virtues of Kynect, the state’s health benefit exchange established by Obamacare. The man is impressed. "This beats Obamacare I hope," he mutters to one of the workers. “Do I burst his bubble?” wonders Reina Diaz-Dempsey, overseeing the operation. She doesn't. If he signs up, it's a win-win, whether he knows he's been ensnared by Obamacare or not.
Glenn Greenwald has produced a secret court order requiring Verizon to hand over to the NSA "telephony metadata" of all local and international calls either originating or terminating in the United States on an "ongoing, daily basis," and further barring Verizon from disclosing to the public the fulfillment of this request or the existence of the court order itself. The ACLU refers to the practice as "beyond Orwellian." Direct link to the court order available here. [more inside]
'Homeland,' Obama’s Show. The award winning TV show does little to alleviate the myths and misconceptions about Arabs and Muslims, writes Joseph Massad, a scholar at Columbia University. "The racist representation of Arabs is so exponential, even for American television [..] that one does not know where to begin." [more inside]
Paul Ryan. Seven-term congressman for Wisconsin's 1st District. Chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee. Architect of the controversial Ryan Budget -- a "Path to Prosperity" [PDF - video - CBO] that would slash trillions from the federal budget, sharply curtail taxes on the wealthy, and transform Medicare into a private voucher system. Proponent (vid) -- and renouncer -- of Ayn Rand 's Objectivism. Social Security beneficiary. Hunter. Weinermobile driver. And as of this morning, the 2012 Republican candidate for Vice President of the United States of America. [more inside]
In less than an hour, the Supreme Court will hand down its final judgment in what has become one of the most crucial legal battles of our time: the constitutionality of President Obama's landmark health care reform law. The product of a strict party line vote following a
year century of debate, disinformation, and tense legislative wrangling, the Affordable Care Act would (among other popular reforms) require all Americans to buy insurance coverage by 2014, broadening the risk pool for the benefit of those with pre-existing conditions.
The fate of this "individual mandate," bitterly opposed by Republicans despite its similarity to past plans touted by conservatives (including presidential contender Mitt Romney) is the central question facing the justices today. If the conservative majority takes the dramatic step of striking down the mandate, the law will be toothless, and in danger of wholesale reversal, rendering millions uninsured, dealing a crippling blow to the president's re-election hopes, and possibly endangering the federal regulatory state.
But despite the pessimism of bettors, some believe the Court will demur, wary of damaging its already-fragile reputation with another partisan 5-4 decision. But those who know don't talk, and those who talk don't know. Watch the SCOTUSblog liveblog for updates, Q&A, and analysis as the truth finally comes out shortly after 10 a.m. EST.
"The Obama Administration today unveiled a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights as part of a comprehensive blueprint to protect individual privacy rights and give users more control over how their information is handled." Full 62-page PDF - Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World: A Framework for Protecting Privacy and Promoting Innovation in the Global Digital Economy. "In addition, advertising networks announced that leading Internet companies and online advertising networks are committing to act on Do Not Track technology in most major web browsers to make it easier for users to control online tracking. Companies that represent the delivery of nearly 90 percent of online behavioral advertisements, including Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and AOL have agreed to comply when consumers choose to control online tracking. Companies that make this commitment will be subject to FTC enforcement." [more inside]
“I had reached the point of no return. You finally get fed up … I finally wanted to speak the truth.”
Last year, the unofficial Dean of the White House Press Corps, Helen Thomas, spoke about the State of Israel on camera. (Previously) Her replies: "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine," and that the Jews "can go home" to "Poland, Germany and America and everywhere else," sparked media outrage, prompted her to issue an apology and retire. After months of being out of the the public spotlight, she has now given her first long-form interview, which will appear in the April issue of Playboy Magazine. In it, she explains what she meant, tells us how she would like to be remembered and expands upon her positions regarding Israel, Jewish political influence, Presidents Bush and Obama, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Inside the Secret Service. Sidebars: Radio Chatter and The Presidential Motorcade (Via) [more inside]
Shane Harris of the Washingtonian looks at the increasingly aggressive pursuit by the Obama administration of people (especially journalists) who leak sensitive information to the public.
The US Department of Justice has announced arrests in four states of ten alleged members of a “deep-cover” Russian spy ring whose ultimate goal was apparently to infiltrate U.S. policy-making circles. So much for burger diplomacy? [more inside]
The Annotated State of the Union - PBS has one too (+ video responses ;) Submit your own and make it a two-way dialogue!
New York Magazine thinks the thrill is gone. True? Or just the latest meme? If true, what are the implications outside the Beltway? The 3-D chess references do seem thin on the ground these days.
Get This Rat a Lawyer! A recent target of right wing anger has been Obama administration "czars", a term used to denote appointed presidential advisers not subject to Senate approval. Opponents of "czars" were recently emboldened by the resignation of Anthony "Van" Jones, who served from March 16 to September 5, 2009 as Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. An additional target of the hunt for Obama's czars is Cass Sunstein, a constitutional-law professor at Harvard University, who was confirmed Thursday as the director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. [more inside]
Rebuilding Something Better by Barack Obama: "this week, I'll be talking about how we give our workers the skills they need to compete... Part of this goal will be met by helping Americans better afford a college education. But part of it will also be strengthening our network of community colleges..." [more inside]
OpenForQuestions at WhiteHouse.gov is asking you to vote for the questions you want Obama to address Thursday night. Like digg, but more governmentally.
The Bad Bank Assets Proposal: Even Worse Than You Imagined -- the administration appears intent on building another black swan. This is political capitalism. [via]
Oh those vaunted "first 100 days," they are finally upon us. Roosevelt's legendary time period has long been applied to new administrations, but never so emphatically or with such hope as to the Obama administration. And now you can follow them! For commentary, there's The First 100 Days, for mainstream media there's Obama's First 100 Days, for a comparison between old and new there 100 Days: Starting the Job, From FDR to Obama, for new media there's Obama's First 100 Days, and finally, for a government perspective there's First 100 Days. I smell an idea for an ironic t-shirt...
He collects Spider-Man comics. He video chats on his MacBook. He name-drops Jor-El of Krypton. He gave the Vulcan salute to Spock and jokes about "lithium crystals" (surely a misquote). He's got his own high-definition vlog on YouTube. Now, the Geek-in-Chief and his Team of Nerds are using their powers for good. Change.gov has been under a Creative Commons license for a while now, but yesterday, they took transparency a step further by announcing that "all policy documents from official meetings with outside organizations will be publicly available for review and discussion." What's next: revision control?
U.S. Presidents have had an uneven relationship with technology. The Clinton Presidential Library has more than 40 million White House emails on record (but only two are from the man himself). The Bush Administration, on the other hand, junked the Clinton archival process and replaced it with a comically inept alternative that has lost more than five million messages, many concerning official government business. (President Bush, for his part, gave up his longtime address -- G94b@aol.com -- just before his inauguration). Even the Reagan White House had its share of problems with the digital age. Now, as tech-savvy Barack Obama prepares to implement his technology plans, does he have a shot at dragging the Oval Office into the 21st century? Or will he have to surrender his laptop, his email account, and his beloved Blackberry?
Change.gov, office of the president-elect went live today. Submit your story. Share your vision. Get a non-career job in the administration, or get ready to get involved.
Bill Clinton on Charlie Rose - on display: Thoughtful Visionary as well as Political Animal; cf. Howard Dean and Jimmy Carter.