Preferring to look ignorant rather than irresponsible, President Obama said last week that he only recently learned of scandals at the Department of Veteran Affairs through news reports. He spoke of the problems at the department as if they had blindsided him, despite the fact that as a candidate in 2008 he railed against the “the broken bureaucracy of the V.A.” and decried outrageous delays in treatment for veterans.
He didn’t need news reports to inform him of the depth of the department’s flaws; he could have reviewed his own campaign speeches. His long familiarity with the department’s problems gave his press conference last week an air of adding insult to injury. Somehow he was at once aware of the department’s deplorable condition and unaware of it.
Obama doesn’t mind appearing as the hapless spectator on the sidelines of his government if that saves him from the charge of dereliction of duty about a known problem. Yet the plight of veterans at the hands of indifferent bureaucrats clearly lost its urgency for him once the 2008 campaign ended and only now resumes urgency for him as an annoying political problem.
He said last week that he won’t “tolerate” mistreatment of veterans but he managed to tolerate it easily enough since he gave those speeches over five years ago. His aides claim he is “madder than hell” about the scandal, but at last week’s press conference he implied that his anger was provisional. He is still not sure if the “allegations” of mistreatment are true and needs to wait for more investigations in order to determine whether or not “accountability” is required.
Learning about problems in his own government through random news reports has become one of Obama’s common refrains. Last year he said that he learned of the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups through glancing at the newspaper and he made a similar claim about his knowledge of various Justice Department scandals. Historians, looking for a simple snapshot of his administration’s fecklessness, can cite the frequency of Obama’s admission.
Obama also learns of non-events through news reports, as evident in his administration’s reliance upon fragments of reporting from the foreign press to claim that the Benghazi terrorist attack was a demonstration over an Internet video that turned violent. Former Obama administration spokesman Tommy Vietor commented to Fox News, “What I’ve seen is, in a number of outlets, reporters talked to people on the scene that night… who said they were there because they were upset about this video.” Vietor suggested that “guys quoted in newspapers saying that’s why they were there” was the reason for the bogus storyline.
All of this contributes to a picture of an administration that is hopelessly superficial, dishonest, and incompetent. It also exposes Obama’s ideology as false: the federal government is clearly too big to know and too dysfunctional to control if he can only keep up to date on its failures through news accounts.
Today it was Howard Dean (filmed a week ago, but seen on YouTube today). He was addressing a Democratic crowd in Colorado, and went off on a tirade against Republicans. Yes, he really did say that Republicans aren’t American. And that they should stay away from the United States, and go to Russia where they belong.
The Obama administration has quietly adjusted key provisions of its signature healthcare law to potentially make billions of additional taxpayer dollars available to the insurance industry if companies providing coverage through the Affordable Care Act lose money.
The move was buried in hundreds of pages of new regulations issued late last week. It comes as part of an intensive administration effort to hold down premium increases for next year, a top priority for the White House as the rates will be announced ahead of this fall's congressional elections.
Administration officials for months have denied charges by opponents that they plan a "bailout" for insurance companies providing coverage under the healthcare law.
They continue to argue that most insurers shouldn't need to substantially increase premiums because safeguards in the healthcare law will protect them over the next several years.
But the change in regulations essentially provides insurers with another backup: If they keep rate increases modest over the next couple of years but lose money, the administration will tap federal funds as needed to cover shortfalls.
A Comcast executive said he expects the company will roll out "usage-based billing"—what most people call "data caps"—to all of its customers within five years.
Speaking with investors today (transcript), Comcast Executive VP David Cohen said, "I would predict that in five years Comcast at least would have a usage-based billing model rolled out across its footprint."
Comcast, which has about 20 million broadband customers, has rolled out caps to some of the areas that it serves, including Huntsville and Mobile, Alabama; Atlanta, Augusta, and Savannah, Georgia; Central Kentucky; Maine; Jackson, Mississippi; Knoxville and Memphis, Tenessee; and Charleston, South Carolina. Customers generally get 300GB of data per month, with $10 charges for each extra 50GB. (During the trial period, customers can exceed the cap for three months out of any 12-month period without incurring extra fees.)
Comcast told Ars last November that "98 percent of our customers nationally don’t use 300GB/month." Cohen today said that Comcast will raise the limit over time so that the large majority of users won't go over it, suggesting that 500GB is a possible monthly limit five years from now.
"I would also predict that the vast majority of our customers would never be caught in the buying the additional buckets of usage, that we will always want to say the basic level of usage at a sufficiently high level that the vast majority of our customers are not implicated by the usage-based billing plan," Cohen said. "And that number may be 350—that may be 350 gig a month today, it might be 500 gig a month in five years."
When asked if customers will get a "reasonably large number of usage plans" to choose from, Cohen said he doesn't want a situation where "80 percent of our customers are implicated by usage-based billing and are all buying different packets of usage. I don't think that's the model that we are heading toward, but five years ago I don't know that I would have heard of something called an iPad. So very difficult to make predictions."
I'm sure some group will claim the Internet is a "right", just like health care, and this worry will be for naught.
You'll need to fast forward to 6:01, and you'll see video taken from behind the kids as they get ready to start singing. Duper is to the immediate right of a tall guy with a curly head of black hair in the back row, center.
Expert testimony before Congress on Thursday warned that an electromagnetic pulse attack on our power grid and electronic infrastructure could leave most Americans dead and the U.S. in another century.
That dire warning came from Peter Vincent Pry, a member of the Congressional EMP Commission and executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security.
He testified in front of the House Homeland Security Committee's Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies that an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) event could wipe out 90% of America's population.
Most people's eyes might glaze over upon mention of the committee name, the title of the hearing — "Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP): Threat to Critical Infrastructure" — and the general subject of EMP. But it is a real threat and not the stuff of science fiction.
Some attention has been paid to the potential cataclysmic effects of a natural phenomenon such as a massive solar storm, an event that has occurred in America's horse-and-buggy era when it did not matter.
Today an electromagnetic pulse event would be devastating. It wouldn't need a solar storm, just a solitary nuke detonated in the atmosphere above the American heartland. We would envy the horse-and-buggy era.
"Natural EMP from a geomagnetic superstorm, like the 1859 Carrington Event or 1921 Railroad Storm, and nuclear EMP attack from terrorists or rogue states, as practiced by North Korea during the nuclear crisis of 2013, are both existential threats that could kill 9-of-10 Americans through starvation, disease and societal collapse," the Washington Free Beacon quoted Pry as saying.
Scary stuff, but how could it be so devastating to so many people?
As we reported early last year, Pry, a former CIA nuclear weapons analyst, believes that North Korea's recent seemingly low-yield nuclear tests and launch of a low-orbit satellite may in fact be preparations for a future electromagnetic pulse attack.
A copy of a report prepared by the Department of Homeland Security for the Defense Department, obtained by Pry from sources within DHS, finds North Korea could use its Unha-3 space launch vehicle to deliver a nuclear warhead as a satellite over the South Pole to attack America from the south.
As the Heritage Foundation has reported, an EMP attack with a warhead detonated 25 to 300 miles above the U.S. mainland "would fundamentally change the world:"
"Airplanes would fall from the sky; most cars would be inoperable; electrical devices would fail. Water, sewer and electrical networks would fail simultaneously. Systems of banking, energy, transportation, food production and delivery, water, emergency services and even cyberspace would collapse."
Not many are killed or harmed by the blast itself, but as the EMP pulse spreads across America, life changes in an instant, coming to a screeching halt as a country dependent on cutting-edge 21st century technology regresses at least a century in time instantaneously.
The current Administration could just start a hashtag campaign to "fight back" against EMP attacks. That would probably work.