Archive of Articles for March, 2014

Democrats Should Launch Pro-Obamacare Ad Campaign

[ Posted Monday, March 31st, 2014 – 16:44 UTC ]

Everyone's talking about Obamacare today, since it is the deadline for signing up for health insurance in the first "open enrollment" period for the marketplace exchanges. The final numbers aren't in yet (and won't be for at least another few weeks), but from the numbers already released, the Obamacare website seems to have made an impressive turnaround from its ignoble beginnings. What will be interesting about the final numbers is that since Obama announced late last week that they had already hit the 6 million mark, we'll be able to see exactly how big the wave of last-minute signups has been for the final four days of the official signup period. If the final number comes in at, say, 6.5 million, then half a million people will have successfully signed up in four days. That is a small miracle in and of itself, since on the first day the website went live, it only managed to sign up a total of six people.

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Friday Talking Points [297] -- Democrats Unveil 2014 Strategy

[ Posted Friday, March 28th, 2014 – 17:46 UTC ]

The Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases where corporations are requiring certain women to wear a scarlet "A" on their uniforms... um, no wait... that can't be right... let me check my notes....

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The Next Big Fight, If Hobby Lobby Wins

[ Posted Thursday, March 27th, 2014 – 17:17 UTC ]

My reaction was a different one, perhaps because I focused on not the absolute bottom of these slippery slopes, but instead on the next legal challenge likely to pop up if Hobby Lobby wins their case. I'm actually surprised that nobody else seems to have even noticed this, and that the announcement caused absolutely no reaction whatsoever in the world of political commentary. But just over a week ago, a blog posting at the Health and Human Services Department (who sets the rules under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) stated that they will be requiring all insurance companies who offer coverage in their policies to the spouses of employees to now offer the same coverage to both heterosexual and homosexual married couples -- equally and without discrimination. Here's the key paragraph:

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Interview With Betty Medsger, Author Of The Burglary

[ Posted Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 – 17:14 UTC ]

Earlier this week, I wrote an extensive book review of former Washington Post reporter Betty Medsger's The Burglary (2014, Alfred A. Knopf). This book chronicles a break-in at the Media, Pennsylvania, branch office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1971, and the subsequent release to the public of files proving the F.B.I. was spending something like 40 percent of its time spying on and harassing political groups and individuals that J. Edgar Hoover didn't approve of. The burglars, who operated under the name "Citizens' Commission to Investigate the F.B.I.," were never caught, despite a five-year F.B.I. manhunt involving more than 200 agents. None of the burglars had ever even been publicly identified before Medsger's book was published.

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Before Snowden, Before WikiLeaks, Before The Church Committee, Before Deep Throat, Before The Pentagon Papers... There Was The Burglary [Part 2]

[ Posted Monday, March 24th, 2014 – 20:34 UTC ]

The Media files were made public in large part due to a few journalists (and a few brave editors) at the Washington Post who received them and reported on them. Attorney General John Mitchell personally called up the editors at the Post in a last-minute attempt to quash the story multiple times the day they arrived, but in the end the decision was made to go ahead and publish. Incredibly, at this time Mitchell didn't even know what was in the burgled files, and even though it was two weeks after the burglary, he had apparently just become aware of it. The event explored new territory in both journalism and in the legal world, because it was the first time secret documents had ever been provided to news organizations after having been stolen from the government. There simply were no precedents to follow.

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Before Snowden, Before WikiLeaks, Before The Church Committee, Before Deep Throat, Before The Pentagon Papers... There Was The Burglary [Part 1]

[ Posted Monday, March 24th, 2014 – 20:32 UTC ]

Forty-three years ago this month, an obscure branch office of the Federal Bureau of Investigations located in a Philadelphia suburb was burgled. All their files were stolen (being 1971, these files were all on paper) and whisked away to a secret hideout, then they were sorted and sent to the media. This criminal act set in motion the idea that our government should no longer operate in secret without any supervision. It was followed by the leak of the government's Vietnam War plans, a congressional investigation (the first ever of its kind) into the F.B.I. and the C.I.A., the resignation of a president brought about in no small part by leaks to the media, and eventually the modern-day document dumps of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. But while the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, and the Church Committee are at least somewhat well-known these days, few people (even few followers of politics, recent history, or the debates on the modern security state) recognize "the Media break-in" as where it all started.

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Friday Talking Points [296] -- Breaking News! Well... Not Really.

[ Posted Friday, March 21st, 2014 – 17:55 UTC ]

But it's really nothing new to point out the ludicrous nature of what is billed as "breaking news." In fact, I can end precisely where I began this rant. Back in its infancy in the 1970s, "Weekend Update" had a running joke parodying such "breaking news" idiocy. Chevy Chase would be handed a piece of paper (which just goes to show you how long ago this was) at his news desk, and he would glance at it and then report: "This just in... Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead!"

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Open Question For My Twitter Followers

[ Posted Thursday, March 20th, 2014 – 17:17 UTC ]

The milestone I'm about to hit is sending out my one-thousandth tweet. Or, to be more Twitterlike, my 1000th tweet (or maybe even just "1K tweets!"). That seems like a lot of tweets to me, but then I wouldn't be surprised if that's a normal monthly count for some Twitter users. I'm hovering right around 450 followers, and this column is specifically written to each and every one of them.

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GOP's Post-Mortem Post-Mortem

[ Posted Wednesday, March 19th, 2014 – 17:34 UTC ]

Has it really been a whole year since the Republican Party put out their "post-mortem" document, which tried to identify why they got shellacked so badly in the 2012 election? Since it's not a big date on my political calendar, the one-year anniversary kind of snuck up on me, I'll admit. But since the Republican National Committee used the term "post-mortem" in the first place, I guess it's now time for a post-mortem on the post-mortem (insert your own zombie or "dead man walking" joke here, if you must).

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Science Wins Over Politics

[ Posted Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 – 16:21 UTC ]

A scientific study just received permission from the federal government to go forward. This really shouldn't even be news, but it is indeed newsworthy because it is a milestone achievement. It is the first time anyone can remember that the beneficial medical effects of marijuana have been allowed to be legally studied. The group trying to do the study has been requesting permission to do so for over two decades, just as one measure of how monumental a breakthrough this may be.

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