|10:59 AM, Apr 15, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Democratic senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana is in a tough reelection battle because of her support for Obamacare. So its not surprising her latest TV ad focuses on the one high-profile fight she's had with the Obama administration, over oil and gas exploration. The 60-second spot features people watching Landrieu arguing for expanding energy exploration in Louisiana and criticizing Barack Obama for its restrictionist policies. Watch the video below:
Most of the clips the ad features are from her appearances on local and cable TV news. But watch the clips of Landrieu around the video's halfway point. They feature the senator speaking in what looks like a congressional hearing, excoriating a faceless witness. "They have to sit here and listen to the federal government say, 'We can't share a penny with you'? I will not rest until this injustice is fixed," Landrieu says. "Do you think there are a bunch of fairy godmothers out there who just wave a magic wand?"
The clips feature a chyron at the bottom of the screen for a program called "Eye on Washington." Below that is the headline, "Obama administration says it won't support increased oil and gas revenue sharing." The problem is that the video clip doesn't come from C-SPAN or any other real TV show. In fact, the clip is a reenactment of a real committee hearing from last year, viewable here. The relevant lines that Landrieu recreated for the campaign ad begin at about 2 hours and 30 minutes into the video.
The reenactment fixes a verbal flub from Landrieu's original speech. Originally, she said "Do you think there are a bunch of fairy godmothers out there that just wish a magic wand?" The line is cleaned up for the campaign ad.
There are clues from the ad that the clips of her talking tough on energy are from a reenactment. Landrieu is wearing a different jacket and has a different haircut. Her nameplate that reads "Sen. Landrieu" is a larger size, and the aides sitting behind her are different, in a room that is clearly not the Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing room.
Landrieu is in a tough reelection battle against Republican congressman Bill Cassidy and other candidates in Louisiana's open primary. If she is unable to break 50 percent support in the November primary, she'll most likely face Cassidy in the December runoff. In the Real Clear Politics average for the head-to-head matchup between Cassidy and Landrieu, Cassidy holds a 2.4-point lead.
Hosted by Michael Graham.10:25 AM, Apr 15, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD Podcast with editor William Kristol, on Obama's weakness abroad.
This podcast can be downloaded here. Subscribe to THE WEEKLY STANDARD's iTunes podcast feed here.
Democrats' "culture of corruption" provides an opening for CA GOP.9:20 AM, Apr 15, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
The Republican party's best chance to win a statewide office in California for the first time since 2006 all started with a check for $800. Pete Peterson’s wife Gina is graphic designer in Santa Monica who owns her own business, a limited liability company. Last year, she was getting ready to pay her company's annual $800 licensing tax to the secretary of state’s office, which oversees business licensing. Only in California are LLCs taxed so much just to keep a license. In Delaware, the annual tax is just $300, and in Missouri, it’s just a one-time $50 free. As she was writing the check, Gina looked at Peterson and said, “I don’t know where this money goes.”
The issue still gets Pete Peterson going. The money is ostensibly going to update the state’s business licensing website, but he says there are no signs that the site is any closer to allowing businesses to register with the state of California online. Next door in Nevada, he points out, it’s easy and simple to file online. Why is the home of Silicon Valley and the technology boom so far behind? And why are LLCs specifically required to pay such a hefty tax, every year?
Peterson decided to change that by running for secretary of state himself, and in the latest poll, he’s ahead by 13 points. The survey of 1,000 registered California voters, conducted by Field Research, found that 30 percent support Peterson, while his closest opponent, Democratic state senator Alex Padilla, polled at 17 percent. California uses a “jungle primary” system, whereby all declared candidates in all parties face off against each other. The top two vote-getters on primary day (that’s June 3 this year) advance to the general election in November.
Peterson’s lead is a big deal, he says, but he notes he’s not the only Republican statewide candidate in a strong position. Fresno mayor Ashley Swearengin, a GOP candidate for state controller, also leads her Democratic opponents in the latest Field poll, with 28 percent support. At the top of the ticket, the GOP’s faring worse. Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, the top Republican challenger, is trailing Democratic incumbent Jerry Brown badly, and Brown’s approval rating is solidly positive.
The GOP’s California comeback won’t come via the governor’s race, at least not this year, but Peterson hopes his race down-ballot will play a role in reenergizing and rebranding the party. Republicans are getting a big help from Democrats in Sacramento who typify what Peterson calls a “culture of corruption.”
Take the secretary of state’s race, for example, where the leading candidate was Democratic state senator Leland Yee of San Francisco. But on March 26, Yee was arrested by the FBI for political corruption and gun trafficking. The story is a doozy, even for California. Yee, a staunch gun-control advocate, is accused of setting up a deal to illegally purchase $2.5 million worth of automatic weapons from a militant Muslim group in the Philippines to sell them to what turned out to be an undercover FBI operation. Yee and his campaign also accepted bribes from that operation to call in political favors. He's since been suspended by the state senate and has dropped out of the secretary of state's race. And's that's provided the opening for Peterson.
8:49 AM, Apr 15, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
An excerpt from Bill Kristol's weekly newsletter:
"One private poll I was shown (now however more than a week old), had the Nebraska Senate race between former state treasurer Shane Osborn and Midland University president Ben Sasse even, with the other candidates far behind. Osborn, having previously been elected statewide, began the race with a huge name ID advantage. The fact that Sasse has caught him suggests Sasse has the momentum and is now the favorite (and I gather that subsequent polling shows him pulling ahead). Osborn's campaign has, as a result, unleashed a wave of negative phone calls (of dubious veracity) about Sasse. These could slow his momentum—but Sasse probably has enough money to counteract them and continue to tell his story. Both are impressive candidates—young (Osborn is 39, Sasse 41), conservative, with interesting life experiences—and either would be a fine addition to the Republican Senate conference. But Sasse's distinctive potential to be an intellectual champion in the fight against Obamacare and a legislative leader in developing a conservative reform agenda may well carry the day.
"In the governor's race, too, it looks as if the outsider candidate may beat the candidate who's held elective office before. When Jon Bruning, who's been Nebraska's attorney general for over a decade, entered the race a couple of months ago, he immediately surged to the lead. But now Pete Ricketts, a businessman running as a candidate of change and bringing sound private sector practices to government, has moved slightly ahead (31-27 in the poll I saw), with the other candidates in the 8 to 12 percent range. And I gather the momentum has stayed over the past week with Ricketts, helped in part by a Sarah Palin endorsement. Anything could happen in the six-way race, and the trailing candidates all hope to replicate the achievement of Deb Fischer in 2012, when the two leading candidates (one of whom was Bruning) beat each other up and she surged late from third place to first. But the odds seems to favor Ricketts, who has run a disciplined campaign. He and Sasse seem to embody what GOP primary voters may turn out to want this year—outsiders who are qualified, conservatives who aren't crazy.
"The primary election is May 13 (and there's no runoff—a plurality wins)."
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7:49 AM, Apr 15, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
A new 30-second TV ad from Republican Senate candidate Tom Cotton hits back at an attack from the Harry Reid-affiliated Senate Majority PAC. The original ad claimed the Arkansas congressman "got paid handsomely working for insurance companies," but the Cotton ad notes that the Washington Post said the ad's claims were all "factually incorrect" and "totally false." Read the Post's fact-check here (with a similar Politifact "false" rating here), then watch the Cotton ad below:
"After 24 years in politics, Mark Pryor has become unfaithful to the truth," the ad concludes.
Cotton is in a tight battle with incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor over the Senate seat in Arkansas. The Real Clear Politics average gives Cotton, a first-term congressman and Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, just a 1.5-point lead over Pryor, who is seeking a third Senate term. The most recent poll, however, found Pryor with a three-point advantage.
7:06 AM, Apr 15, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
Four years after Obamacare became law, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is notifying Medicare providers and suppliers of new fingerprint-based background checks. Eventually, all individuals who hold a five percent or greater stake in a Medicare supplier or provider that is categorized as "high risk" will be subject to the requirement. The provision is part of the Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP Program Integrity Provisions (Title E) of the Affordable Care Act, and gives the HHS secretary broad discretion in applying the background check requirements depending on the potential for abuse, fraud, and/or waste.
The new requirements are spelled out in a document posted online on the website of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) last Friday. The new rules will apply to both current and future enrollees who are classified as "high risk," the stated purpose being to weed out "bad actors" in the Medicare program and prevent any more from enrolling.
This particular document is a "News Flash" from CMS's Medicare Learning Network and is addressed to suppliers and providers who submit claims for "Durable Medical Equipment Medicare Administrative Contractors (DME MACs) and Home Health and Hospice (HH&H) MACs for services provided to Medicare beneficiaries." There is no effective date or implementation date listed on the document; rather, the document states that "fingerprint-based background check implementation will be phased in beginning in 2014," and that those affected will receive letters after which the individuals will have thirty days to comply with the finger-printing requirement. The fingerprints will be submitted to the FBI for a background check and will be stored by the government in accordance with federal requirements and FBI guidelines.
Although initially the new regulations will only be applied to providers and suppliers of "Durable Medicare Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics, and Supplies (DMEPOS) suppliers or Home Health Agencies (HHA)," the "high risk" category is defined at the discretion of the HHS secretary and may be expanded in the future.
5:10 PM, Apr 14, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
From U.S. Treasury Department:
Today, the U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew announced the signing of a $1 billion loan guarantee agreement for Ukraine. This guarantee, when completed, will complement the Government of Ukraine's International Monetary Fund (IMF) reform program and underscores the United States' commitment to Ukraine.
This comes as Ukraine is threatening to stop paying what it says are usurious prices for Russian natural gas, and the Russians are threatening to cut off deliveries for past underpayments. Thus, as Zero Hedge points out, the right headline for this story could be:
US Pays Half Of Gazprom's Overdue Invoice With $1 Billion Ukraine Loan Guarantee
Meanwhile, stand by for news of further U.S. sanctions against Russia.
3:14 PM, Apr 14, 2014 • By JAY COST
The Hill reports:
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) lowered the projected cost of ObamaCare's health insurance benefits Monday by $104 billion over 10 years.
The law's insurance coverage provisions will now cost close to $1.4 trillion between 2015 and 2024, about $100 billion less than previously estimated, the CBO said.
What is driving the lowered estimate? According to the report released by CBO, it has primarily to do with lower-than-expected premiums for exchange policies. So, good news for the Obama administration? Not so fast. Per CBO:
A crucial factor in the current revision was an analysis of the characteristics of plans offered through the exchanges in 2014. Previously, CBO and [the Joint Committee on Taxation] had expected that those plans’ characteristics would closely resemble the characteristics of employment-based plans throughout the projection period. However, the plans being offered through the exchanges this year appear to have, in general, lower payment rates for providers, narrower networks of providers, and tighter management of their subscribers’ use of health care than employment-based plans do.
So far, CBO is only projecting a modest increase in premiums for 2015, although it notes, “actual exchange premiums for 2015 may differ from those CBO and JCT have projected because insurers could have different expectations of their costs for that year.” The late surge of enrollees might help keep rates down, but what really matters is not so much the political class’s expectations of what enrollment would look like as of, say, January, but rather what insurance company projections were when they set rates nearly a year ago.
The factors that will influence rates in 2015 include: (a) increasing healthcare costs in general; (b) the grandfathering of “non-compliant” plans by the Obama administration; (c) the difficulty of estimating the 2014 risk pool because of late enrollees and government limits on what health questions insurers could ask of its customers; (d) differences in the actual versus expected ratio of healthy to unhealthy enrollees; (e) state by state variations in the risk pools and costs of providing care; (f) the “Three R’s” -- risk adjustment, reinsurance, and risk corridors -- meant to limit insurance company losses for the first few years of the program; (g) the partial sunsetting of the reinsurance program, which helped keep rates down in 2014.
Insurers will start filing rates with government regulators later this spring.
2:26 PM, Apr 14, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Lolita C. Baldour of the AP reports that:
A Russian fighter jet made multiple, close-range passes near an American warship in the Black Sea for more than 90 minutes Saturday amid escalating tensions in the region, a U.S. military official said Monday.
This sort of thing was routine in the bad old days. And one would have thought it totally out-of-place (bad manners, almost) here in the enlightened 21st century.
Furthermore, haven’t they heard in Moscow that President Obama won reelection and now has more flexibility in his dealings with Russia?
12:23 PM, Apr 14, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
The Watertown Daily Times reports that Elise Stefanik beat out Matt Doheny to win the endorsement of the Conservative party in New York's 21st congressional district:
State Conservative Party Chairman Michael R. Long said an “overwhelming” 17 out of 19 members of the executive committee supported Ms. Stefanik because they believe she is a “new face” that “can best deliver a solution.”
“Matt had run twice and — not because they wanted a change for the sake of change — they felt Elise was the person to possibly win back the seat,” Mr. Long said. “It wasn’t a negative vote against Matt. They were all positive votes supporting Elise."
The Conservative party's endorsement should provide a big boost to Stefanik in the June 24 Republican primary (assuming Doheny, who has lost races in this district in 2010 an 2012, doesn't drop out of the primary before then).
Divisions between the Republican party and conservative activists have helped hand this very competitive upstate New York congressional district to Democrat Bill Owens in 2009, 2010, and 2012. These recent failures may encourage Republicans to avoid splitting the vote by uniting with conservatives and nominating Stefanik.
Owens announced earlier this year he would not be seeking reelection to the seat.
11:01 AM, Apr 14, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
What we usually hear about when the subject is climate change is stuff meant to scare you out of your socks. Rising oceans, violent storms, draughts, famines, plagues of locusts … and so forth. The implied alternative is austerity so severe – no cars, rationed electricity, smaller houses, once-a-week cold showers, etc. – that people are inclined to think, “Well, that will never happen,” and tune out.
Secretary of State John Kerry is a believer and a scold of those who are called “deniers” to smear them as akin to those who believe the Holocaust never happened. Mr. Kerry is, himself, a big energy consumer. One trembles to contemplate the size of his personal carbon footprint, not to mention the number of tons of the stuff he has dumped into the atmosphere on the government’s dime. And he is now trying on a new argument. It is a variation on the old, “in crisis, opportunity line,” and the way Kerry sees it, as reported by Kyle Balluck of The Hill:
“So many of the technologies that will help us fight climate change are far cheaper, more readily available, and better performing than they were … less than a decade ago. These technologies can cut carbon pollution while growing economic opportunity at the same time. The global energy market represents a $6 trillion opportunity, with 6 billion users around the world. By 2035, investment in the energy sector is expected to reach nearly $17 trillion.”
Leaving one to wonder why, if there is so much money to be made in these technologies, it isn’t already happening. Why does the American Secretary of State have to go around making the pitch that, “Kid, you can make trillions in renewables.”
Also, one thinks, have we not heard this and tried this before? Does Solyndra ring any bells with Mr. Kerry?
If Mr. Kerry would like to make a point about climate change, how about promising to reduce his personal and professional carbon emissions by 10 percent this year, thus setting an example for the government and the rest of us.
10:41 AM, Apr 14, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Michelle Nunn, the presumptive Democratic nominee for an open Senate seat in Georgia, has raised $2.4 million in the first quarter of 2014. The Associated Press reports:
A spokesman for Democrat Michelle Nunn says she'll report about $2.4 million in contributions, her strongest fundraising quarter to date in her bid for Georgia's open U.S. Senate seat.
Seven Republicans and four Democrats are competing in the May 20 primary. The race is being closely watched this year as Republicans seek a majority in the Senate.
A Nunn spokesman says 20,000 donors have contributed to the campaign in eight months. Rep. Jack Kingston has been leading the GOP field in fundraising. He is expected to report about $1.1 million in contributions, with about $2.1 million in the bank.
Nunn is running for the seat currently held by retiring Republican Saxby Chambliss, and the race is considered a long-shot pickup for Democrats in an otherwise dismal year. The daughter of former senator Sam Nunn, she is campaigning as a moderate, business-friendly Democrat.
Joining Kingston in the crowded GOP primary are businessman David Perdue, former secretary of state Karen Handel, and fellow congressmen Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey. The primary will be held on May 20.
8:14 AM, Apr 14, 2014 • By MICHAEL ASTRUE
Politics at its best brings people and groups together in unexpected ways. Although the Reagan administration responded sluggishly to the emergence of HIV in the 1980s, its last FDA commissioner, Frank Young, reached out to the very HIV activists who had for years made life miserable for him and other HHS officials.
Young’s outreach was an act of courage and vision for which he never received appropriate credit. Most of Young’s senior staff saw nothing in the HIV epidemic that required urgent reconsideration of the agency’s unreasonably burdensome rules and practices that had killed development of countless innovative therapies.
Young bravely overrode his staff and created a regulatory “fast track” for novel HIV therapies. His reform explicitly embraced the principle that the FDA would approve HIV drugs on the basis of “surrogate endpoints”—biological data that were likely, but not proven by past FDA standards, to measure clinical improvement. For HIV the FDA relied on T-cell counts as a measure of the strength of a patient’s immune system.
Young’s shift in policy quickly led to the approval of two HIV drugs; they were mediocre drugs by today’s standards, but they bought time for desperate patients until far superior drugs of the 1990s began to make HIV a substantially manageable disease. His initiative also gave patients an alternative to the technically illegal black-market stores called “buying clubs,” where one of their most popular products, ribavirin, was actually accelerating the death of the customers. It is worth noting that two of the start-up companies that developed HIV protease inhibitors in the 1990s after the creation of the fast track have gone on to become developers of very effective drugs for another scourge with similar biological mechanisms, hepatitis C.
In 1989 Vice President Quayle’s Competitiveness Council, led by future congressman David McIntosh, began work on a plan to extend the HIV approval rules to other life-threatening diseases. When McIntosh transmitted the draft 10-point plan to the FDA, the FDA truculently replied that it could only support minor proposed changes in one point. HHS Secretary Louis Sullivan did not want to aggravate friction with FDA commissioner David Kessler by overriding him.
I then received a quiet but emotional call from a senior White House official who expressed to me President Bush’s frustration at the FDA’s intransigence and asked me to try to broker a compromise. Accelerating breakthrough therapies was not just an abstract policy dispute for President Bush—he had lost a young daughter to a rare cancer.
Revisions responsive to some FDA concerns and meetings with senior FDA officials did not break the deadlock. I then went in to talk with Kessler, who initially defended the agency party line. For rhetorical purposes, I asked David if he wanted to revoke the HIV fast track, which he had no interest in doing. I then pressed him on the moral distinction between accelerating drugs for HIV patients but not for patients dying of cancer and other fatal diseases. Knowing David was a pediatrician, I also shamelessly included some devastating diseases of childhood.
7:01 AM, Apr 14, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Here's video of the detained suspect in yesterday's shooting at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas:
"Heil Hitler," the suspect yells from the back of a police cruiser.
The Kansas City Star has more details:
A 73-year-old southwest Missouri man with a long history of anti-Semitism is suspected of killing two people outside Overland Park’s Jewish Community Center and then a third at a nearby Jewish assisted living facility.
After officers arrested Frazier Glenn Cross — an Aurora, Mo., man better known as F. Glenn Miller — Sunday afternoon, authorities said he went on a rant inside the patrol car. Though Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass wouldn’t say what Cross hollered, a television crew captured him on video while he was handcuffed in the back of the car.
“Heil Hitler,” Miller yelled out, and then he bobbed his head up and down.
Four hours after the shooting rampage was first reported, Douglass said in a news conference that it was too early to know definitively what the shooter’s motives were, but added: “We are investigating this as a hate crime.”
In all, the gunman fired at five people Sunday afternoon, police said, but he missed two of his targets, who were not injured. Police said the man had not only a shotgun but also a handgun and possibly an assault weapon.
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