Saturday, February 17, 2018
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Weekly Address: Health Reform Starts to Kick In

It has now been a little over a month since I signed health insurance reform into law. And while it will take some time to fully implement this law, reform is already delivering real benefits to millions of Americans. Already, we are seeing a health care system that holds insurance companies more accountable and gives consumers more control.

President Obama on April Jobs Numbers

Great news. Now, if only Greece, Portugal, Spain et al. don't collapse, dragging down the world economy once again.

Mark Warner on Offshore Oil Drilling: Pause, But Not “Never Ever Again”

I agree with Mark Warner regarding offshore oil drilling that we should pause, I just believe that "pause" should be "forever." Instead, we need to focus on energy efficiency, offshore wind, wave, solar, even nuclear power.  The bottom line, though, is that we need to wean ourselves off of polluting fossil fuels and move to the next generation of carbon-free, clean energy. Offshore oil drilling certainly does not put us on that path.

P.S. Instead of more disastrous oil spills, how about "The Five Percent Solution?"

Cooch’s Health Care Lawsuit: No “Standing,” No Clue

If there was any doubt that Ken Cuccinelli is wasting the Attorney General's office's time and resources (aka, Virginia taxpayer dollars) on his frivolous lawsuit against health care reform, I've got some material for him to read.

Specifically, I refer Cooch to this:

...neither of the courts handling these cases, nor any other federal court, is likely to address-let alone resolve-the merits of the issue in the context of an attorney general's lawsuit. Instead, these cases are all but sure to be promptly tossed out of court for procedural reasons obvious to a first-year law student.

The first problem is that state governments are the wrong plaintiffs to challenge the individual insurance mandate. No state will ever have to pay a penny in taxes or be told to take out health insurance: The law applies only to individuals. The attorneys general might have attempted to plug this gap by adding individual plaintiffs to their complaints. But even if they found those people, the AGs couldn't sue on their behalf right now, because the mandate does not take effect until 2014. Between now and then, all kinds of things could cause plaintiffs to lose their standing to sue: Their health could deteriorate and they could actually need health insurance; they might get a job with health benefits; or they might just have a change of heart. Any or all of these contingencies are quite likely, if a Massachusetts state government survey showing that only 2.6 percent of Massachusetts residents do not comply with the mandatory insurance requirement in that state's law is any indication. In lawyers' language, not only will the state attorneys general never have standing to bring these claims on their own; even the claims of real individuals are not yet "ripe."

So, no "standing," not yet "ripe," utterly clueless. Other than that, Cooch's lawsuit is a great idea! Heh.

By the way, I checked with Chap Petersen - a far better attorney than Ken Cuccinelli will ever be, and that is not meant as a "backhanded compliment" -  and he said "I agree with it in respect to the fact that the Fed law does not take effect til 2014 so the issue is not yet ripe." Chap added that, "[i]n the meantime, the requirement could be amended or repealed -- or the state law (like Virginia's) that prohibits the requirement could be repealed." In other words, Cooch's lawsuit is premature from a legal perspective and should be promptly thrown out of court. If only we could throw Cooch out office for gross incompetence and overall insanity...

Washington Post: UVA Should Fight Cooch’s “politically tinged witch hunt”

For once, I completely agree with the Washington Post editorial board on something.
By equating controversial results with legal fraud, Mr. Cuccinelli demonstrates a dangerous disregard for scientific method and academic freedom. The remedy for unsatisfactory data or analysis is public criticism from peers and more data, not a politically tinged witch hunt or, worse, a civil penalty. Scientists and other academics inevitably will get things wrong, and they will use public funds in the process, because failure is as important to producing good scholarship as success. For the commonwealth to persecute scientists because one official or another dislikes their findings is the fastest way to cripple not only its stellar flagship university, but also its entire public higher education system.

That's why the university should immediately challenge the attorney general's "civil investigative demand" for documents, which the law allows, and which a university spokeswoman says it is considering. It's also why Mr. McDonnell should condemn the attorney general and aid the university, making it clear that Mr. Cuccinelli speaks only for himself.

Further, I strongly agree with the Post that UVA needs to fight back against Cooch's "war on the freedom of academic inquiry," and that Bob McDonnell needs to "repudiate Mr. Cuccinelli's abuse of the legal code." As the Post writes, if UVA and McDonnell don't fight back against Cooch, "the quality of Virginia's universities will suffer for years to come." That's completely unacceptable.

P.S. The next 3 years, 8 months under Grand Inquisitor Cuccinelli are going to be a nightmare. Whoever thought that Cooch would make a better AG than Steve Shannon needs to have their heads examined, pronto.

UPDATE #1: It looks like UVA will not resist Cooch's subpoena. That's very unfortunate.

UPDATE #2: Science Magazine publishes a letter from 255 members of the National Academy of Sciences decrying "the recent escalation of political assaults on scientists in general and on climate scientists in particular."  With regard to climate science, the letter asserts (correctly), that "there is compelling, comprehensive, and consistent objective evidence that humans are changing the climate in ways that threaten our societies and the ecosystems on which we depend."  It adds (also correctly) that "recent assaults on climate science and, more disturbingly, on climate scientists by climate change deniers, are typically driven by special interests or dogma, not by an honest effort to provide an alternative theory that credibly satisfies the evidence." Very true.

Best YouTube Covers: “God Only Knows”

As part of my continuing series of interesting and/or amazing music videos I come across on YouTube, here are four covers of of the Beach Boys "God Only Knows," a song which Paul McCartney said "is one of the few songs that reduces me to tears every time I hear it."  So, grab some tissues and enjoy. :)

More after the "flip"

Webb vs. Bloomberg on Taxpayer Fairness Act

According to Senator Webb's office, NY City Mayor Bloomberg is urging the NY Congressional delegation to vote no on Webb's Taxpayer Fairness Act.  According to Bloomberg, this bill (which "puts a one-time windfall tax on 2009 bonuses above $400,000 paid to executives of financial institutions that received $5 billion or more in taxpayer support from the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) or the or the Housing and Economic Recovery Act 2008") is " New York" and would "badly... hurt at a time when we can least afford to lose jobs and tax revenue." Here's Webb's response:
This is a carefully drafted, one-shot amendment, directed only to a small group of firms that received more than five billion dollars of bailout money. Its purpose is to give American taxpayers an upside in the recovery of our economic system, which became possible only because their tax dollars saved it. Scholars from across the philosophical spectrum agree: as a matter of equity, the rewards should be shared with the taxpayers who made it possible.

It's ironic that the very people who caused this economic meltdown now believe they should receive billions in bonus payments that were made possible only because our taxpayers were required to save the economy from their errors in judgment. Some of these taxpayers don't even own stocks.

Nor is this an attack on New York City. In fact, two of the largest firms that would be affected -- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- are located in Washington, DC and Virginia.

When regions of Virginia are experiencing more than 21% unemployment and the struggling economy is hurting so many working Americans, it is only just that America's working people feel that they also are being looked after by our leaders.

Obama Administration Blocks Oil Drilling Off Virginia’s Coast

Great news from Environment Virginia. For more, see the New York Times article, which reports that "the Interior Department has indefinitely suspended plans for an oil and gas lease sale off the Virginia coastline." Sorry, Bob, there goes your "drill baby drill!" :)
Richmond - In a reversal of its recent announcement on offshore drilling off the coast of Virginia, the Obama administration today announced its decision to suspend Lease Sale 220 off the coast of Virginia citing the ongoing review of OCS safety issues. The announcement comes in light of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico caused when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank in the past two weeks.

"The Obama administration has taken an important first step today by delaying lease sale 220," said Environment Virginia Policy Advocate J.R. Tolbert. "We are optimistic that the Department of Interior's review of this tragedy will convince them of what we know to be true, offshore drilling is a dirty and dangerous business."

Blistering FRONTLINE Story on For-Profit Education Industry Features Chief Lobbyist Harris Miller

Earlier this week, FRONTLINE explored the shady world of online, for-profit education. One of my favorite quotes relates to how this industry is milking the federal government as a "cash cow": "The taxpayers are essentially funding this industry; something like 75% of their revenue comes from federal grants and loans." According to FRONTLINE, "This is a subject of increasing concern to the Obama administration, which, last month, remade the federal student loan program, and is now proposing changes that may make it harder for the for-profit colleges to qualify."

So, who's at the center of all this?  That's right, none other than our old pal, Harris Miller, last seen in 2006 calling Jim Webb a racist, misogynist, and anti-Semite. Here's a transcript from Part 3 of the FRONTLINE story with Miller:

We talked to the chief Washington lobbyist for the for-profit schools, Harris Miller.

Frontline: "The industry has a black eye, has been struggling for credibility, why?

Harris Miller: "I don't think the industry has a black eye, I think [they] are doing very well, growing by 25% a year, 2.8 million students attending our schools. We have some challenges because there have been some allegations that everything is not perfect, I wish it were.

Frontline: "But what about the pressure of Wall Street to have them grow."

Harris Miller: "The pressure is to deliver a high education quality for their students. Our schools know that any time they step out of line, there's a huge risk and there's a large focus on compliance at all times, including on enrollment issues."

Yeah, right, I'm sure that's what Wall Street cares about regarding the for-profit education industry; not profit, but "education quality for their students." Uh huh.

Anyway, Frontline then goes on to discuss the tremendous pressure put on recruiters to meet quotas, and how this "challenges anyone's integrity." The message in the industry is to create a "sense of urgency" among potential students, "Dig deep, get to their pain, get to what's bothering them, so that that way you can convince them that a college degree is going to solve all their problems."

It gets worse, though.

[more after the "flip"]

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