President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting with members of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration at the White House. From left are co-chair Robert Bauer, Vice President Joe Biden, Obama and co-chair Benjamin Ginsberg. The Commission was created following the President’s 2013 State of the Union pledge to identify non-partisan ways to shorten lines at polling places and provide better access to the polls for all voters.
Washington Post: Bipartisan Election Commission Releases List Of Suggested Fixes
A bipartisan commission appointed by President Obama to study barriers to voting recommended a series of steps Wednesday, including several to take advantage of technological advances, to make casting ballots simpler in the next election. Concluding a six-month review, the Presidential Commission on Election Administration said in its report that jurisdictions should expand online voter registration and early balloting, update electronic voting equipment as first-generation voting machines grow obsolete, and share voter registration records across state lines to protect against fraud.
The 112-page report also suggests improvements in the more traditional ways Americans have cast ballots. Those include increasing the number of schools used as polling places, simplifying voting for members of the military and other Americans living overseas through better access to state Web sites and insuring that polling places are close to voters’ homes. “One of the troubling aspects of the work that they did was hearing from local officials indicating that we could have even more problems in the future if we don’t act now,” Obama said before meeting with commission members at the White House.
I have a confession to make: I worked for the phone company.
No, not THAT phone company. And it wasn’t just one, but a few. For years before I hung up my CAT-5 cables for the pleasures of librarianship, I toiled away in the telecom canyons of downtown Los Angeles. I worked as a billing manager, which was a soul-destroying job, but paid my bills as I earned my library science degree.
I’m sure you’ll ask: “LL, what does a billing manager do?” Well, I’m sure glad you asked!
I worked with… METADATA! Swam in it, day in and day out, for 10 years. I became expert at SQL queries. Ask me to search a number and how many calls it made, and my query would have an answer in a few seconds.
Of course, what I couldn’t tell you is to whom that number belonged. I couldn’t tell if it belonged to Ethan Kowalski of Peoria, IL, or Yves Hubbert of the Troisieme Arrondissement. I could tell you there was a call placed from Peoria to Paris, and bill accordingly. But that was about it.
What is this phone metadata of which I speak? Again, glad you asked.
North Philadelphia’s Bright Hope Baptist Church hosted a health event Monday in honor of Martin Luther King Day that offered free flu shots as well as help signing up for Obamacare. Patricia Coulter rolled up her sleeve for her flu shot provided by Walgreen’s, but the President and CEO of the Urban League of Philadelphia also had her eye on sign-ups for Obamacare elsewhere in the room: “When people are healthy, they are energized,” she tells KYW Newsradio.
“They can work. They can provide for their families. You can’t separate health and well-being from economic and jobs and businesses.” Levana Layendecker from Equality, Pennsylvania: “Health insurance companies would often discriminate against LGBT people, charging more, basically treating being a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender person as a pre-existing condition and that is no longer allowed.”
When President Barack Obama’s campaign machine restructured itself as a politically active nonprofit in 2013, one goal was to keep attracting the legions of small-dollar donors who had twice helped catapult Obama into the White House. Now the numbers are in for 2013, and they show that Organizing for Action, as the pro-Obama nonprofit is known, has been wildly successful. During its first year, Organizing for Action raised $26.3 million, with 57 percent of that sum coming from people who gave less than $250, according to the Center for Public Integrity’s analysis of records released by the group.
Donors who gave between $250 and $1,000 accounted for another 14 percent of the total. Katie Hogan, an Organizing for Action spokeswoman, said the group was “proud” of its support from more than 421,000 grassroots donors who have helped the nonprofit work to “tip the scales back towards the American people and away from special interests in Washington.” During its inaugural year, the group advocated for Obama’s signature health care reform law, for action to curb climate change and for gun safety legislation. It has not contributed to candidates’ political campaigns or run advertisements boosting or opposing specific politicians. Obama’s presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012 broke records for the enormous sums they collected from individual donors who gave small-dollar amounts.
Washington Post: Democrats Win State Senate Seat In Northern Virginia – And Perhaps Control Of The Chamber
Democrats remained on course to take control of the Virginia Senate after winning a key special election Tuesday, as thousands of Northern Virginia voters braved snow and bitter winds to cast ballots in an unusual, three-way contest. In the race to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D), Democrat Jennifer Wexton prevailed over Republican John Whitbeck and independent Joe T. May, a former Republican delegate running as an independent, according to unofficial election results. The district encompasses a slice of Fairfax County and a hefty portion of eastern Loudoun County, a region that has leaned toward Democrats in recent elections but remains battleground territory.
With the Virginia Senate previously split 20-20, Democrats must hold the two seats vacated by Herring and Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam (D) so they don’t lose control to Republicans. If the chamber remains evenly divided, Northam would act as a tie-breaking vote, giving Democrats control of the chamber. The race to replace Northam in his former Senate district, which is based in Norfolk and also leans Democratic, remains undecided. Del. Lynwood W. Lewis (D-Accomack) was certified the winner of a special election by just nine votes, prompting Republican Wayne Coleman on Thursday to request a recount.
The Independent: Pope Francis Tells Davos Business Leaders: ‘Ensure Humanity Is Served By Wealth, Not Ruled By It’
Pope Francis has challenged the world’s business leaders to put their wealth to good use in serving humanity, and to oversee the “better distribution of wealth”. In a message addressing more than 2,500 participants at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland yesterday, he said more must be done to promote the “growth of equality” alongside an economic recovery.
The Pope’s comments came as a report released by Oxfam found that the 85 richest people in the world have as much wealth as the poorest half of the entire international population, around 3.5 billion people. “I ask you to ensure that humanity is served by wealth and not ruled by it,” Pope Francis said in the message read at the opening ceremony by Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice.
“The growth of equality demands something more than economic growth, even though it presupposes it. It demands first of all ‘a transcendent vision of the person’,” he said in the message. “It also calls for decisions, mechanisms and processes directed to a better distribution of wealth, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality.”
The drinking water in nine West Virginia counties has finally been declared safe, or mostly safe. But many people say they can still smell the licorice-like odor of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol — in the sink, in the shower, in the air, especially in neighborhoods close to the Elk River. I say “mostly” because so little is known about the toxicity of the chemical, known as MCHM, that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised pregnant women in the affected area not to drink the water, at least for now. Unfortunately, this warning came after the CDC had already told residents the water was safe for everyone.
More than a week since the chemical spill in Charleston, the state capital, contaminated the water supply for 300,000 people, there has been little solid information about the danger to human health — and little outrage from officials in Washington, who seem to expect West Virginians to take the whole thing in stride. I can’t help but wonder what the reaction would be if this had happened on the Upper East Side of Manhattan or in one of the wealthier Zip codes of Southern California. Imagine living for a week without tap water for drinking, cooking, bathing, even washing clothes. Imagine restaurants having to shut down, hotels putting sinks and showers off-limits, nursing homes trying to care for patients with only bottled water at their disposal. Imagine learning that there was essentially no information on the long-term health effects of a chemical you could smell everywhere you went.
Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were charged Tuesday with illegally accepting gifts, luxury vacations and large loans from a wealthy Richmond area businessman who sought special treatment from state government. Authorities allege that for nearly two years, the McDonnells repeatedly asked executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr. for loans and gifts of money, clothes, golf fees and equipment, trips, and private plane rides. The gifts and loans totaled at least $165,000.
In exchange, authorities allege, the McDonnells worked in concert to lend the prestige of the governor’s office to Williams’s struggling company, Star Scientific, a former small cigarette manufacturer that now sells dietary supplements. McDonnell, 59, is the first governor ever to face criminal charges in Virginia, a state that has prided itself on a history of clean and ethical politics, and the charges will probably accelerate a push for the legislature to tighten state ethics laws. The criminal prosecution marks a stunning crash for a politician who was considered for the Republican vice presidential nomination in 2012 and who, just a year ago, was considered a credible prospective candidate for president.
Jon Terbush: The Sleeper Issue That Could Help Democrats In 2014
However, there is one crucial piece of ObamaCare that may well become a big winner for Democrats by the end of the year: The dramatic expansion of Medicaid. Unlike the overall law, the expansion of Medicaid is actually quite popular with voters of all political stripes. Even in the Deep South, more than six in ten support expanding Medicaid, according to one survey last year; conservatives split almost evenly on the issue. This presents the GOP with two interconnected problems.
First, it undermines part of the party’s “repeal” crusade, since nixing ObamaCare would mean ending a popular policy that has already extended benefits to millions of Americans, many of them previously uninsured. In red West Virginia, some 75,000 people have already enrolled in Medicaid, far higher than expected, according to The New York Times. As a result, the number of uninsured people in the state has plummeted by about a third. That’s a perfect 2014 Democratic ad campaign right there: People are happy now that they’re covered by Medicaid, and Republicans want to take it away.
Without the scandal-engulfed New Jersey governor, Republicans don’t have a candidate who could even come close to the votes needed to win the presidency in 2016. I trust you’re enjoying the Christie panic among Republican establishment types as much as I am. That New York Times story on Sunday, with big boosters like Home Depot’s Kenneth Langone fretting publicly that he really must surround himself with better people (so it’s their fault!), combined with the cable damage-control efforts by the likes of Rudy Giuliani, really shows the extent to which the party big shots have been counting on Christie to save them.
The fact that the GOP establishment needs to come face-to-face with is that they have no one to blame for this but themselves. They’ve reached the point where they almost have to have a Northeasterner like Christie to run for president, just as they had to settle for Romney last time. They’ve let their party go so far off the deep end that practically no Republican officeholder from any other region of the country could appeal to enough moderates in enough purple and blue states to win back the territory the party ceded to the Democrats in the last two elections. Remember: the Republicans come into the next presidential election with 206 reliable electoral votes from states their nominees have won at least four of the last six elections. The Democrats’ corresponding number is 257 (just 13 shy of the victory threshold).
In his long interview with David Remnick in the latest issue of The New Yorker, President Obama gave a few thoughts on the dynamics behind his job approval rating. For anyone who studies public opinion, and the intersection of politics and race, they were banal: “There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black President,” Obama said. “Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black President.”
Naturally, this led to an explosion of sputtering outrage from the right-wing, which was shocked that Obama would even mention race, much less in the context of his approval rating. This isn’t a coincidence. What political scientists call “racial resentment”—the intersection of anti-black sentiments and traditional American views on hard work and individualism—is one of the most reliable predicators of partisan affiliation. And according to a 2010 paper by political scientists Michael Tesler and David Sears, voters high on the racial resentment scale became more partisan in their attachment to the Republican Party.
Indeed, according to another paper from researchers at the University of Michigan, Stanford, and the University of Chicago, there’s been a marked increase in the number of voters with explicit anti-black attitudes in the last five years, which rose from 47.6 percent in 2008 to 50.9 percent in 2012. What’s more, anti-black attitudes are heavily distributed on the right side of the political divide, though they exist among Democrats and independents as well.
Covered California™ and the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) announced today that 500,108 Californians enrolled for health insurance and selected plans through the end of 2013 under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, while 584,000 applicants were determined likely eligible for Medi-Cal coverage. DHCS also transitioned 630,000 individuals into the Medi-Cal program from the state’s Low Income Health Program. The statistics, reflecting enrollment activity from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, 2013, show that the demand for health care coverage in California remains strong. And the preliminary total of enrollments in Covered California health insurance plans from Oct. 1, 2013, through Jan. 15, 2014, has increased to more than 625,000, demonstrating continued vigor in the new insurance marketplace.
“We’re encouraged by the outpouring of interest and participation in the state insurance exchange,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee. “While our objective is to insure all eligible Californians over time, independent estimates for Covered California’s subsidy-eligible enrollment by the March 31 deadline range between 487,000 and 696,000. These impressive numbers for the first half of open enrollment and the continued momentum in January tell us we are on track to meeting, if not beating, those enrollment estimates as we continue to pick up steam.” Lee noted that of those enrolled so far, 424,936 are eligible for subsidies. “We are pleased that Californians — many for the first time — are getting quality, affordable health insurance to protect themselves and their families,” Lee added.