Another Obamacare Fiasco





Obamacare Before After SC

President Barack Obama said his biggest mistake of 2013 was the rollout of the Obamacare website. But the website was just a small manifestation of the many real problems with Obamacare, some of which have only recently become apparent. Actually, his biggest mistake may have occurred during the government shutdown negotiations, by not taking the Republicans up on their efforts to postpone its implementation by a year. Just think of the concessions he might have gotten from them on a host of other issues—such as immigration reform and the minimum wage—and the aggravation he could have avoided if he had agreed to push the pause button until after the 2014 election.

Accuracy in Media has pointed out many of the problems with Obamacare. It is a job-killing disaster, it was sold to Congress and the American public based on a series of lies, and it is doing serious damage to the quality of healthcare in this country. Millions of people have had their policies cancelled, with tens of millions more expected to have theirs cancelled once the employer mandate kicks in. The fact that President Obama has arbitrarily delayed aspects of the law, such as the employer mandate, means that he recognizes them as politically damaging to the Democrats.

People are being asked to sign up on a website that is not secure, and is in fact even less secure than it was two months ago, with no recourse for ordinary citizens if their most personal information is hacked. And the government is misrepresenting and concealing the number of people signing up for Obamacare, by not distinguishing between previously uninsured people who have now purchased insurance from those who have merely gone online to explore their options, or those who are signing up for Medicaid or subsidized policies.

The health insurance industry (which last week saw its “Industry Outlook” in terms of creditworthiness, as characterized by Moody’s, go from stable to negative) is protected against losses by a taxpayer-funded bailout provision in the so-called Affordable Care Act.

The incentives are perverse throughout Obamacare, such as cities with unfunded health-care commitments preparing to dump their retirees on the state exchanges, and companies reducing the number of full-time employees and the number of hours they can work. And the system is supposed to be enforced by the IRS, which has been highly politicized under this administration. What could possibly go wrong?

On top of all that, there has been the serious problem of cronyism. Healthcare.gov is additional proof that cronyism continues to be the name of the game in America under President Obama. As AIM previously explored in a special report, CGI Federal was awarded the contract to work on the government health care website after donating extensively to the Obama campaign. It was the only bidder. The company’s senior vice president also attended Princeton with Michelle Obama. Remember when no-bid contracts were a source of outrage and cause for investigation? No more.

Now, the Canadian-owned CGI Federal is out; and a new company, called Accenture, is in. Except that the company winning this no-bid contract has offices in Chicago and is incorporated in Ireland, which its spokesman says “reflect[s] its global business across Europe, Asia, and the Americas.” It works through tax havens. “Accenture previously was incorporated in America but then reportedly moved to the tax haven of Bermuda,” reported Aaron Klein for WorldNetDaily. Bloomberg News wonders why the Senate isn’t investigating Accenture for using tax havens, like they investigated Apple last year for that very same matter. “Democrats in Congress generally don’t want to be seen badmouthing the White House,” they conclude, “or the Affordable Care Act.”

And Accenture looks to be a hefty Obama supporter as well. Accenture employees, family members, and its political action committee gave nearly four times as much to Obama as they did to Mitt Romney. They have given nearly $300,000 to Obama’s campaigns over the years.

In a letter to Front Page Magazine, Accenture Director of Corporate Communications James McAvoy clarified that the Accenture PAC itself did not contribute to Obama’s Senate campaign or his presidential campaigns.

But the amount given by employees overall is dwarfed by the amount bundled by Accenture senior manager Tracey Patterson’s husband, Chaka Patterson. He is listed on the Obama-Biden website as having bundled over $500,000 for the re-election campaign in 2012. Chaka received a shout out from the President on June 1, 2012, when he was traveling through Chicago and Minneapolis to make six fundraisers in one day. Chaka’s and his wife’s party was among them.

And another former employee of Accenture, Rayid Ghani, self-identifies as the former “Chief Scientist at [the] Obama for America 2012 campaign.”

“Rayid Ghani, chief scientist of the Obama for America data analytics team, came to the Obama campaign in 2011 after a long stint directing the analytics research group at Accenture Technology Labs, where he engineered new ways for companies to track consumers’ personal preferences,” reported The Daily Caller.

In other words, the administration transitioned from using a company for its government website that had known ties to the Obama administration to one that has less-well-known ties—but arguably ones that also run deep.

Where are the mainstream media in reporting this information? They seem to have no interest in exposing Obama’s revolving-door cronyism, and no-bid contracts. Can it get any worse for the American taxpayer?

Yes, it can.

It seems that, according to the New York Post, Obama has effectively outsourced his health care project by giving it to this company. “Accenture has 80,000 Indian workers, 35,000 in the Philippines and only 40,000 in the United States,” reported Robert Oak for the Post on January 18. “Over 40 percent of their worth comes from outsourcing. In all probability, the tech jobs awarded under this contract and paid for with U.S. tax dollars are going abroad.”

“But even if the work is done locally, chances are the employees are foreigners brought in for lower wages using the controversial H-1B visa program—where companies are allowed to hire guest workers from abroad,” reports Oak. In other words, those working on the website likely come from outside the U.S. and are paid as much as 25% less than American workers.

Accenture ranked very high among American companies in using these visas, reports Oak. The year before last, Accenture brought in over 4,000 foreign workers on these visas; they even paid one “chief programmer” about $25,000 a year.

The rationale, argues Oaks, for hiring foreign engineers and programmers is that there aren’t enough American ones. But, he notes, “It has been proved repeatedly there is no shortage of Americans with technical skills and talent.”

Will Accenture’s future employees be paid fairly? Probably not. Oak reports that in 2012, the median salary for an H-1B visa worker at Accenture was about $30,000 less than the median salary for an equivalent visa worker at Amazon.

For a comprehensive overhaul of the U.S. health care system and a vital component of Obama’s signature legislation, the administration has chosen to rely once again on a foreign-affiliated technology company with ties to Obama’s own fundraising apparatus. This is one company guaranteed to underpay its workers and outsource its production.

It’s time the media took notice of these facts and stopped ignoring the inconvenient truths about Accenture—and about Obamacare.

This commentary originally appeared at AIM.org and is reprinted here with permission.





Time To Investigate Obama’s State Department!





Hillary Spartacus Not Obama SC

Corruption, malfeasance, and complacency represent the stories we heard about the State Department regarding its actions in 2012. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton blamed a fatal attack on an American ambassador and three other Americans on an anti-Islamic video then inflaming the Middle East. Her response when questioned before Congress? “What difference at this point does it make?”

It still makes a lot of difference, and not just because of Benghazi itself. There is a larger culture of corruption at the Department of State.

Newly declassified transcripts released by the House Armed Services Committee show that the State Department, at least internally, may not have been considering it a demonstration that night. Representative Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) asked Colonel George Bristol back in July 31 of last year, “Did anyone from the State Department throughout the course of the events, that you are aware of, call this a demonstration that got out of control during the course of events?” Colonel Bristol answered “Not that I am aware of, sir.” Bristol was in charge of the Joint Special Operations Task Force—Trans Sahara from April 2012 to March 2013.

As for the military, they referred to it as an “attack” at the time as well, Colonel Bristol testified. And, as AIM has recently reported, General Carter Ham admitted in his testimony that he had told then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey that it was an attack the night of September 11, 2012—right before they went to meet with President Obama.

With a presidential election less than two months away, however, the President, the Secretary of State, and then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice maintained for weeks that the video was largely what sparked the attack. But the record shows that they knew that wasn’t true. Clearly, the President had been informed that it had been a planned terrorist attack—not the result of a spontaneous demonstration.

State’s house-cleaning supposedly started after Benghazi; but Secretary of State John Kerry gave the four suspended officials positions back at the State Department, representing a total lack of accountability.

New reports seem to indicate just how far people are willing to go to hide the problems at the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), in particular, and the Clinton Department of State in general.

Aurelia Fedenisn’s infamous interviews of Diplomatic Security personnel took place between July 2012 and October 2012. That means it covered the time period including the Benghazi, Libya attacks and the immediate aftermath. Patrick F. Kennedy, Cheryl Mills, and Assistant Secretary Eric Boswell all played their part in this tragedy; and their conduct with regards to Diplomatic Security should not be swept under the rug.

As Accuracy in Media reported last year, former State Department investigator Fedenisn was subject to State Department bullying after exposing eight Department of State investigative cover-ups, one of which reached as high as the Ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman, who retired last July. Another investigation exposed by Fedenisn involved Hillary Clinton’s security agents, who were allegedly hiring prostitutes at the hotel where then-Secretary of State Clinton slept.

Fedenisn’s lawyers’ offices were broken into over the July 4th weekend in 2013. Although a petty thief was apprehended for the crime, the theft seemed on its face more politically motivated. After all, computers were stolen while silver bars nearby were not. “My most high-profile case right now is the Aurelia Fedenisn case, and I can’t think of any other case where someone would go to these great lengths to get our information,” Schulman told John Hudson of The Cable at the time.

Now, another closely related case that Schulman is working has experienced a break-in; this time, it was a sophisticated cyber attack. “The personal e-mail account of a State Department whistle­blower was hacked, and four years worth of messages—some detailing alleged wrongdoing at the agency—were deleted” reported the New York Post in December. “They took all of his e-mails and then they deleted them all,” Cary Schulman told the Post. “He said that he could not prove who was responsible for the hack job, but said the attack was ‘sophisticated’ and called the targeting of [Richard] Higbie ‘alarming.’” Higbie is a Diplomatic Security Service criminal investigator.

“We feel like we’re in a movie,” said Schulman. “It’s nuts. It makes us wonder . . . . maybe we’ve got something we don’t even realize or maybe they’re worried about something.”

The Post noted that the deleted emails included legal strategy notes between Higbie and his lawyer.

Higbie has filed an employment lawsuit against the State Department, a lawsuit that has roped in high-ranking officials such as the new Assistant Secretary of Diplomatic Security at the Department of State, Gregory Starr. Starr was confirmed as Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security on November 14, 2013, but became the Director of the Diplomatic Security Service in February 2013, according to The Cable.

“More recently, Starr has been accused of abusing his position to benefit those around him,” reported The Cable last September. “One former DS officer said Starr was able to waive certain ­­medical standards, in this case, color blindness, to get his son a job as a special agent within DS.” This is serious, considering that one of the problems exposed by Fedenisn was allegations that investigations within Diplomatic Security were unduly influenced by higher-ups, as much as once or twice a year.

Starr was deposed by Schulman in February of last year, and was asked, “Have you been made aware, during…after your, your retirement from DS and prior to your arrival back recently here, have you been made aware of any department officials improperly influencing inquiries or investigations relating to employee complaints?” He answered, simply, “No.” Yet there was a report in the works that said as much.

Schulman’s law firm argues that “The failure of all of the witnesses”—Starr is not the only one—“to identify the OIG investigation or the Report at any point in all of their questioning demonstrate collusion of concealment and creates, at a minimum, an appearance of impropriety.”

In a confirmation hearing in September 2013, Gregory Starr was not asked about his conduct in the Higbie case. It is encouraging to hear, however, that Higbie’s deleted emails included contact with Members of Congress who are concerned about this ongoing issue.

The problem appears to be the same one that keeps the Obama team and the IRS from being thoroughly and independently investigated. As long as Eric Holder remains as U.S. Attorney General, there will continue to be no controlling legal authority—to borrow a concept that helped keep former Vice President Al Gore from facing prosecution—prepared to investigate perjury and corruption in the Obama administration.

 

This commentary originally appeared at AIM.org and is reprinted here with permission. 





Will Christie’s “Bridgegate” Become Another Benghazigate?





GOP Christie Pulling Strings Establishment SC

The media are facing a quandary. After a long build-up of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as their favorite candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, they now are confronted with a scandal that could very possibly end his dream of a run for the White House. “Bridgegate,” as it is being dubbed, is drawing intense scrutiny from the media crowd that refuses to this day to acknowledge that the actions of the Obama administration—before, during, and after the attack on the Temporary Diplomatic Mission and CIA Annex in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, is a major scandal that would have brought down any Republican president by now.

The next day or two may well determine if Christie can weather this storm. It looks like some of his top aides retaliated against the Democratic mayor of Ft. Lee, New Jersey, for not supporting Christie in the last election—by blocking lanes, and thus creating traffic jams, on the George Washington Bridge leading into and out of New York City. No one is denying it happened. The big questions are, what did Christie know, and when did he know it? If he knew, will his loyal aides be loyal enough to be thrown under the bus, without bringing him down with them?

The MSNBC gang is having a great time. They can now, more than usual, ignore Obamacare and Benghazi and pound the hell out of Christie. Chris Hayes, a prime time host on MSNBC, spent the first 25 minutes of his show on Wednesday night, complete with dramatic music and images, even using the term “Nixonian,” dissecting every aspect of the Christie “scandal.” First the hanging, then the trial. That was followed by Hayes’ reported mentor and chief backer at the network, Rachel Maddow, who couldn’t have been more excited.

By the way, comparisons to Nixon are back in vogue. Bob Woodward of The Washington Post used one on the Obama administration and called Benghazi “a very serious issue.” And David Sanger of The New York Times told former executive editor of The Washington Post, Leonard Downie Jr., that “the Obama administration is the ‘most closed, control-freak administration’ he has ever covered.” Even ABC News White House correspondent Ann Compton told Downie, “He’s the least transparent of the seven presidents I’ve covered in terms of how he does his daily business.”

But when it came to Benghazi, Hayes took his cue from the David Kirkpatrick story in The New York Times and decided, again, that it was time to put that story to rest:

“The Benghazi scandal industry has ruined people’s lives,” Hayes concluded on his January 2 show. [We can all agree on that.] “It has wasted untold government resources and attention. It has led news agencies to chase themselves into ignominy. It has fed all kinds of ridiculous posturing and hysteria. It has led to confusion about the actual problems and solutions thereto. And now, finally, as we begin the new year of 2014, now, finally, it is time to say good-bye, RIP, Benghazi scandal. There is nothing left.”

Sorry Chris. Not as long as we, the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi, are here. We plan to get to the bottom of it, however deep that is; however long it takes.

 

This commentary originally appeared at AIM.org and is reprinted here with permission. 





Meet The Socialist Behind Colorado School Shooting





Photo credit: zennie62 (Creative Commons)

Coming as it did on the weekend of the one-year anniversary of the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting that killed 26, plus the killer, and wounded two more, it is not surprising that the media downplayed or ignored aspects of the Friday the 13th school shooting in Centennial, Colorado, just miles away from both Columbine and Aurora, the scenes of two other horrific mass shootings.

But this latest incident offered a couple of narratives that the media preferred to ignore. The shooter was Karl Pierson, an 18-year-old, described as very bright and an excellent debater who had had run-ins with his debate coach. Early stories said he had been kicked off the debate team, later that he had only been disciplined. But either way, he was no longer an active participant on the team.

He arrived at the school on Friday well-armed, with what was described as a “bandolier of ammunition,” “a backpack filled with three Molotov cocktails,” and a machete and a shotgun, which he used to shoot two of his classmates at Arapahoe High School. “His intent was evil, and his intent was to injure multiple people,” said Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson on Saturday.

The entire event, from the time he walked into the school, until he shot and killed himself, was estimated to be about 80 seconds. And why did he kill himself? Because an armed deputy who was assigned to the school came running immediately after hearing the first shot. What if there had been an armed deputy at Sandy Hook school in Newtown? How many lives might have been saved? How many injuries prevented?

Sheriff Robinson, who briefed the press, “praised the deputy’s response as ‘a critical element to the shooter’s decision’ to kill himself, and lauded his response to hearing gunshots. ‘He went to the thunder,’ he said. ‘He heard the noise of gunshot and, when many would run away from it, he ran toward it to make other people safe.’” Arapahoe was not a gun-free zone; and, as a result, many lives were likely saved.

NBC News on Saturday called Pierson “someone who voiced strong political opinions,” but failed to say what those opinions were. Some of his views, however, were reported in The Denver Post.

In one Facebook post, Pierson attacks the philosophies of economist Adam Smith, who through his invisible-hand theory pushed the notion that the free market was self-regulating. In another post, he describes himself as ‘Keynesian.’

‘I was wondering to all the neoclassicals and neoliberals, why isn’t the market correcting itself?’ he wrote. ‘If the invisible hand is so strong, shouldn’t it be able to overpower regulations?’

Pierson also appears to mock Republicans on another Facebook post, writing ‘you republicans are so cute’ and posting an image that reads: ‘The Republican Party: Health Care: Let ‘em Die, Climate Change: Let ‘em Die, Gun Violence: Let ‘em Die, Women’s Rights: Let ‘em Die, More War: Let ‘em Die. Is this really the side you want to be on?’

The New York Daily News reported that Pierson was “described by students as having communist views,” and “hinted he felt strongly about curbing gun violence.”

The silence about Pierson’s political views stands in contrast to the liberal media’s immediate reaction to the shooting in Tucson, Arizona in 2011 by Jared Lee Loughner, who shot and killed six people and wounded 13 others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). Many in the media suspected he harbored conservative views, which turned out to be false; and it led, for example, Paul Krugman of The New York Times to write, just hours after the incident:

We don’t have proof yet that this was political, but the odds are that it was. She’s been the target of violence before…You know that Republicans will yell about the evils of partisanship whenever anyone tries to make a connection between the rhetoric of Beck, Limbaugh, etc. and the violence I fear we’re going to see in the months and years ahead. But violent acts are what hap­pen when you create a climate of hate. And it’s long past time for the GOP’s leaders to take a stand against the hate-mongers.

And there were many other such examples, as I documented at the time. But the fact that this latest shooting in Colorado does not neatly comport to the media’s depiction of such events, and thus to their supposed solutions, will make little difference in terms of lessons learned.

 

This commentary originally appeared at AIM.org and is reprinted here with permission. 

Photo credit: zennie62 (Creative Commons)





ABC Still Promoting Discredited Bush “Scandal”





ABC SC

Spy scandals might be sexy; but does the Valerie Plame “scandal” really deserve to be ranked alongside the sex scandals of Larry Craig, Anthony Weiner, and John Edwards? Earlier this month, ABC News ranked the Top 10 Political Scandals of the 21st century in a primetime special. Eight of the ten were sex-related scandals; one was about Rod Blagojevich, the former Illinois governor now serving a prison term for corruption; and the other was what the Bush administration supposedly did to the career of “outed CIA agent” Valerie Plame.

“Tonight an outrageous, irreverent, top 10 list of the bad boys club,” stated the voice-over for the special. But they never quite say who the “bad boy” is in the case of Valerie Plame. The real scandal is ABC’s inclusion of this story as one of its Top 10.

A spokesperson for the network said that “A panel of politicos helped us put together the top ten scandals of the century.” Those politicos reached outside the “bad boy” box to target what they considered an abuse of power, but they widely missed their mark. One might question whether the IRS or Benghazi scandals of the Obama administration might deserve to be included as top political scandals of the 21st century, given the direction taken with Plame and the abuse heaped on the Bush administration here. Then again, those might have actually reflected badly on the Obama administration, a theme almost always off-limits for the mainstream media.

When asked about the motivations behind choosing these particular scandals, a representative for ABC wrote AIM that “Part of what made this show unique was the input from political players and pundits across the political spectrum. Many scandals were discussed—these generated the most and the most passionate discussion so that’s where we focused our efforts.” It was described as “an unscientific and fun countdown.”

However, early on, viewers of this program (produced by Lincoln Square Productions, a production house owned by ABC News) were assaulted with two minutes of error-filled misrepresentations and lies about Valerie Plame and the Bush administration, ranked Number 9 of the 10 scandals.

The section heavily features Plame talking about her husband and those who “outed her,” supposedly for political reasons. “It just felt like I had been sucker-punched. I was concerned about the assets with whom I had worked with over the years, because they were in jeopardy,” said Plame in the segment.

Now she gets to make movies, write books, and go on television to talk about what happened to her—all the high profile actions of someone who doesn’t seem at all concerned about what happens to those who knew her in her former career. Or maybe she thinks at this point it doesn’t matter. But at some point, it did. “To expose Valerie Plame, and put her at some risk, shows just how angry they were and how vindictive they could be. It was an abuse of power,” claimed Terry Moran, ABC News Chief Foreign Correspondent, during the broadcast. This fits with the set of events as Plame and Wilson would wish their audience to see them.

It ignores the fact that Wilson deliberately placed himself in the spotlight in the first place. “Those news stories about that unnamed former envoy who went to Niger? That’s me,” wrote Wilson in a 2003 op-ed. Not content to be cited as a source regarding the evidence for the absence of nuclear weapons in Iraq, Wilson had to go on record as the source himself. He outed himself to the media, as this column shows.

I pointed out in a report critiquing the movie based on Plame’s book, Fair Game, many of the distortions and inaccuracies built into her story. Stan Crock, in World Affairs Journal, wrote, “Valerie Plame says in her memoir that she read the report that the CIA wrote immediately after debriefing Wilson on his trip and also read his column before it was published. She added that she thought the column was accurate. She said the report was only a few pages long. No one, let alone a professional intelligence officer, could have missed the part about Iraq trying to buy yellowcake. She had to know the column was wrong, but evidently said nothing. So she was anything but an innocent bystander as her husband created a political firestorm.”

The late Christopher Hitchens, in 2006, reported that there was indeed evidence that Saddam Hussein may have sought uranium from Niger, contrary to Wilson’s report.

Even The Washington Post called Joe Wilson a “blowhard,” and said that all of the major claims in his op-ed “were false.”

But, according to the ABC broadcast, “Valerie Plame was an undercover CIA spy until someone in the White House blew her cover because they were pissed at her husband. Wow.” Actually, it was State Department official Richard Armitage, who was himself opposed to the war in Iraq, who leaked Valerie Plame’s CIA identity to the late Robert Novak. Novak was also opposed to the war, and wrote regarding the duo, “Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me that Wilson’s wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report.”

The ABC segment on Plame took the time to highlight the film Fair Game, but not what the media has said about its falsifications and misrepresentations. As I wrote in 2011, “The three basic lies of the story they tell are these: 1) The Bush administration knowingly lied us into war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq by twisting evidence to make people believe that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and was a threat to this country; and 2) when former ambassador Wilson blew the whistle on Bush and Cheney for doing so, they got back at him by outing his wife, a covert CIA agent; and 3) Scooter Libby led the White House effort to out Ms. Plame and discredit her husband, and then took the fall for the administration.”

“Within these lies are a whole series of lies and misrepresentations and deliberate damage done to the reputations of a lot of people.”

The Washington Post said the film is “full of distortions—not to mention outright inventions.”

This ABC segment continues Wilson and Plame’s lies and misrepresentations by appearing to rely on the same tales that we and others have already debunked. They should know better. It’s unfortunate that this story has to be re-litigated time and again.

If political scandals were in their pile of considerations, what about the scandals of the Obama administration, including Operation Fast and Furious, Solyndra, using the IRS to target and hamstring political enemies during an election cycle, Benghazi—not to mention lying to the American people to sell them Obamacare, promising “If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep it. Period.” No scandals there?

 

This commentary originally appeared at AIM.org and is reprinted here with permission.