Thursday, February 27, 2014

Oregonian: Governor Kitzhaber "out of the loop" on Cover Oregon

Maybe a stronger phrase than "out of touch" or "out of the loop" might be appropriate criticism for a governor praising the Cover Oregon debacle three weeks after its failure.
Critics blasted Kitzhaber for being out of touch on Cover Oregon. He admitted he was out of the loop, praising the smooth rollout of Oregon’s exchange in a speech in late October, three weeks after the site’s failure to launch.
The phrase "out of touch" is not exactly a political "blast". How about heading an administration that misuses federal funds? Or asks high officials to lie?

Interesting how mild the phrasing is when a Democratic governor is involved. Imagine the wording of that paragraph had it been a Republican governor praising a major health program three weeks after it had been shown to be a complete failure when 150,000 Oregonians were losing their health coverage and $304 million of federal funds had been given to the project.

Even the Oregonian editorial board has a hard time going beyond mild words:
"equal parts myopia, groundless optimism and, perhaps, hubris on the part of Oregon leaders"
. . .
"Cover Oregon's failure poses no questions of apparent malfeasance or wrongdoing or shenanigans by state managers or elected leaders. Instead it asks of them, extending all the way to Gov. John Kitzhaber, how managers aspiring to do the right thing can get it so completely wrong – and at such horrendously high public expense."
. . .
"Kitzhaber made a large deposit in the credibility bank last year with his leadership on public pension reform, but he’s watched much of that advantage melt away over the past few months thanks to the Cover Oregon fiasco, which raises questions not only about those with more direct involvement, but also about the governor himself."
. . .
"What do Goldberg’s and Bonetto’s apparent lapses – in communication and aggressive curiosity – say about the organizational culture for which Kitzhaber is chiefly responsible? If he were running a business, he wouldn’t get a pass for failing to know about critical problems with a $160 million project.
. . .
"And what, for that matter, does Bonetto’s promotion say about the governor's judgment? Nothing that’s going to restore the his rapidly dwindling surplus of credibility, that’s for sure."
. . .
"At this point, a thorough house-cleaning seems to be an obvious prerequisite for renewed credibility. Shedding a couple of those responsible for the Cover Oregon debacle while shuffling higher-level officials who could have and should have done more will not be enough.

"If, on the other hand, the governor can make a persuasive case for his conspicuously modest response, he should do so, and quickly. His constituents probably don’t like being left out of the loop, either. "
. . .
"apparently oblivious governor"
The Oregonian can't seem to bring itself to ask a question about Kitzhaber's incompetence and negligence--not to mention a wholesale discarding of malfeasance or wrongdoing before an investigation has been completed. Certainly questions need to be asked about whether political cronyism had a role in Kitzhaber appointing incompetent individuals to run Cover Oregon and then failing to appoint competent officials to monitor those officials.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

18 Heroes Who Died December 11, 2013 to February 18, 2014

December 11, 2013 - Petty Officer 1st Class James L. Smith, 38, of Huffman, Texas, died in Landstuhl, Germany, from a non-combat related incident.

December 17 - They died in Now Bahar, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered as a result of a helicopter crash. The incident is pending investigation. Killed were:
- Chief Warrant Officer 2 Randy L. Billings, 34, of Heavener, Okla., 
- Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joshua B. Silverman, 35, of Scottsdale, Ariz., and 
- Sgt. Peter C. Bohler, 29, of Willow Spring, N.C.

December 23 - Sgt. Daniel M. Vasselian, 27, of Abington, Mass., died while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

December 27 - Capt. David I. Lyon, 28, of Sandpoint, Idaho, died from wounds suffered when his vehicle was attacked with an improvised explosive device in Kabul, Afghanistan.

January 1, 2014 - Sgt. Jacob M. Hess, 22, of Spokane, Wash., died while supporting combat operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.  The incident is currently under investigation.

January 4 - Sgt. First Class William K. Lacey, 38, of Laurel Hill, Fla., died in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when the enemy attacked his unit with rocket propelled grenades.

January 10 - They died at Bagram Airfield, in Parwan Province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when the aircraft they were aboard crashed.  The incident is under investigation. Killed were:
- Chief Warrant Officer Andrew L. McAdams, 27, of Cheyenne, Wyo.
- Sgt. Drew M. Scobie, 25, of Kailua, Hawaii.

January 14 - Sgt. Daniel T. Lee, 28, of Crossville, Tenn., died in Parwan Province, Afghanistan, from wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with small arms fire during combat operations.

January 17 - Spc. Andrew H. Sipple, 22, of Cary, N.C., died in Kandahar City, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, from a non-combat related incident currently under investigation.

January 20 - Chief Warrant Officer Edward Balli, 42, of Monterey, Calif., died in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, of wounds from small arms fire when he was attacked by insurgents.

February 10 - Pfc. Joshua A. Gray, 21, of Van Lear, Ky., died in Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, from a non-combat related incident currently under investigation.
- Spc. Christopher A. Landis, 27, of Independence, Ky., died on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, from wounds received when the enemy attacked his dismounted patrol with a rocket propelled grenade in Kapisa Province, Afghanistan.

February 12 - They died in Kapisa Province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when they were struck by enemy small arms fire. Killed were:

- Spc. John A. Pelham, 22, of Portland, Ore. KPTV reports (video here):
The family of John Alexander Pelham, 22, learned that he died of gunshot wounds Wednesday.
Pelham is a Sunset High School graduate, and his family still lives in southwest Portland.
His father, Wendall Pelham, said he talked to his son on Monday. He said because of his role in the Army, he knew his son couldn't say much about the mission he was about to embark on.
Still, he said their last conversation felt different. Wendall Pelham said he was not able to get the words out to tell his son to call him back when he returned.
"Which was my affirmation that, you know, it was probably going to be the last time I talk to my son," Wendall Pelham said, fighting back tears.
This was John Pelham's second tour in Afghanistan.
Back home, he was one of six children. He played baseball and graduated from Sunset High School in 2010.
John Pelham tried junior college, according to his dad, but the Army was his true calling.
"His grandfather, my father, was career military," Wendall Pelham said. "My brother was a ranger and I believe Alex always had that warrior spirit."
John Pelham was scheduled to come home for more training and possibly go to college through the ROTC program in June.
He was also engaged to be married.
Wendall Pelham said his son was living his dream.
"He told us numerous times, 'I've never been happier. I've never been more at peace with who I am and what I'm doing,'" Wendall Pelham said. "So, as a dad, how do you refute that?"
Spc. John A. Pelham and Sgt. First Class Roberto C. Skelt
- Sgt. First Class Roberto C. Skelt, 41, of York, Fla.  Pelham and Skelt were killed by an insider attack.
Defense officials said earlier in the week that two service members were killed and four were wounded in an attack Wednesday by gunmen wearing Afghan security force uniforms in eastern Afghanistan. The soldiers were not identified at the time.

A defense official confirmed for Army Times on Friday that the slain service members were Skelt and Pelham.

Officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss details of the attack, which is the latest in a string of incidents in which Afghan troops turned their weapons on their supposed allies.

The officials said four Afghans involved in the attack were killed in the ensuing battle.

The frequency of these insider attacks has declined markedly in recent months. At the height of the problem, in 2012, U.S. and coalition troops were more often fighting and training alongside their Afghan partners; the relationship evolved last year with the Afghans taking a lead combat role. That has put the Americans and other coalition troops in a less visible position as advisers.
February 15 - Master Sgt. Aaron C. Torian, 36, of Paducah, Ky., died while conducting combat operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Republican Senatorial Leadership Vote to Allow "Clean" Debt Limit Increase to Go Forward

UPDATE: Jeffrey Lord makes the following point today:
Like President Richard Nixon, like President Bill Clinton, President Barack Obama is defying the law. There may well be no will political or otherwise to impeach this president. But however it is done, Congress — that specifically means the purse-controlling House — cannot just sit there and do nothing.

The sauce for Nixon and Clinton’s law-defying geese must in some fashion be sauce for Obama’s law-defying gander.

Impeach the President?

The votes aren’t there.

But let the President get away with The Obama Precedent? Systematically violating the Constitution?

If the votes in the purse-controlling Boehner House aren’t there to do something about that — then why are they there?

When there was a chance for Republicans in the Senate to stop the debt ceiling hike (or at lease gain concessions), the party leadership voted against stopping the bill or gaining concessions.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky
Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas*
John Barrasso of Wyoming
Susan Collins of Maine
Bob Corker of Tennessee
Jeff Flake of Arizona
Orrin Hatch of Utah
Mike Johanns of Nebraska
Mark Kirk of Illinois
John McCain of Arizona
Lisa Murkowski of Alaska
John Thune of South Dakota

But, of course, when they didn't have a chance to stop the debt ceiling hike, they all stood firmly against it.

With Republican senatorial leadership like that, no wonder the country is in such a mess.

And then there's House Speaker John Boehner who voted for the debt limit increase in the House vote:
"It's a disappointing moment," Boehner told reporters before the House vote. "This is a lost opportunity," he said.

As he left the podium, Boehner started singing "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah."
With leadership like this, how much difference will it really make if Republicans win the Senate as well as the House in 2014? They'll still be vetoed by the President. So, any negative action they take on funding will "shut down the government" or incur "debt default". That only leaves passing "clean" bills for mega-spending and mega-debt increase.
*Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, voted "aye" in the cliffhanger cloture vote, Roll Call reported. The two voted for the measure when the count briefly appeared short of the 60 votes needed. (UPI)

Yesterday, however, ". . . John Cornyn of Texas, the Senate's No. 2 Republican, said he would probably not vote for the clean debt measure. (NPR)

Oregonian: Cover Oregon Failure Rightly Lessens Public Trust in State Government

The Oregonian editors think the Cover Oregon failure has political consequences on what the state can be trusted to do well.
One thing nobody’s forgotten is the Cover Oregon mess, which has shown state government at its worst. Lax oversight, ignored warnings, squandered millions, an apparently oblivious governor, all in blind pursuit of an ideological goal: It’s all there. Implementing and maintaining a low-carbon fuel standard is a very different endeavor than building an online insurance exchange, but both tasks are complicated and both involve a big “trust me” factor. Oregonians trusted state officials to oversee the expenditure of public funds on the development of Cover Oregon, and they failed spectacularly. Gov. Kitzhaber and like-minded lawmakers now want Oregonians to trust the state to administer a complicated anti-global warming program that will affect them every time they fill up their tanks.

It’s almost as if lawmakers – some of them, anyway – are unaware of the yawning credibility pit the Cover Oregon mess has opened in Salem. When we asked SB 1570’s sponsor, Sen. Lee Beyer, why taxpayers, given recent events, should trust the state to take up another complex task, he said, “I don’t buy your premise. … You in the media have focused on the Web site. What the Legislature was trying to do was get half a million people covered. We’re at about 220,000 right now. I would suggest to you that we’ve achieved that goal.” The Springfield Democrat did acknowledge that Cover Oregon has had some technical problems, but his implication that news organizations have blown Cover Oregon’s flaws out of proportion doesn’t encourage confidence. And it wouldn’t even if the low-carbon fuel standard were a good idea.
[emphasis added]
Good editorial! The only thing that could be added is questioning the 220,000 figure. If there are that many newly covered (a questionable assertion), it wasn't because of Cover Oregon.

Maybe the Oregonian should have asked Sen. Beyer why Cover Oregon is considering cutting 25% of its budget because of extremely weak enrollment.  But no one at the Oregonian confronted Beyer with that.
Cover Oregon receives a fee of about $9 per enrollment to pay for its expenditures.

To date, [Cover Oregon’s acting director Bruce] Goldberg said, 65,932 people have enrolled in health insurance through the marketplace. About 23,800 of those are enrolled in commercial health plans. There are almost 30,000 people who have been approved to select their plan but have chosen not to move on in the process, Goldberg said.

Changing Climate / Variable Sun

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Happy 50th Birthday, Sarah Palin!

You brought hope when you came on the national stage. My respect and regard for you have only grown since then. I and my family thank God for you, Governor Palin. Happy Birthday!

By the way, some really great U.S. presidents were born in this month. Hint, hint.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Palin Ahead of All the Other Republican Candidates

incognito in NYC November, 2013 - shot by Willow
UPDATE: Here's the link to the polling internals.

That's what Public Policy Polling (PPP) recently found. Though they headed their report "Huckabee up, Christie down", three paragraphs in one finds the truly interesting fact:
"The best liked person we tested on this poll with Republican primary voters is actually Sarah Palin who has a 70/20 favorability rating."
Gov. Palin (at 70%) has a 75% higher favorability rating than Gov. Chris Christie (at 40%).

Favorable/Unfavorable ratings among Republican primary voters:

Palin 70/20
Huckabee 64/18
Ryan 58/18
Bush 56/18
Cruz 45/20
Christie 40/38
"Most of those numbers are similar to what they were a month ago but Christie's seen a substantial drop from +18 at 47/29 a month ago to his new +2 net favorability."
Here are PPP's numbers for Republican presidential preference:

Huckabee 16%
Jeb Bush 14%
Chris Christie 13%
Rand Paul 11%
Ted Cruz 8%
Marco Rubio 8%
Paul Ryan 8%
Scott Walker 6%
Bobby Jindal 5%

With such a huge approval rating, why isn't Palin in the list of possible Republican candidates? PPP doesn't say. But, being both popular and an assumed dark horse can have its advantages.

H/T Ian Lazaran

Political Comedy

Seems like there's a lot of political comedy going on of late. Though not so funny for those caught in the irony.

MaxRedline points out a debacle in Washington state where a Washington State Department of Transportation mega digging project in Seattle is in trouble, and Seattle may have to pay the bill for BIG cost overruns. This despite official promises made when the project was being considered that there would be no cost overrun problems. Elections (and appointees and policies that come from them) have consequences, and Seattle (or Washington state) may be looking down the barrel at them.

Then there's anti-gun advocate, Dwayne Ferguson, in New York who just got arrested and faces felony charges for carrying a gun in a school.
"News 4 interviewed [Dwayne] Ferguson in March of 2013 at a rally in support of the NY SAFE Act. At the time, Ferguson stated the law did not go far enough.
"'Our kids are not buying assault weapons, they’re buying pistols and they’re buying them right out of community stores and back here in the school. So this is serious. It needs to go further than what it is,' he said.
"Ah, that Ferguson. The Ferguson who, according to the Buffalo News, was a “well-known face in the movement for the SAFE Act, the state law that made carrying a gun on school property a felony.”
. . .
"This much we do know, however: This is a country with an awful lot of firearms and an awful lot of carry-permit holders, and draconian laws such as those for which Ferguson likes to lobby are not only useless and counter-productive but often end up ensnaring the ignorant, forgetful, and the naive, too. Let this be a lesson, perhaps: This can happen to you, however good your intentions. 
"Ferguson will now face the felony charges that he helped to push through."
A Poor Substitute for Publius adds to the comedy with the comment: "If we only had tougher laws on the books, we could have prevented this terrible incident . . ."

One more, thanks to Byron York: A suicide bomb instructor blew himself and a number of students up in a particularly effective demonstration.
"BAGHDAD — A group of Sunni militants attending a suicide bombing training class at a camp north of Baghdad were killed on Monday when their commander unwittingly conducted a demonstration with a belt that was packed with explosives, army and police officials said."
. . .
"Twenty-two ISIS members were killed, and 15 were wounded, in the explosion at the camp, which is in a farming area in the northeastern province of Samara, according to the police and army officials. Stores of other explosive devices and heavy weapons were also kept there, the officials said.

"Eight militants were arrested when they tried to escape, the officials said."

Friday, February 07, 2014

Rep. Jason Chaffetz Again Shows His Junior High Side

Bill O'Reilly took Rep. Jason Chaffetz to the woodshed last night in an interview in which Chaffetz apparently was expecting knee jerk commendation rather than questioning.

There was a time when Chaffetz showed great promise. But, his immature, incompetent side began to be on display in the 2012 Republican presidential primaries when Chaffetz was spotlighted going to Gingrich speaking engagements to disturb and annoy as his way of being a Romney surrogate.

Now, as member of the committee investigating Benghazi, he again shows lack of good sense and ability to do his job. When Bill O'Reilly asked Chaffetz why former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has not been called to testify before his committee, Chaffetz could not give a credible response.

Not, "We've tried to get him, but he has claimed executive privilege." Or, "We are setting this up in an orderly manner and will call him after questioning other important figures." Or even, "I'm not in charge of who gets called."

No, his explanation of why Panetta has not been called is: "To me it feels like halftime." What?

Chaffetz follows this lame excuse with whining because the media isn't questioning the president: "I want somebody in the media to ask the President why his four star general thought it was over."

True as it is that the media hasn't seriously questioned President Obama* (or anyone else in the administration), why is the media on Chaffetz's mind? As O'Reilly points out, Chaffetz's committee has the ability to subpoena people and put them under oath. But, Chaffetz, instead of focusing on using the power he and his committee have, seems not to be thinking about that or strategizing how best to use the power he has.

Incompetence? Immaturity? In any case, not the kind of guy who seems capable of real leadership in tough situations. What a waste.
*O'Reilly pointed out that he tried to get a clear answer from President Obama in his Sunday interview with the President, but he couldn't force the President to answer. (O'Reilly: "And I tried to get it from President Obama, but he wouldn't answer it.")