Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Last Call For James Clapper's Job

Slate's Fred Kaplan won't be the last person calling for President Obama to can Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.  For once, Kaplan is correct.

If President Obama really does welcome a debate about the scope of the U.S. surveillance program, a good first step would be to fire Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

Back at an open congressional hearing on March 12, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked Clapper, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper replied, “No sir … not wittingly.” As we all now know, he was lying.

We also now know that Clapper knew he was lying. In an interview with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell that aired this past Sunday, Clapper was asked why he answered Wyden the way he did. He replied:

“I thought, though in retrospect, I was asked [a] ‘when are you going to … stop beating your wife’ kind of question, which is … not answerable necessarily by a simple yes or no. So I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful, manner by saying, ‘No.’ ”

Not good enough, not even friggin' close.  I can understand the debate over whether Clapper lied, but not when Clapper himself admitted lying to Congress and admitted it on national TV.  That's suicidally stupid in a intelligence officer, much less DNI.

Nor was this a spontaneous lie or a lie he regretted making. Wyden revealed in a statement today that he’d given Clapper advance notice that he would ask the question and that, after the hearing, he offered Clapper a chance to revise his answer. Clapper didn’t take the offer.

Nope.  Lying to Congress openly is bad enough.  Lying to Congress openly and not being smart enough to recognize it when you're in charge of the nation's entire intelligence gathering apparatus?  Obama should clean out Clapper's desk himself and hand him the box and a pre-paid cell phone so Clapper can call someone and get a friggin clue.

Sorry James, you gotta go.

Ohio Doesn't Want Obamacare Exchanges To Work

Otherwise, as Luke Brockmeier and the Plunderbund crew point out, they would have gone California's route.

Ohio is establishing a “clearinghouse exchange”, wherein any plan that meets the Obamacare standards will be offered. Since 214 plans were submitted for review, there will be 214 plans on the exchange. This is intended to drive down costs the way that Travelocity does: people will pick the less expensive plans on the list.

There’s not much evidence that this will do anything; after all, similar websites already exist.

California, on the other hand, has an “active purchaser exchange”. In an active purchaser exchange, it’s actually the exchange that’s insuring you, and they bid out administration of your insurance. This drives down costs a few ways.

And because of true competitive bidding, negotiated lower payments through the power of the exchange's mass, and long-term cost reduction through preventative care, Californians will see Obamacare work.

Ohioans, not so much.

In Ohio’s exchange, 17 separate collective bargaining units won’t be able to bargain the way that California’s active purchaser will. California’s payments will probably be in the neighborhood of Medicaid and Medicare rates, which are around 60% of private payments.

Since health insurance is just an aggregate of all health expenditures, a 40% reduction in payments means a 40% reduction in premiums. In fact, a really canny exchange will combine the Medicaid and exchange risk pools and bargaining powers.

But of course, since Ohio is run by Republicans, they can simply make the plan not work and blame Obama.  Much more on Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, who is in charge of the exchanges in Ohio, on Plunderbund.

Bobo's Game Of Moans

Bobo has decided in today's column that the only thing he can't stand more than the suspect, anti-colonialist, not-like-us President and his government is the notion that a Millennial Paulbot can cause so much damage to Bobo's status quo.

It’s logical, given this background and mind-set, that Snowden would sacrifice his career to expose data mining procedures of the National Security Agency. Even if he has not been able to point to any specific abuses, he was bound to be horrified by the confidentiality endemic to military and intelligence activities. And, of course, he’s right that the procedures he’s unveiled could lend themselves to abuse in the future. 

But Big Brother is not the only danger facing the country. Another is the rising tide of distrust, the corrosive spread of cynicism, the fraying of the social fabric and the rise of people who are so individualistic in their outlook that they have no real understanding of how to knit others together and look after the common good. 

This is not a danger Snowden is addressing. In fact, he is making everything worse. 

For society to function well, there have to be basic levels of trust and cooperation, a respect for institutions and deference to common procedures. By deciding to unilaterally leak secret N.S.A. documents, Snowden has betrayed all of these things. 

David Brooks complaining about the rise of distrust in government is a bit like Tywin Lannister moaning about the rise of the price of bread in King's Landing with all this war going on.  Bobo's argument would be measured and even on-point if it wasn't for the quibbling little fact that Brooks has spent much of the last four years telling us that we can never completely trust Obama or his government because he's different from us, not like us, etc. etc. blah blah blah.

So now we see Brooks actually can make a salient point when it's convenient to him, that yes, Snowden arrogantly took it upon himself as arbiter of the entire national security apparatus and that he directly betrayed the government he took an oath to serve, circumventing the Constitution's checks and balances.

That of course makes all his other vile drivel all the more hacktastic.


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