"...She could, after all, decide to campaign vociferously in favor of the ACA this summer and fall (universal healthcare is, after all, one of her positions), but that might siphon money away from her foundation and candidacy. She could get out there and start framing a foreign policy vision. But, again, too risky. I see nothing that suggests a real passion for getting on with the fight - just the usual presumptions of a super-elite, super-rich and super-cocooned politician of the gilded age." ...AndrewSullivan,viaPoliticalWire
It's like the US federal government loves potatoes and builds huge, costly places in the desert West to house them. It knows how to steal them from you and me, and it knows how to boil, bake, fry and make poisonous salads for unwary Americans, thanks to poisonous recipes in the Patriot Act. But it hasn't a clue how to keep those potatoes available to those of us who need them or -- come to that -- keep them safe from thieves.
Except we're talking about personal data here, not ol' spuds. Information about you and me and our neighbors. Read, weep.
Unspecified glitches in the department's Consular Consolidated Database (CCD) since Saturday have resulted in "significant performance issues, including outages" in the processing of applications for passports, visas and reports of Americans born abroad, spokeswoman Marie Harf said.
It's happening around the world. Had trouble getting your passport?
It was not immediately clear how many people are affected, but two U.S. officials familiar with the situation said some 50,000 applicants were affected in one country alone.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity and did not identify the country because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
The database is the State Department's system of record and is used to approve, record and print visas and other documents to ensure that national security checks are conducted on applicants. ...AlJazeera
It's becoming clearer that the huge undertaking of drafting the new Affordable Care Act in a relatively short time made for errors, and one of the results of haste may not get through the Supreme Court this time. Ruth Marcus writes in the Washington Post that the new law may be killed thanks to "sloppy drafting." That seems irrefutable.
The justices, particularly Chief Justice John Roberts, might prefer to duck the case — who needs the court embroiled in another Obamacare dispute? — but that might not be a realistic option.
The dispute involves perhaps the most consequential case of sloppy drafting in congressional history. The section of the law outlining how subsidies are calculated refers specifically to an exchange “established by the state.” It doesn’t mention subsidies for the federal exchanges set up in those states (now 36) that chose not to establish their own. ...Marcus,WaPo
Preventing federal exchanges from offering subsidies would cripple the law, driving up premiums as healthy enrollees drop coverage and sicker ones remain. It is implausible to think that the Congress that created federal exchanges as a backup alternative to state marketplaces also intended them to fail. Yet the legislative language, taken alone, implies that outcome. ...Marcus,WaPo
Will the Supreme Majority use this as a way to strike down a law they don't much like, or will Congress provide a sufficient fix to allow the ACA to stand unchallenged?
The Washington Post's own opinion is that this is a tempest in a tea pot. Of course, it is, you sillies! That's what Republicans are known for these days -- temper tempests. But those tempests are doing a lot of damage.
Let's hope the Post isn't too hopeful about the eventual outcome:
Typically, federal agencies get wide leeway in interpreting laws, except when the law is so unambiguous that the administration’s interpretation can’t be sustained. The D.C. Circuit concluded that a reference to exchanges “established by the state[s]” is so clear that it had no choice but to bar subsidies in the 36 federal-marketplace states. But shortly after the D.C. Circuit ruled, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit disagreed strongly in a near-identical case, noting several other provisions in the law that point to a much more sensible interpretation: that federal tax credits should be widely available.
Given the contradictions, the administration’s interpretation deserves deference. That is particularly true because the administration’s reading accords with the law’s obvious intent: to offer affordable health-care coverage to a large number of Americans. ...Editorial,WaPo
The federal government is investigating how detailed information about migrant children being held at two American military bases wound up in the hands of con artists who are using it to lure unsuspecting relatives into paying hefty sums to reunite their families, preying on people who have been separated for years, according to the F.B.I. ...NYT
Bienvenidos ¡angelitos! Welcome to the land of opportunity! So you kids from Central America (wow! long walky!) won't mind if we Americans make a couple of bucks off your situation, will you?
The leak of information is the latest setback in a saga that hascompromised the Obama administration’s broader aspirations for an immigration overhaul. Investigators are trying to determine whether a federal database on the children was hacked, or if a contractor or government employee with access to information on the minors sold it to con artists, a government official familiar with the case said. ...NYT
Conor Friedersdorf points, this morning, to a pretty scary exposition at The Intercept of the US government's "watch list" -- the black list any one of us could find our names on right now.
A feature of the Patriot Act (which, as most of us know, should have been repealed long since), the watch list has "new guidelines" that "allow individuals to be designated as representatives of terror organizations without any evidence they are actually connected to such organizations, and it gives a single White House official the unilateral authority to place 'entire categories' of people the government is tracking onto the no fly and selectee lists."
Get that? You don't know if you're on it; they don't need evidence to put you on it; if you are on it, you have no way of getting off. Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux describe what they call a "convoluted system":
“Instead of a watchlist limited to actual, known terrorists, the government has built a vast system based on the unproven and flawed premise that it can predict if a person will commit a terrorist act in the future,” says Hina Shamsi, the head of the ACLU’s National Security Project. “On that dangerous theory, the government is secretly blacklisting people as suspected terrorists and giving them the impossible task of proving themselves innocent of a threat they haven’t carried out.” Shamsi, who reviewed the document, added, “These criteria should never have been kept secret.” ...FirstLook
In other words, this isn't about the government admitting to the failures of the intelligence agencies that played a role in 9/11. Instead, the Bush administration continued an elaborate coverup of long term problems. Instead of improving our intelligence gathering and analysis overseas and at home, the government opted for tearing holes in the Constitution and create a data-gathering system that includes all of every American's personal data, data that can be mined from unlimited angles at any time.
So it didn't end with the previous administration and a bygone session of Congress. President Obama has also permitted the abrogation of the Constitution in a way that doesn't defend our liberties but instead challenges them. Friedersdorf writes:
The Obama administration should be condemned for its policy. There is no defense for its avowed belief that a system as opaque and unchallengeable as what it propagates and defends can protect the civil rights and civil liberties of those subject to it. The Congress should also be criticized for permitting two successive presidents to transgress against core American norms and values in this realm. The former Constitutional law lecturer in the Oval Office knows that this system transgresses against basic rule-of-law norms, but has evidently persuaded himself that normal safeguards aren't needed so long as he is in charge. Obama defenders should recalibrate their esteem for the president accordingly. ...Friedersdorf,The Atlantic
... The very existence of this case, Halbig v. Burwell, illustrates basic aspects of the U.S. political system about which progressives are in deep denial: Specifically, the Constitution is designed to inhibit comprehensive national legislation like Obamacare.
Why did the Framers create a federal government of limited and enumerated powers — leaving everything else to the states and “the people”? Why did they provide for so many veto points and counter-majoritarian institutions — frequent House elections, the Senate, federal courts?
These were checks against the rise of what James Madison called “an unjust and interested majority” that might enact its “rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project.” ...CharlesLane,WaPo
You gotta admit, fellow progressives, that we have gone overboard. I guess it started with marching in where we weren't wanted and freeing the slaves. And that awful, unsingable national anthem, badly performed from sea to shining sea! Absolutely uniformly greasy quarter-pounders and popcorn chicken in every settlement of any size from Boring, Oregon to Hell, Michigan to Uncertain, Texas, and Cheesequake, New Jersey. Talk about wicked projects!