The National Park Service is allowing an Oct. 8 pro-immigration rally on the national mall, even as it posts pickets and barriers to bar Americans from visiting their open-air memorials.
“They’re going to be allowed to go [ahead] because it is a First Amendment activity,” Shannon Maurer, a spokeswoman for the “March for Immigrant Dignity and Respect,” told The Daily Caller.
“They allowed us to have it because it is part of the First Amendment of the constitution,” said Susana Flores, a spokeswoman for CASA in Action, which is organizing the rally. ”We’re going to have a stage and microphones,” plus a stand for TV cameras, she said.
The mall is currently marked as closed, and law enforcement officials have have been deployed to picket open-air monuments to keep Americans off their own land.
Critics quickly pounced on what they see as special treatment for the administration’s allies.
“What this means is that the administration is sending a clear message that it’s OK to barricade elderly veterans out of their memorials, but illegal immigrants have to be accommodated no matter what,” Mark Krikorian, director of the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies, told The Daily Caller.
“It’s hard to justify closing off open areas [such as the World War II memorial], but to allow a major setup with equipment, electronics and security in a closed area is a little outrageous,” said Krikorian.
Administration officials say a rewrite of the nation’s immigration laws remains a very high priority. Analysts say a pending Senate bill would double immigration and allow 33 million immigrants into the country during the next decade.
The Oct. 8 turnout is uncertain, partly because a nationwide series of Oct. 5 marches showed a low turnout. ”We don’t have a number… [maybe] tens of thousands,” for the Oct. 8 event, Flores said.
On Oct. 5, progressive and union groups organized rallies in 40 states, but fewer than 50,000 people turned out, far below their goal of only 130,000 marchers.
Roughly 3,000 people turned out in New York, most of whom were “Asian, Hispanic and Arab,” according to the AFP news agency. That’s less than one percent of the estimated 500,000 illegals in New York, said AFP.
One of the organizers, Linda Sarsour, taunted immigration opponents on Twitter. “This is what America looks like,” she said.
“Several hundred” people turned out in Alabama, “several thousand” people appeared at an event in San Diego, only a short drive from the Mexican border, and only 1,000 people marched in Boston, said The New York Times.
However, the turnout was much larger than has been achieved by groups that want to reduce immigration.
The low turnout by immigration advocates highlights the leading role being played in the immigration debate by business executives, who are seeking a new wave of customers and workers to boost their revenues, said Krikorian.
To get the unpopular bill through Congress, progressives and ethnic lobbies are rallying “illegals in the street, and business lobbyists are working behind closed doors to use the fear of those demonstrations to get their corporate welfare,” he said.
“But if the street demonstrations don’t pan out, that weakens the [clout] of the business lobby,” he said.
The executives are especially influential in the House, because GOP legislators have few incentives to grant citizenship to Democratic-leaning immigrants. Republicans have strong social and professional ties to local business executives, and a perpetual reliance on them for campaign donations.
On Sunday, for example GOP leadership member Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers told the Spanish-language Univision TV station that “I believe that we have a window here between now and the end of the year and that this [immigration rewrite] is a priority.”
“We must pass immigration reform,” claimed McMorris Rodgers.
“It’s a priority for Republicans, for Democrats… important to America, it’s important to our economy,” she insisted, despite polls showing that few Americans or immigrant Latinos want increased immigration, and despite a July forecast from the Congressional Budget office that shows increased immigration will skew the nation’s wealth away from wage-earners.
Six days into the launch of insurance marketplaces created by the new health-care law, the federal government acknowledged for the first time Sunday it needed to fix design and software problems that have kept customers from applying online for coverage.
The Obama administration said last week that an unanticipated surge of Web traffic caused most of the problems and was a sign of high demand by people seeking to buy coverage under the new law.
But federal officials said Sunday the online marketplace needed design changes, as well as more server capacity to improve efficiency on the federally run exchange that serves 36 states.
“We can do better and we are working around the clock to do so,” said Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services. The government is making software and hardware changes to smooth the process of creating accounts needed to gain access to the marketplace, federal officials said.
The website is troubled by coding problems and flaws in the architecture of the system, according to insurance-industry advisers, technical experts and people close to the development of the marketplace.
Among the technical problems thwarting consumers, according to some of those people, is the system to confirm the identities of enrollees. Troubles in the system are causing crashes as users try to create accounts, the first step before they can apply for coverage.
Experian EXPN.LN +0.09% PLC, an information-services firm, holds a federal subcontract to support that system. The company declined to comment.
Information technology experts who examined the healthcare.gov website at the request of The Wall Street Journal said the site appeared to be built on a sloppy software foundation. Such a hastily constructed website may not have been able to withstand the online demand last week, they said.
Engineers at Web-hosting company Media Temple Inc. found a glut of stray software code that served no purpose they could identify. They also said basic Web-efficiency techniques weren’t used, such as saving parts of the website that change infrequently so they can be loaded more quickly. Those factors clog the website’s plumbing, Media Temple said.
The identity-checking foul-ups are also triggering problems for state-run exchanges, which rely on the federal system. The problem caused delays last week for users of MNsure, Minnesota’s exchange, as they waited for federal confirmation to create their accounts, said April Todd-Malmlov, MNsure’s executive director. She said the issue in her state was largely resolved by Friday.
Administration officials, who reported nearly nine million unique visitors to the federally run exchange as of Friday night, said the system underwent maintenance over the weekend.
The federal government is running all or part of the online marketplace for 36 states, while 14 states and the District of Columbia have their own systems. Those state-run systems have seen mixed performance. Such states as Connecticut and Kentucky have successfully enrolled customers, while Maryland had to take down its marketplace periodically last week to fix glitches.
About 30 million uninsured people live in the states the federal marketplace will serve, including Texas and Florida.
So far, Web-traffic problems are allowing only a small trickle of buyers, said John Gorman, chief executive of Gorman Health Group, an insurance-industry consulting firm with clients selling policies on the exchanges.
Large insurers have seen enrollment figures totaling in the hundreds each, said Sumit Nijhawan, chief executive of Infogix Inc., a data-integrity firm that works with such insurers as WellPoint Inc., Aetna Inc. and Cigna Corp.
So far, many tens of thousands of people had started the application process but the number of those who were able to create accounts and shop for coverage is likely in the low thousands, according to people with knowledge of the situation and estimates by insurance-industry advisers.
The administration has declined to say the total number of enrollees.
President Barack Obama has urged patience since the exchange launched. Early last week, as the website opened for business, he said online traffic was higher than expected. “This gives you a sense of how important this is to millions of Americans across the country,” he said.
Stephen Push, a 52-year-old early retiree living in McLean, Va., said he tried to log in to the website a dozen times last week, and was thwarted by website errors each time. On Friday, he called a hotline set up by the administration to help people enroll, but the customer-service representative was also unable to access the online marketplace.
On Sunday, Mr. Push said, he was able complete an application to begin shopping for insurance by telephone. But he said he was told he would have to wait two more days to log in and begin shopping for coverage, a delay the customer service representative attributed to the identity-checking system.
“After what I’ve been through, I’m a little suspicious,” Mr. Push said, adding that he hoped to see premiums lower than what he pays now.
Separately, a system that determines whether people are eligible for federal subsidies to buy insurance, or Medicaid, a state-run program for low-income people, continued to make some inaccurate determinations, despite improvements, people familiar with the matter said. By late last week, officials worried they may have to notify some applicants that they weren’t eligible for programs they enrolled in, one person said.
That system was developed by CGI Group Inc., GIB +0.34% the main contractor developing the federal exchange. CGI declined to comment.
Another problem last week involved security questions that were asked of applicants, similar to those asked by e-commerce websites. Healthcare.gov asks users to select such questions as “What is your radio station?” and then supply answers. Initially, the questions didn’t always appear in drop-down tools, leaving many early customers stuck last week.
After the problem was largely resolved, people said they were able to fill in the required information but the site still couldn’t process their application.
The website and enrollment problems don’t “matter so much in October, but for the actual enrollment campaign, this all needs to get fixed by November or they won’t be able to process the volume they’re going to get,” said Jon Kingsdale, an exchange expert who helped set up a similar marketplace in Massachusetts in 2005 and who now works as a consultant for several state-run exchanges.
Fox News’ Chris Wallace grilled Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Sunday, repeatedly asking him questions regarding the president’s refusal to negotiate with Republicans in Congress over the budget.
“I know the direction is bad,” Lew said about what would happen if the U.S. government defaulted on its debt. “There is a range of how bad. It is irresponsible and it is reckless to take that chance.”
“Despite these stakes, the president is refusing to negotiate,” Wallace countered, noting presidents have negotiated with Congress in the past over a variety of topics. “What’s unprecedented is not Congress tying strings; what’s unprecedented is a president refusing to negotiate.”
“Frankly, I think your history is wrong,” Lew said.
“With all due respect, your history is wrong,” Wallace responded. “This has happened over and over again, and presidents have negotiated.”
Watch the exchange here:
Wallace also pressed Lew on some of his latest comments, asking him if he and the president were intentionally trying to “panic the markets.”
“This week both you and the president seemed to be trying to panic the markets about both raising the debt ceiling and the government shutdown, saying that they should be more concerned,” Wallace said. “Aren’t your efforts failing to try to use the markets to put pressure on Republicans to cave?”
“You know, Chris, it’s my job to strengthen the economy,” Lew replied. “And I spend every day trying to do that.”
The “Fox News Sunday” host closed up the interview by repeatedly grilling Lew over how many individuals have enrolled in Obamacare during its first week.
“How many people have signed up, sir?” Wallace asked. “How many signed up?”
“I don’t have the exact number,” Lew responded.
“You don’t have any number?” Wallace asked, seemingly in shock, “Because the government refuses to tell us how many.”
“That’s the wrong question,” Lew said.
“No, it isn’t,” Wallace countered. “The question is, how many people have actually signed up?”
Lew never provided Wallace with a number during the segment.
President Obama is needlessly scaring seniors by suggesting that their Social Security benefit checks may not arrive on time if the U.S. runs out of borrowing authority at the debt limit. The 57 million Americans who receive Social Security benefits should know that their benefits will not be affected – unless President Obama and the Treasury deliberately choose not to pay them.
President Obama threatened Social Security benefits last week, saying, “In a government shutdown, Social Security checks still go out on time.… In an economic shutdown, if we don’t raise the debt ceiling, they don’t go out on time.”
Here are three reasons why President Obama and the Treasury can continue to issue Social Security payments at the debt limit:
1. The Full Faith and Credit Act. The House of Representatives passed H.R. 807, allowing the Treasury to pay all public debt obligations and Social Security benefit payments after the debt limit has been reached. If the President and his allies were truly worried about defaulting on the debt and about not being able to meet Social Security payments, they could quickly take up this bill and assure America’s creditors and Social Security recipients that they need not worry.
2. The Social Security trust fund. Treasury could redeem Social Security trust fund bonds early to pay benefits at the debt limit. Treasury used this option in 1985 to meet Social Security payments at the debt limit, and a law from 1996 authorizes the Treasury to redeem Social Security bonds early for the purpose of “payment of benefits or administrative expenses.” By making room under the debt limit from redeeming trust fund bonds early, Treasury is able to borrow additional funds from the public to make benefit payments.
3. Revenues. Treasury will collect more than enough revenue in fiscal year 2014 to meet all debt obligations and most non-debt obligations on an annualized basis. After prioritizing interest on the debt, the Treasury could fund $2.8 trillion in additional obligations with projected revenues. This would cover, for example, Social Security and disability payments ($848 billion), discretionary defense programs ($582 billion), Medicare ($505 billion), Medicaid ($298 billion), and $517 billion of all other obligations – in total, more than three-quarters of the non-interest budget.
While Social Security is in desperate need of reform, there are at least three reasons why Social Security benefit recipients should know that President Obama and the Social Security Administration are scaring them needlessly.
After a week of inexplicable and expensive measures to deny access to memorials that have no barrier to entry and to physical sites that aren’t actually run by the National Parks Services. the Obama administration has earned the sobriquet “Spite House.” Over the weekend, NPS kicked out residents on Lake Mead, including an elderly couple who had 24 hours to clear out of their own home:
Joyce Spencer is 77-years-old and her husband Ralph is 80. They’ve been spending most of their time in the family ice cream store since going home isn’t an option.
The Spencers never expected to be forced out of their Lake Mead home, which they’ve owned since the 70s, but on Thursday, a park ranger said they had 24 hours to get out…
Joyce Spencer said she’s alright in the meantime, staying with nearby family, but the move was a lot to handle as a senior citizen.
“I had to be sure and get his walker and his scooter that he has to go in,” Spencer said. “We’re not hurt in any way except it might cost me if I have to go buy more pants.”
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the effort then turned from physical sites to virtual sites. Despite having funds to run essential operations – which most would figure includes law enforcement operations, especially those involving the safety of children – the Department of Justice shut down the Amber Alert website system over the weekend:
The Amber alert system, the national missing-child warning program, has been shut off due to the government shutdown, according to the Department of Justice.
“Due to the lapse in federal funding, this Office of Justice Programs website is unavailable,” it says on amberalert.gov.
The Amber Alerts proper are still in operation, but the federal website served as an important central point of search on news of missing children. There is no reason to shut down a website that is already up and running, either. It doesn’t save money unless they’re turning off the servers, and they’re clearly not doing that. The website might not get updates if the staff running it is furloughed, but once up and running it should more or less run on its own – much like the World War II memorial does when NPS officials are not on duty.
Update: Jake Tapper reports that the faceplant became too much for the DoJ and the White House:
In any case, after some negative publicity over the weekend and concern by many members of the public that the whole system was down, the Justice Department reversed course and restored the AmberAlert.gov website…
The official told CNN that the website is informational only, detailing the department’s role in providing training to states on how to have an Amber Alert system, and that the alerts themselves were not affected. Amber Alerts are issued jurisdictionally, by county or state, the official said, adding that the Amber Alert system, which consists largely of press notifications, highways signs, and tweets, is functional and not affected by the shutdown.
The Justice Department official explained the website’s page appearing as if Amber Alert is down by saying, “The Office of Justice Programs (OJP) ran out of funds on Friday so all of the sites they maintain about the work they do went offline.”
It was not clear as to why it would cost less to change the website’s appearance than to just keep it the way it was.
It doesn’t cost less; it almost certainly cost more to take the site off line than it would have cost to leave it alone. Spite House, indeed.
But note how very laudatory The Hill is regarding the wily Reid. And note the article goes out of its way to protect Obama from any political fallout from Reid’s aggressive, no-compromise stance – claiming that Obama is just a spectator in all of this, and himself only wishes to compromise.
President Obama has handed over the reins of leadership on government funding and the debt limit to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
Reid is now fully in charge of his party’s negotiating strategy, a significant change from past showdowns with Republicans.
He has taken the initiative from Obama, who played the principal role in the 2011 debt-limit talks and New Year’s fiscal cliff deal. Some Democrats on Capitol Hill are relieved by the switch.
The majority leader has brought a more pugnacious style to the debate, bashing House conservatives as “anarchists” and mocking the “Banana Republican mindset.”
This is a welcome change for Democrats who thought Obama was too accommodating to Republicans during previous crises.
Wait, I thought compromise was a good thing? I also enjoy the Democrats’ efforts (assisted by the Hill) to try to shield Obama from the political consequences of his decisions — “Hey, Obama is just a big compromiser who wants what’s best for everyone, but he’s not in charge now, so don’t hold any of this partisan squabbling against him.”
Wait, the President of the United States isn’t in charge?
I can’t keep excerpting, but the passage I cut has more Democrat quotes talking about how open to compromise Obama is, but that he’s been sidelined by… well, by someone who has no power to sideline him.
“There’s no question, Reid is now the quarterback,” said a Senate Democratic aide. That became clear when Reid persuaded Obama last month to abandon an effort to set up a bipartisan meeting of congressional leaders before government funding expired.
All of this is obviously coordinated (though the Hill didn’t notice the obvious) to protect Obama from the fallout from his own chosen policy.
What is interesting is that Obama would apparently prefer to be thought of as weak and voting present rather than taking charge of, and standing personally behind, his own chosen strategy.
Alecia Beth (Pink) Moore
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