Behind the scenes, he says, House Republicans are frustrated by the White House’s evasiveness, and the calls for impeachment will likely increase. Chaffetz acknowledges that House speaker John Boehner is wary of moving too swiftly against the president....“Now, the speaker has more patience than I do,” Chaffetz says. “He has told me to be patient, that the truth will eventually surface. But I’m not a patient person, and if this administration makes us do this the hard way, that’s what we’ll do.”
....“This is an administration embroiled in a scandal that they created,” he says. “It’s a cover-up. I’m not saying impeachment is the end game, but it’s a possibility, especially if they keep doing little to help us learn more.”
See? All those calls from Republican elders to settle down and not get too crazy are working! According to Chaffetz, impeachment isn't a sure thing, it's only a possibility. That's totally non-crazy. All that's left now is to find some actual presidential wrongdoing. But I'm sure that's just a technicality.
Here's yet another reason for mankind to feel forever indebted to the bees: They may one day be instrumental in detecting unexploded landmines. And Croatians are leading the charge in this field of research. Here's the rundown from Wired UK:
Nikola Kezic, a professor in the Department of Agriculture at Zagreb University, has been exploring using bees to find landmines since 2007. Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina and other countries from former Yugoslavia still have around 250,000 buried mines which were left there during the wars of the early 90s. Since the end of the war more than 300 people have been killed in Croatia alone by the explosives, including 66 de-miners.
Tracking down the mines can be extremely costly and dangerous. However, by training bees — which are able to detect odours from 4.5 kilometres away — to associate the smell of TNT with sugar can create an affective way of identifying the locations of mines...The research is ongoing, but once the team is confident in the bees' landmine-seeking abilities, they will release the creatures in areas that have been de-mined to see whether the field has been successfully swept by humans. Kezic toldAP "it has been scientifically proven that there are never zero mines on a de-mined field, and that's where bees could come in."
As wild as this idea sounds, it's hardly unprecedented. In fact, the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy have been working on this sort of research for years. The Defense Advanced Research Laboratory (DARPA) has been studying honeybees since 1999. Check out some of this Pentagon press material released in 2004:
The Washington Post writes today about the extraordinary treatment of a reporter in a recent leak investigation. But this one isn't about the AP or an al-Qaeda mole. It's about North Korea:
When the Justice Department began investigating possible leaks of classified information about North Korea in 2009, investigators did more than obtain telephone records of a working journalist suspected of receiving the secret material.
They used security badge access records to track the reporter’s comings and goings from the State Department, according to a newly obtained court affidavit. They traced the timing of his calls with a State Department security adviser suspected of sharing the classified report. They obtained a search warrant for the reporter’s personal e-mails.
....Court documents in the Kim case reveal how deeply investigators explored the private communications of a working journalist — and raise the question of how often journalists have been investigated as closely as Rosen was in 2010. The case also raises new concerns among critics of government secrecy about the possible stifling effect of these investigations on a critical element of press freedom: the exchange of information between reporters and their sources.
Even more extraordinary, the Justice Department appeared to consider prosecution of not just the leaker in this case, Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, but also the reporter, James Rosen, the chief Washington correspondent for Fox News. The charge? Acting as "either as an aider, abettor, and/or co-conspirator of Mr. Kim." In other words, trying to get access to confidential government information, something that reporters do every single day. The key section of the warrant is below.
In the end, Rosen was never charged with anything, but it sure sounds as if DOJ might have thought about it. Read the entire Post piece for more.
I've read a slew of blog posts over the past few days suggesting that Peggy Noonan has finally and comprehensively gone crazy. The evidence is her latest column, which starts with "We are in the midst of the worst Washington scandal since Watergate" and goes downhill from there. But I don't get it. This isn't Noonan's worst column ever. It's not even her worst column in the month of May. That would be last week's column, in which she accused President Obama of refusing to send rescue teams to Benghazi because he thought it might hurt his reelection chances. I'm not making that up, and I'm not exaggerating. Here's what she wrote:
The Obama White House sees every event as a political event. Really, every event, even an attack on a consulate and the killing of an ambassador. Because of that, it could not tolerate the idea that the armed assault on the Benghazi consulate was a premeditated act of Islamist terrorism. That would carry a whole world of unhappy political implications, and demand certain actions.
....All of this is bad enough. Far worse is the implied question that hung over the House hearing, and that cries out for further investigation. That is the idea that if the administration was to play down the nature of the attack it would have to play down the response—that is, if you want something to be a nonstory you have to have a nonresponse. So you don't launch a military rescue operation, you don't scramble jets, and you have a rationalization—they're too far away, they'll never make it in time. This was probably true, but why not take the chance when American lives are at stake?
Noonan basically thinks that Barack Obama sat in the situation room on September 11th last year and was asked repeatedly, Do you want to send in a FAST team? How about the C-110 force in Croatia? Should we scramble F-16s? Can we send in a team from Tripoli? And each time, Obama stroked his chin, stared up at the ceiling, and decided that attempting to save American lives might hurt his reelection chances. So he said no.
There is, literally, not a single politician in the country that I would suspect of doing something like that. Not even the ones I loathe. Not Dick Cheney. Not Richard Nixon. Not Darrell Issa. Not Newt Gingrich. Not anyone. I think you'd have to go all the way up the ladder to Josef Stalin to find that degree of cynicism and callousness.
But that's apparently what Noonan thinks of Obama. This is the work of a broken soul who happens to have a bit of writing skill. But broken nonetheless.
Poor residents in cities and suburbs, 1970 - 2010 (millions)
Brookings Institution analysis and ACS data
Suburbs such as Highland Park (Detroit), Carol Stream (Chicago), and Forest Park (Atlanta) once stood for escape from the hard times of the inner city. Now their deceptively bucolic names conceal a national epidemic of suburban poverty. According to a report released today by the Brookings Institution, the suburban poor now far outnumber the rural and urban poor: Their ranks grew by 64 percent during the aughts to 16.4 million—a rate of increase more than twice that seen in America's cities.
What's going on here? Well, for one, Ward and June Cleaver's house wasn't exactly built to last. And as retiring baby boomers downsize and young millennials flock to hip inner cities, not that many people want to live in a half-century-old suburban tract home—except people with no other options.
Score one for Republicans: The White House's insistence that Obama learned of every scandal "by reading the news" has become a punchline.
To the extent that this is just political attack-doggery, I don't really care about it. It's what you expect when the opposition party smells chum in the water. But we've been hearing this from mainstream reporters too, and it's a whole lot less defensible there. Chris Matthews, for example, was howling the other day about Obama's ignorance of the AP phone record subpoena, which he thought was indefensible. "You don't think Bobby would have called Jack?" he asked incredulously. And he's right: Bobby would have called Jack. And that would have been wrong, which is why the Justice Department is now kept at a much greater distance from the White House. This is universally considered a good thing, which explains Jay Carney's "Are you serious?" when he was asked about this by reporters a few day ago. Surely we haven't forgotten so soon after Watergate exactly why we prefer for the president to be kept very far away from criminal investigations?
Ditto for the IRS, which for similar reasons is an agency that we've deliberately set up to be independent of the president. We don't want the president to have any influence over the IRS, and we don't want him kept apprised of the details of ongoing inquiries. It would have been a scandal if Obama had known any details about the IG investigation of the IRS's tea party targeting.
By chance, two of our three current "scandals" happen to involve agencies that we really do want to retain their independence from the president. (Benghazi is different, but there's no scandal there in the first place.) As the feeding frenzy moves into high gear, I hope everyone remembers this. Ask all the tough questions you want, but let's not pretend, even jokingly, that Obama should have known more about investigations at DOJ or the IRS. That's exactly the opposite of what we want.
Despite the 37 bills to repeal it and the scores of lawsuits filed against it, Obamacare, a.k.a. the Affordable Care Act, is going to be in full swing soon. But the historic health insurance reform law is going to face many more bumps in the road as it is rolled out. One corner of Obamacare that hasn't gotten much attention is the fact that it will not require employers to cover spouses, which experts say could lead some employers to drop coverage for Americans' significant others.
The Affordable Care Act mandates that employers offer health insurance to workers and their dependents. But the law defines dependents as children, not spouses. And although some health care law experts say this is not going to result in any big changes in the way that employers provide insurance for husbands and wives, others contend that implementation of the law could end up leaving some spouses out of family plans, forcing them to buy insurance elsewhere.
"Right now there are virtually no employers that just offer coverage for the employee and their children," says Tim Jost, a health care law scholar at the Washington and Lee University School of Law who regularly consults with Obama administration officials on implementation of the Affordable Care Act. "Whether that will change or not, who knows. We will probably see at least some employers who will offer individual and child coverage, but not coverage for spouses."
If you live in a household that is in the upper-income range—one that takes in more than $94,000 a year (above 78 percent of households)—and you get dropped from your spouse's coverage, you won't be able to get a government subsidy to purchase insurance on the government-run insurance exchanges being set up by the health law. So, say there's a family in which each parent makes $47,000 a year, but only one has coverage. The spouse that is not covered would have to buy private insurance, which costs hundreds of dollars a month.
If you're middle income or poor, and your spouse's employer drops you from her health coverage, you'll be able to shop on the exchange with a subsidy. Even though your coverage would not be free, the idea is that at least it would be kind of affordable. Unless it's not. When people buy coverage on the exchange, their subsidy will be based on household income. As Jost points out, the problem is that household income for people using the exchanges will be measured before the household pays for the employer-provided health insurance. So the employee could be paying up to 9.5 percent of her income on health insurance for herself (the most that Obamacare will allow insurers to charge for employer-sponsored plans), or an even greater share of her income for individual and child coverage, and still her spouse's subsidy on the exchange would be based on that much higher pre-health-care-costs income level.
"It's a potential problem," says Ethan Rome, executive director of Health Care for America Now, a group that backs Obamacare. "There could be some folks that get lost in the shuffle. And that is not insignificant…If you're one of few people adversely affected by something, it doesn't matter that everyone else on the planet is getting the benefit." (The Department of Health and Human Services declined to comment for the story.)
But Rome adds that the situation "has to be put in context." He points out that this potential glitch doesn't change the fact that some 30 million people currently without insurance will get coverage under Obamacare. And Jonathan Gruber, an MIT economist who helped craft Obama's health care law, notes that "we're still a hell of a lot better off than we are today."
Judy Solomon, vice president for health policy at the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, adds that it's unlikely that too many employers will drop spouses anyway. "Family coverage is valued employee benefit," she says. "I don't see that this provision is going to change what employers do." Rome agrees: "If you are an employer and you provide good quality health care for your employees, including dependent coverage, it's because you understand that a good benefits package is the best way to recruit and retain top-notch employees."
Still, Rome says that Obamacare advocates would like to be able to address technical issues in the law, such as this potential spousal coverage problem, but that the Republican-controlled House makes that impossible. "It is an imperfection in the law and there are some things many of us want to fix," Rome says. "And we could if we did not have a GOP House of Representatives obsessed with repealing the law."
Radiation City Animals in the Median
Tender Loving Empire
Dreamy and wistful is the default mode for plenty of modern bands that haven't figured out who they want to be when they grow up, but the striking Portland, Oregon quintet Radiation City shows how to do it right. Their second album, Animals in the Median, shimmers like a unearthly mirage, weaving together misty melodies, analog electronics and the siren vocals of keyboardist Lizzy Ellison to create a poignant sense of faded optimism and missed opportunities. Hazy gems such as "Wash of Noise" and "Lark" echo the melancholy retro-futurism of Stereolab, albeit with a more delicate touch, while the gauzy "Wary Eyes" evokes the gently eerie sensation of hearing soft music from another room at 3 a.m. Ellison and company could create a great soundtrack for David Lynch.
You know how when you get a song stuck in your head, you're not always sure how it burrowed its way in there? Well, people who attended The National's May 5 performance at New York's MoMA PS1 museum can be pretty damned sure. Over a six-hour period, the band played "Sorrow," off its 2010 release, High Violet, 105 times in a row.
The special performance, aptly dubbed "A Lot of Sorrow," was technically a work created by the Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson as part of his ongoing "explorations into the potential of repetitive performance to produce sculptural presence within sound."
The following clip, supposedly starting around 2 hours and 40 minutes into the show, includes three of the repetitions.
During a Reddit AMA three days later, a band member reflected:
Actually as the hours went on I think we all realized that this experience was something special for us—there was a weird hypnotic resonance and spirituality to repeating the song over and over. We almost didn't want to stop and we learned something about our capacity for endurance and the song opened up in surprising ways...By the end it didn't feel like we were playing it anymore. We know the idea seemed pretentious in some way, but Ragnar has this mix of humor and sadness that feels quite similar to what our songs about...We're very glad to have done it.
This week, The National, follows up its hypnotic performance with the release of Trouble Will Find Me, their sixth studio album, on the 4AD label.
Trouble Will Find Me
Trouble... is replete with the usual mix of sorrow, longing, depression, and nearly infrasonic tone of singer Matt Berninger's voice that fans of The National have come to know and love. But some of the tracks still provide you with the opportunity to rock out, lest you need a break from your whimpering.
For example, there's "Sea of Love," the video of which the band premiered during its AMA. A fan had asked, "What is your guys' favourite music video?" Whereupon the band replied, craftily, "Actually there's one video that we all really love, so we made this homage." They revealed the link to the new video. And the sleuthing promptly began for the original.
A single-take shot in a sparse, nondescript room, with nothing but a dangling microphone, air-conditioning unit, and boy wandering in from off-screen: It didn't look familiar.
Nor should it. It mimics a video for a song first released in 1995—in Russia—by Soviet-era punk band Zvuki Mu. The song title, "Grubiy Zakat," means "Rough Sunset." Check it out:
Bryce Dessner, who plays guitar for The National, told PRI's The World that he "fell in love with it immediately" when he first saw the video on YouTube. "We have to do something like this," he told his bandmates.
They reached out to Zvuki Mu, but were unable to track down any of its members. Obviously, that didn't deter them from making their own version.
Next up for The National: a vinyl version of their six-hour MoMA performance for charity. Seriously.
If the new album, epic vinyl repetition party, and homage to a Soviet video aren't enough for you, you can get more of The National in movie form. Singer Matt Berninger's brother Tom was brought on tour as a roadie and ended up making a haphazard documentary about the band called Mistaken for Strangers. If you can make it to Australia by June, you can catch the next screening at the Sydney Film Festival. I'll leave you with the trailer.
Here is the LA Times describing how the tea party targeting scandal at the IRS got its start:
In March 2010, a manager in a Cincinnati determinations unit asked a screener to get a handle on the issue, according to the report from the Treasury Department's inspector general for tax administration. The agent started pulling applications with political-sounding names, such as "tea party" and "patriots."
For months, the Tea Party cases sat on the desk of a lone specialist, who used “political sounding” criteria — words like “patriots,” “we the people” — as a way to search efficiently through the flood of applications for groups that might not qualify for exemptions, according to the I.R.S. inspector general.
....It is not yet clear which manager in Cincinnati asked for an initial keyword search of Tea Party applications, Congressional aides said. One of the employees that the House committee is seeking to interview this week, Joseph Herr, had been a manager in charge of the group of specialists in Cincinnati from its inception through August 2010, according to the aides.
So we don't yet know who this poor schmoe is. But we're going to subpoena Joseph Herr and make him tell us! And when that happens, this mysterious lone specialist will officially become the most reviled person in America. I can hardly wait.
BY THE WAY: Both of these pieces are well worth reading. They are among the first in what is quickly becoming a whole new subgenre: the story about how the Cincinnati office of the IRS is completely and totally FUBARed. I expect this to culminate in a 20,000-word piece in the New Yorker.