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Mon Feb 23, 2015 at 05:43 PM PST

The contents of Obama's heart

by Craig Hardegree

I don’t know if Franklin Graham is a Christian. Or if he loves America. I don’t know if Rudy Giuliani is a Christian or if he loves America. And I don’t know either of those things about Mitt Romney. Or George Bush. Or Ronald Reagan. I don’t even know if Pope Francis is a Christian.

Just as I don’t know if anyone who claims to be Muslim, is truly Muslim.

I do know whether a person is Jewish, because that status is defined in objectively-verifiable ways: being born to Jewish parents; or conversion, which can only be done after a ruling from a Bais Dina court.

But whether a person is a Christian; whether a person is a Muslim; whether a person loves America, are all matters purely of the heart, not subject to objective testing.

A person becomes a Christian by publicly professing that Jesus Christ is Lord and by believing in his or her heart that God raised him from the dead. Romans 10:9.

To become a Muslim, a person must publicly profess that there is no God except Allah; that Muhammad is his messenger; and, believe this in his or her heart.

And if “patriotism” is defined as “love of country” – and, it is – it, too, can only be verified by examining the contents of a person’s heart; something we mortals are ill-equipped to do.

When Giuliani was stammering around under the withering questioning of Megyn Kelly for the basis of his (baseless) assertion that President Obama doesn’t love America, he finally resorted to bringing up Frank Marshall Davis, a man to whom President Obama, as a young boy, was introduced by his WWII veteran grandfather and a man who, in many ways, served as a substitute father for President Obama.

But surely a person is not to be judged on the basis of his family members. At least not by Giuliani, whose own father became a resident of Sing Sing after having been convicted of felonious assault and robbery and whose daughter shoplifted from Sephora.

In the 1972 movie “The Candidate,” left-wing liberal actor Robert Redford, playing left-wing liberal candidate Bill McKay in a mostly-satirical comedy, wore a flag pin on his lapel as he ran for US Senate. This caught the eye of H.R. Haldeman, Nixon’s Chief of Staff, and soon all of Nixon’s aides were wearing flag pins on their lapels. Nixon sported one as he lied to the American public about his involvement in Watergate. Haldeman went on to spend 18 months as a chemist in the sewage treatment facility at Lompoc Federal Prison in California, after having been found guilty of conspiracy and obstruction in the Watergate debacle.

Surely, the wearing of a lapel pin cannot be a measure of patriotism.

But that is exactly what it became in 2007 in Iowa when conservatives and Clinton-supporters began pitching conniption fits over President Obama’s decision not to wear one, as he felt such symbolism had become a shallow substitute for deeper heartfelt patriotism.

He underestimated the public’s reliance on the shortcuts of symbolism as life hacks for the mentally more cumbersome tasks of studying and analyzing and comprehending issues on a deeper level.

Perhaps he thought America had evolved since the days when Ronald Reagan was heralded as a strong leader based purely on his shallow symbolic swagger-talk against Iran – delivered publicly, as he privately winked at the Ayatollah and sold arms to him behind the backs of the American people.

Perhaps he thought America was tired of meaningless symbolic swagger, having seen Bush jet onto the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln wearing a flight suit – a stunt described by the Wall Street Journal as “appearing credible as commander in chief” and “virile, sexy, and powerful” – as he assured the American people that the worst of the Iraq war was over...in a record 40 days...with almost no casualties; when, the deeper truth was, the seven-year war with 5,000 American deaths and a trillion dollar debt...had only just begun.

But, no. Americans love shallow symbolism.

In 2005 the Bush administration had advance intelligence regarding the time and place of an al-Qaeda meeting of the highest level to be led by Ayman Al-Zawahri, second only to Osama bin Laden. With Navy Seals already in parachute gear headed into Pakistan on a C-130, the Bush administration called off the raid, concerned that it was too risky and fearful that Pakistan would be upset, as the target was in the tribal area which Pakistan had specifically barred the US from entering.

On May 2, 2011, President Obama ordered two stealth-configured Black Hawks to fly nap-of-the-earth below radar 120 miles into the sovereign airspace of nuclear-armed Pakistan without a “please” or a “thank you” to the Pakistani government. When Pakistani fighter jets were briefly scrambled during the 38-minute raid, a chilling message was crisply broadcast over their radios: “This is the United States Military. Return to your base or you WILL be engaged.” Osama bin Laden was sliding off the end of the gang plank on the USS Carl Vinson with 300 pounds of chains in his burial shroud before they mustered the courage to fly again.

But Bush is “strong” and President Obama is “weak” because Bush talked big and swaggered around in a flight suit.

And because of that same eschewing of meaningless symbolism, President Obama is doing “nothing” against ISIL, in the shallow perception of all conservatives and way-too-many liberals.

As of February 4, President Obama had conducted 946 airstrikes against ISIL inside Syria, while Jordan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE had conducted a combined total of 79. That’s 92.3% of the airstrikes.

Beginning February 5th, the fed-up King Abdullah II of Jordan donned a flight suit – apparently he takes the Wall Street Journal – and swaggered around and engaged in a lot of big talk about destroying ISIL, as Jordan embarked on a three-day “ramped up” response to ISIL by conducting an additional...wait for it...56 airstrikes.

A still-woefully-inadequate response compared to what President Obama has been doing on a steady and consistent basis.

But King Abdullah’s use of shallow symbolism immediately endeared him to American conservatives who heralded him as a strong and decisive leader and lamented that our own President Obama could not be more like him. Which, would be a surprising development, if we had not already heard Giuliani frothing praise for Putin’s "strong and decisive" actions in Crimea and Ukraine.

The sad truth is, they passionately hate President Obama, as a person. So nothing he does and no change he makes, will ever please them. He could debase himself and jump through their hoops to their glee and delight, but they would still criticize him. He could acquiesce and use the wording they are presently demanding, but they would simply change their demands to different wording, just as Jim Crow elections officials would change the questions on voter literacy tests, once the original questions were answered correctly. He could talk big and engage in a purely symbolic swagger-stunt, but they would laugh him off the stage, as they did when the “diminutive” Dukakis put on a combat helmet and took a staged ride in a 68-ton M1 Abrams Battle Tank.

But in the final analysis, it is because of President Obama’s impeccable uprightness; his undeniable positive achievements; his first-in-modern-history-to-be-scandal-free presidency, that they are relegated-down to criticizing (their perceptions of) the contents of his heart.

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Bush at Booker E. Elementary inn Sarasota on morning of 9/11/01
Dirty diapers were still in the bathroom, food sitting out on the kitchen counter, unopened mail on the table. Two recently-registered cars were in the driveway, a brand new PT Cruiser in the garage. The residents of 4224 Escondito Circle in a posh gated-community in Sarasota, Florida, had abandoned everything and hurriedly fled in a white van. Two weeks later, Saudi terrorists flew hijacked planes into the World Trade Center.

The $600K home on Escondito Circle was owned by Esam Ghazzawi, a Saudi national and advisor to a high-level Saudi prince. Ghazzawi’s daughter, Anoud, and her husband, Abdulazzi al-Hiijii, and their small children were the residents. Ghazzawi and al-Hiijii were already on the radar of the FBI and another agency which tracks funds being funneled to terrorists. License plates automatically photographed by the gatehouse show that Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi, and Ziad Jarrah were visitors to the home. Subpoenaed phone records connect Waleed al-Shehri to the home. He was on American Airlines Flight 11 which Mohamed Atta piloted into the North Tower. The FBI tied 10 other terrorists to the home.

Venice, Florida is 10 miles away from the home on Escondito. Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi, and Ziad Jarrah, all lived in Venice for most of 2001, leading up to 9/11. Atta and al-Shehhi took flying lessons at Huffman Aviation, at the Venice city airport. Jarrah got his pilot’s license from Florida Flight Training, a block away. He was at the controls of Flight 93 when it crashed in Shanksville. Marwan al-Shehhi flew United Airlines Flight 175 into the South Tower.

exterior of home at 4224 Escondito Circle where three 9/11 hijackers held meetings
The Saudi-owned home at 4224 Escondito Circle in Sarasota, FL visited by 9/11 mastermind Mohamed Atta and two other 9/11 hijackers. [Photo from Zillow listing.]
Interior of home at 4224 Escondito Circle where three 9/11 hijackers held meetings
Interior of home at 4224 Escondito Circle in Sarasota, FL. [Photo from Zillow listing.]
Emma E. Booker Elementary School located at 2350 Dr. Martin Luther King Way is 10.2 miles away from 4224 Escondito Circle. Bush was reading a fairy tale to children at Booker on the morning of September 11, 2001 when the first plane hit the building.

Thirty-six days earlier the CIA had delivered a memo to the vacationing Bush in Crawford warning him that Osama bin-Laden was determined to strike inside the US and that he wanted to use hijacked planes. The unreleased daily briefings (leading up to that one released memo) have been seen in portions by journalists who say the earlier warnings were more dire and imminent and had been consistently given to Bush since the Spring of 2001.

I remember where I was. I remember what I felt. I remember a heart-broken county. I remember a unified country. I remember a swell of pride watching President Bush standing on the rubble with a megaphone. I remember the solidarity as we all tuned in to watch the prayer service at the National Cathedral, 13 years ago today, three days after the attacks. I remember the dean of the cathedral, a black minister, praying, and no one caring about the color of his skin. I remember a black pastor of a Methodist church in Houston reading scripture and no one saying that he wasn’t “one of us.” I remember a Jewish rabbi reading the Hebrew lesson from Lamentations and no one saying he “killed Jesus.” I remember Iman Muzammil Siddiqi of the Islamic Society of North America, praying, and no one saying that he was a terrorist or that his Koran advocates the killing of Christians. I remember the Catholic archbishop of Washington reading scripture with no one worrying that the church was trying to take over the state.

I remember the physical frailties of Billy Graham and the humbleness and sincerity of his prayer. I don’t remember him questioning the sincerity of the president’s faith, as his son would later do with President Obama.

I don’t remember liberals blaming Bush for the attack, as conservatives would do with President Obama exactly 11 years later when a diplomatic outpost would be attacked by terrorists. I don’t remember liberals accusing Bush of giving a “stand down” order to those protecting our country so the attack could proceed unimpeded. I don’t remember liberals accusing Bush of secretly wanting the enemy to succeed, even though he was very near the probable planning-house on the morning of the attacks; allowed a plane-load of Saudis to flee the country when all other fights were grounded; held hands and kissed-on-the-mouth with the Saudi crown prince at the Crawford ranch.

Liberals stood with Bush in spite of their disappointment over the Supreme Court stepping in, with no precedent, and shutting down a state’s recount, essentially appointing Bush to be president. Liberals stood with Bush from the time he looked up from reading the fairy tale in Sarasota, through the time he stood on the rubble, hosted the prayer service, and invaded Afghanistan. We only lost step with him in 2003 when he abandoned the mission and invaded an unrelated country which had no connections whatsoever to 9/11.

What I will never understand, and what has never been articulated by any conservative, is why they hate President Obama...why they hate him so much that they will give aid and comfort to ISIL by attacking President Obama in front of the world and accusing him of being in cahoots with ISIL...why they hate him so much that they would embolden Putin by attacking President Obama in front of the world and saying that he looks “weak” compared to Putin.

I’m still waiting on a reason for their hatred. And at least for the ones in the Teavangelical wing of the conservatives, they really need to come up with a reason. Because according to their interpretation of the Bible, one day they will have to give an account to God for their hatred.

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If Georgia State Senator Fran Millar was trying to make a name for himself today, he succeeded by sending a letter and posting to Facebook about his opposition to the interim DeKalb County CEO's decision to hold one of the early-voting days on a Sunday at a mall located in a predominantly-black area of DeKalb County, in the vicinity of several predominantly-black mega-churches. He wonders, in his Facebook post, whether church buses may be used to transport black church-goers to the polling site and he worries that such would offend the "accepted principle of separation of church and state."

"Now we are to have Sunday voting at South DeKalb Mall just prior to the election. Per Jim Galloway of the AJC, this location is dominated by African American shoppers and it is near several large African American mega churches such as New Birth Missionary Baptist. Galloway also points out the Democratic Party thinks this is a wonderful idea – what a surprise. I’m sure Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter are delighted with this blatantly partisan move in DeKalb.

Is it possible church buses will be used to transport people directly to the mall since the poll will open when the mall opens? If this happens, so much for the accepted principle of separation of church and state."

Senator Millar and his wife are active members of the Dunwoody United Methodist Church. Back in 2012, on Sunday, January 8, just days before the Georgia legislature would go into session, Dunwoody United Methodist Church decided to nix the regular preaching & singing at both the 9:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. services. They decided that both services would be devoted to a "Sunday morning session with your state lawmakers."

Among the six named lawmakers who would be attending, five were Republican and, of course, Senator Fran Millar, was one of the five.

Expecting an overflow crowd, the announcement said free parking would be available at the nearby Dunwoody Library.

And...compliments of the church, attendees would be...

bused to the event.  

   
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Photo made by Craig Hardegree of pumpkin harvest at Burt's Pumpkin Farm in Dawsonville, Georgia
Did a political operative with close ties to Georgia Governor Nathan Deal orchestrate the removal of the non-partisan video-journalist from the GOP's pumpkin patch forum?

Burt’s Pumpkin Farm is a popular destination in the fall for residents of Atlanta and north Georgia. For many, especially those with small children, it’s a tradition to stop by and take family photos amongst the sea of recently-harvested beach-ball-size pumpkins.

Saturday before last (August 23rd), Republican candidates for statewide offices in Georgia gathered in Burt’s pumpkin patch to pitch partisan political positions to the populace. While the pumpkin patch is on private property owned by Johnny and Kathy Burt, the meet-and-greet was advertised as being open to the public.  

Nydia Tisdale is a non-partisan citizen video-journalist who films local government meetings and political forums, uploading raw “Nydeos” to her site, AboutForsyth.com without partisan commentary or slant. She had arrived early at the forum, securing both a front-row seat and permission from the Burts to film the event. At some point during the first speaker’s remarks, the Burts allegedly withdrew their permission. The withdrawal of permission was questionably communicated to Ms. Tisdale by an out-of-uniform, off-duty deputy who never identified himself as law enforcement. To gain compliance with his demand that she stop recording, the deputy jerked the camera away from Ms. Tisdale and violently manhandled her as he pushed/dragged her to the barn, bent her over a table, pressed "himself" into her backside and draped his stout upper body over her thin frame. At this point – and still not knowing that her assailant was law enforcement – she may have reflexively elbowed him in the mouth and kicked him in the shin, alleged actions for which she now faces a felony obstruction charge to go along with the misdemeanor criminal trespass charge.

Linda Clary Umberger, the chairwoman of the Dawson County Republican Party (which did not participate in organizing and hosting the forum), followed them into the barn, apologizing to Ms. Tisdale for the way she was being treated, before storming-out in disapproval of the heavy-handed law enforcement tactics.

Ms. Tisdale later told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the deputy “didn’t need to have his body pressed against my rear end.” Chairwoman Umberger described the scene to the AJC: “I watched as a woman was bent over the counter on her face, with an officer over her. If I had been her, I would have elbowed him in the face, too. I was so upset at how they handled it – I walked out.”  

Umberger later issued a statement which she said reflected her personal view, not the local party's view:

"Being a Republican woman and the chair of the Dawson County GOP, I am still troubled by the removal of a woman who was videoing speakers at a political event this past Saturday at Burt's Pumpkin Farm in north Georgia. This meeting was advertised as open to the public and there were no announcements or signs requesting recording devices to be put away. Though I have a respect for private property rights, I also respect the First Amendment rights of an individual, which should be mutually respected. I believe this was an unfortunate situation that could have been avoided if cooler heads had prevailed."
The forum opened with remarks by one of the organizers, Clint Bearden, former chair of the Dawson County Republican Party. He then introduced the first speaker, Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens. A year ago, Hudgens was bitten by an audio recording of a Republican event where he had bragged about obstructing ObamaCare and said that he would get around the ACA rule prohibiting insurance commissioners from administering insurance agent exams to ACA navigators, by simply marking through “insurance agent exam” and writing-in “navigator exam.”

So maybe it was his past experience, combined with the impertinent remark he had just made about Michelle Nunn making him "want to puke," that caused Hudgens to draw attention to the fact that Ms. Tisdale was videotaping the event.

Brian Pritchard, a male journalist who was seated directly behind Ms. Tisdale as Hudgens was speaking (and who curiously remained unmolested throughout the entire forum even though his audio recorder was in plain view and he was continually snapping still-photos with his camera), made some interesting observations:

“Hudgens introduced Richard Woods. While Woods was speaking, Bearden went and sat next to Tisdale, and according to Tisdale, he asked her to stop videoing or she would have to leave. Tisdale told him that she was invited and would not stop....As Woods continued to speak, Bearden went to Deputy Wooten for assistance. I then watched Bearden go and speak to the property owners Johnny and Kathy Burt. By this time, Labor Commissioner Mark Butler had started speaking. Bearden returned and said something to Wooten. At this time both Bearden and Wooten approached Tisdale. Wooten told her she had to turn the camera off. Tisdale refused and continued to video. Wooten started to try to remove the camera from Tisdale’s hands. When she refused and struggled to keep the camera running, Wooten began to physically remove her from the event. Tisdale physically resisted being removed turning the camera on Wooten screaming, ‘Identify yourself, who are you?’ Butler paused as everyone watched Tisdale struggling with Wooten. Deputy Wooten then physically removed Tisdale as she continued to scream and video him. Butler tried to continue speaking but was interrupted by loud screams coming from Tisdale in the barn....Tisdale told FYN in an exclusive interview...that she screamed because Deputy Wooten had her arm twisted up her back and she was in pain.”
And so it would appear that Clint Bearden is the person who wanted Ms. Tisdale to stop recording the remarks being made by the Republican candidates. It was Clint Bearden – not law enforcement and not the property owners – who initiated the request for Ms. Tisdale to stop videoing. But lacking the authority of law enforcement or the property owners, his request was ignored. So Clint Bearden set about to obtain law enforcement authority from the deputy. Although we don't know what was said between them, it is likely that Bearden was told that he would first have to obtain authority from the property owners to shut-down Ms. Tisdale, as he went immediately from the deputy to the property owners before returning to the deputy and then accompanying the deputy to confront Ms. Tisdale.

And who is Clint Bearden? Aside from serving as chair of the Dawson County Republican Party during the 2012 elections, he is the law partner of David Ralston, the Republican Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives. Previously, he served as law clerk for Hall County Superior Court Judge Jason Deal, who is the son of Governor Nathan Deal. Just last year, Governor Deal appointed Bearden to a cushy job on the Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority.

According to Pritchard, Governor Deal and his wife were seated on the front row with an up-close-and-personal view of the manhandling of Ms. Tisdale. Governor Deal made no attempt to stop or even address the heavy-handed tactics, either at the time of the events or later when it was his turn to speak.

On the Thursday following the event, journalist Pritchard posted an audio of his interview with Sheriff Carlisle wherein the sheriff said that the deputy was still on active duty. The article was later updated to show that the deputy was later suspended sometime after that interview, pending an internal investigation. By Friday morning, the deputy was fully reinstated, cleared of all wrong-doing, after an investigation which consisted of speaking to "witnesses" but, not to Ms. Tisdale. DawsonNews.com also reported on the suspension/reinstatement. The incident report obtained by journalist Pritchard through a freedom of information request had listed only two witnesses: Pepper Pettit and...wait for it...Clint Bearden. So the person who set in motion the events which led to the deputy's assault on Ms. Tisdale, was the same person whose interview with internal affairs served to clear the deputy from any wrongdoing.  

Also on Friday morning, Ms. Tisdale was allowed to retrieve her video camera from the sheriff's department with original footage fully intact.

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President Obama has had the absolute worst, most-horrible, unspeakably-terrible year of any president in the history of the republic. The year 2013 was worse for President Obama than the year 476 was for Romulus Augustulus, when he was removed as the last emperor, by Odovacar, as Rome fell to the Goths. It was even worse than the year Adam had, the year God kicked him out of the Garden.

We should have expected a year of miserable failures. After all, at the end of 2012 President Obama was reelected with 51% of the popular vote, making him one of only three presidents in more than 100 years to have won twice with at least 51% of the popular vote each time. The only other two presidents who achieved this feat since 1900, were Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower. A terrible way to start the year.

GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWNS

A year ago, we were bracing to go over the “fiscal cliff” on December 31, 2012, as a result of a combination of the Bush tax cuts automatically expiring and “sequestration,” which was a 10% across-the-board cut on all government spending.

The Bush tax cuts did expire on January 1, 2013, but the crisis was averted by congress passing the Obama Tax Cuts on January 2nd and kicking sequestration down the road for two more months. This allowed Republicans to threaten a government shutdown again in two months. And again in the Fall of 2013.

Republicans were able to keep threatening government shutdowns, because congress had not passed a full budget since President Obama had been in office, not even when the Democrats held control of the House. The government was funded through “CRs” or continuing resolutions which congress would pass every few months to continue funding the government at present levels. Democrats had originally started this unusual method of funding the government through merely continuing a previous (Bush) budget, probably to keep from having unpopular expenditures in the budget pinned on them. But once Republicans gained control of the House, they were able to wield this as a weapon, periodically seeking to extract unrelated concessions from President Obama in exchange for them funding the government, something that had been done on a routine basis before President Obama was elected.

So at the end of this terribly awful year for President Obama, where are we in terms of the Republicans being able to use the threat of a government shutdown to force President Obama to do something they want (like repeal Obamacare)? The threat is totally gone. The weapon has been completely taken away from Republicans. On December 18, 2013, congress finally passed a full budget, a TWO YEAR budget. So for the next TWO YEARS, the government is fully funded leaving Republicans with no weapon. What a horrible outcome for President Obama.

OBAMACARE

During most of 2013, conservatives were confident that Obamacare would be destroyed this year. The Supreme Court was expected to rule on the constitutionality of it and strike it down. The Republican-controlled House would hold more than 40 votes to repeal it. Ted Cruz would stall the workings of the Senate to force President Obama to defund it. The Tea Party wing of the House Republicans would shut down the government until President Obama agreed to defund it. Insurance companies would cancel policies which had been specifically grandfathered in, in a deceptive attempt to make policyholders THINK they HAD to buy super-expensive, suggested policies from the insurer, instead of telling the policyholders that they could go to the Obamacare Exchange and get a new policy for much less money, using tax credits. PolitiFact would call this the “lie of the year” and attribute the deception to President Obama, instead of the insurance companies. Mainstream media would attempt to pump up ratings by pushing undocumented and unsubstantiated horror stories from people who had an axe to grind (hated President Obama and Obamacare in the first place) and by blatantly refusing to report documented success stories and, by failing to do corrective reporting when the horror stories fell apart.

And at the end of this terribly awful year for President Obama, where is Obamacare? None of the weapons formed against the law prospered. All attempts to destroy it, failed miserably. When the dust cleared, the only thing still standing was Obamacare. Every day, more and more people are signing up for it, including a million people in December, and every day, more and more people are finding out exactly what Obamacare really is and, they are LOVING it! A terrible outcome for President Obama in 2013.

CATHOLIC CHURCH & OBAMA’S "WAR ON RELIGION"

A year ago, the leaders of the Catholic Church in America were at the forefront of criticizing President Obama’s “morals.” Cardinal Burke was one of President Obama’s harshest critics. He had famously said in 2004 that John Kerry should be denied receiving the holy sacrament of Communion and in 2009 he said that a Catholic could not have voted for President Obama with a clear conscience, labeling President Obama as an “agent of death.” That same year, Pope Benedict appointed Cardinal Burke to the Congregation of Bishops, giving him tremendous influence in the selection of US bishops. Leaders of the Catholic Church in America moralized against President Obama’s pro-choice and equality-for-all stances and filed lawsuits against the requirement in Obamacare that insurance policies must cover birth control pills alongside Viagra. And in Pope Benedict’s address to American Bishops, he implored them to help Catholic politicians understand their personal responsibility to bring their faith to bear on the “great MORAL issues of our time” with little mention of economic issues. All of this gave Republican leaders an excuse to sanctimoniously align themselves with Catholic leaders and beat their Pharisee chests and lament how President Obama was waging a “war on religion.”

But during 2013, the most holy of all holy men gathered in Rome to seek God as to who the new Pope should be. And after deeply communing with God, these holy men announced that God had chosen Pope Francis, who burst onto the scene decrying Reagan-designed “trickle-down” economics and criticizing income inequality with such fervor that Sarah Palin flippantly labeled this holy man of God as the “Obama of the Catholic Church” while Rush Limbaugh called him a “Marxist” and Paul Ryann patronizingly said “this guy” isn’t from around here…he just doesn’t understand American capitalism. And just two weeks ago, Pope Francis relieved Cardinal Burke – President Obama’s thorn in the side – of his position in the Congregation of Bishops, replacing him with Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who said of denying Communion to a pro-choice politician, "Our primary job is to teach and try to convince people. The tradition in our country has not been in the direction of refusing Communion, and I think it's served us well." And in Pope Francis’ Christmas address to the Vatican Curia? Did he harp on their responsibility to weigh-in on the “great moral issues of the day?” No. He told them they needed to “moralize less” and spend more time “showing mercy to the needy.”

So at the end of 2013, instead of the Catholic Church leading a moralizing crusade against President Obama on social issues, Pope Francis is crusading WITH President Obama on the liberal philosophies of collectively helping the poor as commanded by Jesus and seeking to narrow the unjust income-disparity gap. Another awful outcome for President Obama in 2013.

IRS SCANDAL

Each governmental department has an appointed watchdog, known as an “inspector general” who is independent from the department, with near-unfettered power to investigate anything he deems improper within the department.

Groups which are seeking tax-exempt status must submit an application to the IRS and in the application they must acknowledge that they will not be engaging in activities to influence elections. It is the job of the IRS to scrutinize and investigate the applications to make sure the group will not be attempting to influence elections, before the IRS gives them the tax-exempt status. If a group has a political-sounding name, it usually gets flagged for extra scrutiny.

In 2013 the IG for the Department of Treasury (which includes the IRS) issued a report saying that the IRS under President Obama had scrutinized ONLY groups with conservative-sounding political names. (While these groups should have been scrutinized, it would be wrong to scrutinize ONLY conservative-sounding groups, while not also scrutinizing groups with liberal-sounding names.) The Republican chair of the House Oversight Committee, Darrell Issa, publicly said there was deposition testimony which showed that President Obama directed the IRS to do this (to ONLY scrutinize groups with conservative-sounding names.)

How did this all end for President Obama in 2013? Over the objection of Issa who had released only a deceptively-edited PORTION of the deposition transcript, the Ranking Democrat on the committee released the entire transcript which proved beyond any doubt that the White House knew absolutely nothing about what the IRS was doing regarding the tax-exempt applications. This severely damaged Issa’s credibility, revealing to the public that he was intentionally being deceptive. His credibility was so damaged that it spilled over to other investigations he was conducting, such as the investigation into "Benghazi."

Then an IG staffer revealed that the staff was told -- from the beginning -- to ONLY LOOK FOR conservative groups which had been subjected to extra scrutiny. Remember, it was the job of the IRS to scrutinize such applications and, their actions would have been improper ONLY if they looked at conservative groups while not looking at liberal groups. So it was revealed that the IG (who had been appointed by Bush) set up the audit – from the beginning – to make it look as though the IRS had acted improperly, because the IG had told the staff to not even LOOK to see if extra scrutiny was given to liberal groups. So when everyone looked back at ALL the IRS records, they found that the IRS had acted properly all along – it had EQUALLY scrutinized BOTH liberal and conservative groups.

So not only were the IRS and President Obama COMPLETELY cleared, but Darrell Issa joined the ranks of Ken Starr and Mike Nifong (Duke lacrosse prosecutor) and the credibility and legitimacy of the House Oversight Committee was so damaged that it will be extremely difficult for them to whip up any new political witch-hunts for the remainder of President Obama’s term. It just keeps getting worse for President Obama.

BENGHAZI

At the end of 2012, conservatives were liberally throwing around the word “impeachment” regarding "Benghazi." They had two (completely opposite) theories. One, President Obama intentionally put defenseless Americans in harm’s way. Then, when the attack began and help was on the way, President Obama told the reinforcements to “stand down” because he WANTED Muslim terrorists to kill Americans. Two, President Obama did NOT want terrorists killing Americans (so close to the election), so he trotted out Ambassador Susan Rice to say that initial reports from the intelligence community indicated that the killers were motivated by an anti-Muslim film, not by terrorism.

And again Darrell Issa over-promised. He assured the American public that he had the smoking gun to prove that President Obama violated his oath of office. But after conducting hearings upon hearings upon hearings, he had nothing. Anyone who studied the issue quickly saw that security was weak because of Republican cuts to the State Department’s diplomatic budget. And they saw it wasn’t four defenseless civilians who were killed. It was one ambassador and his information officer who were killed when the attack began and, they were defenseless because people at the compound could not repel the attackers as their weapons were locked in a separate building on the compound, a decision which would have been made locally, not by the President. And the other two who died, were from CIA security teams, one located a mile down the road which assisted that night and, the other in Tripoli which arrived the next morning. The two teams were engaged in heavily-armed combat with the attackers the following morning, when a man from each team was hit by mortar fire as both manned MK46 machine guns from the roof of the CIA Annex. They died fully-armed in battle, with no less dignity or accomplishment than the 5,000 Americans who died in Bush's war.

So security WAS present and security was never told to “stand down” and the security forces took out over 100 attackers while successfully protecting more than 30 other Americans, getting all safely to the airport for evacuation. And people who studied the issue found there was legitimate confusion as to the motivation of the attackers and that ultimately it didn’t matter WHY they had attacked. And that whatever could be said about this incident, could be said 3,000 times about Bush, who ignored security warnings prior to 9/11 and, 241 times about Reagan who left sleeping Marines in their barracks in Beirut, protected only by a fence of chicken-coop wire.

But in late October 2013, the show "60 Minutes" dropped a bombshell-report based on an eyewitness account, which renewed calls for impeachment. The eyewitness confirmed to reporter Lara Logan the worst aspects of the conservatives’ theories.

And then it was revealed that the witness had completely fabricated the entire story. He wasn’t even there. 60 Minutes knew he had told his employer he wasn’t at the compound that night (a fact they failed to disclose in their story), but they didn’t know he had sworn to the FBI on his mother’s grave and all things holy, that he wasn’t there, when he had been extensively interviewed by the FBI. And they failed to disclose that he had been given a book deal by a CBS-owned subsidiary, something which should always be disclosed as it creates a motivation for a “taller tale” that will sell more books.

And where are we now, on Benghazi, at the end of 2013? 60 Minutes retracted its story, apologized for it, cancelled the book deal and, put Lara Logan and her producer on a “leave of absence.” Combined with Darrell Issa over-promising a never-produced smoking gun and Issa’s severely-damaged credibility after his exposed intentional deception on the IRS investigation, people who utter, “Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi” have been sent with tinfoil hats to the corners of society with people who talk about “grassy knolls” and “Area 51.” (And this was all before the New York Times made a headline-grab this past weekend in a late attempt to claim credit for killing an already-dead story.) Another horrible ending for poor President Obama.

PRESIDENTIAL APPOINTMENTS

At the end of 2012, President Obama had seen only 160 of his federal judge appointments approved by the Senate, compared to 200 at the end of Clinton’s first term and 205 at the end of Bush’s first term, primarily as a result of Senate Republicans abusing the filibuster by employing it on a routine basis, something that had not been done to any previous president. By November 2013, 59 of President Obama’s nominees for executive branch positions and 17 of his nominees for judge seats were stalled in the Senate under filibuster. And at the same time the Senate was withholding approval of these nominees, critics were blaming President Obama for having only made 17 nominations to the federal bench at a time of more than 90 vacancies, ignoring the fact that appointments were futile in the face of certain and routine abuse of the filibuster by Senate Republicans. Republicans were even attempting to abolish the three vacant seats on the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, to keep President Obama from filling them with his choices.

And going into 2014, where does the Senate Republicans’ ability to filibuster President Obama’s appointments stand? Gone. Completely eradicated. On November 21, 2013, by a simple majority vote, the Senate voted to send the filibuster (as it pertains to non-Supreme Court presidential nominees) to the dust bins of history. This was a terrible 2013 outcome for President Obama because during the next year, he will be able to catch up all of the judicial and executive branch vacancies as he will now need approval of only 51 of the Democrats, while the 45 Republicans throw irrelevant tantrums.

SYRIA

Before 2013, neither Syria or Russia would admit that Syria possessed chemical weapons. President Obama had promised that if such weapons were used, the US would intervene in their civil war with punishing air strikes. During 2013, this was a constant issue hanging over President Obama and a very complex one, because while Russia and Iran and Hezbollah supported the Syrian regime, there were several completely-separate and different rebel groups opposed to the regime and one of them had sworn allegiance to al-Qaeda.

And how did this all end for President Obama in 2013? Those who won’t give President Obama credit for ANYTHING, will argue over how we arrived at the end result. Regardless, the end result couldn’t have been any better for President Obama. Syria and Russia both finally admitted that Syria has such weapons. For the first time ever, Syria agreed to let UN inspectors come in and inventory the weapons, haul them out of the country and, destroy them. And Russia agreed, in front of the entire world, to be solely responsible for making sure it all happens.

ECONOMY

People who hate President Obama won’t give him any credit for the economy. But we all know who they would blame if any of the economic indicators were going in the WRONG direction. Because we have seen them do it for 5 years.

At the end of 2013, gas prices are just above $3.00 per gallon, nowhere near conservatives’ predictions of “6.00 a gallon by summer.” The DOW was under 8,000 when President Obama took office. In 2013, it broke all records. And then broke them again. And again. Now it sits above 16,000. The S&P 500 has also doubled under President Obama, something that has happened under only four other presidents in the S&P’s 84 year history: Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. When President Obama took office, the unemployment rate was 7.8% and on a STEEP upward trajectory. At the end of November 2013, the unemployment rate had fallen to a five-year low of 7%, with a four-month average of adding more than 200,000 jobs per month, compared to a three-month average of LOSING 510,000 jobs per month in the last three months of 2008 when Bush was president. The GDP was at a negative 0.3% in 2008 and continued in negative territory through the 2nd quarter of 2009, before President Obama’s stimulus programs turned it to positive growth in the 3rd quarter of 2009. It has remained at positive growth for every quarter since and, stood at stellar 4.1% at the end of the 3rd quarter of 2013. Our homes lost over $2 trillion dollars in value in 2008, but by the 3rd quarter of 2013, home prices had increased by the largest 12-month gain since February 2006. In 2013 the deficit dropped to a five-year low, to less than half of where it stood in 2009, the year which included the Bush TARP funds and finishing the previously-unfunded war in Iraq. The Consumer Confidence Index stood at 38.6% in December 2008. But at the end of December 2013, it had soared to 78.1%, the highest in five and a half years.

Yes, President Obama miserably failed at everything in 2013. Just ask anyone, anywhere. They all agree.

Discuss

“Nelson Mandela was an unrelenting voice for democracy and his ‘long walk to freedom’ showed an enduring faith in God and respect for human dignity.” ~ Republican House Speaker John Boehner

“Mandela’s patience through imprisonment and insistence on unity over vengeance in the delicate period in which he served stand as a permanent reminder to the world of the value of perseverance and the positive influence one good man or woman can have over the course of human affairs.” ~ Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

“One of Nelson Mandela’s most important legacies is how he handled injustice. He experienced great injustice in his life yet when his time came to lead, he did so with a great sense of justice, compassion, and grace for all.” ~ Republican Senator Lindsey Graham

Give me a break.

Nelson Mandela was 44 years old when the governing white minority of South Africa sent him to prison for life for being a black, community-organizing lawyer, leading the struggle to empower the black majority, securing for them the right to free and fair elections and true democracy.

He was 71 years old when international pressure and protests and economic-divestiture in the oppressive white-run government by American corporations who were being protested and boycotted by liberals in America, finally led to his release.

But if it had been left up to conservatives, he would have remained in prison for the past 25 additional years. While we liberals called for American companies to cut ties with the oppressive white minority which ran the government, Ronald Reagan put Mandela on a terrorist list and vetoed the sanctions passed by our Democrat-controlled congress. Jerry Falwell implored his supporters to write their congressmen to oppose the sanctions and INvest in the oppressive regime rather than DIvest. Pat Robertson labeled Mandela as a “communist” and a “radical.”

For conservatives, all black community organizers are communists or Kenyan socialists. Today’s outpouring of lofty condolences by Republicans for Nelson Mandela has the same motivations as their misappropriation of the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. In life, they denigrate and despise the black community organizer who is fighting for justice; but, in death, they applaud and herald him – at a time when he is no longer a threat and they can use their new-found admiration of his legacy as proof that their vehement and vile denigration of a current black community organizer is not racially motivated.

I wonder, fifty years from now, will conservatives laud and applaud the legacy of President Obama, in an attempt to mask the true motivations for their vile hatred of whomever the black community organizer will be at the time?

Discuss

Tomorrow will be the re-rollout for the healthcare.gov website. So before the media begin searching high and low looking for sketchy, unconfirmed, undocumented stories to fit their narrative that problems still abound, here is my first-hand account of successfully enrolling myself and my wife in ObamaCare on November 24, with a perfectly-working healthcare.gov website. To set the stage, I begin with my personal journey through the pre-ObamaCare private insurance market, including the frustrations of obtaining a policy; the significant and constant rate increases we experienced each year (back when no one had even heard of President Obama); and, the huge out-of-pocket expenses I was left owing when I had to actually use our private policy.    

INTRODUCTION
I have been self-employed as an attorney for 23 years. I am not eligible for employer-subsidized group coverage or government-subsidized Medicare or Medicaid or any other type of subsidized coverage. I am one of the 5% who has always had to get coverage from a private policy in the private market where I pay 100% of my own freight.

Skip to the chart comparing our previous and current policies to our new ObamaCare policy

THE HIGHER COSTS OF INSURANCE IN THE PRIVATE MARKET
The costs of insurance for us in the private market have always been higher for two reasons. First, we pay 100% of our own premiums. People who work for employers with group coverage either pay nothing or pay a small portion of their actual premium, while their employer picks up the tab for the largest portion of the premium.

Second, for us in the individual private market, the underwriting departments at insurance companies look solely at our individual medical records to determine what their risk exposure will be and, our rates are calculated accordingly. For group coverage, the insurance companies operate under the theory that there will be many people in the group who will never use the coverage, so the premiums paid by these people (or paid on their behalf by their employer) will help offset the medical expenses for those in the group who do present medical bills. Everyone is able to pay less because the costs of the sick individuals are spread among everyone, including the healthy ones. Yes, that is technically socialism, but this is how employer-provided group coverage has always worked and why it is less expensive than what we in the private market can get.

In the late nineties, our premiums began going up at an average rate of 28% per year. In 1998 alone, we had a 70% increase. That was while President Obama was a freshman in the Illinois state legislature and had not yet even had dreams of ObamaCare.

Each October I would get a letter from my insurance company saying the premiums would be significantly higher for the next year; or, I could choose a higher deductible and then my premiums would “only” increase by a slightly-less percentage. A second way of getting a lower premium was to change companies, because they all start out with a teaser-rate for the first year before they begin raising the premiums each year thereafter. But at some point this was no longer an option because a male over 40 with diagnosed elevated levels of blood pressure and cholesterol could not even buy a policy in the private market – at any price – because the underwriting departments look at him and see a $120,000 stent procedure.

HISTORY OF MY ACTUAL PREMIUM INCREASES FOR THE PAST 18 YEARS
Here is the raw data for my monthly premiums for the past 18 years for me and my wife together:

1997 $158.63 United Healthcare ($1,000 deductible)
1998 $269.54 (70% increase)
1999 $344.65 (28% increase)
2000 $444.02 (29% increase)
2001 $202.00 (decrease because we changed to Blue Cross)
2002 $265.00 (31% increase)
2003 $359.00 (35% increase)
2004 $422.00 (17% increase)
2005 $122.00 (decrease because we changed to a $10,000 deductible)
2006 $186.33 (53% increase)
2007 $212.64 (14% increase)
2008 $253.32 (19% increase)
2009 $317.61 (25% increase)
2010 $375.12 (18% increase)
2011 $449.94 (20% increase)
2012 $548.71 (22% increase)
2012 $367.61 (decrease in March 2012 when we changed to Golden Rule)
2013 $419.74 (14% increase)
On two occasions during the time I had Blue Cross, I attempted to change to a new company. The first time involved gathering all of my medical records from my teen years forward and listing every doctor I had ever seen, every prescription I had ever taken, every accident, every injury, every hospitalization, complete with current phone numbers and addresses of all providers. It was an unbelievably huge undertaking. And after all of that, I was denied. So the next time I thought of trying to apply for coverage with a new company, I told them to let me know upfront if they had benchmarks for age, blood pressure and cholesterol, so I wouldn’t waste my time futilely going through their rigorous and time-consuming application process. That’s when they told me that a male over 40 with elevated levels of blood pressure and cholesterol, shouldn’t even bother applying for coverage. So I was stuck with the steadily-rising Blue Cross policy.

But in March of 2012, I was finally able to change companies again. I can only assume that this was due to the soon-to-come implementation of ObamaCare; companies were relaxing their denial process knowing that they were soon going to be required to accept all applicants, regardless of medical history.

So had it not been for ObamaCare, I would still be stuck with my Blue Cross policy which was costing me $548.71 in February 2012. And that was two rate changes ago. Adding up the 14 rate increases listed above and dividing that number by 14, yields an average annual rate increase of 28%. But let’s just use 20%. A 20% increase on the $548.71 in October 2012 (the time of year I always got my rate-increase notice telling me how much higher my premiums would be for the next year) would have resulted in a 2013 monthly premium of $658.45. And a 20% increase on the $658.45 in October 2013, would have resulted in a 2014 monthly premium of $790.14. And that's figuring it conservatively...I also turned 50 in November 2012, a huge benchmark for an additional rate increase over the standard annual rate increase, so the increase at the end of 2012 would probably have been even higher than the 28% average increase. (The average increase of 28% includes both the standard annual increase and the additional increase each year when one of us celebrated a quinquennial birthday.)  

THE NOT-SO-STELLAR COVERAGE IN THE PRIVATE MARKET
Now let’s look at what kind of coverage I was getting for these prices. The deductible for both the Blue Cross policy and my current Golden Rule policy is $10,000. But that is only part of the equation. Once a deductible is met, there is usually also a “co-insurance” requirement which is the percentage a policyholder must pay out of his own pocket for all bills above the deductible, until he reaches his maximum out-of-pocket limit. The co-insurance percentage on my Blue Cross policy was 30%, up to a maximum of $5,000, causing the yearly out-of-pocket maximum to be $15,000 ($10,000 deductible + $5,000 co-insurance). The co-insurance percentage on my current Golden Rule policy is 25%, up to a maximum of $10,000, causing the yearly out-of-pocket maximum to be $20,000 ($10,000 deductible + $10,000 co-insurance).

A REAL LIFE EXAMPLE OF HOW THE COVERAGE WORKS – USING MY BLUE CROSS COVERAGE FOR AN EMERGENCY APPENDECTOMY
In 2009, I awoke on a Saturday morning with the worst abdominal pain imaginable. I suffered through it all day thinking it would get better, but it only got worse. About an hour before a nearby immediate-care facility closed that night, I went in, doubled over in excruciating pain, and was diagnosed – by symptoms – as having a ruptured appendix. My wife was out of town, so I managed to drive myself over to the hospital ER where a phone call from the immediate-care physician had cleared the way for me to bypass the waiting room and the registration process and go straight to a CT scan and a very welcomed injection of morphine. But the initial reading of the scan apparently showed my appendix to be normal. So all night Saturday and all day Sunday and all night Sunday, my only treatment was a morphine injection every three hours, which would wear off in two, leaving me doubled over in tears for the third hour until it was time for a new injection. On Monday morning, they decided to do a new scan, this time using contrast. And this time when they finished, they came running in and wheeled me down to the operating room because my appendix needed to come out “immediately.” Because of the complications resulting from the delay in removing it, I had to stay in the hospital until Friday afternoon – a full week.

The total cost for that was $33,068, broken down as follows:

$27,073 hospital
$    654 emergency room physician
$ 1,804 surgeon
$    215 gastroenterologist
$    131 pathology
$    787 radiology
$ 1,310 anesthesiologist
$ 1,094 hospitalist

First, Blue Cross adjusted off $9,563.56 to reflect the negotiated in-network prices (which wouldn't have been done if I had gone to the "wrong" hospital). The next $10,000 was my responsibility. Out of the remaining balance of $13,504.44, I had to pay $4,166.81 (30%) and Blue Cross paid $9,337.63 (70%). So my total out-of-pocket responsibility was $14,166.81 ($10,000 deductible + $4,166.81 co-insurance).

ANOTHER EXAMPLE – A COLONOSCOPY
The surgeon from the appendix surgery wanted me to have a follow-up colonoscopy before the end of the year. The December 2009 colonoscopy cost a total of $4,038.00, itemized as follows:

$2,531 hospital
$ 747 physician fee
$ 760 anesthesiologist

Blue Cross adjusted off $1,605, leaving a balance of $2,433. My part of that was $730 (30%) and Blue Cross paid $1,703 (70%). This put my total out-of-pocket responsibility for the year at $14,896.81 ($14,166.81 on the appendectomy + $730 on the colonoscopy). If I had incurred just a few more bills where my 30% equaled $103.19 or more, I would have only had to pay $103.19 to finish out my yearly requirement of paying $15,000 out-of-pocket before Blue Cross would have become obligated to pay bills at a rate of 100%.

But that was a rare year. In most years, I would not have already met the deductible, so I would have had to pay the entire $2,433 for the colonoscopy, out of my pocket. And if I had gone to a doctor of my own choosing rather than going to an in-network doctor, I would have had to pay the entire $4,038 cost of a colonoscopy, out of my own pocket, because there would have been no adjustments to the costs for in-network negotiated prices.

OPTION TO KEEP OUR EXISTING GOLDEN RULE POLICY
Our current Golden Rule policy is not ObamaCare-compliant, for two reasons: 1.) it does not provide for free preventative care; and, 2.) it is considered to be a "catastrophic" policy because of the $10,000 deductible and additional $10,000 out-of-pocket co-insurance. (The ACA does not allow a person over 30 years of age to have a catastrophic-only policy.) Nevertheless, since our policy was grandfathered-in (like all real policies were) and since Golden Rule (unlike many other companies) was honest about our options, the letter we received expressly said that we could keep our coverage "in 2014 and beyond" and it also properly and correctly told us that we had the option of getting a new policy on the healthcare.gov website, without having to go through medical underwriting and, it informed us that we may qualify for "tax credits to reduce your premiums," if we chose to go that route.

LETTER WE RECEIVED FROM OUR CURRENT INSURANCE COMPANY

Here's a link to the letter if your device doesn't display the Scribd Viewer above.

ENROLLING IN OBAMACARE
When the ObamaCare website first went online, I unsuccessfully tried several times to create an account. After a couple of weeks, I was finally able to create an account but I could not complete an application. On one of my many attempts, I did manage to complete the application, but when I logged in again later, it had disappeared.

This was around the time that the hand-wringing media frenzy reached critical mass. The site was then taken offline for awhile and when it came back online, I was immediately able to complete the application. But then, I couldn’t get to the last step of selecting a plan. I tried that last step several times before I left it alone for a couple of more weeks. Then, this past Sunday, on November 24, I logged in again. This time my completed application was still intact. I added my wife, completed her application and moved immediately to selecting a plan for both of us. It took less than an hour this time.

Yes, it was frustrating. But that process does not even begin to compare to the hugely time-consuming and frustrating process of trying to get 30 years of medical history and records together for the underwriting department at a private insurance company. For example, when we decided at the end of 2011 to try once again to change from our Blue Cross policy to a new company, we started the application process with Golden Rule in January 2012. The underwriting department spent January and February sifting through my medical records and on March 1, 2012, I was denied coverage because my cardiologist had not yet sent his records to Golden Rule. I had submitted my own copy of his records, but that was unacceptable to the insurance company, as they wanted the records to come directly from the doctor.

Rather than endure the appeals process, I withdrew my application, paid a stern visit my cardiologist's office and then started the application process all over again. We were finally approved for coverage on March 27, almost three months after we had started the application process, with a 10% increase over the originally-quoted rate and an effective coverage date of April 6, 2012.

So having to start over a few times on the ObamaCare site to complete a very simple application which involved no medical questions and no requests for medical records, was a breeze compared to the former process of applying for coverage in the private market. Too, and more importantly, I knew before I began the ObamaCare process, that regardless of glitches, the final result was going to be that I would be "accepted" for coverage, because they could not deny me. Being "denied" is exponentially more frustrating than applying.

OUR NEW OBAMACARE PLAN
We decided on the Humana National Preferred Bronze 6300/6300 plan. The premium for both of us together, without any subsidies, will be $529 per month. Our coverage will begin on January 1, 2014, since we completed enrollment before December 23rd. (Enrollment can be completed all the way up until March 31, 2014, but it must be completed by December 23rd in order for coverage to begin on January 1, 2014.)

COMPARING PRICE OF OUR EXISTING AND PREVIOUS PLANS TO PRICE OF OBAMACARE PLAN
Yes, the monthly premium of $529 will be 26% higher than the $419 we have been paying monthly to Golden Rule during 2013. But as I have shown in great detail, premiums have increased by an average of 28% each year, for the past 18 years, starting back when no one had ever even heard of Barack Obama. In fact, the two largest increases, 70% in 1998 and 53% in 2006, occurred when Clinton and Bush were president, both times when Republicans were in full control of congress with full oversight authority. And from 2001 until 2006, the Republican-controlled congress had unfettered authority to institute any insurance reform they so desired, as Bush did not issue even one veto until mid-2006.

Also, had we elected to keep our Golden Rule policy, the monthly premium for 2014 would not still be the $419 which we have been paying in 2013. That $419 was a 14% increase over the $367 rate which we had started with in 2012. So assuming a rate increase again of 14% for 2014, our 2014 monthly premium for the Golden Rule policy would be $478. This means that our new ObamaCare Humana rate for 2014 will only be a 10% increase over what our Golden Rule rate most likely would have been in 2014, if we had elected to keep the Golden Rule coverage for 2014 ($529 is 10% higher than $478).

Moreover, the $529 monthly rate for the ObamaCare Humana policy will be a 33% DECREASE over the $790.14 that we most likely would have had to pay in 2014 for the Blue Cross policy, if we had elected to keep it. Remember, it was costing us $548.71 per month in actual real dollars in February 2012 and, it had a documented history of increasing by 28% each year. So conservatively figuring only a 20% rate increase in October 2012, would have resulted in a 2013 premium of $658.45. And another scheduled rate increase in October 2013 of the same 20%, would have resulted in a 2014 premium of $790.14.

COMPARING BENEFITS OF OUR EXISTING AND PREVIOUS PLANS TO BENEFITS OF OBAMACARE PLAN
The new ObamaCare Humana policy has an annual deductible of $6,300, instead of the $10,000 deductible that our Golden Rule and Blue Cross policies had. And what about the co-insurance out-of-pocket requirement which is $10,000 (in addition to the deductible) on our current Golden Rule policy and was $5,000 (in addition to the deductible) on our previous Blue Cross policy? How much more do we have to pay out of pocket as co-insurance on the new ObamaCare Humana policy, after we meet the $6,300 deductible? $0. Zero. Nada. Nothing. Once the $6,300 deductible is met, Humana pays everything at a rate of 100%.

And if I had been covered by this ObamaCare Humana policy back in 2009 when I had the appendix surgery and ended up owing $14,166.81 out of my pocket? How much would I have owed in total if I had been covered by the ObamaCare Humana plan? $6,300. Period.

And what would be the cost for the $4,038 colonoscopy under the ObamaCare Humana policy? $0. Zero. Nada, Nothing. Preventive care is covered for free because catching a problem in the early stages, saves the entire system from unnecessary protracted costs which result from letting a condition progress unchecked.

COMPARING THE HUMANA BRONZE PLAN TO THE HUMANA SILVER PLAN
There were other plans available. The silver plan would have been approximately $100 per month higher and although the out-of-pocket maximum is almost the same as the bronze plan, it does offer office visits and prescription coverage, not subject to the deductible. This is similar to our current Golden Rule plan and for our situation, the prescription coverage and office visit coverage isn’t worth much. Most of my prescriptions are on the $11.99 list for a 90-day supply at CVS and my Hydrochlorothiazide is only $9.95 for a 90-day supply at Publix. And my Lisinopril is free at Publix – it’s a public service they offer to everyone. So a prescription plan which would allow me to get a 30-day supply of a generic drug for $10 ($20 for name brand) would result in me paying more for prescriptions than I currently pay outside of insurance.

Whether or not getting office visits for a co-pay of $25 is worth an extra $100 per month, depends on how often a person goes to a doctor. Assuming an average office visit of $125, a person would need to go to a doctor several times a year to come out ahead, because with only one visit to a doctor in a month, he would just break even for that month. With no visits in a month, he would lose money for that month.

One thing many people don’t realize about plans which offer office visits for a co-pay outside of the deductible, is the insurance only covers the doctor's fee for walking in the door. For example, my current plan covers office visits for a co-pay of $35, outside the deductible (meaning I don't have to have already met my $10,000 deductible in order to get the office visit for only $35). But if I go to my primary doctor and he draws blood for a lipid panel or gives me a steroid injection for poison ivy, I have to fully pay for those services out of my pocket, if my $10,000 deductible has not already been met. Likewise when I go to a dermatologist, the office visit is $35, but if she uses the torch to freeze a pre-cancer spot off my arm, I have to fully pay for that service.

COMPARISON CHART  

*Updates for chart:
1.) I have been asked about caps. Neither my previous Blue Cross policy or my current Golden Rule policy has a lifetime maximum benefit limit or an annual maximum benefit limit.
2.) While looking for the cap provisions in my original policy booklet, I found a rider from Golden Rule indicating that any terms of the policy in conflict with the new ACA requirements, would be overridden by the ACA requirements, presumably beginning in 2014, and that the premiums would be adjusted accordingly. So for 2014, the chart above would need to reflect that the colonoscopy would be free under the Golden Rule policy also. However, the chart is accurate as it now stands because the premium listed for Golden Rule reflects the current policy terms of no free preventative care. (The 10% rate increase projected for 2014 on the chart only takes into consideration a standard annual increase, not a more significant increase to cover more generous benefits.) For an accurate comparison, we would need to know the actual rate increase by Golden Rule for 2014, before changing the chart to show that the preventative care would also be free under the Golden Rule policy.
 

HOW THE TAX SUBSIDIES WORK
People who earn between 138% and 400% of the poverty level are eligible for tax credits to help them either buy a policy for the first time, or replace a policy which they have lost. This range works out to approximately $16,000 to $46,000 for a single person; $21,000 to $62,000 for a couple; $27,000 to $78,000 for a family of three; and, $32,000 to $94,000 for a family of four.

The tax subsidies are not government handouts. Essentially, the government is taking part of the income taxes which a person pays to the federal government and refunding that money back to the taxpayer so she can use it to help on her premiums. Logistically, this is how it works: a person goes to the ObamaCare website, creates an account and completes an application. If she falls into the income parameters listed above, she enters her projected income for the year 2014. The ObamaCare site contacts the IRS site and verifies her 2012 income. Based on the amount of federal income taxes she paid in 2012, the IRS projects how much she will pay in taxes in 2014 on her projected 2014 income. The ObamaCare site then takes a portion of that amount and divides it by 12 and informs the applicant how much of her tax money she can use for insurance premiums on a monthly basis. (The less she makes, the more of her taxes the government will allow her to use for the premiums.)

The person then selects a policy. The government will go ahead and advance the monthly amount directly to the insurance company, so the person will only have to pay the balance to the insurance company each month. The government will reimburse itself out of the federal income tax which is withheld from the person's paychecks.

For example, a single person earning $7.50 per hour working 40 hours per week for 52 weeks per year would have an annual income of $15,600. After going through the process on the exchange, the ObamaCare website will tell her that she has a tax subsidy of $265 to put towards the price of a plan. Assuming her to be a nonsmoker in her early 40’s, the price (without subsidies) for the bronze Humana plan (like the one we purchased) is $265 per month for one individual. The silver plan will cost $295 and the gold plan is $335. So using her $265 subsidy, she can get the bronze policy for "free" (the government will send $265 of her taxes each month to Humana, which will fully pay for the bronze policy); or, she can get the silver policy by sending the difference of $30 to Humana each month, to go with the $265 of her taxes that the government is sending to Humana; or, she can get the gold policy by sending the difference of $70 per month to Humana.

A nonsmoking couple of the same ages as my wife and me (she's 42 and I'm 51), with a combined family income of $40,000, can get the exact same policy (for which we will be paying $529 per month without subsidies) for only $62 per month, after the subsidy is applied.

Healthcare.gov requires a person to first create an account and complete an application before being able to check out the subsidies. However, there are two private sites which will closely approximate subsidies, HealthSherpa and the Kaiser Subsidy Calculator.

Discuss

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Yesterday was day 30 of the 40-day legislative session in Georgia. In order for a bill to have a chance of becoming law, it must have passed at least one chamber of the legislature by the end of the 30th day, also known as “crossover” day.

So yesterday afternoon, the Georgia House of Representatives took a vote on House Bill 512, a measure which would allow people to carry concealed guns in churches, in bars, on college campuses and in unrestricted government buildings; presumably meaning the post office but, not the capitol where the lawmakers work.

Georgia is solidly Republican. Out of the 180 house members, 118 are Republican and 60 are Democrat. HB 512 passed the house on crossover day by a vote of 117 to 56.

Now the bill moves to the Georgia State Senate where 38 senators of the 56-member senate are Republican. And there’s no filibuster in the Georgia senate.

The bill will then move to the Republican governor’s desk.

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.  

Discuss

What is sequester? It is an order by the president to the treasury secretary to take money already approved and appropriated by congress, separate it from the general funds, lock it up and, prevent the government from spending it, even though congress has already appropriated and approved the expenditures.

How much is being sequestered? In the order signed by President Obama yesterday, 10% of all appropriated discretionary and military spending, across-the-board, has been sequestered.

Why did President Obama sign the sequester order? Because he is required by law to sign it. In August 2011, congress passed the Budget Control Act of 2011 requiring the sequester order to be signed on January 2, 2013, if congress had not passed a bill with individually-named cuts totaling $1.5 trillion dollars by December 31, 2012. In the “fiscal cliff” deal, the deadline was moved to February 28, 2013. Congress failed to pass individually-named cuts by either deadline.

Why was a sequester clause included in the Budget Control Act of 2011 in the first place? Because congressional Republicans were holding a gun to President Obama’s head on the debt ceiling. They were refusing to raise the debt ceiling in 2011 unless the unrelated deficit was reduced by $4 trillion dollars. President Obama pointed to $2.5 trillion in deficit savings which he had already accomplished. He wanted to accomplish the final $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction with a mix of revenue (allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire on the top income brackets and closing tax loopholes which allow the wealthy to pay effective rates far below the stated rates) plus targeted cuts which would keep the full burden of the cuts from falling solely on the elderly, poor and vulnerable. Congress, on the other hand, wanted to accomplish the final $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction solely by cutting social programs, including Social Security benefits, while preserving the reduced tax rates and loopholes for the wealthy.

President Obama was facing the very real possibility that the United States was going to default on its debt obligations for the first time in history because congress was refusing to raise the debt ceiling for the first time in history. So President Obama proposed that congress go ahead and raise the debt ceiling so he could pay the country’s debts and, in exchange, he would to appoint a bipartisan commission which would identify $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction through a mix of revenue and spending cuts.

Republicans gave the idea of appointing a committee a huge collective eye roll.

So to sweeten the pot for the deal (so he could get the debt ceiling raised so the US would not go into default) President Obama proposed that if the bipartisan commission or “super committee” did not come up with $1.5 trillion in a deficit reduction package that would pass both chambers of congress by December 31, 2012, then the 10% across-the-board sequestration would take effect automatically on January 2, 2013.

House Republicans loved the idea. While they had always blocked and obstructed any proposal by President Obama -- just because it was his proposal -- they had found one that they actually loved. Speaker Boehner said afterwards that he got 99% of what he wanted in the August 2011 Budget Control Act.

Having learned from past experience (the ObamaCare cuts to Medicare providers) that even though the proposal was something Republicans loved, they would later turn it into something sinister and blame it on President Obama, Minority Leader Pelosi told Speaker Boehner that Republicans would have to provide the majority of the votes necessary to pass the deal, so they couldn’t turn around later and try to blame in on the Democrats. So Minority Leader Pelosi provided 95 Democrat votes in favor and 95 Democrat votes against, leaving House Republicans to have to provide the overwhelming majority of the votes so they would own the legislation which they so loved. House Republicans voted in favor of the deal by a vote of 174 Republicans in favor of the deal and only 66 Republicans against it.

Why was it so important to show the public that the sequester deal was Republican-owned even though President Obama had proposed it? Because the entire issue of having to reduce the deficit by $1.5 trillion dollars in order to get the debt ceiling raised so the US would not default on its obligations, was an artificial and unnecessary issue, solely created by Republicans. In order to get the debt ceiling raised, President Obama had to throw a bone to the House Republicans which he knew they could not refuse. But if they had not been holding the increase in the debt ceiling hostage to the unrelated issue of deficit reduction, there would have been no need for a deal in the first place.

From 1960 through 2010, the debt ceiling had been raised 78 times, including 17 times for Reagan, 5 times for Clinton, 7 times for Bush II; and, 3 times for President Obama (during the time congress was controlled by Democrats). At no time in history had any congress led by either party refused to routinely raise the debt limit for any president of either party. Not until President Obama was elected. (The Clinto-Newtonian “government shutdown” was over money to fund the operations of the government; it was not over a refusal of congress to raise the debt ceiling.)

Why had congress never before refused to raise the debt limit? In the previous 78 times spread over 50 years, congress had routinely raised the debt ceiling without question because there was universal recognition that raising the debt ceiling has nothing to do with new government spending or budget deficits or funding government operations. Raising the debt ceiling is solely for the president to be able to borrow the money to pay for the items which congress has already approved and already spent. It's exactly like a credit card. Congress votes to put things on the card knowing we don't have the money to pay for them (like two unfunded wars and the unfunded prescription drug plan which was the largest expansion of the Medicare entitlement in modern history), so congress routinely authorizes the president to borrow the money to pay for the things they have charged to the card, when the credit card bill comes due.  

And to make matters even worse for President Obama, congress was simultaneously making sure that the amount of income coming into the government -- which the government could use to “pay cash” for regular operations and infrastructure and interest on the credit card and other necessities -- was intentionally kept low (by refusing to let the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire and refusing to close tax loopholes used by the wealthy), causing even more things to have to be charged to the credit card.

Even though the Budget Control Act of 2011 which was passed and signed in August 2011 averted a US default by a day or so, the bond rating companies still downgraded the country’s credit rating as a result of us coming so close to default. So there was real damage done to the country by the House Republicans artificially and unnecessarily creating the 2011 budget crisis just to get their way on a totally unrelated issue. And the sequester order signed yesterday is the continuing fallout of congressional Republicans, for the first time in history, refusing to let a president pay the country’s credit card until the president agreed to an unrelated demand.

Discuss

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Newt, Calista, Former Congressman Bob Barr, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal

In the week prior to Newt’s homecoming celebration in Carrollton, GA last night, local establishment newspaper Times-Georgian carried no less than five pump-up-the-volume stories about this epic event.

--Newt's visit to Carrollton is set for February 28
--Tuesday will be a Welcome Newt Day
--Governor to welcome Gingrich to Carrollton
--Large turnout expected to greet Gingrich
--Newt to push for $2.50 gas at today's rally

From last Wednesday’s article:    

For Carrollton residents, Tuesday will be a “Welcome Home, Newt” celebration of huge proportions as Dr. Newt Gingrich, former West Georgia College history professor, brings his presidential campaign to the site where his political career began.
Details of the planned event were provided to the Times-Georgian by Dr. Gordon Austin, Third Congressional District Chairman of Newt 2012 and a member of the Newt 2012 finance committee. He said the event would include a closed meet & greet fundraiser from 6-7 p.m. followed by a free public forum from 7-8 p.m.

[There was no mention in the article that a 2008 Carroll County Grand Jury indicted Dr. Austin on nine counts of simple battery, two counts of aggravated assault and one count of first degree cruelty to children, for allegedly beating -- with his fist and a metal object -- patients who were in his dental chair, or the fact that the Georgia Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, working under the State Attorney General, brought separate and unrelated charges against Dr. Austin for billing Medicaid for tooth extractions -- at a rate of $250 per tooth -- which he had not performed, or that in a negotiated plea deal, Dr. Austin had agreed to shut down his practice in Georgia and plead guilty to the Medicaid fraud charges, in exchange for the state dropping the criminal assault charges.]

Attendance at the meet & greet required an advanced purchase of a $50 ticket at one of several local merchants, as tickets for such events cannot be sold on campus. I arrived at 6:45, coincidentally pulling into the parking lot at the same time as the Newt 2012 bus, which was obviously 45 minutes late. Having no ticket, I slipped in unnoticed with the entourage, just behind Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, former Congressman Bob Barr, former Congressman Mac Collins, Carrollton Mayor Wayne Garner and Newt biographer Dr. Mel Steely, who was a history professor at West Georgia College when I was a student there many years ago.  

Once inside, I was struck by the funeral-like, hushed atmosphere. A u-shaped line had formed, starting at the opposite end of the gym, curving at about where we came in, and then heading back to the other side. The 300 or so people (in my non-scientific estimation), dressed in their finest Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes (for their $50 photo op), stood in a very organized fashion, dutifully following the blue tarps which had been taped to the gym floor.

At the end of the u-shaped line was the photo-op area, a blue-curtained backdrop just behind two American flags flanking a single Georgia flag. Underdressed for either the entourage or the "u" line, I reached into my backpack for my camera and headed towards the photo area, as the entourage made a bizarrely-quiet lap around the “u” to arrive at the photo area from the rear. Without any ado, Newt and Calista lined up on the left side, with Governor Deal on the right, leaving a space in the middle through which they began to quickly herd the line for the “meet & greet.”

I asked one of the real photographers why everyone was so quiet and he said that just prior to the arrival of the entourage, the minders had gone around the room and asked everyone to be quiet. Just speculating, they probably meant for everyone to be quiet until the entourage walked in, then erupt into rapturous applause and squeals of delight as His Pompousness made a triumphal homecoming entry; except, they forgot to instruct the crowd on the latter.

Bored after the first five or so photos, I went downstairs to the free public event in one of the “ballrooms.” To get there, one must first pass through a very large workout gym with the humidity level of a sauna. One can only hope that there was an indoor pool nearby providing the palpable moisture in the air and that it wasn’t bottled-up sweat.

The public event was in one of four ballrooms, all of which appeared to be configurable into one huge ballroom through the use of folding walls. Possibly learning from Mitt’s fiasco at Ford Field, Newt's handlers had everyone packed into one room.

One very humid and hot room.

The people were all standing in a semicircle configuration, facing the stage with the media staging area to their backs. All around the backside of the semicircle and as far deep into the crowd as I could see, were casually-dressed students who appeared to be as excited to be there as anyone who had been required to attend as part of a class assignment.

Assisting me in propping up the back wall, was a young lady who confirmed my suspicion that many were in attendance under duress of a grade.  

Around 7:30 a small entourage consisting of Mayor Garner, former Congressman Barr and former Congressman Collins, made its way through the crowd around the back of the room, heading towards the stage. On the faces of the few students who even bothered to look, there was zero recognition of any of these gentlemen.

In an effort to keep the restless crowd from leaving, Mayor Garner took to the stage and asked everyone to please not leave, saying that he had talked with Newt and Newt was very excited about coming to see them, but was running late. “We’ve had weather,” said Mayor Garner, ambiguously stating a universal truism in the hopes that people would assume that the light rain was continuing to cause Newt’s delay as opposed to something like, say, posing for pictures upstairs with people who had $50 that the downstairs crowd didn't have. He went on the say that he thought Newt would “be here” in another 15 minutes to half an hour, without mentioning that he was already in the building and had been for 45 minutes.

Setting the tone for a night of folksy homespun stories with -- what they pretended for the cameras to be -- a crowd of down-home folks who just couldn’t wait to see and hear from their old buddy Newt again, Mayor Garner told the story of a time when he was campaigning for re-election to the state senate at the same time Newt was campaigning for re-election to congress. He said back then he had a big mop of hair (my words) like Newt and was often confused with Newt. One day then-Senator Garner was campaigning in the community of Stoney Point when a guy said to him, “I know who you are, Newt Gingrich, and I wouldn’t vote for you if Hell froze over!” To which Garner replied, “That’s fine because I plan on winning without your damn vote!” Later when then-Senator Garner saw Newt, he warned him not to go campaigning in Stoney Point.

Former Congressman Bob Barr then took to the stage and allowed how “we need someone in the White House who is proud to be an American like Ronald Reagan was and who doesn’t apologize for something they think the U.S. has done wrong.”

Former Congressman Mac Collins was next with ramblings for which the back half of the crowd which I could see, could not even feign any interest. He then introduced Newt’s youngest daughter, Jackie Sue, the one who is the same age as Calista.

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Jackie Sue (Photo by Ricky Stilley taken from Times-Georgian article.)

Jackie Sue gave a rather lengthy accounting of her memories of growing up in Carrollton on Howell Road. After crossing Maple Street, Howell Road becomes Front Campus Drive, winding directly into the heart of the campus of West Georgia College, so their home was only a few yards away from his work, a walkable distance, even for Newt. There is a small rise in Howell Road between the Gingrich home and the campus, so she would hear her dad as he walked home, before she actually saw him, because he would be whistling as he walked home. Then she and her sister would run out to follow him, “like the Pied Piper.”  

Her other memory of growing up in Carrollton was on the second Earth Day. Even though her dad was a history professor, he taught a class on environmental studies, “which was very cutting edge in the 1970’s.” On Earth Day, she and her sister and dad got out and picked up things on the side of the road. “Someone had thrown out a toilet seat; I don’t know why. But we picked it up and bagged it -- and that’s what we did...helped others.”

That was the entire story.

The first Earth Day, according to Wikipedia, was in 1970, meaning the toilet seat incident occurred in 1971. Jackie Sue was born in 1966.

Jackie Sue then introduced Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, warning that she might become emotional in so doing because Governor Deal was one of the few who stood steadfastly by her dad when other people didn’t.

Governor Deal made a few remarks about serving in congress at the same time as Newt. There was no mention of the fact that tomorrow will mark the two year anniversary of him resigning from congress on March 1, 2010, just ahead of the release of the House Ethics Committee’s report on his ethical violations in using his Congressional staff to protect a no-bid State contract in Georgia.

Governor Deal introduced Calista at 8:05. After a three-minute introduction of Newt, he started speaking at 8:08 -- and didn’t stop until 8:48.

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In keeping with the homecoming theme, Newt too had two folksy old stories about life in the storied Carrollton of yesteryear that he wanted to share.  

The wife of Newt’s good friend and neighbor on Howell Road, Kip Carter, had been after him to take care of a large tree which was leaning towards the Carter home. So Kip and Newt and another neighbor, fellow professor Henry Dufour, decided they would take the tree down themselves, without calling a tree service. Kip (“who thought he knew everything”) suggested they tie a rope to the top, cut almost all the way through the tree -- on the side away from the lean -- and then they would all pull on the rope.

Newt next mentioned that Professor Dufour -- one of my Sociology professors when I majored in Sociology at West Georgia College in the 80’s -- was only 5’ 5” tall. Being somewhere in that region myself, I mentally retorted that I was sure that whatever errors in their plan resulted from perceived deficiencies in Professor Dufour’s height, were more than adequately compensated for by Newt’s girth.

Too, Professor Dufour served as the Warden of Angola State Prison in Louisiana for several years before turning to teaching, so I’m certain that he wasn’t the weak link.

Newt continued. The tree, he said, weighed about 15,000 pounds and the three men together only weighed about 500 pounds. At this point, a lady in the audience near the stage frightfully and hysterically burst into shattering laughter, causing everyone to heartily laugh -- at her untimely laughter -- not at his tale. It would have been the biggest positive reaction to any of the stories, had it actually been in response to the story.

So the tree fell in the direction of the lean and hit the house and the last thing anyone saw of Kip was him running up the street with his wife chasing after him with a broom.

The irony is that Newt was telling this folksy story as an example of “lifelong friendships” which were formed in Carrollton. To understand the irony, just Google “Kip Carter.” His name is front and center in every article ever written about Newt’s philandering; specifically, he is the source for the “Jackie (1st wife) is not pretty enough to be a first lady” story and the “I had to scurry the daughters away from the car so they wouldn’t see the lady’s head going up and down in Newt’s lap” story.

Newt’s second folksy tell was about him and a friend noticing the red engine-light coming on in the friend’s car and the friend decided not to get it seen about which caused the engine to “freeze up.” Afterwards, that friend became “the most fanatical proponent of changing oil that I have ever seen.”

That was the whole story.

Of course no evening with Newt is complete without a heavy dose of fear mongering. So he launched into Obama’s plan to apply Cain’s 999 plan to raising the price of gas to $9.99 per gallon and Iran posturing in the Straights of Hormuz. He said there were two answers to the problem with Iran; an immediate answer and a long-term answer. The immediate answer is the U.S. Navy. The long-term answer is "to produce enough oil in the U.S. that we don’t care what Iran does."

Sheldon Adelson might be interested to know that Newt’s only issue with Iran is how its actions affect the price of oil.

Without mentioning that President Obama spectacularly neutralized Osama bin Laden, Newt went into detail about how it is inconceivable that OBL lived under the nose of the Pakistani military without them knowing about it. “At some point, someone had to ask, ‘Gee, who lives in the big house down the street?’”

Newt ended with an apocalyptic vision of what was happening as the result of President Obama’s biggest and worst foreign policy failure: apologizing to Muslims for the U.S. military burning copies of the Qur’an. He said churches in Nigeria were burned and no one complained. Churches in Egypt were burned and no one complained. Churches in Malaysia were burned and no one complained. And it is a crime to be a Christian in Saudi Arabia and no one complains.

The crowd near the stage apparently understood what he was trying to say.

He ended the rant with, “no one in this administration is prepared to stand up for our values.”

But the night was most remarkable for the utter patheticness of this much-hyped homecoming to Newt’s loving hometown. Even after all the local newspaper hype, other than possibly a few people in the center of the room whom I could not see (less than a 100 people), there was no outpouring of interest for the rally from the regular homefolk. And while the upstairs crowd was probably made up almost entirely of supporters, it wasn’t a huge crowd in light of this being Newt’s hometown and in light of such a small charge for a presidential fundraiser. Too, probably less than a third of the crowd upstairs even bothered to come downstairs to hear the speech, most leaving after getting their picture struck. And even with scraping the bottom of the barrel, they only managed to come up with down-home stories of old times and old “friends” which sounded like they had been made-up off the cuff by trees-are-the-right-height Romney.

With Newt being this utterly disconnected from the people who are supposed to be his closest friends, it’s no wonder that he hasn’t been able to connect with people on a national level.

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Conservatives are unfairly using the temporarily-crashed price of gas for comparison to today's prices.

The unmanipulatable meta tag for the above photo, which I personally took at a gas station in Douglasville, Georgia:  

Date Picture Taken: 9/13/2008 1:26 AM
When Clinton left office in 2001, gas prices were well under $2.00 per gallon. They remained in that range until Bush invaded Iraq in 2003. Much of the public supported the Iraq war because it was staffed with other people’s kids and funded with borrowed communist dollars -- they thought it cost them nothing. But in the long run, it helped wreck our economy and set gas prices on a steady upward trend -- as unrest in the Middle East always does.

Gas prices started a dramatic upward rise in 2003, immediately upon the launch of “Shock & Awe” which ignorant-of-consequences people gleefully cheered. When Katrina hit in 2005, prices spiked at well over $5.00 per gallon, at least here in Georgia. Like many other people in this area, when the gas stations started running out of gas, I went to Lowes and bought three 5 gallon gas containers and filled them up with almost $6.00 per gallon gas, so I would have a backup tankful at home. And while prices dropped back down to the just-over-$4.00 range in the weeks following Katrina, the overall steady upward trend continued, until gas was up to $4.55 in September 2008. And that wasn’t a spike; it was the natural point of a steady upward climb that had resulted after the Iraq invasion.

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Source: Current Gas Prices and Price History
[Just as an observation, the chart incorrectly notes "Iran" invaded Kuwait instead of Iraq and for some inexplicable reason, Bush's Iraq War is not plotted, even though they felt it important to note the Iraq-Iran War and the Gulf War.]

Converging with the Bush-created Middle East unrest, to create the perfect storm, was the deregulation of Wall Street speculators. The price of a barrel of oil almost tripled from $50 in early 2007, to $147 in the Summer of 2008, largely due to artificial up-bidding by speculators -- which Republicans continue to prevent President Obama from regulating.

So where are conservatives getting the $1.89 per gallon figure that they claim Bush left for us? Two days after I made that photo, Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy on September 15, 2008. Lehman shares fell more than 90% in that one day. The Dow Jones closed at more than 500 points less than when it opened that day. Over the next few days, the price of a barrel of light crude oil plummeted to just over $40 per barrel, crashing precipitously, like all other stocks and commodities.

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Source: Light Crude Commodities Future Chart

And it is that temporarily-crashed price to which conservatives are comparing current prices. Of course, they would bristle if we used the temporary nearly-$6.00 per gallon after-Katrina spike for comparison.

The reality is, the only thing which has happened since the crash, is that prices have steadily recovered -- as the economy has recovered -- back towards where Bush had them prior to the crash. Still, prices have another dollar per gallon to go in order to get to the true price which Bush left for us.

To be clear, I’m not positing that the Iraq invasion created conditions which required or demanded that prices had to increase. I’m saying that unrest in the Middle East always gives speculators an excuse to up-bid the price of crude, and Bush gave them that excuse in 2003 with the Iraq invasion. And that remained a factor until we left Iraq at the end of 2011, overridden temporarily by the 2008 crash. But by the time we left Iraq, the new speculator excuses of unrest in Syria, and Iran threatening to close the Straights of Hormuz, were up and running. And since we know that we are domestically producing more oil now than at any time since before the Iraq war began, and we know that demand is actually down, the only solution is severe restrictions on Wall Street speculators.

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For ten years now, the state of Georgia has been under the exclusive control of Republicans. Republican governor, Republican-controlled house of representatives and a Republican-controlled senate. All statewide offices are filled by Republicans, including the Office of Secretary of State, currently held by Brian Kemp who allowed the recent birther hearing to go forward, previously held by Karen Handel of recent Komen Foundation/Planned Parenthood fame. And to our eternal shame, we birthed Newt Gingrich upon the rest of the country. Our conservative bona fides are unassailable.

Yet, we (quite inconveniently for the current narrative) have this law on the books:

Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 33-24-59.6

Legislative Declaration Regarding Contraception; Coverage for Contraceptives.

(a) The General Assembly finds and declares that:

(1) Maternal and infant health are greatly improved when women have access to contraceptive supplies to prevent unintended pregnancies;

(2) Because many Americans hope to complete their families with two or three children, many women spend the majority of their reproductive lives trying to prevent pregnancy;

(3) Research has shown that 49 percent of all large group insurance plans do not routinely provide coverage for contraceptive drugs and devices. While virtually all health care plans cover prescription drugs generally, the absence of prescription contraceptive coverage is largely responsible for the fact that women spend 68 percent more in out-of-pocket expenses for health care than men; and

(4) Requiring insurance coverage for prescription drugs and devices for contraception is in the public interest in improving the health of mothers, children, and families and in providing for health insurance coverage which is fairer and more equitable.

(b) As used in this Code section, the term:

(1) "Health benefit policy" means any individual or group plan, policy, or contract for health care services issued, delivered, issued for delivery, or renewed in this state, including those contracts executed by the State of Georgia on behalf of state employees under Article 1 of Chapter 18 of Title 45, by a health care corporation, health maintenance organization, preferred provider organization, accident and sickness insurer, fraternal benefit society, hospital service corporation, medical service corporation, provider sponsored health care corporation, or other insurer or similar entity.

(2) "Insurer" means an accident and sickness insurer, fraternal benefit society, hospital service corporation, medical service corporation, health care corporation, health maintenance organization, or any similar entity authorized to issue contracts under this title.

(c) EVERY HEALTH BENEFIT POLICY THAT IS DELIVERED, ISSUED, EXECUTED, OR RENEWED IN THIS STATE or approved for issuance or renewal in this state by the Commissioner on or after July 1, 1999, WHICH PROVIDES COVERAGE FOR PRESCRIPTION DRUGS ON AN OUTPATIENT BASIS SHALL PROVIDE COVERAGE FOR ANY PRESCRIBED DRUG OR DEVICE APPROVED BY THE UNITED STATES FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION FOR USE AS A CONTRACEPTIVE. This Code section shall not apply to limited benefit policies described in paragraph (4) of subsection (e) of Code Section 33-30-12. Likewise, nothing contained in this Code section shall be construed to require any insurance company to provide coverage for abortion.

(d) No insurer shall impose upon any person receiving prescription contraceptive benefits pursuant to this Code section any:

(1) Copayment, coinsurance payment, or fee that is not equally imposed upon all individuals in the same benefit category, class, coinsurance level or copayment level, receiving benefits for prescription drugs; or

(2) Reduction in allowable reimbursement for prescription drug benefits.

(e) This Code section shall not be construed to:

(1) Require coverage for prescription coverage benefits in any contract, policy, or plan that does not otherwise provide coverage for prescription drugs; or

(2) Preclude the use of closed formularies; provided, however, that such formularies shall include oral, implant, and injectable contraceptive drugs, intrauterine devices, and prescription barrier methods.

Well now, isn’t that just so very special?  

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