NYC unions not thrilled with new Koch Bros. wing at hospital

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, March 10, 2014

Normally hospital staff is tickled pink when a wealthy benefactor agrees to donate money to build a new wing or pay for upgrades at the hospital. That wasn’t the case, however, at New York-Presbyterian Hospital this past weekend, as members of the New York State Nurses’ Association, the NAACP New York State Conference and SEIU Local 1199 marched to protest the construction of the new David H. Koch Center at the top-ranked hospital — all because the benefactor is one of the nation’s most notorious conservative political donors.

According to The Washington Free BeaconKoch’s $100 million donation, which is the largest in the hospital’s history, will build a new ambulatory center and potentially create a number of new jobs.

Saturday’s rally was timed in part with International Women’s Day, as the event’s organizers claim that the Kochs — who are the primary benefactors of Generation Opportunity and Americans for Prosperity among others — are the primary funders of the “war on women’s reproductive rights” and behind “the effort to defeat and repeal healthcare to all Americans.”

Even the local city council representative, Ben Kallos, was on hand bashing the job-creating project in his district.

Other protestors tweeted various scenes of the protest, including one picket line set up outside Koch’s Park Avenue Apartment.

The protest comes just days after news broke that former President Bill Clinton accepted a $225,000 honorarium to speak at the nonprofit Washington Hospital Honor Center in 2012 — just as the hospital was going through two big rounds of staff layoffs.

“No disrespect to Bill Clinton, but that money could’ve gone a long way and been put to better use,” Dan Fields Jr., president of the SEIU Local 722 representing hospital workers at the D.C.-based hospital, told The Washington Times“Our contract expires on June 30, and I’m pretty sure they’re going to come to the table and talk about how they’re losing money, so this concerns me greatly.”

h/t The Washington Free Beacon

Edward Snowden to SXSW: I have no regrets over leaking NSA documents

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, March 10, 2014

Fugitive National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden told attendees at the South by Southwest International Festival Monday that he has no regrets about leaking the NSA documents revealing the illegal wiretaps, and that he would do it again in a heartbeat.

“Would I do it again? Absolutely. Regardless of what happens to me, this is something we had a right to,” he said.

“I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution. And I saw the Constitution was being violated on a massive scale,” he added to a round of applause from the 3,000 people in the auditorium at the Austin Convention Center in Texas, where the conference is held annually.

Snowden spoke via teleconference from Russia, where he sought asylum from the U.S. last summer after telling a reporter at The Guardian that the federal government had been illegally listening in on the phone calls of American citizens domestically. It was the first time the former NSA contractor directly addressed people in the U.S. since he fled the country with thousands of secret documents in hand last June. He currently faces felony charges of espionage and theft of government property in the U.S., and has vowed not to return into the country changes its whistleblower protection laws.

Snowden also told attendees at the 10-day festival that they have to be the ones to help “fix” the United State’s government surveillance of its citizens.

“South by Southwest and the tech community, the people in the room in Austin, they’re the folks who can fix this,” Snowden, sitting in front of a backdrop featuring the U.S. Constitution, told those attending the Austin, Texas conference. “There’s a political response that needs to occur, but there’s also a tech response that needs to occur.”

Snowden took a mixture of questions from the audience and Twitter, with the first coming from Tim Berners-Lee, the man who created the World Wide Web 25 years ago this week. Berners-Lee asked Snowden what he would change about the nation’s surveillance system.

“We need public oversight … some way for trusted public figures to advocate for us. We need a watchdog that watches Congress, because if we’re not informed, we can’t consent to these (government) policies,” he replied.

The NSA whistleblower also answered questions on the difference between government surveillance and snooping by private Internet companies, saying that the former is more dangerous because ”the government has the ability to deprive you of rights. They can jail you.”

Also scheduled to speak at the tech-themed conference Monday afternoon are journalist and civil liberties lawyer Glenn Greenwald, who broke Snowden’s story in the British newspaper.

Prior to his speech Monday, Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo urged the festival’s organizers to withdraw its invitation to Snowden, arguing that allowing him to speak would undermine the “fairness and freedom” the event is meant to promote.

Snowden has also been nominated for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the NSA scandal. TIME magazine also named him to its 2013 “Person of the Year” finalists list.

Millennials today likely to be independent, single according to new Pew study

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, March 10, 2014

Meet today’s average Millennial: Single, not religious, politically independent, and rather progressive when it comes to most social issues.

That’s the premise of the Pew Research Center’s latest study on Millennials in adulthood, which found that Millennial adults are “forging a distinctive path into adulthood, according to Pew Executive Vice President Paul Taylor and co-author of the report Paul Taylor.

Politically, 50 percent of Millennials consider themselves to be an independent, while 27 percent consider themselves to be a Democrat and 17 percent a Republican. At the same time, Millennials are more likely to vote for the Democratic candidate on the ballot than their elder counterparts. According to the study, six in ten adults between the ages of 18 and 29 voted for President Barack Obama in 2012, compared to just 44 percent of adults over the age of 65 who cast a ballot for the president.

“It’s not that they don’t have strong opinions, political opinions, they do,” Taylor told The Associated Press. “It’s simply that they choose not to identify themselves with either political party.”

Taylor attributes this in part to the fact that Millennials’ ideology tends to coincide more with the ideals of the Democratic Party than the Republican Party.

“They don’t choose to identify, but they have strong views and their views are views that most people conventionally associate with the Democratic Party,” he said. “They believe in a big activist government on some of the social issues of the day – gay marriage, marijuana legalization, immigration. Their views are much more aligned with the Democratic Party.”

Whether Millennials will remain Democratic as they get older is yet to be determined, however. ”People can change over the course of their lifetimes,” Taylor added. “At the same time, the behaviors, attitudes, the voting patterns and experiences that generations sort of encounter as they come of age in their late teens and early 20s are important.”

Millennials are also less likely than their parents’ generations to marry and actively participate in an organized religion. While nearly nine in ten Millennials have at least some belief in a higher being, just 36 percent of them consider themselves to be a religious person. Moreover, only 26 percent of Millennials have tied the knot – a steep decline from the 36 percent of Gen Xers, 48 percent of Baby Boomers and 65 percent of those from the Silent Generation.

Pew considers Gen Xers to be adults between the ages of 34-49, boomers as those between the ages of 50-68, and those in the Silent Generation to be between the ages of 69-86.

Pew conducted a nationwide telephone study of 1,821 adults from Feb. 14-23, 2014. The study has a margin of error of +/- 2.6 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level. 

[WATCH] ‘R-S-P-E-C-T?’: Obama flubs spelling of classic Aretha song at White House concert

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, March 7, 2014

Whoops! President Barack Obama proved that he’s not the world’s best speller Thursday night, hilariously misspelling the title of Aretha Franklin’s classic song “Respect” during his opening speech at the ”In Performance at the White House: Women of Soul” concert.

“When Aretha first told us what ‘R-S … P-E-C-T’ meant to her,” he said to roaring laughter from the audience, “she had no idea it would become a rallying cry for African-Americans, and women and then everyone who felt marginalized because of what they looked like or who they loved. They wanted some respect.”

“Later, when somebody asked her why it had such an impact, she said, ‘I guess everybody just wants a little respect.’ Today, they still do,” he continued.

The concert, which will be aired on PBS on April 7, honored an array of soul singers spanning the generations from Franklin and Patti LaBelle to 20-year-old Ariana Grande. All three of the women sang at the concert, along with Melissa Etheridge, Tessane Chin, Jill Scott, and Janelle Monae.

Watch Obama’s spelling gaffe here.

Caption Contest: Michelle Obama’s frosty new hairdo

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, February 7, 2014

Still reeling from her bangs experiment at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, First Lady Michelle Obama debuted a new hairdo earlier this week: Frosted highlights.

(AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)

(AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)

Wonder what her bestie, Beyonce, would think about the new coif!

Michelle Obama Beyonce

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Tim Scott at CPAC: Parents should be able to decide how their children are educated

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, March 6, 2014

Tim Scott (R-S.C.) pushed the need for school choice in his address at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference Thursday, arguing that parents should have the ability to decide how their children are educated.

“Kids, not unions, should be the focus of our public education,” he said to a roaring applause. “Parents, and not bureaucrats in Washington, should decide the path of their child’s education. They should be free to choose – public schools, charter schools, private schools, parochial schools – it should be the parents’ choice because when the parents have a choice, the kids have a choice.”

Key to Scott’s desire for school choice is the idea that education thinking should be reformed so that students aren’t pushed any longer down a one-size-fits-all path.

“Every child doesn’t want to go to college,” he said, adding that “we should have a dual track: one for college and one for the skills necessary to fill the 4 million (job) vacancies we have in America.”

School choice is an issue close to home for Scott, who was appointed to fill the seat of now-Heritage Foundation Jim DeMint in December 2012. The son of a single mother, Scott nearly flunked out of high school before a local Chik-fil-A manager took him under his wing and helped him get his studies under control.

The South Carolina Republican did find time for a humorous quip early on in his speech, however, referencing one of the reasons why Obamacare is harmful for Americans: It reminds us how many calories are in a slice of pizza.

“We don’t need Obamacare forcing pizza places to tell us how many calories there are in our pizza, do we really want to know?” he quipped. “I’m not sure about you, but I don’t even want to know how many calories are on my pizza. When I eat my Häagen-Dazs ice cream, I want to enjoy those 1,292 calories and all 100 grams of fat in one sitting.”

[WATCH] New House GOP web video calls on Millennials to support individual mandate rollback

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, February 5, 2014

Obamacare has been nothing but harmful to young Americans, particularly those who are generally in good health and can’t afford the high premiums mandated by President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law. Fortunately,the House Republican Conference has a solution around this problem, as noted by the committee’s new web video about the “unfair” individual mandate.

The video, which was released Wednesday morning, calls on Millennials to support H.R. 4118, the GOP’s Simple Fairness Act. The bill, which the House passed on Wednesday, would eliminate the fine for opting out of the Affordable Care Act in 2014. President Obama has already threatened to veto the bill should it reach his desk.

“The Affordable Care Act already includes affordability and special-circumstances exceptions for Americans who cannot afford insurance,” the White House said in a statement Tuesday. “And the individual shared responsibility provision is essential to ensuring that the 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions can get coverage without being charged more or losing coverage when they get sick.”

“Repealing this part of the law would also result in higher premiums for those who remain uninsured, fewer premium tax credits for middle-income families, and increased cost-shifting of uncompensated care to health care providers, workers, and businesses.”

This year’s fine is either $95 or one percent of the individual’s taxable income, whichever is greater.

The video, which features a cartoonist illustrating the harmful effects of the individual mandate on a white board, stresses the idea that even paying $300-$400 per month for insurance under the Affordable Care Act could mean the difference between paying one’s monthly rent or car payments and not breaking the law. It points out that for many young Americans, who eat right, workout regularly and are relatively healthy, the fine is one expense they just can’t afford.

“President Obama and Vice President Biden say you just need to pay $300 to $400 a month for it. That sounds like a lot, doesn’t it?” the narrator says while drawing dollar bills on the whiteboard. “They don’t understand that $300 to $400 a month equals a car payment or a month’s rent.”

“Do you think it’s fair to be fined for something you don’t want? House Republicans don’t,” the narrator continues.

Watch the video below.