POLITICS
10/24/2013 06:30 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

HUFFPOST HILL, sponsored by The Benghazi Hoax - Loose Lips Sink Ships, Michael Hayden's Credibility

The U.S. government has spied on 35 heads of state, which should make it way easier to choose what to serve them at state dinners. A gubernatorial candidate in Maryland is taking heat for not breaking up a party of underage drinkers -- sure fodder for his opponent, Buzz Killington. And President Obama really wants Congress to take up immigration reform again, probably because he doesn't want to spend the next three years deciding what kind of reclaimed wood will be used to construct the cafeteria in his presidential library. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Thursday, October 24th, 2013:

DEMOCRATS: WAHHHHHH - Sam Stein: "Down the street from the White House, in the ornate Astor Ballroom of the St. Regis Hotel, hundreds of progressive thinkers, think tank leaders, and Democratic officials gathered on Thursday. A week earlier, their party had scored a sweeping win during a standoff with Republicans over funding the government and raising the debt ceiling. Conservative pledges to stop the president's health care law had been exposed as toothless pandering to the base. Even better, the crusade that shut down the government in pursuit of that pledge had made the GOP less popular and the health care law more. But that was last week. This week has been a mess, sparking a fresh wave of progressive self-flagellation and the return of liberal anxiety." [HuffPost]

NSA SPIED ON 35 WORLD LEADERS: REPORT - Guardian "The National Security Agency monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders after being given the numbers by an official in another US government department, according to a classified document provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. The confidential memo reveals that the NSA encourages senior officials in its 'customer' departments, such the White House, State and the Pentagon, to share their 'Rolodexes' so the agency can add the phone numbers of leading foreign politicians to their surveillance systems. The document notes that one unnamed US official handed over 200 numbers, including those of the 35 world leaders, none of whom is named. These were immediately 'tasked' for monitoring by the NSA. The revelation is set to add to mounting diplomatic tensions between the US and its allies, after the German chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday accused the US of tapping her mobile phone...The memo, dated October 2006 and which was issued to staff in the agency's Signals Intelligence Directorate (SID), was titled 'Customers Can Help SID Obtain Targetable Phone Numbers'." [Guardian]

HuffPost reporter Ryan Reilly designed his own Obamacare health exchange. Everything is fixed, you guys.

PRO TIP: DON'T GIVE ANONYMOUS QUOTES ABOUT CLANDESTINE GOVERNMENT ACTIVITY IN A PUBLIC PLACE - Who needs VEEP when you have things like this? ThinkProgress: "Former National Security Agency director Michael Hayden is more used to being the one listening in on conversations than the one being eavesdropped on himself. The tables were turned on Thursday, however, as Hayden suddenly found his supposedly private conversations blasted across the Internet. Riding on the Acela express train between New York and Washington, DC, Hayden had the bad luck of sitting near entrepreneur and former MoveOn.org director Tom Matzzie. 'Former NSA spy boss Michael Hayden on Acela behind me blabbing 'on background as a former senior admin official',' Matzzie wrote on his Twitter account. 'Sounds defensive.' For the next twenty minutes, Mattzie continued to livetweet Hayden's conversations slamming the Obama administration, all the while insisting that he be referred to only on background. The conversation also seemed to touch on Hayden's time as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President George W. Bush as well. "Hayden was bragging about rendition and black sites a minute ago," Mattzie wrote. Hayden has in the past defended the use of waterboarding against detainees held in various sites around the world, and dismissed torture as a "legal term."

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Pamela Gwynn is disabled because of brain surgery and receives food stamps in Indiana. She has followed the political debate in Washington and is not impressed. "All this talk about [how] lazy people on food stamps eat steak and lobster -- not true, believe me. I haven't had beef other than what little pieces are in cans of soup for a long time because I have to use common sense." [Hang in there!]

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IS THE TEA PARTY RACIST? Kinda... Ryan Grim and Luke Johnson: "Tea Party and Republican leaders have been quick to condemn Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) for his recent comparison of the tea party and the Ku Klux Klan. But avowed racists involved in the white nationalist movement might beg to agree with the Florida Democrat. The KKK, for its part, isn't sure whether the hood fits. 'The tea party is a very widespread organization and there's many tea party groups in the country, so I don't know if they are necessarily even in agreement with each other,' pastor Thomas Robb, national director of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, told HuffPost.... But the conversation continues beyond even the Klan itself, and insight into how openly racist people view the tea party can be gleaned from a long-running debate among white supremacists at the website Stormfront.org. Stormfront -- whose motto is 'White Pride World Wide' -- is among the most popular white nationalist (WN, in the community's lexicon) gathering spots online, and discussion of the tea party is a regular part of the chatter....[T]he debate breaks down into roughly two camps, one arguing that the tea party is a dead end for white nationalists and the other side arguing that many in the tea party already have racist attitudes and present an opportunity for white nationalists to ply their message. The only area of agreement seemed to be that the tea party loses its way in its strong support of Israel, which the neo-Nazi Stormfront crowd does not appreciate." [HuffPost]

HEALTHCARE.GOV CONTRACTORS BLAME GOVERNMENT FOR GLITCHES - Tribune: "A software contractor for the U.S. government's troubled new healthcare website said on Thursday that his company warned officials about performance risks before it opened on October 1, saying there was too little time for system testing. But the lead contractor, CGI Federal, expressed confidence at a congressional hearing that problems with the website at the center of President Barack Obama's signature domestic policy would be fixed in time for millions of people without healthcare insurance to sign up by January 1. Andrew Slavitt, executive vice president with the parent of Quality Software Services Inc, a unit of health insurers UnitedHealth Group, testified that his company told the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) about concerns involving testing the Healthcare.gov website. "We expressed all of those concerns and risks," Slavitt said at the House Energy and Commerce Committee, without immediately elaborating on what those concerns were and who specifically he warned...The testimony to a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives marked the first full-length public airing for the troubled rollout of the federal online exchange, or marketplace." [Chicago Tribune]

OBAMA '12 TECH GURUS: WE CAN'T FIX HEALTHCARE.GOV - Aside from there not being enough blue, Obama/Biden '12's highly-regarded tech team can't offer much advice. Mother Jones: "Obama's tech alums say that Healthcare.gov is a vastly bigger project than anything the re-election effort had to tackle, and that the criticism ignores the advantages they had working in a sprightly campaign environment...The most fundamental difference, OFA alums say, is that the re-election started from scratch. They picked and chose which software dealers they contracted with and relied on Amazon Web Services for most of their cloud computing. And when they rolled out a new product...they did so in bits and pieces and tested it beforehand...they generally think that the administration's most ambitious technology project never had a chance... The Department of Health and Human Services was tasked with building a site that had to be compatible with hundreds of different health insurance providers and dozens of state databases. It was a daunting task complicated by out-of-date technology, like being entered in this year's Daytona 500 with a Dodge Aries and a socket wrench. The Obama campaign had another advantage over HHS: The reelection effort was essentially a private enterprise, one that didn't have to answer to federal contracting laws. " [MoJo]

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FAT CAT CRUZ DEPRIVES THE TREASURIES - Dave Jamieson: "In an interview with The New York Times published Wednesday, Heidi Nelson Cruz, the wife of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), confirmed that the Senate's most famous Obamacare foe receives his health coverage through her job at Goldman Sachs. The value of the coverage, according to Goldman, is at least $20,000 per year... Lest anyone call this hypocritical, a Cruz spokeswoman told the Times that the senator's Goldman plan 'comes at no cost to the taxpayer.' Edward Kleinbard, former chief of staff on Congress' Joint Committee on Taxation, says that's nonsense. 'Of course there's a cost to taxpayers,' Kleinbard told HuffPost. As with any family on employer-sponsored coverage, Heidi Nelson Cruz's health insurance essentially functions as untaxed income. Rather than pay her an additional $20,000 in salary, Goldman compensates her just as much through her health plan, which the Cruz family won't have to pay taxes on. Assuming the Cruz family falls into the highest tax bracket -- generally a safe assumption for a Goldman managing director -- Kleinbard, like the economist Dean Baker, estimates that the $20,000 Goldman plan amounts to about $8,000 in taxes that the general public won't see." [HuffPost]

OBAMA INSULT DIDN'T HAPPEN - It was good while it lasted. Grim and Jen Bendery: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told his Democratic caucus last week in a private meeting that a top House Republican said to President Barack Obama, 'I cannot even stand to look at you,' according to two Democratic senators who were present. The account was confirmed by two Senate Democratic aides who said they independently learned of the exchange from other senators. A White House official said Thursday that the administration did relay such a message to Reid, but that it was the result of a miscommunication. 'While the quote attributed to a Republican lawmaker in the House GOP meeting with the President is not accurate, there was a miscommunication when the White House read out that meeting to Senate Democrats, and we regret the misunderstanding,' the official said in a statement. Asked to clarify, then, what the White House meant to tell Senate Democratic leaders about Obama's meeting with House Republicans, the official said only, "Not going to read out the details of private meetings with the President, or private meetings between WH and Dem leaders." [HuffPost]

The Donald would hire Google because...Google: "I would have advised them to go to Google or one of our other great technological companies and get their act straightened out," Trump told the Washington Examiner. "They should have done that before they did the roll out with a Canadian company with a bad track record." he added that "Google would have done it for nothing as a contribution to this country, as a public service." OK! [Examiner]

OBAMA TRIES TO REVIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM - Elise Foley: "As House Republicans pursue smaller-scale immigration reform that could leave out a new path to citizenship entirely, President Barack Obama attempted on Thursday to rally the troops in support of a comprehensive approach that he says can still be passed by the end of the year. 'There are going to be moments -- there are always moments like this in big efforts at reform -- where you meet resistance and the press will declare something dead, 'It's not going to happen,' but that can be overcome,' Obama said during an address to reform supporters at the White House, joined by Vice President Joe Biden...House bills so far, though, seem far away from what Obama has proposed. House GOP leaders have said they will not hold a vote on the Senate-passed comprehensive reform bill or any other measure the conference opposes, which puts them in a tight spot for passing anything to legalize the status of undocumented immigrants -- a must for Democrats." [HuffPost]

@NATSECWONK: OBAMA STAFFERS GOT THEIR ESPIONAGE ON - We're still amazed that @NatSecWonk isn't the Paranoid Self-Loathing GOP Lobbyist. Washington Post: "Inside the National Security Council, most officials aren't allowed to use or even look at Twitter, the popular social-networking service. But that didn't stop some of President Obama's top advisers from trying to identify the person responsible for @natsecwonk, an anonymous Twitter account that published a steady stream of personal and sometimes offensive attacks on White House and State Department officials. Three weeks ago, the group hatched a plan to trick the suspected NSC staffer into revealing himself. They would intentionally plant inaccurate, but harmless, information with him to see if it would pop up as a 140-character tweet, according to a U.S. official with knowledge of the effort. It is not clear whether the sting led directly to the unmasking last week of Jofi Joseph, 40, who was identified as the creative force behind @natsecwonk and was fired from his position on the administration's Iran negotiations team. But the lengths to which White House officials went to find Joseph reveal how much of an embarrassment his Twitter feed had become inside the West Wing and across the street at the stately Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where Joseph worked alongside his NSC colleagues while secretly skewering them online." [WaPo]

GEORGE SOROS JOINS PRO-HILLARY ORGANIZATION - Hey tweeps, George Soros has ordered us and everyone else in the liberal media conspiracy to tell you that he joined Ready for Hillary. Also, something about Agenda 21. Have a great day! Reuters: "Billionaire financier George Soros, a major Democratic donor, is backing an effort to persuade former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to run for president in 2016, a spokesman said on Thursday. Soros, 83, has pledged $25,000 to political action committee Ready For Hillary, the largest and best-funded independent group backing a potential Clinton candidacy. The wife of former President Bill Clinton would be widely viewed as the favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination if she decides to run...Soros' pledge puts him on the PAC's National Finance Council, along with several other major Democratic donors and officials, the group said. But symbolically, Soros' support could mean much more - particularly at a time when Clinton's supporters are seeking to ward off potential challengers to her in Democratic presidential primaries." [Reuters]

JOE BIDEN REALLY WANTS TO BE PRESIDENT - Joe should know that you never interrupt a man and his double-glazed baby back ribs. Luke Johnson: "Recently elected state representatives don't usually get calls from Vice President Joe Biden. That wasn't the case with Iowa state Rep.-elect Brian Meyer (D-Des Moines), who was watching the World Series at Applebee's Wednesday when Biden called. 'I was obviously surprised, and I didn't think anyone was paying attention to a little special election in the middle of Iowa. It was a pleasant surprise to hear from the vice president,' he said in a brief interview with The Huffington Post. When asked why he thinks that Biden called him, Meyer laughed and said, 'Well it is Iowa.' He added, 'I supported him in the 2008 caucuses, and I've always liked Joe Biden. I don't know why he called other than to congratulate me and wish me well' Meyer said there was 'no discussion' of Biden running for president in 2016." [HuffPost]

GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE IS NOT A BUZZKILL - Baltimore Sun: "When Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler arrived at a house party of teenagers in June, he pushed through the crowd, past youngsters dancing on a table and a smattering of red plastic cups. One of the revelers snapped a photo. As the night wore on, teens at the South Bethany rental home posted tweets, photos and videos of a bash labeled the 'eviction party' for its intensity -- a celebration where underage participants later confirmed many were drinking alcohol. Gansler, a Democrat who is running for governor, said this week that he stopped by the Delaware beach house to talk briefly with his teenage son and then left. He said he does not remember whether he saw anyone drinking. But even if he had, Gansler said, it was not his responsibility as a parent or a high-ranking law enforcement official to intervene. 'Assume for purposes of discussion that there was widespread drinking at this party,' Gansler said. 'How is that relevant to me? ... The question is, do I have any moral authority over other people's children at beach week in another state? I say no.' Advocates against substance abuse and underage drinking disagreed, saying adults shouldn't look the other way." [Baltimore Sun]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here is a toddler with an incredible Halloween costume.

MARINES UPSET BY HATS - Gone are the days when marines got to battle dragons in commercials. Now they have to dress up like a French constable. New York Post: "A change to the Marine Corps' uniform hats could take the hard-nosed Leathernecks from the Halls of Montezuma to the shops of Christopher Street. Thanks to a plan by President Obama to create a 'unisex' look for the Corps, officials are on the verge of swapping out the Marines' iconic caps - known as 'covers' -- with a new version that some have derided as so 'girly' that they would make the French blush. 'We don't even have enough funding to buy bullets, and the DoD is pushing to spend $8 million on covers that look like women's hats!' one senior Marine source fumed to The Post. 'The Marines deserve better. It makes them look ridiculous.' The thin new covers have a feminine line that some officials think would make them look just as good on female marines as on males -- in keeping with the Obama directive...But some Marines love the old hat, which has been in use since 1922 and think the new hat is a glorified "porter's cap." The new Daly model is based on a style the Marines used from 1904 to 1918 - and then jettisoned...As of now, the new covers are only in the proposal stage." [NY Post]

COMFORT FOOD

- Photos of recently discovered Amazonian species. [http://bit.ly/1bdr4iY]

- Ylvis, of "What Does The Fox Say?" fame has a new song out: "Massachusetts." [http://huff.to/1ahhH3o]

- A copy of the first English language newspaper ever published was recently uncovered. [http://dailym.ai/19QjkDa]

- Bryan Cranston narrates the latest Apple commercial, proving once again how fantastic his career is. [http://bit.ly/1aaw1c7]

- Japan built a cannon that can fire at asteroids so take that, 532 Herculina. Your days of freeloading off of our sun's gravity are over. [http://bit.ly/16tFY7j]

- Nick Offerman hosts "Great Moments In Moustache History." [http://bit.ly/1dkYH7f]

TWITTERAMA

@AdamWeinstein: Shorter HealthCare-dot-gov hearing: Who knew 10001101001010011101011, and when?

@SenileDonDraper: #FailedObamacareSlogans Yes, We Can...cer.

@KagroX: The soda machine ate my dollar. Repeal Coke!

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