John Boehner penned an article for Esquire, though it wasn't the piece GQ rejected last year, "Let Loose This Holiday Season With These Ten Pastel Neckties." Around 19,000 children watched Fox News' primetime lineup last week, which might explain the nascent "sharing ISN'T caring" movement. And a new poll finds most Americans blame Obamacare for rising healthcare premiums. Between that and a survey about the increasing scarcity of post-vaccination lollipops, the Obama administration has a lot on its hands. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Monday, December 16th, 2013:
FEDERAL JUDGE RULES NSA SURVEILLANCE PROGRAMS UNCONSTITUTIONAL - Matt Sledge and Mollie Reilly: "A federal judge ruled Monday that the National Security Agency's phone surveillance program is likely unconstitutional, Politico reports. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon said that the agency's controversial program, first unveiled by former government contractor Edward Snowden earlier this year, appears to violate the Constitution's Fourth Amendment, which states that the 'right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.' 'I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying it and analyzing it without judicial approval,' Leon wrote in the ruling. The federal ruling came down after activist Larry Klayman filed a lawsuit in June over the program. The suit claimed that the NSA's surveillance “violates the U.S. Constitution and also federal laws, including, but not limited to, the outrageous breach of privacy, freedom of speech, freedom of association, and the due process rights of American citizens." [HuffPost]
PAUL RYAN POSTS 'A' ON FRIDGE, DEMANDS TREAT - Mike McAuliff: "The budget deal cut last week by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) will reduce the deficit. The House Budget Committee chairman is also hoping it boosts the bottom line of his own political operation. On Monday, Ryan sent out a fundraising appeal to his conservative base, asking his supporters to help push the budget deal over 'the finish line' -- and give him cash to help elect more Republicans. He did not mention that it's Republicans who make up the main opposition to the budget plan and that right-wing groups like the Club for Growth and Heritage Action have come out strongly against it." [HuffPost]
Did you see the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall on Friday? How many Republican members of Congress were there? Tell us -- firstname.lastname@example.org.
@ChadPergram: House Ethics Cmte launches formal investigation into Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL) on cocaine conviction.
PARANOID SELF-LOATHING GOP LOBBYIST NOT SURPRISED BY GEORGE W. OBAMA - HuffPost Hill's Paranoid Self-Loathing GOP Lobbyist, who fills his children's Christmas stockings with survival seeds and flare gun shells, notices a lot of continuity between the current and previous administration. "It's like there was never a change in administrations," PSLGOPL writes, responding to the NSA news. "Let me guess, Obama 'didn't know.'" Not sure exactly what that means but thanks anyway, PSLGOPL!
DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - From our ongoing series PASTED: The Email of Poor People: "im 59 too early to get retirement no disability single mom 3 children unemployment was a ration anyway sold everything possible repoed car in forclosure quess bankrupt is next what do we have left and i dont get food stamps paid electric bills free cell phones they give out not qualified dont know how they figure so many medical bills dr refuse future care no rxs needed for necessary things just suffer poor people be homeless after all people like us do we like to have a birthday cake maybe just a l00 makeup from a dollar store just a little necessary things in like so we too can be human some people just need this to survive have been out of work for a year and half have put in close to 300 apps economy is just shut up yes i have some skills in several fields but its the age like so many more we are possibly the most trusted reliable workers anyway but move over old ones please consider at least for a little while maybe things will be better for everyone soon but who knows so right now we need a little room on the rope too to hold on" [Hang in there!]
HuffPost haircuts: Sam Stein (h/t Laura Bassett), Zach Carter, Ryan Reilly (h/t Ryan Reilly). Did you have a haircut in This Town? email@example.com.
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BUDGET DEAL TARGETS FEDERAL PENSIONS - Erstwhile VA employees hoping to spend their golden years on a boat might have to resign themselves to greeting people at Walmart, directing customers to the sporting section. AP: "Distinctly unpopular among voters and a scant presence in most congressional districts, federal workers have become an easy target in the hunt for budget savings. Their retirement programs are notably generous compared to the norm in private industry. But for federal workers hired after 2012, the pension program is turning less generous. Most federal civilian employees hired beginning in January will contribute 4.4 percent of their pay to their pension plans under the House-passed budget bill the Senate is expected to approve this week. Government workers hired in 2013 will continue paying 3.1 percent of their gross pay to help cover their pensions; those on the federal payroll before then, 0.8 percent. 'It's insane they should be expected to fund government,' said Jackie Simon, policy director for the American Federation for Government Employees, the union representing 630,000 federal workers. "It's a big country. The burden should be spread more broadly." But with pensions for nongovernment workers on a path toward extinction, federal employees get little sympathy from some experts." [HuffPost]
Check out Jon Ralston's profile of Harry Reid -- "a thoroughly unprepossessing man and manifestly terrible candidate who nonetheless achieved unlikely campaign victories and went on to reach the pinnacle of congressional power." [Politico]
Because money spoils everything, Liz Sidoti, the AP's political editor, is leaving the news organization to head BP's U.S. comms shop.
POLL FINDS AMERICANS BLAME OBAMACARE FOR RISING PREMIUMS - Headaches all around for Team Obama. AP: "Just when the government's insurance website is starting to run more smoothly, an Associated Press-GfK poll finds a potentially bigger problem for President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. Americans who already have coverage and aren't looking for any more government help are blaming the law for their rising premiums and deductibles. Those are the 85 percent of Americans that the White House says don't have to be worried about the president's historic push to expand coverage for the uninsured. Overall 3 in 4 say the rollout of coverage for the uninsured has gone poorly as health care remains a politically charged issue going into next year's midterm congressional elections. In the survey, nearly half of those with job-based or other private coverage say their policies will be changing next year — mostly for the worse. Nearly 4 in 5 (77 percent) blame the changes on the Affordable Care Act, even though the trend toward leaner coverage predates the law's passage. Sixty-nine percent say their premiums will be going up, while 59 percent say annual deductibles or copayments are increasing." [HuffPost]
@brianstetler: I wondered: how many kids might have seen Fox's white Santa segment? Answer: Fox News averaged 19,000 kids 2-11 last week in prime time.
HOLDER: STILL TIME LEFT FOR OBAMA TO NOT BE AWFUL AT PARDONS - Pardons, that executive power that the Founding Fathers devised to get their bundlers cleared of tax evasion charges, have not featured prominently in President Obama's five years in office. Ryan Reilly: "It's a bit too soon to judge President Barack Obama on his terrible pardon record, Attorney General Eric Holder told a group of African-American newspaper columnists last week. 'We are at year five I guess of eight, so I would say hold on,' Holder told members of the Trotter group, a national organization of black newspaper columnists. 'If this was the eighth year and we were looking back, I think we would have something to discuss. But we are at a point where this president still has a power that is uniquely his.' As The Huffington Post pointed out last month, Obama has pardoned almost as many turkeys as he has drug offenders. He's pardoned 39 people and granted clemency less frequently than any other president in modern history. Holder was questioned last week about the administration's clemency rate as he discussed the administration's effort to reform the justice system." [HuffPost]
AWKWARD: INDIAN OPPOSITION LEADER NOT ALLOWED TO ENTER US - Nothing quite like sectarian violence to really mess with President Obama's shift to Asia. Fox News: "In what has triggered a quiet battle on Capitol Hill, advocacy groups and lawmakers are drawing attention to the case of India's Narendra Modi. Though the powerful politician is the front-runner in India's elections next year, he was denied a U.S. visa in 2005 over deadly riots in his state. This leaves the State Department with a difficult choice -- lift the ban and anger human rights groups while triggering a potential legal battle, or keep the ban and cause a rift with India, one of the United States' closest allies. ..The trouble with Modi dates back to 2002. Shortly after he was appointed chief minister of the state of Gujarat, a group of Muslims attacked a train carrying Hindus, setting it on fire and killing dozens of people. What resulted were some of the deadliest ethnic riots in India's history. Hindu mobs attacked Muslims throughout the state, and by most estimates more than 1,000 people were killed. In a controversy that has trailed his political career, Modi was accused by human rights groups of doing little to quell the violence. When he sought to travel to the United States in 2005, a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers penned a resolution condemning him for "condoning or inciting bigotry." [Fox News]
NEW HAMPSHIRE REPUBLICAN PONDERS SHOOTING SCOTT BROWN - Americans have never taken too kindly to carpetbaggers, but New Hampshire State Rep. JR Hoell has really taken the "Y'ALL BEST GO BACK FROM WHERE YOU CAME" philosophy of interstate politics to its logical, and violent, conclusion. In an interview for a local podcast, Hoell denounced Brown for espousing views he deemed too liberal and bristled at the prospect of Brown running for Senate in the Granite State. “If things continue the way they are,” he said during an interview for the GrokTALK podcast, “there may be a day or a time where firearms and ammo are necessary. It happened in the Revolutionary War. I’d like to think we’re not there yet, but as things continue to unravel, that may be the next step.” [ThinkProgress]
In Esquire's year-end edition, John Boehner endorses eating breakfast at a diner. Such meals, the speaker has demonstrated, are great for exhibiting callous disregard for the plight of others. Take it away, John: "Most mornings when I’m in Washington, I have breakfast at the same place. It’s a diner. A joint a few blocks from the Capitol and a few blocks from the basement apartment where I stay in D.C... I sit at the counter in jeans and a ballcap. Order eggs, and sometimes sausage, but never on Fridays. (And never the bacon. My diner makes lousy bacon. I don’t know why.) I’m there maybe 15, 20 minutes...I sit at the counter in jeans and a ballcap. Order eggs, and sometimes sausage, but never on Fridays. (And never the bacon. My diner makes lousy bacon. I don’t know why.) I’m there maybe 15, 20 minutes." [Office of the Speaker]
We intend to reach out to representatives of Pete's Diner for comment about the Speaker's denunciation of its bacon.
No we don't.
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here is Waffles the cat making poor choices.
WHY NORAD TRACKS SANTA - Also, can the NSA track snail mail? Because it could really help Santa organize gifts. Atlantic: "It was 1955, and Christmas was approaching, and Sears had a new idea for a yuletide gimmick. In local newspapers, the department store placed ads ... on behalf of Santa himself. 'HEY KIDDIES!' the ad read, in a greeting that would seem creepy only in retrospect. 'Call me on my private phone and I will talk to you personally any time day or night.' The ads then listed local numbers for area children to call to get some one-on-one Kris Kringle time...In the ad the company had placed in the local paper in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Sears had listed Santa's number as ME 2-6681. Which, according to Snopes, contained a typo: It was one digit off of the intended one. The number Sears had ended up printing and distributing to the city's citizens? The one for, as it happened, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD)—the predecessor of NORAD—which, like Santa, specialized in aeronautics. And which, unlike Santa, was based in Colorado Springs...Suddenly, on Christmas Eve, phone calls intended for St. Nick were being received on a top-secret NORAD line—a line that was usually reserved for crises (which, back then, pretty much meant 'Russians attacking')." [Atlantic]
- Scientifically accurate Santa Claus is basically a sick 80s B horror flick. [http://bit.ly/1k9cr6D]
- Continuing our ongoing efforts to ignore the title of this section, here are a list of foods that could kill you. [http://thrl.st/1ej1dwj]
- A compilation of dogs arguing with their owners. [http://huff.to/JsM7Gu]
-A slight alteration to the $5 bill reveals Bill Murray's resemblance to the Great Emancipator. [http://imgur.com/aWN5J9p]
- A look back at the year in media from HuffPost's Jack Mirkinson. [http://huff.to/19tuj8e]
- Dog forgets how to swim. [http://huff.to/1heDQ4I]
- An upclose look -- a little too upclose, actually -- at a glacier collapse. [http://bit.ly/1bbgeIE]
@elisefoley: FTW LOL BRB RT @ryanjreilly: ACLU on NSA ruling https://t.co/3cwxjMwjcu
@JoeBerkowitz: Fun game: check how many people who fav'd your tweet have santa hat avatars. If it's over four, congrats, you ARE the internet.
@timothypmurphy: Don't forget to change your Twitter handle to something mithril-related for Durin's Day.
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