Archive for Government

Hey, You Six Million!

How do you like him now?

As many as 6 million people will have to pay a penalty under ObamaCare for going without health insurance in 2014, federal officials suggested in projections released Wednesday.

That means between 2 percent and 4 percent of all taxpayers lacked medical coverage for all or part of the year and do not qualify for an exemption under the individual mandate, according to the Treasury Department.

Another 10 to 20 percent of taxpayers — or 15 million to 30 million people — were uninsured but will qualify for an exemption from the mandate, shielding them from paying $95 or 1 percent of household income when they file their taxes.

What did we just learn the other day? That ObamaCare will end up costing $2,000,000,000,000 and still leave almost 30,000,000 uninsured? (I just busted my 0 key.)

The best-case scenario described by the CBO would result in ‘between 24 million and 27 million’ fewer Americans being uninsured in 2025, compared to the year before the Affordable Care Act took effect.

Pulling that off will cost Uncle Sam about $1.35 trillion – or $50,000 per head.

The numbers are daunting: It will take $1.993 trillion, a number that looks like $1,993,000,000,000, to provide insurance subsidies to poor and middle-class Americans, and to pay for a massive expansion of Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) costs.

Offsetting that massive outlay will be $643 billion in new taxes, penalties and fees related to the Obamacare law.

So, all this wasn’t about controlling costs or covering the sick. It was about power. By that metric, it has been a raging success.

Who has the last laugh?

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Deriving Their Just Power From the Consent of the Governed

What is the role of government?

Is it this?

The Vermont House has endorsed a measure to ban so-called microbeads from personal-care products sold in the state. The tiny plastic particles are used to make some soaps, toothpastes, and over-the-counter drugs more abrasive. But environmentalists said they pose a threat to water quality, marine life, and possibly to human health. Microbeads are blamed for attracting and becoming a vehicle for toxic chemicals in water. One concern is that they then can be eaten by fish that are later eaten by humans. A bill given preliminary approval Tuesday would ban the sale of personal-care products containing microbeads beginning at the end of 2018, and in over-the-counter drugs in late 2019.

Or this?

Vermont lawmakers are considering whether to become the first state Legislature to legalize marijuana.

Or even this?

A political showdown is developing at the Vermont Statehouse over a gun control bill. The governor doesn’t support it.

Or how about this from Vermont West?

Seattle began enforcing this month a new law, which aims to curb the amount of food sent to landfills. As of January 1, residents of the city, including all commercial establishments, must have a composting service haul away their food waste, drive the waste to a processing site, or compost it themselves at home or on-site. The law applies not only to food but also any cardboard or paper with food on it.

For those unwilling to cooperate, there will be a price.

For now, the cost of defiance will come in the form of public shaming. Those who refuse to separate their garbage will find their bins tagged with a red sign for all to see. The hope is that the tags will help serve as both a warning as well as an incentive to make composting a habit. But come June, after a public education campaign lasting several months about the new rules, violators will begin facing fines—$1 per infraction for households; and $50 per breach by apartment buildings and businesses.

That’s a bit of a walkabout from life, liberty, and the pursuit of #2 plastics.

But I’m torn. The more local the government, the more it represents the will of the people it governs. But as these cases clearly show, local government represents the will—the tyrannical will—of the majority of the people it governs. The minority can get [bleeped].

Think I’m wrong?

Seattle’s new law is meant to help the city achieve its goal to recycle 60 percent of waste by the end of this year. Strict rules, which have banned recyclables from trash bins since 2005, have helped Seattle come within striking distance of that promise—the city currently recycles approximately 56 percent of its waste. But progress toward that goal appears to have stalled; the percentage has barely increased in recent years, and even fell in residential homes between 2012 and 2013, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.

You don’t get in much more Marxist marching formation than in Seattle. And they still can’t reach that Utopia of universal recycling and unanimous composting. Even with Maoist public shaming.

I hold nothing against recycling (even after watching Penn & Teller’s vicious beatdown of the program), and nothing for microbeads. But ask anyone who knows me and they’ll answer as one: I hate being told what to do. What I have to do. I have a compost pile because I have a garden. I half-assedly throw kitchen scraps into a bin for mixing in with leaves and other yard waste. (To be honest, I just as often throw the crap into the garbage after marinating in its own supperating juices for a week.) But the moment my community passes an ordinance mandating compost piles, I am going to pour lighter fluid all over mine and set a match to it. They’ll see it from the International Space Station.

Like the old lady here in Concord, Mass who spearheaded the ban on the sale of individual bottles of water. How did the tyranny of this individual benefit the rest of the citizenry? She was portrayed as a Joan of Arc. To me, she was Typhoid Mary, Tokyo Rose, and Axis Sally rolled into one.

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Liaress of the Jungle

This post pales in comparison to the two below, but it’s worth reporting:

The leader of the agency charged with the ObamaCare rollout is stepping down after five years on the job.

Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS), announced her departure Friday, which will take effect next month.

Tavenner is leaving after five turbulent years overseeing the agency. Her tenure included the disastrous rollout of the government’s HealthCare.gov website as well as, most recently, an inflated tally of total ObamaCare enrollment.

Republicans on the House Oversight Committee last month grilled Tavenner about the miscount, which had helped push the first-year enrollment total for ObamaCare past 7 million — a milestone that was celebrated by the administration at the time.

Tavenner said some figures were “inadvertently” double-counted, an explanation that was greeted with deep skepticism from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), whose staff identified the error.

“Tavenner had to go,” Issa wrote Friday in a statement provided first to The Hill.

“She presided over HHS as it deceptively padded the Obamacare enrollment numbers. It was a deplorable example of an agency trying to scam the American people. They weren’t successful this time because of Congressional oversight. We deserve better.”

And then there’s this:

Tavenner’s chief of staff, Aryana Khalid, also announced Friday that she would be leaving the agency.

The pair of departures come about a month after that of CMS’s deputy administrator, Cindy Mann. The agency’s No. 2 official left her post in January.

Maybe it doesn’t matter that no one’s left to run the damn program. As we’ve been noting, it’s in the hands of the IRS now.

As for the deception and the scam, it’s all part of the Obama strategy: lie all the time; they can’t catch you in all of them.

PS: The same IRS that empowered Lois Lerner, remember.

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Detached and Deranged

Muslim terrorists slaughter 17 in Paris, and Obama responds vigorously:

Today, the President unveiled a new proposal: Make two years of community college free for responsible students across America.

Muslim terrorists in Nigeria plunder and pillage a village, killing hundreds, and Obama leaps to defend freedom:

President Obama has revealed that he will be pushing for the Healthy Families Act (which, given that it’s about paid sick leave, should be the Unhealthy Families Act, surely?) to become law.

Muslim terrorists in Syraq (or is it Iraqia?) post a video showing a child hacking off the heads of two prisoners, and Obama says no mas:

Yesterday, President Obama announced that he is challenging the federal government to remove all unnecessary regulatory barriers to broadband build-out and competition, and is establishing a new Broadband Opportunity Council. The council will bring together more than a dozen government agencies with the singular goal of speeding broadband deployment and improving access in areas that need it most.

It’s like he’s in a different movie. It’s one thing to not say the phrase “Muslim terrorists”, but to pretend that they’re not there? Setting aside any value in his proposals, aren’t they a little weird in context of daily headlines? Don’t they come from an alternate reality?

As for the proposals themselves, community college wouldn’t be free: every taxpayer would pay for it. At a time when the value of a bachelor’s degree is barely worth the paper its printed on. It’s just child care for the post-child set. Paid sick leave is fine, but to mandate it? Ask a small business owner how that would work out. And the next time he “remove[s] all unnecessary regulatory barriers” to anything will be the first. That’ll be the day.

I would ask what inanity he was going to come up with next, but I don’t want to know. They’re all accompanied by acts of Muslim terror.

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Your Government at…Whatever, Dude

Say what you will about the illegal drug trade, it’s efficient.

Say what you will about government, it’s not:

A contractor hired by the state health department to rank companies hoping to open medical marijuana dispensaries acknowledged in internal e-mails that it simply ran out of time to conduct thorough checks of some applications. Still, the health department extended the company’s contract and more than doubled its pay, records show.

A different contractor was awarded a lucrative no-bid deal to conduct in-depth background checks yet failed to detect that a couple hired by several applicants to run proposed dispensaries had lost their own marijuana business license in Colorado because of violations.

These latest revelations open a wider window onto the state’s troubled effort to grant licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries, a process so flawed that regulators spent five months untangling the mess.

A Globe review shows that the state’s licensing process went off the tracks nearly from the beginning, hobbled by too little time, too many conflicts of interest, and questionable work from highly paid contractors.

“I have heard of minor complications in other states. But I have not seen anything that raised eyebrows . . . like in Massachusetts,” said Karen O’Keefe, who tracks state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C., group that lobbies to legalize marijuana.

And that’s before we started smoking dope! Think of how messed up we’ll be afterwards.

More than two years after Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly approved the medical use of marijuana, not a single dispensary has opened, despite the state’s goal of having the first marijuana companies open in summer 2014. The licensing process, which sparked more than two dozen lawsuits against the state health department, remains mired in controversy, even as officials predict the first dispensaries could open this winter.

“Delays in implementation have been devastating to patients,” said Matt Allen, executive director of the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance. “Patients are forced into unsafe situations as they continue to go to the black market in search of [marijuana] . . . being robbed, assaulted, or purchasing medicine that is not tested to be free of contaminants.”

If it was good enough for my grandfather, it’s good enough for them. Besides, that’s a terrible slur against the dealer community. At least they have product. Try this kind of stuff with the Knights Templar in Mexico, and you’ll get your head handed to you. Literally.

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Fancy That!

If you give people enough money, they’ll take anything off your hands:

Nearly 90 percent of people who bought health insurance in the second year of ObamaCare qualify for government help to pay their premiums, federal health officials announced Tuesday.

The new figure, which was released Tuesday by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), signals success for the government’s extensive push to promote financial assistance for millions who remained uninsured after ObamaCare’s first year.

In the government’s most comprehensive report yet on federal and state exchanges, HHS also announced that at least at least 4 million people signed up for healthcare for the first time since open enrollment began Nov. 15.

At least 6.5 million people bought healthcare in state and federal marketplaces in the first month of the new signup period, which HHS called an “encouraging start.”

I don’t know: is 6.5 million (much less four million) a success when you’re giving something away? Count me as unimpressed. That’s like saying food stamps are a success because nearly 50 million people are still getting them.

Six and a half million people who couldn’t be bothered to get subsidized health insurance in one year roused themselves from their slumber to get it the next—when the fines were going to increase exponentially if they didn’t. And isn’t it generous of “the government” to pony up the dough!

Oh, how I will enjoy the demolition of this rotted edifice. Several simultaneous explosions, then collapse. If they can project Obama’s smiling face onto the mushroom cloud of dust, even better.

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Immigration Conundrum

While working on another post (on a related subject), I held my nose and nipped on over to the President’s website for his own words on the “executive action” on illegal aliens.

There, under the heading Share the Facts is an infographic much like this one:

Okay, it’s all BS, I know, but one particular bit of it smells a little riper than the others:

Crack Down on Employers That Hire Undocumented Workers

That sounds familiar. That sounds like E-Verify:

E-Verify is an electronic program through which employers verify the employment eligibility of their employees after hire. The program was authorized by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA). In short, employers submit information taken from a new hire’s Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification Form) through E-Verify to the Social Security Administration and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to determine whether the information matches government records and whether the new hire is authorized to work in the United States.

E-Verify is administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, USCIS, Verification Division, and the Social Security Administration.

It’s currently voluntary, except for federal contractors and certain states that require it. There are several drawbacks to the program (bad data leading to incorrect designations, costs to employer), but it would appear we’ve had in our hands since 1996 at least one method to discourage illegal aliens from being here.

In the infographic at the site, Obama put the “cracking down” on a list he says Congress still needs to do. It says nothing about E-Verify. Indeed, he didn’t even mention “cracking down” (or anything similar) in the tiresome speech that decreed the sweeping change in the law.

So, the president intends (or says he intends) to see to it that no illegal alien can hold a job in America—yet they can stay. Huh? Doesn’t that mean he just increased the welfare rolls by five million?

Or is he picking winners and losers again, like for Solyndra and against coal? The millions who have already broken the law can stay, they can work, they can crowd our emergency rooms. But not one more!

But who knows what he means because, as far as I can tell, he didn’t write anything down. He just talked. Obama has now been distilled to his essence: his word is now law.

Or is it?

Executive actions are any informal proposals or moves by the president. The term executive action itself is vague and can be used to describe almost anything the president calls on Congress or his administration to do. But most executive actions carry no legal weight. Those that do actually set policy can be invalidated by the courts or undone by legislation passed by Congress.

The terms executive action and executive order are not interchangeable. Executive orders are legally binding and published in the Federal Register, though they also can be reversed by the courts and Congress.

A good way to think of executive actions is a wish list of policies the president would like to see enacted.

Presidents favor the use of nonbinding executive actions when the issue is controversial or sensitive. For example, Obama carefully weighed his use of executive actions on gun violence and decided against issuing legal mandates via executive orders, which would have gone against the legislative intent of Congress and risked enraging lawmakers of both parties.

Obama was the first modern president to use executive actions in lieu of executive orders or executive memoranda.

But even the Obama White House acknowledged that most of the executive actions carried no legal weight. Here’s what the administration said at the time the 23 executive actions were proposed:

“While President Obama will sign 23 Executive Actions [on gun control] today that will help keep our kids safe, he was clear that he cannot and should not act alone: The most important changes depend on Congressional action.”

He used to say that about illegal immigration too. By Obama’s own reasoning, his diktat on illegal aliens is merely a wish—a hope, if you will. It is not a law (which is Congress’s job); it is not an order (a legal document, published and legally binding); it is a pipe dream.

Yet everyone pretends it has the authority of law.

This…chimera…has two fundamental elements. One, Obama will no longer enforce a law passed by Congress and signed by an earlier president. Two, Obama will give illegal aliens things they have no right to have, and he has no right to give them.

Because he says so.

It’s a hell of a way to run a country.

PS: Kind of funny for Obama to demand Congress pass a law. He ignores laws. Anyway, most Democrats and even a few Republicans (the Chamber of Commerce set) don’t want the changes he calls for anyway.

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Pass This Bill Now!

Not the stupid Cromnibus package. They can burn all 1600 pages, for all I care. Hand a copy and a match to all the homeless in DC.

Pass this bill now:

Advocates for greater openness in government were frustrated after Congress failed to update the Freedom of Information Act despite bipartisan support in the House and Senate.

Without a new law, government agencies are likely to continue stonewalling requests for records and other information, said Amy Bennett, assistant director of OpenTheGovernment.org, an advocacy group.

“The only thing that changes an agency’s behavior is an act of Congress,” she said.

The Senate approved a bill this week that would require federal agencies to have a presumption of openness when considering the release of government information. Under the bill, exemptions to withhold information would be reduced, and agencies operating under the act would have to make records available for public inspection in an electronic format.

The House passed a similar bill in February, but the two chambers could not agree on final language.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said he was deeply disappointed that the House adjourned Friday without taking up the Senate bill, which Leahy co-sponsored with Sen John Cornyn, R-Texas.

Leahy said he thought House Republican leaders would support the measure as a way to increase oversight of the Obama administration and make the government more accountable and transparent.

Instead, Republicans “have chosen secrecy over sunlight,” he said.

Both sides want the bill passed, yet it’s not. Hmm.

Bennett, of the Open Government group, said there was “plenty of blame to go around” for the bill’s demise, including House Speaker John Boehner and the White House.

Grr. The IRS is still stonewalling investigations (plural). Gruber will have to be subpoenaed to open up his books. Get this thing done now.

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Beneath the Wave

The results are still being counted, but Republicans “obviously” had a good night, as even Obama conceded. In the Senate, in the House, and in state houses across the country.

Some point to various ballot measures around the country to demonstrate either the electorate’s hidden liberalism, or its evident confusion.

Me, I don’t see it that way:

Big money was a boon to groups fighting for and against ballot measures across the states on Election Day.

In 21 of the top 25 most expensive state ballot measure races in terms of television ad spending, groups that won the war on the airwaves also won at the ballot box, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of unofficial election results and preliminary data from media tracking service Kantar Media/CMAG.

But surprising upsets also showed that in the wild world of direct democracy, money isn’t everything.

“The relationship is more complicated than just ‘spending more [means] having greater success.’ There are a lot of other factors in terms of the electoral environment,” said Daniel Smith, a University of Florida professor and expert on such initiatives. “Ballot measures generally are easier to defeat than to pass.”

That’s by way of background. Defeat is easier than passing, and big money is a big decider.

But I would argue so is libertarianism:

Here’s a rundown of the major ballot measure results:

Abortion. Coloradans rejected a measure, for the third time in recent years, seeking to grant “personhood” to the unborn. North Dakota similarly rebuffed an amendment to insert into the state’s constitution “the inalienable right to life of every human being at every stage of development.” In Tennessee, however, voters approved new legislative power to regulate abortion, which opponents fear will result in limits on women’s access to the procedure.

Marijuana. Measures to legalize the recreational use of marijuana by adults passed in Oregon and the District of Columbia and appeared on track for passage in Alaska as well. (In the case of Washington, D.C., though, Congress has review power to block the move.) Oregon and Alaska would follow the example of Colorado and Washington State in setting up systems for regulating and taxing retail sales of marijuana. In Florida, a measure dealing with the medicinal use of marijuana fell short of the 60 percent approval needed to pass.

Minimum wage. Voters in four Republican-leaning states approved increases in their minimum wage at a time when Republicans in Congress have resisted boosting the federal minimum from $7.25 per hour. The states are Alaska (to $9.75 by 2016), Arkansas (to $8.50 by 2017), Nebraska (to $9 by 2016), and South Dakota (to $8.50 by 2015). The California cities of San Francisco and Oakland also voted to boost base-level pay.

Guns. Washington State voters approved a measure to expand background checks to private transactions and many loans and gifts. Dan Gross of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence hailed the vote as a symbolic victory in a nation where the public “supports expanding background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and other dangerous people.” According to the group, seven states will now require checks on all gun sales, up from two before the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.

Food labeling. Colorado voters rejected a measure that would have required labels to help consumers identify foods with genetically modified organisms. Opponents of the labeling requirements, including food corporations and biotech firms, argue that GMO foods are safe and that the labeling would create undue costs, open the door to lawsuits over labels, and put an implicit stigma on GMO foods. A similar measure in Oregon was too close to call at press time.

Schools. Missouri rejected a constitutional amendment to reform teacher tenure in public schools. It would have made it easier for teachers to be fired and would have required teachers to be evaluated in large measure based on student outcomes.

Gambling. Voters in Massachusetts were in favor of casino plans that are already on track, defeating a measure to pull out before the ventures launch. Rhode Island and Colorado rejected measures to expand gambling.

Hunting. In Maine, voters narrowly rejected a measure to ban the use of bait, dogs, and traps in hunting bears. Animal-rights advocates argued the methods were cruel and unsporting. Mississippi joined other states that have, mostly in the past two decades, enshrined a right to hunt and fish in their constitutions.

Taxes. Georgia voters supported a constitutional amendment to cap their income tax rate. Massachusetts voted to end gas-tax hikes that kick in automatically with inflation. Illinois voters gave an advisory thumbs up to the idea of a 3 percent surtax on income over $1 million to help fund education.

Not as much of a wave as the Republican monster, but on abortion, dope, taxes, the people mostly wanted less government involvement. Not true of Washington state on guns, of course, but the Sea-Tac metro area is reliably left wing (and anyway gun checks are not inherently wrong). Even the votes in favor of the minimum wage were underwhelming, as they all fell well below the $10.10 rate most libs want to impose. (I have gone on record as not opposed to a minimum wage hike, but purely on political grounds. I know it will cost jobs, but if opposing it costs votes, what’s the point? If people want fewer jobs, Senator BTL would like to keep his, thank you very much.)

No, I don’t see much evidence of liberalism, except where liberalism and libertarianism overlap. But if Republicans govern as the party to stop government encroachment (in ObamaCare, spending, amnesty for illegals, etc.), I think they will continue to reap the rewards of what Obama hath wrought.

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Why We Haven’t Cured Ebola

The bunnies needed their rubdowns:

Tom Coburn is going out with a bang with his final “Wastebook.”

In it, the retiring Oklahoma senator laces into the National Institutes of Health for complaining about lack of Ebola research money while NIH investigates the effect of Swedish massages on rabbits.

This particular study on rodent rubdowns cost $387,000 — a tiny fraction of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ more than $4 billion budget. But the ranking member of the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee cites many “unnecessary” spending programs that continue while NIH officials argue that important disease research has slowed.

The NIH director “claims a vaccine for Ebola ‘probably’ would have been developed by now if not for the stagnant funding for the agency, which has a $30 billion annual budget. Yet NIH did come up with the money to pay to give Swedish massages for rabbits,” Coburn writes.

Coburn notes that after the spa treatment, the rabbits were euthanized, so “those feet were not so lucky after all.”

Coburn identifies $2.1 million as the sum of the four NIH programs. NIH officials did not immediately comment.

Imagine how easily Ebola might have been cured if they had infected the bunnies and experimented with treatments, rather than give them “happy endings” (or maybe not so happy).

PS: I looked into the other wasteful boondoggle, origami condoms, but the missus told me to take it elsewhere:

Not that I blame her.

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Here’s Your Crown, What’s Your Hurry?

Today is the first day of the reign of Czar Ron, ruler of all airport arrival lounges and hospital ERs—and nearly his last day too:

Administration insiders say Ron Klain, who starts Wednesday as the White House Ebola czar, will be in line to succeed John Podesta as counselor to President Barack Obama when Podesta leaves, likely to chair Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

“The president has been talking to Ron about different roles for a long time, and he wouldn’t accept the Ebola job unless there was a promise of something bigger,” said a longtime Klain colleague.

A senior Democrat who works closely with the White House said: “He’s very good at seeing around corners. And they know they need someone who can do that.”

How hard is that?

We’re so sorry saving the nation from an epidemic of a fatal disease isn’t a big enough job for you, Czar Ron. But thanks for coming in today. So many people would have taken off the whole week. Not since Ivan the Terrible have we seen a czar with such determination.

PS: I was inclined to give Obama a break on the Klain appointment. We had doctors involved, and it was a cluster[bleep]. Maybe a bureaucrat’s bureaucrat could direct the machinery of government more effectively. Shame on me for giving Obama a break. As long as Klain gets his GS-15 pay grade, he’ll wait until the big job opens up.

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Ebola Ain’t No Thang

What, me worry?

Ron Klain, the man appointed by President Barack Obama on Friday to head up the government’s response to the Ebola virus in the United States, will not clock in on his new job until Wednesday.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz told reporters in Chicago on Monday that it isn’t unusual for it to take weeks or months for an appointee to complete the “onboarding process,” The Washington Examiner reports.

“It is not that long of a lapse,” Schultz said.

No, of course not. Ebola must be scared [bleepless], if you’ll pardon the pun, by this guy’s dogged determinism.

Press reports already have noted Klain missing two meetings with the president on Ebola since his appointment was announced. And he won’t testify on Friday before a Republican-led House hearing, because, Schultz said, “That will be day three of his tenure.”

Can’t he appear and just take the 5th, like Lois Lerner?

I just hope Ebola does the sporting thing and gives Klain the chance to set up his desk: fill his stapler, open his desk calendar to the correct date, get the right mix of coffee and Cremora. No fair infecting more nurses, Ebola! (Though Ebola has good taste; they’re cute!)

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