- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 18, 2014

There’s news about all those pesky sugary drinks that so vexed former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, despite voter fatigue with meddlesome, large-scale nannying. But wait. Here comes the taxes on those beverages — and they’re not originating in the Big Apple.

Two Illinois Democrats now offer the “Healthy Eating and Active Living Act” — shortened to the Heal Act — to be introduced at the State Capitol building in Springfield on Wednesday by state Sen. Mattie Hunter and state Rep. Robyn Gabel.

Their legislation proposes a penny-per-ounce excise tax on sugary beverages. The lawmakers expect to raise $600 million; they intend for half the funds to support Medicaid, the other half to go to school physical education and lunch initiatives, bike and walking paths, farmers’ markets and community gardens.

Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, meanwhile, has declared that February is officially “Rethink your Drink” month, and that the citizenry should only imbibe water, seltzer water and skim or one-percent milk.

First lady Michelle Obama has an ongoing water agenda as well. When she journeys to New York City on Thursday for a private Democratic fundraiser and an appearance on NBC’s “Tonight Show” with new host Jimmy Fallon, she also put in an appearance on behalf of Drink Up, the Partnership for Healthier America’s initiative that encourages all Americans to drink more water. Needless to say, the partnership counts Evian, Aquafina and Poland Springs bottled water suppliers among its many supporters.


“American Opportunity Alliance”

That’s the name of a “GOP war council” of billionaires, according to a Politico article on Tuesday that this time identified the point man as New York City billionaire Paul Singer, rather than David and Charles Koch, who are typically mentioned whenever talk of Republican fundraisers and influence surfaces.

But the news brought out an instant warning which could dispel hopeful talk that the Republican Party was on its way to a unified message and some inner harmony for a change.

“American Opportunity Alliance: Come for social liberalism. Stay for Wall Street cronyism,” declared Redstate.com founder Erick Erickson in his daily online diary on Tuesday.

“Pay attention to this story. Put the American Opportunity Alliance on your radar. Conservatives need to be wary and need to follow money from this group to Republican candidates,” he wrote.

“A group of billionaires and multibillionaires intent on pushing gay marriage and amnesty has started an effort to pump money into the Republican Party. The Politico report makes clear as well that these guys want to align Republican interests to Wall Street. As we see more and more every day, Wall Street’s interests are not the same as Main Street’s interests,” Mr. Erickson observed.


Division in the Republican Party is a spectator sport for many observers.

“The Republicans’ warring factions have moved beyond simply exchanging angry rhetoric to an actual call to arms. Could we be on the precipice of seeing the GOP engage in a massive Battle of Gettysburg-type clash?” asks Dean Obeidallah, a political writer for the Daily Beast, citing the sniffing and snarling that has gone on between tea party folk and establishment Republicans in recent days, with libertarians occasionally thrown in for good measure.

“In time we will know if this was nothing more than saber rattling or an all-out war for control of the GOP. But keep in mind that even after the Battle of Gettysburg which was seen as the turning point of the Civil War, the hostilities continued for two more years,” Mr. Obeidallah continues.

“One thing is certain: Every resource that the Republican Party expends fighting each other is one less they have to do battle with Democrats in the general elections. Bottom line is that the real winner in this civil war may not be any faction of the GOP — but actually the Democrats,” he adds.


Ah-nawd, Ah-nawd. Indeed, Arnold Schwarzenegger still fancies the role of action star and bodybuilder; well, his next movie is “Sabotage,” opening in late March. “I told you I’d be back,” he tells his Facebook followers.

Indeed. But the former California governor can’t quite let go of politics either. Next week, he headlines an event titled “People Over Politics,” where inevitable experts will be “delving into political gridlock, hyperpartisanship and the solutions to end it,” according to the organizers.

The event will be held at the University of Southern California’s Schwarzenegger Institute, the Governator’s splashy policy center which counts George Shultz, Christine Todd Whitman and former Mexican President Vicente Fox on its extensive advisory board.

Among the 10-person panel to help Mr. Schwarzenegger figure it all out: MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, plus Howard Wolfson, a former chief press officer for Hillary Rodham Clinton.


“Well, five years in, it looks like President Obama’s stimulus did actually create jobs. Unfortunately, they’re all at the IRS and NSA.”

— Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, in a tweet.


“Government spying has created a market, a vacuum that technical people are going to fill,” says Stephen Wicker, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Cornell University and author of “Cellular Convergence and the Death of Privacy.”

Mr. Wicker adds, “A surveillance-free handset is going to be extremely important, and there is a clear road map for its development.”


He had the beaming smile and the sure handshake of a candidate. But Rep. Darrell Issa insisted he was no candidate during a two-day visit to New Hampshire that included significant appearances at a pair of events considered traditional stops for White House hopefuls — a GOP Lincoln/Reagan Dinner in the state capital and ‘Politics and Eggs,” a much ballyhooed breakfast forum at Saint Anselm’s College.

“I came here to hopefully shape the debate for 2016. Not join it, but shape it,” the California Republican told an enthusiastic banquet audience Monday. “I did so in part because over the last five years, I’ve had the distinction and dubious honor of overseeing an administration that doesn’t do the fundamentals of government well — but wants to grow government and expand it in new areas.”

Calling himself a “proud Republican”, Mr. Issa added, “I’m a social conservative, make no bones about it. My values to the core are more conservative than Democrats and most Republicans.”


51 percent of Americans say they voted for President Obama in the 2012 presidential election.

79 percent of those who voted for Mr. Obama would vote for him again if the election were held again.

10 percent would not vote for Mr. Obama.

43 percent of Americans overall voted for Mitt Romney in 2012.

90 percent of those who voted for Mr. Romney would still vote for him, if the election were held again.

3 percent would not vote for him.

Source: A YouGov/Economist poll of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted Feb. 6-7.

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