|10:18 AM, Mar 7, 2014 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
The Washington Post's report on two surveys suggesting that Obamacare's heavily taxpayer-subsidized exchanges "appear to be making little headway in signing up Americans who lack insurance," contains this additional nugget about the Obama administration's level of foresight and competence:
"Inside the Department of Health and Human Services, staff analysts who have been producing monthly enrollment updates are confronted with a major hindrance to examining the question of people’s prior insurance status: the wording of the HealthCare.gov applications themselves.
"The paper versions of applications, used by a small fraction of people who are signing up, contain a multiple-choice question asking whether people in a household currently have insurance. 'No' is one of the boxes people can check.
“But the online application, which most people use to enroll, asks whether people want to apply for coverage but does not give them a place to indicate whether they have insurance now or have had it in the past. As a result, HHS analysts have no way to assess how many of the online enrollees were uninsured in the past.
"'We are...looking at a range of data sources to determine how many marketplace enrollees previously had coverage,' said Julie Bataille, director of the Office of Communications at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the HHS agency overseeing the new insurance marketplaces. 'Previous insurance coverage is an important metric, and we hope to have additional information in the future,' she said."
And we're supposed to believe that the folks at HHS can handle being in charge of what will soon be one-fifth of our economy?
9:05 AM, Mar 7, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
Late last year the Wall Street Journal reported that Hewlett-Packard was replacing Verizon's Terremark subsidiary as the host of the federal government's Obamacare website, Healthcare.gov, when Terremark's contract expired in March 2014. However, the Department of Health and Human Services recently awarded a $58 million, 7-month "Cloud Computing Logical Follow On" contract to Terremark to aid in the transition to Hewlett-Packard, saying that "[f]ailure to award this order will greatly jeopardize the Marketplace program and result in system performance issues of healthcare.gov."
HHS documents explain the need for the extension as follows:
The documents justifying the Limited Source contract were signed by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services contracting officers in late January, and were ultimately approved by new Chief Operating Officer Tim Love on February 19.
The award to Terremark is the latest in a string of contracts and contract modifications for the company related to Healthcare.gov. The most recent was reported just weeks ago that increased the value of Terremark's original contract to $60 million.
8:50 AM, Mar 7, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Non-farm payrolls surprised to the upside in February with 175,000 jobs added. The number was “unexpectedly” high with forecasts running in the 150,000 range and some going much lower.
These forecasters had a ready-made alibi – the weather.
So, perhaps, it wasn’t as bad as we thought it was.
After a distressing ADP report and a so-so first time claims number this has to be seen as good news.
The unemployment rate, held rose by a tenth to 6.7 percent. Adult participation was steady at 58%. And long-term unemployment, underemployment, and other components of the jobs malaise will linger as economists and pundits analyze and debate the significance of this surprising report.
'Medical insurance nightmare.'8:17 AM, Mar 7, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
A Utah man signed himself and his adult children up for a dental plan through Obamacare, but was unknowingly enrolled in a worthless child's plan:
"Imagine signing up and paying for health insurance and then being told you can't use it," say the local anchors. "that's the situation facing an Ogden man."
Says the reporter, "This is one of those medical insurance nightmares that all starts with a guy who was simply trying to sign up for health insurance through the federal health care exchange. More specifically, he wanted a dental plan. He got it, and he's been paying on for several months. But now that it's time to use that plan, he's being told it's worthless."
But when they went to use that plan, the man's adult children were told it was worthless. "It was was pediatric dental not adult dental," says the man.
"That's right," says the reporter, "a dental plan for children. Well, they don't need that. So, Scott says he asked [the health care plan] to cancel the policy. Thus began the run around. Select Health says he has to cancel through the marketplace where he signed up. But the marketplace told him, we can't help you reslove this issue."
Says the Utah man, "I'm paying a monthly premium for dental coverage that I cannot use."
7:01 AM, Mar 7, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The White House announced that Vice President Joe Biden would spend the weekend vacationing in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It's his second vacation there in three months.
His White House schedule reads:
DAILY GUIDANCE FOR THE VICE PRESIDENT
Friday, March 7 – Sunday, March 9
The Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden will visit the U.S. Virgin Islands. There are no public events scheduled.
And as Geoff Earle of the New York Post reported on December 27, the vice president spent New Year's on the U.S. Virgin Islands.
"Vice President Biden doesn’t have to worry about playing second fiddle to his boss when it comes to tropical vacations," Earle reported.
"President Obama’s No. 2, and 2016 presidential prospect, jets Friday to the U.S. Virgin Islands aboard Air Force Two, the White House announced Thursday night. He’ll be there through New Year’s.
"That puts Biden just steps away from some of the Caribbean’s best snorkeling at the same time Obama is strolling Hawaii’s spectacular golf courses and hiking trails."
8:14 PM, Mar 6, 2014 • By MARIA SANTOS
New surveys: Obamacare signs up few uninsured.
Russian opposition condemns Putin's actions in Crimea.
How the left is anti-science.
Russian state TV denounces reporter who resigned on-air over coverage of Putin.
The Pentagon is researching Putin’s body language.
Chipotle guacamole is safe from climate change, after all.
Did the 'bridgegate' scandal encourage the New Jersey governor to tack right?6:35 PM, Mar 6, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who has had a fraught relationship with the conservative movement, sought to win back friends on the right Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference. In a 15-minute speech, Christie recounted his battle with public sector unions, defended the Koch brothers from Harry Reid's vicious attacks, cursed at the president, blasted the media, and touted his pro-life views.
Speaking of the congressional "super committee" that failed to produce a plan to cut the deficit, Christie said, "The president never met with the super committee or got involved with them because he knew they were doomed to failure. Man, that's leadership, isn't it? You're the leader of the government, you see something getting ready to go off the rails, and what you decide to do is stay as far away from it as possible? Well, my question now is the same question I had then, if that's your attitude, Mr. President, what the hell are we paying you for?"
Later, Christie lambasted Democrats for being intolerant on social issues. "They said it could never be done. Now twice--twice--for the first time since Roe v. Wade, New Jersey has elected a pro-life governor," he said to applause. "This is what I mean about the media. I got asked the question last year, 'Governor, you're very popular in a blue state. How can you export that to the rest of the country, given the intolerance on social issues in your party? And I said, 'Well, let me ask you a question. You said the Republicans are intolerant. I'll just tell you this. At our national convention, we've had people like Tom Ridge and Colin Powell and Condi Rice speak at our national conventions even though our party platform and I don't agree with their position on abortion. Tell me, sir, the last pro-life Democrat who was allowed to speak at a Democratic convention.' I said, 'By the way, don't strain yourself, because there's never been one.' They're the party of intolerance, not us."
It was a good speech--the kind of red-meat speech Christie has always needed to give if he ever hoped to win over enough conservatives to win the Republican presidential nomination. But is it a speech he would have given if the "bridgegate" scandal had not occurred in January?
Prior to the news that his aides had caused a traffic jam in order to exact revenge against a mayor who didn't endorse Christie, the New Jersey governor seemed to treat the Republican nomination as an afterthought. Riding high off his reelection victory, most of Christie's speeches focused on his ability to win elections, work across the aisle, and get things done. Christie was acting as if he were already running in the general election and focused on winning over moderates and Democrats.
5:02 PM, Mar 6, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Marco Rubio made the case for American power around the world in a speech today at CPAC:
As Noah Rothman of Mediate summarizes:
He pivoted to foreign policy, defining the threats faced by the United States. He said that China is threatening to take parts of the South China Sea which would limit trade and threaten America’s allies, a nuclear North Korea is testing missiles, Venezuela is slaughtering protesters, and Cuba remains an oppressive dictatorship. He added that Iran continues to pursue nuclear weapons and regional hegemony and Russia is attempting to “reconstitute” the former Soviet Union.
“And by the way, what do all these countries have in common?” he asked. “These are totalitarian governments.”
“There is only one nation on earth capable of rallying and bringing together the free people on this planet to stand up to the spread of totalitarianism,” Rubio said. “The United Nations cannot do this. In fact, they cannot do anything.”
“We cannot ignore that the flawed foreign policy of the last few years has brought us to this stage, because we have a president who believed but by the sheer force of his personality he would be able to shape global events,” Rubio asserted. “We do not have the luxury of seeing the world the way we hope it would be. We have to see the world the way it is. And we have to address these issues before they grow unmanageable, and they threaten, not just our freedoms, but our economy.”
“[Ronald] Reagan dealt with the Soviet Union because they had nuclear weapons and he wanted peace, but he never accepted the Soviet Union,” he declared. He said went on to outline how the behavior of the Iranian government should be unacceptable to the American public and regarded as illegitimate.
“If you think high taxes and regulations are bad for our economy, so is global instability and the spread of totalitarianism,” Rubio added. “What we have in America is the exception, not the rule, in human history. Almost everyone who has ever lived on this planet didn’t’ get to choose their leaders, and they didn’t get to choose their life either.”
“Every time I talk about how special America is, some commentator or whoever it may be will roll their eyes and say, ‘Well, that’s just something Americans tell each other to make themselves feel good,’” Rubio said. “You have the right to believe that. I don’t have that option, because I’ve seen it with my own eyes.”
Hosted by Michael Graham4:25 PM, Mar 6, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast, with executive editor Fred Barnes on President Obama's Ukraine statement and why it's his job to stop Vladimir Putin.
This podcast can be downloaded here. Subscribe to THE WEEKLY STANDARD's iTunes podcast feed here.
4:04 PM, Mar 6, 2014 • By SYDNEY LEACH
Gimme Shelter, the movie starring Vanessa Hudgens, Rosario Dawson, Brendan Fraser, and Anne Dowd, is a straightforward and unpretentious film about an unmarried pregnant teenage girl who chooses to have her baby rather than an abortion. Written and directed by Ronald Krauss, the film is both uplifting and instructive. In telling the story of Agnes Bailey, played by Vanessa Hudgens (the character actually prefers “Apple” for reasons that become clear later), and those who try to help and support her, the film implicitly underscores that pro-life commitment and advocacy is far more personal and individual than it is political. Thus, her story helps to cast into relief three critical themes: the meaning and exercise of “choice” in the abortion context, the importance of private entities that are able to mediate, and the need for fathers.
Agnes Bailey is the sixteen-year-old daughter of a drug-addicted prostitute. Rosario Dawson plays Agnes’s mother and gives the best performance in the film as a woman who is cruel and manipulative, but also fragile and despairing. Desperate to escape, Agnes makes a rather harrowing journey to the home of the father she never knew—played by Brenden Fraser. He is now married with two young children and works on Wall Street. We later learn he was on the verge of entering college when she was born. He left a letter for her, expressing his regret and sorrow that he would never know her; it is through this letter that she ultimately finds him. Rather uneasily, her father and his wife welcome her into their home. When she soon discovers she is pregnant, they insist on an abortion.
But Agnes has seen the sonogram—and she bolts. Running from the clinic where her stepmother has taken her for the abortion, she undertakes another hazardous journey. After crashing a car in her panic to get away, she is injured and hospitalized. The hospital chaplain happens to be a Fr. McCarthy, played by James Earl Jones, who introduces Agnes to Kathy DiFiore, the real-life inspiration for the movie, played by Ann Dowd. Kathy DiFiore runs a home for young, pregnant girls and single mothers, and Agnes finds her place, her own home, among them.
Agnes is stubborn, willful, and independent. These are critical character traits the film highlights—because it underscores that the pro-life position is still counter-cultural and coercion is still a strong element in the decision to abort. Indeed, the narrative helpfully reveals the modern contours of “choice” in the context of abortion: when ideological and cultural assumptions favor abortion and one is young and poor, how freely does one choose? So, Agnes’s willful rebel streak serves her well. She keeps her baby because she keeps her own counsel; she is alone when she looks at the sonogram results and the viewer understands from her expression that she has instinctively recognized that this is her baby. Her father and stepmother’s arguments that she will be unable to care for a child at this point in her life are ultimately unpersuasive, but one can imagine how powerful such arguments might be to someone alone and vulnerable.
3:05 PM, Mar 6, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The Mobile World Congress (MWC to the cognoscenti) took place in Barcelona during the last week of February. It was a four-day exhibition of the digital world’s latest and coolest. Phones, tablets, “wearables.” All of it very cutting edge. One of the big winners was the Yota, a dual-screen telephone from … Russia. Not the first place you think of when your mind turns to smart phones. But the Yota is a hot ticket, according to press reports. Not yet available in the U.S. but, maybe, soon.
And, then, there were the Olympics, also in February. The Sochi games were a $50 billion festival celebrating the 21st century Russia. The host country put on an extravagant, show for all the world to see and came in first in the medal count, as well.
It was a good month, then, for modern Russia.
But in March, the old Russia reappeared and reasserted itself. This is the Russia not of the Yota but the Kalashnikov. This time the world sees not bobsleds, but tanks. Russia has a history with tanks. They are part of modern Russia’s genetic makeup. Long before they began to compete in the smart phone marketplace, the Russians made the world’s most fearsome tank, the T-34.
Russia and tanks seem, somehow, to go together. The T-34 made it all the way to Berlin while Hitler’s Panzers stalled 30 miles from Moscow. During the Cold War, the Russians went into Budapest with tanks to keep the Hungarians in line. They went into Prague with tanks to keep the Czechs in line. They tried it in Afghanistan where it didn’t work and, now, they are going into the Ukraine with tanks where, most likely, it will. The Russians may not have a perfect record in these things but they come close. It is what they do, and they do it well.
Which is why it is so surprising that so many in the West seem so … well, surprised. Did they think that Russia had changed that much? That smart phones had made tanks somehow obsolete. That there really is such a thing as “smart power” in the affairs of nations? And that they knew how to wield it skillfully enough to stop tanks?
"You just don't in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text," says Secretary of State, John Kerry.
Well … if you are Russia, yes you do. And if you are Vladimir Putin, you don’t much care if John Kerry or Tom Friedman or any other 21st century savant considers such an invasion gauche and retrograde. The 19th century wasn’t so bad, to his way of thinking. In a lot of ways, those were the good times.
Mr. Kerry tells us his boss takes the situation in the Ukraine seriously.
Everything is on the table, Mr. Kerry says.
1:59 PM, Mar 6, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
This afternoon, the Senate will vote on an amendment offered by Democratic senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York that would take the prosecution of certain serious crimes in the military, including sexual assault, outside the chain of command. Although all-star Republican senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky have signed on to Gillibrand's amendment, Heritage Action is urging conservatives to vote "no" on the measure.
The political arm of the Heritage Foundation sent the following memo to Senate offices today:
Heritage Action Recommends Senators Vote "NO" on Gillibrand
Taking that power away from commanding officers eliminates an indispensable authority that cannot be delegated or transferred to another if we are to demand accountability from commanders for prosecuting and preventing sexual assaults and other serious crimes. This notion of accountability to one’s commanding officer may seem mysterious to civilians who have never served in the armed forces. But chain of command, and accountability up and down the chain of command, is essential to carrying out the missions as ordered by the President, whose authority as Commander in Chief owes accountability to the people via elections and assures a military that will not threaten a constitutional democracy—whether our country is engaged in an armed conflict or not.” As Senator Claire McCaskill (D–MO) said, “the best way to protect victims and realize more aggressive and successful prosecutions is by keeping the … chain of command in the process at the beginning of a criminal proceeding … there’s no substitute for a commander who does it right.”
The last time Congress attempted a legislative “fix” to the issue of sexual assault in the military, the legislation made matters worse. Against the advice of subject matter experts, Congress rewrote the military rape statute in order to make it easier for the government to get convictions and harder for those accused of rape to mount a proper defense. These efforts resulted in years of unnecessary litigation and ultimately in a fedkriseral appeals court declaring the scheme unconstitutional. This time, Senator Gillibrand is pushing an even more radical idea: stripping commanders of the ability to enforce good order and discipline in their units by removing their authority to refer cases to a court-martial. As with last time, subject matter experts the military and Heritage Action strongly advise against this scheme.
The Gillibrand amendment is strongly opposed by military leaders. “Conveyance of a message that commanders cannot be trusted will only serve to undermine good order and discipline,” Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote to the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2013. Military leaders have rallied support behind an alternative amendment sponsored by Democratic senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri.
1:42 PM, Mar 6, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
In Vermont, where he has been running for something for as long as anyone can remember, the senator is known, simply, as “Bernie.” His national profile is not quite so well established but there are people who have floated the possibility that he might run for president representing the left flank of the Democratic party. He, in fact, among them. So Time magazine interviewed him, raising the prospect, and he made the usual coy noises. However, on the question of Hillary Clinton’s suitability for the job, he was more emphatic.
I like Hillary. I knew her when I was in the House and she was First Lady, and obviously I knew her when she and I served together in the Senate. So I like her. She’s a very, very intelligent person, no question about it. But, you know, I don’t know what her political future is, whether she’s going to run. I don’t know what she’s going to say. But I think, you know, if you talk about the need for a political revolution in America, I think it’s fair to say that Secretary Clinton probably will not be one of the more active people.
Likable enough, then, as another political rival once said. But not right for times when:
… we need a tax system which in fact makes it very clear that the wealthy and large corporations are going to start paying their fare share of taxes, that we’re going to have real campaign finance reform so that the Koch brothers and other billionaires cannot buy elections, that we’re going to overturn Citizens United.’ Do you think that’s Hillary Clinton’s agenda? I don’t think so.
A likable, intelligent tool of the rich, then?
That’s a message that ought to put some spice in the primaries.
Admits "prosecutorial discretion" on immigration has already stretched his "administrative capacity very far." 12:34 PM, Mar 6, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
In a joint town hall with Telemundo and Univision, President Obama made a pledge that his administration will not use Obamacare sign up data to deport illegal aliens:
"Will we hear from you a pledge, a personal promise, that the information provided in the registration process will not be used for deportation purposes in this country?"
"Absolutely," Obama said, putting his hand down for emphasis.
"It's true that the undocumented are not eligible [for Obamacare], that's how the law was written, but if you are a U.S. citizen or you have a legal presence in this country, you are eligible," he said. "And none of the information that is provided in order for you to obtain health insurance is in any way transferred to immigration services. So that's something we've been very clear about. If you live in a mixed status family, then the son who could potentially be eligible for the children's health insurance program or some other mechanism to get health insurance, he needs to be signed up. And the mother should not be fearful that in any way that's going to affect -- of course I understand the fear."
Obama blamed Congress for deportations. And he said he has already stretched his "administrative capacity very far" by taking immigration actions using "prosecutorial discretion," but that he was "very confident that was the right thing to do."
The president finished answering this question by saying, "So, for everybody out there who's in a mixed family, there is no sharing of the data from the health care plan in to immigration services. You should feel confident that if somebody in your family is eligible, you should sign them up."
The questions were asked of Obama in Spanish and translated by an onsite translator.
10:08 AM, Mar 6, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
At the Conservative Political Action Conference today, House budget committee chairman Paul Ryan dismissed reports of a GOP "civil war" and heaped praise on both Tea Party and establishment members of Congress.
The way the Left tells it, the Republican Party is in a civil war. It’s Tea Party versus establishment—libertarians versus social conservatives. There’s infighting, conflict, backbiting, discord," Ryan said, according to prepared remarks. "What I see is a vibrant debate. We’re figuring out the best way to apply our principles to the challenges of the day. Sure, we have our disagreements. And yes, they can get a little passionate. I like to think of it as 'creative tension.'"
Ryan, who faced some criticism from the right for cutting a deal with Democrats to fund the government, said that most of the disagreements within the party are over tactics, not principles or policies. He went on to credit the Tea Party with the passage of his budget that reforms Medicare."When I introduced it in 2008, I had just eight co-sponsors. The political pros told everyone to stay away. Then the Tea Party members got elected, and now the House has passed it three years in a row. That’s how it always is: You fight it out. You figure out what works. You come together," Ryan said.
Ryan touted the GOP as the party of ideas and praised the policy initiatives of a number of his colleagues: Representatives Cantor, Camp, Graves, Price, Roby and Roe, as well as Senators Rubio, Coburn, Lee, and Scott. You can read Ryan's full remarks, as prepared for delivery, here:
Thanks. You know, when Al asked me to speak this year, he said, “Paul, I like to save the best for last . . . so you’re up first thing Thursday morning.” Well, all I can say is it’s great to be back. Thanks again, everybody.
So, 2012 didn’t go as planned. And last year, it was pretty tough to be optimistic after a loss like that. But now—a year later—I think there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic. I think the Left is exhausted. Our side is energized. And on Election Day, we’re going to win.
Take the President. He released his budget this week. And from the looks of it, I’d say he’s doubling down—he’s going even further to the left. His teammates aren’t much better. You notice they all sound alike? All they talk about these days is income inequality. They say it shows party unity. But what it really shows is they’re out of ideas.
The reason they keep talking about income inequality is because they can’t talk about economic growth. They have spent five, long years in power, and all they have to show for it is this lousy website.
The President was remarkably candid when he said he was going to fundamentally transform the country. He’s done his best to keep that pledge. In the end, I think he’s going to fail. You see, now that the President is implementing his agenda, it is a total fiasco. Big government sounds good in theory—but it looks a lot different in practice. And we’re learning this the hard way.
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