|12:31 PM, Mar 9, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
First question asked, supposedly, in situation rooms when there is … well, a situation: Where are the carriers?
Lately, there has been this situation in the Ukraine and now we learn that there is a carrier on hand. In this case the George H.W. Bush, the Navy’s most recently commissioned Nimitz-class carrier.
According to a release written by master chief Jeffrey Madlangbayan the ship’s public affairs department the carrier:
... arrived in Antalya, Turkey for a scheduled port visit, Mar. 9.
Scheduled, perhaps, but also timely.
6:33 PM, Mar 8, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Sarah Palin, inspired by Ted Cruz's reading of Green Eggs and Ham during his filibuster last year, re-wrote the Dr. Seuss classic to whack Uncle Sam at CPAC today:
"I do not like this Uncle Sam. I do not like his health care scam. I do not like -- oh, just you wait -- I do not like these dirty crooks, or how they lie and cook the books. I do not like when Congress steals, I do not like their crony deals. I do not like this spying, man, I do not like, 'Oh, Yes we can.' I do not like this spending spree, we're smart, we know there's nothing free. I do not like reporters' smug replies when I complain about their lies. I do not like this kind of hope, and we won't take it, nope, nope, nope."
Rand Paul: 'Onwards to victory!'5:56 PM, Mar 8, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Rand Paul is the winner of the CPAC straw poll. As Stephen Dinan and Seth McLaughlin report:
Sen. Rand Paul demolished his competition in the 2014 Washington Times/CPAC presidential preference straw poll on Saturday, winning 31 percent of the vote — nearly three times the total of second-place Sen. Ted Cruz.
The poll also found a strong plurality of attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference believe marijuana should be fully legalized, with 41 percent saying it’s time to change the law and tax it. Another 21 percent said it should be legalized only for medicinal purposes, while just 31 percent said it should remain illegal in all cases.
But according to Chad Pergram, Ted Cruz is the winner of the Senate Conservative Fund straw poll:
UPDATE: Rand Paul says "onwards to victory!"
11:12 AM, Mar 8, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Ralph Nader is exasperated. Not an unusual condition for him. But the cause of his frustration, this time, is not GM (the company he helped destroy) or Al Gore (the presidential candidate he helped defeat) or any of the usual suspects. In this case, Citizen Nader is peeved at fellow progressive, Senator Bernie Sanders.
Nader has sent the senator a letter giving him what for and calling him everything but a corporate bandit and unfeeling member of the one-percent.
“In the past year, I have called you many times at your Washington office,” Nader writes. "Your staff dutifully takes my messages, forwards them to you and you do not call back. Never.”
However, Nader continues:
You do communicate in one way … Along with others deemed to be on the right mailing lists, I receive many of your fundraising letters to help Bernie get re-elected. Your letters are full of warnings about the right-wing, corporate interests out to defeat you … In the two years before your election, the letters flow with predictable regularity, recounting your record and the perils confronting your election. Once you are comfortably and predictably re-elected, Bernie returns to the Lone Ranger mode.
One reads Nader's letter and thinks, “Who would return his calls? Life is way too short for that."
8:01 AM, Mar 8, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
Close on the heels of an Obamacare-related "off the record" conference call hosted by Vice President Biden, President Obama will host one of this own on Monday, March 10 with "faith leaders." According to the announcement, the president "wants to thank all of the faith and community leaders across the country" for their help in enrolling people in Obamacare. The exact content of the call will not be known, however, because the "call is off the record and not for press purposes."
The call was announced on the Health and Human Services (HHS) website under the heading "Calling All Faith Leaders!":
Calling All Faith Leaders! Conference Call with President Obama on the Affordable Care Act
March 10, 2014 | 1:00 PM EST
The White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships invites you to join President Obama for a conference call on Monday, March 10th at 1:30pm ET.
President Obama wants to thank all of the faith and community leaders across the country who are working hard to help millions of Americans access affordable, quality health coverage. As you know, one of the President’s top priorities is to ensure that Americans get covered by enrolling in the health insurance marketplace before the March 31stdeadline, and he looks forward to discussing these issues with you
Thank you for your work and continued support. Please feel free to share this invitation with other community contacts who would be interested in this work. We hope you will be able to join us.
*This call is off the record and not for press purposes.
The call will take place with exactly three weeks remaining in the open enrollment period for obtaining 2014 coverage through the insurance Marketplaces. HHS recently acknowledged that insurance companies may still offer coverage directly to consumers outside the marketplace after March 31 as long as the policies conform to Affordable Care Act requirements and are available to anyone. At this point it is unclear whether or not insurers will take advantage of this opening. Those purchasing individual coverage outside the marketplace after March 31 will not be able to receive subsidies and will likely face a tax for the portion of 2014 in which they were uninsured.
Economy's better, but headwinds ahead.12:00 AM, Mar 8, 2014 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
Five years ago this Sunday share prices hit a 13-year low: the S&P index of 500 shares fell to 676.53. Today it stands at 1,878.04, an increase of about 170 percent. Five years ago Sunday the unemployment rate stood at 8.7 percent, and was to reach 10 percent in a few months. Today, the unemployment rate stands at 6.7 percent. Five years ago this month builders received permits to build 513,000 homes; this month they likely will receive close to twice as many. Five years ago auto sales fell to a 27-year low of 10.4 million vehicles. This year sales will top that by some 50 percent.
Yet three out of every four Americans believe the nation is still in recession. With reason. Yesterday’s jobs report showed that the number of long-term unemployed rose last month to 3.8 million, below its peak but still high by historic standards. If millions had not dropped out of the work force in the past five years, the unemployment rate would be above 10 percent, higher than at the depths of the recession. And household incomes remain stuck at about their five-year-ago level when adjusted for inflation. Which accounts for the view of so many Americans that the recession has not ended. And that somehow things are out of control—fewer than one person in four believes the president is doing a good job, and only one American in ten is satisfied with Congress’s performance.
This is the shape of things when the president dropped his budget on congressional desks this week. Its call for an increase in taxes and in spending beyond the sums agreed to only a few months ago in the bipartisan spending bill worked out by Republican representative Paul Ryan and Democratic senator Patty Murray will go unheeded. So a government-led spending spurt and looser fiscal policy cannot be counted on to play a major role in offsetting the likely continued reduction in asset purchases by the Federal Reserve Board, the so-called tapering. Indeed, since Obama will not get his spending wish list, and since the deficit is declining relative to the size of the economy, fiscal policy might be a headwind to growth this year.
There are others:
· Economy watchers say that the year-end inventory build-up presages slower production, at least in the first half of this year.
· Activity in the service sector fell in January.
· Market watchers worry that after a five-year bull run, historical patterns suggest that the bulls are about to leave the arena, and the bears to emerge from hibernation.
· Those who follow the auto industry fear that February’s relatively weak performance is due primarily to a suspension of consumers’ demand for new vehicles rather than to the weather.
· Housing analysts worry that the shift from a sellers’ to a buyers’ market early in the year reflects an enduring slowdown in the housing market.
· Retailers worry that warmer weather will fail to reverse a recent sales slowdown.
3:01 PM, Mar 7, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast, with editor Bill Kristol on the Democrats' no good, very bad week:
This podcast can be downloaded here. Subscribe to THE WEEKLY STANDARD's iTunes podcast feed here.
'We Need To Elevate the Environment in Everything We Do.'2:28 PM, Mar 7, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
Even as the situation in Ukraine has some talking about the possibility of a new cold war with Russia, Secretary of State John Kerry issued his first Policy Guidance since assuming his position a little over a year ago. The subject: Climate change. In a blog post entitled "We Need To Elevate the Environment in Everything We Do," Kerry expresses a desire to make climate change his signature issue much in the way his predecessor Hillary Clinton made women's issues a "top-tier diplomatic priority":
Leading the way toward progress on this issue [climate change] is the right role for the United States, and it’s the right role for the Department of State. That’s why I’ve decided to make climate change the subject of my first Policy Guidance as Secretary of State. I have been deeply impressed by the way Secretary Clinton elevated global women’s issues as a top-tier diplomatic priority, and believe me, we’re committed to keeping them there. When the opportunities for women grow, the possibilities for peace, prosperity, and security grow even more. President Obama and I believe the same thing about climate change. This isn’t just a challenge, it’s also an incredible opportunity. And the Policy Guidance I’m issuing today is an important step in the right direction.
Saying "there’s no time to lose", Kerry enumerated seven steps the State Department will take to carry out the "critical mission" of addressing climate change:
I. Lead by example through strong action at home and abroad.
II. Conclude a new international climate change agreement.
III. Implement the Global Climate Change Initiative.
IV. Enhance multilateral engagement.
V. Expand bilateral engagement.
VI. Mobilize financial resources.
VII. Integrate climate change with other priorities.
Kerry closed with a call to action for members of the State Department, telling them tackling this issue is part of their "mission as diplomats":
Climate change has special significance for the work we do here at State, and so do clean water, clean air, sustainability, and energy. We’re talking about the future of our earth and of humanity. We need to elevate the environment in everything we do. There’s nothing I’m more proud of then when we send one of our diplomats somewhere to really get out in the field and engage, to solve a problem, and to make something happen. I want all of you to feel empowered to think and operate that way on climate change. That’s our mission as diplomats and that’s our call to conscience as citizens of this fragile planet we inhabit. So let’s get to work.
12:02 PM, Mar 7, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
The Tax Policy Center, a project of the liberal-leaning Urban Institute and Brookings Institution, released a new analysis this week of Senator Mike Lee's family-friendly tax reform plan. According to TPC, the Utah Republican's plan would reduce federal revenues by $2.4 trillion over 10 years, a much larger reduction than suggested by initial estimates.
In a statement to THE WEEKLY STANDARD today, Lee responded to TPC's analysis and announced that he's already working with Florida senator Marco Rubio on a "new, comprehensive, pro-family, pro-growth tax reform proposal that we hope to introduce later this year."
Lee's full statement:
I thank the Tax Policy Center for their thorough work on my initial proposal to reform the individual income tax code and restore tax fairness to middle-class parents and families.
As I announced upon its introduction, the Family Fairness and Opportunity Tax Reform Act was meant as a first draft of a broader project to make the entire tax code simpler, fairer, and more pro-growth.
Initial estimates suggested the plan would yield a modest overall tax cut compared to the pre-Obamacare baseline. TPC's model scores it somewhat lower than that, and that's valuable information we can incorporate into the next revision.
Senator Marco Rubio and I have already begun work on a new, comprehensive, pro-family, pro-growth tax reform proposal that we hope to introduce later this year. Elimination of the Parent Tax Penalty should be a top priority for conservatives, and at the center of the overdue tax reform debate.
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.
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