|11:54 AM, Aug 20, 2014 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Here are the two best responses I've seen so far to the latest barbarism from ISIS.
My friend Seth Leibsohn, now a talk radio host in Phoenix, emails with a short-term suggestion:
The brazen and videoed decapitation of an American by ISIS terrorists should trigger immediate holy hell from the President of the United States. He should open up America's military cupboard to bomb every known ISIS outpost and center in Iraq and Syria today. There are fewer things I can think of that require--yes, require--the fateful lightning of America's terrible swift sword.
Max Boot, writing on Commentary's website, has a somewhat longer-term recommendation under the headline, "Time to Annihilate ISIS; Here’s How."
The videotaped beheading of American journalist James Foley reveals both the barbarism and the weakness of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria).
The barbarism is obvious: how else would one describe the carefully choreographed and televised murder of this innocent reporter who had been kidnapped in Syria? This merely confirms what Army Colonel Joel Rayburn, one of the most astute observers of Iraq around, has previously said: that ISIS is a Middle East version of the Khmer Rouge. It is, in short, a death cult that will commit unimaginable crimes against humanity unless it is stopped.
What of ISIS’s weakness? That too was revealed by the video, which was a poor response to the military setbacks ISIS has suffered in the past week as Kurdish peshmerga militia have managed to retake Mosul Dam with the assistance of American firepower (and most likely U.S. Special Operations Forces, although their involvement has not been publicized). Recall the last time that al-Qaeda publicly murdered an American journalist. That would have been my former Wall Street Journal colleague Daniel Pearl, who was killed in early 2002 at a time when, thanks to the U.S. offensive in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda was on the run. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed killed Pearl for the same reason some ISIS fanatic killed Foley: to convey an impression of strength. But such desperate measures instead telegraph, well, desperation–and far from cowing anyone they are only likely to redouble the resolve of the civilized world to smash this group of genocidal jihadists.
What is needed now is not strongly worded condemnation of Foley’s murder, much less a hashtag campaign. What is needed is a politico-military strategy to annihilate ISIS rather than simply chip around the edges of its burgeoning empire. In the Spectator of London I recently outlined what such a strategy should look like. In brief, it will require a commitment of some 10,000 U.S. advisors and Special Operators, along with enhanced air power, to work with moderate elements in both Iraq and Syria–meaning not only the peshmerga but also the Sunni tribes, elements of the Iraqi Security Forces, and the Free Syrian Army–to stage a major offensive to rout ISIS out of its newly conquered strongholds. The fact that Nouri al-Maliki is leaving power in Baghdad clears away a major obstacle to such a campaign.
11:25 AM, Aug 20, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
When Paul Ryan takes over as chairman of the powerful tax-writing Ways and Means Committee in 2015, expect him to develop a tax reform plan that specifically lays out which tax breaks he would scrap or reduce in order to lower tax rates.
"If you know anything about me, I’m a person who likes to put out plans and be specific and run on those ideas,” Ryan told THE WEEKLY STANDARD during a phone interview. Ryan said he didn't want to get ahead of himself about what he may or may not do next session, but he made it clear that he disagrees with some conservatives who are willing to accept a high top tax rate in order to increase the child tax credit.
“I’m a classic growth conservative. I believe that the best way to help families, the best way to help the economy is to reduce rates across the board," Ryan said when asked about Utah senator Mike Lee's plan to increase the child tax credit and create two income tax brackets of 15 percent and 35 percent. "Growth occurs on the margin, which is a wonky way of saying, if you want faster economic growth, more upward mobility, and faster job creation, lower tax rates across the board is the key—it’s the secret sauce."
Some conservatives have argued that reducing the top rate is less urgent now than it was during the Reagan administration, when the top rate was cut from 70 percent to 50 percent and then cut again from 50 percent to 28 percent. But Ryan says that cutting the top rate is "even more pressing now" than it was back then "because the American economy was so dominant in the global economy and capital was not nearly as mobile as it is today."
And reducing the corporate tax rate while leaving the top individual income tax rate high as President Obama would like to do is unacceptable, according to Ryan. "He's clearly fixated on higher rates for individuals," Ryan said of the president. “They conveniently leave out the fact that 80 percent of businesses as taxed as individuals."
Ryan is kicking off a nationwide tour this week to promote his new book, The Way Forward, which focuses on Ryan's biography and policy agenda.
Though the book mostly addresses domestic policy, it also touches briefly on national defense and foreign policy. Ryan told me during our phone conversation that all options should be on the table to defeat the Islamist terrorists who have taken over large swaths of Iraq and Syria.
“An Islamic caliphate is an unacceptable security risk to the American people and we have to do everything we can to prevent it from materializing," Ryan said. "I can go back and criticize some critical mistakes of the Obama administration, like having zero footprint and clout with the Iraqi government, which disintegrated and therefore created a vacuum. Having no status of forces agreement even though they wanted to have one was a fundamental mistake of this administration."
10:18 AM, Aug 20, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Elizabeth Warren, the popular Democratic senator from Massachusetts, declined an opportunity to say whether Hillary Clinton is the best choice to be president in 2016:
A reporter asked, "Do you believe that Hillary Clinton is still the best choice coming up for your party coming up for 2016?"
"Hillary is terrific," Warren said, dodging the question.
"But is she still the best choice?" the reporter pressed.
Warren "dodged" says the anchor, noting that she left reporters without ever answering the question.
9:43 AM, Aug 20, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
Negative employee feedback has prompted a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to seek development of a training program for supervisors on having "difficult conversations." In response to focus groups, the National Ocean Service's (NOS) 200 supervisors will be required take an eight hour course entitled "Delivering Effective Feedback and Having Difficult Conversations."
After the 2013 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, the focus groups conducted by NOS with employees found a "general lack of feedback from supervisors," particularly after employees received unfavorable performance reviews. Employees felt they were not given adequate responses on "ways to improve or what marks they fell short on." NOS concluded that "[t]his general inability to have a 'difficult conversation' seems to be at the heart of the problem."
NOAA is seeking a contractor to develop the class. Among the objectives of the course:
- Help supervisors understand the different types of feedback and how and when to effectively use them.
- Help supervisors better understand the importance of and when to have, difficult conversations. This should include understanding the effects of failing to have difficult conversations to correct poor performance or behavior.
- Breaking the class into small groups, use role playing and exercises to give supervisors experience and opportunity to practice taught curriculum. All individuals should have an opportunity engage in the role playing as well as observe others in the group and offer feedback.
- Conduct a second round of role playing and exercises focusing on making adjustments based on received feedback.
NOAA is looking for responses by August 29 from small businesses interested in developing and delivering the Difficult Conversations course in NOS offices in Maryland, South Carolina, and Washington State.
7:49 AM, Aug 20, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Former Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said on CNBC this morning that he "would love to see" Mitt Romney run for president again, but that he doesn't think it's likely:
"I would love to see Mitt run again. I hope he does. He's pretty emphatic in saying he won't," said Ryan.
"He obviously does well in the polls today. I think that's because the things we said in the campaign -- here's the problem we had: we were shadow boxing against big government in theory, against the president's rhetoric. Because remember, the president passed most of his program in the first half of his first term, with Pelosi and Reid running Congress. They delayed the implementation of these big laws like Obamacare, Dodd-Frank until 2013, so it's our word against their word as to what was going to transpire, then came 2013, they got reelected in 2012, and now we have big government in practice and the results look nothing like the rhetoric that was used to sell the program.
"So I do believe there is a little bit of regret. I do believe that people say, oh, gosh, this doesn't look anything like what they told me it would--you know, if you like your doctor, can you keep it, it will lower my health care costs, blah, blah, blah."
6:01 AM, Aug 20, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
American voters says they would prefer President Barack Obama work with Congress rather than use executive action to address the illegal immigration crisis at the border, according to a detailed new opinion poll on immigration, illegal immigrants, and the state of the American worker. The poll, conducted by veteran Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway, also found that Americans disapprove of Obama’s record on immigration. And as one Republican aide on Capitol Hill describes it, the results of the poll are an “utter repudiation” of the Senate’s Gang of 8 immigration bill.
The survey of 1,001 likely voters found that 61 percent say they disapprove of the president’s job on immigration, while 32 percent say they approve. That’s worse than his overall job approval rating (57 percent disapprove, 40 percent approve). Furthermore, 74 percent say they would rather Obama work with Congress to change the country’s immigration policy, while only 21 percent say they support his doing so “on his own” through executive action. The numbers on executive action versus working with Congress are lopsided among both conservatives and moderates, with only self-professed liberals favoring a “go-it-alone” path on immigration. Obama has suggested he may act on his own on immigration after the comprehensive reform bill he supported has stalled in the House of Representatives.
The poll discovered a heightened interest in immigration as a political issue since the news of thousands of illegal immigrants crossing the southern border began dominating headlines this summer. Eighteen percent now say it’s the issue they most care about, with 39 percent saying they put it among their top 3 issues.
So beyond the process, what do Americans say they want Washington to do on immigration policy? One proposal, described by Conway as the House Republicans’ “three-pronged approach”, earned 58 percent support from those polled. The proposal was outlined in the poll question as providing “extra funding for immigration enforcement, making it easier to return young illegal immigrants to their home countries, and restricting the president’s ability to legalize illegal immigrants on his own.” The proposal earned 70 percent support from Republicans, but 57 percent of independents and 54 percent of Democrats said they also supported those ideas. (The question itself did not identify the proposal as coming from Republicans.)
Terror group singles out Stephen Sotloff.7:27 PM, Aug 19, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
The Islamic State’s official media arm, Furqan Media, has just released a video showing the beheading of American photojournalist James Wright Foley. The terrorist organization claims that the murder of an American citizen who went missing in Syria in 2012 comes as a warning to the White House to end its “intervention” in Iraq. If not, the video claims, ISIS will kill another U.S. journalist, Stephen Joel Sotloff. The Miami native, reported the Aleppo press center, was kidnapped on or around August 4, 2013. Sotloff’s life, says the video, “depends on Obama’s next decision."
Foley and Sotloff are among a number of foreign journalists that have been taken hostage in Syria. Another is Austin Tice, taken in the summer of 2012, whose brilliant reporting on the military aspects of the Syrian war was informed by his experience as Marine. The video of Tice’s abduction raised suspicions that his kidnappers were not, as the video portrays, Islamist rebels. “It’s like a caricature of a jihadi group,” Syria expert Joseph Holliday told the Washington Post. “It looks like someone went to the Internet, watched pictures of Afghan mujahedeen, then copied them.” Many observers believe the Syrian government was behind Tice’s kidnapping and sought to blame the rebels and thereby doom American support for the Free Syrian Army.
Some have drawn similar conclusions regarding Foley’s kidnapping. If ISIS drew his blood, it was the Syrian regime, as Michael Weiss and others have argued, that helped create ISIS to begin with, and it was the regime that kidnapped and held Foley. In May 2013, journalist Peter Gelling argued that Foley was likely being held by the regime. “We have obtained multiple independent reports from very credible confidential sources,” Gelling wrote in GlobalPost, “who have both indirect and direct access that confirm our assessment that Jim is now being held by the Syrian government in a prison or detention facility in the Damascus area. We further believe that this facility is under the control of the Syrian Air Force Intelligence service. Based on what we have learned, it is likely Jim is being held with one or more Western journalists, including most likely at least one other American.”
7:14 PM, Aug 19, 2014 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
The Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot, has released a grisly video of one of its fighters beheading a man who appears to be James Foley, an American journalist who was kidnapped in Syria on Thanksgiving Day 2012. The images from the video are horrifying, as they are intended to be. The Islamic State is once again trying to intimidate its adversaries, in this case the United States, into submission.
The video begins with clips of President Obama explaining his decision to authorize airstrikes. It then cuts to footage of the Islamic State’s victim, apparently Foley, who is forced to read a statement. Foley claims that his pending death is the result of American airstrikes in Iraq and he implores his brother, who serves in the U.S. Air Force, to renounce his service. Foley himself is made to say that he wishes he was not an American.
The Islamic State butcher who kills Foley speaks fluent English and threatens to kill another American journalist held in captivity, Steven Joel Sotloff, if America does not halt its aerial campaign.
Foley's death has not been confirmed by the U.S. government.
What are we to make of these gruesome images?
Our first thoughts are, of course, with the friends and family of James Foley. Their son has now been made part of a vicious jihadist play, one that is intended to frighten all of us.
Indeed, the Islamic State wants to shock the U.S. government into inaction. At one point in the video, the Islamic State fighter, who refuses to show his face, claims that America has done everything in its power to thwart the Islamic State’s designs. This far from the truth, as America has largely sat out both the war in Syria, as well as the ongoing conflict in Iraq, since late 2011. But now that the U.S. has finally acted in a meaningful way, the Islamic State has been forced to use a crude tactic in an attempt to make the U.S. stand down. In that regard, the video demonstrates the efficacy of America’s recent airstrikes.
No, American bombs are not enough to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq, which is effectively fighting on multiple fronts. But they have slowed the group’s momentum in some areas. If the strikes were pointless, then the Islamic State would not have bothered with this propaganda ploy. Undoubtedly, Iraqi lives and perhaps Americans, including diplomats, have been saved because U.S. bombers turned back the Islamic State’s fighters in some locations.
Foley’s death is tragic. And we should always remember that countless Iraqis and Syrians have met the same fate at the Islamic State’s hands.
Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
5:33 PM, Aug 19, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
Yesterday Pope Francis endorsed military action to stop the Islamic State (formerly the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) from persecuting religious minorities, especially Christians and Yazidis, in Iraq. The pope’s statement is to be welcomed—albeit with serious reservations.
As various experts noted, the Vatican is typically opposed to any sort of military action. James Bretzke, a priest and professor of moral theology at Boston College, told USA Today that “popes in recent history have all lined up against any military intervention, including World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War and, most recently, the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.”
Indeed, just last month Pope Francis issued a passionate plea for both Israel and Hamas to cease fighting in Gaza and put down their weapons. "Please stop," the pope said in his weekly address from the balcony in Saint Peter's Square. "Brothers and sisters, never war, never war! I am thinking above all of children, who are deprived of the hope of a worthwhile life, of a future."
So why is this situation different? How is Hamas, a terrorist organization that targets Jews, a Middle East minority, different from ISIS, a terrorist organization that goes after Christians, Shia, Yazidis, and, presumably, if given the chance, Jews? Regarding ISIS, Francis reasoned that “where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor…I underscore the verb 'stop.' I'm not saying 'bomb' or 'make war,' just 'stop.'”
The pope is not naïve. What stops violence is not careful verb choice, but violence. So why is it licit to use violence to stop this unjust aggressor and not Hamas or, for instance, Bashar al-Assad?
Last September the pope held a peace vigil to protest proposed U.S. military action against the Assad regime. “May the noise of weapons cease!” Francis proclaimed. “War always marks the failure of peace, it is always a defeat for humanity," said the pope, just a few weeks after the Syrian regime launched a chemical weapons attack against civilians in a Damascus suburb. The videos of the aftermath of the attack and the testimony of the survivors documented what many would also consider a defeat for humanity—men, women, and children treated like insects by a vicious ruling order while the world looks the other way, while the servant of the servants of God convenes peace rallies.
3:06 PM, Aug 19, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
John Bolton, in a fundraising email, makes the case for defunding UNRWA--and more:
As the former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, my eyes have long been open to the dangerous biases and political agendas in play at the U.N. It is at the core of my mission to share these facts with the American people, and why I am writing today.
The United Nations has lost its way, and now we MUST take action.
In the midst of the current Hamas-Israel hostilities, and well before, U.N. institutions and agencies have behaved so outrageously that they've inflicted severe damage to the United Nation's reputation and credibility.
The bottom line is that the United States can no longer excuse or ignore the egregious anti-Israel bias we've seen out of U.N. institutions, period. ...
Then there is the U.N. Relief and Works Administration (UNRWA). Three times in late July, UNRWA was forced to admit publicly that it "discovered" stockpiles of Hamas rockets stored in UNRWA's Gaza schools.
Why didn't UNRWA stop Hamas from stockpiling missiles in its schools, or at least immediately report this ploy to the U.N. Security Council?
Unfortunately, we know Obama will not act to disassociate the United States from this unacceptable international conduct regarding Gaza and Israel. That's why we're urging Congress to investigate IMMEDIATELY and take action.
The liberal New Republic writes: "Stop Giving Money to the U.N.'s Relief Agency for Palestinians."
When Hamas fires its last rocket and Israel drops its last bomb, the extent of Gaza’s devastation will become clear. An early estimate is that some $5 billion will be necessary to rebuild residences and infrastructure destroyed in the recent conflict. The first step is to take United Nations Relief and Works Agency out of the equation.
UNRWA, the U.N.’s 65-year-old, internationally funded welfare organization for Palestinians, should be commended for providing much needed shelter and aid to displaced Gazans during the crisis. But given several revelations during the current conflict between Hamas and Israel, UNRWA should have no role in any negotiated arrangement regarding Gaza’s reconstruction.
On three occasions rockets were found in UNRWA schools, closed for the summer, and at least once they were returned to Hamas. On another occasion, the UNRWA accused Israel of targeting civilians sheltering in a school when in fact those deaths were caused by a Hamas rocket that fell short. And on another occasion it accused Israel of targeting a shelter and civilians when in reality terrorists outside the facility were hit and civilian bodies possibly planted at the scene.
UNRWA has condemned the rockets found in its schools, but it has not condemned Hamas’ firing rockets from in and around its facilities, or any other locations such as residential areas, hospital parking lots, and hotels. All these have now been documented, often reluctantly, by journalists who have left Gaza, who have also made it clear that they were subject to Hamas surveillance, harassment and intimidation. Instead, UNRWA and its spokesman Chris Gunness have tweeted accusations, voiced hollow defenses, and cried on television.
2:56 PM, Aug 19, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Justin Sink of The Hill reports that:
President Obama plans to personally lead a meeting of the United Nations Security Council next month in New York … The session, slated for the week of Sept. 22, will focus on "the acute threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters" and comes as the U.S. is grappling with resurgent Islamist militants who have seized territory in Iraq and Syria.
This is a melancholy sort of alliance. Hard to think of any institution in human history that was launched with such high hopes only to fall into such low esteem as the UN. Something like the presidency of Barrack Obama which began in the spirit of hope and change and is now a spent force, mired in disillusionment.
1:19 PM, Aug 19, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The United States may be withdrawing its combat troops from Afghanistan but that does not mean the war is ending. To the contrary as Hamid Shalizi of Reuters reports:
No longer pinned down by U.S. air cover, Taliban fighters are attacking Afghan military posts in larger numbers with the aim of taking and holding ground, a shift from the hit-and-run strikes with posses of gunmen, explosives and suicide bombers.
As the intensity of the fighting increases, the Afghan forces will be counting increasingly on air power
"Airpower by the foreign troops is the key component to this battle and we have lost many men simply because we couldn't ask our foreign partners for air strikes," said a senior Afghan general who asked not to be named.
The fight has become, if anything, more desperate.
Struggling to hold the insurgents back, the riposte from commanders of the Afghan security forces has been clear: across the country, they are now telling their men to kill captured Taliban fighters instead of taking prisoners.
It seems to be a universal rule: When the Americans leave, things get worse.
12:03 PM, Aug 19, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
If the economic recovery is dismissed as a chimera by half the population, there is a reason. As Aki Ito, Ian Katz, and Ilan Kolet of Bloomberg report:
Five years of economic expansion have done almost nothing to boost paychecks for typical American workers while the rich have gotten richer.
Meager improvements since 2009 have barely kept up with a similarly tepid pace of inflation, raising the real value of compensation per hour by only 0.5 percent. That marks the weakest growth since World War II, with increases averaging 9.2 percent at a similar point in past expansions, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data compiled by Bloomberg.
The fact of stagnant wages is a huge overhang for the economy and:
… linked to a question puzzling economists and policy makers alike: How many able and willing workers still are waiting on the sidelines? The issue may be among topics Yellen and other central bankers discuss this week at their annual symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where the focus will be on the labor market. Until the economy burns through this excess capacity, employers have little incentive to give raises to attract and maintain employees.
The president is meeting with his economic advisors this afternoon.
Maybe they’ll think of something.
11:11 AM, Aug 19, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
Frank Bruni writes in the New York Times:
Mike Johnston’s mother was a public-school teacher. So were her mother and father. And his godfather taught in both public and private schools.
So when he expresses the concern that we’re not getting the best teachers into classrooms or weeding out the worst performers, it’s not as someone who sees the profession from a cold, cynical distance.
What I hear in his voice when he talks about teaching is reverence, along with something else that public education could use more of: optimism.
He rightly calls teachers “the single most transformative force in education.”
But the current system doesn’t enable as many of them as possible to rise to that role, he says. And a prime culprit is tenure, at least as it still exists in most states.
“It provides no incentive for someone to improve their practice,” he told me last week. “It provides no accountability to actual student outcomes. It’s the classic driver of, ‘I taught it, they didn’t learn it, not my problem.’ It has a decimating impact on morale among staff, because some people can work hard, some can do nothing, and it doesn’t matter.”
Read the rest here.
8:53 AM, Aug 19, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Erica Payne, founder and president of the left-wing Agenda Project, is encouraging people to deface the cover of Paul Ryan's new book, which is hitting shelves today.
"Hi Daniel," Payne writes in an email. "Just a heads up, Paul Ryan's new book comes out today and his publisher is furious! It turns out that they accidentally shipped it with the wrong cover, and they need your help to make things right.
"We have the correct cover and it's up to us to get it on as many of his books as possible, as soon as possible. The real cover is right here. Just print it out, take it to your nearest bookstore, and place it over the book jacket. Rep. Ryan is counting on us, let's not let him down!"
Of course, it's a lie. Payne is encouraging people to deface Ryan's book with this phony cover:
Here's the real book cover (note: it doesn't include an image of Ryan pushing granny over the cliff):
In an email, one longtime media observer writes, "Isn't this kind of crazy nasty? Asking people to deface somebody's book that comes out today? Just seems pretty over the top lunacy to me."
Ryan's book is available on Amazon.
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