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The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with senior writer Stephen F. Hayes on Senate Democrats, Syria, and the 2014 midterm elections.
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2:05 PM, Aug 27, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Supporters of Iowa Democrat Bruce Braley will raise money Wednesday night at the home of an attorney who once defended a Catholic bishop accused of molesting young boys. Trial lawyer Tim Bottaro will host the fundraiser at his home in Sioux City along with other supporters of Braley's Senate campaign.
Bottaro is a partner at a Sioux City firm that specializes in personal injury, workers compensation, divorce, and similar legal work. He's starred in a few TV commercials, asking potential clients to call his firm at 1-800-I-AM-HURT.
But a few years ago Bottaro also represented the former Bishop of Sioux City, Lawrence Soens, in a number of lawsuits that claimed Soens had sexually abused children. Soens resigned from his office as bishop in 1998 but continued minstering for several years after that. According to the Washington Post, 15 boys who had attended a school at which Soens taught in the 1960s claimed the priest touched them inappropriately "under the guise of discipline." The number of accusers eventually grew to 31. Soens denied the charges, which came amidst a wide-sweeping investigation into alleged abuse in the Diocese of Davenport, where the future bishop was working. The diocese eventually filed for bankruptcy and publicly apologized for the abuse of children by priests.
"The damage has been done as far as his reputation and all the good he has done," Bottaro told the Post in 2007. "There have been a lot of testimonials given that talk about him being an entirely different person back in that time in Iowa City. But there are just as many people, former students, staff, secretaries ... who claim none of those things happened."
In 2009, most of the lawsuits against Soens were dropped "in an attempt to free up the Roman Catholic Church to punish Soens." Bottaro was still representing Soens at that time.
Braley, a four-term congressman and a trial lawyer himself, will be in Sioux City Wednesday afternoon. An email to his campaign to confirm his attendance at Bottaro's fundraiser has not been returned. The event is advertised as a "Bruce Braley Fund Raising Reception."
Braley is running in a tight race for the Senate seat held by retiring Democrat Tom Harkin. His Republican opponent is Joni Ernst, a state senator and Iraq veteran.
12:29 PM, Aug 27, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The man who is described by his mouthpiece as “the constitutional lawyer in the Oval Office” is increasingly bored with the routine demands of his job (so much so that even Maureen Dowd has noticed) and finds the Constitution a darned nuisance and an obstacle. So, as Coral Davenport of the New York Times reports:
The Obama administration is working to forge a sweeping international climate change agreement to compel nations to cut their planet-warming fossil fuel emissions, but without ratification from Congress.
The president might try leading by example and forgo some of those trips on Air Force One. The destination is usually some fundraiser and the plane belches carbon by the ton.
He could stay in Washington and do his job. The planet and the electorate would appreciate it.
11:28 AM, Aug 27, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
The editorial board at the New York Times says it's not endorsing in the Democratic primary for governor of New York. In a lengthy editorial, the Times writes that the sitting governor, Democrat Andrew Cuomo, "broke his most important promise" to root out corruption in the Empire State. The paper had endorsed Cuomo in his first run for governor in 2010. Here's an excerpt from Thursday's non-endorsement:
More than four years ago, while announcing his campaign for governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo stood in front of the Tweed Courthouse in downtown Manhattan and said Albany’s antics “could make Boss Tweed blush.”
New York had had enough corruption, he said, and he was going to put a stop to it. “Job 1 is going to be to clean up Albany,” he said, “and make the government work for the people.”
Mr. Cuomo became governor on that platform and recorded several impressive achievements, but he failed to perform Job 1. The state government remains as subservient to big money as ever, and Mr. Cuomo resisted and even shut down opportunities to fix it. Because he broke his most important promise, we have decided not to make an endorsement for the Democratic primary on Sept. 9.
While the Times doesn't outright endorse his primary challenger, professor and activist Zephyr Teachout, the paper suggests Democratic primary voters give Teachout their votes in protest. The refusal to endorse comes as several influential groups, including the New York State AFL-CIO, are holding off on endorsing Cuomo.
The governor isn't expected to lose the September 9 primary, but it remains to be seen how strong—or weak—his Democratic support is following reports that federal prosecutors are investigating Cuomo and his office over its interaction with a anticorruption commission Cuomo himself set up. Some allege the governor's office improperly interfered with the commission's investigations into firms and people close to Cuomo and that eventually Cuomo shut down the commission earlier than planned to avoid further scrutiny.
“He puts together an anticorruption commission and corrupts it,” Rob Astorino recently told THE WEEKLY STANDARD. “That tells you everything you need to know about New York.”
Astorino is the Republican candidate for governor, and although he isn't likely to earn endorsements from the unions or the New York Times, the Westchester County executive is hoping to capitalize on Cuomo's corruption woes to pull off the upset win of the year. Here's more from this week's issue:
Astorino hopes “Cuomogate” will prompt voters to stop simply “rolling their eyes” and realize how widespread and expensive the problem has become. “The corruption is, in many ways, paid for by the average New Yorker in a stealth corruption tax,” he says. “The slimy deals they cut for themselves in Albany have to be paid for. Who pays for that? We all do in higher taxes, a poorer business climate.”
From the recovery.
10:43 AM, Aug 27, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Slow growth is bad for everyone. Including the government, which depends (sort of) on tax revenues to do its job. Now, as Kasia Klimasinska of Bloomberg reports:
The budget deficit in the U.S. this year will be wider than predicted four months ago as weaker-than-expected economic growth in the first half hurt tax revenue, the Congressional Budget Office said. The projected shortfall will be $506 billion in the 12 months ending Sept. 30, compared with an April prediction for $492 billion, the nonpartisan CBO said today in a report … The economy will expand 1.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014 from the same period last year, compared with 3.1 percent growth predicted in February, the CBO said. Unemployment this year will average 6.2 percent before declining to an average of 5.9 percent next year, it said.
This counts as a nuisance in Washington where, if the money doesn’t come in, you just go into deficit.
But out in the provinces, 1.5 percent growth translates into … backing up.
Half the country believes we are still in a recession. Which, for them, we are.
9:10 AM, Aug 27, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
The Immigration & Customs Enforcement agency renewed its search this week for "Transportation Services for Unaccompanied Children" crossing the border into the United States. An earlier notice posted in January of this year seeking "escort services" for an estimated 65,000 unaccompanied children raised questions about the Obama administration's prior recognition of the effect that news of its Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) plan would have on primarily Central American parents who mistakenly believed their children would benefit from the program.
The current notice says that ICE will award an "indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract" to provide "unarmed escort staff, including management, supervision, manpower, training, certifications, licenses, drug testing, equipment, and supplies necessary to provide on-demand escort services for non-criminal/non-delinquent UAC ranging from infants to 17 years of age, seven (7) days a week, 365 days a year. Transport will be required for UAC or family groups, to include both male and female juveniles."
The documents note that the "volume of UAC apprehensions continues to create numerous operational challenges for DHS" as "apprehensions doubled in fiscal year (FY) 2012, reaching 12,000." A chart included in the documents illustrates the tremendous increase in the use of contractors to handle the increased traffic:
Fiscal year 2013 saw a ten-fold increase in the number of contractor-transported unaccompanied children, and after four months of fiscal year 2014, the number was already more than half of the previous year's total.
Another chart shows the top cities of origin and destination for the contractor-led trip. More than half originated in Harlingen, TX, very close to the border with Mexico. A little more than a quarter of the trips delivered the children to El Paso, TX.
ICE notes that under current laws and regulations, the agency:
8:02 AM, Aug 27, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
The Department of Health and Human Services is looking to school the entertainment industry media when it comes to reporting on substance abuse and mental health disorders. In a notice posted this week on behalf of HHS's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the agency indicates its desire to show the entertainment industry "how the use of language can affect the broader community as it relates to mental and/or substance use disorder issues." SAMHSA intends to examine the "anatomy of current language that is used to refer to persons in recovery" by entertainment media and replace it with "appropriate terminology."
The vehicle chosen by SAMHSA to instruct the media is a series of live panel-discussion webcasts to be produced by the Entertainment Industries Council (EIC) of Reston, Virginia. The government intends to award a contract to EIC unless another vendor can demonstrate by September 2nd its ability to duplicate what EIC has to offer. The EIC is a non-profit founded in 1983 by entertainment industry leaders "to provide information, awareness and understanding of major health and social issues among the entertainment industries and to audiences at large." HHS notes that EIC has partnered with organizations such as the News Corporation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and FX Networks in an effort to see health and social issues portrayed realistically in films, TV, music, and even comic books.
The target audience for the webcasts is not simply writers, but producers, production staff (technical and non-technical), and entertainment industry magazine editors, as well. Webcast participants will include "persons in recovery from mental and or substance use disorders" in addition to social marketing and behavioral health professionals. The former group will share "potential negative consequences of not using appropriate language" and provide "examples of experiences lived by those in recovery as a result."
HHS has contracted with EIC in the past to produce Entertainment Industry Public Health Education Webinars (2013), to help organize Major League Baseball events for Recovery Month (2009), as well as various public health campaigns over the years at least as far back as 2004. The organization has also done work for the Department of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control.
Or does it?7:14 AM, Aug 27, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Do Washington Republicans smell blood in New Jersey? The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the GOP's Senate campaign apparatus, issued a press release Wednesday knocking New Jersey's Democratic senator Cory Booker for being a "tax & spend liberal."
The release groups Booker with another incumbent Democrat, Alaska's Mark Begich, as two former mayors (of Newark and Anchorage, respectively) with liberal records. Here's an excerpt:
In 2010 on Mayor Cory Booker's watch, Moody's placed Newark's bond rating "on review for possible downgrade as the city has less than three months to close a $70 million current-year budget deficit." In Anchorage, Mark Begich left a near $17 million budget deficit for his successor. Mark Begich and Cory Booker are experts at spending their hardworking constituents' money (and more), mortgaging their futures by leaving families, seniors, and middle-class workers with an even bigger bill.
A Republican group criticizing a Democratic candidate—no surprise, right? Except that the NRSC up to this point hasn't said much of anything about the Senate race in New Jersey or the party's own candidate, Jeff Bell. For a while, the organization seemed to be accepting the conventional wisdom that Booker is untouchable in New Jersey. The NRSC hadn't even met with Bell before his primary victory in June, and a search of the group's website and release archive doesn't reveal a single mention of him. There don't appear to be any plans to help the vastly underfunded Bell campaign raise money, and a spokesman for the NRSC declined to comment on what the organization would (or would not) be doing for the Republican candidate.
Nevertheless, a steady stream of weak polling for Booker has put Bell within striking distance. A conservative activist and the 1978 Republican Senate nominee (he lost to Bill Bradley that year), Bell is running an unorthodox campaign in 2014 focused on the deleterious effect of current monetary policy on the middle class. His candidacy is even rankling Booker's Senate staff, one member of which said the 70-year-old Republican can "suck it."
3:31 PM, Aug 26, 2014 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
During President Obama’s second term, about the only thing more common than seeing him out on the golf course has been seeing polls highlighting the striking unpopularity of his signature legislation. Obama has golfed a reported 79 times so far in his second term (compared to a reported 24 times for President George W. Bush in both of his terms combined). But even Obama’s inordinate determination to hit the links hasn’t remotely been able to keep pace with the publication of polls indicating Americans’ opposition to Obamacare. According to Real Clear Politics, in Obama’s second term alone, 140 polls have found Obamacare to be unpopular. The number finding it to be popular? Zero.
On average, these 140 polls have shown that just 40 percent of Americans favor Obamacare, while 52 percent oppose it. So, for Obamacare, a double-digit deficit is the norm. (Of the 140 polls, 102 have shown double-digit deficits.) The half-dozen polls taken since July 4 of this year have shown Obamacare faring even a bit worse, as they have shown an average tally of 41 percent in favor of it and 55 percent opposed.
Moreover, Real Clear Politics understandably doesn’t even list results from the notoriously left-leaning Kaiser Health Tracking Poll. Yet even Kaiser has found Obamacare to be unpopular in all 16 of its polls taken during Obama’s second term. And Kaiser’s most recent poll, from July, found Obamacare to be less popular than at any prior point in Obama’s second term — with only 37 percent favoring it and 53 percent opposed. So adding Kaiser’s polling to the polling listed by RCP yields a second-term tally of 156 polls showing opposition to Obamacare and not a single poll showing support for it.
When it comes to Obamacare, Americans clearly want a mulligan. And they deserve one, since they never wanted Obamacare to be teed up in the first place.
A well-conceived conservative alternative — one that repeals all of Obamacare and finally fixes what the government had broken even before Obamacare was passed — would lower health costs, secure liberty, and make it possible for any American who wants to buy health insurance to do so. It’s time for the American people to be given a clear choice between playing such an alternative and hacking on through the deep rough with Obamacare. The people’s verdict will be clear, and those who advance such an alternative will end up signing the winning scorecard.
2:14 PM, Aug 26, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The latest attack ad from the Mark Pryor campaign is, well, absurd. Here's Politico's description of the 30-second spot: "Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) is citing the recent scare over the Ebola virus in a new attack ad against his GOP opponent, the first mention of America’s preparedness for a possible pandemic in a 2014 political advertisement."
The spot, aimed at Rep. Tom Cotton, seizes on Cotton’s votes for budget cuts that the Pryor camp says slashed funding for “medical disaster and emergency programs.”
“Tom Cotton voted against preparing America for pandemics like Ebola,” a male narrator says ominously, after a series of news clips about the spread of the disease through Africa.
Does Pryor believe Arkansas is Africa? Does he actually think Arkansans relate to ebola? And that they're fearful of a coming epidemic?
It's easy to imagine a rebuttal from Cotton: Just state all that Pryor and his party have done to open the border to anyone, including people with dangerous infectious diseases. That might pretty much settle the issue for Arkansas voters
But, on the other hand, the Cotton camp is probably so gleeful Pryor's gone up with this absurd attack ad that they might just sit back and enjoy the Saturday Night Live-like show.
1:35 PM, Aug 26, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
In politics, the preferred way to deal with a negative story is, of course, to ignore it. Act as though it is of such slight importance, so obviously untrue, and peddled by such disreputable sources that it isn’t worth your attention. You have far more important things to do. Much loftier challenges. A country to run. And so forth.
You don’t want to give the story status by denying it. Though, of course, sometimes you must.
If you are denying, you are – in some sense – validating. Acknowledging, at least, that the story might be plausible to some. The angrier the denial, the more likely it is that the story a) hurts and b) resonates with people who hear it and c) is true.
So it is of interest that, as Amie Parnes of The Hill reports:
The White House is bristling at suggestions President Obama is disconnected, checked out or out of touch. White House allies maintain that the storyline of a checked-out president is a myth drummed up by the media during the summer doldrums.
The “media,” you will notice, is the source of the problem. That would be the same media which the White House is accustomed to patting on the head while feeding it sweets with the other hand.
But the president’s defenders will make a small concession, here and there. As one of them put it:
“I think they could probably do a better job telling a broader narrative and the telling of a story … This is a data-driven White House. The president’s campaigns were data-driven. They need to put more poetry into the prose.”
Looking out at Pennsylvania Avenue, that is what they see from the White House windows. People in the streets, demanding more poetry.
12:39 PM, Aug 26, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The BBC is reporting that:
A group of Russian soldiers captured in eastern Ukraine had crossed the border "by accident", Russian military sources are quoted as saying. Ukraine said 10 paratroopers had been captured and has released video interviews of some of the men. One is quoted as saying "this is not our war”.
Maybe not, say the Ukrainians. But neither was it an “accident.” As a military spokesman put it:
"This wasn't a mistake, but a special mission they were carrying out."
11:18 AM, Aug 26, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Jeffrey Herf, writing for The American Interest:
On July 31, 2014, a group of left-leaning historians called “Historians Against the War” posted an open letter to President Obama denouncing Israel’s actions in the Gaza War and calling for a cut-off of American military assistance to Israel. On August 13, the letter was posted on the website of the History News Network. On August 31, the signers reported that “in less than twenty-four hours over two hundred US, based [sic] historians had signed the letter.” This remarkable turnout depended on the mobilization of an already existing network of an academic Left that emerged in opposition to the war in Iraq and that stays in touch via a website called “The Hawblog.” On August 14, the blog announced that more than a thousand historians had signed the statement, including a large number from Mexico and Brazil.
With a brief and unconvincing effort to sound balanced, the statement deplored “the ongoing attacks against civilians in Gaza and in Israel” but then turned its fire on Israel for what it called “the disproportionate harm that the Israeli military, which the United States has armed and supported for decades, is inflicting on the population of Gaza.” The signers were “profoundly disturbed that Israeli forces are killing and wounding so many Palestinian children.” They found “unacceptable the failure of United States elected officials to hold Israel accountable for such an act” and demanded “a cease-fire, the immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza and a permanent end to the blockade so that its people can resume some semblance of normal life.” Further, they urged the President to suspend U.S. military aid to Israel until there is assurance that it will no longer be used for the commission of “war crimes.” “As historians,” they concluded, “we recognize this as a moment of acute moral crisis in which it is vitally important that United States policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict change direction.”
It is old news that an academic tenured Left has a foothold in departments of history in the United States, as well as in Latin America. Also familiar is the deception involved in presenting oneself as “against war,” as if those who disagree are “for” war, and as if the issue were one of war or peace rather than anything that has to do with the substance of the conflict. Nor is it surprising that left-of-center academics are largely hostile to Israel. Hostility to Israel became a defining element of what it means to be left-wing since the early 1950s in the Communist states, and since the late 1960s for the Left in Western Europe, the United States, and the Third World as well.
10:43 AM, Aug 26, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
The federal government issued sixty contracts from 2009 to 2014 in efforts to build Healthcare.gov, the federal insurance marketplace. According to a report issued today by the inspector general (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the government had already paid out just under half a billion dollars by February 2014, five months after the beginning of open enrollment. The government is already under obligation for another $300 million, and the estimated value of the sixty contracts totals $1.7 billion. The OIG provided a summary of its findings:
The 60 contracts related to the development and operation of the Federal Marketplace started between January 2009 and January 2014. The purpose of the 60 contracts ranged from health benefit data collection and consumer research to cloud computing and Web site development. The original estimated values of these contracts totaled $1.7 billion; the contract values ranged from $69,195 to over $200 million. Across the 60 contracts, nearly $800 million has been obligated for the development of the Federal Marketplace as of February 2014. As of that date, CMS had paid nearly $500 million for the development of the Federal Marketplace to the contractors awarded these contracts.
A few familiar names appear on the list of contracts, such as Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin. Also appearing are CGI Federal, widely blamed for the botched roll out of the site last October, and Accenture Federal Services, which has taken over for CGI in hopes that this year's open enrollment will go better than 2013.
The inspector general presented the report on the contracts largely with commentary, instead noting that "[i]n the coming months, OIG will be issuing additional, indepth audits and evaluations that look more closely at contracting for the Federal Marketplace and will include, when appropriate, recommendations to resolve vulnerabilities we identify and/or build on promising approaches."
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