|8:37 AM, Sep 29, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
U.S. intelligence agencies underestimated Islamic State activity inside Syria, which has become "ground zero" for jihadists worldwide, President Barack Obama said in a CBS television interview broadcast on Sunday.
Conversely, the United States overestimated the ability of the Iraqi army to fight the militant groups, Obama said in a "60 Minutes" interview taped on Friday, days after the U.S. president made his case at the United Nations for action.
Interesting. But as Eli Lake at the Daily Beast writes, there were people saying that it would be imprudent to pull out of Iraq entirely; that the bad guys would return and our guys were insufficiently trained and motivated.
Were they right? And if so, should we not, perhaps, fire all the people who are still around and got it wrong and bring in those who had it right and are on the outside?
Or is a soft answer to a softball Steve Kroft question sufficient?
10:14 PM, Sep 28, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Top White House adviser Valerie Jarrett was given a cameo role in the latest episode of CBS's The Good Wife. The airing of the episode comes after a busy week for President Obama -- which included bombing the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, a series of meetings at the United Nations, and various international crises.
Jarrett appears to play herself:
The scene features Jarrett on the phone with Julianna Margulies (who is the star of The Good Wife and who plays Alicia Florrick), being coached by Alan Cumming (who is playing a political strategist by the name of Eli Gold).
Elsewhere on CBS, President Obama sat down for an interview with 60 Minutes, which aired a couple hours before Jarrett's big drama debut.
7:34 PM, Sep 28, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama said that American troops in are "in a war environment" fighting the Islamic State and that the men and women in the military are in "harm's way." He made the comments this evening on 60 Minutes:
"You know, you've said no American boots on the ground, no combat troops on the ground," said 60 Minutes host Steve Kroft. "We've got 1,600 troops there.
"We do," said President Obama.
"Some of them are going to be out embedded with Iraqi units," said Kroft.
"Well, they're in harm's way," Obama said, "in the sense that any time you're in war theater, it's dangerous. So I don't want to downplay the fact that they're in a war environment and there are hostile forces on the other side."
Obama and his administration have insisted that there will be no combat forces fighting the Islamic State.
5:59 PM, Sep 28, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Democrats continue to sound the alarm. The latest fundraising email from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has this subject line: "kiss any hope goodbye."
"Here’s what happening: A just released Rasmussen poll shows the race for Congress is TIED, 4O%-4O%," the email reads.
"Here’s what it means: Control of Congress is at stake in the final month of this election.
"Here’s how we could lose: This week, Republicans are launching their largest attack ad campaign of the year. This multi-million dollar Obama-bashing ad blitz could cost us the whole election.
"Daniel, we have just 2 days until the final major fundraising deadline of this campaign. We need 9,OOO of our best supporters to step up today to keep pace. ...
"If we can get this done, we can break the tie and tip the scales of this election in our favor. If we can’t, then kiss any hope of a Democratic House for President Obama ever again goodbye."
The DCCC aims to get Democrats elected to the House of Representatives. Forecasters believe the Republicans will continue to maintain control of the House after November's midterm election.
12:01 PM, Sep 28, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
On Friday Colin Kahl was named Vice President Joe Biden’s national security adviser and deputy assistant to the president. Kahl previously served in the Obama administration as deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East between 2009-2011, but is probably best known for his work outside of government—in particular, for advocating containment of a nuclear Iran, and for his part in trying to remove the recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel from the 2012 Democratic platform.
In his role as senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a think tank close to the Obama administration, Kahl floated what was widely recognized as a trial balloon on behalf of the administration when he co-authored a report explaining how American policymakers would go about containing a nuclear Iran. Kahl’s report, “If All Else Fails: The Challenges of Containing a Nuclear-Armed Iran,” argued that while Obama says his policy is to prevent Iran from getting the bomb, the fact is that “prevention – up to and including the use of force – could fail, leaving Washington with little choice but to manage and mitigate the consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran.”
Meanwhile, Kahl was helping out in the drafting of parts of the 2012 Democratic party platform. As Josh Rogin and Ben Smith reported at the time, Kahl and Congressman Robert Wexler were responsible for altering the platform so that it omitted mention of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, which represented a change in longstanding party policy. As one source told Rogin at the time: "Colin Kahl and Bob Wexler bear personal responsibility for the platform debacle and the embarrassment caused to the president and the party. … They led a secretive, exclusionary process, rather than an inclusive one, recklessly threw out the longstanding platform language, and then attempted to cover their tracks by misleading stakeholders about what they had done and with whom they had consulted." Under pressure, the president had to overrule Kahl and put Jerusalem back in. But Democrats still paid a political price.
12:00 AM, Sep 28, 2014 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
Last week was good for environmentalists, and perhaps even for the environment. President Obama doubled down on his effort to increase the likelihood of the success of the 2015 UN climate change conference in Paris, claiming the U.S. has “a special responsibility to lead. That’s what great nations do.” He took the occasion of the UN meetings in New York to put the heat on China, the world’s largest polluter, to match the steps the U.S. is taking to reduce its CO2 emissions. The president is relying on executive orders to by-pass Congress and put in place stricter control of power plant emissions. He must believe that if he has the power to order such reductions without consulting Congress, surely the leaders of the somewhat less democratic Chinese regime can rely on similar fiats. He also believes that if the world’s two largest emitters agree on a program to reduce these greenhouse gasses, the third, fourth, and fifth largest polluters will sign on to that program.
· China’s president Xi Jinping (#1) did not come to New York.
· Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India (#3), although in New York, gave the climate meeting a miss, and his environment minister asked, “What cuts? That’s for more developed countries. The moral principle of historic responsibility cannot be washed away.”
· Russian president Vladimir Putin (#4) is more interested in developing a plan to step up his challenge to NATO than to scale down his nation’s emission.
· Japan (#5), wants to keep open its options to burn more fossil fuels since the nuclear disaster at Fukushima.
Equally unfortunate is the difficulty of agreeing on a common set of facts as the background for a policy debate. There are studies showing that the climate is warming, and others that show it hasn’t done so for a couple of decades. There are studies showing that solar and wind power are now competitive with fossil fuels even in the absence of subsidies, and others showing that replacing fossil fuels with greater reliance on renewables that are not available when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine can drive up energy costs and reduce a nation’s competitiveness, as has happened in Germany, in the end forcing greater reliance on coal than at any time since 2007.
6:02 PM, Sep 27, 2014 • By MATT LABASH
If I sported a hairpiece, I’d be wearing it at half-mast right about now, upon hearing that the world just grew a little less interesting. For the most colorful man who ever inhabited Congress, former Ohio Democratic Rep. James A . Traficant Jr., expired today at the age of 73. Traficant—he of the Barney Miller-era suits and conspiracy theories and “beam-me-up” one-minute floor speeches and the toupee that looked like a marmot getting electroconvulsive therapy—died as he lived: crushed beneath the weight of The Machine. A tractor he was driving rolled over on him.
I, for one, will miss him, much as I did when he went to federal prison in 2002 to serve a seven-year sentence on corruption charges. Well before Traficant became a federal inmate, I went to see him for a profile. Though we were only in each other’s company for one day, he gave me everything a profiler could want: sex (he informed me in a crowded Rayburn Building elevator that a lot of women hit on him and he takes them on out of a “responsibility to the American woman”), violence (he slapped me in the face while insisting on calling me “Kibosh” instead of “Labash,” accusing me of coming to do “a castration job”) and intimacies (he spent hours insisting that Janet Reno, whose Justice Department was then bearing down on him, was a lesbian mob puppet).
We got along so famously, that I promised/threatened to call him again. Traficant emphatically told me not to: “You ain’t gonna catch up with me no more. Don’t call me again.” But then, as a token of affection, he offered me an American flag, once flown over the Capitol. I still kept an eye on Traficant in the years that followed—as he shipped off to prison, as he started painting horses on prison cardboard and Formica and selling them on his website (beammeupart.com), as he unsuccessfully ran for Congress again upon his release, getting stomped by an old political aide, even though the creaky Rust-Belt Dem whose career presaged the Tea Party Revolution had vowed to lead the charge to abolish the IRS and repeal the 16th Amendment.
Once, many years ago, I tried to reach out to Traficant in prison, wishing to see how he was getting along, or maybe to talk horse art. But he didn’t want to be seen in his diminished, incarcerated state (he reportedly accepted no visitors). And so, I never again enjoyed his company. But I still have that flag, which I fly today, in his honor. And there’s our old piece together (included below), a snapshot of Traficant from a time when he roared like a skinny-tied lion:
Traficant, Can He?
Will the crazy congressman from Youngstown kneecap the Democrats?
October 16, 2000
Vol. 6, No. 05
11:25 AM, Sep 27, 2014 • By MITCH PEARLSTEIN
For many, the Adrian Peterson child abuse case spanning Texas to Minnesota has been tough to grasp as, up until several weeks ago, he was viewed by most people who knew anything about him as a good man, not just a great football player for the Minnesota Vikings. Compounding matters is that the charges against him have exposed a parallel universe of baby making and child rearing that most Americans don’t get to see every day. But when they do, most find it hard to fathom.
It’s not irrelevant to matters at hand that Peterson has fathered at least four children with perhaps four different women, including one who’s now his wife. At least one (unconfirmed) report saying he has sired as many as seven children with an unspecified number of women. And it’s decidedly not irrelevant that one of his children—a two-year-old son who he had known nothing about—was murdered last year by a boyfriend of the child’s mother.
To coin a cliché, how could Peterson even begin to be there more than every once in a while for so many geographically dispersed children, no matter how much money he is capable of sending their mothers every month or so? This is but one of many pivotal questions when it comes to scattered seeds, and not just those of a running back in this instance.
Ron Mincy is a professor of social work at Columbia University who has spent decades researching and writing about families in distress. I first met and worked with him in the 1990s in regards to the then-nascent fatherhood movement. More recently, he was one of 40 men and women from across the country I interviewed for a new book. Here’s what he says about “multiple partner fertility.” I had just asked him how he would rate family fragmentation as a national problem.
“Oh, I think it’s huge,” Mincy said. “It has dimensions that policymakers and others are just getting their minds wrapped around, especially when it comes to what I call ‘multiple partner fertility.’ We’ve historically focused on what might be considered ‘first families.’ But we’re increasingly focusing on subsequent childbearing with subsequent partners. These behaviors are creating family complexities which we haven’t figured out yet.”
For an example of such complexities, Mincy cited child support payments, an area in which he has done a lot of work.
“How should we think about establishing child support payments? It gets really, really complex when you recognize that the non-resident father of a child actually has another family, and another family, and another family. How should he be made to divide up a portion of his income across his multiple children?”
Even if Peterson never plays another game in the NFL, he presumably won’t have problems making decent child support payments until his kids grow up and are off on their own. But this is far from true for other men with multiple children with multiple women who may not have any income to pass around.
4:31 PM, Sep 26, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Secretary of State John Kerry writes in his hometown paper, the Boston Globe, about how with U.S. leadership, "the world" will defeat the Islamic terrorist group ISIS. Kerry, who voted for the Iraq War in 2003 and later withdrew his support,tries to draw a distinction between the military actions of his current boss, Barack Obama, and those of Obama's predecessor by appealing to a conservative authority:
I am proud to work for a president who asks questions before using military force because, after all, I remember the words of the conservative Edmund Burke: “a conscientious man would be careful how he deals in blood.”
It's nice to have a liberal like Kerry quoting Burke. In fact, we'd encourage the secretary to consider some more words of wisdom from Burke, quoted by the distinguished historian Gertrude Himmelfarb in a recent issue of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.
“There is a courageous wisdom,” Burke wrote in his “Letters on a Regicide Peace,” but “there is also a false reptile prudence, the result not of caution but of fear. Under misfortunes it often happens that the nerves of the understanding are so relaxed, the pressing peril of the hour so completely confounds all the faculties, that no future danger can be properly provided for, can be justly estimated, can be so much as fully seen.”
And there's more:
The rules and definitions of prudence can rarely be exact; never universal. I do not deny that in small truckling states a timely compromise with power has often been the means, and the only means, of drawling out their puny existence; but a great state is too much envied, too much dreaded, to find safety in humiliation. To be secure, it must be respected. Power, and eminence, and consideration, are things not to be begged. They must be commanded: and they who supplicate for mercy from others can never hope for justice through themselves.
Here's Himmelfarb's comment:
It is an odd argument to come from Burke, and perhaps the more telling for that. If there is any one political principle associated with Burke, it is prudence. “Letters on a Regicide Peace” was written in 1796. Five years earlier, in his “Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs,” he had pronounced prudence the first of all virtues. “Prudence is not only first in rank of the virtues, political and moral, but she is the director, the regulator, the standard of them all.” But prudence was associated with a corollary principle, “circumstances,” which determine what is wise and prudent in any particular situation. On this occasion, in a war with an implacable enemy, a misplaced prudence was not a virtue but a fatal flaw.
Given Kerry's newfound appreciation for Burke, we'd encourage him to read Himmelfarb's entire article, "From Robespierre to ISIS."
3:31 PM, Sep 26, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
Colin Kahl has just been named Vice President Joseph Biden's national security adviser. Kahl previously served in the Obama administration at the Department of Defense, and left in December 2011 when he moved to the Center for New American Security.
Among other duties at CNAS, Kahl oversaw a three-part series about the nuclearization of Iran. In the final installment (which I wrote about in May 2013), “If All Else Fails: The Challenges of Containing a Nuclear-Armed Iran,” he laid out the case for containment. It remains to be seen whether this put him in opposition to a commander in chief who insists his policy is preventing Iran from getting the bomb.
However, it’s worth noting that in Obama's speech earlier this week at the U.N. General Assembly, the president conspicuously omitted that pledge.
The Books & Arts Podcast is hosted by Philip Terzian1:45 PM, Sep 26, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD Books & Arts Podcast with Philip Terzian, on the September 29th Issue's Books and Arts section.
This podcast can be downloaded here. Subscribe to THE WEEKLY STANDARD's iTunes podcast feed here.
11:18 AM, Sep 26, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
When the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, was signed into law in March 2010, one of the Act's stipulations was that CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) educate consumers about how the law would work. In September 2011, CMS awarded a three year contract to the popular medical website WebMD to fulfill a portion of this requirement. According to CMS documents, the cost of the three year contract came to just under $14 million.
As CMS gears up for the new open enrollment season for Healthcare.gov, a new contract has been awarded to WebMD for another year, this time at an estimated cost of $650,000. The stated purpose of the ACA/Health Care Priorities Educational Initiative, as it is called, is:
to increase understanding and provide in-depth knowledge of the ACA and its implications and implementation among health care providers and consumers. The goal of this task order is to encourage providers and consumers to turn to official information sources regarding the ACA and to create an accurate perception of the ACA among health care providers and consumers.
The contract award was made with a "Limited Source Justification," meaning that CMS did not actively solicit bids for the contract from other providers, but rather determined that WebMD alone adequately met the criteria. The documents site as justification for the award without full competition WebMD's past work and familiarity with the "intricacies of ACA," the fact that "healthcare consumers and providers have become accustomed to obtaining information regarding ACA and the Marketplaces from the WebMD and Medscape websites," and the "best reach of [health care providers] for Continuing Medical Education (CMEs) in the industry."
The Islamic State’s new global strategy.10:55 AM, Sep 26, 2014 • By TOM ROGAN
Jahili [non-sharia] society because of its Jahili characteristics is not a worthy partner for compromise.
—Sayyid Qutb, Milestones
From the Sinai to Sydney, the Islamic State is extending its death fetish across the world. Servants of Salafi extremist-psychosis, IS leaders want a global holy war. They seek an apocalyptic battle between Sunnis and everyone else. Only then, they believe, can the global caliphate become a reality.
Pursuing this agenda, the Islamic State has ramped up its incitement. On September 21, it disseminated a speech by its chief spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani. Amidst other ranting statements, Adnani called on Muslims to murder unbelievers.
“If you can kill a disbelieving American or European—especially the spiteful and filthy French—or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State . . . kill him in any manner or way however it may be.”
This is a familiar line, the Islamic State’s version of al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri’s lone-wolf strategy. By inspiring Muslims to commit acts of personally orchestrated violence, the Islamic State wants to spread terror. And what makes its advocacy of lone-wolf killing more dangerous than al Qaeda’s is the former’s global reputation with Salafi extremists. Witnessing the Islamic State’s energetic seizure of territory and its seeming invulnerability against America, these sick minds see it as a movement destined for victory.
Thus, IS seeks to convince extremists that by slaughtering civilians they can become part of a growing global army. At a secondary level, just as IS seeks to purge the Middle East by forcing civilian subjugation to narrow sectarian identities, it believes lone-wolf terrorism will force Western societies to repress their Muslim populations and thus indirectly aid in the recruitment of new IS legions.
What makes this strategy dangerous is its diversified presence on social media. Knowing that intelligence services are unable to keep up, every day, Islamic State supporters post new target lists and re-post previously deleted online IED training courses. The group’s leaders know that every attack will be widely reported in the media—and that even an atrocity prevented spreads fear and so partly succeeds.
9:32 AM, Sep 26, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Eric Katz of Government Executive writes that Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., has:
… introduced a bill to “prohibit the access of a pornographic or other explicit website from a federal computer.”
You might think that this is the sort of thing that wouldn’t require legislation. Most federal employees would simply understand that while the public (their employer) expects a certain amount of loafing and a lot of make-work activity from federal employees, there is a limit. And if a worker doesn’t understand, then a supervisor somewhere will, of course, make things clear. “Find another way to waste taxpayer money, or you’re fired.”
You might think that, but you would be wrong. Meadows’ proposed legislation, it seems, was inspired by the case of:
… an Environmental Protection Agency employee … found to have spent an average of two-to-six hours per day watching pornography at work.
Seems that, four months later, in the absence of legislation and ordinary common sense:
... the employee -- who also stored more than 7,000 pornographic files on an agency server -- has not been fired … EPA has placed the chronic porn watcher -- who confessed to his habit after an inspector general office investigator walked in on the employee “actively viewing porn on his government-issue computer” -- on administrative leave, meaning he is not working but still receiving his paycheck.
Idle question: What exactly did he do on the rest of his workday to keep our environment clean and safe?
8:35 AM, Sep 26, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
A new chart from the minority side of the Senate Budget Committee shows a startling fact: Almost 1 in 4 Americans between the ages of 25-54 (or prime working years) are not working.
Here's a chart showing those in that age group currently employed (95.6 million) and those who aren't (28.9 million):
"There are 124.5 million Americans in their prime working years (ages 25–54). Nearly one-quarter of this group—28.9 million people, or 23.2 percent of the total—is not currently employed. They either became so discouraged that they left the labor force entirely, or they are in the labor force but unemployed. This group of non-employed individuals is more than 3.5 million larger than before the recession began in 2007," writes the Republican side of the Senate Budget Committee.
"Those attempting to minimize the startling figures about America’s vanishing workforce—workplace participation overall is near a four-decade low—will say an aging population is to blame. But in fact, while the workforce overall has shrunk nearly 10 million since 2009, the cohort of workers in the labor force ages 55 to 64 has actually increased over that same period, with many delaying retirement due to poor economic conditions.
"In fact, over two-thirds of all labor force dropouts since that time have been under the age of 55. These statistics illustrate that the problems in the American economy are deep, profound, and pervasive, afflicting the sector of the labor force that should be among the most productive."
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