|1:25 PM, Nov 29, 2013 • By NOAH POLLAK
Sheera Frenkel, Buzzfeed’s recently-hired Middle East correspondent, should know the Israel beat better than most: She reported from the country for more than seven years, speaks Hebrew fluently, and knows Israeli society intimately.
Yet after the Geneva agreement was announced, she filed a piece headlined, “Stung By Iranian Nuclear Deal, Netanyahu Prepares For Fallout At Home.” The article proposed that Israelis would blame their prime minister for the fact that President Obama signed a bad deal with Iran over his strenuous objections.
I too lived in Israel for several years and follow its politics closely, and was puzzled to read an interpretation of Israeli politics that would have the public blaming Netanyahu for defending a consensus opinion – that Obama’s diplomatic engagement with Iran spells trouble for the Jewish state. When Netanyahu clashed openly with President Obama in 2010 and 2011 over settlements and borders, Israelis sided with their prime minister over the American president. There is an even stronger consensus supporting a tough stand against Iran – so why would this time be different?
It’s not different this time, of course. But Frenkel, like many of the international journalists who report from Israel (she has since decamped to Cairo), doesn’t care for Netanyahu and is eager to report that most everyone else doesn’t care for him either. Thus the premise of her personal beliefs become the premise of her analysis: that President Obama’s diplomacy is sensible and realistic; that Netanyahu’s objections are the qualms of an uber-hawk who can’t accept the promise of the moment; that the public is more reasonable than its elected leader. Therefore, after the Iran deal, “the most immediate threat was to [Netanyahu’s] own domestic standing.”
Thankfully, Frenkel’s hypothesis is easily testable: What, in fact, did Netanyahu’s rivals say about his handling of the issue? And what do Israeli public opinion polls say about it?
Tzipi Livni, chair of the Hatnuah party and Israel’s leading dove, said after the first round of Geneva talks that “The prime minister is not mistaken: The deal is a bad one.”
Shimon Peres, Israel’s other leading dove (although as president, a ceremonial position, he is not an elected official), likewise said, “The P5+1 did not come to an agreement, and rightly so…a deal which does not prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power must not be signed.”
12:08 PM, Nov 29, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have joined immigration activists today on the National Mall. Via the White House pool report:
The presidential motorcade left the White House at 11:33 a.m. and arrived at National Mall the 11:42 a.m.
POTUS and FLOTUS came here to speak informally to a Fast For Families event where immigration advocates are fasting to call attention to the push for reform. His remarks were inaudible as the press pool was kept a distance away.
"The President and the First Lady are visiting individuals taking part in Fast For Families on the National Mall and offer their support for those who are fasting on behalf of immigration reform," said a White House official.
The White House official continued: "Since Nov. 12, immigration activists comprising Fast For Families have abstained from all food except water and are calling for the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives to take up action on comprehensive immigration reform. Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz and Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett have also visited Fast For Families in recent weeks."
UPDATE: More from the White House pool reporter:
Some more background from a White House official on the Fast For Families event POTUS and FLOTUS are at now on the National Mall:
"The President and First Lady were joined by 18 day fasters and two who have been fasting for 18 days: Eliseo Medina (seated to the President's left) and Dae Joong Yoon (seated to the First Lady's right)."
Here are a couple pictures:
11:33 AM, Nov 29, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The trials of Obamacare continue with a one-year postponement of the requirement for small business signups. The people who designed the scheme and are charged with implementing it are plainly having their problems. Which is to be expected … except that it wasn’t. They clearly thought it would all go off with hardly a hitch. And their failure to anticipate the problems may be more troubling than the problems themselves.
Now, we get a new take. Namely that the people for whom this grand vehicle was designed and built may not be up to driving it. As Dhruv Khullar of Politico reports, the question now being asked is:
Are consumers doomed to make poor choices about health plans? Maybe our brains just aren’t wired to use a site like HealthCare.gov, whether it works or not.
The smart people, in other words, may not have dumbed it down enough.
10:41 AM, Nov 29, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Blaise Misztal writes:
The recent interim deal with Iran has been variously described as “halting,” “freezing” and even “rolling back” Iran’s nuclear program. These terms, however, are a mischaracterization. Not only does Iran continue to accumulate enriched uranium under the interim deal, but it is actually possible for Iran to progress closer to an undetectable nuclear weapons capability without violating the terms of the agreement. Slowing the acceleration of most, but not all, aspects of Iran’s progress towards nuclear capability would be a more accurate characterization of the deal struck in Geneva.
Iran already has all the technology and materials to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a nuclear bomb—about 20 kilograms of uranium enriched above 90 percent, known as highly-enriched uranium (HEU). But if Iran had tried to do so before signing this deal, it would have needed about two months to complete the work. Before it could finish, however, inspectors for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who visit Iran’s nuclear facilities at least every two weeks, if not more often, would have noticed what the Iranians were doing and allowed the United States and its allies to intervene.
The time Iran would need to produce 20 kilograms of HEU—often referred to as its breakout timing—has been steadily dropping as Iran has advanced its nuclear weapons program. In fact, most analysts expected that by mid-2014 Iran would have achieved anundetectable nuclear weapons capability–the ability to breakout in less than a month, faster than it could practically be detected and stopped. (More on why this capability is significant, and tantamount to having a nuclear weapon, here.)
Whole thing here.
"The character of the citizenry ultimately is always the judgement of any society."12:30 PM, Nov 28, 2013 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with editor William Kristol on the virtues of Thanksgiving and Hannukah.
This podcast can be downloaded here. Subscribe to THE WEEKLY STANDARD's iTunes podcast feed here.
11:15 AM, Nov 28, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
It is the pièce de résistance in feast that includes, in my family’s case: smoked turkey with oyster stuffing, Smithfield ham, Brussels sprouts, green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and various other basics. For desert there will be pies: pecan, apple, pumpkin, shoo fly, and coconut cream. All manner of good things. But the fried turkey is the star of this show.
It is hard to beat deep fried turkey for pure excess and political incorrectness (food division). And there is the element of risk. How could you not love a main course that both the nutritionists and safety police find objectionable? It is a dish that inspires warnings labels for both coronary and fire hazards. If you indulge, the implied question is: will you perish of a stroke or be scalded to death in boiling lard?
Anecdotal evidence has turkey fryers selling briskly this season. People who purchase this item might also want to order a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit.
The inspiration for frying turkeys comes from the same culture that gave the world the turducken and if Cajun cuisine is about anything at all, it is excess. Which makes it perfect for Thanksgiving.
Some manufacturers have tried to take the fun out of things by developing devices that can safely fry a turkey. Fair enough. But the righteous method still calls for open flame a few inches from several quarts of hot grease. And as Fox News reports:
Every year deep-fryer fires are responsible for five deaths, 60 injuries, the destruction of 900 homes, and more than $15-million in property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Here, hold my beer and watch this.
If you choose to fry, then fry prudently. If such a thing is possible.
Enjoy and survive this special day. And don’t forget to discuss Obamacare as you are gathered around the groaning table.
10:24 AM, Nov 28, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
In his celebrated Thanksgiving proclamation, Abraham Lincoln struck his customary note of hope tinged with a kind of fatalistic melancholy.
The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God ...
... while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.
Slightly more than a century later, the never-ending Obama campaign has turned the occasion into a vehicle for cheap political messaging.
8:15 AM, Nov 28, 2013 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
On the one hand, this is a pretty dour Thanksgiving. Iran has just won an enormous diplomatic victory, which not only sets them on the road to nuclear weapons but makes the fecklessness of the Western powers clear to the world. Harry Reid's decision to destroy the filibuster signals an escalation in the ugliness of American politics. And let's not forget that we're still mired in a recovery that's looking more like the new normal with each passing week. Humbug.
But at least we've got Obamacare! Over the last several years the Republican party has proved inept at making a coherent, sustained argument either for conservative principles or against the perils of modern liberalism. They haven't even been capable of making effective arguments against the single most consequential—and unpopular!—piece of legislation in a generation: Obamacare. I don't want to name names, but the most important Republican figure of the last four years didn't even want to talk about Obamacare during the 2012 election.
Yet now that we actually have Obamacare in action, conservatism is no longer at the mercy of the Republican party. Because Americans now get to see first hand. And the argument makes itself.
This argument isn't just about the duplicity and hubris of Barack Obama. It's not even limited to the competence and trustworthiness of the Democratic party. It's about the civil compact, the nature of government, and the perfectibility of the kingdom of man.
Reagan himself couldn't have made a better case for conservative ideas than Obamacare is making daily. So, just for one day, let's be thankful for it.
Hosted by Michael Graham.3:45 PM, Nov 27, 2013 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with executive editor Fred Barnes on the President, Obamacare, and his (shocking!) favorite Thanksgiving side dish.
This podcast can be downloaded here. Subscribe to THE WEEKLY STANDARD's iTunes podcast feed here.
2:42 PM, Nov 27, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
Though news of a one year delay in the online Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) marketplace just broke early Wednesday afternoon (via Politico), Healthcare.gov wasted no time in updating the page on the website dealing with online functions of SHOP, though there is no notation that the page was revised. The page, formerly titled "How do I apply for coverage in the SHOP Marketplace?" has been revised to "How do I enroll in coverage through the SHOP Marketplace?" and has been scrubbed of all references to online enrollment and even online account creation. Here is a portion of the page as it currently appears:
As recently as this morning, the page appeared this way:
Notably, archived versions of the page in question are not available, because "webcrawlers" used by search engines such as Google have been blocked by what is known as a "robot.txt" page on the site. (THE WEEKLY STANDARD had a screenshot of the SHOP coverage page on file prior to Wednesday's revision.) As shown here, the SHOP apply-for-coverage page and several others have been blocked from archiving by Healthcare.gov:
The same thing was done in mid-September to the "creating an account" page when the Account Creation feature was taken offline weeks before the October 1 launch.
A related question, "How do my employees sign up for SHOP?" has been removed entirely and is met with a "Sorry, we can't find that page" message. That page has appeared as follows:
An archived version of that page is still available.
1:27 PM, Nov 27, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Everyone could use a nice government subsidy and bailouts aren’t just for broke car companies and derelict banks anymore. Baseball teams need that same kind of taxpayer love. No surprise then, as Mark Segraves of NBC’s channel 4 in Washington reports:
The Washington Nationals want to put a roof over Nationals Park, and they want D.C. taxpayers to pick up the tab.
The ballplayers are well paid, of course, and they don’t give the tickets away just for the asking. Still:
District taxpayers put up about $700 million to build the ballpark in 2006.
The new roof will run about $300 million so the Nats will be playing in a billion dollar ballpark, paid for by the citizens who will have no say in the making of trades, when pitches are yanked, and when to put on the hit-and-run. Savage example of taxation without representation.
11:27 AM, Nov 27, 2013 • By MICHAEL WARREN
On Tuesday night, Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner debated MSNBC host Chris Hayes and former Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke over the question of the religious freedom and Obamacare's mandate that employers provide insurance that covers contraception. Watch the video below:
The Supreme Court announced this week that it will hear the case of two private companies, including retailer Hobby Lobby, objecting to the Obamacare regulations.
10:14 AM, Nov 27, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
The Internal Revenue Service is conducting a pilot program allowing IRS employees to use personal smart phones to access government email accounts and other work related information. The program is known as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has raised concerns about the security and cost-effectiveness of the program in a recent report:
TIGTA expressed concern that the IRS allows BYOD devices access to resources on the IRS network in addition to e-mail access. This increases the risk that privacy and taxpayer data could be compromised. TIGTA also raised concerns about allowing devices based on the Android operating system to participate in the BYOD pilot, because these devices are more subject to malware than the Apple devices tested in earlier phases.
“A Bring Your Own Device program could provide significant benefits and even potential cost savings,” said J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. “However, the IRS must conduct a thorough, realistic cost-benefit analysis before such a program’s benefit can be appropriately ascertained.”
Among the recommendations made by TIGTA are restricting the program to email access only, and delaying Android-device access completely until a risk assessment addressing security concerns is conducted. The IRS agreed with all of TIGTA's recommendations except the Android device delay. TIGTA remains unsatisfied with the IRS's response to the findings in the report:
TIGTA believes that some of the corrective actions proposed by the IRS are inadequate because they are contingent on BYOD expansion or additional funding. The relevant controls should be put in place for the existing BYOD effort, which does not have a clear end date and which is being used by hundreds of employees and devices within the production environment.
9:15 AM, Nov 27, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
An Obamacare event in Arkansas offered a prize for those who attended: Free condoms.
The Obamacare event took place at the University of Central Arkansas last weekend. It was hosted by a group called the Living Affected Corporation, which apparently has received a grant from the federal government to educate the public about Obamacare.
The event organizer spilled out a bag of condoms -- as a couple whoops and hollers could be heard from the small crowd.
Then she says, "Ok, if anyone wants a paper application," but she interrupts herself to pickup condoms that had fallen on the floor. "I have those as well."
"So when you're leaving, you can stop by my table and I'll give you whatever -- condoms -- that box has a bunch in it. Anyway ... Our corporation, LA Corp ... And I'm waiting on my dental dams and female condom order that still hasn't come in. If you ever need condoms, let me know because we have thousands -- boxes of magnums, we get magnums a lot. So here is the prize table."
The condom give-away was a training event with young Democrats, I'm told.
And Will Continue 'Construction Work at Arak Nuclear Facility.'8:43 AM, Nov 27, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Iran will continue to enrich uranium under the new nuclear deal, according to the Iranian foreign minister.
"Iran’s Foreign Minister says the country’s enrichment activities at Natanz and Fordow facilities would continue, but at a range of 3.5 to 5 percent purity level, and that their capacities would not be expanded," reports the Iranian propaganda outlet Press TV.
"Addressing Iranian lawmakers on Wednesday, Mohammad Javad Zarif added based on the recent deal between Iran and the Sextet, construction work at Arak nuclear facility, in central Iran, will continue but no new fuel will be produced and no new equipment will be installed."
The Iranian foreign minister is saying that his people shouldn't be concerned since there were "no such plans for the six-month period" of deal to be doing things too differently.
“We will refrain from constructing new enrichment sites over the next six months, and the fact [of the matter] is the administration has had no such plans for the six-month period,” the Iranian foreign minister said.
He also said the final step in negotiations between Tehran and the Sextet- Britain, China, France, Russia the US and Germany- is to normalize Iran’s nuclear case and not merely the removal of sanctions imposed against the country by the UN Security Council (UNSC).
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