Hosted by Michael Graham.4:45 PM, Nov 26, 2013 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with editor William Kristol on the repeated "pivots" by President Obama to the economy that appear not to be doing any good.
This podcast can be downloaded here. Subscribe to THE WEEKLY STANDARD's iTunes podcast feed here.
4:26 PM, Nov 26, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Today in Afghanistan, as Gayle Tzemach Lemmon at Defense One reports:
Women, denied the right to work and go to school under the Taliban, now make up a quarter of the country’s parliament. They are entrepreneurs, doctors, health care workers and teachers. A network of women’s shelters now takes in girls and women beaten at home who are trying to escape violent marriages and families in a country where such violence is widespread. Some brides have barely reached their teens; others are even younger. Now, while the violence continues, they have a place to go to seek sanctuary.
None of this is guaranteed to last. Seems, in fact, certain not to if the Karzai government does not sign the agreement approved by the:
Afghan grand assembly known as the loya jirga [that] okayed a U.S.-Afghanistan security deal hashed out over months of diplomatic wrangling. The agreement paves the way for up to 15,000 troops to remain in the country. But Afghan President Hamid Karzai surprised U.S. diplomats by saying he wanted to wait until next year to sign it.
Karzai is backing and filling and Susan Rice, head of the National Security Council made a hasty trip to Afghanistan to warn him of the consequences of not signing. These come down, in short, to the end of U.S. and NATO assistance after 2014. Thus ending the country’s brief enlightenment which is already fading as it appears that for women found guilty of adultery:
Stoning may once again become the law.
3:15 PM, Nov 26, 2013 • By JAMES C. CAPRETTA
The past two months have laid bare the emptiness of the president’s most prominent Obamacare promises. Millions are losing the plans they have and like against their wishes, contrary to the president’s oft-repeated pledge. And those being forced into Obamacare could lose access to the doctors and hospitals they trust, also contrary to assurances from the president. The evidence demonstrating that these commitments cannot be met is so overwhelming that even the administration has abandoned defense of the president’s previous statements.
But there’s still one claim the Obama administration hasn’t yet admitted will not come true, which is that Obamacare will drive overall health costs down, rather than up. More precisely, the administration continues to insist that the law is responsible for slowing the pace of rapidly rising health costs and will continue to slow the growth of such costs in the future, with great economic benefits for families and the entire country.
That’s the contention in a just released white paper from the president’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA). But the CEA paper is just as misleading and flawed as previous efforts to defend the president’s other discredited promises. The clear evidence indicates that precisely the opposite of what CEA asserts is true.
The CEA paper attempts to make the case for Obamacare by looking at trends from the most recent release of National Health Expenditure (NHE) projections. The NHE data, compiled by the independent Office of the Actuary in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), does show a slowdown in health spending in recent years. NHE spending growth per capita has averaged 3.1 percent since 2010, down from 5.9 percent in the previous decade.
But the slowdown did not start abruptly in 2010. In 2002, NHE spending per capita rose 8.5 percent and then began to slow over the ensuring years. In 2008, NHE spending per capita rose just 3.7 percent – two years before Obamacare was enacted.
Though the CEA paper fails to mention it, the HHS actuaries recently published their own paper explaining in detail why their estimates of health costs over the coming decade are lower now than they were a few years ago. They pointed to economic conditions, fiscal policy changes (such as the 2 percent sequester of Medicare payments), and a slowdown in growth in Medicaid, Medicare, and other government programs due to factors unrelated to Obamacare.
2:46 PM, Nov 26, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
John Kerry today thanked rapper Ludacris for helping the victims of Typhoon Haiyan:
The tweet signed "JK" signifies that it's from John Kerry himself.
2:08 PM, Nov 26, 2013 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
The Washington Post's Sarah Kliff reports:
With dozens of lawsuits on the issue already filed, the Supreme Court announced Tuesday that it would take up two private companies' challenges to the health law's birth control mandate.
Obamacare, in other words, is headed back to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court will hear two challenges to the requirement that all employers provide birth control coverage to their workers. One comes from craft store chain Hobby Lobby and the other from Conestoga Wood Specialties, a custom cabinet-making company in Pennsylvania.
The owners of both companies have argued that the requirement to provide employers with contraceptive coverage is a violation of their religious liberty.
Although the case may determine whether or not Catholic employers are required to provide--and their employees are required to purchase--health plans that cover birth control, it's worth noting that the Hobby Lobby, which is owned by evangelical Christians, doesn't object to covering contraception.
"The Green family has no objection to preventative birth control, and they will continue to cover this in their comprehensive health insurance plan for their employees," Hobby Lobby employee Mandi Broadfoot explains in this video. The owners simply object to Obamacare's requirement that pills that can induce early abortions must also be covered.
If Hobby Lobby wins, it would turn back the clock in America all the way to the year 2012. If you can remember what life was like back then, most employers covered birth control and the federal government spent hundreds of millions of dollars providing it to the poor, low-income Americans, and the uninsured:
Today, in the United States, the federal government does not force insurers to provide free contraception. Yet contraception is as widely available as it is cheap. Most insurance policies cover it. The federal government gives birth control to the poor through Medicaid. The federal government spends an additional $300 million per year to provide it to low-income and uninsured Americans who don’t qualify for Medicaid—spending that the staunchest conservatives in Congress supported even when Republicans controlled the presidency, the Senate, and the House. If a middle- or upper-income woman happens to be in one of the small number of plans that don’t cover contraception—say, an employee at a college run by Catholic nuns—she can buy birth control pills for as little as $9 per month at Target.
12:35 PM, Nov 26, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The headline on the Washington Post story by Jim Tankersley and Scott Clement reads:
Among American workers, poll finds unprecedented anxiety about jobs, economy
The article is especially depressing, coming in the season when we give thanks for our blessings and celebrate the bounty of the land. But the facts don’t take off for the holidays, so:
More than six in 10 workers in a recent Washington Post-Miller Center poll worry that they will lose their jobs to the economy, surpassing concerns in more than a dozen surveys dating to the 1970s. Nearly one in three, 32 percent, say they worry “a lot” about losing their jobs, also a record high, according to the joint survey, which explores Americans’ changing definition of success and their confidence in the country’s future.
Meanwhile, as Justin Sink of The Hill reports:
The White House, for at least the fifth time this year, is seeking to pivot to the economy, this time in a bid to change the subject from the disastrous rollout of ObamaCare. It’s a common play for the White House, which frequently seeks to refocus attention on its jobs and infrastructure agenda when facing political crises.
One wonders if the White House even has the ability to do something that would ease the anxieties of those who fear for their livelihoods. Or if the “pivot” and “refocusing,” is just another head fake and a part of the game.
11:36 AM, Nov 26, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Michelle Jamrisko of Bloomberg reports:
Confidence among U.S. consumers unexpectedly declined in November to a seven-month low as Americans grew more pessimistic about the labor-market outlook.
Unexpectedly? Have those who expected something different never heard of cause and effect? Or Obamacare? Or, perhaps they were anticipating the latest of five "pivots to the economy” on the part of the White House and assumed that it would reassure consumers like nothing else possibly could.
10:04 AM, Nov 26, 2013 • By MICHAEL WARREN
The politics of Obamacare have erased a lead Democrats once held in the generic congressional ballot for the 2014 elections, according to a new poll from CNN. Here are the details:
A new CNN/ORC International poll indicates a dramatic turnaround in the battle for control of Congress in next year's midterm elections.
Democrats a month ago held a 50%-42% advantage among registered voters in a generic ballot, which asked respondents to choose between a Democrat or Republican in their congressional district without identifying the candidates.
That result came after congressional Republicans appeared to overplay their hand in the bitter fight over the federal government shutdown and the debt ceiling.
But the Democratic lead has disappeared. A new CNN/ORC poll indicates the GOP now holds a 49%-47% edge.
The new poll follows other recent surveys that show Democrats losing ground to Republicans amid the Obamacare rollout.
Republican candidates for the House of Representatives, meanwhile, are reading the political tea leaves and running hard against Democratic supporters of Obamacare in next year's elections:
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Florida congresswoman and chair of the Democratic National Committee, is nothing if not dedicated to the cause. “You’re darn right our candidates are going to run on the advantage that Obamacare will be going into the 2014 election,” she recently told CNN.
But as the news about the president’s health care law goes from bad to worse—a faulty website and low enrollment gave way to higher premiums and a steady stream of cancellation letters—congressional Democrats will likely want to talk about anything but Obamacare on the trail. In fact, it’s a number of Republican challengers who say Obamacare will work to their advantage next November.
One of them is Elise Stefanik, a 29-year-old Republican from upstate New York’s North Country region trying to unseat Democratic congressman Bill Owens. Owens, who won his seat in a 2009 special election, voted for Obamacare in 2010. The district is large and rural, mostly white and middle- or working-class, traditionally Republican but now split evenly between the parties. Stefanik says nearly 90 percent of questions she receives from voters at town halls these days concern their uncertainty about the status of their health insurance under Obamacare. In St. Lawrence County, one of the most reliably Democratic in the district, people took the microphone one after another to tell their personal stories. “Each one would say, ‘This is what I was paying, this is what I’m paying now,’ ” Stefanik says.
9:05 AM, Nov 26, 2013 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
The second line of the new nuclear deal with Iran is curious, to say the least: “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons.”
This is an Iranian talking point. Iran claims that all of its nuclear work is peaceful. But Iran is not trustworthy. Thus, it is curious that the Iranian talking point would be included as a given in the preamble to the new deal, as it was.
Incredibly, the rest of the agreement includes no mention of the evidence indicating that the Iranians have been seeking to develop a nuclear weapon, despite their denial.
This evidence is hardly a secret.
On November 14, the IAEA published a report detailing the current state of Iran’s nuclear program.
“Since 2002,” the report reads, “the Agency has become increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.”
This language echoed earlier IAEA analyses. The evidence was first set forth in the annex to the Agency’s November 2011 report. The IAEA’s assessment has not weakened since then.
The IAEA’s November 14 report continues (footnotes omitted, emphasis added):
This information is assessed by the Agency to be, overall, credible. Iran has dismissed the Agency’s concerns, largely on the grounds that Iran considers them to be based on unfounded allegations. Since November 2011, the Agency has obtained more information which further corroborates the analysis contained in that Annex.
Thus, the new deal glosses over one of principal issues negotiators should be seeking to settle. The Iranians deny that they have engaged in “activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.” But the IAEA – including in a report filed less than two weeks ago – says that the evidence against the Iranians’ denial has only grown stronger since it was first revealed to the world two years ago.
Is the Obama administration laboring under the illusion that Iran’s denial of any military-related work is, to a large extent, credible? It certainly appears that way.
During a news conference in late September, President Obama said he was optimistic about the possibility of reaching a diplomatic compromise. “I do believe that there is a basis for resolution,” Obama said. “Iran’s supreme leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons.” Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has cited the same alleged fatwa.
8:08 AM, Nov 26, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Steve Hayes, with Mara Liasson and Charles Krauthammer, last night on Fox News:
6:53 AM, Nov 26, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
At a Beverly Hills estate last night, President Obama heard a complaint from a major donor: There's no valet parking at the White House. The complaint was made by Haim Saban, who hosted a fundraiser with the president last night.
Via the pool report:
Haim Saban introduced President Obama with a four-minute speech that needled the commander in chief for the lack of valet parking at the White House.
Saban said, “Last Friday, the president and first lady were very generous and kind with their time, they invited us to the White House for a very small intimate dinner. And we had a wonderful time – great food, great company, very inspiring. No valet parking! You know what? I had to walk to the White House. We have valet parking at the Sabans! So, Mr. President, if you would, please, thank you. Taxpayers’ money? I’ll fund it, no problem.”
President Obama responded to the valet parking complaint:
President Obama then spoke for about 14 minutes. He began by saying, “Now, let me clarify something. First of all, there was valet parking – for Cheryl. We thought it was appropriate for Haim to get some exercise. Cheryl, being the wonderful person that she is, declined the valet parking, and so she might have joined him. But I would have been happy to have her drive right up into the South Lawn.”
The Democratic fundraiser was attended by heavy hitters:
The dinner was attended by about 120 people who paid ticket prices from $16,200 per person to $32,400 per couple, according to a DCCC official. Speakers included Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, DCCC Chairman Steve Israel, DSCC Chairman Michael Bennet, and Cheryl and Haim Saban, according to a DCCC official. Notable attendees included Jacqueline & Clarence Avant, Amb. Nicole Avant & Ted Sarandos; Edythe & Eli Broad; Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti; Berry Gordy; Tom Hanks & Rita Wilson; Jena & Michael King, Wendy & Barry Meyer; Paul Reiser. Additional Senators and Members of Congress expected to attend: Congressman Xavier Becerra, Congresswoman Karen Bass, Congresswoman Judy Chu, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, Congressman Adam Schiff, Congressman Brad Sherman and Senator Barbara Boxer.
5:59 PM, Nov 25, 2013 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman writes that Obamacare is a success in California, and the Golden State experience is proof that the entire program would be great if they could just get that darn website to work.
Krugman's column doesn't discuss the quality or cost of the health plans offered on the California exchange at all. To make his case, Krugman cites precisely two pieces of data. First, he notes that "enrollment is surging. At this point, more than 10,000 applications are being completed per day, putting the state well on track to meet its overall targets for 2014 coverage." Second, he writes that California has a "balanced risk pool — that is, it must sign up young, healthy Americans as well as their older, less healthy compatriots. And so far, so good: in October, 22.5 percent of California enrollees were between the ages of 18 and 34, slightly above that group’s share of the population."
"What we have in California, then, is a proof of concept," writes Krugman. "Yes, Obamacare is workable — in fact, done right, it works just fine."
But in reality, the numbers are not impressive. Obamacare has canceled the existing insurance policies of 1.1 million Californians (something Krugman doesn't mention), and only 80,000 Californians had signed up for Obamacare by the middle of November (another thing Krugman doesn't mention). Is it really much of a surprise that 10,000 people are signing up for Obamacare each day if a million lost their plans and have nowhere else to turn?
Health care industry consultant Bob Laszewski looks at the California numbers and is left scratching his head:
- California has 5.3 million uninsured eligible to buy in the exchange with half estimated to be subsidy eligible.
- California is cancelling another 1.1 million people of which Covered California has estimated 510,000 qualify for a subsidy they can only get if they go to Covered California. At least 80% need to act by December 23 to avoid losing their coverage.
- The state is spending $250 million in federal money to get people signed up––dramatically more than any other state.
- The Covered California goal is to sign-up 500,000 to 700,000 subsidy eligible people by March 31.
Why should we be so impressed with Covered California because they have signed-up 80,000 people so far? Or, even that their goal is to sign-up 500,000 to 700,000 of the state's 6.4 million people––half subsidy eligible––who are uninsured or having their insurance canceled?
Looking at these numbers, if they don't have well more than 500,000 people signed up by December 31, I would have to think the number of uninsured in California would have grown.
5:42 PM, Nov 25, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
At a stop in San Francisco on a three-day fund raising swing along the West Coast, President Obama said during a speech that "sometimes people forget I'm not running for office again." The president was talking about Republicans in Congress and the immigration reform that he is trying to get through the House:
And some of them even forget that I'm -- sometimes people forget I'm not running for office again. Michelle doesn’t forget. (Laughter and applause.) So you don’t have to worry about this somehow being good for me. This is good for the country. It's the right thing to do for the American people.
A remark the president made at his first stop on the tour, the Seattle home of Jon Shirley, may give some insight into why some forget the president isn't running again:
Well, first of all, let me just thank Jon for the second time for his incredible hospitality. And I think it’s fair to say that between Nancy and me and Steve Israel, we do a lot of events. I will say that this particular space is one of the more spectacular venues for an event.
The president's schedule lists several Democrat party events for Monday alone:
Hosted by Michael Graham.5:30 PM, Nov 25, 2013 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with senior editor Lee Smith on Iran, the Geneva deal the U.S. has struck, and his recent piece "Kerry Says 'No Daylight'".
This podcast can be downloaded here. Subscribe to THE WEEKLY STANDARD's iTunes podcast feed here.
4:13 PM, Nov 25, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Adam Kredo reports for the Washington Free Beacon:
The final details of a nuclear agreement signed over the weekend between Iran and Western nations will not actually go into effect until further negotiations take place at a later date, according to a senior administration official and sources on Capitol Hill.
Even as Iran and the P5+1 announced late Saturday night that they had reached a six-month interim deal that curbs Iran’s nuclear program while giving Tehran the ability to continue some uranium enrichment activities, it is now clear that the six-month freeze will not go into effect until the P5+1 negotiators and Iran agree to a final plan to implement the interim agreement.
“Technical details to implement the Joint Plan of Action must be finalized before the terms of the Plan begin,” a senior administration official told the Washington Free Beacon on Monday. “The P5+1 and Iran are working on what the timeframe is.”
Congressional sources confirmed that the freeze would not actually begin until the parties agree to sign a supplemental agreement that puts the framework into effect.
That means the six-month clock referenced by the administration and media has not yet started. Iran can continue its most controversial nuclear activities as negotiators work to finalize the interim deal reached over the weekend.
Whole thing here.
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