|9:10 AM, Jan 20, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
Under President Obama, $7.5 trillion has been added to the national debt. The number is being highlighted by the Republican National Committee ahead of President Obama's State of the Union address, which will be delivered tonight from Washington.
As Obama Prepares To Paint A Rosy Picture Of His Presidency, A Look At The Numbers He Won't Mention
Total Debt Under Obama As Of January 14, 2014. (U.S. Treasury Department, Accessed 1/14/15)
Total Debt When Obama Became President On January 20, 2009. (U.S. Treasury Department, Accessed 1/9/15)
Amount Added To The National Debt Despite Obama's 2010 State Of The Union Declaration That He Would Not Leave "A Mountain Of Debt." (U.S. Treasury Department, Accessed 1/14/15; President Barack Obama, Remarks On The State Of The Union, Washington, D.C., 1/27/10)
Amount Of Debt That Obama Once Called "Irresponsible" And "Unpatriotic." (Sen. Barack Obama, Remarks At A Campaign Event, Fargo, ND, 7/3/08)
Cost Of ObamaCare's Coverage Provisions Through 2024. (CBO, 4/14/14)
Total Student Debt Held By Americans. (Federal Reserve Board Of Governors, Accessed 1/14/15)
Total Taxes In ObamaCare. (JCT, 6/15/12; CBO, 4/14/14)
Cost Of New Regulations Added Since Obama Became President. (American Action Forum, 1/6/15)
Cost Of Obama's Community College Tuition Plan Over Ten Years. ( TheAssociated Press , 1/9/15)
Average Amount Of Debt Added Daily Since Obama Became President. (U.S. Treasury Department, Accessed 1/14/15)
8:26 AM, Jan 20, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
Football great Mike Ditka says that, if he had an 8-year-old son right now, he wouldn't let him play football. He made the remarks in an episode of HBO's Real Sports, which will air tonight.
The Chicago Tribune has the exchange:
Ditka: “If you had an 8-year-old kid now, would you tell him you want him to play football?”
Gumbel: “I wouldn't. Would you?”
Ditka: “Nope. That's sad. I wouldn't. And my whole life was football. I think the risk is worse than the reward. I really do.”
The HBO piece will focus on drug use by the 1985 Chicago bears.
There have been numerous stories about the 1985 Chicago Bears, but none quite like this.
The upcoming edition of “Real Sports” (9 p.m. Tuesday, HBO) will feature a report by Bryant Gumbel that chronicles the players on that team using excessive painkillers and narcotics to overcome injuries and get back on the field. The report says that contributed to many of the former Bears players being severely debilitated nearly 30 years later.
Former Bears coach Mike Ditka even said if he had a young son today, he wouldn’t allow him to play football. Gumbel calls the ’85 Bears football’s “ultimate cautionary tale.”
Last May, former Bears quarterback Jim McMahon, defensive end Richard Dent and offensive tackle Keith Van Horne were among a group of retired players who accused the league in a lawsuit of supplying them with powerful painkillers and other drugs that kept them in the game but led to serious complications later in life. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages on behalf of more than 500 former players.
7:36 AM, Jan 20, 2015 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
ISIS continues waging war according to its own savage rules and no nation, it seems, is immune. As Jane Onyanga-Omara of USA Today reports:
A video purporting to show the Islamic State group threatening to kill two Japanese hostages unless they get a $200 million ransom in the next 72 hours was posted online Tuesday.
The video shows a black-clad, masked British-accented man standing between two hostages in orange jumpsuits who are identified in captions as Kenji Goto Jogo and Haruna Yukawa.
The video, called A message to the government and people of Japan, has been identified as being made by the Islamic State group's al-Furqan media arm and was posted on militant websites associated with the extremist group.
There is no reason to suspect that ISIS will not carry out the threat since it
… has beheaded and shot dead hundreds of captives — mainly Syrian and Iraqi soldiers — during its sweep across the two countries, and has celebrated its mass killings in extremely graphic videos. It also holds British photojournalist John Cantlie, who has appeared in other extremist propaganda videos, and a 26-year-old American woman captured last year in Syria while working for aid groups. U.S. officials have asked that the woman not be identified out of fears for her safety.
Last week, the group released a video purporting to show a child executing two men accused of being Russian spies who tried to infiltrate the militant organization in Syria.
6:10 AM, Jan 20, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer said over the weekend that President Obama's entire State of the Union plan would "absolutely not" be passed by Congress. Now the Associated Press is saying that speech's goal is to influence the 2016 presidential election debate.
"Key elements of the economic proposals President Barack Obama will outline in his State of the Union address Tuesday appear to be aimed at driving the debate in the 2016 election on income inequality and middle-class economic issues, rather than setting a realistic agenda for Congress.
"Obama's calls for increasing taxes on the wealthy, making community college free for many students and expanding paid leave for workers stand little chance of winning approval from the new Republican majority on Capitol Hill. But the debate over middle-class economics is looking critical for the coming campaign," writes the wire service.
As the nation's attention increasingly turns to the 2016 election, the Obama White House is making clear that it still wants to set the terms of the economic conversation.
"I think we should have a debate in this country between middle-class economics and trickle-down economics and see if we can come to an agreement on the things we do agree on," White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation."
The president's advisers argue that's a debate they have won previously, including in Obama's victory over Romney in the 2012 presidential campaign and the fiscal cliff fight with Congress that led to the raising of George W. Bush-era tax rates for the wealthiest Americans.
However, Obama no longer has the political advantage on Capitol Hill that he would need to enact more tax increases. When Obama addresses Congress Tuesday night, he will be standing before a Republican majority in both chambers for the first time in his presidency.
But there is an interesting wrinkle. As the AP notes, one of the key proposals is raising capital gains taxes. "The president's proposal would increase the capital gains rate on couples making more than $500,000 annually to 28 percent, require estates to pay capital gains taxes on securities at the time they're inherited, and slap a fee on the roughly 100 U.S. financial firms with assets of more than $50 billion."
Hillary Clinton, the prohibitive front-runner in the Democratic party, has opposed raising the capital gains tax above 20 percent, as the Washington Free Beacon notes:
Clinton goes unmentioned in the wire story.
Hosted by Michael Graham.4:37 PM, Jan 19, 2015 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with senior writer Mark Hemingway on why Hollywood's leftists hate the new box office sensation "American Sniper."
This podcast can be downloaded here. Subscribe to THE WEEKLY STANDARD's iTunes podcast feed here.
This podcast is brought to you by The Great Courses. Get up to 80% off by visiting this link.
4:31 PM, Jan 19, 2015 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Barack Obama and his disciples began worrying about his legacy even before he took office. He would not be satisfied to be judged competent or good. He was going to be a transformative president. He has been widely mocked for claiming that his election would mark the moment when the seas began to retreat and humanity would be spared the flood and so forth.
But behind the hyperbole, there was conviction. This administration would do big things. It would write its name on the pages of history.
Maybe. But if you are an ordinary American, trying to get by and possibly even get ahead, the legacy has already been written. And, as Howard Schneider at Reuters writes, it is not pretty.
Barack Obama enters the final two years of his presidency with a blemish on his legacy that looks impossible to erase: the decline of the middle class he has promised to rescue.
… for the middle class the scars of the recession still run deep. Federal Reserve survey data show families in the middle fifth of the income scale now earn less and their net worth is lower than when Obama took office.
That’s a legacy. Of sorts.
3:53 PM, Jan 19, 2015 • By JERYL BIER
Meeting with Italian defense officials in Rome Monday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey said that the threat to the world from Islamic terrorism is "probably a 30-year issue." The Army News Service reports:
The threat from Islamic terrorists will not get any easier, the chairman said.
"I think this threat is probably a 30-year issue," he said, noting that terrorists easily recruit young fighters via the Internet. Counter-messaging is one of the lines of strategy in defeating extremists, he said.
The military leaders also expressed concern about the infiltration of foreign fighters through Italy and other southern NATO countries:
There is concern, both sides noted, that foreign fighters could be moving through Italy's and NATO's southern flanks. Close to 170,000 refugees have come through Italy's shores in the past year.
Dempsey said the approach in dealing with extremism should consider the swath of countries from the Middle East to Africa, where ISIL and other terrorist groups operate.
In addition to terrorism, Gen. Dempsey singled out Russian aggression as the other main threat to the U.S. and its allies:
For the first time in a "very long time," the United States and its allies are facing the "very distinct threats" of a conventional state threat from Russia, Dempsey said, and the unconventional threat of terrorism from extremists.
Dempsey also praised Italy's cooperation in the fight against ISIL, as officials noted that the U.S. and Italy are the "top contributors of on-the-ground trainers and advisors who are enabling the Kurds and Iraqis in the fight against extremists."
2:35 PM, Jan 19, 2015 • By DANIEL DORON
Coming on the heels of a spate of revelations regarding corruption in the Israeli government – as well as worrisome signs of dysfunction in Israeli governance, exposed during last summer’s unresolved campaign against Hamas – the Israeli public was shocked again recently by yet more revelations of pervasive corruption in high places. Now a dark cloud on the political horizon, corruption (as well as its neglect by the authorities) shows signs of developing into a major political storm. It could deeply affect the upcoming March elections, in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have to defend his seat against a still fragmented - but very determined - opposition that will run on the slogan “anyone but Bibi.”
In recent days, dozens of officials and lobbyists connected with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beitenu party have been arrested. They are accused of involvement in elaborate scams to siphon off scores of millions of shekels in government allotments. Almost daily, an ongoing investigation reveals new cases of corruption and a wider network of miscreants, probably extending to other parties as well.
The plague has spread outside of the government. A major Israeli bank, Le’umi, was recently fined 1.4 billion shekels by U.S. regulators for facilitating tax evasion. Management in the semi-official Israel Electric Corporation received millions of Euros in bribes from the Siemens Corporation. Similar corruption charges have been leveled against Mekorot, Israel’s premier water management corporation. And even in retail markets across the country, price-gouging has become the norm, impoverishing a large part of Israel’s population.
“Is corruption endangering Israel?” a prominent columnist has wondered. The answer, alas, is yes. Not because corruption in Israel is so exceptional; corruption is lamentably common everywhere. But as the only country openly threatened with extinction, Israel cannot allow its social and moral fiber to be compromised. Corruption is undermining governability and the citizens’ faith in politics and government, as well as in their economic leadership.
Since Bismarck invented the welfare state, which, with excessive “takings,” became a major re-distributor of wealth, the nexus between politics and big money has become tighter. This is a chief source of corruption even in liberal democracies, let alone in former socialist regimes. Nowhere is this more true than in Israel. Corruption has progressively become so endemic in politics that it makes state agencies dysfunctional. As a result, services that the government is supposed to provide - health, education or even internal or external security - are deeply inadequate, thus causing great hardship for citizens and undermining the legitimacy of the government. Corruption also inhibits growth and is a heavy drag on the economy.
1:10 PM, Jan 19, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
The office of Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia has released this statement:
"While on vacation with his family in Africa, Governor McAuliffe was thrown from a horse, which resulted in seven broken ribs. While the injury did not impair his ability to do his job and his doctors expected the injury to heal on its own, today the identified increased fluid around his lungs that will require a procedure to remove. He is begin [sic] admitted today and is expected to be back in action after 2-3 days of recovery."
1:03 PM, Jan 19, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
In this week's newsletter, Bill Kristol reports the results of the un-scientific reader poll of the 2016 Republican presidential field:
There were 5,589 ballots cast in our Republican presidential primary poll--most by readers of this newsletter, some by other TWS readers who learned of the poll on our website or Twitter feed. As far as we can tell no campaign did much to try to stuff the ballot box, so while of course the poll isn't a scientific one, I suspect it does capture with some accuracy the preferences of WEEKLY STANDARD readers, or at least of the more politically engaged among you.
What did we learn? It really is a wide-open race. You were asked to vote for first, second and third choices among twenty possible candidates. Scott Walker led with 18% of the first place votes for first place, and appeared on 44% of the ballots as first, second or third choice. As you'll see, the other candidates were spread out behind--not much behind, and not far from one another. I'm confident that every other modern GOP race would at this point have had either a stronger front-runner or at least a stronger group of front-runners who would have dominated any poll far more than the leaders in this contest did. So the most important take-away from the poll is this, I think: not only isn't there a clear front-runner, there's not even a clear handful of front-runners.
Here's how the 19 candidates ranked (we've tossed out Paul Ryan, since he announced last week he's not running). The first number is the percentage of ballots the candidate was named on, whether as first, second or third choice (which I think is a more revealing number at this early point in the race than the first place choices alone). The second is the percentage the candidate received of first place votes.
Scott Walker--mentioned on 44% of the ballots as either first, second or third choice; first choice on 18%. Thus, 44/18.
Lindsey Graham, Joe Scarborough, Carly Fiorina, and Peter King were below two percent in total ballots and below one percent as first choices.
So basically, the TWS primary right now sorts into five groups: Scott Walker in the lead; Ted Cruz alone in second; Ben Carson and Mitt Romney effectively tied for third; a fourth group of Jindal, Bush, Rubio, Paul, Kasich, and Perry within hailing distance; and a fifth cluster of Huckabee, Bolton, Pence, Christie and Santorum who would have to be considered long shots.
11:45 AM, Jan 19, 2015 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
Alberto Nisman, the special prosecutor who had been investigating the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center (the AMIA building) in Argentina, has been found dead in his Buenos Aires apartment. Nisman was famous in intelligence and law enforcement circles for amassing evidence that implicates Iran in the AMIA attack, which left 85 people dead and hundreds more wounded. Early reports suggest that Nisman may have been murdered, but the circumstances surrounding his death are unclear.
Nisman had also accused senior Argentine officials, including President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, of protecting some of the Iranian officials responsible for the bombing. Kirchner and other officials scoffed at his claims. Nisman was reportedly set to testify before a congressional hearing today about the matter.
I did not know Nisman well, but I did meet with him some years ago. We discussed the evidence of Iran’s responsibility for the AMIA attack for several hours. I found his detailed knowledge of the players involved to be impressive and convincing.
INTERPOL also became convinced that various Iranian officials, and their terrorist proxies in Hezbollah, were responsible. In 2007, INTERPOL issued a Red Notice saying that six individuals were wanted in connection with the AMIA bombing.
For Nisman, the AMIA bombing was not a one-off event. It was part of a decades-long pattern of Iranian behavior.
From the Iranian regime’s perspective, terrorism is not some taboo. It is an instrument of statecraft to be employed around the world.
One of the terrorists listed in INTERPOL’s Red Notice was Imad Fayez Mughniyah, who served as Iran’s master terrorist until his assassination in 2008. It is widely assumed that the Israelis were responsible for Mughniyah’s death, by way of a car bombing, in Damascus. Mughniyah is a natural suspect in the AMIA attack. He was the godfather of modern suicide bombings, having patented the technique in Iran’s and Hezbollah’s earliest strikes against American interests, including the 1983 bombings of the U.S. Marine barracks and U.S. embassy in Beirut, Lebanon.
Al Qaeda’s founder, Osama bin Laden, was so impressed by the efficacy of Mughniyah’s operations, which helped force the U.S. out of Lebanon, that he reached out to the Shiite for help. As the 9/11 Commission and various other sources have confirmed, Mughniyah and Iran agreed to help al Qaeda in the early 1990s. They showed bin Laden and his subordinates how to execute simultaneous suicide attacks. Indeed, al Qaeda’s 1998 twin bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were consciously modeled after Mughniyah’s and Iran’s terror spree in the early 1980s.
11:07 AM, Jan 19, 2015 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The president is proposing more higher education (at the community college level) as a cure for our economic woes. Along with some substantial tax increases, of course. But is more college the answer? Or should we, perhaps, be concerned about the quality of the college we already have when, as Douglas Belkin writes at the Wall Street Journal:
Four in 10 U.S. college students graduate without the complex reasoning skills to manage white-collar work, according to the results of a test of nearly 32,000 students.
As with so many policy debates these days, the need is not so much for something new but for competence in the things we already do. As Belkin notes:
On average, [college] students make strides in their ability to reason, but because so many start at such a deficit, many still graduate without the ability to read a scatterplot, construct a cohesive argument or identify a logical fallacy.
So, not more spending to turn out substandard college graduates but remedies for a very expensive educational system that turns out substandard high school graduates.
9:02 AM, Jan 19, 2015 • By JERYL BIER
Throughout his presidency, Barack Obama has repeatedly said he isn't set on just implementing his own agenda -- if other people have ideas, he wants to hear them. In fact, the day after the 2014 elections when Republicans expanded their majority in the House and took control of the Senate, the president said, "I am very eager to hear Republican ideas for what they think we can do together over the next couple of years." But when it comes to the Republican response to his Tuesday State of the Union address, however, the president doesn't seem too interested in the American public hearing those Republican ideas.
Beginning with an email from Joe Biden last Friday night, the Obama administration is doing what it can to encourage viewers to eschew the traditional network broadcasts of the State of the Union and the subsequent response (this year from the new Iowa senator, Joni Ernst,) and instead view the president's speech online on the White House website. To hear the vice president tell it, watching the speech on WhiteHouse.gov is even better than hearing it on the floor of the House because online viewers get an "enhanced" speech.
[N]ew technologies have transformed the address from a simple letter to Congress into something that was broadcast over the radio and then over the television -- and the Founding Fathers wouldn't believe how folks are able to watch the speech today.
I'm telling you this because now the very best place you can watch the speech is not on the House floor -- it's at WhiteHouse.gov/SOTU.
There, you'll find all kinds of charts and graphics and data that you give a deeper look at the points the President will make in his speech. Because, as citizens, every one of us ought to be as informed as we possibly can about the actions our government takes. That's exactly what this "enhanced" speech does.
You won't just get an opportunity to hear, straight from the President, where we stand as a nation and what this Administration wants to see happen this year -- you'll get context that helps tell the story of where we've been and what these ideas mean for you personally.
hat the vice president fails to mention is that what viewers won't get is Sen. Joni Ernst delivering the Republican response. If viewers wish to hear Senator Ernst, they'll need to flip on the television for the regular broadcast, or click over to www.gop.gov/sotu, where the Republicans will be streaming the response live.
The email from the vice president is not the only way the White House is trying to attract online viewers. As of this weekend, visitors to WhiteHouse.gov are greeted by a banner declaring that the website is the "very best place to experience" the president's speech Tuesday.
7:23 AM, Jan 19, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
The Argentine prosecutor who accused President Cristina Fernandez of orchestrating a cover-up in the investigation of Iran over the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center has been found dead in his apartment, authorities said on Monday.
Alberto Nisman, who had been delving into the blast at the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people, said last Wednesday Fernandez had opened a secret back channel to a group of Iranians suspected of planting the bomb.
He had said the scheme intended to clear the suspects so Argentina could start swapping grains for much-needed oil from Iran, which denies any connection with the bombing.
"Alberto Nisman was found dead on Sunday night in his flat on the 13th floor of the tower Le Parc, in the Buenos Aires district of Puerto Madero," the Argentine Security Ministry said in a statement.
The ministry said Nisman's security guards had alerted his mother on Sunday afternoon that he was not answering his front door or phone, and the Sunday papers were still on his doorstep.
Nisman's mother found the door to his flat locked from the inside and had to get a locksmith to open it. She found her son's body on the floor of the bathroom, blocking the entrance, and called the police.
The Associated Press adds:
A special prosecutor who had accused Argentine President Cristina Fernandez of ordering impunity for Iranian suspects in the South American country's worst terrorist attack was found shot dead, authorities said Monday.
Alberto Nisman, who was set to testify Monday in a closed-door hearing, was found in the bathroom of his Buenos Aires apartment late Sunday, federal prosecutor Viviana Fein told Telam, Argentina's official news agency.
"We can confirm that it was a gunshot wound, .22 caliber," she said, adding that it was too early in the investigation to know what had happened.
Nisman had been appointed 10 years ago by Fernandez's late husband, then President Nestor Kirchner, to investigate the 1994 bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people and injured more than 200. In 2013, Argentina and Iran reached an agreement to investigate the attack, which remains unsolved.
That year, Nisman released an indictment accusing Iran and Hezbollah of organizing the blast. Iran denies any involvement.
Last week, Nisman accused Fernandez and other senior Argentine officials of agreeing not to punish at least two former Iranian officials in the case. He asked a judge to call Fernandez and others, including Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, for questioning.
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