|5:13 PM, Sep 18, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
A powerful speech on foreign policy by Florida senator Marco Rubio:
Here's the prepared text of the address:
I join you today at a time of extraordinary upheaval around the world.
At the beginning of this year, many had never heard of ISIL – now the American people grieve the murder of two of our own journalists and the expanding arc of death and destruction across the Middle East at the hand of this terrorist group.
At the beginning of this year, many would have never guessed Russia would upend decades of regional balance and challenge European security – now we’ve seen a Russian invasion of Ukraine and innocent travelers murdered in the sky.
At the beginning of this year, few would have guessed this administration would abandon one of our closest allies in its time of need – now we’ve seen our president remain neutral while Hamas rained terror down on Israel.
And these are just three on a long list of global crises. Peaceful protestors in Venezuela continue to be met with violence from their own government, China continues its provocations in the South China Sea, innocent Syrians continue to be slaughtered at the whim of a tyrant – and the list goes on.
The American people watch these events unfold with growing concern. And today, a debate rages across the country, in the halls of Congress, and almost certainly among administration officials – but while the events fueling this debate are new, the debate itself is not.
Ever since the birth of our Republic, the proper strength of our military, and the proper application of that strength around the world, has been a point of contention among our people and our leaders.
There have always been those who argue that America shouldn’t concern herself with the affairs of the world – that what happens an ocean away bears little relevance to our people.
Thankfully, there have also always been those who disagree – who argue that foreign policy is domestic policy, that our people’s interests and safety require defense capabilities so robust that they deter aggression and violence before they take hold around the world.
George Washington was one such leader. When he delivered the first ever State of the Union address, he asserted the need for American Strength. “To be prepared for war,” he said, “is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.”
But many in Congress disagreed. They assumed our hard-won independence meant the threats of the Old World had finally become irrelevant – that domestic issues could at last occupy our full focus. So against Washington’s wishes, they cut our Navy’s funding, leading it to be decommissioned.
3:22 PM, Sep 18, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
President Obama addressed troops at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida on Wednesday regarding his strategy to "degrade and destroy ISIL," but also reminded the audience about his plans for the U.S. military in Afghanistan [emphasis added]:
"In three months, our combat mission will be over in Afghanistan & our war in Afghanistan will come to a responsible end." —President Obama
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) September 17, 2014
Listeners could be forgiven is these words sound familiar. Less than three years ago, President Obama had this to say about Iraq:
As a candidate for President, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end -- for the sake of our national security and to strengthen American leadership around the world... So today, I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over. As Commander-in-Chief, ensuring the success of this strategy has been one of my highest national security priorities... Iraqis have taken full responsibility for their country’s security.
In spite of the president's words in October 2011 that "ensuring the success of [the Iraq troop withdrawal] strategy has been one of my highest national security priorities," he went on to explain in his Wednesday speech at MacDill Air Force Base the new strategy for reversing ISIL's gains in Iraq and the region in the wake of the US pull-out. The White House's recent acknowledgement that the U.S. is indeed "at war" with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria seems a tacit admission that not only was the Iraq war not ended responsibly, it didn't end at all. In this light, President Obama's new assurances that he is bringing "our war in Afghanistan ... to a responsible end" by year's end may ring hollow.
2:52 PM, Sep 18, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The president of the National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council, Kenneth Palinkas, says in a press release the immigration system may be exploitable by the terrorist army ISIS.
“The National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council represents 12,000 dedicated immigration caseworkers and adjudicators who are on the front lines in the fight to keep terrorists out of the United States. In addition to the extremely real and serious threat that ISIS has already or will soon slip across our porous southern border, it is also essential to warn the public about the threat that ISIS will exploit our loose and lax visa policies to gain entry to the United States. Indeed, as we know from the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, from the 9/11 terrorist attacks, from the Boston Bombing, from the recent plot to bomb a school and courthouse in Connecticut, and many other lesser-known terror incidents, we are letting terrorists into the United States right through our front door," says Palinkas.
Unfortunately – and perilously overlooked in Washington – our caseworkers are denied the urgent professional resources, enforcement tools, and mission support we need to keep out those who are bent on doing us harm. In fact, this Administration has widened the loopholes that terrorists could use to gain entry to the United States through our asylum system. The Administration has also blocked our partners in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from enforcing visa overstays. The 9/11 hijackers got into the U.S. on visas and now, 13 years later, we have around 5 million immigrants in the United States who overstayed their visas – many from high-risk regions in the Middle East. Making matters more dangerous, the Obama Administration’s executive amnesty, like S. 744 that he unsuccessfully lobbied for, would legalize visa overstays and cause millions additionally to overstay – raising the threat level to America even higher. There is no doubt that there are already many individuals in the United States, on visas – expired or active – who are being targeted for radicalization or who already subscribe to radicalized views.
Many millions come legally to the U.S. through our wide open immigration policy every year – whether as temporary visitors, lifetime immigrants, refugees, asylum-seekers, foreign students, or recipients of our ‘visa waiver program’ which allows people to come and go freely. Yet our government cannot effectively track these foreign visitors and immigrants. And those who defraud authorities will face no consequence at all in most cases. Our caseworkers cannot even do in-person interviews for people seeking citizenship, they cannot enforce restrictions on welfare use, and they even lack even the basic office space to properly function. Applications for entry are rubber-stamped, the result of grading agents by speed rather than discretion. We’ve become the visa clearinghouse for the world.
Finally, I would note the failed ‘transformation’ computer system into which this government has poured $2 billion dollars. This system is an attempt to replace human judgment with a rote computer program, and has proven to be an absolute failure. The answer is more in-person interviews, more officers and adjudicators, not to undertake the ‘transformation’ of our immigration system by removing human judgment.
1:08 PM, Sep 18, 2014 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
A new poll finds that 58 percent of likely voters are “more likely” to support members of Congress who vote to stop Obamacare’s taxpayer bailout of insurance companies. Half of that 58 percent (29 percent) are “much” more likely to do so. Meanwhile, only 15 percent of likely voters are “less likely” to support such members, with only 6 percent being “much” less likely to support them. In other words, almost four times as many voters would reward members of Congress for voting to stop the bailout as would punish them for doing so.
These are the findings of a new poll taken by McLaughlin & Associates and commissioned by the 2017 Project. The specific question was, “Would you be more or less likely to support a member of Congress who votes to stop the taxpayer bailout of insurance companies?”
In all, the poll finds that 73 percent of likely voters oppose the bailout. It asked, “Do you approve or disapprove of having taxpayers bail out private insurance companies who lose money selling health insurance under Obamacare?” Only 18 percent of likely voters said they approve of the bailout, while only 7 percent “strongly” approve of it — compared to 53 percent who “strongly” oppose it.
Jim Capretta writes that Obamacare’s insurer bailout “is one of the most important features of the entire law,” as it incentivizes insurers to lowball premiums to increase their market share, while counting on having taxpayers then cover most of their resulting losses. He writes that congressional Republicans should therefore make stopping the bailout “among their highest legislative priorities.” The House Oversight Committee recently surveyed insurers and found that 80 percent of them (12 of 15) expect to get bailed out this year, which will cost taxpayers about $1 billion and will benefit Obamacare.
In sum, the insurer bailout is unpopular by a margin of more than 4 to 1. By nearly that same 4-to-1 margin, voters are more likely to support a member of Congress who votes to keep it from happening. And ending the bailout would hurt Obamacare and help pave the way to repeal and then real reform.
All of this invites the question: Why aren’t House Republicans voting to stop this bailout before skipping town?
12:15 PM, Sep 18, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
A new study from the American Action Forum finds that "1.9 Million Americans [Are] Falling into the ACA Created 'Family Glitch.'"
AAF defines the glitch by saying it "happens when an individual is offered employer sponsored health insurance but the offer is not extended to that person’s family."
The ACA promises Medicaid coverage to anyone whose household income places them below 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) —contingent on states agreeing to expand their programs. Those above 138 percent, and up to 400 percent FPL, are eligible for tax subsidies to purchase insurance in a state-established Health Insurance Exchange under the ACA—assuming no one in their family is offered affordable employer-sponsored insurance (ESI).
This provision of the law lacks clarity on the point of whether or not the coverage offered must be family coverage, or whether individual coverage is sufficient. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), through rule making, has interpreted the statute as only requiring an employer to offer individual coverage, and pegged affordability at 9.5 percent of the employee’s household income. The glitch occurs when one (or both) spouses are offered affordable individual ESI under the IRS definition, but family coverage is either not offered or is unaffordable. Spouses and children of an employee offered ESI could be unable to afford the employer plan, but because it is offered to one family member, the rest are made ineligible for subsidies in the Exchanges.
The IRS has determined that its interpretation of the law was the least disruptive available interpretation of the ambiguous language of the statute. This is in spite of the fact that the IRS’ interpretation contributed to the creation of the Family Glitch. The IRS has therefore decided not to enforce the individual mandate against families with members impacted by the glitch.
The breakdown of the estimated 1.9 million Americans is as follows: "We estimate this glitch will impact 1.93 million Americans. Up to 947,000 spouses and 984,000 children could be left uninsured by this conundrum. Up to 428,000 women will fall into the glitch, and 519,000 adult men. An additional 2.28 million children could fall into this glitch when the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) funding expires or if it is altered."
12:02 PM, Sep 18, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Here's a petition from facultyforacademicfreedom.org/ going around "to Oppose Boycotts of Israel's Academic Institutions, Scholars, and Students." The text of the petition reads:
We, the undersigned academics, (faculty, full time and part time, academic staff including librarians, researchers, post doctorates,technicians and technologists, administrators, and trustees) vigorously support free speech and free debate but we oppose faculty or student boycotts of Israel’s academic institutions, scholars and students.
Our opposition is rooted in the following core principles.
1. Academic freedom: The BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement discriminates against Israeli institutions, professors, and students for no other reason than their nationality and the policies of their government. Thus BDS violates the very principle of academic freedom. Academic boycotts such as those promoted by BDS activists “are antithetical to the fundamental principles of the academy, where we will not hold intellectual exchange hostage to the political disagreements of the moment,” according to a statement signed by 300 university presidents in 2007, and additional statements written by over 250 university presidents last year in response to the ASA boycott of Israel. The American Association of University Professors, other academic organizations, and more than forty Nobel Laureates have opposed all academic boycotts for this reason.
2. Truth: The factual record does not support the accusations and narratives of the BDS movement. Many are based on overstatements, cherry picked evidence, outright falsehood, or on disputed or highly biased data.
3. Peace: The two-state solution – which guarantees to both parties mutual recognition – enjoys the endorsement of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and the Arab League. By demonizing and seeking to isolate one of the two parties to the peace process, the anti-Israel BDS movement sets itself apart from the global consensus for peace.
4. Access to World-leading Scholarship: BDS would have the practical impact of undermining academic cooperation and would deprive universities significant Israeli contributions in many academic areas, especially scientific research. It appears that such a loss is immaterial to the leaders in the BDS movement.
It can be signed here.
11:29 AM, Sep 18, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
First, the good news. Initial unemployment claims, which were expected to come in at 305,000, came in at 280,000 good deal less than that. More people working might mean that, in time, wages will rise and families that have never seen their financial situations improve since the Great Recession, will begin to recover.
Then, the bad news. Housing starts, which were expected to decline modestly (by 5.2 percent, to be precise, and one wonders at the certainty behind that figure right of the decimal point) tanked at -14.4 percent.
Housing is essential, of course, to the overall economy. And construction jobs are critical, especially for men.
The overall picture remains one of uncertainty. At best.
9:16 AM, Sep 18, 2014 • By THOMAS DONNELLY
In the late 17th century, times were tough in Scotland. The Stuarts, the Scots’ royal family, had been tossed off the throne of England for a second time, and the country had been excluded from the burgeoning English system of international trade regulated by the Navigation Acts. Even the climate was more miserable than usual: these were the worst years of northern Europe’s “little ice age.”
In an attempt to try to improve its economy and its international position, the Scottish government formed a trading company like the English had established in the East Indies and North America. Its purpose was to establish a colony and commercial center in Darien, on the Pacific coast of the isthmus of Panama. “The idea attracted immense enthusiasm among all classes in Scotland,” wrote T.O. Lloyd, “and led to disaster.” It was an economic disaster and a strategic failure. “[T]he Spanish first watched it carefully to see that it showed no sign of succeeding and eventually in 1700 they captured it.” The loss was “perhaps as much as half the floating capital of Scotland.”
At least for appearance’ sake, the Scots blamed the English for the collapse of their one and only attempt at independent colonization – that is, competing in an era of rapid globalization – but in fact, they took the lesson to heart. One of the terms of the 1707 Acts of Union with England was that the Darien investors would be repaid, but the more important, if informal, deal was that the Scots would become full partners in the British empire. “[T]he effect was to give eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Scotsmen opportunities…that had previously been closed to them,” observed Lloyd. “And these opportunities were very considerable…at the time people saw [the empire] as the largest area of unrestricted trade in the world.” Many of these opportunities lay in America. The Colonies’ rapid growth in the 18th century owed much to enterprising Scots immigrants, who numbered among the most vociferous advocates of the prospects for empire in North America; Benjamin Franklin swiped a good part of his best imperial propaganda from Cadwallader Colden, a Scotsman born in Ireland who came to Philadelphia in 1710.
In sum, simply being a member in good standing of the British empire has made Scotland and Scots richer, freer, and safer than they were, would have been, or, quite possibly will be on their own. Since the English themselves no longer seem to be very British, neither Prime Minister David Cameron nor the hapless “Better Together” campaign have been bold enough to remind voters in Thursday referendum of Scotland’s previous and unfulfilling experiences of independence.
Likewise the American press is indulging itself in an exhilarating “Braveheart” moment, and quivers in hopes that the Catalans or Basques might be next. But just as the building of the British imperial union was foundation and precursor to an American one, so might the unraveling be a similar foreshadowing. Today Britain seems to harbor the desire to be anything but great – as, increasingly, does Barack Obama’s America.
8:47 AM, Sep 18, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
It is a common enough thing in party politics. The candidate with the most money, best organization, most favorable press, etc., is a disappointment to the purists of the party. Winning isn’t enough. What does it profit a party if it gains the whole world and loses (in the present case) its progressive soul?
So no surprise that, as Alexandra Jaffe of the Hill reports:
Emails sent by liberal activists and obtained by The Hill reveal significant dissatisfaction with Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. The critical messages about the former first lady show that she has a long way to go to assuage skepticism from influential voices on the left.
Clinton’s too much of a hawk, too cozy with Wall Street, hasn’t spoken out enough on climate change, and will be subject to personal questions and criticisms, members of the group stated in the emails.
True believers are, well, going to believe. And, as Mrs. Clinton no doubt understands, come around on Election Day.
7:42 AM, Sep 18, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
First Lady Michelle Obama visited sick children at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, where she complained about living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and being married to the president of the United States. She made the comments in response to being asked about her "favorite part about being in the White House."
"About being in the -- about being First Lady is being able to do stuff like this, really. And it is so special for me to get to meet kids like you guys," Michelle Obama started.
"Because sometimes living in the White House and being married to the President and trying to live a life like that, it can be hard. But when I meet you guys, I am so inspired, which is one of the reasons why I like to come and spend time with you guys. You all are smart, and you’re focused, and you’re just so courageous. And it’s just fun to be able -- I could be here all day with you, if you haven’t noticed."
The crowd of sick kids and parents laughed. So the first lady continued: "So this is a cool part. But living in the White House, actually living in the White House, what’s the best part? The best part is -- I like the South Lawn, I like the Truman Balcony -- I was telling Austin that, that that’s one of my favorite places to be, because we can be outside and you can look over the fountain, and you see the Washington Memorial, and it’s a really pretty view. And it’s peaceful."
The comments were part of a 26-minute question and answer session Obama held with the kids.
6:15 AM, Sep 18, 2014 • By JONATHAN FOREMAN
This week’s referendum on Scottish independence may seem like an obscure, perhaps even Ruritanian quarrel to many Americans, but it has profound implications not just for the U.K. and Europe but also for the United States.
Most of the debate in the U.K. and elsewhere about Scottish secession has concentrated on whether an independent Scotland could survive or thrive, with a particular focus on whether Scotland would be immediately allowed to join the EU and if it would become a member of NATO despite the official anti-nuclear stance of the Scottish National Party. Very little attention has focused on the likely impact of secession—culturally, psychologically, and economically on the rump United Kingdom.
Great Britain—or whatever the country may be named after the loss of the North of that island—would the only Western European country to lose significant territory since the Second World War. (Various Eastern European countries have split since then, but all of them were relatively recent concoctions, put together in the aftermath of World War I and the destruction of the Austro-Hungarian empire.)
If the British union is dissolved after 300 years, you can expect the impact to be considerably greater than that felt in Russia when the USSR collapsed after a mere 82 years. And we are only beginning to appreciate the extent to which the Soviet collapse affected the morale of the Russian population, prompting a tidal wave of social ills ranging from alcoholism and suicide to catastrophically low birth rates to the rise of virulent ethnic nationalism.
With regard to the latter, it’s worth bearing in mind that “British nationalism” has generally tended to be relatively inclusive and non-racial. However, “English nationalism”, if awakened by Scotland's secession, is likely to mirror its Scottish and Welsh equivalents and be explicitly racial, with significant potential for ethnic, social and political strife.
Until the last couple of weeks the U.K.’s political class has been remarkably complacent about the referendum, partly because polls had showed a victory for the “No” vote and few had thought much about the possible consequences of secession.
It didn’t help that the commentary in the U.K. press has not been informed by a historical awareness of what happened in other countries when secession was threatened or territory was lost. The Brits seem unaware or to have forgotten that democratic countries like the United States and India have fought bloody wars to prevent secession, or that the loss of Alsace to Germany poisoned French society and politics for more than a generation.
Nor, for that matter, have they noticed that foreign countries, including Britain’s friends and allies, are baffled by the very idea that the U.K. would willingly allow itself to be dismembered.
But, arguably, the most important factor in the inappropriate calmness and inertia of the establishment has been its inability or unwillingness to talk about Britishness. The U.K.’s political class is so uncomfortable with overt expressions of patriotism, and so infected by the multiculturalist critique of British history as simply a narrative of racist, sexist, imperialist violence and exploitation, that it can neither promote nor fight for the union.
6:17 PM, Sep 17, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
In a debate on CNN this afternoon between Jay Carney and Bill Kristol, the former White House spokesman conceded that in fact there will be "boots on the ground" fighting the Islamic State.
"You can't imagine the fight against ISIS going in such a way that we would say, you know what, this thing is on the cusp and we need to send in 3,000 or 5,000 U.S. combat ground troops to win this thing?" Kristol asked Carney.
Carney replied, "Well, again, that would be saying specifically only 5,000, not 5,005--"
"No it wouldn't," said Kristol. "It would be leaving the option open, which is what a serious commander in chief does."
"I think the shorthand that a lot of people use about no boots on the ground is semantically problematic because obviously there will be American military personnel with their boots on the ground," Carney claimed.
Later in the conversation, host Jake Tapper reminded Carney: "Jay, you don't work for the White House anymore. You can be frank."
4:17 PM, Sep 17, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
Though he didn't say it in so many words, President Obama came out today personally opposed to Scottish independence, which is set to go to a vote tomorrow. Wednesday afternoon, the president took to Twitter with this message:
The UK is an extraordinary partner for America and a force for good in an unstable world. I hope it remains strong, robust and united. -bo
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) September 17, 2014
Tweets sent out on the White House Twitter account that include the president's initials indicate that the president himself personally posted the message. The White House has previously indicated a preference that Scotland remain a part of the United Kingdom. Earlier this week, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said:
You’ll recall that what the President said was he said that from the outside, the United States has a deep interest in ensuring that one of the closest allies that we’ll ever have remains strong, robust, united, and an effective partner with the United States. So this is a decision for the people of Scotland to make. We certainly respect the right of individual Scots to make a decision about the -- along these lines. But as the President himself said, we have an interest in seeing the United Kingdom remain strong, robust, united and an effective partner.
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