|9:39 AM, Oct 1, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Coming in ahead of the unemployment figure for September, which will be released on Friday, and tomorrow’s weekly first-time-claims number, the ADP jobs report might be some sort of harbinger. In the case of today’s number, a happy one, as Paul Davidson of USA Today reports:
Private employers added 213,000 jobs in September, payroll processor ADP said Wednesday, possibly signaling that the government's closely watched report this Friday will show a rebound in employment growth
But, then, yesterday’s consumer confidence number was not so encouraging. As Danielle Trubow of Bloomberg reports:
Confidence among U.S. consumers unexpectedly declined in September to a four-month low as Americans’ views of the labor market deteriorated.
Another report today showed home prices rose in the 12 months ended in July at the slowest pace in almost two years.
The road to recovery continues to be uncertain and rocky.
8:39 AM, Oct 1, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
In what might possibly be an attempt to relive the success of Hillary Clinton's "Russian reset," the State Department recently awarded a $22,116 contract for "Red Switch Equipment." Which sounds a lot like the device Clinton famously presented to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in 2009 to "reset" relations with Russia.
The devices are manufactured by Cisco under the pseudonym "2-port Clear Channel T3/E3 Shared Port Adapter."
To prevent embarrassing mishaps such as the one that took place with Clinton and Lavrov where the Russian word for "overcharged" was used on the button instead of "reset," the State Department might want to pick up a Russian-English dictionary.
The documents indicate the State Department ordered four of the switches. So maybe for use in Iraq, Syria, Iran, and, thinking ahead, Afghanistan?
It is unclear why the order was limited to four.
7:02 AM, Oct 1, 2014 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
A new poll finds that three-fifths of likely voters support the repeal of Obamacare. A large plurality — 44 percent — wants to see Obamacare repealed and replaced with a conservative alternative. A much smaller group —16 percent — wants to see it repealed but not replaced. Less than one in three respondents — 32 percent — would like to keep Obamacare, whether in its current form or in amended form. So, with a conservative alternative in play, 60 percent of Americans support repeal, while only 32 percent oppose it.
McLaughlin & Associates asked 1,000 likely voters:
“Which comes closest to your view of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare?
“1. It should remain the law of the land, either in its current form or in amended form.
“2. It should be repealed and replaced with a conservative alternative that aims to lower health costs and help people get insurance.
“3. It should be repealed but not replaced with an alternative.”
Repeal and replace was chosen by a plurality of every age group, every income group aside from those making over $150,000, and both sexes. Among independents, 62 percent said they support repeal, with 46 percent backing a conservative alternative. Only 31 percent of independents support keeping Obamacare in its current form or in amended form. Among those who make between $20,000 and $100,000, 63 percent support repeal, with 48 percent backing a conservative alternative. Only 30 percent of such voters want to try to salvage Obamacare.
The poll included 38 percent Democrats and 32 percent Republicans.
These results are consistent with straight up-or-down polling on Obamacare during President Obama’s second term. Over that 20-month span, according to Real Clear Politics, 147 polls have been conducted on Obamacare. All 147 have found that Americans oppose it, giving Obamacare a second-term record of 0-and-147 — far worse than the 40-120 record of the hapless 1962 New York Mets.
Meanwhile, some Republican consultants and commentators, armed with polls that either don’t ask about an Obamacare alternative or else are conducted by the left-leaning, pro-Obamacare Kaiser Family Foundation, are trying to convince GOP candidates to talk about “repairing” Obamacare — the obvious Democratic message — rather than about repealing and replacing it. Such messaging is bad enough politically. In terms of looking out for the future of the country, it’s horrendous.
8:21 PM, Sep 30, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama, addressing the ebola outbreak September 16, 2014 at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta:
First and foremost, I want the American people to know that our experts, here at the CDC and across our government, agree that the chances of an Ebola outbreak here in the United States are extremely low. We’ve been taking the necessary precautions, including working with countries in West Africa to increase screening at airports so that someone with the virus doesn’t get on a plane for the United States. In the unlikely event that someone with Ebola does reach our shores, we’ve taken new measures so that we’re prepared here at home. We’re working to help flight crews identify people who are sick, and more labs across our country now have the capacity to quickly test for the virus. We’re working with hospitals to make sure that they are prepared, and to ensure that our doctors, our nurses and our medical staff are trained, are ready, and are able to deal with a possible case safely.
Today, the Dallas Morning News reports:
A patient at a Dallas hospital has tested positive for Ebola, the first case of the disease to be diagnosed in the United States, federal health officials announced Tuesday.
The patient was in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, which had announced a day earlier that the person’s symptoms and recent travel indicated a possible case of Ebola, the virus that has killed more than 3,000 people across West Africa and infected a handful of Americans who have traveled to that region.
The person, an adult who was not publicly identified, developed symptoms days after returning to Texas from Liberia and showed no symptoms on the plane, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
... and India is the newest threat.4:40 PM, Sep 30, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with frequent contributor Thomas Joscelyn discussing his recent piece on "Misunderstanding al Qaeda" and how its growth is becoming a threatening success.
This podcast can be downloaded here. Subscribe to THE WEEKLY STANDARD's iTunes podcast feed here.
4:04 PM, Sep 30, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Republican Elbert Guillory, a state senator in Louisiana, has released a new web video through his Free At Last PAC that criticizes Democratic senator Mary Landrieu's record.
"Since 1996, black unemployment has doubled and the poverty rate for blacks has skyrocketed. Mary hasn't helped us all," says Guillory. "So on November 4, let's send her back home to her father's house or to her mansion in Washington, D.C., or wherever the heck she lives." The Republican pol doesn't mince words as he argues that blacks are "just a vote" to Landrieu and Democrats. Watch the video below:
Guillory, a longtime Democrat, drew national attention when he switched parties last year. The larger platform allowed him to speak out about how his former party has failed black Americans:
But it’s outside Louisiana that Guillory’s star has risen most rapidly. A few days after his switch, he released a web video that he says was meant to explain to his constituents why he became a Republican, aptly titled “Why I Am a Republican.” Filmed in the empty state senate chamber, the slick video features the well-dressed, soft-spoken Guillory speaking directly into the camera about his switch.
“It is the right decision, not only for me but for all my brothers and sisters in the black community,” he says. “You see, in recent history, the Democrat party has created the illusion that their agenda and their policies are what’s best for black people.”
Guillory argues against what he calls the Democrats’ agenda of dependency for blacks and touts the GOP’s respect for freedom, praising the idea that “the individual must be free to pursue his or her own happiness, free from government dependence and free from government control.”
Read the whole thing here.
3:29 PM, Sep 30, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Mario Trujillo of The Hill reports that:
Attorney General Eric Holder will leave the administration with a 26-percent favorable rating …
Mr. Holder may feel misunderstood and unappreciated but he can console himself with the thought that his approval rating, low as it is, still runs:
... higher than [that of] two other Cabinet secretaries who recently departed the Obama administration.
Those would be Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius who was running at 19 percent when she left office and Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki who came in 18 percent.
2:01 PM, Sep 30, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
The editors at the San Francisco Chronicle have endorsed Republican Pete Peterson for secretary of state in California. Here's an excerpt from the endorsement:
The conventional wisdom in modern politics is that Democrats will do almost anything to to expand the voting pool — given their advantage with casual voters — and Republicans will do almost anything to suppress it. Examples have included GOP efforts to require voter IDs, limit voting times and locations, purge the rolls, and preserve barriers to easy registration.
Peterson breaks from the party line on voter participation. He is committed to increasing it. He said voter-ID laws were “just bad policy” because “the research is explicit” that fraud is not a problem at the polling place. He also wants to aggressively increase registration and turnout — and, unlike many of his party brethren, does not believe it will necessarily benefit Democrats.
“When this (Republican) party is at its best, there’s a populist theme undergirding it,” he said.
Peterson, who earlier this year received the Los Angeles Times's endorsement, is one of the few Republican candidates with a real chance at winning a statewide race in California. Democrats were damaged considerably when the party's leading candidate, state senator Leland Yee, was arrested and charged for gun trafficking and political corruption.
Peterson has made political corruption in Democratically-controlled Sacramento the cornerstone of his campaign:
Yee is actually the third current Democratic senator under suspension. In January Roderick Wright of Los Angeles was convicted on charges of voter fraud and perjury, and in February, a federal grand jury indicted Ronald Montebello on 24 felony counts, including bribery. As Peterson likes to say, that’s 10 percent of the Democratic caucus facing criminal charges.
That may explain why Peterson’s top opponent isn’t ahead in the polls. In California, candidates are identified on the ballot not only by their party affiliation but by their occupation. Next to Democrat Alex Padilla’s name is this black mark: “state senator.”
“That used to be a way of showing that the candidate had experience,” Peterson says. “Now, it’s more of a millstone.”
Peterson is hoping to harness what he says is an increasing feeling around the state that one-party rule by Democrats in Sacramento has given corrupt politicians the go-ahead. “I’m framing myself as an outsider,” he says.
Congress’s GSE reform plan has relatively little reward for the taxpayer without absolving them of all risk.1:10 PM, Sep 30, 2014 • By IKE BRANNON
Few people are happy with the limbo in which Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac currently dwell. The Treasury placed the two government-sponsored entities that buy and guarantee the bulk of all mortgages issued in the United States into a conservatorship in 2008 after the collapse of the housing market, which decimated the value of the loans they held and rendered the two insolvent.
The Treasury assumed ownership of just under 80 percent of the two and injected nearly $200 billion into them, for which Treasury assigned itself a dividend amounting to 10 percent of its investment.
Once the real estate market began to recover, Fannie and Freddie returned to solvency and began minting money. Recognizing an opportunity to claim an undeserved victory, the Obama administration amended the nature of the conservatorship and laid claim to the entire net wealth of the GSEs, to be swept into its coffers each quarter. Doing this allowed the administration to pretend it had both fixed a problem and made a step towards reducing our gargantuan federal deficits—the sweep put over $100b into Treasury coffers last year—but in reality it did neither. A Fannie and Freddie bereft of capital is the worst of both worlds, keeping the federal government on the implicit hook while doing relatively little to either reform their moribund operations or expand their portfolio in a sensible way.
The sweep displeased many in Congress, and it proved to be the cudgel needed to rouse the committees of jurisdiction into action. The Senate Banking Committee actually passed a bill with strong bipartisan support—Johnson-Crapo—that would replace the current GSE regime with something new while removing the implicit government guarantee on mortgage-backed securities, as well as force private lenders to absorb a portion of any future losses before the government backstop came into play.
In September the Congressional Budget Office released an official score of the bill, and found that if enacted it would reduce the deficit by $60 billion over the next decade—making it a rare tax-raiser in a world starved for such animals. The revenue gain gives it even more of a chance of becoming law, although still far from a sure thing.
The promised $60 billion is a bit illusory, however. The potential impact of enacting Johnson-Crapo on the federal budget—as well as on the mortgage market and the economy—depends on a number of assumptions, the most crucial of which is the counterfactual: that is, what would occur if the law were not enacted. CBO must assume that current law—that is, a world where the government indefinitely lays claim to all profits and the cumulative net wealth of the GSEs—reigns indefinitely. But that’s not a tenable status quo; absent the passage of legislation either Treasury or Congress would be forced to make some changes.
Simply reverting back to the terms originally set forth in the 2008 conservatorship, with the government owning 80 percent of a recapitalized Fannie and Freddie as well as receiving a 10 percent dividend, would give the federal government something worth more than a mere $60 billion, especially if it sold some of its stock, which would be worth much more than $60 billion.
12:14 PM, Sep 30, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama will be taking the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the White House announced.
In the afternoon, the President will visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial on the National Mall with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India. There will be in-town travel pool coverage of the visit.
12:35PM THE PRESIDENT visits the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India
In-Town Travel Pool Coverage (In-Town Travel Pool Gather 12:15PM – North Doors of the Palm Room)
The president met with Modi today in the Oval Office and had dinner with him last night. (The prime minister, however, was reported not to have eaten due to religious reasons.)
11:33 AM, Sep 30, 2014 • By CLAUDIA ANDERSON
The Factual Feminist warns that a “little army of junior assistant deans and harassment apparatchiks are quietly repealing the free speech protections of the First Amendment.”
10:03 AM, Sep 30, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
This is the conclusion, as Pedro Nicolaci Da Costa of the Wall Street Journal reports, reached by:
Josh Bivens ... economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank in Washington. [Unemployment] has remained unusually elevated during this recovery, leading to fears that the long-term jobless would suffer permanent difficulties in finding a job–either due to weaker skills or employer biases.
Policy elites have been arguing that this recession and anemic recovery are somehow special and unlike all those that have gone before, especially as regards unemployment. But:
The EPI study suggests most of the long-term unemployment problem is due to a weak economic backdrop, and will reverse once growth and the job market itself find themselves on a considerably stronger footing. “Despite the deep and obvious damage done by any spell of involuntary job loss, there is very little compelling evidence that the scarring effects are worse for longer spells,” the paper says.
The conclusion, which none would call counterintuitive, runs against the belief that:
… that the long-term jobless are increasingly unemployable due to an erosion of skills.
The remedy is in the boring old conventional wisdom. Economic growth stimulated by tax cuts and the relaxation of regulation.
Less Washington, then, even as the elites who work there propose more and ever more.
8:48 AM, Sep 30, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
Even before the Healthcare.gov website disaster unfolded in October 2013, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had been looking to the future. HHS announced in June of that year that Hewlett-Packard would be replacing Terremark, a Verizon subsidiary, as the main contractor hosting the federal insurance marketplace and data services hub. But more than a year later, HHS has still not been able to complete the transition, because there has not been "adequate time for end to end testing of the entire Marketplace environment." Terremark's system will once again function as the primary site for the 2015 open enrollment period with Hewlett-Packard's system functioning as a "development environment and alternate site for backup."
The plan was revealed in a "out of scope modification" contract award by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the HHS agency in charge of Healthcare.gov. The $15.2 million award comes on top of several other contract extensions, bringing the total for such extensions to well over $100 million. CMS documents say that "[t]his approach will better position CMS to implement a scalable, robust, and secure hosting site for the Open Enrollment period with adequate time for end to end testing of the Marketplace systems." The documents also cite additional security upgrades as part of this extension, plus time for "end to end" testing of the revamped website and backend systems [emphasis added]:
While CMS has successfully migrated several Marketplace systems to HP, CMS has elected to continue to utilize the Verizon Terremark Data Center as the primary site for production infrastructure hosting services through the OE 2015 period for the core Marketplace systems to ensure adequate time for end to end testing of the entire Marketplace environment to validate interoperability and new functionality implemented for the OE 2015 perform properly. During this period, CMS plans on utilizing the HP Virtual Data Center as a development environment and alternate site for backup. The open enrollment period will run from November 15, 2014 through February 15, 2015...
Joint analysis performed by the CMS, Application Developers, the System Integrator, and the Data Center on the core Marketplace system migration and testing timelines revealed that the full integrated end to end testing could not be completed as individually planned due to interdependencies on other Marketplace systems that would still be in various phases of their migration to HP until mid-August.
7:38 AM, Sep 30, 2014 • By JAY COST
In recent days, Republicans appear to have opened up leads in several key Senate battles, including Alaska,Colorado, and Iowa. Add those to their already established edges in Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia -- and the GOP right now has the lead in about eight Democratic-held seats. Whether that translates into a Senate majority remains to be seen, especially as we wait on whether Kansas Republicans can tag “independent” candidate Greg Orman as an effective Democrat (which he basically is).
One surprising state where the GOP is still struggling is North Carolina, where recent polling has Republican Thom Tillis trailing Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan by 3 or 4 points.
Interestingly, Hagan’s numbers are not substantially better than candidates in states where Democrats are trailing.RealClearPolitics reports her standing as 44.5 percent, compared to 43 percent for Bruce Braley in Iowa and Mark Udall in Colorado.
6:44 AM, Sep 30, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
President Obama was counting strokes on the golf course at Fort Belvoir in northern Virginia last Saturday, but the day before a $91,318.76 contract was awarded to count something quite different at Fort Belvoir: bats. The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation will conduct the "Bat Population Survey" as part of Fort Belvoir's Threatened and Endangered Species Surveys:
At least part of the reason for the population survey is to determine if the "little brown bat" or other bats should be placed on the endangered species list. Were this to happen, the listing could impact "mission related activities" and "development" on the Army base. The documents say:
The little brown bat is being evaluated for listing under the endangered species act. Listing of this bat or other bats that are known to occur could have impacts on development and mission related activities. This survey is to identify roost locations and collect population information that can be used to monitor the bat populations on the installation in the future. Also, this information will be invaluable if any of the bat species on the installation will be listed under the endangered species act.
Also of interest to the Army in the survey is evidence of "white nose syndrome," which has been devastating bat colonies throughout the country in recent years.
The contractor's duties include "perform[ing] site investigations, preparation of reports and maps to assess the locations of bat roosts, determine the number of bats and species, population density and biological data collection, and population dynamics." The contract term is one year.
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