|6:09 PM, Dec 9, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama, who is aboard Air Force One on his way to a memorial service for Nelson Mandela in South Africa, will sign a plastic gun ban "via autopen," an aide tells the Huffington Post.
"We expect the President to sign the reauthorization via autopen before the legislation expires at midnight," a White House aide is quoted as saying.
The plastic gun ban, to prevent guns that might be made from a 3-D printer, has been re-approved by Congress.
"Narrowly beating a midnight deadline, Congress voted Monday to renew an expiring ban on plastic firearms that can evade airport detection machines. But Republicans blocked an effort to toughen the restrictions — the latest defeat for gun-control forces in the year since the grade school massacre in Newtown, Conn.," reports the Associated Press.
"By voice vote, the Senate gave final congressional approval to a 10-year extension of the prohibition against guns that can slip past metal detectors and X-ray machines. The House voted last week for an identical decade-long renewal of the ban, and the measure now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature."
Hosted by Michael Graham5:15 PM, Dec 9, 2013 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with staff writer Jay Cost on his recent cover story, The Battle of 2014 on the political landscape for the 2014 elections.
This podcast can be downloaded here. Subscribe to THE WEEKLY STANDARD's iTunes podcast feed here.
4:34 PM, Dec 9, 2013 • By LEE SMITH
A new Pew Poll released today shows the American public does not support the White House’s interim deal over the Iranian nuclear program. Conducted by the Pew Research Center and USA TODAY two weeks after the November 24 agreement struck at Geneva between the P5+1 powers and Iran, the national survey finds that 43 percent disapprove of the agreement, 32 percent approve, while 25 percent do not have an opinion.
Of all men polled, 46 percent disapprove of the deal, while 35 percent approve; for women, 39 percent disapprove with 29 percent approving. All age brackets polled (18-29, 30-49, 50-64, 65+) show a plurality disapproving. Republicans disapprove by 58 to 14 percent while independents disapprove by 47 to 29 percent. Surprisingly, only half of the Democrats polled approve of Obama’s deal, as another 27 percent signaled disapproval.
Perhaps what’s most interesting is that the poll shows how the interim deal has affected public thinking about a negotiated settlement. For instance, a September 2006 poll found that 54 percent favored the United States entering direct negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, while 32 percent disapproved. A September/October 2009 poll asking the same question found that 63 percent approved of direct negotiations and 28 percent disapproved. That is, the American public wanted a diplomatic solution over Tehran’s nuclear weapons program. But with a plurality of 43 percent disapproving of the actual agreement, it shows that Americans don’t like the deal the White House struck at Geneva.
Nor does the public have much affection for the Islamic Republic. A poll taken from October 30 to November 6 this year showed that 60 percent of respondents believed that the regime was not serious about addressing international concerns regarding its nuclear enrichment program. After the deal that number only rose, to 62 percent. Americans don’t trust the regime in Tehran, which makes it even more curious that the White House does.
3:43 PM, Dec 9, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
In the East Room of the White House Sunday night, President Obama hosted the Kennedy Center Honors Reception to recognize five American artists: Martina Arroyo, Herbie Hancock, Carlos Santana, Shirley MacLaine, and Billy Joel. The president gave a brief synopsis of each artist's career, including making light of the drug-induced hallucinations of Carlos Santana as he was introduced to the music world at the 1969 Woodstock music festival:
When a 22-year-old Carlos Santana took the stage at Woodstock, few people outside his hometown of San Francisco knew who he was. And the feeling was mutual. Carlos was in such a -- shall we say -- altered state of mind that he remembers almost nothing about the other performers. (Laughter and applause.) He thought the neck of his guitar was an electric snake. (Laughter.)
The president went on to note that the musician's less than clear frame of mind apparently did not affect his Woodstock performance:
But that did not stop Carlos and his band from whipping the crowd into a such frenzy with a mind-blowing mix of blues, and jazz, and R&B, and Latin music. They’d never heard anything like it. And almost overnight, Carlos Santana became a star.
In a 2012 interview with ETOnline, Santana "expressed his views on drug use, citing the distinction between artificially manufactured drugs and those which are natural and stem from the earth, which he referred to as 'medicine.'"
2:32 PM, Dec 9, 2013 • By MICHAEL ANTON
Anniversaries come thick and fast. But 500-year marks are still rare, reminders of a simpler time, a different world. We look back to Columbus and forward to the Reformation without understanding the epochal revolution in between that made our time, our world.
On December 10, 1513, Niccolò Machiavelli wrote a letter—called the most celebrated in all Italian literature—to his friend Francesco Vettori announcing that he has just completed “a little work, On Principalities.” It later acquired the title The Prince, under which it became the most famous, and infamous, book on politics ever written.
Everyone knows that the book teaches how to win without scruple, how to get away with murder, how—and why—to squelch any feelings of remorse. Readers of Leo Strauss’s magisterial 1959 interpretation of Machiavelli’s work also know that The Prince, and its longer companion The Discourses on Livy, is about much more.
Strauss showed that Machiavelli is the cause of our time, our world, our context. He attempted a break with all prior thought and he succeeded, through these two books that recruited an army of writer-captains who, in wave after wave of intellectual change, remade the West. Everything characteristically modern—from civil rights to iPhones—is the direct or indirect result of Machiavelli’s revolution in thought.
It’s easier for modern ears to accept that a political philosopher decisively altered political practice than it is even to consider the notion that one man—a writer no less—is responsible for the incredible bounty and intricacy of the modern world. iPhones? Really?
Yes. Technology derives from engineering, which is applied natural science, which achieved its current rigor thanks to a foundation built by Descartes and Bacon, who in turn learned the core argument from Machiavelli. It’s an unlikely claim on behalf of a writer whose most substantial book seems to call for a revival of ancient Roman republican politics and who seems to have nothing at all to say about science.
Except, in fact, he does. Harvey Mansfield, arguably Strauss’s greatest student and inarguably the greatest living interpreter of Machiavelli, showed where and how at a conference Saturday at Columbia University (and in this longer treatment published earlier this year). At the heart of Machiavelli’s project is an epistemological revolution to liberate philosophy from the classical prudence that prevented it from taking a direct role in guiding human affairs.
Amid the administration’s tangled web of paradoxes and inconsistencies one message rings clear.1:15 PM, Dec 9, 2013 • By LEE SMITH
The military option against the Iranian nuclear weapons program is still on the table: That’s the message President Obama wanted to leave listeners with Saturday at the annual Saban Forum, hosted by the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy. Sure, Obama explained in his live interview conducted by Democratic fundraiser Haim Saban, his “preference was always to resolve the issue diplomatically.” But when audience member Amos Yadlin, former head of Israeli military intelligence and one of the pilots who conducted the 1981 raid on Osirak, asked about plan B in the event there’s no agreement, Obama flexed his muscles. If, said Obama, he can’t “get the kind of comprehensive end state that satisfies us and the world community and the P5-plus-1,” the military option is among the options “we would consider and prepare for.”
This may or may not have reassured the Saban audience and those many others concerned about the interim deal between the P5+1 and Iran outlined in Geneva two weeks ago. But the reality is that the administration’s policy is a tangle of contradictions and paradoxes. And the very incoherence which Obama gave voice to Saturday makes one thing clear: The White House long ago abandoned the idea of a military strike against Iran’s nuclear weapons’ facilities.
The way Obama sees it, a “diplomatic resolution of this situation is, frankly, greater than what we could achieve with the other options that are available to us.” That’s because, according to the president, you can’t get rid of the knowledge that it takes to make a bomb. “The technology of the nuclear cycle, you can get off the Internet,” said Obama. The technology, he elaborated, “is available to any good physics student at pretty much any university around the world. And [the Iranians] have already gone through the cycle to the point where the knowledge, we’re not going to be able to eliminate. But what we can do is eliminate the incentive for them to want to do this.”
In other words, because there’s no way to bomb the knowledge out of existence, the only real option is to convince the Iranians that it’s not in their best interest to make use of the knowledge they already have.
Obama to speak.12:09 PM, Dec 9, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
The program for the Nelson Mandela has been released by the South African government, and President Obama is scheduled to speak:
Mr Cyril Ramaphosa and Ms Baleka Mbete
11:00 - 15:00
1. National Anthem by Mass Choir
2. Welcome and Opening Remarks by Program Directors
3. Interfaith Prayers
4. Tribute by Family Friend Andrew Mlangeni
5. Tribute by Family: General Thanduxolo Mandela
6. Tribute by the Grandchildren: Mbuso Mandela, Andile Mandela, Zozuko Dlamini, and Phumla Mandela.
7. Tribute by UN Representative: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
8. Tribute by AU Commission Chair: Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma
9. Tribute by Foreign Dignitaries: U.S. President Barack Obama, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao, Namibian President Hifikepunye Phamba, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, Cuban President Raul Castro Ruz
10. Keynote Address by the President of South Africa: Jacob Zuma
11. Sermon by Biship Ivan Abrahams
12. Vote of Thanks by Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane
11:17 AM, Dec 9, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Welcome, Washington, to the real world.
Congress passed the bill and now it is having a little trouble finding out what is in it. As reported on CNN:
Congress itself is now having so much trouble signing up for the Obamacare exchanges that late Friday the top administrator in the House of Representatives laid out a backup plan in case lawmakers and staff can't get through the process by the time their enrollment ends Monday.
The good news is that while they are tangled in knots by Obamacare and pointing fingers, they won’t be able to do much in the way of other mischief.
10:15 AM, Dec 9, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
These days, the only thing in Washington performing less ably and delivering more disappointment than Obamacare would be the Washington Re****ns, a facsimile of a football team that is long on controversy, short on competence, and overflowing in controversy. The Re****ns hosted the Kansas City (Fire) Chiefs in front of a dismally small crowd yesterday. The sparsity of attendance is understandable. This is a town that a) likes winners and believes loyalty is for losers and b) doesn’t do well with foul weather, to include a few inches of rain or just about any amount of snow. When wet stuff falls from the sky, people in Washington stay inside and lock their doors.
The weather was nasty yesterday but not as nasty as the Re****ns’ play.
The (Fire) Chiefs are nobody’s idea of an offensive juggernaut but, then, yesterday they didn’t need to be. They could, in fact, have left the offense at home in the interior and still handled the warriors from the capitol. Special teams scored two touchdowns for the (Fire) Chiefs. The defense held the Re****ins to 10 points. Which will almost always buy you a win in the NFL and especially yesterday when more touchdowns were scored than on any day in NFL history. Some teams took the coin toss in for a score. But the Re****ins couldn’t move the ball.
Perhaps they learned something from watching the (Fire) Chiefs who managed to put up a season high 45 points. With a cast-off quarterback and slow-strike attack that terrifies precisely no defensive coordinators around the league. But the Re****ns almost always gave the (Fire) Chiefs a short field and the defense gave ground as profligately as Congress spends money.
The final score was 45-10 and it wasn’t that close. The fans booed … those who didn’t leave early. The players played like they wished they could leave with them. And after the game, the owner declined to speak to the press and the coach said it was too early to talk about his future.
There is some controversy about the team’s name. Among those suggested: the Washington Expectations.
8:54 AM, Dec 9, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
Concerns have increased over the security of personal information collected by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as the volume of personal data has multiplied dramatically with the implementation of Obamacare. Security experts have testified before Congress about flaws they have uncovered at Healthcare.gov, and various press reports have related other potential problems with the website or with information flowing to the Federal Services Data Hub that could be exploited by hackers and identify thieves. An HHS document dated December 5 describing a more than 500 percent increase in the monitoring of cyber threat indicators since April 2013 may only increase those concerns.
The document states that the agency's Computer Security Incidents Response Center (CSIRC) has experienced more than a five-fold increase in the number of "indicators" monitored by the center in just the last eight months alone. To cope with the potential threats from this vast increase in data, HHS intends to negotiate a sole-source contract to Cyber Squared, an Arlington, Virginia, cyber security firm after allowing less than four days (including a weekend) for responses from other interested firms, and even explicitly states that HHS is not soliciting competitive quotations. HHS describes the apparently urgent need for upgraded threat monitoring as follows:
In the past eight months the number of indicators monitored by the CSIRC has grown well over 500 percent. With the inclusion of the federal Healthcare Threat Operations Center (HTOC) information sharing data from HHS CSO, VA-Network Security Operations Center (VA-NSOC), and the Space and Naval Warfare NSOC for Medical Health Systems (SPAWAR NSOC (MHS), the ability to analyze and correlate this much data requires the use of Threat Connect to be effective and efficient in combating cyber threats. This capability will allow for the joint collection and tracking of internally and externally derived indicators more efficiently as well as facilitate the analysis and correlation of a threat.
Some of the terminology used in this document raises questions about the scope of the monitoring. For instance, although the document references the "Healthcare Threat Operations Center (HTOC)", the federal government's 2013 Information Sharing Services annual report to Congress makes no mention of the HTOC among the five Federal Cybersecurity Centers, nor is there any other reference to a "Healthcare Threat Operations Center" on the HHS website or any other government website. References to each of the other potential data sources can be found on various government websites and documents.
7:49 AM, Dec 9, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
The Financial Times reports:
Americans who are buying insurance plans over online exchanges, under what is known as Obamacare, will have limited access to some of the nation’s leading hospitals, including two world-renowned cancer centres.
Amid a drive by insurers to limit costs, the majority of insurance plans being sold on the new healthcare exchanges in New York, Texas, and California, for example, will not offer patients’ access to Memorial Sloan Kettering in Manhattan or MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, two top cancer centres, or Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, one of the top research and teaching hospitals in the country.
10:01 AM, Dec 8, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
If you want to keep your doctor, you might have to pay more for it, Obamacare architect Zeke Emanuel said today on Fox News Sunday:
The host, Chris Wallace, said: "President Obama famously promised, if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Doesn't that turn out to be just as false, just as misleading, as his promise about if you like your plan, you can keep your plan? Isn't it a fact, sir, that a number, most, in fact, of the Obamacare health plans that are being offered on the exchanges exclude a number of doctors and hospitals to lower costs?"
"The president never said you were going to have unlimited choice of any doctor in the country you want to go to," said the Obamacare architect.
"No. He asked a question. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Did he not say that, sir?"
"He didn't say you could have unlimited choice."
"It's a simple yes or no question. Did he say if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor?"
"Yes. But look, if you want to pay more for an insurance company that covers your doctor, you can do that. This is a matter of choice. We know in all sorts of places you pay more for certain -- for a wider range of choices or wider range of benefits.The issue isn't the selective networks. People keep saying, Oh, the problem is you're going to have a selective network--"
"Well, if you lose your doctor or lose your hospital--"
"Let me just say something," said Emanuel. "People are going to have a choice as to whether they want to pay a certain amount for a selective network or pay more for a broader network."
"Which will mean your premiums will probably go up."
"They get that choice. That's a choice they always made."
"Which means your premium may go up over what you were paying so that, in other words --
"No one guaranteed you that your premium wouldn't increase. Premiums have been going up."
"The president guaranteed me I could keep my doctor," said Wallace.
"And if you want to, you can pay for it," said Emanuel.
8:20 AM, Dec 8, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
David Horovitz considers what Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu might say today at the Saban Forum:
It will be interesting to see whether Netanyahu, who speaks on Sunday, will match Obama for easygoing candor and for open acknowledgement of the yawning gulf between their mindsets.
If he does, the prime minister might remark that, in fact, he fully shares the president’s belief that the Iranian public wants a much improved interaction with the free world. It is for precisely that reason, he might add, that he is baffled and horrified by Obama’s apparent readiness to condemn Iranians to continued oppression by the uranium-enriching regime of the ayatollahs.
Cave under the pressure? That’s exactly what the regime would have done, Netanyahu might feel moved to add (though even candor has its limits), if only Obama hadn’t caved first.
5:44 PM, Dec 7, 2013 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
My father emailed out this vignette about Pearl Harbor. After 72-years, the event remains something of an abstraction, but I mark the occasion a bit more solemnly than most. Had a Japanese bomb landed a few dozen feet more to the left, I might not exist:
While it seems to be a fading historical event, December 7th will always be a very memorable day to me. My family was living in quarters on the base at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. My brother (Tom) and I were pretty young, so my recollections are fuzzy and probably heavily prompted by what our parents recounted over the years. I remember that our building was damaged from some aircraft or piece of a plane, and it started a small fire. It was a 4-plex. We lived in the second one from the left. The damage was to the end unit to the right.
After the explosions died down, Tom and I found a spot close to our home where we could see the damage to the base and see the ships burning in the harbor. This didn't last long, as Mom found us and made us come back home. There was some concern about the Japanese landing troops, so the neighborhood was in lockdown with armed sailors posted.
My dad was a buck sergeant in the Marine Corps. He was not on a ship, but assigned to the Marine Barracks on the base. As it was a Sunday, he was home when the attack started, but left right away, after putting Mom and the 2 kids under the dining room table. We saw him a few of days later, very briefly, as we were getting on a ship to go back to the mainland. The next time we saw him was over two years later. He had received a battlefield commission on Guadalcanal and was a captain when he came home.
By the grace of God, my grandfather survived World War II. My father didn't elaborate on the impact that day had on him. But he later attended the U.S. Naval Academy, fought in Vietnam, and after 20 years of service, retired a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Marine Corps.
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