Americans’ expectations for the economy slumped in May by the most since October 2013, casting doubt on consumers’ ability to revive growth. A measure tracking the economic outlook fell by 6 points to 44 this month, data from the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index showed Thursday. Thirty-nine percent said the U.S. economy is getting worse, the largest share since the federal government shutdown 19 months ago.
The recovery, which we are ceaselessly being assured is either here or about to arrive, “this summer,” has never really materialized.
The U.S. economy has largely disappointed this year, with weaker-than-expected retail sales data last week capping a recent run of reports showing scant momentum. Consumer spending, which accounts for almost 70 percent of gross domestic product, climbed at a 1.9 percent annualized rate in the first quarter, the slowest in a year and less than half the 4.4 percent advance in the final three months of 2014.
One suspects that this will be noticed by the “everyday people” who are, after all, living it.
Oklahoma City Former Texas governor Rick Perry sounded off on the fall of the Iraqi city of Ramadi to Islamic State forces at a conference Thursday, saying President Obama has “lost the peace” in a critical part of the country. He also said Hillary Clinton bears responsibility for the current violent state of Iraq under ISIS.
“That’s a strategic city in that Anbar province,” Perry said in a speech at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference. “Ramadi was the place where the Sunni awakening occurred. Where Sunni leaders banded together and stopped the insurgency, working with the Americans. Years later, on the hills of that surge, we had won the war in Iraq. But the current president has lost the peace.”
In an interview with THE WEEKLY STANDARD following the speech, Perry, who may run for president, expounded on the meaning of Ramadi’s fall. The Texas Republican spoke about the American heroes who fought to secure the Anbar province after insurgents cause chaos in that part of the country after the fall of Saddam Hussein. “Our young men, Chris Kyle, and Marcus [Luttrell] and Morgan [Luttrell] were over there in the fall of ’06,” Perry said. “Mike Monsoor lost his life there, was awarded the Medal of Honor. Marc Lee lost his life there. I mean, there’s a lot of blood and treasure in that town that should be free today if the president of the United States understood the tactical side of how to keep a place free and peaceful, and you leave American troops there.”
Perry sounded pessimistic about the hopes of defeating ISIS. “Every day that’s gone by, we have fewer and fewer good options. That’s the sadness of this,” he said.
Perry criticized both President Obama and then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton for pulling out American troops from Iraq in 2011. He pointed to the fact that America’s most successful post-war situations have included leaving troops in country, including in Germany and Japan after World War II and in South Korea following the Korean War.
When TWS asked if Clinton, now a candidate for president, bears responsibility for the current situation in Iraq, Perry was unequivocal.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt about it,” he said. “The vast majority of the president’s advisers who were either in uniform or were civilian military experts all told him, ‘Do not pull the troops out.’ It’s clear that her position was closer to his [Obama’s].”
Oklahoma City Wisconsin governor Scott Walker says Hillary Clinton's habit of communicating with Sidney Blumenthal, a Clinton Foundation employee, while serving as secretary of state is "wrong on so many levels."
"It’s part of a troubling trend across the board where the Clintons seemed to be held to a different standard than everyone else," said Walker in an interview with THE WEEKLY STANDARD following his address to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference.
Earlier this week, the New York Times reported on the revelation that Blumenthal, a longtime Clinton associate who had been denied a post at the State Department in 2009, had been emailing the secretary of state briefings about Libya, before and after the upheaval in that North African country. At the time, Blumenthal was on the payroll of the Clinton Foundation and was also consulting for American businessmen with interests in Libya. Clinton frequently forwarded the emails, sent to her personal address, to other State Department employees. Twenty-four of the emails from Blumenthal have been released.
Walker, who may be running for president, said "more information" should be released about who Clinton may have had email contact with and what information was being sent to and from un-secure servers. "The thing that she did appears to be, if not confidential, at least sensitive State Department information," he said. "I think anything that is anyway related to that should absolutely be made available."
The Republican also touched on other recent scandals involving the Clintons, including the allegations that former president Bill Clinton was paid for speeches by foreign governments while Hillary was secretary of state. "For the sake of argument, assume all this isn’t criminal and isn’t violating rules, though it’s hard to argue that," said Walker. "Just, at what point does basic common sense kick in that this is a conflict of interest? All my kids are in college, they’ve probably taken basic ethics courses. They can tell you right off the bat that if you’re secretary of state and your spouse is making millions of dollars off of speeches paid for by foreign countries, that’s probably a conflict of interest."
Do these conflicts and scandals preclude Clinton from the White House? Walker didn't go quite so far. "If you don’t understand that basic sense of conflict of interest, do you have enough common sense to be the president of the United States?" he said.
They are a lousy team with perhaps the worst owner in all of professional sports, but the Imperial City wants the Redskins nonetheless. As Alex Gold and Ted Gayer of the Brookings Institute write:
Recently, DC mayor Muriel Bowser announced that she has reached out to Dan Snyder, owner of the DC-area NFL team, about returning the team to the Nation’s Capital from its current location in suburban Maryland.
Fine, you think, if they want Snyder and his inept squad, no skin (red or otherwise) off my nose.
But, not so fast. Seems that the governors of Maryland and Virginia are also interested. Thus:
… a bidding war [is] likely, with each location promising a newer and fancier replacement stadium for the team’s current home.
And, in the way of these things:
Wherever the Washington team winds up, there’s little doubt that taxpayers – both locally and across the nation – will be on the hook for much of the stadium’s bill.
It can all be blamed, like so much else, on the lousy, jury rigged tax system:
Even if one buys the argument that local taxpayers win from subsidizing a team to locate in their area, there’s no reason that federal taxpayers should be part of this bidding war. Residents of, say, Wyoming, Maine, or Alaska, gain nothing whether the DC-area football team is lured to Washington or Virginia or Maryland. Yet, under current federal tax law, taxpayers throughout the country will wind up subsidizing the stadium, wherever it’s located. The future home of the DC-area’s NFL team will most likely be financed, at least in part, by the issuance of municipal bonds. Holders of municipal bonds pay no federal tax on the interest income, in effect providing a federal subsidy for the financing of a stadium for Snyder’s team.
This morning, the New York Timesreleased Hillary Clinton’s emails pertaining to the events surrounding the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi. To help break down the most important information, America Rising compiled the “by the numbers” rundown below:
24 – Number Of Emails From Sidney Blumenthal To Secretary Clinton
29 – Number Of Times Clinton Forwarded Blumenthal’s Emails To A State Department Staffer:
“Get This Around”
“Very Insightful”/ “Very Interesting”
7 – Number Of Times State Department Staff Doubted Sidney Blumenthal
2 – Number Of Emails That Were “Sensitive, But Unclassified”
1 – Number Of Emails In Which Clinton Suggested “Should Consider Passing To Israelis”
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz had a simple question to a reporter who asked whether he had a "personal animus against gay Americans."
"Let me ask a question: Is there something about the left -- and I am going to put the media in this category -- that's obsessed with sex? Why is that the only question you want to ask concerns homosexuals? OK, you can ask those questions over and over and over again. I recognize that you're reading questions from MSNBC," Cruz said as he continued.
"You're wincing. You don't want to talk about foreign policy. I recognize you want to ask another question about gay rights. Well, you know, ISIS is executing homosexuals. You want to talk about gay rights?
"This week was a very bad time for gay rights because the expansion of ISIS, the expansion of radical, theocratic, Islamic zealots that crucify Christians, that behead children, and that murder homosexuals. That ought to be concerning you far more than asking six questions all on the same topic."
Cruz continued, "Do you have a personal animosity against Christians, sir? Your line of questioning is highly curious. You seem fixated on a particular subject. Look, I’m a Christian. Scripture commands us to love everybody, and what I have been talking about, with respect to same-sex marriage, is the Constitution, which is what we should all be focused on."
In remarks today on Capitol Hill, Speaker of House John Boehner called for action in Iraq:
“On Iraq: It’s been a week now since ISIL fighters stormed Ramadi – the capital of Iraq’s largest province. Hundreds of innocent Iraqi men, women and children have been executed, dozens of U.S.-supplied tanks and military vehicles have been seized," said Boehner.
“The White House still insists that no new strategy is needed. It says the president’s policies have been a success. It just isn’t credible, things need to change.
“A stable and sovereign Iraq is vital to America’s interests. As I told the Iraqi prime minister when I was there before Easter, I was embarrassed that the Iraqis had to bring the Iranians in to help them with the fight in Tikrit.
“To win this fight, the president is going to have to scrap his policies that aren’t working, lay out a broad, overarching strategy to defeat these savage terrorists. What could it look like?
“To start, instead of placing artificial constraints on our commanders, it’s critical that we have a strategy that ensures that conditions on the ground dictate our approach. But I think security is just one piece of this overarching strategy. I think we need to better engage in a meaningful way with Islamic leaders to address the factors that are driving this radicalization. And we need a plan to combat ISIL’s sophisticated use of social media and communications. It’s a battle that we’re losing right now. And, any overarching strategy has to put a priority on backing – not ignoring – America’s allies in the region.
“In the House, Republicans are committed to working with the president to ensure that our troops have what they need to carry out their vital missions. Sadly, Democrats continue to say they won’t support a raise in pay for our troops until they get more domestic spending. So as we pause for Memorial Day to reflect on the great sacrifices made by those who wore the uniform, I hope they’ll reconsider their position.
“After all, the American people sent us to Washington to focus on their priorities, not Washington’s.”
Even as it becomes ever more clear that last week’s Amtrak horror in Philadelphia had nothing to do with, as the refrain goes, “America’s Failing Infrastructure,™” many in the media and lobbying spheres have continued to demand greater spending on rail. As part of that campaign, this week, a New York Timesarticle attempted to make the case that, as the headline put it, “Low U.S. Rail Spending Leads to Poor Safety.”
The article is deeply flawed.
For one, the Times frets that “Over the past decade, even developing countries, including India, Russia and Turkey, have consistently spent far greater shares of their G.D.P. on rail.” But the even in that sentence is woefully misplaced. Of course developing countries spend more on building out rail infrastructure than do developed ones. That’s because they’re, er . . . developing. For the same reason, developing countries obviously spend relatively more on new roads, power plants, and sewage system than do developed countries. The article also appears to conflate spending on new rail lines versus spending to maintain extant routes.
An even greater problem with the article is that, in attempting to prove that the U.S. spends far too little on rail, it relies on ludicrous measurement. “Per capita, the United States also comes up short In 2011, the most recent year for which comparative statistics are available, it spent roughly $35 per person on all rail infrastructure,” writes the Times (italics mine). “Japan spent nearly three times as much as the United States — more than $100 per person — with the 28 member countries of the European Union investing similar sums.”
But per capita – which includes all Americans, irrespective of whether they take trains or not - is a preposterous way to measure relative rail spending. After all, a much smaller percentage of Americans ride the rails regularly than do the Japanese, the French, the Germans, or citizens of dozens of other countries. (We’ll leave aside the fact that simple per-capita spending tells us next to nothing as well, given the variance across countries in labor and energy costs etc.)
We were right to invade Iraq in 2003 to remove Saddam Hussein, and to complete the job we should have finished in 1991.
Even with the absence of caches of weapons of mass destruction, and the mistakes we made in failing to send enough troops at first and to provide security from the beginning for the Iraqi people, we were right to persevere through several difficult years. We were able to bring the war to a reasonably successful conclusion in 2008.
When President Obama took office, Iraq was calm, al-Qaeda was weakened and ISIS did not exist. Iran, meanwhile, was under pressure from abroad (due to sanctions) and at home (due to popular discontent, manifested by the Green uprising in the summer of 2009).
The Obama administration threw it all away. It failed to support the dissidents in Iran in 2009, mishandled the Iraqi elections in 2010, removed all U.S. troops from Iraq at the end of 2011, and allowed the Syrian civil war to spiral out of control from 2011 on.
A small batch of newly released Hillary Clinton emails show that the then-secretary of state was exchanging sensitive information on her home brew server.
"The Times obtained about a third of the 850 pages of emails. They appear to back up Mrs. Clinton’s previous assertions that she did not receive classified information at her private email address," the New York Times reports.
But some of the emails contain what the government calls “sensitive” information or “SBU’’ — sensitive but unclassified. This includes details of the whereabouts of State Department officials in Libya when security there was deteriorating during the 2011 revolution. One email from a year and a half before the attacks that was marked sensitive but unclassified contained the whereabouts of Mr. Stevens as he considered leaving Benghazi during the uprising against the Qaddafi regime because of the deteriorating security.
“The envoy’s delegation is currently doing a phased checkout (paying the hotel bills, moving some comms to the boat, etc.),” said the email that was forwarded to Mrs. Clinton from a close aide, Huma Abedin. “He will monitor the situation to see if it deteriorates further, but no decision has been made on departure. He will wait 2-3 more hours, then revisit the decision on departure.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) netted of $1,867.42 for two paid speeches and a television appearance last year, according to according to financial disclosure reports.
Not quite in the same league with his main opponent in the contest for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. Furthermore, Sanders whose minimum net worth of:
$169,025 in 2014, including at least $25,002 in credit card debt, according to recently released financial disclosure reports tallied by The Hill.
This would qualify him as “dead broke” in the Clinton Universe, and Sanders:
… gave the money to a charity, a non-profit called Northeast Kingdom Community Action that helps low-income families in Vermont.
Meanwhile, according to the headline over another story in The Hill, it
seems that Sanders is “moving fast to corner the market for a firebrand liberal alternative to Hillary Clinton in 2016 — complicating life for former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.”
And while “Very few observers believe Sanders could truly endanger Clinton’s pursuit of the Democratic nomination.”
He “has a built-in constituency and a plainspoken style that is both unabashedly left-wing and authentic. He knows how to get attention on the campaign trail, and his message appeals to grassroots progressives and young liberals.”
Republican senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas said President Obama is "not providing the resources" to defeat the Islamic State in and that United States ought to send "a few thousand more" troops into Iraq to combat the terrorist group in that country.
"That's really a question, though, for our commanders to provide their best military judgment to the president to make a decision about the number and the types of troops that we need," he said. Cotton, who served in the Iraq War as an Army captain, added that there's "no doubt" the military needs more "specialized assets" in Iraq. "Whether they're special operations forces or intelligence experts to help defeat the Islamic State. That's the president's stated goal. He's not providing the resources to achieve it." Watch the video below:
Cotton also took aim at the recent question dogging Jeb Bush and other presidential candidates about the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
"There's been a lot of talk over the last two weeks about what we would have done in 2003 knowing what we know now," he said. "I think what's even more tragic is Barack Obama, knowing what he knew then in 2011, made the decision to withdraw all of our troops. Those troops were a critical component to training the Iraqi army, to maintaining its pluralistic nature, and preventing sectarian warfare from breaking out."
In a second segment, Cotton also discussed the debate over the PATRIOT Act and its provisions for the National Security Agency to use cell phone metadata to track potential terrorist communications in the United States. His fellow GOP senator Rand Paul took to the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon to protest the PATRIOT Act's reauthorization.
"What I believe is that a lot of the NSA's telephone metadata program is the result of misinformation spread by a traitor, Edward Snowden," Cotton said. "The NSA is not listening to anyone's phone calls. They're not reading any Americas's emails. They're collecting, simply, the data that your phone company already has and which you don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy so they can search that data quickly in the even of a terrorist plot. And there is no doubt that this program has stopped terrorist plots or helped investigate them."
"So basically, you totally disagree with Senator Rand Paul on this," CNN host Wolf Blitzer asked.
"I firmly disagree," Cotton said. Watch that video below:
Susan Rice, speaking at the German embassy, on Tuesday night:
“Now that we have ended two wars responsibly, and brought home hundreds of American troops, we salute this new generation of veterans …”
As Paul McLeary with Ariel Robinson of FP’s The Cablewrite:
Rice also heralded the sacrifices that American troops (hundreds of thousands who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, not hundreds) have made since 9/11. “They all made us proud,” she said. That left some wondering if she would still include soldiers like Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who is facing a court-martial for deserting his post in Afghanistan in 2009, but was feted in absentia in the White House Rose Garden in May 2014 after the Obama administration secured his release from the Taliban in a prisoner exchange for five detainees who had been held at Guantanamo Bay.
Rice herself last year initially said Bergdahl served with “honor and distinction” — comments that sparked widespread criticism — before clarifying that she’d meant to praise his enlistment, and not necessarily his service. Might she again want to watch her words when speaking about troops?
Ms. Rice has a way of saying these things at the most inappropriate times. As she made her remarks about ending wars “responsibly," Ramadi was falling and, as Jim Michaels of USA Today reports:
More than a decade of war and billions in U.S. funds to build up an Afghan military force have failed to defeat a Taliban insurgency that remains a threat across the country, according to interviews with U.S., NATO and Afghan military leaders.