|8:14 AM, Apr 13, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Fred Barnes, writing for the Wall Street Journal:
Monica Wehby is a pediatric brain surgeon running for the Republican Senate nomination in Oregon. She has never sought elected office before. But she is off to a well-financed and highly touted start. The reason: She has the support of GOP political operatives in Washington as the Republican with the best chance of unseating Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley.
Jason Conger is an Oregon legislator who is also seeking to win the Republican primary on May 20. He has won two state elections, ousting an entrenched Democrat in his first race. Mr. Conger doesn't have the backing of Republican strategists in Washington and his campaign is barely heralded at all. He trails Ms. Wehby badly in fundraising.
The Washington practice of intervening in Senate and House primaries, privately or publicly, is hardly a new one. Incumbents are routinely backed by party campaign committees. But intruding in challenger contests or races for open seats is controversial, especially when Republicans in Washington insist—as they do in supporting Ms. Wehby—that a less conservative candidate is more electable.
This was famously the case in Florida in 2010. The National Republican Senatorial Committee rushed to endorse then-Gov.Charlie Crist over Marco Rubio, his conservative rival for the Senate. It backfired. Mr. Rubio soared past Mr. Crist, who quit the GOP and ran (and lost) as an independent. Mr. Rubio won the Senate seat. This year Mr. Crist is running for governor as a Democrat.
Whole thing here.
10:32 AM, Apr 12, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The government is putting its (big) foot down. No more junk food in schools. As Danica Lo of Epicurious writes:
New rules for school food kick in this July -- and for kids going back to school in the fall, it's sad sad news (okay, not really sad, but healthy healthy news). According to new regulations being instituted by the USDA, junk food is now totally verboten -- in school vending machines, stores, and lunchrooms. That means that fruits, veggies, whole grains, and dairy are good to go -- high-sodium, high-sugar, and high-fat foods are not.
Rules, as we all know, exist to be both enforced and broken and it will be interesting to see how far the Feds will go to make sure the rules are obeyed. Will it be a zero tolerance regime? First time offenders getting thrown in the jug for carrying concealed candy bars.
And, also, will the kids be more resourceful than the food cops?
This could be the start of a War on Food.
In theory . . .12:00 AM, Apr 12, 2014 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
Employers’ requests for the limited number of H1-B visas that allow foreign skilled workers to work and live here has wildly exceeded the supply. After all, the visas allow employers to hire foreigners, rather than bid up wage rates to attract American citizens, or incur the cost of training Americans to do the job. And the visas are free.
Any institution other than government would decide that the way to bring supply and demand into balance is a.) issue more visas, or b.) auction off the existing supply to the highest bidders. Not our government, which has decided on a lottery: “A computer-generated process will randomly select the number of petitions needed to meet the caps…” No need to decide which company would benefit the most—in saved cost or added product value. And no need to confront the longer-run problem that sooner or later these foreign workers are supposed to go home. On the other hand, limiting the number of visas keeps Silicon Valley millionaires and billionaires in the position of supplicants, annually petitioning contribution-hungry Congress and the president to increase the number of H1-B visas available, each one hoping to win the inevitable lottery.
It is the position of these high-tech businesses that there is no price that will call forth an additional supply of workers with the needed skills. And that there is no amount of training that will bring any American workers up to snuff. Different from the fracking industry, where highly skilled workers are flocking to jobs in places considerably less appealing than Silicon Valley because six-figure salaries are on offer. Different from the law business, where anticipation of excessive salaries called forth an excess supply of highly schooled workers, and the end of the salary boom has cut the number of men and women willing to invest in three years of expensive training. Different from construction trades, where shortages of skilled workers are driving up wages so that workers unemployed by the Great Recession will return to the labor force. Different from almost every other product and labor market.
If having employers bid cash for visas is not sufficiently attractive to the government, which is anyhow insensitive to its own red ink, it could have employers agree to train an American worker for each foreign worker it is allowed to employ. Or pay for such training, and commit to hire the newly skilled worker when the foreigner’s H-1B visa expires. Or reimburse local governments for any social costs that might be associated with the hiring of skilled foreigners.
Better any of those alternatives than giving a free gift to a high-tech company so that it can increase its profits by failing to fork some cash over to the U.S. taxpayer.
4:52 PM, Apr 11, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Nobody does show trials like the Russians and according to some reports some of their politicians would like to bring them back. According to an AFP story, a group:
… of Russian MPs has formally requested that prosecutors investigate former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev for treason over the breakup of the Soviet Union
Among their grievances is what they see as:
"… a fifth column in our country [that] has been formed and works in the open, funded by foreign money”…
For his part, Gorbachev dismissed the charges as:
“...poorly thought out and groundless from a historical point of view”.
Maybe so. But that never stopped them before.
4:01 PM, Apr 11, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Matthew Continetti writes at the Washington Free Beacon about the recent announcement that Democratic lobbyist power couple Tony and Heather Podesta are divorcing:
“I see lobbying,” Tony Podesta has said, “as getting information in the hands of people who are making decisions so they can make more informed decisions.” Last week the information Tony Podesta was giving was the divorce complaint he had filed in D.C. Court against his wife Heather. The hands receiving that information belonged to a gossip columnist for the Washington Post, who made the “informed decision” to report on it. Later in the day Heather, who is also a lobbyist, informed the Postthe text of her counter-suit. It published a follow-up.
The documents, which you can read below, did not become available to the rest of us until yesterday. They tell stories not only of a May-December romance gone sour, but of how obscene wealth can be amassed through rent-seeking and influence-peddling in Washington D.C., and of the hoary means by which the princelings of the capital and their consorts maintain and grow that wealth. They tell stories not only of an ugly divorce, but of the power of lobbying, of how one family maneuvered to the center of the nation’s dominant political party, of the transactional relationships, gargantuan self-regard, and empty posturing that insulates, asbestos-like, the D.C. bubble.
That the broken couple now uses the tools of their trade—the phone-call to a friend, the selective leaking of documents, the hiring of attorneys, the launch of a public-relations campaign—against one another is more than ironic. It is fitting. Tony and Heather Podesta reached the pinnacle of wealth and influence in Barack Obama’s Washington. Now they, like he, are in eclipse.
Read the whole thing here.
3:16 PM, Apr 11, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
Mississippi state senator Chris McDaniel is widely regarded as the Tea Party candidate with the best shot of knocking off an incumbent U.S. senator in a GOP primary this year. Incumbent Thad Cochran, 76, is well-known for his love of pork-barrel spending and could easily lose a race decided by conservative primary voters. But establishment Republicans are now sounding the alarm about the Tea Party challenger's temperament in light of newly-surfaced audio of McDaniel making impolitic remarks on a radio show he once hosted.
“If they pass reparations [for slavery], and my taxes are going up, I ain’t paying taxes,” McDaniel said during a radio broadcast seven years ago, according to an audio clip posted by the Wall Street Journal on Thursday. McDaniel also had a riff about "regrettably" having to learn Spanish if he moved south of the border: "You’ll have to learn just enough to ask where the bathroom is. Baños. Baños. That’s what you say.” When someone else in the studio mentioned the word "mamacita," McDaniel said: "I’m an English-speaking Anglo. I have no idea what it means, actually, but I’ve said it a few times, just for, you know, fun. And I think it basically means, 'Hey, hot mama.' Or, you know, 'You’re a fine looking young thing.'"
In a phone interview with THE WEEKLY STANDARD, McDaniel distanced himself from his past comments. Asked if he stood by his remark about not paying taxes if the government made payments to the descendants of slaves, McDaniel said: "No. Like most Americans, I'm gonna pay my taxes."
Given some of his racially-tinged remarks, how would he be able to reach out to African-American voters? "I reach out to them because they are fellow Mississippians. I love them," McDaniel told me. "They're my friends. They're my neighbors. They're who I went to school with. They're who I played basketball with. They're wonderful human beings." People shouldn't be treated as "racial collectives" but rather as "individuals," McDaniel said, adding: "I reject racism in all its forms."
McDaniel said that he was unable to comment on his "mamacita" remarks because he doesn't recall the context of the conversation. "I don't remember, it was almost ten years ago," McDaniel said. "I was a conservative talk radio host. We talked about dozens and dozens and dozens of issues."
Those dozens and dozens of radio broadcasts--a treasure trove of oppo research to be used against McDaniel and the Republican party writ large--strike fear into the hearts of Republicans in Washington. After McDaniel and I spoke, another audio clip was posted at Buzzfeed of him talking about the "boobies" of a Libertarian gubernatorial candidate in Alabama. In 2006, the candidate sold T-shirts juxtaposing a picture of her in a low-cut dress next to other candidates with the caption, "More of these BOOBS!! And Less Of these BOOBS!!"
2:34 PM, Apr 11, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The Keystone pipeline has been studied longer than just about anything this side of the Dead Sea Scrolls. And, still, the administration continues to weigh its merits. The stall is making certain members of the political class uncomfortable. As Laura Barron-Lopez of the Hill reports, several nervous Democrats have written a letter to the President saying:
“This process has been exhaustive in its time, breadth, and scope. It has already taken much longer than anyone can reasonably justify. This is an international project that will provide our great friend and ally Canada, a direct route to our refineries.”
It's no surprise Democratic Sens. Kay Hagan (N.C.), Mark Warner (Va.), Mark Pryor Ark.), and Mark Begich (Alaska), who all face reelection this year, signed the letter. All have previously expressed their adamant support of the $5.4 billion project.
The bad news for those senators is that the president isn’t running for anything and the final decision will be made (notionally, anyway) by Secretary of State John Kerry, who typically seeks approval in all the right places.
In the editorial offices of the New York Times, that is, rather than the bayous of Louisiana.
Kingston gets Hannity support.12:10 PM, Apr 11, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate, features heavily in a new TV ad from Georgia Senate candidate Karen Handel. "You know her background. You know her record," says Palin, who endorsed Handel two weeks ago. "The conservative who has walked the walk."
Watch the 30-second ad below:
Not to be outdone, one of Handel's Republican rivals for the nomination, congressman Jack Kingston, announced the support of Fox News host Sean Hannity.
“I have known Jack Kingston for 20 years,” Hannity said in a statement provided by the Kingston campaign. “He’s a solid Ronald Reagan Republican and my choice in the Georgia Senate race. Jack will join the conservative coalition in the U.S. Senate.”
Kingston and Handel are vying with three other Republican candidates (congressmen Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey, and businessman David Perdue) for the GOP nomination to succeed Saxby Chambliss. The presumptive Democratic nominee is Michelle Nunn, the daughter of the former senator Sam Nunn. The primary is May 20, and if no Republican candidate receives 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters will proceed to a July 22 runoff.
11:28 AM, Apr 11, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
At a celebration ceremony for Kathleen Sebelius's resignation as secretary of Health and Human Services, President Obama excused the problems with Healthcare.gov by saying it's the "final score" that matters:
"Yes, we lost the first quarter of open enrollment period with the problems with Healthcare.gov. And they were problems," Obama acknowledged. "But under Kathleen's leadership, her team at HHS turned the corner, got it fixed, got the job done, and the final score speaks for itself. There are 7 and a half million people across the country that have the security of health insurance, most of them for the very first time."
Obama didn't say how many of the Healthcare.gov have actually paid for their health care premiums.
11:22 AM, Apr 11, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Kathleen Sebelius had one final glitch on her way out the door. At her resignation celebtration at the White House Rose Garden today, she was missing the final page from her prepared remarks:
"Unfortunately, a page is missing," Sebelius said. The crowd laughed.
10:12 AM, Apr 11, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
The first official word from the Obama administration on Kathleen Sebelius's resignation as secretary of health and human services is a retweet by the official White House Twitter account of a tweet by Vox.com's Ezra Klein:
After news broke yesterday of Sebelius's imminent departure, Klein quickly posted an article entitled "Kathleen Sebelius is resigning because Obamacare has won." The article was largely met with derision on the right, and even mainstream news reporting called into question the victorious characterization of Sebelius's exit.
The president is set to speak at eleven o'clock Friday morning and is expected to announce that Sylvia Mathews Burwell, currently director of the Office of Management and Budget, will take Sebelius's place.
9:44 AM, Apr 11, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Not so long ago, we learned from a Wall Street Journal story that the nation’s electrical grid could be taken completely down by the disabling of nine critical electrical substations
This became public knowledge, as Matthew Daly of the AP reports, because:
Federal energy regulators improperly allowed widespread access to a sensitive document that outlined specific locations where the nation's electric grid is vulnerable to physical threats, a government investigator said Wednesday.
The document created by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission should have been kept secret as a national security matter, Energy Department Inspector General Gregory Friedman said. Instead the information was provided in whole or in part to federal and industry officials in uncontrolled settings.
It is a comfort to know, however, that the Congress is all over it.
Sens. Mary Landrieu and Lisa Murkowski, the top two leaders of the Senate Energy Committee, asked [Energy Department Inspector General Gregory] Friedman to investigate the "apparent leak” … Landrieu chairs the Energy Committee and Murkowski is the panel's senior Republican.
A bi-partisan effort will leave no stone unturned, work tirelessly, get to the bottom of things and, then ...
8:14 AM, Apr 11, 2014 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
The distinguished intellectual historian Jeffrey Herf, whose Ph.D. is from Brandeis, has written an eloquent and powerful letter to Brandeis president Fred Lawrence. Prof. Herf concludes:
That the president of a university founded by Jews in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust should have rescinded an honor to a woman who has had the courage to attack the most important source of Jew-hatred in the world today is a disgraceful act and a failure of leadership. Instead of appeasing intolerance in your faculty, you should have taken this moment to reaffirm the values for which Brandeis has stood for so long and reconfirm the place of universities as models of tolerance and enlightenment in our troubled society. Once a proud alumnus, I will be forced to disavow my relationship with Brandeis in the future.
Here's the complete letter, well worth reading in full.
Dear President Lawrence:
As a scholar whose 1981 PhD comes from Brandeis, I read the news that you rescinded the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali with particular disgust and anger. Your decision is an act of cowardice and appeasement to those 85 faculty members who signed their document of intolerance, and it has done deep and long-lasting damage to a university whose very existence is predicated on redressing the damage that discrimination within the academy had done to American Jews for so many years. Unless you can find some way to repair the damage you have done, I will not identify with or support Brandeis as long as you are its President.
Ms. Hirsi has had the courage to say unpopular things about the religion of Islam and the ideology of Islamism. In two of my prize-winning books, Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World (Yale University Press, 2009) and The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda during World War II and the Holocaust (Harvard University Press, 2006), I have had occasion to address the role of Islam and Islamism in fanning the flames of Jew-hatred. In publishing work that documents the role of the Islamist interpretation of the Koran in promulgating the most absurd and idiotic ideas about the Jews, I have faced intolerance from scholars working on the Middle East. They have denounced well-founded scholarship as “Islamophobia” or “Zionist propaganda” and denied that the Koran or Islamism could possibly have anything to do with anti-Semitism. Like Tony Kushner and Desmond Tutu, to whom Brandeis has given honorary degrees, they have erroneously argued that Arab and Islamist antagonism to Israel is exclusively the result of the alleged sins of Israel. As far as I know, neither has had anything of substance to say about the role of Islam and Islamism in fanning the flames of hatred of the Jews and of Israel. These critics have said that those of us who point to the anti-Jewish elements of the Koran and the Jew-hatred of modern Islamists are guilty of intolerance towards Muslims. I have seen this up close for years now. The last place I expected to find groveling, embarrassing appeasement of this rubbish was from the president of Brandeis University.
7:02 AM, Apr 11, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
While crises continue in Ukraine, Syria, Iran, and the Central African Republic, the United Nations turned its attention to a different kind of crisis on Thursday: the "global road safety crisis." The U.N. General Assembly held a session on Improving Global Road Safety in which the United States cosponsored a resolution "which calls for laws to fight texting and driving."
Ambassador Samantha Power tweeted the following:
Proud to cosponsor UN Resolution on #RoadSafety, which calls for laws to fight texting and driving. My remarks: http://t.co/XKQTH3vjz2
— Samantha Power (@AmbassadorPower) April 10, 2014
In her remarks at the session, Power noted that although "improvements in road design, traffic management, safety equipment, and emergency response" could help reduce the 1.2 million annual worldwide traffic fatalities, "Most important, however, is driver behavior." She continued:
Excessive speed and a failure to obey traffic rules are both killers. The role of alcohol in traffic fatalities is also well documented and should never be understated. In recent years, however, we have faced a new and deadly threat in the form of driving while texting or talking on the phone. Research shows that cell phone users are over 5 times more likely to get in an accident than undistracted drivers. And that texting while driving can delay a driver’s reactions as much as a 0.08 blood-alcohol level, the same as a drunk driver. Already, in the United States, more teenagers are killed while texting than because they have been drinking. But the problem is neither confined to teenagers nor to highly-industrialized countries; it is spreading as fast as technology.
It is unclear how the push for such bans will fare, particularly in less developed countries where drivers routinely take shortcuts on sidewalks, and red lights and stop signs often seem optional. However, Power cited a new law just passed in Maryland that was named for Jake Owen, a five-year-old who was killed when a distracted driver rammed the boy's family's car. The law increases penalties for drivers found responsible for causing an accident while talking on a cell phone or texting.
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