|2:45 PM, Mar 10, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
“I think that cutting the defense budget in significant ways right now is a serious mistake. When we’ve cut the budget before at the end of the Cold War, at the end of Vietnam and other times, it’s been because we thought the world was going to be safer place. No one can make that case right now."
That's former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
The current secretary, meanwhile, proposes to reduce the strength of the Army to a level not seen since before World War II and to eliminate weapons system, like the A-10, favored by many still in uniform.
Only one of them is right.
1:19 PM, Mar 10, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
Over the weekend, the West Virginia legislature became the first state legislature controlled by Democrats to pass a bill that would prohibit most abortions during the final four months of pregnancy. The Senate voted 29-5 in favor of the measure, and the House of Delegates voted 85-15 to approve it. Democrats control the Senate by a 24-10 margin and the House by a 53-47 margin.
West Virginia's Democratic governor Earl Ray Tomblin has not indicated if he will sign the bill. Spokesmen for West Virginia U.S. senator Joe Manchin have not responded to multiple requests for comment from THE WEEKLY STANDARD on a federal version of the legislation, which passed the House of Representatives in 2013. Majority leader Harry Reid has not allowed a vote on the Senate's companion bill. Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, two red-state senators up for reelection in 2014, have refused to say if they support the late-term abortion limit.
Polling indicates that the American people support laws prohibiting abortions later than 20 weeks after conception, the point in development at which human beings can feel pain and some can survive long-term if born. "I'm here because it's easy for me to imagine these babies at 20 to 24 weeks post-fertilization age because they are my patients in the [neo-natal intensive care unit]," Dr. Colleen Malloy of Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine testified before Congress in 2012. Malloy noted that in June 2009, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that a Swedish study found that "survival to one year of life of live born infants at 20, 21, 22, 23, and 24 weeks postfertilization age was 10%, 53%, 67%, 82%, and 85%, respectively."
A new weekly newsletter from the boss.12:40 PM, Mar 10, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The boss has a new weekly newsletter launching next week—but we're giving you a sneak preview today. Sign up now by clicking here to make sure you never miss out.
Dear Fellow Denizen of the Dark Side,
Welcome to the very first, inaugural, present-at-the-creation edition of our new newsletter. We hope you'll enjoy it as a supplement to your weekly magazine and to the daily material posted at weeklystandard.com.
I was working on an editorial for this week's issue when Steve Hayes's draft edit came in Thursday morning, and I thought he'd said what had to be said well so I could take the week off. So I did. But I do want to urge you, in case you haven't done so, to read his strong editorial, "Obama's Fantasy-Based Foreign Policy."
What I was going to focus on also had to with Obama's foreign policy, but in a less direct way. Still, perhaps there's something worthwhile in what I'd drafted, so here it is:
"The Modern Manner"
"You just don't in the 21st century behave in 19th-century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext. So it is a very serious moment....It is serious in terms of sort of the modern manner with which nations are going to resolve problems."
"And I believe Russia, in the Crimea and in Syria, is really engaging in activity that is completely contradictory to the standards that most of us are trying to operate by in the 21st century."
---Secretary of State John Kerry, in TV interviews, Sunday, March 2
Progressivism is a touchingly simple-minded faith: The higher the number of the century, the better things should be. The more "modern" the times, the more civilized they should be.
But progressivism happens not to be true. No modern composer has surpassed Mozart. No modern playwright even approaches Shakespeare. President's Day still honors Washington and Lincoln, not Bush and Obama. The horrors of the 20th century surpassed anything dreamed of in the 19th. And the 21st century hasn't gotten off to such a great start.
Still, one might say: What's the harm of hoping? Men have to believe. They've lost faith in God. Let them believe in Progress.
To which one has to respond: The conceit of progress could be harmless. But not if belief in progress becomes an excuse for inaction, a cause of complacency, a way of justifying weakness. Which is what is has become.
It must be wonderful to be a progressive. It saves you from thinking. It allows you to appeal edifyingly to progress and trust that progress will be self-executing. If you're a progressive statesman, it appears, all you have to do is some finger-wagging. Tell trouble-makers "you just don't" do certain things any more. Then presumably the a-historical offenders will sheepishly back off from their reactionary behavior.
Obamacare is keeping health care costs down, by making it difficult to access exchanges.10:02 AM, Mar 10, 2014 • By IKE BRANNON
My wife woke up Saturday with a badly swollen knee. We had no idea what could have caused it—her hot yoga class puts her in poses that put stress on the knee but she didn't remember the knee hurting during her last session.
We called a friend who is an orthopedic surgeon who ventured a long-distance diagnosis— bursitis was his hunch—and recommended that before we go to the emergency room she give it rest and plenty of ice and see if the swelling recedes. After a few days it did, thankfully.
I am especially thankful because we don't have health insurance. For almost four months we have been waiting for the D.C. Health Exchange to process our application to purchase health insurance, and we are no nearer to having health insurance today than we were when we started the process. And we have become adept at economizing on health spending as a result.
We applied for health insurance on the exchange in early November: that it took six or seven tries to get through the entire application on the exchange website was frustrating, albeit comical, but as January approached and no confirmation of our application was forthcoming it became worrisome. I called the exchange, which had no record of my application, and gave them my information over the phone. A few days I called back and they asked for my information again, and we repeated the process again the following week. And then silence.
As January neared we obtained the services of a health exchange facilitator—a health insurance broker—who began badgering them on our behalf, and her efforts did produce responses from them, which I attribute to the complete contempt she exhibits for the D.C. health exchange that she doesn’t bother hiding in her communications with the exchange.
In the last two months a pattern has developed: we bother the people on the exchange, they assure me they are close to resolving my case, and tell me to call the health care provider in two or three days and all will be fixed. I wait the requisite amount of time, make the call, and am told that the D.C. exchange has not yet transmitted the necessary information to allow them to sell me insurance. I call the exchange back and the cycle begins anew.
In the meantime we are judicious in our health care spending: The other night our 2 year old came down with the croup and her fever spiked above 103. Normally that's when I panic and rush to the doctor, but this time we called the our pediatrician’s 24 hour nurse hotline, and the nurse suggested we give motrin and watch her closely for a couple hours to see if the fever breaks. Which it did, thankfully, saving us a few hundred dollars and reducing our nation's health care costs by a similar amount.
We've found other ways to economize on our health care spending too: my wife's begun taking her prescription medication (which costs $350 a month out of pocket) every 30 hours instead of once a day and thus far has not experienced any ill effects. We postponed our six year old's annual checkup and my annual melanoma exam.
9:24 AM, Mar 10, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
A group of Democratic senators, as Niels Lesniewski of Roll Call reports, are planning to keep the Senate in session all night tonight. This, in order:
… to make their case on climate change.
The leader of this effort is Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island who says that the all-nighter is designed:
“… to basically break the pattern of the Senate and show the interest of at least 20 senators who will be participating through the night.”
Senator Whitehouse has been on the global warming case for a while now and:
… has given a “time to wake up” floor speech about climate and environmental issues each week the Senate’s been in session for the past 58 session weeks.
"Time to wake up,” and, now, a Senate all-nighter.
8:01 AM, Mar 10, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The federally subsidized railroad service Amtrak is offering up to 24 writers the chance to take a 2-5 day trip aboard a train for free. It's all part what is being called the "#AmtrakResidency program."
"Amtrak is excited to announce the official launch of the #AmtrakResidency program," reads the program description.
"#AmtrakResidency was designed to allow creative professionals who are passionate about train travel and writing to work on their craft in an inspiring environment. Round-trip train travel will be provided on an Amtrak long-distance route. Each resident will be given a private sleeper car, equipped with a desk, a bed and a window to watch the American countryside roll by for inspiration. Routes will be determined based on availability."
Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis and reviewed by a panel. Up to 24 writers will be selected for the program starting March 17, 2014 through March 31, 2015. A passion for writing and an aspiration to travel with Amtrak for inspiration are the sole criteria for selection. Both emerging and established writers will be considered.
Residencies will be anywhere from 2-5 days, with exceptions for special projects.
There is no cost to apply for the #AmtrakResidency program.
As the Congressional Budget Office notes, the federal government gave Amtrak more than $1.5 billion last year. "Lawmakers appropriated more than $1.5 billion in 2013 to subsidize intercity passenger rail services provided by the National Railroad Passenger Corporation—or Amtrak—including $1.0 billion in grants for capital expenses and debt service, $0.5 billion in grants for operating subsidies, and $0.1 billion for disaster mitigation and repair work after Hurricane Sandy," writes the CBO.
"All told, the government covers almost all of Amtrak’s capital costs as well as more than 10 percent of its operating costs. In 1970, when the Congress established Amtrak, it anticipated subsidizing the railroad for only a short time, until it became self-supporting. Since then, however, the federal subsidies to Amtrak have totaled about $45 billion."
7:01 AM, Mar 10, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
Less than a month after the exposure of a widespread vulnerability on government "open data" websites, another perhaps even more insidious opening for abuse of government websites has come to light. The problem is known as an "unvalidated redirect," and has been found on the websites of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Treasury Department, and even the Senate, among others. The vulnerability is not a new one and could extend back months if not years, and is not an uncommon problem on commercial websites either.
A "redirect" is a web address that automatically opens a webpage or, in many cases, even a completely different website that the original address, or URL, indicated. Generally when a government website directs a user to an external site, a warning or disclaimer appears alerting the user. For instance, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services website places a small "world" icon next to external links, and the site has a page explaining the disclaimer:
Other government sites follow a different protocol where a special disclaimer page is displayed for several seconds after the external link is clicked before the users is automatically taken to the new page or site. While this protocol is not a problem in and of itself, if the website code does not restrict the ability to redirect only to sites approved by host sites, any web address can be substituted. This can allow unscrupulous website operators to provide a link in a website or an email that begins with a legitimate government address, such as senate.gov or epa.gov, but then quickly and automatically transport users to any website they choose.
The website for the Senate is an especially serious example of this vulnerability because of the complete lack of a disclaimer on the "exit" page before the redirect takes place. Senators often will direct website users to pertinent news articles, stories concerning constituent issues, or government services on other federal websites. However, the following screen is all that users see before they are bounced to the new page or site:
12:31 PM, Mar 9, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
First question asked, supposedly, in situation rooms when there is … well, a situation: Where are the carriers?
Lately, there has been this situation in the Ukraine and now we learn that there is a carrier on hand. In this case the George H.W. Bush, the Navy’s most recently commissioned Nimitz-class carrier.
According to a release written by master chief Jeffrey Madlangbayan the ship’s public affairs department the carrier:
... arrived in Antalya, Turkey for a scheduled port visit, Mar. 9.
Scheduled, perhaps, but also timely.
6:33 PM, Mar 8, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Sarah Palin, inspired by Ted Cruz's reading of Green Eggs and Ham during his filibuster last year, re-wrote the Dr. Seuss classic to whack Uncle Sam at CPAC today:
"I do not like this Uncle Sam. I do not like his health care scam. I do not like -- oh, just you wait -- I do not like these dirty crooks, or how they lie and cook the books. I do not like when Congress steals, I do not like their crony deals. I do not like this spying, man, I do not like, 'Oh, Yes we can.' I do not like this spending spree, we're smart, we know there's nothing free. I do not like reporters' smug replies when I complain about their lies. I do not like this kind of hope, and we won't take it, nope, nope, nope."
Rand Paul: 'Onwards to victory!'5:56 PM, Mar 8, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Rand Paul is the winner of the CPAC straw poll. As Stephen Dinan and Seth McLaughlin report:
Sen. Rand Paul demolished his competition in the 2014 Washington Times/CPAC presidential preference straw poll on Saturday, winning 31 percent of the vote — nearly three times the total of second-place Sen. Ted Cruz.
The poll also found a strong plurality of attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference believe marijuana should be fully legalized, with 41 percent saying it’s time to change the law and tax it. Another 21 percent said it should be legalized only for medicinal purposes, while just 31 percent said it should remain illegal in all cases.
But according to Chad Pergram, Ted Cruz is the winner of the Senate Conservative Fund straw poll:
UPDATE: Rand Paul says "onwards to victory!"
11:12 AM, Mar 8, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Ralph Nader is exasperated. Not an unusual condition for him. But the cause of his frustration, this time, is not GM (the company he helped destroy) or Al Gore (the presidential candidate he helped defeat) or any of the usual suspects. In this case, Citizen Nader is peeved at fellow progressive, Senator Bernie Sanders.
Nader has sent the senator a letter giving him what for and calling him everything but a corporate bandit and unfeeling member of the one-percent.
“In the past year, I have called you many times at your Washington office,” Nader writes. "Your staff dutifully takes my messages, forwards them to you and you do not call back. Never.”
However, Nader continues:
You do communicate in one way … Along with others deemed to be on the right mailing lists, I receive many of your fundraising letters to help Bernie get re-elected. Your letters are full of warnings about the right-wing, corporate interests out to defeat you … In the two years before your election, the letters flow with predictable regularity, recounting your record and the perils confronting your election. Once you are comfortably and predictably re-elected, Bernie returns to the Lone Ranger mode.
One reads Nader's letter and thinks, “Who would return his calls? Life is way too short for that."
8:01 AM, Mar 8, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
Close on the heels of an Obamacare-related "off the record" conference call hosted by Vice President Biden, President Obama will host one of this own on Monday, March 10 with "faith leaders." According to the announcement, the president "wants to thank all of the faith and community leaders across the country" for their help in enrolling people in Obamacare. The exact content of the call will not be known, however, because the "call is off the record and not for press purposes."
The call was announced on the Health and Human Services (HHS) website under the heading "Calling All Faith Leaders!":
Calling All Faith Leaders! Conference Call with President Obama on the Affordable Care Act
March 10, 2014 | 1:00 PM EST
The White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships invites you to join President Obama for a conference call on Monday, March 10th at 1:30pm ET.
President Obama wants to thank all of the faith and community leaders across the country who are working hard to help millions of Americans access affordable, quality health coverage. As you know, one of the President’s top priorities is to ensure that Americans get covered by enrolling in the health insurance marketplace before the March 31stdeadline, and he looks forward to discussing these issues with you
Thank you for your work and continued support. Please feel free to share this invitation with other community contacts who would be interested in this work. We hope you will be able to join us.
*This call is off the record and not for press purposes.
The call will take place with exactly three weeks remaining in the open enrollment period for obtaining 2014 coverage through the insurance Marketplaces. HHS recently acknowledged that insurance companies may still offer coverage directly to consumers outside the marketplace after March 31 as long as the policies conform to Affordable Care Act requirements and are available to anyone. At this point it is unclear whether or not insurers will take advantage of this opening. Those purchasing individual coverage outside the marketplace after March 31 will not be able to receive subsidies and will likely face a tax for the portion of 2014 in which they were uninsured.
Economy's better, but headwinds ahead.12:00 AM, Mar 8, 2014 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
Five years ago this Sunday share prices hit a 13-year low: the S&P index of 500 shares fell to 676.53. Today it stands at 1,878.04, an increase of about 170 percent. Five years ago Sunday the unemployment rate stood at 8.7 percent, and was to reach 10 percent in a few months. Today, the unemployment rate stands at 6.7 percent. Five years ago this month builders received permits to build 513,000 homes; this month they likely will receive close to twice as many. Five years ago auto sales fell to a 27-year low of 10.4 million vehicles. This year sales will top that by some 50 percent.
Yet three out of every four Americans believe the nation is still in recession. With reason. Yesterday’s jobs report showed that the number of long-term unemployed rose last month to 3.8 million, below its peak but still high by historic standards. If millions had not dropped out of the work force in the past five years, the unemployment rate would be above 10 percent, higher than at the depths of the recession. And household incomes remain stuck at about their five-year-ago level when adjusted for inflation. Which accounts for the view of so many Americans that the recession has not ended. And that somehow things are out of control—fewer than one person in four believes the president is doing a good job, and only one American in ten is satisfied with Congress’s performance.
This is the shape of things when the president dropped his budget on congressional desks this week. Its call for an increase in taxes and in spending beyond the sums agreed to only a few months ago in the bipartisan spending bill worked out by Republican representative Paul Ryan and Democratic senator Patty Murray will go unheeded. So a government-led spending spurt and looser fiscal policy cannot be counted on to play a major role in offsetting the likely continued reduction in asset purchases by the Federal Reserve Board, the so-called tapering. Indeed, since Obama will not get his spending wish list, and since the deficit is declining relative to the size of the economy, fiscal policy might be a headwind to growth this year.
There are others:
· Economy watchers say that the year-end inventory build-up presages slower production, at least in the first half of this year.
· Activity in the service sector fell in January.
· Market watchers worry that after a five-year bull run, historical patterns suggest that the bulls are about to leave the arena, and the bears to emerge from hibernation.
· Those who follow the auto industry fear that February’s relatively weak performance is due primarily to a suspension of consumers’ demand for new vehicles rather than to the weather.
· Housing analysts worry that the shift from a sellers’ to a buyers’ market early in the year reflects an enduring slowdown in the housing market.
· Retailers worry that warmer weather will fail to reverse a recent sales slowdown.
3:01 PM, Mar 7, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast, with editor Bill Kristol on the Democrats' no good, very bad week:
This podcast can be downloaded here. Subscribe to THE WEEKLY STANDARD's iTunes podcast feed here.
'We Need To Elevate the Environment in Everything We Do.'2:28 PM, Mar 7, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
Even as the situation in Ukraine has some talking about the possibility of a new cold war with Russia, Secretary of State John Kerry issued his first Policy Guidance since assuming his position a little over a year ago. The subject: Climate change. In a blog post entitled "We Need To Elevate the Environment in Everything We Do," Kerry expresses a desire to make climate change his signature issue much in the way his predecessor Hillary Clinton made women's issues a "top-tier diplomatic priority":
Leading the way toward progress on this issue [climate change] is the right role for the United States, and it’s the right role for the Department of State. That’s why I’ve decided to make climate change the subject of my first Policy Guidance as Secretary of State. I have been deeply impressed by the way Secretary Clinton elevated global women’s issues as a top-tier diplomatic priority, and believe me, we’re committed to keeping them there. When the opportunities for women grow, the possibilities for peace, prosperity, and security grow even more. President Obama and I believe the same thing about climate change. This isn’t just a challenge, it’s also an incredible opportunity. And the Policy Guidance I’m issuing today is an important step in the right direction.
Saying "there’s no time to lose", Kerry enumerated seven steps the State Department will take to carry out the "critical mission" of addressing climate change:
I. Lead by example through strong action at home and abroad.
II. Conclude a new international climate change agreement.
III. Implement the Global Climate Change Initiative.
IV. Enhance multilateral engagement.
V. Expand bilateral engagement.
VI. Mobilize financial resources.
VII. Integrate climate change with other priorities.
Kerry closed with a call to action for members of the State Department, telling them tackling this issue is part of their "mission as diplomats":
Climate change has special significance for the work we do here at State, and so do clean water, clean air, sustainability, and energy. We’re talking about the future of our earth and of humanity. We need to elevate the environment in everything we do. There’s nothing I’m more proud of then when we send one of our diplomats somewhere to really get out in the field and engage, to solve a problem, and to make something happen. I want all of you to feel empowered to think and operate that way on climate change. That’s our mission as diplomats and that’s our call to conscience as citizens of this fragile planet we inhabit. So let’s get to work.
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