|8:31 AM, Dec 6, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
The latest employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
The unemployment rate declined from 7.3 percent to 7.0 percent in November, and total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 203,000, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employment increased in transportation and warehousing, health care, and manufacturing.
Household Survey Data
Both the number of unemployed persons, at 10.9 million, and the unemployment rate, at 7.0 percent, declined in November. Among the unemployed, the number who reported being on temporary layoff decreased by 377,000. This largely reflects the return to work of federal employees who were furloughed in October due to the partial government shutdown. (See tables A-1 and A-11.)
Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (6.7 percent), adult women (6.2 percent), teenagers (20.8 percent), whites (6.2 percent), blacks (12.5 percent), and Hispanics (8.7 percent) changed little in November. The jobless rate for Asians was 5.3 percent (not seasonally adjusted), little changed from a year earlier. (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.)
The number of persons unemployed less than 5 weeks declined by 300,000 in November, partially reflecting the return to work of federal employees on furlough in October. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was essentially unchanged at 4.1 million in November. These individuals accounted for 37.3 percent of the unemployed. The number of long-term unemployed has declined by 718,000 over the past 12 months. (See table A-12.)
8:02 AM, Dec 6, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Matthew Continetti, writing in the Washington Free Beacon:
It was a sunny day in Beijing on Thursday—refreshingly sunny, to be more precise—when Vice President Joe Biden met Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. I know this because I have read the pool report of the occasion, a pithy and practically content-free piece of journalism that is nevertheless one of the more entertaining things to enter my inbox in recent days. The pool report confirms the lingering suspicion—if it hasn’t been confirmed a million times already—that the line between journalism and Democratic Party cheerleading has more than faded. It has become invisible.
Pool reports are summaries of official events distributed to reporters, who then use the information to write articles or produce news packages. The building blocks of journalism, involving basic details such as names, places, and local color, pool reports are typically written by members of the periodical press. But the Internet has thrown open the question of what the periodical press is. And in the case of Vice President Biden’s visit with the Chinese collective oligarchy at the Zhongnanhao Leadership Compound, the pool report was composed and issued by someone who is not a member of the periodical press, someone who is not really “a journalist,” as the term is broadly understood, at all. His name is Steve Clemons.
Clemons is a Washington hand and bon vivant who has spent a long career working for a Democratic senator, working for think tanks, and working in the interstices of online journalism, event programming, and D.C. social climbing. For some time he has been parked at the New American Foundation—a center-left think tank that recently hosted an event for an anti-Israel screed written by the son of a top Clinton confidante—and at the Atlantic Monthly, where he is “Washington editor at large.”Politico has described him as a “foreign policy ‘super-agent,’” and the foreign policy for which he flacks lines up remarkably closely with the “realist” policy of the Obama administration: eager to negotiate with traditional adversaries, convinced that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the cause of Middle East turmoil, and determined to prevent neoconservatives and the dastardly Israel Lobby from committing America to foreign entanglements. Clemons was a key player in the campaign to install as America’s secretary of defense the embarrassingly stupid Chuck Hagel. He is not, let us be clear, a “disinterested observer.” I look forward to Sean Hannity’s pool reports from President Ted Cruz’s state visit to France.
6:00 PM, Dec 5, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Barack Obama, on the passing of Nelson Mandela:
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT ON THE DEATH OF NELSON MANDELA
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
5:25 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: At his trial in 1964, Nelson Mandela closed his statement from the dock saying, “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
And Nelson Mandela lived for that ideal, and he made it real. He achieved more than could be expected of any man. Today, he has gone home. And we have lost one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth. He no longer belongs to us -- he belongs to the ages.
Through his fierce dignity and unbending will to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others, Madiba transformed South Africa -- and moved all of us. His journey from a prisoner to a President embodied the promise that human beings -- and countries -- can change for the better. His commitment to transfer power and reconcile with those who jailed him set an example that all humanity should aspire to, whether in the lives of nations or our own personal lives. And the fact that he did it all with grace and good humor, and an ability to acknowledge his own imperfections, only makes the man that much more remarkable. As he once said, “I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”
I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela's life. My very first political action, the first thing I ever did that involved an issue or a policy or politics, was a protest against apartheid. I studied his words and his writings. The day that he was released from prison gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they’re guided by their hopes and not by their fears. And like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set, and so long as I live I will do what I can to learn from him.
To Graça Machel and his family, Michelle and I extend our deepest sympathy and gratitude for sharing this extraordinary man with us. His life’s work meant long days away from those who loved him the most. And I only hope that the time spent with him these last few weeks brought peace and comfort to his family.
To the people of South Africa, we draw strength from the example of renewal, and reconciliation, and resilience that you made real. A free South Africa at peace with itself -- that’s an example to the world, and that’s Madiba’s legacy to the nation he loved.
We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. So it falls to us as best we can to forward the example that he set: to make decisions guided not by hate, but by love; to never discount the difference that one person can make; to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice.
For now, let us pause and give thanks for the fact that Nelson Mandela lived -- a man who took history in his hands, and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice. May God Bless his memory and keep him in peace.
END 5:30 P.M.
5:17 PM, Dec 5, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Nelson Mandela, the revered statesman who emerged from prison after 27 years to lead South Africa out of decades of apartheid, has died, South African President Jacob Zuma announced late Thursday.
Mandela was 95.
"He is now resting. He is now at peace," Zuma said. "Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father."
"What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human," the president said in his late-night address. "We saw in him what we seek in ourselves."
4:11 PM, Dec 5, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
If you were about to press the trigger on the weapon that would destroy the world (or come close, anyway) then wouldn’t you want to do it with a touch of style? Some elegance, wit, or mordancy?
Well, the Strategic Air Command takes a more phlegmatic view. As Sean Gallagher at Ars Technica reports:
"… for two decades, all the Minuteman nuclear missiles in the US used the same eight-digit numeric passcode to enable their warheads: 00000000.”
Nothing times eight?
Surely they could have done better than that. How about, for instance, au revoir?
When property law and canon law collide.2:44 PM, Dec 5, 2013 • By BAILEY PRITCHETT
Hundreds of congregations across the country have left the Episcopal Church (TEC) over the past decade, moved to act over the church’s evolving doctrine on sexuality. The tipping point for many was after the church ordained Gene Robinson, its first openly gay bishop, in 2003. One of those congregations was the Falls Church Anglican in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, which voted to realign with the conservative Convocation of Anglicans in North America in 2007. But more than six years later, the Falls Church Anglican remains locked in a legal battle with its old church in a case that’s made its way to the Supreme Court—and may have consequences for the relationship between civil law and church law.
Following the congregation’s break, TEC demanded that the Falls Church Anglican trustees transfer its property to the church’s diocesan bishop, per canon law. When the congregation refused, TEC sued the Falls Church Anglican and the 10 other congregations in Virginia that departed.
The lawsuit reached the Virginia supreme court for the first time in 2010. In a unanimous decision, the court decided in favor of TEC. When the the state supreme court reaffirmed the decision in favor of TEC three years later, the Falls Church Anglican appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the congregation was forced to leave its building—the Falls Church’s home for more than 200 years—last January. Since then, it has held services in several facilities, most consistently in the gymnasium of Bishop O'Connell High School (a Roman Catholic school) in nearby Arlington.
The dispute that brings both parties to the Supreme Court is over the Episcopal Church’s Dennis Canon. According to the Dennis Canon, TEC can impose an express trust on “all real and personal property held by or for the benefit of any Parish, Mission or Congregation.” The courts must determine whether TEC has the ability to impose such a trust. In Virginia, the Dennis Canon was particularly problematic under state property law that did not recognize “express and implied trusts for hierarchical churches,” until 1993—14 years after the Dennis Canon was created. So far, the courts have ruled that the canon law applies to the Falls Church Anglican even though the law was created after the congregation was established.
Virginia supreme court justice Elizabeth McClanahan wrote in her concurring opinion this year that “under First Amendment law, the prohibition of the enforcement of an express trust… such as that created by the Dennis Canon between TEC, and the Diocese, and The Falls Church, was constitutional.” The Falls Church Anglican argues that the court “erred by retroactively applying laws and canons not in force when the Falls Church acquired its initial property or when it joined the denomination.” State supreme courts across the country are divided on whether civil law acknowledges the Dennis Canon, or more so canon law at large.
In the meantime, the Falls Church Anglican building that once held 2,000 members every Sunday morning is now the home of the Falls Church Episcopalian, a congregation that rents out and shares the space with another congregation in order to pay the bills. The buildings of the 10 other congregations-in-exile are either boarded up or host religious groups of the highest bidder.
1:34 PM, Dec 5, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The island of Guam has a real problem with snakes. Brown tree snakes to be precise, which probably came in via uninspected air cargo. Having no natural predators on Guam, they quickly multiple, until, according to this report:
… more than 2 million brown tree snakes inhabit Guam, with as many as 13,000 per square mile in some areas.
The snakes are non-poisonous to humans but they feast rapaciously on birds and get into electrical wiring causing blackouts and are just generally undesirable and intrusive. There is also concern that having established a beachhead in Guam, the snakes’ next target for invasion may be the Hawaiian islands where “...they could inflict up to $2.14 billion in economic damages in addition to damaging local wildlife populations.”
The threat is being taken seriously by the Department of Agriculture. So much so that it has resorted to unconventional warfare to combat the snakes. The latest scheme is to parachute in a battalion of dead mice.
The mice will be laced with a drug that is lethal to snakes but can be tolerated by other species. So a snake comes across the body of a mouse and ignores evidence that it is an infiltrator. (The parachute should be a tipoff.) Snake chows down and is quickly KIA.
It could work and, heaven knows, it shows that the bureaucrats are able to think outside the proverbial box. The plan, however, has opposition. From animal rights advocates, including:
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which would prefer the snakes to be captured and humanely euthanized. “Brown tree snakes did not ask to be stowaways on planes or ships and then forced to survive on a foreign island,” Martin Mersereau, director of PETA’s cruelty investigations, said in February. “Although the snakes are considered invasive, no animal should be forced to endure cruel death,” he added.
Nothing on the forced conscription and murder of the mice.
12:07 PM, Dec 5, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
With all the other problems experienced by consumers at Healthcare.gov, actually making payments for plans selected has gotten relatively little attention until recently. As the end of the year draws closer, however, the importance of making a payment to secure coverage by January 1 has increased. As recently as November 18, a Healthcare.gov chat representative told THE WEEKLY STANDARD that the site "may give you [the online payment] option when you complete your enrollment," but that "We are still experiencing some technical difficulties with the website, which is why it would be best to possibly go through the insurance company to make your first premium payment."
Instructions at Healthcare.gov on making premium payments are ambiguous at best. The following appears under the question, "How Do I Apply for Marketplace Coverage?" [emphasis added]:
Enroll. After you choose a plan, you can enroll online and decide how you pay your premiums to your insurance company. You must pay your premium by the date the insurer provides before your coverage can begin. Coverage can begin as soon as January 1, 2014.
Despite saying "decide how you pay your premiums," no options are actually listed.
However, a blog post at HHS.gov on Wednesday removed any doubt. Payments may not be made through the Healthcare.gov Marketplace. Now HHS says "you must pay your premium to the insurance company directly – not to the Health Insurance Marketplace."
This recent blog post suggests that the "technical difficulties" with online payments could not be overcome, and so the option will not be available. The government has repeatedly refused to respond to questions about the status of work related to an emergency, no-bid contract for "financial management services" awarded in August that would presumably handle online payments, part of the "back end" that HHS has indicated is far from complete.
The federal insurance marketplace is not the only one experiencing problems with accepting payments. The state of Maryland announced back on November 8 that since "[a]ccepting payment is not required of a state-based marketplace, and the Board approved deferring this option until after the core items are addressed."
11:13 AM, Dec 5, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
The New York Post reports that incoming New York City mayor Bill de Blasio will name Bill Bratton as the next NYPD commissioner.
Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio on Thursday named former NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton to replace Ray Kelly as the city’s top cop.
“Bill Bratton is a proven crime-fighter. He knows what it takes to keep a city safe, and make communities full partners in the mission. Together, we are going to preserve and deepen the historic gains we’ve made in public safety—gains Bill Bratton helped make possible,” de Blasio said in a statement.
Bratton served in the same position under Rudy Giuliani. And he was recently quoted as a defender of the supposedly controversial stop and frisk program -- a program de Blasio has wanted to roll back.
As David Feith of the Wall Street Journal quoted Bratton as saying last January:
"Stop-and-frisk is not something that you can stop. It is an absolutely basic tool of American policing," Mr. Bratton says. "It would be like asking a doctor to give an examination to you without using his stethoscope." Critics, he complains, "always leave out the middle term—stop, question and frisk. About 60 to 70 percent of the stops don't result in a frisk in New York." As for Judge Shira Scheindlin's recent ruling, he predicts a reversal "when it goes to the Supreme Court."
If stop-and-frisk makes it to the highest court in the land, the ruling might be more than a matter of academic interest for Mr. Bratton. He has been out of the police-chief game since 2009, when he retired after a successful seven-year stint in Los Angeles. But he has been speaking with more than one of the candidates who are positioning themselves for New York's mayoral election this November. Asked whether he might return for a second stint as the city's top cop, he offers praise for current Commissioner Ray Kelly and says little more than "I'll keep my options open."
10:22 AM, Dec 5, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Pessimists who believe that once a large piece of governmental malpractice is in place, it is there forever and immoveable, should to pay attention to this day and, perhaps, celebrate with a cocktail.
It was on December 5th 1933 that Prohibition was repealed. Government, at all levels, still had a lot to say about your drinking – and it wasn’t shy about taxing alcohol – but at least the absolutist prohibition had been recognized as folly. People were going to drink and they found ways to make it interesting. It’s in the DNA … or something.
So to celebrate, Sara Bonisteel at Epicurious, headlines "Five Prohibition-Era Cocktails For Repeal Day" and notes, helpfully that:
These cocktails are simple and sweet, relying on syrups to hide imperfections in the bathtub gin. Made with modern hooch, these drinks go down nice and easy.
8:21 AM, Dec 5, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Vice President Joe Biden talked up the pool reporter covering him in China today to the vice president of China. According to the pool report, Biden told the Chinese VP that "he is a very important man. Seriously he is important."
Biden, according to the pool report, continued, "You should speak to him. He is the one you really want to speak to. Seriously."
The Chinese VP apparently then came up to the pool reporter and said, "Vice President Biden is a good friend to you and to me."
Via the pool report, of course:
Then an awkward thing happened in which your pool inadvertently became part of the story.
While taking pictures of the two Vice Presidents with a new iPhone 5, Vice President Biden pointed at your pool, whose name is Steve Clemons, and gestured to VP Li Yuancho saying "he is a very important man. Seriously he is important." Your pool demurred as best he could. This will surprise some but it is true.
Then Vice President Biden told Vice President Li, "You should speak to him. He is the one you really want to speak to. Seriously."
Pool froze up not knowing what to do but smile and wave a bit to Vice President Li.
As Vice President Biden and Vice President Li began to walk away towards the banquet hall door, Vice President Li Yuanchao stopped and looked at your pool and said in deep, haulting, but distinctive English, "Vice President Biden is a good friend to you and to me."
VP Biden winked the direction of your pool and the two Vice Presidents walked into the banquet hall.
7:33 AM, Dec 5, 2013 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
Can your health insurer auto-enroll you in Obamacare? The Daily Caller reports that, at least in some cases, the answer is yes:
"If you have an insurance plan that isn’t compatible with [Obamacare], your insurance company might be automatically rolling you into the plan 'most similar' to your own.
"For one Washington state resident interviewed by The Daily Caller, his new 'Bronze' plan is 80 percent more expensive for him and his wife. His wife is paying $220 more and he’s paying $150 more with higher deductibles.
"Be sure to check all the mail you’re getting from your insurance company. They have to notify you 90 days in advance if they’re going to automatically switch you, according to federal law."
A health insurance representative told the Daily Caller that people who don't want to be auto-enrolled in Obamacare can always opt out. But the burden is on them.
President Obama claimed that if you like your health insurance, you can keep your health insurance. That has a little different ring to it than, if you like your health insurance, your health insurer can enroll you in Obamacare without your permission (but you can always opt out!).
Hosted by Michael Graham.5:05 PM, Dec 4, 2013 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with executive editor Fred Barnes on Obamacare and why more speeches by the president will not save it.
This podcast can be downloaded here. Subscribe to THE WEEKLY STANDARD's iTunes podcast feed here.
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