Who is going to see Catching Fire this weekend? Raise your hand! I am and here is why.
In the past couple of years there has been a peculiar trend in both young adult literature and, more recently, popular music. The shelves of your local Barnes and Noble are full of tales about the end of the world and/or political uprise – dystopia.
There are three major trends emerging, all making for great story telling about the human spirit and our desire to live in liberty. The first conflict trend is centered around zombies. Personally, I blame "The Walking Dead" for this renewed interest in the gory world of zombies. But several zombie books are about raw survival skills. The lessons that emerge include working together and keeping a firearm handy.
Second, natural and manmade disasters drive several series. Less gore, but the same rules seem to apply. In fact, these books make a stronger case for the Second Amendment than any NRA ad I have seen. The lessons about long-term survival are also quite realistic. I closed the cover of one such book and started thinking of things like wheeled trash cans to get water, and the importance of bicycles. When I tried to discuss my newfound interest in survival skills with my husband, he replied, "I know what you need to do, stop reading books about the end of the world." Hmph.
Finally, the most popular series revolve around political unrest. What is fascinating about these books is that they start off in worlds patterned after ideas being sold by progressives as utopia. A planned economy, large centralized government and a place for everyone. Shockingly, it doesn't go well and political unrest develops every time.
The theme of popular songs like "Radioactive" and "Safe and Sound" reflect a desire in hearts of men and women for liberty. This drumbeat seems to be growing in America as evidenced by the commercial popularity of these songs and dystopian series like The Hunger Games and Divergent.
What does this mean for our political climate? I don't know for sure. But my general feeling is one of optimism. If young adults would rather struggle for liberty than settle for a handout, there is hope.
As for me, I am anxiously waiting for Friday so I can go see the next Hunger Games movie, Catching Fire. And no matter what the future may hold, remember the wise words of Haymitch, "Here's some advice, stay alive."
We get word today that private consultants from McKinsey & Co. warned that the rollout of Obamacare “was fraught with risks.” These warnings stretch back to April of this year. Specifically, the warnings stated the following:
The document did not predict whether the project’s problematic design stage would hamper its rollout but instead made it clear that programs of this scale are ideally pursued in a more orderly process, with “significant testing and revision” before they launch.
[. . .]
One slide notes that the policy and requirements of a program are best defined at the outset, leaving sufficient time for testing and revision. By contrast, McKinsey noted, the federal marketplace’s design was marked by “evolving requirements” that shifted throughout the design phase, leaving scant time to test the system before its launch.
It also warned that the federal government largely depended on contractors to construct the marketplace, and that it lacked an overall “end-to-end operational view” of the system to ensure that its different parts worked well together.
Federal officials asked McKinsey to lay out how the consumer experience was likely to unfold over the first year based on the existing trajectory of the project and to identify things that might go wrong. The firm reviewed more than 200 documents and sources, and interviewed about 40 people across a variety of federal agencies, but did not talk to insurers or study computer code.
As the Washington Post report states, some of the McKinsey warnings did not come to pass. But many did. The Administration was aware of them and failed to do much of anything to clean up the mess.
More bad news for the Administration: Andrew McCarthy is on the case regarding President Obama’s claim that the cancellation of insurance policies only affects five percent of the population. First of all, the individual market covers eight percent of the insured population, which means that, at the very least, we are talking about 25 million people who have had their insurance canceled; hardly an inconsequential number. Secondly, there is evidence to suggest that people covered under employer plans will also lose their insurance–”somewhere between 39 and 69 percent of employer plans,” to be precise. (Emphasis in the original.) 156 million people get insurance through employer plans, as McCarthy writes. The final tally?
. . . During all these years, while Obama was repeatedly assuring Americans, “If you like your health-insurance plan, you can keep your health-insurance plan,” he actually expected as many as seven out of every ten Americans covered by employer plans to lose their coverage. For small business, he expected at least one out of every two Americans, or as many as four out of every five, to lose their coverage.
(Emphasis in the original.)
President Barack Obama is breaking up with the health insurance industry again.
He’s had a love-hate relationship with the insurers ever since the early days of the health care reform debate. He yelled at them in public for giving people skimpy coverage, then slipped them a gift-wrapped box of chocolates — the individual mandate they wanted to gain millions of new customers.
Even during the implementation of Obamacare, he has stuck with the industry, staying in the rocky relationship despite all the petty bickering. He has to use them as a foil to advertise the law’s benefits, like all the rebates from greedy insurance companies. But he also needs them to make the law work — which is why he has been careful not to raise his voice at them even as they sent cancellation notices to individual insurance customers throughout the country.
Now, Obama is putting them on the spot. The message of his proposed one-year fix to the cancelled policies is this: I’m giving you a chance to clean up the mess. If you don’t clean it up, don’t blame it on me.
“The bottom line is insurers can extend current plans that would otherwise be cancelled into 2014,” Obama said at his Thursday press conference.
Industry CEOs have been summoned to a White House meeting Friday that’s sure to be full of those awkward conversations about who did what to whom, and who’s being unreasonable this time.
It’s enough to stress a relationship to the breaking point. And breaking up, as the song goes, can indeed be hard to do – and in the case may have implications for innocent bystanders, such as health care customers.
“The president was clear as a bell: ‘We’ve done our part. If rates go up or anything, that’s not our fault.’ And that’s not the case,” said Bill Pierce, a former Department of Health and Human Services official who has also worked in the health insurance industry.
[. . .]
“It is a political solution to a policy problem … You cannot solve a policy problem with a political solution,” said Pierce, now a senior director at APCO Worldwide.
Sure, there was a bit of “it’s not you, it’s me” in Obama’s press conference Thursday. “That’s on me. I mean, we fumbled the rollout on this health care law,” Obama said.
But really, insurers, it’s you.
“What we want to do is to be able to say to these folks, you know what, the Affordable Care Act is not going to be the reason why insurers have to cancel your plan,” Obama said.
There’s just one problem: Health insurers say the fix won’t work. And state insurance commissioners and leading actuaries aren’t sure, either.
The irresponsibility and political opportunism of this administration continue to take one’s breath away. Richard Epstein points out that the president is now completely out of touch:
The President’s November 14 press conference reveals that he is unable to come to grips with the fatal flaws of his healthcare program. He claims that “in the first month, nearly a million people successfully completed an application for themselves or their families.” Deconstructed, what that really means is a paltry 27,000 people have been able to get coverage on the federal exchanges and some 79,000 others through the state exchanges. The million-person figure includes the 975,000 people deemed “determined eligible” for coverage that they have not purchased but, he assumes, they soon will.
The President thinks this shows the pent-up demand for his program. But he hasn’t addressed the composition of the applicant pool, which clearly attracts individuals with known healthcare conditions who will receive extensive public subsidies to join the ranks of the insured. There is no way that the government exchanges can remain viable without attracting large numbers of healthy young persons, all of whom are well-advised to stay away in droves, until they become sick and can sign up with the plan of their choice, no questions asked. Obamacare can only remain solvent with an enormous public subsidy. But the President compares apples to oranges when he disparages the private plans he considers substandard while he praises the efficiency of the public plan, even though it will require public subsidies. To him, taxpayer costs don’t matter.
The President fared no better when he claimed he misspoke in saying, repeatedly, that “if you like your current healthcare plan, you can keep it.” His tortured explanation had two parts. First, he did not focus enough on the individual market; second, the grandfather protection built into the ACA turned out to be “insufficient.” One key difficulty with the individual plan is that its ten categories of Essential Health Benefits are not met by the policies offered in the individual healthcare market. But as the HealthCare.gov website makes clear, “The Affordable Care Act ensures health plans offered in the individual and small group markets, both inside and outside of the Health Insurance Marketplace, offer a comprehensive package of items and services, known as essential health benefits.” The small group market covers firms with under 50 or 100 workers depending on the state. But the President never once discusses how Obamacare undermines both markets. Millions now find themselves in a similar bind with group plans.
The President is also flatly wrong to assume that the defects in plan structure are confined to the individual market. Nor can he claim that the grandfather provision just turned out to be “insufficient.” They were that way by design. From start to finish, the entire exception was a sham. The President has no patience for the “substandard” policies rolled out by the voluntary market, which may lose, or in many cases have lost, their grandfathered status the moment they introduced any material change in their coverage formulas or rate, which they routinely do. In addition, “most PPACA requirements apply to grandfathered plans,” including limitations on waiting periods and essential healthcare benefits, which lie at the root of the problem. The tragedy remains that it is far easier to force people out of healthcare plans that they want than it is to enroll them in healthcare plans that they don’t.
In related news, meet Jessica Sanford, whose case the president cited as an Obamacare success story. He might want to take back those words. Sanford has now learned that her tax credit–which would allow her to afford health care coverage–has been taken away.
Potential shortfalls in enrollment for President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul would put a 30 percent dent in projections for U.S. prescription-drug sales in 2017, a report from IMS Health Inc. shows.
That worst-case scenario would translate to $320 billion in drug spending, according to the report. The best case is supposed to be $460 billion, boosted by demand from the health law’s expansion of insurance coverage and medical screenings, and removal of restrictions on pre-existing conditions.
Expenditures in the $2.7 trillion U.S. health-care system have doubled since 1980, growing to 18 percent of gross domestic product and leading to financial success for drugmakers, hospitals and insurers. The 2010 health law’s promise of making medical coverage an affordable possibility for at least 25 million uninsured people was projected to provide another boost.
“There’s a lot at stake,” Michael Kleinrock, director of research at the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, said in a telephone interview. “This would be a very dramatic decline. We don’t think that that kind of sky-is-falling scenario is most likely, but it is not off the table.”
Last month, 106,185 people enrolled in private health plans through insurance exchanges that debuted Oct. 1 as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. U.S. health officials had a goal of enrolling 800,000 people through November and an estimated 7 million sign-ups were predicted for the first year.
I recognize that not everyone is sympathetic to the woes of the pharmaceutical industry, but they should be. Lower profits for the industry mean a reduced capability to create new jobs and keep old ones around. And that means that people are going to get hurt–the very people whom Obamacare was supposed to help, if memory serves.
The president and his team know that they have lots of problems on their hands, so they decided to try to stop the bleeding with a conference call between the president and his Organizing for America supporters. This activity was supposed to mark a restoration in the president’s political fortunes. Alas, it probably will not do so, and guess why:
Some supporters who tried to log in to hear President Obama defend his embattled health care law on Monday night were unable to hear him because the website of the group behind the call, Organizing for Action, failed to work for them.
The website problems were an inconvenient moment for a president who has spent the last six weeks trying to explain the failure of HealthCare.gov, the online marketplace for Mr. Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
The event on Monday was intended to offer Mr. Obama’s most ardent supporters a chance to hear directly from him. It was the latest conference call to be hosted by Organizing for Action, the nonprofit group that grew out of the president’s 2012 campaign organization.
“I want to cut through the noise and talk with you directly about where we’re headed in the fight for change,” Mr. Obama had said in one of many emails sent to supporters over the past several days. The emails urged supporters to log onto an Organizing for Action website at 8:15 p.m. to listen to the president’s remarks.
[. . .]
But many people who logged in said they could not hear anything, with the website reporting “connection failure” over and over again. It was unclear how many people could listen to the call. An official with the group gave a New York Times reporter, who also could not hear anything on the website, a telephone number to call and listen in.
At the same time, a chat board on the website began filling up with messages:
“I can’t hear any audio?”
“Is everyone getting the ‘reconnecting’ message?”
“I did refresh twice — still no sound.”
“WHERES THE SOUND YO?”
One supporter pleaded, “Don’t tell me there are troubles with this live event like there were with the Obamacare website!!!!!”
Organizing for America claimed that the popularity of a hashtag on Twitter–”#ofacall”–meant that most people were getting through. But that’s nonsense; the hashtag’s popularity means nothing whatsoever when it comes to judging whether the call was plagued by technical problems. And if the technical problems with the call were not embarrassing enough, it got worse when the president claimed that “‘more than 100 million Americans’ have enrolled” in Obamacare. Yes, it was a gaffe, and yes, anyone can make a gaffe. But the gaffe, along with the technical problems, along with the fact that the president never corrected his gaffe, along with the fact that the president refused to take any questions (from loyal supporters!), along with reports that the president sounded “tired” and “weary” meant that the call utterly failed in its mission to rally support for the president and for Obamacare. Instead, it ended up causing more headaches for an administration that is suffering from about the worst policy and political migraine seen in Washington in a long time.
So I guess no one should be surprised when reading this:
Barack Obama has been hammered by the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act, with disapproval of his job performance reaching a career high, opposition to the new healthcare law up sharply and evidence of potential fallout in the midterm elections a year off.
The president’s job approval rating has fallen to 42 percent in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, down 13 percentage points this year and 6 points in the past month to match the lowest of his presidency. Fifty-five percent disapprove, a record. And 70 percent say the country’s headed seriously off on the wrong track – up 13 points since May to the most in two years.
Other ratings of the president’s performance have tumbled as well. He’s at career lows for being a strong leader, understanding the problems of average Americans and being honest and trustworthy – numerically under water on each of these (a first for the latter two). His rating for strong leadership is down by 15 points this year and a vast 31 points below its peak shortly after he took office. In a new gauge, just 41 percent rate him as a good manager; 56 percent think not.
This poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that the president’s personal image has suffered alongside his professional ratings. Fewer than half, 46 percent, see him favorably overall, down 14 points this year to the fewest of his presidency. Fifty-two percent now view him unfavorably, a new high and a majority for the first time since he took office. It may matter: Personal popularity can provide a president with cushioning when the going gets rough. Losing it leaves the president more vulnerable.
ACA – Skepticism about the Affordable Care Act looks to be the driving force in Obama’s troubles. Americans by nearly 2-1, 63-33 percent, disapprove of his handling of implementation of the new health care law. And the public by 57-40 percent now opposes the law overall, its most negative rating to date, with opposition up by 8 points in the past month alone.
Intensity of sentiment is running against the law and the president alike. At 46 percent, “strong” opposition to the ACA – a new high – outpaces strong support by a record 19 points. In terms of Obama’s job performance overall, strong critics outnumber strong approvers by 2-1, 44-22 percent, with strong disapproval at another career high. He’d run evenly on strong sentiment as recently as last May.
Fifty-six percent describe the cancellation of health insurance policies that are deemed substandard under the law as “mismanagement” rather than a normal startup problem. Given the breakdown of the healthcare.gov website, a broad 71 percent favor postponing the individual mandate requiring nearly all Americans to have coverage. And the mandate’s still widely unpopular in any case; 65 percent of Americans oppose it – a majority of them, strongly. Notably, even among those who support the individual mandate. 55 percent favor delaying it.
The poll produces evidence that the ACA could spell trouble for Democrats in the 2014 midterm elections. Americans by a 16-point margin, 37-21 percent, are more likely to oppose than to support a candidate for Congress who favors Obamacare. That’s opened up from an even score in July 2012. (Using an intensity rating – those who are “much” more or less likely to support a candidate who backs the ACA – it’s still 15 points negative, vs. 2 points last year.)
The health care law looks most politically hazardous in the states that backed Mitt Romney in 2012; there Americans by 3-1, 46-15 percent, say they’re more inclined to oppose than to support a candidate who favors the law. But the ACA’s no help even in the blue states that backed Obama; while the division is far closer, 31 percent in those states are inclined to oppose an ACA-linked candidate, vs. 25 percent who’d be more apt to support one.
Incidentally, while I am writing about Obamacare (again), may I ask that we hear no more about how “no one is more angry/upset/annoyed/perturbed/enraged/driven to sheer, stark-raving depression” by the failures of the website and the rollout than the president? First of all, the claim that the president is the most emotionally distraught person on the planet regarding the failures of the rollout is very likely untrue; as I have repeatedly noted, no one in the Obama White House has even so much as been fired for this disaster. I would think that if the president’s fury really is equivalent to that of a million suns, one or two people from his administration–at least!–would have been invited to spend more time with their families by now.
Secondly, even if we assume that the president has turned into the Incredible Hulk over Obamacare failures, who cares? Does the president’s anger help anyone who has been harmed by Obamacare? Does it do anything for people who lost health care plans they liked, even though they were assured by the president himself that if they liked their health care plans, they could keep them, “period”? Does it help those who cannot register on HealthCare.gov and who as a consequence may end up going without health insurance for some weeks? Does it help those who face the prospect of increases in their premiums and deductibles? Does it help prevent a death spiral in the health insurance exchanges?
No? I thought not. So let’s stop hearing about how the president has turned into Mr. Furious over the failed Obamacare rollout. His world-consuming rage doesn’t help anyone.
Considering all the airplay that our mayor, Rob Ford, has received over his crack smoking ways, I thought I would provide Ricochet readers with a little bit of perspective from a Toronto conservative. I have written about him extensively on my blog.
In my opinion, by any objective standards, Rob Ford has been Toronto’s best mayor. Why do I say that? Look at the record. The current City of Toronto was amalgamated in 1998. Since that time, Toronto has had three mayors: Mel Lastman, David Miller, and Rob Ford. In terms of greatness, I would rate them this way: OK, awful, and good, respectively.
Why would I rate Ford as good? Forget about his personal life for a moment and look only at his public record: he eliminated the car tax, eliminated the plastic bag tax, balanced the budget, privatized half of Toronto’s garbage collection, took many steps to clean up the corruption at Metro Housing, and browbeat a subway extension out of the Province of Ontario’s subway-hating Liberal government during a recent spate of by-elections.
Which other mayor can match this record? Not Lastman; and certainly not the urbane David Miller, whose reign was an unenviable string of failures and screw-ups. From his war on the car (i.e. the tax-paying commuter), to the unnecessary cancellation of the island bridge (which triggered contractual penalties that Porter Airlines used to purchase its initial aircraft fleet), to his bungling of garbage collection (each one of his decisions in this regard seemed to have been designed to increase costs, add complexity, and reduce convenience), to his neglect of subways, and to his insane streetcar fetish (the most inefficient and inflexible means of public transit known to man), which resulted in his neighbourhood-killing St. Clair Avenue streetcar right-of-way, David Miller was a, sober, respectable catastrophe. The popularity of Ford cannot be understood without reference to the elitist, Harvard-educated Miller who preceded him—and who showed total disdain for Toronto’s suburbs.
But what about the all the allegations of criminal wrongdoing against Ford, I hear you say?
At the time I write this, Ford has not been charged with any crime, let alone convicted of anything. This, after an unprecedented investigation by Toronto Police that involved revolving tails, electronic tracking, and aircraft surveillance. Until this investigation, I did not even know that Toronto Police had aircraft (Canadian police are much less militarized than their US counterparts). It should be noted that the current police chief, Bill Blair, was appointed by the aforementioned David Miller and was widely known back then as “Miller’s poodle”. Blair is, apparently, also hated by the rank-and-file.
But what about all the booze and drugs Ford consumed? Didn’t they impair his job?
No doubt they did, but it remains an empirical fact that he accomplished far more than any predecessor in spite of his partying.
In Ford’s defense, it must also be noted that every substantive charge concerns personal vices. With regard to his office, he makes Calvin Coolidge look profligate. One example: Toronto councillors have a budget of $80,000 for their constituency office. Most spend the max. Year after year, Councillor Rob Ford spend zero. He paid all his office expenses out of his own pocket (he is from a well-off family). This was so embarrassing to David Miller and the leftists on City Council that they actually censored him for not submitting expenses.
Another thing that needs to be understood: ever since he was elected mayor, he has been subjected to an absolutely unprecedented campaign of vilification by Toronto’s media. They have tried to get him on anything and everything, including eating a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken (yes, you read that right). They root through his garbage and stand on his driveway all night. The left tried to overturn his election because he raised $1,300 for a high school football team. Ford inspires the same level of irrational hatred among the downtown elites that Sarah Palin does.
In fact, Rob Ford is Toronto’s Sarah Palin.
Here’s a little anecdote from the weekend that illustrates the Rob Ford phenomenon perfectly. Ford is a big football fan. The Canadian Football League asked Ford not to attend Sunday’s big game between the Toronto Argonauts and the Hamilton Tigercats. He went anyway. This is what happened:
... What should have been a sombre exit for fans, ended up being a raucous parade for an embattled, world-famous politician.
“Rob Ford, Rob Ford, Rob Ford,” chanted the mob which — with the help of Rogers Centre Security and Toronto Police — ushered the mayor out into his famous Black Escalade.
The atmosphere around the mayor was rabid. In fact, it was a frenzy.
In 22 years of covering the biggest stars who come to Toronto, I have never seen any other human receive this kind of adulation and spirited veneration.
Pure adulation. Adoration. Lionization.
Sorry Anti-Ford Nation, or the 42 other members of city council and those lining up to run for mayor, but that’s what happened.”’
‘But up at the Rogers Centre in a public lot, Ford paid the parking machine and then headed into the game. Walking in with him is what it must have been like for Elvis and the Beatles. I swear to God. It was insane.
He could not get in the door and once he did, he posed for hundreds of more pictures and signed dozens of autographs. People were actually telling him to not change.
“I love Rob Ford,” said Paul Reid. “He is one of us.”’
Ricochet member Manfred Arcane asked me this question in a comment thread yesterday. Here's my answer, as well as some possible scenarios describing what could actually happen.
The critical aspect of the Syrian conflict, from Israel's perspective, is Iranian influence. Therefore, the fall of Assad — and the concomitant blow that that collapse would inflict upon Iran — is, on balance, more desirable than Assad's continued rule. Now, it is true a) that Assad has kept the Golan border largely quiet for many years; and b) that a Syria run by a scimitar-swinging Islamist freakshow is hardly a consummation devoutly to be wished. But the checking of Iran's ambition to establish an arc of power extending to the Mediterranean is, without a doubt, priority one. The Islamist freakshow, dangerous and unpredictable as it is, remains the lesser of two evils.
Now let's take a look at some possible scenarios. Note that these are only a few possibilities out of many. (Also, please read this with the understanding that this is one woman's analysis. I have no inside information from Israeli military sources. I'm extrapolating possibilities based on my own interpretation of news accounts.) I tried to place probability figures beside each scenario, but it's impossible to do so with any possibility of accuracy. The only one I can say for sure is Scenario 1, which has a probability of zero. Scenarios 4 and 5 I would say are the most likely, followed by Scenario 3.
Scenario 1: Assad is driven permanently from power and is replaced by a coalition of moderate and secular rebels. The Kurds establish safe autonomy in the north, and a protectorate is established for the Alawite minority in the south (many of whom prefer to emigrate, if they can). Diplomatic relations are opened between the new Syrian leadership and Israel.
Scenario 2: Assad is driven permanently from power and is replaced by a coalition of Islamist rebels under the aegis of the US-backed Free Syrian Army. The FSA's allegiance to the Americans frays almost immediately following victory over Assad. In a bid to establish broad-based legitimacy and unify support, the FSA starts making belligerent noises about Israel.
Scenario 3: Assad is driven permanently from power and is replaced by a coalition of Islamist rebels, both al-Qaeda and non-al-Qaeda-linked, who have joined forces and eclipsed the Free Syrian Army. Almost as soon as victory over Assad is assured, the Islamist rebels -- who have already set about dispatching non-Islamist rebels -- turn on one another. Rebels associated with groups that attended the US-Russian peace conference are hunted down and killed. Open war with the Kurds in the north erupts, and the Alawite minority is subjected to wholesale slaughter. Syria fractures into innumerable pieces and descends into bloody, street-by-street chaos, driven by personal and family vengeance. This goes on until a single charismatic figure emerges, which could take years.
Scenario 4: The non-al-Qaeda Islamist rebels establish their own front, bankrolled by Saudi money, which jockeys for power with the al-Qaeda-backed Islamist rebels, who are united under the Jabhat al-Nusra banner. Assad takes advantage of the infighting among the opposition to retake ground and destabilize the already shaky rebellion. The fight drags on and on, with Assad still standing and the rebels ever more fractious, until the rebellion collapses completely and Assad resumes control. In the interim, Iran has gone nuclear. With the assurance of Russian and Iranian protection, Assad reasserts total domination over the Syrian population. Because the war has been going on for so long, international interest has waned almost to nil, and in view of Iran's new position in the region, there is little appetite to wade into the fray. Syrian Sunnis are slaughtered in the streets, and Iran reactivates Hezbollah against Israel.
Scenario 5: Same as Scenario 4, but the rebellion collapses more quickly -- that is, before Iran has managed to go nuclear. Because there is still some international interest in Syria and the Iranian umbrella is not yet available, wholesale slaughter of the Sunni population is slightly mitigated. It does take place, however. The Russians provide practical assistance as well as diplomatic cover, including more presidential op-eds blaming the Americans for, among other things, their inability to solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem, which is the true root of all violence in the Middle East.
Scenario 6: Iran goes nuclear fast, within a matter of months. With his main ally newly emboldened and Russia running interference, Assad roars back and crushes the rebellion, as well as large chunks of his captive Sunni population. The Americans, aware of Iran's nuclear capability, issue some platitudinous regrets about the loss of life and the need for restraint on all sides. Now that Assad's victory is assured, Iran redirects Hezbollah away from Damascus and back toward the southern Lebanese border, and wheels out Sheik Nasrallah to incite the Israelis. Israel prepares for war.
Scenario 7: Israel, aware that Iran is on the brink of nuclear capability, attacks Iran, with the quiet cooperation of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan, and Turkey. The EU is beside itself, and the UN explodes in a paroxysm of outrage against Israeli aggression. The world media are saturated with footage of Iran's President Rouhani eloquently, and in measured tones, berating the Western powers for allowing the Zionist entity to reveal her true colors at the expense of a defenseless, peace-loving nation. Meanwhile, in Syria, Assad — aware that his Iranian backer is otherwise engaged — is forced to slow his advance against the increasingly divided rebellion. He pivots back to the civilian population, which is easier to take on. As no one is now paying any attention to Syria following the Israeli strike on Iran, Syrian civilians are slaughtered en masse. Assad is careful to avoid the use of gas.
As I said above, there are many other possible scenarios, some of them impossible to predict. (The Saudi-backed Islamists could turn on their masters, for instance, or a victorious Assad could be assassinated, throwing the country back into chaos. Other possibilities can't even be envisaged a priori.) As far as Israel is concerned, while it's true that Syrians who are fighting each other are too busy to fight us, there is nothing desirable about a neighbor bleeding to death. Our ideal scenario is a post-Assad Syria that is free, secular, and friendly to us, but the odds of that are vanishingly small. A more realistic hope is a post-Assad Syria run by pragmatists willing to maintain a cold peace with us until such time as a warm peace is possible. (Yes, I do believe that day can come.)
Most importantly from our perspective, Iran's influence in Syria — and its ability to mobilize its proxy, Hezbollah, in Lebanon — must be checked, which means that Assad must go. A nuclear Iran that dominates Syria and controls Lebanon is a nightmare scenario.
To the one man among us Ricochetti who is most completely qualified to say whether this is the most effective ad of all time or just plain nuts: Well, Dave? You know a thing or two about big rigs. What think?
There was a small story during last year's campaign after the October 2012 jobs report gave unexpectedly good news (a decline in unemployment from 8.1% to 7.8%) that has since been largely forgotten. Jack Welch, former head of GE, called the number bogus, but Paul Krugman assured us that Welch and other critics were crackpots. "It was nonsense, of course. Job numbers are prepared by professional civil servants, at an agency that currently has no political appointees."
The decline — from 8.1 percent in August to 7.8 percent in September — might not have been all it seemed. The numbers, according to a reliable source, were manipulated.
And the Census Bureau, which does the unemployment survey, knew it.
Just two years before the presidential election, the Census Bureau had caught an employee fabricating data that went into the unemployment report, which is one of the most closely watched measures of the economy.
And a knowledgeable source says the deception went beyond that one employee — that it escalated at the time President Obama was seeking reelection in 2012 and continues today.
“He’s not the only one,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous for now but is willing to talk with the Labor Department and Congress if asked.
Crudele names Julius Blackmon as the source of the faked data, in response to pressure to meet goals for getting responses for the survey. He simply filled in surveys for people he hadn't actually contacted, Crudele claims.
“It was a phone conversation — I forget the exact words — but it was, ‘Go ahead and fabricate it’ to make it what it was,” Buckmon told me.
It wouldn't take many fakes to change the numbers significantly: a 60,000 person survey to cover 240 million adult workers means each survey respondent represents 4,000 workers. The Census Bureau says it should have told the Bureau of Labor Statistics and BLS says, in essence, yeah, you should have.
There are three takeaways from the story (and if you don't believe Mr. Crudele, you may as well stop reading, because these work under the assumption that he has the goods on both Mr. Blackmon and the Census' lack of follow-through):
First, the Krugman assertion turns out to be false. Long before the Obama Administration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics had engaged the Census Bureau via an annual contract to do the Current Population Survey (CPS) for them. I doubt Krugman knew this; I know I didn't, and I teach this stuff for a living. I thought BLS did it. And we've known for some time that there has been politicization of the Census Bureau. In February 2009, John Boehner gave a press conference bemoaning the move of the Census from the Commerce Department to the White House. Yet, at that time, BLS did not choose to take its survey from Census. They should have had reason to know that the Census was in different hands. And, importantly, the Census director is a political appointment, unlike the director of BLS.
Second, Darrell Issa, chair of the House Oversight Committee, had paid attention to the Census Bureau in 2009 over concerns about the decennial Census and the concomitant Congressional redistricting to follow. He claimed that this organization was to be nonpartisan. Yet there were complaints in 2010 about flipping enumerators at the Census to puff up what were then very bad jobs figures. I hate to add anything to the Chairman's already-full plate, and to suggest he missed one here seems a bit unfair. But he needs to track this story down with whatever information Mr. Crudele would provide.
Last, I confess that in 2012 I said on my radio program the Welch claims were likely untrue. In part, I failed to understand the contract between Census and BLS. But, more to the point, I find it disturbing that government officials game the numbers we use. I want to believe that the civil servants who take down the data are doing their jobs as best they can. (Full disclosure: a few are former students. I am protective of my young.) Part of me wants this story to be wrong, and part of me wants to believe Mr. Blackmon and his supervisor are just two bad Census employees. But it seems I've heard that story before.
The moral is to remind you and me once more to heed Stamp's Law:
The Government are very keen on amassing statistics—they collect them, add them, raise them to the nth power, take the cube root and prepare wonderful diagrams. But what you must never forget is that every one of those figures comes in the first instance from the chowty dar [chowkidar] (village watchman), who just puts down what he damn pleases.
Savvy public relations campaigns aren't unique to the abortion rights movement. That's just the only movement that is covered uncritically — more or less — by the mainstream media.
I wrote up some thoughts about that over at The Federalist, beginning with the curiously favorable media coverage of a couple that claimed their abortion was canceled due to new Texas safety regulations governing abortion clinics. There were various questions I had about the story, such as why the mother was running a public relations campaign against the regulations on the same day she claimed her abortion was canceled.
Also, of all the sympathetic figures for a heart-breaking abortion story out there, this was not that couple. They were financially well-off, educated, engaged, and at an age where they were possibly witnessing their last chance at conception. No media outlets, to my knowledge, even asked them about making an adoption plan for the child they'd conceived.
You can read the whole thing here.
That's probably where I should end this post, but I have to share another thing.
My piece struck a nerve. Here's popular abortion rights supporter Amanda Marcotte's response:
The anti-choice movement, at its core, is primarily a movement motivated by authoritarianism and conformity. The argument of pro-choicers—that people should have the right to determine for themselves things like whether or not to become pregnant or bring a pregnancy in their own body to term—makes them deeply uncomfortable for a very simple reason: If people have choices, they may make difference choices! And difference is scary. (Which is why being anti-choice is correlated with being uncomfortable with racial diversity and, of course, authoritarian religions that wish to use the force of law to push their beliefs on everyone else.) The deep urge to force everyone to be the same and to have a cookie cutter family life is on full display in this disgusting article by Mollie Hemingway at the Federalist where she determines, having watched a six minute video of a couple talking about their abortion experience, that she knows better than they do that it’s time for them to have a baby. And since they disagree, of course, they should therefore be required by law to procreate.
It goes on from there, including my favorite line, because it indicated how little she had to offer in response:
To which I clearly say [expletive] the [expletive] off.
Later she took to Twitter to talk about my piece. (A few of my responses, can be read here.) It really didn't go well for her. At all. As in, she compared pregnancy to colds, children to bacteria, and revealed deep ignorance about what antibiotics do.
She's not exactly known for her coherency or grasp of logic but this was just an epic meltdown. I should not have enjoyed it as much as I did.
Obamacare Is Bringing Down the Obama AdministrationNovember 18, 2013
With each passing day, the president’s signature legislative achievement is becoming more and more of a liability for him and for his administration, politically. (We leave aside for the moment the policy liability that it is and always has been for the country.) Josh Kraushaar invites us to contemplate the previously unthinkable scenario ofDemocrats (yes, you read that right. Democrats) urging the repeal of Obamacare:
There’s nothing that Democrats want more than to change the subject from Obamacare, despite DNC Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s protestations otherwise. Congressional Democrats don’t want to be dealing with a drip-drip of news about premiums going up, patients losing their doctors, and a broken health care website as they face angry voters in 2014. Hillary Clinton doesn’t want this issue lingering past the midterms. She hitched her presidential prospects to President Obama’s wagon and she’s not about to let someone else’s crisis damage her presidential ambitions yet again, Even Vice President Joe Biden, who called the health care law a “big f—ing deal,” didn’t mention it once at a fundraiser last week for North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan.
Unless the HealthCare.gov website miraculously gets fixed by next month, there’s a growing likelihood that over time, enough Democrats may join Republicans to decide to start over and scrap the whole complex health care enterprise. That became clear when even Obama, to stop the political bleeding, offered an administrative fix that threatened the viability of the entire individual exchange market to forestall a House Democratic mutiny the next day. It was as clear sign as any that the president is pessimistic about the odds that the federal exchange website will be ready by the end of the month, as promised.
More than anything, politics is about self-preservation, and the last two weeks provided numerous examples of how public opinion has turned so hard against the law that even its most ardent supporters are running for the hills. It’s not just red-state Democrats, like Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, distancing themselves from the law. It’s blue-state senators like Oregon’s Jeff Merkley and New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen — and top blue-state recruits like Michigan’s Gary Peters and Iowa’s Bruce Braley, who voted for GOP legislation Friday that the White House said would “gut” the law. Nearly every House Democrat in a competitive district joined with Republicans to threaten the law. Without a quick fix, those ranks will grow.
This tsunami of blowback, which built in just the last month, is unsustainable for Democrats over the long haul. The president isn’t just losing his skeptics from the chaotic Obamacare rollout but his allies who stood to gain from the law’s benefits — namely Hispanics, whose approval of the president has dropped more than any demographic subgroup since the problems began. The simplest solution — if only to stop the bleeding — is to get the website fixed. (When former DNC Chairman Howard Dean’s proposal is to hire tens of thousands of young phone operators to sign people up for insurance — straight out of a Jerry Lewis telethon – as he suggested on “Morning Joe,” it’s clear the website problems are really bad.).
Would President Obama sign a death warrant on his own signature legislation? That’s almost impossible to imagine, but it’s entirely reasonable that he may not have a choice in the matter. Consider: Despite the White House’s protestations, 62.4 percent of the House voted for Michigan GOP Rep. Fred Upton’s legislation (261-157), just shy of the two-thirds necessary to override a veto. And consider the House Democrats who voted against Upton’s bill but nonetheless released harsh statements criticizing Obamacare. Maryland Rep. John Delaney, in a statement, wrote: “The problem we have currently is that the Affordable Care Act is not working.” Added Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick: “The stunning ineptitude of the ACA marketplace rollout is more than a public relations disaster. It is a disaster for the working families in my Arizona district who badly need quality, affordable health care.” Add them into the mix — the dozens more members who were poised to split with the president until his face-saving press conference — and you’ve got all but the hardy Obama loyalists who could end up bolting if the political environment doesn’t improve.
Ron Fournier–who has been a tiger concerning this story–notes that the Obama administration’s display of utter incompetence has not yet run its course. Read the whole thing–to excerpt one part of it would be to have to excerpt all parts, and I am certainly not going to do that–but note that the White House is defining down what a successful website registration means, there were no benchmarks included in the technology contracts, the administration is hardly being transparent with the public, Democrats like Nancy Pelosi still refuse to tell the truth, and there has been no one fired and there will be no one fired for this display of incompetence in the near future. The administration is not exactly setting records in the getting-back-the-trust-of-the-people department.
Walter Russell Mead points us to the frankly scary fact–which cannot be emphasized enough–that right up until the rollout of Obamacare, the president did not know that the signup vehicle for his signature legislation would not work. I imagine, of course, that the president did know that even if Americans liked their plans, and the doctors and hospitals that they were seeing, they wouldn’t be able to keep those plans/doctors/hospitals, so in addition to presidential inattention to detail, we also have to contend with presidential dishonesty, and the dishonesty of all those who joined the president in selling Obamacare to the public. Again, the president bears responsibility for his lack of intellectual curiosity regarding the workings of the Obamacare website, but as Mead notes, the president doeshave a staff which is supposed to alert him to oncoming disasters. The staff dropped the ball completely, and it cannot be emphasized enough that as of this writing, the president’s response has been to fire no one.
We are not, of course, done with things that might go wrong:
The stumble-filled debut of President Barack Obama’s health care law is drawing new attention to the other risks that have been on the radar screen of health care wonks for months. Think health insurance plans sinking under the weight of sick customers, newly insured people being stunned that they still have to spend on health care, and possibly another wave of canceled policies — right before the 2014 elections.
They’re mostly worst-case scenarios, and an Obamacare recovery in the next few months could still prevent some of the biggest ones from ever happening. But health care experts are taking all of them a lot more seriously now — because at this point, why wouldn’t they?
So, the time bombs to be worried about are as follows:
- The Death Spiral. Only sick people get on the health insurance exchanges, which means that there will be skyrocketing premiums since the risk is not balanced out for insurers by having healthy people in the exchanges as well. The malfunctioning website increases the chances that there will be a death spiral, because healthy, richer people will give up on signing up for the exchanges faster than will poorer, sicker people.
- Implementing the President’s New Cancellations Fix. In addition to the fix being an utterly cynical political maneuver with no redeeming policy consequences, it is going to be costly to implement as well. Insurance prices may rise despite the “fix,” or perhaps even because of it.
- Election Season Price Increases. This will be a political headache for the Obama administration and for Democrats, but it will, of course, also be bad for ordinary people who are less interested in politics and more interested in making sure that they can balance their personal budgets. You know, the people the administration and its allies said would be helped by Obamacare.
- Obamacare May Cause You to Have No Coverage. If you can’t get insurance by December 15th, you may be utterly and completely without it until January 1st of next year. If something happens to you in the interim, well, tough, I guess. Behold the compassionate nature of Obamacare.
- “Insurance Is How Much?!?!” If you think that there will be no sticker shock associated with Obamacare, you might want to think again. And in the event that you are hoping that subsidies will absorb some of the price shock, remember that most people simply will not qualify for subsidies. And even if you get subsidies, you may get the wrong ones because of a change in your income after a subsidy payment.
- You May Not Even Be Able to Prove You Are Covered. As the Politico story notes, this was a problem for people who registered for Medicare Part D. Given the website problems, it is sure to be an issue with Obamacare.
Other than all of that, of course, I am sure that things will go wonderfully.
Or maybe not. It appears that even if you sign up for insurance by December 15th and make your first premium payment, you may not get coverage until January 1st. And paying the premium is very difficult because–guess what?!?!–the website doesn’t work. As the story indicates “[t]he window of opportunity for consumers needing coverage for 2014 for all practical purposes may be about a week.”
The White House is now forced to try to bypass the very website it touted as the best vehicle with which to sign up for Obamacare, and it needs the help of insurers to do so. These are the very same insurers the Obama administration and its allies tried to blame for the cancellation of insurance that you were supposed to keep “period” if you liked; never mind the fact that in canceling the insurance, the insurers were only doing what the Affordable (ha!) Care Act told them they had to do–cancel insurance policies that did not meet Obamacare standards. Gee, I wonder why this calamity is being considered a threat to liberalism itself, in addition to being considered a mortal blow to the president’s prospects for a successful second term.
It's time to break out the Riddler jackets for another edition of Question Time on the Ricochet Podcast. Leave your queries for Rob, James, and Peter below and then tune in Wednesday for the answers. We'll endeavor to get to as many as we can.
Sorry we missed you in L.A., EJ.
A Sample of Modern American Education's End ResultsNovember 18, 2013
I'm teaching at a new school this year and, to see what I need to hit hardest, I gave my students a Shakespeare pre-test. I teach all levels of students, in mixed classes. All the students who took the test have had one to three years of Shakespeare. My very small sample, very simple test, with its unscientific results, yielded the following:
Many questions (most) were left blank. It was a fill-in-the-blank format.
One question asked Shakespeare's nationality. According to the students, he was French (9%), Italian (58%), German (4%), and English (20%). One student told me he was from the country of Europe (an award-winning student with the highest GPA in that particular class). This question had the most completed answers.
Where was Shakespeare born? Rome (20%), Florence (40%), London (12%)
He is most famous for writing __________: Books (40%), Romances (12%), Plays (6%) Novels (20%), Comedies (16%)
"List some other work by the Bard." The only responses were Hamlet, (because I told one class earlier in the week that we would be reading it next), and Romeo and Juliet. When I prompted them, some remembered that they had read Julius Caesar and Macbeth. Most couldn't tell me a thing about any play except: Caesar had been stabbed, Macbeth did something, and two kids were in love and both died in Romeo and Juliet.
Shakespeare had worked as a ____ as a young man. One student put actor. The rest had answers that had nothing to do with his biography (this, in a sense, was a trick question, but I was curious what they had learned about him, which tradition had been used in class: glover, tanner, butcher's apprentice, horse holder, actor, poet, school teacher to Catholic nobles, nothing?).
The rest of the questions were even more dismal. I shall spare you.
After one to three years, only 20% even knew he was English.
They are A students (by modern standards); most are college-bound.
Much of the confusion must come from (A) making a huge deal of Romeo and Juliet and (B) the quality of my predecessor. Many thought Julius Caesar was a pure fabrication.
We are doomed.
I am not awash in unwanted cash, alas. If I were, however, this is what I would do. I would buy billboard space all over the country, and I would buy radio advertisements. The theme would be simple: "Make Him Keep his Promise!" On the billboards, that is all that is required. There is no need for a picture; there is no need to mention the man's name. Everyone will know to whom the pronoun refers, and the billboard will remind drivers of the problem every day that they pass the sign.
In the radio advertisements, I would broadcast the President making his promise over and over. Then I would broadcast his non-apologetic apology and point out the manner in which what he put on offer in Thursday's press conference falls well short of what he promised: A one-year stay of execution, even if it could be delivered, is not the same thing as being able to keep the health insurance that one had before Obamacare. Finally, I would broadcast Bill Clinton saying, “Even if it takes a change to the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got.”
My aim would be simple: to force Harry Reid to call a vote on the bill, authored by Fred Upton, that the House passed on Friday.
The insurance policy cancellation problem is not going to go away. There is no way that the state insurance commissioners and the insurance companies can radically change course overnight.
The trick is to make everyone aware that this whole mess turns on the fact that Barack Obama and the Democrats in the Senate and the House lied, lied, and lied again and that they are still trying to weasel out of their promise. As Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) told ABC News on Sunday, "We all knew."
Hold them to their promise! And if they are unwilling to make good on that promise, ask the voters next November to send a message to Washington.
The key to success, as I have argued time and again over the last four years, is to nationalize the elections to the House and the Senate. Make them turn not on the putative competence or likeability of individual candidates or on the reputation of the Republican Party but on a great national issue that divides the house in which we live.
The following advertisement, which is about to be broadcast on national television, is a good start:
At the Federalist Society national convention last week, I appeared on a panel on cyberwarfare. I want to highlight what I think was my best line — that the United States should launch an immediate cyberattack on North Korea, Iran, and Syria ... by having their countries get health insurance through the Obamacare internet portal. It could devastate their economies.
I argued that the Obama Administration is unduly handicapping our ability to defend against widespread hacking of U.S. computer networks. The mistake is to consider cyberwar as automatically covered by the existing laws of war. If that were true, then the Stuxnet virus could be considered an act of war by the U.S. against Iran, and Iran would be entitled to launch a conventional attack in response.
Here's the video of the full panel:
For some enterprising web-based entrepreneurs, the Obamacare disaster is a perfect invitation to garner market share.
The folks at Seeking Arrangement, for instance, smell opportunity. Their business is, essentially, a form of "high-class" prostitution — they connect willing younger folks with richer older folks, in the ancient tradition of being "kept." It's what the web does best — take an old-fashioned transaction and optimize it for scale and efficiency. Garage sales turn into Ebay. Watercooler gossip turns into Twitter. This kind of thing turns into...well, go ahead and click on the link above or just take my word for it. (But if you do click, do yourself a favor: clear your history. Why open yourself up to an awkward conversation later, with whomever shares your computer?)
Okay, the whole idea is unsavory. Granted. And demeaning. Also stipulated. But set that aside, for a moment, and marvel at this press release, from the tireless business minds behind the site:
Most Americans believe the only options for getting healthcare and avoiding “Obama-drama” are through your employer or your parents. Well, they thought wrong! If you’re a young and beautiful woman (or man), SeekingArrangement.com has got you covered.
The average twenty-something woman not covered on her parents’ insurance will likely see an increase to her monthly premium. But with a Sugar Daddy footing the bill, $249/month will seem like no big deal--not to mention the spare cash.
Don’t worry about penalties or added costs due to the Affordable Care Act. The average Sugar Baby on SeekingArrangement.com receives $3,000 month from her Sugar Daddy. Don’t get [redacted] by Obamacare, find a Sugar Daddy today!
There's even a video, which I won't link to — I have some standards, okay? — that illuminates further the harm that Obamacare does to young people, and the reason that turning to prostitution is the best possible choice.
Obamacare: if it didn't exist, we on the right would have to invent it. Because it's perfect.
There's an argument I hear trotted out every time some governmental body wants to impose more restrictions on how we live our lives. The argument goes that people who do "X" (where X might be having a Big Gulp, adding salt to their food, or not having health insurance) impose a not-insignificant cost on the rest of us, and therefore "X" must be outlawed. Whether it's Nanny Bloomberg banning large sodas or President Obama banning the uninsured, we're told that fatties or smokers or those who lead generally unhealthy lifestyles (where "health" equals not engaging in "X") increase costs on all of us.
This form of argument is such a frequent accompaniment to whatever regulations or restrictions the political class desires that it has become accepted knowledge and relegated to the background noise of the event.
But is it true?
Certainly someone out there has done "studies" to determine exactly how significant these not-insignificant costs are to the citizen class. Would one of our readers be so kind as to share this data with me? What does it cost me if someone slips into a sugar coma after a super-size Slurpee? Is it possible that the fears of these economic bogeymen are overstated for effect?
The follow-up question is whether the costs imposed by lack of restrictions (aka "liberty") are less than the costs imposed by the packs of free-roaming Nannyists and their handbags of regulatory solutions.
A follow-up to the follow-up: if the costs to the citizen are, indeed, n0t-insignificant, how do we keep the costs incurred limited to the person or persons incurring that cost? In other words, if you're the uninsured moron who breaks his leg while skateboarding down the Capitol steps, how do we ensure that our rapidly-shrinking wallets are protected from your choices?
And then the final question, more philosophical in nature I suspect: isn't the freedom to procure and imbibe a Big Gulp of far more value than what I suspect is the minuscule effect it has on the populace?
Help me out, folks. I want an answer to give to the defenders of the Nanny State when they insist that economic hell is other people.
One last question™: is it just me, or does anyone else think that the activities that Mommy Government deems unhealthy are somewhat arbitrary? Big Gulps impose a significant economic cost, but teenagers boinking like bunnies doesn't? Trans-fats must be outlawed,* but tobacco is still legal?
*See this piece at The Federalist by David Harsanyi: Standing Athwart History, Yelling 'Trans Fats for Everyone!'
Why Obama's Healthcare 'Fix' Was Painful for the LeftNovember 18, 2013
President Obama’s move to allow insurers to temporarily keep people on non-compliant health plans was an act of political desperation. You know, the “junk” plans that don’t cover everything the White House wants them to cover.
For starters, the move potentially erodes the economic logic underlying Obamacare. Healthier people are more likely to continue coverage under the so-called substandard plans. So the consumer pool within the exchange will be sicker than expected with insurers less able to offset costs with the young healthies, raising an adverse selection challenge. “That will create pressure on states to allow insurance companies to raise prices for plans they will sell in 2014 and, because of increased uncertainty, prices charged in 2015,” explains Henry Aaron of Brookings. “It is not clear how large such effects will be. But the effects are clearly problematic.”
Obama’s move is also problematic for the ideology underlying the Affordable Care Act: health insurance must be comprehensive as possible. New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait mocks Karl Rove as “[running] against motherhood” for his criticism of Obamacare’s ”essential health benefits” requirement. In The Wall Street Journal, Rove offers the example of every policy “offering maternity care “even for single men or women past childbearing age … All this drives up the cost of insurance.”
And in The Nation, health policy researcher Harold Pollack says the botched Obamacare rollout may force supporters into “painful concessions” to secure greater GOP cooperation: “We may also be wise to revisit just how minimal the most minimal insurance packages should be. … I don’t know yet what can be done without compromising public health components such as substance abuse and mental health coverage, but these matters deserve a real look.”
As it happens, the essential health benefits requirement is one the worst aspects of Obamacare, at least for those who think greater innovation is needed to improve US healthcare quality, affordability, and accessibility. As Ben Wanamker and Devin Bean of the Clayton Christensen Institute point out in a recent report:
Essential health benefit requirements use existing health care plans as a benchmark, legally requiring that health plans and providers imitate the current offerings, effectively putting a floor in the market. This prevents the type of low-end competition needed for disruptive innovation to occur.
For example, antibiotic tuberculosis treatment displaced sanatorium care in the 1940s. If the ACA and modern insurance plans had existed then, insurers would have been required to cover sanatorium care, even when antibiotics were a more effective treatment at much lower cost. Even if an individual realized that they did not need sanatorium care, they could not have purchased a less expansive plan without sanatorium coverage.
Similarly, the essential health benefits provision locks customers into outdated, expensive treatment options, even when lower- cost, more convenient solutions exist.
What’s more, care will be provided in the traditional places, doctors offices and hospitals. What about retail clinics, telemedicine, or in-home monitoring? Their potential to disrupt the low-end of the healthcare market — for starters — is hindered by the essential benefits requirement. Of course, that sort of unintended consequence is what you risk when rigid ideology grabs the wheel and drives policy reform. But for the moment, at least, ideology is being pushed aside by political and economic reality.
In this morning's Washington Post:
During the past decade, the [Washington D.C.] region added 21,000 households in the nation’s top 1 percent. No other metro area came close.
Two forces triggered the boom.
The share of money the government spent on weapons and other hardware shrank as service contracts nearly tripled in value. At the peak in 2010, companies based in Rep. James P. Moran’s congressional district in Northern Virginia reaped $43 billion in federal contracts — roughly as much as the state of Texas.
At the same time, big companies realized that a few million spent shaping legislation could produce windfall profits. They nearly doubled the cash they poured into the capital.
Taken at their word, there are two things that modern liberals are supposed to despise beyond description: income inequality and the use of force. Yet their capital city is a place where the government's monopoly on coercion has been used to expand a gentry class whose wealth is a function of its proximity to power.
That last paragraph from the Post quote above is key. For all the hand-wringing done about the malign influence of money in politics, there's rarely an acknowledgement of its root cause. The companies with big lobbying budgets are still, after all, just doing businesses. The only reason they're going to drop, say, $3 million on lobbying is if they think they're going to get more than that back in return (or prevent a comparable loss). If you want to arrest or reverse that trend, you have to change that calculation.
Want to get the money out of politics? Get the politics out of money. A limited government is a government that's unprofitable to lobby.
Image of Washington via Shutterstock
He didn't exactly announce it; he has to win an election in his still-blueish state before he can do that. But Scott Walker's a straightforward guy and not very good at playing coy, and he made himself quite clear yesterday:
I think it’s got to be an outsider. I think both the presidential and the vice presidential nominee should either be a former or current governor, people who have done successful things in their states, who have taken on big reforms, who are ready to move America forward.
He could point to Chris Christie or Bobby Jindal or Mitch Daniels and maintain plausible deniability. But he didn't mean Christie, Jindal, or Daniels.
He specifically ruled out Cruz, Rubio, Rand Paul, and Paul Ryan. "I love Paul Ryan.... if he had a fan club, I’d be the president of that." But "yes," Ryan's not the ideal nominee. He's part of the Washington fight too.
Said the Governor to the Congressman: I like you, Paul. Really, I do. But I'm the Wisconsinite in this race. (Or maybe Ryan is uninterested and Walker knows it. Hasn't Ryan been rather quiet recently? They would be competing for the same voters and donors, and I'd lose sleep deciding which one deserved my vote).
I wonder if Walker should have been so obvious so early. He shouldn't have ruled all those people out as VP. That was a misstep, Governor. The field of plausible VPs will shrink by 2016. One of them might even be considering you instead. Overconfidence and premature ambition has destroyed many a promising leader. Beware!
Look at that quote, his persistent refusal to promise a full second term, and the way he says he doesn't "rule anything out." If Scott Walker wins reelection in 2014, he intends to run for President in 2016.
Overambitious and boring small-state governor who will imitate Tim Pawlenty in 2016? Or the one person who can hold the fracturing center-right coalition together? Can he do in Washington what he is doing in Madison?
My mom called me a couple of weeks ago frantic and nearly hysterical. My 78-year-old father, who had been in the hospital because of a blood clot, had become dehydrated and malnourished. He was delirious, reliving days in Vietnam, yelling orders to troops, lashing out in terror at unseen enemies. I told my mother to do whatever was possible to get him out of there and take him to another hospital where he would get better care.
She hired a private ambulance service and had him transported to a hospital two hours away. I got in my car and traveled four hours from Charlotte to the coast, hoping that by the time I got there, my dad would be stabilized.
I wasn’t prepared for what I found. My Marine father, once vibrant, in command, and full of life, wasn’t himself. Lying in the bed was a man I didn’t recognize. His cheeks were sunken, his eyes swollen, his hair tangled, his skin a pale gray; he seemed unable to catch his breath, and he kept pulling oxygen tubes away from his nose. Worse was the wild look in his eyes as they darted from one point to another, seeing things only he could see.
I hurried to his bedside. He turned as I touched his shoulder.
“Denise,” he said slowly, as if he were trying to remember something from long ago.
I took his hand and held it.
“Hi, Dad,” I managed. He lifted his head to give me a kiss. His lips were cracked with drool crusted in the corners. I didn’t hesitate for a second and kissed him.
“How are you?” I asked.
“The reports need to be filed, and then we need to get out of here,” he said with a strained voice as he pointed to something in the far corner of the room. “There’s the patrol ... we need to find it and take care of business.” He squeezed my hand, his eyes wide. He motioned for me to come closer. “Not many make it out of the foxhole,” he whispered.
“We’ll get out, Dad; don’t worry,” I whispered back. He nodded and started pulling at his IV.
My mom told him to stop, but he didn’t listen. He kept trying to grab the tube. I moved his hand away, and he started fumbling with the blanket that was draped over him. He seemed to be looking for something.
“What are you looking for?” I asked.
“My jacket .... the button,” he said. He was getting agitated.
I lifted the blanket and pretended to find the button on his imaginary jacket. “Here it is,” I said.
He smiled and reached to take it. “Thank you.” He looked at the invisible button between his fingers, let out a slow breath, and turned away, talking to someone about getting men off the flight deck.
“He’s at least calmer now,” my mom said as she sank into a chair. She glanced at our hands and smiled. “It’s because you’re here.”
I tried to talk to him, but he didn’t seem to know I was there any longer even though he was still holding my hand—so tightly my fingers were turning purple.
I remembered a time when I was young, when my dad taught me to swim. He didn’t do it like most dads. There were no water wings, no shallow end of the swimming pool. My dad took me to the beach on the Marine Corps base, put me on a boogie board, pulled me out just beyond the waves, and told me to get off. “Sink or swim,” he said.
I was terrified, but I obeyed. I gasped for air as I flailed in the water, desperately trying to feel the sand beneath my toes as the tide fell. From a few feet away, my dad yelled at me to kick my legs. But I couldn’t. I was too weak. Too afraid. I was going to drown. The tide lifted, filling my mouth and nose with water. I tried to kick, but the tide rolled over me. Just as I went under, I felt my dad grab hold of my hand.
“You can do it,” he said. He held me at arm’s length so I could kick. The tide rose, and salt stung my eyes, but I wasn’t afraid any longer. My dad was there. He wouldn’t let me drown. He wouldn’t let me go.
As I stood beside my dad’s hospital bed, the scent of salt in the ocean air and the crash of the waves faded, replaced by the bitter smell of ammonia and the woosh and beeps of hospital machines. I held on to his hand, leaned over, and kissed his cheek. “You can do it,” I whispered.
Two days later, I had to leave to go back home. For the next couple of weeks, doctors worked on my dad, evaluating him and making a plan for recovery. My mom stayed with him, going back home only when she needed supplies. She was tired, and the stress was taking its toll.
Saturday, I left Charlotte to go see him again. As I made my way across the bleakness of Eastern North Carolina, passing cotton fields, rows of pine trees, and camouflage trucks with dead bucks strapped to the front bumper, I tried to distract myself from the worry. I shuffled through my IPod. I talked to friends on the phone. I listened to the news. But my heart was heavy. Would my dad recognize me? Would he ever be strong enough to go home? Would we ever walk along the beach again and watch sunlight dance on the waves?
Around lunchtime, I stopped at a Taco Bell in Scotland County. I ordered a large Diet Coke and a crunchy taco and pulled around to the first window. I took too wide of a turn and had to back up. An older African-American woman was at the window; she smiled warmly as she watched me. When I tried to right the car, I ran up against the curb.
“Sorry,” I said awkwardly through the open window.
She laughed kindly, “Don’t worry about it, baby girl. You just take your time.”
I finally maneuvered my car up to the window and shook my head. “I’m really sorry about that. I’ve been traveling awhile. Guess I’m distracted.”
“Where’re you coming from?” she asked.
“Charlotte,” I said. “I’m going to visit my dad in the hospital in Wilmington.”
She leaned against the ledge, her brow knitted with concern. “Why is he in the hospital?”
I briefly told her, my voice cracking at times.
“What’s his name so I can pray for him?” she asked.
“Don,” I managed.
She nodded. “And what’s yours?”
“Denise,” I said, sniffing back the tears.
She looked down at me from the Taco Bell window, the smell of spicy ground beef wafting into my car, her face glowing with reassurance and conviction.
“Dry those pretty eyes, baby girl,” she said. “It’s going to be all right.”
Instinctively, I reached up and took her hand. It was chapped and warm and strong. She closed her other hand on top of mine and held it tight.
I looked up at her, the dark circles under her shining eyes, the gray strands in her curly hair, the wrinkles around her mouth from years of smiles. I was stunned by her beauty, by her love, and as I drove away, the tension in my chest unclenched, the fear released.
When I walked into the hospital, I found my father sitting up, his eyes bright, his skin full of color.
“Denise!” he said, his smile big. He held open his arms for me to come to him.
I hurried over and gave him a hug and a kiss. He pulled me close, his white beard tickling my cheek. “It’s good to see you, darling,” he said.
Tears streamed down my face, the taste of saltwater on my lips. “It’s always good to see you, Dad.” Always.
The following is not an Onion story. This really happened:
Militant Islamist rebels in Syria linked to al-Qaeda have asked for "understanding and forgiveness" for cutting off and putting on display the wrong man's head.
In a public appearance filmed and posted online, members of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, one brandishing a knife, held up a bearded head before a crowd in Aleppo. They triumphantly described the execution of what they said was a member of an Iraqi Shia militia fighting for President Bashar al-Assad.
But the head was recognised from the video as originally belonging to a member of Ahrar al-Sham, a Sunni Islamist rebel group that often fights alongside ISIS though it does not share its al-Qaeda ideology.
The Telegraph, reporting the story, notes that the mix-up "is indicative of the chaos within rebel ranks" (you think?) and that the rise of ISIS has prompted "an exodus of moderate and secular activists." (Who knew there were any left?) The Free Syrian Army has watched its truce with the Kurdish militias explode, and some non-al-Qaeda Islamist rebels are talking about setting up their own united front.
Man. We'd better get that Israeli-Palestinian thing hammered out quick.
What do you make of this report?
According to the Sunday Times, Riyadh has agreed to let Israel use its airspace in a military strike on Iran and cooperate over the use of rescue helicopters, tanker planes and drones.
“The Saudis are furious and are willing to give Israel all the help it needs,” an unnamed diplomatic source told the paper.
I never thought that I would live to see this day, but politics does make strange bedfellows. That it does.
The Cure for Obamacare: What Does Team Ricochet Think?November 17, 2013
With Obamacare melting down, Washington journalists have begun to ask with seriousness for GOP ideas about a replacement. The answer is so simple it could be captured in the second half of a four-and-a-half-minute animation -- and in fact is here. Pacific Research Institute produced the film for the launch of The Cure for Obamacare, an Encounter Broadside by its president, Sally Pipes.
The program includes tax changes that 1) let Americans really keep their insurance if they like it and 2) open options for us to take more control over our own health spending, including our choices of health insurance and 3) other reforms that provide refundable tax credits to those who can't afford insurance, help states restore their high-risk pools (killed by Obamacare) for coverage of preexisting conditions and, of course, end the trial-lawyer-driven shakedown racket against doctors.
I'd like to hear Ricochet's critique of the video—and of the cure for Obamacare it summarizes. Would you add to, alter, or cut any of the reform particulars outlined in it? What and how?
Editor's Note: For more on this topic , please listen to Milt Rosenberg's interview with Sally Pipes here.
It's a special Sunday edition of the Hinderaker-Ward Experience, with John Hinderaker of Power Line and Brian Ward of Fraters Libertas reconvening to deliver a joint sermon on the vital issues of today. Topics addressed include:
* a synopsis of John's actual Sunday school teaching to 2nd grade Lutherans of Minnesota
* Barack Obama's strange and highly flawed attempts to delay Obamacare mandates
* Obamacare advertising come-ons in Colorado, featuring free sex and beer
* Loon of the Week with apparently imminent and inevitable passing of comprehensive immigration reform
* 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg address, with a related TWIG correction (150 years in the making)
This episode is brought to you by John Swon and Focus Financial. Focus Financial is a leading independent financial advisory firm focused on providing comprehensive wealth management and financial planning services to clients. John Swon and his team have over 25 years of investment experience, are dedicated to giving you the kind of one-on-one advice and analysis you deserve. And as independent advisers, they are focused on your priorities, not selling products.
Call now and request a free financial analysis at 952-896-3888.
HWX is also brought to you by Encounter Books. Our pick this week is their important and timely new broadside: How Medicare Fails the Poor by Avik Roy. This is available at Encounter for a low, low price of $4.19 And listeners of Ricochet can get an additional 15% off this, and other
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All feedback for HWX welcome in the comments section, we hope you enjoy, and thanks for listening.
By chance, have you had enough yet? Many of you have either lost your jobs or had your hours reduced. Millions of you are seeing your insurance policies go up in a fireball before your very eyes, like a KISS concert only instead of singing, "I Stole Your Love," the frontman now sings, "I Stole Your Heath Care."
But I don't want you to feel gullible. I think, under the circumstances, something approaching totally bamboozled would be understandable, ... or snookered, or hoodwinked, or hornswoggled, swindled, fleeced, scammed, deluded, stung, bent, folded, spindled and mutilated perhaps, broken into tiny dehumanized pieces to be redesigned into an academic's experimental idea of a perfect society certainly, … but not gullible.
In what became the longest instance of political foreplay in contemporary American history, the President whispered utopian nothings in your ear, caressing your hopes while dreamily promising that millions of people would get something for nothing and you wouldn't have to pay for it. You could say he was being coy, but that would be on the order of saying that the Titanic took on just a little added moisture.
After quoting the President's oft-repeated promise that, "If you like your health insurance, you will be able to keep your health insurance," NBC News did a little investigative work (presumably without spraining anything) and found that:
'…when they made the promise, they knew half of the people in this market outright couldn't keep what they had and then they wrote the rules so that others couldn't make it either,' said Robert Laszewski, of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, a consultant who works for health industry firms. Laszewski estimates that 80 percent of those in the individual market will not be able to keep their current policies and will have to buy insurance that meets requirements of the new law, which generally requires a richer package of benefits than most policies today.
You did catch that last sentence, yes? Those policies which meet Obamacare's requirements require "richer" benefits. That means "more expensive," as in, "you cannot keep your current plan and you will pay more for its replacement." Within the last two weeks, the Manhattan Institute reported that 41 states and the District of Columbia will see premium increases, which demolishes yet another presidential promise, namely that you will pay less for that plan you are supposed to be able to keep.
Now, if you've noticed, the President's response has been multi-fold. At first, he hadn't much to say, preferring to send his spokesman out to explain that, well, you were simply too wooden-headed to realize that the arrangements you freely worked out with your insurance provider were substandard, and that it now takes a village of Beltway brainiacs to manage your life and health for you because anyone with even garden-variety tenure knows that an 80-year-old man needs maternity coverage and free rubbers.
Next came, "…[W]hat we said was you can keep it if it hasn't changed since the law was passed," which, if you can believe it, is even worse than the fine print at the bottom of those horrid used car commercials.
BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE!! Because just a few days after lying, and then downplaying the lie, and then reinterpreting the lie in a way that makes Bill Clinton's parsing of the word "is" seem positively jesuitical by comparison, the President emerged to shred the separation of powers doctrine in the Constitution by unilaterally changing the law. (In case I'm getting too far into the weeds here, he can't legally do that. The legislative branch "legislates," see, and the executive branch "executes" or carries out the law, meaning the President has no legal authority to change it all by his lonesome. This may be a minor point to the Obamaphone crowd, but it really does lead to pesky problems like authoritarianism, for example, and if that term is too steep then I fear we really are hosed.)
Now, says our Most Majestic and Beneficent Royal Highness, you can keep your plan for another year. Except that the insurance companies just spent years going through over 2,000 pages of Obamacare law, with its attendant 10,535 pages of regulations that required them to cancel your plan. And now the President waves his magical unconstitutional wand and, presto!, the insurance companies have a big problem. The law still stands. It's still on the books. If they do what the President says, they will violate the the President's law. Do they take him at his word that they won't be penalized for following his order to break his law? What is his word worth these days? Are there penalties that the IRS, for example, could levy against them for breaking his law so they can't follow his command? This is, in short, a big hairy mess that demonstrates what happens when the government reaches beyond the bounds of protecting your freedom and instead starts running your life.
This just in from Reuters News Service:
United Health Group dropped thousands of doctors from its networks in recent weeks, leaving many elderly patients unsure whether they need to switch plans to continue seeing their doctors, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
How does the old song go? Oops there goes another Obamacare promise! The question keeps arising: how did a free and sovereign people allow themselves to be reduced to cattle, prodded here and pushed over there by people who, in the final analysis, are themselves no better than the rest of us? De Tocqueville may have summed it up best when he wrote that, "Every man allows himself to be put in leading-strings, because he sees that it is not a person or a class of persons, but the people at large who hold the end of his chain."
We therefore delude ourselves when we fancy a faceless and nameless thing called the government as that which bullies us, pushes us around, and beguiles us with benefits only to pull them away, taking our income and our children's future with them. Fine. Let's add names to this debacle, courtesy of the Washington Examiner:
SEN. HARRY REID (D-Nev.): “In fact, one of our core principles is that if you like the health care you have, you can keep it.”
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: “We believe — and we stand by this — if you like your current health insurance plan, you will be able to keep it, plain and simple, straightforward.”
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): “If you like your insurance, you keep it.”
SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D-Wash.): “Again, if you like what you have, you will be able to keep it. Let me say this again: If you like what you have, when our legislation is passed and signed by the President, you will be able to keep it.”
SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D-Mont.): “That is why one of the central promises of health care reform has been and is: If you like what you have, you can keep it. That is critically important. If a person has a plan, and he or she likes it, he or she can keep it.”
SEN. TOM HARKIN (D-Iowa): “One of the things we put in the health care bill when we designed it was the protection for consumers to keep the plan they have if they like it; thus, the term ‘grandfathered plans.’ If you have a plan you like — existing policies — you can keep them. … we said, if you like a plan, you get to keep it, and you can grandfather it in.”
THEN-REP. TAMMY BALDWIN (D-Wis.): “Under the bill, if you like the insurance you have now, you may keep it and it will improve.”
SEN. MARK BEGICH (D-Alaska): “If you got a doctor now, you got a medical professional you want, you get to keep that. If you have an insurance program or a health care policy you want of ideas, make sure you keep it. That you can keep who you want.”
SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-Colo.): “We should begin with a basic principle: if you have coverage and you like it, you can keep it. If you have your doctor, and you like him or her, you should be able to keep them as well. We will not take that choice away from you.”
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D-Calif.): “So we want people to be able to keep the health care they have. And the answer to that is choice of plans. And in the exchange, we're going to have lots of different plans, and people will be able to keep the health care coverage they need and they want.”
SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-Ohio): “Our bill says if you have health insurance and you like it, you can keep it…”(Sen. Brown, Congressional Record, S.12612, 12/7/09)
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-Md.): “For the people of Maryland, this bill will provide a rational way in which they can maintain their existing coverage…”)
SEN. BOB CASEY (D-Pa.): “I also believe this legislation and the bill we are going to send to President Obama this fall will also have secure choices. If you like what you have, you like the plan you have, you can keep it. It is not going to change.”
SEN. KAY HAGAN (D-N.C.): ‘People who have insurance they're happy with can keep it’ “We need to support the private insurance industry so that people who have insurance they're happy with can keep it while also providing a backstop option for people without access to affordable coverage.”
SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D-La.): “If you like the insurance that you have, you'll be able to keep it.”
SEN. PAT LEAHY (D-Vt.): “[I]f you like the insurance you now have, keep the insurance you have.”
SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-N.J.): “If you like what you have, you get to keep it” “Menendez is a member of the Senate Finance Committee, which is expected to release a bill later this week. He stressed that consumers who are satisfied with their plans won't have to change. ‘If you like what you have, you get to keep it,’ he said.”
SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-Oreg.): “[E]nsuring that those who like their insurance get to keep it” “The HELP Committee bill sets forward a historic plan that will, for the first time in American history, give every American access to affordable health coverage, reduce costs, and increase choice, while ensuring that those who like their insurance get to keep it.”
SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI (D-Md.): “It means that if you like the insurance you have now, you can keep it.”
SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D-W.Va.): “I want people to know, the President's promise that if you like the coverage you have today you can keep it is a pledge we intend to keep.”
SEN. JACK REED (D-R.I.): “If you like the insurance you have, you can choose to keep it.”
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-Vt.): “‘If you have coverage you like, you can keep it,’ says Sen. Sanders.”
SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-N.H.): ‘if you have health coverage that you like, you get to keep it’ “My understanding … is that … if you have health coverage that you like you can keep it. As I said, you may have missed my remarks at the beginning of the call, but one of the things I that I said as a requirement that I have for supporting a bill is that if you have health coverage that you like you should be able to keep that. …under every scenario that I’ve seen, if you have health coverage that you like, you get to keep it.”
SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D-Mich.): “As someone who has a large number of large employers in my state, one of the things I appreciate about the chairman's mark is — is the grandfathering provisions, the fact that the people in my state, 60 percent of whom have insurance, are going to be able to keep it. And Mr. Chairman, I appreciate that. That's a strong commitment. It's clear in the bill … I appreciate the strong commitment on your part and the president to make sure that if you have your insurance you can keep it. That's the bottom line for me.”
SEN. JON TESTER (D-Mont.): “‘If you like your coverage, you'll be able to keep it,’ Tester said, adding that if Medicare changes, it will only become stronger”.
SEN. TOM UDALL (D-N.Mex.): “Some worried reform would alter their current coverage. It won't. If you like your current plan, you can keep it.”
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-R.I.): “…it honors President Obama’s programs and the promise of all of the Presidential candidates that if you like the plan you have, you get to keep it. You are not forced out of anything.”
These are just some of the people you get to hold accountable as a voter. They aren't nameless or faceless. These people are directly accountable to you, the American voter, and they lied to you. There's another one though, who fancies himself as a journalist. On July 1, 2009, MSNBC's own Ed Schultz thundered, "If you have a health care plan and you like it, you can keep it. Got it?" Oh, we got it alright, Ed. De Tocqueville got it too, as he reminds us:
I am full of apprehensions and hopes. I perceive mighty dangers which it is possible to ward off, mighty evils which may be avoided or alleviated; and I cling with a firmer hold to the belief that for democratic nations to be virtuous and prosperous, they require but to will it.… The nations of our time cannot prevent the conditions of men from becoming equal, but it depends upon themselves whether the principle of equality is to lead them to servitude or freedom, to knowledge or barbarism, to prosperity or wretchedness.
And so again I ask: have you had enough yet?
I'm just a paranoid lunatic who doesn't answer the phone because I fear it'll be the 1980s, asking for their foreign policy back. But:
In recent months, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon have been quietly waging a campaign to stop the State Department from allowing Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, to build about half a dozen of these structures, known as monitor stations, on United States soil, several American officials said.
They fear that these structures could help Russia spy on the United States and improve the precision of Russian weaponry, the officials said.
Russian GPS stations. On American soil. Why would anyone think this was a good idea? Here's why:
For the State Department, permitting Russia to build the stations would help mend the Obama administration’s relationship with the government of President Vladimir V. Putin, now at a nadir because of Moscow’s granting asylum to Mr. Snowden and its backing of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.
Well, when you put it that way, sure. We owe them a few concessions. Maybe we could toss in the decommissioning of a carrier group to sweeten the pot. At this point I'm imagining someone at State drafting a proposal to sell them back Alaska, just so salve their historical wounds over that one.
For the same price, of course.
One of the pleasures associated with having children is that, for brief moments, one can be a kid again oneself. That was what happened to me this afternoon.
With some frequency, I attended high school football games when I was in high school, but that ended 46 years ago, and I have not been to such a game since . . . until this afternoon.
My eldest child, a 13-year-old girl, has a voice, and she was chosen to sing the national anthem at the final game of the Los Altos High School football game at 1:30 p.m. today.
So I went, and I took my elder son, a seven-year-old who had never attended a football game, along for the ride. My daughter wowed the crowd; then the Los Altos team lay down on the field and invited Cupertino to walk all over them, which (at least until we left) they gaily did. That was not what was expected. Last year, Los Altos went 0 for 10; this year, they were 7 for 9.
But never mind. I have seen teams blow it before. What surprised me was this. There were, perhaps, twenty-five cheerleaders on the field. There were not twenty-five students in the stands. There were, maybe, ten. The school has 1800 students, and next to no one turned out for the last game in a winning season. Nor can you blame the weather. This is northern California. I wore a sweater to the game. I had to take it off. It was warm and sunny -- not a cloud in view.
I know nothing, as you can probably tell. Does this mean that football is dying? Do students turn out in New York? Michigan? Oklahoma? Texas? Nevada? Oregon? Where you live?
Or is it a tale of Silicon Valley? Are the students of Los Altos too academic to enjoy attending a football game? I am at a loss.
Here is another puzzler. Before the game began, all of the seniors from Los Altos were introduced. I did not keep count, but I would swear that 80% of the names were Hispanic. There were a couple of African-Americans. That I could see. There were a handful of whites. The school may be 10% Hispanic. What's up? Do white boys not go out for football any more? I have not a clue.
Help me, people!
Mark Shields: "If this goes down--if the Affordable Care Act is deemed a failure--this is the end of liberal government."
David Brooks: "We may no longer be a country in which people feel themselves part of a collective."
From yesterday's NewsHour, beginning at 8:28: