Scene above: Constitution Island, where Revolutionary War forts still exist, as photographed from Trophy Point, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York
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DECEMBER 11, 2013
THE CONTINUING FLOP – AT 9:53 A.M. ET: Administration flacks yesterday boasted that enrollment in Obamacare plans is up. Yeah, it is, but far, far below what had been predicted. The train wreck continues. From CNBC:
The Obama administration boldly vowed to hit its ambitious target of enrolling 7 million through the Obamacare health exchanges, despite new sign-up numbers that show it has a very long way to go to meet this goal.
A total of 364,682 people were enrolled in private Obamacare insurance plans nationwide by the end of November, according to federal figures released Wednesday.
Officials maintained that number, combined with other new statistics, shows there is a "tremendous demand" for affordable, comprehensive health coverage.
Separately, 803,077 people have been deemed eligible for the government-run Medicaid or Children's Health Insurance Plan programs through the Obamacare marketplaces. That was up from nearly 400,000 in the first month.
Together, nearly 1.2 million people have enrolled in private plans or been deemed eligible for government-run insurance programs through the Obamacare marketplaces.
The two-month tally in private Obamacare health plans—which came after October saw just 106,185 enrollments nationwide—was dramatically lower than the 1.2 million people that officials had predicted just before the troubled Oct. 1 launch of the government-run marketplaces.
It's also far off the pace needed to reach the 7 million total that officials had predicted would be signed up via federal- or state-run insurance marketplaces by the March 31 enrollment deadline for nearly all Americans to have some kind of health coverage or face a tax penalty.
COMMENT: Once again, we must point out that the issue isn't the website, or even the number of enrollees. It's Obamacare itself. Millions are finding they'll be paying more for less, and won't even have access to the doctors they want. And millions are finding they can't keep the coverage they now have, despite Obama's promises to the contrary.
THE NERVE – AT 9:14 A.M. ET: The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which contains 57 countries at various stages of medieval civilization, has now come out with a report, dazzling in its scholarship, that finds the answer to to the curse, the heartbreak, the shame, of...Islamophobia. From Soeren Kern at Gatestone Institute:
The common thread that binds the entire document together is the OIC's repeated insistence that the main culprit responsible for "the institutionalization of Islamophobia" in Western countries is freedom of speech.
"The Istanbul Process started with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton.... We need to build on it." — OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Isanoglu.
That was a process, disgraceful in every way, that Islamists are pushing, which would eventually restrict freedom of speech in the West. Things like "Islamophobia" would literally be outlawed. And the fact is that in the European Union ideas like this have taken hold. It's quite possible the EU will pass legislation barring criticism of religion. That could essentially shut down any real freedom of speech, depending on the way it's interpreted.
...the common thread that binds the entire document together is the OIC's repeated insistence that the main culprit responsible for 'the institutionalization of Islamophobia' in Western countries is freedom of speech, which the OIC claims has "contributed enormously to snowball Islamophobia and manipulate the mindset of ordinary Western people to develop a 'phobia' of Islam and Muslims.
COMMENT: The sad fact is that this "report," issued by those who persecute women, Christians and Jews routinely, will be taken seriously at the UN and by "intellectual" circles in the West.
If you don't think this is a threat, look at what's happening on college campuses in America. Speech codes, which are defended as a means to a more "civil" society, are used to restrict any speech not approved by left-wing administrators. Some colleges have actually tried to ban "inappropriate laughter."
I'd be on watch against new attempts to ban "criticism of religion." We know where it's coming from, and what its implications can be. You may be sure that such a ban would not include Western religions, which would be seen as "oppressors." That's the way the game is played.
THIS IS DISTURBING, AND IMPORTANT – AT 8:56 A.M. ET: The horrible terrorist attack in Kenya in September captivated the world. Some 72 people were killed in the brilliantly planned and executed assault.
We were told at the time, and in weeks afterward, that the murderers were either dead or arrested. But now a tough report by the New York Police Department is casting doubt on Kenya's official report, and the quality of its response. This is important because of fears of a similar episode in this country, possibly carried out by the same group that attacked in Kenya. From Fox:
A report by the New York Police Department into the September terror attacks at an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya suggests that only four gunmen were involved -- and all four may have escaped the clutches of the Kenyan police and armed forces.
The report, released Tuesday, casts new doubts on the official story of the attack, which began September 21 when gunmen from the Al Qaeda-linked Somali terror group Al-Shabab attacked the mall, a popular spot among Western diplomats and tourists. After a siege by Kenyan authorities, followed by several explosions that resulted in the partial collapse of the mall on the morning of September 24, government officials claimed that the site had been cleared and that four attackers had died.
"As a cop, I’m very skeptical of claims until I see proof," NYPD Lt. Det. Kevin Yorke, who prepared and presented the report, said at a press conference Tuesday, adding that there was "a lot of doubt in my mind it is true."
The report suggests that the four terrorists left the mall long before Kenyan authorities declared the scene cleared.
COMMENT: In which case they'd be available for other assignments. In recent weeks we've had repeated warnings from high-ranking members of Congress, from both parties, that the terror threat against America is increasing, not decreasing. You'd never know it from the president, who seems off in space somewhere, but serious members of Congress are concerned.
If the NYPD report is accurate, concern is more than warranted.
DISASTER – AT 8:41 A.M. ET: Like the Titanic, President Obama continues to sink. But somehow, I don't think there'll be a movie about it. From TIME:
President Obama’s job approval among American voters has dropped to negative territory with just 38 percent voicing their approval versus the 58 who says they disapprove, according to a national poll released Tuesday by the independent Quinnipiac University. That is one percent less than the 39% who said they approved of him in last month’s poll. The majority of the 2,692 registered voters the University in early December said that the president is not honest and trustworthy.
When asked, “Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as President?,” respondents gave Obama lackluster ratings even in some of his key demographics: just 41 percent of voters 18 to 29 years old and 50 percent of Hispanics said they approved of the job he was doing. On the upside, however, 76 percent of Democrats and 85 percent of black voters polled said they approved of Obama.
COMMENT: The dramatic loss of Hispanic and youth support for Obama bodes badly for the Democratic Party. It shows that those two groups are not rigid, and are willing to abandon traditional support for a Democratic president if he handles things badly.
Most of this loss can be attributed to Obamacare, and especially its impact on young people, who are being asked to pay more to subsidize others. But there's also been a drop in support on foreign policy, with more Americans now saying they oppose the nuclear deal with Iran than support it, a reverse from only two weeks ago.
SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 11:21 P.M. ET:
DISGRACE! – Obama has done it again. You'd think he would have learned from the blunder of his first term – bowing down to a Saudi prince. But no, as the economist Walter Williams said this week, Obama is not capable of learning. So today, at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, the president of the United States shook the hand of Cuban leader Raul Castro, brother of Fidel. Some would ask, "So what?" The answer is that symbols are important in international relations, and the Cuban government did absolutely nothing to earn attention from the president of the United States. Once again Obama lowered himself to show a kind of approval of a tin-horn dictator. John McCain said it reminded him of Chamberlain at Munich. That's over the top, but ballpark. Of course, little man Jimmy Carter immediately expressed approval and hoped the handshake would lead to greater things. We recall how Jimmy's foreign policy went. We're still paying for it.
COLIN, SHUT UP – There's a time for every man or woman to get off the stage. Some never take the hint.
Colin Powell, whose career was made possible by Republican administrations, and who supported Obama in both 2008 and 2012, has now announced his support for a single-payer health system, making it plain he believes the European systems are superior to ours. Powell says he benefited from a kind of single-payer system during his years of military service. The comparison, of course, is bizarre. The American military has 1.4 million members on active duty. The United States of America has 318 million citizens. Single payer has worked, more or less, in some smaller countries, but has proved seriously problematical in Britain. Powell admits he doesn't know much about health care, which is obvious. But the Democratic left is now starting to beat the drums for full socialized medicine. Watch out.
REAL ESTATE NEWS – From CNN: " (CNN) — "A Dutch company says it is moving along with its plan to send four lucky Earthlings to colonize the Red Planet. The catch: They won’t ever come back.
The Mars One foundation announced Tuesday that it has secured lead suppliers for an unmanned mission launching in 2018, which involves a robotic lander and a communications satellite... If all goes well — and that’s still very much an “if” — the first pioneers could land on Mars in 2025. Enthusiasm has been growing since the project’s first big announcement in April. More than 200,000 people have signed up to be prospective astronauts, Mars One CEO Bas Lansdorp said in Washington on Tuesday." Apparently it's easier to sign up for Mars than for Obamacare. But I understand that Obamacare will cover you for Martian diseases.
NOTHING TO SEE NEWS – From the South China Morning Post: "Mainland scientists are increasingly confident of developing the world's first invisibility cloak, using technology to hide objects from view and make them 'disappear.' The central government has funded at least 40 research teams over the past three years to develop the idea, which until now has largely been the stuff of science fiction and fantasy novels like the Harry Potter series." I'm sure the Obama White House is intensely interested, and is making a list of things and people it would like to disappear. But how do you make all Republicans, American allies, and employees of Fox News disappear?
ANOTHER OBAMACARE TRAP – AT 8:26 A.M. ET: And they keep coming, don't they? In a fine piece of reporting, The New York Times points out another disaster about to befall those who are lured into the Obamacare system. Someone finally ran the numbers:
WASHINGTON — For months, the Obama administration has heralded the low premiums of medical insurance policies on sale in the insurance exchanges created by the new health law. But as consumers dig into the details, they are finding that the deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs are often much higher than what is typical in employer-sponsored health plans.
Until now, it was almost impossible for people using the federal health care website to see the deductible amounts, which consumers pay before coverage kicks in. But federal officials finally relented last week and added a “window shopping” feature that displays data on deductibles.
We humbly thank those "federal officials" who've condescended to tell us what we will actually pay. Please send a note to Dear Leader at the White House praising those same public servants.
For policies offered in the federal exchange, as in many states, the annual deductible often tops $5,000 for an individual and $10,000 for a couple.
Insurers devised the new policies on the assumption that consumers would pick a plan based mainly on price, as reflected in the premium. But insurance plans with lower premiums generally have higher deductibles.
In El Paso, Tex., for example, for a husband and wife both age 35, one of the cheapest plans on the federal exchange, offered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield, has a premium less than $300 a month, but the annual deductible is more than $12,000. For a 45-year-old couple seeking insurance on the federal exchange in Saginaw, Mich., a policy with a premium of $515 a month has a deductible of $10,000.
In Santa Cruz, Calif., where the exchange is run by the state, Robert Aaron, a self-employed 56-year-old engineer, said he was looking for a low-cost plan. The best one he could find had a premium of $488 a month. But the annual deductible was $5,000, and that, he said, “sounds really high.”
By contrast, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average deductible in employer-sponsored health plans is $1,135.
COMMENT: Isn't something becoming obvious here? Obamacare isn't a medical-care plan as much as it is a wealth transfer plan. Hard-working Americans, most in the middle- and upper-middle class, will be subsidizing others. And an inordinate amount of the burden will fall on the young and on young families.
This is crazy stuff. I suspect the anger is just beginning. The slicksters who designed Obamacare are holding down premiums by driving up deductibles...and by restricting policyholders' choices of doctors and hospitals. What great ideas!
STUNNER – AT 8:21 A.M. ET: One of the few bright spots in President Obama's second term, which is going over a cliff in its first year, was the generally positive praise by the public that his nuclear agreement with Iran brought him. Frankly, it was discouraging to many on our side that the American people were so quick to accept so bad a deal.
Apparently, many Americans have started to read the fine print, and to listen to the arguments. Opinion is changing, and that will encourage Congress to take a tougher stand on the Iranian nuclear program. From Pew Research Center:
The public is reacting skeptically to last month’s multilateral agreement aimed at freezing parts of Iran’s nuclear program. Overall, more disapprove than approve of the deal, and there continues to be broad skepticism about whether Iranian leaders are serious about addressing international concerns over the country’s nuclear program.
Broad Skepticism about Iran Nuclear Agreement The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center and USA TODAY, conducted Dec. 3-8 among 2,001 adults, finds that 43% disapprove of the agreement between the U.S. and Iran over its nuclear program, 32% approve of the deal, while 25% do not offer an opinion.
The public’s doubts about the intentions of Iran’s leaders are as high as they were last month before the nuclear agreement. By roughly two-to-one (62% to 29%), those who have heard at least a little about the agreement say Iran’s leaders are not serious about addressing concerns over the country’s nuclear program.
There are substantial partisan differences in opinions about the nuclear agreement. Nearly six-in-ten Republicans (58%) disapprove of the accord, while just 14% approve. By contrast, Democrats approve of the agreement by about two-to-one (50% approve, 27% disapprove). Among independents, more disapprove (47%) than approve (29%).
COMMENT: The poll also shows that more women disapprove than approve, and that more young voters, 18-29, disapprove than approve. Those are two large components of the Obama base.
If Obama loses America on Iran, it's likely he will lose the country on the rest of his foreign policy. What will he have left? Another appearance on The Tonight Show?
WE NEED A SPANKING, DON'T WE? – AT 8:15 A.M. ET: The Iranians certainly think so. Why, the dears are upset that members of our Congress have minds of their own, and those minds are not favorable to the Iranian regime. Really, we must stop giving offense and fall in line with Dear Leader's foreign policy. From The Hill:
Iran is threatening to walk away from nuclear talks if Congress approves new sanctions against Tehran.
In an interview with Time, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that “the entire deal is dead” if Congress passes new sanctions, regardless of whether they would only be triggered by the failure of the talks.
“We do not like to negotiate under duress,” Zarif said. “And if Congress adopts sanctions, it shows lack of seriousness and lack of a desire to achieve a resolution on the part of the United States.”
Lawmakers angry about the six-month deal struck with Iran have said they still want to pass a new round of sanctions. The sanctions would take effect in six months, or sooner if Iran reneges on the agreement.
The Obama administration is urging Congress to hold off on the sanctions as the P5+1 group — the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia — tries to reach a final deal with Iran.
Zarif told Time that the domestic complications within the U.S. were “no justification” for new sanctions, even if they were opposed by the White House.
“My parliament can also adopt various legislation that can go into effect if negotiations fail,” Zarif said. “But if we start doing that, I don’t think that we will be getting anywhere.”
The interim agreement reached last month swapped as much as $8 billion in sanctions relief in exchange for Iran curbing its nuclear activities.
COMMENT: How does it feel to be lectured to by a country that's on its back due to sanctions? Clearly, Iran is energized by the concessions made by Obama in the first stage of the nuclear talks. Zarif apparently believes that he's the teacher now, and we're the students. Obama does not seem to have a problem with that.
The talk of Congressional action is serious, but there's almost no possibility that sanctions legislation will become law. Obama will veto anything that comes out of Congress. He'll take a bit of heat, even from within his own party, but he's bringing us peace in our time. That's right, isn't it?
ARKANSAS TURNAROUND? – AT 8:04 A.M. ET: One of the most exciting Senate races coming up is in Arkansas, between incumbent Mark Pryor and young Republican Congressman Tom Cotton. It is important not only because it plays a role in GOP attempts to take the Senate, but because Cotton is an ideal candidate and very much the future of the Republican Party. From The Politico:
Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor trails his Republican challenger, Rep. Tom Cotton, by seven points among likely voters in Arkansas, 48 percent to 41 percent, according to a new poll from a conservative group that says his support of the health care reform law is costing him.
The survey, shared exclusively with POLITICO, was conducted Friday and Saturday for the Citizens United Political Victory Fund by Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway of the polling company, Inc./WomanTrend.
Cotton is ahead among independents by 21 points and among women by 4 points.
In this latest survey, 62 percent of those polled have an unfavorable view of the health care law — 56 percent strongly so.
“Mark Pryor is synonymous with Obamacare and Obamacare is synonymous with making life worse for the American people,” said David N. Bossie, president of Citizens United. “That’s why Pryor is losing to Cotton in the Arkansas Senate race.”
COMMENT: Actually, Pryor is one of the more decent Democrats in the Senate. But he voted for Obamacare, which in Arkansas is like drinking arsenic.
Cotton is a Harvard College and Harvard Law grad who left a lucrative law career to fight with the U.S. Army in Iraq. He is a conservative. He is perfect for Arkansas.
This race is not in the bag, but clearly winnable. And this is one state where the Republicans don't have to worry about the quality of their candidate.
"What you see is news. What you know is background. What you feel is opinion."
- Lester Markel, late Sunday editor
of The New York Times.
"Political correctness does not legislate tolerance; it only organizes hatred. "
- Jacques Barzun
"Against stupidity the gods themselves struggle in vain."
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