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 10, 2013
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 ball park. 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.
SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 11:55 P.M. ET:
OBAMACARE REVOLT – Reader and first-class novelist Will Stroock refers us to this, from the Daily Caller: "A bill set for fast-track passage in the South Carolina Senate in January aims to eliminate Obamacare in the state. The law could become a model for other states fed up with the federal health-care law. House Bill 3101, titled the 'South Carolina Freedom of Health Care Protection Act,' passed the state House of Representatives last April by a 65-34 vote. The bill now heads to the GOP-controlled Senate with special-order priority, setting up the likelihood that South Carolina will become the first state to exempt citizens and businesses from all participation in the Affordable Care Act." Could this be the start of a state revolt against Obamacare? As Sinatra might have said, leave us we should pray.
THE TRUTH COMES OUT – From Fox: "The new, moderate face Iran is showing the world belies a sinister spike in executions in the country, with hundreds killed for such crimes as 'waging war against God,' according to a human rights group. At least 529 people have been put to death in Iran this year, including more than 300 since President Hassan Rouhani assumed office in August, according to the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. Other groups estimate the number killed in Iran at more than 600 this year." And esteemed diplomat Barack Obama tells us that Iran may be changing. Yeah...for the worse.
IS ANDY OUT? – Everyone in politics speculates on who the Democratic nominee for president would be in 2016 if Hillary decides not to run. Early talk focused on Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York. But Dem professionals say, no way. From The Politico: "...Democratic activists in early presidential states have come to conclude there’s no way he will run in 2016, whether Hillary Clinton is in the race or not. He’s been so invisible on the national stage, they say — no speeches, no fundraising, no early-state networking — that even if Cuomo had a late change of heart, he’s done none of the legwork that would be needed to mount a credible campaign." And pros report that Cuomo's staff is less than gracious in fielding things like speaking invitations. They're not campaigning. Here in New York, there's actually little talk of a Cuomo presidency.
OH, THE SUSPENSE – Here is TIME's published shortlist for its person of the year, as if anyone still cares: President Barack Obama, Senator Ted Cruz, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Syrian President Bashar Assad, Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos, Pope Francis, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, gay rights activist Edith Windsor, National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and Miley Cyrus. If I had to make a choice, I'd have to pick Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, whose diplomatic skill is tying us in knots. Unfortunately.
HOW COUNTRIES BECOME WEIRD – AT 10:33 A.M. ET: One ingredient is usually a controlled press that feeds the people of a country conspiracy theories and imagined horrors. This is what Iran gets every day. From AFP:
AFP - The funeral service of Nelson Mandela could be a "trap" for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani because he could run into US President Barack Obama, a hardline Iranian daily warned Sunday.
The Islamic republic has yet to announce who will travel to South Africa for Tuesday's memorial service and next Sunday's funeral for the late president and Nobel laureate.
Hardline newspaper Kayhan warned in an editorial that if Rouhani attends it could bring him face to face with Obama, "head of the Great Satan government".
"Some domestic and foreign media outlets are using the funeral ceremony as a pretext to push Rouhani towards a meeting with the head of the Great Satan government," Kayhan said.
Rouhani, a moderate, defeated a pool of conservatives in a June presidential election after vowing to engage with the West.
Since then there has been a thaw in ties between Iran and world powers.
The most remarkable development was a 15-minute telephone call between Obama and Rouhani in September, as the Iranian president was ending a visit to the US for the UN General Assembly.
The call was the first contact between leaders of the two nations since diplomatic ties were severed more than three decades ago over the hostage-taking at the US embassy in Tehran.
The Kayhan editorial, headlined "Satan lays a trap, this time in Johannesburg", recalled comments by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei after Rouhani's September trip to New York.
"Some of what happened in the New York trip was not appropriate," Khamenei said at the time, without elaborating.
COMMENT: You know, I have the same fear – that Obama will run into Rouhani. But my fear comes from a different perspective, a concern that Obama will give away the store. He's given away part of it already.
Obama left for South Africa today. I hope the Secret Service keeps him away from all people with smiles.
CHAOS IN THE UKRAINE – AT 9:28 A.M. ET: This has gone under the radar, but there are mass anti-government demonstrations in the Ukraine, once a Soviet Satellite, now an independent nation bordering Russia. The people are unhappy. Washington is uninterested. From The New York Times:
KIEV, Ukraine — Public protests thundered into a full-throttle civil uprising in Ukraine on Sunday, as hundreds of thousands of protesters answered President Viktor F. Yanukovich’s dismissiveness with their biggest rally so far, demanding that he and his government resign.
At the height of the unrest on Sunday night, a seething crowd toppled and smashed a statue of Lenin, the most prominent monument to the Communist leader in Kiev. The act was heavy with symbolism, underscoring the protesters’ rage at Russia over its role in the events that first prompted the protests: Mr. Yanukovich’s abrupt refusal to sign sweeping political and free-trade agreements with the European Union.
After an electrifying assembly in Independence Square in the center of Kiev, the main focus of the protests, the huge crowd surged across the capital, erecting barriers to block the streets around the presidential headquarters and pitching huge tents in strategic intersections. They were not challenged by the police, who have largely disengaged since their bloody crackdown on a group of protesters on Nov. 30 sharply increased outrage at the government.
International concern over the unrest in Ukraine appeared to deepen on Sunday, as the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, telephoned Mr. Yanukovich and Western leaders continued to call on him to respond to the demonstrators’ demands. The European Union has been eager to draw Ukraine, a nation of 46 million, into closer alliance with the West, while Russia has sought to safeguard its major economic and political interests in its close neighbor. Making the crisis more acute, Ukraine is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy and is desperate for financial assistance from abroad.
Western leaders? What Western leaders? That used to mean an American president, and some others. As Charles Krauthammer writes:
The U.S. response? Almost imperceptible. As with Iran’s ruthlessly crushed Green Revolution of 2009, the hundreds of thousands of protesters who’ve turned out to reverse this betrayal of Ukrainian independence have found no voice in Washington. Can’t this administration even rhetorically support those seeking a democratic future, as we did during Ukraine’s Orange Revolution of 2004?
A Washington Post headline explains: “With Russia in mind, U.S. takes cautious approach on Ukraine unrest.” We must not offend Putin. We must not jeopardize Obama’s precious “reset,” a farce that has yielded nothing but the well-earned distrust of allies like Poland and the Czech Republic whom we wantonly undercut in a vain effort to appease Russia on missile defense.
COMMENT: There used to be a saying in American politics that we can take four years of a bad domestic policy, but that a bad foreign policy could be fatal. We've had five years of a disastrous foreign policy, yet the public's response has been an odd turn toward isolationism...at least for now. It is hard to contemplate what it will take to reverse the damage to American foreign policy brought by our most left-wing president. Reagan rebuilt from Jimmy Carter rather quickly, in part by strengthening American defense. But where is the new Reagan?
CALIFORNIA'S DOCTOR BOYCOTT – AT 9:07 A.M. ET: In a trend that is expected to sweep across the country, doctors are boycotting Obamacare at an alarming rate. This could severely impact the quality of care under Obamacare health plans that are already inflated in cost. From the Washington Examiner:
An estimated seven out of every 10 physicians in deep-blue California are rebelling against the state's Obamacare health insurance exchange and won't participate, the head of the state's largest medical association said.
“It doesn't surprise me that there's a high rate of nonparticipation,” said Dr. Richard Thorp, president of the California Medical Association...
...“We need some recognition that we’re doing a service to the community. But we can’t do it for free. And we can’t do it at a loss. No other business would do that,” he said.
California offers one of the lowest government reimbursement rates in the country -- 30 percent lower than federal Medicare payments. And reimbursement rates for some procedures are even lower.
In other states, Medicare pays doctors $76 for return-office visits. But in California, Medi-Cal's reimbursement is $24, according to Dr. Theodore M. Mazer, a San Diego ear, nose and throat doctor.
In other states, doctors receive between $500 to $700 to perform a tonsillectomy. In California, they get $160, Mazer added.
Only in September did insurance companies disclose that their rates would be pegged to California’s Medicaid plan, called Medi-Cal. That's driven many doctors to just say no.
They're also pointing out that Covered California's website lists many doctors as participants when they aren't.
COMMENT: It won't take long for people to find out the truth. One serious illness, where they're shunted around from doctor to doctor, will do it.
As usual, the poor and middle class will be trapped. The wealthy will, as they do in other socialized-medicine societies, provide their own care, sometimes by flying to other countries.
And this nation's "intellectual and moral leaders" will tell us that we need more government control.
THE DAM IS BURSTING – AT 8:46 A.M. ET: Whatever reluctance there was to criticize President Obama because he is our first black president seems to have evaporated. The Obamacare fiasco, his own high-handedness and self-righteousness, and growing concerns over a foreign policy that punishes our friends and rewards our enemies, have eroded trust in this man, who many accepted as their redeemer in 2008. Newsmax quotes the distinguished African-American scholar, Walter Williams:
President Barack Obama will never able to learn from the late Nelson Mandela about how to properly govern a nation, says Walter E. Williams, a syndicated columnist and economist at George Mason University.
"He's beyond learning. He has another agenda..."
He said it is unfortunate that America's first black president is "incompetent."
"Back in 1947 when Jackie Robinson came into the Major Leagues … he had to be that good. Blacks could not afford an incompetent baseball player," Williams said.
"And as a result of Jackie Robinson, [Roy] Campanella, and all these other guys, I can get out and play baseball, and basketball as well, and nobody watching my behavior can say, 'Well damn, those blacks can't play baseball or basketball..'
"That is, right now we can afford, black people can afford incompetent baseball players or basketball players or football players but they cannot afford an incompetent president. And it turns out that Barack Obama is an incompetent president and a part of the tragedy of it."
But he said that says more about Americans than about Obama.
"This is the first time in our history that a person could have been elected to the highest office in the land who had long-time associations with people who hate our country such as Rev. [Jeremiah] Wright, who said, well black people should not sing God Bless America but … Damn America," Williams said.
COMMENT: And so we come back to the way the media handled Obama when he ran for president in 2008. It didn't, of course, handle him. It stroked him, it bowed before him. It got so bad that "Saturday Night Live" did sketches about the groveling behavior of the press.
And that continues, although to a lesser degree, today.
Three more years of this. Maybe we need a Constitutional amendment that would allow Congress to remove a president for sheer incompetence. Do you think?
"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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