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Belmont Club

A City of Two Tales

January 7th, 2014 - 2:51 pm

Two of the most depressing stories to come out of Washington since the New Year involved vignettes, little slices of life illustrating what happens in that great city when the kitchen lights are turned off and the roaches come out to play. The first is from Senator Ron Johnson who is suing the administration for it would seem, successfully trying to influence congress by exempting them from Obamacare.

Congress didn’t want it to look that way, but they wanted it that way.

Congress established that the only subsidy available to them would be the same income-based subsidy available to every other eligible American accessing insurance through an exchange. This was the confidence-building covenant supporters of the law made to reassure skeptics that ObamaCare would live up to its billing. They wanted to appear eager to avail themselves of the law’s benefits and be more than willing to subject themselves to the exact same rules, regulations and requirements as their constituents.

Eager, that is, until they began to understand what they had actually done to themselves. For instance, by agreeing to go through an exchange they cut themselves off from the option of paying for health care with pretax dollars, the way many Americans will continue to do through employer-supplied plans. That’s when they went running to President Obama for relief. The president supplied it via the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which issued a convoluted ruling in October 2013 that ignores the clear intent and language of the law. After groping for a pretext, OPM essentially declared the federal government a small employer—magically qualifying members of Congress for coverage through a Small Business Health Options Program, exchanges where employers can buy insurance for their employees.

Neat trick, huh? Except that in issuing the ruling, OPM exceeded its statutory jurisdiction and legal authority. In directing OPM to do so, President Obama once again chose political expediency instead of faithfully executing the law—even one of his own making. If the president wants to change the law, he needs to come to Congress to have them change it with legislation, not by presidential fiat or decree.

Kudos to Johnson for not going along with the crowd in Washington. But as for the rest what can you say? “Neat trick, huh?”. Writing a law to look good and then accepting an illegal deal from the man after whom Obamacare is named to get out from under is real special, except that it’s probably not. It’s probably SOP, which is worrisome especially when non-Congress people discover that Obamacare really means they get put on Medicaid, which is bankrupt.

As MSN Money observes, it’s the lack of money which is the root of all evil. “While the law’s online exchanges draw more scrutiny, it’s Medicaid that may determine the health of millions of Americans. The expansion is one of the twin pillars created by the law to supply medical care to the nation’s uninsured, complementing subsidies for private insurance.”

And since those two pillars are wobbling and about to topple over this inevitably creates a two tier system divided by the frontier of money. One one side of the border the poor get to shop at Obama’s equivalent of the Cuban ration coupon store while on the other the glittering denizens are admitted in to the special foreign currency health shop. Still, the low information voters won’t realize there’s nothing in the libreta store until they go inside

The Medicaid fight offers hope for Democrats whose 2014 election chances took a hit from the embarrassing October rollout of the insurance exchanges, said Ed Rendell, the former Pennsylvania governor and ex-chairman of the Democratic National Committee. In states like Florida and Pennsylvania, Medicaid may make a difference in governor’s races, he said.

“You’re telling people who don’t have health care now that you can give it to them, and that’s something that can get people off their duffs and turn out the vote,” Rendell said in a telephone interview.

Atta boy guys. Fight into the libreta store and when you get there you can buy whatever’s on the shelves. Well PT Barnum knew the truth. There’s a sucker born every minute. In reality all real men of the people wear Rolexes, as readers of this blog know.

We Bought These Rolexes at the Ration Coupon Store

We Bought These Rolexes at the Ration Coupon Store

But that story is not nearly as depressing as the recollections of Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, whose book, recounting his years as Barack Obama’s SECDEF, was summarized by the Washington Post.

In a new memoir, former defense secretary Robert Gates unleashes harsh judgments about President Obama’s leadership and his commitment to the Afghanistan war, writing that by early 2010 he had concluded the president “doesn’t believe in his own strategy, and doesn’t consider the war to be his. For him, it’s all about getting out.”

Leveling one of the more serious charges that a defense secretary could make against a commander in chief sending forces into combat, Gates asserts that Obama had more than doubts about the course he had charted in Afghanistan. The president was “skeptical if not outright convinced it would fail,” Gates writes in “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War.” …

Though the book simmers with disappointment in Obama, it reflects outright contempt for Vice President Joe Biden and many of Obama’s top aides. … Gates says his instructions to the Pentagon were: “Don’t give the White House staff and [national security staff] too much information on the military options. They don’t understand it, and ‘experts’ like Samantha Power will decide when we should move militarily.” …

Gates offers a catalogue of various meetings, based in part on notes that he and his aides made at the time, including an exchange between Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that he calls “remarkable.” He writes: “Hillary told the president that her opposition to the [2007] surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary. “

Like the Congressmen’s solidarity with Obamacare, Obama’s campaign was all for show. Hillary’s opposition was all for show. Hello, Goodbye boys. Maybe you’ll be sorry, but I’ll catch up with you later.  Still, Gates went along, projecting the image of cool competence dedicated to doing the right thing for the country.

It is hard to be as disappointed with Obama as with Gates. After all, we knew or should have known what Obama was. But there was always the faint hope that cooler heads would checkmate him. What is really shocking is how far Washington will go to get along. But maybe Gates was doing his best. It’s just that the definition of the “right thing” has changed beyond recognition.

Gates memoir even holds out the hope that Hillary Clinton will do better than Obama. “I found her smart, idealistic but pragmatic, tough-minded, indefatigable, funny, a very valuable colleague, and a superb representative of the United States all over the world,” he wrote. What’s scary is he may mean it. Hillary is what passes for competent in Washington.

The word Gates uses to describe many of Obama’s actions are “breaches of faith”. That is a literary way of describing what prosaically used to be called a double-cross. But who is double-crossing whom? Implicit in Ron Johnson’s suit and Gates’ memoir is that the politicians in Washington are shafting each other to a minor extent. But in the main they are busy doing a job on the voters. And in that project too many Republicans and Democrats are in it together.

Catching a glimpse of how Washington works through vignettes is fascinating. It seems to be a city populated with ghosts, whose projected images are more substantial than the actual persons themselves. It’s the Hologram, not Princess Leia that actually seem to matter. The miniature figures are on closer inspection such miserable specimens they are hardly worth notice, no more noteworthy then DMV clerks until one realizes they have the power of life and death over billions.

But they are a population which has lost all sense of purpose. Lying is no longer an act that is attended by much danger, but an actual patriotic duty. Lives or lost health seem not to count for much. The whole place is bathed in haze where words like “victory, jobs, honor” have blurred out so much you can hardly make them out except in dim outline. Do these concepts still exist? Or is it all about spin, news cycle and make-up?

What will it take to jar things back into focus? That is perhaps the biggest unanswered question of 2014. And what would anyone take for an answer?

I would add that my disappointment in Robert Gates is not because he was the worst man in the administration, but rather because he was probably one of the better. Times of trial are paradoxically harder on men who must struggle with their consciences than on those who are unburdened by them.  But there is the understandable temptation to go along; to persuade oneself that leaving the field would only result in the SECDEF position going to a hack. Better to moderate things from the inside. Better … better… until in 2009 he wanted to resign but was persuaded to stay on out of loyalty to the institution perhaps. And thus is honor turned upon itself.

There comes to mind the famous speech of the character “Ernst Janning” in the movie Judgment at Nuremberg. Janning played the part of a decent judge fallen in with Nazi officialdom. The allied tribunal hears witness after witness testifying to his sterling character. It is enough to get him off but near to acquittal he makes a statement indicting himself. ‘I am guilty’, he said, ‘guiltier than anyone, because unlike these morons on the stand with me, I knew better than they.’

I am going to tell them the truth about their Ministry of Justice. Werner Lammpe, an old man who cries into his Bible now, an old man who profited by the property expropriation of every man he sent to a concentration camp. Friedrich Hofstetter, the “good German” who knew how to take orders, who sent men before him to be sterilized like so many digits. Emil Hahn, the decayed, corrupt bigot, obsessed by the evil within himself. And Ernst Janning, worse than any of them because he knew what they were, and he went along with them. Ernst Janning: Who made his life excrement, because he walked with them.

I would not go so far as to say Gates did the wrong thing. In the year 2009 any objection against Obama he may have raised would have fallen on deaf ears. Now he has a better chance of a hearing. But it is not an easy admission for anyone to say, “I walked with them”.

Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with you friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.

The War of the Words for $3.99, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres

Rebranding Christianity for $3.99, or why the truth shall make you free

The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age

Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99, why government should get small

No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.

Storm Over the South China Sea $0.99, how China is restarting history in the Pacific

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Top Rated Comments   
Just a follow up from yesterday's digression into why a new third party must replace the RINO dominated GOP:

"GOP senator ousted by Tea Party challenger (Lugar) donates to Democratic Senate hopeful in Georgia"

For years he occupied a GOP Senate seat from a conservative state, and stunk up the GOP Senate Chambers. I could rattle off a similar list of names of current or former GOP Senators whose conscience lead them to support Democrats and Democrat initiatives over conservative Republicans, and the GOP platform.

They have dishonored the party. No forgiveness, no forgetting, no "big tent". And don't try to paint conservatives as the unreasonable "Teabaggers" and "WingNuts"; the establishment GOP's betrayal has been consistent, and consistently leftward. No GOP Senator (or confirmed Justice) "matured" in office and moved from progressive to conservative. The betrayal is always right to left, as Lugar is doing now.

We need to never forget who these despicable people are, and why there is no longer room in Reagan's "big tent" Republican party for conservatives. To paraphase Reagan, we didn't leave the GOP, the GOP left us. We need our own party supporting conservative ideas. The GOP is forever tainted by the likes of Lugar.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The background to the Gates expose is that the Democrats are running scared. Pollsters are saying the GOP -- inept as they are -- could win both the Senate and the House. Pundits are opining the Dems are putting together a desperation strategy of "class warfare" to distract the electorate.

The Dems know the threat indicator is lighting up like a Christmas tree and the race is on for a place to hide. The Gates book is designed to dig a bunker for people to shelter in, so that when the incoming artillery hits the patsies will be out in the open.

It will be interesting to see whether Hillary is partly behind this; or whether she is secretly supporting it. There's a motive: she needs to escape the oncoming train to have a change at 2016 just as the other Dems need an air gap between themselves and the coming wrack if they are to salvage offices for 2014.

The problem the Dems have to solve is how to manage the Monster. The backroom boys thought they control him, that he could only do limited damage but this has failed. The Monster is now threatening to drag down the whole party with him. If any disasters hit hard in 2014 -- and there's an 80% chance something will happen -- then they are all toast.

So there's a prima facie motivation to pin the problem on Obama. To let him take the rap. It will be interesting to see whether, in the coming days, Obama strikes back at other Democratic figures. Interestingly, Gates hit Biden. Is this because they want an endgame in which Biden resigns, Hillary is named Veep and Obama does a Nixon?

It ought to be interesting to watch.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Hillary Rodham Sortofoccasional Clinton admitted that she took policy positions in response to polls and without conviction? Hold the presses and color me shocked. Get back to me when you find evidence of any position she has taken, except with Hudna, that was from conviction.

Mr Gates should have said No in 2008. His only defense can be peer pressure. We rely on those entrusted with Leadership to function as Gatekeepers. That is what the Senate and the Electoral College and the SCOTUS and even the Cabinet under the XXVth Amendment are for. Now Gates, assumed to be one of the Gatekeepers, is telling us he was as fooled as any rube by the acquiescence of the other Gatekeepers. Collective failure is a known phenomenon.

What is great about the White House declaring the Congress a "small business" to get an Obamacare exemption is the optics. Here is a story that anyone can understand. No effort will be spared to stuff this down the memory hole.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (71)
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If dems loose in November they will turn on Obama to save their pres. chances.
Than the impeachment might be possible.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Gates spent pretty much his entire life working for government. What you have to understand about high-level government employees is that they really can't do anything else, even the good ones. Gates was worth whatever a Cabinet officer makes, certainly a quarter million or more, in the government, but outside the government unless he has connections to some sinecure, he's not much more than an entry level employee.

I can count my peers in public sector employee relations on my fingers and all of us can command some pretty good money when the politics are on our side. When the politics are not on our side, we're unemployable in government and our skills are pretty much worthless anywhere else. So, unless you're ready to retire, somebody like me or Bob Gates who quits his government job in his fifties or sixties can either use the courage of his connections to start a consulting business, become a lobbyist, or go to work for a think tank. If you can't do one of those, Home Depot likes to hire retirees.

I quit government twice over differences with an administration. The first time like Gates I was a Republican who either had to quit or work for a Democrat Administration. I wasn't an appointee in those days so they couldn't easily fire me, but they could make my life miserable. I stood it as long as I could, a couple of years, quit, and went to work for peanuts for the Republican-led Legislature. With friends like Republicans, you don't need many enemies.

The second time I was already retirement eligible, so that changes your calculus. I was an appointee. Technically I reported to the deputy to a Cabinet officer, but in reality while the deputy could question me, s/he couldn't do anything to or for me so in reality I reported sorta to the cabinet officer but I could go around him to the COS or the Governor and they all knew it. So, my cabinet officer boss decides to hire a former subordinate of mine who was well known to be able to suck the chrome off a trailer-hitch ball as his deputy. I'm reasonably certain that I'm the only man she ever worked for who didn't partake of her wares while she was his subordinate - and I chose those words very carefully. That appointment would at least technically make her my boss and he didn't talk to me about it before he did it. That was a good day to retire!

I don't know if Gates thought he was better in the tent than out or whether he just wasn't in a place economically where he could give it up. Either way is hard. I know I did some good both times that I hung on for awhile under Democrat administrations that I hated; I could influence their actions. I can't get inside his mind; maybe he was trying to do the best he could for the Country, maybe he just needed the money.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
From Shawn Phillips:

Times of a madman and trials of a thief
Appalling decisions of squalling belief
Basking in bedrooms that hookers bequeath and they search for pleasure
Constant confusion calamities' plight
Doubtless it doubles the devil's delight
Easy as dying away from the light and they're dead in leisure
Footing the future as part of the bill
God is within you and works through your will

The EPA is giving an entire city away...without a legal right to do so. The DOJ has the fraternal order of police and their 330,000 members up in arms by Obama's nominating a cop killer apologist.

Obamacare is built like a Hollywood western set, with facades that have nothing behind them....not intended to house...but intended to fool the eye.

It is a nest of cockroaches, that even a clean sweep from now through 2016 will not cure the infestation. The house is swarmed.

And in these times of a madman and trials of a thief...the GOP political "team" has shown to be a quivering mass of weepers, sleepers and finder's keepers.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thank You, Richard.
It is only through public shaming that it will be possible to change the culture that corrupts our Republic and its Capitol.
Perhaps Gates has helped in his public admission.
Far too many just keep their head down, take the money and emoluments, and go off to retirement, never admitting the corruption of their soul.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
In WWII, “Bomber” Harris, the head of the RAF’s Bomber Command, never lost faith in his belief that he could defeat the Germans by night bombing. He did not succeed, did not even come close but he kept pluggin’ away, both losing huge numbers of aircrew and aircraft and gaining in capability and accuracy as time went on, but not winning the war on its own.

The USAAF never lost faith in the belief that precision daylight bombing could defeat the enemy, either. Even as the USAAF’s ETO bombing campaign inadvertently transformed itself into one that would not destroy German industry but would in fact destroy the Luftwaffe, they kept pluggin’ away.

But Adm Donitz of the Kreigsmarine did reach the conclusion that his U-boat war was pointless. At their best, the U-boats interdicted 10% of the Allies’ supplies to Europe. You don’t win a war that way, and that was the best they ever did. But he kept sending his subs out, even after he knew it was hopeless, because he thought it would be a dishonor to not continue to do so. With German civilians dying in Allied air attacks, and German troops dying on the front lines, it would be unbearable for the Kreigsmarine to give up; they had to die, too. And die they did; the Germans lost 500 subs in WWII.

But Obama concocted a fiercer war in Afghanistan for PERSONAL reasons only, to enable him to make a campaign promise and give the appearance of keeping it. In the history of hopeless causes, he truly stands out.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The primary reason for Putin’s self-aggrandizing behavior is the astonishing leadership vacuum in the world.

Well no, Putin is a putz in his own right, but let's talk about this "vacuum". The first point of suction is western Europe and the EU, which have just about fallen off the map. The second point of suction has to be Japan which has played an immense (and generally positive) economic role since WWII but for various reasons almost no further "leadership" role. Which leads us to China and their following the Japanese model only moreso, huge economic role and no "leadership". And Russia, which has mercifully played a relatively small "leadership" role since the USSR fell in spite of their technology and military, if not really economic, importance. So, yes, "vacuum" tends to mean the USofA, the reluctant hegemon, and nobody more reluctant than ol' "lead from behind" Obambus.

But the whole world is playing just a little TOO coy with us. Now, it's not like we aren't already taxing the world to help pay for things - thanks to Mr. Bernanke, effectively we ARE taxing all those trillions in foreign-held US dollars, which we can get away with in large part because we ARE the world's economic as well as military hegemon. And, well, we still count as good folks, when it comes right down to it, at least compared to all the other options!

And yet, we can hardly continue the game as played in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US carrying the cost in blood and treasure while playing by absurdly wimpy ROE, virtually NOBODY in the world (including the US democrats) offering political support for what we are doing.

So, Atlas Shrugged, with Barack H. Obambus in the unlikely role of Atlas.

Call it type-casting.

When the student is ready, the teacher will come.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Re: Managing the emerging Preference Cascade

Rome wasn't built in a day. Are the Institutional Republicans wimps? YES!

But at least they managed to hold the line so that no Republican voted for ObamaCare.

If one is to successfully exploit a "Forlorn Hope" action, you must not denigrate those who were too cowardly to volunteer for the "Forlorn Hope". Let us drive home to the Democrats the words of about the only successful Democrat President with a military background, Andrew Jackson

"One man with courage makes a majority."

Then cause a terrific cognitive dissonance among Democrats by reminding them of this nugget from Andrew Jackson's Wikipedia entry

"Elected president in 1828, Jackson supported a small and limited federal government.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It's funny how every dictatorship of the proletariat seems to be run by a self-appointed 'vanguard' of the proletariat...

I've had it with both wings of the annoying c*ck of D.C. that's still trying to pass itself off as an American eagle while basking in proletarian hope that it's really a phoenix.

I pray it pecks itself to death chasing its tail feathers before hungry folk are forced to chase it down and wring its neck for their soup.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Howard Beale, The Mad Prophet of the Airwaves

"I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If he seriously considered resigning, then he should have done it. Maybe not at the first impulse but after that he should've watched to see if he was really ''influencing'' thing for the better. Since he doesn't seem to have, then he should have made his exit and given speeches saying what he now says in the book.

How many of our military died since the time he considered resigning?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'm kind of a divided mind on this. I'd certainly have resigned instead of serving a Marxist-Socialist, anti-American President, Obama, and probably one of the ones most responsible for the increased casualties in the Iraq phase of "the war on terror". That's how I am wired. It's what I do. I don't do "compromise" or "diplomacy" well. In fact, I stopped participating in the Navy active reserve around 1995, after two commands and an early promotion to 05, because in part I could no longer stomach listening to Clinton's appointees (Deputy SecNav, I believe) lecture us (trying to turn Navy C.O.'s into progressive social activists).

However, if you found yourself in Gate's shoes, i.e. you'd accepted Bush's request to take on the SECDEF job, you saw the neophyte President Obama and his idiots inbound, and it was your decision to either mediate between the new President and hostile military chiefs, would it not be better for your country for you to continue in the office versus ceding it to an Alinskyite leftist? More kids might have died because of Gates replacement, had he resigned. As it was, he said he hated that job, and I totally understand that.

I'd have been hard pressed to resign. Heck, I'd have probably continued with the office, if only to eventually tap out ala Boorda when the Obama idiots drove me nuts.

I'm right on the fence on this one, not a Gates booster and giving him some latitude on "benefit of the doubt". For sure, his faint praise juxtaposed against deadly criticisms are the Washington two-step, wholly inconsistent, but the only way he could criticize a sitting President and a possible Presidential candidate without being deemed a "wingnut" by the Washington establishment.

Man, I loved D.C. for all the "pomp and circumstance", and the history of the county embodied there. But I hated everything about actually being there; totally corrupt.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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