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What Game of Chess?

March 6th, 2014 - 8:42 am

Last week, as the Obama administration scurried to remove the large quantities of egg that Vladimir Putin had deposited on its collective countenance, Michigan Congressman Mike Rogers commented that Putin was playing chess while Obama was “playing marbles.”

I think that was unfair. Marbles are inherently attractive, and their deployment is an innocent pastime that has beguiled the innocent hours of many a boyhood. What’s more, playing marbles takes skill.  What is happening in Ukraine is anything but innocent, and the astonishing incompetence on display in Barack Obama’s hesitant but sullen maunderings has been the opposite of skillful.

Vladimir Putin is playing a dangerous game of chess, all right, but the only thing Obama can be said to be playing is the fool.

This morning, it was revealed that Crimea has just voted to “join” Russia. “Crimea’s parliament voted to join Russia,” Reuters reported, “and its Moscow-backed government set a referendum within 10 days on the the decision.” What do you suppose that means?

The Autonomous Republic of Crimea, to give the history-marinated peninsula (Sevastopol, Yalta) its formal name, has been in but only partly of the Ukraine since the charge of the Light Brigade in 1854. Nearly 60% of the population of the peninsula are ethnic Russians; less than 25% are ethnic Ukrainians.

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All those Russian troops and tanks we’ve been seeing on the nightly news were not imported into  Crimea: they were already there in major military installations that Russia has maintained there before, during, and after the Soviet Union.

Everyone who sees the hand of Comrade Putin behind this prelude to the Russian Anschluss of Crimea is correct.  But here’s a question: what do you propose to do about it? Putin is in Moscow, arranging for his next bare-chested photo op. The Parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea votes to “join” Russia, with a referendum scheduled March 16. Arseny Yatseniuk, the Ukrainian prime minister, says any such decree to make Crimea part of Russia would be “illegitimate.”  “Crimea is, was, and will be an integral part of Ukraine,” he declared. But what if the vote goes the other way? What then?

Nxf6+ i.e., say goodbye to that Knight, and, by the way, Check.

Not all things are possible at all times.  There was a long moment when nimble U.S. diplomacy, combined with the aura of U.S. power and prestige, might have significantly influenced what happened in Ukraine. What Glenn Reynolds has aptly dubbed Obama’s “Smart Diplomacy™” has broken the kneecaps of American diplomatic prowess.  If you doubt that, consider the current of comedy contained in this headline: “Secretary Kerry to meet with Russian counterpart to discuss Ukraine crisis.” Admit it: you tittered slightly. After all, what would a “Russian counterpart” of John Kerry look like? Something like Boris Badenov from the Rocky and His Friends. I doubt that Vladimir Putin maintains a court jester, so it is extremely unlikely that there is a “Russian counterpart” of John “reporting for duty” Kerry.

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A symposium on Ted Cruz

February 27th, 2014 - 4:28 am

I and some PJM friends off thoughts on Ted Cruz: is he likely to help or hurt Republicans in the 2014 mid-term elections? The more interesting question, I suggest, is whether he will help or hurt conservatives.  Read my thoughts and the thoughts of my PJM colleagues here.

The Human Face of Obamacare

February 24th, 2014 - 6:25 am

If you like your president, you can keep him. Period. But what if you don’t? Stephen Blackwood, the president of the fledging Ralston College in Savannah, Georgia, has a sad, infuriating piece about his mother’s experience with Obamacare this morning in the Wall Street Journal. We’ve all heard stories — but not as frequently as we ought to hear them from sources like the New York Times and other Obama enablers – about people whose insurance was was suddenly cancelled because it was deemed to be “illegal” or otherwise inadequate according to our masters in Washington (who by the way do not have to worry about the same thing happening to them, since Obamacare doesn’t apply to the political elite, only to us peasants).

In some ways Stephen Blackwood’s case is typical. His mother, who had been diagnosed with a particularly nasty form of cancer in 2005 when she was only 49, had been receiving treatment through her insurer. She had had the Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan for nearly 20 years.  It was expensive, but so was her treatment. “It gave her access to any specialist or surgeon, and to the Sandostatin and other medications that were keeping her alive.” Then came November. She, like millions of other Americans, woke up one day and found out that her plan was cancelled.  So when Obama  said (as he said over and over and over again when selling Obamacare) “if you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan, period,” he really meant: “Ha, ha, you just put the federal government in charge of your health care and now we can do whatever we want whenever we want. Period.”

The story Stephen Blackwood tells is like something out of Kafka—or, perhaps a closer analogy, like something out a totalitarian satrap, for there is nothing fictional about this nightmare. The mind-numbing bureaucracy. The stunning incompetence. The casual, unthinking brutality. It’s all there, coming to a shattered life near you. One day Mrs. Blackwood had the health insurance plan she had paid for for two decades. Then, “because our lawmakers and president thought they could do better, she had nothing.” Nothing. Nada. Nichts. Rien.

What happened next? First, “Because the exchange website in her state (Virginia) was not working, she went directly to insurers’ websites and telephoned them, one by one, over dozens of hours.”  Mrs. Blackwood was no naif. “As a medical-office manager, she had decades of experience navigating the enormous problems of even our pre-ObamaCare system.” She knew her way around the medical paperchase. But “nothing could have prepared her for the bureaucratic morass she now had to traverse.”

As many people warned before the hilariously named “Affordable Care Act” came on line, its implementation, from an administrative point of view, would be like putting the DMV in charge of your health care. “The repeated and prolonged phone waits were Sisyphean,” Mr. Blackwood reports, “the competence and customer service abysmal.” Was there light at the end of the tunnel? “When finally she found a plan that looked like it would cover her Sandostatin and other cancer treatments, she called the insurer,  Humana, to confirm that it would do so.” How dark is your sense of humor? It looked good—at first.

The enrollment agent said that after she met her deductible, all treatments and medications—including those for her cancer—would be covered at 100%. Because, however, the enrollment agents did not—unbelievable though this may seem—have access to the “coverage formularies” for the plans they were selling, they said the only way to find out in detail what was in the plan was to buy the plan. (Does that remind you of anyone?)

And just as Nancy’s Pelosi’s horrible Madame-Defarge-like rictus was the prelude to the disillusionment that is Obamacare in action, so it was here. Mrs. Blackwood, with no other options, bought the plan. Come January, it still wasn’t showing up online. She called, repeatedly, to confirm that it was active. The agent told her: “Don’t worry, it’s not my life.”  No, actually, he said, “Don’t worry, you’re definitely covered.”

Then on Feb. 12, just before going into (yet another) surgery, she was informed by Humana that, Oh, by the way, we are not going to cover that drug Sandostatin, or other your other cancer-related medications.  Since January 1, Mr.  Blackwood reports, the cost of the Sandostatin alone was $14,000.

Think about that.

Again, Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama can afford to pass the bill, then find out what’s in it, because it does not apply to them. But, assuming you are not George Soros, how would you like to get a bill for $14,000 for a month and a half worth of medication? $14,000 (just for that one drug) and Humana (I include the link in case you wish to write to tell them what you think of them) was not going to pay.

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Al Gore vs. Wallace Stevens

February 5th, 2014 - 8:26 am

This morning, I walked out our front door and across the street to take a picture:

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It reminded me of something Al Gore said a few years back: “the world is changing in such dramatic ways right in front of our eyes because of global warming.”

Then I thought of something Wallace Stevens said:

The Snow Man

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

I think I’ll stick with Stevens.

Of Motes & Beams: Bridgegate Edition

February 2nd, 2014 - 7:22 am

“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”

–Matthew 7:3

Unlike many of my friends, I am not a particular fan of Chris Christie. Sure, I enjoyed watching him take apart that preposterous teacher who, with tremulous voice, complained that the state of New Jersey wasn’t paying enough of her bills. Delicious, I think, and sound policy to boot.

But notwithstanding his embarrassing protestations to the contrary, I think he is a bully. That’s not the reason I am not part of the Christie fan club, though. To my mind, Christie has about as much chance of being president as all those other establishment candidates who have been paraded before us as “mainstream,” “not divisive,” etc. Remember Bob Dole? Remember John McCain? Remember Mitt Romney?  We were supposed to rally round them and eschew other candidates because the other candidates were “extreme” or “unelectable.”

Let’s grant that the establishment candidates were not “unelectable.” But none was elected. Will we never learn?

I also think Chris Christie is very unsound on a lot of issues. He waffled, in a distinctly Islamophilic direction, over the so-called Ground Zero Mosque. I’m told by my New Jersey friends that he has failed to rein in state taxes. The aroma of big-government, machine politics clings resolutely to Chris Christie.

That said, there is something surreal about the reaction to the revelations about the George Washington Bridge lane closures. Really, it is like something out of Jonathan Swift.

Aide the first: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”

Aide the second: “Got it.”

Yikes. And Friday’s allegation by the lawyer for aide number 2, former Port Authority official David Wildstein, that Christie knew about the lane closures when they were happening has the salivary glands of Christie’s enemies working overtime.

Christie denies the allegation. He’s a smart guy, and I suspect the record will bear him out. In the end, I’d wager, the most we’ll discover is that Christie had a Henry II “Will-no-one-rid-me-of -this-turbulent-priest” scene:

Gov (muttering to himself): “Thou lily-livered poltroon mayor of Fort Lee! Darest thou refuse to support my reelection? I will do such things — what they are, I know not yet. Mayhap you’ll find the traffic around your puny town of pell mell havoc and confusion.” 

Well, something like that. And Lady Bridget of Bridgegate, she of the ill-advised email, might have thought, “If it were done when tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly.” Or words to that effect.

So what do we have here? There’s been lots of sanctimonious sniffing from the commentariat and (natch) Christie’s political rivals. “The worst example of a petty political vendetta,” quoth the New York Daily News.” Then there’s the New Jersey Star-Ledger, which has thundered that Christie ought to resign or be impeached if David Wildstein’s allegations turn out to be true.

Do you really think so? What is it, exactly, that Christie is accused of? Creating a traffic jam? No, not quite. Ordering a traffic jam? No, that’s not quite right either. Being irritated with the mayor of Fort Lee, who declined to endorse his reelection bid, and wishing to get back at him somehow and then not minding when he was embarrassed with some really bad traffic over the George Washington Bridge?

That last comes pretty close to what the governor of New Jersey is accused of.

Pretty heinous, eh? I mean, you never see bad traffic on the George Washington Bridge. And of course, no politicians ever indulge in political pay-back.

 Governor implicated in traffic jam. 

Political opponents demand impeachment.

 

How’s that for a headline?

Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, the president of the United States publicly declares he is willing to contravene the Constitution in order to achieve his agenda. He’s been on that jog for quite a while now, and his State of the Union address last week reinforced his out-of-touch imperial ambitions. Some are joking — some joke! — that he appears to think of himself as a sort of secular Trinity, embodying in his own person the three branches of government.

So what do we have here?

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That Awful Word ‘Social’

January 30th, 2014 - 5:49 am

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I was having lunch with a liberal, i.e, a left-leaning friend lately, who at some point disparaged Republicans for their lack of commitment to “social justice.”

“Exactly what,” I asked, “does the adjective ‘social’ add to the substantive ‘justice’?”

There was a slight pause in the proceedings as he pronged a moody forkful. Very few of the people he dines with, I reckon, ask such impertinent questions. He proceeded manfully, though. “Lessening inequality,” he said, “it means lessening inequality.”

Well, he gets an A, or at least a B+, for effort, though I do not think he convinced even himself. One of these days, I intend to write a defense of inequality. “Take but degree away,” quote Ulysses in Troilus and Cressida, “untune that string, and hark what discord follows.” But that is a tune for another day. For now, I want to stick with the word “social.” It’s not only leftists who abuse it, inflating words like “justice” with the gassy soporific of rhetorical sentimentality. Conservatives do the same thing, as witness the term “social conservative.”

I read the PJ Media pieces by my friends Roger Simon and Bryan Preston. So let me weigh in with a few thoughts now. “Should conservatives accept a truce on social issues?” That is one way of putting the question. As most PJM readers know, this particular formulation of the question comes to us from Governor Mitch Daniels, who back in 2010 suggested that “[the next president] would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues.” Why? Because the new Red Menace of incontinent federal spending and paralyzing levels of debt constituted a national emergency that took priority over everything else.

Mitch Daniels was sharply upbraided by some conservatives for that remark, just as he was applauded by libertarians and other “fiscal conservatives” who are nervous about how well moral issues play at the polls.

I’m not sure, frankly, whether either side really did justice to what Mitch Daniels was getting at.  Since making that remark in an interview, he has returned to the subject a few times. At CPAC a year or so back he said that “it is up to us” — “us” meaning “us conservatives” — “it is up to us,” [he said] “to show… the best way back to greatness, and to argue for it with all the passion of our patriotism. But, should the best way be blocked, while the enemy draws nearer, then someone will need to find the second best way. Or the third, because the nation’s survival requires it. Purity in martyrdom is for suicide bombers. King Pyrrhus is remembered, but his nation disappeared. Winston Churchill set aside his lifetime loathing of Communism in order to fight World War II.”

Now, that strikes me as wise counsel, about which I discern the spirit of prudence, not capitulation. Fiat justitia, et pereat mundus: let there be justice, though the world perish, is not, I think, a motto any real conservative would willingly embrace. After all, you’re not much of a conservative if you failed to conserve.

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A Picture is Worth 1000 Words Dept.

January 20th, 2014 - 4:04 am

A friend sent me these two photos under the heading “It’s the little things.” Further commentary, I think, is unnecessary.

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Reveille?

January 18th, 2014 - 8:54 am

The best line of the day comes from “Obama’s Belated Defense of the NSA,” Andrew McCarthy’s reflection on Obama’s speech about spooks, spying, and national security yesterday.  No, it’s not his characterization, toward the end of his essay, of Obama’s behavior  as a “toxic mix of passive unseriousness and active harm.”  That’s the second-best line of the day, a grimly accurate summary of what this Potemkin President is all about. But the best line comes at the top, at the very beginning of McCarthy’s column: “It is very hard to take President Obama seriously.”

Bingo.  The architect of “the most transparent administration in history”; a man who repeatedly promised the public that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it, period”; the fellow who put it about that the slaughter of four Americans in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, was caused by an internet video; the guy who has twice raised his right hand and sworn to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” to the best of his ability while also (just last week, for example) announcing out of the other side of the orifice his intention to proceed with his agenda “with or without Congress” — how can you take this man seriously, where by “seriously” I mean, how can you trust him?

The brief answer is, “You can’t.” You can’t trust him.  He has willfully and repeatedly lied to the American people about all manner of things touching their vital interests. It’s almost comical, or at least it would be if Obama’s behavior didn’t intrude so blatantly upon issues of individual liberty, economic dynamism, and national security. Think about it.  One the one hand, Obama has spent the last five years governing as if he were a dictator. Any time he doesn’t like a law, he flouts it, “waiving” it without authority for groups he likes (Obamacare, for example, is the law of the land, except if you are a member of Congress or belong to a favored union). His Justice Department is dedicated to an agenda of racialist activism.

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Only in America

January 15th, 2014 - 8:56 am

This just in, from an English friend:

10. Only in America … Could politicians talk about the greed of the rich at a $35,000.00 a plate campaign fund-raising event.

9. Only in America … Could people claim that the government still discriminates against black Americans when they have a black President, a black Attorney General and roughly 20% of the federal workforce is black while only 14% of the population is black. 40+% of all federal entitlements goes to black Americans – 3X the rate that go to whites, 5X the rate that go to Hispanics!

8. Only in America … Could they have had the two people most responsible for our tax code, Timothy Geithner (the head of the Treasury Department) and Charles Rangel (who once ran the Ways and Means Committee), BOTH turn out to be tax cheats who are in favor of higher taxes.

7. Only in America … Can they have terrorists kill people in the name of Allah and have the media primarily react by fretting that Muslims might be harmed by the backlash.

6. Only in America … Would they make people who want to legally become American citizens wait for years in their home countries and pay tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege, while they discuss letting anyone who sneaks into the country illegally just “magically” become American citizens.

5. Only in America … Could the people who believe in balancing the budget and sticking by the country’s Constitution be thought of as “extremists.”

4. Only in America … Could you need to present a driver’s license to cash a check or buy alcohol, but not to vote.

3. Only in America … Could people demand the government investigate whether oil companies are gouging the public because the price of gas went up when the return on equity invested in a major U.S. Oil company  (Marathon Oil) is less than half of a company making tennis shoes (Nike).

2. Only in America … Could the government collect more tax dollars from the people than any nation in recorded history, still spend a Trillion dollars more than it has per year – for total spending of $7Million PER MINUTE, and complain that it doesn’t have nearly enough money.

1. Only in America … Could the rich people – who pay 86% of all income taxes – be accused of not paying their “fair share” by people who don’t pay any income taxes at all.

The Truth About Benghazi and Obama

January 14th, 2014 - 7:49 am

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Remember “A Deadly Mix in Benghazi,” the elaborate, round-about piece of Hillary-for-President boosterism by David Kirkpatrick in our former paper of record at the end of December? The take away of that fantasy was that the attack in Benghazi had nothing to do with al-Qaeda. It was not a terrorist attack, but a spontaneous uprising on September 11, 2012 (September 11, Kemo Sabe), the unfortunate but perfectly understandable response to a 13-minute movie trailer that made fun of a medieval religious figure called Mohammed. Right. Did anyone believe it? I doubt it. It was just many thousands of words of protective coloration. A travesty of journalism, yes, but more or less what anyone with a scintilla of indenpendence has come to expect from The New York Times. 

The response to the piece was swift and vigorous. And now we have unimpeachable documentary proof about Kirkpatrick’s mendacity:

Minutes after the American consulate in Benghazi came under assault on Sept. 11, 2012, the nation’s top civilian and uniformed defense officials — headed for a previously scheduled Oval Office session with President Obama — were informed that the event was a “terrorist attack,” declassified documents show. The new evidence raises the question of why the top military men, one of whom was a member of the president’s Cabinet, allowed him and other senior Obama administration officials to press a false narrative of the Benghazi attacks for two weeks afterward.

And more:

[General Carter] Ham’s declassified testimony further underscores that Obama’s earliest briefing on Benghazi was solely to the effect that the incident was a terrorist attack, and raises once again the question of how the narrative about the offensive video, and a demonstration that never occurred, took root within the White House as the explanation for Benghazi.

If this doesn’t do it for Obama, and for Hillary, could anything?

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Cross-posted at the PJ Tatler