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Missiles for Mullahs

April 8th, 2014 - 2:15 pm

It was just earlier today I wrote something about Vladimir Putin having the “bitter will” to “twist our tails from Estonia, through Ukraine, to Syria, and beyond.” Here’s Eli Lake reporting on the beyond part:

Last week, Reuters first reported Russia was preparing an oil-for-goods deal with Iran worth up to $20 billion. An unnamed Iranian official told the news service that the barter would include Russian weapons. And that was before further signs of Russia’s shadow invasion of Ukraine emerged Monday, when crowds spontaneously appeared in three major eastern cities to welcome the troops amassed over the border. The Daily Beast reported that associates of Viktor Yanukovych, the deposed and Kremlin-friendly Ukrainian president, were meeting with pro-Russian activists. One keen-eyed photographer captured a man wearing a Russian Airborne forces tee-shirt at one of the protests.

The trade between Moscow and Tehran would alleviate the economic pressure on Iran that the White House has said helped bring the Islamic Republic to the bargaining table. It may even sink the talks President Obama is hoping will persuade Iran to defang its nuclear program.

Maybe Professor Ditherton Wiggleroom could give a speech full of resets and red lines and 21st Century norms.

Thought for the Day

April 8th, 2014 - 1:07 pm

Let My Killers Go

April 8th, 2014 - 11:59 am

KILLER

News from California, where the state government is always focused on the pressing issues of the day:

A proposed California bill would force SeaWorld San Diego to stop using killer whales in its iconic shows and to release them from their tanks, the latest blowback that the exotic animal attraction has faced after a documentary criticized the marine park’s animal welfare practices.

Tell me that premise wouldn’t make the best SyFy movie since Sharknado.

You read that right:

According to this report in one of South Korea’s leading newspapers, The Chosun Ilbo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s administration shuttered a bureaucracy once headed by Kim’s recently-executed uncle and killed or imprisoned 11 high-ranking officials.

The morbid twist: Quoting an anonymous source, the paper reported that O Sang Hon, the deputy public security minister, was “executed by flamethrower.”

If true, the killing shows the chilling lengths to which Kim is willing to go to expunge any trace of his executed uncle, Jang Song Thaek, once a powerful player in North Korean politics. Now, months after Jang’s execution and his temporary erasure from state media, Jang’s older sister and her husband — North Korea’s ambassador to Cuba, Jon Yong Jin — have also reportedly been executed.

Unlike his father and grandfather, Li’l Kim seems to think fear is all it takes to hold a totalitarian government together.

He’s wrong, but he won’t learn until he gets the full Ceaușescu treatment.

I know it’s a fool’s game trying to forecast North Korean politics, but I think we’ve seen enough of the current regime to say with some confidence that the end won’t be pretty, and that it will be sudden.

The Re-Pivot to Asia

April 8th, 2014 - 9:43 am

There’s a brand new dance and we do know its name:

After two years of dithering and drift in the Pacific, the Obama administration is now trying to give substance to its noted “pivot to Asia.” The White House’s problem simply put: Symbols and gestures do not amount to substance, no matter how many trips Michele Obama or John Kerry make to Beijing.

Secretary of Defense Hagel huddled with Southeast Asian counterparts in Hawaii before setting out over the weekend for Tokyo and Beijing. Later this month, President Obama will visit Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines to make up for a tour of the region he canceled last year when the government shutdown grounded him.

This is the pivot in action. It is hard to see how it will amount to much.

That’s Patrick Smith in today’s Fiscal Times, and you might want to read the whole thing.

The Asia Pivot was announced boldly and acted on… not-so-boldly. It was the Syria Red Line of geopolitical grand re-strategizing. But look at Ukraine’s slow-motion disintegration under Russian pressure. And with that going on, the rest of Eastern Europe is suddenly feeling more 19th Century than 21st, no matter how passé the White House insists that might be. So at this point, even an actual and meaningful Asia Pivot would look like a panicked Administration insistence on following their old script.

The West in general and the US in particular is deep into Reaction Mode, and this isn’t the sort of bold leadership required if we’re going to get out of it.

X-37B

We still don’t know exactly what it’s doing up there, but the Air Force’s X-37B has been in orbit for almost 500 days on its third record-setting mission.

It looks like the Millennium Falcon of orbital space planes.

The Fruits of Defeat?

April 8th, 2014 - 7:27 am

Walter Russell Mead on going forward with Ukraine:

In one sense, the West “won” the lion’s share of Ukraine. This was the point that the administration’s press acolytes were quick to point to as proof that our “smart diplomacy” still had the upper hand, but the cost of this “success” will be high. Russia sliced off Crimea, but has so far refrained from any more land grabs; that leaves the EU and the US holding the bag for the rest of the country. The weak and corrupt Ukrainian state, its inexperienced revolutionary leaders, its failing economy and its deeply divided population now turn to the West with hopes high and hands out. The West has two choices and neither one is particularly pleasant. Option one: it can turn its back on Ukraine while the country flounders further, turns bitter at western failure and inevitably slips into orbit around Moscow. Option two: it can embark on an expensive, difficult and quite possibly doomed exercise in nation-building, with Putin able to deploy a formidable array of policy tools against us whenever and however he chooses. Quite possibly, option two will turn out to be a longer, more humiliating, more painful and more expensive way of getting the same ultimate result as option one

I blanched nine years ago when PJM’s own David “Spengler” Goldman argued that the proper Western response to Ukraine’s Orange Revolution was to pretend it never happened, and forge a grand bargain with Moscow. In exchange for a strategic partnership in the Terror War and against Iran’s nuclear program, Russia would get the Russian bits of Ukraine and Rump Ukraine would get the old Finland treatment. But we’re Americans, I thought at the time — we don’t chop up independent nations to please ex-KGB thugs.

Would that we had. Would that we had.

All that’s left to us now is a narrow selection of bad options, with Putin free to twist our tails from Estonia, through Ukraine, to Syria, and beyond. And the bitter will to do it, too.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

April 8th, 2014 - 6:19 am

Gallup interviewed over 43,000 American adults and found one who had purchased a Heathcare.gov plan. OK, it’s not that bad, but still:

he numbers, released a week after the close of the health law’s first enrollment season, also suggest a far more modest impact on coverage than statistics cited by the Obama administration.

The administration says 7.1 million have signed up for subsidized private plans through new insurance markets, while 3 million previously uninsured people gained coverage through the law’s Medicaid expansion.

Why the huge difference? For starters, the administration’s numbers include people who switched or were dropped from their previous coverage, as well as people who have not paid their first month’s premium, and who would therefore still be uninsured.

The administration is also counting sign-ups dating back to October, though enrollment in the first few months was relatively low.

According to Gallup, the number of uninsured has fallen by a greater amount since the start of open enrollment on Oct. 1. Gallup shows the percentage spiked to 18 percent at the end of the third quarter. But the spike could be attributed in part to people being kicked off their prior coverage, due to changes in the health care law.

It’s a goat rodeo — with human lives at stake.

News You Can Use

April 8th, 2014 - 5:11 am

TIPSY

You know I’m not going to tell you not to do that, right?

Sign “O” the Times

April 7th, 2014 - 4:28 pm

Here’s the Ghost of American Medicine Future, courtesy of our British cousins:

Sir Richard Thompson, President of the Royal College of Physicians, told Sky News a funding crisis is putting doctors under so much pressure it is putting patients at risk.

When asked where things were headed, Sir Richard said: “I’d rather not think about it. It’s already (a) tremendous strain. When people ask me what’s going to happen I say don’t get ill.”

The difference of course between the NHS and ♡bamaCare!!! is that the NHS actually has a smaller bureaucracy.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

April 7th, 2014 - 3:21 pm

The tricks, they never end:

After three months in jail on a theft charge, Vincent Garcia had prepared last week to collect his wallet and keys and turn in his orange scrubs upon release.

But the 26-year-old will leave jail with something else — free health insurance.

Louisville Metro Department of Corrections last week began holding daily sign-ups for exiting inmates, and Garcia was among those qualifying for the newly expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

It’s part of a growing push nationwide by prisons and jails trying to take advantage of expanded health care to curb rapidly rising medical costs in a setting where many are poor, unhealthy and uninsured.

It’s been estimated that four out of five Healthcare.gov and state exchange enrollees are eligible for subsidy payments. We’ve also expanded Medicaid coverage by millions.

So I pose to you this question: Where the hell are ♡bamaCare!!!’s savings supposed to come from?

Subsidies for the middle class, expanded welfare for the poor, and there aren’t enough rich people to pay for it all — even if they could be forced to cough up enough tax dollars, which they can’t be.

Someday we’re going to look back at trillion-dollar deficits as the good old days.

Chinese Chess

April 7th, 2014 - 2:14 pm

How to counter Chinese aggression against its island neighbors? Since our current strategery of sort-of pivoting to Asia while getting distracted in Eastern Europe doesn’t seem to be working here’s an outline suggestion from Peter Layton:

Since China’s strengths are in material power, which includes the ultima ratio regum, nuclear weapons, a new strategy could instead seek to play on China’s sensitivities and vulnerabilities. After all, strategy should ideally seek to exploit weak points, not go head-to-head against another’s strengths, as our current one does.

China is particularly sensitive to perceived interference in its internal affairs. Even meetings with the Dalai Lama by foreign governments cause angst in Beijing. The Chinese Communist Party seems to believe it is particularly vulnerable to outside intrusions in its domestic politics. Some new strategy might be able to play off such fears and create a perceived linkage between future Chinese actions over the disputed islands and external prying into Chinese domestic politics and internal matters.

There might even some helpful symmetry, in that such external meddling might then be explained as simply related to China’s meddling in the domestic affairs of others through seizing their islands, fishing areas and EEZs. Such external intrusion, though, would need to be carefully targeted to be effective in managing this issue, while avoiding unintended wider consequences. A thoughtful and considered strategy, not an unfocused broad-brush approach, would be required.

Jimmy Carter had many failings as a President, but one of them was hardly his own fault. Militarily, he was dealt a weak hand upon assuming office, with the US armed forces hamstrung by Vietnam Syndrome, staggered from downsizing, addled by drugs, and suffering the pains caused by switching to an all-volunteer force. Since he didn’t have much of a stick (nor would he have known how to use one), Carter made human rights the centerpiece of his foreign policy. It wasn’t a strong play, but it was the best play he had. To a limited extent it worked, too, and helped set the stage for Ronald Reagan fighting the Evil Empire with military and moral means.

We could certainly do worse today than to see if squeezing that particular nut might make Beijing cry.

Tot for Teacher

April 7th, 2014 - 1:07 pm

It’s one thing to be the victim of an April Fool’s Day prank. It’s another to do so with grace and class.

Great, Kid — Don’t Get Cocky

April 7th, 2014 - 12:00 pm

The latest Practical Politicking report puts the odds of a GOP Senate takeover at nearly 70%, with an outside 40% chance of a 10-seat gain — or better. Twelve is absolute tops, and pulling that off would probably require a Reagan at the top of the ticket during a presidential election year. That aside, here are the reasons Tom Dougherty lists for the 3.1% gain:

Colorado: Additional polling showed Udall weakened head-to-head against Gardner.

Georgia: This was actually a slight decrease for the GOP as the primary continues confused and dazed. A clearer picture in the Peach State could move them right back but for now the chaos of the GOP primary is a negative.

Iowa: Braley repeatedly stuck his foot in his mouth and the potential staying power of his “farmer gaffe” knocked the previous Dem advantage down.

Montana: Polling put Gaines further ahead of interim senator, John Walsh, and we are now less than a tenth of a point from hitting Likely R in our ratings here.

New Hampshire: The confirmation of Brown’s entrance into the race, weakened numbers for Shaheen, and the general climate in the Granite State bumped the Dems down.

Oregon: Harper Polling released latest numbers this week that were less notable about the GOP primary than the woeful 39% favorable number for incumbent Merkley.

Virginia: Nothing earth-shattering but the trend continued over the last two weeks with Warner’s favorable number dropping, slowly for sure but a trend is a trend.

Don’t scoff at the stuff about Oregon. Things have gone so bass-ackwards there that even Chuck Todd had to sit up and take notice.

Pay attention to Georgia — the “chaos” there is pretty much GOP SOP these days. It will be tough to get a really solid feel for the overall picture until the dust from the primaries has settled and we see how the nominees fare in the general election. Remember, the Senate is the big league. These aren’t gerrymandered House seats where any fruitcake savvy or lucky enough to clinch the nomination can win, just so long as they have the correct letter after their names. Senate races are effectively national races, with all the media scrutiny that implies.

Amateurs and fruitcakes don’t generally win, so GOP voters ought to be reminded daily to choose… wisely.

Sarah Hoyt’s Witchfinder is now available in a Kindle edition:

In Avalon, where the world runs on magic, the king of Britannia appoints a witchfinder to rescue unfortunates with magical power from lands where magic is a capital crime. Or he did. But after the royal princess was kidnapped from her cradle twenty years ago, all travel to other universes has been forbidden, and the position of witchfinder abolished. Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater, son of the last witchfinder, breaks the edict. He can’t simply let people die for lack of rescue. His stubborn compassion will bring him trouble and disgrace, turmoil and danger — and maybe, just maybe, the greatest reward of all.

I’ve been going through her back catalog these last couple of years, and she usually puts out a new book just as I’m finishing one of her old ones. Last year’s big new release, A Few Good Men, is a finalist for the Prometheus Award. Her “Darkship” world that one is set in is one of my favorites in recent Sci-Fi.

You May Already Be Insured!

April 7th, 2014 - 9:46 am

How many of these folks do you think were pre-counted in the 7.1 million figure? Read:

In the closing days of the open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) , the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was mailing out letters notifying certain Americans that they had already started a healthcare coverage application on their behalf. The HHS letter stated that the information they used to begin the application for individual Healthcare was obtain by the state agency in charge of implementing Obamacare. The next step for the individual would be visit Healthcare.gov and complete the already started application to see if they qualify for “Marketplace coverage.”

Because at this point, why not?

Actually, what I’m reminded of is the report out of California a week or two ago that ♡bamaCare!!! paperwork came complete with a voter registration form with the Democrat box helpfully pre-checked for you.

There is nothing too petty for these people.

Required Guffawing

April 7th, 2014 - 8:39 am

Ed Driscoll scored an interview with Dave Barry about his new book on fatherhood, You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty.

Booger.

More and More to Achieve Less and Less

April 7th, 2014 - 7:32 am

A little something about Friday’s jobs report going hand-in-hand with Friday’s big declines on Wall Street:

Looking at Janet Yellen’s “dashboard,” many data points weren’t positive including: declines in wages from 0.4% to 0.0%; only 1,000 new manufacturing jobs created; temporary Help came in at 29,000; retail was just 21,000 and leisure and travel was a mere 29,000 — not to mention that in combo these jobs are dominated by low-wage paying part-time work.

Plus, underemployment, the labor participation rate and the long-term unemployed numbers are still bothersome.

Overall the report is dovish for the Fed, as these data points were so weak the Fed is less likely to raise interest rates any time soon.

So, why the market decline?

Bulls are too complacent and too many sectors were overstretched.

It’s difficult, often impossible, to “time” the markets — getting in at the low and making for the exits at the high. And lord knows the Fed is willing to throw as much cash at Wall Street as it thinks it needs to conjure. But you can only pump so much fresh blood into a dying body, without providing relief to its real injuries, before it eventually bleeds out.

Lately I’ve been keeping my finger poised over the SELL! SELL IT ALL NOW! button.

The Secret War for Crimea

April 7th, 2014 - 6:25 am

StrategyPage reports on Vladimir Putin’s own very light brigade in Crimea:

Apparently several hundred members of the GRU 45th Spetsnaz Regiment were then sent in, disguised as civilians, to create a “popular uprising” that would enable Russia to annex Crimea. Some of the uniformed men who then took control of Crimea were apparently hired, pro-Russia, locals, but the core of this “local militia” are men with obvious military training and who have been using those skills recently. These were the spetsnaz men and they were obviously in charge. Nearly 60 percent of Crimeans are Russian and GRU has probably been recruiting for years. Some of these locals admitted that money changed hands and they were glad to be part of the effort that returned control of Crimea to Mother Russia. When you use armed amateurs you have to expect this sort of thing and these comments did not sidetrack the takeover plan. The armed men were obviously briefed and most would not talk to reporters or even let journalists get close. But a few of these guys just could not resist a reporter with a camera crew looking for a few snappy comments for the evening news. Some of the anonymous armed men may be civilian contractors (which Russia exports to some parts of the world) and some were just pro-Russian veterans willing to take a gun and endure a bit of risk.

How many of these guys have since moved on to the Donbas?

Up right now on the PJM home page, my modest proposal for coping with the end of the world.

Scuttle Diplomacy

April 4th, 2014 - 9:52 am

Breathless reporting from Matthew Lee on our Secretary of State:

Expected in Brussels on Tuesday for a NATO meeting on Ukraine, Kerry huddled with aides and spoke with his Mideast negotiators as well as Israeli and Palestinian leaders. After several hours of agonizing, he pulled the trigger on a move he’d been contemplating for 48 hours: NATO could wait; he would fly to Israel in a last-ditch bid to salvage the peace talks.

It was just one in a series of abrupt decisions that turned a routine trip abroad to accompany President Barack Obama to the Netherlands, Italy and Saudi Arabia into a frenetic tour of high-stakes diplomacy, replete with midair changes in flight plans and an astonishing amount of the seat-of-the-pants decision-making that already has come to define Kerry’s 14-month tenure as secretary of state.

Not one to decline a challenge, Kerry has never shied away from last-minute changes of plans.

Kerry is reacting to events, not mastering them or creating goals based on a coherent worldview. This is what happens when you lack a coherent strategy.

He’ll keep racing around, faster and faster, accomplishing less and less.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

April 4th, 2014 - 5:06 am

Loren Heal’s latest could serve as a nice follow-up to yesterday’s ♡FOD. Here’s the beef:

The Obama administration and its lapdog media have been saying that three million previously uninsured adult “children” are now covered by their parents’ insurance. It’s not true, according to two separate analysis by health policy experts.

David Hogberg of the National Center for Public Policy Research and Avik Roy of the Manhattan Instituteeach looked at the data in different ways, and discovered that the administration had been using fishy numbers from the start.

Hogberg showed that the HHS numbers the administration used were part of a “back of the envelope” calculation, and not the kind of study on which we’d like to base budget decisions. Doing the same back of the envelope calculation using updated numbers (something the administration could have done, but didn’t), Hogberg found that at most 2.2 million young adults were now covered on their parents’ policies.

Roy did a deeper dive using Census data, and found that there had been no net change in the number of insured people between the ages of 19 and 25. That is, while anyone in that age group must now be covered on their parents’ insurance, just as many lost coverage through their employment as have gained it under Obamacare.

That Means It’s Working™.

The Dog That Didn’t Bark

April 3rd, 2014 - 11:20 am

Andrew Malcolm noticed a curious omission from Professor Ditherton Wiggleroom’s ♡bamaCare!!! victory lap the other day:

Obama thanked two — and only two — people by name — ex-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said we’d have to pass the bill to learn what was in it. And he thanked Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate. Strangely, Obama did not thank the Senate’s top Democrat, Harry Reid, who runs that place for the moment.

Even more striking, however, Obama did not even mention Sebelius, the face of this long, painful implementation struggle. Not one word, though she was sitting right in front of him.

Malcolm wonders if the omission signals that Sebelius is on her way out.

I dunno. Number on, it’s too late for a face-saving resignation. Number two, Sebelius has been a good soldier, taking hit after hit for her boss. And I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess there will be plenty more hits coming between now and November.

So don’t count Sebelius out just yet — she probably hasn’t outlived her usefulness.

Back to the Future!

April 3rd, 2014 - 9:45 am

RATION CARD

It looks suspiciously like my insurance company’s ♡bamaCare!!!-approved Gold Plan Card, but I’m sure that’s just coincidence.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

April 3rd, 2014 - 7:51 am

Jonathan Weisman says in today’s NYT that the ♡bamaCare!!! enrollment figures “lift Democratic hopes.” More:

It’s far too early to say a political turnaround is at hand, but for the first time this election year, Democrats are evincing some confidence that they have at least stanched the bleeding.

“It’s changing. If you’ve been around awhile, and I’ve been around awhile, you can sense it,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate. “You’re not going to turn away seven or 10 million people from insurance coverage — doesn’t work anymore. And then comes Ryan. Thank you, thank you Congressman Paul Ryan, for reminding us what Republicans would do if they had control.”

Let’s save the Ryan stuff for another time, because he is (I think) positioning himself for 2016, rather than putting forth serious policy for 2015. And his timing, as the story notes, frankly stinks.

Instead, imagine you’re one of the newly-insured. Before ♡bamaCare!!! you were unable to buy insurance for whatever reason — preexisting conditions, too expensive, what have you. So you got on to Healthcare.gov or one of the state exchanges and were eventually able to buy insurance. You’re probably pretty happy, even if the website gave you a few headaches along the way. You might also be pretty happy if you’re one of the newly-covered under the Medicaid expansion, too.

Never mind for now that people who are receiving subsidies (an estimated four out of five enrollees) or who are on Medicaid subtract from ♡bamaCare!!!’ s solvency. We’re talking electoral politics today, and people receiving benefits generally don’t give two [REDACTEDS] what it costs the rest of us, or how much they’re adding to the deficit.

Those hardy souls, intrepid enough to endure Healthcare.gov’s myriad problems, might even prove motivated enough to show up at the polls in November to express their gratitude towards the Democrats who made it all possible.

Now I want you to imagine you’re one of the millions who had their policies cancelled. You were told you could keep the insurance who liked, but that turned out to be a lie. You were then forced onto one of the exchanges, where you practically ripped your hair out trying to buy new coverage. You then discovered that your new policy is quite a bit more expensive than your old one, once the greatly-increased deductibles and copays are factored in — and there’s no subsidy to cover those. Worst of all, you really liked the doctor you had, but their clinic is covered under the policy you could afford — another lie, and maybe the most hurtful one of all. The good news, if you can call it that, is that your 23-year-old is covered under your new plan. That’s a good thing because her hours got cut back to part-time because her employer couldn’t afford the ♡bamaCare!!! mandate for full-time employees. You have a big motivation to show up at the polls in November and vote for any but the [REDACTED] Democrat who did this to you and your family.

So we have two kinds of ♡bamaCare!!! customers: Winners and Losers. The news reports like Weisman’s seem to assume that every single one of the 7.1 million enrollees are happy customers. And we’re assuming here for the sake of argument that the 7.1 million figure is a valid one. There’s plenty of evidence suggesting that number is total horse[REDACTED].

But from the examples above, we see that just because you were able to buy insurance, doesn’t make you a happy customer. The question then is: What is the ratio of Unhappy:Happy customers?

A recent RAND Corporation study put the number of newly-insured — our Happy customers — at less than one million. One report puts the figure at nearly half of the 7.1 million are newbies. That report however is clearly an outlier, and based on anecdotal evidence. Let’s split the difference and call it a generous two million newly-insured. Oh, wait — the current rule of thumb is that 20% never paid their first premium, so we need to whack 400,000 off of our generous assumption, leaving us with 1.6 million newly-insured. (“It was my understanding there would be no math,” I can hear you complain. Don’t worry; this is Entitlement Math, where the figures can mean anything you want them to!)

People who lost their policies and have had to replace them top six million, and we can assume that number is lowball because many of those policies would have covered spouses and dependents. But we’re going to stay conservative with our figures, and call it a flat six million Unhappy Customers.

That gives us a ratio of 4.3:1, with the Unhappy Customers greatly outnumbering our Happy Customers.

So let the Democrats take their victory lap. They’ll need to take at least some small pleasure between now and November.

In His Own Words

April 3rd, 2014 - 7:00 am

When we think of the Koch Brothers, we usually think of the political TV ads they’ve purchased, or maybe of Harry Reid’s personal little war against them. So here’s Charles Koch on the WSJ’s op-ed page today:

Unfortunately, the fundamental concepts of dignity, respect, equality before the law and personal freedom are under attack by the nation’s own government. That’s why, if we want to restore a free society and create greater well-being and opportunity for all Americans, we have no choice but to fight for those principles. I have been doing so for more than 50 years, primarily through educational efforts. It was only in the past decade that I realized the need to also engage in the political process.

A truly free society is based on a vision of respect for people and what they value. In a truly free society, any business that disrespects its customers will fail, and deserves to do so. The same should be true of any government that disrespects its citizens. The central belief and fatal conceit of the current administration is that you are incapable of running your own life, but those in power are capable of running it for you. This is the essence of big government and collectivism.

More than 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson warned that this could happen.

Jefferson warned of it, but it was HL Mencken who foretold how it would happen. Here’s to hoping it isn’t Ayn Rand who had the solution — because frankly, I’m just too comfortable to enjoy a total economic collapse.

Read Koch’s whole piece. It’s good stuff.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

April 2nd, 2014 - 2:35 pm

When you’ve lost Colbert and Fallon and Meyers

The New New World Order

April 2nd, 2014 - 1:27 pm

Will the vacuum of American global leadership be filled in part by Germany? Read:

Voices from outside Germany and some in Merkel’s own party are urging her to adopt a more muscular foreign policy, commensurate with Germany’s status as Europe’s biggest, most powerful economy. Such a shift has been under discussion in Berlin the last few years, but advocates say the crisis in Crimea has brought the matter to a head.

“Germany has to get used to really pursuing foreign policy as a player,” said Norbert Roettgen, chairman of the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee and a member of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union.

The nation’s economic might has created a growing “expectation from our friends and neighbors that we live up to our responsibility,” Roettgen said. “A leading role is upon Germany if we like it or not.”

I’m all for burden-sharing, and better today’s Germany taking a greater role than tomorrow’s Russia or China. But Germany lacks the strategic reach or energy wealth to be a real player. The same can be said about the EU in toto. That’s why American leadership is required on the continent, or the void will be filled by someone like Vladimir Putin.

Required Reading

April 2nd, 2014 - 12:22 pm

David Remnick is always good reading when the subject is Russia, and today’s piece for The New Yorker about Russian writer Ulyana Skoibeda is no exception:

It turns out, Skoibeda tells the reader, that the Russian Army and its intelligence services have not collapsed. The country that was once great and powerful is great and powerful once more. “The Soviet Union, like the phoenix, has been reborn,” she writes. “It is not Crimea that has returned. It is we who have returned. Home. To the U.S.S.R.”

Read the whole thing.

News You Can Use

April 2nd, 2014 - 11:13 am

Forget Florida Man and introduce yourself to Topeka Man:

A Kansas man accused of beheading another man with a guitar string three years ago and keeping his head has pleaded not guilty to premeditated first-degree murder.

James Paul Harris, 29, is accused of garroting 49-year-old James Gerety, of Topeka, in March or April of 2011 and keeping Gerety’s head for some sort of religious reason, prosecutors allege.

During a preliminary hearing March 14, Harris’ former girlfriend, Bobbie Williams, testified that he told her he shot Gerety in the stomach, tortured him for two days and then cut off his head. Topeka police Detective Brian Hill testified that that Williams told him that Harris kept the head in a canvas bag so he could talk to it as part of some religious ritual.

You know you’re not supposed to do that, right?