The Washington Retro

The news will come as no shock to the readers of the Belmont Club, nor will it surprise anyone who has been following events in the Middle East. But expect the phrase “unexpected development” anywhere you see the MSM label. Reuters reports that Saudi Arabia has announced it will shift away from the United States:


Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief is vowing that the kingdom will make a “major shift” in relations with the United States to protest perceived American inaction over Syria’s civil war as well as recent U.S. overtures to Iran, a source close to Saudi policy said on Tuesday. …

“The shift away from the U.S. is a major one,” the source close to Saudi policy said. “Saudi doesn’t want to find itself any longer in a situation where it is dependent.”

The story is accompanied by a large photograph showing Prince Bandar shaking hands with Vladimir Putin, a thumbnail of which is shown below.

Out with the Old, in with the New

Out with the Old, in with the New

Another senior Saudi, Prince Turki al-Faisal, expressed his view of the Obama administration’s actions in the Middle East. “The current charade of international control over Bashar’s chemical arsenal would be funny if it were not so blatantly perfidious. And designed not only to give Mr. Obama an opportunity to back down (from military strikes), but also to help Assad to butcher his people”.

This tirade, which would blister the paint off the diplomatic walls, comes after John Kerry met in Paris with Saudi Arabia urging them to consider the advantages of assuming their place in the UN Security Council.


“Secretary Kerry conveyed that while it is Saudi Arabia’s decision to make, the U.S. values Saudi Arabia’s leadership in the region and the international community, and a seat on the UNSC affords member states the opportunity to engage directly on these issues,” a senior State Department official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Judging by Prince Turki al-Faisal’s remarks, I guess the answer to Kerry’s offer is “no”.

The media, which tried hard not to notice the Obamacare website catastrophe is also trying its level best to ignore the collapse of America’s former coalition in the Middle East. How much longer they can divert attention away from the T-rex(es)  in the room remains to be seen.

Not so very long ago President Obama asserted his dominance over Vladimir Putin at the Moscow summit by a very strange demonstration of body language. Tracy Connor of NBC News asked experts to analyze what the nonverbal signalling meant. Patti Wood, author of “Success Signals: Body Language in Business,” said:

“It was very odd. Obama is treating him like he was greeting a doorman,” she said.

She noted the significance Obama buttoning his suit jacket after exiting the limo.

“That’s another way men show power,” she said. “It says, ‘I know the attention is on me’ and it’s a little bit rude to do that. It’s grabbing the power for yourself.”

Tonya Reiman, who has written three books on body language, said Obama extended his hand at least two seconds before Putin did.

“This is a show of power,” she said. “In addition, he leans in toward Putin with his upper body, placing himself slightly into Putin’s personal zone. Notice Putin pulls back ever so slightly, which indicates that Obama has the upper hand.”


But Obama’s stock has fallen somewhat since then, as epitomized by the crash of his Obamacare website, which comes on the heels of his failed attempt to bomb Syria on his own authority.

The Washington Post’s Sara Kliff tried the new “apply by phone” button on the Obamacare website. Yes folks, their website has an innovative user interface that tells you what telephone number to call.

My colleague Ezra Klein and I decided to give the phone number a try.

Ezra tried calling twice and was put on hold. His hold music then went silent, and eventually his calls was dropped by the system. I fortuitously ended up on the phone with a consumer representative right away, spending, at most ,about 10 seconds on hold. She asked for my name and phone number, told me hold on a moment, and then yawned. I asked if it had been a busy morning. She responded, “Yes, a little bit.”

I told the consumer representative that I had filed an application in the system, and that I wanted to check on its status. She asked if I had received an eligibility determination; I said I wasn’t sure. She took my Social Security number to check on it, and said I hadn’t received the determination.

“It’s not in our system just yet,” she told me. “We have a lot of people trying to create accounts. Keep checking your e-mail or expect a letter in the mail this week.”


For those who are daunted by the impersonal method attempted by Kliff and Klein, you can try the other Obamacare website interface: the storefront at the mall. “Following extensive technical difficulties with the new federal health insurance exchange, a Blue Cross Blue Shield retail storefront in Greensboro has seen customer volumes tick up as people seek new coverage in person.”

The Greensboro store was seeing 40 to 50 customers a day after Oct. 1, but that dipped down to between 13 and 20 last week, before rebounding this week …

Turning to insurance agents and call centers were among the suggestions offered Monday by President Barack Obama at a White House press conference during which he acknowledged the flaws in, the new online marketplace for health insurance.

“While the website will ultimately be the easiest way to buy insurance through the marketplace, it isn’t the only way,” Obama said. “Even as we redouble our efforts to get the site working as well as it is supposed to, we are also redoubling our efforts to make sure you can still buy the same quality affordable insurance plans available on the marketplace the old fashioned way – offline, either over the phone or in person.”

After six hundred million dollars and three years building a website the public gets a phone number or can go down to see lady at the mall. And oh yes, whatever you do, don’t forget to keep checking your email or the letterbox in the yard.


But maybe Saudi Arabia has also installed a new interface for its diplomatic dealings with the United States in keeping with the “old fashioned” theme. You can now click the “apply by phone to talk to Prince Bandar” button on the Saudi embassy website. But don’t be surprised if you get routed to a handset in the Kremlin.

Everything old is new in Obama’s retro-modern horse and buggy world.

The website said, "go down to the mall"

The website said, “go down to the mall”

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