Belmont Club

A Run of Bad Luck

The administration’s Foreign Policy has been going badly for some time. Al-Qaeda has been retaking Western Iraq.  The Coalition anticipates losing much if not most of the territory it gained from the Taliban the minute it leaves Afghanistan.  President Obama’s “war of necessity” in Afghanistan is now officially more unpopular than Iraq at its most unpopular. Heck it’s more unpopular than Vietnam. US intelligence estimates the whole thing will collapse when the coalition pulls out.

A civil war may be breaking out in Lebanon. President Obama has abandoned the Western-backed rebels in Syria and reached out to the Islamists. The Islamists have laughed in his face.

In a Principals Committee-level meeting at the White House in early December, top officials from several national security agencies convened to decide on the next steps in the Obama administration’s Syria policy. The leadership of the Free Syrian Army, the moderate Western-backed rebels, had been chased from their headquarters in Northern Syria, leaving U.S. non-lethal aid in the hands of the Islamic Front, a new alliance of Salafist groups estimated to control over 130,000 fighters throughout Syria.

At this meeting, the top U.S. officials decided to open up direct engagement with the Islamic Front for the first time in the three-year civil war, according to three administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss internal government deliberations.

The invited Islamists didn’t show up. “The truth is, we don’t for sure know why the Islamic Front pulled out of the meeting. It could have been because they were insulted,” one administration official told The Daily Beast. ‘Right now, there is no follow-up meeting scheduled.'”

Max Hastings thinks that World War 3 may yet break out in Asia, fueled by a rivalry between Japan and China. And if that weren’t enough, there’s Kim Jong-un.

BEIJING — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s powerful uncle was stripped naked, thrown into a cage, and eaten alive by a pack of ravenous dogs, according to a newspaper with close ties to China’s ruling Communist Party. …

Hong Kong-based pro-Beijing newspaper Wen Wei Po reported that Jang and his five closest aides were set upon by 120 hunting hounds which had been starved for five days.

Kim and his brother Kim Jong Chol supervised the one-hour ordeal along with 300 other officials, according to Wen Wei Po. The newspaper added that Jang and other aides were “completely eaten up.”

Some media outlets have scoffed at the reports largely on the grounds that it was inconceivable that anyone could do this, although they do admit that nobody can believe that the unspeakable horrors of Pyongyang’s Gulag could have existed either. Let’s just say the whole place is going to the dogs.

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Kim might not be the president’s fault, but it does seem as if the world is on a losing streak; that the boiler of crisis is containing an ever growing head of steam.

As David Beatty said at Jutland after watching battlecruiser after battlecruiser blow up: “something is wrong with our ships today”.  Michael Moore knows what’s wrong. Moore writing in the New York Times, explains why Obamacare is doing so poorly.  Listen to his closely reasoned argument.

I believe Obamacare’s rocky start — clueless planning, a lousy website, insurance companies raising rates, and the president’s telling people they could keep their coverage when, in fact, not all could — is a result of one fatal flaw: The Affordable Care Act is a pro-insurance-industry plan implemented by a president who knew in his heart that a single-payer, Medicare-for-all model was the true way to go. When right-wing critics “expose” the fact that President Obama endorsed a single-payer system before 2004, they’re actually telling the truth.

What we now call Obamacare was conceived at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and birthed in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney, then the governor. The president took Romneycare, a program designed to keep the private insurance industry intact, and just improved some of its provisions. In effect, the president was simply trying to put lipstick on the dog in the carrier on top of Mitt Romney’s car. And we knew it.

By 2017, we will be funneling over $100 billion annually to private insurance companies. You can be sure they’ll use some of that to try to privatize Medicare.

For many people, the “affordable” part of the Affordable Care Act risks being a cruel joke. The cheapest plan available to a 60-year-old couple making $65,000 a year in Hartford, Conn., will cost $11,800 in annual premiums. And their deductible will be $12,600. If both become seriously ill, they might have to pay almost $25,000 in a single year. (Pre-Obamacare, they could have bought insurance that was cheaper but much worse, potentially with unlimited out-of-pocket costs.)

The recent difficulties experienced by the administration’s flagship program are all a plot hatched at the Heritage Foundation to force Obama to go against his single-payer instincts. Didn’t you guess that from the start? And we already know the NYT has reaffirmed the cause of the attack on Benghazi as occasioned by a video, just like Hillary said. Afghanistan will turn out to be George Bush’s fault.

The administration knows how to campaign, but it is less adept at governing. It promised a new outreach in the Middle East. It aimed at the lofty goal of a world without nuclear weapons. It pledged to end the war on terror “where it began”. Not too much luck so far.  Success has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan. That recently the administration has spawned a lot of orphans may be due to the fact that it’s in the shell game business.

Obamacare was supposed to be about making people well. But as Megan McArdle observes it is really about funneling money to insurance companies.  “For an economist, insurance is a financial product, health insurance as much as life or auto insurance. Auto insurance probably doesn’t improve your driving much, but it does protect your assets if you’re in an accident. It may not be what we expected Obamacare to do … but it’s probably what we should have expected.”

Cutting costs means tort reform, increasing the supply of doctors and medical professionals and increasing competition. That might be more meaningfully achieved by removing excessive torts, increasing the supply of doctors, improving competition among health care providers, etc rather than by centralizing insurance. But the government doesn’t do cost cutting. However it does do mandated payments for insurance.

Obamacare may turn out to be a MacGuffin: “a plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist pursues, often with little or no narrative explanation as to why it is considered so important.” It’s a red herring; a substitute goal.   The administration started off doing a whole lot of irrelevant things which looked good but did nothing.

And in the end you get nothing.

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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