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Obamacare’s Frightening Reality

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Here is a personal story.  My wife has a friend in New York who is in her early 40s and was found to have breast cancer last year.  The woman had metastatic disease, and her condition was considered grim.

This woman then was recommended by both my wife and I to go to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer.  I trained there, and know it is one of the premier cancer centers in the world.

Luckily, this woman had health insurance, which her husband pays for out of pocket, because he runs a personal business.

Now, here is where it gets interesting. First, this woman is a huge Obama supporter. So much so, she campaigned for Obama in 2008 (she went to New Hampshire during the primaries, and stayed in a hotel there for several weeks on her own dime campaigning for the Obama effort).

I spoke to her last night, by coincidence.  And her opinion was shocking.  And it changed because of an Op/Ed from a cancer patient that was published in the Wall Street Journal last week.

The article was written by Edie Littlefield Sundby.  Ms.  Sundby is the victim of stage IV gallbladder cancer, a horrible disease that has a very poor 5 year survival rate.  She had been lucky to have excellent insurance, and had been treated at premier cancer centers at the University of California; Stanford University’s Cancer Institute; and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.  All three are consider top tier cancer institutions.

However, she just found that her insurance has been cancelled because of regulations placed upon it by the Affordable Care Act.  She can still get insurance, but none of the choices available to her would allow her to continue to see all of her physicians, as  her old plan did.

People who have never dealt with cancer treatment would wonder, “Why not change your doctor?”  However, cancer is unlike most things in medicine.  A detailed therapy plan often is only available with certain institutions and doctors, and not everyone provides every therapy.  Moroever, after myself working at Sloan-Kettering, I have seen how these elite institutions provide far better results with stage IV and advanced cancers than many other institutions.

Now, this brings us back to my friend, the Obama supporter.  She is truly worried now.  She is still going to Memorial Sloan-Kettering for treatments, and likely will have to for the rest of her life.  But now, she is unsure if her insurance will be there when she needs it.  She and her husband have expected to get the cancellation letter in the mail, and right now, her search of New York’s health exchange has not given her a solution that would allow her to not only see her local doctor, but to see her physicians at the Cancer Center as well.

This is the reality of the ripple effects of the Affordable Care Act.  And you will continue to hear stories like this, over and over again.  And Democrats will have to defend their choices, now that they have real world consequences.  If the Obama Administration can convince people that they will maintain their same high level of care for a reasonable price, then all these worries go away.

Right now, Americans like my friend are not convinced.

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Thor: The Dark World: Movie Review

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Thor: The Dark World is in my mind one of the tougher movies to make in the Marvel Universe.  Heck, I thought it was a minor miracle that Director Kenneth Branagh made a half way decent first Thor film.

There is a reason for this.  First, Thor is a strange character.  He is semi-god, who comes from an alternate reality where Norse gods are real.  Kind of hard to relate to any of that, isn’t it?  Heck, how many of us really remember what the Norse gods stood for anyway?

In the comics, Thor is sometimes portrayed as God-like, but sometimes portrayed as half insane.  Even more confusing.

But Branagh pulled it off the first time; the first film introduced a new generation to Thor’s world, and in an enjoyable manner.  However, repeating a miracle is always a tough chore.  Into that tough task comes ne Director Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones).

Compounding this is the fact that this all comes after the events of the Marvels Avengers movie.  We say a galactic power invade Earth, only to be repelled by the power of Earth’s mightiest heroes. So what greater threat remains?

In this episode, we immediately are faced with another galactic threat: that of Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), leader of the Dark Elves, who wants to destroy the Nine Realms (governed now by King Odin, played by Anthony Hopkins).  A millenia before, Malekith threatened to return the universe to darkness during a convergence of the Nine Realms.  But Bor, Odin’s father, defeated Malekith, and banished all the Dark Elves to eternal slumber.

How Malekith brings back his power and tries to achieve his goals is convoluted, unscientific, and largely mystical.  And this is where I am sure this movie will lose a lot of people  And that is, at its very heart, the problem with Thor as a character.  He is a magical character, not a realistic one, and his entire existence must simply be accepted on faith, as must the rest of his world.  Some people can’t make this leap.

Furthermore, as a standalone movie, this is a terrible piece of moviemaking. If you haven’t seen Thor, or the Avengers, you might as well not even show up for this installment.  They are all interconnected, and the value is significantly diminished if you aren’t totally invested in the entire Marvel Universe.

That doesn’t mean that this is a terrible movie.  In fact, if you like Thor as a character, I think you will thoroughly enjoy this movie.  The best scenes are between Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his recently imprisoned brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston).  Much of the movie is about how Thor and Loki must find a way to trust one another again in order to save their world.  Loki is the most entertaining character in the movie by far, and dominates every scene he is in. Only the scenes with between Thor and his female platonic companion Sif (Jaimie Alexander) can compare.

On the other hand, Malekith is a bore as a bad guy.  Natalie Portman is a non-essential part of the scenery, and you wonder at points why Thor would bother with such a lame mortal.

The battle scenes are brutal and more interesting, as we see the true force and power of Asgardians and their enemies, and Thor wielding Mjolnir.  Asgard itself gets much more time on screen, which true fans will love.

Overall, this is a mediocre film. If you are a fan of the Marvel Universe, especially of Thor and Loki, you will definitely enjoy it.  If you are not a major fan, you would be best served skipping this until some later date.

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What Christie/McAulliffe Victories Mean

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So, the media will talk a lot about the national significance of these two races, because there is not much else to talk about. This is a repeating event every four years, because there is nothing else to do between the Presidential and midterm elections.

So what can we really learn from these results?

1.  Off year elections don’t mean much.

Historically, these elections mean little to nothing.  You can take a lot of meaning into Christie and McDonnell winning four years ago, right before the Tea Party swept the 2010 elections, but there were many local issues that drove both candidates to victory that were far more important than national trends at the time.

I am sure many liberal bloggers will put a lot of weight into McAuliffe’s victory, and give credence to the argument that the shutdown helped him win, or the Obamacare debacle didn’t hurt him, or some other wacky theory.  But the reality is, McAuliffe ran a better campaign, that was better funded. It was as simple as that.

But, at least it gives the media and bloggers such as myself something to talk about.

2.  Chris Christie starts his Presidential run tonight.

This is among the worst kept political secrets in America, along with the fact that Hillary Clinton is running for the big job.  Christie sees an opening, as do other moderates.  Their view is the GOP has been losing elections because it has moved too far to the right, and that we need a strong moderate leader to take the helm.

Of course, forget the fact that the last two nominees of the GOP are the milquetoast Mitt Romney and the ‘Maverick’ John McCain. I think that claim is dubious.  For me, however, there are more important political trends that Christie’s re-election points to.

First of all, Obama, Democrats and Republicans are making the stench of the beltway toxic to the American voter.  Christie, as the consummate outsider, can use that. He is fat, gruff, at time boorish but glaringly and painfully honest…everything that Barack Obama is not.  2014 and 2016 are likely to be election cycles where being an outsider is a boon, and Christie plays that role quite well.  Just wait and watch Hillary try to run away from her State Department and Obama roots as well.

Second, Obama’s gross incompetence is going to make Americans look for a true manager, and that to me means an obvious solution:  Governors.  Christie may not be the guy, but my guess right now is that a Republican governor from somewhere is going to win the GOP nomination.  Christie believes he is that guy; I am not so sure.

But let us not discount Christie’s achievement.  As Sean Trende pointed out in his piece today, Christie is likely the most conservative statewide elected politician in New Jersey in more than half a century. Christie has run a moderately conservative fiscal plan with a few socially conservative leanings in a far blue state…and is going to win running away. That is pretty unique in the GOP in the last generation.  I may not be the biggest Christie fan, but the achievement is remarkable nonetheless.

3.  The Virginia result is even less important.

Some liberals will say that this is because the GOP lost.  Actually, I have been predicting a loss here for six months, and have said since August that this will be a 5 point victory.

The count is not over, but it appears the race will be far closer than that.

Some well-known liberal bloggers were calling for a double-digit victory not two weeks ago.  So who is more delusional?

The problem with taking any large arching ramification from the Virginia is simple:  there were too many confounding factors.  First, Gov. Bob McDonnell got caught in a horrible corruption scandal, one nobody expected.  Even though Ken Cuccinelli was no ally of the Governors, and continued to try to distance himself, that stench never went away.

Second came the shutdown.  I am not sure how much effect it really had ultimately (I actually think as of election day most people have already forgotten it; exit polls will tell us more), but it certainly halted any effort Cuccinelli made to close the gap in early October.

Now, compound that with a relatively strong third-party candidacy from Robert Sarvis, with many Republicans defecting to the third-party, and I am not sure what to make of the entire mess.

With all that, the GOP candidate likely is going to lose by less than 4 points.  Of the few lessons we can learn from the race, one is this:  the polls should be ignored by the GOP when races are close.  McAuliffe outspent Cuccinelli 3:1, and in the late stages of this election, that could have driven up Democrat votes in D.C. and Richmond, and stifled conservative votes in those regions.  This was a winnable race.

Furthermore, the exit polls are very worrisome for Democrats.  Blame for the sequester?  46% Obama, 47% Republicans for Congress, according to VA exits. Obamacare was upside down, 46% to 53%.  The real terrible story for the GOP was single women, which they lost by…40 points.

4.  Cuccinelli is ideally a poor candidate for modern Virginia.

Virginia is a blue state.  That is the first reality.  Second, it is a major urban population, with the suburbs of Washington, D.C..  Thus, Virginia should be considered more along the lines of Pennsylvania than North Carolina.

As such, Cuccinelli is a poor candidate.  Assuredly, he made his name opposing Obamacare in the courts, but he was almost as well-known for his very strong beliefs in criminalizing certain societal acts, such as homosexual sex and his defense of sodomy laws in unique situations, turned off a large swathe of conservatives.  I know this as a fact, as many of my Virginia friends, those that would vote for Tea Party candidates like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, absolutely refused to consider Cuccinelli.

The GOP must learn that it can stay a socially conservative party; but pushing legislation to dictate the actions behind closed doors of consenting adults simply is a non-starter, even among many (if not most) social conservatives.  Conservatives are largely moving toward become libertarian on these social issues.

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Overall, it was a mixed bag.  I think Democrats can take heart that they retook the Virginia Governorship, but by a much slimmer margin than the polls and conventional wisdom imagined.

For the GOP, they need to learn a couple of lessons.  First, ignore conventional wisdom.  Conventional wisdom stated this race could not be won, that Cuccinelli was done after the shutdown, and the race was a blowout.  All three  suppositions were false.  Cuccinelli’s clear negatives were on social issues, where the GOP needs to hone their msessage; nothing wrong with social conservatism, but it is not the primary issue voters are concerned with.

The shutdown was not the negative that the mainstream media wanted us to believe, three short weeks ago; that effect has already dissipated.  In fact, one can argue (and I admit is is arguable both ways) that Obamacare had more effect on this race ultimately than the shutdown did.  I am sure liberal and conservative commentators will be arguing that for months.

However, a big night clearly for Chris Christie, as he is going to be the clear frontrunneer for the GOP nomination, until a true conservative alternative can come and show they deserve it more.

 

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Ender’s Game: Movie Review

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Ender’s Game, the novel by Orson Scott Card, is considered one of the pinnacles of science fiction over the last half century.  It presented a universe in which the human race was out of ideas to save itself, and looked at the only alternative left to it:  its children.

We enter an era in which the previous generation of humanity had to face its greatest threat:  an invasion of frightening, insectoid like creatures who could neither be defeated nor negotiated with.  Humanity’s survival form that alien incursion was more by luck and circumstance than skill and technology.  In response, the Earth’s military minds prepare for the next Alien invasion by forming the elite Battle School.

The protagonist is Andrew (Ender)Wiggin (Asa Butterfield of Hugo fame), a child of a brilliant family of children, who is closely analyzed and followed by the elite military minds of the world, who scour the Earth for potential candidates for their prestigious Battle School.  His older brother Peter is just as much a genius as Ender, but has an uncontrollable violent streak.  His sister Valentine (played by Abigail Breslin) is the person whom Ender loves the most in the world; and the reason he loves her (for her pure emotional attachment) was a reason she was not considered an ideal candidate.

However, Ender is the ideal candidate:  a genius who is emotionally attached enough to fight for his family and humanity, while vicious and violent enough to destroy his enemies should the need arise.

Thus enters Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford) and Major Gwen Anderson (Viola Davis), who run the school. Graff was integral in identifying and choosing Ender for the school.  He enters him into the Battle School, where much of the action of the movie takes place.

Underlying all this is the fact that the training of these killers is being done with children.  The adults are forming a military force that focuses on young, agile minds, and turns them into tactical killers.

Ender’s rise to the top of the class is painful, emotional, and angst ridden, which is quite the point.  Much of it is orchestrated, as the children are played like puppets, one against the other.  By the time Ender meets his hero Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley), he is already a leader waiting to take command.

The end scenes of the movie are critical in later enjoying the rest of the plot.  The critical moments of the movie put Ender to the ultimate test. And this is no classical war movie with children with a clear happy ending.

Overall, the best performance here was by Harrison Ford.  I cannot recall the last time I enjoyed his acting as much.  Asa Butterfield is shaky at the beginning, but is solid in the rest of the movie.

Overall, I think this is a solid adaptation of one of my favorite science fiction novels.  Well worth the wait.

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Obamacare Rollout: What We Know, 1 Month Later

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So, as November 1st arrives, we were supposed to get a good feel if the rollout of the Affordable Care Act was going as planned, trajectory of insurance purchasers, relative cost comparions, etc.

We really have none of the above.

The website debacle has basically brought the entire process to a standstill.  People either were unable to purchase insurance, or were so turned off that they didn’t bother.

So what we don’t know, and the data lacking therein, far outnumbers the things that we demonstrably do know.

So, to get past the political spin, what data is there? What, if any, conclusions (partial or otherwise) can we make?  What do we know, for certain?

1.  The Website has issues; major issues. 

The website problem is not a simple fix.  Testimony this week on Capitol Hill clearly demonstrated that.  The officials from the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as contractors paid to build the web platform, didn’t agree on much, but they did agree on that.

A repeated promise was made in hearings however:  that the website would be operational by November 30th.  That is a dubious promise.  If the problems that exist in the website are as reported, it is not simply fixing a few lines of code that will make everything all right. There are major isuses, not only with the code but the basic structure of the system, the transfer of data from the web platform to-and-from major databases, and communication with the insurers themselves.

It will take a Herculean effort to truly make the system operational by the end of November.

Furthermore, the tech surge that President Obama largely seems to be rhetoric, as the majority of those chosen to run the new effort are long term Beltway insiders.  If anything should give you pause, that should.

2.  Medicaid enrollees are far outnumbering purchasers of insurers. 

This may be the most worrisome part of what has happened over the last month, even more than the website issues.  Fundamentally, the entire premise of the ACA rests on the balance of having new people buy insurance on the markets, to partially ‘subsidize’ those millions being added to the Medicaid rolls.

As a Washington Post article today noted, on many of these exchanges, Medicaid enrolles are ounumbering purchasers 9:1. That is a death knell for the system if it continues.  As the CBO reported from the beginning, we need closer to a 1:1 ratio (the CBO says the ratio of Medicaid enrollees:insurance purchasers should be approximately 9.1:7.9, to be precise) to maintain fiscal sustainability.

However, we simply don’t know if this is a short term blip or a long term trend.  This could all be a result of the poor website functionality, which then had a ripple effect in the marketplace.  Or it could honestly be that purchasers don’t like what they see, and may choose option B, the Obamacare tax penalty…which would be fiscally disastrous for the system.  That would be the leading edge toward the ‘death spiral’ that the Administration and insurance industry fears so much.

3.  The Administration has come catch up to do to make their enrollment targets for 2014. 

To maintain the system, they need a minimal number of paying customers in the Exchanges, as described above.  The number the CBO has stated is approximately 7 million by the target date (which, after the White House pushed it back, is now the end of March).

They had expected to sign up about 500,000 people by the end of October.  That number will be missed by a large margin.  Secretary of HHS Kathleen Sebelius refused to release the numbers, but most estimates state that the number of policies actually sold will be far less than 100,000

That number is not going to significantly improve in the month of November, because the website is still largely nonfuctional. Then comes the busy month of December, with the intrusion of the holidays.

My guess (and it is only a guess) is that they may not meet their goal for October 31 of 500k purchasers even as of January 1, 2014.

If that holds true, or even if they do better than expected and get up to 1 million person mark, that means that they will have to sign up 6 million persons in three months time.  That is a huge hill to climb.

4.  Liberals blaming Republicans for this mess don’t really have many facts backing up the claim.

Liberals to this day are blaming the ‘intransigence of Republicans’ for the failures in the system.  However, this has been simply disproven:  go to a number of states that have Democrat Governors and legislatures, that have been implementing Obamacare from the beginning, and see if they are doing better.

For the most part, they are not.  Take Oregon, who as of earlier this week, had not had any purchasers of insurance through their exchanges, though they have had tens of thousands of enrollees in Medicaid.  California, New York and others are not much better.

This is largely not a political problem at this point, but a problem of managerial competence or lack thereof.

5.  We have anecdotal evidence of people paying more for insurance after losing their insurance.

This is ONLY anecdotal evidence at this point; and that makes it very hard to really analyze.

Definitely millions of people are losing their current insurance because of the ACA and associated retgulations that are term limiting those insurance plans.  Democrats can blame the insurers, but that is a lie:  the full responsibilty of that process lies with the ACA.  The vast majority of these plans would still exist today if not for the ACA; it is as simple as that.

As for increased health care premiums, we won’t know for a long time if that is a systemic problem, or an isolated one.  Democrats claim those cases are the exception, Republicans claim they are the rule.  The truth is neither side has enough data to make such absolute claims.  And that data will take a long time in coming.  It may take months, but more likely years to know if the ACA is bending the cost curve up, down, or has no effect.  I have my suspicions, but there are only that:  suspicions.

6.  Conservatives should not rejoice; the plan can still be saved.

I know, this is a shocking statement coming from me, considering I have been so pessimistic about the system as a whole.  But the truth is, if there were competent managers in charge of this, this rollout could have gone much better.

The website debacle has a snowball effect, to be sure. We don’t know how many people, but certainly hundreds of thousands of people if not more would have gone on to the exchanges and, most likely with the help of subsidies, purchased insurance if they were allowed to.

Incompetence prevented that.

Where the rubber meets the road is getting people who will not receive a significant subsidy to purchase on the exchanges.  Now, this is really the hard part for Democrats.  So far, from what little I have seen, the insurance plans on the exchanges are more expensive and provide less financial coverage than many plans that were available prior to the ACA.

Democrats will counter that these plans provide ‘more’ coverage.  There is some truth to that, but much of that coverage is not really beneficial to the majority of consumers.  Furthermore, remember that the primary demographic that they must convince to open their pocketbooks and purchase insurance, instead of paying the penalty, is the young, healthy American.  How many of these people are thinking about ‘better’ coverage when they don’t use the coverage they have today?  Are they going to be willing to pay $100-$200 more a month for something they don’t use?

We simply don’t know the answer to that.

Overall, it has clearly been a rough month for supporters of Obamacare, as nothing seemingly has gone right in their rollout.  Can the system be saved? Yes, but it will take not only a Herculean task on the IT side, but a lot of selling by President Obama and the White House, along with a lot of luck, to convince people to do what is not in their short term interest (i.e. purchasing more expensive health insurance) while promising dubious long term benefits.

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Obamacare’s Debacle Denialists: The Sebelius Hearing Version

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I have, both here and on social media, talked a lot about the denial the left is suffering from when confronting the realities of the train wreck that the Obamacare implementation has become.

Today’s hearing with Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was a perfect example.

As the person in charge of this implementation, you would presume that she would have the most up-to-date information on the program.  That she would be able to quickly and promptly answer where in the process the repair of the exchange website we are.  And, that she could tell us what the legal standard for the law is.

You would be wrong on all counts.

To put it succinctly, Sebelius’s testimony also turned into a train wreck.

But let us give her credit.  Sebelius started the day by taking full responsibility for the website’s failures.  Good, right?  The only problem is, she spent the rest of the day trying to convince the hearing members that it wasn’t her fault, but everyone else’s.  She primarily blamed the contractors for not telling her the truth that there were problems with the site; that is, of course, now documented to be false.  They have documented that they were not provided the access or authority to test the site fully, and that authority only resides at HHS.

But it gets worse.  When questioned about the websites security measures, she could not confirm that it was ever tested for security leaks.  Again, to the contractors credit, they documented that they sent a memo to Sec. Sebelius in the end of September stating this fact…and yet HHS did little or nothing to insure the security of millions of Americans’ data.

Sebelius then made what I thought was going to be the most remarkably stupid comment of the day (but wasn’t) when she claimed…wait for it…that the website has never crashed.   She claimed,  “It is functional, but at a very slow speed and very low reliability.”  But as the graphic at the top of this post shows, the site was not functional during her testimony.  You would think she would have checked before going out there and made this ludicrous statement.

As if things couldn’t get worse, Sebelius was then asked why she didn’t go to the Washington, D.C. exchange to get her own insurance.  She claimed that because she is a Federal employee it would be illegal for her to do so.  The problem?  That is completely and factually incorrect, as the graphic from the HHS site shows:

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 In other words, the HHS Secretary doesn’t know that the law she is trying to implement would allow her to join the D.C. exchange, as her own HHS website clearly shows. You cannot make this level of incompetence up.

After all that, you wouldn’t think that Ms. Sebelius could worsen this debacle; you would, of course, be wrong. During the exchange asking her about the legality of her joining the D.C. exchange, her hot mic caught this little tidbit:

Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.) asked her to answer, “yes or no,” whether she’d be willing to drop her federal employee health coverage and buy insurance in the exchanges if she could.

“If you can, will you?” he said.

Sebelius claimed that she thought it would be illegal for her to use the exchanges — but that’s not actually true.

Then Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) made a unanimous consent request so he could ask a question out of turn. Sebelius turned to a colleague and said, “Don’t do this to me.” Those words were caught on her microphone.

Well, frankly, who could blame her?  I don’t want Obamacare to do this to any of us.

But the line of the hearing still hasn’t been mentioned.

Rep. Greg Harper (R-Miss.) asked Sebelius repeatedly whether President Barack Obama was responsible for the troubled rollout of the health-care law that has left HealthCare.gov, the website where consumers are supposed to purchase insurance, largely dysfunctional.

Sebelius repeated that she and the Department of Health and Human Services were ultimately responsible. This led to a back-and-forth between the two, in which Harper tried to pry the answer he wanted out of her before his time for questioning expired.

“While I think it’s great that you’re a team player and you’re taking responsibility, it is the President’s ultimate responsibility, correct?” he said.

“Well, you’re clearly, uh, whatever,” Sebelius said. “Yes. He is the President. He is responsible for government programs.”

Let me give you a little hint folks: if you are testifying in front of Congress, the body representing the American people, don’t ever respond to a question with the term “Whatever”.

The entire hearing was a debacle, and did nothing to support the claim of the left that the Obamacare implementation is in competent hands.  If anything, it gave more support to the argument that the Obamacare debacle denialist brigade is still in charge.

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The “President Didn’t Know” Administration

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On the heels of the story that the NSA for more than a decade has been eavesdropping on leaders of America’s allies (most particular German Chancellor Angela Merkel), comes this response from the White House:  Obama had no knowledge of the program at all.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/28/politics/white-house-stopped-wiretaps/index.html

The White House cut off some monitoring programs after learning of them, including the one tracking Ms. Merkel and some other world leaders, a senior U.S. official said. Other programs have been slated for termination but haven’t been phased out completely yet, officials said.

The account suggests President Barack Obama went nearly five years without knowing his own spies were bugging the phones of world leaders. Officials said the NSA has so many eavesdropping operations under way that it wouldn’t have been practical to brief him on all of them.

First problem with this is, does anyone really believe a low-level intelligence staffer would decide to bug the phone of the leader of a major U.S. ally, without White House approval?  Secondly, when this information percolates up the food chain to its ultimate recipient (namely, the President of the United States) don’t you think people would wonder what the source of the intelligence was?

I think most people with a semblance of common sense would assume that this is a farce; for Obama not to know this was going on after five years in the Oval Office is either simply a lie, or means that our Commander-in-Chief is far more incompetent than even his harshest critics have claimed.

However, this “Obama didn’t know anything!” defense is nothing new.  Go back to Benghazi, the IRS scandal, Fast and Furious, etc…Obama never seems to know anything going on in his own administration.

And it isn’t even primarily foreign affairs issues either.  Look no further than Obama’s signature domestic legislation, the Affordable Care Act.

In an exclusive interview with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta asked when the President first learned about the considerable issues with the Obamacare website. Sebelius responded that it was in “the first couple of days” after the site went live October 1.

“But not before that?” Gupta followed up.

To which Sebelius replied, “No, sir.”

To which I provide the same response:  either Obama is incompetent and doesn’t have a clue what is being done in his name on the signature policy initiatives in his own administration, or somebody is lying.  At this point, I am not sure which is more likely.

I understand the natural tendency of the President’s staunchest allies to defend him, and try to protect him from attacks.  But this is getting ridiculous.  Is there nothing Obama’s responsible for within his own administration?  Again, at some point, you come to the conclusion that either you are being lied to, or Mr. Obama simply is more incompetent than anyone could have imagined.  In that line of though, the President would be better served by taking responsibility for his mistakes, rather than looking for somewhere to hide when his policy decisions blow up in his face.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why Right Now, I Think Chris Christie Is Our 2016 Nominee

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 O.K., before I get too far into this, DO NOT ATTACK ME.  I predict I will get hate through my comment section, twitter and elsewhere quite quickly.  Chris Christie posts do that, much like Mitt Romney posts got me kicked off of various conservative websites a few years ago.

This is not an endorsement; in fact, you could in some ways call it an ‘antiendorsement’.

But I think we are facing the very real possibility of Chris Christie surging ahead to become the 2016 GOP nominee.  And quite honestly, we really won’t have anyone to blame but ourselves.

If there was a big winner in the Obamacare defunding episode, Gov. Chris Christie was it.  In many ways, he benefits far more than any Democrat, and is ideally placed to take advantage of the political winds of the day.

Why do I say this?  First, let us review what the basic political trends of the past few weeks have been.

For the most part, the GOP marginalized itself.  We can argue whether defunding was a good or bad strategy, but the worst strategy of all is one where the party is going in three different directions, had no leadership or spine, and ultimately capitulates on every issue.  That is precisely what happened here.

Furthermore, for the large part of the populace that wasn’t really paying attention to the intricacies involved, the GOP looked like the radical party, shutting down government against the hapless President.  Yes, I stipulate that this is not the reality, but that is what the public saw.  And they made the decision to blame everyone in Washington, D.C….including President Obama.  However, let us also stipulate that they blamed Republicans more.

Third, the public is sick and tired of our broken political system.   They have basically declared a pox on both houses of both parties, and although the GOP has taken a larger hit, it isn’t by as much as many think.

So is the result of this scenario that I have drawn up?

Most importantly, it elevates an outside of the beltway executive who runs against the grain, fights the system, and is a different type of politician, who can declare that he/she is against both parties to a certain extent and will bring a new kind of politics to the White House.

Chris Christie, enter stage right.

To be sure, there are many others that could benefit from this as well.  Every reasonable GOP Governor could stake a claim on this same argument.  Rick Perry, Scott Walker, among others could make this argument.  But Christie has one added advantage:  he is not beholden to the Tea Party.  And for moderates and independents who are not beholden to the conservative base, that is a positive.

I know at this point my conservative brethren are ready to blow an aneurysm.  Christie is a Republican who basically stabbed our prior Republican nominee in the back on the eve of the 2012 election, a man who has questionable standing on some of our most basic foundations of conservatism (government spending, 2nd amendment rights, abortion, Obamacare, etc), and here I am still telling you he may triumph as the Republican nominee in 2016?

Hey, don’t blame me.  I just call them as I see them.

Conservatives (and I mean real conservatives, not just Republicans) better get their act together.  We want a chance to run a true conservative in 2016?  We better have policies that are acceptable to Americans.  We must base our campaign on policies that speak to middle America, that hit at the heart of the economic despair that ravages this country.  We better put out a face of the future, a person that can speak conservatism to the masses.  We need a new type of conservative candidate, and we have to find that person quickly.

Otherwise, enjoy Christie 2016.

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The Left’s Obamacare Debacle Denialists

Obamacare launch in 3...2...1....d'oh.

Obamacare launch in 3…2…1….d’oh.

Many of my liberal friends are apparently quite happy to live in an alternate reality.

In this reality, the Obamacare rollout is going just great; the issues are simple ‘glitches’ that can easily be remedied.  And of course, none of this will have repercussions to the larger program, nor will the public be turned off by the apparent hiccup.

Yeah, it must be nice living in that world…because the real world is not so great.

See this story from Oregon:

Is the Affordable Health Care Act making health care unaffordable for some people?

Some customers of Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield, one of Oregon’s largest insurance providers, say that’s exactly what’s happening. They say they are finding their health care plans are dramatically changing under the Affordable Care Act.

“Policy holders are seeing almost double their monthly premiums,” said a KATU viewer named Larry in an email. He said his wife’s premium will increase by $300 under the Affordable Care Act.

Cover Oregon spokesman Michael Cox says most insurance plans that focus on lower premiums and higher deductibles will be replaced by plans with lower deductibles and higher benefits.

Or this story from Illinois:

The Tribune‘s Peter Frost found that a typical user in the system — a 33-year-old single father in this case — would see his premiums “more than double” from the current average of $233 a month. But if the single dad wants his premiums to remain in range, he’ll need to sign up for an annual deductible of $12,700. The average deductible before ObamaCare for this consumer would have been $3,500.

You will note I specifically chose states which are run by Democrats, where the states set up their own exchanges, and everything is going as Democrats planned.

If this is success, I would hate to see failure.  I would assume that ‘failure’ scenario has zombies and floods of lava involved.

Oh, but it gets worse.  In a post on the liberal blogging site the Daily Kos, a long time diarist posted his new reality…of much higher premium costs.

My wife and I just got our updates from Kaiser telling us what our 2014 rates will be. Her monthly has been $168 this year, mine $150. We have a high deductible. We are generally healthy people who don’t go to the doctor often. I barely ever go. The insurance is in case of a major catastrophe.

Well, now, because of Obamacare, my wife’s rate is gong to $302 per month and mine is jumping to $284.

I am canceling insurance for us and I am not paying any $#%#^# penalty. What the hell kind of reform is this?

If you take a look, be sure to read the comments section.  It is riddled with hate filled rants about how this poster is idea a GOP plant, a troll, or a liar.  A few helpful commenters told others to hold back the attacks until they knew the facts…to no avail.

This is pretty common in the left-wing bubble these days.  Many liberals have convinced themselves that there is no possible way Obamacare could fail.  They simply have faith that Obama could not be that incompetent.

It is almost a religious level of fervor.

To be sure, there are a couple liberal commentators that are facing the hard truths of this big government failure. Robert Gibbs, former Communication director, had this to say:

“This was excruciatingly embarrassing for the White House and for the Department of Health and Human Services.”

“This was bungled badly. This was not a server problem, like too many people came to the website. This was a website architecture problem.”

“When they get this fixed, I hope they fire some people…”

A glowing endorsement, indeed.

Ezra Klein, Washington Post blogger and longtime Obamacare aficionado, was even more harsh; and even better, it is while he was on MSNBC:

“The way this I.P. is going is a disaster, I really don’t think people should soft pedal what a bad launch this is. They’ve done a terrible job on this website,” Klein said on Monday’s Morning Joe.“We’re a couple of weeks in and people can’t sign up, people have tried 20, 30, 40 times, I mean it’s one thing for that to be true the first three or four days, it’s another thing for it to be true two or three weeks in.”

Klein went on to say this in his blog:

So far, the Affordable Care Act’s launch has been a failure. Not “troubled.” Not “glitchy.” A failure. But “so far” only encompasses 14 days. The hard question is whether the launch will still be floundering on day 30, and on day 45.

Kudos to Klein and Gibbs for…facing glaringly obvious reality.

This is fundamentally the problem when you create a big government solution to a large-scale problem.  When you create such a program, facts be damned; success is about political victory, not necessarily making the lives of Americans better. And if facts get in the way of that, ignore the facts.  It is frightening how many otherwise rational liberals have totally deluded themselves into believe that Obamacare is a guaranteed success, when nothing can be farther from the truth.

Furthermore, there is no culpability in big government.  In most private ventures, a failure of a $600 million program to meet its most basic goals would result in a demand for and ultimately receipt of a resignation.  What are the chances of Obama demanding HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius to resign, and her submitting her resignation?  Slim to none.  Because in government, you can do no wrong.

Today, most Democrats are oblivious to the realities that Gibbs and Klein are stating.  They still believe Obamacare is the bait-and-switch sale job that Obama sold to them in 2010.  They are still under the illusion this is a plan that will cover everyone (it will not), will reduce the debt (the CBO and GAO say that those cuts are less and less likely), and that it will cut the average American family’s premiums by $2,500 (always a joke, now proven to be a joke).

But self-delusion is a powerful thing.  And although a majority of Americans now see Obamacare as damaging to their well-being, liberals appear to be willing to go down fighting, to defend a reality that simply doesn’t exist.

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Government Shutdown: An Economic and Policy Analysis: Google Hangout

With Washington entering the 16th day of the government shutdown, the economic and social impacts continue to grow. What will it take for the government to open its doors? What is the best solution on the table? How does the fiscal cliff play into this? Do you think the proposed solution will pass through Congress & how will it impact society?

Join political media strategist James Kotecki as he moderates a discussion with policy & economic experts about the shutdown. He’ll be joined by Stan Veuger (American Enterprise Institute), Pradheep Shanker (Conservative Union Community on Google+), and CJ Guest (Sensible Politics Community on Google+).

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