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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Cruising the Web

Wow! This crazy electoral season will get even crazier if Joe Biden, as some leaks seem to indicate, Joe Biden gets into the race. Are we all ready for Joementum?

Ken Rudin writes at USA Today to remind us of other candidates who were wished for and then jumped in and then found out that they were never so popular as when they weren't running.

Remember Ted Kennedy in 1979-1980? Fred Thompson in 2007? Wesley Clark in 2003?
Perhaps Mario Cuomo had it right. The governor of New York was acclaimed for his wit, intelligence and style. If only he would run, many Democrats said. But he dithered and hemmed and hawed for weeks about making a decision. There was even a plane waiting on the tarmac to fly him to New Hampshire to file for the 1992 primary. But, at the last second, the “Hamlet on the Hudson” didn’t pull the trigger.

No, Cuomo never ran for president. He never got to show us what he could do on a national stage. At the same time, he was spared the inevitable criticism that comes along with being a candidate. In that sense, Cuomo's legacy was saved. He didn’t become like everyone else.


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George W. Bush has conducted himself with dignity in his post-presidency by not criticizing President Obama despite all the attacks that Obama constantly made against him. So why now, would Bush unleash against the one politician he doesn't seem to like - Ted Cruz? What's the benefit in doing that?

Politico looks at times in his past business dealings when, despite his claims that he never gives up, Donald Trump has quit.
But, like many successful businessmen, the real estate developer and GOP pack leader—who often espouses his disdain for “losers”—does not see every venture and contest through to the bitter end. Throughout his career, Trump has demonstrated wild enthusiasm at the start of big projects, and ruthlessly pursued a profit agenda that, in many cases, has led him to ditch the deal when the risks, whether financial or reputational, start to outweigh the prospective reward.

From a casino in French Lick, Indiana, to a dispute with condo owners in Panama and even in renewing “The Apprentice” reality show on NBC, Trump has time and again spotted the point of diminishing returns and quit.
Of course, that doesn't mean anything about what he might do in his presidential run, but it does show that he's not quite the persevering hero that he likes to portray himself as.

Jeff Greenfield examines the history of front-runners in political campaigns and establishes that there are some front-runners who are "in name only" who will rise up and then fall back down.
So how do we tell the difference between a “real” front-runner, as Hillary Clinton seemingly is, and a FRINO like Donald Trump and, to a lesser degree, second-place Ben Carson?

Perhaps Donald Rumsfeld had the right rubric: When it comes to front-runners, there are “known knowns,” “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns.” It’s in looking at the one key front-runner “known known” that we can begin to understand the sharp distinctions among those who at one point or another lead the contest for a presidential nomination.
The “known known” is simple: Sooner or later, one way or another, the front-runner for a presidential n
omination always confronts a brush with disaster. It can happen a year before; it can happen in the middle; it can happen at the last minute; it can be a momentary setback, a serious impediment, a fatal blow.

Every front-runner, somewhere, somehow, takes a punch. What precisely that punch is, that’s the “known unknown.” How the candidate responds, that’s the “unknown unknown.”
I remember when many in the media ridiculed Rumsfeld's formulation, but it always seemed to make complete sense to me. It's interesting to see Greenfield use it as he traces the fates of some front-runners going back to the 1950s. I don't know if any of that history tells us much about Trump and Carson. Many pundits assume that they'll fall out of leadership just as those FRINOs did in 2012. But they have led in polls for longer than Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, or Newt Gingrich. Though if they do eventually collapse, I'm sure that the pundits will be out there to tell us that this was all foreordained. But Greenfield does make a good point that pertains to the Democratic race.
It’s here, in Gore’s race, that we find the final lesson to be drawn from electoral history about front-runners: An endangered front-runner usually prevails if and when he or she can convince the party that the insurgent does not, in fact, represent the heart and soul of the party. Walter Mondale could tell labor, blacks and office-holders in effect that “Gary Hart doesn’t believe what you believe; he doesn’t understand your struggles." George H.W. Bush in 1988 could tell conservatives, “I’m the legitimate heir to Reagan, not that tax-eager Bob Dole.” Al Gore could paint Bill Bradley as a skeptic about the liberal articles of faith. (One reason President Gerald R. Ford came so close to losing to Reagan in 1976 was that the insurgent was seen by many Republicans as more true to the party’s canon than Ford). Of course, this also assumes that the rank and file of the party still hold to those beliefs. For instance, if many lower-income Republicans think it’s a good idea to raise taxes on the wealthy, as polls now show, then a Jeb Bush attack on Donald Trump as a heretic may be a lot less powerful than were his father’s tactics against Bob Dole.

And if you’re wondering why Hillary Clinton is tacking sharply to the port side of her party—on issues like Keystone and on trade—it’s just possible that the most effective way for a front-runner to stay in front is to make sure her challengers cannot challenge her for the support of her party’s rank and file.

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Mediate laughs at a story showing that the State Department admitted that they goofed up, but Politico proceeded to blame Trey Gowdy.

Trump claims that 9/11 would not have happened on his watch because he would have been so "extremely tough on illegal immigration." But how would that have worked?
What about his immigration policy would have prevented the September 11 attacks?

Nineteen terrorists carried out the al-Qaida-masterminded attacks. All 19 of them entered the United States legally. None of them were illegal immigrants. Their visas were valid....

Eighteen of the 19 terrorists remained in the United States legally through September 11, 2001.

Satam al Suqami was the lone terrorist whose immigration status had expired before the fateful day.

Two other hijackers, Khalid al Mihdhar and Salem al Hazmi, had found their way onto terrorist watch lists just prior to the attacks. Mihdhar’s visa was revoked. However, both boarded American Airlines Flight 77 undetected.

Many of the hijackers entered the United States on standard six-month, non-immigrant tourist visas. Others obtained longer, more generous visas. Mohammed Atta and Ziad Jarrah had five-year visas good for both tourism and business. Seven others received two-year visas good for tourism and business.

Trump’s 1,880-word statement on immigration — entitled “Immigration Reform That Will Make America Great Again” — makes no mention of the word “tourist.” (It also fails to mention the word “student.”)

....Trump comes closest to addressing terrorism in his 1,880-word treatise in two paragraphs toward the end.

The first of these paragraphs is introduced as: “Enhanced penalties for overstaying a visas.” “Millions of people come to the United States on temporary visas but refuse to leave, without consequence,” Trump observes. “This is a threat to national security. Individuals who refuse to leave at the time their visa expires should be subject to criminal penalties.”

Trump goes on to demand that local authorities arrest people who overstay their visas and imprison them “until federal authorities arrive.” He also wants a visa tracking system.

The federal government already had a visa tracking system in 2001 — as demonstrated by the presence of both Mihdhar and Hazmi on a terrorist watch list. Also, the Bush administration overhauled and dramatically improved America’s visa tracking system.

Leaving those critical facts aside, a visa tracking system and criminal penalties for people who overstay their visas would have (possibly) netted exactly one of the September 11 terrorists: Suqami — who overstayed his visa. That’s 5.26 percent of the 19 hijackers.

Trump also says “we need to stop giving legal immigrant visas to people bent on causing us harm,” in a paragraph under the section heading “Put American Workers First.” “From the 9/11 hijackers, to the Boston Bombers, and many others, our immigration system is being used to attack us,” Trump advises. “The President of the immigration caseworkers union declared in a statement on ISIS: ‘We’ve become the visa clearinghouse for the world.'”

The vague paragraph contains nothing in the way of policy prescriptions to prevent terrorist attacks.
As usual with Trump, all he has is arrogant bluster to make claims that are not supported by the facts or policy proposals.

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Where does John Kerry get off in telling Israelis how they should defend themselves against escalating attacks on civilians, especially when his advice goes against the policies of the Israeli governments?
Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters today that Israel has a right to defend itself, but discouraged against “self-help” responses to random stabbing attacks from Palestinians.

Israeli authorities have encouraged citizens with gun permits to carry when they’re out and about, as they can possibly stop an attacker before police can get on the scene.

Israel Army Radio reported today that the internal security ministry phone service “collapsed” from citizens inundating the ministry with gun permit requests. They’ve doubled the number of workers at the ministry to field the requests.

Appearing at a press conference in Madrid with his Spanish counterpart, Kerry again used the recent spate of violence in Jerusalem to call for a two-state solution.

“Security and diplomacy go hand in hand. There is not a time for one and then the other, really there is an importance to both. We want to see calm restored and we want to see the violence stop. And I think everybody in Israel and in the region would like to see both of those things happen,” Kerry said.

“We continue to urge everybody to exercise restraint and restrain from any kind of self-help in terms of the violence, and Israel has every right in the world to protect its citizens, as it has been, from random acts of violence.
"Random
acts of violence? That is so insulting. And Kerry clearly doesn't understand Israelis and guns.
Spokesman Mark Regev noted that Israel has tough gun ownership rules, “and so if you pass those tests and you legally have a firearm, the police are suggesting that you carry that firearm, because of the security situation.”

“That’s not for every member of the public. That’s for people who have those licenses,” Regev said. “And I’d remind you, Chris, we, of course, have compulsory military service in Israel. A lot of those people with licenses, if not all of them, have had military training and know how to use that weapon effectively.”
What a blockhead Kerry is.

Bernie Sanders is admitting that he'll have to raise taxes on everyone in order to pay for all the freebies he wants to provide. We'll see how popular an increase in the payroll tax will be with everyone.

Boy, Obama really knows how to get the Chinese to do what he wants.
The day after President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping reached an agreement on cyber theft last month, China attempted to hack American corporate intellectual property, cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike recently announced....

The day of the September meeting President Obama said the two leaders agreed that neither government "will conduct or knowingly support the cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information for commercial advantage."

CrowdStrike’s timeline of recent attempted attacks may show that the Chinese did nothing but pay lip service to the Obama administration on this matter. And worse, they’re ongoing. The company said that “many of the China-affiliated actors [are] persistently attempting to regain access to victim networks even in the face of repeated failures."

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Robert Tracinski examines "six things we learned about the Democrats last week." We are now returning to the "era of big government." The Democrats have a lot of utopian plans, but no plan for the economy. They don't understand national security. There are no longer any conservative Democrats. And Democrats define themselves by whom they hate.
The final question of last week’s debate was, “Which enemy are you most proud of?” It was an interesting question, but it was also a big old trap, and most of the Democrats fell right into it.

The trap was that it invited the candidates to describe their fellow citizens as the enemy and to define themselves in terms of their enmity toward other Americans. It invited them to define themselves — not by the positive ideals they stand for — but by the benighted forces of regression whom they delight in thwarting.

This is all just too tempting for the Left, which has a tendency to define itself as “smart” and “progressive” by caricaturing everyone else as stupid, greedy, mean-spirited and, of course, bigoted. They are extremely vulnerable to the old temptation of trying to become a saint through the sins of others. That question just sucked them in. They defined themselves as enemies of Big Coal, the NRA, health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, Wall Street, billionaires, and Republicans.

The only one who didn’t answer that way was Jim Webb. In a slightly awkward moment, he named the North Vietnamese soldier he killed in an action that earned him the Navy Cross in 1969. He was the only Democrat whose first reaction was to name an enemy who was not American.
I guess that is why Jim Webb is now making noises about running as an independent. I guess he sees himself as the John Anderson of 2016. Though I don't see him getting 6.7% of the vote as Anderson did in 1980. Allahpundit posits that a Webb run would be more likely to hurt the Republicans than the Democrats since he just won't pull in any Democratic votes. He can't get above 1% now among Democrats. But he might appeal to some independents. And whoever gets the nomination for the GOP, there are likely to be disgruntled Republicans who just won't pull the lever for the eventual nominee.

John Hinderaker writes depressingly about the possibility that Democrats can "mainstream socialism."
In 2011, liberals cheered a Pew survey that showed millennials have a positive view of socialism, by a 49%-43% margin. That’s what comes of not knowing anything about history, I guess.

The effort to mainstream socialism has, of course, accelerated as Sanders has emerged as the Democrats’ popular favorite, if not, in all likelihood, the eventual nominee. Increasingly, liberals are floating trial balloons. Salon headlines: “Sorry, Hillary, but most Americans yearn for Bernie’s democratic socialism.” Bill Maher tells Sanders, we have to “teach Americans that they’re already socialist.” MSNBC combines its two favorite concepts by telling viewers that the U.S. would already be socialist, if it weren’t for race. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, asked how a Democrat is different from a socialist, was stumped: she couldn’t think of a single difference. And normalization of relations with Cuba, and all that has followed–Cuba is cool!–can be seen as part of the same campaign.

We could go on, but the conclusion is obvious: liberals are, at a minimum, trying to accustom voters to socialism as a plausible political program. Is it working? Conservatives have been encouraged by a recent Gallup poll that found 50% of respondents would not vote for a socialist if he was nominated by their party. (Socialists fared worse than homosexuals, evangelicals, Muslims and atheists.) But maybe we should be worried about the fact that 47% say they are ready to vote for a socialist if he is nominated.

One lesson we have learned over the years is that the Left never gives up. No defeat is permanent. Alger Hiss was convicted of perjury. He was innocent! The Rosenbergs were executed. They were framed! Mary Mapes and Dan Rather were fired. Their Texas Air National Guard story was a model of investigative journalism! Socialism has killed more than 100 million people, and impoverished countless more. Let’s give it another try!
Hinderaker's conclusion is that conservatives have to make the case to explain why socialism is a bad idea and what it has led to in history. I hear from students every year that socialism is basically a good idea; it's just never really been tried. When a student says that in class, the other students will laugh at that idea, but it's disturbing that this fantasy persists. At least when I teach European history, I make sure that students understand the evils done under Stalin and other communist leaders. Students usually understand the problem when I compare money to grades. I have mostly very hard-working students and they completely understand that they would never work as hard as they do if their grades would be shared among everyone in the class. That helps them understand the major fallacy about shared socialist benefits.

And conservatives who were happy about Canada should be depressed about the results of the Canadian election. One thing the results show that a country gets tired of the same party in office for longer than eight years. That is why we have so rarely had a candidate of the same party win a victory after the party has been in office for two terms. George H.W. Bush did it in 1988 and Truman did it in 1948 and Hoover in 1928. Canada can see if they will truly enjoy the return of Trudeaumania.

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L. Gordon Crovitz has some recommendations for what lawmakers should ask Hillary Clinton.
Mrs. Clinton’s conduct in office is forcing U.S. counterintelligence agencies to review her emails to identify what sources and methods of U.S. intelligence they have to assume were burned. From what has been released so far, that includes the name of a CIA source on Libya that Mrs. Clinton divulged in unprotected email to confidant Sidney Blumenthal. Other emails identified as containing classified information include those dealing with discussions of Iran’s nuclear program, spy satellites and drone strikes.

There’s good reason to assume that foreign intelligence agencies were able to read the Clinton emails. Government servers are not hackproof, but they offer basic defenses and alerts. An Associated Press investigation found that the Clinton setup didn’t use a virtual private network, a common corporate safeguard. This meant her email server could be accessed over an open Internet connection.

The AP reported attempted hacks on Mrs. Clinton servers from China and Russia. It identified a hacker using a computer in Serbia who scanned the server in the basement of her Chappaqua, N.Y., home multiple times in 2012. This was at a time when Homeland Security had issued a general warning against the software Mrs. Clinton was using because even “an attacker with a low skill-level would be able to exploit this vulnerability.” The same year, the State Department banned any remote connections to servers with classified information.

The Espionage Act makes “gross negligence” in handling national-defense information a crime, but whether the Obama Justice Department would accept an FBI recommendation to prosecute the leading Democratic presidential candidate is an open question.

Why would Mrs. Clinton run the risk of her communications being intercepted by foreign surveillance? It’s not just a vast right-wing conspiracy that wonders.

Robert Kuttner writes in Huffington Post why Hillary isn't out of the woods yet. He's no conservative and he sees problems ahead for Hillary even beyond what the FBI might be uncovering.
Even more potentially damaging are the continuing reports of conflicts of interest involving the Clinton Foundation and its assorted deals and favors done by Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state. Some of these deals merely involved pet charity projects of Bill Clinton; others involved ways for the Clintons or their allies to cash in personally.

Even if candidate Clinton is whistle-clean for the remainder the election, details of past deals are there to be investigated, like hidden items on a treasure hunt. Any number can play -- the Republican Party, other Democrats doing opposition research, and of course the press.

The Boston Globe reported another one in Sunday's paper.

As the Globe reported, Bill Clinton, beginning in 2007, had been pushing for a major initiative to modernize the health system in Rwanda, a nation ravaged both by HIV and by genocide. After his wife became secretary of state, $27 million was diverted from other nonprofit groups fighting HIV-AIDS so that government of Rwanda could launch Bill Clinton's pet project. The official who handled the deal, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Eric Goosby, a close protégé of the Clintons, subsequently joined the board of the Clinton Foundation, the Globe reported.

In this particular case, there was no personal gain. But there are others that resulted in business deals for allies of the Clintons, speaking fees, donations, or all of the above.

The most unsavory one reported to date was a uranium deal that in which Bill Clinton helped an investor gain a Kazakhstan mining deal that ended up giving the Russians increased control of US uranium. In that case, the investor, Frank Giustra, donated $31.3 million to the Clinton Foundation, and Bill Clinton personally received a $500,000 honorarium for a speech in Moscow. As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton had to approve the initial deal.

Are these the last of such deals to be unearthed? Maybe. Do these reports help Republicans sow doubt about whether the Clintons can be trusted? Yes, indeed.

John Fund sees some other alarm bells for Hillary.
Two new revelations make matters far worse. In a letter to the ranking Democrat on the Benghazi Committee, its chairman, Trey Gowdy, has revealed newly uncovered e-mails indicating that Clinton knew of her close confidant Sid Blumenthal’s business interests in Libya at the very time Blumenthal was privately lobbying her to push for U.S. military action against Moammar Qaddafi — action from which he stood to profit. As part of her e-mail exchange with Blumenthal, Clinton forwarded the name of a confidential CIA source to staff at the State Department through her insecure server.

The revelations rang alarm bells throughout the intelligence community. Former CIA counsel John Rizzo told MSNBC that the protection of human-intelligence assets is the agency’s most vital task. “That’s the holiest of holies inside CIA — the true identity of a secret source,” he said. “Even inside CIA, in e-mails, internal e-mails, or cables, or even conversations, you never mention, you never talk about the true name of the source.” Failure to do so, he said, “could be literally lethal.” Just recall the furor created in Washington by the public unmasking of Valerie Plame, who at the time was not an active intelligence asset but a mere desk-bound CIA analyst.

Michael Isikoff, the investigative journalist who became famous for his role in uncovering the Lewinsky scandal, told MSNBC’s Morning Joe that the e-mail revealing the CIA asset’s name was “evidence of a federal crime by somebody.” He cautioned he wasn’t yet sure by whom. “All we know at this point is that Secretary Clinton forwarded that e-mail to a colleague at the State Department.”

No doubt the Benghazi committee will also have questions about Clinton’s exchanges with Blumenthal, her longtime policy whisperer, over U.S. policy in Libya. “At the same time that Blumenthal was pushing Secretary Clinton to war in Libya,” Gowdy’s letter notes, “he was privately pushing a business interest of his own in Libya that stood to profit from contracts with the new Libyan government — a government that would exist only after a successful U.S. intervention in Libya that deposed Qaddafi.”
Fund links to this sleazy detail that the Free Beacon found in the Clinton emails.
“At the same time that Blumenthal was pushing Secretary Clinton to war in Libya, he was privately pushing a business interest of his own in Libya that stood to profit from contracts with the new Libyan government—a government that would exist only after a successful U.S. intervention in Libya that deposed Qaddafi,” Gowdy wrote.

Among the newly revealed emails were a pair of messages from July 2011 in which Blumenthal described efforts to secure Libyan government contracts for Osprey Global Solutions, a company in which Blumenthal has admitted to having a financial interest.

Blumenthal warned Clinton that French companies were looking to scoop up security contracts from the Transitional National Council, the revolutionary government of the Libyan resistance, and plugged Osprey’s ability to be an American counterweight.

“It puts Americans in a central role without being direct battle combatants,” Blumenthal wrote of Osprey’s TNC contract. He described his efforts in “putting this arrangement together through a series of connections, linking the Libyans to Osprey and keeping it moving.”

Clinton forwarded that message to Jake Sullivan, her deputy chief of staff, and asked to discuss it later.

Emails also show that Clinton actively promoted security arrangements that might have benefitted Osprey. Blumenthal told Clinton in an April 2011 email that Libyan revolutionary leaders were “considering the possibility of hiring private security firms to help train and organize their forces.”

Clinton forwarded that email to Sullivan, adding, “the idea of using private security experts to arm the opposition should be considered.”

Hillary Clinton finally admits that there was no one who approved her having her own private server. Jonah Goldberg exults that Jake Tapper finally asked her if someone had signed off on it and she responds that no, it was just allowed.
ut prior to this admission, she was happy to insinuate that her system had been approved by some official. The reality is, she was the official. She wanted to do this and she did it. There was nothing routine, customary or in any way passive about the decision. It’s amazing that it took months for a journalist to ask her about this on the record. In the meantime, she’s been able to prattle on about how “it was allowed” when she got there. No it wasn’t. If she’d consulted with security experts or White House lawyers, they would have said “No effing way.” And that’s precisely why she never asked anyone of consequence whether it was “allowed.”

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One element of the Benghazi story that should get a full hearing from the committee concerns the level of protection that the State Department had in place before the attack. It now seems clear that it was totally inadequate and that the State Department has not been upfront about their fault in that and their dismissal of concerns and warnings they received ahead of the attack.
When Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, a Green Beret, first told Congress that security at the Benghazi consulate had been woefully inadequate before the Sept. 11, 2012, attack there, top State Department officials working for Hillary Rodham Clinton strongly disputed his assessment.

They insisted under oath that State “had the correct number of assets in Benghazi at the time of 9/11,” and that the only reason the compound was overrun was because an “unprecedented” attack had occurred.

Three years later, Col. Wood’s assessment has stood the test of time, as several outside probes have concluded the security at Benghazi was inadequate for the rising threat level it faced before Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans died in a terrorist attack.

The colonel’s account was further corroborated in newly surfaced memos disclosed Monday by The Washington Times showing State officials working in Benghazi shared his fears, trying to scramble to arrange Libyan security when Washington wouldn’t offer additional help and dealing with other red flags involving anxious landlords and private security guards worried about coming to work....

Col. Wood, a special forces reservist and security specialist deployed to Libya from Utah, tried aggressively to get more security assets sent to Libya and to Benghazi specifically after his own risk assessment identified weaknesses and increasing threats. But each time the word came back to him that Washington had turned down more help.

He said officials in Washington believed security could be “normalized” by creating an arrangement with the Libyan government like those that most other countries provided to U.S. diplomatic outposts.

The problem, he said, was that Libya had just overthrown Moammar Gadhafi and the new transitional government was still struggling to establish control over the country and didn’t have the ability to help the U.S.

“It was a horrible situation,” he said. “State Department just had this attitude, it came back through the regional security officer, that everything just needed to be normalized and we’d be OK,” he recalled. “But the fact was there was no country to normalize with. It was like the Americans right after the Revolution, there was no government apparatus to speak of.”

He said multiple requests to the Clinton State Department in Washington for additional security were rejected.

“They had their minds made up. They were not going to provide additional security there. Period,” he recalled.

Col. Wood said after a convoy of British diplomats were attacked in Benghazi in the summer 2012, he took his concerns directly to Stevens.

“I told this to Mr. Stevens himself, in front of a big meeting. I said ‘You are going to get attacked and you are going to get attacked in Benghazi,’” he said. “I said there were only three things we could do: change your security posture, change your location or abandon entirely.”

“He was very good in the meeting. He didn’t overreact. He was one of the best guys I ever worked with. He said he would take note of the concerns and after that everyone was really worried. But he didn’t want to display it.”

When the British and the American Red Cross abruptly abandoned Benghazi, Stevens came back to the Green Beret to inquire further about options.

“What you are saying, how serious is this?” Col. Wood said Stevens asked. He said he later learned the ambassador made a request for more money or resources to protect State assets throughout Libya.

In the end, those resources never came.

Betsy McCaughey argues that Obamacare is entering its 'death spiral.'
The Obama administration is having trouble selling insurance plans to healthy people. That’s a big problem: When the young and healthy don’t enroll, premiums have to be hiked to cover the costs of older, sicker people, discouraging even more young people from signing up.

Last Thursday, the administration predicted enrollment for 2016 will be less than half what the Congressional Budget Office predicted in March.

Despite subsidies to help with premiums and out-of-pocket costs, most of the uninsured who are eligible for ObamaCare are saying “no thanks.” Only one in seven is expected to sign up. That’s despite a hefty increase in the financial penalty next year for not having insurance.
But that's not all.
Bad enough that healthy people aren’t buying. Worse is that the administration is spending billions of your tax dollars covering up the problem, paying insurers to keep offering the plans, even though they’re losing their shirts. But facts are facts — and there’s no hiding these.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell predicts ObamaCare enrollment will inch up by 1 million or so, to 10 million people — half what the CBO forecasted. Open enrollment for the coming year, which begins Nov. 1, “is going to be a challenge,” she said.

David Wichmann, UnitedHealth Group’s president, announced higher premiums last week because enrollees will “require more medical services than original expectations.”

Many states (though not New York) are looking at premium hikes of 30 percent or more, according to a new Robert Wood Johnson/Urban Institute analysis. The Heritage Foundation estimates that insurers lost 12 percent selling ACA plans in 2014, with more losses this year.

Don’t shed any tears for the insurance companies. Though they’re losing money on exchange plans, overall they’re profitable and their stocks are doing well. It’s John Q. Public who’s bearing the brunt. Just as ObamaCare intended.

If you get insurance at work, you’re paying an extra tax to fund “reinsurance” for ObamaCare plans. It’s a fund to defray the cost of their most expensive enrollees.

So far, insurers have collected about $7.9 billion. Recent congressional testimony shows the payments kept ObamaCare sticker prices about 11 percent lower than they otherwise would have been. In short, you pay a tax to make ObamaCare look more affordable than it is.

But even with these hidden subsidies, ObamaCare isn’t working because the design is fatally flawed. The 5 percent of the population with serious medical conditions consume nearly 50 percent of the health care. When you try to sell insurance to sick and healthy people for the same price, the healthy don’t sign up. It’s too expensive.

New York state learned that in the 1990s, when one-price-for-all insurance laws pushed premiums to the highest in the nation, crushing the individual insurance market here.

ObamaCare repeats that mistake. Despite slapping the uninsured with penalties — which will jump to 2.5 percent of household income in 2016 — they’re not signing up. The need to coerce enrollment with penalties is proof the plans are a bad deal.

How long will big insurers play along? There are political considerations, and for most, ObamaCare losses are still just a dent in their overall business. Not so for the 23 co-op insurers set up under the health law. Eight state plans have already failed, including New York’s Health Republic, and most of the rest are bleeding money.
All the Democrats can offer is slogans about preserving Obamacare from attacks by Republicans. What the Republicans need is to make it clear that what they're experiencing on the ground that McCaughey describes is the result of Obamacare and that there are reforms possible that could avoid these results.

Chris DeMuth has a very perceptive essay about the "Decline and Fall of Congress."
Today’s atomized politics is entrepreneurial on the supply side and issue-specific on the demand side. It is structured around the networked affinity group. Some groups are devoted to general ideas and principles—progressivism, libertarianism, constitutional restoration. Others are devoted to discrete issues and causes—the endless list would include women’s sports, persecution of Christians in the Middle East, Medicare reimbursement rates for cardiac surgeons, school-lunch requirements, mortgage preferences for veterans, and supporting or opposing fracking or the Export-Import Bank. As candidates and legislators, modern politicians work through the party system but depend primarily on affinity groups for support, funding and guidance, and integrate them into their personal PACs.

This form of politics has transformed Congress. Single-member activism has replaced the committee hierarchies and autocratic chairmen of times past. Members do not need to bow to the leadership or patiently master the arts of legislative negotiation and coalition building. They advance their careers by demonstrating fidelity to the principles of general affinity groups and coaxing the executive agencies on behalf of discrete affinity groups. They are in turn closely monitored by these groups, which greatly limits their latitude for the results-oriented compromises that are the lifeblood of the representative legislature. And they devote an enormous amount of time to personal fundraising.

This is not to say that party loyalty and group cohesion are no longer important. Republicans and Democrats are united by common world views, conservative and progressive, to a much greater degree than in earlier eras. And although Congress’s internal power structure has atrophied, a new mechanism of party discipline has arisen—the almighty executive state with its fingers in every pie.

When the president’s party holds one or both houses of Congress, his party is loyal, delivering majority votes the president needs in exchange for executive actions individual members need. Group cohesion comes naturally to the Democrats, whose party has become a coalition of government-dependent interest groups. Each of them tends to favor almost everything the government is doing and simply wants more: Logrolling is easy among members who want more of this in exchange for more of that.

The Republican majority lacks these methods for galvanizing the conservative worldview of its members. The Democratic president can block their highest legislative priorities and is hardly going to use executive discretion to help them assemble majority votes on narrower bills. They are left with incremental changes of their own devising that have little appeal to the Freedom Caucus. Its members—younger and from relatively safe districts—are tightly networked with ideological affinity groups, whose membership interests and organizational needs are opposed to incrementalism. To them, logrolling and compromise are forms of corruption—the very things that have led over time to today’s overreaching, badly indebted, freedom-destroying federal leviathan.
Read the entire essay. It's very perceptive and helps to explain why so few quality people want to be Speaker.
These political dynamics are well known to every member and are the reason that many ambitious Republicans fear the speakership. Whoever winds up in the post will need to convince the Freedom Caucus of two things: First, that a Congress of solo practitioners has become a powerful engine of executive-led government growth. They will have no prospect whatever of restoring limited government without first restoring a Congress that knows how to exercise its constitutional powers. Second, that two congressional majorities, acting cohesively under strong committee leadership, would have a good prospect of using incremental compromise for limiting rather than growing government.

Imagine, for example, if the Republicans had enacted a new deficit ceiling, reinstated regular budgeting and made other procedural reforms earlier this year. They would now be in a position to exercise the power of the purse by attaching riders to the appropriations of individual agencies. Debate would then focus on policy issues of their choice, without being upstaged by the risk of a government shutdown or financial default that play into the hands of the president and congressional Democrats.

In this context, Republicans could surely round up enough Democratic support to close down the Labor Department’s rule-making to convert broker-dealers in retirement funds into legal fiduciaries of their customers—a cherished and highly perverse Obama goal. They might even restrict or defund Planned Parenthood at one or two agencies. Facing the prospect of undistracted national attention to that organization’s sideline in harvesting fetal parts, the Democratic leadership might deem it prudent, with sincerest regret, to cut Planned Parenthood loose.

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1 comment:

mark said...

I like Joe Biden, but he shouldn't run unless he knows that there is something coming that will sink Hillary, or he announces a ticket with Elizabeth Warren (or somebody else who will excite the base). Otherwise, he will crash-and-burn fairly quickly.