Sunday, October 19, 2014

For Democratic candidates, it may be time for the sinking ship to desert the rat.

Since he was elected president, Barrack Obama has betrayed, reneged on, undermined, lied and sold out every Democratic party ideal, principle, promise and pledge he ever made and that Democratic voters expected to be fullfulled by him and wasn't.

The list is so long it's pointless to go into every one,and most of his failures were and still are the result of horrendous judgement and capitulations even when no capitulation was needed or neccessary.

But when it comes to Obamacare it is impossible to overstate how complete a disaster, betrayal, sell out and failure Obamacare actually is, a truly ineffective peice of "junk", as Howard Dean once called it  despite the latest cheesy and factually dishonest fund raising emails from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent out in Barbara Streisand's name thanking heaven for Obamacare and trying to raise money based on supporting the last two years of the Obama presidency, a strategy so dumb its painful.

Other Democratic party fund raising emails signed by Nancy Pelosi, Biden, Harry Reid and Obama himself literally beg and plead  for contributions to get a Democratic majority for Obama for his last two years. What they conveniently want people to forget, is that Obama had a Democratic majority in congress in his first two years of his presidency, the biggest congressional majority of any president in 60 years and he wasted it with his uncessary capitulations, none greater than Obamacare.

Since Obamacare is called his "signature legislative achievement", it's worth examing why the signature is a forgery.

First,  Obamacare is the most underhanded and egregious sellout of a government policy to a special interest group ( the health insurance lobby) in American history. It was a bait and switch  healthcare reform bill that would have made the sleaziest used car dealer in America cringe. Obamacare was  healthcare reform designed to benefit, not the people who needed healthcare reform but the insurance companies. It was a bill that Howard Dean, former chair of the Democratic National Committee, presidential candidate, governor and physician said was junk before the senate vote, and publicly said right before the Supreme Court decision that he hoped Obamacare was overturned. There is nothing in Obamacare that has any value that wouldn't have been automatic with the public option. But there is a lot of good the public option would have done that that went down the drain with Obamacare.

Here are the facts related to Obamacare: of the 50 million Americans who were uninsured before Obamacare, 48.5 million Americans are still uninsured because they can't afford even the cheapest plans offered by Obamacare which comes with high premiums $6,000 deductibles, 40% co-pays and often require those who did enroll in policies to travel over 100 miles to get to a provider that's in the networks of the cheapest plans.  If it sounds like healthcare reform designed by the insurance companies, its because it is (see the PBS  Frontline documentary "Obama's Deal"). Of the 32 million young healthy uninsured that Obamacare needs to succeed, about 3% bought polices,with the rest saying no thanks.And when those who did buy in see how little their policies will  cover, they may opt out too the second year.

This what the New York Times reported on Obamacare as recently as October 18 under the headline: "Unable to Meet the Deductible or the Doctor."

The article interviewed and outlined a number of people for whom Obamacare is an abject failure and its safe to say their stories are true for most which is why 97.8% of the uninsured in America refused to enroll in any Obamacare policy.

Patricia Wanderlich needed brain scan monitoring, but the policy she bought under Obamacare, a bronze policy, the cheapest offered, came with a $6,000 deductible, meaning her medical expenses were not going to be fully covered until she spent $6,000 out of pocket. So she is skipping the brain scan. She cant afford it under the Affordable Care Act.

The deductibles on these plans run from $5-6,000 for individuals to $10,000 for families. And remember that under the wonders of the ACA, these are for plans on the lowest tier, healthcare reform that was supposed to insure those who previously couldn't afford insurance.

The Times article quoted Katherine Hempstead director of health insurance coverage research for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation who said, " unfortunately the people who are attracted to the lower premiums ( in the cheaper plans) are the ones who are going to have the most trouble coming up with the cost sharing if they want to use their insurance".

Whats worse, the deductibles for those who have employer sponsored health plans, those who didn't need Obamacare are considerably lower than the lowest Obamacare deductibles. on average of $1,217 a year compared to an average of $5,081 for an individual on the cheapest Obamacare policy and $10,386 for a family. This is the healthcare reform that Nancy Pelosi, doing her best Marie Antoinette impersonation recently called "affordable, affordable, affordable".

The anecdotal stories are a nightmare. People with low end Obamacare policies who had to use an emergency room getting bills for $1,000 for the ER visit because their Obamacare insurance wouldn't cover it. Had they had no Obamacare  insurance they would've gotten the same emergency room care for nothing.

Another who bought a bronze plan under Obamacare said, "$6,000 for a deductible? Do they think I have that under my mattress? Im just going to do what I can to stay healthy". So not only did Obamacare fail to cover almost 98% of those who couldn't afford health insurance, it provided little or nothing of value to those who decided to buy. Which is why the vast majority of Americans didn't.  In other words to most people Obamacare is worthless, justifying Howard Dean's characterization of it to begin with as "junk".

One of the most egregious examples of why Obamacare is 95% of everything the insurance companies wanted and is doing very few people any good compared to what the public option would have accomplished,  is the case of Dr. Rebecca Love in Moab, Utah. She has a host of self described health problems and her Obamacare insurance came with a $6,000 deductible. But after spending more than $6300 in out of pocket medical expenses she learned none of it was applicable to her deductible because the doctors she was seeing was not in her bronze plan network. In order to see those doctors she would have had to drive more than 100 miles each way.

All of this is for one reason:  Obama didn't have the integrity, the backbone, the principles or conviction to stand up for what was right and what was promised by both he and the Democrats in the public option, which was also a vastly superior healthcare reform policy and a policy that the majority in congress wanted along with the majority of the American people.

Obama had the votes to pass it but instead did what he has done time and time again during his presidency -- reneged on promises, backed down, caved in and sold out in the face of even the slightest pressure, this time to the health insurance lobby who leaned on him to drop the public option because it was going to cost them money.

This lack of conviction or principle or a willingness to stand up for both has been the hallmark of the Obama presidency.

Whether its about his weak and anemic foreign policy that consistantly backfired, whether on Syria,  being mistrusted by both the Israelis and Palestinians because of his public reversals of policy and so had no influence with either, being intimidated by Putin in Ukraine resulting in the annexation of Crimea and a wider war in the east, his failure to live up to his own red line over the use of chemical weapons against civilians,being caught unawares and napping with Isis, along with his domestic failures on any kind of meaningful gun safety legislation, the disastrous  Unaffordable Care Act,  his failure to close Gitmo and his expansion of NSA spying on Americans to name a few, any  Democrat running anywhere will go a lot further by honestly repudiating Obama and his failures including Obamacare,  than embracing Obama's presidency or trying to defend what can't be defended.

Obama's failures and how most Democratic voters feel about it predictably escapes every Democratic strategist and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee itself which is still sending out fund raising emails to Democratic voters to raise more money by offering free "Proud Obama Voter" bumper stickers for a president with a 43% approval rating and 65% who say the country is going in the wrong direction. Democratic political strategists at their best.

As for party loyalty, Democrats need to keep in mind that when health insurance policies started being cancelled, and Republicans began attacking Democrats and Obama over the promise " if you like your insurance you can keep your insurance", Obama preferred to put Democrats backs to the wall and take the hit to his credibility and approval rating rather than tell the truth: that he never made that promise about Obamacare, but said it about the public option in response to Republican attacks that the public option was a government take over of health care. That Obama would throw congressional Democrats under the bus rather than tell the truth, which would have invited comparisons between Obamacare and the public option he didnt want made, or how and why Obamacare became a substitute for the public option is all Democrats need to know about loyalty.

Standing up against and running against Republican policies is one thing. Supporting a failed, duplictious, less than honest and weak Obama presidency is another. And with the election only a few weeks away and polls showing Democratic candidate leads shrinking in many close elections, the only question for Democrats now is, is it too late?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Obama's Isis coaliton on ground troops: You first, no you first, no you first.

In the fight against Isis, Obama has used all the diplomatic skill at his disposal which is to say virtually none,  and managed to put together a coalition of the willing to hold everyone else's coat.

As Isis closes in on Khobani threatening another massacre while also closing in on Baghdad Airport, the issue continues to be one of ground troops.

There is no one with any knowledge or military expertise who has not said that there is no defeating or destroying Isis without the implementation of ground troops. And the most logical source of ground troops to fight Isis is also the most illogical -- the Iraqi army.

A current map of Iraq showing the territory Isis has already taken says enough about the ability of the Iraqi army to take on Isis. And many blame the pull out of U.S. troops in 2011 as the primary reason contrary to Obama's assertion that he had no choice, that Malaki insisted on the removal of all U.S. troops. Everyone in a position to know from former Secretaries of Defense Gates and Panetta as well as members of congress have said Obama could have left a residual force if had the will. 

While the U.S. said they will now train the Iraqis, it will take 5-6 months to accomplish that and even then there is no guarantee it will be adequate. 

As for the coalition, the country best in a position to send ground troops to fight Isis at the moment is Turkey. Except Turkey has said they will not send ground troops into Iraq or Syria to fight Isis because no other NATO member has sent in ground troops.

Turkey has also made it a condition that the U.S.  must get involved militarily in Syria against Assad, something Obama had been advised to do 3 years ago by arming the moderate Syrian rebels and rejected. Turkey is also demanding the U.S. establish a no fly zone in Syria, effectively grounding Assad's ability to carry out air assaults, something that had also been recommended to Obama 3 years ago but that he rejected. As if that isn't bad enough, Turkey is now bombarding the Kurds, the only meaningful military resistance on the ground against Isis and doing it over Obama's pleas, over escalating long standing disputes between Turkey and the Kurds. 

So far no other NATO country has been willing to put in ground troops. And while a wave of former high ranking military commanders in the U.S. have gone public recently saying the U.S. has to put ground troops into the battle to destroy Isis, the most recent being former Maj. General and Commandant of the Marine Corps James Conway, Obama has said repeatedly he will not send ground troops to fight Isis, effectively putting himself in a box.
Without any U.S. leadership in dealing with Isis its unlikely any other country will be willing to take the lead and move first.

FBI and other intelligence assessments are that the current air strikes are having little effect on stopping the Isis advance. Nor will it.  It has damaged or destroyed some heavy weapons but has not prevented Isis from controlling 80% of Khobani and moving within 8 miles of Baghdad airport where there are some 200 U.S. troops.

The Pentagon has admitted that the air strikes have only destroyed some command and control and Isis training facilities . But the Isis fighters taking ground in Iraq and Syria  are no longer going through training, they are out there killing. So the air strikes are bombing empty training facilities and will do nothing to change anything on the ground.

So Isis continues to roll with the Kurds the only effective fighting force on the ground providing effective resistance but only in the territory they currently control.

Turkey has agreed to train 4000 Syrian rebels but that will take months. The Iraqi army is still for the most part inadequate. And no one involved in Obama's coalition of the willing to hold someone else's coat seems to be inclined to send in ground troops against Isis -- not Jordan, not the Saudis, not Turkey not France, the UK, Germany or Italy. Everyone is waiting for someone else to go first.

The decision to send in U.S. ground troops which is being advocated by military leaders as well as some members of congress while others oppose it, isn't a difficult decision based on one factor. Is Isis a real threat to the U.S. mainland or not? If not then the U.S. has no business sending in ground troops to defend a region that should be defending itself. If Isis is a real threat to the UK, France and other European countries and countries in the Middle East like the Saudis and Jordan, then they should bear the brunt of the fight with U.S. support.

But, if those inside the U.S. government in a position to know believe Isis is or will be a legitimate threat to the U.S. mainland if they are not destroyed as they have said,  if it is in our interests to stop Isis for our own good and not just humanitarian reasons or to protect other countries,  then we should never be put in a position of asking or counting on anyone else to do our fighting for us when no one can do it as effectively as our military.  Which makes Obama's declaration of never putting in U.S. ground troops as political, myopic, ineffective and ill advised as his original bad decisions and inaction in Syria that created the current situation in the first place.

Obama's insistence that there will be no U.S. troops on the ground regardless of circumstances is not just short sighted but seems to be related to a condition of acronymophobia -- a  fear of acronyms and what they stand for because the acronym for Boots On the Ground is BOG.

NOTE: In running a Google search on "Isis" and "Isis fighters" for an image to use with this post I came across images never shown by any mainstream news organization print or TV, and so probably never seen by most people,  that were so brutal,  so grotesque and so violent that if these images were widely seen and a real threat by Isis to the U.S. mainland was established it would likely change the minds of many who currently say they oppose the use of U.S. ground troops to destroy Isis.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Isis and Obama's intelligence failure.

Bush did it after 911. He did it again when no WMD was ever found in Iraq. And now, like Bush before him Obama has taken a leaf from the same playbook and tried to dodge responsibility for his failures and lousy judgement and poor decision making in dealing with Syria, Iraq and Isis  in a 60 Minutes interview.

In that interview he tried to blame his lack of preparedness, his lack of a plan for Syria, his surprise over the lack of fight by the Iraqi military and his inadequate policies that led to the threat that Isis  has become, on what Obama called "intelligence failures". 

It was the intelligence agencies, Obama claimed, who underestimated the strength of Isis and their growth and is the reason Obama was caught off guard and unprepared. And the reason his policies over the last three years failed and produced the threat today known as Isis.

It didnt take long after Obama's interview when an unusual thing happened -- the intelligence services hit back, something they almost never do, and provided reporters with information that contradicted everything Obama had tried to claim in his interview.

Then the usually docile lap-doggish news media did something Obama hadn't counted on either. They started showing archival video of both military and intelligence officials testifying publicly at congressional committee hearings over the last three years, warning of the threat of Isis, recommeding the arming of the moderate Syrian rebels and warning about the void in Iraq left by the total departure of U.S. troops.

Obama also had to contend with Hillary Clinton and then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta  pointing out, that they had both advised Obama  three years ago to arm the moderate Syrian rebels to help them fight against both Assad and against the growing threat of Al-Qaeda in Syria where they had gained a foothold and of which Isis was then a part. Obama refused. He even refused to back up his own threat against Assad of using a missile strike if Assad used chemical weapons,  instead deciding he should ask congress to vote on whether or not he should have permission to back up his word. 

It was also less than a year ago when the threat of Isis was again brought to Obama's attention that he referred to them as "the junior varsity",brushed them off as insignificant and did nothing. He blamed that on intelligence failures too.

 Obama was half right. It was an intelligence failure that enabled Isis to become the force that it is now.  But it was his intelligence failure , something we've seen time and time again, whether it was not living up to his Red Line on chemical weapons which also had the effect of  emboldening Putin in Ukraine or his weak response to Putin's Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea. Not to mention his caving in to the health insurance industry with healthcare reform and dropping the public option.

But , predictably, with Obama now facing stinging rebukes at every turn, including the latest from Panetta,  it didn't take long for Obama to  try and reverse himself and once again go into damage control as he has in the past.

Rather than blame the current situation on intelligence failures as he did originally, he has tried to claim that what he really meant was that the intelligence services didnt and couldn't predict the quick collapse of the Iraqi army and their inability to stand up to Isis.  He was wrong on both counts.

Leon Panetta has said very publicly and very recently that he told Obama in 2011 that he opposed pulling all the troops out of Iraq warning that it would create a vacuum that would leave Iraq vulnerable to exactly the kind of threat Isis poses now and with the political vacuum also caused by Maliki, Panetta pointed out that it was not surprising that Iraqi soldiers didn't know who or what they were fighting for elected to desert and go back to their families rather than take a bullet for a government it didn't respect. 

And the criticism has continued to get  worse for Obama. A spokesman for the Syrian Emergency Task Force in Washington D.C.  recently told CNN the same thing -- the void created by the total pull out of U.S. troops in 2011 when a residual force should have stayed ( despite Obama's claim that he had no choice ) is what allowed Isis to flourish and get the upper hand in Iraq. He echoed Panetta virtually word for word by  pointing out that had Obama adopted the same policy three years ago that he is adopting now,  the same policy that Clinton and Panetta and others had advocated, there wouldnt be an Isis today.

Despite his assertions to the contrary, in the last week Obama's public face has been hit with pies coming   from all directions, the most damaging from Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta, the two most important members of Obama's cabinet in his first term.  Panetta has also recently criticized Obama for his current decison to take U.S. ground troops off the table not only because it sounds more like a political decision than tactical and also tells the enemy what Obama will and will not do, but even more importantly, because air strikes will not be decisive as they are proving and only ground troops, most notably U.S. troops, are really capable of destroying Isis if they are the real threat to U.S.  national security others say they are.

But none of this has stopped Obama from continuing to make public pronouncements that  duck responsibility for his lack of preparedness in dealing with Isis and the collapse of the Iraqi military, even at times blaming media coverage while trying  to ignore the meringue all over his face. Which  doesn't bode well for doing what may be needed in the future to destroy Isis.  Any more, as Panetta pointed out,  than Obama's backing down over his Red Line on the use of chemical weapons or his  tepid sanctions against Russia were effective against Assad or stopping Putin. 

But instead of continuing to be in denial,  Obama could help begin to  restore his credibility if he at least took the first step. And asked for a towel.

ADDENDUM: Jimmy Carter has now joined the pie throwing and has publicly criticized Obama for waiting too long and ignoring for three years both the threat of Isis and advice from the top people in his cabinet and the military.  The Joint Chiefs also have admitted the air strikes will have no affect on the battlefield and are limited to targeting command and control and oil reserves which serves to finance Isis. They also said yesterday it will be at least 5-6 months before they are finished training the Iraqi military with no guarantee even then that they will be an effective fighting force,  and while the U.S. now has a brigade force on the ground in Iraq, some members of congress has said that the Joint Chiefs have privately told Obama they are going to need more U.S. ground troops in Iraq to do the job militarily if destroying Isis is really the goal.


Retired former Commandant of the  Marine Corps. general James Conway has now joined the melee  and thrown his pie, saying that Obama's current strategy in Syria against Isis,
" doesnt have a snowballs' chance in hell" of succeeding. As for Iraq, he is a bit more optimitic but not much. He stated that with a new government in Iraq, with the U.S. training Iraqi forces,(which wont be ready to fight for 5 months), with the Kurds committed to fighting Isis on the ground, and U.S. air support, with all of that  "there is a  60% chance" of Obama's strategy in Iraq working. Which doesnt exactly inspire confidence if Isis is in fact a threat to U.S. national security and destroying Isis is the goal.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Are Democrats heading for an October Surprise on Obamacare?

The above graph shows the impact of Obamacare after its first year and how well it did in solving one of the two biggest problems that healthcare reform was supposed to accomplish -- getting coverage for 50 million uninsured Americans.

The dark bars show the percentage of uninsured Americans by region before Obamacare in 2013, and the
the light blue shows the effect of Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act on the percentage of uninsured Americans after it's first year. As anyone can see, the reduction of uninsured Americans represented by the blue bars as a result of the ACA is nothing short of pathetic,  virtually insignificant everywhere except the south, where the number of uninsured has, instead of going down, actually skyrocketed. This is what the Obama administration and many in the media and Obama sycophants at sites like Daily Kos have been trying to pass off as success.

While Obama has taken a lot of deserved criticism over the last year for his spectacular display of weakness in foreign policy especially in Syria with Assad and Putin and Ukraine, and practically had to be shamed into taking stronger  action against Isis after doing nothing for 3 years rejecting the advice of his smartest advisors, his  first, biggest, most significant and perhaps most lasting display of weakness came on healthcare reform when he caved in to the insurance lobby who opposed the public option and dropped it, and in a cynical bait and switch gave the country Obamacare instead, a law essentially written by and for the health insurance industry themselves which he hoped would get the Republicans off his back.   Even though he had the votes in congress to pass the public option which the majority of Americans and the congress had wanted.

In 2010, once Obama signaled he would capitulate to the health insurance lobby and drop the public option  with a replacement bill  written by the health insurance lobby (see the Frontline documentary "Obama's Deal"),  I wrote a peice in August of 2010 that predicted that if Pelosi and Reid didn't take health care reform away from Obama and pass the public option anyway so that Obama was in the position of either signing it or vetoing it (which he couldn't do politically),  Democrats would get wiped out of congress in the 2010 elections. They didnt, and that is exactly what happened. 

And now both politically and as policy,  the Obama administration and some Democrats are trying to put lipstick on a pig when it comes to Obamcare.

When the insurance exchanges closed in March, the Obama Administration announced, crowed really, that 8 million people had bought insurance through the exchanges. Democrats were being urged by both Nancy Pelosi and Obama to run on Obamacare in November and some on the left , like many of the Obama sycophants at so called "progressive" web sites like Daily Kos, were and still are, gloating that Republican attacks on Obamacare have failed and will even backfire because of Obamacare's "success".

But despite dishonest statistics put out by the Obama administration that the news media and Obama supporters swallow whole, Obamacare has failed miserably in what healthcare reform was supposed to accomplish as the graph above proves. 

Obamacare failed completely to fix the two major issues healthcare reform was intended to fix --  getting coverage for the 50 million Americans who have no health care coverage,(which drives up the cost of healthcare for everyone)  based on the idea that healthcare should be a right not a privilige, and bringing down the insane, out of control costs of healthcare for Americans who did have coverage.

A year after Obamacare's implementation, with what even the White House conceded were unattractive low end health care plans that had high premiums and skimpy coverage, the percentage of the 50 million  uninsured Americans who recieved coverage through Obamacare was, according to the Gallup Well Point Well Being Index, 2.2%. That is what Obama and Obamacare sycophants are trying to call success.

That is a decrease of only 1.2 million out of 50 million. And most of those were in the older and sicker category. The remaining 48.8 million uninsured Americans looked at what was being offered by Obamacare and turned away, preferring, if that's what it comes to, to pay the penalty.

Since it might be fair to assume that most of the 50 million uninsured are potential Democratic voters, the fact that Obamacare has  done nothing for them doesn't bode well for any Democrat trying to run on Obamacare's virtues in November and who tries to call it a success.

With low end so called bronze and silver healthcare plans carrying premiums ranging as high as $600 a month for a single person in New York City,  rural Georgia and other markets with little competition that come with $6,000 deductibles and 40% co-pays, the vast majority of the 32 million younger, healthier uninsured also said no thanks, they'll take their chances.  Only 2.8%  of those 32 million, or less than 900,000 according to the Gallup Well Being Index, purchased policies in Obamacare's first year. And according to experts, signing up those 32 million is neccessary to keep premiums from skyrocketing for everyone else under the Affordable Care Act.

As for the 8 million claimed by the Obama administration as proof of Obamacare's success, that also is bogus. Even taking that number on its face, Obamacare  would be a failure. But that 8 million figure is far from real. That number was based on total applications submitted for health insurance not actual enrollments.

According to the insurance companies, about 20% of those applicants failed to send in their first month's premium invalidating their applications which brings the actual number down from 8 million to 6.4 million. But  it was also discovered that about 5% (possibly more)  filed multiple applications because of web site glitches bringing the total number down another 400,000 to 6 million or less. But wait, as they say in the telebrand commercials, there's more. Many applying for health insurance falsified their  income on applications to get insurance subsidies they didn't qualify for and are being rejected. That number is still being tabulated by the IRS, matching income reported on the insurance applications with filed tax returns,  but  it will certainly bring down the number of actual people getting insurance through Obamacare even further, perhaps to a little over 5 million. Substantially below even the original 7 million target which was in itself a ridiculous and politically motivated low ball standard much less the 8 million claimed.

Sometime in October the health insurance companies will announce their premiums for 2015. Some have already started. They will, naturally,  vary from state to state. But Obamacare apologists are already trying to trumpet an 8%  increase in premiums expected in many markets as proof of Obamacare's success in terms of slowing the increases in healthcare premiums which flies in the face of one of healthcare reform's primary goals  --  to bring down the cost of healthcare, not label as success the insane costs of health care getting more insane but at a slower rate.

Higher premiums by insurance companies, or to keep premiums stable, reducing the quality of coverage by increasing co-pays and out of pockets,  could cause any Democrat trying to run on Obamacare a  major problem. Especially since there is also talk that some markets could see increases in healthcare premiums by as much as 17%. Or more. Everyone will know by the end of October.

Since all politics are local, in districts that see significant increases in health care premiums or costs, Democrats who have been blindly supporting Obamacare could be in big trouble if they continue to call it a success since by any measure, Obamacare has been an abject failure compared to what the public option would have produced. And higher premiums could produce an October Surprise for Democrats they are unprepared for.

Not too long ago, Nancy Pelosi stood at a podium and reminded Democrats running in November that the first word in the Affordable Care Act was "affordable".  "Affordable, affordable, affordable" Pelosi repeated from the podium like a kindergarten teacher trying to drum a vocabulary lesson into the heads of five year olds. And she exorted Democrats to go back to their constituents and run on the success of Obamacare.  Except for the 48.8 million who still have no healthcare coverage because they still can't afford it, Pelosi sounded a lot more like Marie Antoinette than FDR.

So unless Democrats  running in November are willing to publicly admit Obamacare's failures and shortcomings and repudiate it (while still pointing out that Republicans opposed any healthcare reform at all),   and publicly pledge to revive the public option to replace it, they and the Democratic party might find that they can't afford Nancy Pelosi's idea of affordable either. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Ray Rice? Anheuser-Busch wasn't "disappointed" when the NFL reinstated Dante Stallworth after he killed a man while driving drunk.

After the second Ray Rice video became public, there was a mad PR scramble by the NFL, the Ravens, the usual bandwagon jumping suspects in the news media who never stick their necks out for anything unless they feel its safe, and last but certainly not least, we had a word from the sponsors. Lots of sponsors. Lots of words. 

The most recent and the most publicized was from Anheuser-Busch, those wonderful folks who bring us beer commercials that look and sound like they were created by people who flunked intelligence tests, who, as a major sponsor of sports events, especially the NFL, reacted to both the Rice incident and the Adrian Peterson arrest by issuing a press release that included the sentence:

"We are not yet satisfied with the NFL's handling of behaviors that go so against our own company's culture and moral code".

The problem with their statement, and the real problem with how the NFL handles societal and criminal matters could be traced back to 2009 and the NFL's handling of Dante Stallworth and his suspension and relatively quick reinstatement after pleading guilty to killing someone while driving drunk. It was also  an incident, that for Anheuser-Busch given their reaction at the time compared to their reactions now, could lead to criticism that their "company's own culture and moral code" didn't include killing someone while driving drunk.

In 2009 Cleveland wide reciever Dante Stallworth killed a pedestrian 
while driving drunk in his Bentley in South Beach in Miami. It came after a night of drinking at the Fountainbleu Hotel and ended at 7:10 a.m. when, driving back to his hotel,  he ran down and killed 59 year old Mario Reyes , a crane operator who was crossing the street rushing to catch a bus to get to work. Stallworth's blood alcohol level at the time was 1.26. The legal limit in Florida was 0.08.

The first outrage, which had nothing to do with the NFL but might have influenced their reaction,  was the Miami prosecutor allowing Stallworth to plead guilty to manslaughter in a deal that saw  Stallworth receive a sentence of 30 days in jail. For killing someone. While driving drunk. Yes, 250 hours of community service too. But he killed someone. It was a working stiff, crossing the street, trying to catch a bus to get to his job to provide for his family when Stallworth, driving at 50 mph and over the speed limit, ran him down in his Bentley while stone drunk.  That was good for 30 days in jail.

After pleading guilty to manslaughter, the NFL issued a statement saying they would review the matter for possible disciplinary action. Possible. As in, you know, maybe killing someone rises to the level of an offense requiring NFL discipline and maybe it doesn't. It certainly didnt rise to the level of Anheuser-Busch putting out any statements about behaviors that go against their company's moral code.

In the end Goodell gave Stallworth a 6 month suspension and he was reinstated to the NFL in Feburary of 2010, 8 months after pleading guilty to manslaughter.

No outrage by the news media or at Anheuser-Busch or any other NFL sponsor over Stallworth's lenient treatment.  No expression of "disappointment" from Anheuser-Busch. Or anyone else. Except maybe the family of Mario Reyes.

 So don't be fooled. Everyone who is now coming out the woodwork against domestic violence, from the usual sheep in the news media to Radison Hotels, Anheuser Busch and even Obama who felt the need to once again insinuate himself into a situation where no one asked him and where he has no place,  arent coming out against domestic violence -- they are feeding off it.

They are feeding off it commercially or politically.Because it's all about  PR or an attempt to avoid bad PR. So no  one deserves a pat on the back. In fact a fair person might even say Ray Rice has shown more remorse and more honest contrition and a willingess to stand up and face the music and accept the punishment and public scorn for what he did than the NFL or any of its sponsors.

Domestic violence has been in the public consciousness for a long time. And while domestic violence, especially against women,  was swept under the rug for centuries its been out in the open as a societal and legal cancer for decades. More than 30 years ago there was even a TV movie made about the Rideout case, a landmark case on domestic violence which focused on whether a husband could be found guilty of raping his wife. A jury for the first time in history said yes.  There were many other cases related to domestic violence that had gotten wide spread media attention decades ago. Its not new. So when either the NFL or the Ravens or the news media or sponsors say they are reacting because they hadnt seen the second Ray Rice video, who are they kidding? What was in the second video they didn't already know? What havent they known for decades?

The first video showed Rice dragging his future wife out of an elevator as she was laying face down, out cold. Everyone knew how she got there. The second video was nothing new of any substance. What  was new was actually seeing Rice throw the jab in the elevator that knocked her out. What followed after the second video became public was a mad scramble to save face and a lot of Olympic bandwagon jumping, the result of a  See Dick Hit Jane mentality that created a PR nightmare for everyone concerned.

It wasn't that the second video made Rice look bad. The first video already did that.  What the second video did was make everybody else look bad. It made the two game suspension look bad. It made the "boys will be boys" attitude of both the NFL and its sponsors look bad. So now everyone is scrambling. And it comes off as Mickey Rooney saying, "hey kids lets be against domestic violence."

The real question is why did anyone expect anything different? Which leaves all the nonsense being written in editorials and empty headed agenda driven opinion pieces,missing the point by a mile.

Lets not get into a spitting match over which societal evil is worse, but for decades drunk driving has been treated as a minor offense when it is in fact domestic terrorism and should be treated as a felony even as a first offense. Every year more than 17,000 people are killed by drunk drivers.That's six 911 attacks every year. The number of people killed by drunk drivers every year is also 3 times the number of combat soldiers killed in the bloodiest year of the Viet Nam war. Every year. And in every case it was not the first time the driver had been arrested for driving drunk. Most had a multitude of prior drunk driving arrests. But never any jail time. Had they been sent to jail the first time, tens of thousands of people would be alive today who were killed by drunk drivers.

So if you can get reinstated  in the NFL after killing someone after  driving drunk, something that drew no outrage in 2010 by all those who are "outraged" now,  it shouldn't have come as a surprise that Rice was given a 2 game suspension for throwing a punch at his wife.

A few months ago Jim Irsay, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts was arrested, booked and pled guilty to DWI. His NFL punishment -- a six game suspension.  There were no protests from Anheuser-Busch about behaviors that go against their moral codes.  And no outrage in the news media. Or anyone else.

No one should be giving Goodell any pats on the back. But no one should have acted like this was some kind of new example of outrageously lenient treatment. Goodell said he got it wrong with the Rice suspension. Where Goodell and all the news media pontificators got it wrong was in 2009 with Dante Stallworth. And a few weeks ago with Jim Isray which also drew no outrage by the professionally outraged.  And they probably will keep ignoring it. At least until someone from the NFL kills someone again driving drunk. And there is video that shows it.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The 911 Memorials: absence of Bush, Rice or Cheney is as close to a confession as anyone will ever get.

As 911 Memorial services on the 13th anniversary of the attacks take place in New York City, the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania,attended by first responders, families,  dignitaries and officials including previous New York city mayors and presidents Clinton and Obama along with current Secretary of  Defense Hagel,  conspicuous by their absence,not just on this day, but at any memorial event commemorating the September 11 attacks since leaving office, was the president and members of his administration under whose watch 911 happened.

George W. Bush, Condoleeza Rice, Dick Cheney and other members of the Bush Administration on whose watch the 911 attacks occurred did not attend any of the ceremonies, nor did they attend the dedication to the 911 Memorial and Museum this past March which included the two presidents who held office before and after the attacks. Nor have they attended any 911 memorials or ceremonies since leaving office. None.

If one thinks it unusual, that of all the people to be absent from any 911 Memorial or ceremonies of remembrance, that it would be George W. Bush, Rice, and Dick Cheney, it's not only not unusual, it's fitting. And is as much of an admission, a confession really,  by Bush, Rice and Cheney that were it not for their catastrophically bad judgement and gross negligence,as revealed in the hearings by the 911 Commission, there would have been no need for a 911 Memorial.Because there would have been no 911 attack.

The evidence presented at the 911 Commission hearings was overwhelming that  Bush, Rice and Cheney had more than enough intelligence which, had they acted would have prevented the 911 attacks. Though Bush tried to scapegoat and blame the intelligence community for the failures, the 911 Commission proved the only intelligence failures were at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Not the least of which was intelligence that not only told Bush and Rice that a "spectacular"(in the words of the CIA translation )  attack  by Al Qaeda against the U.S. was  imminent, but  a report that told Bush and Rice on August 6, 2001, that the method of the attack was going to involve the hijacking of U.S. airliners.( a copy of the brief can be found by Googling "August 6 2001 PDB").  And they did nothing.

When Rice was grilled in front of the 911 Commission by counsel Richard Ben Vineste and asked why, with the intelligence that Al-Qaeda was going to attack within the United States and after being told by CIA director George Tenant that CIA intercepts of Al Qaeda chatter indicated an attack was imminent, and that part of the attack involved hijackings that she and Bush did nothing, her stupefying answer was, " we had no idea they were going to use the planes as missiles". Presumably hostages would have been okay.

It is also important to remember that while the news media has given almost wall to wall coverage of the events in Ferguson and the domestic assault involving Ray Rice and his wife,  proof that the 911 attacks, one of the most life altering events in American history, could have been easily prevented was virtually ignored by the media out of sheer cowardice knowing that had they held Bush,Rice and Cheney  accountable Republicans would have attacked them as "the liberal media" being unpatriotic in a time of war. Democrats as well kept quiet afraid Republicans would accuse them of politicizing the attack (Benghazi anyone?).   Ironically one of the only media outlets not to ignore it was the conservative Rupert Murdoch owned New York Post.

Most news outlets  never held anyone accountable for the catastrophically bad judgement and gross negligence of Bush, Cheney and Condoleeza Rice, in their dismissal of terrorism as a threat from the very beginning  and simply ignoring any and all intelligence related to Al Qaeda prior to 911 based on their belief that the Clinton administration had exaggerated the threat when,  had they taken the intelligence seriously,  the  911 attacks would have been easily prevented. As well as everything that came after, from Iraq to Afghanistan. And Bush, Rice and Cheney know it.

Which is why the absence of Bush, Rice, Cheney or  anyone connected to the Bush administration at any 911 memorial today or any time, is as close to a real admission as anyone will ever get. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Obama does damage control on Isis and Ukraine while Isis and Putin keep doing damage.

In a pre Labor Day press conference that he probably wishes he had never called,   fielding questions related to the two most current and pressing foreign policy issues at the moment, Isis and Russia's continued armed invasion of eastern Ukraine Obama announced, as has now been widely reported, that in dealing with Isis in Syria, something that had been called to his attention more than a year ago, he has no strategy. Yet.

That led to a lot of damage control by the White House in trying to explain that statement and almost everything else Obama said in his press conference which reeked of an inadaquacy  that seemed to stun even the usually compliant media, though Jim Acosta at CNN managed to call Obama's announcement of inaction with either Isis or Putin as "cautious".

But for the most part Obama couldn't stop the criticism and head shaking at just how ineffective and tepid his statements were and the more Obama spoke the worse it got as he tried to explain his strategy in dealing with Isis in both Syria and Iraq and with Putin and his continued invasion of Ukraine.

Obama's statement that they haven't decided on a course of action against Isis in Syria was met with incredulity since Obama had been told about the threat more than a year ago even though Isis has now erupted into a full blown crisis.

Syria was where Isis started and where they might have been nipped in the bud had Obama taken Hillary Clinton and then Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta's  recommendation at the time to arm the moderate groups of Syrian rebels.  But that would have meant Obama would have had to make a  decision beyond " dont do stupid stuff". Instead Obama did do stupid stuff by deciding to do nothing and now, Isis has become the threat he was warned against and  is on the march and getting stronger and is now even threatening attacks against the U.S.

In response to that, in Iraq, Obama says his strategy against Isis is to degrade and disrupt Isis as well as protect U.S. assets on the ground.   But in talking about degrading and disrupting,  Obama left out the one word that starts with a "d" that anyone cared about, the one word that starts with a "d" that is the only word that really matters when it comes to Isis. And the only word that amounts to a real strategy of any consequence.  And that word is "destroy". And that word was missing from Obama's strategy even in Iraq.

Which, as Barbara Starr pointed out on CNN was a message Obama sent to Isis that for the moment,  probably made them throw a party thinking they have nothing to fear from the U.S.  That message has also been pointed out and criticized by almost everyone except the most loyal and blind Obama sycophants of which there seems to be fewer and fewer.

A former member of the Joints Chiefs of Staff was quoted anonymously saying Obama's failure to mention "destroy" as part of the strategy against Isis in Iraq  demoralized the U.S. military and it also sent a message to Isis that they have nothing to fear from the U.S. which will only embolden them.

The same not so coincidentally, has been  true for Putin who also knows he has nothing to fear from Obama as he's known from the beginning. In dealing with the Russian insurgence in Ukraine,  it's only been the election of Poroshenko who, once he came to power,  rejected Obama's weak and ineffective approach and did what Obama seems incapable of, taking decisive military action which changed everything and resulted in the Ukraine military retaking much of the territory the rebels were able to seize while the interim government under Obama's guidance, capitulated.

Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Wesley Clark returned from a trip to Ukraine in March and  in an interview at the time said that the interim government had been given "guidance" by the Obama administration in dealing with Crimea to avoid bloodshed at all costs and to do nothing that might provoke Putin into invading. That led to a series of humiliating surrenders by the Ukraine military and ulimtately to the Russian annexation of Crimea. It also led to the expansion of the rebels into eastern Ukraine and a wider war with Putin's interference.

Just as Isis could have been nipped in the bud with decisive action a year ago in Syria, the war in eastern Ukraine could have been avoided with decisive military action in standing up to Putin and the rebel forces in Crimea in the first place -- exactly what Obama advised against.

In his press conference Obama reiterated that there would be no military aid to Ukraine  even as Putin has been sending in more tanks, thousands of troops and the Buk missiles that brought down MH-17. It has resulted in recent heavy losses for the Ukrainian army which is now fighting against Russian troops and heavy weapons supplied by Putin. Obama's head in the sand idea of helping Ukraine has been with "non-lethal aid",  which led a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, disgusted with Obama's response, to call Obama's aid to Ukraine as  " nothing more than camping equipment".  Which, as with Isis, also let Putin know he has nothing to fear from the U. S. in helping  the Ukrainian military.

Then  in response to a question about Russia's military intervention in Ukraine and the lack of U.S. military help,  Obama's answer, incredulously, were that  the sanctions were working. This is an answer which can only be described as either self deluded or selling snake oil from the back of a horse drawn wagon.  The sanctions had only one purpose. To deter Putin from annexing Crimea, to deter Putin from massing troops on Ukraine's border, and to deter Putin from sending Russian troops and heavy armor and weapons into Ukraine to help the rebels. That's how well the sanctions have been working. The sanctions have done none of those things because Putin doesn't care about the sanctions. He wants Ukraine. And sanctions aren't going to stop him. Putin has dreams of reconstituting the old Soviet Union. He has sent Russian troops into Ukraine who have been killed in the process and is sending more. Does anyone think he cares if interest rates go up, unemployment goes up or the ruble goes down?

Yet for Obama, the sanctions are working. Leading anyone to conclude that Obama is unable to grasp the difference between sanctions having some effect on the Russian economy which to a small degree they are, and having any effect on Putin and his actions which to a total degree they aren't.

What's needed for Ukraine as Wesley Clarke pointed out,  is military help from the U.S. and other NATO countries in the form of weapons both offensive and defensive, intelligence capabilities, and any other help, including advisors on the ground, to help the Ukrainian military trying to defend the freedom of 45 million Ukrainians from Russian dominance. And to let Putin know that if he continues arming the rebels NATO will view that as a threat to Europe and begin military aid to Ukraine. Instead Obama talks about the obvious,that  Russian military aid is streaming into Ukraine but offers nothing else.

It was clear from the beginning that Putin was using Hitler's strategy of taking the Rhineland and the Sudetenland by concocting a phony need to defend  German speaking people and used the same pretext for invading Crimea and then successfully annexing it, thanks to Obama's weakness. Having steamrolled, intimidated and essentially bullied Obama in Crimea,  Putin, predictably, has been moving on eastern Ukraine again counting on Obama's weakness and inability to stand up to him. And so far Obama has not disappointed. And we know from Syria and Assad's use of chemical weapons, that if Obama draws a line in the sand he will draw it at the water's edge where even a low tide will wash it away. It has only been Poroshenko's resolve and use of his military that has kept Putin from overrunning eastern Ukraine.

There is no doubt that Putin wants Ukraine and has dreams of re-creating the old Soviet Union. He is counting on Obama and NATO which is U.S. led, to let it happen and not have the backbone to stand up to him militarily. So far he's been right with Obama, sounding more like Neville Chamberlin every day, proclaiming " the sanctions are working".  They are not working.

There is that old adage that those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Putin has invaded eastern Ukraine as surely as Hitler invaded the Rhineland and the Sudentland. And with a U.S. president who has already proved he can't or won't stand up to Putin (or anyone else for that matter)   and a NATO alliance and EU not doing any better, it's now an open question as to whether they will  let Putin take Ukraine the way Hitler took Poland. Because sanctions will not stop it.

But  when you're a president that has been as ineffective as Obama has been on all fronts, with his actions as well as his statements on Isis and Putin making him look clueless, maybe being able to say anything is working is an achievment. Even if its the plumbing.

NOTE: Days after being mocked, not only here but in congress and around the world for his weak, tepid,  almost antiseptic statements about what to do about Isis, Obama changed his tune at the NATO summit and is now freely using the "D" word about Isis that he managed to miss in the first place - "destroy".