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, all the result of sheer political and policy cowardice. There is no other word to describe it. Nothing Obama has ever  done or not done has ever been the result of principle or conviction or a willingness to stand up to or for anything and fight for it.

But when it comes to Obamacare it is impossible to overstate how complete a disaster, betrayal, sell out,  abject failure and act of political and policy cowardice Obamacare actually is, a truly ineffective peice of "junk", as Howard Dean once called it  despite the latest cheesy and dishonest fund raising emails from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent out in Barbara Streisand's name or Nancy Pelosi 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.

Dishonest Democratic party fund raising emails signed by Nancy Pelosi, Biden, Harry Reid and Obama himself(how dishonest? Some use my zip code and claim if they don't get x amount of contributions from my zip code by midnight they may as well throw in the towel)   literally beg and plead ( in many cases actually groveling) for contributions to get a Democratic majority for Obama for his last two years. What they hope everyone will forget, is that Obama had a Democratic majority in congress in the first two years of his presidency, the biggest congressional majority any president has had in 60 years and he wasted it with his unnecessary capitulations, none greater than Obamacare.

And 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 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 which the Democrats had the votes to pass, 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 on Obama's sell out of healthcare reform to the insurance lobby "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 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 a colassal failure and its safe to say their stories are true for most who decided to enroll which is why 97.8% of the uninsured in America after looking at what was being offered chose not to. 

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. And the betrayal of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid in going along with Obama's sell out is what cost the Democrats their majority in the House and eroded their majority in the senate.

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?


I told you so.

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

The intelligence failure on Isis belonged to Obama.

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.