"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Peace in Our Time

I'm just sayin'.  

Meanwhile, on a Longer Time Horizon...

In much of what passes for political discourse, we focus on the exceedingly short term while ignoring the long term.   We talk, for instance, about the sequester or the government shutdown, while ignoring the long-term imbalances in our budgets and finances -- the disconnect between a huge and growing class of net "takers" sucking at the government teat, and a now-smaller and shrinking class of net "makers" paying taxes to support the Leviathan welfare state.   We talk, for instance, about the incompetent rollout of the Obamacare website without analyzing the long-term impossibility of providing world-class healthcare to 310 million Americans, most of whom can't afford it themselves, and many of whom are actively through lifestyle choices causing the very health problems they want others to pay to cure.   We talk, for instance, about a nuclear "deal" with Iran, while ignoring, for the most part, the fact that a billion Muslims have a historic, millenium-old antipathy for Christianity and the West that no "deal" will change.

Having said all that, the real short-term/long-term problem in our discourse is that we talk about politics and political questions at all, rather than spiritual questions.   We focus on Man on Earth, rather than Man in Eternity.   In short, we focus on Man, not God.

Anyway, I was thinking these kinds of things reading the news today, because undoubtedly the most important thing to happen today was the publication of Pope Francis' first encyclical, called "The Joy of the Gospel."   You can read it all here, but I'll just grab the first few paragraphs to give you a sense of what a different paradigm for thinking about the world really looks like:

THE JOY OF THE GOSPEL fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew. In this Exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.  
The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too. Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit which has its source in the heart of the risen Christ. 
I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord”.

Girl of the Day - Rachel McAdams

The Regular Wife and I saw About Time over last weekend.   It's a very sweet movie, albeit a bit manipulative -- it's from the writer-director of Love Actually, so that's expected -- and albeit in the context of some time-travel schtick that we've all seen before.   But it had some nice romance and some tear-jerky bits about family and love and fatherhood, and, heck, a movie where fathers and sons like each other, and a husband and wife like each other, and, while the premise is silly, the emotions all seem real (loving your wife, loving your dad, loving your kids)... well, sign me up!

Anyway, I'm not sure whether Rachel McAdams is a good actress, but she's awfully cute in the romantic roles I've seen her in (The Notebook, The Time Traveler's Wife), so she rates a GotD:

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Ford Madox Ford on Obama

I'm reading the great tetralogy of novels collectively called Parade's End, by Ford Madox Ford, about British society before, during and after World War I.   A great, great work of art.   But this description jumped out at me:

That was the quality of his entanglements, their very essence.   He got into appalling messes, unending and unravellable -- no, she meant un-unravellable -- messes and other people suffered for him whilst he mooned along into more messes.

Sounds a good deal like our narcissistic, "so smart everything bores him" President.  

Ecommerce v. Egovernment

I happened to be thinking of refinancing our mortgage this week, and, almost by accident, typed my name and email address and phone number into a "Lending Tree" website that had popped up on the Internet.   Within thirty seconds -- I kid you not -- the phone rang, and a mortgage lender from one of the national firms was hawking his wares.   Within ten minutes we got five phone calls.   Within the same ten minutes (and probably sooner, I just hadn't checked), I got five emails from the same five different mortgage lenders, who were all too willing to provide me information about possible refinancing at different terms and different rates.  

That's how the private sector does business ca. 2013.  

Meanwhile, here's what the government's attempt at a healthcare web-based "marketplace" looks like:

Compare and contrast!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Girl of the Day - Eleanor Powell

It's her birthday today... she would have been 101.   Probably the best technical tap dancer among Fred Astaire's partners, although I'd rank her for obvious reasons behind Ginger Rogers.   She looks a little bit like some of my lovely nieces.   But I bet they can't do this:

Politics is Boring

I haven't been blogging much the past few days due to the press of work and also, frankly, because what's going on politically is like watching a very slow-motion train wreck.   I have no doubt, as my many prior posts on the subject would confirm, that Obamacare will be a disaster for the country that will end up turning into a massive new entitlement program at best, a catastrophe of society-destroying magnitude at the worst.   But it will happen so slowly, so incrementally, that many of our low-information voters won't notice.   Losing one's freedom is like boiling a lobster, if you're the lobster.   You don't notice it until it's probably too late to climb back out of the pot.

Anyway, over at Ace of Spades this morning they had a pretty good list of the issues to date of Obamacare.   Pretty much any of these are a debacle, together they're a death spiral:

Let's review. Obamacare's problems: 
(1) The website is broken. 
(2) The payment and accounting and administration back-end is unwritten, untested, and out of time. 
(3) They are seriously out of time to do something about those 3.5 to 5 million people whose insurance has been cancelled. To be covered by Jan 1, they have to get a new plan by Dec 15, which means 140,000 to 200,000 of them need to be enrolling every day between now and then, including weekends and the Thangsfrickingiving holiday, which ain't gonna happen ya'll.  
(4) Adverse selection a.k.a. the death spiral a.k.a. the shit spiral is coming. See Ace's post last night on the Kentucky exchange's obvious precursor to the shit spiral.  
(5) Next year we get to do this same song and dance with the group plans as the employer mandate kicks in. 
(6) Lawsuits. There are some nontrivial lawsuits pending including the contraception mandate challenges and the suits based on the fact that the statute doesn't actually allow HHS to offer subsidies on the federal exchange or impose the employer mandate on states that didn't implement their own exchanges. 
(7) There are still 40 million uninsured Americans according to President Obama. Which seems to me to be just a bit of a failure of the aims of Obamacare.  
[8] The plans on the exchanges likely will not let people keep the provider networks of doctors, hospitals and specialists they currently use, making continuity of care impossible. [Andy] 
[9] Obamacare appears to be nothing more that an enormous expansion of Medicaid, the worst-performing health program in the country. [Andy] 
What am I missing.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Why Democrats Are Scared

A new Rasmussen poll shows that 58% of Americans are against Obamacare, with 45% registering strong disapproval.   And that's before the cascade of disasters that's coming breaks (see below).   And remember... this is a disaster that was rammed through using questionable procedural tactics on a straight party line vote with zero Republican support.   The Democrats own this turkey, and they know it.

Election day 2014 is less than a year away, and Senate Democrats running for re-election know it in their bones, especially these red- or purple-state democrats:

  • Mark Begich, Alaska
  • Mark Pryor, Arkansas
  • Mark Udall, Colorado
  • Mary Landrieu, Louisiana
  • Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire
  • Tom Udall, New Mexico
  • Kay Hagan, North Carolina
  • Mark Warner, Virginia

And how do you think Democrats looking to replace retiring Democratic Senators in West Virginia, Montana, South Dakota, Iowa and Michigan are feeling right about now?

That's 13 Democratic Senate seats that, if Obamacare implodes, would be up for grabs.


The Next Shoe to Drop for Obamacare... and the Next... and the Next...

Karl at Hot Air has a very useful article up about the next few shoes to drop on the unfolding Obamacare debacle.   The upshot:  the website rollout is the least of Obama's worries.

Here's my list, riffing off Karl's, but with some added TRG  secret sauce:

  • Identity theft - What happens when scary news stories start appearing about people who have had their identities stolen by Obamacare "navigators"?   Given what we know already, would you just start uploading your most private financial and medical information to healthcare.gov?  Let me tell you -- the soccer moms who will drive this debate have been scared for ten years (sometimes unnecessarily and for profit) by the boogeyman of identity theft.   They are going to run for the hills if it looks like Obamacare puts them at risk.
  • Costs explode - What happens when millions of Americans start realizing that they've essentially been taxed at a confiscatory rate (through the hidden tax of higher health insurance premiums, deductibles and co-pays) to buy health insurance for other people they don't know?   What happens when people realize that they won't be able to buy their kids braces, or send them to Catholic school, or save for their college, or afford their piano lessons, or dance lessons, or summer camps?   It's one thing to be altruistic in the abstract -- everyone should have health insurance.   It's another thing to be altruistic in the concrete -- I should pay for Joe Blow on 27th Street to have health insurance by giving up my family vacation, or my kid's school, or the new kitchen we've been wanting for ten years.   In other words, this is the moment when the passive voice of desires ("people should be given health insurance") turns into the active voice of reality ("I must pay for other people's health insurance").   Again, the soccer moms who will drive this debate in the end care a lot more about their own kids than they do about someone else's kids.   That's natural, and that's reality.
  • People lose their doctors - What happens when healthcare networks to shave costs start limiting the different doctors you can go to for treatment, and one of the doctors happens to be your doctor?   Again, if the soccer moms start realizing that they no longer can go to the OB-GYN they've been going to for fifteen years through two or three children, they are going to have mass conniption fits.
  • The employer mandate kicks in, and employer-based insurance becomes a thing of the past.   This is going to happen.   If you were an employer, why wouldn't you immediately dump your plans and tell your employees, so, sorry, we just can't afford this anymore, but instead we'll give you a modest raise and you can look for coverage on healthcare.gov.   If you're an employer struggling to make your margins, you're going to do this.   In fact, if you didn't do it, you'd likely be breaching your fiduciary duties to your shareholders.
  • People die.   Remember the old saw from journalism, "if it bleeds, it leads"?   Journalists are lefties, sure, for the most part, but they are also careerists, and someone is going to smell a Pulitzer in the story line that some aspect of Obamacare -- either kicking people off their coverage, or making them lose their doctor, or some other hidden limitation in the umpteen thousand pages of laws and regulations and rules means they don't get treatment X or drug Y -- caused someone to die.   It will happen.   And when it does, people will go nuts.  

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Girl of the Day - Helen Mirren

When she was a bit younger.  

Slap the Cuffs On Obamacare's Deceivers

Andrew Stiles has a must-read article at NRO on the deceptions underlying Obamacare, and why, if they had been committed by private companies, they would be prosecuted.   Here is the key passage:

Orson Swindle, who served as an FTC commissioner from 1997 to 2005, says there are a number of practices that, if HealthCare.gov were a private entity, would result in its being “taken to the shed and horsewhipped” by government regulators. 
President Obama’s oft-repeated falsehood, “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan” — something the administration knew was untrue — would almost certainly be a textbook case of deceptive advertising, punishable under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, which prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practice in or affecting commerce.” This includes a “representation, omission or practice that is likely to mislead the consumer,” such that the consumer would be “likely to have chosen differently but for the deception.” 
... Private companies engaged in HealthCare.gov’s kind of behavior would face severe consequences, Swindle tells National Review Online. “Businessmen would lose their businesses, salesmen would lose their licenses — that’s the kind of thing we are talking about here,” he says. “The bottom line is that no private entity would be allowed to get away with what the Obama administration is trying to get away with.”

Swindle served both Democratic and Republican administrations at the FTC, so this isn't conservative ax-grinding.   The reality is that social contract only works -- and we only grant immunities to public servants -- based on the premise that elected representatives and public servants will be honest and devoted to the public good.   Lying to the public is a fundamental breach of that social contract.   The normal course for redress is to vote the scoundrels out, not to prosecute them.  

On the other hand, I'm not sure that the federal criminal fraud statutes don't apply to government employees.   And, notably, a "scheme or artifice to defraud," as defined by 18 US 1346, "includes a scheme or artifice to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services."   Moreover, as you consider the next scandal to erupt from Obamacare -- which will undoubtedly involve widespread identity theft by Obama's "navigators" -- think about this federal criminal statute, 18 USC 1905:

Whoever, being an officer or employee of the United States or of any department or agency thereof... publishes, divulges, discloses, or makes known in any manner or to any extent not authorized by law any information coming to him in the course of his employment or official duties...  which information concerns or relates to... the identity, confidential statistical data, amount or source of any income, profits, losses, or expenditures of any person... shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and shall be removed from office or employment.

I'm just sayin'. We may need a special prosector soon.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Queen Barry Antoinette

Hard to know whether to laugh or to cry.   Here's Mark Steyn's Friday column in NRO:
Obama always gives the vague impression that routine features of humdrum human existence are entirely alien to him. Marie Antoinette, informed that the peasantry could no longer afford bread, is alleged to have responded, “Let them eat cake.” There is no evidence these words ever passed her lips, but certainly no one ever accused her of saying, “If you like your cake, you can keep your cake,” and then having to walk it back with “What we’re also discovering is that cake is complicated to buy.” That contribution to the annals of monarchical unworldliness had to await the reign of Queen Barry Antoinette...

Girl of the Day - Congressman Fred Upton's Niece

Congressman Fred Upton (R - Mich.) was the author of a bill that passed today with bipartisan support in the House called the "Keep Your Health Plan Act."   Notably, it passed with a much higher vote total than the original Obamacare passed the House with, and included 39 Democrats voting against the President.  

Will history remember Upton for his legislative triumph?   Maybe.   But maybe they'll remember him more as the uncle of a certain supermodel:

I'd vote for that.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Fisking the President's Presser on the Obamacare Debacle -- Obama Has His "Jump the Shark" Moment

It's almost painful to have to read the meandering, stupid, contradictory, narcissistic idiocy of the President's press conference Thursday on Obamacare.   But someone has to do it, so here goes:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good morning, everybody -- or good afternoon. Today I want to update the American people on our efforts to implement and improve the Affordable Care Act. And I'll take a couple of your questions....

... it has now been six weeks since the Affordable Care Act's new marketplaces opened for business. I think it's fair to say that the rollout has been rough so far, and I think everybody understands that I'm not happy about the fact that the rollout has been, you know, wrought with a whole range of problems that I've been deeply concerned about.

We start with a typica Obama-ism... he's "not happy" about something that he was responsible for himself.   Obama continues to act as if he's just a taking a White House tour, and not the President who is actually supposed to be managing the government.   And I am so tired with the trope of how "deeply concerned" he is.   Not just "concerned," but "deeply concerned."   Beyond being a cliche, it's a complete falsehood... people who are deeply concerned about something try to do their job correctly.   They don't go play golf 150 times and then, when the business goes bankrupt or the case gets dismissed or the patient dies, say that they are "deeply concerned" after the fact.  

But today, I want to talk about what we know after these first few weeks and what we're doing to implement and improve the law. Yesterday, the White House announced that in the first month, more than a hundred thousand Americans successfully enrolled in new insurance plans. Is that as high a number as we'd like? Absolutely not. But it does mean that people want affordable health care

Wrong... it means the opposite.   If only 100,000 people out of the 47 million uninsured bothered to persevere long enough to successfully enroll in an Obamacare plan (and putting aside the expansive definition of "enroll" Obama is using), that means that about 46.9/47 million people didn't care enough to keep trying over the course of a whole month.   If being "uninsured" were such a hardship, the number should have been much, much higher, and if the website didn't work, you should have seen mass demonstrations outside government offices.   You didn't see any of that.   This is a vast new program built on a fallacy of "demand" for healthcare.


Because We're Americans

And I don't care what anyone says, we're still a great country, and we're still the only country that can do this sort of thing:

The first significant international aid since Typhoon Haiyan hit started flowing Thursday with the arrival of the USS George Washington aircraft carrier. Helicopters began ferrying in food and clean water for regions that have seen little help in days....
All day, four U.S. Air Force C-130 cargo planes flew aid and personnel to Tacloban, where four tilt-rotor Osprey planes, able to land like helicopters, were loaded with goods for delivery to remote areas.
The U.S. planes "are a big help, as there are only three C-130s from the Philippine government," said Corazon "Dinky" Soliman, secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in the Philippines, as she oversaw relief efforts in central Tacloban.
The U.S. aircraft carrier, which carries a fleet of boats and helicopters, "is going to be a game-changer," Marine Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy, commanding general of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade in Japan, said....
Off the coast, one could see the massive silhouette of the George Washington, which began serving as a floating staging area for U.S. and other helicopters to resupply and refuel before lifting loads to Tacloban airport, said Lt. Cmdr. James Stockman, public affairs officer for the ship.
The ship is part of the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet and is accompanied by seven other ships that make up the George Washington Strike Group. The aircraft carrier has a crew of 5,500 and brings with it 21 helicopters, which can be used to access hard-to-reach areas.
"(The ship) has distiller plants on board that can make 400,000 gallons of fresh water every day," Stockman said. "Some of this water will be put into containers to be airlifted to those Philippine communities in need. We will also airlift pallets of bottled water that we will take on via underway replenishment — where we connect to a supply ship and transfer cargo at sea."

Matt Barnes' Tweet

Look, I am not defending Richie Incognito's use of a derogatory term for African-Americans in a private and joking voicemail message to a teammate, Jonathan Martin.   But here we are, only a couple of weeks later, and Matt Barnes of the Los Angeles Clippers sends out this tweet after last night's game against the OKC Thunder:

The first blacked-out word is the same offensive term Incognito used.   But this wasn't in a joking private voicemail, this was sent out over the Internet on Twitter to everyone in the world.

So here are my questions to the NBA and to the media:

1.   Should Matt Barnes be suspended?   If not, why not?

2.   Should Matt Barnes be released?   If not, why not?

3.   Should Matt Barnes be run out of the league?   If not, why not?

4.   Should Matt Barnes be vilified in national media as a racist?   If not, why not?

I just want someone to explain to me the double standards, so we can all understand them.  

Also, in doing so, please someone explain who of the following Clippers can use the n-word, and who can't, and why:

a)  DeAndre Jordan

DeAndre Jordan

b)  Chris Paul

Chris Paul

c)  Matt Barnes

Matt Barnes

d)  Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin

e)  J.J. Redick

J.J. Redick

Schadenfreude and Obamacare

A must-read article by Jonah Goldberg on the fun of watching Obamacare unravel.   What we're watching is the high drama of a highly arrogant ruler, Obama, getting his comeuppance:

In every tale of hubris, the transgressor is eventually slapped across the face with the semi-frozen flounder of reality. The Greeks had a god, Nemesis, whose scythe performed the same function. It was Nemesis who lured Narcissus to the pool where he fell in love with his own reflection. Admittedly, most of Nemesis’s walk-on roles were in the Greek tragedies, but in the modern era, comeuppance-for-the-arrogant is more often found in comedies, and the “rollout” of Healthcare.gov has been downright hilarious. (I put quotation marks around “rollout” because the term implies actual rolling, and this thing has moved as gracefully as a grand piano in a peat bog.) But, as the president says, “it’s more than a website.” Indeed, the whole law is coming apart like a papier-mâché yacht in rough waters. The media feeding frenzy it has triggered from so many journalistic lapdogs has been both so funny and so poignant, it reminds me of nothing more than the climax of the classic film Air Bud, when the lovable basketball-playing golden retriever finally decides to maul the dog-abusing clown.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

More Numbers on Obamacare

Oh, not really.   I just thought it was interesting that Obama has now played 150 rounds of golf in less than five years as President.   If it takes roughly six hours to get to the course and play, that's 900 hours he's spent playing golf.  

  • Do you think he should have spent some of that time monitoring how the website for Obamacare was coming along?
  • Do you think he should have spent some of that time being available when the Benghazi attack occurred?
  • Do you think he might have spent some of that time investigating just how it was that his IRS targeted conservative groups?
  • Do you think he might have spent some of that time figuring out just what the NSA was up to?

Big exit question:

Do you think if a Republican had played 150 rounds of golf that might be a news story?


P.S. And, oh, by the way, do you think if it was a Republican who had two daughters (say, George W. Bush) that the media would castigate him for ignoring his children and/or leaving them to his wife's care or the care of nannies or other watchers while he goes off playing golf?  

Look, I like golf too.   But I've probably played less than ten rounds in the past five years, in large part because I (a) have a job; and (b) have children who need and deserve my attention.

But, then, maybe we're just different kinds of men:

Girl of the Day - Jean Seberg

It would be her 75th birthday today.   A very sad story that I won't retell here.   But a great beauty.   Oddly, I had always thought she was French, because she was most famous for starring in Truffaut's early film, Breathless, with Jean-Paul Belmondo.   But she was actually born in Iowa.   Go figure.

Numbers on Obamacare... Pssst.... They're Not Good

Health and Human Services Director Kathleen Sebelius apparently has today announced that some 106,185 Americans signed up for Obamacare during the month of October, with only about 26,000 of those coming from the federal exchanges.   

Let's do some math, shall we?

There have been approximately 3.5 million Americans who have lost their private insurance due to Obamacare to date.   That's just in the individual market.   Obama's unilateral (and illegal) delay of the employer mandate means that millions more, perhaps tens of millions more people who will lose their policies will have that fact hidden from them until after the 2014 election.

That means that every day last month more American were losing their healthcare coverage than were enrolling for coverage under Obamacare in the entire month.

And remember... the administration already announced that it was going to "count" as enrolled people who had put a policy into their "shopping cart."   How many of those won't ever return to "check out"?   A lot, I'd venture to say, particularly given the extraordinarily bad press the program has gotten.

And, too, remember that enrolling isn't the same as paying that first premium.   That's when the rubber really hits the road in terms of how many people will actually get coverage through Obamacare.

And, finally, remember... the whole point of this exercise was that we had 47 million uninsured.   So, with this supposedly huge problem out there, isn't it a little odd that only 100,000 or so people bothered to try hard enough to get health insurance in a month?   That's about, oh, two-tenths of a percent.  So 99.8% of the uninsured either couldn't get through or said, "meh, who gives a shit?"   And for that we've created an enormous drag on economic growth and a $2 trillion entitlement program over the next ten years (and that's conservative).  

What a colossal, epic fail!    I'm with Charlie Cooke at NRO on this one... there's probably never been a bigger domestic policy failure in American history.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

Creepy in Retrospect, Isn't It?

Remember this video of Hollywood stars back in 2009 pledging their support to Obama?  

Looks pretty creepy in retrospect, doesn't it? I wonder how many of these folks have gone through de-programming by now?

Oh, and some of them, like their President, appear to have become has-beens in the five years since then.

Girl of the Day - The Varga Girl

Alberto Vargas was an illustrator who became famous doing covers for Esquire magazine of scantily-clad girls, many of which ended up as pin-ups for soldiers in World War II, or as the sources of "nose-art" for American bombers.   In honor of Veterans Day, here are the Varga girls for 1944:

Medal of Honor Citations - Well Worth Reading on Veterans Day (or Any Day)

The Internet is, of course, susceptible to abuse for people who aren't discriminating in what they watch or read.   But, at it's best, it's an extraordinary smorgasbord of opportunities for average people to get information that they couldn't have gotten if they were the richest person in the world just a few generations ago.  

One of the great things out there is a catalogue of all of the citations of Medal of Honor winners in American history, created by the Center for Military History under the auspices of the Defense Department and the U.S. Army.   It's here.   Just grab one at random and read it... you will be awe-struck with the heroism and sacrifices of men who, until the moment they were called upon, were mostly average fellows.   And yet... when that moment came, they acted, they risked all, they sometimes gave all, for their country and, most of the time, for their comrades, their buddies, their brothers in arms.    Here's one from the Korean War:

Citation: 1st Lt. McGovern, a member of Company A, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in action against an armed enemy of the United Nations. As 1st Lt. McGovern led his platoon up a slope to engage hostile troops emplaced in bunker-type pillboxes with connecting trenches, the unit came under heavy machine gun and rifle fire from the crest of the hill, approximately 75 yards distant. Despite a wound sustained in this initial burst of withering fire, 1st Lt. McGovern, assured the men of his ability to continue on and urged them forward. Forging up the rocky incline, he fearlessly led the platoon to within several yards of its objective when the ruthless foe threw and rolled a vicious barrage of handgrenades on the group and halted the advance. Enemy fire increased in volume and intensity and 1st Lt. McGovern realizing that casualties were rapidly increasing and the morale of his men badly shaken, hurled back several grenades before they exploded. Then, disregarding his painful wound and weakened condition he charged a machine gun emplacement which was raking his position with flanking fire. When he was within 10 yards of the position a burst of fire ripped the carbine from his hands, but, undaunted, he continued his lone-man assault and, firing his pistol and throwing grenades, killed 7 hostile soldiers before falling mortally wounded in front of the gun he had silenced. 1st Lt. McGovern's incredible display of valor imbued his men with indomitable resolution to avenge his death. Fixing bayonets and throwing grenades, they charged with such ferocity that hostile positions were overrun and the enemy routed from the hill. The inspirational leadership, unflinching courage, and intrepid actions of 1st Lt. McGovern reflected utmost glory on himself and the honored tradition of the military services.

Birthday Today - General George S. Patton

Somewhat fittingly on Veterans Day, it is the birthday of General George S. Patton, America's greatest tank commander of World War II, who led the great rush of the Third Army across France in the summer of 1944.

We've all seen the speech of Patton from the opening of the movie Patton starring George C. Scott.   Here's the real Patton speaking in 1945:

Again, we're not the same country, are we?


Or, maybe we are.   It's also, ironically, Alger Hiss' birthday.  

It's Veteran's Day Right Now!

As I write this, it is precisely 11:00 am eastern/10:00 am central on November 11th.   This is the exact moment of the armistice in World War I in 1918, 95 years ago.   There were 116,516 American deaths in World War I, in a country with just over 100 million in population.   The equivalent figure today would be upwards of 350,000 deaths as a percentage of population.   We were involved in the war for a little over a year, so there were about 280 deaths per day during the war, or almost 2,000 per week.  

In the battle of the Meuse-Argonne, fought over the final six weeks of the war largely by the American Expeditionary Force, America lost more than 26,000 dead and more than 95,000 wounded.   The American military cemetery, which somehow our exalted leaders thought it fit to close during the government shutdown, looks like this:

We are a very different country now.   Maybe that's good, maybe that's bad.   We won't really know until the current generation, or a future generation of Americans, is called upon to sacrifice.   


Lest we forget.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Incognito-Martin Update

As I said below, this is a story that seems very little about race or "bullying," and much more about how the media and the legal profession descend upon athletes (who happen to have a lot of money), and blow what are perhaps normal human interactions and friction between co-workers and friends into national stories and potential lawsuits.   Do I believe Jonathan Martin was unhappy about how his pro-football career (his first real "job" out of college) was going?   Sure.   23 year-old men are often unhappy with their first jobs.  Do I think Richie Incognito is a big brash guy who is probably funny-edgy among other big young men who play a very violent game?   Could he have gone over the line?   Sure.   But he seems pretty credible in this interview as being someone who actually loved Jonathan Martin as a brother -- a fox-hole buddy, if you will -- and who is baffled by what has happened.   This is a story, in short, where, if the lawyers and the media would have just left everybody alone, Martin would probably be back with the team and Incognito wouldn't have had his name turned into a byword for racism.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Pope Francis Has a Bit of Fun

The papacy is, of course, a position of extraordinary dignity and cultural weight.   On the other hand, the Pope is also, at bottom, a priest, and a parish priest at that... he's the Bishop of Rome, after all.   He says Mass; you can read his homilies; presumably he does baptisms, hears confessions, gives last rites, etc.  

But I didn't see this coming.   Apparently it is the tradition for the Pope to greet newly married couples on Wednesdays.   Here a couple who volunteer as clown therapists had just gotten married, and Pope Francis greeted them... well, you get the picture.

I had and have very high regard for both the Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict, the first for his world-historical, courageous leadership; the second because of his extraordinarily important intellectual writings, which will no doubt make him someday a Doctor of the Church.   But Pope Francis is doing something really interesting... he's bringing the Papacy back down to earth and back to being essentially about evangelizing among the people, one at a time.   We've been very lucky to have these three very different, but very great men as our Popes over the past four decades.

The Incognito-Martin Story

The big NFL story this week is not about football, and not even about the Aaron Rodgers injury... it's about a falling out between two offensive linemen for the Miami Dolphins, Richie Incognito and Johnathan Martin.   To recap,

  • Martin left the team last week, claiming bullying, including racially-charged voicemail bullying from Incognito. 
  • Incognito was almost immediately suspended, and will likely be cut, even though he made the Pro Bowl last year.
  • The story got weirder yesterday when, almost to a man, the Dolphins players sided with Incognito, saying that he was like a "big brother" to Martin and they don't understand what Martin is talking about.

Here's a couple of interesting facts that are noteworthy:

  • Martin is a Stanford grad whose parents both went to Harvard.   He went to a very toney prep school in California... Harvard-Westlake.   In other words... he's upper-class.   This is a conjecture, but I would very strongly suspect that he has been steeped in liberalism since a young age... which in 2013 is both a therapeutic culture (note his rush to the hospital to deal with "emotional issues") and a minority-victimization culture (note his rush to put out a voicemail showing Incognito had used the n-word).   Incognito, meanwhile, appears to be a rough-tough public school kid.   He went to Nebraska.  
  • Re the voicemail.   It's from April 2013.   There are reports that Martin not only kept it for six months, he played it in the locker room for other players as a joke.   Now that's not to condone Incognito's language.   But if he knew Martin well enough to joke around, and Martin appeared to be able to take a joke, then it's pretty dirty pool to then turn around and publish it in a climate where a public accusation of racism basically ruins Incognito's career.   
  • I haven't seen this anywhere in the news, but a casual five-minute search of Twitter shows this picture from late September of Incognito and Martin together out on the town.   That's five months after the allegedly racist voicemail.   Martin sure doesn't seem like he is intimidated by Incognito, and he sure doesn't act the way I would expect a black man to act if he thought the white man standing next to him was a racist.  

Here's my take.   I don't know what this story is about.   I don't think it's really about racism or bullying or any of the other buzz words going around.   I think it might have something to do with class -- a rich kid from a cultured upbringing who went to elite schools suddenly being a kid in a locker room full of grown men who come from rougher backgrounds.  

I also think it might just be a very common human story... Martin wasn't happy with where he was in life, wasn't doing as well as he had hoped, didn't like it, but instead of making the decision to quit football (like this guy did just this week), decided to scapegoat someone else in a manner that would get him social approbation as a victim of racism and bullying.   As a litigator, the concept of blaming someone else when things go wrong seems very familiar to me.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tweets from the Pontiff

It's hard for me to get over this.   On the one hand, part of me wonders whether this is dignified.   On the other hand... and I think this is the hand I prefer... what a miracle!   To live in an age where you can have what amounts to daily, personal communications with the priest who sits on the Chair of St. Peter!  Do we even know how lucky we are?


Class Move by the Red Sox

Full page ad in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Richard Epstein Will Send Chills Down Your Spine

The eminent law professor, Richard Epstein, has a good, long (but dense) article on the Obamacare debacle that closes with this chilling thought:

The broken websites are a sideshow. Mark these words: the breakdown in the individual insurance market is only a small foretaste of the total chaos from mass insurance cancellations that will come when and if the employer mandates go into effect.

Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Bill Whittle on the Common Core

Bill Whittle, great as always:

Just a Reminder... What Obama Actually Said, Over and Over Again

In case you're tempted to buy the current spin:

A Fundamentally Dishonest Presidency

Marc Thiessen in the Washington Post today:

It’s not easy to get a lie into a presidential speech. Every draft address is circulated to the White House senior staff and key Cabinet officials in something called the “staffing process.” Every line is reviewed by dozens of senior officials, who offer comments and factual corrections. During this process, it turns out, some of Obama’s policy advisers objected to the “you can keep your plan” pledge, pointing out that it was untrue. But it stayed in the speech. That does not happen by accident. It requires a willful intent to deceive....  
This whole episode is a window into a fundamentally dishonest presidency. And the story gets worse. After Obama began telling Americans they could keep their plans, White House aides discussed using media interviews “to explain the nuances of the succinct line in his stump speeches.” But they decided not to do so, because “officials worried . . . that delving into details such as the small number of people who might lose insurance could be confusing and would clutter the president’s message.”  
Yes, no need to “clutter” the president’s message with confusing details — like the fact that millions of Americans being told by the president that they could keep their plans were being knowingly misled.

When all you want is power, when all you want is to win elections, when all you want is to maintain your jobs in Washington, and your paychecks, and your opportunity to parlay your government service into riches on Wall Street or K Street or into book deals or speaking fees... well, then, what is truth?   Things you say are just means to an end.   Untruths at the service of the party are not just justifiable, but high-five-able.  

Public Opinion Hardens on Obamacare

Public opinion appears to be hardening against Obama due to the debacle of Obamcare.   Here are the poll results... look what happens as the graph approaches October 1 and then afterwards (and recalling that that was also the time of the "government shutdown").  

It looks more and more like people saw Obama being intransigent about delaying Obamacare, and now are punishing him for forcing it down our throats even though he knew it wasn't ready for primetime.

By the way, Ted Cruz doesn't look quite so dumb now, does he?

Girl of the Day - Annie Version (Andrea McArdle)

The original Annie on Broadway, Andrea McArdle, amazingly enough turns 50 today.   Obviously we remember her this way:

But McArdle (not surprisingly given her pipes) went on to be a fantastic cabaret singer.   Here she is, as an adult, doing  "As Long as He Needs Me" from Oliver:

Monday, November 4, 2013

Girl of the Day - Gray November Day Version (Nina Agdal)

It's gray outside on a November day in Milwaukee.   We're heading toward winter, the trees are getting bare, the lake front is deserted, people on the street are walking hunched over against the wind.    We could all use a trip to Cancun or Turks and Caicos or the Bahamas right about now.  

Or, some Nina Agdal:

Two Stories, One Story.

Here are two stories that are really one story.   I'll tell you what the headline of the overarching story is at the end.   For now, the two seemingly separate stories.  

First, there is the increasingly honest treatment of the Obamacare debacle by the mainstream media.   At some point, if it's raining outside, weathermen are going to have to report it, if only to keep themselves from becoming irrelevant.   When millions of Americans are getting cancellation letters for their health insurance, facts which contradict the main promise of the President with regard to his signature achievement, even libs at the Washington Post are going to have to report it.   But the real shocker is that the MSM is beginning to put the blame where it belongs -- on Obama's extraordinarily poor management skills:

“They were running the biggest start-up in the world, and they didn’t have anyone who had run a start-up, or even run a business,” said David Cutler, a Harvard professor and health adviser to Obama’s 2008 campaign, who was not the individual who provided the memo to The Washington Post but confirmed he was the author. “It’s very hard to think of a situation where the people best at getting legislation passed are best at implementing it. They are a different set of skills.”
The White House’s leadership of the immense project — building new health insurance marketplaces for an estimated 24 million Americans without coverage — is one of several key reasons that the president’s signature domestic policy achievement has become a self-inflicted injury for the administration....

I hate to say we told you so, but we told you so.   America chose a neophyte who had never done anything in his life that required substantive achievements -- a community organizer, a "lecturer" at a law school, a "present"-voting state senator, a hit-the-ground-campaigning U.S. Senator, a presidential candidate, Obama had basically never done anything with a bottom line, never done anything where results mattered more than perceptions, never done anything that wasn't essentially defined by talking.   Republicans said he was unprepared and we were right; we offered an exceedingly competent man of substantive achievements in 2012 to try to undo the damage, Mitt Romney, and America chose Dr. Feelgood instead.  

The second story is more chilling.   It comes from the new book, Double Down, by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, about the 2012 campaign:

A new book covering the 2012 presidential campaign uncovers a series of scathing remarks from political figures, but one alleged comment has stirred controversy around President Barack Obama and his administration’s use of targeted drone strikes.
Mark Halperin and John Heilemann’s book “Double Down: Game Change 2012” notes President Obama commenting on drone strikes, reportedly telling his aides that he’s “really good at killing people.”

This echoes something that was reported a couple of years ago at the Ulsterman Report, where an unnamed "White House Insider" commented on Obama's interest in the drone strike program:

UM: I need to your to expand on the Drone thing – Obama’s love of using the drones. You say you “got the goods” – your words. What do you mean? 
WHI: It’s what has been brewin’ for well over a year now…it’s causing all kinds of hell between the administration…the military…infighting and concern among the staff…even Jarrett don’t have a handle on all of it. Even she is not entirely comfortable with how the president has sunk his teeth into the drones…the kill list. She’s not bothered by their use specifically…she’s more…I would guess she’s more worried over the political implications of Obama’s obsession…that eventually enough people will stand together and say ENOUGH. She can’t afford to have that happen too soon…the re-election makes them all vulnerable…the plans…the obligations to others…America can still stop them in 2012 and she understands that. So having Obama so oddly focused…not just focused…he gets excited…visually…the guy gets off on it and he ain’t even hiding that fact anymore. And some are repulsed by it. They’ve done video reviews you know…of the missions. The drones. The kills. 
UM: The president you mean? He watches videos of the drone attacks? 
WHI: Yeah – like it was…like it was porn. I can’t emphasize…I don’t think I’m painting a clear enough picture here for you of how this thing has people really freaking out inside the administration. It’s good on one hand because it’s got more of them willing to talk…but…the fact it’s gotten this bad…these drones…an American president who has the video sent up to his personal study so he can watch them over and over again…like I said – sh-t ain’t right. And more and more people are figuring that out – and that is what has Jarrett concerned. But even she…Obama won’t listen to her on this one. Those drones are the one thing he really feels he has control over…all the rest…he’s been told what to say and where to go…when to wake…when to sleep…but the drones. The drones are all his – and he ain’t given those up. For nobody.

Scary stuff, if true... and I hasten to add that "if true," since this is really just Internet rumor. 

What connects Obama's apparent inattention to the details of Obamacare and his apparent obsession with drone strikes?   Why is this really one story?  

They are connected, I believe, this way... Obama is a malignant narcissist.   Obamacare, if you credit its stated intentions, is about "caring" about the uninsured.   But Obama can't be bothered about actually helping people, actually caring about people.   Those details are beneath him.   But he can be bothered about having the power to kill people remotely with drones, like a God sending a lightning bolt to earth by pointing his finger.  

So what's the headline of the one story that draws Obamacare and the drone program together?   Check below the fold for the answer.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Obamacare in One Sentence

From Mark Steyn's Saturday NRO column:

Obamacare is not a left–right issue; it’s a fraud issue.

Just so.

Two Pictures Worth Two Thousand Words

This week's New Yorker cover is getting a lot of play, and it's to their credit that an arch-liberal magazine ran a cover that cuts so close to Obama's bone:

But it probably gets beat by this picture from a Tennessee event yesterday:

Ouch.   That really leaves a mark.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Girl of the Day - Charlies Angels Revisited

Farrah Fawcett got the most press, but my favorite Charlies Angel in the 1970s was probably Kate Jackson.   She turned 65 earlier this week.   Tempus fugit, one more time.

Hmmmm... tall, skinny, smart, brunette... how could I have known back then?

"Debacle" Is Not a Strong Enough Word

I don't even know what to say about this report from CBS about the first day of healthcare.gov, the Obamacare website portal:

For 31 days now, the Obama administration has been telling us that Americans by the millions are visiting the new health insurance website, despite all its problems.  
But no one in the administration has been willing to tell us how many policies have been purchased, and this may be the reason: CBS News has learned enrollments got off to an incredibly slow start.  
Early enrollment figures are contained in notes from twice-a-day "war room" meetings convened within the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services after the website failed on Oct. 1. They were turned over in response to a document request from the House Oversight Committee. 
The website launched on a Tuesday. Publicly, the government said there were 4.7 million unique visits in the first 24 hours. But at a meeting Wednesday morning, the war room notes say "six enrollments have occurred so far."

Six?   Really?  

I don't even have an analogy for this.   I mean... let's say someone sold you a new car after telling you what great engineering it has, and you started it up and started to drive off the lot and got... six feet.   Or your lawyer told you you had a million dollar case and then you ended up being forced to settle for... six dollars.   Or the house and garden store sold you a new tree and it ended up with... six leaves.   Or the restaurant offered you a gourmet meal at high prices and brought you a plate with... six peas.  





Hayek Knew 75 Years Ago

Hugh Hewitt and Mark Steyn capture the key issue with Obamacare in yesterday's interview:

HH: Here’s the biggest lie of all. Here’s number five, Sebelius yesterday, cut number five.
KS: They indicated to me that we would always have risk, because this system is brand new, and no one has operated a system like this before to any degree. So we always knew that there would be the possibility that some things would go wrong. No one indicated that this could possibly go this wrong.
HH: That is such a lie, Mark Steyn. You’ve been saying it for a decade. I’ve been saying it for as long as you’ve been saying it.
MS: Yeah, I mean, basically what happened is the United States government took over another G-7 economy. It basically took over the entire French economy. It swallowed it whole. So it’s the equivalent of making a website to navigate the entire French economy.
HH: Wow.
MS: That’s the scale of what they did. No one has ever attempted, you can do it if you’re the Bolsheviks in 1917 and you’re taking over a semi-feudal ramshackle country like tsarist Russia.
HH: And you’re willing to shoot the people who won’t go along.

Hayek identified the fatal conceit of socialism back in the 1930s -- that central government planning of economies could not work, because the central planners could never know enough information to plan, because the market is constantly creating new information about what people want, what people don't want, what processes work, what processes don't work.   The market captures that information in the billions and billions of prices that are constantly changing -- prices for commodities, for labor, for raw materials, for finished goods, for transportation services, for... well, you name it.   Go back and re-read the famous Leonard Read essay "I, Pencil."   Or re-read the first chapter of Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations.   Or re-read Hayek's great essay on the Use of Knowledge in Society.   This is not news to anybody who cared to think.  

Arrogance about the ability of central planners might have been tolerable as a natural human error (although not tolerable in practice) in 1917.   But the failures of socialism by 2009 were so established as historical fact that there really wasn't an excuse for Obamacare.   Other than as a raw power-grab, that is.   We haven't started shooting people who won't go along yet.   But we're on the road to serfdom, that's for sure.