Another bouquet of goodies from the blogosphere

Quick Link and Open Thread image

Before I begin, how do you like this lovely Currier and Ives image of nature’s bounty?  My webmaster, Trip, suggested that as part of my site upgrade, I try to have a few images that are strongly associated with posts that might not otherwise be image-rich.  When I think of my “flotsam and jetsam” or “clearing off the spindle” posts, I always think of a bountiful bouquet.  So, here I am, “branding” my posts.  And here I go, sharing the blogosphere’s bounty:

According to MSNBC, Consumer Reports, which had first warned its readers away from the Obamacare Exchange, is now raving about it:

“Now we’re saying, ‘it’s time,’” [Nancy] Metcalf [Consumer Reports health care expert] said, in particular praising the new window-shopping function, in which users can peruse health plans without registering with the site. The requirement to make an account before viewing options was considered one of the main causes for the site’s initial traffic bottleneck. “It’s terrific, I’ve tried it, it was working yesterday through the busiest times,” Metcalf said.

Dig down in the report, though, and you discover that the only thing Metcalf is actually raving about is the fact that the revised website gives consumers a chance to see products early in the process, rather than waiting until after having given over all their information.  Otherwise, Metcalf notes that problems persist, problems such as actually buying insurance:

Metcalf warned that consumers had no control over the back-end problems, which are giving inaccurate information to insurance providers, and said that if you enroll through Healthcare.gov and don’t hear from your new provider within a week, your best bet is to contact the insurer directly.

In other words, Consumer Reports, which was an early Obamacare supporter, is trying to put lipstick on a pig, while ignoring the effluvia flowing out of the pig’s back end.

Should you want a better sense of what’s going on with Obamacare, I always recommend Jonah Goldberg, who can make you smile, even when what he’s reporting is actually the stuff of tears.

Still, one can’t ignore the fact that more people have been using Obamacare since November 30.  It remains to be seen whether any of the 29,000 last reported are satisfied customers or are even customers at all.  It’s also unknown whether they are customers who fund subsidies or customers who use subsidies.  To many of the latter and too few of the former and yet another Obamacare flaw will reveal itself to the public at large.  Right now, it seems as if the youngsters who are required to buy insurance to prop up Obamacare are staying away in droves.  In any event, as it is, no one currently has any ideas what the subsidies will be, so the insurers are guessing and the government is essentially writing them a blank check.

What we do know is that a lot of people are waiting in long, long cyberlines.  Charles C. W. Cooke has a great post about socialism’s love affair with lines.  I’ve told jokes on the subject (with pictures!), and Cooke includes an absolutely splendid 1979 Tory ad out of England — an ad that might have something to do with Margaret Thatcher’s success:

pic_giant_120313_SM_The-Return-of-the-Queue-Rev

Okay, that’s the Obamacare portion of this bouquet post.  Now on to other stuff:

Surprisingly, despite the Islamist sweep that followed the Arab Spring, if one ignores Iran and the bomb, Israel expects 2014 to be a safer year for it than 2013 was.  Basically, it’s benefiting from the fact that Arabs and Muslims in surrounding nations are so busy fighting amongst themselves, they don’t have the energy to attack Israel.  In addition, citizens in those countries are noticing that their own governments, rather than Israel, might be the problem.

Karl Marx loathed Jews.  Why therefore should we be surprised that Marx’s political descendents despite them too?  In New York, which has now moved as far Left on the American spectrum as it’s possible to do without going full Soviet, the Jew-haters are stealthily crawling out from under cover.  I recently spoke with a delightful, ultra-liberal New York Jewish transplant who couldn’t believe that de Blasio could herald an antisemitic tinge to New York politics.  Perhaps a few years will leave him a sadder but wiser, and less liberal, Jew.

The House has the power of the purse.  Why doesn’t it use it?  Angelo Codevilla points out that, now that the Senate has taken the nuclear option regarding the filibuster, the House can take the nuclear option regarding budgets, at least insofar as controlling judicial nominations goes.  I’m of two minds about this.  The House has power of the purse for a reason, so there’s no reason it shouldn’t use it in the face of a starkly ideological Senate.  Having said that, just as people have pointed out that the Democrats may regret ending the filibuster if/when Republicans regain power, Republicans may be worried about letting the “no funding” genie out of the bottle in the House because of the presumably inevitable day when Democrats will regain power.

Speaking of inevitability, weren’t we told that Obama’s election, and then his re-election, heralded a new era of unending Democrat majorities?  Apparently no one told that to the youth vote, which has become disenchanted with a Democrat government that lies to them, spies on them, takes their money, and leaves them without a future.  Remember, the higher on the pedestal you place yourself, the further and harder you’re going to fall.

And a sad story about one of the Sudanese “Lost Boys” who’s finding it harder than anyone could have realized when it comes to making it in America.

Hollywood may inform Obama’s Washington more than we realize — all theater, no substance

Sometimes one reads something and thinks “That’s it!  That explains what’s been going on.”

I do believe that Elliott Abrams is on to something when he discusses the administration’s approach to Syria, and his point is much larger than the already ugly fact that the president may have misspoken American right into a war.  (Which kind of makes Bush’s gaffes, malapropisms, and linguistic mangles seem a whole lot less significant, right?)

Abrams points out that the New York Times report revealing that Obama’s red line was an ad lib, and a dangerous one at that, also reveals that the White House never actually had a plan.  Here’s what the Times reports:

Mr. Obama’s advisers also raised legal issues. “How can we attack another country unless it’s in self-defense and with no Security Council resolution?” another official said, referring to United Nations authorization. “If he drops sarin on his own people, what’s that got to do with us?”

But they concluded that drawing a firm line might deter Mr. Assad. In addition to secret messages relayed through Russia, Iran and other governments, they decided that the president would publicly address the matter.

After a detour to note how ironic it is that the same President who established an “Atrocities Prevention Board” a few months ago (“‘never again’ is a challenge to nations”) now has people saying “What do we care?”, Abrams gets down to the nitty-gritty of Obama’s approach to foreign policy — it’s all theater:

Second, the issue of bluffing. It is noteworthy in the Times story that the administration officials were dealing with words, with lines, with messages—never it seems with tougher decisions about actions. This is of course a huge mistake, as just about everyone now acknowledges, though how it comes to be made in year five of an administration is more mysterious.

Abrams contrasts this superficiality — figuring out how to sell an attitude, without having an actual attitude — with what went on under Reagan when the Soviet Union wanted to send advanced fighter planes to Nicaragua.  Abrams was the assistant secretary of state for Latin America, so it was up to him to read formally to his Soviet counterpart the administration’s stand:  “there was a unanimous view that we would not permit Russia to put advanced combat jets into Nicaragua and change the power balance that had existed in the region since the Cuban missile crisis. Everyone agreed.”

That’s what played out in the world.  But what Abrams remembers is that this is also what played out behind closed doors:

But what preceded such talking points was the NSC meeting. There, after everyone said yes, let’s deliver that message, James Baker spoke up. As I recall it, Baker said something like this: Look, we are not agreeing here on sending a message. We are agreeing now that if they act, we will act. We’re not going to come back here in a month or three months or six months and say, gee, now what do we do? If you are agreeing on taking this line and sending this message to the Soviets, you are agreeing now, today, that if they put those jets in, we will take them out. That’s what we are agreeing. Today.

Although Abrams says he wasn’t then and isn’t now a Baker fan, he was then and is now a fan of that type of sober, realistic thinking.  Abrams’ conclusion about the administration’s hollow, theatrical approach to the rapidly unfolding disaster in Syria applies with equal force to every single foreign policy situation Obama has faced.  As you read the words below, think not only about Syria, but about Libya, the Arab Spring, the Israeli/Palestinian debacles, etc.:

It seems there was no one at these Obama administration meetings wise or experienced enough to say “Hold on, what do we do when they call the bluff?” My boss back in the Reagan years, Secretary of State Shultz, was, like Baker, an ex-Marine and a serious guy. At these White House meetings on Syria this year and last, was there one serious guy? Seems not, and seems that that problem has not been solved.

Are matters coming to a head this October?

I’ve got an amazing array of links, all of which indicate that, with three weeks before the election, America and the Middle East aren’t static.  Instead, there are a lot of things that are suddenly coming to the boil in ways that make me pray very hard that Mitt Romney wins.

A lot of people have been linking to an op-ed piece in the Arab News, a paper that I understand is the English language paper in Saudi Arabia.  That being the case, I have to believe that the Saudi government sent this one up the flag pole to see if anyone salutes.  It would be amazing and wonderful if they did salute, because the column says that Arab countries must stop blaming Israel for their woes, and start examining their own cultures:

[I]f many of the Arab states are in such disarray, then what happened to the Arabs’ sworn enemy (Israel)? Israel now has the most advanced research facilities, top universities and advanced infrastructure. Many Arabs don’t know that the life expectancy of the Palestinians living in Israel is far longer than many Arab states and they enjoy far better political and social freedom than many of their Arab brothers. Even the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip enjoy more political and social rights than some places in the Arab World. Wasn’t one of the judges who sent a former Israeli president to jail is an Israeli-Palestinian?

The Arab Spring showed the world that the Palestinians are happier and in better situation than their Arab brothers who fought to liberate them from the Israelis. Now, it is time to stop the hatred and wars and start to create better living conditions for the future Arab generations.

These changes can’t happen too soon.  Lara Logan, who was brutally gang raped during Egypt’s “Arab Spring,” could have retreated forever from the public view, or become a scared dhimmi, hiding behind PC platitudes.  She did neither.  Instead, she is speaking openly about the grave threat we face from Al Qaeda and the Taliban, one that hasn’t diminished with the years but that, instead, has been resurgent during Obama’s “reset.”  More than that, Logan directly accuses the current administration of lying about the enemy’s strength in order to justify its failed policies. I salute her.

Not only does Obama deny the reality in the Middle East, he is exceptionally cavalier with those Americans on the front lines fighting this enemy.  In Houston, today, a Marine’s father is livid that he received a generic form condolence letter from Obama following his son’s death.  If you would like to see what a real condolence letter looks like, check out the letter that Obama’s alleged hero, Abraham Lincoln, sent to one grieving mother.

With matters escalating so quickly, we need a Mitt Romney.  Happily, the evidence is that, since the debate, people are eying Mitt Romney more favorably.  The Left, of course, can’t let that happen and they’re doing what the Left does best:  threatening people.  African-American Actress Stacey Dash discovered that Lefties don’t take well to being crossed when she sent out a tweet endorsing Mitt Romney.  Among the nicer things she was called was a “race traitor.”  It went downhill from there, with the usual intimations of rape and violent death.  But Leftists are looking at bigger things.  Dash is just a dot on their radar.  The current idea is to run riot if Romney wins — and I think they mean it.

Please feel free to treat this as an Open Thread, and add to the comments section any interesting things you’ve found today.