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24 August 2014

Should a Struggling President Help a Brutal Dictator Reestablish Order? 

A genuine test of President Obama’s commitment to act in America’s long-term self-interest is whether to help an allegedly brutal dictator (or his regime, whether or not he is in control of it) to defeat a terrorist group because it challenges both that regime’s hegemony in its own country and the freedom of U.S. citizens to exercise the rights guaranteed by their government’s Constitution. A case in point is the barbarous execution of the journalist, James Foley, by members of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which had held him captive for the previous nearly two years.

In fact, it is only since the U.S. has become the world’s single most powerful state that its citizens have come to believe that the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that its Constitution guarantees against actions by the American government are guaranteed by the Constitution to be enforced by their government across the globe. This is particularly problematic when it comes to practitioners of professions such as journalism, who often assume dangerous risks in the performance of their tasks.

A world at peace and maintained in order is definitely in the long-term interest of the American (and all other) people. The inability of a brutal dictator, like Bashar Al Assad, to establish that order in Syria, his own country, threatens not only his own subjects but also the freedom of Americans and others to travel to that country for whatever peaceful reason, including reporting on civil war there. Helping an incompetent ruler to establish that order, at least by eliminating a ruthless element from the opposition to his established central government, may override America’s interest in seeing that any foreign government does not brutally rule or violate the human rights of its own residents.

Choosing to take such a step and crafting a reasonable strategy to do it, in terms of its objectives and costs, both human and material, is the duty of America’s leader. It is also his duty to conform to the statutory requirements for consultation with and approval of Congress in implementing that policy. These are only a few of the challenges that Barack Obama and his administration face in the closing years of his Presidency. Dealing with this one successfully or not could be emblematic of Mr. Obama’s ability to perform the tasks assigned to him with such hope by the American electorate twice over the last six years.

17 March 2014

The Point of ObamaCare 

The Point of ObamaCare

Instead of Affordable Care Act, the law that set up ObamaCare ought to have been named More Affordable Care Act. By the ACA’s definition the cancelled privately offered plans that supposedly force people to resort to ACA exchanges, after all, are worse than the exchange-offered plans, with their exception for preexisting conditions, their referral requirements, etc.

Was the point of ObamaCare the destruction of insurance companies? Oh, come on! Insurance companies will figure out a way to make money under the new rules—otherwise they don’t deserve to be in business. They’re smart. It’s only politicians who believe the voting public is dumb enough not to know that.

If you want a voluntary insurance market, there will be costs involved. Health care is an area that justifies a single-payer model. Everyone needs medical attention sooner or later—there will be no choice in the matter. Universal health care is a human right and it is up to health care providers to satisfy that need first, and to provide high-quality care if and when they can. But the absence of high-quality care does not result in “poor-quality” care.

24 February 2014

Who’s At Fault for Climate Change? It Doesn’t Matter.

There are many ways that the world’s richest communities can react to even the observed (as opposed to the modelled) warming of our global climate. We can diminish our habits that pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. We can invest in finding less harmful substitutes for those technologies. We can learn to live with the consequences.

But refraining from restricting the consumption of fossil fuels by the world’s poorest countries because it deprives them of the benefit of hydrocarbon-fueled economic growth is a red herring. As we in advanced economies increasingly rely on alternative energy sources which cause less environmental damage, we can make them affordable for the nations that need them to spur their development.

It’s all a matter of cost. Regardless whether climate change is man-made, cyclical, or caused by factors we don’t yet understand, it will be expensive to deal with if we want to preserve an ever-improving future. The piper has to be paid so we can keep dancing.

07 February 2014

Apres Moi Le Deluge 

Apres Moi Le Deluge

Like Louis XV, Saddam Hussein and the George W. Bush Administration knew
that without their respective costly repressions of dissent and
sectarian strife, French and Iraqi societies would descend into chaos.
But that doesn't mean that violent suppression is justified.

Stephen J. Hadley was wrong to imply in the January 31, 2014, WSJ, that
the credibility of the U.S. and U.N. depends on their instilling fear
that they will intervene militarily when they believe their interests
are threatened (even in an ersatz nation created by a deluded colonial
power following WWI). A slower, more painstaking process of
community-building would be longer-lasting. Perhaps the disassembly of
Yugoslavia in the nineties can serve as a model for bringing peace to
this troubled region of the world.

06 December 2013

ObamaCare's Promises

Tevi Troy’s article in the 12.01.13 Commentary, “The Three Failed Promises of ObamaCare,” is an enlightened discussion of the issues that bedevil ObamaCare, but its objective of measuring the efficacy of the law against its stated goals is only an evaluation of its marketing strategy (admittedly wrong), not of its efficacy, which I believe will prove satisfactory. As attributed to Liberals by the author, they are embarrassed that we’ve waited this long to make the effort to make basic healthcare available to everyone in our rich society. However, the three points Mr. Troy makes require the following comments:

1) First, Mr. Troy’s point that ObamaCare did not anticipate the Great Recession is well-taken. Inevitably, that made it all the more likely that some employed people would lose their current health coverage
2) The $2500 reduction in the cost of healthcare predicted by Obama is not simply Washington Speak, but an unspoken reduction from what all the benefits of the new program would have cost if the law had not been adopted. Of course, universal healthcare costs more than care for the health only of those who can afford it. Moreover, ObamaCare cannot be blamed for the American tendency to spend more on healthcare that derives from the belief that “we deserve it” or simply because a new therapy has been developed.
3) It was a gaff to say that you could keep your old healthcare plan if you liked it—that plan had to stay In existence for that assurance to be valid. Moreover, ObamaCare makes the common, and faulty, assumption that healthcare has a flat-line objective. It really strives to achieve continually more perfect states of physical (and mental) well-being as new discoveries in pharmacology and medical procedures are made—at increasing expense.

The differences between Liberals and Conservatives will unavoidably result in clashing takes on ObamaCare. Its implementation will certainly result in less choice and wealth for everyone, but also in a better general state of health.

09 November 2013

Playing Your Advantage

If Megan McCardle means that the Democrats were foolish to take advantage of their victory in 2008 by adopting ObamaCare (“Obamacare Shouldn’t Have Been Managed Like a Campaign,” Bloomberg.com, November 5, 2013), my question is, What are Campaigns for? Universal healthcare has long been a goal of liberals, and their victory under the banner of Barack Obama was taken by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid as the golden opportunity finally to push it through.

What the Democrats failed to protect against, however, was the vulnerability of such an accomplishment to potential gaping holes, like over-dependence on a weak Internet website. The opposition was able take advantage of that when they came into sufficient power in a subsequent election. A possibly fatal error in judgment—hubris. Now President Obama is forced to apologize (not necessarily a bad thing) and hope that his administration can prove that universal healthcare is a good program even if it does not demonstrate mastery of the wonders of information technology.

Medical science has struggled with the use of information technology in matters as basic as record-keeping, diagnosis-sharing, and even drug-prescriptions. Tradition makes change difficult. What we can be sure of is that our society is wealthy enough to attend to the widespread health of our population. Arranging smooth access to it through the Internet will have to come later.

25 October 2013

Obama Deals With Complicated Partners

Perhaps it’s foolhardy, but President Obama has leapt at chances to resolve long-standing problems when they have occurred in the course of doing business. Although the regime of Syria’s Bashar Al Assad used chemical weapons on civilians in the face of his “red line,” Obama jumped to accept collaboration with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin and invite the Syrians to destroy their chemicals arsenal as the price for avoiding a retaliatory American bombing.

Contrary to Daniel Henninger’s Opinion essay, “Obama’s Credibility is Melting,” in the October 24, 2013 WSJ, where he characterized Obama as joining with cynical and untrustworthy partners in Moscow and Damascus, the President views his number one job to be addressing long-term goals, even over humanitarian obligations like punishing murder with chemical weapons. Collaboration with the Russians and stability in the Middle East drive his strategy in Syria, not pleasing the Saudis.

Likewise, sanctions seem to have helped modulate the attitude of the Iranian government and bring that regime to the nuclear arms negotiating table. Keeping the pressure on at this point could only risk hardening the “tribal” behavior of the ruling mullahs, mirroring the desires of neighboring Arab monarchies identified by Karen Elliott House in the October 25, 2013 WSJ, “Behind the Saudi-U.S. Breakup.”

When it comes to the badly named Affordable Care Act, Obama’s advisers unfortunately were seduced into believing that a technical device like a website was all that was needed to escape decades of resistance to the imperative of universal health care. The designers of www.healthcare.gov were certainly not cynics; they made a mistake that only makes Obamacare harder to execute in the end.

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