Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Murder and the Settlement Distraction. By Jonathan S. Tobin.

Murder and the Settlement Distraction. By Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, November 13, 2013.

The Democrats’ Worst Nightmare. By Robert W. Merry.

The Democrats’ Worst Nightmare. By Robert W. Merry. The National Interest, November 13, 2013.

The Middle East After a U.S. - Iran Deal. By George Friedman.

The Middle East After a U.S. - Iran Deal. By George Friedman. Real Clear World, November 12, 2013.

Bill Clinton Chases the ACA Unicorn. By Walter Russell Mead.

Bill Clinton Chases the ACA Unicorn. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, November 13, 2013.

Bill Clinton Is Wrong. This Is How Obamacare Works. By Jonathan Cohn. The New Republic, November 12, 2013.

ObamaCare and the End of Civilization. By Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, November 13, 2013.

Regime Sells Obamacare to Millennials with Promise of Sex Without Consequences. By Rush Limbaugh., November 13, 2013.

Bill Clinton: Obama Should Honor His Keep Your Plan Promise. Video. GOPICYMI, November 12, 2013. YouTube.


Bill Clinton is making waves with his comments that President Obama should honor his “like it, keep it” promise, even if it means changing the Affordable Care Act. Clinton isn’t only the one saying this: Democrats nervous about the future of the law have been increasingly taking this line over the last week. But Clinton is the most prominent person, besides, arguably, Obama himself, to say it, and Jonathan Cohn has a thoughtful piece at the New Republic about the problem with this position. In brief, Cohn argues that you can’t actually reverse the insurance cancellations without also crippling the law itself. There’s no world in which the ACA could do what it has set out to do—expand access to relatively comprehensive insurance—without disrupting plans people already have.
This is because insurance is a risk-sharing enterprise, and you can’t expand access to high risk people without raising prices on some other sub-set of the population. Forcing young men to have maternity care in their health insurance, for example, helps subsidize that care for women. And you can’t do that unless you eliminate plans that don’t help subsidize that care. More:
Is that a worthwhile tradeoff for reform? Obviously that’s a matter of opinion. The fact that some people—even a small, relatively affluent group—are giving up something they had makes their plight more sympathetic. They are right to say Obama could have made clear his promise might not apply to them. And there’s a principled argument about whether people should be responsible for services they’re unlikely to use presently, whether it’s fifty-something year olds paying for maternity care or twenty-something year olds paying for cardiac stress tests.
But the principle of broad-risk sharing—of the healthy subsidizing the sick, of the young subsidizing the old, and everybody paying for services like pediatrics and maternity care—is one built into the insurance most Americans already have.
Read the whole thing; Cohn is right that Clinton and Obama can’t eliminate the disruption to pre-existing plans without also rolling back the other beneficial effects of the law. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a better way to balance the tradeoffs here, as a truly consumer-directed health care reform would do, but it does mean that as long as the ACA is law, Clinton is asking the near impossible.
But all this ignores the essential problem that is making the rollout such a headache for the administration: this law would never become law if Obama hadn’t made the promises he did. Clinton may misunderstand what’s possible at this point, but he is reacting to more than just the number of people affected. The law has never been popular, and the twin discoveries that the people who pushed it can’t organize a website to make it work and that politically important promises about the law turned out to be wrong will deepen its unpopularity now. It’s almost 100 percent certain that if both the public and the Democrats in Congress had understood the fine print as well as they do now, the ACA would never have passed Congress. Obama could never “have made clear his promise might not apply to [some people]” because if he had been totally transparent and upfront about how the law would work and what it would do, he could never have gotten it passed.
Cohn wants Clinton to stand up and argue that the cancellations are just the expected process of a good law working itself out. But Bill Clinton’s political instincts point him to a different course. Clinton understands what a deep political hole the law is in, even if he doesn’t have a workable fix.
The 2014 election is still a long way away, but many in the MSM seem at this point to be underestimating the danger that the ACA fiasco poses to Democrats in the midterm. It isn’t just that specific ‘promises’ have been broken or that the early rollout has been a fiasco. It is that the differences between the law-as-experienced and the law-as-described are deal-breakers. Without the false impressions about how the law would work, the law would not have been passed. This is the danger that Democrats must address, and it has the potential to be extremely damaging.
Proposals to allow people to keep their plans probably seems like a much needed lifeboat for distressed Democrats. We should expect to see more and more people take the Clinton line as the public becomes aware that the law they’re getting isn’t anything like the law that was pitched to them.
If voters have made some unpleasant discoveries about Obamacare, Democrats are about to have an unpleasant epiphany of their own. Passing Obamacare, Democrats are discovering, wasn’t the end of the national conversation about health care. We are now beginning a conversation about how to fix what is wrong with Obamacare, and in many ways this conversation will make it more difficult, not less, for Democrats to steer health policy in the directions they prefer.

In Aleppo I Only Survive by Looking Syrian. By Francesca Borri.

In Aleppo I only survive by looking Syrian. By Francesca Borri. The Guardian, November 12, 2013.


In this war, to be a foreign reporter is to be hunted by Islamists and the regime. My helmet is a veil, my hijab a flak jacket.
Since the rise of the Islamist resistance, parts of Syria have become off-limits to journalists – 30 of us are now missing. Today my helmet is a veil, and my flak jacket a hijab. Because the only way to sneak into Aleppo is by looking like a Syrian.
Locals here don't refer any more to “liberated areas,” but to east and west Aleppo – they don’t show you pictures of their children, or of siblings killed by the regime, but simply the pictures of beautiful Aleppo before the war. Because nobody is fighting the regime anymore; rebels now fight against each other. And for many of them, the priority is not ousting Bashar al-Assad’s regime, but enforcing sharia law.
Aleppo is nothing but hunger and Islam. Dozens of threadbare children, disfigured by leishmaniasis, walk barefoot in the steps of mothers, covered in black from head to toe – all bowl in hand, seeking a mosque for bread, their skin yellowed by typhus. In the narrowest alleys, to dodge mortar fire, boys are on the right with their toy Kalashnikovs, while the left is for girls, already veiled. Jihadi fathers push with their beards, djellabas and suicide belts. In July, Mohammad Kattaa was executed for misusing the name of the prophet. He was 15.
And so there are only Syrians now to tell us what’s happening. They work for the major media, and contribute to articles written from New York, Paris and Rome. They are the famous citizen journalists, glorified by those who probably would never trust a citizen dentist.
And the outcomes are cases similar to that of Elizabeth O’Bagy, the analyst mentioned by John Kerry during the days of the chemical attack. In fact, she had just published through the Wall Street Journal a piece that essentially made you believe that the rebels were all good guys: that hardliners, here, are but a handful – because the problem for the US is that Assad might be replaced by al-Qaida. A few days later, while Human Rights Watch uncovered evidence of rebels responsible for war crimes against the minorities, it was revealed that O’Bagy was on the payroll of a Syrian lobby group whose goal was to pressure the Obama administration towards intervention. In the Twitter and YouTube era, when many newspapers save on correspondents on the ground by raking up somebody who will summarise for them what's going on in his own backyard, it’s on the O’Bagys that we then base foreign policy, base our wars: on the accounts of a recent graduate, born in 1987.
It’s not that the war has become more dangerous. Early on we were with the rebels, and the rebels were those who were fighting for freedom: and we journalists were those who witnessed for the world the crimes of Assad. But we suddenly realised (especially my generation) what a war means when you are not embedded. Today we are also here to witness the crimes of the rebels: and both the rebels and the regime hunt us. This war isn’t more dangerous; it’s only truer: a war where nobody is innocent, where nobody is immune; a war where nobody is welcome – we have all run away.
Do we as journalists have any responsibility? Our role is to question. So why are we targeted? Perhaps because many of us were here only for money, only for the single article – here for an award, or a contract, so that for Syrians we became just a matter of business.
Or perhaps because when Abdullah Yassin, the activist who made possible the work of many of us, was killed, and killed for protecting us, for bringing to the police two kidnappers, none of us left a flower on his tomb? Or perhaps it is because we have reported only the blood, because it was easier, because it was cheaper – and so we delivered to the world a misleading portrait of this country – that now generates unsteady and mixed-up policies? Perhaps because we all jumped here, in the aftermath of the gas attack, just to vanish in disappointment when Obama opted not to strike?
Why, if we are around or not, today do Syrians see no difference? Perhaps because we are but the mirror and expression of the international community, and its cynicism on Syria.
A few evenings ago I was on Twitter, when a jet swooped overhead. In a heartbeat, a flurry of followers – many of them, I am afraid, waiting for my last Tweet from under the rubble. And my reaction in that moment was only: Go to hell. And I turned everything off.

Francesca Borri

Looking at the Pew Study Through the Wrong End of the Telescope. By Jonathan S. Tobin.

Looking at the Pew Study Through the Wrong End of the Telescope. By Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, November 12, 2013.

Requiem for a Movement. By Daniel Gordis. Jewish Review of Books, November 11, 2013. Also here.

New Analysis of Pew Data: Children of Intermarriage Increasingly Identify as Jews. By Theodore Sasson. Tablet, November 11, 2013.

Conservative Judaism: Not dead yet. By Rabbi David Wolpe. Haaretz, November 20, 2013. Also here.

Misreading the apocalypse: Orthodoxy won’t save American Jewish life. By Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie. Haaretz, November 25, 2013. Also here.

Loving Us to Death: How America’s Embrace Is Imperiling American Jewry. By Jonathan S. Tobin. NJBR, October 24, 2013.

Why Bother Being Jewish? By Caroline Glick. NJBR, October 8, 2013.

American Jews: Laughing But Shrinking. By Jonathan S. Tobin. NJBR, October 1, 2013. With related articles.

To Fight Assimilation, Stop Dumbing Down Judaism. By Evelyn Gordon.

To Fight Assimilation, Stop Dumbing Down Judaism. By Evelyn Gordon. Commentary, November 12, 2013.