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On Iraq, Obama suddenly shy with his drone attacks.

A play on words, Jonah Goldberg calls the meltdowns in Iraq and Syria the Jihadi Spring. This is the antithesis of the Arab Spring, and the Sunni Islamic extremist group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) have wrought havoc in Syria and have now taken Mosul in Iraq, and setting their ultimate sights on Baghdad.

Yesterday the city of Tal Afar was held by a U.S.-backed and trained Iraqi general. Today, it fell to ISIS. Our president, all but useless in foreign policy matters, spends his days — outside of golfing, that is — lecturing us on important matters like racist NBA franchise owners, the term “Redskins,” and why the NRA is evil. Those seldom times when foreign policy is discussed it quickly becomes confusing and contradictory. On the same day that Sec. of State John Kerry claimed that military cooperation with Iran was on the table for dealing with ISIS, the White House ruled it out.

A flabbergasted Iraq, meanwhile, is asking Iran for help. How desperate is that?

Despite what one feels about the origins of U.S. involvement in Iraq it changes nothing about our situation or responsibility today. It’s a problem now, and it requires a serious president with a serious staff. Not a band of permanent campaigners, or what Kimberley Strassel called “political Svengalis,” who are caught in an “endless loop of foreign-policy fiascoes.”

“They gave us resets, pivots and leading from behind, and in recent weeks have explained that Mr. Obama’s foreign policy is best described as “Don’t do stupid [stuff].” This is what happens when you give hacks control: Your foreign-policy “vision” gets reduced to a public-safety commercial from a vodka company.”

“Don’t do stupid [stuff]” is itself stupid [stuff] as far as foreign policy goes. Besides, it’s not even a foreign policy, it’s decision paralysis disguised as nuanced thinking. Eventually it gets boiled down to only “Don’t do.” As in nothing. Perhaps if the ISIS terrorists were advocating lower taxes, less government control and attended Tea Party rallies the president could at least sic his IRS on them.

Here’s a thought. Everyone gets that the American people might not welcome “boots on the ground.” In fact, let’s scratch that off the table right now. But we’re talking about a president who by 2012, or in his first four years in office, had already used drone strikes to kill terrorists at a rate of six times what George W. Bush had authorized in eight years! At the beginning of 2014, under five years of the Obama drone program, more than 2,400 people had been killed. So this is hardly a president who is shy about using unmanned planes and Hellfire missiles to solve problems.

You’ve all seen the pictures of ISIS trucks lined up in large convoys, driving to and fro while the black-uniformed, black-flag waiving extremists perform acts of atrocities so vulgar that even Al Qaeda has distanced itself. ISIS proudly posts pictures of their executions and beheadings of Iraqi soldiers, police and civilians — Another 1,700 dead recently. 1,700, and that’s a walk in the park for these guys. It begs the question, could President Obama not spare a few more drone missiles for such an easy target as a column of pickup trucks?

Even if you don’t agree with the decision to invade Iraq in 2003, it cannot be denied that the government of Iraq is if nothing else an ally, and certainly more so than Libya ever was. A little support from the U.S. military drone program, one that poses zero risks to American soldiers, seems like a no brainer and a quick way to give the Iraqi government support while giving Islamic extremists something to fear and consider.

The Daily Beast reported a top Kurdistan official recently saying, “Practically speaking, the country has broken apart.” At a certain point one must ask, is that the very design of the Obama Administration? He didn’t like it, didn’t agree with it, voted against it, so he’s going to do his part destroy what might have been, headless Iraqis be damned.

Obama’s Bergdahl Defeat.

Wow. Charles Krauthammer sums up the Bergdahl prisoner swap perfectly. He’s right, complaints about negotiating with terrorists are non-starters and off the mark from the get go, while accusations that the president broke law are ridiculous assuming you’ve ever read Article II — he’s the president, commander-in-chief, and gets a wide latitude of control regarding all things military, particularly when at war. But that’s where the defense ends and the fiasco begins. This was a giant crap sandwich, but the clowns in the White House –  complete with that parroting Pamela Doll known as Susan Rice, reenacting her Benghazi embarrassment — tried to turn it into the second coming of bringing home John McCain or Scott O’Grady.

One more thing before we get to Krauthammer. Have you seen the pro-Taliban tweet by Robert Bergdahl? He tweeted [since deleted], “I am still working to free all Guantanamo prisoners. God will repay for the death of every Afghan child, ameen.” Not only is it insulting of those who died trying to find his son, but it stinks of moral equivalency. Mr. Bergdahl must not have heard that common Afghans are lamenting the return of former Taliban warlords (“Release of Taliban Detainees Alarms Afghan Villagers“). Even Human Rights Watch, hardly a right-wing or pro-Gitmo group, are troubled by what they call the release of Taliban war criminals. So does Mr. Bergdahl’s tweet go for avenging the death of Afghan children at the hands of these five released detainees? Can anyone in our useless lapdog media ask that question? They should, considering that almost one in every three (29%) released detainees has returned to terrorism and violence. It’s what they know.

Here’s Krauthammer:

The five released detainees are unrepentant, militant and dangerous. They’re likely to go back into the field and resume their war against local and foreign infidels, especially us.

The administration pretense that we and the Qataris will monitor them is a joke. They can start planning against us tonight. And if they decide to leave Qatar tomorrow, who’s going to stop them?

The administration might have tried honesty here and said: Yes, we gave away five important combatants. But that’s what you do to redeem hostages. In such exchanges, the West always gives more than it gets for the simple reason that we value individual human life more than do the barbarians with whom we deal.

No shame here, merely a lamentable reality. So why does the Bergdahl deal rankle? Because of how he became captive in the first place. That’s the real issue. He appears to have deserted, perhaps even defected.

The distinction is important. If he’s a defector — joined the enemy to fight against his country — then he deserves no freeing. Indeed, he deserves killing, the way we kill other enemies in the field, the way we killed Anwar al-Awlaki, an American who had openly joined al-Qaeda. A U.S. passport does not entitle a traitor to any special protection. (Caveat: If a POW is turned, Stockholm-syndrome-like, after falling captive, these condemnatory considerations don’t apply.)

Assume, however — and we will find out soon enough — that Bergdahl was not a defector. Simply wanted out — a deserter who walked or wandered away from his duty and his comrades for reasons as yet unknown. Do you bargain for a deserter?

Two imperatives should guide the answer. Bergdahl remains a member of the U.S. military and therefore is (a) subject to military justice and (b) subject to the soldiers’ creed that we don’t leave anyone behind.

What to do? Free him, then try him. Make the swap and then, if the evidence is as strong as it now seems, court-martial him for desertion.

The swap itself remains, nonetheless, a very close call. I would fully respect a president who rejected the deal as simply too unbalanced. What is impossible to respect is a president who makes this heart-wrenching deal and then does a victory lap in the Rose Garden and has his senior officials declare it a cause for celebration. The ever dutiful, ever clueless Susan Rice hailed it as “an extraordinary day for America.”

Good God. This is no victory. This is a defeat, a concession to a miserable reality, a dirty deal, perhaps necessary as a matter of principle but to be carried out with regret, resignation, even revulsion.

The Rose Garden stunt wasn’t a messaging failure. It’s a category error. The president seems oblivious to the gravity, indeed the very nature, of what he has just done. Which is why a stunned and troubled people are asking themselves what kind of man they have twice chosen to lead them.

Boko Haram, Michelle O, and #bringbackourballs

Below is a funny but sad commentary by Mark Steyn regarding a recent Michelle Obama tweeted pic of the #bringbackourgirls Internet meme. Internet hash-tag petitions — which is what they are, really, instant mass petitions — are fine for the masses. But as a foreign policy tool it’s pure impotence.

But before you read that, it should be noted that Brandeis College shamefully cancelled their plan to bestow an honorary degree on women’s rights activist and outspoken anti-Jihadist critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali in the same week that Ali issued a straight-talk condemnation over the West’s impotence in dealing with groups like Boko Haram:

“How to explain this phenomenon [kidnapping 300 school girls] to baffled Westerners, who these days seem more eager to smear the critics of jihadism as “Islamophobes” than to stand up for women’s most basic rights? Where are the Muslim college-student organizations denouncing Boko Haram? Where is the outrage during Friday prayers? These girls’ lives deserve more than a Twitter hashtag protest… It is also time for Western liberals to wake up. If they choose to regard Boko Haram as an aberration, they do so at their peril. The kidnapping of these schoolgirls is not an isolated tragedy; their fate reflects a new wave of jihadism that extends far beyond Nigeria and poses a mortal threat to the rights of women and girls. If my pointing this out offends some people more than the odious acts of Boko Haram, then so be it.”

Similarly, Charles Krauthammer sees the selective outrage, adding better late than never.

Two months earlier, Boko Haram had raided a Christian school and, after segregating the boys, brutally murdered 59 of them. That elicited no hashtag campaign against Boko Haram. Nor was there any through the previous years of Boko Haram depredations — razing Christian churches, burning schools, killing infidels of all ages.

Anyway, here’s Steyn:

It is hard not to have total contempt for a political culture that thinks the picture at right [above] is a useful contribution to rescuing 276 schoolgirls kidnapped by jihadist savages in Nigeria. Yet some pajama boy at the White House evidently felt getting the First Lady to pose with this week’s Hashtag of Western Impotence would reflect well upon the Administration. The horrible thing is they may be right: Michelle showed she cared – on social media! – and that’s all that matters, isn’t it?

Just as the last floppo hashtag, #WeStandWithUkraine, didn’t actually involve standing with Ukraine, so #BringBackOurGirls doesn’t require bringing back our girls. There are only a half-dozen special forces around the planet capable of doing that without getting most or all of the hostages killed: the British, the French, the Americans, Israelis, Germans, Aussies, maybe a couple of others. So, unless something of that nature is being lined up, those schoolgirls are headed into slavery, and the wretched pleading passivity of Mrs Obama’s hashtag is just a form of moral preening.

But then what isn’t? The blogger Daniel Payne wrote this week that “modern liberalism, at its core, is an ideology of talking, not doing“. He was musing on a press release for some or other “Day of Action” that is, as usual, a day of inaction:

Diverse grassroots groups are organizing and participating in events such as walks, rallies and concerts and calling on government to reduce climate pollution, transition off fossil fuels and commit to a clean energy future.

It’s that easy! You go to a concert and someone “calls on government” to do something, and the world gets fixed.

There’s something slightly weird about taking a hashtag – which on the Internet at least has a functional purpose – and getting a big black felt marker and writing it on a piece of cardboard and holding it up, as if somehow the comforting props of social media can be extended beyond the computer and out into the real world. Maybe the talismanic hashtag never required a computer in the first place. Maybe way back during the Don Pacifico showdown all Lord Palmerston had to do was tell the Greeks #BringBackOurJew.

As Mr Payne notes, these days progressive “action” just requires “calling on government” to act. But it’s sobering to reflect that the urge to call on someone else to do something is now so reflexive and ingrained that even “the government” – or in this case the wife of “the government” – is now calling on someone else to do something.

Boko Haram, the girls’ kidnappers, don’t strike me as social media types.

Oh, now Warren Buffett is for avoiding taxes.

Don’t you just get so sick of these phoneys. Warren Buffett’s hypocrisy speaks for itself

Readers may recall the original Buffett Rule that President Obama offered as part of his re-election campaign that essentially posited a minimum tax rate for the rich of about 30%. Mr. Buffett heartily endorsed the idea and Mr. Obama hauled out St. Warren as a soak-the-rich cudgel to beat up Mitt Romney in countless speeches.

So it was fascinating to hear Mr. Buffett explain that his real tax rule is to pay as little as possible, both personally and at the corporate level. “I will not pay a dime more of individual taxes than I owe, and I won’t pay a dime more of corporate taxes than we owe. And that’s very simple,” Mr. Buffett told Fortune magazine in an interview last week. “In my own case, I offered one time to match a voluntary payment that any Senators pay, and I offered to triple any voluntary payment that [Republican Senator] Mitch McConnell made, but they never took me up on it.”
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The billionaire was even more explicit about his goal of reducing his company’s tax payments. “I will do anything that is basically covered by the law to reduce Berkshire’s tax rate,” he said. “For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”

Think about that one. Mr. Buffett says it makes no economic sense to build wind farms without a tax credit, which he gladly uses to reduce his company’s tax payments to the Treasury. So political favors for the wind industry induce a leading U.S. company to misallocate its scarce investment dollars for an uneconomic purpose. Berkshire and its billionaire shareholder get a tax break and the feds get less revenue, which must be made up by raising tax rates on millions of other Americans who are much less well-heeled than Mr. Buffett.

This is precisely the kind of tax favoritism for the wealthy that Mr. Romney’s tax reform would have reduced, and that other tax reformers want to stop. Too bad Mr. Buffett didn’t share this rule with voters in 2012.

Govt vs. Innovation.

A few years ago author Jonah Goldberg wrote, “The notion that big business and big government are at war with one another is one of the great enduring myths of the 20th century.” It is a frequent theme in his writings. But it’s a difficult message to get across, to get people to unlearn the “trustbusting” fable they’re taught so young in life. When you read the evidence and history of it, and see the real examples of it today, it makes sense: what big industries fear the most isn’t government or regulation, but competition. It’s not universal, of course. Sure the general feel from the insurance industry is opposing Obamacare, but your biggest companies, like a Humana or a United Healthcare, will be able to absorb the costs — in large part by passing them onto you, the consumer — while the smaller companies will either close up shop or seek to be acquired by a bigger company. There’s a reason why General Electric, which owns NBC, which you’re reminded of during the “green logo” week, had for so long injected itself into the politics of global warming — oh, excuse me frozen northeast, climate change — it’s GE that’s manufacturing those ridiculously expensive light bulbs (the ones that can give you horrible mercury poisoning).

Goldberg saw it thus:

“Big Steel actually sought out government regulation because it feared free-market competition. During the New Deal, FDR supposedly carried on his (distant) cousin Teddy’s crusade against the “malefactors of great wealth.” But the truth is that big business often welcomed government regulation. Clarence Darrow, surveying the National Recovery Act’s record, found that the keystone agency of the New Deal had served only to help big business.

What progressives, then and now, always fail to recognize is that the more government meddles in business, the more business meddles in government. The left thinks the rational response to the bear hug that business has around government is to hug back twice as hard. The real answer is to let go, let companies sink or swim. Don’t render them “too big to fail” because they provide health care or other benefits.

All of these people who want to “crack down” on big business are simply inviting companies into the tent, giving them incentives to buy politicians, votes and policies.”

Here’s a more recent example of an entire industry happily getting into bed with the government in order to destroy an up and coming business model that threatens its bottom line (from the WSJ):

“In a recent New York Times NYT opinion article, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman acknowledged that technology moves at a faster pace than laws can keep up. But instead of waiting to see if new rules are needed, he argues: “The only question is how long it will take for these cyber cowboys to realize that working with the sheriffs is both good business and the right thing to do.”

Mr. Schneiderman has targeted Airbnb, an online service that lets users easily rent homes or apartments for short-term stays, giving travelers a new option. The hotel industry, concerned about being disrupted, is lobbying hard to kill the upstart. Mr. Schneiderman went to court demanding the names of people who rent out their homes to see if they violate any laws. Airbnb objects to this fishing expedition. With a valuation in the billions, the Silicon Valley company can afford lawyers to protect its customers, but costly regulatory overreach will inevitably suppress new startups from trying to compete.

Like Airbnb, mobile-phone app Uber creates a marketplace directly linking buyers and sellers—in its case, passengers and drivers—outside the ornate regulations of analog-era municipal taxi commissions. Brussels, Seattle and Miami have banned or strictly limited Uber cars. New York’s Mr. Schneiderman objects to the company’s practice of pricing more when demand is heavy. The alternative is severely restricted supply, as anyone knows who has tried to hail a cab in the rain.

The drone industry in the U.S. has been grounded because the Federal Aviation Administration has banned commercial use of drones pending new regulations. Meanwhile, countries such as Canada and Australia encourage drones. “As American regulators struggle to come up with a rulebook for the fast-moving industry,” Toronto’s Globe and Mail bragged recently, “Canada has emerged as perhaps the center of commercial drone technology—from Ontario farmlands to Alberta’s oil sands.”

Other examples include the Food and Drug Administration’s scrutiny of 23andMe’s marketing, which forced the company to stop offering health data from its at-home $99 genetics-analysis kit, and prohibitions against selling self-driving cars, which have left the U.S. in the dust behind less regulated Europe.”

Note the pompousness of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Anyone who dares not succumb to the will of almighty government and outdated business models are “outlaws.” Amazing. While the Internet was for its first decade the last bastion of a true free market — free from government intrusion prematurely stifling innovation — those days are ending quickly. That’s a bad thing.

Who’s Tom Steyer?

If you don’t know Tom Steyer and his brother are the liberal equivalent of the Koch brothers, but of course since they’re liberal other liberals, including Democrats in office and media lackeys, have no problem with Tom Steyer and his big money, his corporate interests, and his politics, unlike what they have with, say, the Koch brothers. Remember that hypocrisy isn’t hypocrisy if it’s performed by a liberal who’s being a hypocrite for a “good cause,” such as a cause that a champions the values of liberalism. Got that?

Steyer has pledge donations of $100 million in political contributions to candidates who oppose the Keystone XL project. Even though climate change and the environment recently Gallop polled almost dead last in a list of the country’s top 15 priorities (13th and 14th, respectively), it was enough to get Hillary Clinton’s attention, as writer Jim Geraghty pointed out. Suddenly Ms. Clinton is touting the environment and opposing Keystone as one of her most pressing issues. But of course!

Anyway, the context of this post is to share Powerline blog’s research that decimated an attempt by Washington Post writers to directly link the Koch brothers to Keystone. You should read the whole thing for the anatomy of a great retort, but here’s a great excerpt:

Let me offer an alternative explanation of why the Washington Post published their Keystone/Koch smear: 1) The Washington Post in general, and Mufson and Eilperin in particular, are agents of the Left, the environmental movement and the Democratic Party. 2) The Keystone Pipeline is a problem for the Democratic Party because 60% of voters want the pipeline built, while the party’s left-wing base insists that it not be approved. 3) The Keystone Pipeline is popular because it would broadly benefit the American people by creating large numbers of jobs, making gasoline more plentiful and bringing down the cost of energy. 4) Therefore, the Democratic Party tries to distract from the real issues surrounding the pipeline by claiming, falsely, that its proponents are merely tools of the billionaire Koch brothers–who, in fact, have nothing to do with Keystone one way or the other. 5) The Post published its article to assist the Democratic Party with its anti-Keystone talking points.

Which frames a very interesting contrast. The Keystone Pipeline is by no means the only energy-related controversy these days. “Green” energy is also highly controversial. “Green” energy is controversial, in part, because, unlike the Keystone Pipeline, it harms the consumer: solar and wind energy are inefficient, and therefore raise energy costs to consumers. “Green” energy is also controversial because it harms taxpayers: because they are inefficient, solar and wind energy can survive only through taxpayer-funded subsidies. Further, the federal government has invested in numerous “green” energy projects that have gone bankrupt, sticking taxpayers with the tab. Solyndra is only one of a number of such debacles.

“Green” energy is also controversial because it has been used to enrich government cronies. Let’s take, for instance, the billionaire Tom Steyer. Steyer has made much of his fortune by using his government connections to secure support for uneconomic “green” energy projects that have profited him, to the detriment of consumers and taxpayers. See, for example, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. As is explained here, Tom Steyer is a bitter opponent of the Keystone Pipeline. His financial interests, in “green” energy and perhaps also in pre-pipeline oil sources like BP, stand to benefit if Keystone is killed.

Haven’t heard much about Tom Steyer, you say? Maybe that’s because he isn’t heavily involved in politics. Heh–just kidding. Steyer, as you probably know, is one of the biggest donors to the Democratic Party and its candidates. This year, he has pledged to contribute $100 million to the campaigns of Democratic candidates, as long as they toe the line on environmental issues–which includes, presumably, taxpayer support for “green” energy and opposition to Keystone.

So the Post could have written a very different story about the Keystone Pipeline. The Post could have written that opposition to the pipeline is being funded in large part by a billionaire who has a personal financial interest in the pipeline not being built. And that’s not all! The billionaire is a political crony who has used his connections in Washington to get rich and to fleece consumers and taxpayers. Now, with Keystone, he is doing it again! How is that for a story that would “stir and inflame public debate in this election year”?

The Post, of course, didn’t write that story.

Putin’s Apologists

I had no idea such a ridiculous movement of Russian apologists had reformed, but I suppose Vladimir Putin has his “useful idiots” as much as Stalin or Lenin did. Here’s the commentary by Bret Stephens.

Russia is a big country. In case you didn’t know.

A flight from New York to St. Petersburg will cover the same distance as one from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok. There are 22 Russians for every Russian square mile, a population density only slightly exceeded by Mali. Exclude all of Russia east of the Urals, and the European portion of the country is still about the size of India and Turkey put together.

This is not exactly a state needing greater Lebensraum.

The point needs making in the face of an undercurrent of Western apology for Vladimir Putin‘s seizure of Crimea. It’s an argument that goes roughly as follows:

• Yes, Russia’s seizure of the peninsula was provocative and illegal. But look at it from Moscow’s point of view. “To Russia,” writes Henry Kissinger in the Washington Post, “Ukraine can never be just a foreign country.” Defining events in Russian history—Mr. Kissinger cites the 1709 battle of Poltava—took place on (current) Ukrainian soil, and Ukraine has been independent for just 23 years. Crimea itself is ethnically Russian and only passed into Ukrainian hands through a Soviet bureaucratic maneuver in the mid-1950s.

• As for provocation, how could any Russian leader be indifferent to a Ukraine that sought to join NATO or the European Union, much less sit still as demonstrators in Kiev paralyzed the country and brought about the downfall of its democratically elected leader?

In this reading, the West’s post-Cold War policies toward Russia have been a complex of patronizing lectures about democracy and good governance alongside a string of geopolitical humiliations, above all the expansion of NATO to former Warsaw Pact countries.

• Also, isn’t it hypocrisy for Washington to protest Russia’s occupation of foreign soil? “As ambassador, I found it difficult to defend our commitment to sovereignty and international law when asked by Russians, ‘What about Iraq?’ ” writes Mike McFaul, until recently the administration’s envoy to Moscow, in Monday’s New York Times.

• Finally, isn’t Mr. Putin merely duplicating the tough-guy tactics conservatives favor when it comes to the pursuit of American interests? “For Putin, an anti-Russian government in Kiev is illegitimate regardless of how it takes power,” writes Peter Beinart. “For many American hawks, the same is now true for a pro-Chávez government in Latin America or an Islamist government in the Middle East.” Mr. Beinart calls Mr. Putin a “Russian Neocon.”

Thus does cold-blooded foreign policy “realism” blend with the embarrassed apologetics of postmodern liberalism to become the enabler of Russian revanchism.

Let’s get a few things straight.

(1) NATO is a defensive alliance. As the Kremlin well knows, despite its propaganda and paranoia. The notion that the West provoked Russia by expanding NATO ignores why Poland, the Baltic states and other new members wanted to join NATO in the first place. Russia, threatened only by its internal discontents, does not need Ukraine as a territorial buffer against the Wehrmacht.

(2) A historic claim is not a valid claim. Much of modern-day Ukraine was Polish until September 1939. Yet Poland does treat Ukraine as “just a foreign country.” To invoke history as a way of rationalizing Mr. Putin’s moves in Crimea allows him to manipulate history. It strengthens his interests at the expense of the interests, and history, of others.

(3) Ethnic claims aren’t valid claims, either. Especially when there is no evidence of ethnically motivated harms. Especially, too, when the non-Russian minority amounts to a non-trivial 40%. Especially, three, when the referendum used ex post facto to justify the seizure of Crimea yielded the kind of lopsided vote—a Stalinist 97%—that can only be achieved by fraud and intimidation, further undermining the validity of the ethnic claim. Especially, four, when Russia’s ethnic claim to Crimea opens a global Pandora’s box.

(4) Russia was not humiliated by the end of the Cold War. Even if Mr. Putin and his colleagues in the KGB were. Humiliation is what Germany imposed on Russia at Brest-Litovsk, and what France imposed on Germany at Versailles. In reality, Russia was saved by the end of the Cold War and a postwar settlement that provided lavish foreign aid and went out of its way to integrate Russia into the global economy, the G-8 and even NATO itself.

(5) Crimea is not Iraq. And Amb. McFaul’s suggestion that the two are even remotely comparable is both insipid and outrageous. In Iraq, the U.S. deposed a tyrant who had spent the previous decade defying international law. We then did our imperfect best to stand up a representative government while fighting an insurgency consisting of al Qaeda, Baathist holdouts, and proxies of Iran. Then we got out. How, again, is this like Crimea?

(6) Neocons typically want to promote liberal democracy. And stand up to the enemies of liberal democracy. That’s why this column has been calling for Russia to be kicked out of the G-8 since 2006, two years before liberals started clinking glasses to the “reset” and nearly eight years before Mr. Obama finally took my good advice.

Our new Kremlinogists now tell us that Mr. Putin’s gambits need to be understood in the context of Russia’s historic foreign policy objectives. True up to a point. But Mr. Putin is also pursuing his own interests as ringleader in a corrupt oligarchy sitting on the economic time bomb that is a commodities-based economy. The best U.S. policy will seek to light the shortest fuse on that bomb, strengthen our allies, and contain the fallout.

Good solutions to Russia which Obama won’t do.

Steve LeVine from Quartz.com has one interesting suggestion for combating Russia’s thuggery.

As of now, Putin is profiting from his invasion. That is because oil prices are up on the risk of a supply disruption. This enriches the Russian state budget, half of which is supported from oil and gas exports. But economist Philip Verleger notes that prices can go down as well as up, and he recommends inflicting pain by engineering the former.

The tool is the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the 700-million-barrel underground cache of crude oil waiting in Texas and Louisiana for a rainy day (see chart below). In an overnight note to clients, Verleger argues that if the US were to ship just 500,000 barrels a day of oil onto the market, it would drive down prices by about $10 a barrel and cost Russia about $40 billion in annual sales. The US could keep doing this for years, he says. “[Russia's] GDP might drop 4%, which would certainly count as a ‘consequence,’” he says. Half would come from lower oil prices and half from gas sales, whose prices Russia indexes to oil.

This is a great suggestion on paper, but it would mean a president who isn’t beholden to the fringe environmental extremist who would be appalled at the notion of actually domestic increasing oil release and oil consumption. That’s sad, isn’t it — that Saudi Arabia would be more likely be a willing partner in such a plan — a plan I would add where the Saudis make less money — then Obama’s constituency?

The WSJ’s Holman Jenkins had some similar ideas — “Unleash Europe’s antitrust case against Gazprom,” “Embargo Gazprom LNG tankers (it recently bought its fifth) from Western ports,” “Withdraw Europe’s support for pipelines Mr. Putin wants to build,” “Get moving on the pending U.S. trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic trade partnerships, which grant member countries automatic approval of U.S. liquefied gas exports,” “Let Exxon and other Western oil firms queuing up to explore Siberia and Russia’s Arctic know their efforts are not currently appreciated. A single caustic hearing on Capitol Hill should do it.”

All great ideas, but Jenkins is the first to acknowledge that Europe is so tied to Russian energy exports that they would be unlikely to rock that boat. But, once again, I would submit that as hard as those things would be, it’s nothing compared Obama, had he even the guts to try, and he doesn’t, convincing his the extreme environmentalists who helped elect him.

This is why Obama is so often compared to Jimmy Carter. You know he’s just out of his league on foreign policy. These ideas above are all possible, all tangible, and all non-violent. They are all things that have teeth beyond the useless U.N. resolution styled response to which the West is usually relegated. But these things require leadership. Not even Reaganesque leadership. Probably just Clintonian leadership would suffice. But Obama is just feckless and impotent.

King Obama’s Obamacare exemptions

Don’t like ObamaCare? Tough. Law of the land. Passed in both houses. Upheld by the Supreme Court. Isn’t that what we’ve all been told for years? “Shut up!” they explained. We know what’s good for you. Our legislative experts who admitted to not reading the 2,000-page bill prior to passing it arrogantly determined that they could force feed better healthcare decisions than do the 150 million collective American families.

But the thing is, it’s not really going as planned is it? Causing lots of bad press and presidential heartburn (I know! He should enroll in ObamaCare! Oh, what’s that? The president and our Congress have a different plan?) No worries. All those things they said previously — law of the land, both houses, Supreme Court, yadda yadda yadda — no longer apply, given that we don’t have a president so much as a king who can rule for two four-year terms. Call it a modern aristocracy, or certainly a oligarchy.

What other way to describe an executive that can just pick and choose which aspects of American law he wants to ignore? Last month David Harsanyi detailed all the ways our New Aristocrats have circumvented law.

According to the Congressional Research Service, the Obama administration has probably missed half of the deadlines of the Affordable Care Act. Here’s a list of 13 executive alterations Now, if all this haphazard implementation were only a matter of improving what are onerous and poorly written facets of Obamacare, that would be one thing. A bad thing, yes. But what makes this free-for-all an especially blatant abuse of power is that the delays are enacted almost exclusively for political reasons.

If some of your deep-pocketed cronies visit the White House, delay the law’s employer mandate. Why not? If the risible Medicare cuts you concoct to sell ACA to voters by keeping the price tag under a trillion dollars become distasteful to voters leading up to an election, just delay the cuts until you have a more advantageous environment.  If caps on out-of-pocket insurance costs haven’t panned out like you promised — delay for another year.  Small Business Health Options Program? Delay. Employee Auto-enrollment? Delay. Pre-existing conditions insurance sign-up? Delay.

The Obama administration is now giving medium-sized employers an extra year — until 2016 — before they must offer health insurance to their full-time workers. This directly contradicts the text of the law. Good for those employers; bad for the rule of law.

…  So, question: when was the last time policy was executed as chaotically and with such little regard for the law?  I don’t want to sound like a troglodyte, but the president, as head of the executive branch of the federal government is constitutionally obligated to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” not implement laws in an expedient manner, or a more prudent manner, or even in a way that he believes is more moral or a helpful for people struggling to find affordable health care. This is why we write bills down and debate them prior to passage. Or, at least, it used to be.

Indeed! But there’s no end in site — and that’s just ObamaCare. If a president can circumvent law for political cronies for one law, can’t he just do the same for any law, for any reason?

The Hill reports that this week the Obama Administration is once again delaying key provisions of the law for the sole purpose of surviving this November’s elections. No doubt all these provisions will be re-discovered (by Democrats and by the media both) once a Republican president comes to power. Until then, don’t mind their lack of outrage.

Now, of course, all these delays and exemptions are for key provisions of ObamaCare that conservative critics had long claimed would be detrimental to businesses. But, at the time of those complaints the Democrats had simply retorted with “Shut-up!-they-explained tactics and called their opponents hacks for the insurance industry. It seems King Obama is now in agreement with them.

[WSJ] Like the individual mandate, the employer decree [the delayed but required coverage for more than 50 employees] is central to ObamaCare’s claim of universal coverage, but employers said the new labor costs—and the onerous reporting and tax-enforcement rules—would damage job creation and the economy.

Liberals insisted that such arguments were false if not beneath contempt, but then all of a sudden the White House implicitly endorsed the other side. Now the new delay arrives amid a furious debate about jobs after a damning Congressional Budget Office report last week, only this time with liberals celebrating ObamaCare’s supposed benefits to the job market.

Well, which is it? Either ObamaCare is ushering in a worker’s paradise, in which case by the White House’s own logic exempting businesses from its ministrations is harming employees. Or else the mandate really is leading business to cut back on hiring, hours and shifting workers to part-time as the evidence in the real economy suggests.

But, you see, King Obama and his aristocratic friends are above the law. The laws only apply to buffoons like you and me, not them. That’s why, as the Washington Post recently reported, 12,359 Congressional representatives and staff members have warped a key provision of ObamaCare intended to cover small businesses.

“Normally, the small-business exchanges are reserved for companies with fewer than 50 employees (rising to 100 workers over the next two years). Some lawmakers have therefore questioned whether it’s fair to allow elected officials and their staffs to access the new online insurance marketplaces, which are expected to offer relatively low-cost plans, when private companies the size of Congress are excluded.

During a hearing last year on the rollout of the exchanges, for instance, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) called the rule a “special carve-out for Congress” and argued he should not get “completely different and better treatment” than other Americans under the law.”

It’s far from over, too.

Megan McArdle from Bloomberg.com has listed all the potential expensive pitfalls for businesses between now and 2018. No doubt so long as we have an “Aristocratic Democracy” rather than a libertine constitutional democracy in charge all those things will be exempt too — well, so long as you’re one of their allies.

ObamaCare may cover, but it doesn’t treat.

Here’s yet another crushing story about how ObamaCare first took away a cancer victim’s working and effective insurance plan, and then removed her access to what was that patient’s most effective drug treatment, Sandostatin. It’s written by the son of the victim, Stephen Blackwood, who is president of a small liberal arts college. It also underscores the previous blatant lies of the administration — you’ll recall “if you like your current insurance you can keep it.” What’s the point of rhetorical and Utopian success, such as the promise to cover all Americans, when such catastrophic practical failures as not actually being treated abound? Congratulations, America, the Democrats’ attempt at socialized medicine is a reality. You are all now covered, albeit no longer treated.

And then in November, along with millions of other Americans, she lost her health insurance. She’d had a Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan for nearly 20 years. It was expensive, but given that it covered her very expensive treatment, it was a terrific plan. It gave her access to any specialist or surgeon, and to the Sandostatin and other medications that were keeping her alive.

And then, because our lawmakers and president thought they could do better, she had nothing. Her old plan, now considered illegal under the new health law, had been canceled.

Because the exchange website in her state (Virginia) was not working, she went directly to insurers’ websites and telephoned them, one by one, over dozens of hours. As a medical-office manager, she had decades of experience navigating the enormous problems of even our pre-ObamaCare system. But nothing could have prepared her for the bureaucratic morass she now had to traverse.

The repeated and prolonged phone waits were Sisyphean, the competence and customer service abysmal. When finally she found a plan that looked like it would cover her Sandostatin and other cancer treatments, she called the insurer, to confirm that it would do so. The enrollment agent said that after she met her deductible, all treatments and medications—including those for her cancer—would be covered at 100%. Because, however, the enrollment agents did not—unbelievable though this may seem—have access to the “coverage formularies” for the plans they were selling, they said the only way to find out in detail what was in the plan was to buy the plan. (Does that remind you of anyone?)

With no other options, she bought the plan and was approved on Nov. 22. Because by January the plan was still not showing up on her online Humana account, however, she repeatedly called to confirm that it was active. The agents told her not to worry, she was definitely covered.

Then on Feb. 12, just before going into (yet another) surgery, she was informed by Humana that it would not, in fact, cover her Sandostatin, or other cancer-related medications. The cost of the Sandostatin alone, since Jan. 1, was $14,000, and the company was refusing to pay.

The news was dumbfounding. This is a woman who had an affordable health plan that covered her condition. Our lawmakers weren’t happy with that because . . . they wanted plans that were affordable and covered her condition. So they gave her a new one. It doesn’t cover her condition and it’s completely unaffordable.

Though I’m no expert on ObamaCare (at 10,000 pages, who could be?), I understand that the intention—or at least the rhetorical justification—of this legislation was to provide coverage for those who didn’t have it. But there is something deeply and incontestably perverse about a law that so distorts and undermines the free activity of individuals that they can no longer buy and sell the goods and services that keep them alive. ObamaCare made my mother’s old plan illegal, and it forced her to buy a new plan that would accelerate her disease and death. She awaits an appeal with her insurer.

Will this injustice be remedied, for her and for millions of others? Or is my mother to die because she can no longer afford the treatment that keeps her alive?

Like every American, I want affordable health care, and I’m open to innovative solutions of all kinds—individual, corporate, for-profit, nonprofit and public. It will take all of these, and all the intelligence, creativity and self-discipline we have, as well as everything we can offer one another as families, neighbors, friends and citizens—and it still won’t be perfect. But it is precisely because health care for 300 million people is so complicated that it cannot be centrally managed.

The “Affordable” Care Act is a brutal, Procrustean disaster. In principle, it violates the irreducible particularity of human life, and in practice it will cause many individuals to suffer and die. We can do better, and we must.