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grantcart

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Member since: Sat Jan 5, 2008, 08:45 PM
Number of posts: 43,404

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Heartbreak at the UN

For those of us who have had the privilege to work as international civil servants in the UN/Intergovernmental Committee institutions (most UN work is done by stand alone intergovernmental committees, like UNHCR, UNICEF and so on and don't report to either the UN General Assembly or the UN Security Council) watching the buffoonery by Trump at the UN was an additional heartbreak to what we all have had to bear these last 8 months.

There are many countries that make generous contributions to the UN from Denmark, Norway to Australia, and so on. The US however has been the anchor, its membership on the governing committees is the only one that has the 'heft' to keep these agencies pointed at long term humanitarian goals.

Today we saw the US become untethered from its role as sextant to help a complicated world work together to plan a common objective. With the similarly banal abandonment of the voluntary Paris Accords the US has established a new drum beat that will appeal to the darkest natures of the craven and ambitious in every country: Everyone for themselves.

The churlish and juvenile threat to "wipe North Korea off the map" reveals a casual indifference to the loss of tens of millions of lives, not just in North Korea but also South Korea. It will not be long before not only our traditional allies abandon our common cause but we are met with unified opposition by Russia, China and all nations who see the casual tossing of nuclear weapons to be a precedent in no one's interest.

We need to establish a line, not between the factions of the Democratic Party but between Trump and all rational people, a national coalition of all people who oppose his madness, nothing else is of consequence.

The best case scenario is now a bar so low as to be incomprehensible: The best outcome is that the rest of the world responds in disgust at what is promoting. The worst case scenario is an apocalyptic horror initiated by the richest country in the world with a chip on its shoulder.

Trump's message is "The people that support the higher morality of international cooperation, understanding and mutual development are CHUMPS. It is everyone for the themselves between countries and within countries". There are deplorables in every country who will hear this clarion call for tribalism and rip their countries apart trying to advance their personal fortunes and power.

Pressure mounts on Israels prime minister as aide agrees to testify

Source: Washington Post

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime ­Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is known for being a political survivor, but the revelation this past week that a former top aide will testify against him has led to speculation that his indictment in relation to allegations of corruption is increasingly inevitable.

Ari Harow, who served as Netanyahu’s chief of staff, will turn state’s witness in two probes into the premier, Israeli police said Friday. Netanyahu has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

The details of the investigations — from the Cuban cigars and other lavish gifts Netanyahu is alleged to have received from prominent business executives to allegations of collusion with Israel’s dominant newspaper for favorable news coverage — have gripped Israel in recent months. Harow’s agreement to testify, though, significantly ramps up pressure on the premier, now serving his fourth term.

The agreement “has one virtually irreversible implication: an indictment against Netanyahu is coming,” an analysis in Israel’s daily Haaretz said Saturday, as the Israeli press mulled whether it could mark the end for his premiership.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/pressure-mounts-on-israels-prime-minister-as-aide-agrees-to-testify/2017/08/05/5bfb6e3e-79d5-11e7-8f39-eeb7d3a2d304_story.html?utm_term=.86e7b0e77b53



I think Trump is aware that Netanyahu is much brighter than he is, and has a much more favourable home field advantage than Trump does, especially now that Trump has started a war with his own party. If Netanyahu is indicted I predict our sleep deprived President is about to have real insomnia.

I think we can now coin a new term, "Trumpesque", as in the 'Netanyahu family is very Trumpesque' as this excerpt from the article shows:



Meanwhile, his eldest son caused a furor as he lashed out at a website that criticized his lavish lifestyle with a Facebook post signed off with emoji of a raised middle finger and a pile of excrement.

One thing, and the most important thing, has changed by having Kelly as COS

The leak which had Kelly calling Comey after he was fired (which had to have been leaked by one or both of them) and threatening to resign as Secretary of DHS to express his anger has made one thing clear IMO: Kelly will not sanction a Mueller firing. Interestingly it is reported that Comey urged him not to resign.

If he was upset about Comey getting fired he would be 10 times more angry at being a part of a huge Saturday Night Massacre that would take Mueller out.

Notice that all of the attacks against Sessions and the rumors of appointing a new AG during recess have evaporated since Kelly moved in.

Trump has to realize that Kelly has a hundred ways to block an attack on Mueller beyond resigning in protest.

Kelly could simply leak details and allow key players to be prepared ahead of time. Exposing a move against Mueller would likely get a resolution from the Senate, among intensive public reaction.

It may be that Kelly approved the leak in order to not only show his personal take on the move but that he was prepared to go outside normal channels, that if Trump moves against Mueller he will have to go through Kelly.

Price reveals Trump's likely next move, destroying the ACA by sabotage

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/tom-price-waiving-individual-mandate_us_597df94de4b02a4ebb760112?ncid=inblnkushpmg00000009



“All things are on the table to try to help patients,” Price told Martha Raddatz on ABC’s “This Week.”

Price, who President Donald Trump jokingly suggested last week he would fire if efforts to repeal the act failed, claimed that the mandate was contributing to higher health care costs.


“The individual mandate is actually one of those things that is driving up the cost for the American people in terms of coverage,” Price said. The mandate may result in higher individual costs for Americans who previously went without health insurance or purchased bare-bones plans eliminated by the Affordable Care Act ― commonly known as Obamacare.


But it also almost certainly functions as a check on overall costs for people who get their coverage on Obamacare’s individual insurance exchanges by bringing healthy people into the risk pool. Eliminating the mandate unilaterally is liable to create chaos in the individual exchanges as insurers scramble to offset the departure of healthy enrollees.


That’s why the insurance industry trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans wrote a letter to Congress opposing the so-called “skinny” repeal bill that the Senate rejected early Friday morning. The legislation would have abolished the individual mandate and the rule requiring large employers to offer their employees coverage. “Eliminating the individual coverage requirement by itself will likely result in fewer people covered and a deterioration of the risk pool, which will increase premiums,” AHIP wrote.

Significant evidence exists that one of the problems facing Obamacare is that the fine for violating the individual mandate is too modest to encourage enrollment, leading to a disproportionate ratio of sicker Americans in the exchanges. Insurers have responded by driving up premiums to offset the costs of coverage and withdrawing from some high-cost areas.



By taking out the mandate people would wait to purchase insurance only when they are sick, driving premiums up and having even fewer people in the pool. This kind of "adverse legislative selection" which requires insurance companies to cover everyone, regardless of pre existing conditions, but doesn't require universal participation would lead to a collapse of the markets as insurance would get increasingly expensive for smaller pools with an increasingly sickening census, called a "death spiral".






We now know exactly what happened. NSA will have the tapes.

Chris Hayes detailed the emails between Jr. and Goldstone that requested a contact to get information. Goldstone finds Emin who is on stage but will call after he finishes his show. An hour later Jr. confirms the call took place with a thank you note back to Goldstone.

Following up on the phone call Goldstone details that they will send the Russian attorney in response to JRs request for help.

Phone records will exist but more importantly this phone call is recorded and sitting in the NSA cloud so that they can recall it once they know what call to look for.

Four hours later Trump boasts to a crowd that he expects to get some very damaging information on Secretary Clinton.

We now have a very clear idea of what exactly happened. The video shows Trump and Goldstone in active conversation when they met in Las Vegas a couple of years before. It is clear that Trump tasked Junior with contacting Goldstone to get the Clinton emails which the Russians had. A confirmed phone call initiated by Jr sets up the meeting. The Russians got the compromising position on the Trumps but probably told them that they couldn't pass the original source material directly to the campaign because it would be too easily traced by the CIA/NSA.

The Russians tell the Trump campaign that they will release it through Wikileaks so that they can maintain deniability. Trump gets impatient and actually makes a public plea "if the Russians have the 30,000 emails please release it". In order to show that the Trump administration will deliver on promises to relax sanctions Manafort pushes through a Ukranian plank that is soft on Russia at the convention. This is an important "offer of proof" by Trump to signal to the Russians that he understands what they want and will be able to deliver the product.

Trump wants to follow up on his quid pro quo but knows that the CIA/NSA will be able to pick off his communication and asks Jared to meet with Russian Ambassador and set up a secret back door channel so that they can carry out their "Sanction relief for contracts in Russian energy development" plan that will bring them the billions that have evaded him.

Trump sees Comey closing in on the above and fires him.

Many elements of this will be easily confirmed with telephone records and with NSA captured conversations.

Trump complained about the "cloud" over his administration. A lot of the cloud has dissipated and we can now see how the dots were connected. In this case the "cover up" won't be nearly as bad as what they almost got away with.

Updated with the emails from June 6th

6 June 2016
Goldstone to Trump Jr

Let me know when you are free to talk with Emin by phone about this Hillary info – you had mentioned early this week so wanted to try to schedule a time and day. Best to you and your family.

Trump Jr to Goldstone

Rob could we speak now?


Goldstone to Trump Jr

Let me track him down in Moscow. What number he could call?

Trump Jr to Goldstone

My cell.

Goldstone to Trump Jr

He’s on stage in Moscow but should be off within 20 minutes so I am sure can call.

Trump Jr to Goldstone (about one hour later)

Rob thanks for the help.

7 June 2016


Goldstone to Trump Jr

Hope all is well. Emin asked that I schedule a meeting with you and the Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow for this Thursday. I believe you are aware of the meeting – and so wondered if 3pm or later on Thursday works for you? I assume it would be at your office.


Full text of all emails here: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/11/donald-trump-jr-emails-full-text-russia-rob-goldstone

This nothingburger has about 43,000 calories.

Post: Russia probe current WH official - Guess Who! NBC CONFIRMS





https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/russia-probe-reaches-current-white-house-official-people-familiar-with-the-case-say/2017/05/19/7685adba-3c99-11e7-9e48-c4f199710b69_story.html?tid=a_breakingnews&utm_term=.012a1f9f5998

The law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest, showing that the probe is reaching into the highest levels of government, according to people familiar with the matter.

The senior White House adviser under scrutiny by investigators is someone close to the president, according to these people, who would not further identify the official.

The revelation comes as the investigation also appears to be entering a more overtly active phase, with investigators shifting from work that has remained largely hidden from the public to conducting interviews and using a grand jury to issue subpoenas. The intensity of the probe is expected to accelerate in the coming weeks, the people said.

The sources emphasized that investigators remain keenly interested in people who previously wielded influence in the Trump campaign and administration but are no longer part of it, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.



Who do you think it is?

I have to think that it is Kushner, Trump signals that he is the only one he trusts because he has been involved in all of the international deals he has been doing.


UPDATE: NBC IS NOW CONFIRMING THE WP STORY *********************************************

While similar to Watergate it is in fact a daily reenactment of "Lord of the Flies"

Its like a "Groundhog Day" experience where we have to relive the last third of "Lord of the Flies" everyday.

Piggy is dead, the conch is broken, they started a fire on the island and we are just praying that some adult arrives before things get REALLY bad. Just when things seem beyond the possibility of further disintegration you fall asleep and when you wake up you realize that Piggy is dead, the conch is broken, and someone just started another fire on the island.

Republican House members just signed up for Trump University: Pledging their job as tuition.

It has become exceedingly clear that Trump is a single issue President: Reducing taxes on American businesses and the top 5%. There is no other political policy or governmental concern that matters to Trump in the slightest.

The kindest interpretation of this is that he is convinced that these moves will launch the economy into hyper drive and that the growth will bring jobs, increase consumer spending and growth the economy by 3% or more which will bring more tax revenue and create all kinds of wonderful.

This is what Kennedy did when he reduced the top tax brackets from 80% and it launched a robust growth that did all of the things listed above.

Republicans have become incapable of rational thought and now elevate a relative argument to an absolute one. While the Kennedy tax restructuring achieved that objective the Bush tax restructuring did not. It turns out that in a mature wholly developed economy there is a tipping point where tax restructuring, which lowers the cost of investment capital, brings increasingly smaller benefits and flatlines and the amount of government revenue declines and endangers expansion because the government is holding ever increasing amounts of debt and sucking investment out of the private sector instead of freeing it.

This is the kindest possible interpretation, the other is self aggrandizement by theft and treason.

The Republicans have lost all capability for nuance, or complex calculation and believe that tax reduction is an absolute good. If that were true then we shouldn't reduce it to 15% but reduce it to 1%.

In order to build momentum for the real agenda of the Goldman Sachs Administration they had to have a win on health care to sustain a winning image. Trump went to the Republican Congress and said "pass anything, the Senate will fix it or do nothing and it will be on them. In the meantime we will pass the tax legislation before your election and you will all be hailed as victors for saving the American economy".

It was as stupid an appeal as Trump University and the Republican House bought it and all they had to do was put their jobs on line for the tuition. It is Governance by Hucksterism, Policy by Jingoism, and Morality by Perjury.

A few months after Mr. Obama took office the DJI was at 6,600 and when he left office it was 19,800. This isn't the greatest growth of capital in any 8 year history this is more capital created in the combined history of capitalism. In technical economic and historical terms this period will be known as "the good old days" although its goodness was limited in a job half done. The first job was to get the engine going and the second job which Trump has destroyed is getting more people involved in sharing the benefit.

The tax plan won't pass and I am hoping that Schumer and the Senate doesn't fall for a half backed infrastructure bill that is ill timed, will target the wrong objectives and help undermine government function by adding needless debt.

We should not give any concern about what, for example, Senator Sanders (a great Senator who I vigorously opposed as a Presidential candidate) or any Democratic office holder says or does.

We have only one objective and nothing else amounts to a hill of beans.

We are the debt collectors.

Republican Congressmen and Congresswomen have bought a completely irresponsible attack on the health of American citizens ala Trump University. For their tuition they have pledged their seats.

In the 8th Century BC Hosea the prophet looked at the kings of the Northern Kingdom and saw that they had forsaken their heritage and instead engaged in homicide, perjury, theft and debauchery. He correctly foresaw what would bring them down.

“They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.

The stalk has no head; it will produce no flour.

Were it to yield grain, foreigners would swallow it up.

. . .

Although they have sold themselves among the nations,

. . .

They will begin to waste away under the oppression of the mighty king."


Our only concern for the next 18 months is to become debt collectors and make sure that each and everyone of them pays their tuition fee in full.

Proof that the ACA is not "imploding" "collapsing" or "falling apart"

Every time one of the paid talking heads or Trump/Ryan assert that the ACA is collapsing I am tempted to throw my TV out the window. Fortunately there is an absolute proof that is not the case, look at where the basic architecture has been in place the longest and is immune from Republican subterfuge.

Look at the results in Massachusetts where the individual mandate with state subsidies was started in 2006:



https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massachusetts_health_care_reform#Outcomes

A more complete report released in January 2012 found between 2006 and 2010 emergency department visits and non-urgent visits had dropped 1.9 and 3.8% respectively.[59] A 2014 study found that the reform was associated with "significant reductions in all-cause mortality and deaths from causes amenable to health care."[60]

According to a 2016 study in the American Economic Journal, the reform "reduced the amount of debt that was past due, improved credit scores, reduced personal bankruptcies and reduced third-party collections."[61] The authors note that the "results show that health care reform has implications that extend well beyond the health of those who gain insurance coverage."[61]



In fact in 2012 virtually all opposition to it, even by Republicans, stopped:



https://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2012/01/20/romney-care-massachusetts-healthcare-reform/#304ace345b00

Repealing this miserably failure of a law, as some in the Wall Street Journal have called it, was not an issue in the 2010 gubernatorial campaign in the state. Even Republican juniors in the Senate and House are not working on repealing RomneyCare like similar freshman Republicans in Washington seem so hellbent on killing Obama's plan. The conservative Boston Herald says it is worth supporting. There is no rancor, or backlash. Once, a conservative group called Citizens For Life, an anti-abortion group in the state, tried to get signatures to repeal the law. They failed to get enough people to sign the petition.



The only reason that there are gaps and inconsistencies in the ACA, and not in Romney care is simple: Legislators in Massachusetts worked together to keep improving it while Republicans have worked to sabotage it.

There is nothing wrong in the ACA that cannot be fixed relatively easily, and there are still important elements that have not kicked in. Insurance requires certainty and consistently so that insurance company actuaries can have a stable foundation to plan on. The strength of the ACA architecture is demonstrated by the fact that despite an all out assault by the Republicans over 8 years it functions pretty well most of the time.

The only thing structurally wrong with the ACA is the Republican effort to sabotage it.

Russia is not our Adversary

Russia is not our Adversary.

Words matter and once you establish certain frames of reference then the terms define the acceptable outcomes and thereby significantly limit policy options. Limited options often are accompanied by heightened emotions and flash points. This was exactly how World War I was started, once a certain framing was accepted then it was inevitable that war would follow.

The word adversary is not the word for diplomacy or for normal relations between states. It is a term that presages conflict not resolution, military confrontation not diplomatic cooperation.

To begin with we have no inherent conflict with the people of Russia. Both countries have long term interests and there is some inherent competition of those interests but there is nothing that cannot be surmounted with reason, good will and mutual respect.

The current Russian leadership is the result of the greatest theft of state assets creating the world’s greatest kleptocracy. Putin is anti-democratic and has used blackmail, fear and murder to consolidate power. However we have allies, like President Duterte of the Philippines who has killed more and the House of Saud that are less democratic.

It was somewhat astonishing then that the House Committee today glibly asked the Director of the FBI and the NSA if Russia was our adversary and their glib reply was a single affirmative “yes”.

Historical Objectives of Russia

From Czarist Russia to Revolutionary Russia to the USSR and the current Russian Federation there has been a remarkably consistent Raison d'être for its political class. Consistent with Toynbee’s understanding that climate and geography are strong determinates of national character and interest Russia’s unique position and climate have forced a remarkably consistent nexus of interests for its leadership over 5 centuries. Those priorities have been:

1) Obtain a Warm Water Port. No land locked country has succeeded in developing a strong basis for its society. Here are two articles that explain the existential need for a warm water port and their movements in the Ukraine and Syria:

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/russia/warm-water-port.htm

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/10/navy-base-syria-crimea-putin/408694/

2) Security through Hegemony. Russia’s immense and long border make border security impossible. To achieve border security Russia has for centuries opted for the only practical option that would provide security in neighborhoods that can be aggressive, hegemony. By concentrating power onto smaller neighbors they are practiced at installing friendly governments in its neighbors that would provide a buffer from aggressive large countries. It usually is a positive cost/benefit formula. Usually not requiring force but when it does, like Czechoslovakia in 1968, it is a temporary high profile exercise followed by controlling an autonomous friendly client state. The initial movement of Soviet forces into Afghanistan was not an invasion against a government that was hostile to the Soviet Union but, strikingly similar to the Czech invasion, was made to support the Communist government that had taken control of the Peoples Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.

It is easy for Americans to be critical of Russian reflex to always try to establish intimidation of hostile neighbors but we have been almost universally surrounded by friendly neighbors our entire existence. If you want to see how we would react to hostile neighbors simply look at the disproportionate response that the US had by the relatively small challenge that Cuba presented.

3) Authoritarian Rule. With so much territory and so much divergence in culture between the European West and the Asian East Russia has always supported strong despotic leaders as they value order over chaotic discourse. Putin is not contrary to Russian rule but fills the same shoes that Catherine the Great (and others) wore, although he is more much more civilized than his ancient predecessors.

4) Acceptance as a European Equal. Russia doesn’t want to dominate Europe nor does it necessarily need to challenge the US. It does mean that a united European Community with a strong bond to the US challenges Russia’s essential identity and that they are determined to disrupt the coalition. At the heart of Russian leadership is the desire to be accepted as an equal member of standing in the European community and they don't care how many heads they have to smash to get that respect.

Trump is going to destabilize US/European relationships to the same degree that Bush destabilized middle Eastern relationships. The best response is for the US to remain united with Europe and patiently continue to present a united front for universal democratic values. If the outcome of Trump’s paranoia and transgressions is that we come to automatically label Russia as an “Adversary” then we will have increasingly limited options to trying to establish normal relations between countries based on mutual respect.

In pursuing the crimes of Trump and his associates and exposing how those crimes intersect with the criminal side of Russia we should not allow our bilateral relationship to escalate in a way that makes military confrontation, either directly or indirectly through surrogate conflicts, more likely. It is the kind of nuance that Trump could never fathom.

To give an example how we might be able to solve big problems with Russia and maintain our principles look at the Russian annexation of Crimea. Russia couldn't care less what we think in the short term. They will take decades of discomfort in exchange of obtaining a lock on centuries of a warm water port.

In the international law that covers the Suez and Panama Canal there is, I believe, the foundation of a settlement that would meet the important interests of all sides. The principle for the Suez and the Panama canal is that once you create a universal passage then you cannot use that passage to exploit a parochial advantage. If Egypt or Panama try to close the waterway then the international community has the right to restore its universal application, but they don't lose sovereignty. In the Crimea we could use the same principle of establishing an "international port and land bridge" to Russia. Like Suez and Panama the administration would be subcontracted to a private company and the fees for usage revert to the sovereign power, in this case Ukraine. If Ukraine did move to restrict access of goods to Russia then they would have the military right to enforce its reopening (like France/England did in Suez, or the US has in Panama). Ukraine would continue to hold the rights of sovereignty (for example any crimes committed in the port would still be tried in Ukraine) but an Intergovernmental Committee with the stakeholders could govern the running of the port and the corridor to Russia.

Trump is like a crazed bull in the glass emporium. It would be a tragedy if his Presidency gave Putin his ultimate victory by destabilizing not only the Atlantic alliance but created a chaos that allowed Putin to profit from his crimes.
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