Posts tagged ‘sanctions’

Monday Morning

I drove my son to the airport at o’dark thirty this morning. It is about a 65 mile drive each way and we left my place at 4:20 am for a 6:30 flight to San Diego. Nothing is ever simple. It turns out that they are doing major work on the bridge that crosses the Sacramento River so we were warned of massive traffic backups. So we were seeing how close you can get to our normal turnoff (I-5) before you get caught in traffic and running alternate routes through our heads. It actually wasn’t that bad and we were able to stay the normal route with little delay, sort of. Then about 2 miles from the Airport, stop and go traffic on a real straight stretch of I-5 and sure enough some kind of spin out and major crash. All I could think of is how do they do it? It is straight, there are no on or off ramps, and they run into each other. Made it to the airport on time so no problem there, but on the return trip I noticed that we got through the construction just in time as there were major backups. Do we drive anywhere anymore that does not have some kind of delay/construction?

Okay on to news of the day. All the talk is about sanctions on North Korea that were worked out in a conference in the Philippines with all the South East Asia nations and us of course. I hope it works because the alternative is very frightening. It really is the only way to go at this time, but I have little optimism. The big assumption here is that North Korea wants more than anything else to stay in power and they will see that to do this they will be willing to give up their nuke program. The thinking is that China wants to maintain North Korea as a southern buffer to USA aligned South Korea, and China has no interest in seeing North Korea fail because there would be a massive refugee problem as North Koreans have a chance to flee their living hell.

I don’t think this logic holds because North Korea is first and foremost an abomination as a country. There is no way for the North Koreans to continue to hold power without the extreme dictatorship and threat from the wicked United States. The assumption that this mentality is rational, I believe, is flawed. Or maybe it is rational. The only way they can stay in power is to hold on to their nukes and continue to stoke the fears of invasion. If things got materially better there, would not the improved economic situation drive change that would be antithetical to the North Koreans holding power? The calculation has to be what can prevent a war until the North Korean regime collapses under its own weight hoping they don’t decide to take Southeast Asia with them. Then there is the dubious calculation that we will empower this brutal dictatorship to remain as long as there is no nuclear threat. I think North Korea sees through this one.

Paul Krugman has an interesting discussion about where Democrats should go on healthcare and I think he is dead on. If you followed my discussions before, to reduce the cost of healthcare for all of us, we have to share the costs with the widest possible pool (universal coverage) and ensure that the plans we have cover most of our needs (regulated market). Now how you get there is the issue (and not counter to what Republicans are pushing which is “choice and deregulated markets” which the CBO scores again and again as a failure). So is single payer the answer? The answer is maybe, but he points out that other countries get there by everything from Obamacare expanded to Government healthcare:

Look at the latest report by the nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund, comparing health care performance among advanced nations. America is at the bottom; the top three performers are Britain, Australia, and the Netherlands. And the thing is, these three leaders have very different systems.

 

Britain has true socialized medicine: The government provides health care directly through the National Health Service. Australia has a single-payer system, basically Medicare for All — it’s even called Medicare. But the Dutch have what we might call Obamacare done right: individuals are required to buy coverage from regulated private insurers, with subsidies to help them afford the premiums.

 

And the Dutch system works, which suggests that a lot could be accomplished via incremental improvements in the A.C.A., rather than radical change. Further evidence for this view is how relatively well Obamacare, imperfect as it is, already works in states that try to make it work — did you know that only 5.4 percent of New Yorkers are now uninsured?

So he then argues that give the systems in place, instead of focusing on single payer, we improve Obamacare with maybe a single payer option as politically and functionally the best way forward. I have to agree. I have argued for single payer forever, but I am not ideologically wedded to it and neither are most Democrats although that is how they are painted. What we want is universal coverage and the best way forward to do that. That is the real debate and I think Krugman nailed it.

Finally, I think what is worth noting this morning is how the Trump administration is trying to open up public lands in the West to coal mining. Now aside from the argument that coal used in anything destroys the planet with its CO2 emissions and the damage done to the environment itself in the mining, the question has to be, who wants the coal when there are cheaper cleaner fuels? Also one might ask, what jobs when coal mining in general is going to more and more mechanization. But the real point here is that there is not a shortage of coal based up demand and so this is an attempt to say, if we supply it they will buy it. I think we have already seen this fail over and over again. There has to be pentup demand. So this, besides destroying the environment and contributing to the overheating of the planet will be another experiment like Kansas (tax cuts will pay for themselves) where we will see the failure of Republican ideas. As Thomas Wolfe famously wrote, You Can’t Go Home Again. Time to move on.

Where there is Smoke…

No, this is not Benghazi.  In Benghazi, they got all the documents and there was no there there.  In Russia Gate we have no idea what the documents say.  But there is way too much smoke, where before the smoke was created by Darrel Issa and his band of minions.  Now we are hearing the Democrats are playing partisan politics.  Well maybe, but instead having nothing there is a whole list of damaging evidence that something was going on.  Oh, and why not show us his tax returns?  Why are the Republicans so busy not requesting them?

So let’s review:

  1. We have now undeniable evidence (which we can’t see) that the Russians hacked at least the DNC and then feed these leaks to Wikileaks and created fake news to try to at the least surrey Hillary Clinton and make any administration by her hamstrung (It was going to be anyway with a Republican Congress)
  2. We have Cheeto-Head equating Russia with this country’s political murders
  3. We have Cheeto-Head admiring Putin and trying paint him as the wounded party in Eastern Europe
  4. We have Putin not retaliating after Obama’s sanctions for hacking which threw out a bunch of his spies
  5. We have evidence, again leaked, that members of Cheeto-Head’s campaign having contacts with Russian operatives
  6. We have Cheeto-Head telling the Russians to continue hacking Hillary’s account as it is a good thing
  7. We have Cheeto-Head not releasing his taxes after the campaign as promised
  8. We have the Trump Administration interfering in an investigation by requesting FBI, Intelligence Agencies, Justice, and leaders of the GOP to tamp down the belief that the meetings were anything but tit for tat on sanctions, or had anything to do with the hacking
  9. We have the leaked report that the Obama Administration in its last weeks, seeing more and more of the evidence, tried to spread that classified evidence to as many government agencies as possible so that the Cheeto-Head Administration could not sweep it under the rug
  10. And now we have Jeff Sessions caught in a lie or at least a diversion from the fact that as a Cheeto-Head’s surrogate he did have close door meetings with the Russian Ambassador (Sanctions?)

Way too much smoke here that could be easily wiped away with a release of the tax returns and statements from DHS and the FBI about the recording they have.  But instead they say nothing.  That says a lot to me.  First, there is a real problem and it is a political hand grenade or they would have said something by now.  Second, why are the Republicans and the Administration working so hard to make this go away, instead of just getting out the facts and end it?  On, and imagine what would have happened if the tables were turned, and this was Hillary with a Republican Congress.

Now for my suppositions, I think this is all about money and greed, not from Putin who has real aims to divide and conquer in Europe, but from the Cheeto-Heads.  We know there are billions to be made if the sanctions are lifted.  What we don’t know, but I would bet my last glass of wine on, is that Cheeto-Head is tied up with Russian Oligarchs and their money.  He probably laundered the money through his many companies and allowed them to offshore their cash.  I think that for the most part, Cheeto-Head has run a Ponzi scheme, leveraging one deal after another, and Russian cash was critical.  I think the Russian government probably has information on this and while not overtly blackmailing Cheeto-Head, pointing out that the lift of sanctions and other favors would grease both palms.

I don’t know any of this, but there is a ton of circumstantial evidence that points this way.  This is a no-brainer for the country.  The Republicans could lose their hold on Trump and their conservative agenda so they want to fight this.  Here is another question I ask:  Why would then not want him replaced by Pence who is their boy unless there is something that raises the question of the whole legitimacy of the election.  We need an independent panel, and get on with it.  We having dancing now in the Senate and House panels, but they will hit a wall and it will fall apart.  Better to get on with now than drip, drip, drip.

And while we are distracted Cheeto-Head is wiping away regulations that protect people and the environment for jobs.  This is such a sad joke.  It won’t create jobs, just destroy more of America and make fighting global warming and pollution harder.  Remember when Trump admitted that Health Care is complicated?  So are regulations in our country and the unintended consequences getting rid of them could be massive. Just another day when you put the Republicans in charge.

Netanyahu

So John Boehner has invited Netanyahu to speak to Congress violating many protocols, good sense, and had a Democrat done this, with a Republican President, it would have been called treason. It’s bad because it plays into local Israeli politics (election), allows a foreign leader a platform to affect American politics, and of course to push bad policy on Iran. It is a slap in the face to the President and another in a long line of ways to disrespect him.

But it was smart local politics if you don’t give a wit about successful foreign policy. Democrats also have to pander to many Jewish communities where Netanyahu can do no wrong (much like many Republicans pander to the old Cuban communities) so they will get “bipartisan” approval of his speech. As an aside, one has to wonder when Jewish support might wane given that the policies of Netanyahu simply give us unrelenting strife in Palestine. But this is about Iran.

The President is negotiating with Iran on their nuclear program and he has been most honest about it, the negotiations may not work. And the alternative is war. This would not be some surgical strike sold to us as “a cake walk”, because the whole Middle East could well blow up. May be blowing up anyway, but why hasten it? Congress wants to pass more sanctions on Iran to force them to deal. President Obama says enough is enough and let’s wait until we see the outcome of the negotiations before we raise the ante and maybe lose our sanctions partners.

Republicans argue, as the have on our failed policies in Cuba, that the Iranians are at the bargaining table because of the sanctions, and more sanctions, or the threat of more will make them more pliable. It is a rather simple minded construct of human nature that ignores our own history.

Does anybody remember the Boston Tea Party? The King of England, to support his flagging treasury, added a tax to tea which the colonists felt was the last straw in the game of taxation without representation. You really have to understand those times to realize that this was the straw the broke the camels back because most colonists were British citizens and to break from all they knew and identified with was a radical step pushed upon them by an unjust King.

So how are Iranians any different. They have their national pride. They have a real interest in secure nuclear power as they see oil as simply a tool of political oppression. So more sanctions treats them like children and may be the last straw. No we don’t want them to have nukes, but the Israelis do and from their point of view, with our close relationship with Saudi Arabia (Sunnis), they may feel highly threatened. Now Congress may want to add the last straw.

So why not let the negotiations play out? Well I can’t help think the Republicans are being short sighted, more interested in a slap at the President than in good foreign policy, and like almost everything they do, it is for short term political gain at the expense of the best interests of the country. They are playing a very dangerous game. I do have one suggestion though. If the negotiations fail and we do end up going to war, guess who I want on the front lines, lead by Col. John Boehner?

Get Tough Mr. President, but Don’t Get in the Way of Big Business

John McCain wants us to arm Ukraine right now. Okay, but wouldn’t Russia look at that as a provocation and encourage it to invade Ukraine before they are armed?

Big business and especially big oil is saying don’t do anything that would mess up our deals in Russia. Hmm. Remember the scene in that classic movie Jaws where the Mayor refused to close down the beach because it was the height of the tourist season? Is there a difference? Fix it, but don’t make me suffer.