Open Thread – 2 April 2017



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50 Responses to Open Thread – 2 April 2017

  1. helenk3 says:
    this should be and interesting change and should raise some eyebrows

  2. helenk3 says:
    this is how nonsensical the Russian interference story is making us look

  3. This one made me think of the old saying: “Too many cooks spoil the broth.”
    There are so many different intelligence agencies and too many people from the Obama administration still in them, and on and on….” There will never be a resolution to the quesions before us that I will trust as accurate.
    I would love to hear someone in authority say this: “Russia did not hack the election. Russia had no effect on the election. The result of the election are completely valid.”
    And then I would like someone in authority to say this: “There is definite evidence that the Obama administration set things in motion that caused those in the intelligence communities to ILLEGALY spy on the Trump team before he was even nominated and thereafter. This was an event as bad as Wathergate. But because Obama is no longer POTUS, we can’t encourage him to resign. But we can write up a definitive report so that it will go down in history books, and so it will also be available at Obama’s presidential libray in Chicago.”

  4. I remember well the mess the HRC team made of the Arab Spring in regard to Egypt. This is a touchy situation for sure. But I do think that it’s better here to try a completely different approach in regard to Egypt.

  5. rr says:

    I was wondering what SST readers consider to be the best and worst institutions in the defense/intel world? Can things improve under Trump, or is he too hands-off and his administration too divided to fix things.

  6. I still think of N. Korea as some wort of cartoon nation in a Marvel or DC comic book story. How someone so darned ridiculous and crazy rose to have complete power is beyond my grasp. Are all the powerful people in North Korea just somehow living the high life off that little petulant and evil man?
    The entire world, not just China, should come together to help give that little man a spanking and send him to a long, long time out.
    I sure hope Trump can find a way to deal with this situation. I would never even begin to think Obama would.

  7. turcopolier says:

    A ridiculous question. How many volumes would you like the answer in? pl

  8. helenk3 says:

    I agree. maybe somethings could start being done in congress.
    Also schumer and shiff would shut up, stop obstructing and apologize to the American people for their nonsense

  9. I am becoming increasingly worried about Erdogan. Call me racist, or call me anti-Islamic–I just don’t trust the way this man is taking Turkey back to an earlier mindset. And there is no way I would ever consider Turkey for NATO. I can’t believe he will ever do anything righ in regard to the Kurds.

  10. Doug Welch says:

    Well, if you had 90% of your cities burned to the ground by the US Air Force, you’d probably not be too friendly with the US nor be too happy about annual drills that are centered on nuking your country either.
    Also while several of South Korea’s political leaders from 1945-1980 (specifically Park Chung Hee) had track records as being fascist collaborators with the brutal Japanese occupiers, Kim Il sung was a fierce guerrilla leader fighting against them. Once you understand those omitted facts, North Korea seems a lot less irrational. Also many South Koreans are descendants of refugees that made it to South Korea without getting killed by the UN forces, so even among South Korean civilians, things are not as black and white as portrayed in the corporate MIC media.

  11. What do you want to bet that Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters think it’s a real offer?

  12. rr says:

    My apologies. I’ll gladly take book recommendations.

  13. C’mon…she is probably still struggling to make up for being so poor after she and Bill left the WH.

  14. I would like Trump to find someone with knowledge of all the various intelligence agencies and laws governing them to develop a plan to reorganize intelligence gathering completely. A total reorganization that results in clear guidelines might result in cleaning out some of the bad actors.
    And, of course, I would immediately rescind Obama’s late order for intelligence sharing until a total reorganization is put in place. At this point, I wouldn’t want Trump to really be involved. He does have other important agenda items to work on.
    There needs to be a reshuffling and a cleaning out of bad actors. People in the various agencies know who they are.
    I have no recommendations as to who should be in charge of coming up with the new structure.

  15. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Very funny.

  16. Mark Logan says:

    I strongly doubt they wished to. The question IMO is how they got involved to the current extent they are as much as why.
    A speculation: They did not want to be part of the election news cycle, but during the election The House oversight committee was preparing to conduct Benghazi-style harassment of Comey’s FBI, and I view Comey as nothing if not and “agency” man, over their failure to prosecute Clinton.
    Comey acted in a way which effectively checked that process by publicly announcing she was under investigation. Bullet dodged. The process used against State was involved interminable hearings and unending document requests. For an LE agency it could have been even worse to handle than it was for State. Resources, a lot of resources would have to be devoted to the task. They live in a world where how much LE they can conduct is limited to resources, and the public good would have to suffer. A moral choice could be easily rationalized, it’s safe to say.
    My theory is he is now making amends, as best as he can manage, anyway. A tricky business.

  17. ex-PFC Chuck says:

    PCD, It helps to have the foresight to choose the right parents.

  18. ex-PFC Chuck says:

    Headline: “Super SEALs: Elite Units Pursue Brain-Stimulating Technologies”
    From the link: “In experiments, people who were watching these screens … their ability to concentrate would fall off in about 20 minutes,” Szymanski said. “But they did studies whereby a little bit of electrical stimulation was applied, and they were able to maintain the same peak performance for 20 hours.”

  19. Thirdeye says:

    Amazing footage of a Kurdish assault on an ISIS position, with a couple of suicide belt detonations.

  20. LondonBob says:
    Been some questions regarding the new US administration’s approach to Israel-Palestine and so far looks like Netanyahoo is already missing Obama, that is before we take in to account the current approach to Syria. Explains some of the hysteria over Trump.

  21. Annem says:

    Which part of “they are hard-core Islamists” we do not understand?
    Ever since 2013, when Erdogan clearly demonstrated that he had taken a U-turn back into the authoritarian regimen from which he had guided Turkey out a decade before, the US has been largely silent on the destructive course the country has taken in foreign and domestic policy. Our leaders determined that an alliance with Turkey, especially within the context of NATO, was in our interests, no matter what. We turned a blind eye to the dalliance with ISIS, AQ and the rest of the jihadists. This was naive and Erdogan’s increasingly anti-US behavior and rhetoric has been the result. He feels he can scare us with a trip to Russia and unfortunately, it works. Meanwhile the 50% of Turks who are secular and democratic are astounded by our betrayal. Their last hope is the April 16 referendum on the so-called “executive presidency.” If the “yes” voters win, kiss the Turkey you may know goodbye.
    We need to remember that it was Erdogan’s initiative that brought the AKP government into dialogue [albeit secretly with PKK leader Ocalan], leading to a period full of hope that the civil war could end peacefully. For his own reasons, however, he pulled the plug on the dialogue and went back to war. He has all but destroyed the pro-Kurdish but multi-ethnic and religious HDP party through his campaign of arrests and accusations of terrorism following that party’s remarkable results in the first 2015 election.
    The one country that has figured out how to deal with the AKP government in Ankara is Russia and the Russians have taught Erdogan et al to speak and act with respect. We have finally started cooperating at ground level with the Russians in the fight in Syria against the jihadis, but only hesitantly. If we had engaged in this kind of cooperation from the beginning of Russian involvement, it would have been much easier. Meanwhile, as we mess around with Saudi Arabia against Iran, Moscow, though its thuggish subsidiary leader in Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, has been leading Sunni countries against their shared ideological enemy…Wahhabism!

  22. Valissa says:

    rr, perhaps an analogy would be helpful.
    Suppose for a moment that you are an expert on the ecosystem of Yellowstone National Park. Then imagine someone asks you to explain that how that ecosystem works and also tell them which animals are the best and worst ones. In a few paragraphs… and considering that the person who asked the question is a novice on this topic.
    Our government is a type of ecosystem. It is complex and multilevel. Simplistic assumptions and beliefs about this system are the norm in MSM and in common discourse. Not a criticism, as this is natural given how the human brain works. However, this blog attempts to address the gov’t as it really is in all it’s complexity and ambiguity.
    This blog is very much as ongoing graduate level seminar taught by the illustrious Prof Lang. It is difficult if not impossible to tidily summarize the knowledge gleaned here from Col. Lang and the many knowledgeable commenters. But if you observe over time, as well as searching through the archives, you will learn a lot here.

  23. Abu Sinan says:

    The Trump administration has pumped up our involvement in Yemen. There is talk of additional military support for the Saudis in the form of weapons, logistics and intelligence. It seems that some in the administration are buying into the Khaliji argument that the Houthis are Iranian proxies and Iran is seeking a foothold in the Peninsula. I attended a conference at the MEI here in DC on Friday where it seemed at least some diplomats are in support of this move, such as Anne Patterson (former diplomat). Whereas Patterson said there was no military solution for Yemen, she also said there was a stalemate at the moment that maybe additional US support could break. This seemed a bit at odds with her comment that there is no military solution.
    Given your past voiced opinions about the Houthis being an effective fighting force against AQAP, I am wonder what your thoughts are on this?
    Thank you.

  24. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Yes, it was a sad experience for me personally to see my hopes for a the emergence of a Liberal Dispensation – even in a very nascent form – in a Muslim country dashed.
    Such a dispensation would have had, in my opinion, a very positive effect on every one in the Muslim world regardless of their particular legalism orientation.
    And then there was that game he was playing; de-funding the co-ed schools and funding the segregated ones; once again demonstrating that control of women’s attire is the foremost object of Muslims everywhere – to the neglect of all that which ails their societies.

  25. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Tell her about the South Korean apartment blocks built on the mass-graves of the civilians.
    Or how Bill Clinton – in his hubris & love of cost-free solution – caused the United States to be permanently pinned down in that Northeastern corner of Asia.
    [He could have given them that damn power reactor and by now North Korea would likely be exporting transistor radios to US; with cool, 1960s retro look.]

  26. Jack says:

    We’ve had some good discussions on health care and in particular the high cost in the US relative to other western countries as well as its unsustainable 8-9% CAGR.
    Karl Denninger writes about the dire financial implications:
    And then he proposes a solution which is not a single payer system:
    I don’t have the domain knowledge to know if what he proposes will work. Curious what others here think?

  27. Eric Newhill says:

    Thirdeye, Pretty intense vid. I guess the ISIS fighters were faking a surrender, at the end of the vid, so they could get close enough to the Kurdish troops to explode the suicide belts and inflict casualties on the Kurds. The Kurds appear to be aware of the tactic and totally not fooled. So they shot the ISIS guys down.

  28. Eric Newhill says:

    The author is mostly correct in a theoretical kind of way and I generally agree with him. I’ve been saying all along that most everyone would be better off with catastrophic coverage only and then paying out of pocket (better yet a HSA) for everything else.
    I agree that a problem with the ACA issue is that too many people equate insurance with healthcare. Insurance is a financial instrument that one purchases to be protected against perceived risk of unexpected loss events that one either can not afford or would prefer to not be personally financially responsible for.
    On the flip side, every liberal I have ever talked to about this topic tells me that the problem is all of the millions of people who make too much income for Medicaid qualification, but simply cannot afford to save in an HSA or pay out of pocket for less than catastrophic events. These people are looking for nothing less than free healthcare. Period. I don’t know what to say about that and the author doesn’t address it.
    Also, the author doesn’t appear to have a good sense of the actual cost drivers of the ACA. A lot of is chronic cardiac conditions, end stage renal disease, HIV, etc…..all conditions that ARE catastrophic. The bulk of the ACA population, at least where I work, are down on their luck, broke, really sick people.
    So, by my calculations, if you moved the deductible level up, for the ACA population, the cost of the premium would not go down by much.
    It might even go up. You’d be making the investment in the premium even less attractive to the healthy people. They might figure they’d be less likely to gain any benefit from being insured and opt to just pay the penalty. Setting the right level of premium that covers the medical loss (medical costs) and keeps adverse selection at bay is a fine art.
    It’s the pre-existing condition law that really screws up the insurance model. People wait to sign up until they are quite ill and know they will utilize the insurance at a cost that exceeds what they will pay in premium . That is a rational choice. Then, they can drop off the insurance when they’re better. Repeat as needed. That really is the at the heart of the problem. I didn’t see the author address that point either.

  29. rr says:

    Thanks for your reply. I have in fact been reading COL Lang’s blog for many years but rarely comment. I suppose I was also looking for a form of career advice rather than lazily asking a question out of novice ignorance.
    If you are 30 years old and support a Langian foreign policy, what institutions should you look to join, particularly given the effect the rise of Trump will have on the establishment. Again, my apologies for upsetting COL Lang.

  30. turcopolier says:

    rr et al
    Has no one ever chewed your butt? I do it in cold blood in the hope that it might be motivating. You are not upsetting me. To paraphrase George Marshall “I have few personal feelings other than those reserved for Mrs. Marshall.” that does not mean that I will not continue to demand civility on SST. pl

  31. elaine says:

    ex-PFC Chuck, Check out “Insider Reveals How Darpa Will Control Our Minds:
    if even 20% of this is true…” story & interview on Zero Hedge, SHTF &
    others picked it up

  32. Jack says:

    Thanks for your always infomative on our health care system.
    What do you think about the proposal that all health providers publish a price list and charge the same for everyone irrespective of how they pay – cash or through an insurance company? Of course the insurance company depending on the policy could pay all or some percentage of that bill.
    Also, that all drug pricing at a wholesale level be at the same price that the drug company charges in other countries? It seems that would eliminate the price shifting.
    In looking at health care expenditure data, I noticed that per capita expenditures in the US was below the OECD median in the 60s and anecdotally I recall paying for most routine health care in cash. Now, it has exploded where the US spends twice the OECD median.
    It seems that Medicare & Medicaid expenditures are a freight train on a collision course with a wall at high speed. In less than 10 years at current growth rates it will be over $3 trillion and blow up the federal government’s finances.

  33. Eric Newhill says:

    Just to level-set. Insurance companies are able to negotiate paying only a % of what providers bill because insurance has a)the data and expertise to determine cost/benefit b) volume – and the ability to steer volume to contracted providers, who, in turn accept lower reimbursement on a per case basis and make their nut off volume steered to them. The “narrower” the network, the lower the cost, the lower the premium; all other things be equal.
    An individual has neither data or knowledge. So I don’t know how they would evaluate the value of what they are being charged. Moreover, providers cannot list their “price” for a given service because they contract at different rates with different insurance companies (e.g. Aetna can send 10,000 patients to a doctor, but Cigna can send 25,000 because they different market share in that region. So Cigna has more bargaining power). Even for the same insurance company, different rates for different products (e.g. we reimburse doctor X at 60% for our HMO product and 70% for our PPO product). There is no “insurance company price”. Price – or reimbursement – is just one variable of many that is considered when building a insurance carrier/provider contract.
    That said, an out of pocket payer will typically be faced with a significantly higher bill than what an insurance company pays. That never seemed fair to me. But that’s how doctors and hospitals maintain their negotiating position.
    Pharma (Rx) – I have less expertise on Rx, but I am told that Rx is largely developed in the US and it is in the US markets that all that R&D is recouped. The same drug sold in, say, Europe, is more of like an over-run sale. The Rx companies argue that if they were reimbursed in the US at European rates, they would cease R&D and maybe go out of business. Patent laws and FDA approval times mean that R&D must be recouped within a short time window. I don’t know how to parse out truth from negotiation on that one. Rx to me doesn’t deserve all the attention it gets as a cost driver. It’s never a primary cost driver in the risk pools I look at. The expensive new drug that someone can’t afford usually has some earlier generic substitute that is at least almost as good, is time proven and cheap.
    The solution to all of the out of control cost inflation is to ration care. Nothing else will stop the trend. Nothing! Use the cheaper earlier generation generic version of a drug. Limit who can get procedures and the circumstances under which those procedures are to be utilized. But politicians would have to say ‘no” and then this would cause people to complain that they aren’t getting the most and best for everyone. At root is a refusal to take good care of oneself, face one’s mortality and the fact that life isn’t fair.

  34. VietnamVet says:

    Excellent summary. The basic problem is money and the financialization of healthcare. Together with the abdication by government of the control of corporate greed, costs are skyrocketing out of control. All that is left of public health is Hospital ERs stabilizing patients before kicking them out on the street. Donald Trump is right. The ACA is going to collapse. The increased mortality rate outside the cities in the USA is the symptom of the system failure that is inevitable. The only way to prevent it is to end the volunteer wars, and use some of the funds to rebuild the public health system and give Americans community based preventive and hospice care. Since I am in the VA system, I’d love it to expand to cover my family. If Hospitals remain solely for raking in profits for their owners, then there has to be government cost controls and a tax based catastrophic cost coverage for all.

  35. charly says:

    The Dutch have a kind of ACA system in which everybody is insured. They also have a system in which hospitals “voluntary” publish their price list but it is a complete joke because hospitals can’t really compute the prices for each individual treatment. What they do is they negotiated over the complete payment an insurance company will pay in a year and than fill in the price of every treatment and the expected patients to get to that number. My guess is that the big American insurance and hospital companies do the same.
    ps. per capita expenditure would unlikely be below OECD median because in the 60’s the wages were much higher in the US than in the other OECD countries. What could be is that the share of GDP could be lower.

  36. Eric Newhill says:

    Never forget the greed of the doctors. That is a huge factor.
    I like what you say about public health programs and local community clinics where doctors and nurses might do pro bono work once or twice a month. I believe that community based solutions should be considered more. For example, we have a hospice house in my town. It’s totally free to the residents. There are also nice rooms upstairs for visiting family and friends. Also totally free. The house is staffed 24/7 with volunteers. People like me put in one 4 hour shift a week. There are two paid nurses working separate shifts. One in the a.m. and one in the p.m. Their salary is funded by donations. There is a doctor that stops by in the morning to monitor, change prescriptions, etc that does pro bono work when Medicare or other insurance isn’t in place to cover the cost; which is minimal because it’s only palliative care. The house has been operating smoothly for many years. When the house needs some maintenance, skilled tradesmen, usually from the local free masons lodge, come over and do that work on a volunteer basis. Wonderful place.

  37. Thanks to all who answered me. I do appreciate the insights. I taught in a public high school with a large population of students from various Asian countries: Cambodia, Thailand, some Hmong, Chinese, and a few Koreans. For some reason we did not have many Japanese. I enjoyed most of those students but was aware that the different nationalities didn’t mix much in the halls.
    And, of course, the Asian students were graduating with the highest grade point averages.
    But, I had not really ever, for some reason, studied anything about what happened in Korea and/or why the Japanese and Koreans dislike each other so much.
    So, I will view KJU slightly differently now, but you do have to admit that he is some strange dude, as some of my students would have said.
    And….didn’t Slick Willy do a lot of messing in Russia’s economy, too? I’m not talking about the current Clinton Foundation stuff, but earlier.

  38. I agree with you, of course, and did know much of this. I am a new person to this site. I am used to sites where the people who comment do not really know much about foreign affairs–and sad to say–don’t seem to care. So, you can’t really say much on them.
    I am enjoying getting far better information here.
    Awhile back, I did step in an advise an old high school friend and her husband NOT to visit Istanbul. She had asked me about it because I had been there back in 2005 or 2005 (can’t remember which right now). Erdogan had not yet taken over. But I had been watching the news.
    I remember when it seemed the biggest problem with Turkey was their refusal to admit the Armenian genocide.

  39. Thanks for your comment. I think I do understand how the FBI as an intelligence is different from the others. But, his opening statements clearly seemed to say they though HRC fit the definition of someone who should have been prosecuted. It did not help that Slick Willy and Loretta “Stand by her Pres” Lynch had met in that Phoenix airport to discuss grandchildren–or something.
    You are absolutely right though. I remember the mess of the Watergate hearings and the Whitewater hearings. We really need our politicians to govern and quit getting caught up with hearings. Too bad we have so many crooked–er quesionable–politicians.

  40. Cee says:

    Press TV interview of Scott Bennett and Wilmer Leon On exposing The Deep State, Gen. Flynn and Trump

  41. J says:

    It appears there is a problem regarding Gen. McMaster, according to a retired U.S. Military Policeman Retired Colonel Arnaldo Claudio who investigated McMasters, it appears that McMasters should have faced war crimes prosecution instead of being promoted to General.

  42. turcopolier says:

    Anyone can be accused of anything. pl

  43. Fred says:

    Glad to see Univision on the beat, only took them a decade. Of course there’s always Univision’s impartiality to keep in mind:

  44. Keith Harbaugh says:

    Not sure where this should be posted,
    but I think it clearly deserves to be posted somewhere:
    “The Happy-Go-Lucky Jewish Group That Connects Trump and Putin”
    Where Trump’s real estate world meets a top religious ally of the Kremlin.
    LOTS of information about Putin’s ties to Chabad, various oligarchs, and to Trump.

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