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grantcart's Journal
grantcart's Journal
March 24, 2017

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:


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:


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.
March 21, 2017

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:



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.

March 15, 2017

Why Trump self leaking the 2005 Returns is the most likely explanation

1) Shows a significant income (which Trump's ego demands) and avoids huge loss write off that we know other years show and relatively large tax actually paid.

2) Doesn't have any smoking gun information, doesn't have any schedules, predates his large Russian investment years.

The most logical conclusions we can make is that who ever leaked this didn't just get it and has a lot more information including the full return. If true then why are they leaking it now? Why are they leaking only this little bit?

The most logical answer is in Trump's own actions. He will continue to try to hijack the conversation in order to divert attention from substantive issues. Maddow refuses to be lured by tweets so he lures her with minimal tax returns.

What are we not talking about because of this?

1) CBO report on Republican health care plan
2) Sessions perjury follow up
3) Comey confirming (reportedly tomorrow) FBI investigation on Russian interference with our elections
4) Massive change in tax burden for the rich
5) Anbang sweetheart property sales to Kushner
6) Trump allegations that President Obama wiretapped him.

Trump has a clever strategy: Try to win every news cycle, but if you can't win it then flood it with less than significant shiny objects to keep people talking.

The problem for Trump is that we are on to him.

March 6, 2017

Do you remember the Good Ole Days?

Those were the days when the President of the United States used to give thought provoking speeches that challenged everyone to listen to their better angels and find practical benefits to help those who were bearing a heavy burden whether it was because of their sexual identity, lack of health care or ambiguous immigration status and not a President that gave inane knee jerk reactions to what he saw on Fox News.

Other nations not only respected us and our government but they actually had a clear idea of what we stood for and what we wanted to do.

We went 8 years with virtually no infighting in the government, no unauthorized leaks by government officials and not a single case of perjury by cabinet level officials.

Taxes were reduced on the lower half and increased on the elites.

Lives were saved, family assets secured as millions were able to get health insurance.

Instead of adding tens of billions to the defense budget and rattling sabres at not only foes but also friends we reduced our military footprint and sat down with advisories to find the maximum possible agreement.

People were valued for their character and not vilified because of their religion.

We talked with our neighbors to find joint approaches that would be mutually beneficial.

Leadership positions were fully staffed by competent and outstanding figures from a broad selection of Americans, not relatives and obvious sycophants.

We had a President that was cool under pressure, even with constant bigoted taunting and not a President who is hot under the collar and constantly making bigoted taunts.

The President set a record for calm and comity and not vitriol and comedy.

Its been a long time. Its been exactly 45 days but it seems like a generation.

Only 1,416 days until the next inauguration.

March 2, 2017

Trump finally gives a speech with limited crazy and Sessions crushes the next days news cycle.

When Sessions was nominated I predicted that it actually was a good thing because

There is an even bigger upside to Sessions. Unlike other positions like Perry in treasury where you can get the top lobbyists in the energy industry to give you a list of things to do the Attorney General needs to have a deep and sophisticated understanding of constitutional principles, precedents and complex legal strategy. . . Sessions will very quickly be over his head and will cripple the Trump administration

but that was based on basic logic. Only Nostradamus could have predicted that he would actually commit perjury in the hearings.

So lets count the ways Sessions has helped us "win":

1) Kills the only positive news cycle Trump has had since he took the oath.
2) Going to ruin the roll out for Muslim Ban 2.0
3) Elevates the Russian scandal and undermines every statement the administration makes about it.
4) Makes the selection of a Special Prosecutor almost certain.
5) Opens up Sessions to what is going to amount to a "Second Confirmation Hearing". I think it is clear that Sessions never developed a lot of friends in the Senate and there will be a whole bunch of Republicans who will be grateful for the opportunity to show how "independent" they are. That includes everyone of the Senators that ran for President who Sessions undermined by giving an early endorsement for Trump.

Just think how happy Graham is going to be to bash the archetypical typecast of the prejudiced Southerner, especially one that has been so bigoted to gays.

Sessions is about to discover that his family is in desperate need to have him close by for more frequent family time but I hope that he lingers because Sessions is the gift that will keep on giving us wins and I am not tired of winning.

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