Saturday, June 24, 2017

COTW: Their Bad

credit: Nate Beeler, Columbus Dispatch
Terrifying is the right word. The Senate version of Repugnant health insurance is even worse than the House version, if that is possible. It will eventually eliminate Medicaid altogether and eliminates the personal mandate to obtain health insurance.  Even that compromised incrementalist, Obama, posted that the repeal bill drafted in secret is a massive transfer of wealth disguised as healthcare that is fundamentally mean at its core.  Most of the tax cuts used to provide affordable health insurance benefit the wealthy.  Low-income Americans will pay higher premiums for bigger deductibles as a consequence.  Harvard researchers estimate 18,000 to 27,000 more deaths by 2026 as the result of the repeal of Obamacare.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Creature Feature: The Ladies in Charge

BBC produces some of the best wildlife features on Earth. Here is an intimate nighttime look at the courtship of the strangest of birds, the New Zealand brown kiwi (Apteryx mantelli):

Thursday, June 22, 2017

COTW: The Gap Gets Bigger

According to Bernie Sanders, our friendly token socialist in Congress, the Senate's secret Obamacare repeal will transfer $200 billion more to the richest Americans. The sad fact is the Democrats are not offering a viable alternative to Trump's faux-populist fascism. The Democrats lost another House election in Georgia yesterday after spending a record amount to purchase a seat. A party official summed the loss up with a quip: "our brand is worse than Trump". So this chart will not improve under Trump's reign:

The key to passage of this "worst than expected" bill is the budget reconciliation process in the Senate. Repuglians need it to pass the repeal by a simple majority vote which they hold, otherwise Democrats could filibuster it and require a three-fifths majority for passage. Reconciliation depends upon a passing score made by the supposedly non-aligned Congressional Budget Office. That process is expected to be completed next week.

Monday, June 19, 2017

One Step Closer to War

A US fighter shot down a Syrian jet northwest of Raqqa on Sunday moving the superpowers one step closer to direct confrontation in the Middle East. The
Russian defense ministry issued a warning to the United States, saying any coalition aircraft east of the Euphrates would be treated as targets and tracked by surface to air missile units. Russia also suspended the direct communications channel set up under Obama's rule to prevent such confrontations. The US military did not use the channel prior to shooting down the Syrian Su-22 fighter-bomber [photo: Polish Air Force]  according to Russian officials, who accused the US of "deliberate failure to make good on its commitments". They also equated the attack with aiding the terrorists operating in Syria.

The US supports anti-government rebels that includes fighters aligned with ISIS. The Syrian jet dropped bombs near coalition forces fighting to dislodge ISIS from Raqqa when it was attacked by a F/A 18E Superhornet. A UN observer reports that the coalition's air offensive in support of Kurdish fighters is killing a "staggering" number of civilians. The independent monitoring group, Airwars, found the US coalition killed between 348 and 521 civilians in May alone, a rise of almost 20 per cent on the previous month. Reports from the front also say white phosphorus, an incendiary that burns on contact, is used by the US led coalition.  ISIS holds thousands of civilians hostage in its self-declared capital. Under a hail of artillery fire and air strikes Kurdish forces have captured outlying parts of the city. Fighting will intensify as they move towards the center.

This news created by his generals* must be welcome relief to the Current Occupant who is fighting to keep his administration from sinking beneath a deluge of political scandal related to his Russian Connection. Washington will be temporarily distracted out of its wits as the confrontation in Syria over the civil war reaches a dangerous flash point.

*It would not be the first time in American history that the Deep State created an incident in pursuit of its policies. See Chapter Four, JFK and the Unspeakable, for an account of the military coup against South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem. Kennedy had decided by October 1963 to remove American forces from Vietnam; he ordered the military to draw up the plans. But his withdrawal was thwarted when the bombing of a shrine in Hue killed many Buddhists. Buddhists claimed that Diem regime was responsible for the attack. The CIA under Allen Dulles had extensively infiltrated the Diem government at all levels. Political unrest in the country created by the incident made withdrawal politically unacceptable. The Deep State wanted to continue the fighting in South Vietnam and even expand it. Diem and his brother were assassinated by coup leaders after the US gave them the green light. After Kennedy was murdered in Dallas, President Johnson massively increased direct American involvement in Vietnam's war of liberation. The rest is history.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Sioux Win in Federal Court

Natives standing up at Standing Rock to protect their rights to clean water, got a significant show of support from a federal district court judge.  Judge Boasberg recognized the Standing Rock tribe's interest in Lake Oahe from which it obtains its water supplies. The Lake was created from 56,000 acres of the Standing Rock Reservation and 104,420 acres of Cheyenne River Sioux trust lands.  Federal treaty law requires the tribes be consulted early in the development process which means in time for the tribes "to provide meaningful comments that may affect the decision".  That didn't happen in the case of the Dakota Access pipeline.  The Sioux found out about the development project by reading the local Bismark newspaper.  There will be more decisions and more litigation.  Its time for the local governments to adhere to their own rhetoric and obey the law of the land, and not treat water advocates like domestic jihadists.  If that means tolerating encampments on what used to be Indian land and ending criminal prosecutions of protestor exercising their supreme Constitutional rights, so be it.  The legal process needs time to work, not fire hoses.

COTW: Jeff Sessions Unplugged

credit: Plante, Tulsa World
Attorney General Jeff Session's testimony before the Senate committee investigating the Russian hack attack was a tour de force of evasion.  As political theater it was predictable and therefore boring. Washington kabuki has gone out of style as entertainment in 'Merica.  The latest significant development in the latest political scandal to wrack the country is that the Trumpster is officially under investigation by Special Counsel Mueller for obstruction of justice.  How could he not be and Washington still maintain its veil of "plausible deniability"*? Trump has all but admitted he attempted to block former FBI Director Comey's investigation of his Russian Connection by firing him.  Trump has broken a record of sorts: he has exceeded both Bill Clinton, and the master of deceit, Richard Nixon, in the least amount of time in office before being investigated for possible impeachable offenses.  More dirt will come.  Kudos, Donald, your shady business deals have saved the Republic!

*Officially enshrined as national policy of the warfare state in National Security Council Directive 10/2 issued June, 1948. President Eisenhower still said it best at the end of his tenure, though he did nothing about the problem, "In the counsels of government , we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.  The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.  We must never let the wight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes."  US Person would only add that the eloquent warning issued by the Commander-in-Chief in 1961 is now a disastrous reality, and is attributable to what is more accurately labeled the military-corporate-financial complex.