Women being harassed is Hollywood.

Yes Debette Goldry (aka as the very talented and funny Kate McKinnon), it sure seems that way. For some time now. A Vanity Fair article from back in 2003 detailed the very disturbing, and hardly surprising story of Patricia Douglas who was raped by David Ross at a swanky bachelor’s party thrown by MGM apparently.

In 1937.

As the Vanity Fair article recycles through the media again after its initial publication in 2003, it is more than passing curious that the story of a plucky Irish American woman in her early 20’s who fought back and was destroyed by a judicial system in bed (sorry but what other metaphor is possible?) with Hollywood and worthy of a tinpot Latin America narco-dictatorship, aroused little commentary on how true Patricia’s story was in 2003, or 1983, or 1993, or 2013. For example.

All years in which Harvey Weinstein was harassing or assaulting, or possibly raping vulnerable women who were part – the lower part usually – of Hollywood’s structure. I forget who the actress was back in perhaps the 90’s who bluntly stated that the way to get cast in a role was to be someone who the producer or casting director, or whoever, wanted to have sex with. I think she may have used one verb, rather the cautious clause I just wrote.

Had she had to deal with Weinstein himself, or someone of similar predatory instincts? What do you think?

And yes, it is more than possible that as the floodgates open, President Trump may find himself once more in the path of an oncoming rush of women trying to revive possible sexual assault charges against a sitting president. Of course, it wouldn’t be the first time.

But here’s the thing. Women being forced to, or intimidated into, or even willingly participating in sex with powerful politicians has been around in D.C. for a long, long, long time. Is it worse now? Perhaps, but it’s hard to tell, because of the legal clout a senator or governor or other powerful politician has at his disposal. It may be that these type of stories see daylight a little more quickly nowadays. Maybe.

So yes, Hillary is beyond hypocrisy on this one. Hands splayed girlishly on Weinstein’s fat chest at some do for the powerful, wealthy and connected. No surprise at that photo. And the West Coast righteous and their several day silence at Harvey’s scandal, Kimmel and the rest. Of course they’re hypocritical. If you’re not, it’s much harder for your predatory instincts and your righteousness to co-exist in Hollywood,

Hypocrisy shouldn’t be the main issue here. The issue should be how cute Harvey looks in an orange jump suit with El Lobo, the tattooed narco thug, eyeing him intensely before shower time.

Yes, that last comment is a bit much. Or should be. But that’s my point. In the culture wars of today, the eventual response to this scandal will be something like hysterically denying white males access to campuses, community centers, heck theatres on Broadway, and even schools where their own kids attend class, in order to root out the obvious cause of cases like Weinstein: white male power.

Instead, how about a justice system that handles sexual assault in all its forms in a reasonable, efficient way that does not make the life of a victim hell on wheels a second time during the trial process. That’s a tough ask with the power of trial lawyers. And on the other hand, how about a justice system that imposes a reasonable restraint on the crazed identity policies of campuses across America?

Another tough ask in today’s culture wars. Because cases of rape have now become another weapon to hurl at the other side.

Bedlam – a Seattle coffee shop – does not want you if you are pro-life. In fact, they will aggressively and abusively hurl insults at you as a form of defense apparently. That is certainly what happened last week when a group of pro-life activists decided to grab some java after putting up posters in the area.

The video of Bedlam owner Ben Borgman going postal and explicit on the group is viral by now and it is a little shocking, but not because it reveals anything surprising – gay sex is an issue that divides and divides deeply in the cultural wars in America and Europe and elsewhere. What is just a touch surprising is to see how it is used as an angry weapon to be thrown in the face of those who you disagree with.

But wait a second. The disagreement was over abortion, and specifically the use of graphic images of fetuses in the material the group was posting. This seems to have been their great sin, according to Borgman. And from this Borgman deduced that they were persons of faith who must oppose gay sex as sinful and gay marriage as wrong as well. So he went on a rant that ended up with him suggesting that he’d love to sodomize Jesus Christ. As well as denouncing the pro-lifers as being led by Satan.

Yes, it’s probably a logical deduction to make, that someone who is pro-life is likely not as tolerant of gay sex or gay marriage as someone who supports Planned Parenthood, for example. But all it takes nowadays is one trigger issue to divide you, in the eyes of the person shouting, on almost every other issue, right down to what neighborhood you choose to live in. And the rage that Bedlam owner Borgman displayed is one that is being directed at the very edifice of Western culture. You’re pro-life, therefore you must be an islamophobic, white supremacist who wants to kill immigrants. Because you put up a poster that (explicitly) denounces abortion as murder. And Columbus was a genocidal murderer while the Aztec culture was practically Buddhist. Jesus is hot and Che Guevara is a saint.

The polls of course show that dividing between so-called white patriarchal culture and everyone else gets a little tricky on issues precisely like abortion. Hispanics in America – many first or second generation immigrants – are more likely to be against many forms of abortion than a coffee shop owner in Seattle might be. But this isn’t how the culture wars work. They work by prying apart rather than finding common ground. As I keep saying, this comes from their roots in Marxist liberation theory, where revolution demands constant raw material in the form of customs, social norms and structures, laws and conventions, all as fodder to be hurled into the mouth of the insatiable behemoth of constant revolution.

So as the left and center celebrates the 50th anniversary of Ernesto Guevara Lynch de la Serna (known to us all as Che Guevara) the ghost of the revolutionary might take comfort that even if nowadays armed guerillas in Latin America are mostly drug smuggling killers, people can still work themselves into a rage over a poster of a fetus. And even if the fact is that if Che were brought back from his grave he’d be in North Korea or Afghanistan trying to kill Americans, a coffeeshop owner can feel proud that he signaled his vice in such a progressively virtuous manner by insulting people of faith.

Will Ben Borgman be summoned by the Washington State Human Rights Commission, as Colorado Christian baker Jack Phillips was? Ah, but this is different. Borgman is a cultural warrior, defending a safe space for abortion-friendly non-homophobic, progressive, tax-raising Seattle denizens. And woe betide you if you dare cross into a self-selected neighborhood that does not hold your views. And yes, that works both ways nowadays.

This was another nasty skirmish in today’s cultural wars. Anyone who has any idea when all this might possibly de-escalate, please let the rest of us know.

From the WSJ’s article a couple of days ago we find out this:

Back a year or two ago, some idiot NSA subcontractor (or contractor) took home some key documents or took home a data stick or flash drive and worked on or viewed these documents on his home PC. That meant that the Kaspersky Labs antivirus software running on his machine or even embedded on his machine without his (or her) knowledge, went to work and found something.

What the Kaspersky Labs apparently found were hacking tools the NSA uses as part of it’s cyber surveillance. NSA’s core mission is signals intelligence after all. This raises more than a few problems:

  • Did the Kaspersky Labs software find malware which is indeed how some of NSA’s (perhaps a large part – who knows?) spyware apparently works. In other words, was the antivirus software merely doing it’s job? In which case it would have sent a report back to Kapersky Labs Head Office. In or near Moscow.
  • Who then within Russia’s intel services (the FSB and whoever else does this sort of thing in Russia) managed to access these NSA hacking tools (most likely some form of malware)? Was it an FSB mole discreetly working at Kaspersky, or does someone at FBS HQ merely call up the Russian company and request they hand over the information? Former American intel operators seem divided on this issue, as far as the quotes in Cipher’s recent story go.
  • Do Russia’s intel agencies piggyback Kaspersky’s software through a massive hacking breach? Most experts seem to think this is unlikely. That is, they are more willling to believe that Kaspersky is a willing (or forced) partner at some level – whether directly or through embedded Russian intel personnel. Many of Kaspersky’s employees are precisely former Russian intel people.
  • Who would now be willing to trust Kaspersky’s software on their company’s or institution’s or government agancy’s information systems? The solution that some beltway intel experts seem to be suggesting is that Kaspersky Labs move their base of operations out of Russia. A dramatic move that would seem to be just a touch tricky in Putin’s Russia. You can imagine Kaspersky himself suddenly falling victim to some strange disease and dying quickly on a hospital bed somewher in Western Europe if he was lucky. Or under even more unpleasant circumstances within Russia. Are they being forced to go to cyberwar for Putin just to keep the peace with the Kremlin?

Finally, there are two main questions aside from speculating on how the hack was done:

  • Why the ever fricking loving heck was Kaspersky Labs still being used on information systems belonging to government agencies – some of them intel agencies?? Why did it take so long and such a disastrous leak to force DHS’s hand and make them finally require government agencies to use a more trusted antivirus provider? The reply that Kasperky Labs antivirus software is good, is not a valid answer in this case.
  • If the NSA can’t control – and that would be with “extreme prejudice” to quote Apocalypse Now – their own contractors, how can America’s premier signals intelligence agency be truly effective? Yes, intel agents do occasionally ge turned for various motives, but this was different. A lapse in physical security (no way that contractor should have had those documents on his home PC) combined with a potentially dangerous backdoor, Kapsersky’s software, that intel experts had been worrying about for some time, to produce a disastrous breach. The only surprising thing is that it didn’t happen sooner. Assuming it didn’t and we don’t know about it.

This was a breach that had been just waiting to happen. Now the NSA has to clean up a mess that it’s sloppiness helped make.

So now we all know who Nick Ayers is, even if some GOP establishment types are asking the aggressively rhetorical question: “who the f#ck are you?” But that sneering dismissal barely masks a stunned concern over what the Vice President’s chief of staff told a group of Republican donors at a recent gathering. This is what Nick Ayers said:

If the GOP doesn’t get tax reform and perhaps an infrastructure bill of some sort done over the next few months then you should keep your wallets shut. Even better, go find a primary opponent and open your wallet for them. Better to have a Trump-GOP minority after 2018 than an establishment-GOP minority in Congress.

The crowd laughed and clapped apparently.

Look, the GOP and the Democrats are coming apart at the seams. Right now the focus is on the party in power, as is most understandable. But similar things are happening on the other side of the aisle, if a little more slowly and sporadically. Politically that is. Ideologically, the Democrats are as divided as the Republicans have ever been, but they’re better at avoiding the open display of division that Republicans have become known for. The wildfires have been at full blaze for a couple of years now, and don’t seem to be burning out. So the question is: can the GOP reform it’s way out of this? Or will the centuries old duopoly in American political parties finally crack open and give birth to a lasting third or even fourth party?

Or is this the latter stage of Trumpism’s takeover of the Republican party? Trumpism, not Trump himself, even if the two are mostly the same at this point. With Alabama as a warning that Trumpism may well outlast the man who brought it to the center stage of political life in America. If this is Trumpism’s takeover , then the next midterms become something rather different, as Ayers’ joke implies. It will be about building a base of populist/conservative (yes that’s an uneasy coalition at best) representatives and senators. Not necessarily about winning a bigger majority in the Senate or preserving a clear majority in the House. And like any civil war (fought within the cultural revolution that is even fracturing liberals from radicals on the other side) it may prove bloody. Especially in the Senate.

And exhausting for voters? For some perhaps. But for many – especially Trump’s base – the 2018 midterms will be seen as a chance to put meat on the bones of Trumpism by burning down anyone they feel is what I’ll call a TOOL – a Trumper Only On (E)Lection day. Feel free to come up with your own acronym, because RINO as a political term is becoming as endangered as it’s African cousin.

The president may very well have set in motion – or more accurately recognized and ridden – a trend which he can participate in and feed, but cannot control. That’s been the history of political parties in some sense. But America has been the great exception in this regard. The stability of the duopoly has been unprecedented in modern Western political history. That may be about to change. TOOLS beware!

Somewhere around half a million dollars. That seems to be the going price for ejection from either a Cabinet or Chief of Staff position if you’re GOP. Remember John Sununu – Bush 41’s White House Chief of Staff? Back in recession-wracked 1991, his jet travel to various locations – some of them resorts and once or twice apparently his dentist in Boston – eventually forced him to resign in December of that year. The total cost of his travel was apparently estimated at around $600,000.

And the cartoonists had a field day, as they say.

Tom Price is now history, being the first Trump Cabinet member to resign. The total cost – again we have to assume these estimates are reasonable calculations based on what a private, chartered flight would cost your average wealthy traveller – has been estimated at around $500,000 by Politico. Or at least Politico has reported that his private flights cost about half a million based on someone making a rough back-of-the-envelope calculation.

The president does care about costs and maybe there is something compelling about seeing a mid-six-figure number waved in front of you when you ask about the HHS Secretary’s flights. Especially when you’ve browbeat Boeing into shaving multimillion dollar amounts off the cost of Air Force One as proof of your business acumen.

Was it that figure that made Trump so angry?

Look, the president can’t fire Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over the senate’s strikeout on repeal and replace. He can threaten to oppose his own senate leader in Kentucky’s next senate primary, but so far it hasn’t quite come to that. Not yet at least, not with McConnell himself.

Or he can take a the Secretary of Health and Human Services travel expense scandal and use it to get rid of the Secretary. Which is what the president did. Fine. But does the White House now have anybody lined up as replacement? Is Kelly handling the replacement process with the cool of a veteran commander under fire? It’s too early to tell who might be nominated but here’s a thought:

Replace a few key Assistant Secretaries inside HHS, under the Senate’s radar, and keep acting Secretary Don Wright busy with Price’s agenda of weakening the ACA from within by cutting back on marketing outreach and shortening the enrollment period, for example. And every now and then leak a few possible names that might be under consideration.

Because who in his or her right mind would want to be HHS Secretary right now?

You will be mercilessly grilled in your senate confirmation process by Democrat Senators who now have to deal with their own party’s embrace of single-payer health care. Should you make it through the confirmation process – which will be nasty and personal – you will then be hit on both sides from your fellow GOP members of congress who will feel you aren’t taking control and helping to lead the party on an issue over which the party is deeply divided and where a handful of senators can and will sabotage any effort at reform. Or you will be ignored and cast aside as irrelevant – a deputy manager whose job it is to patiently wait for legislation that never comes.

Who could ever want the job?

Unless you could find someone – say a doctor – who has political experience and lots of ambition. Even more than Doctor Price had. Who wanted to be President but who at best can capture barely a tiny sliver of GOP votes. Who’s the junior senator from the Majority Leader’s state.

Yes, Mr. President. Kill several birds with one rock. Propose Rand Paul – self-proclaimed genius on healthcare – as the next Secretary of Health and Human Services. Do it in a series of provocative tweets.

And then find someone to run for Rand Paul’s vacated seat. Hopefully someone that really annoys Mitch McConnell. No it will never happen. Yes, healthcare replace and repeal has become a bit of a joke hasn’t it? But imagine: Ron Paul as the new HHS Secretary. Worth a thought, or at least a laugh.

People in Silicon Valley get ready! Compliance is a coming!

From showboating Democrat senators, accusing Facebook of slow-walking the algorithms that Congress so desperately wants to see, specifically how they track ad-spending (which FB surely tracks very very carefully) to Twitter executives politely knocking on Congressional committee doors so they can be grilled mercilessly, the Russia Hunt continues. This time with Silicon Valley social media behemoths and sorta moths Facebook and Twitter in their sights.

So Russia or Russian-related groups (the evidence is second or third hand and rather scattered at this point) seem to have spent a fair bit of cash compared to you or me on ads in Facebook, but loose change compared to even local-race campaign budgets.

Did those ads – most of which did not mentions the president or either party (again this is all second or third hand stories about leaks about committee members options on ads that they may not have even seen yet) – influence voters in any statistically significant way? You can’t dismiss the possibility but it seems like hard evidence of Jared Kushner’s data operation’s alleged connection with Russian-sponsored actors is nowhere to be seen at this point. So now they have to haul Facebook and Twitter before Congress to make sure that FB and Twitter exec’s admit to knowing that Russia really spent far more on social media ads than the evidence suggests.

In other words, the targets keep changing when evidence is lacking but the investigation rolls on. Yes, that is in part how investigations should proceed, but it seems that Congress is moving towards some sort of compliance structure for social media companies when it comes to ad spending, specifically political ads. But how do you define a political ad in 2017? With identity politics labelling everything as political, and any opinion that doesn’t conform to radical theory as racist, then ANY ad is potentially political. Especially at election time.

Imagine Facebook now has to change their algorithms so that they can file quarterly (monthly maybe?) reports to some agency in the beltway, giving information on who spent what on which ads. Because Congress recognizes that standard campaing financing no longer works. Just ask Luther Strange and Mitch McConnell. And they’re furious about it. Social Media must pay for the changing habits of voters it seems.

And once compliance rules – detailed, ambiguous, and recondite – are in place, then you have a new industry for former Congressional aides! Social media compliance lobbyists!! Facebook might just be hiring a few very soon, if not yesterday. Twitter too. And whether Jared Kushner is an evil traitor, well we’ll just let that question hang for a while. Until some sort of evidence shows up.

Oh come on! Stop whining!

Yes, if President Trump hadn’t made those comments at the rally in Alabama last weekend then maybe Sunday would have been a fairly average NFL weekend. Leaving aside what is “average” nowadays in the NFL – Does average include Marcus Cooper’s bonehead soft shoe shuffle on the 1 yard line? Probably not – we were treated to a wave of kneel-down protests across the nation on game day.

All because of Trump according to both conservatives and left-wing activists and billionaire NFL owners. And millionaire players as well, let’s not forget.

Sorry, this is far more than just anger at the president himself, who of course loves to double down on any brawl anytime anywhere that he can somehow get into. That much is undeniable. But the politiciziing of sport is hardly a brand new phenomenon welling up out of nowhere because of one NYC developer and Reality Show owner-celebrity turned president. As important as the presidency is.

Most of you were likely not around in 1968. For example. A.most all of us, or most of us, were not around or very young in 1936 at the Olympics in Berlin where Jesse Owens rubbed Hitler’s crazed racist theories of uber whites into the dirt as he cleaned up the competition and had packs of young German girls squealing and demanding to be told where he was residing in the city. And yes, Owens faced incredible bigotry on both sides of the Atlantic. But in America he graduated from Ohio State and went on to fame, if not quite fortune.

LIke any restless trail blazer who has had his trail taken from him – Owen’s professional endorsements got him booted out of the then fully amateur track and field world which in turn KO’ed his endorsements – Owens tried his hand at a number of ventrues after working for the Ford Motor Company in their personnel division. Among them was owning a baseball franchise and sports promotion in general. He touched bottom pumping gas in the 60’s until he was made a goodwill ambassador around 1966.

Which brings us to 1968 and the Mexico City Olympics. And the raised fists on the podium by sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos. Here’s what Owens apparently told them:

“The only time the black fist has significance is when there’s money inside. That’s where the power lies.”

He changed his mind and by 1972 he said:

“Any black man who wasn’t a militant in 1970 was either blind or a coward.”

And by 1980, he had yet another take on politics in sports when he tried to convince President Carter (Owens had less than a year to live by then) that the Olympics should be beyond politics and America should not boycott the Moscow Games.

Trump threw a match on a tinder dry stack of firewood that’s built up over generations and that was burning itself out but still had plenty of fuel left to burn. Precisely because the left’s long march through the institutions is now comming to an end. By that I mean that the radicalized norms drilled into millenials by aging left wing professors is now a movement marching off the campuses and into the streets. And everything is fair game for their identity politics dogma of race and victimhood. All very real issues, but hardly advanced by taking a knee because the knee taking is symbolic. It is a symbolic assault on the very conception of what being patriotic in America means. And is being accompanied by attempts to use the judiciary to radically change how life in America is to be lived.

This wasn’t going to burn out and fade away (apologies to Neil Young for mixing his metaphors). All it needed was angry tweet or two to reignite.

​The Graham-Cassidy reform-and-perhaps-replace-but-not-really-repeal plan has earned praise from a fair amount of analysts on rightish side of center, and it does indeed use a vigorous federalism as it’s guiding principle, kicking the debate down to the individual state level.

This is really chasing the emerging reality. Texas already delivers health care in ways that are different from New York or California. Graham-Cassidy would give states more room to work out their own solutions by block-granting money that would have gone to Medicaid expansion or premium tax credits under the Affordable Care Act. You want single-payer and high taxes? Move to California. You want affordable premiums and higher-deductible plans that mean you pay more for day to day health care but you’re covered for the larger expenses you may face? But lower taxes and more jobs? Move to Texas.

Their plan is a reasonable solution to what is becoming an unbridgeable gap between Democrats who now increasingly pledge their allegiance to single-payer systems (until they find out what rationing is like when it comes to healhcare) and Republicans who want real choice and real competition in the health insurance market.

Ah, the health INSURANCE market. Yes, insurance industry lobbyists have been a constraint on innovation you might say. But, health CARE is so much more than just insurance premiums. That is not a clarion call for big spending, by the way. It’s merely to point out that a major factor in increasing premiums is often lost in the current debate:

Hospitals in America are producing very high-cost products and services and are a supported by powerful lobbyists that do their share of whispering and bending ears to ensure that innovative competitive solutions do not threaten their cozy, coast-to-coast oligopoly.

One reason for this is the employer-based plans where customers don’t see the true cost and thus the true price of the health services they select. So the big and fat and getting fatter hospital networks can keep raising prices far beyond what almost any other industry is able to get away with. And if money from employer-based plans is not enough to cover the increases, why there’s always the federal government.

So let’s hope that if Graham-Cassidy can get passed into law – and it perhaps just might – then the next step would be to look at freeing up healthcare in America from the welter of self-serving regulations that keep competitors at bay. And maybe the state level is indeed the best place to attempt those types of innovations

​It seems we were all hasty, according to Byron York. In a cautionary tale, he gives a warning well worth listening to in his recent piece in The Washington Examiner. Despite the AP headlines about an imminent deal between the White House and Pelosi, Schumer & Aides Inc. it may be that the tweeting was hasty, as tweeting is wont to be.

Here’s the statement or note Pelosi passed to her Democrat colleagues in Congress the morning after the infamous dinner:

“We agreed to a plan to work out an agreement to protect our nation’s DREAMERS from deportation.”

Ok. So they agreed to a plan to work out an agreement. That’s at least 3 degrees of separation from an actual, bona fide, signed in soya sauce on a linen napkin agreement.

You agree. To a plan. To work out. An agreement. To protect. DREAMERS from deportation.

Pelosi, Schumer & Aides Inc. couldn’t have covered their alleyways any better. But neither AP, nor NeverTrump’ers, nor Angry Trump supporters, nor the rest of us, got that detail right. The point being that the suspicion that a deal with Democrats on anything on the part of the president, might be possible after the initial pivot is what triggered much of this reaction.

Here’s the thing. Trump doesn’t need to stop tweeting. That’s impossible. He needs to have someone helping him to get out in front with his tweeting. You do dinner with Nancy and Chuck, you have a few options on what you tweet. And you tweet before they do. Or you put up with their tweets. Rather than chase their tweets from behind, like a angry Top Gun chasing a Chinese surface to air missile, which is what President Trump was forced to do.

So after the big UN week in Manhattan. And after the speculation about whether UN Ambassador Haley is already gunning for Tillerson’s job at State. And after Hurricane Maria hits Puerto Rico and the island territory demands billions more in aid. After all that, we will still have the White House and Congress with a packed agenda this fall. And both sides of the aisle matter in whatever deals get done and whatever bills get passed. Even if it’s to ignore one side or the other on any specific issue.

President Trump needs to weaponize his tweeting impulses. No he hasn’t done that yet. They have been more like loose ordinance so far, causing smoke and debris to scatter around. He needs instead to target his tweets like well-aimed missiles, aimed straight at the narrative media groups like AP or Democrat Senators construct on a daily basis.

​It won’t be single-payer! It won’t be single-payer!

Sorry for shouting at Senator Sanders out here on the sidewalk. Here’s what I mean.

Like in the case of gay marriage or de facto open borders, the Democratic Party is shifting hard to the left on health care, and dragging some moderate or RINO Republicans with them.

Yes, this has to do with Bernie Sander’s surprisingly successful campaign, which ignited millennial interest and brought Scandinavian-style socialism to the doorstep of American politics in a way that previous hard left groups were unable to do. And attitudes are shifting. Whether attitudes are following or leading Sanders’ efforts to introduce single-payer health care in America is something that perhaps the wonks at 538.com can figure out.

But today we hear about Sanders’ plan. And here’s why it will never be truly single-payer.

To achieve single-payer it’s not Trump supporters whose corpses you will have to bulldoze out of the way. They tend to be open to entitlement goodies including government healthcare which in America mostly means Medicare.

It’s the wealthy and solidly upper middle class blue voters in places like NYC and San Francisco that will never, ever, ever give up their employer-based health insurance. To let go of a system that allows them a wealth of choices with regards to their daily health care needs and that their employer mostly foots the bill for, is asking far too much of righteous, well-paid lawyers, accountants, techies, and managerial level workers. They won’t do it, and people like Pelosi and Schumer know this perfectly well because they feel exactly the same way, because that’s also who they are.

So, if over the next few years single-payer becomes a real possibility, how do you preserve employer-based insurance and how the heck do you pay for single-payer? Goodbye corporate tax-cuts? Goodbye tax cuts period, is more like it.

And what model does America look to to consider ideas for Medicare-for-all-except-us-wealthy-liberals?

Here’s a suggestion that President Trump can use in his bargaining with Canada over the northern neighbor’s terms for a revamped NAFTA:

You want to preserve some form of NAFTA up in Canada, on which your wealth greatly depends? You get to send us a committee describing how your single-payer system works. Wait. Wait. Don’t smile. AND. We get to set up employer-based insurance policies for all of you (fairly) wealthy, liberal Canadians. Think of it this way:

Ivanka gets photo ops with their Prime Minister. Smiliing about her universal daycare policy with a rainbow of adorable little kids scattered around them on the White House lawn.

Jared gets photo ops with the CEO’s of Unitedhealth, Wellpoint Inc., Kaiser Foundation Group, Humana, and Aetna. In Ottawa. Smiling next to whoever is in charge of leading Canada’s brave new revamping of it’s creaking government healthcare system.

So Medicare for all can smooth Canadian feathers by asking for their wisdom on how to let government run health care. And American enterprise can uproot Canada’s government monopoly on healthcare and give Canadians something magical … choice of healthcare plans. All in exchange for preserving some form of NAFTA.

And Senator Sanders? He gets to work away in committees on the Hill, arguing over how much to raise taxes on wealthy liberals to pay for his scheme. Unfortunately those raised taxes won’t just be on wealthy liberals, will they?

​”It comes from a recognition that the country largely hates the GOP.”

Who said that and why?

Ben Domenech, publisher of The Federalist and The Transom newsletter. Not a Democrat. Possibly populist leaning in some areas. Accused visciously by NeverTrumpers of being racist in the aftermath of Charlottesville because he said the same as what about 2/3’s of America thinks about pulling down statues across the country. And which he has been saying for years.

Just to be clear about who it is who wrote those words above.

Why those words? Because it seems that Trump Triangulation is a real – if uncertain – possibility. Yes, after his ambush of Ryan and McConnell on Wednesday, the president has the possibility of focusing on issues like infrastructure and trade and NOT on small government. And yes, the GOP is even lower in the polls than the president. Whether Trump has the discipline to triangulate between Democrats and moderate Republicans remains to be seen.

But it’s about more than discipline. Trump seems to need a policy framework. Bannon is gone and Jared and Ivanka are hardly going to provide him with a populist but centrist style of nationalism. And his increasingly establishment qua military White House is hardly the kind to provide him with a recognizable, independent view of America’s and the World’s political issues.

But the question is: does the lack of a consistent policy framework really matter? To his base, the president is a man of character – THEIR kind of character. They don’t need policy frameworks. They are more concerned about results. But the president needs more than his base and thus triangulation.

Here’s where a fascinating article in American Affairs written by Rob Ford’s ex Chief of Staff, G. Mark Towhey, is so relevant. Yes, THAT Rob Ford – Toronto’s ex-mayor.

Here’s the gist of it. A growing number of people are results oriented (a majority has arguably always been) and not ideologically oriented. Think of it this way:

Imagine on the x-axis (horizontal) of a graph you have ideology – to the left is the Left. To the right is … you, guessed it! The Right. Now look at the y-axis. Towards the top of the graph along that vertical line are the ideologically inclined. Towards the bottom of that line are the pragmatists. Now imagine all sorts of little dots scattered around all 4 quadrants of the graph. Upper Right Hand are Right Wing Ideologues. Lower Left Hand quadrant are Left Wing Pragmatists. I will assume you are more than capable of filling in the remaining two quadrants.

Now … draw a long elongated stretched-out circle at the bottom of the graph that gathers in tiny dots on a portion of the Left and much of the Right side, but both sides being pragmatists who want results in their daily lives and don’t give much thought to ideology. You’ve just corralled Trump’s base. Congratulations!

While we raise a storm about a few hundred fascist Neo Nazi’s in Virginia, the real Trump supporters are not about those sort of positions. Does anger at America’s changing and uncertain economic and social fabric matter to them? Of course it does. Are there a small, bigoted minority who want to use Trump to push their agenda? Of course there are. Should Trump have been a little clearer after Charlottesville (and I don’t mean about statues)? Of course he should have.

But if Trump can somehow expand that circle and stretch it out to the left (think of ex Obama voters who voted for him) by achieving measurable, concrete results (no he hasn’t done much yet thanks to Congress mostly; but yes there have been shifts due to executive orders undoing some of Obama’s orders) then triangulation could really work for Trump.

And Towhey’s model also explains the behavior of Trump-supporting evangelicals. They know full well of Trump’s behavior, but they feel his methods – his lack of politically correct hostility – will give them breathing room to live and worship as Christians in America. They are pragmatic when it comes to Trump in order to live as their faith prescribes. That is, they play the top and the bottom of the y-axis.

In other words, behind the theatrical tweets, the president might just prove much more of a centrist pragmatist than either Republicans or Democrats or most of the media give him credit for.

Oh yes. There’s Trump’s policy framework, by the way. A centrist pragmatist who uses populism to keep his base fired up. But who needs to triangulate to get things done. It’s about the y-axis stupid!

​Let’s say that climate alarmists are mostly right and that their meteorological models are reasonably accurate and that after Irma another huge storm hits the Gulf or East coast. So that 3 large storms hit the USA including Harvey in a matter of weeks.

Would the Senate use Irma and Benjy (the name of our theoretical third storm) as excuses to pass otherwise controversial or at least debatable legislation? Amost certainly yes.

Because that’s what they’re doing with Harvey. The Senate has just attached an increase to the debt ceiling to the House bill providing aid for Texas, an aid package that passed in days if not hours in the lower chamber. You want to provide an aid package for Harvey’s victims? Raise the debt limit please. It is thought that the amended bill will be approved anyway by House Republicans when it lands back on their front porch in a day or two.

But it doesn’t stop there. Democrats are insisting that action on DACA accompany any relief package for Texas. You can imagine the language:

The administration will tear these hard-working young Americans from their homes and dump them in countries they don’t know where life is hard and often dangerous!

Democrats can’t stop the aid package, but they sure can ride it for all it’s worth.

In other words an opportunity for avoiding debate on the debt ceiling increase in the case of Senate Republicans, or an oppotunity for provoking partisan name-calling rather than real constructive debate on the part of Democrats in both houses, is what a devastating storm has provided for them.

Now imagine that Congress gets to work – grumpily, divisively, and chaotically – on some sort of revised DACA that deals with these 800,000 young residents who were brought to the counrty illegally. Imagine Hurricaine Irma is as bad as the predictions are saying it will be and that, say, South Florida is hit as hard as Texas, with perhaps more lasting damage because … well they’re not quite Texas and they might not quite have the engineering in place to handle Irma. But then again, South Florida knows hurricanes like almost no other place in America.

More tragic photos. Young kids clinging to parents. Boats with grim looking first responders. Cuban Americans helping elderly retirees from say NYC. Stories of heroic efforts by young Americans who just happen to be DACA beneficiaries.

How does Senator Cotton shoehorn his RAISE Act into the DACA reform process now? He has to give way and live to fight another day, most likely. And that would hold – in this theoretical – for any modest enforcement of immigration law presented as a quid pro quo for giving DACA beneficiaries permanent residence.

Finally, imagine Huricane Benjy (our theoretical third storm) hits the mid-Atlantic seaboard during a mild spell in late October and the photos are of the Potomac overflowing and Trump fleeing in a helicopter to his golf course in New Jersey. Finally after a few days, he tours the still-wrecked Mar a Lago (thanks to Irma) and rambles about how:

A lot of good people … you should them, they’re just great. I mean they are so strong …. this is a disaster … we’re going to get together and solve this, they’re such good people. We have to fix this …

And the president – helped by Ivanka and Jared – proclaims climate change to be the greatest threat ever to mankind and promises a 2 trillion infrastructure bill to build dams, highways, bridges, and everything else under the sun.

And the bill passes both houses with LOTS of pork handed out across the land, as Time Magazine runs a cover of the president looking worried but almost statesmanlike with a title something like:

Trump Turns Against his Deniers.

Doesn’t it seem that Congress loves a good disaster? That every perceived or (in the case of Harvey and most likely Irma) very real disaster is an opportunity that can’t be left to waste. If you’ll forgive the metaphor if you’re shoveling out wet drywall from your home in Houston.

When you paint the world in apocalyptic terms – as climate change narratives tend to do – then a complete lack of deliberation is one consequence – whether untintended or intended. Suddenly we’re all Noah, and everyone’s got climate change religion and a monstrous mega-Ark made by the government is our only last living hope.

Yes, Congress loves a good disaster.

​Donna Carol Voss makes a good point in The Federalist. Sheriff Arpaio was about to go to be sentenced this coming October for defying a judge’s order that set limits on the Arizona police chiefs practice of sweeping up Latinos in traffic stop and searches. He was judged by most people on both sides of the aisle as having broken the law. Specifically for having ignored a judges ruling on what local police can do with respect to immigration law.

Joe Arpaio disagreed with the law, or the judge’s interpretation of the law (which is the same thing really) and refused to obey it. He was roundly condemned by many on both the left and the right.

Sanctuary City Police Departments in places like San Francisco and New Orleans, and Chicago, mandate clearly and specifically against any local police or other official assisting the enforcement of federal immigration law. Section 1373 of the U.S. Code states that local officials may not prohibit or restrict communication with federal immigration officials.

Sanctuary city officials disagree with the law, and they refuse to obey it.

Has anyone charged San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee?

Hardly, but there is talk in Washington DC – especially by AG Sessions – of trying to cut funding for policing for some sanctuary cities. But not even President Trump has as of yet (I think) openly spoken of trying to have, say, Rahm Emanuel charged. Or any of his staff or local police chiefs.

And if one uses the idea of devolving power back to the local and state level as a justification for sanctuary cities’ rejection of parts of the federal law they don’t like, then logically you could use that same reasoning to justify Joe Arpaio’s behavior.

Yes, some matters definitely should be moved closer to home, as it were. Taxation (high, low, any way a state sees fit) and healthcare seem to be candidates for devolution. But immigration?

Let workers and voters decide what state they want to live and work in based on that state’s taxes and healthcare system. But have them decide based on a state’s immigration system? Based on a city’s immigration system? That’s the de facto result of sanctuary cities. And the problem of how to move around inside America becomes a nightmare in an America where immigration policy is decided locally.

So while the left sees sanctuary cities as heroic, they are really just beneficiaries of unstated, rolling pardons. Whether by a President (Obama) or not (Trump).

​Is engineering a moral endeavour? Does good engineering require as a pre-condition, good morals? This may seem a rather odd question, but it is has been explicitly raised by some resignations from the National Infrastructure Advisory Council this past Monday. Eight of 28 members of the NIAC resigned, many of them former Obama appointees. Here’s what the letter said (in part):

“The moral infrastructure of our nation is the foundation on which our physical infrastructure is built”.

And this:

“Your actions have threatened the security of the homeland I(sic) took an oath to protect.”

The letter accused Trump of paying “insufficient attention” to the nation’s cyber vulnerabilities, and especially accused him of not supporting efforts to ensure that America’s electoral system is viewed as critical infrastructure. It also listed the president’s reaction to Charlottesville, and the administration’s withdrawing from the Paris Climate Deal.

What this letter does is shift our understanding of the term ‘infrastructure.’ Under this new, fairly radical view, policies that are not progressive (which nowadays means that you’re therefore a white supremacist, climate-change denier) will undermine the nation’s power grid, electoral systems, homeland security, and perhaps even damage America’s bridges and highways.

Is this true? Does infrastructure depend on morals? Specifically on currrent left wing views of economics, and society? And even science?

America’s transcontinental railroad was planned, legislated and had key construction goals achieved during and after the Civil War. And was completed as the Jim Crow system of apartheid was being put together.

Speaking of apartheid, the famous tourist attraction called the Blue Train that runs from Pretoria to Cape Town was built during the 70’s with much of the engineering done in-house because of growing restrictions and sanctions on the apartheid regime in South Africa. Nelson Mandela sat in a cell while passengers enjoyed the apparently splendid scenery.

America’s highway system was initially conceived and built during the 50’s and 60’s when segregation was still in place, or civil rights were still being fought for in the South and elsewhere. And the satellite system that powers communications around the world, was intially a military response to the Soviet Union. And the interenet was a way to maintain to communications between various government departments and the military, in a post-nuclear attack America.

Various infrastucture projects were built with slave labor (real or indentured like Chinese laborers).

So you can get infrastructure done with violent, discriminatory policies in place. Should you get engineering done in conjunction with values that embrace tolerance and diversity? Hard to argue with that. But the resigning members of the NIAC seem to be saying that because they find President Trump’s morals objectionable, they cannot advise or participate in managing America’s infrastructure.

If you take their objections a step further so they fit with much of the hard left post-Charlottesville commentary it’s easy to take the next step and say:

You cannot participate in infrastructure projects if you’re a Republican, because that means you’re a Nazi. And then the final step (solution?) is to say:

You cannot govern if you’re a Republican. Say like in Mexico at the height of the PRI. Or Argentina in any one of it’s Peronista periods. Or even in Eastern Europe a generation ago. Or in modern communist China. If your views are not politically acceptable to us, you will not govern. So while Trump may use populism as a style, those who wish to use one-party state rule are in fact Trump’s most vocal opponents.

And that’s where they want to take things.

​In America Free Speech can be expensive. What the Founding Fathers rightly put in the First Amendment – freedom of expression – has changed in its details over the past two hundred odd years. But that doesn’t change the essential and vital necessity of their understanding of freedom of thought and expression contained in those 45 words.

So while media pundits and internet trolls rage over freedom of expression in events like Charlottesville, and while the ACLU flogs itself for defending the rights of white supremacists to march, there is another battle going on in Washington. This one is a little more under the radar, but it is fascinating and reveals the true workings of the separation of powers as envisioned and constructed by the framers of the constitution.

It’s about the Johnson Amendment – named after then Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson who proposed the amendment to the tax code. Essentially what the 1954 ruling does is force certain charitable organizations – including religious ones – to choose:

You can be tax-exempt. OR
You can engage in political speech.

But you can’t do both.

Last May, the president signed The Presidential Executive Order Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty, which promises to fight for freedom of religious expression. In other words, clergy who promote or criticize political candidates or officials will not have their tax-exempt status removed by the IRS.

But an executive order is not a law, and the Johnson Amendment is. So the DOJ is caught between being asked not to enforce a law that many DOJ officials clearly agree with, and being asked to reveal how and who at the IRS threatened or slowed down the applications for tax-exempt status on the part of conservative organizations and charities. The DOJ is apparently a hotbed of progressive, Obama-appointed wonks, so no surprise that they’re slow-walking the IRS probe.

And taxes are with us through death. So no surprise there either. But think about this:

The IRS controls freedom from taxation. And freedom of political expression, or at least effective political expression. Because to be effective you need to reach people, and that means buying media time. And that is expensive.

Thanks to the Johnson Amendment, among other causes, the IRS controls your freedom of speech. That’s some powerful reach they have. Even more effective than terrorizing taxpayers by breaking down their doors at dawn.

So getting Congress to repeal the Johnson Amendment (unlikely to happen anytime soon unfortunately) isn’t just about allowing clergy to openly express political views and preferences for candidates and policies. It’s about deciding who has to pay for their free speech.

And it’s the progressives ensconced at DOJ that are the gatekeepers of this legislative and philosophical struggle.

​The Pacific Ocean is huge. Just go back in time and ask Magellan’s starving crew as they sailed across what he would call the “horrifying” length of the new sea they had discovered. And some 500 odd years later, it’s true that the shipping lanes in the Pacific are a touch busier. But it seems strange that 2 collisions involving U.S. warships, both part of the same fleet, have occurred within weeks of each other.

Almost the same type of accident occured to the USS McCain as to the USS Fitzgerald. Ok, there are details that are different, as former Navy official and maritime experts are hastening to state. But they are eerily similar and there have been almost 20 deaths of American sailors in horrifying conditions: trapped in flooded compartments as a result of the collisions, and then drowning to death.

Either the Pacific Fleet has a problem navigating (Yes, they should have been given right of way – get your destroyer out of the way and then you can settle the matter in marine court or wherever) or the navigating systems are unreliable. Or,

The systems could have been intentionally hacked. Or the cargo or container vessels could have even hd their systems hacked. Apparently there was indeed a problem with the USS McCain’s navigation system. And the Navy is not ruling out a possible hack.

Both ships have been invovled in operations close to, or in the South China Sea where America is in a naval stand off with Chinese military forces that are attempting to build a presence and claim this part of the Eastern Pacific as their own. And they seem to be succeeding.

These accidents just may be a tragic coincidence. Until the evidence suggests otherwise, we have to conclude just that. But what if there was a hack? What does the Navy do? Release the fact that it’s systems may have been hacked or that they defintely were? And then what? If it was proved to be China behind the hack, isn’t that an act of war?

And what does President Trump do then?

The problem isn’t really that President Trump has claimed that he dissolved the Manufacturing Council and The Policy and Strategy Forum, rather than the fact that the business leaders that until just a day or two ago made up its members, were resigning and were ready to fold it up. This is just another media gawk at a Trump induced dust-up with reasonably offended (and concerned about their brand in today’s red-hot climate) business executives. Another tiny scandal flowing from a much bigger problem involving Trump’s reaction to Charlottesville.

But the bigger problem in terms of business leaders is that the division, enmity and contempt merely within the conservative movement in America – and therefore the divisions between the White House and Congress, and within Congress and especially within the GOP itself – will make getting any meaningful legislation on tax reform and God forbid, healthcare, almost impossible.

And that sort of division and chaos will chip away at what is in fact a very solid economy, with strong job growth and growing consumer spending. Investment needs stability to be able to discount future profits in a predictable manner. And right now, it’s hard to predict much policy. If Congress had recently enacted a Reagan-style tax cut, and if some manageable reform, if not repeal, of the ACA had been signed into law, the economy could keep chugging along at a good clip despite the violence and division. But the chaos at the White House is starting to take a real toll now.

Is a recession around the corner? Not even close. There may not be a recession for a few years to come. But government spending and tax rates are a burden on America’s innovation and therefore it’s future. What can Congress do to bring some possibility for getting legislation passed when they come back to Washington? And if a debt-ceiling and budget crisis meet up with Federal Reserve rate hikes, then we have reasonable cause for concern. So what con Congress do when it gets back?

Mitch McConnell will still be and will remain Senate leader for some time. Trump’s complaints against him will likely strengthen his standing with his senate colleagues, who are the ones who will or would decide his future. Ryan should likely remain Speaker, but with the Senate unable to move on legislation he’s been handicapped badly.

The Supreme Court is now tipping towards a truly conservative court, but one can imagine Ginsburg or Kennedy delaying retirement given how they likely view this administration. And the Supreme Court is not about immediate policy concerns. It’s time frame is much longer.

Local governments can and are doing more, but in directly opposing ways that further divide America into self-selecting regions.

The roar around Charlottesville will lessen over the coming weeks, and the policies that America and Americans need to prosper will still be waiting to be implemented. But now they will have to fight against a narrative that says that not only are they the wrong policies – from a progressive, liberal economic perspective – but that they are also somehow evil policies. So if the GOP Congress thought it was tough to agree in June, wait till September comes.

Do you know what PMSC’s are? Private Military and Security Companies. Like Blackwater USA, which was sold by founder Erik Prince to an unnamed group of investors and is now called Academi. And while Blackwater was founded in the late 90’s, private armies have been around for ages, literally. But since the end of the Cold War they have played an increasing role in military conflicts around the world, sometimes providing logistics and support, sometimes providing more than just logistics.

In the early years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there were apparently over a quarter million private contracted security personnel in use by the Bush 43 administration. And now we have Erik Prince himself, talking up on CNN no less, a proposal to privatize much of America’s commitment in Afghanistan. That would include everything from a private air force of dozens of aircraft to logistics to embedded contractors working with local Afghani troops.

What does this mean?

Apparently it means big savings: $10 billion a year versus $50 billion a year according to the Pentagon’s annual budget for Afghanistan. But it also means something else: freeing up American forces who may very soon be needed on or near the Korean peninsula should war break out with the DPRK.

If you believe former counsel to the DOD (in the last year of the Obama administration) Laura Dickinson, a surge in private contractor personnel in Afghanistan brings legal risks. The International Criminal Court has a prosecutor looking into America’s role in Afghanistan, but this is more a nuisance than a grave concern given the instability present in various parts of the globe. Dickinson also worries about blowback to American military forces if private contractors get involved in another shootout like in 2007’s Nisour Square massacre in Baghdad. It’s a reasonable possibility given that chains of command in private security forces are not as clearcut as those in the military.

But that brings us to Erik Prince’s point from the CNN interview. There have been yearly rotations of not just troops but top command since 2002 in Afghanistan. As Ben Domenech writing in The Transom puts it:

Afghanistan is not one war over sixteen years for us. It is sixteen one-year wars.


That may be a little over the top, but it hits home with the point that there has not been a consistent or perhaps even continuous strategy for U.S. Forces in that troubled tribal land. And while Erik Prince talking about a viceroy may be a little too Kipling-like, the comment can also be taken as a call for a steady hand over many years in order to bring order to Afghanistan. So he makes his point, when compared to the failed set of scrabbled policies America’s forces have pursued up to now in Afghanistan.

The problem with all this is that American foreign policy is prey to partisan politics. And thus subject to sudden policy twists and turns. How well will this play? How will this poll? Annoying perhaps, but in a democracy civilians run the military. Not vice versa. And beyond that, voters are weary of this long-running seemingly endless war, with no end in sight. Just as another war may be just over the horizon. Can Prince – who has close ties to Trump’s administration – convince enough Americans of his grand scheme for Afghanistan?

Reunification is such a beautiful concept, shimmering like a vision in front of the minds’ eyes of academics and diplomats. No, not reunification of South Asia, where partition in the 40’s led to the terrorist-sponsoring state of Pakistan and the flotsam of Bangladesh, two thorns in the side of the world’s largest – if flawed – democracy, India.

Rather reunification of the Korean peninsula, where a war in the legal sense was never fought. Where a “police” action caused American soldiers to endure some of the most brutal enemy attacks they had seen, as bad as what the Japanese did to Allied prisoners in The Philippines. Where a nearly 70 year stalemate has persisted, with the already brutal North Korean regime (just ask any vets that were captured by the North Koreans – assuming they survived) still in place: a Stalinist terror regime with the characteristics of a Latin American tinpot dictatorship from years gone by.

And this regime is led by a trio of crazed family members: grandpa Kim Il-Sung, daddy Kim Jon-il, and grandson Kim Jong-un. Each one crazier than the last as the decaying corruption of absolute power has turned the third generation leader into a true psychopath unconstrained by any of the tactical or strategic considerations that his father and grandfather apparently displayed at least a little of; this regime is the one that diplomacy will work it’s steady persuasive magic on.

Just ask Robert Gallucci, who is calling President’s Trump’s tough words crazed and irresponsible. Who negotiated the 1994 agreement that apparently froze the DPRK’s nuclear program for up to a decade. Who worked alongside Jimmy Carter on this deal on behalf of the Clinton administration. And who – at the George W. Bush Center’s website – says this:

The result is a call to action for governments, the private sector, and civil society, to work together to improve the human condition in North Korea … We advocate for a new U.S. policy that integrates the call for human freedom with denuclearization in our engagement and diplomacy with North Korea.
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In other words, diplomats, wonks, trade, and ONG’s are going to solve the North Korean stalemate and standoff. Just like Germany. Like the Berlin Wall crumbling from within East Germany. Freedom rising up in the DPRK.

The problem is how do you negotiate with a madman and with one of the most brutal, crazed regimes the world has ever seen? And not only that, in an article in The Cipher Brief, Mike Chinoy – of long-lasting Asian correspondent fame – emphasizes how America must be careful not to annoy China and how China has its own set of interests which run against a reunified Korean Peninsula. And in a telling moment, Chinoy lets slip this phrase:

… the logic of boosting deterrence is clear. But that will do little to prevent the North from continuing to develop its nuclear and missle capabilities, which, even if not used in conflict, will give Kim Jong-un new leverage to apply in his ongoing contest with the capitalist South, and his long-standing hostile relationship with Japan.

The capitalist South?? He forgot to add “running dog”. Mike Chinoy has spent a little too much time surfing the bowels of Asian communist regimes it seems. He and Gallucci and the conventional wisdom of the policy wonks on North Korea can be summed up by Chinoy’s quote at the end of his piece in The Cipher:

Contrary to much of the conventional wisdom, Kim Jong-un is not crazy. He is a ruthless, cold-eyed dictator with a clear idea of what he is doing. The danger in the current situation is that he – like the rest of the world – cannot be clear what the Trump administration is aiming to achieve.
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There you have it. Kim Jong-un is not crazy. President Trump is. This is what much of the foreign policy establishment truly believe. Like Stalin’s admirers who refused to see him for what he was: a psychopath. Maybe it’s time for exactly someone like Trump to shake up the foreign policy establishment’s cherished shibboleths and actually solve the Korean stand off. That doesn’t mean that conflict won’t be bloody. Nor does it mean that conflict is unavoidable. It means that a new approach is clearly needed, if Korea is actually to be solved by defeating the North rather than cozying up to it’s crazed, “cold-eyed” leader. And his soon to be ready nuclear missiles.

One can assume that the National Security Council had so-called kill lists long before the Obama administration formalized the process with the unnervingly named Disposition Matrix. What exact process within this Disposition Matrix gets someone on a kill list is not made public for very understandable security reasons, but apparently John Brennan had a lot to do with it. And yes, it’s supposed to unnerve people. That’s the whole point.

In view of the fairly recently developed Disposition Matrix – it was put together in 2010 – it is more than interesting that the apparent blood letting going on at the NSC has more than a little to do with an enemies list. But in this case the list in question has to do with the Trump administration’s enemies and not America’s most wanted enemies.

The battle is between General McMaster and Steve Bannon and by extension Bannon’s side seems to include General Flynn’s recently removed allies at the NSC as well. And the battle has heated up greatly in the past week with a series of articles out to damage McMaster, with a few asides aimed at General Mattis at DOD thrown in for good measure. And the battle is rumored to have started – if you believe the Daily Beast – over a disagreement over this list of internal enemies or Obama administration holdovers who were or are fundamentally hostile to much of Trump’s policies in places like Iran and Afghanistan and Syria, for example.

Bannon’s side wanted as many of these supposed political enemies fired as possible. McMaster has resisted and prevailed, so the narrative being leaked out by the bucketful at sites like The Daily Caller and Breitbart, claims. But wait, it gets much better. Breitbart has now claimed that McMaster was essentially on Soros’ payroll as a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) where he worked as a world leading authority on “global security, political risk, and military conflict.” The Ploughshares Fund seems to be a donor to the IISS, and Ploughshares is funded by Soros’ Open Society.

Hence, according to Breitbart, McMaster shares the views of Plougshares and is therefore anti-Israel and pro-Iran Deal. Maybe. Maybe not. President Trump has pushed back and expressed his support for McMaster, but one has to ask if Trump was truly wedded to his earlier views on the Iran Deal, or if his disinterest in policy detail means he is fine with McMaster’s purges of former Flynn aides at the NSC. And fine with a less disruptive Middle East policy than many of his voters had been expecting of the president’s new administration.

Will Chief of Staff Kelly put the dampers on this simmering feud? And how will he do it? Will Bannon once again be seen as heading for the exits? And if he does actually go, does he take much of Trump’s America First foreign policies with him? And leave it in the hands of the generals?