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  • February 18, 2018
    The President's Address to the Nation on Russian Cyber Aggression

    As prepared for delivery by the president (provided the president is not named Donald Trump), February 19, 2018.

    My fellow Americans, I have requested this time tonight to speak to you regarding a matter of the greatest national urgency. As your commander in chief, I have no greater responsibility and no more solemn obligation than the preservation of the security of the United States of America, the safety of our people, and the vibrancy of our democracy.

    Tonight, it is my duty to report to you that our institutions of self-government, our way of life, and even our freedom itself are under threat by ongoing acts of cyber aggression carried out by the Russian Federation. Fifteen months after the controversial and closely contested election of 2016, the Russian government, its agents, and its proxies acting under direct orders from President Vladimir Putin have continued to wage an electronic war of disinformation and disorder against the United States and many of our close allies.

    Let me be clear: this constitutes the gravest risk to American national security since Soviet nuclear missiles stood ready to launch just 90 miles from Florida.

    That's why this evening, I will discuss the steps your government is taking and will take to punish these Russian assaults on American sovereignty and to counter and deter future threats from the Kremlin and its cyber warriors. Just as important, I want to outline for you and to the Russian people alike how our two nations can step back from the brink of conflict, and instead restore a relationship of mutual respect and enduring peace.

    As you will recall, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on January 6, 2017 released an unclassified version of its report on Russian hacking for President Obama. The DNI, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the National Security Agency (NSA) concluded with "high confidence" that Putin had ordered a campaign to influence the 2016 U.S. election. The intelligence community's assessment found, and I quote:

    Continue reading at Daily Kos.

    Perrspective 12:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    February 9, 2018
    There's No Mystery to Achieving Transparent Pricing and Lower Costs for U.S. Health Care

    Health industry stocks plunged on Tuesday with word that corporate powerhouses Amazon, J.P. Morgan, and Berkshire Hathaway were partnering to create a new, nonprofit company to "focus on technological solutions to provide coverage for U.S. employees at a lower cost." But if Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, and Jamie Dimon were less than clear about precisely what their new venture will do, their bottom-line objective to help corporate employers like themselves dramatically reduce the cost of their workers' health care is straightforward. With a combined market capitalization of $1.5 trillion and 1 million employees, their potential savings are enormous. CNBC sources claimed that "this effort can cut J.P. Morgan's annual $1.25 billion medical expense by up to 20 percent."

    Whether the new entity will use its combined buying power to drive down the cost of treatments; negotiate drug prices; or pioneer a technology platform for real-time cost comparisons, insurance customization, and health record management (i.e. "Amazon Health Services" or "AHS") is still to be determined. As Amazon founder and CEO Bezos put it:

    "The healthcare system is complex, and we enter into this challenge open-eyed about the degree of difficulty. Hard as it might be, reducing healthcare's burden on the economy while improving outcomes for employees and their families would be worth the effort. Success is going to require talented experts, a beginner's mind, and a long-term orientation."

    Or as Buffett, the Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO explained:

    "The ballooning costs of healthcare act as a hungry tapeworm on the American economy. Our group does not come to this problem with answers. But we also do not accept it as inevitable. Rather, we share the belief that putting our collective resources behind the country's best talent can, in time, check the rise in health costs while concurrently enhancing patient satisfaction and outcomes." [Emphasis mine.]

    But with all due respect to the Oracle of Omaha, there is already an answer to this problem, one which America's economic competitors discovered years ago and still share today. Whether in the nationalized system of the UK, the single-payer systems of Canada's provinces, the mandated health savings accounts in Singapore, or the universal coverage regimes nevertheless dependent on private insurers in France, Germany, Switzerland, and Japan, the solution for cost control and price transparency is the same. Whether negotiated directly or through a national association of insurers, the government sets the prices for prescription drugs, tests, treatments, hospital stays, and pretty much everything else.

    Continue reading at Daily Kos.

    Perrspective 12:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    January 23, 2018
    "Equal Sovereignty" of the States in the Age of Trump

    Less than a week into the new year, the Trump administration kicked off 2018 with one of the most cynical and craven acts of political favoritism in recent American history. On January 4, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke unveiled the Draft Five Year Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. That massive gift to Donald Trump's backers in the oil and gas industry would open virtually the entire coastal United States to energy exploration and drilling. Then just five days later, Zinke delivered another reward for loyalty, this time to Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott. The Sunshine State, home to 29 electoral votes, Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, and Scott's likely 2018 Senate bid, would get an exemption from the unpopular drilling expansion.

    Zinke made no secret as to the reason why Florida was to be so blessed. "The governor," Zinke admitted. "You have a tremendous governor that is straightforward, easy to work for, says exactly what he means. And I can tell you Florida is well-served." Of course, his official statement tried to provide the thin veneer of a reasonable rationale for the administration's naked partisanship:

    "I support the governor's position that Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver (so) I am removing Florida from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms."

    Needless to say, other coastal states--most of them governed by Democrats--were having none of it. Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff noted that California "like Florida, has hundreds of miles of beautiful coastline and a governor who wants to keep it that way. Or is that not enough for blue states?" His Golden State colleague Ted Lieu warned that Zinke's Tallahassee Take-Back "violates the legal standard of arbitrary and capricious agency action." And as CBS News reported, that's not the only reason the Trump's Panhandle Payoff might violate federal law:

    Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington state said Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's decision to give Florida a last-minute exemption while ignoring at least 10 other states that made similar requests may violate requirements of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which governs drilling in U.S. coastal waters.

    But you don't have to take the word of these Democrats that something's rotten in the state of Florida when it comes to Trump's coastal drilling policy. Just ask Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. After all, in his 2013 opinion striking down sections of the Voting Rights Act, Roberts invented a novel theory of "equal sovereignty" prohibiting "disparate treatment of states." And as the President and his Republican allies in Congress seek new ways to punish blue states while rewarding red ones, Ruth Bader-Ginsburg's warning that Roberts' fictional constitutional construct "is capable of much mischief" may come to pass in ways neither anticipated.

    Continue reading at Daily Kos.

    Perrspective 11:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    January 18, 2018
    Republicans' Lesson for Democrats: Next President Must "Look Backwards" at GOP Crimes

    If nothing else, Republicans over the past few weeks have delivered an important civics lesson to the American people in general--and Democrats in particular. Facing a growing mountain of irrefutable evidence that the incompetent, out-of-his-depth GOP president of the United States has been enmeshed in a network of ties to Russian business and government interests that put American institutions and democracy itself at risk, the GOP rallied not to the nation's defense, but Donald Trump's.

    The signs of the expanding counterattack are everywhere. For weeks, special counsel Robert Mueller and senior career personnel at the Justice Department and FBI have been under assault from Republicans in both Houses. Calls to investigate Mueller and "purge" the FBI were followed by the specter of GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley referring Russia dossier author Christopher Steele for charges over unspecified lies made to unnamed government investigators. (The transcript of the Fusion GPS Senate testimony released by California Democrat Dianne Feinstein suggests both why Grassley broke his promise to publish it and the smear campaign underway against Steele.) Meanwhile, the Trump White House and its allies are ramping up their attacks on Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of State who left government service in 2013. The Republicans' misdirection campaign includes the assignment by FBI agents to probe the 2010 Uranium One non-scandal, supposed "pay to play" influence peddling by the Clinton Foundation, and, of course, "her emails."

    The message from the GOP's best and brightest is unmistakable. For starters, it turns out Republicans are just fine with a president who leads from behind, provided the president is Vladimir Putin and the behind is Donald Trump's. Just as important, Republicans are only to happy to advocate "the criminalization of politics," just as long as the politician in question is, like Hillary Clinton, a Democrat. And in their quest to deflect attention from real crimes to imagined ones, Republicans won't hesitate to "look backwards" at past Democratic administrations to rev up their base and hijack media attention.

    Let that be a lesson for Democrats.

    In 2009, Republican politicians and the conservative commentariat warned the newly inaugurated President Barack Obama not to prosecute the architects of the Bush administration's regime of detainee torture. Despite the clear violations of U.S. and international law committed by the authors of America's so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques," right-wingers screamed that any investigation of President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and the likes of Condi Rice, John Yoo, David Addington, and Jose Rodriguez would constitute "presidential poison" and "the criminalization of conservatism." Dick Cheney took to the airwaves to dare the Justice Department to come after him and his henchmen. With the country he inherited teetering on the brink of economic catastrophe, President Obama and Attorney General Holder backed down in the face of the GOP's scorched earth threats. Obama would not "look backwards" at American torture under President Bush and thus risk "the criminalization of policy differences."

    And to be sure, what the United States had done was torture.

    Continue reading at Daily Kos.

    Perrspective 10:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    January 8, 2018
    How to Hatch a Republican Leader

    "If you had gone into a chemical laboratory to concoct a politician whose background and manner would sound liberal alarms," Washington Free Beacon editor-in-chief and Bill Kristol son-in-law Matthew Continetti pondered in 2009, "You probably would have come up with someone like Sarah Palin." While the Quitta from Wasilla made Continetti's theory laughable at the time, he has been vindicated by history, at least in part. As it turned out, Sarah Palin was the gateway drug to Donald Trump.

    Imagine instead you went into that same lab to formulate an elder statesman for the Republican Party. But during the process, impurities like crystal meth, Appalachian coal or cheap Russian vodka somehow got into your recipe. Soon, your would-be GOP giant of the Senate began claiming Congress had no right to interfere in the president's policy towards Iran, only to completely reverse course when the White House changed hands. Then the incoherent babbling only got worse. Your conservative creation would co-sponsor health care reform legislation calling for an individual health insurance mandate, only to then declare a "holy war" to stop the mandate he now called "unconstitutional." The Frankenstein senator would call on President Obama to nominate Judge Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court and promise, "I will do my best to help him" before then writing an op-ed demanding Garland's blockade. Next, the out-of-control octogenarian would declare "we don't have money anymore" to pay for a health care program he helped create for nine million children while muttering that "it was standard practice not to pay for things" when he supported a much larger, unfunded prescription drug benefit for the GOP's elderly base. Finally, the crazed conservative creature would emerge fully formed at the White House to give the wildly unpopular Donald Trump a nationally-televised tongue bath:

    Well, Mr. President, I have to say that you're living up to everything I thought you would. You're one heck of a leader, and we're all benefiting from it...

    And I have to say, that this is one of the great privileges of my life to stand here on the White House lawn with the President of the United States, who I love and appreciate so much, and with these wonderful colleagues and Cabinet members who stand behind us...

    And we're going to keep fighting, and we're going to make this the greatest presidency that we've seen, not only in generations, but maybe ever.

    Only then does it dawn on you. Your creation isn't just the Wise Old Man of the Party of Lincoln. He's the perfect symbol for the rhetorical rot, political perversion and moral decay of the Republican Party. He's retiring Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch.

    Continue reading at Daily Kos.

    Perrspective 9:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

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    The President's Address to the Nation on Russian Cyber Aggression
    February 18, 2018
    Comments (0)

    There's No Mystery to Achieving Transparent Pricing and Lower Costs for U.S. Health Care
    February 9, 2018
    Comments (0)

    "Equal Sovereignty" of the States in the Age of Trump
    January 23, 2018
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    Republicans' Lesson for Democrats: Next President Must "Look Backwards" at GOP Crimes
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    How to Hatch a Republican Leader
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