Today’s Flynn Story: More Questions Than Answers

Stuff that just doesn’t make sense or doesn’t fit together always catches a scientist’s eye. Today’s Michael Flynn story has caught my eye. There is a fairly straightforward story on the surface: Flynn had a business deal involving Russians. He is reported, by one whistleblower, to have texted a business associate during the inauguration to say that the sanctions on Russia would be coming off soon, so they would be able to make a gazillion dollars. The New York Times and NBC broke the story this morning, and Politico, McClatchy, and Reuters have followed.

If that is what Michael Flynn discussed with the Russians, it is at least dishonest, and probably illegal.

But there’s another layer: what was the business deal? News of that broke last week, and it simply doesn’t make sense. I’m going to make this a short post, so I won’t list all the questions I have about that deal. Just a few.

What are the companies IP3 and ACU? The IP3 website does not work well and contains very little. The reactor project seems to be all they’ve got, although they make it sound like more. The ACU website is similarly sketchy.

Bud McFarlane? Really??? The guy who took a cake and a Bible to Tehran in 1986 as part of Iran-Contra?

What does Flynn, or any of these people, know about nuclear reactors? Why is the program continuing? Rick Perry just came back from Saudi Arabia and a bunch of photo ops. He was talking to them about selling them reactors.

Why were Russian reactor firms involved? The purpose of the deal has been said to be to sell American reactor technology.

Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland has made a timeline available of Flynn’s activities in this deal.

I’m continuing to monitor and research this and will report when I’ve got something. But so far, the deal just doesn’t make sense.


Cross-posted at Nuclear Diner.

Alexander-Murray; outcomes and distribution of concessions

The Washington Examiner had a piece earlier this week on how House Republicans want another pound of flesh to pass Alexander-Murray:

A top House Republican said Democrats need to make concessions that make them “wince” in order to get a vote on two Obamacare stabilization bills….Cole, a member of the House’s whip team, said the two bills are going to be a tough sell to Republican as they’re currently written.

“If that is what you want to get through, you had better put something with it that Republicans like because in the package right now there isn’t anything commensurate with what they are being asked to give up,” he told reporters on Monday.

This is a fundamental misreading of leverage and policy preferences.

There are four major elements in Alexander-Murray. The first is a two year appropriation for Cost Sharing Reduction subsidies. Secondly, outreach activities would be sent to the states instead of HHS. Finally there would also be reasonable changes to 1332 requirements and window-dressing changes to Catastrophic plans.

What happens if CSR is appropriated when measured against current reality instead of CBO baseline?

  • Significant money (CBO estimates $194 billion) is pulled out of the individual market
  • Senator Collins has an easier time voting yes for the tax bill
  • Late October, the following occurs:
    • Headlines “ACA rates drop for 2019….”
    • Subsidized buyers go from seeing really good deals to normal deals (from Avalere)

That is what would happen if Alexander-Murray passed this afternoon with no modifications.

Why would Democrats want or need to make further concessions?

Making it easier for Senator Collins to vote for the tax bill increases the probability that thirteen million more people are uninsured according to the CBO. That is not a Democratic policy preference.

Muddling the messaging that the Republican Party owns healthcare is not a Democratic political preference going into the midterms.

Making insurance more expensive for subsidized buyers is not a Democratic policy preference.

Walking away from an Alexander-Murray bill that funds CSR produces acceptable outcomes for Democrats. I do not understand the analysis that suggests that Democrats are the ones who need to offer concessions for the outcomes that Alexander-Murray delivers.

Johnny goes Buh Bye


and Contrast:

Monday Morning Open Thread: Remember Joy?


What’s on the agenda as we start the new week?

Read more


The New York Times (yes, I know) has received and had described to reporters EMAILS from the Trump campaign. They are releasing them as they work through them and presumably verifying the material, unlike Wikileaks. Also, with Mike Flynn’s plea deal, the Tweeter-in-Chief is being more productive than usual.

In May 2016, the Russians wanted to make friendly contact with the NRA, who had a convention coming up.

The emailed outreach from the conservative operative to Mr. Dearborn came far earlier, around the same time that Russians were trying to make other connections to the Trump campaign. Another contact came through an American advocate for Christian and veterans causes, and together, the outreach shows how, as Mr. Trump closed in on the nomination, Russians were using three foundational pillars of the Republican Party — guns, veterans and Christian conservatives — to try to make contact with his unorthodox campaign.

This may be how all those wholesome flyover country folks like Jeff Sessions and Sam Clovis got involved with the Russians. Or not. They don’t seem to figure very prominently in the NRA stories yet. To be continued.

Meanwhile, the President is tweeting. I don’t link directly to his emails because I don’t want to give him the stats. My very few links don’t count for much in his numbers. It’s a matter of principle.

Here’s the tweet from yesterday that people are saying admits obstruction of justice. I’ll wait to see what Robert Mueller does with it.

“Acid washed”

And a couple from this morning.

And open thread so that the home improvers can concentrate on that!

Sunday Morning Photo / Home Improvement Tips Open Thread?

(Mike Luckovich via

Since our correspondents in the warmer zones can’t carry the Garden Chats through Northern Hemisphere meteorological winter on their own, it’s been suggested that we have some alternative Sunday-over-adult-beverage-of-choice Chat topics:

(a) Photography questions / tips. While everyone eagerly awaits the return of Alain’s wonderful On the Road posts, there are commentors who have questions for the more skilled photogs among us. If anyone wants to submit topics in advance (best equipment for specific needs? best settings for shooting pets / action / landscapes?), I can post them on Sunday morning and let the rest of you give advice.

(b) Household projects / repairs. Yesterday morning, several early-bird regulars swapped tips about cleaning antique roof beams, refinishing stonework, and repairing bubbles in veneer. It was suggested this might be a good alternative for Sundays. If there’s interest, I’d be willing to dedicate some Sunday chats to such topics.

Apart from mutual aid, what’s on the agenda for this particular Sunday?


Speaking of striking photography and houses that will need serious fumigation one day…


Onto November

Now that the tax looting bill passed last night, let’s think about the ads that can be run:

Senator X just voted to increase your taxes on your home while allowing rich assholes to write off their private jets that bring them to the Caribbean ….

Senator X just voted to make it harder for your kids to finish their education but the rich assholes who go to Shadyside Academy get cheaper tuition… is that fair?

My first thought this morning is a simple one. How difficult is it to write an enforceable tax on net personal assets over a fairly large threshold ($100 million was my first spitball figure)? I would split this into two elements. The first would be confiscatory inheritance taxes over that threshold and the second would be a tax roughly equal to the rate of the 30 year Treasury. Concentrated wealth is killing the US democratic experiment.