Slowly at First, and Then Suddenly: How the Trump Election Conspiracy Unraveled

This weekend, the New York Times published a stunning report about a plan floated by a longtime emissary for the Saudis and the UAE in early August 2016, when Trump had just grabbed the GOP nomination but faced an uphill campaign against Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump Jr., aide Stephen Miller and Erik Prince, founder of the notorious mercenary outfit once know as Blackwater, listened intently as the emissary offered Team Trump millions of dollars in assistance, including a covert social-media campaign, to help Trump win that would be run by a former Israeli spy who specializes in psychological warfare, or psywar.

“The emissary, George Nader, told Donald Trump Jr. that the princes who led Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were eager to help his father win election as president,” the Times reported. Some key elements — exactly who was behind the plan, and what parts, if any, were carried out — remain murky.

But like a lot of Trump scandals, the smoke from any alleged fire was clearly visible. Nader became a Trump ally who met frequently with key players like then-national security adviser (and future felon) Michael Flynn. He also, according to the Times, later made a large payment to the ex-spy Joel Zamel, as much as $2 million. After Trump was elected, Erik Prince attended a then-secret meeting in the Seychelles believed to have been brokered by UAE to cement ties with Vladimir Putin’s Russia. After Trump became president, American foreign policy has been almost unwaveringly consistent in fighting for the foreign policy goals of nations believed to have supported his 2016 election: Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE — most notably with Trump’s rejection of the Iran nuclear deal that is seriously destabilizing the Middle East. These dealings increasingly appear to have benefited the Trumps and Kushners not just politically but financially — even as they are not helpful, and even counterproductive at times, to the American people whom Trump was allegedly elected to represent.
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Flying Saucers Redux

Wouldn’t it be nice if kindly space people suddenly appeared to lead us out of this mess we’ve gotten ourselves into? The New York Times thinks so.

Back in the late 1940s and early 1950s, there was also a continuing saga of flying saucers, as they were called then. I was intrigued, being a kid who read science fiction and was terrified of atom bombs. As recently a year ago, on a trip to Texas, I made sure to drive through Levelland, where a famous sighting had taken place.

We’ve got an international mess right now. Creeping fascism and authoritarianism. The United States and Britain consumed with their own crazy. It would be so nice if the kindly space people would land, with their wisdom.

The space people are always kindly, never mind the examples otherwise we have on earth.

Our aviators sometimes see blobs on their radar or with their own eyes that move in ways, without obvious means of propulsion, that seem to defy the laws of physics. Wild speed and instantaneous maneuvering. There are not a lot of these sightings. It was the same with flying saucers, but we are more judicious now and call them Unidentified Flying Objects. There are a few people in the military who believe they should be investigated. Some are found to be reflections or electronic glitches, but others don’t have enough information to know.

Movies were made about flying saucers and the high intelligences that piloted them. The genre never entirely went away, and now folks look back to the kindly ET who needed to call home. Official organs of the state acknowledged the existence of flying saucers too.

The New York Times has had a number of articles on UFOs in the past year. A year ago, Dan Zak of the Washington Post told the story of the rock star who has been pushing UFO lore. No matter, there was another in the Times this week.

The movements of the blobs in the videos look to me like the way reflections seem to move. That’s as scientific as the judgments in the stories.

Perhaps it’s a coincidence that these apparitions arrive at times when we are faced with what seem like international conundrums. Flying saucers became less visible into the 1960s, as we sorted out how to deal with the problems we had made for ourselves. We can sort out today’s problems too. Just us.

 

Open thread!

 

Graphic from here, but I recall this one from long-ago accounts of the Levelland sitings.








Notre Dame Cathedral Is On Fire

And it looks bad.








Target for the Evening Open Thread: David Frum, Immigrant, Wants to Pull Up the Ladder Behind Him

Not The Onion: the subhed is “If Liberals Won’t Enforce Borders, Fascists Will“.

Now that TNR is effectively defunct, perhaps we should change the sarcastic tagline to #EvenTheLibertarianTheAtlantic

Best rebuttal I’ve seen so far:

David Frum is an elitist by both profession and temperament and has been cloistered among America’s tiniest percentiles of rich, blood-drenched scumbags literally for longer than I’ve been alive. He has no fucking clue what “voters” want or will do, beyond what he can glean from election results cherrypicked to support his argument that border enforcement trumps all other political values—and that Donald Trump’s ascension expresses specifically this, rather than a broader systemic breakdown that allowed a minority white-identity party to claim an election it otherwise definitively lost. That’s why last autumn’s kayfabe panic over the migrant caravan gets credulous treatment in his analysis, but the immediately subsequent ass-kicking the nativist Republican party took in the midterm elections, at the hands of the comparably immigration-tolerant Democrats, scores nary a mention.

Which is to restate the obvious: David Frum is not speaking for, cannot speak for, “voters.” He is speaking for himself, and for some fellow members of his small and absurdly overrepresented social class. What he is saying is Rich establishment conservatives like me would rather go fascist than tolerate brown people. He is talking himself into supporting Trump in the 2020 election. He wants you to know that, when it happens, it will be because immigrants gave him no choice. It must be nice to be able to do that in the pages of The Atlantic.








New Dems and revisiting Alexander-Murray

The New Democratic Coalition wants to revive Alexander-Murray again. Modern Healthcare has the details:

The 101-strong New Democrat Coalition wants to fund reinsurance and cost-sharing reduction payments in a package that closely resembles the deal struck last Congress by Senate health committee leaders Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.)….
To prod leadership into action, the group sent a letter urging prompt committee action to key committee leaders—Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) of Energy and Commerce, Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.) of Ways and Means, and Bobby Scott (D-Va.) of Education and Labor.

Kimberly Leonard notes that this has an interesting intra-caucus tension:

An associate jackal sent me the letter which will be below the fold.

Alexander-Murray was a good bill for its context. It sought to address significant concerns and possible concerns. Everything in that bill except for the catastrophic plan section had a straight forward chain:

Identifiable Problem — Clear text with a clean logic model — Problem addressed with a high probability of solving the problem that was identified

  • It appropriated funds for Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) for two years as almost everyone except for Balloon-Juice readers were convinced that not funding CSR would do very bad things to the market.
  • It handled a variety of 1332 issues that several states had complained about.
  • It sent the healthcare.gov navigation and enrollment assistance funding away from HHS and to the states.
  • It kicked CMS in the butt to get Section 1333 (interstate compacts for opt-in multi-state markets) regulations written.
  • Significant reinsurance funding to lower non-subsidized premiums.

All of that made sense at the time.

And most of that bill still makes sense. Section 1332 waiver boundaries and rules can be cleaned up. Navigation and enrollment assistance to the states at Alexander-Murray levels would increase enrollment. Section 1333 regulations would be a good thing for states that want to create larger, inter-state risk pools to reduce variance costs. Reinsurance or other forms of assistance would help the non-subsidized buyers.

However as I have argued many times, the termination of cost sharing reduction subsidies is not sabotage. It instead has actually strengthened the market. The cohort of people earning between two and four times the federal poverty level are seeing much lower net of subsidy pricing.

As I noted in October 2017, the world has changed:

Inaction means, over the long run, more people will get low(er) out of pocket expenses/lower deductible insurance for lower premiums through structured, subsidized exchanges. I think that after a year or two, the expected social contract of what “acceptable” publicly subsidized insurance will move to Gold instead of Silver plans. Lower cost Gold plans and very affordable Bronze plans will increase long run uptake of PPACA insurance among people who earn between 200 percent and 400 percent FPL. This is a group with more political power than Medicaid recipients and Medicaid recipients were able to successfully mobilize to defend their interest this year. Appropriating CSR and thus maintaining the status quo is closer to conservative policy and ideological preferences than resetting the effective benchmark to Gold.

Ironically, we’re now far closer to the Obama 2007 healthcare plan today than we were on January 19, 2017.

There can be good reasons for liberals and Democrats to agree to appropriate CSR. Rep. Pallone’s 2018 HR 5155 appropriated CSR but used the fund flow to expand CSR eligibility and levels as well as expand premium tax credit subsidy eligibility to more people. But the fundamental nature of the ACA has changed due to the termination of CSR and the politics have changed since October 2017 when there was a legitimate fear that not paying CSRs would cause the market to collapse.

But that trade-off has to be made with a recognition of reality. Terminating CSR has created a different market that is more favorable, in isolation, to Democratic policy preferences than Republican policy preferences. The New Dem coalition needs to realize that it was not effective sabotage but a backdoor incidental strengthening.
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