Monday, October 23, 2017

Blood on Trump's Hands - A 4 Soldiers Reader

A Quick Note From MeanMesa:

This kind of post that is the most challenging of all. This story has many "moving parts" which complicate its telling. Nonetheless, it is so important that it's "worth the doing." Perhaps the best approach is offer a series of articles which are the product of excellent reporting on the matter. [Additional links will be provided as possible.]

No. This is not about Trump's meat handed phone call. Nonetheless, when the pathological liar inhabiting the Oval Office is silent, it becomes immediately important to determine exactly why he is terrified of something. Further, when the comedic distractions which so tickle his 30% base lurch into "frantic mode," the imperative to delve deeply becomes even more pressing. This is where we are.

The ISIS Attack in Niger Was
 "Just One Of Those Things," Right?
The same thing probably goes with why
 Trump wouldn't even mention it for weeks, right?

Naturally, when the "news" of the events in Niger which resulted in four US military deaths surfaced, there was an instant "PR Problem" in the White House. When the response to this "problem" turned out to be dead silence on the part of the President, all sorts of possible explanations began to roll around in the mind of MeanMesa.

The incessant drivel about NFL players and "supporting the troops" continued at a "fever pitch;" the President gave FEMA -- and of course, himself -- an A+ for the way Puerto Rico had been "handled;" the constant stream of insults and threats against the N. Korean dictator rattled forward as usual;  and, the GOP "budget" slimed its way through the GOP House and the GOP Senate, promising the Owners of the Republican Party a scandalously gigantic tax break to pack into the pockets of their already dynastic wealth. But, unlike previous, carefully devised "distraction overloads" from Trump, this time all the usual fevered incitement seemed to be falling flat. Talking to Americans about dead soldiers turned out to not be a "optional, discretionary" duty for the President. Neither was, it turned out, the delicate responsibility of calling the widows.

Naturally, Trump headed directly for the golf course. As usual, he immediately began making this "hidden matter" worse and worse by the day. Since then, it has become apparent that Trump's confidence rattling, "self-imagined image problem" was clearly not to be eased much by a pathetic effort to assuage his goblins with mindless golfing. A severely artificial con man is rarely finds an eviscerating -- ripping and clawing -- "moment of truth" painless.

Let's plow right into the "moving parts."

Chadian Special Forces' Active Role in 
Fighting Sub-Saharan Terrorists
Chadian forces are also active in Mali, Niger,
 Nigeria and other nations in the region.

First, compared to the forces of other nations in the region, the Chadian Special Forces are remarkably effective. They have the well deserved record of assisting regional governments in successfully fighting terrorists -- especially Boko Haram -- in a long series of "hot spots." 

Chadian Special Forces, until a couple of weeks ago, were assisting the government of Niger in its effort to drive ISIS fighters out of the country. In many cases Chadian Special Forces troops were working directly with American troops in various military functions.

[map credit]
"Initially, Boko Haram’s presence on the Chadian side of the lake was limited. But violence rapidly escalated in 2015, partly in reaction to the intervention by Chadian forces in neighbouring states."

"In the aftermath of the April 2016 presidential election, which saw Idriss Déby win a fifth term, Chad became central to the struggle against terrorism in Africa."

Chad is a poor country. For years a single dictator essentially "absorbed" the revenue generated by Chad's oil resources. [Hissene Habre - dictator of Chad/BBC] The man who finally replaced him, Idriss Deby, is currently the democratically elected President. [President of Chad wins 5th term, promises to re-instate term limits after this term- BBC News] Even before Chad reverted to a democratic government, it was clear that the country would be facing the "African style" of Islamic terrorism, hence the substantial investment in its Special Forces.

Now, Chadian forces involved in the effort are considered to be some of the very best. Further, the Chadian government and people have been quite generous in sending these troops to aid their neighbors -- including their neighbors in Niger. Chadian troops helped the French retake the upper region of Mali from Boko Haram.

However, the cost of such "expeditions" has rapidly increased beyond what the economy of Chad can sustain.

Nonetheless, when compared to other nations receiving US aid for anti-terrorism, any aid sent to Chad would have been a very good investment. The record supporting that claim is already "on the books," based on Chadian successes. [Exercises With US Military Help Chad Fight Extremism/NPR]

FP - Foreign Policy - the magazine

America Should Beware a Chadian Military Scorned
Stung by its inclusion on the Trump administration’s travel ban, 
Chad is already making life harder for U.S. troops in Africa.

For reasons that remain unclear, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration included the Central African nation of Chad in the latest iteration of its infamous travel ban, which also targets citizens from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen. The move came as a shock to most observers, not least because Chad, in the White House’s own words, is an “important and valuable counterterrorism partner” in a region threatened by al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and Boko Haram. Now Washington may learn, in the least pleasant fashion possible, just how important and valuable Chad has been.

Fighting Boko Haram. [Chadian Military/FRONTERA]
In the wake of the new travel ban announcement on Sept. 24, Chad has withdrawn hundreds of troops from neighboring Niger, where up to 2,000 of its soldiers were part of a coalition battling Boko Haram. The Chadian government has not yet offered an official explanation for the pullout, but Communications Minister Madeleine Alingué condemned Chad’s inclusion on the travel ban, saying that it “seriously undermines” the “good relations between the two countries, notably in the fight against terrorism.”

Despite its relative poverty, Chad plays an outsized role in African security and politics. Its troops are considered some of the most capable in the region, and its president, Idriss Déby, has won considerable influence with the African Union, France, and, until recently at least, the United States by deploying them to clean up others’ messes. In addition to leading the fight against Boko Haram, Chad’s military is busy countering al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other jihadis in the Sahel, a volatile region that includes parts of Mali and Niger.

The groundwork for the country’s current security partnership with Washington was laid in northern Mali in 2013, when Chadian soldiers fought alongside French forces in some of the harshest terrain and deadliest battles as they sought to roll back jihadis who had dug in there. When less than two years later Boko Haram began seizing huge swaths of territory in northeastern Nigeria, Washington looked to Chad as part of a regional response because it didn’t believe Nigeria could handle the threat on its own. Chad and Niger, which also has a budding security partnership with the United States, mounted an armed intervention in early 2015 that pushed Boko Haram out of numerous towns and broke up the group’s Islamic emirate. Later, Chad took on a leading role in the Multinational Joint Task Force, a larger military coalition that included troops from four other nations, hosting its new headquarters as well as a coordination cell partly staffed by Western experts advising the campaign against Boko Haram.

Chad has also continued to play an important role in Mali, where the United States is a significant contributor to the United Nations peacekeeping mission and aides French counterterrorism efforts with financial, logistical, and intelligence support. It is a former Chadian minister, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, who leads the U.N. mission in Mali, and Chad has signed on to another regional effort — the so-called “Sahel G5” force that also includes forces from Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger — that is tasked with improving security in the troubled Mali-Niger-Burkina Faso border region. The G5 force was a brainchild of the French, and the Trump administration has been skeptical of the effort because of the projected cost but initially gave it some rhetorical support.

But while Chad has burnished its image abroad by participating in military operations, it has struggled with mounting unrest and economic hardship at home. An authoritarian leader who seized power in 1990, Déby finds himself increasingly threatened by student and labor union unrest as persistently low oil prices and mounting security expenditures have at times left his government unable to pay workers. As his position has grown more tenuous, Déby has been blunt with his Western partners: Give more money, or Chad will scale back its regional security commitments.

France and others have heeded Déby’s threats. In June, the International Monetary Fund approved over $300 million in extra loans for Chad. In September, a donor roundtable in Paris generated nearly $20 billion in pledges designed to support Chad’s 2017-2021 national development plan.

But instead of rewarding Chad as other donors have, the Trump administration has punished it. Experts are still baffled by the decision to include the country on the latest travel ban, which was partially blocked by a federal judge on Tuesday, hours before it was set to go into effect.

The administration said it was because “several terrorist groups are active within Chad or in the surrounding region” and the government has failed to “adequately share public-safety and terrorism-related information.” Yet on the first count, at least — terrorist groups active within its borders — Chad is better off than many of its neighbors. One possible explanation for this discrepancy, which would be preposterous in any administration except this one, is that the architects of the ban, having repeatedly heard the phrases “Boko Haram” and “Lake Chad” in the same sentence, assumed that Chad must be the epicenter of Boko Haram. (Lake Chad in fact lies on the border of Chad and three other countries, and Boko Haram is mostly confined to northern Nigeria, northern Cameroon, and southeastern Niger.)

Regardless of the rationale for including Chad in the ban, the decision was a mistake. The partial withdrawal of Chadian soldiers from places like southeastern Niger, an area that has been heavily targeted by Boko Haram in recent years, could result in swift and serious consequences.


Initial reports indicate that the security situation there has already begun to deteriorate in the vacuum left by departing Chadian forces: Boko Haram attacks have escalated since the withdrawal, and so has banditry, a chronic regional problem. A security vacuum will also have political and humanitarian consequences, imperiling tentative deradicalization and amnesty efforts by Niger’s government and making it more difficult to get vital assistance to millions of displaced people in the Lake Chad region.

A more significant Chadian pullback would likely embolden Boko Haram, which already seems to be getting some of its mojo back. This year has seen an uptick not just in suicide bombings, but also in audacious and successful attacks on Nigerian military convoys and bases. If Chadian authorities take even more dramatic steps to halt their cooperation with the United States and other regional militaries involved in the fight against Boko Haram, the Multinational Joint Task Force itself could be partly dismantled, as could the coordination cell in Chad’s capital, developments that would impede the entire regional effort to counter the terrorist group.

There are good reasons why the United States should consider reducing its dependence on Chad, Déby’s autocratic rule being one of them, but the travel ban does not appear to be part of a considered rebalancing of U.S. security relationships in the region. The confusion and anger engendered by Chad’s inclusion, moreover, seem unlikely to lead to reform. Of course, the last word about the travel ban has not been said, as Tuesday’s court ruling suggests. Déby is a tough and skilled negotiator who has faced down savvier interlocutors than Trump — including the World Bank and ExxonMobil — and has come away each time with at least part of what he wanted. The Chadian president is likely betting that with his forces withdrawn from Niger, the Trump administration will quickly come to appreciate his country’s security contributions and remove it from the list. The danger for Déby, Washington, and especially for the region, however, is that the administration’s characteristic disorganization and stubbornness may delay a course correction until after serious harm has occurred.

Being Screwed by EXXON "Sours the Deal" With Chad
EXXON CEO [turned Secretary of State], Rex Tillerson thinks a 2% oil royalty is just too high.
Looks like Big Daddy and Rex decided to get even.

Exxon in negotiations with Chad
NOVEMBER 15, 2016 Reuters staff

(Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) is negotiating with Chad over a record $74 billion fine the U.S. oil company was told to pay by a court in the central African nation over unpaid royalties, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday.

Exxon has appealed the Oct. 5 court ruling, but the appeals court hearing has been delayed because of the talks, Bloomberg reported, citing a lawyer for Exxon. 

Exxon declined to comment.

The court decision fined a consortium led by Exxon over 44 trillion CFA francs ($73.44 billion) - nearly four times BP’s Deepwater Horizon settlement and roughly seven times Chad’s annual gross domestic product.

The unpaid royalties stem from a dispute over fees, sources in the Chadian Finance Ministry have told Reuters. The Finance Ministry, they said, is seeking a 2 percent royalty fee from the consortium, a rate the defendants have said is higher than the agreed level.

Secretary of State Rex "Settles" His Feud
 With the Uppity Chadians
Trump jumps in -- who cares about US troops when there's big money on the table?

An unavoidable component of the path to oligarchy or mobster is the necessity to leave "examples" of a "failure to cooperate" which can be observed by those to be intimidated. Is this beginning to sound "thuggy?" MeanMesa agrees. Too bad the story is too complicated for anyone in Trump's base.

Why did the U.S. travel ban add counterterrorism partner Chad? 
No one seems quite sure.
By Kevin Sieff September 25, 2017
[Visit the original article here.

NAIROBI — For years, the United States and its European allies have praised the central African nation of Chad as a helpful partner in the fight against terrorism.

But on Sunday — shocking both Chadians and regional analysts — the Trump administration announced that Chad's citizens would be included in the newest American travel ban. In a statement, the U.S. government cited the presence of terrorist groups in the country and said Chad “does not adequately share public safety and terrorism related information.”

Indeed, Chad does face a number of terrorist threats, most notably from Boko Haram along its western border with Nigeria. But many other countries in the region are not included in the U.S. travel restrictions, including Nigeria, Mali and Niger are considered far more vulnerable to terrorism.

“The reaction has been astonishment and then indignation,” said Nour Ibedou, director of the Chadian Human Rights Association. “We do not understand how our country achieved this lack of trust from the United States.”

A statement from Chad's government asked Trump to reconsider a decision that “seriously undermines the image of Chad and the good relations between the two countries.”

“The Chadian Government expresses its incomprehension in the face of the official reasons behind this decision,” the statement added, “reasons that contrast with the efforts and the ongoing commitments of Chad in the fight against terrorism.”

Under the new U.S. order, North Korea also was added, as well as more targeted restrictions on Venezuela’s leaders and their families. Citizens from Somalia, Libya, Yemen and Syria remained on the list.

According to the Institute for Security Studies, Boko Haram waged more than 120 attacks in Nigeria last year, but only four in Chad. In its statement, the White House said al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) was also active “within Chad or in the surrounding region.” But AQIM has a much more substantial presence in Mali, where militants frequently attack United Nations peacekeepers.

“We don’t have any significant indications of other violent extremist activity [aside from Boko Haram], so in that respect, this is completely baffling,” said Richard Moncrieff, central Africa director at the International Crisis Group.

Perhaps even more mystifying, Chad has proved to be one of the United States’ most willing counterterrorism partners in the region. In March, about 2,000 U.S. troops staged a military exercise in Chad aimed at bolstering regional security forces. In recent years, Air Force personnel have used the country as a staging ground for Boko Haram surveillance missions.

“Our nations are working together to build a better future, not just in Chad, but across the entire region,” Ambassador Alexander M. Laskaris, the deputy to the commander for civil-military engagement at the U.S. Africa Command, said during a visit last year.

Chad’s capital, Ndjamena, is also used as the headquarters for France’s 4,000-person regional counterterrorism mission, called Operation Barkhane. Chad’s own military has intervened across borders, in the Central African Republic, Mali and Nigeria. In 2013, forces reportedly killed an al-Qaeda commander in Mali. In 2014 and 2015, during major battles against Boko Haram, Chadian troops were considered by many to be more effective than Nigerian soldiers, even though Chad is a much poorer nation.

“The E.U., France and the U.S. in particular today consider Déby as their principal partner in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel,” wrote Moncrieff of Chad's president, Idriss Déby, earlier this month.

So why Chad's sudden inclusion in the travel ban?

For now, that's largely a mystery, particularly to Chadians. But the decision seems to hinge on problems with information sharing, according to the U.S. statement. Administration officials said they removed neighboring Sudan from the list of banned countries because cooperation had improved in recent months.

It is also unclear whether Chad has the administrative capacity to share information about visa applicants, or whether the U.S. moves reflect a growing strains in relations.

Chad's economy has struggled as the price of oil, its biggest source of income, has fallen in recent years. In a report last year, the State Department suggested that economic problems had led to a deterioration in the country's security forces.

“The Government of Chad continued to prioritize counterterrorism efforts at the highest level; however, the worsening financial crisis affected its ability to meet even basic financial commitments, such as paying police and military salaries,” said a State Department report last year.

Moncrieff said that any lack of cooperation with the U.S. was likely due to a lack of bureaucratic capacity rather than a refusal to assist on terrorism issues.

“It has a very, very weak state capacity, and that’s not helped by a massive financial crunch at the moment,” he said.

Chad has emerged as one of the most important hosts of refugees in the region, with nearly 400,000 refugees living in the country, including many who have fled from the Darfur region of Sudan.

So, How Did All This Turn Out?

After being included in the latest Trump travel ban, Chad withdrew its Special Forces troops from Niger. The move required two weeks. Days after the withdrawal, the "locals" in Niger with whom the Americans had been working, became suspiciously jumpy. Almost immediately ISIS fighters in Niger resumed terrorist attacks. Days after the terrorist attacks began, the American soldiers were ambushed and killed. 

In between his golf trips, Trump has been accusing the kneeling NFL players of "not supporting the troops," and telling lies about the Florida Congresswoman who was with the Johnson family when he called.

Sgt. La David Johnson, US Army [image/ABC]

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Rex Tillerson - Stranger In A Strange Land

The World Through the 
Eyes of Rex Tillerson
Darn. I was supposed to only
 have to be a "one trick pony."
I just go where I'm told. That's right,
 isn't it, Mr. Trump?

Prior to his nomination to become Secretary of State for the Trump Administration, Donald Trump had never met Rex Tillerson. The unusual selection of this particular candidate seems to have had a great deal in common with the equally unusual selection of Paul Manafort to serve as Trump's campaign chairman.

Viewed -- as objectively as possible, of course -- from a comfortable distance both Manafort and Tillerson appear to the casual observer as individuals chosen by some unseen actor and "sent" to Trump with their respective job descriptions spelled out by a tag on their jackets. Attorney General Beauregard Sessions' ascent to power from his old job in the Senate seems to be another "unusual" nomination.

By this point most MeanMesa visitors have already become painfully aware of whom this "unseen actor" probably was. While the precise location of Vlad's palace is held in a shrouded, understandable secrecy, the modest Black Sea retreat [worth possibly as much as $1 Bn US] is tucked away somewhere in the vicinity of Gelendzik in the Krasnodar Krai [South Caucuses] region of Russia.

We can assume that the "unseen actor" who provided all these great "staffing ideas" to Donald Trump may have assembled his list while seated in a very comfortable Russian arm chair carefully positioned by a cozy fire place right in this very palace. MeanMesa is absolutely certain that these "interesting coincidences" can almost certainly be tracked back to this place. Further, although there are plenty more "interesting coincidences" wedged into the Trump Presidency, we'll need to address only one more for this post.

Immediately upon arriving in Washington, Trump ordered the hired hands in his Administrative staff to commence plans and preparations for the lifting of sanctions placed on Russian oligarchs by the Obama Administration as punishment for invading Crimea. Happily, the Republicans and Democrats in Congress quickly penned a new bill prohibiting the new President from "betting the farm" by arbitrarily lifting these sanctions. And, in a rare bi-partisan moment the Congress passed it with a 98%, VETO-proof majority.

Naturally, Trump had to sign the bill into law to save face politically. To date he has defiantly failed to implement any of the legislative requirements of the new law, but -- at least -- we can take "theoretical" comfort with the fact that it's all jotted down on Congressional paper over his signature. [Maybe some future President will enforce it -- if we ever have another President.]

The Strange Case of the Mysterious Secretary of State
Are you telling me that there's something else to this job
 besides landing the GASPROM Arctic Oil deal?
Gutting the State Department should speed things up a bit.

"Russian Federation
 Medal of Friendship"
Expert on Diplomacy
 and International
[...just kidding...]
and Mysteriously
 Secretary of State
Rex Tillerson

Rex, in his role as EXXON CEO, had already made some impressive progress in the promotion of the $500 Bn Arctic oil exploration plan the Russians had been toiling on for a decade. Of course all the players were "terribly discouraged" when the US deployed an aggressive sanctions package after the Russians "annexed" Crimea.

The sanctions directly blocked the Russians' planned "Arctic oil adventure" in a number of ways. They also targeted the oligarchic billionaires in Putin's "inner circle" -- especially targeting Russian access to international banking.

So, why did Trump mysteriously choose a man he had never met to be his Secretary of State? 

The answer might involve another heavily soiled, "fleeting denizen" of the Trump transition team, Carter Page. Carter had been sorely "tempted" with the possibility of "managing" the half trillion dollar load of Arctic oil on commission. Needless to say, even a "commission percentage" of a half trillion dollars is, well, some serious money.

This would have been an entirely expected chapter in Putin's Mafia style, Russian "play book," and, as such, would have fit very nicely into Trump's big picture plan to accomplish something similar in the United States. [Putin had already "sold" the old Soviet Union's industrial and resource assets to his crime family for a dime on the dollar. This is why Trump has consistently idolized Vlad from even before the election.]

Nonetheless, there were sanctions, and Rex Tillerson did become Trump's Secretary of State. Although the Russian oil deal was more or less permanently stuck in the ice, Rex suddenly found himself mired in all manner of other, "Secretary of State" business almost immediately.

Best friends. Putin and Tillerson
after GASPROM deal.
Come  on.
It's just an innocent medal.
Rex is working hard to
 Make America Great Again.
Further complicating this sudden "shift in his career" was the "destruction of the administrative state" idea that Trump's real friend, Steve Bannon had begun while he was still prowling, unguarded, in the West Wing. Part of the "administrative state" which had suffered Bannon's anarchistic, alt-right "death touch" was the US State Department. It had been hollowed out to the degree which left it essentially unable to function. The Department had been castrated. It had become a collection of empty desks with, of course, the totally inexperienced Rex Tillerson "in command."

Worse, all manner of "non-oil" matters rose up to crowd into the soup -- Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and Ukraine had "exploded diplomatically." For "frosting on the cake," there were hurricanes and a mass killing. In more normal times the State Department would have been tasked with responding to such things. The vacuum was becoming nerve wracking. Even worse, Tillerson -- never famous for being particularly "chatty" -- became an isolated pariah at the hands of the media. His public image fell to tatters.

Happily, Rex's future was well established. He would not be reliant upon a successful Cabinet performance to secure his retirement. A corporate oil executive, Tillerson's education amounted to merely an Associate's degree from the University of Texas. Compared to the far more impressive educational backgrounds of previous Secretaries of State, it is no surprise that Rex found many of these current issues quite alien to his experience. MeanMesa suggests that impetuous foreign interests intend to exploit this lack of back ground understanding at every opportunity.

[Think about it. Recent Secretaries: Madeline Albright, Colin Powell, Condaleeza Rice, Hillary Rodham Clinton. We're not talking Associate degrees.]

The selection of Tillerson is consistent with Trump's "trademark" obsession of packing amateurs and otherwise poorly suited choices into powerful Cabinet positions -- usually with the incentive of increasing his personal wealth at some point in the future.

Notably, Senator Bob Corker [R, TN], during his slapping match with the President, said that Chief of Staff Kelly, Secretary of Defense Mattis and Secretary of State Tillerson were the three men who were separating the United States from chaos. 

MeanMesa can only hope that Mattis and Kelly are better motivated, better prepared and more competent than Rex Tillerson in this desperate, baby sitting Triumvirate. 

This is humorous, right? [image source - YOUTUBE]

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Iran and North Korea - War, Politics, Media and Reality

Skipping Nine Chapters of
 a Ten Chapter Story
Why bother with the middle of the book
 when your hair's already on fire?

First of all, if the domestic corporate media has convinced you that the h-bombs are practically "already flying" with respect to Iran and North Korea, relax. MeanMesa can promise you that there is "more to the story" -- much more.

To begin, let's take a moment to "set aside" the "news" -- you know, the "news" that has been telling us about the inevitable horror of an equally inevitable nuclear war with North Korea. Once we're a little past that nightmare, we can strive to accomplish a similar "mood shift" about the Iran situation.

Is it an undesirable "outcome" for North Korea and Iran to develop their own thermonuclear arsenal? Of course it is. However, the question goes on a little further. Every question which will be decided by probabilities always "goes on a little further" than the mere title of the story.

For anyone wondering where in the world MeanMesa's startling thermonuclear conflict equanimity might have originated, be advised. These old bones went through decades of minute to minute, terrifying "Mutual Assured Destruction" [M.A.D.] during the Cold War. During these long nights and surreal days the rhetoric between the "players" was, suspiciously, consistently similar what we hear now.

Of course one conspicuous dissimilarity was that none the US Presidents serving through these years was casually manifesting the dangerous, daily impulsivity the current White House is showing us this time. However, we have seen even this before. Petty autocrats and dictators, particularly when they find their power slipping, have long understood the tactical advantage of at least appearing insane. Blood soaked soldiers in various "armies of usurpation" have repeatedly toiled to "image" themselves as fanatically "oblivious to their own deaths" by strapping on suicide vests and the like.

Terror only becomes effective strategically when the population of a potential adversary is terrified. If a remote dictator can't accomplish this on his own, there's always the US domestic media to help. American audiences seem to have a very unusual appetite to be terrified.

Since the corporate media relies on the ratings of "audience interest" being titillated by the presentation of such stories, matters which should reasonably be classed as "necessary for consideration," "meriting mitigation" or "requiring quick response" are transformed into "nightmare movies" with scripts providing gruesome details of every possible horrific outcome at every juncture-- usually, plus a few "extras."

Quite beyond the incoherent bumbling of the US "executive leadership" the shockingly cynical media treatment of the current interplay with both Iran and North Korea amounts to nothing more than a self-serving, industrial grade "nightmare movie making" machine. The set, script and cast are all artificial -- useless for any possible reason other than inciting terror.

The incentive for opportunistic politicians' appetite to terrorize the public is, at least, somewhat understandable. However, the incentive for the corporate media's similar appetite is a very strange one. Network ratings go up when audiences are frightened, and network executives -- including the shiny "news" presentation stars -- know this.

The World With Iranian and North Korean H-Bombs
There may not actually be that much difference.

First and foremost, it would be an excellent time to step off our chairs -- leave the noose where you tied it to the ceiling -- and make a sandwich. "Things" will, definitely, change if these two admittedly rambunctious countries test a credible ICBM with a nicely miniaturized H-bomb warhead. Both Iran and North Korea have "blood in their eyes" and a truly creepy obsession for "getting even" with the United States.

While plenty of debate has already passed with respect to both the causes and the "validity" of these decades old, bitter resentments, neither North Korea nor Iran has shown much noticeable restraint when it comes to delivering terrorism, weapons and other mischief to any empty loading dock to be found. In fact, should either or both become armed with these weapons, we can almost count on a serious dose of resentment driven nuclear proliferation.

Happily, even given all this "dark prophecy," there will be no new reason to assume that  thermonuclear war will be the inevitable next step. The United States is and old hand when it comes to living with M.A.D. at the hands of the old Soviets. We have experience.

Since we apparently intend to "dive" right into this, experience will probably important -- especially since we have only a frail skeleton of a politically castrated State Department and an frighteningly incompetent President.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Health Care - "Believing Trump"

We've Heard It So Often,
 That It Simply MUST Be
"Believe me."

The obsessive repetition of this now "road weary" crack has moved beyond "simply painful" to a new state which MeanMesa describes as "tediously bizarre."

MeanMesa watches what the US domestic media broadcasts for public consumption. Of course there are all sorts of things oozing out of that television screen, and many of them are shockingly propagandist drivel. These are "shocking" because the quality of the propaganda presented is so "shockingly" amateurish. When these "presentations" are repeated from so many "sources," so often and for so long, the suspicious discomfort grows even more penetrating.

We could rant and rave about this nonsense for a very long diatribe, but -- because this particular post is in the "MeanMesa High Desert Road Kill Series" -- we are obliged to drive right to the point.

The specific subject of this concern is the constant repetition of the phrase "ObamaCare is failing." Or, perhaps, practically any of the lurching, incoherent Presidential laments about the program being a nightmare -- a policy now riddled with "sky rocketing premium costs and co pays."

"I am only the instrument
 that God uses to sing his song.
 I am only the vessel that nature
 smilingly fills with new wine."

This propaganda campaign draws its roots directly from the Joseph Goebbels play book. "Old Fun Loving" Joe became the early master of "the big lie" while he toiled as the NAZI propaganda minister in Hitler's Germany.

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Joseph Goebbels [source]

There are, in fact, any number of creepy psychiatric "abnormalities" being trotted out daily by the almost frantic GOPs these days, but this "ObamaCare Nightmare" meme has risen to the absolute top of the pack. Every greedy elected Republican who has scratched and clawed for his turn at the corporate media's microphone repeats the "big lie" in a myriad of forms and at his first opportunity.

If modern college students still actually watched the corporate "news," the unceasing broadcast of these obsessive, awkward repetitions would offer the ultimate opportunity for a teen age beer drinking game.

The Republicans' Very Cleverly Crafted Half Truth
Gee whiz. Parts of this crap are actually fact.

To successfully explain the Goebbels's style "word trick" being employed in this wretched exercise, we must look -- very briefly [Remember - this post is in the Road Kill Series.] -- at a few of the "real facts" hidden in the completely open history of the ACA. This deception is "more of an elaborately constructed mansion" than simply a romantic "grass shack on the beach."

Selling this pitch to the American voter is a very high priority to the billionaires who own the Republican Party. They have been uncharacteristically generous with their "campaign contribution" check books as they encouraged their "wholly owned elected officials" to dance to the tune. The "news" media's "talk models" have become strangely complicit, too.

Fact One: The ACA was finally passed as "reconciliation" legislation. This means that the OMB and other budget analysts studied the bill and determined that it would not add to the deficit.

Fact Two: The reason that the ACA did not add to the deficit was because it included tax provisions which would raise Federal revenue sufficiently to pay for the additional costs. Naturally, the billionaires immediately hated this aspect of the new law. Probably the single part of these taxes which bothered the billionaires the most was this:

High-income taxpayers also help pay for Obamacare. The health law requires workers to pay a tax equal to 0.9% of their wages over $200,000 if single or $250,000 if married filing jointly to finance Medicare’s hospital insurance. It also imposes a 3.8% surtax on various forms of investment income for taxpayers whose modified adjusted gross income is over $200,000 if single or $250,000 if married filing jointly. Those provisions will account for $346 billion in revenues by 2025, according to the CBO.

Fact Three: The billionaires immediately began a public relations smear campaign to incite a general hatred of the new law among Americans. This was no casual effort. Estimates suggest that around $1 Mn per week was dedicated to this cause starting when the legislation was first proposed and continuing for the years after it was finally passed into law.

Although this campaign successfully soured Americans' opinion of the law in the ACA's beginning phases, by the time the Trumpkins and the sold out Congress finally attempted a "permanent death" for the ACA, it's popularity had increased to well over 50% among voters. 

Why was this sabotage propaganda so effective? MeanMesa suspects that the reasons are  both unsettling and disturbingly simple.

a. The ACA was vulnerable because using it was complicated. Many of the Americans who tried to use the ACA were, essentially, "illiterate" with respect to the capabilities required for reading the ACA "rules" and complying with them. The conclusion too often drawn after these failures with the program was that the program didn't work. Of course, the raw statistics of the program working contradicted this, but that same "illiteracy" precluded  the possibility that those who had failed in their attempts to use the ACA from ever seeing the statistics.

b. Insurance corporation propaganda exaggerated the ACA's complexity. One curious aspect of this same "illiteracy" left those suffering its consequences to be exceptionally vulnerable to the propaganda campaign. Uninsured Americans who did previously did not even have doctors, who -- under the ACA provisions were finally able to afford doctors because the ACA was prepared to subsidize them -- were convinced by the propaganda that all of this otherwise "good news" was actually "bad news" because it meant that "big government was getting between them and their doctors."

c. Implementation of the ACA was intentionally frustrated by all stakeholders. Finally, every possible step was taken by insurance corporation, the media, established business groups of medical providers, the pharmaceutical corporations -- and, in some cases, by state government involved in implementing the bill -- to further frustrate attempts by potential ACA users to benefit from the law. The corporate, domestic media was also curiously anxious to cast the ACA into a very dark light, often one strangely similar to what was being promoted by the anti-ACA corporate propaganda.

How, Exactly, Did Republicans Sabotage the ACA?
This part of the explanation is extremely simple.
It explains everything about the "Big Lie."
It wasn't about what was always included in every story -- 
it was about what was always omitted.

When the ACA was first implemented, it was no secret that thousands or millions of people with "existing" medical needs would join in to get health insurance, in millions of cases for the first time. The authors of the ACA already knew that the cost of insuring these new patients would be exceptionally high for insurance companies. To mitigate this "automatic obstacle" the ACA included a risk corridor. If the health insurance providers saw that insuring this part of ACA's patient pool was going to cost too much "extra money," the ACA risk corridor would "make up the difference."

The "murder" of the risk corridor provision basically gutted the ACA's fundamental economic structure. The "murder" began when Senator Rubio "laced" a budget bill with a poison pill. Thanks to the Senator's efforts, risk corridor payments were reduced to roughly 10% of their [ACA] planned amounts. The insurers bolted -- understandably.

Of course, the second and final part of the "murder" was at the hand of Trump and the Republicans in Congress.

With the risk corridor neatly buried in its early grave, insurers rapidly dropped out of the ACA exchanges, premiums and co-payment amounts resumed the same painful increases that the ACA had been intended to stabilize and the ACA's "essential medical benefits" immediately began to fade into being "a thing of the past."

With all this destruction in place, whenever a Republican Congressman or the "Republican President" referred to ObamaCare great caution was taken to cite all these effects of de-funding the program, and to describe ObamaCare as a "nightmare" or a "failed system."

The "Big Lie"

The "Big Lie" showed up with the absolute silence about the reason that the ACA was failing. Naturally, the Republican politicians lamenting this "nightmarish failure" were very careful to never say a single word which might explain why it was failing or -- importantly -- what part the "perpetually cash crazed" Republicans had done to guarantee the disaster.

Further, the media reporting, including the "famous interviews" with the Republican scallywags who had perpetrated this, never so much as mentioned what they had done to the risk corridor -- although this was precisely what had been done to wreck the ACA.