Monday, July 24, 2017

Trump Must Not Go From Inheriting A Mess To Making It Worse. Potential Michigan Candidate. Why Republicans Remain Feckless Stuns Me.

"Righteousness comes easily in these polarized times.  We all have reasons for our opinions, and we tend to be surrounded by people who hold similar ones.  The more we talk politics, the more confident we can become that we’re right.

But there is also a quieter step that’s worth taking no matter your views, for the sake of nourishing your political soul.  Pick an issue that you find complicated, and grapple with it.  Choose one on which you’re legitimately torn or harbor secret doubts.  Read up on it.  Don’t rush to explain away inconvenient evidence.

Then do something truly radical:  Consider changing your mind, at least partially. Doing so will remind you that democracy isn’t simply about political force.  It also depends on inquiry and open-mindedness.  'The spirit of liberty,' as Judge Learned Hand wrote, 'is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right.'  Imagine what this country would be like now if people hadn’t been willing to change their minds in the past.

— David Leonhardt, American journalist and columnist; from his July 18th New York Times op-ed, “A Summer Project to Nourish Your Political Soul.” (See 1 and 1a below.)
When you are confronted by difficult choices and consequently, have not constructed a sensible response policy, you zig and zag as Trump seems now to be doing in Syria. 

Trump was right when he said he inherited a mess.  However, he must avoid making it worse.(See 2 below.)
I am truly amazed how feckless Republicans, who control government and actually politics in the nation, are allowing a once in a lifetime opportunity to slip through their hands.  They control every Committee yet are accomplishing little. They are being investigated yet have not chosen to pursue the previous administration, many of its questionable players and specifically The Clinton's.

I am not talking about quid pro quo.  I am talking about pursuing laws that were broken, unbridled and lying behaviour, attacks on our Constitution and using government agencies to crush opposition etc.

When it comes to allegations against Trump, his family and associates no facts relating to laws broken have surfaced, no specific statutes have been cited to suggest there were violations.  What we are witnessing is a witch/bitch hunt to find something so the tail can be pinned on the elephant by the donkey. This is how Democrats nailed Scooter Libby and this is the same pattern radicals, progressives and anti-Trump haters are pursuing in order to overturn a legal election because they have no other recourse and remain unwilling to accept the results. 

We have clear evidence Hilary disregarded a subpoena from Congress ordering her to retain e mails and she destroyed them.  Allegedly we know after allowing a Russian firm to purchase American uranium her foundation received benefits and Bill's speaking fees increased significantly.  This is clear evidence of pay to play.  The list continues and nothing has happened to investigate all the smoke surrounding the Clinton's and other Obama surrogates and lackeys.

What is really at stake is an attack on our nation's values, adherence to the rule of law and our very way of life.  You would think, even for a Republican politician. this would be of enough concern to want to join together and reverse the tide.

I saw this idea expressed by someone else.  It was suggested Trump appoint a commission consisting of Obama, Pelosi and Harry Reid to fix Obamacare and what they came up with Trump could either accept or veto. That is called in tennis returning the ball to the other court.

If they refused that would raise legitimate questions.  If they accepted and solved the problem that would be favorable. If they accepted and failed to solve the problem that, too, would be revealing. (See

Perhaps this man would be a solid candidate for The Senate from Michigan or is he too qualified?
1) Right vs Smart: Smart Always Prevails

By Sherwin Pomerantz

We know how the current crisis over control of the Temple Mount will end.  Under incredible internal and external pressure Israel will eventually remove the metal detectors and perhaps the cameras as well.  That’s always the way these things end and, in the process, for no reason, lots of people will die as families mourn, children go on to live without a father, mother, siblings or grandparents as the case may be, and both sides feel they have won, or lost.

The dictionary defines “smart” as having intelligence, being astute and able.

The dictionary defines “right” as true, or correct as a fact.

So, for sure, Israel is right in wanting to protect our military from danger as they patrol the temple mount.  We certainly don’t want an incident similar to what happened 10 days ago to happen again when two of our soldiers were shot dead by terrorists.   (Interestingly one wonders why they did not have protective vests on and why that has not been raised since.)

But the issue is not simply who is right.  Sometimes we need to be smart as well and being smart would dictate that we make no changes to the arrangements on the temple mount without discussing them with the Waqf who controls day-to-day activities there and, even more importantly, with the Jordanians who have overall responsibility for the mount which the Muslims call the noble sanctuary.  But we did none of that.

Of course, there was an internal discussion in the Israeli Security Cabinet about what to do.   At that discussion, and subsequently as well, the army and the Shin Bet took the position that leaving the metal detectors in place would inflame Muslim passions and lead to potentially deadly violence.  But Education Minister Bennett and others agreed with the police who argued that Israel needs to demonstrate sovereignty over the area and, as a result, at the most recent cabinet discussion, the cabinet backed Bennett and repudiated the army, nine to two.

Indeed it might have been a good temporary measure to install metal detectors at the entrance to the mount in the initial aftermath of the killing of the two soldiers.  But keeping them there and adding cameras as well was, to be perfectly blunt, ill advised.

Sadly we have a lot of experience with doing things on the temple mount that raise the ire of our neighbors and the greater Muslim world.  In September 1996, when newly elected prime minister Netanyahu ordered that archaeological tunnels under the Western Wall be opened for tourists, Palestinians rebelled, fearing that Israel was planning on digging under the Temple Mount compound and undermining the sacred Muslim shrine. A brief shooting war erupted between the Israeli army and the still-untested Palestinian security forces, leaving 19 Israelis and nearly 100 Palestinians dead.

In September 2000 then-opposition leader Ariel Sharon made a visit to the mount. It was intended as a demonstration of Israel’s sovereignty over the site. Palestinians reacted with a four-year wave of violence, the Second or “Al Aqsa” Intifada.

Two years ago, again in September, there was an attempt by religious nationalists to reenact the biblical pilgrimage to the temple during the Sukkot festival.  For weeks groups of Israelis, including Knesset members and even cabinet ministers, made public visits to the mount. The result was a wave of so-called lone wolf attacks, mostly stabbings and car-rammings that only petered out the following spring.

And here we are again acting as if we have not seen this play previously.  Well, we have and, as before, we know how it will end. Too many have already died, more may yet die, the ire of the world will turn against us again and, at the end of the day, we will capitulate and remove the metal detectors.  In this instance it is more important to be smart than right.

George Santayana said “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  How true and how sad!     

1a) In response to the rocket attack, an IDF tank reportedly struck a Hamas position in the southern Gaza Strip.

Is the ‘stabbing intifada’ back?

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas suspends contact with Israel. Just as when Ariel Sharon ascended the Temple Mount in 2000, the raw nerve of al-Aksa has been touched among Palestinians with the installation of metal detectors at entrances to the site, setting off a new surge of violent unrest, includingFriday night’s deadly attack in Halamish.

Barring a reassessment of Israeli policy, what happens next will largely depend on the stance of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who on Friday night suspended all contact with Israel until the metal detectors are removed.

While such a furor over metal detectors – installed after two policemen were killed on the Mount nine days ago – may seem unfounded to Israelis, Palestinians have had long-standing suspicions that Israel seeks to harm the mosque, and some have demonstrated they are prepared to die in what they view as defense of al-Aksa.

“Al-Aksa is a place heavily charged with emotions, people are willing to die for it and become martyrs going to heaven. A lot of Palestinians feel they are defending al-Aksa on behalf of all Muslims,” said Samir Awad, a political scientist at Bir Zeit University north of Ramallah. “Palestinians consider al-Aksa the gem of their future state. It signifies Palestine itself. Palestinians don’t want to be caught off guard, they don’t want to fail in protecting al-Aksa.”

Indeed, Omar al-Abed, the 19-year-old from Kobar village who stabbed to death Yoel Salomon, and his adult children Chaya and Elad, in Halamish on Friday nightwrote on Facebook that he was answering “the call of al-Aksa” and was willing to die. There are many potential Omar al-Abed’s out there, and his attack may be the prototype for violence by individual zealots that will continue as long as the tensions around al-Aksa remain so high.

“There are many individuals who can do it alone without the direction of leadership.

Even if he was in an organization, he didn’t act according to the decision of leadership, he moved alone,” explained Talal Awkal, a columnist for the Ramallah-based Al-Ayyam newspaper. “Many will try similar attacks.

“I expect a popular, general intifada,” Awkal said. “In this intifada, the individuals will do much more than the factions. They will take the responsibility to confront the Israelis.”

He predicted that a surge in stone-throwing involving many participants at Israeli targets in the West Bank will accompany the individual attacks. “The settlers and the army are everywhere so the popular confrontation is available all the time.”

The anger over al-Aksa is layered over long-standing bitterness due to the failure of the peace process to yield an end to Israeli rule and a widespread sense of hopelessness about the future. It is a really combustible situation.

In late 2015, when there was a surge of individual Palestinian violence, Abbas generally exerted a restraining influence despite being charged by Israeli officials with incitement.

Indeed, PA police at times intervened to prevent demonstrators from reaching Israeli Army positions and Abbas himself made only brief public references to the unrest.

Now, Abbas’s posture will again be crucial in determining how bad the violence gets.

So far, it cannot be taken for granted that he will restrain his charged-up public in the same way he did previously.

Indeed, on Friday night he declared the suspension of all contact with the Israeli side “at all levels until Israel commits to canceling the steps it has taken against our Palestinian people, generally, and the city of Jerusalem and al-Aksa mosque, in particular, and to safeguard the historic and legal situation of al-Aksa Mosque.”

But Abbas went beyond that, alleging that Israel is, in fact, trying to tamper with the mosque.

He spoke of “our rejection of what is called the metal doors that are political steps wrapped in an illusory security covering aimed at imposing control over al-Aksa Mosque and fleeing from the peace process and its requirements, changing the conflict from political to religious and dividing al-Aksa Mosque time-wise and spatially.”

Awad, the Bir Zeit University scholar, said Abbas’s posture is a response to the charged-up Palestinian streets. This time, emotions are so charged he cannot order his security forces to block demonstrators from confronting Israeli troops, Awad said.

“He can’t do that. He doesn’t want to be viewed as standing with Israel against his people. If Palestinian police clash with demonstrators, Abbas loses legitimacy and power and he doesn’t want to be in that situation.”

What Abbas will do, Awad predicted, is “intensify contacts with Jordan, Egypt and Turkey to try to bring Israel back to reason. But the Palestinian street is very volatile. Things can go wrong at any time.”

Whether Abbas’s initial posture is maintained remains to be seen. Brig.-Gen. (res.) Gadi Zohar, former head of the IDF’s Civil Administration, said the Palestinian Authority under Abbas remains opposed to an intifada, something that he said made the situation today different from in 2000 under Yasser Arafat.

“It’s not the same situation, but we have entered the very strong religious component of al-Aksa and that is a recipe for outbreaks and tensions.”

The three Palestinians who died in clashes Friday were depicted in the Palestinian media as having died “on behalf of al-Aksa.”

The Halamish attack, said Zohar, “can be the signal for what we will see in the months ahead.”

“We really need to expect that the government of Israel will find a way to calm things not just with force, but with rethinking the response on the Temple Mount especially on the issue of the metal detectors,” he said.

Sherwin Pomerantz is a 33 year resident of Jerusalem, President of Atid EDI Ltd., a Jerusalem-based business development consulting firm and past national president of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel.
 2)Trump’s Syria Muddle

Iran and Russia won’t negotiate a cease-fire until they have to.

By The Editorial Board

Does the Trump Administration have a policy in Syria worth the name? If so it isn’t obvious, and its recent decisions suggest that the White House may be willing to accommodate the Russian and Iranian goal of propping up Bashar Assad for the long term.

Last week the Administration disclosed that it has stopped assisting the anti-Assad Sunni Arab fighters whom the CIA has trained, equipped and funded since 2013. U.S. Special Operations Command chief Gen. Raymond Thomas told the Aspen Security Forum Friday that the decision to pull the plug was “based on an assessment of the nature of the program and what we are trying to accomplish and the viability of it going forward.”

That might make sense if anyone knew what the U.S. is trying to accomplish beyond ousting Islamic State from Raqqa in northern Syria. In that fight the Pentagon has resisted Russia and Iran by arming the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces and shooting down the Syria aircraft threatening them. Mr. Trump also launched cruise missiles to punish Mr. Assad after the strongman used chemical weapons.

The muddle is what the U.S. wants in Syria after the looming defeat of Islamic State. On that score the Trump Administration seems to want to find some agreement with Russia to stabilize Syria even if that means entrenching Mr. Assad and the Russian and Iranian military presence.

Cutting off the Sunni Free Syrian Army has long been a Russian and Iranian goal. FSA fighters in southern Syria have helped to contain the more radical Sunni opposition formerly known as the Nusra Front and they’ve fought Islamic State, but they also want to depose Mr. Assad. Not all of the Sunni rebels are as moderate as we’d like, but they aren’t al Qaeda or Islamic State. The arms cutoff caught the rebels by surprise and will make our allies in the region further doubt American reliability.

This follows the deal Mr. Trump struck at the G-20 meeting with Vladimir Putin for a cease-fire in southern Syria near its border with Israel and Jordan. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hailed it as a potential precedent for other parts of Syria, and Administration sources advertised that Israel and Jordan were on board.
But we later learned that Israel is far more skeptical. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a recent cabinet meeting that “Israel will welcome a genuine cease-fire in Syria, but this cease-fire must not enable the establishment of a military presence by Iran and its proxies in Syria in general and in southern Syria in particular.”

Yet by this point any territory controlled by Mr. Assad will come with Iranian military tentacles. Iran’s Hezbollah footsoldiers from Lebanon helped rescue Mr. Assad’s military, and they’d love to open another frontline against the Jewish state
President Trump and Mr. Tillerson may want to negotiate a diplomatic settlement with Mr. Putin on Syria, and no doubt the Russian is pitching his “common front” line against radical Islamists. But CIA Director Mike Pompeo told the Aspen forum on Friday that Russia has done little fighting against Islamic State. Mr. Putin also has no incentive to give ground in Syria while his side is winning.

Russia and Iran know what they want in Syria: a reunified country under Mr. Assad’s control. Iran will then get another Arab city—Damascus—under its dominion. It will have another base from which to undermine U.S. allies in Jordan and attack Israel when the next war breaks out. Russia wants to show the world that its allies always win while keeping its air base and a Mediterranean port.

None of this is in the U.S. interest. The only way to reach an acceptable diplomatic solution is if Iran and Russia feel they are paying too large a price for their Syrian sojourn. This means more support for Mr. Assad’s enemies, not cutting them off without notice. And it means building up a Middle East coalition willing to fight Islamic State and resist Iran. The U.S. should also consider enforcing “safe zones” in Syria for anti-Assad forces.

It’s hard to imagine a stable Syria as long as Mr. Assad is in power. But if he stays, then the U.S. goal should be a divided country with safe areas for Sunnis and the Kurds who have helped liberate Raqqa. Then we can perhaps tolerate an Assad government that presides over a rump Syria dominated by Alawites. But none of that will happen if the U.S. abandons its allies to the Russia-Assad-Iran axis. And if abandoning Syria to Iran is the policy, then at least own up to it in public so everyone knows the score.
3)'Let Obamacare fail,' says Trump. It already has.
by Jeff Jacoby
The Boston Globe

REPUBLICANS WILL PAY a heavy price for breaking their promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act. For seven years, the GOP vowed to eliminate the unwise, unpopular law, and during Barack Obama's years in the White House, Republican legislators 
voted for repeal dozens of times. But once there was a president prepared to sign repeal legislation, Republicans choked.
The GOP was handsomely rewarded for its opposition to Obamacare. Some 1,100 elected Democrats at every level of government were replaced by Republicans; eight years of public disenchantment with Obama left the GOP stronger than at any time since the 1920s. If voters now turn against Republicans for keeping Obamacare on the books, no one should be surprised.
President Trump says the collapse of the repeal bill in the Senate isn't the end of the story. "I'm not going to own it," he told reporters. "We'll let Obamacare fail." Naturally that set off liberal palpitations. "This. Is. Stunning." was CNN editor Chris Cillizza's appalled reaction. Bloomberg columnist (and Harvard law professor) Noah Feldman declared that any move by Trump to hasten Obamacare's failure would constitute "a violation of the president's oath of office." Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted that Trump's plan to let Obamacare fail involves "sabotaging it from inside."
But for Obamacare to fail no sabotage is required. Failure was built in to it. From Day 1, the Affordable Care Act's complexities, contradictions, and political concessions ensured that it would never work as advertised. That doesn't mean no one is better off: With the federal government annually doling out tens of billions of dollars in subsidies to induce people to get insurance through the ACA exchanges, some Americans have obviously benefited.
But many more have been hurt by Obamacare's failures, which is why Republicans kept winning elections by promising repeal. With Trump now saying he's prepared to "let Obamacare fail," this is a timely moment for recalling all the ways in which it is already doing just that.
Obamacare is failing to hold down premiums. Obamacare's architects repeatedly claimed the law would reduce the typical family's insurance premiums by $2,500 a year. But year after year, in state after state, premiums have gone up. Double-digit increases have become routine, and even triple-digit hikes are not unheard-of: The premium for a middle-tier health plan in Arizona this year soared 116 percent. In the 39 states using the federal Obamacare exchange, the Department of Health and Human Services reports, the cost of health insurance has more than doubled since 2013, from an average monthly premium of $224 in 2013 to $476 today.
Obamacare is failing to curb out-of-pocket medical costs. "Affordable" care? In November 2015, a New York Times review found that a majority of Obamacare policies carried deductibles of $3,000 or more, leaving many "newly insured feeling nearly as vulnerable as they were before they had coverage." And the sticker shocks keep coming. According to the insurance-data firm HealthPocket, the average deductible for a "bronze" Obamacare plan (the least expensive) rose to $6,092 in 2017. Out-of-pocket costs for "the plans most likely to be purchased by people without subsidies," the report said, "are still considerably beyond what the average family has saved for medical bills."
The Affordable Care Act was supposed to reduce the typical family's insurance premiums by $2,500 a year. But in state after state, premiums have jumped.
Obamacare is failing to provide choice and competition. Democrats and their allies depicted every proposal to reform Obamacare as a virtual death sentence for millions of Americans who would supposedly find themselves without insurance. These hysterical attacks distracted attention from the real disappearance of insurance — the one already underway. Despite skyrocketing premiums and deductibles, insurers selling health plans through Obamacare exchanges have lost billions, forcing many of them to pull out of the markets. Humana, to cite one major example, has announced that as of 2018 it will leave the Obamacare exchanges. In large sections of the country, including at least five entire states, only one insurer still sells health plans on the Obamacare exchanges. In many places next year, the options will likely fall from one to zero.
Obamacare is failing to do more good than harm. Since 2012, Gallup has been asking Americans whether the ACA "has helped you and your family, not had any effect, or hurt you and your family." About half say the law hasn't affected them. But of those who have been affected, most have been hurt. In September, 29 percent of respondents said Obamacare had hurt their families; only 18 percent thought it had helped.
The failures don't end there. Obamacare failed to curb emergency-room use. Failed to reduce overall health-care costs. Failed to ensure access to high-quality care for those with serious diseases. Failed, even, to keep the US death rate from rising.
"Let Obamacare fail," says Trump. Its failures are manifest, and steadily worsening. Shame on Republicans for not repealing such a misbegotten law. Shame on Democrats for passing it.
(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe).

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