Monday, September 28, 2015

Hard Times in U.S. Aborning: Putin and Trump on 60 Minutes

There is an ample amount of handwringing and "Oh, woeisme"ing among the political class and power brokers on the Potomac following Friday's surprise announcement by Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner that he plans on resigning effective October 30. Take this delightful passage from "John Boehner’s Move Deepens a Republican Chasm" by David Herszenhorn and Jonathan Martin:
The hard-liners seem poised to attack a likely deal this week between Mr. Boehner and Democrats to avoid a government shutdown as yet another example of collusion between establishment Republican leaders and the Obama White House. 
And the legislative stakes will become greater. Congress will most likely have to vote this fall on whether to raise the federal debt ceiling as well as deal with the imminent expiration of many highway programs, a continuing debate over reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank and the need for a longer-term spending bill with an expected deadline of Dec. 11. 
Standing in the Speaker’s Lobby just off the House floor, Representative Bill Pascrell Jr., Democrat of New Jersey, predicted that Mr. Boehner’s departure would make things harder rather than easier. “November and December are going to be like Dante’s ‘Inferno’ around here,” he said.
Things are indeed headed for the cliff. And not just the kind of "fiscal cliff" that Congress and Obama faced after his landslide victory over Richie Rich Romney at the end of 2012. This cliff might be more akin to a helicopter taking off from a besieged Saigon embassy with panicked asylum-seekers clutching for dear life to the skids.

A complete collapse of belief in the official state is underway in the Western world. Whether people position themselves on the left or the right of the ideological spectrum, all agree that the status quo is a fucked up place and elected leadership is not representing the interests of "We the people."

I watched 60 Minutes last night probably for only the second or third time since NBC began televising Sunday Night Foot in the same slot ten years ago. A Charlie Rose interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin, "All eyes on Putin," kicked the show off.

Two of the better exchanges had to do with the principal canard peddled by the United States and dutifully repeated by European leaders; this is the propaganda that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad is attacking his own people, and that if only Assad would leave everything would start to improve right away.
Charlie Rose: President Assad, you support him. Do you support what he is doing in Syria and what is happening to those Syrian people, those many millions of refugees and the hundreds of thousands of people that have been killed, many by his own force? 
President Putin: Well, tell me, what do you think about those who support the opposition and mainly the terrorist organizations only in order to oust Assad without thinking about what will happen to the country after all the government institutions have been demolished? Today, you have repeatedly said that Assad is fighting against his own population. But look at those who are in control of 60 percent of the territory in Syria. It's controlled by either ISIS or by others-- 
Charlie Rose: Al-Nusra? 
President Putin: --such as al-Nusra and other terrorist organizations. They are recognized as terrorist organizations by the United States, by other states and by the United Nations.
And a little later, this exchange:
Charlie Rose: I come back to the problem that many people look at. And they believe that Assad helps ISIS. That his reprehensible conduct against the Syrian people using barrel bombs and worse is a recruiting tool for ISIS and that if he was removed, transitioned, at some point, it would be better in the fight against ISIS, al-Nusra and others. 
President Putin: Well, speaking in a professional language of intelligence services I can tell you that this kind of assessment is an "active measure" by enemies of Assad. It is anti-Syrian propaganda.
The U.S. game in Iraq and Syria is rapidly unraveling thanks to Russian efforts. The kabuki of the U.S. military combating the Salafist jihadis while those jihadis continue to gain territory and destabilize the region has been exposed by recent Russian moves, such as yesterday's announcement of an intelligence-sharing agreement between Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria. The U.S. complains about Iraq's participation but there is nothing it can do. The Obama administration has very little credibility on the issue, particularly given the refugee crisis in Europe (not to mention its support for the war crimes against Yemen).

After the Charlie Rose interview of Putin, the next segment was Scott Pelley's interrogation, "Trump gets down to business on 60 Minutes," of the man who is likely the next POTUS, billionaire blowhard Donald Trump.

If you want an introduction to Trump, this interview is an excellent primer. The man is mesmerizing. Listening to him is like riding a roller coaster. The fact some of what he is saying is gibberish will not bother most American voters.

Here is the gibberish passage. He is going to implement a national health-care system that provides universal coverage but that is privately run but is not Obamacare:
Scott Pelley: What's your plan for Obamacare? 
Donald Trump: Obamacare's going to be repealed and replaced. Obamacare is a disaster if you look at what's going on with premiums where they're up 40, 50, 55 percent.
Scott Pelley: How do you fix it?
Donald Trump: There's many different ways, by the way. Everybody's got to be covered. This is an un-Republican thing for me to say because a lot of times they say, "No, no, the lower 25 percent that can't afford private. But--"
Scott Pelley: Universal health care.
Donald Trump: I am going to take care of everybody. I don't care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody's going to be taken care of much better than they're taken care of now.
Scott Pelley: The uninsured person is going to be taken care of. How? How?
Donald Trump: They're going to be taken care of. I would make a deal with existing hospitals to take care of people. And, you know what, if this is probably--
Scott Pelley: Make a deal? Who pays for it?
Donald Trump: --the government's gonna pay for it. But we're going to save so much money on the other side. But for the most it's going to be a private plan and people are going to be able to go out and negotiate great plans with lots of different competition with lots of competitors with great companies and they can have their doctors, they can have plans, they can have everything.
Trump sounded jejune when he weighed in on Iraq and Syria, but almost like Ralph Nader when he talked about the offshoring of U.S. jobs:
Scott Pelley: How do you keep them from exporting American jobs to Mexico?
Donald Trump: Let's say Ford-- let's say Ford moves to Mexico. If they want to sell that car in the United States they pay a tax. Here's what's gonna happen, they're not going to build their plant there. They're going to build it in the United States.
Scott Pelley: But there is a North American Free Trade Agreement.
Donald Trump: And there shouldn't be. It's a disaster.
Scott Pelley: But it is there.
Donald Trump: OK, yeah, but--
Scott Pelley: If you're president, you're going to have to live with it.
Donald Trump: Excuse me, we will either renegotiate it or we will break it. Because, you know, every agreement has an end.
Scott Pelley: You can't just break the law.
Donald Trump: Excuse me, every agreement has an end. Every agreement has to be fair. Every agreement has a defraud clause. We're being defrauded by all these countries.
Scott Pelley: It's called free trade--
Donald Trump: No it's not.
Scott Pelley: --and it is a plank--
Donald Trump: It's not the--
Scott Pelley: --of the Republican platform.
Donald Trump: Scott we need fair trade. Not free trade. We need fair trade. It's gotta be fair.
It is going to be hard to beat Trump.

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