Secret diplomacy

Donald Trump and Vladmir Putin met in private in Helsinki on Monday for little over two hours.   There are those in the media and in Congress who think they have a right to know what was discussed.   Perhaps the translator took notes?  I find this absurd.   There is an absolute need to keep  sensitive diplomatic discussions private.   Congress leaks information, and they seem immune to prosecution.   Congress wanted all kinds of information after the Iran deal was completed.   I remember one Republican congressman asking John Kerry if he used his cell phone to send text messages.  Republicans  went totally nuts on Benghazi,  and deleted personal emails   They hold closed door sessions to protect confidentiality, then immediately following the interview, publicly  smear the person who testified.   Last victim was Lisa Page.

Private is private.  Democrats need to act like adults in the room.

I am working on a bit longer piece on the Helsinki disaster.   Just thought I’d get this one out first.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Trump’s trip – Is it over?

Headline:  Trump attacks our close allies, and kisses up to Russia

I’ve said  it would appear that Trump is competing for the Lie of the Year award from Politifact.com and his only competion is himself.

There are more coming.

This is from the Tom Toles, the phenomenal cartoonist with the Washington Post.  I hope to discuss  Trump’s absurd remark of Germany being Russia’s captive state soon.  If anyone seems to kissing up to Putin, it is Donald Trump.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Tom Toles is one of the best reasons to subscribe to the Washington Post:

www.washingtonpost.com

http://www.politifact.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump: Populism, Nationalism with overriding Pro-business focus

Populism and nationalism are not policies, but ideologies, which when rigidly applied or taken to extremes, have terrible consequences.   Populism concentrates on the problem, rather than the solution.   Nothing is every built on existing solutions.   It is more of a tear down and rebuild philosophy,  Underlying populism is a focus not on problems of society, but on government itself.   An excellent example was Trump’s campaign slogan, “Let’s drain the swamp.”   The message was that policies in the Obama administration were only what lobbyists wanted, and he was truly independent of their efforts.   The more Hillary Clinton spoke of her background in government, the more she became part of the “elite” class who were causing all the problems.

Populists exaggerate the problem and are vague on the solutions.  Trump frequently goes from an exaggeration to an outright lie.   Populists  are constantly at war with opponents who they claim will only make matters worse by continuing government policies.   Case in point was Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the EPA, taking an axe to hundreds of environmental rules, on the basis of deregulation.   He had no interest in protecting the environment.  He allowed  and in fact appointed “elitists” or fossil fuel lobbyists guide federal policies.  I guess Pruitt would defend his policies as doing what is best for the nation in helping companies explore for oil, ultimately lowering the cost of gasoline.

Nationalism says that a country does only what is in its best interest.   With Trump, it seems anytime we are part of an international organization, we have this tremendous clout to determine outcomes.   Case in point, is Trump’s verbal attack of Germany at the NATO summit.

Trump renewed the long-standing U.S. criticism of the project on Wednesday, and doubled down by tying it to the future of NATO. “Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia because it’s getting so much of its energy from Russia,” Trump told NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, speaking on camera. “We have to talk about the billions and billions of dollars that’s being paid to the country we’re supposed to be protecting you against.”

Trump was referring to the Nord Stream 2.  It will take another blog to Here is the irony of nationalism – other countries can’t tell us what to do, but we can tell them how to run their countries. I will explain the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in a later blog.

The third element is a pro-business agenda.  The tax cut is a very much part of this.  It seems not much of the tax cut is being put to use to expand manufacturing.  It likely will drive up our deficits.   With trade tariffs, this will in the short term help some businesses, particularly steel and aluminium manufacturers.  It is likely to hurt US car makers, and drive up the price of cars.  In Florida,  the orange and grapefruit growers are worried about being priced out of Asian markets due to reciprocal tariffs.

So, if populism focuses only on the problem, and nationalism guides policy decisions, the end result as in the coming trade war, likely will hurt Trump’s pro-business agenda.  International cooperation will be dwindling under Trump, as he pushes America first, and above everything else.

The travel ban is an excellent example of populism and nationalism, accomplishing very little.   Certainly,  the Muslim world thinks very little of our president.

Getting tough on immigration, was rooted in populism and nationalism.   It was founded on exaggeration and frequent lies. The resulting family separation and horrific outcomes were predictable.  It was a bet that executive authority would triumph over judicial restraint.  It didn’t.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

Peter Strzok – You’re it

I notice that when people have some trash to get rid of, they tend to dump it somewhere where there is already a lot of trash.  I think Mr. Jeffries got it right:

“There is a criminal investigation into the Trump campaign and possible crimes related to the 2016 presidential election involving collusion with Russian spies to sell out our democracy and hijack the presidency,” said Representative Hakeem Jeffries, Democrat of New York. “My colleagues in the cover-up caucus don’t like that criminal investigation, and therefore, they need to identify a villain. Mr. Strzok, tag, you’re it.”

There about 1,000 summaries of the hearing on the internet, but I still like Mr. Jeffries the best.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Making American Great again – for insurance companies

Part of the Obamacare program is to provide grants to non-profit organizations to help people obtain coverage for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.  They are called Navigators, which I think, given the complexities of health insurance, is a wonderful name.   Their budget was slashed in 2017, after Trump was elected from 63 million to 36 million dollars.  Now only 10 million dollars will be budgeted.

It gets worse.  The navigators will help people get insurance plans which are not at all compliant with the Affordable Care Act.  The navigators should inform consumers of other options, like “association health plan” and short term, limited duration insurance  lacking in standard health services like preventative services and prescription drug coverage.

Democrat Senator Ron Wyden got it right when he stated, “This move amounts to federally funded fraud – paying groups to sell unsuspecting Americans on junk plans.”

One last element is guaranteed to open the door wide open to fraud.  The Navigator groups are not required to have a physical presence in the areas where they operate.  This means it’s going to be on internet, and over chat sessions.   It’s going to be bad.  Ron Wyden says Trump is on a sabotage crusade to wreck the Affordable Care Act.  That’s exactly right.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Breastfeeding Resolution – Additional comments

I neglected to add a few items. First, after the resolution was introduced by Russia instead of Ecuador,  it passed.  I don’t know the final vote.   Frequently, when it becomes obvious that a resolution will pass, and it is not what the US wants, countries will simply abstain.

I also neglected to include the entire Trump tweet,  which says  the US “strongly supports breastfeeding but we don’t believe women should be denied access to formula. Many women need this option because of malnutrition and poverty.”   Along with calling the New York Times article a “fake”,  this is equally dishonest.  There was nothing in the resolution denying access to formula.  Of course, this would be impossible.   WHO and other women’s health organization all recognize that when breast feeding is not possible, then formula is the right solution and women have to be able to purchase formula.

The US Health and Human Services put out a statement, saying this was a women’s choice.   Of course it is.   But unfortunately, they are often fed wrong information from advertisers.  All the World Health Organization was trying to do, is counter decades of formula promotion.

A link to the original New York Times article was not given.   It looked like it was for subscribers only,  but really NYT maintains a limit on the number of free accesses, which I guess I used up.  Here’s the original story:  NYT article.

Every journalist would like actual quotes from people attending the meeting.   NYT articles simply stated that:

The showdown over the issue was recounted by more than a dozen participants from several countries, many of whom requested anonymity because they feared retaliation from the United States. Health advocates scrambled to find another sponsor for the resolution, but at least a dozen countries, most of them poor nations in Africa and Latin America, backed off, citing fears of retaliation, according to officials from Uruguay, Mexico and the United States.“We were astonished, appalled and also saddened,” said Patti Rundall, the policy director of the British advocacy group Baby Milk Action, who has attended meetings of the assembly, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization, since the late 1980s.

Health and Human Services responded as follows:

“We recognize not all women are able to breast-feed for a variety of reasons. These women should have the choice and access to alternatives for the health of their babies, and not be stigmatized for the ways in which they are able to do so.” The spokesman asked to remain anonymous in order to speak more freely.

Again, this misinformation about choice and access.  It wasn’t part of the WHO  resolution.   Of course, HHS isn’t about to issue a statement that perhaps all the millions of dollars of political donations could be impacted, if Trump supported the breastfeeding resolution.

I am very glad we have journalists like Adam Jacobs,  with the New York Times, who provide accurate honest reporting.   I really put facts first.

Both Bush and Obama supported the World Health Organizations efforts in breastfeeding as the preferred feeding at least in the first 6 months.  If fact,  George W. Bush was a very strong advocate, as per the “failing fake NYT:

Twelve years ago, during the George W. Bush administration, the Department of Health and Human Services promoted breast-feeding in a public health campaign that suggested that failing to breast-feed would be as bad for your baby as riding a mechanical bull while pregnant. A senior scientific adviser to the Office on Women’s Health in the department at that time said that it was risky not to breast-feed, and compared not breast-feeding to smoking during pregnancy.

The breastfeeding incident would not be so bad, if the Trump administration just backed off, and apologized to Ecuador for their heavy handed approach.  It is hardly Trump’s style.  And his combination of threats and demands hasn’t been working in many areas.  Hillary Clinton’s campaign slogan of “Stronger Together”  can be restated as “Weaker apart” – case in point being the recent NATO summit, or the NAFTA negotiations, or trade war with China.

The swamp has been referred to by Donald Trump as the cozy relation of business lobbyists to government.  The main targets of industry are those that make regulations,  the Environmental Protection Agency,  Department of Interior (oil drilling leases), Department of Energy,  Consumer Finance and Protection Bureau, and of course,  Health and Human Services. It’s filling up fast, particularly at the EPA.

I think we will hear more about HHS in this month.  HHS is now defying the court ordered re-uniting of illegal immigrant parents with  children.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Breastfeeding resolution

Truly disgraceful is a term Trump uses whenever the Deputy  Attorney General Rosenstein or Special Counsel Mueller begins investigating friends and Trump campaign officials of breaking the law.  It isn’t.  It’s good to see the laws of our country  applied equally.  The Trump foundation can be investigated just as thoroughly as the Clinton foundation.

What was truly sad, and disgraced our country is the action taken by the US at the World Health Organization.  I came close to crying when I read it.   Not fake news, Donald Trump.   Real shameful action by the US to help US companies producing baby formula to the detriment of their baby’s immune system.

Excellent research,  much of it by US scientists in close collaboration with other scientists around the world, has resulted in a much better understanding of the immune system, and how to keep us disease resistant, beginning at age 0 with mother’s milk.   I think there isn’t a mother in the world  who doesn’t want the best health for her infant.  But there is a tremendous amount of advertising which has been going on for decades, telling new moms that formula is better in general.

This is the USA Today’s story:

No country in the world supports breastfeeding moms like they should, according to a new report released Tuesday by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).  WHO and UNICEF recommend mothers breastfeed infants within the first hour of birth, exclusively for six months and continue breastfeeding, while adding complementary foods, until the child is at least 2-years-old. Breastfeeding has a host of health benefits, most notably improving a baby’s immunity.   “Breastmilk works like a baby’s first vaccine, protecting infants from potentially deadly diseases and giving them all the nourishment they need to survive and thrive,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO, said in a release.

According to Dr. Prakash Sunder Shrestha, President of the Nepal Breastfeeding Promotion Forum, “The persistent failure of governments to invest significantly in breastfeeding is hard to
comprehend. Many thousands of babies die each year because they did not enjoy the benefit of breastfeeding and multiple thousands more grow up deprived of the many wonders of this special gift of god of nature and of the mother.

The NYT reports:

,” A resolution to encourage breast-feeding was expected to be approved quickly and easily by hundreds of government delegates who gathered this spring in Geneva for the United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly…  the US delegation, embracing the interests of infant formula manufacturers, upend the deliberations.”

Ecuador was ready to sponsor the resolution. The US objected to two key passages, calling on countries to “protect, promote and support breastfeeding”  and another passage to restrict the promotion of food products which many experts say have a deleterious effects on children.  Another words,  remove any significant recommended actions.

This was crazy and really sad.    The US did not negotiate with Ecuador; it threaten them with a cut off of all military and foreign aid if Ecuador did not remove these key statements.   Ecuador refused to cave in to US demands, but did not want to introduce the resolution.  It got ugly:

The showdown over the issue was recounted by more than a dozen participants from several countries, many of whom requested anonymity because they feared retaliation from the US.  Health advocates scrambled to find another sponsor for the resolution, but at least a dozen countries, most of them poor nations in Africa and Latin America, backed off, citing fears of retaliation according to officials from Uruguay, Mexico and the US.

Finally, Russia came to the rescue, introducing the resolution to the World Health Assembly.

Of course, Donald Trump tweeted that none of this was true.

“The failing NY Times Fake News story today about breast feeding must be called out.” (See PS)

The Trump administration and its  support for business profits above everything, including keeping babies healthy, which needs to be called out.   Poorer  countries have another problem – contaminated water is often mixed with the formula.   Mothers sometimes dilute the formula to make it last longer- resulting in malnutrition.   Profits from baby’s formula and snacks totaled 71 billion dollars.  There’s millions of dollars ready to support the formula makers, and nothing there to help support the mothers, particular from the HHS.

Read the links, then decide who should be “called out.”

Stay tuned,

Dave

PS:  (7/12/18):  I didn’t include the full Trump tweet, which stated: US “strongly supports breastfeeding but we don’t believe women should be denied access to formula. Many women need this option because of malnutrition and poverty.”    Still dishonest, because there was nothing in this resolution denying access to formula.

See Reuter’s article:

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/07/the-epic-battle-between-breast-milk-and-infant-formula-companies/564782/

https://www.bupaglobal.com/en/your-wellbeing/family-life/breastfeeding-around-the-world

 

 

oops

The prior post wasn’t done – and it went out by mistake.  An updated version of Bluster, Brag and Diplomacy is available on my website.   Thanks and I’ll be more careful in the future.

Bluster, brag and diplomacy

“In the world of diplomacy, some things are better left unsaid.”, Lincoln Chafee

I was glad there was a summit between North Korea’s President Kim Jung-un and Donald Trump.   They signed an agreement to work towards “denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula.  That’s a positive step forward.   North Korea released 3 American prisoners prior to the summit.  More good news.

Donald Trump went to Grand Falls, Montana fora “Make American Great Again” rally.  Notably absent from Trump’s entourage was Ryan Zinke,  Secretary of the Interior, who served in Congress representing Montana.  Known as Scott Pruitt’s evil twin,  he immediately cosied up to the fossil fuel industry.   Like Pruitt, he is under investigation by the Office of Inspector General for his spending. See link below.

Trump was right on message,  slammed the media in general as being dishonest and fake. (note, last I looked, Trump statements were rated “true” about 5% of the time according to Politico).   He endorse US senator candidate Matt Rosendale,  and bashed his opponent, current Senator Jon Tester.  Tester had discovered that the President’s nominee for the VA Secretary Ronnie Jackson,  was known as the “candy man” for over prescribing medications and there was evidence that Jackson was drinking on the job.   Hearings were postponed and then cancelled as Trump withdrew the nomination.

No mention of Scott Pruitt, who had just moments before, was forced  to resign amid a slew of scandals.  It would explain why Ryan Zinke,  Secretary of Interior,  wasn’t there.

Since Mike Pompeo was in North Korea,  it was time for Trump to start bragging at he got the prisoners free without spending 1.8 billion dollars like Obama had done, and the peace treaty with North Korea.  All bluster and brag – and on top of it untrue.

This  was an old Republican allegation – and a false claim right  from the get-go.  A payment of 400 million dollars was made to Iran.  It wasn’t ransom, but Iran’s money which we had frozen, after the overthrow of the Shah of Iran. in 1979.   Iran’s claim was valid, and they were chasing after the US in World Court.   They wanted 10 billion from the US.  We couldn’t really keep holding on to their money. What we did, was make the payment only after Iran had released American prisoners.   There was no bargaining for prisoners, but the timing looked bad. See links below.

Then Trump launched into how the North Korea problem was a slam dunk because he was the man in charge.   It was this very old, muy macho stunt, with the US Space Force, which I guess is supposed to intimidate people around the globe  every time they look up at the sky.

Trump:  “But we signed a wonderful paper saying they’re going to denuclearize their whole thing. It’s going to all happen.”

Per CNN – see link below:  This statement was made yesterday, in a 2020 campaign rally.   Crowds loved it. Trump’s assertion that North Korea has agreed to denuclearize and that “it’s going to all happen” is a massive overstatement of the facts. What Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed in Singapore last month was a sort of outline of an agreement. There was nothing binding in it. And this week we got word that satellites have picked up what looks to be more construction at a ballistic missile site in North Korea. So yeah, this version of the North Korea story via Trump misses some major points.

Then came Mike Pompeo claim that the meetings were “productive.”   The reason why Kim Jong Un signed the agreement with Trump was  because he considers South Korea to be a nuclear power, due to the US bases in South Korea, and that we have nuclear weapons ready to defend South Korea.  Of course, we’re not going to trade our bases for nuclear disarmament in the North.  But of course,  to make the summit look like a success for both leaders, the word “denuclearization”  was left undefined.

North Korea had had enough.   This meeting was not productive.  North Korea charged that the US was pushing a “unilateral and gangster-like demand for denuclearization”  and called Pompeo’s remarks, “deeply regrettable.”

Politics is one thing,  diplomacy another.   His bragging about how great a negotiator is, may in the end, cause the talks to fail.

 But, if there is one take away from the Grand Falls, Montana rally,  it is that Donald Trump is trying to set some kind of Guinness book of records, for the most lies in less than an hour.  And his only competition is himself.

Stay tuned,
Dave

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/obama-bribed-iran-400-million-to-release-u-s-prisoners/

http://time.com/4441046/400-million-iran-hostage-history/